“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." - Hippolyte Taine
Cody didn’t see where the flash of light came from. He only knew, when he had finished blinking spots from his eyes, that it hadn’t done anything to harm him.
A quick look around revealed that Waxer and Boil were similarly unaffected, but where General Kenobi should have been there was only a pile of empty tunics, with the General’s lightsaber sitting on top.
For one heart-stopping moment, Cody was sure that Kenobi was dead.
Then he registered that the tunics were moving, and there was an angry sounding growl coming from within them. Cautiously, Cody pulled at the tunics with his booted foot, until a small furred face poked out of the pile, followed by the rest of the animal.
It was a cat.
Small, definitely one of the domestic breeds and not anything wild, the cat was a mottled red, with cream coloured paws and underbelly. Its face was also cream, though dusted with red around the mouth and nose.
“General Kenobi?” he tried.
The cat - his General - gave a pleased sounded mrrt.
Cody felt it was a sad reflection of the amount of kriffed up poodoo the 212th had dealt with over the course of the war that his first reaction wasn’t panic, but resignation that he owed Rex another 50 credits.
Cody left Waxer and Boil to see if they could find any clues in the ruined temple while he escorted his newly furry General back to his tent. The General had certainly seemed to recognise them, twining around their legs and rubbing his face affectionately against their shins.
Boil, who had appointed himself the 212th's expert on small cute things, had told Cody that that behaviour was the General marking them as his. Cody wasn’t sure whether this was good news or not.
On the one hand, it was reassuring that the General still felt that connection with his troops.
On the other, it was very unlike General Kenobi to show it so openly.
They were most of the way back to the 212th's campsite when the General went stock still and then darted off into the underbrush.
Cody swore, and un-holstered his blaster, but it was impossible to tell where General Kenobi had gone in the gathering gloom.
He was starting to panic and was considering radioing for assistance when General Kenobi wandered back onto the path.
“Sir,” Cody said, feeling only slightly ridiculous, “it would probably be best if we remained in visual contact. We don’t anticipate trouble, but.” He stopped, trying to think of a polite way to say “you are very small, and I am worried you will get eaten.”
And then he didn’t say anything at all, because General Kenobi dropped a small, bleeding lizard-rat thing on his boot, and then sat and stared up at him expectantly.
Cody stared back.
Then he sighed and keyed his radio, trying to raise Boil.
It turned out Boil didn’t know as much about cats as Cody had assumed.
(“I don’t know Sir, it was a ten minute conversation after I rescued her pet from a tree. And I had to cut and run when she started talking about offering me a reward for my services and I realised she was offering me a reward if you follow, and I don’t really go in for that sort of thing.”
“How. Why .”
“It’s the moustache, Sir, it gets them every time.”)
Finally arriving back at the camp, Cody walked into the mess tent, the General at his heels. Apparently, Cody reflected, all the Seppies would need to defeat the GAR was a bunch of small furry animals, because upon catching sight of General Kenobi, each and every member of the 212th Attack Battalion, the Pride of the Republic, the Heroes of Ryloth, the Dread of the Separatists, lost interest in anything that wasn’t the cat in the tent entrance.
The General took it well, walking between the tables of men, tail swaying high. He greeted the troopers individually, granting each a chirrup and a quick brush of furry cheek to mark them as his, and moving on.
Cody had sat next to Junior (so called for having been assigned to Kenobi as a shiny so shiny he hadn’t yet earned a name, and for being one of the very few troopers who had the red hair mutation) the 212th's medic and was attempting to explain in a quiet voice to the incredulous Junior that yes, that cat was their General, and yes, Cody wanted Junior to examine the General to try to find out… anything he could find out, and no this wasn’t a joke, when General Kenobi himself made the leap from floor to table-top.
Cody supposed he still had use of the Force then.
Or maybe not, Boil had mentioned something about increased athleticism.
