"Gonna need a fresh coat of paint soon" Bly muttered distractedly, watching Aayla run her hands down his sides, tracing the familiar coloured markings of his unit, nails catching on the scratched up lines of colour tarnished from battle.
"Mm" she agreed, hands busy finding the little snicks and catches required to divest the Commander of the plastoid coverings. She had done this many times before, the experience had been desperate at first, a frantic woman scrabbling to find a heartbeat under hard plating. In that moment she had been neither General nor Jedi, merely conscious of the tears stark on her face and the unresponsiveness of the man she loved cradled in her arms. None of her men had commented, all but the medic studiously ignoring the pair. Since then it had become a post battle ritual. Bly would know immediately if Aalya was hurt, her own clothes making it near impossible to hide any injury, but that armour covered too much and though the force would tell her if he were in pain Aayla found herself in desperate need of the physical reassurance provided only by a thorough... inspection of her Commander.
Her thoughts wandered as she worked, pairing each piece of armour the way he had taught her to, with the understated and unconscious actions of a clone. Finally he stood in his quarters in just his blacks, his General's hands resting either side of his hips.
"You too" he murmured, wrapping a calloused hand around her left wrist. She smiled and turned, allowing him access to the knotted cords holding her worked leather shift in place. On her left forearm, covered by the single long sleeve was a thin piece of plastoid, painstakingly rendered in imitation of Bly's own gauntlets. It was more symbolic than anything– being thin enough to be fully concealed beneath the thick material of her clothing meant it was too thin to provide any protection, a matched set to the piece of tooled leather secured onto the underside of Bly's gauntlet. Their take on an old mandalorian custom.
Her hands snagged on his cod piece and he knew this time, like so many others, was not just about reassurance; or perhaps it was, he most intimate forms of reassurance that he was in perfect working order. Either way he wasn't complaining, if the brilliant Jedi General he loved felt the need to test his post battle stamina it was his duty to her, his choice, to perform.
When Bly woke, still tangled with his General on the berth, Aayla was already awake. He pressed a kiss to the base of a lekk.
"Your armour-" she began. He hummed low in his throat, sucking gently on the sensitive twi'leki organ, a wordless gesture for her to continue. She didn't know how. Aayla knew how important individuality was to a clone, the ritualisation that had developed surrounding the painting of one's armour, it was tied in with their very self, everything they were. She wasn't sure what exactly she was thinking but the idea of cradling Bly's soul, of filling in the pieces beginning to wear away- symptoms of his impossible duty, of showing him how much she appreciated the way he faced each day with stoic resolve, even if no one else did. He was so brave, just like all his brothers, he deserved so much more.
"You said it needed painting" another affirmative noise "would you– would you mind if I..." she trailed off, suddenly breathless. This was too much. She knew what this meant to the men under her command, to the thousands of individuals mass produced to die, to the beautiful souls told they were nothing from the moment they were decanted. She couldn't intrude here, it was too personal, too– "could I paint it for you?" She blurted, horror and shame flooding her once she realised she had done so. Just like the Kaminoans and the Senate, she had assumed what belonged to these men as her right, had treated them as if their culture was less, had–
Bly was tense beneath her but he wrapped the end of one lekk around his fist, nibbling lightly on the very tip. She shuddered, electric sensation shooting down her spine and lighting her furthest extremities.
"Yes” he whispered, burying a face into the junction between her shoulder and neck. Swiftly he turned them over, pinning her to the bed "but first–"
It was some time later that they finally separated, both sated and content. Bly remained on the bed as she stood and stretched her arms up over her head, grinning to himself as she darted a gaze back over her shoulder.
"I'm going to do a few katas, care to join me?" A satisfied smile playing over her lips.
"In a bit" he promised. He knew if he opened his eyes would find her naked as she say she was born (and she was born), quiet in Jedi meditation as her body performed the exercises. He loved watching her morning stretches, not just to watch her body, but to marvel at how self assured and strong she was, how amazed he was that a creature that magnificent cared about him and his brothers.
This morning however he was lost deep in thought.
