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i'll orbit your flickering star

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Cody’s professional detachment - his sense of impartiality, his deference to logic - haven’t really been challenged by a situation before. Maybe by people, sure.  No commander worth his rations would be impartial about his vod’e .

So when all is said and done and he’s gotten a quiet moment to reflect, his interactions with the Mandalore system (birthplace of his progenitor, wellspring of his language, cradle of the seeds that grew into the clones’ culture) will have been a novelty. Not that he would have known that at the start.

 

***

 

The nat-born first officer on the bridge drops the Negotiator out of hyperspace alongside Skywalker’s Resolute . He stands to the left of the space where Kenobi would usually be standing and stroking his beard as they emerged over some planet, while Cody stands to the right of that space, neither of them quite willing to step into it even in the jedi’s absence. 

Cody doesn’t mind, per se, him and his battalion being handed off to another jedi while Kenobi jets off to Mandalore solo to play politics. Mandalore is a Jedi mission more than a GAR mission; and Kenobi has left them with Skywalker (a known and trusted, if sometimes exasperating, element) while Tano recovers from some recent ordeal. The men will be helping with a relief effort instead of marching into an active warzone. Maybe manual labor shouldn’t sound so appealingly restful, but Cody is glad for the 212th’s reprieve and for the chance to see Rex and Torrent again. He isn’t even too worried about Kenobi stumbling into some trap or trouble without someone to watch his back. These New Mandalorians are supposed to be pacifists and diplomats, right? Somehow? Despite hailing from the same culture as Fett?

...ok. He is a little worried about that last. Kenobi is competent, frighteningly so, and calm and level-headed and can handle himself. His general is also just demandingly thorough , in every one of his many involvements. Which inevitably means pissing off a number of the players in this tangled intergalactic conflict who wish the jedi would look the other way and cut them some slack, for once. And then those angry actors look for ways to eliminate the threat to their positions, which means Kenobi seems always to be stumbling into disaster, even when he’s not recklessly bounding around a proper battlefield.

But. I am the General’s second in command, not his keeper, not his… anything more. Cody purses his lips, reminding himself that it was technically out of place for him to have any particular concern for his jetii .

Is it, though? His mind is clearly too idle today, filled with all these scattered thoughts. The general’s philosophizing habits must be rubbing off on him. But… maybe he doesn’t have to quelch this additional care for the jedi he’s undeniably come to regard as his. They are a team now, Kenobi had said it himself more than once. What’s more, Cody’s beginning to feel that the general reciprocates his more focused attention, to a point. He’s seen Kenobi go out of his way to watch Cody’s back. He’s accepted countless offerings of food, caf, stims pressed into his hands by the jedi whenever he feels his energy or spirits lagging. He’s seen the jedi scan crowds of dusty brothers until his eyes find and lock onto Cody’s visor and his face relaxes minutely in relief.

So. It is allowable, this special worry. To a reasonable extent, anyway. Feeling somehow more settled, Cody clears his mind of the matter and turns to the task at hand.

 

***

 

Perhaps his newfound peace with his attachment to his jetii-vod is what allows him to react with only a mild sense of I-knew-it when he and Rex are called in to speak with General Skywalker, who starts with little preamble. “We’ve received a request for assistance from Obi-Wan.”

“Is he in danger? What’s the sitrep?” Cody plants his feet and crosses his arms.

Skywalker shakes his head. “No. Well, not anymore?” The addition earns him a snort from Rex and an eyeroll from Cody. “I think the situation escalated beyond a one-man job, though.”

Rex shifts to mirror Cody’s stance. “What are our orders, sir?” 

“We’ll take a small squad from the 501st and go directly to Mandalore to assist. Commander Fox is also sending over a few men from the Coruscant Guard. I assume Obi-Wan will take control when we arrive. I don’t actually know what we’re doing.” He shifts his focus to Cody, who is suppressing a slight grin at the young jedi’s flippancy towards the sitrep. “Cody, I assume you’ll come with us? I think Sergeant Appo and Yularen can handle the relief effort here.”

Cody nods gratefully. “Yessir, appreciate it.”

 

***

 

They’re greeted by guards in ceremonial armor, carrying spears in lieu of blasters, on their arrival planetside. “Welcome, Knight Skywalker. Please, this way; the prime minister will receive you before Master Kenobi is available to bring you to the Duchess’s ship.” The speaker’s eyes skitter over the clones briefly. “If you’d like, we can show your… guards… directly to the vessel.”