Cody had reached out a hand automatically to the General, who delicately sniffed his fingers, then insinuated his head into Cody’s palm and looked at him expectantly. Feeling like this was possibly inappropriate behaviour, Cody cautiously scratched General Kenobi’s head, letting the General direct his hand to just behind two furry ears, which made Kenobi go slit eyed and slightly limp.
Still, the General disengaged after a few minutes, butting against Cody’s hand in apparent gratitude, before reclining on the edge of the table like a General surveying his troops. Which, Cody supposed, he was.
Then Chatterbox, who was sitting opposite Junior, oblivious to the conversation between his CO and the medic, reached out and ran a hand along the General’s back.
General Kenobi was on his feet in an instant, fur standing on end and ears flat to his skull.
Cody knew Chatterbox as a steady, reliable soldier. The kind of clone any brother would be glad to have at their back.
He had not known that Chatterbox couldn’t take a hint if his life depended on it.
Before Cody could say anything, Chatterbox reached for the cat a second time.
General Kenobi let loose a yowl that had the troopers at the far end of the tent jumping to their feet and reaching for their blasters.
The General planted two feet on Chatterbox’s outstretched arm and vaulted onto his head, still yowling, and digging sharp claws in Chatterbox’s nose and cheeks.
Chatterbox pushed back from the table, reaching up to try and drag the General free. All he accomplished was to bring his arms within reach of those whirring claws. Apparently the research that had gone into the clones’ undersuits wasn’t enough for the material to hold up against an angry cat. Great rents appeared along Chatterbox’s forearms, and Cody thought he saw blood seeping through.
Never-Say-Die, who had been sitting next to Chatterbox, jumped to his feet and reached for his blaster.
“NO!” Cody roared, and Nev stopped in shock, before dropping his blaster and reaching for the General with his armoured hands.
Kenobi’s yowl turned into a screech of pure outrage, and he leapt from Chatterbox’s head onto Nev’s, sinking teeth - and Cody had seen the mangled half-dead lizard-rat thing, but he hadn’t appreciated how sharp those teeth were - into the bridge of Nev’s nose.
Nev swore and started to bring his hands up.
“Freeze!” Cody bellowed, and thanked every bit of training the Kaminoans had drummed into their heads that Chatterbox and Nev did so instantly.
The General jumped off Nev’s head, landing neatly on the ground. He stalked around Cody then proceeded to hiss at Chatterbox and Nev from the safe position of behind Cody’s legs.
“Now that,” said Boil, who had managed to walk in on the tail end of the whole disaster, “that I knew about cats.”
Junior stood up.
“Perhaps we should adjourn to the med tent?”
It was a sorry procession that trooped into the med tent. Cody, with General Kenobi hugging his heels; Waxer and Boil, who kept on conferring in too loud whispers about how they hadn’t been so foolish as to try to pet the cat; Chatterbox and Nev, looking as upset as any brother who had lost a fight against an assumed inferior foe; and Junior, who if Cody could read his face correctly was mentally cataloguing how much alcohol he could easily get his hands on.
Cody knew the feeling.
“Anything?” he asked, turning to Waxer and Boil.
“Nothing, sir,” said Waxer, “no writing, no pictures, no tech. We think it must be a Force thing.”
“And you’re certain that’s the General?” Junior asked.
“That’s the General ?” This from Nev, who looked horrified. “I was going to blast the General ?”
“Sorry, sir. My fault,” said Chatterbox to General Kenobi. Everyone stared. It was, Cody reflected, the most words he had ever heard Chatterbox say at once. “Startled him.”
As if to reflect his opinion of the discussion, General Kenobi turned his back on the group and started delicately licking one paw.
“My point is,” said Junior, “he’s hardly acting like himself. I can’t see the General injuring two troopers just for startling him. As much as I hate to admit it, I think we might need outside help.”
“Are you sure?” Cody asked, “After all, the General is a very private man. I’m not sure he’d appreciate anyone else seeing him like this.”
“Ah. Sir?” That was Boil, “I can’t imagine the General doing that in public if he were in his right mind.”
