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Suns Tempered by Devotion

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Cody’s first general is not a Jedi.

Cody is a Captain, and his General is a wiry man with steel grey eyes – a former director of administration of the Republic Senate Guard – and his name is Manev Kett.

The first time General Kett summons Cody to his private quarters, Cody has no idea what to expect. He has before never stepped inside a home that belongs to one single individual. But nothing about the order gives him pause, and why would he think twice when he can simply follow it? Besides, it’s an honour, surely.

And so it is that he stands, helmet off, in front of General Kett on the rough grey carpet of the General’s spacious bedroom, while the General looks him over, and Cody simply waits.

“State your designation,” the General says at length.

“CC-2224, sir.”

Kett picks at his teeth, then nods lazily at the floor in front of him.

“On your knees, trooper.”

Cody drops to the floor, letting his armour cushion the impact, and is rewarded with a miniscule smile of approval. Kett steps forward and takes his face in his hand. Cody tilts his chin up, submitting to the inspection. The General thumbs at the corner of his eyebrow, where Cody’s new scar sits bright red against his skin. He clicks his tongue.

“Fresher off the batch than the boots I walk in,” he says, “and already damaged goods. Shame.”

He prods his thumb harder into Cody’s browbone before retracting his hand, as if making a show of pushing Cody’s face off of himself rather than retreating. He holds Cody’s gaze sternly as he takes a step back and undoes the front of his trousers.

“Do you serve the Republic?”

“Yes, sir!”

Cody holds himself ramrod straight as the reply snaps out of him. The corner of Kett’s mouth twitches.

“Every done this before, trooper?”

If there was any doubt in Cody’s mind what ‘this’ refers to, the last remnants of it disappear when Kett reaches down his trousers and pulls out his half-hard cock. Something prickles along Cody’s spine.

“No, sir.”

Kett lets out a huff of air, half-way between a sigh and a snicker.

“Don’t worry, love, I’ll break you in good. Now wet your lips and wrap ‘em around your teeth.”

 

 


 

 

Cody’s second general is a Jedi with smiling blue eyes and a voice made for laughter. On the very first day that Cody steps off the transport onto the Negotiator as Commander of the 212th, Kenobi asks him about his fading scar. He listens to Cody’s story with kind attention, as all of Cody’s words seem to want to stick to the back of his tongue, and Cody is certain that the General has never had to endure a worse storyteller.

When General Skywalker joins them the next day, Kenobi makes Cody retell the story. This time, however, he throws Cody even further off balance by interjecting little details of his own. Later, long after Skywalker has left, Cody finally works up the courage to voice his protests, only for his General to laugh and rest a hand on his shoulder.

“Any good story deserves embellishment. It’s entertainment, Cody, not a mission report.”

Cody shakes his head. But he soon resigns himself to telling his story, embellishments and all, to every person on the ship that his General conjures up, and somehow Kenobi’s method works. By the end of the week, Cody finds that his words flow as easily in a room full of nat borns as they do in the company of his brothers.

The nat borns, in turn, look at his scarred face and address him by name.

 

Cody’s new battalion arrives after he does. It’s early morning local time when General Kenobi takes Cody to inspect the first three of his companies – the fourth one is still in transit.

“As a Jedi, I was trained to be a keeper of peace,” Kenobi tells him as they walk down the hall to the hangar. “I may be your commanding officer, but I’m afraid your command experience exceeds mine.”

The admission gives Cody pause, but he keeps his face carefully schooled, squeezing his bucket a little tighter under his arm.

“I don’t know about that, sir.”

Kenobi stops, and Cody comes to a halt beside him.

“Well, I do,” he says, meeting Cody’s eyes with kind curiosity. “Why do you think I requested you, Commander?”

Cody straightens.

“Hadn’t given that much thought, sir.”

Kenobi looks him over before he resumes walking.

“Well,” he says, “it is my understanding that everyone looks for different things in an executive officer. But my first priority will always be to minimise the loss of life. You’ve proven yourself to be meticulous and careful. You don’t take unnecessary risks. In fact, Master Ti couldn’t recommend you highly enough. She’d have put you straight under my command, had I been ready for it.”

The hangar doors slide open, and Cody suddenly stands before hundreds upon hundreds of brothers in white, waiting silently in perfect lines. Kenobi’s words fade into the back of his mind as the full weight of this new responsibility settles inside him. This is what he’s been trained for. The purpose for which his life has been purchased.

“I can take it from here,” he says, his own voice sounding distant to his ears.

Kenobi nods.

“Ori’jate, Commander,” he says with a smile, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, and gives Cody the go-ahead with an exaggerated wave of his hand.

Very good.

 

General Kenobi speaks Mando’a with a melodic accent that Cody comes to learn is characteristic of Sundari, the capital of Mandalore. Cody’s own Mando’a is crude, and harsh from lack of use – the polar opposite of the eloquence with which Kenobi conducts himself in everything. When Kenobi’s prompts him in Mando’a, Cody usually responds in Basic. It is, of course, only a matter of time before his General asks him about it.

“We were taught to speak Basic,” Cody says, shrugging. “The Mando’a we learned was traded down from older batches, only ever used among ourselves. Any slip up in public was beaten out of us, figuratively speaking. Ah, well, mostly.”

Kenobi shakes his head incredulously.

“And no one thought being skilled in multiple languages would actually come in handy for you?”

“Sure,” Cody says. “As long as none of them were Mando’a.”

He doesn’t tell his General that his Mando’a is full of curses and faulty grammar and limited to a life in the barracks. He doesn’t tell his General these things, but Kenobi still looks at him knowingly, and simply points him to the computer’s library of linguistic resources. It’s an encouragement – not an order.

The resource library proves useful for other things as well. As a Commander, Cody finds himself spending significantly more time in offices and war rooms than he ever did as a Captain. His education is well-rounded, his training thorough to a fault, but the Kaminoans never expected their clone commanders to be quite so involved with the administrative side of war. Now, Cody reads and practises, using the reports of his superior officers as templates – until his own writing adheres so precisely to form that General Kenobi, when in a rush, will forward Cody a draft or two of his own and let Cody finish them for him.

 

 


 

 

A month and three days pass before the General invites Cody to his quarters. They have been working several hours overtime going over battle plans, when Cody the catches the Jedi yawning out of the corner of his eye.

“Let’s get these files to General Skywalker and call it a night,” he suggests. “First shift on the Resolute starts any minute now.”

The General scratches his beard.

“You make a compelling argument,” he sighs.

Cody smiles at that.

“You go ahead, sir. I’ll turn in once I’ve transferred the files.”

The General bids him good night, and Cody bends over the console as the sound of Kenobi’s footsteps recedes – only to quickly straighten and look up when they return again.

“Come to think of it,” Kenobi says lightly, “I’ve still got that bottle I got from the Ithorian ambassador. I’d rather not drink it by myself.”

Laughter is lining his words, and his eyes glitter. His previous tiredness seems all but gone.

“How about you join me?”

“Very good, sir,” Cody replies with a nod.

And it is. Cody is smart enough to consider himself a lucky man. He looks at his General and knows there’s no one he would rather serve.

 

General Kenobi’s quarters on the Negotiator are surprisingly modest. In addition to the standard issue officer’s desk and storage spaces, there’s a slightly wider bunk and an armchair with a small table. There’s also a low, round seat, possibly made for some specific purpose that Cody fails to identify.

The busies himself with his bucket, giving its surface a perfunctory look-over before putting it down by the door. When he looks up, Kenobi is smiling at him. It’s calm, playful, reassuring, and Cody feels his own shoulders begin to drop. Everything will be fine. Hell, he’s happy to be here.

There’s a gentle clinking when Kenobi sets two narrow glasses on the table and uncorks the slender decorated bottle in his hand. The liquid is a dark green colour, and Cody finds himself intrigued. He has never drunk with a nat born before, and has certainly never drunk anything that looked this expensive. His musings are cut short when Kenobi’s comlink beeps. The General lets out what sounds like a curse, too softly for Cody to make out the word.

“I’ll just be a minute. Make yourself at home, dear.”

He throws Cody a lopsided smile and claps him on the shoulder when he passes him on the way out. Then he’s gone, leaving Cody to stand around like a di’kut in the middle of his quarters, and Cody’s thoughts are racing a million miles an hour. His General wants him, that much is beyond clear. Is he expected to prepare – or is the drinking perhaps supposed to happen first? He doesn’t think Kenobi would discipline him if he got it wrong, but he wants to keep his General happy, wants to keep watching him smile. He lets his eyes sweep the room, as if there would be a clue left for him somewhere – something to help him figure out what is wanted of him – but nothing catches his attention. Well, then. The least he can do is remove his armour.

He strips out of it, going faster than he’d like in the absence of knowing when the General will be back. When he’s down to his blacks, he takes another look around the room. What would be the best way to present himself? The armchair looks nice, but it’s already occupied by an old-looking book of some sort that he won’t risk moving, and he still doesn’t know what to make of the low, round seat. The bunk is probably more appropriate, but Cody would hate to be presumptuous. This is the General’s personal space. Getting on his bed without his permission might still be too great a breach of protocol.

In the end, Cody opts for the floor. He gets down on his knees and leans back against the side of the bunk, palms resting on the top of his thighs. Once seated, he takes a moment to close his eyes. To breathe, until the knot in his stomach dissolves into something not unlike anticipation.

A minute vibration moves through the floor, and Cody looks toward the door. It slides open, and the General steps back inside. When he spots Cody on the floor, he freezes. Cody frowns, unable to interpret the expression on his General’s face beyond the fact that something is clearly wrong.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he says quickly. “I wasn’t sure how you wanted me.”

