The sun had been setting for a few hours now but the bonfires cast plenty of light across the beach, letting Cody see the hundreds of vode here, whole, happy and enjoying themselves. Talking, laughing, dancing, swimming, eating and drinking – they were alive and they were safe and that meant this might just be the best day in this entire kriffing war. He took a deep breath; the air was alive with the smell of barbecued meats and fish and, of course, alcohol. Every vod he saw had a bottle – mostly ale, but there were a few contraband spirits floating around, not to mention the stuff that Trico made in the crawlspace beneath the engine room that all the officers pretended really, really hard not to know about. Music blared out across the bay – at the moment it was a fast dance number, but the brothers who preferred vocaloid looked like they were preparing to wage a new campaign to wrestle the sound system controls back, and in the distance he could see a group of dark orchestral fans plotting. Honestly, Cody didn't mind what they were listening to. He was just enjoying the moment.
The fact that the entire of the 212th had a couple of days R&R that just happened to coincide with them finishing setting up a staging area on the incredibly beautiful tropical moon of Kaleto, just as a large shipment of what might be called 'luxuries' were delivered to General Kenobi, and while the 501st arrived to take the watch, might seem like a genuine miracle. Might. If Cody wasn't fully aware that it was the culmination of a three week strategy that he and his Jedi had worked on as assiduously as any military campaign. They'd been bouncing constantly from one hotspot to the next for months now, and the men needed a break.
“Enjoying yourself, Commander?” Waxer asked, grinning as he came up draped half over Boil, both wearing blacks pulled down to their waists, both holding bottles of ale.
“Yes,” he said, smiling back at them. “It's good to get a break.”
“Too right it is. Thank you for this.”
He shrugged and waved his hand as if to dismiss the gratitude. They all benefited.
“So we're sure nothing on this planet is toxic, right?” Boil asked.
“That's what all the reports say,” he allowed.
“Well, that's good,” Boil said cheerfully. “Because Chuck and Bravo are holding a competition to see who can catch the biggest fish with his mouth.”
He sighed resignedly. “Of course they are. Are you telling me this because it's going to end badly so I should put a stop to it, or because it's going to end badly so I should go get a front row seat?”
Waxer wiggled his hand. “Eh, it's pretty hilarious but I don't think we need to worry. Helix is there to provide adult supervision.”
“You know he'll kill them if they drown themselves,” Boil chimed in.
The music made a sudden shift to something shrill and twinkly, and a chorus of complaints went up. “There's going to be a fight by the end of the night.”
“We need to blow off some steam,” Waxer said with a shrug. “We're heading further down the beach. Apparently Whistler's doing his senatorial impressions.”
“I didn't hear that and I don't know anything about it,” Cody said decidedly. “I need to talk to those people sometimes.”
“Yeah, but do any of them ever remember you got a name?” Boil muttered, adding. “Sorry, sir,” as he saw the look on Cody's face.
Cody wandered in the opposite direction, accepting a slice of deep fried purple fruit from Mouse on the way past. The senate was about the last thing he wanted to think about on such a nice evening. He took a bite of fruit. Hmmm – apparently it had been fried in brandy.
There were more than just brothers from the 212 here, he noticed. Most of his brothers were, like him, wearing only blacks, but some had dug civilian wear out from somewhere, and a few had declared it a clothing-optional event. But there were some wearing armour, and amongst them he could see a scattering of blue paint.
He sidled up to where Fives and Echo were chatting with Lacey. “Evening, vod. If I were to call Rex right now where would he tell me you're supposed to be?”
“Here, sir,” Echo answered smartly. “General Skywalker said that any of us not on duty could take a transport and head planetside for this.”
Technically it wasn't Skywalker's party. But he wasn't going to resent any of his vod having a good time. He nodded. “As long as someone is still up there making sure the damn seppies don't appear and kick all our asses.”
“Nothing worse than party-crashing clankers,” Fives agreed, with just enough of a grin that Cody was convinced there was a story there.
Before he could figure out just what that might be there was a loud whoop and a crash of broken glass behind him and he turned to see Elsewhere juggling a dozen ale bottles with an expression of intense concentration, another couple of bottles already lying broken at his feet. A small crowd of brothers had gathered and were shouting encouragement. Oh, this was going to end disastrously. It always did.
