Everything was hazy as Cody drifted in and out of consciousness, writhing. A shadow loomed over him and something wet dabbed at his forehead.
“Easy, ad’ika,” a voice murmured softly. “You’re okay.”
Cody didn’t feel okay. He felt like he was dying.
His skin felt too tight and he was cold yet sweating, or he was hot yet shivering; his stomach was rolling and cramping uncomfortably and he kept throwing up everything that his saviour attempted to feed him.
“Here, Kote,” the voice said reassuringly once more. Cody felt a straw against his dry lips and eagerly drank the blissfully cool liquid, which had a fruity tinge to it. “Good, ad’ika. We’ve got to keep you hydrated.”
Cody groaned as pain ripped through him and curled up, shivering and panting.
“I feel like I’m going to die,” he groaned, vision swimming. There was a sad chuckle and a hand ran through his sweaty hair.
“You’re not going to die, Kote,” the voice reassured him. “You’re just going through withdrawals, but you’ll be okay.”
Cody groaned once more as his vision swam and he drifted out of consciousness once more.
Rex winced as Healer Che gently poked at his sides, clicking her tongue.
“Well, your ribs are just about healed,” she sighed as she pulled away. “There’s just the deep bruising that’s still healing which is why you’re so tender.”
Rex nodded, fixing the shirt he was wearing to cover himself. Vokara smiled sadly at him, noticing the bags under his eyes.
“How are you sleeping, Rex?” she asked gently. Rex gave a small shrug, focusing on pulling a thread out from his shirt so he didn’t meet her gaze.
“Not so well,” he admitted finally. “It’s been hard.”
“Yeah, but also because Cody’s not there,” Rex mumbled. A gentle hand rested on his shoulder and steered him so he was sitting down on the edge of the bed.
“How is that affecting your sleep?” Vokara asked gently. “Is it because you’re worried about him or something else?”
“A bit of both,” Rex sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m used to sharing a bed with Cody now. Every morning for the last six months, I’ve woken up with Cody beside me…and every time I woke up from nightmares, he was right beside me.”
Vokara frowned at that as she sat down in the chair beside the bed, looking at Rex.
“You shared the same bed for six months?” she repeated.
“Almost six months,” Rex said quietly. “There were two weeks when we were separated as a punishment.”
Vokara nodded, frown deepening.
“What do you when you can’t sleep?” she questioned.
“Pace, I guess, I just get restless,” Rex answered, looking around the small consult room, at its soft pastel colours and the flowers in the corner; he just didn’t want to look at Master Che.
“What did you do as a hobby, Rex?” Vokara asked gently. “Before this - what did you do to unwind?”
“I used the gym a lot,” Rex said. “Went to the shooting range.”
“Was there anything you did that wasn’t so strenuous or violent?” Vokara continued. “Playing cards or darts or drawing even?”
Rex shook his head. “I occasionally played cards with the vode, but I was never any good at it. Cody’s the artist, not me.”
“Isn’t there anything?” Vokara pressed.
Rex hesitated for a moment, fidgeting with his sleeves. “When I was on Osiris,” he said slowly, carefully, “there was an Osirian named Darl who looked out for Cody and me.” Rex gave a small smile. “She’s also the one who kept us fed. She taught me how to bake…and I really enjoyed it.”
Vokara smiled at that. “That’s really good, Rex,” she praised. “I’ll order you some baking supplies for your apartment here.”
Rex’s eyes widened at that. “T-That isn’t necessary,” Rex stammered. “I-I don’t want to impose…the Jedi are already doing so much for me –,” Rex broke off as Vokara held up a blue hand.
“Rex, you are a good man,” she told him softly, yet firmly. “We want to help you and, truly, buying you some cooking materials isn’t a hassle. We want to see you recover from your experience and help anyway we can. It’s truly nothing at all.”
Rex gave a small nod, looking at his hands, which made Vokara frown once more.
