For the next two hours or so Cody watched Obi-wan out of the corner of his eye as he pretended to browse the shelves. The change in the redhead was nearly immediate the moment one of the librarians introduced him to the ancient history section. He’d gone from hesitant and stilted to talking excitedly to the Mando’ad about his love of all things historical. The librarian, although looking a little harried at all the questions, couldn’t help smiling at Obi-wan’s enthusiasm. Neither could Cody.
Looking over the titles the man grabbed an entire stack of tomes before sitting down at one of the many tables and immediately diving into the first volume. That’s when Cody lost him entirely. He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he watched the redhead devouring the books as if they held the secret to eternal life. With a small chuckle he left Obi-wan alone and searched for something of his own to study, knowing that the redhead would eventually resurface to babble on about what he had learned. Cody looked forward to his insights and to explaining anything he may have misunderstood.
At one point he watched Obi-wan pull another book towards him, barely finishing the one in his hand before he flipped the next one open and began to read. A small confused look came to his face and Cody sorted in amusement. Grabbing the correct volume he leaned over Obi-wan and tugged the book from his hands, receiving an adorably grumpy look for his action. “You’re reading the sixth volume, Obi-wan. Start at the beginning or it won’t make any sense.” He said, deliberately shoving the correct volume in front of the man’s face. Obi-wan blinked at him, still looking slightly annoyed, before he took the new book and returned to reading fervently.
Sitting across from him he studied the man carefully as he read his own books, although he was only retaining about half of the information. “It’s no wonder the Mando’ade became mage hunters if what I’m reading is true.” Obi-wan muttered as he looked up from the tome in his hands. “I thought that the Mando’ade traditionally sided with the Sith Warlocks, but this account is saying they were enslaved?” Cody frowned slightly and set his own book down.
“The Warlocks have long had a history of trying to keep the Mando’ade under their thumb. Dragon’s blood is rumored to contain many powers that the evil bastards covet so much. But Manda refuses to have anything to do with those who steal the life-force of others in order to gain power. Our abilities are blessings, given to us to protect ourselves and our families. It’s why the Mand’alor is a position that can’t be bought or won. A Mand’alor is chosen by Manda themselves.” It was a literal deity given right to rule over the Mando’ade. “Of course, the Warlocks have tried to usurp the position many times. Never understanding the reason why we won’t follow anyone but Manda’s Chosen.” Cody shook his head and Obi-wan watched him, fascinated by the subject.
So fascinated the redhead didn’t even realize they’d switched to Mando’a. It had been so long since he’d heard the man speak in Mando’a and it sounded just as pleasant as he remembered. Obi-wan had never been able to perfect the almost growl that came with some of the vowels so words always sounded far more musical. “So instead they’ve tried to lead by enslaving your people with mind magics and the like?” Cody nodded, frowning.
“But Manda’s blessing makes it difficult for them. We’re immune to the spirit leeches effects and due to repeated attempts have become sensitive to their presence, some more than others.” Like himself and his father. “Instead they switched to elemental manipulation and the creation of cursed objects that cause pain in order to compel obedience.” Shock bands and slave brands. “Over time we developed more counters to the warlock magic, which in turn strengthened our counters to the jedi mages. Since their powers both come from the same source.” Obi-wan looked suddenly uncomfortable and Cody knew it was because of the comparison between the jedi and the sith.
Before he could reassure the man that he didn’t think the jedi and sith were much alike a servant sidled up to them and quietly announced that dinner would be soon. If they wanted to wash up and be ready in time they needed to leave sooner rather than later. Nodding he waved over a librarian and asked them to set the tomes aside for later. That way Obi-wan could continue reading where he left off. Unfortunately, as they were part of the ancient archives, they couldn’t be taken from the library.