His General stares at him. Cody searches his face for – boredom, disapproval, anything. Kenobi shakes his head as if to dislodge something.

“How I – wanted you?”

Surprise? Is that it? Kenobi is surprised at his readiness to serve?

Cody corrects his posture and adds what he hopes is an easy smile to his face.

“Don’t worry, General, I know the ropes. I’ll be good for you.”

That turns out to be the wrong thing to say. To Cody’s dismay, the General’s face slowly contorts into an expression that can only be described as disgust. Cody has been hardened in training and battle, but now the humiliation burns behind his eyes. He can’t remember a time when he’s ever been made to feel so small.

He makes a decision and scrambles to his feet. Perhaps he can still put out the fire and salvage this wreck.

“I apologise, sir. It’s clear I’ve misunderstood the situation. It won’t happen again.”

The General pinches the bridge of his nose, then runs his palm down his face, eyes screwed shut. He lets out a deep sigh. When he looks at Cody again, his face is still tight, as if he’s in physical pain.

“Cody,” he says, and his voice is soft now, too soft. “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to ask you this question. But I need you to answer me.”

“Yes, sir,” Cody replies, and his stomach drops further than he thought possible.

Kenobi opens and closes his mouth once, twice.

“Were you –” he says at length, before stopping to correct himself, and when he speaks again, his words move slowly. “Did any of your superiors ever force themselves on you? And I mean sexually.”

Cody blinks.

“No, sir,” he says, relieved to finally be able to get something right.

He wets his lips, feeling good about his answer, but sensing that it might need some kind of clarification.

“I’ve never needed coercion,” he adds, and if there’s a hint of pride in his voice, then so be it.

His General stares at him again, his blue eyes wide and piercing.

“You never –”

It takes all of Cody’s training for him not to flinch when Kenobi’s fist collides with the desk in an impact that sends datasticks sliding and folders toppling over. For a brief moment, short enough that Cody is able to catch it only thanks to his trained perception, all of the objects rise up. They levitate above the surface, suspended in air, before they come back down with a muted clatter.

The General sinks back after that, gripping the side of his desk, reddened knuckles whitening. His face is hidden from Cody’s view, but Cody can hear him whisper to himself, a string of words spilling through closed teeth, too quiet for Cody to make anything out. Is he praying? Chanting? Damn, Cody should have spent more of his downtime studying Jedi customs.

“General?” he whispers, hoping he isn’t interrupting something important.

Kenobi shudders.

“My apologies,” he says weakly, as if it takes all of his effort not to scream, though Cody can’t fathom for what reason. “That wasn’t very – I’m sorry.”

He looks up, fixating Cody with his eyes.

“I will never hurt you,” he whispers. “On that, you have my word.”

He breathes deeply, and when he speaks again, it sounds as if something in his throat has broken.

“But I’m going to need names.”

 

 


 

 

There is a hearing.

General Kett enters the courtroom with polished medals pinned on his chest, and Kenobi puts his hand on Cody’s arm when the man turns to look at them. Kett scoffs pointedly. Cody doesn’t need to look at his General to know that his eyes have become dark, narrow slits. He shifts in his chair, wishing he could erase the past month – wishing he would never have caused Kenobi so much grief.

The courtroom is dressed in deep browns and reds, and the ceiling seems infinitely far away. Cody is wearing an officer’s uniform for the third time in his life. It feels wrong against his skin, chafing under his arms like it doesn’t quite fit, but it has to, he reminds himself, because his measurements are on file and they’re the same as everyone else’s.

The judge, an imposing Togruta woman, commands him to speak. Cody looks at his General – his legal advisor, he reminds himself – and Kenobi nods. Cody takes a deep breath and begins to reiterate the phrases they have practised together. Word for word, exactly what they agreed on, because he doesn’t know how say any of it in any other way.

“On the sixth day of this year, at approximately twenty-hundred hours local time, General Kett summoned me to his quarters on board the battleship Ironclad. There, he ordered me to kneel and to pleasure him sexually with my mouth. I complied.”

An echo rises from the defence’s booth when Kett and his defender begin to whisper to each other, but it dies out with a wave of the judge’s dark amber hand.

“Continue.”

“On the 21st day of this year, sometime between twenty and twenty-two-hundred hours local time, General Kett summoned me to his quarters a second time. He gave me a jar of lubricant and instructed me to undress and to – insert a finger into myself. To put the lubricant inside. I was then to wait for him on my hands and knees. He left the room while I complied. Upon his return, he proceeded to pleasure himself with my body.”

The judge taps her bench lightly.

“Commander, I’m going to need you to be more specific.”

Cody swallows.

“He knelt behind me and put his cock in me,” he says.

His voice rings loud and clear to his own ears, free from any compromising evidence of emotion. But Kenobi’s hand returns to his arm and grips him tightly through his uniform.

Kett rises from his seat.

“Your honour, with all due respect, can you really believe the words of a clone? This is clearly part of some pathetic attempt at discrediting me.”

“Commander Cody is under orders to tell the truth,” Kenobi retorts. “Unlike you, he’ll follow them.”

The judge taps her bench.

“I must ask Generals Kett and Kenobi to please adhere to procedure.”

“No disrespect intended, your honour,” Kett says smoothly.

He sits back down and goes back to whispering quietly with the white-haired man beside him. The judge motions toward Cody.

“Commander, please continue.”

Cody lowers his eyes and runs through his lines in his head, trying get back on track. His General’s touch on his arm is distracting to the point where he twitches involuntarily against the pressure, and he breathes a sigh of relief when the hand is pulled back. He has yet to meet Kenobi’s eyes since the hearing began, and he does not look forward to it.

“The last described event was repeated on three more occasions,” he says in a flat tone, when he finally gets his bearings back, and then proceeds to list the dates, times, and additional details. When he’s done, he dares a glance at Kett, but the man keeps his head turned firmly to the side, eyes fixated on some point in the distance.

“Does that conclude your statement?” the judge asks.

“Affirmative, your honour. On the 89th day of this year, I was promoted to Commander and placed in charge of the 212th Attack Battalion under General Kenobi’s command. Before today, I had not seen General Kett since my transfer.”

“Commander,” the judge says, with an expression like stone. “I must admit this case is, in itself, highly unusual. What’s more, I’d say we have yet to hear any proof that you did not in fact take part in the alleged activities willingly.”

Kenobi is on his feet before Cody has even noticed him moving.

“Commander Cody was not in any position to consent to anything,” he barks. “He was ordered. He couldn’t have refused!”

Cody looks up at him, and for a moment sees the War General from countless battlefields in place of the serene Jedi Diplomat who entered the courtroom. The judge, however, ignores Kenobi and continues to address Cody directly.

“Clone Commander 2224. Did this man, General Manev Kett, ever hurt you?”

Cody’s heart thumps once, twice, in his chest.

“No, your honour.”

Cody can feel Kenobi turn to stare at him as if his gaze were a physical thing.

“Commander,” Kenobi says under his breath, voice like a string pulled taut, “tell them.”

“The lubricant was infused with bacta and something else,” Cody says obediently. “I was never in pain.”

“He numbed him,” Kenobi growls. “He numbed him, so he could go ahead and rape him without having to worry about consequences.”

Kett lets out a sharp laugh. It echoes like a gunshot.

“Contain yourself, Kenobi,” he chides. “Your behaviour is unbecoming of a Jedi.”

“Generals!” the judge bellows.

Cody wishes he really were somewhere out on a battlefield. Armour and bucket, running toward enemy fire, DC-15’s blazing, mortar explosions drowning out everything around him.

“Thank you,” the judge says sharply, once the room has quieted down. “The defender may now address the court.”

The white-haired man next to Kett stands up.

“Your honour,” he says. “My client of course denies these vile accusations. I ask you, what weight does the word of a clone have against that of a five times decorated General of the Republic?”

 

The day after the hearing, Kenobi enters Cody’s office with a datapad in his hand.

“Kett won’t be tried,” he says.

His voice is monotonous, droid-like, as if he’s having some kind of out-of-body experience.

“It says – no proof of damage to Republic property.”

“I wasn’t damaged,” Cody says.

He can’t see how anyone could have expected anything else. As far as he’s concerned, he’s relieved to simply get to put the matter behind him. They have, after all, a war to win.

 

 


 

 

Cody was taught patience from an early age. He fully expects things to get easier with time. To Kenobi’s credit, the court case matter is handled discreetly, and despite the bureaucratic demand for documentation and the general prevalence of gossip, all details stay within their closest circle. General Skywalker, predictably, surpasses even Kenobi in his outward anger. Rex clearly shares the sentiment, but he never treats Cody any differently, and Cody loves him all the more for it.

Kenobi returns to his usual self – focused, resilient, radiant. And yet, now that Cody has seen his General’s emotions laid bare, he’s able to see also the shadow of sadness that always seems to linger underneath that brilliant smile. A deeper kind of sorrow – one that perhaps comes with age, or from having lived a life before the war.

Cody stands in humble silence when General Kenobi announces his promotion to Marshal Commander of the Seventh Sky Corps. It stands to reason, then, that the General’s trust in him should be absolute. But on particularly rough days, when Kenobi is quiet and withdrawn, Cody will catch the General looking at him from across a room or crowded camp. On such days, the General averts his eyes when Cody turns his head to meet them.

And during many a night of metallic thunder and restless sleep, Cody wakes from dreams of General Kenobi hot and heavy on his tongue. They aren’t nightmares, but they hurt all the same – only he has no word for the yearning they leave in their wake.

 

Then the two of them lead the rescue of a group of shinies, all of whom turn out to have been brutally tortured for information, and the General looks at them in a way that Cody recognises all too well, and Cody thinks he understands.

