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Come As You Are, As You Were, As I Want You To Be

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Lana is careful to give Theron space after Rishi, keeping a sense of their relative positions within Jakarro’s ship as they make their way toward Yavin IV. She would have expected him to find transport with the Major and Havoc Squad, or even with Grand Master Satele – although given their history, voluntarily sticking himself with Lana, Jakarro, and C2-D4 still may have been the preferable option. In fact, given his reaction at the meeting, Lana has the feeling that Theron would choose to travel with Darth Marr before his mother.

In the brief moments when their paths do unavoidably cross, she keeps her eyes on the floor. Sure as she remains that letting Theron be captured by the Revanites was the right choice, it still hurts her to see the damage done. It hurts more to see the anger in his eyes, and the pain behind them. Perhaps she was a fool, sacrificing the friendship she had built with him for the sake of strategic value.

Not friendship, she chides herself. Alliance. That’s all this is, all it can be. She knows that once Revan is defeated, they’ll go back to their separate sides of a war that will continue to rage centuries after they’ve died. Some differences are too deeply entrenched to permanently broach. She’s a Sith, he’s the son of the Grand Master of the Jedi Order who can’t use the Force. She’s unafraid to sacrifice everything for victory, he’ll jeopardize the mission to save a life. Her allegiance is to an Empire blinded by ego, his is to a Republic that too easily sacrifices loyalty.

Well, perhaps we’re not that dissimilar after all, she muses, following him down the ramp into the humid climate of Yavin IV. He pauses when he reaches the bottom, turning to face her with a frown, almost as if he could feel her watching him. He opens his mouth to say something, but before he can, Satele’s voice rings out through the thick air, calling to him. His eyes narrow before he turns away, heading toward the cluster of Republic forces beginning to gather on one side of the ruins they’ve chosen as a base of operations. She watches him go, until she feels the pull of Darth Marr summoning her through the Force.

“My Lord,” she greets him with a bow in what is quickly becoming the Imperial staging area.

“Can you feel it?” Marr asks, casting his gaze about the crumbling stones and jungle. “He is here.”

It’s still a jumble for her; the legacy of Yavin IV is heavy with the Dark Side, and the many voices of the past already whisper in her ear. But through it all, she begins to sense a distant presence, jagged and shrouded… and around it, something even more sinister.

“Revan,” she acknowledges, closing her eyes for a moment as she takes a deep inhale. “But there’s something else…”

“Yes.” Marr seems pleased with her observation, so far as she can tell through the distortion of his mask. “I believe we may have found our Emperor.”

Lana’s eyes snap open, but she’s more annoyed than surprised. Of course the Emperor would be here. It’s just their kind of luck. She finds herself wondering if Satele has shared the same revelation with Theron as they make their way around the conference table that has been set up in a nearby clearing. He doesn't object when she takes up position near him, but he doesn't acknowledge her either. As much as she hates to admit it, being ignored by him stings, especially after all they've been through.

She and Marr keep to themselves as Theron guides the Major and her squad through the installation of a sensor perimeter. She doesn't like leaving the Republic to establish something meant to be impartial, but Marr seems unconcerned with anything they may do, including the likelihood that Theron will find some way to tap into Imperial frequencies.

“You don't trust him?” Marr questions her.

“No, I do,” Lana stammers, trying to explain. “But Theron’s SIS, it’s in his nature to gather as much intelligence as possible.”

“And you think this Major will go along with him.” It’s not a question this time.

“The Major has more reason to spy than to put her faith in the Empire’s forces,” she sighs. “I suppose that’s because of me.”

She imagines that behind his mask, Marr is raising an eyebrow in curiosity. “A disagreement?”

“I allowed Theron to be captured on Rishi to press a strategic advantage.”

“Ah.” She can feel the knowing amusement in his tone. “And they are blinded by their personal sense of betrayal because of it.”

“Theron’s still healing from it,” Lana notes, her tone carrying a measure of regret. “Even with his implants, what Revan must have done to him…”

“Has led us here,” Marr says. “We would still be searching the galaxy were it not for your actions. One life is more than a fair enough price to pay for that.”

