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Saga The Fighting Kind: Captain Rex/OC, Romance/Drama, COMPLETE as of 5/19/14

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by laloga, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Twelve

    All that Brenna had been able to learn was that he'd been wounded, but he was alive. Rex was one of the lucky ones, it seemed, as she'd gotten a glimpse of the Ord Mantell casualties from the GAR database and learned that – while the losses were not as devastating as those at other battles like Teth – Torrent Company had returned with less men than it had set out with.

    She debated comm'ing him, just to check in then decided against it, because whatever was between them still seemed too new to do such a thing. Anyway, she was still uncertain that he even wanted to see her again, so she tried to set the captain out of her mind and continue on with her routine for the next day or so.

    Almost two and a half days since their dinner in the observation room, Brenna was seated in her office, running the weekly diagnostic across her equipment; it was a tedious task that required her presence in the off-chance that the system would overload or become caught in a processing loop, in which case it would need to be rebooted manually.

    Most of the time, running such a diagnostic meant that she would spend most of the day sitting at her desk, drumming her nails along the hard surface in time to the music she was playing, and trying not to be too bored.

    Today, the soft ding at her door alerted her to someone's presence; thinking it was her supervisor or perhaps a coworker come to chat, she slid out of her chair and stepped over to activate the door. When the panel slid open her lips parted in surprise, because Rex was on the other side, looking at her with a mixture of anxiety and hope.

    Save for a plexi-cast over his right arm – which was also in a sling – he looked the same as he had the last time she'd seen him: navy, off-duty fatigues and his ubiquitous belt strapped around his waist. For one moment she blinked up at him in shock, then she found her voice. “Your arm...”

    It's still attached,” he said with a half-smile. “Along with the rest of me. May I...?”

    She nodded and stepped aside to allow him entry, closing the door behind him before moving forward to adjust the volume of the music; when she looked back his way, he was watching her carefully as he spoke again. “I wanted to see you.”

    She had to smile at the statement, and the subsequent wince he made once he realized the redundancy of what he'd said when compared with the person he'd said it to. “Mission accomplished, then,” she replied, though he frowned a moment later and looked around.

    After he glanced at her workstation, where each screen presented a readout of the various diagnostics taking place, he looked back at her. “I don't know what any of that is, but I'll bet it means you're busy. I can come back-”

    No,” she said; she considered putting a hand on his uninjured arm, then decided against it. “I don't have to, unless you think you'll be bored. I can't leave while the diagnostic is running, but I'd like the company. If you want to, that is.”

    I do.”

    For one moment they looked at each other and she felt the beat of her heart pick up with the intensity of his gaze; finally, she blinked, breaking the spell, and moved to the extra chair against the wall to remove the stacks of flimsies, datapads, and other miscellany that had accumulated in the seat. Rex was at her side a moment later, taking what he could and setting it at the edge of her desk or along the shelves at the wall at her direction.

    Soon the chair was pulled up beside hers and he'd taken a seat, resting his arm in his lap and running his eyes along the screens again, his thoughtful expression indicating he was trying to understand what he was looking at.

    What is all that?” he asked at last, glancing at her.

    Weekly diagnostic,” she replied. “I also do a manual checkup of the system: cleaning out old files, freeing up inactive memory, revising any outdated query codes...” She smiled as his brow furrowed. “Pretty exciting, I know.”

    He smiled back. “Sounds it.”

    There was a pause while she thought of the report she'd read. “I'm sorry about the men you lost, Rex.” At the inquiring tilt of his head, she explained. “I pulled up the stats from the battle on the GAR database. I wanted to know if you were...”

    You wanted to know if I was killed.” It was a matter-of-fact statement, the words spoken without emotion after she'd trailed off. She nodded and he leaned back into the chair, considering. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said after a moment. “Yes, we lost men – good men – but we held the Seps back. The citizens of Ord Mantell are safe, for now.”

    Brenna shifted her gaze to his arm and he grimaced as he spoke again. “Did you also read about the seismic tank?”

    Her eyes must have gotten wide, because he elaborated. “It was the first time I'd ever seen one in person; the wind from the driver knocked me back about two-hundred meters, and gave me this.”

    Is it broken?” She reached forward and met his eyes, silently asking permission to touch him; he nodded and she placed her fingertips along the gray plexi-cast that was almost perfectly molded to the shape of his forearm. It was smooth and cool, similar to the armor that the clones wore, but it lacked the comforting firmness of plastoid.

    No,” he replied as he watched her. “Just sprained. My armor took most of the damage.” He paused, then tilted his head and gave her a meaningful look, which was when she realized that they were only a few handspans apart. “Kix says I'm to be off active duty until it's healed...might be as much as a week.”

    Hand still on his cast, she felt her heart start to beat a little faster; she thought that she understood the meaning behind his words, but wanted to make sure. “Sounds like you'll have some free time, then.”

    A bit,” he said with a nod. “I had hoped that I'd get a chance to make up the other night to you, since I had to leave in such a hurry.”

    It's okay,” she replied, but her voice sounded soft and unfamiliar in her ears, and she swallowed. “Duty called.”

    There was a pause while he seemed to consider something, then he placed his free hand over hers, lightly. His skin was warm. “Brenna, I hardly said goodbye to you. I regretted it.” He exhaled, then gave her fingers a gentle squeeze when he spoke again. “I don't want to regret anything when it comes to this.”

    Her mouth opened, but no sound came out; his honey-brown gaze had captured hers and she was rendered immobile, save for the sudden and furious cadence of her heart. Finally she managed to choke out an inelegant “okay,” which made him chuckle and lift his hand from hers. When he wasn't touching her it was easier to breathe, and she leaned back in her chair, hoping that her face didn't look as red as it felt.

    She thought it did, for he lifted a brow at her and gave her the half-smile again. “Are you alright?”

    Get a hold of yourself, Brenna. “Getting there,” she replied, smoothing back her hair. “'s a bit warm in here, isn't it?”

    The half-smile broadened to full, and she decided that she should go ahead and resign herself to being lost to the expression, uncommon as it seemed to be. Neither one spoke for a few minutes after that, during which she busied herself by checking over the consoles at her desk, which gave her body temperature and heart-rate sufficient time to return to normal.

    When she looked back at him, he was examining one of the pictures of Iri from the little girl's first life-day party. “She really does look like you,” he said, holding up the still-pic and glancing between it and Brenna. “She has your nose. And your chin.”

    And my ears,” Brenna replied. “Well, only the left one.” With that, she leaned forward around him to select another pic from her desk. This one was more recent, a close-up profile of the little girl; Rex was right, because Irini primarily took after Brenna and not her father, though she wondered if it would remain so as her daughter aged. Brenna held the pic up to her face with one hand and smoothed back her hair from each ear with the other, turning her head side-to-side. “See?”

    Rex looked from her face to the pic, and nodded, though his brows were furrowed. “Just the one? Is that...normal?” He seemed to hesitate, then shook his head. “Sorry...I don't know if that's an okay question...”

    No, it's fine,” she replied, setting the pic in her lap but not releasing it. “And yes, it's common for a child to have bits and pieces of each parent. Besides, ears aren't usually symmetrical on anybody.”

    She's two?”

    Just about. She's twenty-one months.” Brenna toyed with the edges of the frame for a moment, then smiled to herself. “Iri's completely brilliant; she's incredible with finger-painting, which I know doesn't sound very impressive, but considering her age, the fact that she can actually make images that you can recognize is really amazing. And she's such a fast learner, too. In fact, my brother says that-”

    Her jaw snapped shut abruptly, as she'd realized that she'd started babbling; Rex cast her an inquiring look and she felt her face grow warm again at the concern in his tone. “Is everything okay?”

    I'm fine,” she replied even as she shook her head. “I just...I'm sure it's boring for you to have to listen to me chatter on about my kid.”

    Rex knitted his brows in confusion. “I like hearing about your daughter...she sounds wonderful.” She thought that she must have looked confused, now, for he shrugged and gave her another half-smile. “When you talk about her, your face...lights up.”

    Even as he said the words she watched his ears get red, but she was too pleased to do much more than offer him another smile, one that he returned immediately.

    As they looked at one another, there was a moment of awkwardness before she cleared her throat and continued telling him about Iri's fondness for painting pictures; Brenna couldn't help but be startled by the fact that – not only did he appear interested in her descriptions of Iri – he asked questions that encouraged her to elaborate even more, such that before she knew what had happened, an entire hour had passed in what felt like the blink of an eye.

    A tree?” he asked, brows lifted in amusement. “She wants to be a tree when she grows up?”

    Brenna was leaning back in her chair, hands folded across her stomach as she grinned. “Oh yes. She loves them,” she added with a chuckle. “That's probably obvious by now.”

    At her words, Rex gave a genuine laugh, the likes of which she'd not heard from him until this moment, and she watched as his entire face relaxed with the sound, transforming it. In fact, his posture was far more relaxed than it had been when he'd first sat down; like her, he was leaning back, his legs stretched out before him, booted feet beneath her desk. His right arm still rested against his chest in the sling, but his left hand was hanging loosely over the armrest of the chair.

    Well,” he said after a moment, shooting Brenna another smile. “I wish her luck, but something tells me that she'll need to pick another career when she gets older.”

    Brenna smiled back. “I'm planning on reminding her of the fact when she's trying to choose what to focus on at university.” Some of her hair had fallen forward with her laughter, so she pushed it back behind her ears as she continued, her voice softening. “Though really, it doesn't matter to me what job she has when she grows up. I want her to have every opportunity, of course, but more than anything, I just want her to be happy. And safe,” she added with another glance at him. “Always safe.”

    She knew there was a wistful tone to her voice, but it didn't matter so much when she was talking about her daughter. Rex seemed to understand, and gave a solemn nod as his face smoothed into another thoughtful expression while he studied her. “What if she wanted to be a bounty hunter, or a mercenary?”

    Then I'd want her to be the best one possible,” Brenna replied at once. “And I'd want to make sure that she had everything that she'd need to be successful; I know I can't really keep her 'safe' forever,” she added with a grimace. “But a mother can dream, I guess. The most important thing is that she grows up knowing how to think for herself and make her own choices, and that she has the tools to make the right ones.”

    Something in her words seemed to strike him, for his eyes dropped down to his arm again. When he looked back up at her, she could see that he was hesitating about something. “I don't have children – obviously,” he said slowly. “But if I did, I'd like to think that I'd feel the same way as you do: wanting to provide for them enough so that they have the means to find happiness on their own.”

    It's hard,” she replied, glancing over the screen again to make sure that the diagnostic was still progressing well. The streams of data blurred as she felt her eyes grow warm. “In many ways I feel like I've already failed her because she deserves so much more than I can give.”

    That was when she felt Rex's hand reach out to cover hers, causing her to give a sharp inhale and meet his eyes. “Brenna, I have no doubt that you're doing the best you can,” he said in a serious voice. “That's all anyone can do.”

    I'm trying to,” she replied, looking at their joined hands. “But...I feel like I should be with her, not out here. My brain knows that being here, on the Resolute, is the most logical choice,” she added. “But my heart...”

    In his fashion, he seemed to understand even though her thought trailed off to nothing; he only gave her hand a squeeze and offered her another, gentler smile that she returned. “I wouldn't worry, Brenna. I have no doubt that Irini will be the best tree in the entire galaxy,” he said at last, which made her laugh.

    They sat for another few minutes, hands joined, until he glanced at the chrono along her wall and sighed. “I should get back,” he said with a slight frown. “We're getting some new recruits in this evening and I'll need to see that they're taken care of.”

    'Taken care of?' I know how you guys are...does that involve some kind of hazing?”

    At her words he glanced at her in surprise, then smiled again. “Not from me it doesn't, but I imagine some of the others – most likely Fives and Jesse – have made some plans to that effect.”

    Brenna nodded sagely. “Sometimes those ARCs are more trouble than not, aren't they?”

    Especially this particular one,” he said with a chuckle.

    With that, he rose from his seat and made to head for the door to her office; she did the same and they stood before one another for a few awkward moments until Rex took a deep breath, then looked directly into her eyes. “Brenna...”

    You can call me 'Bren,' if you like,” she said suddenly, as her heart always started to beat faster when he spoke her full name; perhaps it wouldn't be so if he only said her nickname.


    No, she thought as her heart stuttered and she held his gaze. It's worse. Much worse.

    He took another breath and spoke with deliberation as he studied her. “Would it be alright if I kissed you?”

    Again, she was rendered speechless for a few seconds, though she was able to find her voice before too long. “You already did – sort of.”

    Rex shook his head; he swallowed and reached for her hand once more, engulfing it with his own. “I want to try and do it properly this time. That includes not making an ass of myself.”

    As much as she wanted to laugh and reply with a witty comment, she was incapable when he looked at her so because her heart was thrumming and she couldn't move, could hardly speak; all she could do was nod. She watched him inhale right before he leaned forward, so that they were only a breath apart, which was where he hesitated; that made her wonder if he'd not done this before, so she tilted her face up and closed the very last of the space between them, brushing her lips against his with a feather-touch.

    Slow, she thought as his left hand moved to rest at her waist. We should go slow.

    Even as the words passed through her head she leaned forward, pressing herself to the solid planes of his chest and brushing their lips again; in the next moment he pulled her closer and the kiss deepened, just a bit, as he caught on to the movements.

    When they parted, she was certain her entire face was red, and also that the color was mirrored in his, but she didn't care. Nor did she care about the continuing frenetic pace of her heart or the flames that had appeared in her fingertips, because they were still close, only a breath away, and his eyes were on hers while he spoke. “When can I see you again?”

    Is tonight too soon?”

    At her words, he smiled and she felt his hand at her waist give a soft squeeze. “That works.”

    She couldn't help but shiver at the increased pressure of his hand, and she swallowed. “I should be done with all this at around eighteen-hundred hours. When do you think you'll be free?”

    There was a pause while he considered; happily, his hand remained in place. “Probably a bit earlier. Would it be alright if I comm'd you so we could work out the details?” At her nod, he studied her again before tilting his head to place one last kiss against her cheek before he turned to make for the door. “Then I'll see you tonight, Bren.”

    First kiss! [face_love] (Finally...)

    Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought of the kiss! (Took them long enough, right? :p )

    Next up: meeting the Spaarti clones for the first time.

  2. Luna_Nightshade

    Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 25, 2006
    Awww... I love how his near death experience compels him to follow up with Brenna again. Also really enjoyed the wartime post--your descriptions are always as vivid as watching a CW episode. Love that now they're actually "together." Interested to see how they deal with him being a clone. Lovely to catch up!
    laloga likes this.
  3. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 24, 2004
    I love the tiny little steps of two people moving closer to each other, and I like that fate has dropped him here to stay for a bit. Sometimes people need a little help from the Force, or what have you :) Lovely
  4. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    I'm back! Darth Real Life has been...ugh, but I'm going to try and get back on a regular posting schedule. :)

    Thank you for the comment, Luna_Nightshade! [face_love]

    Chapter Thirteen
    Even as he strode through the Resolute's gleaming corridors, part of Rex's mind remained with Brenna.

    Despite his inexperience in the physical aspects of relationships between males and females, he was pleased with how quickly he'd figured out kissing; she'd seemed to approve, at any rate. But beyond the kissing – nice as it was – he'd enjoyed spending time in her company for a number of other reasons. Despite the things that she'd experienced, things that might have turned another person sour, Brenna had a kind of brightness to her that attracted him, inexorably.

    When she spoke of her daughter, she beamed...there was no other word for it. Happiness radiated off of her, even though he knew that being apart from Iri was difficult, and he wondered if maybe her love for the child gave her a kind of strength that he hadn't considered before, one that helped her weather such hardship. And while he had no first-hand experience in this particular matter, Rex had observed – through another clone, no less – how being a parent could provide a person with a sense of purpose and duty.

    Thinking of Brenna and her daughter in the same context as he thought of Cut Lawquane and his family caused a strange ripple of longing to move through the captain, one that he instantly and automatically shoved aside, instead focusing his thoughts solely on the brown-haired young woman.

    When he smiled at her, he'd again noticed the flush that had crept to her cheeks. At first it was strange to think that he'd caused such a reaction in another with a simple expression; even when he could see that she was trying to remain calm, he'd noted a gleam of pleasure in her eyes whenever he smiled her way, which he found gave him no end of satisfaction.

    Later, as they'd said goodbye, he'd put his hand on her waist because...well, because he could. There was no gap of rank between them that would prevent him from touching her, and he'd been able to tell that she liked that he had done so.

    Of course, that thought brought back the memory of how she'd leaned forward and pressed herself against his torso, which was enough to get him more than a little hot-under-the-collar. Rex decided that he was looking forward to seeing her again tonight.

    Very much.

    It was because of all this that his steps were a bit lighter than they had been in some time, even though eventually he was able to shake thoughts of the brown-haired woman away; he had a rather unpleasant task ahead of him, one that would need all of his attention.

    During the last few days, Rex had memorized every bit of the intel on the Spaarti clones that General Skywalker had provided, but a more comprehensive understanding of the newcomers had done nothing to ease his mind. Just the opposite, in fact. Due to the battle on Ord Mantell and – admittedly – his own distraction with Brenna, he hadn't had a chance to share his findings with any of the others; yesterday, he'd decided to rectify that, and had approached Sergeant Coric with something of a plan.

    After a brief detour to the barracks to lose the sling and replace his armor – well, what armor he could fit over the cast – he made his way to the hangar. By his request, every able-bodied trooper of Torrent Company was present, helmets clipped to their belts; as Rex approached, he noted with pride that his men snapped to attention the instant that he was spotted.
    "Captain on deck!" Coric's voice was clear, resonating off of the surrounding bays. In response, each man saluted in unison and Rex made his way down the line, nodding to each one and trying not to think how there were less and less every time he saw them all together in recent weeks.

    Fives stood slightly apart from the others, separate but still one of them regardless of his ARC status. Although they'd returned to the Resolute in the last day or so, neither of the Jedi were present yet, so Rex took a moment and stood at the front-and-center of his men, meeting every soldier's eyes as he spoke.

    "I know that I don't have to tell anyone how rough it is out there," he began, glancing at Tup and noting how the younger clone lifted his chin in response. "Every single one of you has proven his mettle a dozen times over, and I'm proud – not only to have you for this Company – but to call you 'brother,' as well. Because we are brothers, in arms, and in life. We stand beside one another through any and every challenge, because we are stronger together than apart."

    For a moment he paused to let the words sink in and buoy them up, because he knew they'd need the encouragement when they heard what he was going to tell them. "But," he added at last. "You also know that we are not impervious to harm. The Wars have taken their toll – on us and on the galaxy – and the Senate has had to take...extreme measures to bolster our ranks so that we can continue to do our duty and defend the Republic.

    "You may find the new recruits to be a bit different, at first. They are Fett clones, as we are, but the methods used in their creation were different than those that the Kaminoans used for ours; although I have not met any first-hand, by all accounts they may seem particularly 'shiny' to the more seasoned veterans among us." These words caused a number of the troopers to shift in place, shooting each other anxious glances and indicating that they were not entirely comfortable with what they were hearing. It was to be expected.

    Rex allowed his men a moment of doubt and waited for them to settle before he continued. "But I want to remind you – again – that we are all brothers, and that we must stand united if we are to survive this conflict. Whatever opposition we face, we will overcome as long as we remain loyal to the Republic, and loyal to one another. Vode an."

    Although Mando'a had only been taught to the original ARC troopers and commandos, over the course of the Wars the language had trickled down through the ranks, until most clones were at least passing familiar with the more popular phrases.

    Vode an, brothers all.

    As he'd hoped, the familiar words had the desired effect; each man seemed to take heart from the comforting phrase, lifting his head and squaring his shoulders, and some of the tension eased away from Rex at the sight.

    Several moments later, he heard the hangar door hiss open and watched as Ahsoka made her way into the main body of the room, her passage making no sound against the smooth floor. Skywalker wasn't with her, which Rex made a mental note to ask her about when he had a chance. As she came to stand by his side at the front of the men, she gave him a nod, then beamed at the troopers as they saluted her – again in unison.

    A buzzing alarm indicated that a ship was approaching the hangar and preparing to touch down; moments later, the familiar shapes of a group of five LAAT/i transports dropped into view as they passed through the energy shield, settling onto the hangar floor several meters from where Rex and Ahsoka stood side-by-side. The doors of the transports slid to the side in tandem, revealing groups of familiar white-armored figures standing at attention. On an unseen signal – likely an internal comm channel – the group from each transport stepped off of their vessel and formed up a perfect series of columns before Ahsoka and Rex, the echoes of their booted footsteps reverberating off of the bulkhead.

    Among the sea of white, there was one figure – armor slashed with the familiar blue of the 501st – who stepped forward to address the officers; Rex noted that Appo's movements seemed more confident than before, and he wondered if the sergeant had received additional training on Cartao when he'd gone to bring back the new guys.

    "Lieutenant CC-1119 reporting with the new recruits, as requested," Appo said in a clear voice as he saluted Ahsoka. "Your orders, sir?"

    Lieutenant? Rex was thankful that he was able to control his reaction to the statement, as it was news to him. Appo had been a sergeant when he'd what point had he been promoted? Beside him, Ahsoka seemed to share his surprise, but she recovered with grace.

    "Lieutenant, huh?" she said with a smile up at the trooper, who leveled the blank gaze of his bucket upon her. "Congratulations, Appo. When did you get the promotion?"

    Appo squared his shoulders before he replied. "General Skywalker authorized the promotion when I was dispatched to Cartao to oversee the new units." There was a pause, as if he was uncertain, then the former sergeant spoke again, his voice holding a trace of chagrin. "My apologies...I was unaware that you had not yet been informed, Commander."

    In her fashion, Ahsoka seemed unconcerned. She reached forward to shake the newly-minted lieutenant's hand, offering him another smile. "Don't worry about it, Appo. Care to introduce us to the new guys?"

    Her mannerisms were casual without being informal, of which Rex was glad. There would be time for protocol, but he admired her for understanding the mindsets of the clones enough to realize that the new guys would likely be nervous and out-of-sorts; Ahsoka knew just how to set the soldiers at ease. Kindness, compassion...these were her hallmarks. These were the qualities that he admired her for, but – he realized as he watched her step forward through the ranks of the new recruits – she did not have the monopoly on them.

    Perhaps Ahsoka had shown him their true worth, but Rex knew that there were other people with those qualities, too.

    Once she'd at least acknowledged each new trooper, she returned to Rex's side, and the new company moved to face the men of Torrent; again, the reality of the dwindling numbers of his men was made apparent, the contrast even sharper next to the crisp, clean armor of the new recruits. Appo stood before them as well, his posture mirroring Rex's.

    There was a slight pause, then Rex cleared his throat and nodded to Appo. "I'll give your men the night to get settled in; we can start the company-wide drills tomorrow morning, first thing. Will that work for you, Lieutenant?"

    Despite his own surprise at the other man's new position, Rex didn't think it was his place to question Skywalker's order. To his knowledge, Appo was a good and capable soldier; there was no reason he shouldn't have been promoted, and Rex wanted to head off any rumors that might begin due to the unorthodox and sudden nature of the Appo's elevated status. There would be no ill-will – real or imagined – between himself and any other clone, not if he could help it.

