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Relinquishing Control

Chapter Text

Beep. Beep. Beep.

 

The slow drone of warning sirens blared in the cramped pod. Dried blood mixed with tears stuck hotly to your cheeks, as you blinked open your eyes and looked around slowly. The pod was coming apart, metal grinding and screeching under immense stress as the pod entered the upper atmosphere of a planet.

 

How did I get here? What happened? Suddenly you remembered. The escape. Your friends. You looked around desperately, feeling around in the dark for someone, anyone at this point, something to tell you you weren't alone. Your fingers brushed against cold flesh, and you looked closer to try and identify who you had brushed against. Aaron. You fumbled for a grip on your comrade. You tried to call out to him, but found your voice caught by the sirens blaring overhead. Shaking your friend, desperately trying to wake him, you looked closer, only to find a large piece of the pod had dislodged in his torso, tearing it open. His lifeless eyes stared ahead out the front of the pod.

 

Bile rose quickly in your throat. You shoved it back down alongside the feeling of dread beginning to coil in your stomach. Now is not the time to panic, I have to see if anyone else is alive, and fast. You couldn’t have more than a few minutes maximum until you crashed into the surface of whatever planet this was. Even if you were lucky to survive the crash, who knows what could be waiting for you on this planet, not to mention whether it’s even habitable. You crawled back as far as you could in the small space to where your two other companions lay. “Nia? Cato?” you rasped out. No reply. That can’t be good. Please, please don’t leave me alone, I can’t lose anyone else. Debris littered the area around them, blood splattered on several larger pieces. You clawed at their wrists, desperately trying to feel for a pulse. Nia had a sickeningly large gash running down the left side of her face, with an eyeball threatening to fall loose. Cato, on the other hand, looked almost peaceful, a stark contrast to their companion next to them. A sudden jolt to the pod shifted their body, revealing a massive hole in the back of their head.

 

Warning. Surface rapidly approaching. Reduce velocity immediately.

 

Tears pricked at the corner of your eyes and threatened to spill over. You swallowed the harsh lump in your throat and returned to your seat, strapped in, and braced yourself. The ground was rapidly becoming more and more visible through the fog. Fear pricked at your insides. There really was only one way you would be able to survive a crash like this, but you really, really , wished it didn’t have to come to this.

 

Your eyes closed, and you inhaled deeply, feeling a great surge well up inside you. Just before the pod slammed into the ground, you opened them again, a crimson haze enveloping your vision.

Chapter Text

8 months later.

Three clones, a young Togruta, and two Jedi Generals surrounded a holotable in the officer’s tent, speaking in hushed voices. The older of the Jedi raised his hand to his bearded chin, speaking with accented tones. “I understand your concern Anakin. However I would not have suggested this if I did not have full faith in the operation.”

Anakin scowled. “Fine. I guess I don’t have much of a say if the Council approved of it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.”

“Technically, you don’t have to like it. But you still have to go with it.”

The Togruta wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Since when do we need a merc’s help anyways? I don’t trust working with mercenaries.” The three clones next to her shifted on their feet, brows furrowed in thought. She wasn’t the only one with misgivings. One of the clones, dressed in yellow painted armor, spoke up. “General Kenobi, how did you even find this mercenary?”

The General chuckled before answering. “Izzy tried to kill me.”

Anakin’s scowl deepened, followed by a scoff. “Well, that’s comforting.”

The other two clones, dressed in blue, exchanged a glance. The blonde clone grumbled a little before speaking. “Jesse and I looked into this merc, and we can’t find virtually anything on them. In fact, we couldn’t find any evidence of his existence until a couple months ago. How do we know we can trust him?”

The last clone hummed. “Yeah, and besides, how is one guy supposed to fix all our problems? Shouldn’t we be getting more reinforcements instead of putting our faith in him?” he agreed. The company turned to General Kenobi, who opened his mouth to reply but was instead cut off by Anakin.

“Yeah Master, why is it that you can’t tell us anything on this merc, except that he’s on his way here?”

Just then, the flaps to the tent swished open, revealing a young woman in a black leather jumpsuit, knives holstered to her thighs. She surveyed the scene in front of her before flashing a mischievous smirk.

“Well, that would be because she prefers to leave some things to the imagination.”

~~~

You glanced around, and shoved down the anxiety that fluttered in your gut. Deep breath, you can trust Obi-Wan. Six pairs of eyes stared back at you, seemingly shocked at your sudden appearance. You strode forward and stopped in front of the table, shifting your weight onto your right foot and placed one hand on the back of your hip.

“I’m sorry, but who the hell are you?” A tall, young Jedi with dirty blonde hair and a scar along the right side of his face narrowed his eyes at you. He must be Anakin. You met his stare and extended your other hand. “Isabelle Greene, I’m the merc you hired. But, you can call me Izzy.” He rolled his eyes and scoffed, ignoring your gesture.

The blonde Captain to your left gaped slightly and turned back to Obi-Wan, confusion written across his face. “Sir, I thought we hired… well” he glanced back at you. “Someone else.”

“Oh I see, just because I’m a mercenary you hired for a suicide mission, you naturally assumed I would be a man?”

“No that’s not - “

The trooper to your right, a Republic cog tattoo emblazoned across his face, let out a small snicker. “Well, Izzy is a guy’s name.” His golden eyes fixed you with an intoxicating stare.

“Mmmm, is it though?”

“Absolutely.”

“That’s just objectively false.”

“Okay can we please get back to the issue at hand here?” Anakin huffed in exasperation. You rolled your eyes before glancing back at the clone and winked. The corner of his mouth turned up slightly in a small smirk.

“Right. Obi-Wan filled me in on the issue you have at hand here. Basically, you need someone to take out the droid battalion and cut a path for your forces to take the capitol?” The third clone dressed in yellow armor turned to you and raised an eyebrow. “That’s an oversimplified way to put it. Our two battalions have been stuck on the bridge for over a week and haven’t gained an inch. Every time we take out the droids on the front lines, the factory behind just spits out twice as many. We can’t get anywhere while it’s operating.”

You shifted on your feet, and hummed. “Okay, so I’ll go in and disable the factory after taking out the front lines. I assume the Republic would want it disabled rather than destroyed for ulterior purposes?” Obi-Wan broke his silence and replied, “actually, that would be helpful to have it disabled, rather than fully destroyed. We might be able to salvage any wreckage or information that could give us an advantage against the Separatists.”

You grinned. “Great. Okay, so here’s what’s gonna happen. I’ll clear you all a path to the capitol and disable the factory. I only have one request - ” Anakin cut you off, looking down at you with mistrust. “You are in no place to make demands to us merc .” He spit the title as if it dripped with venom.

You grit your teeth and fought against the anger sparking inside your chest. You took a slow, deep breath. Remember, they don’t know you. It’s only natural that they are wary. You looked at Obi-Wan, who nodded slowly before you turned back to Anakin and jutted your chin at him. “With respect, General Skywalker, this is not a demand for my own self-interest. Rather, it is for the safety of you, and every single man on that battlefield.” You paused for a moment, returning his stare defiantly. Anakin curled his lips and turned to the Togruta, whispering something you couldn’t hear. Ignoring him, you continued. “There is a barricade here, just behind the front lines. I will need your men to be stationed there, but they must remain out of any line of sight.”

The blonde clone cleared his throat before speaking. “How are we supposed to provide any backup or cover fire ma’am if we’re stationed behind the barricades?”

“You won’t be.”

What?” the three troopers, Anakin, and Togruta replied in unison.

You waved a hand dismissively. “I can handle it myself. And while I won’t be able to see you, you all should be able to watch the show perfectly from where you’ll be.” A proud smirk tugged at your lip.

“That’s suicide. You can’t take on that many droids alone.” the Togruta spoke up, looking at you in disbelief. Obi-Wan interjected.

“Actually Ahsoka, this should prove to be quite simple for her.” The clone in yellow looked at him incredulously. “Sir, you can’t actually expect one woman to do what two battalions couldn’t.” Obi-Wan chuckled and shook his head. “Cody, have faith. It’s no coincidence that she is here with us. I think all of us will be pleasantly surprised with Miss Greene’s performance.”

You couldn’t help but smile at Obi-Wan’s words. The anxiety faded slowly. At least someone believed in you. The clones surrounding the table grumbled, agreeing reluctantly. Ahsoka looked back at you, curiosity rather than animosity in her gaze remaining, while Anakin didn’t even try to hide his distaste. 

“Do I have your word that your men will remain out of sight at all times until I say so?”

Anakin glared at you for a moment longer before mumbling in agreement under his breath. Obi-Wan nodded solemnly. You flashed another smile at them before turning back to Obi-Wan. “Great. I’ll see you out there boys.” You grabbed a comm, offered a smile at Ahsoka and a sly glance at the clones before turning to leave. The clone with the Republic cog spoke up again, stopping you. “It was very... interesting meeting you.” he said with a smirk. You turned towards him and continued backing towards the exit. “What can I say, my Daddy always said you only get one chance at a first impression.” Then, you turned and flipped the tent flaps outwards, and strode out of the room.

The blonde Captain turned back to the others, his brow furrowed. “Well, she’s certainly…” “Dramatic?” Jesse finished his sentence for him. Obi-Wan chuckled. 

“Yes Rex, Isabelle does have a tendency to show off, especially when she’s nervous.” A thoughtful twinkle appeared in his eyes. “I expect we’re in for a show.”

Anakin huffed. “ Bratty is more like it. This had better work. If not, I’m not even going to blame the Council, I’ll just blame you Obi-Wan.” Ahsoka rolled her eyes at her Master. “Master, have a little faith. I have a good feeling about this.”

Cody exchanged a glance with Rex. “Well, whatever happens, it can’t be any worse than what we’ve already tried.”

Jesse snickered. “That’s the spirit.”

 

Chapter Text

You strode around camp, nodding and smiling at the troopers that milled about. You mused to yourself, looking at the familiar faces, each with their own personal flair. Hmm, so these are the clones. You hadn’t much prior experience with the clones before coming here, but you had heard a lot about the soldiers from around the galaxy. Mostly rumors, some good, some bordering on callous. You ered on the better side of the rumors, from the looks of it, each clone was their own man. Sure they all had the same face, but each one had their own unique personality and soul. You hummed to yourself. The troopers all seem friendly, for the most part at least. I wonder if I’ll end up making any friends here. God knows I need some more. You thought back to the clones in the tent, and the glances exchanged with them. You couldn’t help but smile. Perhaps you could get to know them a bit more throughout this campaign. Well, that is if Anakin doesn’t ship my ass out first thing after this battle.

 

A nearby crash broke you out of your thoughts. Two mechanics argued over a broken speeder. You jogged over in time to see one of the mechanics chase the other off with a wrench. Hmm. Well, that’s gotta qualify for some kind of workplace harassment. You looked down at your feet, and saw a semi-large object, with several knobs on its face. After closer inspection, you smiled to yourself. Looks like this could operate as a speaker. I wonder… You fiddled with the speaker a little.

 

“You know, it is good to see you again, without a knife at my throat.”

 

You chuckled before turning around. Obi-Wan strode towards you, a mischievous grin on his face. “Hey now, remind me, who tried to sneak up on who?”

 

“You got me there.” he replied, his eyes crinkling. He nodded towards the speaker in your hands. “New project I see?”

 

You huffed a small laugh. “Yeah, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me control things.” Obi-Wan shot you a quizzical look. “Music,” you continued, “I’ve always loved music, but it seems to help me concentrate on what’s real and what’s not. Plus, it does make for a dramatic entrance.”

 

Obi-Wan chuckled. “Well now, I’m not quite sure I understand your meaning. You’ve never had a flair for the dramatic.” he said with a sly smile.

 

You rolled your eyes and gently shoved Obi-Wan. “What can I say? I’m a bit of a performer, always have been.” Obi-Wan shook his head, and descended into a comfortable silence. Briefly, the mirth in his gentle gaze faded. “I know you can do this. You’ve been telling me how you’ve been getting better, and I’m anxious to see it in action again.”

 

You lowered your gaze and turned back to the speaker. “Yeah well… let’s just hope they stay where I can’t see them.” Obi-Wan laid a hand on your shoulder and gave you a reassuring smile. “Come along, it’s time to go.”

 

Your smirk returned. “You go on ahead, I’ll need some time to set things up for my arrival.” Obi-Wan laughed and shook his head before turning and heading towards the battlefield.

 

Hmm let’s see, just a few more tweaks and then… ah! The speaker chirped audibly. You pulled out your music player, one of the few things you had been able to salvage from your departure from your home planet. Sure, Earth was in a completely different galaxy, but with the superior technological advancements in this galaxy, you had been surprised to see that you could transfer music onto a similar device like your old phone. That, and for some reason your downloaded songs transferred pretty cleanly over onto the player. Nice to see that the Cloud works galaxies over. Still not sure how that works but I’m not about to complain. You paired up the player to the speaker and cranked the volume up to maximum. Several troopers looked over curiously as you scrolled through your playlists, finally settling on one and playing an old song you used to love, Arabella.

 

~~~

 

Back on the bridge, the 212 th and 501 st gathered behind the barricades on the front lines. Rex, Jesse, Cody, Ahsoka, and Anakin huddled behind several crates and peered out at the landscape in front of them. Obi-Wan joined them several moments later.

 

Jesse scanned the field briefly. His frown was evident in the way he spoke. “Sir, we got droids approaching. A lot of them by the looks of it.”

 

“How much time do we have?” Rex turned to face Jesse.

 

“Minutes, if we’re lucky.”

 

Anakin shot a glance at Obi-Wan. “Where’s the merc? Shouldn’t she have been here by now?” Obi-Wan replied calmly. “She’ll be here. I expect she won’t appear how we might suspect her to.”

 

Ahsoka looked confused. “What does that mea - “ she was cut off by the sound of music echoing across the battlefield. The men looked around at each other, confused. Anakin rubbed a gloved hand over his face. “Is that music?” he hissed. Obi-Wan shrugged.

 

“She said it helps her concentrate.”

 

Concentrate?! She’d better concentrate on doing the job we paid her for or she’ll have a whole lot more to worry about than - “

 

The music changed to a more angst-filled vibe. Anakin was interrupted by the buzzing sound of his comm. “ Alright boys. Contact in about … one minute and twenty-two seconds.” Anakin stared incredulously at Obi-Wan.

 

“Is she seriously timing her entry to the music?!”

 

A couple of the clones laughed. Cody took a deep breath and looked at Obi-Wan, who only nodded in response. The droids were visible now. Long lines of battle droids slowly marched forward towards the battalions’ hiding spot. There wasn’t much time left.

 

Rex shifted and growled into his comm. “Isabelle, where are you?”

 

Look up.

 

The six of them all looked up just as you flipped off of a ledge high above their heads. Ahsoka drew a sharp breath. “What is she doing?”

 

~~~

 

High above the battlefield, you looked down onto the impending scene, ensuring that all you could see were the lines of battle droids approaching the barricades. You took a deep breath, closed your eyes, and focused. You can do this. Remember what Obi-Wan said. With another deep inhale, you felt the power surge within you once again. When you opened them again, the red mist fogged your vision once more. You looked down, acquired your targets, and smirked. This’ll be fun.

 

Just as the music was reaching its peak, you leapt off the ledge. You came crashing down to a knee, demolishing several rows of droids in the process. The droids turned towards you, confused at your sudden appearance.

 

“Who is that? Is she a Jedi?”

 

“I don’t think so, I’ve never seen a Jedi do that before.”

 

Their metallic voices rang through the field, before they turned their blasters on you. In turn, you took a deep breath and let a malicious smile creep onto your face. Out of your hands materialized great, onyx battleaxes tinged with pulsing crimson hues. You advanced.


“Open fire!” The lieutenant battle droid ordered before retreating back into its tank. Blaster fire rang out across the battlefield.

 

~~~

 

“She won’t make that jump!”

 

Ahsoka sounded panicked. She made a move to leave the safety of the barricade. Obi-Wan stopped her. “Wait!”

 

Before Ahsoka could respond, you came crashing to the ground on a single knee. Entire rows of droids were demolished, and for a moment, it was as if time stopped. The Jedi and soldiers watched, mouths agape, as you rose slowly to your feet, eyes misting with a crimson haze, and a cruel smile on your face. While they could see you and the field in whole, you still couldn’t see them. Battle droids behind you argue amongst themselves.

 

“Who is that? Is she a Jedi?”

 

“I don’t think so, I’ve never seen a Jedi do that before.”

 

While they quarrelled, massive battleaxes materialized in your hands. You turned and swung them over your shoulders before advancing on the droids.

 

“Open fire!”

 

“We’ve got to do something, there’s no way she can take on that many at once!” Jesse looked like he was about ready to jump out of hiding. He hated this. He never was one to hide, especially not when someone was about to sacrifice themselves on a suicide mission like this. Even if he had just met you, he wasn’t willing to sit back and just let you die.

 

Obi-Wan fixed him with a stern stare. “Just watch. We cannot leave our cover. Trust me.” Anakin opened his mouth to retort, when blaster fire filled the air. The clones scrambled to get a better look, expecting to see you crumpling to the ground, littered with blaster holes. Instead, what they saw left them speechless.

 

Hundreds of blaster bolts focused on your advancing form, but somehow, you were completely unscathed. You kept advancing, cutting down the droids effortlessly with the battleaxes. Within seconds, you had moved to the next line of droids. The twin tanks began firing on your position, but to no avail. You reached back and launched your battleaxes into the tanks’ hulls, disabling them for a short time. Vulture droids dove from the sky in an aerial assault. Wordlessly, an onyx bow and quiver materialized in your hands. You notched several arrows, and swiftly brought the droids screaming to the ground. You notched two more arrows, and whispered something breathlessly into your fingers as you took aim at the twin tanks. You released, and the arrows lodged themselves in the tanks, exploding seconds later. One battle droid swung and struck you with the hilt of its blaster. Your head swiveled with the force of the blow, but quickly recovered, grabbing the droid’s head in your hand, and crushed it.

 

Anakin spun on Obi-Wan. “What the hell is happening? Who is she - what is she?” The rest of the men and Ahsoka looked at Obi-Wan, awaiting his answer. He looked down, briefly, before returning Anakin’s gaze and replying “That is not for me to tell you.”

 

Rex and Cody shared a look before turning back to the battlefield. Suspicion coiled in Rex’s gut. He hoped that General Kenobi was right, and that you could be trusted not to turn against them. Cody seemed to be thinking much of the same, and grumbled something under his breath. Jesse looked appalled, even with his bucket on. “I am both terrified and bric - “ Rex interrupted him before he could finish. “JESSE do I have to remind you that you are in the company of your superiors?” Jesse muttered an apology under his breath and turned back to the battlefield, where you had made quick work of the droids and were making your way into the factory.

 

The music continued to play overhead.

 

~~~

 

Inside the factory, security droids began scrambling in a vain attempt of defense. Pathetic. Weak. They deserve no mercy. Only the strong should be respected. Deep down, you protested weakly. But the bloodlust overpowered your conscience, and you continued your onslaught against the factory. As you rounded a corner, you heard the comm on your wrist buzz. “ Isabelle, remember, we need the factory disabled, not destroyed.” You froze briefly. The voice in the back of your head pushed its way to the front of your mind. Control. Breathe. You took a deep breath and blocked out the ringing in your ears, and pushed to hear the music in the background. Remember what you came here to do. You located the central system of the factory, and began working on shutting it down. Every now and then, a security droid would round the corner, firing a barrage of blaster fire, only to be pinned to the wall behind the terminal, impaled by a massive onyx spike.

 

After a few minutes, the factory ceased production and output. Satisfied, you ran back to the exit with a proud smirk resting across your features. I did it. I controlled it.

 

As you walked outside, you prepared to send the haze crawling back to the darkness, when you stopped. A lone shape appeared from behind several crates and jogged towards you. No… NO! Your conscience screamed at you for control, but the bloodlust immediately surged forward.

 

~~~

 

The factory was disabled. The clones looked at each other, speechless. “Well I’ll be damned,” Rex said softly, “she did it.”

 

Anakin huffed and hauled himself out of his crouched position. “Well, let’s go hail the conquering hero shall we?” Obi-Wan’s eyes flashed in alarm. “Anakin, wait don’t -! “ But before he could finish, Anakin had already sauntered out into the open, jogging towards where you had just appeared from the mouth of the factory. Several of the clones and Ahsoka moved to leave their hiding spot, but Obi-Wan scrambled in front of them, a look of urgency and panic on his face that they had never quite seen before. “NO, STOP!” He glanced over his shoulder just in time to see you cock your head to the side quizzically, the crimson mist still enveloping your features, before unleashing a torrent of onyx spikes towards Anakin, who had stumbled backwards. He had barely had enough time to stop them with the Force.

 

The clones all made to jump out of their hiding spot and come to their General’s defense. Obi-Wan turned back and ordered “STAND DOWN, ALL OF YOU,” before shouting into his comm. You had surged forward and pressed Anakin onto the ground, daggers lined at his throat.

 

Isabelle! CONTROL. IT.

 

You stopped, briefly, and staggered backwards, gripping your head and groaning. Anakin took your momentary lapse to scramble to his feet and draw his lightsaber, preparing himself for another attack. But when he looked at you again, you blinked back at him dazedly, the crimson mist no longer swirling around your eyes. In fact, you looked almost confused, as if you didn’t know where you were or what had happened. Then, a look of realization washed completely over you.

 

Anakin marched right up to you and put his saber to your throat and snarled. “Care to explain yourself?”

Chapter Text

“Care to explain yourself?”

Well shit. There goes any chance you have at making friends. Nicely done.

You stared back at Anakin calmly, and took a deep, staggering breath. “If you put the lightsaber down, we can have a conversation about this.” Anakin scoffed. “A conversation? You just attacked me! Are you really that dense to think that I’m just supposed to trust you after that?”

Anger bubbled in your chest. Your lips curled and your eyes flashed. “Listen here Skywalker. I gave you one job. Just the one! I told you that you needed to stay hidden until I gave you the all clear, for your safety. You’re the one who - “

“That’s quite enough. Anakin, put down your lightsaber.”

Obi-Wan had approached from behind the barricade, along with a few of the clones and Ahsoka. Anakin glared at his former master. “You can’t seriously expect me to - “

“I said, put it down.”

Anakin begrudgingly sheathed his lightsaber and placed it back on his belt. Crossing his arms, he turned to you. “Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Explain yourself! What was that? Who are you?” Anakin’s eyes swept over you in suspicion, and, looking around, you saw that most of the troopers held you in a similar ire, holding their hands over their blasters.

You sighed, and turned back to address Anakin. “Listen, I will tell you everything, just… not here. There’s too many potential eyes and ears.” Anakin took a few steps towards you until he towered over you. “Tell. Us. Now.”

Unbelievable. He obviously wouldn’t let it go unless you gave him something. You sighed, “It’s a mutation.”

Anakin looked taken aback for a moment. Several of the clones turned to look at each other and mumbled in hushed tones.

“What do you mean by mutation?”

“I’ll explain it more in depth later, but the reason I attacked you was because when it’s activated, it is almost impossible to stop. Everything, everyone I see becomes an enemy. It’s… it’s kind of like a bloodlust.” You looked at your feet. “I attacked you because I couldn’t distinguish you from the enemy. The only reason I didn’t kill you is because Obi-Wan commed me, and the music. It - it helps me focus, I guess.”

Anakin stepped back from you a little, and looked at you with morbid fascination, as if you were a time bomb, ready to blow. You grimaced.

“Look, the route to the capitol is clear. You’re all free to go ahead and finish the mission. When you’re ready, I’ll be back at camp and I’ll explain everything.” You made to go back towards camp, the clones stepping out of your path and avoiding your eyes.

Jesse watched you leave, conflicted. The person that walked away from the field was a stark contrast to the one that he had met in the officer’s tent mere hours before. Your eyes flickered rapidly, never focusing on a single person or object, and your posture seemed more dejected, defeated. What they had seen was astonishing, brutal even, and when you had turned on General Skywalker, any and all trust that had been formed had vanished. The scene around them was… violent. Raw, unapologetic, war. But, if what you had said was true, it didn’t seem like you really had much control over your actions. That was dangerous, but for some reason, as he mulled over his thoughts, Jesse felt… empathetic ? If there was one thing the clones could relate to, it was the feeling of being a slave to something bigger than you. He frowned and turned to Rex.

“Captain, should we proceed in taking the capitol?”

Rex nodded and turned to the rest of the company. “With me!”

Ahsoka took one last glance at your retreating form, and shot the other two Jedi a look before following the men to the capitol. Anakin was staring at his former Master, disgruntled. “Why didn’t you tell us what she was capable of?”

Obi-Wan sighed before pinching the bridge of his nose. “It wasn’t for me to tell. You’ll understand when we speak with her.”

Anakin merely grunted in response, and turned to follow the company. Obi-Wan sighed again. He knew you would be hard on yourself for this. All of the control you had exhibited would be overshadowed by the shame and blame you would place on yourself for one slip-up. He looked back briefly to watch you disappear behind the barricade before following after his former Padawan.

~~~

Back at the camp, you sat at a table in the officer’s tent, resting your head on your forearm and fiddling with the speaker. A softer, melancholy tune emitted from it, wrapping you in its embrace. You closed your eyes and silently cursed yourself. Why can’t you do anything right? Everytime I think I have it under control, I have to go and mess everything up. No wonder you’re alone. Screw-up. Screw-up. Screw-up. You groan and smack your forehead against the table to try and rid the intrusive thoughts from your mind, words tumbling out of your mouth followed by a smack.

“Worthless. Useless. Fuck. Up. Why. Can’t. You. Do. Anything. Right.”

“Well I wouldn’t go that far.”

You raised your head in surprise, as two of the clones from before, the blonde Captain, and tattooed ARC Trooper entered the tent. You groaned and smacked your forehead back onto the table.

“Coming from two men who didn’t just attack the one person looking for any excuse to eject them into space.”

You heard a chuckle as footsteps approached the table, followed by the sound of chairs moving opposite you. You snuck a peek at the men in front of you, and found two pairs of caramel eyes looking back at you. You turned off the music. The ARC Trooper cleared his throat before speaking again.

“You know, we didn’t get a chance to properly introduce ourselves. I’m Jesse.” He held out his hand for you to shake. You eyed him for a moment, and took it before turning to the Captain. He hesitated, glancing at Jesse and looked like he would rather be anywhere but here, before continuing curtly, “I’m Rex,” and extended his hand. You offered him a small smile and shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you both, officially.” Jesse grinned, and opened his mouth to say something else, until the flaps at the opening of the tent fluttered, where Cody, the Generals, and Ahsoka had entered.

Rex and Jesse immediately stood, but you remained seated, and averted your eyes. Anakin strode over to stand beside you, arms crossed, and spat, “I believe you owe us an explanation.”

You winced, before sighing, “You’d better sit down. It’s a bit of a long story.”

The Jedi exchanged a glance, while Cody went to sit next to his brothers. Ahsoka took a seat next to you, while Rex and Jesse sat back down in their chairs. Obi-Wan moved to find seating, and Anakin followed begrudgingly.

You took a deep breath and closed your eyes for a moment before starting. “So, I’m not exactly from here.” Anakin scoffed. “Uh, yeah I think it’s safe to assume that.”

You shot him a glare and rolled your eyes before continuing. “I wasn’t always like this. My home planet isn’t from this galaxy. It’s from another, lightyears away from here, known as the Milky Way galaxy. It’s called Earth.” You paused and shot a look at those listening around you. “On Earth we really only had one… species, I suppose. Just humans. But, we had so many varying cultures, faiths, and races that we were as equally diverse as some of the planets here in this galaxy.” You frowned and fixed your gaze on the table. “That’s what killed us.”

You heard someone shift beside you. “You see, my whole life growing up was pretty tumultuous. The world was in a constant state of turmoil, until it finally snapped one day. We hated each other, really. Countries were at each other’s throats, or in civil unrest, or both. It got so normalized that we eventually just started to go on about our lives, not caring if we would be blown to bits any given day because one of the world leaders started a pissing match with another country.” You chuckled. “It’s all really quite ridiculous now, looking back on it. So much suffering could have been avoided if only people weren’t so greedy.” Jesse coughed. Ahsoka leaned forward onto the table. You swallowed before continuing.

“About eight months ago, I was studying at college. My university had a power plant and an airfield, so was strategically probably a decent target, in hindsight. I woke up one morning, and left my apartment for class, just like any other day.” You clenched your jaw and paused for a moment. “I remember being in class when we got the notification. That’s how everything started, a message telling us we had about ten to fifteen minutes left to live.” You snuck another glance around the table. Ahsoka looked horrified, Rex, Cody, and Jesse each shared a look and flexed a muscle in their jaws. Obi-Wan had brought his hand to his chin again, and Anakin was watching you intently with narrowed eyes. You continued, “that’s the funny thing about nuclear launch warnings, it’s not to evacuate anyone or try and save them, it’s only to tell them they’re going to die.” Your eyes wandered back to the table in front of you. “People started running and screaming. Some sat in shock, others called their loved ones, others started praying. I left my things and started to run home.”

You swallowed the lump that was slowly appearing in your throat. You hadn’t spoken about this day in months. “It was chaos outside. Air raid sirens started going off, people were running, screaming, trampling anyone who fell. I just kept running for my apartment. I had a roommate, a friend. She was younger than me, much younger. I just kept running to get back and warn her.” You took a shuddering breath. Your eyes started to burn. 

“By the time I got back, we had maybe five minutes left. Ten if we were lucky. I - I remember practically breaking down her door and grabbing her, yanking her out of the apartment. I kept telling her that if we could just get to the river, that we’d be okay. She was - she was out of it. Wasn’t thinking straight. I knew that the river couldn’t protect us from a nuke, obviously, but I wasn’t about to tell her that. I had to try something. I wasn’t just going to sit back and die without a fight.” You scowled at the tears pricking your eyes, threatening to spill over. You blinked them back and continued, “we had almost made it to the river when everything… froze. Allie stopped and was staring at the sky, along with others around us. I turned around and tried to get her to follow but then… I looked up and - and we could see it. In the sky. I pulled Allie forward and kept running to the river. We reached the riverbank when it hit.” Your lip wobbled and your voice shook. “I kept telling her not to look. I told her not to look at the cloud, that it would blind her but - but she d-didn’t listen.” Your features crumpled at your next words and you couldn’t help as a small sob escaped your lips.

“She pushed me into the river just as the blast caught up to us.” Ahsoka sucked in a breath. “I - I don’t really know what happened then. I really hope she didn’t feel any pain. I hope it was quick, but…” Your voice faltered. When you brought your gaze back up, six pairs of eyes were trained on you. A tear rolled off the tip of your nose and splattered on the table. “I know it wasn’t quick. I know it was agonizing. I know she and all of my friends, all of the people I loved suffered an excruciating death. And I know that because I - I felt it. I don't really know how to explain it. It felt like all of my skin was being stripped off of my bones. It was searing, and, well, absolute hell. The worst pain I had ever physically felt. But then…” 

You frowned, furrowing your brows together. “I don’t know what happened. It felt like time reversed for a moment. Like everything that had been blown off of my body came rushing back. The next time I opened my eyes, everything was gone, completely annihilated. But I felt different. That’s the first time I learned about my mutation.”

You sniffed and continued, voice stronger now. “It’s what I affectionately call my War Mutation.” Your voice had an edge to it. “I can completely control when I turn it on, but once it’s activated it’s…” you frowned, “hard to control, to say the least.” You shot a look at Anakin, who scowled. “It’s more of a bloodlust, if anything. Gives me the ability to conjure any weapon, and grants me invulnerability as well as enhanced battle strategy. I’m also well versed in all forms of warfare, including manipulation tactics, subtlety, thievery, basically anything you can think of related to militaristic strategy. Only issue is, obviously, it’s nearly impossible for me to turn it off, or distinguish who the real enemy is. Although,” you added with a glance at Obi-Wan, “it’s been getting easier to control.”

No one spoke for several long, agonizing moments. Eventually, Anakin broke the silence.

“So… you’re basically immortal?”

You rolled your eyes. “No, not immortal.” You grabbed a knife from your thigh holster, and pricked your finger. A small bead of blood shone through. “Just invulnerable while it’s activated. I still age and can be injured, or killed, if it’s not activated.”

Ahsoka hummed from beside you. “Well… it doesn’t seem like it’s all that bad of a thing.” Your head snapped over to her so quickly you could’ve sworn you heard your neck pop. You fixed her with a disbelieving stare.

What?

More silence. Ahsoka stammered before continuing. “Well I - I mean all you have to do is figure out how to control it, then you can use it for good right? If you wanted, you could fight for the Republic, instead of being a mercenary.”

She’s young. She doesn’t understand. Don’t do it, don’t do - Your hands slammed onto the table and you stood up so fast your chair clattered behind you, causing several of the company to jump. Your chest heaved, seething with barely contained rage. You spat your next words, practically shouting at this point. “This is not a gift. This - this is a curse. Did you see what I did out there?!” You gestured wildly out towards the direction of the battlefield, before jabbing a finger into your own chest. “That was sheer, unrestrained brutality. Savagery.” Obi-Wan made a move to place his hand on your shoulder, but you shook him off and lowered yourself until you were inches away from Ahsoka, your eyes level with hers. 

“Don’t you get it?! It doesn’t matter if those were droids, I would’ve done the same if they were living, breathing, creatures. I am not a messiah. I am not a savior. The person in front of you is an Angel of Death. The Grim Reaper. Demon. Monster. Aberration. I don’t deserve to be alive. I was saved for one purpose, to destroy.”

Ahsoka gaped at you, but you didn’t give her time to answer. With your last words, you strode from the tent.

Ahsoka met Anakin’s gaze and stammered. “I-I’m s-so sorry, I really didn’t think it would set her off like that.” Anakin softened. “It’s alright Snips. Looks like she just might need a minute.”

Obi-Wan looked at the others and sighed. “She doesn’t like talking about it because she is terrified that one day she’s going to wake up and someone will be there to use her for her power. She’s terrified that she’ll be used as a weapon. Yes, she’s a mercenary, but she only takes jobs that she deems morally sound. That’s why I didn’t tell you about her mutation prior.” He shot a sympathetic glance at Ahsoka before following you.

The three clones still hadn’t said a word. Cody and Rex stared at where you had left the tent in shock, while Jesse placed his elbows on the table and rubbed his face in his hands. He drew out a long sigh.

“What the hell just happened?”

Chapter Text

You shouldn’t have done that. She was just trying to help. God, why do you always have to be such a bitch? You kicked a stone down the cliffside, watching it tumble to the bottom. You had found a quiet spot, away from camp to brood over your feelings. You could practically hear your friend Nia’s teasing voice in your head. Think on your sins. You let out a small huff of laughter before burying your face in your arms, holding your knees close to your head.

A hand on your shoulder caused you to stiffen. “I’m not sure I’ll be the best company right about now.” Obi-Wan squeezed your shoulder before sitting down next to you. “I don’t believe you have a choice, my dear.”

You snorted and shot Obi-Wan a wry smile. The two of you fell into a comfortable silence for a while, watching the sunset and the moons begin to rise.

“I shouldn’t have snapped like that at Ahsoka. I know she was only trying to help.”

Obi-Wan fixed you with a gentle stare. “Well, you wouldn’t be the first. Anakin seems to be more moody than even you lately.” he said with a grin. “You can apologize to her later. For now, it seems like there’s someone else who deserves an apology first.”

“I know what you’re going to say. I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

“Forgiveness is the first step in letting go.”

“Well, maybe I don’t want to let go.”

Obi-Wan hesitated. You looked back at him and continued, “If I let go, what’s separating me from being a soulless monster and, well, me?”

Obi-Wan stared at you for a while longer before taking a breath. He leaned in and held out his hands. “Do you trust me?”

You looked at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“There’s something you need to see.”

You knew Obi-Wan was a Jedi. Granted, you had absolutely really no idea what any of that actually meant, just that he could wield the Force as well as look into people’s minds and… signatures, you think he called it. And he was uh… wise? Wiser than normal? You hesitated, but eventually placed your hands in his, and relaxed, closing your eyes and allowing him to reach out to your mind.

You spiraled, squirming in darkness. It was suffocating, crushing into you with every passing second. You couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t think really. What’s happening? Where am I? What is this place? Suddenly you felt another presence, warm and comforting. Obi-Wan. He reached out to you, enveloping you in warmth. This is the mutation. Look closer. You looked around, trying to focus on anything in the darkness. Then, you saw it. A tiny orb of light, pulsing in the distance. You reached out, trying to grab onto it.

What is that? It seemed the more you tried to grab onto it, the further it became. Obi-Wan reached out again. You need to forgive yourself. Instant guilt pricked at you, and the light dimmed even further. You felt as if a boulder were sitting on your chest, crushing you. You are not a monster. You are a human being. This was given to you for a reason. Obi-Wan’s words sparked a tiny feeling of hope in your chest. The orb brightened a little. You sucked in a breath, and whispered “It wasn’t my fault.” The orb grew. You felt as if a small piece of the boulder was chipped away. With another shaky breath, you continued until the boulder was gone and the darkness evaporated, replaced by the orb.

“I am not a monster.”

“I did not choose to be this.”

“What I have become is not bad.”

“I am still me.”

“I am still learning.”

“I forgive myself.”

“I forgive you.”

“I forgive you.”

“I forgive you.”

The orb radiated light and warmth, and beckoned you to it. What is it? Obi-Wan’s presence appeared again. It’s your soul, your aura. This is who you are, not the mutation. Even with it, you are still you. You felt Obi-Wan withdrawing from your mind and when you opened your eyes, your face was wet with tears. Obi-Wan squeezed your hands gently and smiled.

“Forgiveness is the first step in letting go, and the key to moving forward.”

You let out a short laugh, and wrapped him in an embrace. “Thank you, Obi-Wan. You’ve always believed in me. I won’t let you down, I promise.” He squeezed you back in response. “I know you won’t.”

~~~

Back in her tent, Ahsoka tried, and failed, to meditate. She let out a disgruntled huff and crossed her arms. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she had said in the officer’s tent. Looking back on it, she can see how it could have upset you. The tent flaps fluttered slightly, and parted as you pushed your way into the tent. Ahsoka stood and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, you spoke.

“I’m sorry.”

Ahsoka looked confused at first, then replied, “I’m sorry too.”

“It wasn’t fair of me to snap at you like that. I know you were just trying to help.”

“I should’ve considered the implications of my words before speaking, I really didn’t mean to upset you or disrespect you.”

You stood there for a moment, before crossing the tent to pull her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around you after a moment. You pulled back, and smiled.

“I’ll forgive you if you forgive me.”

Ahsoka grinned. “Deal.”

You smirked. “You know, I’ve been thinking about what you said, and… if I can get this under control, and if Anakin won’t kill me first, I might just enlist for the Republic.”

Ahsoka’s eyes widened momentarily and she beamed at you. “Really? That would be great! Maybe we could get you to work with the 501 st , so you could be with Anakin and I! It’d be really nice to have another girl around, and just between you and me, I think the boys like you already.”

You let out a laugh at that. “Oh, I don’t know about that. I think half of them wish I never showed up and the other half wish I would just leave already.”

“Nah, they’re just curious. Plus I think Jesse’s intrigued by you.”

“Well, there are worse things, aren’t there.”

She laughed and the two of you settled into a comfortable conversation lasting a couple hours. By the time you both turned in for bed, you smiled to yourself, happy that you had made a new friend.

Chapter Text

“So, let me get this straight. After that big show yesterday and all your ranting about how joining the Republic was a bad thing, now you suddenly want to enlist?” Anakin seemed incredulous.

You shifted your weight before answering. You were back in the officer’s tent early that next morning, alongside Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka. Ahsoka buzzed with excitement, and Obi-Wan shot you a pleased glance before turning his gaze back to Anakin.

“I’ve slept on it. I decided Ahsoka was right, once I can figure out how to control this, I can use it for good. I don’t like what the Separatists have been doing in the galaxy, and if I can keep another place from falling into the same trap as my planet did, then I’d be glad to help.” You crossed your arms and lifted your chin in a challenge to Anakin, who raised an eyebrow at you before muttering, “well if it’s that easy for you to change your mind I suppose you won’t be here long anyways.”

You rolled your eyes. Obi-Wan was right, he was moody. Strange for a Jedi, at least from what you’d seen. Obi-Wan always seemed so calm and collected, never letting his emotions get the best of him. He always said that the Jedi know no emotion, only peace. Whatever that meant. But from what you’d seen and heard of with Anakin, he was much more reckless. He seemed to rely on his emotions much more than a Jedi would normally allow themselves to. You fought back a smile. Nia would have loved to tease him. Your best friend had always teased you about how emotional you were, while you teased her for her incredible lack of feelings. You two were quite literally complete opposites of each other, which is maybe why you got along so well. That’s also maybe why you and Anakin seem to be butting heads constantly, you start to realize. Oh God, it’s like looking in an angsty, arrogant mirror.

Obi-Wan’s voice cut through your thoughts and dragged you back to reality. “You’ve come far from when we first met. I have no doubt you’ll be able to get this under control, and soon. Until then, you will be assigned to the 501st as an advisor, and will only participate in active combat if needed.” He pushed a contract towards you. “Once you sign here, you’ll be officially enlisted under the GAR.”

You reached forward, and paused. “Uh… Obi-Wan?”

The three Jedi looked at you.

“Which name do I use?”

Anakin looked at you in disbelief. “I swear, it’s like every time you open your mouth you give me more of a reason to be suspicious. What do you mean which name?

You grit your teeth and fix a smile onto your face. “Well, when you’re wandering the galaxy alone with power that most people would kill to get their hands on, wouldn’t you want to hide your true identity as well?” Anakin rolled his eyes and grumbled something about knowing that your name had sounded fake from the start.

Obi-Wan shot him a look before turning back to you. “Use your real name. It will remain confidential, for our records only.”

You nodded once before scribbling your signature onto the contract. You paused for a moment. Huh. It’s been a while since I’ve used that. Weird.

The tent flaps fluttered, and Cody and Rex strode into the room. They looked from person to person, before Rex spoke.

“What’s going on?”

“Izzy just signed on to join the Republic!” Ahsoka answered for you.

Rex and Cody looked at you in surprise. “I thought you didn’t want to join.” Cody fixed you with a curious stare.

You shrugged after a moment and smiled at the Padawan next to you. “Ahsoka talked me into it.” You turned to Rex. “Looks like you’re stuck with me, Captain.”

“Oh. That’s great.”

“Did you need something Cody?” Obi-Wan addressed his Commander

Cody turned to Obi-Wan and stood at attention. “General, we are currently working on packing up the remaining tents and preparing for our next assignment. We’ve received word from Coruscant that we, along with the 501st, are to rendezvous with the 104th on Dantooine. Separatist forces have gathered there and threaten to overrun the local population.”

Obi-Wan brought his hand to his chin and hummed. “Dantooine could be an essential foothold in the Outer Rim. We should act swiftly.” He turned to the others. “I would advise the rest of you to pack your things, I should think we will be departing soon.”

“Yes, Master.” Ahsoka turned to leave. With a respectful dip of your head to the men, you turned to follow her outside.

As you strode to your tent, you lost yourself in thought. Did I make the right decision? I guess there’s no going back now. A shiver of excitement ran up your spine. I always did want an adventure. Maybe this really is the right move.

Thunk!

“Ow!”

You rubbed the top of your lightly throbbing head, and bent down to pick up the small seed pod that had been lazily lobbed in your direction. You looked around, seeing no one.

“Look up.”

Your gaze shot upward, and you glared at Jesse, who was lounging on the top of your tent, the fabric sagging beneath his weight. You had been so caught up in your thoughts you hadn’t noticed a clone sitting literally on top of your tent.

“What was that for? And why are you on my tent?”

“Hey I tried speaking, you didn’t seem to hear me. And your tent is much more comfy than the ground.” He grinned mischievously at you.

“So your obvious next choice was to throw a seed pod at my head?”

He shrugged. You narrowed your eyes and grumbled, striding into your tent.

“I don’t know if you’d wanna go in there, might be a little cramped and well… musty .”

You didn’t respond.

“Hello? ACK!”

You had grabbed a small chest from your tent and returned directly underneath Jesse’s sagging form, shoving the chest sharply up into him from behind and promptly tipping him over the edge of the tent, sending him sprawling onto the ground. He laid there dazed for a moment, while you reappeared and crouched over him.

“Is my tent still more comfy than the ground?” You smirked.

Jesse laughed and sat upright. “Alright, maybe I deserved that.” He covered your face with a calloused hand and pushed you over. “But I still wouldn’t go in there. I farted into it.”

“Aww however will I pack my things to join you all on the Resolute now?”

Jesse froze, a small smile creeping onto his face. “You joined the Republic?” You sat up on your elbows and grinned back at him. “Looks like I’ll be around to annoy you for a while longer, trooper.”

“You can admit it, don’t worry I wont tell anyone.”

“Admit what?”

“That you’re staying because of me, obviously.”

“As much as I enjoy having you fart in my tent and throw things at my head, I’m afraid you’re wrong. I’m staying because of Anakin, can’t you see we’re such great friends?”

Jesse clutched at his chest in mock pain. “Ugh… such cruel words.” You giggled and tossed some dirt at him. “If I say yes will you go pack my things for me?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Why can’t you?”

“Well I was going to, but again, someone farted in my tent.”

Jesse brought a hand to his chin and tapped his jaw, acting as if he were taking time to think about it. He hummed. “Okay, but on one other condition.” He leaned forward, fixing you with a golden stare. “You have to do me a favor.”

You must’ve given him a look of such shock, because he laughed and said, “no, not that kind of favor. Just something that I can hold against you. Whenever I need you to do something for me, I’ll find you. No backing out.” You hesitated, before nodding in agreement. He sunk backwards and grinned. “Great. I’ll go pack your things.”

He stood up and offered you his hand. You took it, and he easily pulled you to your feet. Then, he turned and disappeared into your tent. You chuckled to yourself. He’s definitely something, isn’t he? You thought back to your outburst yesterday, and how you had left everyone in a huff. You frowned. Why was he being so nice to you? You really hadn’t done anything to deserve it. A wave of anxiety and doubt washed over you. Maybe I should just ask him. Couldn’t hurt anything I suppose. You cautiously approached the front of the tent, before speaking.

“Hey, Jesse?”

“Yeah?”

His head popped out of the flaps curiously a moment later. You hesitated, fidgeting with your fingers. 

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

Jesse didn’t look like he knew how to respond for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, then frowned and furrowed his brows together in thought. Then he stepped fully from the tent, and sighed. “To be completely honest, you seemed like you needed a friend. And…” He brought his hand up to rub at his face. “And I honestly think you just got caught up in something bigger than you, which isn’t your fault.” He narrowed his eyes a bit. “I know what it’s like to do some things you’re not proud of for somebody else.”

You paused for a moment. You honestly hadn’t expected that from him. You had always had your reservations on the Republic when it came to the, well, enslavement , of the clones, but you hadn’t expected him to be so vocal on his own thoughts about it. You had figured that if any of the clones actively spoke out against their situation that they would be sent back to Kamino to be decommissioned, or endure whatever horrors the Kaminoans felt like enacting upon them. Bile rose in your stomach at the thought. These men had endured so much for the Republic, and they received only suffering in return. You crinkled your brow. Maybe now that I’m a part of the Republic, I can try and do something to help these men. You didn’t know what you would do, but there had to be something.

You realized Jesse was watching you, waiting for a response. You started and allowed a warm smile to creep onto your face. “Thank you. I’ve been on my own for a long while now. It’s nice to have friends again.”

He nodded before flashing you a wry smile and disappearing halfway into the tent, reappearing with your bags. “Here,” he said gruffly and tossed the bags to you, leaning against the side of the tent. “All done. Nice wardrobe by the way.”

“Hey I’ll have you know I’m very stylish.”

He let out a laugh and leaned forward. “Oh I’m sure.”

You rolled your eyes and punched him lightly in the shoulder. You both continued to talk for a while until his comm buzzed, calling him away. You picked up your bags and finished packing your tent before heading back in the direction towards where the men were loading up onto the ships. You took a deep breath. Onto the next adventure.

Chapter Text

You had never been on a starship this size before. The Venator was gargantuan, and as you roamed through the halls you were sure you’d never be able to memorize the twisting turns of the Resolute. You were directionally challenged, to say the least. Always had been. You groaned inwardly as you reached another dead end. That would add up to about five times now that you’d gotten lost in the last hour. Come on, it can’t be that hard to find the mess. As if in response, your stomach growled irritatedly at you. You slumped backwards, staring at the cold ceiling.

“Why must my life be so difficult?”

“I for one am enjoying your struggle.”

You spun around and straightened when you glimpsed Anakin striding towards you. “Have you been following me this entire time? Why didn’t you help me?” He shrugged. “I wanted to see how long it took you to give up.”

You scoffed. “Technically I haven’t given up, thank you very much.” He leaned forward with an arrogant smirk plastered on his face.

“Looking for the mess right? You’ve passed it at least three times now.”

Three times?” You whispered incredulously before coughing and straightening. Anakin’s smirk grew, which only fed the anger boiling in your stomach. “Actually I’m not very hungry.”

Your stomach growled again, and Anakin glanced down at you, amused. You grumbled under your breath and glared at your stomach. Traitor. “Fine. Can you please point me in the direction of the mess?”

Anakin did nothing for several moments, except stare at you beneath bored eyes. Is he really this merciless that he won’t even point me in the direction of the goddamn mess? Finally he grunted and nodded over his shoulder, signaling you to follow him.

Oh thank God. You jogged a little to catch up, and kept pace beside him. The two of you walked in a tense silence, neither of you looking at the other. You felt a small prickle of guilt. You and the Jedi really had gotten off to a bad start, which was, largely, your fault. Whether you could control it or not, you wouldn’t have been quick to trust someone either if they had nearly killed you. You sighed and glanced at Anakin.

“I’m sorry.”

His eyes widened briefly in surprise before flashing over to you. “For what?”

“We didn’t exactly get off on the right foot. Plus I’m sorry for well, almost killing you.”

“You wouldn’t have been able to kill me.”

You rolled your eyes. “Honestly Anakin, I’m trying to apologize to you. Can you lose the chip on your shoulder for just one minute?”

Anakin spun on you. Your head snapped over to him, shocked at his sudden movement.

“I don’t trust you. I never trusted you from the start, and I won’t trust you until you get whatever the hell is inside of you under control. Even then, you’ve still got a long way to go to prove yourself.” He straightened and crossed his arms in front of him. His lips curled and his eyes flashed in loathing.

Is he serious? The anger bubbled over, filling your chest. You moved several paces forward, jabbing a finger into Anakin’s chest. “Look Skywalker, I don’t have to prove anything to you. You don’t want to trust me? That’s fine. But don’t say I never tried to be nice to you, you ungrateful bantha - “

“Why is it that every time I see you two you’re at each other’s throats?” Obi-Wan stopped several paces in front of the two of you.

You shot another look of pure poison at Anakin before turning to face Obi-Wan. “I’m sorry Obi-Wan. Anakin was just helping me find the mess.” Obi-Wan surveyed both of you carefully for a moment before responding.

“I see. Thank you Anakin, I’ll take it from here.” Anakin scoffed in response, shot you another glare, and stalked away.

Obi-Wan looked at you. “I see you two are getting along quite nicely.”

You groaned and shot him an apologetic look. “I’m trying, Obi-Wan, I really did try. He’s insufferable.”

“There is no trying. You either do, or you do not.”

You furrowed your brows and fixed your stare on your feet. That sounded eerily like something your father would say to you when you were a child. Obi-Wan nudged your shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get you to the mess.”

The two of you walked forward in silence for a while until you reached a broad set of doors, which, to your dismay, you had passed at least three times. You grit your teeth. Curse Anakin for being right. Obi-Wan gestured for you to enter, and followed after you. When you had gotten your food you stood for a moment looking for a seat. The mess was fairly busy at this time. While most clones ignored you, some still shot you looks of curiosity, or suspicion. You eyed an empty table and crossed the hall to sit at it. Obi-Wan sat down across from you and watched you intently. Hunger had overtaken you at that point, and it took you a while to notice him watching you. When you finally did, you paused, with a bite suspended in midair.

“Uh… Is everything alright Master?”

“I think I’ve found a way to solve our little control problem.”

“Oh? And what would that be?” You set your food down and stared at him cautiously.

“Sparring with a live target.”

You felt your eyes widen in horror and you immediately worked to push down the panic surging within you. “Oh no. Absolutely not. I will not be endangering anyone’s safety. I can’t just spar with someone, I’ll kill them - brutalize them.” You stared at Obi-Wan with pleading eyes.

He stared back at you with that same, gentle gaze, and continued. “You wouldn’t be sparring with just anyone. You’ll be with me.”

You felt a jolt at this and looked around you. “Obi-Wan, I don’t want to hurt you.” you answered. He lightly laid a hand over your wrist. “You won’t. I trust you.”

~~~

“I still think this is a terrible idea.”

Obi-Wan chuckled from where he stood opposite you in the training room. You were crouched down, fumbling with the speaker in your hands and struggling to fight the anxiety swirling within you like a tempest.

“It’ll be fine. I can handle myself. Besides, you attacked me once and didn’t kill me then, remember?”

You snorted. “Yeah, that’s because R4 trapped me in ray shields until I calmed down.” A smirk crept onto his face. “But, you could’ve killed me before then, and you didn’t.”

A low, soft tune began to seep from the speaker. You had figured it would be best if you played something more soothing for this. Obi-Wan interrupted your thoughts.

“Play something with more of a bounce to it.”

You looked at him questioningly, but he said nothing else. Sighing, you turned to scroll through your playlists to find a more upbeat tune. You paused, hovering your finger over one song. Teenage Dirtbag. You smiled. You hadn’t heard this song in ages, and you could remember blasting it in the car with your friends, laughing and singing along. You selected it.

Obi-Wan let out a wry smile. “That’s more like it.”

~~~

Rex was striding past the training room when he heard the boom of music emanating from inside.

... Cause I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby…

He stopped and peered around the corner. You had General Kenobi in a headlock, red mist swirling around your eyes. Rex started towards the edge of the mat, but stopped in his tracks when your gaze swung up to his. He sat there, frozen for a moment while he watched a number of emotions swirl in your eyes. Malice? Recognition? Serenity? He really couldn’t tell anymore. Just when he was about to take another step forward, you smiled and winked at him. He blinked. The General took your lapse in attention and wriggled out from beneath your grasp. He turned back to Rex.

“Don’t worry Captain, everything is under control.”

Rex froze for a moment, then looked down at his feet before answering. “Yes sir. My apologies.” The music shifted to another upbeat song, and you let out a cry of excitement before bouncing to the beat.

“Ooooooooh! Holiday!”   You looked back at General Kenobi and slid across the floor to knock his legs out from under him. He dodged swiftly, aiming a blow at your head as you passed. You ducked, and kicked out with your legs, wrapping around his neck and twisting in air to bring the two of you swiftly to the ground.

Rex gaped for a moment at the scene in front of him. Just then, a head popped out from behind the doorway next to him.

“Who are we stalking?”

With a glare at his brother, Rex rolled his eyes and sighed. “We’re not stalking anyone Jesse. I just happened to come across Isabelle and the General sparring.”

“Oh we’re stalking Izzy? Great, I’ve been looking for her anyways.”

“No, we’re not stalk - ugh.” Rex brought a hand up to his forehead and grumbled. “Looks like the General is teaching her some control. Seems like it’s working too.”

Jesse peered around the corner to where you were grappling with General Kenobi. Rex was right, you did look like you were holding back. There was a lot more restraint in your actions, and well, Obi-Wan was still alive. You seemed to be going through the motions of fighting, barely exerting any energy, and you were fighting hand-to-hand, rather than melee combat. The music switched again.

“You know, I think the music is a nice touch.” Jesse smirked.

“I think it’s a bit much.”

“Hey, as long as it works. Plus, it’s entertaining as hell.” Rex grunted in agreement and turned his attention back to the fight in front of him. “Is she dancing?”

You were. You had taken a moment to jump and dance along to the song playing. Woohoo! I haven’t heard Song 2 in years. Obi-Wan watched you with a grin. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“You know, I actually am.” You laughed.

Obi-Wan chuckled as the song changed again, Bang! starting to fill the room. “I think that’s enough for today. We can work on melee combat later, but you’ve gotten much better in your restraint in hand-to-hand sparring.”

You grinned. “Thank you Obi-Wan, I’m really actually starting to feel better about all of this.”

“You should.”

You turned to the two clones in the doorway, and bounded over to them just as the chorus started playing, singing along.

...So put your best face on everybody, pretend you know this song everybody, come hang…

Rex looked at you uneasily as you neared, while Jesse gave you a smirk.

Let’s go out with a Bang!

You grabbed Jesse and Rex’s wrists and dragged them both into the training room. Rex let out a slight noise of protest, but Jesse only laughed. “You call this music?”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that these are very good songs, and very popular back home.”

“Well I’ll have you know that we have nothing like this here.”

“Party pooper.”

Jesse laughed again, and you pulled both of them to the center of the mat before releasing their arms, and continued dancing along to the music. Jesse watched you with a grin, while Rex only put his head in his hand. “Come on boys, get into the music!”

Rex looked at you skeptically. “I don’t dance. And even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to dance to this.”

“Come on, all you gotta do is find a song that you can jump and move to. Something with a good beat… Oh!” They looked at you questioningly. “I have just the song, it even has a dance to it! I’ll teach you!”

Rex looked like he would rather die than be caught dancing to anything. His cheeks flushed, but before he could protest you had already bounded over to the speaker and switched the song. The room filled with a relatively fast-paced drum beat.

You ran back over to the men. “Okay so I used to dance to this all the time with my friends, let me teach you boys how to Wobble .”

Jesse looked at you like you had grown two heads. “I’m sorry - how to what?”

“You heard me!”

Before they could say anything else, you had launched into a truly absurd looking dance.

… Wobble baby, wobble baby, wobble baby, wobble… 

You leaned back, shaking your shoulders and let your arms hang loose, then repeated the action while leaning forwards. You looked back up to Jesse and Rex’s shocked expressions while you switched to rolling your hips and arms in circles to either side, finishing by taking two steps forward, and three bouncing steps back. You repeated the process in circles as the song progressed.

“See? It’s easy! Dance with me!” You threw back your head and laughed.

Rex and Jesse exchanged a glance. Rex seemed to be indicating that he was, in no way, about to participate. Jesse felt a slow smile creep onto his face as he looked back at you, still dancing. He turned back to Rex, shrugged, and jumped in next to you, as you emitted a shriek of delight and giggled.

Several clones had stopped by the doorway, curious at the booming music and peals of laughter. Some even ran in to join you and Jesse. Rex hid his face in his hand. There was no possible way you could embarrass him more through this. He jumped when you grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the line of clones slowly forming.

“Come on, Rex! Don’t be such a stiff.” You flashed him a mischievous smile. “What’s five minutes of shame?”

Rex heaved a sigh before reluctantly joining in. The line of clones whooped and cheered at the sight of their Captain relaxing a bit. You giggled.

“See? It’s not so bad.”

Rex let out a huff of a laugh. “So, this is really what helps you control it?”

You shrugged. “Easier to control when there’s something better to concentrate on.”

Rex shot you a curious look. You grinned back at him. He felt a little bit of the doubt in his stomach start to dissipate. Maybe you weren’t so bad after all. The music finally came to an end and you let out a cheer, giving Jesse a hug and high-fived a few other clones. Rex looked around at his brothers, then back to you. You had a sparkle in your eye when you spoke to them, and you seemed genuinely interested in each conversation. He allowed a small smile to appear on his face. It was clear you cared about his brothers. That was rare in this galaxy. Something deep inside him warmed a little.

~~~

You were laughing as you jogged back over to your speaker. Troopers waved at you and grinned as they filed out of the training room. You smiled to yourself. It was nice to see the men unwind, especially after such a long war. You were glad you got to provide them with some kind of relaxation, no matter how brief. You knelt to pick up your speaker and turned to leave, only to stop at the sight of Jesse watching you from several feet away.

You cocked your head at him. “Need something?”

He chuckled and stepped towards you, crossing his arms over his chest. “Actually, yes,” a devious grin formed on his face. “I’m gonna need to collect that favor.”

Your jaw dropped slightly. “What? How’d you already come up with something?” you demanded.

He shrugged. “I’m just a creative genius.” He paused briefly before dramatically adding, “It’s a curse.”

“Oh I’m sure.”

“It is.”

“Whatever. What do you need?”

“You had mentioned you’re skilled in all things military right?”

You looked at him cautiously. “Yeah. Where is this going?”

A devilish grin plastered across his face. “In all the right places.” He leaned forward and whispered in your ear.

“Oh. Oh, no. You’ve got to be kidding me. He’ll kill me if he finds out!”

“Which he won’t, because you’re skilled in stealth operations right?”

“He’s gonna know it was me.”

“Okay sure, but he won’t know that I’m involved.”

You huffed and practically whined your next words. “Jesse do I have to?” He said nothing, only nodded with a merciless smirk. God, it would’ve felt nice to smack that smirk off of his face. “Fine. But when he kills me, don’t bother coming to my funeral.”

Jesse stuck his bottom lip out in a pout. “Aww, but I’d give such a lovely eulogy.”

You laughed and shoved him towards the entrance before exiting the training room. “Do you at least have everything I need for it?” He nodded.

“I’ll get it to you tonight, and I’ll make sure he’s out of his quarters. Just make sure he doesn’t notice until tomorrow.”

You sighed and nodded, before looking back at him with a smirk. “You’re a very… interesting dancer by the way.”

“If by interesting, you mean ‘best dancer in the GAR,’ you’d be correct.”

You giggled and gave him another shove before turning and heading back down towards your quarters.

~~~

Back in your quarters, you checked the time on your datapad before dipping into the refresher. Jesse should be coming by again soon, with all the necessary tools for your upcoming… endeavor. You groaned. You had only been in their company for a few days now, and he was just starting to warm up to you.

You had just stepped out of the refresher and wrapped a towel around yourself when you heard a knock on your door. Shit. Jesse’s here already. You quickly grabbed an oversized shirt and shorts and pulled them on. When you opened the door, Jesse was leaning against the frame. He gave you a once-over, grinning.

“If I had known you were showering I would’ve come earlier.”

You rolled your eyes and threw your towel in his face. “Don’t be creepy.”

“I know you like it.”

You felt heat rise in your chest. “Bold of you to assume, sir.” Jesse smirked and raised an eyebrow at you before lifting a small bucket of bright, pink paint. “Ready? He’s in the officer’s quarters.”

You shifted on your feet nervously. “Why did you want to do this in general?” Jesse shrugged before replying. “We’ve always had a series of prank wars in the five-oh-one.” He leaned forward with a devilish smirk. “Consider this your initiation.”

You grumbled under your breath. Sure. Then once I’m caught it’ll turn into a hazing. “Alright let’s just get this over with. Are you standing watch?”

He cocked his head and feigned ignorance. “Standing watch for what?” You rolled your eyes. Fine. If that’s how he wanted to play, then you’d put on a show. You looked at Jesse, still dressed in his ARC armor. Suddenly you had an idea. You let a sickeningly sweet smile slide onto your face. Jesse narrowed his eyes slightly, as if he knew you were up to something. “Alright let’s go, time’s a wastin.”

Before you left, you grabbed a black marker and concealed it up your sleeve. If you were going down, you sure as hell were gonna take him with you.

~~~

You strode out of Captain Rex’s quarters thirty minutes later into an empty hallway, and met up with Jesse a few corridors down. As you approached him, you made sure you had fresh paint on your hands. You smirked. He still had his armor on. Good. He beamed at you as you drew closer.

“There she is. How’d it go?”

“Good. He shouldn’t be able to find it until tomorrow. It’s angled away from sight and should dry soon.”

He clapped his hands together and rubbed them back and forth. “Perfect. This is gonna be the best revenge for that one time he glued me into my bucket.” You laughed. “I’m sorry, Rex did what?”

“Yeah, turns out our uptight Captain is pretty good at prank wars. To be fair, he had to be with me, Hardcase and Fives in the Torrent.” Jesse had a nostalgic look in his eye. You smiled and took his fingers lightly in your own. “Well then.” He fixed you with a swirling caramel stare. “You’ll have to tell me all about it someday.” He smiled.

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe one day I will.”

~~~

The next morning, in the officer’s quarters, you, Ahsoka, Cody, Obi-Wan, and Anakin had been discussing plans for the assignment on Dantooine, when the doors to the quarters swished open, and Jesse barrelled in, yelling and thundering footsteps sounding not far behind him.

JESSE I SWEAR TO THE MAKER WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU -

Jesse practically crashed into you, nearly careening you off-balance and gripped you by the shoulders.

“I can’t believe you set me up like that!”

You grinned. “You wanted me to do you a favor, I just added a few, well… creative liberties.” You gave him a sly wink.

You thought he’d be angry, but instead he just seemed impressed. Exhilarated even, but that could have just been because of Rex storming after him. He let out a low chuckle. “Alright Greene, I’ll admit that’s fair play.”

Just then, the doors to the bridge swung open again, revealing a very angry and very stylish Captain Rex. Over his armor, a bright pink, triangle bikini had been painted onto his chest plate and codpiece. In the center of each triangle on his chest plate, was a large Republic cog, drawn with a black marker. He had his bucket under one arm, his face a deep crimson color. Oh, he’s pissed. Jesse spun to face him and put up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, I know this looks bad - “

“Jesse I know it was you. You have pink paint on your gloves and should I even mention the cogs?”

“Okay, yeah I can see how that looks incriminating - “ He didn’t get a chance to finish before Rex had locked him in a hold, looking back up at the others.

“Generals, Commander, please forgive the interruption. I need to go have a discussion with my vod.

Anakin for once looked amused. He waved his hand dismissively. “Go on ahead. Have fun Jesse.”

Rex hauled his brother towards the door. Jesse looked back at you and grasped his chest in mock betrayal. You stuck your tongue out at him and flashed him a smile before the doors swished close behind them.

Chapter Text

Control. Neglect. Peace. Chaos. Strong. Weak. Preserve. Destroy.

The warring thoughts swirled in your mind as you fought against the haze. You kept your eyes closed, forcing the lust back down, allowing your consciousness to surge forward. When your eyes opened, the mist remained, but the conflict had ebbed. You stared at your opponent, who was eyeing you from across the floor. The demon threatened to rear its head when you locked eyes with Obi-Wan. Enemy. You took a breath. He is my friend. Obi-Wan nodded his head slowly.

“Good. Now, advance.”

You felt the corners of your lips lift in a malicious smirk. Breathe. Stifle. With another inhale, you felt your onyx battleaxes materialize in your palms. Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber. You lunged forward, bringing the immense axes down over your head onto Obi-Wan. His saber cut through the axes, and you countered by unsheathing your daggers and swept them by his throat in one smooth motion, making sure to keep a safe distance. He jumped backwards, onto a ledge several feet above you. The bow took shape in your hands, and you notched two arrows, taking aim. Soothe. Bleed.

“Release.”

The arrows lodged in the training wall on either side of Obi-Wan’s head. He grinned and jumped down before rushing you.

Preserve. Sever. You flashed your wrists forward, sending a wave of onyx spikes flying towards Obi-Wan. The spikes caught the edges of his robes, sending him flying backwards and pinned him to the wall.

“General!”

Cody had appeared in the doorway just as you sent the spikes flying towards Obi-Wan. He charged at you.

“Cody, wait!”

You turned and locked your gaze onto his. The demon surged again, stronger this time upon seeing a new opponent. Enemy. Go. Suffer. Kill...No. Cody made a move to bring you to the mat, but before he could, you slipped your hand into a crevice in his armor, and swung him around your body, misdirecting his attack. He turned to face you.

“Commander, it’s okay. Everything is under control.” You held up your hands as a show of good faith.

Cody still looked skeptical. He looked between you and Obi-Wan, who was still pinned to the wall. “You pinned the General.” Obi-Wan spoke from his position on the far wall.

“Yes, that was the point.” He wiggled a spike out with the Force from where it had pinned his arm. Cody looked at him, incredulous.

“The idea was to exercise control by getting as close as possible without actually harming him, with maximum effort. I promise you, he’s not hurt.” You closed your eyes and exhaled, sending the mutation crawling away. The mist lifted from your features.

“A task that she was doing rather well at, if I have to say so.” Obi-Wan had almost completely freed himself. You felt pride surge in your veins.

Cody raised an eyebrow at you. “You’re getting much better.” You hummed. “Still, this is only against Obi-Wan. I don’t know how it’ll work on the battlefield.”

Obi-Wan stepped towards you both, and tossed a spike onto the floor. “Unfortunately, we won’t know that until we try it. All we can do now is prepare and train.” 

You swallowed. To be completely honest, you weren’t sure you would ever be ready to unleash everything on the battlefield. You were terrified that once you were around war, real war, the demon would be too powerful to restrain. The worst part of it is that you really have no way to prepare for it. Sure, it was getting easier to train and practice control with Obi-Wan, but he was an easily recognizable face. What would happen if you came face to face with a clone’s bucket on the battlefield? Would you be able to distinguish who was who? Even worse, what if you came face to face with a sentient enemy? Destroying droids was one thing, but would you be able to stop yourself from slaughtering Separatists? You frowned. Yes, they were the enemy, but that didn’t justify mindless, baseless slaughter.

Obi-Wan looked at you, sensing your conflict. He turned back to Cody and instructed him to meet him on the bridge later. Cody nodded, and took one last glance at you before leaving the room. Obi-Wan placed a hand on his chin, and spoke.

“You know, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit.”

You turned to him and blinked in surprise. “What do you mean?” He put his hand on your shoulder before continuing. “You’ve made so much progress since we first met. The young woman I met then would have never believed she would be standing here today, exhibiting this kind of discipline.”

You looked at your feet. “Will I… will I have to fight real people?” You returned your gaze to Obi-Wan’s, which held nothing but warmth and understanding.

“My dear, you will soon have to face your fears. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do, to see how well you will surely react.”

He has so much faith in me. You sighed. Well, it wasn’t like you could argue. Time was running out until your arrival on Dantooine, and whether you liked it or not, you’d have to fight. You could only hope Obi-Wan’s faith wasn’t misplaced. You offered him a small smile, and nodded.

Obi-Wan gave you a reassuring smile, before moving to exit the training room. He gestured over his shoulder for you to follow him. “Good. Now, let’s go see what Cody has prepared for us.”

~~~

The doors to the bridge swished open, where Anakin, Ahsoka, Rex, Jesse, and Cody waited. As you approached, you smirked at Rex, whose armor had been freshly scrubbed and repainted.

“What, no pool party today Captain?”

Rex scowled. “Don’t think I don’t know about your involvement in that.”

You glared at Jesse. “Snitch.”

He crossed his arms at you. “Hey, I was the one that had to scrub and repaint the Captain’s armor. It took me ages. ” You rolled your eyes and wrinkled your nose at him.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “Commander, I believe you have our briefing?”

Cody nodded before gesturing to the holotable. “Yes sir. Our ETA to rendezvous with the Triumphant is set for 1800 hours. Separatist forces have launched an invasion on the locals, intelligence reports squads of Vulture droids, B-2 series, and seismic tanks. Also,” Cody paused and glanced at the Generals. “There have been sightings reporting Ventress’ presence on Dantooine.” Ahsoka’s gaze snapped to the two other Jedi.

“Ventress? What would she be doing on Dantooine?” Anakin exchanged a glance with Obi-Wan and addressed his Padawan. 

“There’s been whispers of possible Jedi artifacts on Dantooine. It’s likely that if Ventress is there, she’s looking for a holocron.” Ahsoka’s eyes widened. “A holocron? Where would we even begin to look for that?”

Obi-Wan brought his hand to his chin. “Centuries ago, there was apparently an established Jedi temple on Dantooine, although it’s long since been abandoned. If there is a holocron, the temple is as good a place as any to start looking.”

You furrowed your brow. “Should we go after Ventress? Or the holocron?” Obi-Wan and Anakin thought for a moment, before the younger Jedi spoke up. “Let’s go after the holocron. Wherever it is, Ventress should be too.”

You nodded. Hmm. Two birds, one stone. You closed your eyes, took a deep breath, and allowed the red mist to envelop your senses. Anakin looked at you. “What do you think you’re doing merc?” You opened your eyes and fixed him with a stare. The mist coiled, threatening to strike. Breathe. He might be aggravating, but he is not your enemy. Obi-Wan watched you carefully.

You blinked, and turned back to the holotable, surveying the area. “We should divide our forces. I advise sending a small, elite squad after Ventress and the holocron, while the majority of our forces engage the enemy armies. The temple should be located on the southernmost side of the planet, where the most overgrowth is. The Separatists forces should be gathering here,” You gestured to a point on the northern side of the map, “in an attempt to draw our attention away from the artifact location.” You looked back up at the Jedi. “Do you want Ventress captured or eliminated?”

Ahsoka furrowed her brow in thought. Obi-Wan brought a hand to his chin again. He thought for a moment before speaking. “Better capture her. We’re not sure what Dooku’s up to or why he wants the holocrons, but maybe we can get some answers out of her.” You nodded. 

Anakin was watching you intensely, suspicion and loathing mired in his gaze. The mist flooded your senses for a moment, anger and defiance surging inside you. Oh shit. You closed your eyes quickly and exhaled deeply, forcing the mutation to retreat. When you opened your eyes again, your vision spun. You swayed on your feet a bit, though only Jesse seemed to notice from beside you. He shot you a sidelong glance. Nausea formed in your stomach. That was the first time, maybe ever, that you had to control the mutation without fighting anything, and without having anything else to focus on. Plus, Anakin’s blatant reproach certainly didn’t do you any favors. You closed your eyes, trying to calm your churning insides. This discipline might be the death of me. Just get through this briefing, then you can go lie down.

Jesse watched you from out of the corner of his eye. You had your eyes closed, and every now and then, swayed slightly on your feet. A small line of sweat glistened on your forehead, and when you opened your eyes again, your complexion paled slightly. He frowned. Whatever you did had, for some reason, affected you more than normal. General Skywalker’s voice cut through his thoughts.

“We’ll discuss more once we meet up with Master Plo.” He turned to General Kenobi with a glance back at you. “Master, a word?”

Rex, Cody, and Ahsoka huddled together and began discussing the upcoming campaign. Jesse turned to you, and at this point, you looked like you were about to faint.

“Are you okay?”

You opened your mouth to respond to him, but as soon as you did, you felt a sharp pain rising quickly up through your torso. You closed it immediately, and briefly saw Jesse’s eyes widen in alarm before you turned and practically ran out of the bridge. You could hear Jesse’s footsteps echoing behind you. You looked around wildly, finally locating a trash bin at the end of the empty hallway. You practically flew at the can, sliding to your knees as you neared. As you felt the bile rise, the mist fogged your senses. You vaguely felt a piercing pain somewhere in your abdomen, but couldn’t focus as you leaned forward and retched into the bin. You were faintly aware of Jesse kneeling beside you, holding your hair with one hand and rubbing your back with the other. You drew back and rested against the durasteel wall, chest heaving. You could taste a distinct, metallic hint of iron. You wiped your mouth with the back of your hand, and stared at a smeared, sanguine liquid in shock. Is that…?

“Is that blood?” Jesse’s voice echoed your thoughts.

He looked at you with a wild expression. You released a nervous peal of laughter. “Yeah… yeah I think it is.”

“What the hell happened?”

You fought to catch your breath. “Not sure really. If I had to guess, I’d say my mutation isn’t very happy about the fact I didn’t murder anything after activating it on the bridge.” He reared back, blinking in horror. “Wait a minute, you’re telling me that this thing, it can hurt you? Can it kill you?” The concern was audible in his voice.

“That’s cute, you’re worried about me.”

He rolled his eyes. “You must be fine if you’re still making jokes.” He settled himself next to you, propping up a knee and resting an arm against it.

You chuckled, finally leveling out your breathing. “Don’t worry, I actually feel a lot better after that episode. Hopefully the more I work on it and exercise this kind of discipline, the easier it’ll get. I think my body’s just trying to adjust.” You closed your eyes and leaned your head against his shoulder pauldron with a sigh. “Thanks by the way, that was pretty gross.”

Jesse let out a puff of laughter and rested his head on top of yours. “What are friends for?”

The two of you fell into a comfortable silence. You were feeling better already. By the time you’d rendezvous with the Triumphant, you’d be ready to go. The nausea had all but left your system now, but was replaced by a prickling sense of anxiety. 

Is this actually going to kill me?

Chapter Text

Dantooine, 1800 hours

The two Venator-class starships hovered above Dantooine’s upper atmosphere. Back on the bridge now, you watched the forms of Master Plo-Koon and Commander Wolffe flicker above the holotable. Briefly, your mind wandered. After your little incident several hours prior, you had returned to your quarters and took a short nap, until Rex had come to get you for the briefing. You had taken the time to apologize to him for yours and Jesse’s antics.

“It’s alright. Jesse told me you owed him a favor.” A small grin pricked at the corner of his lips. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t get you back somehow.”

“Looking forward to it Captain,” you laughed.

The two of you walked in silence for a while. You cleared your throat, drawing a glance from Rex. “So, what’s the 104th like?”

Rex’s eyes shone with an intense respect. “Some of the finest troopers I’ve ever served alongside. Damn tough too. Wolffe does a good job over there.”

You nodded, a smile forming on your face. “Sounds like we’ll be in good company.”

“We will.”

You had reached the bridge after that, where you found the Jedi and Commander Cody waiting. Master Plo and Wolffe’s holographic silhouettes had appeared shortly after your arrival. The Kel Dor had a wise, almost fatherly demeanor, and nodded politely to you all. The Commander stood next to him, and while his features were concealed under his bucket, you could tell he carried himself with pride. He stood tall, shoulders back, with his chin lifted. You studied him for a moment when Obi-Wan spoke.

“Master Plo, Commander. It’s good to see you both.”

Wolffe nodded respectfully, as Master Plo surveyed the figures present. “Indeed Master Kenobi. Unfortunate that it is not under more favorable circumstances.” His gaze rested on you. “I don’t believe we have met. You must be the new advisor for the 501st. My name is Plo-Koon.”

You started. “Y-yes, my name is Isabelle. It’s nice to meet you Master Plo,” you offered with a smile. You hadn’t thought that anyone would have heard of you, especially not this early in your employment. What else does he know about me? Does the whole Republic know who I am? Anxiety gnawed at your insides.

Master Plo gave you a kind nod before turning back to Obi-Wan. You shifted on your feet. Out of the corner of your eye, you could see Wolffe’s figure turned towards you. Even from under his bucket, you could feel his hard stare fixed on you. Heat rose in your chest. Why is he staring at me? You turned your attention back to the briefing, trying to focus on what Obi-Wan was explaining.

“... take a small force to locate the holocron, and capture Ventress. The rest of our forces will rendezvous at the northern end of Dantooine, and engage the enemy forces attacking the local population.”

Master Plo brought a hand to his rebreather. “I see. And who will be leading this squadron?”

Anakin spoke up from where he had been, for once, silent. “The merc.”

You snapped your gaze to his, shocked. Did he just say… ? Obi-Wan sighed at his former Padawan. “Miss Greene will be leading the holocron expedition. Anakin, Ahsoka, Rex, and Jesse will join her, while Cody and I will take the rest of the 501st and the 212th and join your forces on the northern front.”

After a brief pause, Master Plo nodded. “I will join you. My Commander and Sergeant will meet with your unit as well,” he added as he turned to you. “Good luck, little one.” You smiled at him.

“May the Force be with us.” Obi-Wan closed the briefing, and the two holographic forms flickered out of sight. You looked between the two Jedi Generals.

“I’m doing what, now?”

“Anakin and I have decided that you should be the one to lead the expedition. Your enhanced battle strategy will serve the company well, of that I have no doubt.”

Anakin scoffed and muttered under his breath. “Gives me the opportunity to keep my eye on you.”

You neared Obi-Wan and spoke in a hushed voice. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Obi-Wan looked at you quizzically. “Well, to be quite frank, you had disappeared after the end of the last briefing. Where did you go?”

You thought back to the incident in the hallway and grimaced. “I… “ you hesitated. “It doesn’t matter, it’s not important.” Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at you, but didn’t pry. “This was your plan, remember? Besides, you’ve had more difficult excursions than this.”

You muttered a bit under your breath. “Yeah but that was alone .”

Obi-Wan placed a hand gently on your shoulder. “You’ll be fine. I have no doubt you’re ready.”

I hope you’re right, Obi-Wan. You opened your mouth to say more, but closed it again when Rex spoke from behind you. “Sir, we’ve just received word of a shuttle launch from the Triumphant. We are moving to intercept it now.”

You drew in a deep breath. That’ll be Wolffe. “Well, I guess that’s our cue.” You nodded to Rex and Ahsoka before turning to leave the bridge. Obi-Wan’s voice followed you out.

“Oh and Isabelle, one more thing.” You turned to face him.

“Put on a show,” he said with a grin. You smiled, encouraged by the Jedi Master’s words. You know me Obi-Wan. You stepped out of the bridge, the doors swinging shut behind you.