It's not that the act was unheard of– he'd seen Waxer and Boil at it before, once, in both sexual and completely deviance free scenarios, each other's armour arrayed around them, balancing greaves on their knees; and rumour-turned-legend had it that Rex's jaig eyes could have only come from Cody's steady hand– but still, painting one's armour was intensely personal, it was all they had, and letting even another vod near it was no small feat. Bly breathed in deep, imagining his command's signature off yellow staining his General's hands, the contrast against her blue skin. He kissed her fingertips reverently, adoration colouring his gaze as he looked up at her through shuttered eyes.
Bly watched, transfixed, as Jedi General Aayla Secura worked on his armour, lips parted as she blew lightly on the paint, helping it dry; following his instructions to the letter, as a General took the time to do this– Bly fell in love with her all over again. The studious way she copied his markings exactly as they were, the look of absolute focus on her face– as if she were facing a droid squadron, as if this were life or death, as if she new she were holding his very soul in her paint spattered hands. He was enraptured by the little crease between her eyes as she squinted, her Force steadied hands, that she thought this was important enough to use the Force for, to make it perfect, she who was always lecturing General Skywalker about inappropriate uses of the Force. Bly fell in love with Aayla a hundred different times, in a hundred small ways. He fell in love with the care and attention to detail, making sure not a single piece remained that was not lovingly painted. And yeah, as expected he loved seeing his colours on her skin.
When the armour was dry, and they were cleaned up, both bodies paint free, Aayla got down on one knee before him. She reached out with his left gauntlet and fastened it to his forearm, the rest of his armour slowly following. It was not even a question that he trust her to do this. She was his General, but this was more than even that. He loved her and she loved him, even though they couldn't shout it to the world, to them, in their world, it was all encompassing. So they showed the world, and each other, in a thousand tiny ways, men turning a knowing blind eye, knowing Generals Koon, Kenobi and Skywalker at least would never dream of turning them over to the Council.
Aayla's mind wandered as she clipped the pieces of plastoid together, encasing her Commander in a clone's distinctive protective shell. This armour was the only thing between and an undesired death by blaster on the battlefield, something she absolutely refused to allow. The General took her time securing his freshly painted armour to his body, moving not with the perfunctory ingrained actions of a clone but the care of a lover, conscious, as they were each battle, that this could be the day one or both of them died and wanting to savour the experience. Bly didn't pretend to understand the Force, but he could trick himself into believing the Jedi before him, taking such pains to make sure he was properly protected, was imbuing his armour with the mythical properties of that mystical energy field. Her will made true. She wanted him protected, and so by her connection to the Force he would be. It was superstition, he knew, but he couldn't help but feel that General Secura taking the time to affix his armour was as close to a religious experience as he could get. This was why the men serving under her were so devoted to their twi'lek General, it was in the small details, acts she didn't know the importance of– asking a trooper how he fared, using the Force to ease their pain when she could, the way she would step in front of a blaster for any of them, lightsaber whirling, a shining beacon of hope for men raised to believe they were less than nothing, mere possessions of an unfair system, cogs in an uncaring machine cycling towards their death.
Armour secured they left his quarters, General Secura heading to the command centre and Bly to ready the troops. Wearing armour secured by someone else, by Aayla, by a Jedi General, felt different. To a clone, in which everything had been uniform from their incept date, the smallest difference meant wonders. His armour seemed to be more a part of himself than usual– it had been him that Aayla had spent hours caressing during the hyperspace trip, him that was in perfect working order. It seemed stronger too, a solid and impassible barrier, and he stood straighter as he marched with his men to deployment, eyes on the General in front of him, bucket hiding his face.
This planet, some previously unnamed hell off the Perlemian Trade Route, was uncomfortable, the heat and humidity stifling as he marched through the foliage searching for any sign of the Seps. It was times like these that a clone's mind wandered, giving rise to shameful thoughts– what am I doing here, why am I fighting, and seeing the carnage of battle, all the losses suffered, is it worth it. Bly only had to look at the bold lines on his armour, solid swathes of colour meticulously painted with a Jedi Master's attention to detail and he knew that he was Commander of the 327th, fighting side by side, together with Jedi General Aayla Secura, and that it was worth it. He couldn't help but feel the love Aayla bore him in his very soul, rejuvenation flooding his overexerted body, new energy filling him. He just had to keep going.