    "It will, sir. Thank you, Captain," Appo replied with a nod, though the slight tilt of his visor made Rex realize that the other clone was glancing at his wounded arm. While the body-glove had been able to stretch over the cast, Rex had been unable to wear his vambrace, so he'd merely replaced his gloves and gauntlet and forgone the sling for now.

    Well, there was no dishonor in an injury, especially one received while a soldier was in the line of duty, so Rex straightened and fixed his eyes on Appo's visor, willing his gaze to be calm but commanding. "It's good to have you back, Lieutenant. And congratulations on the promotion – you've earned it."

    Appo's visor tilted down again, but the minute gesture was also accompanied by a faint drop of the other clone's shoulders, as if in acknowledgment. "Thank you, sir."

    There was deference in his voice, but the encounter still felt a little off. However, Rex cleared his throat and addressed the men at large, ensuring that his words would carry across the room. "As I was saying just before your arrival, we're all in this fight together. No matter our origins or our differences, we are vode an, and we work for the common good – the greater good – of the safety of the Republic."
    Something in his words made the new soldiers glance at one another in the manner of those who had matters they were reluctant to voice. With a nod, Rex indicated the trooper closest to him. "Any questions...?"

    The soldier straightened. "CT-95-3744, sir."

    "What's your name, trooper?" Ahsoka asked, tilting her head at the helmeted clone.

    "Sir, my designation is CT-95-3744, sir," was the swift reply.

    At this, Ahsoka smiled at him. "We'll work on that, then. Did you have a question about something Rex said, Four-four?"

    There was a pause, then the trooper spoke. "Sir, I am unclear on the meaning of the words 'vode an.' With respect, I request clarification, sir."

    Behind him, Rex could hear the slightest shifting of plastoid that indicated his men were shooting surreptitious looks at one another. Ahsoka glanced his way with a furrowed brow, so Rex cleared his throat. "My apologies; most of my boys knew a bit of Mando'a when they first arrived. Vode an, brothers all. It's a common phrase among the ranks. We are brothers-in-arms, after all."

    "These soldiers are not familiar with Mando'a, Captain," Appo said, a hint of weariness in his otherwise measured voice. "They were not trained in the same manner as you and I, sir."

    "Well, perhaps they can learn," Rex replied, refusing to acknowledge the thread of foreboding he felt from the lieutenant's words. In his mind, it didn't – couldn't – matter that the Spaartis had been trained differently; they were here now, and they would all have to learn to work together if Torrent Company was going to be successful.

    Appo nodded again in response, but said nothing further. Moments later, there was another unseen signal among the new guys: their gloved hands moved in a unified salute before they turned and marched out of the hangar bay, steps perfectly aligned and echoing.

    Once they'd left, Rex glanced at his own men, whom he could see watching the retreating forms of the new clones with varying degrees of interest and uncertainty. "Until tomorrow morning, consider yourselves off-duty," he said, causing their attention to snap back his way. "See you at zero-eight-hundred."

    With that, they began to file out of the hangar; while the formation was clean and orderly, Rex noted that they didn't move with the same rigid precision as the new recruits, but he didn't dwell on the matter, because Ahsoka was looking at him in a manner that indicated she wished to speak.

    Once the last of Torrent Company had disappeared, he looked down at her. "What is it?"

    At this, Ahsoka frowned and her eyes shifted to the door where the new recruits had gone. "It's strange. They felt...different, in the Force. Different from you, Fives and the others," she added to his querying look.

    "Different, how?"

    Ahsoka gave a deep sigh, suddenly appearing much older than her seventeen years as she shook her head. "It's hard to explain. I was expecting them to feel like all shinies do – fresh, nervous, excited – but they only felt...dim. Sort of...muted."

    "Perhaps it's because they were cloned in a different manner," he said, even though he was at a loss whenever it came to the Force. "Maybe they'll 'feel' better once they settle in."

    "I hope so," she replied, but he could see that neither one of them really believed the words, despite their efforts. She paused, then eyed his cast. "You're okay, right? Not too broken? Skyguy and I were worried we'd have to train another captain..."

    The teasing in her voice made him chuckle. "I'm in one piece."

    "Shouldn't that arm be in a sling?"

    She must have been talking with Kix. Rex shrugged, then deftly changed the subject. "Is the general well? He usually makes an appearance at things like this."

    Her dark lips pursed in consideration before she answered. "He's fine...I think." At Rex's raised brow, she frowned. "Chancellor Palpatine called him away this morning; I'm not sure why...anyway, before he left, he seemed kind of...anxious. It was a little strange, actually. I mentioned it, and he said he's just tired, but sometimes I think he needs to take a break."

    "When was the last time he had leave?"

    Ahsoka shook her head. "Not since I've been around." Suddenly, her gaze dropped and her arms crossed before her, as if bracing herself. "Maybe he really is tired...he didn't tell me about Appo's promotion, either."

    "All I knew was that Appo had gone to Cartao to collect the Spaarti soldiers and bring them back here," Rex said thoughtfully. "I had no idea that he was to be promoted, but he's a good soldier. It was well-deserved."

    After another moment he gave her a pointed look. "I don't know much about Jedi affairs, Ahsoka, but if you need to talk to someone...impartial about Anakin, you know where to find me."
    "I know," she replied, looking at him with friendly affection. "I know I can always rely on you, Rexter."

    When she smiled at him, it was not the same smile that she'd given Appo, or even any of his men; in the past, it was what he'd thought of as his smile, but while the notion had once set his heart on a faster pace, now it was simply pleasant. She was his friend; he was hers.

    It was – he realized – enough.


    According to Wookieepedia, Mando'a was widely known amongst the clone troopers, so I decided that - for the purposes of this story - most of them know at least a little bit. It's kind of like their heritage in a way.

    Appo went through a lot of changes in this fic; he ended up completely different than how I planned him, but I think it's for the best. :)

    Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know what you think; it means a lot. :) Next time...another date! :D
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Laloga: Hi! This is wonderful! I like Brenna, the warmth of her personality, her joy in Iri, and her past with Tucker lends some conflictedness to her burgeoning relationship with Rex. "Can I really trust you, this feeling?" Your characterization of Ahsoka is excellent and of how she interacts with Rex and the rest. =D= Weird and strange indeed about the new set of clones. Makes you wonder if they're liable to be unstable. [face_worried] I'll have this one on alert/watch. :)
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  6. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Jade_eyes Thanks so much for the comments! [face_love] I worked hard on Brenna, so it's great to get such positive feedback about her. I'm glad you're enjoying this story, too. You're dead on about the new clones...

    Chapter Fourteen

    Once he left the hangar, Rex made his way to the barracks, where he figured the two groups were beginning to mingle; upon his arrival, he noted the presence of a trooper at each bed, which was a heartening sight to say the least. The new guys were dismantling and cleaning weapons and armor – standard procedure – and when he entered the main body of the room, the lot of them jumped to their feet and saluted him, shouting “sir, Captain sir,” in unison.

    It was unexpected, and he wondered if he noted it as such because his own command had gotten as unorthodox as Skywalker's, or if it had something to do with Ahsoka's observations with the Force. Nevertheless, he set the new guys at ease before making his way to the rec room, where Fives, Jesse, and Kix were seated around a dejarik board, the holographic figures activated but unmoving . At his approach, Fives tilted his chin in a manner that indicated he wanted Rex to join them.

    Moments after the captain had slid down beside the ARC, Fives leaned forward. “What's up with the new guys?”

    At his words, Rex glanced through the doorway towards the room that housed the bunks, from which he'd just entered; the new recruits had returned to polishing armor and cleaning weapons. Aside from the sounds of rags scrubbing over plastoid and the creak of shifting bunks, it was silent. Strange. Rex shrugged. “They're new, Fives. Shiny. You remember those days, don't you?”

    It's more than that, Rex,” the ARC replied with narrowed eyes. “They're...I dunno. Weird. Can't quite put my finger on it.”

    I know what you mean,” Kix added in a quiet voice as he fingered the controls on the side of the board. “They feel...different. Not like most rookies, but similar.”

    Rex exhaled and shook his head, trying not to think that Ahsoka had said as much, or think of his own misgivings, because his men – even Fives – looked to him for guidance. “That may be so, but they're brothers and they're here to help us. If they're shiny, then it's our job to show them the ropes and guide them along. Our success out there depends on how well we function as a unit.”

    Jesse frowned. “Yeah, but they didn't even know 'vode an.' I thought every clone knew that, now, you know? It's weird...”

    At this, Rex shook his head and straightened his shoulders. Jesse's words hit also uncomfortably close to the observation that Ahsoka had made, but he couldn't allow his own doubts to come forth this early in the game. “Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. We still have a duty to them, and to each other. Let's hold off judgment until after we seem them in combat.”

    There was quiet after his words, then the medic looked at him. “How's the arm?”

    Cumbersome,” Rex replied, allowing himself a glare down at the offending body part; he'd abandoned the sling during the meeting with Appo and the new guys, and it was starting to ache already. “Couldn't fit my vambrace over the cast-”

    Which doesn't matter, because you're not to be on active duty until the cast is off,” Kix replied in a firm voice. “Remember? And you need to wear the sling, or it'll only take longer to heal.”

    At the medic's words, Jesse sat up and exchanged a not-so-subtle look with Fives. “That's have better things to do than hang around with us.”


    For kriff's sake,” Fives interjected with a lift of his hand, as if he were waving aside the protests that Rex was about to make. “Take a hint and go see your girl.”

    Rex shot a glare at the ARC, because none of the others should have known about his burgeoning thing with Brenna, whatever it was supposed to be called. In response, Fives grinned at him and Kix coughed into his gloved hand, eyes deliberately looking anywhere but Rex's face. Jesse smirked. It was obvious that they were all well-aware of the finer points of his personal life, and Rex reflected that while these men were technically his subordinates, after serving with them for so long, he considered them brothers and friends.

    Friends who apparently refused to mind their own business.

    The thought caused Rex to rub at his forehead, though a moment later he smiled as something else occurred to him. “Fine,” he said in a light voice that he knew would set the lot of them on their guard. “But I'm calling in that favor, Fives.”


    Whether by luck or fate, Brenna was pleased to discover that the diagnostic finished quicker than she'd expected. Once she made her way back to her cabin, she had to take extreme care to keep her movements quiet, as Marliss had returned from her own shift and was fast asleep in her bunk. The room was dark, so it took a bit of careful maneuvering to not disturb her roommate while she showered as quietly as she could; she was still in the process of selecting something to wear by the time that she received a message on her comlink from Rex: I'm free, if you are.

    With a smile, she entered her reply: Free as a thranta, and hungry. You?

    I could eat. Observation room, or will you risk the mess this time?

    Her nose wrinkled involuntarily, but they had made a pretty substantial dent in her supplies, which she hadn't had a chance to replace. The mess it would be, then, once she got dressed. I'm not quite ready. Meet me at my room?

    After she gave him her location, there was a longish pause; while she waited for the reply, it struck her that he might read more into her request then she'd intended, so she made to add a clarification. However, before she could do so, he replied: Ten minutes enough time?

    Her eyes flickered around the dim room, landing on her closet; thankfully, the dress and shoes she'd been thinking of wearing were clean and within reach. Her and Rex's last encounter had been casual and it hadn't ended well, so this time she thought she'd take a gamble and wear something a bit more flattering, hoping that he'd like it. Her hair she always let air-dry on its own time, and she didn't normally bother with cosmetics, so she sent back: Make it five.

    Another pause, then: Copy that, Bren.

    Shortly after she slipped on her dress – pale-blue, in a simple wrap-style that skimmed her knees – she was in the process of combing out the final knots from her damp hair when she heard the soft chime at her door which alerted her to the captain's presence. When she activated the door, she saw that he was dressed in his armor, albeit without the piece that normally covered his right forearm, which was resting in the sling he'd worn earlier. His helmet was clipped to his belt; again she noted the striking combination of cerulean and white, especially coupled with his light hair.

    For an instant they only looked at each other, until she saw his eyes shift towards the darkened cabin. Brenna shook her head and slipped out beside him, ensuring that the door locked behind her. “Marliss is sleeping,” she explained as she began to walk down the corridor, Rex keeping pace at her side. “We work such odd hours – sometimes we go a few days without seeing each other.”

    He nodded, then shot her a glance; she watched his gaze travel over her form before resting on her eyes. “You look lovely.”

    Of course she flushed, and as she murmured a clumsy 'thank you,' she noticed that he had a nondescript canvas bag slung over his left shoulder. To hopefully stop the silly blushing, she cleared her throat and indicated the bag. “What's that?”

    As they turned a corner, he lifted his brow at her and gave her the half-smile she was starting to like a great deal. “I thought this time I would provide dinner and spare you from the mess-hall.”

    Brenna smiled at him. “That's terribly kind of you, Rex.”

    I aim to please.” Following this, he indicated a nearby turbolift. Once they were inside, he pressed the panel along the wall that indicated their destination, and the lift began to move. “I hope you don't mind revisiting the observation deck,” he said after a moment. “There aren't many other places on the Resolute”

    A date?”

    At her words, his neck reddened and she bit back a chuckle. Despite the fact that he was keen and capable, there was still just a bit of boyishness to the captain that made her smile; it was common among clones, more so in some than in others, but with Rex it served to balance the soldier he'd been trained to be with the young man that he was.

    Indeed, he seemed a bit uncertain, then shot her a careful look even as the lift hummed beneath their feet. “Is it a date, then? Is that what we're doing?”

    I guess you could say that,” she replied, keeping her voice casual because otherwise she would start giggling at his perplexed tone. “We enjoy spending time together, which to me is all that matters. But, we don't have to put a name to it, if you don't want to.”

    But if we wanted to 'name' this,” he said, indicating the space between them. “It would be...a date.”

    She couldn't help the smile this time. “Yes, Rex.”

    Right.” He gave a swift nod that was entirely business and made her want to chuckle again. After another moment or so he glanced her way once more. “As I was saying, I wanted to take you somewhere...else, somewhere other than the place we've already been, but I'm afraid there aren't many options. Unless, of course,” he added in a dry voice. “You wanted to come to the barracks.”

    I wouldn't mind,” she replied with a shrug. “Most of us 'civvies' wouldn't, I think. We just don't get into the habit of dropping by the barracks, or any of the places where you and your brothers spend your time. Actually, when I started, my supervisor told me that it would be better if I kept to the civilian areas, so not to throw the soldiers off of their routine.”

    Rex's brows knitted, but he didn't say anything for a moment, and they watched the lights on the lift panel indicate their movement. Finally he glanced at her with an unreadable expression. “That, or they don't want you interacting with us clones.”

    The tone of his voice suggested that he was trying to remain neutral, but she caught his meaning well enough. “We're not...encouraged to do so,” she said after a beat. “But we're not expressly prohibited, either.”

    You're free to do as you wish.”

    Within reason,” she added. “For example, I don't think I'd be able to keep my job if I went running naked through the halls...”

    She'd only spoken in jest, but the instant she said the word “naked,” she felt her face grow warm and she had to look away from him so that the feeling wouldn't intensify. As it was, Rex gave a cough into his gloved hand and for a few moments they stood in awkward silence; finally he shot her a half-smile that made her face heat up all over again. “Encouraged or not...I'm glad that you're exercising your right to choose.”

    Brenna nodded but said nothing else until the lift doors open and they made their way through the winding corridors, towards the observation deck. When they reached their destination, she could see that the entire room was awash with a blue glow as the Resolute slipped through hyperspace, and that it was empty, as it had been the first time they'd come here. Beside her, Rex strode forward to the table at the farthest end of the room from the doors and set his pack upon it, using his uninjured hand to open the drawstring. As he began rummaging through the contents, Brenna hoisted herself to the table's surface and tried to peer into the bag to see what he was doing.

    At her movement, he made to close the opening and gave her a stern look. “No peeking.”

    Rather than reply she made a mild salute, which made the half-smile appear again. A few moments later he pulled out his closed fist from the bag and held it out to her expectantly.

    What is it?” she asked, eying his hand.

    Dinner,” was the curt reply, though she thought that she noted a spark of amusement in his eyes as he said the word.

    Brenna cupped her palms below his and watched with dismay as two dice-sized cubes of something fell into her outstretched hands. She watched as Rex selected one of them for himself, then took a seat beside her on the table, popping the cube into his mouth and giving her a nod. “Aren't you hungry?”

    This is...” She shook her head and looked from him to the beige-colored cube that remained in her hand. “”

    It's a ration cube,” he replied as he swallowed. “All the nutrients you could ever want, right at your fingertips. They're not particularly tasty, but they're a far-sight better for you than bang-corn or honey sticks, that's for sure.”

    As he spoke, she watched him very carefully, searching for signs that he was joking because really...a ration cube? However, his gaze on hers was perfectly solemn and his tone was just as serious; since she had no wish to offend him by turning away his offer, she nodded and stuck the cube inside her mouth. It tasted no better than it looked, but the taste wasn't the worst part. The texture of the cube was mealy and gritty all at once, making her think she was ingesting some kind of gravel, and it was almost impossible to work her teeth around it in order to bite down.

    Rex was still watching her, his face giving away nothing. “If it's a bit stale, just let it dissolve for a moment.”

    Despite the fact that she wanted to spit the disgusting thing out, she nodded and tried to work it around her mouth with her tongue while suppressing her gag reflex. Well, he'd been right about the dissolving bit, but the cube being broken down by her saliva did not improve its taste or texture, and she wondered how in the stars he'd managed to eat his so quickly.

    How is it?”

    It was impossible to reply to his question with her mouth full of cube, so she gave him a tight smile that she hoped concealed her distaste. At the expression, Rex nodded as if to himself.

    Good,” he said, reaching into his pack again, withdrawing a bottle of kolla and handing it to her with a broad grin that belied his stern mannerism of a moment ago. “This'll help wash it down.”

    As she gaped at him, he began pulling out various other foodstuffs – similar to the kind she'd brought for their first dinner – all of which were quite familiar and most definitely not in cube-form. Immediately, Brenna opened the bottle and took several swallows of the drink to wash away the cube, after which she gave him a mock-glare. “Was that some kind of hazing, or is it standard operating procedure to trick people into eating those...things?”

    Again, the half-smile and she felt her cheeks grow warm. “Little of both. And it was hardly a trick. I handed it to you and you accepted.”

    Never again,” she replied, though she was grinning at him. “Lesson learned. I didn't think you were the type to play practical jokes.”

    Only the impractical ones are worth my time,” he said with an answering smile as he held out a plastic container filled with something small, breaded and – thankfully – identifiable as food. “Podpopper?”

    Ugh. Ration cubes. Certainly not good "date" food, huh? ;) I know it may seem a wee bit OOC for the stoic captain, but he's getting more comfortable with Brenna, and this is his way of demonstrating that.:)

    Next time: more second (?) date, and one of my favorite scenes in the entire fic. :D

    Thanks for reading!
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Boyish shy Rex is so cute!!! LOL [face_shhh] And impractical practical jokes [face_laugh] Looking forward to more
    laloga likes this.
  8. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Backpacking One Pack a Day Mod of New Films star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 16, 2005
    I like the cute dinner scene. And the new clones - something is definitely "off" there.
    laloga likes this.
  9. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Hey there!'s been an unforgivably long time since I posted here, and I'm truly sorry if you were following this fic. I have no excuse for my MIA from the forums save the horrors of Darth Real Life.
    Anyway, here's the next chapter! I promise to try and update on a more regular schedule. :) I hope everyone has had a happy New Year so far!
    Chapter Fifteen

    Soon they had an assortment of packaged foods spread between them; although most of it appeared to be taken from the mess-hall, there were a few things, like the podpoppers, that Brenna knew were definitely not standard-fare.

    As she speared a selection of blatberry pie, she cast Rex a curious glance as he somehow managed to maneuver his left hand out of its glove and gauntlet even as his right rested within the sling. “Where did you get all of this?”

    I have my ways,” he replied, setting the pieces beside his pack and reaching for a bottle of kolla. “Civvies aren't the only ones who can sneak food aboard the ship, you know.”

    In addition to the slightly teasing edge, there was a note of pride in his voice that made her smile. “I've learned never to underestimate you guys,” she said as she took a bite of the pie: sweet, with a slight, tangy hint that made for a pleasant contrast. “And to be honest, I don't blame anyone for wanting something other than those...cube things. Ugh.”

    They're practical for missions,” he said, sipping his drink. “But no one's really a fan. Especially Fives...hence this selection.”

    Fives...he's the one who gave all this to you?”

    Rex nodded, then chuckled to himself as he watched her. “He wasn't pleased about it, but he owed me one.”

    The pie really was delicious; when she looked down, she realized that she had almost eaten all of it, so she held out the container to him. However, Rex shook his head and indicated that she should finish it. As she selected another measure with a fork he'd brought along, Brenna shot him a glance. “Did he know that you were going to be sharing it with me?”

    At this, Rex seemed to hesitate, though after a moment he nodded slowly. “He...knows about you,” he said in a careful voice. “As do some of the others – apparently it's difficult to keep something like this from them. If that's what I'm supposed to do...” He trailed off and knitted his brows as he regarded her. “Am I?”

    Do you want to?” The pie finished, Brenna set the container to the side and took a sip of her drink; a few minutes ago, she'd abandoned her shoes on the floor, ensured that her dress covered what it was supposed to, and folded her legs on the tabletop before her so that she was facing Rex, whose armored legs still hung over the edge of the table.

    He considered, then shook his head. “I don't like keeping secrets,” he said at last, meeting her eyes. “But I do enjoy my privacy. Either way, I'm not sure how these things are done, or if I'm even allowed to”

    On the word here, he indicated the table and her, and she nodded in consideration. There was a beat while she thought over her response, during which they began to clean up the remnants of their meal.

    It's not against the rules for a civilian in my position to spend his or her free time with a clone trooper,” she said at last, thinking of Tucker and trying not to. “As far as I know, there are certain...things that I'm not allowed to do, but this-” It was her turn to indicate the table and the space between them. “-isn't one of them. I believe it's the same for you guys, too.”

    Perhaps he could read her thoughts on her face, for he seemed to study her for a moment before he put the empty containers into his pack and set the object off to one side. “Are you sure?”

    I've...looked it up,” she admitted, glancing down and smoothing out the hem of her dress over her ankles. “You know...just in case.”

    It was true, she had done so years ago with Tucker, and she figured that the rules hadn't changed much, if at all. Besides, she probably would have been learned that things were otherwise when she started working on the cruiser, as there had been a huge manual of rules for her to study.

    I'll have to tell him about Tucker, she thought as she glanced back up at Rex, who was looking at her as if he couldn't decide whether to be pleased or embarrassed. Eventually. It's still too soon, now.

    Rex shifted in his seat, the action about as akin to fidgeting as she'd ever seen from him, then he cleared his throat. “So, it's not against the rules – on your end – for us to spend time together,” he said carefully. “Good to know.”

    As long as the relationship doesn't interfere with our duties,” she added, though she winced after the word 'relationship' slipped out of her mouth.

    Rex, however, didn't seem to notice; instead, he gave a grave nod. “That goes without saying.” At her wince, he cast her an odd look. “Are you okay?”

    It doesn't...I didn't mean to say 'relationship,'” she replied with a shake of her head. It threw her off, how he could be so confident one moment and so...innocent – which felt like the wrong word, but there it was – in the next.

    What did you mean to say?”