~~~

Ahsoka kept pace with you as the four of you walked through the sterile hallways towards the hangar, footsteps echoing against the cold floor.

“Don’t worry, you’ll do great!” She gave you a sly smile before adding, “Plus, we’ll be right with you the whole time, and I know how much you’ve been aching to spend more time with Anakin.” You chuckled.

Anakin scoffed from where he walked in front of you. “In your dreams.”

Nightmares, is more like it,” you muttered. Ahsoka giggled and gave you a playful shove. Anakin shot a glare at the two of you over his shoulder.

“Focus, Snips. Now’s not the time to goof off.”

Ahsoka rolled her eyes but quieted. “Yes, Master.” She shot you another look that said, someone’s grumpy today, and you let out a laugh.

The four of you reached the hangar and huddled together, awaiting the arrival of the shuttle. Some short time later, Jesse met up with your company and settled into a quiet conversation with Rex. Not long after, the shuttle landed in the hangar. Two men in gray and white armor hopped out, walking towards your unit. One of them you recognized as Wolffe from his armor, the other, you assumed, must have been the Sergeant Master Plo mentioned. As they walked, they took off their buckets. You had to clench your jaw to keep your mouth from falling open.

A long scar cut down along the right side of Wolffe’s face. His right eye, cybernetic, shone a cold, metallic silver. The other, that familiar, golden swirl. He was incredibly striking, and with his arrogant demeanor and proud strut, you couldn’t help but stare. Holy shit, he has no business being that hot.

“HA!”

You jumped and whirled to face Jesse, who had erupted in laughter. Rex glanced at you in amusement, while Anakin just rolled his eyes and walked forward to greet the two men. You looked to Ahsoka, mortified.

“Oh my God, did I just say that out loud?”

Ahsoka suppressed a giggle and gave you a look full of sympathy. “I’m afraid so.”

Jesse lazed an arm around your shoulders and leaned in towards you with a smug smirk. “But don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you… much.”

Heat had risen to your cheeks and you buried your face in one hand. “Har har, very funny Jesse.” You quickly paced forward, not wanting to give him another chance to tease you. Rex caught up to you and shot you an amused glance.

You gave him a sheepish smile and raised your chin, focusing back on the men watching your approach. You slid your shoulders back, and leaned into your right foot as you stood in front of the newcomers. Somewhere behind you, you heard Jesse snicker lowly. “Ooooh Commander, look she’s showing off again.” You fought the urge to turn around and tackle him. Instead, you allowed a playful smile to pull at your lips. You gave the men a respectful nod.

“Commander, Sergeant. Welcome to the squad.”

The Sergeant grinned back at you, and extended a hand. “Good to meet you Miss Greene. You can call me Sinker.”

“Likewise Sergeant, and please, call me Izzy.” You shook his outstretched hand with a wink. His grin widened. You glanced at Wolffe, who was watching you with a wary, and slightly curious, stare. He narrowed his eyes slightly. You returned his stare, and extended one hand, the other coming to rest lightly on your hip. “Commander Wolffe,” you acknowledged.

He stared at you for a while longer, and for a moment you thought he was just going to ignore the gesture. But eventually, he grunted and took your outstretched hand and gave it a small, firm shake. You flashed the men a smile before turning back to the rest of your unit. “Shall we?”

Anakin scoffed. “As if I’d ever listen to anything you have to say.”

Your eyes flashed and you bit back a retort as you felt anger rising in your chest. You were delegating this mission, you’d have to ignore Anakin’s remarks, no matter how insufferable. So instead, you turned to him with a sweet smile plastered on your face. He narrowed his eyes at you in suspicion.

“Oh, that’s quite alright General, I’ll just let you explain to Obi-Wan why we left you here instead.”

He opened his mouth to retort, but closed it again after a moment and shot you a glare. You blinked at him innocently. Turning back to the other clones, you saw Sinker watching with amusement, while Wolffe simply looked bored.

The party turned and made their way towards the shuttle. Before Anakin could follow, however, you reached out and grabbed his wrist.

“General Skywalker,” you said firmly, “a word?”

He rolled his eyes for a moment before stepping several feet away and turned back to you, waiting expectantly.

“Listen, I know we’re not on the best terms. But, I just wanted you to know that I will defer to your judgment on this expedition, if it would make you more comfortable.”

Anakin looked briefly shocked. Briefly. The look of surprise vanished on his face nearly as quickly as it had appeared. “Why would you do that?” he questioned warily.

You sighed. “We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep bickering back and forth. For the sake of the mission, I’m willing to put things off. If you disagree with my judgment on this mission, tell me, and we’ll discuss alternatives.” There. Hopefully he gets over himself enough to make this bearable.

Anakin didn’t say anything for a moment, and studied you. He wasn’t expecting this. In fact, he had been dreading the expedition, seeing as you were taking lead. While Obi-Wan had insisted, he still didn’t like it, even though he knew that with that mutation of yours, strategically you had a leg up. And, as much as he hated to admit it, it gave the company an advantage over Ventress if you were leading, seeing as she had never met you or seen any of your tactics before. He exhaled.

“Fine. I can work with that. But believe me, I’ll make my opinions known.”

“Oh I’m sure.” You rolled your eyes before heading to the shuttle, gesturing for Anakin to follow.

As you neared, you noticed two other troopers in Wolfpack armor waiting inside the shuttle. One must have been the pilot, the other, a medic. They looked up as you approached. Wolffe spoke and gruffly introduced the two.

“This is Ghost, he’ll be coming with us.” He nodded at the medic trooper, who gave you a small smile. He had a just hint of scruff, and two long, thin tattoos inked above each brow, leading down to his cheekbones. “And that’s Warthog. He’s flying us in.” He yanked his head toward the pilot. You gave the two newcomers a warm smile.

“Good to meet you boys. Let’s get going.”

The squadron piled into the shuttle. As it departed the hangar, your stomach dropped sharply in dread. It’s all going to be fine. Obi-Wan wouldn’t have trusted me with this if he didn’t think I was capable. Still, you wondered how you would react when first faced with battle. You hoped you wouldn’t succumb to the bloodlust the second a battle erupted. Then again, you had been getting much better with control. While the discipline proved to be sometimes draining, you could feel yourself getting stronger and stronger each day. You swallowed down the anxious knot in your throat. The company continued in silence, for a while. You had to fight to keep yourself from laughing when you saw Jesse’s head slowly appear in your peripheral vision.

“Oh Isabelle… “ he drawled in a singsong voice. Oh God.

You rolled your eyes and turned your head to look at him, unable to keep the small smile off of your face. “What now?”

He grinned wickedly. “I was just thinking - “

You snorted. “That’s dangerous.” Ghost and Sinker snickered, while Rex shot the two of you an amused glance.

He ignored your remark. “Hypothetically,” you furrowed your brow at him. Where is he going with this? “If someone were to think that one clone is hot… ”

Oh God. Oh God no. His grin widened as he saw your expression flicker, your confidence briefly shaken, and he leaned even closer. 

“Wouldn’t that mean that every clone is hot?” The men looked at you.

You briefly debated shoving him out of the shuttle. Hell, at this point, might as well just eject yourself into space. You pushed him back with a finger on his tattooed forehead.

“I guess so, although I’d say there’s a lot more that factors into it.”

“Such as?”

You considered him for a moment before answering. “I’d say attitude is a pretty big factor.”

Jesse leaned back in towards you. “And who among us would you say has the best attitude?”

You pretended to think for a moment and hummed. The corner of your lips pulled upward slightly. “Well, I’d say Rex is pretty cool.”

Rex’s eyes flashed towards you as his face flushed. Poor guy. He looked at the blast doors as if he were considering what you had moments before. Jesse hummed in mock disappointment.

“Anyone else?”

“Sinker seems like a good guy.” You saw Sinker grin at you from out of the corner of your eye, and you gave him a mischievous wink.

Jesse now seemed actually a little disappointed.

“Anybody else?” His smug smirk returned to his face. “A particular favorite? Perhaps someone with a great attitude and sparkling personality? ” 

You returned his smirk with a devilish grin. “Aw Jesse,” you stuck out your bottom lip a bit. “Nothing brightens a room quite like you leaving it.”

That did it. Jesse’s smirk faltered a little at the low snickers that sounded in the shuttle. Even Wolffe looked mildly amused. Jesse let out a puff of laughter and gave you a light shove before straightening, mirth swirling in his eyes.

You giggled before turning and walking into the cockpit, shortly after the shuttle broke the upper atmosphere of Dantooine. “Warthog, right?”

He answered without turning to look at you. “That’s right, sir.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know if there’s a speaker on this thing would you?”

He glanced at you before pointing at a small section of controls. You grinned and thanked him. Better to be safe than sorry. You set to work on hooking up your player.

You had just gotten everything set up and wandered back to the others when you heard a warning from the cockpit, signaling approaching targets. Wolffe pushed his way into the cockpit, and sat in the copilot’s seat. Warthog’s voice reached back into the shuttle.

“We got incoming, Vulture droids, a whole squadron!”

You sighed. Well, at least you got the music set up. As the blast door slid open, you could see Vulture droids rapidly approaching in the distance. You quickly grabbed your player and shuffled the first song you saw. Legends began bleeding through the walls of the shuttle. Wolffe had reappeared, towering over you.

“What the hell are you doing? What’s with the music?”

You tutted. “Trust the process, Embiid.” You closed your eyes and inhaled. The power within you surged. It’s time. You felt the mutation rear in excitement at the prospect of battle, but you shoved it back down, focusing on the music flowing in the background. You opened your eyes, letting the red mist envelop your features. Wolffe’s eyes widened in shock. The Vulture droids were much closer now, about eight of them by the looks of it. You had better hurry or you’d miss your chance.

Before anybody else could say anything, you moved to the back of the shuttle and focused on the closest Vulture droid, feeling onyx spikes taking shape in your hands.

“Showtime, boys. Give ‘em hell.”

Then, with a small, two-fingered salute, you launched yourself out of the shuttle. Faintly, you could hear several of the Wolfpack scramble to the shuttle edges with cries of protest. You caught the wing of the first droid just as it was preparing to make its assault, knocking it off course. You stuck one spike into the bottom of the droid before swinging off onto the next, sliding over it’s top and dragging the other spike through it’s armor. You quickly grabbed hold of another droid as the squadron passed, passing over the shuttle. Blaster fire rang through the air as the clones targeted the droids. Two more were shot down. Four to go.

… na na na na na na na na na na … 

You swung yourself up on top of the droid and willed the bow to form in your fingertips. The droid zigzagged in air, trying to shake you off. Gritting your teeth, you tightened your legs around its body and notched two arrows. You aimed at two of the droids that had circled back around, and were now firing on the shuttle. Whispering into your fingertips, the arrows thrummed with energy. You took a deep inhale and focused. Soothe. Bleed. Upon your exhale, you released. The arrows crashed into the droids’ armor and ignited, sending them screaming towards the surface. The clones had shot down another droid that had been shooting at you, leaving just the one you had straddled. You unsheathed your dagger and jabbed it between its two glaring red eyes. The droid shuddered, letting out a series of garbled, metallic noises, and dropped sharply in altitude. You sheathed the dagger and jumped up to a crouch, readying yourself. As Warthog swerved the shuttle in your direction, you pushed off, hard.

Oops. You had mistimed your jump, just barely managing to snag the side of the doorway with one hand. A line of bucketed heads appeared around the corner at the loud crash, turned in your direction. You blinked.

“Nah, don’t worry about me, I’m fine. I’ll just hang here.”

Rex grabbed your wrist, and you swung your other hand up to grasp his forearm. His feet slid a little on the floor of the shuttle, but quickly adjusted, and worked to haul you inside. Once you had your feet firmly on the floor of the shuttle, you relaxed.

Jesse lifted his bucket off of his head and nudged your shoulder with a grin. “Such a poser.” You winked at him in reply.

“Look who’s talking.”

He laughed and shook his head. Your gaze traveled to the three Wolfpack soldiers, who were staring at you as if you had two heads. You closed your eyes and exhaled, feeling the haze dissipate around you. When you opened them again, Wolffe stood in front of you, staring down at you with an ominous look in his eye. A low growl rumbled from his throat.

“What the fuck was that?” He towered over you menacingly.

You inhaled through your teeth. “It’s a bit of a long story.” Wolffe said nothing and just looked at you.

You winced. “Okay well, I guess I’ll just keep it simple.” You hesitated slightly before continuing. “I have a mutation.” He furrowed his brows and a muscle flexed in his jaw. “Long story short, it gives me enhanced abilities as well as invulnerability while activated. Also allows me to conjure weapons, if needed.”

Wolffe eyed you with an air of suspicion before pulling back several steps. Sinker spoke up from behind him.

“What’s with the music?”

You let out a nervous laugh. “Well you see, it’s not the easiest thing to control. The music helps me to focus and distinguish who the real enemy is. Before I had learned to keep it under control, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from going after pretty much everything in sight. I even attacked General Skywalker on our first campaign.”

Anakin scoffed and crossed his arms. The men looked at each other with astonished expressions. Eventually, Ghost looked back at you with intrigue.

“Glad you’re on our side then.”

You let out a small exhale of relief. Ahsoka grabbed your hand and squeezed it once, reassuringly. You gave her a grateful smile.

A few minutes later, you had neared the dropoff point. After your unit had exited the shuttle, you gave a nod to Warthog. “Get back safely.”

He nodded in acknowledgement. You descended and watched the shuttle lift back off towards the direction you had come. You looked back to your team. The clones were huddled together, discussing inventory and ammunition. Anakin had his head bent and spoke to Ahsoka in hushed tones, looking more relaxed than you had seen him. It was obvious the Jedi and his Padawan had a close bond. Though they often bickered, you could see fondness and warmth flicker in Anakin’s eyes as he listened to Ahsoka. His stance was much more relaxed, his shoulders slackened and turned in slightly. It was clear she held him in high regard as well. The two of them were quite the pair, both fairly reckless and passionate. You wondered to yourself if that had been a purposeful pairing.

You thought back to the engagement in the sky minutes prior. A small feeling of pride and encouragement surged within you. Obi-Wan was right, the mutation was getting easier to control each time. You smiled to yourself before walking over to your team. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

Dantooine was a beautiful planet. Tall grass fields stretched along the surface, dotted with rivers and streams. In the distance, you could see a cluster of lakes and a small copse of forested trees. Your heart warmed a little. It reminded you a bit of where you had grown up. You smiled to yourself. Perhaps the forests on Dantooine would be reminiscent of the ones that had surrounded you in your childhood on Earth. You had always loved the forests. There was something soothing about them, maybe it was the cool, crisp air it provided, or the beautiful, comforting reds and greens that had enveloped you like a blanket. You closed your eyes, nostalgic. You remembered spending time in a nearby forest with your friends, often hiking until the sun would dip low in the sky.

You opened your eyes and drew in a deep breath. There would be time to reflect later. Your party set out to search for the Jedi Temple. You had suggested moving in the direction of the most overgrowth, hoping to find a path that had been reclaimed by the forest over the centuries. Other than that, you really didn’t have much of an idea of what to look for. Although, you imagined you would be able to recognize it when you saw it. At least Anakin and Ahsoka are here. If anyone would be able to recognize anything remotely Jedi, it’d be them. You reached the copse of trees, and scanned for anything that might have signaled an entrance. Your eyes settled on a path hidden by a cluster of plants. You walked over, brushing aside the undergrowth, and looked over your shoulder to your comrades, jerking your head in the direction of the path.

“This way.”

Your unit set out, walking single file into the forest. You walked in silence, interrupted every now and then by the sound of the men briefly talking to each other in hushed tones, or by the sounds of the forest. Which was, as you were quickly realizing, nothing like the forests you grew up with. The trees were thick, almost spiky, and the grasses were more reminiscent of a savanna terrain. Every now and then, the path would twist or falter, and you would take some time to pick it back up. You were looking for the path again when you heard Rex call to you from nearby. He was standing at what appeared to be the entrance to a grove, the trail leading faintly into the draping leaves. You followed him in, the others picking their way through the undergrowth behind you.

Rex wondered to himself if they would find the Jedi Temple. The Generals hadn’t even really known for sure if it actually existed, let alone if the holocron would be there. Not to mention, Ventress was likely out here, somewhere. She could even have been watching the unit now. He let out a quiet, disgruntled noise and tightened his grip on his blasters.

You noticed Rex’s shift in demeanor, and were about to question him when you froze. The forest around you had grown eerily quiet. The wind blew cold around you, sending a dreadful shiver up your spine. Something’s wrong. The company behind you stopped, looking at you quizzically. You let the crimson mist flood your senses, preparing yourself. Up ahead, Rex had continued a few feet in front of you, unaware you had stopped.

“Rex - “

Too late. Your ears burned as you heard a soft crunch in the undergrowth near Rex. Your eyes widened and you launched yourself towards him. He had turned to face you, and took a step back in your direction when a massive, spider-like creature sprang from the cover of trees. Just before it could pounce on Rex, however, you bowled into it, sending both you and the creature tumbling to the forest floor. It screeched in rage and reared a large, leg-like appendage with what looked like some kind of stinger in your direction. Rex had recovered from his initial shock, and had turned to face you and the creature when more leapt from the shadows, surrounding the party. The Jedi unsheathed their lightsabers, and the clones engaged the creatures. Rex took another look at where you had been cornered. You jerked your head in his direction.

“Don’t worry about me, help them!” He nodded and turned on his heel to help the men.

You unsheathed your daggers and assessed the creature in front of you. It was absolutely massive, larger than most humanoid beings, with a strong looking yellow carapace. It screeched and charged at you, brandishing its stinger menacingly. Just before it could crash into you, you ran forward and slid underneath it, slicing off the stinger with one dagger and running it through the creature’s belly with the other. It shrieked and crumpled to the ground, guts and foul smelling ichor spewing from its body. Before you could scramble to your feet, another creature sprang from the bushes, charging at you. A small, gland-like organ tumbled out of the first creature near you, and as you prepared your daggers for the incoming attack, you stopped. The creature let out a low, clicking noise and shrieked lowly in the direction of the gland. You glanced down and speared the gland with the tip of your dagger, advancing on the creature. It let out another series of clicks before retreating back into the forest. Interesting.

Behind you, the clones and the Jedi fought to cull the tide of creatures that had begun swarming the clearing. The party had condensed into a closely-packed huddle, each of the men with their backs to each other. Anakin and Ahsoka were moving deftly around the grove, slicing at anything and everything they could. Several creatures sprang at Anakin from behind a cluster of trees, but were sent flying back with a shriek as he pushed them away with the Force. Still, more were coming.

You ran back towards the company and slid under the nearest creature separating you from the men, once again slicing at its softer underbelly. It shrieked in pain and fell. When the gland fell from its husk, you speared it with your other dagger and ran back to the clones, brandishing the glands. The creatures in front of you stopped, emitting low clicks and rumbles. You stole a glance over your shoulder, and shouted to Wolffe who was heading up the back of the group.

“Wolffe!” He turned to you, and you tossed your other dagger to him. He deftly caught it and held it in front of him, deterring the creatures coming up on the other side.

Anakin and Ahsoka leapt back into the center of the clearing, where you were all huddled. Anakin glanced at you.

“What’s happening?”

“Not quite sure really. They seem to be deterred by these glands. I’m thinking they’re directed mainly by their sense of smell, and since these have come from some of the creatures, I think they’re trying to see whether or not we’re a threat.”

Rex shifted beside you. “There’s still too many of them. Even if we can get some of them to back off, there’s no telling how many more there are.”

You grunted in agreement. “Yeah. Looks like they might be hive creatures, which probably isn’t good.”

Jesse spoke up from somewhere near the back. “What do you mean?”

One of the creatures advanced a few steps, shrieking. You let out a shout, taking a few menacing steps towards it. It clicked at you and retreated a pace or two.

“Well, if they are hive creatures then that means there’s a matriarch somewhere.”

Ahsoka spoke tersely from where she was crouched, lightsabers raised defensively. “Good, let’s find it and kill it.”

“I think that would be a monumentally bad idea. If we do, the males won’t stop coming until either all of us, or all of them are dead.”

Anakin let out a frustrated retort. “Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of superhuman? Why can’t you just kill all of these things like you did with the droids?”

You bit back at him sharply, “If I did that, then I’d be the one to kill everything, all of you included.” Anakin huffed angrily.

Suddenly, crashing sounds echoed throughout the forest, followed by a distant screech. That can’t be good. Another creature, larger than the rest with distinctive markings on its carapace emerged from the cover of the trees. Rex sighed. “Looks like we found the matriarch.”

You grumbled. Of course. You had to figure out a way to send this thing running for the hills, and fast. Unfortunately, keeping things alive wasn’t exactly your forte in this state. Your eyes searched the clearing, finally settling on the stinger that you had dismembered from the first creature, near one of the legs of the female. You furrowed your brows. If they had these stingers, maybe they would be averse to whatever poison dripped from them. If I can get close enough, maybe I can sting it to send it away. Hopefully. You made your decision. Worth a shot. Slowly, without removing your gaze from the matriarch, you passed your dagger to Rex. He looked at you before holstering one of his blasters and took the dagger in his hand.

“What are you gonna do?”

“Something. Hopefully it’ll work,” you muttered.

The female shrieked at your party, rearing its stinger. Its legs slammed into the ground mercilessly. You advanced, slowly at first, stopping when the creature let out another shriek and took a few steps towards you.

“Merc, what do you think you’re doing?” Anakin hissed at you. You held up a hand without turning to face him. “Stay with the men.”

“Are you insa - “

Stay with the men.”

Somewhere behind you, you heard Wolffe growl a warning. They watched as you advanced again, step by step, towards the creature. The closer you got, the more agitated it became. Finally, it let out an ear-splitting screech and charged at you.

You lunged forward and twisted, dodging the creature as it scrambled on the forest floor to slow its momentum. The female wheeled around to face you, and charged again. You picked up the stinger and braced your fingers on either side of your body on the ground. The female was much faster than you had anticipated, however, and barrelled into you. You were knocked backwards and crashed into the base of a tree. You heard Ahsoka shout something, but you weren’t quite sure what. The female towered over you and brought its stinger down over your head. You caught it with a hand, forcing it away from your body. Presented with your current situation, you could feel the mist coil, tempting you to strike. Go. Kill. Show no mercy. You struggled to shove the feeling back down. You couldn’t kill the matriarch, that would doom the rest of your party. That, and you were not about to regress after all of the work you devoted to controlling the bloodlust. You can do this.

You gathered your feet beneath you in a crouch, and slowly raised yourself up. The female shrieked and pressed harder, trying to overpower you. You took a step forward, until your chest was nearly pressed against the carapace. With a snarl, you buried the stinger into the underbelly of the matriarch. It reared up and away from you, staggering for a moment. Your blood ran cold for a few seconds. Please tell me that won’t kill it. But then, the female began to emit similar clicking and rumbling sounds to the males surrounding the clearing. With another low screech, it retreated into the forest, the males following the matriarch immediately.

You stood there for a moment, looking back at your party. The mutation shrieked in rage and your senses began to thrum with a dull ache. You gripped your head, groaning. You took a deep breath and focused. Control. Breathe. You swallowed. The mist faded a little. You took several other deep breaths and felt it slowly retreat, the mist completely dissipating from around you.

When you opened your eyes again, someone stood in front of you, looking down at you with concern.

~~~

The creatures had begun retreating from the clearing when Jesse caught sight of you again. You were standing not far away from where the matriarch had pinned you to the tree, watching the creatures disappear into the forest. The red mist still surrounded you, and as he watched, he thought he saw a flicker of malice pass over your eyes as you turned to the group. As soon as it had come, it was replaced with a look of remorse, followed by pain. Your fingers groped at your temples, and you groaned, swaying back a bit on your feet.

Jesse felt a sharp feeling of alarm in his chest. He ran towards you, stopping several feet away. He reached out but hesitated, his arms frozen in midair for a moment. The red mist still coiled around you, and you had your eyes squeezed tightly closed, your face pained. He heard General Skywalker call a low warning to him from somewhere behind him, but he ignored it.

“Izzy?”

You didn’t respond. Your chest heaved as you took several deep breaths.

“Izzy are you alright?”

The mist evaporated. Your eyelids fluttered open and fixed a blank stare on Jesse. You looked almost… confused. Jesse felt a jolt of panic surge through him. She doesn’t recognize me. Then your expression shifted. Recognition flickered in your eyes, and you blinked.

“Jesse.”

Relief washed over him. He took a deep breath. “Did you hear me?”

You started and looked up at him dazedly. “No, I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked if you were alright.”

“Oh.” You furrowed your brow and gazed at the forest floor for a moment before answering. “Yeah, I just had kind of a weird feeling. I’m okay.”

Jesse clenched his jaw and was about to question you further when Wolffe and Ghost appeared at his shoulder. Ghost approached you and asked if you were hurt, to which you answered that you weren’t.

“You don’t have to worry about me, I’m all good,” you said with a smile.

“Well, I’m going to check you over anyways.” You hesitated for a moment, but nodded. While Ghost looked you over, Jesse felt Wolffe nudge his shoulder. He looked at him and followed him back over to Rex, Anakin, Ahsoka and Sinker.

Anakin fixed him with a stare as he approached. “What’s going on?”

Jesse hesitated and glanced back at you for a moment. You wouldn’t be happy if he mentioned what had happened on the Resolute, but he really didn’t have a choice. He’d endure your wrath later. Truth be told, he was worried about you, about how the mutation was affecting you. He sighed and glanced back at the others.

“There was… an incident back on the ship. After the first briefing, when she activated the mutation for strategy.” He paused. “She started looking sick, like really sick. I followed her out of the bridge, and she ended up vomiting blood.” Ahsoka let out a small, horrified gasp, while Anakin narrowed his eyes. Rex and Sinker watched him intently, and Wolffe had turned to look back at you. Jesse let out a small breath of air and continued.

“She thinks it’s because of the mutation. Sometimes, in different circumstances, it - I don’t know, it fights back. Hurts her. It’s - “ He paused, flexing his jaw. “It’s a parasite. ” Jesse spat the last words. He hated this. He fucking hated the mutation. He fucking hated that you were getting hurt because of it. He fucking hated that he couldn’t do anything to help you. He hated all of it.

~~~

You held out your arms while Ghost looked you over. He glanced up at you for a moment.

“Looked like a nasty piece of business, being tossed into that tree.”

You gave him a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, the mutation prevents me from being physically harmed.”

He hummed. “You can put your arms down.” He straightened and searched your eyes for a moment. “What about mentally?”

Your eyes widened briefly and you hesitated. You sighed. No use in lying now I guess. “Recently it’s been… difficult.” Ghost nodded, waiting for you to continue.

“Sometimes, I have to exert a little bit more energy than normal to fight back the mutation. It… it’s almost like the more I fight it, the more it fights me. Hurts me. I don’t really know how to explain it, but back on the Resolute, it made me sick. Not vomit but… blood. A lot of blood.”

Ghost was silent for a moment. He drew in a deep breath. “And just now?”

You blinked. “Now?”

“You looked pretty out of it for a minute. Grabbed your head and groaned for a while.”

You silently cursed yourself. You should have concealed it better. “I’m fine, it just gave me a headache for a moment.”

He gave you a doubtful look. “How come you didn’t recognize Jesse?”

Shit. He really doesn’t miss, does he? You looked at your feet.

“I don’t know if I have an answer to that for you, Ghost.”

He studied you carefully. Finally he reached out and placed a hand on your shoulder. When you looked back at him, his eyes were filled with compassion.

“If you ever need to talk about it, come talk to me. I’ll help you figure this out.”

You warmed at his words and gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”

He nodded, and turned back towards the party. You straightened and crossed the clearing to where the others were huddled, only to be intercepted by a very angry Anakin.

“Were you ever going to tell us that this is killing you?”

You froze in your tracks, shocked by his outburst. Your gaze wandered behind him to Jesse, who looked away from you, guilt and conflict mired in his eyes. Frustration pooled in your stomach, and you snapped your gaze back to Anakin.

“That’s none of your business Skywalker,” you spat, “I’m doing fine.”

“How are we supposed to trust you won’t just collapse on the field?”

“Well, I don’t know, maybe you should just trust me for once!”

“Obviously I can’t, if you keep hiding things like this from us!”

It wasn’t your business in the first place! I have everything under control!” You were becoming more animated, practically hissing at Anakin.

Anakin scoffed. “Please. Control is the one thing you’ve never had. You’ll never get this under control, and you’re a fool if you think you can.”

Ahsoka stepped in between the two of you. “Master,” she looked up at him, “this won’t help anything. We have to keep moving to find the Jedi Temple, before Ventress finds the holocron.” Anakin grumbled, but didn’t say anything else.

You looked up and took a deep breath. The sky was starting to darken. “She’s right,” you said quietly. “Let’s keep moving. We need to find the Temple before nightfall.”

The men exchanged a glance and followed you out of the clearing. You stepped back onto the path, and silently cursed yourself.

How do you manage to get yourself into these situations? You groaned and angrily flexed your fingers. Behind you, you heard hurried footsteps catch up to match your pace. You glanced over your shoulder, into Jesse’s guilt-ridden eyes. He tensed.

“Isabelle, I - “

“Don’t.” You cut him off quietly. “Just, don’t. Please.”

He stopped, looking down at his feet. His eyes wandered back up to yours, and he looked as if he were going to say something else, but thought better of it, and retreated a little to fall into step next to Rex, who shot him a sidelong glance.

Your party continued, moving along the twisting trails until the sun had set beneath the horizon. You were about to suggest making camp for the night, when you saw the path verge off sharply ahead of you. You frowned, and ducked underneath a low hanging tree, looking ahead. Your breath caught in your throat. You turned back to the company with a smile.

“You guys need to see this.”

The others gathered around you, and peered out at the enclave. A massive structure loomed ahead, vines and overgrowth littering its exterior. A stripe of moonlight shone down, illuminating its walls in a silvery glow. Waterfalls bubbled in the distance, and small streams ran through the grove surrounding the area. Ahsoka let out a breath.

“The Jedi Temple.”

Chapter Text

Your party ventured into the clearing, gazing up at the massive structure in front of you. A large, stone staircase led up to the entrance to the Temple. You had turned to Anakin to discuss making camp for the night, before continuing the expedition in the morning. He had suggested sheltering directly inside the Temple for the time being, but you felt a flicker of nervousness as you gazed at its towering walls.

“I don’t know Anakin. It just seems a little too exposed. If Ventress is here, she’d find us immediately.”

Anakin had, for once, actually considered your words. He sighed. “I know. But we don’t have any better ideas, and we need to make camp. It’s either this, or going back into the forest with those beasts.”

You hesitated, and thought for a moment longer. Finally you agreed, and nodded your head to the rest of the company. “We’ll make camp here for the night.”

Rex nodded at you before turning to the other men. They spoke quietly, then turned and ventured off to search for firewood and supplies.

Anxiety pricked at your stomach. Actually, maybe that was just hunger. Either way, you still had a bad feeling. You pushed it down. Everything would be alright. If Ventress did find your unit, she would most likely lurk in the shadows, or try to sneak around you to get a jump on the holocron rather than engage directly, given the size of your party. You turned your focus instead to Ahsoka, who had wandered over to the two of you.

“Feel like a hunt?”

She smiled, and looked to her Master for permission. Anakin gave a small chuckle, and nodded his head. “Go on, Snips. Just make sure you bring something back for all of us.”

Ahsoka shot an excited look at you before turning and dashing back into the woods. You gave Anakin a parting nod, and turned to follow her into the brush. When you emerged, Ahsoka was waiting for you, glancing quietly around the area. She looked at you as you came to stand beside her. “Do you think those things are still out there?” You sighed.

“Probably, but I’d rather not stick around to find out. Let’s go see if we can find something better than rations to bring back.”

You and Ahsoka set off quietly through the brush. You mulled over your thoughts in your head. Well, if there are predators here, there’s bound to be some kind of prey. You glanced at Ahsoka, who was moving quietly through the undergrowth, focus driven into her features. You smiled at her.

“You ever get a chance to do this?”

She looked up at you, excitement flashing in her eyes. “Not really. Usually we just rely on field rations on campaigns. It’s good that we’re in such a forested area, we might actually be able to find something.”

You chuckled. “When in Rome.”

“What?”

“Nothing. It’s just a saying back on my home planet. Basically means ‘just go with it’ when you’re in an unfamiliar area.”

A small smile crept onto her face. “I like that. Sounds like something Anakin is all too familiar with.”

You laughed quietly. “He definitely seems like the type of person who likes to improvise.”

“He does. Drives Rex and Master Obi-Wan crazy.”

You were going to reply when you heard the soft crunching of undergrowth ahead. You stopped and crouched, motioning for Ahsoka to do the same. You glanced at her and raised a finger to your lips, then closed your eyes and allowed yourself to converge with the mist. You heard Anakin’s harsh words echo through your thoughts. You’ll never get this under control, and you’re a fool if you think you can. You gritted your teeth and fought against the doubt quickly pooling in your gut. You’ve done this before, why stop now?

You shifted into a subtle acuity, opening your eyes and feeling the bow materialize in your hands. A wave of black mist crashed over the two of you before fading into the shadows. The forest sounds around you muted, as if you had been plunged underwater. Ahsoka’s brow furrowed in confusion, but didn’t say anything. You nodded at her before stepping forward. You and your companion’s steps were muted entirely as you moved, leaving the forest floor undisturbed. Ahead, you glimpsed a green creature that resembled an antelope. Two gnarled horns curled out of the top of its head, and it had its back turned to the two of you, grazing. As you approached, it raised its head slightly in alarm, looking around. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Ahsoka raise a single hand, willing the Force to soothe the creature. It lowered its head again.

You took in a deep breath and notched an arrow, drawing it back to your ear. You whispered into your fingertips, and heard a soft hush emit from the arrowhead. When you released it, no sound was made. The arrow flew through the air before striking the creature, sending it to the forest floor. You straightened, and sent the mist back into the depths. The forest sounds raised quietly around the two of you once again. Ahsoka looked at you questioningly.

“Did you do that? How’d all of the sounds disappear?”

You gave her a small nod and a smile. “Yep. Part of the mutation gives me enhanced abilities in various militaristic tactics, including subtlety. The black mist you saw suppresses noise. Allows us to move without being heard, basically.”

She gave you a wry smile. “That’s pretty cool. Can’t wait to tell the boys back at camp.”

“Jesse already knows. He made me use it to paint the Captain’s armor pink.”

Ahsoka laughed. “That was pretty funny.” She paused briefly before adding, “you and him seem to have gotten pretty close.”

“Yeah, he’s been a good friend to me.” You thought for a moment. Jesse had been a good friend to you. In fact, anytime you needed anything, he was always there. You could always rely on him to look out for you, just as you would for him. Guilt pricked at your insides. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent him away earlier. You knew that he was just trying to help. If anything, he was probably worried about you. You remembered the way he had looked at you, his usual impish golden eyes swirling with concern and worry. Something in your chest fluttered a little.

Ahsoka was watching you carefully. You blinked and looked back at your catch with a grin. “Shall we head back?”

She nodded. “They’ll probably be wondering where we are by now.”

You stooped to gently pick up the beast, and turned to follow your companion back towards the direction of the Jedi Temple.

~~~

When you and Ahsoka arrived back in the clearing, you could see a small orange glow emitting from just inside the walls of the Temple. She ran ahead, and you followed, hauling your catch with you. As you crested the top of the stairs, you caught a glimpse of the men surrounding the fire. The clones were more relaxed, having removed their helmets and were listening to a story Anakin was telling about Obi-Wan. They let out a peal of laughter as you approached.

Rex spoke first. “The General did what?

Anakin chuckled and nodded. “He had six drinks in him. Took me ages to get him to quit dancing and come down from the table.”

Ahsoka piped up from beside you. “I remember that. That’s a good story.”

The clones looked back at you, and brightened on seeing yours and Ahsoka’s catch. Rex stood and walked over to help you. “Well it looks like you two were successful.”

Sinker groaned and leaned back. “Thank the Maker. I’m absolutely starving.”

You grinned at him. “What happened to your rations?”

He snorted. “I don’t think I can take another day of eating those. They’re too bland.”

“Well it’s a good thing Ahsoka and I were here to save the day,” you teased. “What were you guys talking about?”

Ghost spoke up from where he sat next to Sinker. “General Skywalker was just telling us a story about the time General Kenobi drank too much on Corellia.” Anakin nodded.

“By the end of the night he was hugging the bottle like it was a pillow. Couldn’t get him to stop moaning about how alone he was.”

You cocked your head at him. “Seems like a sad ending to me.”

Anakin only shrugged in response. “Most stories don’t have happy endings.” You hummed, gazing out at the moonlight bathed enclave. “Unfortunately I think that’s true.”

Sinker glanced up at you. “What, you don’t have any happy stories to share?”

You chuckled and sat down. “I never said that. Back home, most of our stories were told as tragedies. Of course I have good memories, but I wouldn’t consider them as great a story as some of those I grew up with.”

Jesse spoke up, unusually quiet. “Will you tell us one?”

“What?”

“A story. Will you tell us one of those stories?”

You blanked for a moment, staring at the flickering flames in front of you. I’m not prepared for this. You sighed and nodded. “Okay, but it won’t be very happy.”

Ghost shrugged. “That’s okay.”

You wracked your brain for a moment, trying to decide on a story. You settled on one of your childhood favorites, from Pirates of the Caribbean funnily enough . Maybe don’t tell them that this is technically from a movie. Oh well, it’s still a good story.

You looked around at the men watching you, and settled in to begin the story. “Centuries ago, the goddess Calypso ruled the seas mercilessly. She was strong, and wild, feared and respected by many pirates and sailors. But she fell in love with a mortal man, Davy Jones.” You paused. Ahsoka settled on her elbows, listening intently.

“She loved him so much, and desperately wanted to be with him, forever. But, she was immortal, and like all men, Davy Jones would age and eventually die. So Calypso devised a plan.” Wolffe shifted near you, leaning forward slightly. “She came to Davy Jones, and tricked him to cut out his heart and give it to her. Which, eventually, he did.” Rex let out a quiet grunt of surprise. Sinker exchanged a look with Ghost, before he spoke.

“Did he survive?”

You tutted. “In a manner of speaking. Calypso enchanted him so he would remain alive, and locked his heart in a chest. The only way he could be killed is if someone shot or stabbed the heart. But, his immortality came with a price.” Anakin watched you intently. “The enchantment bestowed Davy Jones with a new duty, as ferryman of the dead. He was forced to roam the seas, only allowing him to step on land one day every ten years, to be with Calypso.” You stared back into the fire for a long moment.

“Those first ten years passed by, and Davy Jones waited at the place he was finally supposed to meet his love. But she abandoned him.” Ahsoka let out a soft gasp next to you. “Enraged, Davy Jones did the only thing he could to exact his revenge on Calypso. He told the pirate lords the secret to binding her in earthly chains, so that she would be trapped in a mortal form. Then, he abandoned his role as the ferryman, leaving the souls of the dead to wander the seas, lost for eternity.” You glanced at Wolffe, and saw a muscle flex in his jaw. “After he abandoned his duty, the enchantment turned to a curse, and Davy Jones, his ship, and his crew, essentially became more sea than man. Davy Jones was so heartbroken, that he turned vicious, cold and callous. For years, pirates and sailors roamed the seas fearing the arrival of Davy Jones and The Flying Dutchman.”

Ghost whispered something to Sinker. Jesse hadn’t taken his gaze off of the fire. “Eventually, the new pirate lords banded together to fight Davy Jones, and kill him. They had Calypso in custody, and planned to unleash her power against him. Days before the battle, Davy Jones captured Calypso. She spoke to him, promising that once the pirates released her, she would turn against them, so that they would be together again, for all eternity.” You paused. “He released her back to the pirates. But when the time came, she left. She abandoned Davy Jones, again, to die.” You heard soft exhales around you. “But they never stopped loving each other.”

Silence surrounded the fire for a while. Finally, Wolffe looked at you, his normally hard features relaxed and calm.

“Why did she abandon him?”

You thought for a moment. “She was a goddess. It was in her nature to act in her own self-interest, even if it were against the man she loved. She knew that and hated it.”

More silence. You cleared your throat, awkwardly. “Sorry. I told you guys it wouldn’t be a very happy story.”

Ghost gave you a soft smile. “It was a good story, though.” Rex and Sinker nodded in agreement.

You smiled at him and nodded your thanks, then sighed. “So, does anyone have any fun stories? Or are we just going to sit here depressed around the fire all night.”

The group descended into a series of tales that lifted everyone’s spirits. Sinker kept trying to tell war stories while his face was stuffed with food, to which Wolffe rolled his eyes and kicked him to get him to stop. Sinker glared at his Commander before flashing a playful grin in your direction, and launched into a story about how Wolffe had threatened to dismember a protocol droid for annoying him. You laughed along with the story and glanced at Wolffe, whose cheeks were darkly tinged ever so slightly. He grumbled. Sinker pushed him even further by turning to you.

“Hey, by the way, what did you call Wolffe back on the shuttle?”

You looked at him, confused for a moment. Then understanding washed over you. “Oh! Embiid.” You chuckled. Wolffe shot a glance at you and narrowed his eyes, as if daring you to insult him.

“It’s not a bad thing. Back home there was a famous athlete whose whole thing revolved around a mantra, ‘trust the process.’ His name was Joel Embiid.” You shrugged at Wolffe. “It kind of became a popular thing to say when I was younger.”

Wolffe’s features softened a little. You gave him a reassuring smile.

Rex and Ahsoka shared stories of the Torrent. A particular tale in which Rex glued Jesse into his bucket to get back at him for putting green hair dye in his shampoo had you almost in tears. You looked at Jesse, who was still unusually quiet.

“Looks like you won’t have to tell me that story after all, Jesse.”

He glanced up at you briefly before returning his gaze to the fire. “I guess not.”

Your stomach dropped a little. You looked at Jesse, concern and guilt forming a lump in your throat. You swallowed it back when Ahsoka began teasing Rex for the time he had to give Jar Jar Binks blaster training.

Rex groaned and tossed his head back. “I can still hear his voice. Worst week of my life.” You giggled and he glanced at you out of the corner of his eye, grinning.

You all continued swapping stories for a while, before the majority of the group settled in for the night. You smiled as you watched the men talk to each other, relaxed and playful smiles resting on their faces. Nights like these didn’t come very often, and you were thankful for how easy it was to be with your new friends. You warmed, reminded of the friends you had traveled here with. A pang of sadness moved through you, although it was quickly replaced with affection after watching Sinker sneak up and surprise Wolffe, holding two sticks above his head like antlers; he howled with laughter upon seeing the Commander’s shocked and irritated expression. Maybe there’s a place for me here after all. You stood and looked at Anakin. “I’ll take the first watch.”

He nodded and turned back to the group. You stood and wandered a bit over to the entrance of the Jedi Temple, leaning against a massive stone pillar. You sat there for a while as silence descended, looking out into the clearing. You thought back to your story from earlier, and hummed the tune to Davy Jones’ theme. It echoed around the Temple walls.

“That’s a pretty song.”

You jumped and whirled around. Jesse was standing not far from you, looking a bit sheepish. You hadn’t heard him approach.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

You gave him a soft smile. “It’s okay.” The both of you sat in an awkward silence for a moment, staring at each other. You couldn’t take it anymore and broke the silence. “It’s the theme song.”

He cocked his head at you. “What?”

“The story I told, from earlier. It’s a song detailing Davy Jones and Calypso’s tragedy.”

“Oh.” He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but hesitated and closed it, his cheeks flushing. You furrowed your brows. “What is it?”

He brought a hand to the back of his neck. “Can you sing it?”

Your eyes narrowed at him for a moment. “Um… I mean I guess so. I’m not a very good singer though.”

He shuffled his feet. “I don’t mind. I had a batchmate who used to sing to us all sometimes when times were rough. It was nice.”

You softened. Something had definitely been bothering him tonight, and you realized that this might actually help calm him enough to get him to talk to you. You nodded and sat down against the pillar, patting the ground next to you. Jesse settled beside you and leaned his head against the pillar, closing his eyes. You began singing softly.

Cruel and cold, like winds on the seas,

Will you ever return to me?

Hear my voice, sing with the tide,

My love will never die.

Your voice echoed eerily throughout the Temple. You glanced anxiously at where the rest of the company slept, but heard nothing except soft snoring.

Over waves and deep in the blue,

I will give up my heart for you.

Ten long years I’ll wait to go by,

My love will never die.

Jesse opened his eyes again and swallowed.

Come, my love, be one with the sea,

Rule with me, for eternity.

Drown all dreams, so mercilessly,

And leave their souls to me.

You continued, your voice hardening slightly.

Play the song you sang long ago,

And wherever the storm may blow,

You will find the key to my heart.

We’ll never be apart.

You heard movement from the direction of the camp. Your eyes darted over, but nothing stirred.

Wild and strong you can’t be contained.

Never bound, nor ever chained.

Wounds you caused will never mend,

And you will never end.

Your breath shuddered and you lowered your voice to a softer, slower pitch, until you were almost whispering.

Cruel and cold, like winds on the seas,

Will you ever return to me?

Hear my voice, sing with the tide,

Our love will never die.

You exhaled. Silence filled the room again. You opened your mouth and turned to face Jesse, but stopped when you found he was already looking at you, his face inches from yours. Your breath caught in your throat.

“Jesse?”

He gazed into your eyes intensely. His eyes shone, and glistened for a moment. Heat rose to your cheeks. You searched his gaze, and saw his eyes briefly flicker downwards, to your lips. Is he going to kiss me? Your heart felt like it was going to pound out of your chest. His eyes flicked back to yours, and you saw an unreadable emotion swirling in his caramel gaze. He blinked and pulled away, looking back towards the camp. You swallowed and ignored the small feeling of disappointment picking at you.

“Jesse are you okay?”

He swallowed, and you noticed a muscle jump in his jaw. At first you thought he was going to completely ignore you. Then he spoke.

“I’m sorry.” His voice was quiet.

You looked down at your hands. “Sorry for what?”

“I didn’t mean to upset you earlier. I was just worried. I - “ he hesitated. “I hate the fact that you have to suffer through this alone.”

Your eyes snapped back up to him. “But I’m not alone.” He looked back at you. “I have you.”

You set your hands gently on the ground and looked back out at the camp. You felt Jesse brush his fingers against yours, and your pulse jumped.

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, you do.”

You descended into a comfortable silence. You had had a feeling that Jesse was worried about upsetting you after what had happened earlier, and you hoped that your conversation had done something to alleviate those fears. But you didn’t realize how upset your mutation made him. After all, there wasn’t anything that could be done about it now, now that you had it. All you could do was work to control it. You weren’t sure if Jesse understood that.

Chapter Text

The next morning, you woke to movement around the now extinguished fire. You yawned and stretched, looking outside and groaning at the still dark sky. Sinker gave you an amused smirk. “Not much of a morning person?”

You grumbled. “Is it actually morning if it’s still dark outside?”

He let out a low chuckle. “Fair point.”

Rex, Anakin, and Ahsoka were huddled nearby, speaking quietly. You dragged yourself to your feet and wandered over to them. Anakin gave you a nod as you approached. Hmm. Well that’s nice that he’s putting in an effort. “What’s going on?”

Ahsoka looked up at you. “We were just discussing how we would search for the holocron.” She glanced at her Master. “We thought we would split up and divide the party into groups, since this place is so big.”

You hummed. “Sounds like a plan. We’ll communicate through comms if anyone finds anything?” They nodded. “Great. Let’s get going then, the sooner we start, the sooner we can find this thing.”

Anakin and Jesse peeled off in one direction, while Ahsoka motioned to Sinker and Ghost, walking straight ahead. Rex and Wolffe turned to you expectantly. You gave them both a nod and moved to follow the hallway to your right.

The three of you walked in silence for a while, footsteps echoing on the stone floors. The narrow stone hallways reached up high above your head, to a nearly imperceptible ceiling. It was dark, the only light provided by the headlamps on your companion’s buckets. You fought an uneasy feeling coiling in your stomach and mumbled. “Kinda creepy in here.”

Wolffe grunted next to you in agreement. “I wonder if that witch is slinking around in here.” He spat the words with vitriol. You glanced at him. “Not a big fan of Ventress?” Rex stiffened on your other side.

He turned his head and stared at you for a long moment. Shit. Did I say something wrong? He faced down the corridor again. “Not particularly.”

You exhaled. “Well then, let’s make sure she regrets coming here in the first place.” You offered him a soft smile. He grunted again in response, but relaxed a little.

You kept walking, returning to a comfortable silence. Rex spoke quietly next to you. You almost didn’t hear him.

“I liked your song, by the way.”

Your cheeks flushed and you slapped a hand to your forehead, eyes widening in embarrassment. You thought you had heard something move last night. “You heard that?”

He chuckled. “Yeah, takes me a bit to fall asleep sometimes.” He turned his head slightly in your direction. “It was nice.”

You looked at him and felt a small smile creep onto your face. “Thank you.” He nodded at you and turned his attention forward.

The hallway widened to reveal a wide room. It was so dark you couldn’t see much more than several steps in front of you. The three of you looked around, trying to make out anything in the gloom. You took a few hesitant steps forward, and felt a tile beneath your foot depress.

Click!

Panic surged through you. The room suddenly lighted, flames flickering along the walls of the Temple, reaching far down to the opposite side, where a massive statue was constructed. “Oh God , this is just like how it happens in films. We’re gonna die.” You heard Rex laugh and Wolffe scoff through their modulators next to you.

“So dramatic.” Rex stepped up next to you and surveyed the tile. “It’s not explosive, you know. You can move.”

You let out a breath you didn’t know you had been holding and stepped off of the tile. Wolffe scanned the room. A low growl rumbled from his throat.

“Well, that one might not have been explosive, but I’m not so sure about those.” You followed his gaze. Two rows of five wide, intricately detailed tiles littered the floor, each emblazoned with an ancient symbol. You groaned. That doesn’t look good. Should’ve known this wasn’t going to be easy. You turned on your comm and spoke into it, awaiting a response.

“Hey, Anakin? Think we might’ve found something.”

A few moments later, Anakin’s broken voice buzzed through.

“We’re on our way … et Ahsoka know … oming …” 

You frowned and tapped at your comm. Must be interference. You tried comming Ahsoka next, notifying her of your group’s discovery. Her voice came through much clearer, and confirmed your message. You waited along with the two men for the rest of your companions to join you.

You surveyed the scene in front of you, hummed and thought to yourself. “Rex?” He turned to you. “Do you happen to have any kind of random non-essential object on you?” He chuckled.

“That’s both incredibly vague and specific.” He searched the ground for a moment, and found a small piece of stone that had likely dislodged from the ceiling, handing it to you. You thanked him, and hesitated.

“You both should go stand in the hallway.”

They looked at you, and Wolffe started to say something, but you cut him off. “Go stand in the hallway, please.”

They stood there for a moment longer, exchanging a look, before slowly returning to the safety of the corridor behind you. You tossed the stone in your hand for a few moments, thinking. The tiles rested on a platform beneath you, accessible by a small staircase. You looked around at the walls, then the ceiling. You couldn’t see anything that indicated a booby trap, although you knew there had to be one, waiting for you. You took a deep breath and reached your arm back, slinging the rock forward onto one of the tiles. One of them depressed, and at first, nothing happened. Then, a small humming noise sounded from the platform, slowly growing louder and louder. You watched, shocked, as the entire platform burst with energy, electric light flickering throughout the chamber. When the platform settled again, the small stone you had tossed had been vaporized.

Your jaw dropped and you turned your head to Rex and Wolffe, who had lifted their buckets slightly and were staring at the platform with an expression that you assumed mirrored your own.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

~~~

A short while later, Anakin, Ahsoka, and the other troopers joined you all in the chamber. Anakin pushed forward to where you sat on the ground, legs extended, leaning back on your arms. “You think this is it?”

You turned your head to look up at him. “Oh, I’m almost positive. Say, by the way, is there any reason why the ancient Jedi had to go all Assassin’s Creed for this?” Anakin frowned.

“Assassin’s what? What are you talking about?” You waved your hand at him dismissively, before picking up another nearby stone and lobbing it at the tiles. “Watch this.”

Rex and Wolffe waited, arms crossed, while you hummed in boredom. Anakin turned back to the platform.

“I don’t get - “

The platform exploded again, crackling and sparking with electricity. The newcomers jumped, staring at the platform with wide eyes. White shards of energy reached towards the ceiling, dancing and flickering like flames. Once it had stopped, you saw the stone had once again vaporized.

You turned your attention back to the others, who were staring at the platform in astonishment. Anakin drew his gaze down to yours.

You couldn’t help but smirk at his shocked expression. “It would seem we have reached an impasse.”

He scoffed. “Stop joking around. How the hell are we supposed to get past this?”

“How am I supposed to know?” You snorted. “You’re the Jedi. If anyone has an idea about how to get through this, it’s you.”

Sinker spoke up. “Why don’t we keep tossing rocks over there and find out which one works and which one doesn't?”

“We already tried that,” you replied. “It looks like it won’t work at all unless there’s a person on the platform.”

Ahsoka furrowed her brow. “So, if we can’t figure this out we don’t get the holocron?”

“Correct,” you affirmed.

“And if we try to figure out the puzzle, and mess up, we fry everyone on the platform?”

“Also correct.”

She gaped slightly at Anakin. “Master, how are we going to get through this?” Anakin narrowed his eyes at the platform before sighing. “I don’t know Snips. I don’t know.”

You turned your attention back to the tiles. “Do you know what those symbols are?”

Anakin squinted, trying to make out the tiles. He looked up at the statue on the other side of the room. Suddenly, recognition flashed in his eyes. “Revan…” Ahsoka looked at him quizzically. “What?”

Anakin turned back to the group, quickly explaining. “In the years before the Temple fell into ruin, there was a sith, Darth Revan. He was rehabilitated as a Jedi here, in the Enclave.” He paused, furrowing his brow. “There were rumors of a holocron containing Sith teachings from Revan, millenia after his death. Ventress isn’t looking for a Jedi holocron, she’s looking for a Sith holocron.”

You leaned towards Rex and whispered, “I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.” Rex let out a low chuckle. “You get used to it.”

Ahsoka narrowed her eyes on the tiles. “Okay, so how do we solve this then?”

You pursed your lips and thought for a moment. You spoke your thought process out loud to your companions. “You said Revan was a rehabilitated Sith right?”

Anakin nodded. “Yes.”

“So technically he had control over both the Light and Dark sides of the Force?”

“That’s right.”

“So… could this be a lesson on balance maybe? Like controlling the Dark and keeping the Light?”

Anakin frowned. “I guess that could make sense.”

“What are those symbols?”

“I think they’re ancient Sith hieroglyphics. Problem is, I can’t read them.” He paused for a moment, before his eyes lit up. “But, I might know someone who can.”

He fiddled with his holoprojector. “Obi-Wan, tell me you can hear me.” Obi-Wan’s flickering form appeared a short while later.

“Anakin, have yo… ound the holocron?” Obi-Wan’s voice came through broken before stabilizing, and his form flickered briefly.

“We think so. But, I was actually going to ask if you could send a message to Master Windu.”

Obi-Wan frowned and brought his hand to his chin. “What do you need to say?”

Anakin explained the situation as quickly as possible. “We need someone who can read the Sith hieroglyphics. I figured Master Windu would be our best bet.”

You heard a faint cough from somewhere behind Obi-Wan, and Master Plo’s form came into view. “Actually, young Skywalker, I might be able to help you with that.”

Ahsoka looked shocked. “Master Plo, you know Sith hieroglyphics?” He nodded. “I have studied a great number of topics in my time, including those that the Jedi Council might normally look down upon. Let me see the glyphs.”

Anakin descended the steps. You stood to follow him, but he put up a hand to stop you. “Wait. I’ll go first.” You opened your mouth to protest, but before you could say anything, he interrupted you. “It won’t do anyone any good if we all die here.” Reluctantly, you closed your mouth and nodded.

He stepped onto the platform, which immediately began to thrum with energy. The glyphs on the tiles glowed a vivid crimson. Anakin showed Master Plo the first two glyphs. He studied them for a moment before saying, “Ajak. Left.” Anakin stepped onto the left panel and held his breath as it depressed. Nothing happened. He felt a smirk pull at the corners of his lips. “That worked Master Plo, four more to go.”

Anakin proceeded to show Master Plo each glyph, taking a moment before stepping on each of the panels. As he moved, the prior panels remained sunken into the ground.

“Chwayatyun. Right.”

“Kaggath. Right.”

“Midwan. Left.”

“Qyâsik. Right.”

As Anakin reached the other side by the statue, he turned. Your party was descending the steps and following swiftly in his footsteps, stepping on each of the panels in order. He looked back at Master Plo’s form, and thanked him before closing. Once your group had joined him on the opposite side, the ground opened up at the base of the statue, revealing a staircase underneath the Enclave. You gave Anakin a look out of the corner of your eye.

“After you.”

He rolled his eyes and began descending the staircase. Your party followed closely. Rex stopped before you and turned to the side, allowing you to pass by. You smiled at him, and as you walked past, you thought you could feel a ghost of his gloved hand by the small of your back, supporting you as you clambered down, but it was gone almost instantly. Your squadron descended for what seemed like hours, creeping ever farther into the darkness below the Temple. You felt uneasiness bottom out in your stomach. Ghost slipped on one of the stairs, sending small stones flying. Sinker caught him by the arm and steadied him, to which Ghost nodded gratefully. From behind you, you heard Wolffe’s growling voice.

“I don’t like this.”

“I think we’re almost there.” Anakin’s voice could be heard echoing from ahead of you. “It looks like there’s some light up ahead.”

He was right. You were starting to see some of the stairs up ahead, more visible now in the gloom. A few more steps, and you glimpsed the outline of a tall archway, leading to another chamber. Stepping down the final few steps, you peered forward into the darkness. Several of the men came and stood beside you, the light from their headlamps illuminating the area in front of you. It was massive. The chamber itself was probably the size of the entire Enclave, carved entirely in cold stone. Despite its sheer size, it was relatively empty, save for the looming, stone structure directly ahead of you. Two large, stone walls rose from the floor, pressing so close to one another you might’ve thought they were one wall entirely, if it weren’t for the eerie, crimson glow that emanated from between them. Your party had begun to move ahead. You made to follow them when you heard a strange echo from the staircase behind you. You turned and looked up, your eyes narrowing. Several small stones clattered to the floor. You were about to investigate when you heard Anakin calling to you from the chamber.

“Merc! You coming or not?”

You took one last glance at the staircase before turning and following your companions. They had already reached the walls when you heard another echo, this time much closer to you. You froze and turned, searching the darkness.

A pair of ice blue eyes opened, inches in front of yours.

~~~

Anakin reached in between the stone walls, slowly feeling around for something, anything. Finally, his fingers brushed against a small, triangular object, humming with energy. He pulled it out and held it gently in his hands. It whispered to him, mesmerizing him for a moment. Distant screams and cries echoed in his mind. He could hear his mother, gasping as she died in his arms.

I love… I love…

He heard his own cries of anguish, and the screams of the Tuskens as he slaughtered them. No, no, no… no please, make it stop! Dread washed over him like a wave, filling his senses. The holocron whispered to him. They deserved to die. They murdered her. Took her away from you. More screaming. He shuddered. He desperately wanted it to stop, but couldn’t bring himself to drag his gaze away.

Anakin, help me!

He flinched. Was that your voice? Why was he hearing your voice? Another fresh wave of panic began to wash over him, when Ahsoka’s voice snapped him out of his trance.

“Master, is everything alright?”

He dragged his gaze away, a bit shaken. “Everything’s fine. Let’s just get out of this place.” He pocketed the holocron and looked around, furrowing his brows. “Wait a minute, where’s - “

“AIEEEEEEEEE!”

Everyone whipped around, facing the entrance and the two screeching women that had tumbled to the floor. You kicked your foot into the other woman’s stomach, sending her flying over you. When you recovered, Anakin saw your features enveloped by the mist.

She landed nimbly, rolling and unsheathing a crimson lightsaber, turning to give Anakin a look of pure hatred.

“Skywalker,” she spat. “I believe you have something I need.”

Anakin scowled at the woman, unsheathing his lightsaber.

“Ventress.”

Chapter Text

Ventress circled your party, and you walked forward, keeping your eyes locked on her. She seemed to be looking over each of the men, her gaze settling on Wolffe for a moment. She gave him a smirk and cooed at him in a sickening voice.

“I remember you. Long time no see. ” She trailed off into a malicious laugh, dragging a slender finger down his bucket. He growled and raised his blaster menacingly.

“Conniving bitch.” Anakin shot him a look of warning. Ventress only tutted. “Oh come now darling, is that any way to treat an old friend?”

You had reached the group. Ventress’ gaze wandered back over to you, and she glided across the floor, circling you slowly. “Now this is interesting. I didn’t know dear Obi-Wan’s little science project would be here.” Hatred rose sharply in your chest. Okay, fuck this bitch. You could feel the mutation aching through your body, egging you to strike. For once, you didn’t want to fight it back. But… wait a moment. How does she know me?

“Yes, that’s right, I know just who you are, we all do. If you live through this, he just might have a use for you yet.”

You snarled and spun on Ventress, feeling the axes materialize in your hands. The haze grew, numbing everything out for a moment except her. You lunged at her, attacking with unforeseen speed. She sliced through your battleaxes, but more spikes immediately materialized in your hands. You were on the offensive, and with each strike, you pushed her backwards. You were vaguely aware of someone screaming, and it took you a moment to notice that it was you . Ventress pushed you back towards the group with the Force and lunged, bringing her lightsaber down on top of you.

Everything stopped. You heard gasps from your companions behind you. Ventress looked at you, astonished. You had caught the lightsaber by the blade, and stared back into her eyes. The mist had completely enveloped you, you were radiating hatred at this point. Look at her. Pathetic. How dare she...she doesn’t deserve to live. A wicked smile grew on your features. You saw a small flicker of fear appear in Ventress’ eyes. Good. She should be scared. You reached up with your other hand and snapped the saber blade off of its hilt. “Not so tough without your little toy are you?” You didn’t even sound like yourself anymore. Your voice echoed strangely, and sounded hollow, lifeless. She looked at you wildly and backed away. A malicious laugh escaped from you and echoed around the chamber.

You heard Obi-Wan’s voice echo in your thoughts. Control. Think about what you are doing. The haze lifted slightly. What am I doing? A sharp feeling of horror clawed its way into your throat. You stopped for a moment, thinking. You had to find a way to get Ventress to talk. She was cunning, and likely wouldn’t say anything unless she felt directly threatened, like it was her only option. You made a decision, and took a deep breath, regaining your control over the power.

A wave of black mist crashed over you, and you disappeared into the shadows, completely hidden from sight. Every now and then, a wicked laugh would sound from a different corner of the room. Ahsoka shot Anakin a panicked glance, who was looking around, eyes narrowed. The clones were back to back, blasters aimed around the room. “Is she going to attack us?” Ahsoka whispered.

Anakin shook his head, even though he really didn’t know. “I don’t think so, if she was going to she would have already.” He reached out with his mind, trying to search for you. He thought he heard something, as if you faintly called out to him from somewhere, and he refocused on the sound until it became barely audible.

Don’t move. It’s going to be okay. Trust me.

He stiffened, shooting a look at his Padawan. Ahsoka glanced up at him, and the look she gave him was indicative that she had heard you too. Anakin took a deep breath, and sheathed his lightsaber. He whispered so only the unit could hear him, “Don’t move.”

Rex turned to look at him. “Sir - “

I said, don’t move.”

The company fell still, and silent. Ventress was still looking around wildly and howling in frustration, trying to find you. Suddenly, everything grew cold, lifeless. It felt as if all of the air had been sucked out of the room, and an eerie silence descended upon the chamber. Ventress finally swung back towards the group, looking at Anakin with an unhinged gaze. “No matter, I’ll just kill you and get what I need - “

Your figure exploded into view with a bone-chilling screech, red mist churning around you. You were several feet up in the air, on some kind of ledge. You launched yourself down at Ventress and sent onyx shackles flying at her, wrapping themselves around her arms and throat, pinning her to the ground. Using the Force, she strained to snap the shackles free.

“Oh I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” You chuckled maliciously. “If you snap one of those off, I’ll stick you with a spike instead.”

She screeched in rage as you loomed over her. You didn’t look anything like yourself anymore. Black and red mist flowed agitatedly around the entirety of your body now, and you had a hollow, psychotic smile plastered on your face as you stared down at Ventress. Your eyes were dead and cold. You crouched down and leaned towards her, as she struggled to free herself on the ground. “Beg.” She froze and looked back at you, shock and hatred contorting her features.

“Beg,” you repeated. “I’m going to enjoy this. Muscle by muscle, bone by bone, nerve by nerve, I will make you feel pain that will leave you begging for death. I want to hear your screams echoing in these halls. And when your body gives out and you think it will all be over, I’m going to rend your mind apart. Torture is a gift, a privilege, that you are going to wish you could suffer through. This will not be torture. This will destroy you. And I am going to drink in every delicious moment of it.” A vicious, jagged dagger materialized in your hand. “So beg. Beg for death. It is a mercy you will not receive from me.”

Now she was scared. Ventress started shouting wildly at Anakin and the company.

“DON’T JUST STAND THERE, DO SOMETHING! RESTRAIN HER!”

The mutation shrieked in pleasure, but you held back. Almost there. You could feel Anakin and Ahsoka breaching your thoughts, as they had from the start. Your eyes flickered to your unit, and for a moment, they saw you behind them. Ventress’ attention was back on the shackles as she tried desperately to free herself. You winked at the men, who looked back at you, speechless. You felt Anakin’s presence in your mind. Ask her now.

“What does Dooku want with the holocron?”

Ventress froze. “I’ll never tell you anything,” she spat.

“Shame,” you chuckled. “Things would be a lot easier for you if you tell us now. You think Dooku will treat you any differently if you escape? There is no place, no cave, no crevice where he cannot find you. Make your choice, now. Tell us what he wants with the holocron and come with us, unscathed, or don’t tell us, and I’ll pull your vocal chords out of your throat, and we’ll take you anyways.” You leaned forward before adding, “By all means, don’t tell us. I much prefer the latter.” You let out another malicious chuckle. “Or, you can risk it and try your luck with Dooku. I can’t imagine the torture he has waiting for you.” You stood and circled her. She seemed to be actually debating her options. “Tick tock, Ventress.”

You circled back to the front of her body, and knelt next to her. “Time’s up,” you said with a deranged smile. “I’m thinking I’ll start with the eyes. Should I pluck or should I - “

“ALRIGHT!”

You straightened, looking down at her. Inside you, you felt a surge of pride at how well you had controlled the mist, giving off the illusion that you were completely unhinged. That pride was cut with intense guilt, however, seeing the fear that flashed swiftly in Ventress’ eyes. Note to self, never do this again unless you absolutely have to. Unfortunately you couldn’t stop now, you had to keep going.

You slid the flat side of the blade down Ventress’ face. “Tell me what he wants with the holocron.”

Ventress stared at you a moment more, gazing at you with pure vitriol. You hummed in disappointment and stooped, adjusting your grip and  bringing the jagged blade towards her open eye. Just before you could reach her, she spoke. “He wants to master the thought bomb ritual.” You paused.

“Go on.”

She chuckled and spat her next words.“He wanted to use it to annihilate the Council. You are all fools. And you’re going to die.”

You hummed. “You know, I really expected more from you. I didn’t think Dooku’s most infamous agent would give in this easily.” She said nothing, only watched you with ice cold eyes.

You let out a mock gasp, plastering a scornful smile on your face. “Oh… I see, you were planning on betraying Dooku all along, weren’t you?”

“He betrayed me!” Her words had burst out of her, as if she couldn’t stop them. “After everything I’ve done, he tried to kill me!”

You blinked and forced a bored expression onto your face. Interesting. “So if you’re not here for him, what were you planning on doing with the holocron?”

She snarled. “I don’t care about the holocron. I just want to watch Dooku squirm. He’s going to fail his Master.” She let out a venomous chuckle. “I just wish I could be the one to kill him instead.”

You smiled at her, more genuine this time. Your soul returned to your eyes, replacing the hollowness with amusement and slight remorse. She hesitated, watching you.

You stood up. “Thanks for the information, it’s been fun.” You nodded at the men. “Stun her.”

She shrieked in rage as Rex stepped forward and sent a blue stunning bolt sailing in her direction, hitting her square in the chest. He fired off another for good measure as she started to slip into unconsciousness.

You exchanged a long, hard stare with your unit. “I’m sorry. I didn’t have time to tell you all what I was doing.” Your voice had returned to its normal pitch, and your eyes held their usual warmth once more. “I used a fear tactic to get the information I needed out of Ventress. But, that also meant I probably scared you guys in the process.”

Silence followed your words for a moment, before the men nodded at you in acknowledgment. “We understand.” Rex spoke up from next to Anakin. “Just please don’t ever do that again.” You huffed a laugh. “Please don’t let me ever do that again.”

Your party walked over to where you stood over Ventress. Jesse walked forward and shoved your shoulder playfully.

“You had me worried for a second there, thought we might’ve lost you.”

“Ah. That reminds me.” The men looked at you questioningly.

Here we go. You took a deep breath, sending the mutation away. You could feel it protest as it evaporated, replaced with a sharp feeling of fear. Your breathing became increasingly weak and strained, and you turned your head slowly to look at Ghost. “I’m gonna need your help. Bitch snuck up on me.”

Ghost raised an eyebrow at you before his expression twisted into a look of horror. You heard Jesse call your name, his voice panicked. Blood had started gushing from a ragged wound in your chest, initially hidden by your jumpsuit. Ventress had gotten the jump on you before you could activate your mutation. The mutation had kept you from bleeding, but now that it was gone, the injury began taking its toll.

Somehow you had made it to the floor. Whether you fell or your friends had lowered you down, you really weren’t sure. Ghost was frantically trying to control the bleeding, but didn’t have much to work with given the limited supplies in his medpack. Your breath came in short, ragged wheezes now. Time seemed to fluctuate, slowing and picking back up again gradually. You felt ice cold, like you would never be able to get warm. And yet, you felt a strange sense of calm wash over you, like this wasn’t a big deal at all. Is this what it feels like to die?

“SHUT UP, you’re not dying okay? You’re gonna be fine. Ghost is gonna help you.” Jesse snapped at you. You hadn’t even realized you had spoken out loud. He had crashed to his knees and cradled your head in his lap, where he was now staring desperately into your eyes and trying to keep you awake. You were vaguely aware of the others standing over you, looks of shock and horror mingling on their faces. Sinker had his hands on top of his head, while Wolffe and Rex knelt at your side, jaws clenched.

“S’okay, ‘s not as bad as it looks. Doesn’t hurt.” The words came out more slurred than you had meant them to.

You could hear the others start shouting in the background, but it all sounded so far away now. You almost couldn’t even distinguish who was who anymore.

“You’re fine. You’re gonna be okay. I promise you, you’re gonna be okay.” Your eyes grew heavy, and shuttered close. I’m just gonna rest my eyes for a minute or two, that’s it. So… tired…

Hey, hey, none of that. You gotta stay awake. Stay with me, okay?” Jesse’s gloved palms pressed into your cheeks, and you felt his thumbs rub across your cheekbones. A tangy, metallic taste rose in your mouth. You coughed and blood bubbled over your lips, dripping down your chin. Your eyelids fluttered open slightly.

“Jesse, please…so…tired…”

No! You hear me? I’m not letting you do this, alright? You don’t get to do this.” Jesse’s voice cracked a little.

I’m sorry Jesse. You felt something deep down stirring. A comforting, gentle warmth began flowing through you. The mist reappeared in your vision. But instead of the familiar crimson glow, you saw…gold? That’s new. You probably weren’t thinking straight. Hell, you could barely keep your eyes open at this point. You struggled against your shutting eyelids, and spoke in a quiet, raspy voice. “Let me go.”

Jesse’s panicked protests were drowned out as you drifted into unconsciousness, the world fading to black around you.

Chapter Text

“No, no, no, no, no!”

Jesse felt as if a belt were tightening around his chest. You were unresponsive, but still breathing faintly. A golden mist swirled softly around your eyes. You looked almost peaceful, if it weren’t for the lines of blood that had dripped from your lips. Jesse’s eyes snapped up to Ghost, who was still hunched over you, his fingers flying as he worked to close the gaping wound in your chest.

“Can’t you do anything else?”

Ghost’s eyes flashed angrily. “I’m working on it.”

“Well, you’re not doing enough!”

“That’s enough .” Rex stood and hooked his arms underneath Jesse’s, yanking him up onto his feet and away from you. His vod spun to face him, eyes flashing. “You need to get it together. That’s an order.

Frustration marred Jesse’s features. He opened his mouth to reply, then closed it after a moment. Finally, he mumbled a disgruntled yes sir, before turning to watch Ghost as he worked.

Anakin knelt next to Ghost, studying your features. “What’s going on?”

Ghost didn’t look up, but offered a hasty reply. “I don’t know what happened, but I think whatever that mist is is helping to stop the bleeding.”

He was right. The once gushing flow of blood had reduced to a lazy ooze. You began breathing a little stronger now; although your skin was still pasty and ice cold to the touch. A strange feeling had formed in the pit of Anakin’s stomach. He swallowed, then turned to Ghost. “Will she live?”

“If she stays like this, I can get her stabilized until we get back to the medbay.” He raised his voice slightly to speak to Wolffe. “Where are we on evac?”

Wolffe grunted. “Can’t get anything through down here. Won’t be able to call it in until we get back upstairs.”

Ghost cursed under his breath. “We’re gonna have to move her. We need to find a way to stabilize her going up those stairs.”

Suddenly, a low rumble sounded throughout the chamber. It slowly grew louder and louder, until the walls and floor began to shake violently. Debris began falling from the ceiling far above, crashing to the ground and cracking the stone floor. After a while, the quaking would stop, only to start back up again moments later.

“What’s happening?” Ahsoka had to shout to be heard above the noise.

“I don’t know, but we need to move, now!” Anakin raised his hand and focused, lifting you carefully off the ground with the Force. Wolffe and Sinker grabbed Ventress and made for the entrance to the staircase, followed by the rest of the party, Rex and Jesse bringing up the rear. The race up the stairs was near impossible with the shaking, forcing the company to dodge falling stones and debris. As they finally burst through to the ground floor of the Temple, they could see the destruction much clearer. Stone pillars cracked under the strain of the quake, threatening to give out.

An ominous crackling noise sounded behind them. Anakin felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle. The statue that had stood proud at the end of the room began to crack, swiftly crumbling down towards the unit. Ahsoka braced her feet firmly on the floor and reached out with the Force, stopping the rubble midair before it could come crashing down on top of them. She strained, a line of sweat breaking out on her brow. With a grunt, she pushed the stone debris to the side, allowing it to crash to the ground a safe distance away. She panted a little before turning and running with the rest of the party down the long, narrow corridors of the Enclave.

Anakin yelled ahead to Wolffe, who was speaking into his comm urgently. “Wolffe, tell me we got that evac in the air!”

Wolffe twisted a little to yell over his shoulder in reply to Anakin. “Negative, General! They’ve got their hands full on the northern front.”

“Looks like we’re on our own. Let’s just focus on getting the hell out of here!”

Anakin groaned inwardly. Well, that would explain the quaking at least. No matter what, it seemed that every campaign always ended up having some kind of complication. Everything always found a way to make his job more difficult. He refocused on where you were suspended next to him. He couldn’t believe you could have been so reckless. He cursed himself for not sensing Ventress soon enough. If he had, maybe you wouldn’t have been hurt. What was the point of being a Jedi if he couldn’t save those around him?

His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of the Temple entrance directly ahead of them. Another shockwave shook the walls of the Enclave. The pillars lining the entrance cracked, sending menacing fissures up through their stone faces. Ominous creaks and groans echoed throughout the room. Ahsoka shot a glance at Anakin out of the corner of her eye.

“Master -?!”

He didn’t let her finish. “I see it, just go!”

They were almost there. The base of the pillars crumbled, sending them careening towards the ground. Dark shadows stretched over the unit. Just a few more steps - 

Crash!

Just as the pillars slammed into the floors, they burst into the open clearing, diving forward. Dust and debris surged forward around them, fogging their vision and coating their throats. Anakin coughed and looked back at the now collapsed entrance to the Jedi Temple and heaved a sigh of relief. “Everyone alright?”

He looked around at the rest of the unit. He and Ahsoka had several minor cuts from stones that had been launched in the dust cloud, and Rex and Sinker had several lodged in the plastoid of their armor, but other than that the company seemed relatively unscathed. That’s good at least. He turned his attention to you, whose peaceful form was a stark contrast to the scene around them, a golden haze slowly coiling around your figure. He laid you on the ground gently before turning to Wolffe.

“Keep working on that evac.” 

Wolffe nodded. “Yes sir.”

Anakin wandered over to a boulder that had broken off of one of the stone walls, falling against it with a groan. Ahsoka and Rex exchanged a glance before approaching him. “Sir,” Rex began, “What should we do about Ventress?” Anakin swung his gaze over to where Wolffe and Sinker had all but tossed Ventress’ unconscious body. He paused for a moment before calling to Sinker.

“Sergeant!” Sinker looked up and jogged over. “Keep an eye on her. If she wakes up, stun her again.”

Sinker threw an odious glance over his shoulder at Ventress before nodding. “Yes sir.”

Ahsoka furrowed her brow. “She said Dooku tried to kill her. What are we going to do with her if she was planning on betraying him?”

Anakin let out a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know Snips.” Ventress was the least of his problems right now. Shockwaves would run through the clearing every so often, and while they were safe for the time being in the open area, he didn’t want to take any chances, especially not when you were injured. He called to Ghost and motioned him over when he looked up. As he neared, Anakin nodded to where you lay on the ground.

“How much longer do you think she can last without an evac?”

Ghost glanced back at you and pursed his lips, flattening them into a thin line. “Well, if she stays this way, by the looks of it indefinitely. Whatever she’s in is putting her body into a kind of stasis. If she comes out of it, though, not very long.”

Anakin nodded. “Then let’s hope they get here quickly.”

~~~

The evac came half an hour later, and had brought the company back to the forward base camp. Ventress had woken up during the transfer, only to be stunned immediately by a very satisfied Sinker. As soon as the shuttle landed, Ghost had taken you to the medical tent, leaving the rest of the company. Wolffe and Sinker left alongside Anakin and Ahsoka to report to the Generals; Rex was about to join them when he had noticed that Jesse was missing. Rex surveyed the surrounding area, his eyes finally finding him, slumped against a rock with his eyes trained on his gloves.

He approached him cautiously and lowered himself next to him. Jesse’s gloves were covered in your blood, and he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of them. His gaze was haunted, and he hadn’t even seemed to notice Rex until he spoke.

“You alright?”

Jesse jumped, blinking at Rex before clenching his jaw and looking back ahead of him. “‘M fine.” He said gruffly.

Rex snorted. “Yeah, you sure seem like it.” Jesse scowled and didn’t say anything. Rex studied him for a moment before letting out a long sigh. His next words were spoken quietly.

