Cody saw, from the corner of his eye, his general cry out in pain, stumble suddenly, then stand back up with a shudder. Cody immediately made his way over to Obi-Wan, but by the time he reached the other man, the Jedi was already back in the fight, lightsaber swirling and a hard, determined face.
He seemed fine, though Cody knew all too well that Obi-Wan would ignore any injury that wasn’t immediately life threatening. He made a mental note to sic a healer on him, no matter what he said. It wouldn’t be the first time his General had tried to avoid medics when he was injured.
The battle lasted too long. Way too long, though most battles were too long in Cody’s opinion. Obi-Wan didn’t show signs of a blaster burn or any wounds more than the general bruises and cuts a battle tended to leave them with but he looked… off. Like he was afraid that if he stopped for even one small moment, he would crash.
So, once the necessary post-battle organization was mostly finished, Cody called him over. When Obi-Wan approached, Cody realized just how glazed the man’s eyes were, as if he was on the edge of tears. “Cody? Did you need something?”
“General.” Damn, Obi-Wan looked tired. “Have you seen a medic, yet?”
Obi-Wan shook his head, “I don’t need a medic, Cody. I’m fine.”
Cody scoffed. “With all due respect, you certainly don’t look fine. I saw you yell out and fall on the field, something obviously happened.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “Something did happen,” he relented, “but it wasn’t- it’s not a physical thing a medic can help with.” Then he shifted, giving a contemplative look over the room. “Actually, I really need to contact the Council. And- and maybe Anakin. I might need Anakin.”
Cody nodded, somehow more concerned. “Can I help?”
“Come with me while I call the council?” Cody nodded.
Obi-Wan was quiet as he typed the necessary codes in the terminal. Cody followed his lead, simply lending silent support at his back.
The call connected with a soft click.
“Mace,” Obi-Wan said, quietly, no introduction, “Reeft is dead. If you haven’t had contact from his troops yet, you need to get in touch immediately.”
There was a moment of silence before a quiet, yet empathetic “ fuck ” echoed out of the call. “Stay on the line, Obi-Wan,” Mace ordered quickly, before disappearing from the call.
Obi-Wan nodded tiredly, rubbing a hand down his face and collapsing forward into himself.
“General?” Cody asked.
“I’m-” Obi-Wan started to say something, but Mace returned at that moment.
“I have Master Fisto on his way to Reeft’s last known whereabouts. What do you know?”
“It was about an eighth of the way into the battle, not long after noon. I didn’t feel anything until the bond snapped. It was quick. The backlash was- hot, really hot, but not much pain. Shock, some despair. He was gone really quickly.”
Mace was typing something quickly as Obi-Wan talked. “Thank you, Obi-Wan. I also sent a message to make sure someone checks on both Muln and Eerin. Master Ibes is in a healing comma right now but I’ve made a note for when he awakens.”
“You might want to contact Master Huddora, as well.” Obi-Wan added. “And check on the young Talravin initiate- uh- Saman? I think- I think Reeft had been-” Obi-Wan cut himself off.
Mace nodded, adding a note to whatever he was typing. He put the padd aside, then, and stared at Obi-Wan intensely through the holo-call. “Do you need to be re-called, Obi-Wan?”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “I don’t think so. It hurts but it’s not debilitating. I just feel- I feel off. Empty.”
Mace sighed. “I really shouldn’t allow this. Fuck. Okay. Obi-Wan, I’ll help lead you into a meditation from afar.”
Cody stood up straight, quick to attention. “Yes?”
“I’m going to be out of it for a bit. Please make sure we don’t blow up. And check on the brothers in the med center for me, too. Has Click come back with any info?”
“He hasn’t brought anything to my attention. I will make sure to get an update from him as well. Is there anything else you need?” Cody asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Obi-Wan said, listing slightly. Cody didn’t believe him.
Master Windu didn’t say anything, but had a look of slight concern. Evidently Windu didn’t quite believe Obi-Wan either. Windu quietly turned to Cody and said, “Commander Cody, keep your comm on you. I might need to contact you.” Obi-Wan audibly sighed in exasperation.
So Cody left, a sense of unsteadiness deep in his bones.
Not even ten minutes after he arrived at the medics’ and received the most recent report from Bacta, the current lead-medic, Cody’s comm rang.
“This is Cody.”
“Commander,” General Windu’s voice ran out, “Windu here. I need you to move to a private location.” Cody looked at Bacta, confused, but wandered into the medic’s office and closed the door.
“I’m as secure and private as I can be. What do you need from me, sir?”
A pause. “I need you to do something you might feel uncomfortable doing.”
“Sir?” Cody asked.
“If there are any force-sensitive men on your ship, especially men who work closely with Obi-Wan, I need them to go to his quarters. Preferably as soon as possible.”
