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i'll orbit your flickering star

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It’s clearer to the clones more than anyone upon their initial deployment that the Jedi are, as a whole, not yet ready to step into their roles as military high command. Skilled diplomats, peacemakers, and individual warriors they may be, but the disorganization of the first few months is frankly disheartening to witness.

Cody, Rex, and Wolffe are gathered around a small table at 79’s, a lucky overlap on Coruscant during yet another command shuffle. Well, Wolffe is still running with the general he’d picked up a couple weeks back; Cody and Rex are picking up new jedi for the 3rd and 2nd times, respectively.

Rex tips his ale back, draining the glass. “Honestly, for a group that’s known we were coming for a decade, you’d think they’d have sorted out their command structure ages ago. This is a mess.”

Wolffe wrinkles his nose, looking around to see that no one’s paying them close attention. “I heard a rumor that they didn’t actually know. It was just one of ‘em, acting alone, that started this whole... bit, and they only found out when another visited Kamino before we shipped out.”

Cody cuts his eyes back to the conversation, absentmindedly topping off Rex’s glass from the pitcher. “He’s my next general, the jetii from Kamino. Kenobi, right? Just got the name in this afternoon.” He sips his ale. “I’d be less concerned about their high level issues if I’d gotten any... good... generals so far but… did I tell you vod’e what happened to my last one?”

His brothers give him a small shake of the head and Cody shifts his weight forward with an exasperated sigh. “Well I’ll skip the awful battle strategy and just get to the end - we get piled up in a strip of cover with a Seppie line between us and our pickup and what does the utreekov decide to do? Says he’s gonna 'negotiate' our way out of it. So he walks out of cover with his hands out front of him like this-” Cody holds his palms out in front of his stomach, facing up - “and just gets fucking cratered within half a minute. Spooked the kriff outta the shinies, we couldn’t even pick up a body to take back.”

Rex winces. “Kriffin' hells. Was he a kid?”

“Don’t think so. Think he was just green. Or stupid.” Cody has always been a touch ruthless; it’s why Fett liked him so much.

Wolffe raises his glass to knock against his forehead, resting on his elbow. “Well if it's any consolation, Kenobi’s supposed to be good, really good. He was on Geonosis for the start and Koon says he’s been laid up in sickbay but he’s been directing a few joint ops from there. Says he’s more of a strategy guy than most of the Jedi.”

Cody just snorts skeptically. “Fingers crossed you’re right, vod.” The 212th is an attack battalion with a higher-than-average number of special-skills commandos; he just hopes the Jedi council is done placing him under negotiators. He bounces his glass off Wolffe’s and then Rex’s, quaffing it back with a silent prayer for better leadership.

Rex follows his example, draining the last of the ale and pushing himself to his feet. “Chin up, Kote, you’re bound to get a good egg one of these days. 212th’s too strong not to.”

Wolffe tips his head towards the blonde captain. “You out?”

The clone grimaces. “Yea, I’ve got a couple more briefings to go over before I can get my shebs into my bunk.”

Cody and Wolffe follow him out at a more leisurely pace. “You… hear anything else about him? General Kenobi, I mean?”

Wolffe shakes his head. “Not from Koon, sorry vod. One of the boys saw him on Kamino, though, if it really was the same jedi.”

“...and?” Cody can tell that the other clone is smirking a little.

Wolffe shrugs nonchalantly. “He’s a humanoid. Little smaller than a vod. I believe the exact words were ‘jetii would be pretty if he didn’t look like a wet lothcat.’”

“Lovely.”

***

Cody has the 212th assembled and looking clean in the hangar bay an easy 15 minutes before the general’s scheduled arrival. He stands out front, bucket tucked under an arm, at the edge of the large space they’ve left open for a gunship to land.

At three minutes til, he picks up the high-pitched sound of engines, and in place of the troop carrier he’s expecting, a sleek red-and-white fighter drops in and pivots neatly into the landing zone. Cody quirks an eyebrow. Two points to the new jetii, then, for punctuality and for being enough of a pilot to warrant his own fighter; the last couple hadn’t brought personal ships aboard.

The cockpit hisses open and a man in cream-colored tunics and worn brown boots skips lightly out onto the wing, brown robe draped over an arm and red hair falling slightly in his face. He pauses there, using the vantage point to look out over the assembled battalion.

Cody turns to the men. “212th, present arms!”

The stamp-stamp-clack! is loud enough to echo twice from the far walls.

When he turns back, the jedi has already closed half the distance between them, his face still turned to look out over the assembled men. Cody salutes as he draws up next to the clone. “Commander CC-2224 of the 212th at your service, sir. Welcome aboard.”

The general gives him a shallow little bow without breaking eye contact; his gaze is piercing and very very blue. “Obi-Wan Kenobi at yours, Commander. Do you go by a name? I can stick to the rank or designation if you’d prefer, but I expect we’ll largely be working as equals moving forward and I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.” His accent is… almost posh.

Cody blinks, keeping his face impassive. “You can call me Cody, sir.”

“Excellent, thank you, Cody.” He turns to address the men. “Hello there!” He's roughly of a height with the commander but built slighter, longer-legged, than a clone; nevertheless his voice carries easily over the hanger despite being more a pleasant tenor than a battlefield bellow. “My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi and I’m pleased to be serving as your general; I’ve heard great things about the 212th. We have a fairly long transit coming up and I look forward to getting to know you all by name. Should there be anything I can do for any of you, please don’t hesitate to come find me, and I’ll do my best to make rounds of the mess at mealtimes.” The Jedi waits for a moment as the hanger stays quiet, the men unsure how to respond. “Thank you all for your attention.”

At this he gets a bit more of a response. A few of the troopers clap their vambraces to chest in the Mandalorian salute, some whistle, and there are a few Oya!’s from the braver among them. Kenobi turns back to Cody with a quirk to his lips. “Well, we’ll work on it.”

The commander coughs. “As you say, sir. Shall I show you to your quarters? The men will bring your belongings from the freighter when it arrives.”

“Yes, very well. And if one of the pilots could get my starfighter where it needs to go?”

“Of course, sir.” Cody turns to face the room. “212th, dismissed! Departure in 4 hours!” He brings his comm up to his face as he walks towards the exit. “Oddball - stow the general’s fighter and strap it down for transit. Cody out.”

“Yessir, right away.” The pilot’s voice is barely constrained glee at the prospect of climbing into the jedi fighter.

Kenobi falls into step beside Cody as they make their way through the halls of the 212th’s command ship. The commander surreptitiously observes the man walking beside him, trying to size him up further. His footfalls are quiet but he walks with an upright posture, hands alternating between clasping behind his back and swinging loosely; he doesn’t look quite as catlike now as when he had stepped out onto his fighter’s wing. For all his grace, though, Cody thinks that he almost looks too perfect; not a hair out of place. Wolffe's vod was right about pretty. He wonders if the Jedi likes to get his hands dirty, or if he'll live on the bridge for his tenure with the 212th.

The Jedi glances sideways at him. “Have I managed to pass your muster yet, Commander?”

Not being so subtle as I’d thought, then. Cody fixes his gaze on the end of the hallway as they arrive at their destination. “I rather think I should be the one asking, General. This here is the door; you can set a passcode now if you like.” He politely turns away to face the opposite wall.

The general huffs out a short laugh as he punches in a code. “There we are. It’s underway in 4 hours, correct?”

Cody spins on his heel to face the shorter man once more. “Yessir. We have a briefing on the bridge with Admiral Yularen an hour after that. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Kenobi clicks his tongue, turning his face to the side and holding for a moment in thought. “Actually - this doesn’t have to be now, of course, but something for you to think about while we’re in transit. I’ll eventually need a company of skilled men to serve as a strike force on my more delicate or lower-personnel missions. If you could start thinking of candidates and draw up a list for me? Include yourself; you'll lead.”

Cody nods once. “Very good, sir.”

“Excellent. Thank you, Cody, that’ll be all.”

***

Their first mission together is… a learning experience, for certain. The liberation of a capital city goes quickly enough; Cody gets the sense that although Kenobi is still finding his feet as their jetii in particular, he’s generally a capable strategist and leader, or at least putting up a solid front. His initial plan for their campaign is well-thought-out and confidently stated, and he happily takes Cody’s suggestions for tweaks and additions. He’s equally happy throwing half of their planning out the window during their march through the city, following some daring bent of intuition. It falls in his favor and Cody wonders if that’s pattern or luck he’s witnessing.

The rest of the urban portion of their mission goes smoothly and then it’s time to march on the Separatist stronghold that’s been set up a few klicks out, to rid the planet of the occupying presence for good.

The terrain of this world is odd - grasslands and scattered trees, but with high spines and arches of rock protruding from the ground at uneven intervals and running away from the city. Cody supposes there was once earth between them but it’s since been eroded away. The droids have set up their command station between two such spines, with a third that starts a bit closer to the 212th’s position and protrudes into the middle of their blockade.

The clones advance as far as they dare without falling into cannon range and set up their own command, testing the droids’ shields with the long range guns and starting to pick off the scouts set up along the rocky ridges.

Cody and the General stand across from each other over the holo-command table as the two forces reach a stand-still. They can’t move closer without risking heavy losses from the extensive droid artillery, and they haven’t been able to break through the shields to let their big guns get at the droid cannons.

Cody frowns. “Well sir? We can try marching around the backside but it’s likely just as well protected and would take at least a day. Or calling in an airstrike, although we'll likely lose a couple ships and replacements are in high demand at the moment. We need a way to knock out those shield generators though, or we’re going to be holed up here for a minute. If we can do that, the rest will come easily enough.”

Kenobi frowns thoughtfully, tracing a finger along the spine of rock that juts into the center of the droid encampment. “I quite agree, Commander.”

Cody lapses into silence after him, not sure if he should keep spitballing ideas. After a minute, the Jedi suddenly straightens up and turns towards their front perimeter line. “Right, I think I can handle this one, Cody.” He strides towards where a few of their scouts are assembled and waiting orders. “Gentlemen, could I borrow a speeder please?”

Cody hurries after him. “Sir, what are you planning on doing, exactly?”

The general mounts the proffered scout speeder and turns back to Cody with a quirked eyebrow. “I’m going to go convince them to power down their shields.”

Cody swears his eyes are going to roll so kriffing far back in his skull that he’ll never see again. “General Kenobi, with all due respect, these are droids,” he grits out. “You cannot negotiate with them.”

The Jedi gives him a fey laugh, stripping off his outer cloak and handing it to Waxer, who’s standing off to the side silently watching the exchange. “Not to worry, Commander, these will be suitably aggressive negotiations for droids.”

“Sir-”

“Hold the perimeter, Cody, but have the walkers prepped and ready to move on my signal. Should be no more than a half hour.” He touches the lightsaber at his belt as if to reassure himself it’s still there, and then guns the throttle on the speeder and zips past their front line towards the droid station.

Cody wants to bury his head in his hands. “Walkers to the front and hold for orders,” he snaps into his comm. Just when I thought I was getting a semi-competent field commander… “Binoculars,” he growls, snatching them from a brother’s hand as they’re offered. He supposes if another of his jetii is going to get himself blown stars-high, he may as well do him the courtesy of watching him go out.

He trains the binoculars on the Jedi’s rapidly disappearing back and watches silently as the general approaches the center spine of rock, aware that many of the troopers are watching with him. Kenobi is staying in line with the rock formation so the droids haven’t spotted him yet, but Cody figures it’s only a matter of time. He’s already well within range of the cannons.

Instead of splitting to one side of the rocky spine, though, Kenobi parks the speeder at its base and begins to scale its ridge, moving from handhold to handhold faster than Cody’s ever seen a human climb. He gains the top of the ridge and starts sprinting along the narrow formation, leaping over gaps in the rock as he closes the last 200 meters to the shield boundary.

The scout droids must have finally spotted him because they begin to fire. In the orange glow of the viewfinder Cody sees the lightsaber ignite and then Kenobi is batting blaster charges back at the droids while still running full tilt towards the shields.

Beside him, Waxer sucks in a breath. “He’s above the level of their cannons but they’re going to get him with anti-aircraft…”

As predicted, the droids must manage to get a lock on him with an anti-aircraft gun, but as they fire he jumps forward into an impossibly high flip and the blast rocks the ridge below him. The lightsaber flickers off for an instant and he falls through the shield barrier, landing neatly back on the rock as his ‘saber blinks to life and begins twirling away blaster bolts once more.

A second later he’s reached the point of the spine jutting directly over their shield generator, and the normally impassive Cody can admit that his heart rate has picked up a couple beats as the jedi flings himself off the rocky edge and into free fall.

He lands on the lid of the generator itself, tucking his momentum into a roll, and jams his lightsaber into the thing as he slides off the edge, dragging his weapon through the machinery as he falls. The shields flicker. Kenobi hits the ground and leaps out of sight for cover, and the generator explodes behind him. 

Cody is, for perhaps the first time in his short life, speechless. For an instant. The clones erupt in cheers and he snaps to. “Walkers advance, troops follow up in v-formation on either side of the middle spine! Long guns, target those cannons! Let’s bring it home, boys!”

With the shields down they make short work of the rest of the droid encampment and fall back to their command post to call in their pick-up. One of the scouts has picked up Kenobi’s abandoned speeder and fetches the general from the middle of the battleground back to where the clones are starting to assemble around Cody, divvying up into squads for the troop transport and sorting out who needs medical.

Kenobi slides off the back of the speeder and lands neatly in front of the commander with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. The front of his cream tunics are covered in red dust from the rocks; he’s got a blaster mark on his left sleeve from a near miss, and the hair falling in his eyes is curling and lightly singed at the very ends.

Cody pops his bucket off and plunks it down on the holotable, crossing his arms, and takes a risk. “General, you might be the craziest bastard in this battalion.” The brothers milling around closest to him stiffen up, unsure if their commander is allowed to speak to a jedi that way.

Kenobi laughs and pushes his hair back out of his eyes with a dust-and-soot covered hand. “From a certain point of view, perhaps. Actually, I thought the negotiations went rather well.”

Chapter Text

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.” 

Chapter Text

The first time Cody hears the name Skywalker, he’s on a holo-comm call with Rex during downtime, learning about his vod’ika’s general. 

“...I’m telling you, Kote, this jetii is utterly fearless. He’s got a cadet with him - Commander Tano - and last time we were on-planet they punched a hole in a line of tanks without any backup. He’s a decent man, too, loves to shoot the shit with the vod’e…”

As the conversation goes on, it’s clear that while Rex appreciates Skywalker for his kindness and bravado, the clone captain adores the younger Tano. Cody is happy for him; Rex is a good man and he deserves to be working with solid leadership.

 

The second time General Skywalker comes up, Cody’s talking offhandedly to Kenobi while they work their way through a mound of requisitions. He mentions Rex’s name as he’s going through the list of brothers he hopes to see each time he’s back on Coruscant. 

The ginger jedi brightens in recognition. “Captain Rex! He’s working with my old Padawan. Anakin says he’s a fantastic captain. Is he a close friend of yours?”

“More than close. Rex is a little brother to me. Since we were cadets. You know Skywalker well then?”

Kenobi laughs. “You could say so… I practically raised him, from when he was a small boy, although he fought me for every inch of independence from his teens on. We’re more brothers now than anything, though.”

 

So. Kenobi was akin to Skywalker’s buir. That can only be a good thing, Cody supposes. 

 

***

 

Neither of these conversations adequately prepare the commander for meeting Skywalker, the first time the 212th and 501st engage in joint operations. 

The five of them - Cody and Kenobi; Skywalker, Tano, and Rex - are standing around the holotable looking down at a city skyline laid out in miniature. Yularen, Longshot, and a few of the 501st are milling around the command bridge quietly.

Kenobi has taken up his signature ‘thinking’ stance: one arm crossed over his middle, the other hand absentmindedly stroking his beard. “Well… there are a few ways we could approach thi-”

Skywalker cuts him off brashly. “Actually, Master, it looks incredibly obvious to me.” He points to the holo table. “We just need to blow up this building-” he pauses for effect “-and they’ll fall like a house of cards.  Look, you can see all their command receivers are either angled to point back to its roof, or are getting the same signal vector bounced off of another wall or tower.”

 

Kenobi frowns skeptically. “That may be, but those walls look quite blast-proof. It won’t come down quickly or easily, and as good as your intuition for their engineered systems may be, I don’t want to gamble hours on taking down one structure unless we’re sure.”

Skywalker grins, caught up in excitement, and tuts like an elder would to a child. “Ah ah ah- won’t come down easily from the outside. But look at this architecture; it all necks down to this big round room in the middle of the tower and then back out again. I bet you, me, Ahsoka and Rex can get in and lay charges without too much trouble, and from the inside it’ll come down in a flash. We won’t even have to wreck too much of the surrounding infrastructure if we rig it to blow this side first and it falls in the adjacent park.”

There’s silence as the others absorb the idea, and Cody is suddenly worried that no one’s going to suggest any alternatives. “Sir, the material of those walls - you won’t be able to remotely trigger charges from outside the building.” 

Skywalker shrugs him off. “So we use timers, set them off when we plant them and give ourselves a good 5 minutes to get clear. Look, there’s even two exit routes - one off this observation deck here -”

“And one out on a zipline to this next-door footbridge,” Rex cuts in, twirling one of his blasters while he gestures to a high walkway with the other hand. Cody thinks he would almost be able to forgive Skywalker for his attitude, if not for what the influence is doing to his vod’ika. Rex was never exactly by-the-book, but a few months under his new general and the blonde captain has traded out his standard blaster for two pistols like some kind of spiced-up beroya spacer. What’s more, he’s found a way to work ziplines into this battle plan not once but twice.

“Ha! So that’s three, actually, because you could also move up two levels and come out on this monorail track,” Skywalker crows. “Come on, master, how many of my plans are good enough to have three exit strategies?”

Cody waits for his general to cut in with some sensical inputs - and then Kenobi nods slowly. “Alright, I’m game - how are we getting in?” There's... Cody could swear there's an undercurrent of glee in his voice, carefully hidden behind the facade of the thoughtful, respectable Jedi he's come to know, and he does not like where this is going.

Tano pipes up. “We can drop onto the roof from a lartie on a fast flyby and go down the elevator shaft. Easy and quick and no one gets hurt!”

Kenobi nods again, more decisively. “It’s settled then. The four of us can drop in and blow the tower; that’ll set them into disarray if Anakin’s right about their comms, and we’ll be able to flush out any Separatist generals hiding in there regardless. Cody, if it looks like it’s worked and their major comms are down, you and Appo can be ready with the battalions split between here, here, and… here, and work your way clockwise through the occupied districts.” 

Cody is outnumbered; there's no point even raising a protest. He's never been happier that he has a bucket to hide behind, as much as he wants to press his fingers to his temples and curse his luck for being the only sane member of this dini’la leadership team. “Yessir. I’ll have the men ready and waiting. We can run a squad up this street here to give you a path out.” He spares a second to glare invisibly at Appo, who is leaning on a desk half the bridge away, organizing his utility belt and being absolutely no use at all.

 

***

 

After the mission ends, Cody catches up to Kenobi in the hallways of the Negotiator as they fire thrusters and pull away from the planet. It’s not hard; the jedi is putting up a good show of walking evenly, but he’s slower than usual and favoring his left foot.

He pulls his general’s arm over his shoulder and takes the weight off the injured side. “Hope you’re headed to medical, sir.” 

“Ah… right, I was just going to stop by my quarters first. To get a datapad… to bring with me to medical.”

Cody snorts. Likely. “We’ll go to medical now and I’ll fetch you the datapad after.” He feels the jedi deflate slightly.

 

They walk in silence for another moment, Cody mulling over whether he wants to, well… say anything. Kenobi must be able to sense it - of course, kriffing jetii - because he pulls out of the commander’s grasp and leans against the hallway as they near their destination, crossing his arms. “I can tell you’ve got something on your mind, Commander. Out with it, I won’t bite.” 

Cody raises his eyebrows briefly, turning to mirror the jedi’s posture. “We shouldn’t have gone with Skywalker’s plan, sir. There were less risky alternatives.” There are strategies, he thinks, and then there are plans like these. Calling it a juvenile tower heist would have been generous.

Kenobi frowns at him. “I thought the 212th had a fairly easy advance after we brought down the tower?”

“Not talking about the battalions, sir. You almost blew yourself up. And then you fell off a bridge. That’s risky.

The general’s face clears. “Ah, but I was going to be fine. Anakin had me.”

Cody fixes his gaze on the wall above the general’s head and clenches his jaw for an instant. “Permission to speak freely, sir.” He is so thankful they’ve ended up in an empty hallway for this.

Kenobi gives him a funny look and Cody will be… parsing that later. “You may assume you always have that moving forward, Cody.” 

He holds the jedi’s gaze steadily. Kenobi’s pupils are different sizes; the man is clearly concussed, but Cody figures he may as well say his piece. “Sir, my job is to win battles and take care of my men. We went through two generals before we picked you up - both of them were hopeless or’diniise, both of them died, and one of them took 76 of my shinies with him because he didn’t know how to plan a campaign.” He jabs a finger at the jetii, whose eyes have gone slightly round at the clone’s unapologetic tone. “You’re good at this, Kenobi, whether you like it or not. So you’re going to take a little more care in the future, because I do not need to hand my battalion over to another green moron. Sir.”

Kenobi blinks twice, processing, a little slower than normal. “Ahm. I apologize, Commander. I… realize that our actions on the field may have looked incredibly haphazard, but we were in control of the situation the whole time. Anakin’s ideas aren’t bad, they’re just… blunt, and occasionally inelegant. Like a gundark, in a porcelain shop...” 

The jetii is definitely rambling now. Cody huffs, cutting him off and pulling the slighter man back into a walk. “As you say, sir.”

“You don’t agree.” 

“I just don’t think you see straight on Skywalker, General, but we can leave it at that. We’ve all got someone who brings out our inner idiot.”

The other man laughs softly after a beat. “Except for you, it would seem.” 


Cody deposits his jetii in the medbay and sighs mightily through his nose, pressing two fingertips to his forehead. And yet, here we are.

 

 

Chapter Text

The 212th is two days into shore leave on Ryloth, command fleet still stationed above the post-liberated capital city, when Cody gets the general’s ping on his comms. They must have received their next mission. He glances at his timepiece; 1600 in the afternoon means departure won’t be til tomorrow midday at earliest. 

His men are spread out through the city’s various speakeasies and related establishments and he sees no reason to pull them in early. “Tell the men to expect standard hours in the morning,” he interrupts Wooley’s dramatic reenactment of Kenobi’s livestock herding escapades. “I’m headed shipside. Don’t break anything.”

A chorus of ‘yessir’s!’ follow him towards the door from his men, echoed by a ‘roger roger-’ from a member of Rex's Torrent Company who’s already a few cups deep and feeling sassy, much to the delight of the men. The snickers swell as he lets the door swing closed behind him.

 

He crosses paths with Rex and the rest of Torrent - General Skywalker included, he notes to his surprise - on the walk back to the shuttle. “Commander Cody, sir! New orders?” Rex addresses him a little more formally than he would without a jedi around, but is still clearly in an ebullient mood.

Cody snaps off a little salute. “General Kenobi just got the briefing this afternoon. Headed up for review.” 

Skywalker is less attached to decorum than Rex. “Cody! Tell my master he should come down and join us, we’re having a pub crawl, he can stack his flimsi later!”

“You got a priority level for that message, General?” Cody keeps his voice light; Skywalker is young and he doesn’t want to begrudge the man his right to have a good time in his twenties.

Rex jerks his head, giving his jetii's elbow a tug. “Come on, sir, that’s not gonna work on him.”

General Skywalker concedes to keep walking but continues calling back to Cody as the distance between him and the clone increases. “Tell him, Cody! You know it would be good for him!”

The shuttle doors hiss shut and the noise of the bustling city dies away.

 

He arrives on the command bridge in due time to find it empty except for one of the shinies from Engineering, huddled under a nav computer with low-level command code blinking down the screen. He flicks on his comm. “General Kenobi, sir. I’ve just arrived ship-board, where can I find you?”

Thank you for coming up so quickly, Cody, can you meet me in my quarters?

“Be right there, sir. Cody out.”

 

The door slides open on his approach without him having to knock. The general’s quarters are roomier than Cody’s, but not by far. Kenobi is sitting in one of three low cushioned chairs around a makeshift mini command table, about knee high with a portable holoprojector set on top. A proper desk is tucked under the viewport; the furniture is sparse but non-standard to the Negotiator. Cody can see a few other concessions to personality: a traditional-style fiber bound book resting on the desktop, Kenobi’s meditation mat folded neatly in the corner, a throw blanket brightly patterned in red and teal tossed across the otherwise neatly-made bunk. The shelf cubby built into the wall holds a tea tray, a tiny conifer-shaped plant, a crystal of some kind and a smooth grey-green stone.

The general glances up as Cody enters. His eyes are a little glazed; Cody thinks he must have been staring at the datapads for some time now. “Hello there, Commander. I thought we could discuss here? Unless you’d prefer the command center, I just wanted to be off my feet.”

“This is fine, sir.” The clone makes no move to sit.

“Please, at ease, Commander. Make yourself comfortable,” Kenobi insists, waving a hand at the other chairs. “Tea?”

“Sir?” 

“You can try it at least.” The jedi gives him a moment to sit down before thrusting an earthenware cup filled with some spicy-smelling brew in his direction, seemingly content to hold it out until Cody accepts it. 

“So,” Kenobi begins, “it appears that we’ve completed our trial period as a command team. This mission briefing is, quite frankly, a little ridiculous.” He slides a datapad across the table to Cody and powers up the holoprojector to display their planetary destination.

Cody gingerly sets down his tea cup and picks up the datapad. “Well to be fair, our missions to date haven’t been particularly complex. Might be we just need to look at this as a legitimate campaign and not expect to pop in, knock out a couple tanks, and pop out in a week.”

The general frowns. “Not all our sitreps have been that boring.”

The clone quirks his lip, not looking up from skimming the briefing in front of him. “The interesting parts of those missions were less to do with the scenario and more to do with your flair for the dramatic, I think.” Kenobi is uncharacteristically silent, so after a moment Cody tacks on, “Don’t take me wrongly there, sir. You’re a capable strategist, so I’m sure you see as well as I do that they’ve been tossing us softballs.” He finishes reading the sitrep and whistles low. “You’re right, though, this one’s going to be no cakewalk.”

The jedi spins the holo-projected planet on its axis. “Initial thoughts?”

“Lemme stew on it a minute, sir. So what happened? They run out of easier planets to deal with? Or do they do this with every command team, run ‘em through a couple softies and then throw ‘em at the big leagues?”

Obi-Wan laughs mirthlessly, his eyes unfocused in the middle distance. “Your mistake is assuming a ‘they’, or a standard procedure. There is no central command; the GAR answers to the Senate and the Chancellor, but the generals are Jedi as you know, and have to split our loyalty between the Republic and our own Order. And even if our Council were solely responsible for coordinating the war effort, they aren’t trained for it. No one is trained for galaxy-wide warfare because the Republic hasn’t been at war or maintained a standing army for hundreds of years, so even basic troop movements have been clumsy and confused. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

Cody doesn’t respond to the last, although he’s silently pleased to learn that there’s a healthy cynic hiding under Kenobi’s graciously polite veneer. “So… they’re sending us out at random.”

Kenobi scoffs. “Not random, no. They’re sending us out politically. The Council has generally been sticking to the safer assignments, chipping away at small victories that are almost sure. But occasionally the Chancellor or the Senate will... require... a particular battle be fought. And then there are a list of ‘standing issues’, so to speak, that have been left un-dealt with because they’re too dangerous or daunting to address at the moment.”

“This is one of those?”

“This is one of those,” the Jedi agrees. “The battalions, we’re on our own out here, Cody. Acting as independents. There is no high-level war strategy. Just… endless battling, til we overwhelm. Optimistically.”

“You’re a strategist, sir.” This causes Kenobi to balk, and Cody backpedals. “I’m not saying you should march into your council and try to commandeer the war. Just saying maybe you could point them in the right direction. You clearly know more about the command position than most Jedi.”

Obi-Wan smiles tiredly. “My experience was gained through… non-traditional means, and is therefore not so trustworthy to some of my peers.”

“I see.” Cody sifts through his existing knowledge of the Order’s basic operation, trying and failing to imagine how a Jedi cadet acquires nonstandard warzone training in a universe where the Jedi have been acting as diplomats-with-extra-bite for centuries. General Kenobi lapses into distracted silence and doesn’t elaborate, though, so the he doesn’t press. He sets down the datapad and zooms the hologram to a promising looking drop zone. “Not untrustworthy enough to avoid getting saddled with this osik, apparently, sir. If you’ll excuse my language.”

“No, I suppose not.”



When Cody stands to leave some hours later, they’ve managed to come up with a framework of a plan to flesh out over transit, and some of the tension seems to have bled out of Kenobi’s neck and shoulders. The clone pauses in the doorway for a moment. “Sir, if I may - next time you can call me in when you start planning, instead of beating your head on the table all morning. I have been studying tactics my entire life. Wouldn't want to have wasted my childhood for nothing.”

Kenobi laughs. “You are absolutely correct, Commander. I’ll remember to do so in the future.”

 

***

 

Cody coughs into his bucket, the filters not quite standing up to the ultra-fine dust that swirls between the air and the ground, and then dives for cover as he spots the telltale glow through the particulate-filled air that signals a droid blaster. The bolt impacts the rock above his head with a flash. “Contact, contact, Ghost Squad Red to cover! Droids at 2 o’clock!” 

He can hear the clones closest behind him scrambling for cover before he’s finished speaking. Popping up, he loses a few shots into the gloom, hoping to provoke the enemy into revealing their position. The comms chatter, Ghost Squadron Yellow having lost track of Gold and Red, desperately hunting their way through this semi-subterranean network of trenches, tunnels, caverns and exposed desert. It’s absolute chaos. The dust swirls.

 

“Red forward, stay low. Maintain spread.” Cody hops out from behind his rock and makes it three steps before blaster bolts impact the ground at his feet, forcing him behind another column. “Stay sharp, they have infrared.” 

There’s a scuffling and then Wooley slides into his nook alongside him. “Should we make a move for it, sir?” 

Cody chews his lip, deliberating. The comms crackle to life again, some desperate trooper having connected to the general channel instead of his squad-specific. “Ghost Yellow, contact! Fall back, move move mo- ” the voice cuts out in a cry. 

“Fuck. Yea -” he flicks his comm. “Nuna, Crank, you close?”

Yessir, bout 5 meters off your tail.”

“Right. Wooley and Crank are gonna lay down cover up the center of the trench. Nuna and I are going up the left flank. On your call, soldier.” 

Yessir. Holding for five… and go!”

Cody springs up over an outcropping at the edge of his pocket of safety and sprints down the left edge of the hallway, blaster tucked against his forearm. His brothers’ bolts light the dustcloud up blue to his right and the droids begin answering fire. Nuna is right on his heel. They’re within 3 meters by the time they can make out shadows of the droids in the gloom. The clones plaster themselves to the wall as one and subject their quarry to a barrage of blaster bolts. Cody holds his blaster at the ready, breathing hard, as he stalks into the slightly open area the droids were occupying, scouting for any surprises. Satisfied, he opens comms again. “Clear. Red move up on me.”

His third of the company forms up around him, swiftly and silently. Hunters. Their campaign on this planet has begun with a series of small strikes, alternating hitting the enemy on the ground - to take out tertiary pockets of droids and create a sense of randomness - and in the air, targeting scout and smaller command ships blanketing the airspace, thinning out the enemy’s surveillance coverage. The star destroyers had retreated to the shadow of a nearby moon, waiting for a bigger hole before they risk losing the big guns to the heavy Separatist presence. 

At the moment, Ghost Company is split into three squads, working their way through one outpost and hoping to meet up in the center for retrieval. “Casualties?”

Wooley answers. “None dead, sir. Kazi took a bolt to the arm, though.” 

The clone in question straightens. “I can still shoot, sir.” 

“Right. This place is crawling with clankers so we can’t leave you in cover but you’ll form up in the middle of the squad when we move on, understood?” Cody waits for the nod, then continues, “We’ve lost any good tracking signal on the other squads but we’re hitting all our posts and should make the rendezvous soon. Gold Squad is also progressing en-route, but Yello-” 

He’s cut off by the comms. “Yellow to Ghost, we’re- kark! We’re pinned the fuck down, if anyone can get to us we could use a hand!’  He can hear heavy blaster fire in the background, the harsh shrill of the bolts indicating ‘dekas or commando droids.

“Cody-Yellow, we’re down all tracking, what’s your position?”

“We’re turned around, sir. Roughly - Waxer, cover! - roughly southeast quadrant.” 

“Red, on me.” Cody signals to his men and they plunge back into the gloom. He comms back. “Red Squad enroute.” 

Kenobi’s voice cuts in. “Gold also enroute, just working our way through a quick delay.”  The vwumm-vwumm-tss of the jedi’s lightsaber is audible behind his voice. 

 

Through sheer dumb luck they manage to find Yellow, pinned down as they are in a cavernous bowl, nearly at the same time as Kenobi with Gold Squad. Unfortunately they’re also joined simultaneously by a fresh squad of clankers on one flank and several droidekas rolling in from various entrances. It’s a textbook disaster: low visibility, mixed groups of friendly and enemy troops cutting off multiple lines of fire, squadron commanders sending closed-comm orders to their own groups while Cody and occasionally Kenobi bark orders over open comms, trying to regain some semblance of order. 

Cody thinks for a moment he can feel the panic rising in the room. He watches a trooper fall in a jerky stutter step as he hesitates between conflicting commands, curses as one of the droidekas rolls itself between Red and Gold, pivots to take out a B-1 that’s stumbled into view behind Nuna. His pulse is thundering in his ears. “Ghost Company close ranks to Yellow, we need to consolidate, clo-”

Kenobi comes bursting out of the dust with a yell, falling from some upper ledge to land on top of the droideka, and buries his ‘saber in its upper shell. He cuts off Cody on comms. “Ghost to me! Form up, to me!” He advances in a whirl of cerulean light as all attention in the room turns to him, cutting a swathe through the droid company separating Yellow and its brother companies. He’s no longer screaming into his comm but it's as if his voice is beating a staccato rhythm into the very inside of Cody’s brain, breaking through the battle haze in its insistency, to me to me to me... Gold Squad is already streaming in behind him as if drawn to a magnet, the Jedi providing a direction and the momentum to get the squads moving again. 

“Red squad fall in, on Kenobi’s six, firing left!” 

They blaze through the center of the room, drawing Yellow into their wake, and Cody is in control again. “Yellow and Gold, make for a position on the upper deck. Red will lay down cover and you’ll take them out from up top. Cody out.” 

The clones scramble and Kenobi works his way over to Cody, electing to stay low with the cover squad while they get position. His lightsaber is in constant motion, spinning idly in looping arcs, the jedi making light adjustments to the pattern to deflect blaster bolts as necessary. Cody feels a jolt of pity for the other man; their shock tactics at the start of this campaign required him to jump directly from leading troops on the ground to running ships in his starfighter. He hadn’t had more than an hour’s downtime besides nights in nearly a week and it was beginning to show in his face and posture. “Good to see you still on your feet, sir.” 

“And you as well, Commander. We may have cut this one a little close.” He looks more youthful like this, auburn hair sweaty and mussed and the dirt on his face making his eyes look bigger and more blue.

Cody grunts agreement as Boil comms in. “Yellow/Gold in position, sir.”

“Fire at will.” The droids go out in a blaze of blue. 

 

*** 

 

Ghost Company huddles in the protective circle of their gunships as night falls over the desert. The wind has died down as the temperatures fall and the still air is blessedly grit-free without gusts or tramping boots to stir it up. A couple of the boys have hunted down some of the native lizards and are experimenting with a spit over open flame. The night is still, but not lifeless, and bright - two white moons hang in the sky, painting the gunships silver and Cody’s brothers phantom grey.

Kenobi emerges from the emptiness, eyes glinting in the moonlight. He joins the circle but doesn’t sit, crossing his arms over his chest, and one by one the vod’e fall silent and turn to look up at him expectantly. 

“Gentlemen. I mean this in only the most self-critical of ways, but today was… messy.” There’s a chorus of muttered agreement and Cody props his chin on his hand, watching silently as the jedi continues. “I have an idea for something that we could try, to help control the chaos in similar situations moving forward. I want to run it by you - by all of you - because I only want to try it if everyone is comfortable with the concept. Please don’t stay silent if you are not.”

He’s really got their attention now, Cody can tell from the way that the troopers are just a little too still, their focus shifting to intensify on their general. After a moment, the Jedi speaks again. “There’s a technique that the Jedi Order used to use millenia ago in our war against the Sith, to maintain harmony on the field between groups of warriors and facilitate the actions of the many as the actions of one unit. It’s called battle meditation, and essentially involves one of the company - me, in this case, for obvious reasons - maintaining a low-level connection or awareness through the Force between the minds of the group.” He pauses, his eyes flicking between the assembled clones, gauging. Unfortunately for him, the vod’e were made in Jango Fett’s image; their faces give nothing away.

Cody throws him a bone, without directing the conversation, because he knows Kenobi will want acceptance to come from the men and not their commander. “So it’s like making a hive-mind, sir?”

“Ah... sort of. Hive-mind implies single-mindedness, and this is more a basic pre-perception of the rough locations, states, and most forward intentions of the company members. At least, as I understand it.” The jedi coughs a little uncomfortably. “I’ve never actually… done it, only read the theory; no Jedi save perhaps Master Yoda has had cause to use it in recent memory. But I think I understand it quite well. And,” he hurries on, “I understand that you may be concerned, rightfully so, about the invasiveness of such an effort, but I assure you that your minds would remain your own, that I would not be made aware of anything you didn’t wish me to know, and that it would be only the most obviously surface level thoughts that would be shared-”

Waxer interrupts him with a raised hand, because he always was a bold one. “Do you believe it would increase our effectiveness as a company, sir?”

“Well, yes, I believe so. Although we wouldn’t know for certain until we tried. But if it was... unhelpful, I think it would be immediately and obviously so, and we could stop at that point.”

“Sir, if it’ll help our coordination and make us a stronger unit, I see no reason not to try it.”

“Thank you, Waxer. Given that it’s everyone’s minds, though, I think we’ll need to come to a consensus-”

Waxer cuts him off again, ignoring the raised eyebrows that Cody throws his way. “Ghost Company, all for trying General Kenobi’s plan?”

The company answers nearly as one, voices cascading together around the circle. “Oya!” Kenobi’s eyes meet Cody’s and hold, and the commander bares his teeth in a feral grin. And so we go.

 

****

 

Cody is beginning to understand that when Kenobi says he might be able to do something out-of-the-ordinary, what he actually means is that he’s supremely confident that he can do that thing excellently.  Following from that logic, the commander is never expecting the ‘battle meditation’ to fail. What surprises him is how astoundingly well it works

Their first advance using the experiment looks like the last: winding paths through a pitted mining landscape, air full of dust and heat, droids appearing as if out of heavy fog. But this time, their inability to use hand signals through the gloom doesn’t seem so important because Cody knows that his team is holding steady off his six, just as they know when he wants to move up or hold position. The precious seconds used to shout contact! into comms are replaced by the instantaneous knowledge of a threat that comes from feeling Nuna’s shock-surprise-left in his mind.

It’s not omniscience - the basics of feeling and intention are passed along, but no more. Cody tests early on whether he can ‘transmit’ a complex idea over this new connection and is pleased to see it fail. It is his responsibility to watch out for his men, after all, and make sure they’re not getting mired in something too strange to comprehend. The only thing he gets in response to trying to aggressively imagine a maneuver at the squadron is a mix of confusion from his troops, and a warm glow - fondness-solidarity-amusement - from Kenobi himself. 

 

Ghost Company is a force of nature. They are unstoppable. They flow like raging floodwater through this inconsequential pockmark in the desert floor until they’ve swept it clean, battle-joy mounting and spreading from man to man as they realize how powerful they are, how strong in their togetherness, the droids falling before them in droves. The droids are the hive-mind, Cody thinks, a hive of sameness. We are something more.  

He ends up back-to-back fighting with Kenobi at some point, the two of them having stormed into a room and found themselves in unpleasant company. He doesn’t know if it’s the effects of proximity or placebo or intention on the part of the jetii, but he’s never felt so clear and purposeful and alive in a fight. They pivot as one, Cody sniping off neat headshots, the jedi at his back protecting them both from the oncoming blasterfire. He feels instinctively the prerogative to stand more on Kenobi’s left shoulder than his right, because the blue blade swings more comfortably that way - feels that he should pick off the droid on the upper left first because those bolts are just so annoying - he doesn’t need to do more than feel alarm at the sudden realization that a droid has snuck up on his shoulder because Kenobi flicks it into the wall. They clear the room and the flood sweeps on.

The company reconvenes in the center; Kenobi is last to emerge from the tunnels, tiredly flicking his hair from his eyes. 

The chant starts with a single call of ‘oya, jetii!’ and the company picks it up as he walks into their midst, ‘Jetii!, Jetii! Jetii!’ Cody doesn’t think the general is lacing the men's minds together any longer; they’re just jumped up on adrenaline and feeding off of the frenzy and the excitement. He feels it too, this fierce joy, this sense of belonging, of victory, of purpose. He pulls his bucket off and grins at the sky; he feels like Kote.

 

Kenobi approaches him as the shouts die off, the men clambering into their gunships, clapping each other on the back. He looks… not as enthused as the vod’e, but… happy. “Well, Commander, I’d say that was reasonably successful, no?”

Cody barks out a sharp laugh and grasps the man’s forearm against his own, pulling him in to slap him on the shoulder. “Didn’t take you for the sort to fish for compliments, sir. What are the odds we can convince you to do that for the whole battalion?”  The jedi stumbles into him a little, his feet dragging, and quickly rights himself, but Cody can see that his face has fallen into a weary mix of exhaustion and terrified apprehension at the commander’s comment.

He gives the man a moment to draw himself back together, steadying him with the hand still on his shoulder. “Nevermind that, sir, got ahead of myself. I’m just excited to have the best damn company in the GAR now that we can pull this osik. That take a lot out of ya?”

Kenobi laughs softly, his expression softening with relief. “You could say that. Thank you, Cody.” He’s still swaying a little on his feet and Cody fumbles a ration bar out of his utility belt, thrusting it at his general. They spend the ride back to their camp in companionable silence, Obi-Wan chewing softly while Cody watches over his shoulder as the sun sinks red into the dust.

 

***

 

They finish Phase I of their campaign with 5 more guerilla raids on droid outposts, losing only one man out of Ghost Company in the process. Cody is silently floored. They had been a strong group before, but now- now they have coalesced into something truly elite, the men are more confident than ever, and they blaze through their missions with power and purpose. 