“I've told you before, vod, if I have to write up any more juggling related injury reports you're going to find yourself on latrine duty from now until Dooku quits the war to open an etiquette school.”
Unwisely, Elsewhere smirked at him. “Don't worry, Commander. I promise I've got the hang of it this time – oh!”
In a moment everyone had seen coming, Elsewhere let a bottle slip out of his hand and, in his rush to catch it, he fumbled the rest, In a moment no one had seen coming the bottles stopped falling about two feet off the ground and instead just hovered there.
“You never said you were a Jedi, vod,” Drifter breathed admiringly.
Cody groaned. “Someone cut him off,” he pleaded as the bottles floated back up and towards any brother that didn't currently have a drink. He accepted the one bobbing in front of his face and hefted it thoughtfully. “And next time, Elsewhere, at least use empties. You don't want to see the General's generosity go to waste, do you?”
“Yes, Commander,” Elsewhere said, then blinked. “I mean, no Commander?”
Cody shook his head and walked away into the darkness beyond the bonfire, looking round intently. Ah. There.
He walked up to a stack of crates a little over head height and looked up. “Having fun, sir?”
Obi-Wan peered over the edge and looked down at him, eyes twinkling. “Yes, I do believe I am. It's good to see the men so relaxed.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Mind if I join you?”
“Be my guest,” Obi-Wan invited, shuffling to the side slightly, and Cody hauled hiself up effortlessly and wordlessly passed his Jedi the bottle. “Thank you,” Obi-Wan said, taking a swig of ale and passing it back. Cody noted that there were couple of bottles balanced on the crate pile. “An etiquette school, Commander?”
“I thought it might keep the Count occupied,” he said, straight-faced.
Obi-Wan chuckled. “I do believe it would suit him nicely. I may just suggest it to him the next time we bump into each other.”
Cody could picture it. The sassy little smirk on Obi-Wan's face, the disdain on Dooku's, blue and red lightsabers clashing. “Please don't mention my name if you do.”
“I do seem to recall that when I was far younger he lectured me for what felt like hours for using the wrong fork,” Obi-Wan mused. “He could give us all lessons on how to betray everyone politely.”
“These days he'd probably just stab you with the fork.” He shook his head. “No.”
“No?” Obi-Wan blinked.
“It's too nice a night to spend talking about Dooku,” he explained with a smile. “Thank you again for all of this, sir.”
Obi-Wan waved him away, much the same way that Cody himself had to Waxer and Boil earlier. “Come now, Cody, you were at least as much involved as I was.”
“I didn't buy the drinks or the food,” he frowned. “Can I ask where you got the money from?” He'd wondered that since the supplies arrived. He very much doubted it was Republic-issued, and he didn't think the Jedi stipend stretched that far.
“Hmm.” Obi-Wan stroked his beard calmly. “Do you remember when I was inconveniently stranded on that freighter with Hondo Ohnaka last month?”
Cody pulled a face. “Yes.”
“Well apparently no one told him not to play Sabaac with a Jedi.”
He turned to stare. “Only you, General.” He shook his head. “I assume at some point he's going to try to get even.”
“I'm not so sure, actually,” Obi-Wan said brightly. “He asked me what I was going to spend the money on, and when I told him it was for a party I thought he was going to cry. He's very proud of me.”
And really, Cody had no idea what to do with that information. He supposed they were lucky Hondo hadn't shown up to crash the damn party. “So in all the etiquette you were taught, is there a word for someone who hides in the shadows at his own party?”
“It's not my party,” Obi-Wan insisted. “I did this for you. For all of you. So you can relax and have a good time for once.”
“We're not the only ones who need to relax,” Cody pointed out. “Come on.”
“I wouldn't want to intrude,” Obi-Wan demurred.
“You wouldn't be,” he said. “And for the record, we all relax a lot more when we know where you are. Please, Obi-Wan. Come and join us.”
Obi-Wan looked at him for a long moment but Cody was open and sincere. He knew that the Jedi – or at least the good ones – wanted to give the vode room for their own traditions and culture to evolve and develop, and he appreciated that, he really did. But they'd been made for the Jedi. The Jedi were a part of their culture even as they apart from it.
And besides. He enjoyed Obi-Wan's company.
