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Till the Stars Burn Out

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When Cody first met General Kenobi, he was the most beautiful Human Cody had ever seen. Not that Cody had had a wide experience, not that he would ever have admitted it to himself, much less anyone else, but he saluted to a slight man with eyes the color of a clear sky and a smile that was apprehensive yet unflinching, and he thought General Kenobi was exactly what a Jedi should be.

Time didn't disillusion him, much less detract from the image Cody had of his General - somehow, at every turn, Kenobi blazed bright as a star, fierce and determined and fiery and sometimes quite gentle, and Cody couldn't believe he was real. At first he thought it was just how Jedi were, this strange mix of ethereality and raw power - so unlike he and his brothers, his vode. But General Skywalker and some of the others seemed so much more human, so much harsher. Powerful, still, like avalanches or eruptions, untouchable and unstoppable, but they lacked whatever it was that made Kenobi so mesmerizing. Cody analyzed it near to death, tried to understand what it was that made him want to watch Kenobi, want to follow him as if it was more than just his duty, as if he had chosen this war for himself.

First he thought it was the compassion. General Kenobi would visit the medbay after their battles, offering assistance to the senior medic, Scratch, or sitting with the worst of the wounded, and he would talk softly to them as if there were no other people in the world, as if he knew who they were and wanted to learn all of their faces. The vode he sat with were so often the ones who died, not long after, and Cody realized that Kenobi knew, that Kenobi was helping them to be brave. (Like Cody had done himself, like Cody would do thousands of times before it was all over.) Kenobi told them to stop for the night when the men were tired, and Kenobi did not make them leave their wounded behind, but helped the medics to ease whimpering vode onto stretchers so they could bring them back.

And with that, too, there was the way he would make himself scarce when Cody and his brothers fumbled through their remembrances of the dead, the rituals Jango Fett had taught them himself - sometimes Cody couldn't remember the words, I remember you, so you are eternal, and sometimes he didn't know how he remembered to name everyone he was losing, and so often when they listed the names of their dead, they could barely speak for the ache of it. General Kenobi never interrupted them.

Except once, after, he touched Cody's shoulder and told him I'm sorry, Cody, and Cody savored the small moment of warmth, saw nothing but kindness and sorrow in Kenobi's blue eyes. He'd known then that Kenobi was like no one else, that his General understood. That was why there eventually came a day when he told Kenobi that he could be part of their ritual too, if he wanted to, and Kenobi did - he came and stood next to Cody and said the names of brothers, just like they did.

But Cody learned that General Kenobi was not the only General to grieve, not the only Jedi to stand guard in the medbay and try to help them be better. So then Cody thought perhaps it was how Kenobi was willing to sacrifice himself for them, how he made himself a shield, thought that was the reason he would do whatever Kenobi asked him. Every time they fought, Kenobi went ahead of them, protecting them, leading the assault and striking fear into their enemies and making every last one of them feel unstoppable. He held back explosions and shrapnel with the force of his will, swept aside blaster bolts and tanks purely to keep them safe - maybe some would have said it was for the Republic, but a few clones didn't matter if the Republic won, they all knew it - yet Kenobi tried to save them, seemed struck when he could not.

When they fought on Geonosis, Kenobi dragged himself off the ground in spite of cracked ribs and a concussion and bared his teeth to fight, his saber tinging his coppery hair blue. Cody had felt a catch in his chest, an intensity - Kenobi was going to protect them, damn the consequences. It was impossible, but there he was, and that was more than Cody ever would have asked of him. Another planet, another campaign, Kenobi sent a decoy force to draw out the enemy so they could make a secondary assault, and that unit was completely overrun. Kenobi had told Cody to lead the main assault and had rushed off to help the others. He'd saved over half the unit, given Cody time to get them to victory, too. Other generals would have accepted the loss. Kenobi would not. Perhaps that was part of it, that General Kenobi treated them like people. He didn't have to, but he did, and he did it over and over and over again until Cody almost took it for granted.

But Cody did not think it was any of those things, in the end, that made him want to follow General Kenobi. It wasn't the power or the kindness or the compassion or the ferocity, although little gods, those things made Cody trust him like no one else. It was nightcycle on their cruiser, when he walked into the community mess hall and found Kenobi sitting by himself, hunched over, his hands curled around a cup of caf as he studied his datapad. It was the circles under his eyes that night, the way his soft hair fell messy into his eyes, the way he ran his thumb tense and impatient along the rim of his cup and shifted his weight back and forth as though to keep himself awake. It was the way that, in the moment before Kenobi saw him, Cody could see exhaustion and determination mixed together in his eyes, and all of a sudden General Kenobi wasn’t the unreachable Jedi who led them, wasn’t a creature of myth and legend, wasn’t blue and sky and fire.