Cody didn’t answer. Fear and shock filled him. It was a closely guarded secret that some of the brothers were slightly more force-sensitive than their template had been. “Sir?” Cody shook slightly and was glad that his helmet hid any expression on his face.
“You do not need to tell me who they are.” General Windu continued. “I know, however, that there are brothers more sensitive to the force than others. Please, Commander. Your General needs them.”
Cody drew in a deep breath, “How many? How sensitive? How close to the General?”
“The closer to Obi-Wan, the better. Honestly, even one person would be better than letting Obi-Wan sit and suffer alone-- the next closest Jedi is Knight Skywalker, but he’s still at least 6 hours away. In terms of amount, they just need to be sensitive enough to feel others in the force.”
Cody made up his mind. “I am force sensitive. I’m on my way to the General. I can call on maybe one or two others, but, uh...”
He seemed to have surprised General Windu, by the way the general responded. “You will likely be enough. If you could collect extra blankets to bring, that might help.”
“What is wrong with my general, sir?” Cody asked, confidence rising as he moved out of Bacta’s office and into the main room. Bacta shot him a wide-eyed look. “Does he need a medic?” Cody asked, just in case.
“No. Just your presence, right now. Skywalker and his padawan are on the way as well.” Cody shot Bacta a look and shrugged, before quickly walking down the hallway. “If you think Obi-Wan needs me, do not hesitate to call me back,” Windu continued, “I need to make some more calls and check on some other Jedi, however.”
That didn’t explain anything. Kriffing Jedi. Cody approached Obi-Wan’s door with caution. He entered his door code, waited for the door to open, and basically fell inside in his hurry.
His general was sitting on the floor of the room, silent tears running down his face, and a grimace of pain. At the sound of his commander, Obi-Wan’s eyes shot open.
“General?” Cody approached cautiously. “Are you alright? Well, no, obviously. Um. General Windu told me to come. He said you needed my presence.”
Obi-Wan sighed softly, “that man.” He shook his head slightly, then grimaced and grabbed the side of it, like he had a headache. “There’s nothing you can do.” Obi-Wan said quietly.
“General Windu. Uh. He said. Kriff.” Cody stumbled his words, then took a breath and in one quick sitting responded, “General Windu said you needed someone force sensitive, even if it’s just a slightly force sensitive clone, and that someone closer to you would be better and, well, I’m pretty sure I’m force sensitive, even if just a little, and we work together a lot so-”
Obi-Wan smiled a sad little smile. “If you are comfortable doing so, I will not turn away your help.” Cody nodded stiffly and sat down next to the other man.
“What happened, sir? What’s wrong?” Cody asked quietly. Obi-Wan turned and faced him, eyeing his armor.
“You might want to remove your armor, Commander. For your own comfort.” Cody studied Obi-Wan carefully before slowly removing his armor. He felt more comfortable in the armor than out of it, but something told him to follow his General’s suggestion.
“That wasn’t an answer, sir.”
Obi-Wan huffed. “Stop calling me sir in private, and I’ll answer your damned question.”
Cody gently set the last of his armor on the ground and turned to face Obi-Wan. The Jedi was sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, forehead creased in pain.
“You heard,” Obi-Wan started, “that I was the one to tell Mace that Reeft was dead.” He opened his eyes briefly, enough for Cody to see them glistening. “I knew he was dead, despite the fact he’s hundreds of miles away.”
Obi-Wan gave Cody a cross look.
“How did you know, Obi-Wan?” Cody repeated. Obi-Wan closed his eyes again, taking in a deep breath.
“Jedi who spend enough time together can form bonds. Jedi who grow together, learn together, live together- Jedi who love one another- well those bonds become very strong.” Obi-Wan leaned into Cody. “Sometimes bonds are accidental. Sometimes we purposely make them or purposely feed them. My bond to Anakin, I made. Time together has grown it to where it is now, that Anakin and I can communicate without talking.”
“Oh.” Cody said in sudden understanding. “You were bonded to General Reeft.”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan said, “Reeft was one of my creche-mates. I was raised alongside him, Bant, and Garen.”
“Reeft was your batch-mate.”
Obi-Wan cocked his head to the side, contemplating that. “Of sorts, yes. I was brought to the Jedi when I was a baby; when I was 4, they placed Reeft, Garen, and I together in a clan. Bant joined our clan the next year. Creche clans are- well, they aren’t that different from groups of Batch mates. We learned together, ate together, slept together- in the same room, in the same bed, in a pile of blankets on the floor- you get the picture. We grew up together. Creche-bonds are typically some of the strongest bonds a Jedi has, especially if they grow into partner bonds, like Garen and I have.”
