“We’re going to have to refuel, sir. The breech in the tanks left only enough fuel for a couple of parsecs worth of travel. Three at most if we shut down everything but the auxiliary engines and the life support.”
The navigational path they'd taken was recently revealed to be a route that the Resistance used to smuggle in supplies. According to the information they'd intercepted, one of their lumbering ships was carrying a hefty load of black market weapons that, should they land in the Resistance's hands, would be used against the First Order. But it wouldn't be any challenge to prevent that from happening. Destroying the ship was a textbook maneuver that Hux barely blinked at, just issuing orders and watching the explosion from the view port of the bridge. What did catch him off guard, though was the small but irate swarm of fighters bombers that dropped out of hyperspace in defense of the transport ship, or rather, what was left of it. It must have been able to get out a distress signal before their comm could be jammed. Still level headed, Hux stood upright and guided his officers through dispatching the pests as their shields were shot at to no avail. TIE fighters and ventral canons were utilized. As the enemy's numbers dropped, those who were willing to began to concentrate their fire as others fled. Hux was unsure which boosted his ego more until one X-wing was shot down only to careen into the ship and, taking advantage of the heavy load the shields had just had to repel, another pilot dropped their entire arsenal where just moments ago the other X-wing had crashed and shattered. Damage reports were thrown at him as he clenched his hands behind his back, mind working furiously. Debris had breached the hull to rupture their primary fuel tank. Sensors blared their warnings but Hux ignored them. From what he'd been told, the damage was moderate, but being taken care of and their main concern was dispatching the attackers. And that was exactly what they did. When all the radar blips had vanished, Hux turned his full attention to Mitaka regrading the fuel.
“We won't be going without shields or weapons. Are there any friendly planets within two parsecs?” General Hux articulated carefully to conceal his irritation.
Lieutenant Mitaka double checked the data pad in his hands. “Friendly, no, but we are close to a neutral planet. Jakku is within one point nine four parsecs. Confirmed friendly planets are also within reach of us but it would require hyperspace.”
“We can’t afford hyperspace. Jakku it shall be. Have a course set, Lieutenant, full shields. I will not leave this ship vulnerable.”
Hux turned to peer out the bridge window of the star destroyer. The only thing visible outside was starlight. His fingernails began to bite into his gloves. Was nothing in his life capable of being completed with complications? Construction on Starkiller base was starting to fall behind schedule and now his beautiful ship was damaged. At least Ren wasn’t there. That much he could appreciate without hesitation.
“How long will refueling take? I want to keep the Finalizer hidden from view behind one of the moons.”
“Jakku only has one fueling station from what I’ve seen and if we’re to acquire the minimum amount of fuel to get back to the nearest base using only the shuttles, it will take at least ten standard hours.”
Even if Hux was ready to swear, he didn’t let it show through the carefully constructed exterior that he put up in front of his crew. Redirecting anger never accomplished anything but disrupting the efficiency of a group that ran on trust, order, and loyalty. Mitaka exactly what was expected of him right now with his usual demure reverence to authority and Hux appreciated it.
“So be it. Have crews on all of our available supply shuttles. Everyone needs to be in plain clothes. I doubt we’ll be asked questions but if we are, we’re refueling a transport ship. There’s no need for this to get out. I’ll oversee the fuel purchase personally. Send word to Phasma, you and her are to accompany me, also in plain clothes.” He listed off.
Mitaka was surprised but not adverse. “Yes, sir. I’ll send out the orders.”
Hux wasn’t sure he could exactly pinpoint the last time he stepped onto an inhabited planet. Everything was either inspecting remote planets for usable materials or moving from ship to ship. Now and then he’d go planetside for political rallies or strategic meetings but those were rare occasions. Jakku couldn’t exactly be called an inhabited planet, or at least a civilized one. Perhaps dealing with Ren would have been preferable to all of this after all. But what he wanted didn’t exactly matter. Leaving the bridge, he stepped into the elevator and punched in the floor where his quarters resided. He could have left this task up to another officer but it was the sort of thing he wanted to deal with himself, both because of the importance of what needed to be accomplished and the immature yearning to stretch his legs.
“Come on, Dameron, pay up.” Temmin Wexley goaded.
Jessika Pava wasn’t helping. “You told us that if we made it through that last mission we’d go get drinks at a real cantina.”
“I made that promise thinking we weren’t going to make it through, wasn’t that obvious?”
His half hearted joke didn’t score him any points and BB-8 whirred quietly to itself, swiveling its domed head back and forth to watch the whole conversation. Poe Dameron sat back in his chair, knowing he wasn’t going to win this one and not particularly minding. The last time he and any of his squadron had left the base had been to fly a ridiculously hazardous mission. When they’d come home and Poe’s adrenaline had finally left him, he’d slept for nearly a whole day and then eaten everything he’d had stored in his private quarters. Finally somewhat rested and sated, he was ready to do anything that didn’t involve staying on base where his presence was more of a hindrance than any help, but was left wanting. He was a squadron leader, not a politician. What was needed right now was government and humanitarian aid given the harsh blows the Resistance and the First Order had been dealing out to one another. In addition to that, black squadron was treated like fancy plates that were only brought out for special occasions and therefore actually only saw action in dire straights. Given that, his squadron was often on edge, just watching as missions passed them by. Sometimes it was boring. Then there were occasions like in the light of last night's events that were just plain tragic. It had been rough for everyone with most of the pilots that had been sent to defend the shipment being killed and he didn't want to let himself wallow as he could be prone to when things like that happened.
“We’ll try to find somewhere we can get a drink without being poisoned or shot at. How’s that?” He offered with feigned annoyance that BB-8 beeped at good humoredly. “Just where that might be is the question.”
Temmin piped up. “Somewhere new I hope.”
“We can’t be too adventurous.” Jessika reminded them, not usually the voice of reason but determined to not let them ruin her evening. “There’s a neutral planet we can go to within light speed distance.”
“Wait, isn’t Jakku just a dust ball?”
Poe somewhat knew the area. General Organa had taken him and a few others on a mission there about a year ago. It wasn’t the best planet in any sense but there were a few places scattered about that were tolerable. The rest was just remote villages and scavenger habitations.
“Jakku is fine. I know where we can go there, trust me.” Poe interjected.
“Whatever you say.”
“Then let’s go and get ready.”
Temmin hopped to his feet and readily hurried off to fix himself up. As Poe was getting up to do the same, Jessika chuckled at him.
“You don’t fool me, Poe.”
“What ever could you mean?”
“We all know that you’re the last to leave whenever we go anywhere.”
Poe wasn’t remotely embarrassed. “If you and Wexley decide to stick with me throughout the night you’ll find out why.”
“I’d just as rather not go.”
“Fine. We’ll have a few, quiet drinks together. That would probably be more fun, anyway.”
When BB-8 started to roll away, eager to leave, Poe called him back.
“BB-8! Buddy, I’m sorry, but the last place you need to be is Jakku. That place isn’t safe for droids with all of the scavengers.”
BB-8 let out disappointed blips, looking down at the floor. Poe pitied him, but he didn’t budge.
“Sorry, BB-8.” Jessika consoled before going off as Temmin had to prepare.
Since plans hadn’t been discussed, Poe assumed they were going to meet in the hangar. No X-wings would be involved in this outing, they’d be sharing an unmarked ship. He patted his pockets, feeling a decent portion of credits. Even if he was unshaven, his hair was neat enough and he’d showered the previous evening. His battered but beloved jacket was resting comfortably around him and since he was wearing one of the few shirts that wasn’t spattered with engine grease and oil, he declared himself ready to leave. This wasn’t one of those times where he planned to go looking for trouble. He’d meant what he said but whether or not circumstances would allow the scenario to play out as he’d described was an entirely different matter. Poe had a bad habit of enjoying forgetting himself in times like these and because of that one of his pockets was always carrying necessary provisions.
“See you, BB-8. Stay out of trouble.”
Instead of responding, BB-8 just titled itself backward, warning him to follow his own advice.
Standing up, Poe left the canteen as others around him continued to discuss late afternoon matters. It would be nice just to leave the base for a while without flying straight into a dogfight. Maybe he’d even let Temmin or Jessika pilot. The canteen doors opened for him with a whoosh and he stepped contentedly through the halls, returning greetings with nearly everyone he passed with a grin. When he arrived at the hangar, his squadron mates was waiting for him. Jessika looked at him with some distaste. She’d completely changed her clothes and at least Temmin had put on a new shirt. Poe just shrugged. He was who he was.
Jessika went over to their shuttle and lowered the gangplank. “You can pilot.”
“Fine, Pava.” He groaned.
Stepping into the shuttle, Poe chose to let Jessika co-pilot, going to sit in the back. As genial bickering accompanied the shuttle smoothly lifting off the ground and making for the hangar exit, Poe leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, just taking in the feeling of liftoff and acceleration as he always made a point to do.
It had been years since he’d last worn his current outfit. It wasn't well suited for Jakku but it was all he had and uncomfortable wasn’t a strong enough word to describe how he felt. Phasma took over negotiations when Mitaka’s petite build and stutter proved ineffective in persuading the Ithorian dealer to sell them every drop of fuel they currently had on stock. Currently, what he’d managed to buy wasn’t enough to reach even a second accessible fueling station. Still, the fuel dealer was adamant about only selling them half of their total supply. Luckily, even without her chrome armor and jaunty cape, Phasma was intimidating. She had height on her side, muscle, and the rare ability to arrange her friendly features into a perfectly jarring glower when it suited her. Even if Hux let no one cow him, he’d seen it in action enough to know that they were going to win this negotiation, it just might take time. Parked in the sands, the shuttles were waiting to carry the fuel. Trips were going to have to be made and the adding the new fuel would also take time.
Time that they didn’t exactly have to spare. The heat was getting to him and the sand was leaving his throat raw. Inside his over starched clothes, his skin was prickling from the sun and he could practically feel freckles forming. He’d dealt with rain his entire childhood. Unrelenting aridness was something foreign that he was rapidly coming to despise. Head beginning to swim, he did his very best not to let it show. Mitaka wasn’t fooled.
Hux barely recognized his own first name, so unused was he to hearing it since he left home at the start of his education for the First Order. Avice. Dopheld. Perhaps it was pitiful that their own names had the capability of bringing about so much confusion. They weren’t storm troopers that carried numbers but their rank and last name served the same detached purpose. Becoming numb to his own name, though, wasn't something that bothered Hux as much as it did with the others. Hux abhorred his first name and everything it represented. His father had been Brendol the third and yet Hux was Armitage, leaving no quick leap in thought as to why he'd failed to earn the family title. They were only going by first names now because there was no need to put themselves at risk by using the surnames of two rather well known First Order officers and one that was up and coming.
He finally acknowledged the lieutenant. “Yes?”
“You look faint.”
Hux wasn’t sure how to respond. It was certainly the truth but it wasn’t his place to derail things by drawing attention to himself. He’d been raised better than that. Just because he was a leader now didn’t mean that he didn’t need to keep a stiff upper lip and do his part for the good of the whole.
“Your face is white.” Mitaka insisted.
“You need to sit down where it’s cool.”
It didn’t take medical training to know that it was one thing to get flushed in the heat but it was something else entirely to be on the verge of passing out. Hux ran perfectly fine on nothing but cigaras and caf when he needed to, but not on Jakku. His vision had been growing black on the edges and the ringing in his ears was becoming deafening. Maybe it was time to listen to Mitaka.
“Fine. Yes. Where, though? The shuttles are just as stifling as everything else on this hell hole.” He spat out.
The fuel dealer seized their chance to escape from Phasma’s harsh debating for a few moments, waddling up to Hux and Mitaka. When they spoke, their voice was reedy for their girth. Hux had no idea what species they were dealing with under all of the desert gear. At least they spoke Basic.
“There’s a cantina about two buildings down.”
The area where they were now could barely be considered a hamlet and all of its establishments could easily be memorized in a matter of minutes, probably along with the names of every resident. Hux would rather have been rendered unconscious to fry in the sun than take a seat in a filthy bar to be served swill but Mitaka gave him a look. If they’d been in any other situation, Hux would have ordered him swiftly reprimanded for his impertinence and speaking over him, but here, he was just being a good officer and person. If Hux kept friends, the people he’d choose would be Phasma and, after this display, Mitaka.
“Thank you. Avice, we’ll be at the cantina.”
Nodding, Phasma looked completely unimpressed with Hux’s fortitude outside a ship. She turned back to the fuel dealer, who may have gulped if he was capable of the action. The sleeve of Hux's shirt was gently pulled in the direction Mitaka had been pointed in and he followed, morbidly humiliated by how this was going but at least grateful that two officers he trusted were the only figures of note around to witness it all.
“I hate this.” Hux offered without censor just because he could.
Mitaka wasn’t amused. “I’m not far behind you.”
The cantina’s door was propped open to allow the nonexistent breeze in but it was certainly cooler than the outside world after they stepped in. There was next to nobody at the tables and bar. Why would there be? Half the town could come out and the cantina would only be half full. How it stayed open was beyond Hux but the liquor shelf was fully stocked and it was cleaner than he would have imagined. He dared to relax, his senses beginning to return. Still, he was beyond parched and starting to shake. Mitaka fairly pushed him down into a booth and then went to the bar where he began to converse with and then plead with the bartender, a non-human species Hux couldn't identify with all of the layers they were wearing despite being indoors. When Mitaka came back seconds later, empty handed, Hux’s mood spiraled even further south.
“They won’t take any of my currency.” Mitaka explained with a frown. “We can sit here for a while, though."
Hux pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, attempting to stave off another wave of nausea.
“It's not your fault, Dopheld. Sit with me for a while. I’ll be fine, just give me a minute.”
At one of the few occupied tables, two humans with dark features got up and went to the bar. Hux looked at them with ill-concealed envy that was quickly swabbed away in replacement of confusion when they came over to their table with four brightly colored drinks in hand.
Temmin couldn’t hold his liquor to save his life despite his size. At first, it was amusing to watch as he blinked blearily and failed to keep up with the conversation, but after he started to get drowsy, Poe and Jessika walked him back to the shuttle. As he stumbled into the sleeping area, they closed up the hatch doors and went back to the cantina. Unlike Temmin, they were still sober and it wasn’t even nighttime yet in the planet’s rotation. Returning to the same table, Poe relaxed back into the general air of ease. He’d always gotten along well with Jessika. Not that Temmin was the odd man out, but when Poe and Jessika ran out of things to discuss, there was always there classic fall back that Temmin couldn’t relate to.
“Those two are cute.” Poe commented, jerking his head in the direction of one of the tables.
Jessika looked without discretion. “Them? The brunette looks like he’s twelve years old and the ginger like he has a stick up his ass.”
“I reiterate. Let’s get them drinks. The tall one looks ready to pass out.”
“Ugh, fine. Nothing too expensive.”
Getting up, they went to the bar. Poe had a renown sweet tooth and without really caring if anyone else didn’t, he ordered four drinks made with fruit syrup and Nabooian schnapps. Jessika still didn’t look exactly happy, but upon strolling over with the glasses in hand and receiving perplexed but intrigued expressions from both of the strangers, she put on a smile.
“Drinks?” She offered.
The smaller of the men took the glass out of Jessika’s extended hand with a bright look.
It looked like he wanted to say more to her, but he looked to his companion first. For a brief moment, the idea that they were together crossed Poe’s mind. With the way the taller one shrugged and his friend moved over to allow Jessika the option of sitting next to him as they exchanged introductions, Poe changed his mind. For wanting to spend time with him and Temmin, Jessika had certainly shifted her attention but Poe. Remembering his new counterpart in turn, Poe looked over to meet a weary gaze, the man very much wanting one of the drinks in Poe’s hand but also not asking if he could have one. His eyes held mild distaste that Poe was more amused than put off by given how frazzled the guy was.
“Take it.” Poe goaded. “You could use the sugar.”
With a slight huff that was probably for show, the man obeyed, giving the glass a delicate sniff and then taking a long sip before taking it from his lips.
“Thank you.” He said simply and with a lilt much more pronounced than his friend’s.
“Can I have your name?”
The stranger thought it over, taking another swallow of his drink and frowning at its taste. But in the end, he moved to the back of the booth as well and Poe slid in next to him. He still looked rather uncomfortable so Poe beamed even if he was prepared to leave if asked. To his surprise, he was given a delicate smile back.
There was some hesitation and unsteadiness in the answer. “Brendol. And yours?”
When Brendol didn’t offer him his hand, Poe didn’t put his out. A lot of people shook hands and just as many didn’t. Brendol was well dressed in a crisp button up shirt, slacks tucked into polished boots, and a vest that he wore tightly against his stomach. His hair looked like it had been styled meticulously and then shaken out with fingers to take away some of the harshness of his appearance. The man was all sharp lines but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“You strike me as the last person to come to Jakku willingly.” Poe stated in an attempt to make conversation.
Brendol issued a note of humorless laughter. “How astute of you. We’re refueling and apparently around these parts that involves risking heat stroke.”
“For you at least.”
“What brings you here, then?”
“Boredom. We were originally a group of three but then our third member drank too much too quickly.”
Taking advantage of the lull in the conversation, Brendol reached into his pockets and pulled out a lighter and a small silver case. He popped it open and raised one of its contents to his lips before igniting his lighter. Poe was caught watching him.
“Would you prefer if I didn’t smoke around you?” He asked around the rolled paper.
“I don’t mind, you just didn’t strike me as the type to smoke death sticks.”
Brendol’s brow knitted together and his mouth turned downwards. After finishing lighting up, he replaced the lighter and case back into his pocket and drew in, letting the flame burn bright orange before he pulled off and exhaled. Not knowing how to address Brendol’s annoyance at him, Poe just picked up his drink and downed half of it to buy time. Brendol waited with a predator’s patience for him to finish and put the glass back down. When he spoke, his tone was more clement than Poe expected.
“These are cigaras, not death sticks.”
“I thought that was a distinction without a difference.”
In response, Brendol took a deep drag and then blew out blue tinged smoke. “You tell me.”
It was readily detectable what Brendol had meant. The acrid smoke of death sticks wasn’t remotely present. Under the obvious notes of tobac, not hallucinogenics or other drugs, were spices that Poe hadn’t guess would be there. Overall, it was an aroma, not an odor. The taste was probably bitter but not bitingly so, likely closer to being rich. Poe became determined to barter his way into tasting one, if anything just to play a game with Brendol.
“I’ll buy you another drink in exchange for one of those.”
Hux had a difficult time not guffawing at the silly idea. “Poe, you’re charming, but you could buy me that bottle of Coruscantian whisky and I wouldn’t give you one of my cigaras.”
“Not even a drag?” Poe countered.
“I’ll think about it.”
He ashed his cigara in a bowl on table. Whether or not it was meant for such a purpose Hux didn’t particularly care about. Across from him, Mitaka and the young woman were engrossed in talking about something. It was odd to see the shy officer putting on every ounce of appeal he had. Even more unexpected, this charm wasn't endearing what had always been presented to Hux, but instead suave. Dopheld was meeting Poe's friend with witty comments and light touchs for every flirtatious move she made. The only thing Hux believed to be a safe bet at this point was that they would be going off together if the opportunity arose. It wasn’t like there wasn’t the time for it and since there was next to no windows or appropriate chances for such activities back on the Finalizer, Hux wasn’t going to tell him no. That line of thought made him blush when he looked back to Poe, something he admonished himself for. He was still chastising himself for not giving Poe his real first name, but it was something he did both for his own comfort and sanity. Even that one time Dopheld had used it earlier brought him back to the name being consistently barked at him by his father or superiors for as long as he could remember.
“The color is coming back to your face.” He said brightly.
Hux didn’t know how to respond. “Good.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a pilot.” Hux lied efficiently. “And you?”
Thank goodness he actually bought that. At least it was somewhat true. He ran a ship. It was a stretch but as long as Hux believed part of a lie he told he could stick with it to believability. Poe, on the other hand, was overjoyed and was clearly being honest. The stress that had built up beginning to ebb away, Hux took another long drag, letting the smoke roll around in his mouth.
“What do you fly?”
“Cargo, passengers. Nothing very fun." Hux said flippantly. "What do you carry?”
Instead of answering, Poe just gave a crooked grin.
“I’m not guessing, if that’s what you want me to do.”
“No, I’m not that annoying.”
“What, are you a smuggler, then?” Hux demanded, growing impatient.
When Poe just chuckled at him, and Hux's anger swelled and then dissipated. “Yes, I guess for all intents and purposes I’m a smuggler.”
“How daring.” Hux deadpanned.
Poe just leaned in a bit, testing the waters. “I think so.”
“What’s that like?”
“It’s an adrenaline rush, that’s for sure.”
“I don’t have the fortitude for adrenaline. I’ll stick to my job.”
“Where is your current shipment headed?”
Hux said the first planet that came to mind. “Arkanis.”
Poe frowned. “I’m not familiar with it.”
“Most aren't. It’s lovely, but very tucked away.”
“Huh. I’m from Yavin Four. Everyone knows about that but mostly because of all the war history.”
“Yes, I’ve read up heavily on it. That is a very Republic favoring planet.” Hux pointed out with a quelled frown.
“Not quite as much these days but yeah. I take it that Arkanis is your home planet, then?”
“Yes, it is. I left when I was rather young.”
“That’s unfortunate if you liked it so much.”
“I don’t think so. Since then I’ve gotten to see the galaxy.”
“I understand the feeling.”
Hux took another drink from his glass, unfortunately getting used to the sugary taste. It was doing him good, his hands steady now and his head clear.
“How often do you have shore leave like this?”
“Do I appear that out of my element?” Hux said with a sideways glance.
Poe grinned. “Actually yes but you wear it well.”
“I rarely do things like this. I’m enjoying it, though.”
“In that case, I'm glad I could be here to catch you during your free time.”
The whole time he’d been there, Poe had been highly respectful of boundaries. He may have come to flirt, but he wasn’t a cur about it. It wasn’t a secret he was keeping from himself that Hux begrudgingly liked him. Not enough to make him find some unworldly excuse to stay on Jakku to prolong their time together, but enough. He hadn’t even thought about doing anything like this since the officer's school and now and then before he started rising through the ranks. Even then, it had been less than this. No conversation involved, just a knowing look and a subtle gesture towards an empty room. He'd never had a legitimate affair, not when there were other things that needed to be accomplished among other reasons. The ache for companionship, affection, mutual release was only a distraction that he could overcome, that he needed to put behind him. However, it seemed like here, he was being offered just a taste of what he'd imagined during his boyhood before he returned to his ship. Poe's attentions were a salve for wounds that Hux tried to ignore even as they festered, wounds that ached even further because they wouldn't be there in the first place if he wasn't weak. If Dopheld's considerations earlier had come close to leaving him reeling, this was beyond intoxicating even if Hux knew Poe probably treated everyone he met at cantinas like this. Hux had been angling in to meet Poe halfway without any thought until he measured out just how close they were to one another. While he stopped, he didn't back up. He should have been ashamed of himself but he was too elated for the mortification to take root.
“Still want a hit?”
Hux pulled away a bit and then brought the cigara to his lips, drew the smoke into his mouth, and then let his hand fall away. Correctly assuming what he was to do, Poe brushed his parted lips against his and let Hux blow the smoke into his mouth. He didn’t cough or wince at the taste or heat, savoring it until it vanished. Hux had kept his eyes carefully on him the entire process and was entranced. Nothing this man could encounter would ever make him appear shaken or unprepared. Poe exhaled and then offered Hux a grin that he hadn't used yet, lopsided like the others and then ending in him catching his lip between his teeth. In response, the corner's of Hux's mouth tugged gently upwards and upon receiving a smile Poe brushed a nonexistent piece of out of place hair back off of Hux's forehead. He wanted to speak, but the silence at the table was intrusive and Hux eyed Mitaka and his new friend, who had both gone silent upon witnessing their display.
Even if Poe had watched Jessika inching towards the dark haired, young man next to her since he won her over or vice versa, all she’d done was take his hand to dust her fingers over his. It was coquettish, but Jessika didn’t make serious moves on strangers in public and what she was doing was clearly working. Poe usually followed a similar rule just to be considerate of his comrades, but clearly, the guideline was now shattered on the cantina floor before them. Eyes were wide across the table. Just as he was about to crack a joke to defuse some of the tension they had caused, Brendol just shot his friend a rather smug look.
“Are you going to tell anyone about this, Dopheld?” He drawled.
The response was immediate. “No.”
“What a shame. I was rather proud of that move.”
When his smirk melted into something more genuine, his friend behaved as if he’d never seen it before, gawking, while Poe was doing his best to commit it to memory. When the interlude had stretched on long enough, Jessika redirected her benchmate's attention back to her and their talk resumed. Poe wanted another drink but not nearly badly enough to get up and leave the table.
“How long are you staying? I’d love to get dinner with you or something.” Poe asked under his breath, not wanting another interruption.
Brendol put his face in close to Poe’s, his breath puffing along Poe’s jaw. “Only the night. My crew and I have to take off once the refueling is finished.”
Poe had been ready to scrap together some excuse to stay a few days on Jakku. That fact surprised him but now that the idea was out of reach, disappointment washed over him. The second best option came to mind.
“If you’d like company meanwhile, I’ll find time.”
“How lewd of you, Poe.”
"Anything you want. We could stay here, go somewhere else and just talk, find some place private."
Hux's voice was soft. "Oh."
“So is that a no?”
A gloved hand was slid under Poe’s, the well-treated leather making a shiver run from his palm to his scalp. He wanted to laugh at the fact that Brendol was wearing such things on Jakku but he didn’t. Brendol took another draw from his cigara, this time turning it in his fingers so the filter could be handed over and offering it to Poe. After Poe took it, inhaling and letting the smoke sit on his palate before letting it escape with his breath, Brendol plucked the cigara from his grasp and rubbed it out.
“Of course not. I’m not going with you to some cramped shuttle, though.”
“This cantina has rooms.”
“Classy. Are they clean?”
“So I’ve heard.”
“So I’ve heard.” Brendol mocked before reaching into his pocket and presenting a handful of currency to Poe. “Here. The bartender wouldn’t take them but I’m not letting you pay for everything without some reimbursement.”
He had to suppress a frown at what was dumped into his cupped palm. The coins were most commonly used on First Order controlled planets as an attempt at a unified currency. Brendol and Dopheld likely had every type of currency within parsecs in their till but thought of the First Order still threatened to curdle Poe’s mood. Redirecting himself, Poe went back to focusing on what was in front of him. Despite the stony countenance Brendol utilized, he couldn’t hide the redness that tinged his face that plunged presumably below his collar. Poe very much wanted to find out for certain.
“Should I go pay for the room?”
Getting to his feet, Poe tensed all his muscles before letting them fall slack on the way over to the bar. Brendol didn’t follow him, going over to the staircase that followed the smooth stone walls upward to the second floor. The creature tending the cantina only had to give Poe a glance before he held out a fat hand swathed in strips of cloth.
“Hourly rates. I want the first hour up front.”
Poe counted out a portion he deemed fair given that he was probably letting himself be swindled. The bartender sifted through the coins, made a gruff sound that Poe couldn’t place a mood to, and then went back to polishing a damp glass as he had been before he approached. Taking the dismissal as a sign that the transaction was complete, Poe strolled over to Brendol. Brendol had watched him approach with scrutiny. Even if Poe had hook ups with strangers more often than he should have, Brendol certainly didn't. There was nothing wrong with that and even if that weren't the case, Poe wanted to make this special for both of them.
“How long do we have?” He asked softly.
“As long as we want.”
On their feet, the height difference between them was more recognizable. Brendol was quite a bit taller, but Poe easily outweighed him, being much broader. How they were going to move together Poe wasn’t going to speculate at yet. Without touching Poe in any way or saying anything else, Brendol started up the stairs and Poe followed him up to the loft. It was only when the door to the room was shut and locked behind them that hushed conversation resumed in close proximity.
It amuses me to think that this started out as a short story I wrote for a friend. Thank you so much for reading! More chapters are up ahead. I have three more chapters written and under editing but I updates will be a little more spaced out from here on to allow the rest to be written. Writing Poe and Hux is always interesting because there's only so much to go by with the canon. As bright and friendly as Poe is around other people, I always see him as not letting people get too close with how often the people around him get hurt and not having great coping skills. Hux is different, being raised to achieve and being reserved, but wanting those bonds despite now knowing how to form them. Ugh, I'm a huge Kylux shipper but the Poe and Hux dynamic almost interests me more.
With the recent backstory of Hux being revealed, I've changed his name. I like Armitage even if Hux doesn't because the name marks him as not receiving his father's name because of his status as a bastard child. He tells Poe his name is Brendol and Mitaka rolls with it. I also changed about a paragraph of text in chapter 2 so that instead of having some degree of affairs in the past Hux has pretty much always been a lone wolf and doesn't like to admit he's very affection starved. Sorry to those who read the old version about the alterations but this summary of them should make it unnecessary to reread for comprehension.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To Hux’s relief, the room was plain but clean. Some dust was floating freely through the air, but that was to be expected with all of the sand. At least it wasn’t sweltering. There was a plush armchair, cramped bed, wobbly looking table, and another door that likely led to a refresher. Poe sat down, shedding his jacket and draping it over the back of the armchair he was occupying. He didn’t undress further, just watching Hux like no matter what he said, it would provide some revelation.