He was small and tired and worn and so very, very flint-edged, as defiant in the face of weariness as in the face of armies, studying and planning and vigilant. Cody had crossed to him before he knew what he was doing, had ordered him to get some rest. Take care of yourself, General, he’d told him. We had a long day.

How routine that had become, those little things, asking Obi-Wan to rest, to make sure he was alright. Cody wasn’t sure his General ever stopped fighting anymore, not even when he was sitting with the men. The gentleness Obi-Wan gave to Cody, to the vode, to civilians and children and his colleagues, was not reserved for himself, and so Cody made it his job to make sure that Obi-Wan was resting and accepting treatment. Sometimes, that meant Cody had to make sure Obi-Wan was eating, too, and it was this that made him love the man. The fight, the drive, the dedication that didn’t stop, even when Cody wished to hells that he would only slow down for just a moment. It was the humanity of him, the days when Cody almost thought Obi-Wan should crack under all the strain and then he did not.

But it was a love that Cody didn’t express, and a love that Obi-Wan would never know, because they had their duty, and Cody was content to follow while Obi-Wan led, where fate or the Force or the war had placed them.

And yet when they took on an assignment to protect Duchess Satine of Mandalore, and his brothers’ smiles and fingers curled in quotation marks around they were “good friends,” Cody found that he couldn’t laugh, couldn’t joke with the rest of them. It was not professional, he told himself, and not his place, and in any case these same vode so often teased him about the way he watched General Kenobi, and he always told them they didn’t know anything. Yet there was still something that pricked in his chest at the jokes, and the increasing rumors.

Funny how much it should hurt when he followed Rex through battle-blasted corridors on the Mandalorian ship The Coronet and saw Kenobi and the Duchess standing so close, looking at each other like something had been lost, and there was a regret and softness in Kenobi’s blue eyes that was all for her, no one else. Like it was just them, like the rest of them had barged in on something private. Funny how Cody wanted to run away.

Rex had gripped his shoulder like he knew, even though Cody had never told him what he felt. Because Cody barely admitted it to himself - he wasn’t like Bly with his wide-eyed adoration and staring, he had nothing to lose. He thought.

But it hurt so much, somehow, like he’d lost Kenobi after all.

Can’t lose what you don’t have, he told Rex.

Yeah you can, Rex told him, the way he did a lot, with the twisted smile and a bit of a lost look. Sometimes Cody wished they were both different people, somewhere else. I’m sorry, vod.

Cody was sorry too.

That didn’t keep him from watching and worrying, bandaging Obi-Wan’s wounds, getting him to bed when he needed to be sleeping, and retrieving his lightsaber when he’d left it behind for the hundredth time. Some part of Cody selfishly gloried in the fact that he had shared things with Obi-Wan that the Duchess never could (while the opposite was so painfully true as well) - the rush of battle, the way trusted each other implicitly, field rations on scarred fields, weapons passed from hand to hand, risk and planning discussed in tension-filled moments because they both knew what was at stake. It was Cody who sat with Obi-Wan after their worst days in the field and discussed logistics so they could both pretend it was alright.

It was Cody who helped him after he was imprisoned on Zygerria, Cody who found him in the middle of weeks of sleepless nights and got him to sit down and drink a cup of tea and lean quiet against his shoulder. Cody was the one who saw him cry and said nothing, just dared to fit an arm around him and pull him close, because it was one of the only times that Obi-Wan’s ceaseless fight seemed dampened, nearly gone. It was Cody who knew what the Zygerrians had done to his General and his brother, even though he never figured out how to help them with it before they had both thrown themselves back into the war, and he couldn’t stop them.

That was when Obi-Wan died, and Cody was not told about the funeral until it was over - he was grieving and afraid and not even allowed to be present when everyone else got to tell Obi-Wan goodbye. Cody hardly knew what he was doing with himself, only that anger and grief together tasted like blood and he was so, so cold. Suddenly the 212th and the rest of the army that he and Obi-Wan had always commanded together was completely his responsibility. He had to do this without Obi-Wan, because some bastard had shot his General, and he’d never realized before just how much his world wrapped around Obi-Wan. Always he had his duty to his brothers, his care for them, but he had also always had his General to look after, to trust, to protect, and now he did not. There was a hole left, a space that hurt. He kept looking for Obi-Wan by his side, and never finding him.

He would have liked to go with General Skywalker to find the murderer, would have liked to let his anger be something dangerous and hot for once, would have liked to try to let out all the pain that twisted so cruel in his chest because he should have been there with Obi-Wan where he belonged. But he did not. He still had a duty to his brothers, who were as shaken as he was, and so he stayed in the barracks and tried to help them to deal with the loss that was tearing at his own insides.

