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Alpha-17 was sure he was being punished for letting General Potkin die on Jabiim. She’d actually died on Rattatak, and Alpha-17 had carried her body out to the squad of Jedi who’d come to rescue them. Still, the point stood. Jabiim was where Alpha-17 had lost a Jedi and gained a trick knee that ached all the time because it never stopped raining on Kamino. It was also all the excuse the Jedi needed to end his field career and assign him permanently to the training roster. Now, to rub salt in the wound, his new commanding officer was a Jedi who’d been pawadan when the war began.

Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. Alpha-17 kept his face expressionless even behind the concealing visor of his bucket. The kid was so shiny his hair hadn't grown out of the buzzcut baby Jedi wore. The only thing missing was a nerftail and a braid. He was slightly shorter than Alpha-17, slimmer and unlikely to fill out like a clone. Alpha-17 hadn’t seen red hair outside of holoporn before, and it seemed washed-out and pale in the harsh lights of the Tipoca City facility. If some of the Cuy’val Dar had still been around, Alpha-17 would have assigned Kenobi a protection detail. Everything about him screamed pretty, docile prey.

This was the new Jedi general in charge of training on Kamino. Alpha-17 considered how long he had to wait before an ‘accident’ would seem plausible. Still, the kid was a commanding officer. When Kenobi approached, Alpha-17 snapped off a salute that could have been used as an illustration in a training manual. “Alpha-17, General Kenobi. I’m in charge of the clone officer accelerated training program. I also provide guidance to Nala Se on any changes in the standard training program,” he said briskly.

“Alpha-Seventeen,” Kenobi said in the same, smooth accent Potkin had had before the Witch crushed her throat. “Is… My apologies, I don’t wish to be rude but is that your name or your identification number? I wasn’t aware any trooper numbers began with aurek.” And the best part was he hadn’t even bothered to read the briefing packet Alpha-17 had put together.

Gritting his teeth, Alpha-17 kept his tone perfectly even. “I’m part of a hundred unit, initial test batch, sir. Also known as Alpha Batch. We were all personally trained by Jango Fett to serve as training officers for standard clones or to operate as commandos independently and in small squads. My name, and my number, is Alpha-Seventeen, General Kenobi.” Potkin had just called him ‘clone’ which was fine by Alpha-17. However, he’d discovered most Jedi strongly objected to that form of address.

Kenobi smiled. His sabacc face wasn’t terrible, but Alpha-17 spent most of his time with CCs the same physical age as this kid. It wasn’t hard to see the fear and the exhaustion if you knew where to look. “Very well, Alpha-Seventeen. I was informed by the Council that you are to be my counterpart during my time on Kamino. I look forward to working with you.”

You couldn’t lie to a Jedi so Alpha-17 didn’t. Instead, he went from attention to at-ease, because Jedi always forget to mention it, and said briskly, “I’ve prepared a tour of the facility for you at your convenience, General Kenobi. Long-term quarters have also been prepared in the Jedi officers’ wing. Your preference, sir?”

Kenobi’s face fell. Still, he gathered up the long sleeves of his cloak, which looked too big for him even considering how Jedi liked their tents of brown fabric, and said, “I appreciate your consideration, Alpha-Seventeen. Let’s start with the tour. I’d like to meet the men who’s training I’m supposed to be overseeing.”

Too young, too unsure, and too inexperienced, but at least he had some common sense. Alpha-17 saluted again. “Please follow me, sir. I’ll take you to them.”

****

“Alpha?” Kenobi’s voice echoed through the mostly empty gym. Technically this part of the facility was reserved for Jedi, but Kenobi had granted use of the gym, lap pool, and associated freshers to all the training officers, Jedi, contracted natborn, and clone alike.

Alpha-17 grunted loudly to draw his attention, not pausing his bench presses. Kenobi made his way through the other gym equipment with a datapad in hand. He was dressed for physical conditioning in a long, cream colored tunic over blacks with white plastoid armor to protect his legs and armored boots. His matching gauntlets hung from his thick, nerf hide belt next to the silver cylinder of his lightsaber.

“Obstacle course?” Alpha-17 asked without pausing his reps. Kenobi insisted on running the obstacle course with newly promoted trainees and had learned the hard way why armor was required.

As always, it took Kenobi a moment to organize his thoughts. Alpha-17 had learned Kenobi was tougher than he looked, but something about Alpha-17 in particular made Kenobi nervous. Especially when Kenobi was faced with the scars Ventress had left Alpha-17 as a parting gift. Alpha-17 did the kid the courtesy of ignoring the discomfort. Kenobi liked the standard clones well enough, more than he liked some Jedi it seemed. But alpha batchers weren’t standards. They weren’t genetically programmed to be friendly and accommodating, especially to Jedi.

“Yes, but that’s not why I’m here,” Kenobi replied, shaking off the awkward moment. “We just got the after action reports from Bothawui and Falleen. And the casualty lists.” His tone answered any question Alpha-17 might have had. Alpha-17 finished his set in silence at the same, steady pace. He sat up and reached over for the rag he used to clean the sweat off his face before it got in his eyes. “Bothawui. That was Jinn and his little di’kut right?”

Kenobi passed Alpha-17 the datapad. “That little di’kut and Admiral Yularen are the only reason we still have the two-twelvth. Skywalker and five-oh-first were able to prevent Jinn’s forces from being overrun. No, Bothawui was secured. Falleen was captured, Alpha. We lost a whole brigade and their Jedi.”

Alpha-17 went cold as he looked over the numbers. “Didn’t you send your simulations to Lobin and Arkan? How the sithhells did Ventress get past them if they used your defense grid?”

“They didn’t. My strategic suggestions were deemed… Unnecessarily conservative.” Kenobi’s lips were pressed together so tightly they were white at the edges.

“Well, since Lobin’s strategy was apparently getting all his troopers killed and letting the Seppies capture a major trade hub, I’d say no one on that fucking planet knew what a ‘necessarily conservative’ strategy looked like.” Alpha-17 bite down hard on the inside of his check, smoothing the anger off his face. With bland professionalism, he skimmed through the rest of the documentation. “We don’t have enough graduated troopers to replace a whole brigade at once. We’ll have to supplement with senior trainees.”

Shoulders hunched, Kenobi drooped, making himself even smaller as he nodded. “I know. I was hoping you could give me recommendations.” It was a disgraceful waste of talent. Kenobi was on Kamino chasing lazy blueback cadets around and trying to find ways to get around Nala Se, who saw him as little more than a low caste technician due to his age and rank, while Jedi with no strategic sense like Lobis Lobin were given thousands of men to command. Now, Lobin and all his men were dead, and Kenobi would spend his afternoon trying to spy on Nala Se since he didn’t have the seniority to just order her to give him information on the condition of the latest tubies.

Alpha-17 put the datapad aside. “I’ll send you my recommendations, sir. Are you going to the vat room later?”

“Yes, for all the good it will do,” Kenobi said, not bothering to hide his frustration with the long-necks.

“I’ll come with you.” Alpha-17’s silent, menacing presence might convince Nala Se it wasn’t worth risking his wrath just to jerk a baby Jedi around.

Kenobi gave him a small, grateful smile. “Thank you, Alpha. I’ll let you finish your workout in peace.” He started to bow then stopped. It had taken over a week for Alpha-17 to train Kenobi out of bowing to him like he was a more senior Jedi. “Thank you,” he repeated before retreating.

Alpha-17 laid back down on the bench and wrapped his fingers around the bar to start on his second set of reps. Originally, the plan had been to have a member of the Jedi High Council on Kamino so any decisions could be made quickly and without risking communication with Coruscant that might be intercepted. Colt, Havoc, and Blitz were supposed to oversee the training programs. Blitz had attached himself to the gorgeous togruta master originally slated to be stationed on Kamino and had ended up her field commander when Alpha-17 was put on injured reserve. Kenobi had been assigned to Kamino not long after that, and all mentions of General Ti and Blitz overseeing the Kaminoan facility were dropped. It wasn’t quite the stupidest deviation from a reasonable, thoughtful strategy Alpha-17 had ever seen, but it was damn close.

****

There was a saying Fett had liked, ‘the kick that made the wolf bite back’. He’d used it mostly on Vau, and the other Cuy’val Dar who liked to teach lessons with their fists, when clones turned those lessons back on their instructors. Alpha-17 had always assumed that the tipping point when frustration and fear understandably turned to violence was something Jedi didn’t experience. Maybe full-grown Jedi didn’t, but young, pretty, inexperienced knights apparently weren’t immune.

The brilliant blue-white tip of Kenobi’s lightsaber was held perfectly steady under the point of the long-neck technician's chin. “Back away from him,” Kenobi ordered so coldly he himself might have been trained by Fett.

On the table next to the tech was a clone in the maroon tunics of a trainee not yet approved for armor. It took Alpha-17 a moment to find a name. “Crys,” he said sharply, mouthy little shit and too clever by half, slated for technical track as a low-level officer. “He’s not on the list. His scores are blue and green across the board.”

“His tractability rating is several deviations below average, beyond the accepted range for variance,” the tech burbled as best they could with a plasma blade so close they could probably feel the heat on their skin. “Nala Se declared the unit nonviable based on the last psych results and had it scheduled for decommissioning.”

“Nala Se,” Kenobi said so softly the danger was obvious, “was told decommissioning has been forbidden unless the clone can be proven to be brain dead or otherwise beyond reasonable aid measures. I have approved accelerated graduations, despite my better judgement, to avoid this exact situation. Alpha, take his datapad and find out what the sithhells was in that decommissioning order.”

Alpha-17 stepped forward and took the datapad off the technician's belt, making sure every movement was a reminder to the terrified long-neck that Alpha-17 could kill them with no repercussions if Kenobi ordered it. Luckily, the tech hadn’t bothered to put a passcode on their datapad. He opened the decommissioning order for Crys and frowned. It was the standard form that had been used for as long as Alpha-17 could remember. The form Kenobi had specifically banned at the beginning of his tenure on Kamino.