They land back on the Negotiator after 15 days on the desert floor, ready to begin Phase II and retake the planet in earnest. First, though, the men will strip off their armor and convene in the remembrance hall to properly send off those who are marching on. 

Kenobi catches him as he’s moving across the ship towards the gathering. “Commander, a word? I know you’re otherwise engaged, it’ll just be a moment.”

“Of course, sir.”

“I was thinking about what you said after the first day. About trying it for the full battalion. I don’t know that I’ll ever get there, but after this week… I want to try adding more troops. Maybe just another squadron at first, and work up if I can. I want to prioritize the comfort of the men, though; perhaps we can discuss a standard briefing soon so that I’m not forcing it on anyone.”

Cody is filled with a fierce pride for everyone on his ship. “Happy to help, sir. That... I think that would be game-changing.” He pauses a minute, then asks a question that's been floating on the peripheral of his mind for the last day or so. "Sir, the meditation. When Lany... passed. I didn't feel..." He trails off, suddenly unsure how to ask what he wants to know without being uncomfortably blunt.

Kenobi drops his gaze to the floor. "Ah. I, um, absorbed it, so to speak. Instead of letting it broadcast through. I wasn't sure if it would be good for the men... but if you believe that was the wrong decision, I'm open to your thoughts."

Cody is still digesting that whole concept when Trapper rounds the corner to pass by, followed closely by Nuna, Waxer and Boil. “We’re headed to the hall, Commander, you coming?” He halts a minute, shares a quick series of glances with his brothers, and then adds, “You too, General.” The group moves down the hall without waiting for a response.

Kenobi freezes, then glances at Cody, the jedi's face as calm as ever but uncertainty in his eyes. 

The commander grins and jerks his head in the direction of his disappearing brothers. “You heard ‘em. Let’s go, vod.”

Chapter Text

   If it was Kenobi’s brilliance as a leader and a warrior that won over Ghost Company, it was the relative normalcy of his behavior while the fleet was in the dead zone of transit that won over the rest of the 212th. True to his word on the day of his arrival, Kenobi had been a regular fixture in the main mess hall where the vod’e took their meals. Cody’s previous generals had treated the clones as a unitary alien mass better left alone and had taken their food alone or in the nat-born officer’s mess, but the commander quickly realized that if Kenobi was not present at a meal, it was less likely that he’d found different accommodations and more likely that he’d skipped it altogether and was trying to eke out another 5 hours of subsistence on tea.

   In the early days, Kenobi made rounds of the tables, learning names, asking for the stories behind them, sharing a laugh and a kind smile. The Jedi was clearly painfully aware of how behavior at each table changed at his approach, so after some weeks he shifted tactics to sitting off at an empty table, idly browsing a datapad or staring at a wall, waiting for company to come to him. 

   Cody would sit with him sometimes, trying not to do so often enough to make it obvious what he was doing, and occasionally would drag a ragtag group of captains, ARCs, and Ghost Co. members over to flush out the conversation. It was these meals where he became acquainted with the more relaxed side of Kenobi, and learned that the man was at some times a consummate flirt; at other times, a dry, sarcastic, angry little SOB; and that above all, Kenobi was a showman. The other jedi Cody interacted with even hinted that his general's tendency towards dramatic flair while working with the GAR had nothing on how he behaved on Official Jetii Business. Thank the little gods. 

   The public has started calling him the Negotiator, which is apt; but Cody still doesn’t think it encompasses the total control he’s seen Kenobi exert over situation rooms and groups of people.  It’s not an overbearing, commanding control, but something quietly insistent that slips in around the edges of the room, until half the members are wrapped around the Jedi’s little finger and the other half are too busy suddenly warring with each other to notice. The flashes of drama are to inspire awe; the flirting and the crinkling smiles bring subconscious fondness; and when all else fails, his jetii can cut down an opponent with wit and words almost as fast as with a lightsaber. It’s masterful.

   For all his charm, though, Kenobi had always ended up largely alone at mealtimes, unless for Cody’s intervention - or his being joined by a medic, after they figured out that keeping the jedi company at meals was an excellent way to get him to sit still and submit to scans and vaccines or vitamin boosters.

 

   The campaign with Ghost Company changes everything. The first noon-meal after they make it back shipside Cody walks into the mess to find half his company plus a few bold shinies clustered around their General, listening with rapt attention as he recounts the story of his time on Mandalore with the young Duchess Kryze.

   One of the younger clones pipes up at a lull in the conversation. “So that’s where you learned Mando’a. And all your war strategy.”

   Kenobi laughs softly, moving to the side and gesturing Cody in to join him at the crowded bench, because of course he had noticed the commander’s hovering arrival. “Unfortunately, my friend - I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

   “C- ah, Whipper, sir.”

    “Whipper. Unfortunately I have been getting caught up in warzones far more often, and for a much longer time, than I care to think about, for a man raised supposedly as a peacekeeper.” The redhead’s mouth quirks in a sarcastic half-grin, fading into self-reflection.

    The clones wait a moment and Whipper presses on, bolstered by the silent encouragement of curious brothers. “You’ve been a general before us, sir?” 

    Kenobi looks at them sadly. “Perhaps not in so many words. You all have some knowledge of military history, correct?” 

    Cody answers this one. “The command class are the only ones to formally study military histories, sir. For tactical purposes. Although we usually pass on basic familiarity to the rest as stories.”

    Kenobi gives him a strangely fond glance. “Thank you, Cody. So are you, as a group, familiar with the most recent large-scale conflict on Melidaa/Daan?”

With their buckets off, it’s easier to watch the wave of recalling- recognition- horror/confusion pass around the table. Trapper frowns. “Wasn’t that… roughly two decades ago, sir? How… how old are you?”

Cody, too, is battling with confusion, because he is quite certain that Kenobi’s medical file puts him in his early 30s, which means that any involvement on the Melidaa/Daan system would have been…

The jedi laughs. “I am 32 standard, Trapper, thank you for asking. So, yes, it was nearly two decades ago. I was 13 and had recently been apprenticed to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn when we were sent to Melidaa-Daan to negotiate a peace treaty between the warring factions. As you know, there were a group of child freedom fighters called the Young working to create peace where their elders and the Jedi seemed unable to do so. When it became clear that my master and I would be unable to broker an end to the conflict, and he was unable or unwilling to take further action, I left the Jedi Order - temporarily, obviously, although I did not know it at the time - and stayed on-planet to help the Young, as I believed was the right thing to do. I suppose that was my first stint as any sort of military leader.” His voice is soft and sorrowful with the weight of remembrance. “And on my eventual return to the Order, I spent much of my free time learning history and tactics more formally, as a way to… reflect… on my time with the Young, my failures of inexperience there. I knew there were things I could have done better, had I been more prepared, so I… prepared myself. That is how I learned to lead a military.”

The clones (Cody included) are silent, dumbfounded, for a moment. Then the table explodes in a riot of questions.

Later, Cody reflects on this newest addition of child soldier to his general’s list of identities. He’d seen the shock ripple around the mess table and knows his vod’e will have had similar thoughts. 

Kenobi isn’t standing out to the clones, isn’t earning the right to be called vod, by being an exception to their preexisting idea of what makes a jedi. More like… Cody and his men were raised by the Kaminii in reverence to the jedi, these mysterious warrior-monks rumored to be the most righteous and excellent of beings. Then the war had started, and the 212th’s first impressions of jedi had been… lackluster, to say the least. To meet the order that they had been raised to believe was worth one million vod’e’s lives, and to have been frankly disappointed by both their skills and character, had been difficult for Cody. He’d tried to insulate the men from it as much as possible, but there was no way to be a perfect barrier between an army and its general no matter how he tried. 

Then, Kenobi had come along, had learned their names, had thrown himself ahead of them into every dangerous situation, had shared meals with them, fought with them, mourned with them. He wasn’t breaking the jetii mold, Cody thinks, so much as finally living up to it.

 

****

 

    Weeks-long hyperspace journeys, one after another with the same groups of men, reveal a lot about everyone involved, whether that person is a clone vod or a jetii general. Kenobi turns out to be a rampant perfectionist when it comes to combat, and although Cody has seen him in action a number of times now and believes him to be quite proficient, the jedi himself seems to feel that his skills are lacking.

His first forays into the training salles are as awkward as his initial attempts at mess-hall conversations: he finds a corner out of the way and practices katas and balance and strength exercises, moving fluidly through predescribed sets of poses and apparently trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. It doesn’t work, of course; the clones try to be subtle about it but they’re quite clearly distracted, losing focus from running drills or hand-to-hand sparring to observe.

Eventually, though, the katas and the handstands and the darting footwork become old-hat. The general is accepted as a sideshow to the normal training routine. 

The transit after the first time they face off with Ventress, the general appears in the salle fuming with anger and intensity rather than the normal calm focus, and he spends two hours perfecting the same set of jump- flip -spin-slash acrobatics that didn’t quite win him the duel in their previous engagement. It’s incredible to watch, especially for the shinies who haven’t been deployed with Kenobi yet. Cody watches the jedi work himself into exhaustion and eventually approaches the general, recognizing a certain frame of post-battle frustration that the clone commander and so many of his vod’e have experienced. “General Kenobi. Care for a hand-to-hand spar, sir?” It’s a little chancy - none of the clones have sparred directly with Jedi before, and neither party has made such an opening - but Cody is oddly confident about this.

Kenobi blinks, pushing sweaty auburn hair off his forehead, and then offers his commander a genuine smile. “Certainly. Let me just catch my breath.”

Thus begins the tradition of the general sparring with one or more of the senior officers most days in the salle, even if the infantry-class clones are still too afraid to approach.

 

The transit after a particularly difficult, blaster-fire riddled advance is the turning point that fully folds Kenobi into the training routine of the 212th. He appears in the gym, tense with his now-usual post campaign intensity, and calls Cody and the captain of Genie Company over. “Cody, Captain Adan. I feel that I haven’t been able to adequately shelter companies from blaster fire during the run-up to more heavily fortified positions and wanted to run a drill to practice.”

    Cody hesitates, but reasons that any attempt to disavow Kenobi of his self-deprecation is going to go nowhere, and nods. “We’re at your disposal, General. Did you have a particular drill in mind?”

    “I want to set up Genie Company and part of Ghost as a pseudo-droid platoon with training blasters, and have them fire on us while we make an approach with a smaller number of Ghost, to simulate being outnumbered. See if I can do a better job of being a blaster-reflective point so that we can progress from approach to close quarters.”

    It’s a simple drill, but Cody can see the appeal. Captain Adan is on the same page. “Sounds good to me, sir, I’ll call the company over and we can brief the men.”

    The briefing is quick and the clones attentive - particularly from Genie Company, who haven’t run drills with a jedi before. Kenobi concludes his short description and asks for questions.

    There’s a pause, some hidden unease sparking through the group of clones who will be acting as ‘droids’, and then a lieutenant hesitantly raises a hand. “General, Sir?”

    Kenobi nods at him, and the clone speaks again. “Will you be using a- a training lightsaber? We know you practice your forms with the real one, but given that we’re going to be simulating close-quarters here…” He trails off, assuming that his concern will have been made clear.

    Kenobi’s mouth twists briefly. “Unfortunately, Lieutenant, a stand-in lightsaber won’t work for this sort of drill. But I assure you that I will adjust the intensity on mine to be no more than a light burn if it were to touch you, and I won’t do anything more offensive than reflecting the blaster bolts and hand-to-hand disarmament when we engage.”

    The clone nods, but Cody can see his - and his company’s - lingering unease. It’s understandable; no clone would ever drill against his vod’e with a standard blaster, and for Kenobi to refuse the use of a training weapon in the same situation is… uncomfortable, for the clones. 

    The jedi also seems aware of the hesitation on the part of the men, even if they’ve apparently given up speaking out about it. He is thoughtful for a moment, and then steps toward the men. “Here, I see that I didn’t give a satisfactory explanation. You all learned some measure of staff fighting in your training, correct?” He doesn’t wait for a nod, but uses the force to summon a shortstaff off the wall and into his hands, handing it over to the questioning Lieutenant. “Give that a swing around, a couple moulinets.” 

    The clone is clearly a little confused but does as instructed, letting the staff swing around his body, spinning it idly in hand as they’ve seen the jedi do with his lightsaber.

    Kenobi nods, satisfied. “Very good.” He turns his attention to the assembled clones. “We all agree that Lieutenant Dann is able to handle the staff, and that it behaves as expected, yes?”

    There is a silent nod, confusion morphing to curiosity. Cody, too, crosses his arms and tips his head to the side, wondering where Kenobi is going with this.

    The jedi flicks on his lightsaber, blue blade springing out with the now-familiar hum. He holds the blade out to the lieutenant, nodding at the clone’s hesitation. “It’s alright, I’ve set it to the lowest intensity. Go on, take it.” 

    Dann takes the hilt gingerly, then swallows and tightens his grasp, making Cody wonder if the thing vibrates while it’s turned on. Kenobi gives a satisfied nod. “Go ahead and try some of the same forms.”

    The lieutenant holds out the blade and swings it in an arc, but the movement has lost all of its smoothness, his arm moving jerkily and too-fast, as if he had been waving his limbs in water before and had now transitioned to air. The clone tries a moulinet next, but instead of looping around and back into ready position, the saber wavers and almost slips out of the clone’s grasp. Frustrated and confused, Dann holds the weapon back out to Kenobi. “I dunno how you fight with that thing, sir.” 

    The jedi takes it and turns to address the group. “What I hope this little exercise will make clear is that the lightsaber doesn’t behave like any other sword-shaped weapon, and my wish to train with my real weapon and not a stand-in has nothing to do with disregard for your safety, and more to do with the fact that I can only legitimately train to use this weapon by using this weapon.” He spins the blade in his customary circles, it having suddenly regained its former grace in his hand. “A lightsaber blade has no weight, no heft. All of its mass is concentrated in the hilt. Imagine spinning a wooden staff in your hand. You rely on the weight of the blade to bring itself around, yes?

    “Standard forces like gravity don’t act on the blade of a lightsaber. It’s my interaction with the saber, with the kyber crystal inside, through the Force, that allows me to wield it as such.” He swings the saber in lazy loops and then up into a fast spin overhead. “An exercise in ‘saber fighting is as much an exercise in my communion with the Force-and with my lightsaber in particular-as it is an exercise in fencing form. And as such, a stand-in blade will only give me practice with one half of that skillset.” He switches the blade off and clips it to his belt, glancing around at the men. “Does that help my decision to make sense?”

 

***

 

After they run the drill several times, Cody waits for the rest of the men to clear out and head to the showers before he approaches the general. The jedi looks up, wiping across his forehead with a towel. “Cody- what can I do for you, Commander?”

    Cody clears his throat, suddenly a little self-conscious. “I just wanted to thank you, sir. For offering such a thorough explanation to the men.” The blue of the other man’s eyes seems too searching and the commander rests his gaze instead on the lightsaber hilt clipped to the man’s belt. “I know you could have just started the exercise without explanation, and you would have been within your rights to do so as General. I suppose I just… appreciate your concern for the mens’ comfort. Sir.” He can’t believe that Dann got to… hold the lightsaber, swing it around. It had been such an unusual thing to do for a Jedi, but also the single most effective way Kenobi could have communicated with the clones: through one of their brothers.

    Kenobi’s voice is soft. “Cody. You know I strive to never treat you as less than the men you are. It was the least I could do, and I hope you don’t feel obligated to thank me.” He pauses for a moment and his voice grows less careful, more amused. “You want to try it, don’t you.”

    Cody makes eye contact again, confused. “Sorry, sir?” 

    Kenobi unclips the blade, holds it out. “I don’t mind the curiosity.”

    “Sir, I really don’t-”

    The jedi laughs. “It’s just us in here, Cody, you can own up to a little imperfection.”

    Cody’s voice aborts in a little cough and he gives in, taking the hilt in his hands, thumbing the blade on. It jumps a little in his hand as the blue springs to life, and it’s not vibrating as much as he’d expected it to. It just feels… warm. And intense, like he’s holding some hardly contained pressure.

    Kenobi steps back, grinning, and Cody tries the moulinet, the easy in-hand spin that the jedi seems to do as a constant automatic motion. The hilt fumbles a little but doesn’t fall into the turn, and he has to force it awkwardly through the motion with his fingers, the blade sputtering a little instead of moving with the customary hum. 

    The jetii smirks. “Try it again and I’ll try to give it some weight, so to speak. So you can see how it’s supposed to feel.”

    Cody frowns and holds it in front of him in a ready position, and suddenly the blade does seem… not heavier, per se, but more substantial somehow. As if it’s come to life in his hands. He spins it and it moves exactly as he’d desired, pivoting as if under gravity and sliding back into his grasp, as if it wants to be in motion. The commander laughs a little absently, and then steps back into the ready come get me position that he sees Kenobi use at the start of every battle: right arm back and holding the ‘saber pointing forward over his head; left arm outstretched and pointing at Kenobi with two fingers.

    The jedi laughs warmly. “We’ll make a fencer of you yet.” He accepts the lightsaber back from Cody, stowing it away. “And now back to business, I’m afraid. I’ve a meeting with the council but will be doing paperwork from latemeal onwards. I’ve got tea for the both of us if you care to join.”

    Cody falls back into parade rest. “My pleasure, sir, I’ll come find you then.”

Chapter Text

Cody walks just off Kenobi’s shoulder as they make their way to their respective transports, the men of the 212th around them loading up with a good deal more casual bravado than usual. The commander supposes it’s only natural; many of their assaults are self-supported, but the attack on Geonosis is 4 battalions and 6 Jedi strong, counting the Padawans. Of course the numbers bolster their confidence. 

He switches his attention back to his general. “I wasn’t there for the first attack on Geonosis, sir.”

Kenobi snorts. “Well I can’t say you missed much,” he scoffs, reaching his gunship and stepping inside. “Last time I was chained to a pole and attacked by several large monsters.” A few of the men loading up next to him give the redhead a sideways glance but are silent.

Earlier in his tenure with Kenobi, Cody might have choked on his own spit at such a comment and then struggled for a response that was any sort of appropriate. Now, he just deadpans, “That…. sounds entertaining, sir.”

The general huffs. “It was. For the Geonosians.” The door slides shut and Cody continues to his own ride planetside, ready to drop in and get this over with.

 

***

 

He regrets his previously dismissive attitude as they come into range of the air defenses. Cody hangs his weight off the handrail bolted to the roof, not trusting his legs for anything approaching balance, and scowls as blasts rock his ship. The tanks hanging under them put the ship’s center of gravity significantly lower than where the men are standing, and so the floor rolls and pitches with a different cadence than he’s used to. If anything, the flak is picking up. And they said the drop would be the easy part of this mission. The bird lurches and he steadies a trooper who is flung against his arm. “Get the tanks on the ground, pilot! And then get clear!”

The drop ships do their job and he spills onto the orange Geonosian soil with his squad fanning out under their tank. They come under fire immediately and Cody curses bitterly in the confines of his bucket. It’s clear now that the gunners targeting their ships were waiting for them, and they hadn’t stumbled across some lucky automatic defense system. 

He flicks the comm lines open, first to Kenobi - “General Kenobi! Don’t land, sir, the zone is hot!” - and then to the three 212th companies in the process of landing around him; the clones on the ground snap to attention at his voice. “212th! Let’s get a perimeter set up, tanks and ships on the outside, supply crates in the center! Genie Company on ships, Siren on tanks, Ghost will float. Spread out the ammo so it can’t all go up at once!” 

The troopers spring into action as his earpiece crackles with an incoming transmission. “There's no where else to go! Cody, come in- What’s the-”

It’s Kenobi, but as he speaks there’s a sharp crack and several muffled thumps in the background. Cody hears the jedi grunt as if the air’s been forced out of him, and then “Blast, we’re hit. We’re coming down hot, Commander, we’re going to undershoot your position by at least a k.” 

The comm crackles out and Cody swears again, pulling up field glasses and scanning the sky for the last-arriving transports. He spots the one that must have been Kenobi’s quickly; it looks like the bugs got a direct hit on the cockpits, and without a live pilot the ship is going to ground at a much steeper angle than nominal. He feels tension form itself into heavy dread and settle like silt in the pit of his stomach, overlaying the ever-present resigned horror at his men dying like so much anonymous flotsam. A few seconds later a plume of dust and smoke goes up.

He draws himself back to his present location, forcing in a measured breath. He’s seen Jedi die before, in less dangerous circumstances than this, but Kenobi had always been different. The man had a talent for beating the odds; it seems wrong for him to be taken out by something as mundane as getting shot down during a drop.

Cody realizes suddenly that he very much wants the general to have pulled through the crash, in a way that is more personal than how he’d wanted to keep any of his previous jedi alive: at some point he has unconsciously stopped simply wanting to be paired with a competent general, and grown the assumptive hope that he would work with none but Kenobi until the end, whatever that end may be.  He squints at the plume, trying to puzzle out odds, trying to weigh the risk of sending out a retrieval team - surely he’s alive - while the men guide the last of the troop carriers into their protective circle. 

There is a gradual lull in the oncoming blaster fire; the enemy seems to have taken their advance behind a natural rock formation and Cody assumes they intend to swarm out on either side. His captains are taking advantage of the time to regroup and adjust their perimeter lines. He has a feeling they’re about to be surrounded. General Mundi’s and General Skywalker’s ships are nowhere to be seen and he prays they haven’t been blasted out of the sky. “Cody-Rex, come in?” 

A crackle, and then a staticky, broken up transmission filters through: “Cody! Sorry vo- … -down way outside the rendezvous, saw General Mundi but- … - lotta bugs - … - couple hours.”

The commander huffs in both relief and exasperation: the first because his brothers are still out there fighting; the second because now he has to hold the rendezvous until they’re able to fight their way to it.

“Adan. Slate. Captain’s meeting.” He motions the company leaders over and they gather around the pile of crates at the center of their holdout, where he greets them - and Kipper, Ghost Company’s medic - with grim nods. “Gentlemen. As you’ve noticed, none of the generals achieved the rendezvous, and Kenobi’s ship went down just over that dune with no contact since. I’ve just heard from Rex that his squad got forced down and are trying to fight their way here, but… frankly, it’s going to be a while.”

His captains take it in stride, Adan setting a portable holo down on the crate and flicking it on to display their little pocket of resistance in miniature. “Sir, I sent up a recon drone - looks like these droids are going to pop out from behind those rocks on both our north and east sides within the next ten minutes. Then we’ve got another group of bugs and droids coming at us with tanks from the west. This is going to get ugly.” 

A heavy silence falls as they all stare at the map. Slate finally asks, “Did Rex say how long?”

“The transmission was spotty. But… on the order of hours, not minutes.”

Adan gives a humorless chuckle. “That’s a tall ask, sir.”

Cody sighs agreement, then motions to the hologram. “Send sniper teams out to here and… here. We’ll try to pick off some of the tanks early.”

“Yessir.” Slate pauses. “Are you sending retrieval to the general’s squad, sir? No way a full squad makes it out that far without getting blasted.”

“I was going to send a scout team.” Cody hopes they don’t ask him not to. The training handbook would dictate that he wait to send a team until he got proof of life, but… those are his men and his general. It’s Kenobi .

Thankfully the captains nod. “I’ll send over Waxer and Boil,” Slate suggests, and then more hesitantly, “I… I hope he’s alive. It would be good for the men to see him come back.”

Cody opens his mouth to respond when an enemy blaster bolt flings through their perimeter and hits the dust at his feet, scorching the toe of his boot and making his toes tingle. The clones flinch and he snaps around as their moment of respite comes to an end. “Guess that’s our cue. Dismissed, Captains.” 

The two salute as one and sprint off to their stations as the hoards appear and the battle picks up in earnest. 

 

***

 

After he sends them out with warnings to stay under cover, it takes Waxer and Boil nearly a half hour to reach Kenobi’s downed gunship. Cody makes himself busy helping Kipper set up a makeshift medbay in the most sheltered of their gunships and directing one of his sergeants to get better comms up. He and the medic pause periodically to check the progress of his scout team, Cody scowling as he watches them disappear out of sight just in time for a droid tank to roll by. The return trip with wounded men is going to be hell. “I should have gone with them,” he mutters lowly.

He receives a sharp glare from his medical officer. “You’re needed here, sir, and you know it. Let Waxer and Boil do their job. They would’ve volunteered if you hadn’t sent them.”

The clone commander grits his teeth and stands to make the rounds of their perimeter, ducking in besides each pocket of his men in turn, tapping shoulders, shooting a stray bug off one of his tank gunners, helping a clone with a fresh leg wound away from the blast zone of the perimeter edge. Kipper is right in that his duty as commander is to be here , leading, but it rankles to send his men on a deep retrieval while he stays tucked behind their lines. 

Adan hails him. “Fresh recon, sir. We’re holding ok for now, but there’s more on the way. We picked up their comms for a bit before they sliced us out again and they’re going to call in more tanks and a bomb run.”

Cody takes a measured breath. Tactician he may be, but there’s only so much one can do when surrounded by an endless hoard in what is mostly open desert. “We just have to hold it, Captain. Reinforcements will come.” He deliberates a moment and adds, “Call the snipers back in if there’s a good opportunity to do so.”

 

The captain salutes, returning to his post, and Cody steps back to Kipper’s side as the medic drops his binoculars back to his belt. “They’ve got him, sir. General Kenobi. And… Trapper.”

Cody’s puff of relief is cut short, choked off into a horrified desire to have misunderstood. “Just the two?” There had been 17 men on that ship. At Kipper’s nonresponse he trains his own binoculars on the distance, quickly locating his scouts not so much supporting as dragging Trapper and Kenobi from cover to pocket of cover, slowly making their way back to the circle. 

Another long wait, then. Cody goes back to the lines, instructing the medic over his shoulder to call him when the retrieval group is within a klick, and goes to one knee in the shadow of a tank, trying to find solace in the familiar sight-breathe-fire of a pitched blaster battle. 

 

The bugs swooping toward them make this a more challenging defense than against the usual land-bound droids alone. Even flight-capable droids tend to move with some level of predictability unless they are of the very highest quality, but the Geonosian troops are both fast and random. Cody sinks into the moment, allowing the more animal side of his brain to guide his body, trusting in his instinct and gut reaction to drive his shots home. His logical brain uses the relative reprieve to wander down threads of the futility of this war, punctuated by the obvious realization that not even the Jedi are safe from the statistics governing a soldier’s life. The droids continue to come, an endless flow of destructive machinery, and Cody’s brothers continue to die, and one day the odds will fall against him or Kenobi or any other individual one of them in kind and it will be over.

Unless we cut them off at the source, he reminds himself savagely, remembering why Geonosis was such a priority target. 

His comm blinks to life, recalling him to the moment. It’s Kipper. “They’re about 750m out, sir, but it’s a long run over open ground.”

The commander jumps to his feet, calling a small squad after him and pointing out where he can see Waxer’s helmet bobbing out of a ditch. “Get out there and give them some cover!”

When Kenobi makes it to their perimeter, he’s alive and still has all his limbs. Cody can’t really say much more for him than that; he’s limping heavily, sagging off his escort’s shoulder, one side of his face bruised and bloody.

The commander relieves the scout trooper. “General. Are you injured?” It’s really a rhetorical question; he’s already signalling Kipper to treat for shock as he helps the shorter man to a seated position at his makeshift command center, back against a crate. 

“Nothing too serious.” The red-haired man accepts the first hypo injection with a tilt of his head, although he murmurs, “No painkillers, please,” to the medic after, presumably wanting to avoid any mental fog. “What’s the situation here, Commander?”

Cody gestures at their little circle of tanks and gunships. “Well, sir, Generals Skywalker and Mundi didn’t make it to the rendezvous, as you can see. But we’ve been able to make limited contact with Captain Rex and established that they’re on the ground and trying to fight their way here.”

Kenobi closes his eyes briefly, tipping his head back against the crates, and then offers Cody a tired attempt at his usual cocky smirk. “Well then, I suppose we’ll just have to make sure we’re still here when they arrive.”

His comm bleeps again - Captain Adan. “Commander, sir, got a situation for you.” The man sounds nervous, even over radio. 

“Right there, Captain.” He points a finger at Kenobi, preemptively aborting the jedi’s movement to stand and follow him. “You stay down, sir, you’re injured. You can try hailing the other generals.” 

 

He trots up next to his captain a second later. “What is it?”

Adan salutes shortly and hands him a datapad showing the readout from their one remaining recon droid, which is zipping around somewhere high overhead hoping to avoid detection. “Remember the bomb run I mentioned earlier, sir?” 

Cody sweeps his eyes over the screen, unpracticed at interpreting the shifting lines of data. “ETA? How many?”

“A few minutes, sir. And just one, but… it’s big. We’re not going to be able to take out the shields before it’s on top of us.” 

Cody hears what he’s not saying, which is that his battalion is essentially sitting ducks, and cold furious fear curls through his abdomen. The ships that dropped the tanks are gone, so he can’t get half his troops off the ground if he tried to evac, and even if he could they would be overwhelmed the minute they stopped firing against the land assault currently blasting them from all sides. “Fuck.”

A pale hand lands on his shoulder: Kenobi, having ignored his directive to stay put. “What’s happening?” 

He passes the readout to the jedi. “Bomber incoming. From the southwest. Probably looking to hit us and then move on to take out the other battalions.”

Kenobi looks up, staring into Cody’s visor in a way that makes the bucket feel nonexistent, the jedi’s expression unreadable. He hands the ‘pad back to Adan with a short, “Keep the men’s spirits up, Captain. We aren’t done yet,” and walks towards their southwest line. 

Cody trails after him. He can see the spot on the horizon now, their death creeping closer with every inch bigger that it grows in his field of view. His earlier ruminations on survival seem stupidly abstracted now that he feels how the odds have been falling out of his favor since he left the Negotiator this morning and he hadn’t even known it. “Sir, do you have a plan?” His voice is layered with uncharacteristic desperation, because if it had been anyone else he wouldn’t have bothered to ask, but Kenobi is Kenobi and he’s touched with something like fate.

Kenobi trails to a halt about 5 meters away from their line, staring out into the middle distance through a gap between two gunships. The bomber is big enough now to start to make out individual features. “No plan, commander. Just a hope,” the jedi murmurs, and he reaches out his left hand towards the bomb ship. 

Time slows and the battle sounds fade from Cody’s mind as he watches Kenobi’s hand flex and his fingers curl, tendons straining from his knuckles, and in the near distance the bomber dips and angles to ground. The commander sees it start to go down and his breath catches in his chest as the enemy ship’s engines flare, trying to regain height and momentum for a safe payload drop and for an instant he nearly sees the jetii winning the struggle for gravity, his eyes closed now and his outstretched hand trembling-

He sees the moment Kenobi gives up, not completely but enough , the jedi’s eyes snapping back open blue and bloodshot and his face a mask of ashamed horror as he whispers heavily, “...can’t- I can’t do it-” and his arm is still outstretched but the bomber regains control, banking nearly overhead to come back around and take them out for good from its intended safer altitude. 

Kenobi reels, his eyes unfocused in distant failure, and Cody growls at him, grabbing a shoulder, shaking the slighter man roughly because why not? they are dying. “You have to. You have to! Bring it down, bring it all the way down or they’re going to circle back and kill us all.” Before, Cody wouldn’t have bothered, but now he has been shown possibility and he does not want to die today, not on this most overstaffed of assaults, not going out because of some botched attempt at a manpower-fueled route of a factory .

Blue eyes focus on him more sharply even as the rest of the jedi’s expression closes off into a numb shock, and Kenobi renews his attention to the bomber, grasping at nothing, pulling down, down, down on the already-low right wing of the banking ship. The general is breathing heavily out his mouth, his body curling over on itself even as his gaze and outstretched arm remain trained on the enemy ship, and his other hand comes up to land on Cody’s shoulder, seeking support or stability there.

The clone’s HUD zooms in helpfully on the bomber as it fights for altitude, passing over some rocky bluffs, and so he sees when Kenobi stops pulling down on the right wing and suddenly pushes up. The sudden direction change combined with their own engine power dedicated to regaining control is enough to tip the left wing into the cliffs, engine scraping and then blowing, enough to set off the payload. Their certain death evaporates in a ball of white fire.

Cody turns trancelike to his jetii, who is attempting to stagger into a more vertical standing position. He’s as pale as a shiny’s armor, lending a terrible contrast to the twin streams of blood trickling bright from his nostrils and the purple bruises down his right cheek and jawline. The commander surges into motion as Kenobi’s knees start to collapse, quickly wrapping an arm around the other man’s torso to catch him, which causes the general to gasp wetly - “ribs-” before vomiting on the clone’s boots.

Adjusting his hold slightly, Cody leads his general back to the crates, settles him on the ground with a flask of water, and this time Kenobi makes no attempt to follow him as he stalks back to the perimeter lines, the jetii’s eyes gone wide and distant once more. Cody accepts the wordless relief of his captain’s grasp on his forearm and inserts himself back into the fray alongside Adan and Waxer and Longshot and all the rest. When it seems like they will finally be overrun, he sees the nearly token attempt Kenobi makes to rise and ignite his lightsaber, falling heavily back to ground as reinforcements arrive; sees how he doesn’t so much as stand when Skywalker arrives with all the rest, and sees how he neatly cuts himself out of the edited plans for the next phase of their assault. 

The commander sees how the jedi’s indomitable will seems to have finally fractured, but when concern-fear-guilt whispers out of nothing, he forces it from his mind. He buries the unwelcome emotions under the grey screen of battle fever, the layered voices of his men, the smells of sweat and dust and blood and anger, the piercing clarity of his blaster hitting true. 

They have run the gauntlet and survived once more. Kenobi will recover, as will Cody, as will all those who faced the odds and pushed through. The commander clings to that thought with the grip of a drowning man, because if it ceases to hold true in his mind, he’s not sure he’ll be able to keep leading his men into these endless deadly hells. We will fight, we will survive, we will recover, he thinks on loop, until the mantra simplifies to a haze of we will we will we will.

Chapter Text

Cody lands back on the Negotiator at 2200 local time, the 212th disembarking and wearily trudging off to showers and bunks alongside him, happy to have left the desert nightfall for the starkly clean hallways and standardly familiar barracks up shipside. Torrent Company, on leave with Skywalker from the full 501st, is doing the same further down the landing bay, while Generals Unduli and Mundi have gone back to their own flagships, troops in tow. 

His comm shows no new messages and he’s just finished filing the last of the casualty and damage reports, stowing his field ‘pad back on his belt, as Cody’s boots hit the deck and he deliberates briefly between following his men towards the ‘freshers and heading directly to the medbay. 

His general had been brought up some 10 hours earlier at Kipper’s insistence, and had been submerged in a full bacta tank nearly all of that time, according to their head medical officer Helix; he was due to be released to rest in the next twenty minutes or so. Cody figured he should be there to debrief Kenobi before the clone took his rest. They had won the day’s battle but the rest of the planet-wide assault struggled on, and Cody doubted that Kenobi would be sitting shipside when they redeployed tomorrow morning. His jetii would probably appreciate an update so that he could sit on it before the planning meeting happening in less than 10 hours, and to review damages, and if Cody were thorough enough maybe he wouldn’t sit up all night reading reports… 

    The commander scowls to himself, realizing that all logic aside, he mostly just wants to check on the general, because he’s never seen Kenobi’s spirits brought to such lows in battle, and because- well, this one’s a little more selfish, but if the Kaminii trainers had been present on the ground today they probably would have been putting Cody up for court-martial for some of his words, and of course he’s not worried about that with his jetii but it would still be best not to leave that dangling… 

    A hand lands on his shoulder, breaking him out of his reverie, and he turns to find Rex standing squarely in his space, looking haggard and dusty with blood smudged into the blonde over his left temple. “ Su cuy’gar, Rex,” he greets softly. Loud voices hurt after battles.

    Rex just drops his hand from Cody’s shoulder. “Have a drink with me.”

    He frowns at the captain, because why now? and they both need showers and sleep and he needs to see Kenobi and the night is so short. “Rex’ika, I-”

    The blond captain sags, his shoulders and spine slumping into a grossly poor posture, and something cracks a little in his usually steady honey-brown gaze. “ Kote. Please.”

    The commander silently berates himself for not having seen the need , before. “We should wash up, first,” he offers, steering Rex bodily into the hallway towards the showers, “and then I have some spiced ale in my cabin.” He’s not going to be responsible for either of them tomorrow if they partake of Torrent’s famous malt liquor.

 

His vod doesn’t look so bad with the dirt and blood and sweat scraped from his skin, the heat of the water having brought a little more healthy color back to his face, and they settle onto Cody’s bunk with backs against the wall as the commander cracks open two bottles. Rex accepts one gratefully and takes a long pull before tipping his head back to stare into some middle distance.

Cody waits him out, sipping at his own drink, settling into a gentle sprawl against the corner of his bunk.

The captain finally breaks his silence, his voice curiously loud and brash in the small room, as if the words are forced out too hard. “General Skywalker- he threw me off a fucking cliff.”

Cody sits forward a little, brows furrowed, certain he’s misunderstood. “He… what?”

Rex swallows another gulp of ale and his voice settles to a calmer tone. “We went up on this… wall of a fortress, that one from the briefing this morning? That we weren’t supposed to hit? And we set charges to blow the thing and needed to get to ground level fast. The commander asked if I was ready and before I even realized what was going on-” Rex breaks off and flings a hand up in the air, tipping his head back against the wall again. “Not even like a… gentle drop… I think they needed me to land after them, to catch me when they jumped down, so he threw me up.”

    The captain takes another moment to huff out a breath and take a pull from his bottle, and Cody drinks with him, watching out of the corner of his eye while he frantically tries to think of how he’s going to address this

    The blonde continues after a moment. “I was only about the height of my bucket above the ground when I stopped falling. Thought I was kriffing dead. Thought they fucking killed me. Told them next time I’d just jump and I think they thought it was a joke.” He turns wounded, young-looking eyes on Cody. “Is this on me? I thought I trusted them, but… do I not trust enough ? Has Kenobi ever... ?”

    Cody huffs out a breath, tumbling half-responses around in his mind. “No… this isn’t on you, vod . Or- I would have reacted the same, with no warning. Little gods .” He takes a swallow. “D’you want me to do anything about it?” He’s not certain what, exactly, he might do; but for Rex he would do something. Probably one or two somethings. 

    Rex shakes his head and tips his bottle back to drain the rest, reaching for another pair of drinks despite Cody lagging in pace. “No, I’ll handle it. I just… it was like I was some dumb piece of junk, like a droid or a gun, you get me?” The anger is rising back in his voice a little. “Imagine if Yularen was on the wrong side of the bridge halfway through a battle and Skywalker just tossed him across because it was easy. The nat-borns would raise kriffing hells.”

    Cody drains his first bottle in response and reaches for the second, expression souring because, well, Rex is right. “We both know that line of thought’s a dead end,” he just mutters, but he rests a hand on the captain’s shoulder for a moment, in solidarity, in agreement. “I don’t think Skywalker thinks of you as just another body though. I think they’re thinking of us more as one of them now. Fighting with us like they would another of their own.” He hopes his optimism will be taken as what it is- a search for silver linings- and not as a dismissal of Rex’s dismay. “He’s caught Kenobi like that before.”

Rex sighs. “I know. I know he meant well, and logically I know he was always going to catch me, I just… it was so fast. And it sucked.”

Cody laughs. “Yea.”

They finish the second pair of drinks fast enough, neither man prone to dwelling too long on an issue once it’s been addressed, Rex’s tone of voice falling easier even if their talk doesn’t move to lighter subjects. The captain stands with a yawn after tipping the empty bottle to his mouth one last time. “Alright. Time for sleep, see you in the AM, Commander.” With a last, “...thanks, Kote,” he disappears through the doorway.

 

Cody takes a minute to stand and stretch - and damn, two heavy beers on an empty stomach after a long day fighting was touching him a little more than he’d like to admit - and resets his sights on his previous mission with a put-upon sigh, pulling on his boots and a clean long-sleeve and striding out towards the med-bay.

Kenobi is, of course, no longer present; Helix had cleared him to return to his own quarters to rest, and so Cody’s body autopilots him across the ship until he’s standing at the general’s door, hand raised in hesitation - should he knock? The jedi could be sleeping, although Cody would bet his bucket that he isn’t, and the commander is no gambler. 

He’s saved by his general’s muffled voice calling out from within the room. “Cody, is that you?” The door slides open without preamble and the clone’s hand falls awkwardly to his waist as he takes a half-step to stand in the doorway before he stalls out. “Sir. Um. Helix patch you up ok?”

Kenobi is sitting at his desk at the far end of the cabin when Cody half-enters, and at this he sets something- a rock?- down on the desk and swivels to face the clone with one eyebrow raised slightly. “Certainly, he was as ruthless with the bacta as ever.” The corner of the jedi’s mouth twitches in a semblance of a grin. “Good as new, Commander.”

Cody’s eyes flick to the corners of the room and then back to his jetii. “I suppose you’ve already reviewed the reports,” he mutters, because this wasn’t the conversation he came here to have.

Kenobi meets his gaze silently for a moment longer and then stands with a bemused sigh, moving to collect his teapot and a spare cup and setting them down on the low sitting table. “I have. You’d best come in, Cody.” He settles in one of the round chairs where they sometimes sit to plan missions and gestures to another.

Cody sinks into the cushion stiffly. He hates the round chairs; they curve under his legs and back and make it hard to maintain a straight spine or otherwise keep good posture, and he can’t bring himself to copy Kenobi and curl into them like some overgrown feline.

The jedi presses a steaming mug of tea into his hands and then leans back, blowing over his own in cupped hands as he studies the clone. 

Cody sips the warm drink to buy himself another moment before speaking. “I know you’ll tell me it was nothing, sir, but I ought to apologize for, ah, yelling at you on the field.”

Kenobi’s face is very purposefully still. “Well. You did already say I’d tell you it was nothing.”

They watch each other for a few more moments. Cody’s mind tumbles uneasily in the silence, sharp edges made the slightest bit fuzzy by alcohol, thrown off by something about this room. The steam off the tea seems heady and hypnotic for some reason. “Sir, are you alright?” he suddenly blurts out.

His jetii’s expression flashes surprise-alarm for a heartbeat before settling back to neutral. “I was in full bacta for 9 hours, Cody, I’m fully healed. And quite rested. But I do appreciate your concern.”

Cody doesn’t like to get bold at superiors very often, but when he does he figures he should make it count. “No, sir, I mean are you-” he gestures up around his own head- “ -alright.” Something about the little bit of defensive reticence he’s getting from the other man is bothering him.

Kenobi’s face falls a little with a quiet sigh through his nose. “If this is about not… fully dealing with the bomber, the first time, then… Cody, I can apologize, certainly, but I don’t know-”

    “It’s not,” Cody cuts him off. He isn’t entirely sure how he feels about that yet either, but it can wait. “You don’t need to try and guess what’s on my mind, sir. I only came down because I thought there might be something on yours.” And there’s the truth, Cody thinks, praying it doesn’t bite him in the shebs

    “Oh.” Kenobi shifts his eyes away from Cody’s, choosing instead to stare into the shadows of his sleeping-rack. “I was worried that might have shaken your confidence in me, I suppose.”  The jedi takes another moment in silence before continuing in a softer voice than before. “Anakin… he could have pulled it out of the sky as easy as picking fruit from a tree, if he wanted badly enough. For all my purported finesse I’ll never be able to match him for raw power.”