And when Obi-Wan came back, padding into their barracks with his beard and hair shaved, his eyes dark and worried, Cody was not sure if he was going to kill him or kiss him senseless, didn’t know whether he felt more anger and pain or deep, aching relief. It was all so much that he was barely able to speak to Obi-Wan, barely able to stomach his Jedi’s apology and pained eyes. Cody yelled, once, in the week that followed. It was unwise and nearly incoherent and unprofessional, how could you do this to Skywalker, to us, why didn’t you tell us.

Why didn’t you tell me.

But somehow, still, he trusted Obi-Wan. Still followed him. He told Obi-Wan he forgave him (although how could he have the audacity to think Obi-Wan needed his forgiveness), and he kept taking care of him. It was war, and war left no place for things like care, like “attachment,” like love, but Cody had never expected anything and it was enough to be the one to bandage Obi-Wan’s wounds, enough to be the one who was there when his General was tired and alone and even grieving. Cody needed nothing else.

The war didn’t end. Obi-Wan lost the Duchess, and Cody tried not to be there too much, but he was too used to picking up after his Jedi, and so like he had always done he sat with Obi-Wan and made him eat, made him sleep, let him talk a little - although gods, Obi-Wan never wanted to talk, which Cody understood - until that too was past. They lost Tano, Skywalker seemed to be drifting, and Rex grew tired and paranoid and Cody didn’t know what he was doing, anymore, except he was following the steady burning star that was his Obi-Wan and protecting his brothers as best he could. That was all he had, and like it had always been, it was enough.

CC-2224 shot down the Jedi general on a day that should have been bright. Cody had curled his fingers around Obi-Wan’s lightsaber, had pressed the weapon back into Obi-Wan’s hand and been met with a smile full of warmth and fondness and promises, and Obi-Wan had told him Soon and Cody hadn’t even been sure what he meant, only that it made him feel so sure of himself, made him realize the war is almost over, it’s almost over, we’re almost there - if this was where he’d been following Obi-Wan to, the destination was so close and so good.

But it didn’t arrive. And CC-2224 had no interest in following anyone, and he wouldn’t remember how the general had once told him that death feels like a star going out, and so it didn’t hurt him when Obi-Wan Kenobi fell from the cliffside on Utapau and he went back to report that the Jedi was dead. CC-2224 didn’t care about stars, or compassion, or how General Kenobi always tried to fight. He didn’t care about much of anything.

Funny how that didn’t hurt.

One day there was accident, with his fighter, a crash, and he didn’t remember much of what happened except a haze and pain and then he was with Rex, and it was quiet, and his head was quiet and suddenly he knew again that Obi-Wan was dead again. For real this time. There was no one left for him to help and no one for him to point his anger at except himself, and for too long, for a hyperspace flight and a trek through sand, he had nothing but the emptiness. Just Rex’s hand locked around his arm, his brother’s voice a murmur in his ear. Not dead, Rex said, and it was a lie, nothing but, because Cody had been alone for a long time and he knew better than to believe his Jedi was alive, not after all this time. Everyone was gone.

But Rex brings him to a house, in the desert, and Cody doesn’t even care why they’re there until he looks up from the burning white-gold of the sand and sees soft robes and white-peppered red hair, wide-open blue eyes that match the sky overhead. And gods, Cody feels like he’s caving in, pain and guilt and shock swirling until all he knows is that he feels like he’s too full and going to burst, like he wants to never let go of Obi-Wan again, like he wants to rip away from Rex and run for his life because he can’t be here, there’s so much wrong. He was supposed to be the one who protected Obi-Wan and he’s here and he’s never seen his Jedi so worn.

But somehow that doesn’t stop Obi-Wan from striding across the sand and flinging his arms around Cody’s shoulders, tugging him close with a familiar strength, and although Cody shouldn’t, he can’t stop himself from burying his face in Obi-Wan’s hair, breathing in the scent of sandalwood and vanilla, faint and familiar. He’s shaking, and so tired, but Obi-Wan feels as steady as he always has, and he’s talking - although Cody can’t even hear what he’s saying, his voice is still so warm and soft.

Cody doesn’t know when he started crying, doesn’t know if he can stop, but for the moment he’s not alone, he’s not lost; Obi-Wan brushes fingers over the scar on his temple and Cody hears it’s alright, I forgive you in the middle of the mess and it is that, too, that’s why he loves Obi-Wan, why he feels as though everything is too intense and too much and so, so right. Because whatever else, no matter what, he has always belonged here, with Obi-Wan, with the man he would have died or lived for since the wars began, and it has never really mattered to him what was happening as long as it was them, him and his Jedi.

Still, there’s something so much sweeter about it when Obi leans up and kisses him as if he’s always wanted this, too. For just a while, it feels as if everything could begin and end, right here. With them.