"God save us every one / Will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns? / For the sins of our hands... / The sins of our tongues... / The sins of our father... / The sins of our young..."
He'd had too much to drink again.
Cody's hand shook as he tried to lift his glass. He swore this was his last one...just as he'd sworn to himself the same, two hours before.
Just as he'd sworn to himself every night for the last six months.
The only thing that came out of his drinking was a sense of dulled acceptance. And, even that was tenuous. The memories and the past stayed blurred only for as long as it took to get the strong Corellian whiskey out of his system.
And, it took a lot of Corellian whiskey. Jango Fett had clearly been a man more than capable of holding his liquor and it was proving an increasing challenge to constantly overcome that genetic disposition.
This wasn't the first night Cody cursed his unnatural ancestry; he'd wished more than one morning that it only took a drink or two to achieve the effects he sought night after night. As it was, it took him most of a night of dedicated drinking, before he was comfortably numbed enough to stumble back to his slum-level quarters and pass out. He only ever managed four hours of sleep at most and relied on stims to get him through a day of back-breaking work.
Six months, he'd lived like this. And, he was a mess for it. Unkempt, rarely clean, unshaven - Cody didn't really care. His outward appearance reflected what he felt inside. So what if he'd lost the brisk step and straight back of his glory days? It didn't matter. He'd left his pride back on Bellassa.
And he'd lost his dignity at the bottom of countless bottles, in his endless quest to shut out the screams.
He shuddered. He could still remember the screams. The whiskey burned as he knocked back the glass, but Cody was well past registering it. The glass clinked unsteadily on the bar as he let his hand fall back down.
"Bartender," he slurred.
He pushed his glass toward the bartender's edge and let his head fall into his other hand. Cody closed his eyes; the world was beginning to swim around him and if he didn't stop soon, he'd puke.
But, he still hadn't drunk enough to drown out the screams.
Just one more glass. Maybe then, they'd stop. And he could save what very few credits he had left for tomorrow night.
"You've had enough."
The voice was gentle. Feminine. It wasn't the male bartender's voice, that was for certain. Confused, Cody tried to lift his head. The movement threatened to topple him off of the stool, though, so he only groaned and leaned into his hand again.
"Go 'way," he mumbled.
He had no desire to speak to or interact with a female. It didn't matter to him if she was as beautifully ethereal as one of those obscure aliens Gree had always been on about. Cody wanted nothing to do with any female. Ever.
"Saa, don't give him any more," the voice persisted.
Her tone was soft and soothing. Cody was a little surprised he could even make out her words in the crowded, noisy bar, but then again, he'd been trained from birth to notice even the smallest sound. And, whether he wanted to or not, he focused in on her words; the noise of the bar narrowed down to her faceless voice.
"He needs to pay his tab," the bartender's far more familiar voice rasped against Cody's frazzled senses.
He tried to pull himself together, tried to lift his head up out of his hand, tried to reach for his glass. But, his limbs seemed heavy and leaden; he couldn't move and even the slightest muscle movement made him overwhelmingly nauseous.
"I've got it covered, Saa. Don't worry about it."
"Don't know why you bother," Saa spoke after a long pause (during which, Cody tried to move again, with minimal success). "He's just a drunk good-for-nothing."
"No man drinks like this without a reason."
Cody flinched under the unexpected touch of a cool hand against the back of his neck. What was this? Kindness? Pity? He wanted nothing to do with her.
He tried to pull away from her, tried to lash his arm out at her. But he only managed to flap his arm uselessly against the air and nearly lost his balance.
"I'll say it again...I don't know why you give such a damn," Saa seemed disapproving; Cody heard the soft slide of his glass as it left the bar top.
"It's in my nature," her hand stayed where it was, steady against the feverish heat of his alcohol-soaked skin.
"Well, get him out of here, 'Tay," Saa's grating voice turned with his body. "He looks like he's gonna' blow."
Cody guessed the bartender was shifting his attention to other customers. Something like a grunt passed his lips, but he couldn't really get any words out. What words did he have to say, anyway? Nothing.
Words had alluded him for months. He sometimes wondered if he'd left his ability to speak full sentences back on Bellassa, along with his sense of self.
"C'mon," her hand moved to grip his bicep; her fingers were surprisingly strong for a voice so mild.
"'Fek," he growled and tried to shrug his arm from his grasp. "Leave me 'lone."
She didn't say anything for a long moment though her hand stayed firmly on his arm. Cody wasn't even curious about her, or even really angry - he just wanted her to let him go and leave him alone. He just wanted to be left to his alcohol and to his past.
Of course, he reasoned, she'd leave him alone quick enough, if she knew what he'd done. If she knew what he'd seen. If she could look inside his mind and sift through his catalog of horrors.
Horrors and shame that he'd brought about by his own hand.
Soft lips pressed against his ear; Cody groaned. More from desperation, than anything else.
"Go 'way," he muttered a second time, as he tried to move his head away from her lips.