    Cody frowns. “Give yourself some credit, sir, you were badly hurt. And you did bring it down eventually.”

    His general laughs hollowly. “Hardly. I just turned it a little. At the opportune moment.” His eyes find Cody’s again, pinched and stormy-blue with some sad tension. “Honestly, Cody, I’m not sure I’d have even tried had I not been so… out of sorts after our landing,” he admits. “To use the Force to crash entire ships is… not the jedi way, I don't think. I worry what sort of man I’ll be at the end of this war, if it has me wandering so readily into the grey areas of my morality.”

    The clone’s jaw clenches briefly in a burst of frustration. “To be frank, sir, I might be equally as concerned if the vod’e’s lives weren’t worth a little of that grey area to their C/O.”

    Kenobi flinches. “Ach, I’m sorry, Commander, I didn’t mean… I guess I just mean to say that historically speaking, Force-users with access to power and little to no sense of morality have been very bad for everyone in the galaxy.”

    “Oh. Of course, sir.” Cody mumbles softly. He hadn’t realized the general was going so far as to think of himself in comparison to the dar’jetii. He struggles for his next words, feeling not enough an authority on jetiise matters to directly validate Kenobi’s actions. “For whatever it’s worth, I’m glad you did what you did. But… we can try to plan away from those situations best we can, for next time.”

    Kenobi shoots him a look that’s both grateful and incredibly weary. “We’ll do what we can, I suppose. So many of these situations seem impossible to exert any control over. The crash-” His gaze goes distant again and he swallows thickly before continuing, his voice thin. “The crash was awful. I tried to cushion it somewhat and… I couldn’t do much, and the men… There were five others who survived the impact, besides Trapper, but I couldn’t do anything for them besides trying to dull the pain.”

    Cody lets the jedi's voice sink into silence before leaning over to place a hand on the general’s shoulder, as he’d done for Rex earlier. He, too, has held brothers as they’ve passed before; there are no words for it.

    Kenobi composes himself again before meeting Cody’s eyes. “Do you not worry about what it’s doing to you? As a man?”

    The clone sits back, thoughtful. “I was brought into existence for and because of this war,” he says hesitantly. “I think… maybe in the beginning, the only reasons I had for being me were my training and my missions. But now I’m in a position to do good for my brothers, for other people- and the further away from my training I get, the more autonomy I get to make choices that benefit the vod’e, the Republic. So... I'm not happy that it's a war giving me those opportunities, but given that it's going to go on regardless-” Cody pauses, brow furrowed. “Seems like we’re at odd ends, sir. You’re a kind leader, a loyal brother, worried about your growing opportunities to be a worse man. I’m just now getting the chance to choose to be a good one.” The words feel silly and too much the minute they finish coming out of his mouth and Cody cringes a little inwardly, wondering when he started daring to philosophize at a jetii of all people. 

    Kenobi doesn’t meet him with criticisms, though; he makes a soft sad noise in his throat before reaching over to squeeze Cody’s wrist briefly, his fingers cold and pale against the warm brown of the commander’s skin. “Thank you, Cody. I’m… glad you’re working with me,” he finally whispers.

    Cody coughs, suddenly wary of the familiarity that has crept up between them without his notice; it would be too easy to forget right now that Kenobi is not like Rex, like Wolffe, like Ponds. “Likewise, sir.” It’s too late and he’s too tired and Kenobi should also be sleeping; he should go. “I should be catching some shuteye before tomorrow.”

    As the clone gets to his feet, Kenobi’s gaze turns curious. “Oh- one other thing, Commander. Ah… Is Cody actually your name?” His tone is cast as a question but holds the slightly accusatory weight of already having an answer.

    Cody cocks his head. “As much as any other, now. I had a mando’a name first, as a cadet - Kote. Most of the vod’e I trained with use it still.”

    Kenobi blinks. “I heard Rex speaking to you when they caught up to us on the ground,” he says, almost apologetically. “Where did… why did you choose it?” 

    It’s Cody’s turn to gaze at the wall, thinking back to his years of endless white walls and training simulations. “Jango Fett gave it to me, actually. Fox and I were batchmates and always competing for top marks in our command class, and after one particularly intense and drawn-out field sim exercise- he said Fox was most like him in the present, but... that I was most like what he had been, when he was a Mandalorian. So. Manda glory.” Cody’s mouth pinches ruefully. “Sometimes I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not.” It isn't a story he's shared with many outside of Rex and the other CC's who were there to witness.

    Kenobi digests this with a few flickers of expression before rolling the word off his tongue, testing it out. “Kote.” It sends a curious little jolt of warmth down Cody’s spine before the jedi asks, “Why didn’t you keep it?” The clone hears another question left unspoken, hiding behind his words- why didn't you tell me?

    Cody scoffs. “I tried at first. No one could pronounce it. Or just didn’t hear it well enough, more used to Basic than Mando'a. So my first jetii renamed me Cody on accident, and- yeah. It was just easier, nothing personal.”

    Kenobi’s smile softens to sadness again. “Ah. Thank you for humoring me. I won’t keep you from your bunk any longer.”

    “No problem, sir. Have a good night.”

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Cody bounces around Coruscant for several days while the general finishes up his politicking, spending his mornings in the barracks gym, his afternoon filing forms out of a spare chair in Kenobi’s planetside office, his evenings wandering through the lower levels with Rex, Ponds, Fox. A benefit to being an officer in the Coruscant Guard is that most establishments in this part of the planet will serve Fox for free, in return for the commander’s tacit willingness to turn a blind eye to much of the seedier traffic flowing through the doors. Cody hasn’t eaten so well for so many days in a row in perhaps his entire life. 

In the afternoons when the sun comes through the window of the Jedi’s office and illuminates the plants on the shelves and the unwashed teacups on the general’s desk, when Cody walks leisurely to find more caf and his body hurts only from his morning exercise, he wonders if this really is what everyday life is for most of the galaxy. 

The Kaminoans must have baked war deep into his soul, because he doesn’t think he would be able to stand it for long. Even so, when the Negotiator arrives and he and Kenobi board the ship with a new mission to review and a fresh squad of shinies to break in on their way through hyperspace, he finds himself missing his little taste of peace.

They get underway and hold a brief all-hands mission meeting with the nat-born commodore and his staff. Cody is a little surprised Kenobi hasn’t replaced Admiral Yularen, who had finally been formally traded over to the 501st, leaving the clone commander the highest ranking officer on the ship. ( “Maybe he’ll be able to keep Anakin’s recklessness in hand better than I,” Kenobi had laughed, and Cody had responded “He might have a chance, sir, as long as you’re not around to keep feeding it-”)  

Cody hasn’t seen much of Kenobi the last couple weeks. Since before Mandalore, really. So he’s a bit surprised when the general trails him out of the bridge all the way to the mess, grabbing the clone’s arm as he reaches for a cup and the pot of caf sitting under the percolator. “Wait, I picked up some nicer grounds back planetside. I was going to knock out my admin work this afternoon, join me? I’ll make you a cup.”

Silently warring with himself, Cody turns to face the jedi. “I finished mine on Coruscant, sir.” It’s the only thing to say, because he shouldn’t be pleased at the invitation, he shouldn’t have missed the general, he shouldn’t want to go anyway and sit in the jedi’s quarters like he’s sitting with Rex at 79’s. 

Kenobi twitches a tiny frown at him. “Oh. Of course. Well… would you want to help me with mine?”

That’s an acceptable reason. “Sure,” and then, “...didn’t you just get on General Skywalker’s case for making Rex do all his forms?” 

Kenobi sniffs haughtily. “Well, I no longer have a padawan to set an example for. And before you accuse me of being entirely like Anakin, please recall that I’m not making you cover for me whilst I engage in a poorly-hidden ‘secret’ romance.” 

Cody groans. “Please don’t, sir.”

 

They settle in and work quietly for a time - the caf really is better - before Kenobi sets his datapad aside, throwing one leg over the other and steepling his fingers to look over them at Cody. “I want to try the battle meditation with two full companies again.”

The commander flicks his eyes off the ‘pad and up to his general. “The full companies, sir? Are you sure?” They’ve been working at the technique still - using it only on the squadron working immediately with Kenobi when missions are more taxing for the Jedi, but slowly adding more troops during standard ground battles. They’d realized early on that if the connection was fostered between too many different troops or different squads it led to information overload; Kenobi had altered his technique to only create awareness between troops who were actively working together, which worked well but required significantly greater mental overhead on the jedi’s part.

Kenobi absently dips a finger into his teacup, checking the temperature. “It seems like an ideal opportunity. Simple troop movements and big groups and all.”

“Fair enough. We can place all the shinies in Slate’s company for now so you won’t have to work with unfamiliar men?” 

“Ah, yes, that would be helpful.”

“I’ll let the men know.” 

They lapse back into silence, attention moving back to the datapads, until Kenobi breaks it once more. “How are they? ...the men? I realize I’ve been quite absent these past weeks. I hope I didn’t leave you too overloaded, running things.”

“Uh- no, sir, of course not. Happy to do it.” Cody’d had a few late nights, sure, but nothing bad. “The men are… good? They’re good. Ready to get back to it.” 

It must be the right thing to say, because Kenobi gives him one of those crinkle-eyed smiles and says lightly “I really don’t deserve you, Commander,” and Cody is silent because he doesn’t have a response for that one at all.

 

***

 

They drop out of hyperspace and get boots on the ground a few days later. The Republic has been working this planet over for some time now, but most of the forces (on both sides of the conflict) are tied up in the opposite hemisphere. The 212th has been scrambled to drop in and overwhelm the last Separatist stronghold, a major airbase, on one of the major landmasses while it’s left relatively undefended. 

Cody lands his men a couple klicks south of the target, out of range of any anti-aircraft defenses and up on a small plateau overlooking a long run of brushy broken up land for them to make their approach. The enemy sees them land and within 15 minutes he gets word that they’re rushing to dispatch what droids and tanks they have to head the clones off. He calls in his officers.

“Alright, men, clock’s on and we’re going to be hot within the hour. Slate, have your company finish setting up the big guns here and then fan out on either side of our base, make sure they can’t get around behind us. Adan, we’re taking Ghost and Genie Companies with half the tanks straight up the middle with the general. Waxer, Boil, scouts will flank the main attack on walkers. Anything to add, sir?” 

He addresses the last at Kenobi, who’s just arrived, but the jedi just shakes his head. “No, let’s just assemble the attack force out front before we advance.”

“Yessir!” 

The officers scramble and his battalion forms up around Cody like a well-oiled machine. Kenobi sweeps his robe off his shoulders, balling it up and tossing it carelessly into an open gunship, and then dramatically sweeps an arm towards the airbase where the two companies are grouping up. “After you, Commander.”

Cody snaps off a little two fingered salute - “My pleasure, General”- and they jog out to join the men.

Kenobi always starts the meditations this way: the troops gathered, still, waiting; a moment to collect themselves before the march. The jedi says that some of the men take to it more easily than others; that their sensitivities to the new awareness vary. So the general takes this pre-battle pause to come to an equilibrium with each of the men he’s connecting, letting each of them find their balance in the web. When the now-familiar background presence of the general has settled light like a fallen ember in his head, Cody raises an arm and they move out as one.

They hit the droids soon enough and the clones fall into the familiar rhythms of battle. Their strategy here relies less on cleverness and more on superior numbers, so the advance turns into a scattered melee sluggishly crawling towards the target, their forward progress slow but steady. Cody and the general range across the front contact line and the commander scans the shifting battlefield, eyeing pockets of cover, looking for weak points, radioing microstrategy adjustments out to his commanders. He snipes off droid after droid from behind the fan of Kenobi’s lightsaber, and his men dart seamlessly through the overgrown brush and the broken ground, moving as one under each others’ cover, swarming up to blow tanks and fading back just as quick.

He can feel the drawn sense to his jetii that belies the sense of ease with which he’s tracking this many troops in the force, but even so, it’s working. When they’re about a half klick out and the mortars have started to fall but aren’t impending their progress, Cody thinks for a moment that it’s going to be a clean campaign. “Ready the tanks to take down that wall! Scouts prep to move in with charges!”

It’s then, of course, that Ventress blazes in, running some kind of swoop-bike into one of their walkers and vaulting out of the explosion to rain down upon them like some vengeful deathmonger. She kicks Lieutenant Dann into a tree, drives a ‘saber into the belly of Urchin, and Cody chokes on his next command because he’d felt a twinge of that phantom pain before it was sucked away to nothing-

Kenobi freezes next to him, a spasm of angry regret passing over his face as he falls into a ready position facing the Sith apprentice.

“General Kenobi. I wish you wouldn’t keep springing these surprise visits on me,” she purrs, and Cody hates this woman for how unaffected she is.

“Asajj. I wish I’d known you were going to be here. I might have worn my nicer robes.” 

One of the younger troopers takes a potshot at her and gets the deflected blaster bolt in the chest for his troubles, and then Jedi and Sith meet in a clash of blue and red.

Cody runs to his fallen vod’ika , kneels to check for a pulse. “Need a medic retrieval here stat, 3 down,” he spits into his comm. 

Kipper is online immediately. “ Reading your position, sir, coming in for retrieval.” 

Boil comes online. “Should we stick to the plan, sir?”

“Affirmative. Get those charges laid and get clear of the base.” He switches his attention to the nearby troopers. “You there! Start bombarding that wall! And give me some cover!” 

He hooks hands around Urchin’s chest straps and drags his brother behind the nearest tank, stopping periodically to level his blaster at approaching droids. The blaster fire is getting thick again.

Captain Adan jogs up. “All tanks in position, sir. Where’s the general?”

Cody glances around, his face falling into an exasperated scowl when he realizes the jedi has chased Ventress out of sight, behind enemy lines. “Dealing with Ventress. We’ll stick to the plan.” Every kriffing time… He wonders if Kenobi is aware that the darjetii always do this, blitzing in to engage the general and then leading him away from the men, from his backup. 

He refocuses on his more immediate surroundings. “Let’s keep the ground troops moving, bring the line up another fifty meters! Captain Adan, see if you can’t knock out their shell launchers.”

Waxer comms in. “In position and placing charges now, sir. If you can keep their attention a little longer that’d be nice.”

“Copy that.” An enemy tank floats into view, up an embankment about 100 meters forward of their line. “Nuna, Trapper, Dann, on me! Let’s pop that tank!” He springs up from his kneeling position and breaks into a run, his men falling into a diamond pattern behind him, toes digging into the turned up gravelly soil. Longshot notices them from his sniper’s perch up on some rocks and starts laying down cover fire. 

His little quad sprints in close to the tank, diving to the side as one to miss ordinance, and Cody rolls upright, reaches out behind him. Trapper already knows what he’s after, pressing the EMT charge into his hand, and then they split - Nuna and Dann running straight out in the path of the enemy, drawing attention and fire; Trapper and Cody loop around and come alongside the tank, sitting in a blind spot as it pauses to lock onto the other two. Trapper bends his knees, laces his fingers together for Cody’s boot, and they jump as one to boost the commander up onto the lid of the tank. He pops the latch on the entry-port with a well placed bolt, drops the charge inside, slams the door shut and slides back down. The charge goes off and the tank grinds into the ground. 

Cody and Trapper bump fists. “Nice one, sir.”

The commander grins, because that always feels good , and then a phantom hand lands on his shoulder out of nowhere and he jumps around, cursing, yanking up his blaster-

It’s Nuna, who steps back, palms raised. “Whoa, sir, hey-”

Cody blinks back his shock because he should have felt Nuna approaching, should have known he was there- he tries to play it into a joke, albeit a flat one. “Sorry, Trooper, just trying to keep you on your toes,” and now that he thinks about it, tries to actually evaluate the jetii magic linking him up to his men, his sense of all of them is fainter than it should be. Kenobi feels especially distant, and tired. Osik

Nuna is a good sport, laughs it off. “Maybe if you keep on it, I’ll be as jumpy as you one day, Commander.” They park up behind the fallen droid tank, wheeling out from behind it to take potshots at approaching droids; they’d extended a little ways beyond the front line the clones were holding, but the rest of the troops are slowly catching up, closing the distance. 

His comm lights up. “Charges placed around the airbase towers, sir. We’re moving back out but ready to blow on your call.”

“Copy that, Waxer. Let me know when-” He cuts off as a sudden wash of muscle pain and sheer exhaustion blinks into his mind, from Kenobi of all people, and the sensation cuts off just as suddenly, followed by the general projecting a vague sense of sorry- disappearing into Cody’s awareness, and then the sixth sense that is the jetii in his peripheral brain cuts out entirely. 

His men have tucked back into cover and are eyeing their commander. “Uh, sir…,” Nuna leaves the unspoken question hanging, but it’s clear that they’d all felt that. Fuck. Cody’s stomach roils with dread.

Adan comes onto comms. “Sir! What happened to General Kenobi?”

He doesn’t need any battle meditation to see that his companies are unsettled as he flicks on the open comms. Osik, Cody’s as unsettled as they are, who’s he to talk?  “Steady, men, Kenobi’s fine, just… he’s dealing with Ventress. Heads in your buckets!” and wow, Cody really hopes this doesn’t turn into a false bluff, “Adan, bring the line up to Lieutentant Dann’s position and hold there. Waxer, you’re good blow the base as soon as you’re clear.”

Cody’s blood is itching to move, adrenaline rising even as he forces down anxiety, keeping his voice calm and level. The commander turns to the three clones with him, nested up in their cover behind the downed tank. “You three hold this position til Captain Adan gets here. Trapper, give me those ballistic charges.” He takes the silently proffered weapons and stands, adding shortly, “I’ll be on comms. Cover me,” and plunges out of cover into the blasted-up no-man’s-land towards where he’d last seen his general.

His men’s cover and his own sudden appearance and charge let him cover a big chunk of open ground before he has to worry about enemy blaster fire too much, boots digging into the soil once more as he sprints and launches into a slide under cover of a cluster of low trees, blaster held ready against his chest. Then he’s darting forward again, reaching the embankment over which the droid tank had first appeared, and he leaps forward and slides down in a tumble of loose gravel and small stones. He’s out of sight of his men now, truly on his own, and he dives for cover again, taking out a droid that’s sinking heat into the ground around him. For all that this is still an active battlefield, the clankers are relatively sparse out here, and he sends up a silent prayer of thanks that something is going his way. 

This close to the base, the battlefield is a series of deep but wide trenches and burned out tank-hulls. He can’t see the jedi anywhere, frantically scanning for signs of a lightsaber battle. “General, come in, do you copy?” he hisses frantically into his mic. Kenobi! Where are you?

There’s no response for several tense moments, but some distance afield he finally sees a tree crash and fall, and a droid inexplicably flies out of a trench - not under its own power - and Cody is on the move again.

It takes another 5 minutes to reach the position, scrambling between the pockets of sparse cover, careful to take out any droids that might follow him, and Cody can’t tell if his elevated heart rate is entirely due to the exertion or not. Sweat runs down his face inside his bucket, stinging his eyes and leaving his lips tasting salty. He curses the jedi for getting so far ahead of Cody, because they’re a team, they fight together, Cody’s supposed to have his back.

He finally reaches the trench, running up to the edge to look down inside, and there is Kenobi, looking just as haggard and sweat drenched as Cody feels, but Ventress has him backed into a corner against the back trench wall and some crumpled tower. The jedi is down on one knee with the nightwitch looming over him. She’s got one lightsaber locked with Kenobi’s own, bearing down as he holds it overhead. In her other hand she has a vibroblade shank, and she’d be pressing it into the general’s chest if he didn’t have his opposite hand clenched around her wrist, keeping them locked into a standstill.

Cody has spent much time recently thinking of how his working relationship with his jetii fits in and out of protocol, but now there is no thinking, just a white rush of reaction. He’s in the base of the trench a heartbeat later through some combination of running-sliding-falling, and then he’s throwing himself bodily into Ventress’s exposed ribcage, letting his momentum and not-inconsiderable mass carry them bodily off the Jedi. 

They roll over one another and he’s kicked off the darjetii with a foot to the stomach, scrambling backwards over the dirt and mud because his senses have returned and he just tackled a ‘saber wielder- 

He shouldn’t have worried so much about putting distance between them, though. “Stupid clones ,” Ventress hisses, and then his body is not touching the ground anymore and Cody wheels his arms desperately against the sudden denial of gravity before the sith flings him into another bombed out tank. The impact of his backplate and his bucket against the hard metal rings the wreckage like a gong and drives the air out of his lungs. The commander crumples bonelessly to his knees, letting the metal behind him keep him from sinking fully to the ground, and fights to suck in a breath, diaphragm spasming, head spinning, black spots dancing across his viewfinder.

Kenobi charges Ventress with a yell that sounds both hoarse and tinny, far away, to Cody. But then, as they renew their fight and Kenobi hacks at her with harsh, angry, graceless strokes, Waxer finally - finally - sets off the charges. The airbase goes up with a roar and Cody just wants it all to stop, the noise and the light seeming to batter his head anew, even through the bucket. 

The jedi and sith flinch away from each other as small pieces of rubble rain down, reaching them even here, and then Ventress glares, “You win this one, Kenobi,” and leaps away, disappearing.

Next thing Cody knows, Kenobi is on his knees beside the clone commander, easing his bucket off his head. Cody pulls his legs out from under him, letting them flop out straight so that he’s sitting more comfortably, and grasps his general’s wrist where the man is feeling around the back of his skull. “Sir. I’m fine, you have to-” he breaks off into a cough, breath not fully recovered- “you have to go lead the men. Finish the campaign.”

Kenobi is a little wild-eyed. “No, no, I’ll stay here til Kipper comes and then we’ll go-” His hands are back, roaming nervously over Cody’s head, the back of his neck, his shoulders.

“Sir.” It hurts, hurts his chest, but Cody tries to force that sharpness and command back into his voice. “I’m fine, just a little rattled. Just… need a minute, and I’ll follow you out.” He grasps Kenobi’s wrists more firmly, pushes them away from his body.

The jedi makes a little protesting sound and then visibly collects himself, drawing back. “Apologies, Commander, of course you’re right.” He hesitates a last time, places a hand on Cody’s pauldron. “I’d try to help, but... I’m afraid I,” he gestures at his own temple with a weak laugh, “may have overextended myself a little.” He stands then, and at one last pointed glance from Cody, climbs back out of the trench and heads back to their main force, where the troops should be wrapping up the fighting.

Left alone, Cody allows his posture to slump back against the metal shell and his eyes to close, tips his head back to rest for a few blessed moments. His breath comes back ragged but deep, and he thinks he might have concussed himself and cracked a rib or two, but all things considered- he’s gotten off easy today.

He takes a few more breaths to let the dizziness subside, jams his bucket back on his head and hauls himself upright against the tank, and crawls out of the broken ground after his jetii

 

***

 

Kenobi catches him in the medbay of the Negotiator after the majority of the men have been seen to. Cody is sitting shirtless on a bench as Helix injects bacta under the skin around his ribcage, counting the minutes til he can get away from the bright lights hurting his head. 

The jedi’s eyes roam over the multicolored bruises blooming across the commander’s back, dark even against his brown skin. “I hope you don’t intend to make a habit of jumping Sith on my account, Commander.” His tone is light but there’s no smile in his face.

Cody glances up at him. “Just doing my job, sir.”

“Oh? I wasn’t aware that your job encompassed reckless self-endangerment; that was always more Anakin’s realm, no?”

“I watch my partner’s back,” Cody grunts, his gaze hardening a little, because if Kenobi’s going to play this game- “You pushed too hard, sir. With the Force. Tired yourself out.”

The general scowls, caught out. “Nothing a little rest won’t fix.” His eyes soften. “But… yes, you’re right, I did. I’m sorry.”

Cody is mollified, somewhat, and lets his humor slip back in through the pounding headache. “I’ll be more careful if you will, sir.”

It earns him a laugh. “What a pair we make,” and then the Jedi is pressing the mug he’s holding into Cody’s hands, filled with yet another of his teas - “here, it’ll help with the head.” With that, he disappears back into the hallway in a whirl of cream tunics.

Chapter Text

The war machine grinds on, ceaseless, sending the 212th through planet after planet until suddenly Cody’s two-year anniversary as the battalion’s commander has come and gone and he’s starting to feel strangely old despite the small number of years under his belt. Or perhaps it’s just the shinies, seemingly younger and younger with every batch, making him feel like a grizzled veteran. In part thanks to his general’s penchant for running off with the 501st for weeks at a time, Cody’s left frequently enough leading the 212th through entire campaigns on his own, without any nat-born admirals or jedi at all to answer to. It’s unwittingly cemented his status as the clone commander among both the men and the public to an extent, and the newer troops who still don’t quite have the lay of the land regard him as a near-mythical figure, one who’s transcended what it means to be a clone.

When Kenobi is present (which is, thankfully, still the majority of the time) he and Cody have settled into a comfortable working rhythm - orbiting each other around countless battlefields til the motions of fighting together become pattern; drily picking holes in one anothers’ battle plans under the fondly exasperated gazes of Skywalker or Tano or the Negotiator’s first officer; spending downtime sparring or sharing drinks over paperwork or sending medics after each other. Much of Cody’s earlier mental contortions over the workings and propriety of their working partnership have subsided in the face of this easy comfort. There’s trust here, and some sort of friendship beyond General and Commander, and if Kenobi-Skywalker are the Team that is the face of the war effort, Kenobi-Cody are the team that’s making the wheels of the Third Systems Army turn like nothing else can.

Before Umbara he wouldn’t have thought a single campaign capable of shaking that relationship to its foundations - but he was wrong about a lot of things, it would seem, before Umbara.

 

***

 

Why the hells would anyone choose to live here, Cody thinks, as his squad creeps through the fog and the darkness and the strange curling trees. The humidity clings and seeps into his blacks, hot even in this neverending twilight, and that’s not even mentioning the predators flitting through the air and embedded in the very ground, ready to snatch up an unsuspecting trooper at a moment’s notice. Yes, he’s really beginning to despise Umbara. 

“Movement at 3 o’clock,” Longshot mutters over comms, and Cody holds up a fist as his squad freezes behind him, ducking low. They’re on a routine patrol, sweeping for clanker and Umbaran scouting parties alike, making sure that their base of ops south of the occupied capital city stays undiscovered.

He mutes his helmet speakers and flicks the comms back on. “Form up alongside me and hold.”

The men drift forward, silent, and he waits until the Umbaran scouts have just walked past them before he gives the signal. They hit most of them from the back and the ensuing skirmish is brief. “Casualties?” He scans their group.

“None, sir.”

They move on.

 

They make it back to the base a few minutes ahead of schedule and Waxer flags him down. “Oy, Commander! Kenobi says there’s a planning meeting for you to drop into now you’re back.”

Cody waves him off. “Copy that, thanks, trooper.” Planning meeting be damned, he tucks his helmet under his arm and stops by the mess to snag a cup of caf before he makes his way over to the command tent. 

Kenobi is poring over a set of troop movements as he ducks through the doorway, watched by Generals Krell and Tiin as their own clone commanders hover shadowlike in the background, helmets on and backs stiff. Cody feels the besalisk jedi’s beady eyes resting on him as he takes up a casual lean alongside Kenobi, setting his bucket down on a nearby chair and sipping his caf as he takes in his jetii’s plan for their initial advance. 

“Ah, Cody! Glad you could join us. Anything interesting from your patrol?”

“One party of Umbarans, sir. Nothing we couldn’t handle.”

“Good man.” The jedi turns back to the holotable. “What do you make of this? I’m thinking we should make advances over these ridgelines, get some long guns parked on top before we make a major push. Might help cut down their air support.”

Cody grunts, studies the map. “Sure, sir. I’d also heavily consider making these roadways a priority, though - maybe insofar as blowing them, if we don’t need them for our own purposes. They’re getting fresh supplies from somewhere and we should start cutting those leads.”

Kenobi frowns. “Fair. Although I wasn’t under the impression that they do a significant amount of road freighting.”

“But are you certain? Leave them intact if you want, sure, but let’s at least set up guarded checkpoints and own them. It’ll make our advance later that much easier.”

The ginger jedi strokes his beard. “Yes, of course, you’re correct as usual. Yes, let’s do that. General Tiin, General Krell, perhaps you can handle the roads? Take out any enemy traffic and set up a couple defensible occupations? Cody and I can coordinate getting gun towers on these ridges.”

Cody’s eyes flick to the other jedi generals. Krell is still watching him, unblinking, like he has been in all the command staff’s group interactions since the 212th made landfall, and that’s really starting to get unsettling - but then General Tiin is nodding his acquiescence and Kenobi pulls the commander’s attention back to the holotable. 

They finish sketching out a plan - first the roads and the guns, then a series of raids on the warehouses on the city perimeter, and finally a push for the capital itself, over a number of days - and duck out of the tent as one to begin scrambling the men. 

Cody finds himself readying a fresh squad alongside Krell’s men, who are inexplicably fitting floodlamps to their walkers. He frowns and steps aside, approaching the besalisk with his helmet once again tucked under an arm, and coughs to make his presence known. “General Krell, sir. The fog out there’s pretty thick, lamps won’t do you much good. I might suggest infrared if anything but you aren’t going to have much luck with optical in these conditions.”

Krell’s eyes narrow with some dangerous light and the jedi steps in close to Cody, towering over the commander. “CC-2224. I don’t recall asking your opinion. But now that you’re here-” he leans in even closer, teeth bared in some semblance of a grin- “you should know that whatever unnatural things you did to get Kenobi so wound up around your fingers aren’t going to work on me, clone. Remember that next time you feel the need to speak with me.” He steps back. “Do I make myself clear, CC-2224?”

Cody holds eye contact. “Crystal, General. And if we’re to stand on ceremony, you may refer to me as Field Marshall moving forward,” he states flatly. Two can play this game, dar’manda.

He’s saved from Krell’s response and the likely escalation of the situation by Kenobi’s voice crackling over the comms. “Cody, Master Krell, could I have you both back at the command tent? There’s been a change of plans. Master Tiin, you can carry on but I’m afraid I’ll be stealing Master Krell away from you.”

Cody spins on his heel without waiting for the jedi behind him and stalks off as he answers the comm. “Copy that, General, on my way.”

 

Kenobi is pacing inside the tent when Cody ducks back inside, hands tucked into the sleeves of his robe. He takes up a more commanding posture and begins without preamble once the other jedi joins them. “I’ve just received word from the Council that Anakin’s been recalled directly to Coruscant by the Chancellor, for what reason I don’t know. Master Krell, I’m asking you to deliver the news to him and assume temporary control of the 501st for the duration of this campaign. I assume your troops will be happy to stay and assist Saesee.”

The besalisk jedi gives a shallow bow. “Certainly, Master Kenobi.” He shoots a glance at Cody, and adds, “My troops are capable of serving under any command.”

If Kenobi notices any lingering tension he doesn’t react. “Excellent. You may leave as soon as you’re ready; they seem to be wanting Anakin with some haste. May the Force be with you.”

“And you.”

Cody waits til the other jedi has left the tent before turning to his general, who has dropped ceremony and sunk into a chair, forehead resting on two fingers as he stares blankly at the holotable. “Sir, are you sure Krell’s the right man for this job?”

His jetii frowns up at him. “Whatever do you mean? Master Krell is a decorated veteran at this point; I’m sure he’s capable. In any case, he’s working with a relatively new commander, so I thought he’d be less attached to his battalion in particular than either myself or General Tiin.”

Cody’s nostrils flare as he struggles to put words to his unease. “He’s just… going to be very different from General Skywalker, sir.”

Kenobi sighs. “Undoubtedly. But what’s done is done. Rex is a talented captain; I have full confidence in his ability to handle it.”

Cody runs his free hand through his hair, mussing up the curls stuck flat to his skull by sweat and his helmet. “Right. Anything else to cover?”

The general sets the projection at a spin and sits back to consider his commander. “Have you slept much the last few days? Let Captain Adan place the ridge gunners and catch some rest if you can. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long few days once we get started.”

 

***

 

Their run at the capital is proving every bit as hard as Kenobi had anticipated. Cody chases after his jetii at a dead run, his squad fanned out in a delta behind him, taking full advantage of the general’s ability to both attract and reflect the enemy’s fire. Umbaran fighters blaze overhead, appearing suddenly through the heavy mist, and one of his men is flung into the air with a lurching scream.

“Get me some anti-air support over Gold Squadron!” Cody yells into his comm, panting the words out in time with his footsteps. A moment later, the long guns strafe the space overhead, the mist lighting up eerie blue. The bolts are more a deterrent than anything, but he’ll take what he can get.

A group of Umbarans and droids mixed pour out of a trench on their left flank. “Contact at 8!” Nuna hollers, swinging his revolving blaster around to strafe the oncoming enemy.

His men square up and drop low or behind cover, laying down fire. Kenobi is at least 25 meters ahead of them, caught up in a small group of droids, and Cody flicks his comm to just the general’s channel. “Sir, you’re outrunning us. Pace,” he hisses.

He feels rather than hears the general’s acknowledgement brush against his consciousness, and then the jedi is back among their ranks, charging through them and into the Umbarans in a deadly rush of cerulean and cream, slicing through the masked soldiers with his ‘saber hand while the other reaches towards droids, clenching his fingers together as they crumple into sparking masses of metal. His general had always been a sight to behold in battle, but this far into the war he’s nearly made an art form of it, practice and experience giving his movements an almost choreographed quality.

Kenobi pirouettes and cuts through the last of their foes with a flourish, turning back to the men with battle fever bright in his eyes. “Comm Slate to meet us on the east ridge rendezvous, he’s supposed to have fresh recon. We’ll take out that guard tower before we retreat.” The jedi gestures towards a corner of the city defenses and plunges back into motion before waiting to see if his troops are following.

Cody signals forward and they break back into a run as he gets on comms once more. “Cody-Captain Slate, we’re regrouping on the east ridge for your reconnaissance, read me?”

“Copy that, sir.”

“Cody out.” 

His squad charges into a clearing and quickly cleans it of enemy presence, Kenobi appearing at Cody’s shoulder, the general’s still calmness seeming unnatural after how long they’ve been running, fighting - but that’s the jetiise for you. “This seems as good a place as any, no?”

Cody squints at the tower they’re targeting, flicks on his rangefinder. “It’ll serve. Nuna, Longshot, let’s get that rocket launcher set up.”

Kenobi nods. “Everyone else on me, form a perimeter, nothing gets into our gunners!” He stalks out towards the looming trees.

Cody takes up a defensive position over Nuna’s back as his gunners assemble their rockets. His comm blinks, lighting up blue - Rex’s frequency, calling in from the 501st. Frowning, he patches in the outside frequency. “Kote receiving.”

Vod. ” Rex sounds tense, speaking in a low voice, almost a whisper. “Is there an appeals process for disciplinary actions direct from the CO in the field?”

Cody blinks, taken aback. “What? Rex, what’s going on?”

“Just give me an answer, Kote, please,” the captain pleads.

The commander curses to himself. “Not written into the regs, no. Dammit, vod’ika , what’s going on? Are you in trouble?”

“Not me, I just- Kark, I gotta go. Stay alive out there.” The transmission sparks out.

Longshot twitches his helmet towards Cody. “All good, sir?”

“All good, trooper. How’re those rockets?”

“Ready on your call, sir.”

“Give ‘em heat.”

 

After the tower goes up in smoke, Cody pulls his general aside as they round up to head to their rendezvous. “Have you heard anything from Krell? Anything odd that might have happened?”

Kenobi shakes his head, squints at his commander. “What? No, nothing out of the ordinary, why? Has something happened?”

Cody scowls. “I wish I knew.” He looks back at the city, resting muted under its blanket of dark fog. “The sooner we take this kriffing capital the better.”

Kenobi claps him on the shoulder. “Soon, Cody.”

 

They arrive on the east ridge a few moments after Captain Slate, who wastes no time in pitching the portable holoprojector and zooming out away from their immediate battleground. “General, Commander. We think we’ve found the source of all their incoming supply runs - there’s an airbase out here, north of the city, that we didn’t flag on our scans before we started the campaign. Looks like traffic has picked up pretty significantly since we started hitting the capital.”

Kenobi smiles a predator’s grin, all teeth. “That would certainly do it. Any other potentials?”

Slate shakes his head. “Haven’t found anything, sir. We’re pretty sure this is it.”

Cody studies the map. “That’s pretty close to Rex’s position. 501st could take it so we can focus on the capital.”

Kenobi pulls at his beard. “Right you are. We’ve got them now. Looks like you’re getting your wish, commander.” 

“Not a moment too soon, sir.”

The jedi nods. “Right, let’s fall back to the base, get the men rested up. Cody, send out enough patrols to maintain our current standing, but otherwise have everyone prep for the final push. I’ll contact General Krell over the airbase.”

 

***

 

They hold position for another day, sending out more guerilla raids but mostly just waiting, until they get confirmation that the airbase is under 501st control - and then the fight for the capital city begins in earnest. Cody’s pretty sure he’s running purely on caffeine and spite at this point, the 212th and General Tiin’s battalion alternating placing pressure on the capital in waves so that they have a constant offensive going. 

He autopilots through the battleground and eventually the city streets in the wake of his general’s saber, hitting clanker after Umbaran after clanker, the enemy hoards seemingly neverending - but no, taking the airbase has made a difference. The city’s defendants are no longer in constant supply of fresh men, fuel, ordinance, and it’s finally beginning to slow them down.

Kenobi pulls him aside on one of their “off” cycles as Cody’s popping down stims and pain relievers in quick succession, wrapping a bacta bandage around his sprained wrist, and otherwise shoring himself up for the next offensive. 

“Commander. Just heard from Krell- he’s worried about a group of Umbarans that’ve gotten ahold of clone weapons and armor and are prepping to make a fresh assault on the airbase. Wanted to know if we could spare a squadron to run around northside and help take them out.”

Cody considers. “Well… we can manage. If he needs them.” He’s loathe to split up his battalion, but that’s the truth.

Kenobi nods. “Maybe just a single squadron? I’ll send you the enemy coordinates. Remind the men they’re disguised as clones.”

“Copy, sir.”

The jedi grasps his shoulder and it feels like he quite literally pours a bit of energy, of life, back into his commander. Probably just imagining that. “Thank you, Cody. See you back on the field.”

Cody trots out to where Ghost Company is clustered around a gunship, passing around their own stash of meds, caf, stims, contraband sweets. He finds Boil and Waxer sprawled against the portside door, passing a canteen back and forth and snatching a moment’s rest; they begin to sit up at his approach.

“At ease, troopers. Just got word from the 501st - they’re dealing with a bunch of Umbarans disguised as clones and have requested backup. I need a squad to go out and help take ‘em down.”

Boil scowls. “What a dar’manda bastard thing to do.”

Waxer does sit up. “I can go, sir. My squad’s pretty fresh.”

Boil starts to protest. “My squad-”

Waxer cuts him off with a light nudge of a boot. “You sprained your ankle, ner'vod, you can stay here.”

Cody raises an eyebrow at his scout. “You have Kipper look at that ankle yet, Boil?”

The man sighs, caught out. “No, sir.”

“Right, you can do that, Waxer’s squadron will handle this one.” He reaches down, gives the man in question a hand up and a clap on the shoulder. “Stay safe out there, vod. I’ll send over the target coordinates.”

Waxer salutes. “You can count on me, sir.”

Kenobi’s calling him away again, then, and Cody turns back to his own battle. 

 

***

 

He doesn’t remember too much of the remaining battle. It’s messy and chaotic and bloody, but they all are, to an extent. All these battles have started to blur into one: his tired legs pushing on, exertion and adrenaline and stimulants driving his heart rate up even as his training fights to keep it down; his blaster warm and familiar in his hands or slung over his back; Kenobi, his guiding light, shining blue and safe in his peripheral. 

No, what he does remember is the battle coming to a close, and him setting up command out of a gunship landed in a city center park to coordinate their pickup. Remember’s calling Rex after Waxer doesn’t answer his comm to tell him the city is theirs, remembers hearing his vod’ika’s voice crack from more than just a spotty transmission.

“Kote, vod, Waxer... “ the captain sucks in a harsh breath as Cody’s stomach drops, already knowing what’s coming. “Waxer’s dead. I’m sorry.”

Cody breathes. Fuck. Su cuy’gar, Rex,” you’re alive.

He hears the other man rattle in another throttled breath, and then, “Krell’s dead, too. Cody, he- he set us up. The disguised clones- there were no Umbarans, it was just, just us and the 212th at those coordinates, and we- we shot each other.” The blond captain’s voice cracks again as he fights to maintain composure.

Cody’s blood has gone colder than the moons of Hoth. He fights for words for several moments, the two clones just listening to each others’ increasingly labored breathing. Finally he chokes out, “Rex, I’m sorry.” 

There’s a growl on the other side of the line, a dull thump as the captain kicks at something in frustration, and then an anguished, “Kote, how did this happen? Why couldn’t I stop it?  

Vod’ika , it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done any-”

Why not?” Rex cries into the comm. “Why couldn’t I have done anything? Fucking osik!”

Cody swallows, because he doesn’t have a good answer for that. “How can I help?”

There’s a beat of silence, the captain collecting himself, before he answers in a carefully controlled voice. “Extra medics and supplies. Stuff for blaster wounds, dehydration. Lightsaber wounds.”

Cody makes an involuntary wounded noise in his throat. “Rex’ika…”

“I’ll send over my officer’s report.”

The commander nods, despite knowing that the blonde captain can’t see him. “I’ll meet you on the Resolute and bring as much of my med staff as I can spare.” He pauses, and then, “I’m bringing whiskey, too, unless you tell me not to.”

“Please,” Rex whispers, voice small, and then he cuts the transmission.

Cody’s finished skimming Rex’s report, worked himself into a furious rage, and sent perfunctory notice to Helix up in the shipside medbay when Kenobi appears in his makeshift command, the jedi’s posture relaxed and a light grin on his face. He looks like the perfect counterpoint to how Cody feels, which the general must realize as he falters in his approach, stopping some paces back from his commander. “Cody. Is everything alright? Have you heard back from Waxer?”

The clone levels his jetii with a flat angry glare. “Waxer’s dead,” he spits out. 

The jedi’s face falls. “I’m sorry, my friend. Is- does Boil know?” Ghost Company is tight-knit down to the man, but Waxer and Boil have been inseparable since their training days.

“I’m about to go tell him.” Cody sees the gunship start to land that will take him, Boil, and Kipper up to the Negotiator and then over to the Resolute . To Rex. He shoves himself to his feet, thrusting the datapad he’s holding into Kenobi’s chest. “Rex’s report. I’m taking half the med staff to the Resolute . Won’t be back til morning.” He pushes past the jedi, striding towards the ship.