Obi-Wan hesitantly held out his hands, palms up. Cody slowly placed his hands in them, looking at the difference between the pairs. Both were calloused and rough, Obi-Wan’s pale with a thick scar on the right thumb and Cody’s darker, with bruised knuckles. Obi-Wan’s hands were shaking when he touched them, but they seemed to settle as he gripped them tighter.
“Mace asked you to come to me, because my mind is— it’s bleeding, kinda. Having a bond ripped out leaves a hole. I, uh, I’m having trouble healing it. It helps to lean on other bonds when this happens, but, well,” Obi-Wan shrugged.
“How can I help, though?”
Obi-Wan looked away briefly, but eventually turned to face Cody, looking directly into his eyes. “That depends on you, Cody. All I really require is— well, for you to hold me. To be here. If it’s okay with you, I mean.”
Cody shook his head in exasperation. “General— Obi-Wan. It is no hardship for me to hold you.” He immediately leaned forward and dragged the other man into his arms, Obi-Wan’s back against his chest.
Obi-Wan practically melted into his embrace, and Cody realized he was shivering slightly. The suggestion to bring extra blankets made sense. “I don’t want you to feel awkward, or—”
“I’m used to laying in piles of brothers, Obi-Wan. We tended to sleep like that a lot, as Shinies.” Cody dragged a blanket up and over them, before quietly admitting, “I might even miss it.”
“You don’t have to stop, just because you’re here.” Obi-Wan said. “Heaven knows my creche-mates and friends used to drag me into cuddle piles all the time when we were younger.” He huffed a broken laugh.
“It’s against regs.” Cody said, not mentioning that there had, in fact, been a couple of times he’d witnessed such a thing anyway.
“Well, in this case, kriff regs. Whatever brings you and your brothers comfort– Cody, you don’t have to hide who you are, or, or ignore your culture here.” Obi-Wan turned to look up into Cody’s eyes. “I think, maybe, that both the Vode and the Jedi should be more open. There are some things that I miss when I’m here. And, well, Jedi are known to be standoffish, but, well, we don’t have to be.”
“I think the Vode would like that.”
They sat in silence for a little bit, Obi-Wan’s shaking dying down slightly.
“You said all you required was for me to hold you,” Cody said hesitantly. “Is there something else I can do that would help you?”
Obi-Wan stiffened, a bit, in his arms, and didn’t immediately respond.
“Obi-Wan?” Cody asked. The man in his arms breathed out, a long, tired sigh.
“There is something, but not something I would ask lightly.”
Cody sighed. “General.” He shifted the body in his arms, forcing Obi-Wan to look at him. “Obi-Wan. I care about you. I don’t want you to be in pain.” He looked into Obi-Wan’s eyes, the blue-grey so different from his and his brothers’ brown. There was pain, but also concern. “If I promise to say no to anything I find too uncomfortable, will you at least tell me what it is you need?”
Obi-Wan looked down and away. “I really don’t need it.” Obi-Wan said. Cody glared at him. “Um. Having a bond?”
Cody’s glare turned to shock. “Could I even do that?” He only knew rumors and hearsay, plus the little bit of information Obi-Wan himself had just shared, but it seemed like something only Jedi could do.
“Well, it depends on how force-sensitive you are.”
“But it isn’t only Jedi who can do it? I mean, I’m not really trained in the Force. Even if I am a bit force sensitive, I’m not a Jedi .”
Obi-Wan shrugged, “Jedi aren’t the only trained force-sensitives. And even if you weren’t specifically trained in the force, you are mentally well-trained. You all have pretty good barriers, for example.”
Cody thought about that for a second. Every brother had to take the class about protecting their mind. A lot of brothers thought it was poodoo, but Cody had done well. Not too well- every brother knew that excelling too much was almost as bad as failing. You wanted to do well, but never well enough to draw too much attention.
Cody suddenly realized that Obi-Wan had continued speaking. “But I would never bond with you if you didn’t want to.”
“It sounds useful,” Cody said, “being able to tell if you’re hurt or not would honestly be a blessing. Would we be able to communicate with each other?”
“Oh, no. Well, maybe. When bonded Jedi communicate with one another, it isn’t really with words. Just ideas and feelings. It’s… hard to explain. Only really strong bonds can communicate with something more, and even then, it’s less that we can communicate with words, and more that we know each other better and so therefore understand the concepts being communicated.”
“Can you get rid of bonds?” Cody asked. “I mean, other than death?”
“Yes. If something happens and a bond needs to be broken, it’s easier if both parties do so. But, well, it isn’t done very often- since we can close a bond off from our end, so it isn’t often that a bond truly gets removed. Master Yoda said it felt fairly similar to the other person dying-- he told me he actually thought Dooku was dead, after Dooku broke their bond.”
“And you think that I’d be able to make one?” Cody asked.
“Well it can’t hurt to try,” Obi-Wan answered. He leaned back firmly against Cody’s chest and said, meaningfully, “It’s up to you, though, Commander.”