“Rex, have you seen a Mind Healer yet?”
Rex gave a small snort at that. “Clones aren’t ones to talk about their feelings, Master Healer.”
“You went through a traumatic experience, Rex,” Vokara said, shocked. “Surely after the really horrible battles there’s someone you can talk to? Or if you’re feeling anxious?”
Rex shook his head. “We talk to the wrong people we get decommissioned,” he said bluntly. “Cody suffers from an anxiety disorder, but Obi-Wan is helping him with that; Kix has the shakes after the battle is done and the wounded are treated; Jesse won’t leave Kix’s side after a hard battle, while we can’t pry Hardcase away from the ranges. Fives get tense and Echo buries himself into his regulation manuals…and poor Tup has nightmares that has him screaming himself, and us, awake.”
Vokara just stared, horrified, as Rex listed all of this. Vokara shook her head firmly.
“Okay,” she said. “You are definitely seeing a Mind Healer. I know you think you don’t need it, that clones were bred to be tougher…but that isn’t true, Rex,” Vokara implored. “All of you are important and your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You’ve been through a traumatic ordeal and I do not want to see those memories and hurts be supressed and fester so much that it leads to you having a major breakdown or killing yourself.”
Rex just stared at her, golden eyes wide.
“I’m going to be talking to the Council about rotating Mind Healers throughout the different battalions, hopefully that will help some of your brothers, especially if we give them techniques to help them calm or release their emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt them.” Vokara looked to Rex once more, giving a small, soft smile. “We all need help, Rex, whether you’re a clone or a Jedi…it never hurts to talk.”
Rex looked at Vokara’s reassuring smile, at her caring eyes, and gave a small nod. He wanted to get better…for himself, for Fives.
“I’ll organise someone to talk to you,” Vokara reassured him. “I have just the Jedi in mind, you’ll like her. She grew up with Obi-Wan actually.”
Rex gave a small grin at that. “Do you think she’ll tell me stories from when he was a youngling?”
Vokara snickered at the hopeful tone. “She might.”
Rex nodded, rubbing his eyes tiredly and making Vokara frown.
“You have someone staying with you, don’t you?” she questioned.
“Yeah, my cyare, Fives, is staying with me,” Rex answered quietly. “Until he gets called into battle again.” Vokara winced at that.
“Well, just as long as you’re not alone,” Vokara sighed. “I’d rather you not be by yourself to deal with nightmares. When Fives goes back to the front, I want you to comm someone. Is there anyone in the Temple, well, more permanently, that you trust?”
“My ori’vod, my older brother,” Rex explained at Vokara’s confused look. “Ponds…he’s staying in the Temple for now as well,” Rex shrugged. “Apparently he pissed off the Chancellor?”
Vokara snorted at that, her lekku curling slightly. “Well good, that man deserves a good kick in the ass.”
Rex snorted at that, unable to stop the laughter that came from him. Vokara just smiled as she watched him laugh.
Echo glanced at Ponds once more, who nodded, before he grinned and sent off the data-file to several holo-news stations. He had been so angry when Ponds had come to him, telling him what the Chancellor had said, that he had jumped on the chance to show the Galaxy exactly what the Chancellor was really like.
It had taken him a few days to get into the surveillance of the Senate building, treading carefully as he looked through the system, finding the footage from the Chancellor’s office, and making sure he didn’t set off any alarms as he copied the footage from Pond’s and Windu’s meeting with the Chancellor.
Seeing it made Echo grit his teeth angrily and he was savagely pleased to do this. He even looked around further in the recordings, trying to find more instances of the Chancellor’s cold heart.
What he found made him frown though.
True, he had found more instances of the Chancellor being a dick and double-crossing people – which he saved for future use – but what was more concerning was the frequent blackouts in the recordings. The Chancellor would tell his secretary not to disturb him, press a button on his desk, and then the recording would cut out.
Echo was curious to know what the Chancellor was hiding.