Later, they stand watch together, as the sun has set and the others have drifted off to sleep. Their rescued troopers are packed together, mercifully sedated for now. Around them, the medics and scouts have formed a spiralling circle. White, orange, and blue against the dark ground, they look like their own little galaxy of brothers. Cody shifts and clears his throat.

“General. Permission to speak freely.”

Kenobi gives him the briefest of smiles.

“Always, Cody.”

“You think I’m broken, don’t you?”

That earns him a frown.

“Now why would you say that?”

“You keep looking at me like you look at them. You think General Kett did damage me. Not physically, perhaps, but mentally. More permanently. But I’m fine. Sir. All my personal scores check out. The 212th’s combat effectiveness is at an all-time high. Mission success rate is increasing –

“Cody –”

“I can show you the numbers, sir –”

“Cody, please.”

Cody finally goes quiet.

Okay, first of all,” Kenobi protests, “let’s not refer to that scum by a rank he should’ve been stripped of long ago. Second –”

He stops abruptly and scratches the back of his neck. Cody watches in silence as his General regains his composure. He’s grateful for the protection his own helmet gives him, the way it shields him from the scrutiny that regular people must deal with every moment of their lives.

“No,” Kenobi says after a while. “Cody, you are here because – as you yourself have pointed out – your skills, and your quality as a leader, are nothing short of sublime. I would never think of you as broken. But I’ve clearly made you feel that way, and that was never my intention, and I am so sorry.”

The General’s eyes are glossy in the dim light. Cody is very, very relieved that his own are hidden by his helmet.

“All good, sir,” he manages.

Kenobi’s gaze drifts into the distance as the creases around his eyes deepen.

“I just can’t bear the thought of all the others out there, with no one to look out for them. No one who cares about them. I could never understand how some of our leaders can’t seem to see you as people. I can’t imagine looking at you, Cody, and not seeing – well, you.”

Cody shrugs minutely.

“To be honest, sir, I haven’t always seen myself like that. As a person, I mean. It’s just not the way it is.”

Cody wonders if he will ever be able to explain this in a way that Kenobi, or any nat born, will understand. How it isn’t a bad thing to be raised a clone. How he finds comfort in his purpose, in standing among his brothers as one of many. And yet – Cody can’t help but admit that he treasures this thing that is only his. That he is the one who gets to stand by General Kenobi’s side, under the stars and in battle.

No, he certainly didn’t use to think of himself as a person.

“But I do now,” he says at last, and the way Kenobi looks at him makes his heart leap treacherously in his chest.

When his General reaches for him, he reaches back. They clasp their arms together, and hold on to each other until Kenobi’s eyes no longer look like they might flood over.

 

 


 

 

Cody tries to bury his desire. He tries again and again, and he tries hard. By now, he knows enough to convince himself that there’s no hope where his feelings are concerned. He’s seen enough nat borns up close to know that General Kenobi is extraordinarily attractive by any standards. He also knows that the Jedi order forbids attachments – meaning that even if there weren’t an entire universe of lovers for Kenobi to pick and choose from, Cody still wouldn’t stand a chance.

He pushes himself twice as hard, never giving anything less than this best, and he’s damn good at what he does. He defines himself by his accomplishments, his rank, and the purpose for which he exists. As for his feelings, he does his best to keep them locked away where they cannot hurt him. But the barricade between his mind and his heart is flimsy at best, and oh, how he wants.

And Obi-Wan Kenobi keeps burning brightly, caring with all that he is for every single man under his command, and it’s all Cody can do to hold on, to keep them both steady, to keep his General from incinerating himself. Cody has yet to meet anyone else who loves all life so deeply.

Cody has his own quarters now. He may have millions of brothers in blood, but he soon finds that his rank makes him singularly alone. It’s hard to trade jokes with soldiers and petty officers who stutter and fall over themselves in their haste to please their Marshal Commander. His brothers look to him, not only for orders but for guidance. And yet, he’s only a clone. An outsider among nat borns and his own alike. Captain Rex is the only one among his close friends that he gets to see in the flesh these days, and Cody is grateful for the relationship between their Generals that allows the two of them to work together as often as they do.

 

There are victories. Cody may have missed the first battle of Geonosis, but when the opportunity to retake the planet presents itself, he holds the landing zone against overwhelming odds and keeps his General safe until reinforcements arrive. Yet, under the blazing sky of some godforsaken moon, he reaches his limit – though he doesn’t realise it until long after the fact. His men are dying around him, he’s gone deaf from the shock waves, and he can’t find Kenobi. He cradles his General’s lightsabre in one hand and swings his broken rifle like a mace with the other. Then something slams into him from behind, and everything goes dark.

When he’s taken out of bacta three days later, Kenobi has already been ordered away on another mission, and Cody is left to finish up the casualty reports. From that point on, Cody further reinforces the wall he’s constructed around himself. It surprises him how much easier it is this time – to make himself a little less Cody, and a little more CC-2224.

When Kenobi returns, Cody politely declines his invitation for a drink and a late-night conversation. He keeps turning Kenobi down after that. Not every time, just often enough to maintain his hard-earned control over himself. Surely, the General – who makes friends everywhere he goes, who appears to flirt with everyone who breathessurely, he has others to keep him company. Cody isn’t aware that Kenobi has even noticed the change between them, until he once more catches the General looking at him the way he used to, back when things were worse, and Cody was less of a person.

And Cody’s despair only grows stronger.

 

 


 

 

They find themselves in the midst of another mission – in an endless line of missions, in a campaign that goes on forever – only this time, things go more south than usual. When they have crawled out of the escape pod, it isn’t even the Seppies who get to them, but a swarm of angry locals with spears and shoddy stun guns. They wake up at the bottom of a large, dried-up well on yet another damned desert world, staring up at a yellowing sky through thick bars that penetrate the walls many metres above their heads. Their comms are missing, including Cody’s entire helmet, and so are all of their weapons.

The point of Kenobi’s cheekbone is badly scraped, and Cody cleans it from blood and sand using spit and the inside of his glove, because even their sterile bacta wipes are gone. The absence of any fractures, however, tells him they have been lowered into the pit, rather than simply pushed over the edge. Cody isn’t entirely sure if this is how he prefers it. When care is taken to keep your prisoners intact, it usually speaks of an ulterior motive.

The air is hot even at the bottom of the well, and Kenobi has a sheen of sweat forming on his brow. Cody scoops up a handful of black sand and lets it run through his fingers. If he’s right about the composition, and if the composition tells him what he thinks it does, the nights on this planet may be far less pleasant than the days. His body glove will keep him relatively comfortable in most climates, but the General doesn’t even have his robe.

“They were thorough alright,” Kenobi sighs. “My rations are missing too.”

Cody feels for his own supply, and smiles to himself when his fingers close around the flimsy corner of a ration pack.

“Not thorough enough.”

He pulls out the pack and offers it to Kenobi.

“Save it for later,” the General mumbles with a wave of his hand. “We don’t know how long we’ll be here.”

“What do you think they’ll want with us, sir?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Kenobi sighs.

Cody wiggles the ration pack back into the tight inner pocket of his belt.

“Maybe we’re dinner,” he suggests, only half joking.

“Mm. I wonder which of us tastes better,” Kenobi deadpans.

Cody decides that he has absolutely nothing to say to that, so he doesn’t.

 

It gets boring long before it starts getting cold. Kenobi scales the wall and suspends himself from the metal bars, but they won’t budge, and they’re set too deep into the well for him to see anything of the surface. He doesn’t bother with climbing back down – instead, he simply drops himself and lands on his feet a hands-breath from Cody, kicking up a cloud of dust.

“Thanks for the warning,” Cody wheezes between coughs.

“Warning?” Kenobi asks innocently, brushing himself off. “Where are your famous reflexes, Commander?”

“Oh, I’ll be happy to go hand-to-hand with you in a Tatooine sandstorm, sir. Once I have my bucket back, that is.”

He spends another few minutes pretending to be angry, but then Kenobi shivers visibly, and Cody doesn’t have it in him to continue the teasing, no matter how welcome the distraction.

They end up cross-legged next to each other on the ground, heads tilted back to watch the rapidly darkening sky.

“At least we’re getting some rest,” Kenobi says.

“Right. Now I really hope we don’t die down here. I never imagined resting would be the last thing I’d do in my life.”

“Ah, come now, Cody. It could be worse.”

“Everything could always be worse. Doesn’t mean you need to be such an optimist. Just let me enjoy my misery.”

Kenobi chuckles, tilting his head slightly in Cody’s direction, moving imperceptibly closer. He smells of wool and sweat and that weird hair wax he uses, and Cody likes it more than he could possibly admit to himself. He follows a stray cloud with his eyes until it disappears out of view. So the planet does have clouds. He supposes that counts for something.

Kenobi elects to meditate against the cold, and after what seems like hours, Cody falls asleep to the sound of his General’s slow, steady breathing.

 

 


 

 

The morning sun scatters pink and gold into their small, circular window of the sky. When Cody comes to, he fully expects Kenobi to be awake already, but instead he’s met with a soft snoring. At some point during the night, the General has slumped sideways and is now sleeping soundly with his mouth slightly open and his face in the sand. His cheekbone is red and swollen, but the wounds are already closing. He looks peaceful. Warmth blooms in Cody’s chest, challenging the lingering the cold of the night.

He’s shaken out of his reverie when a crude waterskin is lowered into the well by invisible hands. He unhooks it and watches as the rope is violently yanked away again, before he uncorks it and sniffs the water. Kenobi stirs and looks up at Cody.