It didn’t truly matter, but he needed to know. “Were you expecting a lay tonight?”
“I was open to the idea but no, I thought it was just going to be drinks with my friends.”
He liked Poe’s answer. It made him feel less like a conquest. As much as he hoped it wasn’t obvious, Hux was having a difficult time with this. He wanted Poe more than he should have but the idea of engaging in such frivolous pursuits of pleasure was dangerously close to going against his personal code. Sex wasn’t exactly shunned where he came from, but if it wasn’t serving a purpose, there were always better things to do. Marrying to be put in a position of power, having a liaison with a higher officer to curry favor, finding out secrets over a damp pillow, those carried real ends that went beyond a quick biological high. That was what he’d come to internalize anyway.
“Brendol? Are you okay? We don’t have to do anything, I promise.” Poe told him.
Hux flexed his fingers, letting the muscles in his hands release. “I’m fine, Poe. Really. I appreciate your concern, but I was just thinking.”
Drifting over to Poe’s chair, Poe initially rose at his presence only to have Brendol take his seat. Quickly catching on, Poe straddled his lap, moving in until they were flush against one another. He was letting Hux lead for now. Steadying him with one arm, with his free hand, he threaded his fingers through Poe’s dense curls and brought their lips together. His stubble scratched against his cheek but Hux enjoyed it, angling into him. Confident that he wasn’t going to fall, Poe placed his hands on either side of Hux’s jaw and effortlessly had Hux parting his mouth for him even if he didn't pounce upon the opportunity, just tenderly brushing his lips against his in a way that was leaving Hux dizzy.
When Poe first approached him with that sickly sweet drink in hand, Hux imagined he was just going to tease him or just try to get him on his knees and yet Poe was certainly proving him wrong. He was adaptable and ever changing in his intimacy after taking some of the control back. The idea that he was doing it to please Hux rolled around in his stomach strangely. Sometimes he’d give an annoyingly soft kiss or a harsh nip to the lip and yet other times fleeting movements of his tongue left Hux’s head swimming. It was a bit sloppy, but Hux had experienced far worse. After a while of Hux doing his damnedest to reciprocate, Poe pulled away with a smirk that Hux felt against his skin only to angle Hux’s chin up with hand while the other rested innocuously on the inside of his thigh.
“You moan like a Correlian whore.” Poe teased.
“Blame yourself.” Hux huffed. “You’re more than I was expecting.”
“I aim to please.’
Poe pressed a kiss onto the exposed skin above Hux’s collar before moving to suck and bite at him there. Hux nearly succeeded in telling Poe not to leave a hickey above where his uniform ended. Nearly. The sensation of teeth that were just as capable of ripping out his throat bruising him instead coupled with his lips interchangeably brushing over Hux's flesh was just too heady to stop.
“Can I get you out of your clothes?”
“It’s not me who I’m worried is going to spill in their pants.”
Those words made Hux flush in humiliation even if he could see the truth in them. With a clenched jaw, he nodded and was about to verbally give permission for Poe’s request when Poe moved his mouth up to the delicate area below the ear. Fingers found the top button of his collar and popped it open before beginning to drift to the rest of his shirt and then his waistcoat. When he’d finished and both garments were parted, he pushed them off of Hux’s shoulders and then sank down to the floor.
Brendol looked down at him with vaguely nervous anticipation and Poe had to bite back a laugh. With the way they’d shotgunned earlier, he never would have imagined he’d be this shy and receptive. Poe didn’t certainly consider it a detriment to the evening, though. It was sexy and Poe loved any excuse to show off and impress. Holding himself back, Poe tried to take his time with what was left to undress on Brendol. How he had even gotten his boots on in the first place perplexed Poe considering they hugged his calves and had no laces, but if he was adamant about not going to some shuttle, he probably wasn’t going to just have his pants shoved down around his ankles.
“You have to pull upwards.” Brendol instructed in a shattered voice.
Wrapping one hand around the heel of his right boot and the other around the ankle, Poe started to pull it towards the ceiling. There was resistance from the leather, but much less than he had anticipated. After the boot was clear of his foot, it came off smoothly. Setting it aside, Poe repeated the actions with the left one. Where sand hadn’t coated in thin layers, the boots were gleaming black and without a single imperfection. How a cargo runner could afford the things Brendol was wearing was certainly a question for the ages. Perhaps they were gifts. He certainly had the looks to attract benefactors.
Poe popped open Brendol’s pants and pulled both them and his underwear off after Brendol tilted his pelvis up to allow him to do so. After throwing them aside and moving back to begin rolling Brendol’s high socks off of him, he caught sight of Brendol’s displeased expression and he chuckled.
“I’m not folding your clothes for you, red.”
“I didn’t expect you to.”
Brendol leaned forward in the chair. They were level enough for Poe to kiss him again and he was grateful for the excuse to not keep his eyes rigidly on his boots or face. The red hair wasn’t exclusively residing on Brendol’s head and Poe wasn’t sure what to make of that information yet. Hands were lifted to his collar where they slipped down the fabric to brush along his neck before journeying all the way down to grip the hem of Poe’s shirt and lift it over his head. The movement separated them and Poe caught Brendol’s wrists before he could move his fingers to his waistband.
“Take your gloves off.”
“I honestly forgot I was still wearing them.”
Doing as he was asked, Hux loosened each finger of his gloves before sliding them both off. The smooth skin of the wrist that he uncovered had Poe staring unabashedly. Four thin black bands encircled his left forearm. Brendol had a tattoo. To Poe, the bands suggested military ranking but certainly not from any system used by the New Republic or the Resistance. His thoughts were cut short when Brendol went back to undressing him, pulling him closer by his belt. While Poe’s holster was clearly visible, Brendol had concealed a small blaster in his pocket. Poe had felt it when he was tossing his pants aside. Only fools didn’t carry weapons these days so Poe wasn’t concerned and neither was Brendol.
Since Poe wasn’t in the habit of lacing his boots tight unless he was on a mission, he was able to simply kick off his shoes and socks and then step out of his pants and underwear. Brendol was appraising him even if Poe hadn’t done that to him. At least Poe was able to savor the amusement in Brendol’s face which likely had mirrored his own moments earlier. Across Poe’s chest was an official series of three letters followed by three numbers. Without an explanation, it meant nothing to anyone but him and a select few others. However, the ink work on his shoulder was unmistakable and Brendol’s jaw set and his muscles went tense when he saw it. Poe had never seen someone’s smile fall away faster than Brendol’s serene grin had. Poe's eyes flicked down to his own tattoo of the Rebel insignia.
He shook his head, leaning back and looking away. “Smuggler, huh? I should have known this would happen.”
“It wasn’t technically a lie, Brendol.” Poe said evenly, though, he was hurt. “It’s not like I can just go about explaining my real job.”
“Job. You say it like it’s some official duty rather than a ragtag, terroristic group of Rebel scum.”
“Scum? Brendol, where the hell have you been?”
“Forget it. Thanks for the drink. It was nice meeting you.”
Brendol got to his feet, not fuming but frigid and effectively shutting Poe out. Poe wasn’t going to stop him. Just because he didn’t understand didn’t mean he inherently deserved an explanation. The raw vitriol that Brendol harbored for the Resistance was there for some reason or another and clearly Brendol was unwavering in his new found opinion of him. Turning to begin redressing, Poe identified exactly why, finding emotion to match Brendol’s.
“I’m the terrorist? That’s rich coming from you, First Order filth.”
Immediately, Brendol flinched, aware of what Poe had seen. On the nape of his neck, neatly placed over his spine, was the symbol of the First Order in the same neat, black lines as the bars on his wrist. He wheeled on Poe, voice unshaking and dripping with venom.
“Don’t you dare insult me.”
“You certainly weren’t afraid to do the same to me. Afraid of fair fights, Brendol?”
This was ridiculous. Here Poe was, fighting completely nude with a First Order supporter he’d picked up in a backwater cantina. All the dignity that Brendol had carried with him up until that point had vanished and that much spurred Poe on. He wanted to fight. But even if Brendol’s eyes burned with the same violent inkling, he just sat down heavily on the bed. All the fire had welled up and then abandoned him in a span of seconds.
“You serve in the Resistance?”
“You serve in the First Order?” Poe mirrored.
“Do you serve in the Resistance or not? I answered your question.”
There was uncomfortable silence for a long period. Poe wanted to leave but he wasn’t sure now was appropriate. They hadn’t even truly yelled at one another but now they were nearly whispering.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who wasn’t loyal or at least ambivalent to the First Order face to face like this.” Brendol commented.
“I could say something similar.”
“I like you, Poe.”
He was slightly startled by those words. “I like you, too. Does it really matter who we are on neutral ground?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Beyond political ideology, though. I’d imagine we want the same things from ourselves and what we serve.”
Poe meant it when he said it. One of them was still wrong even if they believed they were being noble and just, but that was unfortunately the way of war. Maybe it was hazardous for his personal safety if he was wrong, but Poe couldn't look at Hux and see someone doing as he was just for the sake of being evil. People like that existed, but most of their followers were just ordinary folks caught up in something they couldn't entirely grasp.
“This certainly puts a damper on things, doesn’t it.”
“It’s called consorting with the enemy for a reason evidently.” Brendol jested but humor was strange and almost unwelcome coming from him.
Poe begrudged him for the way that was worded even if he got the idea. “Don’t say that.”
His words had come out harsh and he was coming close to looming over Brendol as much as he could. Not wanting to escalate things again or be needlessly belligerent, Poe sat down beside him. Brendol’s skin was flushed again from the exertion of the conversation but Poe wasn’t nearly as interested in his blushing as he was when they were still in the chair.
“I wonder how this would have gone if there was no war clashing around us.” Poe mumbled.
Brendol’s answer was concise and quick to arrive. “Similar to the actual events that conspired but with less lying and abrupt rage.”
After he said that, Poe just sought out his full attention and was given it. His dark eyes were going to be the death of him. As long as they were being this honest, Hux needed the truth as he had needed that sugary drink to revitalize him or in the very least allow him to keep upright. He certainly hoped that wherever Mitaka was, he wasn’t having this heart wrenching of a time. His father was right. Affairs only ruined you. Still, Hux didn't move, wanting to complete this picture in his mind even if it stung.
“Who are you Poe? I’ll tell you about me.”
Poe blinked and offered his hand again. “Commander Dameron, black squadron.”
“General Hux, engineer.”
“You’re a damn general.”
At that statement, he retracted his hand. Hux had honestly not been sure what to do with it when it had been extended to him anyway even if he was disappointed. Another vague memory of his father, this time telling him that people who shook hands were tasteless resurfaced. It was an Old Republic social custom.
“One of many, but yes.”
“You’ve certainly done better than me.”
“I’m not a pilot.” Hux said, pointing out the obvious.
“I can tell.”
The proper thing to do before any of this started would have been to call Phasma and Mitaka over here to aid him in apprehending Poe. If he was a squadron leader, he’d be worth something to the First Order and non aggression agreements from a planet as useless as Jakku meant nothing should they shatter them. But for the first time in Hux’s life, he had no plans of following protocol. The thought of scrambling to his pants to retrieve his blaster while barking into his comm was close to sickening. His pride had been stripped away. All at once he wanted to slink back to the Finalizer but he also couldn’t bear to walk away with a burning face, tucking his shirt in and pulling up his collar over the hickey Poe had left him with. A stiff drink and another cigara seemed like the only option he wasn’t opposed to but then he was reminded bitterly that he had no money for the former.
So he leaned back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Above him was a sunlight and he could see that the sky was turning a deep violet as the sun began to set. There were no blankets or pillows other than a disposable covering for the mattress. When the mattress dipped down and Poe stretched out next to him, Hux didn’t look over even to convey surprise or melancholy pleasure.
“Makes you think, doesn’t it.”
There was a pleased huff from Poe. “You said you liked me.”
“Way to fixate on one sentence, Poe.”
“So you didn’t mean it?”
“No,” Hux said reluctantly. “But it doesn’t mean much. I’ve known you for less than a rotation.”
“If you’re willing to say that in a rotation then I wish I could hear what you’d say after one night or a few weeks.”
“You don’t face your feelings much, do you.”
“I can’t afford to. You of all people should know that, you’re a soldier.”
When Poe placed a hand over Hux’s neck Hux came within moments of flinching away before Poe slid his fingers over to trace his collar bone. Watching Hux relax into the touch, Poe continued on to rub little circled into his shoulder with his thumb, face blank. Hux just might have traded his cigara case for Poe’s sideways grin to return. It had been too long since he’d returned someone’s smile as he had with him. He finally turned to look at him and traced a few fingertips over Poe’s stubble. Poe put his free arm on the other side of Hux and lowered himself down to kiss him and Hux let him.
Poe pulled up just a fraction to speak. “I’d like it if we could forget who we are beyond Jakku. Just for a while.”
“Why stay on Jakku and live inside your head when you just have to leave it forever within the span of a few hours?”
“I guess that’s up to you but I know that in times like these I try to take what I can get.”
“I don’t know if I can.” Hux confessed.
At that, Poe went to leave his side. Hux caught his shoulder. It was tempting to roll his eyes when he realized what Poe’s tattoo on his chest meant when he viewed it next to his rank stripes. BLK-001. Black Squadron leader.
“I’d like to try, though.”
Poe hesitated and Hux knew he’d spoken too late. Frustrated and ready to admit defeat, he let his head fall back against the mattress. How what was supposed to be a one night stand turned into an ethics and humanities debate and an emotional evisceration was out of his line of comprehension. It was time to put his clothes back on and reenter the real world. That was how life worked, free of idyllic interludes.
But Poe moved his other leg into place so that he was above Hux. His weight settled slightly to the side, pressing him down into the mattress while letting him breathe. Hux was completely exhausted and yet his arms readily wrapped around Poe. The close proximity of another body was coming close to making him sweat. Poe nosed his neck, evidently wanting something. Granting him access, Hux tilted his head up and Poe began to leave light kisses along his throat. Where he was finding this energy was beyond a mystery but he wasn’t complaining, just holding him tightly and scratching at his back. Even if he hadn’t done it too much, Hux had never been a fan of kissing. It had never been fun to have a tongue stuck in his mouth while his pants were being fumbled with but Poe didn't do that, having started out easy and never having approached crude groping. When Poe kissed him, though, Hux had liked it once he'd taken time to appreciate the time and feeling Poe put into it and he fell apart when his neck was given attention as it was now. Poe had started being more physical when he gauged that it earned him a better reaction, liberally using his teeth. Shifting his weight onto one arm, he brought a hand down to tweak Hux's nipples until he gasped. He’d finally started to get hard again after the argument and so had Poe, who decided to grind his hips down against Hux’s, thrusting teasingly against him.
And of course Poe knew just what he was doing when he rutted against Brendol with next to no friction.
“What do you want to do, red?
“Not this.” He wheezed.
Poe kept teasing him. “You have to be more specific.”
“Damn it, Poe. Roll to the side.”
Having finally been given instructions Poe removed his weight from on top of Brendol. That done, Brendol reached over so that he could retrieve Poe’s pants from where they had been thrown onto the floor and started digging through the pockets. He eventually found the lube and then threw the pants back down. Poe watched him silently as he opened the bottle and squeezed a very liberal amount into his palm before moving to apply it to his erection and then Poe's. The lube was viscous and quite cold and Poe jumped upon being touched before relaxing into things and touching Brendol in turn.
Mirroring Brendol’s technique, Poe started out with a gentle grip and a slow pace. Out of politeness he was keeping his hips still even if Brendol wasn’t, rolling his pelvis in time with Poe’s wrist movements. Poe palmed him hard to get his point across and Brendol choked off a whine.
“If you don’t mind, General, I’d rather not be left behind.”
He fixed him with a glare upon hearing his rank, his voice full of warning. “Poe…”
“Lighten up. Or do you not like being reminded that you're trying to rut with some lowly X-wing pilot’s hand like it’s your first handjob?”
Hux was close and Poe was determined to give him a hard time about it, some of his anger from earlier flooding back. He nearly returned him to his back and pinned down his hips, but instead he just barely began to inch his hand up and down Brendol's cock. It had to be maddening and that was the exact intention. Brendol looked up murderously at him but the effect was stifled by his moans and arching his back. Poe just gave him a chaste kiss before pulling back and biting his own lip.
“Is that a yes?”
“I don’t know.” He bit out.
“Me neither, sweetheart.”
Poe found a grip on Brendol’s pelvis. “Come here.”
Pulling Brendol on top of him, Poe started thrusting against him in earnest this time. He could tell by Brendol’s face that this actually felt good and he kept at it, gratified when Brendol braced himself on his shoulders and moved in time with him. Ever drag against of Brendol’s erection against his sent him reeling. For having presumably grown up in a stifling environment, Brendol was loud. What he’d told him earlier on that subject may have been purposefully crude to get a reaction but he’d meant it. Poe really hoped that Jessika wasn’t still down there because with the way the bed frame was repeatedly hitting the wall matched with Brendol’s inability to keep quiet they were probably audible from the bar. For everyone’s sake, Poe pulled Brendol back down to him, hushing him with a harsh kiss that connected their teeth with a painful click. Hux reciprocated eagerly and Poe took advantage of Brendol’s mouth being occupied to slip a hand between them and gripped them both. The added pressure proved to be too much for Brendol.
“I’m going to come.” Brendol slurred.
“That’s okay, baby.” Poe mumbled rather incoherently, nearly there himself. “You can get off.”
And Brendol did, Poe’s name on his lips the entire time. As much as Poe wanted to watch his face as he came, Brendol’s bucking did him in and by the time Brendol sat back on Poe’s hips to look at him Poe falling apart. Still riding the high of his orgasm, he only half registered the soft touch to his jaw that trailed down to his chest. When his eyes refocused, Brendol was breathlessly straddling him. Poe angled himself upwards so that he could kiss him properly even through all the sweat, come, and slick that clung to them. It wasn’t something Poe particularly minded, knowing it inevitably accompanied sex. Brendol felt otherwise upon realizing just how covered in all of it they were. He said a particularly nasty set of words and Poe was unsure if they were directed at him or not.
Poe raised an eyebrow. “First Order Filth is right. Have you heard what comes out of your mouth?”
“Sorry, I haven’t done anything that juvenile to get off since before my first command.” Brendol shot back with bite.
“You’re the one who only grabbed the lube. Sex is messy, sweetheart, that’s a pretty universal fact.”
“Stop with the pet names.”
“Because they’re...” Brendol’s voice died off.
“Yes. I don’t like it.”
“Really? You said earlier that you thought things would have been similar to this if we hadn’t had to choose sides.” Poe reminded him in a hushed voice.
“Yes, I remember.”
“I don’t think that’s true.”
Hux was confused, having a hard time thinking still since he came. “How is that?”
“If we met in a cantina like this, even if we had the same time constraints, I wouldn’t have just gotten a leg over you and left. I’d have tried to take every last second I could spend with you and then, when we finally went our separate ways, you better believe I would have asked you to take my comm number. Whether or not you called me right away, when you were lonely, not at all, I don’t know, but I had to give you the options. If we didn’t have to rush out the next morning, I would have asked you to stay the night with me and then go to breakfast the next morning.”
“I’m not sure what I would have said to any of all of that.”
When he said that he didn’t mean that he was wavering on accepting Poe’s offers or not in the hypothetical situation. He legitimately did not know what he would have done because circumstances would have been so much different to allow such a thing. Whether or not he would think and feel in a way that even vaguely resembled his present self were impossible to extrapolate. At least Poe didn’t take offense to his weak answer, seeming to follow Hux’s train of thought on the subject.
“Poe, please don’t make me any more promises. They just upset me.”
“I have to explain myself to get you to pay me a common courtesy?” Hux snapped.
“No, I just wanted to understand why. I’m sorry, Brendol.”
“The promises about a life neither of us got to live are disheartening enough, but the thought of you making them in the here and now just isn’t something I can deal with. Please, don’t leave me thinking back on this and recalling it as some tragic lost potential for an affair.”
I plan on fleshing out other character quite a bit in the future. The events involving Hux and Poe in TFA will be explained but not overly drawn out later on because the main focus here is before and after TFA.
Just a PSA to readers, double check the tags before you read this chapter because it's not as vanilla as the last one. After this, though, the smut is done for a long while.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Poe had a number of comebacks flash through his mind. That was just his defense mechanism. When he became too uncomfortable, he talked, usually in the attempt to get a laugh or two to calm things down. As tempted as he was to point out that he had a First Order general begging him for something, he made himself be gentler. It wouldn’t have surprised him if this was the most vulnerable Brendol had been in years. Poe wasn’t far behind him even with all the swagger and smiles he was putting on. Tragic love affair. Not something Poe would have ever thought he’d hear from a First Order officer.
“Your words, not mine, red.”
When Brendol seized forward and kissed him Poe hadn’t seen it coming. Still, he kissed back. They repeated the action a few more times and Poe easily had him opening his mouth for him but then Brendol pulled away, assured that he had Poe’s attention.
“Stay away from the First Order, Poe. Please.”
“Brendol, you know I can’t do that. It’s my job, my life.”
He didn’t respond, just sliding down so that he could hide his face against the side of Poe’s.
“What are you planning to do?” Poe questioned slowly.
Brendol didn’t answer that directly and he didn't have any reason to. “The Resistance isn’t going to succeed.”
“That’s not a very nice thing to say.”
“It’s inevitable and the longer this draws on, the more people are going to needlessly die.”
“And what? You’ll offer me a TIE fighter and a kiss if I quit flying so that I don’t weigh on your conscience?”
“Two TIE fighters perhaps.” He half-joked in a whisper.
“As sweet as your offer is, you must not know the first thing about pilots if you think you can get one out of the air willingly. Let’s change this up. I’ll take you to breakfast whenever you want and make sure you have a lifetime supply of your cigaras if you throw away that uniform.”
“That’s rather difficult to do when part of it is tattooed on my skin to start with.”
Knowing that Poe could take his weight, Hux sprawled out on top of him. Poe let him, holding him in turn. The moment seemed unnaturally peaceful. With the sun having gone down, Hux was actually beginning to become chilled but there was nothing to be done about it without any blankets and he absolutely refused to redress until he’d showered.
Poe placed his hand on his face and guided him so that they could see one another. “I really hope I don’t hear your name in the coming months.”
“Months.” Hux scoffed. “I’m sure more than just we wish that things would resolve that quickly. And even then, our ideal endings both involve destroying the other’s way of life.”
“That wasn’t what I was saying.”
“What, you don’t want to hear my name listed as a prisoner, casualty, war criminal by your standards?”
“Any of those, all of them.”
It seemed like Poe had unknowingly plunged a knife into Hux’s gut when he said that with the way Hux attached his own meaning to his words. Poe didn't understand. He wouldn't understand. It was too late. The operations involving Starkiller were too complete to be terminated. And the crux of things was that Hux wouldn’t stop them if he could. There was such a wide berth between foiling his plans for the future of the First Order along with his own and doing his best to keep one cocky X-wing pilot out of harm’s way.
“As much as I hope the same goes for you, I can’t make any promises.”
Brendol was sulking again. Given the dark nature of exchange they’d been making, Poe knew why. Even if he was experiencing the same thing he didn’t show it. He wanted Brendol to come back to himself and not withdraw but it seemed like everything he did just made him more distant. Running out of ideas for anything clever, Poe just wriggling out of Brendol’s grip, tugging his wrist along with him as he got back to his feet.
“Join me in the shower?”
“We don’t have any soap.” Brendol stated plainly.
Poe attempted to turn things into a banter. “Well, I mean you can go back to the Order smelling like you just rolled around with an ill-bred fighter pilot but I’d rather stop feeling sticky.”
To be irritating, Poe let go of Brendol with a shrug and just kept heading to the bathroom without looking back. When he stopped to open the sliding door, taking more time than was necessary, Brendol collided with his shoulder, having followed him without expecting him to stop like that. Poe turned and grinned at him before giving him a peck on the cheek. While Brendol wasn’t amused, he also didn’t storm off. Hesitantly, he rested his chin against the top of Poe’s head for a few moments, hands barely touching his skin.
“I doubt you completely believe that.”
“As do I. Go turn on the shower.”
“As you wish, oh great emperor.” Poe quipped.
When Brendol’s initial reaction was to let out part of a ragged breath and try to hide the change in his pupils, Poe huffed. He’d thought about that title before. The mysterious Supreme Leader of the Knights of Ren and the First Order had better watch their back around Brendol Hux. Perhaps that could benefit everyone, Resistance and Poe included. Still, Poe just shook his head a bit and then surveyed the bathroom.
Like the room, it was cramped but clean. The shower was divided off from the sink and toilet by a flimsy curtain and the floor sloped a few degrees towards a drain in the corner. Poe had seen a lot worse and judging from Brendol’s lack of reaction, so had he despite his uptight attitude towards everything else. It was late enough in the evening that a lukewarm shower wouldn’t be unpleasant and Poe stepped into the shower and began to play with the taps. There didn't appear to be any switches for a sonic function, something that Poe didn't mind even if the rarity of such an antiquated pipe system didn't escape him. Sprayed twice, once with frigid water and the next with scalding, he eventually managed to get a tolerable temperature and steady pressure flowing. After seeing Poe relax, Brendol stepped meekly stepped in after him, unsure of himself once again.
“Never shared a shower before?”
Having all ready rinsed off to an extent, Poe pulled Brendol under the water with him, raking his fingers through his wrecked orange hair so that water could permeate all of it. As he did that, Brendol closed his eyes serenely. He liked having his hair played with even though Poe got the distinct impression that he let next to nobody do it. Just because he could, Poe kissed Brendol on his slick shoulder. The water had scoured away most of the sweat and grit and he tasted as clean was one could get without soap. Still, Brendol turned to scrub away the last traces of their fling from his front.
Poe cupped his face and turned Brendol back around before smoothly gliding his hand down to rest on his hip. He was so gawky and pale and all Poe wanted to do was memorize the feel of his body. Brendol wrapped his arms around Poe, wanting to be enveloped. Acquiescing, Poe embraced him tightly and Brendol actually kissed him tenderly on the lips. Tepid water falling on them freely over them. They were like that for some time until Brendol pulled back a bit.
“How much time do we have left?” He murmured against him.
“As long as you want.”
“That’s not true and we both know it.”
Poe sighed. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to say it.”
“It’s not like that’s what makes it real.”
“Yes, it is.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“That’s because you have no imagination.”
“I’m an engineer.” He scoffed. “I have imagination.”
“With machines, not people.”
“I used to think people were just part of a machine. I still do, but maybe those parts are made of something more forgiving than metal and wires.”
Poe cocked his head at him and smirked, making Hux blush. “Wow.”
“Forget it, I knew it was ridiculous when I said it.”
“I didn’t think so. Maybe those old Imperials have some clue how to raise their kids because you seemed to have turned out pretty okay.”
“I’m stuck between wanting to say something similar about the New Republic and being critical that I’m only ‘okay’ to you.”
“Pretty okay.” Poe corrected before letting his voice sink into a low register. “And you are incredibly pretty when you blush. Gorgeous, actually.”
Hux let Poe draw him in again. The kisses weren’t sweet this time. Poe, finding his hunger again, kissed Hux hard. A small sound escaped Hux’s throat before he could catch it and Poe pulled away from him to laugh.
“Now you decide to try to be quiet. No point, General. I know what you like now.”
All at once, Poe’s words smarted his ego and left him with blood pooling. “Do you now?”
“Let’s lose the big, sad eyes. Just for a little while.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it was nice earlier. But I really liked it when…” Hux trailed off, growing too embarrassed with himself.
Poe started mouthing at his neck again. “What?”
“When you were on top of me, you bit my neck and started… dirty talking.”
“That did it for you? I thought it was kind of mean given how unaccustomed you seem to be with all of this.”
“With you it didn’t feel like you were trying to hurt me or just use me to get a quick orgasm.” Hux whispered, his chagrin hot across his skin.
Poe needed to assert that point. “No, I’d never do that.”
“Will you treat me like earlier? Please?”
"Brendol, I honestly don't think you could take it. Being roughed up takes a lot out of you and I don't' want to push you too far."
While Brendol looked like he wanted to get angry for a moment, he calmed down just as quickly. "Is there a middle ground we could reach?"
"You're tired of being in control, aren't you?"
Sighing with all of his being, Hux nodded and then put his head on Poe's shoulder. Maybe Poe could make up a game, one that he felt Brendol could play. He could do that for him.
Taking pity, Poe put his hands on Hux’s hips possessively. “You want to be good for me, is that it? To be bored in some weekly meeting on fascism and then start thinking of where I put my hands and mouth on you after you'd earned it? Do you want to look out and wonder if the other filth knows where you’ve been and what cock you begged for? For want every speck of brass to know who you belong to?”
