The clones all stared blankly at their former general. Drifter was the one who managed to break the silence. “I’m sorry, sir, did you just say a five day long snowball fight?”
Obi-Wan’s smile was perfectly serene. Cody could still see the glint in his eyes. “That’s correct, Drifter. A five day long snowball fight across almost 500 square miles of the Crescent Royal Park. It’s a team event, by my understanding.” He looked round slowly. “Fortunately, thanks to Cody’s foresight, we appear to have just enough of us here to make up a team.”
His brothers continued staring. Cody snorted. “I did tell you it was a festival of joy. And to gear up for cold conditions.”
Gardener gaped at him. “You said it was a diplomatic mission! You said you only wanted so many of us along because the General…” He clamped his mouth shut hurriedly.
Obi-Wan gave Cody a sidelong glance. “Because I what?”
Cody looked straight back at him. “Because you attract trouble like a newborn tooka in a rancor pit.”
“Hmmm. I’m not altogether sure I’m flattered by that remark. Still. What do you think, ladies and gentlemen?” He swept his eyes over the clones. “Are we up for a challenge?”
“It’s not going to interfere with your diplomacy if we win, is it?” Elsewhere asked cautiously.
Lacey elbowed him. “When we win,” she corrected him, smirk spreading across her face.
“On the contrary,” Obi-Wan told them. “It would be an insult if we didn’t give this competition our all.”
“Our all….?” Gardener was gaping again. “They do know who we are, right, sir? Who you are?”
Cody's smile was tight and just a little vicious. “They’ve been warned.”
“Well then, if that’s everything…” True to the apparent spirit of the season, Obi-Wan’s voice was brimming with joy. “Let the games begin.”
Anakin woke to the feeling of the datapad being slid out of his hands. Opening his eyes, he smiled lazily up at his wife.
“Bedtime went well, I see,” she whispered, nodding to the children tucked in and sleeping on either side of him.
“They’re asleep,” he offered with what he hoped was roguish charm.
“But not in bed,” she countered, carefully lifting Luke – by far the heavier sleeper - up and sitting in beside him. Luke just sighed and snuggled into his mother’s lap.
“So how is the galaxy today?” he asked, taking her hand and gently kissing it. “Is it going to survive without your brilliant leadership over the senate break?”
Padme sighed and closed her eyes. “As long as no-one says or does anything stupid for the next two weeks I think we’ll be fine.”
“I’ll warn Jar-Jar,” he smirked, and she elbowed him hard in the ribs.
“Be nice,” she scolded. “Oh, I saw Rex today. He’s doing his turn as the senate representative for the Clone Union, though he didn’t seem very happy with it, poor man.”
Anakin winced. “Not everyone is drawn to politics, angel.” Even before Sidious was unmasked a lot of the clones had been wary of galactic politics and politicians. And now, even the most diplomatic and politically minded among them preferred to work directly with planetary governments rather than going through the senate.
“I know. I invited him for dinner next week, when Obi-Wan and Cody get back. I thought Ahsoka could come along to, it’s been a while since we’ve seen her.”
He beamed. It would be great to see Snips again. “And who knows,” he suggested. “Maybe we can persuade one of them to babysit and we could actually go out on a date for once?”
She smiled at him, and opened her mouth to say something, but just then Leia woke up.
“Mama!” she shrieked in delight. “Mama’s home!”
Of course that woke Luke up, and then the two of them were climbing on top of Padme, chattering away about all the secret, special surprises Anakin was planning for her for Life Day, and she was listening and laughing.
He met his wife’s eyes over his children’s heads. He couldn’t imagine being happier.
The force was lighter than it had been in years, Mace thought as he ran through his katas, enjoying the clean feeling of each separate movement. It made him wonder just how long there had been Sith on Coruscant, casting their pervasive influence over the very heart of the Jedi and the Republic. Palpatine they knew about, but who had there been before that? Their investigations had only turned up possibilities, there were no certainties to be found.
But that was the past and the present was bright. The Temple was more full than it had been in years, with all the clones who had chosen to stay, even allowing for the fact that more than a few Jedi had chosen to leave the Order after the war, either through disillusionment or because the constant stresses had left them too weary to continue. And just as the clones were always welcome in the Temple, so too were Jedi and former Jedi on the world that the clones had been gifted for their own, Vodeworld as they were currently, and Mace hoped temporarily, calling it. Bearing in mind that it currently supported more than half of the former GAR, it was a remarkably peaceful place. He had been there a couple of times, spending time with old friends whose hurts were slowly healing. It was a place where tired soldiers, frightened refugees, and weary Jedi were coming together to make something new. Something good.
And here too they were building something new. Previously the Jedi Order had consisted of ten thousand Jedi, and only a proportion of them were actually active in the field. But now they had almost two million clone ‘laymembers’, as they were being called, and they could make more difference than ever before. Last week the Council had received a request for aid from Scarif, a small world in the Mid Rim which had been hit by a disastrous meteor impact. Previously he might have been able to send a Knight or two, if any could be spared, if the Senate agreed. Now he had been able to send five thousand well-trained and eager volunteers with vast experience in search and rescue missions. Not a single one of them could do what a Jedi could, but a thousand of them, a hundred of them, could do so much more.
