By the time Luke is any much more than a toddler, everyone living within a thousand klicks of the Jundland Wastes knows of the desert-wizard and his shadow, two beings who once weren’t there and then simply were, eking out an existence among the dunes as if the very desert had birthed them and now watched over them with some cruel mother’s love.
The Tusken tribes tell each other that the mage himself was perhaps a god come planet-side, so absolute was his power. But this was a merciful god: for all that he could not be bested in any combat, he almost never killed. When young hot-blooded warriors charged him, screaming challenges, he would engage and disarm and then disappear just as quietly, leaving no more bloodshed than a throbbing head or cracked wrist in his wake. And all the residents living on the border of the wastes agreed that some nights when the air was still, you could hear him crying his sorrows to the stars, his voice twisting up to mingle with the calls of krayt dragons and other stranger, older desert mysteries. Proof, they said, that even the gods shed tears.
If the wizard was great and terrible in his anger, but gentle in his sorrows, then even more terrifying was his shadow: for this was merely a man, people said, a man with sun-dark skin and burning eyes. Wherever the mage was, the shadow was always close at hand, even when he seemed invisible in the noon-day sun. They said he could shoot out the eye of a womp-rat at a thousand paces with his long-rifle, and that if anyone dared to harm his companion… well, the gods were merciful, but men were not. The shadow was a hunter, nameless and invisible after nightfall, and on Tatooine it was agreed that one should fear such a man.
Wizard and shadow they may have been to their less-familiar neighbors, of course, but inside Ben’s little mudwalled dwelling they are just… them. Ben and Cody, Obi-Wan and Kote, clawing out space of their own in eerily post-apocalyptic time.
On the good days they share tea, and read, and Cody draws and Ben sings to him, fable-songs the slave children of Mos Eisley are teaching him word by precious word. They cook, best they can, stretching the meager offerings of their desert existence with peppers and spices and creamy bantha-milk. They farm, and Cody keeps the speeder running and Ben watches over Luke, and they walk the moonlit dunes and sit under galaxies shining brighter than on almost any other planet Cody’s been on.
These days are the days they have to grow. Cody starts taking bounties, occasionally, when they have the right flavor of vigilante justice. It stills his need to move and lets him keep his finger on the pulse of the galaxy’s underworld. Obi-Wan, on the other hand… he dives into his deepening connection with the Force the way he’d used to dive into battles: with surety, with faith, with masterful abandon. With only Cody as his witness, he keeps their garden alive through a broken vaporator by pulling water from the very air. When he and Cody get caught up in a sandstorm, he sinks into meditation for nearly a full day, maintaining a calm bubble free of grit and wind in which they can breathe. He bursts into the house one day to announce that he’s met and communicated with one of the great krayts from the dune sea, and Cody can only groan with pride and love and exasperated worry.
On the good days there is quiet, and warmth, and peace, finally; peace so sweet and gentle that it almost hurts after so many years of burning war. On the good days Ben glows and Cody reflects the happiness off him like the moon to his lover’s sun, and they find the way forward past the end of their worlds.
On the bad days… just to carry on existing feels as hard as any of their hardest-fought battles.
They are more than riduur, Cody thinks. He says as much to Ben one night, and names them solu’kar’ta, one heart. His jetii laughs with soft eyes and jokes that even before, neither of them was really a whole soul alone.
Cody’s other half had been the vod’e.
Ben’s had been the Order.
When both were ripped away... there was only one way for either of them to be whole again, was there not?
On the bad days, though, it is hard to feel whole at all, even when Cody clings to his cyare so tightly he fears he’ll crack ribs, even when Ben sits in front of him with empty eyes and shuddering breaths and begs Cody to speak, read, anything, anything to be able to focus on Cody’s voice in his ears instead of the ones in his head, and Cody takes his love’s hands in his own and speaks little nothings until his voice grows hoarse.
They walk out into the dunes on one such night, the sky still and bright and clear, the stars shining their light down on Ben’s face until the tears stop running and evaporate into the thirsty desert air. He finds a rock to climb up and perch on, and Cody clambers up to sit beside him, shoulder to shoulder.
His cyare is silent for a long time, face tilted to the sky, though he leans into Cody and tangles their fingers together in his lap. When he does speak, eventually, the sound fills the silence for how still the desert is this night, even as cracked and bittersweet as his words spill out.
“Kote… If someone had told me my story would end with living out my days in peace with... you, I wouldn’t- I couldn’t have imagined I might still feel so sad,” he says mournfully.
“... cyar’ika,” Cody murmurs, trying to push all his love into his voice as he pulls the other man closer, presses a lingering kiss to his jetii’s temple. He buries his nose in Obi-Wan’s hair, the strands long and burnished blonde by the sun. Constellations wheel over the timeless desert, impersonal and unchanging; and in that moment Cody knows they could be any one pair of the thousands of warriors this universe has seen, made legends of, and forgotten. The ones that had survived had all known this feeling. “...we’re a war story, ner’jetii, my love. It was never not going to be sad.”
~ fin ~