Entering his father’s study with a sword at his hip and a book beneath an arm Cody Fett, Crown Prince of the Mandalore Kingdom and Blessed child of Manda, wondered why his father had summoned him so early in the day. Spying his younger brother in their father’s study, his back straight and feet a shoulder’s width apart, head held high as he clasped his arms behind him, the Orilor’ad knew that something big had happened. Boba’s absence spoke volumes. Their youngest brother might have been grumpy in the morning but if their father called for them he would have been there immediately. So it begged the question; why were only he and Rex summoned? Family meetings were a rare occurrence since they were expected to be at dinner together every night, regardless of whether or not their father was home. Large issues to do with the kingdom were seen to by his father, himself, or Myles; if the need was urgent and neither the King or Prince were in attendance. While smaller clan matters were discussed and agreed upon over dinner. There should be no reason for Rex to be present unless his brother had pulled another spectacular stunt that landed him in hot water. Again.
“So, what did you do this time?” Stopping next to the blonde he gave his younger brother a half amused half exasperated look. Rex side-eyed him, barely moving a muscle, his expression a cross between worry and frustration. It was clear by just how stiff his brother was holding himself that something was wrong.
“I don’t know, Codes. Knight Captain Mereel said that the Mand’alor wished to see me and dismissed me for the rest of the day. He had this huge grin on his face…” the blonde swallowed nervously, “whatever this is, I don’t like it.” Cody didn’t like how uncertain his brother looked. The boy, a young man now he chided himself, was very confident by nature. Others often saw it as cockiness or arrogance but in truth Rex was just that good. He was one of the greatest sharpshooters in the kingdom and his talent with the twin arming swords hanging from his hips was well known. But when it came to their father Rex was always trying to show off, to try and impress the man. Rex loved and idolized Jango as a loving father, a warrior of great renown, and as the king. This admiration pushed the blonde to do things he might not otherwise have done in an attempt to gain their father’s attention, not that he ever had to try hard seeing as Jango was always watching over them protectively.
Thankfully his brother was slowly growing out of that phase.
“Father was away for the month checking on the progress of the Jaair, Rattak, and Tarsus Clans.” Kranarsa had been left in the hands of the Jaair Clan and they had done an amazing job fortifying the border while the Cuirbral flocks were flourishing under the skillful handling of the Rattak Clan. After some trial and error the Tarsus Clan had finally sent back an assortment of herbs from Wervheti, which the herbalists and priests were both praising for their effectiveness.
“He wasn’t supposed to be back until next week, Codes. Do you think something happened?” A shiver went down his spine and he wondered if his father had discovered more traitors. Mandalore was quite large and home to many different species. The fact that they also took in anyone who wished to start their lives over as the reborn children of Manda didn’t help internal affairs much either. More than a few times during his father’s reign they had seen outsiders trying to meddle in their affairs, attempting to manipulate the clans to gain power over their people. It filled Cody with righteous anger just thinking about it.
The door opened and closed behind the brothers and the two of them jumped slightly. Walking into the study with a triumphant expression on his face Jango leaned back against his desk, looking between the two of them excitedly. There was something almost giddy about the tilt of their father’s shoulders that made both he and his brother relax. Whatever this was it didn’t appear to be bad news.
“We’ve found him.” Those three simple words and the brightness of their father’s amber eyes were enough clues for Cody to understand exactly who their father was talking about. His heartbeat sped slightly in his chest but he kept an outward facade of calm as Rex looked up at their father quizzically for a moment before he seemed to catch on.
“B-buir!?” Cody looked down at his younger brother, who had fallen out of his normally rigid stance in sheer surprise.
“Obi-wan is back. However…” Cody felt his hand clench around the book under his arm involuntarily at the sharp look in his father’s eyes. It was the same look Jango had on his face when he learned of his wife’s attempts to steal his children and help her own people invade Mandalore. It was the same look he’d worn when Obi-wan had left them.
Jaster Mereel, their grandfather, was betrayed by someone he trusted which resulted in the annihilation of the Mereel Clan. Leaving Jango to complete Manda’s Pilgrimage alone at fourteen. Ever since that betrayal Jango had a particularly strong hatred for traitors. Even more so than the average Mando’ad. The fact that his lawful wife, the Rid’alor Lamia Fett, former princess of the Kaminoans, tried to steal his sons when the Kaminoans attempted to invade and take over Mandalore… well their father finally lost his patience when it came to personal attacks. When Obi-wan entered their lives it seemed like Jango was finally beginning to calm down. Then Obi-wan had left them for the jetii and Jango lost whatever mercy and sanity had been left. All of the rage he felt for the numerous betrayals had been aimed directly at the jetii that dared take someone he loved away from him.
Honestly, Cody could relate. Now Obi-wan was back and he felt the same flutter in his stomach he had the last time he’d set eyes on the redhead.
That night he had known something was off, wrong. When Obi-wan found Cody still awake studying in his room, after the man had put Rex and Boba to bed, he’d stood there in the doorway, silently. There was a look of desperation on his face and Cody felt his gut twist at the memory. They stared at one another for a long moment before Obi-wan’s gaze found the floor and he wished Cody a good night. The tension in every line of his body and the fact that he refused to meet Cody’s eye was a dead giveaway. It was the first week Jango had been away since they’d met Obi-wan and he knew the redhead was going to leave.
For the last seven months Obi-wan had seemed to happy to be with them. He’d helped Rex hone his skills with the blade, cared for Boba and indulged his obsession with animals, and had joined Cody on more than one excursion into the library to pursue knowledge. Obi-wan made them all happy and Cody could see that the man loved them as much as they loved him. Yet still he’d chosen to run away.
