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i'll orbit your flickering star

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The second rec hall has been designated as the place for remembrances; it has low cushioned benches and long narrow viewports along the lower edge of the outer wall. The sabacc tables and billiard sets and the old worn-out dart boards have been moved out to join their cousins in the main rec hall. Now there are projectors at even intervals throughout the hall, throwing a soft wash of blue light (the names of the dead) up onto the curved wall-to-ceiling of the newly-named Negotiator’s hull. 

 

Cody is one of the last vod’e to stagger into the hall. It’s early days yet with General Kenobi; he’s proven himself to be more than competent as a leader and strategist (and getting better with every campaign), but even so, this past battle had run away from them. The commander sucks in a harsh breath as he sees the size of the new swathe of ceiling that is lit up blue. He had known, objectively, that this was their deadliest endeavour thus far; but to see it so clearly is to feel the pain fresh and clear again. Not gone, just marching far away, he reminds himself. 

 

His brothers welcome him into the fold, hands reaching over to grasp his shoulders, his head, the back of his neck, quiet whispers of su cuy’gar, kote. The 212th is a quiet, pulsing mass of commiseration, of shared touch and whispered stories and the occasional muted laugh. There are no ranks in this room - here and now, Cody is Kote is just another vod, able to slip out from under his responsibility for a short precious while.

 

Eventually the battalion finds its way to song, voices coming together until the sound in the narrow room is enough to drown out individual thought. Kote can feel the voices of his brothers in his sternum, in his very heart; can feel their warmth in the arms around his shoulders and the bodies pressing (holding) him in from all sides; can feel the very life and spirit in the room rise. This is what keeps them going: this togetherness, both the living vod’e and the ones that have passed on. And for a drawn out instant he feels the warrior serenity in his soul that he believes marks them all as both clones and mando’ade.

 

The remembrances come to an end, battle weary soldiers stumbling off in pairs and threes and fours to fall into a welcome rest. Cody leans wearily against a wall and watches them file out before he shakes himself awake, rubbing sleep from his eyes, and lowers the power on the projectors, letting the names fade to a shadow on the hull. He has another hour left of work before he can sink into his bunk - a final report to file, a supply check for medical, and he needs to find Kenobi and return the lightsaber that’s still burning a hole in his pocket from where the jedi had inexplicably dropped it towards the end of the fight. He is too tired to question what it means to have a jedi capable of losing his ‘saber. Maybe he doesn’t want to question it.

 

Boil sees him emerge into the hallway where he’s talking softly to Waxer, their foreheads drawn close together. “You look dead on your feet, Commander,” the scout calls brusquely, the plea to sleep going unsaid.

 

Cody tips two fingers to his forehead in a mock salute. “Don’t worry about me, vod, ‘nother hour and I’ll be out like a light.” 

 

He gets only a skeptically raised eyebrow in answer as he strides back to his quarters.

 

The report goes quickly enough - he’d written most of it on the flight back to the Negotiator . Medical is similarly quick; he looks over the list of supplies requested by their head medic and skims the inventory list before tacking on a few more items, and submits the requisitions. He checks his timepiece with rising optimism; he may make it into his bunk before the full hour is up. 

 

Kenobi’s lightsaber is resting in his upturned bucket on the corner of his bunk. Cody doesn’t know how he still has it; surely the general has been looking for it. He knows Kenobi knows Cody has it, because Cody told him so over private comms the second after he retrieved it from the grey dust back planetside. The commander rolls his shoulders tiredly as he stands, massaging the muscles at the base of his neck. He’s wearing only the pants from his blacks and a light undershirt, and wonders if he should pull on his long-sleeve at least before he goes to find his higher-up, but finds he can’t bring himself to care. 

 

It’s a short walk to the General’s quarters, his boots echoing softly through the quiet hallways, the skeleton crew running the ship leaving it feeling empty and lifeless. He stops at the door and takes a moment to run his fingers over his hair before rapping sharply with his knuckles. 

 

A pause and no response; he knocks again. “General Kenobi?” He tries hailing the general on his wrist-comm and is exasperated to hear Kenobi’s device chime from inside the general’s clearly empty quarters.

 

He hasn’t served under his commanding officer for particularly long, but he knows already that Kenobi sleeps even less than Cody, and not very deeply when he does. The commander wrinkles his nose, wondering where else on the ship Kenobi might be. 

 

He turns his feet towards the mess hall. After all, 2300 the night after a 12-day campaign isn’t the most outlandish time he’s seen Kenobi go for a cup of caf. Come to think of it, outlandish times are the only times the general will go for the standard brew; he has a stash of teas in his quarters that he usually drinks. But unfortunately, luck is not on Cody’s side this evening. The only soul in the mess is Kipper, one of the medics.