“I know you care about her.” Jesse stiffened and shot him a warning glance. He took a breath and continued. “But you can't - “

“Can’t what, Rex? Can’t worry about my friend? Why not? It’s not like it was interfering with the mission, we already had Ventress and the fucking holocron.” Anger and remorse swam in his eyes, and he hissed his words with barely contained rage. “This war has taken everything from us. From me. Everyone I’ve ever cared about has been ripped away. Hardcase, Tup, Fives, and Kix is Maker knows where. Hell, even Echo left with the Batch.” His voice wavered slightly as he continued. “I won’t lose anyone else. I can’t.” With that, he stood and stalked off in the direction of the medical tent.

Rex watched him go and heaved a deep breath. He couldn’t fault Jesse for feeling like this, especially not when he often felt this way himself. He felt a pang of grief and loneliness stab through him at the thought of his lost brothers. But he couldn’t show this part of himself, not when he had so many lives depending on him. He was supposed to be the one his brothers looked to when they felt lost, the one who kept a level head, the one who would stand tall, no matter the toll it took on him. Weariness settled deeply in his chest, and he closed his eyes. His mind slowly began to clear after a few minutes, and he thought back to the night before.

He had always had a difficult time falling asleep. Too many worries and memories haunted him, plaguing him with restlessness and nightmares. That night was no different, and he had lain on his mat, picking at his blasters when he heard your voice echoing off the Temple walls. He froze and listened silently to your singing. It was a sad song, a lament by the sound of it. But something about your voice was soothing, full of emotion and comfort. He turned over to look in your direction. Jesse was sitting next to you, eyes fixed on your face with an unreadable mix of emotions in his features. Rex’s eyes wandered to you, and his breath caught in his throat. The moonlight that had been filtering through the entrance of the Temple bathed you in a silvery, bewitching glow. Your eyes sparkled with warmth and compassion. Rex felt something in his chest flutter. He had drifted to sleep with the sound of your voice enveloping him like a warm embrace, his dreams for once free of nightmares.

But then you had been injured. He had watched your eyes as their usual passion and emotion filled with fear. Had felt your fear as his own when you collapsed, blood flowing freely from the gaping wound in your chest. He felt powerless as he watched you slip away, unable to do anything to keep you safe.

Safe.

Rex looked up in the direction of the medical tent and made a promise to himself, a promise to you. As long as he had anything to say about it, he would keep you safe.

~~~

Jesse sat next to you in the medical tent, studying your features. You had spent some time in a bacta tank, and were now doing much better. A little color had returned to your skin, though your eyes remained closed. Ghost had said that you would be okay, but when Jesse had asked him when you would wake up, he hadn’t had an answer. The mist danced lazily around you, illuminating your skin a soft golden hue. A lump formed in Jesse’s throat, and he swallowed hard to force it down.

I know you care about her. Rex’s words rang in his ears. Of course he cared about you, you were his friend. And yet… as he watched you, his heart twisted. For once, as selfish as it made him feel, he was grateful for whatever parasite resided in you. Without it, you wouldn’t be here. He would’ve lost you too. He closed his eyes, and glimpsed you back on that stone-cold floor in his arms, coughing up blood and slipping away. Let me go. Your words haunted him. He buried his head in his hands, elbows resting on your cot. His eyes burned, guilt hanging thickly in his chest.

“You need to shave.”

The sound of your voice jolted Jesse out of his thoughts. His head snapped up, and saw you watching him with tired eyes and a wide grin. A short, relieved laugh escaped him, and he lunged forward,  catching you in a tight embrace. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.” You chuckled softly, and he felt your arms slowly wrap around him.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

He pulled back, and saw your expression flicker, anxiety briefly passing over your face. He furrowed his brows. “What is it?”

You hesitated and looked around, your eyes flicking to each corner of the medical tent rapidly, as if you were scared someone would overhear your conversation. When you looked back up at him, your eyes were filled with worry. Your next words froze the blood in his veins.

“Kix and Fives are alive.”

Chapter Text

“Fives, would you stop doing that? How is that supposed to help at all?”

“Hey I’m just doing my duty as a concerned citizen.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“Well, it’s working isn’t it? Look!”

The sound of distant voices drifted to your ears. A soft breeze wafted through the air, kissing your cheeks and bringing with it the sound of rustling grasses. You let out a low groan and flexed your fingers, feeling at the soft earth beneath you.

There was a short silence. Then, a quick, gentle boop on the tip of your nose jolted you, and your eyes snapped open to reveal two blurry faces peering down at you. The face on your right spoke, emitting a friendly “Hi there!” You blinked, trying to focus. When the two faces became more distinguishable, you gasped and shot upwards, nearly knocking your head against the two men. You looked at them, astonished, mouth hanging open slightly. “You’re… clones.”

“Ah yes, very perceptive.” The man on the right had a mischievous grin plastered across his face. His hair was freshly buzzed, with a clean cut goatee. As he turned his head, you could see a scar running along the right side of his head, and a tattoo of the number five on his forehead. His companion jabbed an elbow into his side with a glare. While he had the standard regulation haircut, a shadow of scruff rested along his jaw. Both of them were dressed in blacks, rather than armor. He turned back to you, his eyes gentle and understanding.

“Ignore him, he had a leak in his tank.” He ignored the huff of indignation and mumbled hey! from the other trooper, and continued. “Are you alright? Whatever that is doesn’t look too good.” His eyes traveled to a spot just beneath your collarbone and right shoulder. You followed his gaze, eyes resting on the ragged hole in your chest. Your brows furrowed. You didn’t seem to be bleeding, and you couldn’t feel any pain. It was as if you were frozen in time.

“Yeah, I think so. I don’t feel any different.” You looked back at the men. “I’m sorry, I just wasn’t expecting anyone to be here… Where is here , by the way?”

They exchanged a glance before standing. The tattooed trooper offered his hand with a warm smile, and he pulled you to your feet before responding. “Welcome to stasis! Or, as Kix and I like to call it, hell!” The trooper named Kix let out a sigh before looking back at you. “You’d better come with us, we’ll explain everything.”

They set off in the direction of what looked like a makeshift shelter a short ways away. You followed, looking around at your surroundings. You were in a field of tall grasses and wildflowers that stretched as far as the eye can see, with no other distinguishable structures in sight, although there were several small trees dotting the landscape. As you reached the shelter, the tattooed trooper hopped into a hand-woven hammock, lazing one leg over the side and gently rocked back and forth. He kept his eyes on you. “I’m Fives, by the way. I was here first before Kix crashed the party.” Kix muttered something next to you about being stuck with him and turned to rummage through what looked like a medpack.

You narrowed your eyes, thinking. Kix and Fives… I know those names. Out of the corner of your eye, you glimpsed two sets of armor, one a standard white, the other painted 501 st blue. Recognition and understanding hit you like a brick wall, and you gasped, “I know you!”

Fives and Kix exchanged a short glance before the latter spoke. “Uh… you do?” Fives cocked his head at you. “I don’t think I’ve ever met you before. What’s your name?”

You spoke quickly, words spilling out of you faster than you could think. “My name’s Isabelle, I’m friends with Rex and Jesse. Well, I work with them. We were on a mission to get a holocron on Dantooine - “ Kix placed his hands on your shoulders, interrupting your word vomit. “Woah, woah slow down, you know Rex and Jesse?”

You nodded vigorously, a wide grin plastered on your face.

A smile spread across the men’s faces. Fives turned from Kix, back to you. “You said your name is Isabelle?”

“Yep, but you guys can call me Izzy."

“Well Izzy,” Kix gave you a warm smile. “It’s nice to meet you.”

You were ecstatic. You still didn’t know where or why you were here, let alone how you got here in the first place, but it didn’t matter. You couldn’t believe you had gotten so lucky as to be stranded with people who were actually familiar. But, wait… your smile faltered, replaced by a look of shock and horror. You looked between the two men. “Am I - am I dead?!”

Fives narrowed his eyes and shot Kix another glance before responding. “No, you’re alive. This place isn’t the afterlife.”

“Then how are you both here? You’re dead! Both of you!”

Fives huffed a bitter laugh. “Hate to break it to you tranyc, but we are both very much alive. Just unconscious, like you.” He paused, glancing down at your wound. “At least I’d hope you’re unconscious. How’d you get that by the way?”

You let out a short chuckle. “Ventress.”

Ventress?” They looked at each other before Kix spoke again. “What the hell were you doing to get wrapped up in a fight with her?”

You sighed and smiled. “It’s a bit of a long story.”

“We have quite literally nothing but time to kill.”

You giggled and sat down, settling in before launching into your story. You started at the beginning, telling them how you had met the 501 st on a job as a mercenary, and your induction into the Republic. You told them about Rex and Jesse, how they missed them and spent every day honoring them (which you supposed was a little awkward now given the fact that they were actually alive ), as well as your antics with them over the last few rotations. You mentioned Dantooine and the expedition to search for the holocron, and your night spent by the fire, sharing stories of the Torrent with the Wolfpack. When you finally began describing the encounter with Ventress, you scowled.

“We managed to capture her and secure the holocron, but she happened to get a shot at me. Last thing I remember is being on the floor of the chamber, and seeing…” You frowned. “Something golden. It was probably my imagination, though.”

Fives hummed. “I wouldn’t say that.”

Your brows furrowed. What is he talking about? Was that real? You thought back to the mist that had danced in front of your vision shortly before you passed out. It had resembled the crimson haze of your mutation, but it was different. Not just in the fact that it was a completely different color, but in the way it made you feel. Instead of the normal fear and anxiety that activating the mutation would bring you, you felt calm, soothed. It was as if you had fallen into the deepest parts of your best memories, feeling safe and warm in its embrace. You wondered to yourself if there was more about your mutation that you had yet to learn.

You shook your head free of your thoughts and turned back to the men. “Okay but wait, how did you guys get here?"

Kix opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by a tutting Fives. “ Aht aht aht, seniority rules. Perhaps he who has been here the longest shall be the first to speak?” Kix rolled his eyes and muttered to you, “you see what I’ve had to deal with this whole time?” You giggled.

Fives ignored his brother and continued, his mirthful gaze turning serious. “At Ringo Vinda, Tup, our squadmate, he started acting… strangely. During the mission he was acting disoriented and kept grabbing his head. Then, before we knew it, he had walked straight up to General Tiplar, and shot her.” Your eyes widened in shock. He continued, “We thought he was sick. Thought the Separatists brainwashed him, or infected him with some kind of virus. But none of us could have imagined what actually happened.” His jaw clenched and his eyes flashed in anger. “I looked into it, and turns out the Kaminoans implanted inhibitor chips in the minds of every clone. His malfunctioned somehow and turned him against the General.”

The meaning behind his words began to set in. You let out a soft gasp. “But, if those chips are implanted in all of the clones… “

He nodded solemnly. “I uncovered a plot orchestrated by the Chancellor. With one order, every clone will be forced to execute the Jedi. They’d make us mindless, no better than droids. I don’t know why the Chancellor wants to destroy the Jedi, but this will be the single biggest act of betrayal in centuries. I managed to get my chip out, but the Chancellor came after me. Charged me with treason, and set the Corries on me.” He glowered. “I tried to warn Rex and General Skywalker, but they didn’t believe me. Fox ended up shooting me.”

You sat in stunned silence. When you spoke, your voice was quiet, barely above a whisper. “What happened to you?”

He sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck with a hand. “I’m not completely sure. I thought I was dead for sure in the warehouse. Next thing I know, I’m being shoved into a Separatist stasis chamber in the Mustafar system. I woke up here, in this dar’yaim. Thought I’d be alone forever, that is until Kix showed up.” He smiled at his companion, who watched him with sad, kind eyes.

Kix swung his head slowly to look at you. “Rex and I tried to look into the plot after we thought Fives had died. He ended up filing a report, but it just fell on deaf ears and never reached the Jedi Council. I did some research on Fives’ medical history, and found the file with the Kaminoan’s report on the inhibitor chip.” His eyes flooded with guilt and flicked to Fives. “I tried to warn Rex, but I was captured by the Separatists before I could get to him. Turns out they were watching me the whole time.” His eyes closed briefly, and when they reopened, remorse swam in their golden depths. “They brought me to Mustafar and stuck me in a stasis chamber. When I woke up, Fives was here with me, and we’ve been stuck here ever since.” He and his brother shared a smile before he turned back to you. “Then you came along.”

You looked between the two brothers, empathy and sadness tugging at your heart. These two men had sacrificed everything for their brothers, all for a seemingly lost cause. “I’m so sorry,” you whispered.

They shrugged. Kix gave you a reassuring smile. “It’s alright. We’ve got each other.” Fives’ good-natured smirk returned to his face. “Yeah, vod. ” His eyes slid back to you. “There is something I’m still confused about though.”

“What is it?”

He leaned forward slightly in the hammock, eyes narrowing. “How the hell did you fall into stasis without a chamber?”

You looked down at your feet before responding. You’d have to tell them. Taking a deep breath, you began. “I - I have a war mutation.” Fives and Kix looked confused. Kix looked at you, concern swirling in his kind eyes. “You have a what?”

You nodded and continued. “You see, I’m not from this galaxy. I come from another planet, far, far away from here. It was destroyed, and in the aftermath, I got this mutation. It gives me enhanced abilities and skills, but is more of a bloodlust than anything. Obi-Wan has been teaching me how to control it, although it can be really draining sometimes.” You swallowed after a beat, pausing. “Part of it grants me invulnerability while it’s working, but that’s where things start to get a little fuzzy. After Ventress attacked me, I activated the mutation and it kept me safe for the time being, until I sent it away. I’m starting to think that the golden haze I saw just before I blacked out was my mutation. The issue is, normally when it’s activated, it’s more of a crimson color. I’ve never seen it as golden.” You hesitated. “It - it felt different too. Better, more comforting. I’ve never had that happen before.”

Fives looked at you with a surprised expression before remarking, “well, that’s definitely one I haven’t heard before.”

Kix’s brow was furrowed in thought. He hummed and spoke his thought process aloud. “It’s possible that it could have happened inadvertently, as a response to your injury. Maybe it activated a stasis, allowing your body to be able to heal. Which would explain why you’re here and not, well… dead.” He added.

Fives frowned. “If that’s the case, that means you probably won’t be here for very long.” He exchanged a look with Kix before turning to you with pleading eyes. “Would you be willing to help us?”

“Of course.”

Fives took a breath before continuing. “We need you to tell Rex everything when you get back. You can trust him. Jesse too,” he added. “He’ll believe you. They’ll know what to do.”

“But what about the two of you? I can’t just leave you here.”

“You have to tranyc. Time’s running out. We don’t know when this order is going to be carried out. We can’t risk not getting the information to the Jedi Order in time.”

“But - “

Kix shook his head at you gently. “Fives is right, Izzy. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be alright.” He gave you a sad smile.

You clenched your jaw and swallowed, looking between your two newfound friends. The Mustafar system. Determination burned in your chest, and you raised your chin, your eyes flashing. “I will get you both out of here. I promise.

Fives grinned and glanced at Kix. “I like her.”

 You giggled and smiled at the two troopers. The three of you descended into comfortable conversation afterwards for what felt like hours, until you felt a strange tugging sensation in your stomach. Golden mist slowly began to appear, whirling around your figure. You looked at the two of them, and felt a lump form in your throat. You didn’t want to leave. Even though you had just met them, you had already heard so much about them from Jesse and Rex that you had felt like you had already known them. And in the short time that you had spent in stasis, you liked to think that you had started to develop a friendship with the two troopers. The idea of them being stranded here even longer tugged at your heart.

They looked at you with soft smiles full of understanding. Fives clambered out of the hammock and walked over to stand next to you and his brother. He and Kix looked down at you fondly. Kix spoke first, a soft smile on his face.

“We’ll be alright. And we’ll see you soon.”

You huffed a laugh, feeling your eyes burn a little. You wrapped them in a hug, hearing soft grunts of surprise leave their lips. Then you felt their arms snake around you, squeezing gently. Fives rested his chin on top of your head. “Take care of yourself ‘til we see you tranyc.

A tear slipped down your face, and you whispered, “I’ll come back for you guys.”

You closed your eyes and felt yourself slipping away into darkness.

Chapter Text

For the second time that day, Jesse felt as if a belt were constricting around his chest. He couldn’t believe what you had said. There was no possible way it could be true, and yet he couldn’t bear to let go of the small spark of hope that had lit up inside him at your words. Kix and Fives are alive. Two of his best friends, his brothers, were still alive. They could come back to him and Rex. That feeling of hope extinguished and was replaced by a bottomless feeling of dread, and he felt himself sinking ever deeper into the impossibility of it all. Even if they were alive, out there somewhere in the galaxy, they were in incredible danger. Fives’ crusade before his supposed death had launched forth a series of events that seemed hopeless, notwithstanding his brothers’ attempts of vindicating his memory. In a split second, Jesse realized the gravity of what this meant. He searched your eyes, studying you intensely, probing for any sign, any semblance that what you were saying was false, that it was all a fever dream brought about while comatose. When he found none, he took a deep breath.

“Tell me everything.”

You launched into your story, voice hushed and rapid so as not to alert anyone who may have been listening with prying ears. As you spoke, your eyes darted around the tent, watching in case any unexpected visitors wandered through the flaps. This was a dangerous conversation to be having, and you didn’t want to jeopardize Jesse’s standing in the army, much less his life. A shudder ran up your spine at the thought of him and Rex standing trial, or executed. You shook off the fear that took root in your body; you had to tell him, you had to in order to save everyone you had begun to care for.

As you spoke, Jesse’s eyes never left your face. Normally, this kind of intense attention would have incited a shameful blush in your cheeks, but with the nature of the conversation, hardly anything could be considered remotely intimate at this time. By the end of your recount, Jesse had narrowed his eyes in careful consideration. He looked back at you, countless thoughts and emotions swirling in the depths of his golden eyes. When he spoke, his voice was quiet.

“I need you to stay here, I’m going to be right back.”

Your eyes widened and you shook your head violently. You weren’t willing to let him out of your sight, not after what you had just told him. “No, no please don’t go, I - I don’t want anything to - “

You trailed off, eyes flickering to the opening of the tent, where a medic trooper had just entered. Though he shot the two of you an inquisitive glance, he didn’t make any other indication that he was suspicious, or had heard any of your prior conversation, and went about rummaging through the various medical supplies on the far side of the tent.

Jesse lowered his voice so that he was audible only to you. “I’ll be fine. I’m just going to go get Rex - “

“No, no you can’t leave.” You interrupted him, mind racing as you probed for a solution. You couldn’t let him leave alone. Kix had been seemingly safe, only to be kidnapped by Separatists moments before he could get the information to anybody. You settled on an idea. Not a great one, but it was the only option you had right now. Before Jesse could refute your protest, you raised your voice to the trooper in the corner. “Excuse me?” He raised his head, looking in your direction.

Jesse’s eyes widened and he hissed under his breath. “ What are you doing?”

You ignored him, forcing your expression to remain calm and level. “Do you know where Captain Rex is? I was told he had a report for me when I awoke.” Jesse held his breath.

Luckily the trooper didn’t seem to think anything of the question, and replied with a friendly smile. “I can go get him for you if you’d like.”

You exhaled, feeling relief swamp through you. “Yes please! That would be great, thank you!” The trooper left the tent, leaving the two of you alone yet again. Jesse swiped a hand over his face and let out a dry laugh.

“You know, you really toe the line between reckless and stupid sometimes.”

You shrugged, giving him a coy smile. “And yet, you still hang around me. I wonder why that is - mmph!” Your voice muffled as he pressed a calloused hand to your face and pushed you back onto the pillow with a smirk. “Hey!”

He let out a genuine laugh this time, his smile reaching up to his eyes, which crinkled at the corners. You couldn’t help the grin that broke out on your face. “You know, it’s good seeing you laugh again. I was starting to think you were holding out on me during the mission.”

“Yeah well, it’s been an interesting campaign to say the least.” He snorted before looking back at you with an impish smirk. “There’s this new girl in our squad, she absolutely drives us up the wall.”

You rolled your eyes dramatically and shot him a sly smile. “Oh really? Tell me more.”

He grinned. “Well for one thing, she’s ridiculously reckless. Even rivals General Skywalker sometimes if you ask me.” You raised an eyebrow as he continued his gentle teasing. “Too compassionate for her own good too. I mean she would probably jump straight into blaster fire to save someone she only just met, and you’d have to be at least a little crazy to do that. Oh, and she’s definitely got a thing for us clones. Thinks we’re hot, which of course, I can’t deny.”

You groaned and huffed a laugh. “You’re never gonna let that one go, are you?”

His smug grin was enough of an answer, but he decided to prod you further. “Hey, it’s not my fault you’ve been positively mooning over Wolffe on this mission.”

“I do not moon at him!”

“Oh yes you do!” Jesse’s eyes were alight with amusement and mischief as he raised his voice to a higher pitch, mocking you with a truly awful impression. “Oh Commander, you’re so handsome and strong , please would you transfer me to the 104 th so I may worship you day and night? Both of you were laughing now. You grabbed the pillow behind your head and swung it at him.

“Ow! Hey!” He laughed as he blocked your assail. “You know, it’s not nice to - ngh - hit people!” He caught your wrists on your next swing, pulling you in closer to him.

Your laughing slowly trailed off as you gazed into his eyes, admiring the depth of emotion that swirled in them. You could see amusement, mirth and mischief, as well as...something else. It was only then that you realized how close you had gotten to him, his face only inches apart from your own. He seemed to recognize this at the same time as you, but neither one of you made any effort to pull away. He really was handsome, although you’d never admit it to him; that would only boost his ego and give him yet another thing to hold over you. You memorized his features, from the hard lines of his face to his chiselled jaw, where a shadow of scruff had begun to grow in. Your eyes wandered to the Republic cog tattooed on his forehead, tracing it slowly. When you brought your eyes back to his, you found yourself completely entranced. He smiled, bringing his head forward, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against yours.

You closed your eyes and let out a soft sigh. You hadn’t expected to grow so close to the ARC trooper this quickly. You had only been with the Republic for a matter of weeks, days even, but it was undeniable the two of you had a connection. He was swiftly becoming one of the best friends you’d had since your time growing up on Earth, before turmoil wracked the planet. You hummed contentedly.

“I’m glad I’m still around to keep driving you up the wall.”

He let out a gentle laugh, his breath brushing against your lips. “That makes two of us.” He pulled back, and you opened your eyes again, resting in an easy silence. Something changed in his expression, and he looked like he was going to say something else when footsteps sounded from outside of the tent. He let go of your wrists, and your skin turned cold immediately at the absence of his touch.

Rex entered the tent, looking around for a moment before settling on the two of you near the back. He paced forward, coming to stand next to Jesse. He gazed down at you, worry palpable in his expression.

“How are you feeling?”

You grinned. “I didn’t expect you to be so worried over me, Captain.”

He huffed a laugh, bringing a hand up to rub against the back of his neck. “Yeah well, things would have been a little more boring without you,” he teased before continuing. “You wanted to see me?”

Your breath caught in your throat and solemnity overtook your playful expression. You had almost forgotten. You glanced at Jesse, who had his eyes on the opening to the tent. Your eyes flicked back to Rex’s, and you lowered your voice, more serious notes edging your tone.

“You’d better sit down.”

~~~

Rex sat in quiet contemplation after you had finished recounting your story, balancing one elbow on his knee with a palm covering the lower half of his face. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, and for a few minutes, the three of you sat in silence. You picked at your fingers anxiously, silently pleading Rex to say something, anything. Oh God, what if he doesn’t believe me? You shuddered, not wanting to think about the implications behind that thought. He had to believe you. For your sake, Fives and Kix’s, hell, for the sake of the entire GAR and Jedi Order. Your fretful thoughts left you immediately as you saw Rex slide his hand downwards and open his mouth to speak.

“I believe you.”

You let out a breath you hadn’t known you’d been holding. You looked between the two men, desperately trying to think of a plan. “What do we do? There has to be a way to stop this, and I am not going to abandon Kix and Fives.”

“We won’t,” Jesse reassured you, “but we need to go about this carefully. This is highly sensitive information.”

Rex nodded. “I agree. We can’t risk doing anything about this until the end of the campaign. Once we’re done here, I’ll go to General Skywalker and Kenobi, and see if I can arrange a meeting with the Council.”

You shook your head. “They won’t believe us without some kind of proof. Even if they do, they’ll only launch an investigation, which could be covered up easily, and it’d take more time than we have right now to complete. We don’t know when this order is going to be executed, and I’d rather not wait around and find out.”

“The only proof we have is back on Coruscant in the medbay. It’s far too dangerous for any of us to go looking for it. We don’t have another choice.” Rex sounded defeated, shaking his head and looking into your eyes pleadingly. “We have to consider our own safety here too.”

Your head dropped slightly, your heart plummeting. There has to be another way. Suddenly, it dawned on you. You didn’t know why you hadn’t thought of it before.

“I can get the proof from the medbay.”

Rex opened his mouth and looked like he was going to protest, but was interrupted when Jesse spoke first. “Actually,” he reasoned aloud, “that might just work.”

Rex swung his gaze to his brother, watching him incredulously. “Are you crazy? I’m not going to endanger her safety for this.”

“She has a war mutation. We’ve seen her use it for stealth operations and purposes, she can do this.” He looked back at you. “I know she can.”

Rex looked conflicted. His eyes flickered between his brother and you several times before he let out a defeated sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Alright. I don’t like it, but it sounds like our best option right now.”

You nodded, feeling a new spark of determination rise within you. You straightened a little, fixing your friends with a hardened stare. “So it’s settled. We’ll wait until the end of the campaign, get back to Coruscant, and inform the Council with proof of the plot.” The two men nodded in agreement.

You heaved a deep breath and leaned back onto your pillow. Let’s hope this works.

~~~

Rex and Jesse stayed for a while longer before they were called away to the front, promising that they would come visit you as much as possible after the battle. Unfortunately for you, Ghost had ordered you to stay in the tent for the next few days, under strict bed rest. You had argued profusely, wanting to at least have the freedom to roam outside the tent, but he was just as stubborn as you were, and refused to let you leave unless absolutely necessary. Even then, he escorted you everywhere you needed to go, when he wasn’t on the front lines. Despite your irritation with his immovability, you enjoyed his company. He had brought you your belongings, including the speaker you had acquired on that first mission, to which you thanked him heartily for. He was kind, and you often enjoyed watching him interact with his brothers. It was obvious why he was a medic; he had an uncanny ability to soothe and comfort, as well as calm the most obstinate troopers who refused medical care. While you tried your best to remain cooperative, you grew restless and impatient. You couldn’t sleep, up late at nights thinking about your friends on the battlefield, and the outcome of the expedition.

It was when the news reached you that the battalions had returned from the front several days later that you finally snapped. First, you tried modestly convincing Ghost to let you out to see Obi-Wan, to which he immediately refused, claiming you had been making things worse for yourself by not sleeping, which was a fair point in hindsight. He knew it wasn’t your fault, and that you were trying as best you could to cooperate with him, but he wasn’t going to yield just because of a little pouting. Then you resorted to practically begging. Unfortunately. You promised that you would be back immediately after speaking with Obi-Wan, but still he refused. That one bruised your ego. You were down to your last, desperate attempt, running out of options.

“Ghost, please, you can’t just keep me stuck in here forever! Besides, I’m taking up space for men that need it a lot more than I do.”

Ghost sighed. “I told you, I can’t let you go until your vitals come back up.” He shot you a genuine, apologetic glance. “I know you want to go back out there, but you’re just not healthy enough yet. In fact, you might be getting worse with the way you haven’t been sleeping.” He gave you a once-over, looking at your frizzy hair and disheveled state before adding, “I probably shouldn’t have given you access to caf either.”

“Hey, those four cups were essential.” You spoke rapidly, feeling jittery at the thought of all of the caffeine you had ingested earlier that morning. He chuckled, letting out an mhm before fixing you with an amused stare that implied that it wasn’t going to happen.

You narrowed your eyes at him. Looking around, you saw that every other man in the medical tent was treated, lying on their cots bored, having aimless conversations to pass the time while they waited to be checked out. If you went through with this, at least you would be able to justify to yourself that you wouldn’t be disturbing any seriously injured or sick troopers. This will probably get me in trouble, but whatever. Granted, maybe it was in part sleep deprivation, or the four cups of caf that drove you to act so childishly, but at the time you couldn’t bring yourself to care.

You swung your gaze back to him, his eyes challenging you to try again. If anything, it seemed he was enjoying all of your pathetic attempts to leave the tent. “Are you really gonna make me do it?”

He cocked his head quizzically at you. “Do what?”

You sighed, walking back over to your cot, where you had placed the remainder of your belongings. You grabbed the speaker, turning back to Ghost and purposefully making a show of cranking the volume to its maximum level. Ghost seemed to catch on to what you intended on doing, and scoffed.

“Really? That’s your big plan? You’re gonna annoy me until I give in?” One of the men that was talking to his brothers on the other side of the tent turned his head, watching the exchange unfold with amusement.

You didn’t reply, and scrolled through your player, deciding on a mercifully simple song to start. As it began playing, you strolled back over to Ghost, singing obnoxiously along to the lyrics. The men in the tent were all watching now, laughing softly as you danced shamelessly around Ghost, who only chuckled and rolled his eyes. Outside the tent, troopers stopped and stared, confused as the music wafted through the tent flaps.

“You’re just embarrassing yourself, you know.” You paused in your singing to let out an I know before continuing. “This isn’t even bad. I don’t know how you thought this would work.”

“Oh, that’s not bad enough for you? Here, let me just change the song.” With the last words, you raised a finger exaggeratedly, bringing it down swiftly and selecting a new song, a truly degenerate one with lyrics that would make the devil himself blush.

Now the troopers were really laughing, and Ghost started to look uncomfortable. The tent flaps opened, only increasing the volume of the music that could be heard outside, and several curious heads popped in the opening, wanting to see what the commotion was about. Ghost buried his face in his hand, his cheeks burning a deep shade of scarlet. What you didn’t know was that just outside the tent, listening to every single word rolling off your tongue, were all of the Generals, Ahsoka, Cody, Rex, Wolffe, Jesse, and Sinker. 

Ghost peeked out at you between his fingers. “You’re a child. An actual - How do you even know all of the words to this?!”

You ignored him, instead asking him again. “Will you let me go?”

Ghost sighed, giving you a pleading stare. He knew what was going to happen, but nevertheless he replied, “No.”

“Shame, the next one’s even worse.”

“How could it possibly be worse?!”

Oh it was. It was so much worse. And you knew all of the lyrics to this one too, to Ghost’s dismay. You hadn’t even reached the chorus, and had already described multiple unspeakably sinful acts, causing Ghost’s cheeks to deepen another shade of red, if that were even possible at this point. Even more troopers had gathered at the opening of the tent, many of whom were laughing and grinning from ear  to ear at Ghost’s misfortune, while others exchanged confused or exasperated looks.

You were in the middle of singing an indescribably filthy line when Wolffe shouldered his way through the tent, glaring daggers at you. You stopped midway through your sentence, mouth hanging open while he approached to tower over you. Several of the troopers dispersed at his entrance, while others stayed to watch the unfolding encounter.

What do you think you’re doing?”

Uh-oh. You smiled sheepishly. “Uh... annoying Ghost until he lets me go see the General?” You glanced at him for confirmation. “Is it working?”

He shook his head. “Not gonna happen.” Damn.

You looked back at Wolffe, eyes pleading. “Okay look, I really need to see General Kenobi. I have to know the report on the expedition.” You shot a glare at Ghost, who gave you a smug grin in return. “But, he won’t let me leave the tent, and I’ve been in here for days. I’ll come right back after, but I just can’t be in here any longer.”

Wolffe didn’t say anything for a moment, and instead searched your features. His expression was unsympathetic, his cybernetic cold and blank, while his other eye swirled with irritation and exasperation. Eventually, he held out his hand, motioning for the speaker. You reluctantly handed it over, watching him closely as he calmly muted the crude music, and handed it back to you. Then, he stepped to the side, opening his stance so that your path to the entrance of the tent was free. Both you and Ghost looked at him in astonishment.

“Commander, you can’t just - “

He put a hand up to Ghost, exchanging a glance with the medic trooper. Ghost fell silent, furrowing his brows in confusion.

You looked at him nervously. “You’re just gonna let me go?” He said nothing, only watched you with an unreadable expression. Huh.

You took a tentative step forward, eyeing him warily. He made no move to stop you. Your spirits lifted slightly, and you looked back at the entrance to the tent, freedom within your grasp. As you looked away, you missed the wink he directed at Ghost. You smiled, walking towards the tent flaps when you were suddenly hoisted into the air. Strong arms wrapped around your waist, preventing you from twisting free. You let out a cry of surprise, wriggling as Wolffe hefted you over his shoulder.

Hey! Let me go!”

You could hear the troopers in the tent snicker at your misfortune as Wolffe carried you to the back of the tent and dropped you on your bed, straightening and crossing his arms over his chest, an arrogant smirk lazily sitting on his face. You glared daggers at him.

“What was that for?”

“You want to act like a child? I’ll treat you like one.”

Your mouth dropped open. Okay, maybe you deserved that. “You can’t just go around grabbing people!” You stood and raised your chin to him, eyes flashing angrily.

He leaned forward, smirk widening. “Well maybe next time I’ll let you grab me.”

Heat rose to your cheeks and you scoffed. “I wouldn’t count on it.”

“You wanna bet?”

You opened your mouth to retort, but stopped as you saw the tent flaps flutter. You did a double take at the sight of the Generals at the entrance. You shot Wolffe one last glare before turning to the Jedi. “Masters,” you gave a respectful nod, looking between them and Ghost, “I’d like to - uh - apologize for my childish behavior.” Ghost shook his head but gave you a forgiving smile. Your shoulders relaxed a little, relieved that he didn’t hold anything against you.

Master Plo spoke first. “It would seem you have provided quite the performance for the men, little one.” The troopers in the tent exchanged amused glances. Some shot you winks from across the room.

You smiled sheepishly and let out an awkward cough. The high that you had from those four cups of caf earlier had definitely worn off by now, especially after that particularly sobering experience with Wolffe. Your eyes wandered to Obi-Wan, silently pleading him to end your misery. He let out a low chuckle, shaking his head. “Alright, I think she’s thoroughly embarrassed enough.” He walked over to your cot, talking as he crossed the room. “Would you like to hear the final report on the end of your mission?”

You brightened immediately, and nodded, beaming up at Obi-Wan. He chuckled and nodded to Wolffe. “Very well. Thank you for your assistance Commander, we’ll take it from here.”

Wolffe nodded and moved to exit the tent, shooting you another smug smirk. Master Plo and Ahsoka followed him, leaving you with Obi-Wan and Anakin. The former of the two glanced down at you, a warm smile on his face. “I’m glad to see your usual mischief is returning.”

Anakin rolled his eyes. “Oh please, I’d call that more immaturity than mischief.”

You scowled at him. “You’re one to talk.”

Obi-Wan ignored your bickering, and instead sat down, motioning for you to do the same. You obliged, followed by Anakin who sat next to his former Master. Leaning forward, you looked between the two Jedi Generals. “So?”

Anakin spoke first. “We’ve secured the holocron, and Ventress is in our custody. We are planning to interrogate her further to see if we can get any more information out of her.”

“A message was sent to the Council regarding her capture. Their deliberation on this subject should be closing soon, and we will then have an answer as to what her fate shall be. As for the holocron…” Obi-Wan trailed off, exchanging a serious glance with Anakin. “It contains the instructions to a particularly lethal Sith ritual, one that was previously thought to be a myth. With that kind of power, Dooku could use it to win the war, and destroy the Order.”

Your eyes widened. You sat there for a moment, considering the impact of his words. “So it’s a good thing we recovered it, then. But what was Ventress going to do with it once she had it?”

“That’s what we’re hoping to find out. But we’d like your help for that.” Anakin took a breath and leaned forward.

You started, looking between the two Jedi. “Me? Why do you need my help?”

Obi-Wan brought his hand to his chin, resting his elbow atop his forearm, which was draped across one knee. “Anakin told me of your equanimity when facing Ventress, and your plan to manipulate her. While I do think your methods were a little unorthodox, I agree with his sentiment in having you interrogate her. You were able to get answers out of her before, perhaps you can again.”

Anakin told him that? You were a little surprised at the younger Jedi’s alleged praise, even more so to think that it was his idea for you to interrogate Ventress. You blinked at him, but he made no indication of acknowledging your inherent surprise.

“There’s something else. We don’t think Dooku is acting alone.”

You raised your eyebrows. “You think there’s another player in the game?”

Anakin nodded, continuing. “Dooku hardly ever tends to do his dirty work alone, and with something this high stakes, I’m willing to bet that there’s more to this than we think. We need to figure out if he’s made any new allies, and what the full intentions are behind this plot.”

Obi-Wan stood with a sigh. “Our best chance is our interrogation with Ventress. But, we won’t be able to until you’re cleared to leave the medical tent.” He gave you a sly smile before teasing, “So try not to bother Ghost too much from now on.”

You snorted, glancing at the medic trooper who was rummaging through supplies on the far side of the tent. “I don’t think he’ll have to worry about that.”

The two Generals started for the entrance, but your hand shot out and grasped Anakin by the wrist before he could move away. His head snapped around to look at you, softening a little upon seeing your expression. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”

He turned back to Obi-Wan, who was eyeing the two of you, observing the unusual interaction. He then gave a small nod before turning and exiting the tent, leaving you and Anakin alone. He sat back down across from you, his knees knocking gently against your own.

You picked at your fingers for a moment, before looking up at him. “I just wanted to thank you. Ghost told me how you helped me get out of the Enclave.”

Surprise flashed in his normally arrogant eyes, and he furrowed his brow. “You don’t have to thank me for that.”

“No, I should. I know we haven’t always got along, and I really do appreciate it. That, and I also wanted to thank you for trusting me on the mission. It helped a lot, knowing that you backed up my decisions.”

He studied you for a moment, his eyes searching yours, and you found yourself momentarily lost in their ocean blue depths. Anakin was a passionate person, his emotion mirrored in his eyes, through everything he did. He wasn’t afraid of expressing his emotions, of letting go completely. You envied that of him. You were a prisoner to control, and were terrified of what losing yourself completely in the temptation of bloodlust would do to you. But Anakin, he always seemed so confident in his emotions. Of course, you had no idea of knowing that in reality, he felt the same way as you did, often a prisoner to his own temptations, thoughts, and feelings, forbidden from forming attachments but at the same time never truly able to let go. You two were more akin than either of you realized.

“Well for once you were making some good decisions,” He said finally. “But I still have my eye on you.” He no longer said that with venom, only good-natured teasing.

You smiled, a strange warmth filling your chest. “I’m counting on it, Skywalker.”

Something shifted in your relationship with Anakin in the medical tent. You two would continue to bicker, stubbornly refusing to give in to one another in an unspoken competition, but from now on your arguments would no longer hold any semblance of the hatred once expressed towards each other. Rather, you two would consider each other a true friend, one that they knew could be counted on, always.

Chapter Text

After being debriefed on the status of the expedition, you felt relieved enough that you were actually able to get some sleep. You rested as much as possible and followed Ghost’s instructions, gradually beginning to heal. After a day or two, he cleared you to leave the medical tent. You were gathering your things when you hesitated, and turned to him, a question burning in your mind. He raised a brow at you, awaiting whatever it was that you had to say.

Initially, no words came out of your mouth. You didn’t know how to talk about this. “Do you remember when you told me I could always talk to you?” is what you finally settled on.

He looked surprised briefly, but that surprise was overtaken by his normal look of warmth and compassion. “Of course.”

You gulped, looking down at your hands. “I - I’m a little anxious about what’s happened the last few days. It seems like only a few weeks ago I thought I knew everything about this mutation, but back on the mission, it’s like something new happened every time. I’m nervous that the more I fight to control this, it might end up killing me one day. And above that, I don’t even know what happened underneath the Enclave. I’ve never experienced that before. Everything about it was different, how it looked, how it felt. It wasn’t bad, but it’s scary to think that there could be more to this than I ever thought. I don’t know how to handle it.”

Ghost listened intently, allowing each of your words to sink in. He pursed his lips and thought for a moment, sighing. “While I can’t personally relate to what you’re going through, I do know that the first step towards a better state is always talking about it, so I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to talk to me.” He smiled reassuringly before continuing. “I know it’s scary to think about the unknown. But just remember that you’re not alone in this, you have people who will be there to help you get through this and figure things out. You will figure this all out one day, I can promise you that.”

You considered his words and relaxed a little, feeling a tiny weight lifting off of your shoulders. “Thanks, Ghost.” You gave him a grateful smile, and he nodded in reply, giving you a wry smile.

“Anytime. Now go on, I’ve been dreaming of the day you’d leave the tent.”

You giggled and gave him a playful nudge as you walked past. As you neared the tent flaps, you called, “I know you’ll miss me!” over your shoulder, eliciting an amused chuckle in response.

Almost as soon as you exited the tent, you heard someone call your name. You turned, catching sight of Sinker, who had his arms spread out and a wide grin on his face, and Wolffe, who was standing next to him, arms crossed over his chest, fixing his brother with an unamused stare.

“You’re free!”

You giggled, bounding over to the men. “Looks like Ghost finally got tired of me.” You planted yourself in front of them, practically bouncing with the excitement of just being outside in the cool refreshing air, away from the stuffiness of the medical tent. “Do either of you happen to know where General Kenobi is?”

Wolffe spoke, his voice gruff and low. “He’s debriefing in the officer’s tent.”

“Oh.” You frowned. “Well, do you know when he’ll be done?”

He said nothing, only offering a small, nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. Sinker gave you a knowing smirk. “Can’t stay away from the action can you?”

You gave him a wink and leaned into your right foot. “What can I say, I like being in the thick of things. Keeps me on my toes.” With that, you flashed the two men a smile, turning on your heel to move in the direction of the officer’s tent, offering them a wave as you left.

You smiled to yourself as you walked through the camp. Troopers milled about, offering you nods of acknowledgment or smiles as you passed by. A small feeling of foreboding and anger pricked at your stomach. You were reminded harshly of the chips that reside in each of them. Each of these men had their own life, their own thoughts and feelings, and if you couldn’t help them in time, it would all be taken away. Your resolve strengthened. You would save them. You had to.

~~~

You were pacing outside the officer’s tent, anxiously awaiting the end of the debrief, when you heard footsteps sound closely, moving towards the opening. Obi-Wan and Master Plo appeared, casting a surprised glance in your direction.

“I see you were able to finally finagle your way out of the medical tent.”

You grinned at Obi-Wan. “I’ve been cleared by Ghost, I’m ready to get back to work.”

He and Master Plo exchanged a look. “Good, because we are running out of time to interrogate Ventress. The Council wants her returned to Coruscant as soon as possible.”

“Then we’d better get started.”

Master Plo nodded. “Indeed. Good luck, little one.” He turned and departed, leaving you and Obi-Wan. You turned to him, anxious.

“Where is she being held?”

Obi-Wan took a breath before motioning for you to follow him. You fell into step beside him as he began explaining the current situation.

“Anakin is there with her now. We’ve been trying, and failing, to get any more information out of her. She’s toying with us, although I think our new tactic might catch her… off-guard, to say the least.” He smiled wryly at you.

You gulped. You really hoped you didn’t have to impose another fear tactic on Ventress. You hated doing it, even if she was a cruel murderer. You had thought about how best to approach the interrogation, finally settling on attempting a basic tactic before trying to manipulate her. Still, you felt anxiety prick away at you needlessly, and as you Obi-Wan led you through the camp towards a secluded tent, the feeling only deepened, hollowing out a pit in the bottom of your stomach.

“Obi-Wan?”

He turned to look at you, stopping when he saw the blatant uneasiness in your expression. He raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“I’ve been trying to convince myself that it’d be okay… if I had to resort to manipulating her to get answers. I hated doing it back at the Enclave, it felt wrong. I don’t want to become someone that people are afraid of.”

He heaved a deep sigh and looked at you with understanding eyes. “What you did was out of necessity. I doubt Ventress would have said anything, had you not scared her like that. But, that was under entirely different circumstances. This is another. Perhaps if you must resort to manipulation, you can try a different angle.” He softened and added, “your compassion for others will make this difficult, as it does oftentimes.”

Perhaps Obi-Wan was right. You were in a completely different situation beneath the Jedi Temple, and you had to act rashly in order to get the answers you needed. Now that Ventress was a prisoner without any means to hurt you or your friends, you could take a less… drastic route. A new determination filled you, and you straightened your shoulders, nodding your thanks to Obi-Wan before turning and closing the distance to the tent. There were two armed troopers guarding the outside of the tent, who nodded to you and Obi-Wan as you entered. Rex was in the corner of the room, waiting silently and picking at his blasters with a soft clink! Anakin was leaning against a table, watching Ventress and not even bothering to hide his disgust. She had a new set of shackles clamped on her wrists, intricately detailed and thrumming with a strange energy. Once she saw you, her eyes widened slightly and her lips curled.

“Obi-Wan,” she cooed, “I didn’t expect you to bring such filth into our cozy little tent.”

Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Rex’s hands clench tighter around his blasters. Obi-Wan raised a hand, speaking calmly.

“I’m afraid you’ve left us no choice, my dear. Besides, I’m sure you two ladies will have a rather… enlightening conversation.”

That’s one way to put it. You forced yourself to maintain a blank expression, and moved to sit down across from Ventress. She leaned away from you, hatred and loathing mired in her gaze. You took a deep breath, watching her for a moment before speaking.

“Tell me who Dooku’s new ally is.”

She scoffed. “Oh darling, you think they haven’t already asked?” Her gaze wandered to Obi-Wan behind you. “My dear Obi-Wan, is this really your big strategy?”

You rolled your eyes. “Look, I’d like to do this as cleanly as possible. Or, if you’d like, we can do this like we did back at the Enclave.”

Something flashed across her eyes, but she made no show of emotion from your words. Instead, she gave you a saccharine smile, glancing down at the freshly formed scar on your chest, peeking through from behind your jumpsuit. “How are you feeling? I certainly wasn’t expecting you to be here.” She let out a malicious laugh.

You sighed. Here we go. Standing up, you circled around slowly behind her so she couldn’t see you, speaking as you walked.

“Wasn’t so bad, just a flesh wound really,” you lied. She scoffed in response. Once you were completely out of her line of sight, you closed your eyes and called forth the black mist, willing your mind and senses to sharpen. It crashed around you, muting the room, except for your voices. Rex looked up from where he had been picking at his blasters, the clinking sounds now disappeared.

You circled back to her, leaning down next to her ear and lilting your voice arrogantly. “You know, I really expected more out of you.” She stiffened, shooting you a look of pure poison, but you only laughed. “Poor Ventress, all alone and failing yet again. It’s no wonder Dooku betrayed you, you could never do anything to please him, after all.”

You moved to stand in front of her and leaned down, a smug smirk resting on your face. “It must be so embarrassing for you, to be caught trying to betray him.” You turned away, looking over your shoulder into her hateful eyes. “Seems you can’t even do that right.”

You stepped away and turned to lean back against the table next to Anakin, a bored expression residing on your features. “Honestly I don’t know how you can even stand yourself. Protecting the man who tried to kill you? Please.” You scoffed, sticking out your bottom lip in mock pity. “Awww, did you think he would take you back if you retrieved his precious holocron? That’s cute.”

Ventress finally snapped. “That man means nothing to me anymore.”

You tutted. “Oh don’t worry, I’ve seen it before, women losing themselves over the approval of a man. It’s pathetic, the way you’re going about it, but it’s not uncommon.” The corners of your lips twitched upwards smugly. “I guess you’re just like everyone else.”

“I am not like everyone else.”

“Then why should it matter if you tell us about Dooku?” You continued innocently. “I mean if you were so intent on betraying him in the first place, why protect him now? It’s a little beneath you.”

She snarled at you, venom dripping from her lips. “I don’t care about Dooku. I only care about ridding myself of that ungrateful slug. I went looking for that stupid holocron so I could use it against him.”

You laughed, cold and hollow. “You actually thought you could go up against Dooku on his turf? Now really, that’s bold. Not in a good way, in more of a stupid, suicidal way,” you added, examining your fingernails. “Now really, Ventress, I took you to be more cunning than that. After all of your incompetence, how’d you expect to pull that off?"

Doubt briefly flickered across her expression. It was gone in an instant, replaced by sheer, unrestrained fury. “All I needed was for him to come to Dathomir. And with his new ally, it wouldn’t have been hard.”

You cocked your head. “Why is that?”

She spit her next words, pure hatred causing her hands to shake slightly. “That slime is tearing a path right through the galaxy. Dooku has been relying on his operations for months. All I would have had to do is cause a little disruption on Dathomir to draw him out.”

Anakin interrupted. “If there were shady dealings going on in such a large part of the galaxy, the Republic would know about it.”

Ventress scoffed. “The Republic is blind, it always has been! Blind to things it deems lesser than themselves, blind to its own imminent destruction.” She hissed, turning to you. “Even you have a greater purpose in this, and you don’t even know it yet.”

You remembered her words back beneath the Jedi Temple, days prior. Yes, that’s right, I know just who you are, we all do. If you live through this, he just might have a use for you yet.

“How did you know who I am?”

She chuckled coldly. “He knows who you are. He’s the one who told Dooku of your little… infection.

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Oh but I do,” she continued, her lips curling in disgust. “You may think I’m a monster, but I would advise you look in the mirror. The Republic is using you, just as anyone should, it’s all you’re good for. You are nothing but a pawn, used for mindless bloodshed and fear. In fact, I think that we have a lot more in common than you think, my dear. You will come to find that there are two monsters in this room, and I’m looking right at one of them.”

You clenched your jaw, forcing down the anger and guilt rising in your stomach. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were jealous of this man.”

She scoffed. “I would never be jealous of a scrawny human operating out of backwater planets. Please, I have more self-respect than that.”

Obi-Wan spoke from where he stood behind you, his hand resting on his chin. “What kind of operations is he running?”

“As much as I’d love to get under Skywalker’s skin, I don’t believe I can recall Obi-Wan.”

You snorted. “There you go again, defending someone who you allegedly have no allegiance to.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Why should I bother helping the Republic? An operation of this magnitude has stretched to every corner of the galaxy, there’s no stopping it. If you would just open your eyes, you would see exactly who’s suffering.” She turned her head and glared.

You studied her closely, finally breaking the silence and asking brusquely, “What’s his plan for Dathomir?”

She swung her head back to you, but said nothing. You continued.

“I assume Dathomir is your home planet, is it not? I can only assume you would want to escape his presence there.”

She said nothing for a moment, narrowing her eyes at you. Then, she spoke. “His plan is the same as it is in all forgotten planets. Ord Mantell, Tatooine, Nal Hutta. Look there, and you’ll see why I’m so desperate to save my sisters.”

You softened, closing your eyes and took a deep breath. Your eyes opened again, and you fixed Ventress with a genuine, sympathetic stare. “I am truly sorry. For everything.”

With that, you stole a glance at your companions, striding from the tent and into the cool air. Night had fallen, the skies tauntingly clear, a stark contrast to the thoughts tangling in your mind. For a moment, you brooded over the information you had just learned. Someone knows who I am. Even worse, they’ve told Dooku, who apparently has some kind of overarching plan for me. You groaned. This was just what you needed. A Sith Lord to hunt you down and use you for his own nefarious purpose. You were so lost in thought you hadn’t noticed your friends emerge from the tent behind you, until Obi-Wan tapped you lightly on the shoulder, asking for you to move forward to give them space to step out.

You stepped forward, turning and looking down at your feet as he, Anakin, and Rex filed out of the tent. Anakin spoke first. “Well, I guess that’s as good as we’re gonna get.”

Obi-Wan brushed his fingers across his chin. “Indeed,” he turned to you. “You did well, that information should be enough to allow us to look into this supposed operation.”

Anakin grumbled, crossing his arms. “What even is this operation? I highly doubt it could have gone under the radar for this long.”

“It’s likely a trafficking ring.”

Your quiet voice jolted the men from their conversation, turning their heads to you, who was still staring at your feet. “Could be for any purposes, but by the sounds of it, and by the way Ventress is so desperate to help her sisters, I’d be willing to bet that it’s got at least something to do with trafficking.”

The men stood in a shocked silence, contemplating your words. Rex cleared his throat, speaking hesitantly. “So, we’d be looking for signs of trafficked women across the galaxy then?”

You shook your head. “Not necessarily. In fact, since it’s managed to operate for this long unnoticed, it’s much more likely that it’s trafficking men, women, and children. It’s probably for a little bit of everything, if Dooku’s so interested. Slave labor, arms and mercenary contracting, pimping, whatever you can think of really.”

“Well then, if that’s the case, we should start looking into this immediately.” Obi-Wan nodded at you. “Thank you, Isabelle, this information will be of dire consequence for the Council.”

You gave a small nod, hearing them move away towards the rest of the camp. You turned and walked into the brush, the tall grasses parting as you moved to find a quieter place. Rex paused, watching you leave through the grasslands, before following after you. When he found you, you had lain down on a creekbed, staring up at the glittering stars high above.

“You alright?”

You extended your hand towards him, waiting expectantly, never taking your eyes off of the sky. He hesitantly grasped your hand, and as soon as his fingers closed around your palm, you yanked him down to the ground with you, ignoring his surprised ack!

He rolled over onto his back, and the two of you sat there for a while, gazing up at the stars. Finally, you broke the silence.

“My father always used to show me the constellations when I was little.”

Rex turned his head to face you, brows furrowing slightly. You continued, eyes still on the sky above you. “They’re different here, but I still like looking at the stars. It’s… comforting. I’ve always liked how each star had a story, some kind of meaning. I used to go stargazing often to clear my head as I got older.”

Rex let out a soft noise of contentment, looking back up at the sky. “One of my batchmates used to say that when someone dies, their soul is made into a star, so they’re always looking down on us.”

You swallowed, hard. A lump formed in your throat. I wonder how many stars have been made because of me.

Rex was looking at you again, understanding and concern etched into the lines on his face. When he spoke, his voice was quiet. “She’s not right about you, you know.”

“She’s more right than you think she is.”

“No, she’s not.”

“And how would you know, Rex?” You turned your head to face him, feeling your eyes start to burn. “You don’t know what I’ve done in the past, you’ve only known me for a couple weeks now. Even then, have you forgotten how I’ve acted? I scared Ventress into talking at the Jedi Temple, and I just manipulated her minutes ago. It was stupid of me to think that I could ever be anything more than a weapon.” Your voice cracked. “She’s right.” Your mind echoed one word, over and over again. Monster. Monster. Monster.

“Hey.”

Your eyes flicked to his, blinking away unshed tears. He was looking at you with incredible sympathy and compassion. Moonlight shone down on his face, illuminating him in a soft glow. His eyes searched yours, and you found yourself relaxing in the solace of his golden gaze.

“You are not a monster.” He murmured. “You’re right, I haven’t known you very long, and I don’t know who you were before we met. But I know who you are now. You’ve got a damn big heart. You wouldn’t hurt anyone without absolutely needing to, and even then, it’s to protect others, from what I’ve seen. What she said does not define you. To me… to us, you are a good person. A mutation won’t change that.”

You closed your eyes, briefly. Doubt still pricked at you, but you allowed yourself to mull over Rex’s words. He was a man who didn’t give praise lightly, and you knew he wouldn’t lie to you. You let out a sigh and turned back to face the stars, swallowing. You acquiesced, and the two of you fell into a comfortable silence. After a while, you grew restless again.

“Do you know any constellations?”

He turned his head to you in surprise, a soft smile forming on his face. “I know a few. I can show you, if you’d like.” You nodded and shifted closer to him to get a better view at the stars he would point at.

The two of you sat there for a long time, him pointing out a constellation and describing the story behind it, you drinking in every word and sighing with contentment. He also pointed out planets to you, telling you stories of those he’s visited, everything he’s experienced and the people he’d met.

“And over there, I’m pretty sure that is Mygeeto.”

You shifted, craning your neck to see where he was pointing, before lying back down. “What’s it like?”

“Dark, cold.” He turned his head to face yours with a grin. “At least in some parts of it. Others look more like this.” He gestured to the grasslands around you. “We met a race of peaceful creatures called the Lurmen there. They helped heal the General after he’d been injured, and we ended up defending them from Separatists who tried to colonize them.”

“What happened to them?”

He sighed. “Well, I’m not sure. They didn’t want a part in the war, and we left shortly after.”

Your shoulder brushed against his. “Well, wherever they are, I hope they’re alright.”

Rex was quiet for a moment, his caramel eyes charting a path up and down your face. He swallowed and spoke softly. “Me too.”

Tension seemed to crackle in the air between the two of you as your eyes locked onto his. It seemed as if the two of you were holding your breath, frozen in time for a moment. Something flickered in his gaze, and he clenched his jaw, a muscle jumping. Your eyes ran over the hard lines in his face, contrasting against the softness in his eyes and his lips. When your eyes found his again, you thought you saw a brief flicker of longing in them. You felt his fingers ghost over yours for a split second, before he pulled a respectful distance away, clearing his throat. You tried to ignore the feeling of disappointment that had rooted in your stomach.

He rose to his feet, dusting himself off a little before extending his hand to you. “We’d better get going if we want to get any sleep tonight.”

You chuckled and grasped his hand lightly, feeling a small spark light where your hand met his. He pulled you to your feet, and you looked him in the eyes, giving him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Rex.”

He nodded, releasing your hand. “Don’t mention it,” he said with a small grin.

The two of you walked back to camp together, shoulders brushing ever so slightly. Ahsoka sat outside your shared tent, nodding at Rex and flashing you a small smirk. You said goodnight to Rex before retreating into your tent, followed soon after by Ahsoka, who raised her eyebrows at you mischievously. You laughed and threw out a disgruntled What? at her, to which she merely said nothing and raised her hands in defense, but winked at you regardless. You laughed and plopped down on your bunk, staring up at the ceiling and smiling to yourself.

Rex was so kind, so gentle for a captain. You couldn’t imagine the atrocities he’s seen in this galaxy, couldn’t imagine the pain he has had to endure. Your heart twisted for him. And yet, as you looked into his eyes earlier that night, you saw the soul of a man who was strong, tender and good. He was someone you knew you could always count on, an anchor to help you weather any storm. You had liked stargazing with Rex. It was often something you did alone, but with him, you found a new solace in it. It was comforting, and you found yourself wanting more times like that, where he would tell you stories of everything he’s done, planets he’s seen, people he’s met. You hoped there would be more times in the future where you and he could stargaze, free from the stress of the war for just a fraction of a moment.

Chapter Text

You awoke the next day and made your way to the officer’s tent to prepare for the day’s debriefing. It was likely that the battalions would be pulling out soon; at this point it was just a matter of time. You surmised that there might only be room for one final push to regain control. Approaching the tent, you pushed open the flaps, revealing the three Jedi Generals, Ahsoka, Cody, Rex, and Wolffe. Master Plo nodded a friendly greeting to you as you entered the room. “Hello, little one.”

You gave him a kind smile in return. “Master Plo.” You approached, standing next to Ahsoka and Rex as you awaited the debrief.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat, turning on the holotable, which depicted a map of the current Dantooine warzone. “The local farmers have agreed to allow a brief occupation if we are successful in driving out the Separatist forces, with the promise that we will leave after the war’s end. The farmsteads will not be able to hold out much longer, and the seismic tanks will soon start to affect the planet as a whole.”

Anakin leaned forward on the table, eyes narrowing as he surveyed the map. “So you’re suggesting one final attack?”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Intelligence suggests that the Separatists have only one remaining wave of battle droids, although it appears to be rather large. There were also sightings of anti-aircraft launchers. We will need to take those out in order for our gunships to fly unscathed.”

Anakin glanced at Ahsoka, a smirk forming on his lips. “We can handle those. You just worry about the droids and tanks.”

You cleared your throat. A number of heads turned to face you. “I can handle the tanks. How many are left?”

Obi-Wan turned to Cody, who answered for him. “At least two, if intelligence is correct.”

You nodded, allowing a small smile to prick at the corners of your lips. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Lastly, there is a super tactical droid that we will need to draw out. The only issue is, we don’t know where it’s been hiding.”

You coughed. “This might be an incredibly stupid question, but uh, what exactly is a super tactical droid?”

Wolffe turned his head to you and answered with an edge of bitterness in his voice. “It’s an incredibly adaptable commander droid that specializes in military strategy and analysis. It’s also particularly ruthless.

Ah, well that explains it. I am sensing some animosity behind that one. You nodded, an uncomfortable expression gracing your features. “Got it.”

Master Plo turned to Obi-Wan. “Master Kenobi, perhaps you and I could engage the tactical droid, with the help of your new advisor,” he added, nodding to you. “It looks like the droid armies have established a forward base camp here.” He pointed to a spot on the map.

Obi-Wan lifted a hand to his chin. “Well I suppose there is as good as any to start looking.” He turned to you, waving his hand as he spoke. “Once you are finished with the tanks, meet us at this rendezvous point, and we’ll go after the tactical droid.”

You nodded. “Will do. What about the farmers?”

Master Plo answered you. “They are not fighters. We will have to hold off the Separatist forces before they can reach the farmsteads.”

You grit your teeth. Great. Sounds like we’re on a time-crunch.

As if the universe were listening to your thoughts, a soldier from the 104th burst in. “General, we’ve just received word that the droids are on the move.”

“We should move swiftly then.” Master Plo nodded to the rest of the group. “May the Force be with us.”

Rex sighed and placed his bucket on his head, his voice coming through the modulator. “Let’s go get those clankers.”

~~~

You hummed to yourself as you crouched next to Jesse and another 501st trooper, briefly distracting yourself from the impending battle. Jesse shot you an amused glance. “Now hardly seems like a good time for that.”

You shrugged. “I find anytime’s a good time for music. Reduces stress, you know.”

“You’re making that up.”

“Am not.”

He rolled his eyes, chuckling. “Whatever. You know, you’d love 79’s back on Coruscant. You should come with us when we get back.”

You fluttered your eyelashes at him in mock flattery. “Now Jesse, the battlefield is hardly the place to ask a woman out on a date.”

He spluttered. “It - It’s not a date! I just was - “

You laughed, cutting him off and sparing him from further embarrassment. For all his flirting, he really seemed to be flustered at the idea of a date with you. “ Relax, I’m joking . I think that’d be fun.” You swung your gaze back to the field in front of you, frowning. “Here they come.”

Rows upon rows of droids appeared in the distance, hauling what must have been the anti-aircraft launchers. Above them hovered the seismic tanks. You purse your lips and curse under your breath. They were much bigger than you were expecting, and by the looks of it, their seismic drivers could pound a crater in the ground with a single blow. You could hear Jesse’s teasing tone through his modulator.

“Regretting choosing the tanks, are we?”

You grumbled under your breath. “Regret is a bit strong. They’re just… bigger than I thought they’d be.” Several troopers chuckled around you.

You contemplated your course of action. Not only could those tanks do some serious damage to the clone ranks, but if you didn’t take them down quickly enough, the whole planet would be affected. An idea formed in your mind, catching a glimpse of several ledges on the sides of the tanks.

The droids were getting closer. You sighed, glancing at Jesse before closing your eyes and calling forth the mist, allowing it to dance around you in soft, scarlet tendrils. You opened your eyes, the mutation rumbling with pleasure at the sight of an impending battle. A supercilious smirk curled the corners of your lips.

“Show time, boys.”

As the clones began to advance, you stepped from the cover of the grass, keeping pace with the front lines. Blaster fire began to fill the air, as the battalions neared the droids. You drew your daggers, increasing your pace as you neared the closest tank. With a grunt, you pushed up off of the ground, leaping up onto the side of the tank, using your daggers to help you scale its massive face. You glimpsed the ledge on the side facing the other tank, big enough so that you would be able to crouch on it. As you maneuvered over, the driver depressed once, leaving a massive crater in the ground and sending shockwaves rippling out across the field. Shit. Hurry up.

You reached the ledge, allowing the bow to materialize in your hands, notching a single arrow and taking aim at the other tank. You released, the arrow whizzing through the air and embedding itself in the hull of the tank, exploding several seconds later. The tank powered down, temporarily disabled, giving you a few moments to work on getting the one you were on to fall. You noticed several green orbs of light near the bottoms of the tanks. Those look like power cells. Notching several more arrows and readying yourself once again, you flipped off the ledge, focusing and releasing in midair, striking the tank in three of its power cells.

As the cells burst into flames, the tank let out a metallic groan and began to sink, crashing to the ground around you and taking out scores of droids with it. You made for the opposite tank, which was just starting to come back up, recovering from it’s temporarily disabled state. You notched another couple arrows, this time aiming at the power cells. As you released, you saw the driver depress. A massive shockwave coursed through the grasslands, propelling you backwards. You landed quite a ways back from where you had been, albeit unharmed. Looking up, you saw the tank descending slowly, explosions rippling up it’s hull in a chain reaction.

Satisfied, you commed Obi-Wan while jumping back into the fray of battle, making your way to the rendezvous.

“Obi-Wan, I’m headed your way. Do you have eyes on the tactical droid?” You slashed through lines of droids with your blades as you awaited his response. His crackling voice came through a moment later.

“Negative. We will await your arrival at the rendezvous.”

Out of the corner of your eye, you glimpsed a clone medic dragging troopers off to the side, beneath a tree. His head was turned, focused on an injured trooper, unaware of a super battle droid bearing down on him. You veered off, practically flattening the clones with your body as blaster fire rained down on you. Out from beneath you, one of the troopers shot and struck the droid, sending it staggering. You finished it off with a quick jab to its sensor.

The medic turned to you, immediately searching for injuries but gave you a strange look, seeing you had none. “Uh… thanks.” You nodded brusquely. “Anytime.”

You continued your onslaught, making your way to the rendezvous within a matter of minutes. When you arrived, you joined Master Plo and Obi-Wan, along with several troopers from the 104th and 212th atop a small ravine, overlooking the Separatist forward base camp.

“How are we going to draw out the tactical droid?”

Obi-Wan hummed. “That’s a great question that I was hoping you’d be able to answer for us.”

“Me?! Why - ugh. Okay, well Wolffe said that this thing specializes in military strategy and analysis right?” Obi-Wan nodded. “So, maybe we should try something that will catch them off guard. Something that will force the droid to come out and reanalyze the strategy.”

Obi-Wan thought for a moment, before a grin came to his face. He looked at Master Plo, then to you, grinning. “Do you still have that speaker?”

~~~

Minutes later, you were awaiting the go-ahead from Anakin indicating that the anti-air launchers had been taken out. You had given your speaker to one of the troopers, who had left to bring it to Warthog’s gunship. You glanced at Obi-Wan doubtfully. “Are you sure this is going to work?”

He chuckled. “Believe me, it’ll work.”

Anakin’s voice came buzzing through his comm. “ Anti-aircraft launchers are down!”

Master Plo’s voice rumbled beside Obi-Wan, raised so Anakin could hear him. “Good. Send in our gunships.”

You bit your lip, worrying it between your teeth. Let’s hope this works. Moments later, you could hear the gunships approaching the field, music blaring on the overhead speakers. The droids appeared disoriented, firing randomly and breaking formation.

“That’s a startling amount of plot armor,” you muttered under your breath.

“Well, it would seem your plan has worked Master Kenobi.” Master Plo gestured towards the camp, where a large, armored droid had emerged, stepping into sight and surveying the battlefield.

“Indeed.” He moved to leave his cover but hesitated, looking down at you and the Kel Dor. “I’ll take care of the tactical droid if you two secure the perimeter.”

You nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Now let’s go.”

You and Master Plo moved to eliminate the perimeter of droids, while Obi-Wan leapt from the cover of the ravine, pulling the tactical droid towards him with the Force. As it neared, emitting a metallic yelp, Obi-Wan dismembered its head from its body, retrieving it from where it landed on the ground. You jogged back over to him a few minutes later, glancing from the droid head in his hands back to him, a smirk forming on your face. “I thought you were supposed to be the Negotiator.”

He laughed. “Well I’ve found that not all things can be fixed with compromise.”

“Apparently not.”

The three of you turned back towards the battlefield, where the droid armies were in full retreat. You smiled, feeling a sense of pride in your contribution to a Republic victory.

~~~

“It would seem your affinity with control has progressed greatly, my dear.”

Although Obi-Wan’s voice contained a hint of pride, it seemed more pensive than anything else, as if he were posing a question. You shot him a sidelong glance before returning your gaze to the camp around you, bustling as troopers went about their final duties on Dantooine. “It sounds like there’s a ‘but’ in there.”

He hummed, nodding slightly and bringing his hand up to his chin. His eyes were gentle as he continued. “But, it would seem you have other worries weighing on your mind.”

“You haven’t by any chance spoken to Anakin about the mission have you?” You slid a hand over your face, looking at him with a tired expression.

“He did inform me of your mutation’s rather… taxing effect on you recently.”

You scoffed. “ Taxing. That’s a delicate way to put it I suppose.”

You blinked at him, weighing your options on whether or not to talk with him about it. You decided it probably would be best to discuss this with him, he seemed to at least know how to help you control this, maybe he could help you understand it better. Heaving a sigh, you began recounting the incidents on the Resolute and in the forest after your encounter with the spider-like creatures.

“I talked to Ghost a little bit about this, and he was able to assuage my fears a little, but…” You clenched your jaw and swallowed. “Any time I have to exert a little extra energy to maintain some form of control, or if I do something that isn’t… normal, I suppose, it gets a little bit worse each time. And… there’s something else. Back in the Enclave, when I was injured, I felt as if the mutation activated itself, but it was different somehow. Ghost seemed to think it was a fight or flight response, but the more I think about it, I’m not so sure.” You paused, glancing down at your feet, a wave of dread overcoming you. “I don’t know what to do,” you said quietly.

Obi-Wan sat in quiet contemplation for a while before speaking, his voice grave. “It appears as if your relationship with this has become more parasitic than anything else. While it relies on you for survival, it can also be the source of your ailing.” He rested a hand on your shoulder, encouragement and a promise shining in his eyes. “I will meditate on this. In the meantime, I suggest you try and exercise as much control as possible without pushing yourself to overexertion. It might help to gradually increase your discipline over a period of time.”

You looked at him, unconvinced. But, seeing as you really had no other choice, you begrudgingly acquiesced to his advice. You turned back to the camp, slowly watching the controlled chaos unfold.

“So, what’s the plan from here?”

“From here, we go to Coruscant, where we’ll have a bit of shore leave. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to relax and figure this out there.”

You offered him a nervous laugh, focusing hard on the things you had to do today rather than your plan to free the clones of their inhibitor chips. You knew Obi-Wan could reach out to your mind, if he so wanted to, and didn’t want to leave anything to chance. He gave you a curious look, but didn’t press you, excusing himself and heading in the direction of his Commander, who was currently organizing the transfer of various supplies onto the Resolute and Triumphant.

“You’ve looked better.”

You turned your head over your shoulder to glimpse Jesse and Rex approaching behind you, the former with a lopsided grin on his face. You let out a small sigh of relief at the sight of your friends, safe and uninjured. As you turned to face them, you saw they carried their buckets beneath their arms, and were positively filthy. Rex’s armor was practically completely covered in dried mud and grasses, and Jesse looked no better, with a smear of dirt swiped across his face. Both men looked exhausted, but still had their usual sparkle in their eyes.

“You’re one to talk, have you looked in a mirror?” You sniffed, wrinkling your nose. “ Ugh, and you smell too. You really should take a visit to the refresher.”

Jesse’s smile only widened, stretching his arms high over his head with a grunt. “What can I say, it’s all part of my manly charisma.” He paused, winking at you. “If I do go to the ‘fresher, wanna come with?”

“I’m not sure I’d call it that,” you rolled your eyes at him, raising an eyebrow. “And I’ll take a hard pass on that one, but it was a good effort.”

He grinned cheekily, leaning forward so he was level with you. “Perhaps another time.”

You hummed, unable to hide the amused grin that took hold of your features. “Mmmm, perhaps not.” You glanced at Rex, who was very pointedly looking in any other direction. “Sorry Jesse’s such a perv, Rex.”

He laughed softly. “Oh believe me, I’m aware. You should see him when he drinks.”

“Hey!”

You giggled, ignoring the indignant ARC Trooper, instead shifting your attention to Rex. “I hear we’re going on shore leave.”

He nodded, a more serious expression falling onto his face. “Yeah, we’ll be on Coruscant for a couple of days at least.”

You stole a glance over your shoulder in the direction Obi-Wan had gone, before speaking quietly, your voice barely above a whisper. “Master Kenobi thinks it will be a good chance to… relax.”

Rex rubbed the back of his neck with a hand and let out a strained laugh. “Yeah… I’m not so sure about that. We should meet in my quarters later to discuss things all together.”

“Discuss what?”

You practically jumped out of your skin upon hearing Anakin’s voice sound behind you. You whirled around to see the arrogant Jedi standing a small ways away, regarding you and your companions warily. You wracked your brain for some kind of excuse, trying to find something that seemed remotely plausible. But when you looked into Anakin’s eyes, seeing the curiosity and mild suspicion that lay in them, you panicked. So instead, what came out was, “We’re planning a party!”

You winced at the audible groans behind you. Awesome. Supposed master of manipulation tactics and you can’t even lie to save your life. That’s just great. Anakin narrowed his eyes, stepping forward to scrutinize your expression. “A party, huh?”

Jesse piped up from behind you. “Yep! It was supposed to be a surprise,” he said with an edge to his voice, elbowing you slightly. You grimaced. “But I guess it’s no secret anymore.”

Anakin shifted his gaze to Rex. “I didn’t think you liked parties Rex.” He stiffened, stammering for a moment.

“Uh, well, that’s why we were going to meet in my quarters, sir. We thought it would be more - uh - discrete.”

“I see.” Anakin studied the three of you, all of whom were a little too tense. “Well if it’s a party, I hope I’m invited.” He smirked, turning to leave.

You let out a nervous laugh. “Sounds good!” He waved over his shoulder.

You spun back around, releasing a series of oh my God’s, face bright red as the two men in front of you glared daggers at you. “We’re planning a party? That was the best you could come up with?” Jesse ran a hand over his face, exasperated.

“I’m sorry, I panicked! What do you want from me?” You hissed, your face burning.

“I don’t know, maybe just a little more tact?”

Rex sighed and buried his face in his hands. “Just, whatever. Let’s just stop talking about this before someone else overhears.”

Jesse grumbled and shot you another irritated look before nodding. The three of you disbanded, the two troopers heading towards their tent while you trudged to yours. You spent the rest of the day packing your things, dwelling on thoughts of the upcoming secret mission you would be conducting. You really had to go about this carefully. Not only were you endangering your life, but Rex and Jesse’s as well. There was really only one shot to do this correctly, and successfully. If not, forget your life, the entire fate of the GAR and the Jedi Order hangs in the balance. No pressure. You groaned inwardly. Your mind wandered to Kix and Fives. They believed I could pull this off. You felt your resolve strengthen a little, a small spark of determination forming at the thought of their unwavering support.

You could do this. You would do this. You weren’t about to let so many innocent, good men down. Grabbing your belongings and slinging them over your shoulder, you started for the shuttles to take you back aboard the Resolute.

Coruscant awaited, and with it, a brand new set of challenges.

Chapter Text

Coruscant, 0800 hours

Two days had passed on the Resolute. You had met with Rex and Jesse, discussing your plan to obtain any and all evidence of the inhibitor chips, as well as Palpatine’s treachery. As a precaution, Rex had given you Anakin’s override code, should the files be restricted. He also had given you his personal comm frequency, telling you to transmit the evidence there, if all else failed. He and Jesse would bring Obi-Wan and Anakin to the GAR Headquarters, where you would meet up with them with the evidence, and try to convince them to bring you in front of the Council. You just had to pray that they believed you enough not to turn you in immediately.

Rex had seemed cautiously optimistic, thinking that since this wouldn’t be the first time that Anakin had heard of a plot like this involving inhibitor chips and clones, he would connect some of the dots, or at least be more inclined to believe you. You and Jesse weren’t entirely sure. What you were doing was treason, not to mention suicide. No one simply went up against the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic without some kind of consequence, it was just unheard of.

Which was why when you were stepping off of the ship to head into Coruscant for the first time, you stuck to your friends like your life depended on it. You were feeling a little paranoid, to say the least. You kept thinking people were watching you, eyeing you with suspicion or nefarious intent. The hairs on the back of your neck prickled as if there were an immediate danger, and your eyes darted rapidly around you, scanning the area for anything that could possibly put you or your friends at risk. You were adamant about sticking together until the time came to enact the plan, terrified that if one of you split from each other, they’d never be seen again.

Rex and Jesse were more than understanding, and if anything, you were starting to think they were more comfortable with the idea of sticking together as well. The three of you sat in Dex’s Diner, a restaurant that they insisted upon, although none of you had particularly worked up an appetite. You picked at a bowl of meiloorun and jogan fruits, while Rex and Jesse studied cups of caf, which were quickly becoming cold. Finally, you pushed the bowl forwards a little, resting your elbows on the table and burying your face in your hands with a small groan.

“You should really try to eat, you know.” Rex didn’t look up from his caf.

You snorted and shot him a look from between your fingers. Why, just in case it’s my last meal? “I don’t see you eating anything.”

“That’s different… our part of the job isn’t as difficult.”

“Yeah, you two seem real confident about it.”

He shot you an admonishing glance. You sighed, leaning back in the booth. “I’m sorry. I’m just…” You trailed off, eyes wandering around the diner.

“Nervous?” Jesse finished your sentence for you.

You huffed a strained laugh. “Yeah.”

“Don’t be. You’re gonna get what we need, and we’ll all meet up outside the GAR together at 2100 hours. Everything’s gonna be just fine.”

While his words were optimistic, he looked as if he were trying to convince himself, more than anything. You heaved a sigh. You really hoped he was right, for your sakes. Anxiety and dread gnawed at your insides and you groaned inwardly. If this mission didn’t kill you, the anticipation leading up to it surely would.

Ding!

The bell above the door to the diner sounded, causing the three of you to jump. Your eyes darted to the door, relaxing a little when you saw a Twi’lek woman and child enter, taking a seat at a booth adjacent from yours. Rex drew in a sharp breath. “Alright, let’s at least just try to act normal, if anything we’re only drawing more attention to ourselves like this.”

He was probably right. If anything, your despondency stuck out like a sore thumb this early in the morning. You reached forward for the bowl of fruit, popping a piece into your mouth and chewing slowly, practically choking it down. The two men in front of you each took sips of their cafs, grimacing at the lukewarm temperature.

You chuckled, allowing a smile to form on your face, although it didn’t reach your eyes. “That’s why I ordered fruit.”

Jesse scowled. “Yeah, fruit that I’m paying for. How is it that you were a mercenary before all this, and conveniently don’t have credits on you right now?”

You blinked up at him innocently. “Why, I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Leech.”

“Whiner.”

You all let out hollow laughs, descending once again back into an uncomfortable silence, the weight of the day hanging on your minds. After a while, the three of you stared at the bottom of empty cups and bowls, as the minutes ticked by agonizingly slow. Rex raised his head and looked at you, speaking quietly.

“If you’d like, we can show you where your quarters will be while we’re on Coruscant.”

You nodded. Might as well, you need something to do to pass the time.

He gave you a single nod, motioning with his head to you and Jesse to follow him out of the booth, waiting for the ARC Trooper to pay the bill as you left. The three of you made your way out of the diner, catching an airtaxi to the GAR Headquarters. The tension in the air was thick, each of you not speaking until you were all inside the building, walking through the clean corridors. As you walked, Rex and Jesse pointed several locations out to you.

“That over there is the officer’s quarters, those doors lead to the mess, and those big doors over there are the entrance to the medbay.”

You gulped, memorizing the path you had taken to get here, as well as the steps you took from the medbay to your quarters. You grit your teeth. You had traveled quite a ways away from the medbay, it would definitely take you a while to get there, not to mention the amount of time it would take for you to rendezvous with the others.

Finally, you stood in front of your quarters, shoulder to shoulder with Rex and Jesse. You stepped forward, reaching for the keypad, but hesitated and turned nervously to the two men. “Will you both be okay?”

They each gave you a soft smile. Gentle and reassuring, but at the same time, a little forlorn. Rex placed a firm hand on your shoulder.

“We’ll be alright. We’ll see you later tonight okay?”

Jesse nodded. “Yeah, and don’t forget, we gotta go to 79’s. I’m counting on you being there.”

You laughed softly. “I know. We’ll make some time to go.”

With that, the two men you had begun to grow quite close with turned and paced down the corridor, leaving you to enter your new quarters alone. As the doors swished close behind you, you wrapped your arms around yourself, squeezing tightly as you surveyed every inch of the room. All of your belongings were already in there, piled neatly in the center of the room for you to unpack. The rest of the room was fairly modest, with a single bunk, holotable and chair, and refresher in the back. You drew in a shaky breath, and started slowly unpacking your things. You might as well do something to keep your mind occupied.

You didn’t have very many belongings, and soon enough, you had organized and set up your room fairly neatly. You fiddled with the speaker, selecting a quiet song and placing it next to your bed, forcing yourself to breathe in and out, slowly and deeply. You closed your eyes, lying down on the bed to keep your limbs from shaking.

Over and over again, you reminded yourself of the faith that Rex, Jesse, Kix and Fives held in you. They know you can do this, so why are you freaking out? Unfortunately, you weren’t entirely sure you had an answer to that question. A million thoughts swirled in your mind, almost none of which were optimistic. You kept imagining scenario after scenario of countless failures. Almost each and every single one resulted in the death of your friends, or you. Others included years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of Palpatine, and to be honest, you weren’t sure which you preferred. What if he catches us? What if the Corries find out and come after us? What if I can’t get the evidence to them in time? What if I can’t get the evidence at all ?

What if…

An overwhelming surge of clarity crashed over you, similar to the tranquil way you had felt beneath the Jedi Enclave. You opened your eyes, breathing deeply. If I don’t do this, who will? Stop brooding over all the what ifs and just let it be. You can’t predict the outcome, all you can do is control how you act now.

A renewed spark of determination took root in your stomach, rising up through you like a wildfire. Your resolve strengthened, replacing the doom and fear that had pitted itself in your stomach. You set about doing tasks for the day, and while you never left the room, you busied yourself with cleaning, research, even taking a shower and a nap at one point in an attempt to refresh yourself.

Through it all, you repeated four words to yourself over and over again in a single mantra, willing the anxiety away.

I can do this.