Another hand pressed against his opposite cheek, keeping his ear in gentle contact with her mouth. Her words whispered softly, their meaning nearly missed in Cody's whiskey fog.
"Do as you're told, Trooper."
Trooper. It took a second, but the word hit Cody harder than a blaster shot.
His eyes flew open and he reared back his head. The instinctual movement made the room around him whirl and spin upside down; he gagged in response to the weird vertigo dancing in front of his eyes.
He caught a glimpse of her - smooth, pale skin. Short, white hair. A small, gentle face.
Something seemed...off...about her, but Cody was too inebriated to pinpoint what was missing. He was forced, instead, to focus on salvaging what little balance and self-control he had. Saa wouldn't let him come back if he threw up in the bar, again.
Soft, cool hands held him firmly around the waist and the shoulder. She guided him out of the cantina and Cody was helpless in her grasp.
He couldn't even feel shame as he doubled over just past the cantina door and emptied the contents of his stomach out on the dusty street at their feet.
He might have had too much to drink, but he definitely hadn't had enough. Not enough to drown out the dreams.
Cody hadn't been able to sleep in any way that could be considered "sound" in months, but the alcohol at least helped him to sleep without memory. If he dreamed, he never remembered it in the morning. But, this was the first night since he'd deserted to the coal mines of Anobis, that his drinking binge had been cut short before he could inebriate himself into his usual, dreamless whiskey-induced coma.
Now, all the memories came crashing back against his conscious.
He remembered the look of shock on General Kenobi's face, when Cody had fired on him. Worst of all, Cody could once again feel the shame he'd felt at having tried to kill a man who'd been a close friend for almost three years. For a time, the clone commander had been able to put aside those feelings of shame and doubt; after all, he'd only been doing what he was genetically bred to do. He'd only been following orders, like any "good soldier".
But, now, six months later, he was haunted by the memories of all the hundreds of innocents he'd killed in the name of the Republic.
No, not in the name of the Republic. When he'd killed before, for the Republic, it had been with General Kenobi at his side. It had been with Captain Rex and his young Padawan sweetheart. It had been with General Skywalker.
Cody's days with the Republic had been hard. He'd lost countless troops; thousands of brothers. But, they had died with honor and he had lived with a soldier's dignity. Maybe that wasn't much by most standards. But, it'd been enough for him. He'd been defending democracy and freedom. He'd been protecting the innocent as best as he could; he hadn't been slaughtering them for any other reason besides pointless orders.
He hadn't been the accessory to crimes against sentient life.
But, when he'd become a soldier of the Empire...when he'd taken that first treacherous shot at General Kenobi...that's when Cody stopped living with any code of honor.
That's when he'd turned into the monster. Into the tool of hatred and evil.
That's when his dreams started to be haunted by screams and death.
That's when he'd started finding solace in a vicious cycle of alcohol and stims.
That's when he'd allowed himself to stand by while his brother's committed atrocities and he did nothing.
The turning point had come at Bellassa.
Cody groaned and thrashed in his fitful sleep. His legs got tangled in the sheets and his arm flopped sporadically over the edge of the bed as he flung his hand out at some unseen terror.
The name was worst than a ghost. It haunted Cody's conscious with an immortal persistence and the only way he knew to exorcise it, was with the strongest imported Corellian spirits that he could afford.
Her screams for help - for mercy, for justice - were still as vivid and real as the day he'd heard them. She had pleaded with his brothers - with his troops. She had pleaded with him, as their commander.
He had stood at the door.
And had done nothing.
There had been no orders for the brutality that befell her. Nothing direct, at least. No clear-cut Order 66 to exonerate Cody's fraying conscious from responsibility. They had operated under the directives of Order 37 - to "suppress local civilian populations" in order to force the surrender of the rogue Jedi padawan, Ferus Olin.
But, Order 37 said nothing about doing what they'd done. Nothing at all. Not even if she was the woman suspected of aiding and abetting an enemy of the Empire.
They'd had no right to take what they would later dismiss as an "interrogation" into their own hands. Cody had had no right in letting them. But he had.
And, in that moment - when he'd stood in the doorway and turned his back on her frantic screams - he'd lost his honor. His dignity. His self.
And in the nights following, when her screams tortured him as they did now, he realized that he could no longer live with himself.
He still couldn't live with himself. Six months chasing away the memories of his sins hadn't changed that.
Her screams mingled into his own as he fought against the sheets that threatened to bind him. Cody gained just enough consciousness to be gripped by nauseousness yet again. The emptying of his stomach hours earlier hadn't done much for him.
There was still plenty left to lose.
Instinctively, he leaned over the bed. A cool hand pressed against the back of his neck for the second time that night. And a bucket miraculously appeared under his hanging head.
