“You’re late!” Krell barked.
Ahsoka stepped back, startled by the abrasive greeting. She glanced at the chronometer, bewildered.
“Apologies, Master,” she said, bowing politely. “I came as soon as mid-hyperspace docking engaged. Was the meeting not scheduled for 0500?”
Yeesh he’s crankier than Master Kenobi without morning tea.
“It was moved to 04:30—don’t they teach whelplings to check their comms?” he replied, stepping forward to tower over her. She stared upwards at the unfamiliar Master, not certain how they had gotten off on such a bad start.
…did he just call me a whelpling? what—what does that even…
“It was my fault, sir,” Rex said, tone and body rigid. “The intership comms—”
“I did not give you permission to speak—” Krell’s eyes raked Rex’s pauldron. “—7567. Consider this your only warning not to interrupt me again.”
Ahsoka sucked in a breath, too shocked to say anything.
“Yes, sir,” Rex replied tonelessly.
“Next time you will be here when I say. Understood, girl?” Krell didn’t wait for a response before turning around with a dismissive snort. Ahsoka bristled, instinctively falling into a dueling stance. She opened her mouth, but before she could marshal the appropriate curse words, Rex laid a hand on her shoulder.
She looked at him sharply. “Not Respectful?!” she yelled silently, jerking her chin angrily. Or, more specifically, ‘Not-not hostile?’ falling into callsigns, something she usually reserved for enemy territory, which was apparently now THEIR OWN KRIFFING SHIP!!
“Please,” he begged with a tilt of his visor and a twist of hands. “Please. Later.”
Ahsoka clenched her fists, gaze sweeping the room.
“Not now,” Cody signaled behind Krell’s back, a brittle edge to his force presence that she didn’t like.
She reluctantly let her arms fall.
“Do you have something to say?” Krell asked dismissively, not looking at her as he pulled up their sparse intel on the Utapau system.
“No. Not at the moment,” she grit out.
“Hm. It’s no wonder that so much time spent learning from inferior prey species would leave you…soft. It is something I will soon correct you of.”
“I look forward to sparring at your earliest convenience,” she half-said, half-snarled. The mood in the room grew subtly fearful; a brief spike of raw panic, almost too quick and controlled to sense, flared off of Rex. She took a deep breath, attempting to center herself. ‘Later,’ she thought like a mantra. ‘Later.’
“I suppose I can also set aside some time for a proper warrior’s meditation— it would be best to make sure that you haven’t inherited any of your grandmaster’s…mental fragility.”
The fear in the room grew heavier. Krell was either willfully ignorant or actively enjoying it.
Once more, her fists closed and her mouth opened.
“No,” Cody signed frantically. “No, Stand down.”
“Are you defective?” Krell asked, turning his attention to the Marshall Commander. “Why are you flailing your hands while your superiors are speaking?”
“Just attempting to check on the status of the comms,” Cody replied.
“Communication issues were supposed to be resolved yesterday,” the Besalisk snapped.
“My fault entirely,” Cody said impassively.
“Yes. It is. And I will be remembering that. It seems that the 212ths famed effectiveness has been overblown—not surprising considering the state of your General. There have been a number of issues I’ve noticed since coming on board: sloppiness in dress code, scribbled lists of ‘nicknames’ where there should be clean walls—”
“Are you referring to the fallen soldier memorials?” Rex asked, deadly calm.
“Whatever you call it,” he said dismissively. “I expect it will be scrubbed off by this afternoon. Not to mention your armor—I know your previous General was dangerously unsuited for the rigors of battle, but I am running a war. The colors are a distraction in the field, and unnecessary. And another thing—”
Cody struggled to tune out the verbal barrage as his fingers itched—whether for a blaster, as Rex was subtly twitching towards, or to curl into a fist, as Ahsoka was actively doing, he didn’t know. This was who they were replacing Obi-Wan with? This was who Mace told Rex to trust? This was the General who he was supposed to sacrifice his men’s lives in protection for? They were scarcely out of orbit and the ‘Jedi’ had already actively insulted his best officers, degraded the value of every clone’s life and death, repeatedly mocked General Kenobi’s condition, and now he was disrespecting Ashoka. How the fuck was he supposed to keep her safe from this nightmare of a Jedi if she rose to all of his barbs—
His furious musings were interrupted by a commotion at the entrance to the bridge. His gut coiled with dread, not wanting to see the fallout. Krell would definitely tear into whoever was responsible for the interruption. Boil inhaled sharply; across the room, wordless surprise began to ripple across ramrod stiff backs.