Hux's breath left him and then turned off the shower. There were no towels and Hux angled himself away to brush some of the water off of his skin and squeeze his hair as dry as possible. When he gathered himself enough to put on a display of bravado, he found Poe just watching his as he shook the top of his hair our with his hands.
“What are you waiting for, then? Give me something to remember you by.”
His lips moved to Hux’s ear, Poe’s voice serious and skin still soaked. “Are you going to tell me if things go too far?”
“Then go kneel on the floor by the chair.”
Chest tight and part of him more than a little offended by such an idea, Hux none the less did as he was told, dripping onto the floor. His erection stirring and mouth watering at the orders and Poe's earlier words, Hux sank down to his knees by one of the chair legs and Poe let him stay alone there for a good minute, just staring at him from the refresher doorway. He sank into the cushions with his legs wide open when he'd had enough.
“Come here.” He drawled.
Hux moved forward until he was in between Poe’s legs. Even if Poe was hard, he wasn’t immediately dragged towards his dick. A little confused at the interlude, Hux rested his cheek on Poe’s damp thigh. He was rewarded with Poe carding his fingers through his hair, catching the tips on each downward stroke and pulling softly.
“Kriff, you love this. You completely get off on someone making sure you know just how obedient and wanting you are. Is that true?”
“Yes, what?” Poe goaded.
Hux rapidly searched his thoughts. “Yes, Commander.”
Poe’s grin was the most lascivious thing Hux had ever seen. One of his hands went to stroke his erection into more complete shape and the other came to rest upon Hux’s jaw. His thumb traced along Hux’s lower lip and Hux opened his mouth, curious to see if it would buy him favor. He didn’t expect Poe to put his thumb all the way past his teeth to push his tongue back. The intrusion brought him close to gagging and he pulled off of him, the pressure left on his tongue still palpable.
“Good boy. How many officers have you let do this to you?”
He answered honestly. “None.”
“How many have you wanted to do this to you?”
Hux blinked, the number humiliatingly high and Poe just shook his head at him, clucking his tongue softly.
“We’ll have to do something about that later. For now, you should pay me back for those drinks. The currency you gave me is worthless where I come from and I’m still upset that you called me scum.”
Knowing what he meant and wanted, Hux started to put his hands on Poe’s thighs and lean down when Poe stopped him.
“Ah-ah. No hands.”
The corner of his mouth twitching downward but Poe ignored it. Poe moved his hand from Hux’s chin to the back of his head, guiding his mouth onto his wet cock. The movement wasn’t overly controlling and Hux was confident that he was in charge of his range of motion. As Hux started to run his tongue up along his length and over the head only to have Poe’s cock bob away from him to drag along his face and leave his cheek covered in saliva and precome, Poe’s petted his hair to reassure him. Determined to impress, Hux took him in his mouth. He needed to warm up before he tried what he had in mind, not wanting to gag like a virgin.
Bobbing his head just over Poe’s fat tip, Hux started to work him down into his mouth. Poe lightly thrusting into his mouth as he saw fit hindered things a tad. Hux was determined not to let it stop him. Finally having nearly gotten all of him, Hux looked Poe dead in the eye and then swallowed him completely down. Poe caught off any sound he might have wanted to make by biting his lip and Hux lifted off of him with an audible pop, the back of his throat stinging but prideful. The dampness on his cheek was smeared by Poe’s thumb when he stroked his face in appreciation. When Hux realized as he was supposed to that it was the same thumb that had been in his mouth and was still wet, Poe smirked.
“Very good. Go get the bottle of lube”
Hux remembered that they’d left it on the bedside table and he rose and went to retrieve it, coming back with it in his hand. Poe held out his palm and Hux presented it to him.
“In my lap, over the chair arm.”
After thinking he had an idea of what Poe wanted, Hux tried to arrange himself in the chair according to instructions. His knees were folded so that his feet were hanging over the chair arm, his stomach was over Poe’s thighs, and his neck was braced over his folded arms on the other chair arm. With his back arched neatly upward, Hux wasn't sure of what Poe had in store. The picture they’d created could have blackmailed him into nearly anything had someone walked in on them then. Poe just wriggled in his seat, getting comfortable before laying one forearm over Hux’s back and running his other hand along his flank. The upholstery of the chair had to be completely soaked.
“Be honest now. Are you sorry that you called me Rebel scum?”
Hux was very tempted to lie but also too curious as to what would happen otherwise to follow through with it.
“At least you told the truth. We’ll go with five. Count them out.”
After giving Brendol a few seconds to brace himself, Poe brought his open hand down upon his ass with a resounding slap. Brendol took it with just a hiss of breath and quickly remembering himself, counted off.
“There you go.” Poe murmured.
He wound up again and then spanked him. Just hard enough to string but sound worse than it actually was, Poe knew how to hit someone along with take hits in the bedroom. Not entirely knowing Brendol’s boundaries, he didn’t want to push him and was going as lightly as he could while making it still count as a slap. Watching Brendol’s reactions carefully, he seemed to be taking it well, even getting a perverse pleasure out of it as it was supposed to even.
“Two.” Brendol expelled.
Brendol’s face was far redder than the hand print that was started to appear on his buttock. Poe had been making sure to spank him in the same spot each time. Once more, Poe connected his hand with Brendol’s skin.
“Good boy. Just one more.”
And just like that, Brendol took it and Poe let his hand drop, just caressing his back and shoulders. Brendol was breathing hard, but he wasn’t shaking and his eyes were clear.
“Are you all right?”
Brendol took a moment, giving the question serious consideration as he was supposed to.
“You did so well. Do you want your reward? You've earned it.”
Not correcting the slip in dialogue, Poe just picked the bottle of lube back up from where he’d placed it on the cushion beside him and popped open the cap. Brendol immediately recognized the sound and let out a breath in anticipation. Squeezing lube onto his fingers, Poe just started teasing him, circling around his entrance. Slicking one finger completely, Poe gently started to work it into him and Brendol hummed lightly when Poe got deep enough to brush his prostate. Still moving his hand, Poe kissed his shoulder.
“How does that feel?”
“I can take more, Commander.”
So Poe withdrew from Brendol and liberally poured lube onto his index and middle finger. Going even more slowly than last time, he inserted his fingers until he was able to crook them and make Brendol nearly jump. Brendol started cursing again and Poe clapped him on his backside to get his attention.
“Say those nasty words out of turn again and you’ll be meeting your friend with my come on your face and your own balls turning blue.” He threatened.
Brendol swallowed. “I’m sorry, Commander.”
“Are you this time?”
“Or do you just want to make sure you get my cock up your ass?”
Brendol started to sputter out a response but Poe just light cupped his hand over his mouth to shush him, not actually requiring a response to what he said. To his surprise, Brendol moved his head to suck one of Poe’s fingers into his mouth, close to whimpering when Poe rolled his fingertips over his sweet spot again in response. That mouth caused so much trouble for the New Republic, the Resistance, and Poe. All the same, Poe gently withdrew his fingers from between Hux's lips and from his ass.
“There's a good boy. Go get on the bed.”
Starting to right himself, once he got his feet under him on the floor and before he could get away, Poe pulled Brendol back to him and kissed him with everything he had.
If Poe was determined to show him that only he could kiss him how Hux wanted to be kissed, he was proving highly successful. Bringing Hux sharply back to him, Poe lightened his touch after a few seconds only come return with aggression. Hux couldn’t keep up and that seemed to be the point. Slipping his tongue into his mouth, Poe licked against Hux’s tongue in long drags until he ended things by withdrawing from Hux’s mouth with one last flourishing flick. He grinned wolfishly at him and then caught Hux's lower lip between his teeth, tugging at and then releasing him. Leaving Hux panting and with a now painfully hard erection, Poe just put a few fingers under his chin and angled his head to one side and then another. Hux realized he was inspecting the hickey he’d left earlier and was titled back to the other side so that Poe could use his lips and teeth on the skin there. No quarter was shown this time and Hux keened when Poe sucked the skin there raw and then sank his teeth into him in an alternating pattern. When he was satisfied and Hux’s pulse was firing, he gave the new love bite a kiss and then nudged Hux, telling him to follow his earlier command.
Finally freed, Hux went over to the bed and once on the mattress, he waited for further instructions. When Poe approached him after digging a condom out of his discarded pants, he started to maneuver onto his hands and knees. Poe caught his arm.
“Not that way, baby. I want to look at you.”
Hux started to show his bewilderment before he stopped himself, but Poe had all ready caught his confusion.
"Brendol, you weren't built to be knocked around. You're impossibly beautiful and you have wit to match."
He became even redder than he all ready was. "You're handsome as well, Poe, and incredibly charismatic."
"I know that, Brendol, but I'm not sure you believe anything similar about yourself." When Hux didn't reply, Poe just kept going. "Take with you that one Rebel pilot certainly thought you were the world."
Trying to breathe normally, Hux just let Poe position him how he preferred. Hux ended up on his back with his legs spread so that Poe could kneel in between them. As it was, Poe was rolling on the condom and slicking himself up with more of the lube. Hux let his head drop against the bed and he pushed his hair back. Leaning down, Poe kissed Hux’s stomach and then started to brush his lips up his sternum and over his throat until he was nearly completely slotted into Hux. After running his tongue up his jawline, Poe stopped.
“Ask nicely.” Poe taunted.
Hux drew in an uneven breath before just letting himself babble. “Please. Poe, I want you more than I’ve wanted anyone in my life. If you leave me here I don’t know what I’m going to do. Please.”
Poe absolutely knew he was going to be revisiting what Brendol told him later on, but right now, there were other objectives. Taking his own cock in his hand and starting to push into Brendol, he went at a tedious pace, absolutely terrified by the idea of hurting him. For being so uptight, Hux was relaxing into things. Thrusting shallowly, Poe used his weight to hold Brendol still until he’d bottomed out inside of him. The sensation of sinking into him forced him to think about anything but what was going on in that cantina loft or risk ending things early. He’d imagined Brendol being the one to come prematurely, not him. Brendol had closed his eyes, but when Poe’s hips settled completely, he opened them.
Starting to rock into him, Poe let out a long, self-indulgent sigh. Kriff, this felt good. Remembering his partner, Poe changed the angle of his pelvis and prolonged his thrusts. It had the intended effect and Hux dug his nails into Poe’s back, his knees pressing into his sides.
“Is that good, baby?”
Brendol nearly sobbed out his answer. “Yes. Yes, Poe.”
Being careful not to rush things, Poe’s movements were calculated and meant for the long game. He didn’t want to untangle himself from Brendol a moment sooner than he had to. Remembering what Brendol told him, Poe would drive forward with purposeful rolls of the hips at a languid pace. Each time he did so, Brendol would let out a little huff of air and if Poe took an extra moment to kiss him or suck on his neck he’d earn a moan. Taking things in a slightly different direction, Poe didn’t draw back, just starting to rotate in shallow motions. Without being prompted, Brendol looked up at him, pulling him closer to him. Poe dropped the act entirely.
“Are you going to forget me now?” He asked breathlessly.
Poe kissed him forcefully a few times but kept it chaste.
“When you think of me, I want you to remember this, the way this felt. Can you do that?”
Hux wrapped his legs around him. “I will if you do the same.”
“Of course I will. I told you, it’s all about what you believe.”
“That’s what makes it real.”
Poe chuckled “So you listen to me after all.”
“Of course I do.”
Shaking his head, Poe just reached in between them and started to jerk Brendol off, giving him some relief that Poe wasn’t providing anywhere else. When Brendol closed his teeth over his lip, Poe wondered if he picked up the behavior from him in the short time they’d spent together.
“Part of the fun earlier was that I found it borderline humiliating to be rolling around with a Rebel pilot it's lost its sense of taboo.”
“I get the feeling. Bossing around some fancy enemy general is a lot more fun when that’s all you see them as.”
Brendol looked down at the bed and despite his delicately constructed smile let out a huff.
“Come on, Commander. Let me feel you.”
“Anything to please the general.”
Snapping into him in a way Poe had been hesitant to do earlier, Hux came undone under Poe. He wasn’t the only one. Only a few pumps after Hux was drowning in his orgasm, senses flooding and muscles constricting, Poe’s weight dropped fully onto him. Clutching him, Poe’s jerking thrusts brought Hux close to seeing white and bordered on being painful with the way they followed the end of his release. But when Poe just pressed his forehead against Hux’s, eyes shut tightly and breathless, Hux couldn’t be upset. Poe started to laugh and he opened his eyes.
Hux groaned at the horrible joke. “Kriff, Poe.”
"Are you okay?"
Blushing again, Hux fought the question before settling in to think about to Poe's relief.
"You did so well. That was fantastic."
“Are we taking a second shower?”
Hux pondered that suggestion. He felt clean and, repulsive as it was, enjoyed the traces of his own scent that Poe had left on his skin. The only thing he could find to complain about was the come starting to dry on his stomach. Perhaps observing where Hux’s line of sight had gone while he thought about that, Poe sat up, removing the condom and tying it shut. Still straddling Hux, he threw it at the waste disposal slot in the wall and thankfully made the shot. Poe didn’t move back to cuddle up to him, instead reaching down to grab his shirt from the floor and offering it to Hux. Even if Hux wanted to be disgusted, they had no towels and it was hard not to be slightly touched that Poe was offering his shirt after seeing how finicky Hux was with his clothes. Hux ended up taking it and he cleaned himself. Poe plucked the shirt from his grip when he’d finished and used it to wipe his dick off before carelessly throwing the shirt aside.
“Are you wearing that later?” Hux asked, at last repulsed.
Poe just beamed. “I haven’t decided yet. Seeing the look on Jessika’s face if we meet up and I’m sans shirt would be pretty priceless.”
“You’re an animal.”
“Yeah? And you’re a prissy jerk. Are we done now?”
With a huff, Hux nodded, agreeing with Poe that the petty banter was a waste of time. Poe ruffled Hux's damp hair a bit and then slipped his hand into Hux’s and then brought the back of it to his lips. Against his will, Hux was starting to grow extremely drowsy. No, he’d have to go find Dolpheld and Avice soon and that meant leaving here. Determined to wake, he adjusted himself so that he was sitting next to Poe and able to lean against his shoulder. His skin was warm and Poe just let him slump against him, stroking his thumb over Hux’s hand. To his disappointment, Hux started to fall asleep again and his eyes flew open when Poe started to lay him back against the mattress.
“It’s okay, Brendol. Sleep for a while. I’m tired, too. I'll be right here.”
He didn’t want to, but it was becoming more and more his only option. Poe settled in next to him, pulling him close and proving to be an acceptable substitute for a blanket. They were running out of things to say and time to say it in. Perhaps this was for the best. Hux put his face up against Poe’s neck and Poe hummed happily in response. As Hux started to drop off, Poe’s breathing evened out. The impossibility of that quiet moment and the goodbyes that would have to be exchanged only briefly flickered through Hux’s thoughts.
Writing this makes me so sad. It started as smut and now I just want to weep over lost potential as they part ways for now up ahead. More of my own character analysis, praise kink, subby Hux makes too much sense to me along with Poe having experience with adventurous sex for his own catharsis. Thank you for putting up with this. I appreciate all of the hits, kudos, and as always, I love comments.
Temmin Wexley’s own snoring ended up rousing him. A headache was definitely present, though, not splitting enough to prove debilitating. Vaguely aware of his surroundings, he tried to sit up, slamming his head against the top of the small bunk. So much for not having a horrible headache. Remembering that he was on the shuttle, he then tried to reconstruct why. That was right. Poe and Jessika hadn’t wanted to go home just because he’d drank too much. He didn’t blame them and probably would have voted to do the same had he been in one of their places. At least he must not have gotten too intoxicated because he hadn’t been placed on his side.
From the hum of the ship's machinery, they were moving and headed back to D’Qar. It was a shame he’d missed most of the evening, but he was very eager to hear how things had gone for Jessika and Poe. Getting to his feet and finding pride over how steady he was, he went to the cockpit, leaning against the doorway. Jessika’s hair looked like she’d tried to comb it with her fingers but it was still a mess. Poe was in better shape, wearing a stained and wrinkled shirt underneath his jacket and just keeping his eyes on the viewport. Upon seeing Temmin, he quickly rearranged his expression.
“How you feeling, Snap?” He inquired with a laugh.
“Pretty good, actually.”
Jessika just shook her head at him. “Biggest lightweight I’ve ever met.”
“Whatever, Pava. I didn’t have to pay for drinks. What did you two end up doing after I left? Don’t tell me there was karaoke.”
He knew that there wasn’t but wanted to get them talking, particularly Poe. While Poe wasn’t moping, he usually only acted like this when he thought that he was alone. Something had to have happened. Looking at Jessika, who Poe would have told any secret to before it reached Temmin, she didn’t seem overly concerned. That relaxed him even if whatever it was still ate at Poe, no matter how superficial it might be.
“We met a couple of nice men, shared some drinks.” Jessika explained succinctly.
Temmin was willing to needle her. “On Jakku? Did you go back to their sand huts afterward?”
“No! They worked transporting goods and for your information I went back to a shuttle, a nice one, too. I think we might be in the wrong line of business if they can afford that.”
Poe stood up abruptly, moving to give Temmin his copilot’s seat. The way he kept himself angled prevented any read on his current state, but his voice was revealingly monotone.
“Here. You can copilot.”
Not asking questions, Snap just did as he said, sitting down as Poe stormed back into the hold, shutting the doors behind him.
“I’ve never seen him like that. Did something happen to him?” Temmin asked Jessika in a whisper.
“Nobody hurt him if that’s what you mean. Physically, anyway. He was worse earlier and I wouldn’t leave him alone until he told me what happened.”
“What did he say?”
She sighed. “He really liked the guy he was with. Like a lot. I’ve never seen Poe act like that towards anyone and he had the rotten luck to feel like that towards someone he’ll probably never see again.”
“Why won’t they see one another again if they hit it off so well?”
“From what Dopheld, the guy I was with, told me, they won’t be dealing with any Republic systems any longer. They’re not coming back here until the war ends.”
“I still don’t understand how Poe of all people got so attached to a one night stand.”
“Well, I think a lot of it was just the idea of war separating them, but Snap, you didn’t see them together. Yeah, if I was crying over Dopheld it would be silly because for us, it was just a fling. They had one of those holodrama connections. Poe barely kept it together and the other guy broke down when they said their goodbyes. Something happened other than just getting off in that loft. It’s a damn tragedy.”
“What was his name?”
“Brendol I think.”
“Should one of us go and talk to Poe?”
“I don’t think so. He’ll come to us if he wants to. You know him.”
Temmin looked at her. “I really don’t. And I doubt you do either. Poe won't come to talk to either of us, it's just a fact. He doesn’t let people see the real him. It’s all smiles and jokes, nothing more. There’s a difference between being liked and being loved and it's that you have to know someone to love them. Poe doesn't let people love him.”
Jessika looked like she wanted to say something, but she ended up closing her mouth after some thought. While Temmin wasn’t one to spout off deep advice, what he said was resonating with both of them in regards to Poe.
“I want to keep an eye on him. He does foolish things when he’s emotional.”
Jessika activated a monitor on the control panel next to her and started flipping through the various footage of the ship. When she got to the hold where Poe was at instead of in the crew quarters in order to presumably try to assure that he wasn’t found, she took her hands away from the controls so that they could get a good look at the screen. Poe was sitting up against an old crate, legs spread out before him and hands in his lap. Temmin remembered seeing pilots he’d flown with act like that when squad members they were close with were killed in action, particularly if they were under the impression that something they did or failed to do was what caused their deaths.
First heat stroke and now tears. It had always been obvious how prideful Brendol was and to see him laid so low was something Mitaka never thought he’d encounter. He wished that wasn’t the case, both for Hux’s sake and his. Having always been presented a frigid exterior, for Hux in turn to cry on his shoulder was uncomfortable and sobering for Dopheld. His belief had always been that Hux was above such base needs. As an officer, he was collected, swift of mind, firm in his beliefs. What Mitaka had never considered was that he was still human.
Dopheld had enjoyed Jessika’s company and her touch but that was as far as it went. Had they the option to be able to stay in contact, it would have just been as friends. When they’d decided they’d had enough of one another’s bodies, he and Jessika had redressed and went back to the cantina for a few more drinks and casual discussion while they waited for their respective counterparts. When more and more time began to tick by without Poe or Hux coming down the stairs to the loft, Mitaka was unsure what to think. When he expressed his concerns to Jessika, she just shrugged, unperturbed.
When Hux and Poe finally reentered the bar, Mitaka assumed they’d almost immediately leave and go see how Phasma was doing. Even with all as long as they’d spent together, he figured that, at most, they’d kiss goodbye and then part. At the foot of the stairs, they started whispering to one another. Poe took the general’s hands and appeared to be imploring him to do something even if he all ready knew what Hux’s answer would be. In response, Hux collapsed into himself and Mitaka nearly ran over to him. However, Poe’s reaction made him stop. He caught Hux and Hux clung to him. Poe let him recover and when Hux got his feet under him, he kissed him on the cheek.
Jessika swore and then turned back to Dopheld, having been watching them as well. “I guess this is where we part.”
“I had a nice time.”
“Goodbye.” He kissed her on the lips.
After catching Poe’s eye, Jessika moved towards the exit and Poe followed. Words seemed to have run dry between Hux and Poe because they just shared one last look before Poe turned and left with Jessika, seeming to be working very hard to keep looking forward. Hux watched him go and Mitaka approached him warily one they were out the door.
“Brendol? Are you all right?”
“I will be.” He replied in a hollow voice that was close to cracking.
Mitaka still had about half of a drink that Jessika had bought him, something much stronger than the sweet cocktails that they’d all had earlier and he pressed the glass into Hux’s hand. Not needing to be prompted, Hux swallowed its contents, not even flinching at the burn of the alcohol. His face was free of tears but something detectable about him was shattered.
“Do you need a moment?”
“No. Let’s go.”
Another thing he learned that day was that despite the stoicism and self-sacrifice that Hux was capable of showing in the face of danger, he had his limits. He kept himself together until they were outside. Phasma was standing by the rows of shuttles that were being loaded with fuel barrels to be taken back to the Finalizer. A woman trained to detect weakness, when it was Hux that she sensed it emanating from, her confusion was visible. Still, Hux’s lip didn’t even tremble. His face was red and his hands clenched, but that was all. It wasn’t until a small, beat up ship broke the atmosphere overhead that silent tears started to slip down his face. Dopheld had no idea how to react but Phasma marched over to them.
“Into the shuttle, Genereal.” She directed in a cold voice.
Hux nodded slightly and Dopheld gripped his sleeve again. Once they got him inside, Dopheld sat Hux down on one of the crew benches. Swallowing hard, Mitaka looked at Phasma.
“I can handle this. Make sure nobody comes in here.”
Not responding even if Mitaka had practically given an order to a higher officer, Phasma just exited the shuttle, shutting it up tightly behind her. Mitaka had no idea how to comfort him or even if he should try to. Deciding that it was best just to offer his presence until Hux either told him to leave or chose to speak to him, he quietly sat down next to Hux. Hux stilled for a moment at Mitaka's close proximity, but after a few seconds the wracking sobs resumed. At once point, Hux shot Mitaka a furious look that didn’t need words for Mitaka to understand that if he were to speak of this to anyone, it would be his neck on the line. Even if Mitaka wouldn't have done such a thing to begin with, something Hux had to know to even have him in here in the first place, Hux was never a man to leave himself exposed. Or perhaps Dopheld was wrong about him yet again.
“Have you ever stopped to wonder if what you’re doing is worth your entire life, Dopheld?” Hux questioned without a drop of vitriol.
Mitaka knew this was dangerous territory, borderline treasonous even. “I wholeheartedly believe in our cause, sir.”
From the way Hux moved to bury his face in his hands, Mitaka understood that he’d answered the question incorrectly. Hux still was completely loyal to the First Order, that much was a relief. Still, it brought him no closer to calming Hux down. Mitaka began to try to say something, but Hux just gestured at him to hold his tongue. For a few minutes, Hux just let himself weep before he quieted himself, drying his face and reaffixing the veneer of the general. As they waited without speaking for Hux's face and eyes to lose their redness, Mitaka very much wanted to speak about his opinions that had been requested earlier. Yet the moment had passed and would likely never return between the two of them.
Short chapter, but new POVs, how exciting. Those will change now and then for emphasis. The next chapters will skip ahead to after the destruction of Starkiller base and how Hux and Poe deal with that respectively. Chapters will alternate between being Hux or Poe centered for a while. Also, I read Star Wars Aftermath (ten out of ten would recommend for Nora, Jas, or Sinjir alone) which contains fifteen year old Temmin Wexley and I don't even know what I've done with his character. Thank you so much for reading! I love seeing the comments left on my works so if a passage catches your eye or you just have thoughts in general I'd love the feedback.
After the destruction of Starkiller base, an armistice was called for. By which side the plea had originated was hotly contested, but the fact remained that for now, blaster and cannon fire had been eclipsed by uneasy silence. Perhaps that was an inapt statement. There was next to nothing left for the First Order to throw at the New Republic or vice versa so of course there would be peace or, more accurately, a lack of conflict. But despite the torpid state of the war, so much was happening. There were rumors of the return of a real Jedi, not just a couple of untrained youths with some degree of force sensitivity. Change was coming for the entire galaxy.
Not that Armitage Hux cared remotely. The very title of the First Order was now a mocking reminder of everything it wasn’t. Nothing about it held power or discipline any longer. It had been Hux’s whole life. He’d given everything he could to it and yet it had still crumbled around him. Once the Knights of Ren had withdrawn from their ranks and FN-2187's treason unbalanced the storm trooper program, the fractures that had been created were stressed until the whole thing began to collaps. It was no consolation prize to know that there was no longer any New Republic either. A government that Hux had worked to overthrow was still in some ways preferable to absolute anarchy. Against everything he had been raised with, Hux actually clung to the hope that if the Jedi were to rise again, they would instate some form of peace and guidance as they had in the days long before the clone war.
He was frightened, guilty, panicked, and not afraid to admit any of it. From the moment Snoke silenced him when he attempted to own up to his folly and his initial reaction was indignation instead of taking the chastisement with deference as he had been raised to, he knew something in him had permanently changed. Whether it had been building up within him or if he’d just snapped all of the sudden didn’t seem to matter. His own instinct of defiance struck him to the core. All at once, every time he’d pulled more of his fair share and was still cast aside rushed back to him. Snoke's words became even more poignant with his legacy, Starkiller, being blown to pieces. The rational part of him knew it wasn’t his fault and yet, when he was alone for the first time after the event, he numbly registered himself screaming, weeping, and then hoarsely curling into a ball in the corner, wrapping his arms around himself tightly.
Why he was behaving like a child he couldn’t exactly pinpoint. There seemed to be too many reasons explaining, yet not excusing, the behavior.
His life was endless futility, it always had been. Try as he might, nothing was ever enough and it was only now occurring to him that that wasn’t something for him berate himself over. That cycle had been put into place with complete purposefulness and in another first, Hux rightfully hated the people who had imposed that upon him. His father, the academy, officers' school, his higher officers, all of them. He’d never been a person to them and perhaps had never thought that even about himself. It was radical idea for him to think that he was not just an instrument of the First Order, no matter how finely tuned or blunt he had been groomed to see himself as. The First Order had stolen not just his potential and humanity, but that of countless others. Hux had next to no sense of his identity when he tried to separate himself from his military upbringing. When he tried to describe who he was with adjectives like “driven”, “intelligent”, “orderly” that he had an inkling might be his to use, all he could do was second guess if that was all really him or just who he was raised to be even when simultaneously he’d been labelled as “lazy”, “stupid”, and a “waste”. Those conflicting ideas just made him retreat farther from pulling himself together and his only focus was not clawing open his skin, a horrible habit that he’d developed at an early age and had never successfully broken. On the contrary, the older he became the worse it seemed to get and even his gloves couldn't protect him from his nails.
What a joke. He was worried about not making himself bleed after what he’d done. Hux had designed and built Starkiller base for Supreme Leader Snoke. Why? Nobody had asked him to do that. Two Death Stars had been constructed and then destroyed, but Hux had been raised in the receding shadow of the Empire. Knowing that this could be his chance to utilize what he was proficient at and gain the attention of people like Snoke and even his father, Hux had used his engineering skills to draw up and then propose the plans to Starkiller. And because he wanted recognition so much, the population of five planets were annihilated. It hadn’t been worth it, not in the least. In theory, before the failed attack on D’Qar, he could justify firing the weapon and murdering all of those lives by redirecting his focus to how he was ending the conflict. Now? All he’d done was plunge them into a cold war that would reignite the moment one or both sides were done licking their wounds. It would be drawn out even longer and would be bloodier than had he never been born as was everyone involved's intentions.
The only thing he could arrive at was that either the First Order was no longer a refuge for him. He have a clue as to what he could do even knowing all that he did now. He’d never been this afraid and as time ticked by, that fear only multiplied exponentially.