Skywalker glances back to Rex, who twitches almost imperceptibly in Cody’s peripheral, and then turns back to the guard. “My commanders will stay with me, but yes, you may escort the rest of the squad to the ship.”

“Very well.” The rest of the clones peel off and the three of them follow their mando escort into a vast hall of green glass, afternoon light casting an odd-colored glow on the artworks along the walls. 

The prime minister is a pale and severe looking man, his washed out yellow-white hair the color of Rex’s but without the contrast of the clones’ deep tan skin to offset it. He looks nothing like Jango. None of them look like Jango , Cody realizes suddenly. Fett (and by extension the clones), Skirata, many of the other humanoid Mandalorian trainers - had looked like one of a people, of average or taller height (but not towering), broad of shoulder and sturdy in their build, although not usually so muscular as to become ungraceful or cumbersome in strength. They had, with slight exceptions, skin of some shade of middling brown, dark curling hair, eyes that ranged from golden hazel to olive green to deep chestnut. 

These New Mandalorians could have been another people entirely. Tall, fair, blonde, slender, eyes of every shade of blue, eyes only of blue. They looked delicate and angular where Jango’s-Rex’s-Cody’s bodies were thick, hardy. Working bodies.

But then, Cody supposes, he’s only seen a few so far. And the prime minister would be a politician sort, not familiar with a life of labor.

Skywalker has engaged the blonde man in polite greetings while Cody’s mind drifts, snapping back to the present as the jedi motions to him and Rex. “And let me present Commander Cody and Captain Rex, who work with Master Kenobi and I on the day-to-day.”

The minister’s gaze flits to Cody, hovers. “Ah, yes. We have heard much of this army of clones, despite our own position of neutrality.”

Cody crosses his forearm over his chest, the formal-traditional greeting that Skirata might have offered Jango. “Jahalla r’urcir, Prime Minister.” Well met.

The man’s brow flattens the smallest amount. “You may find that we no longer use that archaic language in Sundari, Commander. The New Mandalorians have done away with the warlike past and all that it brings with it.” His voice is polite but cool.

Cody lets the words roll off of him. “Understood, sir. My apologies.” Rex is tense beside him, ready to take offense on behalf of his vod, but… Cody is Commander of the Negotiator , after all. He’s received the message loud and clear - you are not one of us, we are not of you - and he can play nice, even as his confusion is compounded by the clear memory of his jetii’s tale of a year on the run with the Duchess Satine. Where he had learned mando’a.

They’re interrupted by Kenobi himself striding around the corner and into the room. “Anakin! Excellent, glad you’ve arrived. Thank you, Prime Minister, for receiving my men.” His words are firm and not rushed, but to Cody the general seems… frazzled. Even if otherwise in fine health.

The Mandalorian dignitary is a touch warmer to Kenobi. “Of course, Master Jedi. Is the Duchess not with you?”

To Cody’s increasing befuddlement, Kenobi’s cheeks pink slightly. “Ah. Sat- the Duchess and I were in the midst of a rather involved discussion, just prior to Anakin’s arrival, and at the conclusion she felt she might, ahm, see herself to the ship.”

The prime minister’s face is expressionless. “I see. In that case, I’ll leave you to your compatriots. Good day, Masters Jedi, Commander, Captain.”

Anakin waits until the man is out of earshot before turning to his old master. “Did you do something to piss them off or are they just always like this? I thought you were on good terms with Mandalore.”

Kenobi scowls at him. “Good to see you too, Anakin, and I rather think you don’t have a full grasp of the story. Perhaps we should start with the situation before you accuse me of poor diplomacy.”

They fall into stride, jedi in front, Cody and Rex side by side just behind, and set off through airy hallways and wide stone courtyards, as Kenobi explains their job and the situation leading up to it. A simple shift on guard duty, it would seem, getting a crew of senators safely to Coruscant; Cody thinks but does not say it sounds fairly boring compared to what he was expecting, getting summoned across the galaxy to his jetii’s side.

Anakin is more comfortable voicing his mind. “So you discovered this… death watch, had a little kerfuffle and called us in to be your extra fists? Very unlike you, Master. I was ready for a more exciting story.” 

“Did I forget to mention the part where they hoisted me up by my feet and attempted to crush me and then grind me to bits in a piece of mining equipment?”

Skywalker grins, vindicated. “There it is. How’d you get untrapped without me there to save you?” The younger jedi is refusing to allow Obi-Wan’s sour mood to put a damper on his teasing.