Then Ahsoka called out, tone shockingly and incongruously bright.
“General!” Waxer cried in relief and delight, “You’re alright!”
Cody spun around, and there, haloed by the soft light of the early morning corridor, stood Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Indeed I am—I’m terribly sorry if I’ve put any of you out. Might I say it’s very good to see you all.” The achingly familiar and alive Jedi flashed a grin at Cody, who just stared back numbly.
“With one notable exception, of course,” Obi-Wan continued, striding forward. The movement revealed a grim-faced Anakin Skywalker, nearly hidden by his Master’s presence, despite their height difference. Or perhaps Cody wasn’t paying attention before. Skywalker slid into the shadow at his Master’s side as General Kenobi’s smile turned towards Krell and grew brittle.
“Kenobi,” the Besalisk sneered. “Shouldn’t you be wailing in a padded room?”
“Hmm,” Kenobi hummed thoughtfully, stroking his beard and looking bemused at the attempted taunt. “No, I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” The good humor slid into a sneer, voice and face suddenly more contemptuous than Krell’s. “You, on the other hand, are on my bridge and in my way.”
“Thank fuck,” Boil muttered, several vode clicking their heels in agreement.
“This is my ship now,” the Besalisk growled. “The Jedi High Council themselves appointed me as High General of the Third Army while you were off pissing yourself in a dark room.” His scaly lip curled and he puffed himself larger, again either unaware of or deliberately ignoring the waves of emotion rolling off the troops surrounding him. “You should have stayed where no one would have to watch your pathetic fits. Now, 2224, as your General, I order you to lock this man in the brig before he can cause any more of a disruption.”
Cody finally broke his gaze away from Obi-Wan to stare in disbelief at the four armed idiot. Obi-Wan’s grin widened.
“Come now, Krell, did you really think no one would notice your betrayal? Did you honestly believe that not a single Jedi Master would sense your fall? That no one would pick up on your pathetic intentions to flee the Republic and beg Dooku to please take pity on you?” He stepped forward, undaunted by the massive shadow the reptilian Master was casting.
Krell’s face twisted. Cody wasn’t sure if he was more enraged by the implication of treason or cowardice.
“You’ve LOST your MIND!”
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, you’ve said. It’s getting a bit repetitive, not to mention distasteful. I mean, really what kind of craven—”
“GO TO THE BRIG BEFORE I DECIDE TO KILL YOU!” Krell snarled, upper hands falling to his saber hilts.
Responding to the threat, every clone in the room drew their blaster, pointing them at the raving fallen Jedi. Krell drew his lightstaves; but, before he could ignite them, Anakin abruptly stood in between the two Masters, apparently choosing to forgo traversing the space in between his former and current spot in favor of striking a defensive pose and vibrating with leashed fury.
Obi-Wan kept talking, as though the room wasn’t a breath away from utter carnage. “As a High Council Member and duly appointed High General of the Grand Army of the Republic, I hereby strip you of your rank within the Order and relieve you of your military rank and privileges. Furthermore, you are under arrest for your callous mistreatment of sentient life, conspiracy to commit treason—”
Krell lunged forward with a murderous roar, and the bridge descended into full chaos.
Cody had scarcely moved his men into better positions when first blood was drawn, splattering the walls and ground amidst a blur of blazing blue. Kenobi’s saber was finally out, deflecting every blow that slipped past Skywalker’s guard. Or, rather, he and Anakin fought as a perfectly unified singular entity to disarm Krell (quite literally as the case would have it, a lower left forearm still writhing on the ground in their wake).
Ahsoka hovered at the outskirts of the duel, repeatedly tensing and falling back, itching to help but unwilling to interrupt the flow of combat as a lethal distraction. The clones found themselves in the same situation, eager to defend their Generals but stymied by the cramped space and unfathomably rapid movements. Lightsaber combat often moved in bursts of speed, but even for Jedi, the three combatants were abnormally unrelenting, limbs and sabers only clearly distinguishable in those brief moments where they remained locked.
Here, Anakin materialized, throat caught in Krell’s right arm, before disengaging with a kick. There—across the room now—Krell was held in place, Obi-Wan’s blade dangerously close to his throat before being thrown back. Then they were gone again—the eye of a hurricane whose winds began to painfully buffet the assembled spectators.