And it was that fear that had allowed him to join the tiny group of officers who, instead of defecting or waiting to be dishonored by the inevitable cut throat dissolution of the First Order, chose to escape. They had all grown up watching their parents tiptoeing around the shards of the Empire and Hux firmly decided that he wasn’t going to do the same no matter how much he was reviled for it. It was too easy of a decision to make. His title, which he’d sought after since his academy days, was useless now. Beyond that, it was dangerous, putting a bounty on his head by both the Resistance and the advantageous and deadly members of the First Order who were gathering together. A coup was bubbling beneath his feet and he wasn’t going to stay to find out who was loyal to him and who wasn’t. Hux’s loyalty was only to himself as it should have been.
The bridge had become a toxic swamp of shifting alliances. Orders weren’t neatly given and taken any more. Everything turned into a battle of wills and Hux had to assert himself and stare down his officers with nearly every word he spoke. Nobody had out and out defied him yet, but Hux had a delicate blaster he kept in his boot that was there should he turn his back to the wrong person. He’d had to send storm troopers to break up fights on more than one occasion, one of them ending in Mitaka giving him a grateful look after the officer and a couple of troopers that had been wailing on him were hauled away. Lip split and eye starting to bruise, Hux wanted to be shocked at his Lieutenant for getting in the middle of all of the conflict even if he couldn't be. Mitaka knew how to handle people and certainly had Hux in his pocket, something Hux wondered if was in his favor or to his detriment. It made too much sense that Mitaka was vying for something. Phasma had been there when the fight was broken up and had watched Hux unreadably through her helmet as Hux spoke with Mitaka to assure that he was fine.
The next day, when Hux’s shift ended and he was steeling himself to make the perilous journey back to his quarters while inconspicuously avoiding everyone he might encounter along the way, he stepped into the lift. He was alone and he’d let out the breath he was holding. The doors had nearly shut when a reflective gauntlet seized the lip of one of the doors at the last moment, keeping it from closing. Squaring himself and hiding his apprehension, he watched as Phasma stepped in next to him. She of all people he could likely trust but Hux wasn’t about to get himself killed by misplacing his faith. But Phasma didn’t even turn to him, just taking off her mask. Hux stared at her from the corner of his eye, perplexed and worried as to the motive behind the action.
“Dopheld wants you to come with us.” She stated without emotion.
He dared to turn to her slightly, brow drawn.
“What do you mean?”
“The First Order is gone. Should we remain inside it, we’ll be disposed of at the first convenient opportunity. Factions are forming and there are rumors that ridding themselves of the current leaders would aid the cause of nearly every one of them. Resistance favoring, those out for power, anarchists, our heads are being called for by the lot.”
Hux suppressed a shiver. “You’re deserting, aren’t you, Avice.”
“I’m not the only one, but I’m not giving you names.”
“No, why would you. You said that Dopheld wanted me along. Not you?”
“I was ambivalent. While your leadership would be an asset you also would put a target on our backs.”
“How rational of you.”
The fact that the most loyal figure to the First Order that Hux had ever seen had given up on it spoke volumes and aided in reaffirming his earlier treasonous thought. Knowing he wasn’t alone was comforting in its own way even if it seemed to put a period on General Armitage Hux’s story.
“I doubt I need to tell you that should you choose not to leave with us and instead report what I’ve told you, I will personally see that every blaster that is being twitched in your direction finds you.” Phasma threatened evenly.
“No need. I’d expect nothing less from you, Captain. Tell me, what are your plans for if you manage to escape?”
She was silent. Hux hadn’t expected her to divulge the plan, if they even had one, and wasn’t suffering from the snub. Quite the opposite. Hux had made up his mind. He turned so that he could look her directly in the eye.
“I’ll pack a bag. What time will we be departing?”
Phasma appeared surprised at his words but readily recovered. “Be at the far end of the hangar bay at the switch between the first and second night shifts.”
He nodded and then whispered. “Thank you.”
Just being given a steady look, Phasma put her chrome helmet back on when she’d finished scrutinizing him. Hux just went back to facing forward and then the lift stopped on his floor, he walked out as if they’d never began speaking. Hurrying to his quarters, he punched in the code to his door and then locked the door behind him before slumping against the wall, breathing shallowly.
Part of him wanted to weep from various emotions while the other portion was clicking into autopilot. He needed to pack. And that was what he started doing, albeit with tears in his eyes and pathetically sniveling. He’d cried more in this past year than he had in a decade. The exoskeleton that he’d been forced to grow had shed itself and what was left was the young boy that had never been given anything but back handed blows. There would be no reaffixing that armor, just trying to heal from the flesh that it had stripped from him and then hiding the scars. Not long ago, he’d been given another opportunity to run away and he wished more than anything that he’d taken it. The population of five planets and countless other lives certainly would have wished he’d have taken the offered hand, but he hadn’t been ready. His pivotal moment was to come later starting with his face upturned to the crimson beam of Starkiller when the cold reality set in that what he’d shed blood to create was ripping him apart rather than mending the flaws he carried.
Hux wasn’t one to collect things and so there was next to nothing for him to place into the duffel bag that he usually kept his exercise gear in. Since nearly all of his clothes could be identified as pieces of a first order uniform, all he could take was his undershirts, gloves, boots, socks, briefs, and the spare civilian outfit he kept tucked away where he didn’t have to look at it when he laid out his clothes each evening. Setting those sentiments aside, the idea that while Poe would abhor him for all that Hux had done to him, the New Republic, and the Resistance, he’d be proud that he was leaving brushed his consciousness as he neatly folded and then placed the clothes in the bag. His toiletries went next and he feared how long they might hold out if they were were unable to resupply. There was nothing to be done about that considering that even though Hux had a good supply of credits he was taking with him, they might and probably would be deemed worthless in the majority of places. He nearly packed a pillow from his bed before realizing that with no way to wash the pillowcase it would become disgusting very quickly and that he’d rather live without it. The bundle of belongings he was taking with him was meager and disheartening to look at. The entire room was General Hux’s. That bag was just his.
To pass the time before he needed to head to the hangar bay, Hux sat cross legged on the edge of his bed after grabbing his coat, hat, cigara case, and sparksticks. Just because he could, he put his hat on and then wrapped himself in his greatcoat. The latter was the one thing he would have liked to take with him. The lining of that coat was incredibly soft and it’s heavy material had always given him a sense of security. Letting his mind become blank from exhaustion, Hux lit a cigara and then puffed on it idly, not bothering to take it out of his mouth between drags. Trying to appreciate the cigaras even if he was past the point of caring, Hux methodically smoked each one until his case was empty and his stomach was twisting, unused to smoking so much at once. Ignoring his nausea, he rose and then went to the refresher where he extended the hand holding his cigara case over the toilet, ready to drop it. He couldn't make his fingers release for some reason. With a sigh, he put it the case in his pocket.
Now knowing how else to waste time after preparing to leave, Hux just sat back down and watched the chronopiece on the wall tediously tick forward. When Hux could at last slip through the halls of his previously beloved ship that now only served to house the insects that had survived the first rounds of extermination to find that one of the shuttles was hurriedly being loaded with everything that wasn’t bolted down, the relief left him faint. He hadn't been able to earnestly believe that the invitation to escape had been genuine before this. Mitaka ran over to him, actually embracing him. After a few seconds, Hux hugged him back.
“Were you not sure I’d be here, Dopheld?” Hux asked softly.
“I had faith, but that doesn't mean I can't be happy about it.”
Phasma approached them, her armor reflecting off of the blue light of shielded hangar entrance. Even with her helmet on, Hux knew that she wasn’t here to be affectionate as Mitaka had been. After giving an almost imperceptible nod to Hux, she gestured so the crates that her and Rodinon had been loading onto the shuttle.
“If you don’t mind helping us with these.”
All sense of respect to rank was logically gone. They themselves were shattering the chain of command. Remembering all of the physical training that he’d done that had consistently failed to add muscle to his frame, Hux was none the less capable of pulling his weight with his wiry strength. While Phasma needed no assistance, Rodinon was beginning to struggle with one crate even with the anti gravity and Hux sidled up to him to aid in pushing. Rodinon glanced over at him before nodding slightly to himself, evidently making up his mind about Hux.
“Who else is coming?” Hux asked with a grunt as the crate finally went up the ramp to the shuttle.
Rodinon was rather breathless from the exertion. “Unamo and Thanisson are inside disabling the tracking device.”
“That’s really all of us?”
“There were only so many people we thought we could trust inviting along even if they were wanted. You barely made the cut yourself, Brendol.”
“That’s not my name.” Hux said without any venom.
“Dopheld said that you might prefer it over Armitage.”
“I hate both.”
Even when Rodinon’s silence was obviously there for Hux to give him a name to be used, Hux didn’t fill it. He had zero ideas as to a substitute and Phasma didn’t leave room for him to try to think of something.
“Come on. We have what we need and we’ve been here for too long all ready. By now they probably have the security feeds back up.”
They hurried to get the crate inside, Mitaka coming up alongside them with the bag that Hux had set aside earlier, and Phasma raised the hatch. Right away, Hux knew they were going to be rather cramped. The shuttle was wasn't built for prolonged travel and rations and supplies were tucked into every spare corner. Even if Hux wanted to start delegating what space went to whom, now was not remotely the time. Everyone was gathered in or around the cockpit and Hux joined them to show camaraderie.
“Time for one last unsanctioned departure.” Thannison joked under his breath.
“How are we doing this?” Hux questioned.
Unamo took the question. “We’re going to gun it once as soon as we are clear. I disabled the TIE’s and Thanisson dealt with the weapons controls, but there wasn’t anything that we could do about the tractor beam.”
While it wasn't a solid plan at all, it was all they had and Hux wasn’t going to fault them for it.
Mitaka calmly handed Hux his bag and then stepped into the middle of the cockpit. A path was formed for him and Hux watched him in awe as he approached the viewport and then braced his legs and spine as Hux always had on the bridge. When he’d assumed that Phasma had been the one to organize this group, Hux had been mistaken. Mitaka was their leader. Little Dopheld, the quiet, kind officer who who Hux was fond of, the young man who had seen Hux at his highest and lowest points while Hux had never quite grasped his chameleon change in demeanor that day at the bar and during the recent brawl in the halls. The vast depth of Hux’s underestimation of Mitaka floored him and perhaps sensing that, Mitaka turned and gave him a steady look before going back to the other officers.
“All right. Now is the time.” He intoned.
The controls were activated and with a huff, the ship pushed itself off of the floor to levitate gently. Rodinon drove them forward, gently maneuvering them towards the exit. Breath hitching in his chest, Hux knew he wasn’t going to be able to push the air out of his lungs until they entered hyperspace. Passing rows of other shuttles and TIE’s that Hux dearly hoped were truly disabled as Unamo had assured them, their ship passed through the bay barrier and they entered open space. Even when he’d nearly been cornered in the halls of the Finalizer recently, he hadn’t been this terrified.
The comm was activated and Hux tried to hide how startled by it he was. “Shuttle, we do not have any scheduled departures. Return immediately.”
Hux gestured to himself and Rodinon understood what he meant.
“General Hux received an urgent call that he was needed on Arkanis.” Rodinon lied with moderate believability. "We're taking him there now."
“Then put him on.”
Hux stepped up to the panel, starting to sweat. “General Hux here. You are to cease communication and allow us to leave.”
Upon hearing his voice, the other side of the comm link was disabled without acknowledgement of his orders. Hux didn’t like anything about this. Around him, hyperspace abilities were being calculated as quickly as Thannison and Unamo could work. Phasma was completely still next to Hux as he tensed up further with every passing second. Having no place to assist in either manning controls or leadership, Hux felt useless and in the way and he imagined Avice was dealing with something similar. Not knowing what else to do, Hux dwelt in the doorway, eyes on the viewport. When the gun turrets on the Finalizer began to rotate wildly, Unamo’s eyes went wide.
“What worked?” Hux demanded, regretting not being up to date on their plan.
“We reprogrammed the bridge controls of the canon to malfunction if they were used, but it can easily be overridden if they transfer controls. We need to leave now!”
“I have it!” Thannison yelled back, punching in the last few numbers.
He’d meant it and they entered hyperspace moments later. Not caring what it looked like, Hux slumped to the floor. They’d been prepared to be fired upon, that he understood, but officers that had previously been under his command had only decided to shoot after they’d confirmed that Hux was on the shuttle. No matter how many times he revisited the thought, he couldn’t grasp it. The concept of the first real attempt on his life within the First Order just wasn't setting in even if he knew it would revisit him with vengeance at some point. Programming the auto pilot, the officers started to move towards the hold of the cramped ship, nudging Hux along with them. It occurred to Hux that he had no idea where the ship was headed but perhaps it didn’t matter.
There were two rows of seats on opposite walls, but nobody was fighting over them. They were meant to secure passengers during rough flight and the floor would likely be more comfortable. The first thing that everyone started doing was stripping off the superfluous pieces of their uniforms. Hux watched numbly as belts, hats, uniform jackets, gloves, and in Phasma’s case plates of armor were cast aside. For the first time, Hux felt as if he could fully view all of them as individuals beyond the First Order. With fumbling hands, Hux removed all of his outerwear except his boots, jodhpurs, and undershirt. Catching sight of his wrist, he ran his hand through his hair. His tattoos were now brands versus the sources of pride as they’d been not long ago. Trying to dash that thought aside, he folded up his jacket and then put it and his other items into his bag.
Needing to make peace with himself and this new turn of fate, Hux spoke up. “I know that I am no longer your superior officer, not even remotely, but I would appreciate it if we could all speak for a moment.”
Every one turned to him and then to Mitaka. He nodded at Hux and then gestured to the floor. Arranging themselves into a tight circle, Hux had Mitaka to one side of him and Phasma on the other. He vaguely remembered sitting cross-legged like this with his nanny droid as a child, pushing toys he’d made around on the floor and pretending that the machine was in on the game. Whether it was against the droid's orders to play with him he never figured out but what he was certain of was that if his father found the scraps of cloth and old clothing that he’d fashioned into lumpy dolls, they’d be destroyed and he’d be punished. Idle play was for those who would never accomplish anything, but those dolls were so damn soft and he had a dialogue he’d run through where the crudely made toys were his friend and would tell him that they loved him. He didn’t believe it even then and yet the game persisted until that last doll was discovered and he eventually gave up on making more.
But that was the past and he’d stripped countless childhoods both worse and better than his away from too many.
“I’d very much like to know how you all came to be here.”
Phasma took the question first after there was some pause. “I will not shed more of my blood for the First Order, not when it’s cannibalizing itself as it is now.”
Emboldened, Unamo went next. “I have a family. I used to think that if I died with honor that everything would be fine, there would be nothing to mourn. Now, ignoring that the glory is gone, if I died, I realized, what would it really achieve? All of this death everywhere, it means absolutely nothing.”
“I left because of him.” Rhodinon murmured, trying to wade through the wake Unamo had left and turning to Thannison.
Thannison gave a delicate smile. “I nearly died when that stormtrooper escaped. When I was lying there in the medical ward, I had a lot of time to think about why someone would do that, run away from everything they knew with no idea what they were headed towards. When I came to understand it, I knew I couldn’t stay. Dopheld had wanted Cal to come with us from the beginning and at first he said no. We’d been sneaking around for a while, so when I asked him, he changed his mind.”
More shocking than the idea of Thannison and Rodinon having a completely non regulation affair was hearing Rodinon’s name. Cal. Having been given a platform by Mitaka all ready, Hux interrupted the conversation without much thought.
“May I please have all your names?” Hux requested. “I know some of them, but now that we’re equals, I’d like to address all of you as such.”
Mitaka spoke up. “Dopheld.”
They began to move in a circle.
Hux swallowed, both of his names being repulsive in different ways now. Hux had been a title he’d been able to cling to and detach from his family. It was cold, simple, and had completed him as a ruthless general. That man wasn’t someone Hux ever wanted to face again even if he was just as revolted by the stigma that had always accompanied Armitage. However, he knew that he needed to concede that it was far better to be some miserable, little bastard that would never be good enough than the monster who had crushed the Hosnian system in his fist.
“Tage.” Dopheld corrected.
Taken aback, Hux looked at Mitaka and Mitaka met his gaze. Never in his life had he been given a nickname that wasn’t meant to mock him. This one held no malice, merely being the last syllable of his first name. Tage. Hux kept repeating it to himself, revelling in its lightness. Tage. The warmth he felt towards that new name bled over to his opinion about Mitaka. Hux had always wanted to believe that Mitaka earnestly liked him even if it was probably just that he wanted to be on his good side, but Mitaka left him no time to contemplate his history of behavior, taking his turn to speak.
“We are not on the winning side of history and rightfully so. I’ve done more than enough harm and I’m ready to go forward and try to start forgiving myself.”
It took Hux longer than he should have for him to realize that he was also required to try to give an explanation and, trying to speak from his heart rather than rehearse an answer, he did his best, resisting wringing his hands in his lap.
“I realized how much the First Order has taken from me along with how much I’ve willingly given to it. Even if I know I can never have it back, kriff, I can try. I deserve to try.”
If anyone has ever seen the dynamic on the Enterprise in the Mirror Mirror episode from Star Trek TOS, that is exactly what I see the First Order becoming after Starkiller is blown to pieces. Mitaka has become very fun to write. Despite being quiet and delicate, Mitaka graduated at the top of his class and served on the Finalizer. Dynamic leadership abilities would be logical. In addition, I'd like to explore Phasma much more in the future. I started reading the Poe Dameron comics so I'd love to write about Black Squadron in here. Before the Awakening also contains great details Poe's backstory that really support some of my ideas about him.
It went without saying that the Resistance was faring better than the New Republic was. Still, Poe had never realized how dependent their way of life was upon the Hosnian system until it was destroyed. Rebuilding an entire government, which was what they were practically having to do now with so many of their major politicians and resources having been vaporized, seemed to be proving to be an impossible goal with each passing rotation. That opinion was one that he'd never voice to General Organa.
The General wasn’t taking recent events as well as she let people think, just continuing to conduct business before the public eye with her head held high. Poe was one of the few people who knew the truth. A few times a month, early in the morning or late in the evening, the two times she even had a chance for time to herself, she’d invite him to her quarters for tea or coffee. Sometimes one or both of them cried. Sometimes they talked about whatever came to mind and laughed a little. Sometimes they barely talked at all. All of them definitely longed for the days when it wasn’t as arduous for General Organa to put on a brave face.
Poe had been close with the Solo-Organa family since he left Yavin Four to train to become a pilot. With Poe being the youngest person ever admitted into the program, Organa sent a representative of hers to congratulate him personally. But where Poe had expected to meet one of his heroes after spending all day preparing for his meeting with her in the senate building, instead, her son came in her place. It had been a let down for Poe to eagerly wait in a conference room only to have a gawky, doe eyed teenager shuffle in even if Poe knew who he was. He'd traded in his padawan robes for an outfit appropriate for the time and place and he looked miserable and uncomfortable. Out of all the people she could have sent, it was obvious why Leia had chosen her son. Knowing that Ben and Poe were similar in age, it was a gentle message to Ben that Poe didn't need to hear for himself to know that it translated into "make a friend." Poe's dad had tried to give him the same push on more than one occasion. However, Ben didn't want any such thing, just reciting a drab speech of congratulations in a monotone as droids set out a tea set at the table.
"My mother and the New Republic wish to commend you on your performance as a student. Your admission into the pilots' program was no easy feat and your place there is hard won through your own dedication and skill. We hope that you go on to become the best pilot you can be and that your achievements will continue to multiply."
Poe started talking with no filter as he was prone to when under stress. "Thanks. I mean, they sent an up and coming Jedi to tell me so they must think I'm something."
Scowling, Ben let Poe know that there was nothing about that statement that pleased him. Poe felt pretty bad for Ben. He had to have enough on his plate with his training without having to have a meeting with a pilot in the making. It hadn't been what he wanted, but it certainly wasn't what Ben would have chosen either.
Ben seemed to follow his thought process a little too well. "If you're disappointed that it's not my mother here, believe me, I know the feeling. Still, that doesn't stop her from making sure my education is equal parts schooling, diplomacy, and force training."
"Where's your dad?" Poe asked.
"Good question. He reaccepts and resigns his position as a general so much that the only thing I'm sure of it that he's halfway across the galaxy doing something illicit."
There really wasn't anything Poe could add to that, so he just sat there in his starchy new uniform, sipping his tea, and they fell into an unpleasant silence. He didn't need to be a force user to feel the frustration and gloom wafting off of Ben, but he was never sure if Ben projected it or not. At the scheduled end of their meeting, they both rose, shook hands, and then went down opposite directions once in the hallway. For a few minutes, anyway. Poe was outside the entrance to the building by the stone fountain of the New Republic symbol when Ben came loping up behind him.
Poe stopped and turned. "Yeah?"
Even after he had Poe's attention after finally deciding that he wanted it, Ben just stood there, blinking with clenched fists and trying to find his words. When his face started to turn red, Poe took pity on him.
"My holocall frequency is PD-888 if you ever want to talk."
"I'll remember that."
Despite that horrible first meeting and awkward follow up, Ben wasn’t that bad from the little the little Poe remembered about him, highly prone to brooding, but sensitive. They only saw one another in person a few more times with their schedules, though, they messaged now and then. Their meet ups were always in the garden by the senate building and they always coincided with Leia's political schedule and the necessity of Ben's presence involved in said schedule. They'd sit by the pond and Ben would do little tricks with the force to try to impress Poe when he was in a good mood, levitating pebbles or lightly splashing Poe from the bank. Talking with Ben was like navigating a minefield at times. There was no talking about his Jedi training, family, or politics and Poe had to work to get Ben involved in any conversation. It went beyond Ben perhaps just preferring to listen. Something was always eating at him and that concerned Poe. Even when he snapped at Poe if he tried to get him to talk about it, it was hard to stay mad at him when he was just a gawky kid with doe eyes that just wanted to be told that he was special like every other person in the universe. Poe didn't need to press to know that he needed to hear all of that from his family more than anything despite how incredible the world viewed Ben as.
Ben hadn't made it through the massacre on the Jedi temple or so the reports read and that was what Organa and Solo told people when they were forced to. Now her husband was gone as well. Not even the return of Luke Skywalker could make any of that all right for her.
Black Squadron was sitting idly by. Gone seemed to be the days of dogfights up in open space, at least while both the Resistance and the First Order had no rocks to pelt at one another. It was something that Poe despised, growing more and more restless by the hour. Poe had even offered to help out shuttling the politicos around as rapid elections were being held on planets to replace diplomats that had been killed by Starkiller, but General Organa was adamant that they be ready in case of a real emergency. Things became sedimentary enough for Kare and Temmin to restart there on and off again relationship, at least providing some temporary entertainment for him, L’ulo, and Jess.
Poe even missed Rey even with as little time as they’d spent together. Being around her always brightened his mood with the way she’d become so enamored by little things that Poe had come to take for granted like flowers or fresh fruit, things that Jess regularly brought her to keep her mind off of Finn’s slow recovery, much to Rey’s joy. But only a few days later she had to leave. Even if Poe wanted to be down, it was hard to completely wallow when it was the map that he and BB-8 had fought so hard to protect that was leading her to where she was meant to be even if Jess was struggling. She and Rey had gotten extremely close. A few days after Rey's departure, Jess came over to help BB-8 and Poe as they worked on the engine to his X-wing, something she never did. She had her own particular methods to mechanical work and worked poorly with others who didn’t understand her thought process, that bring nearly everyone.
“I didn’t understand how you could get so attached to someone so quickly.” She mumbled, giving BB-8 a pat that the droid whirred contentedly at as she came up to Poe.
Poe eyed her warily, commiserating but not wanting to talk about this. “You do now, I assume?”
“Yeah. Kriff, she was the sweetest person I’ve ever met.”
“She’ll be back, Jess. At least you had these past few days.” It came out more bitter than he wanted so he quickly slapped on a joke. “Rey won’t forget you that easily, especially if she’s stuck on some empty planet with nobody but Luke Skywalker.”
Jessika made a face, having caught what Poe had tried to hide. “I wasn’t trying to rub it in your face, Poe.”
BB-8 had rolled back to the toolbox to retrieve something, but had its optical lens pointed back at them and beeped once in a while to itself, muttering about something that Poe didn't quite catch.
“I know. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”
“You should try to find him. If there's any time where it might be possible it's now.”
“I really don’t want to talk about this.”
“Sorry, I’ll drop it.”
“Tell me more about your time with Rey. Get to do anything romantic before she left?”
“Actually, yeah, we did. Had a meal together, walked in the forest a few times. One thing I didn’t expect was that I got to kiss her.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” Poe pointed out, knowing Jess's reputation as a charmer.
"You didn't let me finish. I got to kiss her and at first she was just as excited about that as when you showed her a holodrama for the first time, but when it started to get heavier she told me she didn’t like it. No big deal and we stopped. She was so upset and talking about how she liked me and didn’t understand why she couldn’t get into it.”
“You did tell her what that probably means, right?”
Jessika nodded. “Of course I did. I showed her some articles on asexuality and she was so relieved.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Honestly, I think it’s for the better that nothing happened. I mean, with all that’s happened to her, everybody, I’m just glad we could have fun the past few days.”
Her voice became serious. “You need to do better to keep busy, Dameron.”
“As you can see, I was working on my ship.” Poe responded, not liking where this was headed either.
“And how many times are you going to do that before you get bored with it and do something less constructive?”
BB-8 rolled up to Poe and nudged his leg before peering up with him, in agreement with Jess.
“There’s nothing to do.”
“Then find something. Read something, go hiking, watch holodramas all day with BB-8, just take care of yourself.”
“I'm fine, Jess.”
“Really? This is the first time I've seen you not covered in bruises in months and yet here you are, practically begging to go out and start a fight on some mission.”
"I am who I am, okay? Why don't you go work on your own ship."
That effectively ended the conversation and she left, glaring at him. BB-8 didn't let him off lightly for that, letting out a long string of binary at him that Poe could only sigh at and agree with.
Things had gotten better for a while when Finn had woken up from his coma. Finn wasn’t too much different than Rey with so many things being new for him but most of those involved larger things than plants and flavorful food. He’d made two real friends in Rey and Han Solo and now both of them were gone, one forever and the other without him getting to say goodbye. Poe was all he had left and they were still highly attached to one another from everything they’d been through. In the old days, Poe’s mother had told him that people took relationships slowly and that it took time to love people as friends or partners. Maybe that was a luxury reserved for times of peace because from what Poe had experienced, if you bonded with someone you treasured it for all that it was worth.
Finn was prone to panic attacks. They didn’t tend to last long, but they’d leave him drained. Whenever Finn had one, he’d isolate himself and then find Poe a few hours later, trudging up to him in utter exhaustion and just needing to be held. Whether Finn’s anxiety came from all of his experiences, was just something he was born with, or both Finn couldn't decide. It started to take him longer and longer to come back to himself and Poe started to think Finn spent more time on his couch than in his own quarters. He addressed it one rotation after Finn had stopped shaking and his breathing was steady and even, not prepared for where the discussion went.
“Buddy, there are doctors here.”
“I was in a coma.” Finn responded with a look at Poe’s obviousness. “I know there are doctors.”
“But what I meant was there are doctors for your head.”
“Yeah? I don't get what you mean.”
Poe sighed. “I really think you should go see one, Finn. You don’t have to hide that you’re having problems from everyone. They’ll help you.”
“That’s a lot coming from you.”
“What do you mean?”
“It's hypocritical. You’re just as messed up as I am and you’re telling me that I need help?”
Despising the only logical step he could take, Poe nonetheless went forward. “I’ll do it if you do it, how’s that?”
“Deal.” Finn concluded and then he offered a tentative smile.
His response made Poe beam and kiss his cheek, which in turn made Finn start to giggle. One thing Poe would never get tired of was how much Finn liked physical affection. Hand holding, hugs, kisses, whatever you were comfortable giving Finn took gleefully. Wanting to make sure that he felt safe after the last panic attack and then getting him to agree to go to the doctor, Poe wrapped himself around Finn. He was allowed to squeeze Finn tightly for a good minute before Finn started to playfully wrestle him until Poe was the one being held. Having let himself lose even if Poe's fighting skills probably didn't hold a candle to storm trooper hand to hand combat training, he settled into Finn with a contented wriggle.
“Thank you for going with me." Finn murmured. "I’m not the only one who needs help, Poe.”
"I know, buddy. I know.”
There was a whir in the hallway and Poe chuckled when he realized what had been going on.
“It’s okay. You can come in here.” Poe called out.
BB-8 skittishly rolled into the room. Knowing how the droid was, it had probably been listening the entire time or just about. Poe wasn’t upset, quite the opposite actually.
“If I’m going to go to counseling I want you to come with me, okay? I could use the reassurance and I know you’ll keep me honest.”