“You’ve left no trail, right?” Ponds asked quietly, glancing up and looking around the Archives, making sure no one was nearby to hear them.
“None whatsoever,” Echo reassured him. “I’ve backtracked and laid false trails, but there’s no way they can find out who took the footage or who sent it to the news stations.”
“They won’t be able to see that you’ve sent it from the Jedi Archives?” Ponds asked again, just wanting the reaffirmation. He didn’t want to give the Chancellor another reason to attack the Jedi and following a trail back to the Archives, where the footage was sent from, would definitely be the worst thing.
“There’s no chance,” Echo reassured him. “I’ve used the Archive system to piggy-back into another network and laid false trails, but I’ve also erased all digital fingerprints of the Archives from the network I’ve piggy-backed on, so there’s no chance.”
Ponds nodded, taking in a breath as Echo grinned at him, offering him his datapad.
“Go on, Ponds,” he said with a grin. “You press it. Get the Chancellor back for threatening to recondition you.”
Ponds grinned at Echo, leaning forward and pressing the send button, a deep glee settling in his stomach as he knew the Chancellor was about to get his comeuppance.
Fives tiredly blinked open his eyes, lifting his head from the pillow when he realised what had woken him. Fives blearily reached out, hand touching the cold other side of the bed, confirming the fact that he was alone before he yawned, rolling over and sitting up. Fives rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he turned, placing is feet on the floor. He tiredly looked around the dark bedroom, sighing. He got to his feet and quietly walked from the bedroom and into the main apartment. Fives leaned against the doorway to the bedroom, looking over the apartment the Jedi had given Rex.
The sky was still a dark black outside, with hints of an inky blue towards the horizon, showing that the sun would be rising soon. The apartment was softly lit by dimmed white lights, which threw shadows across the dark blue couch and the wooden table and chairs next to the large window.
What really caught his attention was Rex in the kitchen of the apartment, wearing his sleep-pants and a grey tank top, as he bustled around, mixing this and adding that. Fives walked towards the kitchen, making sure that Rex would hear him coming, and settled by the bench to watch Rex as he placed a tray in the oven. Fives let his eyes drift over the cakes already baked and set aside to cool.
“How long have you been up?” Fives asked softly.
“A while,” Rex answered simply, turning to face Fives. Fives smiled at that flour smattered across Rex’s nose, where he obviously had rubbed.
“You’re going to make all the men fat,” Fives teased as he reached over to gently dust the flour off of Rex’s face. “You know Jesse had to break apart a fight over the last cookie that you baked? …Of course, Jesse ended up just grabbing the cookie and eating it himself.” Rex snorted at that.
“I was planning on giving most of it to the younglings,” Rex said with a small shrug, before gaining a devious smile. “Thought I’d let them loose on Yoda full of sugar.”
Fives burst out laughing at that, leaning against the bench. Rex smiled as Fives laughed before he turned to get the next batch of cookies out of the oven. Rex placed the tray down, letting it cool before he turned back to the bowl with the next batch of dough within it.
Arms wrapped around his waist and Rex froze before his body reacted, jerking away, elbow catching a jug and sending it flying to the floor, with blue milk going everywhere.
“Kriff, sorry!” Fives apologized sheepishly as Rex turned, heart racing and tensed. “Sorry, Rex, I…didn’t think.”
Rex gave a small shrug, turning away, trying not to let Fives see how much that one simple action had shaken him. Inwardly, Rex cursed Tris for making him so jumpy that his own boyfriend couldn’t even hug him. Fives crouched down on the floor next to him, holding a rag that he used to mop up the spilt milk.
“I’m sorry, Rex,” Fives murmured again. “I…forgot.”
“It’s fine,” Rex grunted, really not wanting to talk about it. Fives stood up, depositing the cloth in the sink, before he turned and look at Rex, who had also straightened by then.
“What woke you up?” Fives asked, watching as Rex turned back to his mixing bowl, picking out batter to roll into small balls.