    In her twenty-four years, Brenna had encountered few men – clone or otherwise – who didn't balk at the mention of something like a commitment. She knew that it wasn't so for all men and that it was quite unfair of her to judge the gender by the actions of a few, but she couldn't help her feeling. Tucker had fled the moment that reality had come crashing down around them; before him, Arcas had turned away as well, after the initial haze of attraction had worn off and he realized that he didn't care quite as much for her as he'd thought.

    But that was all behind her, or should have been. Rex was not Tucker, nor was he Arcas. He was entirely his own man, and she wanted to move on from past mistakes as much as she wanted to keep spending time with him, so Brenna took a breath and met his eyes again. “We don't have to put a name to what we're doing, Rex, but if we were going to...a 'relationship' might be the correct term.”

    A 'relationship' is different from a 'date,' correct?” Again, his tone held nothing but curiosity and his eyes were sharp as he considered the words. When she nodded, he looked thoughtful once more. “How so?”

    She paused, still hesitant and not quite trusting that he wouldn't bolt from the direction the conversation had taken. “A relationship is more...stable, I guess you could say. But we don't have to...”

    No,” he said.

    Her heart fell and a small, mocking part of her brain laughed at the feeling.

    However, it only lasted for a moment, as his next words brought a smile to her face. “I think we should,” he added in the same business-like tone she'd heard from him before. “Start a relationship, I mean. Whatever is appropriate, as long as we get to spend time together.” He paused again and gave her another cautious look; now his voice was edged with hope. “Does that work for you?”

    Within her chest, her heart laughed with relief, but all she could do was nod in response even as she thought, please kiss me again.


    As she nodded, Rex watched another lovely flush creep across her face and wondered if she would mind if he kissed her again; he decided against it – for now, anyway – as she seemed a bit nervous about something that he couldn't quite put his finger on.

    But he thought – he felt – like he should do something to acknowledge what had just been decided, so after a moment he slid himself closer to her, leaving only a few scant centimeters of distance between them as his legs continued to hang over the table's edge. There was a beat of hesitation on her part, then she shifted closer to him as well, so that her knee was almost-but-not-quite brushing his upper thigh, and they sat in silence for a few moments.

    When they'd kissed in her office it had been difficult to keep the bulk of his desire in check, but with their new proximity it became even more so. Earlier this evening, when he'd met her outside her cabin, he'd been unable to keep his gaze from her figure.

    Tonight was the first time he'd seen her in something so feminine – for their last encounters, she'd been wearing her normal trousers and a simple top – and pretty much all cogent thought had shut down the moment her cabin door had opened and he'd taken stock of her; thankfully, she hadn't seemed to take offense when all he'd managed to sputter out was an inadequate “you look lovely.”

    He cast her another glance and noted how her shoulders tensed, just a fraction, beneath his gaze. A brief thought back to when he'd met her at her cabin reminded him that she'd flushed when he'd offered the clumsy compliment, and an idea occurred to him as he looked away from her again. Had she worn this dress...for his benefit? It was form-fitting, but not overly revealing, and while he didn't have a kriffing clue what constituted something fashionable, in his mind the soft blue dress that she'd worn both complimented her frame and made him want to act very, very inappropriately.

    The notion that she'd selected an outfit with the intention of him noticing and liking it was...strange. Not unwelcome, not in the least, just different. As was pretty much everything about the situation in which he'd found himself.

    However, he had no idea what such a thing meant, or even if there was any way to verify his theory – other than outright asking, which he didn't want to do at risk of making himself look even shinier – so he resolved to wait and see. Let events unfold as they would and he'd figure it out, eventually.

    For a little bit they watched the swirling of hyperspace beyond the window, then she cleared her throat and cast him a glance. “How are the new recruits?”

    Even though he was pleased that she'd thought to ask, he couldn't help but frown at the question, or rather, what his answer was going to be. She must have mistaken his expression for annoyance at the question, for she shook her head and looked away. “Sorry. Never mind...”

    No, it's alright,” he said, which made her turn back to him. “It's just...they're different in a way that I wasn't expecting.”

    Her hands moved to her lap; he noticed that she had a tendency to fidget when she was nervous or uncomfortable, but he could also tell that she tried not to. When she looked at him, there was only curiosity in her eyes. “They're new, right? Shiny?”

    He smiled at her use of the term. “Yes, but that's not what's bothering me.” Until he'd said the words, he hadn't realized that he was bothered, so he took a breath and continued. “They're clones, like myself and my brothers, but they're not Kaminoan-bred. Have you ever heard of Spaarti Creations?”

    She shook her head and he frowned in thought as he spoke. “The Kaminoans grew and trained all of us in ten years; Spaarti Creations did the same with the new one.”

    One year?” Her brown eyes widened and she sat upright and shifting her legs so that they were hanging over the edge of the table, the hem of her dress resting around her knees. “That' it even possible?”

    It must be,” he replied in a wry voice, quietly pleased that she understood the significance of what he'd said without him having to explain. “I've got the proof sitting in my barracks right now, polishing their armor practically in unison.”

    Brenna shook her head again, which caused strands of her hair to fall around her face and shoulders. Absently, she smoothed it back with her fingers, and as she spoke again, he was lost to the scent of what he'd figured out was her shampoo. “How did the cloners manage it? I know that you guys are flash-trained constantly – even in your sleep – and even then it takes years to learn everything you need to learn.” She gave him a look, eyes still wide with disbelief. “I can't even haven't seen them fight, have you?”

    We're doing drills tomorrow morning,” he replied, watching the way her hair refused to stay in place, framing her face like a curtain. Some kind of fruit...that was the scent, he decided. It wasn't one he was familiar with, but it smelled clean and sweet and delicious...

    Get a hold of yourself, he thought, clearing his throat and continuing. “After that...we'll see how they handle themselves on the battlefield. I've read some unsettling things...”

    Like what?”

    This caused Rex to frown again as he cast his mind back to the reports that he'd gotten a hold of from Omega Squad, a unit of commandos who'd had the opportunity to see the Spaarti clones in action. Poor aim, sloppy thinking, and seemingly non-existent survival instincts were only some of the traits of the new guys that Omega had described, and he'd gotten the sense that the commandos were trying to be diplomatic.

    I haven't seen them fight in person,” he added in a deliberate voice. “But by all accounts, they're not up to par with Kaminoan-bred clones. From what I can tell, their strength is supposed to be in their numbers.”

    The words made his eyes close, briefly, as his stomach twisted in a knot. That had been the gist of every report he'd read. He wondered if Appo had known that; it would have explained the other trooper's curt behavior. Perhaps it served as a way to distance himself from the grim reality of the Spaartis. Well, even so, Rex was unwilling to give up hope just yet; he refused to judge the new clones until he saw them in action.

    Beside him, Brenna rubbed at her upper arms with her hands as if she were cold. “That's horrible.”

    I'm...worried,” he admitted, glancing down at his injured arm and wishing it were healed already; he needed to be at peak efficiency to deal with the coming challenges. Suddenly, her hand was on his cast again, and when he looked up, he met her gaze and completely lost his train of thought.

    I don't know much about war and fighting, but I'll gladly listen if you want to tell me about it, Rex. After all,” she added with a soft smile. “You listened to me babble on and on about Iri.”

    That wasn't exactly a hardship,” he replied, though he was pleased both at her words and at the realization that she was essentially a neutral party as far as this kind of talk went. Rex didn't want to influence his soldiers' thinking by expressing these kinds of concerns to them; ever since Umbara, he had taken pains to ensure that the ideals of unity and trust were strong with each of them, and was reluctant to see the brotherhood ripped apart by doubts.

    Because he had many of them.

    Nor, he realized, did he feel entirely comfortable talking to Ahsoka right now. Even though he figured that he was moving on from his “crush,” it was still not quite as it had been between them, at least in his mind. Maybe it would take time for him to adjust to the way things were, now. Anyway, he didn't want to burden the Padawan with this, not when she had her own troubles.

    Again, Rex studied the brown-haired woman whose hand was still resting on his cast over his right arm; somehow, even through the solid material he could feel the warmth of her skin. This close, the scent of her hair was intoxicating, filling each breath, and he could make out individual freckles on the bridge of her nose. Like the rest of her, they looked soft.

    After a moment he exhaled, trying to remember what he'd been about to say while also trying to release some of the tension he suddenly felt; it was partly at her proximity – which was welcome – but partly due to the overall nature of their conversation, which wasn't. “It may be too soon to say, but I honestly don't know if they'll work out. I want to believe it, but...”

    But you don't.”

    I don't know what I believe,” he admitted, adding a small shake of his head. “I wish I did. I should, but I don't.”

    You will,” was her reply.

    With that, she made to lift her fingertips away from his cast, but Rex caught her wrist with his left hand. As he drew her closer his mind raced back to the last time they'd kissed, and he realized that he was anxious to see if he could replicate the action; he thought he could manage it, but wanted to know. In response, Brenna shifted her torso towards him and tilted her chin, while he released her wrist so that he could reach up and brush the hair away from her face. Before he leaned forward any further, he studied her eyes to make sure that he wasn't overstepping any boundaries.

    There was only yes in her gaze, so he did as she'd done before in her office. He brushed their lips together once, tentatively, marveling at how soft she was, how warm. His left hand had come to rest at her cheek but the sensation of the kiss made him want to pull her closer, so he dropped his fingers down to the small of her back and did so. As a result, the kiss itself gathered strength, sending a coil of heat through his entire body and kicking his heart-rate into a higher gear.

    Brenna reached around his neck with one hand so that her fingertips were brushing his hairline, placing her other on his left shoulder, on the portion of his body-glove that rested just below his armored spaulder, and they were somehow even closer together; now it was impossible for Rex to think about anything coherent, let alone breathe, especially when she gave a murmur of pleasure beneath his mouth.

    The sound stirred something within Rex, something he'd felt only a few times before, but never with this kind of intensity.

    Desire coursed through him, hotter than any flame, and he could feel himself losing control. But it didn't matter so much as she made another, similar noise, and he couldn't suppress his satisfaction at the knowledge that he was eliciting the sound from her. When Brenna's grip tightened on his shoulder, the very last of his hesitation evaporated; before he could stop himself he leaned forward and deepened the kiss, strengthened it, until she was lying almost prone beneath his chest while he supported her with his left hand and kissed her, again and again.

    Rex had no idea how long he could have gone on like this, but there was a sudden pain in his right arm, sharp enough to pull him out of the haze and make him let out a hiss of irritation.

    Immediately, she broke the kiss and glanced between his face and his cast; beneath his chest she was breathing heavily and he could see that her lips were flushed pink. “Your arm...”

    Fan-kriffing-tastic...of all the times for my crinking arm to be in a sling. Given the fact that his armor was getting rather uncomfortable in a few places, he took a moment to ensure that his voice would work properly. “It's fine.”

    If it were fine, it wouldn't be in a cast,” she replied, giving him a nudge against his armored chest. Once they were both upright again she gathered her hair back from her face and exhaled, then shot him an amused look, though she said nothing.

    The room around them was the same, but Rex knew that what had just occurred between them had caused everything to change. He cleared his throat. “What is it?”

    She didn't answer for a moment as a slow smile crossed her face; when she spoke, the movement caused her hair to fall forward once more. “You're a fast learner.”

    So I gather.”

    In the glow of hyperspace her skin looked luminous and he could see that she was still flushed from the kiss, the realization of which only made him want to do one thing. Reaching out with his left hand and wishing that he had full use of both, Rex brushed her hair aside and pulled her close again. Brenna tasted better than she smelled, but this time he was careful not to let the kiss run away with him; instead, he kept his movements lighter and more controlled until they parted.

    Like him, her breathing was heavy, and her words came out as more of a gasp than she probably intended. “What time is it?”

    After he checked his chrono she let out a sigh, the meaning of which he could guess. “It's almost time for me to call Iri,” she said, meeting his eyes. “I can't miss it.”

    I know,” he replied, stifling the urge to kiss her again; instead, he slid off of the table and held out his uninjured hand to her even though he figured she could manage on her own. Still, it was a chance to touch her, so he didn't let it pass.

    He was rewarded when she placed her fingers in his palm, and again when her grip tightened over his hand while she balanced on one foot, then the other, to replace her shoes. Once they were both ready he gathered up his pack and they walked side-by-side to the door that led into the room, hands still joined. Touching her sent a thrill through him, one to which he felt his body responding, and the heady feeling only increased when – on a whim – he released her grip and slid his hand to the small of her back as if to guide her. To his delight, she did not object; rather, she shifted her steps closer and he marveled at how warm she felt, even through the fabric of her dress.

    Neither one spoke until they were in the turbolift again, which was when he cleared his throat and cast her a glance. “Will you be available tomorrow evening?”

    I should be,” she replied, a trace of hope in her voice. “What about you?”

    Rex smiled.

    Happy sigh. I love a good kiss...or two, or three...

    Please let me know what you think! As always, thanks for reading! :)

    Next up: the aftermath of the date.
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    HI! Do you know how utterly chuffed I was to see this updated? [face_dancing] Oh, SQUEEEEEEEE! SQUEE! I am so glad Rex and Brenna are on the same page relationship wise and that he can share his concerns about the new recruits with her. @};- :)
    laloga likes this.
  11. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: Yay! I'm so glad you stuck around! :) Thanks for the kind words. [face_love]
    Chapter Sixteen

    As they said good-night beside the door to her cabin, Brenna decided that she could get used to kissing Rex. No matter that he may have only had one working arm at the moment, because he certainly knew how to make it count. While he was kissing her she didn't mind being pressed between the bulkhead and his armored plating quite as much as she probably should have.

    After a few minutes, when they came up for air, she gave him a regretful look and he nodded, stepping back so that she was unpinned from the wall but not so much that he was more than a handspan away. She wanted to kiss his cheek, but figured that the action would lead them right back to where they'd started, so instead she reached for his hand.

    I'll see you later,” she said, giving his fingers a squeeze.

    There was a debate in his eyes, as if he was considering kissing her again, but he didn't. Instead, he took a full step away from her and shifted his pack over his shoulder so that it was resting on the armored plating. As he spoke he gave a professional nod, though his gaze on her was anything but. “I'll call you tomorrow, Bren.”

    Once he was gone, she took a deep breath to collect herself, then entered the cabin. The lights were on and 'fresher door was closed; she could hear the shower running, indicating that Marliss was awake, so she took a seat on her bunk and picked up her holo-transmitter. Moments after she entered the appropriate code, Caith's familiar figure bloomed before her, Iri in his lap.

    Hey, sis,” he said with a smile that only broadened when Irini began to babble into the proj; Brenna felt her heart swell with love as she spoke to her daughter, the accompanying ache of sorrow and homesickness was acute as well, but she tried not to let it overwhelm. Again, she felt torn between wanting to be with her daughter even as she worked for the child's future.

    A year and a half longer, at most, she told herself as she spoke to Iri. Then my contract will be up, and I can go home to her.

    Normally the thought provided her with a measure of happiness, but now...

    Now there was Rex, and she felt a pang of regret, even though she thought he would understand. He'd been remarkably open to the talk of a relationship, but she'd still been reluctant to press her luck and discuss plans that were a long way from here and now; there was no need to worry about it at this moment, so she told herself that she would speak to him about it when the time was right, later on.

    Of course, this thought brought about another: the harsh reality was that he was a soldier, they were in a war, and even without his altered genetics it was likely that he wouldn't have a future, anyway.

    While what she had with Rex was still so new, the idea of something happening to him on the battlefield filled her with dread, and she worked to set the fear to the side and shake away the memory of his arm in a cast. Experience had taught her that if she was going to care about a fighting man, she'd have to get used to the feeling of staying behind, waiting for his return, and hoping that when he came back to her he was in one piece.

    After Iri was sent to bed, Caith gave a heavy sort of sigh and looked at her, his hands fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “I spoke to Mom again yesterday,” he said in a careful voice. “She asked how you were doing.”

    I'm fine,” she said, then she grimaced. “I should call her. You don't need to be in the middle...”

    That would be nice,” he replied. “I think...I know she misses you. It's a big step for her to ask me about you, Bren.”

    Bren and Caith's mother, Jensine Damaris, was many things, but physically unable to send a simple comm transmission to her daughter was not one of them. There was nothing stopping her save damnable pride and her need to be right, but Brenna also knew that in the past those things had been enough of a barrier to keep her mother silent. She wondered if Jensine had forgiven her yet for running away from the ranch, from Alderaan, from her, then decided it didn't matter.

    None of them could go back and change the past. The future was unknown and distant. Brenna knew that all she – all anyone – really had was the present.

    Rex had said something about exercising her right to choose; at the time, she knew he'd meant with regards to spending time with him, but now, she considered that perhaps another choice was being presented to her. She could choose to try and make peace with what family she had left, or she could choose to continue on being hurt, angry and silent.

    So she sighed and scrubbed at her forehead, then shot Caith a wan smile. He'd been there for her, always, and if nothing else she owed him this. It was his family, too. “I'll comm her.”

    A look of relief swept across his face and he nodded. “Thanks, Bren. Maybe when you come home we can all start over. Call a truce, you know?”

    Yeah, maybe.” She doubted it would be that easy, but kept the thought to herself.

    They spoke for a few more minutes about mundane matters, then said goodbye. As Brenna deactivated the transmission, she glanced over at Marliss; her roommate had finished her shower and was seated on her bunk, thumbing through a holo-zine, her head nodding in time to the music that was undoubtedly blasting through the small headphones that rested in her ears.

    Brenna decided to take the opportunity to take care of one last thing. She reached for her 'datapad and accessed the GAR database; a few moments later she'd entered Tucker's number into the search query. While the information loaded, she held her breath. Even though she'd stopped sending him messages a while ago because he'd never replied to any of them anyway, it was always odd to do this, to check and see if the father of her child was still alive.

    Finally, the screen pulled up the results of her inquiry, and she let out a sigh as Tucker's designation flashed as “active,” though her brow furrowed at the notes that had been made beneath his number: Unit RC-2693 reassigned to Coruscant following KIA status of additional squad-units.

    Os. Crane. Burr. Tucker's squad-mates, his brothers...when he hadn't been with them he'd talked about them to no end, and she had fond memories of the young men that he worked with once she'd finally met them. Knowing that they'd been killed in action sent a wave of sorrow through her, because they'd been good men, and she knew that he would have taken their deaths hard.

    Bad news?” Marliss' voice caused Brenna's head to lift, and she glanced over to see the blonde woman setting her music player and holo-zine to the side.

    Brenna stared at the screen of her 'pad without really seeing it. “Tucker's squad was killed, and they reassigned him to Coruscant.”

    There was a beat of silence while Marliss absorbed her words, then her roommate gave a slow nod. “So he's still alive?”

    He is,” Brenna said as her eyes began to grow warm in their sockets. “But...I doubt he's doing well.”

    I imagine not. His brothers are dead.” Marliss' voice was uncommonly quiet and serious, and when Brenna looked up at her, the blonde woman was studying her hands.

    It's more than that,” Brenna replied, suppressing a shiver as she set the datapad down on her bedspread. Despite the warmth she'd shared with Rex not long ago, she felt cold in her dress, and hugged her arms to her sides. “No matter what they go through, the clones aren't given any kind of therapy or...anything. Usually, the only support system they have is each other; losing men who are so close to's devastating. It's like losing a sibling and best friend all at once.”

    Marliss sat up and folded her legs beneath her as she studied Brenna; her gaze was thoughtful and still serious. “I didn't realize. I guess I never thought about it.”

    They were each silent for a few minutes, during which Brenna pulled out her comlink and began to fiddle with the wording of a potential message to her mother to take her mind off of Tucker. As if having the same idea, Marliss cleared her throat and shot the brown-haired woman a knowing look. “You were out a bit later than I thought you'd be. Did you have fun with your captain?”

    Immediately, Brenna was assaulted by a host of memories of the past few hours, and she couldn't prevent the faint smile that came to her face. “It was...nice.”

    You're going to see him again?”


    Marliss nodded, then indicated the datapad that Brenna had set beside her on the bunk. “Does he know about Tucker?”

    It's a bit soon for that kind of talk. We barely know each other.”

    You're the resident clone expert,” Marliss said, shrugging her shoulders and leaning back on her hands. “But...he'd probably be interested to know. Is there a reason you don't want him to know?”

    Brenna glanced down at the comlink, but the words she'd written sounded silly: Hi Mom, it's Brenna. I'm doing well. How are you?

    I don't not want him to know, Mar,” she replied at last. “It's's too soon to go into all of that. I rushed in with Tucker and got nothing but trouble. I don't want to...jeopardize anything with Rex right now.” Marliss pursed her lips, which caused Brenna's jaw to tense. “I will tell him,” she said in a firm voice as she looked back down at the message on her comlink. “But it's my decision when.”

    Okay,” Marliss said, raising her hands. “You're right, it is your decision. I'll butt out.”

    There was nothing for it; she couldn't come up with anything better, so Brenna sent the message and set her comlink down, casting another look at her roommate. “Thank you.”

    You really like him, don't you?” Brenna didn't answer, but she felt her face grow warm just the same, which made Marliss chuckle. “You get all flustered whenever you're thinking about him.”

    I don't get-”

    But her roommate's voice had turned speculative, with a teasing note that amused and frustrated Brenna all at once. “Something about those clones, huh? Maybe I should give Jesse another chance...”


    By the time Rex found himself back at the barracks, practically everyone else was asleep; the lights above the rows of bunks were dark and the sounds of muffled snores and sleep-wheezes filled the air. He should have gone to his bunk, removed his armor and settled down as well, but there was an energy coursing through him, a restless feeling – similar to the rush of adrenaline in battle – that made him want to be upright and moving.

    In addition to all of that, there was also an urge that he recognized as a side-effect of his physical interactions with Brenna, so he decided to expel some of the restlessness and hit the showers. Afterward, he felt a bit more clear-headed, if only a little less restless. He considered trying to sleep – it was the logical thing to do, after all – but decided that he could afford to be awake for a little while longer, so after dressing in his fatigues he made his way to his office, where he began to pull up next week's duty rosters.

    But even as he read through the lists, Rex didn't really absorb the information; his thoughts were several levels away with Brenna, and he realized that he felt...light. Lighter than he had in some time, actually. He considered the idea that the feeling could simply be a result of his attraction to the brown-haired woman, but that didn't sit right within his mind.

    Rex knew that he was inexperienced in civilian matters, but he was starting to learn. A relationship, that's what she had called whatever was happening between them; he was at once fascinated and frustrated by the connotations of the word. Such a thing could – and did – exist between anyone, but in this context, he understood that the word contained romantic undertones when used to describe what he and Brenna were sharing.

    Spending time with her was pleasant and he looked forward to the next time he would see her; she'd indicated that such a thing was enough for her, but he also remembered her initial distress when she'd thought that he didn't want to see her again, before Fives had explained how these things worked. Ever since, he'd been careful to make his intentions quite clear, because he didn't want her to misunderstand. He thought she appreciated it.

    However, he wondered what would happen in the future, should things continue on their current trajectory. As she'd said, there were some options that were not open to him – should he live long enough for them to come his way – and he thought back to his earlier doubts before the battle of Ord Mantell.

    It wasn't just Brenna that Rex had to consider. Her daughter Irini was a factor as well; he thought that both of them needed someone who could provide some kind of stability in their lives, especially once she left the GAR and returned to her civilian life.

    He was unfit to offer either of them such a thing while he remained in his position.