Getting Obi-wan to leave the library was like herding cats. The man stopped every few paces to peer at the spine of some book that caught his eye and eventually Cody had to grip the man by the bicep and literally pull him away. He had to balance between moving forward at a decent pace and being careful not to hurt Obi-wan, which he really, sincerely, did not want to do. Even by accident. It wouldn’t be all that difficult to just lift the man into his arms and walk out but Cody knew that it wouldn’t be appropriate. Besides, if he picked him up now he wouldn’t want to put him back down. He had this adorably childish pout on his face that was making it hard not to let him go back to the books.
Stopping he looked down at the redhead sternly, the kind of look he’d give Boba when his younger brother was being particularly obtuse. “You can come back again tomorrow. But we need to get ready for dinner. Buir will be expecting us.” Obi-wan blanched, his face paling, and Cody had to push down feelings of anxiety and anger as the fight left the man entirely. He bit the inside of his cheek and breathed deeply in order to keep calm. He didn’t like seeing Obi-wan so afraid, it felt wrong. Opposite to everything he wanted for the man.
Obi-wan stopped struggling or making excuses and walked beside him quietly, the good humor and playfulness of their previous conversations gone. It was unproductive, tense, and far too quiet. Cody tried to think of a topic he could bring up but for once words failed him.
Coming around the last corner to the dining hall he heard someone shout and looked up in surprise. “Big brother!” Anakin, followed by Rex, were coming from the opposite hallway, both grinning like the little mischief makers they were. Obi-wan brightened beside him.
“Little brother.” The redhead said happily, face softening and eyes looking the small blonde over warmly. Rex looked up at him and smirked, pleased with himself, while Anakin smiled at Obi-wan like he was the most amazing person in the world. Cody could relate.
“The smithy was so much fun. They have a lot of rare metals that they don’t have at the temple, and their techniques are so different!” It was obvious from a glance that the boy’d had his hands all over the raw metals, and mostly likely all of the tools as well. There were smudges of dirt and soot covering his hands and a bit on his face, he must have leant too close to something or touched his face; forgetting that his hands were dirty in his excitement. He raised a brow at his brother but Rex just gave him a small shrug, cheeky little di’kut. Obi-wan had said not to let him get lost in the smithy and to keep him safe. The man never said anything about keeping the boy from touching anything or getting dirty. Cody shook his head in half amusement half exasperation.
Obi-wan’s expression turned contemplative for a moment, in a way that Cody might call anxious. “Obi-wan?” The boy asked, looking concerned. Perhaps the blonde was more perceptive than Cody had given him credit for. That or he just knew Obi-wan well enough to be able to see all the little shifts in his expression. The redhead shook his head minutely and smiled pleasantly at the boy, hiding his emotions once again.
“I just realized that I don’t have a handkerchief on me and you are smudged with soot. How did you get so messy, my student?” The boy looked down, scuffing his boot guiltily across the floor and glancing over his shoulder at Rex. His brother’s face went blank and he stood a little straighter, trying to look innocent and failing miserably.”
“I’ll deal with the aftermath later.” Obi-wan said dryly, his tone bordering on fond exasperation. Cody coughed into his fist to try and hide a laugh but he could practically feel Rex’s eyes on him, silently promising trouble. Cody grinned at him and subtly signed, ‘going to challenge me?’ The hand sign he used for challenge was different from the one used when someone challenged another’s honor. It was closer to the sign for play-fight, a spar. Obi-wan spoke before Rex was able to answer his playful taunt.
“Is there somewhere we can clean off the worst of the mess?” Cody let his brother handle it, smiling to himself. For all that his brother had complained earlier about being angry with Obi-wan for leaving them it was obvious he still wanted to please the redhead. Still considering him a parental figure he adored.
Anakin was quickly lead away by a servant and they spoke about the situation between Clan Skirata and Clan Vau. Cody sincerely hoped the situation didn’t escalate any further. Walon Vau might be a prideful man, and think he was the top of the food chain, but Kal Skirata outclassed him in almost every way. The only reason he didn’t involve himself in politics was because he preferred to keep to his own clan, rather than meddle in others. Unless something disturbed his clan, or worse his children, the man was content to keep his nose out of things. If, somehow, Kal was unable to take up a challenge for one reason or another his eldest, Ordo, was a formidable heir who had earned the nickname ‘death on legs.’ Even their father was wary of the man at times.