Tapping through the menu, Alpha-17 closed the decommissioning order only to find a whole list of them stored on a private subserver for Nala Se and her technicians. Most of them had already been closed out. He opened one of the oldest, dated from the previous week. It was for a cadet, four years old. The deviation noted was a severe speech impediment. Wispy, one of Kenobi’s pet projects as he helped the boy with his lisp, was supposed to be on a survival training trip with the rest of his batch to a nearby island. Since Wipsy was too young for viable organs to be harvested, the body had been disposed of with other biohazardous material in the plasma generators.

Kenobi looked over sharply at Alpha-17 in that uncanny way he had. “Alpha?”

“Put down the lightsaber, sir,” Alpha-17 said grimly. “The shabuir wasn’t lying. He’s following Nala Se’s orders.”

Lowering his blade, Kenobi stepped back, but he didn’t deactivate it. “Crys isn’t the first.” It wasn’t a question. The baby Jedi went so pale his freckles looked like splatters of dark paint when Alpha-17 silently confirmed his suspicion.

The room was silent like the moment before a training sim began. Kenobi swallowed hard. The noise made the long-neck technician jump. “Get out,” Kenobi ordered. His tone was neutral, almost pleasant, but his blue eyes might as well have been chipped from one of the glaciers at Kamino’s poles. The technician fled while they could. “Alpha, get Crys back to his batchmates, please.”

Alpha-17 didn’t need to be told twice, hurriedly undoing the restraints holding Crys’ to the table and slinging his semi-conscious little brother over his shoulder. “Sir, you can’t see Nala Se alone.”

Kenobi deactivated his lightsaber and turned to face Alpha-17. His hair had finally grown out to a decent length so he looked less like a teenager puffing himself up when he raised a pointed eyebrow. “In case you’ve forgotten, Alpha, I am the Jedi general in charge of this facility.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, mir’sheb’ika, Kamino is now part of the Republic. So when you cut off Nala Se’s scheming little snake-head, it’ll be murder. And, as the clone commander in charge of this facility, it’ll fall to me to arrest you.” Alpha-17 raised his eyebrow right back at Obi-Wan. “You really want me to have to comm the Jedi to come pick you up, sir?”

Breathing out slowly, Kenobi hung his lightsaber back on his belt and held out his hand for the datapad. “Point taken, Alpha. What do you suggest.”

“We both put Crys here back to bed, and you take a moment to think. If you can’t come up with something better, then order me to kill her. I can’t be punished for following orders, and they haven’t figured out how to handle natborns in the military courts yet. Most likely you’ll just be shipped back to the temple to wait out the war counting bacta patches.” Alpha-17 relaxed when he saw Kenobi slip the tech’s datapad into one of his pouches and reach a hand up towards his temple where his braid used to be. It was a clear sign Kenobi had moved beyond reactionary impulses to plotting. Plotting, like strategy, was something Kenobi wasn’t half-bad at when he didn’t panic about not being clever or experienced enough.

“Fine. Let’s get Crys back to his batch before they can worry more.” Kenobi followed Alpha-17 out of one of the small rooms in the back of a restricted access lab used only by Nala Se and her direct minions. Kenobi hadn’t asked to be let in when his access codes hadn’t worked. He’d cut through the door with his lightsaber. It was more evidence of the decisive, dedicated officer Alpha-17 knew was hiding behind Kenobi’s Core world dainty manners and insecurities.

Alpha-17 ducked down so Crys didn’t hit the black, bubbly edge of Kenobi’s impromptu door on their way through. When he straightened, he looked over at Kenobi in amusement.

Blushing, Kenobi muttered, “You wanted to use a grenade.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t a good idea, sir.” Alpha-17 cut through several service corridors and a maintenance area to get to the bunkroom where his batches' sleeping tubes were. Kenobi didn’t care about staying in the pristine, manicured halls the long-necks kept to. He’d become as good as a clone at scrambling through the dim, sometimes dirty passages that kept the main halls so tidy.

Crys batchmates nearly jumped Alpha-17 when they saw Crys hanging over his shoulder. It was an impressive show of gonads over brains only averted when Kenobi quickly imposed himself between them and Alpha-17. “He’s alive,” Kenobi told the brothers, physically not much younger than Kenobi himself. “There was a… paperwork error. Alpha and I will resolve it. Let him sleep as long as he needs. If any of the instructors complain, tell them to talk to me.”

“Yes, General Kenobi,” the leader of Crys’ training squad said without really hearing the Jedi. His eyes were focused on Crys. “We will.”

Kenobi nodded but quickly moved out of the way so the Crys’ batchmates could take him from Alpha-17’s arms. A few of Alpha-17’s little brothers with sense handsigned silent thanks to Alpha-17. They knew who had made sure the memo about instructors not interfering with long-necks taking clones out of training ended up in the general’s daily stack of forms to sign.

When they left the bunks, Kenobi turned towards the turbo lift that went up to the comms center instead of the one that went to the labs. Alpha-17 followed him, saying nothing. They ended up on the top level of the comms center where the only holocomm on Kamino powerful enough to reach Coruscant was accessed from.

There was a comm tech in training on duty. He saluted Kenobi awkwardly enough Alpha-17 could tell he’d only recently been given his armor. “General!”

“At ease, trooper,” Kenobi said calmly. “I need to make a call to the Jedi High Council. Priority Besh-One, if you please.”

The trainee nodded, head bobbing like a Naboo drinking bird before he stopped himself. “Yes, sir. Please step into the holoproj area when you’re ready.”

“Alpha, join me,” Kenobi ordered as he stepped into the ring some bright spark had taped off to indicate where the holoprojector would be able to pick up an image and sound to transmit.

Alpha-17 settled at Kenobi’s left shoulder two steps back. Protocol said it should have been right, but Kenobi’s combination of the third and fourth formal lightsaber forms made being near his right elbow a bad idea during combat.

“Take off your helmet, please,” Kenobi said as he checked that his own tunics, the full formal tan and browns of a proper Jedi today, were laying straight.

Alpha-17 removed his helmet and held it under his arm as the holoproj whirred to life. A meter high image of a juvenile mirialan appeared. “Knight Kenobi,” the boy said, sounding bored, “it is currently mid-night cycle for the temple. No councilors are currently available. May I redirect your comm to the senior master on duty?”

“You may not,” Kenobi said. He sounded more confident than Alpha-17 had ever heard him, almost as sneering as the mirialan boy. “Please contact my great-grandmaster and Master Windu if he’s on Coruscant. I urgently need to speak to them.”

The boy looked skeptical. “Master Windu has only recently returned from the front, Knight Kenobi. And Master Yoda is certainly asleep. Can’t it wait another four hours?”

Kenobi’s eyes narrowed. “Of course, if Master Yoda and Master Windu are too busy to speak to me I will leave them a message with you. Please let my great-grandmaster know that I’ve decided my grandmaster was onto something after all. I’m planning on taking some of the men to go join him.”

Alpha-17 didn’t understand what Kenobi was implying, but the mirialan boy certainly did. Even though the holo was blue, Alpha-17 could see the boy’s green face turn yellow. “Please hold, Knight Kenobi. I’ll get Master Yoda and Master Windu on the line as soon as possible.” Tiny, repetitive music came from the speakers as the boy disappeared, replaced by a three-dimensional rendering of the Jedi Order’s insignia.

“Sir?” Alpha-17 said, keeping his voice low so it couldn’t be heard over the music. “Who’s your grandmaster?”

Kenobi’s smile was bloodless when he looked over his shoulder at Alpha-17. “Why, the one and only Count Dooku of course, back before he decided his eyes would look better in yellow. Or, my grandmaster is Qui-Gon Jinn, who was also my master. It depends on your point of view.”

Alpha-17 gave the kid a deeply unimpressed stare. Kenobi crumpled under the pressure like always. “Due to some timing issues and Master Jinn’s impatience, I was very briefly listed as the padawan of my padawan-brother Feemor. Technically, Feemor knighted me. So if say… a senator was to look at this recording and ask who my grandmaster was, it would be Qui-Gon Jinn. A Jedi from the Coruscant Temple would know exactly who I meant when I said ‘grandmaster’ though.”

“Smart,” Alpha-17 said approvingly. The deception was convoluted and heavy handed for his tastes, but it worked. That was what mattered.

Kenobi blushed a little, ducking his head. “Thank you, Alpha.”

After nearly a half-hour wait, the irritating music cut out and the spinning symbol was replaced by two holos, one shorter than the other. High General Windu of the Seventh Systems Army and High General Yoda based on Coruscant. General Yoda looked the same as always, small, rumpled, and wrinkly. Even over the holocomm General Windu looked like he needed a week's sleep and some hot rations.

“Masters,” Kenobi said formally, bowing. Alpha-17 didn’t do anything since the Jedi didn’t like clones saluting over comms.

“Cut the banthashit, Kenobi,” Windu said though with less hostility than Alpha-17 would have shown after being woken by a subordinate in the middle of a sleep cycle. “What’s so important you had to threaten to defect to the Separatists?”

Kenobi held up the long-neck technician’s datapad. “I’ve just sent you over twenty decommissioning orders Nala Se has issued for our troopers in clear violation of our amended contract. She started last week so I’m afraid all but the last boys on that list are beyond help. With Alpha’s assistance, I was able to prevent the murder of number eighteen. A bright young tech named Crys. Masters, I’ve reported before on Nala Se and Lama Su’s refusal to work with me, let alone defer to me as a representative of our Order. Prior to this, it’s been an irritation. Now, it has cost us the lives of our men without a battlefield in sight. This is not something that can be solved through simple diplomacy or renegotiating the contract yet again. We need Master Ti.”

“Disturbing news this is,” General Yoda said gravely while General Windu visibly fumed. “Speak to Lama Su the Council will. Understand I do not why Master Ti you need. As capable a diplomat as her you are, Knight Kenobi.”

“You’re too kind, master, but, in this case, I’m afraid age and rank take precedence over skill.” Kenobi turned part way towards Alpha-17. “Alpha has dealt with the Kaminoans quite literally his whole life and is familiar with their culture and practices. He has explained to me in no uncertain terms that the Kaminoan hierarchy is genetic. Bred in, as it were, since they reproduce through cloning. One cannot improve their social standing from where you are decanted, only lose it. As a young knight, and only recently knighted at that, my social standing among the Kaminoans is low. Their culture provides no way for me to improve my standing with them as their society is based around castes with no way to move between castes except to fall to the lowest.”