    No, this was not a pleasant line of inquiry to follow. The feeling of lightness dissipated and Rex frowned back at the duty roster, eyes still unseeing. Although Rex admired the other man, he did not fancy himself another Cut Lawquane; he couldn't walk away from everything he'd worked for his entire life. He couldn't abandon his brothers, or his responsibilities to the Republic.

    I shouldn't have seen her again, he thought with a flash of regret as he leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his eyes with his good hand. I should have ignored Fives and gone about my life as normal. Now, after the time he'd spent in Brenna's company, the thought of walking away from her was distressing, and he wondered if he was getting a taste of one of the reasons that the Jedi forbid those of their Order from forming attachments.

    Just then, his comlink buzzed. When he glanced down, he couldn't help the smile that came to his face at the message that greeted him: Just remembered I never thanked you for dinner. Where are my manners?

    You must have left them in the observation room, he sent back.

    A moment later, he chuckled outright when he saw her reply: That won't do. Will you help me look for them tomorrow evening?

    The comlink suddenly felt heavy in his hand. Tomorrow. The future. A future he would likely never have, a future that she probably wanted and definitely deserved. Rex knew that the wise move would be to end it quickly, albeit painfully, before he got any more attached to her and she to him.

    It was the honorable thing to do.

    But what the kriff was he supposed to say? Just kidding, Bren; I can't see you tomorrow, or ever again, because genetically, I'm only half the man you need me to be. But thanks for letting me kiss you. Scowling, he rubbed at his forehead with the heel of his good hand, because even the facetious words sounded heartless and cruel.

    Of course he had no experience in these matters, so he was at a complete loss as to how to do something like this. Finally, after far too much internal debate and self-editing, he settled on: Bren: Thank you for everything, but I'm afraid I have to call off our relationship. It's just not fair, to you, your daughter, or myself. I'm sorry.

    However, as he took a breath and prepared to send the response, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Though he didn't understand exactly why, he knew one thing was true: despite all the reasons why he shouldn't see her again, he wanted to, very much. It wasn't entirely logical, so he was reluctant to trust the feeling, but he simply couldn't take that step and send his response.

    So Rex deleted his previous words and replaced them with: Sounds wonderful, Bren. I can't wait.

    A/N: Thanks for reading! :)

    Next time: The Spaarti clones' first time in battle.
  12. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Seventeen

    Three weeks later...

    When all was said and done, the battle at Halmad was one of the worst of Rex's life.

    The mission had cropped up so suddenly that his men hardly had time to don their armor before they were swept onto the transports, after which there had been only a harried briefing given over the comm by Admiral Yularen. By some miracle he'd been able to send out a brief message to Bren so that she would know where he was and what was going on, but the next thing that Rex knew, Torrent Company was being dropped into the middle of an ongoing battle between the Republic and the Seps – the latter of whom had joined forces with the local Halmad militia – only to be immediately assaulted by blaster-bolts so thick, at first all he could see was a haze of electric-red.

    Where the captain could normally count on the bright blue and green slashes of both Jedi's lightsabers to follow, Skywalker was elsewhere at the moment, which left Ahsoka to lead Rex and his men along a ridge of ground that circled a wide stretch of farmland; the area housed the underground bunker of the insurgents, which was the Republic force's ultimate destination.

    Presently, he and Ahsoka were crouched behind a crumbling stone wall, evidence of a now-obsolete rural population in the area. Many of his more seasoned men were close by, while Appo had taken a group of Spaartis to the opposite side of the ridge; everyone was waiting for the general's signal to attack.

    Once the air support draws their attention, we'll approach from two sides,” the Togruta was saying as she spoke into her comlink to Appo's glowing form, Rex and Fives kneeling beside her. In the distance, Rex could detect thundering explosives that made the ground tremble beneath his feet. “Hopefully they'll be too distracted to offer much resistance.”

    Rex shifted forward, lifting the top of his head above the wall to scan the area of attack before crouching back down once more. The ground surrounding the base was flat for the most part; if the plan were to be compromised, he knew that his men would be almost totally exposed as they charged their target.

    Not that it was ever a pleasant notion, but the idea of dying today didn't sit well with him in the least. Aside from his concern for the well-being of his men – which was always at the forefront of his mind – Rex knew that his death would cause Brenna a measure of sorrow, which he didn't want. Not at all. He also realized that he wanted to see her again and understood that it was a feeling that went beyond a normal, healthy sense of self-preservation.

    Someone was waiting for him and he wanted to return to her once more. Ideally in one piece.

    Taking a breath, he focused back on Ahsoka. “It's risky. If the air support falls through, we'll be sitting nunas out there.”

    I'll be there to cover you.” Her reply was immediate and without hesitation.

    Bucket at his side, Fives shook his head and opened his mouth to speak; before he could, however, another booming sound split the air, the sonic repercussions strong enough to make Rex's teeth clatter together. “You're good, Commander,” Fives said as he shot her a grim smile. “But you're not that good.”

    Wanna bet?”

    Commander, we're receiving a transmission from General Skywalker.” Appo's voice broke between the banter, causing everyone to furrow their brows at the holographic form. “New orders. I'll patch them through to you.”

    Moments later the flickering form of the Jedi appeared at her wrist, his arms crossed before him as he spoke in the manner Rex knew meant he was displeased with something. “Ahsoka: it looks like our air support is being rerouted to southern quadrant, so Admiral Yularen is pulling the flight squadron out of our mission plan; we'll have to take the bunker without them.”

    There was a pause, then he added: “It's going to be rough, Snips, but we can do it. In a few minutes, Appo and I will make the first approach: you, Rex and the others will follow our lead.”

    Copy that, Skyguy,” she replied; there was a trace of worry in her voice, and Rex noted that her eyes were tight. When the transmission ended, Ahsoka looked up and met Rex's gaze; she knew just where to look behind his visor. “You jinxed us, Rexter.”

    Despite the wry humor in her tone, he could see how much the news had upset her, but there was nothing to be done and they both knew it. “We'll just have to spread out,” he replied, working to keep his voice calm. “Fives, take yours and Sergeant Silver's teams along the wall and come at them from the east; the commander and I will take the west.”

    Good thinking,” Ahsoka said with a nod. “Let's-”

    Suddenly, one of the other clones started to shout; at the sound, all three of them leaned up to peer over the wall. At first glance, everything seemed normal enough: General Skywalker was leading the charge, his saber arcing bright-blue against the haze of smoke that had already formed over the battleground. Behind him, Rex could see Appo and the Spaartis; their vast numbers making them appear to be a veritable sea of plastoid armor that was streaking down from the ridge-line towards the insurgents who were surrounding the fortified base.

    It was the first time that Rex had seen the new guys involved in a full-scale frontal assault; prior to this, the 501st had taken part in a number of space-battles and minor skirmishes, but Halmad was the first occasion for the new recruit to prove their mettle.

    However, despite the presence of a Jedi general and a clone officer, the new clones seemed to move without purpose or direction, and although they outnumbered the veterans of Torrent Company by at least three to one, for a few moments Rex could only gape as the first wave of white-armored figured were mowed down by enemy fire. As he watched, Rex realized with dismay that Omega Squad's reports of the Spaarti clones had been all-too-true: they didn't take advantage of any cover that was to be had through the farmland – trees, scrubby brush, upturned vehicles – instead they continued to hurl themselves forward. Clones fell; others leaped over them without looking back. Their aim was terrible. Many shots of blue went wide, hitting anywhere but their intended targets.

    We have to help them!” Ahsoka cried, getting to her feet.

    Her voice snapped Rex out of his trance, causing both himself and Fives to get to their feet and rally the boys of Torrent, who appeared to be just as stunned as their leaders. As they made to rush forward – in a far more orderly and sensible fashion – Rex opened a comm-channel with Appo, his own breath huffing as he pounded across the terrain.

    Lieutenant, you're taking too many losses! Tell your men to fall back and regroup along the ridge-line...use your snipers and ordnance instead-”

    Appo's voice was as breathless as his own. “Sir, there's no way-”

    Biting back a growl of frustration, Rex gritted his teeth. “They're not ready for this! They're going to get murdered...”

    There was no other way to think of it; the training sims that he'd watched the Spaartis run through had not gone this badly, and he could see at once that whatever “training” Spaarti Creations had tried to pass onto the new clones had failed miserably. All he could do right now was try and stem the slaughter before it got too much worse.

    However, when Appo spoke again, his voice was injected with a note of bitterness that was wholly incongruous among the screaming air of the surrounding battle. “Sir, with respect...this is what they were bred for, isn't it?”

    Even as he ducked out of the path of enemy fire, Rex didn't quite believe what he was hearing. However, there was no time to respond to Appo's words, for Rex came upon a group of the new guys, who were clustered together as they ran towards the base. In the distance, he could hear the whistle of an approaching ballistic, so he called to them.

    Get down, the lot of you!”

    A few of them turned his way, but none of them made to find cover. It was all Rex could do to avoid being hit himself; he leaped to the side and narrowly avoided getting pelted with shrapnel from the concussive blast. When he righted himself, the new guys were on the ground, their armor scuffed and bloodied, and they were unmoving.

    From that point, much of the battle was a blur.

    When it was all over they had taken the base, but as Rex stood beside Ahsoka, watching the living collect the bodies of the dead, he wondered again if the cost was too great. A few blinks into his HUD confirmed the KIA count for this battle: Torrent had suffered losses of twenty percent – unheard of except perhaps at the Battle of Geonosis at the start of the Wars – and nearly every man who'd fallen was a Spaarti.

    Of his own men – of the Kamino-bred clones – only three had fallen and not been able to get back to their feet. Of those, only Varney had died from his injuries; Kix had already tended to the other two, and informed the captain that they should make a full recovery.

    Beside him, Ahsoka was trembling, but it was not entirely with sorrow. A glance at the tightness around her eyes indicated that she was also furious, but was working to contain the feeling, and for one moment he was reminded of the little slip of a girl that he'd met on Christophsis years ago, the one who always tried to appear older and more confident than she was. To break her out of her dark thoughts, Rex put a hand on her shoulder, causing her to start and blink up into his visor.

    It wasn't supposed to be like this,” she said, her voice oddly monotone, considering the emotion he could read within her gaze.

    The words of comfort he'd thought to offer now sounded hollow in his mind, especially when he felt anger coursing through him as well, so Rex nodded once. It was probably better to acknowledge the feeling then try and push it aside, but he could hardly bring himself to speak.

    No, it wasn't.”

    Ahsoka sniffed, but there were no tears in her eyes. “They were so new. They never even got a chance to grow up like you and the others.”

    A year of life, a year of imprinted memories and faulty training, then sudden death. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right; in so many ways, it was vastly more unfair than his own life-story and that of his brothers because surely half a life was better than none at all.

    Anger flared again, sharper and more distinct. There was no way to soften it, no way to dull the edge, not even with bitter sorrow. There was no place in his heart for sorrow, not now. Perhaps there would be, later. Right now, Rex took a breath to collect himself, then spoke again. “You did your best, Ahsoka. We all did.”

    She opened her mouth to reply, then frowned as her eyes darted off to the side. He followed her gaze and watched as a dark-clad figure approached them, flanked by Appo and a few of the Spaarti clones who had not fallen. On an unseen signal, Rex and Ahsoka stepped forward to meet the general at the edge of the bunker they had captured. Above their heads, the transports that were to take them off-planet skimmed through lower atmo, leaving tracers of pale white against the darkening sky; aside from their shriek, the air was quiet.

    General Skywalker paused several yards away and waited for Ahsoka and Rex; as they approached, Rex watched the Jedi's eyes sweep across the battlefield once, only to look away almost immediately. In the past, Rex had seen the young Jedi express remorse, sorrow and even anger at the casualties that had arisen from battle, but in this moment his gaze was distant.

    The moment that he and Ahsoka met with Skywalker, the Jedi began speaking. “Once this mess is cleaned up, we'll get off of this rock – the Council has another assignment for us, of course.”

    Like Ahsoka's had been, his voice was strangely monotone, as if he was deliberately trying to withhold emotion from his words.

    Master...” Ahsoka's voice was choked and he raised a brow as she gestured helplessly to the fallen soldiers. In the center of the field, a wide patch of ground had been cleared for the transports, who were now circling the area. “Why couldn't we have air-support? Our casualty numbers-”

    -were unable to be helped, apparently,” Skywalker replied, eyes narrowing as they grazed across the nearest group of Spaarti clones. “Admiral Yularen had to make a difficult call, but we needed the air support to the south. If we hadn't done so, Halmad would be under Separatist control at the moment.”

    The Togruta shook her head. “But-”

    Ahsoka,” the general said, raising his hand as if to cut her off. “I'm sorry, but their deaths were the price of this victory.”

    The price of victory. The words resonated within Rex's mind and he was suddenly transported to another place, a time when shadows caught at his hands and feet and tried to drag him away to the darkness.

    Rex's fists tightened at his sides.

    The cost was too high,” he heard himself saying in a rough voice that didn't sound like his own. “It didn't have to be this way. We could have waited until the air support became available.”

    General Skywalker exhaled and shook his head. “You're right, Rex, it didn't have to be this way.” He frowned and shot a look between Appo and Rex. “They were sloppy...I thought you had put them through the training sims?”

    Appo squared his shoulders but Rex answered, despite the fact that foreboding had gripped his entire body and squeezed. To counteract the feeling, he took a breath and ensured that his voice was quiet and controlled. “Not even the best sim can compare to live battle, Anakin.”

    As he spoke, his attention slipped to the Spaartis on the battlefield, still gathering up their fallen comrades. The price of victory. Distracted as he was, he didn't catch his lapse in time to prevent it.

    There was a pause, then Appo spoke, adding a glance towards Rex as he did so. “Their scores fell within acceptable parameters, General.”

    Skywalker shook his head. The whine of several approaching transports nearly drowned out his words. “I don't care about that, Lieutenant. All I care about is making sure that this doesn't happen again. In the future, I want you to increase the frequency and difficulty level of the sims; Rex, you and the rest of Torrent will have to really step it up and make sure that the new clones are ready for the next battle.”

    Of course, sir,” Rex replied. “That goes without saying, but is someone going to inform the Jedi Council about this? Perhaps Spaarti Creations can-”

    They'll hear about it, I promise you,” Skywalker said with a frown; he paused, then looked over at Appo who was still beside him. “Lieutenant; come with me, we need to talk about the Spaartis. It looks like we'll have to get some more sent in to replace the ones who fell today. And Ahsoka,” he added as he and Appo turned for the nearest transport. “Do me a favor and remind the captain about proper protocol.”

    With that, he made for the landing zone where the newest transports had touched down, Appo followed silently. For one moment, Rex and Ahsoka stood together and said nothing. Only when he felt her hand on his forearm did he realize that he was shaking.

    Ahsoka's voice was quiet. “Their deaths aren't your fault.”

    The general was right,” he replied, feeling his shoulders sinking with each word. “We should have-”

    I don't know why they're so different from you guys,” she interrupted. “But they are, Rex. The Spaartis are...different. It's not your fault.”

    Rex glanced around them, watching his men help the new guys to their feet so that they could make their way to the transports. The dead would be collected all through the night. He would help, he wouldn't rest until every last man was accounted for. “Then whose is it?”

    The Padawan exhaled and shook her head, her lekku swaying slightly with the motion. “I...I don't know, Rex.”

    Her words were grating, but he shook the feeling away because he knew that she was trying to help. In the back of his mind he remembered that he'd promised Brenna he'd see her as soon as he could, but after what he'd seen she felt so far away right now, and a small, bitter part of him didn't want any memories of her associated with this day. If he got the chance, he'd call her and let her know he was alive.

    It was the best he could do, right now.

    A/N: Wow. Those Spaarti clones aren't too hot in battle, huh? I know Anakin's coming across as dark, but he's not the most even-tempered individual; he's a man of extreme emotions and passions. When he's happy, he's ecstatic and when he's upset it's like a stormcloud over the sun. He's also not the easiest character to write, so I'm curious to hear what y'all think of him in this fic. :)

    You'll notice that we jumped ahead in time a little bit, and that I didn't go into more of the "aftermath" of the date, or the Spaarti clones in training. I debated showing both of those things, but decided against it, in the end; at times it was difficult to only touch on the essential events in this narrative rather than showcase every moment in Rex's story, but I wanted to keep the fic moving at a good pace and make sure that the focus stayed tight. But take heart: there's much clone banter and romance to come!

    Thanks for reading! :)

    Next time: the aftermath of Halmad.

  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderfully intense and real to life: both the guilt, the second-guessing. [face_thinking] Rex is feeling what any commander would I think, and it is telling though that his troop had much lower losses than the newer batch. So it may literally not be his fault: sounds more like a "design" flaw. Brenna can certainly offer consolation. If he decides to back off from her to process things, she deserves to hear it straight, not wonder at his sudden aloofness. @};-
    laloga likes this.
  14. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: You're on the nose about the "design flaw." Sigh. Poor Rexter. Luckily he does have someone who can comfort him... ;)
    Thank you for the comment! :)

    Chapter Eighteen

    Sitting at her desk, Brenna narrowed her eyes as she listened to the shouts over the clones' comm-channels. Most of it was static-filled or incoherent with chatter, codes and signals she didn't yet understand. There were few voices here and there that caught her attention, but there was only one that made the faint thrum of fear – the one that had kept her distracted from the routine of her work – start to fade.

    Rex's voice. She thought it was, anyway. There was an edge to it, a harshness that she had not heard before, but she recognized the inflections. It was enough to make her exhale in relief and lean back in her chair. The battle of Halmad was over and the troops were going to return to the Resolute in a few hours. Rex was alive. More than that she didn't know.

    Of course she did know better than to slice into the GAR comm-channels to eavesdrop on what was most certainly classified intel at this point, but she found that she couldn't quite stop herself; before he'd left, Rex barely had the time to send her a message telling her where he was going but that he had no idea when he'd be back.

    Before that, it had been a few days since she'd seen him, as their schedules hadn't lined up conveniently for some time. Brenna missed seeing him and thought about him more often than not. Prior to Halmad, she'd toyed with the idea of “listening in” to other missions and skirmishes, as she thought of it, but hadn't quite worked up the nerve.

    However, when she'd overheard some technicians from the hangar mentioning something about how the clone's air-support had been rerouted, and about how this battle was supposed to be so much more brutal than anything else Torrent had been involved with, lately...

    Well, she wasn't exactly sure what that entailed, but the tone of the techs' voices caused alarm to flood her, hence the slicing.

    Anyway, he was alive and he was coming back. Brenna cut the link and erased what evidence there might have been of her intrusion, then leaned back in her chair to rub at her eyes. Agitation still coiled within her, but it was easing with the knowledge that he'd survived.

    Another deep breath helped as well. This feeling – nervous, restless anxiety – was the price of caring for someone in his position, of that she was well-aware; she'd felt similarly with Tucker, though he'd always spoken so lightly of fighting, making each mission seem like an adventure, even a game. It was not all because of his youth, though she knew that played a role. When she'd first known him, Tucker had been irrepressibly sunny and vibrant, with a mega-watt smile that had left her breathless every time he turned it upon her.

    A faint buzzing in her pocket alerted her to the fact that her comlink was going off; when she pulled the device out, she gave another deep exhale at the waiting message: We're back. I'm fine. I'll call you later.

    It was in his customary terse style, but something felt off. Perhaps it was her overactive imagination reading too much into simple text, but Brenna couldn't help but frown at the words. Normally, he left her with some indication of when he'd see her again, even if it wasn't to be for a day or so, but there was nothing of that sort here.

    Brenna spent a few moments in deliberation, then made her choice. After making a brief stop at her supervisor's office to plead off sick the rest of the day – stomach problems from nerves counted, right? – she hurried through the Resolute's corridors, towards the medbay, which was where she figured Rex would be.

    Before she even entered the room she recognized the cool smell of bacta mingled that unpleasantly with that of antiseptic and body odor, and as she approached the entrance she could hear that the wing was agog with activity. Upon entering, at first she only stood inside the main door, trying to stay as out of the way as possible while she searched for the tell-tale blond hair that marked Rex. When she didn't see him after a few minutes, she wondered if she'd made a mistake in coming here.

    A pair of medics guiding a hover-stretcher brushed past her, and as she side-stepped to avoid them, she suddenly felt very foolish; she'd cut out of work early and rushed here with hardly a thought. It was unwise to act without thinking in this hasty manner, but it was her nature to do so when she was worried for someone she cared about.

    Rex was fine, he'd said so himself. She would see him again, soon. With that thought, Brenna turned for the door, when the sound of her name stopped her in her tracks.

    Miss Damaris?” It was a clone with close-cropped hair, intricate patterns shaved into the dark fringe; his voice was quiet and comforting, and upon the shoulder of his right arm was a red marking that indicated he was a medic. She recognized him as one of Rex's more veteran men but couldn't place his name. When she nodded, he stepped closer so that they could speak properly. “You're looking for the captain, aren't you?”

    Heat crept to her cheeks as she answered in the affirmative. Did they all know who she was, or was it still a select few, as he'd indicated before? Aside from Fives and Jesse, she hadn't really met any of the men under Rex's command, as most of their interactions had been – as he put it – one-on-one.

    Perhaps he hadn't let her know exactly how many of the other clones were aware of their relationship, for fear of embarrassing or upsetting her in some way. With this, the thought occurred to her that maybe the thing that didn't feel right in Rex's message was that he wasn't fine, and that he really was injured, or worse, and had been trying to spare her the knowledge.

    She thought that the clone medic picked up on her sudden bout of nerves, for he gave her a soft smile that she could tell was meant to reassure. “He's okay, he's just not here right now. He probably went to his office.”

    Brenna felt a sigh of relief overtake her, and she nodded, flashing the medic a grateful smile. In response, his ears reddened as he ducked his head in acknowledgment. Before she rushed off – and she was going to rush, there was no doubt – she extended her hand and took his. “I'm sorry, I don't know your name.”

    Kix, ma'am.” There was a beat where looked at her hand in surprise, but his grip was strong.

    Just call me Brenna,” she replied. “Thank you, Kix. I'm glad you made it out of there okay, too.”

    The medic nodded to her again, then she slipped out of the medbay to make her way towards Rex's office. She'd only been there once before; it had been a very brief visit, and most of it she'd been distracted by his hands around her waist and his mouth on hers, as his cast had just come off and they'd been “testing” his arm.

    When she found herself at the unassuming door, she stood outside for one moment, collecting herself. Despite how worried she'd been, it would be silly to just barge in when she knew he was okay, so she took a few deep breaths before she pressed the panel by the door that would alert him of the presence of a visitor. There was a pause, then “come in,” so she activated the door.

    Rex looked terrible. Cast in a blue glow by his workstation, there were shadows under his eyes and in the hollows of his cheeks, and she could see a nasty cut along the right edge of his jaw. For one moment he looked up and met her eyes, then he shook his head and glanced down at his desk. “I'm sorry...I can't do this right now.”

    It was a dismissal, but she was not one of his men. Brenna stepped across the threshold and shut the door behind her, ignoring the look of agitation that crept into his eyes when she began to approach him. When he spoke again, there was an edge to his tone, but it wavered. “Bren...I can' shouldn't be here.”

    You don't look 'fine,'” she replied, coming to stand before him and studying the cut on his jaw. Thin but deep, she thought it must have hurt and wondered how he'd gotten it and why it hadn't been cleaned and patched up yet.