The words echo in her mind as they trudge slowly through the Yavin jungles, piecing together Revan’s plan and the disastrous impacts it will have until the moment arrives. As they sit across from each other in the shuttle to Revan’s location, Theron makes a point of avoiding eye contact with her by cleaning his blasters. She glances over to Darth Marr and Grand Master Satele; their eyes are locked in a grim gaze of acknowledgement and understanding of what is to come. Regardless of their allegiances and attunement to the Force, they must be a unified front against Revan.

Lana clears her throat and turns her attention back to Theron. “Your bruises look like they’ve healed,” she says cautiously.

“Yeah, just in time for me to get some new ones.” Theron’s tone is brusque, accented by the sharp motion of his hand jamming a powerpack back into place. He finally looks up, and for a moment she swears she sees something softer in his eyes. But the moment passes, and he swaps one blaster for the other.

“It’s quite brave of you to go into battle against someone like Revan,” she tells him.

“Why, because I can’t use the Force?” He sighs, taking a moment’s pause from the blaster as he nods at the Major and her squad a few seats over. “Neither can they, and they didn’t hesitate to jump into the fight.”

“That’s not what I –”

“Besides, I’m itching for some payback after Rishi.” He can’t help but huff a soft chuckle when her back goes rigid. “Don’t worry, I won’t be gunning for you.”

As the shuttle touches down, she finds herself wondering once more exactly what Theron was made to suffer at Revan’s hands. In the heat of the battle, she finds it doesn’t matter, as they watch each other’s backs just as they had done since Manaan. The fighting is fierce, Revan taking on so many powerful opponents at once. More than once, as she finds herself pinned against a stone column by Revan’s powers, she thinks that it is the moment she is finally going to die. But finally, Revan kneels in defeat, his long-divorced spirit reclaiming his body to put an end to their bitter struggle.

The victory is short-lived, of course. Before they can leave the battleground, the Emperor makes his presence known and delivers a chilling message. It hangs heavy over their heads during the shuttle ride back to base camp, which is already starting to be broken down. Their short alliance is ended with a brief goodbye, although she’s pleased to see the anger has at least faded from the Major’s face in favor of a grudging respect.

“She’s a curious one, that Major,” Darth Marr notes as they return to his ship. “No strength in the Force, and yet the Emperor seems to be focused on her.”

“She has demonstrated an ability to conquer any challenge,” Lana notes. “You’ve seen that now, in the battle against Revan.”

“Indeed,” Marr agrees. “It would be prudent to keep an eye on her, don’t you agree?”

“I do, my Lord.”

It becomes her first official act as Minister of Sith Intelligence, monitoring Havoc Squad and its commander. Her second is to investigate strange reports starting to crop up around New Adasta of soldiers and Sith acting strangely, muttering about the end before attacking their comrades and nearby civilians. By the time she realizes what is happening, it’s too late; Ziost is consumed in chaos as Emperor Vitiate begins to possess its inhabitants one by one, using them to wreak slaughter upon the rest of the populace. When Jedi begin to show up in the confrontations, she suspects who’s to blame; when a shuttle crashes, followed closely by the arrival of Havoc Squad on Ziost, she knows.

“Blast it, Theron,” she mutters, slamming her fists down on the holoterminal as her connection to Agent Kovach ends.

Their eventual reunion is bittersweet. She slaps him across his already battered cheek, her eyes burning with fury. Surprisingly, he stands there silently and takes it, which just infuriates her more.

“What the hell were you thinking, coming here?” she demands.

“I was thinking I could press an advantage,” he replies, his eyes going cold as he echoes her words from Rishi. “Last time I checked, we were still at war.”

“Yes, I suppose we are,” she replied, her tone just as icy. “Although that will hardly matter if Vitiate is able to kill us all.”

“Well, you could have said something,” Theron grumbles.

“Like what?” she scoffs.

“I don’t know, ‘Emperor Crazy. Killing everyone. Stay away for your own good.’?”

Her brow furrows, eyes narrowing. “Look around, Theron. Saresh would have sent twice as many troops if she thought we were that vulnerable.”

“Yeah,” he sighs wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re probably right on that one. Still, you could have told me.”

“Would you have believed me if I did?”