For a moment Krell pressed down on General Kenobi, the smaller Jedi starting to visibly buckle under the weight. Then a blur of light and Krell’s upper right arm fell to the floor, still gripping a green lightstaff.
The room grew bitterly cold as Krell howled in fury, throwing back equipment and men as he lashed out in the force. Cody managed to keep his feet as his back hit the wall, desperately attempting to regain his breath as he struggled to steel himself against what could only be the wild push of an uncontrolled dark force user.
The sensation of frost biting at his skin was almost familiar, sharp in the way of Dooku, but the physical punch was not nearly as focused. Anakin and Obi-Wan stumbled for a moment before leaning into the icy gail, nodding at one another.
Moving in sync, the two pinned the massive warrior against a wall with a spin and push of their outstretched hands. Krell continued to roar, implacable despite his decisive and rapid loss.
Obi-Wan darted forward, grabbing the Besalisk’s head between his hands and finally raising his voice, shouting a single “ENOUGH.”
The word reverberated around the room with enough force that several troopers fumbled with their weapons, one shiny even dropping his blaster as he staggered back. Krell’s eyes rolled back in his head and he sagged in place, unconscious and missing one third of his limbs.
The soldiers on the floor began staggering into their feet, immediately closing in on Krell, blasters at the ready. Ahsoka balanced on the balls of her feet, blades in hand, but Krell remained still. Obi-Wan tucked his saber away, clearly signaling the end of combat—Anakin followed suit a moment later. Considering the fact that it had been barely a few minutes since Obi-Wan stepped on the bridge, Cody rallied rather impressively, in his own opinion.
“Orders, sir?” he asked, stiffly saluting his General. His apparently completely fine, totally alright, walking around normally General.
Obi-Wan reached into a fold in his robes and pulled out a small leather sack. Grimacing, he pulled out a metal cuff with strange markings and an oily sheen. He clasped the cuff to Krell’s remaining left arm, removing a small crystal to lock it in place, before dropping the gem in the bag.
“That was a force-suppressing cuff,” he explained, handing the satchel over to Boil. “Between his injuries, my force command, and that he should stay under for the next few hours while he’s being treated for wounds. Once medical’s finished with him, attach the remaining cuffs and transfer him to the brig.” The orders were crisp and not particularly enlightening, but after days of confusing and heart-wrenching bantha-fodder and then Krell’s demeaning sithspit, the familiar Coruscanti accent was more refreshing than rainwater in the desert.
“Yes, General. Boil, Waxer—you’re in charge of the prisoner. ‘66 clean up this room.” Cody commanded, delegating on autopilot. Delegating the orders that Obi-Wan gave out loud with his voice that Cody could hear.
“Yes, sir!” Waxer said happily. “And might I say—it’s very good to have you back on board, General Kenobi, General Skywalker.”
“It’s good to be back,” Obi-Wan (General Kenobi, he’s back, and you call him General Kenobi) said softly, corners of his eyes wrinkling like—(it doesn’t matter don’t think about it)..
“The Generals will debrief Rex and I now, if neither of them have any other orders for the moment,” Cody continued, professionally ignoring any inane internal commentary.
“That sounds like an excellent plan,” Kenobi agreed, as though responding to a typical exchange, as though the last time they had been in the same room Obi-Wan hadn’t been in a self-induced coma following attempted suicide and Cody wasn’t currently on the edge of a breakdown.
Skywalker, he noted, just nodded, glaring at the wall Krell was propped up against. He clearly wasn’t ready to pretend that the last week had been normal, thank fuck.
“What do you want me to do?” Ahsoka asked quietly, putting away her sabers, gaze flickering uncertainly between the Jedi.
“You’re with us, of course,” General Skywalker replied, just as softly, speaking for the first time since turning the bridge upside down. Or right side up, depending on your point of view. Ahsoka beamed, straightening with pride.
“Commander Cody,” Obi-Wan said, in that same kriffing normal tone of voice. “Would you be so kind as to also send a runner to summon Kix and Bones to my office? Everyone will need to read in, but as we’ve had to disable communications—for very good reason—it’s going to take some time.”
Ahsoka opened her mouth, but Cody just nodded, beyond questions. “Of course.”