Kenobi turned back to the two older generals, facing them with a fearlessness Alpha-17 had only ever seen when Kenobi was defending someone smaller and weaker. “Within the constraints of Kaminoan culture, I cannot adequately protect our men, masters. And it’s unfair to them to demand they suffer while I try. Master Ti is an experienced Jedi with a seat on the Council. She would be considered nearly the social equal of Lama Su, a great advantage. Master Jinn taught me not to come to a negotiating table empty-handed unless it was a last resort. Sending Master Ti to take my place would improve the Order’s ability to protect our troopers beyond what I could ever hope to manage.” He fell silent as the two more senior generals considered him.

General Windu was the first to break the thoughtful silence. “Alpha… Seventeen?”

“Just Alpha now, sir,” Alpha-17 said coolly. His brothers, younger and his own batchmates, had always called him just ‘Alpha’. Kenobi had picked up on it and started using it himself. Now, even the long-necks called him ‘Alpha’. It cost Alpha-17 nothing to let another Jedi general do the same.

“Alpha,” General Windu corrected himself, “do you feel Knight Kenobi’s appraisal of the situation is correct?”

Alpha-17 wondered if Windu was actually trying to rub Kenobi’s nose in the fact he was stuck in a training post instead of combat, or if Windu didn’t realized how it undermined Kenobi’s authority to ask Alpha-17 if he disagreed with Kenobi’s assessment while Kenobi was standing right there. “Considering it's the reason I asked for sithdamned Jedi master in the position in the first place, yes,” Alpha-17 said flatly. “Kenobi’s worked miracles despite every long-neck who ranks higher than janitor treating him like he’s two week old bantha poodoo. Kaminoan culture is strictly hierarchical. There’s some things he just can’t do without putting his lightsaber to someone’s throat.”

“Let’s… try to avoid that if we can,” Windu said wryly. “I’ll speak to Master Ti, Kenobi. If the situation is that unsalvageable she can take over. We’ll find something else for you. I’m sorry we put you in this position.”

Kenobi grimaced. “I’m sorry clones had to die before I noticed I was failing in my duties.”

Yoda sighed heavily, leaning on his cane. “Dark the galaxy has become, Obi-Wan. Clouded the Force is. Kind you must try to be to yourself. See less all Jedi now do.”

Kenobi dipped his head as if in agreement but only murmured, “I will think on your words, great-grandmaster.”

“Is there anything else, Kenobi?” Windu asked not unkindly.

“No, masters. I apologize for interrupting your night cycle.” Kenobi gave another formal bow. “May the Force be with you.”

“And also with you,” Windu said but it was obvious he just wanted to get back to his bunk.

The holos of the two Jedi High Generals blinked out of existence and the whirring of the holoproj slowed to a stop. The tech nervously stuck his head around his console. “They hung up, General Kenobi. Would you like me to call them back?”

“No, thank you trooper,” Kenobi said, looking suddenly tired and beaten without the eyes of the other Jedi on him. “We were finished talking.”

Alpha-17 took advantage of the relative privacy to put a hand on Kenobi’s shoulder so the edge brushed his neck and squeezed lightly in reassurance. “Come on, sir. Let’s go put the fear of General Ti in Lama Su.”

Kenobi perked up a little at the thought of making the arrogant kaminoan prime minister squirm a little. “A sound plan, Alpha. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

The careless comment, a sentiment Kenobi repeated in various forms, raised another concern. Windu made it sound like Kenobi hadn’t been given his position on Kamino as punishment but out of necessity. Though why it was necessary to have Kenobi on Kamino when General Ti, who’s strategic sims tended towards average, couldn’t be spared was some kind of Jedi banthashit. Kenobi was inexperienced, but every officer was at some point. There was only one cure for it. If the High Generals’ concern was Kenobi’s lack of confidence, an experienced and reliable clone commander could be found to support the kid through it.

As Alpha-17 saw it, the easiest way to handle the situation would be to swap out Jedi generals. Since Blitz couldn’t be removed from General Ti’s side with anything short of a turbolaser on the highest setting, Kenobi would need his own clone commander. Or he could just keep the one he had. If Alpha-17 was with Kenobi, he wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone else to make sure the kid didn’t fold like damp flimsi when older, and more idiotic, officers threw their weight around.

Alpha-17 let the thought percolate throughout the rest of his day. When he was back in his quarters, a private bunk with an attached fresher shared only with the room next door thanks to Kenobi’s insistence on all instructors getting the same perks, Alpha-17 sat down at his small, portable commconsole and started typing. If the Jedi weren’t going to see the obvious solution in front of their noses then Alpha-17 would spell it out for them.

****

Obi-Wan stood on the bridge of his Jedi cruiser surveying the tannish gray and green orb below. Felucia had been his first official action as a Jedi general, and he and his legion within the 7th Sky Corp had successfully covered Master Koon’s evacuation of the men and most of their materials on the planet below. The 113th Sky Legion had held off nearly twice their number of Seperatist dreadnoughts with minimal casualties long enough for Master Koon to get every trooper on a ship out of the system.

“General,” Alpha-17 said, striding up from behind with a datapad in hand, “orders are to fall back and regroup in the Maldrood Sector.” He didn’t bother to ask for orders. If Obi-Wan didn’t give him some that made sense, Alpha-17 would fill in the gap himself.

“Let’s put some more distance between us and the Seppies, if you please, Alpha. Then bring the lighter ships around and have them make the jump first while the heavy cruisers cover them. The Indefatigable will be the last ship out.” Obi-Wan waited a beat, but Alpha-17 only nodded, a slow curl of satisfaction making a bare ripple in the Force.

“Yes, sir.” Alpha-17 handed the datapad to the Indefatigable’s navigator, a clone named North. All of the crew on Obi-Wan’s flagship were clones with the expectation of the Indefatigable’s nominal captain, a Corellian woman named Jax Pavan. Pavan was content to focus her energies on the more technical aspects of running the ship and leave combat decisions and battle strategy to Obi-Wan and Alpha-17. Obi-Wan suspected Alpha-17’s hand in the crew selection. Alpha-17 viewed most non-clones, what he called ‘natborns’, with derisive suspicion.

The 113th Sky turned as one in an orderly retreat to the edge of the system to make the jump calculations quicker for the larger ships. Obi-Wan watched the holographic sensor display showing the position of all the ships around Felucia and was pleased to see no blatant gaps in his fleet’s rearguard defense. “The Seppies aren’t going to come after us,” Alpha noted, lowering his voice to give the illusion of a private conversation. “There’s easier pickings out there right now. Seventh Sky is running too tight to be more than a waste of vulture droids.”

“You’re the one who told me not to get cocky, Alpha. Don’t tell me you’re changing your tune now. My ego wouldn’t fit on my ship if you didn’t keep puncturing it,” Obi-Wan replied without looking away from the display to make sure none of the Separatist forces broke off to follow them. He couldn’t help the warm flush of pride pinking his cheeks at Alpha-17’s indirect compliment, but he could pretend not to notice the prickling burn.

Alpha-17 let out one of his gravelly, rumbling chuckles which made Obi-Wan’s knees a bit unsteady. “Don’t you mean our ship?” he said in a tone that could almost be teasing. “The Council approved my name, not yours.” Obi-Wan’s retort was half-hearted. He would forever remember the wide-eyed look of horror on Master Tiin and Master Koth’s faces when Alpha-17 suggested they name Obi-Wan’s flagship the Incorrigible and Master Yoda had seconded the motion. Master Gallia had been the one to suggest Indefatigable as a compromise before Master Yoda could wind up the straight-laced Council members more.

The first wave of the 113th Sky’s smaller support ships made the jump to hyperspace covered by the three heavy cruisers’ protective turrets. The Resilient and the Lambent jumped next. Then the Indefatigable followed. A textbook perfect withdrawal. Obi-Wan finally allowed himself to relax. He turned. As always, Alpha-17 was standing nearby ready to offer support or correction. Obi-Wan allowed himself the luxury of briefly touching his forehead to Alpha-17’s pauldron. Alpha-17, like most clones, was physically affectionate with his brothers. Unlike most clones, it was just other clones Alpha-17 deigned to show anything like affection to.

Somehow Obi-Wan had managed to bluff his way into Alpha-17’s carefully guarded personal space like he was another one of Alpha-17’s command trainees. He was careful never to abuse the privilege and thus lose it, but he’d just succeeded in his first real mission as a knight as well as a general. Alpha-17 wouldn’t begrudge him a small celebration. Indeed, Alpha-17 wrapped one of his thick, powerful arms around Obi-Wan to hold him in place longer than Obi-Wan would dare stay himself.

“Not bad for your first time out, kid,” Alpha-17 rumbled softly into Obi-Wan’s ear.

“Not bad for our first mission,” Obi-Wan agreed. He felt a chill when Alpha-17 released him and stepped away, but Obi-Wan just straightened his tunics and turned back towards the bridge. “Send any comms from the High General to the ready room please. I’ll alert you when we’ve received further orders.”

****

The 113th Sky built a reputation for itself under Obi-Wan and Alpha-17’s command. They were known for their efficiency, their low casualty rates, and the fact they didn’t fail a mission objective no matter how messy things got. Under Alpha-17’s able tutelage, Obi-Wan spent every moment not dedicated to command, training, or sleep with his nose buried in another ancient tome on Mandalorian warfare trying to find ways to be better. His men were Mandalorian, even Alpha-17 was Mandalorian though he’d never admit it, and they would fight like Mandalorians.

The Mandalorians of old had been warriors to rival the Jedi and the Sith in individual combat and in war. Alpha-17 handled teaching their men to be deadly as any ARC trooper. Obi-Wan would make sure their strategies complimented his training on a large scale.

Serving with Mandalorians meant Obi-Wan soon found a set of white, plastoid armor on his bunk when he stepped out of the fresher. All he really wanted was sleep. Long-form sparring with Alpha-17 was exhausting though Obi-Wan knew his endurance was improving by leaps and bounds. Ataru had proven to be a less than ideal form for warfare. However, Obi-Wan didn’t have time to completely restructure his fighting style. He’d gotten a few tips on the basics of Soresu basics from Feemor, but the only advantage Obi-Wan could ever hope for was endurance far beyond his opponents.

