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Before the Light

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All Theron needs is physical access to one of the Alliance ships. Which is so so much easier said than done, what with all the Alliance and Ascendancy soldiers swarming around Copero. Normally he’d use that chaos to his advantage, but everyone’s on high alert for that kind of thing. Kind of like they're expecting someone to try. Impressive how much more careful and vigilant one of their own spies betraying them will make people.

Fuck, Theron’s trying not to dwell on that. Get things done first, dwell later. If he gets to the end of this, whenever that happens, he really hopes he’ll catch the Commander in a good mood.

Yeah. Dwelling.

He checks his holomask one last time and makes his way to a bar that’s close to the landing pads, but just far enough out of the way to not be too crowded.

Maybe staying on planet wasn’t the best plan, but in his defense he’d planned for a couple of minutes more time. He should have gotten away before the Commander caught up. After that he had to adjust his plan to make sure his ship couldn’t be tracked.

Also it just so happens there’s something he needs to do inside an Alliance ship. For which he needs a bored Alliance personnel. One not being trailed too carefully by Ascendancy soldiers making sure the outsiders don’t snoop too much; it’s a wonder so many Alliance people have been allowed on planet. Apparently the Chiss really wanted to get rid of Zenta. For once Theron wasn’t much of a concern, just an extra strike against her and an opportunity to get the Commander to do their work for them.

So, bar. Theron’s drink is fruity, but way too salty and he tries to not make a face at the taste. There are only a few people, all of them conveniently bored and distracted looking, but none of them are the kind of easy target Theron was hoping for. No pilots, no one who looks new enough to want to show off. No mechanics either, though that would have been trickier.

While Theron’s casing the other patrons for the easiest target, someone sits down at the bar next to him. If it’s someone from the Alliance, that’s his decision made for him.

“I’ll have whatever he’s drinking.”

Or not.

Fuck. That’s a very familiar deep voice. Theron knows before he even turns around who he’s about to see, and it still catches him off guard. Wrath looks the same as always, the same way Theron’s seen him a hundred times, but somehow this is the time it makes Theron’s breath hitch.

He thought he got the full blast of uncomfortable, scratching at the inside of his throat emotions earlier, when Commander was shouting at his ascending ship, when Theron shot at her again (he missed, the shot went wide, fuck, he missed this time and Lana didn’t have to take that shot for her, Lana is fine). When Wrath watched Theron’s escape silently, his face unreadable, but the Force screaming with enough rage, Theron was surprised the ship didn’t get pulled back down. Hells, that might have been Lana, actually. Theron was so wrong about that being as bad as it would get, though.

Seeing Wrath, less than two feet between them, is so much worse. Theron really hopes the holomask, well, masks most of whatever his face does, or that the expression translates to something less incriminating on a Chiss face.

Then he remembers the damn Force.

He should have planned for meeting a Force user that knows him well enough to recognize him by his Force presence, mask or no mask. Theron thought he had no panic left in him, most of it used up before he even got to Umbara and then the last of it watching that train explode, but this is as close as he’s felt to that kind of chaotic moment of fear in months. He should have planned for this, and he didn’t, and he’s going to get killed by someone who has no reason at all to think they’re still on the same side.

The streets in this part of town are enough of a maze Theron could use it to escape, if he had any kind of headstart. Wrath is too close, though, and Theron is only as armed as the locals to draw no attention to himself. No poison darts or shock charges or anything else capable of incapacitating a Sith. The tranq dart's the only extra weapon he has, and it's not fast enough to stop a determined to kill Force user.

He has to try, though; he can’t fail now, not after everything he’s done, not before he finishes the job. Fuck, he’s so close to finding out what he’s been after all this time. Wherever that map leads to, it has got to be the final step in Atrius’ plans. He just needs a little more time.

Theron runs through all the escape routes, all the nearest places he could disappear. He’s been here a while, he knows the place better than Wrath, all he needs is a distraction, some way to put enough distance between them.