Cody turned and looked to where the General was providing them all with definitive proof that there wasn’t much of General Kenobi in that small furred body.
“Alright,” said Cody heavily, “I’ll call for reinforcements.”
Rex was just finishing up the last of the 501st's requisite leave paperwork in the closet sized office he had commandeered aboard the Resolute when General Skywalker walked in, looking something between confused and concerned.
“Cody just contacted me from Rakkaus IV. He said they’ve encountered a problem and need additional Jedi assistance.”
Rex considered that. Cody, the 212th, and Obi - General Kenobi, were investigating to see if Rakkaus IV might make an appropriate staging area. It was an out of the way little mudball, just far enough from the main hyperspace lanes to make getting there difficult. It was also, by a fluke of astrogeography, an easy jump to several Mid Rim systems that Intel said were Seppie targets.
Intel also said that Rakkaus IV was uninhabited, but if Cody and Obi - General Kenobi had gotten into trouble… Wait.
“Specifically Jedi assistance, Sir?”
“Apparently they encountered some damaged architecture in their initial scans. Obi-Wan sensed a Force presence in the ruins and took some men to investigate. Cody told me that no one was hurt, but that he wasn’t comfortable saying more over comms.”
“501st to the rescue, hey?” Rex asked, feeling the first twinges of worry.
“No, Ahsoka and I will divert to Rakkaus IV and you and the men can continue to Coruscant for your leave.”
“Sir!” Rex was protesting he even realised his mouth was moving, “Sir, you know what trouble the 212th and General Kenobi get themselves in. I’d feel a lot better if you had some men with you. I’ll be coming with you, either way.”
General Skywalker shook his head. “The 501st is months overdue for leave as it is Rex. I can’t ask you - any of you - to sacrifice your hard earned rest.”
“You’re not asking, I’m volunteering. And Sir, I really think some back-up...”
Skywalker raised both hands in surrender.
“Alright Rex. But volunteers only.”
And then because Skywalker knew the 501st - “And not the whole battalion. We can only fit six men on the shuttle with Ahsoka and me. We leave in an hour.”
The General caught up with them in the armoury. Torrent Company had volunteered to a man to accompany the Jedi, as both Rex and General Skywalker had known they would. And as Rex had known they would, the brothers he had picked to come along were preparing for the usual excitement that General Skywalker and Obi - General Kenobi tended to find themselves in.
General Skywalker obviously hadn’t expected said preparations, because he was gaping openly at them.
“We aren’t actually expecting trouble,” he said. “There are no Separatists on Rakkaus IV. This is a purely Jedi issue.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Fives, helping himself to more charges for his blasters. Echo, like Rex, was carefully placing extra grenades into his field kit, while Jesse and Hardcase were packing the larger ordnance. At the General’s words, Kix nodded sharply and started rapidly doubling the contents of his med kit.
General Skywalker made a single noise of protest before apparently thinking better of it, and turning to make for the shuttle. Rex walked beside his General, feeling the five other clones falling in behind them.
Commander Tano was waiting for them in the hangar.
“Off to the rescue again?” she said brightly.
“If we are,” said Rex, “Cody owes me credits.”
They landed on Rakkaus IV at local dawn. Skywalker put the shuttle down a brisk 15 minute walk from the 212th's camp.
“Wait here,” he said to Rex. “If you don’t hear from us in two hours, contact the Council and let them know something is wrong.”
Rex didn’t like it, but he supposed Cody had only called for the Jedi. He trusted Cody’s judgement, and in a small corner of his mind was wondering if he would have been so insistent on accompanying General Skywalker and Commander Tano if Obi-Wa - General Kenobi hadn’t been involved.
Rakkaus IV had turned out to be a prettier mudball than Rex had been expecting. The shuttle had landed in a wide shallow bowl of a valley, and Rex knew from the aerial survey that 212th had set up camp in a similar valley over the ridge General Skywalker was currently crossing. Both valleys were part of a series of craggy foothills, composed of mossy rock, and stretching up into the mountains Rex could see rising a few klicks distant.