“No, Alpha,” Obi-Wan snapped at his commander.

Alpha-17 didn’t look up from the datapads he was working on using Obi-Wan’s appropriated desk. Obi-Wan’s quarters were the only one also set up to be an office so Alpha-17 had commandeered half the desk without even bothering to ask.

“Alpha,” Obi-Wan repeated with a small snarl to get the older warrior’s attention.

“What makes you think it’s a request, sir?” Alpha set his datapad to the side, looking unimpressed by Obi-Wan’s protest.

Obi-Wan quickly pulled on a long, soft tunic to cover his nudity. Alpha-17 seemed to be completely beyond shame, and Obi-Wan had been raised to view his body as mere crude matter. It still made Obi-Wan’s stomach feel funny to be naked in the face of Alpha-17’s careless confidence. Covered from neck to knees, he crossed his arms and turned to glare at the beskar-hard gaze of his commander. “We’ve discussed this, Alpha. Standard kit restricts my range of movement even if I do conditioning to handle the extra weight.”

Alpha-17 raised an eyebrow that suggested he was wondering why he bothered when Obi-Wan was this idiotic. A part of Obi-Wan gave a silent sob of embarrassment and curled up tight in his chest waiting to die. “Maybe you should look at the kit I got you before you start arguing with me, sir? Unless you want to pick a fight without bothering to reconnoiter first.”

Obi-Wan could feel his ears burning and knew his face was probably an unflattering shade of red as he turned back to the armor on his bunk. When he picked up the breastplate, he scrambled to grab it since it wasn’t one solid piece. Instead, the plastoid had been formed in many, curved small plates that overlapped and were joined together with heavy, blast resistant fabric underneath to create a cuirass that was both flexible and full coverage.

“Oh,” Obi-Wan breathed as he saw the other pieces of segmented armor designed to be held tight to his body with a combination of comfortable fabric strapping and magnetic locks. The helmet wasn’t a standard trooper helmet but something sleeker and more fitted with a clear, transparisteel visor that meant most of Obi-Wan’s face would be visible. There was a trapezoidal portion fo white plastoid in the middle where the filters would be next to obi-Wan’s mouth and nose. The white plates had already been painted to echo the dusty blue markings on Alpha-17’s armor. Instead of kama, there was a sleeveless, jerkin-like garment made of thick, protective fabric the color of Obi-Wan’s tunics. A quick examination revealed discrete attachment points on the armor to keep the ‘Jedi tunic’ in place.

“It’s designed so your regular belt goes over it,” Alpha-17 said watching Obi-Wan examine the rest of the pieces. “There’s also a hostler that matches your belt. You’ll be using it, general.”

The armored boots had sheaths along the calves for vibroblades, and the left vambrace had a sheath for a small knife as well. The blades were in place of course with the distinctive mix of polycord and leathris criss-crossing that Alpha-17 used to wrap the hilts of his own blades for grip. The blaster was the standard DC model used by most clone commanders though the frame had been machined down to make it lighter. It was more likely to overheat with rapid fire, but Obi-Wan was a precision shooter when he did use a blaster. There was even a non-standard strap to keep the blaster in place during Obi-Wan’s aerial moves.

“Alpha,” Obi-Wan said quietly, now ashamed of his earlier outburst.

Alpha-17 held up a hand. “You told me you’d wear armor when it didn’t interfere with the life-long training you’ve had in Jedi combat forms. Here you go. Wear it.”

Obi-Wan obeyed the implied order. He pulled on the blacks, thermally tailored to fit his shorter, slimmer frame, and began to put on his new armor. Alpha-17 didn’t have to say anything for Obi-Wan to know there were armor drills in his future. At this moment though, Obi-Wan moved slowly and deliberately, a meditation more than anything. He examined his new gear in the Force, feeling the quiet traces of the respect, concern, and affection that had gone into its construction. The form was so distinctly Alpha-17 Obi-Wan knew he’d made the schematics for it himself even if there was no physical indication.

“Run through a couple of katas,” Alpha-17 ordered, eying the fit of the armor critically. “We can make adjustments if we need.”

“Alpha, we just finished sparring.” Obi-Wan winced as his protest came out as more of a whine.

Alpha-17 gave him a toothy smile. “There’s always time for conditioning, sir.”

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes. “Go suck plasma exhaust, commander.” But he started moving through the first of the unarmed Soresu katas Feemor had taught him. The armor fit perfectly of course. Alpha-17 had been trying to find some way to improve upon the mildly blast resistant fabric of his tunics since Kamino.

Obi-Wan finished in a low near split with his arms twisted up defensively back and over his head. The armor didn’t even dig in. “Good,” Alpha-17 said with no difference between his satisfaction at his long, no doubt difficult plan to find Obi-Wan armor he would wear coming to fruition and the simple hand-to-hand drill Obi-Wan had perfected during their spar.

“I suppose we’re going to the ready room?” Obi-Wan asked, resigned to skipping his nap.

“New orders,” Alpha-17 agreed. He handed Obi-Wan the datapad. “We’re going back to Geonosis, general. We’ve been seconded to General Jinn to establish landing areas for the rest of our forces to stage a planet-wide invasion.”

Obi-Wan’s stomach dropped through the floor. “Oh, no. I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Alpha.”

Alpha-17 gave him a sardonic smile. “For once, sir, so do I.”

****

Geonosis is a clusterfuck that made the long-neck’s attempt at stealth drills look like an exercise in martial brilliance. Alpha-17 pulled the armor off another corpse and tossed it in the pile to be recycled. This little brother was too shiny to have any paint at all. His plastoid wouldn’t even have to be melted down and recast.

“Alpha?”

Alpha-17 turned to see a standard waiting for his attention. He eyed the paint but didn’t recognize it. From the weary but relieved tone, the standard had been one of his trainees. Those little brothers who’d never met him showed more fear. The brothers Alpha-17 had trained were wary but knew they had to say something stupid to earn his ire.

The standard realized Alpha-17 didn’t recognize his armor and removed his helmet. Blond, lean, and with eyes that saw everything. “Rex’ika,” Alpha-17 said in greeting. “Five-oh-first.” Commander Skywalker was a child, but a child with the Sith’s own luck. Technically, the 501st Legion was under his command, but everyone knew it was actually commanded and run by its captain. Rex had managed to turn Skywalker’s tendency towards Force poodoo into tactical genius though the details Alpha-17 had heard were fuzzy.

“General Jinn just called General Kenobi to his tent, sir. I thought you’d want to know.” Rex’s grim expression said everything.

“Thank you, Rex’ika.” Alpha-17 tossed away the piece of armor in his hands and strode towards the temporary encampment that housed the field hospital and sleeping quarters for Jedi officers. “Why the sithhells wasn’t I included in the orders?”

“Commander Cody was ordered not to notify you,” Rex replied keeping pace. “So he told me, and I decided I should give you a sitrep.”

“Jinn’s a fucking coward,” Alpha-17 said before he got his temper under control enough to bite his tongue. Kenobi’s former master was the worst kind of training officer. The kind that could take the best and brightest trainee and ruin them in his own image. Jinn knew better than to cut Alpha-17 out of the loop. Alpha-17 and Kenobi always worked together, and the other Jedi respected that. This was Jinn targeting and trying to punish a graduated trainee who’d succeeded despite Jinn’s best attempts to ensure he failed.

Cody was standing in front of one of the prefab units the Jedi used for offices and ready rooms in temporary camps. Jinn had the gall to kick his own commander out of the room to keep him from being a witness. Alpha-17’s fingertips tingled with the desire to reach for his vibroblade.

“Put your bucket on, Kot’ika,” he ordered. “You look like a lost shiny. If you’re standing sentry, stand sentry.”

“Yes, Alpha. Sorry, sir.” Cody slipped on his helmet and took an at ease position next to the door like he was supposed to be there.

With a flick of his fingers, Alpha-17 ordered Rex to join Cody and for both of them to turn on the recording units in their buckets. Jinn might not want witnesses, but Alpha-17 would make sure the official record always supported his own story.

He didn’t bother to knock or close the door behind him. Alpha-17 stepped into the room with his helmet still on, because Jinn found the faceless armor disconcerting. Kenobi no longer cared since he used his Force poodoo more than his eyes with all clones. “Sir, I apologize for the delay. The meeting notification didn’t come through the comm system,” he said blandly.

Kenobi was the same white as his armor with the contrast of the blue making him look like one of the corpses Alpha-17 had been stripping. His helmet was tucked under one arm, shoulders straight, feet apart, chin up, like a clone instead of the sloppier stance of a Jedi. Alpha-17 twitched his fingers discreetly, handsigning his approval to his general.

“You’re forgiven, Alpha,” Kenobi replied coolly. “I know how… irregular the comms can be around here.”

“General Jinn,” Alpha-17 said crisply, taking his place at Kenobi’s left shoulder. He held himself straight and stiff which made him look even bigger in his armor. Jinn was taller than a clone but not as broad. If it wasn’t for the Force, Alpha-17 was fairly sure he could take the lanky shabuir in a straight fistfight. Sometimes he was tempted to try anyways.

“Alpha-Seventeen,” Jinn said with equally distant formality. “I didn’t request that you join us.”

Kenobi inhaled quietly then spoke. “He’s my clone commander, master. Protocol is to have him with me when any GAR matters are discussed. This is a GAR matter. Alpha, you’ll be staying.” His tone didn’t leave any room for argument.

Jinn’s lip twisted in an ugly way. “You do like your protocol, my very young padawan.”

“General,” Alpha-17 corrected. When Jinn turned coldly inquisitive eyes on him, he repeated. “General Kenobi, General Jinn. It’s only polite to use the general’s rank when you’re talking to the being who kept your whole battalion from being wiped out.” Jinn’s LAAT/i’s had come in as a single mass rather than in staggered shifts. The idea may have been to overwhelm the anti-aircraft cannons, but there’d been a lot more surface to air weapons than had been in the intel report.