The group walked out the door, any awkward silence between the 212th General and Commander more than drowned out by Rex and Ahsoka’s gushing over their incredible takedown of Krell. Although, contrary to his typical ego-tripping, Anakin seemed to shrink at the praise, looking guiltily at Obi-Wan from the side of his eyes.
“It—had to be done,” Skywalker said awkwardly, hand twitching over the holster strapped to his side. Cody winced under his bucket. Is this the first time he’s picked up a lightsaber since—oh fuck is that his lightsaber—
“It did,” Obi-Wan confirmed, reaching out to squeeze Anakin’s shoulder. “And we were able to take him alive, which means he can be held accountable for his crimes in a fair trial.”
Anakin instantly brightened. “We did pretty good, huh? Fighting together?”
“It was awesome!” Ahsoka agreed enthusiastically, making a dramatic motion, as Obi-Wan’s gentle smile faded. “That fucker didn’t know what hit him!”
“Apologies for leaving you with him, even temporarily.” Obi-Wan’s tone grew grave as they stepped inside the quiet office, gaze flickering towards Rex and Cody.
“If I had known attacking him was an option, it would have made things a lot easier,” Rex replied, carefully jovial.
Ahsoka’s enthusiasm faltered.
“I know we should wait for the other officers, but—was this your plan? Was this what Master Windu meant on the platform…”
“Yes, I’m sorry—we never would have left you alone with Krell for even this long if we could help it,” General Kenobi responded seriously, face growing somber as Skywalker’s expression darkened. “But there are…more eyes and ears on Coruscant right now than we can account for.”
The Tortugan padawan nodded serenely, then punched Obi-Wan directly in the face.
“How could you!” she yelled, tone breaking and eyes growing damp. “How could you lie about that!”
Anakin leapt forward, pinning her arms in a bear hug which she struggled against, kicking wildly.
“Snips, No,” Skywalker said, desperately soothing. “It wasn’t like that, I swear!”
“Oh Ashoka, you misunderstand, I’m so sorry, I should have—” Obi-Wan rubbed his nose, wincing. “I would never fake my death in that manner, I promise, that was not a deliberate deception—”
“Then you did try to kill yourself?” Cody asked, feeling strangely disconnected.
“You what,” Kix said in a strangled whisper. Apparently the Open Circle Medics had arrived at some point in the commotion.
Obi-Wan flinched, pressing fingers into the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know how I was expecting this conversation to go,” he muttered.
“Just hear him out—it’s not what it seems,” Skywalker pleaded, but Bones was already at General Kenobi’s side, manhandling into a medical examination.
“I did not actually attempt to kill myself—”
“But Skyguy said you did! How could you use that as a cover! Do you know how much I blamed myself?” Ahsoka sobbed, tears spilling out as she suddenly tipped past the point of putting on a brave face.
Rex made a low sound but Cody simply stared at his General, who was gently batting away the top medical hands of the 212th and 501st.
“Ashoka—no—that never would have been your fault,” Obi-Wan tried to say.
“I know that, obviously!” Ahsoka said fiercely, taking a deep breath and stilling herself; Anakin maintained his grip as tears continued to fall. Cody felt like he was fully outside of his body, unable to process the rapid fire exchange of guilt and betrayal that made something echo beneath his own breastplate.
“But I’m a shiny who you’ve had to keep alive in a warzone and I know how much it upsets you when I mention something and you realize that I didn’t have the sort of initiate experience that people used to and I knew you weren’t taking sleeping enough but I thought it was ok since you were this untouchable Master but that was so stupid because I’ve seen you bleed and I know you’re just a squishy human and—”
Obi-Wan collapsed to his knees in front of her, wrapping her in a fierce hug as Anakin hovered protectively above the pair. “Oh Ashoka, I’m so sorry—my mental state is not your responsibility and I promise I didn’t deliberately leave you in the dark like that.”
Ashoka sniffled. “So…it wasn’t a ruse to throw off the Separatists?”
“No, of course not, no!” Obi-Wan said hastily, drawing back so he could meet her gaze. “I admit my rather abrupt raising of shields after reaching out yesterday morning was done with the partial-intention of fostering confusion, and I apologize for the distress that must have caused, but the initial, ah, self-harm was not in anyway intended as a trick.”
Ashoka’s eyes grew very, very big and Cody grew so still that Anakin was briefly concerned he had, in fact, had a heart attack and died while standing.