The vegetation was scrubby, nothing much taller than a clone and coloured in a muted spectrum of greens. The air was pleasantly cool and smelt vaguely of cinnabark. The rising sun was burning off the light mist that had obviously come up overnight, and Rex suspected that he might have liked Rakkaus IV had Cody and Obi- General Kenobi not gotten into trouble here.
Fives and Echo were walking perimeter, and so with nothing to do, Rex seated himself on a branch in the lee of the shuttle and settled in to wait. Kix, Jesse and Hardcase were playing a game of sabacc with their caf rations for stakes. They offered to deal him in, but Rex declined, knowing his preoccupation and worry would be obvious to his brothers if he did play.
Echo and Fives were back in visual range when Rex realised that one of the trees on the edge of his vision was twitching, with no wind to explain the movement. He kept his movements slow and casual, reaching for one of his blasters and signalling with his other hand. He turned his head as smoothly as he could until he was focused on the tree.
Something in the tree was staring back.
“I thought this rock was uninhabited.”
He was aware of Jesse, Hardcase and Kix going to full alert beside him. Echo and Fives altered their route so that they could flank whatever it was should it prove hostile
“Someone had to have built the ruins that Cody and General Kenobi explored,” Jesse said, “maybe they didn’t all leave.”
The thing in the tree moved and Rex unconsciously leaned forward, bringing his blaster free. And then he relaxed all at once as a cat jumped free of the tree and started stalking towards them.
Hardcase let out a sudden giggle at the abrupt release of tension. Echo and Fives were swinging back around to the group, but Rex was only peripherally aware of them. He was watching the cat, which was stalking towards them with a tilt to its tail that Rex couldn’t help but think of as amused.
It also hadn’t stopped staring at him.
It was a pretty little thing. All red and cream and with the bluest eyes he had ever seen on a felinoid.
Bold as brass, too, because it strode right up to the gathered men and greeted each with a happy sounding mrr and an affectionate head rub, skillfully dodging the pats they tried to give him. None of them pushed. Less than two months ago, the 501st had been involved in a skirmish in a city that had, by conservative estimate, three cats for every sentient.
They had all learned very, very quickly that it was best to let the cats dictate the terms of any contact, and Rex had had to do some fast talking to stop Fives from trying to adopt the whole kriffing lot of them as the most appropriate mascots the 501st was ever likely to encounter.
One look at Fives told him has was about to have the same problem here.
He had just to opened his mouth to tell Fives that no, they could not keep this cat either, when there was a loud mrowl from the ground in front of him. Startled, he looked at the cat. Having finished with his brothers, it had finally approached him and was sitting at his feet watching him with those blue, blue eyes.
“Hello,” he said foolishly.
The cat seemed to uncurl back onto all four paws and thoroughly explored his greaves with its nose, stopping often to butt its face against his knees with pleased sounding noises. Rex watched, feeling entirely bemused. He was fairly sure none of his brothers had warranted this much attention.
The cat sat back and looked up at him again, and Rex expected it to retreat. Instead, it stretched up and placed both front paws on Rex’s knees and made an inquisitive noise. Rex stared, aware of his brothers vibrating with suppressed glee on either side of him.
Apparently he wasn’t moving fast enough for the cat, which sneezed in disgust and leapt almost neatly into Rex’s lap. It slipped a little on the plastoid of his armour and Rex steadied it with one hand automatically, and then winced, expecting a hiss and a swipe of claw.
None was forthcoming.
The cat wiggled slightly, then proceeded to give his chest and shoulders the same treatment it had given his legs, sniffing delicately, then giving a happy head-butt and mew combination when it smelt something it liked.
Finally it stood up on its hind legs in his lap, bracing its front paws on his pauldron so it could nuzzle under his chin. Fives and Hardcase were near howling with laughter at this point, and Echo and Kix were making the kind of cooing noises that told him he would be arguing against three brothers not just one when he told Fives they couldn’t adopt the damn cat.