Kenobi had dropped one of the 113th’s light cruisers so full of troopers it was a miracle it hadn’t fallen out of the sky nearly straight down on top of the bulk of the Genonosian anti-aircraft cannons. The cruiser would never fly again, and the strategy had been costly. Half the battalion had been wiped out securing the gun emplacement. However, half a dozen other battalions had been saved from being completely wiped out before they touched down. It had been a bold, brilliant, and unnervingly risky strategy. But Kenobi had pulled it off. Alpha-17 was still impressed by the kid’s guts.

“I do appreciate him saving so many of my men,” Jinn admitted grudgingly. In the next breath he added with disgust, “I’m more concerned with how he wasted the lives of his own.”

“It wasn’t a waste,” Kenobi said though Alpha-17 knew he didn’t feel the words were truthful. “Those anti-aircraft emplacements would have decimated both your troops and Master Unduli’s forces, master. If we had withdrawn, the Geonosians would have used their artillery to break us apart on our unprotected flank. Either way the losses would have been incalculable, and the invasion would have failed. I made a command decision, master. It was the right one even though I would wish otherwise.”

“You dropped a light frigate unsuited for use in atmospheric combat literally on top of a bunker full of sentients, padawan!” Jinn barked.

Kenobi’s lips thinned. “Those sentients were using our men for target practice, General Jinn. High Command didn’t seem prepared to remedy the situation. So I did.”

“You lost nearly a thousand men,” Jinn said, his volume rising.

“They died knowing they were saving the lives of tens and hundreds of their brothers for each life lost,” Kenobi replied, lowering his own voice to make his point. “I was there, Master Qui-Gon. I fought with them. I did not leave my men until the last body was accounted for. I know what they felt, and I know what they told me. We grieve those who marched ahead, but I will not apologize for making the decision the masters in charge of this campaign were unwilling to.”

Alpha-17 let a small smile curl his lips, hidden by his helmet. Another decade and General Kenobi would be a commander to be reckoned with on all fields of battle.

“You always made a better soldier than a Jedi,” Jinn spat at the younger man.

Every inch of calm, reasoned confidence vanished in an instant as General Kenobi’s face fell. He couldn’t have been more wounded if Jinn had put a lightsaber through his chest. “I apologize, Master Jinn,” he said stiffly. “As always, your wisdom is undeniable.” He gathered what was left of his tattered pride back up around him. “Unfortunately, this is war. And the men we bought and paid for bear the burden of more Jedi not being better soldiers.”

“Obi-Wan!” Jinn protested, wide-eyed.

Kenobi ignored him. This was no longer his superior officer speaking. “Alpha, we haven't been given the luxury of a tent I’m afraid. We’ll be bunking with the men.”

“Fine by me, sir. All these luxuries are what make officers soft,” Alpha-17 did his best to channel Walon Vau at his most obnoxious and scornful. As a sop to Kenobi he offered, “I’ve got the casualty reports for you. The medics think we’ve lost all we’re going to lose.”

The news made Kenobi close his eyes. His jaw relaxed. “Thank the Force for that. Take me to them if you would.”

Alpha-17 snapped off a salute to General Jinn, because that’s what one did when leaving a general’s presence. Kenobi would make the rounds of the injured first then the remaining troopers as was his habit after every engagement. Then he’d run himself and his armor through the sonics next to Alpha-17. Only after they were settled down for the night with Alpha-17 trying to stuff protein paste down his throat would Kenobi let himself grieve enough to say his litany.

The troopers were always glad to see their general. His time on Kamino had made Kenobi more open to the culture norms of the clones including touch. Kenobi accepted and offered gentle forehead taps as he made his rounds. Alpha-17 focused his own attention on the quiet ones who shied away from Kenobi. There were always a few who saw that the Jedi looked different from a brother and found him easier to blame. Alpha-17 liked to stomp out that particular line of thought before it could take root. Kenobi, who was physically the same age as the men he commanded, was a sympathetic figure at least.

After the hot rations had been dispersed, Kenobi retreated from the rocky overhang where the 113th had set up their camp in a nice, defensible position. He didn’t take any of the ARC troopers Alpha-17 kept around solely so Kenobi could have a moment without Alpha-17 looking over his shoulder. It wasn’t an actual invitation, but Alpha-17 took it as one hiking after his general.

Kenobi didn’t wait for him. Scrambling over rocks and making a Force-assisted jump that led to Alpha-17 free climbing a small cliff. At the top, Alpha-17 found Kenobi sitting cross-legged on a boulder looking up at the blue-black sky above. The air was so dusty and streaked with coolant vapor from damaged ships only a few stars were visible. “I wanted to be alone, Alpha,” Kenobi said softly.

“Tough shit. You’re a commanding officer on a recently conquered hostile planet. You get a bodyguard or you get to go back to the Indefatigable. You don’t get ‘alone time’ to look at the pretty rocks.” Alpha-17 settled gingerly on the edge of the boulder himself. He hadn’t dared sit for the past thirty-six hours. His ruined knee was already too swollen to bend more than a forty-five degree angle in his armor. Short of an adrenaline burst, it was going to take him a very long time to stand back up.

Kenobi, eyes closed like he was meditating, sighed heavily. “I can take care of myself, Alpha. I was doing it long before I met you.”

“If that’s what you want to call it.” Alpha-17 pulled off his helmet and delicately prodded his knee. “Jinn’s… He’s not a bad man, Kenobi. But he’s a joke of a soldier and a worse parent. The fact he’d rather shout at you than try to fix that is on him.”

“Master Jinn is a brilliant Jedi,” Kenobi agreed dully which wasn’t what Alpha-17 wanted to hear.

“Kid…” Alpha-17 hesitated. He didn’t really understand the idea of a parent. He’d had his brothers, and he’d had his instructors. Fett wasn’t his father anymore than the long-neck technician who’d started his growth tank running. Finally he settled on, “They were my little brothers, and I think you made the right call.”

Kenobi smiled bitterly. “I know. I just… I need to meditate, Alpha. Can it wait?”

Alpha-17 shut his mouth and settled down to keep watch. Kenobi did an external kind of meditation that was better than any sensor package, but Alpha-17 could feel the way Kenobi was pulling in on himself. Kenobi would be vulnerable until he finished with his Force poodoo.

It didn’t take long for the first, quiet sob to escape. Alpha-17 kept his eyes forward to give Kenobi his privacy. Kenobi cried it out sometimes which seemed to work better for him than whatever he was calling meditation. Alpha-17 wasn’t going to tell.

Normally, Kenobi stayed silent other than his panting and weeping during their unofficial little ritual. “I’m sorry, Alpha,” he said, voice thick. “I am so sorry they couldn’t find a decent general for you. I’m sorry you’re stuck with me instead.”

“What are you apologizing for, kid?” Alpha-17 asked, turning to look at his general out of the corner of his eye. “I already said you did good.”

“I got eight-hundred and seventy-two men killed, Alpha. That’s not good. That’s a fucking atrocity,” Kenobi snarled.

Alpha-17 repressed a sigh. Apparently they were going for another round of ‘that’s not right because the Jedi say so’ tonight. “That’s war, sir. People die. People were going to die whether or not you gave that order. But you did, so less of my brothers died than Geonosians. That’s the calculus of combat.”

“But what if I’d been wrong? It was a huge risk. I could have killed us all.” Kenobi wrapped his arms around himself, words increasing in pitch and speed. “The Force said we’d succeed, but what if I’d misunderstood. My connection to the Living Force is so weak…”

Alpha-17 interrupted the spiral. “Are Jedi divine, Kenobi?”

The question jarred Kenobi out of his rising panic. “Of course not!”

“Really, ‘cause I thought some cultures worshiped the Force.”

Kenobi glared at Alpha-17. “Now you’re being purposely obtuse to bait me.”

Alpha-17 turned, grunting as he lifted his bum knee onto the boulder. “If Jedi aren’t gods, and the Force isn’t some all-powerful thing you worship to keep it happy, then how are you so self-centered you think your choice was the only one that mattered? The battle would have gone on whether or not we lived or died. The Republic probably still would have won considering how many bodies they had to throw at the problem. That's the problem with Jedi. You all think you're special, but, in this war, you’re no different than a clone. A single blaster that can’t do shit by itself. You have to fire together, following a unified strategy, to make it work.”

“And you don’t see any of us as anything other than tools!” Kenobi yelled. “We’re just… gears in some sort of complex machine that you replace when we break.” He was flushed red, heaving in air between sobs. His face was shiny tears, snot, and sweat. “You don’t even see yourself as a person let alone the rest of us!”

This wasn’t good. Alpha-17 had seen CCs melt down before. The last one to break down this ugly had been Fox right before he’d been shipped off to Coruscant and disappeared into faceless, red painted armor. “You’re real, kid,” Alpha-17 said firmly, reaching over and seizing Kenobi’s shaking shoulders. “You’re real and I see you.” He tugged Kenobi forward, meaning to press their foreheads together.

Kenobi threw himself into Alpha-17’s lap, wrapping his arms around Alpha-17 like a terrified tubie. “Why won’t you just say you hate me and stop being so damn kind!”

No one had ever accused Alpha-17 of being kind. Alpha-17 put a steadying arm around his shaking baby Jedi. “I never hated you, kid. Didn’t like you, sure. But I’ve never hated you even before I met you.” Kenobi let out a long, hard sob like Alpha-17 had just punched him in the groin without a cup. Then there were hot, chapped lips jamming themselves feverishly against Alpha-17’s mouth. Alpha-17 reeled for a moment before wrapping both arms around Kenobi to steady him. He’d seen this from his trainees before after a decommissioning or bad training accident. Some of them would pair off and try to comfort each other through distraction.

Alpha-17 had never done it himself, but he’d never interfered with his trainees preferred coping mechanism as long as the long-necks didn’t find out. He pulled back just a little. “Hey, hey, kid,” he said in a low, soothing rumble, “does this help?” Kenobi made a choked, nonverbal noise of agreement. “Okay. Just kissing though, kid. Or I’m finding some water to toss you into,” Alpha-17 warned before leaning back down. He shifted Kenobi into a more comfortable position which also gave him space to run a hand slowly up and down the slim, trembling back. If this got Kenobi out of his own head long enough to calm down, Alpha-17 would start kissing the kid whenever he wanted.