~~~

GAR Headquarters, 1945 hours

You eyed the watch on your wrist. Fifteen more minutes before I absolutely need to leave. You wanted to give yourself plenty of time to get to the medbay and find the evidence, just in case it took longer than expected. You took a deep breath and belted your holster to your waist, sheathing your knives. You took one long look in the mirror at yourself.

The girl that stared back at you looked nothing like who you had once been. Where there was once a scared, anxious little girl who feared herself more than anything else, you instead saw a woman who had found a renewed sense of purpose, her eyes no longer dull and dark, but alight with hope.

You felt a small feeling of encouragement latch onto your chest. This is what I was saved for. Not to destroy, not to kill. I am here to help. With that, you took in another deep breath, striding towards the doorway. Just as you slipped out of the room, you looked in either direction before closing your eyes and calling upon your clandestine little friend. The black mist washed over you, deafening the hallways and muting your footsteps. As you walked, you crept in the shadows, keeping your movements furtive and precise.

As you neared the medbay, you crouched in a corner, checking your watch and awaiting an opening.

2005 hours

The opening of the medbay doors caused you to look up. A medic trooper was exiting the medbay, turning off the light as he stepped out. His face was buried in a datapad, eyebrows furrowed in consternation. Just before the doors could swish close behind him, you slipped through, flattening yourself against the wall. You surveyed the room carefully, looking over each cot twice to ensure that no one was here, or awake. When you felt satisfied that you were in the clear, you crept around the perimeter of the medbay, searching for a terminal.

In the far back corner, a terminal with a datapad caught your eye. You glided across the room to it, looking it over. It looked simple enough, and thanks to your mutation you were able to muffle the sounds of the keys as you searched through the terminal for information. You typed in the designation of three troopers, prompting the system to retrieve their medical and recent search history.

CT-6116 : Kix

Kix’s medical history was unsealed, but it was his search history that was restricted. You typed in Anakin’s override code, and a green light illuminated shortly before revealing his search history, showing his recent attempts to look into Fives’ and Tup’s records. You quickly downloaded the information onto a small drive Rex had given you, while searching again for another trooper.

CT-5385 : Tup

Now both of Tup’s records were sealed, but once again with the override code, you were able to gain access and download reports of Tup’s malfunctioned inhibitor chip, as well as a cover-up of the Kaminoan termination order. Finally, you keyed in the designation for one final trooper.

ARC-5555 : Fives

Both of Fives’ records were also sealed, but upon entering the code, your eyes widened at the information you saw. Charges of treason, reports of removed chips, as well as a personal report from a female Kaminoan appeared. But what was most important was a second, smaller Kaminoan report, so small in fact you almost didn’t see it. You scanned it briefly, your eyes focusing on one line in particular:

The clone inhibitor chips may be deactivated through complete, surgical removal, or through cessation of Kaminoan operations.

You downloaded them all, and was just about to extract the drive, checking your watch.

2035 hours

You felt a surge of relief wash through you, and you turned to leave, when you froze. Footsteps sounded outside the medbay doors.

Someone’s coming. Panic rooted in your chest, and you flattened yourself against the wall next to the terminal, hiding in the shadows. The doors opened.

The clang of plastoid boots entered the room, slowly, methodically. The troopers hadn’t turned the lights on, relying on their headlamps, confirming their intentions. They’re here for me, they know I’m here. You eyed the drive, still buried in the terminal. Your breath caught in your throat, as you noticed a small button in the bottom hand corner of the datapad, labeled “transfer.”

The boots stepped closer.

~~~

2030 hours

“Rex, I don’t understand what’s so important that you needed to bring us all the way to the Headquarters.”

Jesse, Rex, Anakin, and Obi-Wan had set out not long before, the Captain and ARC Trooper coming to find the two Generals at the Jedi Temple, claiming they had a matter of “grave importance” to speak with them about.

Rex cleared his throat uncomfortably, staring straight ahead. “I can’t tell you now sir, but I will explain everything when we get there. What’s the time?”

“Why can’t you tell us now?”

“I’m sorry sir, I just can’t. What’s the time?” He asked again.

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes and shared a glance with his old Padawan. “Just past half after eight.”

Jesse murmured to Rex quietly, unaware that the Jedi were listening in. “Izzy should be ready soon.”

Anakin and Obi-Wan stopped. “Alright, what’s going on here? Is this about that stupid party you three were planning?”

The two clones shared a glance, clenching their jaws. Rex opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the beep of a comm, and an exasperated cry from Anakin. “Honestly Rex, how many times are you going to give out my personal comm frequency?”

Rex and Jesse froze, their expressions slowly twisting to one of horror. Anakin’s eyebrows furrowed. “Wait… what is this?”

Rex barely heard him, nor did he notice Jesse turn and start sprinting in the direction of the Headquarters. They know. Obi-Wan and Anakin looked at him, shocked. “Rex, what’s going on?” Obi-Wan demanded.

“Oh, Maker…” Rex didn’t respond, just turned and followed after his brother, hearing the Generals’ shouts and footsteps echoing behind him.

~~~

2105 hours

You were on your stomach, quite literally being made to crawl on your belly as you inched your way through the vent. After transferring the data, you had extracted the drive and found a vent, quietly slipping into it and sealing the lid behind you, seconds before red plastoid boots and a headlamp swept over the place you had been crouching. Those are the Corries. Oh God, I hope Anakin got the transmission.

You didn’t know how long it had been, or if the Coruscant Guard had known that you had escaped through the ducts, but it didn’t matter. Regardless, you were completely trapped. There was no way you’d be able to get out of the Headquarters without running into some kind of trouble. You glimpsed an opening up ahead, large enough for you to crouch and catch your breath for a while.

You pulled yourself into the opening, grunting with the effort, before curling your knees into your body for comfort. What am I going to do? Suddenly, you felt the hairs on your arms and neck stand up, and a shiver of dread trickle down your spine. Something was wrong.

My child, surely you must know you can’t run from me?

You blanched, eyes widening in sheer panic, chest heaving as you tried to catch your breath. That was a voice, cold and calculating, in your head. You had heard that voice before, on holotransmissions and debriefs. That voice sounded just like… Palpatine. But that was impossible, there was no way he could be speaking to you, he wasn’t a Jedi.

No, I am not a Jedi. I am something far stronger...just as you can be, if you would agree to have but a simple conversation with me.

Anger flared in your chest. How should I be expected to trust you? You’re just going to manipulate me.

And the Jedi aren’t?

They’re my friends. They aren’t like that.

My child, they have been using you as a weapon from the start. They used you to get the holocron, used you to manipulate information out of Asajj Ventress, even when you had said that you didn’t want to. The Jedi are selfish, they do not care for your well-being. But I…

I could teach you to harness the power inside you. You have anger, you have hate, but you would no longer have to live in fear of what you are.

You hesitated. Could he actually teach you to live with this? Even Obi-Wan had no idea where to begin, and it seemed as if you were getting nowhere with understanding the power within you. But then, you thought of your friends. Of Jesse, Rex, Anakin and Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Kix, and Fives, of all of the men you had met in your time with the Republic, and of all of the men you hadn’t. Guilt pricked at you, replaced hastily by an overwhelming determination.

I will never join you.

Silence, for a moment. Then, an ear-splitting noise erupted in your mind. You gripped the sides of your head, screaming in pain and terror. The pain was mind-rending, and you started to lose your grip on reality. Tears rolled down your cheeks, and you writhed on the cold metal of the duct. You could feel yourself slipping, falling into blackness. The last thing you heard was a cold, malicious laugh, echoing far away in your mind.

~~~

2103 hours

Jesse arrived at the GAR Headquarters first. Panic coursed through his entire body. They knew, they knew all along and they were waiting for her. He never should have left you alone. He should have gone with you, done something instead of going with Rex. He was just about to burst in when Rex’s voice from behind froze him in his tracks.

“JESSE, WAIT! Don’t -” Jesse wheeled around, shaking, advancing on the Captain.

“DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE TELL ME TO STOP! SHE’S IN THERE, WE HAVE TO GO GET HER!”

Rex’s entire expression and demeanor mirrored the way Jesse was feeling, but he forced himself to keep a level head. “We can’t just rush in there, we don’t know if they’re waiting for us.”

Jesse looked as if he was going to lunge at Rex, and for a moment, he actually considered it. “I DON’T FUCKING CARE! I’M NOT GOING TO ABANDON HER -”

Rex grabbed him by the shoulders, steadying him. “LISTEN TO ME! If we go in there and get caught, then there’s no one to help her. We have to think about this, or we risk the entire mission, and we risk her life.” He paused, taking a shaky breath before adding, “we are not going to abandon her. But she wouldn’t want us to sacrifice ourselves, or our brothers for her.”

Jesse’s chest heaved, his eyes wild. “We are going to find her,” Rex affirmed.

Jesse took one last shuddering breath before gritting his teeth and nodding. He knew Rex was right, he knew that barrelling in would probably have been the worst course of action. But he hated standing aside and waiting when you could be in there now, cornered by the Corries, or worse, with Palpatine.

The Jedi finally caught up to the two troopers, both looking an equal amount annoyed and on edge.

Anakin was tired of whatever goose chase this was turning out to be. He marched up to the troopers, preparing to ream them a new one, when he stopped.

A warm presence enveloped him, comfort and tenderness promised in its embrace. He reached out with the Force, until he felt it, felt you, your signature. It was bright and compassionate, full of joy and memory. He hadn’t ever sensed your signature before. It was… different from what he was expecting. But, something was wrong. He furrowed his brows, confused. All of a sudden, torrents of dark energy culminated around you, rushing all at once onto your signature. He felt a mind-splitting pain and above that, terror. He heard screams of fear and agony echo in his mind, your screams.

He looked at Obi-Wan with wild eyes. “Tell me you sensed that.”

Obi-Wan didn’t have to say anything to indicate that he had. Anakin took a couple steps towards the entrance to the Headquarters, fully intending on raising hell. “Anakin, wait,” he warned, eliciting a groan of impatience from the Jedi Knight.

“I’m not just going to sit around after that!”

Obi-Wan fixed him with a stern look. “We don’t know what we’re going to be walking into.” He turned to the troopers. “Tell us what’s going on. Now.”

Rex and Jesse quickly explained, as best they could, all of the information regarding the inhibitor chips, including your comatose meeting with Kix and Fives, the plan, and your attempts to retrieve the evidence needed to give to the Council. When they finished, the two Jedi looked skeptical, but reviewed the information that had been transmitted to Anakin’s frequency regardless. Their expressions slowly shifted from skepticism to one of grave understanding. They had then commed Masters Windu and Yoda at the Jedi Temple, transferring the information to them for review.

When they were done, the four of them turned to enter the Headquarters, only for Anakin to stop, frowning. Obi-Wan turned to him. “What is it?”

His brows furrowed in concentration. After feeling the immense pain radiating from your signature, it had slowly ebbed, turning to a dull throb that he had vaguely tuned out of when the two troopers began their story. Now that he was focusing again, he picked up your signature once more, only to find that it had moved. You were no longer in the same place you once were.

“She’s not in there, I think they moved her.”

Without turning to see if the others had followed him, Anakin took off in the direction of your signature. As he weaved through the crowds, he slowly started to realize that it was leading him towards the Senate Building, on the lower levels. He was reminded of the Chancellor’s betrayal, and felt rage and torment rising in his chest. He had looked up to him, as a mentor, as a friend, and this entire time, it was the Chancellor who was plotting against the Jedi. He hadn’t believed it, couldn’t at first, and a part of him still didn’t want to.

He was finally stepping up to the Senate when he slowed, Obi-Wan, Rex, and Jesse following soon after. He furrowed his brow in concentration. Your signature had led him here, but you weren’t in the Senate. It seemed as if it was coming from beneath his feet, gently pulsing with energy. He looked around, his eyes coming to rest on a maintenance tunnel leading directly underneath the Senate. He took off once again, eliciting an aggravated groan from Obi-Wan, who was really starting to grow weary of his former Padawan’s constant need to act before thinking.

“Anakin, will you stop running off for just a moment?”

Anakin ignored him, instead opening the service tunnel, and leaping inside. His three companions landed beside him, peering through the darkness. Rex and Jesse put on their buckets, switching on their headlamps. “Where are we?” Rex’s voice cut through the tunnels, echoing softly along the walls.

“We’re in the maintenance tunnels heading underneath the Senate. I don’t know what’s down here, but I have a feeling we’re going to find out, real soon.” Anakin answered him brusquely.

Obi-Wan’s comm buzzed, and the four men were greeted by the flickering image of Master Windu.

Obi-Wan, we’ve just contacted the Prime Minister of Kamino. He’s been ordered to shut down the chips, and cease all operations until we can negotiate further. Master Shaak-Ti has also been informed of the situation, and is there to enforce this order.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Thank you Master Windu. We are currently in pursuit of our advisor, who was captured in the process of retrieving the incriminating evidence. I’d wager the Dark Lord that has been eluding us is behind this all, and that we will likely be meeting him soon.”

“Indeed. Send us your location, Master Yoda and I will follow you as back-up.”

“We will await your arrival Master.” Master Windu’s form flickered out, leaving silence in the tunnels. Anakin looked at Obi-Wan incredulously.

“You can’t seriously believe the Chancellor is a Sith.”

Obi-Wan sighed. He knew Anakin would have a hard time accepting Palpatine’s betrayal, and had expected this from him. “I don’t have to believe it, all of the evidence points right to him. If he is this Darth Sidious that we’ve been looking for, we cannot take him on alone.”

“No, I don’t believe that, I can’t believe that.”

“Anakin search your feelings! Even now, the Dark side of the Force surrounds us. We must be cautious.”

Anakin’s chest heaved with barely contained rage. He paced, grumbling under his breath. He knew Obi-Wan was right. The Dark side clouded everything about this, coiling around them. But he still couldn’t bring himself to believe it. He needed to see with his own eyes the Chancellor’s betrayal.

“We should go. I don’t like just waiting around.”

“No, we must wait for Master Yoda and Windu to arrive. We can’t expect to do this alone.”

“I don’t care, I -”

Anakin’s retort was drowned out by the sound of a bloodcurdling scream ripping through the tunnel. Before Obi-Wan could say anything, Anakin had taken off down the tunnel, following the direction of the screams.

~~~

Before you fell unconscious, you were inside the vents in the GAR Headquarters. Now, as you opened your eyes to find yourself lying on a smooth, black, rock floor, you had absolutely no idea where you were. You sat up, looking around you and gripping your head with a soft groan. Your head pounded, your brain throbbing with pain.

You were in a completely open area, much like the chamber beneath the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine. Except this was much bigger, with absolutely no distinguishable objects or structures in sight. How did I get here?

“Oh don’t worry my child, I saw to that.”

You tensed, your whole body on alert. You slowly turned your head in the direction of the voice, scrambling to your feet when you saw a man, dressed in robes with a hood covering most of his face. But, you knew that voice.

“You must be Chancellor Palpatine.” Your voice was cold, and slightly strained.

“I am.” He slowly glided towards you, taking you in. “I must admit, my dear, I was expecting a bit more from someone with your reputation. But no matter, skill and ability can be honed. What I am interested in is your ruthlessness. I hear it can be quite...unmatched.”

You curled your lips in a sneer. “I’m not going to give in to anything you have to say.” You checked yourself over, slipping your hand into the pocket you had stown the drive. Your heart dropped.

“Surely you didn’t expect for that to be there? Come now, I thought you were smarter than that.”

Of course he would have taken it. “So you know.”

“Of course I know.” His words were spat with venom. “And I know all about your little friends’ involvement too. Soon, I will have both Captain Rex and the ARC Trooper Jesse, and this little plan of yours will have failed. It is over.”

For a brief moment, you thought your heart actually stopped. I can’t have failed. There was too much at stake. And Rex and Jesse… Your heart plummeted at the thought of their potential capture. Panic and dread flooded through you. But… wait.

Then, you remembered. He didn’t seem to know about the data transfer. Hope sparked in your chest. You could only hope that Anakin had received the evidence, and that Rex and Jesse had gotten it to the rest of the Council. Even if your immediate fate seemed hopeless, you could hold onto the thought that you had managed to free the clones, and save the Jedi.

You looked at Palpatine. You couldn’t risk trying a manipulation tactic directly in front of him, so you decided to err on the side of ignorance.

A wicked smile crept onto his face, and as he neared, you got a better look at him. Although much of his face was shadowed by the darkness and his hood, You could faintly see two, glowing yellow eyes observing you. A shudder ran down your spine.

“There is nothing left for you. Join me, and I will teach you to harness your power to its full potential. Join me, and I can save you, recreate you. Refuse, and I will make your death slow and painful.”

Anger coiled in your gut. “Well, I guess you’ve left me really no other option.” You straightened your shoulders, raised your chin, and steadied your voice. “I will never join you.”

He let out a low growl. “Perhaps you need a lesson, child .”

He raised his fingers, and you braced yourself for another head-splitting stab of pain. But instead, scores of blue lightning shot from his hands, striking you in the abdomen. Searing pain engulfed your senses, and you were thrown backwards, landing hard on your back. You writhed, white hot tendrils of electricity lapping at your body. Suddenly, everything stopped. You could feel the mutation try to force its way forward, but you pushed it back down. You wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Breathing heavily, you blinked open your eyes to Palpatine looming over you.

“This will be much easier if you give in. I can sense your hatred, use it.”

This continued for minutes on end, although they felt like hours. Your mind was pushed to its breaking point, slowly succumbing to the agony and searing pain of the lightning. Each time you thought you were going to pass out, the Chancellor would cease, asking you again, and again, to call forth the power. Each time you refused, the torture increased in intensity, screaming until you felt your skin break open, and the scent of your own burning flesh filling the air. Palpatine savored every second of your agony, cackling through it all.

“This is my last offer, child. Join me, and all of this will cease.”

You coughed, your voice straining. “I… will never… join you.”

He scoffed. “Choosing death over the lives of the Jedi? Pathetic.

He raised his hands again, and you braced yourself once more. This time, however, the pain was even more agonizing than ever before. You were paralyzed, excruciating pain wracking your body. You were screaming, but couldn’t hear anything over the pounding of your own heart. Fire coursed throughout your entire body, your organs alight with sheer agony. Images flashed in your vision. You saw yourself on Earth with your family, and you saw yourself with your new friends, laughing and smiling. The memories were starkly deviant to the torment your body and mind were forced to endure. You could feel your mind start to cloud, your body weaker than ever before.

But then, everything stopped again. You lay there, your breathing shallow. You weren’t sure if Palpatine had grown silent, left, or if you just couldn’t hear anything anymore. Then, you heard a small, muffled noise… a voice. You couldn’t make it out, but felt a gloved hand gently grasp yours, and a familiar presence enter your mind, a light in the darkness.

Your eyelids fluttered open, and you were vaguely aware of someone kneeling next to you and placing their other hand on your cheek. “Anakin…” You breathed.

~~~

Anakin cupped your cheek, looking over your injuries. Your skin was inscribed with intricate licks of blue lightning, climbing up from your abdomen onto your jawline. You were bleeding beneath your jumpsuit, and if it wasn’t for the faint rise and fall of your chest and your half-opened eyes watching him dazedly, he would have thought you were dead.

Fury coursed through Anakin’s veins. Fury at whoever had done this to you, at Obi-Wan for telling him to wait so long, at himself for actually listening to him. If he had just gotten here sooner, he might have been able to prevent this.

“Merc… Isabelle, I’ve got you, don’t worry you’re going to be fine.”

The sound of rapid footsteps echoing in the tunnel caused Anakin to look up. Obi-Wan, Rex, and Jesse, had caught up to him, racing over and crouching beside the two of you. He cast a glance at Obi-Wan.

“I thought you were waiting for the others.”

Obi-Wan kept his eyes trained on you as he surveyed your injuries. “We’ve commed them, they’re on their way here.”

Jesse knelt beside you, his eyes alight with panic. “Izzy… Izzy come on, you’re okay. We gotta go to 79’s together, remember?” His voice wavered a little.

Rex eyed the blue scars detailing your body, lividity and fear surging through him. He clenched his jaw, turning to the two Jedi. “What did this to her?”

Obi-Wan spoke, bitterness edging his voice. “Force Lightning.” He exchanged a knowing glance with his former Padawan. “These are the marks of a Master of the Dark side.”

Your breath came in faint wheezes, and you still hadn’t moved at all. Anakin knew he had to get you out of there, and fast. He looked around wildly. There was no other exit, except from the way he had come. He wasn’t entirely sure you could make it long enough to get to the medbay. The faint squeeze of your fingers on his brought his attention back to you.

“Did you… get… the evidence?”

He swallowed hard and clenched his jaw. “We got it.”

Your eyes roved slowly to the ceiling. “Good…”

An idea popped into Anakin’s mind. He turned your face to him, his chest clenching a little when you seemed to be looking straight through him. “Isabelle, I need you to activate your mutation. I need you to do it now.” Your eyes closed, and Anakin felt a sharp pang of terror surge through him for a moment until you took in another weak breath.

“...No...what he...wants.”

“What who wants? Come on Merc stay with me, focus !”

Suddenly, shrouds of the Dark side culminated all around the open area where Anakin knelt. He straightened, moving to stand over your body, and unsheathed his lightsaber. Obi-Wan did the same, and the two troopers formed a protective wall next to them.

“Anakin, my boy. What a surprise to see you here.”

Anakin’s blood ran cold. Stepping out of the shadows directly in front of him, with the yellow eyes of a Sith Lord, was Chancellor Palpatine.

Chapter Text

Betrayal.

That was what ran thick in Anakin’s blood. Sheer, utter betrayal. He hadn’t had many father figures in his life, but he had always considered Chancellor Palpatine to be one of them. Now that he stood in front of him, tangible proof of his deceit, of his plot to kill the Jedi, to kill him, he began to shake with rage.

You… you’re the Sith Lord?

“I am. But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

Anakin was struggling to keep his breathing level. He was livid, absolutely furious at his former mentor’s deception. “How could you do this to the Jedi? To me? I looked up to you! You were my mentor, my friend. Tell me why!”

The Chancellor circled slowly around the group, keeping his eyes trained on Anakin. “The Jedi Order is but a shell of what it once was. The days of the Republic and the Jedi are over. Only the strong may survive, only the strong can rule.” He paused, coming to stand in front of Anakin. “I was never going to kill you, my boy. No… you and I can rule together. You will become stronger than any Jedi ever before you. We will raze this galaxy and create a new order, a time of peace and security.”

Obi-Wan curled his lips in anger. “Anakin will never join you.”

“Master Kenobi…” Palpatine’s voice was calculating and cunning. “You’ve been a thorn in my side all these years. But, you have proved yourself useful.”

“Oh have I now?”

“Yes… not only have you brought me my new apprentice, you have brought me the ultimate weapon of destruction.” He tutted, his yellow eyes casting a look of disgust at where your body lay on the ground. “A pity she could not see reason. I had thought she would have come to her senses, but alas, there can be no room for weakness in my Empire.”

Jesse and Rex turned their blasters on him, the former letting out a vicious snarl. “Don’t you dare even look at her.”

“How convenient of you both to come to me. Your brothers certainly put up much more of a fight.” He trailed the end of his sentence with a vicious, conniving laugh that echoed throughout the room.

“Surely you must see that your plan has failed.” Obi-Wan moved to stand behind the Chancellor, cornering him in between him and Anakin.

“Oh, has it?” He turned to the two troopers. “Captain Rex and ARC Lieutenant Jesse, the time has come. Execute Order 66.”

Nothing happened. Silence stretched between the men in the room, broken only by the sound of your faint, ragged breathing.

“Failed you have, Lord Sidious.”

The sound of footsteps and a hollow cane striking the ground filled the air, and two figures emerged from the shadows of the tunnel. Masters Yoda and Windu unsheathed their lightsabers, illuminating the area around them in a purple and green glow.

What?!” Sidious hissed, his eyes focusing once more on you. Deceitful little snake!”

He raised his hand, and all at once, an intense pressure came rushing onto you, localized on your neck. You were pulled into the air, gasping and croaking as you clawed weakly at your throat, dark energy crushing the air from your lungs.

No!” Rex fired his blasters, only for the bolts to suspend in midair as Sidious raised his other hand, stopping them with the Force. He sent him and Jesse sailing backwards with a push, the two troopers hitting the wall and landing with a sickening thud. The bolts flew back into one of the opposite walls, leaving singed markings etched into the stone.

He leapt over Obi-Wan, igniting a crimson lightsaber, leaving you to crash to the ground, coughing and gasping for air before stilling.

“No matter, I will kill you here and now.” He turned to Anakin, outstretching his hand. “Anakin my boy, join me and live to rule the galaxy, or die with the Jedi.”

Anakin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Every word, every scenario, every interaction with the Chancellor raced in his mind as he tried to pick apart what was real and what had been deceit; realizing that cruel manipulation had lain in each and every act made by the Chancellor, a constant nefarious agenda behind his every move. He spun his saber and took a few steps towards him threateningly. “ Never.”

With a screech of rage, Sidious rushed Anakin, swinging with deadly precision and speed. Anakin matched him step for step, parrying each blow perfectly and stepping backwards as he advanced. After a well placed counterstrike, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Windu jumped into the fray, forcing Sidious into the defensive.

The dark room was a flurry of blades as a kaleidoscope of color reflected off of the floor. Blue, green, purple, and crimson danced in a nightmarish battle as the Jedi fought off the Dark Lord. Even with four fully trained, extremely powerful Jedi, Sidious proved a powerful adversary, much more nimble and agile than could have been expected.

He flipped backwards, raising a hand and sending Obi-Wan and Anakin flying with the Force. Master Windu advanced, bringing his saber down over Sidious, sparks crackling through the air as he locked lightsabers, parrying the blow.

Windu leaned forward into the lock, his lips curled back with rage. “ Surrender.”

Never! ” Sidious hissed, snarling with hatred.

Sidious broke the lock, spinning and pushing Windu back with the Force before bringing his saber up to block an aggressive attack from Master Yoda. The other three Jedi had recovered, and were rushing back to aid Yoda in his assault.

In the back of the room, Rex shook his head, steadying his spinning vision. Jesse lay beside him, unmoving. He shook his brother with urgency, willing him to wake up. Jesse stirred, letting out a soft groan before gasping and sitting up quickly, his hands darting to his blaster.

The two clones raced to your side, kneeling beside your unmoving form and aiming at the unfolding duel in front of them. The Jedi and Sith were a whirl of blades, neither of them able to get a truly decent shot off.

“Do you have a shot?” Jesse yelled over the sound of clashing sabers.

“Negative!”

Rex looked up, searching for something, anything that could give the Jedi an edge. Sidious was standing directly beneath a row of stalactites that hung high above the warring Force-Sensitives. He nudged Jesse, gesturing to the ceiling.

“See those?”

Jesse nodded, immediately understanding his intentions. “Copy!”

Both clones took aim at the stalactites, firing at their base. With a sickening crackle, they plummeted to the surface, causing Sidious to stumble backwards with a furious growl. Briefly caught off guard, he failed to block the next assail of sabers, Yoda and Windu severing his hands from his wrists. His lightsaber clattered to the ground as he let out a pained and frenzied shriek.

The Jedi placed their sabers at his throat, the Grand Master stepping forward to speak. “At an end, your rule is.”

“Chancellor Palpatine, in the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, I charge you with high treason. You will stand trial, and if found guilty, will be executed for your crimes against the galaxy.” Master Windu’s voice was cold, his eyes boring into Sidious’.

Obi-Wan hesitated before speaking. “Master, he has control over much of the Senate. Surely he is too dangerous to be kept alive.”

Yoda hummed. “Right you are, Obi-Wan. However, of the Jedi way, this is not.”

“I agree with Obi-Wan. The Senate would simply overlook his crimes.” Anakin was furious, shaking with barely contained lividity. Sidious deserved to die, deserved to suffer for everything he’d done to the Republic, the Jedi, to you, and to him. The man in front of him was no longer the father figure he had once known. Rather, all he saw when he looked at him was the manipulator and the liar, the opportunist who had tried to use him against the people he cared for most.

“Anakin my boy, don’t let them kill me! Surely you must see that this is not noble.”

“Silence!” Master Windu pressed his saber closer to Sidious’ throat. He spoke to the other three Jedi without taking his gaze off of Sidious. “While I agree with your sentiment Obi-Wan, we cannot sacrifice our ideals and integrity. It would go against everything the Order stands for to kill an unarmed man. We’d be no better than him.” He spit the last words at Sidious, poison dripping from his lips.

“Luckily, we’re no Jedi."

Rex and Jesse had approached from behind the Jedi, blasters trained on Sidious. “Just say the word General.”

Anakin looked to the other Jedi for confirmation. They said nothing, Master Yoda only emitting a weighty grunt. He turned to his troopers. “Do it.”

Blaster fire rang out in the room, echoing off of the cold stone walls. Sidious fell to the ground, blaster holes singeing his chest.

Yoda hummed gravely. “It is done.”

Anakin took a staggering breath, sheathing his lightsaber. He felt a small prickle of guilt. He shouldn’t have been so quick to anger. He thought back to the night his mother died, the night he had slaughtered the Tusken raiders, filling him with shame. He shuddered, remembering the screams and cries of anguish that night. The one person he had trusted to speak of his emotions like that now lay in front of him, dead. He knew that even though Sidious deserved to die, he should have shown more restraint in his emotions. His shame was quickly replaced by fear, however, as his mind turned to you.

With a sharp intake of breath, he raced over to where you lay. You were barely breathing, your chest rising and falling only every so often, and when you did, it was incredibly shallow and ragged. You had paled, a small pool of blood from your wounds forming beneath you. “No, no come on! Where’s that bratty girl I met? I know you can hear me, you’re being selfish! Stay with me!”

“Very weak she is. To the medbay, you must take her.” Yoda had appeared from behind Anakin, as well as Rex and Jesse.

Rex stooped, sliding his arms underneath you and lifting gently. At the movement, you let out a soft groan and whimper of pain. Rex felt like he’d been stabbed in the chest. “I’m sorry, I know it hurts. We’re gonna get you out of here.”

Anakin stepped closer to you, speaking urgently. “Merc you gotta activate the mutation. He’s gone now, he can’t hurt you, he won’t get to you I promise.”

“Anakin, I don’t think that would be a wise decision.” Obi-Wan stepped forward, placing a hand on his shoulder.

What?” Anakin wheeled on his former Master. “She’ll die if she doesn’t!”

“She’s incredibly weak. If she activates it, there’s no telling whether or not she’ll be able to control it, and even if she can, it might kill her anyway due to overexertion.” He glanced at you. “Her best chance is the medbay.”

Jesse looked up. “I commed ahead and there should be a squad coming to pick us up as soon as we get out of this place. If we hurry, we can save her.”

Rex and Jesse set off down the tunnel, quickly followed by the Jedi. When they emerged from the maintenance tunnel, a squad of medics and nurses came to take you from Rex’s arms, placing you into a hovercar and speeding away, leaving the group of Jedi and troopers.

Master Yoda turned to Master Windu. “Inform the Senate, we must. Palpatine’s betrayal, revealed it shall be.”

Master Windu turned to the others, nodding before disappearing with Master Yoda into the Senate building. Obi-Wan let out a long sigh, rubbing his face with a hand. The four men exchanged a single, solemn look before turning and heading back to the GAR Headquarters, the weight of the night’s events lying heavily on their shoulders.

~~~

When word of Palpatine’s deception got out, the entire planet was buzzing with whispers. Master Windu and Master Yoda had spoke with the Senate, detailing the evidence of his betrayal and reporting his eventual demise.

The Senate had plunged into chaos, Senators arguing and immediately campaigning their candidacy as his replacement. The mad scramble for power had left the democratic system of the Republic crumbling, and in an attempt to save it, Senator Padme Amidala was eventually voted into the position of Regent, until a proper election could be held.

Meanwhile, you had been taken back to the medbay, and after some heated arguing with the Coruscant Guard, who still believed you a threat at the time, Anakin and Obi-Wan managed to convince them to step aside, and you were finally able to get the medical treatment needed to save your life. Now, you slept in the medbay, twitching and muttering occasionally in your sleep names foreign to the four men who took turns watching over you.

Jesse sat with you and told you stories of his times in the Torrent, going over each and every detail as if he would be able to ingrain it into your mind even as you slept. He told you of all the pranks he had pulled, all the ones that had been pulled on him, and the ones he was still planning for later. He talked about how he was terrified of losing people, of losing you. You were his best friend, and he wasn’t sure he would ever be the same if he ever lost you. He wanted so badly for you to wake up, to see you smirking and laughing again, with that familiar glint of mischief in your eyes. He wanted to hear your voice again, hear you cracking jokes or making some stupid reference that he’d never understand, but loved anyways. But for the time being, this was all he had. So he sat there for hours, telling you story after story until Rex came to relieve him.

Rex took the night shift. He stayed awake all night, his head in his hands as he sat next to you, listening to your breathing. He had promised to keep you safe. This was now the second time he had failed to protect you. He blamed himself, he never should have allowed you to do this alone. Now the bright blue scars on your skin served to him a constant reminder of his failure, of the pain you had been forced to endure. He looked up from his hands, gazing at you. You looked peaceful, with the exception of the occasional twitches from whatever dreams you were having. He winced at the tendrils of blue lightning inscribed in your skin. They were almost… delicate, elegantly wrapping around your limbs like vines. A stark contrast to the pain and suffering they represented. He sniffed, drawing his eyes back up to your face. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

Anakin replaced him the next morning, watching you intently. He couldn’t believe your recklessness. Actually… he could. This type of thing wasn’t necessarily out of character for you. He sighed, looking at your arm next to him. With a gloved finger, he lightly traced the outline of the scars climbing up towards your shoulders. As he ran his finger over your skin, he talked to you. There was no one else in the medbay, and you were asleep, so he might as well talk about this. He told you everything, from his friendship with Palpatine to the night he had lost his mother, from his struggles with handling his emotions and attachments to how you had scared him, actually scared him the night before. He didn’t understand it, you managed to get under his skin in a way no one else quite could. But still, he had been terrified for you. So much so that it had felt as if the breath was being ripped from his lungs. He talked to you for hours upon hours, until Obi-Wan came to relieve him, taking his place beside you.

Obi-Wan sat in silence for a while, mulling over the recent events that had unfolded. Eventually, he began to reminisce, speaking about when he had met you, how he had always known you had greatness inside of you. Even if you were scared of the power you possessed, that was just what made you such a good person, kind and compassionate. He told you how proud he was of you, of all you had accomplished in such a short time. He truly believed that this was where you belonged, that the Force had brought you two together so that you could learn to grow, and find your place in the galaxy as a citizen of the Republic. He saw so much potential in you; so much potential for greatness, love and strength, and he knew that you would get there one day. He had grown quite fond of you, and though you weren’t a Jedi, he often considered your relationship with him to be similar to that of a Padawan and their Master. Pride surged through him as he watched over your sleeping form. You had saved the entire Republic, the Jedi Order, and consequently, him. He smiled. He always knew you would flourish.

Jesse and Rex both came to relieve Obi-Wan of his shift, taking their place next to you. Jesse eyed Rex from the corner of his eye, the Captain sitting with his jaw clenched, his gaze never leaving your face.

“It’s not your fault, you know.”

Rex started, turning to look at him. The look of guilt and shame that was etched into his expression cut into Jesse, and he placed a hand on his shoulder comfortingly.

“No one could have stopped that from happening, not even a mutation.” He glanced at you. “She knew what she was getting into. And besides,” he said with a strained laugh, “I don’t think either of us would have been able to stop her from helping our brothers.”

Rex huffed, casting another sidelong glance at his brother before turning back to watch you. He whispered, his voice barely audible.

“Thanks, vod.”

~~~

Nightmares plagued you, visions of torture, death, and glowing yellow eyes flashing in your mind. You tossed and turned, fighting off the images until one solidified in your mind.

You were back in the stone room, a hooded figure standing over your friends who were writhing on a black stone floor, shards of blue lightning searing their skin. You ran forward, desperately trying to get to them, only to find the faster you ran, the further they became from you. Finally, the hooded figure turned with an evil cackle. But where you had expected to see the glowing yellow eyes of Chancellor Palpatine, you instead glimpsed a red mist, dancing around the cloaked figure. It stepped closer, slowly moving towards you. You found yourself rooted to the spot, unable to run or prepare yourself. As it neared, your breath hitched. The figure removed their hood, and you stared at a perfect mirror image of yourself, a crimson haze clouding your eyes. No. A cold, calculating voice echoed throughout the room. You cannot escape who you are. Horror gripped you. Your evil form advanced, unsheathing a dagger and raising it menacingly. 

NO!

You shot upright, gasping. You clawed at the bedsheets, tearing them off of you and looking around wildly. Strong hands gripped your wrists, and you cried out, trying to wrench yourself free.

“Woah, woah, woah! It’s okay, it’s just us!”

Your head snapped in the direction of the voice. Rex and Jesse were watching you, concern palpable in their eyes. You panted, trying to catch your breath. It was just a nightmare, you’re okay, they’re okay. Calm down.

You steadied your breathing, rubbing your eyes with the heels of your palms. When you removed your hands, you gazed down at your body. You were wearing a gown, and were lying on a bed in the medbay. At the sight of the scores of ice blue scars inscribed in your skin, your eyes widened, brimming with panicked tears. You looked at Rex and Jesse, opening your mouth to speak, but each word felt as if it were grating on your throat, your sentence coming out hoarse and raspy.

M-My skin…” You clutched your throat, wincing at the harsh pain. Rex laid a hand gently on your forearm.

Easy. The doctor said your throat should heal soon, but it’s best if you try and speak as little as possible. As for the scars,” Rex swallowed, eyeing the blue tendrils. “They’re temporary, but will take some time to fade.”

You took a shaky breath, nodding and blinking the tears away before they could fall. Turning to the two men with a questioning look, you tapped the side of your head.

“What?”

You frowned, reaching forward and delicately tapping a finger on the right side of Rex’s head.

“Oh the chips. All deactivated, we’re all safe, don’t worry.” He smiled, the grin reaching up to his tired eyes.

You sighed with relief, falling back onto the bed. A grin slowly crept onto your face. You glanced at your friends, joy and excitement causing your heart to race. “ You’re free.”

If the news that the inhibitor chips had been deactivated hadn’t been enough, the look of pure, unapologetic elation on the two men’s faces definitely was. Jesse leaned forward, pressing his forehead to yours and squeezing your hand. “We’re free.”

“Well look who decided to grace us with her presence.”

The sound of a snide, cocky voice drew your attention to the other side of the medbay. You turned your head to glare at Anakin, who approached and sat on the other side of you, leaning in with a smug smirk. “So that’s two times I’ve had to save your ass, you’re on a real roll Merc.”

You scowled and stuck your tongue out at him, eliciting a deep chuckle from the Jedi Knight. Then, a devious smirk crept onto your face, and Anakin narrowed his eyes at you, wary. “You… were scared.”

He snorted, turning his head away from you. “I wouldn’t say that. Concerned, maybe.”

Your smirk widened. “You wanna be… my friend.”

“Now you’re definitely going too far.”

"Did you call me... a selfish brat?"

Anakin shrugged, his usual arrogance discernible in his stance. "And?"

You rolled your eyes and chuckled, wincing at your protesting throat, and Anakin let out a small laugh. Though his blue eyes sparkled with mirth, there was something else there, a sort of haunted expression behind them, as if he were struggling immensely on the inside. You furrowed your brows, cocking your head at him.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m alright.” He waved you off, causing you to roll your eyes again, giving him an admonishing glance. He ignored it, and instead addressed the two troopers beside you. “Rex, Jesse, we’ve had our shore leave extended by two weeks, given everything that’s going on. Just figured I’d let you know while I was here.”

You narrowed your eyes, turning your head between the men. “ The war? It’s still -”

“It’s still going on, yes.” Anakin finished your sentence for you. “Even with Sidious gone, we still have to track down Grievous and Dooku, and with all the new information we learned on Dantooine, we might have to look into this new ally as well.”

You grumbled, scowling. Although you knew that there was a chance that the war wouldn’t have ended (a rather large chance at that), you had held onto a certain hope that your friends wouldn’t have had to live this life anymore. You hated the fact that Rex and Jesse and all of their brothers were slaves to this war. Your chest tightened just thinking about it.

Rex gave you a reassuring smile, as if he knew what you were thinking. “Don’t stress about it. We’re gonna finish this. The Separatists’ days are numbered.”

You felt slightly encouraged at that, and offered him a small smile. The medbay doors opened, and Obi-Wan strode in, approaching the four of you.

He gave you a soft smile, his eyes containing their usual gentleness and warmth. “It’s good to see you awake.”

You chuckled hoarsely. “ Even if I do look like a walking hologram?”

Jesse rolled his eyes, nudging you with a smirk. “Always so dramatic.”

“Yes, even if you look like a walking hologram.” Obi-Wan laughed. “I thought you’d like to know, we are working on devising a plan to retrieve the troopers Fives and Kix from the Mustafar system.”

You shot back up at that, wincing and hissing slightly with pain. Rex side-eyed you and grumbled, but you ignored him. “ When?”

“Well, that’s all dependent on you, actually. With the Republic democracy scrambling to regain control, it would be wise if Anakin and I remain here. The Council has advised, given your skill set, to send you and Ahsoka to Mustafar on a covert extraction mission.”

You brightened immediately, nodding fervently. Obi-Wan chuckled again, smiling warmly at you. “Very well. I’ll notify the Council of your eagerness to get started, once you heal enough.”

With that, the Jedi Master nodded to the rest of the group, before turning and exiting the medbay. From then on, you made it your mission to heal as quickly as possible, getting as much rest as you could and listening to your doctor’s instructions carefully. Rex and Jesse stayed with you most of the time, with Anakin and Ahsoka coming to visit every now and then as well. The Jedi Padawan had been angry with you at first, calling you reckless.

“If I lost you, how would I have been able to deal with Anakin then? He would’ve been unbearable.”

Now that had made you laugh.  The indignant scowl on Anakin’s face was a sight to see.

“I’m standing right here.”

Ahsoka smirked. “I know. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of how irritating you can be, Skyguy.”

You snorted, stifling your laugh as best you could when Anakin turned to glare at you. “What are you laughing at?”

“You. You can be so sensitive, you know.”

Ahsoka snickered. He rolled his eyes and grumbled something about not being able to wait until the two of you had left. But, he failed to keep the small smile off of his face. You winked at him slyly.

After several days, you were feeling much better. The scars still hadn’t faded, and unfortunately didn’t look like they would anytime soon, but you didn’t mind. If anything, if that was all you had to worry about after enduring all of that torture, you could put up with it. It was still a little startling sometimes to look at yourself in the mirror, or when you showered. The scars stretched from just below your hips all the way up to the very edge of your jawline and down your arms, and were a candescent shade of ice blue.

Rex always seemed bothered when he looked at the scars, scowling or clenching his jaw. You, on the other hand, would always crack a joke about it to lighten the mood, which would always make Jesse laugh, even if he was bothered by the sight of the scars too. His personal favorite was the time you told Rex if he turned the light off you’d turn into a human nightlight. Rex had simply pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a dry laugh while you and Jesse cackled together, turning off the lights in a test to see if it would actually work. It did, which only made you laugh harder.

It was a day or two before you were set to leave for Mustafar when you caught Rex studying the intricate lines of the scars yet again. You, him and Jesse were back in Dex’s Diner, eating lunch together. You sighed, raising an eyebrow at him. His cheeks flushed when he realized he had been caught staring, and he turned away, clearing his throat uncomfortably.

“Rex, they’re really not that bad. Besides, they’re supposed to fade eventually.”

“I know, I just… I’m just not used to them I s’pose.” He grunted, rubbing the back of his neck.

You leaned back in the booth, a mischievous grin sliding onto your face. “Well, I like to think it gives me a little extra personal flair.”

Rex didn’t answer, and instead looked around the diner. He didn’t want to tell you that although he hated the existence of the scars, they definitely didn’t make you any less attractive. Even more heat rushed to his cheeks and he swiveled, pretending to look for Dex to hide the obvious red tinge on his face.

Jesse snorted. “Out of all the people in the galaxy, you definitely do not need flair. Remember the first time we met you, and you timed your entrance on the bridge to the music? Now I’ve seen a lot, but I’d never seen anything like that.”

“I know you liked it. You can admit it, I won’t judge you.” You leaned forward, gesturing to the booth around you with an expression of mock sympathy on your face. “This is a safe space, Jesse.”

He smirked, stabbing a piece of his lunch with a fork and flicking it at you. You giggled, sticking your tongue out at him.

“I wouldn’t be so smug.” He leaned in, a devilish grin on his face. “I still need to get you back after framing me for pranking Rex.”

“Technically, it was your entire idea.”

He waved a hand lazily, dismissing the notion. “Technicalities.”

Rex turned back to the conversation, his interest piqued. “That reminds me, I need to get you back too.” A smirk curled the corner of his lips upwards. “You better be careful when you get back, you’ll have two prank veterans out to get you.”

“You guys better not do anything dumb.”

“Isn’t that the whole point of a prank war?”

You laughed, feeling more relaxed than you had been in weeks. It was nice, spending time with your friends like this. Your heart warmed at the thought that you would be able to see Kix and Fives again soon, would be able to interact like this with them on a daily basis. You leaned forward with a sigh, resting your chin in one hand.

“You know, I’m really glad I met you guys. You’re the greatest friends I’ve had in a really long time.”

Rex and Jesse looked surprised for a moment, before each of them gave you a warm smile, their golden eyes sparkling. They exchanged a glance with each other, before Jesse spoke. “We’re really glad we met you too. Even if you’re dramatic.” He added with a smirk.

You giggled and kicked at him under the table. He laughed and took a swipe at you, which you dodged. Rex watched you and his brother with a relaxed smile on his face. Contentment filled him to his core. The war was almost over, you and his brothers were safe, he was free, and soon he’d have Kix and Fives back. For the first time in a long time, Rex felt as if everything would truly be okay.

Chapter Text

Many things can be said about being alone. Sometimes solitude can be good, healthy even. It can teach you much about yourself, help you to discover who you really are, what is and will always be the best for you, in all aspects of life. Other times, it can be devastating. It’s been said that the loneliest moment in a person’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly. This had never applied to a person more than to Fives.

He remembered the moment he had awoken in this prison, this solitary reminder of his failure to liberate his brothers.

A soft breeze was blowing, rustling the grass and filling the air with the scent of wildflowers. Fives didn’t know where he was, or how he had gotten there, but all he could remember was waking up, alone, in the middle of a large, grass field. He massaged his temples, trying to remember. He was in the warehouse on Coruscant trying to warn the General and Rex, and he remembered being shot by Fox. After that, things got a little fuzzy, and to be honest, he had convinced himself he was dead most of the time. He remembered being shoved towards a stasis chamber on a volcanic planet… he thought it could have been Mustafar.

He looked around at the landscape he now sat in, knees tucked into his chest. Maybe he was dead. Is this place some kind of afterlife? If it were, he would’ve thought it would have been… somewhat crowded. But this place was completely empty. Absolutely devoid of literally any signs of life, or death, he supposed. He sat in the field for hours on end, waiting. Waiting for something, anything to indicate that he wasn’t alone.

Nothing happened.

He didn’t seem to be getting hungry or thirsty either, and the only way he could tell that time was somehow passing was the rising and setting of the sun each rotation. Loneliness ate away at him, filling him with dread and sorrow. He was never someone who was particularly good at being alone. Every time he lost another one of his brothers, it ate away at him a bit more, until soon he felt as if there would be nothing left for him at all. The worst was losing Echo. The pain of losing his twin had been unbearable, and he had truly felt as if half of him were missing from that day on. But he never stopped fighting for his brothers; never stopped fighting for his ideals.

The day his life ended was not the day he was shot, but rather the day he discovered the true purpose behind the inhibitor chips and the plot to enslave his brothers, forever.

Worst of all, was the knowledge of how helpless he was to stop the plot. He had been powerless to stop it when he was in the waking world, and now he was stranded, along with the hope of liberating his brothers. So he did the only thing he could think of to do in this situation.

He waited.

He busied himself with building a makeshift shelter, as well as weaving a hammock for comfort. Beats the ground at least. He sat there, day after day, night after night, waiting for anything. If he really got bored, he would sometimes try to explore, although there really didn’t seem to be anything other than the field and a few trees here and there. A small part of him had hoped that someone would discover that he was alive and come looking for him. Another prayed that Rex would follow up on his plea to look into the chips. And another, very, very small part of him hoped that maybe, just maybe, someone else would come, and he wouldn’t be alone.

He would get his wish as the sun set one evening, casting long shadows over the fields of grass and wildflowers. He was just about to make his way into his shelter when something caught his eye. A particularly flattened patch of grass appeared where it had previously been undisturbed. From where he was, he could just barely see a glimpse of blue and white armor, and a large, red medic symbol on the shoulder pad. His breath caught in his throat. A figure sat up, groggily looking around before catching sight of him, the newcomer’s eyes widening in shock. Fives had barrelled over, tackling the newcomer, tears streaming down his face.

“You have no idea how glad I am to see you, Kix.”

~~~

Coruscant, 1200 hours

You stood outside the ship that would take you and Ahsoka to Mustafar, waiting. You were positively buzzing with excitement. You were going to get Fives and Kix back, they would be coming home to their brothers. Rex and Jesse had been restless, pacing back and forth and debriefing you for what seemed like the thousandth time before saying their goodbyes and leaving you to yourself. You knew they were probably nervous, hoping beyond hope that their lost brothers would return home. You smiled to yourself. I’ll bring them back to you. I promise.

Now you were the one pacing, eagerly awaiting Ahsoka’s arrival, anticipation making your mind foggy. You hardly noticed as she and Anakin walked up to you, watching your pacing with amusement.

“You certainly look excited.” Ahsoka grinned at you, and you bounced up and down with a wide smile.

“I’m just ready to get going.”

Anakin turned to his Padawan, his eyebrows furrowed. “Ahsoka, tell me you remember everything in the debrief, and that you’ll follow it exactly as ordered. No deviating.” He side-eyed you. “That goes for you too, don’t make me come get you.”

You rolled your eyes and snorted. “Yes, dad.” Anakin scowled, and you smiled innocently at him, any evidence of your previous tone gone in a flash.

Ahsoka narrowed her eyes at Anakin. “Master, this isn’t my first solo mission. We’ll be fine.”

“I know that, I just -”

“Why can’t you just trust me?”

“I do trust you!”

The two Jedi bickered back and forth for several minutes, and eventually you ended up taking a seat on a nearby crate, letting the argument run its course. Finally, Anakin caught a glimpse of you watching them out of the corner of his eye, amusement sparking in your expression. “What’s so funny?”

You chuckled. “Nothing, it’s just like watching a mirror argue with itself.”

They blinked at you, saying nothing. You heaved an exasperated sigh. “The two of you are literally the same. Anakin I’d place money on you and Obi-Wan arguing like that back in the day, and Ahsoka emulates you a lot as well.” You stood, brushing yourself off before stepping onto the ramp. “Anakin, Ahsoka and I will be fine. She knows you trust her, you just have to learn to let go a little. Ahsoka, Anakin is not holding you back, he just wants the best for you and for you to succeed. Now let’s go.”

A stunned silence followed your words. You walked up the ramp and onto the ship, a proud smirk tugging at your lips. A couple minutes later, you sat in the co-pilot’s seat in the cockpit, waiting. Ahsoka walked in, an apology on her face. “I’m sorry. He can just be a little much sometimes, especially when I’m going on a solo mission.”

“No need to be sorry.” You gave her a reassuring smile. “Do you want to talk about it when we get to hyperspace? We’ve got at least a couple of days to kill anyway.”

She nodded gratefully, before adding, “For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. He and Obi-Wan can be very similar, and I can see how I can also...be like him too.”

The ship lifted off of the hanger, slowly ascending the atmosphere. “Nothing wrong with that.”

The two of you broke the upper atmosphere, and Ahsoka plugged in the Mustafar coordinates. After a moment, you had launched to hyperspace, blue and white streaks speeding past you. You smiled. We’re coming boys.

~~~

Fear gripped Kix as he raced through Coruscant’s lower levels. He had just uncovered the entirety of the Chancellor’s plot to kill the Jedi using the inhibitor chips. Fives was right. He had been on his way to meet with Rex, comming him and telling him to meet up with him in the lower levels, as far away from the Senate and the GAR Headquarters he could think of. But they had been there first.

Bounty hunters chased Kix through the crowds and into a series of twisting alleyways. He had to get away. He couldn’t let this plot go unnoticed, he had to do something. He couldn’t die here. He wasn’t afraid of death, but he was terrified of the idea of dying with an unfulfilled purpose. His brothers counted on him to stay alive.

But it would seem fate had different plans. He slipped through an archway, the bounty hunters racing past him. Sighing with relief, he took a few hard steps in the opposite direction, only to be slammed back and into the ground by an opening door. He lay there for a moment, dazed, shaking his head to clear it. When he straightened up, he was surrounded by bounty hunters on all sides. One of them was speaking into a comm, the voice of a battle droid on the other end coming through.

“Bring him to Mustafar and put him with the other clone -”

That was all he had caught of the message, launching himself at the nearest bounty hunter. He caught his arm and twisted it behind his back, using the hunter as a shield. He had begun slowly backing out when blue stunning bolts lit up the alleyway, hitting the hunter in the chest and chasing after him. His eyes widened, and he struggled to get away, but with the narrow passage, avoidance wasn’t an option. Bolts struck him in the back, paralyzing him. His face pressed into the cold, stone ground, he caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of a hunter coming to stand above him, firing a single stun bolt into him, and his vision faded to black.

When he awoke, he was on Mustafar, which he recognized as a mining colony. He frowned. The Separatists aren’t supposed to be here. His hands were bound, and a feeling of dread began to pit itself in his stomach. Two droids approached him and he scrambled to his feet, landing several kicks and attacks, all the while attempting to distance himself from them.

A rush of pressure honed in on his throat, compressing his windpipe and he gasped, clawing for breath. A silhouette emerged from the shadows, stepping towards him. His blood ran cold. He recognized the man in front of him as Count Dooku.

“You are lucky that you have proven useful to us, clone.”

Dooku stepped to him, a cold and hateful expression resting on his face. Kix scowled through the pain of choking, spitting at the Count’s feet. With a sneer and a simple flick of his wrist, Dooku sent Kix flying back in the way he came, where several battle droids waited.

“Take him to the chamber.”

He fought every step of the way. But with his hands bound, he couldn’t gain a leg up over the droids. They pushed him ever onward, until he stood face to face with a stasis chamber. He froze in horror, understanding dawning on him of what was about to happen. Something caught his eye. He glanced at another stasis chamber, in which he could just barely see another person on the inside. He squinted, trying to make out more distinguishable features, and thought he could see a sliver of a tattoo on the person’s forehead, but he wasn’t sure.

The stasis chamber opened, and he was ushered in. Panic set in as the chamber door hissed. No, I need to help them. Please, I can’t leave them to this fate! He didn’t know who he was pleading to, it certainly didn’t seem as if anyone were listening. Cold air rushed the chamber, and Kix slowly felt himself start to fade away into the icy blackness.

Then he opened his eyes. He was lying in a field, and had no idea how he had gotten there. He looked around, blinking the bleariness from his eyes. Looks like grass, more grass, some trees, Fives, some flowers, more grass -

Fives.

His eyes widened in shock, staring at his brother that he had for so long believed to be dead. Unless he was dead, and maybe this was some kind of afterlife. He barely had time to contemplate that horrifying thought before Fives had bowled into him, tears streaming down his cheeks.

That was how Kix had come to appear in stasis. He had no idea how long Fives had been there, but he assumed that it had probably been since his alleged death. Fives had wanted to know everything. All that he had missed from the war, everything about their brothers, about Kix and how he had gotten there. Kix told him all of it, and was in the middle of telling him all about his recent missions, when Fives asked him a question that made him hesitate.

“What was your last campaign?”

~~~

Expansion Region, ETA 36 hours

You leaned back in the co-pilot’s seat, watching hyperspace whirl past. Turning to Ahsoka, you asked her if she still wanted to talk about what had happened with Anakin back on Coruscant. She nodded, sighing.

“It’s not that I’m not grateful or happy to be in the Jedi Order, it’s just…” She paused, her brows furrowing. “I’m not sure how to explain it really. Have you ever just felt disconnected from reality? Like you’re constantly reliving the same thing over and over again? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately as a Padawan. Every day, it’s the same thing. Wake up, study, train with Anakin. Wake up, study, train with Anakin.” She groaned, rubbing a hand over her montrals. “These solo missions are the only thing keeping me sane, and they’re so rare. With these, I have the freedom to make my own decisions, and just get away from all the training.”

You nodded slowly. “Like Groundhog Day.”

She looked at you quizzically. “Like what?”

Groundhog Day. It was a film back on my planet. Basically the main character in it relives the exact same day over and over again, and he has to try and figure out how to make it all stop.”

She chuckled. “Sounds exactly right.”

You sat forward in your seat, leaning towards her and placing your elbows on your knees. “I understand how you feel. Sometimes the monotony of life can seem unbearable, and all we want to do is just get it to stop. But let me ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“What are your options with this?”

“Well, I mean not many really. I can either stay or leave the Order.”

“Do you want to leave the Order?”

She hesitated. “No,” she said finally.

“You don’t sound very convinced. Why don’t you want to leave the Order?”

She furrowed her brows in consternation. “I’ve come too far to turn away now. And I can’t leave Anakin. He and I have been through too much together for me to just leave.”

“Do you like being in the Order?”

“I like being a protector of the people. Being a Jedi is all I’ve ever known, and I don’t want that to change. I want to be able to be a beacon for others, someone they can look up to and know that I’ll always look out for them. It’s my favorite part of being a Jedi.”

You smiled at her, leaning back again in your seat. “Well it seems to me like you already have your answer.”

“Huh. I guess I do. Thanks, Izzy.”

“Anytime.” You closed your eyes and placed your hands behind your neck for support. The two of you sat in silence for a while, before Ahsoka cleared her throat.

“Can I ask you something?”

You popped open an eye. “Go for it.”

Ahsoka wrung her hands. “Why don’t you talk more about your past?”

You let out a loud laugh at that, startling her. When you quieted down, you sat there for a long moment in silence, and Ahsoka started to think you weren’t going to answer her.

“There aren’t very many particularly happy stories to tell,” you finally said, an edge of bitterness to your voice.

Ahsoka looked down at her hands, slightly self-conscious. She hadn’t meant to make you feel uncomfortable. You glanced at her, sensing her discomfort radiating off of her in waves.

“If you want, I can tell you how I met Obi-Wan.”

Her head shot up, interest and curiosity mired in her expression. She nodded eagerly. You let out a chuckle, readjusting to a more comfortable position before launching into your story. 

“Before I was a mercenary, I worked on Kessel. It was the first planet I had ever landed on in this galaxy, and I was well, dirt poor to say the least. It took me a while to build up some currency, enough for me to get a place to live, start a mercenary’s job, and hopefully, save up for a ship so I could get off that God-forsaken planet.”

Ahsoka narrowed her eyes. “Don’t the Pykes operate out of Kessel?”

You nodded. “Kessel has a ton of natural spice mines, which means that a whole bunch of crime syndicates put down roots there. I think that’s honestly what brought Obi-Wan there. I was in the warehouse of my work when Obi-Wan tried to sneak up on me. He was looking for signs of spice smuggling, and well, I was looking to keep my name under the radar. So when I noticed him following me, I led him to the back of the warehouse, cornered him, and put my knives to his throat.” You chuckled.

She cocked her head at you. “What is it?”

You breathed a nostalgic sigh. “I was very different back then from the person I am today. I was nervous, constantly on edge. And when I held my knife up to Obi-Wan’s throat, he saw straight through my bluff. Looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘you’ve been hurt. You don’t have to live like this.’ And that was that.” You shrugged. “He made it his mission to kind of take me in after that. Make sure I was doing okay, helping me with my mutation, giving me advice if I ever needed it, the whole deal. He was the first person I ever trusted in this galaxy, and… I owe him so much. I just hope that whatever decisions or actions I make in the future make him proud.”

“I bet he already is.” Ahsoka grinned widely at you, and you hummed, smiling.

“A girl can dream.”

~~~

Kix took a deep breath and swallowed hard, looking at his brother. He had to tell him. He had to know. “My last mission was with Rex, Cody, Jesse, and Clone Force 99 to the Cyber Center on Anaxes. We were sent to discover the source of an algorithm relaying Republic intelligence to the Seppies. What we found, though, wasn’t an algorithm.” He clenched his jaw, looking away for a moment.

“What’d you find?”

Kix’s stomach dropped for a moment. This isn’t going to be good. He looked back at Fives, empathy and compassion filling his expression. For a moment, an uneasy look flashed across Fives’ face. He took in another breath.

“Echo.”

Fives’ face blanked. For a moment, Kix didn’t think he heard him, or understood. “We found Echo,” he repeated. Then he noticed the color slowly drain out of Fives’ face, followed by the rapid rise and fall of his chest. Kix’s eyes widened, and he reached out, trying to steady his brother.

Fives shook him off. “ Echo… is dead.” His voice was strained and quiet. 

Kix winced and shook his head. “No. He’s not. The Separatists took him, saved him and used his mind for their own benefit. He’s…” He paused, nervous. Fives hadn’t taken his eyes off of him, nor had he even blinked now that he thought about it. “He’s more machine than man now, at least physically. But he’s still Echo. Nothing will change that.”

“You’re telling me,” Fives’ voice was deathly quiet, “that Echo is alive?” Kix nodded.

“And that the Separatists kidnapped him, brutalized him, and turned him into a strategic weapon against his will?”

Kix gulped, nodding again. “But we got him back. He’s back with us, and he’s safe, and happy.”

Fives didn’t say anything for a long, agonizing minute. His eyes darted rapidly back and forth, and eventually he whispered, so quiet that Kix almost didn’t hear him, “ I’ve gotta get out of here.”

Kix closed his eyes. He knew Fives probably wouldn’t take the news of his twin’s rescue very well. “Fives, listen to me -”

“No you listen to me Kix -” No longer whispering, Fives was now on his feet and shouting, a hysterical look in his eyes. “Echo is my twin. I abandoned him at The Citadel to die, and now you’re telling me, now that I’m stuck in this literal hell with no way of escaping, that he’s actually alive? I need to get out of here! I need to see him, I need to apologize, Kix, he’s my brother, he’s my twin!” He gripped his head in his hands, pacing back and forth. “I thought I was the last one. That whole time I was so selfish and thought I was the last one, and he was being tortured all along!”

“That wasn’t your fault. None of us could have known -”

“It doesn’t matter. I never should have left him there, I should have gone back. He needed me, and I abandoned him. I can’t just -” Fives broke off, his voice breaking. He looked at Kix, unspeakable sorrow and anguish and guilt pooling in his eyes. “I won’t even get the chance to see him again.”

He stalked away, and Kix let him go. He needed some time to take everything in, and when he needed it, he would be here for his brother. Kix had just started to turn in for the night when he heard a distant yell.

“I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY! YOU’VE OFFICIALLY TAKEN EVERYTHING FROM ME!”

His heart plummeted. He had to know. I had to tell him. Kix couldn’t imagine the pain Fives must have been feeling. He was sure he felt guilty, unable to see that none of this was his fault, and he must’ve been absolutely furious. Furious at himself, at the Maker for the cruel twist of fate, at his imprisonment, and at the Separatists for stealing his brother’s humanity away from him.

Fives would return later, and over time he grew less and less bitter, eventually glad that his brother had been granted a new chance at life. But he never stopped trying to find a way out of stasis. Every day, he and Kix searched, knowing their attempts would be futile, but still looking anyway, for an escape.

~~~

Outer Rim, ETA 6 hours

You lazily flipped and spun one of your knives between your fingers. Every now and then, light from hyperspace would glint off of the blade, when spun at just the right angle. You and Ahsoka were going over the plan again, so that when you got there you would be as prepared as possible for any situation, should it arise. Theoretically.

“Okay so when we get there we’re going to land behind this mountain instead of the landing pad,” Ahsoka gestured to a mountain on her holomap. “And we’ll sneak in from there.”

You nodded. “You sure you’ll still be able to sense them even though they’re in stasis?”

“Yes, I should still be able to sense their signatures, as long as they’re still alive.”

The knife paused in your fingers for a brief moment, anxiety stabbing you quickly and disappearing as soon as it came. “Alright. I’ll cloak our movements and just follow you then. We should bring some medical supplies, just in case when we get them out of the chambers.”

An uneasy expression flitted across Ahsoka’s features. “Do you think Fives will have healed from his blaster wound?”

You pursed your lips. “Well, if the Separatists wanted him dead, I’d assume they would have just let him die. I think it’s safe to say that he’d be okay.”

“But, wait… why wouldn’t they just let them die?” Ahsoka furrowed her brows.

“That’s a fantastic question to which I do not have the answer to. But I think it would be wise to keep our guard up when we get there, just in case.”

She nodded and sighed. “I have a feeling that this is going to turn out to be more than just a simple extraction mission.”

“Unfortunately, I think you’re right.”

The two of you sat in an uneasy silence for a while. You let your mind wander, suddenly remembering that you had no real idea what had happened to Ventress or the holocron after you had gotten back to Coruscant. Your mind had been occupied with thoughts of your own mission, but now that all of that had ended, you turned to her, curiosity piquing your interest. “By the way, what happened to Ventress?”

She looked up, blinking. “We took her to the Jedi Temple. The Council was supposed to question her further, but I’m not sure they ever got around to it.”

“And the holocron?”

“It’s dangerous. Too dangerous to have on Coruscant, even. I heard that the Council is trying to decide where to send it, so that Dooku won’t have an opportunity to get his slimy little hands on it.” Her lip curled in disgust at the mention of the Dark Lord.

Your brows furrowed in consternation. “Ventress said before that he wanted to master a ritual called the thought bomb.” You turned to look at her, raising an eyebrow in question. “What is that?”

Her expression darkened. “I don’t know much about it, but Master Obi-Wan said that it’s an ancient Sith ritual that can annihilate every Force-Sensitive in its radius. If Dooku was planning on using it against the Council, it would’ve destroyed the Order.”

It would’ve destroyed the Order. Ahsoka’s last words rang in your ears. You couldn’t imagine the kind of damage a ritual like that could do, and the thought that the Jedi Order could be eliminated that quickly and easily was terrifying. In a way, perhaps keeping the holocron at the Jedi Temple was smart; the protection and security needed to guard knowledge like that surely would have been there. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so great an idea to keep something with the knowledge to kill every single Force-Sensitive in a large radius in a place with literally all Force-Sensitives. Regardless, at least Dooku didn’t have it.

“Well then I guess we’ll just have to find a place where no one will ever find it ever again.”

Ahsoka gave you a small smile. The two of you continued in silence for much of the rest of the trip, brooding over the upcoming mission. When the Mustafar system came into view, you felt hyper focused. You took a deep breath, steadying yourself.

~~~

Fives was busy lobbing tiny stones at Kix one night, lazing back in his hammock. The medic trooper shot him an aggravated look, rubbing his hands over his face with a groan. “Is this absolutely necessary?”

A look of feigned solemnity settled on Fives’ face. “Oh, absolutely. It’s life or death.”

“For what?”

“For my boredom. I’m sick of this place, if they’re going to keep us prisoners here, the least they could’ve done is give us some entertainment. I wouldn’t have complained about being locked in 79’s for all eternity. A hot tub would’ve been cool too.”

“Ah yes, because a hot tub would make the whole ‘imprisonment until the end of time’ thing so much better.”

Fives grumbled a bit under his breath. “I think it would.”

Kix threw his head back against the shelter, cursing the Maker for what seemed like the millionth time. He wasn’t sure he could make it an eternity of being stuck with Fives.

Suddenly, a blinding flash of golden light appeared in the open field. When it settled, a figure had appeared, lying in the tall grass, its features darkened by the gloom. The two men took one shocked look at each other before scrambling to their feet and racing over to the newcomer. “Do you think it's another one of us?” Kix eyed Fives as they ran.

“I don’t know. Although when you got here, you definitely didn’t arrive like that.”

As they neared, the figure came into view a little clearer. Soft golden sparkles danced around the newcomer’s unmoving body, illuminating them in a soft glow. They slowed, stepping closer, and realized it was a woman. Fives let out a dramatic sigh. “Thank the Maker, I was starting to worry that if we’d been stuck here alone for much longer, even you would’ve started to look attractive.

Kix gagged. “Don’t ever - hngh - say anything like that ever again. That’s just - ugh - that’s disgusting.”

Fives laughed and threw an arm over his brother’s shoulders. “Lighten up vod. Besides, we got a lady to meet.”

Kix rolled his eyes and knelt next to the woman, Fives doing the same on her other side. The golden mist that enveloped her lazily spun around her body. Kix reached out a hand, running it through the haze inquisitively. “What is this?”

“No idea. But her,” Fives studied her soft features, something inside of him twisting. “I’m gonna call her tranyc.”

“Fitting name.”

The mist slowly dissipated, but the woman still hadn’t moved. They could see what looked like some kind of wound in her chest, barely visible from underneath the collar of her jumpsuit. They exchanged a glance, and Kix quickly checked her over, his expression turning to one of confusion when he noticed she wasn’t bleeding, or seemingly suffering. Growing impatient, Fives reached out a finger, giving her nose a gentle boop. He withdrew his arm quickly, and the two of them waited for any sign of movement. None came. Fives tried a couple more times, until eventually Kix let out an exasperated sigh.

“Fives, would you stop doing that? How is that supposed to help at all?”

“Hey I’m just doing my duty as a concerned citizen.”

“You’re unbelievable.” He rolled his eyes and put a hand on his forehead.

Fives scowled. “Well, it’s working isn’t it? Look!”

The woman groaned, her fingers lightly digging into the soft dirt around them. Fives gave her one last boop on the nose, and her eyes snapped open, trying to adjust to the gloom around her. Fives’ breath caught in his throat. A sliver of the golden sparkles that had once floated around her now swirled in her eyes, and he found himself… mesmerized. A number of emotions were mired in her gaze, from confusion and compassion and mischief to… was that fear? He shook his head, clearing it, and plastered a friendly grin onto his face. “Hi there!”

Kix raised an eyebrow at him and opened his mouth to say something to the woman, but was interrupted when she gasped, sitting up so quickly that she almost knocked into them. She scrambled back a bit, gaping, looking back and forth between him and his brother with an astonished expression.

“You’re… clones.”

~~~

Mustafar

You and Ahsoka crept through the metal walkways of Mustafar, your steps muffled by your power. You hadn’t come across any Separatists yet, and you felt a little uneasy. This is almost… too simple. As you crested a ridge, you looked over the landscape, wrinkling your nose. The planet reeked of sulfur, and lava flows lazily ran through the dark, black rock and ash. A massive river of lava ran on the opposite side of the mine, but thankfully Ahsoka seemed to be leading you in the other direction.

Her expression was twisted into one of concentration, brows furrowed and lips pressed into a thin line. She straightened and pointed to an enclosed area, where a few buildings sat, hidden behind the mountain. You looked at her and smiled, before the two of you raced down off of the ridge and onto the platform leading to the buildings.

You unsheathed your knives, crouching and leaning into the doorway of the first building. Ahsoka ignited her sabers, and smashed the keypad, throwing the doors open. Six battle droids were in the room, all of them turning just as you and Ahsoka rushed in. You threw one knife, burying it in a droid's head, and tackled another, wrenching its blaster free and stabbing its sensor. Raising the blaster, you fired on another that was approaching Ahsoka from behind, striking it in its chestplate. Ahsoka slashed through the last droid, kicking two others she had taken down at the beginning of the assault as she stepped up to the terminal in the room.

You were in what appeared to be a security room, with cameras trained in almost every part of the facility. You surveyed the room, glancing up and down at the various controls and camera views, when your eyes came to rest on one shot in particular.

“Ahsoka, look at this.”

You pointed at one camera view, and Ahsoka stepped over, a small smile spreading onto her face. “There they are.”

Two stasis chambers were put in perfect line of sight of the camera. If the two of you hurried, you might be able to get the two clones out of the chambers and get out of there before any other droids walked into the security room. You were about to race out, when you stopped, narrowing your eyes at another camera view.

A ship was landing on one of the pads outside the main facility. A tall, bearded man stepped out, cloaked with a silver chain across his shoulders. Ahsoka stopped and squinted at the camera view you were watching, her eyes suddenly flying open. “Kriff. We gotta go, now.”

Although you had no idea who that man was, you weren’t about to argue. The two of you ran through the hallways, avoiding droids as they passed by, until you came out onto the platform with the two stasis chambers. Ahsoka set to work immediately, trying to open the nearest chamber, her fingers flying frantically.

The door to the first chamber hissed open, revealing a trooper in standard white armor, a singed blaster hole in his chestplate. He stumbled forwards and you caught him with a grunt, supporting his weight. You took his face in one hand, cupping his cheek and turning him to you. His eyelids fluttered open, his golden eyes dazed, staring into yours as he recovered. His voice was breathy and tired when he finally spoke.

Tranyc.”

~~~

Fives was rocking back and forth in his hammock, humming contentedly, when Kix appeared from the other side of the shelter, a makeshift knife in his hand. Ever since they had met you, they had begun marking the days on the side of the shelter. It was something that they hadn’t done before; they really hadn’t seen a point to it when realistically, they thought they’d be stuck here forever.

But when you had arrived, you brought them something that they never thought they would ever have again: hope. Hope of escaping, hope of freedom for them and their brothers, hope of a life outside of the war.

Fives glanced at the tally board, grimacing. “Been a couple weeks now. You think something went wrong?”

Kix glanced at him. His voice was reassuring, but he had a flicker of doubt in his eyes. “I trust her. She did say she was on Dantooine, so we should account for travel time too. Besides,” his expression darkened. “If something went wrong, I assume we would’ve seen her again already.”

Fives clenched his jaw at the thought. The last thing he wanted was for you to end up here. Even though he wouldn’t have minded spending all eternity with you, he didn’t want you to have to suffer through this hell either. He opened his mouth to say something else, but cut off with a croak, sitting up abruptly and clawing at his throat.

Kix spun around and looked at him with wild eyes. “What’s wrong?” He demanded, a tinge of fear in his voice.

“I don’t know - hngh!” Another breath was stolen from his lungs. He felt as if he were being pulled by some kind of invisible force. He looked at Kix, fear and confusion in his eyes. “Kix -”

He was gone. Kix had blinked, and when his eyes opened again, his brother was no longer in his hammock; it was still swinging lazily back and forth as if it still held the ARC Trooper. Terror clouded Kix’s mind. Where did he go? Is he dead? What the hell just happened? Is he - 

His thoughts were cut off as a similar croaking noise escaped from him, all of the air being knocked from his lungs. Oh, no. A strange, tugging sensation pulled at his insides. Wait… His eyes widened, recognition washing over him. A split second later, he blinked open his eyes, the smell of sulfur filling his nostrils. He stumbled forward into someone’s arms, blinking groggily up into your eyes. “Izzy?”

You grinned back at him. “Welcome back, Kix.”

~~~

The two troopers sat dazedly on the ground, blinking up at you and Ahsoka. Kix seemed to be in better condition than Fives, who was nearly incoherent with how out of it he was. You crouched in front of them, briefly looking them over for injuries. Kix caught sight of the blue lightning scars and raised an eyebrow at you.

“How is it that everytime we see you, something terrible has happened to you?”

You chuckled. “What can I say Kix, I guess I’m just accident prone.”

He snorted, amusement dancing in his eyes. You turned back to Fives, who hadn’t taken his eyes off of your face. In fact, you weren’t sure if he even realized he was out of stasis yet. He still had a dazed expression on his face, and you brought up your hand to his cheek in an attempt to ground him. His eyes cleared a little, and he blinked.

“Are you okay?”

He studied you for a moment longer, before murmuring, “Yeah. Yeah I think so.”

“Good, because we gotta go.” Ahsoka looked around wildly, her eyes coming to rest on a catwalk above the four of you. “Up here!”

She leaped up, and using the Force, pulled the other two troopers one by one into the air, until they could clamber onto the catwalk. You heard footsteps approaching distantly. You looked back up at her with wild eyes, and was about to move when you found yourself pulled into the air. Woah! Ahhhh I don’t like this!”

Ahsoka pulled you onto the platform above and the four of you huddled together just as the man you had seen on camera stepped into view, several battle droids with him. Kix hissed from beside you, “Why didn’t you tell us Dooku was here?” Your head swiveled to him, shocked. “That’s Dooku?”

The medic didn’t have time to reply to you, as Dooku had stepped forward, his eyes trained on the chambers. “Open them. We will need them for the next phase of experimentation.” His voice was deep and cold. Despite the sweltering heat, you shivered.

The battle droids opened the stasis chambers, only to reveal their empty contents. Dooku did nothing for a moment, turning slowly to the droids and speaking with a voice so full of hatred and fury you were surprised the droids didn’t just burst into flames.

Where. Are. They?!”

“We - We’re not sure sir! There haven't been any security breaches!”

“Check the security room you fools!”

You and Ahsoka glanced at each other. “We have to get off this planet.”

Thankfully, your mutation muffled your footsteps as the four of you raced back to the ship, sticking to the shadows. Your progress was slow, as the clones were still fairly weak from the stasis, and you worried your bottom lip between your teeth, anxiety rising quickly in your chest.

You had just crested the last ridge, revealing the ship, when you stopped dead in your tracks. Count Dooku stood at the base of the mountain, his lightsaber ignited, waiting for you.

He hadn’t seemed to see the four of you yet. You had to think carefully if you wanted to get off this planet alive. Fives and Kix were in no condition to fight, and you doubted you and Ahsoka could take on a Sith Lord for very long without at least one of you getting hurt. Wracking your brain, you searched for a plan that could get you around Dooku without him noticing you. Ahsoka’s whisper from next to you broke your thoughts.

“I have an idea, but you’re not going to like it.”