More worrying was Jesse’s silence. He wondered how much it was going to cost him to stop Jesse from posting the holos he was taking to the 501st's intranet.
He was distracted from his contemplation by the feeling of rough tongue licking along his jawline.
“Well,” said Fives, struggling to get the words out through laughter so hard it was bringing tears to his eyes, “we definitely know who his favourite is.”
Rex did his best to glare, which was unsurprisingly difficult with a cat licking his face.
Being careful of his gloves, he gently ran one had along the cat's spine. Instead of savaging him like he thought it might, it gave a decidedly pleased growl and flopped onto his lap. He scratched cautiously at its head and it rested his other hand on its rear haunches.
The cat pressed up into both his hands and started purring like a speeder engine, and Rex resigned himself to looking up the care requirements for domestic felinoids, and what would no doubt be an... interesting conversation with General Skywalker about why the 501st needed a mascot.
Cody was beyond relieved to see General Skywalker and Commander Tano. The news that Rex and five other members of Torrent Company had accompanied them was a surprise, though it shouldn’t have been - Rex was too intensely professional to be obvious, but no one could read a brother like another brother, and Cody had known about Rex’s infatuation with General Kenobi almost from the moment it started.
Skywalker had acquiesced to Cody’s request to keep the knowledge of General Kenobi’s transformation need-to-know, ostensibly for the sake of Kenobi’s dignity. In reality, it was because he was far too tired to deal with 501st's usual… exuberance. Cats, he and the rest of the 212th had learned, were nocturnal, and the night had been a battle of wills between General Kenobi who was determined to leave the camp and explore the wilds of Rakkaus IV, and Cody who was equally determined to not let his General out of his sight.
Cody had won - barely - and now there wasn’t a brother in the 212th who didn’t know that the cat they were guarding was their very own General Kenobi. Cody had hoped to keep that information from spreading, and could only hope the General would forgive him when he regained himself.
And it definitely was the General; Skywalker had taken one look at him and confirmed it. Cody hadn’t even realised he was hoping for it to all be a terrible joke until that hope was dashed.
“Sir,” Cody began, “we’re worried about how this is affecting him.”
“It’s Obi-Wan,” said Skywalker, “he’s probably enjoying himself.”
“Sir,” said Cody, “we’re not sure how much it is Obi-Wan in there.”
“What do you mean?”
Cody just barely stopped himself from cutting his eyes to Commander Tano. This was the sort of thing he was sure that General Kenobi would not want everyone knowing.
“He… wasn’t acting like himself.”
“Well, he is a cat.”
“Yes, Sir, but he was behaving in a way that General Kenobi wouldn’t… in front of people, Sir.”
Skywalker looked amused, “Spit it out Cody, I’m sure it can’t be that bad.”
Cody could feel sweat beading at the back of his neck.
“I’d rather not, Sir.”
Skywalker laughed, “Oh, come on Cody. It can’t be any worse than anything I’ve already seen Obi-Wan do.”
Cody stared resolutely ahead, so it was Boil, Boil who had never discovered tact and wouldn’t recognise it if it danced naked in front of him, who answered.
“He was licking his own balls, Sir.”
At least the look on Skywalker’s face was almost worth it.
So now General Skywalker and Commander Tano were examining General Kenobi in the Force. Kenobi was accepting the process, which Cody had half expected he would not. But he had greeted Skywalker and Tano happily enough, even submitting to the scritches Tano lavished with him, though to her credit, she stopped as soon she realised he was resigned rather than happy. He had graced Skywalker with a brief lick to his fingers, too, which had brought a fond look to Skywalker’s eyes.
Tano was the first to speak. “He has Master Obi-Wan’s signature, but he also feels like a cat.”
Cody sighed, wishing that he spoke Jedi.
“What does that mean, Sirs?”
Skywalker startled slightly, and then turned to face Cody fully. General Kenobi, as if sensing that their attention was no longer on him, jumped up onto his cot and curled into a ball on the pillow.