The pause is heavy, the silence between them thick with mistrust and camaraderie, an attraction both of them dwell on but neither is willing to admit. She can see him working it all out in his head, weighing the encounters of their pasts. He still doesn’t answer her. She throws her hands up in disgust and turns away for a moment, collecting herself.

“Since you’re here, you might as well make yourself useful,” she finally tells him.

“What, are you going to send me to be captured by the Emperor this time?” he snipes.

“If you’re searching for an apology, you won’t find one,” she replies sharply.

“I’d never expect one from a Sith,” Theron mutters. “It’s not your style.”

Before he realizes it, he’s pinned against the nearby bulkhead, Lana’s outstretched hand revealing her part in his sudden repositioning. After a moment, she drops her hand, releasing him. She holds his gaze steady for another moment.

“Sorry,” she sneers, then turns back to one of the consoles.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Theron grumbles, adjusting his collar as he goes back to work.

“You’re one to talk,” Lana replies, almost laughing. She’s caught off guard when she suddenly finds him at her back, turning to face him only inches away.

“Look, I don’t know if you care, but lives are at stake here,” he growls, pressing closer.

“Billions of them,” she says shortly. “And you’re wasting valuable time we need to save them.”

Neither one of them moves. Theron leans in closer, and Lana swears she can feel his heart racing. Or is it hers? Ziost is a frigid planet, and yet she feels in danger of overheating this close to him. Then, he turns away, alerted by one of his implants to check a nearby monitor.

“The Major’s almost to the People’s Tower,” he reports.

“I should join her,” Lana says, entering a few quick keystrokes before heading to the door. “I’ve sent you coordinates for your part in all this. I’ll talk you through the rest on the way.”

The hatch shuts behind her, and she takes a moment to breathe, readying herself for what’s to come. She pushes whatever feelings Theron’s appearance has stirred up aside, focusing instead on her anger: at his interference, at the Republic’s invasion, at the constant bad luck they keep running into. By the time she locates the Major, she’s clear-headed once again and confident that this time, their plan will succeed.

She ignores Theron swearing at her when she reveals her plan to him. After Rishi, she knew he’d disapprove of using another ally as bait, but they’ve little choice in the matter now. For better or worse, the Major has become a point of fixation for the former Emperor, and if exploiting it will give them a chance to end his reign of terror, then so be it. This time, at least, she informs the Major of her role; just as Lana expects, the dutiful soldier is incredulous but agreeable. Theron quietly keeps the comm channel open to eavesdrop on their conversation while he makes the necessary adjustments to the weapon, plotting all the ways he can make Lana pay if this plan goes sideways.

He’s grateful that the plan works, until it doesn’t. What little he remembers when he comes to is the mass of puppets shocked into unconsciousness before Master Surro’s arrival and Lana’s incapacitation. By the time he’s conscious again, the Major has managed to subdue Surro, somehow freeing her of the Emperor’s possession. In an instant he’s at the Jedi’s side, as she rambles about the horrors she was made to bear witness to.

“You’ll be okay,” he assures her. “We’ll take you to Tython, the Jedi will help you restore your mind and make you whole again.”

“And then she’ll be no good to us.” Lana’s voice is cold and decisive behind him, the same tone she used while explaining her reasons for throwing him to the Revanites.

“Master Surro goes with Theron,” the Major declares. Theron wants be relieved, but he’s still too angry with Lana for even daring to suggest that Master Surro be interrogated for a possible advantage to exploit.

“You’re joking,” Lana says, incredulous. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“You heard her,” Theron says, suppressing a smile at the sight of Lana throwing up her hands and walking away.

He helps get Surro to her feet, assuring the Major that they’ll be fine. She takes off to find a holoterminal to get hold of Saresh while Theron and Surro make their way to an extraction point.

Lana offers to fly Theron and Master Surro to the nearby station so that they can arrange transport back to Coruscant and Tython. Kovach offers to help, which she’s secretly grateful for; the thought of leaving him behind, vulnerable to Vitiate’s control on Ziost or worse doesn’t sit well with her. Having another conscious person in her personal shuttle will help deflect the awkward tension, or so she hopes.