You turned to her, raising a brow questioningly. She pursed her lips before speaking. “I’m going to distract him. You take them and get them onto the ship, get it running, and I’ll make it onto the ramp before we can take off.”

You opened your mouth to protest, but she gave you a hard look. You closed it with an exasperated sigh. “Fine. But I don’t like it.”

“I know. Now go!”

She parted from the group, and as she left, the clandestine cover you had provided faded from her. She lunged at Dooku, catching his saber in a lock. The two of them launched into a duel, their sabers a blaze of color and light.

You turned to the two troopers, nodding encouragingly. “Okay, we gotta go, now. Come on!”

The three of you raced down the hill, sticking to the shadows, your footsteps muffled. The Jedi and Sith were a short ways away from the ship, locked in a heated battle. Even against Ahsoka’s dual-sabers, Dooku proved a powerful opponent, matching her blow for blow. Ahsoka was an aggressive fighter, striking quickly and pushing Dooku backwards. With each swing of one saber, she was quickly following up with another strike, her blades a flurry of light.

You practically shoved the two troopers up into the ship, scrambling into the cockpit. You threw yourself into the pilot’s seat, frantically pressing controls until the ship began to whir to life. You turned to Kix. “Do you know how to kind of fly a ship?”

He nodded. “I can get it going. Go on.”

You closed your eyes and called the crimson mist forward. You sprinted to the back of the ship, feeling your axes materializing in your hands as you went. Just as you burst forward onto the ramp, Dooku had managed to push Ahsoka back and was moving to counterstrike. You leaped forward with a raging cry, bringing your axes down over his head. He turned just in time, slicing through the axes and pushed you backwards. You stood, unsheathing your daggers. Ahsoka came to stand beside you, the two of you facing Dooku with your backs to the ship, protecting the two troopers on board.

Dooku stopped and straightened, looking you over for a moment. “I was beginning to wonder when we would meet.”

You said nothing and met his cruel gaze, refusing to back down. He took several slow steps towards you. “My new partner will be very interested in our little encounter. Come.” He pointed his lightsaber down to his side. “Let us see if you are truly as powerful as he says you are.”

With a snarl, you and Ahsoka lunged forward. You worked as a unit; when Ahsoka would strike in one spot, you would swipe at another. Dooku managed to knock one of her sabers out of her hand, causing her to stagger slightly. In her vulnerable state, Dooku brought his saber down towards her. You stepped in front of Ahsoka, catching the lightsaber and pushing it back towards him with an enraged growl.

A cruel smirk curled at the corners of Dooku’s lips. “Good. You have hatred. Now use it!” He pushed Ahsoka back, then broke off a piece of a nearby catwalk and curled it over her legs, pinning her briefly. You swiped your daggers, aiming for Dooku’s throat, and dodged his counterattack. You were locked in a constant battle of strikes and dodges, feeling the mist slowly build stronger and stronger, rage clouding your senses.

Each of your attacks grew more and more impassioned, striking with the fury that was building inside you. Finally, Dooku pushed you back, leaping forward to bring his saber down on top of you. You struck out with your wrists, and a flurry of onyx spikes launched towards Dooku. He twisted to block the spikes, but couldn’t recover in time to parry your counterattack. You lunged forward, bringing your foot around and striking him in the jaw, causing him to stumble backwards, bleeding slightly from the mouth.

He gave you a vicious grin, his teeth red with blood. “You will be of great use to us my dear.”

You snarled. “I will never be your weapon.”

You were about to advance when Ahsoka called your name from back by the ship, which had just begun to hover. “Izzy come on! We have to go!”

Dooku was walking forward now, advancing to the ship. You sent another flurry of spikes towards him, slowing him down while you sprinted back to the ramp, leaping up and clasping Ahsoka’s outstretched arm. With a grunt, she pulled you up onto the ramp, the two of you racing inside and closing the door.

You turned, shouting at the two troopers in the cockpit. “GO!”

As the ship began to ascend into the atmosphere, a sickening, crunching noise started rumbling through the walls. The ship stopped in midair, as if it were being held in place.

Ahsoka groaned. “It’s Dooku, he’s holding the ship.”

You nodded to the cockpit. “Go, I’ve got this.”

You hit the door to the ramp, descending it a little and crouching, feeling the onyx bow materialize in your hands. You notched an arrow, whispering into your fingers. You sent it whizzing through the air at Dooku, who raised his other hand, stopping it with the Force. The arrow burst, smoke clouding the air around the Count. The ship lurched, rocketing forwards. You slipped a little, turning and scrambling for grip. Strong arms grasped your wrists, yanking you from the ramp. You stumbled forward, you and your rescuer falling onto the floor of the ship, the ramp door closing behind you.

You shook your head, pushing yourself up a little, and found yourself looking into Fives’ eyes. He was breathing hard, his chest rising and falling rapidly, and he had his arms wrapped around you. “Are you okay?”

Something fluttered inside you a little. You nodded before closing your eyes and pushing your power away. You smiled gratefully. “Yeah, thanks by the way. Would’ve been a long way down.” Pushing yourself to your feet, you extended your hand, helping him off the cold floor of the ship.

He stood, bumping into you a little before taking a step back and letting out a small rumble of a chuckle. He looked you over for a moment, a mischievous twinkle appearing in his eyes. “I was beginning to think you forgot about us, tranyc.

You grinned, shoving his shoulder playfully. “Come on, you gotta give me some credit.” You took a few steps past him before stopping and smirking over your shoulder. “Would you rather be back in stasis?”

He stepped up to you, looking down at you with a strange expression. He was quiet for a moment, staring into your eyes with an intensity that you had not quite seen from the typically humorous trooper. “I’d much rather be here.”

You felt heat rush to your cheeks, and turned before he could see your face flush. “Good. I’m glad you are.”

You climbed into the cockpit, leaning against the back of Kix’s chair and resting your chin on top of his head. He grumbled, swiping a hand over his face. “Well, that was horrific.”

You giggled. “What, you don’t like a little excitement Kix?”

“If that’s what you call excitement, I’ll gladly pass.”

“Well then, you might not want to come to 79’s with us when we get back. I think Jesse is going to drink himself to death.”

Fives had entered the cockpit behind you and perked up at the sound of his brother’s name. “You and Jesse are going to 79’s?”

“That’s right.” You turned to him with a devious grin. “We even convinced Rex to come with us.”

“What?” Kix craned his neck to look up at you. “We could almost never get Rex to go out with us. How’d you manage that?”

Ahsoka snickered. “That’s because he can’t say no to her.”

“Hey! That’s not true.”

Fives and Kix chuckled, the two of them exchanging a look. Fives looked back to you, numerous emotions mixed into his expression. He stepped forwards, pulling you into a hug. You started, a little surprised, but settled into the embrace, wrapping your arms around him. “Thank you Izzy.” Fives’ voice was full of emotion.

You pulled back, only to be caught in another hug from Kix. You giggled, squeezing the medic in return. “You saved us.”

“I told you boys I’d come back for you, didn’t I?”

The two of them gazed out the front of the ship as it launched into hyperspace. “And we’re very glad you did.”

The stars reflecting in their eyes, Fives and Kix looked like they had just been gifted the world. They were finally, truly free. They had a future again, one with promise.

They were going home.

Chapter Text

On the journey back, you and Ahsoka told Fives and Kix everything that had happened since Dantooine, catching them up on the mission to foil Palpatine’s plot. By the end of it, you had seen the two men glance at your scars out of the corner of your eye, and tried to hide your discomfort. You didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, or worse, to feel as if this was somehow their fault.

Which of course, they did. Indirectly, but they did feel a little responsible for your injuries, seeing as they were the ones who sent you on this crusade to begin with. You decided to clear the air.

“It’s not your fault. Stop thinking it is.” You kept your gaze pinned straight ahead, but could still see the troopers flinch slightly in your peripheral vision.

“We know. It’s just… we never wanted you to get hurt.”

You swung your gaze back to the two men, blinking in confusion. “I know that.”

Silence lay thickly in the cockpit of the ship for a while, broken eventually by Ahsoka, who asked the men if they were excited to come back home.

At first, they seemed happy, anxious to be back even. But then their expressions shifted, both of them looking more nervous than anything. Fives spoke first, glancing at his brother. “It’ll be… different, to say the least. Plus I’m not entirely sure how people are going to handle seeing me.” He clenched his jaw. The last time he had interacted with any of his brothers, they had thought he was crazy and treasonous. He cringed at the thought of all of the stares and whispers that were waiting for him when they landed on Coruscant.

Kix looked at his feet. “Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone thought I was a deserter, seeing as I disappeared. I don’t know how well that’ll go over.”

Your heart twisted for the men in front of you. You pursed your lips, a stubborn look of determination settling onto your face. “Well, if anyone has anything to say about either of you, they better be prepared for a broken nose.”

They gave you a small smile at that, nodding gratefully. You turned your gaze back to the front of the ship, watching hyperspace blur past.

~~~

Jesse paced back and forth in the hangar, waiting impatiently. You had commed ahead to them early, giving them an expected arrival time, and now the minutes were ticking by, closer and closer until the ship carrying his long lost brothers would land. He was practically radiating anxiety and impatience, which in turn made Rex anxious. “Would you stop pacing? They’ll be here soon, try to relax.”

“Bold of you to assume I can relax at a time like this.”

Rex sighed. “Okay look. Izzy and Ahsoka said that they would be landing at 1500 hours. They’ve still got about ten minutes to go, so why don’t you just come sit down?”

Jesse grumbled, moving to sit next to Rex on a crate, before almost immediately jumping back up, eliciting a groan from the Captain. “But what if they get here early? I can’t just sit here and wait -”

The sound of an approaching ship caught their attention. Jesse turned to Rex, a smug expression on his face. “See? Told you they’d be early.” Rex rolled his eyes, but said nothing, a small smile beginning to creep onto his face. He was nervous, but for the most part he couldn’t wait to see his brothers. He just hoped that they would be happy to see him too.

The ship entered the hangar, slowly coming to a stop and landing with a soft thud. The ramp descended, and you and Ahsoka stepped out, both of you grinning widely from ear to ear. You ran forward and gave each of your friends a hug. When you pulled back, Jesse was shifting his weight nervously between his feet. “Where are they?”

You gave him a reassuring smile. “Why don’t you go find out?” You turned your body to the side, opening your stance, allowing the two men to move forward towards the ship. Before they could, however, two pairs of boots descended the ramp, revealing Fives and Kix. At the sight of their brothers, they froze in their tracks, and for a moment, the world seemed to slow around them.

A choked noise escaped from Jesse’s throat. He and Rex took one step forward, then another, and another, until they were running full speed at their brothers. He collided with Fives, while Rex all but tackled Kix. The four men embraced each other, tears rolling down their faces. When they pulled back, Jesse lunged at Kix, pulling him into a hug, ignoring the muffled - ack - from the medic. Rex hesitated, looking at Fives, who watched him with an uneasy expression.

“I’m so sorry.” Rex’s voice broke a little, and Fives sniffed, grabbing his brother and pulling him into a tight embrace.

You and Ahsoka watched the reunion with tired smiles. You turned to her. “I’m glad I got to do this with you. It was fun, and besides, I think I would’ve stabbed my eyes out if I had had to go with Anakin.”

She laughed. “I know what you mean. I’m glad we got to get away for a bit, and if anything, this definitely makes all the danger worth it.” She gestured to the four embracing brothers.

“Definitely.” Your smile widened at the sight of your friends.

The boys wandered back over to you and Ahsoka, Jesse grinning wider than you think you’ve ever seen from him. He nudged Fives and Kix with an elbow and gestured to you. “This one promised she’d go with us to 79’s. You guys will come, right?”

Fives glanced at you and grinned before looking back at Jesse. “I don’t know if 79’s will be ready for us.” Jesse laughed and clapped his brother on the back before turning to Kix, a pleading look in his eyes.

Kix rolled his eyes and let out a chuckle. “I guess I’ll come along to make sure nobody dies of alcohol poisoning.”

Jesse looked ecstatic, grabbing Kix by the shoulders and shaking him back and forth, ignoring the very disgruntled protests he was making. You laughed at the sight and leaned over to Ahsoka, whispering, “wanna help me find something to wear? I’ve no idea where to start.”

She nodded, and the two of you waved goodbye to the boys and set out to go shop around Coruscant. You made your way around the bustling downtown, finding a boutique with a couple of cute outfits on the mannequins in the window. As you walked in the shop, Ahsoka cast you a sidelong glance.

“I don’t know if I’m the best person to come to when it comes to this type of stuff. Jedi don’t exactly have a very diverse wardrobe.” She gestured to her outfit bitterly.

You snorted. “Are you kidding? You have the best sense of style out of what I’ve seen from the Jedi Order. Plus,” you leaned in, a mischievous glint in your eye. “I wouldn’t trust the boys to pick out an outfit for me if my life depended on it.”

She giggled. “Well you’re probably right about that.”

The two of you browsed for a while, and you tried on a couple outfits, but couldn’t find one you really seemed to like. Ahsoka sat on a cushion in the dressing room, offering up her opinions on each outfit.

“Nope.”

“Mm-mm.”

Definitely not.”

“Eh.”

“Uh-uh.”

Each horrible outfit you put on would cause you both to break out in fits of giggles, other shoppers casting you looks of irritation. You stifled your laughter, flopping against the dressing room doorway dramatically. “I don’t know Ahsoka, maybe I’ll just have to wear my jumpsuit.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, no. We just haven’t found the right one yet. How many more do you have?”

You gestured to the garish romper you had on. “This is the last of it.”

She hummed, before jumping up to her feet. “I’ll be right back, stay here!”

You chuckled as she ran out into the main area of the boutique. A few minutes later, she came back, a proud grin on her face as she held out an item of clothing to you. Your eyes widened and you laughed, beaming at her.

“Wait ‘til the boys see this.”

~~~

Ahsoka rode with you to 79’s on the airtaxi for moral support. The boys had to check back in at the Headquarters, and you hadn’t seen them since that morning, but you were supposed to meet them there. Rex said that it wouldn’t be hard to find where they were sitting once Jesse and Fives started drinking, which made you laugh.

As you were stepping out, she grabbed your hands, giving you an encouraging squeeze. “You look great, go have fun!”

You bounced with excitement and nervousness. You hadn’t gone out in a long time, and consequently hadn’t drank in a while either. You gave her a grateful smile and thanked her. She gave you one last encouraging nod before instructing the driver to take her to the Jedi Temple. You waited until the airtaxi had sped away before making your way into the clone bar.

It was dark and crowded, lights flashing everywhere, with several large screens up on the walls broadcasting several sporting events, including podracing. The bar was a mass of bodies, mostly clones, all of whom were either drinking or dancing. You could see the yellow markings of the 212 th as well as the Wolfpack in different booths, a couple of 501 st blues, and even some Corries. Your friends saw you before you saw them.

Jesse and Fives were already drunk, locked in an arm wrestle, Rex was lazily swirling his drink in his hand, and Kix had just gotten back to the table with a round of shots. Fives slammed Jesse’s hand on the table, standing with a triumphant laugh. “Yes!”

Jesse grumbled and threw back a shot. “'Cause I’m drinking. You’d have no chance if I were sober right now.”

Rex rolled his eyes, and Fives leaned in even further, antagonizing his brother. “Jesse you couldn’t beat a - oh, kriff.” His eyes flicked up to a point on the far side of the room, by the entrance.

Jesse turned his head. “What are you looking at -” His sentence trailed off when he caught sight of you. You were wearing a short, black shimmering cocktail dress with black lace-up heels. The scars of lightning detailing your skin quite literally caused you to glow faintly in the dark, each tendril radiating an incandescent shade of blue. You were stunning, and the men at the table stared at you for a moment before Jesse climbed over Kix and scrambled out of the booth to go get you.

You caught sight of Jesse making his way over to you, swaying a little, and you grinned as he approached. He stopped in front of you, giving you a once-over. “You look great.”

You flashed him a mischievous smirk. “You look drunk.”

“Hey now, is that really a bad thing?” He lazed an arm around your shoulders, pulling you into his side as the two of you walked to the booth. “Go ahead and sit down with the boys, I’ll go get you a drink. What do you want?”

You shrugged. “Surprise me!”

He chuckled. “You might regret that.”

“I’m counting on it.” You winked at him with a sly smile, and turned to close the distance to the booth. The boys were wearing their blacks on top, armored from the waist down. Kix scooted over to make room for you when you stepped up, and you slid in, grinning excitedly. Fives gave you a wry smirk. 

“You look excited, tranyc .”

You shrugged. “It’s been a while since I’ve gone out. Plus, I’m excited to spend more time with you guys. See what clones really do after hours.”

Fives’ smirk widened. “Well if you really want to know - oof!”

His sentence was cut off by a sharp elbow to the ribs from Rex, who smirked into his whiskey when Fives shot him an indignant glare.

Jesse returned to the table with a sunset-orange swirling drink for you. Before you could reach for it however, he looked pointedly at the row of shots in front of you. You rolled your eyes, grabbing one and throwing it back, grimacing slightly at the burn. Jesse then nodded approvingly, handing you your drink.

You took a sip, sighing as the liquid slid down your throat with a zinging sensation. Jesse settled in the booth next to you, reaching for another shot, which Kix promptly snatched away from him. He glared at his brother, causing you to giggle. “Come on Kix, lighten up.”

He rolled his eyes and turned to you. “Rex and Jesse were just asking us about Mustafar. We figured we’d wait for you to get here and tell the story, seeing as it was yours and Ahsoka’s mission.”

“Ooh okay!” You leaned forward, placing your elbows on the sticky table, and launched into your story, sipping on your drink every now and then. You told them about the security room engagement, the cameras you found, and your encounter with Dooku. Rex and Jesse’s eyes snapped up to you upon hearing the name of the Sith Lord.

“Hold on, you guys fought Dooku?” Rex downed the rest of his whiskey, looking back at you with part intrigue, part irritation.

“Yeah, it was a wild fight too. I snuck these two onto the ship before going back to help Ahsoka.” You paused, furrowing your brows. “He recognized me though. Said I met his expectations based on what his partner’s been telling him.”

Rex and Jesse exchanged a look, the former tightening his grip around his now empty glass. Jesse scowled. “Fuck him. He’s not gonna get anywhere near you.”

You smiled at him and brought your glass to your lips, finishing it off. “I know. Thanks, Jesse.”

A droid waitress approached your table and you ordered another drink and a round of shots as Kix and Fives questioned Rex and Jesse about everything they had missed in the Torrent. The waitress came back with your drink and the shots right as Jesse was telling them about how you had painted a pink bikini on Rex’s armor. Kix snickered and Fives leaned in towards Rex, a devious grin on his face.

“Oh Captain, I bet you looked positively radiant.” Rex groaned and took a shot, slamming it back onto the table. You giggled, taking another shot and flashed the troopers an impish grin. You wrapped your fingers around your glass, twirling it lightly. “I’d say he’d be up there for the ‘Most Stylish Captain’ superlative.”

Rex eyed you with a smirk. “Don’t forget you’ve still got to watch your back while we’re on leave.”

You shot him a wry smile and opened your mouth to reply when you glimpsed two troopers approaching your table out of the corner of your eye. You did a double take, your face lighting up at the sight of Sinker and Ghost coming to stand at the edge of the booth. You gasped and shooed Jesse out of the booth so you could stand and give both of them a hug. “Hey! How are you guys doing? I didn’t get to say goodbye on Dantooine.”

Jesse snorted from behind you. “Yeah, we all know how badly you would’ve wanted to say goodbye to Wolffe.”

Sinker smirked at you, nodding to Jesse. “What’s he talking about?”

Jesse replied for you, leaning over your shoulder with a smirk. “Izzy here has a thing for the Commander.”

Ghost and Sinker looked at you with amusement as you let out an indignant noise, swiping at Jesse, who only snickered and retreated to the booth. “I do not!”

“Do too.”

You rolled your eyes and slid back into the booth, gesturing to the two Wolfpack troopers to sit down. Fives and Rex scooted over to make room for them. Ghost brought his drink to his lips, smirking. “S’alright if you do. I’m pretty sure he’s got a thing for you anyways.”

You inhaled your drink, choking and spluttering. Fives, Ghost and Sinker burst into laughter while Kix smacked your back with his palm. Rex shot a look at Jesse, who was scowling into his drink. He furrowed his brows questioningly. Jesse noticed him watching him and shook his head, turning back to the two troopers and scoffing. “No way.”

“I don’t know,” Ghost and Sinker snickered. “You didn’t see him in that medical tent. Plus ever since we got here he can’t take his eyes off of you.” He gestured to another booth on the other side of the bar, where you could see Wolffe sitting with more of the men from the 104 th .

You blushed, thankful that the dim lighting hid your reddening cheeks. “You guys are just teasing me.”

Sinker grinned mischievously and shrugged. “Maybe, but if you go dancing, don’t be surprised when he comes to find you.” Now you were sure that even with the low lighting, the boys could see how flustered you were. You huffed a nervous laugh and brought your glass to your lips to try and hide your embarrassment.

Jesse snorted, turning his head away from you and muttering. “Sure he will.”

Your head snapped to him, irritated. “What’s your problem?” He turned to face you, surprised you heard him. Guilt flashed briefly across his face. You continued. “What, is it so hard to believe that someone might find me attractive?” He opened his mouth to say something, but you interrupted him. “No, you know what, I think I will go dancing. If anyone wants to join me, I’ll be on the dance floor.”

With that, you tossed back the rest of your drink, slamming the glass on the table and sliding out of the booth, making your way through the crowd over onto the dance floor. The boys watched you go before turning to Jesse, who was staring broodily into his glass. Sinker sucked a breath in through his teeth. “You really fucked that one up.”

“Yeah.” Kix nudged him with his elbow, raising an eyebrow. “What was all that about?”

Jesse scowled. “Nothing.”

Fives smirked. “Well, if I didn’t know any better I’d say Wolffe isn’t the only one with a thing for Izzy.” The men at the table snickered. Rex studied Jesse, and when he got up and stalked off towards the restroom, he followed him.

Jesse pushed open the bathroom door, leaning on the sink and looking into the mirror. He didn’t know why he acted the way he did. He wasn’t the jealous type. But seeing you flustered over Wolffe actually really bothered him for some reason, and for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why. Sure, he always teased you about how you had thought he was attractive, but that was because he didn’t actually think you liked Wolffe that much, or that he had liked you. But now, after listening to Sinker and Ghost, he had actually felt jealous. Guilt flashed through him and he groaned. He had seen the hurt in your eyes when you snapped at him. He didn’t mean to hurt you. Nice going.

The door to the bathroom swished open, and Rex walked through, raising an eyebrow at him. Jesse sighed. “Listen, I don't need a lecture.”

Rex leaned against the wall, facing him. “Wasn’t gonna give you one.”

He cast him a sidelong glance. “I don’t know why I did that. I shouldn’t have, and I know it hurt her.”

“Yeah, it did.”

Jesse let out a frustrated grunt. “Why did you follow me in here if all you were going to do is stare at me?”

He watched him for a moment before taking a deep breath. “To tell you that you don’t want to mess this up. She’s your best friend. If I were you, I’d think of something to fix it. She’s here to have fun with us, remember?”

“I already had a plan to make her happy, but it doesn’t matter now.”

“Why wouldn’t that matter?”

Jesse huffed, turning back to the mirror. “She’s into Wolffe. It doesn’t matter.”

Rex rolled his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “She’s not into Wolffe. Don’t pass up the opportunity to make her happy.” He paused, adding, “she deserves happiness more than anyone.”

“Just something to think about.” Rex walked out, leaving Jesse to brood in silence.

~~~

You stormed off over to the dance floor, buzzing with irritation. Why the fuck was he acting like that? He’s the one that’s always teasing me about Wolffe. A sharp pang cut into you. Jesse is your best friend, and his indifference actually kind of hurt. Maybe it was all the alcohol, or maybe you were just overly touchy, but still, you hadn’t expected that from him.

You finally pushed yourself through the crowd enough to make your way onto the dance floor. It was packed, dozens of bodies swaying to the music. Whatever, I’m here to have fun, and that’s just what I’m going to do. For the next few songs, you let the music envelop you, dancing and swaying your hips to the beat. Music was always the one thing that could make you feel better no matter what, and you let yourself get lost in it.

You felt someone come up behind you and gently grab your hips, pulling you closer. You and the stranger moved as one with the music, your hips grinding into him. You turned to face him, and let out a soft gasp as you saw Wolffe, with that arrogant smirk on his face. He leaned in, whispering into your ear as the two of you rolled your hips into each other. “You still wanna take that bet?”

You rolled your eyes but smiled, sliding your hands up his chest and over his shoulders. “Technically, you still grabbed me.”

“You don’t seem to be arguing.”

“Must be the alcohol.”

A low rumble ran through his chest, and he pulled you even closer to him by your hips. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by the sound of someone calling your name. You looked over your shoulder, and saw Jesse approaching, his eyes on the floor. Oh no.

You wheeled around, separating yourself from Wolffe, but the smug bastard just held you in place by your hips and growled in your ear. “I saw you and pretty boy storm off earlier. Trouble in paradise?”

You shot him a confused look. “What are you talking about?” He just hummed and said nothing.

Jesse pushed his way through the crowd, finally raising his eyes to yours. “Izzy, I just wanted to say -” His eyes slowly roved to Wolffe, and something changed in his expression. “Nevermind, it’s nothing.” A muscle flexed in his jaw and he turned to walk away, but stopped when you spoke.

“No, what were you going to say?”

He turned back, gesturing to Wolffe. “Doesn’t matter. I see you’re having a great time without us.”

“What is the matter with - will you let me go, Wolffe - “ Wolffe released you and you stumbled forwards a little, shooting him a glare which was only returned with a smug smirk. You turned back to Jesse. “Why are you acting like this?”

Before Jesse could say anything, Wolffe looked between the two of you and let out a low chuckle. “That’s because he -”

Jesse cut him off. “Wolffe, why don’t you just get out of here?”

He shrugged, winking at you before turning and leaving. You were staring incredulously at Jesse. “Why do you care so much?”

“You shouldn’t have danced with him. I know Wolffe, and he is not good enough for you.”

“Okay first off, he’s a good guy, and you know that. He’s cocky as hell but he’s a good person, and I actually consider him a friend. Besides, I can dance with whoever the fuck I want, Jesse! I don’t get why you’re so worked up about this, you’re the one that’s always teasing me about him anyways!” You huffed, crossing your arms. “I think I can decide for myself who’s good enough for me, but thanks.”

You turned slightly away from him but stopped when he stepped even closer to you, towering over you. “You really think he’s good enough? I know he would never be able to treat you as well as -” He cut himself off, his eyes widening briefly.

“As well as?”

He cursed under his breath, looking anywhere but at you. “As well as you deserve.” He looked back to you, and you saw guilt and remorse in his eyes. “Look, I’m sorry. I know we invited you here to have fun, and that I fucked it up by being an asshole. Can we just forget about this?”

You stared at him for a long moment, feeling relief flush through you slowly. You took a deep breath and smiled. He brightened a bit at that, and you wrapped your arms around him, giving him a small hug. “Yes. I’m sorry too if I upset you.”

He let out a dry laugh. “Nah, I’m pretty sure I’m just an asshole. I got a surprise for you, though.”

You pulled back, looking at him quizzically. “A surprise?”

Just then, the music shifted, and you stared in astonishment to hear one of your songs start playing. An elated grin slowly crept onto your face, and you practically vibrated with glee, bouncing up and down. You turned to Jesse, who was watching you carefully. “This is my music! How’d they get these songs?”

He smiled, any trace of the animosity between the two of you tonight gone. “I broke into your quarters and stole your music player.”

“Wait a minute, you did what?

He waved a hand in the air dismissively. “Details. Anyways, I brought it here and tipped the DJ to play some of them for you. I wanted to make tonight as fun as possible for you.”

You were at a loss for words. No one had ever really done anything like this for you. You stared at him, a million things you could say but none ever escaping your lips. You finally settled on, “Thank you, Jesse. This means so much to me, really.”

“You’re welcome. Now come on, let’s enjoy the rest of the night.” He waved back over at the booth, catching the attention of the men and gesturing them over.

Fives practically climbed over the table, and Kix and Sinker followed him out, the three of them pushing through the crowd to join you, leaving Rex and Ghost to watch after them with amused glances.

Sinker gave you a knowing smirk and winked at you, and you laughed, shaking your head. The five of you danced through the next few songs, swaying and bouncing to the flow of the music. You doubled over in laughter when you saw Fives try to do a very difficult move, ending up sprawled on the floor. He grinned at you. “Oh you think that’s funny, do you?”

You said nothing, and only gripped your sides, wheezing. Fives stood, leaning down in a challenge. “I’d like to see you do better.”

“I think I’d need a few more drinks in me for that.” You giggled.

“Coming right up!” Fives bounded over towards the bar, causing Kix to roll his eyes. “I’ll be back. Just gonna go make sure he doesn’t order us pure poison.”

Sinker looked from you to Jesse, a smirk beginning to curl the corners of his lips upwards. “I’m gonna head back to the boys. I’m glad we got to see you again.”

“Next time you’re out, come find us!”

Sinker chuckled and nodded, waving a goodbye to you and Jesse as he left for the Wolfpack’s table. You looked at Jesse. “And then there were two.” He shrugged.

The song changed, and the crowd roared. You felt a sudden push from behind, and were thrown off balance, careening into Jesse’s chest. Oh God. He was well-defined and strong, and his blacks clung tightly to his muscles. You turned to look over your shoulder and see who had pushed you, only to find yourself pressed into him from the growing crowd. Heat rose in your cheeks. I’m in trouble. He had caught you by the shoulders, and you slowly turned your head up, looking into his eyes. He looked as shocked as you were, but slowly his expression changed to an unreadable emotion. His hands slid gently down your shoulders to the small of your back, pressing you against him. Your heart fluttered, and you found yourself breathing a little heavier than normal. He swallowed, his golden eyes roving over your face before you felt his hands slowly migrate to your hips, his fingers squeezing you a little and lighting sparks even over the fabric of your dress.

The song was slower, more sensual, and as you looked up into Jesse’s eyes you felt something inside you lurch. You slowly started to move your hips against him, swaying to the music. Jesse’s breath hitched and he tensed, then slowly relaxed and began to move his hips with yours. You slid your hands over his chest and felt the rapid pulse of his heartbeat. Yours wasn’t much better.

What are you doing? He’s your best friend. Your thoughts nagged at you, but you didn’t want to stop, not when he was looking at you like that and charting a course over your waist and your hips with his hands. Heat pooled in your core, and you pressed yourself a little further into him, eliciting a tighter squeeze from his fingers. You dragged your hands back up to his shoulders, sliding one around the back of his neck and bringing your forehead to his. You could feel his breath puffing against your lips, carrying with it the scent of peppermint and a hint of alcohol.

The song was drawing to a close. Jesse removed one of his hands, bringing it up slowly to your jaw, lightly brushing his fingers along your skin and tilting your face up to his. He paused, and then you felt him dip down, his lips just barely brushing against yours, igniting fire where he had touched them. The two of you gasped softly, and he made a move to close the distance when -

Woah.”

The two of you flew apart from each other, him reaching up a hand to rub his neck while you smoothed out your dress and placed a palm on your forehead. Kix was standing next to the two of you, holding two shots, his mouth agape. Your eyes darted from him, to the shots, and you threw one back, muttering a thanks before making your way back to the booth, where you saw Fives had returned as well. Ghost had left for the Wolfpack, and you slid into your seat, your eyes wide and your face burning. Rex gave you a questioning look, but didn’t have time to say anything before Fives pushed a drink into your hands, which you accepted gratefully.

“Looks like someone was having fun.” Fives said with a smirk.

You jumped. “ Huh?”

He and Rex blinked at you before glancing at each other. “Uh, did you not have a fun time dancing with all of us?”

“Oh.” You winced, cursing yourself. “No, it was so much fun! I’m really glad I got to come out with you guys tonight.” You quickly changed the subject. “How’s it been for you?”

Fives chuckled. “Sure beats stasis. I’ve missed this, going out with the boys. Even you, Rex.” He threw an arm around his Captain, putting him in a headlock and ignoring his disgruntled protest.

Kix and Jesse slid back into the booth, the latter taking a seat across from you. You glanced at him, and he caught your eye before looking back at Kix, clenching his jaw.

The other two didn’t seem to notice, although you could feel Kix’s eyes on you several times throughout the rest of the night. Thankfully, as the night wore on, the awkwardness faded, you, Jesse and Kix settling back into your normal demeanors.

The five of you drank and shared stories, and you even told them a bit about your past, of what your life was like on Earth before you came here. You also told them about how you met Obi-Wan, just as you had told Ahsoka several days prior. The men seemed briefly confused.

“Hold on, I thought you were a mercenary before all this.” Rex pointed a finger at you, the rest clasped around his glass.

“I was. But I had another job on Kessel, before I became a mercenary. I really didn’t have any credits, and needed something to keep me secured.”

“So what was the job?”

An impish grin climbed its way onto your face. “Oh come now boys, a girl can’t have an air of mystery to her?”

“Come on, just tell us.” Kix took a swig of his drink.

You chuckled dryly, bringing your glass to your lips and pausing. “Nah, I don’t really wanna talk about it.”

They didn’t press you, and you were about to change the subject when a couple troopers stepped up to the table.

“Fives.”

The five of you turned to see Commander Fox and several other Corries. Fox had his eyes on the table, and the men around you had grown uncomfortably silent. You looked nervously between Fives and Fox. Fives’ expression was unreadable as he watched the Commander and waited.

Fox sighed, bringing his gaze up to Fives. “I’m sorry. If I had known what a traitor the Chancellor was, I never would have…” He trailed off, swallowing hard. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.”

Fives said nothing for a moment, then climbed over Rex and Jesse, coming to stand in front of him. He clasped his forearm, a serious expression on his face. “It’s in the past, vod.”

Fox visibly relaxed and smiled, nodding at the rest of you before he and the other Corries returned to their table. You let out a breath you hadn’t known you’d been holding. Fives turned, a content expression on his face and you grinned at him. “Looks like you had nothing to worry about after all.”

He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I guess not.”

He clambered back into the booth, and the five of you continued sharing stories and drinking for the next few hours. Eventually, the music slowly trailed off, causing the crowd to groan. Rex sighed, placing a hand on the table and pushing himself to his feet. “Sounds like the party’s over.”

Fives was inspecting the bottom of his glass and drawled, “whaddya mean? Party’s never over.”

You giggled, Fives shooting you a wink. Rex rolled his eyes and grabbed his brother by the arm, yanking him to his feet. “Alright I think you’ve had enough, let’s get you some water and get you back to the barracks.”

Jesse slid out of the booth to let them pass, looking at you and Kix. “I’ll go help him. Fives can be a nightmare to handle alone.”

You smirked. “Have fun.”

He snorted and the corners of his lips turned upwards in a small smile before turning and following his brothers. Kix shot you a sidelong glance, and you suddenly became very interested in your drink, watching it intently as it swirled in your glass.

“So, we’re just gonna not talk about it?”

You let out a nervous laugh, a little too high pitched to be convincing. You winced. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He sighed, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. You glanced at him, and saw his eyes were full of understanding. “Was that all the alcohol or… something else?”

You felt your heart rate increase. You didn’t say anything for a moment, but when you finally did, your voice was quiet. “I’m not sure.”

He nodded and placed a hand lightly on your wrist. You turned to him, and he gave you an encouraging smile. You relaxed a bit.

“It’s okay, you know. That might just be something you wanna think about.”

You chuckled. “Yeah. Don’t worry, I have a feeling I’m gonna be losing sleep over this one.” You put your head in your hands and groaned. “I really embarrassed myself. He’s my best friend, and I probably just made him super uncomfortable tonight. I don’t know what to do Kix.”

“Well, if it makes you feel better, I don’t think anything will change between you two because of this.”

You peeked at him through your fingers. “You think so?”

He smiled and nodded. “I know so.”

You exhaled, relieved, and gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks, Kix.”

“Anytime.”

The other three boys returned, and you all made your way out of 79’s to an awaiting airtaxi. You were squeezed in between your friends on the ride back to the Headquarters, giggling at Fives who was poking Rex in various parts of his face, each with an audible boop! Rex took it like a champ, until Fives very nearly poked his open eye, to which he smacked his hand away, the two of them engaging in a tiny slap war, which only made you laugh harder.

Jesse watched you, feeling something inside his chest clench. Your eyes were sparkling, and you looked so happy to be here with his brothers, with him. He thought back to what had happened between the two of you earlier tonight, heat pooling in his gut. He felt a flash of guilt wash over him. He shouldn’t have done that. He didn’t want anything to be uncomfortable between the two of you from now on. But still, he couldn’t get the image of your eyes locked onto his out of his mind, the feeling of your body in his hands, the feeling of your hips grinding against his own, your lips - He flushed and looked out the other side of the airtaxi, hoping no one could see how red his face probably was. He groaned inwardly. He knew he shouldn’t be thinking about this, about you, but he also had a feeling that he would brood over this for a while.

The airtaxi arrived at the Headquarters, and your group stumbled inside, Rex and Kix practically carrying Fives back to the barracks. He turned his head back to you as he was being led away. “Bye Izzy! Have a sensational evening.” You giggled, swaying a bit on your feet. “Goodnight Fives.”

You and Jesse walked to your quarters, Jesse slinging an arm over your shoulders to keep you from stumbling as you went. The silence between you two was comfortable, and you both started to feel a little relieved. As you arrived at your quarters, you turned to Jesse. “Thanks, by the way, for tonight. I had a great time.”

He smirked. “Of course, I’m glad you got to come out with us.” He stepped closer, and you stepped backwards towards the door until you were nearly pressed against it. He stared down into your eyes for a moment, searching your face. Then, he reached around you and pressed the keypad, opening the door to your room. You pretended you didn’t feel the disappointment pricking at you. You smiled and nodded at him. “Goodnight.”

The door swished close behind you, and Jesse stood there for a moment, watching where you had disappeared. “Goodnight Izzy,” he whispered.

Normally in this situation where he brought a woman back to her quarters, he would have kissed her or served her some cheesy line to see if she would let him in. But this was different. You were his best friend, and he was determined to make sure he didn’t make you uncomfortable. Besides, if anything were to happen between the two of you, he wanted to make sure that it happened the right way. Not drunk at some ungodly hour in the morning. He turned and trudged back to the barracks, his thoughts burdened with the events of the night.

Little did he know, you were no better, staring up at your ceiling and groaning, shoving your pillow over your face in embarrassment. You could still feel his hands on your waist, his lips lightly brushing against yours. You thought back to minutes before, outside your room, and tried vainly to push away the thought of him pressing you up against the door and crushing his lips onto yours. Oh my GOD. You need to get it together. Guilt flashed through you and you struggled to fall asleep that night.

The next morning was different, however, and to your relief, any trace of awkwardness between you two was completely gone. Everything was like it was before your drunken night at 79’s, and you felt a weight being lifted off of your shoulders. You and Jesse went back to teasing each other, resuming your usual banter. You were thankful. He had swiftly become your best friend, and his friendship was something you cherished dearly. It reassured you, knowing that no matter what, you and he would always come back to each other, and your friendship would only grow closer and closer as time went on. Thank God for that, you thought to yourself with a smile.

Chapter Text

You had another nightmare.

They were becoming more and more frequent since your encounter with Palpatine, as well as more vivid. Each time, you would wake in a cold sweat, sometimes tears rolling down your face, others, you’d scream and lash out at nothing.

This time, you had dreamt you were being held back by your evil self, while your friends were tortured and killed in front of you. Each time you struggled to free yourself or save them, their pain would only increase, making their deaths more violent. You lurched awake with the sound of their screams still ringing in your ears, and Palpatine’s voice in the back of your mind. You will fail them.

You couldn’t take it anymore. You were barely sleeping, and it was starting to affect your daily life. Rex even threatened to take you to Kix in the medbay if you didn’t try and get some sleep. You had acquiesced for his sake, but you still had woken up with sweat coating your sheets and your shirt sticking to your back.

Now, you were on your way to the Jedi Temple to see Obi-Wan. You had commed him earlier, asking to talk. If anyone can help me, he can. Obi-Wan had always been a rock for you, someone who you knew you could come to for advice or help. You just hoped he had an idea about how to get rid of these nightmares.

As you stepped up to the massive Temple, observing the gargantuan statues lining the walkway, you saw Obi-Wan approaching you from the entrance. You smiled and gave him a small wave of greeting. He gave you a once-over before a wry smile crept onto his face.

“Well, you’re certainly looking spirited this morning.”

You let out a dry chuckle. “Yeah, that’s actually what I wanted to talk with you about.”

He raised an eyebrow before gesturing with his head towards a garden pathway. “This way. It’ll be more private in the gardens.”

You followed him along the pathway, the two of you finding a seat at the base of a large, flowering tree. He sighed contentedly, placing his forearms on his knees, and turned to you. “What did you want to talk about?”

You fidgeted nervously. “Lately, ever since that encounter with Palpatine, I’ve been having these nightmares.” You glanced at the ground. “They’ve been really intense, and I’ve barely gotten any sleep because of them. I don’t know what to do.”

Obi-Wan nodded and brought a hand to his chin. “Well, in my experience, talking about these kinds of things is the best way to start. What are these nightmares like?”

“They’re not all the same, but they’re all kind of the same idea. In each one, everyone I care about is being tortured or murdered in front of me, and I’m powerless to stop it. I’ve also come face to face with a sort of evil version of myself, kind of like a manifestation of my mutation in all its worst ways.” You shuddered, gripping your knees tightly, your knuckles whitening. “Every time, right before I wake up, I hear Palpatine’s voice in my mind, typically saying something about how I’m a failure or I’ll never be able to escape who I truly am.”

Obi-Wan contemplated your words for a moment, his eyes narrowed in concentration. Finally, he spoke. “My dear, do you know what a failure is?”

You blinked at him, confused. “Of course.”

“Tell me what a failure is.”

You hesitated, glancing around at the garden. “Um… why do I feel like this is a trick question?”

“Probably because it is.” Obi-Wan chuckled.

“Great,” you scoffed. “Okay, well a failure is someone who fails to accomplish a goal or task, typically one that is crucial or important to them or others.”

He shook his head. “Not necessarily.”

“Wow, I never guessed you were going to say that.”

He chuckled at your sarcasm, fixing you with a kind, gentle stare. “Yes, you are right. On the surface, a failure is someone who fails to accomplish something important to them, or to others. But, a real failure is someone who turns away at the very idea of nonfeasance. Someone who allows their fear to overcome their will.” He smiled, placing a hand gently on your shoulder. “You, my dear, are not a failure. Defeat and mistakes do not define someone. How they may respond to their adversity is what makes them who they are.”

“But I’m terrified that I’m going to lose control one day. I’m so scared that I’ll hurt someone I care about, and they’ll see who I really am on the inside.”

He furrowed his brows. “What’s inside you is a parasite. It is not you. Everyone you care about knows that too.”

You considered his words, a small prick of doubt still lingering in your chest. “But what am I supposed to do about the nightmares?”

He hummed, a smile coming to rest on his face. “Well, I actually might have an answer to that.”

You perked up, leaning in while he explained his idea. “I was trying to think of a way for you to better understand this mutation, and why it’s been affecting you so negatively these past few weeks. I might’ve found a solution to that problem, and it could possibly help with these nightmares as well.”

“What is it?”

He shifted, coming to sit in front of you. “Do you remember when I taught you forgiveness?”

You nodded, thinking back to the very first campaign, when Obi-Wan had entered your mind and helped you to forgive yourself. He continued. “I think if we can get you to meditate and confront the mutation directly, it can help you to understand it better.”

That makes sense I suppose. “Alright,” you agreed, “but how are we going to go about this? Are you going to do that mind thing again?”

He chuckled. “Yes, I can do the mind thing again. I’ll be right with you the whole time, and eventually, perhaps you’ll be able to do this on your own.”

You felt a little reassured at that. Not that you couldn’t try this by yourself, but it would be nice to have Obi-Wan here, since the nightmares have been so violent lately. Anxiety formed in your stomach, and you forced yourself to take a deep breath. Let’s get this over with.

Obi-Wan reached a hand out to you, and you grasped it, feeling his presence enter your mind and you closed your eyes, allowing yourself to fall into blackness.

When you opened your eyes, you were once again spiraling, like you had long ago. The darkness seemed to be closing in on you, squeezing the air from your lungs. You choked, panic striking you sharply. You felt Obi-Wan’s familiar presence reach out to you, warm and comforting. Breathe. Open yourself to it. You relaxed a little, summoning the mutation. As you called it forth, the darkness around you seemed to swirl, tinges of crimson mist materializing from the air.

All at once, the darkness disappeared, and you were floating, suspended in air. In front of you, an orb of darkness coiled and churned, black fog emanating from it. The orb slowly took the shape of a woman, and you recognized your evil self stepping up to you. Remember, it is not you. It is just the mutation. Obi-Wan’s voice floated through your mind once more.

The mutation now stood in front of you, crimson mist clouding its eyes. It spoke, its voice nearly identical to yours, but with an echoing lilt to it, and it was cold and callous.

“We didn’t save you just for you to treat us with such disrespect.”

Well that’s definitely not what I expected. “What do you mean?”

It circled you, hissing in your ear. “We saved you from death. In return, we only asked for one thing. Blood.” It growled, coming back around to stand in front of you, its back turned. “This foolish notion of control is futile. Deny us much longer, and we will take back the gift we have bestowed upon you.”

“Gift? This is not a gift, this is a curse. I will not be privy to the machinations of a parasite. I will not murder and brutalize in cold blood. That isn’t who I am.”

“Wrong. It is who we are. The gift we bestowed upon you was not power. It was life.”

Your blood froze in your veins. “You’re saying that if I refuse to commit myself to mindless, senseless bloodshed, you’ll kill me?”

The mutation turned, its expression blank and cold. “If you continue to treat us with such disregard, we will end your life, and find a new host.”

Panic washed over you for a moment. I’m going to die. There’s no escaping it. Obi-Wan reached out to you again, calming you. Keep going, these are the answers you wanted, remember? He was right. As much as this sucked, you did need more answers. You took a deep breath, steeling yourself.

“Why are you haunting me?”

The mutation blinked, that same blank expression never leaving. “We are not haunting you. You are haunted by yourself.”

Whatever that means. That might’ve just given you more questions than answers. You groaned inwardly. “So the nightmares aren’t you?”

“No. We do not plague our hosts with such inane trifles. It is beneath us.”

You grumbled. Doesn’t seem so inane to me. “Then what the hell is causing my nightmares?” You said it more aloud to yourself than to the mutation, but it still responded to you.

“Your fear of losing the ones you love to death as a result of your failure. This is a childish notion. With us, you have but nothing to fear.”

“Nothing to fear, except you eventually killing me, or killing everyone I know and love as a mindless slave.”

“There will be nothing to fear as long as you do not continue to deny us.” It turned, stepping away from you. “Now begone. Our patience is wearing thin.”

The area around you distorted, and your eyes shot open, darting around the garden. Your chest heaved, and you grabbed onto Obi-Wan’s wrists to ground yourself. He gave you a comforting squeeze. “Breathe. It’s over.”

You groaned, leaning back against the trunk of the tree. “Well that went just swimmingly didn’t it?”

Obi-Wan chuckled. “Actually, I think it went rather well.”

You turned to him, incredulous. “Well?! It’s going to kill me if I keep trying to control it! If I give in, I’ll go back to killing everything in sight. How is that ‘it going well’?”

He hummed. “Well, it didn’t actually say that it needs you to fully lose yourself to the bloodlust. It just said you can’t continue to deny it.”

“Cryptic as hell. Figures.”

“My guess is, it doesn’t like being caged very much. If we can figure out a way for you to work in tandem with the mutation, rather than trying to suppress it, we will discover a whole new way to approach this power.”

Your mind wandered to the moment underneath the Jedi Enclave, when you had seen the golden mist. You furrowed your brows, looking down for a moment. “Obi-Wan,” he looked at you. “Maybe this has some kind of connection to the golden mist I saw under the Enclave, when I was injured.”

He thought for a moment, running his fingers through his beard. “I suppose it’s a possibility. That would definitely explain things a bit more.”

“Yeah, except I really have no idea where to begin with learning how to work with this thing.”

“Well my dear, that’s why you have me.” Obi-Wan smiled, and you felt slightly more encouraged. “Thank you, Obi-Wan.”

“Of course. Now about those nightmares,” he sighed, rising to his feet. “It’s good you talked about them. That should help to start ridding yourself of them.” You pushed yourself to your feet, coming to stand in front of him. He looked down at you with gentle, understanding eyes. “Fear of losing the ones you love is understandable. But you cannot allow yourself to become overwhelmed by it. Death is inevitable, and in this line of work, expected.” He softened a little. “As long as you do your best to help others and do what’s right, everything will be okay.”

You knew he was right. Your fear of losing control and failure was honestly probably draining you slowly, and the lack of sleep didn’t help. You were probably psyching yourself out too much. Still, the idea of losing any of your friends terrified you. But you knew you wouldn’t ever be able to control that. It would just be something you would have to deal with, if it ever came. I hope it never does.

You nodded, smiling at him. “Thank you for the advice Obi-Wan. And thanks for helping me try to understand this a little more.”

“Of course, my dear.”

With that, he gave you one last nod, and left to go back to the Temple. You sat back down at the base of the tree, closing your eyes and letting out a long exhale, willing all of your worries and anxiety to leave you with your breath.

~~~

You had stayed at the Temple for a while longer, until the sun started to set in the sky. You were just walking out when you heard someone call your name from behind you. You turned in time to see Anakin jogging up to you.

“I’m glad I caught you, I need your help with something.”

You cocked your head at him. “Um, alright. Help with what?”

He smirked. “It’s a surprise.”

You rolled your eyes. “Well, how am I supposed to help you if I don’t know what I’m going to be doing?”

“Because you don’t need to know. Besides, I know, and that’s all that matters.”

“Oh, does it now?” You scoffed.

“Yep. Now come on, we’re wasting time.” He jogged off, away from the Temple, leaving you to follow him warily.

You might’ve been suspicious before, but now you definitely knew something was up. Anakin was leading you to the lower levels of Coruscant, eventually coming to a stop in front of a dive bar. You shot him a doubtful glance. “Are you kidding? Just what the hell are you up to?”

“Just wait and see.”

Oh, perfect. That makes me feel so much better. You rolled your eyes, casting him an aggravated look. He just stood there, inspecting the outside of the bar, as if he were looking for something. Impatience nagged at you. “Well?”

He looked at you. “Why are you still here? Go inside!”

Oh my God he’s going to be the death of me. You grumbled and made your way inside, pushing your way past several slimy characters, curling your lips in disgust. The bar had two levels, with a catwalk up at the top overlooking the main floor. You stepped up to the bar, asking for water, and waited. For what, you weren’t sure. After a few minutes, a greasy looking Weequay sidled up to you.

“Hey there honey. What’s a pretty thing like you doing here, and all alone?”

You rolled your eyes. This just keeps getting better and better. You offered him a brusque “Hi,” turning back to the bar.

“Aw come on honey, don’t be like that. I just want to get to know you a little… more personally.”

You shot him a distasteful look and didn’t say anything. Anakin where the hell are you? Suddenly, you felt a hand grasp your chin, turning your face sharply. “Hey! I’m talking to you sweetheart.”

Anger flooded through you, but before you could do anything, Anakin burst through a window above the catwalk, leaping down practically on top of the Weequay, pinning him to the floor. His lightsaber ignited, and he held it at his throat, a smug smirk resting on his face. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite sleemo. How you been Arte?”

The Weequay held his hands up in surrender. “Woah, woah! You can’t do that here! I haven’t done anything.”

Anakin hummed, a bored expression on his face. “Actually, I just so happened to see you bothering this woman here.” He turned to you, his face arrogant. “Are you alright, miss?”

Un. Be. LIEVABLE. This was his plan the whole time, to use me as bait? You were simmering with rage, but kept a level expression. You’d ream him a new one later. “I’m fine,” you said curtly. Looking around, you saw everyone had barely blinked at Anakin’s abrupt entry, and were just ignoring the scene in front of them as if it weren’t happening. Is it normal for these people to have someone just bust in and threaten someone’s life?

He turned back to the Weequay, who stammered. “Look man, I already told you everything! I don’t know anything else.”

“Actually I’m here for some other information. I need you to tell me about operations on Ord Mantell.”

His eyes widened. “No way, man. I ain’t doing that. You might as well kill me now, that’s a death wish.”

Anakin shrugged. “Alright.”

He raised his weapon, but before he could bring it down, the Weequay stopped him. “ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, I’LL TELL YOU. Just put that thing down, okay?”

Anakin sheathed his lightsaber, and the Weequay stood. “For the record, you didn’t hear this from me. Been whispers of people going missing from their work, every night. Been going on for a while too. If you can get one of the owners of any dive out there to talk to you, they’ll give you more information. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“Thanks Arte. You can go back to whatever it is you do now.”

He grumbled, glaring at the two of you before stalking away. You turned to Anakin, furious. He shot you an exasperated look. “What?”

You shook your head and said nothing, stomping out of the bar and back towards the upper levels of Coruscant. You could hear Anakin following after you a few paces behind you.

“Merc, would you slow down? What are you so angry about?”

Excuse me?” You wheeled on him, your fury bubbling over. He raised an eyebrow at you. “You used me as bait!”

“Yeah?”

“Why the hell didn’t you at least tell me I was going to be bait for some slimy Weequay?”

“Because you would’ve said no. Besides,” he crossed his arms over his chest with a smirk. “I had everything under control. You were never in any danger.”

“He grabbed me, Anakin.” His smirk faltered a little, and you thought you saw anger flash briefly in his eyes. “You should’ve told me.”

For once Anakin actually looked remorseful. He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped, his eyes widening when he saw a beautiful woman stop in her tracks and turn to approach him.

“Ani?”

Chapter Text

“Ani, is that you? What are you doing here?”

The woman was mostly obscured, dressed in a common dress, with a cloak up to hide her face, but it was undeniable that she was beautiful. Plus, with the way Anakin’s demeanor had changed so quickly, you were positive something was up. He didn’t reply to the woman, but instead just stared at her for several long moments, at a loss for words. You shot him a confused glance before turning to the woman and giving her a friendly smile. “Hello. Anakin and I were just out… patrolling. My name’s Isabelle, it’s nice to meet you, miss…?”

She looked at you with a warm smile. “Amidala. But please, call me Padme.”

Padme Amidala. Where have I heard that name before? Then, it hit you. Oh, shit. The woman standing in front of you was in the running to be the next Chancellor, and was currently the Regent of Coruscant. “Oh, I’m so sorry I had no idea, uh… your Excellency?”

“Oh please none of that. I’ve never cared much for titles.”

You relaxed a little and smiled, giving her a small nod before turning back to Anakin, who was still shockingly quiet, all of his usual confidence vanished. “Anakin? Are you alive ?”

He jumped and blinked at you for a few moments before turning back to Padme. “Padme,” he dipped his head a little in a respectful nod. “It’s good to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you too, but I have to say I definitely wasn’t expecting our paths to cross down here.” She gestured around to the lower levels surrounding you.

That’s… a good point. Why was she here? You didn’t think that any of the politicians left the Senate, unless it was to go to another glittering, luxurious party. They definitely didn’t stoop to come to the dicey lower levels of Coruscant. Which was fair, considering it could be incredibly dangerous. Anakin once again looked at a loss for words, and you rolled your eyes, responding for him.

“I’m sorry about him, he’s been making a number of bad decisions today.” You shot a glare at him before continuing. “I wouldn’t have expected to see a Senator down here in the lower levels, much less the Regent.”

She leaned in towards you, speaking a little softer. “I’m trying to pass a bill to improve the people’s welfare in the lower levels. Sometimes the best way to see what the real problems are is to see it for yourself.”

You were impressed. She didn’t seem to be like the skeevy, conniving politicians you had heard of in the Senate. You smiled, the corners of your eyes crinkling. “I think that’s incredibly admirable of you.”

She smiled and dipped her head in thanks. Anakin finally recovered, and cleared his throat. “We were just tracking another sleemo down here.”

She laughed softly. “You never were one to shy away from danger, Ani.”

A huff of laughter escaped from him. “Me? As I remember, it was you who was always getting us into trouble.”

“Maybe so.”

You looked between the two of them, feeling uncomfortably like a third wheel in this situation. You studied Anakin, watching his demeanor and expressions, to the way he shifted uncomfortably between his feet. He definitely looked uncomfortable. But there was something else there in his gaze… regret? You looked at Padme, who by all means, gave off a warm and welcoming air. But as you scrutinized her features, you saw something else there too. It looked like caution, with just a hint of guilt. Why would she be looking at him with guilt? And why the hell is he so nervous? It’s not like they - OH. MY. GOD.

Your eyes flicked back to Anakin, recognition and shock evident on your face. He shot you a warning glance, and before you could say anything, he addressed Padme.

“You haven’t changed a bit. Are you down here by yourself?”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I can take care of myself.”

“That doesn’t mean you should, I just encountered a rather unsavory character a few minutes ago.” You glanced at Anakin, mischief glinting in your eyes. “Why don’t you come with us? We’re on our way back to the upper levels now. Unless of course, you still have business here.”

“I think that’d be lovely.” She smiled at you warmly before turning and heading towards the upper levels.

You and Anakin followed her. You whispered to him, quietly enough so that she couldn’t hear either of you. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

He hissed, “ Listen, I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“Fine, but you owe me an explanation. Again.”

He groaned, swiping a hand over his face and muttered something under his breath. “Okay, fine. After this, I’ll explain everything.”

Satisfied, you flashed him a pleased smile and jogged a bit to catch up and match your pace with Padme. She turned to you. “So, how did you meet Anakin? Are you with the Order as well?”

You snorted. “Oh no, I’m definitely not a Jedi. I used to be a mercenary, and we met on a campaign. After that, I joined the Republic as an advisor.”

“Well, you must be quite the advisor if you are accompanying Anakin on missions.”

You glanced at Anakin, fully prepared to unleash your teasing, but stopped when you saw his expression. He was downcast, and was looking at you almost… pleadingly. You decided then that this wasn’t the time nor place for mischief.

“He’s an exceptional Jedi. One of the greatest I’ve seen, although that shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as he was trained by Obi-Wan.” Anakin relaxed slightly.

Padme brightened at the mention of the older Jedi. “So you know Obi-Wan as well?”

“Oh yes, he’s put up with me for quite a while now.” You chuckled. “Obi-Wan helped me when I needed it most.”

She smiled to herself. “Yes. Something he excels at.” She glanced at you, a flicker of curiosity in her gaze. “Forgive me if you find this question to be… impertinent. But if I am not mistaken, you are the woman who discovered the former Chancellor’s treachery, correct?”

You nodded, a little sheepish. “Yes, that was me. But it wasn’t all me, it was mostly Rex and Jesse and we never would have known about any of the plot without Kix and Fives’ help.”

“Then the Republic owes you all a debt that cannot be easily repaid.”

You smiled, giving her a grateful nod. The three of you ambled on towards the upper levels, finally slowing as you neared the Jedi Temple. Padme grabbed your hands in hers.

“It was so wonderful to meet you, any friend of Anakin’s is a friend of mine. I hope we will get to see each other again, very soon.”

“It was lovely getting to meet you Padme. I look forward to our next meeting.” You offered her a warm smile, and the two of you looked to Anakin, who was standing a little ways away.

“It was nice seeing you again, Padme.” His voice was quiet.

“I’m glad I ran into you, Ani. It really has been too long.” With that, she waved at the both of you and disappeared into the crowd.

You turned to Anakin, who let out the world’s most dramatic exhale. He glanced at you, wary. A mischievous smile slowly worked its way up onto your face, and he scowled. “Shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything!”

“You didn’t have to. It’s written all over your face.”

You giggled, moving closer to poke at him. “Someone’s a little touchy. So, who was she? Friend? Lover?”

He hesitated, and you let out a squeal. “So she was a lover, okay! You know, I thought Jedi weren’t allowed to have relationships, but hey, I fully support it. In fact, I think it’s -”

Anakin groaned, bringing a hand to his face. “Will you just stop? We weren’t together!”

You stopped, your smirk vanishing. “You weren’t? Then why-”

“Just-” Anakin sighed. “Just come with me. I’ll explain everything, away from the Temple.”

Oops. You probably should’ve taken that into account, but no matter. You bounded after Anakin, casting him a sidelong glance as you fell into step with him. He led you through the crowds, into a more deserted level of Coruscant. You grumbled after a while of walking, muttering about how if you’d known you were going to be walking this much today, you’d have taken an airtaxi to the Jedi Temple. Anakin said nothing, just rolled his eyes in response. Finally, the two of you came to the entrance of what looked like a garage. Anakin stopped, gesturing for you to enter.

You opened the door, stepping inside. It was a garage, and there were several projects that looked like they were being worked on. A speeder, a couple of droids, and a holoprojector, by the looks of it. Anakin stepped inside after you and closed the door. “Welcome to the garage. I come here to get away sometimes. It’s quiet.” He made his way over onto a couch on the far side of the workshop and you followed, taking a seat next to him and twisting your body to face him.

“I don’t think I ever took you for a mechanic.”

He snorted. “Yeah, well. I fix things. I’ve always been good at it. And besides, it helps me clear my mind.”

You nodded, then looked down, your features softening. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable earlier.”

“Not your fault, you had no way of knowing.” He sighed, swiping a hand over his face and adjusting on the couch so that he was facing you. “Anyways, I guess I’ll start with Padme.” You settled in, listening intently.

“I met her when I was nine, on Tatooine. She and another Jedi came to the shop one day, looking for parts, but this huge sandstorm was coming in, so I took them back to my house and they stayed the night with my mother and I.” He swallowed, closing his eyes briefly. “It’s a long story, but she kinda helped free me and got me off that worthless planet.”

You furrowed your brows in confusion. “Hold on, she freed you?”

Anakin was silent for a long time, embarrassment flashing across his face followed by anger. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet with rage. “My mother and I were slaves on Tatooine. They were able to free me, but I had to leave her there.”

You were stunned. You always knew that Anakin had joined the Order later than most Jedi did, according to Obi-Wan at least, but you hadn’t known that. Suddenly your view of him shifted. Yes, he was cocky and arrogant, and sometimes insufferable, but he also was willing to do anything for the people he cared about. He would risk everything to save someone he loved. You couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been for him to leave his mother behind, knowing she could never follow him. You placed your hand gently on top of his, and he started, surprised at your gesture.

“Anakin, I’m so sorry.”

He stared into your eyes for a long moment, an unreadable expression lingering on his features. “S’alright. Anyways, that’s not the point of the story.” He sighed, continuing. “Shortly after I met her, I went on to join the Order, and she became a Senator. I didn’t see her for ten years until one day, Obi-Wan and I were assigned to her as bodyguards. There had been a couple assassination attempts, and I ended up going with her back to Naboo while Obi-Wan investigated here.” He paused, hesitation clouding his gaze. “I… I fell in love with her there.”

Your eyes widened, but you didn’t say anything. He glanced at you nervously before continuing. “But, she rejected me. Said it would never work, seeing as I’m in the Order and she was a Senator. I would have given everything up for her, I didn’t care. But she wouldn’t let me.”

Holy shit, Anakin quite literally is living in a tragedy. You couldn’t imagine an unrequited love like that. It must have been difficult for both of them to learn to live with it. You were starting to understand why he was so uncomfortable around her. “So tonight?”

He let out a long exhale. “Tonight was the first time I’ve seen her in a while.”

“I see.” Your expression twisted into one of understanding, and you sighed. “Now, would you care to explain your thought process for that terrible plan?”

He huffed a laugh. “Yeah. Arte’s a pretty greasy guy, but he has good information on lots of syndicate movements and operations. Issue is, he doesn’t crawl out of his hiding places often, and he never stays in one place for long. But, he has a very, uh, specific type that he likes to involve himself with, and it's one of the only things that’ll get him to come out.” He glanced at you.

You raised an eyebrow, scoffing. “Me?”

He laughed. “Yeah, actually. You pretty much fit the bill. I had just gotten to my vantage point when I saw him grab you.” His expression changed, hardening slightly, and remorse flashed across his eyes. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t want any of that to happen, and I promise you, you were never meant to be used like that.”

His arrogance was gone, replaced with genuine guilt. You softened and shrugged. “Not your fault. I believe you.”

Anakin relaxed a little and slouched back into the upholstery. “Alright, I’ve told you way too much about me. Tell me something.”

You chuckled. “You don’t want to hear about me.”

He turned his head to you, a devious grin pulling at his lips. “I find it very hard to believe that the girl who is so dramatic with literally everything doesn’t want to talk about her life. At least tell me why you were at the Temple today.”

You shoved him with a short giggle. “Alright, fine. I was there to see Obi-Wan.”

“About?”

Your expression faltered, and you turned your gaze onto your fingernails, picking at them. “Ever since...Palpatine, I’ve been having these nightmares.” Anakin shifted, surprise etched into his face. You glanced at him before continuing. “They’ve been getting really bad lately, and I haven’t been sleeping much because of it.”

You thought you saw concern briefly flash in Anakin’s eyes, but it was gone so quickly you really weren’t sure. “Tell me about them.”

You described each nightmare you had had since that first encounter with Palpatine, how each one of them forced you to watch your friends suffer and die, how you were constantly powerless to stop it, and how they would always end with your evil self and a cruel whisper from the Chancellor. You sighed. “I went to Obi-Wan for advice. But I think I found more questions than answers.”

“What do you mean?”

“He helped me to commune with my mutation. He’d been searching for a way to help me understand it a little better, and we thought that it would help. Plus, he and I thought maybe it could get the nightmares to go away too. It spoke to me, and told me that it was the one that had saved me on Earth. But if I keep trying to control it, it’ll kill me.”

Anakin was staring at you intensely. You continued nervously. “I don’t know what to do. Obi-Wan thinks that there might be a way to work with the mutation, instead of trying to control it. Which might be true, if that golden mist under the Jedi Temple on Dantooine was any indication. Still, though, I don’t know. To be honest, it all seems kind of hopeless. I…” Your voice quieted and you looked up at Anakin. “I think I’m going to die.”

Anakin studied you. You had always seemed so indomitable with this power. Seeing you like this, vulnerable, scared even, it humanized you. Something inside him clenched, and anger washed over him like a wave. He wouldn’t let this kill you. You weren’t going to die, not if he had anything to say about it. He shifted closer to you. “Well, I guess we just need to figure out how to work with it then.” He gave you a nudge before adding. “You’re not going to die. Don’t be so dramatic.”

You scoffed, smiling a little. “Thanks, Anakin.” He nodded, leaning his head back into the couch and sighing.

You shifted a little closer to him, and the two of you engaged in casual conversation as the night wore on. The two of you laughed and shared stories for hours, and you didn’t even notice time passing. Eventually, you felt yourself slowly drifting off in the middle of one of Anakin’s stories about a mission where he had to rescue Obi-Wan yet again. You felt yourself hit something solid, followed by a small flinch, but you were too tired to do anything about it, and quickly drifted off to the warm embrace of sleep.

~~~

You woke to the feeling of something strong and warm beneath you. You lifted your head, stirring slightly, only to stare up right into Anakin’s smug eyes. “Well, good morning sleepyhead.”

You gasped and shot upright, nearly knocking your head into his. Holy shit, I fell asleep on Anakin last night. Your face burned bright red with embarrassment, and you glared at him. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

“Come on, I’m not that mean. Besides, I fell asleep too.”

He wasn’t going to tell you that he really hadn’t fallen asleep, in fact he had stayed awake because he was terrified that if he moved, you’d wake up. And for some reason, he really, really didn’t want you to wake up. He blamed it on the fact that you just really needed to get some sleep. But in reality, you had landed right in the crook of his shoulder and his chest, and he had felt something inside him lurch. Everything you had told him that night had changed his perspective on you. He had made a decision then to make sure you got the sleep you had desperately needed to catch up on.

You rubbed your hands over your eyes, groaning softly. “How long has it been?”

Anakin shrugged. “Couple of hours, I’d guess. It is daytime, though.”

You had better get back to the Headquarters. You shook your head, shaking off the last bits of grogginess before standing. “I should probably go.” You turned to leave, but stopped, looking back at Anakin. “Thanks, by the way.”

He stood, stepping closely to you and peering down into your eyes. “Don’t mention it.”

You bit your lip, feeling your stomach flutter slightly. You nodded to him, your eyes flicking to his once more, before turning and heading out of the garage. You swiped a hand over your face, which was undoubtedly still red with embarrassment. I can’t believe that happened.

As you strode back to the Headquarters, you reminisced over the events of the past night. Anakin was incredibly vulnerable with you, more so than he had ever been since you’d met him. Frankly, you didn’t think he had trusted you enough to talk about what he did, it was all incredibly personal. And then, there was the issue of waking up on him. You smacked your forehead with a palm. First Jesse, now Anakin. Gee, you’re on a real fucking roll aren’t you. But you couldn’t get the image of Anakin’s eyes out of your mind as you looked up into them. Sure they were smug, but they were so deep and full of emotion, shielded slightly behind strands of sand-brown hair. And he had looked at you with such an intense expression. Your heart lurched. OKAY. That’s enough out of you.

You made it back to the Headquarters, passing by Rex and Kix who looked at your disheveled state strangely. You just shook your head. “Don’t ask.” They shrugged and you made your way back into your quarters, flopping on your bed. It was only then that you were hit with a wave of realization, and you gasped.

You didn't have a nightmare last night.

Chapter Text

“You’re looking better.”

Rex smirked at you, giving you a once-over. The two of you were in the mess for lunch, a couple days after you had gone to the Jedi Temple. You hummed, prodding your food with a fork. Your lips curled distastefully. Neither of you were huge fans of the GAR rations, but you hadn’t had any time to go out to lunch at Dex’s today, so it would have to do for now.

“Been sleeping better for a bit now. Plus, the caf is definitely helping a lot.”

“That’s good, you were looking a little rough for a while there.”

You rolled your eyes, the corners of your lips turning upwards in a small smile. “You’re not usually this catty. What’s going on?”

He leaned forward, a devilish grin on his face. “I came up with the perfect prank to get Jesse back.”

You smirked, a mischievous glint in your eyes. “Oh? What would that be?”

“It’s a secret.”

“What! You can’t just tell me you have the perfect prank and then not tell me what it is.”

“Can too.” Rex leaned back, spearing a bite of his food. “Besides, it’ll be better if it’s a surprise.”

You let out a huff and grumbled. “Fine. It would’ve been fun to help you, though.”

He chuckled, returning to his food. “Oh don’t worry, you will.”

You shot him a questioning look, but he didn’t say anything else. Well, that’s ominous. The two of you ate in a comfortable silence, enjoying the other’s company. When you were done, the two of you wandered through the Headquarter corridors, stopping by at the officer’s quarters. It was empty, with the exception of a GONK droid in the corner. 

As the two of you entered and took a seat in a couple of the chairs, you thought back to the night you and Rex went stargazing on Dantooine. He had always told you about everything he had done, but you were beginning to grow curious on what he wanted to do in the future. He had never discussed it with you, in fact, none of the boys ever had. You cleared your throat, drawing his attention.

“Can I ask you something?”

He narrowed his eyes slightly. “Of course.”

You swallowed, leaning forward. “You’ve always told me stories of things you’ve done, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, but you’ve never told me about what you want to do.”

He nodded. “You want to know my plans for the future.”

“Yes.”

He sighed, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “Well, I don’t really know. We were created to be expendable, so none of us really wanted to think of something after the war in case…” he trailed off, glancing at you. In case you didn’t make it. You silently finished his sentence for him.

“Anyways,” he coughed. “I never really thought it through until we deactivated the chips. That was the first time I actually saw a possible future for myself.”

Your heart might’ve just broken listening to him. He and all his brothers were born and raised in war, and knew nothing else their whole lives. The idea that he thought he was meant for nothing more than to be used as a weapon cut you like a knife. But, if anything, you could relate to that a little bit, at least recently in your life. You looked at him, understanding and empathy in your eyes.

“What did you see?” Your voice was quiet.

He smiled softly and nodded his head to the holotable in the room. “I’ll show you.”

You cast him a confused glance, but stood and headed over, him following you. As you walked over, you thought you felt something ghost over the back of your jumpsuit, like a mist. You turned, looking around. “Did you feel that?”

He shot you a confused look. “Uh, feel what?”

You must’ve imagined it. You shook your head. “Nevermind.”

He turned to the holotable, pulling up a map of a planet. “Watch this.” His fingers flicked over a couple buttons, and the map projected itself, filling the room around you with an image of the planet's landscape. Hulking mountains and dense forests lined the horizon, but the immediate area you were standing in held large spires that towered over their surroundings. Golden lichen lined these spires, and you could see smaller, darker trees growing out of them. It was beautiful and serene. You let out a laugh, awestruck. “What is this place?”

“Batuu.” Rex had a wide grin plastered to his face.

“It’s beautiful,” you breathed.

“It is.” He turned to you. “I want to settle down in a place like this with my brothers after the war. Somewhere peaceful. And, I don’t want to stop fighting. I’d like to travel the galaxy and help people that need it. But I want a place that my brothers and I can always come back to, a place we can call our home. A real home. And when I imagine us there in the future I…”

You looked at him quizzically. “You what?”

He hesitated, stepping closer to you and gazing down into your eyes. There was something in his eyes, golden swirls holding a number of intense emotions. A muscle in his jaw jumped and he leaned down towards you slightly. When he spoke, his voice was barely above a whisper. “I imagine that you’re there too.”

Your heart skipped a beat. You placed your hand on the holotable, and accidentally pressed a button, projecting a map of the galaxy throughout the room, but you hardly noticed. You swallowed, hard. You hadn’t thought much about what you would do after the end of the war either in hindsight. But the idea of living with all of your friends and working to help people across the galaxy, of coming home to the people you loved filled you with a warm sensation. “I’d like that, if that’s alright with you.”

He grinned widely, and studied your features. When he looked into your eyes, he saw the stars reflected in them. His breath caught in his throat. He reached forward slowly, gently brushing his fingers against yours. “ Mesh’la…” his voice was breathy and deep.

Oh my God. You had no idea what he said, but he could say it anytime he wanted to as long as he kept saying it like that. You flexed your fingers closer to his, sparks lighting at his touch. He stepped even closer to you, until you were nearly pressed against his chest, but you didn’t make a move to back away. His hand closed around yours, your fingers intertwining. Your breath hitched, and you were sure he could hear your heart pounding at this point. He brought his other hand up to your cheek, running a thumb lightly across your cheekbone.

“Rex, I…”

You didn’t finish your sentence; you lost your train of thought when you saw his gaze flick to your lips. You gasped softly, your lips parting slightly, and you felt a rush of heat flood through you. He dipped his head lower, and you closed your eyes, feeling his breath puff against your lips.

GREENE, WHEN I FIND YOU I SWEAR TO THE MAKER I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”

The two of you jumped, and you knocked your forehead against his. “Ah! Shit, I’m sorry Rex. What the hell is going -”

You didn’t have time to finish, the doors to the officer’s quarters flew open, and Jesse sprinted in, flying at you. The sound of very promiscuous, filthy music filled the air.

“Jesse, what the hell are you - ACK!”

Jesse didn’t let you finish your sentence, and tackled you straight into the GONK droid, which let out a startled honk!

The three of you were a tumbling mess of limbs and robotic feet. You slapped wildly at him, trying to push him off of you. “JESSE WHAT THE FUCK. WHY?!”

“Don’t play dumb! I know it was you, who else would have your speaker?!”

“What are you talking about?! Would you get off of me?!”

“Wait - hngh - I can’t.”

“What?” You pushed on his shoulders, trying to get him off of you. He didn’t budge. You tried to stand, only to find yourself stuck to the GONK droid. Only then did you notice Rex practically on the floor, doubled over in laughter.

“REX! You did this?!” You were livid. Jesse craned his neck, trying to catch a glimpse of the Captain

It took a moment for Rex to compose himself. When he did, he spoke between breaths. “Kind of. Never thought it would turn out like this though. This is much better than I thought it would be.”

Jesse exclaimed loudly in your face, and you recoiled. “Wait a minute, that was you?” Rex just burst into laughter again.

“Rex, what the fuck did you do?”

He was practically crying from laughing so hard. “I hid your speaker in his armor, and had Fives hide and wait for him to go flirt with one of the nurses.”

Jesse finished for him. “Yeah, and just as I was getting somewhere, a very loud, very uncomfortable song came on.” He glared at you. “Why the fuck do you have a need for music with moaning in the background?!”

Well, that explains the music. You couldn't help the snicker that escaped you. “Actually, for pranking purposes, so that was well played. BUT WHY ARE WE STUCK TOGETHER?!”

Rex answered you, a little calmer now. “I sprayed glue onto the front of Jesse’s armor, and on your back. I thought it’d be a fun addition if whoever he flirted with got a little close. To be honest, with you, I was gonna go easy and just glue you to the chair.” A shit-eating grin crept onto his face. “But this is much better.”

Suddenly you remembered his remark from earlier. Oh don't worry, you will. You groaned. “So this is what you meant by having me help you prank Jesse?”

“I thought it’d be fun to implicate you, just like you did to him.”

You rolled your eyes. “Har har, very funny. But this?”

“Oh this is just a bonus.”

“Rex, are you kidding me? How are we supposed to get out of this?”

He shrugged. “Looks like that nurse is gonna see you a lot sooner than you thought Jesse.”

Jesse grumbled. “ Great. Alright Izzy let’s go.”

You looked at him incredulously. “ How?”

“I don’t know! Let’s just try standing.”

Your attempts at standing were futile, to say the least. It took you both a minute of vigorous pushes from the floor to gain some momentum, and by the time you actually managed to get to your feet, the three of you were so unbalanced from the angle at which you were stuck and the weight of the GONK droid that you instead sailed straight over, Jesse landing on his back, you on top of him, and the droid stuck firmly to your back. The poor GONK droid was still honking, confused at what was happening. Rex laughed through it all, now sitting on the floor, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“There’s no topping this for me. I gotta record this.” He put on his bucket. “Say hi to the camera!”

“Rex, I swear to God I’m going to kill you.”

Jesse tried to say something, but was muffled. You felt a swift tap to your side, and you looked down, only to see you couldn’t see Jesse at all. He was hidden, stuck to your chest. “Shit, Jesse can you breathe?”

You heard a muffled “ Not really,” causing Rex to erupt in more laughter. You glared at him. “Rex, can you do something instead of just sitting there?”

He only laughed harder, but stood and rolled the two of you up to a sitting position. Jesse took a breath, glancing up at you. “Normally, I would love to be in a situation like this, but it’s not under the best circumstances.”

You flushed. You practically had to straddle him, and he was literally eye level with your chest. He leaned his head back, trying to be respectful, which you appreciated. The song switched to yet another unspeakably dirty number. This is a nightmare. You turned your head, looking literally anywhere except at him.

“Okay, Jesse can you stand from here?”

“I think so. Hold on.” He pushed himself to his feet with a grunt, steadying himself and leaning backwards to account for the extra weight stuck to his chest. “Okay, I think I got it.”

Rex was wheezing. “You have no idea how ridiculous this looks.”

You groaned. “Oh believe me, I have a pretty good idea of how it looks.” The GONK droid honked as if it agreed.

With the angle at which you were stuck, and the fact that he had to lean backwards, you weren’t even touching the floor, just suspended in the air. Jesse took a couple slow steps forward, his movements slowly getting more sure of themselves. As the two of you passed Rex, you shot him a glare.

“I would have much preferred to be stuck to the chair. What is it with you and glue, by the way?!”

He shrugged and smirked. “Makes for a good prank.”

You rolled your eyes, grumbling. Jesse snapped at you. “Don’t move, or we’ll both go down.”

“Oh, wonderful .”

Rex snickered and followed the two of you out. As if your appearance wasn’t enough, the raunchy music echoing loudly through the halls was sure to draw more attention to you. You received some very strange looks as you made your way slowly to the medbay, most troopers passing by with looks of astonishment or just outright laughing at your misfortune. Some whistled at Jesse, who only muttered to himself angrily.

“Oh MAKER, Rex, did you do that to them?”

The sound of troopers erupting in laughter behind you caused you to let out an irritated huff. “Who is it? I can’t see.”

Jesse graciously turned to the side so you could look at the troopers. You turned your head, making direct eye contact with Fives, followed by Sinker and Wolffe. At the sight of your disgruntled expression, the three of them doubled over. Even Wolffe couldn’t contain himself. You groaned, your head falling forward on top of Jesse’s shoulder.

He gasped. “WAIT NO DON’T -”

Too late. You forgot you weren’t supposed to move. The three of you toppled backwards, slamming into the floor. Jesse let out a muffled, pained groan, and for a moment you thought he was actually injured. You gasped. “Shit, Jesse! Are you okay?”

He muffled something, but you couldn’t hear it. The other four troopers were too busy laughing to help you. Then, you saw Jesse give you a dejected thumbs up out of the corner of your eye, and you exhaled.

You tried to yank yourself backwards, your momentum bringing both you and Jesse into a sitting position, but the GONK droid took you over even farther, so you were practically breaking your back as you knelt on top of Jesse. With a grunt, you pulled the droid forward a little, so that the two of you were sitting upright. Other troopers had gathered around you at this point, uncontrollable laughter and dirty music filling the hallway. You looked down at Jesse and scowled. “I’m gonna cry.”

He chuckled, the noise reverberating through his chest and sending rumbles through you. “Well, if it had to be anyone, I’m glad it’s you.”

You flushed, acutely reminded of the night at 79’s. He seemed to remember this too, because he cleared his throat and attempted to stand again. Once he got on his feet and balanced himself, the troopers erupted in whoops and cheers.

“At least we have fans.”

Jesse chuckled. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Fives, for the love of God, could you at least turn off the music?”

Fives was laughing too hard to answer you, but turned off the player anyways, a mercy at this point. You sighed. “Thank you.”

Rex piped up from next to him. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

You glared at Rex. “I hope you’re satisfied.”

He gave you a shit-eating grin. “Oh, very. I told you to watch your back.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you were going to pin a GONK droid on it!”

That only made the troopers laugh harder. With a groan, Jesse continued down the hallway towards the medbay. Finally, you reached it. When the doors opened, you heard Kix’s disgruntled voice reach your ears.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

~~~

Poor Kix spent hours trying to unstick the three of you. He was able to get the GONK droid off fairly easily, seeing as it had flat sides. But with the fabric of your jumpsuit and the ridges of Jesse’s armor, it would take much longer to separate the both of you. The only alternative would be to try and get out of your jumpsuit, but you weren’t about to do that.