Cody wretched, his stomach turning sourly against the mix of alcohol and emotions that battled for the supremacy of his system. Tears streaked down his cheeks as his body tried violently to expel the whiskey he'd consumed in uncounted quantities. When he was able to gasp for air, he tried to speak. He wasn't even sure what he was trying to say, but the ghostly sound of her screams still echoed between his ears. His heart still pounded in a fear he couldn't explain; his soul still cringed in a self-loathing he couldn't assuage.
Cool, soft hands held his head and held his bucket, until he was done. And then, his faceless caretaker eased him onto his back and pressed a cold, damp cloth against his cheeks and forehead.
Cody panted, his stomach sore from its upheaval. His head still felt woozy - there was still more alcohol to lose, he was sure. But, he felt significantly closer to sobriety than he had when he'd found his way into this unfamiliar bed.
"Drink this," the gentle feminine voice from earlier that night spoke again.
She put an arm under his shoulders and helped him sit up. Cody's stomach protested weakly for a second or two, but it passed - the worst had been forced from his body. His lips came in contact with the cold edge of a glass and his hand floundered for a moment before it found hers.
Her fingers felt so small under his, almost delicate in their fineness. Cody tried not to cringe as his hand came in contact with hers.
He didn't deserve to touch a woman. Not even to steady a glass so he could take a drink. Not ever. Not after Bellassa.
She tipped the glass and a strange liquid greeted his tongue. He jerked his head to the side and tried to push her hand away, but she wasn't having any of it.
"It'll help settle your stomach."
Cody finally opened his sleep-gritted eyes. The room was dark and cool; her face was cast in shadow, but he was struck again by something...different...about her.
"C'mon," she coaxed gently, moving the glass back toward his lips.
Cody acquiesced but kept a wary eye on her as he sipped the contents of the glass. He'd never tasted anything like it before. It tasted...green, was the only adjective he could come up with. But, it was cool and it was sweet, and she was right.
It settled his stomach. And, it even helped alleviate the parched nastiness in his mouth.
She waited patiently, holding him and helping him, as he finished the whole glass. As he drank, Cody took stock of the environment around him - six months was enough to reduce him to a state of personal squalor, but it wasn't enough to eradicate a whole lifetime of honed instincts.
The room was small; he couldn't tell if it was hers or a guest bedroom, but he surmised, based on the tasteful impersonality of the surroundings, that it was a guest bedroom. The bed was clean and soft; the only other furniture in the room was a table, a chair, and a small trunk in the far corner. There was one window on the wall behind her; someone, he assumed her, had opened it, and Anobis' moon shone silver beyond a pair of gauzy curtains. A mild breeze ruffled the edges of the curtains and wafted cool air against his too-warm skin.
He didn't remember stumbling back from the cantina. He remembered puking practically on her shoes; he dimly remembered someone pulling his shirt over his head, and pulling his boots and socks off of his feet, but that was about it. He didn't remember her helping him along. He didn't remember laying down on the bed, or being tucked under sheets that smelled freshly washed.
He swallowed the last of whatever it was she'd made him drink and she leaned over him as she helped lay back down.
"Sleep, soldier," she whispered, brushing her fingers gently across his forehead.
Something about the gesture seemed oddly familiar to him, but between the stress of the alcohol and the distress of his dreams, he couldn't place it. It was comforting, though, and he felt his eyes drifting shut despite himself.
He didn't want to sleep again. He didn't want to face the screams.
"Sleep without dreams," her fingers ghosted across his forehead for a second time; this time, Cody couldn't think of any reason why he should resist.
He expected her to leave him, then. But, she stayed. For several minutes, there was just the sound of the wind whispering through the open window and his loud breathing as he struggled to let go of the lingering darkness that had awakened him in the first place.
then, she did something quite remarkable.
The song meant nothing to Cody. He wasn't Gree - he couldn't even begin to place her alien language. Yet, something in the tune matched the despair that had taken hold of his heart. It was full of sadness and for a moment, he wondered how someone like her could find words for what he couldn't express himself.
The song drifted across his ragged sense of failure like a requiem. And as he slowly let go of his consciousness, he could almost imagine that she was singing of his loss and of all the faces he'd never see again.
And for the first time, he imagined General Kenobi's face - not in shock and betrayal, but with that quiet smile he'd sometimes share at one of Cody's bad jokes. He thought of Rex - a face exactly like his own and yet so totally different. He thought of Commander Tano and her unflagging youthfulness in the face of a war that threatened to rob it from her. He thought of General Skywalker and the strength Cody had always admired within the man.
They were gone, as long lost as Cody's innocence. But, for once, he didn't feel the need to drown them out in some alcoholic outlet. He let them drift through his mind, carried by the tune of his benefactor's song.
It was a requiem in their memory. In the memory of all the many lives that Cody had taken. In memory of all the many lives Cody had seen taken. In memory of the life of a woman he hadn't saved.
It was a requiem in memory of him.
And somehow, the thought comforted him. He rolled over onto his side, facing the woman sitting on a chair next to his bed, and fell into the first sound sleep he'd had since the Empire had stolen his soul.