Oh, hello there.”

“Morning, sir.”

Having tasted a few drops, Cody hands Kenobi the waterskin and waits for him to drink his fill before he takes out their only ration pack.

“Eat,” he says and pushes it into Kenobi’s hand. “I know you want to fight me on this, but please just eat.”

For once, Kenobi doesn’t argue. He opens the pack and splits its contents down the middle, sticks one half in his mouth, and hands the other back to Cody. It’s a victory if Cody ever saw one. Still, he pockets his half with a pointed glance at the General. If he’s really lucky, he can make Kenobi finish it later.

 

They sit in silence for some time, letting the steadily rising temperature bring life back into their limbs, until Kenobi clears his throat.

“Not a very exciting mission, this.”

Cody bites back a sigh, recognising the cue for what it is, and searches his mind for possible conversation topics.

“What d’you think you’d be doing,” he asks, “if you hadn’t sworn yourself to the Jedi Order?”

Kenobi looks thoughtful for a moment.

“Hm. Well, I’d like to believe I’d have found other ways to help. I can think of some places where I probably would’ve been welcome. Fewer, admittedly, if I wanted to stay out of politics. But I try not to dwell too much on what could have been. I don’t find regrets or seconds thoughts to be very conducive to a healthy mind.”

He smiles ruefully.

“Though it would’ve been nice not to be locked up in someone’s home-made sarlacc pit.”

“Ah,” Cody huffs. “We’ve got ourselves out of worse scrapes, sir.”

Kenobi looks less than convinced.

“I just hope Anakin picked up our distress signal.”

Cody wishes he had an estimate of the likelihood that General Skywalker did pick up their signal. It would make him feel slightly more useful. Being alone with Kenobi like this, never more than a few metres away, is eating away at his patience like stone mites loose on a starship. The restlessness is growing in his bones, forming an electric current that ever so slowly crawls up his shins. He resorts to patting himself down a second time, in the hopes of finding something besides the ration pack that the locals haven’t taken from him. Regrettably, he’s out of luck.

“What about you?” Kenobi says.

“Hm?”

“What do you think your life would be like, if you weren’t in the army?”

“You know that doesn’t make any sense, sir. I am the army.”

“Hard as it is to imagine, I have to believe this too will end. You could have a long future to worry about.”

Cody shrugs.

“Not if we don’t get ourselves out of this hole.”

He picks at a sliver of orange that’s starting to flake off of his left hand plate. His armour desperately needs a proper scrub-down, not to mention a fresh coat of paint. He’ll see to it first thing once they’re safely back from this unfortunate detour.

“I promised Jesse I’d have a look at his proposition for an upgraded DC bino clip,” he says, more to himself than to Kenobi.

Kenobi raises an eyebrow at him.

“Sergeant Jesse serves under Captain Rex,” he says pointedly. “Let him handle it. Right now, the only thing you can do is conserve your energy.”

“If I conserve any more energy, I’ll detonate. We should be out there fighting, sir.”

“I thought you just said you wanted to do more paperwork,” Kenobi replies smoothly. “I’ll tell you that’s one thing I won’t miss if the locals end up eating us.”

 

Fuelled by the underlying theme of the conversation – or perhaps by the fact that Kenobi once again has brought up the subject of being eaten – Cody’s mind wanders into another area of priorities and regrets.

“I’ve never kissed anyone,” he says.

Kenobi bursts out laughing, and for a brief moment, Cody feels warm all over. But then Kenobi claps his hand over his mouth and looks at Cody with wide eyes.

“Oh, kriff, Cody, I’m sorry. You just took me by surprise. I mean, the change of topic did. Not the fact that you haven’t –”

Kenobi is rambling, and Cody lifts a hand to try to calm him down. He stops just short of touching the General’s thigh, staring at his own hand as it hovers awkwardly in the air, before he comes to his senses and quickly retracts it.

“It’s fine, sir. It was a joke.”

Kenobi’s expression changes from horror to relief, and then to something worse. His hand comes up to stroke his beard while a loth-cat grin spreads across his face.

“Oh, so you have –?”

“No,” Cody says quickly, feeling a little wounded. “I don’t know. It’s just one of those things nat borns seem to bother with, at least if all the holodramas are to be believed. I just find it interesting, the preoccupation with it.”

He straightens a little.

“Did you know there are those who think we clones kiss each other, just to have done it?”

“I didn’t,” Kenobi replies, a little weakly, before he seems to put himself back together. “I’ve seen you kiss Rex on more than one occasion.”

“I kiss Rex on the cheek. And only because it annoys him.”

Kenobi positively snorts.

“Fair enough.”

His eyes remain on Cody for a while, as if he wants to make sure that everything is still good between them. Cody forces a small smile that he hopes is reassuring, while making a mental note to make sure there are no superior officers around the next time he decides to embarrass Rex.

Kenobi sighs and leans back against the wall. A moment later, he slides down further, slumping a little to the side, toward Cody’s shoulder, and Cody resists a stray impulse to rest his cheek against the top of his General’s head.

“So,” Kenobi says, “you might die well-rested and unkissed. What a terrible fate.”

Cody spares another glance upward.

“I still have hope we can think of a way to remedy one of those things, sir.”

Kenobi jerks his head back and looks up at him.

“Which one?” he asks, pushing out an uncertain huff of laughter, as if he isn’t sure whether he’s misunderstood or if this is another of Cody’s weird new jokes.

Cody wishes Rex or Wolffe or any of his long dead batchmates were here to slap him over the head. Or, better, kick his shin hard enough to bring tears to a lesser man’s eyes.

“What I meant was, you could always put me to work, sir. I could have a look at those metal bars myself, figure something out.”

He flicks his hand noncommittally.

“Though I suppose you could kiss me too, at that,” he adds, because he’s beyond frustrated with being stuck in this kriffing hole, and at this point whatever he says will come off as a joke anyway – and he finds that actually saying it eases the pressure in his chest – it really does.

Kenobi swallows audibly.

“Right,” he says tersely. “But you know I wouldn’t do that to you. I’d never do that to you. You do know that?”

His voice rises into an anxious question, hovering just on the edge of frantic.

And oh, Cody should back out of this. This isn’t the time or the place – not that there will ever be a time and place – but all he can think about is the way Kenobi chooses his words. Not ‘wouldn’t do that’, but ‘wouldn’t do that to you’. He takes a deep breath.

“Sometimes I wish you would,” he whispers.

“What?” Kenobi stutters, as if he’s breathing through pain, as if Cody has physically injured him. “Why?”

Would it be so wrong? Cody asks in his mind, but he doesn’t ask, because he knows the answer.

Because it’s you, he thinks. Because I’d like it.

“Because it’s what I want,” he says – partly because he’s feeling defiant, and partly because he’s always been a terrible liar, but mostly because the silence is stretching, and he needs to answer Kenobi’s question somehow.

He’s a person, he reminds himself, and in this matter, his autonomy is absolute. He’s allowed to feel. To want. Even if what he wants is something he can never have. And the truth – the glorious and forbidden and unquestionable truth – is that, second only to seeing his brothers safe and alive, he has never in his life wanted anything more fiercely than he wants Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mouth on his lips.

 “What I want,” he repeats, stressing the pronoun this time.

Kenobi stands. He paces across the bottom of the well, and when he can go no further, he stops to throw his head back and stare up at the sky, as if pleading with the universe to save him from his crazy, half-witted di’kut of a Commander.

 

In a way, the universe answers. The masked face of one of their captors suddenly appears at the edge of the well and grunts something over its shoulder. A moment later, the bars begin to retract with a loud screeching of metal on metal. A rope descends to the bottom and reaches the ground next to where Cody is scrambling to his feet. Another grunt alerts them again to the face at the top of the well.

“Soldier man. Take rope. Jedi. You make tricks, we shoot soldier man.”

“Down to the point, aren’t they?” Kenobi remarks, gesturing for Cody to grab the rope.

Cody wraps it into a makeshift sling, and then he’s being lifted off the ground by some hidden cog-wheel machinery shrieking and sputtering above him. Once at the surface, he gets to his feet surrounded by four sentients with spears. He still can’t tell their species – with all the cloth they’re wrapped in, he honestly can’t make out more about them than the fact that they’re clearly bipeds. A weapon is a weapon, however. Cody puts his hands in the air and steps backward from the edge of the well. He stops when a fifth sentient jams something into his back, which Cody can only assume is a blaster muzzle. Two others pull his hands down and tie his wrists together.

The rope gets sent down again, and Kenobi joins him on the surface only to get tied up in the same fashion. Their captors hoard them together and bring them to their knees with a couple of brutal, well-placed swings of their spears. They scutter away after that, leaving a single sentry to guard their prisoners closely.

As they huddle together on the ground, Cody switches language.

I have a knife in my boot,” he mutters loudly in Mando’a.

Beside him, Kenobi rolls his bruised shoulders.

“Alright, what’s your plan?”

“Ignore that. But I think it’s safe to assume these fellas can’t understand us this way.”

“Oh, hah.”

“I count eight. Only four have range weapons. Between the two of us, we can still take them out, sir.”

“Negative. I want to learn more about their intentions.”

The sentry growls and stabs his spear into the sand.

“Quiet!”

“Alright,” Kenobi says, switching back to Basic, his voice level and perfectly disarming. “We only want to know what you plan on doing with us.”

One of the others snarls in a way that might be a laugh and points a gloved finger in Kenobi’s direction.

“Jedi! Big prize!”

Great, Cody thinks. There’s a bounty. Seeing as they haven’t been moved, he has to assume it’s a pick-up, rather than a delivery. Their best hope, then, is that someone on their own side has intercepted the locals’ transmission to whomever is coming to pick them up.