At that moment he had the ability, the knowledge, and the strength to stop Obi-wan from leaving. He could have persuaded him to stay with words, cried the alarm and had him locked in his room until Jango returned, or even followed him to thwart the plan himself. Obi-wan had become someone precious to him, however, and he didn’t want to see him hurt or punished. He knew exactly how controlling Jango could be. Even now Cody wasn’t sure if he regretted letting Obi-wan go or not.
“…he’s wearing those damned robes and has a jet’ika with him. The boy reeks of soul leeches.” Jango grit his teeth and spoke angrily, his tone pulling Cody out of his musings. Looking to Rex he caught the rapid shift of emotions on his younger brother’s face and knew that things would turn sour quickly if he didn’t speak up.
“But now he’s home. We can deal with the jet’ika’s spirit leech problem easily enough.” Both his father and his brother listened to him intently as he spoke. It used to unsettle him, when he was much younger, to have his father listening so closely to his opinions. As if everything he said and thought was of great import. As if his every word carried weight and meaning to them. Now that he was older he understood it for the respect it was and appreciated his father’s understanding. Cody was the Crown Prince. One day, Manda willing, he would rule in his father’s place. Before then he had to prove himself capable both to Jango and to the people. Jango listening to him was both a way to gauge his suitability and allow him to feel free enough to speak his mind without fear of judgement.
“For the time being we should get them settled so they can begin to feel safe. I assume you already had them checked over by the healers?” Cody figured it would be one of the first things his father would do once Obi-wan had been… found. ‘Captured,’ the more practical side of his mind whispered. Since Obi-wan had a terrible habit of running way from medics, especially when injured. They’d all learned quickly to ambush him with a medic, rather than give him the choice of going to one on his own. Because he wouldn’t. “How old is the jet’ika?” Jango’s jaw clenched.
“I’d say a little younger than Boba, he’s pretty small.” Cody nodded then crossed his arms, shifting the book in his hand so it was pressed against his chest and out of the way.
“If he’s Obi-wan’s squire we’ll have to keep them together for the time being.” Rex frowned darkly, copper eyes flashing with jealousy. Cody knew where his brother’s mind had gone and he knew he would have to stop that nonsense in its tracks before it got out of hand. “Is there anything you need me to do for you, buir? I can ake over your duties if you want to go speak with him.” Jango’s smile turned fond and his eyes softened.
“I have to talk with Tyrric about a few things. I’ll send Myles over with the documents that need looking over.” Pushing himself off the desk with his hip Jango stepped toward them and slung an arm around both of them, hugging them. “Things will be pretty confusing fo a while. He’d been away for so long and only Manda knows what they did to corrupt his mind. But everything will be fine in the end.” The implied threat at the end made Cody want to close his eyes in exasperation. Then Jango pressed his forehead against Rex’s and turned to do the same with Cody. It was affection and reassurance both. “I’ll make sure of it.”
“Oh, before I forget. The jet’ika doesn’t know Mando’a.” Jango looked distinctly annoyed by this but pressed on regardless. “So I want you to speak in the Outsider’s language for the time being. Understand?” Both of them nodded and Jango smiled. “Good.” After ruffling Rex’s hair and clapping Cody on the shoulder their father left to go speak with the Seneschal.
“Stars, Codes…” Rex muttered, staring at the door their father had disappeared behind. Cody let out a long sigh.
“I know Rex’ika.” While Jango was a difficult man to read his children could easily see the man was elated and enraged in equal measure. The look on Rex’s face was torn. “It’ll be okay, Rex. It’s Obi-wan.” The blonde scoffed, giving him a searching look.
“He left us Codes! Didn’t even say… I mean he… I thought it was strange.” Cody blinked, tilting his head and waiting patiently for his brother to get his thoughts in order. “Do you know how he used to tell me a story before bed?” Cody smiled softly at the memory and his brother flushed slightly in embarrassment. “He’d only ever tell me one, maybe two if it had been a really bad day. But that night he told me five. Five! I thought it was odd but he was so calm and relaxed and… you know? I didn’t even think about it. I just drifted off to sleep, happy that he was there. Then when I woke up- he was gone. Dad was livid, you were quiet and withdrawn, and Boba was inconsolable!” Rex threw his hands up in the air before letting them drop to his sides, shoulders drooping. “…I thought he loved us.”
It damn near crushed Cody to hear his brother sounding so broken and lost.
“Hey, hey now! Obi-wan did, does, love us. Don’t you ever doubt that. He was just very confused and scared. The jetii don’t teach about love, Rex. The spirit leeches eat away at their minds and they slowly lose the ability to feel emotions. But Obi-wan is one of us. Manda wouldn’t have changed him if he wasn’t worthy and couldn’t learn our ways.” Sighing he ran a hand through his dark wavy locks. “The jetii filled his head with lies and stole him from us. What he needs right now is for us to show him how much we missed him, how much we care. That we want him here and still love him. We don’t want to accidentally push him away. That will only reinforce whatever lies the jetii told him.”
“But I’m still angry.” Cody snorted in amusement and Rex glared at him.
“I know, vod’ika. I’m… not happy about how he left us either. But trust me on this. We need to show him we still want him here, with us. We could always yell at him later.” Slowly Rex’s glare softened and he was rewarded with a cheeky grin.
A knock on the door signaled Myles’ arrival. Cody looked at his younger brother and smiled. “For today let’s just be happy he’s home. Everything else can wait.”