Then Wrath leans closer, smiles, and Theron has to get himself under check.

“Come here often?” Wrath asks, voice low and about as inviting as it ever gets. It’s as blatant an opening as it gets, too.

It might be a taunt from someone else. Wrath doesn’t really go for taunts, though; he’s more of a force-choke first, play mind games never kind of guy usually. So it’s probably a real come-on and Wrath has no idea who he’s just sat down next to.

Theron wants to curse at some cosmic power for doing this to him. Giving him just what he needed, but from the worst possible person on the whole planet. It’s the Force, probably, because there’s only so far coincidence will go, and because Theron’s pretty sure the Force absolutely hates him. Wrath did see Theron escape, no reason to think he might still be in the same system, never mind the same city.

He kind of expected Wrath to be gone already, leaving the diplomacy to the Commander. That or off somewhere causing impressive property damage to work all that rage off. The rage that’s missing now, like he didn’t have lightning dripping from his hands, throwing red sparks all over the place less than an hour ago.

“Not really. Seems like I chose the right day, though. You don’t look like you’re here often.” As part of the disguise his voice is altered as well, but he wants to sigh in relief anyway when there’s still no visible sign of recognition in Wrath’s face. Theron steels himself and leans closer too, bats his eyelashes and makes it very clear that he’s buying whatever Wrath is selling. He only has until the Alliance ships leave to get this done, he doesn’t have all that many options. This one’s the worst, though. The absolute worst possible option. Wrath must be the most paranoid person out of everyone here; Theron would probably have an easier time getting the Commander to invite him into her ship.

“Hmm, no. I won’t be coming back,” Wrath says, but his expression is honeyed amusement. Not at all like someone planning to stab Theron.

“Definitely the right day then.” They’re both just walking through the steps here, not even pretending this isn’t going where it is.

That kind of stings too, even if Theron has no right to that feeling. Looks like they have the right chemistry or whatever it is, even when Theron’s not himself. And he’s already getting further as some nameless stranger than he ever did as himself – he’s never felt like he knew where things were going with Wrath before, just that they might possibly at some point go somewhere.

And then Theron blew up a train and moved himself from Wrath’s ‘flirt with at every chance’ list to the ‘kill at first chance’ list. If Wrath keeps lists. He probably does, and writes down the names on that second list in blood to make it more bloodthirsty Sith and less normal organized person.

“We’ll have to make the most of it,” Wrath says, and interrupts Theron’s pity party. “Have you ever traveled to any Imperial planets?” He leans even closer and reaches for Theron’s hand. Wrath half-absently tracing Theron’s palm, his fingers, is, wow, very distracting. Wrath does flirty touching efortlessly, and Theron gets to wrangle the feeling of successfully playing a mark and the very different and fucking irrational feeling of wanting to be in his own place.

“Should I?” This is going too well, so Theron kind of expects Wrath to say they’ve already met. The holomask isn’t even a copy of anyone in particular – it’s algorithm generated to have all the average Chiss features that can be overlaid as closely as possible on Theron’s face shape.

“You might like it there.” Wrath reaches for Theron’s other hand, and Theron lets him take it, do the same touching just to touch thing again. It’s oddly calming. Almost makes Theron forget that he’s one wrong move away from being recognized and then probably eviscerated.

“Are we at that kind of invitation already?” Theron hopes they are so he can get this over with as soon as possible, before that damn droid starts wondering what’s taking him so long. And deep deep down he kind of hopes they aren’t. Figures that Wrath has no trouble going wherever the whole not a thing between them never went. Then again, Theron’s going to tranq-dart Wrath the moment they’re inside the ship, so it’s not going anywhere anyway, whatever face Theron wears.

Hell, he knows it’s mostly all in his head – Wrath probably wouldn’t know what Theron’s on about even if Theron hadn’t betrayed everyone and everything as explosively as he did. Being around people he can’t trust and not being able to let his guard down for a moment for months is getting to him.

