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Decaying Orbits

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Obi-Wan was conscious of every breath in his lungs, none of which would come or go steadily. His Master was gone, he reminded himself, and the Sith who wore his face would get no satisfaction from watching agony and heartbreak play across his face. He would present outer peace only, as he knelt in the council chamber, listening to the Sith in the hologram bargain with the council. He only had to do so for the space of the next breath, and the next, and the next.

Master Windu spoke. “Darth Serenus, you have not yet named your price for your cooperation and intel, nor have we agreed to pay it. Please, get round to the crux of the conversation.” Windu was forever the rocky shore on which many people had broken themselves, determined and sure. Obi-Wan was glad for him.

"My price?" Serenus cut his golden eyes over to Obi-Wan at last, covetous and hot. There was a time Obi-Wan had loved being the subject of that kind of look. No longer. “Him. I want him.”

Well, so much for peace. Obi-Wan’s jaw clenched and his fists knotted in his robe as he fought back a wave of sickened panic, the Force frustratingly slippery as he struggled to control it. He didn’t wait for Windu to respond. “No,” he snarled.

Serenus had the gall to look hurt. “Kithien,” he said, sounding disappointed. [*Term of endearment.]

“Don’t call me that.” No one could call him kithien anymore, not ever. He couldn’t stand to be called beloved by this man.

Serenus folded his hands inside the sleeves of his robes, and turned his attention back to Windu. “Well? The decision is not his alone.”

“No,” Yoda said.

Windu’s jaw worked. “You direct your demand to me because you think I’ll give up a Knight for information? If you’re telling the truth, which you almost certainly aren’t, because it’s you saying it, it would be valuable, yes. But not so valuable I’ll turn the code on its ear and betray one of our own. Especially when he’s already been subject to harm at your hands. The answer is no.” He ended the transmission.

Obi-Wan was relieved to hear him say it. He didn’t like the way his gut relaxed; there was a part of him that had been expecting Windu to accept. Not that Yoda, Fisto, Koon, or any of the others would have accepted.

But Windu might have. That crack in the foundation of trust was dangerous, and Obi-Wan resolved to address it.

That resolution lasted a very short time. It lasted until Windu passed Obi-Wan a data chip the next day. “Just so you know. It’s your right to know.” When he looked at it on a data pad, he found out exactly what the intel Serenus was offering would do. He found out how many lives it would save. He weighed them against his own.

Obi-Wan never did value himself highly enough.

 

#####

 

The airlock doors opened, and Obi-Wan stepped from one life to another, from his small Jedi-owned shuttle to the comparatively large, lethal Sith-controlled ship. It felt like walking into an underworld, the Force moved so differently. The Dark was strong here, and he could feel the presence of the two Sith like large predators slicing through water. The airlock doors hissed closed behind him, and sealed. It felt like the seal of a tomb.

Darth Serenus moved from the shadowed hallway to the dimly lit airlock, a large and familiar shape he would have recognized by footfall alone. Behind him, Anakin — no, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan remembered — trailed in his wake, a man now but only just. Obi-Wan barely recognized the boy he had been. Especially with those Sith-yellow eyes.

“Hello kithien,” Serenus said, in that warm voice that Obi-Wan still heard in his dreams, and if not for those golden eyes, Obi-Wan would have wanted to leap into his arms. He felt Serenus' mind brush up against his own - not an attack, not even testing his defenses. It was a greeting. A painfully nostalgic greeting, as this was how Qui-Gon used to greet him. He had dimly realized even then that perhaps there was something possessive or dominating or inappropriate about it, like a mental grope. "Time and place," he'd once snapped at Qui-Gon when he'd interrupted Obi-Wan's concentration in public with the intimate gesture. (He had paid for that later.) Now, it was definitely inappropriate and dominating and possessive. He would do this, and Obi-Wan would let him, tolerate it, even respond to it.

Like hell. "None of that," Obi-Wan said, knocking him away with a mental snap. He could do that now. He had better shielding than most masters. Windu had made sure of that, after Serenus revealed himself.

"He's feisty," Vader said, and he smiled, all teeth. He moved away from Serenus to flank the Jedi.

"You've no idea," Serenus muttered. He kept his eyes on Obi-Wan. "Careful, Vader, don't underestimate him. You remember him as my Padawan, courageous and capable and green. But he's a Knight now, and has seen something of the realities of life. Pain tempers a man's spirit, so his is bound to be formidable."