He extended his hand and the two of them jumped down lightly onto the sand. The music had changed to some old ballad at some point. He couldn't imagine that would last for long.
“You want to go and see Chuck catch a fish in his mouth?” he asked as they strolled down the beach towards the lights and the music.
Obi-Wan laughed. “On purpose this time?”
“General!” Gregor cheered, noticing them and raising a glass, and all the other clones around him followed suit. “It's good to see you.”
“It's just Obi-Wan tonight, we're all of duty,” the General protested, accepting the bottle that Sixer passed him. “Oh,” he exclaimed, looking at the trooper's bare arm. “That's new, isn't it?”
Cody looked to see a fresh tattoo of crashing waves in the shape of a dragon on Sixer's arm. It definitely looked new. He also saw what he knew his Jedi had not; that the tattoo was done in the exact same shade of blue as Obi-Wan's lightsaber. “Very nice,” he said gruffly. “Gregor, that your work?” The style looked familiar, and he knew that Gregor had been trying to track down that colour for a while now, by popular demand.
“Yup,” his brother agreed, holding up his tattoo kit lazily. “And don't worry; I'm still pretty sober and I'm making sure anyone who asks for a tattoo can at least say their own designation. Unlike Crash there.” He jerked with his head to where Crash was lying full length on sand behind them. Apparently he was one of the brother's who'd decided not to bother with clothes tonight. For a moment he agonised, wondering whether he could somehow bury the naked trooper in the sand before his Jedi noticed – but when Crash suddenly stumbled up and towards them Obi-Wan didn't even blink.
“General,” Crash exclaimed, loud and happy. “Can I get 'Kriff the Sith' tattooed across my face? Gregor won't let me.”
“Because you're drunk, vod,” Gregor called fondly.
Obi-Wan's lips twitched. “Have you asked Commander Cody?”
Crash turned blearily towards him. “Commander. C'n I get 'Kriff the Sith' tattooed across my face?”
Cody raised an eyebrow. “Have you asked General Kenobi?”
Nodding eagerly, Crash turned back to Obi-Wan before pausing, looking confused and a little heartbroken.
Predictably his soft-hearted Jedi cracked first. “It's your face, Crash. You can get whatever you want on it. But your vode want to make sure you don't do anything you'll regret tomorrow. I'm sure if you still want it when you're sobered up Gregor will be happy to oblige.”
“Sure,” Gregor said with a grin. “I could even make it pretty for you. Just wait till tomorrow.”
Apparently satisfied, Crash sat back down, narrowly avoiding slumping backwards into the fire. A moment later and he was snoring.
“You know,” Obi-Wan said cheerfully. “I imagine having that written on his face could get him out of all sorts of things. There's no way he could ever be on senator-sitting duty for a start.”
There was just the wrong amount of speculation in his voice. Cody sighed. “I'm fairly certain that the High Council wouldn't like it if you got an obscene tattoo, sir.”
Obi-Wan smirked. “Oh, but can't you just picture their faces, Cody? It might just be worth it.”
“Would you like a tattoo, General,” Gregor asked brightly. “Nothing like Crash wanted,” he added quickly as everyone looked at him. “Just, you know, offering.”
“Your work is very beautiful,” Obi-Wan said hesitantly, and you really didn't need the Force to hear the temptation in his voice. “I wouldn't want to intrude or put you out though.”
“Not at all,” Gregor said with a laugh, apparently now fully committed to the idea. “It would be my pleasure.”
“Then, yes,” Obi-Wan said, sounding equally pleased. “I would like that very much.” He stood up and pulled off his outer robes, laying them flat on the ground before stripping naked to the waist and lying down on top of his robes.
Cody wasn't the only brother gaping.
“Uh, do you know what you might want, General?” Gregor asked.
Obi-Wan wasn't looking at any of them. “212,” he said quietly. “On my shoulder blade, just below the other one.”
Cody blinked and looked sharply and sure enough Obi-Wan already had a tattoo on his shoulder – the symbol of the Jedi order in red. “When did you get that?” he wondered aloud.
“When I was decidedly underage,” Obi-Wan told him with a small laugh. “My Master hit the roof. I thought he was going to tear through the entire lower levels of Coruscant to find the artist who did it.”
“Eh, might not have been the most ethical artist, but he did good work,” Gregor commented as he prepped the area. “Do you just want the number?”