Showing complete support, BB-8 avidly chirped, rolling around in a happy circle and then looking up at him. The amount of affection Poe had for the droid was immeasurable and Poe liked to think that it went both ways. He'd had BB-8 for nearly a decade now. Having been given to Poe as a companion by his father after, BB-8 was more than a gift. It was one of the best friends Poe ever had. Remembering Finn, Poe angled his head so that his face was against Finn’s.
“Do you need any encouragement when you see the doctor? You know I’m always up for holding your hand.”
Finn laughed. “No, Poe. I’ll be okay.”
After that, Finn stayed a little longer and then left after kissing Poe goodbye, leaving Poe sitting there with BB-8 and wondering just what he had agreed to and disliking the results that he came up with. Yet to his own surprise, Poe kept his word to Finn. No matter how much he didn’t want to talk about himself like he was going to have to, he wasn’t going to let Finn down. BB-8 regularly reminded him in the days leading up to his appointment that he needed this as his dread increasingly manifested. BB-8 was always one to spout off facts and that was exactly what he was doing and Poe knew it. They were scheduled to see Doctor Kalonia, who as it turned out was also a counselor. When the day of both of their first sessions, scheduled back to back, arrived, he and Poe walked to the medical building and Finn took his hand. Whether it was for Poe's benefit or him own wasn’t something he inquired about, just choosing to enjoy it as BB-8 rolled closely alongside them.
Poe’s appointment was first. After leaving Finn in the improvised waiting room after they spent seemingly forever filling out information on data pads that had been handed to them by a protocol droid, he went back to Doctor Kalonia’s office. When he entered, she was prepared for him, just gesturing for him to take a seat in a chair next to her desk while BB-8 parked itself next to Poe within his reach and then quietly set to observing them. He took the offered chair and was relieved when, instead of sitting across the desk from him, she moved her chair so that they were facing one another with nothing in between them. Aside from this, he’d only dealt with her on one other occasion, that being his return from Jakku after the TIE crash with Finn to have his injuries and dehydration tended to. Even if he knew Harter Kalonia to be a kind and highly capable woman, he was terrified and was sweating far more than he would have been in the majority of dogfights. The only thing he could find going for him was that the room was blessedly plain. Nothing on the walls and the shelves just displaying bland certificates. Finn wasn't the only one who could get easily overstimulated and Poe was glad to be able to keep his focus on BB-8 or Doctor Kalonia.
“I’m glad to see you here, Poe.” She said with a genuine smile.
“Yeah, same to you.”
“What made you change your mind and come and see me?”
When she was tending to him not too long ago, she’d recommended some form of therapy after Poe had described the torture he’d been put through by Kylo Ren and the First Order, though, he had a feeling that she probably had wanted to see him for a long time. When she was accessing his medical records, she had to have seen that he blew off the grief counseling sessions that he’d been offered after his mother’s death when he was a child and that would worry any medical professional. And his record of questionable mental health didn’t stop there. His antics and adventures along with what he’d sustained during them were all recorded, none of it balancing out the appropriate care that had been recommended for him with what he ended up accepting.
He frowned, starting to hate this. “Finn made a comparison between us that I couldn’t ignore.”
“Is that something that upsets you?”
“No! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Finn. He’s had it rough. It’s a miracle that he isn’t a complete wreck. He doesn’t deserve anything that happened to him. Nobody deserves what happens to them, I guess, but especially not him. Panic attacks be damned, he needs to get better. He’s owed that much.”
“Do you think you could be projecting onto Finn?” Kalonia suggested gently.
Poe’s brow furrowed and BB-8 nudged his hand. “I don’t know. I doubt it.”
“Because we’re different and I know that.”
“You’ve both undergone great struggles, Poe. I think the fact that you two have such a tight bond is very beneficial for both of your recoveries. The only thing that concerns me is that you seem to have full regard for his experiences and yet not your own.”
“I don’t regard my own experiences?” He echoed in confusion.
“From what I know about you, it doesn’t seem to me that you think what you’ve gone through compares to everyone else’s past.”
“I know that I've been knocked around, but it’s something I deal with like everyone else.”
“May I ask how you dealt with the passing of your mother?” She pressed, polite but firm, and Poe knew there was no wriggling away from that question.
“My dad and I tried to keep busy.”
“Did you two talk about your thoughts and feelings at all?”
“A little. Looking back on it, I think we managed to talk about everything but her when we did speak.”
“Do you talk to anyone now? About your mother, the war, I know that you’ve lost people close to you while fighting. And your boyfriend was in a coma very recently.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.” Poe corrected without aggression.
“I’m sorry. Are you just friends?”
“We don’t really have labels yet.”
“Either way, you care about him and he could have died.”
“He’s a lucky guy and not just because I’m around.” Poe joked weakly.
Kalonia didn’t acknowledge that. “It sounds like Finn tells you quite a bit. In return, do you to talk with him or anyone else?”
“Not really, no. I don’t like talking about serious stuff.”
“Because it makes me feel like garbage, okay? Dredging up everything doesn’t erase it from happening in the first place, it just means that I have to deal with it all over again.”
“You said that you deal with things like everyone else, yet that’s not a way other people cope, Poe. That’s a lack of coping.”
Silence wrapped around them in a way that threatened to squeeze a tear out of him for a few seconds and he was immensely grateful when BB-8 rolled their head under his hand. He patted the droid, some part of him feeling that it was appropriate to smile.
“Then it’s a good thing I’m talking to you, isn’t it?”
Kalonia’s tone was deadly serious. “You don’t think that you deserve any of the negative things that have happened to you, do you?”
“I don’t. It’s just…”
“I’m a pilot for a reason beyond wanting to be like my mom. I don’t get myself into situations where I get hurt just to punish myself, I do it because I don’t care about what could happen. Maybe it's the same thing, I don't know.”
“Your recklessness can be just as hazardous as harming yourself. I think you know that and treat your flying along with the casual sex that you catalogued in your patient intake as a numbing agent.”
“That’s why you’re the doctor and I’m not.”
She didn’t sigh even if Poe probably would have in her place, beginning to get on his own nerves. That wasn’t how one was supposed to treat therapy and he knew it. Even if he wanted to behave and take this seriously, it was difficult. Perhaps in commiseration of the idea or just warning him to respect the counseling process, BB-8 issued a vibrating whir under his palm.
“Do you have nightmares?”
“Some nights. Not a lot, but when they’re there, they’re bad. I don’t get them all the time because I don’t sleep well enough to dream very often.”
“How long has that been occurring?”
“It comes and goes.”
“When was the last time that you were consistently getting an adequate amount of rest?”
Poe tried to find an answer and failed. “I don’t remember.”
“Poe, I think it could be very helpful for you if we had weekly appointments, but it’s your decision. If you come back, our next appointment will be spent with much less time devoted to evaluating your records and filling out your information.”
If he was going to back out of this and get a clean getaway, this was it. He knew it and desperately wanting to seize the opportunity. Or maybe he didn’t, or at least some of him held that opinion. The truth was that he’d felt like trash for a long time. Too long. This was really the first time he was considering that it was possible to put himself into a different place. He owed it to a lot of people that counted on him. And himself. He was Poe Dameron, best pilot around and a good man, something he’d been told quite a bit that he was only just now considering.
“I’d like another appointment.” He stated.
Kalonia smiled at him once again. “I’m very glad to hear that, Poe. How about you try to come in at the same time next week? If something comes up, you can always come in earlier or later.”
“It took a lot of bravery to come here, Poe, whether you thought you were doing it for Finn or otherwise. You can tell him that he can come in here now on your way out.”
Poe only then realized that the appointment was over and was unsure getting to his feet.
“Have a nice week.”
“You as well.”
Just nodding after that, Poe went for the door. BB-8 brushed up against his leg as it rolled alongside him and he grinned tiredly at the droid as they walked along the hallway from the main hospital rooms to the waiting area, the Resistance base not having a specific building for counseling sessions.
“Thanks for being there for me, buddy.”
BB-8 beeped rapidly and Poe stopped for a moment to kneel down so that he was eye level with them.
“I know. I’m going to work on it, for both of us. Somebody’s got to value what happens to my skin and it has to be me, first and foremost as you put it." Trying to lighten the mood, he winked at BB-8. "If you weren’t my friend I’d think that you were just concerned what happened up there in the X-wing flying with me.”
Responding with low sounds of annoyance at another one of Poe’s misplaced jokes to deflect attention away from himself, he just smirked and gave BB-8 a good-natured push.
“I know, I’m sorry. Let’s go get Finn.”
And that was what they did. Out front, sitting awkwardly in the lone row of chairs pushed up against the wall, Finn was reading the holorecord that Poe had given him that he always brought along with him. Upon seeing Poe, he rose. Poe embraced him snugly and then pecked him on the mouth, surprising Finn for a moment before he beamed.
“I guess that means that you’re feeling a bit better?”
“Actually, yeah. Maybe just a bit. It’s your turn. I’ll wait for you out here.”
After Poe let him go a few seconds later, Finn went off down the hall where Poe had just come from. Poe watched him go. Sinking into the chair, exhausted but not distressed, he just peered down at BB-8.
“Another change, huh?”
A few beeps.
“Yeah, I know. Believe me, I know.”
I love reading your comments so much, thank you for leaving them. Also, this story should be past the halfway point now, but I don't have an exact remaining chapter count. At this point, I'm just writing what makes sense to me for the plot and character development. It's very important to me that Poe and Hux have their time apart given what happened to both of them during TFA. Also, I realized that I failed to change Hux's name from Brendol to Armitage in a few places after I decided to go with that name, so I'm really sorry about that and any confusion it may have caused. Just to clarify, Poe knows Hux as Brendol Hux because Hux never corrected his first name with Poe after they started being honest with one another at the cantina. Please remember that because it will be brought up later.
Without knowing where the First Order was or wasn’t, hyperspace wasn’t an option for them until they were well into the neutral zone. The shuttle was high quality and went along at a decent clip, but realspace was still no comparison to hyperspace travel. Their journey was less than ideal when it came to comfort and there was nothing to do but prepare to be stuck on the shuttle for a long while to come. It was a necessity, especially with the amount of fuel that hyperspace quaffed that they were saving in case a rapid getaway was required. Every second, no matter how many days went by without them being assailed by enemies, each person on the ship was still highly aware that their fortunes could change in a blink of an eye.
Hux was just grateful that their shuttle had a sonic shower. That thing was not only the only reason why everyone was still reasonably fresh even if Hux desperately longed for a soap and water shower, but also how they had come to clean their limited changes of clothing. Growing frustrated when he was down to his last undershirt that hadn’t developed a funk from being worn too much, Hux had decided to bring the shirt with him into the sonic to see what would happen and after a few minutes had gleefully realized that the effect of the shower on the fabric was nearly identical to having the garment laundered. Sharing his findings, everyone was immediately assured clean clothing and Hux was given hearty thanks. It was a good feeling that went to reassure him that maybe he could survive beyond what he was used to. Just maybe.
Mitaka had established the rule that a team of two always had to be in the cockpit. Everyone else was to take inventory of their dwindling supplies, prepare meals, keep things clean and organized, or try to pass time however they could think to when they could. Phasma and Unamo, Rodinon and Thanisson, and Hux and Mitaka all worked together and slept at the same time in respective pairs. Everyone had their own areas marked off even if there was very little overlap in everyone’s private time. When Hux’s time in the cockpit and helping around the ship ended, he went to the corner of the passenger section and laid out his clothes in a thin layer under him before laying down on top of them. The first few nights he’d barely slept at all, it was so uncomfortable, but eventually, exhaustion had made him get used to his new bed. Despite Hux's craving for the the dignity of at least not sleeping on the floor, there was no way to sleep in the rigid chairs, at least none that anyone beyond Phasma had found.
Still, things went well beyond the tedious travel, odd methods of hygiene, and poor sleeping arrangements. There were rations and water to worry about. Nobody was wasting anything and they all were working with growling stomachs and parched mouths. The bare minimum intake wasn’t enough for them to have enough to last until they reached their destination. It would have to be remedied sooner rather than later and Mitaka didn’t need to be told that. The only positive that Hux could see was that a plan was falling into place that went along well with their need to resupply. When the stress of their initial escape had began to wear off, Hux had taken Phasma aside as the others continued to work.
“Avice, please tell me what we’re doing now.” He begged.
Trust finally beginning to fully blossom among them, she answered with little hesitation.
“We’re headed to Unamo’s home planet so that we can exchange the shuttle for an unmarked ship and restock. After that, things will be a straight shot to New Republic space.”
“That’s our endgame?”
“It’s our only choice.”
“We’re all war criminals, especially the two of us.”
She nodded grimly. “I know, Tage. I know. But we also have a chance at being accepted as refugees if Maila’s promises about her family and how they can help us with falsifying records hold true. Even if we are arrested, Maila, Dopheld, Cal, and Erlem won’t be sentenced too harshly.”
“Yes, but what about us? Even if we give them everything we know and promise full cooperation, what will that earn us?”
“Ideally, our lives.”
“Yes, I suppose that is the most we can ask for.” Hux said with a sigh. “Let’s just hold out hope that we can turn over a new leaf. All of us. We destroyed the New Republic and yet here we are now, crawling towards it on our knees to beg. What do you think it will be like if we’re allowed inside?”
“Even with all of the propaganda, I can’t imagine it being worse than anything we've encountered. From what I’ve heard, refugee colonies are being established on rural planets along with various systems offering lotteries for citizenship. I suggest that we petition for a plot of land as a group along with each of us applying for the lottery.”
“I don’t even know what it takes to build a life in their world, Avice.”
“Nor I.” She replied in the weakest voice he’d ever heard her use.
He looked at her from the corner of his eye. The scar along her neck that curved around her shoulder was catching the light and standing out against her skin in a pale pink, her blond hair barely brushing it. How her beauty and tenacity had survived the stormtrooper program was something that Hux was exuberant that he didn’t comprehend. Had he or his father understood it, it would have been immediately obliterated. He knew from reading her file that when she was a lieutenant, she’d received a blaster wound that should have killed her. Despite that, she’d continued on with her mission to overtake a New Republic outpost and had completed it alone after she was the last remaining trooper in her squadron. Around the neck that had come within a couple of millimeters of being lacerated, Hux himself hung a medal of valor and had promoted her as well at a ceremony once she'd recovered. He could have done so much more for her than just giving her a title and a shiny new set of armor. It had also been on the table for him to retire her with the injury she sustained, but seeing her vitality and abilities, he’d waved it aside, wanting to see just how far she could go while benefiting him.
“If only one or a few of us is given citizenship I’m not sure how I’ll feel.” Hux put out there. “I’ve come to rather like our little group.”
She looked at him. “As have I. Is this similar to what having a family is like?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I hope so.”
He’d meant it. As the days trudged on inside that cramped shuttle, Hux found himself growing more and more at ease among the others. It wasn’t something he initially took with pride. He was letting his guard down. For all he knew, they could be debating throwing him out of the airlock. It wasn't as if he was particularly useful to the group and having General Hux in their rank put them at risk even more than they all ready were. Even knowing that, though, Hux begrudgingly liked their set up even if he missed the privacy of his quarters on the Finalizer along with his old authority. His duties aboard the shuttle he actually enjoyed, to his surprise. The physical labor and menial tasks kept his mind occupied and he was becoming quite fond of everyone.
Avice was a rock that Hux was anchoring himself to, yet the vulnerability that she was starting to show kept her at Hux’s level in his eyes. Erlem had a good sense of humor that Hux relied on very heavily some days just to make it through to the end of his shift. Maila was well versed in literature beyond what was First Order approved and told stories to them all at meals. Cal was the best cook among them and had been given everyone’s grace to end his afternoon duties early to spend extra time preparing the food. If any of them were to be removed from the ship, Hux couldn’t see how they would be able to function as a whole.
Dopheld and Hux spent nearly all of their time together. As much as Hux tended to require time by himself, being around Dopheld in the cockpit was the next best thing. After they helped out around the ship, they took the evening shift in the cockpit right after dinner. Sated from the meals that Cal somehow managed to make delicious even with the limited rations he had to work with, Hux and Dopheld would sit silently in the pilot and copilot’s chairs until one of them felt the urge to speak first. That was usually Hux, which surprised him. What shocked Hux even more was that he had a hard time shutting up once he got going. He talked heavily about himself and it guilted him, but whenever he tried to get Mitaka to speak, he’d give some short, vague narrative and then propose Hux another question. Hux had an immense amount of weight to get off of his chest, but despite what Mitaka had said that first night in the circle, he wanted to say remarkably little about himself. Eventually, Hux stopped asking serious questions as Dopheld seemed to want, just listening to himself ramble about his childhood, academy days, and time as an officer. So much of it hurt and Hux shed many more tears than he was proud of in that cockpit, but Dopheld would always just put his hand on his shoulder and whisper a few words, usually along the lines of “I’m sorry” because there wasn’t much else to say about most of it.
They came to approach the old mining planet that had long ago been stripped of all it’s resources. It didn’t even have a name, just a letter and number designation. The descendants of the miners that had come to turn the rock into a fairly livable place simply called the place "Shale”. As Maila explained, the cliffs that were present around nearly all of the habitable area of the planet that hadn't been destroyed by blasting or chemicals were made of flaking layers of rock. It all played well into the planet’s crude name of S-821 was was thus named. Most of the surface was just excavated wasteland and nearly all of the water was toxic from runoff aside from rural areas of farmland set in awkwardly placed pockets around the urban sites. The only reason that the planet was still alive and being funded was that it had been reclaimed by weapons manufacturers in order to recycle the old mining equipment and some of the few families that were settled were old Imperials whose children went on to be plucked up by the First Order. Unamo’s parents weren’t among the elite and she was an outlier compared to her peers, having been chosen for the academy based off of her place in her public school rather than her money or name. Because of that, her family didn’t hold the loyalty many others did to the First Order and she’d said multiple times that she’d stake her life them being safe with them. Mitaka believed her and Hux wished that was enough for him as well.
He wasn’t in the cockpit when they first approached the planet. Quite the opposite, in his corner, he’d been asleep. The night had never been Hux’s friend. Pre-Hosnian, his dreams had always been nightmares over his own inadequacy and failures. Post-Hosnian, all he saw when he closed his eyes when it was his scheduled him to rest was himself on trial, sometimes by the First Order, other times by the New Republic, but most often, by billions of ghosts. Even if he slept through the night, he was almost never fully rested. When he was lucky, he’d have a simple dream, these days usually just about flying the shuttled, doing something silly like washing his clothes in the fresher, or something else ordinary and benign.
One of the few times he’d ever enjoyed a dream was that sleep cycle. It hadn’t been a nightmare or some strange dream about the shuttle proceedings. He was at the bar in the officers’ lounge on the Finalizer. Nothing he was wearing was regulation and that perplexed him, his garb being the loose, warm civilian clothing that he vaguely remembered from Arkanis. The dream version of him didn’t appear to be paying it any mind, just ordering some fruit flavored alcoholic beverage, which made even less sense. After taking it, he turned around and leaned up against the bar, sipping his drink and looking around the room. It tasted good to him, but he didn’t finish it off, saving it for some reason. His eyes drifted to the door and in walked Poe Dameron, hair slicked back and somehow making his dingy colored Resistance uniform look sexy. Hux’s heart was racing in the dream and probably in real life as well as Poe earned stares from everyone around him as he strolled up to Hux, taking the drink from his hand and kissing Hux squarely on the mouth in greeting.
“Hey, baby.” He drawled with a lopsided grin.
As ecstatic as Hux was to see Poe, he was still concerned over everyone watching them like this.
He pointed out the obvious. “Poe, I’m not sure you should be here.”
“Eh, they can deal with it. I won’t be here long and I’m not here to hurt anyone and they all know it.”
But Hux didn’t relax, his initial anxiety trickling from his chest to his stomach to form something entirely different: guilt. Hux knew what he did to Poe, standing outside his interrogation room without the steel to try to pry Kylo Ren away from him. And later on, he’d ordered his officers to try to destroy him and FN-2187 in the stolen TIE fighter. Poe had to know that. Even if Poe had somehow forgiven him for doing his job, what about Starkiller? Did Poe not know that he was the one who had designed it? If not, he was still the one that had ordered it to be fired on camera, that much was common knowledge across the galaxy with all of the propaganda footage that was taken of his speech.
“But I hurt you.”
Poe just laughed. “When? What did you do, shack up with Dopheld while I was gone?”
“No!” Hux didn’t understand how Poe didn’t know what he was referring to. “Do you not remember what I did?”
“No, but why don’t you remind me some other time. It can’t be that bad knowing you and we only have so much time.”
Poe drained the rest of the drink and then set the glass down before stepping up to Hux, trying to put his arms around him. Hux backed away from his reaching embrace.
“It is bad. It’s absolutely horrendous. I’m horrendous.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it, Tage. Come on. I’m bad, too. You like that if I remember correctly.”
Finally accepting that this Poe wasn’t going to accept what he’d done, Hux let him touch him, melancholic. What wrenched him most was that even through his internal self flagellation, Poe still felt wonderful. His hands came to rest firmly on Hux’s lower back and in the back of his hair, keeping Hux tightly against him just how Hux liked. The kisses they were sharing now weren't like the initial, polite peck, turning into long, hard drags of the lips and he felt Poe’s tongue flick between his parted lips. His taste was unrealistically sweet.
“There are people here.” Hux mumbled against Poe’s mouth.
“I’m willing to ignore them if you are.”
Those words sent a burst of warmth through Hux. The part of him that was aware that this was just a dream was pleased that he remembered Poe well enough for the dream version of him to be so in character. Things being somewhat lucid, Hux wanted to say everything that came to mind when he thought of Poe when he was awake. He craned his head away from his mouth so he could speak and Poe just moved to kiss his neck.
“I miss you. I want you to be proud of me.”
Poe stopped licking a line up his throat as he had been, smiling against Hux’s skin.“You must not know me if you think I’d ever argue with either of those statements.”
“Yeah.” Was all he could say.
Everyone in the bar was staring at them and it made Hux’s face burn even if he didn’t tell Poe to get off of him. Quite the opposite, he held him closer, running his fingers through his gorgeous hair. He put his nose to Poe’s head, but Poe just smelled like the pomade Hux had used to use before running away, not having any need to style his hair currently. That profoundly disappointed him. From what he remembered, Poe had carried traces of military issue soap, sweat, and ozone on his skin. Somehow, it had become a fleeting aroma to Hux and he wished beyond reason that he’d taken more time to remember odd details like that.
“You shouldn’t want me.”
“Come on, Tage, let’s just enjoy this.”
Tage. Poe was calling him Tage. Recently, some of his dreams involved him being called by his new name, but it was only about a third of the time. In other dreams, he was always Armitage Hux, spat out like someone was naming a dish that they despised. Poe kissed him once more and when he realized that Hux just couldn’t get into it, he pulled back, looking him in the eye. He’d opened his mouth to say something when Hux was jarred back to reality.
Hux finally responded to Mitaka’s voice and gentle shaking. Even if he tried not to be angry at being woken up, he was none the less. He almost never dreamed of Poe and he would have traded one of his few sets of clothes to know what Poe was going to tell him, even if it hadn't been real. Not having any clue what time it was, Hux tried to puzzle out what was happening. His mouth still tasted pretty clean, so he must not have been asleep for too long. Dopheld held out his hand, pulling Hux to his feet when he took it. The desire for a cigarra was pounding inside his head and it made listening to Mitaka difficult.
“Get packed and then come to the cockpit. We’re going to be landing on the outskirts of Shale soon. It’s going to be quite the walk from where we have to hide the shuttle to where our safe house is from what Maila is saying.” Mitaka directed gently.
Getting over himself, Hux fell into following orders. Mitaka didn’t wait for him as Hux hurried to pull on some clothes, as he’d lost all sense of decency and started sleeping in nothing but his underwear, and get his things into his bag before joining the others. It was the one time where having next to nothing behooved him. Zipping up his pants at the edge of the cockpit after squeezing in next to Avice and Erlem, he watched as Dopheld let Maila direct him him and Cal on where to land the shuttle. S-821 itself was mountainous and dull in color. There was next to no green or blue, just varying shades of gray, black, and brown. Still, Maila appeared to be staving off emotions over seeing her home world, just focusing on the job.
“As soon as we reach the coordinates that my parents gave us, erase everything from the computer.” She reminded Erlem.
Hux was relieved to hear that they were taking such precautions in case the shuttle was found. The risks that the Unamo family were taking astounded him. If the First Order found the ship on Maila’s home planet, it was only logical that her parents would be arrested if they hadn’t all ready been with her desertion. Hux had never thought to wonder what sort of danger Dopheld, Cal, Erlem, and Maila’s families would be put in until just then. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t devoted a single thought to his own kin's safety. He’d never met his biological mother and had spent next to no time with his father’s wife, the last time he saw her being when he was four and he and his father had been forced to flee a war torn Arkanis. Whether or not they were even still alive was likely something he would likely never be able to ascertain. The same went for his father, who’d never taken good care of himself and would probably be dead of natural causes within a few years time. Hux hadn’t heard from him since long before Starkiller. He was oddly content to have that as their last conversation should it prove to be just that. All it had been was a few sentences involving Hux telling him that his plan was nearly completed and his father, in return, telling him he’d believe it when he saw it.
Let him be ashamed of him. It’s not like his flight from the First Order really made a difference in how he was viewed. His father could have the name he so unwillingly gave Hux back. Armitage Hux, his unwanted bastard son, was something Hux experienced a petty joy over yoking Brendol Hux to as Tage was free to escape. He never wanted to see the old man ever again.
The shuttle began to incline towards the planet, breaking through hazy layers of clouds. When the surface was completely visible once again, quarries and factories littered the dark landscape in the distance. They kept moving further and further away from any sources of civilized life, instead approaching far off cliff faces surrounded by murky water that glimmered with traces of minerals in the moonlight. The ship dipped low until they were only a few meters above what Hux presumed to be an ocean. Upon flying closer to the cliff, Hux finally saw that they were dotted with caves. Even though they had the coordinates, Maila pointed towards one section of cliff.
“There’s a concealed cave down there. That’s where we’ll be landing.”
Hux saw nothing until they were level with the entrance. Even with the fins of the shuttle folded in landing position, they would barely fit inside with how stooped and narrow the mouth of the cave was. None the less, it was probably the best place to hide that was available with the way the rock at the entrance tapered in and provided camouflage. Dopheld and Cal were forced to let the ship dip partially into the murky water in order to ease into the cave and now and then, panels scraped along the walls, jarring them. Clenching his jaw, Hux tried to keep his thoughts to himself as they continued to wedge themselves in as far as they could get the ship, being bumped around unceremoniously all the while. Eventually, worried that they wouldn’t be able to get the doors open the the ramp out, they stopped.
“We won’t be coming back to the ship.” Dopheld reminded them all. “Take everything you need.”
Everyone solemnly took to making a last round around the shuttle, searching for anything useful or needed that might have been overlooked earlier. Hux had everything tucked away in his bag and watched as Erlem erased every speck of data he could from the computers and then shut the engines off as remaining bottles of water and protein cubes, that they thankfully hadn’t had to tap into too much in favor of the dehydrated rations, were packed away for future use. The first one to exit the shuttle and step off of the ramp into knee level water, Phasma adjust the bags she was carrying so that none of them became wet. She still had all of her old armor because ejecting it from the airlock or letting it sink into the polluted ocean here would make it too easy for those who would harm them to pick up their scent and she had yet to find a place where she could destroy it all. If Hux had a hard time not considering the concept of ruining armor with such significance to the Empire and the First Order distressing even at this point, he wondered what Phasma thought.
Height was on his side and water didn’t sluice into his boots when he stepped onto the flooded floor of the cave. He was one of the lucky few, everyone else aside from Phasma frowning or swearing as their socks and pants became soaked. It all ready wasn’t remotely warm and the frigid water had to make things exceptionally worse. Maila just gestured for everyone to keep their voices down.
“Quiet. There will be fresh clothes, warm food, and beds when we arrive at the house.”
From there, she made her way to the front of the group, shouldering the load she was carrying and starting off towards their destination. They began to follow in a single file line, Hux waiting so that he could bring up the rear before Phasma shook her head at him, taking the place for herself. Remembering field tactics, Hux realized that he was ill suited for the defensive position and he acquiesced to her, moving to keep pace in the middle. He was no soldier and just wanted to get back into dry land.
Maila led them along the thin rock ledge that trailed off one side of the cave entrance, warning them that if they stepped even a few inches away from the cliff there would be a watery drop off. Wading through the water around nearly the entire cliff took time and energy and Hux’s legs began to burn as the straps to the bags he was carrying dug into his skin. At least he hadn’t had to haul boxes like Cal and Erlem because even though they were lighter than the bags, carrying them was awkward. It was dark enough that the stars were fully out far above them. Time was not their friend as Maila went on to point out.
“We can’t afford to take any breaks.” She whispered. “As soon as the sun comes up, we lose our cover. My mother told me that TIE's go on patrol ever morning at dawn and this is one of the few routes that isn't monitored by probe droids.”