"I'm not sure if that's a compliment," Obi-Wan said.

"Just reality," Serenus said. He opened his cloak, displaying an empty belt. "We are unarmed, Jedi. It would be dishonorable of you to strike us down." Under the black cloak, his tunic was dove gray linen, belted with a blue sash and lightsaber holster. It looked good on him. Vader, naturally, was in all black, and Obi-Wan thought to himself that the Sith apprentice must not yet be confident enough in his evil ways to reincorporate color into his wardrobe.

Vader shifted uneasily. "I still say it's foolish to let him keep his lightsaber."

"It is a small danger. He won't kill us if we don't offer him violence first. That means the power to control the situation is still in our hands." His carefully neutral expression softened into something like fondness. "I know this man better than I know anyone, even you, Vader. He won't kill us if he has any other option." Obi-Wan couldn’t even argue; it was correct. Serenus drew closer to him, moving slowly, like he was approaching a frightened animal. "And I intend to offer him … options."

That was interesting. "I'm listening," he said, and to his annoyance, his back and shoulders loosened, his body responding to the familiar Force signature brushing against his own, despite himself. He tried to keep his mind on the fact that this was not his master, this was a Sith, a monster, a murderer. Not the man he'd admired so deeply. Not his ex-lover. He had once longed for Qui-Gon’s approval and affection, had ached for it and grieved when it was withheld. Qui-Gon’s rejection of him, which had manifested over and over in their early years together, had been a source of howling misery. Obi-Wan wondered, not for the first time, if he would have opened his legs so readily had Qui-Gon been kinder, once he reached an age where that was what his master wanted. So starved for his master’s good opinion, he could hardly have said no.

He shook his head, reminding himself to stay in the present moment. He would not seek Serenus' approval. Just the opposite.

"All I asked for was your presence, and you have given that freely. Thank you." Serenus closed his eyes, listening to the living Force that surrounded and bound them. Feeling around Obi-Wan's defenses. "The Jedi council will get the information I have for them no matter how you behave now."

Obi-Wan scowled. There was a gentle, subtle rebuke in that, an expectation of misbehavior, like a parent with a difficult child. Obi-Wan was in the latter half of his 30s, and had not been a child for a very long time, but Qui-Gon had been an expert at making him feel like one. That wasn't happening with Serenus; he knew the game now. This was not an adult disappointed in a child, this was an adult trying to demean another adult. Obi-Wan wasn't playing.

"Do you really want accolades for holding up your end of a bargain you proposed?" he said, with a defiant tilt of his head. "You said something about options. Lay them out." Knowing, even as he said it, that there would be a trap in there somewhere.

Serenus dipped his head. "I did. Option one, you stay on board, meditate, do your katas, read, do as your please. Be a good little Jedi, but do not interfere with us, and we mostly leave you alone. We all respect each others' space."

"Little is the operative word," Vader said. "I didn't remember him being so small."

"You were a child, all adults look big to children." Serenus took another few slow steps forward. "Option two, fight us. Defy me at every turn, keep your mental shields locked in place, thwart whatever you can. Take every opportunity to make my life difficult. Part of me would relish the challenge of breaking you." Though his tone was dark, his eyes glittered, as if excited at the prospect.

Obi-Wan backed up a step, and ran into the wall. He hadn't realized how far he'd backed up, or that Vader was mirroring Serenus' movements, closing his space. He was now backed into a corner with two Sith slowly closing in on him. With anyone else he would be cheerfully defiant, quick with a verbal spar. With Serenus, however … The threat of Serenus breaking him was too immediate even for him to make light of. If anyone could do it, Serenus could. The Sith knew his buttons and triggers. After all, he'd created them.

“Stop,” he said, holding up a hand. “That’s close enough.”

Serenus gestured to Vader, who took a couple of steps back, but Serenus took another couple of slow steps forward, seeing how far he could push Obi-Wan’s boundaries. “Third option,” he said, breathless now, “you join us.”

Obi-Wan tilted his head back and laughed, loud and long. Serenus waited.

“This was your idea, I want you to remember that,” Vader muttered, scowling. “I was perfectly fine as we were, but no, YOU wanted a pet Jedi.”

“Join us,” he continued. “Keep your Light, your pretty blue eyes, your lightsaber, your principles, if you feel better with them intact. I am not fool enough to think you would turn to the Dark Side, there isn’t enough of it in you. I don’t know that the Dark would even have you.” He sounded a little disappointed, but rallied. “Join me in my bed. Let me have you, and give you pleasure in return. Call me Master, do as I say, bare your throat to me, and you can have anything you want.”