Kenobi’s sadness morphs to blank shock. “Cody- wait-” he jumps after the commander, laying a hand on the clone’s shoulder.

Cody whirls to shove him off. “Sir, respectfully, we can debrief when I get back,” he grits out, “Right now I need you to handle the battalion’s pickup.” He turns back towards the gunship, leaving the startled jedi in his wake. Boil and Kipper are already inside, waiting, and with a futile attempt at a deep calming breath, the commander steps through the doors and they take to the air.

Chapter Text

“All good, sir?” Lieutenant Alice’s voice crackles over the ship’s intercom from the pilot’s cabin. Cody thumps twice on the metal door to the cockpit in response and the floor lurches as they pick up from the spongy ground. He gives himself a moment still facing the door, and then turns to face Boil and Kipper, who are watching him warily.

They already know something’s wrong. How could they not? It’s cowardly but he wishes he still had his bucket on.

Boil’s clearly already put two and two together, to an extent- of course he has, he’d probably tried to get Waxer on comms the second they’d taken the base. He saves Cody from having to break the silence. “Well? How bad is it?”

Cody meets his eyes, gaze forlorn, and just shakes his head. “I’m sorry.”

The lieutenant stares at him another moment in silence, as if he can will Cody to keep talking, to add more words about low odds or bad injuries or any of the thousand other states of bad that didn’t imply a lack of breath and life - and then grief spasms across the scout’s normally gruff features and he jams his bucket back on his head, the vocoder killing any inflection in his voice. “It could have been anyone.”

Kipper grasps his vod’s shoulder. “Not gone, just marching far away,” the medic offers softly, and doesn’t take it personally when Boil shakes him off, curling towards the far wall.

They sit in silence for the remaining duration of the lift out to the Negotiator , Cody speaking only after Alice lands the gunship and powers down. “ Orders, Commander?”

“We’ll switch to the light freighter from here, prep for departure in 30.” He turns to Kipper. “You should go link up with Helix.” 

The dismissed clones hurry off to their next assigned locations and Boil lingers at Cody’s shoulder as the commander walks out of the hanger bay. “You needed me up here, sir?” His voice is still flat.

Cody leads them to an isolated corner of the ship before he stops, turning to face his scout trooper, facing this the only way he knows how- bluntly and head-on. “There’s more you should know. The enemy Waxer’s squad was dispatched to- Krell was…” what words could even describe what Krell was?- “a dar’manda traitor. He set the 501st and 212th against each other.” He makes himself keep his voice soft.

Boil stiffens, soaking the words in. “There were no Umbarans?” he finally mutters, voice hoarse.

Cody can only shake his head. “I’m sorry.” Endless useless apologies, he rages silently, that’s all he has to give.

The taciturn scout is still for another moment before he rips off a vambrace and hurls it into the ground with a yell. Fists clenching, he turns back to his commander, voice cracking. “Where is he? Where’s that shabuir Krell?”  

“He’s dead. One of the 501st shot him.” and that situation was going to be hell all on it’s own, Cody tries not to think.

“Good,” Boil grinds out, and then after a moment adds quietly, “It should’ve been me.”

Cody can say nothing, because how could it ‘ should have been’ any of them? He reaches for the scout, one last attempt at comfort, not his strong suit but he has to try. “He was one of the best of us.”

Boil nods, wrestling back his sense of control. “Do you have anything else, sir?”

The commander shakes his head. “No. I haven’t- the rest of Ghost Company doesn’t know, yet. Losses were heavy on the whole squad.” He hates the clinical words but they’re the only ones he has for this. And he should’ve told the Company, should be the one to break the news, but he hadn’t really been thinking, had he? Some Commander I am… He’d just been focused on getting medical and getting to Rex, had grabbed Boil because he’d been right there with Kipper.

“I’ll tell them.”

Cody whips his eyes up to the scout’s visor. “You don’t-”

“I’ll tell them,” Boil reiterates. “Go help.”

 

***

 

He breaks the news again to Kipper and Helix and the other medics on the flight over to the Resolute, though they had more than an inkling at this point as to what had happened, the dark little void in his chest growing like the appalled shock in the clones’ eyes. 

It’s nothing compared to how his heart breaks when they land and he steps off the freighter to see Rex standing in the midst of a storm of unloading supplies and wounded, battered men, back held stubbornly ramrod straight as the blonde captain directs his men around the hangar bay.

Cody starts across the starkly lit floor towards his vod’ika, Helix and Kipper trailing in his wake, intending to go directly to Rex until he sees the 501st medic jogging out from between two ships. “Kix!” he holds up an arm, leading the medic in blue to pause and scan the floor. He lowers his voice to address his own medics once he’s sure they’ve been spotted. “Go, he’ll let you know where he needs help.”

Rex’s gaze also finds him briefly as Cody’s voice rings out over the hall, but the blonde captain looks away just as quickly, turning back to his conversation with Fives and another of his troopers. Cody recognizes that mindset, that need to stubbornly keep going til all the work was done, because to stop would mean not starting again.

He’s standing in front of the captain before Rex will fully acknowledge him, and the man looks much worse up close, face sallow and drawn and deep bags under his bloodshot eyes. “Rex. ARC Trooper Fives,” he greets them, pulling his helmet off.

Rex takes him in with a flick of his eyes, dirt and sweat and bloody grime from the battle still clinging to Cody. “Kote. Thanks for getting here so quickly.”

Fives grunts agreement. “Now maybe someone can get this di’kut to stop for a minute and rest,” the ARC hints bluntly, gesturing at his captain via an elbow to the side.

Cody would never be one to pull an exhausted officer away from a situation where they’re still needed- he’s been in that situation too many times himself not to understand- but he takes another look around the hangar, evaluates the situation and its particular need for Rex to be there, and finds himself in agreement with Rex’s vod. “Fives is right, Rex,” he murmurs softly, grasping the captain’s arm to draw him away. “They can handle it from here.”

To his relief his vod’ika allows himself to be drawn into the hallway, though he stumbles to a stop once they exit the hangar. “No, Cody, I should stay, I- I should help, do something, as long as the men are still going-”

“Rex’ika.” Cody injects a little more steel into his tone here, now, alone. “A commander is the backbone of his company. You can’t be that if you’re riding the edge like this.”

The blonde captain lingers a moment more, eyes fixed on the hangar entry, before he turns wordless and leads Cody deeper into the Resolute. 

The commander follows, footsteps quiet, taking advantage of the walk to quickly comm back to his pilot. “Lieutenant Alice. I’ll be here overnight, as will the medics - once the supplies are unloaded you’re welcome to stay, or you can head back to the Negotiator . Your call.”

There’s a loaded pause. “I’ll, uh… I’ll probably head back, sir.”

“Copy.” Cody doesn’t blame him. The Resolute would not be a comfortable place to be tonight, unless one was close enough to its troopers to want to make their pain one’s own.

They settle shoulder-to-shoulder on the bunk in Rex’s cabin with backs to the wall, like they have countless times before, because even an officer’s cabin doesn’t have chairs. Cody pulls the bottle of colorless spirits from his satchel, places it in the gap between their legs - not a suggestion, but there, if his friend wants it.

Rex doesn’t hesitate, ripping the cork out with his teeth, taking a long pull and swallowing in a grimace. “I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” he mutters hoarsely.

Cody just nods, takes the bottle, drinks himself.

They sit in silence for a long while before the captain speaks again. “Kix said I was just like him. Like Krell. Sending my vod’e out to die .” His voice cracks on the last word.

“People say all sorts of things when they’re scared. Your men know how much you care, Rex.”

“I did though,” the younger clone protests hoarsely. “I sent them all out - I followed his orders. For fucking duty and regs . All while he was literally telling me we were so much cannon fodder to him.” His eyes are watering now, a tear leaking down the side of his face, emotion and exhaustion and the rising influence of the alcohol overwhelming him. 

“Ni ceta,” Cody whispers, because this is his fault too. He had seen hints of what Krell was. He was supposed to watch out for the vod’e , all of them; and he has always watched out for Rex especially. “You never should have had to deal with that. We should never have sent him to you in the first place.”

The captain’s eyes darken. “How could they not have seen it?” he growls out, despair giving way to cold fury. “He’s been throwing battles, killing clones , for months now. All that jetii mind banthashit and they can’t smell evil when it’s sitting in their back pockets.”

If Cody were a better soldier he might protest on behalf of his superiors, might say something like it’s harder to spot in a friend or he hid it too well - but he’s been wondering the same thing and he can’t bring himself to lie.

Rex rages on. “If he were a CC he would have been pulled for review after his first fucking command. You know he’s been through 4 commanders? 3 dead, 1 sent for decommission. But he’s a kriffing jetii. We’re running around under these kriffing aruetiise and they don’t even have a damn review process for the ones that are unfit to fucking lead.”

“Maybe if we bring it up to Kenobi he could-”

“Kenobi,” Rex snarls spitefully. “Shabuir was egging Krell on all through the march, the assault on the airbase. Progress checks, reminders of how critical it was, how speed was ‘of the essence’. Like he wasn’t already driving us into the ground.”

Cody breathes away his own emotions, fighting to be the level support that his vod needs right now. “I can promise you he had no idea what was going on. I’m not making excuses for that , I don’t know how he didn’t see it- but I promise you, Rex, he didn’t know.”

The captain is quiet for another long while, until his anger seems to all drain away at once and he chokes back a muffled sob. “You know a third of our fatalities weren’t even from the fighting and the friendly fire? They were from after . I took men in to arrest him and he tore through us like flimsi. He was cutting my men in half, Kote, and they were still alive in pieces on the ground. Screaming. Took so long to bleed out because of the heat-” his voice cracks away again as he tips his head back against the wall, shoulders shaking silently, eyes squeezed shut against the memories. 

Cody puts a grounding hand on the back of his neck, his own head bowing in sorrow. “Ni ceta, Rex.” It’s all he can say. Ni ceta, ni ceta, I’m sorry.

 

They sit together like that for what could be minutes or hours, Cody can’t tell, until the captain’s head nods a little, finally giving into exhaustion. Cody rouses him briefly to pull him out of armor and boots, and then at Rex’s muffled “...stay…” takes up a new sitting position against the footboard-end wall as the captain finally sleeps, dead to the world.

He nurses away the last of their bottle of spirits as he holds his vigil, thoughts roaming but far from peaceful, until it’s suddenly dawn and his comm is nudging him back to reality. Oddball, presumably here to fetch him back. “Cody receiving.”

“Sir. Ride’s here if you’re able to take it. The general says we’re all headed the same way if you gotta stay, hitting hyperspace in an hour.”

Cody sighs, appreciating the facade of choice offered, even if he really only had the one option. “On my way. 5 minutes.”

“Copy.”

He stands and looks down, shakes the sleeping captain. “I gotta go, Rex’ika.”

Hazel eyes crack open, then fly wide with a jolt before Rex recognizes him and settles back down, loosening his grip on Cody’s wrist. “...leaving?”

“‘Lek. ” Cody fumbles for his bucket, re-ties his bootlaces, and makes his way to the door, stopping only when his name is called, Rex shifting into a slightly more upright position.

Kote … thanks.”

 

He catches a precious 30 minutes of sleep in the gunship heading back to the Negotiator, slumped in the copilot’s chair next to Oddball, before he’s stumbling back onto his own ship. “Tell the first officer ‘m on board,” he mutters, jamming his bucket on and beelining for his quarters. Surely, surely, they can get underway without him.

He makes it inside without interruption, exhaustion hitting him all at once, the buildup from a week of battle and 24 hours of trying to be the calm eye in this storm of grief. He starts carelessly stripping his armor to the floor, kicking his boots into the corner, peeling the top half of his blacks off his clammy skin. He’s filthy and aching and he smells awful and he’s so tired-

A knock sounds on his door, quiet first, then more insistently. “What?”

“Cody… may I come in?” It’s Kenobi’s voice. 

Kriff. He’s so tired. “Yessir,” he grumbles, stepping over to activate the door before turning back around to shove his scattered armor into a more tidy pile.

He looks back up to find the jedi paused just inside the doorway, watching him with a sad depth to his eyes. Cody consciously forces his spine into a more respectful posture, as much as he can in his tiny mess of a cabin, his skin covered in grime, exhaustion seeping into his bones, and wearing only the soft pants to his blacks. He crosses his arms defensively over his bare chest. “General. What do you need?” His voice comes out lower and rougher than usual, as if his chest has been filled with gravel.

The jedi’s face falls, brows furrowing, and he crosses the small space to stand in front of his commander, reaches out a hand and wipes a streak of mud off the clone’s temple. “I apologise, I thought you’d have found a chance to shower and rest aboard the Resolute,” he murmurs finally, as if those had been the first things on Cody’s mind.

The commander’s lips stay pinched in a straight line as he looks down at his jetii, golden eyes meeting blue-grey. Kenobi is standing very close. He doesn’t want to speak, lest the words carry the alcohol still on his breath out to mingle with the other unsavory scents the battle has left on his skin.

The jedi holds his silent gaze for a long minute before he breaks eye contact to stare into the void space next to Cody’s left ear, shifting his feet and swallowing uncomfortably. “Cody… I’m so sorry. For what happened.”

The commander finds himself growing angry again, his patience and level-headedness worn to breaking, set off by lack of sleep, frustrated by the jedi standing there with his clean robes and his chipped mug and his passive words. “How didn’t you know what he was?” he snaps out.

Kenobi is quiet for too long.

“How?” Cody demands, louder, leaning into the small space between them instead of away from it. “If a clone turns traitor, I see it, I stop it. If one of the other CCs- Rex, Bly, Ponds, Wolffe- went bad I’d fuckin’ notice . Because the vod’e are watching each others’ backs .” His voice drops low, cutting. “I need to know you have mine, sir.”

The jedi’s head bows under the weight of the implied accusation. “You’re right, Cody, I should have noticed something was off. And if not me, some jedi should have. I’m sorry… ni ceta, burc’ya.”

Cody thinks he’d feel the weight of the mando’a apology more if it hadn’t come out of his own mouth so many times in the last 12 hours. “Krell isn’t an event that just happened,” he mutters bitterly, needing to get it off his chest. “He killed them, Rex’s and Waxer’s men. He did. With his ‘sabers. Half the survivors from the… arrest… are missing limbs. He fucking cut men in half and left them to fade out on the ground.” For all that he’s managed to keep his expression still and his voice calm, the commander can feel angry tears sliding down his cheeks.

Kenobi flinches, his eyes taking on a haunted cast, and stoops to place his mug on the ground before reaching out and gingerly wrapping his arms around Cody, his beard brushing over the clone’s shoulder.

The commander stiffens slightly, arms at his sides, because for all the vod’e are used to physical interactions - a slap on the leg, bump to the shoulder, a side-on embrace, a friendly headlock - they don’t really hug that often. Kenobi sighs out a stuttered breath in his ear and steps back, meeting the clone’s eyes again. “If there’s anything I can do to help…,” he offers uncertainly.

Cody slumps, the fight gone out of him. “We just need a few days. For the wounded to recover, for new men to fold in. Rex’s company is down to a skeleton crew, my company is down 15 men. If there’s any way to delay whatever we’re flying into right now…”

“I asked for our next mission to be recon or relief focused,” the jedi murmurs. “Bad luck that they got us one so quickly. But at least most of the work will be on myself and Anakin and Ahsoka. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you all more of a break.”  He looks imminently more tired than when he’d stepped into Cody’s quarters minutes ago- or maybe the clone just hadn’t noticed the mournful weariness hanging off him like a cloak. “Is there anything I can do for you, Cody?”

It’s his turn to break eye contact, looking down at his socked feet. “Sir, I just-” his voice sounds ragged and broken and he takes a breath, swallows, forces it strong again. “I just really need a shower and some sleep.” Please go. He can’t say it aloud, not to his general.

He thinks Kenobi understands anyway. The jedi picks up the mug again, presses it into Cody’s hands. “I made- ah, this is for you. If you want it.” He turns and slips out of the room, leaving the commander standing amidst his own scattered armor, the caf- the nice stuff, from Kenobi’s personal stash- still hot and fragrant in his grip. He sinks to the floor with it, wanting a moment before he can even bring himself to wash and crawl into his bunk, and inhales the steam. It feels a little like it carries the warmth back into his soul.

Chapter Text

Cody sees very little of his general during their 4-day journey to Kiros, only spying the man occasionally slink into the mess to find food before disappearing. The commander sleeps away most of the first day and spends the second thinking that Kenobi is avoiding him - but no, avoidance is not his jetii’s style, and twice he tries comming the general to check in about the upcoming mission and gets the pleasantly accented droid-voice informing him that Kenobi is currently in communication with another party. Must be the Council.

So, he sets any half-interpretations aside and focuses on his men, on Ghost Company, on their collective effort to spring back from the aftershocks of having been even tangentially involved in Umbara. He clears his paperwork queue sitting in the mess surrounded by the easy chatter of the vod’e, instead of sitting at the desk in Kenobi’s quarters; he and Helix do a full inventory and an expansive set of requisitions for medical; he sends in the notice that the 212th will pick up a fresh squad of shinies when they next pass through Coruscant.

At three hours to their drop out of hyperspace, when he still hasn’t heard anything, he makes his way to Kenobi’s cabin and knocks on the door. 

The jedi who opens it doesn’t look like he’s spent a minute of their downtime sleeping, and Cody frowns at the bags under his eyes, the slightly rumpled robes and tousled hair, the way his hand is glued to his favorite mug like he’s forgotten that he can go anywhere without it. 

Despite the obvious sleeplessness, however, Kenobi’s expression has a certain lightness to it, and he greets his commander with a cautious smile. “Cody, good morning. I’m glad you found some rest.”

“Sir, you should have called me if you had so much work to get done,” the clone says reproachfully. “How much have you slept?”

“I feel fine,” the jedi says, “and no worries, Commander, it wasn’t any of the standard forms. Just a personal project I took on, here, come in.” He turns and leads the way into the cabin.

Cody follows with a raised eyebrow, waiting for a more direct explanation. When none seems forthcoming, he ventures, “Did you, uh, finish this project, sir?”

“No, but it’s out of my hands for the moment.” The jedi takes a seat, steeples his fingers, watches his commander sit opposite. “What can I help you with?”

Cody’s other brow raises to join the first. “We’re dropping out of hyperspace in a little under 3 hours, sir. I assumed you’d want to go over the sitrep before we arrive on-planet.”

“Ah. Right. I wasn’t lying when I said this was going to be a largely non-combat mission, Commander. We should ready a single company and a couple tanks to go surface-side, but the fighting should be relatively light. I’m told we’re to pursue negotiations with any potential hostiles.”

“Oh. Who are they?”

Kenobi frowns at this. “I don’t know, the Council didn’t say. Just that they were an outside party who’ve had recent dealings with the Separatists, and may have been involved in the sudden disappearance of a number of people of Kiros. We’re investigating the whereabouts of the missing.”

They sit in silence for a moment before Kenobi speaks again, his voice less chipper. “How are the men doing, Cody? And Captain Rex and his battalion. Will they be alright? Are there other resources we can get them?”

Cody’s expression sobers but he meets the jedi’s eyes steadily, relieved to have refound his own center after that last morning. “I’ll be honest with you, sir, anyone who was directly involved with Krell is still pretty shook up. But… we’re clones. We’ll come out alright. And Rex and his crew are some of the best.”

“And you?”

The marshall commander blinks, because it’s kind of his job to be the one who keeps it together, no matter the situation. “Of course, sir. Just needed my rest.”

Kenobi watches him for a beat, no doubt trying to determine whether that answer was as canned as it sounded, before he nods. “Certainly. In that vein-” He stands into a yawning stretch- “I may nap before we land. Wouldn’t want to miss out on my beauty sleep if it does come to treaties.”

Cody is already standing at the implicit dismissal, and he snorts at this. “Yes, because it’s definitely your good looks carrying us through this war.”

Kenobi’s indignant cry follows him out into the hallway. “I’ll have you know, Commander, most sentients consider me quite handsome!”

***

 

The general tenses almost immediately when they make the city center after wiping out the small droid population, and see the ships of the other occupying presence - very clearly Zygerrian in architecture. Cody supposes it makes sense that a nation of slavers might be in league with the Separatists. At least, he wants it to make sense, that part of him which is growing as a man independent of his clonehood and hopes to believe that he’s on the morally right side of this war.

It doesn’t explain Kenobi’s instant uneasiness, the way he mutters under his breath, “Oh, I wish they’d thought not to send us here,” before waving off Cody’s questioning glance. 

Cody begins to understand, however, when General Skywalker makes the same connection, the younger jedi’s face twisting into instantaneous wrath at the recognition of the opposition. “Slavers.”

For a moment the commander thinks Skywalker is going to throw any peaceful notions to the wind and raze this place to the ground in a storm of righteous fury - but then Kenobi is reeling them all back in, voice sharp and brooking no arguments, and marching out to the central tower to treat with the enemy.

Over the course of the war Cody has become less and less enthused about sending his jetii in solo to stir up volatile situations like this one, but they’ve made a habit of Kenobi running a thread of a connection between them during such times, similar to the battle meditation. Cody takes comfort in knowing that he’d at least be clued in if things went sideways.

A short wait later Kenobi silently patches him and Skywalker into his open comm and he has two references on the negotiations to monitor - but even so, he doesn’t get more than a flare of shock-warning in his mind before a bomb goes off nearly under one of his tanks, flinging a few of his troopers into the air.

They scramble medics - no serious injuries, thankfully - and then Skywalker and Ahsoka are running off to find the rest of the ordinance and Cody is working with the young general’s astromech to get scans up, listening to Kenobi with one ear and trying to monitor the 501st troops with the other, making sure they’re shaking off the blast ok. 

He’s glad to see the clones around him responding to the danger with their usual flippant bravado. Nuna goes so far as to shake his fist at the tower- “Oy! Negotiate better, sir!”, earning chuckles from the boys around him, and Cody rolls his eyes, focuses back in on his general.

He tunes in just in time to hear Kenobi challenge the Zygerrian to unarmed single combat in a blatant winner-takes-all gamble for information. Little gods, Kenobi, of all the ways to buy time… He hopes his general can feel his exasperation. 

His thoughts quickly shift to concern at the clear sound of a body hitting a hard surface over the still-open channel, and he wouldn’t have known it was his jetii if it weren’t for the unmistakable wheeze of the air being forced out of the man’s lungs. It happens again, and again, and on the fourth time the comm clicks off. Cody sighs and settles onto a crate to play the waiting game, unsure if he’s more relieved or concerned that he can no longer hear his commanding officer allowing some slaver shabuir to toss him around.

 

***

 

It all tumbles together fairly quickly from there - Kenobi (at least, Cody hopes it was Kenobi) blows a window out of the big glass tower, and then Rex roundly curses both his jetiise to Hoth and back after they dump two walkers off the roof and jump onto the Seppie leader’s launching getaway vehicle, and then Cody is leaning in the doorway of their last departing gunship as they touch down onto the tower to pick up his general, as he’d apparently decided not to follow Skywalker and Tano off the 30-floor drop.

Kenobi steps up next to his commander, rubbing his side with a wince, and Cody gives him the once-over as they lift off once again. It doesn’t look that bad - his face is banged up and Cody’s sure he’s bruised all over, from what he heard over the comm - but nothing appears broken. “So much for your beauty sleep, sir.” He can’t help it. The veterans snicker while the couple shinies on board stare at him with a mix of awe and abject horror.

Kenobi gives him a very wide grin, showing as many of his slightly bloodied teeth as possible. “Cody, dear, whatever could you mean?”

Kipper groans, pushing past the other troopers. “Right, General, you can sit your ass down and accompany me straight to medical when we get shipside.”

Kenobi’s tune changes quickly. “Kip, I’m fine, it’s all just surface bruising.”

Their medic is unswayed. “Sir, I worry sometimes you don’t know what ‘surface’ means.”

“I’m fine, and I have to call the Council. Immediately.”

“General-”

Cody cuts them off. “Do a concussion check here and get something for the swelling, and I won’t call you on running off, sir.”

They both scowl, but it seems to be an acceptable compromise.

 

True to the commander’s expectations, Kenobi does run off the minute they touch down on the ship, deftly evading Helix as he enters the hangar bay to see if Kipper needs backup. Cody wraps up his landing obligations quickly, dumps his armor and heads for his general’s cabin, stopping on the way to snag a tub of the light-strength bacta gel, the stuff that only worked on mild infections, bone bruises, sprains and ligament tears.

He enters to find Kenobi standing in the middle of the room, stroking his beard with one hand and holding an icepack to his cheek with the other, deep in thought. “You get ahold of the Council, sir?”

The Jedi’s attention snaps to him. “Not yet, unfortunately. Hopefully soon. But I did get ahold of Senator Organa. I have something I want to run by you.”

Cody squints, thinking, trying to remember what the Alderaanian senator had to do with any recent events and drawing a blank. “Happy to take a look, sir. Brought you this first though.” He holds out the bacta gel.

Kenobi scoffs, not unkindly. “Oh, Cody, no, we should leave that off for when it’s really needed. I’m quite alright.”

The commander sets the gel down. “General- “ he takes a step forward, claps a hand down on Kenobi’s shoulder, squeezes a little. The jedi winces a little at the contact and Cody gives him a pointed look. “You might have got away from Kipper but I heard you hit that wall. Several times.”

Kenobi sighs. “Ach, alright, no hiding from you, as usual,” he grumbles. “I suppose the ones who truly need bacta won’t be using the light-duty variety.” He strips to his waist perfunctorily, turning his back to Cody to lay the tunics over his desk chair and giving the commander a clear view of his back, deeply mottled in blues and purples and sickly green-yellows as it already is.

Cody hisses in a little breath before he can stop himself. “That’s… worse than I had guessed, actually, sir.”

Kenobi turns back to him, picks up the paste, starts applying it to his back. “It’s not so bad, truly,” he protests. “I’m just… pale.” 

The clone sighs, settles into a chair. “If you say so, General. You know… you don’t have to do that to yourself. Weren’t there several other ways to approach the situation? We could have taken the tower, easily.”

His jetii glances at him. “Yes, but every man I take into a situation like that is a man who stands a chance of not walking out again. Whereas this way I can take all the risk onto myself. I was happy to do it.” He groans as he covers a particularly sore spot, then smiles at Cody ruefully, reaching to pull his tunic back over his head. “Besides - I’m the Negotiator, am I not? This is what I’m for.”

Cody holds his gaze flatly, knowing that he can brook no argument that will convince Kenobi to take those words back, and his jetii takes it for acquiescence, smiles. “Alright. Now, this project I’ve been working on-”

He’s interrupted by the insistent tone of his comm. “Ah, that’s going to be Mace.”

Cody stands. “I can go-”

“No, stay, it’s fine. This won’t take long.” He picks up the comm and General Windu’s visage springs into form over the little round table. “Master Windu, thanks for getting back to me.”

“Kenobi. How’d it go?”

“Fine, but-” Kenobi pauses to sink into one of his chairs, a leg thrown over the other, “-I wish you’d mentioned it was slavers we were dealing with. Or sent someone besides Anakin and I. Given his past I feel that was a bit inconsiderate.”

Mace sighs. “I’m sorry, Kenobi, I am - but we’re not exactly flush with free knights right now.” At Kenobi’s unimpressed glance, he adds, “Yea, ok, we should’ve thought to give a heads up. Apologies.”

“Certainly,” the general says graciously. “As far as next steps - I’m sure you saw my note, but it seems like the colonists have been moved off-planet entirely, and it doesn’t take much of an intellect to guess where they are if slavers have been involved.”

Mace sighs again, slightly more apprehensively. “Yea, about that… We don’t have the resources for a full assault on Zygerria right now, and they’re not fully aligned with the Separatists yet so the Senate likely wouldn’t approve of it. But time is running out for the Togrutans, so we’re recommending an infiltration approach.”

Kenobi sits for a moment before prompting him. “Ah… I see?”

The other jedi huffs. “You and Skywalker are still the closest and the least tied up in other engagements.”

Kenobi’s voice goes flat. “You want us to do it. You want me to take my Padawan, a former slave, to infiltrate a slaver’s empire.”

Windu’s expression cringes the slightest amount. “Kenobi, if I could get another capable team there anytime soon, I would, I swear. But I can’t.” Seeing the redhead’s unconvinced expression, he carefully adds, “Besides, now that Anakin knows what’s happened- do you really think he’d step back and get uninvolved? He’ll want to see this through.”

Cody’s general scowls darkly. “It won’t be good for him.”

“All the same.”

“Fine,” Kenobi huffs. “Is there anything else?”

“One thing. While you all are working infiltration, could one of your battalions join the relief effort on Bantooine? They’re having a mild pirate problem while trying to coordinate supplies. Bit of a power vacuum with the Seps out.”

Kenobi raises his brows at Cody, tossing the nonverbal question his way; the clone shrugs, signs yes ok. His jetii nods again, more decisively. “Certainly, Commander Cody can handle it. We can base out of Anakin’s ship for Zygerria.”

“Good. That’s all I have.”

“Force be with you, Mace. Kenobi out.” He cuts the connection and leans back into his chair with a sigh, running a hand through his hair. “Well. That’s that, I suppose.”

“Sorry, sir.”

The general sits forward, picks up his datapad. “Not your fault, Commander. Now, where was I-” He flicks through screens, flips the pad around and slides it over to Cody, steepling his fingers over his knees as the clone picks it up and begins to skim. “I thought a lot about what you said, after last week. And you’re right, our command structure doesn’t have enough in place to prevent… abuses of power, and such. So I drafted up an incident reporting form, where men can report up to their company captains and upward, or battalion commanders, and those men can escalate upward if the situation calls for it, directly to the Jedi High Council if necessary.”

Cody has stopped reading at some point in the last few seconds, is frozen, staring at his general, mouth slightly opened in shock. 

Kenobi pauses at his expression, then continues. “I imagine the idea of the Council being at the top of the tree might be a little uncomfortable after Krell, but… the Council members, I can vouch for. They’ll do good by this.” He huffs a breath, hurries onward. “I also drew up a request-to-transfer form, for individuals, that can be passed through by a battalion commander without needing approval outside the vod'e. In case that’s ever necessary. And I got the initial approval for it all from the Senate; wanted to do that before I showed you.”

Cody just stares at him bright-eyed, his jetii’s words soaking into his skin, flooding his body with a warmth he hadn’t known he was missing. “Sir…” he croaks out.

The general sits forward, pinching anxiously at his own fingers. “I know it might be a little rough right now, and the flow of authority could use a once-over and some more brainstorming, but I thought now that we have essentially a promise of approval I could get your inputs and we could get an edit ratified within the month, I’m sure between the two of us it’ll be a substantial step forward-”

“Obi-Wan.” Cody’s voice is husky as he sets the pad down gently, his general startled into silence by the use of his given name. Cody doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t have the words to describe this fond, overwhelming gratefulness for everything that his general is. “...thank you,” he finally gets out, reaching out to briefly grab one of the other man’s hands, squeezing it tightly between both his own. “Thank you.”

“Oh, Cody,” Obi-Wan murmurs, as the clone pulls back to his own chair. “It was really the least I could do.”

Chapter Text

Cody sees his general off to the Resolute the next morning and the 212th arrive over Bantooine the day after, ready to do their bit as temporary law enforcement. It’s a mundane mop-up assignment that the commander is expecting to last only a week before Kenobi summons him back to Kiros for rendezvous- but then a week turns to a ten-day turns to over two ten-days with no word from the jedi.

This many planets away, there is no niggling sense of Obi-Wan in the base of his skull, and Cody is beginning to worry, even as he robotically goes through the motions of organizing shifts, leading his own patrols, monitoring inventory, getting the people of Bantooine back on their feet. He hadn’t known much of the infiltration plan for Zygerria, but he’d been under the impression that it was being treated as a time-critical thing to be wrapped up quickly, not some long and deep undercover op.

By the time his comm finally goes off, he’s quite beyond having completed his battalion’s mission and the 212th are essentially dawdling through the streets looking for trouble that’s long since left for greener pastures. He’s sitting alone in their temporary barracks when he receives the transmission - but instead of his general’s face he’s greeted with Skywalker’s tense visage, the young man’s eyes clearly otherwise occupied even as he opens the call; he must be piloting. “Cody, you there?”

“Yessir, receiving you loud and clear.” He hears Commander Tano’s voice in the background calling out coordinates, but no one else. “Are General Kenobi and Rex not with you?”

Skywalker grimaces. “About that… we lost the mission on the first day, got captured. Ahsoka and I were kept at the Zygerrian palace but Obi-Wan and Rex got shipped off-planet to some labor facility with the missing Togrutans.”

Cody balks. “They’ve been there for weeks? Ah kar’e, Skywalker-”

“I know,” the jedi snaps. “But we’ve got a location and we’re en route to pull them out.”

Cody’s on his feet now, restless, running rough hyperspace calcs in his head. “If I start loading the men now we can be in Zygerrian space early tomorrow-”

“No,” Anakin interrupts him. “Just…. Start heading to the rendezvous. We’ll handle this and meet you over Kiros as planned.”

“Sir, you can’t get 300 people out of that facility without backup.”

“I’m not,” the young knight says, a hint of resentment sinking into his tone, glancing away from his ship’s controls to meet Cody’s eyes for an instant. “I called in Master Koon. He’s closer and already en route.”

And Cody’s not going to pretend that doesn’t rankle a bit, but he nods stiffly. “Very well, sir. We’ll see you over Kiros. Cody out.”

 

*** 

 

The commander paces the bridge as they come into Kiros’s orbit, despite knowing that his restlessness has no place or purpose: there will be no battle to fight, no need to drum up his adrenaline. He is simply here to collect the aftermath of other mens’ battles.

They’re greeted by General Koon’s flagship already in orbit alongside the Resolute, though Cody thinks everyone must still be working aboard the first ship, judging from the swarm of smaller transports flitting around it and occasionally peeling off to drop down to the planet surface. 

“Alice.” The pilot snaps to attention at his call. “Get me a transport ready to jump ships. I’ll be in the hangar in 10.”

“Yessir!” the lieutenant salutes.

Cody turns back to his officers. “We’ll not be here long, I imagine. Do we have the fuel for a direct jump to Coruscant?”

“Yessir, just barely.”

“Ready the ship, then. Departure in as little as two hours.” He turns and stalks out of the bridge.

 

The hangar of General Koon’s ship has largely emptied as they touch down. Cody spies Rex perched on a crate in the corner, being fussed over by his medic, while Skywalker is standing in conversation with General Koon, Tano, and an elderly Togrutan male. Kenobi is conspicuously absent.

The commander makes his way over to the group of jedi, who pause their conversation to let him step into the fold. “Generals. I’ve just pulled the 212th into orbit; will you be requiring any further assistance?”

Skywalker glances around his group for any protestations before answering. “Commander Cody, thanks for joining us. No, I think we’ve just about got it handled. Uh, how was your mission? I guess I should send the council an update.”

Cody blinks, because normally Kenobi would handle that. “Fine, sir. I’ll forward you my report. Where’s the general, if I may ask?”

“Great. Um…” the younger jedi turns to look back towards his captain. “He was with Rex a minute ago. Not sure where he’s gone now.”

And isn’t that just like Kenobi. “Fine, sir. I’ll likely be starting the Negotiator’s jump back towards Coruscant, then, if we’re not needed here.”

At Skywalker’s nod, Cody salutes and turns to jog over to Rex, Kix stepping aside to let the commander place his hands on his vod’s shoulders, looking him over from arms’ length. The blonde captain is thin and tired and has a nasty lash across his jaw, but… he looks ok.

“I’m all good, Cody,” he says quietly, after submitting to the inspection for a moment.

The commander releases him, sinks onto the crate beside him, lets Kix move back in and apply stitches to his captain’s face. “What happened?”

Rex grimaces. “No one thing. It just… went tits up, couple hours in. You know how these things are.”

“And you’re really ok? Skywalker said you got dumped into some kind of labor camp.”

The captain gives him a wry look. “Yea, ori’vod, just a little sore. I do know how to keep my head down when I need to.” He sobers a little. “You, uh, you should probably go check on your jetii, though. He was putting up a good front when we got out, but… They really had it out for him.”

Cody’s stomach twists, leaving him suddenly nauseous. “What happened.”

“He kept trying to help the others and towards the end when they couldn’t get him to quit they just started killing off anyone he helped, interacted with.”

Cody is silent, grinding his teeth against the black rage swelling up inside him.

Rex watches him for a moment. “When he heard the Negotiator had come out of hyperspace he hopped on the next drop planetside so that he could get dropped at your ship on the way back.”

Cody stands, sighing at this game of cat-and-mouse between ships, and Rex kicks at his boot before the commander moves away. “You’re right about him, Cody. He’s a good man.”

“Thanks, vod. See you on Coruscant.”

 

*** 

 

Cody heads straight for his general’s quarters the second he hits the deck of the Negotiator, pausing only to let the bridge know that everyone is onboard and that they can depart as soon as they’re ready. He knows better than to hope that Kenobi would visit the medbay unless the jedi were in the realm of death or permanent injury.

The clone knocks at his jetii’s door, waits, knocks again, stands stranded in the hallway at the answering silence. His unease grows, mind tumbling over Rex’s words, until finally he huffs and punches in the doorcode that he probably shouldn’t know - but his general never covers the pad when they enter this room together. He’ll beg forgiveness later.

Kenobi is sitting on his knees in the center of the room, still in his scorched and tattered robes, as Cody slips inside and closes the door behind himself. The jedi’s back is straight, his shoulders too thin and too still. He’s silent, but tears track down through the soot and grime on his unwashed face, despite the fact that his expression is open and not screwed up against the grief.

The clone approaches cautiously, anger swallowed down by his sympathetic grief, and kneels down in front of his jetii. “General.” He puts his hands on the man’s shoulders, not to look him over as with Rex, but to reinforce his own presence. When his jedi shudders out a sigh and his eyes sharpen on Cody’s own, though, the commander finds that he doesn’t quite know what to say. “...we should get you some cleaner robes,” he finally mutters.

He shifts his weight to stand but stops as the jedi keens out a non-verbal protest, pulling Cody forward to rest his forehead against the clone’s shoulder. The commander freezes for an instant and then settles, hands coming back up to rest on the back of the jedi’s neck. His anger bubbles up again as his fingers brush over tissue that’s swollen and heated from just-healing electrical burns and he tries to swallow the emotion down, searching for calm. “Sir, Obi-Wan… it’s ok. You’re ok.”

His jetii shudders, breathing deep but shaky, the closest Cody has ever seen him to the full-body sobs he’s seen wracking troopers on occasion. “I just wanted to help,” Kenobi finally croaks, voice thin. “But all I did was cause pain. And worse. 23 dead because of me.”

“You’re not the reason they’re dead,” Cody murmurs softly. “The slavers killed them. Not you.”

Kenobi keens again, low and pained, his hands bunched in the hems of his tunics. “I'm so tired of hurting people,he whispers. 

Cody slides his hands to the jedi’s shoulders, pushes him back so that they’re looking each other in the eye again. “No. No. You’re a good person. There are so many people you’re helping.”

Obi-Wan’s eyes are still swimming in unshed tears, deep and blue and sad. “Jedi aren’t meant to be soldiers.” 

It’s a familiar refrain, delivered sometimes in anger, sometimes in spite, and now in a wrenching mournfulness. Cody sits back, his own eyes sad. “No. But you’re one of the best of us, nevertheless.”

They kneel there on Kenobi’s meditation mat, Cody doing his best to be a calm presence, until the clone’s feet start to prickle and fall asleep and he wrenches himself upright, rummages through the little closet next to the general’s bunk, finds a set of clean pants and something that looks like a shirt- he doesn’t really know how the intricately folded robes work. Tossing the clothes into the ‘fresher, he turns and pulls his general to his feet, pushes him in after them. “Rinse the dust off, sir, it’ll help. I’ll be here when you’re done.”

The jedi allows himself to be herded into the little room and Cody sighs, digging through his general’s belongings once again to find the stash of bacta and bandages that he knows Kenobi keeps in here, before settling into a chair to wait.

When his jetii emerges with his hair in a wet mop and his skin pinked from the shower, he looks at least marginally better. He’s neglected to put a shirt on, and when he turns to throw his soiled robes into the sonic cleaner, Cody sees why- the man’s back is a mess of twisted burns and lashes, some well scabbed over, others weeping pale liquid, not quite bleeding outright. He sucks in a breath, suddenly concerned that his field medicine experience isn’t going to be adequate. “Sir… we might want to have Kipper or Helix look that over,” he ventures.

Instead of the usual flippant avoidance of the medbay, he gets Kenobi turning to him with a crumbling expression. “Cody, please, no- I can’t right now. Please,” he pleads, voice cracking.

“Let me put something on them then.”

At Kenobi’s nodded assent, he drags over the spare chair they’d stolen from the mess and set for Cody at the general’s desk, lets the jedi straddle it and sit with his forearms and forehead resting against the seatback.

He starts gently dabbing bacta into the cuts and burns, trying not to listen to the way his jetii’s breathing quickens when he gets to the ones near the man’s neck, smoothing bandages over any wounds that might threaten to bleed.

He’s just finishing when he sees the brand - 5 tiny numbers seared into the skin above Kenobi’s collarbone, setting his blood boiling anew. He forces his hand not to shake, brushes a thumb over the raised marks. “What did they do.” His voice is a low, flat growl.

Obi-Wan flinches minutely at his tone. “It happened early. It’s healed.”

Cody wants to break something but he just turns away, forcing stiff normalcy back into his tone. “Let me get the scar gel.”

“I thought I might keep it. As a reminder.” 

The clone spins back around to find his jedi standing now, facing him, and has to remind himself not to clench the tube of ointment so tightly lest it burst out of its lid in his grasp. “No,” he protests sharply, surprising himself with his own vehemence. He takes a breath, tries again more gently. “No. You shouldn’t have to think of this every time you look in a mirror. And no one should ever look at you and see something less than what you are. You’re more than a serial.”

The jedi looks on the verge of breaking down again as Cody slowly approaches, but doesn’t move away or protest. “So are you, Kote.” His voice grows more fragile, almost desperate. “Did I- did I ever call you by anything but your name?”

Cody smooths the gel over the brand with his thumb, eyes glued to his task. “No, sir. Never.” 

His jetii shivers at the touch, breath shallow, and Cody continues talking as he opens another bandage, smooths it over the wet gel. “I was CC-2224 for years before I was Kote or Cody. That’s a part of who I am, and it’s different. But no, you’ve never called me that.”

Kenobi meets his gaze, soaks in the words, still looking thin and close to breaking. Eventually he closes his eyes. “I’m sorry, you must think me weak, going to pieces like this. I just…” his eyes flutter open. “I can’t stop seeing them die.”

