Author's Note: This epilogue makes allusions to Smile ficlet #39, "Traditions 1". It is not necessary to read that to understand this, but it helps to explain the location, why they are there, and Barriss' tattoos.
Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex Are Dead
Bonus Epilogue 3:
In the darkness, she could hear his breath, and feel his pain.
He did not cry; though she did not know him very well, she knew him well enough to know that would be unlike him. But, every once in a while, the blacker bit of darkness that was his form would shudder and shift against the charcoal colored shadows that draped across the rest of the room. Lying in bed, under a blanket pulled up to his chin, he'd twitch, his breath would hitch, and then there would be a long silence before a slow exhale.
He could not sleep. Neither could she. She watched him in the dark, lying on her back, her head turned to the side. If she reached out, her fingertips could just close the gap between their two narrow cots, but they would not quite reach his back, turned towards her.
It had been a very quiet, if very busy, two days. They were hiding now, far up in the wintry northern mountains of Mirial. They could not stay long; perhaps another day, while they made final repairs to the ship they bought on Nar Shaddaa, with creds from the Lambda-class shuttle they stole from the Empire. Ahsoka had been right; they'd gotten a good haul from it, enough to buy the parts they needed. A safe place to install the upgrades, however, was in order, as was a place that could help her to disguise herself more thoroughly.
In the darkness, Barriss reached up and touched her face. It was plain, unmarked. The diamonds of the adamant were there, but hidden, swept under the olive-ink smudges of the Illuminated Woman. The priory itself was much as she remembered it, the day she came with Master Unduli to receive her tattoos. Diamonds, the Illuminated Woman told her, as she sketched the shapes onto her nose, her cheeks. Diamonds, for someone who was strong. Diamonds, for someone who was clear sighted. It was one of Barriss' proudest moments, having those diamonds written on her skin, having the story of her life etched there for all the galaxy to see, for any Mirialan to look at her and know something of who she was: a strong girl growing into a stronger woman, who looked at the world clearly and sought to share her strength.
Now, just like her tattoos, she needed to remain hidden. Her face was blank, the skin unmarked for any who did not look very, very closely. Barriss did not know how long the Illuminated Woman had been drawing stories onto the skin of acolytes, but she had run the priory for nearly fifty years, and was lined by age as much as ink. Though Barriss had met her only once, the old woman welcomed her on the steps of the priory, open armed and smiling, but not without concern in her pale eyes. Barriss would not place the priory in danger any longer than necessary. Tomorrow evening, or perhaps the next morning, she would leave, and Cody with her.
He shifted in the darkness, pulling the blanket further up towards his chin. He would not complain of course; it was not the nature of a clone trooper, much less one such as Cody. Still, the air was cold, and she could just barely make out faint puffs of her own breath in the air before her mouth, before it dissipated into the dark. Winter on Mirial was always harsh, and the priory was ascetic. Luxuries such as heaters in the rooms were considered just that – luxuries. It was winter. One was meant to be cold.
She smiled faintly in the dark, and watched the mass of him shiver once, then hunker down again. Even with the curtains drawn, a little bit of moonlight made it into the room. Her smile faded. He was hurting. It did not take a Jedi to know of his distress. For those first few minutes as they lifted up from the surface in their stolen shuttle, his men on the ground gaping up at the ship in disbelief, he'd emanated a sense of euphoria, a heady dizziness coupled with shock and incredulity. But as the hours passed into days, those feelings faded into something more pained. Guilt. Distress. Worry. More guilt. The feelings coiled close to him, tensing like chains of durasteel, tightening every time he was given more than a few minutes to think.
Night, it seemed, was the worst. They'd retired to their cots an hour ago, and that increasing tension continued to grow, urged on by the darkness and an unquiet mind. The pain was not merely emotional, but physical, swelling from his aching chest, over his shoulders, up his neck and into his head, where a pounding was beginning, a steady thrum underpinned with a ringing, caused by the constriction of the trapezius and levator scapula muscles that lined the back of his neck. He was giving himself a migraine.
Barriss closed her eyes. She felt no regret from him. Loss, yes. Guilt – depths of guilt – but no remorse. Not on the surface, at least, and she would not delve further without his knowledge or permission. He did not regret leaving with her. But he did, perhaps, feel guilt for doing so. For leaving his men behind. Loss, for…well, for everything, she suspected. For everything he'd known. Maybe the Republic itself. She could speculate all she wanted, but she would need to talk to him, and soon. He'd thrown in his lot with her, a fugitive.
Aside from visits from Ahsoka and Rex, he was the first person in months she'd spent any time with. Ahsoka and Rex were gone now, giving them some time to run, to adjust, before they popped back into existence again and likely scared Cody half to death. She'd probably see them again in a few days, once they were away from the priory.
She closed her eyes. The pain in Cody's head was building, starting to take on a laserlike quality – pointed and hot. He shifted in the dark, the only sign of his discomfort.