There were nods and murmurs of understanding all around. Among the six of them, they had Phasma's blaster and only one clip of ammunition. Even if by some miracle they won a confrontation with storm troopers or droids, the fire would draw in reinforcements. Hux couldn’t be the only one starting to question this choice, but what else were they supposed to do? They needed a new ship, new supplies, and new names and there were only a finite places were all of those could be found, a tiny ranch on S-821 being one of them. The only thing keeping him trudging along with everyone else was that the homestead was tucked away from the cities of Shale and should storm troopers come for them, they had a place to hide even from scanning technology. Or so Maila said, but even if Hux was unsure, he didn't exactly have any other options that were preferable.
Finally, they reached a beach and were able to step out of the water. Hux had never been more grateful for his knee high boots in his life even if he pitied Erlem, Cal, Maila, and Dopheld. Even if Maila herself had suffered from nasty water inundating her clothing, she refused to stop, just continuing on and making it clear that the others were to do the same. Where the sand ended, long grass grew in a field that Hux couldn’t spot an ending to and there was no path cut through for one to walk along. Suppressing a sigh, Hux didn’t break the line, just following Dopheld as he had been for the past who knew how long and keeping his eyes on his dark hair. The stars were beginning to dim and the blackness of the sky begin to be tainted with the first traces of sunlight, something that Unamo couldn’t stop peering up at with a worried expression.
“Come on. We still have a lot of ground left to cover.”
Dopheld gestured at them all to pick up the pace. His resignation to his own exhaustion in favor on the end goal was admirable, but Hux wasn’t inspired. He was tired to the point where he felt like he was going to be sick and the soreness that he was hoping would wait to set in the following day was all ready catching up with him. The only person who didn’t appear miserable was Avice and even then, she still wasn’t happy, anxious as the rest of them to arrive at their destination and be able to experience even a brief sense of security.
The blades of grass were sharp and they scraped along Hux’s exposed hands and wrists. Whether or not they were drawing blood he didn’t care to check just then, knowing it would only annoy him at best and distress him at worst. Even more prudent than the ill kept grass was that the sky was turning gray and pink and Unamo started pressing them all to go even faster, something that their bags and crates made nearly impossible. Hux was tempted to tell her that, but the sounds of TIE fighter engines in the distance silenced him. Nearly ready to cry going by her trembling lip and blotchy face as she tried to keep stumbling along, Unamo instead had to cover her mouth to muffle a sound of pure jubilation when the grass parted to reveal a crude wooden fence that Hux doubted possessed the capability of containing any sort of herd animal.
“Is this it?” Dopheld asked in a hushed voice.
Unamo nodded avidly. “Yes. Here, put everything over the fence and step over. My dad said he’d meet us here at dawn.”
Bags were dropped over to the Unamo property as gently as they could be before, one by one, they all hooked a leg over the fence and crossed over. As Hux immediately sat down as soon as he’d done as he was asked, he watched as Cal helped Erlem down from the fence and Avice moved all of their possessions and supplies into a neat pile. Apparently thinking that Hux was on the ground so that the grass hid him, Dopheld gestured for them all to do the same before sitting down next to him. He looked completely worn out, but still tried to smile at Hux before pulling his boots off and upending them. Filthy water poured out in a steady stream and his socks were stained along the back of the ankle and toes from where the damp material had chaffed him to the point of bleeding. Hux reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of dry socks, handing them to him.
“Thanks.” Dopheld whispered.
Hux tried to smile in response, giving a small nod. Dopheld readily stripped off his old socks, letting his feet dry in the air as he tried to wring the dampness out of his probably ruined pair.
The sound of an engine approaching them made Hux’s airway constriction and his heart start to beat out of his chest. Frightened out of his mind, he grabbed onto Mitaka and in turn he felt arms go around him. Hux looked over at Maila, and while she was largely concealed by the grass, she wasn’t alarmed. Quite the opposite. She recognized the sound of the engine as friendly and very carefully rose to peak out of the grass. After a few seconds she stood up all the way.
“Dad!” She called out, not loudly enough so that her voice would carry too far but enough for the engines to pull up closer to them.
Hux let out the breath he was holding and pried himself off of Dopheld, feeling his face redden. That had been such a childish thing to do and he was furious at himself for doing it and Mitaka for indulging him. Because he could, he shot Dopheld a dirty look but Dopheld just shrugged, raising his eyebrows and smirking a little. Not thinking clearly and wanting to reestablish some form of dominance even if he’d been content letting Mitaka act as his superior from the first time he set foot onto the shuttle, Hux gripped the neck of Dopheld’s undershirt and pulled him in to kiss him on the corner of the mouth before letting him go. Balking back a few inches, Dopheld started to blush to match Hux.
“Get your things into the trailer. Most of you will have to sit back there as well.” A male voice instructed.
That had to be Maila’s father. Not looking at Dopheld, Hux rose and after checking for himself that it was indeed only a dark haired man sitting on a speeder, caught between the bliss of seeing his child and knowing the hazards of staying out in the open, he set into helping load the cramped trailer attached to the back of the speeder, ending up having to sit on his bag once everything and everyone was settled. Even if they weren’t going to be staying on S-821 long, something about the whole experience had Hux at ease and ready to deal with things as they came, even with Mitaka continuously trying to catch his eye as the speeder began to approach an old farmhouse.
Honestly, I'm so excited to write and post the next few chapters because I have some big plans. Thank you so much for reading this far. Seeing the hits, comments, and kudos makes me so happy. I'm no big time fic writer, but I have fun writing and I hope you all feel some of that enjoyment as well. Addressing the last and this current chapter, I wanted to include elements of more than just Damerux because there was so much to work with. Ace Rey headcannons give me life along with Reyva being such an incredibly cute ship so that's my reasoning there. I'm mostly a Kylux shipper, but Stormpilot isn't far behind and with Finn and Poe's on screen relationship, there was too much for them to just be platonic even if Finn being force sensitive would making his training take precedence over Poe in my mind. More to come with Mitaka and Hux as people and their dynamic. Poe and Hux starting to let themselves think about the other again, eh? Gotta create a build up.
Poe couldn’t say that he became truly happy, but things began to grow easier for him, less suffocating. When Rey contacted Finn to tell him that Luke Skywalker wanted him to train with them at one of the old Jedi Temples upon their return, of course Poe hated the idea of him leaving. But he was still overjoyed for Finn and made sure that he knew that along with his sentiments towards him. The concept of discovering that he had force abilities had Finn so wound up that it was hard to get him to talk about anything else. Not that Poe minded, even if getting Finn to become serious again took some effort.
“I really wonder if learning to ‘channel the force’ as Rey called it is going to help with my anxiety. I mean, I’m not keen on the idea of stopping my appointments with Doctor Kalonia, but if the force doesn’t help, then I don’t know what will. Still, she’s sending me off with months worth of my meds. What color do you think my light saber is going to be when I get to build one? That is, if I get that far. Back in the day, most of them were green and blue from what I’ve read but one Jedi had a purple one. How cool is that, Poe? Purple. I love purple. I bet I’d be good with a light saber if I got some training. Combat was always something I was great at back when I was a storm trooper. I don’t know how much free time I’ll have at the temple, but I’ll try to call you a lot. And you’ll probably want to talk with Rey as well. She’ll be so happy to hear from you. Poe… I’m going to miss you. I’ll miss you a lot.”
Poe had been listening carefully to everything he had to say and he stopped nodding along, his smile at Finn’s gleeful ramblings slipping a bit.
“I’ll miss you as well. You’ll be back soon enough, though. Old man Skywalker can’t keep you at the temple forever. The two of you will be back here before you know it and in the meantime I’ll have to watch General Organa deal with her brother.”
They’d been sitting in on a fallen log in the D’Qar forest, having wanted some time to themselves. It was going to be their last time away from everyone and everything as Finn was leaving in the morning and BB-8 was rolling around the base rather than their heels. The droid had made its peace with Finn a few hours earlier and Poe had respectfully stood far enough away from Finn and BB-8 so that he wasn’t eavesdropping. When he did turn around to see if they were finished, he saw Finn crouched down to be level with BB-8’s optic lens. BB-8 was almost pouting, his head angled forward and just letting out low notes at Finn as he spoke. As Finn went to get back up, BB-8 stuck out its blowtorch and lit it, finally looking up at Finn. With a smile, Finn gave BB-8 a thumbs up in return. Poe had never seen anything like that before and did his best to catalogue it into his memory.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be away.”
“That’s okay. You’re a helluva guy, Finn. I’m not going to forget you that easily.”
“Of course not, I have your jacket.” Finn joked.
Poe put his hand on Finn’s back. “Yes, the same jacket that you shredded to pieces.”
"I was put into a coma, man.”
“You’re right. I should be finding Kylo Ren so I can kick his ass for all of us.”
Finn laughed and shook his head at Poe before standing up and offering his hand. When Poe took it and was on his feet, neither of them let go. They started walking back. Poe had been hoping that he’d get to kiss Finn goodbye in a way that was a little more personal than what they’d been doing so far, but remembering how Jessika described parting with Rey, he decided that he liked the idea of not rushing things just to say that they’d done them. Even if he knew from experience that it had a lot of potential to be sweet and intimate, it didn’t fit into this situation, not when he and Finn had never had the desire to discuss serious dating or anything like that.
“I all ready saved you once so I might as well do it again.”
“Okay, buddy, okay. I’ll let you handle the fights on solid ground and I’ll stay inside my X-wing.”
Poe walked Finn back to his quarters where they embraced for a long time outside Finn’s door. When they eventually parted, Poe watched as Finn stepped inside so finish packing and then went back to his own quarters. Not even an hour passed before he asked L’Ulo to come keep him company, profoundly lonely and taking Kalonia's advice not to isolate. He’d known the old Duros since he was a young man and when he wanted a certified adult, L'Ulo was who he called. Perhaps knowing that all Poe really wanted was company, L’Ulo showed up at Poe’s door with a bottle of some sort of hard liquor in hand.
“Do you have some glasses?”
Poe smiled wearily. “Yeah. Thanks for coming.”
As Poe went to his tiny kitchen unit and while L’Ulo took a seat at the center table, Poe searched around for the tumblers he kept for the few times fine alcohol crossed his path. He always viewed it as being wasted upon him because as of yet, his palate had never learned to appreciate it, favoring drinks that hid the burn of the alcohol with sugar and flavorings. But what L’Ulo was carrying appeared that it could barely be considered fit for consumption, the liquid inside swishing around the bottle and leaving residue along the glass. Whatever it was, even if it turned out to go down without killing him, Poe didn’t plan on drinking too much. He wanted to be completely functional tomorrow. Poe sat down and pushed the glasses towards L’Ulo, who in turn uncorked his bottle and filled both of them with a few fingers worth before pushing one to Poe.
L’Ulo picked up his glass. “Cheers.”
They each took a swallow. The taste was bitter and reminded Poe of the way high quality wood smelled. Despite burning like hell, it actually wasn’t too bad, but he wasn’t going to have too much more. L’Ulo took another pull without any show of pursing his lips and Poe had done before setting his glass down. He waited patiently for Poe to give him an indication that he wanted to speak. Even if Poe had a therapist now, there were some things he just wanted to speak about between friends.
“I’m getting so tired of everyone leaving.” He stated.
L’Ulo’s mouth stretched into a thin line. “Son, nobody wants to leave you specifically. You’re not the kind of man people run away from. It's just people having to leave in general.”
“I guess, but it still gets old.”
“You’re forgetting of a lot of people who are standing by you right now.”
“I’m sorry, L’Ulo. I shouldn’t have forgotten about you.”
“More than just me, Poe. All of Black Squadron adores you as a leader and a person. You have family in them whether you choose to accept their friendship or not.”
When Poe just took a sip of his drink to avoid speaking, L’Ulo sighed.
“You trust them with your life, but not your identity.”
“I trust you. And Finn. Kind of Jessika.”
“You’re dad is just like this. Kes is polite and friendly as one could be, but me and Shara were the only people that actually knew what he was thinking and feeling at any given time. As much as you take after your mom, there’s still a lot of Kes in you.”
Having had to speak about his parents and childhood rather heavily in one of his appointments with Kalonia, talking about them was less uncomfortable for Poe now even if it was far from being his favorite topic.
“I just think I need to get my own nonsense together rather than focus on making friends.”
“While I’m sure that sentiment comes from an honest place, being alone certainly doesn’t seem to be helping you either.”
“I’m in therapy for a reason, L’Ulo. You know more about everything that’s happened than Kalonia does.”
“You know who else you need to talk to more?” He asked.
Poe could only nod at that. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken with his father and that wasn’t something he was proud of. As much as he wanted to fix it, he had no idea what he’d say when dad answered the holocall. Even if Dad was still in decent shape for his age and had been a soldier in the Rebel army, he’d stayed on Yavin Four to help with the colony there, even when he’d been ask to come help with the Resistance about two years back. Eager to fly, Poe had went in his stead. It was impossible not to see how much it saddened him to see Poe go off and face dangers far too similar to those that he’d dealt with almost three decades earlier, but he’d let him go with nothing but encouragement and pleas to stay safe. Poe missed him. He was a gentle man and had been a patient and attentive parent even if he was even more reserved than Poe was.
After finishing off his drink, Poe nodded at L’Ulo in acknowledgement of his point even if he couldn’t think of how to address it. L’Ulo took the liberty of finishing off the train of thought himself and after that, they drank in friendly silence until Poe stopped sipping at his glass and L’Ulo took his bottle and left.
“You better believe that Kes has something useful to tell you and even if he doesn’t, you two owe it to one another to actually have a line of conversation.”
That morning’s goodbye was one of the sweeter ones Poe had had to make in his life even if he was growing sick of them. It was just something that went along with war, but just because he’d accepted that didn’t mean he had to be remotely happy about it. He knew that Finn was going off to do amazing things and that he’d come back soon enough. Having watched Finn's ship depart, Poe and BB-8 went back to his quarters. It would set in more heavily later that Finn was gone, but for now, he was okay and he hoped the feeling would stick around.
Poe remembered sitting heavily down onto what served as his kitchen table with BB-8 on the floor next to him. Remembering that he hadn’t eaten, he made himself eat a few protein cubes just because they were convenient and didn’t require any preparation even if he hated them along with drinking a glass of water. His mind wandered back to his father. He had his holocall frequency memorized even if he hadn’t used the machine in so long that it would likely take him a few minutes to figure it out. No part of him wanted to try to talk with his dad just then. His mind went in a different direction, instead desiring to speak with Kalonia, but his next appointment wasn’t for three more rotations and while he had an emergency comm frequency for her, he wasn’t anywhere close to needing to use it and didn't want to clog up the queue in case someone was having a real crisis.
He was considering taking BB-8 and trying to see if he could get assigned patrol duties, just needing to stretch his legs and take his mind off of things. It was ironic considering how much he’d hated patrolling back when he was in Stiletto Squadron. Trying to find someone in charge who he could speak with, he wandered around with BB-8 as the droid hummed to itself, the sound relaxing both of them. When his comm went off, BB-8 looked up sharply at him, startled and confused, and Poe just shrugged before answering.
“Commander Dameron here.”
It was Satura of all people. “Commander, get your squadron together. A First Order ship fired on one of ours and we need you out there.”
“Right away. Are we heading into heavy fire?” Poe spoke rapidly, ready to end this call so that he could devote his entire focus into getting into his flight suit and climbing into his X-wing alongside everyone else.
“No. Your presence if for security, but things still could turn violent. A small shuttle breached the neutral zone because it had been struck by a meteor and the steering was damaged. In violation of our recent agreements with the First Order, a star destroyer opened fire. There were no survivors. However, the First Order is handing over the officer who gave the order as a show of goodwill and to maintain peace. You will be protecting the convoy escorting him to where he is to be held on Corellia.”
That relaxed Poe quite a bit. Even if he wasn’t completely content with the cold war that they were stuck in, it was still preferable to out and out fighting by a long shot.
“I understand. My squadron and I will be up in the air in a few minutes.”
“Coordinates will be ready for your droid in the hangar.”
“Thank you. Dameron out.” He turned to BB-8 after ending the communication. “Come on, pal. We have real work to do.”
Having wandered to the complete opposite side of the building to where the hangar was, he and BB-8 were forced to sprint through the halls. The news of what had happened must have not yet gotten out because the people Poe passed in the halls appeared calm, if perhaps rather confused by Poe and BB-8’s haste. Ideally, it would stay that way and later on today, Organa or somebody else would send out a report about what had happened and how it had ended without further bloodshed on either side.
Once in the hangar, BB-8 went to the computer to retrieve the coordinates that Satura had promised as Poe pulled the spare flight suit that he kept in a cabinet along the wall out, stripping down to his underwear without shame as he’d been trained to do and then yanking the thing on. He wasn’t the only one. Jess was adjusting her gloves as Kare sat in her X-wing, Temmin searched for his helmet, and L’Ulo climbed into his ship. Gritting his teeth at being the last one here, Poe hurried up getting everything on and then hopped into his ship, BB-8 popping into the compartment behind him a few seconds later. X-wing engines began to come alive around him as BB-8 assisted in preparing the ship for flight and Poe turned on his comm.
“Black Leader, checking in.”
“Black Two, ready to go.”
“Black Three, happy to be doing something.”
“Black Four, ready to go.”
“Black Five, whenever you give the word, Dameron.”
“All right. We’re just there to provide some muscle in case the First Order changes their mind about surrendering our new guest. Keep the foils open but your trigger fingers away from the controls. Let’s go.”
Confirmations of his instructions echoed in his ears. BB-8’s translated binary appeared on the monitor in front of him but he kept his eyes out the view port, not needing to read it to have a full conversation with the droid.
“If you have a weird feeling about this, imagine how I feel.”
His ship lifted off of the ground and the flew out of the hangar with the other X-wings forming a neat line behind him. Pulling back on the controls, he brought the nose of his ship up and towards the clouds, watching as moisture from the air landed on the hull only to be blown off by the friction moments later. When the sky turned from blue to the black expanse of realspace, Poe cut the thrusters for a moment, waiting for everyone to fall into position behind him. He didn’t need to tell them that he was cutting to hyperspace and after BB-8 finished inputting the coordinates, Poe activated the hyperdrive the stars stretched out around him. When they exited, the other X-wings appeared alongside him not even seconds later.
In the distance were numerous TIE fighters and two star destroyers. As uneasy as they made Poe and BB-8 by the droid’s soft, anxious beeping, they were completely stationary, just hovering in place. The Resistance wasn’t the only one who had brought ships for enforcement. BB-8 told Poe that the Resistance transport that would be carrying the First Order officer that they were arresting was called the Swan. For some reason, Poe was very curious what the star destroyer was named. Probably something much less friendly.
“BB-8, can you contact the Swan and ask how things are going with the hand over? And let Jess, L’Ulo, Kare, and Snap be able to hear what they say as well.”
BB-8 let out a string of sound as it did as Poe requested, talking to itself as it worked. The comm link buzzed to life and Poe took the liberty of starting the conversation.
“Swan, this is Black Leader. Where are we with the transfer of the prisoner?”
The response came almost immediately. “Things are going well so far, Black Leader. We sent a shuttle over. The prisoner has been placed aboard and they are departing to redock with us as we speak.”
Sure enough, Poe watched as a tiny shuttle broke away from one of the Star Destroyers and began making its way back to the Swan at a pace that didn’t drag on, but didn’t suggest that they were fleeing with their prize. If the First Order had given up this man so eagerly, Poe had to wonder just how important he actually was to them. Perhaps it didn’t matter. Nobody was firing at one another and for all he knew, this guy could prove useful to the Resistance. Because the comm was open to all of Black Squadron, Kare asked the Swan officer a question directly as the shuttle docked with the ship and the TIE fighters and star destroyers began to turn around and head off back to their territory.
“Who is this guy, anyway?” She inquired.
“The man who nearly turned a cold war hot again is one Brendol Hux.”
Poe’s heart seized in his chest, memories rushing back to him and his blood turning to ice. All he could do was blink and ease his hands off of the controls before he clenched his fingers around the wrong button or lever. No. He couldn’t have heard it right. It couldn’t be. Poe went from remembering Brendol with a cigarra in his smirking mouth to his cheeks streaked with tears as he clung to Poe. And then the image of him on that stage with the cap covering his red hair and the heavy coat hiding his slim body bellowing for the destruction of the New Republic overpowered anything else. Even after having watched that footage more times than he cared to admit, Poe was never sure what he saw on Brendol’s face when it tipped upward to be cast in the red light of Starkiller’s beam. He didn’t want to know because not knowing carried the seductive protection of never having to receive an answer that Poe didn't want.
Temmin spoke up. “Think you’ll get any good info out of him?”
“Well, even if he was gift wrapped for us, we doubt they had any time to mess with his memories. The real issue will be if he speaks to us freely because from what we’ve heard, he’s a die hard loyalist to the First Order.” The woman on the Swan’s comm responded.
“Let me talk with him.” Poe interjected.
“That’s all right, Commander. Your job is done here.”
“No, you don’t understand. I know him. I can get him to talk to you.”
There was some silence as the others on the radio were very understandably confused. Everyone except for Jess, who hesitantly backed Poe up.
“Commander Dameron is right. I can vouch for him on both accounts.”
“Well, you can follow us to Corellia, Commander Dameron, but I can’t make any promises.”
Jess continued. “Tell your people there that Poe is your best option of getting answers without resorting to anything invasive.”
“He either talks or he doesn’t. We have orders from on high that we’re not to touch him.”
“Still, it would be better for all of us if he spills what he knows.”
Some tense moments as nobody spoke again.
“Commander Dameron, your clearance from General Organa can buy you some time with Hux. You can see him after he’s processed at the prison. We’ll be entering hyperspace in just a moment.”
“Thank you.” Poe exhaled.
He ended the communication between the Swan and Black Squadron, but kept the link open so he could talk with his pilots.
“Perhaps an explanation on why you know this sleemo of all people?” Kare requested without stripping all of the judgement from her voice.
“Long story that I probably won’t give you at a later time. Just continue on with the mission and when the ship lands on Corellia, head back to D’Qar.”
Jessika’s tone was the only one that didn’t irk him entirely. “Want assistance?”
“No, thank you, though. Head back with the others.”
Poe muted his comm after that, just waiting as new coordinates were programmed and each vessel around him began to dart off towards Corellia, his own included. He’d largely let BB-8 take over the controls and they entered hyperspace themselves, his mind so overloaded it was crashing like a faulty computer.
After their landing on a military prison airstrip, Poe and BB-8 were guided to and then instructed to wait outside an interrogation room. It was nothing like the ones the First Order employed, consisting of chairs and a table rather than a cart loaded with torture tools in the corner and a restraining device in the center. Right now, the focus was on seeing what Brendol would tell them voluntarily. Everything he said would be in his benefit and Poe prayed that he spilled all that he knew. No matter what happened, he’d receive a lengthy sentence but his comfort while incarcerated was still up in the air. If he was able to receive visitors, would Poe go to see him?
Conflicted, he just slumped back against the wall. He’d been scanned for weapons and other banned devices by guards before entering the building and BB-8 was forbidden to go with Poe when he was allowed to see Brendol because of the droid's recording abilities. As much as Poe wanted BB-8 with him for support like in therapy, this was something that he knew he needed to do alone. This whole place put Poe in a strange mood. Everything was sterile and orderly but they were on the second level. The facility was built far away from the major cities of Corellia and deep into the ground to prevent airstrikes liberating any of the prisoners. High level prisoners like Brendol would reside at the very lowest levels of which Poe had no clue what they looked like or how they functioned. There were some rough places to be a captured criminal in the New Republic and he hoped that this wasn’t one of them even if the harder part of him begged to differ.
A guard stepped out of the room where they were keeping Brendol, punching in some last strings of information into the data pad he was holding before looking at Poe. His voice was stern even if he appeared to be younger than Poe.
“There are cameras in there that will be closely monitored but the microphones will be turned off as you are not a part of the official debriefing team. If you try to touch him, pass him anything, or move past the white line, you will be removed immediately and will be prosecuted. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Poe said.
“You’ve been given a half hour. Guards will be right outside this room.”
The man just nodded and then stepped aside so Poe could enter. Through the blastproof glass window on the door, Poe could only see just the fingertips to a pair of hands that were shackled and magnetically bolted to the table for now. Sucking in a breath and then not quite letting it all the way out, Poe opened the door and stepped inside.
His confusion was so profound it drowned out any sense of relief that Poe perhaps should have felt while the sentiments mirrored back at him were outright hostile.
“Who the hell are you?” The large stranger barked at him. “I was told that someone I knew was coming to see me.”
“You’re not Brendol.” Was all Poe could articulate.
“Of course I'm Brendol. And to you all, I’m still Commandant Brendol Hux.”
“We’re not exactly in the First Order and even if we were, I’m pretty sure that they renounced you.”
He didn’t respond to that, just setting his jaw and scowling. Military decorum wasn’t something that he possessed despite demanding to be addressed by his rank. The uniform he was likely wearing before he was processed was gone, replaced with loose prison garments and slip on shoes. He had that look of someone who had aged far past their actual years. His face was lined and pudgy like the rest of him, his hair and beard almost completely gray but shot through here and there with fading red. Poe blinked, finding connection only when he analyzed the sneer that seemed to be permanently affixed to his face.
“I know your son. I thought it was him here and not you.”
The very idea of his child made Hux glower. “It should be that worthless boy here instead of me. I’ve done my duty and I have no regrets over destroying that shuttle. It was in our territory, peace treaty or not. Armitage fled from his own failure like a coward rather than facing it head on.”
Armitage. Poe had been given a pseudonym on Jakku. Why he chosen Brendol of all things with how nasty his father was proving to be Poe didn’t grasp, but the person in front of him wasn't Armitage. He was still out there and running from the First Order. Emotions were clashing like a tempest inside of Poe’s chest and it was making him sick.
“I’d hardly call blowing up the Hosnian system a failure.” Poe pointed out, having to work to keep his voice even.
“How do you even know him in the first place? From the little they told me you’re just some pilot. What, did he get to his knees for you in exchange for transportation at some point in the past weeks?”
Had it been anyone else, Poe would have just shrugged with a smirk, but this man infuriated Poe. Even if Armitage’s actions involving Starkiller were unforgivable, Poe was starting to see exactly why he'd pegged Armitage for being such an apparent mess even in the short time they were face to face. Brendol Hux was absolutely appalling.
“No, actually.” Was all he was willing to say.
“It doesn’t matter. Leave. Clearly we have no use for one another.”
Poe didn’t move. “What’s going to happen to Armitage?”
The name felt to foreign on his tongue, but after meeting Brendol Hux, Brendol was forever tainted for Poe. He wanted to say it a few more times, but this wasn't the time or place.
Hux’s gaze hardened further. “He’s to be hunted like a dog until he’s caught and executed.”
“Such a loving father. Kriff, no wonder your son had a breakdown and bolted when he realized he’d turned into you.”
“I have like twenty-five more minutes in here and you can’t exactly boss me around, Commandant. I don’t answer to you and neither does Armitage. Deal with it.” Poe shot back, finally admitting to himself that he’d gotten rude but not caring.
Perhaps never having been spoken to like that before, Hux appeared to be at a bit of a loss. Good. Poe watched him in silence for a few minutes, seething. When Hux opened his mouth, Poe’s lip curled over his teeth.
“What are you going to do if you find him before the First Order does? Stick him in a cell next to mine or just put him down when you see him in some misguided attempt to be merciful?”
“As much as I’ll want to slap him, you’ve probably done that enough. I’ll probably just kiss him.”
The nonchalantness that Poe said that with made Hux gawk. “Who even are you?”
“Poe Dameron, best pilot you’ll ever meet and someone who actually cares about your son, that’s who. Have fun here because I’d imagine I’ll be the last visitor you receive.”
Finally done and content to depart on his own terms, Poe got up and after pushing in his chair behind him, left the room. The guard outside resecured the door once Poe had stepped away to crouch down next to BB-8. He put his hand on the droid’s head and it whirred at him softly.
“It wasn’t him.”
BB-8 let loose a string of further questions and Poe tried to keep up with them all in his state of exhaustion.
“I stayed in there for so long because it was his dad. Horrible man. I wanted to talk about Armitage, because he lied to me when he said that his name was Brendol, and he told me that-”
Jerking its head to the side in a gesture to glance in that direction, Poe understood BB-8’s message. In front of a prison guard was the last place to discuss this.
“Thanks, buddy.” Poe whispered before letting his voice return to normal. “Let’s go home.”
BB-8 chirped in excitement of hearing the full story of what had happened in the interrogation room later on and rolled off back down the hall. Before Poe followed it, he turned to the guard.
“That was a short visit with the amount of holocalls that had to be made for you go get access here.” The guard stated with ill concealed suspicion.
Poe decided to tell the truth should this ever come back to bite him. “I thought he was someone else.”
“How many First Order officers do you know for you to get them confused?”
“Just the one, but evidently I can’t even keep them straight.”
Shrugging to show that he was done answering questions, Poe caught up with BB-8. They entered the elevator and Poe punched the button for the top floor. The elevator lurched forward and then began to rise more smoothly as the numbers began to tick down on a display.