Thankfully Kal had instilled the traditional Mando values in his sons. They followed Manda and the Mand’alor. Ordo would never challenge Jango for the throne because he didn’t have the Mand'alor's blessings. Although if Jango ever tried to mess with Kal in some way, or slighted him, Cody had no doubt that his father would be facing down seven pissed off knights and three pissed off squires. The man’s sons, both by blood and adoption, practically worshiped the man.
While acting as one of his father’s administrators Cody was supposed to remain impartial in clan disputes but honestly he disliked Walon Vau. According to the rumors he’d heard from some of the older warriors, Walon had come to Manda’yaim after escaping his own homeland. No one was quite sure of the details but everyone agreed that he had been exiled, unable to ever return for fear of death. While Cody tried not to distinguish between those who had been born Mando’ad and those who chose to become Mando’ad he sometimes found it difficult to relate to those who became Mando’ad later in their life. The cultures they came from were either too different for them to mesh well or they held fast to their old traditions and never fully integrated into Mando society. Walon Vau was a good example of this. He still acted as if he were an aristocrat from a foreign land, rather than a true Child of Manda. Even after he’d married a Mando’ad and had children with her it never felt as if he’d settled properly into his role as a clan patriarch.
Hearing that Walon had beaten one of his youngest sons, just for falling in love with someone, made a black ball of rage well up inside of Cody’s chest. Putting his hands behind his back as casually as he could he tried to hide just how white his knuckles were turning as he clenched his hands into fists. What kind of cowardly bastard beat their own children!?
There were times when Jango had hurt Cody, that was true. But it was always during training and it was always either a lesson or an accident. Never was it done with any ill intent. The man never beat him or his brothers for disobeying him or doing something he disapproved of. Although he certainly yelled a lot before he calmed enough to explain why he disapproved or was angry with them
Spying Boba storming grumpily toward them behind the returning jet’ika he tried to give his little brother an encouraging smile. Re saw immediately that their brother was still upset and tried to engage him in a quiet conversation. Unfortunately their feral little brother would have none of it. He just crossed his arms and leaned past Rex to glower at Obi-wan. Thankfully he seemed pretty neutral to the jet’ika’s presence.
“Alore, dinner is ready.” Not a moment too soon, Cody thought to himself. If they hadn’t been interrupted he was certain Anakin would have noticed Boba’s hostility and the two would get into a fight.
Walking over to his customary place, to the right f his father’s chair, he smiled at Obi-wan across the table. As the one promised to the Mand’alor he would always have the seat to the left of Jango.
Cody tried not to think about those words, ‘promised to the Mand’alor.’ Because that was the crux of his problem, wasn’t it? Obi-wan had been promised to Jango. Not because the redhead had chosen to be courted, not because he loved Jango, but because no one else had tried to stop the Mand’alor from taking what he wanted.
Looking up when he heard Rex whistle he looked over at the fidgeting blonde child and a small smile came to his face. His brother motioned to the chair next to him and the smaller blonde quickly darted over, looking thankful. Next to Cody Boba stood, arms crossed and sulking as they all waited for the Mand’alor to arrive. Obi-wan looked at Boba then caught Cody’s eye and gave him a small, amused, smile. Cody liked seeing that gentle light dancing in the redhead’s eyes. He couldn’t help smiling back.
Then the doors on the other side of the hall opened and Jango strode inside. Obi-wan stiffened, a look of nervousness bordering on fear crossing his face and clouding his eyes. Cody hid a frown behind a neutral mask even as his stomach clenched in concern. Riduure should never be scared of one another. The fact that Obi-wan was scared of Jango just proved how ill suited of a match they were.
“Excellent, the family is all here.” Stopping next to Obi-wan, Jango placed the flower he’d been carrying next to the redhead’s place and leaned down to kiss the man’s temple affectionately. Something that would have been sweet had Obi-wan’s smile not been so obviously fake.