While Kovach pilots the shuttle, she heads to the back where Theron is keeping watch over Master Surro. The Jedi is sedated, laid out on a hover-stretcher. Theron’s face is drawn, his brow furrowed as he watches the slow rise and fall of her chest and the agonized look on her face. He doesn’t need the Force to know that Lana is standing over them without looking.

“I should never have sent them in,” he murmurs, shaking his head. “This is all my fault.”

“Not entirely,” Lana assures him. “I should have seen the signs earlier. But there may still be time to stop this, with what Master Surro…”

Before he can chew her out for bringing up the subject again, an alarm blares from the cockpit. A moment later, Master Surro sits bolt upright, screaming. Theron tries his best to calm her, but his attention is diverted when he sees Lana fold over, clutching at her temples. From the cockpit, all he can hear is a mess of scattered, frantic voices and screams.

A few moments later, silence engulfs them. Master Surro collapses back onto the stretcher. Lana’s breathing is heavy as she makes her way to the cockpit. Kovach sits stunned in the co-pilot’s seat.

“What the hell was that?” Theron asks, coming in behind them.

“I...” Kovach can’t find the words as he stares blankly at the array of sensors and monitors before him.

“Ziost, it’s… it’s gone,” Lana breathes in disbelief.

Theron’s eyes go wide. “You mean…”

“Yes. He’s killed them all.”

Lana keys up one of the feeds on the monitor, replaying the last few seconds of transmission. Kovach looks away, unable to watch it again. Lana and Theron stare in horror at the sight of an unseen wave of destruction sweeping across an open square. It’s chaos as people run and scream, then simply vanish into ash and dust.

“I… I’m sorry,” Theron breathes, resting a hand on Lana’s shoulder. He doesn’t know what else to do.

“We failed,” Lana sighs heavily, sinking back down into the pilot’s seat as they make their approach to the station.

They’re greeted at the airlock by a Republic medical team who take Master Surro for treatment and transport. Theron asks about the Major and Havoc Squad, only to be told they’ve already returned to the surface to investigate what happened. Kovach heads off to coordinate with the remaining Imperial forces on the station, leaving Lana alone, still in a daze. She doesn’t hear Theron’s question until he grabs her by the shoulders and gives her a little shake.

“Come on,” he says softly. “Let me buy you a drink.”

They head to the station’s small cantina, and she’s surprised it’s not more crowded. Then again, the station was never meant to have a high capacity of personnel, even with the Republic forces that took over during the invasion. They sit in a cozy booth near the bar, the serving droid coming over to take their orders. She lets Theron handle it, still trying to quell the nausea that set in from feeling so many lives extinguished at once.

He manages to coax a little Corellian whiskey into her with a promise that it will make the pain go away. Several glasses later, she finally finds it to be true. She feels detached from herself, and for a moment wonders if it’s what it feels like to be a Jedi. Normally she finds her emotions to be her strongest asset, but now she feels trapped beneath the weight of them.

“I should have done more,” she slurs. “I could have done more.”

“You did everything you could,” Theron assures her. “This isn’t your fault, Lana.”

She looks up at him, bleary eyed. “You’re lucky you can’t use the Force. I’ve felt deaths before, but this was…” She blows out a heavy breath. “I should report back to Dromund Kaas.”

“Let me help you back to your shuttle,” Theron says, throwing back his last glass. Between the two of them, there’s barely enough space for anything else on the table, but he finds a spot to drop some credits before he slips out of the booth, pulling her arm around his shoulders to steady her. His balance isn’t much better at this point, but he figures he’s probably got a little more experience than she does at stumbling home drunk at the end of the night.

He keys open the hatch from the airlock, helping her into the shuttle. By the looks of it, Kovach is still running interference on the station, which Theron hopes will give Lana a little time to sober up before they depart for Dromund Kaas. Not that he should really care about what happens to her after this, but at least if she remains in charge of Sith Intelligence, he knows what to expect.

“What happens next, Theron?” she murmurs as he eases her down to one of the bench seats.

“Well, I guess you go back to Dromund Kaas to pick up the pieces, and I go back to take whatever punishment the SIS decides to throw at me this time.”

“Tsk, tsk, always getting into trouble,” she mumbles, a gloved finger tapping lightly on his nose.

“Just when I’m with you,” he tells her. She smiles.