Were it daytime, she would ask one of the priory's acolytes for medication for him. Now, though…she breathed out, slowly, feeling her exhalation pass her lips. It was not merely drugs that he needed. A stormtrooper who turned from the Empire. No, it was not medication he needed. Still, should Ahsoka ever hear of the idea she was about to enact, she would never live it down.
Barriss turned back the blanket and shivered as the cold air of the room was no longer warded off by the coverings of her cot. She sat up and placed her feet on the floor; even with thick, knitted socks, she could still feel the chill of the stones beneath her. She stood only halfway, leaning over, and said, quietly, "Cody." Her hand hovered in the air above his shape, not touching.
He started, and the sound of shifting blankets filled the room. "Gener-" he began, then halted, and tried again. "Knight –" another pause, and she imagined him grimacing. The pause lengthened and he finally managed, "Offee."
He couldn't see her face, and she was glad. Her smile became a little wry. He couldn't seem to bring himself to be entirely familiar with her. "Your head is hurting rather badly. It will be a migraine soon."
Silence, save for breathing. Then, the expected response. "I'm fine."
Another pause. Barriss lightly placed her hand on what she supposed to be his arm, under the blanket. "I can ease the pain."
She could feel, faintly, his breath on her face, though she could not see his. One, two, three long breaths, and then: "Okay."
Looking away from him, she turned her head aside, glad he could not see the warmth growing in her cheeks. Slowly, she lifted the edge of his blanket. There was a sudden bolt of surprise from him, a stiffening of his body accompanied by a wincing, but there was also silence and a lack of protest. She slid in behind him, his back still towards her, only an inch away. She resettled the blanket over her, feeling the increased warmth of the cot from her own. Cody may be cold, but with two in the cot, there would be plenty of heat. She lay down, her head off the pillow and her right arm tucked tightly against her, her left free to move. He wasn't breathing; there was no rise and fall to his back, no sound of breath from his mouth. She struggled to keep her breathing even, steady. She did not quite come in contact with him. There was a tiny bit of space between them, just enough for her to feel the radiation of warmth from his body.
Intimate. Far more intimate than a holding of hands. She paused, steadied herself. Then she lifted her left hand and moved it upward, seeking out his forehead, the pinprick that was the locus of his pain. She would begin there, work outward from the most concentrated spot.
She placed her hand on his forehead, feeling the prickly brush of eyebrows under her pinky, and the beginning of an expanse of softer hair along her thumb. Her fingertips brushed the thick, knotted skin of the scar that ran along his temple and down past his eye. For several seconds, she kept her arm lifted, elbow sticking into the air at an awkward angle, and then relaxed it, letting it settle slowly downward until it was draping over his side. Barriss closed her eyes for a moment, breathing shallow. She could sense that he'd begun to breathe again, albeit somewhat sporadically. For the moment, it seemed, she'd startled him out of his shroud of guilt, and there was a lack of any kind of feeling from him, so taken aback by her action.
Again, she closed her eyes, and began to focus. The intimacy of their position did not matter; only the pain, and the relieving of it. There was a spot of compression between his brows and slightly upward, and she began there, applying the slightest pressure to the knot and feeling it unravel. Cody's breath hitched, and he twitched before growing still. Barriss followed the spiral of coiled energy that was expanding out from that spot and traced it, finding knot after knot, snarl after snarl, and leaned into them, releasing each cluster of bunched up muscular tissue before moving to the next.
He began to relax. She had no awareness of time, subsumed in her work, but somewhere around the place where the trapezius met the base of his skull, he began, ever so slowly, to melt backwards into her, until she could feel his back pressing against her chest. He was warm, and heavy, and dense with muscle; for a moment, she lost concentration and could only feel his weight pressing against her and the smell of whatever soap it was he used to shower with before sleep. Though it was only a shadow in the night, she could feel the curve of his neck close by, feel his short hair brushing against her forehead. His neck was bare skin, uncovered by pajamas, and there was warmth coming from that, as well.
He was a mess of emotions, dazed contentedness tinged by guilt and marbled through with disbelief. His breaths were uneven, and, lying against her, she could feel the rise and fall of his chest, the expansion of his back, as he took in air and then expelled it.
Trapezius muscle. Base of the skull. She felt a little heady - not dizzy, but heavy somehow, as though she'd drunken alcohol and was now trying to sleep, her body weighted and her head full. She worked down the trapezius' superior region. His arm, beneath the blanket and beneath hers, twinged. She chased out another pucker of muscle and tension, ran the flow of healing Force down the muscles in effleurage, which elicited a cut-off groan. She repeated the stroke of muscle down his right side, this time eliciting a sharp intake of breath, then a shudder of further relaxation.
The pain was ending. At least, the physical pain. She ran her mind along his muscles, seeking out sources of tension, of pain, and found none remaining. There was still tension in him, but it was not tensing in his muscles, not building into a crescendo in his head.