    His eyes closed briefly, then he took a breath and looked back up at her. “Brenna, please go...I'll call you later.”

    Why?” At his look of confusion she shook her head. “I'm here now, and I'm not ready to leave just yet. So think of something else to say.”

    There was a pause, during which she took in the battered, filthy condition of his armor; his helmet rested at the edge of his desk, T-visor facing away from him as if standing vigil. Finally he shook his head and gave a deep inhale. “You didn't seem this stubborn when I first met you.”

    She offered him a tentative smile then knelt down beside his chair, reaching around his waist even as he tensed beneath her. “What are you...”

    He trailed off when she pulled the medipac out of his belt and straightened; she set the small container on the surface of the desk, opened it, and selected a cleaning cloth packet. Before he could object, she ran the disinfecting wipe over his cut, once, twice, three times, folding the material over with each passing to ensure that only a clean edge touched the injury.

    As she was reaching for a swab and some bacta, he caught her wrist and looked up at her. “You don't have to do this,” he said, shaking his head again. “I'm-”

    I swear, if you say 'fine...'”

    A half-smile crossed his face and he nodded as if in acquiescence, though there was the faintest edge of teasing to his next words. “I'm okay.”

    At her sigh, his gloved fingers squeezed her wrist gently and his voice was serious once more. “ don't need to deal with this,” he said, indicating himself; she didn't know if he meant his injury or his state of mind. “It's not your responsibility. And I don't want you to worry about me when I'm out there.”

    Too late,” she replied before she could stop herself. “What would you do if our positions were reversed and I was the one risking my life while you were left behind?”

    He opened his mouth to reply, but frowned a beat later. “Point taken, but it's irrelevant right now.”

    Is it?”

    At her words he exhaled again, but she caught a gleam of amusement in his eyes as he regarded her. “Brenna...”

    Rex,” she replied in as firm a voice as she could manage while he held her in his grip. “This isn't one you're going to win, because I want to be where you are, right now.” There was a pause while she watched him absorb the words, then she nodded to her wrist. “Let me finish?”

    By the startled look that crossed his face she wondered if he'd remembered he'd been holding on to her, but he dropped his hand at her request. With that, Brenna selected a cotton swab, coated it with bacta, then knelt over him again as she began to gently apply the gel to his jaw; her focus was fixed on the bloodied cut, so much so that she didn't notice how tense he'd gotten again until his lack of motion caught her attention.

    He was so still that he was hardly breathing, and when she straightened and reached for a synth-skin bandage to cover and protect the cut, she noted that his eyes were locked onto her every movement. As she leaned over him again to smooth the bandage over his warm skin, she sighed. “Rex, you need to breathe or you're going to pass out. I'm not strong enough to drag you to the medbay, especially if you're wearing all of your armor-”

    That was when he reached both arms around her waist and pulled her down onto his lap; his mouth on hers was insistent, urgent, and she felt her body responding in kind. For a few moments she was lost to sensation as he kissed her lips, her neck, the line of her jaw, his hands tightening at her waist before they slid up her spine and twined in her hair. Suddenly, he pulled back and searched her eyes, his expression grim even though his gaze on her was dark with arousal. Beneath her chest, her heart was racing and it was an effort to think clearly.

    What is it?” Her voice was breathless but she didn't care. He was silent, so she moved to rise to her feet because his armor wasn't any more comfortable to sit on as it must have been to sit in.

    But again he held her in place, covering her hand with his gloved one and meeting her eyes once more. “I don't want you to get hurt,” he said after taking a breath. “I won't be around forever; even if I'm not killed, this war will end one day, and I don't know what will happen to the army. I don't know what will become of us.”

    I don't, either,” she replied, shifting to mitigate the uncomfortable press of his armor. “But no one knows the future, Rex. This ship could get destroyed tomorrow...should I leave right now, just in case?”

    It's not just you,” he said firmly. “You have a responsibility to your daughter, to keep her safe. That means you have to keep yourself alive and that you shouldn't take unnecessary risks.”

    Brenna shook her head and held his gaze. “That's true, but there's also a risk in not taking every opportunity I can to provide Iri with the means to grow up strong and happy. I have to feed her, I have to put clothes on her back and food in her stomach, and the job on the Resolute is the best way for me to do so, right now.”

    There must be other ways to make money,” he said with a thoughtful frown. “Why did you come here, of all places?”

    Because it provided the very best amount of pay in the shortest amount of time,” she replied. “I know it's a risk, but it's one I decided was worth it. Rex...we take chances every day – some of us more than others, yes – but is one big gamble.”

    Again, he was quiet while he absorbed what she'd said, but he took a deep breath a moment later and released her hand so she could vacate his lap. As she got to her feet, he spoke in a quiet voice. “Brenna, if we continue this any further you're going to get hurt.”

    The rest of his words were not spoken, but she could read them well enough in his gaze. I don't want you to get hurt, nor do I want to be the one to hurt you.

    It wasn't his fault that she lost her heart too easily and despite her better sense. Even now, even when he was telling her exactly what she was afraid would come to pass, her legs refused to carry her from the room.

    Instead, her hand reached for his.

    It's too late for that,” she replied, working to keep her voice calm as she gave his gloved fingers a squeeze. “We've already crossed that line; at least, I have. A while ago, actually. Rex, I think that we have something pretty special between us and I'm not willing to let it go just yet. Are you?”

    His eyes on hers were still intense and searching. Finally he gave a sigh and dropped his gaze, kissing her fingertips as he replied. “No, I'm not.”

    With that he broke the link of their hands as he rose to his feet, and she remembered all over again how much taller his armor made him seem. Another deep breath, then he placed his gloved hands at her waist as he regarded her with the half-smile that she was learning to like a great deal. “This relationship stuff is still pretty new to me, I guess,” he added in a wry voice. “Feels like I have a lot to learn.”

    Much of the stricken edge to his voice had dissipated, and she thought that he seemed a bit lighter now, so she ensured that her own tone was mild. “Yes, but you're catching on.”

    With this she offered another smile up to him, which he returned just before he leaned down to kiss her again. Within moments his hands moved from her waist in opposite directions; his right slid up her back and ended its journey at the base of her neck, while his left trailed down, lower, towards her seat. Both pulled her as close as he could, and she could hardly breathe for his mouth on hers. Feeling the need to touch his skin, Brenna smoothed one of her hands on his cheek, above the bandage at his jaw and reached the other to the back of his head, skimming through his hairline.

    They remained so for a few moments until he broke the kiss and swallowed hard before meeting her eyes. “Sorry,” he said. “I'm sure you didn't come here to be...manhandled.”

    When he spoke this time, arousal had added a deeper resonance to his voice, one that made her shiver as she replied. “You don't know that. You're not always right, Rex.”

    That's up for debate,” he replied with a raised brow.

    She laughed, then reached her arms around his neck and pressed herself against his armored chest in an effort to be closer; he seemed to feel the same way, for his arms wrapped around her back and waist again, and she felt him inhale her scent again.

    You know, you don't have to hold yourself back with me,” she said into the soft patch of skin between his ear and cheek. She paused, took a breath to steady herself, then added: “Because I...want you, Rex. All of you.”

    Over the last several weeks there had been a few times where they had come close; she'd wanted to but they had not yet taken that next step for a number of reasons, time, location and familiarity with one another being among them. But now...

    Yes, Rex, she thought as he pulled back and studied her. Yes, this, now.

    For all that he remained still and controlled, she could feel that his breath had grown a bit shorter and she could see the heightened flash of his pulse at his neck, both of which indicated his reaction to her heated words and the proximity of her body to his.

    When he spoke his voice was deliberate. “Are you sure?”

    Rather than reply with words, she kissed him again.


    A/N: So...I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but I got nominated for an award! [face_dancing] Well, two awards. The Fighting Kind has been nominated for "Best Epic," and I've been nominated for "Best Author!" Yay! Thank you to whomever nominated me; you rock. [face_love]

    Next time: The aftermath of [cough] "tactical intimacy maneuvers."
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Yum. Yum. Sizzly! I love Bren's resolve. The regret of not taking the love-risk would be deeper, let me tell you. So I'm glad they won't have to live with that particular :oops: ;) [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    (You do mush extremely well!) :cool: =D=
    laloga likes this.
  16. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: Agree wholeheartedly. *Not* taking this chance would mean losing out on something really special, and it's good she was there to push Rex in the right direction. ;) Thanks for the comment! :)
    Chapter Nineteen


    In the aftermath of shared passion there was a kind of calm that Rex had never experienced, but thought that he could grow used to with ease. Brenna's bunk was narrow, thereby necessitating a close embrace, but he didn't mind. Far from it. Stretched out beside him as she was, her body was soft and smooth as he'd imagined, except he'd learned several new methods of showing her how much he appreciated such a thing.

    Since they'd vacated his office and entered her – thankfully empty – cabin, he'd learned quite a few things, most of which were still replaying in his mind even as he his heartbeat slowed to a normal pace. There was a whisper of warm breath against his skin and he felt her cheek shift so that she was nestled in the crook of his shoulder; her hair was spread out behind her back and one of her forearms was resting against his stomach, her skin flush against his abdomen. Save for her fingertips tracing the outline of the scar two inches from where his heart was, she was still, and had he not known any better he might have mistaken her for sleeping.

    You have so many.”

    Her voice was hardly a murmur; glancing down, he watched as her fingertips paused against the rough, circular patch of scar tissue, almost double the width of her slender fingers. Rex reached up and covered her hand with his own, pressing her palm against the place that sheltered his heart.

    Got that one on Saleucami,” he replied, casting his mind back. It had been a harrowing mission in many ways, mostly due to the eye-opening experience of confronting a clone deserter whom he actually...respected.

    Before now, the memory of his encounter with Cut Lawquane had often felt like it had happened to another man; Rex felt like their lives were so far removed from one another that there was no possible way he'd ever truly be able to understand why the other clone had done what he'd done. Rationally, Rex was aware of the close bonds of family that could be formed between beings, but he'd never thought that such a thing would happen to him.

    But now, holding this woman in his arms, something stirred within his heart, something that he had felt when he watched Cut interact with his children and his wife, Suu, despite what he'd refused to truly admit to at the time.


    It shuddered through him with all the intensity of a seismic charge and for one moment he was overwhelmed. However, he was able to push the feeling away a beat later, shuttering it back within the confines of his mind because he knew it was best thing to do, for now. It was what he'd done every time thoughts of Saleucami had entered his mind, so that now it was habitual for him to not think of Cut Lawquane if he could help it.

    To further distract himself, he tilted his head down and inhaled the scent of her soap, then glanced up at her eyes again; she seemed like she wanted more information, so he elaborated. “Droid snipers took a potshot at me while I was out on patrol with Kix, Jess and a fellow named Hardcase.”

    He debated mentioning Hardcase meeting his end on Umbara, but decided not to sully the moment by bringing up such a thing. But he thought that perhaps she could tell that something was left unsaid, or perhaps she understood Hardcase's fate without his having to explain, for a shadow crossed her face and she nodded, then – unexpectedly – leaned up and over his chest so that she could place a kiss against the ugly scar.

    Afterward, she tilted her head up to him and gave him a smile that – despite what had just occurred between them minutes ago – was oddly shy. It made him want to kiss her again, so he did. To better reach her lips, Rex pulled her closer towards him and shifted slightly so that he was on his side; he smoothed his hands down her back, her hips, relishing the curves of her body that were unlike anything else that he'd ever touched.

    After he kissed her, he gathered his fingers in the length of her hair and savored the clean, sweet scent that rose to greet him; he debated for one moment, then buried his nose in her hair and gave a deep inhale, wondering how she managed such a thing.

    Rex wasn't aware that he'd even said the thought aloud until she giggled, her body jerking in a very interesting manner, and a moment's reflection made him think he'd been inadvertently tickling her. Her reply was broken with laughter. “Manage what?”

    So that he could face her, he pushed himself up on his side, letting his elbow brace him upright but keeping one hand resting against the curve of her hip. “You always smell...good.”

    The words sounded silly and he frowned, for all that she was regarding him with curiosity. Swallowing, Rex tried to salvage some of his dignity. “I mean...fantastic.”

    Ugh. Not working. He frowned again in thought, then shook his head because he was at a loss. “Well, I'm not sure what the smell is, but it's amazing.”

    Soap and shampoo, combined with regular showers,” she replied in a solemn tone even as he began to skim his hand along the length of her arm. “They make all the difference in the world.”

    That's not quite what I meant,” he replied with a chuckle, adding a smile that made her cheeks flush in that lovely way again. Moments later, he watched as another inquiring look came over her face; this time the soldier in him urged that he brace himself for the unexpected.

    Indeed, she reached up again, but it was not to the scar on his chest. Rather, she traced two loose triangle patterns above his eyes as she spoke. “I've been meaning to ask you...what do those markings on your bucket mean?”

    His eyes had closed with her touch, and he found that he was leaning into her fingertips as he replied. “They're jaig eyes: Mandalorian symbols of bravery that are given to a soldier who shows courage on the battlefield.”

    Though she'd finished tracing the pattern her hand remained on his face, dropping to his cheek, above the place on his jawline where she'd bandaged him earlier. “And how did you get them?”

    His eyes opened, but while he studied her his mind was far away and years ago. “It was right before my squad's graduation exam on of the programmed droids that we were fighting went haywire; it started firing live rounds on the lot of us and wouldn't respond to the controller's commands.

    Two of my brothers got struck down; I managed to pull them out of the line of fire and subdue the clanker as well. Our training instructor said that I had 'demonstrated remarkable quick-thinking and courage,' and painted them on my bucket once we graduated.”

    It wasn't exactly a fond memory, as he could still see his command-unit brothers falling before him, hear the shock and pain in their voices when they cried out; at the time he'd been angry – furious, even – but later on had come to the realization that nothing could ever be predicted, and that he had to ensure that he was always prepared for any and every contingency. However, he'd been proud to wear the emblem, even more so because when he left Kamino, his armor wasn't quite as shiny as the rest of his unit.

    A blink, and he looked back at Brenna, who seemed thoughtful. Before he could speak, she did. “I have one more question.” She flushed again, then gave him a faint smile. “For now.”

    Curious, he nodded and turned on his side to better regard her. Whatever it was, she seemed hesitant; finally she took a breath and met his eyes with uncertainty. “Marliss is working another double shift, so she'll be gone until late tomorrow morning. Will you sleep here tonight?”

    Again, he was caught off-guard, so it took him a moment to consider. A large part of him wanted to remain beside her, as it was far more pleasant that lying alone in his bunk, surrounded by snoring brothers and darkness; however, he was reluctant to stay for the same reason. His brothers...his place was with them, no matter what, and another part of him felt guilty for abandoning them to spend time with her. It was one thing to steal a few moments here and there; it was quite another to spend the entire night by her side and away from his post.

    He thought that she sensed his debate, for she gave a small shake of her head and a smile that was meant to reassure. “Never mind. It's was just a thought. This is still nice.”

    When it comes down to brass tacks, all we have is this one life. I, for one, am going to make the most of mine while I have it. I recommend you do the same.”

    One life.

    As reluctant as Rex was to admit such a thing about the ARC trooper, Fives had been right. This was his choice. His.

    Decision made, he planted a quick kiss on her forehead; because he didn't think he could lie tangled with her and make this particular call, he slipped out of her arms, sat up and reached for his armor. Moments later he pulled his comm off of the vambrace and called Fives – voice only – glancing at Brenna as he did so. She'd sat up as well, wrapping the sheet around her torso while also wearing a hopeful look on her face that eased some of the guilt he felt.

    It was well into the evening hours, and Fives was not a fan of being woken from his sleep-cycle, so his tone was an odd mixture of irritated and drowsy. “Whassup?”

    A deep breath, then Rex shot Brenna another glance; the moment his next words registered with her, she began beaming and he had to smile in return. “It's Rex. I'm not coming back to the barracks tonight. If anyone asks, will you cover for me?”

    There was a muffled yawn, though when the ARC spoke again he sounded a bit more awake and quite amused. “Sure, sure...don't worry about it. Guess this means you're finally going to see some action, huh? Maybe it'll unwind you a bit.”

    Sorry, Rex mouthed at Brenna, even though she was covering her mouth with her hand as she laughed. To the ARC trooper, he said: “Thanks, vod. I'll be back tomorrow morning.”

    Hey, take your time. Tell Brenna I said 'hi,' will you? That is, if you're not too tired after all the f-”

    At that, Rex shut off the comm and shot the brown-haired woman a wry look. “He's an idiot sometimes, but I trust him. Force knows why.”

    You look out for each other,” she replied. She was still chuckling, though he noted that her eyes were ranging across his body with appreciation. “You're lucky to have a brother like that watching your back.”

    Rex tossed the comlink down and stepped back over to the bed, resting his hands on his hips and surveying her with interest. “I'm lucky in a lot of ways,” he said slowly, before he reached down to draw the sheet away from her body so he could look at her again. “Very lucky.”

    Sleep came to both of them eventually, but it was not for some time after that.
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Happy, happy, purrring melt! LOL Thanks for that scrumptious post. [face_dancing] =D=
    laloga and serendipityaey like this.
  18. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: You are most welcome! [face_love] I'm glad you enjoyed, and thanks for leaving a comment!​

    Chapter Twenty

    There was darkness.

    There was darkness, and there was a mist so thick he could taste it even through the air filters in his bucket. He was running but he wasn't moving. His throat was on fire from shouting, but he was making no sound. He tried to grab at brothers, tried to take off their helmets and get them to see, but his hands passed through them like he was a ghost – or they were – and they continued to shoot one another, heedless of his efforts to stop the slaughter of their own.

    Even though most of the enemy tanks had been reduced to smoking ruins, the soldiers fired as if the Umbarans were still coming...only it was at one another and Rex was powerless to stop them., he couldn't let this happen again. It was his duty to bring light to this world, to this darkness. It was on his shoulders to stop the slaughter, because what else was his purpose if not to protect his his brothers, to protect the ones he loved?

    Rex tried to call out another warning but he could tell that no one was listening. Beneath his chest, his lungs burned. They burned from the efforts of running between the lines of fire, dodging bolts of plasma that were too bright to be a comfort in this darkness; they burned from his own voice's efforts to claw its way out of his throat and stop this madness, this meaningless death and destruction.

    But nothing worked. One by one, Rex watched in horror as his brothers fell into the darkness, into the mist. The white gleam of their armor was lost to the shadows. Their dying shouts were frightened and bewildered and there was nothing he could do to help them.

    When the last of them had fallen, after he watched Fives and Echo and Jesse and Hardcase and Kix and Coric and Cay and Silver and all the others crumble to dust at his feet, Rex knew that he was alone. They were gone; even the bodies of the dead had vanished into the shadows.

    All around him, within his head and outside of his physical body, Krell's voice reverberated. “Luck has smiled on you today, Captain. Consider yourself fortunate.”

    Bucket long since cast aside, Rex gripped his head and collapsed to his feet, alone in the darkness. Someone was shouting, crying out as if in pain, and his own throat was on fire.

    There was darkness everywhere.

    There was darkness within.


    It was the middle of the night when Brenna was roused from sleep in the worst possible way.

    Rex was flailing beside her, enough so that he was growing tangled between the sheets, and in between gasping for air he was calling out words and phrases that held no meaning for her in the first few moments of her own wakefulness. Upon further reflection she thought that some of the things he said were the names of dead brothers, but at the moment she hardly had time to think because of the frantic way that his body was moving, shaking and twisting like he was being tortured. In the muted light cast by the panel by her door, she saw that his face was streaked with wet.

    Suddenly wide awake, she sat up and reached for his upper arms to try and steady him, hoping to gently wake him from what appeared to be a violent nightmare. “Rex...”

    As if acting on adrenaline and pure instinct, his fist collided with her shoulder hard enough to make her wince, but she didn't let go of his prone form; instead, she pressed herself close against his chest and somehow managed to wrap her arms around his waist as she whispered his name, again and again, urging him to wake up.

    She knew the moment that he did, for he gasped and bolted upright, taking her right along with him. Beneath her chest she could feel his heart thundering, and a moment later his arms were around her entire body and he was burying his face in the tangle of her hair.

    Neither one spoke for a few moments until she heard his voice, uncommonly rough and grating, and he didn't lift his head when he spoke. “Did I hurt you?”

    Not a scratch,” she said in a gentle voice. “Are you okay?”

    She felt his shuddering inhale before he replied. “I guess not.” He pulled back and studied her, eyes searching her face almost as if he was trying to remember who she was. “I'm sorry...I didn't meant to strike out at you like that.”

    His face was wet and his eyes were wide and red-rimmed; Brenna ran her thumb beneath the crimson scab on his jaw, as he'd somehow managed to rip the bandage away. “What was it?”

    I...” Rex shut his eyes, then reached one of his hands up to his eyes to wipe away the moisture; he frowned at his fingertips for a moment, then looked back at her. “It was Umbara. I was back on Umbara.”

    Umbara?” She cast her mind back, but couldn't remember the specifics of that battle, only a few details, such as the fact that she'd met Rex only days after. “Where that Jedi was killed?”

    Rex's eyes narrowed and his words were spoken with a ferocity she'd never heard, even when she'd sliced in and listened to him in the heat of battle. “Krell was no Jedi. He was a traitor. A murderer...”

    His voice broke on the last word and his head ducked back into her hair, so Brenna embraced him once more, her mind racing as she searched for the right words. In this moment, she was reminded of the man she'd met in the cantina on Mimban, for he was radiating uncertainty and grief, both of which she could detect even without Jedi-powers.

    Finally, finding nothing appropriately comforting or insightful to say, she just kissed his cheek and held him as tightly as she could. “It's over,” she murmured in his ear. “It was just a dream. Rex, you're not on Umbara any more.”

    I know,” was his reply, said into the darkness of her cabin. There was a beat, then his arms tightened around her as he spoke again. “But sometimes it feels like I'm still there, not just when I'm dreaming. Sometimes it feels like I never left.”

    Tell me what happened.”

    He took another shuddering breath, but shook his head. “It's in my report. You can read it...”

    I don't want to read a report,” she replied, leaning away from him to activate the lamp beside her bed and brighten the cabin a little bit. After she did so, she selected one of her sleep shirts that had been lying nearby and pulled it over her head.

    When she turned back at him, she saw that he was watching her every movement with his customary intensity, except there was something almost desperate about his expression, right now. “I want to hear it from you, Rex,” she added.

    After a moment his brows furrowed and he reached for her again, circling his arms around her and giving a few deep inhales, then he began to speak. For the duration of his story, she managed to keep her exclamations of shock to herself, instead offering him silent, tactile encouragement – a kiss on his cheek, a rub along his back and shoulders, a smoothing motion against his hair – when he faltered.

    Krell turned us against one another,” Rex was saying, his voice nearly shaking with fury even as he held her close. “And it wasn't just that night when he sent us out to murder one was before that, when he tried to get me to execute Fives and Jesse for treason, of all things. He tried to rip us apart from the inside. Because he could, he said. Because – in his mind – we were less, somehow. Worthless, stupid, blind. And you know what?”

    There was a pause while he took a breath and she could feel his head shaking, slowly. “I believed him. Even after all of that, even after I realized what he'd done and what he'd made us do...I believed him.”