****

Obi-Wan didn’t scream into his pillow when he stormed back from his conference with Master Mundi. Instead he tapped Alpha-17 on the shoulder when he entered his quarters. Alpha-17 swung his chair around to face Obi-Wan and helped him onto his lap. “That bad?” he asked dryly.

“Fifteen minutes,” Obi-Wan begged, then he closed his eyes and relaxed into the kiss. He wasn’t sure how they’d ended up here, but being held tight and kissed senseless by Alpha-17 was better for clearing his head than the half-hearted mediation which was the best he could manage in the emptiness of hyperspace.

Alpha-17 was only wearing his cuirass and leg plates. The more forgiving material of Alpha-17’s blacks let Obi-Wan mold himself to Alpha-17’s broad shoulder and bask in the heat of him. Alpha-17 wasn’t a romantic man. Not in the way Quinlan had been when they were younger, or even sweet and gentle like Siri. He was big, rough, and unapologetically dangerous. He also kissed slowly and methodically like there was nothing he’d rather be doing. Obi-Wan couldn’t imagine anything better than all of that focus dedicated to nothing but making his stomach go hot and his joints turn to liquid.

Alpha-17’s mouth was always a little chapped, dried out from the filters in his helmet. Despite his size and training, he didn’t kiss to overwhelm but like he was walking Obi-Wan through learning a new hand-to-hand move, all give and take in an endless circle. Alpha-17’s big, warm hands sat lightly on Obi-Wan’s hips enough to steady but not to trap. Obi-Wan liked to put his own arms around his commander’s powerful neck so he could card his fingers through Alpha-17’s dark, curly hair. Alpha-17 leaned into the touch and hummed when Obi-Wan scratched his nails gently across his scalp.

At fifteen minutes on the dot, Alpha-17 pulled back. “So, how bad is it, general?”

“Well, Bacara is only going to be mostly furious instead of all the way,” Obi-Wan said dryly, “but I think the core of the plan is usable. Master Mundi forgot to secure the primary supply lines again. The Resilient and her light cruisers can handle that. I even got Master Mundi to agree instead of having to argue my case to Master Windu.”

“Nice work, kid.” Alpha-17 sounded genuinely impressed. His thumbs rubbed absent minded circles on Obi-Wan’s hip bones. “Since it sounds like your meeting was a success, why are you in my lap?”

“Because Master Mundi may be brilliant, but he is also absolutely infuriating. Remind me to buy Bacara a decent bottle of whiskey next time we’re in port.” Obi-Wan pushed his fingers through Alpha-17’s thick hair ignoring the light swat of protest. “Fifteen more minutes?”

“Five more minutes and you’re going to need a moment in the fresher,” Alpha-17 said with no hint of disapproval, just exasperation.

Obi-Wan still blushed like Alpha-17 had said something terribly dirty. He knew Alpha-17 allowed himself to be kissed because it helped Obi-Wan focus. Anything that improved Obi-Wan’s strategic capabilities Alpha-17 would provide since it was Obi-Wan’s strategies that were winning battles and saving lives. Alpha-17 didn’t seem to distinguish between going hard in a spar to help Obi-Wan sleep and light making out.

Obi-Wan wanted to do a great deal more than kiss Alpha-17, but, despite the ripples of lust Alpha-17 radiated into the Force while kissing Obi-Wan, his hands never strayed from sitting lightly on Obi-Wan's waist or back. Asking anything more would shatter the already ephemeral line where Alpha-17 supporting his lonely and young commanding officer turned into something ugly. It was a line Obi-Wan didn’t dare get any closer to. Alpha-17’s duties were defined by Obi-Wan, and Alpha-17 never shied away from doing his duty.

Reluctantly, Obi-Wan started to wiggle out of Alpha-17’s lap. Alpha-17 cupped his upper arms to stop him. “We’ve got the time for fifteen minutes, and you to use the sonics,” Alpha-17 said in the neutral tone Obi-Wan knew was him feeling indulgent.

Obi-Wan wiggled back towards Alpha-17’s chest, wrapping his arms around Alpha-17’s neck. He was grateful for the foam lined, segmented plastoid plates Alpha-17 had added to the bottom of his cuirass. They kept him from feeling Obi-Wan’s stiff cock jabbing him in the stomach through the thin material of Obi-Wan’s leggings. One of Alpha-17’s arms wrapped loosely around his waist in an uncharacteristic display of affection.

“Stop thinking so loudly, kid,” Alpha-17 ordered gruffly, tipping his head up for a soft kiss. “If something’s wrong, I’ll tell you. Relax.”

“Yes, Alpha,” Obi-Wan rattled off like Alpha-17’s name was his rank, the same way the CCs did. He grinned with Alpha-17 rolled his eyes and muttered something unflattering in Mando’a. Alpha-17’s arm snugged a little tighter, and Obi-Wan cupped the strong, defined jaw between his hands to settle in for another fifteen minutes of making out.

****

“Alpha?” Kenobi’s voice was muffled by the door to Alpha’s quarters.

Alpha-17 lifted his chin wiping the dilaptory gel off his neck taking the lingering stubble with it. He pulled the thin, scratchy towel from around his neck and wiped down his chest and arms as well to make sure there was no lingering stickiness. Body hair chafed like venom mite stings when you were wearing blacks for days on end. Tossing the dirty towel down the laundry chute, Alpha-17 crossed the last few steps and hit the button to open the door to his closet sized bunk.

Kenobi was mussed. His copper hair was stuck straight up in places, and his usually pristine Jedi tunics were hanging open far enough to reveal his collarbones. Alpha-17 raised an eyebrow. “I take it the strategy session went well?”

“Fifteen minutes,” Kenobi pleaded. “Master Tiin and Master Rancisis spent the last four hours debating light cruiser formations.” Then his blurry, reddened eyes focused on Alpha-17. His lips parted slightly as a pink flush of something other than frustration rose in his wane cheeks.

Alpha-17 was a little flattered the kid saw something he liked. Ventress had done a good job of filleting Alpha-17 when she had him and Potkin. There wasn’t a muscle group on his chest and abdomen that didn’t have a helpful guideline delineating it.

“I should… I should go…” Kenobi said but he was so tired he just stood there with his eyes still on Alpha-17’s chest.

“Kid, you’ve seen me naked on a gurney more than once.” Alpha-17 gestured for Kenobi to step into his quarters. “Come in and get on the bunk. You need to unwind, or you won’t sleep for a week. Then I’ll end stunning your ass and get dragged to Coruscant on charges of assaulting a superior officer.”

Kenobi shook off his funk enough to give Alpha-17 a wry smile. “You’d never let them prove a thing.” He stepped inside, and Alpha-17 shut the door behind him.

“I don’t know, sir. You’re exasperating enough I might forget to destroy the evidence.” Alpha-17 took the three steps over to his bunk and settled on it, tucking his pillow behind his back. “So, do you want to talk it out or…”

He didn’t have to finish his question. Kenobi swung a leg over his thighs and curled into Alpha-17’s chest like he wanted to hide from the galaxy. “Not really. Master Jinn decided to air a few of his grievances early on which rather tarnished any progress we made on a more coherent approach to maintaining control of the sectors we’ve already taken.”

Alpha-17 wrapped both arms around his baby Jedi and pulled him in tight so bare skin revealed by the partially opened tunics rubbed against his. Skin to skin was soothing. Alpha-17 was also convinced it helped Kenobi with his Force poodoo. “Okay. No talking.” He slipped his fingers into Kenobi’s hair, now long enough he could get a decent grip, and guided the kid’s mouth his own for a long, dry kiss.

Kenobi moaned softly, and Alpha-17 took advantage of his parted lips to slip his tongue into the kid’s mouth. He tasted bitter and a bit spicy like tea. No doubt he’d been chugging the stuff to make it through his nearly day long meeting. Normally, Alpha-17 liked to take it slow with his general. Moving too fast meant Kenobi didn’t get what he needed before rushing off to the fresher for a private moment. However, General Jinn always disoriented Kenobi in a way Alpha-17 didn’t like. The fastest way to get his general back to baseline was to make him forget Jinn existed.

Fingers knotted in Alpha-17’s hair, which he’d let grow out enough Kenobi would have something to hang on to. Settling one hand between Kenobi’s shoulders, Alpha-17 nibbled on the kid’s bottom lip to distract him as he moved his other hand to the small of Kenobi’s back, almost touching his ass. His baby Jedi was already so wound up he could feel the stiff prodding of Kenobi’s hard cock against his stomach.

It would be pointlessly cruel, and counter-productive, to send the kid off to the fresher only a few minutes into clearing his head. Alpha-17 pressed lightly on the small of Kenobi’s back in invitation. The sleep pants Alpha-17 was wearing probably needed a sonic cycle, and he was already shirtless which was convenient. Kenobi clung tighter just barely rocking his hips enough for his cock to drag along Alpha-17’s stomach. His tongue, however, thrust into Alpha-17’s mouth revealing what was actually on the kid’s mind.

Carefully, Alpha-17 shaped the idea of amusement and warmth tinged with a bit of teasing ‘when you grow up’. He focused on it like he might project a tactical update to his general in the middle of combat. Kenobi moaned, back bowing against Alpha-17’s grip as his attempt to be discreet was forgotten in favor of rolling his body like he was imagining riding a cock. Alpha-17 pressed the hand signs for ‘affirmative’, ‘all clear’, and ‘go ahead’ into Kenobi’s back to reaffirm his intent.

There was a… fuzziness in the air around Kenobi when he let himself relax. Alpha-17 could feel it building like ozone before a storm on Kamino. Alpha-17 nipped Kenobi’s lip trying to gauge what the kid needed to push him over into that lightning strike moment when the noise went silent and he could think clearly again. The tinge of pain made Kenobi shudder. Alpha-17 could feel the kid’s cock twitching where it was smashed up against his abs in a way that should have been uncomfortable.

Kissing across Kenobi’s cheek, Alpha-17 gently caught the soft lobe of one pale ear between his teeth and nipped it. He grinned wolfishly when it drew another long, loud groan. “I’m going to try something, kid,” he said, lowering his voice into the kind of growl that crawled along the skin like the pinprick of claws. “You don’t like it, you say something right away. Understand?”