“Maybe. I might not be up to speed on how that works with Chiss.” Wrath is still lazily playing with Theron’s hands, not looking at him as he talks. Makes it easier to lie, and Theron never thought he’d have trouble lying to a Sith, not even this Sith.

“Aren’t you from the Empire?” Theron asks and smiles, closes some of the already small distance between them. Time to move this along. He needs to get this done before the Ascendancy gets enough troops here to do a full check of the ships still on-planet, or getting away will get a lot more complicated.

“Yes. That doesn’t mean much. I’ve probably met more people attempting to disguise themselves as Chiss than real Chiss,” Wrath says in that same amiable voice, and finally looks up. Theron feels his heart skip a beat. Fuck.

“Oh?” Fuck, Theron can’t see where he messed up. Wrath’s expression still hasn’t changed, he’s still leaning all the way into Theron’s space, but his eyes look like fire. Like any moment now lightning might start arching from him again.

“The holos can never get the eyes quite right,” Wrath whispers. He reaches up and runs his fingers down from Theron’s eyebrow, past the corner of his eye, down his cheek. He misses the implants so neatly that it feels deliberate. Theron shivers and Wrath rests his hand on Theron’s jaw. And leans closer, and for a moment Theron thinks Wrath is going to kiss him, but he doesn’t. Instead his lips brush against Theron’s cheek and then he whispers, so low that Theron only hears it because it’s right against his ear.

“Do you know what you’re doing?”

Theron can’t remember Wrath ever sounding so damn serious about anything before. It’s something he might be asking a guy he just met at some bar. Might be, but they both know it isn’t, not the way it sounds – like the answer matters to him, like he’s not just asking to keep the conversation going. Like he actually wants an answer and not just confirmation on who he’s really talking to. Theron’s mind is racing and the warmth of Wrath’s breath against his skin, Wrath’s face pressed against Theron’s isn’t helping.

“Yeah,” Theron answers after a pause long enough to betray him, if he wasn’t already sure Wrath knows. His voice breaks and he tries again, some semblance of the flirty tone they had going before. “Yes. I’m- We’re getting out of here, right?”

“Your place?” Wrath leans back, gives him some space to breathe, even if it doesn’t help much against the fluttery panic in Theron’s chest. Other than the burning stare, there’s nothing different in Wrath’s expression, like he’s still talking to someone who definitely isn’t the guy that Wrath came to this planet to catch.

“How about you show me your ship?” Theron might have tried to be more coy about it, but if Wrath knows who he is, there’s no point.

“Oh, I’ll show you something. Gladly.” Wrath presses his lips to Theron’s knuckles in a way that feels like a promise to a nameless stranger and like a threat to Theron, and slides out of his chair.

Theron follows him to the landing pads, to Wrath’s personal ship. Definitely with a high level access to the Alliance network and kind of very likely to get Theron dead. Or not, if Wrath is willing to keep playing this game.

There might still be time to make an escape. Theron keeps thinking about it every time they pass one of the possible routes he came up with earlier. Wrath keeps tightening his hold on Theron’s hand just as often like he knows what Theron’s thinking about, so Theron keeps pushing the idea back until they’re at the ship and it’s too late.

The doors close and they’re alone. In Wrath’s way too dark a ship. This is when Theron should be tranq-darting him and slicing the system, but his chances of doing that when Wrath isn’t completely off guard are… Yeah. Low. If he’s being generous.

“Anywhere particular in my ship you want to see?” Wrath asks, half amused and half sarcastic.

“Always wanted to fuck someone in the pilot’s chair,” Theron says with a bold smile. That’s what he would have said to anyone else and he can’t let himself go off script now. It’s not a lie, which makes it both easier and harder to say to someone he knows. Wrath’s eyes darken and he drags Theron through the ship by his hand. He pauses when they’re in piloting, looks at Theron like he expects further instruction, so Theron pushes him into the chair and gets dragged down with him by the hand that Wrath is still holding.