Obi-Wan winced, slapping a hand to his face, which caused him to wince again. “That’s not what I meant either! I’m not suicidal—”
“But you were?” Bones asked, throat hoarse with gradually increasing but carefully restrained stress and fear and confusion.
“No!” Obi-Wan said desperately, Anakin considered poking Cody, whose force presence was flickering out of perception in an extremely worrying matter. “I thought that I was hallucinating, but I very much understand that I have things to live for now, that was the other goal of reaching out—”
“So you thought you didn’t have things to live for before?” Ashoka questioned, voice wobbling between outrage and sadness.
“…Please let me start from the beginning.”
“I think that would be best,” Captain Rex said, voice utterly devoid of inflection.
“Right.” Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “Why don’t we all sit?”
Everyone obediently did so, the speed at which they fell in slightly discomfiting Obi-Wan.
Cody forced himself to focus fully, pulling off his helmet so he could finally look at Obi-Wan without the visor, grounding himself with the fact that, whatever Obi-Wan was about to say right now, he really, truly was here. Anakin shot him a sympathetic glance across the table.
“If I might be permitted to try once more without interruption—”
Everyone nodded fiercely, leaning in and radiating guilt in a way that reminded Obi-Wan uncomfortably of chastised children—or beaten animals.
“I’m sorry, Master Kenobi,” Ahsoka said, ducking her head. “We’ll listen, we promise.”
Cody and the rest of the troopers nodded again in sharp agreement.
“Right. Well.” Obi-Wan sat down slowly. “No need to apologize—I’m—I truly am sorry for worrying you all so much. It all started, from your perspective at least, last Zhellday night, when I experienced a—to be frank vision isn’t completely accurate, it was far too detailed—”
He paused, expecting an interruption that didn’t come; the table leaned in, even Anakin, who had heard this before. The Jedi Master cleared his throat.
“From my perspective, I traveled back in time roughly four years. As far as I am aware, such a detailed warping of the perception of time is unprecedented in force-sensitive history, but, then again, I did live through…rather unprecedented times. Regardless of the mechanics, I was extremely disoriented to find myself in a bar on Coruscant…I assumed I was having a vivid flashback.” The table remained silent as Obi-Wan frowned in thought.
He shook his head, smiling sheepishly. “I am afraid that my attempts to wake up could indeed be reasonably mistaken for—well, attempted self-harm but I assure you that was not my intention! After I failed to return to the ‘present’, well…it took a great deal of time to correct me of my assumptions. But after yesterday, I am convinced that I am indeed, now, something for which I am extremely grateful. The High Council is equally convinced of the veracity of my vision. I have…a significant amount of knowledge that has unfortunately proven true.”
Obi-Wan cleared his throat again. He wasn’t used to speaking this long to this group without interruption, but the room was acting unnervingly obedient.
“Do you have any questions so far?”
“Is waking up from a vision like that common? Are you likely to…get confused like that again?” Bones asked immediately, deadly serious.
“That’s not what you want to know,” Ahsoka said, waving her hands impatiently. “Master, the only way you could get to that point while awake and not realize that you were awake is if you weren’t listenting to the force at all, which would mean you were completely cut off from the force—and that’s dangerous.”
“Yes. I was hiding from the Sith,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I didn’t know the extent of his ability to sense me.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Ahsoka grit out, the vode in the room watching the Jedi go back and forth with increasing confusion.
“It’s easier to spot a far away light in total darkness,” Anakin said solemnly.
“The kriff does that mean?” Kix asked, frustrated by the conversation and particularly bewildered by the fact that General Skywalker was falling into vague metaphor.
Ahsoka gasped, knuckles paling as she gripped the table. “Total—you mean in the future there weren’t…any other Jedi?” The troopers sucked in a breath of sudden understanding.
“I don’t want to see the temple burning,” Cody remembered, the choked words burnt into his memory past the power of alcohol to erase.
A swell of unimaginable grief slipped past Obi-Wan’s control to etch itself across his face. “Like I said,” he answered hoarsely. “I’m…quite grateful for the second chance.”
"Then we lost the war,” Rex said. “In the future you saw—the Republic lost.”
“I’m afraid it’s worse than that,” Skywalker commented darkly.
“I don’t blame you for trying to kill me, you know,” the General said, stumbling drunk into the hovercar.
“Worse than all the Jedi dying?” Bones asked, incredulous. General Kenobi’s face tightened.
“Before we go on—” Skywalker interjected, side-eying his Master.