At the very least, Cody now has confirmation that Kenobi is the only target, and that he’s wanted alive. It means that when they do attempt an escape, any lethal weapons will be trained first on Cody, and away from the General. If Cody can draw their fire – and preferably deal as much damage as possible before he’s taken out – Kenobi may stand a chance.

He listens with half an ear as Kenobi continues to prod their captors for information. The General is having very little luck. Cody can’t tell whether these sentients are truly ignorant, or if they’re more resistant to the Jedi’s methods than they look. Either way, Kenobi’s tactic is clearly failing. Cody looks around. There’s sand all around them, but he can see steep hills and vegetation, though the exact distance is too hard for him to determine without his helmet. If they can only get that far, they might be able to find shelter and to lay low until help comes.

Kenobi knocks his shoulder against Cody’s.

“Ke sushir!”

Listen.

Cody goes still, focusing. There’s a faint whirring in the sky above. Alright then, that settles that. It’s now or never.

“On three.”

 

One. He squares his shoulders and braces the toe of his boot in the slippery sand.

 

Two. He breathes in.

 

Three. He gets up.

 

He launches himself at the sentry as Kenobi uses the Force to pull the spear from its hands. Seconds later, Kenobi has already sliced through the ropes around his own wrists. Cody throws his arms around the reeling sentry’s neck, using its body as cover when the first stun shot goes off. The sentry goes limp like a bag of grain against him. Kenobi is already wielding two spears, raising one to block another shot, and the other to take out the shooter’s legs from under him. Cody rolls and comes up to slam his elbow into another sentient’s windpipe. He pats it down for weapons, dodging real blaster fire this time, but comes up empty-handed.

“Cody!”

He looks up just in time to catch the spear Kenobi throws him, and uses it to whack another sentient across its masked face, wrists still tied together. Kenobi has ripped the remaining guns from the hands of their owners, and the sentients not thrown to the ground by Kenobi’s and Cody’s combined onslaught are already running.

The whirring above them is getting louder. Kenobi helps with freeing Cody’s hands, and Cody does a quick inventory of the clutter of weapons and bodies. He clips the meanest looking blaster to his belt, and then his hands find the unmistakable outline of Kenobi’s lightsabre.

“Got you a present, sir!”

Kenobi shifts the spear to his left hand.

“We’ll have at least few more minutes before that ship makes it deep enough into the atmosphere,” he yells. “I’d say we run, just in case they aren’t friendly!”

 

It’s a Separatist shuttle. It blocks out the sun with a roar, and the hills are still too far away, and they won’t make it there in time. Cody keeps up with his General for as long as he can, and then focuses only on staying on his feet.

Suddenly the sky explodes white, and in a roar of thunder, the shuttle comes hurtling down, shrapnel raining like nothing this desert has seen in millennia. Cody throws himself into the sand and covers his head with his arms, and wonders if General Skywalker is trying to save them or kriffing kill them.

 

 


 

 

Afterward, neither of them speaks of it.

Weeks pass. Then months. It isn’t that they actively avoid the topic, Cody tells himself. As the war escalates, there’s little time for more personal matters. Sometimes, it would be easier to pretend that he has simply made the whole thing up – except his memory is excellent, and the sound of his own confession is burned into it forever.

 

They’re on the ground coordinating the final stages of the occupation of the Umbaran capital, when reports start coming in from Lieutenant Waxer’s platoon along with calls from multiple units in the 501st.

“Yeah, forget the chain of command,” Cody mutters. “Did they all just get collective amnesia out there?”

He chuckles to himself – until he finally realises what the overlapping holos are trying to tell him, and absolutely nothing about the situation is amusing anymore. He steels himself before he turns to look at Kenobi, but there is neither anger nor sorrow to be found on his General’s face. Only blank, empty shock. Kenobi looks more helpless than Cody has ever seen him.

“Permission to take a speeder, sir,” Cody asks quietly.

“Yes, yes,” Kenobi mumbles, looking at him as if Cody is insane for even asking. “Of course. Go.”

 

Later that night, Rex gives him that same helpless look. Cody sits with him until the empty stare melts into hot rage, until Rex braces himself around Cody’s body and screams into his shoulder, shaking. When the anger subsides into wet gasps for air, Cody strokes his brother’s hair and promises him forgiveness, despite knowing that there’s nothing to forgive. Rex followed orders. Cody would have done the same.

Afterward, when Rex has forced himself back together and left for Skywalker’s ship, Cody lies alone in the dark and thinks that Kenobi must be the loneliest of them all. Always at the forefront, followed by thousands, with no one to follow but himself. Not even Skywalker will ever be as close to him as a brother to a brother. Cody wishes he could hold his General like he holds Rex. That he could give him this one place to rest his head. He wouldn’t ask for more.

 

Kenobi leaves for an undercover mission to Zygerria together with Rex, General Skywalker, and Commander Tano. The operation lasts longer than expected, but Cody isn’t made aware that anything has gone wrong until Wolffe forwards him the news that General Koon’s troops are moving in to extract Kenobi and Rex from a slave facility off the edge of the Rim.

Thankfully, Cody’s desk is laden with paperwork for him to distract himself with while he waits for his General to return. When his holoprojector beeps, he sets it on top of his datapad, and Rex flickers into view. Even filtered through the transceiver, his stance radiates urgency.

“What happened?” Cody asks immediately.

“I trust Wolffe’s preliminary report gave you the general idea,” Rex says. “What he didn’t mention is that General Kenobi is, well, he’s in pretty bad shape. He’ll be alright, I’m sure, but they're bringing him to you as we speak. He didn't want any of Wolffe’s medics touching him, so –”

He shakes his head.

“What we went through, it wasn't pretty. I'm okay, all things considered. But the General was their primary target. I don't know half of what they did to him. I'm sorry, Cody. There was nothing I could do.”

 

Cody is no stranger to seeing his General beaten up. But not even Rex's warning has him prepared for what awaits him when he barges into the med bay, ripping the privacy curtain aside like a karking shabuir, and Kenobi is there on a cot, naked and sedated, turned on his side while being prepped for bacta immersion, and there are bruises everywhere on his body. Lashes all the way down his back, fingerprints on his hip

Cody promptly turns on his heel and rushes to the nearest refresher. He doesn't throw up, but it's a near thing. Instead, he collapses onto the floor of the booth, trembling silently with tears streaming down his face, all sounds stuck in his throat. Fuck. This doesn’t happen to him. He’s a Marshal Commander in the Grand karking Army of the Republic. Nothing gets to break him.

But the hands are already under his armour, Kett’s long, cold fingers digging into his skin, ‘atta good boy, so damn tight, so good for me, serving your General so well –’

Cody scrambles to his knees and leans back over the toilet. He hangs there, swallowing, swallowing again, until an armoured hand clanks against the locked door.

“Hey, um. Whoever's in there, I can hear you hyperventilating. I'mma bring a medic, okay? You sit tight, vod. You’ll be fine.”

The moment Cody hears the trooper leave, he slams the door open and flees the scene. His heartbeat is pounding in his ears, muffling the sounds of troopers shouting and stepping out of his way as the corridor closes in around him, narrowing his path into a collapsing crawl space. He runs as if his life depends on it and doesn't stop until he’s back inside his own office. He locks the door, and configures his comms to block everything short of a top-level emergency alert.

Then he grabs his bucket, shoves it over his head and breathes through it, but not even the comforting pressure against his temples and the familiar taste of filtered air is enough to bring his heartrate back to normal. He doesn’t know what to do. Fuck, he doesn’t know what to do. He stares at the wall, then down at his abandoned datapads. He picks one up, mechanically. Equipment requisitions. Alright.

EMP grenade E2-202, 288 PCS.

Focus. Approved. Next.

EMP grenade E4-003, 144 PCS. Approved.

Alright. Easy.

Endothermal detonator ENT-B15, 144 PCS.

Denied. Approved: 72 PCS.

One row at a time.

One slow, deep breath at a time. Focus.

 

He gets there, eventually.

 

When Kenobi is taken out of bacta, Cody can barely look at him, because even the act of laying his eyes on him feels like a violation. More than that, he doesn’t think he could handle looking into Kenobi’s kind blue eyes and finding that the spark in them is somehow gone. For the first time in his life, he finds that he prefers not knowing.

It takes him weeks to feel normal again, though it’s not for lack of effort on Kenobi’s behalf. They have breakfast together in the mess hall on most days. Then a cup of caf together in between briefings and exercises and various administrative work. Gradually, Cody works up the courage to meet his General’s eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. When he finally does, he is flat on his back after Kenobi has thoroughly kicked his ass in a round of sparring with sticks. He raises his eyes from his own heaving body, and Kenobi is beaming at him with the light of a thousand suns. Cody wants to put his arms around him more than he wants to breathe.

 

Then Kenobi goes and gets himself killed. And Cody feels nothing, nothing at all, until an encrypted datastick is pushed into his hand by his acting commanding officer, General Windu. The stick contains nothing but recently declassified reports, but the encryption is the message, written in Kenobi’s and Cody’s own code, and the message says ‘alive’.

Cody cries then – in frustration and relief – because his General is merely on another kriffing undercover mission, and he trusts Cody to keep his secret safe, and Kenobi is a karking di’kut who risks compromising the entire mission just to let Cody know, and all because –

“I will never hurt you,” whispers a voice in the back of his head. “On that, you have my word.”

Cody repaints his armour that night. When he’s done, he turns his chest plate over and sets his brush to its finest setting. On the inside of the plate, right where it will rest against his heart, he writes his General’s name with thin, sure strokes. Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is for Cody, and for Cody alone. No one will ever see it unless they pry his armour off his cold, dead body – and well, by then he’ll be long gone anyway.