“He’s a cat,” said Skywalker, “a very smart cat, but still a cat. He’s still Obi-Wan, just Obi-Wan filtered through a cat. He’ll like who Obi-Wan likes, and attack anyone Obi-Wan doesn’t. But he won’t react like Obi-Wan, he can’t, he’ll react like a cat. That’s why he attacked your men - Obi-Wan is fussy about physical contact, and when cats are touched in a way they don’t like…”
“He didn’t attack Commander Tano,” Cody pointed out.
“I’m his Padawan’s Padawan”, she said. “I think he thought of me as a kitten. He might have bitten me if I hadn’t stopped, but a bite to teach not a bite to hurt.”
Cody sighed. “Did you get anything on to how to change him back?”
They both looked sheepish.
“There’s a twist in the Force around him, but I don’t know what it means. Obi-Wan has always been better at reading those sorts of currents. I’ll have to examine the ruins and - oh no.”
Cody followed the General’s horrified gaze. He was staring at the bed where General Kenobi was sleeping - where Kenobi had been sleeping, because the bed was empty.
General Kenobi was gone.
Once he’d calmed down, Skywalker remembered he could track Kenobi through the Force and he started to pace the ground in front of Kenobi’s tent with look of almost feral determination on his face while Cody pulled together the search team.
Waxer and Boil, to start with, and Junior, because having the medic with them for worst case scenario was an obvious call.
Cody might have wanted more men, but it was obvious Skywalker wasn’t going to wait. Even Tano was throwing him concerned looks.
“Should we call Rex and the others, Master?”
“If we haven’t found him by check-in time, we will,” General Skywalker said, “now let’s move!”
It didn’t take them long to realise that they were retracing the path General Skywalker and Commander Tano had taken to get to the 212th's camp.
“Maybe he smelled Rex and the others on us and wanted to say hello?” Commander Tano said, and General Skywalker relaxed slightly at the words.
Cody though, remembered Skywalker’s words from earlier - he’ll like who Obi-Wan likes - and bit back a grin.
Well vod, he thought, you might actually be in with a chance. Don’t waste it, you lucky bastard.
The cat had sprawled out over Rex’s legs, rolling over onto its back. Rex, still being damned careful with his gauntleted hands had taken the hint and was scratching its exposed belly. The cat was somehow purring even louder than before, emanating feline bliss.
Fives had optimistically tried to take a turn and was now sulking as a result of the angry hiss the cat had aimed his way.
“Rex wasn’t even the one who wanted a mascot,” he said to Echo for the sixth time, “I just don’t think it’s fair that he decides he wants one when it’s his pet cat.”
Rex paused momentarily in scritching the cat, glaring at Fives.
The cat disapproving mew and pressed against his hands until he resumed patting.
“I don’t know,” said Jesse, “I don’t think Rex has a pet cat at all. I think the cat has a pet Captain.”
Normally, Rex might have been bothered by the laughter, but the 501st were technically on leave, and it was difficult to get worked up with a lap full of affectionate, purring cat.
Which was when Skywalker came bursting out of the scrub, followed by Commander Tano, Cody, Waxer and Boil and a red-headed brother Rex thought was the 212th's medic.
“Rex! Get up, we’ve lost Obi...Wan…” Skywalker trailed off, staring at the cat in Rex’s lap with an expression Rex had only ever seen on his face that time on Abraxin when their field rations had been spoiled and they had been forced to subsist on the slimy weeds that grew around the edge of the swamp.
Commander Tano looked like she was about to start giggling, and there was a look of glee buried in Cody’s eyes that Rex trusted not at all.
“Ah, Captain Rex,” Rex’s stomach turned to ice. Cody only sounded that dementedly cheerful when he had an excuse to ruin a brothers’ day. “I see you found General Kenobi. Well done.”
“General…” Rex said faintly, looking at the cat in his lap.
“What.” Fives said, from beside him, and his voice was the sound of man who knew he would be winning a lot of credits, very soon.