“Right, of course,” Obi-Wan said, sounding pained. “Gentleman, I’m afraid before I disclose anymore, I’m going to need your comms. And your weapons.”
Cody had his on the table before the rest of the room could process the order.
“I know you would never fire at me if you were you.”
“Why?” Ahsoka asked indignantly, as Anakin carefully summoned the disconnected gear.
“I think Palpatine must have been controlling your minds somehow.”
“Because in the future you saw, the Jedi weren’t killed by an enemy, were they?” Cody answered, throat dry and skin clammy.
Rex, Kix, and Bones whipped their heads around to stare at the Marshall Commander, looking shocked.
Rex slammed his palms to the table, gaze locked on Cody. “What the fuck does that mean?”
Obi-Wan grimaced. “There’s—force—I don’t know how to tell you this, it’s—of all the horrors I’ve known—”
“You have slave chips in your brains,” Anakin interrupted bluntly. “It’s why we couldn’t even risk having this conversation until the army was cut off from any possible communication—we spent all night trashing every part of the system. We couldn’t take the chance of them triggering while the company was compromised.”
Cody felt his body drifting away—he had been waiting, dreading the explanation of some—neurotoxin—or dark Sith magic not…
Not something already inside him.
“What the fuck do you mean slave chips?” Kix asked.
“Like bombs?” Ashoka asked, horrified.
“I—” Anakin closed his eyes. “No, worse than that, actually. Didn’t think you could do worse than a bomb in your body, but you learn something horrible every day, right?”
“Sir,” Rex said, hands clenching and unclenching. “With all due respect, cut the melodrama and explain what the fuck the ‘slave chips’ do. Exactly.”
Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “In my…vision the vode turned on the Jedi. That was how we were wiped out. I only survived by chance.”
“No,” Rex refused. “That’s not possible.”
“The chancellor issued something called Order 66.” The four clones stiffened to attention, causing Ahsoka to lean back and Anakin’s hand to drop to his hip.
“That’s—I don’t even know what that is,” Kix whispered.
“I know.” Obi-Wan said gently. “I know. But the way you responded—it’s familiar, isn’t it? Yesterday, after I finally realized when and where I was, we began searching—I only learned hints in my first life—but it was enough—we finally found it in a level five atomic scan, just barely detectable. A bioengineered control chip, likely implanted before decanting.”
General Kenobi carefully reached into his robe and pulled out a data stick, as well as a clear slide with something greyish-pink and translucent suspended inside. “It’s heavily encrypted, but it explains…the future I saw, though I didn’t understand it at the time. You must understand, it’s not a matter of fault, or willpower—the chip is embedded in your frontal lobe—”
“Oh,” Bones murmured, gently touching a hand to his forehead. “It just—overwrites our ability to make choices. That’s—”
The room fell dead silent as the medic failed to finish his sentence.
“But you can get it out?” Rex rasped.
“Surgical instructions are here,” Obi-Wan said, gesturing at the data stick. “Both for organic and droid surgeons—I’m—I’m so sorry this has been done to you, I should have—”
“We need to get it out. Now,” Cody commanded brusquely, cutting off the General before he lost his mind.
“Right,” Kix said out loud, as the 212th medic nodded furiously in agreement. “We’ll head straight to the Negotiator’s medical bay, get a room prepped.”
“I need to check in with the Dauntless,” Rex said suddenly. “We’re not supposed to be attached during hyperspace travel this long, someone might spook and try to reestablish comms, no matter how thoroughly you tore them apart.”
Anakin exchanged a grimace with Obi-Wan before standing at the Master’s nod.
“I’ll come with you,” General Skywalker said. “None of you should be without an escort.”
“As far as we could tell—and we ran quite a number of tests—the chips don’t have an algorithm to activate upon discovery,” Obi-Wan added quickly. “But just in case…”
The four clones shuddered.
“I’ll come with you to medical,” Ahsoka offered immediately, earning somber smiles.
“And I’ll stay and discuss next steps with Commander Cody,” Obi-Wan said softly. “There’s only so much I can say while you’re still compromised but I want you to know—we do have a plan. To end the war, to save your brothers.”
Rex cracked a genuine smile at the Jedi. “Of course you do.”
“You can count on us,” Bones swore.
“I know I can.” General Kenobi’s voice left no room for doubt.