    I already had doubts, you know,” he said suddenly, pulling back again and looking at her, even though she could tell that his gaze was distant. “About the War, about our places within it.”

    After this some of the intensity dropped from his voice, but his words were still heavy and bitter. “I used to think that I followed my own code of honor, because it had never failed me. It had never led me down the wrong path. Despite any danger that I encountered, my resolve was strong and my way was clear. Now I don't know what to think any longer, and I don't know what I believe.”

    Sitting back on her heels and looking down at her folded knees, Brenna was quiet for a few minutes, both because she was absorbing what he'd said and because he seemed like he needed to think over the words, too. Finally she met his eyes. “Rex, it's okay not to always have the answers. It's frightening, but facing the unknown is a part of life.”

    But it's more than that,” he replied, frowning. “Everything seems so shadowed. It feels like I can't see my path the way I used to, and it's...unnerving.”

    She swallowed, then toyed with the hem of her shirt as she answered. “Rex, I know that I can never truly understand what happened to you and your brothers on Umbara, but I do know how it feels to be...lost.”

    At her words he gave her a curious look, so she elaborated. “It's how I felt when I found out that I was pregnant with Iri and pretty much on my own. When her dad took off, I'd never been so angry and hurt in my entire life. But..I was mostly angry with myself and the stupid mistake that I made, because it wasn't just going to affect me. Now I had another person who would depend on me completely, and I didn't think I could handle that kind of responsibility.”

    His voice was quiet, uncertain. “How did you...find your way?”

    Brenna unfolded her legs so that they were stretched out beside him while she considered her answer. As she'd said, there was no way that her experiences could compare with his, but she was trying to find a common ground where she could find some way of consoling him. “It was because it wasn't just me any more that I was able to move on. My choices – while they were mine – had to be geared to make sure that my daughter's well-being always came first. I owed that much to her, at least.”

    She paused, then gave him a remorseful look. “It wasn't easy – that's probably obvious. It's still difficult most of the time, in part because I'm sometimes still angry with her father and with myself; but at least I can say now that I'm doing the best I know how, for Iri's sake. No matter what happens, I know that I'm doing what's right for my daughter. That alone makes up for most of the hardship.”

    I know that Irini gives you strength,” he added with a nod.

    There was a framed stillpic of Iri that she kept on top of the nightstand beside her bed; Brenna reached for it and ran her fingers over the edges, wondering what her daughter was doing right now. “She does.”

    So you were able to keep going because you have something – someone – to fight for. Something more than yourself. Someone you love.” The words were full of conviction and she could see a gleam of understanding in his eyes as he studied the pic as well.

    But she shook her head and set the pic back down on her nightstand. “Yes, but I don't think of it like fighting, Rex. It's, I guess. You break, but then you pick up the pieces and try to learn what broke you in the first place, so it won't happen again. No matter what, you find a way to keep going because you have to. Because there's no other alternative.”

    He sighed and rubbed at his forehead, but she could see the beginnings of a half-smile on his face. “Fives said something similar to me a little while ago.”

    Don't tell him, but I think he might be on to something,” she replied with a smile. Rex actually chuckled, then skimmed his hand along her knee, apparently still lost in thought. After a moment, Brenna placed her palm on his upper leg, savoring the warmth of his skin and the corded sinew of his muscles.

    Living weapons, the clones had been called, but she knew that they were much more. Despite the other things that had passed between them she was grateful for Tucker, who'd shown her that they were men and not mindless drones like most of the galaxy seemed to think. The thought occurred to her that she still needed to tell Rex about Iri's father, but now was definitely not the time for that discussion.

    Anyway, before she could speak he looked at her again, and his eyes were filled with affection. “Thank you.”

    The intensity of his gaze and his words was – she thought – far more than she deserved for simply sitting and listening, or for her clumsy attempt at consolation...and she didn't think he was referring to their other activities. “For what? I didn't do anything.”

    Rex shook his head and reached for her, pulling her close to his chest and inhaling deeply, like he was breathing her in. “Yeah, you did. Take my word for it.”


    When Brenna awoke the next morning, she was wrapped in Rex's arms and the first thought that occurred to her was that she could remain so forever. Quite happily, too.

    As she was starting to learn, he was always warm; living on a ship filled with dry, recycled air that was vastly different from the sweeping winds of her homeworld had made her a bit cold-natured, so it was a welcome change to be so close to such a pleasant source of heat. Eyes closed, she shifted backwards, pressing herself that much closer to the man beside her and savoring the feel of his entire body against her own.

    At the action, he murmured something incoherent, then leaned forward to rest his nose next to her ear; the exhalation of his breath against her skin was barely a whisper. Immediately, he began kissing her earlobe, her neck, her collarbone – all with a feather-touch that was light enough to make the hairs on her arms rise up and send a shiver across her skin.

    The next thing she knew, Rex had maneuvered himself so that he was leaning over her, and the intensity of his kisses against her neck had deepened enough to make her suck in her breath. When she tilted her head up to look at him, he caught her mouth with his own and reached his left hand up to caress her face and smooth back her hair as he continued kissing her.

    Perhaps she should have considered the fact that neither of them had brushed their teeth before going to sleep, which meant that she very likely had horrible morning-breath, but it was impossible to think about anything else but Rex kissing her while he was doing so. Anyway, as far as she was concerned, he tasted just fine.

    Once they parted he gave her a drowsy, delighted smile. “'Morning.”

    I love the way you say 'good morning,'” she replied with a sigh, which elicited a chuckle from him as he reached for her again.

    They idled for a few more moments before he lifted his head and glanced around the room; she watched as he reached for his chrono, on the floor with the rest of his kit, examined it, then sighed and turned back to her. “I should get going.”

    She indicated the 'fresher. “Do you want to take a shower, first?”

    Very tempting,” he replied with his half-smile. “But, as I'd want you in there with me, I would probably never be able to leave.”

    Because they were both so easily distracted, it took him longer than she figured it should have to dress in his armor, but within about fifteen minutes he was suited up and kissing her goodbye at her door. “I'm not sure exactly when I'll be free again,” he said at last. “But when I know, I'll let you know.”

    Had the words come from any other person she would have felt a flare of warning, but there was only honesty in his voice and his gaze when he looked at her, so she nodded. However, he seemed to reconsider, and took her hand in his gloved one. “Brenna, I wish I could say exactly when, but you have my word: I will see you again. As soon as I can.”

    Your word,” she repeated with another nod; the earnestness in his voice made it difficult to reply any more coherently. “That sounds good to me.”

    They kissed again, then he cleared his throat and gave her an uncertain-but-hopeful look. “I don't know if it's appropriate to thank you for something like this, but last night was...amazing.”

    She couldn't help but grin even as she felt herself flushing. “Yeah, it was.”

    It wasn't just...that,” he added, shaking his head, though there was a gleam in his eyes at the shared memories. “I...enjoyed all the time we spent together. Everything.” He met her eyes again before giving her a last kiss on her cheek. “Thank you for...everything, Brenna.”

    With that he turned and slipped out her door. After she locked it behind him, she gave a deep sigh, then headed for the 'fresher, as she had to report for work before too long as well. A rather large part of her wished that he hadn't had to leave, but she knew it was necessary; anyway, this time he'd left with the reassurance that he wanted to see her again, which meant that he would as soon as he was able.

    When she stepped out of the 'fresher and began to collect her clothes for the day, she noticed her comlink flashing with a waiting message. As she picked the device up off of her nightstand, Brenna narrowed her eyes when she saw the origin of the message: Alderaan, specifically her mother's house. With a sigh, she lowered herself to the bed, folded her legs beneath her and glanced over the text.

    Brenna: I was happy to hear that you and Irini are doing well. Things are the same, here. Foaling season is soon, and the spring looks to be a busy time for the ranch. Perhaps the next time you're free, you and Irini can come visit – I think she'd like the quagga foals. Most children do. Take care, Mom.

    Well, it wasn't exactly a heartfelt apology for cutting Brenna out of her life nearly seven years ago, nor was it even an acknowledgment of the fact that she'd done so, but Brenna recognized the message as something of a peace offering.

    Even so, her first instinct was to delete and forget about it, but she shook her head and took a breath, thinking over her words to Rex during the previous night. Despite Jensine Damaris' faults it was clear that she was doing the best she could to rectify a pretty hefty mistake, and Brenna thought that she should show some compassion; remaining hurt and upset forever would do no one any good at all.

    Force forbid she and Iri should ever have a similar experience; the very idea was enough to set an ache within her heart.

    But it was difficult to find the right words. After quite a few false starts – and she wondered if her mother might have had the same problem – Brenna was able to tap out a similar reply: Mom: the quagga foals sound lovely. I always liked them at that age, and I imagine Iri will, too. I'll let you know the next time I get a bit of leave. Bren.

    Perhaps she wasn't much better, but they were each trying to bridge the gap. Maybe, she considered, that was all that mattered. She studied the comlink for a moment before setting it down, then cast a glance around her cabin, and tried not to feel like it was far too empty without the presence of a certain man in blue-striped armor.


    As soon as the door to Brenna's cabin slid shut behind him, Rex – briefly – considered turning back around, wrenching the door open so that he could lock them both in her room for the rest of the day, but it was a fleeting thought. His brothers were waiting, as were a thousand tasks that demanded his attention, so he simply gave a single exhale of acceptance before turning to make his way down the corridor, helmet bumping into his hip as he walked.

    It was still quite early in the ship's cycle, and none of the civilians in this sector appeared to be stirring yet, so he was able to slip through the area unseen; a few minutes later, he'd exited the turbolift to find himself once again at the clone trooper barracks. Home, for all intents and purposes, though he was starting to think he left a little bit more of himself with Brenna each time they were together.

    As he was about to slip inside the section that housed the bunks, he felt the faint buzzing of the comlink in his belt; once he pulled out the device, he frowned at the message that he found: DON'T go to barracks in morning. Medbay instead.

    The medbay? Of course...he'd asked Fives to cover him while he spent the night away from the billet. With a sigh, the captain turned on his heels and wended down a few corridors until he reached the clone medbay.

    When he entered the area, it was dark and quiet, save for the rhythmic chirrupingof various machines, and he paused for a moment to consider his next move. Moments later, he heard a soft psst to his right; turning, he saw Jesse's face poking out of a nearby room, which – like the others – was cordoned-off with a series of pale blue sheets hanging from the ceiling. With a tilt of his chin, the tattooed clone indicated that he should approach.

    When Rex slipped into the little room, he couldn't help but give a groan of exasperation at what he found. A bio-bed rested at the center of the area, with the usual assortment of monitoring devices around its perimeter, but what caught his eye were the pillows and sheets that were stuffed underneath a blanket that rested on top of the bed, formed in the relative – albeit extremely lumpy – shape of a clone. “Really, Jesse?”

    I know, but it was the best we could come up with on short notice,” the other clone replied with a shrug and a lift of his hands. “Besides, it was Fives' idea. Just be thankful that Coric and Kix didn't let him color the topmost pillow yellow like he wanted.” Jesse gave a snort of derision, then crossed his arms. “Like giving this monstrosity 'hair' would help to fool anyone.”

    Rex scrubbed his face with his hand. “I didn't think he would do this...”

    In response, Jesse shoved his hands in the pockets of his fatigues and cleared his throat, keeping his voice pitched low. “The story is that you had a cut that went septic, and that it took the orders of both medics to keep you here through the night. No one's asked, but we wanted to make sure that you knew, just the same.”


    Sure, Captain,” the tattooed clone replied with a bewildered shake of his head. “Me, Coric, Fives and Kix. Don't worry,” he added as Rex groaned again. “No one but the four of us have been in this room, and we're not going to say anything to anyone.”

    Rather than respond right away, Rex studied his doppelganger in the bio-bed. Clearly it was no clone, but he figured that neither medic's orders would have been questioned so it was likely that his brothers' ridiculous story had been believed. On one hand, he didn't like the idea of his men lying to anyone, particularly with such an obvious ruse, but on the other...well, it was strangely comforting to know that his brothers had his six in their own, peculiar way.

    His men. His brothers. They were one and the same. Rex had been serving with this particular group of men for most of the War, and he considered Fives, Jesse, Coric and Kix not subordinates, but family. To the best of his knowledge, families were supposed to stick together and look out for each other's well-being, which was precisely what he'd asked of Fives.

    Naturally, it being Fives, he should have known that such a request would entail something just a little bit ridiculous.

    This was the result of such duplicity; Rex didn't care for the idea of being dishonest in any capacity, and decided in that moment that he'd have to search through the regs himself for information about this kind of scenario, because he honestly wasn't sure what they would say regarding acceptable locations where an officer's off-duty time could be spent.

    In the meantime...well, he figured this was one of those situations in life where it was wisest to pick one's battles. He glanced up at Jesse, who appeared to be a little nervous, and gave a dry smile. “I have to say...I don't see the resemblance.”

    So, I know it's kind of a silly plan that Fives & Co. come up with, but it was fun to write. :p
    Next time: elaboration of the silliness, and some more fluff. Oh! And plot-stuff, too. Must remember to include plot-stuff... ;)
    Thanks for reading!
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, the talk and the consolation was special! Special! That all by itself shows their relationship is a keeper. :) SQUEE and LOL for the morning reflections ;) Brenna was wise in all she said about moving forward, and I'm happy to see she took her own advice with Jensine. Making amends and forging bridges must begin with baby-steps and a great deal of readiness. @};- =D=
    laloga likes this.
  20. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: They're moving forward, together. :) I think the best romances are the ones where all involved parties help the others grow and change in areas outside the relationship, which is something I try to show in my own work. Thank you for the lovely words! [face_love]


    Chapter Twenty-One

    About an hour later, Rex had showered and changed into a fresh body-glove, given his armor a good cleaning, and made his way back to his office to catch up on what work he could. To give him a bit of a boost – he hadn't gotten much sleep last night – a hot cup of caf rested at his elbow, but as he worked over the duty roster his thoughts inevitably turned away from his task and back to Brenna.

    Last night had been a whirlwind of unexpected, harrowing and fantastic. The knowledge that he had begun his day on the battlefield and ended it in Brenna's arms was entirely strange to him, but – he realized – not unwelcome in the least.

    What was even more incredible in his mind was the fact that she'd offered him something that he didn't think he'd ever truly experienced: a haven. With her, he was not just a soldier and certainly not just a clone, he was a man; to Brenna, he was not CC-7567, not even Captain Rex, just Rex, and it was...nice. Even with Ahsoka, he'd never experienced this kind of closeness, and he had to admit...he liked it. A lot.

    In a way, the new development to their relationship was a bit frightening, because he was well-aware that one of them could be ripped from the other at any moment by the turbulent nature of the times in which they lived, but overall it was a welcome feeling.

    As for what had developed between them physically...well, Rex was a hot-blooded male and there was no doubt that he enjoyed the new level their relationship had reached, but even if she hadn't chosen to share her body with him, Rex thought that he'd be just as pleased with the way things were progressing.

    Kriff, he just really liked Brenna and he hoped he'd be able to see her again, soon.

    A chime at his door indicated that he had a visitor and for one moment he thought it might be her, but he shook the idea away – she had work, anyway – and called out, “come in.”

    When Fives entered, neither man said anything for a moment; rather, the ARC crossed his arms over his fatigues and leaned back against the wall, studying Rex with an unreadable expression. Just as Rex was about to ask him what he was doing, his brother gave rather satisfied smirk. “You look...different.”

    Rex had been in the act of lifting his mug to take a sip. At this he gave a sharp exhale and set the mug down on his desk with a slight thunk. Fives grinned at him, the expression making him appear much younger than he was. “Good for you, vod. If anyone in this crinking army deserves to have a bit of fun, it's Captain Rex.”

    For kriff's sake...”

    Now, don't worry,” the ARC added, raising his hand in a gesture meant to pacify. “Jess and I have got it all worked out. We even took a look at the regs dealing with 'civilian interactions,' and you'll be pleased to know that you're free to spend your off-duty time with a civvie, provided that they have no problem with your presence, so I think you're covered, there. Unless she wasn't happy with the way you charged up her loading ramp-”

    Fives.” The curt tone, accompanied by one of Rex's steeliest glares, silenced that particular bout of words from the ARC, and for another moment the two men regarded each other. Finally, Rex sighed and reached for his caf again, giving his brother a careful look over the rim of the mug as he considered all the ramifications of the revelation. “So...there's nothing explicitly permitting any of us from spending time – off-duty, of course – with a civilian? Unless the civilian doesn't want us to, that is.”

    Fives nodded, then cleared his throat. “You saw your decoy?”

    Yeah, about that...”

    Well, it should be the first and last time,” the ARC added with a chuckle. “ was the best we could do on short notice. After that, Echo and I went over the regs and-”

    The flow of words was abruptly cut off, and Rex caught a faint tightening of his brother's eyes before Fives continued. “After that, Jesse and I looked at the regs and learned all that stuff about the civvies. So, you're covered. I know that eases your mind.”

    The tone of Fives' voice indicated that he had no wish to discuss his slip of the tongue, but Rex could see the lingering pain in his brother's gaze over Echo's death. “Thanks, vod,” Rex said after a moment. “For...everything. Especially for not drawing hair on the medbay pillows.”

    At least Fives had the decency to look mildly embarrassed. “Yeah, well...Coric and Kix were probably right about that. Guess I got slightly carried away. You know, if you wanted to repay me, you could always put in a good word with that blonde roommate of Brenna's; Jess said that he's not interested.”

    Outwardly, Rex chuckled, but his mind was working over the information, as an idea was forming. He'd have to run it by Brenna, of course, but he thought that she'd be pleased.

    The captain was lifted out of his thoughts when the other trooper coughed into his fist and spoke his next words in a rush. “We all want you to be happy, you know. Despite what you may think, you really do deserve to be happy.”

    Rex didn't know quite what to say, so he gave his brother a faint smile and a nod of acknowledgment. Again, there was a moment of awkward silence between them before Fives straightened, a curious look coming over his face. “Does she?”

    Does she what?” Rex asked warily.

    Make you happy.”

    A series of images played themselves over in Rex's mind and only some of them were definitely private. But, he realized, he didn't have to shut them away and not think of them; he was free to savor them until he could see her again and make some more memories. After a moment, a slow smile came to his face and he nodded once. “Yeah, she does. And I think it's going both ways, too.”

    Really?” Fives' brows shot up in mock-astonishment. “Huh. You should get her checked out...she might be defective, or something. Not sure how it works with civvies...”

    Don't you have somewhere you need to be?” Rex arched his brow and regarded his brother with his third-most commanding glare. “Because if you don't, I know a few floors that are in need of a good scrubbing...with a toothbrush. Cody taught me that one.”

    Oh, can't pull that on me, Rex,” Fives chortled “I'm an ARC trooper...technically, I'm not under your illustrious command.”

    Rex laced his fingers together and ensured that his voice was pitched just right, so that the trooper would have to lean forward to fully comprehend his words. “Is that so?”

    After Fives had scurried out of his office – and it gave Rex no small amount of satisfaction to know that he could still make the trooper scurry with just a few words – he glanced back at the duty roster, thinking to return to his work, but again his mind wandered far afield of what he was supposed to be doing.

    For once he found that he didn't mind so much.


    One afternoon, about a week after he'd first spent the night with Brenna, Rex was called to the bridge; at the time, he'd been mired in training sessions with the Spaartis, trying to get all the new guys up to par, so he had not been pleased to be pulled away, even at the request of the general. However, duty was duty, so after assigning Sergeants Coric and Silver – along with Lieutenant Appo – to complete the session, Rex hurried to meet the Jedi.

    Helmet bumping at his side, he strode across the threshold that led into the broad room where command was waiting and cast his mind back to the Spaartis. There were a number of exercises that he thought would be most suitable to facilitate unit cohesion, while also ensuring that the new guys were given the necessary resources to handle any contingency situations that might-

    The train of thought ended abruptly when he saw Brenna, standing between General Skywalker and Ahsoka, her brown eyes on him and her entire body keeping unnaturally still as she clutched her datapad. Dressed in her customary jacket and trousers, she seemed out-of-place amidst the Jedi and the uniformed clone personnel who were working nearby; the sight contrasted with the memory of when he'd last seen her: that very morning, as they kissed goodbye after spending another night together in her cabin, and she'd been wearing a lot less clothing...

    Because of all this, Rex froze in his tracks and for a fraction of a second he and Brenna simply stared at one another, before Skywalker – who'd been furrowing his brow at his own datapad – glanced up at the captain and inclined his chin, urging him forward.

    No, it wasn't against any regs to have a personal relationship with a civilian woman, but Rex figured that discretion was still a key factor in keeping things that way. As he approached, it was an effort not to look at Brenna, and even more of one to keep his thoughts from fixing on her, but Rex managed.


    As her master began to speak, Ahsoka inclined her head towards Rex, and out of the corner of his vision he watched her eyes flick between himself and Bren. However, the Padawan said nothing, nor made any indication that she'd noticed the fact that Rex's ears were getting a bit warm, or that the brown-haired Human woman was suddenly quite interested in a spot of floor between the two Jedi.

    Good, you're here,” Skywalker was saying, frowning at the datapad as if he were heedless of all other things taking place before him. “We have a situation. Damaris uncovered a pretty heavily encrypted transmission from the Separatists.”

    He shot a look at Brenna, who straightened her shoulders and nodded, her eyes flickering to Rex before she explained. “It's a fresh transmission, by the looks of it. There's talk of a potential interception of a transport that's returning from a peace-summit on Chandrila. From what I could gather through Republic intelligence, the transport contains a large number of senators, including some who've been previously targeted by the Separatists.”

    Something clicked in Rex's mind, so he glanced at Brenna, who met his eyes. “Were there any names given, Miss Damaris?”

    Spots of pink appeared on her cheeks at his use of her formal name, but she glanced down to her 'pad, her eyes skimming across the screen. “Quite a few, actually: Garm Bel Iblis, Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Padmé Amidala, Orn Free Taa, Jollin Resbin...”

    That's quite a list,” Ahsoka said, her eyes wide. “Wouldn't that many senators already have an escort? A really big one?”

    They're about to have one more, because we're on a course to intercept,” Skywalker added with a nod to the viewport ahead of them, where they could all see that the Resolute had slid into hyperspace. “I can't take the risk that something will go wrong.”

    The mention of Senator Amidala's name had confirmed what Rex thought he knew; what he didn't know was a suitably tactful way to point out that it was unwise to divert their resources to rescue the object of his general's affections. After a slight pause, Rex glanced at Ahsoka and saw that she looked pensive as well; her master's proclivity towards the senator was something they'd both noticed in the past.

    With respect, sir,” he said in his most neutral voice. “We were heading to Tanaab to offer support to General Mundi and his men.”

    He's right, Master,” Ahsoka added. “And...isn't someone else available to protect the senators' transport? Someone closer?”

    The Jedi's face darkened, but it was not a look of anger. It was fear.

    Rex had seen fear on many a sentient's face, so he knew the expression well, but for one moment the force of the emotion radiated from the other man, such that even without the Force it was plain to see that Skywalker was terrified.

    We must help...them,” he said with a shake of his head, his eyes falling on the blur of hyperspace beyond the viewport. “There's too much at stake.”

    Rex could see that Brenna was paying close attention to the exchange; the look on her face suggested she knew that more was going on than she understood, but she kept silent. He watched as her eyes flickered to his for one moment, curious. While he knew there was no way that Bren could discern exactly what was happening with regards to the Jedi and the Senator, the glance his way was enough to spur him into further speech.