“I am not looking forward to explaining all of this to the squadron.”
BB-8 beeped softly in commiseration. The elevator stopped a few seconds later and opened to the first level of the prison. Poe was considered trustworthy enough to not require an escort, but he did notice that after he had made it back to the landing pad, the doors to the building automatically locked behind him. It didn’t offend him. As if he would ever try to bust Brendol Hux out of prison. BB-8 zipped over to the X-wing and waited impatiently for Poe to activate the magnetic lift so that BB-8 could be settled into its spot behind Poe. After pulling himself into the ship, Poe started flipping switches to bring the engines back to life as BB-8 continued to warble.
“All right, all right. Here.”
Poe pressed a button and a few seconds later BB-8 popped up in its compartment. A translated binary appeared on the monitor before Poe, but he chose not to read it, instead making sure that his comm was turned off.
“Let’s wait until we’re in the air. You never know who is listening.”
The engines pushed them off of the ground as the landing gears were retracted and a few seconds later they were entering the open air. When the clouds started to kiss the hull of the ship, Poe sighed.
“The old Hux said that my Hux ran away from the First Order. They don’t know where he is.”
BB-8 wasn’t pleased at the lack of information.
“Well, I’d like it if there was more to it than that as well, but that’s not the case. It’s probably for the better.”
Only one word showed up on the screen and it was a powerful one.
“How? Because if I found him it would be my duty to arrest him. Even if I didn’t, what would I do? Yell at him? He’d probably start crying and then I’d start crying and where would that leave us?”
BB-8 squirmed but didn’t say anything. War made people do some unspeakable things. If Hux was running, he was also probably repenting. Was it enough for him to deserve any sort of forgiveness? Poe wanted answers that he didn’t know how to obtain. Lost and starting to grow desperate, L’Ulo’s advice suddenly seemed like a suitable last resort. He just wanted someone to tell him that things were going to be okay or if he needed to brace himself and there was only one person who he knew wouldn’t lie to him about what he needed to do.
“BB-8, see if you can hail Kess Dameron. I want to talk to him”
Surprised but obeying, BB-8 started to adjust the communications so that such a long distance transmission would be possible. When that was finished, Poe glanced down to see lines of binary requesting communication repeated over and over again being sent. That went on for nearly a minute and BB-8 started to ask Poe if he wanted to give up when a husky voice was patched through.
“Poe? Are you calling from your X-wing?”
Poe couldn’t help but grin at hearing his voice. “Hey, Dad.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. Whatever makes you comfortable enough to call, I guess. Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. How about you?”
He sighed. “Oh, one of the neighbors nerfs tried to jump the fence to the garden and just ended up destroying the post and two of the beams. Replacing it has been frustrating, but at least the thing didn’t get into the veggies.”
“Do you need help?”
“No, I’ve nearly got it fixed. I strung up some wire in the meantime to keep those damn things out. What’s been going on with you?”
“Not a lot. We’ve been pretty grounded lately.”
“I’m glad to hear that. As much fun as you have up in the space, I’d rather see you kicking around on the ground with BB-8. Speaking of which, how is that little droid?”
Instead of letting Poe speak for him, BB-8 started beeping animatedly about itself and Poe among other topics.
“Oh, Finn and Rey left? I’m sorry to hear that. At least you both still have Jessika and L’Ulo.”
“Son, you didn’t call just to be friendly, did you?” His dad gently pressed.
Poe didn’t mince words. “No. I mean, we need to talk more in general, but I wanted your advice on something.”
“Of course. You’re not in any trouble, are you?”
“Let’s hear it, then.”
“Don’t say anything until I finish, okay?”
“I swear on BB-8’s head.”
“I met this guy a while back. We weren’t together long, but I was never able to get him out of my head. It turns out that he was a First Order officer. The kicker is that I just found out that he ran away. It’s not like I could ever find him again, but I just need to know what I’d do if I did and that’s something I can’t decide on."
His father humphed a little in thought as was habit. A fair amount of time passed before he answered and Poe was apprehensive about what he was going to hear.
“Even when you’re the hero of the situation, you have to do some ugly things. I’m not proud of a lot of the actions that the Rebellion took back in the day. Just because we were fighting for the greater good doesn’t mean that there isn’t blood on our hands, yours and mine included. Whether it’s the Empire or the First Order, those people also believe that what they’re doing is the right thing just like we think that of ourselves. If this young man you’re talking about is running away from that, it’s because he’s come to realize that he can’t sleep at night. He’s done wrong and he knows it. If he’s done fighting for his old cause, that deserves some recognition. We had a lot of good people that were ex-Imperials come into our fold, Poe. People can change sometimes. Not everyone deserves forgiveness, but some do. I’ll leave that up to you, but I hope that sheds some light on things.”
It did a little, but he didn’t have all of the necessary details.
“But did any of those people create the Death Star?”
He paused before responding. “No. But we had the people who destroyed both of the Death Stars. More than three billion people were killed between those two missions. Most of them were low level officers or workers brought in from various planets. While that doesn’t compare to Alderaan, it still hurt the pilots who completed the mission. There were fireworks for them and celebrations, but at the end of the day, they ended so many lives even if what they did was necessary. Nobody likes killing people, Poe, even when the results can be justified. Very rarely are there those who can hurt others and truly feel nothing or even enjoy it.”
Poe nodded to himself. “Okay.”
“Did that clear things up for you at all?”
“Maybe. I have a lot to think over.”
“I’m sure you do. You should call me again when you make up your mind.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.”
“I love you, son. I hope you never have to carry the weight of a Death Star with you.”
Poe dealt with his shock by replying to his dad’s last words out of order.
“I’m lucky. Starkiller had time for evacuation. I love you, too.”
It wasn’t something they said to one another often and Poe very much needed it just then. Vulnerable, Poe started to overshare.
“I’m seeing a therapist.”
“Oh.” His dad was genuinely surprised. “I’m glad. I’m really glad.”
“She’s really nice. I’m starting to feel pretty good.”
“Dad… thanks for answering the holocall.”
“Any time, Poe. Any time. Get back home to D’Qar now.”
“Okay. I’ll call you back soon.”
“I’d like that. Goodbye.”
BB-8 ended the call for Poe and then beeped at him.
"We'll see what happens with Armitage. I still have some thinking to do." And because he was thinking about it and he could. "Armitage. Ar-mi-tage. Huh."
A string of binary was let loose that Poe didn't have to translate to know BB-8 was laughing.
"Yeah, it's different, that's for sure. If you say the syllables softly it's pretty though. It suits him."
Mumbling to itself, Poe only caught what BB-8 was saying to itself when he glanced down at the monitor as he was checking his readouts and gauges. He shook his head at BB-8 even if he was amused.
"Come on, buddy, no need to be jealous. You'll always be my favorite."
With some of his guilt over thinking about him starting to alleviate, Poe's first question was whether or not Armitage ever thought about him in turn. Remebering how sensitive he'd been even before they had sex and how the two times they'd done it had only made it exponentially worse, Poe wondered if Starkiller finally broke him. People like Armitage didn't survive the cruelty of the First Order and how he'd up to their their time on Jakku was something else. If he should meet Armitage face to face and there was nothing in his eyes, Poe wasn't sure what he'd do. He wanted him and he was willing to admit it. In the very least, he wanted to speak with him even if he couldn't even begin to imagine the words that they might exchange. If he was still a person, something that hadn't been hollowed out, Poe could take him away to somewhere quiet. He could make him breakfast and start to ask him about the little things like what his favorite color was and what holorecords he liked. BB-8 could finally meet him. Also, Poe wasn't going to pretend that it wouldn't feel magnificent to have his lips and hands back on him again. He still had a hard time believing that he'd went from pulling Armitage on top of him to spanking him. They'd seen just about every side they could show to one another in that Cantina: coy, enamored, furious, despondent, wild, vulnerable, heartbroken, the list probably went on. Poe didn't want to say that he was in love because it seemed like something from a cheesy holomovie, but they'd shared more with one another than they'd intended to and Poe either wanted that piece of himself back or to give himself over wholly.
But it was all just a fantasy. The odds were astronomical that they'd ever meet again and it was time Poe accepted that and took the little closure he'd found on the issue.
A sharp sound from BB-8 brought Poe out of his revelries as he loudly pointed out to Poe that they were due back at D'Qar and had yet to enter hyperspace.
"I've caught you day dreaming in the past so don't act so high and mighty. But I agree. Let's go home."
Things are starting to wrap up. Probably only a few more chapters left. There might be a bit of a hiatus for me between updates in mid August to early September so I'm trying to be proactive and get some chapters posted before I get too busy but I can't make any promises. Also, I only just realized this morning that I've been spelling Arkanis wrong every time I ever wrote it across three fics so I went back and fixed that. I was so confused why a Star Wars planet would sound so much like "Kansas" so at least I know now that it was just my poor reading skills.
That initial night in the barn at the Unamo farm had been highly rattling. While Hux could see for himself that the bales of plant matter for the animals to eat naturally generated heat that would disguise their own readings, the TIE fighters could be heard screaming overhead every hour on the hour. Hux was terrified that if he even shifted just slightly, it would be detected and storm troopers would come lumbering up into the loft where they were all staying the night. At least Maila hadn’t been lying when she had assured them that there would be beds and meals. There had cots waiting for them that proved to be the most comfortable thing Hux had encountered in far too long and a huge pot of simple but hearty stew was brought up for them all to scoop into flimsy, disposable bowls. That wasn’t all that the Unamo’s had deigned to provide them with. A few hours after Maila’s father had gotten them settled in the barn, her mother had appeared with a computer that had some of the strangest modifications that Hux had ever seen. It was bulky and made with ramshackle parts, but as long as it did its job, Hux didn't care what it looked like.
“I’ll need you all to come over here one by one so we can alter your records.” Maila’s mother said as she booted up her device and set to adjusting all of the accoutrements.
Hux had to ask. “What exactly are we doing?”
“Some basic splicing. We’re going to hack into each of your criminal profiles with the New Republic, for those who have one, and change your records. Those who don’t have a record are about to get one. There’s nothing we can do about facial recognition, it will pick up on who you all are even if you go to drastic measures. What we can do it make sure that all the data related to your faces that the New Republic may have relates back to harmless information about a group of smugglers, people that they logically would have on their radar that would still be able to file for amnesty. Seeing something on their systems will keep them from digging too deep to find out who you are, or at least that’s the intention. This scrambler will keep the location of the edits from being traced.”
Maila frowned. “Mom, where did you get all of this? The initial information you needed to get to the databases had to cost a fortune and that’s not even counting the ship and everything else.”
The looks that they exchanged told all even if words went on to explain the circumstances in detail.
“You sold the farm.”
“You were worth it to us, Maila. Your father and I have enough money leftover to go and start again. Don't worry about us.”
Starting to tear up, everyone politely averted their eyes from Maila and her mother. Hux didn’t know how to feel about all of this.
“Thank you.” Maila whispered.
“You’re going to go off to start a new life while you’re young. It's all a parent could ever want for their child. Come on, now. Let’s get you started.”
And that was what they did. They didn’t need to fool the First Order, who would never fall for such a thing, just the New Republic until they could vanish into its heart. Each of them went up to Maila’s mother, who Hux found out was named Erinn. It seemed important that Hux should know the names of the people who were doing this for them. Erinn and Torvald Unamo. They would never see them again after this, but Hux wanted to hold on to those names for now even if it was nearly identical to a child finding a rock and keeping it in their pocket, unsure what purpose it would serve but finding it necessary. After Maila finished with her profile, she gestured weakly for someone else to take their turn. Hux remained silent, letting someone else go over instead of him each time until he was the last one left.
He’d gone silent as he sat there, not even listening to the nearly identical lines of questions that Erinn gave each of them. All he wanted to do was sleep. Everything ached and now that he’d eaten after such a strenuous night, he was nodding off.
“Hey, red. It’s your turn.”
Head bobbing back up, the nickname confused him and he wasn’t immediately sure where he was. It was the smell of the bales of plant material and old wood around him that brought him back to the Shale barn. Erinn was waiting for him, weary and rather impatient, but she’d earned the right to be. Still, did she know who he was? Even if the Unamos didn’t hungrily follow the news of the First Order, he’d been a household name and likely still was, albeit for different reasons. And here he was now, being reduced from the rank of general to “red”. Poe had done the exact same thing. How strange the universe moved. Getting to his feet, he stepped over to where she’d set up her equipment and lowered himself next to her. His profile with the New Republic was pulled up on the monitor and Hux avoided reading what Erinn was working to delete.
Erinn placed her hands on the keyboard. “What will your new name be?”
He hadn’t thought about that remotely and balked. “Tage. Tage…”
“You have to pick something, red.”
Choosing a first name was one thing, even if it had been Dopheld who had done it. A last name was something entirely different. All of the generic last names Hux could think of were obviously Arkanisian and he needed to distance himself from that planet even if his voice still carried notes of the accent there. There was nobody who he was willing to take the name of that he’d met personally or had read about. An odd idea struck him and he rolled with it, having nothing else.
Erinn looked at him. “That's different.”
It had been his step mother’s first name. From the little that Hux could remember about her, she was kind, ready to raise him as her own had his father allowed it. And it was something. As tempted as Hux was to give Erinn a nasty glance at her comment, she was probably just trying to make sure that he picked something that he liked. But he did like this. It was pretty and his new identity was something that was entirely his. He’d need to start changing up his appearance to match with his character of the smuggler and the idea of getting to control how he presented himself for the first time was daunting and exciting all at once.
“It’s what I want.”
“All right. Want a specific birthday?”
“No, pick whatever.”
Hux noticed that she put his birthday only a few days before the one she entered for someone else. It was clever. Being too random could be a tip off that this wasn’t real information. His height was given an extra inch and ten pounds was added to his weight.
“Try to put on some fat before you reach the New Republic. And grow out your hair some more.”
“I don’t have any other choice.” Hux pointed out.
Any physical examination of his health that the New Republic doctors might perform that involved him removing his clothes would be the end of him with his tattoos. As soon as he could, he’d get them amended to something benign or removed, but no opportunities had presented themselves for that as of yet. In the meantime, it was going to be a long period of long sleeves and high collars with his hair dusting his neck. At least he’d been wise enough not to trim it out of frustration from having missed receiving a haircut over the past months. Phasma hadn’t been so patient, taking one of the electric trimmers intended for facial hair and taking it to her head. Running a hand through his hair, it was soft without all of the product and long enough to tangle. A beard would probably be another smart option, but Hux hated them after having grown up with his father having one and intended to stay well shaven.
Erinn narrated as she continued to add information. “I’m giving you a citation for aiding and abetting the transport of class three illegal cargo. You paid off the fine that was given to you as punishment.”
“Where were you born?”
“People from Stewjon have similar accents so let’s use that planet.”
Hux had his mind made up on this, tired of striving to be the perfect son. “Leave it blank. That’s an option on nearly every planet.”
“Fine. I have what I need.”
He wasn’t acknowledged further and so he went back to the group, mirroring them and sitting on his cot while Erinn packed up her things. Nobody spoke until she was gone and Hux felt a little sick when he realized it was so that if she was interrogated, she couldn’t give them any information. Dopheld addressed all of them.
“Tomorrow, we meet our ride out of here back at the beach. After that, we head straight to the nearest trading outpost and we throw out anything that could tie us back to the First Order. That unfortunately means everything. If it touched the Finalizer, it has to be incinerated. We’ll get new supplies, clothes, and everything else and I’m sorry Tage, Avice, but you’ll have to stay on the ship. You’re too recognizable. Cal and I will be buying everything we need while Maila and Erlem make sure the ship is ready for long distance journeys because the odds are that we’re going to be receiving quite the clunker.”
Murmurs of agreement and understanding were issued all around, but after that, formal conversation dissolved into soft mutterings between a few pairs here and there as sleep began to become as tempting as the offer of a million credits would be. Hux shucked his clothes and laid down on his cot, pulling a scratchy blanket over himself. After having gotten used to all of the noise around him and starting to drift off, it took a sharp poke to the back for Hux to turn around and face Dopheld, who had taken the cot next to him. For understandable reasons, he didn’t appear pleased.
“Tage, what the hell was that earlier?” He whispered.
Even if nobody had secrets anymore, Hux found himself checking to see if anyone was listening to them. Cal and Erlem were asleep, having pushed their cots together, while Avice and Maila were in deeply engrossed in a hushed conversation of their own. It would have been impossible for Avice not to feel Hux’s eyes on her, so she must have been choosing to ignore him while she comforted Maila, for that was what Hux could only assume was happening based off of Maila’s hoarse mutters and stifled sniffs.
Hux turned to him, meeting his dark eyes. “I was frightened for our lives, you were there.”
“If you want to leave it at that, I’d be perfectly fine.”
Dopheld offered a small smile and extended his hand. Hux took it, interlacing their fingers. His hands, much like Hux’s, bore the feeling of having been kept soft from care and a lack of physical labor but recently having started to build calluses, the skin rough and peeling slightly in places. The gentle contact was calming and Hux found himself relaxing further into his cot.
“I think it would be interesting. In times like these, I certainly wouldn’t turn down the offer of a distraction, particularly one that I will admit to have thought about quite a bit over the years.”
Hux grinned in spite of himself. “Dopheld, you cad.”
“Don’t act like it was all me. I tried to draw your interest and you knew it and never put a stop to it. That was unprofessional on your part.”
“I enjoyed the game and you were always the good, little lieutenant. Yes, I liked you, Dopheld. You made me feel special.”
“It wasn’t hard. You are special.”
“I want to be the kind of officer that you were to me. You deserve all the admiration and affection in the galaxy.”
“So do you, Tage. So do you.”
His hand was pulled over and Dopheld kissed the back of it tenderly before returning it to the neutral space between the cots.
“Not now, though.”
A corner of Mitaka’s mouth twitched. “That’s fine. It’s not like we don’t have all the time in the galaxy.”
“Waiting would make it better, less frantic. I’m ready for something slow that doesn’t tear me to pieces.”
“Are you really ready, Tage?”
“I don’t know.”
It was a simple and fair answer and Dopheld nodded at it. After that, Dopheld took a breath and let it out. Wanting to encourage him because Hux knew how much he hated talking about himself, he gave his hand a squeeze. He found his courage.
“Can I show you something?”
“Of course.” Hux affirmed.
Moving Hux’s hand back over to him, Mitaka laid his fingers on top of Hux’s. Taking their hands to his chest, he slipped them up under his shirt and began to make Hux’s fingertips traverse his chest softly and slowly. His skin was soft and smooth and Hux was highly skeptical as to the purpose to this until the texture changed as regular flesh was intersected by scar tissue. Mitaka slid their hands so Hux could feel that the scar extended to the middle of the sternum where there was a break and then another scar began and ended at the side of the rib cage just like the first one. After a few moments of thought, Hux caught on.
“Thank you for trusting me with this, Dopheld.”
“It’s not like it’s a debilitating secret in this day and age, but it’s just awkward sometimes. And after overhearing some of your conversation with Erinn, I thought you might appreciate some solidarity.”
“I don’t know who I am, Dopheld. My father just wanted the perfect son to go out and prove that the name Hux meant something. There was no time for any self discovery or expression. I never even told him that I was queer. It just seemed like one more reason for him to hate me for not being what he expected.”
“There’s nothing wrong with not having yourself figured out. It took me years.”
“Thank you, that actually helps a lot.”
“You’re beautiful, Tage.”
Hux felt himself blush a little, but the sensation transformed into all the color rushing out of his face when at least two TIE fighters roared overhead. Eyes closed, Hux tried to remember what Unamo had said. TIE’s would fly around the farm regularly on their nightly patrol. It didn’t mean they were stopping to investigate. The loft was safe and so were they. After taking a few deep breaths, Hux relaxed somewhat and let go of Dophelds hand with a tense smile before turning around. It was going to be a long night and Hux wanted to be as alone as he could for a while and just try to rest.
The new ship was nicer than Hux had expected. That didn’t mean much considering Hux had imagined something held together by tape and who only knew what else. It had been gutted of any expensive non necessities and cleaned by harsh chemicals before it had been sold, but it would do. One thing that nobody was complaining about was the presence of a real bunk room. Even if the ship was quite cramped, it was home now and Hux was becoming attached to it. They had drawn straws for naming rights and Phasma had one. She had chosen the Varactyl. Upon asking her why that had been her choice, she had just shrugged and said that she liked the animal and the prowess it represented.
The ship had its defects, the Unamo’s only being able to afford a vessel with a shot hyperdrive and no luxuries. Because of that, when they eventually reached the trading outpost, there was much to do beyond just acquiring new clothes and enough supplies to get them to the border to the New Republic. Hux and Phasma were left alone on the ship while the others went in search of parts and everything else that they needed, awkwardly sitting at the table without even a dejarik board to play with, everything they had owned minus their current clothes having been destroyed earlier and the clothes on their backs soon to be treated the same way. They'd done all that they could to clean up but there was only so much to do on an empty ship.
“Does it ever astound you that we really made it this far?” Hux asked her, wanting some conversation.
“Of course it does, even if I had every intention of not allowing us to fail. Once the lightspeed if repaired, we will have our last hurdle.”
“I guess that isn’t an inaccurate. If we’re let inside the New Republic, as long as we keep our heads down, we should be safe.”
Avice fidgeted in her chair, never having been as sediment as she had of late and not taking it well. “I believe we’ll be successful.”
“How strange it will be, though. We’ll all be shoved into small apartments and given some small stipend. Perhaps they'll even set us up with work.”
“Are you hoping for the plot of land or the citizenship?”
“I’d like to set up on some civilized planet, but I know that it isn’t the safe option. And you?”
“I want to build things, help create what might go on to become a city somewhere.”
“You have no desire for comfort?”
“You can’t truly desire what you don’t entirely grasp.”
Hux nodded, that idea making him reconsider his statement slightly.
“Is Maila doing better?”
“Yes.” Avice replied. “The sacrifices her parents made are still leaving her with guilt, but she’s beginning to move past it. It bothers her that she won’t be able to assist them at all.”
“That’s unfortunate. You two seem close.”
“It’s nice to have a friend in times like these.”
That sentence made Hux think. Were these people his friends? While Hux valued and trusted everyone aboard the shuttle, that didn’t mean that he was overly fond of them. Their personalities didn’t always match up well at all and conflict was a regular, if short lived, occurrence. The only two people who Hux felt a strong bond with was Phasma and Mitaka. While Erlem, Cal, and Maila were good people, Hux had never dealt with them personally before joining the crew and barriers had yet to be completely broken down. However, Hux had needed to have the conversation with himself if he was willing to give his life for any of the people aboard their ship and the answer was yes to all.
“May I confess something?” Hux asked tentatively.”
Phasma cut him off with a blank statement. “You’re not happy, are you.”
Sighing, Hux had forgotten that Avice was still Captain Phasma, an expert at weeding out soldiers who wouldn’t serve their intended purpose. Phasma was the last person Hux should have been speaking about these things with considering that he knew that if Phasma thought that he was endangering the crew, she’d see to dealing with him herself. He masochistically liked the idea of being dealt with as harshly as was necessary.
“No. You want a family, Phasma. I don’t. They’ve never proved to be pleasant for me.”
“Same goes for romance?”
He turned red, disliking that she knew about that. “Unfortunately. I like Dopheld quite a bit. Perhaps not enough, though, if that makes sense. I’m being held back by myself. I don’t need people right now, I just want to figure out who I am. That requires being alone.”
They were silent for a while. He’d said far too much and he knew it. If he wanted time for self discovery, he was going to get it when Phasma booted him off of the ship. Ideally, that would be when they landed somewhere rather than just being pushed into the airlock and then ejected into open space.
“I understand, Armitage. The others, they all had a childhood, family. Not us. We’re just starting to make memories of our own versus ones that were force fed to us. You’re not wrong in any of your thinking.” She explained evenly, making Hux’s chest constrict.
“Perhaps on one point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve been overlooking the fact that I do have friends.”
Smiling, Phasma clapped Hux on the shoulder rather hard before settling back in as Hux tried to show strength and not let on that Phasma's affectionate gesture had hurt quite a bit.
Knowing that he wasn’t the only one feeling this way was comforting even if there was next to nothing that he could do about it. He’d been under someone’s thumb all of his life. All he wanted now was genuine freedom, the one thing that he could never have. It was time to accept what he had with gratitude. The future wasn’t dim. He had confidants, companions, and perhaps someone that Hux could someday come to have a romance with. In comparison to what he would have had not long ago, it was priceless. Had he not fled, he wouldn’t have survived the year inside the First Order. And in some parallel universe where he’d managed to destroy D’Qar, he wouldn’t have been content, not even with all the power in the galaxy forged into a circlet around his brow.
His head could follow the rationality and accept it. His heart felt otherwise.
There wasn’t time to dwell upon it. It sounded like someone was kicking at the hatch door and Hux rose to go and lower it, revealing Erlem and Maila struggling to hold the hyperdrive unit. Phasma went over to add her strength to steady it. The thing was beat up, but appeared like it would function well enough. They only needed it to work once. Trying to help, Hux went ahead of them to open the hatch that led to the wires and circuits of the guts of the engine, setting the panel aside as the others worked to gently lower the hyperdrive unit to the ground. The toolbox was stored in a compartment under the table and Hux retrieved it and then handed it down to them after they’d climbed down into the trench. Hux knew the design and theory behind complex weapons, not how to actually handle tools when all the parts he’d been given to work with were falling apart. There wasn’t anything for him to help with here.
Only a few minutes later, Cal and Dopheld showed up, carrying folded blankets and bags overflowing with various pieces of clothing. Hux went out and took some of their burden from them and then set everything on the table before going and shutting the hatch. Dopheld appeared exhausted but highly pleased with himself.
“Everything is gently used but clean and free of holes, that much I made sure of. I got as many pieces I could find in each person’s measurements and there’s one blanket for everyone. Toiletries are in there as well. I would have gotten pillows but I didn’t trust any of the ones I saw.”
“Probably for the best.” Cal said.
“Let’s go work on the hyperspace coordinates. Tage, will you put everyone’s things onto their bunks?”
Finally, he had something to do.
Dopheld and Cal vanished into the cockpit and Hux went about figuring out which bag belonged to whom. Most of it wasn’t overly difficult. The largest article were obviously for Avice. Two bags contained the smallest pieces and Hux eventually figured out which was for Maila and and which was for Erlem by the presence of a brassiere in one bag. Cal bordered on being paunchy and his clothes were cut to accommodate that. At that, Hux was left with the easy problem of figuring out what belonged to Dopheld and what was his. Since he was significantly taller, Hux figured the best course of action was just to compare the length of sleeves or pant legs. Reaching for one bag at random, Hux pulled out a piece of clothing and could only gawk at what was in his hands once he got a good look at it.
It was a simple travel cloak. The cut of it was nothing special. When worn, it would sit around the shoulders and fasten at the base of the throat, draping comfortably around the shoulders but leaving the arms free. What Hux hadn’t been prepared for was the deep magenta that it was dyed. He wanted more than anything for it to be his. Hux couldn’t remember seeing a color like that before. Wanting to confirm something before he got his hopes up, he pulled out a powder gray pair of pants and then dug around in the other bag, withdrawing some slacks. Putting them together, the legs of the gray pants were clearly longer and Hux forced himself to refold all the garments he had gotten out, putting everyone’s new items on their respective bunks except his own before going through his new possessions.
He sat down on the floor of the bunk room, there being no chairs. Needing to see what he’d received and it if was all like the cloak, Hux began withdrawing each article with care and inspecting them carefully. After setting aside the cloak and the gray pants since they were at the top of the pile, Hux started to see what else had been chosen for him. In order, he found a pair of black boots that ended just above the ankle, an off white tunic, wide belt, red jumpsuit, tan poncho, and a few other loose items that were less flashy and meant to be basic staples of a wardrobe. All in all, Hux was extremely pleased. He knew clothes like this existed but had never really thought that he could ever have them. Needing to dispose of what he was currently wearing, he chose the jumpsuit and a sturdy pair of boots. Dopheld had said everything was clean so went ahead and changed before sitting down on his bunk. Most of his clothes weren't as flashy as the first pieces he'd withdrawn and he was more than fine with that. This was a process and this was a comfortable first step should he want it. The bag that Mitaka had given him represented an option that he never would have had not long ago.
The repairs on the ship were finished not long later and Hux felt it kick off of the ground. It wasn’t an elegant vessel, but it accomplished what it was asked to do. That was all that mattered. As much as Hux had loved the Finalizer, the Varactyl was quickly becoming more important to him. Because Maila and Thannison wanted to break in the replacement parts gently, they would be manning the cockpit for more than their fair share of shifts, something Hux was more than fine with. After all he’d had to do throughout his life to seize control, giving it up had been almost wrenchingly easy.