Jesse just seemed happy to not have to be treated by the nurse he was flirting with earlier. Kix grumbled the whole time about how he shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of thing as a professional. You, on the other hand, studied every detail of the medbay intensely, refusing to look at anyone. Your face was bright red, and Jesse’s was no better. Finally, when Kix managed to unstick you, the two of you flew away from each other, and an awkward tension filled the air.

Jesse blinked at you and rummaged through his armor to find the speaker, setting it down next to you. “So, I’m gonna hold off on my prank for you for a while just because… yeah.”

You nodded gratefully, suddenly very interested in your fingers. “Sounds great.”

Silence stretched between you. Finally Jesse spoke. “Okay, bye.” He turned and hurried out of the medbay.

“Bye.” You covered your face with a hand.

Kix sat down next to you, and when you peeked through your fingers at him, his eyes were alight with amusement. “Well, it looks like things are moving quickly from the other night.”

You groaned. “Kix it’s not like that, it was Rex that glued us together.”

He chuckled. “Oh I know.” Kix got called away by another medic, leaving you to brood alone.

The medbay doors swished open, and Rex walked through, smirking proudly. “I see you’ve been freed.”

“No thanks to you.” You crossed your arms and scoffed.

He chuckled, coming to sit by you. “For the record, I swear I was telling the truth when I said I didn’t plan that. Besides,” he paused, looking deeply into your eyes. “I am upset that Jesse burst in when he did.”

Heat rose to your cheeks and you blushed, remembering what had almost happened moments before Jesse ran in the officer’s quarters. You felt disappointment bury itself in you. While you might not have been sure what your feelings were for him, you knew you definitely wouldn’t have stopped Rex in the officer’s quarters, if Jesse hadn’t burst in. You blinked, speaking quietly. “I am too.”

He grinned, and you felt a shock wave ripple up your spine. His eyes flickered briefly to your lips, then trailed back up your face before he stood, giving you a small nod and exiting the medbay. You watched where he disappeared, heaving a long sigh. You really needed to figure out things, and fast. It’s not possible to be attracted to multiple people at once right? You knew that was a lie.

You just needed to get away for a bit and think things through. That would work. You went back to your room, stopping by Fives’ on your way there to steal back your music player, and sat on your bed, listening to some of your favorite songs to try and calm your nerves. Anxiety ran through you. What if this ends badly? I don’t want to get hurt, or worse, hurt any of them. You shook your head. You were probably thinking too much into things. Maybe it would be best if you just pushed your thoughts away, and focused on your work. Thank God shore leave is almost up. You were ready to set out on another mission, not even caring where you went or what it was about.

You thought back to your conversation with Rex about life after the war, and smiled. The idea of living in the same place as your friends was something that reminded you of your friends from Earth. You had made similar plans with them, but obviously never got to see them through. It felt nice to have found another group of people that you felt close enough to to want to do that with. You smiled. You’ve found a family. It’s been a while since you’ve had one. Even with all the pranks and banter, it was what made you love your friends so much. Your heart squeezed in your chest. If you could spend the rest of your life with your friends, fighting for the good of others and living in a home you loved, that would be perfect. Absolutely, unequivocally, perfect.

Chapter Text

The muggy, smog filled air of Coruscant filled your lungs as you leapt from rooftop to rooftop, exhilaration flooding your senses. The Coruscant nightlife was actually incredible to look at, especially from this vantage point. Thousands of speeders and ships sped past the rooftops, buffeting you and the ARC Trooper keeping pace with you with wind. You cast a glance at him, grinning. “Remind me why we’re doing this again?”

Fives’ face was shadowed by the dusk, but you could still see the outline of a wide smile lining his features. “Letting off steam! I used to do this with Jesse back in the day.”

“I can see why!” You had to shout to make your voice heard above the speeders rushing past you.

Fives had come to you with a devious glint in his eye earlier that evening, asking if you wanted to help him relive a nostalgic memory. You had agreed, but he hadn’t told you what the two of you would be doing until you were both standing on a rooftop, overlooking the city. You had immediately been skeptical, telling him that it was suicide, to which he simply said that he was still alive, and in good shape. You had been skeptical about that too, and you received a good-natured shove for that one. The fact that he brought you to a part of the city where the rooftops were at least close together reassured you, however, and you eventually begrudgingly agreed.

Once you had started roof hopping, it was hard to stop. Part of that was good, oftentimes your momentum kept you from dangerous missteps and helped to keep your speed level. The exhilaration was intense as well, you had to admit. Adrenaline was pumping through you, and as you stole another glance at Fives, you could see he felt the same effects.

You let out an elated laugh, increasing your pace as the two of you approached another rooftop edge. This one seemed longer than the others, but it still would be an easy jump. You and Fives kicked off from the edge, and you landed in a roll, Fives laughing and smiling next to you.

“Show off!”

You giggled, catching back up with him and matching him step for step. There were only a couple rooftops left, and after that, you’d be in the clear. You leapt to another, keeping your stride as you ran towards the next.

Suddenly, the ground beneath you shifted. You skidded to a halt, Fives doing the same beside you. You looked at him with wide eyes full of alarm. “Did you feel that?”

He nodded and stared at the rooftop ground around you. “Don’t move.”

The two of you were barely breathing as you waited, praying that it was just your imaginations. Nothing happened. You let out an exhale, relief taking the place of uneasiness in your mind. “Fives, we -”

The ground rumbled and shook violently. You looked at Fives, fear and horror stabbing into you. His expression mirrored your feelings, and before either of you could say anything, the ground beneath your feet disappeared. You heard Fives call your name, and you cried out in fear as the two of you fell, darkness slamming into you.

~~~

You blinked open your eyes, coughing from the surrounding dust that kicked up as you stirred. Where am I? You looked around, but couldn’t see anything in the dark, with the exception of the silhouettes of debris and stone. Then, you remembered. The rooftop. The collapse. Panic flooded through you as you turned your head wildly, looking for Fives. A sharp, stinging sensation stabbed your head, and you winced, hissing in pain. Bringing your hand up to your forehead, you felt something hot and sticky slowly drip down your face. Blood.

“Fives?” You called out, coughing. “Fives can you hear me?”

Please don’t leave me here alone. You felt tears start to well up in your eyes, and your movements became more erratic as you stumbled about in the dark, looking for Fives. You tripped over something and let out a yelp, looking back to see Fives’ unmoving body buried under soft debris and dirt. He had a gash on his head, but other than that he looked okay. You practically clawed your way over to him, kneeling next to him and pressing two fingers to his pulse point, trying to feel a beat.

You couldn’t feel anything.

Your heart dropped and you couldn’t help the sob that slipped past your lips. No, no, NO! You crumbled, sobbing, and held his face in your hands, calling his name over and over again, trying to wake him up.

“Fives, Fives please! Please don’t go, don’t leave me here, I don’t want to lose you!”

I’m not going to let you go that easy. You took in a ragged breath, trying to calm yourself, and cleared the debris, laying him down as best you could, tilting his head back. You placed your hands on his chest, intertwining your fingers and locking out your elbows. You began chest compressions, pushing down hard and quickly.

“Come on Fives, please wake up.” Your voice broke.

After about thirty compressions, you locked your lips onto his, breathing twice, and then immediately resumed your compressions. You repeated this for about a minute, grief and hopelessness beginning to cloud your mind. With the last two administered breaths, however, Fives gasped, his eyes flying open. He shot upwards, groaning and coughing.

He blinked at you groggily. “Izzy?”

A choked sob ripped itself from your throat, and you flung your arms around him, weeping into his neck. You felt his arms snake around you, squeezing you tightly. Words tumbled out of your mouth in between sobs like vomit.

“You were… dead! You… would’ve left… me. Please d-don’t… don’t leave me… ever again. I c-can’t do… it, I can’t.”

He gripped the back of your head gently with a hand, speaking softly. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere, I’m right here."

You sat there, weeping in his arms for what seemed like hours. All the while, he stroked your hair and whispered soothingly to you. Eventually, after a few minutes, you calmed down, your breathing returning to normal. He rubbed your back, and you felt his head turn, pressing against yours.

“How’d you get me back?” He murmured in your ear.

You huffed a small laugh. “My school used to do CPR classes once a year. Never thought I’d actually need them.”

He chuckled. “Well, I for one am glad you had them.”

You let out a strained giggle, pulling away to inspect his forehead. He winced, hissing in pain, and flinched away from you. Your brows furrowed. “That looks bad. We should probably look to find a way out of here.”

He turned back to you, opening his mouth to say something, when his eyes widened in alarm. “Your forehead, why didn’t you tell me you were bleeding?” He shifted, holding your face between his hands while he inspected your wound.

“Sorry, next time I’ll celebrate you coming back to life after I inform you of a head injury.”

He couldn’t hold back his laugh and smirked. “You can be a real smartass sometimes you know that?”

“I know.” You gave him a small smile.

He leaned back and tore off a piece of his blacks and wrapped it around your head. You winced, and he looked at you apologetically before tearing off another piece, handing it to you for you to wrap around his own wound. You gently wrapped the fabric over his injury, tying it securely in place.

“There,” he panted. “That should do until we can find a way out of here. Do your comms work?”

You tried, grimacing at the sparks and mechanical whirs that emanated from it. “Nope. How about yours?”

His made a similar whirring noise, and even smoked a little. “Nope.” He groaned. “Figures. Okay, let’s take a look and see if we can find anything down here that might lead to an exit.”

The two of you stumbled blindly in the dark, feeling for something, anything that could lead to an exit, of course, finding nothing. You even tried to see if you could lift the stones off of you, but they were too heavy. The two of you were trapped, and there was no way out.

You were still digging through dirt and debris when you heard Fives call your name from behind you. You ignored him, continuing to sift, when you felt his hands settle on your shoulders, turning you to him. His face was solemn.

“Izzy, it’s pointless. There’s no way out of here."

“No!” Your voice wavered. “No, there’s gotta be a way out, I’m going to get you out of here, I promise.”

He cupped your cheek with his hand, wiping away a tear that was slowly rolling down your face. “There isn’t, tranyc. Our best bet is to wait for the rescue teams to come in. But there’s nothing else we can do now.”

Your lip trembled slightly. You knew he was right, but you couldn’t help it. You had to keep looking, there had to be something, some way for you both to get out. You were terrified that the longer you stayed here, the more likely you would be to lose him. You couldn’t lose anymore friends, you wouldn’t make it.

He seemed to read your mind, because he sat down, leaning up against a large stone, and patted the ground next to him. You scooted in closer, resting your head against his chest, and he wrapped an arm around your shoulders, letting a hand tangle in your hair. “I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

You sniffed, and whispered, “Promise me.”

He let out a soft chuckle, his fingers lazily twirling through your hair. “I promise.”

The two of you sat in silence for a few minutes, breathing softly. Fives broke the eerie quiet. “Tell me something I don’t know about you.”

You hummed. “I’m not sure you want to know.”

“Nah, come on, there’s gotta be something. Don’t tell me you’re boring.”

You flicked his side and he let out a rumble of a chuckle. “I can tell you about my best friend from my home planet, if you’d like.”

He was quiet for a moment before whispering, “I’d like that.”

“Her name was Nia. She and I were the type of pair that were quite literally polar opposites. She used to tease me for being too emotional all the time, while I made fun of her for pretending to not have any emotions at all. We were so different, in fact, that we balanced each other out perfectly. She lived in the room adjacent to mine, and the walls in that house were so thin, you could hear anything through them.”

Fives snickered. “ Anything?”

You rolled your eyes. “Yes, anything. Anyways, I was having a really rough go of things a couple years ago. Everyone I loved and cared about ended up abandoning me. But Nia, I had barely known her, and she made it her mission to make sure I was okay. She heard me crying through the walls one night and practically dragged me out of my room, took me on a drive and got me some food. I told her everything that night, and she listened, the whole way through. After that, it sort of became our thing. We’d go for a drive, talk about our problems, and relax. It was therapeutic really, and we got really close through it.”

Fives rested his head on top of yours. “What happened to her?”

You were silent for a long moment. You hadn’t told anyone this story since it happened. You took a deep, shaky breath. Maybe it’s time. “She and her boyfriend met up with me one day, a couple days before the nukes were fired. Everything was tense politically, and Nia told me that she had found a way to get off the planet, if we absolutely needed to. Her boyfriend’s father was an astrophysicist, and was studying hyperlane space travel. He had built a ship that we could use to get away, if needed. Nia and her boyfriend ended up leaving the next day to go pick up his best friend, and weren’t here when the nukes dropped. They thought I’d be dead, but I showed up. Her boyfriend’s father didn’t make it.”

You swallowed the lump that was developing in your throat. “We didn’t really know how to work the ship, and without his father, we punched in the coordinates wrong. It took us here, but something went wrong. The ship nearly imploded, and we were thrown out of hyperspace. When I woke up…” You bit your lip, blinking back tears. “When I woke up, everyone on board was dead. I lost everyone that day. But I survived, all because of this fucking parasite inside me. I shouldn’t have been the one to survive, it should have been Nia. She didn’t deserve to die.”

“She sounds like she was a wonderful friend.”

“She was.” You sniffed. “She saved me, and I don’t think she ever really understood that.”

Fives was quiet for a moment, breathing softly. When he spoke, his voice was gentle. “Reminds me of Echo.”

“Of who?”

“Echo, he’s my… twin.” He took a breath. “He and I were so close, practically inseparable. We were the last of our batchmates too, of Domino Squad. He and I were a lot like you and Nia in the sense of being polar opposites. He was all about following rules and was quieter, and I’m well, me.” You and he chuckled. “He and I became ARC Troopers together, we tormented Rex and the Torrent together, we did everything together.” He swallowed. “We went on this mission, to The Citadel. Echo… didn’t make it.”

You closed your eyes. “Fives, I'm so sorry.”

“That is,” Fives continued, “at least, what I thought. He had cleared the way to a shuttle, and the Seppies blew it up behind him. Rex and the General made us leave. But I should have stayed. I-” He took a deep breath, his voice low with anger. “I should have gone back for him. But I didn’t, I just left. And it wasn’t until much later that I found out he had actually made it out alive.”

You gasped softly, and he chuckled bitterly. “The entire time, I sulked around, thinking I was the last one alive of our batchmates, when in reality, he was alive, and all alone.”

“What happened to him?”

“The Separatists kidnapped him and turned him into a strategic weapon against the Republic. Rex, Jesse, Kix, and a squad of other troopers were sent in to identify what the weapon was, and found Echo instead. I found out everything in stasis when Kix showed up.”

You turned your head up to him. “It’s not your fault, Fives.”

He gazed down at you, conflict swirling in his golden eyes. “I left him.” His voice was quiet and strained.

“You didn’t have a choice. You couldn’t have known.”

He stared at you for a moment longer before pulling your head in closer to his chest with a sigh. “I know. Thank you, tranyc.”

“Of course.” You paused. “What does that mean, by the way?”

“What does what mean?”

“What you always call me. Trah… trahneesh?”

His fingers stilled, and he hesitated for a moment before taking a deep breath. “Do you know what I did while I was in stasis?”

You shook your head, and he hummed, the reverberations running through his chest. “I wished, and I prayed, and I hoped. For something, anything to happen. Even when Kix was there, I still wished for a miracle. And one day, I got it.”

“What was it?”

He was silent for a long moment, and you thought he was reconsidering telling you. Then he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.

“You.”

You lifted your head again, looking into his eyes. “Me?”

He nodded, swallowing. “Yeah. I call you tranyc because of how you appeared to us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, when Kix showed up he just kind of was there. Just popped up in the field one day, but you…” His gaze was intense, and he searched your face. “You arrived like a star. There was this huge flash of light, and when we found you, there were gold flecks floating around you, and you were glowing. That’s what tranyc means, it literally means ‘star-burned.’”

You were at a loss for words. You had no idea you had appeared to them like that. Sure, you’d always liked a dramatic entrance but that, while you were unconscious? Damn. You stared into Fives’ eyes, searching for something to say but never finding the words that would ever be good enough. It didn’t help that the way he was staring at you could wipe your mind instantly. You blushed, and were sure that even in the gloom, Fives could see your reddening cheeks. He smiled softly before leaning forward and pressing his lips to your forehead, then pulled you back down into his chest, burying his nose in your hair and closing his eyes.

“You were so beautiful, and you saved us. You saved me.” He chuckled. “Actually, make that two times you’ve saved me now if you count today.”

You let out a dry laugh and wrapped your arms around his waist, pulling yourself closer to him. He heaved a contented sigh and dropped his hand to your shoulder, holding you tightly. The two of you sat there like that, waiting, hoping, praying, for a miracle.

~~~

You weren’t sure how much time had passed, but you and Fives had nearly dozed off when you thought you heard a distant voice. You perked up, listening. Nothing else happened. You turned to Fives.

“Hey, did you hear that? I thought I heard a -”

Even in the dark, Fives was looking pale. He looked at you dazedly, his golden eyes clouded. Your heart plummeted, and you shifted, bringing your hands up to his face. “No, no, no, no, no, I’m not going to let you do this. You promised me, remember? Come on, look at me, Fives!”

You felt a warm sensation flood through you, and golden sparks radiated around you, illuminating the darkness. Fives was looking at you, awestruck, with a weak grin etched into his face. He brought a hand up to your face, lightly brushing his knuckles over your jawline.

“You’re so beautiful, tranyc.”

Tears stung your eyes and began to stream down your face. Then you thought you heard it, the voice again. You looked at him. “Hold on okay? Just hold on.”

You turned your face to the caved-in ceiling and gathered your breath before screaming at the top of your lungs. 

“HELP! PLEASE, CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME? HELP US!”

The voice grew a little louder, a little closer. You continued. “HELP US, PLEASE! HELP!”

Now you could hear voices urgently speaking above you. “Hello? Is anybody down there?”

A relieved sob tore itself from your throat. “Yes! Please get us out of here, my friend, he’s dying, he needs help now!”

The voices spoke to each other urgently, sounding like orders. You looked back at Fives, bringing your forehead to his and begging him to stay awake.

“Fives, help is on the way, okay? We’re going to get you out of here -”

You gasped as Fives placed a hand around the back of your neck and pulled your face down, pressing your lips onto his. His lips were soft, and moved gently against yours as you settled into the kiss, your heart fluttering. His goatee scratched at your face, but you hardly noticed. Fireworks ignited on your skin, shooting sparks down your body with every movement of his lips on yours. He separated from you, and you searched his eyes, a couple tears falling onto his dust-streaked face. He chuckled weakly, his eyes shuttering close. “Sorry… I had to do that at least once, tranyc.”

You bit your lip. “Don’t say that like you’re going to die, you’re not going to die.”

Fives didn’t respond. His chest slowed, and began to still. Panic surged through you, and you shook him, your breath coming in rapid heaves.

“Fives, FIVES NO! YOU PROMISED ME, COME ON, FIVES -!”

Light flooded the surrounding area, and you blinked, temporarily blinded. You threw your body over his, shielding him from falling debris, and turned your head to see a hulking clone in black and red armor lifting the stone debris away from the two of you and tossing it to the side. The golden mist surrounding you faded as quickly as it had come. A couple other clones wearing similar armor as the first, as well as a young, blonde haired girl with honey colored eyes hopped down into the pit, racing over to you, headlamps shining everywhere. One clone with goggles had a medpack, and you gestured to him wildly.

“Please, he’s not breathing! Please, you have to help him!”

The clones slid to a stop next to the two of you, the one with goggles taking out a defibrillator. Another took out a knife and sliced off his torn shirt, and they got to work reviving him. The young girl and one of the troopers with a scomp for a hand pulled you away from Fives gently. You moved to shake them off.

“What are you doing? I can’t leave him - Fives, please, PLEASE! Come back!”

The clone holding you froze. He grabbed you by the shoulders, turning you to face him. “What did you say? Did you say -” He turned his head, catching sight of the number five tattoo on Fives’ forehead. A choking noise escaped his throat, and he ripped his helmet off, kneeling next to him. He was paler than most clones, with cybernetics implanted in his head. “Fives?” He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. “You’re gonna be okay, vod, I promise.”

You looked at him. His eyes were alight with panic, and he gripped Fives’ hand tightly. Oh my God.

“Are you Echo?”

He turned to face you, fear palpable in his expression. “Yes, who are you?”

You gulped. “I’m with the 501 st , I work with Kix, Fives, Jesse, and Rex. They’re my friends.”

The hulking clone had joined your small group. “Wait a minute, I know you! You’re that hired merc that fought the Chancellor!”

Several heads rotated in your direction. “Yeah, that’s me.”

Echo blinked at you, then reached for your hand and pulled you over to kneel beside him and Fives. The clone that had the knife looked up briefly and eyed your wrapped forehead. “Do you need help?”

You shook your head, your voice breaking slightly. “No, just please, help him.”

The defibrillator shocked Fives, causing his body to jolt. You gripped Echo’s hand tighter and squeezed your eyes shut, your lip wobbling. “Please, Fives, don’t do this,” you whispered. Echo squeezed your hand, his eyes never leaving his twin’s face.

The defibrillator shocked him again, with still no response. The tears were flowing freely again, silently streaming down your face. Anguish and despair filled you from head to toe. The honey eyed girl came up from behind you and grabbed your other hand, giving you an encouraging squeeze. You looked at her in surprise, and she smiled up at you warmly.

You turned your gaze back to Fives just as the defibrillator discharged a third time, and this time, he gasped, his chest rising and falling weakly. You let out a mixed cry of relief and anguish, releasing Echo’s hand and bringing it up to cover your face, sobs wracking your body. The honey eyed girl wrapped an arm around your waist, squeezing you gently. “It’s okay, he’s okay.” Her voice was accented and gentle.

The hulking clone gently lifted Fives and stepped clear of the pit, away from sight. You pushed yourself to your feet to follow them, but you were held back by the clone that had spoken to you from earlier. “Woah, woah. Let’s take a look at that.”

You shook him off and glared. “I’m not going to just leave him alone. I’m fine, I’ll get treated later.”

The clone looked at the goggled trooper. “Tech?”

Tech raised a scanner to you and paused, before replying. “Her vitals are lower than normal, she’s essentially running off of pure adrenaline.”

“I don’t care what that stupid thing says, I’m going with Fives.” You took a step forward but were pushed back again, and you let out a frustrated huff.

Echo grabbed your hand and you started. He looked at you intensely. “I’ll go with him. Is that okay with you?” You hesitated, then nodded reluctantly. He exhaled. “Okay. Hunter?” He turned to the other clone, who nodded, and Echo climbed out of the pit, following after his twin.

Now that you were sure Fives was safe and in good hands, you suddenly felt very tired, the events of the night weighing heavily on you. So many emotions, so little time. Your legs buckled from beneath you. The trooper named Hunter caught you, and you heard the last clone, who had stood silent this whole time speak, sarcasm lining his tone. “So you’re perfectly fine, then?”

You shot him a glare. Hunter lowered you down so that you were once again sitting on the ground, and Tech began working on unwrapping your head and treating your wound. “How did you get here?”

“We went roof hopping. Fives really wanted to, he hadn’t done it in a long time and the building just collapsed out from underneath us.” You sniffled. “H-he was dead when I woke up and found him, but I brought him back. We couldn’t find a way out.” You buried your face in your hands. Why’d it have to be him? He deserves so much better. “It should have been me, not him.”

The honey eyed girl squeezed your hand, sitting and leaning on you. “I think he’s really lucky to have a friend like you who cares this much about him.”

You gasped softly, looking down at her with surprise. Flashes of heat rose through you as you remembered the feeling of his lips against yours. You swallowed, your cheeks flushing. “Maybe.”

Hunter was watching you, but you couldn’t make out his expression under his bucket. Tech finished up by placing a bacta patch on your forehead. It stung for a moment, causing you to wince, but the sensation was quickly replaced by a soothing, cool feeling, and you sighed. Hunter stood, offering you his hand. “Come on, we’ll take you back to the medbay.”

~~~

When you reached the medbay, your nerves were just about shot. You breathed heavily, trying to calm yourself down, which was a bit easier with the girl’s, who you’d learned was named Omega, encouragement. She had held onto your hand the whole way back to the Headquarters, and only when the medbay doors swished open and you saw Fives, who was now awake and surrounded by Echo, Rex, Kix, Jesse, and Anakin, did you finally let go of her hand, a strangled cry escaping you. You rushed forward and threw yourself at him. He winced, hissing with pain and you drew back.

“Shit, I’m so sorry.” Your face crumbled and you let out a gasp. “Fives, I’m so sorry, I wanted to go with you but they wouldn’t let me, I- it should have been me, not you, I’m so sorry Fives.” Tears streamed down your cheeks, and he reached a hand out, wiping them away with a tired smile.

Tranyc.” His voice was tired and breathy. “There is nothing you should be sorry for.”

Your lip trembled. You felt Jesse appear behind you, placing a hand on your shoulder. You turned your face into his body, letting the tears fall. Hunter and Omega had walked in, the former moving to speak with Anakin, Rex and Kix about your recount of the story, while Omega had resumed her place at your side, grabbing your hand gently.

Fives chuckled. “Maybe Nia was right to tease you for being so emotional.”

You laughed, stopping yourself and looking back at him, surprised. Then, you couldn’t keep yourself from laughing as you thought about how she would have loved to make fun of you for this. You glanced at Echo, who was sitting on Fives’ other side. “Thank you for staying with him.” He nodded at you before smiling at his brother. “He’s never been very good at being alone.”

“Hey.” Fives shoved his twin gently. “That’s not very nice.” You giggled, and felt Jesse lift you up by your shoulders, leading you over to where the others were. Anakin looked absolutely livid, hissing at you when you neared.

What were you two thinking? You could have been killed!”

You raised your chin, refusing to back down. “We weren’t doing anything wrong. The building was structurally unsound, it wasn’t our fault.”

“You shouldn’t have even been out there roof hopping.” Rex gave you an admonishing glance. “It’s reckless.”

Your eyes started to burn again, but you blinked the tears away angrily. I’m sick of crying tonight. You glared at the floor. “Listen I know it was my fault but I just can’t do this right now, okay?” Your voice rose, drawing the attention of Fives and Echo. The former spoke up.

“It was my fault. I pressured her into doing it. She didn’t want to go in the first place.”

You shook your head, your lip wobbling. “No, no. I could have said no, it was my fault. If I didn’t say yes then we wouldn’t be here right now.” Jesse squeezed your shoulders comfortingly.

Anakin and Rex softened a little, watching you. The Jedi sighed and spoke, his voice tired. “Look, we’ll talk about this later.” His eyes rested on you, looking at you with a gentle expression. “Try and get some sleep, okay?” You nodded, and the group dispersed. Jesse gave you a hard glance, practically threatening you to actually try and sleep before following Rex out of the medbay. 

Before he could step away, you reached out and grabbed Hunter’s wrist. He turned to you. “Thank you,” you said quietly. “You saved him.”

He took off his bucket, and you blinked in surprise. He looked almost nothing like a clone, except for his eyes. He had long, dark hair with a red bandana keeping it out of his eyes, and half of a skull tattoo on the left side of his face. “All part of the job.” His voice was smoky and deep.

“How did you find us?”

He shifted his weight. “Our squad is a unit of enhanced clones. Wrecker’s got enhanced strength, Crosshair can hit any target from up to ten clicks, Tech has advanced knowledge and skills, and I have heightened senses. In this case, I heard you from beneath the rubble, and could pick up on your heartbeats.”

“Oh. Oh.” You looked at him, suddenly acutely aware of the reason he had been staring at you earlier. He gave you a knowing smirk. Fuck. Me.

Omega squeezed your hand. “It was nice to meet you! I hope you feel better.”

You laughed softly, then knelt down and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you for helping me.”

She beamed at you before turning to Hunter, who looked down at her with a gentle smile. He looked back up at you. “I hear we may be working together in the upcoming campaign. I guess we’ll see you again soon.”

You snorted. “Well, if that’s true, I really hope I leave a better second impression than my first.” You wiped at your eyes, clearing any residual tears.

Hunter chuckled. “Who ever said this was a bad first impression?”

“Me.”

He laughed lowly, nudging Omega and turning to leave, giving you a nod as he left.

Echo stood from where he sat with Fives, looking at his twin with a million unsaid words. Fives just smiled and nodded. “I’ll see you soon, Echo.”

Echo smiled softly, nodded to you, and strode from the room after Hunter. You went back to Fives’ bedside, taking a seat next to him. He cast you an admonishing glance. “You’re supposed to go to sleep.”

“I know.” You smiled softly. “But I think we both know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He grinned, and turned his head to where Kix was sorting through medical supplies at the end of the medbay. “Hey, Kix.” He looked up. “Can she sleep here for the night?”

He blinked, looking at you, his eyes gentle and understanding. “Sure. Technically, you’re injured anyways, so I’ll keep you here under observation for the time being.”

“Thank you.” You smiled gratefully at Kix, who gave Fives a look only he understood. You dragged a cot over closer to Fives’ bed, crawling in and turning yourself to face him. He grinned at you. “Goodnight, tranyc.”

Your heart fluttered, and you whispered, “Goodnight, Fives.” The two of you settled in, swiftly falling asleep. Both of you had extended an arm to the side, your fingers just barely brushing against each other while you slept.

Chapter Text

You hadn’t left the medbay in days. Normally, the medics would struggle to keep you in the medbay, the issue now is that they couldn’t get you out. You felt horribly responsible for what had happened, and as such you rarely left Fives’ side. Kix worried over you, telling you to get some rest or eat something, that he would be fine, but you never heard his nagging. You didn’t want to sleep anyways. The nightmares would only return, this time bringing with them images of Fives bleeding out in your arms as you look on, helpless to save him. You’ve lost too many people, survived too many times. You had just found your new family here, and already almost had one of them brutally ripped away from you. And Fives… he just came home. His brothers just got him back. Losing him would have not only ruined you, but all of your friends as well. Thinking about it made you nauseous.

It eventually took Jesse having to carry you to your quarters after you had fallen asleep out of exhaustion just to get you out of the medbay. He stayed with you, sitting in a chair and watching over you worriedly while you slept. You were tossing and turning, tears rolling down your face as your mind tormented you with memories, everyone you had ever known and loved dying in front of your eyes.

When you finally awoke, you just stared blankly at a point on the wall, haunted by thoughts and memories, tears silently streaming down your face. Jesse brought you food, but you didn’t have an appetite. He and Rex would sit with you, sharing stories and trying to get you to laugh, to speak, anything. But you couldn’t get anything out. Guilt laid heavily on you, and they could see it. They knew you blamed yourself, and some part of them knew that you were blaming yourself for something else, something more than just the rooftop cave-in. You could hear them speaking quietly to each other about you, worry and concern laced into their tones. Even Anakin came to visit you, and he sat on the foot of your bed, frustratedly trying to get you to react to him. When he reached out to your signature, the once kind, warm sensation he used to feel now had switched to one that radiated anguish and guilt.

Finally, they must have decided to bring in the big guns, because the medbay doors swished open, and you heard someone enter the room, speaking in hushed tones to the others. A familiar face appeared in front of you, crouching down with a gentle and understanding expression. Your eyes refocused, and then your face crumpled as you let out a choked sob.

Obi-Wan!”

He pulled you into a sitting position and sat next to you, comforting you as you wept. The others, while obviously upset that you were in such evident pain, let out sighs of relief at the sight of you responding to something.

You sobbed into Obi-Wan’s shoulder, and he rubbed your back while humming soothingly. After a few minutes, your sobs had subsided to hiccups, and he placed a plate of food in front of you. You looked at it disgustedly, glancing skeptically at Obi-Wan, but he only gave you a stern look in return and you acquiesced, choking down a few bites. He smiled, giving your shoulder a gentle squeeze before going to convene with the others in the corner of your room.

Anakin spoke hushedly, watching you closely. “I don’t get it. Why is she so upset? Both of them are gonna be okay, and it’s been over for days now.”

Obi-Wan furrowed his brows in consternation. “Anakin, you told me that Fives died, correct?”

“Twice. She apparently brought him back the first time, and the Batch revived him the second time when they found them.”

Obi-Wan nodded slowly, letting out a deep sigh. “This likely isn’t just about him, I’m afraid, although she most definitely blames herself for the most recent events. Nearly everyone she has ever loved has either died in front of her, or elsewhere where she couldn’t protect them. And in the beginning stages of her power, she couldn’t control it. She struggles with feeling responsible for those deaths, even though she knows she couldn’t have done anything to stop the mutation.”

“So, how do we get her out of it?” Jesse murmured, glancing back at you.

Obi-Wan chuckled. “Actually, she’s getting much better at dealing with it. This is the best I’ve seen her in times like this.”

“This is the best?” Anakin turned his head to Obi-Wan, disbelief apparent on his face.

“I’m afraid so.”

Rex sighed. “Okay, so what, we just let it run its course?”

Obi-Wan smirked. “Well, we can. She also has a different way of coping, and she’ll compartmentalize for the time being and deal with it silently on her own.”

“Do we have another choice?”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “Knowing her, she’ll probably compartmentalize anyways.”

The three men sighed, glancing at each other before nodding. Obi-Wan turned back to you. “Isabelle, my dear,” you slowly faced him, and Jesse felt a sharp pain in his chest as he saw the dull, blankness in your eyes. “Would you like to get started on the next campaign?”

Rex opened his mouth, a small noise of protest escaping him, but before he could say anything, you blinked, your eyes brightening slightly, and you stood, walking over to the refresher and turning the shower on. You turned back to the men, who watched you, astonished. “Thank you all for staying with me. It really did help even if it didn't look like it.” You paused, adding, “I’m sorry, by the way.”

Your eyes still held an immense amount of grief and remorse, but the men didn’t press you, and left you to freshen up. You took off your clothes, and stopped as you walked past the mirror, eyeing the blue scars on your skin. They had faded a little, no longer as bright in color, but were still visible. Your eyes wandered up to your face, and you were briefly reminded of when you had looked in the mirror before your confrontation with Palpatine. You had been proud of your growth then, feeling encouraged by how far you had come. Now, you were looking once again into the dull, tired eyes of that scared little girl. Your face had hollowed slightly, and dark circles hung beneath your eyes from exhaustion.

You took a deep breath. I will not let this affect me as it has in the past. You stepped into the shower, and took your time, washing away your woes bit by bit, until only the guilt from the most recent events remained. You could handle that better at least, without having to worry about everything from your past.

What’s past is past, you’ve already done everything you can to fix it. Just focus each day on getting a little bit better and better, and that is good enough.

You repeated this to yourself as you showered until the mantra echoed throughout your mind. When you had finished, you busied yourself with packing everything you would need for the upcoming campaign, and proceeded to head to the officer’s quarters. You paused by the medbay, but saw Kix shoot a hard glance in your direction, and shook your head, continuing on your way reluctantly.

Kix shot a look at Fives, who was looking around the medbay, bored. “Glad she’s up and moving around.”

Fives looked at Kix, then glanced down at his hands, guilt running across his eyes. “She blames herself. It’s not her fault, though.”

“Yeah, she won’t be able to see it that way.” Kix chuckled. “What happened down there anyways? She can’t seem to stay away from you.”

Fives jumped and looked away, his face reddening. Kix narrowed his eyes, confused at his brother’s sudden reaction. “Fives?”

Fives looked around the medbay to see if anyone was listening, then back at him, guilt and shame mired in his gaze. “I uh,” he cleared his throat. “I might’ve kissed her.” He whispered the last words, but Kix heard them as if they were deafeningly loud.

“I’m sorry, what?”

Kix had known that Fives had always had a thing for you ever since you showed up in stasis. It wasn’t hard to see, he was literally starstruck by you. And ever since then, he wasn’t very good at hiding his feelings well. Kix could read him like a book, in fact, he could read any of his brothers pretty well as a medic. But to hear that he had actually gone so far as to kiss you, now that piqued his interest.

Fives looked positively mortified, which was rare for the ostentatious ARC Trooper. He brought a hand up to rub his neck. “Yeah. I was dying, and she was doing the fucking golden glowy thing, you know the one we saw in stasis. And I just kind of thought ‘fuck it, I’m gonna die anyways,’ and kissed her.”

He groaned, rubbing his hands over his face. “I don’t know what to do now. It was great, it was better than I could’ve imagined, but…” He hesitated, swallowing. “I’m not going to make her uncomfortable. I won’t.”

Kix watched his brother with a serious expression, thinking to himself quietly for a moment. He knew this would undoubtedly bring up some confusing feelings for you. After what happened with Jesse and Fives, you were probably feeling overwhelmed. He’d even seen Rex watching you closely from time to time, a sliver of longing on the Captain’s face. He cursed his brothers inwardly. This would definitely end in at least one person getting hurt, and you were being put in a very difficult position. He decided to have a talk with you about it later, and see if he could alleviate any worries or fears you might have.

Kix heaved a sigh, then huffed a small chuckle. “I always knew you had a thing for her, vod.”

“I don’t know if I would call it a thing -

“Oh really? So we’re just gonna ignore all the times you stare at her? Or all the times you talked about her in stasis? Let’s not forget how you so affectionately call her tranyc.”

Fives chuckled dryly. “Okay, I get the picture.” He paused, adding, “I also may or may not have told her what that meant.”

Kix raised his eyebrows in surprise. “How’d she react?”

He shrugged. “I don’t think she knew how to react.”

“That’s fair.”

“Yeah,” Fives sighed and laid his head back on the pillow dramatically. “If you’re right, and that wasn’t just a heat of the moment ‘I’m dying’ thing, then I think I’m in trouble.”

Kix laughed. “Yeah, I think you are.”

~~~

Your comm beeped as you stepped up to the officer’s quarters, and Obi-Wan’s buzzing voice came through.

Isabelle, where are you currently?”

You paused in step, glancing around you. “Uh… right outside the officer’s quarters. Why? Did we change locations for the debrief you sent me?”

Well no, it’s just that…”

He paused, and you waited expectantly, confused at the strange exchange. Finally, you could hear him sigh loudly, followed by muffled voices in the background asking what the issue was.

“Nevermind. Just know that this wasn’t my idea, and I’m trying to get you out of it.”

Um. What. “Excuse me?” But Obi-Wan just switched his comm off, and you were left feeling anxious as you stared at the doors, debating just turning around and leaving. You shook your head. You were being silly, it’s probably nothing. You stepped inside, greeted by the sight of Rex, Jesse, Anakin, Ahsoka, Cody, the clone squad that had rescued you several nights prior, and a very uneasy Obi-Wan. They were all huddled around the holotable, turning to face you as you entered. The figures presented on the call were obscured from sight.

You smiled and took a few steps in, the holographic silhouettes coming into view. You saw Masters Yoda and Windu, Padme and another Senator by the looks of him and…

Oh, no. Your eyes widened at the sight of the Nikto, and you immediately put a hand up to shield your face and turned on your heel, swiftly striding back in the direction you had come. You heard several murmurs of surprise and confusion, but ignored them and kept walking to the doors. Almost there. A skeevy voice broke through the quarters, stopping you in your tracks and causing you to clench your fists.

“What’s the matter honey, I can’t even get a hello?”

You left crescent shaped indents in your palms from your fingernails. You turned slowly, trembling with rage, your eyes wild. Your friends started, looking at you with alarm. They looked from you, to Obi-Wan, to the Nikto, confused at the encounter unfolding in front of them.

Anakin broke the silence first. “Merc, do you know him?”

“Know me? I practically raised her. Isn’t that right honey?”

You don’t know what shocked your friends more, the fact that he claimed to have raised you, or the speed and intensity with which you charged at the holotable, your finger raised accusingly as you snarled.

You did not raise me Tus. The only good thing you ever did for me was keep me from dying you slimy, greasy, piece of bantha -”

Master Windu cleared his throat, and you stopped, stepping back a pace or two, and grit your teeth. “My apologies. That was unprofessional of me.”

Rex and Jesse exchanged a shocked and confused look. They had never seen you like this, and they had no idea what was even going on, or how a scumbag criminal knew you at all. Rex cleared his throat uncomfortably, and addressed Anakin.

“Sir, perhaps we should proceed with the debriefing.”

Anakin nodded once slowly. “Our intelligence led us to believe that there are a number of missing persons from the Bright Jewel system, specifically Ord Mantell, which as we know is home to the rising Black Sun syndicate. These missing person cases seemed ambiguous at first, but combined with the recently acquired knowledge of Dooku’s new potential ally, the statistics seem to add up. After looking into it, we received transmissions from Tus Jimk,” he nodded to the Nikto, “regarding several of his employee’s disappearances from his club. He also informed us of a potential target, Pon Pevott.”

Tus nodded to him. “Pon is a skeevy son of a bitch, even for club standards.” You couldn’t hold in the scoff of disgust that escaped you. “Everytime he comes by, he always talks to a new girl. Everytime after he leaves, that girl disappears. Safe to say, he’s got his hands pretty dirty.”

The Senator next to Padme spoke, his voice level and calm. “ Perhaps it would be wise to take a more covert approach to this mission. Undercover, perhaps?”

Your ears burned, and you closed your eyes, clenching your jaw. Please, no. You knew exactly what was coming.

Master Yoda hummed. “Miss Greene, worked with Tus, you have?”

You opened your eyes, forcing yourself to keep your voice level and calm. It came out a little sharper than you meant it to. “I worked for Tus, Master Yoda.”

“Then you are familiar with the conduct and behaviors of the employees and patrons of his club?” Master Windu spoke and you winced, waiting to hear the words that would tear you up inside.

“Yes.”

Then we shall assign you to lead this covert operation. You will go undercover at Tus’ club, and retrieve any information you can from this Pon Pevott.”

There it is. There’s the sentence that ignites an agonizing fire in your insides, unleashing memories upon memories of the worst time in your life. You closed your eyes, your voice barely above a whisper. “Yes of course, Master.” Rex and Jesse exchanged another worried glance.

Padme seemed to notice your dejected demeanor, and interjected. “Senator Organa, Master Windu, are we sure we are making the wisest decision? This could prove dangerous, especially for Miss Greene.”

Senator Organa answered her. “ An undercover operation will be the best way to infiltrate the club without raising much unwanted attention. It is the safest option.”

“Hmm. With Senator Organa, agree I do.” Master Yoda turned to you. “ Miss Greene, this operation, you will lead. May the Force be with you.”

You dipped your head in silent resignation as the Senators and Jedi left, leaving your friends and Tus’ flickering image in the room.

“Aw come on honey, it can’t be that bad to see an old friend right?”

You snapped your head up, your eyes so full of rage and hatred that you could feel Rex, Anakin, and Jesse’s eyes on you, observing you carefully. But at this point, professionalism be damned, you didn’t care anymore.

“You are not my friend. You never were! You just wanted to use me for your own benefit. You wanna know the best thing you could have ever done for me?!” You advanced, gazing up at his holographic form with sheer venom. “You should have left me there to die. That’s the best thing you could have ever done for me.”

Ahsoka gasped softly. The room was deathly silent as all eyes were on your shaking form. Tus looked unimpressed.

I don’t buy it. Anyways, I am looking forward to seeing you again soon, honey.”

“Stop calling me honey!”

“Sorry honey.”

You let out an exasperated cry and turned, throwing your hands in the air. “I don’t know why I even try, I really don't.”

Tus cleared his throat, and when you turned, his expression had switched to one of actual remorse. “Listen honey, I know you don’t want to do this. But I need your help. These girls need your help. Don’t do it for me, do it for them.”

You softened a little at that, closing your eyes and nodding.

Now see there she is, I knew you were in there somewhere.” 

You couldn’t help the small huff of a laugh that escaped you. You looked at Tus and raised an eyebrow. Sure, you might’ve hated everything that you had been forced to do under his employment, and you hated how being associated with him reminded you of your skeevy past, but he did save you, and protected you. He knew that you knew that, and that you didn’t hate him, just the memories that were associated with him.

He shifted, his expression changing once more, hardening. “There’s something else, and you ain’t gonna like it honey.”

“Can’t be much worse at this point. What is it?”

Oh it is. I’m sorry about this, but you won’t be able to choose your job responsibilities this time.”

Your friends watched as your expression shifted, recognition taking over your features briefly, and you hung your head. Uneasy glances were exchanged around the room, and it sounded as if everyone were holding one collective breath.

You blinked, resolve steeling your features. “Are the house rules still in effect?”

“Always, honey.”

You relaxed slightly. “Then I understand. We will make contact with you upon our arrival.”

Tus nodded, giving you a small smile before leaving. The holotable switched off, and you stared at the place where Tus had stood, panic enveloping you. The only thing that indicated your uneasy state was the rapid rise and fall of your chest. Silence hung thickly in the air, until finally, Obi-Wan reached forward to grab your wrist. You spun on him, a finger raised in the air, your eyes burning.

“No.”

“Izzy, listen to me -”

“NO!” You backed away, your friends watching you with worried looks. Even the clone squad that had rescued you nights before looked concerned. You addressed Obi-Wan, your voice shaking with rage. “I told you I’d never go back. And I - I didn’t sign up for this kind of job, that wasn’t what I did on Kessel!”

Cody gasped, his eyes widening with recognition, and he gaped at you. “THAT WAS YOU?!”

Oh, God, I can’t do this right now. Several others whirled to Cody, confused at his outburst and you groaned, swiping a hand over your face. “Yes, that was me, I’m sorry I knocked you out that night.”

The snarky clone you remembered as Crosshair snickered from across the room. “Knocked you out, huh Marshall Commander?

Anakin interrupted with an exasperated sigh. “Alright, will someone please just tell us what’s going on?”

Obi-Wan glanced at you, his expression tired. “You’re going to have to tell them. They need to know what they’re heading into.”

You knew he was right, but you weren’t ready to talk about it. You looked around at your friends, your eyes locking onto Rex and Jesse’s. They’re gonna hate me. Rex spoke. “Is this the job you mentioned that you didn’t want to talk about?”

You looked back at Obi-Wan, shaking your head. “I can’t talk about it.” Your voice cracked slightly. “I’ve buried that part of me, I can’t tell them.”

He stepped forward, his eyes round with understanding and compassion. “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice, my dear.”

Defeat flooded through you. You really didn’t have any other option. You glanced around, found a chair and took a seat. You ran a hand through your hair. “You might want to get comfortable, it’s a bit of a long story.” Your friends gathered a little more closely around you, waiting expectantly.

~~~

6 months ago

“Did you get what I needed?”

You stuck to the shadows of the club, out of sight and handed the Nikto the small datapad. “Yes. They won’t realize it’s gone until tomorrow, and you can get whatever you want off of it until then. They shouldn’t suspect a thing.”

“Good. Thanks honey, keep up the good work and I’ll give you a bonus. Now go on, you got more clients.”

The Kessel Klub was home to any number of vices, which was appropriate for a shady planet like Kessel. Crime syndicates roamed freely, harvesting spice and conducting business wherever they pleased. The club was one of these places, oftentimes housing bounty hunters and mercenaries, crime bosses, and lowlife thugs. They’d come from all over, looking for jobs, selling spice, or just to indulge in the various worldly pleasures the club had to offer. Despite its debauchery, The Kessel Klub was actually one of the safer establishments to be employed at, as a woman. Tus Jimk, your boss, was a respected Nikto around Kessel, and as such, those that came into the club knew not to mess with him, or any of his employees. He also allowed the girls to choose what they wanted to do, so when he had found you, you were able to avoid a dancing job. Instead, Tus recognized your special abilities, and had you working on more covert affairs as his operative, which was essentially just a cooler term for calling you a common thief.

When you had crashed onto Kessel, you had wandered alone for several days before eventually collapsing, willing exposure to end your misery. But instead, the universe decided it had other plans for you, and you were found by Tus, who “took you in,” as he likes to say. Which, to be fair, he did. He gave you a roof over your head and food to eat, which was more than you could hope for given the fact you had absolutely no credits and had just crashed onto an unfamiliar planet riddled with debauchery. But you hated your job. It made you feel conniving, like a snake. All you wanted to do was get the amount of credits needed to get off this god-forsaken planet, and never go back.

Working for Tus provided you with multiple job responsibilities, all of which made you feel like a terrible person, whether it was slipping through the shadows of the club, pickpocketing unsuspecting patrons, or using any number of manipulation tactics to fool them into whispering secrets and information on syndicate movements in your ear. All of which, you would promptly deliver to him, providing him with opportunities to increase his business, especially when it came to smuggling spice.

So it was, as on that night, when you met Obi-Wan for the first time. You were creeping through the shadows, thankful that for once all of your “clients” were mere pickpocketing targets. You much preferred thievery to manipulation, and most of the time you didn’t have to worry about activating your little friend in a crowded area. You were getting better at summoning the more subtle and clandestine side of your power, but still wouldn’t risk anything, so you would bring it forward in the beginning of the night, away from prying eyes. It worked most of the time.

You had just slipped your hand into the pocket of a member of the Pyke syndicate, easily extracting a datapad and vanishing into the crowd when you felt the hairs on the back of your neck rise. You knew someone was watching you, and you quickly ducked into a shrouded corner, turning your back to the wall and surveying the club around you.

There. A booth, far in the back of the club, held two human males. The first had auburn hair, and a clean cut beard. The first indication that they’re outsiders, he’s way too clean. The second, a man with tan skin, golden eyes, and a facial scar curling around his left eye. They were both looking around the club, raising drinks to their lips, but would occasionally glance at the corner in which you disappeared. Subtle.

You left the corner, making sure they saw you do so, and headed to the back, towards the warehouse where Tus typically conducted his business. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw the two men pushing themselves to their feet, following you at a distance. You breathed, forcing yourself to keep calm, and slowed your footsteps so that they could keep you in their sights. You opened the door to the warehouse, walking swiftly down the aisle straight in front of you for a few moments until you heard quiet, muffled footsteps a little ways behind you. You turned into another aisle, and climbed up the racks, the mutation granting you a swift and silent ascension. The two men turned the corner and looked at each other briefly, murmuring in hushed tones. You unsheathed a knife that you kept strapped to your thigh, and leapt down silently, sneaking up behind the first man with the scar.

You struck, taking one hand and slamming his head into the durasteel rack, knocking him unconscious. With a smooth motion, you swung forward and held your knife to the throat of the auburn-haired man. He held up his hands calmly, barely blinking at the sight of the blade at his neck. Why isn’t he scared?

“Who are you? Why are you following me?”

“I am Master Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Jedi Order.” His voice was strangely accented, with a proper and gentle lilt to it. “I must say, my dear, it is not an easy feat for someone to catch me or my Commander by surprise.”

Jedi Order? What the hell is that? You looked at him, narrowing your eyes in confusion. “Who are the Jedi and what do they want with me? Are you here for me?”

He studied you carefully, as if he were intrigued that you genuinely didn’t seem to know who he was, even more so at your fear of being taken. “I am not here for you, I am here investigating spice operations. We received intelligence that this club was the place to go, and you happened to catch our eye.” He slowly lowered his hands and you shifted, warning flashing in your eyes. “It’s not every day you see someone steal from members of crime syndicates without consequence, much less a Pyke.”

“So why follow me then?”

He took a step forward, and you pressed the blade a little further into his neck, a small bead of blood oozing out. Fear and reluctance washed through you at the sight. Please don’t make me do this. I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore.

He brought a hand up, grasping your wrist gently, and looked into your eyes with a calm and soothing gaze. Understanding swirled in their depths, and you faltered slightly. “You’ve been hurt before, my dear. You don’t have to do this, I can see it’s not who you are.”

You clenched your jaw and lowered the blade slightly. “Listen, I’m just trying to do my job and get as far away from here as I can. Why did you follow me?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, to offer you a job.”

You blinked, confused. “What?”

“A job,” he repeated. “Like I said, it’s uncommon for someone to possess the skills to steal from a Pyke, or sneak up on a Jedi Master. Your resourcefulness is something we could use in the Republic.”

You cocked your head at him. “The Republic?” You’d heard the name before, typically spoken distastefully from the bounty hunters and thugs that came to the club, but never much else about it.

He looked at you curiously. “You’re not from here, are you?”

Before you could respond, three thugs appeared from around the corner, advancing on the two of you. “There! We knew you were suspicious. Get him!”

He made a move to swing you behind his back, but you were grabbed by the hair and thrown to the ground with a yelp, shaking your head. You turned back to see Obi-Wan fighting off the three thugs, rather well as far as you could tell. One of them split from the group and stumbled towards you, grabbing you and placing a blaster to the side of your head. Obi-Wan froze, put his hands up and addressed the thug holding you. “Let her go, she has no involvement in this.”

You could feel the power within you begin to surge as the thug pressed the blaster further into you, and panic took over. You missed whatever the thug said, the sound of your blood roaring in your ears. No, please, not again! The mutation shrieked mercilessly, and clawed its way to the forefront of your mind. You looked fearfully at Obi-Wan, who was now staring at you in shock.

“RUN!”

As the words left your lips, your vision clouded with a crimson haze, and mist churned around you violently. You screamed, and the thugs let out stunned cries of fear and confusion, stepping away from you. Your scream gradually turned into maniacal laughter, and you grabbed the first thug next to you, slowly crushing his skull in your hands. The mutation was in full control, your consciousness screaming at the edges of your mind, begging for it to stop. Yes. Bleed. Suffer. Kill. As his body fell to the floor, the other two looked around wildly, and ran, desperate to escape. You caught one by the foot, dragging him to the floor and flinging him into the other, knocking him off his feet. You took a step towards them, a psychotic smile on your face.

The thugs screamed, scrambling to get away, but you were faster. You flung out your wrists, sending spikes flying towards them, burying them in their skin and pinning them down. Great, onyx battleaxes tinged with scarlet materialized in your hands, and the men could only watch in horror as you advanced, swinging the axes and cutting straight through the skin at the base of their necks. Their heads rolled, their eyes still frozen with terror.

The mutation shrieked with pleasure and you laughed again, scanning for anyone else. You saw Obi-Wan’s companion, still unconscious on the ground, but the mist turned away in distaste. No. No challenge.

It receded at the sight of no further prospects, and you collapsed, exhaustion running through you. When you opened your eyes, you looked down at your hands, now covered in blood, and at the gruesome scene around you. Dozens of emotions flooded through you, at the forefront of it all, guilt and fear. You scrambled away from the bodies of the men, hyperventilating. Tears were streaming down your face, and you couldn’t get the sound of their screams out of your head. “Oh God, not again, what have I done?”

You gripped the sides of your head in your hands before remembering they were covered in blood, which only made you panic more at the feeling of it clinging to your face. You stared at your hands, trembling, and you vaguely saw movement out of the corner of your eye.

Obi-Wan had reappeared from wherever he was hiding, and was approaching you slowly with a strange expression, as if he weren’t sure if you’d lose it again. You weren’t completely positive you wouldn’t lose it, so you held your hands out to him, fear lining your voice.

Stay back! Please, don’t come any closer. I don’t want to hurt you!”

He stopped and looked like he was weighing his options, then closed the distance to you, grabbing your wrists gently in his hands. You looked at him, and the expression on his face slowly twisted to one of understanding. Compassion swirled in his eyes, and he spoke. “Something’s making you do this, am I right in that?”

Your face crumbled, all of the pain and anguish that had been brought upon you by the acquisition of your mutation finally catching up to you. You nodded through the tears. “I’m a m- monster.”

He moved his hands up to your shoulders. “I’m going to get you out of here, okay? What’s your name?”

You sniffled. “________.”

He smiled softly. “I’m going to help you.”

~~~

By the end of your story, silence hung in the air around you, your companions taking time to process your words. What if they fault me for everything I’ve done? My ledger isn’t exactly clean, even if I can’t control the mutation. The silence was broken by Omega, who you hadn’t previously seen. Shit. She shouldn’t have heard all that. “What’s the job you have to do this time?”

Your heart stopped and your head snapped to her, your eyes wide with alarm. “What?”

The boys noticed your shift in demeanor, and Anakin narrowed his eyes at you. “Merc, what’s the job?”

You felt your heart rate increase, and you turned back to Omega, forcing a smile onto your face. She shouldn’t hear this. “Can you do me a favor?” She nodded. “I need you to go check on Kix in the medbay for me. Make sure Fives isn’t driving him up the wall, okay?”

She gave you a quizzical look, but nodded again and left the quarters and you heaved a small sigh of relief before turning to the others.

“The job that I have to do,” you began, hesitating. “Based off of what’s been happening, he’s essentially asking me to become a target for sex trafficking.”

Rex and Jesse blanched, and Ahsoka’s eyes widened. Anakin looked like he was positively steaming with anger. “Absolutely not. There’s no way you’re doing that.”

“It’s the only way. And it’s not like it’s going to be… prostitution, or anything,” You buried your face in your hands, embarrassment washing over you. “It’s just dancing and seduction.”

“Which you will not be doing! Do you even have the skills for that?”

You let out a bitter laugh. “HA! Yeah, unfortunately seduction comes as a package deal with manipulation tactics, so technically speaking, I can.”

Ahsoka looked at Obi-Wan. “Master, is there any other way?”

He shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”

You turned back to them, a weak smile on your face. “Don’t worry, I know the rules of the club. Plus, house rules are still in effect, which means I’m not allowed to be touched.”

They relaxed slightly at that. Hunter turned to Obi-Wan and Anakin. “When do we leave, Generals?”

Obi-Wan ran a hand through his beard. “Two days. We’ll work out the semantics of the mission on the way.”

“Understood.”

With that, your companions left you, until only Rex and Jesse were left in the room. You had buried your face in your hands, with your elbows resting on your knees. They weren’t sure if you even knew that they were still there. A quiet sniffle told them that you probably didn’t.

Rex clenched his jaw. He hated that you were being forced to do this. More so because it was painfully evident how this was affecting you, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. Jesse was just about ready to march right into the Senate, hell, into the Jedi Councilroom, if it would be able to stop the campaign. The two clones exchanged a look before kneeling in front of you and placing a comforting hand on your knees.

You jumped, surprised that anyone was still here. You removed your hands from your face, looking straight into the eyes of Rex and Jesse. You swallowed back the lump that grew in your throat. “You guys don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to. I understand if you don’t want to be around me.”

Jesse blinked at you, concern palpable in his gaze. He looked at Rex. “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sit right here, with my best friend. Whether she wants me to or not.” Rex nodded in agreement, shooting you a small smile.

“Your best friend is a monster, Jesse.”

“Nah. Monstrously annoying sometimes? Sure. I’ll give you that, but not a monster.”

You looked between them skeptically. “Neither of you are bothered by anything you just learned?”

Rex sighed and squeezed your knee, looking up at you, his eyes full of compassion. “You’re not a monster. That was obviously a tough time in your life, and it was out of your control. What matters is that you left and put it behind you.” He glanced at Jesse. “We’re just sorry that you have to relive it.”

You swallowed, then reached forward and gave their gloved hands a light squeeze. “Thanks, guys.”

They nodded, and the three of you left, thoughts of the upcoming mission weighing heavily on you all.

Chapter Text

You were on your way to the Resolute when you heard someone call your name from behind you. Turning your head over your shoulder, you caught a glimpse of Kix jogging to catch up with you. You turned, smiling. “I thought you were going to stay here in the medbay.”

He grinned. “Nah, I’m needed much more with you guys. Besides, someone’s gotta make sure Fives doesn’t terrorize the whole ship.”

You perked up at the sound of the ARC Trooper’s name. “He’s all healed?”

“Yep, at least enough to go on a covert campaign. He’s not ready for active combat yet.”

Relief washed over you, welcoming and comforting. Now that he was getting stronger and healing, the guilt you had felt from the roof hopping disaster began to ebb slowly. Thank God. You closed your eyes and let out a sigh, the corners of your lips curling upwards in a soft smile. When you opened them again, you noticed Kix watching you with a strange expression on his face. You started.

“Everything alright?”

He blinked, then looked away for a moment as if he were debating whether or not to say something. When he looked back at you, his eyes had an intrigued twinkle in them. “I heard Fives kissed you.”

You think your heart might have actually stopped. Your eyes widened and you briefly forgot how to breathe for a moment. Heat rushed to your cheeks and you were sure you were probably redder than the Corries’ armor at this point. You stammered, unsure of how to respond. “I uh - I don’t know where you got that idea, but -”

Kix snickered. “Fives told me. Plus, he wouldn’t have had to tell me anything based on your reaction to that.”

Goddamnit Fives, can you ever keep your mouth shut? You probably should have expected this from him though, he and Kix are incredibly close from being stuck in stasis, and you supposed he was probably feeling confused or guilty and just wanted his brother’s advice.

You held a hand to your forehead, and you looked around to see if anyone was nearby. “You haven’t told anyone, have you?”

His expression changed to a softer, more compassionate look. “No, and I don’t plan to.”

You heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you Kix.”

“I’m not going to pretend to understand how confused you must be with all of this, but I do want you to know that you can talk to me about it. I won’t be uncomfortable. You’re in a tough situation, and it’s not going to get any easier.” He placed a hand on your shoulder and squeezed gently.

You smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you, I will.”

With that, the two of you made your way to the Resolute together, Kix stopping in at the medbay, and you heading to the bridge after boarding. Upon entering the bridge, you almost ran right into Wullf Yularen, whom you recognized as the battle-hardened Admiral with a perpetual scowl on his face. He looked at you with annoyance, and you apologized quickly, taking your place by the holotable next to Anakin, who was looking at you amusedly.

“I see you’re on Yularen’s happy list already.”

You rolled your eyes. “As I recall, I wasn’t on your happy list when I first met you, but here we are.”

He scoffed. “Toleration is hardly happy list worthy.”

“Maybe, but you don’t tolerate me. You actually enjoy my presence. Go on, admit it.”

“In your dreams.” Anakin smirked and turned back to the holotable, pulling up a map of Ord Mantell. “So do you have a plan for what you’re going to be doing when we get there?”

“Yeah. I’ll wait until the others get here to explain it.” As if on cue, the doors swished open, and Obi-Wan, Cody, Ahsoka, Rex, Jesse, Fives, and the Batch walked through, stepping up to the two of you. Admiral Yularen cleared his throat, addressing Anakin. “General Skywalker, upon our jump to hyperspace our estimated arrival will be 1900 hours, approximately six hours from now.”

He nodded. “Thank you Admiral.” Turning to you, he gestured to the holomap. “All yours.”

You gave him a nod and addressed your surrounding company, preparing yourself to discuss the plan that you had been working on for the past two days. You knew they wouldn’t like it, but it was the best one you had, and it gave you an opportunity to possibly find the location of the trafficking ring on Ord Mantell.

“The club is here, according to our intelligence.” You pointed at a spot on the holomap. “Since our party is so big, I would advise that we split into several groups, one for surveillance and perimeter checking, and another to infiltrate the club directly. I’d advise the Batch, led by Ahsoka to stick to surveillance, while the boys infiltrate the club. But, you all need to be disguised. I’m looking at you, Obi-Wan. The type of crowd that runs through there is pretty degenerate, so the shadier the better. I’d suggest bounty hunter disguises, it should be easy to pull off.”

“Seems simple enough so far, what are you going to be doing then?” Hunter studied the holomap, charting out possible perimeter lines.

You shifted your weight onto your right foot. “That’s where things get a little more complicated. The way Tus’ club works is kind of like a clientele system. Clients go to him, and he assigns girls to them based on their wants and needs.” Rex curled his lips.

“Pon Pevott has been requesting new girls every time he goes to the club, and apparently, he comes consistently every couple days, so we should be arriving on schedule with that timeline. Tus will assign me to him, and I’ll have my earpiece switched on so that you all can listen in to the conversation.”

You paused, clenching your jaw. Here we go. They’re not going to like this. “I also have another idea, one that can lead us right to the trafficking ring on Ord Mantell.”

Obi-Wan looked at you inquisitively and brought a hand up to his chin. “Do tell.”

You took a deep breath. “I want you to implant a tracking beacon in me.”

You waited for your words to sink in. After a few seconds, recognition flitted across the faces of your company. Anakin and Jesse spoke at the same time. “ Absolutely not.”

You rolled your eyes. “Listen, I’m going to be marked as soon as we start this mission. If you implant a tracker in me, and let them take me, I’ll lead you right to the ring.”

“Are you crazy?” Anakin looked at you incredulously. “There’s no way we’re going to let you be trafficked.”

“I know that.”

Eyes blinked at you in confusion all around the room. “I know that nothing is going to happen as long as you guys will be there. I’ll lead you right to the ring, you’ll all bust in before anything bad can happen. Trust me, this is the best way we can go about this, and we might be able to save some of these women too.”

Hunter spoke quietly from next to you with a huff of a laugh. “You’re hardcore, I like your style.”

You grinned at him, then turned back to the others. “So, are we agreed?”

“No, we most certainly are not agreed.” Anakin turned to Obi-Wan, gesturing to you. “Will you please tell her that this idea is ridiculous?”

Obi-Wan didn’t say anything for a moment, and glanced at you, running his fingers through his beard. “And you’re sure this will work?”

You nodded. “It’s been a pattern all along, any girl that talks to Pon disappears that night. Regardless of what we plan out, it’ll probably happen anyways, so we might as well take advantage of it.”

Rex exchanged a hard glance with Jesse. The former clenched his fists, while Jesse let out a low growl. They hated this idea. Actually, everyone hated it, but you were right, it was logical and strategic. The idea of you being trafficked in the process of completing the mission, however, that made their blood boil. They were glad at least that they would be infiltrating the club, so they could protect you from the inside if needed.

“Last thing, once you’re in the club, do not engage with me. Even if I engage with you, you have to act like you don’t know me. That includes if some creep comes up to me. I don’t want this mission compromised for my sake.”

Well, there goes that idea. They both groaned inwardly, shooting each other another glance.

Obi-Wan studied you closely for a moment longer before nodding slowly. “I concur. Regrettably, I believe this may be our best course of action.”

“It’s settled then. I will meet with Tus at our rendezvous alone once we arrive. The rest of you should come around 2200 hours to get settled.” You paused, glancing at Obi-Wan with a wry smile. “At least try to act like a degenerate member of society this time?”

He laughed. “Duly noted.” You all dispersed, and you headed out of the bridge down towards your quarters to get everything you needed ready.

You had just walked up to the doors when you heard rapid, heavy footsteps behind you. You turned, alarmed, just in time to see Jesse striding towards you quickly. “Jesse? What are you doing?” He didn’t answer you, just smacked a hand on your keypad, opening the doors, and dragged you inside by the arm. He let you go as the doors swished close, and began pacing at the back of your room. You collected yourself and watched him pacing back and forth, steaming.

“What the hell?”

He wheeled on you, breathing heavily. “You are not going to go through with this. I won’t let you.”

“Won’t let me? I’m not a child, Jesse!” You crossed your arms, huffing angrily. “It’s going to be fine, nothing’s going to happen.”

“You don’t know that!” He was becoming more animated. “You can’t say that because you don’t know that. I can’t watch you get hurt again, I won’t.”

“I’m not going to get hurt, things won’t escalate that far.”

“That’s what we thought last time, and look what happened! Do you expect me to just be okay with this?”

“Yes! You have to be! There’s no other option, and I’m not going to leave those women alone.”

He scoffed, running a hand over his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “There’s always another option, you’re just not willing to look for one.”

“Well then by all means, Jesse! Enlighten me. What’s this mysterious other option that we’re missing?” You waved your arms around you as you spoke.

“Now is not the time to be joking about this.”

“It’s going to be fine! When it comes down to it, I trust that you guys will get to me and the other girls in time. Besides, you guys will be in the club the whole time, you’ll be able to see everything that’s happening.”

“Do you not fucking get it?” Jesse crossed the room to you, and you backed up until you were pinned against the wall. He caged you in between his arms, leaning in close until you could feel his breath puffing against your face. His chest was heaving, and his eyes were alight with fear and anger.

“I am not going to just stand by and watch you do this. I won’t. I can’t watch you become a fucking sex trafficking victim!” He let out a shaky breath, dropping his head to look at the floor. His shoulders shook slightly.

“Please.” His voice quieted, and turned pleading. He looked back at you, desperation in his eyes. “Please, I can’t watch you do this. I can’t just stand by while this happens to you.”

Your heart clenched. Jesse was struggling with this just as much as you were, maybe even more so. You had resigned yourself to it, telling yourself that if it was going to be inevitable anyways, maybe you could at least save people in the process. But you hadn’t expected him to be so animated about it, especially seeing as the both of you were being forced into this mission. You stood in silence for a moment before you reached up slowly and cupped his cheek. He leaned into your touch, closing his eyes.

“Then get there and stop it before anything happens, okay?”

He opened his eyes again, and you were surprised to see the sorrow that was held in their golden depths. A sharp pang of guilt and empathy stabbed into you.

“Jesse,” you murmured. “I trust you. I know you’ll be there to protect me.”

He took a deep, shaky breath, the look in his eyes turning to one of fierce protectiveness. He grabbed you and pulled you close, holding you tightly. You wrapped your arms around him, and the two of you stood there embracing for several long moments.

“I promise you, as long as I have anything to do about it, I will be there to protect you.” His voice rumbled next to your ear, sending a shiver down your spine.

You hummed contentedly, and pulled back from him. His face just barely brushed against yours as the two of you separated, and after a moment, he started to smirk.

“You know, all things considered, I think you’ll do a good job with this.”

You snorted. “Oh really? What gives you that impression?”

He stepped closer until he had you pinned up against the wall again. “You’re a great dancer, for one thing.”

Heat rose to your cheeks as you remembered being pressed up against Jesse that drunken night at 79’s. He leaned forward, and whispered in your ear, his voice deep and breathy. His breath against your skin sent shock waves down through to your core, heat pooling throughout your body. “If I’m going to be forced to watch, I’m glad I’ll be watching you.”

Your breath caught in your throat. Oh God he is positively SINFUL. He drew back, his lips lightly brushing against your skin as he went. A wry smirk pricked at the corners of his lips at the sight of your shocked expression, and he gave you a pat on the head, turning to leave.

“Do with that information what you will.” He spoke as he exited your quarters.

You still hadn’t moved. You were leaning against the wall, mouth agape, stunned at what had just happened. You reached a hand up to where his lips had just barely brushed against your skin, leaving a trail of lava as they went. You slid down to the floor. Jesse, Anakin, Rex, and Fives. Your face burned and you buried your head in your arms, propping yourself up on your knees. How the hell were you supposed to handle this? Oh, I’m in BIG trouble.

~~~

Just before you were set to pull out of hyperspace, you ran and stopped by the medbay, asking Kix to implant the tracker into your arm. He was skeptical, but did as you asked begrudgingly, warning you not to get hurt again. You just smiled innocently. “Why, whatever do you mean, Kix? I never get hurt.”

He snorted and rolled his eyes. “Uh-huh. Go on now, and good luck. Come back to us safely okay?”

You threw him a smile over your shoulder as you headed out of the medbay. “I will!”

On your way to the hangar, you ran into Rex and Fives. Rex clenched his jaw, worry palpable in his expression. “Please be careful. We’ll be right there if anything goes wrong.”

You smiled at him reassuringly. “I will be. And I know you will be, I know I can always count on you guys.” He relaxed slightly, but Fives still looked uneasy.

“Are you sure that this is the best option we have?”

You nodded. “It’s the only option. And besides, we need to save these women. I’m not going to abandon them to this fate.”

Fives swallowed. “Alright. Call us if you need us, and we’ll see you soon okay?”

“Thanks boys.” You started to take a few steps away, then returned and gave them a quick squeeze. “Everything’s going to be alright, I promise.”

Rex chuckled and pressed you a little closer to him. “We know. Now go on, get out of here.”

You pulled away and he smiled at you fondly, gesturing with his head in the direction of the hangar. With a last wink to him and Fives, you strode off, mentally preparing yourself for the coming evening.

Rex let out a deep exhale. His least favorite part about being a captain was voicing his disagreements with his superiors, which in this case, you technically were. He knew that you wanted nothing to do with this mission, and considering how dangerous it was turning out to be, he wanted to grab you by the shoulders and shake you until you saw reason. But with the plan already set in motion, he couldn’t do anything about it.

Anger boiled in his chest as he thought of the last few missions where you had been hurt. Each time, you almost died. But each time, he hadn’t had an opportunity to protect you. He looked off in the direction you had left, vowing to you silently. I will not fail to protect you this time.

Rex was so deep in thought that it took Fives having to poke him several times to get him to react. He furrowed his brows. “You okay, Rex?”

He said nothing, just clenched his jaw and nodded, still staring after you. Fives followed his gaze down the hallway, a low rumble of a chuckle escaping him. “It would seem Izzy has an effect on more of us than we had previously thought.”

Rex’s head snapped around to him, narrowing his eyes in warning. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh come on Rex.” Fives rolled his eyes dramatically, throwing an arm around his Captain’s shoulder. “You’re not as subtle as you think you are.”

The corners of Rex’s lips twitched, and he didn’t reply. Fives prodded him further, with a grin. “Nothing to be ashamed about, I just think it’s -”

Rex’s eyes flashed and he snarled. “My feelings for her are anything but shameful.” He shook off his brother’s arm.

Fives just grinned wider. “So you do have feelings for her. How come you’re always hanging back and letting Jesse flirt with her then?”

He softened, his eyes wandering to the floor. A brief flash of pain ran over his face. “I just want her to be happy. Same with him, and I can see the way he feels about her. Whatever she chooses, I’m going to support it.”

Fives studied him closely, understanding washing over him. He nodded slowly. “I think you might have more of a chance than you think.”

Rex’s eyes shot back up to Fives, who only shrugged with a small grin. “Just something to think about.”

With that, Fives took leave of his Captain and headed down the hallway. Rex was left with a thousand questions running through his mind, doubt at the forefront of all of it, but beneath that, a spark of hope.

~~~

You touched down on Ord Mantell a little after 1900 hours, and you immediately set out to rendezvous with Tus. You made your way through the busy backstreets, finally slipping unseen into an alleyway, waiting for your contact.

“Well honey, I gotta say, you’re looking good.”

You turned around, glimpsing Tus walking towards you out of the shadows. You rolled your eyes, but smirked. “I wish I could say the same for you, Tus.”

He whistled. “You cut me deep, honey. Cut me deep.” He gave you a once-over, his eyes lingering on the scars of lightning. “New addition?”

“Unfortunately.”

“That’s alright, should pair nicely with the uniform.”

You grimaced. Right. The uniform. “Speaking of… details, I wanted to discuss with you my plans for the night.”

He cocked his head, then turned and walked down the alleyway, gesturing for you to follow him. “What kind of plans?”

“Staging mostly. If I’m gonna do this, I might as well do it well, and keep it convincing.”

He nodded, a devious grin climbing onto his face. “Works for me, business is business, and if you’re just as good as you used to be at getting customers to come in, something tells me this night is going to turn out very profitable indeed.”

You hummed. “That’s another thing.”

He glanced at you warily. You knew better than to mess with his money, but you at least needed to try and ask. “I’d like for the majority of the profits I make tonight to go to the girls. You can have the rest. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

He narrowed his eyes, looking back down the alleyway. You thought he was going to refuse, but then he sighed. “Sure thing, honey. Least I can do for them with everything going on.”

“Thank you.” You paused. “So, what are you doing on Ord Mantell?”

“Republic came in not long after you left. So, I migrated the club here.”

“Why would you migrate the club to a Republic controlled planet with an active military presence to escape the Republic? ” You looked at him incredulously.

“Nobody cares what happens here, honey. Besides, it’s best to conduct business where things are already established. In this war, they don’t look for shady dealings in Republic controlled planets.” He waved a hand dismissively.

I guess that’s a fair point. The two of you emerged from the alleyway into a hidden alcove, where you could see the outlines of a building towering above a few paces in front of you. When you entered the club, you equipped your earpiece and tested it. “Alright, tell me you can hear me boys.”

Everyone sounded off, and you smiled to yourself. “Good, now can you hear Tus?”

Tus grinned at you. “Welcome to The Kessel Klub 2!”

You heard Jesse snicker in your earpiece. “Electric Boogaloo?”

You rolled your eyes and chuckled. Tus looked at you expectantly. “Well?”

“They can hear you.”

“Excellent!” He clapped his hands together. “Now, tell me about these staging plans you have, and I’ll see what I can do.”

You muted your earpiece, thinking it would be better to keep everything about your plan as a surprise, so that your unit would have more of a genuine reaction. You grimaced at the thought of Obi-Wan having to watch the performance. Maybe he can just go to the bathroom or something during. Hopefully. He doesn’t need to see any of this.

You ran through your staging ideas with Tus, who grinned wider and wider as you told him all of the details you had thought of. By the end of it, he was rubbing his hands together at the mere thought of all the business you were about to provide him with.

“Well honey, I think you may have wasted your talents with me by being my operative.”

You rolled your eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s just see how it goes. And one more thing, I want to hook up my music to the club’s speakers.”

He glanced at you. “Go ahead, but the girls are going to need to practice. They’re in the back, go and let them know, and get ready while you’re at it honey. I had them pick something out, just for you.”

You made your way to the dressing rooms in the back, and opened the door to see several young women in there, no older than you were. You smiled at them warmly. “Hi, my name’s Isabelle.”

One of them, a blue-skinned Twi'lek, stood and approached you timidly. “Are you the Republic operative that’s here to help us?”

You nodded. “We’re going to do everything we can to get your friends back, and end this operation.”

The girls relaxed, coming to surround you and introduce themselves. They were all friendly, if a bit shy and nervous. You didn’t blame them. With a trafficking ring going around taking girls in the night, you wouldn’t feel secure either, especially not in this job market. You told them about your performance plan, and asked if they would join you for moral support, to which they agreed. You smiled and showed them the song you had picked, Pour It Up, which you thought to be rather apropo for this particular situation. Several of the girls went to practice their routines to the music, while the Twi’lek stayed behind.

She looked at you sheepishly. “We picked out an outfit for you, if you’d like to see it.”

“Sure! I bet it’s great.”