When Kenobi comes back to him, his hair is shorter, and Cody catches him stroking a beard that isn’t quite there yet. But his eyes and his smile are the same.

 

 


 

 

The war – the only life Cody has ever known – continues. The days and months blend together at an increasing speed.

 

Kenobi returns from Mandalore stained with loss, and the air shifts in new patterns around him.

 

On a Mid Rim space station, a clone trooper from the 501st murders a Jedi General, and a chain of events is set in motion in which the Jedi is only the first casualty. Cody holds Rex tight against his chest while his brother grieves for Fives, who survived Umbara – ‘and for what?’ Rex asks. ‘For what?’

Cody has no answer.

In the morning, Rex is summoned away on another mission, and Cody to another battlefield.

 

Cody dreams of burning desert camps, of the unforgiving void of space, and of the bright blue eyes of his General. In his dream, the Force is a physical entity that glows around Obi-Wan like a solar corona.

“Kneel for me?” his Obi-Wan whispers.

And Cody – infinitely humbled and lighter of heart than he’s ever been in his waking life – shifts in front of his lover, and drops to his knees for all the right reasons.

He wakes to the cold solitude of his private quarters, far away from the barracks of his brothers.

 

 


 

 

General Kenobi returns to the Vigilance with fresh intel on an enemy relay station in the Outer Rim, which he’s been tasked with capturing. The 212th is heading out to provide ground support on Felucia, but Kenobi’s mission has been designated top priority, and their route will take them within a day’s travel of the target. Cody has Captain Boil put together the rest of their team, and inside one of Vigilance’s hangars, a small unregistered gunship awaits them, courtesy of one of Kenobi’s many connections.

The intel – detection grid algorithm, engineering plans, redundancy systems – seems reliable enough, but the layout of the target poses several interesting problems. Cody loses track of time while he pours over it together with Boil, Phaser, and Rex – the latter dropping by to offer his insights via holo. But when Kenobi joins them in the ship’s makeshift operations room, the General is distracted, clearly bothered by something else, and Cody ends up having to repeat himself a few times too many to keep his General on track. Eventually, he makes an executive decision and sends the others off to catch a precious few hours of sleep before the next shift.

Kenobi retraces a line through the holographic map with his right hand, while massaging the area around his eyes with his left. Cody looks him over and wonders if there’s a name for the mix of frustration and fondness that makes his chest feel too tight for his heart.

“Have something to drink, sir,” he says gently.

Kenobi’s reply is unintelligible, so Cody excuses himself and gets them both a cup of water. He adds a mild analgesic to Kenobi’s before handing it to the General, who accepts it with mild surprise. They continue for another fifteen minutes before Kenobi positively swallows back a groan.

“Look,” Cody says, “I want to get this right just as much as you do. But frankly speaking, sir, you can barely stand.”

Kenobi looks like he’s about to deliver a suave reply, but instead of opening his mouth, he leans against the holotable and winces in pain.

“Alright,” Cody mumbles. “That’s it.”

He hooks his arm around his General’s back, and Kenobi lets himself be dragged out of the operations room.

 

“Where you always this bossy?” Kenobi jokes, when they have finally reached his temporary lodgings and Cody has deposited him on the side of his bunk.

“Nah, I learned that from you,” Cody mutters. “In all seriousness, sir, you need to take better care of yourself.”

“Really, Cody, I’ll be fine.”

Cody squares his shoulders.

“You’ve always encouraged me to think for myself,” he says. “To speak my mind.”

He locks his hands behind his back.

“I’ve made it my job to anticipate not only your orders, but your needs, sir. By now, I should hope I’m the best Marshal Commander you could possibly get.”

“Yes,” Kenobi agrees with a smile, eyebrows raised in faint surprise. “Yes, you are. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Nor I without you, sir,” Cody replies – and if that happens to be the truth, well, no one needs to know. “Anyway. My point is that sometimes you ought to listen to me.”

Kenobi keeps smiling at him.

“Point taken, Commander.”

Cody turns to leave, but stops in his tracks when Kenobi softly calls for him to wait. He stifles a sigh and complies. Kenobi is stroking his beard, looking much more serious than he did a moment ago.

“I’ve been thinking,” he says carefully. “About a lot of things, actually. But right now, I’m thinking that maybe we should talk.”

“You need to sleep, sir.”

“And I will. It’s just that we seem to have so little time for each other. I’ve found myself missing your company, Cody. I have so much to tell you.”

Kenobi’s voice is breathy, on the edge of slurred, and Cody wonders, a little panicked, how many meals the General must have skipped for the analgesic to have such a drastic effect on him. Then Kenobi reaches for his hand. His fingertips skim Cody’s knuckles, and Cody decides that this conversation needs to be over stat.

“I look forward to hearing everything,” he says quickly, “but it’ll have to wait until after the mission. Goodnight, sir.”

He backs out of the room before Kenobi can reply, and is halfway down the corridor before he stops himself and lets out a shaky breath. He briefly contemplates heading back to the holotable, or even relieving Drift at the helm, but the truth is that Cody needs sleep as much as the rest of the team. In the end, he surrenders to his own better judgment and heads down to the berthing space where Boil and Phaser are already snoring away. The latter has drifted off with a still-active datapad under his elbow.

Cody quietly strips off his armour and lies down on the empty bunk under Boil’s. Once he’s comfortable, he closes his eyes and visualises the holomap in his head. He goes over the plan in detail again, tracing entry points and angles of exposure in rhythm with the soft breathing of his brothers, until his thoughts narrow down to nothing at all.

 

The plan is this: Kenobi, Cody, Boil, Phaser, and Lightfoot will gear up, while Drift will remain behind to pilot the gunship. Drift is a well-rounded soldier and a decent pilot when needed, but Phaser will be the real star of the operation – he’s a natural talent when it comes to technology. Lightfoot is the least experienced on the team, but Captain Boil trusts him to do his name justice, and Cody, in turn, trusts Boil.

Once Drift has got them through the detection grid, he will set down south-east of the relay station, drop them off, and head back into the atmosphere to keep his eyes out for any sign that they have been detected. Once on the ground, Cody will shoot out the building’s external surveillance sensors, allowing Lightfoot to enter through an air vent and Phaser to ascend to the top of the building, where he will get to work hot-wiring the roof hatch open.

While Phaser works on the hatch and Lightfoot advances through the vent shaft, Kenobi, Cody, and Boil will get in position by the main entrance. Once Phaser is in, Lightfoot will pop a grenade, creating a diversion that will give Phaser a window to manually disable the outgoing comms. As soon as the comms are down, Kenobi will move in through the main entrance with assistance from Cody and Boil. The final step is to reach the main control room and switch the all-clear signal back on, quickly enough for the break to look like nothing but a minor malfunction. If they succeed, they will have taken over the station with the Seppies being none the wiser, and Phaser and Drift will stay behind to man the station for the time being.

If they fail, Drift will come about and blast the relay pylon to pieces, which would be a damn shame, but at least it’ll stop the Seppies from getting anything more out of the station. Not that they have any intention of failing.

 

There is absolute silence in the airlock as they wait for confirmation that they’ve managed to sneak through the detection grid undetected. Then Drift’s sharp voice breaks through their comms.

“Mission’s a go!”

Ten minutes later, they’re on the ground and ready to approach the station. A brisk jog, before Cody drops to one knee and bullseyes all four sensors. Another fifteen minutes, and they’re already facing the welcoming party. Cody takes down two B1’s without blinking, and Kenobi marches in like he kriffing owns the place. They make good headway until half a squad of commando clankers rounds a corner. Still nothing they can’t handle – just enough action to keep them on their toes.

Then there’s a scream. It echoes through Cody’s bucket, rising into a frantic wail of agony, before it’s abruptly cut off.

“Lightfoot?” Cody demands. “Phaser? Come in!”

“Lightfoot here, sir! Phaser’s dead. I’m on my way.”

To Cody’s right, Boil puts a hole through another clanker, which stops it in its tracks just long enough for Cody to blast its head off. To his left, Kenobi is swiping the control room door open. Inside, the other half of the commando squad awaits them, but Lightfoot has reached the room through the vent, and manages to give the clankers enough of a surprise for Cody, Kenobi, and Boil to quickly get the upper hand.

Cody calls for Boil to cover him while he gets his hands on a control panel, making sure to disable every last chance for an alarm to be triggered that could compromise their objective. All of a sudden, it’s quiet around him, and he looks up to see Kenobi and Boil still standing back-to-back, while Lightfoot is crawling his way out of the vent and dropping to the floor. Cody slows his breathing, finds the automated alarms that activated when he took out the external sensors and Phaser took out the comms, deactivates both, and turns the all-clear back on.

“All done,” he breathes.

He shakes out his shoulders, rolls his neck, gets to his feet. Kenobi has closed his eyes. Lightfoot is reeling a little.

“Phaser did a damn good job,” Boil says.

“I saw him,” Lightfoot whispers. “There was a T-One tactical. Came from nowhere, shot his legs from under him. Could’ve just gone for his head. But it didn’t. It had a shock prod – And the vent was too narrow, I couldn’t get an angle on it. I –”

“Hey!” Boil barks, and Lightfoot snaps his mouth shut.

Cody is about to cross the room and grab his trooper, but Boil beats him to it.

“Hey,” the Captain says again, taking hold of Lightfoot’s shoulders. “Breathe, verd’ika. You did everything you were supposed to. Phaser’s sacrifice was not for nothing. He did what he came here to do. Now, we honour him by remembering.”