    With respect, General, this seems a bit premature,” he said. “Have we made contact with the transport? Are they aware of the situation? General Mundi and his troops are in need of our support; they could be overrun if we don't reach them in time-”

    Skywalker shook his head, the movement almost violent in its strength. “Lives are at stake, either way, Rex. But these senators are essential to the Republic...we can't let anything happen to them.”

    At the expense of Master Mundi and his men?” Ahsoka asked, her eyes fixed on her master.

    There was a pause, during which the oxygen in the area immediately surrounding the Jedi Knight seemed to be sucked away and his eyes turned strange and hard. “Sometimes that's the price we have to pay, to keep important lives safe.”

    With that, he turned and stepped away from the three of them, his gaze fixed on the shredding stars beyond the transparisteel window. There was silence for a moment as Rex and Ahsoka looked at each other, then the Padawan gave Brenna a warm smile. “Thanks for letting us know about this right away, Miss Damaris.”

    Brenna nodded but said nothing, clearly still uncomfortable with the entire situation, and Rex had a desire to set her at ease; at first he automatically brushed the inclination aside, but then he shook his doubt away. There was no rule to keep him from her, no regulation that would prohibit them from being seen in one another's company.

    So he glanced at Ahsoka. “If I'm not needed here, I'd be happy to show Miss Damaris back to her sector. ”

    Brenna's cheeks colored again and he could have sworn that Ahsoka was fighting back a chuckle as she nodded; apparently he'd not kept his thoughts as controlled as he would have liked. No matter; he thought that her expression indicated she was happy for him, which suddenly made the entire bridge experience worthwhile and the general's words not quite as disturbing. “Sure, Rex. That sounds good, thanks.”

    On a whim he offered Bren his elbow and she accepted; he had to bite back a grin as she flushed harder, which had – of course – been his goal. Together, they made their way off of the bridge.

    The moment that the door slid shut behind them, Brenna cast a glance his way. “That was...interesting. If I didn't know better, I'd say it looked like you and Commander Tano were trying to convince the Jedi not to abandon one mission for another.”

    Around them the corridors that led to the nearest series of turbolifts were empty, so he dropped his hand to the small of her back, savoring the movement of her body as she walked. The feeling mitigated some of the uncertainty he felt about his own response to her observation. “No, you have it about right.”

    Her response was to stare at him with wide eyes, so as they entered a 'lift he elaborated. “Skywalker is an incredibly powerful Jedi, and he's a good soldier. He's tough, smart, capable...but sometimes he gets...distracted from the task at hand.”

    As the turbolift shivered beneath their feet, Brenna cast him another speculative look. As much as he wanted to kiss her right now, there was a question in her eyes that she wasn't voicing, and he felt he wanted to know. “What is it?”

    Before I met you, I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of the Jedi,” she said after a beat as the 'lift began to slow. “I've served on ships with a few of them since I started working for the GAR...but I guess I didn't know them as well as I thought.”

    You and me, both.”

    The 'lift doors opened with a hiss and the two of them stepped out; it was a bit more populated on this level, and for a few steps Rex found that he was warring with conflicting desires.

    However, he made his decision in an instant, so he guided her from the main corridor into a nearby maintenance closet, then shut the door behind them. It was a tiny, dim room with hardly enough space for two adult Humans to stand amidst shelves of cleaning supplies, but he was past caring about anything like that and hoped she was as well.

    To allow them more room to move, he unclipped his bucket from his belt and and set it on a nearby shelf; when he looked back at her, she gave him a smile that made his heart pick up a bit. “This isn't my office.”

    Isn't it?” he asked, tilting her face up to his so that they were only a breath apart. “My mistake. Will you accept my apology?”

    The murmur of her reply was lost as he closed the gap with a kiss, and for some minutes he forgot pretty much everything else except the feel of her body leaning into his own. He kissed her mouth, her earlobes, her jaw, all while delighting in the way that she shifted herself closer to him and attempted to work her hands beneath the armor at his chest.

    After a few breathless minutes she pulled back and shot a glance at her wrist-chrono. “I'm pretty sure that Marliss isn't in our cabin, and I'm not expected back at work right away. You?”

    Rex cleared his throat, because her words had made his blood leap through his veins. “Being in charge has its advantages, sometimes...I have a little while before anyone will miss me.”

    How long is 'a little while?'”

    He grinned at her. “Long enough, hopefully.”

    As usual, Rex thought that the journey to Brenna's cabin took far too long, but eventually they made it. Within a few minutes after shutting the door he'd managed to shed most of his armor; in between kissing her senseless and working to help her slide out of her pesky jacket and unbutton her shirt, he was trying to remove his body-glove. Just she was pulling the top half of the black fabric away from his chest and he was considering ripping off the shabla buttons at the front of her shirt, the door to the cabin opened with a hiss and Marliss stepped into the room.

    Immediately, Rex's ardor snapped back and morphed to embarrassment and – if he were honest – irritation at the interruption, though the sight of Brenna's blonde roommate working to fight back a snort of laughter reminded him that the cabin wasn't Brenna's alone.

    It was a lesson he wouldn't soon forget.

    Mar...” Brenna was breathing a little heavily as she stood beside him next to her bunk, her fingers already beginning to work her shirt closed. “Sorry...I thought you were working...”

    Me too,” Marliss replied, palming the door shut behind her before looking back at the couple. “I guess we need to work out a system or something. This is pretty awkward...though not as bad as it could have been, I guess. At least I caught you guys in the early stages.”

    Although her gaze was only thoughtful and in no way inappropriate, Rex suddenly felt far too exposed in just his body-glove, so he followed Bren's lead and began to collect his armor. “I probably should leave,” he said, glancing between the women. “My apologies, Miss Menin...”

    But Brenna shook her head and put a hand on his arm, effectively stilling him. “At least stay and put your armor on.” Her voice dropped in pitch so that only he could hear her next words. “Unless you want to go running naked through the halls.”

    Despite himself he chuckled. Marliss' brow lifted but she said nothing, instead taking a seat on her bed and removing her boots, scuffed and dirty beneath her navy-blue jumpsuit, which was splattered with grease-stains. As he began to replace his armor, Brenna cleared her throat again and nodded to the 'fresher. “I just have to step in for a moment; I'll be right back. Marliss...can we talk about this, later?”

    The blonde woman nodded a reply, but once the door was closed, Marliss looked up at him; there seemed to be a question in her gaze, and as he fastened his chest-plate, he spoke. “Miss Menin, again, I'd like to apologize for-”

    But she was rolling her eyes. “I think at this point it's safe to say we should be on a first-name basis, Rex. Call me Marliss.”


    And you don't have to apologize for anything,” she added, cutting him off again. “Lately, Brenna seems really happy and I think most of it's your doing.”

    Now that most of his armor – save the gauntlets and gloves – was replaced, Rex felt a bit more at ease, so he straightened and gave a swift nod. “I'm glad to hear that you think so, because the feeling is mutual.”

    She's a good person,” Marliss replied. “Kind, loyal, generous...”

    A warning pinged in the back of his mind, so his answer was perhaps more wary that it would have normally been. “I think so, too.”

    Nodding, Marliss continued. “You know she's been hurt before...badly.”

    I know,” Rex replied, his voice growing dark at the thought of Irini's father. How any man could walk away from his own child – not to mention a woman like Bren – was utterly beyond him. “She's told me enough. But you should know that I'm not looking to add to her troubles.”

    Marliss pursed her lips, then crossed her arms before her chest and fixed him with a sharp stare. “Good to know. And you should know that if you hurt her in any way, I will make sure that you regret it. You have my word on that, Rex.”

    It wasn't what he'd been anticipating from the slender, blonde woman, but in retrospect, Rex thought he should have. There was a gleam of protectiveness in Marliss' eyes and even though he wasn't thrilled about receiving threats from a civilian, he admired the fact that she'd approached him in this way: direct, forward, to the point.

    If Brenna is ever hurt by any actions of mine,” he said at last, measuring his words. “It would not be because I did so on purpose, and I have no doubt that I'll regret it. Immeasurably. You don't have to worry about that.”

    Still, the blonde woman's eyes remained locked onto his and he held her gaze in return, willing her to understand the truth behind his words. Finally she nodded – a small movement, as if to herself – and uncrossed her arms. “Then I guess you need to learn the lock-code,” she said, indicating the door to the cabin. “Maybe we won't have this issue again.”

    For a second he was stunned into silence, because her words had been completely unexpected, but before he could do much more than nod the 'fresher door opened again and Bren stepped back into the room. Rex immediately met her eyes with his and smiled to himself when she blushed.

    What were you two talking about?” she asked as she came to his side.

    It's fine that Rex is here, Bren,” Marliss said as she moved to the 'fresher. “I was just telling him that I don't mind if he has the code to our room, either. I know how these things go.”

    She paused, then gave a smirk. “Just...make sure that you lock the door before you get frisky. know...send me a message or something next time, so I don't walk in on you lovebirds again.”

    As the blonde woman shut the 'fresher door behind her, Rex looked back at Brenna and felt a smile creep across his face even though he knew that their earlier plans had been altered, the new development more than made up for the fact.

    She tilted her chin, a question in her eyes. “What are you grinning about?”

    In response, he pulled her close and murmured in her ear. “Just thinking of next time.”


    Marliss began life as a pretty static character; it was in the editing process that she really came into her own. :)

    As for our dear ARC trooper...he makes me giggle way too much. Despite (or perhaps because of) his often juvenile nature, Fives was a blast to write. I know he may seem a bit childish, but as it was mentioned early on, Fives' acting out is a way of coping with the events of Umbara, not to mention Echo's death. Rex keeps things inside; Fives puts them all outside, if that makes sense. It was a difficult choice not to go into Fives' character a bit more than I did, but in the end I decided to keep the bulk of the story's focus on Rex and Brenna.

    Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think so far, or just that you're reading and (hopefully) enjoying. ;)

    Next time: another day, another battle...
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Hmmm! Dropping one mission for another - that's not good. :rolleyes: I sure liked the Bren/Rex scene [face_mischief] and Marliss is a caring friend. :)
    laloga likes this.
  22. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: Anakin has his priorities, that's for sure. Thank you so much for the comment! :)

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    About two weeks later...

    Sergeant Silver was dead.

    Rex watched as the white-armored form, streaked with Bellassan mud, was loaded onto one of the final transports that had remained to collect the wounded and the dead.

    He watched as Kix made a notation in his datapad, a note that – Rex knew – would say “KIA,” and would necessitate his own task to remove the fallen member of Torrent Company from any duty rosters, bridge rotations and training sims, places where Silver's name had been since just after Teth, years ago now.

    He watched as Coric slowly drew a standard, gray military blanket over Silver's form; the blanket would cover the dead man until his body was incinerated aboard the Resolute, in the small chamber next to the medbay that nobody talked about.

    Within the confines of his gloves, Rex's hands felt numb. Since the end of the battle, the sensation had been spreading through the rest of him with a slow, sluggish throb, and he idly wondered if he'd be able to feel a blaster-bolt to the chest, should he receive one now.

    You okay, Rexter?” Ahsoka's voice was soft, as was the touch of her hand against his gauntlet.

    As he studied her through the visor of his bucket he could tell that she was worried for him, so he nodded, trusting in his often laconic reputation to conceal the fact that he wasn't sure he could speak. In her fashion, she seemed to know the truth behind his reticence, for her eyes were filled with concern.

    Her mouth opened to say something else, but Rex managed to find his voice. “You should have Kix take a look at that, Ahsoka,” he said, indicating a bright crimson gash against her left bicep. “And I'm fine,” he added, patting her hand that was still resting on his gauntlet. “No need to worry about me, kid.”

    There was a moment where he thought she would argue, but it turned out not to matter because his attention was called away by another of his men; he gave her a final nod before turning in the direction he'd been summoned.

    Strange, how it was easy to move, despite the fact that now his entire body was now numb.


    Brenna drifted between sleep and wakefulness, unable to succumb to the quiet slumber that she most definitely needed after the stress of the past few days. Aside from the distant hum of the sublight engines, her cabin was silent; Marliss was working another double shift and Rex was still planet-side on Bellassa. She hoped to hear from him soon; generally, he comm'd her the first moment he was able once the skirmish was over so that she would know he was safe.

    However, he hadn't done so today – or yesterday – but she tried not to worry. Sometimes the fighting lasted a few hours, sometimes a day or more. It was impossible to know for certain, so she'd resided herself to learning the art of waiting for news.

    One deep breath, then another. Willing herself to drop into sleep never worked, so she tried to think of something else to distract her mind; Caith had sent some lovely finger-paintings that Iri had done for her, and she needed to transfer the images onto flimsies to hang in her office. Perhaps Rex would like one..she'd have to ask him. She hoped he'd say yes, as the walls of his office were so sparse and plain, and he spent so much time there...

    The distraction nearly worked as she drifted off, until her attention was sharpened by a strong arm sliding around her waist; an instant later she heard Rex's inhale as he buried his face into her hair for a moment, then shifted so that he was pressed against her shoulder. His breath was warm – just like the rest of him – and she gave a happy sigh as she pushed herself closer to his chest.

    You're back,” she whispered, reaching her arm up to rest over his as it encircled her torso, because it was never quite real until she was touching him, and until she heard his voice again.

    There was no reply for a moment, then she felt rather than heard him speak, his lips pressed to her shoulder-blade as he shifted just a little bit. “Silver's not.”

    Silence, then another inhale against her back, as if he was breathing in her scent. As best she could, given his closeness and his arm around her body, Brenna turned to face him, slipping her arm around his upper torso and embracing him with all the strength she could muster. It wasn't much, but it was all she could do. She whispered his name.

    Now that she was facing him, they were so close that their breath mingled in the darkness between them, and his grip on her tightened. Pressed to her as he was, she could feel the rapid cadence of his heart, as well as outlines of the ubiquitous scars along his chest and stomach, evidence of countless battles. Brenna tilted her head up so that she could kiss his cheek.

    There was a pause, then she felt him take another shuddering breath before his entire body seemed to sink in her arms; he was silent, but his heartbeat steadied, slowed to a more manageable pace.

    Once she was certain he was asleep, Brenna found that she was able to follow.


    When Rex awoke the next morning he was both comfortable and warm, neither of which was expected, and for a moment he had no idea where he was. But it was a fleeting feeling, dissipating the moment that Bren shifted; the touch of her skin brought him back to reality, and by the time he decided to open his eyes it was so that he could look at her.

    Apparently he'd woken first. Her eyes were closed, her mouth was slightly open and she was facing him on the pillow they were sharing. There wasn't much room on her bunk, so she was close enough for him to feel the exhalation of her breath against his cheek; each inhale brought him the delicious scent of her soap, her shampoo, and whatever else it was about her that he would know anywhere. A brief glance up and around told him that they were alone in the cabin; he hadn't bothered to see if her roommate was in or not when he'd made his impromptu visit the night before, but he'd lucked out.

    Bren's hair was tangled, spilling around her neck and resting gently against the pillow. With as careful a motion as he could manage, he reached up and tried to brush it off of her skin, all while savoring the feel of it, of her, beneath his hands. Sometimes it still amazed him that he could touch her in this way, that it was allowed, and that it was something that she desired, too.

    But it was more than that, he thought. Right now, he was at peace. Silver's death was still there, following him while remaining in the shadows of his mind, but it was...

    He frowned. It wasn't better, but it was easier to bear with her beside him.

    When her eyes opened, he gave her a half-smile that was a little apologetic because he's woken her. “'Morning.”

    It wasn't a dream,” she said, blinking a few times. A slow, drowsy smile spread across her face. “I'm always afraid you're going to be a dream.”

    I'm quite real,” he assured her. “I can prove it, if you like.”

    She gave a chuckle which merged into a yawn, then lifted into a laugh when he dropped a kiss against her neck. They dallied for a few minutes before she blinked up at him again. “What time is it? My alarm hasn't gone off...”

    Last night he'd shed his armor on the floor beside her bed with hardly a thought; when he reached for his chrono, his stomach did a flip and he uttered a choice phrase of Mando'a after he told her the time, adding: “We're both late, aren't we?”

    The hazy pleasure faded and they each looked at each other for a beat, then the flurry began. Initially, the only sounds were the snapping of plastoid pieces and the rustle of cotton clothing, but after a few minutes, as she was brushing out her hair and he was seated on the bunk getting his boots on, she looked at him again. “What's on the agenda for today?”

    Her voice was tentative, as if she was uncertain how the question would be received, and he wondered at the fact. “It should be pretty quiet,” he replied. “Usually is the day after a battle. I like to to give the boys an easy time if I can, but I have a stack of duty-rosters to catch up on.”

    Even though he added a smile at the end of his words, she still looked like something was bothering her. All of a sudden, Rex felt a shot of apprehension in his chest; last night had been the first time that he'd come into her room without express permission, lock-code or not, and he wondered if he'd unknowingly overstepped some boundary. He'd been distraught – there was no other word for it – and had simply sought the warm comfort of her arms, but perhaps he should have comm'd her first, given her some warning...

    Bren, about last night...”

    She'd finished brushing her hair and was in the process of slipping on her shoes, one hand bracing herself against the bulkhead. At his words she paused and looked at him again, one shoe in her hand, one on her foot. He swallowed and continued. “I didn't mean to...intrude, if I did. I just...I needed...”

    His words trailed off, replaced by a frown as he tried to figure out how to voice his how he'd felt in those dark hours.

    But in her fashion, she seemed to know. “I'm glad you came here, Rex. You're welcome with me, anytime.” She toyed with her shoe for a moment, as if oblivious to the way that his heart had picked up at her words. “I want to make sure that's clear,” she added.

    For a beat he didn't speak, then he nodded. “It is.” Again, they only looked at each other for a moment, then he cleared his throat. “What about you? Any exciting new Seppie codes to slice today?”

    Always,” she replied with a smile. “But today should also be fun...we have a lifeday party, too.”

    A lifeday party?”

    Both of her shoes were on now and he knew that it was time to go, but couldn't bring himself to move just yet. She seemed to feel the same way, for she came to stand before him and skimmed her hand through his hair as she explained. “It's one of my co-worker's lifeday; everyone chipped in to get him a nice cake, and a card was passed around for us all to sign. Nothing major, but it's a nice thing to do.”

    It had been a long time since he'd eaten, and Rex winced as his stomach gave an involuntary gurgle at the mention of 'cake.' He thought that she noticed, for her lips tightened as though she was fighting back a laugh, and he sighed, stood up. “It sounds nice.”

    It's silly, I know,” she replied with a rapid shake of her head. “Especially when you and your brothers are fighting so hard for us all...I feel bad for going on about cake and parties after you-”

    Her jaw snapped shut and her eyes flickered away from his, and he knew at once what she'd been about to say. “After I lost a brother.”

    Bren nodded as she looked back his way. “Yes.”

    He was probably all kinds of late by now, but he didn't mind so much. Rex got to his feet, embraced her and kissed her mouth, lighter than he would have preferred, but hard enough to let her know he wasn't upset or bothered by anything she'd said. Or not said.

    Rather, he was touched beyond measure at her compassion and her concern, both of which – while not unfamiliar to him – were somehow magnified because of how he'd come to her last night. He'd been wounded with grief, vulnerable and battle-weary, and she'd provided a shelter from the onslaught of despair that would have otherwise consumed him until he'd managed to push it away long enough to keep moving.

    But pushing it away, as he'd learned, didn't negate the grief or banish the despair. Those things clung well enough on their own, but it was easier to face them knowing that he had a place of solace.

    So when he pulled back, he tilted her chin up to him and spoke so that they were only a breath away from each other. Her face filled his entire field of vision, and again he relished the closeness. “Hey, Bren?”


    He smiled because he couldn't help it. “I'm really lucky to have found you.”

    She blinked rapidly a few times and her eyes grew strangely bright even as she beamed up at him; he had no clue what to make of the contrasting expressions, but it didn't matter so much when she replied.

    Me too.”


    As he'd told her, Rex liked to give his men an easy time of it the day after a rough battle, so after he'd left Bren's cabin he'd gone to the barracks, where most of his men were still in the process of waking up and prepping for a day of light training and bridge rotations.

    As Rex strode through the entrance to the billet he was approached by Coric, datapad in hand. Before Coric could announce the captain's presence and cause the troopers to snap to attention, Rex shook his head to indicate that such a thing wasn't necessary at the moment. Instead, he took in their numbers and realized that he hadn't been quite as late as he'd thought, which was heartening.

    Pausing by the entrance, he cast the senior medic a nod. “'Morning, Coric.”

    'Morning, sir,” the sergeant replied as he met Rex, his free hand lifting into a salute. “If you've a moment, I've got a few things to run by you.”

    Rex nodded, and Coric glanced down at his 'pad. “Viv, Doubletake, and Keen have requested to begin walker training, while Faze asked to be taken off of today's bridge-rotation and given double shifts with the quartermaster.”

    He likes organizing, does he?”

    Coric gave a chuckle. “Apparently so. I imagine Ret will be pleased to have some help. Anyway, Thrash and Imp got into a tussle last night – Jesse broke it up before it got too heavy, but I thought you'd like to know.”

    Since he hadn't taken a shower at Bren's, Rex decided that he should rectify that, now. As he reached his bunk and began to remove his armor, he frowned in thought. “Did Jesse find out what it was about?”

    Neither of them were very forthcoming, but it's happened before with these two. Imp's got a short fuse and Thrash can be a bit...”

    Combative,” Rex finished, stepping out of his boots. “Yeah, I've noticed that as well, but that's no excuse for fighting of that kind. I think that means that they just volunteered for extra mess-hall duty – together. I want them to learn to work out their issues without resorting to beating each other to a pulp. There's a time and a place for that.”

    Nodding, the sergeant glanced down at his datapad again, a faint frown creasing his face. “Turns out that Slammer and Glitch each have a sprained ankle; I suggest they stay out of the drill schedules for the next few days.”

    Sounds reasonable.”

    Coric paused, then met Rex's eyes. “Early this morning, Appo took that batch of Spaartis that arrived last week out for drills.”

    I'll admit, they probably need the extra training,” Rex replied, glancing around the barracks again. “But the rest of you are going to take it easy today if I have anything to say about it.”

    There were a few men still about, engaged in conversation or weapons-maintenance; despite the fact that he'd indicated that none of them need stand at attention right now, he noticed that more than one soldier gave him a swift salute when he caught their eye, indicating their respect. That was also heartening.

    The pitch of Coric's voice dropped when he spoke next. “Word is that Appo's taking over the bulk of the Spaartis' training. Did you know about that?”

    Rex frowned as he studied the sergeant. “No one's mentioned it to me. How do you know?”

    Overheard some of the new recruits talking about it.”

    It was unsettling to have to hear about such a thing through what was essentially a rumor-mill, but Rex had seen that Skywalker seemed to be more and more distracted lately; perhaps he'd forgotten to mention it. He'd have to ask, later.

    As he began to move towards the showers, Coric continued. “Chopper's been doing very well with the supplementary medic training; I think I'd like to have him assigned to me on a more regular basis.”

    Rex nodded. “Of course – glad to hear it.” He paused, then shot Coric a look, as he'd noticed the other man regarding him with a curious expression. “Something else?”