Cody shakes his head. “I’ve never thought that, sir.” Remembering how Kenobi had embraced him, once, he opens his arms in invitation, and the jedi steps into the hug with only a moment’s hesitation, shuddering a few more breaths into the clone’s shoulder before his own shoulders relax.

The clone holds the embrace for a while, trying to imagine himself as some embodiment of peace and strength, something for his jetii to draw from. Finally he steps back. “You should catch some sleep.”

Obi-Wan sighs. “If I sleep, I’ll dream,” he murmurs. “I… really don’t want to dream, right now.”

Cody looks away, deliberating, and then pulls one of the padded round chairs over near the head of the bunk, snags Kenobi’s datapad and tosses it in the seat. “I’ll keep watch, sir, and wake you if you do. I gotta look at some numbers anyway. Please, sleep.”

The general stares at him a moment, eyes soft and brimming with some unstated emotion, and finally assents. “Very well… I suppose you won’t take no for an answer.” He putters around the cabin a few moments more and then crawls into the bunk, curls into the far wall. 

Cody toes off his boots and settles into the chair for yet another vigil. Contrary to the man’s worries, his general quickly falls into an exhausted sleep, and doesn’t stir til dawn.

 

***

 

The commander is woken from a light doze by Kenobi moving about the cabin, preparing tea. He rubs sleep from his eyes, checks his wrist chrono - it’s early morning. He must have drifted off once it seemed like his jedi would sleep safely through the night.

The general notices him stir and nods a greeting. “Cody. You didn’t have to stay- but thank you all the same,” he hurries to add. He lifts the forgotten datapad off of Cody’s leg, replaces it with a carefully balanced cup of steaming caf. 

Cody lifts it gratefully. “I was happy to stay, sir. Don’t mention it.”

Kenobi sighs, perching on the edge of his bunk to face his commander, his own cup of tea in hand. “All the same, I feel I must apologize for last night. That was not particularly professional of me.”

Cody frowns. “Sir - Obi-Wan - all due respect, but you’re not just my commanding officer; you’re my jetii, my friend. I’m here for you in all those capacities, in any way you need or want me to be.”

The jedi’s cheeks inexplicably flush pink a little at that, and he drops his eyes to his mug, watching the steam swirl up. “Cody… that sentiment means a great deal to me. Truly. But for… reasons I feel I can’t, shouldn’t, explain, I-” he pauses, searching for words, voice hesitant. “I can’t fully take advantage of your offer. I feel I would overstep.”

“Sir, I-”

“Cody. Please, don’t push me into this corner,” he pleads, eyes desperate. “Besides, you have more than enough on your plate as is; we don’t need to add my… issues.”

Disgruntled, Cody nevertheless drops the issue. “Very well, sir. But please don’t apologize for anything about yesterday.” His voice softens as he adds, “I was glad you trusted me.”

“With my life, Cody,” the jedi says, standing again. “Always.”

Chapter Text

They’ve been on Coruscant for nearly two weeks, giving their general time to be in the Jedi Temple and recover from his time with the Zygerrians. As such, Cody’s not surprised when he’s commed with new orders; what’s surprising is that they’re delivered directly by General Yoda. Cody’s never spoken directly with the wizened old being and he’s startled into cadet-like stiff attention when the hologram springs to life over his desk. “General Yoda, sir!”

“Be at ease, Commander,” Yoda chuckles. “Have a mission for your battalion, I do. Travel to the grassland world of Chiari, you will. Joined with the Separatists, have a segment of its natives; holding the planet using guerilla tactics, they are. Go with you, will the 501st, as well as Master Koon and Knight Secura and their men. Take the planet and restore peace to its villages, you will.”

Cody blinks, parsing the wording. “Will General Kenobi and General Skywalker not be joining us, sir?” 

“No,” the green jedi says shortly. “An investigation here on Coruscant, must they undertake. A Jedi matter, it is.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll see the battalion readied.”

“Excellent, Commander. Leave this evening if possible, you should. Tomorrow morning, at latest. Dismissed, you are.”

Cody salutes as the transmission cuts, then starts making comm calls, scrambling his men, making sure Rex has the orders as well. The Negotiator has been ready to go for several days, Cody having wanted to be prepared to ship out quickly for exactly this sort of scenario.

He hesitates over the last call, wondering if his jetii is terribly tied up in prep for his own mission. Kenobi had been subtly but unusually absent the last week, in and out of Council meetings, although the few times Cody’s seen him, he seemed to have bounced back from his melancholy. Nothing for it, though- he needs to go over new trooper allocations with his general and make sure the man doesn’t need anything out of his shipside cabin before they depart for what sounds like a large scale, drawn out campaign. He opens the call.

“Kenobi.”

“General. I’ve got new orders for the 212th, sure you’re aware. I need to speak with you briefly before we depart.”

“Ah. Right. Mm… can you meet me at the Temple docks and we can walk to my quarters and sort things out?”

“Yessir. Time?”

“I can be there in 30?”

“Yessir, I’ll be there. Cody out.”

 

He finds his general on the loading dock as promised, the jedi’s eyes flicking around restlessly, dancing around Cody as he approaches. “Sir. Everything ok?”

Kenobi smiles at him, though it seems forced. “Cody. Yes, of course, what do you have for me?”

“Nothing too difficult, sir. Just need to look over new troop assignments, whether we pick up more scouts or ARCs, shouldn’t take long.”

They make the quick trek to Kenobi’s quarters and make quick work of the logistics, but with none of the jedi’s characteristic banter. After they wrap and sit in silence a minute, Cody stands. “Well, sir, unless you need anything from your cabin up ship-side, I’ll see you after the mission.”

Kenobi blinks, stands himself. “No, I think you’re good to go.” He hesitates before stepping in closer to his commander, finally meeting his eyes steadily. “Cody…” he pauses, seeming to work his next words around in his mouth, before finally speaking again. “Stay safe, Commander. K’oyacyi, and Force be with you. No matter what happens.” The sentiment is soft, but his voice is clipped.

Cody squeezes his shoulder, wishing to alleviate whatever discomfort has slipped in between them. “Of course, sir. Always do. I’ll see you when I get back.” He gives a little two-fingered salute and strides back out to ready his men.

 

***

 

Often when battles take them up against non-droid combatants, it’s against people who are desperate and angry but not quite warriors. The fighters on Chiari, however, are certainly living up to Yoda’s guerrilla-warfare description. Cody is glad the GAR is out in such force here; the enemy is spread out over the vast wild grasslands, and to drive them back with a single battalion would take an eternity or require laying waste and fire to much of the land.

With superior numbers, though, they can fight a multi front offensive, slowly combing through the fields and forests to flush out combatants, slowly reclaiming land in the name of the more peaceful settlements.

 

It’s the seventh day when Cody’s world comes tumbling down around his shoulders, falling into pieces that will never allow themselves to be reassembled the same way again. He’s been on a four-night cross-country push to clear a certain swathe of savannah of the guerilla warriors, Torrent Company and Ghost Company holding and advancing the line continuously across the grassland, catching snatches of rest when they can in tents or under the open stars. 

One of the native warriors catches him unaware as they’re creeping at intervals through the tall fields. His assailant jumps suddenly into his field of view, and Cody reacts instinctively, clocking him over the cheekbone with the butt of his rifle and lunging into a tackle. 

They roll in the grass, tussling for position, as the warrior pulls a knife and begins trying to stab it into the soft spaces between the clone’s armor. Cody takes advantage of the other’s occupied arms to headbutt him in the face and quickly pins his wrists.

The man spits blood onto his visor and then cackles, suddenly, inexplicitly. “I recognize you, clone . You’re that commander. Kenobi’s.” Another cackle, and the man hisses, “How does it feel to know he’s dead?”

“What?” Cody freezes in shock, the cold impossibility trickling down his spine.

The warrior presses the surprise advantage he’s created, rolling over the clone, still talking. “...shot down in the street like some no-name thug-”

He’s silenced by a blaster bolt, slumping off the commander, as Rex stalks into view, blaster at the ready, and helps his dazed vod to his feet. “Cody… you good?”

Cody ignores him, scrambles his comm to Obi-Wan’s frequency. It beeps soullessly at him, over and over, and times out. He tries again. Nothing. No.

Rex is standing stiffer now, shakes Cody’s shoulder. “Kote. Snap out of it, what’s going on?”

Cody shifts to face him, movements stilted and robotic. “He said- he said Kenobi’s dead.”

Rex curses under his breath. “Ok. Ok- vod, he could’ve been lying,” the captain presses, though his voice sounds strained. “We’ll make it to our rendezvous and be setting up a base by late afternoon. General Secura or General Koon will have intel.”

Intel. It’s a cold word, for the telling of whether Cody will ever see his jetii again. 

“Ori’vod. We gotta keep moving.” Rex’s voice snaps him back to reality like a dunk into freezing water.

Cody shudders, mutters, “...sorry.” He had always been known for being unaffected, as a rule; it was part of his talent as a field commander. 

He feels anything but unaffected, anything but commanding, now.

Rex pats him on the shoulder once more. “He might have been lying,” the captain repeats, like a prayer.

Little gods willing, Cody thinks, not daring to hope. He gives himself another beat to swallow down his fear, and follows his brother back into the waving grasses.

 

He loses the next couple hours after that, swimming through monotonous vegetation, until they reach the rendezvous point to find the other groups mostly finished constructing the base that will house them the next couple days. 

Cody marches directly to the command tent, blindly pushing past his troopers, dimly aware of Rex trailing after him. He shoves through the doorway to find both the Generals and Commander Bly already standing inside. Their conversation dies immediately at his entrance and he’s uncomfortably aware of the several pairs of eyes on him.

Rex pushes in behind him, stands close, takes in the room.

When still no one speaks, Cody rips his bucket off, fumbles it to the ground in clumsy fingers. “Kenobi,” he rasps. “Is it true?”

The way that General Secura immediately looks away, tears springing to her eyes, is all the confirmation he needs. General Koon’s eyes are dark and gentle. “I’m sorry, Commander.”

Cody bends to retrieve his bucket, jamming it back on his head, feeling like something cold and dead is seeping into his chest and calcifying there. “When? How?”

“A sniper, on Coruscant. Two days ago.”

Rex takes hold of his elbow. “Generals. I’ll have our report submitted within the hour. Is there anything else?”

Secura sniffs, collects herself. “No. We’ll be here a few days. You… you can take the evening and tomorrow off. I’m sorry,” she adds gently.

Cody manages a stiff salute and walks out of the tent, Rex near-glued to his side, following him even into the commander’s own little tent. “Kote…”

The commander clenches his jaw, pulling off his bucket and setting it under his cot, dumping his blaster unceremoniously on the pillow. “Rex, please, just let me be,” he rasps out wearily, sinking to the ground to bury his face in his hands. 

Rex hovers above him anxiously before running a hand over Cody’s head. “Fine. I’ll come back in a few hours. Take a shower, ori’vod.”

 

He sits there on the blasted ground for gods know how long, his mind spooling out a steady stream of regrets and memories both had and not. His jetii lost to some sniper’s rifle without Cody there to have his back. He remembers the last time they’d spoken, but not the last time they’d stood together drinking caf under some planet sunrise. Remembers their last battle together, but not the last time he’d sat in the Negotiator’s mess hall, regaling the shinies with stories the vets all knew by heart. All this, and yet… it had only been two years.

Angrily wiping the tears from his eyes, he pushes to his feet. Rex is right; he should shower, while they have the luxury. He’ll allow himself this night, but war is still upon them, and Cody is at heart a realist. Kenobi had been a general and a soldier; there was always a chance of this happening. He’ll need to pull himself together. Besides- he and Kenobi, together, had built the 212th into one of the premier battalions in the GAR. He won’t soil his jetii’s memory by allowing their command to fall into disrepair.

He’s clean and dry-eyed but still stewing in his thoughts when Rex reappears after some time, as promised. “Up you get, Kot’ika.”

“Where are we going?” Cody mutters.

Rex’s eyes are soft but firm. “Kote, if you think I’m letting you sit in here alone tonight, you don’t know me at all.” Without waiting for an answer, he leads the way outside, the commander following numbly.

They make their way over to one of the other officers’ tents, duck inside- oh. Cody’s batchmates are there, Bly and Wolffe, sitting around a little foldout card table with chairs for four and a few gallon jugs of ale. 

Rex pushes him into a seat as Bly pours him a glass. Wolffe does him one better, pulling a flask from some hidden pocket, handing it over. Cody takes a long pull, the strength of the liquor watering his eyes, sets it back on the table. Rex sits as well, raises his glass. “To the general.”

“Kenobi,” the other three echo, Cody’s face twisting in a grimace. 

To his relief, they don’t ply him with canned platitudes; he sits gratefully, mostly silent, letting the alcohol blunt his thoughts as the voices of his vod’e layer over him like some comforting blanket. Tomorrow will bring fresh horrors: a return to function, a Remembrance with the rest of the 212th, the oncoming anxiety of a new General joining them- but tonight, Cody just is. He lets his mind drift, feeling both very far away from the world around him and very hyper aware of mundane details. The clink of his brothers’ glasses, the occasional loud flap of the tent wall, the scratches in the surface of their table (brazer was here, says the one nearest him) all cut through the haze to prod at him, keeping his thoughts from completely exiting the here-and-now.

Some hours later Wolffe and Rex have moved on to teasing Bly, poor Bly, over his deep infatuation- though he insists it’s returned- with his General Secura. It’s this conversation that drags Cody into a horrible new perspective over his own reality, stripping him out of his dull quagmire like carbon fuels poured over paint. Not the teasing itself, but Bly’s reaction to it.

Wolffe is sprawled back with his boots up on the table edge, a posture that might be precarious if anyone else had tried it. “I dunno, vod. I just can’t even think straight about falling in love with my general.”

Rex snorts, seeming to take Bly’s side for an instant. “Wolffe, you call your general buir. If you’re in love with him you’ve got more head problems than I’d thought.”

The scarred commander narrows his eyes in false menace. “I’ll show you head problems, vod’ika- but fine, Skywalker then. Not a buir type. Not even ugly. And is Rex head over heels? Are ya?”

The blonde shakes his head, eyes going haunted. “Little gods, no, that would be a terrible idea.”

“Exactly.” Wolffe turns back to Bly, fingers tapping on the table, waiting for rebuttal.

Bly is too earnest to glare or scoff or do anything but argue back. “Aayla is just different, you heartless di’kuts - and don’t bring Skywalker into this as a counter, we all know he’s already wrapped up with the Sen-”

“Ach!” Rex cuts him off, hand raised. “I’m pretending everyone else doesn’t already know. Makes me feel better.”

He gets dead-eyed looks of really from the other two before Bly continues. “...Fine. Look, she’s just- Aayla cares so much about doing the right thing, even in the middle of all this war, and she’s saved my life twice when she didn’t have to, not because it made sense but because she hates leaving anyone behind. She eats with the men, trains with the men, grieves with the men… she’s just so mandokar-”

It’s this passionate declaration that stretches cold claws into Cody’s chest to wrap around his heart, as he suddenly realizes with painful clarity the way Bly’s words now could be echoes of his own thoughts, from before. He shoots to his feet, shaking the table, and strides wordlessly out of the tent as he fights to keep his expression controlled.

Cody means to walk but finds himself stumbling almost at a run, through the dark stillness of their base, collecting himself just enough to walk past the perimeter guard with a forced-calm “At ease, trooper,” before he can stride into the blessed anonymous wilderness, the grasses and trees swallowing him up.

Rex is there, out of breath after having sprinted to catch up, tucking a palm-sized blaster into his waistband because he wasn’t being stupid like Cody. Rex is always there. 

The commander feels like he’s phasing back into reality again, standing there with shaking hands in the dark. He kicks at some seed-pod viciously, watches it fly into the grass and get swallowed up. “Fuck!” He sinks down to sit hunched over on a slab of rock, head in his hands. “Fucking hells .”

Rex crouches in front of him, peels his hands away. “Kote- talk to me, ori’vod.” The captain seems like he’s absorbing all the light in their vicinity, his hair and hazel-gold eyes bright even after nightfall.

Cody gazes back at him, his darker-brown eyes shadowed and dull. “...I loved him,” he finally rasps, voice quiet and hoarse. “Rex, I loved him.” 

The captain is quiet a moment, then sighs gently, settling down onto the ground and laying a hand on Cody’s knee. “Kot’ika… I know you did . I’m sorry.”

Cody tips his head back to look up at the heartless stars, willing himself not to weep or scream out his fury, because why should this new self-awareness change his grief? Kenobi was dead before, would stay dead now. He imagines his breath carrying the emotion out of his body, the way the jetiise pretended to, and wonders if this is the part that leads nat-borns to fear war.

 

***

 

He wakes late the next morning, assembles his battalion, somehow manages to share the news with his troops without losing control of his voice- and then that is over, and it’s as if something inside of him has hardened and gone away. 

For the next two weeks he fights like a man possessed, fueled by smoldering anger and reduced to someone cold and calculating, softening only when his vod’e need him to be kind. He eats little and sleeps even less, stubbornly ignoring the way Rex, Ghost Company, Bly, Wolffe, even General Koon are watching him with subtle concern. He doesn’t think they should be surprised- he had been the top of his command class for a reason, and now there is no Kenobi to soften what he is when stripped down to the foundation. 

Their last night on-planet, Cody stands on a rise watching the sun set over the savannah, the waning red light staining the golden grasses the same color as Obi-Wan’s hair, like the whole planet is paying him homage. The commander breathes deep and tries to find peace.

 

Back on Coruscant, he finds that while he hadn’t necessarily wanted to fight his way through his grief, action-however unpleasant-had been infinitely preferable to this stagnant limbo. The 212th is stranded on the shared space of their ship and the planet. Much to his frustration, the Council are suddenly unwilling to give Cody the solo command now that he wasn’t theoretically reporting back to one of their own- but they are equally hesitant, it would seem, to assign him a new jedi. He even goes so far as to submit an official notice that he and his men are prepped and ready to ship back out, trying to understand why the Jedi are sidelining one of their most effective units, and all he gets for his troubles is a standard-copy letter stating that he’ll be informed when their redeployment becomes necessary.

So, the battalion waits, and Cody drives himself mad, itching to leave, to go, to do anything. The first couple days he maintains a rigid schedule, assuming he could be receiving a new general at any moment. It’s hard to convince himself to maintain such discipline, though, when so much time passes and nothing happens. He doesn’t go so far as to let the battalion slip up, but he sinks into himself, spends nights wandering the Coruscant underworld tagging onto Fox’s patrols, sleeps late in the mornings. 

His vod’e don’t even need to cover for him, so little is his workload. Sure, he’s still the marshall commander, is still orchestrating the movements of the Third Systems Army as a whole, but he’s been doing that for years all while leading the 212th into warzone after active warzone. To do it while sitting on his shebs in a Coruscanti barracks mess hall is not nearly enough to fill his time.

Rex keeps tabs on him, drags him to the gym to spar, sits and listens to Cody rant about how they’ve dumped the 212th on this planet and left them to rot like so many cast-off toys... until Rex is gone, too, called to Naboo to help his General fend off some assassination attempt.

So frustratingly permanent does his monotony seem that Cody has to blink twice, blearily, at his field ‘pad when the summons do come in one morning, trying to make sure he hasn’t imagined the missive- but yes, the 212th is to report to their ships, prepare to depart.

He stumbles out of his bunk, cursing, heart rate skyrocketing, because it’s karking 10 in the morning and the message had been delivered at 0800 when Cody should have been awake two hours already-

The commander scrambles around the little planetside barracks-room he’d taken, pulls on his armor, gives his helmet a cursory wipe-down, and throws his spare blacks and his few necessities into his field satchel. His pilot is waiting on the landing pad when he hits it as a dead run, the transport otherwise empty - the rest of the men must already be shipside.

Cody sighs as he clambers aboard, resigned to his mistake, wondering if he should even bother dreaming up an excuse. “Good man, Lieutenant. Let’s fly.”

“Copy that, sir, wings going up now.”

He collects himself on the way up, straightening his armor, steeling himself for the inevitable mindfuck that will be meeting a new C.O. He heads straight for the bridge once he hits the deck, trying his best to ignore the way his battalion is watching him move through the ship, tense and apprehensive like they’re waiting for a bomb to go off- surely my tardiness didn’t cause such a fuss. Fuck, if the new jedi was one of those types...

The heavy blast doors swick open and the flight crew glances up at him with that same wide-eyed look before immediately returning their attention to the screens. 

Rex is on his ship for some reason, standing just up ahead with helmet off, talking to a humanoid jedi who has his back to Cody- male, bald, with pale skin and cream colored robes.

The new general . Cody takes one last fortifying breath and strides toward them, removing his own helmet. He wishes absently that this new jedi dressed in a different color, because his build is so very like Kenobi’s and even without the hair it would be too easy to slip up, mistake one for the other.

Rex sees him approaching and his face flickers in recognition but also apprehension and Cody really needs to figure out what’s gotten into the vod’e this morning, and then the new jedi is turning around as Cody closes the distance-

The commander stutters to a stop with a body’s length between him and the other men, his blood turning to ice and muscles to stone, his head reeling as he tries to remember how to breathe.

Obi-Wan’s eyes stare back at him from the curiously hairless face, expression wary but fond. “Good morning, Commander,” says the dead man. “Lovely to see you again.”

Chapter Text

“Lovely to see you again.” The pleasant accent echoes in Cody’s ears. He’s heard that voice only in nightmares for weeks now.

There’s a long pause where they stare at each other and Rex mutters something about needing to get planetside and walks out, squeezing Cody’s wrist on his way past, the contact nudging him to speak.

“You- they told me you died.” His voice comes out louder and harsher than he’d expected, audible across the bridge, and Obi-Wan flinches under the many watching eyes, some phantom hope melting off his face like evaporating dew.

“Ah… perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere,” the jedi hedges quietly.

The part of Cody that is still a functioning CC realizes that he is, in this moment, setting the tone for how his battalion receives their miraculously returned general . He swallows down his shock-hurt-confusion and pulls his bucket on, dredging up his sense of professionalism. “Good to have you back, sir.” The vocoder works miracles smoothing the inflection out of his voice and he addresses the bridge. “Flight check, please.”

“All systems online, ready to depart when you are, sir.”

“Copy that, captain. Get me wings up in 30 and hyperspace on your mark after that.”

“Oya, sir.”

Cody returns his attention to Kenobi, steps out of the center of the walkway and sweeps an arm towards the door in a wordless invitation.

 

They walk silently through the halls, Cody taking the lead and directing them first to his own cabin, the general giving him an uncertain glance as he keys open the door. The clone gestures to the field satchel still thrown over his shoulder. “Dropping this. I also…” how to say this? “I took your plant. And some other things.” It’s embarrassing, now, to have been caught salvaging a dead man’s personal effects.

Kenobi pauses. “Oh.” Like he’s just now considering that they would have cleaned out his cabin. “...Thank you. I thought it was gone.”

The tiny tree is still on the floor where he’d left it, next to the box of Kenobi’s tea supplies. He hadn’t taken much, just the little curiosities they’d have binned while clearing out the room for the next jedi: the tea set, the meditation mat, the riverstone Kenobi kept on his desk.

The jedi chokes a little seeing the last item, reaching down to pick it up. “My master gave this to me as a Padawan,” he murmurs, turning it in hand. “I forgot to grab it, before I… left. Thought I’d never see it again.” 

Cody can’t imagine what he’s expected to say in response, still caught up in the surrealness of whatever is happening right now. He stoops to pick up the box, toes at the little pot left on the floor and mutters flatly, “Bring your tree, sir.”

No further conversation is had on their walk through the halls; the only noise is the footsteps of passing troops and the occasional clink as Cody adjusts the box in his arms. They’re clearly the subject of much poorly veiled scrutiny. Cody wonders whether the jedi had made an announcement this morning, or if he’d just arrived and let the rumor mill do the rest. He suspects the latter.  

The air inside Kenobi’s quarters smells wrong, tainted with lingering traces of cleaning solution. Cody sets his burden down on the desk and stands off to the side to let his general do the same, the clone’s body falling into a stiff sort of half-attention. The jedi takes a seat in one of the low chairs- at least they’d left the furniture alone- and lets out an uncomfortable cough. “You can sit, Cody. If you’d like.”

It sounds like an invitation but feels like a command. Cody sits, takes his helmet off, sets it aside slowly as he tries in vain to settle his swirling thoughts. “Goes without saying I’m relieved to see you alive, sir,” he finally settles on, voice soft and clipped, “but all the same… I’d like an explanation, please.”

Kenobi rubs a hand over his eyes, thinking for a moment. “The plainest answer is that it was a ruse to set me up for an undercover op. Killing me- making it look realistic- gave my bounty hunter alter-ident some legitimacy in necessary circles, and convinced our enemy to let their guards down. Our end game was to capture Dooku while foiling an assassination.” He rushes the words out like he thinks Cody will cut him off, and then sighs. “Unfortunately we didn’t manage the latter.”

Cody absorbs this, swallowing against his dry mouth. High General Kenobi, the general of the GAR, the other half of Cody’s command unit, had falsified his death for an undercover run as a bounty hunter. Had done so at scale, so that even guerilla warriors living out of thatched huts on Chiari had been aware. “...why wasn’t I told of this?” He’s wracking his brain for the answer before the jedi even has a chance to speak.

“We- the Council, that is- felt that for it to be successful, as few people as possible would be told. Hardly anyone knew.”

Cody isn’t ‘hardly anyone.’ I loved you, he thinks. “I mourned you,” he says instead, lets the hurt and the bitterness seep through the tone of his voice rather than trying to fit them into words. “Do you know how I found out? I got jumped in a field by some Sep who heard before I did.”

Kenobi’s gaze drops to his lap, pained. “And I’m sorry for deceiving you, my friend. I thought… with all of us soldiers in this war, you- and Anakin- might easily understand why I did it.”

Oh. So that’s how it’s going to go - a reminder that at the end of the day, Cody is merely what he is, a clone born and bred for war and duty. If that’s what it’s to be… the commander straightens his back, cuts his voice flat again. “That was cruel, sir, not to tell him. You know Skywalker doesn’t think of you as just a fellow soldier.”

Kenobi winces, going on the defensive, leaving Cody sure Skywalker made himself very clear in whatever their conversation had been. “Cody, the Council all agreed-”

The clone raises a hand, cuts him off. “The Council may have said, Kenobi, but at the end of the day you agreed to it,” he says, voice deceptively soft. “And now that you, as my General, have given your reasons for keeping me in the dark, I’m going to tell you as your second-in-command that I think it was a poor decision.”

The jedi’s eyes drop again. “As is your right.”

“I’m serious, Kenobi. I don’t know what your position in the Order was before the war, but regardless- you aren’t some run-of-the-mill infantry knight now. Worlds turn at your disappearance.” He huffs in annoyance. “I restructured entire command groups because of this. I was prepping to bring up a new High General from nothing, was getting ready for us to push through 6 months of losing battles while your successor learned his ropes. And regardless of the decision to send you- I’m the fucking Marshal Commander, and you and I are running a huge piece of this war effort, Council be damned. So if you were going to go, I should have been informed.”

Obi-Wan holds himself like a man being court-martialed under the clone’s words. When Cody finishes, he runs his hands over his face again, eyes hooded. “I understand. You’re right. I am sorry, Cody. I hope you can forgive me.” 

“I’m a professional, sir. As you so succinctly pointed out. You don’t technically need to ask.” 

It’s a petty jab and it hits home, the jetii’s expression sagging, needling Cody with guilt as soon as the words are out of his mouth. The clone’s voice softens a mite. “Just don’t do it again, sir. Please. If you have any regard for me as a… a friend, don’t do this again.”

Kenobi nods mutely, not quite meeting his gaze.

The shock is wearing off, now, leaving Cody with all the realizations that come after: the giddy relief that Kenobi is alive, the frustration of having to undo so much of the logistical labor of the past few weeks, the dawning horror that he’s admitted (to Rex and himself only, thank the little gods) to some very unprofessional feelings towards his superior and now he’s going to have to deal with that… he groans quietly.

The jedi studies him. “Cody?”

“Nothing, sir, just…” Cody stands, avoiding eye contact, trying to tamp down his still swirling emotions. “Been a shit month. If you don’t need anything else, I’m going to go.”

“Oh. Yes, of course. Thank you, Cody.” His voice has a sad bent that chases the commander all the way out the door.

Chapter Text

The interactions between the 212th and their general don’t swing back to ‘normal’ right away. Cody’s even a little surprised by how awkward it is at first- but it makes sense; the vod’e had largely accepted Kenobi as one of their own, until his death-falsifying antics had reminded everyone that at the end of the day he was living a different reality. 

So there are several weeks, several missions, where the jedi doesn’t slot seamlessly into conversations or training rooms or meal tables like he had before. Kenobi accepts it gracefully, doesn’t force the issue, just keeps showing up until the fabric of the battalion smooths back out around him. The clones’ lives don’t leave too much room for grudges, after all.

Cody does his level best to act as if nothing had transpired, because in theory he is still the same commander he’d been before his general died. So he sits across from the other man and accepts tea as they plan missions, he charges droids three steps off his jetii’s heel, he delivers reports or missed meals or dropped lightsabers with his customary old lack of aplomb. He doesn’t acknowledge the way that Rex sends him knowing, if slightly pitying, glances when the captain catches them bantering. 

It was what it was. In truth, Cody is mostly surprised by how different it feels to love his general the same as before, except for having admitted to himself that it was something beyond the love for a brother. There is more than one way to love someone, he reminds himself as he covers Kenobi’s back, shoves caf and food into his jetii’s hands before a dawn assault, drags him off to see Kipper. This is just the quiet kind. He considers more than once the idea of blurting it out, prying his chest open for his general to see, but… the odds of reassignment or worse are too high. It’s easier, and perhaps more self-serving, to sit with it, let it bleed into his everyday dedication, ‘healthy’ working relationships be damned.

And when the general’s hair grows back and he’s returned to his old self in appearance as well as everything else, Cody very carefully ignores how his own mouth goes dry and his heartbeat quickens when his jetii faces him on the battlefield, with firelight in his eyes and smoke at his back and heat in his tone. Because love- that could be an innocent emotion. He could love his superior, and chalk it up to dedication or service or duty or one of a million other synonyms for caring. But lust- lust was not innocent, not in the least, and Cody can’t allow himself to accept how it kindles in his chest before curdling into a sour self-loathing. The vod’e never really lusted for one another, despite any love that might be present, and to have those feelings towards a general who thinks of Cody as a brother- it could never be right.

He does his best to chalk it up to battle fever, and ignore it away. The commander is a student of war, and war made men’s blood run hot; or so it was agreed upon by the archaic writings of the great warrior cultures of old.

 

Kenobi, for his part, seems just as committed to rebuilding whatever bridges he’d burned and fostering a new sense of balance- with the men, with Skywalker, with Cody. He’s uncharacteristically unreserved in his dedication, warm and open and transparent with all of them in the peaceful hours aboard ships, a whirl of devastation on the battlefields below. It ushers in a much needed period of normalcy for Cody’s battalion, completing missions with no untoward trauma, letting their collective resilience strengthen itself back to beskar-hard.

 

It also makes it all the more shocking, to Cody, when he wakes one morning in his shipboard cabin in the skies over Coruscant, to a personal missive from Kenobi that states, Commander- Something’s come up that I must attend to (Mandalore). I’ve had to go without Council backing or approval, so I fear I must beg you to cover for me. For all that you’re capable of leading these missions yourself, I apologize for leaving this on you- I would not have done so, had the need not been dire. Yours, Obi-Wan.

Cody blinks the sleep from his eyes, shakes his head to clear it, reads the words again. “What the hells …?” He checks his chrono; they’re a mere hour away from hitting hyperspace on the way to their next mission. He comms the bridge. “Bridge command, did we have any unscheduled departures from the main hangar last night?”

“Ah… none besides General Kenobi, sir, but he said you and he would be clear on that?” The officer pauses. “Should we be delaying departure?”

Cody stares blankly at his wall for a moment, letting the shock subside. He really just left? At a cough over the comm from the waiting bridge, he resigns himself with a sigh. “No, captain. Departure still slated for 0700. Proceed as usual but any comms from Coruscant go directly to me, understood?”

“Sir.”  

 

Well. At least it was a relatively straightforward mission - a couple Seppie strongholds to take out, paired with some tricky approaches through heavy jungle, but nothing that promised to be particularly eventful. All the same, Cody hopes his general can wrap his business on Mandalore- and the commander can certainly guess what, or more accurately whom , had called Kenobi there- and rejoin them before his Council comes calling for any mission reports. He swallows his irritation and the slightest tinge of betrayal (still too familiar), and pulls up the sitrep on his way to the mess to get some damn caf.

 

***

 

He lands his troops about equidistant from the two Sep strongholds, forgoing tanks in favor of a cocktail of gunships, speeders, and walkers, given the dense and tangled vegetation. “Boil, Slate, let’s get some feelers out - take land scouts towards both bases and sweep the perimeter from the air, let me know what we’re dealing with.”

“Sir!” they salute and meld back into the fray. His own base is coming to life around Cody as the men get a center command set up and a perimeter erected, burning back the vegetation within 50 meters to clear the eyelines on any approaching hostiles.  

It’s less than an hour before Adan is waving him over to the holoscreen. “Recon coming online in 2, sir!”

They stand across from each other over the table, mirroring how Cody usually stands across from Kenobi, and look down at the lay of the land, the triangle between their position and the two enemy bases. Scans from the air are showing fortified structures extending down to the subterranean, one of them showing up warm red to indicate either life-forms or some sort of reactor inside. Multicolored markers are still flickering up on the approach portion of the map, the ground scouts tagging spots that would make good or bad assault or retreat lines.

Boil’s voice scratches onto the command frequency. “Commander, sir, we’ve just hit a line of droids, coming up on the map now. Think they saw us land the ships, they’re on the offensive, my team’s pulling back.”

“Copy that, Boil. All scouts back to base.”

He turns to Adan. “Hold our position here if anything gets through and comm me if the recon changes. Gonna take Ghost Company out and see what kinda heat they’re packing.”

“Copy that, sir, we’ll be here,” the captain salutes.

 

*** 

 

He and his men creep through the undergrowth in a row of short columns, the frontrunners staying low, more conspicuous walkers bringing up the rear, their feet sinking deep into springy moss and loam at each step. The air is heavy and moist even through his helmet filters and the insects buzzing around his body, drawn to the scent of sweat, are an annoying presence despite his armor, constantly tricking his eyes into imagining peripheral motion. Cody hates jungles. 

Trapper comms from the next column over. “Droids spotted, sir, 300 meters out and closing.”

“Copy. Let’s get through the next stream bed and form a line on the far slope, stay low and out of sight. Walkers behind trees.”

His troops signal or tap the ok-following around him and they carry their advance another 75 paces, scrambling over a stream and up the slope on the other side to crouch or belly up at the point where it goes level again. 

The only sound for several minutes is the buzzing flies and Cody’s own breathing, slow and steady through the mounting anticipation. Nuna shifts next to him, back to a tree root, hefting his revolving blaster and checking the barrels. They settle into the jungle like the mist soaking into the moss and wait.

“75 meters,” Trapper hisses.

Cody adjusts his grip. “Ready on the line, boys, let’s hit ‘em hard when they get to 60. Count it down, Trapper.” 

“70… 68… 6… 4… 2, that’s 1… contact!”

Cody rolls to his left and comes up firing, aware of Lieutenant Alice in one of the walkers looming up from the dip behind him to send cannonfire shrieking over top of his head. Nuna takes advantage of the heavy cover to stand fully upright, his heavy gun braced against his shoulder, and starts laying down suppression fire with a chuck-chuck-chuck.

The commander sees a couple of the clones start to creep the line forward on instinct, sensing an advantage. “Let’s hold a steady position here, troopers. We’re just trying to get a sense of things.” He slings his blaster over his shoulder, scrambles so that he’s crouched directly behind Nuna, pulls his field glasses up to scan the enemy line. “Does anyone have eyes on tanks or rollers? I’m just picking up foot traffic.”

The answering silence is the only confirmation he gets. Must be the terrain. He slides to the side and lays back into the fray.

The droids put up with another 5 minutes of blistering fire, never quite managing to push up to the clones’ line, until they get some invisible signal and start retreating back into the jungle. Nuna jumps down from his perch, strafes the disappearing enemy with a series of wild from-the-hip blasts. “Yea, that’s right, you chip-brained di’kuts!”

“Do not pursue,” Cody calls into his comm, “We’ll pull back to base after they go. Get some motion sensors up in the trees so we know if they move on us. We get any casualties?”

“Muja took a leg hit.” That’s Kazi, the ARC trooper lifting an arm from farther down the line as some of his verd’e cautiously stand up out of cover to put the scanners up around them.

“Copy. Someone give him a ride out on a walker.” Cody scans the jungle one last time, but it seems the droids have indeed retreated. For now. “Let’s get back to base before they change their minds.”

They hoof it back, making good time for all that the soft ground sucks the energy out of each step, Cody hailing the rest of his battalion as they approach the base. “Ghost Company to 212th perimeter, we’re on approach, be advised.”

“Copy, perimeter sees you. Welcome back, sir. The Captains have fresh recon for ya.”

 

Adan and Slate are waiting at the holotable when he ducks under their open-walled command tent, where they’re talking to Davijaan, who’s still in his pilot’s gear from whatever sweeps he’d been flying. “How’s it looking?”

They tip him loose little salutes in greeting. “Sir,” Slate says, “we’ve got pretty solid maps of the surrounding areas put together, drones in the air watching for movement. The internals of the bases are a little sketchier but we’re reasonably certain that the heat coming out of this one is lifeform-based and not a generator.”

“Oh?”

Davijaan nods, spins the holo and zooms in. “It’s mostly duracrete construction from what we can tell, no obvious exhausts or machinery and no ports to carry power out.”

“Copy that,” Cody mutters, studying it himself before zooming back out. “And the other?”

“Looks like just droids in that one. They’ve got good comms set up between the two, though.”

“Artillery? Ships? All we saw in the field was B1s and a few commandos, no rollies.”

“They’ve got plenty of speeders,” Adan says, “and some big guns propped up on the walls. Haven’t seen much for tanks or ships, though.”

Cody grimaces. Commando droids on speeders could be right nasty pieces of work. “Well. Could be worse. We hit ‘em pretty hard on that first little probe so I imagine if they’ve got any hidden tricks, we’ll know next time we run into them.”

His captains nod. “So,” Slate hedges. “What’s the plan?”

Cody takes another moment to study the map, weighing his options. “I want to say we have the advantage, in both equipment and how well we like the terrain,” he begins. “Until it seems unsustainable… I’m thinking we should push the offensive on both bases. We’ll take the advance nice and slow, spread it out over the next week, try to eat up their droids in the jungle instead of facing them on the walls. What do we think about an air assault?”

Davijaan narrows his eyes thoughtfully. “The walls are pretty thick, sir. Those aren’t knock-em-down buildings with what ships we’ve got. We could take out some of their cannons, though.”

The commander nods, watching the map rotate lazily in place. “Good. Yea, good work, let’s keep probing. Slate, your company’s on patrols tonight. We’ll start pressing them tomorrow at first light.”

 

***

 

Five days later they haven’t quite taken either base, but Cody can almost feel the victory close at hand, and his tactic of slowly rubbing out the droid resources by holding his line in the jungle is showing its effectiveness more and more with each passing day. 

It’s just past dawn, fog still sitting low and muggy over their camp, and the men are rousing each other, prepping for another long day in their boots. His troops are tired, understandably so; Cody’s been running them hard, using complex personnel movements designed to make his numbers look greater than they are. Despite the sore muscles and general exhaustion, though, spirits are running high in the 212th- they can all sense how close the Seps are to cracking. 

He’s filled a canteen halfway with too-bitter caf and grabbed a ration bar and is just stepping over to the command tent when his comm beeps at him, picking up an incoming long-distance transmission. The commander frowns, stepping around to stand out of foot traffic, and opens it.

General Windu springs up in miniature over his wrist, the man’s scowl thinning slightly as his call is received. “Cody! Thank Force, where’s Obi-Wan? Been trying to hail the bastard for 15 minutes.”

Kriff. “Uh…” Cody makes a show of quickly looking around. “I think he went out with an early patrol, sir. We’re close to wrapping up here. I can pass along a message?”

Windu huffs, crossing his arms. “I’m just going to give you the update and you can work things out from there. We don’t have much time - the Council has just received an ultimatum from the Separatists regarding your campaign. Apparently they’ve taken a number of civilians hostage, including several key political and religious leaders, and are holding them in one of the bases. Over 50 bodies if they’re to be believed.”

There goes my luck. “That does complicate things, sir.”

“That’s not all, Commander. I’ve been informed that they’ve rigged the base with explosives and are threatening to self-destruct it, with everyone inside, unless they see your troops pull out and stay out, within the next...” he glances down, finding the time. “...hour 45.”

“Damn it,” Cody swears. “Ok. I assume that’s our standing order, then?”

The general passes a hand over his eyes, rubbing it down his face. “I was hoping to ask Kenobi if he had any ideas… we think that they’re using this tactic to buy time, and that they have reinforcements arriving in the next day or so. If we can’t take the base before they arrive, the extra firepower might let them hold onto the planet and the hostages… but the safety of those civilians is top priority, Commander, understood?”

“Yessir, copy that.”

“You’re probably going to have to pull out regardless, get off planet to regroup. I doubt even your team can break those people out in an hour. But Cody- if there’s anything your battalion can do to get them out to safety before more droids show-”

“I understand, sir.”

“If anyone can pull it off it’s you and Kenobi. Force be with you both.”

“Oya, Sir.” Cody cuts the transmission, sighs long through his nose, dials Kenobi’s comm because this wasn’t a straightforward op anymore. These types of missions wouldn’t really even be thinkable without a jedi on board to take point. Mandalore be damned, sir, take the kriffing call-  

It times out. Steeling himself with a growl, Cody sets his chrono to an hour-and-a-half countdown, turning his mind towards his task and his feet towards the command tent.

 

His captains are waiting around the holotable when he ducks inside, and Cody addresses them with little preamble. “Sitrep change. They’ve got civvie hostages in one of the bases, say they’re going to blow it up if we don’t clear out. We’re supposed to find a way to infiltrate and free them, all undercover.”

To their credit, none of his officers flinch. Adan stretches the holo to focus on one of the buildings. “That explains our mystery heat signatures, then.”

Cody nods curtly. “I need everything we know on that base.”

The captain stands back, crosses his arms. “We don’t have a ton, sir. It’s got a pretty big underground portion, probably where they’re keeping the prisoners, based on the amount of heat we’re picking up in scans. One tunnel, fairly deep, running between the two bases, and they’re definitely running comms from roof to roof.”

“Any idea of the minimum safe distance on the self-destruct?”

Slate frowns, spinning the projection to look at the likely tunnel locations they’ve mapped out. “It’d be a pretty big bomb - I’d put it on the upper levels, collapse everything inward. Say half a kilometer at the surface?”