“We had a small issue with some of the ruins near the 212th's camp and General Kenobi was unfortunately transformed into a cat. Now that General Skywalker is here, we can look at getting him back to himself,” Cody was doing ‘proper Commander’ in the way that he only did when he really wanted to start cackling but knew that it wasn’t the time or place to do so.
Beside him, Skywalker made a small wounded sound without taking his eyes off the cat that was General Kenobi.
Rex looked down, and realised he was still rubbing the cat’s belly.
The cat that was Obi-Wan - General Kenobi.
His brain short circuited at the realisation that he was scratching Obi-Wan’s stomach and he finally made his hand stop.
Obi-Wan - General Kenobi - Obi-Wan made a sound of great disappointment, then stood up on his hind legs. He nuzzled his face under Rex’s chin, making sad little mrrps as if asking what was wrong.
“Hang on,” said Boil, “why’s he letting Captain Rex get handsy when he clawed up Nev and Chatterbox?”
Skywalker made another of those wounded noises, and Ahsoka turned abruptly away from Rex, her shoulders shaking. The worst part was that it was Boil: he meant the question genuinely, with no idea of the innuendo.
Rex didn’t know what his face was doing, but some of the demented glee faded from Cody’s eyes, replaced by concern.
“You good to get him back to our camp?” Cody asked, his voice apologetic, “Boil’s right, he really won’t let anyone else carry him.”
“Of course,” Rex said, pleased that his voice didn’t shake. He felt like he’d just survived a concussive blast, and he had no idea why.
He stood up, moving an arm under Obi-Wan’s hindquarters to support him. This obviously wasn’t good enough for Obi-Wan, who scrambled up onto Rex’s shoulders, sprawling across them and resting his head on Rex’s pauldron.
Skywalker turned to lead the group back to the 212th's camp. Echo and Fives both split from the group to scout the edges.
They made good time, even with Obi-Wan leaning forward every few minutes to rub his cheek against Rex’s. Every time he did someone cooed audibly, and Rex could feel his cheeks growing hot.
He didn’t know what he was projecting into the Force, but Ahsoka kept looking at him, biting her lip and visibly switching between amusement and concern.
Cody pulled him aside and directed him to General Kenobi’s tent.
“I’m sorry, vod,” he said. “But we still have to install the bones of the staging area now that we know the only danger is in those ruins. And he won’t let anyone else touch him as much as he lets you.”
“Why does he let me touch him?”
“Skywalker says he’s still Kenobi, just not as in control of his instincts as he usually is. If he likes you most as a cat, it’s because he likes you most as a human, even if he has been hiding it.
“And, vod…” Cody stopped.
Rex knew Cody, and knew when he was building up to something.
“He likes me most.” Rex said, flatly disbelieving.
Cody took a deep breath.
“Like you like him most,” he said.
Rex sat down on the bed, staring.
“Who else knows?”
“No one,” said Cody. “Well, probably some of the 501st. But you’re not obvious, and Skywalker hasn’t figured it out. Who knows with Kenobi. But I know you Rex, and I figured it out on Christophsis. It was before that though, wasn’t it?”
Rex could only nod mutely.
“I think you should speak to him, when he’s himself again.”
Rex shook himself.
“You’re telling me to break regs,” he said, disbelieving. “You.”
“He’s my General,” said Cody, “and you’re my brother. And regs or not, I think you’ll be good for each other. He needs something to hold onto, Rex. We both know this war is going to get worse before it gets better.
“He’s very good at the Jedi mask, but’s that what it is: a mask. I know the Jedi talk about the perils of attachment, but saying all Jedi are exactly alike is like saying all clones are the same. And you I both know that’s Bantha shit.”
“Kenobi’s far more like Skywalker than anyone realises,” Cody continued, “and everyone in the 501st and the 212th knows that the only thing keeping Skywalker relatively sane is Senator Amidala.
“And Kenobi’s always been his best when we run joint ops with the 501st. I thought it was because of Skywalker, but maybe that wasn’t all it was.”