Once Jango was seated everyone followed. The servants came forward with the first course and a stilted discussion began. Listening to some of what obi-wan had been through was aggravating, worrisome, and heart wrenching in equal measure. They’d heard about the Neimoidian trading clans attacking Naboo but as Mandalore was self-sufficient, for the most part, they hadn’t particularly cared about what happened to Naboo. It was a foreign country, one that was not an ally, and even if it gave the Neimoidian trading clans access to their border Cody would just like to see them try to fight their way past Mandalore’s borders.
Listening to Obi-wan speak of the mission, however, filled him with a mix of emotions he had to push away until he could confront them later. The fact that they sent Obi-wan and his jetii master, alone, with no reinforcements made Cody angry. The way Obi-wan acted so flippantly in the face of almost being poisoned to death didn’t help either. There had always been a disregard for his own wellbeing that made Cody’s body twitch with the need to keep the man safe.
Obi-wan spoke of how his knight master freed the boy but either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, free his mother. It sounded quite suspicious to him. But then, he was Mando’ade through and through. He would have found a way to save the boy’s mother even if he had to intimidate or kill the merchant in order to free her. But, of course, Obi-wan had to go about it in the most roundabout way possible, endangering himself in the process. If Cody heard too many more stories like that one he would turn grey before he’d even hit his prime.
How could one man encounter so much danger so frequently without giving much care or thought to his own wellbeing?
The insult Obi-wan spoke seemed to mean something to both Jango and Anakin, since both reacted to it differently. His father radiating the kind of anger that meant he was personally insulted and wanted to do something about it; something violent. But after some reassurance from Obi-wan the man let it slide.
The longer the tale wore on the more worried Cody became. He felt a twinge of regret when the man spoke about losing his former knight master. From what he remembered the man was almost like a father to obi-wan, even if they didn’t always get along. Although Cody had a few suspicions about the way the man had treated Obi-wan’s health considering the unhealthy habits the redhead had developed. Even so, losing Qui-gon must have hurt him a lot. Jango tried to show sympathy as well, even if Cody, his brother’s, and Obi-wan knew the man would have torn Qui-gon apart if he’d ever gotten his hands on him.
After all, he blamed Qui-gon for Obi-wan running away.
When the tension became too much he leaned forward slightly and spoke in an attempt to clear the air a little. “This is all very fascinating, but what does it have to do with you falling unconscious in a library?” He asked in a dry tone, raising an eyebrow questioningly. Like he’d hoped his words and actions lightened the mood.
“While I fought the warlock, Anakin found the control spell for the golem army and utterly destroyed it. All the golems went dormant. Because of these two acts we are considered heroes in Naboo. As such we have a very cordial relationship with their monarchs. Padme is a good friend to Anakin and I. She’s also not afraid to yell at either of us when she thinks we’ve done something foolish.” Obi-wan looked slyly over at Anakin and Cody couldn’t help but to smirk. He remembered that mischievous look. “She’s only four years older than Anakin and I think someone hasn’t forgotten how lovely she looks in her regalia.” It was spoken in a near sing-song and Cody couldn’t help the small snort that came from him.
“Obi-wan no!” Moaned the little blonde, face turning bright red. The boy hid his face in his hands, trying to hide his embarrassment. Rex cackled loudly and Obi-wan gave him a side glance. There seemed to be something of a worry there, Cody might have to warn Rex away from using that information as fodder for teasing.
“The moral of the story is; don’t leave Obi-wan alone in the library. He forgets to eat or sleep and makes himself sick.” Cody nodded in understanding, an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips when Obi-wan glared at at the boy. It certainly sounded like something Obi-wan would do. The man became so engrossed in reading that he forgot the outside world existed, going so far as to forgo food and sleep.
The servants took their plates and Cody was pleased to see they would be having Uj’alayi for dessert. Used to the amount of spices and the manner the rare treat was made he had no trouble with the sticky spiced sweet. Anakin, it appeared, had no such tolerance. Obi-wan let out an exasperated utterance of the blonde’s name while their father burst into laughter. It was a bit of a cruel trick to play on a child but Cody doubted it had been his father’s intention. He’d probably chosen Uj’alayi because it had been one of Obi-wan’s favourites.