“Do you think once I learn, I’d be able to make bonds with my brothers?” Cody asked instead of answering the implied question.
Obi-Wan turned within his arms, looking up and into Cody’s eyes, almost as if testing him. “Cody…” Obi-Wan averted his eyes for a second, but when he looked back at Cody, it was with a strength and confidence Cody hadn’t expected. “I shouldn’t, but– Cody, I will teach you how to build bonds, if that is what you desire. You don’t have to bond with me. It’d be easier, but I’ll teach you, regardless. Just know that complete force-nulls are incapable of creating bonds, so it’s possible not every brother will be able to. I know that there are some of you with just the slightest ability, but I’m not sure how Force sensitive you need to be.”
“There are no brothers more Force sensitive enough to have been Jedi,” Cody said, “the scientists made sure of that.”
Obi-Wan cocked his head to the side in confusion. “How did they do that? Force sensitivity and midi-chlorians have been confusing Jedi scientists for centuries.”
“Oh, well, they just culled any clones with a higher than 4,000.”
“They what?” Obi-Wan wrenched himself out of Cody’s arms, almost falling over in the process. Cody grabbed his upper arms gently, keeping the other man upright. “Does culled mean what I think it means?” Obi-Wan asked quietly, searching.
Cody shrugged. “Probably. They got rid of anyone with obvious defects, and having too high a midi-chlorian level was considered too much of a change from the source material.”
Obi-Wan continued to stare at him, as if in shock. “ What. ”
“Um? What are you confused about, here?”
Obi-Wan was shaking again, and Cody didn’t know what to do. “Cody. That should never have happened.”
“Oh. Well, most of us who were slightly more Force sensitive got sent directly to Command. That’s the difference, really, between CC and CT units. Other than training, obviously. But some CTs get the training and become commanders, too.”
“That makes sense, actually,” Obi-Wan said, “but back to– culling? ”
Cody shifted, pulling away slightly and looking off into the distance, away from Obi-Wan. “Any brother who was in any way an anomaly got culled. One of my batchmates struggled with reading and got culled when we were 2. Rex almost got culled because he’s blonde, same with another brother, Surge. And, well, Wolffe is lucky he lost his eye in the field. Before being sent out, if we were too injured, well,” Cody grimaced. “Do too poorly, and your brothers never see you again. Sometimes, even doing too well was met with disapproval. We never actually found out what happened– brothers just disappeared.”
Silence caused Cody to drag his eyes back to the man still half in his lap. Oh. Obi-Wan was crying. “I’m so sorry,” Obi-Wan whispered, “that this happened.”
Cody didn’t know how to answer. He couldn’t say that it was okay, because it wasn’t. A lot of how he and his brothers were raised wasn’t okay. He was saved by answering, though, when Obi-Wan, through his tears, explained, well, everything.
“We didn’t know about you,” Obi-Wan said quietly, “the clones weren’t actually ordered by the Jedi. One of our Masters ran off, paid for you, erased all records of the situation, then died immediately, in a very suspicious way. So no one knew. If we had just known–” he cut himself off, collapsing in on himself. “We almost turned down the clones, almost denied responsibility.” Cody jerked forward a little at that, reaching slightly, touching his Jedi as if to make sure he was there. Obi-Wan took his hand and held it tightly. “But the Senate threatened us. Threatened you. And, well, I’m glad you’re in my life.
“But we only knew about you because Jango Fett tried to assassinate Senator Amidala and I tracked him to Kamino. I arrived and one of those Sith-damned scientists greeted me, telling me my “products” were ready and on track. I was so confused, but went along with it. Told the council then found myself on Geonosis, prisoner to my own grand-master, who was apparently now a Sith. I wasn’t witness to any of the decision making at the time, but, well, the Council thought that the lesser of the many evils was to just go along with the Senate’s mandate.”
“I’m glad you did,” Cody said, “the Jedi are the only ones who really treat my brothers and I as people. You encouraged individuality and stopped the scientists’ from simply disposing of injured brothers.”
“But you’re still slaves!” Obi-Wan cried out, pulling Cody closer, “And your brothers are still dying. Jedi are dying. Jedi are falling, Cody, because we were never trained, most of us, for war. The Senate sees us as mysterious beings who wield lightsabers and a mystic power they don’t understand, but we aren’t soldiers. And the fact that, for some reason, we’re all still here, fighting this kriffing war– none of us should be here. And, of all of this, you and your brothers deserve so much more, Cody.”
Cody didn’t answer, didn’t respond. He tried not to think about the fact that he and his brothers were slaves to the will of people who, for the most part, didn’t even think of them as human. There was something comforting, in a dark way, about the fact the the Jedi apparently felt the same.
They sat there in silence, holding each other, Obi-Wan crying quietly, Cody simply drawing him close.