Written for an anonymous prompt: "if anything happened to you…" Theron/Knight.
Warning: A little dark in nature, as i don't think Theron's in a good place mentally at the moment.
The days are long, but the nights even longer.
Sleep is elusive. When it's not chased away by visions of the galaxy being devoured in flames, it seems to be pushed aside by the nightmarish memories of late. Sometimes it's the faces of the lost souls damned by recent events, other times it's just one shattered face that won't let him rest. Tonight it's somehow all of the above.
Theron sits up in bed, one hand scrubbing across his face as reality chases away the last remnants of his dream. He lets the soft hum of hyperspace travel drown out the words echoing in his skull, lets the darkness dampen out the too bright image of her face being consumed by flames.
"If anything happened to you…"
Except it already had. In his dreams it always does. Even the ones that start out pleasant somehow go off the rails quickly. Like his subconscious doesn't believe he's allowed them anymore. It's possible he doesn't. His usual cure for insomnia is meditation, but he can't risk performing those techniques in case someone's watching. Can't look like he's trying to hold on to any piece of the past he's made a spectacle of swearing off. He's tried to adapt some of the mental exercises to lying down in bed, but his results are mixed at best. Some nights he's so exhausted he falls into a dead, dreamless sleep — but he never wakes feeling rested.
Theron has been undercover before. And for far longer stretches than this has dragged on — but he knows this time is different. Knew it before he ever set foot on that damn train. It's not that he doesn't know how to play the part he's chosen, or how to act to expectations, but the constant and unending scrutiny is starting to wear at him. One wrong move and it's all over — that kind of thing used to give him a thrill back in the SIS. Now it just fills him with a cold dread.
There's no safety net here, no one coming to his rescue if he screws up. He is completely and utterly alone by his own design. He always used to work best that way, fly by the seat of his pants to get the job done and probably get yelled at by Marcus once he got home. There's no boss waiting to yell at him, and there's no home for him to return to. He left Odessen behind with nothing but the clothes on his back — and now he doesn't even have those.
Sometimes he doesn't feel like he has anything left.
Nothing but the mask he slips into place every morning before he walks into this den of serpents he's embedded himself into, as he listens to every poisoned word that's formed by their forked tongues. He fits right in.
Theron hates this character he's playing with a passion, the jaded traitor looking to end it all — but every time it starts to chafe, when he wants to plant his fist into the nearest cultist face, or he starts to falter as their requests chip off another piece of his soul, he closes his eyes and he's reminded why he has to keep the mask in place.
In his mind eye, she's always the first thing he sees. She's wearing that last smile she graced him with, the one on Odessen as they'd shared their last kiss. That was the image he'd forced himself to burn into the back of his mind. Not the shattered look he'd left her with on Umbara, although that one visits him often enough in his dreams. But he has to hold on to some semblance of perfection, some reminder of why it's important for him to not slip up. Something beyond the wider, dire galactic repercussions. Something personal and dear to him. It may be selfish, but at this point what does that even matter? One happy little memory, a cherished thought at the back of his mind to keep him going is all the momento he has. Too risky to bring anything else with him to contradict his cover story, even if sometimes he wishes he had something physical to hold onto during his weaker moments such as this. When he keenly feels the absence of the warm body he's grown accustomed to sleeping next to. That he knows he'll likely never feel again.
He's seen the way some in the Alliance still look at Arcann. Theron's not sure if his fake crimes outweigh those of the former emperor or not, but forgiveness is not in everyone's repertoire. Not everyone has the seemingly endless patience and open heart as his Jedi.
However, he doesn't expect her to be waiting for him at the end of this — a large part of him doesn't really expect to survive long enough for that to even be an issue. He just needs to get the Alliance the intel they need to snuff out this conspiracy, root out the whatever moles have infiltrated their ranks. At some point, everyone's luck runs out, and Theron's pretty sure he used up all his chances ages ago. And probably a few other people's as well. But… as long as she makes it through, and one day flashes that smile he loves again, even if it's never for him, then maybe everything will have been worth it.
One of them deserves a happy ending.
She of all people does, after everything she's been through. More than anyone else he knows. He'd been a fool to think that somehow he'd get to share in hers. After Haashimuut, it had been clear that life would never go according to his plans, so there had been little point in making any beyond the moment. Dreams were just that, it was always better to focus on reality and the problem at hand. He'd never been destined to have a normal life — and every time he catches glimpse of one it's immediately snatched away.
There was a moment after Yavin where he'd forgotten this, but then there had been Ziost to remind him. Then after Ziost there had been Zakuul. Then there had been five hellish years where that lesson should have finally sunk in. Should have stuck when Valkorion haunted every early step of their relationship. Should have known that after they'd finally defeated Vaylin that their near domestic bliss had been too good to last. Worse, he'd let it distract him from the clever web being weaved around them all until it was too late.
He had been blind before, but Theron knows now. Nothing in his life will ever be permanent. No matter how hard he tries to hold on, it will always be snatched away from him — whether by his own stupidity, or by darker forces trying to make their mark on the galaxy.
But they will not make their mark upon her.
Those bastards might have set this entire chain of events into motion — but Theron will not let them finish it. His progress with them is slow despite everything he's done to ingratiate himself to them. Sometimes he wonders if they really believe any of the lies he's fed them, or if they're just using and baiting him along as much as he is with them. It feels like they're about to move into the final act of this prelude to galactic annihilation, and Theron has yet to see the whole picture — but he's seen enough. If he could only verify all the players in this little production, then he could identify the true puppet master pulling all the strings. Then he could cut this serpent off at the head.
Not for the first time he wonders if Lana has been able to put the clues together he'd left behind on Copero. A thread of doubt weaves its way in. Theron had pulled enough sabotage on behalf of the Republic. He knows how to make damage look convincing but still leave enough viable data behind. He'd designed the charge he'd used on the map himself, but there were so many variables, if he had miscalculated…
Valss's vision surfaces in Theron's mind and he allows himself the shudder, fairly certain it won't be noticed in the dark. The Alliance needs those coordinates, needs to finally confront and dismantle the Order of Zildrog. Stop them before they can use that weapon. Perhaps he should have found a way to make a copy of the data, even with the eyes of the Order watching. But he'd already risked enough letting that transmission get intercepted so they'd know who was behind this. He tries to have faith in Lana, faith in her endless tenacity and quest for the truth to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
He's already trying to come up with a backup plan, figure out a way to draft a communication with the coordinates to the planet — and make sure it arrives to its intended recipients. Every one so far has him going down in a blaze of glory as he holds off the Order — something he's trying to save as a last resort. They still have to search the planet for the hidden vault. There's still time for the good guys to catch up and put a stop to this madness. Time for the legendary Outlander to pull off the impossible like she always does. He just has to give her the chance to shine.
Somehow the dimness of the morning brings clarity he needs after another sleepless night. There's no coming back from this, and the dark path stretching out before him is the only one he can tread. He never wanted to walk this road, he still doesn't, but he's burned the bridge leading back home. It's too dark here for the light he loves so much to flourish, and he refuses to let it extinguish her flame. He'd promised to do anything to protect her, and despite what it may look like to the outside observer, he doesn't break his promises to her.
So, wearily, he fixes his mask back into place, and walks back into the den of serpents.