Dinner concluded with no problems and their father stood up from the table, Cody watched him reach out to Obi-wan and had to hide his clenched fists beneath the table when he saw the redhead’s hesitance. Jango’s patience was wearing thin, he could see it in his father’s eyes. Cody wanted to say something, to protest, but he knew that if he did so now then Jango’s anger would only worsen. He felt sick to his stomach. Would he become another person who looked the other way to keep Jango happy? The Mand’alor wasn’t supposed to abuse his powers over the people. Which included Obi-wan.
Obi-wan hid his own fear and did what he always did; worried for someone else’s wellbeing above his own. “Where will Anakin be housed?” He didn’t ask about himself. Everyone in attendance knew exactly where he would be sleeping that night.
“For now he can stay in Rex’s old quarters. It’s right next to Boba’s. There are always guards and servants on duty in case something happens.” The blonde glared at the floor as Jango spoke, trembling faintly. It was obvious he wanted to try and stop the man from taking away the closest thing he had to a father but was too worried about what might happen to them if he caused trouble.
It shouldn’t be like this.
“Come.” Jango ordered Obi-wan, like a servant. Obediently Obi-wan obliged, only to stop and reach back for the fire rose Jango had gifted him. It was a sign of needing comfort, Cody knew. Stewjonians had close ties with nature and even a simple rose had enough energy to help soothe some of the redhead’s anxiety. Jango wrapped a possessive arm around Obi-wan’s waist and pulled him in close, smiling. Cody had to bite his tongue to keep from saying anything.
While he was overjoyed to see Obi-wan again something in his chest writhed any time he saw the man with his father. It was a tangled ball of worry, concern, anger and longing.
He knew that Jango wouldn’t damage Obi-wan, not permanently. But there was more than just bruises and bite marks to worry about. Physical wounds would heal but emotional ones could scar for a lifetime. Cody knew this well.
“Good night, children.” Jango called over his shoulder, waving at them nonchalantly as he nudged Obi-wan into walking.
“Good night, buir.” He replied at the same time as Boba and Rex. The boy listened to their response for a moment and was quick to repeat the words.
“Come on, Anakin. I’ll show you were you’re sleeping.” Rex slung an arm around the smaller blonde, giving him a reassuring smile, and signed to Cody with his free hand that he would take care of the young jet’ika. Cody didn’t sign back but he nodded in approval.
On their way out of the dining hall Boba stopped and looked up at him, bright eyes serious in his round face. “Buir’s mad at fire buir… really mad.” Cody nodded in understanding. “W-will he end up like… like our other buir?” Cody froze, feeling a cold chill settle in his bones. Just thinking about Obi-wan meeting the same fate as Lamia made something inside him violently protest.
“No, Boba. Buir loves Obi-wan. I’m… I’m not sure how much he actually loved Lamia.” His younger brother was twelve now, old enough to know at least some of the truth. It wasn’t that they hid it from the boy, not particularly, but it was a sore enough subject that few ever spoke of it. Especially around Jango or Cody.
Besides that, Obi-wan wasn’t a traitor. Cody doubted he would meet the same fate.
“Good I… I’m mad at fire buir but… I don’t want to lose him again.” He whispered, nibbling on his bottom lip and looking torn. Cody reached out and hugged his little brother, pressing their foreheads together.
“Well. We’ll have to work hard to keep him then, won’t we?” Boba gave him a small smile before hurrying off down the hall toward his rooms. Cort gave Cody an acknowledging nod before he fell in step behind the youngest prince.
Cody stood there by himself for a moment, staring back across the hall at the doors Jango and Obi-wan had disappeared through. ‘I let him go and he went through so much pain… I won’t make that mistake a second time. This time I’ll make sure to protect him.’ With nothing left to do for now he stalked off to his own room, hundreds of ideas and plans running through his head.