“Nightmare,” Rex answered quietly.
“Want to talk about it?”
Rex just shook his head, breathing in deeply. He’d rather forget about that nightmare; forget that he had dreamed that Tris had survived and had found him, pinning him to the bed, helpless, as he took Rex, growling in his ear about how much he loved it, how Rex belonged to him and only him. Rex had looked to the side to see Fives’s golden eyes staring back blankly, blood pooling around his slit throat. Rex had screamed in his nightmare which had jolted him awake, shaking and sweating profusely.
He had looked to Fives, seeing Fives was still curled up, sleeping peacefully and snoring softly. Rex’s heart had slowed at that sight, but he still felt shaken and knew he wasn’t going to get back to sleep that night, so he had come to bake in order to clear his head.
“You’ve got an appointment with that Mind Healer today, right?” Fives’s voice asked gently, breaking him from his horrid thoughts. Rex nodded.
“Yeah, first appointment with them,” he sighed.
“Hey, it’ll be good,” Fives reassured him, reaching out to take Rex’s dough covered hand in his own. “It’ll help…and I don’t want this to destroy you, Rex, I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t,” Rex murmured. “I-I know it’ll help, but you know how it was on Kamino…the stigma of talking about mental health…” Rex trailed off.
“Yeah, I know,” Fives sighed, “but that’s going to change now, right? I don’t want to see any more brothers that we couldn’t save.”
Rex shuddered at the memories of all the younger brothers he had found with self-inflicted blaster wounds.
“You said Master Che seemed quite adamant about it,” Fives said before he grinned cheekily. “And you know how stubborn Healers and medics are.”
Rex snorted at that, knowing that far too well.
“Do you know who the Jedi is that you’re seeing? The one who grew up with Obi-Wan?”
“No, Master Che didn’t give a name,” Rex answered. Fives hummed thoughtfully, continuing to watch as Rex bustled around the kitchen and couldn’t help but smile at the sight of the calmness that came across Rex’s face as he mixed batter.
Palpatine gritted his teeth as he watched the news feed before turning the channel again and again.
It was all the same.
Chancellor doesn’t care!
Clones raped while Chancellor indifferent!
Has the Republic being blaming the wrong people for this war?
Jedi for the Republic and its people!
Will the Jedi leave the Senate’s control?
Chancellor threatens soldier with reconditioning for speaking up!
Clone soldiers suffering for Chancellor’s whims!
Outcry for clone rights!
Clones will defect Senate for Jedi!
Abuse of clones by Navy personal!
Protests for Jedi to take protection of clones from greedy Senate!
Palpatine snarled, lightning flickering from his fingers in anger. They kept replaying the footage over and over, showing his indifference to the clones and him threatening that annoying Commander as Windu stands in front of the clone to protect him.
There were protests now, arguments that he should lose his emergency power! Palpatine clenched his fists in anger, turning off the news feed, before sweeping to his feet and pacing his office.
He was furious!
He had had his best slicers to figure out who hacked his security feed, but they had come up empty handed. He had them killed after that.
He knew…he just knew that it had something to do with Windu’s Commander, but all enquiries to the barracks had led him to the clone being holed up in the Jedi Temple with no way for Palpatine to get him.
Though that had apparently been in place since after their meeting, days before the footage was released.
Palpatine snarled in anger and frustration, the Dark side pulsing around him, feeding off of his fury.
This could undermine everything!
The public were crowing for his removal and for the clones to be granted rights. Amidala and Organa had stepped up in their fight for clone rights, with Satine Kryze adding in her support. Skywalker was still avoiding him and he felt his grip on his future apprentice slipping.
The Dark Side was giving him no answers; the future remaining murky and unseeable, as though it was betraying him.
Palpatine grumbled under his breath as he sat back down, breathing in.
He would fix this, find a way to turn the tides back in his favour.
He always did.