She smiled and turned, pulling out an outfit that would make the devil himself blush. It was undoubtedly beautiful, but you flushed. “I’m a little nervous, I have to say. I’ve never done something like this before.”

She grabbed your hands gently. “That’s why you have us. We all support each other here, and you’re no different. We’ll help you get through it, and you’ll do great.”

You relaxed a little, encouraged by her words. “Thank you. What’s your name, by the way?”

“Tib’ceva, but everyone calls me Tib.”

Just then, the sound of rowdy patrons entering the club drew your attention to the door. You looked at Tib nervously, but she just gave you a reassuring smile. “You’d better get dressed. We’ll see you out there, honey!”

She left you to change, and you stared at the outfit for a moment longer, before calling forth the black mist and switching your earpiece back on with a sigh. “Hey Obi-Wan, are you sure you want to watch this?”

~~~

2130 hours

“Got eyes on the club?”

“Affirmative.”

“Good. Sergeant, what’s your position?”

“We’re on the south side just across from the club. We have eyes on the entrance, if anyone enters or leaves, you’ll hear about it.”

“Tech?”

We have set up on the west side near the docks. According to intelligence the Ord Mantellian crime syndicates are based directly out of there.”

Ahsoka nodded. “Great. Keep us updated boys.”

Ahsoka muted her earpiece and turned to the former ARC Trooper beside her. She and Echo were perched on a rooftop overlooking the town, on the eastern side of the club. “I don’t like this, Echo.”

He shot her a glance before turning back to his scopes. “I don’t either. But it doesn’t seem like there’s any other option.”

Ahsoka ran a hand over her montrals. “I just don’t get it. Why would Dooku associate with a crime syndicate no one’s even heard of? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Maybe it’s a last ditch effort to try and win the war or gain some control.”

“Maybe.” Ahsoka’s brows furrowed. “Still, it just doesn’t make much sense.”

Silence stretched between the two of them for a moment, before Echo cleared his throat uncomfortably. “So, I uh, I heard you and her were the ones to rescue Kix and Fives.”

She cast him a sidelong glance. “Yeah. How’s that been, by the way?”

Echo let out a dry laugh. “A little awkward. Fives seems… different. Like he’s uncomfortable around me.”

A pang of grief ran through Echo. When they had gotten his brother out from under the rubble of the rooftop disaster, he was mostly nervous, but still ecstatic. All this time, he thought that Fives had died, and had only heard whispers of his possible return after the Chancellor’s treachery was revealed. But he hadn’t allowed himself to hope, lest he end up suffering from even more grief and pain. And then, he finally had his twin back. But things were different. Fives seemed as if he were almost avoiding Echo, and every time he talked to him, he would get an uncomfortable expression and make up an excuse to leave. It cut Echo through to the core.

Ahsoka placed a hand on Echo’s shoulder, jolting him from his thoughts. She had an empathetic expression on her face, and Echo was reminded of the fact that she probably could sense all of his inner turmoil. She gave him an encouraging smile.

“It’s because he blames himself.”

Echo blinked, surprised. “What?”

“Fives blames himself for The Citadel. He thinks that everything that happened is his fault, and that you hate him.”

Echo groaned. Of course. His brother, although able to wear his emotions painfully obviously on his sleeve, was never capable of discussing them or confronting them directly. He would probably have to corner him somewhere and force him to talk it out.

He looked back at Ahsoka, and though she couldn’t see it under his bucket, she heard the smile in his voice. “Thanks Commander.”

She smiled and gave him a small nod. Crosshair’s voice came on in the earpiece. “Hunter, you’ve got some thugs heading towards the club.”

“We see them. Looks like they’re opening. Standby, and let us know if you see anything. Do not engage without first informing us. That means you, Wrecker.”

Wrecker’s grumbling voice echoed in the earpiece, muttering about how it seemed every campaign was a stealth mission at this point. Ahsoka chuckled, switching her earpiece back off of mute. “I can see our party. They’re headed towards the club now.”

~~~

The boys entered the club shortly after 2200 hours, as you had instructed. Each wore a disguise, Jesse wearing a mask and hat to cover his tattoo, Rex had a bandana across his face, and Cody and Fives wore bounty hunter helmets. Obi-Wan and Anakin had removed their normal Jedi robes and tunics, opting for a more casual set of light armor and blasters. Obi-Wan had even messed with his hair and beard to give off a scruffier illusion, per your request.

They found a table at one side of the club and slid into the booth, observing their surroundings. It certainly was… interesting. Scantily clad women served as waitresses and dancers in various sections of the club, while others were interacting directly with their clients, whispering seductively in their ears and listening to the secrets that spilled off of their drunken tongues. The stage was left open, with a set of poles on either side of it. A young woman came by with drinks for the table, and the men nodded to her silently. Rex spoke softly, just loud enough to be heard from the earpiece.

“Isabelle, we’re here. Directly across from the stage.”

A couple moments later, a whispered “Copy” could be heard, followed by a breathless sentence. “I can’t talk much right now. Pon is arriving, according to Tus.”

A few seconds later, a greasy looking human stepped through the entrance, surveying the club coldly, before taking a seat at a table adjacent to the unit. They watched as Tus made his way over, speaking to him cheerfully. Anakin took another look at Pon and grumbled under his breath, taking a sip of his drink. “He even looks like a sleemo.”

Obi-Wan sent him a chastising glance, and curled his lips at the sight of a drunken thug being forcefully escorted out, thrashing and wailing his arms at the security detail. “ So uncivilized.”

Several minutes later, the lights dimmed even further, and Tus’ voice came on over the loudspeaker.

“Gentlemen, you are in for a treat tonight. Our lovely ladies of The Kessel Klub 2 have prepared a special performance. Let’s hear it for them, shall we?”

The men exchanged a few looks before turning to the stage. Rex took a deep breath, steeling himself. “Here we go.”

Chapter Text

The men in the club erupted into whoops and whistles as a backdrop descended over the stage. The boys looked at each other nervously, anticipating what’s to come. The music started, booming throughout the club, and a spotlight backlit the image of a woman as she walked slowly out, her image cast as a shadowed silhouette, each step landing perfectly on the beat. The men in the club watched, entranced. She paused at the back of a lounge, pressing herself against it before climbing up on top of it and leaning forward, arching her back, balanced perfectly on her knees. Her curves were accented alluringly with the backlight, an enchanting silhouette.

... Strip clubs and dollar bills… 

With the first beat drop of the song, she swung her body forward, extending her legs out and arched her back up onto the chair. With another beat drop, she spread her legs out and back, flipping onto her stomach. She slid slowly back and forth over the lounge, every now and then switching positions or extending a different limb to accentuate another part of her body. The men cheered, pushing their way through the crowd to form a pit at the base of the stage.

...Money make the world go round… 

The backdrop lifted, but the woman was still shrouded by darkness, indistinguishable. A throne slowly descended from the ceiling in front of her, and she brought a leg over her head to flip off of the lounge, running her hand across the top of the throne and coming to sit in a very provocative position, with one leg propped up, the other angled out to the side. She rested one hand on her knee, the other dangled strategically between her legs.

...All I see is signs, all I see is dollar signs…

With that line, the lights flashed, and Jesse spit his drink right into Rex’s face. Luckily, the other men in the room seemed just as stunned, so it wasn’t necessarily out of character. You were sitting on the throne, rolling your hips forward and wearing a black and gold leather bustier, thong, as well as a black leather garter belt decorated with a number of hanging, golden chains, and black and gold flecked platform heels. The strobes in the club danced and reflected off of your scars, turning you into a neon light. Your friends stared at you, slack jawed, and Obi-Wan was really starting to regret calling you silly for asking him not to watch.

Oh! Oh!

Your other leg dropped, and your hand moved from between your legs to rest on the arm of the throne.

...Money on my mind, money money on my mind…

You moved your knees in and out slightly to the beat of the song and rolled your hips forward. Two women walked out, climbing up onto poles on either side of you, accenting the scene in front of the men. You stood slowly, walking forward and swaying your hips seductively, the gold chains swishing back and forth. Water fell from the ceiling behind you, filling the stage. Two more women, a human and a Twi’lek, walked through the waterfall to join you. The three of you crouched, backs arched, bouncing slightly up and down to the beat, then proceeded to drop down to your knees and back up again rapidly as the beat dropped, water splashing around you. The three of you turned and repeated the move, this time facing away from the men. For the remainder of the verse, you stayed on your knees, dancing from your positions on the floor in the water.

“I feel like I need to look away, but I can’t,” Fives said guiltily.

Oh! Oh!

The two women on either side of you spun behind you while you turned to face the men, sliding into a split. They reached their hands around you and slid them over your body, seductively highlighting your curves. You swayed your shoulders and rolled your body to the music.

The song was drawing to a close, and the lights dimmed completely once again, obscuring you and the other women. The men in the club erupted in whoops and cheers, launching credits onto the stage. Jesse’s face was a very deep shade of red, and he was beginning to think of some incredibly inappropriate thoughts involving you. He chastised himself and begged his mind to think of something else, anything else, but fate would not be so kind. You reappeared, stepping confidently around the club, every footfall accentuating your hips. Maker be damned. Jesse cursed under his breath at the fresh wave of thoughts that flooded him.

Cody leaned over to Obi-Wan. “I’m not sure which job I preferred her in.” Obi-Wan said nothing, and just held a hand to his forehead.

“I’m not entirely sure we should have ever been meant to see that.” Rex’s eyes were wide and blown out.

Fives snickered. “You look like you enjoyed it, Rex.”

“Shut up Fives.”

Anakin was at a complete loss for words, his face burning brightly. He looked at Obi-Wan. “There wouldn’t happen to be any sage wisdom you could offer me right about now would there?”

He shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”

“Great.” Anakin grumbled.

A yelp caught their attention, heads snapping to see a skeevy thug get a little too handsy, grabbing at your ass. It took everything within Jesse to remain in his seat, but your next reaction definitely left him satisfied, seeing as you could take care of yourself. You gripped the man by his hair and slammed his face down onto the table, breaking his nose. Jesse smirked. That’s my girl.

Your voice was audible in their earpieces as you cooed at the now bleeding patron. “ No touching baby, house rules.”

You glided forward, approaching Pon’s booth. He leered at you as you approached, eyeing your body with a lust-filled gaze. Gross. “I hear I’m all yours tonight, Mister…?”

“Pevott. But you can call me Pon, baby.”

“Pon.” You climbed into the booth, moving to straddle his legs. “Well, Pon, what did you think of the performance?”

He smirked, looking you slowly up and down. “I think I’d like to see you recreate it for me later.”

Gag. You let out an alluring chuckle, running your hands up and down his chest and leaning in. “You certainly seem like a man who knows what he wants.”

“I do. I see it, and I take it, baby.”

You hummed, plucking a fruit-speared toothpick from one of the drinks on the table, placed it between his lips, and lightly bit the fruit off, being careful to avoid touching him. A growl rumbled from his throat, and his pupils blew wide with lust.

“What about you? A special lady like you must have some way to keep herself entertained.”

“I’m not sure I like the implication of your words, Pon.”

“Come on baby, you can tell me.”

Leaning forward, you whispered in his ear. “With secrets. You can learn about a person with just one secret.”

“Tell me a secret.”

You chuckled. “I’m not that easy, give me a reason to.”

Pon’s hand shot out and gripped you around the throat. You gasped softly, but thankfully your mutation allowed you to keep a level head. The men at the table watched you out of the corners of their eyes, tensing. A low growl rumbled from Rex.

“I said, tell me a secret, baby.”

You forced a seductive smile onto your face. “Alright.”

He went to move his hand, but you brought one of yours up and held his there around your throat.

“That’s my secret.”

“Oh Maker I don’t know whether to be intrigued or vomit.” Fives put his head in his hand.

“I’d say the latter. Thankfully, looks like that got him.” Cody’s eyes flicked up towards Pon’s table, where he had released you, staring at you hungrily.

A waitress walked by the table, and Pon flicked out a finger at her, ordering more drinks for the table. He offered one to you, but you smiled sweetly and shook your head.

“I don’t drink on the job, helps me to keep a clear head. Besides,” you leaned in, lilting your voice to a breathy tone. “I prefer my conversations to be a bit more… stimulating.”

He grinned viciously. “Me too, baby.”

You giggled, leaning back a little and propping your elbows back on the table. His eyes roved down your chest and torso as you did so, causing bile to rise in your throat. “Alright, I’ve told you one of my secrets, will you tell me yours?”

His hands grabbed your waist, pulling you flush against his chest. You felt a jolt of disgust wash through you, and your friends were no better. “I thought he wasn’t allowed to touch her.” Anakin hissed through gritted teeth.

Obi-Wan shook his head. “Clients are different. It’s the other men in the club that the girls do not interact with that are bound to the house rules.”

“I don’t like this.” Rex growled into his drink. He had been silent most of the night, his thoughts on you. Things were getting progressively worse. As he sat there, watching you with Pon from afar, anger boiled inside of him. You didn’t deserve this, you didn’t deserve to be treated like that, to be looked at the way that scumbag was leering at you. Rex wanted nothing more than to stick his boot down Pon’s throat. But then, they heard something in their earpieces that piqued their interest.

“I want to offer you a job, baby. That’s my secret.”

The party exchanged quizzical looks. Anakin furrowed his brows. A job? Now you seemed to be getting somewhere. They listened carefully as you questioned Pon.

You hummed. “What kind of job are we talking about?”

He grinned wolfishly. “Why don’t we get out of here and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” You hesitated briefly, then agreed, letting him lead you out of the club with an ironclad grip on your wrist.

“Hunter, do you have eyes on them?” Anakin spoke brusquely, feeling impatient. They had to wait a moment before they left to avoid being seen, and he would feel much better knowing that you were at least in their sights.

“Affirmative. They’re heading down the south street, towards some sort of apartment complex.”

“Alright, let’s go.” Anakin nodded to the men, and they stood and left the club, heading in the direction you had gone with Pon.

They made their way out of the club, walking briskly down the south street after you. An apartment complex loomed in the distance, a stark contrast to the sketchy streets around them. When they reached it, you were nowhere to be found. As if your ears were burning, your voice appeared in their earpieces again.

“You have a lovely flat, Pon.”

The men stiffened, and Obi-Wan quickly spoke into his earpiece. “Sergeant, which floor are they on? Do you still have eyes on them?”

Negative, General. They disappeared into the complex.”

They stood outside the complex, staring up at the countless amount of windows and rooms it held.

On the penthouse floor, no less, you must be a very proud man.”

Glancing at each other and silently thanking you, the unit moved to the building opposite, climbing all the way up until they were level with the penthouse flat. The flat was essentially all windows on the outside of the apartment, and distantly, you and Pon could be seen entering the living area. They took out their scopes, watching the interaction carefully. Ahsoka’s voice came on in the earpiece. “ Can you see them?”

“We see them, Snips. Relocate your perimeter here, I want to know exactly where they go from here.”

Inside the flat, you batted your eyelashes at Pon while he moved to the kitchen and offered to make you a drink. You had politely refused, and took the opportunity to look around the flat. Everything was pristinely white, from the furniture, to the walls, to the decorations. In fact, it was almost sickening. There’s no way you can have a flat like this in this town without being involved in some kind of shady shit. You forced down the bile that rose in your throat, and took a seat on the couch. Pon joined you a moment later, emerging from the kitchen and sitting across from you. You angled your body towards his.

“So tell me about this job.”

“Well,” he leaned forward, a cruel grin on his face. “You’d be doing exactly what you are now for much more powerful men.”

You cocked your head at him. “And that’s supposed to convince me?”

“Something tells me you won’t need to be convinced.”

God he’s creepy. Repulsion washed through you, and you had to work hard to keep your lips from curling at him in a sneer.

“If I may,” you raised an eyebrow inquisitively, “What made you request me tonight?”

He leaned back, arrogance twisting his expression. “I asked Tus to give me his best girl, and he gave me you, baby.”

“And did I live up to your expectations?” Your voice was husky, a deeper lilt to it.

He chuckled coldly, the sound chilling your bones. “Oh you will, baby, you will.”

You swallowed. “I’m not sure I like your implications, Pon.”

“Come on,” He moved closer, sliding a hand up your thigh. Your blood froze in your veins, and dread flooded through you. “You and I both know what you’re really here for.”

Your friends froze. Everyone’s heart collectively stopped beating for a moment. Then, Pon lunged at you, grabbing you by the hair and ripping you to the floor.

You yelped as you collided with the hard, cold tile. You turned back to see him looming over you, and you scrambled backwards, kicking off your heels and trying to get away. “Pon I think there’s a misunderstanding -”

“Wrong.” He picked you up and slammed you into the wall. Your head smacked against it with a loud crack! stunning you briefly. “I told you I take what I want, and that’s just what I’m gonna do.”

Fear coursed through you, and you opened your mouth to say something, but couldn’t get anything out before Pon stuck his tongue down your throat. On the opposite rooftop, your friends were losing their minds. Fives was on his feet, yelling at the Generals.

“We have to go in! I’m not just going to sit here and -”

“We can’t! We have to wait until she’s taken.” Obi-Wan seemed like he was trying to convince himself.

Rex and Jesse wheeled on him. “Are you kidding? Do you not see what’s happening?” Jesse was face to face with Obi-Wan, not even caring about how disrespectful this was considered.

Anakin pulled him away, although he looked just as furious with Obi-Wan as they were. “Obi-Wan, we need to reconsider this now. Ahsoka, where the hell are you? His voice shook with anger, and his eyes were dark.

We’re on our way to your location. What’s going on?”

“Just get here, now!”

“I’m going in.” Rex took a few steps towards the edge of the building and raised a grappling gun.

Obi-Wan stopped him, a warning look in his eyes. “Rex, if we do this now, we will never find the other women. She wouldn’t want that.”

Rex was breathing heavily, and snapped his eyes back to the unfolding scene, where you had managed to push Pon off of you. Your friends watched, conflicted, as you ran, disappearing and quickly reappearing in another room.

Your thoughts flashed wildly through your head. I can’t fight him, we won’t be able to find the women. But I can’t get out of here either, and we’re too far up for me to jump without activating my mutation. Suddenly, you crashed into something solid. Pon had reappeared and somehow flanked you. He gripped you by the arms and pulled you into a bedroom, throwing you on the bed and lunging after you, pinning you down.

“No, NO! GET AWAY FROM ME! GET OFF OF ME, GET OFF!”

You screamed and thrashed wildly underneath him, panic and terror overwhelming you as you felt his hands rove roughly over your clothes, groping your breasts, your ass, your thighs. His eyes flashed cruelly above you, and he bit down into your collarbone, hard. Your screams cut off abruptly as his fist collided with your face, pain exploding like fire in your skull. He punched you again, and you groaned, disoriented.

“Shut up you stupid whore!”

Ahsoka and the Batch had finally reached the rooftop, and were watching in horror at the scene unfolding in front of them. She wheeled on Obi-Wan, whose face was twisted with conflict and guilt. “It’s not worth it anymore. We have to go help her!”

Hunter turned Omega’s face into his body and muted her earpiece, cutting out the sound of your resumed screaming. “Don’t look Omega.” His voice was terse, and his hand hovered over his blaster preemptively.

Pon gripped you by the throat, squeezing hard. You croaked, choking and gasping for air as he leaned in, lust and cruelty twisting his expression. “Fuck the job. I’m gonna fuck you and make you mine, baby. I’ll have you dancing and fucking me every night, and I’m gonna make sure you like it.”

Your body locked up, and you froze underneath him as sheer terror coursed through you. You couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe. Pon smiled wolfishly and slowly moved his hands down towards your thighs.

Jesse was wildly searching through his bag for a grappling gun. He wasn’t going to let this get any further, campaign be damned. He found it, and he and Rex both nodded, coming to stand at the edge of the building, when suddenly, Pon leapt off of you, backing away. They paused.

You remained frozen for a moment before your mind reset, and you scrambled up into a defensive position, curling your limbs into your body to shield yourself. A voice had come from the hallway, and Pon had yanked himself off of you and as far away as possible. A shadow moved down the hallway, and a tall, svelte young woman entered, looking from you, to Pon. Her voice was laced with venom when she spoke.

“How many times do I have to tell you not to play with the sluts, Pon?” She turned to you as if she hadn’t just insulted you. “No offense, sweetie. I’m sorry for him, he only thinks with one thing.”

“Lada? What the fuck are you doing here?!”

Lada inspected her nails, bored. “She needs to be moved, now. Make sure she gets the red one.”

Pon spluttered, his face pale. “You’re telling me he wants her? Why?

She smirked. “You know we aren’t allowed to know that. And I wouldn’t ask questions if I were you. You know exactly what happens to men that ruin his new toys.”

He blanched, and Lada cackled maliciously, turning back to you and giving you a once over. “I think you’ll be a lovely addition to our little family, sweetie.”

Before you could respond, a sharp, stinging pain struck you in the neck, just below your ear. You yelped, bringing your hand up to grasp at a small dart that was sticking out of you. You began to feel woozy, dizziness and nausea taking over you. You tried to speak but your words came out horribly slurred. “Whadiddyou… do to me?” Blackness took over your vision, and you felt yourself falling.

Across the street on the rooftop, the unit could only watch as you swooned, slumping back onto the bed. They were simmering with rage, but held their positions as they watched a small squad of armed mercenaries carry you out of the penthouse. Anakin spoke, his voice trembling with fury.

“Follow them.”

~~~

The unit moved swiftly over rooftops, following your beacon’s signal through the alleyways of the town. It seemed to be leading them towards the docks, and soon a hidden landing pad came into view, where a ship sat, the engine humming. They skidded to a halt, watching as the mercenaries came into view once again, loading your unmoving form onto the ship.

Cody spoke, his voice urgent. “We need a ship here now if we want to keep up with them.”

Anakin raised his comm, his eyes pinned on the ship, which was starting to lift into the sky. “Admiral Yularen, we need you to send a shuttle down to the docks, now.”

The Admiral’s voice buzzed through immediately. “ Right away, General.”

Jesse had his hands on his head, and was pacing impatiently. I knew this was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have let her go through with this. He closed his eyes, your screams still echoing in his mind, the image of that scumbag pinning you down causing his blood to boil.

Rex was no better, picking anxiously at his blasters, trying desperately to force the image of your terrified expression out of his mind. We’re coming, Izzy, I promise you. And when he got to you, after he took care of that bantha shit criminal, he was going to hold you and keep you safe, comforting you for as long as you needed.

The shuttle could be heard approaching in the distance, and the unit gathered themselves, preparing for the upcoming onslaught. As it landed, they jumped in, Obi-Wan immediately moving to the cockpit to direct the pilot with the tracker.

Anakin turned to the others. “Right. Once we land and infiltrate the ring, I’ll send Yularen our coordinates, and have him send in the gunships. We need to go about this swiftly and silently so as not to alert any of the forces they might have there. Any questions?” There were none, so Anakin turned to follow Obi-Wan into the cockpit.

Hunter turned to Omega, unsheathing a knife and holding his blaster in his other hand. “Omega, when we get there I want you to stay on the shuttle.”

“But I want to help!”

He shook his head, his tone nonnegotiable. “Not this time. Stay here, and we’ll be back.”

She grumbled quietly to herself but acquiesced. Ahsoka watched her, and thought of how similar she used to be to her as a youngling, constantly running into battle headfirst, wanting to help anyone and everyone she could, no matter the consequences. But what Ahsoka knew Omega couldn’t understand were the darker undertones to this mission. This was no place for a young girl.

The shuttle approached a mountain and stuck to the clouds to keep out of sight, swinging around to drop the squad off on the opposite side. As they made their way over the mountain, Crosshair switched on his sights, looking around. “I’ve got thermal signatures, lots of them. Directly beneath us.”

Underground, why is everything always underground? Anakin muttered under his breath. “There’s gotta be an entrance somewhere. Keep your eyes open.”

“There.” Tech pointed to a small cave opening in the distance, where two bulky figures had just disappeared. He then turned to his datapad, fingers flying. “By my calculations, the legions should be armed and mobilized about fifteen minutes from the moment you comm the Admiral. I would plan accordingly.”

Anakin gave him a terse nod before setting off in the direction of the cave. As they approached, two armed mercenaries stepped from the entrance, their heads down. The party dropped, hiding in the grasses, as the mercenaries passed by.

“You know, this isn’t what I had in mind when you said you had a job for us.”

“Hey, the Black Sun pays well, and we don’t have to do anything.”

The mercenaries’ voices drifted to the squad as they crouched, listening. The first one groaned. “Yeah, but it’s so boring. Just day after day, moving more sluts. Don’t you ever want to get back into the action?”

“Sure I do. But you can’t tell me that this isn’t entertaining.” He cackled. “Did you see the new girl they just brought in?” Fives stiffened.

The other mercenary laughed. “Yeah, she looks like she put up a fight. I bet she’s real feisty.”

They erupted into cruel snickers and stepped back down into the cave. Ahsoka groaned. “This is Zygerria all over again.”

Obi-Wan let out a pained laugh. “Please don’t ever mention Zygerria again.”

Cody spoke quietly. “Sir, they mentioned the Black Sun syndicate. Could they be involved with this?”

He paused, thinking for a moment. “It’s possible that Dooku’s ally could be using the Black Sun to run the Ord Mantell trafficking operation. It’s ingenious, really, if we didn’t already have some prior knowledge of his existence, it could be overlooked as a singular organization, ignoring its role in the grand scheme of things.”

“Yeah, well, let’s head in and get it shut down anyways. I’m tired of sitting back and waiting.” Anakin crept forward, down into the depths of the cave. He turned his head to Crosshair. “Crosshair, keep those thermals up. I want to know if there’s anything coming our way.” He nodded and switched his sights back on again.

The squad wound their way down into the darkness, steeling themselves for any atrocities they were about to see. Wrecker spoke, his voice gruff. “I don’t like this, Sarge.”

Voices could be heard distantly from up ahead. Obi-Wan glanced at Anakin. “If I were you, I’d comm the Admiral.”

Anakin nodded and spoke quietly into his comm. A small ray of light could be seen a little ways in front of them, the voices louder now. They slid up to the opening, and when Crosshair confirmed no immediate signatures, they slid out into the next room, clinging to the shadows and overlooking the scene in front of them.

“Oh, Maker.” Ahsoka’s voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.

They were standing on a shadowed ledge overlooking a large room dimly lit by several fires. The room was packed with hundreds of women and young boys and girls, all of whom lay on the ground or curled into a corner defensively. They were filthy, and many were injured as well with multiple cuts and abrasions, bruises adorning their arms and faces. They sat with haunted looks in their eyes, tears silently streaming down their cheeks and staring blankly ahead, never reacting to anything except to shy away from various mercenaries that wandered the room. The younger children wailed occasionally, begging the older women for comfort. Some would try, others wouldn’t even react to them, as if they couldn’t see or hear them. Each woman and child held a different colored stuffed convoree, clutching them to their chests. On the far side, an auction was taking place, droids in the place of crime bosses from across the galaxy placing bids. The auction appeared to be color coded, separating them by their stuffed animals. After their bidding, they would be led away through a separate corridor that wound away from their line of sight. The auction ended, and the droids followed after the women and children.

“There she is!” Fives pointed to a spot on the far side of the room, where you had just been dropped. Your cheekbone was a hideous shade of purple and green, with a small cut oozing blood. A Twi’lek woman crawled over to you, leaning down and inspecting your injury. A mercenary dragged her away from you, placing a red convoree in your arms. Looking around, Fives noticed that you were the only woman with a red colored animal. That can’t be good.

“What do the colors mean?”

Tech narrowed his eyes, looking from one convoree to the next. “It looks like a sorting system, although I’m not sure what each color symbolizes.”

Anakin glanced around. Red, white, purple, and black. “Four colors, four categories?”

He nodded. “Possibly.”

A bell tolled throughout the cave, it’s sepulchral drone awakening the women from their trances, sending them into a frenzy. They screamed and wailed, climbing over one another in a mad rush.

“What’s happening?” Rex was looking wildly around, desperately searching for you. He found you, shielded by the body of the Twi’lek woman.

Mercenaries appeared from the shadows and snapped metal batons out to their sides. They advanced on the women, grabbing them and beating them mercilessly. Your friends watched in horror as the women and children screamed and tried vainly to crawl away, but there was nowhere to run to. The Twi’lek woman that had crouched over you was trembling with the effort of remaining upright, all the while a mercenary assailed her with his baton. The assault lasted for minutes on end until finally, the bell tolled again, and the mercenaries straightened, sheathing their bloodied batons and returning to the shadows, wails and moans of pain filling the room.

A tall, thin woman with sharp features entered the room, standing on the auction stage and addressing the women. “Ladies!”

The wailing slowly stopped, and the woman spoke again. “Now that I’ve got your attention, I have a special announcement to make. We have a very special guest on his way to us now, and some of you may have the opportunity to change your colors. That also includes the possibility of receiving black.” A wicked smile crept onto her face. “Operations will resume on schedule, the next reaping will be in three minutes. Carry on, ladies.”

The moans and wails resumed for a while longer, until finally quieting down, the women returning to their blank haunted stares.

Hunter glanced at Anakin. “General, where are our forces?”

“About ten minutes out.” He glanced at Obi-Wan. “What do you think the reaping is?”

He shook his head, his brows furrowing. “I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound good though.”

No, it does not. Jesse looked around the room at the faces of the women. Each one looked empty, as if their very souls had been ripped from their bodies. A group of mercenaries were rounding up some of the women and children with black convorees, herding them to one side of the room. Just then, a small, nearly inaudible groan sounded in his earpiece, and Jesse’s heart skipped a beat. You were awake.

Chapter Text

You awoke to a sharp, throbbing pain on the right side of your face. You groaned, reaching a hand up and wincing at your protesting cheek. A drop of blood lingered on your fingers as you drew your hand back. You looked around, and your eyes flew wide with shock and horror. The room you were lying in was filthy, and hundreds of women and children lay around you, bleeding and wailing. Oh my God. Everyone was holding a colored convoree, and as you sat up you felt something brush against your hands. You looked down to see a stuffed animal of your own and furrowed your brows. Why is mine different from everyone else’s?

A quiet, pained moan drew your attention to a woman beside you. You gasped as you recognized Tib, from the club. She was incredibly battered, and the skin on her back had split open, blood oozing slowly from her wounds. You crawled over to her, gently turning her over and scanning her injuries.

“Tib! Tib, what happened?”

She looked at you over her shoulder dazedly. “They attacked us. I protected you.”

Shock jolted through you. “Why would you do that? You shouldn’t have!”

She smiled weakly. “I’m okay, just a little banged up.” She slowly sat up and curled next to you, leaning her head against your shoulder. “This place is a nightmare.”

“How did you get here?”

She didn’t say anything for a moment, but sniffed. When she spoke, her voice wavered a little. “I don’t really know. I left with a couple other girls from the club, but I just remember a sharp prick, and then feeling really dizzy. I woke up here a little before you got here.”

You swallowed. “I’m so sorry. I never wanted anyone else to get involved in this.”

“Not your fault, honey. We know you’re here to help us.”

You smiled faintly and nodded once. Turning your head, you looked around the room at the convorees. “What do the stuffed animals mean?”

She clutched her purple convoree to her chest. “The colors represent different categories. We are separated based on what they want to do with us.” She lifted her convoree. “Purple are sold to royals and politicians. White are sold as sex slaves.”

Your eyes fell on a young boy holding a white convoree; your heart plummeted, dread and fear shooting through you for him. You swallowed. “And red?”

She blinked at you, nervousness overcoming her expression. “They say any who is given red is taken by the Master. They serve doing whatever he requires, and some have even said that they are used for experimentation.”

Oh, God. Do they know? Your eyes widened in panic. Up above, unbeknownst to you, your friends were listening in on your conversation, tense and alert.

Ahsoka paused, furrowing her brows in thought before her eyes flew open. “Wait… when Izzy and I went to Mustafar, Dooku went to open the stasis chambers to use Fives and Kix for ‘the next phase of experimentation.’ Could that be what she’s talking about?”

Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged a look, frowning. Before they could reply, though, your voice could be heard coming through the earpiece again.

“Wait, what’s black then?”

Tib looked at you fearfully and opened her mouth to respond, but before she could, the sound of mercenaries leading a small group of women and children with black convorees to the auction stage drew your attention back up. Every single one of them looked absolutely terrified. Tib leaned into you, her voice deathly quiet.

“Execution.”

Her words sank in, and you stood, watching in horror as the mercenaries brought a young girl no older than eight to the front of the stage. She clutched her convoree to her chest and cried softly.

A bell rang out, its toll spelling doom. You found your feet moving themselves forward, and you sprinted to the stage just as the mercenaries raised their guns at the girl.

“NO!”

You threw yourself in front of the girl, shielding her and bracing yourself for the line of blaster fire that would ravage your body. But none came. You panted, then slowly turned to face the mercenaries, pushing the girl behind you. They simply watched you blankly, and out of the corner of your eye, you saw Lada glide out from the shadows.

“Normally an interruption such as this would not be tolerated. But, seeing as you are a special case, we can make an exception.” A mercenary to her left whispered something in her ear, and she nodded, addressing the entire room. “It would seem our guest has arrived, ladies. Please welcome the Master.”

She bowed, and the corridor was filled with an ominous, metallic, stomping noise. A man entered the room, cloaked with a robotic mask covering his face. He turned slowly to face you, and you raised your chin defiantly, your eyes flashing. His mask had two vertical, emerald lines running through it from top to bottom, and when he spoke, his voice was distorted and mechanical.

“Hello _______.”

Your heart stopped and your blood froze in your veins. “How do you know that name?!”

Up above, Jesse whispered to the others, “Who the hell is _______?”

Obi-Wan replied, his face drained of color. “That’s her real name.”

“What?!” Your friends looked from the man, to you, to the girl that you were protecting. The Master stepped forward onto the stage, watching you closely.

“I know more about you than you care to think.”

“You must be Dooku’s ally then.” You spat your words at him. “What do you hope to gain from this?”

He leaned in, towering over you menacingly. “I’ve already gotten everything I need. But with you, I can have everything I want.”

He circled you, and you angled the girl closer into you to shield her from him. “Join me now, and there will be no consequences.”

You scoffed. “There’s no way I’m going to do anything for you.”

He watched you for a moment, saying nothing. Then, with a flick of his fingers, a wave of mercenaries rushed you, and you were forced onto your knees. The little girl was ripped from behind you and held inches in front of your face. You looked up into her eyes, seeing the terror in them as she let out a wail of pain and fear.

“No, no, no WAIT-!”

The Master took out a blaster, held it to the girl’s head, and fired. Blood spattered over your face, and you screamed in horror as her body fell lifeless to the floor.

“SHIT! General, where the hell are our forces?!” Rex turned on Anakin, who was staring at the scene in front of him in shock and rage.

“I have no idea, they should have been here by now!”

The rest of the party was watching the events unfold in front of them, horrified by what just happened. You had ripped yourself free of the mercenaries and crawled over to the girl, cradling her body in your arms. You let out an anguished wail and clawed at your face and your arms, desperately trying to get the blood off of you.

“We could have avoided this, if it weren’t for your pride.”

Your eyes turned to the Master and you lunged at him, feeling the mutation well up inside you. Before you reached him, however, the room exploded into blaster fire. 501 st troopers had entered the fray, led by your small squad. You let the mist flood your senses and you wheeled on the Master, onyx spikes forming in your hands. He merely watched you, as if waiting for you to attack. You surged forward, but were blocked by several mercenaries who ran to intercept you. You cut them down, one by one, making your way to the Master, only to see that he had gone. Vanished. You turned your head wildly, your eyes falling on the corridor from which he had come. You took off, ignoring the shouts of warning from your comrades, and burst into an open hangar. Inside, two ships were readying for takeoff. One held the Master, the other, a fresh wave of slaves. You had to make a decision.

Grunting with frustration, you rushed at the ship holding the slaves. You ran up the ramp and into the cockpit, which was flown by two droids. You buried one spike in the pilot droid's sensor, and sliced the head off of the other just in time to see the Master’s ship flying off. Cursing under your breath, you quickly grounded the ship and led the rest of the women and children out and back into the main room.

The 501 st had either killed or chased off the mercenaries, and out of the corner of your eye you saw Fives and Jesse stun Pon and drag him roughly off to the side. Rex saw you reappear, and watched as your eyes slowly made their way back to the body of the little girl. Oh, no. Your face twisted and you stumbled forwards, landing hard on your knees next to her lifeless body. Rex rushed over to you, sliding to a stop and bracing his hands on your shoulders.

Your body shook as you ghosted your hands over the little girl, letting out a short, anguished cry. The room was deathly silent, everyone seemingly holding their breaths as they watched you look over the girl. Anakin and Obi-Wan ordered the troopers to secure the outside perimeter and ensure that no one had gotten away. They nodded and left swiftly, leaving just you, the women and children, and your friends in the room. Looking back at you, they watched as you closed the girl’s eyes, your face twisted in sorrow and guilt.

With the exception of the hideous blaster wound in her temple, she looked peaceful, as if she were sleeping. Her black convoree dangled limply from her fingers, and you gently picked it up, running your thumbs over the spots of blood that had spattered on it, clearing them away. Your eyes started to burn and a heavy lump formed in your throat. This is all your fault. You didn’t save her. She died because you were too stubborn. The words repeated themselves in your head over and over again, and you started hyperventilating, voicing them aloud.

“Oh God, oh God, oh GOD, It’s my fault! It’s all my fault, oh my God, I did this!”

Rex turned you to face him, grasping your face between his hands as the tears started to fall, streaking through the drying blood. “Hey, hey! Look at me, this is not your fault, okay?” You shook your head vigorously. “No, it’s not! There’s nothing you could have done. Maker, come here.”

He pulled you into his chest, wrapping one arm around your back and the other tangling in your hair, holding you tightly. You sobbed into him, and Rex closed his eyes, clenching his jaw. This mission had been a nightmare. You never should have been forced into doing any of this. And for everything to happen the way it did, Rex wanted to storm the Senate himself to get justice for you. He held you a little tighter, as if he could squeeze all of the pain and sorrow out of you, and fill you with happiness again.

A small noise caused Rex to open his eyes again, and he recognized the Twi’lek that had shielded you earlier as one of the dancers from the club. She approached cautiously, gesturing to you. Rex glanced at her warily before noticing the sadness and understanding in her eyes. He brought a hand to your cheek, pulling your face away from him slightly. The immense amount of pain and anguish in your eyes stabbed into him, and he furrowed his brows, rubbing your cheekbone lightly with his thumb. “There’s someone here to see you.”

You turned, and upon seeing Tib, a whimper escaped you. She reached out and pulled you into an embrace, the two of you weeping softly. You clung to her, whispering. “I couldn’t save her, Tib.”

Her voice wavered as she spoke. “I know, honey.” She pulled back, and searched your face. “But you saved the others.”

“But she -”

“Is in a better place.” Tib’s bottom lip wobbled slightly. “She’s no longer in pain.”

You glanced at the girl, sniffling. When you looked back at Tib, she smiled softly. “It wasn’t your fault.”

But it was. If I had just given in, she would still be alive. Everyone around me dies. Grief and guilt roiled inside you, and you shut your eyes tightly.

Anakin stepped up onto the stage, his expression somber. “We should go.”

You looked up at him and nodded, turning back to the girl. You reached for her, but Rex stopped you. “I got her.”

You bit your lip but let him gently scoop her into his arms, and with that, you stood to leave, giving Tib’s hand a squeeze as you went. Anakin wrapped an arm around your shoulders and pulled you into his side. You climbed off of the stage, wrapping your arms tightly around yourself as you made your way over to the rest of the company, staring blankly, your eyes haunted.

As you approached, you were acutely aware of everyone’s eyes on you. Now that you think about it, you were probably a sight to look at. Your hair was knotted, and you were filthy, cuts and bruises adorning your body. Blood caked your arms, face, and hair. Your face burned, and you lowered your head, avoiding anyone’s gaze. “Let’s go.” Your voice was quiet, and you began to slowly file out of the cave, winding your way back to the world above.

~~~

The early hours of dawn began to shine light through the windows of the club. The shuttles had taken your squad back to the town with the exception of Fives and Cody, who had volunteered to take the women and children to receive medical attention. Those who weren’t as injured were taken to the medical facilities at the outpost, while the others who required immediate attention were transported to the Resolute, where Kix and a number of doctors and medic troopers were waiting.

Now you were here, sitting on a table with the black convoree in your hands, staring blankly into its midnight eyes. Omega, Ahsoka, and Tib came to sit with you, as well as a couple other dancers from the club. Tech silently treated the cut on your face and dressed Tib’s wounds with bacta before making his way back to his squad.

The Jedi and Batch watched the four of you from afar, speaking in hushed tones to Tus. Although the ring had been sacked, Lada had apparently escaped. The Generals were concerned that if she were still at large, the ring would only be revived elsewhere, and as such, Obi-Wan and Anakin escorted Pon to a room in the far back, similar to Tus’ warehouse on Kessel, to interrogate him. Jesse and Rex returned from where they had gone to bury the girl and leaned against a table in front of you.

Jesse searched your face, his heart twisting when he saw the same haunted expression the women had had earlier reflected in you now. All of the light had died from your eyes, and you couldn’t rip your gaze away from the convoree in your hands. He thought back to earlier in your quarters; the way you had looked at him and reassured him that you would be okay had relieved some of his doubt then, but seeing you now, he wished he had taken you far away from here, far away from the horrors you had had to endure the night before.

“Where did you bury her?” Your voice was quiet and devoid of spirit.

Rex looked up from where he had been picking at his blasters. “We found a nice tree by a stream. It’s pretty there, very peaceful.”

“Good,” you whispered.

“Where are the Generals?”

Ahsoka answered Rex. “They’re interrogating Pon in the back.”

Pon. At the mention of the scumbag’s name, Rex and Jesse let out a low growl. They exchanged a look, Rex speaking for the both of them. “We’re going to join them. Have a nice little chat.” They pushed themselves off the table and wandered to Tus, who left to show them to the back.

Ahsoka looked at Tib. “Do you guys have a shower here?”

She nodded. “Yes, in the dressing room. I can go with the two of you, if you’d like.”

“Yes, please. I think it’s time we got her out of these clothes. Does that sound alright?” She nudged you, a warm smile on her face.

To be completely honest, you had forgotten you were still in your outfit from the night before, and you shivered a little, suddenly cold. Since your shoes were gone, your feet were positively filthy, and a little cracked. Not to mention the insane amount of blood and dirt that caked over your body and in your hair. You blinked and turned your head to Ahsoka, nodding.

The two women slowly guided you to the dressing room, the convoree falling out of your hands and onto the floor. Omega picked it up, looking at it curiously, and made her way across the club to her brothers. As she approached, Hunter caught sight of the stuffed animal in her hands, and his eyes widened. “Where did you get that?!” He snatched it out of her hands. He didn’t want her anywhere near anything associated with that wretched place.

Omega looked confused. “She dropped it. What is it?”

“Nothing.”

She huffed, crossing her arms. “Why won’t anyone tell me about what happened?”

Echo brought a hand up to rub at the back of his neck. “Omega, there’s just some things that people aren’t meant to see. This is one of them.”

“I don’t understand.”

Hunter sighed. “Look kid, what happened was intense, even for us. It’s not something anyone should ever have to see, especially not you.” He softened a little. “I’m sorry, but it’s best if you don’t know.”

Omega frowned. She hadn’t known her brothers to be affected by much, but this had clearly taken a toll on everyone. What could have been so bad that they won’t tell me? She thought back to the state in which you had returned, and how everyone had been uncomfortably silent for hours. Something very, very bad must have happened.

Wrecker took her momentary lapse to interject, leaning down and picking her up with a smile and placing her on his shoulder. “What do you say we go and get some Mantell Mix kid?”

Omega hesitated, but agreed when she realized she probably wasn’t going to get any answers anyways. He shot a sidelong glance at Hunter, who looked grateful. “Don’t go too far.”

“You got it, Sarge.”

Wrecker ambled out of the club with Omega, leaving just Hunter, Crosshair, Tech, and Echo in the main room. Hunter turned his gaze to the door you had disappeared through. “Well I’d have to say that was one of the worst missions we’ve ever been on.”

“Although, it still was a success. That moves our record to eleven consecutive successful missions.”

Crosshair scoffed and flicked his toothpick at Tech. “Way to focus on what really matters.”

“There’s something about this that doesn’t add up to me.” Echo furrowed his brows, frowning. “Why was she singled out, out of all the women, for the head of the operation?”

“I expect it has something to do with her mutation.” Tech readjusted his goggles. “I have several theories, but the most plausible is the prospect of her dissection.”

Dissection? What the - ugh - kriffing hell, Tech.” Hunter pinched the bridge of his nose. “What do you mean, dissection?”

“Well, the so-called ‘Master’ demanded she join him, or suffer the consequences. And the Commander mentioned Count Dooku’s desire to use Kix and Fives for experimentation, which we have heard again, here in the ring. My guess is that if she chooses not to join them, they will likely use her as the subject for experimentation, perhaps in attempts to recreate her mutation in others. In order to do that, they would likely dissect and study her brain. Of course, this is just a theory.”

They all stood in a stunned silence for a moment, processing Tech’s theory. Finally, Echo spoke slowly. “That… actually makes a lot of sense.”

Tech gave him a strange look. “Why would I ever say anything that doesn’t make sense?”

“Nothing you say ever makes sense,” Crosshair muttered under his breath.

Echo looked between his brothers. “We should probably tell the Generals when they get back.”

They nodded, settling into an uneasy silence. Echo sighed. This campaign just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

~~~

In the dressing room, Ahsoka and Tib helped you to undress, and gently led you to the shower. They waited outside the door for you, which was comforting considering the amount of blood you were washing off of your body. It had alarmed you at first, but Ahsoka had assured you that everything was fine and that they were right there for you if you needed it.

Every time you close your eyes, Pon’s malicious, wolfish gaze flashes in your mind. You flinched as your fingers ran over the bite mark on your collarbone, a fresh wave of nausea and anxiety washing over you. You could still feel his hands groping your body, leaving bruises on your thighs and arms. You started breathing a little shallower, and leaned against the shower wall to ground yourself. Your chest felt heavy, as if he still had you pinned to the bed, his voice ringing in your ears. I’m gonna make sure you like it. Terror rose through you, and you struck out with your hands, smacking the wall and sliding down to the shower floor, hunched over with your arms wrapped tightly around you.  I was almost raped last night. Black dots swam in your vision as your breathing became more rapid and ragged.

Ahsoka’s voice brought you back to reality. “Izzy? What’s going on?”

You gasped, forcing yourself to take deep breaths. With each exhale, you willed all of the memories and images to leave you, until your breathing had calmed and slowed enough for you to respond. “I’m okay, I’m sorry.”

Your thoughts instead turned to the little girl. Maybe Tib was right, and this had been a mercy for her; she wouldn’t have to live the rest of her life with this kind of trauma. You tried to let yourself believe that wherever she was, she was happier, safer. Vengeance roiled in your stomach as you thought of Lada. How dare she? How can a woman stand by and commit such atrocities? You didn’t understand, but at this point, you didn’t even care. You would stop Lada, if it were the last thing you’d do. And then, you would hunt down the Master. Only then would justice be served for that little girl.

After you cleaned yourself off, you turned off the shower water, and the door opened just a crack, Ahsoka reaching an arm through and handing you a towel. You wrapped it around yourself and stepped out of the shower, where Tib stood with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts for you. You gave her a small, grateful smile and pulled them on, sighing in contentment. You looked between the two women and grasped their hands gently. “Thank you, both of you.”

They smiled and gave you a small nod.

“What are friends for?”

~~~

Pon was having a rough go of things in the back room, to the immense satisfaction of his interrogators. Obi-Wan leaned back in his chair calmly and rolled his eyes while Anakin slammed Pon’s face into the durasteel table.

“At least try to control your emotions, Anakin. Besides, you’re going to undoubtedly confuse our guest if you give him any more concussions.”

“Alright Obi-Wan, that's a fair point, maybe I’ll just have to switch tactics.”

Pon looked at them incredulously. “Aren’t you two supposed to be Jedi? Why don’t you just do that mind thing and get it over with?!”

Anakin shot a glance at Obi-Wan. “I don’t think I know what he’s talking about, how about you Obi-Wan?”

Obi-Wan only shrugged, standing and stating he was going to go get Pon some water, leaving him alone with Anakin. He chastised himself silently for allowing his emotions to take over. But after seeing what Pon had done to you last night, he was more than willing to let his former Padawan take the reins for this interrogation. He passed by Rex, Jesse, and Tus, who were moving towards Anakin, and gave them a nod.

“Oh hey guys, glad you could join the party.” Anakin kicked out the legs of Pon’s chair, sending him sprawling to the floor. He crouched down over him. “You know the girl you assaulted last night? She means a lot to us. In fact, you see those two?” He pointed a finger back at Rex and Jesse, who cracked their knuckles and took a few menacing steps forward. Pon’s eyes widened in fear. “They’re her best friends. So, if you don’t wanna tell us anything, maybe I’ll just hand this interrogation over to them.”

Jesse chuckled and sneered at him. “Oh by all means, please refuse.”

“Look man, I’ll tell you anything you want!”

“Great.” Anakin grinned smugly. “Tell us about the Master and where Lada is.”

“Anything but that! They’ll kill me, there’s no way I can - AGH!”

Rex had stepped forward, gripped Pon by the collar of his shirt and picked him up, slamming him back onto the table. “Why don’t we try this again?”

“Okay! Okay!”

Jesse curled his lips in disgust. “You really are a coward.” The slimeball in front of them had no honor, no loyalties, no sense of decency or respect. How anyone could live like that was beyond him.

“Alright you human stain, go on, tell us.” Anakin looked bored, as if he had hoped that Pon would have resisted a little more. Actually, he did hope that Pon would have resisted more. He deserved to suffer for what he had done to you, for what he had tried to do to you. But he wasn’t surprised that he didn’t, seeing as the sleemo had no concern for anyone other than himself.

Rex still had him pinned to the table. Pon looked around wildly before finally speaking. “Lada is on an island on the eastern side of the planet. It’s her hideout, she barely comes out of it except when necessary like last night.”

“And the Master?” Rex jolted him gruffly against the table.

“I swear, I don’t know much about him.” Rex growled and jolted him again, a little harder. “Ow! Hey, I’m telling the truth man! He’s a ghost! No one knows where he came from, or who he is. He uses the Black Sun to bring him people. That’s all I know! I don’t know what he does with them, but Lada does! She knows a hell of a lot more than I do.”

Obi-Wan came back with water. “I see I’ve come at a good time.”

“As always.” Rex dropped Pon back down on the floor, and Anakin leaned over him with a smirk. “Thanks for cooperating.” He gave him a hard pat on the shoulder, then turned with the others to leave.

Pon spat after them. “Go back and tell that whore to watch her back if she knows what’s good for her.”

The men wheeled around, but Jesse got to Pon first, landing a punch straight to his eye. He gripped him by his collar and leaned in menacingly. “You’re lucky if that’s the only one you get from me.” He pushed him back and spit after him, leaving him to clutch at his eye with a pained groan.

The four men regrouped several feet away from Pon, speaking hushedly. Obi-Wan addressed Tus, his fingers running through his beard. “Do you know anything about this Lada?”

He scowled. “Lada Tritassorr. She’s the leader of a more radical branch of the Black Sun syndicate. Mostly dealt in arms until recently. Not much else on her, only rumors.”

“Well that’s better than nothing. Do you know the island that scumbag was talking about?” Anakin glanced distastefully back at Pon.

Tus nodded. “Yep. I got a holotable in the other room, I can show you guys.”

“Great.” Anakin nodded to the others. “Let’s go then.”

Jesse and Rex grabbed Pon gruffly by the arms, leading him back out and into an awaiting shuttle to take him to the Resolute. When they had returned, so had you, freshly showered and clothed. They shot you a careful look. You looked much better, and some of the light had returned to your eyes. Rex caught Ahsoka’s eye, and she gave him a simple nod. He relaxed a little, looking back at you worriedly.

Jesse watched you, hundreds of unspoken words and emotions flooding through him. His expression darkened as his eyes fell on the bite mark on your collarbone, and at the bruises spotting your body. He clenched his jaw, fury running through him like wildfire. You were warm and compassionate, you deserved to be taken care of, to be loved. Protected. Not this. 

You sensed Jesse’s eyes on you, and looked up at him, your stare level. He swallowed, reaching out a hand to rest it gently on your shoulder. “Are you alright?”

You hesitated. “I will be.”

It wasn’t the best, but it would have to do. Jesse took a deep breath and nodded slowly. You offered him a small, encouraging smile. It would take you a while to fully recover, so instead of brooding, you turned your mind to what was really important: the campaign. If anything, burying yourself in your work might prove to be a decent distraction, and the prospect of liberating Ord Mantell from the Master’s hold lit a spark of defiance and determination in you. You held onto that thought, letting it give you the hope you needed to continue the campaign.

Chapter Text

“You know, for once I’m actually looking forward to getting rid of a potential customer.”

Your squad sat around Tus’ holotable, where he was showing you a map of the planet, focusing in on an island in the eastern hemisphere. Lada’s hideout was supposedly there, although there wasn’t much information on where it was, or if there would be any armed guards there, which you were sure there would be.

“Well, there’s a first for everything.” You rubbed your hands over your face and stifled a yawn, trying to wake yourself up. You still hadn’t slept at all from the night before, and exhaustion hung thickly over your mind.

Rex scanned the map with his eyes, searching for possible entry and exit points. “So we found the island, but where’s the hideout? Looks like there are multiple points of entry possible.”

You hummed. “We could have scouts go and check out the island, block off any possible escape routes, the works.”

“I think we can do that. I’ll comm Yularen to send out a patrol.” Anakin stepped several paces away, speaking softly into his comm.

“So should we go for another stealth op?” Ahsoka studied the map, her eyes narrowed in consternation as she strategized.

You scrutinized the layout of the island carefully. It was painfully exposed, with not much vegetation. As soon as you started your approach, they’d likely catch sight of you. “I don’t think stealth is the way to go here.” You heard Wrecker heave an - oh, YES - and forced back a giggle. “It’s too open. I suggest we launch an aerial attack, and hit them hard and fast. Especially if our scouts can get those escape routes blocked off, a bombardment like that might catch them off guard.”

Obi-Wan nodded slowly. “I agree. Although we should wait until we know what we are going up against.”

“Then we strike at night, after the scouts get back; so tomorrow night?”

You looked around, watching the nods of agreement ripple through the room. “Great. That’ll give our scouts plenty of time, and we’ll get some time to recuperate too.” You ran a hand over your face with a sigh.

“Listen honey, I’m closing the club tonight. You all can stay here if you’d like instead of having to find somewhere else to stay.”

A slow smile crept onto your face. “How generous of you, Tus.”

He scoffed, crossing his arms. “Don’t read too much into it honey. I’m still a businessman.”

Ever the entrepreneur. You gave him a good-natured roll of your eyes before turning to the others. “Take this time to rest up and prepare for the assault.”

The others dispersed, and the Batch followed after the Jedi, pulling them into a separate room. Anakin looked at them questioningly. “What’s going on guys?”

Hunter glanced at the others, then back at Anakin. “General, we think there’s something you should know. Tell them your theory, Tech.”

Tech described his theory of the Master and Dooku’s desire to capture and use you for experimentation purposes. “Based on what Commander Tano mentioned last night regarding Dooku’s desire to use human subjects for experimentation combined with his motive to have Isabelle join him, I’d say it’s safe to say that he could be using the trafficking side of this operation to maintain a steady flow of test subjects.”

Obi-Wan furrowed his brows and ran his fingers through his beard. “That does seem like a likely option.” He nodded to the Batch. “Thank you, we’ll consider this information.”

The Batch took their leave of the Jedi, and the three of them thought quietly to themselves for a moment. Finally, Anakin shook his head and spoke. “Why would Dooku want to experiment on people? What could he possibly hope to gain from that?”

“A weapon, I’d expect. Ahsoka, you mentioned that Dooku taunted her on Mustafar and tried to convince her to join him, correct?”

“Yes Master.” Ahsoka’s lips curled. “It sounded like he’s biding his time, waiting to strike.”

Anakin and Obi-Wan exchanged a glance, the Jedi Knight opening his mouth to speak. “Well, that’s never good. We’ll just have to keep an eye out then.” The other two nodded, and made their way back out into the main room.

 You had found Tus again, an idea forming in your head and a wry smirk pricking at your lips. He gave you a sidelong glance before putting his hands up in exasperation. “I know that look. What do you want?”

You grinned deviously. “How upset would you be if we raided your store tonight?”

~~~

Later that night, Cody and Fives returned from the Resolute with Kix in tow. You were at the bar, making a strange concoction of a drink, while Echo sat on a barstool, watching you skeptically. “Hey!” You threw your hands up. “Look who finally decided to show up.”

Kix and Fives walked over to meet you at the bar, while Cody shook his head and looked back at the entrance to the club, debating whether or not to leave. You frowned. “ Aht aht aht! Don’t even think about it Cody, get in here.” Cody sighed and made his way over to the others.

Kix narrowed his eyes at you. “Are you drunk?”

“Painfully sober actually. But not for long.” You lilted your voice to a sing songy tone for the second half of your sentence.

Echo smirked. “Jesse bet she couldn’t make him something that would get him drunk off of just one glass.”

“Speaking of which, I’d say this is just about done!” You set the drink on the bar proudly, and Echo picked up the glass curiously, sniffing the liquid. He recoiled with a grimace.

“That smells like pure alcohol.”

“Oh that’s because it is.” You grinned as Kix gave you an admonishing glance. “See I used the drinks with less than ten percent alcohol content in them as mixers, and the rest is a blend of others that I thought would go well with it.”

“Did you measure the alcohol?” Kix frowned at you.

“Bold of you to assume I know how to measure properly.”

 Fives snickered. “There’s no way that’s good.”

You rolled your eyes and set to work making a glass for yourself. “Try it then. Should taste just like sparkling juice with a bit of a kick.”

Fives brought the glass to his lips warily before taking a small sip. His brows furrowed before his eyes lit up with intrigue. He set the glass back down. “Damn, that’s dangerous. Can you make me one?”

A devious grin made its way onto your face. “Coming right up!” You turned your head to the group at the other side of the club. “Jesse! Your drink is ready.”

Jesse bounded over, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “What do we have here?”

Kix wrinkled his nose. “Poison.”

“Just the way I like it.” Jesse picked up the glass, inspecting the swirling drink. Echo let out a slight noise of warning, but Jesse ignored him and took a large swig. He drew back, grimacing slightly. “Oh, that’s got a kick.”

“I look forward to taking your credits.” You slid Fives the drink you had originally been making for yourself, before starting on another.

Jesse grinned widely. “Don’t be so sure.” He turned to head back, calling over his shoulder. “Come join us when you’re done over there!”

You finished mixing your drink, took a sip and sighed at the slight burn as it slid down your throat. You waggled your brows at Kix. “Come on, Kix, let me make you a drink. I promise it’ll be normal.”

He rolled his eyes and huffed a small laugh. “Alright just pour me a whiskey.”

You bounced giddily and reached for the handle and a new glass, pausing before you poured him a serving and glancing up at him. “Just tell me when to stop.”

After a hearty serving, he stopped you, grabbing the glass from the table and taking a swig. You smiled and vaulted the bar, grabbing your drink and heading to the back for a moment and shut the lights off. You turned on the strobes and looked for your music player. It’s too quiet in here. When you found it, you scrolled through your playlists until you found your old list you used for parties. Old memories of dancing and laughing with your friends wandered through your mind, and you smiled softly. You took a long swig of your drink and shuffled the list, Roses beginning to boom throughout the club, and you turned back to the group. Heads turned in your direction, and you bounded over to your friends, banging your head to the beat.

Fives grinned. “Music?”

“Hey, would you ever stay in a club if there wasn't any music?” You threw your hand out to the side and took another sip of your drink.

“You got me there.”

You sang along to the music to your friends’ amusement and chagrin, dancing in front of the table. Ahsoka giggled and you grabbed her wrists, dragging her from the booth. “Ahsoka! Dance with me!”

She looked at you skeptically at first, but soon the two of you were dancing in tandem with the music, bouncing and shaking your heads at each other and giggling. You took another sip and glimpsed Anakin and Obi-Wan out of the corner of your eye watching the two of you fondly.

Ahsoka grinned widely. It was nice for once to forget about all of the responsibilities that rested on her shoulders as a Jedi and just let go. They didn’t get many nights like this where they could relax, and she intended on making the most of it.

The song changed, and Memories came on, causing you to let out a giddy shriek. The boys jumped, looking at each other with wide eyes.

“OH! This is such a good song!”

Cody looked like he was really regretting staying. “Is she normally like this when she drinks?”

“No, but to be fair, drink’s s’really strong.” Jesse had a lopsided grin on his face, and Rex snorted, taking a sip of his whiskey.

“Looks like you lost the bet.”

He only shrugged. “Issit really a loss though?”

Fives was also feeling the effects of the liquor and grabbed Jesse, pulling him out of the booth to dance with you and Ahsoka. The two of you giggled and shouted with glee at the sight of your friends joining in. Cody cast a doubtful glance at Obi-Wan. “Are we technically allowed to be drinking on a campaign?”

Obi-Wan chuckled, watching the four of you warmly. “After everything, I think we all could use the break.”

Cody relaxed a bit at that, and scooted out of the booth to get himself a drink. Omega tugged Wrecker out of the booth to go join your group, enthusiastic smiles plastered on their faces. The song switched again, this time to In My Head, and you sang to Ahsoka as she danced with Jesse, gesturing towards him, feigning scorn with a devious smirk.

“...You ain’t gonna find it dancin with him, no…”

Ahsoka snickered while Jesse looked at you and clutched his chest with mock betrayal. He charged at you and you shrieked and giggled as he bowled into you, caging you against his chest. “Take it back!”

“Never!” You wriggled free from his grip and backed away, your eyes alight in a challenge.

...Just leave with me now, say the word and we’ll go…

Jesse took a step towards you, raising an eyebrow and grinning widely. Excitement shot through you like lightning when you met his gaze, and you took another step towards him, singing along to the chorus and swaying your hips to the music.

“...In my head, I see you all over me…”

Jesse’s heart skipped a beat as he watched you dance around him in circles with a playful smile on your face and the club lights sparkling in your eyes. It didn’t help that the words you were singing to him were very reminiscent of some of his very own thoughts the night before during your performance.

“...In my head, you fulfill my fantasy…”

The way Jesse was looking at you sent a wave of heat throughout your body, although you blamed it on the alcohol. You grabbed his wrist and spun with him, throwing your head back and laughing.

“...In my head, you’ll be screaming more…”

You thought you saw a brief flash of desire in Jesse’s eyes, but he blinked it away so quickly you couldn’t be sure. He smirked and spun you backwards into his chest, sending a fresh jolt of excitement through you. You giggled and pushed your hips back into him, pushing him back and stepping away only to be pulled away by Tib, who had appeared with a scowling Tus.

“You know, honey, that alcohol costs credits.”

“Consider all the business I brought you my payment!” You looked back at the boys as Tib led you over to Ahsoka. “Drinks are on me boys!”

Crosshair and Tech immediately left for the bar, and even Obi-Wan stood, eliciting a smirk from Anakin. “Indulging ourselves tonight are we, Obi-Wan?”

“I’d hardly call it indulging.”

Anakin snorted. “Whatever you say, Master. Just grab me a drink while you’re at it.”

He turned his attention back to the small group on the dance floor, and felt his stomach bottom out as he watched you dance. You really let the music envelop you, moving as one with the beat. It was enchanting, and Anakin couldn’t help but stare. Your eyes flicked up and met his, and gave him a mischievous smirk. He felt his heart rate increase and his cheeks reddened as you bounded over, grabbing his hand and leading him to the dance floor.

“Oh, no. Sorry Merc, I don’t dance.”

“Come on!” You looked back at him over your shoulder with a dazzling smile that left his stomach flip-flopping. “I even got Rex to dance once, I bet I can get you to dance too!”

Ahsoka ran over and grabbed his other hand, egging him on. “Yeah, come on Master! Lighten up!”

He rolled his eyes but allowed a smile to creep up onto his face, causing you to grin wider. “That’s the spirit. Now let’s go!”

Cody got back to the table just as you had dragged Anakin to the dance floor. Rex watched after you, chuckling. “I’ve never seen General Skywalker dance without a drink in him before.”

“Well, soon you won’t have to. General Kenobi tends to have a few too many when he drinks, and he’s on his way to Anakin with some rum.” Cody nodded to where Obi-Wan had just taken a handle of alcohol, not even bothering to bring glasses.

Hunter raised a brow. “I didn’t take General Kenobi as much of a drinker.”

“Oh he does, he just rarely lets himself unwind.” Rex smirked. “You should’ve seen him this one time, on Corellia, we actually lost him. He disappeared, and when we found him again, he was using his lightsaber to write notes in the floor for General Skywalker.” 

Chuckles ran out along the table. Echo glanced at the dance floor, raising an eyebrow. “Ah. Isabelle’s on a table.”

“What?”

They turned back to the dance floor to see you hoisting Ahsoka and Tib onto the table with you, the three of you dancing to Tipsy. You crouched down in between the two of them, singing to the others on the dance floor while your friends danced next to you.

“She certainly seems to be having fun.” Cody huffed a laugh into his drink.

“Looks like it - HEY! Omega, no elevated surfaces!” Hunter interrupted his sentence to stand abruptly and yell across the club, where the three of you were trying to pull Omega up onto the table with you.

You rolled your eyes and shouted back at him. “You’re such a dad!”

Cody glanced at him and laughed. “She’s got you there. Never thought you’d take on a role like this.”

He grumbled, sitting back down in the booth. “Just trying to keep her feet on the ground and off the tables in the future.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Tus was passing by the booth and tossed the comment over his shoulder, which only made Hunter grumble even more while Rex and Cody snickered.

Rex took a sip of his drink, setting it down, an intrigued twinkle in his eyes. “Where’d you all find her anyways?”

“On Kamino, actually.” Hunter and Echo described their squad’s first encounter with Omega, and how they had gotten her out of Kamino. Afterwards, the men at the table settled into the booth and swapped stories while sipping on their drinks. You and your friends continued dancing and drinking, allowing yourselves to forget all of your responsibilities for the time being. That could be reserved for tomorrow. Tonight, you were going to enjoy yourself and the company of your friends.

~~~

“You know, all things considered, you guys had a good performance last night.”

The music had dulled to a calming melody after you switched playlists for the tail end of the night. It was late, and you were back in the booth with the group, minus Omega who had gone to bed an hour or so prior.

You snorted. “Tib and the girls did a good job. Everything on my end was the mutation, plain and simple.”

Fives leaned forward with a lazy smirk. “I don’t know, looked pretty good to me.”

“That’s why seduction is a manipulation tactic Fives.”

He hummed and threw back the remainder of his drink. Obi-Wan leaned over to you, clutching the bottle of rum to his chest. “Please don’t ever lemme see that again.”

“Oh I don’t think you have to worry about that Obi-Wan.” You giggled, nudging Tib. “It was actually pretty fun, though.”

She grinned. “It was a pretty fun routine, that’s for sure.”

“Well, if it was as good as everyone says it is, I’m disappointed we weren’t there to see it.” Hunter had a rare smirk on his face and shot you a glance. You gave him a cheeky wink.

“Wasn’t as good as seeing some of you try to dance. Would’ve been funny to see Cross try and dance though.”

Crosshair scoffed. “Hard pass.”

You shot him a sidelong glance, snickering. “Okay, Squidward.”

Everyone blinked at you around the table. Crosshair looked at you, annoyed. “What did you call me?”

You leaned back, lazing an arm along the top of the booth. “He’s from a show I used to watch as a kid. You’re definitely Squidward, you got all the qualities for him. Grumpy and sarcastic as hell.”

“Is that an insult?”

You shrugged. “I don’t think so, but take it as you will.”

“It’s definitely an insult.” Crosshair scowled at you.

You only snickered and took another sip of your drink. “See? Squidward.”

“Is this the kind of thing that goes through your mind on a normal basis?” Kix looked at you with amusement.

“Hey, the inner machinations of my mind are an enigma.” You quoted, spinning your glass in your fingers.

Jesse leaned in, a challenging smirk on his face. “Alright, so make an assumption about one of us then, something we’d all understand.”

You hummed. “Alright, let me think.” Your eyes scanned around the table, coming to rest on Rex, and your expression shifted from concentration to one of dawning and mischief. You huffed a deep chuckle, pressing your tongue to the inside of your cheek and erupting into giggles.

The group looked from you to Rex, who was looking nervous. “Oh, please no.” That only made you laugh harder.

“That can’t be good.” Fives grinned deviously. “What is it?”

You wheezed, speaking between laughs. “I don’t know, it’ll really embarrass him.”

“Oh please, please tell us then, I gotta know.” Jesse adjusted himself so he was facing you and Rex, who grit his teeth and shook his head, gesturing for Jesse to stop talking.

Anakin smirked at Rex before dragging his gaze to you. “I gotta say, I’m definitely intrigued.”

You grinned widely at Rex, who put his face in his hands in defeat. “Sorry Rex.” He just mumbled “S’alright,” and you turned back to the group, who were looking at you expectantly.

“Okay so,” you stifled a snicker. “Rex is the perfect gentleman right?” You gestured to him, heads turning in his direction. “The type of man that would always treat a woman right.” You gave him a wink, and his cheeks flushed.

“But,” you giggled, averting your gaze from Rex’s and staring up at the ceiling. “I also think that Rex could be the type of guy that likes to be called ‘Captain’ in bed.”

Several of the boys choked on their drinks as the table erupted in laughter. Cody of all people was wheezing, his face red from laughing so hard. You poked his side. “I wouldn’t laugh if I were you, Marshall Commander.” Everyone only laughed harder at that, both Rex and Cody now redder than you had ever seen them.

Jesse put an arm around Rex’s shoulders, shaking him back and forth. Rex had his face buried in his hands again, and peeked out at you between his fingers. “I hate you.”

“No you don’t.” You giggled and gave him an affectionate nudge.

“Do Obi-Wan.” Anakin was laughing, his eyes sparkled with mischief. You glanced at the older Jedi, who was still hugging the bottle of rum.

You snorted. “I think that speaks for itself.” Chuckles ran out around the table as Anakin and Ahsoka gave Obi-Wan a playful shove.

“Fair enough, I think that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to turn in for the night.” Anakin chuckled and grabbed Obi-Wan by the arm, leading him out.

The rest of the table pushed themselves to their feet, making their way to their beds for the night. As Rex passed, you mouthed a sorry to him, to which he only rolled his eyes and gave you a good-natured shake of his head. Soon, you were left in the booth with just Fives, who was looking after Echo, regret marring his expression. You furrowed your brows and gave him a once-over. “Everything alright?”

He took a moment to swing his gaze back to you. “Yeah, it’s just…” He looked back at where Echo had disappeared. “I feel guilty.”

You scooched closer to him. “Guilty for what?”

He sighed deeply. “I’ve been avoiding him. I feel bad about it, but I don’t want to confront him just yet. I’m -” He hesitated. “He has every right to hate me for abandoning him. But I don’t want to come face to face with that yet.”

You nodded, understanding. You placed a hand lightly on his arm, and he turned to face you, his eyes full of conflict. “He doesn’t fault you for any of it. I can tell. He just wants his brother back.” Pain flashed across Fives’ expression, and you gave his arm a gentle squeeze. “You should talk with him.”

His golden eyes scanned your face for a moment before he let out another sigh. “Maybe you’re right.” You smiled gently, the corners of your eyes crinkling.

You turned back to your drink when Fives continued. “Speaking of confronting people…” Oh. This talk. You swung your gaze back to his, apprehensive. “I should apologize to you.”

You started. Definitely was not expecting that. “Why would you do that?”

He dropped his gaze, his face tinged red with embarrassment. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable when I kissed you. I probably shouldn’t have done that.”

He rubbed the back of his neck with a hand and looked around the club, anywhere but at you. You, on the other hand, had your eyes locked onto his face, shocked. Maybe it was all the alcohol you had, or the hour of the night, or just maybe because a tiny part of you knew it was true that you said your next words.

“You definitely didn’t make me uncomfortable.” Your voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.

His head snapped around to you, surprise evident in his expression. Your heart skipped a beat, and you found yourself dropping your hand to his, brushing your fingers lightly over his palm. He made a sharp intake of breath, searching your eyes. A muscle in his jaw flexed and he slowly closed his fingers around yours, sending sparks up your arm.

“I didn’t?”

You shook your head, your cheeks starting to burn. You looked down at your entwined fingers. “I actually liked it.”

Fives’ heart leapt in his chest. He had thought he imagined the chemistry he felt with you, but if you had actually liked kissing him, maybe it was real. He reached a hand up, turning your face back to him. He studied you intently, memorizing your features, his eyes lingering on your lips. But then his eyes found the bruise on your face from where you had been struck, and the bite mark on your collar bone. A flash of anger and vengeance struck him. He looked back into your eyes, enchanted by the amount of love and compassion that lay in their depths. You deserved so much better than this. And all Fives wanted was to give you the world; anything you wanted, anything you needed, he wouldn’t stop until you were truly happy. He brought his forehead to yours, closing his eyes.

“I liked it too, tranyc.”

A shiver ran down your spine and your heart fluttered. His voice was deep and breathy, and you relaxed. The tip of your nose brushed against his, and you could feel his breath puff against your lips. A tingling sensation of anticipation rushed through you, and you almost closed the distance, but as you closed your eyes, the image of Pon pinning you up against the wall and sticking his tongue down your throat flashed in your mind, and you tensed, panic rising and every muscle in your body locking up.

Fives felt you stiffen and his eyes flew open, drawing back slightly and observing your body language carefully. You looked as if you hadn’t noticed him move, and your eyes had clouded over, staring at something no one else could see. His eyes narrowed in concern. “Izzy?”

You blinked, looking back at him, fear flashing briefly in your eyes. “I - I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that.”

Fives did. He knew exactly what had happened. Worry twisted his expression, and he squeezed your hand gently. “Izzy, what can I do?”

You furrowed your brows and looked down, speaking quietly, your voice wavering slightly. “I don’t know if there’s really anything anyone can do.”

Fives felt as if his heart might have just ripped in two hearing those words. He swallowed, hard. “Do you want me to go?”

You shook your head vigorously. “No, please don’t. I don’t want to be alone.”

He nodded and shifted closer to you, stretching his arm around your shoulders, and you leaned down to rest your head in the crook of his shoulder, heaving a deep sigh. His fingers trailed through your hair, gently brushing it away from your face and twirling lazily through the strands. It lulled you, and you felt yourself relaxing slowly. After a while, the combination of his fingers running through your hair, the warmth from his body, and the slow rise and fall of his chest caused your eyelids to lower. You were reminded again of just how tired you were, but you didn’t want to sleep, lest your dreams be haunted with more images of Pon. Fives noticed you start to nod off.

“You can go to sleep. I got you, you’re safe with me, I promise. I’m not going anywhere.”

Those words pushed you over the precipice you were standing on, and your eyes shuttered close, sleep overtaking you.

Fives continued to trail his fingers through your hair as your breathing slowed and became more rhythmic. He clenched his jaw, silently cursing the Senate and Jedi Council for forcing you into this mission, cursing himself for not storming the penthouse flat and pulling that scumbag off of you. They could have found the ring a different way, it wasn’t worth putting you through that kind of trauma. He glanced down at you as you slept soundly, your breathing and warmth bringing his own exhaustion to the forefront of his mind. He rested his head on top of yours, closing his eyes. I’ll be here for whatever you need.

Chapter Text

“Remind me to never ask you to make me a drink ever again.”

“Now who’s being dramatic?”

You and Jesse were sprawled, side by side, on the stage, staring up at the ceiling the next morning. After you woke up, you had snuck out of the booth, careful not to wake Fives, and found Jesse groaning on the floor of the stage. You went to join him, and he had glared at you angrily only to receive an innocent smile in return.

“How are you not hungover?” Jesse shot you a disbelieving look.

You shrugged. “Maybe it’s a perk of the mutation, maybe I just know my limits unlike some people I know.”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh please. Which one of us was dancing on tables and telling the group that Rex likes to be called Captain in bed?”

“Hey, that was funny.” You giggled, thinking of the poor Captain’s red face. “Come on, you’re telling me in this galaxy there’s not one cure for a hangover?”

“Nope. So you might as well end my misery now. I’m done for.” Jesse let an arm dramatically fall limply to his side, feigning death.

You chuckled. “Wait here.”

You left for a while, rummaging through the bar and your bag, returning a short while later with water, caf, a ration pack, and a handful of vitamins. Jesse groaned and sat up, eyeing the spread you had prepared him. His eyes settled on the vitamins. “Vitamins? Really?”

“Hey if you don’t want them, that’s your loss.”

He chuckled. “No, I’ll take them. Thank you.” He grimaced as he choked down a bite of the rations, washing it down with some water and a sip of caf.

Satisfied, you took your seat next to him again, leaning back on your hands and watching as the others began to stir, moving around the room. Obi-Wan passed by, looking very groggy and disgruntled. You giggled, shaking your head. “Good morning Obi-Wan,” you sang cheerfully only to receive a disdainful look. “It most certainly is not .” That had only made you laugh, to Obi-Wan’s chagrin.

“You ready for the mission tonight?” Jesse cast you a sidelong glance as he took another bite of the rations.

You were. You wanted nothing more than to find Lada and take that bitch down. If it was the last thing you’d do, you’d catch her and then she would finally be held accountable for the atrocities she’s committed in this galaxy. So if anything, you were itching to get started and just bury yourself in your work.

You knew Rex and Jesse were worried for you, and that they probably didn’t want you to go on the mission. But nothing would be able to keep you away. If anything, this would be the best thing for you. You took a deep inhale, letting it out slowly. “Never been more ready for anything in my life.”

Jesse studied you and nodded slowly. The burning spark of resolve had once again returned to your eyes, and he was beginning to understand what General Kenobi had meant when he said you compartmentalize. Although that probably wasn’t good, he couldn’t help but feel a little proud of you. You were damn tough, and considering some of the people he had fought with in the past, that was saying a lot. He was proud to be your friend, to be here with you, to fight alongside you. A smug smirk pricked at the corners of his mouth. “We’re gonna get her.”

“Yes, we will.”

The two of you swiveled your heads to see Rex coming to sit next to you with a grunt. You smiled at him cheekily. “Well, good morning Captain.”

He groaned and looked like he was debating immediately leaving. “Please don’t remind me of that.”

You chuckled. “Sorry. But, to be fair, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing if it were true.”

“Okay, and we’re moving on now.” Rex swiped a hand over his face and huffed a laugh. “You’re exhausting sometimes, you know that?”

You flashed him a smile. “Exhausting in the best way though, right?”

“Definitely not.” Jesse shook his head and snickered when you retaliated with a light shove.

Rex fondly watched the two of you bicker and worked hard to ignore the fluttering in his chest when he looked at you. He was glad to see you were falling back into your normal routine of mischief, even if it were at his own expense. And he couldn’t have been mad at you for teasing him, even if he tried. If anything, he liked it when you did, but he’d never admit that to you. If he was being really honest, part of the reason he was so embarrassed last night was because your teasing had only filled his head with the thought of you addressing him by his title, which he had tried profusely to ignore and kicked himself for thinking anything of the sort. He blamed it on the alcohol, pushing it to the edges of his mind.

After a while, you and Jesse settled down and the three of you fell into a comfortable silence, watching as the rest of your friends slowly stirred. You smiled to yourself. You hadn’t felt like this in ages, hadn’t had a family that you could rely on and love in what seemed like years. Your friends had always been there for you, even in the short amount of time you had gotten to know them. You could hardly believe that it had been only over a month since your first campaign with them. It seemed like centuries ago now.

“Thank you, by the way.”

Rex and Jesse shot you a glance, replying in unison. “For what?”

“For always being there for me. I know I can count on you guys with everything. It really means everything to me, and I just wanted you guys to know that. I made the mistake once of not telling my friends how much they meant to me before it was too late, and I don’t intend on making it ever again.” You were reminded of Nia, Aaron, and Cato, and a bittersweet smile formed on your face.