That’s where Wrath stops asking. He kisses Theron desperately, runs his hands down Theron’s back, up his sides, runs his fingers through Theron’s hair only pausing for a moment when he feels the new haircut. Touches his face again, this time tracing the implants like he can see where they are through the holo.

“Come back with me,” he whispers when the kiss breaks.

“I, uh, don’t think we’ve known each other long enough,” Theron says with a forced laugh. He gets a scrambler disc out of his pocket, one he’s been working on that should be good enough to redirect even Gemini. He presses it against Wrath’s chest, between them where no camera angle can see, and turns it on.

Wrath tenses, his hands stop on Theron’s sides.

“Five minutes.” That’s as long as Theron knows the scrambler can keep them unseen. “I have to–” Theron starts and then doesn’t explain, just turns and plugs a spike into the console. And then slices into the Alliance systems just like that, sitting sideways in Wrath’s lap, because Wrath growls and pulls him back when Theron tries to get up.

He adds another transmitting frequency, under enough layers of security that it should stay hidden until he can use it. The system is harder to navigate now. Theron’s not sure he wants to know who Lana got to up the security and make it Theron-proof. It looks a little like whoever it was, decided it’s a lost cause and scrambled the whole thing to make it too annoying for anyone trying to slice it.

Wrath watches him work without saying anything. Theron knows he’s good enough at slicing to guess at least the general direction of what Theron’s doing, but he doesn’t stop him. He does keep running his hands over Theron’s shoulders, his arms, through his hair again. The longer he keeps doing it, the more Theron feels like his skin is a size too tight and at the same time like he might pass out and sleep for three days straight. No one’s touched him at all for weeks, no one where he didn’t have to tense and wait for a blade in his back. He didn’t think it was a problem, not among all his other a lot more obvious problems, but now he kind of wants to cry at the feeling.

Theron turns back to straddling Wrath when he’s done with the console, and Wrath pulls him into another kiss, slower this time. It slows even more until they’re left just breathing the same air, foreheads pressed together. And Wrath is touching Theron’s face again, tracing the real shape under the holomask.

“Come back with me,” Wrath says again, whispers against Theron’s lips.

“I can’t.” Theron’s voice breaks on it. Fuck, he really might start to cry, if Wrath asks again. He wants this – someone touching him, holding him. He wants to not go back to being on his own among enemies, to not go back to being the guy that betrayed his friends.

Wants to believe Wrath is trusting him, just like that, no questions asked.

“You–” A chime from the scrambler interrupts whatever Wrath was going to say. Without giving any sign that something’s changed, Wrath slides the scrambler back into Theron’s pocket. He somehow manages to make it look like he’s buttoning up Theron’s pants. Pants that didn’t even get unbuttoned. Apparently Wrath doesn’t care about whoever might be watching them thinking they’ve gotten off in less than five minutes. Then again, Theron’s not even fully hard, but with the way his whole body feels warm and tingly, he’d probably be done in less than two, if Wrath actually got his hand on him.

“Next time we meet,” Wrath whispers, “you’re coming home with me.” It sounds heavy with promise. Promise that Theron is desperately hoping he’ll be able to keep.

It takes a while, because Wrath isn’t done running his hands all over Theron, but he lets him go. Just like that, lets Theron leave without asking any questions. It’s an insane gamble for Wrath to trust that Theron isn’t actually doing what it looks like he’s doing to the whole rest of the galaxy. Theron’s so fucking grateful for it, though. Too grateful to worry about all the ways Wrath could use this to ruin all of Theron’s plans. It makes it so much easier to see some kind of end to this whole mess where maybe Theron doesn’t lose everything. Maybe even gets something new in place of all the things he’s gotten used to sacrificing.

It’s the worst possible time to start wanting more – makes sense that this is when Theron figures out he really really wants the thing with Wrath to go somewhere.