Cody checks his chrono, all too aware of the clock ticking down against him. “And if we needed to get inside without setting off any alarms?”

Davijaan’s lips thin out. “Wouldn’t be the easiest, sir. But any structure with that many underground tunnels is going to have vents. That’ll be your best bet.” He hesitates, and then, “Any word from the general? It’d get a lot simpler with a jetii.”

The commander scowls, because wasn’t that the truth. “Unfortunately not. We’re on our own.” He pinches at the bridge of his nose, a plan coming together in his mind, because he’s not going to throw away a week’s worth of hard fighting and a chance at getting those people out if he can help it. It’s a little daring and a little stupid and a little too balanced on that feeling in his gut that says it’ll work- it’s a jedi plan, through and through, whether or not he has a jedi here to run it. “Right, listen up, we’ve got less than an hour and a half to make it look like we’re off this planet. Here’s what we’re going to do…”

 

***

An hour later Cody is standing in the empty circle of trampled vegetation and charred soil that had been his base of ops, watching as the last of his gunships lifts off, carrying Captain Slate and Davijaan, all of his artillery and heavy equipment, and the majority of his battalion back to the Negotiator. They do a good job of making it conspicuous, pulling up out of the canopy of trees slower than any sane pilot would ever fly a pick-up, hovering at low altitude before sluggishly droning higher into the atmosphere.

Then they are alone in the jungle: him and Captain Adan and a carefully-selected squad of 10 other members of Ghost and Genie Companies. The forest seems louder now with less men on the ground, buzzing insects and foreign birdcalls reasserting themselves in the soundscape. “Right, let’s circle up.”

His men are nearly unrecognizable, having covered their armor with the loamy temporary camo-spray, dulling the white and orange to a muddy wash of matte browns and greens. They’re kitted up for dirty, unpredictable close-quarters work- suppressors on their blasters, vibroblades and durasteel knives and other specialty weapons tucked into belts and boots, nearly everyone wearing one of the low-profile jetpacks on their backs. They come to attention around him with a relaxed sort of intensity that gives away the years of hard experience these men have, the best of his best.

“Verde. As you know, we’re on a hostage retrieval mission.” Cody holds out a hand, powers up his portable holoprojector to show their best attempt at a map of the enemy base. “We’re shooting to make entry here, over this long tunnel between the two bases- there’s bound to be a vent somewhere along here. We’ll locate it first and wait for Slate to get our cloaked comms set up from the Negotiator before we drop in. Then we go right for the prisoners. Myself and Trapper will peel off at some point to try to locate the droids’ command center and disable their detonator.” He pauses to look around the circle.

“It’s imperative that our undercover work is flawless- both getting in and getting them out. If they blow that base before the civvies are at safe distance…” he trails off, letting the obvious speak for itself. “Any droid you see needs to go down before it sees you. Clear?” 

His men nod. “Good. Let’s move out. We’ve got some ground to cover.”

 

Their prowling approach through the forest is fast and smooth, the paths they’ve trampled through the jungle familiar after a week of heavy use, the Separatist forces apparently having bought their departure to the point where no droids are out patrolling. Then again, if Cody is right about the extent to which he thinks he’s decimated their forces, maybe they don’t have the numbers to field proper patrols right now.

They find the vent and are just listening for traffic below when Cody’s earpiece crackles and shorts out briefly before humming back to life with a steady background buzz. Slate’s voice comes online over the white noise and the quiet murmur of other men talking in the background. “Commander. We’re onboard the Negotiator and this is your cloaked comm channel. We hacked it directly into your squad’s helmets and one station up here ship-side so as long as no one reboots their gear you should be flying under the radar.”

“Thanks, Captain. Gold Squad, all copy?”

His men on the ground all signal the affirmative. Adan stands from a crouch. “We’re ready to drop in here on your mark, sir. Tunnel looks clear.”

There’s a staticky breath in Cody’s ear and Slate adds hastily, “Uh, also, General Kenobi’s here, Commander. Dropped in out of hyperspace about 10 minutes ago.”

Cody sighs in exasperation, because of course the jedi is here now . He can hear Kenobi in the background talking to Slate, do you mind if I just take the comm for a moment, and then his jetii’s voice is in his ear. “Cody, sorry, is this a bad time?”

The commander glances around at his waiting men. “Probably better than any other. ”

“Ah. Well. Here I am. What’s the situation? Slate just gave me a sketch.”

“Hostage crisis, sir. Running an undercover op into this base, going to get them out without triggering the self-destruct. We’re about to drop in through a vent.”

There’s silence on the line for a moment, before Kenobi begins, “If you could hold, I’m sure I could be of assistance planetside-”

“No,” Cody cuts him off. “You can’t land a ship, sir, the only reason they haven’t already blown this place sky-high is because they think we all pulled out.”

“I could avoid-”

“No,” the commander hisses again.

“But-”

“Sir, I am ordering you to stay on board the Negotiator. Do not drop in here blindly and jeopardize my op.” Cody’s voice is firm, and he doesn’t want to be doing this right now, doesn’t want emotion to distract him from the heightened focus that he gets when he’s keyed-up and on mission.

Silence from his jedi. Cody gives it a moment out of politeness, but his men are waiting, his decisions made. All there is now is execution. “We’re dropping in now, sir. Cody out.” His men scramble to their feet as he steps back to their circle. “Take us in, Captain.”

Adan nods. “Speakers on mute, boys. Oya.”  Let’s hunt. There’s a last little shuffle as the men check their gear and then one by one they slip into the dark underground, Cody carefully pulling the vent cover back into place as he follows.

 

They make it a long way without running into any droids, creeping through tunnels and descending deeper into the subterranean base with quiet footsteps and heads on swivel, hugging walls and shadowy corners whenever possible. Cody’s shoulders are growing stiff with anticipation, thinking surely they must be close to finding the hostages, when they finally run into a pair of clankers.

Adan and Nuna take them out swiftly enough to avoid the alarm being raised, but Cody knows they’re living on borrowed time now. Eventually those droids will be expected somewhere. He halts the line, walks up to the fallen droids, rips the head out of one and tosses it to Kazi. “Here, see if you can’t tap into their comms or pull a map of the base or something.”

His ARC trooper catches it deftly, wasting no time and jamming into it with a probe.

“You and Trapper are with me,” Cody continues, voice low even with his helmet sealing in sound. “We’re gonna go disable their self-destruct button. Adan, you’re heading the retrieval now. Don’t wait up for us when you find them, if we haven’t caught up by then. Just head for the exit.”

His captain salutes. “Yessir, we’ll get them out.”

 

The commander’s little trio peels away from the group, Cody leading them back to higher levels on intuition, not sure yet where the command droids will be hiding out. Kazi walks silently but inattentively behind him, still focused on trying to hack into the droid-brain in his hands, while Trapper brings up the rear and watches his vod’s back. 

The ARC finally speaks. “Think I got a location on the bomb stash, sending it to your HUD. Still working on comms.”

The map inside Cody’s visor flickers and updates, an upper level room over the center of the base now outlined in green.

It’s a small mercy that the hallways and tunnels of this base were so cluttered, both with supply crates and structural ribs and columns. It’s easy to stay hidden in the shadows, flitting from corner to corner as they crawl towards their objective, ducking into hiding several times as droids walk by. The clones are able to stay undetected, not because they’re particularly well hidden so much as because their presence would be so unexpected.

They finally emerge on a mezzanine-level scaffolding-like walkway around a sunken, high ceilinged room, the roof of the base built up above them with some small skylights letting in the first hint of natural light Cody’s seen since they dropped underground. And there, in the middle of that room-

Trapper whistles low. “That is a kriffin’ arsenal of explosives.”

“Exposed as hell, too.” Cody curses, tucking himself further into their corner as he looks around. There aren’t droids currently patrolling but he has no doubt they’d be discovered if they parked themselves next to the bomb and went to work diffusing it.

His vod frowns. “I don’t see any cables… so it’ll be a wireless detonator signal from their command center. I can run a jammer from my bucket while we disconnect the receiver from the rest of the detonator. But we also won’t have comms until I stop.”

Cody grimaces, because losing comms in the middle of a mission sucks, but… it’s their best, and at this point only, option. “How close do you gotta be before we’re safe?”

“It’ll work from here. So long as I’m in the same room.”

Kazi looks up at this. “I’m gonna step back outside then, keep trying to hack the clanker comms.”

“Copy,” Cody mutters. He briefly activates their mission channel, figuring he should give Slate and Adan a heads up. “Cody to battalion- we’ll be dropping off comms for a bit, working on this detonator.” He doesn’t wait for a ‘copy’ back. “On your mark then, Trapper, I’ll cover you while you work the detonator.”

The trooper is silent for a moment, twitching as he navs through his HUD, until the white noise in Cody’s earpiece changes pitch and Trapper says shortly, “We’re live, let’s move.”

 

They run at a crouch along the upper walkway until Trapper finds a convenient pole to leap at and slide down, and then they’re charging across the open floor, still blessedly empty, for Trapper to kneel at the block of electronics wired into the base of the stack of bombs. Glancing around and still seeing no droids, Cody starts dragging crates and carts of miscellania over to place around the explosives, shielding Trapper from wide-open sightlines, creating a little pocket of cover around the bomb itself so that he can move around it and sight at the room without getting blasted.

When he’s somewhat satisfied he steps back around to a defensive position over his vod’s back. He feels horribly electric right now, with nothing but a static buzz in his earpiece, standing in this empty cavern over his vod with enough artillery at his back to turn them both to atoms. “Update?”

Trapper’s shoulders are tense as he pokes through wires, having separated one bit of computer from the rest, a small pile of tools and tape on the floor near his feet. “This is a kriffing mess,” the clone mutters. “I found the wireless receiver easy enough, but separating it-” He breaks off, concentrating back on his work.

Cody hears a door slide open across the other side of the room, his heartrate jumping in automatic response. Creeping around behind his piled up blockade, he gets eyes on a pair of clankers, steadies his breath and his blaster, snipes them off with two careful shots in fast succession. They tumble to the ground with a clatter and he winces because that was anything but subtle.

Back to pacing. Round and round the bomb he goes, pretending it doesn’t make his very skin tingle, wishing he had Adan’s voice in his ear telling him they’d found the hostages, were getting them out, anything.  

Minutes crawl by, glacially slow, and then suddenly everything happens at once- a B1 walks in, says “You aren’t supposed to be here!” in its robotic droid voice; Trapper yelps in alarm and then crows “got it!” with surprised relief; Kazi bursts back into the room, “Fuck, Commander, I’ve got news-”

Cody’s already moving, spinning to take out the droid with a one-two shot. “What is it, Kazi?”

“I’m monitoring droid internal comms- something happened, they must’ve decided to blow it after all, realized the detonator wasn’t working. They just gave the order for all idle units to come here and set it off manually.”

The commander breaks out in a cold sweat, both over how close they’d been to gone, if Trapper’s jammer hadn’t worked- but no use thinking about that, because now a flood of droids were coming to finish the job- “Osik! You got any clue where Adan is?”

Trapper jolts to his feet as well. “I can get comms back online, sir, lemme-” 

There’s a fizzle in his ear and then chaos as he’s dropped into the chatter of Adan orchestrating his squad’s exit with the hostages, shouting directions and enemy contact over the full squad channel. “Captain, come in, I need status,” he calls, before turning to Kazi. “Seal the doors to this room and go help him get everyone clear.”

Adan’s voice is tinny in his ear with intermittent blasterfire and the scared voices of civilians in the background. “We’re on our way out, sir, but they definitely know we’re here. Gonna need another half hour to get to the safe-distance marker.”

“Copy, we’ll make sure you get it.”

Stress mounting, he turns to Trapper. “You should go with Kazi. Seal off the entryways and get back to the squad.”

His vod stands steady. “What are you doing, sir?”

The clone is echoed by Kenobi’s voice suddenly crackling into his ear again, “Cody, what’s going on?”

The commander scowls because he doesn’t need that right now, addressing his soldier instead. “I’ve gotta stop them from getting to the bomb and lighting it up before Adan gets those people clear.”

Trapper huffs a breath. “I’m staying then. You could use two.”

Cody feels guilt sinking into his bones because the odds of any one of them making it out of this were slim enough, and didn’t get better with two, but… at least he’s not ordering the other man to stay. 

Kazi’s been moving around the room perimeter blasting the door seals and now stops at the last one, calls back to them. “Commander! Trap! You coming?”

Cody signals negative, waves him on. “Go, find Adan, comm me when everyone’s clear!”

His ARC hesitates but salutes and disappears, the door sparking after it closes behind him. 

The commander breathes deep, trying to calm and center himself, knowing that an onslaught is coming. Already he can hear clankers behind one of the doors, banging on the jammed entryway. 

Kenobi’s voice is back, frantic in its insistence, “Cody, come in! Do you copy me? Cody!”

He flips his mic on as the first of the doors breaks open, Trapper heaving up over their wall of cover to rain blaster bolts back at them. “Little busy, sir,” he grunts, reloading his own gun.

“I can’t lose you too.” It’s almost a whisper, lost in the static of the comms, and Cody doesn’t know what in hells his jetii is on about now. He doesn’t want to think about Kenobi, needs to not think about him, needs to focus on trying to survive the next half hour.

Another door, threatening to break open. “Keep the comms clear. No chatter,” he says coldly, and flips his mic off, heaves a grenade towards the walkway over the cracking entryway, obscuring it in a tangle of rubble and dust. Crawl through that.

After that, time blurs into a meaningless wash. The clankers find their way into the room, moving mindlessly towards the bomb, intent on their own destruction like no clones would ever be. Cody and Trapper hold them back with everything they’ve got, strafing the room with blaster bolts, Trapper setting fire to much of the room perimeter because he’s a crazy bastard- like many of Cody’s best men- and he’s got flamethrowers custom-hacked into his vambraces and Cody has never been so glad to see such a flagrant disregard for armor regs.

They turn the room into a little hell burning orange and blue, a storm with a bomb sitting squarely in the calm eye. The clock drags on, and still the droids keep coming, more of them and faster than before as they trickle in from the further dregs of the base.

Trapper falls with a strangled cry, both suddenly and seemingly in slow-motion to Cody, caught by a stray blaster bolt from the upper levels. The commander screams his frustration at the offending droid, destroys it with prejudice, but too late to help his vod- he’s alone, now, in this trap he’s created for himself. What a way to go, he thinks morbidly, guarding the very bomb that’s going to end me-

He can’t reflect the bolts away like a jedi could; he can only duck behind inanimate refuse and hope the explosives don’t get hit or hot enough to set themselves off, and Kenobi should be here because this is exactly what jedi were good at, no? Turning enemy fire back on its origin, making the last stand, holding the bridge. Cody is no jetii.

They’re coming in faster than he can fend them off, now, and his heartrate seems to slow back down because this is it. He’s not going to be able to hold them back any longer. 

He resigns himself, readying for the inevitable fiery end, and then Kazi’s screaming breathless into his earpiece, “Commander, we’re clear, get out of there!”

Cody pulls his blaster up toward the ceiling, shoots out one of the skylights, fires the rockets on his jetpack and lifts off the ground. 

The droids reach the bomb under him mere seconds later. He flicks his jetpack's throttle open wide with a desperate prayer for luck, careening into the sky, as the world under him disappears into flame and the explosion’s embrace chases him into flight.

Chapter Text

Every muscle in his body is tensed and straining as Cody rockets into the sky, a desperate race for altitude and life, pinning his jetpack throttle full-open for far longer than would ever be wise in any sane situation. He’d seen the light and flare of the explosion below him first, and now the noise has caught up with him along with the first of the shockwaves, hitting him just as he clears the collapsing roof of the building and threatening to send him into a dangerous tumble even as it boosts his speed even more. 

The other skylights around him blow outward and he’s flying through a cloud of transparisteel crystals glittering white and red, too fast too fast and the dull roar is somehow background and foreground all at once, filling up his head like cotton and shaking his teeth and he can’t hear anything-

The second shockwave catches him and this one’s carrying all the flame and flying rubble with it and his whole world is orange and black smoke. His HUD is flashing at him urgent urgent with temperature and altitude and velocity warnings and he should be able to hear the alarms going off in his ear but he still doesn’t have any sound that isn’t the blast carrying him further skyward.

He is tumbling, now, the turbulence too much to counteract with a jetpack that’s only designed to be so maneuverable in relatively calm conditions, and he fumbles the controls, cuts the power. If he accidentally gets pointed the wrong way and rockets himself into the ground it’s going to be over after all. 

The sweat is running into his eyes and he hadn’t managed to seal his air filters and his lungs are burning and then suddenly he’s boosted out of the cloud of debris, his upward velocity carrying him up into the calmer smoke until he’s slowing and gravity is taking hold again and he’s falling towards jungle now, green and wet and not on fire thank stars.

His arms and legs are wheeling, trying to stabilize out of his uncontrolled spinning fall, and he might be screaming but he still can’t hear anything and then his training catches up and he calms the frantic motion, easing into spread-eagled free fall, the ground flying up to meet him still too fast.

He flips his feet toward the planet, fires the rockets again, gets slowed down but also jolted sideways with a sputter because one of the rockets is damaged and streaming fuel out behind him in a trail of angry fire. “Fuck!” He still can’t hear his own voice. 

Better to accidentally blow up than to blast into the canopy at terminal velocity- he fires the pack again and it doesn’t explode, thank the little gods, though he can’t keep a sustained burn going. He sputters it on and off desperately trying to slow himself down as he falls inexorably towards the rushing ground, caught in gravity’s unforgiving grasp, and then he’s done all he has time to do and he’s crashing through the branches and the greenery, trying to lead with his heels and soft knees.

He hits the ground hard for how soft it is, knees driving up into his chest plate, letting his body roll with the impact as much as it will. The breath is crushed out of him- and then he is still, stopped, no longer falling, and he uncurls to lay on his back, his full body trembling, head spinning through the deafening buzz in his ears.

It had been his saving grace that this planet was so alive, had built up such a thick blanket of fallen leaves and layered mosses over the soil, because he thinks he’d surely be broken or even dead if he’d had to land into rock or dirt or even sand.

But he is alive. He claws at his bucket, rips it off and lets it roll away above his head somewhere, and sucks in the moist air with a wet gasp. His face feels wet, with sweat or tears or something else he doesn’t know, and all he can do for several minutes is lay there and breathe, waiting for his hearing to return and the throbbing-turning in his head to subside.

He finally sits up and immediately leans to the side and retches, spitting up the limited contents of his stomach but thankfully no blood. The ringing in his ears is subsiding enough so that he can hear the shrieking animal background noise of the jungle, creatures stirred into flight and fear and motion by the blast. 

Everything smells like fire and smoke and jet fuel and he unclips the useless jetpack, tosses it aside to keep leaking its refuse on something other than his back. His earpiece had fallen out when he ripped his helmet off and is now dangling limp against his pauldron; he gives himself another minute just to breathe until his chest stops heaving and he might be able to speak, and then jams the little bud back in his ear.

  Adan’s voice is the first he hears, the squad channel still open and active. “-to Negotiator, any update on the transport for the civvies? We’re worried about any droids that might have trailed us out.”

“We’re sending down a freighter for pickup, 5 minutes out from your location. Oddball and the General are flying escort fighters and will watch for hostiles.” That’s Captain Slate answering.

“Copy that, Captain,” and that’s Kenobi on the open line now, his accent smooth but voice strained, “We’ll run off any stragglers.” There’s a beat and then, “Has anyone heard anything from the Commander? Trapper?” He sounds defeated, like he’s already resigned to hearing the ‘no’. 

Silence for a moment, til Adan finally says, “No, sir, not yet.”

Right. He needs to tell them he’s alive, but his head is fuzzy and he needs to get a lift out of this kriffing jungle too and maybe that can wait- “Ow,” he says aloud, testing his voice, startled at both the scratchy sound of his own speech and how much it hurts to talk.

Cody lets the squad chatter drone on in the background as he gives himself the once over, patting down his arms and legs, testing range of motion for things that hurt, but he seems… surprisingly unscathed. Profoundly concussed, and his lungs have seen a bit too much scalding smoke, but otherwise alright, in his own unprofessional opinion. 

He clears his throat with a couple hacking coughs and thumbs the comm to his medic’s channel. “Kipper,” he rasps, “Kip, where you at?”

There’s a moment of silence and then a whooshing breath crackles across the line. “Commander, thank gods, we weren’t sure you’d got out.” The relief is palpable in the medic’s voice. “I’m still up on the Negotiator. Helix and Sawbones went down with the pickup.”

Cody takes a breath to answer and sends himself into a fit of coughing instead, his diaphragm seizing angrily until he can pull his canteen from his belt, calm it down with a sip of water. “I need you to come pick me up. Transmitting my location. Please.”

“Yup, reading you loud n’ clear, grabbing my kit and be there in 15.” The medic hesitates, “Am I gonna need anything special? How bad is it looking, sir? What about Trapper?”

Cody shakes his head before realizing numbly that Kipper can’t actually see him. “No Trapper. I’m fine, just… concussed. Smoke.” 

There’s a beat of silence. “Sorry, sir. Sit tight.” A moment later he hears Kipper’s voice again over the open channel. “Commander’s alive, will be running his pickup from shipside. He’s done for the rest of the mission. Kipper out.”

The comms go dead for a moment and then Kazi’s voice growls onto the line, “You tell those nine-lived shabuiriise if they pull that osik again I’m gonna fuckin kill ‘em.”

Kipper corrects after a pause, “Just the Commander,” sending the channel back into telling silence.

Finally Adan, Cody’s calm, unflappable, gods-sent captain, speaks a touch shakily into the line. “Ok. Ok, copy, we’ll take it from here, let’s focus on wrapping this op. Heads… heads in your buckets.” It’s Cody’s line, if not delivered with quite the same demanding authority, and the commander can’t help but smile weakly because even after everything that had just transpired- his men had his back. They had really just pulled that off.

 

***

 

The mostly empty gunship bursts through the canopy right on Kipper’s ETA, the medic leaping out the open side door and running towards Cody even before the ship has fully touched down. Cody grabs at the nearest tree trunk and hauls himself upright, steadying off the plant as his head whirls a bit.

Kipper’s huffing out a little breathless laugh as he reaches him, “You… you lucky kriffin’ bastard, sir.” He pulls the little portable body scanner off his belt, waves it around Cody as the commander stands there listing against the tree. “You really didn’t break anything, that’s a first,” the medic mutters, “Come on, sir, let’s get you out of here.”

The commander slings his arm over his vod’s shoulder and lets Kipper half-guide, half-carry him to the waiting gunship, and then they’re picking up into the air. He props himself up with elbows on knees, trying not to be overcome with nausea first from their rapid upward acceleration and second from the light that blares into the ship after they clear the jungle canopy. He groans when the second assaults his eyes, drawing the medic’s concerned attention. “Sir?”

“Can you clear me out of medical on the ride up?” he asks plaintively. Anticipating Kipper’s inevitable argument, he adds quickly, “Not to keep working, I just- my kriffin’ head, with the light and the noise.”

“Yea, sir, you’ve got a hell of a concussion.” His medic regards him sternly, even as he’s pulling Cody’s pauldron off to feel around his chest, neck. “If you’re legitimately going back to your quarters to rest…” 

Cody gives him a wry look before the twist to his neck sends him into another coughing fit. Perhaps sensing both his sincerity and his desperation, Kipper relents, digging through his medpac for some sort of inhaler, jabbing the commander with a series of hypos after he hands it off. “5 breaths on that for the smoke inhalation. And then yes, you’re released for self-recovery.”

His wrist comm is blinking at him, as it has been intermittently for the past five minutes- the general, requesting transmission. He should- it’s his duty to answer it, if capable, but he can’t bring himself to do it right now because his op is basically over- Kipper had pulled him from today’s active roster, actually-  and his captains should be able to handle it from here. He continues to ignore the calls.

His vod must have noticed because eventually he points it out. “Uh, sir, I think General Kenobi’s trying to hail you.”

Cody grunts. “I know.”

Kipper studies him, his expression very still. “You scared the fuck out of ‘im, sir. If you’ll pardon my language. Up on the bridge, he- I mean, it was too mild to be a meltdown if it were anyone else, but for the general, it was a lot. If you read me.”

Cody is... stars, he is asking to be written up right now, but he’s in a black mood and his head hurts like a mother-... “Good.”

 

*** 



Back on board the Negotiator, Cody heads straight for the shower blocks, trusting Kipper to update his captains for now, and them and Kenobi to finish dealing with the civvies, whatever that entailed. He’s desperate to get out of his armor and blacks, unsure whether his headache is just a fact of his condition or if it’s being brought on by the scent of smoke and fuel still wafting up from his body. 

The shower is a relief but still feels like a chore, fluorescent lights assaulting his eyes. He finally makes it back to his cabin to pull on a clean pair of pants, dumping his blacks in the sonic and his rinsed armor in a corner to deal with later. He’s just wilting down onto his bunk when there’s hardly a knock in warning and then his door flies open before he’s fully aware. 

Cody startles badly, surging to his feet, his hands flying to his shoulder where his blaster definitely is not, and then his aching head catches up with his body and recognizes Kenobi entering the room. “What the fuck, sir-”

His general ignores the expletive and everything else, his momentum carrying him fully across the small room until he’s standing right in front of Cody, reaching out to grasp the clone’s forearms as if to hold him there while his eyes burn blue and fragile through Cody’s own.

The granite-smooth calm crumples off of Kenobi’s face, then, his breath whooshing out with enough force to tickle against Cody’s collarbone. “You’re alright, thank Force, you’re alright…”

The clone stares down at his jetii, feeling significantly less received to see the other man, despite how uncharitable that is. Kenobi must sense it because he swallows, cutting his eyes away to Cody’s shoulder, and drops the commander’s wrists to step back a half-pace and put a hint of distance between them. He doesn’t wait for Cody to break the renewed silence. “I’m sorry.”

Cody thinks of Trapper, who had stayed right beside him in that death trap to make sure the mission went through. Cody wouldn’t have lasted long enough to survive if his vod hadn’t been there. He won’t lie to himself and think that he’s never sent men into situations that might very possibly kill them. This is war, and he is an officer and not naive. But this last job - that was usually the type of work that Kenobi took point on, and Cody was the one following his jetii in, not because he and his general didn’t use delegation, but because when it was them it felt less like a suicide run. “You should have been there,” he says roughly, because if Kenobi’s going to be here then they may as well have this out now, patch over it so they can fall back into the professional veneer they’ve built up since the Hardeen incident.

“I should have,” Kenobi agrees softly. “I’m sorry. For not having been. And… for Trapper. I mourn him.”

Cody keeps himself impassive, his own voice rumbling quiet and low, in part because it feels like it would hurt to be any louder right now. “The men don’t know. They think the Council called you off on a mission.”

Obi-Wan winces, although he perhaps wisely doesn’t say anything.

Cody clenches his jaw, turning his head to look out his little viewport at the stars. “How many more times?”

“Pardon?”

“How many more times is this going to happen?”

“Cody, I’m sorry, I had no idea how complicated this mission was going to turn-”

“You’re away often enough as it is,” Cody accuses quietly. “With Skywalker, the 501st, jetii business. Now we’re adding osik only you know about? You know how unpredictable all these sitreps are. Especially the ones assigned to you and me.”

“Cody-”

“I can cover a lot, sir. Any of your duties as a General- I can handle that. But I’m just a clone. If the 212th is supposed to have a jetii onboard and you’re just gone, I can’t make up for that, no matter how hard I try.”

“Cody, please believe I didn’t take it lightly, leaving, but when- I couldn’t just-”

The commander’s temper is rising the slightest amount, not so much to raise his voice- he’s not much of a yeller- but enough to make it sound tight, tense. “I wouldn’t even be able to do that. If Rex was in trouble half a system away - shit, if you were stuck out there - and it wasn’t my mission I’d just have to sit here and do my kriffing job. And I would. Not because I give a strill’s shebs about the punishment or my position. I’d stay for my verde.”

“I know,” Kenobi snaps desperately, both of them starting to get an emotional rise out of the other, “Cody, I’ve never been glad leaving the vod’e on missions, even when the Council calls me off. I’m so sorry, but this… I had to go. The situation, Satine, you don’t understand…”

Cody glares, because the meat of this discussion, the part that is legitimate, is about General Kenobi and Commander CC-2224 and their battalion- but the emotional part, clenching at Cody’s chest, is his buried jealousy and hurt that Obi-Wan had left him, Kote, when the Manda Duchess had called, for all that she’s hardly been named in this conversation. “I’d follow you straight into any of a million hells, Obi-Wan, whether to pull you out or just join you,” he says stiffly. “You wouldn’t even have to ask. Don’t tell me I don’t understand.” He hates this, hates feeling so much devotion towards another and seeing it returned to someone else.

It’s the closest he’s ever come to a confession - the closest he probably ever will - and Cody takes a breath to calm his voice before he continues. “So just… is this going to be a regular thing? How many more times are you gonna leave me to deal with this shit alone when I need my jetii onboard, because someone else needed you too?”

Kenobi stares at him in shocked, wide-eyed silence for a long second - and then the jedi surges forward, all but crashing into Cody’s chest as his hands come up to the clone’s face and his jetii is kissing him, rough and desperate, and Cody is stuck in some kind of startled paralysis-

As soon as he is there, Kenobi breaks off but keeps their foreheads pressed together, his breaths puffing fast against Cody’s mouth. “Kote- you- I love you-”

Cody pushes him back roughly, his confusion souring to helpless anger because he doesn’t understand. “Don’t mock me,” he all but hisses.

Kenobi’s face falls. “I’m not-”

“Oh? How is the Duchess, then?”

His jetii flinches as if Cody has struck him, his expression crumpling and his eyes cast down to the floor. “She’s dead,” he murmurs hoarsely. “Maul killed her. Because of me.” 

Cody is silent, his anger somewhat draining away, shocked.

Kenobi moves sluggishly towards the door, his usual grace seemingly sapped out of him. He turns back to Cody before he exits, his voice soft. “Cody- I can’t stop caring for people, once I start. It’s a terrible failing of mine, as a jedi. But anything I would have done for Satine or anyone else… I would do as much, or a hundred times more, for you. I’m sorry.”

Then he is out the door and gone and Cody sinks back into his bunk, exhausted and emotionally drained and so overwhelmed. He can’t bring himself to stay angry, because - Kenobi was honest, at least, in that he wasn’t selective with how he made stupid decisions to help people he cared about. He would always do that, whether it be Kryze or Skywalker or Tano or the vod’e. Cody can’t hold that against him, for all that the commander is still a bit burned at being left in the dark about Hardeen and in the lurch because of the Duchess, and now- Kenobi had said he loved him, and Cody doesn’t know what to begin to do about that. He distantly imagines that perhaps he should be happy, but his mind is a swirling mess and the lights still hurt his eyes and one of the hypos Kix stuck in him is making him a little drowsy-

 

The next thing he knows he is waking up, and the auto-lights in his cabin and his chrono are both telling him it’s early in the following morning - he must have fallen asleep without realizing. 

He groans, sitting up, but- he feels so much better. Except for the bit of him remembering everything about last night, Obi-Wan... kriff.

He doesn’t even know where they are, what his ship is doing, how the mission wrapped- damn, he must’ve really been out of it. He flicks his comm on. “Cody to bridge command, can I get a sitrep update?”

“Morning, Commander - yessir, we dropped the civvie refugees on a sister-planet in their system ‘bout an hour ago. Orbiting now and resupplying while we wait for next orders.”

“Copy, thank you, Captain.” He putters around his room, gathering his wits and putting himself in order, and then breathes deep to collect his resolve and sets off through the hallways of the Negotiator to find his jetii.

When the door to Kenobi’s cabin doesn’t magically swick open at his presence, he knocks softly. “Uh- sir? It’s Cody, may I come in?”

The door does open, now, and Cody steps inside and slides it closed behind himself. The general is sitting at his low table, teacup in hand, but at the commander’s entrance he stands with a deep breath. “Commander. Can I make you tea? Caf?” He doesn’t wait for an answer but moves over to fuss with the kettle, talking all the while. “I’m indescribably sorry for my actions yesterday; I promise you I’m capable of maintaining a professional relationship moving forward. But- all the same, if you’d prefer I transfer to a different battalion, I can- I can accommodate that.”

Cody steps forward, takes the proffered mug of caf out of his jetii’s hands and sets it down, takes the other man’s hands in his own and turns them over to study the pale palms, the well-worn callouses extending onto slender fingers. “Obi-Wan. Did you mean it? What you said?”

The jedi swallows- hesitating because he is wary, but now speaking because he is honest. “Yes, Cody, I- of course I did.”

They’ll have to talk about this more later - how they can and cannot be, in their positions as General and Commander; and how he needs not to spring it on Cody like so much of a gods-damned surprise, the next time he runs off to help someone; and other things besides - but for now, Cody hooks an elbow around the back of Obi-Wan’s neck and pulls him forward into a brief, gentle kiss, his other arm wrapping around the jedi’s waist as he melts slightly into the clone’s embrace.

When he breaks off he sits down at the little table, picking up his caf, Obi-Wan joining him in the adjacent chair after a moment. Most of the wariness has faded but the jedi still studies him, expression kept neutral despite the pink flush to his cheeks, as if he needs to be really sure before he accepts what Cody’s just done and all that it implies.

The commander meets his gaze with a steady calmness, feeling so much more grounded than he had last night. “I’m sorry about Satine, cyare,” he offers softly. “I would say the words for her, the remembrances, with you. If you’d like.” 

This does finally earn him a watery smile, Obi-Wan’s eyes going soft. “Oh, Cody,” he breathes, “I’d like that very much. Vor’e.”

Chapter Text

It takes less than an hour after Cody leaves Obi-Wan’s quarters that morning for what had seemed like perfect clarity to fade into what feels like the rosy delusions of an idiot. The commander is kicking himself through the entirety of his workday, scowling and distracted, because the greatest obstacle between him and his general - namely, that Kenobi didn’t see him in that way - is gone.

Now he’s faced with all the other obstacles: Rules against fraternization in the obvious ongoing war. The power imbalance inherent in their positions, the men in their command who deserve proper leadership, his jetii’s high profile. That’s not even getting to (optimistically) their postwar problems... his status and uncertain future as a clone, property of the Republic as much as he is his own man; and Kenobi’s status as a Jedi, able to love but sworn away from any of the attachments that might help elevate Cody’s legal standing to something better.

Even so, after hours of mentally lambasting himself, he can’t bring himself to regret a single thing. But - they need to have a conversation, one where they both have their own heads and no one is caught up in the sudden emotions of love or death or battle. 

 

It takes a few days for them to get around to it - life seems very busy all of the sudden, between prep for shipping out again and dealing with the lingering fallout of the last mission and Kenobi dealing with his own fallout from whatever had transpired on Mandalore - but when they finally do discuss the situation again, it’s easier than Cody had dared hope.

It goes like this: he steps into his jetii’s quarters clutching a bowl of some fruit from down planetside, holding it in front of his unarmored chest like a signal flare as much as an offering, something that says he’s not here on 212th business. Obi-Wan takes one look and stands from his desk with a quiet, “Yes, I suppose we should discuss this. I’ll make the tea.”

And then they are sitting across from each other, the same as a thousand other conversations. Obi-Wan slides a mug over, a scratching preamble. “I hope I didn’t catalyze anything that you’d rather not have happened.”

Cody coughs. “No. I mean- no, you didn’t, I- ah, I wanted it to happen. Too. Sir.” He grimaces at his own choppy words, wondering when he forgot how to speak Basic, wondering why he sounds so awkward and bumbling when there is no longer anything to be concerned about. “Gods, sorry. Obi-Wan. I’m happy with… this. But...”

“But?” 

Cody puffs out a little sigh and cuts right to the chase. “The vod’e have to come first. Our duties, the ones I was made for and you swore to, those have to come first.”

Thankfully there is no surprise or hurt on the jedi’s face; only calm acceptance. “Yes, of course, I thought you might say as much. And I agree. For as long as the war is on - we have our men, and I have the Order.”

Cody nods, focus going distant. “And- for the record, I don’t think the 212th would give a damn- but I think we should act...” He swallows, breaking off, because he was going to say normal but that feels wrong. “That is, I don’t think we should act like I’m any more than your commander.  For the sake of the public and the Senate and your position and- Well, if one of us dies and is replaced it’ll be easier without any… you know.”

“Cody.” His general’s gentle tone draws the clone’s eyes back up to the jetii’s own. “We’re going to make it to the end.”

The commander purses his lips. “You will, sir. Obi-Wan. If you don’t do anything stupid. I… have a better chance than most. But I’m still a clone, at the end of the day.”

Obi-Wan’s gaze is unreadable. “And after the war? Will duty still come first, then?”

The question sends Cody into a little spiral of mild panic; he was decanted to be a war commander, nothing more, nothing less. Leading his men is his purpose and he can’t even conceive of what a civvie’s idea of a normal life looks like for a clone. In any case, he doesn’t think the GAR is going to let them all go so easily. He deflects the question. “You talk about the end like our victory is assured. Or that we’ll both be alive. Or that there is an end.”

Kenobi frowns. “Well, one has to hold hope for something, dear one.”

Cody sits in silence for a long moment, until his jetii smiles sadly and leans forward to clasp his hand over the little table. “The Order may have only waning real influence in the Senate, but it’s there, and we won’t forget the vod’e after. I know it seems like empty words now but… we’ll make sure there’s a place for you all. You won’t owe the Republic - or the Order - all the rest of your life, Cody.”

It’s a loaded sentiment. “Optimistic of you, sir.”

Obi-Wan’s face falls a bit. “I’m giving you the best I’m able, Cody. Please.”

He sighs. “I know. Sorry. But- even if I’m not your subordinate or tied into this military when everything ends, you’re still with the Order. Don’t you jetiise have rules about… this?”

Kenobi’s lips quirk in a rueful grin. “We have rules about many things. Most of which we’re flagrantly breaking for the sake of this war. But in any case, the rules on attachment to which you refer… I would say they leave plenty of room for one’s having, so long as one is also willing to let go.” 

The jedi’s cryptic smile falters a little, then. “In truth, Cody… this fighting, and this entire engagement, have been twisting my Code and my morals over on themselves since the beginning. If we make it out… I’m not sure I’ll still be enough of a true Jedi to properly serve the Order, in the spirit of those things.” His tone is still deceptively light, but now it overlays some buried raw pain.

Cody shakes his head, letting his faith in his partner swell up inside him as if it could bolster them both. “You’re everything the Order hopes to be, cyare,” he murmurs, and he holds his jetii’s gaze to show he means it.

 

***



Up til now, Cody had been thinking of the war as having happened in two vaguely distinct segments. If he were a ‘learned man’ (Kenobi’s phrasing, usually sarcastically self-referential) he supposes he might call them acts, as if the vod’e and the GAR were simply characters in some theater. 

The first part - Act I - was the early war, before he knew how bad it could be, before the shinies got really young, back when things were still drawn in clean lines (as if battles and wars could just start and be ended). Back when the choking miasma of political subterfuge didn’t cover their movements like an unwanted blanket . First gen battle droids went up against first gen armor, and the clones kept to themselves, the jedi still holding onto a sense of mystery. Cody’s general had worn his hair long then, and genuinely grimaced when he had to really fight, and smiled often and easily in his spare time.

And then somehow Act I had bled into Act II and the war soured into something that felt dark and messy always, even when they were winning. Med stations were attacked, civvies sold into slavery, countless brothers were dying, and their strategies started seeming more and more desperate even as Kenobi himself really came into his own as a general. More than anything, this part of the war had felt like being forced through a very personal crucible to Cody. Or perhaps it was Obi-Wan’s gauntlet to run, and Cody had just been dragged through the wake, inexorably attached to the one he’d decided to think of as his partner and unable to cut himself free.

Some weeks after his closure with his general, over what they are and will be, Cody realizes that he might need to tack a third act onto his mental accounting of the war. There has been a shift.

Some of it is good: a tension that he hadn’t even noticed creeping in between him and Kenobi has dissipated, which he realizes only through its refreshing absence. Even if they aren’t acting like star-crossed lovers, there’s an ease between them that hasn’t been there for a long time. It helps that the war seems to have turned its attention away from Kenobi for once: he doesn’t seem to have been targeted by every bad turn of events. 

The rest is less good. They are winning fewer battles. Too many planets are locked into stalemate sieges, except a droid army is much easier to maintain through siege than an army of flesh-and-blood. The GAR is being sucked dry of resources, of numbers, of goodwill with the public and the Senate. 

So, if Act II of the war was the fire that tempered Cody and his general, Act III is finding out that none of it will matter if the whole GAR burns down around them. Rex gets more cynical and Anakin gets darker and Kenobi reaches new heights of self-sacrificing recklessness and the war seems to be holding its breath in quasi-stalemate. In his gut Cody can feel that they’re accelerating towards some sort of flash point, they must be, but everything is happening too fast, armies running themselves in circles, and he can’t anymore for the life of him anticipate what even a few weeks will bring.  Long term strategies are impossible; all he can do is hang on and hope.

 

***

 

The evening after Ahsoka leaves the Order and Cody’s finished sitting with Rex and half the 501st as they try to drink themselves under the table at 79’s, Obi-Wan is the first to break their informal pact of separation. He arrives at Cody’s door looking wearily distraught, not long after the commander himself has turned in. 

Cody gets one look at his jetii’s face as he opens the door and wordlessly pulls him inside with a gentle hand on the elbow. They settle on Cody’s bunk, not quite lying down but not quite sitting up, Obi-Wan tucked into Cody’s chest the way he used to sit with Rex when they were cadets and very young.

His jetii doesn’t weep or even speak for a long time, just stares at the far wall and breathes very evenly, more evenly than the heartbeat Cody can feel thump-thump against his chest.

“I couldn’t stop it,” Kenobi finally says raspily. “When everything first… with her trial. And once that broke, she was never going to stay.”

Cody hums in response.

“Anakin - Rex - I don’t know that they’ll forgive me. Anakin was… he was so angry.”

“Time, cyare. She’s safe and that’s what they really care about.”

Obi-Wan groans, pressing himself further into Cody’s shoulder. “Anakin thinks I’ve sided against him with the Council, and the Council thinks I’ve sided against them with Anakin… it seems as though I’m going to pit myself against all my friends just trying to do right.” His breath hitches a bit. “And Ahsoka… Force only knows what she must think, I never even got a chance to try and explain…”

Cody squeezes him tighter, aching for the other man, for everyone caught up in this karking mess. “Well. You can count on always having me, at least.”

They sit in the quiet for some time, til Cody’s knees have gone stiff and his arm has fallen asleep, and finally Obi-Wan sighs and rises. “I suppose I should let you rest. Thank you, my dear.”