“Sati- the Duchess broke me out, thankfully. Although it was a near thing, she was nearly too late.”

“Ah, master, that’s why you should keep me around more! Or even Cody. We’re professionals.”

Kenobi’s general tension refuses to ease; he stares straight ahead without acknowledging the comment, although Cody can see the muscles in his neck twitch. The commander mulls this over, wondering what Kenobi isn’t telling them, what else might have happened to have suppressed the jedi’s usual banter.  It was usually so bad as to be almost insufferable when the general saw Skywalker for the first time after any absence. 

The various Mandalorian citizens they pass give them a wide berth and cautious side-eyed glances until they finally board the ship. The mysterious Duchess is nowhere to be found, although Cody supposes that as a travelling dignitary she has probably retreated to her quarters to… do dignitary things. He doesn’t really know what these VIPs do, holed up in their cabins on hyperspace journeys, but anytime the Negotiator has hosted one they’ve made themselves similarly scarce.

Skywalker breaks the silence again as they get underway. “So, Obi-Wan. You, uh, seem a little tense.”

He’s rebuffed with yet another vague non-answer and Cody and Rex share a commiserating glance. Either of these two are a nightmare when they’re feeling reticent; Cody thinks Skywalker may as well give up now, for all he’s going to force a confession out of his old master.

***

 

The first hour of their journey is calm - the clones will check the cargo hold, the jedi will deal with the politicians - but then they lose track of a man, and then another. Rex squints into the darkness after having commed his general. “Odds that two of them actually got lost in the dark?” The vod’e had been teasing each other about it since they walked into the hold, which was apparently designed to be as poorly-lit as possible. 

Cody snorts. “If it was one, maybe. Or literally any other pair of generals in the GAR. But it’s two, and us, so…”

“Point taken,” Rex concedes.

Skywalker appears a moment later, announcing that he’s missing dinner with no real heat behind the complaint.  After he gets the sitrep from Rex and they fan out to search the hold, he flips his comm channel to just the Captain and Cody. “So you know how Obi-Wan’s been to Mandalore before? And he was acting super weird this afternoon?” The jedi’s tone is a gleeful whisper. “I think they have history . Like I think they used to date . You should have seen them up there.”

“Ha!” Rex cackles into his comm. “What happened?” He and Skywalker must have worked things out since Geonosis; they’re back to their normal relationship, two young men ribbing and jostling each other to keep their spirits alive through this war.

“They were literally at each other’s throats the minute he walked in. Like you think he and Ventress are bad? Well apparently this Duchess is a hardcore pacifist, and Obi-Wan was telling her how dumb that was right now - which like, point - and then she called him a… kark, what was it… a walking ball of half-truths and hyperbole? Or something? Little gods, it was good, he was so red .”

Rex snickers. “Damn, wish I could’ve seen- oof!

Cody elbows him in the gut, a wordless if slightly harsh reminder to focus.

Skywalker is unfortunately out of the commander’s reach. “Rex, you don’t understand, my mind is so blown right now. My perfect jedi master has an ex ? I can’t wait to tell Ahso- oh shoot what’s that? Hang on guys, looks like we might have a stowaway. Stay sharp.” The transmission cuts out.

Cody trails Rex through the hold, silently ruminating, because - somehow he had forgotten . That the span of sentient relationships was so damn broad. That non-clones had meaningful connections outside of warmongering. He recalls just this morning when he had thought himself to hold a place of unique import in Kenobi’s mind, had thought he would be visiting a culture of some familiarity on this planet- only to be rudely reminded that he existed in only a single facet of his jetii’s life and that the same system that produced the culture he regards as his own also produced these foreign New Mandalorians.

He feels small. He wonders what the manda Duchess is like; if she’s also tall and slim and blonde, if the general likes her because she argues with him, because she’s peaceful . He wonders what it means to care for someone that way. Cody’s been… physical before. Not so often and not so recently, because he’s a commander and he feels too his own expectations of his rank, but he's never been anything like that to someone. Not even- Some of his brothers had particularly close and codependent friendships with certain of their vod'e; a shoulder to lean on in times of need, a deeper level of trust. Boil and Waxer, Fives and Echo. He had Rex of course, but... Rex was his vod'ika at the end of the day.  The closest he'd had to that was probably when he and Fox were cadets and had been suffering through command training together, before their constant interpersonal competition spoiled it.