Cody looked pointedly at Obi-Wan who had curled himself into a ball on Rex’s lap and purred himself to sleep.
Rex stared helplessly, then looked back at Cody.
“You always were a perceptive bastard,” he grumbled.
“If General Kenobi was going to get moony eyed over anyone, I’m glad it was you vod,” he said, and disappeared from the tent.
Rex’s day passed quietly after that.
Ahsoka showed up after an hour, explaining that General Skywalker had banned her from entering the ruins. She explained that they’d both been able to feel the Force presence, but it seemed to slide off Skywalker, while coiling around Ahsoka in a way that both Jedi suspected would lead to another cat if Ahsoka entered the ruins.
“I might have been tempted if we knew how to change people back,” she confessed easily, “but since we don’t I’m happy staying here.”
Ahsoka brought him a datapad and tray of food, but left him before too long, saying she still had temple-assigned study to complete.
Safe in the tent, Rex pulled off his gauntlets, appreciating how soft Obi-Wan’s fur was now his hands were bare. Obi-Wan seemed to think the whole thing was a terrific game, as he kept attacking Rex’s hands, gnawing gently on his fingers and then demanding scritches.
Rex was just happy that entertaining Obi-Wan kept him from thinking.
Night fell soon enough, with no progress from Skywalker.
Rex, who had been awake for far longer than a standard 26-hour day, was happy enough to strip down to his shorts and collapse onto the tent’s bunk. He was just drifting off when he came awake to the terrible realisation that this was Obi-Wan’s bed , that he was sleeping in Obi-Wan’s bed. In light of his conversation with Cody, it would have been foolish to pretend to himself that he never wondered if he might end up here.
He had certainly never imagined this scenario though.
He was thoroughly awake now and he realised that he couldn’t avoid thinking about what Cody had said.
He was going to speak to Obi-Wan he realised. He expected that it would go badly, but he was going to do it anyway, and damn Cody for that. If Cody had just said it would be good for Rex, then Rex would have happily ignored him and carried on as he had been.
But Cody had implied that Obi-Wan needed this as much as Rex wanted it, and now Rex had to say something in case that was true.
And he hoped it was, Force help him he hoped for it like he had hoped for almost nothing else in his life.
The was a gentle noise from beside the bed, as Obi-Wan left the pillow he had been curled up on and jumped up onto the cot. He stalked down Rex’s body and peered at him nose-to-nose, before gently licking his chin and curling up on his chest.
Rex wondered if he was reading too much into this, or if Obi-Wan really was offering comfort now instead of his earlier happy affection.
“Thanks, Sir,” he said.
Obi-Wan started purring.
It was a very soothing sound Rex realised, and even though he worried about the decision he had made, having made it freed him from the terrible tension of indecision. He was falling asleep fast.
Just before his eyes closed, he leaned down and softly brushed his lips over Obi-Wan’s head.
The next morning - late the next morning - Cody and General Skywalker were going over the piles of images Echo and Fives had taken of the ruins. Skywalker had limited them to a small area the Force sensation had come from, and a closer examination of the walls had revealed badly faded lines of an ancient script. Now Cody and Skywalker were trying to ensure that they had all of it captured so that it could be sent to Coruscant for examination and, hopefully, translation.
It took Cody a few minutes to notice that Rex had entered the room.
Cody looked at him, and noticed that while Rex was every bit as stone faced as he had been yesterday, his eyes seemed softer and his movements were much more relaxed.
“Commander,” Rex said, and Cody recognized the sheer devilment in that tone, “General Kenobi sent me to say that he is back to himself and would appreciate if you could return his lightsaber and the tunics he wore into the ruins.”
Cody turned away to fetch the General’s lightsaber from the lockbox he’d stored it in, puzzling over Rex’s tone. Surely he hadn’t already...
Behind him Skywalker made an outraged squawk out of Rex’s name, and Cody spun around.
Rex was standing at ease, eyes fixed ahead, but Cody could almost swear he was blushing.