Soon he and Cody were alone; the General closed the door firmly and sat back down, pulling out the chair next to his Commander instead of returning to the head of the table. Obi-Wan took a deep breath, turning to face the other man, but Cody spoke first.
“I fired at you,” Cody croaked.
“And I left you to be enslaved by the empire,” Obi-Wan replied, voice just as broken. “You and all your brothers.”
“You didn’t know—”
“I should have. I should have known the vode would never turn on the Jedi, though force knows you of all people in the galaxy had the most right—”
And suddenly Cody was tackling his General, Obi-Wan’s chair tilting dangerously backwards before being caught by the force, the sudden introduction of an armored Marshal Commander throwing it off balance.
“How can you say that!” Cody yelled in Obi-Wan’s startled face, gripping the front of his tunic and shaking him slightly. “The Jedi—not including Krell—are the only ones who ever treated us like humans—how can you say—”
Obi-Wan bowed his head, unable to meet Cody’s eyes. “The war is a lie,” he rasped. “I led good men to their deaths for a lie—”
“I—whatever you’ve learned—you didn’t know, and now that you do, you’re doing everything you can to save us! You remember us killing your entire family—”
“It wasn’t your fault, and it never happened—”
“You remember it.” Cody felt unreasonably furious, hands shifting to grip the sides of Obi-Wan’s head, forcing him to meet his eyes, desperate to make a thousand swirling thoughts clear.
“You watched us tear your world fall apart and you still care about us, because of course you do. You—you couldn’t walk away from the war anymore than I could, don’t try and pretend otherwise. We both have the resources, the training, to disappear from this mess—but deserting never even occurred to me until I realized—until I thought the war had broken you and I wished you had run away—that I had—”
“Cody—” Obi-Wan said in a strangled voice. “I couldn’t—there’s so much I regretted not saying, but now that I—” Obi-Wan took a shuddering breath before continuing on. “Now that I have a second chance, I—I don’t know how to tell you—force, I don’t know how to tell you what you mean, to the war, to the galaxy, to—how much you mean to me. I was so scared—I am so scared of breaking the trust between us— but—I—”
Cody’s heart pounded as he watched the Jedi steel himself. He could feel the Jedi’s swallow heavily, pulse growing rapid beneath his fingertips.
“I don't know why you put up with me, you're so much cleverer than I am—you’re the smartest man I know, and you’re so kind, despite everything you're so kind, you thought I didn't notice, but I did, I do, and, Cody, you’ve always been golden in the force, it’s breathtaking, and I—” Obi-Wan’s reached forward, hand shaking as his fingertips brushed the side of Cody’s face, barely whispering now. “I’ve never shared trust with anyone like I do you, never trusted without doubt. Not…completely.”
“And then I turned on you,” Cody croaked, stomach leaden.
Obi-Wan smiled crookedly. “You know, that never did make sense. I told everyone that I survived based on luck, and maybe that was a large part of it, but you of all people know how lucky I am. The cliff beneath me crumbled and you just…turned away. Seemed to think I couldn’t possibly have survived the fall. Pronounced me dead without ever seeing the body.”
Cody’s heart gave an unlikely lurch. “I must have been brain damaged,” the Commander said hoarsely. “A fall’s not going to kill you—malnutrition, maybe—"
Obi-Wan laughed. “That’s just what I mean—I’ve never been trusted like that—like this. You’ve seen me at some of my worst, and still you never faltered, you just…you glared at me, and then you helped me up and you make things better— force, in the middle of so much horror, we made things better.”
“You drive me insane,” Cody whispered. “I don’t understand why you can’t see how good you are, you care more about the vode then anyone, you care more about enemy soldiers than you do yourself, and it drives me mad.”
Obi-Wan grinned like he wanted to crack a joke but Cody resolutely ignored it, determined to at least try and get the words out. “I’m always so—so embarrassingly happy just to spend time around you, even when the galaxy is going to hell—I want—you have no idea how much I want to just—sit next to you. I’ve spent two years watching you use your words to patch my brothers up with and tear your enemies down. I want all of that‚ I was raised to expect terrible things but you’re so good. I—”
The Commander broke off, suddenly realizing how close their faces had gotten, how blue Obi-Wan’s eyes were. His heart beat faster beneath his chestplate and he stared in fascination as a pink flush spread across the Jedi’s face. Obi-Wan’s hand traced the curve of his cheekbone; Cody gently tipped his General’s chin upwards and—
A chime came from the door. Cody startled, drawing back as he realized that Obi-Wan’s face was so close because he had flung himself at the other man’s lap; the chair toppled over as Obi-Wan apparently lost focus on the balancing act.