Even the love he feels for his closest brothers, though... it's not what he imagines between Kenobi and the Duchess. He’s not sure he knows what it feels like to love someone the way they show couples in holomovies, like Bly loves his general, like Skywalker loves his ‘secret’ senatorial flame. Probably never will- the stray thought burns across his mind, because his life has been so short, will likely continue to be so short, nothing for it.

Skywalker’s lightsaber ignites with a hum in the distance and he shoves everything from his mind as he and Rex make quick feet towards the general.

 

***

 

The next hour is mostly a blur, running here and there on the ship, trying to stave off first assassin probes and then an influx of battle droids from gods-know-where, and few moments stand out in the wash. 

The Mandalorian guards aren’t useless, but they don’t know the standard battle signs and don’t have a very clear chain of command outside the one captain. They’re best settled in a bottleneck and left to their own devices while the clones work around them. 

He sees Kenobi once during the whole event, on a shared elevator ride with Skywalker and Rex as the younger jedi needles his old master once again about his attachment to the Duchess. 

Kenobi rounds on him, eyes flashing, his voice raising in both pitch and volume, “And I don’t see how that has any bearing at all on our current situation!” 

Cody’s general never loses his cool like that. The commander follows Skywalker out silently as the other jedi calls back to Kenobi. “Don’t worry about the droids, Master, you go save your girlfriend!” 

The squadron of clones twitches as a unit, wanting to swivel and look at Kenobi but not willing or able to look away from the ongoing battle. The retreating jedi himself grows even more flustered - “ Anakin! It’s not like that-” before breaking off and disappearing in a whirl of cream tunics and frustration.

Cody flips on the open comms. “You lot keep your heads in your buckets,” he growls. “Clear this next intersection and we’ll send Skywalker up the center of the hallway.” 

Jedi are useful in nearly every situation, but a roomy corridor with cover at their backs must be the most ideal, Cody thinks. The young knight vaults over the guards and charges through the main force of droids; the clones sit back and pick off stragglers as he decimates the enemy ranks and disappears around a bend. His voice crackles onto the comms a few moments later, “Rex, Cody, clear the side corridors and sweep the ship, I’m heading for Obi-Wan.”

Cody sends squads down either side of the intersection they’d briefly occupied before he, Rex, and the 501st men jog down the hallway in Skywalker’s trail of destruction, pausing every so often to clear the cabins and closets and side corridors that branch from the main hall. 

Before they’ve even caught up with the jedi, the squad captains radio back with the all clear. Cody can hear the generals’ voices up ahead now, and a female. Whatever struggle there had been was clearly over. He sees Rex signal the rest of the men to drop off as they round the last corner and duck under an obtrusion.

Kenobi’s name dies on his lips as he steps alongside Skywalker and swiftly takes in the situation - an obviously interrupted conversation, the Duchess standing too close to the elder jedi, nakedly conflicted emotions on both their faces. Cody addresses his vod’s general instead. “General Skywalker, sir, the ship is secure.”

The manda Duchess has done a better job than her jedi guard of collecting herself in the ensuing moment, has stepped away from Kenobi and schooled her face back into calm ambivalence. “I must get back to the business of diplomacy,” she announces, and sweeps past the men and out of the room.

Kenobi answers her, though it seems nearly pointless, and she does not stop to listen. “As you say, Duchess; another time.” His voice is steady, calm, but his eyes are still shadowed. He follows her exit a moment later, nodding at his old padawan, but saying nothing to the clones. Where the commander is used to Kenobi’s gaze searching him out after battles before softening in recognition-relief , there is this time just a quick flicker of acknowledgement, almost cataloguing, before the jetii is out into the corridor. Cody can only watch his back disappear, wondering at what point he’s allowed enough emotion into his head to create this hint of tightness across his sternum. 

He mentally shakes himself loose of the stray thoughts, the ruminations, the desire for Kenobi’s regard, all unbefitting of a marshall commander. He’d done his job and the men under his command had performed admirably; the mission had been a success. Nothing to be anything but happy about on this day.

Rex bumps against his pauldron. “You’re quiet. 79s? Ponds will be there.”

Cody flicks his vod’ika’s chest plate. “You mean I don’t chatter over comms like a gossiping shiny? It’s a wonder you and Skywalker can keep a company straight, much less a battalion.”

Rex scoffs in mock offense as the 501st troopers around them come to his quick defense. Cody lets himself be drawn into the banter as they fall into cleanup around the fight zones, sending up a silent prayer of thanks for the vod’e to whatever higher powers might be listening.