Cody blinks the encroaching sleep from his eyes and reaches up to catch the other man before he’s out of arm’s reach, pulling Obi-Wan back towards him. “Let me just…” he steals a quick kiss with a guiding hand on his jetii’s chin and releases him once more. “To tide me over til the end of the war.”

It was meant as a joke but Obi-Wan’s eyes go bright and fragile and he takes Cody’s face in his hands and kisses him deeply before retreating with a watery smile. 



That is how they are, from then on: they put up a respectable facade of a professional relationship, for the most part; but no man is a monolith. Sometimes Cody goes to Obi-Wan, after close calls or bad battles or tense arguments with Rex, which have been happening more and more, even if they always seem to make up after. Sometimes Obi-Wan comes to him, on nights that are too quiet or after Anakin’s unknowingly hurt him with some particularly bold or blatant lie. They lean on each other, because not doing so would mean no longer standing at all.

 

And then, just when Cody’s starting to think that they really will exist in this spiraling holding pattern for the rest of his existence, the war lurches back into motion. The unthinkable: a multi-cruiser entanglement over the skies of Coruscant itself that has the clone anxiously tracking his love’s fighter from his command post. Dooku dead at Anakin’s hand, Separatist worlds either dropping the war effort or falling in behind Grievous, the entire GAR scrambling to press the advantage - it’s chaos, chaos, Cody handing out orders and running up strategies and fleet movements without even really being aware of himself.

The time passes in a haze until suddenly he is back in hyperspace with the 212th and everything slows down, crystallizes, a deep breath before the plunge. Cody has just his and Kenobi’s battalion’s mission to mind now: find Grievous. End the war. They are headed to Utapau.

 

Chapter Text

 

“No.” Cody glares down into the blue glow of the maps and charts and data spread out on the general’s little table.

Kenobi drags a hand down his beard, looking far too long-suffering for how ridiculous he’s being. “It’s the best option, my d- Commander. You know the recon’s only got 80% odds on Grievous even being there and not skulking around some other hole in the desert. If we bring the whole force in and he turns up somewhere else, that’s it. Back to square one.”

Obi-Wan is right, and just this moment, Cody hates him for it. A little bit. He’s… he’s nervous, in a way that isn’t quite familiar, and it’s been a tense week with lots of close calls and it’s damn uncomfortable. “Take Ghost Company’s scouts with you. Take Boil. At least. Our info on Grievous may be osik but we know that pit is crawling with guns.” 

Cody can’t even look at any one thing in the room for more than a moment, his eyes flitting from the wall to the table to Kenobi’s tabards to his bucket. His general has no such issue, holding him in a steady gaze. “Cody. This is… we’re so close, Cody, can’t you feel it? This is it, this is the break-”

Cody wants to punch a wall or break a table but he was not designed to leak emotion that badly. He wasn’t designed to leak emotion at all. “We were close the minute those ships came into Coruscanti airspace and all we’ve been doing is getting closer and you keep pulling this osik- ” He draws a quick breath in through his nose, huffs it out, brings his voice back calm. “Obi-Wan, I don’t give a damn about close if it means you don’t walk out of some bullshit plan.”

His jetii’s face shutters a little, his tone soft and guarded. “Kote… we can’t be like that. You know we can’t be like that. We’re still running this thing.”

He does know that. It sucks, it’s always sucked, it doesn’t stop feeling worse every time. The comm in his bucket crackles and spurts out some shiny’s tinny voice from the bridge. “Coming into realspace in T-minus 30.” Cody’s stomach clenches anew.

Kenobi’s hands come up to frame his face, calluses catching on the stubble there, and he presses a kiss to Cody’s forehead before stepping back and reasserting the distance between them. General. Commander. “I’ll be perfectly fine. Do you trust me?”

Cody gives him the side-eye for asking such an inane question. “Fine. You go in, you take the damn recon, you find that bastard and then you come back and we engage as a unit.”

There’s a sort of tired glint in the general’s eye that Cody doesn’t like but… he’s pushed the insubordination a little too far already, their personal involvement notwithstanding. This will have to do.

 

***

 

Of course, when Obi-Wan’s starfighter drops back into the Negotiator’s hangar bay with only a fraction of its usual flourish, the cockpit is empty. Of course it’s just his jetii’s stuffy little astromech jetting out of its socket to inform him nothing more than that Kenobi has made contact .

“Of all the… Adan, Slate, Boil, scramble the men,” he snaps. His captains are standing off to the side, talking amongst themselves as they watch him talking to R-4. At least the battalion was already prepped for deployment. “Ghost Company goes wheels up in 15, everyone else follows us in 30.”

His men load up and he steps into the last gunship behind Kazi and Boil, his blaster slung over one shoulder and vibroblades tucked into each boot, muttering through different permutations of troop movements under his breath because besides the limited footage he’d pulled from Kenobi’s droid he doesn’t really know what he’s dropping into.

Boil claps him on the shoulder, squeezing lightly. “Kote. It’s gonna go our way, sir.”

The mood around them is… light, lighter than Cody’s currently feeling, and Boil must be able to tell. It’s not as jovial as it had been in some of the early days of the war, but Kenobi was right when he said they’re hitting a breakpoint, and the men around Cody can feel it. They’re veterans now, staring into a light that could be the end of a tunnel, and what would be pre-battle jitters in a batch of shinies has both softened and tempered into something relaxed but unyielding.

He owes it to his men to be there with them. It’s frustrating to be distracted, and he forces himself to ease into the moment - better do it now than ask the oncoming firefight to drag it out of him. “Yea. One more karking desert.”

Kazi barks out a laugh, swaying gently as he hangs his weight off one of the straps looped through the ceiling. “Can’t be worse than Geonosis, sir. Or that one- what was that other one? With the really bad dust?”

Several of the other men groan in response and Cody can only shake his head, the deserts of the galaxy blurring together in his mind into a single purgatory of swirling red grit.

 

When they touch down in an orange cloud and get boots on the ground the place isn’t totally in an uproar yet, which could be either a good or a bad sign for the general. No matter; they’ll have plenty of chaos stirred up soon enough.

He signals for cover with a few curt hand gestures and he and Boil trot up to the edge of the canyon-like pit that seems to be the main hive of Sep activity, bellying over the ledge to peer down into their target. Cody cycles through the filters on his helmet, infrared to carbon trace to movement tracking.

Boil gestures minutely to a particularly wide outcropping a short distance down, nicely positioned for both cover and access. “Try to land the other squads there, no?”

“Yea. Have Oddball get organized and we’ll punch a hole through for them.” He gets on the comms with his other captains. “Adan, Slate, we’re setting up your drop zone a bit further into the pit, stay out of range til we clear your entry.”

“Copy that, Commander. Wheels are up and we’re ready on your signal.”

 

He falls into the rhythm of leading and fighting with too-practiced ease, falls into the familiarity of his squadron and his blaster and the dust filtering into his nose, his muscles warming up and his movements becoming instinctive and direct and precise.

Oddball leads their little crew of fighters screaming over the lip and and everything explodes into motion, the troopers on foot swarming forward with drop-lines and jetpacks, falling into the depths in a hail of blaster fire.

 

Not worse than Geonosis, Kazi had said; but it could be Geonosis all over again or any number of planets as far as Cody’s concerned. The same droids, the same heat trickling sweat down his temple, the same chatter on the comms. The ARC in question comes online suddenly from his position a level deeper than Cody. “Got eyes on Kenobi, sir, two levels below me. Looks like he’s facing off with Grievous and a whole lot of clankers.”

“Thank stars,” he mutters to himself. “Copy that, Kazi. Take Gold Squad and get down there. Go, go, go-” he pauses from firing, waving his men past. “The rest of you on me, we push on to the bottom of this thing. Adan, Slate, start bringing your squads in.” It’s messy - they aren’t cleaning up all the droids by a long shot - but they’re making steady progress through the pit.

He and the rest of Ghost Company fight their way over to the clearing he wanted to land his ships on in the first place and Cody switches back into command mode. He still hasn’t seen Kenobi, hasn’t heard from him over comms, wishes he knew what his general’s plan was so that he could work with it-

Slate’s ship touches down and the captain trots over. “Orders, Commander?”

“This is it,” Cody answers tightly. “Dig in and give ‘em hell.”

The men around him laugh and tip off a few little salutes. And why not? They’re professionals by this point, used to subterfuge and sabotage and complex sitreps. To sit in a single hole and pick off droids is no more than target practice. He almost can’t believe Grievous has come here of all places. It seems… easy. Concerningly so. But they’re here, at least until he can find his general and figure out a better plan, figure out if there’s some kind of catch he isn’t seeing.

 

In the end, he sees Kenobi’s lightsaber before he sees the jedi himself: it falls from the sky, as if out of nowhere, and bounces to a stop alongside Cody’s boot. He thinks his heart might stop along with it, for how painfully his breath catches in his throat. Fuck. He picks it up and scans the upper levels hesitantly, almost afraid to see what else might be falling from above.

There’s nothing. There’s nothing for far too long, and he has to force himself back into the motions of battle and command with hands that might be shaking slightly and nausea roiling in his gut. It’s impossible not to think about Obi-Wan facing off against the sithspawn with no weapon and no thrice-damned armor and - Grievous isn’t like Ventress or Dooku, who would want to flirt around Kenobi, poke at him and maybe leave him be. Grievous will just try to kill him.

 

He’s startled out of his battle-fogged distraction by the strange birdlike calls he’s been hearing growing suddenly louder and then Obi-Wan is there, tousled but alive, astride the back of some great lizard like the ridiculous man he is. “Commander Cody!”

Cody rips his bucket off, gasping in a dusty breath of relief, his ribcage finally released of the tension built up in his chest. “General Kenobi. Good to see you, sir.” He’s trying to keep the emotion out of his voice for appearance’s sake but it comes out a little strangled, a little too formal sounding. 

His jetii’s grin breaks open wide and toothy and Cody thinks the other man is picking up everything he’s trying so desperately not to say. The relief is still growing warm and fuzzy and distracting in his chest and his head, so he’s hardly hearing what Obi-Wan is actually saying - battle to win, start moving back to the upper levels - Cody’s too transfixed by what he’s reading in his general’s expression. Because if Obi-Wan is here and relaxed and grinning like that then Grievous must be not here and that means it’s really ending after all this time. 

 

He snaps back to reality as Kenobi starts to spur his mount forward. “Wait, sir.” He unclips the saber from his belt, passes it back to its owner. “Think you might be needing this.”

The smile he gets in return this time is smaller, more private, and no less precious. “Thank you, Cody,” the jedi says, and then he tucks into the beast and they launch up the cliffside.

Cody watches them for another moment and then turns towards his captains, fresh orders on his breath-

His comm lights up a split second later, incoming long-range transmission. Odd. Cody accepts the call, watches the hooded figure spring up over his wrist, trying to figure out which jedi is that?

A sudden ache in his head, subsiding to a background throb, and then his attention is solely focused on the little figure in front of him, the battlefield fading into the background, and that is very unlike him because Cody hasn’t had the luxury of focusing on a single thing since he was a child, but he feels like he can’t tear his mind away from the incoming order.

“...it is time,” the blue figure is saying, “Execute Order 66.”

 

All of the sudden Cody is a cadet again, back when they were all children too old for their years, trying to reconcile the mental acuity of a teenager with only a young child’s length of life to support all those thoughts. Back when any misstep could mean decommission, and obedience was more instinct than anything else.

They used to sneak out onto the vast platforms overlooking Kamino’s raging seas, him and his batchmates and Rex and any number of others, something that was just a part of the life of a young clone. It was whispered among the vod’e that if you stood close enough to the drop you could hear a voice whispering right into your mind to jump, leap, fly off the edge, become one with the storm and the waves and the mighty ocean herself.

Some cadets believed it was the call of a divine entity, one greater and more terrible than the little gods they all liked to swear to; and some thought it was a trick of the long-necks, a lingering impulse left in their heads to weed out the weak. 

Cody himself had stood there at the precipice and felt it but- but he thought it came from inside, just a fact of life to be so aware of death. Perhaps any sentient with a soul would hear it... but he thinks for the clones it would be all the louder, for how young and overclocked their minds were, how intimately their existence was intertwined with their inevitable passing.

So they all did it, some only once or some almost nightly, cadets and later soldiers finding an edge to walk, the higher and more precarious the better. Jump, came the voice, and some of them… some did jump. But most let it wash over them, proof that a vod could hear a command- however ethereal- and not listen. Proof that they were something more than what they’d been engineered to be; that they were secretly free. Proof that they were men.

 

And now Cody is a cadet again and he is walking the edge, the command to execute Order 66 still ringing in his ears. Jump, whispers the voice, into the abyss, make an end to it, and there is no hesitation, no rationality, no secret freedom. His chest seizes in some unidentified and unfathomable fear, because his own logic - the thoughts that have always stopped him from leaping, the ones that made him Kote and not CC-2224 - they aren’t there and now there is nothing left to hold him back-

In his mind, he jumps.

 

He watches as if from behind a thick pane of transparisteel as he does all of the things that obedience says he should and everything else says he shouldn’t, raising his arm, his voice not even trembling, “Blast him!”

He watches his cyare fall from the sky like he’s living a nightmare but his lungs don’t scream and his eyes don’t cry.

At the end, it’s not his body crashing into black water.

Chapter Text

Cody knows he’s losing time. Has been, maybe, since the 212th stepped back onto their flagship (no longer called the Negotiator ) and washed both the orange Utapaun dust and the orange paint from their armor. “An ordinary Venator does not need a fanciful name or decorations any more than an ordinary clone does,” their new nat-born commanding officer had explained as he ordered the return to regulation whites, and Cody had nodded along with his vod’e because it made sense, logically, if built up from the truths he’d been taught. 

So he’d scrubbed away his golden sunburst, one of many things he’s done in a seeming daze. He doesn’t really remember doing it, at least not the way he used to remember things; none of his recent memories have much clarity or color or depth to them. They slip away in grey static and the days slip away with them. Time, lost.

At first he thinks he could be grieving the betrayal of the jetii . But in truth he does not feel sad. There had been a betrayal, and he had been given a kill order, and he had followed it. Fact, fact, fact. He remembers it: the cannon-blast, the cloud of red rock and green feathers, the cursory sweep through the rocks to try and confirm the kill. It doesn’t hurt him, to remember it. 

He thinks it should. He remembers a half-day before that same memory, when he’d waylaid Kenobi as the man was prepping his starfighter. Cody had hauled him by the tabards into the shadows of the hangar, had pressed their foreheads together and whispered luck into his jetii’s mouth - he remembers that more than he remembers anything since. His stomach roils a little, inexplicably, but the memories stay impartial.

He remembers how emotion used to shape his world. Every action, so compromised, so affected. So many regs broken for the small wants of his men, for Rex. Little gods, the whole damned situation… with him… the very thought floods his mind with instinctive aversion, like a cowering prey-animal hiding from some stalking beast. It confuses him, all those remembered feelings, that they could have affected his judgement so thoroughly. Because if they had been real… wouldn’t he be having them still? 

 

***

 

The 212th is losing men the way that Cody is losing time. He notices this in the clinical detached way that he notices everything these days, although he has been demoted to captain in the months following the event and he is now technically only responsible for Ghost Company. 

He keeps tabs on the full battalion all the same, even if he can’t act on it. He has always watched over the 212th, down to the man, and he thinks the act of doing so has worn deep and permanent ruts into his mind. He remembers this, although the memory does not bother him, no more than his fallen rank. He is a good soldier. He thinks the men remember too, though they treat him as any other company captain. 

Sometimes losing men looks like this: They touch down on another planet, perhaps to put out an insurrection against the new Republic, perhaps to stamp out a lingering Separatist colony. Cody organizes his men according to their new C.O.’s orders and leads them into firefights, over minefields, through suppressions. The officer himself stays on the Venator, tracking the battalion via holoscreen and transmitting commands to his captains as necessary.

The new general is not talented at war or even these measly one-sided putdowns; the only tactic he seems to know is a direct and unrelenting advance. Cody… Cody likes neatness and elegance and efficient use of resources, even when those resources are clones. But a general is a general, and orders are orders. They advance.

The firefight thickens. Cody presses on. Dust and sweat and battle are still familiar, but there is no longer any sense of sinking into the moment and coming alive with the fight. He is CC-2224 and he fights how he lives, in plodding monotony, though his actions are no less fast or ruthless for it.

Kazi to his left has lost his bucket and is fighting on, dull-eyed and teeth bared. Muja is on his right, and as Cody looks over, the unlucky private takes a slug to the hip and goes down hard.

Before the... well, before, Cody would have covered his ARC and Kazi would have dragged Muja to cover, and then Kipper would have appeared out of nowhere to spirit Muja to the med station and probably Kazi with him, You’re coming with me - no, shut it, trooper, you look concussed. No- I don’t give a bantha’s ass what you did in ARC training- and Cody would have seen them all in the mess a few days later laughing because Muja was a funny bastard when he was on the good painkillers.

That was before. Now Kazi hardly looks over to see his vod hit the dirt, and their new general is still droning into their earpieces, “ Press forward, press forward, pick up the pace-” and soldiers are a renewable resource after all. They press on. 

That night, Cody stares at himself in the mirror of a ‘fresher and unsuccessfully tries to will some emotion to bubble up and show on his face as he adds Muja,CT-9956,Hotwire,Akron to the list of lost vod’e.  He thinks… he thinks he should be bothered by this in a way that goes deeper than poor use of resources . He should be distraught, angry, frustrated. So many things should bother him more than they do: his dying brothers, his aloof and careless commander, the way that Kipper has stopped doggedly tracking down injured men and Alice has stopped rounding them all up for contraband booze and sweets.

He considers this at length and his reflection stares back at him with blank brown eyes until his own emotional emptiness fills him with a terrible sense of self-horror and he has to turn away to retch into the wastebin.

Perhaps he thinks too much. He was not created for all this damned philosophising; another unfortunate habit he’d picked up in the before .

***

 

They don’t start losing men the second way until the new medic shows up, a transfer from gods-know-where. Cody thinks he recognizes him, thinks he used to be one of Rex’s, but the other man doesn’t approach him and they have no reason to speak. 

Then - suddenly it’s like the new medic has breathed life and purpose back into Kipper, and they’re running rampant together, back to their old antics (well, minus the most recalcitrant sass and the flagrant disregard for orders that medics everywhere used to be famous for): They go after the injured men. Dragging them from the battlefield, tracking them down on the Venator, chasing after them on shore leave, brandishing hypos and datapads and who even knows what else.

Brothers go into the medbay, herded obediently by Kipper and the other medic, and then- they just don’t come out, disappeared as if on a lucky wind. 

 

Cody notes the pattern dispassionately but begins avoiding the medbay all the same, some inkling of his old drive to survive apparently having crept into his dull existence. The men continue to disappear, a slow but steady trickle, if one knows to look for it. No more clones are being commissioned and so they are replaced by natborn stormtroopers, though Cody is none too impressed by the quality of the new soldiers.

One ten-day, it’s Kazi and Boil who disappear, and this is more annoying. They were... Cody isn’t sure if he has friends so much anymore, but they had been there since the beginning. It takes Cody a few days to notice, and he scowls at the new boy placing his shiny-white armor in Boil’s cupboard and goes to find Kipper. “What happened to Boil? I saw him get hit, it was barely a graze.”

His medic looks up from a datapad, shares a glance with his partner across the medbay, looks back to Cody. “Complication with a nerve, sent him planetside for treatment.”

Cody scowls. “Fine. Where’s Kazi?”

“Reassigned,” the other medic says from across the room. “Fox’s crew on Coruscant.” He holds Cody’s gaze steadily, all calm expression and fiery eyes, as if daring him to question further. 

Because he is a captain now, Cody can no longer access the GAR’s full database to see if either of these things are true. He huffs and exits the medbay without another word, mentally renewing his commitment to avoiding the damn place.

In the end, it ends up being unavoidable, though Cody has no recollection of getting there. The battalion is on Coruscant for the first time since Utapau, and Cody has received a summons from Fox - who is still a Commander, the bastard - that his presence is required in the Senate building.

He goes. When he wakes up, it’s to a blinding headache and Kipper shining a penlight into his left eye, another brother peering over his shoulder - that’s Kix, what is Kix doing here, wait Kix has been here for a month- “What happened?” he croaks.

Kipper steps back, frowns. “Uh- you went with Fox, and Thire brought you back two hours later half conscious and bleeding out your nose and mouth... You don’t remember anything?

Cody shakes his head mutely, pushes himself up to sitting, gratefully accepts water from Kix, whose presence remains mysteriously unexplained. Coruscant, we’re on Coruscant- there is a window in this room, the transparisteel scratched and clouded. It’s a clean room, as befits a medbay, but old and with hints of dinginess, as if it’s tucked into the farthest and most forgotten corner of the infirmary.

He stares out the window for a long moment, and then- 

There’s a tower out there, a thin but ornate structure poking artfully into the sky, and his heartbeat seems to stutter step as his mind recognizes one of the spires of the jetii temple. He chokes on the water, splutters it into his lap, and the flashback hits him like a freight train.

The sunlight is coming through the window and it’s bright and warm like the sun over Utapau, too bright too warm, oppressive heat and choking dust. “I think you’ll be needing this, sir-” 

Obi-Wan’s voice is in his head now, warm, playful, “Thank you, Kote,” but he can’t see his cyare’s face where is he, and then Cody knows exactly where he is because he’s pointing him out to his gunners and calling Blast him! with a steady arm and a steady voice.

He hears the crack of the cannonblast like the crack of his own ribs, and the deathcry of the feathered beast like it’s his own heart crying for mercy, and he had forgotten what it was like to feel pain like this, total and inescapable and all-consuming. He’d forgotten what it was to feel anything, truly, and now his heart is tearing its way back into his body with reckless abandon and he feels it, he feels he might die of shame and fear and fury at all he has lost in mere months.

He comes back to the small room on the tail of a choking sob with Kipper murmuring nonsense in Mando’a trying to talk him down and Kix watching over both of them with a somber expression.

“How... what have I done,” he pleads, desperate for some structure that will reassemble the pieces of his life.

He listens through the stunned white noise of his own mind as Kix explains it all - the implants, the order, the Emperor, the end.  

“...and now I’m here as a plant,” the medic is concluding. “Pulled Kipper’s chip and we’re working on getting vod’e out, sending them to Rex if they want to keep fighting or setting them down on their own if they’re done.”

His eyes are still on Kix’s shoulder but his gaze is a thousand kliks away, digesting the fact of the electric worm burrowed through his head. He can’t even say he’s surprised - he’d known something was off, known that something was fundamentally wrong. “I… I shot him,” he croaks.

“You couldn’t have done any different, sir.”

Kenobi. Dead, again, for real, after all this. He breathes, swallows, breathes again. “It’s… it’s gone now? The chip?”

Kix’s gaze flicks down, his voice turning more professional, more medical. “Mostly. They’re- well, they’re really delicate little fuckers, Commander, so we can’t get everything, but the active functions are disabled. But- there may be residual effects from time to time, just for a little while. Until the scar tissues build up.”

Cody nods, trying to press his emotions to the back of his mind, trying to step back into himself. Kote, not CC-2224. He needs to be logical, he needs to be purpose-driven, he needs to- “You said- Rex? He’s ok? There are others?”

Kipper nods cautiously. “He and Tano both made it out. There are hints already of a slow-starting resistance. Against the… new Republic. Rex is splitting time between helping free the vod’e and laying the groundwork for whatever comes later.”

Cody knows he must look strung out as hell from the way that both medics are eyeing him like a particularly delicate bit of glasswork. Kix waits a beat and then adds, “You’d be free to join him, or go your own way. We’ll let you get some rest and consider, yea?”

Cody considers, briefly, boarding the nearest ship and spacing himself the moment they breach the atmosphere, and then he considers exiling himself to the bombed out husk of Mandalore or maybe Geonosis for the extra touch of self flagellation, and then…

It probably shows on his face, from the way that Kipper squeezes his shoulder, the way they both look at him like he’s a cadet. “Sir…” his medic hesitates, “I’m sure Kenobi would-”

Well, Cody doesn’t know where he’s going with that, doesn’t know what Kipper thinks Kenobi would posthumously want for his erstwhile lover (no, murderer, his mind supplies). He realizes in a heartbeat that he doesn’t want to find out, and he cuts the medic off a little savagely. “I don’t want to talk about Kenobi,” he mutters. “Send me to the resistance, ‘m sure they can use another brain on the table.” It’s what he would have done.

Kipper blinks, steps back. “Of course, Kote. Sir.”

Kix’s comm blinks and whirrs. “Osik, we better run. We’ll be back by tomorrow, Commander. Don’t- uh, don’t go anywhere.”

Then they are gone, and Cody is left to curl in on himself, letting three months worth of suppressed emotions rise up and then bleed out of his aching chest.

 

***

 

And this is how Cody finds himself splitting his time between Alderaan and Hoth and (mostly) some other godforsaken moon, where an old starship has crashed and been converted into a makeshift intelligence headquarters. It takes him a matter of months to work his way into the most dedicated circles of this tiny spark of a resistance, relying on his skillset, his determination, his reputation, and his myriad past conversations with Kenobi on everything from the art of war to espionage to governance. 

He feels like a hull of himself - empty, empty, always - but stars be damned if he isn’t going to be an effective shell of a commander. It’s the desire to do good and the desire for retribution that drives him. It’s also guilt: the burning guilt that in his brief chip-addled existence he had deprived this fledgling opposition of its most talented prospective architect, by shooting his jetii off of a canyon wall. Now he can only strive to make up for it with his own ability, nevermind that he could never be, will never be, what Kenobi could have been if he were here.

The ones among them that knew him from before - Rex, the Alderaanian senator, Wolffe when he occasionally passes through - they try to talk to him about it, sometimes, always hesitating and then quietly starting with “I think Kenobi-

Cody cuts them off every time because is it so obvious that he’s desperately trying to fill a dead man’s shoes? Is it so obvious that he’s here not so much for himself, but for some desolate atonement? He believes, really, in what they’re doing; but it’s too soon, and he can’t just be himself yet. He needs more time for his world to unshatter itself before he can be his own man in this fight.

So he cuts them off, any mention of his cyare, and nurses his grief privately, like a small clawed thing held precious and biting under his sternum. 

After the first time or two, they don’t push it, happy to let him brood from his place at the table because he’s in it now: he's a key architect of these preliminary sketches of a resistance. He doesn’t necessarily feel good yet, but it’s nice to be needed again.

He sees Rex often. Rex, who - opposite of Cody, perhaps - is somehow more than he has ever been. Darker, more furious, more vocal, always pushing, pushing; but also lighter in a way, as if he’s finally at peace, has finally found a place where he can really trust in the correctness of what he’s doing. Cody loves him for it, loves his vod’ika for being so deeply moral, for being a shining example of what the vod’e could and can be at their best. 

 

He doesn’t see Tano until the 5th month, or maybe the 6th - he knows she drops into Rex’s missions more often than not, but she’s almost solely a field operative now, and doesn’t make it back to any of the little headquarters very often. 

They find some booze and get drunk, the three of them, first reminiscing about the times before and then Rex and Ahsoka battling back and forth with tales of the stupidest stunts they’ve pulled in the times after, and then sinking into conversation that is quiet and contemplative and wistful.

Tano has been sneaking longer and longer glances at Cody the longer the night wears on, and stars, he’s missed that sense of being looked at deeply, in the way that only jetiise were capable of. Finally she blurts out, “Cody, are you… are you happy? Here, I mean?”

Rex goes still and quiet, eyes flicking between them, and Cody coughs to buy a moment before slowly answering. “I’m… I feel that I’m doing what I should be. And that makes me feel… like I have some meaning, still. A purpose. Sorry, that sounds- uh, I just need more time, I think.” Stars, he sounds morose, even to himself. Karking alcohol.

The other two are both silent for a minute and Cody can almost see the thoughts passing between them for how well they know one another. Rex speaks up first. “You know, Kote, you don’t, uh… you don’t have to be here to make up for the fact that he’s not.”

Ahsoka nods, picking up the thread. “I mean, not like - you’ve been so instrumental in figuring out how this whole rebellion is going to be built up in the future, don’t get us wrong. Bail and Mon Mothma and the others talk about you like you’re gold or a secret weapon or something, but Keno- uh, my grandmaster would be here if he wanted. And if you… if you wanted to go back to him, you could. It would be ok on everyone’s accounts, I know it.”

Cody’s throat goes dry and his eyes burn, start to water, because how does she not know? “Ahsoka…” he chokes out around the lump in his throat, “he’s… Obi-Wan is dead. I- I shot him off a cliff on Utapau when the… when the order went through.”

It’s the first time he’s said it aloud since that morning in the medbay with Kix and Kipper and it hasn’t gotten any easier, still feels like a sucker punch to the gut. He forces himself to look back up to his companions.

Ahsoka and Rex stare back at him, eyes wide in what could only be horrified shock, and didn’t they know this already? Didn’t everyone know this? It’s not like he had been an exception, either- this had been the end of most of the jedi. 

Rex’s bottle actually slips from his fingers, bounces and cracks on the ground, and then he’s scrambling over to kneel in front of Cody, grasping his shoulders roughly, almost shaking him. “Kote, stars, ori’vod- he’s alive, Cody. Kenobi is alive.”

Cody can’t breath. He- it’s too dangerous, to believe this, and he can feel his heartrate spiking with shock and hope and fear. He looks to Ahsoka, desperate for some kind of surety, Ahsoka who has tears in her eyes and a hand over her mouth. “He’s… I didn’t…?”

The younger jetii nods. “Oh Force, Cody, I’m so sorry, we all thought you knew - he made it. He’s alive, Cody, he’s really alive. He’s… well, Bail says…” her voice grows hushed, as if she’s got some precious secret that might be overheard even here at the farthest corner of the world. “He’s on Tatooine.”

Chapter Text

Cody wakes the next morning in an anxious stupor, his belongings strewn about the floor, some shoved half into a duffel and the less important ones in a pile to be given out - well, back, really - to the rebellion. It’s the closest thing to packing his drunk self had managed the night before, until he’d finally fallen into restless sleep, plagued by dreams of the Empire and the 212th and Kenobi falling and rising and falling again.

 

He rubs his eyes, splashes water on his face, stares blearily at himself in the mirror of his little ‘fresher. He looks… tired. So tired. 

Kenobi - Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan is alive. He’s not sure he’ll believe it until he can lay eyes on the man himself. Ahsoka and Rex haven’t even seen him since before everything went sideways; hardly anyone has, apparently. Only a select few even know of his whereabouts, and almost no one - save Bail, purportedly - knows why he’s secluded himself to some far corner of the galaxy.

Cody is afraid. If he’s honest, he’s not so much afraid that Ahsoka and Rex were wrong; he’s afraid that when he finds Obi-Wan, the other man will have ceased to think of him as Kote and will only see him as another clone gone traitor and come back again. The dread sits deep and anticipatory in the pit of his stomach, and his nightmares keep replaying the same scenario: him, following his jetii into another anonymous desert; and Obi-Wan, staring him down with cold blue fire for eyes, the way he used to stare down droids or drones or darksider sithspawn.

He shakes his head irritably - quit being such a sad sap di’kut, have a little faith - and sets his mind back to hastily packing up his few personal effects.

 

Bail is the only one he seeks out, after he checks his cabin back in to the site manager and downs a quick cup of caf in the galley. Ahsoka and Rex were likely gone already, off on an early morning mission, so they’d said their goodbyes the night prior. 

It’s incredibly lucky that the Alderaanian senator is even on this particular base this ten-day, as he’s been more and more a homebody since he and his wife had become parents. He receives Cody in one of the empty situation rooms at the center of the base, clearly having been given a heads up by Ahsoka. 

“Commander- please, come in, sit-” there’s more caf for the both of them. Organa takes a deep breath and steeples his fingers. “Com- ah, Cody, I am so incredibly sorry that we… well, please believe me when I speak for myself and all the other leaders; we were sure you knew of his survival. It was never our intention to keep that from you.”

Cody swallows down any lingering frustration and tries to relieve his comrade’s stress with a smile, even if it comes out a bit stiff. “Of course, Senator, don’t mention it.” He fiddles with the sleeve of his flight jacket, not really wanting to spend any more time than necessary on pleasantries. “So… what can you give me? Do you- do you have a comlink?”

Organa deflates a little. “In that regard, unfortunately, I have very little to offer. Kenobi left me with only a one-way distress beacon, that I could use to signal him if we were in dire need of help only he could provide. I have no standard way of contacting him.”

The lump regains size in Cody’s throat, threatening nausea, and he tries to swallow it back down with caf and forced joviality. “Guess I better hope he doesn’t shoot me on sight then.”

The barely concealed grimace on Bail’s face suggests that he, too, understands how real a possibility that is. “I’m truly sorry, Commander. All I can give you is the planet - but that I understand you already know - and my best guess at a more specific location. He didn’t tell me precisely where he was headed, but if I were you… I’d ask around Mos Espa.”

Cody frowns. There are only a few ports on Tatooine, so one is as likely as the other, but- “Why there?”

The senator looks at him gravely. “Well, that’s where Anakin was from.”

“He didn’t make it.” It’s a statement, not a question; the Empire had been touting Skywalker’s death since the beginning. He and Rex had talked about it, once, though his vod’ika obviously hadn’t been with his jetii at the end, and no one in the resistance seemed to know even where Skywalker himself had been. “...he didn’t make it, right?”

Bail glances away, gaze fading out of one of the viewports. “All Master Kenobi said during the brief period we were together was that he’d failed Anakin. So- I can only presume that the reports are true.”

There’s something the senator isn’t telling him, no doubt, but Cody’s focus sharpens on the earlier part of the statement. “Together- you saw Obi-Wan? Physically? He’s unharmed?” The questions stutter out rushed and urgent.

Organa nods, expression softening a mite. “Obviously we met after many hard days, but he appeared uninjured, at least in body.”

A portion of Cody’s anxieties melts off in a rush, no more imagining Obi-Wan minus a limb or with irreparable damage done to joints or ribs or head. “Thank the little gods,” he murmurs, downing the rest of his caf. “Okay. Okay, do you have a ship for me?”

The senator nods. “You’re actually in quite a lot of luck- we have a lightweight single seater that’s compromised, got ID’d too many times and we need it to disappear. I understand the... ah, procedure... is to crash them?”

Cody huffs. “Yea, I’ll handle it, just point me in the right direction.” He hardly notices the walk out to the hangar bay, too caught up in the dawning realization that months after coming to the resistance, he finally feels like he’s returning home.

 

***

 

The trip to Mos Espa is uneventful, even boring- it’s much slower to travel now that he’s trying to fly under the radar of the very surveillance systems he used to command. Cody picks a route consisting of a series of random hyperspace jumps, dropping in and out of realspace in a pattern just directed enough to look like he might be doing something legitimate at every little spaceport he stops in at, but just random enough not to suggest any particular end destination. He sheds another layer of tracking-related anxiety with each successful landing and takeoff, though it doesn’t do much in the face of his anxiety about… well, everything else. 

Cody remembers the first week after he’d come ‘back’, when the frustration and the anger and the shame and the overwhelming grief were at their freshest. If not for Kipper, Kix, Rex, all the rest… he would probably have run off on a series of extremely self-destructive ‘missions’ to try and even the scales. He doesn’t think he’d have made it long.

He can only imagine what Obi-Wan must be going through; can only wonder why he’s chosen to go through it alone, stranded out in some stars-forsaken desert. He knows how deeply the jetiise were tied to one another through both the Force and their sense of community. He can’t imagine the pain his general must’ve felt having that ripped out of his mind; he just hopes his cyare hasn’t been taken too far by grief for Cody to be able to… help, somehow. Stars, he just wants to help.

 

Mindful of his last virtual footprint, he puts his ship down hard in a canyon several klicks outside Mos Espa, scrapes one of the engines against the rock on the way in until the wing blows and lands with enough force to crumple the landing strut and bruise his sternum on the seat harness. He’s bargained on being far enough out for the Jawas to find him but not so far that he couldn’t survive the trek to the spaceport on foot if need be.

The Jawas do find him, though; and then he has most of a ship to bargain with. They aren’t liable to give him a good deal when it’s just him and he doesn’t speak their language, but he shakes out alright. By the end of the day he’s made it into town on a speeder of his own, picked up a few basic necessities and even found an old half-face helmet to wear. He’s particularly pleased to have found the last among the pile of junk they’d brought out to trade: it has some similar features to his phase II armor and goes a long way towards concealing his too-familiar face from prying eyes. And, if he’s honest, it’s a relief to be able to wear anything like armor; he feels naked in his flight jacket and civvie-style pants. The only thing he’s got from his kit are his vambraces, since he’d managed to hold onto them from before and they were both low profile enough to fit in his sleeves and too precious to leave behind. 

As it stands, he finishes his first day on Tatooine in high spirits: he is sore and dusty and far too warm, but he’s here and mobile and free. 

 

***

 

After a week, his optimism has faltered into a mix of frustration and abject terror - what if he’s been too late? After all, no one in the resistance had been in contact with Kenobi since the start of his self-imposed exile. Cody’s been all over the town, asked at all the markets, the mechanics, the bars, even the hub where bounty hunters get their work. Every possible descriptor for Kenobi he could think of, save directly asking for a man that looked like a lost jetii, he’d used- hells, he’d even drawn a picture for one of the barmen. At this point half the town knew of him and what he was looking for before he even finished asking; most of them think he’s some washed up Mandalorian bounty hunter and the rest think he’s lost his mind. 

He spends the morning of the eighth day fuming over a cup of caf and then takes his speeder to Mos Eisley to search there. 

Another week passes. He talks to bartenders, moisture farmers, slave mothers, children. He repeatedly pulls the crumpled sketch from his pocket - not even a good likeness - to show to Jawas and anyone who doesn’t speak Basic, awkwardly pantomiming around Kenobi’s missing body: we are about a height, like here; he is slender, like this; I have lost him, where is he?

He runs out of credits. He gets jumped outside a bar, a couple of drunk spacers; he fleeces them and goes back to Mos Espa. 

 

It takes too long for the flash of inspiration [or perhaps desperation] to hit: he stops asking for a nameless ginger-haired man cloaked in sadness and mystery, and starts asking for Skywalkers. It takes a few tries for anything to hit, but then he’s talking to an old woman selling fruit in the market and she pauses at the name, scrutinizes his masked face and worries at her bottom lip with gapped teeth. “Them’s family of yours, boy?”

Cody hesitates a moment, but - well, Skywalker had definitely been Obi-Wan’s family, and Obi-Wan was Cody’s. So. “Yes, cousins, I’m just trying to talk to anyone who’s left - please, it’s important.”

She watches him a moment longer, as if she could stare through his visor and see his eyes, his clonehood, his motives; until her expression softens into something regretful, almost pitying. She reaches a gnarled hand over her booth to squeeze at his wrist. “Well, I’m sorry, boy, but there’s no more Skywalkers living up these parts. The last was Shmi but she’s walked on some years past.” She breaks off to cough, and then continues, “She was up at the Lars farm in Bespin at the end. Might be her stepson’s still there, boy. Maybe he can tell yous whatcha need ta know. Now, are yous buyin any fruits or no?”

Cody thanks her hastily, shoving some of his credits over the worn wood in return for a small sack of wrinkling fruit, and rushes back to his speeder with adrenaline already pumping through his veins. Lars farm. Bespin. He has a lead. 

In truth, he doesn’t have a very precise idea at all of how finding a Skywalker might help him find Obi-Wan, but he trusts his gut, and he knows this: just as he, Cody, is pulled to his jetii, Obi-Wan’s star orbits around Skywalker’s: a tether that could be lightning-charged and fraught and painful, but was as certain as anything else in the galaxy. 

His nav-computer shows Bespin being at least several hours ride away, too far to collect himself and travel before nightfall. He cleans his blasters to pass the afternoon, lurks around one of the local taverns to ask about the safest routes out to his destination, and then - finally - sets his chrono to an early alarm and crawls into his rented cot to await the dawn.

 

He’s up with the suns, sidearm strapped securely to his thigh, vibroblades in both boots, this new routine of arming up and strapping his meager belongings to his speeder starting to feel something like his old daily ritual with his kit. The route he’s selected from the options presented to him last night has a couple bad zones: canyon passes with steep walls and winding interiors. One can either sacrifice sightlines and fly through the basins, risking raids from above; or brave flying along the ridge and getting spotted from afar or tossed about by extreme gusts of desert winds. 

He chooses the former, making it through the first two canyons without seeing so much as another soul. He’s just entered the third and final gully, thinking that he’s going to be able to chalk this up to another uneventful passage. He rounds a corner and throttles up to cover a long stretch of hard exposed sand, and then-

There is a figure, kneeling in the dust some 70 meters in front of him, holding a long-barrelled carbine blaster to its shoulder. “Osik!” Cody swears aloud, jerking his speeder hard to the left, knowing exactly what’s coming.

He isn’t fast enough, or else his assailant is too good a shot. The blaster bolt shatters the intake manifold of his engine and within moments the machinery has inhaled a good bucketful of hot metal and plastic and dirt. It bucks and blows and crashes into the ground, tossing him up over the front end and forward. He twists desperately in the air, searching for ground, but doesn’t find it in time; his shoulder impacts first and the hardpack squeezes the breath from his lungs. 

Fuck. fuck fuck fuck- he blinks stinging tears from his eyes, grateful for the helmet that’s protected most of his face; there’s a pinching feeling where a tiny piece of metal has gouged into his jaw. Cody rolls to kneeling, trying to shake clarity back into his head, look up LOOK UP where is it- The cloaked figure has (somehow, impossibly) covered almost all the ground between them in the seconds Cody’s been down. His hands go first to his shoulder for his deece, old habits dying hard, before he remembers that’s not where his weapon sits, not anymore, and then he’s fumbling his Westar from his leg-

Too slow, the stranger is basically on top of him, and how did they get here so karking fast? They move like a fucking wind spirit, whoever they are, whipping a long staff up overhead and cracking down on Cody’s forearm; his vambrace saves him from a broken bone but not from dropping his blaster at the impact with a cry, stupid, stupid, drop your weapon and you’re a dead man, how did all his training amount to this-

His attacker kicks the dropped blaster away perfunctorily and the staff whirls again, smooth and seamless from one attack to the next, coming for his head now; Cody ducks and unsheathes one of his blades in the same motion, and then he is back in the fight. He surges forward, trying to get in close, stay inside the other’s guard, falling into the footwork and motions of so many sparring sessions passed: step inside, slash up with the blade, arms up to cover his face, take advantage of his limited armor, block block the staff, duck, step inside again-

It’s a dance he’s practiced a thousand times.

It’s a dance his mystery assailant follows him into as effortlessly as breathing, the stranger’s tattered desert robes swinging out in a fan as they spin and strike and float across the sand, face wrapped and shielded and shadowed by a deep hood- 

They’re too fast, too precise, the fluidity of weapon and body speaking not of a life as some desert raider, but of years spent practicing katas until the movements look less like a series of forms and more like the motion of simply living made into act of war. The realization hits Cody harder than the full weight of a Kaminoan wave during a storm, it’s him it’s him it’s HIM.