Panting, Kenobi nodded, nosing at Alpha-17’s jaw. “Yes. Yes, Alpha.”

“Jatne, verd’ika. Thank you.” Alpha-17 nipped Kenobi’s ear again and slid the hand on the small of Kenobi’s back lower. He lightly rubbed the kid’s pert ass so Kenobi wouldn’t be startled. Then he slipped his second hand down until he was gripping one firm cheek in each hand. He squeezed lightly in warning then dug his fingers in and started moving Kenobi himself, grinding the kid’s cock against his stomach. As he worked, he flexed his fingers rhythmically into the meat of Kenobi’s ass until Kenobi got the point and seized Alpha-17’s shoulders. Kenobi was gasping between his gritted teeth as he followed Alpha-17’s silent instruction to rub himself against Alpha-17’s clenched abs.

Releasing Kenobi’s left asscheck, Alpha-17 spread the kid’s ass with his other hand and pushed two fingers up against Kenobi’s fabric covered hole like he was trying to finger the kid through his leggings. He pressed hard enough to feel just the tip of his finger start to sink in before he pulled back then thrust again. Kenobi, the blue of his irises, a thin ring around blown pupils, threw his head back and yowled like Alpha-17 had shoved four fingers into him dry. There was a loud clatter as Alpha-17’s armor exploded out of its pile in the corner and flew around the room. The bunk was vibrating as the bolts holding it to the wall whined.

Alpha-17 ground his fingers against Kenobi’s hole giving the kid enough sensation to stretch out the orgasm. Kenobi’s back arched further and further until it seemed like his spine might snap. Alpha-17 kept hold of him supporting the taut muscles which were stiff as durasteel cords. Until, in a single breath, Kenobi collapsed with a whining sob.

Quickly, Alpha-17 gathered Kenobi up from his slump, leaning back to cradle him so Kenobi’s cheek was resting over his heart. He rubbed slow circles over the kid’s shaking back, humming quietly. The front of Kenobi’s leggings were damp, and it was wetting the fabric covering Alpha-17’s thighs. He ignored it for the moment and breathed in deeply to force his own arousal back into its box. Later, he could take some time in the fresher with the mental image of Kenobi’s pretty, pink mouth parted in a perfect O like a dirty promise while tears glinted in those long, dark lashes.

“I take it you enjoyed yourself, sir,” Alpha-17 said quietly, teasing, still moving his hand up and down the dip of Kenobi’s spine. The kid’s shaking had finally tapered off. Kenobi was so limp he might as well have been a day old tooka kit purring on Alpha-17’s chest.

Kenobi stiffened like he’d been hit by a misfiring droid popper. He jerked upright, and Alpha-17 had to scramble to catch him and drag him back onto the bunk. “Easy, kid. Udesii. It’s okay. We’re okay.”

“No…” Kenobi choked out, tensing like he was preparing to pull away again. “Alpha, I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean too… I knew I was going too far. You’ve been so accommodating. I never meant to take advantage.” He paused, thin lipped and pale. “But I did. There’s no apology I could make that would be sufficient...”

“Hey,” Alpha-17 barked. “Ne’johaa, kid. Breathe for me.” He waited until Kenobi drew in three deep, steady breaths in a row. “Okay. Let’s try that again, because I have no idea what you’re apologizing for, general.”

Kenobi crumpled in on himself. It reminded Alpha-17 too much of how his general reacted to General Jinn. Tugging Kenobi closer seemed to help as his baby Jedi let himself be folded into the protected space between the curve of Alpha-17’s body and the wall. “General,” Alpha-17 prompted now that he was confident Kenobi wasn’t going to try to make another run for it.

Kenobi flinched. “That’s just it, Alpha. I’m your general, your commanding officer. If it were any of our men and we found out a natborn superior was… Well, was being sexual with them you would be figuring out the fastest way to get that natborn transferred to a suicide mission.”

It was true. Alpha-17 didn’t countenance natborn officers taking advantage of his brothers and had found ways to enforce that unwritten rule in the past. However, the clones involved had all been standards and CTs at that. “You wouldn’t ever harass one of the standards, kid. So I don’t see the problem.”

“Alpha!” There was a hint of the exasperation which made poking Kenobi so amusing.

“Kenobi, I’ve had time, the security codes to your quarters, and access to an airlock. Do you really think you could force me to do anything more than once?” Alpha-17 was a little offended Kenobi had assumed that a dedication to duty was the same thing as martyrdom. Though, considering the source, the confusion was understandable. “I’m not saying you’d be easy to replace, the opposite actually, but it’s a big galaxy. If you were that kind of shabuir, I would have figured something out.”

Kenobi buried his red face in Alpha-17’s neck. “Oh.”

Alpha-17 ran a fond hand over his hair. “I may be a clone, sir. But I’m alpha batch. No genetic predisposition for unquestioning loyalty. No flash training indoctrinating me to believe in the infallibility of Jedi. You're a good officer because you get results. You’re in my bed because I like you here. Clear enough?”

“Yes, Alpha.” Kenobi’s embarrassment was audible even muffled in Alpha-17’s shoulder. Eventually he found enough remaining dignity to lift his face up again. “Wait, you enjoy what we’ve done?”

Alpha-17 shrugged. “Having an attractive baby Jedi sit on my lap and kiss me while I get to put my hands all over him isn’t exactly a hardship, sir. The fact he’s also a decent strategist and a solid, young officer just means I like talking to you as well. Most other natborns don’t have the tactical sense of a spiced-up monkey-lizard. The last ten minutes being a spectacular deviation from your previous record.”

Kenobi groaned. “Yes, yes, I get the point. Six Jedi, bare hands, trained you to do the same.” Despite his flushed face, he resettled himself into a position that was less hiding and more ‘curled up comfortably with a bedmate’. “Did you actually enjoy…” He paused no doubt searching his fancy Core World vocabulary for the right euphemism.

“For the past few months, the only jerk off fantasy I’ve needed in the fresher was thinking about having you in my lap, moaning, sir. Actually seeing you rub off on me while I touched your ass will probably set me up for the next few decades,” Alpha-17 said bluntly so there was no doubt in Kenobi’s mind where he stood. “You never asked for me to be more than a passive participant, and I prefer to let my partner set the pace unless we’ve talked about it first. The only reason I pushed this time was because you seemed to want more and responded positively when I asked.”

“Oh.” Kenobi pressed his face into Alpha-17’s neck, nuzzling like he wasn’t sure what he wanted from it. “So if we did… this instead of kissing you wouldn’t be opposed?”

Alpha-17 huffed a sigh into the kid’s shaggy hair. “Kenobi…” He took one of the kid’s hands and guided it down so Kenobi could feel exactly how unopposed to the idea Alpha-17 was. The baby Jedi stared at him, torn between shocked horror and overwhelming lust. It didn’t surprise Alpha-17 “Come on, kid. If this is what you want, you can have it.”

Kenobi gingerly wrapped his hand around Alpha-17’s cock as well as he could through Alpha-17’s blacks. He shuddered when Alpha-17’s cock twitched. “Easy, kid,” Alpha-17 murmured, gripping Kenobi’s wrist firmly. “How much of this have you done before?”

“Alpha,” Kenobi protested, flushing the brilliant crimson of the Coruscant Guards’ armor.

“Kenobi,” Alpha-17 retorted, lifting Kenobi’s hand off his cock with an internal sigh of regret. “If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it, kid.”

“I’ve kissed and used my hands on other senior padawans,” Kenobi admitted grudgingly. “Only two, but a couple of times. I… I asked them not to touch me other than kissing.”

Alpha-17 paused where he was rubbing Kenobi’s back. “Sir,” he said sternly, “is there something you want to say to me?”

Kenobi shook his head emphatically. “No! I like… I like it when you touch me.” He caught Alpha-17’s hand in his. “It… feels different when it's you. Like you don’t mind.”

“Because I’m a sithdamn grown up, kid. I care about my partner enjoying themself just as much as I do.” Alpha-17 pulled Kenobi into a hug to get him to settle. It was a crime that no one had taught the kid how to use sex to relax. No wonder he’d turned to Alpha-17. At twenty-one standard, Kenobi should have had his peers in and out of his bed until he settled on one or more long term partners. That was what Alpha-17’s brothers had done. “We’ll figure out what we both like. Together.”

****

Alpha-17 had a habit of getting up to do paperwork after the cuddling that directly followed their liaisons. The first time, Obi-Wan had laid there stiffly expecting to be abandoned now that Alpha-17 had had his fun. However, Alpha-17 always stayed. Sometimes he brought his datapad back to the bunk. More often he settled at the desk in clear view of Obi-Wan while he worked. Alpha-17 also didn’t tend to bother with clothes after sex. He’d sprawl in Obi-Wan’s desk chair with nothing but glorious, brown skin and beautifully thick and defined muscles on display.

“I can feel you watching me, sir,” Alpha-17 said without looking up. “Something I can help you with?”

Obi-Wan blushed, turning his face back into his pillow. Alpha-17 sighed loudly in the quiet of the room. Obi-Wan could clearly hear the creak of the chair followed by the slapping sound of bare feet against durasteel. Then Alpha-17 grabbed Obi-Wan’s shoulder and his hip. There was a moment of disorientation that made Obi-Wan yelp. Then he was in Alpha-17’s arms like a twi’lek on the cover of a racey holonovel.

Alpha-17 settled back on the chair, leaning back to arrange Obi-Wan in his lap so he could work around him. “Alpha!” Obi-Wan protested weakly. He wasn’t wearing any more clothing than Alpha-17, and the press of bare flesh against his own made his still sticky cock stir.

“Are you going to settle, kid?” Alpha-17 asked with a hint of a smirk in his voice. It took Obi-Wan longer than it should have to place the tone. He’d only ever heard Alpha-17 use it with his brothers, the other alphas as grim as Alpha-17 himself unless they thought they were alone. Obi-Wan had caught a snatches of conversation, at first by accident then because Alpha-17 trusted Obi-Wan enough to let him hear him signing off on his comms to his brothers on Kamino. Alpha-17 was being playful.