“A dangerous promise,” Vader said.

Obi-Wan sighed. “Serenus, you can’t give me what I want.”

“And what’s that?”

His heart broke along the seams of old scars. “I want Qui-Gon back.”

Vader sighed and turned away. “I told you, Master. Jedi are never satisfied, nothing will ever be good enough.”

Serenus was too close. Obi-Wan could feel the presence of his bulk, the weight of his mind, and to his frustration, his body responded. He WANTED Serenus closer, wanted to feel the familiar weight holding him down, the heat of him, teeth in his throat and hands on his skin and — yes, he realized, he still wanted Qui-Gon’s cock inside him.

“Don’t touch me,” he said, but even to his ears it sounded strangled and uncertain.

Serenus raised a hand, and stopped pushing against’s Obi-Wan’s mind as he drew closer. It was an illusory tactic Obi-Wan knew well, to give the impression that a target had more room than they did. But he let Serenus cup his cheek, and stroke his beard fondly with a thumb.

“There,” he purred, “that’s not so hard, is it?”

He wanted to lean in to that touch, kiss it, fall to his knees looking for more. He closed his eyes, set his jaw, and leaned against the bulkhead, trying to stop shaking from both fear and desire. Serenus' Force signature curled around his, familiar and warm and tight. He so wanted to open to it, and let it seep into every corner of his mind.

“Let me in,” Serenus whispered, picking up on his surface thoughts. “Kithien, it’ll feel so good. How long has it been for you, since you laid with another?”

He couldn’t have asked for a more perfect opening to regain his composure and throw Serenus off. He opened his eyes and grinned with feral glee. “What time is it?”

Vader burst out laughing. “So much for your monk theory, Master!!” He stopped abruptly as Serenus backhanded him with a slap of the Force.

He turned back to Obi-Wan, and his eyes shone with menacing ferocity. He scraped his gaze up and down Obi-Wan’s body. “How many have had the pleasure?”

Another great opening to piss off Serenus. “I haven’t kept count,” he snarled, curling his lips back from his teeth.

Serenus grabbed him by his shirt, rammed him into the wall, and pinned him there with his own body, roaring in his face. It would have hurt if he hadn’t been practically up against the wall already. The sudden press of his old master’s body made his sing with arousal, it felt good, so good to be up against him, finally, after so long —

Which was completely at odds with Serenus’ rage, the trembling violence only barely in check. Obi-Wan wrenched aside his desires and matched Serenus’ rage with calm determination.

“Go on and hit me, if that’s what you’re going to do!” he said. “Beat me senseless! Run the galaxy short of bacta keeping me in one piece if you want! You show me exactly who you are, Serenus.” His heart wilted. “Because you’re. Not. Him. And I won’t love you as if you were.”

Serenus let go of him, and took a couple of steps backwards. He stared at Obi-Wan a long moment. “No. I’m not Qui-Gon. But that man was not a saint either, you realize.”

Obi-Wan laughed, choking on the bitterness. “No? The man who manipulated and groomed me from the time I was 13 to live in the perpetual shadow of his disappointment, so that when I was old enough at 17 — 17!!! — that he wanted me, I’d jump at the chance to please him? That man? That’s the man we’re talking about, right? Or did you think I never figured it out?”

Serenus retreated another couple of steps, shock and a strange sadness written on his face. This time Obi-Wan was the one advancing, and Serenus was the one who retreated. “The man who wielded power over me and used it for his own pleasure? The man who took my abandonment issues and expanded upon them exponentially? The man who tossed me aside for a more promising apprentice in front of the entire. Jedi. council, after twelve years of devotion, seven of which were spent in his bed? That man? Not a saint? Do tell!”

“You were ready —“

“No, Qui-Gon, I was never ready, for anything you did to me.” He closed his eyes and berated himself for the verbal slip. “Serenus.”

Vader’s voice cut through the thick grief of the room. “But you said you wanted your master back.”

“Yes I did.” Obi-Wan gave a great sigh of lifelong exhaustion. “Even with all that, I loved him. Just know that I didn’t worship him; I saw him for the immensely flawed human that he was, and I still loved him. And Serenus … you’re not him.”

Serenus turned to Vader. “Show him to his quarters.” He turned, and with a swish of his robes, walked heavily away.