The thought crashes through his head and he misses a beat, during which the stranger - no, it has to be him- turns and punches Cody’s sternum with the butt of their staff. Cody drops his knife, gasping for breath now, stumbles backward as fast he can until he trips on a rock and falls flat on his ass.

The figure stalks after him, still hooded and moving easy, the staff spinning once almost lazily in hand. “Why are you here? What do you want with the Lars farm?” Their voice is flat and scratchy; if it’s really Obi-Wan he’s using a vocoder of some sort. 

Cody swallows, squeezing his eyes shut in a quick prayer, because if he’s wrong about this… it won’t be good. He reaches up and pulls off his helmet, baring his face to the sun and the dirt and the stranger’s eyes.

The cloaked figure freezes, a scant half pace in front of Cody, unnaturally still for all that their clothes keep shifting and fluttering in the hot wind. They hold the staff out low and extended, tip leveled and unshaking at Cody’s throat, a familiar threat for all that it’s still just blunt hardwood. “Did the Empire send you?” The tone of voice is somehow even flatter than before. 

Cody swallows hard. “...Obi-Wan?” he tries, hoarsely forcing air into the name. He hasn’t said it aloud in months, he realizes.

The stranger flinches as if struck across the face, and then he’s dropping the staff and surging forward, grabbing Cody by the front of his jacket in an iron grip, pulling him to his feet to press him against the rocks with a blade at his throat. “Who sent you?” he rasps harshly. “Tell me what you want with the Lars farm. Now!”  

At this distance Cody can see his eyes under the hood, shadowed blue and dark with fear and anger above the wrap still covering the rest of his face. It hits him like a punch to the gut, feels harder than any of the physical blows he’s already endured, and he feels tears threaten at the corner of his eyes. “Obi-Wan, ner jetii, please,” he gasps. “I’m here for you, ‘m just looking for you-” He reaches out a careful hand, slow, shaky, and pushes the hood back until it falls away. 

The exiled Jedi lets him do it, even if he doesn’t let up the blade pressure at Cody’s throat, and then it is him: windburned and sunburned, hair messier and lighter and longer than it should be, but undeniably Cody’s jetii. 

His knees go wobbly and he sags in Kenobi’s grip, silently berating himself to keep it together, vod, as a thousand tangled emotions surge through him. The jedi shakes him roughly, eyes still flinty. “The Lars farm,” he grits out, voice hardly more than a whisper. “What do you want with it.”

Cody shakes his head, thoughts frothing inside. “Nothing, nothing, si- Obi-Wan, I swear, I was just trying to find you, I don’t even know who Lars is-”

He feels the alien presence of the Force ruffle over the surface of his consciousness, the first hint of it since he’d found his jetii, and then Obi-Wan drops him and steps back swiftly, staring Cody down from a few paces back. His body is still held foreign and predatory like something too old and too experienced, but he reaches up and switches off the vocoder all the same. When he speaks again, his voice is his own, even if it sounds far too rough from disuse. “How did you get out?” He’s watching Cody like he’s waiting for an attack, of course he is.

Kenobi’s voice is his general’s voice, cool and demanding. Cody instinctually reaches down to pick up his helmet and tuck it under his arm, as if they’re back before everything had gone wrong and he’s just delivering another report. He fixes his gaze on the dirt next to Kenobi’s left boot. “The resistance - some of the vod’e found me. Kix, Kipper. Took the-” he swallows, taps his temple. “Took it out. Sent me to Rex. I didn’t- I didn’t know you made it, til a couple weeks ago. Talked to Rex and Tano and Organa, and headed straight here when I found out. It was a burner ship, I already parted it out, no one else knows. It’s just me here, I swear.” He chances a glance up to meet his jetii’s eyes. “Please. Obi-Wan. I’m-” his voice breaks-”I’m so sorry, ni ceta, ner’jetii, please believe me.”

Kenobi is silent for a long time, watching, thinking. Cody holds himself very still, feeling more out of his depth than he could have anticipated and wishing… wishing he knew what to do. Finally the jedi bends to pick up Cody’s dropped blaster and hands it back to him. “I can’t leave Tatooine. I can’t go back with you, to the others.”

Cody swallows the fresh lump that forms in his throat in response, the taste of a galaxy’s worth of desert planets echoing on his tongue. He doesn’t know how to talk to this new Kenobi, who holds himself like he’s both hunter and prey, yet strange and ephemereal enough that he seems like he might fade away in the next sandstorm. “I’m pretty sure I told you once that I’d follow you straight into hell. Tatooine can’t have much on that.”

His jetii huffs. “No, I suppose it can’t.” He turns and starts walking away; Cody makes to follow, but is halted by Kenobi calling back over his shoulder. “Wait here, my speeder’s parked just over this way. We can tow yours back for parts.”

He stops, and watches Obi-Wan disappear like a shade into another crevice in the rock, ignoring the fear that flutters up in his chest and wonders if the jedi will come back for him after all. Instead he busies himself retying a few scattered items to his speeder, trying to collect his wits as he collects his belongings from the sand.

Soon enough, there’s the whine of a small engine, and Kenobi appears back out of the rock on his own speeder, almost as old and cobbled-together as Cody’s. They make quick work of tethering his wreck to the functional vehicle, falling easily into the rhythms of working together even if to Cody neither of them feels like the same person.

Obi-Wan climbs onto his speeder and motions Cody to get on behind him. “Best hold onto something. I imagine you’re bruised up enough already.”

The old Cody would have had a clever quip to fire back with, but this one just pulls his helmet on and gingerly wraps his arms around his jetii’s waist - too thin, as ever - and then his mind is wandering far away as they start moving. Kenobi quickly veers off the route to the Lars farm, alternately twisting through networks of narrow canyon channels and screaming across sand flats, and Cody is too distracted to track their navigation well enough to have any good idea of their bearings or location.

He brings them to a dwelling built neatly into the rock and sand itself, and so well disguised that Cody doesn’t really see it until they’re basically parked out front. The speeders get parked into a divot in the rock face; there’s another undercut shading a moisture capture system and a tiny garden, hiding from the sun; and a single lone door into which Obi-Wan disappears.

Cody takes a deep breath, shoulders his duffel, and follows the other man inside.

 

It’s cozy and cool enough inside- Obi-Wan is bustling around a tiny kitchen in the main room, putting a kettle on, because of course he is- and further into the interior Cody can see a small bedroom, a hatch likely hiding a cellar below, a small ‘fresher. Obi-Wan gestures to a table in the middle of the room. “Sit. Please.”

Cody takes off his boots, sets his helmet aside, and sits.

Kenobi sets a cup in front of him and frowns. “You’re hurt.”

“A scratch.” Cody’s fingers drift up to brush at the blood drying on his cheek, though the area around his jaw still aches noticeably.

The jedi flicks his hand away before he can touch. “Don’t, it’s- there’s something caught in it. Let me just-” He turns away to rummage in his little kitchen, returns with a damp rag and a small pair of tweezers, deftly plucks a tiny metal splinter from the offending wound and starts wiping away the dirt and blood. 

Cody freezes up, his breaths going shallow, an instinctive response to Kenobi being so damn close and yet feeling so far away. His jetii notices and pauses with a murmured apology, setting the cloth down within Cody’s easy reach and retreating to his own chair across the rickety little table, physically reaffirming the mental space he’s been keeping since Cody stumbled upon him that morning. 

They drink their tea sitting across from each other in silence, not quite companionable but not quite uncomfortable either. In the past weeks Cody has met Obi-Wan again a thousand different times and ways in his head, and these imagined permutations of a conversation whirl through his mind: apologies, both large and small; declarations of intent, of devotion; condolences and offers to share grief. Now he is here and it seems there is to be hardly a first conversation at all; none of his preconstructed words seem to fit properly into the quiet of this room.

After the tea has been drunk and the mugs have gone cold and they’ve spent far too long not-quite-watching each other in cautious stillness, Cody braces himself and breaks the silence with a slight clearing of his throat. “Do you- um. Should I leave?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes go round in alarm and he opens his mouth to answer before snapping it back shut, the words he wants clearly evading him. 

“I don’t want to go,” Cody hastens to clarify. “But if you don’t want me to stay, I won’t.” He forces his voice to stay calm as he says it, praying desperately to the stars the whole time that he isn’t about to be sent away.

“I’m… I’m glad you came?” Kenobi’s voice is quiet, almost a whisper, and it comes out so unsure it’s almost a question rather than a statement. He watches Cody for another long moment, his expression very blank, before the mask cracks a little and he looks down into his lap, hiding his face from Cody’s direct view. “I’m sorry, de- ah, Commander, I just- I had given you up for lost, and hadn’t thought I’d see you again unless under more… unfortunate circumstances,” he murmurs sadly, “and I’m a little shaken.”

Cody nods, reading between the lines- I thought you were dead, or worse than dead; and if you found me again it would be to kill me- and sets aside the wrenching despair that whatever easy companionship they’d found once was going to be harder to rekindle than he’d imagined. He can sympathize, after all; hadn’t he been just as thrown by Kenobi’s return after the Hardeen debacle? “An jahaala, Obi-Wan, it’s okay. We’re not- we have no ranks anymore, only time. You owe me nothing.”

Kenobi keeps his gaze fixed out the small window but snakes a hand across the table, mustering up one small connection to offer. “I’m sure you’ll want to go back to the vod’e, to your family, eventually or from time to time, but… you’re welcome to stay here, Cody. Kote. As long as you want.”

Cody takes the proffered hand with both of his own, gently turning it over and inspecting the calluses there - some familiar, some new, all rougher than he remembers - as a way to buy time. He feels lost, cut adrift, not sure how forward he can be nor how guarded he should be.

He sighs, traces his thumb along the vein in Obi-Wan’s wrist.  “Ner yaim’la jetii... The vod’e will always be my family, but you-” he swallows, trying unsuccessfully to clear the thickness from his voice. “I would have you be my last home.”

Obi-Wan looks at him then, his light eyes damp and shining in the setting sunlight. The last of the mask he’s been clinging to falls away and there, finally, is Cody’s jedi, his face soft and open and full of emotion. His hand spasms once in Cody’s grasp and then tightens around his wrist. “It’s really you,” Kenobi chokes out. “Kote. You’re really here.”

Cody swallows again, nods. “Yes. ‘Lek, cyare, I’m here.”

Chapter Text

Cody sits at Obi-Wan’s little table a few mornings after his arrival, one hand wrapped around a mug of instant caf, the other scratching restlessly at the woodgrain as he watches his jetii drift between tasks in the kitchen - making tea, making breakfast, washing dishes, wiping surfaces. It’s quiet, again, between the two of them. It has been for the most part quiet since Cody arrived; they are both leaning into one another’s presence very slowly, cautiously avoiding dipping so much as a toe into the deep black pool of history and experience between them.

The GAR’s CC command manual keeps running unwelcome through his head, specifically the chapter on ‘Assuming Control in Unfamiliar Contexts,’  written to facilitate the way the army had been organized: one commander goes down, another must be immediately available to slot into his place, seamless and effective despite any inevitable differences between groups or leaders.

...Section 6.3 Mid-Engagement Command Transitions. The CC’s first priority when taking on a new command in an active battalion is to assess immediate risk to objectives and resources. Strategy and long-term troop management schemes are not effective if high immediate risk is present; therefore the commander’s first line of duty on arrival is to implement direct action to mitigate any such short-term threats. Securing time and space to safely operate is imperative...

Obi-Wan glances over. He has a hint of smile on his face and deep bags under his eyes. “More caf? Food’s almost ready. Nothing special, I’m afraid.”

Cody nods acquiescence, wondering how much the man had slept. The first night Cody had been here, he’d insisted that Cody take the bed, while he would sleep in the main room, in the deep chair near the window. Cody had protested, but his jetti had just shaken his head, pushed him towards the little room- “I hardly use it anyway, I’m often up at night, walking about or reading. Sleeping in the chair is quite comfortable for me.” He’d offered a rueful smile, one that spoke of too much insomnia.

Cody wouldn’t have believed him, but the sheets don’t smell of either Obi-Wan or laundry powder. 

...The second phase is a full assessment of the command (which can be kept in mind while achieving the first). For effective leadership the fresh commander must get a sense of the superior officer[s] as well as the state of the command left to him by his predecessor. This assessment should include not only the organizational state of the group, resource and equipment management, and progress towards the objective; but also such psychological factors such as attitude, morale, group history, and accumulation of stress and/or fatigue. Keep in mind that natural-born sentients may act as a more sensitive measure of psychological condition than C[X] units…

  Obi-Wan brings the food: porridge and bantha-milk and a precious bowl of chopped up fruit, as orange as Cody’s battalion colors. He settles across from Cody, sips at his tea. “You look… troubled.”

Cody cocks his head to the side a little, squints across the table, because- maybe he is, but his jetii’s observations had normally been a little deeper, a little more intuitive than simply you seem troubled. He waits for Kenobi to expand but nothing more is forthcoming; Cody is troubled, and this troubles him more. There’s something missing from their understanding of one another that goes beyond their reluctance to dive right into hard conversations, and he can’t quite get a finger on it. 

The jedi purses his lips and turns his gaze down to his breakfast, idly stirring through the food in figure eights. 

Cody is still mentally rewinding through the last week. “You don’t meditate anymore,” he blurts out. The first day he’d thought it might be an anomaly in response to Cody’s arrival disrupting his schedule, but he hasn’t seen Obi-Wan meditate once since he’s been here, nevermind how desperately the man (and the other jedi, save Skywalker, perhaps) had clung to meditation during the war. It had seemed more dear to them than either food or sleep.

Obi-Wan flinches minutely, a guilty look stealing over his features, as if he were a private and Cody had just accused him of failing to care for his kit. “I suppose I haven’t been,” he murmurs, attention dropping back to his food.

They eat, and Cody continues turning things over in his head.

...Section 2.4.2 Optimal Management of Daily Operations. Trooper performance is maximized when units are able to adhere to the Recommended Daily Routine [CT Std Manual Section 3], specifically with allowances for adequate sleep, nutrition, and when disengaged, drill time. When delegating tasks to squad leaders, the commander is responsible for communicating the importance of maintaining the routine when possible…

He tries to think back to Obi-Wan’s old routine during the war- but had his jetii really even had one? The clones were taught to try to fit the uncertainties of war into a barebones framework for proper existence the best they were able, but Kenobi had always lived in a more reactionary way- trying his best to meditate and spar and have downtime of his own, but always letting the war dictate the timetable.

Well, at least he seems to be adhering to regular mealtimes. Cody leans back into his chair, trying to settle his posture wide-open and nonaccusatory. “Do you still practice katas? Bladework?”

He’s got his jetii on edge, he can tell, noting the tense set to the other man’s shoulders. “Occasionally. When the mood strikes. Cody, what’s this about?”

Several things click, then, and fall into order in Cody’s mind. “You’ve stopped using the Force altogether, haven’t you? You’re cutting yourself off from it.”

Obi-Wan’s scowl grows thunderous, then, his expression petulant and brittle against the fragile peace they’ve coexisted in for the past week. “Your point, Commander?” His accent curls too-delicately around the words and Cody has to carefully hold himself from flinching.

He takes a deep breath, rubbing nervously at his forehead, because this is a goddamned minefield - even if it is better to see his jetii come alive with some emotion, even anger, rather than drifting dull and absent through the long days.

The jedi huffs, making an obvious attempt to smooth out his expression, and directs his gaze to the wall over steepled fingers. “It… it hurts, now, you know,” he says, almost choking on the words before collecting himself again. “The Force. To open up to it, you - you open up to the echoes of so much pain, and fear, and anger.”

Cody’s heart, if possible, breaks a little more for his loved one. He frowns, parsing through the responses that bubble up in his mind - wounds need to breathe to heal, fresh hurts sting the worst, the only way out is through - mantras he’s used to bolster himself up time and time again, but he doesn’t know anything about the Force and how this works for Obi-Wan. All he knows is that he and his brothers helped bring this about and now he wants to help pull his jetii up out of the mire the way the rebellion had done for him. “I’m sorry,” he ends up mumbling.

“You’ve done nothing wrong,” Obi-Wan whispers. 

Cody lets the silence settle for a moment, but despite his own lack of knowledge and preparedness for this task… he can’t bring himself to believe that this is good for his Jedi, this total isolation from what is undoubtedly a part of him. He steadies his resolve and lays his hands open on the table between them, mirroring Kenobi’s reach from the first night. “Ner’jetii,” he rumbles hesitantly, “will you teach me?”

Obi-Wan lets out a sad-sounding sigh, but extends his own hands across the table anyway, grasping Cody’s wrists and thumbing across the pulse points. “What would you like to learn?”

Cody shrugs artlessly. “Katas. Meditation. History. Anything… I know because I'm just… me, there are things I’ll never fully get, but I just want to try to understand. More.”

There is a long pause during which Obi-Wan’s eyes go haunted and distant and Cody nearly holds his breath, thinking he’s about to be rebuffed. At the end, though, his jetii turns to him with a very knowing look, as if he can see right through Cody’s scheming, and releases his hands with a squeeze. “It’s a wonder I’ve made it so long without you, Commander,” he teases, though the good-naturedness doesn’t quite negate the tension still underlying the conversation. “Very well. Dawn is an excellent time to learn - we will start in the mornings, when the first sun is a finger’s width below the horizon.”

Cody huffs, relieved. “I dunno what they told you about us clones but I can’t actually see through this planet, you know .”

Kenobi just laughs at him as he stands to clear away the dishes. “Enough of this false modesty, my dear. We both know you know exactly what time that will be.”

 

*** 

Cody sleeps early that night, before Obi-Wan has even returned to the house: he often disappears into the evening to wander about the dunes, and sometimes seems to stay out unreasonably late. In the morning, though, he is in the kitchen when Cody stumbles out of sleep some 30 minutes before they’re due to begin, steeping tea in the quiet pre-morning darkness. 

The jedi watches in quiet bemusement as Cody fumbles together a cup of caf and peels the wrapper off a nutri-bar with sleep-numbed fingers, accidentally dropping the tunic draped over one shoulder before he gets a chance to properly pull it over his head. “I remembered you being more of a morning person than this. Always so put together on the bridge.”

Cody sends him a scowl, though it’s lacking in any real heat. “Well, that’s because we were on the bridge, not in my cabin- give a vod a minute to wake up, sir, gedet’ye. I’m just not-” he breaks off to stifle a stubborn yawn- “not on this schedule yet, waiyii .”

Kenobi looks down, his smile soft and sad, absently dunking the teabag up and down in his cup. “You don’t have to call me sir anymore, you know. You said it yourself, there are no ranks between us anymore.”

Cody is still far too close to sleep to match the conversational nuance and subtlety that Kenobi wraps about himself like a cloak, so he doesn’t try to parse for or speak any second meanings. “Sorry, sir- uh, Obi-Wan. Force of habit. I’ll work on it.” He blinks and stretches his eyes wide open, downs a glass of water and slaps at his cheeks a little, trying to get the blood back into them and the bags out from under his eyes. “Right, lemme grab my boots. Cloak? Blaster?” He glances over to catch his jetii hastily trying to conceal a grin. “What?”

Obi-Wan is outright smirking now. “Nothing, nothing, just wondering how it took me three years to witness this little morning routine.”

Cody blushes a bit, bending to pull his boots on, because his batchers and Rex had found it funny too- how out of sorts he was first thing in the morning, right upon waking, in contrast to how well he played the model CC the rest of his waking hours. His jetii takes pity on him, whisking his own cloak about his shoulders and stepping out the door. “You can bring your blaster if you like, but you won’t be needing it.”

 

They scramble up a narrow path - though it can hardly even be called that, at points - to a hardpacked plateau overlooking the canyon and the desert beyond, the barest tinges of color just creeping into the sky. Obi-Wan pushes back the hood of his cloak, the light exertion of the climb fighting back the lingering chill of the nighttime, and looks out over the horizon; for a moment he looks as distant and untouchable as any of the stars out of Cody's old viewport. Then he turns back to face his old Commander. “Right. We begin, always, with a moment of stillness. We come to terms with who we are and what we are facing in this moment, the here and now; and then we do the same for our surroundings. Once we come to rest, we will start with the most basic open-handed katas of Form I.”

Cody frowns. “During the war, you said it made more sense for me to begin in the middle, build off of the hand-to-hand I already knew.”

Obi-Wan smiles patiently. “Yes, because during the war I was trying to quickly and efficiently give you as many tools as I could to keep you alive. Those katas weren’t from any one proper form; they were an amalgamation of several, plus some I took from old archival texts. Whatever I thought would mesh best with your Mandalorian-style training. Now, though-” his gaze is heavy on Cody’s own. “You ask me to teach you, dear one. If you want that truly, we begin at the beginning. Are you ready?”

Cody swallows, realizing that by asking for this he’s taken a plunge that’s much deeper for Obi-Wan than it is for him, and nods.



They keep at it until the suns are high in the sky, far longer than he (and maybe Obi-Wan also) had anticipated. Cody’s entire body feels like sweat-drenched putty, each muscle warm and pliable and exhausted, and his stomach feels so empty he thinks he could eat an entire bantha. He says as much, when they get back to the hut and he’s gulped down a full jug of water, and Obi-Wan smiles as bright as either of the suns, the most genuine smile since Cody has been here. For a moment old hurts are forgotten and he is not just welcome in this house; he belongs.

They eat lunch, tend the garden, leave food for the small bantha herd that Obi-Wan has wrangled half-wild from the desert and been working on domesticating. They eat dinner and Obi-Wan reads and Cody doodles, chasing the old peace of touching up his paint. A good day. In the morning he rises to find his jetii in the kitchen once more, and they do it all again.

 

Days pass, then weeks. Mornings grow habits and become routine. It’s not perfect: Obi-Wan still avoids bladework, still doesn’t seem to touch the Force from what Cody can see, still doesn’t speak of the war beyond the most impersonal or abstract statements… but it’s a start. They laugh more, shared meals grow longer and stop feeling like chores, they forget more; Cody thinks (hopes) they both sleep more.  

He learns more than katas and the Force-null component of meditation. Little things from before the war seem to spring into Obi-Wan’s mind and draw out impromptu lessons: he buys proper tea, not the cheap sachets he’s always dunking about, and teaches Cody the full tea ritual from his youth; he notices Cody’s penchant for doodling and shows him old books and scans of books dripping in ornate calligraphy; he sings, proper music and silly songs from his childhood and songs from mando’ade folklore that he’d picked up as a teen. Cody learns other things, too, just from observation, things that speak of both ancient rituals and mundane habits passed down from Jedi to Jedi and ending here with Kenobi. There’s the formal, almost ritualistic tone and words that begin their meditations; there’s the neat and very distinctive stitch pattern that Obi-Wan uses to mend clothing. There’s the gentle reverence his Jedi has towards living things, and the way it extends to include anything old, worn, that has seen much life and love. 

They settle into a new holding pattern, but it’s closer, more comfortable. Healthier, Cody thinks. It feels a bit like the early war, when they’d found their rhythm but didn’t know quite what to do with it yet. It still hurts a bit, to hold this distance when he himself yearns for something closer, but Cody steels himself with patience and duty, imagines himself as a scaffolding with which his jetii can rebuild, and forges on. 

After nearly a month, Obi-Wan suggests one midmorning that they end their session with a spar instead of another round of katas. “I didn’t want to mix up your old knowledge with the new, at the start,” he reasons. “But you’re getting the muscle memory down now, so - I think it would be alright.”

“Of course,” Cody says brightly, “would be my pleasure.” He tries to keep his voice calm rather than giddy , because he doubts that Obi-Wan’s reluctance to spar up to this point has been merely pedagogical. Now his heart glows warm and pleased, because this offer speaks of trust building back.

His jetii grins, fetches two short staves, tosses one to Cody. “Standard rules then, Commander? Open field over the plateau?”

Cody falls into the ready position he’d first learned as a child, drilling with his batchers under Skirata’s watchful eye. “Your move, General.”

 

They come together, clash, push back apart, again and again and again. Obi-Wan is all fluid grace and airy movement, first the light dance of a breeze, then the heavy crush of a gale. Cody hasn’t been studying the jetiise forms long enough to incorporate that kind of movement into his own fighting - no, he still fights like Jango had, solid like the very ground he stands on, rooted in his own strength and precision- but he’s starting to see it, starting to notice the connections between the formal katas and the way Obi-Wan can wipe the floor with him when they cross staves.

The suns climb higher, nearer the midmeal break, and as they square up for what Cody thinks will be their last round, he drops decorum and lunges forward with a feint before tackling his jedi bodily to the ground.

“-oof!” Kenobi rolls instinctively into the fall, dropping the stave as his arms come up to guard, and Cody is laughing now because he’d always had the upper hand grappling. 

He’s hardly got one of Obi-Wan’s arms pinned, though, when the other man freezes and lets out a little choked noise. His own laughter dies in his throat and he pulls back immediately, scrambling back off his jetii to sit on his hands a foot back. “...Obi-Wan?” He silently berates himself, took it too far, kriffing di’kut-

Kenobi sits up, expression gone still. “No, I’m fine, I’m sorry, Cody. I was just… surprised?” His face is flushed. “I, ah, I don’t think I’ve been that physically close to someone in a while.”

Cody’s face falls with a different sadness, picking out the brightness in his jetii’s eyes. “Ob’ika…” he rolls onto his knees, shuffles forward a bit, holds open his arms. “May I?”

Obi-Wan leans into the embrace in lieu of answering, stiff and gingerly at first, and then relaxing into a boneless slump against Cody’s shoulder as his arms wrap around his waist. Cody squeezes gently, rubs one hand in big strokes down his jetii’s back, lets the other come up to cup his head. Kenobi starts laughing then, little breathless puffs into the crook of Cody’s neck. “...what you must think of me, my dear. Kote.”

Cody shakes his head, buries his nose in Kenobi’s hair, squeezes tighter. “Nayc. Jare’la jetii.”

When he stands from the dinner table later that night, eyes growing heavy with sleep, he hesitates for a moment and clears his throat.

Obi-Wan glances up from his usual reading spot, gaze questioning. “Hm?”

Cody loses his nerve a bit, changes his intended tactic from direct to oblique. “I’m going to sleep now,” he mutters, and leaves the door open when he walks into the little bedroom, not waiting for any sort of response. If Obi-Wan wants to take it as an invitation- well, he will.

He’s halfway gone when Kenobi finally pads into the room, hesitating at the side of the bed. Cody lifts the coverlet with an arm in wordless invitation, blinking his eyes fully open in confusion when his jetii doesn’t climb in. 

“I get nightmares sometimes,” Obi-Wan murmurs.

Cody sighs back into the pillow. “So do I. K’olar, jet’ika, you need to sleep.”

There’s another heartbeat of hesitation, but then Obi-Wan climbs in alongside him, lets Cody plaster himself to the jedi’s back. When they wake in the morning, despite Kenobi’s fears, Cody thinks it’s the best rest he’s gotten in years.

 

***

 

They don’t often get Imperial presence out on Tatooine: the new government has bigger problems, sorting out its order in the Core Worlds; Tatooine and its neighbors are insignificant blips under the self-sustaining control of the Hutt dynasties.

It’s just Cody’s luck, then, that he and Obi-Wan are in Mos Eisley on a day that there’s a naval cruiser docked overhead. 

He wouldn’t have known had he not clocked the group moving through the market while Obi-Wan is bartering for supplies. There’s an officer, a severe-looking human female, wandering through the crowd; she’s accompanied by four blank stormtroopers. They’re being given a wide berth even in the crowded street.

Cody nudges Obi-Wan’s foot with his boot, flicks his eyes to direct the jedi’s attention, and Kenobi immediately stiffens and nods acknowledgement before turning back to conclude his purchases. 

“We should head back,” Cody mutters, not wanting to be anywhere near the woman or the troopers or the shiny-white reminder of the worst period of his life. His stomach is turning with rising unease just watching them.

Kenobi gathers his things and draws Cody into the crowd after them instead, his only explanation a quick series of GAR hand-sign- following, keep cover, need recon.

Cody scowls, grabs him by the arm, because he doesn’t want to follow the damn stormies. “Why?” he mutters close into Kenobi’s ear.

“I need to know why they’re here.”

“... why?” Cody insists. “If they… found us, let them come to the desert, Obi, let’s go.”

Obi-Wan does stop then, stares him down with flinty blue eyes. “ Nayc, Cody,” he clips out. “I’m- I’m protecting something here. On Tatooine.” He glances back to the soldiers, making sure they aren’t too far ahead, and then shakes his arm free of Cody’s grip. “I’m following. Stay if you like.”

Then he’s gone, surging back into the crowd, Cody’s flat gaze pinned between his shoulder blades.  Kriff. He’d known there was something Obi-Wan wasn’t telling him; some reason his jetii had buried himself on this damn dustball. He huffs an annoyed sigh and strides back into the crowd after Kenobi.

They trail the little squad for long enough to determine that their ship is almost certainly just here to refuel, a convenient midway point from somewhere to somewhere else, and the natborn officer had come planetside on nothing but a lark. Cody’s just about got Obi-Wan convinced that they can safely peel off and head back to their speeder when an eldery Twi’lek suddenly decides to break the informal pact of distance the crowd has been maintaining from the troopers. “Senate-poisoned scum!” the Twi’lek screams in heavily accented Basic. “I saw! I saw what you did on Ryloth, you’ll pay! You and the Senate and the Chancellor and all your lies, the Rebellion will rise up and burn you, just wait-”

The nat-born officer stops, turns, finds the source of the disturbance- easy now, because the rest of the crowd has fallen back from the Twi’lek like oil from water, wanting to distance themselves from what seems like a drunken and probably fatal verbal assault. At a signal, the three of the troopers march up to the older being; he flings a bottle at them as they approach but otherwise makes no move to resist, keeping up his tirade all the while. “...worthless, honorless trash serving a scam of a Republic-”

Two of the troopers take his arms and haul him to his knees, and Cody is just watching, because good soldiers follow orders and he knows what orders these soldiers have been given. 

The third trooper unholsters and loads his blaster in a single easy one-handed movement, and Cody’s breath catches because he knows immediately that’s a clone, that’s vod’e. The new stormtroopers never learned that move, because they were never fighting an active war, never had to be able to use their equipment blind and exhausted with one hand behind their back-

He’s filling his lungs before he can even really think about it, trusting the density of the crowd to offer enough protective anonymity. “CT unit! Stand down, trooper!” he bellows, voice carrying over the crowd with the same ease it had carried over a thousand battlefields. 

The trooper freezes and comes to attention facing… nothing. Good soldiers follow orders.

“Blast,” Obi-Wan is muttering beside him, and then his hands are coming up and pulling Cody’s hood deeper over his face, tugging him away deeper into the crowd and away from the ones who had just seen him yell. He’s still watching the stormtroopers, though, watching as the natborn officer stalks up to his lost brother and holds out a hand with an order Cody can’t hear from so far away. 

The trooper places his blaster into the officer’s hand. She raises it and shoots twice: first the clone, then the Twi’lek. The market is abruptly very quiet, and Cody’s mind goes white with rage, fear, panic. 

She turns to face the crowd. “Who was that?”

Kenobi’s leading him away now, more insistently, following the flow of people streaming away from the scene that no one else wants to be involved in. Eyes seem to skate over Cody and Obi-Wan, like they can’t even really see them, and he numbly follows his jetii’s lead all the way back to their speeder.

It’s a quiet trip back to their little house, until they get inside and drop their things and Obi-Wan turns to him with quiet displeasure. “Cody… what in the blazes were you thinking?”

“...he was a clone. One of the vod’e,” Cody chokes. His stomach roils again, then, traitorously nauseous. He should- he doesn’t know the trooper’s name. “I killed him.”

Obi-Wan watches him for a long minute, the emotions on his face warring between compassion and some hybrid of fear and frustration. Finally he slumps into his chair, one hand coming up to rub at his temple like Cody has just given him a migraine. “Yes, but why- Cody, you can’t just do that-”

Cody’s own swirling emotions snap and resolve back into dull anger. “The 501st marched on your temple on Coruscant,” he says lowly.

Obi-Wan flinches and his expression goes carefully blank. “...I am aware,” he says in a voice of barely-controlled tension.

Cody doesn’t care that he’s pushing his jetii to the edge right now; he thinks he’s too close to his own, has been inching closer and closer since they first spotted the troopers in the market this morning. “Every single man in that battalion would rather have died than do the things they did,” he growls. Cody is all anger, and hurt, and regret, and he doesn’t have anywhere to put it and now he feels like he’s overflowing. Obi-Wan is the only one here, and Obi-Wan has been closed off and distant since Cody arrived and started trying to piece his broken jetii back together again.

It’s too damned quiet in this cabin. Cody snatches his jacket back off the hook on the wall. “Going for a walk and I’m going to comm Rex,” he mutters. “It’s a safe line, don’t worry. Echo did it for us.” He storms out the door before he can hear any protests his jetii might have.

 

He walks til the worst of the restlessness dies down, finds a spot to sit that feels tucked away but still gives him a good view, and dials up Rex on his comm, his jaw still clenching against the swirl of his upset. The call times out and he lets out a frustrated cry, bordering on a sob. He gets a text comm a couple minutes later, stuck on an op rn sorry vod can call in a day.  

Cody tucks his comm back into his pocket and looks out over the sandy sea, stained orange by the first setting sun, and lets himself cry- ugly unrestrained crying like he’s hardly allowed himself in all the years he’s been alive, because he was CC-2224 and then Marshall Commander and his time, his body, his mind were hardly his own.

 

The light fades orange to red to purple, and his ire fades with it, from panicked floundering anger down to something that just feels empty and dull and still.  He pushes to his feet and walks back home in the darkening twilight. 

Obi-Wan isn’t in the house when Cody gets there; no food and no cooling tea sits on the table. He frowns, trying to quell any worry, because Kenobi’s canteen and ready-pack are still here so he can’t be far…

He steps outside, paces a bit away from the house, checking that the speeder is still present, when a flicker of blue light catches his eye from up above and he freezes, eyes tracking up to their training spot on the plateau above the house. He knows that color like he knows the stars in the sky, for all he hasn’t seen it since it last flickered out on Utapau. His jetii has picked up his lightsaber again.

He scrambles breathless up the rocky path and makes the top with his heart in his mouth, and Obi-Wan is there, a shadow bathed in shades of azure as he crashes through a dense river of motion too fast to track all the details. He’s graceful, always, but also jerky, the way he used to get in the Negotiator’s training salle when he needed to work through some things. 

Cody sits without a word, because if his jetii is doing this then he will also already be aware of Cody’s presence, had probably been aware the whole time he’d been scaling the cliffside path.

Kenobi comes to stillness a moment later, chest heaving; and then he collects his cloak from the ground and walks over to sit quietly at Cody’s side. 

He smells like sweat and the night sky, like heat and ozone; scents that are uniquely Kenobi and uniquely Jedi mingling together, the latter what Cody can only assume is some byproduct of using the Force. It had always gotten stronger during long battles or hard engagements, the closer his jetii came to Force exhaustion. He hasn’t smelled it in roughly a year, but it’s achingly familiar all the same, fills him with a sudden pang of desperate longing for the Obi-Wan he’d had before Utapau. It hurts down to the quick of his soul what they’ve done to his Obi-Wan, the man who could be just another soldier laughing in the mess or a lover kissing Cody’s temple; but had also been starlight and manda incarnate, turning the tides of battle as easy as breathing, the burning sun to Cody’s little planet. 

Obi-Wan picks up on his sadness. He must, if he’s opened himself to the Force, even a little; Cody isn’t trying to shield at all. “I’m sorry, Kote,” he murmurs. The desert around them is quiet. “I’ve leant on you far too heavily, since you’ve come here, and with not nearly enough regard for your own pain. And I’m sorry I’m not... the jedi you miss. I think- you started loving me when I’d made it my business to be powerful, but I don’t know that I’ll be that again.” He swallows, looks down at the lightsaber hilt held lightly in his hands. “I wasn’t always that way. I didn’t use to need this either, to work through my emotions.”

Cody shakes his head, fondness blooming in his chest, because his jetii was always so good at seeing so much and yet so little. He wraps an arm around Obi-Wan’s shoulders to pull him closer. “Ach, no, Ob’ika, cyare. I liked watching you fight, but I started loving you for a thousand little reasons, and none of them are gone.” He sighs. “I just- you aren’t letting yourself be all of yourself, anymore. I don’t care if you can’t go backwards, hells, none of us can, but... I know you, Obi-Wan, and all your jetiise stuff is a part of you like the vod’e are a part of me and- I’ve just been trying to help.”

Obi-Wan swallows and when he speaks again his voice is thick with emotion. “You are helping, Cody, my love. You’ve helped so much. I- I feel bad for taking you here, away from your family, from people who could have helped you better than I these past months.”

Cody considers this a moment but then shakes his head. “It’s not like the GAR was. The Resistance, it’s not- there’s no feeling of aliit; that would be too open and too dangerous. Everyone…” he trails off, thinking of Rex and Ahsoka, of Kix and Kipper, of Organa, of Bly and Wolffe and Gregor. “Everyone got smaller after the war ended. Collapsed into themselves. Drew back to just the people they cared for the most.”

Obi-Wan studies his face. “And you?”

“They were trying to organize themselves with just a group of politicians at the helm,” Cody murmurs. “Good people, but they needed someone with experience, just to get off the ground, and no one else was going to do it. So. I did.” He turns to face Obi-Wan fully. “I miss them. Of course I miss them, and I miss Rex and we stay in touch but- I’m here, now, Obi-Wan. For the long haul, because I want to be, and I don’t owe the galaxy or anyone anything else. If you didn’t believe me before- believe me now.”

His jetii takes a ragged breath and then his hands come up to frame Cody’s jaw and pull his head forward and they meet in a kiss as soft as it is desperate. “Stars,” Obi-Wan murmurs when they pull apart, “stars, Kote, I wish I could give you the whole damned galaxy, you deserve so much more than Tatooine.”

Cody presses a kiss to his temple. “ Ner’jetii. I’ve got all I need.”

When they climb back up to the plateau the next morning for their daily spar, Obi-Wan takes a deep breath. “I think I might... meditate, on my own, while you warm up with your katas. It’s been too long.”

“‘Lek, cyare,” Cody says. “Take all the time you need.”

 

That evening when they climb into bed, Obi-Wan takes Cody’s hand in his own and says, “I need to tell you something.” It’s then that he fills Cody in on the missing details of how everything came to be: Anakin, Vader, the twins; little Luke glowing like a lantern in the Force some hundred klicks away. Cody holds him tight as he recounts the last hidden bits of his pain, and they do their final falling apart into grief together. When the tears dry, Obi-Wan whispers, “I haven’t been back to visit Luke since I dropped him off. But- I think we should go. I want you to meet him.”

 

The nightmares are worse in the weeks after that, spawned for Cody by the trooper in the market, and for Obi-Wan by his renewed openness to the Force; but like the final lancing of a wound, the days are growing better. 

They do go to visit Luke. He’s tiny, smaller than Cody can remember the smallest vod’e on Kamino being, at least the ones he’d known; tiny and blonde and blue-eyed in a way that he can tell is sending Obi-Wan straight back into bittersweet memories of the past. He’s just started walking and toddles out to greet them as they approach the farm, the very same Lars farm Cody had first tracked down, and then a young woman - “Beru,” Obi-Wan murmurs as they approach- is following him out, dusting off her hands. 

“Owen, company- Oh! Master Jedi!” she says, scooping Luke up to prop on her hip bone. “We were beginning to wonder if we’d see you around these parts again.”

Obi-Wan bows. “Just Ben is fine, Beru, I’d wanted to leave Luke time to settle in. Can I introduce my partner? Cody?”

Cody nods his greeting. “Miss Beru. Mister Luke.” The baby is clearly distracted by Obi-Wan, watching him with hardly a blink.

Owen emerges, then, from somewhere around the back, and he’s less friendly, clearly distrustful; but Beru and Obi-Wan have the same sort of etiquettes drilled into their being somehow and they end up being invited to late-meal all the same. 

It’s funny seeing his jetii dust off his old negotiator’s persona again, the sparkling eyes, the wide-open laugh, the little cracks of self-deprecating wit. Especially funny when he’s not talking politics or soldiers' antics, just regaling their hosts with the tale of Cody’s latest achievement, namely tracking down a local water thief and ruining their reputation in a bout of frustrated spite. The after-supper drinks come out and Luke goes down to bed, and it’s not quite comfortable but not an unfriendly gathering either.

He's not sure what the source of tension is - but then Cody sees the moment Owen registers that by partners Kenobi had meant two halves of one whole, and the man blurts out, “I thought you jedi didn’t love- people, other people, I thought you just did whatever your mumbo jumbo told you.” He gestures at his head, and it’s a question, if not very delicately posed.

Beru blushes deep red, this clearly out of line of her idea of polite. “Owen!” she hisses.

Obi-Wan only laughs, though, and gives Cody’s hand a little squeeze on top of the table. “Well, my friend, either whoever told you that was wrong, or else I suppose I can’t call myself much of a Jedi, can I?”

Everyone seems to breathe a little easier after that, some hidden fear assuaged almost by chance; and when they leave that night it’s only after promising to return the next month.

The ride home is longer than Cody wants, and cold in the desert nighttime, and he’s bundling Obi-Wan into bed and under the blankets as soon as they’re in the door, seeking out bodyheat like a moth to flame and kissing the lingering taste of alcohol off his jetii’s lips. “Partner, hmm?”

Obi-Wan blushes and pulls back, his eyes as round and serious as baby Luke’s had been, if not quite as blue. “I didn’t- we haven’t said the words yet, and I…”

Obi-Wan had actually been the one to teach Cody about the Mandalorian marriage ritual, way back at the beginning of the war, when he’d had to ask on Bly’s behalf after losing a bet with his batchmates. He bumps his forehead to Obi-Wan’s own. “We could. Do you want to?” He feels warm now, inside and out, happy everywhere.

“Of course. Kote, love, of course I do.”

Cody grins and buries his face in Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “Not now,” he mumbles, muffled by fabric. “In the morning, under the sunrise, where all the stars can see.” It’s not important - who cares if they speak the riduurok at the end of the world? - but it’s also so important, deeply important, maybe the most important thing Cody thinks he could possibly do.

“Of course,” Obi-Wan repeats softly, carding his fingers through Cody’s curls. “Where all the stars can see.”


Dawn comes, and Cody and Obi-Wan become riduure. They build themselves back together and they forge a living out of their little corner of the desert, crop by crop, bantha by bantha. A hut becomes a home, and locals become friends, and a sky-eyed sandy-haired child becomes aliit. The red suns rise, over and over again, and Cody turns his face to the warmth and smiles into a desert that tastes not of death but of hope. I can grow used to this.

Chapter Text

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 ~