He caught sight of Ponds across the salle and waved him over, hoping for an opportunity to spar before dinner.
The force was lighter than it had ever been.
“So who wants to decorate for Life Day?” Waxer asked cheerfully and immediately a dozen hands shot up among the younglings.
“Me! Me! Me!”
Boil scoffed a little as long ropes of twisted ribbon and shiny stars were handed out and immediately strewn across the floor, the furniture and the walls. “That’s right, get them all excited before bedtime. That never comes back and bites us in the – “
“ – riddur! Language!” Waxer hissed at him, making frantic hand gestures.
He rolled his eyes. “Bites us in the ear,” he finished pointedly.
Waxer stared at him. “In the ear?”
Ah, good. He smirked. “I was thinking of that time on Felucia when you – “
“ – right, right,” Waxer said hurriedly, even as he accepted a string of stars being wrapped around his neck by little Tiva. “I take your point, no need to rake up ancient history.”
Morvhess giggled slightly from zir place on the sofa where ze was carefully sewing a button back on Numa’s coat. Ze didn’t speak, but ze loved the younglings almost as much as Waxer did. Apparently ze had lost zir padawan in the war. He didn’t want to imagine, and he took care to smile when he looked over at zir. “See? Morvhess is on my side.”
“Ha! Morvhess knows I’m the pretty one,” Waxer crowed. “Isn’t that right, Numa?” He picked the not-so-little-anymore twi’lek girl up and started twirling her around the room, followed by the other excited younglings. Boil had to admit, it was nice having Numa here. Usually her parents would have picked her up by now, but they were having a night to themselves and had happily agreed to let her spend the night in the crèche with her friends. Boil still couldn’t really get to grips with the whole ‘two parents one child’ thing. There were a lot of orphans who found their way to Vodeworld, and the vod’e raised them communally. Not like they’d been raised, and not like they understood the Jedi raised their children, but the way they wanted their children to be raised. Children were the future. Children were everything.
He felt a tug at his sleeve and looked down to see Kam looking up at him, holding another star and pointing towards the ceiling. “You want up, you little menace?” he asked, bending down and threatening tickles, and the youngling giggled delightedly. “Alright. Let’s show Waxer and Numa how it’s done.”
The sound of a communicator going off woke Cody out of a very deep and restful sleep. He groaned in protest as Obi-Wan wriggled out from under his outstretched arm and reached for the nightstand. “We’re on vacation. Leave it.”
“It could be important.”
“The war’s over and we’re on vacation,” he emphasised. “Let someone else take the hit.”
“It’s from Anakin and Padme,” Obi-Wan said, looking at the comm unit.
And that was really the end of the matter. Family was family, after all. He sat up and tried to help Obi-Wan arrange the blanket over his shoulders to hide his naked chest because really, his lover still had a sense of what was proper that baffled him at times, but Obi-Wan just shot him an amused look, and he realised that the blanket was staying up with no apparent help from external forces. So sometimes, in the middle of the night, when he hadn’t had any kaff, he forgot weird force powers – sue him.
It wasn’t Anakin or Padme who appeared when Obi-Wan answered the comm. It was Luke and Leia, in their sleeping clothes and huddled together over a comm unit. “Uncle Obi,” they chorused, and Cody relaxed a little. They didn’t sound frightened or distressed. Which meant that they really had better have a good reason for calling at osik hundred hours in the morning.
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. “As lovely as it always is to see you two, what are you doing out of bed and do your parents know you’re up?”
Twin lip wobbles of upset and obstinance. Of course. They were Anakin Skywalker’s kids alright. “Leia got paint on my starship – “
“ – Luke said I wasn’t going to get any sweets for Life Day,” the two said in unison, scowling at each other. “And we were fighting – “
“ – disagreeing – “
“ – fighting with each other, and Luke didn’t want to anymore, so I said we should call you, because Daddy says that’s what you do when you go away. You’re the Negotiator. You stop people fighting.”
Cody felt a twitch in his eye. That was certainly one way of putting it. He leaned into view of the twins. “Why don’t you ask your father what he thinks about people waking your uncle up in the middle of the night when he’s actually getting some sleep?” he suggested.
“Uncle Cody!” the twins cried out, delighted, and apparently that little lesson had gone right over their adorable heads.
“Alright.” Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “Before Cody starts recruiting any more people into his campaign to get me to rest more, I do think you should both stop fighting. It sounds like you both did something to hurt each other, and I know neither of you like it when your twin is hurt, so why don’t you apologise and give each other a hug?” They did so, and Cody quietly leaned in again to get a holo capture. He had a lot of brothers who didn’t get to see their niece and nephew enough. “Leia, I can promise you that you’re definitely getting sweets on Life Day, and Luke, why don’t you ask your father to help fix your ship up in the morning? I’m absolutely certain he has something that can remove paint.”
“Okay,” they said cheerfully. “Goodnight Uncle Obi, goodnight Uncle Cody.”
“Goodnight.” He sank back down onto the pillows as the call ended. “Suppose it was too much to hope for an uninterrupted night’s rest.” Obi-Wan was smiling. “What?”
“Well,” his lover purred. “I was just thinking. We’re awake now.”
He grinned. “Oh, good,” he said. “Time to negotiate.”
A pillow hit him in the face an instant later.