“I suppose that makes me a good influence then.”

She wavers for a moment, the whiskey throwing off her balance in a way she’s not used to. Theron grabs her to hold her upright, bringing his face level with hers. Neither of them breathes for a moment, until Lana leans in ever so slightly to close the gap between them and kisses Theron. He mumbles a half-hearted protest against her lips as he sinks down beside her, his hand cupping her cheek as he kisses her back. She wastes no time, climbing into his lap as she runs her fingers through his hair, refusing to let her lips leave his.

Theron lets his hands roam, undoing fasteners as he finds them until the outer layer of her robes fall away. Lana discards her gloves somewhere behind her before she peels his jacket from his shoulders, helping him wriggle out of it. The movement makes his hips buck, and she finds the sudden contact electrifying, grinding down against his quickly hardening cock. He’s given up convincing himself of the need to protest at this point; if he’s honest with himself, he’s been waiting for this moment since Rishi, even after she threw him to the wolves.

She finally breaks away to kick off her boots and pants, giving Theron the chance to yank his trousers roughly down over his hips before she straddles him again. They both let out something between a sigh and a moan as she sinks down onto him, treasuring the feeling of the way they fit together. His hands settle on her hips as she sets a steady pace, her hands braced against the bulkhead over his head as she rolls her hips.

There’s a desperate need in her movements, but it’s hardly sloppy, and Theron can’t help but be amused that Lana is Lana through and through, even when she’s drunk and horny. He knows better now than to try and change her course, so he lets her lead the way, setting the pace, the position. Instead, he explores, touching here, nibbling there, continuing when she makes an approving noise. Pressing the advantage, he thinks with a smirk as he rolls a nipple lightly between his teeth until he feels her tense around him, her breath hitching in her throat before she lets out a ragged moan.

“You devil,” she pants, her hips stilling for a moment as she catches her breath.

“That’s not a complaint,” he replies, grinning ear to ear.

“Shut up,” she huffs, making a slow circle with her hips that makes his eyes roll back in his head.

“Yes, ma’am,” he mumbles as she starts up again.

Desperation is replaced by determination, as Theron realizes they’re both starting to sober up, which means Lana’s movements are more calculated now. The way she angles her body, the pace she sets, all seemed designed to bring him to what feels like the greatest orgasm he’s ever had. He wonders if it’s a skill they teach at the Sith Academy, but when she moves a particular way that makes his hip buck wildly and a groan escape his lips, he realizes he really doesn’t care.

His hands grip her hips hard enough that he’s pretty sure he’s left bruises, but it only seems fair given all the marks she’s been responsible for. She swallows a scream as she climaxes a second time, the rhythmic contractions around him the last thing he needed to send him over the edge.

“Holy –” he grunts, his hips thrusting up from the seat even as the rest of his body starts to go slack. Lana slumps down on top of him for a moment, nuzzling her cheek against his shoulder.

“Seems you needed that as much as I did,” she murmurs, leaving little kisses along his skin.

“Guess I did,” he pants, his fingers tracing abstract patterns along her bare skin. “Look, Lana…”

“Shh.” She shushes him with a lazy kiss, her tongue teasing his for a moment before she pulls away. “Don’t ruin it by talking.”

With that, she slowly extracts herself, making a soft moan as she dismounts from his softening cock. She’s grateful the shuttle has a small refresher, so she can at least make herself halfway decent before Kovach returns. As she cleans up, Theron pulls his clothes back on and heads to the hatch.

“Not even going to say goodbye, then?” she asks.

“You said not to ruin it by talking,” he tells her, half to tease but also serious. He’s not quite sure anymore how to classify his relationship with Lana, but he knows it just got a lot more complicated.

“I only meant… well, I suppose I meant that more for myself,” she admits, picking up her discarded clothing to redress herself. “I’m not good at this sort of thing.”

Theron can’t help but raise an eyebrow. “And what sort of thing is that?”

He didn’t think she could ever blush, so he’s surprised when her cheeks flush bright red. Unable to help himself, he saunters toward her with a devilish grin.

“Why, Minister Beniko,” he teases, “are you implying that you have a crush on me?”