He was taller than her, and his shoulders were broad. As he had eased backward, she'd found herself tucked into a small space between his shoulder blades, and it was a small motion to tilt her head forward and place a brow against his spine. He was warm. They were pressed together now, her body half curled around his, her chest against his back, her belly against the small of his back, the front of her thighs against the back of his. She could feel the bony knobs of his ankles against her toes.
Her face along his spine, she could feel his breathing very easily. If she listened closely enough, she could hear a heartbeat. She let her hand slide from his forehead, leaving it hanging uncertainly from her wrist, her forearm propped against his shoulder.
He stirred, moving beneath the blanket, and reached up; his larger hand enveloped her smaller one, tugged it downward. His hand kept shifting, his fingers brushing hers, tangling with them, releasing them, then grasping again. Then, suddenly, his grip was firm almost to the point of being too hard, and Barriss grimaced as he clutched her hand.
She could feel breath on her fingers, feel the expansion and retraction of his chest as he breathed, struggled with something, then said, roughly, "I'm sorry."
Laying in the dark, pressed against him, she wondered why. The apology was not said with such difficulty because he inconvenienced her with his headache. There were different possibilities. He was a stormtrooper, a killer of Jedi. He was a clone commander, pledged to support the Jedi he betrayed. He was an obedient soldier, who followed an order that should never have been commanded. He was pledged to defend the Republic, and yet turned, like all the others, into the Empire. It could be any one of these things, stuck in his head. Or perhaps the apology was for all of those reasons.
There was so much darkness in the galaxy, now. Reaching out into it brought suffering and pain down onto her, as well. There was such an aching maw of emptiness, loneliness, death, stretching out between the stars. So much so that it was at times hard to remember there were stars. Aside from the visitations of ghosts, she had seen no one from her former life as a Jedi until she faced Cody amid that ring of ships, and he took her hand, and left that darkness behind him. If only the whole of the galaxy could do such a thing – leave behind the dark.
He took her hand. It was the first time in so many months that she felt hope.
She felt herself smile, though it was a pained one. Lying like this, warm and alive in the night, she did not feel so alone. Order 66 was a horror. A horror for her, and, she suspected, it had become one for Cody. Were there others out there, like him? Doubting who and what they were, because they were human and sentient and more than the sum of their training? There had once been so many good men in the 41st.
It would not be so easy, to lie like this, pressed against him, if he had succeeded in killing Master Kenobi. It would not be so easy, to reach out to him and offer friendship, if he had willingly accepted the word of the Empire. If he really had become a stormtrooper. But he had not killed Master Kenobi, nor had he taken the Empire to heart.
It made it easier to say, "I forgive you," into the quiet of the dark room.
Again, he seemed to stop breathing. Then, the crushing grip on her hand eased, and she twined her fingers in his before they slipped away. A pause, then he tugged her arm down a little, tucking her hand against his chest. He began to wriggle, and Barriss blinked, startled and flushing, as he squirmed against her, certain backside parts of him rubbing into her in terribly inappropriate ways, until she realized he was simply trying to pull the blanket up over her arm as well, without releasing her hand. "Oh," she murmured, helping by angling her left shoulder so that it slipped under the edge of the blanket, and Cody was able to tug it up over her as well. The blanket reached her neck, and he grew still.
One of her feet was tucked between his ankles. The pressing of bodies had, sometime in the last few minutes, become more of an embrace. She rested her forehead against his back, just between the shoulder blades, and felt her lashes sweep across the fabric of his sleeping clothes. It was really very warm like this; certainly too warm for her breath to be visible in the cold air.
"Thank you," she said softly.
"You're welcome," he returned. His thumb brushed across the soft skin inside her wrist.
Barriss shivered at the touch. "Still cold?" he asked, and she shook her head vigorously, no.
It was unsettling, the closeness. But it was good, too. This was no mere touching of hands in a moment of stress, doubt, fear. They were wrapped around each other, and, she knew, moments away from sleeping together for the night. She was still a Jedi, if a solitary one. She was supposed to follow the code, not permit herself bonds of the kind she was starting to forge with Cody, here in the seclusion of the dark.
Cody's breathing steadied, deepened, lengthened. His body eased. One of his legs gave a vigorous twitch, then stilled.
Her hand was in his. She moved her thumb, sliding it against the soft flesh of his palm. It was against the rules, all the rules, but those were the rules of the old Jedi Order of the Republic. Those rules could no longer be as they were; attachments, bonds, friendships, alliances – they would have to be made to survive the dark times. There could be no asceticism for her now. There could be none of the coldness of being on her own.
She could not survive alone. Nor could he.
So she closed her eyes, rested against him, and was content.
And so concludes the Cody/Barriss arc of the epilogues. I can't seem to resist writing the two of them together. So fanon, but they mesh so well….