Obi-Wan was sprawled sideways in Alpha-17’s lap so he could rest his head on one broad, scarred shoulder. It meant that lovely, thick cock was half-hard where it was pressed against the meat of Obi-Wan’s ass. Alpha-17 would ignore it. He did just as much datawork as Obi-Wan, often more so Obi-Wan would have more time to work on tactics and strategies, and all without the aid of the Force. But Alpha-17 also had a taste for long, slow, and teasing.

Too often, Obi-Wan found himself impulsively demanding Alpha-17 move harder and more quickly. Alpha-17 always obeyed. Obi-Wan knew Alpha-17 enjoyed having sex with him. The Force always rang with clear, unshadowed pleasure when they fucked. But they always seemed to be doing what Obi-Wan wanted.

“Alpha,” Obi-Wan turned until he was straddling Alpha-17’s massive thighs. Despite being only a few fingers taller than Obi-Wan, Alpha-17’s bulk made Obi-Wan feel small with legs twice as thick as Obi-Wan’s own and shoulders wide enough Obi-Wan could curl down and hide behind him. Obi-Wan could feel the pull in his hamstrings as he spread his knees until his ass was pressed against the solid mass of muscle beneath him framing his cock, and Alpha-17’s, between their legs.

“Sir?” Alpha-17 rumbled, putting down his datapad and pressing a hand to the small of Obi-Wan’s back to steady him.

“I want you to make me settle down.” Obi-Wan spread his fingers as wide as he could as he gripped Alpha-17’s shoulders.

For the first time Obi-Wan had ever seen, Alpha-17 looked as uncertain as he felt. “Kid,” he said slowly. When Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak again, Alpha-17 pressed two fingers to Obi-Wan’ mouth. The gentle pressure was a silent request for time for Alpha-17 to choose his words. It was a request he made so rarely Obi-Wan never protested.

When Alpha-17 spoke it was without inflection, but Obi-Wan could feel something raw and painful in the words. “What do you mean by ‘make you’?”

“I was thinking you could… I don’t know, hold me in place? Make me sit on your cock and punish me if I wiggled too much?” Obi-Wan said, pushing his fingers into Alpha-17’s thick, curly hair. “I didn’t mean to…”

“I’m not upset, kid. You can always ask.” Alpha-17 leaned into the touch. Obi-Wan’s fingers in his hair was one of the few things Alpha-17 openly showed his preference for. “I won’t hurt you, Obi-Wan. That's a line I won’t cross even for you. Push you around, slap your ass, sure. You want to keep my cock warm while I work? We can try that. I’d enjoy it. But if you move I’m just going to hold on tighter. Nothing more. And if you say stop. We stop.”

Obi-Wan tugged on Alpha-17’s hair pulling him in for a kiss. Alpha-17’s mouth was always chapped from the filters in his helmet that stripped all the moisture out of the air. Obi-Wan caressed the hard, cracked skin with the tip of his tongue to soften it. Alpha-17’s tongue chased Obi-Wan’s when he started to pull away, urging him to stay. They kissed for long minutes, lazy, slick movements which flowed together until Obi-Wan’s chest was no longer tense with anxiety and Alpha-17 was calm again.

“I want to try warming your cock,” Obi-Wan said with his lips against Alpha-17’s ear, nibbling along the shell. “I want to sit there with you so deep inside I can feel you in my belly.”

Alpha-17 smirked leaning back in his chair. “You want it then you do the work, kid.” He picked up his datapad and a stylus holding it pointedly in front of his face.

Obi-Wan buried his laugh in the corded muscles of Alpha-17’s neck since Alpha-17 was hard enough his cock was jabbing into Obi-Wan’s stomach. Still loose and wet since Alpha-17 was a bastard about what constituted ‘enough’ prep, Obi-Wan ran the tips of his fingers over the velvety skin of Alpha-17’s cock before gripping it firmly in his fist. He lifted himself up, bracing on Alpha-17’s shoulder, and shuddered as Alpha-17’s cock split him open for the second time that night.

Despite Alpha-17’s affectation of nonchalance one of his hands gripped Obi-Wan’s hip hard enough to leave marks. Obi-Wan gasped as he was yanked down, impaled on Alpha-17’s cock so quickly he felt it in the back of his throat. Then hands grabbed his knee and arm. Alpha-17 arranged Obi-Wan to his satisfaction so every time Obi-Wan shifted it sent a jolt of pleasure up his spine. He wrapped Obi-Wan’s arms around his neck and guided Obi-Wan’s head to his shoulder in a parody of a relaxing hug.

Alpha-17 grunted, content, and picked up his datapad. “Very nice, sir.” He ran a hand down Obi-Wan’s back like he was stroking a tooka. When he reached the curve of Obi-Wan’s ass the stroke turned into the dull sting of nails being dragged across skin. Obi-Wan arched into the sensation with a choked off gasp as the movement shifted Alpha-17’s cock inside of him, sending sparks through his whole body. Alpha-17 seized Obi-Wan by the back of the neck and dragged him back into place. “You stay right there, sir,” he growled, “and be a good boy for me.”

Obi-Wan gasped for air. It felt like the room had suddenly been filled with vacuum. His skin flashed hot then cold then burning. He could feel Alpha-17’s chuckle vibrate through his bones. “Is that what you want, kid? You want to be sweet for me? Keep my cock nice and warmed up like a good boy so I can fuck you hard before I go to sleep?”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan whispered, nearly combusting as shame flooded through him.

Alpha-17 put his datapad aside so he could hold Obi-Wan tightly enough it was hard to breathe. “I like that idea, kid. I like it a lot, but you never need to do anything you don’t want.”

“I don’t want you to think less of me,” Obi-Wan said, leaning into the comfort Alpha-17 offered. “I don’t want to be too needy.” The words burned as much as his face, but Alpha-17 respected plain speaking especially when it was painful.

Alpha-17’s hand pet up and down Obi-Wan’s back, the rhythm hypnotic. “I’ll never think less of you because you want to get experimental in bed, kid. And you’re a little too self-sufficient sometimes. I respect you, general. What we do to get off won’t change that. If it does, I’ll tell you and we’ll stop. Because this doesn’t get in the way of our duty. Ever.”

Obi-Wan breathed easier. Alpha-17 didn’t lie to him, and Obi-Wan listened to what Alpha-17 said. That was how they worked. “Of course, duty first. But if we could have both…”

“No reason we can’t. Now settle down, sir. I need you to be a good boy and stay quiet while I work.” Alpha-17 guided Obi-Wan’s head back to his shoulder. With a toothy grin he added, “Try to relax if you can.” Then he shifted his hips so Obi-Wan’s stomach twisted from the jolt of pleasure.

With a shiver of delight, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and tried to relax. He focused on the throb of the cock inside him, the echoing thrum of Alpha-17’s heartbeat. All he needed to do was stay still. It was harder than it sounded with Alpha-17’s cock brushing across his prostate with every purposeful shift of the bigger man’s hips. Obi-Wan breathed deeply. He could do this. He could be good, and even if he couldn’t Alpha-17 wouldn’t hold it against him. Alpha-17 had forgiven much bigger mistakes.

“Stop thinking so much, kid,” Alpha-17 ordered fondly. He pressed a kiss to Obi-Wan’s shoulder before nipping the bare skin there. “I want you to count my heartbeats, starting from one hundred and working back. Can you do that for me?”

Obi-Wan nodded into Alpha-17’s neck, shaping the numbers with his lips so Alpha-17 could feel them but not saying them aloud. By twenty-five he could feel himself floating. The sharp, defined edges of Alpha-17’s mind were more real than his own. He felt more than heard Alpha-17 telling him to stop counting. More importantly, he could feel the satisfied refrain of, “Good boy, kid. You’re doing well.”

It seemed like no time passed at all before Alpha-17 lifted him up, cock still buried in Obi-Wan’s ass, and shoved him against the wall. Obi-Wan moaned as he was pinned with his back to the cold durasteel, but it was for Alpha-17 so he didn’t protest. He buried his fingers in Alpha-17’s hair, yanking mindlessly. Alpha-17 bit along Obi-Wan’s collarbones as he thrust. The bright flashes of pain mingled indistinguishably with the nearly painful stabs of pleasure as Alpha-17 chased his own release with Obi-Wan merely an afterthought. Somehow that was even better.

Obi-Wan flew, jerking at Alpha-17’s hair and babbling. Alpha-17 murmured reassurances in response. Then he was kissing Obi-Wan until Obi-Wan was dizzy with lack of air. Obi-Wan bucked, his entire body seizing as he saw white.

Obi-Wan regained awareness slowly. He was clean, dry, the stickiness of sweat and everything else washed away. Alpha-17 was wrapped around him like a living blanket warding off the chill of hyperspace. “Are you back with me?” Alpha-17 asked. As he spoke Obi-Wan realized the sensation he was feeling was Alpha-17 rubbing slow circles on his stomach.

“Yes.” Obi-Wan swallowed as he felt how tacky his tongue was. There was a pause then Alpha-17 was offering him a water pouch. Obi-Wan didn’t even reach forward, leaning his head forward and sucking on the bite valve gratefully. He drank most of it before he moved his head back. “What happened?”

“Altered mental state. It happens to some people when they have intense sex with a partner they trust,” Alpha-17 rumbled reassuringly setting the water aside. “You seem to be one of them. Did you enjoy it?”

Obi-Wan shivered, snuggling back into Alpha-17’s solid frame. Alpha-17 was as real and solid as the Force, even more so on bad days. “Yes. But only because it was you I think.” He couldn’t imagine reaching that strange state of not-quite-relaxation with anyone less trustworthy keeping watch.

“It won’t happen every time,” Alpha-17 reassured Obi-Wan. “But it's something we can try again if you like it.”

“I would like to try it again, but not too soon.” Obi-Wan knew he’d lost time. That things had happened he couldn’t recall completely. “What we did on the chair is something I’d like to do again sooner than that.”

“Cockwarming,” Alpha-17 said, sighing when Obi-Wan blushed. “It's okay to say the words, kid. You probably should if we’re going to add it to the rotation.”

Obi-Wan turned just far enough he could nip Alpha-17’s chin. “Fine. I want to warm your cock while you work, and, when we have some extended downtime, I want to let you take me out of my head again.”

Alpha-17 pressed an absent kiss to the side of Obi-Wan’s neck. “I can manage that, sir.”