Cody tears his eyes away and turns to Kenobi, who is speaking to Drift through his comm. He realises with a start that there’s nothing for him to do, and the uselessness paired with leftover adrenaline is nearly enough to make him sick. He gets back to the control panel and begins to collect more information on the system, looking for anything that appears relevant.

Drift joins them soon enough, bringing the first load of supplies along with an antigrav stretcher and a black syncloth sheet. Cody goes with Kenobi to the room where Phaser lies – curled in on himself by a comms console. He watches as the Jedi gently turns the body and floats it onto the stretcher. Cody takes it from there, setting Phaser’s helmet aside before closing his eyes and wrapping his body.

Once they’re back in the control room, Lightfoot volunteers to replace Phaser and stay behind with Drift until they can be relieved by another team. Kenobi leaves the decision to Cody, who doesn’t need any convincing.

At long last, Cody trudges back up the ramp onto the gunship.

“T-One shabuir hut’uun,” Boil growls behind him, finally abandoning his composure. “They’re supposed to be stupid, brainless karking machines. Not torture a target for no damn reason

Cody moves closer to Kenobi.

“I can write up the report,” he offers. “There’s nothing you know that I don’t, sir.”

“That’s alright, Cody. I can do it.”

Boil bangs his fist against the ship’s hull.

“With all due respect, sirs, you two can hash it out whenever. Just let me fly the ship, please. I need something to do.”

He sounds as raw as Cody feels, and hell if Cody doesn’t understand the storm that’s raging inside him.

“Of course,” Kenobi says gently. “Set a course for Coruscant. Make the jump to hyperspace at your own discretion.”

He touches Cody’s shoulder.

“Shall we?”

 

In the end, Cody ends up drafting the report seated on the threshold to Kenobi’s room, while Kenobi nurses a cup of tea on the bunk. Once Cody is finished, he throws the datapad to his General, who gives the report a perfunctory read before signing it off and letting the datapad drift away into a corner, together with his empty cup.

“How well did you know him?” he asks.

“Knew him all my life,” Cody says.

He sighs.

“Didn’t know him at all, actually. But when your men keep dying and getting replaced, it helps if you can establish some categories to sort the new names into. Creates the illusion of rapport. I know you like to emphasise our individuality, sir, but to be honest, there are only so many variations on a theme.”

Kenobi rests his head in his hands.

“I can see the utility of such an approach,” he says carefully. “I just wish you didn’t have to resort to it in the first place. But as for your lack of individuality, I must beg to differ. I know for a fact that no one could ever replace you, Commander.”

Cody uncrosses his legs and stands.

“I appreciate it, sir. If there’s nothing else, I’ll be off.”

He takes a small step forward and bends to retrieve the datapad, and the door slides shut behind him, making the room feel even smaller.

“Just leave it,” Kenobi sighs.

Cody straightens.

“Very well.”

Kenobi shakes his head minutely.

“Cody, I –”

He draws a breath and lets the air out in a shaky exhale.

“Damn, there never seems to be a good time for this, does there?”

“Sir?”

“There may come a day when it’s too late altogether for me to tell you this. So I’ll do it now, and hope for your forgiveness if I’m overstepping.”

He pauses, and Cody opens his mouth, but by now Kenobi has gained too much momentum to let himself be interrupted.

“You are dear to me beyond words,” he says quietly. “Before I first met you, I was told in so many words, not to get close and personal with any clones under my command. Well, as you know, I threw those instructions out the airlock before you even stepped onto my ship. You’ve come so far since then, Cody. And you’ve taught me a thing or two yourself. I owe you my life, many times over. You’ve kept me company through some truly dark times. I don’t think I can ever hope to express quite how I feel about you.”

Cody’s knees feel like they have taken a stun hit. He can’t think of anything to say. The General is clearly too exhausted, too emotionally distressed to be in his right mind – and Cody should have left already. He should leave now. But this time, Cody’s feet won’t move, and Kenobi just sits there and waits for his reply, looking up at Cody like he’s something precious. Like he’s something more than what he is, and Cody can’t –

“I love you, sir.”

It slips out like there’s no resistance at all, his tongue and lips betraying him, and he feels his chest implode around the words. He swallows hard and forces a breath through his nose, fighting the crushing pressure. These are his feelings, all be damned. He can no more erase them than he can put a blaster to his head and expect to live. If he’s to be any different from a kriffing droid, then this is part of the karking deal.

“I love you,” he says again, louder this time and throwing the honorific out the window. “I always have.”

His General looks at him, just looks, and even in the harsh light of this cramped room of metal and plasticene, his eyes retain the memory of open blue skies. His General – not as in ‘his superior’, but as in his. As if he’s something Cody can possess. Someone he can have.

“You really mean that,” his General says at length.

There’s awe in his voice, though Cody cannot fathom why.

Then Kenobi’s – Obi-Wan’s – hands are on his face, and Cody closes his eyes and surrenders as the universe inverts itself and forms a new order of things. He feels Obi-Wan trace his faded scar with impossible gentleness, and then Obi-Wan’s breath is warm against his skin, and the fingers are carefully replaced with soft, soft lips along his brow and cheek. And Cody can’t help it – he tilts his head until Obi-Wan’s lips ghost over his own, breath to breath, so close, not close enough

Obi-Wan pulls back.

“Cody, stop. We can’t.”

His right hand is still on Cody’s face, thumb smoothing over Cody’s jaw, and his eyes are pleading.

“Believe me, I wish things were different. But there are regulations against this sort of thing for a good reason.”

Cody swallows.

“Sir, you know the Republic doesn’t recognise clones as –”

“The Republic has committed atrocities, Cody! The only reason I’m still here is because the alternative is worse!”

Cody bites his lip, taken aback by his General’s sudden anger and apparent change of heart.

“It’s not my place to make that kind of judgment, sir,” he says carefully. “But that aside – you’re a Jedi. I know you’re not supposed to have this kind of attachments.”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan agrees with a sigh, his hand dropping to Cody’s shoulder. “No need to remind me.”

“Not to mention it’d be a kriffing stupid idea regardless.”

Obi-Wan frowns.

“Now why is that?” he asks, making his voice gentle again.

“I’m a clone,” Cody says, not understanding how his General can be so clever, so impossibly bright, and such a di’kut at the same time. “I may think for myself, but to the rest of the world, that’s all I’ll ever be.”

“I don’t believe that. After the war –”

“After the war,” Cody interrupts, “I’ll be dead or put in storage, and so will my brothers. There’s no place for us anywhere.”

Pain returns to Obi-Wan’s face.

“No,” he says weakly, shaking his head. “No. You deserve more than to be discarded like some – some old equipment. I will fight for every single one of you.”

He shakes his head again, and Cody’s heart stutters when he sees real tears pooling in his General’s eyes. He wishes he had a Jedi’s powers – that he could use some kind of mind trick to take Obi-Wan’s pain away. Obi-Wan has done nothing to deserve this torment, and Cody’s usual stoicism falters pathetically at the injustice of it all. He stands there frozen, debating with himself, until – oh kark, to hell with it – he pulls Obi-Wan into his arms and crushes him to his chest like he would comfort a brother.

He doesn’t press their foreheads together, because Obi-Wan would be unprepared for it, and Cody does not want to hurt him. Instead, he raises a hand to the back of Obi-Wan’s neck and simply rests his temple gently against his General’s. Obi-Wan draws a shaky breath, and then his hands come up to settle carefully on Cody’s waist. Cody holds him for another long moment, wishing he wasn’t wearing his armour, and then withdraws before he can cause Obi-Wan too much physical discomfort.

“You’ve never let us down,” he says. “There’s no one in the 212th who wouldn’t give their life for you, in some cases even if it meant defying orders. It’s true I didn’t know Phaser well, but I know he was damn proud to be selected for this mission. He went into it with open eyes, and he did so gladly, because he served under you. You’ve never made us feel like mere tools. You’ve never made us feel lesser.”

Obi-Wan swallows and nods. He swipes stubbornly at his eyes before sliding his hand down to rub at his beard and his bottom lip, breathing into the space between his thumb and fingers.

“I’d like to hope not,” he says at length. “But I’ve had a lot of time to think these past months. And I think I’ve been fooling myself for a long time. I’ve spent all these years burdening myself with the plight of others, and not once did I stop to consider if what I was doing was actually helping. So caught up in my own feelings, it didn’t even occur to me to try to actually put an end to it.”

“You followed orders, sir.”

“Well, I’m starting to think that was the problem all along. That some rules are meant to be broken.”

He reaches out and takes a loose hold of Cody’s gauntlets, then slides his hands down to Cody’s wrists. He rubs his thumbs slowly over the exposed black fabric, against Cody’s pulse.

“I’m pushing Rex’s report on what happened to Fives,” he says. “I can’t explain it – I just keep having this feeling, and it’s getting stronger. With your permission, I’d like to get that damned chip out of your head.”

 

 


 

 

Cody is awake for the surgery.

Even with the tranquillizer spreading through his veins, his heart feels like it’s trying to break itself out of his rib rage, and it’s not until after the third increase in dosage that he becomes able to breathe again.

Rex should have been here, he repeats to himself. But if one thing is certain, it’s that nothing is certain in war. His brother is held up along with Kenobi and Skywalker in some hellhole far out of comms range.  

He winces when he hears the surgical droid move about.

“You’re positive you can’t do it yourself?” he asks the assistant medic – another of their brothers, handpicked by Cody for his proven loyalty – and the tranquillizer must be working, because suddenly he can’t for the life of him recall the man’s name.

The medic leans into his field of view with a smile.