 

He sets off towards the sparring rooms with a scowl, wondering how many more places he’s obligated to look before he’s justified in babysitting the general’s weapon until morning. On his way past it, he notices the doorway to the second rec hall glowing bright blue - someone has turned the projectors back up to full brightness. Frowning, Cody slows and turns down the side corridor to poke his head inside.

 

Kenobi is kneeling on his woven meditation mat in front of one of the central viewports, his head tipped up to gaze at the names projected on the hull. The blue light turns his hair an odd maroon color and makes his skin look even paler than usual. Cody approaches hesitantly, pausing about 10 paces away from the other man, unsure if he should announce his presence or leave- surely the Jedi is aware of him by now. 

 

The general’s voice is soft and cracking, but seems loud in the silent room, as he speaks without moving or breaking his gaze from the walls. “Commander. I didn’t- I didn’t know this was here.” 

 

Cody takes this as an unspoken invitation to come closer; he goes first onto one knee and then settles into a seated position a little less than an arm’s reach from his general, studying the man’s face. He looks weary and sad, eyes a little too bright and tension pinching his mouth to a thin line. Cody waits for him to speak again.

 

Kenobi’s eyes are still flitting across the ceiling, name to name - to the number designation of an unnamed shiny - to name again. “I heard the singing as I was walking past earlier. Saw that all the men were inside. I had wondered where you all go every time. After.” 

 

Cody still does not speak, silently wrestling with himself. It doesn’t… feel right, to preemptively invite Kenobi to the next ceremony - doesn’t feel right for only Cody to do it; doesn’t feel right to name him vod as well as jetii general. Yet. Doesn’t feel right yet, some inner voice tacks on. He comes to an internal compromise, reaching out a hand, hesitating, committing - and lays it on the exposed skin at the base of the general’s neck, as so many of his vod’e had done for him earlier in the evening. The jedi’s skin is cooler than a clone’s; his body burns with a different intensity than the heat of Cody’s brothers. Cody just hopes he isn’t stepping out of line here, but forces himself to hold the contact. 

 

Kenobi finally breaks his preternatural stillness to drop his gaze to his knees. “We shouldn’t have lost so many. I should have… seen… more.” His face is more solemn than Cody has ever seen it; none of the crinkling around his eyes, no dimples, no mischievous quirk to his mouth.

 

“You did the best you could, sir. None of the vod’e blame you. You’re a good general.” He pulls his hand back from Kenobi’s shoulder, retrieves the lightsaber, places it gently on the ground in front of the jedi’s knees. “You should be more careful with that, sir, or we might start to think you’re a better general than you are a jedi.” It’s a subtle attempt to cheer the man up, pull him out of his thoughts.

 

The jedi doesn’t take the bait. “The Code of my Order says that I should be able to accept my losses, no matter how great, no matter how personal, and move on at peace with myself. That to do so is the way out of darkness.” He picks up the ‘saber, turning it over in his hands. “The Jedi Code… the jedi ourselves…  we’re not meant for war. I knew this as a child and I know it now, and I don’t know how to reconcile one with the other.”

 

Cody breathes deep, rubbing the heel of his hand against his eyes, trying to shake off the sheer unexpectedness of this whole conversation. He was made and trained for war and isn’t sure he’s equipped to discuss philosophy with one of its lifelong students, but he supposes he owes it to his general to try. He files the child comment away for later. “I don’t know your jetii code, sir, but no creed is going to stand up to every situation. You’ll learn to be the bridge. The best of us are more than what we stand for.” He remembers, suddenly, a mando’a phrase Fett had parrotted at him once while drunk on grain liquor.  “ ...sa sarad cuyir gotal de pitat, runi cuyir gotal de akaan.” The clone trails into silence with a cough, suddenly embarrassed.

 

Kenobi turns to him for the first time in the conversation, his eyes cobalt in the blue darkness and an unreadable expression on his face. “As flowers are grown by rain, so is the soul grown by war,” he translates softly. “I... used to know someone who hated that saying.”

 

Cody feels trapped. He is not ready for whatever this conversation is becoming; not ready for the intensity that he can almost feel radiating off the other man. “You… speak mando’a, sir?” It seems like the wrong thing to say, but the only way out of this... this.

 

The jedi breaks eye contact and Cody is both relieved and distraught. “Not as well as some, I’m afraid.”

 

Cody looks at his hands and sinks in the silence for another heartbeat before slowly getting to his feet. He offers a hand to the jedi still kneeling on the ground. “We’ll work on that, sir.”