This was a new ship and he was a new person. It went beyond the clothes and his hair falling in his face from lack of trimming and product. His thoughts and sense of self were different. At dinner much later on, with everyone finally out of their uniform scraps and real food being served for the first time in months, Hux considered himself to be relaxed, truly so. The realization of the sensation made a familiar trickle of impending doom run down his spine in swift reprimand, but it didn’t permeate into him. Maybe he wasn’t happy, but he was content and he was finally able to appreciate just how much that meant.
When his duties around the ship were completed, Hux went to his bunk after cleaning up for the night, wanting to reacquaint himself with what an actual bed felt like. It was far from high quality, but it put the floor of the shuttle and the cot to absolute shame. With Hux’s bones not jutting into some rigid material and his blanket not scratching him every time it hit exposed skin, he began to drift off quickly. At some point after he wasn’t the only one in the bunk room trying to sleep, a nightmare began to seize him. Realizing it was a dream and trying to stay calm and rational, Hux did his best to wake himself up, failing over and over again until he began to panic.
It was that same nightmare where he was caught and sentenced to death for his part in the creation and use of Starkiller. It started at various points depending on the evening and now, he knew in the dream that he’d be killed any minute. He was in a room designed like one of the surgical theaters of old, on his knees and shackled in place at the center. Trembling, Hux’s eyes darted around him, barely able to register who the ghostly faces in the windows above him belonged to. Doors opened behind him, hissing as they rose, and Hux squeezed his eyes shut. This wasn’t real, utterly terrifying, but not actually happening to him. The thoughts didn’t reach his fluttering heart and choked breathing as he tried not to sob as heavy boots began to approach him at a languid pace.
A lightsaber was ignited, humming through the air as it was swung in an experimental arc. The stranger moved in front of Hux, not doing anything and waiting for him to look up at him. Hux refused, just trying not to shake. In response to his cowardice, the lightsaber came to rest just to the side of his face and Hux gritted his teeth, anger giving him false courage as he remembered the one time that Ren had done that to him on the bridge of the Finalizer. Even if Hux had known what Ren was capable of, he wasn’t going to allow him to threaten him like this and had cut him down verbally until Ren had desisted and Hux had some of his pride back even if his voice had nearly started trembling and his every instinct had screamed at him to not challenge such a powerful opponent.
“Just do it.” He tried to sneer even it if came out as more than a snivel.
The voice that spoke to him was horribly warped. “Look at me.”
The lightsaber was switched off and then there was a solid thunk as it landed meters away, having been thrown aside. It didn’t mean anything. He was probably just being asked to look up so that his throat could be on display as it was crushed using the force. This was a dream. It would be frightening, but he wouldn’t actually feel anything. Mustering up some dignity, Hux straightened his posture as best as he could with the heavy chains, put his chin in the air, and opened his eyes.
His executioner was tall and broad, something that Hux could make out even through the black robes. With the way the light flowed into the theater, they were largely a black blob to Hux. Not afraid of something that he couldn’t identity, Hux challengingly looked up to where the person’s eyes would be, almost tempted to spit at them. The executioner made a sound that might have been amusement, but their voice was unnaturally deep and fragmented.
“Good. I am glad to see that you haven’t imploded as I’d imagined you would.”
“No.” Hux responded in a snarl. “I’m better than that.”
“And who are you to ask?”
It had been a bluff and when the figure kneeled down to Hux’s level, Hux hesitated as his space was encroached upon until they were nose to nose. Hux could feel how pleased they were with Hux’s rage and fear as the shadows around them were blown away as if by a powerful wind. The whole scene changed before Hux’s eyes as the stranger began to take on familiar features. After a few seconds, Hux was released from his bindings and able to stand in an empty space with a broken Kylo Ren facing him, robes torn to shreds and beaten to a pulp. Hux didn’t need to question him to know that this was much more than a nightmare
Hooray! I finally found the time and inspiration for a new chapter! Thank you so much for being patient. I don't have anything else written so the next update might be a bit of a wait again. This is the beginning of the conclusion and split POV's will be returning over the next few chapters.
His fear had ebbed away enough for Hux to wince at the name. Seeing that, Ren’s eyes actually widened slightly in acknowledgement of his faux pas, having left another name behind himself and knowing what the mention of the title could bring to the surface of someone's mind. Having been needled by the man for years, Hux was immediately suspicious of the common courtesy. They had some things in common, but Ren had never let that give him a reason to be polite to Hux in the past. If he was here and trying to be pleasant, it was because he wanted something and all Hux wanted was to wake up.
“How are you doing this? Stop it at once.” Hux commanded, despite feeling tears drying on his face.
“I’m reaching out through the force in order to communicate with you.”
“So you’re saying that the fact that you were in my dream was just a coincidence to that rather than you somehow managing to continue harassing me from across the galaxy?”
Ren gave an exhausted smirk. “I had to elbow my way through your nightmare in order to interact with you, but I'm not the reason you can't sleep. Never would I have imagined you feeling any ounce of guilt.”
“I wish that I could say that I’m surprised by what’s happened to you in turn.” Hux replied dryly.
Ren frowned and yet didn’t argue. His hair was caked in places with blood and much of his exposed skin was mottled with bruises of varying age. Even his voice wasn’t the same, cracking now and then from stress and his sentences dropping off breathlessly. Hux had never liked Ren, but he could pity him, knowing what Snoke and the First Order did to people. Whatever had happened to Ren had to have been far worse than a blaster bolt to the back or a lightsaber to the throat.
“What has he done to you?”
“He broke me. I wasn’t strong enough. I never will be. When I realized that, I ran from him. I can’t do as he asks me to. Not anymore.”
"What, so you're returning to the light?"
"No. We both know that such a thing isn't possible for either of us. We've alienated ourselves from both the light and the dark. If there's a place in the middle, that's where we've cast ourselves."
And in front of Hux, he let his face drop, awkward features screwing up with emotion. Instead of take just a fraction of a pace back as Hux always had when confronted with Ren’s instability, Hux stepped forward and held out his hands. Ren took them, his gloves gone and his hands raw.
“You were the only person that I could think to contact. You actually ran away. You, the little general that stood behind a machine and could look me in the eye.”
“Where are you now, Ren? And where is Snoke?”
“I am headed to Jakku. I couldn’t think of anywhere to go that would be safe. Snoke…”
It wasn’t just Ren’s grip that began to wane. For a few moments the entire scene around Hux began to dissolve and Hux had the sensation that he was waking up. Completely unwilling to let Ren pester him like this and then vanish without communicating vital information, Hux did what he’d always dreamed of. He backhanded Ren with all of his strength across the face. As soon as he did it, Ren and the fuzzy background solidified around him. That wasn’t the only outcome. Enraged, Ren struck him back with a feral snarl and Hux nearly lost consciousness as he was knocked the the ground, tasting blood.
“You were saying?” Hux said calmly despite his lip being split.
Ren was starting to get himself back under control, this episode explosive yet brief like they all were. Compared to savaging whole pieces of machinery or walls, this was actually some of the least damage that Ren had ever done when upset.
“Snoke was being confronted by the scavenger, the traitor, and Luke Skywalker when I left. It would have been a fair fight if he hadn’t had myself and the other Knights of Ren there to protect him. He ordered us to slaughter them when they stepped foot onto the planet. I couldn’t. Even when he screamed inside my head at me to do his bidding and kill them I refused. All of this,” He gestured loosely to his various injuries. “Was from trying to resist him. When Snoke was engaged in combat, he lost enough focus for me to escape. The Knights are loyal to me, not Snoke. They refused to attack without my orders and once I regained some of my agency, I told them to leave.”
“What happened to Snoke, then?” Hux demanded, singling out the most important detail of the story despite Ren’s harrowing tale.
Ren shook his head. “I don’t know. His presence in the force is weak, but he is still alive. He might be dying, I hope he's dying.”
“When did this all happen?”
“I don’t know. Not long ago. Time doesn’t pass regularly around Snoke. It hasn’t been long.”
“Ren, I’m sorry. Snoke used you. He took both of our lives from us. You don’t deserve what happened to you.”
His eyes closed and he brought Hux’s hands up to his face, just letting those words wash over him and give him the strength that he needed. Similar to himself, Hux had to imagine that Ren didn't have any sense of self away from Snoke. Even if he'd cleaved himself from him, not having his orders in his ear had to be terrifying. Hux understood the feeling well, having had many nights where he wished for a few moments that he'd never started to recognize how he was just a lump of coal to the First Order, existing only to feed their flame. That moment had started with Poe Dameron in a backwater cantina. With Ren, part of it had always been inside of him. Their stories were similar, but with key variances. Yet here they were, thrown together once again.
“Please help me, Hux.”
“How? I’m about to go make a life for myself. There’s nothing that I can do.”
It didn’t take any force intuition to know that and Hux tensed. “I’m sorry, Ren. You’re right. But I won’t throw all of this away. You can’t ask that of me.”
“The only thing that I am asking you to do is follow your own desires.”
“Which fortuitously works in your favor.”
“Yes.” Ren stated simply.
Hux could at least admire his candor even if he wasn’t remotely pleased.
“What do you even want from me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ren!” Hux bellowed, losing his temper.
The world around them trembled at his voice and Hux immediately lost his bravado, frightened. Ren just stared at him.
“I can’t sustain this much longer, not when you're fighting me and I have such little strength. There isn’t anything that I can personally offer you on Jakku, but we’re both meant to be there and I can’t go there alone.”
“How the hell is my destiny tied to yours at this point? Snoke is dying. We’ve both fled. The First Order is rightfully turning to dust and we’ve narrowly avoided being blown away with them. I wish you the best, Ren, but I can’t go with you to Jakku.”
Ren’s voice was arrogant as always. “Think about it.”
And at that, Hux woke up covered in a cold sweat and gasping for breath, tangled in his blanket and panicking at being in an unfamiliar bed aboard the Varactyl.
“You wanted to see me, General?” Poe said with some concern as he sat down across from Organa at her office table.
This wasn’t one of their tea sessions or even one of the visits they had where the only thing that they shared was a box of tissues. Something had sapped all of the vitality out of her, leaving her looking her age and completely drained. The last time that Poe had seen her like this, it had been after the Starkiller mission had wrapped up and she was finally able to drop the quickly but carefully constructed veneer that she’d been forced to wear in front of everyone, when she was allowed to grieve for the first time.
Her voice was rough when she spoke. “Poe, this is all in the strictest confidence. None of this is on the books nor will it ever be. This goes beyond the things I’ve asked you to do for the Resistance in illicitness. If you’d like to leave now and hear nothing of it, I won’t hold it against you. I trust you too much to warn you of the consequences should you stay and then word leak out about what I wish to tell you.”
There was no hesitation.
“I’m here, General. I’ll hear out your mission.”
Trying to smile, the gesture was merely a twitch of one corner of her mouth. Poe loved Leia Organa like family and to see her like this was wrenching. The idea of what she could be about to ask him that had her of all people so upset was gravely concerning.
“I know where my son is. I want you to come with me and bring him home. He’s ready and so am I.”
“Your son…” Poe let his words die, perplexed.
“He’s alive and I’m very sorry to say that you’ve encountered him since he went missing after the massacre at the temple. Kylo Ren killed Ben Solo, but they are both my sons.”
Even if part of him had always known, had recognized that spark that was purely Ben at some point during Poe’s terrifying time with Kylo Ren on Jakku and the Finalizer, he had to sit down. Suspecting was one thing, but the confirmation was enough to make his head swim. If he felt this awful over the news, he couldn’t grasp how Leia was able to walk with her head held high every single day. Kylo Ren had killed Han Solo. Her own son had been the murderer of her husband. It was all so cruel and twisted and how Leia could bear it was something that Poe, who was just beginning to grasp that he wasn’t remotely handling any of his own problems, could comprehend. And now she was ready to forgive him. Poe wasn’t a bad person, but he also wasn’t a good enough man to ever do such a thing. While he didn’t hold onto his anger, that didn’t mean he wanted to forgive.
“Poe, what he did to you and countless others can never be forgiven and that’s not what I’m asking you to do. If I could bring this to anyone else, I would have.
“I know.” He tried to say in a normal voice. “Where is he now?”
“He’s going to Jakku. I’ve been able to feel some of his thoughts and feelings. He wants me to, otherwise I never would have been able to. Even when he was young, he was strong enough to block me out if he felt like it. This isn’t a trap. He's too vulnerable right now for such a thing.”
Poe sighed, running an exasperated hand through his hair. Leia looked steadily at him with no note of pleading in her gaze. She wasn’t going to beg him for this and never would. The grace and fortitude that she possessed could make a sun dim in comparison. She deserved the world and had the capability of grasping it if she wasn't so caught up in helping everyone that she possibly could. If she was sure of this, Poe knew that Ben was ready to come home. What would happen to him once he arrived wasn’t Poe’s problem. His task was just to get him there. He took a deep breath and then let it out.
“I’ll take the mission, General.”
“Thank you, Poe.”
He attempted to smile, but found that he couldn't manage to.
“When are we going to do this?”
She was prepared for the question. “As soon as you’re ready to leave unless you have something urgent.”
“No, I’m ready.”
“We’ll be taking my personal ship, the Mirrorbright.”
Nodding to himself, Poe’s mood was unfortunately flat by this point. He’d always wanted to fly the general’s ship, but this was the last set of circumstances that he’d have chosen to do so in. But he’d agreed to help her and he had no intention of going back on his word. Something was about to happen. What it was, he couldn’t even begin to guess at. There was the logical foreboding and yet another part of Poe was light and expectant of something that he didn’t fear. Perplexed, he pushed the feeling aside, needing to focus right then.
“I’ll go get the ship ready.” He offered.
“I’ll be there in just a moment. I need to grab something first.”
What she could be fetching piqued Poe’s interest, but it wasn’t his place to ask. Moving on to do what he’d been taken on, Poe put on a casual face and journeyed through the halls, headed straight to Leia’s private landing strip. It was a luxury she was given because of the target on her back rather than her demanding privileges. Despite the deplorable number of ships at their disposal and even less space to land them on the tiny D’Qar base, Leia Organa was their everything and she was treated as such. Without her, there would be no Resistance. Poe offered a few smiles and returned greetings as he walked along, thankfully being asked no questions. He activated his comm link.
“BB-8, you there?”
A cheerful whirring. Poe hadn’t had time to tell the droid where he was going when he’d been called to speak with Organa and BB-8 was relieved to hear from him.
“I know, I know. Look, you need to meet me by General Organa’s ship. We’re going to be flying her. Everything is hush hush so I’ll explain more when I see you there.”
Not quite checking its tone in time, BB-8 was obviously displeased by the idea of being assigned yet another confidential mission. And the droid was allowed to be after everything that they’d gone through with Stiletto Squadron, their quest to find Lor San Tekka with Black Squadron, and then everything with Jakku and Starkiller. The only person who might be more irate at having to return to Jakku than BB-8 would be Finn, who thankfully was off learning how to swing a lightsaber and throw things with the force rather than returning to the hell hole. Poe wasn’t exactly fond of the planet either after having to trudge through all of that sand, but it was what it was and Poe now had a fresh appreciation for cold water and sunburn healing bacta.
Perhaps Leia had known what his answer would be when she’d asked him to assist her, because he scanned his credentials at the door leading to her landing strip and was admitted. That, or she just knew how to work efficiently, likely with the assistance of C-3PO. Ever since R2-D2 had woken up, the protocol droid had gone from being helpful to offering so much aid that it just caused more problems than assistance. Having R2 by their side again was revitalizing to 3PO and nobody was willing to tell the droid to cool it because of that.
When the last set of doors split open to reveal the gleaming hull of the Mirrorbright and BB-8 waiting impatiently for Poe to arrive, almost all of Poe’s trepidation and painful recollections melted away. She was such a breathtaking ship. Approaching her, Poe almost put a hand on the perfectly polished metal before thinking better of it, not wanting to smudge the surface. BB-8 didn’t let up, significantly less impressed than Poe was.
“Go fire up the engines if you’re so bored. We have to wait for the General anyway.”
Fixing him with a look, BB-8 none the less did as Poe had grumpily suggested. He wasn’t in the mood for BB-8’s concern right then, not when there was enough of his own traitorous thoughts and feelings. No part of him wanted to see Ben Solo or Kylo Ren and that balanced out the touch of giddiness that he couldn't grasp. It could have been stemming from his desire to see Leia happy, but he didn’t think that was entirely it. A different door opened and Leia entered the area, a large bundle of clothes under her arm. Heart quaking, Poe had to turn and climb up the ramp into the Mirrorbright. She hadn’t seen her son in years. He’d been such a lanky kid and everyone could tell he was going to be massive, but she hadn’t seen for herself. She was going to offer him a change of clothes so that he could throw aside those tattered black robes he wore.
Inside, BB-8 was starting to program the hyperdrive, pointedly not turning to look at Poe.
“Hey, I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”
Relenting, BB-8 beeped at him, accepting his apology and then moving back to the business at hand.
BB-8 started back until the droid remembered that it had integrated itself into the ship’s computer.
“I’m sorry, BB-8. You can stay on the ship if you want to. Nobody is making you roll around in the sand there again. I promise.”
“He’s right, you know. We need somebody to stay on the ship in case of an emergency, anyway.”
Leia had just come up into the cockpit. There wasn’t any doubt in Poe’s mind that she could fly this ship by herself, but everything about this mission required her full attention and she couldn’t be distracted in this manner. Not when her son along with her own life was at sake. Their eyes locked and Leia sat down in the copilot’s seat, her hands moving over the controls. Poe took his own place in the pilot’s chair, helping her along. BB-8 gave an estimate for how long they would be in hyperspace and then the conversation between the three of them went dead. Even if BB-8 probably couldn’t sense what was in the air, the droid was clever enough to see how it was affecting him and the General and it left the droid uncharacteristically silent.
Hux knew there was no fighting this. Too much of him wanted to leave for his more rational side to subdue him. While it was something that he could hide from the others, even Dopheld, Avice wasn’t fooled. Early in the day, while the morning and afternoon shifts were awake and the night shift had yet to come off duty to slump into bed, Avice opened the door to the crew quarters to catch him hurriedly packing. There was no playing off what he’d been doing and so he didn’t attempt to, not wanting to insult Avice’s intelligence.
“I did mean what I told you if that is worth anything.” He offered earnestly.
She locked the door behind her. “I know that you did.”
“Should I leave a note telling the others that I was afraid that my presence would give them away with the New Republic?”
“I wouldn’t. You never belonged with us, Tage.”
His mouth opening and then shutting at the cruel remark, Avice moved to correct herself, having come across harsh when it hadn’t been her intention.
“You proved your loyalty, there was never any doubt about you. But devoting too much of yourself to something is what we fled from. What we seek doesn’t have to be what you desire. You need to go and find what you’re looking for like we are.”
“Thank you, Avice.” Hux intoned, voice starting to give out under duress.
“I’ve seen the change in you since Starkiller base, Tage. I hope you have as well.”
Words failing him, Hux got to his feet. He offered a solemn hand to her, unsure what she was and wasn’t comfortable with. To his utter shock, after firmly grasping his forearm, she pulled him into her, embracing him with her free arm snugly.
“You may not be Armitage Hux any longer, but you will always be my general.”
“And you will forever be my captain. Take care, Avice. During the next shift change, I’m taking the shuttle. Tell Dopheld he deserves the world and the others that I hope they are happy in life.”
“ I will.”
Avice slipped away from him after that and then out the door, leaving him alone with his thoughts and a rumpled back of clothes. When he tried to continue on with his preparations, his hands were shaking. While something was pulling him to do this, that didn’t mean that he agreed with the reasoning and morality behind any of his own actions. Trying to ground himself, he turned over the boxy, hard object that he’d been turning over again and again in his hands. When he opened his fingers, he saw that it was his cigara case. He knew it was empty, but he popped it open just the same, raising it to his nose. It had been too long since he’d smoked, so the smell wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as he used to find it. For some reason, he slipped it into his pocket rather than his bag, wanting to feel the weight of it as he moved.
He needed to stop procrastinating and just leave. This was an old smuggler’s ship. Because of that, there was a tiny shuttle hidden towards the stern. He had recognized it immediately, but he wasn’t sure if everyone else had. It was meant for short trips or more likely, being able to be utilized to flee with valuable cargo when the main ship came under scrutiny. It was an old trick of the Resistance back in the days of the Empire, one that the First Order had been forced to adopt during its construction. Nobody was in the hallway and Hux worked quickly, opening up the hidden panel that relayed the readouts of the small ship to the cockpit and disabling it before stepping inside.
The shuttle was disguised as an escape pod, that was half of the genius behind it. However, if someone actually were to attempt to treat it like an escape pod in the case of an emergency, they would find out very quickly that they would not be leaving the Veractyl. Specific controls had to be activated as Hux had done before he destroyed the panel for the shuttle engines to fire up. Once he was gone, the only thing that would mark that something was wrong would be his empty bunk and the empty docking port.
He made himself get settled in and disengage the shuttle from the Veractyl. The controls of compact vessel were stubborn, making him have to yank on the yoke to get the thing going in his desired direction. It wasn’t made for maneuverability in the least, nearly all of the engine specs being dominated by an expensive hyperdrive unit and a long range communication system. The entire purpose of the tiny shuttle was to be able to get out of dodge as quickly as possible and then receive the signal to return when it was safe. The efficiency pleased him, the design reminded him starkly of TIE fighters. It all came down to speed, though, he had no doubts that a TIE fighter would be able to make quick work of the shuttle with their maneuverability and weapons systems. Whether or not this thing even had a basic shield was something that Hux desperately hoped that he wouldn’t have to find out first hand.
The coordinates to Jakku seared into his memory by all the times that he’d had to contend with the dust ball, Hux entered them and then was shoved into his seat by the kick back of the hyperdrive unit. He had no idea where he was supposed to be meeting Ren, but he figured he could leave it up to Ren to find him, particularly if he wanted to speak to him so much and with his force abilities.
And then, having some time to think about exactly who he was dealing with and what he could be walking into, Hux ran his hand along the underside of the control panel, stopping when he felt what he was searching for. He removed a small blaster and tucked it into the back of his belt. Remembering his last trip to Jakku, his clothes were light and he pointedly avoided wearing anything black. Currently, he had on his gray trousers, boots, and a blousy top underneath his travel cloak. He didn’t have any choice in the matter when it came to the cloak, wanting to disguise it offer in case someone started to look at him too closely. Hopefully, the color of the garment wouldn’t be counter intuitive to blending in, but he had nothing else that would cover his face and hair. Besides, the thing was light enough to keep the sun off of him without baking him alive.
He knew that a blaster would be useless against Ren, even with as compromised as he was now. But it wasn’t Ren that had Hux on edge. Something was happening and he wasn’t going to walk into the situation unarmed and unprepared.
When Jakku began to loom large and growing ever bigger in the viewport after they reentered realspace, Poe looked to Leia, wordlessly needing her to direct him where to land. Her eyes closed, her breathing brought into strict control. Poe had seen Rey do this a few times, it was like meditation but deeper. When her eyes opened, her voice was even in the way that it was when there were emergency lights blaring all around her and yet she had to stand her ground and command a military.
“He’ll be here soon. We’re going to have to do back to where the village was. It’s the only place on the planet that he knows.”
Poe could only nod. His memory of the massacre in Lor San Tekka’s village was one that he’d just started sharing with Doctor Kalonia. Part of that was because they had chosen to address his traumas chronologically. The other was that it was one of the most painful. But it wasn’t like he would be walking back into the slaughter. By now, there would be nothing left but sand and not even the same sand that blood had been spilled upon with the way the winds shifted the surface. The bodies were gone, any scrap of usable material scavenged. Even if Poe could put on a brave face, if Leia’s son was wearing that mask, Poe would have to turn away. Too many nights, that mask had forced him to wake, drenched in sweat and shaking uncontrollably. Perhaps sensing that, a gentle hand was placed upon his shoulder. Poe covered it with his and BB-8 made a soft sound at both of them, a gentle acknowledgement of the struggles currently aboard the Mirrorbright.
Poe started to bank the ship so that they could land. Even if BB-8 started to assist, there was no need. Having been forced to hurriedly memorize the location of Lor San Tekka after searching for it for so long when he finally obtained it, it was something that he’d never forget. He knew that even if Doctor Kalonia was known to be highly lenient with the treatment of her more stubborn patients who put duty over themselves, she would never once in a million years condone what Poe was doing. But he didn’t have it in him to be upset with Leia, not now or probably ever. His sense of loyalty and respect ran too deep.
When they put the ship down, sand was blown outwards as the Mirrorbright landed with a thump. Poe winced at himself. That was the worse touchdown that he’d done in years, but it wasn’t like he wasn’t under a particular type of stress that he never had to deal with while in his X-wing. Neither Leia or BB-8 commented on it, which didn’t make him feel any better. He worried his lip with his teeth, more than a little on edge. But he was allowed to be. That much he would have to remind himself of for the rest of the day and probably beyond.
Leia looked over to him for the first time since they’d entered hyperspace. “You can stay in the here, Poe.”
“No, you shouldn’t be going into this alone.” He asserted.
“I’ve done plenty things more dangerous than this by myself and we both know it. It’s all right. We’ll be fine.”
We’ll. She meant all of them. Him, her, her son, BB-8, everyone. BB-8 rolled forward, blipping.
“See? I’ll have BB-8. When we reboard the ship, we’ll head straight to the back. You won’t have to see him.”
Nodding, Poe tried to take a few deep breaths. As much as he had wanted BB-8 with him while he waited, it was better this way. He reached out and gave BB-8 a pat on the droid’s domed head and was rewarded with an encouraging series of sounds. Smirking, Poe started busying himself as best as he could with examining every read out that he could find. What he really would have liked to do was climb down into the guts of the Mirrorbright and just play around with the engine, but that wasn’t an option right now, not when they didn’t have a few hours to spare to completely take apart and reassemble the interworkings of the ship.
“Use your comm if you need me.”
Leia smiled, but didn’t reply, just leaving him at that. BB-8 rolled along behind her, pausing and giving Poe a long look before he caught up to her. Sinking into his seat, Poe closed his eyes. That feeling of expectation was being drowned out by all the panic within him and he wanted nothing more than to leave and go back to D’Qar, maybe fly around in his X-wing for a few hours just to get a grip.
Hux found out far too late that the tiny shuttle wasn’t meant for rough landings, particularly ones involving sand. With a proper runway, the shuttle would have been knocked around enough, likely resulting in minor repairs being required. However, with the desert terrain that Hux had been forced to use, not having known how the ship would respond to it, he’d destroyed any chance he had of getting off of Jakku the way he came and he was unsure if he had a concussion or fractured ribs from the landing.
It had been obvious that the shuttle wasn’t going to pull through from the moment he’d tried to ease the controls down. Instead of a gentle decrease in thrusters, the whole engine had shut off and fell to the ground in a heap, the landing gear having failed to engage. There had been no safety harness and Hux had been pitched to one side. The sharp crack that had been emitted when he hit the wall didn’t bode well for his fear of injury even if he was still unsure if it had come from his skull, ribcage, or the ship itself. One of the wings snapping off upon slamming down and the engine on that side had a foreboding dent in it that ended in exposed, sparking wires and smoke upon examination once he'd wrenched the hatch open and stumbled outside.
He knew how to fly a ship. In fact, there weren’t many ships that he doubted that he couldn’t figure out within a few minutes. What had managed to best him was a cramped smuggler’s getaway shuttle and his pride was smarting in time with his injuries. He knew that there would be no salvaging the ship even before the monitors went dead and coolant began to escape in a thick cloud. Gathering up his things and then having the forethought to quickly rummage around for any sort of water and sustenance that might have been stored in the shuttle by the previous owner, Hux’s hand closed over a good sized case and he hauled it out with him before stepping onto the sand and into the harsh Jakku midday.
The shuttle looked even worse from the outside, what little intact hull that it had started with now starting to fall away in sheets, but Hux turned his back to it, needing to focus on the now. If Ren could find him in a dream, he could find him here. Hux was fairly certain that he was going to keep his word and come to him, but the issue was surviving in the meantime. The irony of him being in this place after he'd damned two others there didn’t escape him. After establishing that nothing was on fire and that he had two bottles of water and some protein cubes shriveled with age, Hux went back into the shuttle, which by then smelled sickly sweet from the coolant, wanting to enjoy what little tepid air was left inside the shuttle before it was replaced by the bone dry heat.
Sorry for the wait, my schedule is kind of kicking my butt right now. Holy cannoli, I'm excited to get together what I've written so far for the next chapter. It occurred to me how little Poe/Hux interactions this fic has for being a Damerux fic, but I'm going to try to make up for that in the last few chapters. Also, I feel like my description of the Veractyl wasn't great. It's similar to the Ghost in Rebels but somewhat smaller, although with a Phantom akin shuttle. Speaking of Rebels, I'm all ready in love with Thrawn.
Hey, so I'm sure this is fairly obvious by now but I've had to abandon this fic. I let it sit for too long and all the ideas for it are just gone. I apologize to the readers who stuck with it and sent me encouraging messages. Your kind words have helped me gain confidence in my writing.