“The answer is still no, Commander. The droid’ll do a better job than I could ever hope to.”

“I’d rather fight a battalion of clankers than have a single one digging around in my brain. I don’t care how skilled it is. I feel like it’s sizing me up.”

“Alright, sir,” the medic sighs, “I’m upping your dose just a little more.”

 

Cody spends the rest of the day after the procedure looking at his own hands. Nothing feels different. When he’s cleared for light duty, he hits the practice range and spends two hours firing his rifle at every advanced set of targets the computer has to offer. Then he downs a cup of caf and switches to his carbine. After that, he runs through a full set of performance tests – everything from reflexes to strategic thinking. His scores are the same as before.

He’s back on full duty not three days later, and is summoned to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, where Obi-Wan finds him and pulls him into a nook under a painted skylight. The General is out of his battle wear, instead wearing the soft, flowing Jedi tunics that Cody remembers from long ago. Cody was informed that his own armour wasn’t required, but he prefers it to his uniform even after all these years, and so he’s wearing it now, meticulously scrubbed and polished.

“Cody!” Obi-Wan breathes. “Are you –”

“Same old Cody, sir.”

Obi-Wan closes his eyes and takes Cody’s hands in his own. He remains like that, as the light shifts above, and Cody takes the time to recommit every line of his General’s face to memory. At last, a smile spreads slowly on Obi-Wan’s face, from the corners of his mouth to the fine wrinkles around his eyes.

“Yes,” he says. “Yes, you are.”

He runs his thumbs over Cody’s palms, tracing elliptic patterns. Slow little orbits around some imaginary sun in each of Cody’s hands.

“You know I’d recognise you anywhere, even with my eyes closed like this, even with the entirety of the Grand Army standing between us?”

“Always with the words,” Cody laughs breathlessly.

Obi-Wan sighs and opens his eyes. He takes a deep breath, and his face changes minutely in a way that lets Cody know he’s once again sensing or reaching for something through the Force.

“Not here,” Obi-Wan says. “Come.”

 

Obi-Wan’s quarters in the Temple are larger than both those on the Vigilance and those on the Negotiator before that. They’re dressed in warm colours like the rest of the Temple – like Obi-Wan himself. Cody looks around with curiosity while the General locks the door.

“If anyone asks, we were just going over the battle plans one more time,” the General mumbles behind him.

Cody turns on his heel.

“That better be the truth, sir. I’m still not satisfied with the distribution –”

Cody. We’ll deal with it. Later.”

Obi-Wan puts his hands on his shoulders.

“For now, there’s something else I need you to wrap your head around. As long as we’re in this room, there are no ranks, no chain of command. This is crucial, Cody. We’re taking a tremendous risk – I know I don’t need to stress that to you. But I want that risk to be the only one. Just say the word, and we will go over those battle plans, and nothing else will happen here. Because nothing in here is going to happen unless you want it. I need to know you understand what that means.”

“It means I call you Obi-Wan,” Cody says.

Obi-Wan stills and takes a moment to slow his breathing, before he gifts Cody with nod and a tired smile.

“That’s right.”

“Obi-Wan,” Cody says again, trying out the syllables in his mouth, as if he hasn’t whispered them to himself already, like the name of some calm haven, in his long hours of solitude in the dark, hours stretched into weeks, months, years.

“You know, growing up, I never really liked my name,” Obi-Wan says. “There was even a time when I outright hated it. But it sounds just fine when you say it.”

Cody can’t help but marvel at the idea that nat borns can have feelings about the names given to them at birth. He can’t imagine having an opinion on his designation number. And then, as he thinks more about it, he realises that this may very well be the first time that Obi-Wan has heard his own name spoken in this particular voice – a clone’s voice – and he marvels at this idea too. He reaches out to touch Obi-Wan’s chest, to rest his palm over his heart, because he suddenly needs something to hold on to. After a moment, Obi-Wan’s own hand comes up to caress the back of Cody’s neck. Short nails rake through Cody’s freshly buzzed hair, and Cody closes his eyes with a shiver.

 

When the kiss finally happens, it’s clumsy and awkward, and Cody messes up the rhythm every time he thinks he’s got it. He keeps at it until Obi-Wan pulls away and laughs against his mouth.

“You need to stop trying so hard. Just enjoy yourself.”

For a moment, Cody can’t help but wonder how Obi-Wan became such a talented kisser, but the pang of jealousy in his stomach quickly makes him banish that thought far, far from his mind. This here, this ‘now’, is all that matters.

He claims Obi-Wan’s lips again, and then raises his hand to touch Obi-Wan’s face. The orange on the back of his hand blends into Obi-Wan’s gold and copper strands when they fall across his temples under Cody’s careful fingers, and oh, Cody has always loved symmetry, in patterns and colours alike. But right now he can think of something even better.

“One moment,” he mumbles, and brings his hand down to detach the plate and remove his glove. 

When he reaches out again, he finds that Obi-Wan’s clean hair is softer to the touch than he could have imagined. It’s entirely different from the dirty strands Cody is used to pushing away when wiping blood from his General’s forehead in the field after some skirmish. He runs his fingers through it until Obi-Wan catches his hand and turns it to kiss his wrist, his palm, the tips of each finger. It feels more intimate than anything else that has happened so far – even more so than the kiss – because in this, here, there’s nothing to be ruined by Cody’s ineptitude.

“We should have done this long ago,” Obi-Wan breathes against his fingers, sounding equal parts surprised and sorrowful, and Cody doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and he thinks he would be woefully incapable of either, regardless.

Instead, he steps back and removes his other hand plate and glove. Then the rest of his gauntlets.

“Here, let me help you,” Obi-Wan whispers, and busies himself with Cody’s shoulder and chest plates, and Cody lets him, even though he could do it far more efficiently on his own.

When he looks up after stepping out of his boots, Obi-Wan is still holding his chest plate. His brows are pulled together, and his fingers are tracing the letters on the inside. Cody ducks his head again, cheeks heating. He quietly focuses on removing the last of his armour.

When he’s in nothing but his blacks, Obi-Wan strips down to his brown undertunic and pulls them both toward the bed. At first, they stay perched on the edge of it, thigh against thigh, until Obi-Wan shifts and slides his leg across Cody’s – almost, but not quite, straddling him.

After that, it’s Cody who lays them down together. Cody who again buries his fingers in Obi-Wan’s hair and kisses him as deeply as he can. Cody who whimpers softly against Obi-Wan’s throat, and Obi-Wan who catches him and holds him close with whispers of ‘I’ve got you, I’ve got you’. They stay in each other’s arms, kissing and touching for as long as time allows them, neither of them pushing for more. It’s good. It’s enough.

In the end, it still feels like a goodbye.

 

 


 

 

Obi-Wan holds true to his word and puts his name behind Rex’s report. Even so, it seems impossible for the issue to gain any traction. The few senators and representatives who express interest withdraw their support soon enough, and even General Skywalker opposes further investigation into the matter.

Obi-Wan, on some hunch that Cody has learnt to trust, decides to move forward on his own. Gregor, Boil, and Wooley all elect to have their chips removed, as quietly as possible, once Cody has proven the procedure to be safe. A handful of others from the 212th follow suit and are sworn to silence, but somehow there’s never enough downtime or medical resources to spare, as if the universe conspires for them to cease their little clandestine operation.

In the final months of the third year of the war, Cody spends more time injured than he did in the first two and a half years in total. He doesn’t scream when his leg is snapped in half – his mind is already three steps ahead, recalculating his role in the mission, exploring alternative ways to achieve the optimal outcome given the change in conditions.

But when he stands at last on Utapau’s soil, he twirls his blaster in his hand, giddy and reckless and high on adrenaline. They’re winning. Parjai mar’e, they’re winning.

Obi-Wan stops by before moving back out, and Cody takes off his helmet in one smooth motion to meet the eyes of his Jedi warrior, his General, the fire of his heart. Their fingers brush together when he presses Obi-Wan’s lightsabre back into his hand.

 

Cody’s holoprojector beeps. When he flicks it on, a hooded figure appears in his hand. It speaks to him in riddles – and maybe Obi-Wan has rubbed off on him, because he senses threat, his inner warning system flashing red. He manages a ‘yes sir’, keeping his voice as level as possible. The hologram flickers out, and he pockets the projector, still confused. Double, one of his lieutenants, walks up to his side.

“What was that about, sir?”

Cody frowns.

“New instructions. Execute Order 66 – those were the words. I know of no such order. Can’t help but feel like I’ve missed something.”

Double just stands there and looks at him – a little too passively, Cody thinks, and it only adds to his own bewilderment. Then, without warning, the Lieutenant jumps back into action. One of the troopers in his platoon is manning an AT-TE. Cody’s mind comes to an abrupt stop when Double orders the trooper to aim the barrel toward General Kenobi.

“Lieutenant! What the – Belay that order!”

He runs toward the AT-TE, blocking the line of fire, signing for the trooper to hold, but Double is right on his heel. He tackles Cody to the ground, and the air is knocked out of him.

“Take the shot!” Double cries. “Restrain the Commander, have him processed for reconditioning!”

The blast singes Cody’s helmet. He turns to watch its impact scorch the mountain and smoke up the air. He sees Obi-Wan fall, and nothing makes sense anymore. He doesn’t turn when Double keeps shouting behind him.

Armoured hands grip Cody’s wrists and secure them behind his back. Cody stares at the empty cliffside. Chaos around him erupts, and when the hands finally yank him around, he sees Gregor and Wooley fire on their own men, and Boil is –

Boil is face-down on the ground with a hole through his bucket –

And Obi-Wan is gone.

 

And the world has fallen apart, and nothing means anything anymore.