    There was a pause, then the medic cleared his throat, anxiety clearly written across his face. They were well out of an earshot from the others, so when Coric spoke, only Rex could hear. “Sir...with Silver gone, and Slammer and Glitch out of commission...our veterans are down to about thirty percent of the full company.”

    The words made Rex give a heavy sigh, and as he nodded, he rubbed at his forehead. Some of his good mood faded with the truth of what Coric had said, but he also knew that he would be able to handle the situation. The warmth he'd felt before, in Bren's arms, remained within his heart. “I know. But we've faced odds like this before and come through.”

    Rex met the sergeant's eyes and the word went unspoken between them: Teth.

    No other option but to keep going, Coric,” he added, placing a hand on his brother's shoulder. “Right?”

    Another moment of silence, during which he watched some of the worry fade from his brother's gaze. Finally Coric nodded, slow but steady. “We'll persevere.”

    Together, we will,” Rex replied as he stepped into the showers. “Vode an.”

    It only took him a few minutes to get clean, but when he emerged the barracks were empty. Once he was back in his armor, he began to make his way towards his office, thinking of comm'ing Bren just to hear her voice, when he was halted by the sound of his name.

    Rexter! There you are!”

    Ahsoka came bounding down the corridor, her expression radiating concern; as she met him before the door to his office, he noted that she had a bandage around her arm where she'd sustained her injury on Bellassa, but that otherwise she appeared to be intact.

    As she met him, he gave her a nod. “Here I am. How's the arm?”

    She rolled her eyes at his words. “Kix says I should be healed in a few days. But how are you?” Her blue eyes were wide and fixed on his, and he realized how worried she was. For him. As he opened his mouth to reply, she added: “No matter what you said, I could tell that you weren't okay yesterday. I wanted to...”

    He couldn't help but smile at her. “Check on me?”

    Yeah,” she replied, returning his smile. “So...?”

    I'm fine,” he said, faintly amused as she gave an exasperated sigh. Brenna had done the exact same thing on more than one occasion; he hadn't realized that it was something he said that much, but perhaps he did. Anyway, neither Bren nor Ahsoka seemed to care for the word, but only when he said it.

    Indeed, Ahsoka mock-glared at him in the next moment. “Rexter...”

    No,” he said, shaking his head and giving her an earnest look. “I really am, Ahsoka. But thank you for checking on me.”

    He turned to the door, then paused again and glanced her way. “Is it true that Appo's been placed in charge of the Spaartis' training?”

    Ahsoka's eyes widened just a little bit, but she nodded after a beat. Rex studied her before he spoke. “Why?”

    He requested it,” she replied. There was another beat of silence before she added: “There are so many of them...Master thought that it made sense that they should have someone working with them so closely, and you already have the rest of Torrent to worry about, not to mention any special missions that we take you on.” He said nothing, and her face fell a little bit. “'s not a slight against you, I promise. Master said that he even spoke with the Chancellor about it, and that he agreed that this was the best option.”

    She was concerned that she'd offended him; he could read her expressions like a holo-novel, so he gave her a faint smile. “Understood, Ahsoka. It's alright.”

    With that, he palmed the door to his office open; however, her hand on his arm halted him in his tracks. “Rex, I'm sorry about Silver.”

    His entire body grew still at the name, and for a moment he was transported back to Bellassa, back to Silver's last moments before the droids overran the sergeant's position. Rex himself had been surrounded and unable to do much more than listen as another of the men he'd known since the early days of the war met his end.

    Again, the pain of his brother's loss struck him, but a deep inhale and exhale allowed the feeling to wash through his body, through his mind and heart.

    But there was nothing to do but keep going.

    Me too,” he said after a pause, meeting Ahsoka's eyes right before he stepped across the threshold.

    Her gaze was still disbelieving but her words indicated that she was trying to change that as she followed him inside the little room. “I was worried for you.”

    Don't be.”

    She sighed and shook her head in a manner that suggested she still didn't believe him; a beat later, he watched as her eyes fell on something in his office. “What's that?”

    When Rex turned, it was to see a small, white plastifoam container resting on his desk. When he stepped forward to open it, he felt a smile spread across his face; within was a slice of cake, chocolate-flavored and thickly frosted, with a sugar-rose in one corner and half of the letter 'B' in another.

    Is that a piece of lifeday cake?” Ahsoka's voice was filled with surprise.

    Rather than respond immediately, Rex fingered the container's edges, thinking of the woman who must have left left it for him while he was in the barracks. Again, his memory was cast back to the previous night, and he was filled with that strange, swelling mixture of gratitude and affection for Bren. Even as he was still saddened by the loss of a good soldier, Rex was also struck with a sense of happiness, because of her warmth, because of her welcoming. Because she cared about him enough to do something like this, silly and small as it would seem to an outsider.


    The quiet tone of Ahsoka's voice brought him out of his thoughts. When Rex looked up at the Padawan, he watched as a pleased sort of smile came over her face, and she shook her head as if in wonder. “What?”

    Ahsoka beamed at him. “You really are okay, aren't you?”

    He glanced back down at the cake, thinking that it looked delicious and imagining all the ways he'd thank Bren, later on. Suddenly he couldn't wait to see her again. “Yeah,” he replied with a chuckle as he looked at his friend. “I guess I am.”


    Sergeant Silver is/was an OC clone of mine; his name has been sprinkled throughout, so hopefully he's at least peripherally familiar. I imagine that Rex takes the deaths of all of his men hard, but my idea was that Silver has been around since right after Teth, so Rex knew him better than some of the newer guys.

    On a similar note, most of the clones you don't recognize are OCs, save "Ret," who belongs to Jade-Max.

    It was tricky to balance Rex's emotions in the last scene, as I didn't want to downplay his reaction to Silver's death, but I also wanted to show the positive effect that Brenna is having on him. Please let me know what you think. :D

    Just like I made the choice to not include Fives' POV in order to keep the focus primarily on Rex and Brenna, I chose not to go into Ahsoka's perspective. In my mind, in this fic, (one and the same, I guess :p), she cares for Rex as a dear friend, and is happy to know that he's happy.

    As always, thank you for reading! :)

    Next time: who's up for a round of sabacc?
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    I love Bren Just to bits! This was a tender compassionate post, and I'm glad they've found each other. I'm in the planning stages of a romance with a lady OC, and I just hope she comes across as fantab as Brenna. [face_love] :cool:
    laloga likes this.
  24. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    @Nyota's Heart: Yay! So glad you like Brenna. I worked hard on her, so your kind words are much appreciated. [face_love] I'm sure your own OC will be phenomenal.​

    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Three weeks later...

    Brenna bit back a smile as Rex eyed the cup of caf she'd brought him with appreciation. “This is really good...nice and sweet.” He glanced her way and tilted the cup alongside his forehead in a mock-salute. “Thanks.”

    You're welcome,” she replied, sipping from her own cup as she leaned against the edge of his desk. He'd been seated when she'd come in several minutes ago; naturally he'd risen and offered her his chair, but she'd refused. Having slipped away from her own office to visit him for a few minutes, she relished a chance to be on her feet for a little bit.

    Since Rex and Torrent Company had been on a flurry of missions and Brenna had been overloaded with work, it had been well over a week since they'd had a chance to spend any time just the two of them. While she thought that they each would have preferred a more comfortable place to interact than his office, her own cabin was occupied at the moment and it wasn't fair to expect Marliss to vacate the room whenever Rex and Brenna found a spare second to be together.

    But in all honesty, she was just happy to know that he was alive and be able to spend time with him, so she thought that it wouldn't matter where they were, so long as they were together. The caf had been a spur-of-the-moment decision, and she'd remembered from her experience with Tucker that most clones preferred a good bit of sugar in the drink. In that regard, at least, Rex was no different than the others.

    The thought of Iri's father reminded her – as if she needed reminding – that there were a number of things she wanted to discuss with Rex, but so far she'd been unable to sully the first moment they'd found to be together in far too long. Additionally, she'd experienced firsthand how quickly he could go from relaxing with her to being called to fight, and in the back of her mind she was aware that each moment with Rex could very well be the last, should he fall in the next battle.

    It's been a while since we've been able to be alone, hasn't it?” she said as he smoothed back an errant strand of her hair with his free hand.

    I've missed you,” he replied with a half-smile down at her. “But if it meant I got to spend time with you, I'd do so pretty much anywhere.”

    She couldn't resist the opening. “Anywhere? Even in the middle of an ocean? On Hoth? What about Mustafar...all that lava?”

    Rex shook his head and held her eyes. “Anywhere.”

    Following that, he took another swig of his drink, set the cup down on the desk, then reached for her own cup; he set it beside his own and skimmed his hand along her cheek, drawing her closer to him before he kissed her quite soundly.

    For the duration of the kiss she forgot all other things except the feel of his embrace and his mouth on hers. There was no desperation as there had been in the past; instead, he kissed her with a kind of elation that contradicted his normally composed and reserved attitude. She was learning that with Rex, his actions, not his words, were paramount.

    It was one of the things about him that she loved.

    They parted after several minutes; she noted that his face was flushed and his pupils were dilated with arousal for all that he seemed to gather his composure as he reached for their individual cups, handing hers over first before collecting his own.

    As he did so, he shot her a careful look. “Since I have you here, I'd like to run something by you, if that's alright.”

    Shoot.” At his frown of confusion, she smiled and made a motion with her hand for him to continue.

    Rex took another sip of his drink, then regarded her as he spoke. “Do you know how to play sabacc?” At her nod, he continued. “I've been thinking...I'd like to spend time with you and with some of my brothers as well; we're all fans of the game. Would you like to join us sometime?”

    That would be nice,” she replied at once, silently pleased. To her way of thinking, this was a natural progression in their relationship, the 'meeting of the friends,' but she knew that there was more to such an interaction when it came to Rex and his men. Generally, the clones were closer to one another than to outsiders, but there was still a degree of separation between an officer and his subordinates; she understood that it was a big step for Rex to want to 'publicize' his relationship with her in front of his brothers.

    I'd like to get to know them better,” she added, watching as his eyes lit up with excitement. “I only know Fives and Kix right now. And Jesse, but only a little.”

    At her words, Rex nodded, but after a beat passed and he said nothing, she could tell that he was hesitant about something else. She lifted her brow at him and he cleared his throat. “What about your roommate? Do you think Marliss would be interested in joining us as well?”

    He seemed a little embarrassed to be asking her about another woman, but she thought she knew why. “Has Jesse been asking about her?”

    Rex paused. “Actually, Fives mentioned her to me several weeks ago.”

    At this, Brenna shrugged; she remembered Marliss' comment about giving Jesse another chance, but decided to mention the ARC trooper to her, just in case. Either way, it was probably best to let the three of them sort it out. “I think she'd be interested in a friendly game. We should have it on the observation deck...I guess the tricky thing will be finding a time when everyone's free.”

    Already thought of that,” he replied at once, sipping his caf again. “Tomorrow evening works for all of us – unless something drastic happens, that is.”

    Brenna considered, then nodded again. “I think she's free then as well. I know I am.” It wasn't exactly true, as she'd have to shift around some of her work time, but she knew it wouldn't be an issue, and he looked positively delighted for a moment before the expression slid back into his customary solemn one.

    Good,” he said with a swift nod that was all business, though his happiness at her answer was revealed when he beamed at her. “I'll let the others know.”


    The following evening, Brenna found herself in the observation deck with Rex once more, but this time they were not alone. When she and Marliss arrived, Rex, Fives, Kix, Tup and Jesse were already seated around one of the tables in the center of the room, dressed in their off-duty fatigues with a deck of sabacc cards between them on the table's surface. The moment that Rex saw her, he rose and crossed the room, taking Brenna's hand and giving her a kiss on her cheek before they headed back to the others for introductions.

    As Rex introduced her to Tup, the only clone she hadn't formally met, Brenna noted the flush of the younger clone's cheeks and the nervous way his eyes shifted from side to side; she'd wondered if he'd ever spoken to a female before. Aside from Padawan Tano, Brenna figured that most of the clones of the 501st had not interacted with many females, if any at all. The other clones were cordial, but she could see that they each seemed to preen a little bit at the new additions, especially when Marliss offered each man a friendly smile as she slid into an empty seat between Brenna and the furiously blushing Tup.

    What are we playing for?” Kix asked, glancing around.

    As he started to deal the cards, Jesse shot Marliss a friendly smile. “Rather than have a sabacc pot, we normally just bet chores or something, though that might not work in this case.”

    Unless you want to clean some kits,” Fives added with a laugh.

    Marliss accepted her cards, but didn't look at them as she replied. “Only if I lose, Fives. Besides,” she added with a glance at Brenna. “We took care of that part.”

    There was a faint, teasing edge to her voice that made Fives' brow lift; as the lone “unattached” female of the group, Marliss was likely to garner a bit of interest, or so Rex had mentioned to them both prior to their arrival. Brenna's roommate, however, had seemed unperturbed at the idea of four grown men simultaneously hitting on her, and had said that she was capable of handling herself.

    Brenna reached for the bag that she'd brought, which contained a rather hefty assortment of junk food from her and Marliss' stash. As she began doling it among the clones, she had to smile at their exclamations of surprise, any and all awkwardness forgotten in the wake of the unexpected snacks.

    Good idea,” Rex murmured beside her; glancing over, she saw that he was studying her with appreciation, and her smile widened.

    Mar may not mind, but I'd rather not clean anyone's kits if I can help it,” she replied, which sent a ripple of laughter around the table.

    The game began. While Brenna didn't fancy herself a keen sabacc player, she enjoyed the camaraderie and banter between the clones enough to not really care so much about winning.

    Which turned out to be a good thing, as they were extraordinarily competitive.

    Read 'em and weep, troopers,” Fives crowed as he slapped down his cards. “Check out that spread...”

    From what she could tell he had a good hand, enough to make Jesse and Kix groan aloud, and cause Rex to frown at his own cards. Brenna's hand wasn't even close, but a glance at Marliss revealed that her roommate was pleased about something but was trying to keep a straight face. However, as Fives leaned forward to collect his winnings, stacked in the center of the table, the blonde woman cleared her throat.

    Is that a pure sabacc?” the ARC trooper said, staring at the cards Marliss had laid on the table.

    It is,” she replied in a sweet voice as Fives' mouth fell open and the others began to snicker. “How thoughtful of you to collect all of the winnings for me.”

    It's the ARC trooper training,” Jesse replied, outright snorting with laughter at Fives' bewilderment. “Makes him extra thoughtful.”

    As she collected her winnings, Marliss shot Fives a wide smile that was belied by her next words. “If only you'd had the Idiot's Array, you would have beaten me.”

    Next time,” Fives replied with a nod, though there was a gleam of appreciation in the ARC trooper's eyes when he studied Brenna's roommate. The blonde woman seemed to take no notice of the fact, instead collecting the others' cards and organizing them to be shuffled for the next round.

    Several minutes later, after the next hand had begun, Rex cast Fives a look. “Speaking of ARC trooper much longer are you going to be with us this time around?”

    The ARC exhaled at the cards in his hand. “Another week, at the most, then I'm to head to the core for some kind of spec-ops brouhaha with a bunch of different troopers – Nulls, commandos...all sorts.”

    Nulls?” Tup asked, his eyes wide. “The crazy, out-of-control clones?”

    They're good guys,” Fives replied with a shrug. “Mostly. A bit odd, before you get used to them, but much less tightly wound than the commandos.”

    The mention of commandos sent a flare of warning through Brenna, but she pushed it aside. It was a large army, after all, and it was very likely that Tucker had been moved into another squad by now; there was no reason to feel apprehension at all. Beside her, she thought that Rex caught on to her bout of nerves, for he cast her a glance, but she met his eyes and gave a faint smile to show that she was alright. He nodded once, almost imperceptibly, then looked back at his cards.

    Heedless of the silent interaction, Fives had continued speaking. “No, Tup, the Nulls aren't defective. Not like those kriffing Spaarti clones, that's for sure.”

    At these words, the soldiers give a collective wince, which caused Marliss to frown and glance between them. “What's a Spaarti clone?”

    The new guys that command keep shipping in,” Fives explained to her. “They were created with a different method than we were – same genetic template, though.”

    Grown – and trained – within a year,” Brenna added, shaking her head. “It's...unusual, so I understand.”

    Jesse wrinkled his nose as if in distaste. “It's kriffing insane.”

    And it doesn't seem to work...well,” Tup said with a frown, making the others give grim nods. Beside her, Brenna could see that Rex's frown was deep, and he shifted in his chair, as if he were supremely uncomfortable with the direction that the conversation had taken.

    Marliss looked back at Fives. “I still don't understand.”

    On Kamino, our training took ten years,” Fives explained. “Ten years of flash-training, ten years of growing, drilling and weapons training, among a whole host of other things, and while it's not a huge lifespan by any means, it's certainly more effective than doing all of that within one puny year.”

    And that one year includes growing them,” Tup added, sitting up in his chair. “And there are so many of seems like for every Spaarti clone that we lose in combat, three more step in to fill his place. It's...unnatural.”

    Rex cleared his throat. “Be that as it may, we're all on the same side,” he said, a note of finality in his voice. “We're all brothers, and we need to set aside our differences to work together.”

    Everyone was quiet for a few minutes before Kix glanced up, which caused the others to look his way; Brenna noted that the medic seemed to retain a quiet sense of command on his own, even without an official “rank,” such as Rex carried. “That's true, Captain,” he said in a calm voice. “But from a medical standpoint...well...” His brows knitted. “They're not quite as sound as we are. Mentally, I mean.”

    Are you saying they're...crazy?” Tup asked with round eyes. Rex had grown very still at these words, giving Brenna the sense that he was listening closely.

    Kix frowned. “No...they're just more...intellectually fragile. They don't process things the same way as we do. They don't learn the same way. Maybe it has to do with the way they're trained,” he added with a shrug. “I've just noticed, with the ones that make it back from combat, that they don't seem to exhibit the same things that the Kamino-bred guys do.”

    There was another bout of silence where everyone seemed to study their cards without really seeing them. After a few moments, Rex cleared his throat and cast Kix a look that suggested he was working hard to keep his voice neutral. “What do you mean?”

    The medic exhaled through his nose and furrowed his brows. “Normally, when a shiny comes back from an intense battle with lots of casualties – like Teth, or that recent business on Halmad – there's a period of time afterward where he...retreats into himself. It's common and expected, and eventually he'll come out of it. You all remember the feeling, I think.”

    A round of nods went around the table and Kix continued. “But the Spaarti clones...well, it's like they don't show any reaction at all. Like they didn't even notice that they were in a battle in the first place. And it's the same with every batch I've seen come through since that first one.”

    Silence. Brenna watched as each man seemed to mull over the words; beside her, Rex remained almost frozen in his seat and his eyes were fixed on the cards in his hands. She could tell that he was still trying to keep his expression unaffected, so she placed her palm on his knee and offered him a warm look when he glanced her way. After a moment, she watched the set of his shoulders relax just a bit.

    Suddenly, Marliss glanced beside her, where Fives was apparently trying to sneak a look at her cards. “Watch it, ARC-boy.”

    Despite her curt tone there was a faint smile on her face, and Brenna watched as Fives grinned in return, waggling his brow at the blonde woman. “Oh, I intend to.”


    After a number of hands the hour was pushing towards midnight, but Rex thought that no one seemed to want the night to end. Brenna had long since tired of the game and had volunteered to “guard” the sabacc pot, which meant that all of the snacks that had not been won were resting before her while the others battled it out.

    Rex thought that her eyes must have felt heavy, as they were drooping closed, and out of the corner of his eye he watched as she fought back a yawn. Despite his own desire to stay he had no wish to keep her against her will, so while Jesse and Fives were arguing about the latter's current hand, he leaned over and spoke softly into her ear. “Ready to call it a night?”

    Mmm...? No, I'm good,” she replied as she sat up suddenly, blinking hard a few times when she looked his way.

    Rex chuckled, then edged his chair closer to hers; he gently guided her down so that her cheek was resting on his own shoulder. There was a moment of tension in her body as she resisted, then she relaxed and settled against him with a sigh. This close, he could smell the scent of her hair and the press of her cheek against him was warm and comforting.

    The idea flitted through his mind that he could remain like this for a good while – forever, maybe, or as long as he was around – but he automatically pushed it aside, as he did with most thoughts about his own future, uncertain as it was.

    Still, he did wish he had something else to offer her besides his shoulder.

    Glancing down, he noted that she'd wrapped her sweater tightly around her torso as if she were cold, so he slid his arm further around her and rubbed against the sleeve of the knitted material, hoping to warm her a bit. Indeed, she gave a soft murmur of approval and shifted even closer to him as a result.

    Don't bother him, Tup,” Fives said suddenly. “The captain's in another world altogether.” His brother's voice made Rex look up, only to watch the ARC trooper shoot a toothy grin his way. Tup had a look on his face that indicated he'd been about to try and get Rex's attention; at the ARC's words, the younger clone smirked down at his cards.

    It was probably for the best that you stopped playing,” Jesse added, tilting his chin at Rex's cards, which were resting face-up on the table as if he'd forgotten about them entirely. “That's a losing hand if ever I saw one.”

    Kix chuckled as well and indicated Marliss, seated on Brenna's other side. “She's just going to beat us all again, anyway.”

    Not if I have anything to say about it,” Fives grumbled.

    You may as well accept the inevitable,” Marliss said, shooting the ARC a knowing look. “Special training or're kriffing terrible at this game.”

    Am not.” Fives had the expression of someone trying to frown, but Rex could see that he was inwardly preening at the attention, and he sighed to himself. As if Fives – or any ARC trooper, for that matter – needed that kind of ego boost. When Fives spoke again, there was an accusatory tone to his words. “You're...using your wiles, making the rest of us forget ourselves.”

    Marliss arched her eyebrow. “My wiles?”

    Everyone looked at Fives, waiting for an explanation, and the ARC trooper suddenly seemed supremely uncomfortable as he shifted in his seat and fidgeted with his cards. “You know...your feminine charms. We clones are powerless against them.”

    Tup and Jesse snorted with laughter, Kix coughed into his hand, and Rex sighed as he shook his head. Marliss, however, was regarding Fives with an unnervingly unreadable expression. “You're something else, you know that?”

    Glad you noticed,” Fives replied, all traces of discomfort forgotten as he lifted his brow at the blonde woman. “I was beginning to think you found me annoying.”

    The sound of Brenna's voice made everyone turn; Rex felt her head lift from his shoulder as she spoke, and when he glanced her way, he saw that she had marks on her cheek from where she'd lain against the fabric of his shirt. “Who would ever think that, Fives?”

    I can't well imagine,” Rex added. The others burst into laughter and Fives gave an exaggerated roll of his eyes; as she rested her head back on his shoulder, Rex felt rather than heard Brenna's chuckle, which – as it turned out – was the thing that made his own smile broaden.


    A/N: Anyone catch the Firefly reference?

    A bit of flirting between Fives and Marliss – always fun. If you like them together, then you're in luck!

    Thank you so much for reading!

    Next time: Rex has a surprise for Bren! (Hint: it's not naughty, unfortunately.)
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Very intrigued by Kix's observations. Enjoyed the game and easy camaraderie. Brenna and Rex are so easy together. :) Mentioning Iri's father [face_thinking] I cannot imagine even if they cross paths that it would affect R/B ... Brenna and Tucker are history, at least on her end.
    laloga likes this.