“Sirs?” Waxer called through the door.
“Just a minute, Lieutenant,” Commander Cody ordered, attempting to sound professional despite the fact that he was currently face down, half-way sprawled on top of Obi-Wan.
“Kix asked me to get you two—”
“Give us a minute, Waxer,” Obi-Wan repeated.
Cody pushed upwards, body giddy and electric as he stared down at the impossible man below him.
“I suppose we should go,” Obi-Wan murmured.
“Right,” Cody agreed, not moving. He pretended not to notice the obnoxious grating noise of Obi-Wan slowly pushing the toppled chair away, and how it allowed Cody’s shins to fall, more comfortably bracketing the General’s legs.
Obi-Wan stared at him with an unfathomable expression. “I really am very glad to see you,” he whispered.
“So am I,” Cody replied helplessly.
“…Sorry for crying on you on the way back to the temple.”
“Any time. Thanks for figuring out the whole mind control thing.”
“Of course. We should…really get that taken care of.” Obi-Wan made no move to push Cody off.
The commander swallowed heavily. “You know—brain surgery can be risky—I’d hate for you to have any regrets, if something were to happen…”
Obi-Wan burst out laughing, an edge of hysteria bubbling out as he clasped his palms to his face. Cody watched breathlessly as the Jedi chuckled, then took a few shuddering breaths, before letting his hands fall to reveal glistening eyes.
Cody instantly started to pull backwards, but one hand was hooked on the front of his breastplate, the other on the back of his head, and he was being pulled down and—
The door opened just as Cody could feel Obi-Wan’s breath, both their heads whipping around to see Waxer standing in the door frame, corners of his mouth turning up as he drank in the scene.
“I’ll tell him you need another minute, shall I?” Waxer said, and Cody could hear the shit-eating grin, even as his gaze pulled back to the face so very near beneath him.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. But that won’t be necessary,” General Kenobi replied cooly, open expression shuttering into something professional.
“Yes, sir,” Waxer acknowledged, obnoxious cheer fading into chagrin.
Cody shifted back, and all too soon they were standing, Cody following at the General’s heels.
Cody didn’t dignify the lieutenant with a glare as he passed by, and Waxer seemed to shrink in on himself, radiating apology as he slunk away.
Progress to medical was painfully slow; what felt like half of the 201st emerged from the woodwork to waylay them. Each was rewarded for their dallying with firm clasps on the shoulders and pats on the back. Well, the Commander could hardly blame them for seeking a little physical assurance that their Jedi was truly back, nor Kenobi for providing it. Force knows they’d need any comfort they could get, in the days to come.
“We’ll…resume our conversation later?” Cody found himself murmuring in a moment of privacy and weakness between two corridors.
The General faltered in his march. “If you still wish too,” he whispered back, cringing almost imperceptibly.
But before Cody could unravel that, they were set upon by the next eager squadron, forced to dance around questions while still providing reassurance.
“What do you mean if I still wish to,” Cody growled once they were past.
Obi-Wan winced, falling a step behind, then straightened up again, smoothly greeting an overwhelmed pair of corporals who rounded a corner and promptly dropped the crates they were carrying in shock. Another round of salutes and overlong handshakes passed.
They continued on, rapidly approaching their destination. “I just mean…” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I know you…care about me. I know. But as much as I don’t want to, we have to consider the possibility that some of that might be…”
Cody sucked in a breath and Obi-Wan winced again. A chill ran down the commander’s spine as he silently wrestled feelings of offense, appreciation, exasperation, and horror.
“General Kenobi! It’s really you! Comms are down but—” The next round of greetings passed in a daze, and Cody suspected that his General was running just as much on autopilot as he was.
“After it’s out,” Cody finally said.
The Jedi glanced quickly over at him, expression painfully hesitant.
At long last, they stood before the entrance to medical, and although passersby still startled at the sight of their General, they seemed to think better of approaching. Perhaps it was their location, and the rumors swirling around Obi-Wan’s health. Perhaps it was the looks on their commanding officers’ faces.
“After it’s out,” Obi-Wan promised quietly, words ringing like an oath.
The doors opened and the two walked in, side-by-side.