“What? Don’t be ridiculous.” She makes a very pointed choice to face away from him as she secures her belt, smoothing out the wrinkles in her robes. Turning back to Theron with a smile, she extends her hand.

“It’s been a unique pleasure working with you again, Agent Shan,” she says politely. “Best of luck.”

For a moment, Theron considers pulling her in, dipping her back, and kissing her while he begs her to defect. But he knows it would be a futile ask; Lana’s not unhappy in the Empire, but she would be in the Republic.

Lana considers offering him a job in Sith Intelligence, with the promise that he’ll actually be appreciated unlike his current tenure in SIS. She knows he’d never say yes; the Empire isn’t a place for people like Theron.

“Yeah… a unique pleasure,” Theron finally says, shaking her hand. “Until we meet again.”

He leaves the shuttle almost with a spring in his step, looking for Kovach. He figures he should check in with him one last time, give him the chance to get out after everything that’s happened. It takes him a moment, but as he passes by an open doorway, he catches a glimpse of the agent – and an ongoing holocall with Supreme Chancellor Saresh.

“What the hell is this?” he demands as he barges in. Kovach practically jumps, while Saresh just crosses her arms.

“Agent Shan, I see you made it off Ziost in one piece,” Saresh says coolly.

“Save it,” Theron snaps, turning his attention back to Kovach. “Have you been working for her this whole time?”

Kovach drops his gaze, knowing there’s no avoiding the truth now. “Yes.”

“So that’s how she found out about Ziost.” Theron shakes his head, his hands on his hips. “You’re the reason all those troops –”

“You’re hardly free of blame, Agent Shan,” Saresh tells him. “Sending in a black ops team of Jedi?”

“Yeah, okay, I know I made a mistake,” Theron growls. “I’m gonna live with that one for the rest of my life. What about you?” He glares at Saresh, then at Kovach.

“I did what was best for the Republic,” Saresh says, before ending the call.

“I have half a mind to go back and tell Lana about you,” Theron says, his voice low and sharp as he backs Kovach up against the wall. Then his shoulders sag, the events of the last few days catching up to him again.

“But that won’t do anyone any good,” he sighs.

“No, it won’t,” Kovach agrees. “I am sorry for the deception, Theron. Truly.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Theron gives a dismissive wave. “Lana’s waiting in the shuttle, assuming you’re still assigned to her.”

“I am,” Kovach says, heading for the door. “Oh, and Theron… I didn’t tell the Supreme Chancellor about you and Minister Beniko.”

Theron’s brow furrows. “What are you talking about?”

“Just that… you two seem to care a great deal about one another.”

Theron shakes his head again. “Get out of here, Kovach. And a word of advice – remember to close the damn door next time.”

He almost feels a little guilty, not warning Lana about Kovach. Then again, he’s pretty sure Lana wouldn’t tell him if she had a spy in the SIS. It’s just the way things go in war, he tells himself. Doesn’t matter how I feel about her.

Hands in his pockets, he trudges his way to the last transport off the station headed for Coruscant. The sight of the burned-out shell of Ziost out the viewport unsettles him in a way he knows he’ll never shake. Lana’s words from the cantina ring in his ear as he stares at the gray mass: You’re lucky you can’t use the Force. He remembers a story Master Zho once told him, about what it felt like to sense death through the Force and why it wasn’t something to be feared. Death is a part of life, and life is the Force, Master Zho’s voice echoes in Theron’s mind. He doubts that would have comforted the people who died on Ziost in terror.

As the ship rumbles away from the station, preparing for the jump to hyperspace, he rests his head back against the seat and closes his eyes. He can’t remember the last time he slept, and for a moment regrets he wasn’t able to curl up beside Lana, the two of them falling asleep as their breathing fell into sync. It’s dangerous territory he’s entered, he knows that all too well, finding a place of affection for a Sith. Most of him doesn’t really care; there’s something different about Lana, something past blind obsession with power and the Dark Side. She’s a rare creature in so many ways, and he finds himself wishing they had more time for him to discover them all.

He’s nearly asleep by the time the ship is ready to jump away, but in that last moment before it vanishes to lightspeed, he swears he hears Lana whisper in his ear.

Farewell, Theron. Until we meet again.