“Mmm.” Obi-Wan tilted his hand slightly. “With some flair. I'll leave it in your very capable hands, Gregor. I trust you.”
Cody could see the way that made Gregor beam. “Of course, General.”
“Nothing too large though,” Obi-Wan added with a regretful sigh. “Every now and then I have to go undercover and the fewer artificial skin patches I have to use the better. Those things itch.”
No doubt. And Cody thought about some of the missions he was aware of and internally shuddered at the idea that his Jedi was running around with such an obvious identifying mark.
Gregor nodded thoughtfully, evidently already planning, and a moment later the air was full of the buzzing of the tattoo gun.
He leaned back and drank, absent-mindedly turning Crash over onto his side when he rolled flat on his back. “I hope Helix has something good for hangovers ready,” he commented.
“The last time I saw Helix he was drinking moonshine out of Trico's bucket,” Waxer said cheerfully, and Cody was just buzzed enough to not have noticed when his brother got there. “Don't think you can hope for any help from that direction, Commander.”
“Don't suppose the General's foresight extended towards hangover remedies,” Elsewhere joked.
“Afraid not,” Obi-Wan called. “You see,” he continued innocently. “Through careful application of the Force, a Jedi can filter out the toxins from alcohol that would cause ill health the morning after.”
There was silence. “Now that's just showing off,” Elsewhere said eventually, and Cody glared at him.
“It is a bit,” Obi-Wan admitted. “Of course, remembering to do it the night before is a whole different story.”
“Why couldn't the Kaminoans build us with resistance to hangovers?” Boil asked.
Waxer snorted. “You could always suggest it to them. Maybe it would spare the next batches.”
Boil looked horrified. “The vod'ika are never going to get drunk,” he declared.
Sampson came jogging up. “General incoming,” he warned, panting.
Obi-Wan raised his head curiously, causing Gregor to swear and lightly push him back down. Cody guessed that Gregor had completely forgotten he wasn't tattooing a brother right now. “I'm already here,” he pointed out.
“Uh, no, not you, General.” Sampson explained, blinking curiously at the half-naked Jedi. “General Skywalker is on his way.”
Kriff. Cody gritted his teeth, looking round quickly. Everyone was drunk and no one was in uniform – Crash was still splayed out and naked.
“Peace, Cody,” Obi-Wan mumbled. “We're not trying to impress Anakin.”
“Why not?” Skywalker demanded, walking up and surveying the company with a smirk. “I could stand to be a little impressed.”
“Then impress yourself, my former padawan,” Obi-Wan said in a tone of one conferring great wisdom. Cody wasn't so sure. By the expression on his face, neither was Skywalker.
“Obi-Wan, you're out of uniform,” Skywalker started to say, then stopped, staring. “Are you getting a tattoo?”
“Well done, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said with a smile in his voice. “Your powers of observation continue to improve.”
Skywalker's face was a picture. Cody spotted Fives surreptitiously taking a holosnap. “You can't get a tattoo!”
“I'm fairly certain I can,” Obi-Wan said bemusedly.
By the looks of things, Skywalker's whole worldview was being rearranged. “What does that – 212? And is that a trooper helmet? And a lightsaber?”
“Anakin, I haven't seen it yet,” Obi-Wan complained. “I was looking forward to being surprised by Gregor's efforts.”
Skywalker at least looked abashed. “Sorry, Obi-Wan. Sorry, Gregor. It looks amazing, it really does, I just wasn't expecting it. You don't really seem like the tattoo type.”
“This will be my third,” Obi-Wan said calmly, but Cody could hear the mischief in his voice, and Skywalker wasn't the only one looking. “Now come on, sit down, grab a drink and stop looming.”
Not surprisingly, Skywalker did so, slumping to the ground heavily. “You couldn't decide to throw a party somewhere with less sand?”
“People come from all over the galaxy to enjoy these beaches, sir,” Waxer spoke up.
Skywalker didn't seem impressed, but at least he was focused on his eternal hatred of sand now, and not the tattoo taking shape on Obi-Wan's back.
212 below a lightsaber and a trooper helmet. Except, Cody thought, as Gregor carefully shaded in the gold, it wasn't just any trooper helmet. It was Cody's helmet.
He smiled and took a drink and carefully didn't meet his brother's eye.