Rex and Jesse exchanged a look, surprised by your sudden sentiment. Then, soft smiles slowly crept onto their faces, and Jesse pulled you into a headlock. “Well, you’re stuck with us, so you might as well enjoy it.”

You giggled, pushing him off. His eyes sparkled with mirth, and something else as he gazed at you. “Seriously though, we’re not going anywhere. We’ll always be here for you.”

Elation rose through you and your grin was so wide it almost hurt. “That’s good, because you both are unfortunately stuck with me, too.”

Rex chuckled, giving you a nudge. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

~~~

Fives watched Echo from afar, observing him interact with Omega. He was fixing a clone trooper doll that had been painted to match the Batch’s armor for her, a gentle smile on his face. Fives cursed himself under his breath. He knew he had to talk to Echo, but if he was being honest with himself, he was terrified. Then, he thought back to his conversation with you the previous night. Maybe you were right and he was just overthinking things. Besides, apologizing was far more important than Fives’ fear of confronting his long lost twin, so he steeled himself and stepped towards the two of them.

“Hey.”

Echo looked up, surprise etched into his features. “Hey, what’s up?”

Fives clenched his jaw, pushing down the nerves rising inside of him. “Can I talk to you?”

Omega blinked at the two troopers, then grabbed the doll and scurried away, yelling at Echo over her shoulder. “Thanks, Echo!”

Echo looked uneasy, watching Fives with a nervous expression. “What did you wanna talk about?”

He took a deep breath, steadying himself. “I just wanted to apologize. Not just for ignoring you recently but…” He paused, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “I should have gone back for you, and I didn’t. I left you, and I was selfish, and a coward, and that whole time I - I had the fucking audacity to feel sorry for myself. It was wrong of me, and I’m so sorry, Echo.”

Echo was surprised. He had suspected that Fives was feeling guilty after his conversation with Commander Tano, but he hadn’t thought he would feel this adamant about it. He furrowed his brows, watching his twin carefully for a moment before speaking.

“You have nothing to apologize to me for.”

Fives’ eyes snapped up, and for a moment, pure elation ran over his face. He stepped forward, pulling him into a tight embrace, his eyes burning. “I really missed you, vod.”

Echo sniffed. “I missed you too. When I got back and heard you’d been shot, I thought I was the only one left.”

“Nah, I’m like a stain. You can’t get rid of me that easy.” Fives’ voice cracked a little and he and Echo laughed.

Fives couldn’t believe it. He finally had his twin back, and even though things would never be as they used to, he also knew that everything would be okay. He caught sight of you passing by in the background, watching the two brothers embrace with a knowing smile. Gratitude and happiness welled up inside of him, and he couldn’t stop a tear from running down his cheek. He grinned widely at you, mouthing thank you. Your smile widened, and you dipped your head to him.

Your attention was called away from the embracing twins by Obi-Wan, who pulled you aside into another room with him, Ahsoka, and Anakin. They had strange expressions on their faces, and a ripple of anxiety washed through you. “What is it?”

Obi-Wan glanced at you carefully. “Tech has a theory on why you may be targeted by this operation.”

Glad to hear it. You groaned inwardly. You had a few theories of your own, none of them good by any means. “Alright, let me hear it.”

You hoisted yourself up and sat on a table, facing the Jedi while they explained Tech’s theory to you. As they spoke, dread buried itself bit by bit in you. Yeah, I knew it couldn’t be good. By the time they were done, you had pinched the bridge of your nose, groaning. “Fantastic.” Sarcasm lay thick in your tone. “So you’re telling me, that if I refuse to join them, and they capture me, I’ll be dissected and studied like a lab rat, just so they can try and replicate this parasite in other people?”

“That about sums it up.” Anakin snorted.

You raised your head, looking up at the ceiling and addressing no one in particular. “Thank you, you’ve really made my life thrilling.”

“We won’t let it get to that point. Their plan won’t succeed.” Ahsoka raised her chin defiantly, and you gave her a grateful smile.

Obi-Wan brought a hand to his chin, running his fingers through his beard. “There’s one other matter I want to discuss with you.”

“Shoot.”

“How did the Master know who you were? Did you recognize him at all?” Obi-Wan’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

You paused, thinking for a moment. You didn’t think you had ever met him before, hell, you’d figured you’d remember a psychotic killer in a robot mask. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t met you. He could have followed you from a campaign in your mercenary days, or watched you from afar for a while now. There really was no definitive answer.

You sighed. “As far as I knew, the only people alive who know what my real name is were you and Tus. I know he wouldn’t rat me out, hell he would’ve done it a lot sooner if he wanted to. And obviously you didn’t so I’m not sure.” You furrowed your brows. “It’s possible he could have maybe seen me in action while I was on a campaign, and followed me from there. That’s my only logical assumption at this point.”

“That would make sense, but I thought you said you kept your mutation a secret while a mercenary in case of this exact reason.” Anakin looked at you questioningly.

You shrugged and let out a deep exhale. “To be honest, it was bound to happen at some point. Not every mission is a stealth mission, and I mean the war part of the mutation isn’t exactly the most subtle.”

He snorted. “That’s fair.”

Ahsoka hummed. “What should we do about it then?”

“Well, there’s not much we can do, we don’t have virtually any information on the Master, except that he exists.” Obi-Wan sighed and put a hand to his forehead. “We’ll just have to wait for him or Dooku to deal a card first.”

You clenched your fists. Great. Just what I need right now. Rubbing a hand over your face wearily, you sighed. “Alright. Let’s just take things one step at a time, and get tonight’s mission over with. Then we can focus on the Master.”

The Jedi murmured their agreement, and the four of you turned and left for the main room to prepare for the upcoming onslaught.

~~~

The night air breezed through the open blast doors as your party sped towards the hidden island. The scouts had returned that afternoon, informing you of their successful cover-up of escape routes, with the exception of one, should your unit need it; advising your party to bring rebreathers seeing as it let out underwater. They had also found the entrance to the hideout, and assumed that it led to a lair beneath the island, as well as of a number of elite mercenary units guarding the entryway. Anakin had grumbled, complaining that just for once, he would have liked something to be above ground, to your amusement. Now, your gunships were rapidly approaching the island, preparing for an aerial assault. With the cover of darkness and your sudden appearance, you would have quite an advantage over the mercenaries. The plan was to secure the beach and send your squad in after Lada, leaving the remaining troopers to form a perimeter around the island. A patrol of troopers had gone ahead and stationed themselves outside of the remaining escape route, in case if Lada had managed to sneak out.

Now as you approached the island, you could see the mercenaries scrambling on the beach to form a defense, the gunships firing on various zones. Squinting your eyes, you could vaguely make out the form of a single large, anti-aircraft missile launcher. You looked at Anakin and Obi-Wan. “They’ve got ballistics. I’ll go ahead and take it out, you guys focus on the beach.”

They nodded, and you closed your eyes, feeling the power well up inside of you. The crimson haze enveloped you, illuminating the darkness of the shuttle in a soft, scarlet glow. Obi-Wan grinned, igniting his lightsaber. “It’s been a while since you’ve put on a show.”

You stretched and peered out of the blast doors, taking note of your position above the island. “Well, you know me, I like to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities.”

With a final wink to your friends, you ran and jumped out of the shuttle, landing with a crash in the sand on the beach. The Batch had leaned out of the shuttle to watch your descent, before turning back and looking at the others. “Didn’t know she could do that.” Hunter’s voice came through his modulator.

Jesse chuckled. “Yeah, she’s a bit of a poser.”

On the beach, the mercenaries rushed you, blaster fire assailing your advancing form. You shot out your wrist at a handful of mercenaries coming up on your right side, sending onyx spikes flying into them. You unsheathed your daggers and located the anti-air launcher, surging forward. It fired once, narrowly missing one of the gunships. They were reloading, you had to hurry. You sheathed your daggers and let a greataxe materialize in your hands. Another shot, another narrow miss. Reaching back, you flung the axe forward, burying it in the launcher. You followed up and took out the gunner just in time for your forces to reach the sand, firing upon the mercenaries and pushing them back.

You regrouped with your squad, falling into stride with Rex and Jesse as your unit cut a path through to Lada’s hideout. The entrance to the hideout looked like a tunnel system, winding down beneath the island. Upon entering it, however, a fresh wave of mercenaries rushed forwards. Crosshair flung out a series of reflectors, and with a single shot took out the first few rows of mercenaries, the blaster bolt perfectly ricocheting off the walls. Another wave advanced, and you flipped your daggers, catching them by the blades and flinging them into the first two mercenaries. Blaster fire rang out throughout the tunnels, and your squad was illuminated by the flashes of light, as well as the Jedi’s lightsabers as you surged forward. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka deflected the mercenaries’ fire as your squad advanced, sending the bolts flying backwards.

The tunnel branched into a crossroads, and you looked back and forth between the two quickly, addressing the Jedi. “You guys wouldn’t happen to have some Jedi intuition about which tunnel is the right one, would you?”

“Afraid not. Let’s split up, Cody and I will take the left, you take the right.”

You nodded and started down the right corridor, followed by Kix, Fives, Anakin, Ahsoka, Rex and Jesse. Obi-Wan, Cody, and the Batch took the left corridor. The tunnel wound for a few minutes downwards, until you could see a room up ahead. The tunnel dead-ended into what looked like a control room, with multiple terminals and monitors. You shot a glance at Anakin. “This would’ve been better if we had Tech with us.”

He grunted in agreement, raising his comm to notify Obi-Wan. “Obi-Wan, looks like we’re in some sort of control room. What’s your status?”

Only the buzzing sound of static could be heard from Obi-Wan’s end. You furrowed your brows. “Interference?”

“Possibly.” Anakin took a few steps to look around the room. “What is this place used for?”

You didn’t answer, just looked over several of the monitors, your eyes scanning the images. When you came to another set, your expression darkened. “Anakin.”

He turned, his eyes hardening once he glimpsed the image plastered on the monitor. It was a live feed of what looked like a medical facility, surgical tools laid out on a cold, metal table, and a human, Twi’lek, and Rodian lay on durasteel tables. Each of them had been torn open, and several masked doctors were transferring organs into a freezer on the opposite side of the room. When they were done, several mercenaries came in and wheeled the freezer out of the room. “Where’s this feed coming from?”

 “Looks like...Nal Hutta.” Rex turned to the two of you. “Isn’t that one of the planets Ventress mentioned in her interrogation?”

Yes, it was. You heaved a sigh, exchanging a knowing look with Anakin. Ahsoka spoke up from the other side of the room in a warning. “Looks like we have other problems. Lada’s rigged the facility to blow. We have ten minutes.”

Shit. You’ve got to be kidding me. “Alright let’s get back and go find the others, and see if we can find that escape route while we’re at it.”

You and your squad ran back up the corridor, following the left tunnel when you reappeared at the crossroads. When you emerged, the other half of your group was surrounded by mercenaries, and Lada was at the front of the room, standing in front of a large window. The lair was underwater and suddenly you were very glad your scouts told you to bring rebreathers. Given their report, you expected that the escape room was somewhere in this room.

Lada’s eyes flicked to you as you entered, and signaled with her fingers for the mercenaries to stand down. You eyed her suspiciously, walking forward. She looked you over curiously, a cruel sneer pricking at her lips.

“Well sweetie, I have to say this is a much better look for you, although you did play the part of a whore a little too well. Definitely convinced me.”

You saw Rex’s hands tighten around his blasters. Ignoring her insult, you stepped towards her. “You’re going to pay for all of the crimes you’ve committed Lada.”

Her sneer morphed into a wicked grin. “I think not.”

You reached your hands forwards to restrain her, and just as you came within her reach Lada stuck a dart into your thigh. You reared back and gasped, gripping your temples. The mutation shrieked in pain and retreated, leaving you with a skull-splitting headache that made your vision spin. You fell to a knee, bracing one hand on the floor to ground yourself. Ripples of throbbing pains shuddered through your body, and for a long moment, you lost your grip on reality. Everything blurred and faded around you, and you could distantly hear someone calling your name, but you couldn’t make out anything they were saying. Then, with another rush just as painful as the first, you snapped back into focus, breathing heavily. Fives and Jesse were crouched next to you, while Anakin had his saber at Lada’s throat.

“What the hell did you do to her?”

Lada didn’t react, and simply replied calmly. “I disabled her mutation. It’s a fast working toxin, although it should wear off in the next few minutes. Not fast enough to help any of you escape, I’m afraid.”

Your head spun. Disabled my mutation? How the hell did she figure out how to do that ? You didn’t have time to think further on it, seeing as the entire room exploded into blaster fire. Fives and Jesse spun, forming a protective wall around you, while you shook your head to clear it. You pushed through the pain, unsheathing your daggers and burying one in a mercenary that had snuck up behind Echo. He gave you a grateful nod, and you ran to retrieve it, sliding on the floor next to your comrades. Okay, a blaster would be great right about now. Lada ran to a panel in the wall, opening it and rushing through as it swished close behind her. Your eyes widened.

“Obi-Wan!”

He nodded. “I saw. Move to the escape route!” Your unit made their way to the wall, Tech setting to work on opening the door.

“How much time do we have left?” You yelled over the sound of the blaster fire.

Ahsoka responded, deflecting a bolt into another mercenary. “Two minutes, if we’re lucky!”

Wrecker pushed his way to the door, moving Tech to the side. “We don’t have time for this Tech.” With a couple massive punches, he crushed the door in on itself, enough for him to tear it off of it’s hinges. Your party rushed through, more mercenaries following after you.

Blaster fire lit up the narrow passageway, just barely missing your comrades as you ran. Jesse brought up the flank, laying down enough covering fire over his shoulder to keep your party unscathed. You reached the end of the tunnel, where a large door led to the lakewaters outside. Tech got to work opening the door, but it malfunctioned, opening and closing every few seconds. He looked back at the group. “Lada rigged the door as a trap, we’ll have to go through a couple at a time!”

Hunter grabbed Omega and bolted through the doors, followed by Crosshair, Echo, and Tech. Wrecker made his way after them, and you turned to the others, putting on your rebreather. “Go! Get Lada, we’ll get ourselves out!” They nodded, and made their way out, bit by bit, until it was just you, Rex, and Jesse.

“Jesse, come on! We have to go!”

He laid down a few more shots before turning to follow the two of you. A blaster shot rang out. Jesse fell to the floor with a grunt, a blaster hole singeing his left shoulder.

Time stopped.

You gasped and made a move to run to his side when he looked up. “Go! I’m right behind you!” He scrambled to his feet. Rex’s arms wrapped around you and he yanked you backwards through the door. You and he were shot upwards, out into the lake. He grabbed your hand, kicking for the surface. Panic surged within you. I can’t see him.

An armored figure spun out into the water, recovering and kicking to the surface. Relief washed over you and you took a staggering breath.

And then, all hell broke loose.

The lair exploded, and you and Rex were buffeted upwards. Your heart plummeted in your chest, and you let out a strangled wail, desperately searching for Jesse. Dust and debris clouded your vision, and you strained your eyes wildly in the gloom. Jesse, where are you?! Dread overwhelmed you. Just before you broke the surface, you caught a glimpse of Jesse’s unmoving form sinking to the bottom of the lake, his bucket cracked.

You and Rex burst out of the water, and he dragged you kicking and squirming out of the lake, desperately trying to escape his grip. Terror and horror flooded your senses, and you let out a single, bonechilling scream.

“JESSE!”

Chapter Text

Jesse threw himself through the doorway, grunting with pain as his shoulder protested. Blaster fire echoed after him as he shot upwards and spun out into the water, glancing up in time to see your relieved expression as Rex dragged you up to the surface. Relief shot through him. We made it.

His gut twinged. A deep feeling of dread buried itself into his stomach, and Jesse felt a prickle of fear. Something bad is going to hap - 

BOOM!

The world caved in. The lair next to him exploded, sending debris and rocks flying into him. One cracked open his helmet, and water flooded in. He gasped, kicking out in any direction, not knowing which way was up. The wind was knocked out of him when a large rock slammed into him, disorienting him for a moment. The water was filling up even faster now, he was almost completely submerged; his lungs screaming for air. He blinked, feeling himself sink to the floor of the lake, landing softly in the sand. He thought he heard screaming in the distance. It sounded a little like you.

Izzy.

Images of you laughing and smiling flashed in front of his eyes, and he heard your voice in his ears, calling his name, calming him. A warm, tingling sensation flowed throughout his body. He could hear you singing, your voice enveloping him in a comforting embrace, drawing him ever closer to the welcoming dark. He felt an eerie sense of calm wash over him, a soothing serenity as he listened to your voice. He always loved it when you sang.

His thoughts became more blurred, more involuntary. He almost didn’t even realize the next thought that surfaced, just before he succumbed to the blackness around him.

I love you, Izzy.

~~~

“NO! NO! JESSE!”

Fear. That might be the simplest way to describe what you were feeling. You had never felt such panic or terror before. It overwhelmed you. It blinded you until you were nothing but fear. Your emotions were in pandemonium, wreaking pure havoc through your mind. Your entire body numbed, and you were completely oblivious to everything else happening around you.

Fives and Rex were holding you back as you struggled against them. Rex spoke desperately to you, trying to calm you down, but you didn’t seem to hear him. Your eyes were wild, focusing back on the lake, and you kept trying to push yourself out of their arms to jump back in. Rex’s heart twisted in anguish at the thought of leaving his brother, but they couldn’t even see where he was. It was too dark, too murky down there. By the time they got to him, he’d be gone. Rex wrapped you in his arms, speaking rapidly in hushed tones. And then, all of a sudden, you stopped. Rex pulled back, and the others stared at you in astonishment.

You had gone completely blank, staring straight ahead at something nobody else could see. You weren’t even moving, or blinking. Rex had to check your pulse to see if you were still okay at this point. He looked back at the others. “What the hell is going on?”

Obi-Wan pushed his way forward, grabbing your wrist. His eyes widened after a moment, and he stepped back, shocked. “I… have no idea.”

You, on the other hand, had no idea you were frozen in time like this. One moment, you were kicking and screaming, and the other, a small, echoing voice entered your mind, cold and blank. You blinked open your eyes to find yourself in an empty, blank space, the mutation standing before you.

“Do not resist us, host.”

You reached out to it, confused. “What happened to you? Is the toxin wearing off?”

“Do not resist, and we can help you.”

Uneasiness coursed through you. You didn’t know what was going to happen, but you didn’t care at this point if you regressed in your discipline. All of that paled now that Jesse lay at the bottom of the lake. You swallowed back your anxiety.

“Help me save him.”

A warm, nurturing sensation flooded through you, filling you to the brim. You blinked your eyes again, and turned slowly to your friends, golden mist swirling around you, your hair floating gently as if it were in water. They looked at you in astonishment.

“Do not be afraid.”

Your voice echoed strangely, and was more blank and empty, if anything, although it held a certain, familiar warmth to it that Rex couldn’t quite place. You ran and dove back down into the water, surging forward with an unforeseen strength. The water glowed dimly around you, enough for you to see through your surroundings. You caught sight of Jesse, lying motionless on the floor of the lake, buried slightly in sand.

There is still time, host.

You reached him, wrapping your arms around him and took a deep breath of air before removing Jesse’s helmet and your rebreather. His eyes were closed, his face more serious than you had ever seen it, with a kind of peaceful, serene expression on his features. You leaned forward and locked your lips onto his, breathing all of your air into him. Then, with a massive push, you kicked out for the surface, grabbing Jesse beneath his arms and pulling him up with you.

Your head broke the surface of the water and you gasped, dragging Jesse up out of the water with you. Fives and Kix ran over and grabbed him from you, coming to lay him down on the sand. Kix got to work trying to resuscitate him, while you climbed out of the lake, coming to stand in front of the others. You looked at them blankly, golden mist swirling in front of your eyes. When you spoke, your voice echoed in that strange, empty tone again. “It is done.”

With that, the haze faded, and for a moment, you stood there, panting. Then, your eyes rolled back into your head and you collapsed. Rex and Anakin rushed to your side, calling your name. Rex cradled your head in his lap, and Anakin pressed one gloved hand to your face, while the other squeezed your hand.

Ahsoka looked to Obi-Wan, shocked. “What just happened? Why did she talk and act like that?”

Obi-Wan looked uneasy. “That’s because it wasn’t her. That was her mutation speaking to us.”

Alarm ran through the gazes of the squad, and Anakin turned his head up to say something to Obi-Wan when your eyes shot open, and you choked, turning over to your side and coughing up copious amounts of lake water before collapsing again, exhausted. Rex helped you sit up, rubbing your back. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” you croaked. “That’s never happened before.”

“What exactly was that?” Anakin looked at you with concern.

You coughed again before responding, your voice hoarse. “My mutation came to me. Said if I stopped resisting it it would help me save…” Your voice trailed off and your eyes grew wide with horror. Your head snapped around, your eyes coming to rest on where Fives and Kix were kneeling over Jesse.

“Jesse!”

Before Rex or Anakin could stop you, you scrambled down towards the troopers, skidding to a halt and sending sand all over poor Fives. You hardly noticed, your eyes were fixed on Jesse, whose skin was cold and pale, his lips blue. Blood flowed lazily from his blaster wound, and Kix was doing everything he could to revive him. That same fear that you had felt earlier returned, and you crouched over him, tears blurring your vision. “Jesse, Jesse please don’t do this, I need you. Please don’t go.” Your voice was barely above a whisper and cracked, your lip trembling.

The tears started pouring down your face, and you held your hands to his cheeks, his normal warmth all gone from his body. “Jesse don’t do this, you hear me?! Please, PLEASE! Jesse I NEED you, please come back to me!”

A sob wracked your body and your hands started to shake, your entire body becoming numb. “You promised me! I’m stuck with you, remember? Please, I don’t want to be without you, I can’t!”

Thousands of thoughts flashed through your mind, and you were unable to hold onto any single one of them. You couldn’t keep doing this without Jesse, you knew it. You wouldn’t be able to. You needed him, you needed to see him laughing and smiling again, needed to hear the mischief in his voice. If you lost that, nothing else in the world would ever matter.

Jesse still hadn’t moved, his expression somber. You felt anguish surge through you like a tidal wave, completely overwhelming you with grief and despair. Your face crumbled, and your voice broke. “ Jesse-”

Fives wrapped an arm around you, pulling you into his chest. You wept, all the while keeping your eyes pinned on Jesse’s face. I was too late.

And that’s when Jesse coughed, his eyes fluttering open for a moment. Your heart leapt straight into your throat and you let out a choked cry, the sobs turning to that of relief as you watched Jesse’s chest rise and fall softly. Kix immediately turned him to the side, and he retched up an unfathomable amount of lake water. Thank God.

Kix turned him back over, getting to work on his blaster wound. His eyelids shuttered close again, although his chest continued to rise and fall faintly. “We’ve gotta go. We need to get him back to the Resolute, now.”

Your squad loaded up onto one of the gunships with the other patrol and Lada -

Lada.

To be honest, you had completely forgotten about the snake. It definitely was a good thing you had planned ahead and stationed a squad outside the escape route, because apparently as soon as she had exited the water, the patrol stunned and restrained her. You could absolutely maim the bitch. If she hadn’t rigged the hideout to blow, none of this would have happened, and Jesse would have gotten away with just a blaster wound. Pure, unrestrained hatred formed in your gaze as you locked your stare onto her.

Rex noticed, and nudged you. You turned, your features softening when you saw him. He knew exactly what you were thinking, you could tell. Hell, he looked like he was thinking the same thing. He took a deep breath, anger and disgust twisting his expression as he looked back at her.

“We need her. But she’s going to get what she deserves.”

You let out a frustrated huff and shot her another venomous glare, but said nothing. Rex put a hand on your shoulder, and you leaned into him. “I thought we lost him, Rex.”

Rex’s heart clenched, and he squeezed your shoulder. “I thought we did too.”

~~~

The next day, you were in the Resolute medbay, sitting with Jesse as he slept. The night before you had wanted to stay with him, but Kix insisted you go back to the club to wrap things up with Tus, and assured you that Jesse wouldn’t wake up for a while anyways, so you had acquiesced. While you wouldn’t be leaving Ord Mantell just yet, interrogations would be conducted on the Resolute, and you would wait and see if there were anything left to clean up from Lada’s Black Sun branch before heading to Coruscant. So you had returned, and he actually looked sad to see you go.

“You can stay, you know. You don’t have to go back.”

You snorted. “You actually sound like you’re going to miss me.”

“I don’t miss anyone honey. Just sorry to see my best moneymaker leave us.” He scowled and faced away from you, resembling more of a pouting child, to your amusement.

“Uh-huh, sure. Don’t worry, I’m sure with this establishment up and running, I’ll see you again.”

He smirked, and extended his hand to you, giving it an affectionate squeeze. “Take care of yourself, honey.”

You gave him a genuine smile. “You too, Tus.”

You turned to see Tib, who extended her arms to you. You wrapped her in an embrace, giving her a squeeze. “You’ll be okay, right?”

She nodded. “I will be. Thank you for helping us.”

“Of course.” You grinned. “If you’re ever in Coruscant, come find Ahsoka and I.”

She laughed. “Absolutely, honey.”

Now you were sitting in silence, your head in your hands as Jesse slept next to you. You had come to relieve Rex of his shift, sending him straight to bed after seeing the dark circles beneath his eyes. He was too tired to argue with you.

His shoulder was wrapped, and although some of the color had returned to his face and his lips were no longer a cold blue, he still looked nothing like himself. Jesse was always so full of life and emotion, and seeing him so stoic stabbed into you. You ran your eyes over his tattoo, tracing it and committing his features to memory.

You don’t know what made you think about it, but you were reminded of the time you sang to him in the Jedi Enclave. He had told you that his batchmate used to sing to them when they were going through a tough time, and that it always helped. You glanced around, seeing no one else in the medbay, and scooched yourself a little closer to him, starting to sing the first song that came to your mind.

I am not the only traveler,

Who has not repaid his debt.

I’ve been searching for a trail to follow again,

Take me back to the night we met.

The image of Jesse sitting on top of your tent smirking at you that first campaign flashed in your mind, and your eyes pricked with tears. You continued, your voice soft and hoarse.

And then, I can tell myself,

What the hell I’m supposed to do.

And then, I can tell myself,

Not to ride along with you.

You pictured him sitting by your side in the medical tent, pressing his forehead to yours. You saw his smiling face as the two of you bickered back and forth, saw yourself glued to his chest while that mirthful sparkle shone in his eyes. A tear rolled down your cheek and you closed your eyes.

I had all and then, most of you,

Some and now, none of you.

Take me back to the night we met.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,

Haunted by the ghost of you.

Oh, take me back to the night we met.

Your voice cracked at the end of the chorus, and you buried your face in your arms. You just wanted him to wake up. You just needed to know he was okay, needed to hear him say something stupid -

“Sounds pretty.”

Your head snapped up at the sound of Jesse’s tired voice. His eyes were still closed, but his fingers flexed a little, coming to brush against yours. A small, weak smile pricked at the corners of his lips. You let out a short, relieved laugh. “Yeah well, this really annoying ARC Trooper once told me he likes it when people sing sometimes.” You slipped your hand into his, giving it a gentle squeeze.

His eyes opened slowly and he turned his head to you, fixing you with a golden stare. You met his gaze, your heart skipping a beat as you lost yourself in the caramel swirls. He rubbed his thumb lightly over your hand.

“I like it when you sing.”

You swallowed, searching his eyes. He had an indecipherable emotion written across his face, something words couldn’t express. “How are you feeling?”

He scoffed. “Like a droid ran over my lungs.”

Your lip wobbled and you brought your voice to a whisper, turning your gaze to the floor. “You really scared me, Jesse.”

“I told you you’re stuck with me, didn’t I?”

You couldn’t help the small huff of a laugh that escaped you, followed by a few silent tears. He squeezed your hand weakly.

“Hey.”

You looked back up at him to find he was watching you with an intense expression. Your jaw clenched. “It’s gonna take a hell of a lot more than that to take me away from you.”

You giggled softly. “Good, because it’d be hard for Rex and I to find a new best friend.”

He chuckled, giving you a small, smug smirk. “I know. You’d be lost without me.” You bit your lip, hesitating for a moment.

“Yeah. Yeah, I would be.”

Surprise flashed in his eyes for a moment, replaced by that same indecipherable expression. He opened his mouth to say something more when the medbay doors swished open, and Kix walked through with a smile. “Good to see you up, vod.”

He let out a small noise of frustration. “Hey Kix.”

Kix turned to you. “By the way, General Kenobi’s been looking for you. I told him I’d come get you; he’s in the officer’s quarters.”

“Okay, thanks Kix.” You looked back at Jesse, poking at him. “Don’t annoy him too much.”

“No promises.” He chuckled, watching you go.

The doors swished close behind you, and Kix studied Jesse carefully before scoffing. “Wow.”

“What?”

“You got it bad.” He looked at him, a knowing smirk on his face. Jesse opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out. Instead, he just closed it and turned back to face the medbay doors where you had just left.

“How’d you get me out?” Is what he settled on after a while. Kix hummed, giving him another smirk, a devious glint in his eye.

We didn’t.” He nodded after where you had left. “She did.”

“What?” Jesse turned his head back to Kix, disbelief in his gaze. “Why wouldn’t she tell me that herself?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. She probably doesn’t think it’s important in the grand scheme of things.”

Jesse looked shocked. She saved me. How the hell did she get me out? He wracked his brain, trying to remember. He couldn’t remember anything after he had first hit the sand, and there had been no sign or indication that you were even in the water at that point.

“I’ll tell you what though, I’ve never seen her like that before. Even with what Echo told me about that situation with Fives, this was different.” Kix let out a puff of air, casting a sidelong glance at Jesse while he checked him over.

“What do you mean?”

“Well she brought Fives back herself, and he wasn’t gone very long either of the two times, so the chances of him being revived were much higher. You, on the other hand, you probably shouldn’t be here right now.” Kix looked back up briefly towards the medbay doors. “She really thought she lost you.” He finished checking him over and gave him a kind, knowing smile. “Don’t mess it up, Jess.”

Jesse sat there silently for a while, processing Kix’s words before turning back again to the medbay doors, a feeling of longing burying itself in his chest.

~~~

You were making your way to the officer’s quarters, silently preparing yourself for the lecture Obi-Wan probably had for you. When you opened the doors, he stood to meet you, a gentle smile on his face. “How are you doing?”

You laughed dryly. “I’m alright all things considered. What’d you need to see me about?”

He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, furrowing his brows and bringing a hand up to his chin. When he finally did speak, he asked, “Can you describe to me what happened in your perspective?”

You blinked. You thought it was obvious, but you settled in anyways and told him how in the chaos, you heard the mutation’s voice, and the next thing you knew, you were back in that room that you had been in the first time you encountered it with him. You explained how it had told you to stop resisting, and that it would help you if you just let go.

Obi-Wan looked perplexed. “And while it was activated? Do you remember how you felt then?”

You opened your mouth to reply, then stopped, furrowing your brows in confusion. “It was… weird. It felt warm and safe, as if I knew everything would be okay. But sometimes it didn’t feel like I was myself at all. Once I got in the lake to rescue Jesse, I was fully in control. But outside of it, I don’t actually remember anything.”

“That’s because it wasn’t you.” He smiled gently, his eyes rounded softly with concern. “What you experienced and what we saw are two completely different things.”

You jolted. They saw something different? “What do you mean?”

Obi-Wan explained how you had completely frozen up for a few moments, as if you were locked in time and space, and even when he had tried to enter your mind, all he could see was a swirling froth of mist. Then he told you about how the mutation had interacted with them directly, and caused you to faint after fading. Uneasiness burrowed its way into your chest. You looked at him, nervous. “Is this a good thing, or a bad thing then?”

He chuckled. “My dear, I have absolutely no idea.”

Great. You groaned, massaging your temples with your fingers. “Why does this only happen like, involuntarily? Every time it’s happened, it’s been in the middle of a terrible situation.”

“Well, that actually may be why. By the sounds of it, it’s appeared to you like this in times of great distress, perhaps it is taking advantage of a weaker state of mind. Have there been any other instances of this recently?”

“No, not really-” You paused. Oh. There was. “Actually, yes. When Fives and I were trapped and he was dying, I could feel it activating, but it wasn’t like this. Both of the times that it’s happened before have been completely involuntary, this one was like it forced me into speaking with it, and then I gave it consent to take over.”

He hummed. “It definitely seems like a distress response. I’ll meditate on this, but in the meantime, you should get some rest. We may need your help in interrogating Lada.”

You scowled at the mention of her name, but dipped your head to him. “I will. Thank you Obi-Wan.”

You strode out of the officer’s quarters, deciding to stop by the medbay on your way back to your room. You caught a glimpse of Fives and Kix in there, laughing with Jesse. Your eyes flicked between each of them, warmth flooding your chest. Kix glanced up and locked eyes with you. “HEY! Don’t even think about it vod’ika , just keep walking, he’ll be fine, Fives and I are here.”

They watched amusedly while you grumbled and crossed your arms, shooting Kix an indignant glare as you passed by the medbay. Fives chuckled, casting an amused glance at Jesse. “You’re in for it, vod. When I was in the medbay, they couldn’t ever get her to leave. Something tells me she’s gonna be annoying you for a while.”

I wouldn’t call it annoying. Jesse grinned while Kix muttered. “She’s a medic’s nightmare. Never wants to be treated, always saying somebody else needs it more than she does, and when she’s actually injured we can’t keep her here. Then when she’s not, we can’t get her out of here.”

“Nah, come on Kix. You couldn’t be mad at her if you tried.”

“Unfortunately.”

Jesse chuckled. “Well, just let me out of here Kix and you won’t have to deal with her. Simple as that.”

He rolled his eyes exasperatedly. “ You’re just as bad.”

Jesse gave him a cheeky smile and the three of them settled into a comfortable banter, reminiscing on old stories and pranks that they had pulled. Eventually, his two brothers left him to rest. As he lay in bed, he remembered the feeling he had had when he had awoken to you singing. There were so many emotions in your voice, sadness at its forefront. If he hadn’t felt as if a bantha were sitting on his chest, he might have grabbed you right then and pulled you close, holding you tightly until all of the sadness was gone. He smiled to himself at the thought of you in his arms. There’s always next time.

Chapter Text

You awoke to the sound of a soft knock on your quarter’s doors. You grumbled, rubbing the sleep from your eyes before dragging yourself out of bed and opening the doors. Anakin gave you a once-over, amusement glinting in his eyes. “Tired, are we?”

“Well, someone decided to interrupt my sleep.” You glared at him, to which he just smirked arrogantly and chuckled.

“Get ready. Obi-Wan wants you for the interrogation.”

Right. You nodded, turning once and then glancing back at him. “You can come in, if you’d like. I’ll just get changed in the refresher.”

He hesitated before taking a few steps inside, the doors swishing closed behind him. He looked around at the disheveled state of your room before looking back at you, with a flash of what looked like worry in his eyes. “How are you feeling?”

You raised an eyebrow at him and curved your lips up in a smile. “Worried for me, are you General?”

“No.” That was a lie. Anakin was very worried for you, in fact he’d been worried for you practically this entire campaign. But, he didn’t want to admit that to you when he was struggling so hard to admit it to himself. “I’m just doing my duty and checking in on my advisor. Nothing more.”

“Mm-hm. Sure.”

He rolled his eyes and you chuckled before grabbing your clothes and holster, stepping into the refresher and closing the door behind you to change. You raised your voice slightly so Anakin could hear you. “So, what’s the plan with Lada?”

“We’re going to see what we can get out of her first, if we need to, we’ll have you take over. But until then, you’re just going to be listening in.”

You scoffed. “I guess that’s fair considering I might kill her if she looks at one of you funny.”

Anakin was silent for a moment, and you wondered if he was still there. Then he spoke, hesitation lining his voice. “Listen, I want to apologize to you.”

Woah, what? Anakin rarely apologized to you, the only exception being that one time in the garage on Coruscant. You fastened your holster around your hips and sheathed your daggers before stepping out of the refresher, looking at him strangely.

“For what?”

“This campaign.” He swallowed, anger briefly flashing across his expression. “It’s been hell, and I should have fought against the Council on it from the beginning. I could tell it was bothering you, and I should’ve done… something. If I had, maybe some things would have turned out differently.”

You stepped closer to him, searching his blue eyes. “You can’t blame yourself for any of that.”

He shook his head frustratedly. “It’s my fault. It’s my job to protect you, you’re under my Legion. What’s the point of me being a Jedi if I can’t protect you from some slimy scumbag?” He turned away, clenching his fists.

Now you began to understand. You reached forward, grabbing his hand and unraveling his fist gently. He turned back to you, surprised. A reassuring smile crept slowly onto your face. “Anakin.” You stepped forward, unraveling his other fist. His eyes softened slightly as they roved over your face. “You can’t put the weight of the world on your shoulders all the time.”

“I have to.” Pain twisted his features for a moment, but when he looked into your eyes, it was replaced with a fierce resolve. “I will not let them hurt you, ever again.”

Your heart jolted slightly in your chest. You hadn’t thought Anakin felt so strongly about this, about protecting you. But as you looked into his eyes, you started to lose yourself in the emotions swirling within their depths. Maybe you were wrong, and he didn’t just tolerate you.

You swallowed and whispered, “I know.”

His fingers twitched, coming to brush against yours lightly. You let out a soft gasp as he took another step closer to you, staring deeply into your eyes. He reached up his other hand slowly and brushed a strand of hair that had fallen in front of your eyes behind your ear, and you suppressed a shiver. He leaned down, his face inches from your own. Should I be allowing this? He’s a Jedi. But you didn’t make a move to stop him.

He spoke quietly, his voice deep and soothing. “You’re a pain in my ass though sometimes, you know that?”

You chuckled. “I know that, too.”

He smirked, his eyes flicking down to your lips. Your breath hitched slightly, and he stepped even closer to you so that you were nearly pressed up against his chest. Your fingers twitched, entangling themselves delicately around his. He dipped his head down, his nose just barely brushing against yours, and you closed your eyes, your heart racing.

“Master! Are you in there?”

Anakin reared back, pulling himself a respectful distance away from you, although after that it felt like lightyears away. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, Snips! We’re on our way out.”

“Okay, I’ll just wait for you then.”

Your face was bright red and you refused to look at Anakin. What the fuck was THAT?! Seriously, can you stop doing this with all of your friends? You groaned inwardly. I’ve really got to figure this out. This is getting bad. Anxiety flooded through you, and you were so flustered you hadn’t notice Anakin speak until he was standing in front of you again. You jumped, looking up into his face, which was just as red as yours. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

He seemed just as flustered as you felt. “Uh yeah. I was just saying we should probably head to the interrogation.”

You nodded, taking a breath and swiftly moving past him to open the doors, smiling at Ahsoka as you stepped out. She furrowed her brows, looking from you to Anakin, then back to you. Your eyes widened pleadingly at her and she simply nodded once, then started to make her way to the brig. You followed her, matching her step for step while Anakin slowly trudged behind the two of you.

Ahsoka glanced at you, a smirk pricking the corner of her lips. You and Anakin had both emerged from your quarters a little more uncomfortable with each other than you had previously been. Not to mention the massive amounts of shame and confusion radiating off of you, you didn’t even need to be a Force-Sensitive to see that. She gave you a playful shove, and you let out a nervous laugh, a small, worried smile pricking at your lips as you looked at her. Ahsoka felt a wave of understanding wash through her. Whether or not you knew it, Ahsoka could always tell how you felt about some of the boys. She watched you carefully as you interacted with each of them, and she could tell you had a soft spot for them, especially Rex and Jesse. But Anakin seemed to be a new addition, and she knew that it was most likely her Master’s doing.

She sighed inwardly. You were definitely struggling with this, and most likely just needed a friend to talk things through with. She gave you a comforting smile, and you relaxed a bit. When you needed it, she would be here for you to talk things through, and figure them out.

You stepped into the brig, where Obi-Wan was waiting for you. With a single nod, he opened the door to one of the cells, and the four of you stepped inside, where you found Lada, sitting and waiting for you. You stepped off to the side, leaning against one of the walls of the cell and shooting her a look of disgust.

She ignored your disdain and instead watched the Jedi with a bored expression. Obi-Wan and Anakin sat down in front of her, while Ahsoka came and leaned up against the wall next to you.

“I trust the accommodations are to your liking?” Obi-Wan leaned back, his hand brushing against his chin.

Lada hummed, inspecting her fingernails. “It’s a bit of a change from my normal quarters, but I suppose this will have to do.”

You looked at Ahsoka, rolling your eyes. She smirked but kept her eyes trained on Lada. Anakin leaned forward. “So, how does it feel knowing your little operation has been shut down?”

She scoffed. “You all are fools. You cannot stop his empire from expanding; soon he will have control over the entire galaxy, and you will have been too blind to notice.”

“Ah yes, his empire. Why don’t you tell us a little about it?”

“He controls everything. You cannot hope to stop him, and soon,” her eyes traveled to you, a cruel smirk on her lips, “he’ll have you, too.”

It took everything within you to keep yourself from smacking that arrogant look off her face. Disgust and hatred rose in your throat just at the sight of her, but you kept your mouth closed. She continued, her smirk widening. “I have to say, at first I didn’t get why he wanted you. I just figured he wanted to use you the way Pon did.”

You stiffened, and you heard Anakin utter a low growl. “That’s enough.”

But that only encouraged Lada. “Tell me, do you let all of these men use you too? I bet you’re the perfect little plaything for -”

“I said, that’s enough!” Anakin’s lightsaber ignited, inches from Lada’s throat. She only looked at him with a wicked grin, and then back to you. “A Jedi, huh? Good for you sweetie, even I wasn’t expecting that.”

I am just about done with this bitch. You wished Obi-Wan would let you interrogate her. Of course, the reason he wasn’t was because your anger completely filled the room, and was so strong even he was starting to feel some effects from it.

You know you were supposed to stay quiet, but if you tried to keep anything in much longer, you’d probably dismember her at this point. So instead, you spoke, your voice deathly quiet. “Why trafficking, Lada?”

Confusion flashed briefly across her face, as if she wasn’t expecting you to speak to her. You continued. “Why traffick thousands of women and children? What drove you to do that?”

She scoffed. “What else? Money, power, you name it. I’m an opportunist. And besides, it’s not like those filthy sluts didn’t deserve it.”

“And what about the children? You don’t have any remorse for that?” Obi-Wan fixed her with a hard stare.

She shrugged. “They were nobodies. Rats off the streets. If anything, I’d say I did this town a favor.”

A favor?! Fury surged through you as you thought of the little girl laying lifeless on the stage. Ahsoka scoffed with disgust, and Lada shifted her gaze to her. “You know, you would have been a lovely addition to our little family as well. We don’t get many Jedi passing through Ord Mantell.” A vicious sneer curled her lips. “You could have made me a lot of money, sweetie.”

Your lips curled back in a snarl, but Anakin spoke before you could say anything. You grumbled indignantly while Ahsoka shot you a small smile.

“You won’t be making money ever again, in fact, we have a nice, very uncomfy cell for you back at Coruscant. Isn’t that right Obi-Wan?” He nodded. “For how many years are we looking at?”

“842.”

Lada looked disdainfully between the two. “That’s a little excessive, isn’t it?”

Better than you deserve. Anakin studied her for a moment, loathing mired in his gaze. “One more thing.” Lada rolled her eyes. “What is the operation on Nal Hutta?”

She scowled. “I’m not going to tell you anything about that.”

Just then, sirens rang out on the Resolute. The four of you looked at each other, and Lada smiled wickedly. “Ah, he came back for me, I knew he would come rescue me.”

You broke out into laughter at that, and the others turned to look at you. She curled her lips, annoyed. “Something funny, sweetie?”

You chuckled maliciously, walking forward and leaning down so you were eye level with her. “He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person to leave loose ends untied. Toodles.”

Lada blanched as she realized what you were saying, and with a wicked smile you turned to leave the room, satisfaction filling you as you heard her yell at the Jedi to protect her behind you.

Ahsoka followed you out of the cell, and you exchanged a glance with her before setting a brisk pace off to the bridge. “I kind of want to let him get to her, but I also want to capture him too.”

She smirked. “Can’t we have both?”

“That’d be nice.”

You saw Cody running down the hallway, and you waved a hand to grab his attention. “Cody!” He looked up and ran down the hall to catch up to you and Ahsoka. “Yes, sirs?”

You gestured with your head for him to follow the two of you to the bridge. “What’s the situation?”

“An unidentified ship has just come out of hyperspace, and it looks like they’re preparing a boarding party. We’ve scrambled our fighters now.”

“Good.” Ahsoka kept her gaze pinned straight ahead. “Obi-Wan and Anakin are still in the brig, can you send a squad down there to guard the prisoners?”

“Yes, sir!” With that, Cody raised his arm, speaking several orders urgently into his comm.

You reached the bridge, and as the doors swished open, you were met with a full-blown firefight outside the ship. A massive ship that absolutely dwarfed the Venator loomed in the distance. Rex and Admiral Yularen were in the middle of the bridge by the holotable. You ran up next to Rex, who gave you a bucketed nod before turning back to the firefight. A beeping noise came through the holotable, and Admiral Yularen turned to Ahsoka. “Commander, we’re receiving a transmission from the enemy ship.”

She nodded curtly. “Put them through.”

A blue holographic image of the Master flickered through, and he turned his robotic head towards you slowly. “Hello again ______.”

You scowled. “What do you want?”

“I believe you have a vermin problem on your ship. If you allow me aboard, I can exterminate them for you.”

Ahsoka scoffed. “As much as we’d love for them to be disposed of, that’s not going to happen.”

He turned back to her, saying nothing for a moment. When he spoke, his metallic voice was cold and edged with a warning. “If you do not let me on board, then you will suffer the consequences.”

“We’ll take our chances.” Ahsoka switched off the holotable, and Rex grunted. “Well, that doesn’t sound good.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Ahsoka glanced at you, perplexed. “You sure you’ve never met this guy before?”

“I think I’d recognize some dude with a ship as big as Coruscant.”

“Fair enough.” Ahsoka sighed, running a hand over her montrals. “Let’s just be prepared. We don’t know what they -”

“INCOMING!”

You looked up in time to see a massive beam of light surging through space towards the Resolute. The beam of light struck the ship, and the walls began to creak and groan, the lights flickering as everything shut down. The emergency lights turned on, bathing the bridge in an eerie, crimson light.

Admiral Yularen threw himself at the railing, looking down at the officers below. “What happened?”

“Sir, looks like they hit us with one massive electromagnetic pulse. Our shields are down, all power is down.”

“Work on getting those shields back up, now!” The Admiral heaved an exasperated sigh. “This is Malevolence all over again.”

Whatever that is. Still, doesn’t sound good. In the distance, you could see a small shuttle exiting the ship. “Looks like we got company.”

“What’s he going to do, fly right into the hangar?” Rex snorted.

Ahsoka turned from overlooking the hangar bay. “Well. Sure looks like it.”

“What?”

You watched in disbelief as the shuttle landed, instantly being fired upon by the 501 st . A rocket rang out, striking the shuttle right through its hull and igniting, exploding instantly. You looked between the others. “Well, that was easy.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Rex still had his gaze pinned on the hangar, and his voice had an irritated lilt to it. You turned your head back, only to see the Master emerge slowly from the inferno, emerald mist pulsing around him. Your heart stopped.

“He’s… he’s like me.”

Rex and Ahsoka looked at you, astonished. The latter spoke. “You mean, he has a mutation? Is it like yours?”

You shook your head, furrowing your brows in confusion. “I don’t think so. Mine’s red, and his looks… different, somehow. I don’t know how to explain it.”

You were right, it was different. Rex scrutinized the Master as he walked slowly through the hangar, blaster fire ricocheting harmlessly off of him. The mist surrounding him pulsated like a constant thrum of energy, while yours typically swirled around you lazily, unless you were unhinged. “What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know, but something tells me we’re going to find out. Come on!” You turned and ran out of the bridge, your companions’ steps echoing behind you as the three of you made your way towards the hangar. You didn’t get very far when you heard screaming and blaster fire coming from a corridor to your left, in the direction of the brig. Suddenly, you thought of Anakin and Obi-Wan, and a twinge of worry pricked at you. You raised your comm to your mouth, speaking rapidly.

“Anakin? Obi-Wan? Tell me you can hear me.”

After a moment, Anakin’s voice buzzed through. “Yeah Merc, what’s going on?”

“The Master’s here, and he’s got a mutation. He’s heading your way now.”

“He what?! How… ong…. gets here?”

“Shit! Anakin, can you hear me?” You shook your comm frustratedly.

“Merc… ear me?”

Your comm whirred and static broke through, drowning out Anakin’s voice. You grunted frustratedly. “Of course.”

The three of you turned the corner and skidded to a halt, staring in horror at the scene around you. Dozens of 501 st troopers crouched on the ground, gripping their heads and screaming. Shit. This must be the squad Cody sent. Rex crouched next to a shiny, taking off his helmet and shaking him by the shoulders. “What’s wrong, soldier?!”

The trooper didn’t reply, just screamed and gripped his head even tighter with his fingers, his knuckles turning white. His eyes were clouded with sheer terror, and he didn’t look like he even noticed the three of you standing in front of him.

“What… what happened to them?” Ahsoka looked around, horrified.

“I don’t know, but we’ve got to hurry.”

Rex called medics into the hallway you were standing in, and the three of you sprinted off towards the brig, following the trail of screaming troopers.

~~~

“Damnit!” Anakin smacked his comm, which only made a dissatisfied whirring noise before emitting nothing but static. He looked at Obi-Wan. “He has a mutation? What kind of mutation?”

Before the older Jedi could reply, voices sounded down the hallway, coming from Pon’s cell.

“No, please! I won’t talk, I won’t - NO!” Agonized screams cut off his sentence, followed by an eerie silence. Anakin exchanged a look with Obi-Wan. “Oh. Well, that’s just great.”

Lada was hysterical at this point. She seemed to know what was waiting for her when the Master arrived. Anakin wheeled on her, leaning over her menacingly. “Tell us about the Master, now!”

She was hyperventilating, shaking her head violently.

Obi-Wan sighed. “Lada. Tell us about the Master, and we can protect you.”

Tears poured down her face. “I don’t know anything about him, I swear! I’ve never seen his face, heard his real name, nothing! All I know is that you can’t protect me, no one can. He’s gonna kill me!” Her sobs took over, and Anakin recoiled in disgust.

“There’s absolutely nothing you can tell us about him?”

She hesitated, breathing heavily. “He’s trying to create an army for Dooku. That’s what the experiments are for.”

Kriff. Anakin exchanged a glance with Obi-Wan, who turned back to Lada. “What’s his motive?”

She laughed between sobs. “He has no motive. All he wants is to see this galaxy burn.

“And where do organ transplants come into play in this operation?”

“He’s not using the operation on Nal Hutta for organ transplants, he’s using it for -” Lada cut off with a scream as her eyes fixed on something over Anakin and Obi-Wan’s shoulder. The Master stood outside the cell door, locked out by the ray shields.

“Lada.” His metallic voice was cold and callous. “You need to think on your sins.”

She screamed hysterically, begging for mercy. The Master raised his fingers and a gentle, green mist emanating from them floated towards Lada. Anakin and Obi-Wan ignited their lightsabers, and the former raised a hand to try and reach out with the Force. He withdrew, frustrated, when it appeared blocked, completely useless against the Master. The mist floated closer, and Anakin debated opening the ray shields, but decided against it. As long as he was out there, he couldn’t get to Lada. Right?

Lada panted, watching the green mist near her with sheer terror, and gasped as it enveloped her features, settling over her eyes for a moment, pulsing with energy. Anakin and Obi-Wan glanced at each other, uneasy. Then, Lada began to shake, violently. She screamed in agony and gripped her temples between her fingers as blood started to pour out of her eyes, ears, nose and mouth. She collapsed seconds later, a hollowed husk.

Anakin wheeled on the Master. “What the hell did you just do?”

The Master didn’t have time to reply, as a blurred red haze bowled him over, tackling him to the floor with an enraged cry. Obi-Wan hummed. “Well, it would seem Izzy has arrived.”

The two of them lowered the ray shields, running out in time to see you and the Master locked in a heated battle, ebony weapons forming and shattering rapidly as green mist combatted crimson. You advanced, each attack aggressive and purposeful. With each swing, the Master would conjure an emerald shield, both your weapons and his defenses shattering upon contact. It was a perfect match, neither one of you able to overpower the other. Finally, he leapt backwards, raising his fingers towards your friends.

“You remember the consequences of your actions from last time, yes?”

You stopped, staring at him with unrestrained hatred. “You’re going to pay for what you did to that little girl.”

“See, this is exactly what I want.” The Master took a few steps towards you. “But it’s not the right time. The time will come when we will show them your true colors.” He nodded towards your friends. “For now, allow me to leave, or I will cut a path through your forces.”

You hesitated, thinking of the troopers in the corridor. “How am I supposed to trust you?”

“I have not lied to you yet.”

Obi-Wan spoke from behind you. “Stand down.”

You turned to look at him, and Anakin hissed incredulously. “Are you kidding me?”

“Anakin, now is not the time. We have a Legion of men to think about.”

Anakin narrowed his eyes furiously, but said nothing else. You turned, allowing the Master to walk past you, fury causing your hands to tremble.

“See you soon.”

With that, he was gone. You let out a deep exhale. “Are we sure that was the right decision?”

“We don’t have enough information on how to defeat him. Even you couldn’t with your mutation activated. We need to take time and figure out how to fight him, and if he was going to leave without hurting anyone else, perhaps it was for the best.” Obi-Wan glanced back into the cell. “Especially seeing what he did to Lada and Pon.”

You peeked around the corner, recoiling in disgust. “Oh, fuck that.”

Rex and Ahsoka leaned over, peering into the cell and immediately reared back, similar looks of disgust on their faces.

“We should probably go check on the men.” You exchanged a grave look with Rex. Obi-Wan and Anakin looked at you quizzically, the latter being the first to speak.

“What’s wrong with the men?”

“We’re not entirely sure,” you spoke as you started swiftly back down the brig hallway, “looks like his mutation has something to do with affecting the mind.”

“Oh, great.”

As your group reached the hallway where you had first found the men, you looked around you, your heart clenching. The medics had arrived, but the men looked haunted, their eyes blank and devoid of anything except fear. You caught Kix’s eye and he stood, walking over to your group, his face grave.

“I’ve never seen psychological trauma like this. They’ve been in a fight or flight response for ages now, there’s no telling when or if it’ll stop. Even if it does, they’ll probably never fully recover.”

You swallowed. “What can we do?”

He looked around at the troopers lining the corridor. “For now, help us transport them to the medbay.” You nodded, and you and the others broke off to help the troopers. You knelt down next to a shiny that had his fingers glued to his temples, nearly leaving imprints in his forehead. You gently took his hands in your own, pulling them away from his head. The trooper started thrashing wildly, letting out a cry of fear.

“Hey! Hey! It’s okay!” You caught his wrists and pressed your forehead to his. He calmed, although his chest still heaved. You drew back, looking at him with a compassionate and warm expression. He blinked, his eyes clearing a little and focusing on you. You smiled gently. “What’s your name soldier?”

He shook his head, his voice wavering. “I don’t have one. My designation is CT-”

You stopped him, looking at him intently. “You’re more than a number. We’ll find a name for you, how about…” You looked him over, your eyes coming to rest on two tattooed horizontal lines on his cheekbone. “How about Double?”

He panted and gulped, his brows furrowing. “Yeah, yeah I like that.”

You grinned. “Well Double, my name’s Isabelle. Do you want to come with me to the medbay?”

“Yeah… will you stay with me?”

“Of course.”

You stood and gently helped him to his feet, placing an arm gently around his shoulders and using the other to lead him towards the medbay. Rex watched you out of the corner of his eye, his heart fluttering. You were so kind and compassionate towards his brothers, a rarity in this galaxy. As he watched you with Double, he felt a distinct feeling of longing bury itself in his stomach. He shook it off, chastising himself. Now is not the time for that.

You slowly led Double through the corridors until you reached the medbay, helping him to a bed. As he laid down, he gripped your hand tightly, as if he were scared that letting go would send him spiraling again. You caught Jesse watching you quizzically from across the medbay, cocking his head at you in a question. You gestured to him, mouthing the words I’ll tell you later. He nodded and continued to look around the medbay with concern at the steady inflow of troopers. You turned back to Double, smiling softly.

“You’re new to the 501 st ?”

He nodded. “Y-Yeah. This is my squad’s first rotation.” Your heart clenched at the thought of this horrific experience being his first campaign. He glanced back at you and then away again quickly. “W-What’s a pretty girl like you doing in the war?”

You grinned widely at him and chuckled. “Well Double, you didn’t tell me you’re such a charmer.” He relaxed a little, his breathing slowing slightly. “I’m an advisor for the 501 st . I led the stealth operation for this campaign.”

His eyes snapped to you in surprise. “That’s you?”

You nodded, and he smiled a little. “My squadmates are gonna be so jealous. I got the prettiest girl in the GAR looking after me, and she also happens to be a badass.”

“There you go again with that charm. The ladies on Coruscant need to watch out, or they’ll have their hearts stolen.”

He huffed a small laugh, his breathing returning to normal. His eyelids fluttered a little, exhaustion taking over. You gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “You can go ahead and sleep. I won’t leave until you tell me to.”

He grinned sleepily. “Thank you.” He breathed a deep sigh of relief before his chest began to slow, rising and falling rhythmically with sleep.

You looked back up at Jesse to find him watching you interact with Double carefully. He had a soft smile on his face, and his eyes found yours, gratitude swirling in their golden depths. You nodded and gave him a wink.

Your thoughts turned to the Master. He has a mutation. Is this more widespread than I thought? Could there be more? The amount of damage he caused could have been catastrophic if he chose. To be honest, you were lucky he left without hurting anyone else. And not that Pon and Lada didn’t deserve what they got, but they could have been useful going forward. You cursed yourself inwardly. Was it really the best decision to let him go? Sure, you had absolutely no idea how to stop him and you seemed equally matched in combat, but you were worried that letting him go meant he was free to wreak more havoc on the galaxy, more that could have been prevented. Uneasiness rooted itself in your stomach and you sighed.

How am I supposed to defeat this guy?

Chapter Text

Double awoke several times with a thrash or a yell, plagued by nightmares. Each time, you would squeeze his hand and murmur encouragement, which helped him to relax a little, seeing as you hadn’t left. He was asleep again now, muttering under his breath and occasionally twitching. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Jesse slowly get up and walk over to you. You cast him an admonishing glance as he approached.

“Kix is gonna have your ass. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

He waved a hand dismissively. “He’ll live. Besides, I’m feeling better.” He sat down next to you with a grunt, watching Double toss and turn. “What happened out there?”

You scowled. “The Master happened.”

His eyes widened in shock, and he gestured to the packed medbay around you. “The Master did all this?”

“Yeah. Turns out he…” You sighed, frustration pooling in your gut. “He’s got a mutation.”

“He what?” Jesse started, then groaned and ran a hand exasperatedly over his face. “I swear, every time I’m injured I miss all the action. Tell me everything.”

You snorted with amusement. “He boarded the ship through the hangar, and we blew up his shuttle. Thought that was going to be the end of it, but he walked right out of the flames. His mutation is different from mine, it’s green and we think it has something to do with affecting the mind, which is why there’s so many troopers in here with psychological trauma.” You frowned and squeezed Double’s hand. “Ahsoka, Rex and I were on our way to the brig when we ran into this squad. They were completely out of touch with reality; every single one of them was screaming like they’d seen something straight out of a nightmare.” You looked back at Jesse, pain twisting your heart. “They’re shinies, Jesse. Double said this is their first rotation as a squad.”

Jesse’s expression darkened. “Shit. Hell of a welcome to the five-oh-one.” He nodded to the sleeping trooper. “So that’s Double then?”

You nodded with a small smile. “Yep. We came back to help the squad after the Master escaped.”

“He escaped?”

“Yeah. He got to Lada and Pon before we got there. Absolutely brutalized them too. I tried to fight him, but I couldn’t get a leg up on him. Honestly, I think the only way I’d be able to beat him is if I were completely unhinged, and I’m not going to risk everyone’s safety for that.” You scowled as you continued. “He told us if we’d let him go, he’d spare everyone on the ship. Obi-Wan had us stand down.”

Jesse sat there in silence for a moment, processing your words while you turned your head back to Double. “So let me get this straight, the Master has a mutation that’s basically a psychological hell?”

“Pretty much.”

“And even you can’t beat him in a fight?”

“Unfortunately.”

“And Obi-Wan just let him go without a single word against it?”

“Yup.”

He groaned, placing a hand on his forehead. “ Great. You also said that Pon and Lada are dead, right?”

You nodded. Jesse turned, scanning your features. Your scars were fading to a dull, cloudy blue color, and the bite mark had completely disappeared from your skin. His eyes settled on the bruise on your cheekbone, which had almost completely healed. A muscle flexed in his jaw. “Well, can’t say I’m sad to see them go, but I am disappointed I didn’t get to have another talk with that piece of bantha shit.”

You snorted. “Don’t worry, I think he went through more than enough suffering based on the state we found them in. I’d say he got what he deserved.” You swung your gaze back to Jesse, startled to find that he was already looking at you, staring deeply into your eyes. Anger and guilt clouded his gaze.

“I wouldn’t.”

You swallowed, hard. “Don’t do that.” You looked away from him, shaking your head.

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was.” He spoke quietly, his voice nearly trembling with rage. “I should’ve done something. I shouldn’t have just watched. But I listened to orders like an idiot, and I just let it happen.”

This was the second time you’d heard these words today, except now they were coming from Jesse, rather than Anakin. You winced. Honestly, you kind of just wanted everyone to forget about it, and you didn’t want your friends to feel responsible for what happened. It wasn’t their fault, and in the end, everything turned out okay, more or less.

“Nothing happened. It wasn’t your fault Jesse. Everything turned out fine.” Your words came out barely above a whisper.

Jesse reached up a hand and turned your face to his. He looked deeply into your eyes, and you felt something inside you lurch. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you’re okay.”

You opened your mouth but couldn’t get the words out. You searched his eyes, memories of your panic attack in the shower and freezing up in front of Fives flashing through your mind. His expression darkened. “I’m so sorry . I promised to protect you and I… I broke that promise.”

You remembered days before in your quarters with Jesse, where he had made you that promise. But you didn’t think he’d broken it. You wouldn’t have wanted him to engage Pon in the flat, it would’ve blown your whole cover, and you never would have found those women. You reached a hand up to cover his. 

“No, you didn’t. If you’d broken into the flat we never would have found the ring.” Jesse opened his mouth like he was going to protest, but you interrupted him. “ I’m the one who should be sorry. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be put in that situation. I’m sorry Jesse, but… but please don’t blame yourself for this. No one could have prevented any of that from happening. And I will be okay. It just might take me a while.”

Conflict and guilt was mired in Jesse’s gaze, but he closed his eyes and nodded slowly. He rested an arm around your shoulder and you leaned into him, the two of you falling into a contented silence. The Resolute’s power finally came back on, allowing the medics to work more efficiently. Finally. Took them long enough. After a few minutes of silence, Jesse spoke again, his voice a deep rumble.

“How’d you get me out of the lake?”

You started, surprised. “What?”

“Kix told me you got me out. Why didn’t you tell me you were the one to save me?” He rested his chin atop your head.

You gulped. “It wasn’t important.”

“Wasn’t important? You saved my life, how is that not important?”

“No that’s not what I mean, it’s just,” you sighed, groaning inwardly. “I didn’t want you to feel like you owed me anything, that’s all.”

Jesse didn’t say anything for a few moments. When he finally did speak, his voice was hesitant, if a little apprehensive. “Will you tell me how you got me out?”

You nodded slowly, taking a breath. “Do you remember under the Jedi Enclave, when I was bleeding out?”

He huffed a dry, bitter laugh. “Yeah. What about it?”

“Do you remember the golden mist that protected me?”

He nodded. He had wondered about it, but just assumed it was a defensive mechanism from your mutation, seeing as it protected you from your stab wound.

You continued, anxiety pricking at your insides. “Well, it’s been happening more frequently, normally in situations where either I’m endangered, or someone I really care about is. Only this time…” Your brows furrowed, thinking of the conversation you had with Obi-Wan. “This time it was different. The others have been involuntary, but with this, my mutation confronted me directly, and told me to surrender all control to it, and it’d help me save you.”

You felt Jesse shift above you, and you continued cautiously. “I let it take control, and when I got to you, you’d already fallen unconscious, so I breathed into you hoping it’d help, and then I pulled you out. Kix revived you.”

He hummed. “Wish I was awake for the breathing part.”

You felt heat rise to your cheeks and you smiled, flicking his side playfully. A deep chuckle rumbled through his chest. “Thank you.”

Your smile widened, warmth spreading throughout your body. “Of course.”

He turned your face up to him again, looking at you with a strange expression. He clenched his jaw, a flash of nervousness falling over his eyes. You blinked at him, confused, and he opened his mouth to say something else when -

Thunk!

OW ! Hey, what the fu - Kix, what’d you just throw at me?!” Jesse rubbed his head, turning to his brother with a glare.

Kix was lazily tossing a roll of medical tape between his hands. “You want another? Get back in bed di’kut.”

Jesse grumbled before standing and trudging dejectedly over to his bed, tossing another sharp look at Kix as he went. “I thought medics were supposed to heal, not hurt.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, but for you I can make an exception.” He turned to you. “Hey, vod’ika. They need you on the bridge, apparently there’s still some work to do planet-side.”

You nodded and were about to stand when you stopped and looked back at Double with a hesitant expression. Kix gave you a soft smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll stay here with him, and let him know you were called away.”

With one last look at the sleeping trooper, you gathered yourself and strode out of the medbay, heading to the bridge. You were almost there when you heard someone call your name, and you turned to see Rex approaching you. You gave him a smile as he stepped up to you. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Hey.” He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “I just wanted to say thank you for what you did for that shiny.”

You cocked your head at him quizzically. “Of course. But you don’t need to thank me for that, I’d do it for any of you.”

He chuckled. “No, you don’t understand. That’s why I need to thank you. There’s a lot of people out there who wouldn’t show as much kindness or compassion towards any of us. You don’t understand how much what you do means to us, how much it means to me.”

Now you started to understand. These men really were deprived of almost everything in life, including fair treatment from people who deemed them inferior. You burned at the thought of the men that you had grown to care so deeply for being treated like dirt. They risked their lives, day in and day out, for the very same people who turned their noses up at the sight of them. And Rex, he always put everyone before himself. He’d gone through so much, but never allowed himself to grieve or be in a position of pain, because he knew how it could compromise the safety of others. He really didn’t get enough credit or appreciation for everything he’s done for this galaxy. A lump formed in your throat, and you pulled Rex into a tight embrace, feeling his arms snake around you. “You all deserve so much better, you especially Rex.”

He rested his chin on your shoulder, and a low, contented rumble ran through him, sending tingles down your spine. “Thanks Izzy.”

You pulled away, and gave him one last wink before heading into the bridge. The doors swished close behind you, and you looked up to see the Batch and Obi-Wan speaking in low tones, turning their heads as you entered. You stepped up to them, nodding a greeting to the boys.

“Looks like there’s still parts of Lada’s operation up and running. There are no indications that there are any prisoners there, it just looks like a base of operations. We’re needed here so we thought it would be best to send in you and the Batch to take care of it.” Obi-Wan gestured with one hand to the boys.

“Sounds simple enough. What’s the plan, boys?”

Wrecker answered you excitedly, his voice booming throughout the bridge. “We’re gonna blow it up!”

Hunter sighed. “It’s a simple in and out mission. We’ll head to the control room to extract any possible information, and we’ll rig the facilities to blow from there.”

“Fantastic. Do we have coordinates?” You scanned the map illuminated above the holotable. It looked like the remaining base was on the eastern side of the planet, near where Lada’s hideout used to be.

“Already set. We’re ready to leave as soon as you are.”

“Well, let’s not keep them waiting then.” You grinned mischievously, and shot a wink at Omega before turning back to Obi-Wan. “Take care of things up here while we’re gone.”

He chuckled. “I will try.” He turned to the others. “May the Force be with you all.”

With that, you gave him one last nod, and turned to leave the bridge, the Batch following behind you. 

~~~

“How many clicks?”

“About three.”

You stood next to Hunter while he crouched, one hand braced on the ground. “Alright, so we’ll be there within the hour. Do we have a plan or are we just kinda going in guns blazing? You guys strike me as improvisors.”

He looked up at you with a smirk. “Typically we prefer taking the fight to them.”

“Sensational.”

You continued towards the base, coming to stop atop a hill overlooking a small ravine a short while later, where you could see a squad of mercenaries huddled by a campfire outside a tunnel leading into the hillside. You looked at Tech. “If we blow this up, what’s the environmental impact going to be?”

He examined the hillside, turning back to you with a shrug. “It’s unlikely there will be any landslides or adverse effects that could affect any wildlife or civilians. We should be fine.”

Wrecker grabbed Crosshair by the shoulders and shook him. “Oh, YES! It’s been so long since I’ve blown something up.” His brother shook him off with a scoff of irritation. “ Can it Wrecker.”

You shot Wrecker a smile. “You know, I bet you’d really like this one song from my planet. It’s literally called Blow. I’ll show you it sometime, if you’d like.”

His eyes lit up. “That’d be great, thanks!”

Your smile widened, and you turned back to the base, closing your eyes and letting your mutation surge within you. You sighed, opening your eyes again, and smirked at the others. “Shall we?”

“Let’s.” Your squad burst from your cover at the top of the hill, raining fire down at the mercenaries, who scrambled to form a line of defense. You drew your daggers, holding one by the blade and flung it into the nearest mercenary. Omega drew back her bow and fired at the campfire, causing an eruption of flames and sending several mercenaries flying. You grinned at her. “Nice shot!”

Your squad quickly took care of the mercenaries outside, and made to enter the tunnel. Crosshair and Wrecker stayed crouched outside the entry way as lookouts while you, Echo, Tech, Hunter, and Omega dashed inside, winding your way through the corridors. Hunter led you straight to a control room, where several mercenaries wheeled on the five of you, raising their weapons. You jumped up and wrapped your legs around the neck of one of the mercenaries before twisting and bringing him down, tripping up another as he fell. You had just raised your daggers when Hunter buried two bolts into their chests. You jumped up in a huff. “Hey, I was getting there.”

“Took too long.” You could hear the smirk in his voice.

You rolled your eyes. “Whatever. Tech, Echo, can you gather any information from here?”

“I assume that’s a rhetorical question.” Tech adjusted his goggles and got to work while Echo just shook his head and scomped into the system.

There were multiple monitors set up, similar to the system you had seen at Lada’s hideout. You scanned them over, looking for anything of interest. Tech swiped through dozens of security footage, and you were just about ready to give up when something caught your eye. “Wait! Tech, go back.”

The footage on the monitor was a live feed in a lab, where it looked like vials upon vials of toxins were being created. Next to the vials lay rows of neatly organized darts, each decorated with a tiny, golden rose. You squinted at the screen. I… I know that symbol. That looks like… You shook your head. It was a coincidence, it had to be. You turned back to the vials. “This feed, where is it coming from?”

“It looks like it is coming from a lab in Nal Hutta. Hold on, I’ll pull up more images from this signal.”

Hunter’s comm buzzed, Crosshair’s voice coming through. “ Hunter, we’ve got incoming. You’d better hurry.”

More images flickered onto the monitors, all of which were from the Nal Hutta signal. Your jaw dropped. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

What you had thought to be primarily an organ transplant operation turned out to be a full black market dealing in just about every shady thing you could think of. Organs, drugs, artifacts, weapons, it was all there. Shit. This just got a whole lot more complicated. You turned quickly to Tech. “Can you pull coordinates off of this?”

He nodded. “Already done. I’ve also tapped into the live feed from one of the cameras, so we should be able to keep tabs on their operations for a while.”

“Great. Echo, what about you?”

He turned his head, removing his scomp. “I’ve rigged the facility to activate its self-destruct mechanisms, we’ve got about five minutes.”

“Alright, then I’d say that’s our cue!” You turned and ran back up the hallway, the others hard on your heels.

You burst into the open, only to be welcomed by a firefight. Great. Dozens of mercenaries poured down the hill, advancing on your position. Hunter turned to you. “We need to move, now. Can you give us some cover?”

“Oh, I thought you’d never ask.” You shot him a cheeky grin. “Go, I’ll cover you.”

You felt the bow materialize in your hand and you notched an arrow, aiming at the right flank of mercenaries. You whispered into your fingertips, and the arrow ignited. You released, and on its landing a wall of flame burst in front of the mercenaries, slowing their approach. You repeated with the left flank, and was just about to turn to follow the Batch when the facilities behind you exploded. The force of the blast sent you flying forward, landing several feet away from the wall of flames. The mercenaries flinched backwards with yells of alarm, their eyes wide as they took in the scene around them. You leapt through the firewall, feeling the axes take shape in your hands. You advanced on the mercenaries, swinging the axes a few times menacingly.

Just then, the ridge behind them exploded into action. The Batch had circled behind, flanking the mercenaries and cutting off their escape. Together, you and the Batch fought off the reinforcements until they were pushed into a full retreat. You jogged to catch back up with your squad, grinning from ear to ear. “Well boys, I’d say that was a successful mission.”

“Indeed. We should get this information back to the Generals. I’ve already commed ahead for an evac at our position.” Tech didn’t look up from his datapad as he spoke.

Wrecker faced the destruction behind you. “YES! This is what I’ve been waiting for!”

You hummed, leaning towards Echo. “Should we be concerned?”

He huffed. “Normally I’d say yes, but this is pretty standard.”

You said nothing more and nodded, resigned. The evac took several more minutes to reach you, and as you loaded up onto the ship, you thought again of the yellow rose symbol you had seen in the lab, feeling a spot behind your ear. Worry and apprehension rooted itself in your gut. No, there’s no way. Besides, a rose is a super common symbol, you’re just overthinking things. Still, you couldn’t shake off that gut feeling as you returned to the Resolute.

~~~

Upon your return, you and Hunter met up with Anakin and Obi-Wan, giving them your report on the mission. You told them your success in destroying the facilities entirely, as well as Tech’s retrieval of the information from Nal Hutta. Upon the mention of the planet, Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged a perplexed glance.

“Black market operations like this would explain their desire to obtain the holocron, whether or not they were planning on giving it to Count Dooku.” Obi-Wan ran his fingers through his beard.

“But what would that have to do with experimentation? Seems a little obscure to me.”

You furrowed your brows in thought, and suddenly remembered what Ahsoka had told you about the holocron on your way to Mustafar. You narrowed your eyes. “If we can assume the artifacts that are being sold have some kind of knowledge or power to them, maybe they could be trying to replicate those effects in people? Ahsoka told me about the power of the thought bomb ritual. Could Dooku be trying to create that as a mutation?”

Obi-Wan looked uneasy, while Anakin’s expression darkened. The older Jedi spoke first. “If he is, then I’d say we all would have good cause to be very worried. We should inform the Council of this possibility immediately.”

Anakin nodded his agreement before turning back to you. “Good work, Merc. Go tell your squad to rest up, you’ve deserved it. Oh and since we’re just about finished here, we’ve been called back. We’ll be taking a few days’ shore leave in Coruscant while we wait for the Council’s approval on this.”

Ooh, shore leave. On the one hand, you were excited for some much needed relaxation. On the other however, you were afraid that relaxing would mean that you would be forced to confront all the emotions you had compartmentalized from this mission, and you weren’t really ready to do that quite yet. You sighed. Had to happen sooner or later.

You dipped your head to the Jedi before turning and walking out of the bridge, Hunter a few paces behind you. He glanced at you as you walked.

“You know, it’s been a hell of a few rotations, but we’d be glad to fight by your side again, anytime.”

You looked at him, a smile slowly creeping onto your face. “Likewise, Sergeant. I look forward to our next campaign together.”

He smirked, then nodded his head to you before breaking off and heading in the direction of the officer’s quarters. You decided to head to your own room, mulling over your thoughts as you went. If Ventress was right in her interrogation, then after Nal Hutta would only leave Tatooine. If we can pull out two more successful missions, then maybe we can shut down this operation for good. Your thoughts turned to the manufactured toxins in the feed, and you frowned. If those were the same toxins that had disabled your mutation for a while, could they work on the Master as well? It’s worth a shot, maybe that’ll be our best chance at beating him. You reached your doors, entering your quarters with a sigh. These thoughts could wait. Right now, you really just wanted to rest and forget everything that had happened the last few rotations.

You flopped onto your bed, suddenly feeling more exhausted than you had thought. You drifted off into sleep, haunted by old memories and nightmares.

Chapter Text

Hey!

As promised, here’s a plot summary for the Ord Mantell arc, since it turned out to be a lot darker than I had originally intended (oops). I’ll go chapter by chapter, starting with Chapter 27.

Chapter 27: A Look Into the Past

Mc struggles with all of the loss she’s experienced in the past and especially blames herself for Fives’ near death experience. Obi-Wan gets her out of it and mc buries herself in her work, compartmentalizing her emotions and pain (as one does). She meets with the squad in the officer’s quarters for the debrief on the Ord Mantell campaign, only to come face to face with her old employer, Tus Jimk, a Nikto who ran a shady club on Kessel, The Kessel Klub.

Mc is then forced by the Council and the Senate to lead an undercover operation in Tus’ new club to catch the attention of Pon Pevott, a human who is associated with the Black Sun syndicate on Ord Mantell. She’s furious and takes her anger out on Tus, since he is the closest thing that reminds her of her past. Tus calms her down and convinces her to join, despite the requirement of having to perform one specific job in order to maintain her cover.

Obi-Wan convinces mc to tell the squad about her past, and we learn how they met as well as get a glimpse into her life before she became a mercenary, several months after she crashed in the galaxy. She worked for Tus as a thief, obtaining information and secrets from crime bosses and thugs on Kessel. Obi-Wan and Cody watch her steal from a Pyke, and follow her into the back room, but she gets the jump on them and knocks out Cody and attacks Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan introduces himself and offers her a job for the Republic, only to be interrupted by three thugs. Mc’s mutation is activated, and she’s completely unhinged, unable to control it. Obi-Wan hides while she kills the three thugs. After, she panics and Obi-Wan helps to calm her down, and promises to help her. She tells him her real name there, and he gets her off of Kessel for good.

After storytime (yay) Anakin asks mc about the job she is required to perform, to which she tells the squad that she will be forced into acting as a dancer in the club, and will essentially become a target for sex trafficking. They profusely refuse, but there’s nothing that can be done as the mission has already been approved by the Senate and Council. Jesse and Rex stay behind after the debrief to comfort mc like the good bois they are.

Chapter 28: Kessel Klub 2: Electric Boogaloo

Mc meets Admiral Yularen on the bridge, although he’s very grumpy. She tells the squad her plans for infiltrating the club, and proposes an idea that will help them find the trafficking ring. Seeing as she will already be targeted for trafficking, mc proposes that they implant a tracking beacon in her and allow herself to be taken, thus leading the 501 directly to the trafficking ring. After some deliberation, the squad reluctantly agrees, and the Resolute heads to Ord Mantell for the start of the campaign.

Mc goes back to her quarters to prepare, but is surprised by Jesse who storms in, dragging her with him. They argue, and Jesse begs her not to go through with the mission, he doesn’t want to see her hurt anymore. She tells him she trusts him to protect her before anything bad happens, and he promises to keep her safe. Then there’s a small spicy moment (ooh) where Jesse tells her he’s excited to watch her dance, and mc broods (yet again) over all the feelings she’s started to develop for the bois.

They arrive at Ord Mantell, and as mc is heading to the hangar she runs into Rex and Fives, who wish her luck. Rex has got it bad for mc, and Fives notices, teasing him. He asks him why he always stands back and lets the others flirt with her, to which he responds he just wants her to be happy and he wants Jesse to be happy too. Whatever she chooses, he will have to be okay with it. Fives reassures him by saying that he thinks he has a much bigger chance than he thinks he does, and Rex starts to feel hopeful.

Mc meets up with Tus on Ord Mantell and discusses plans for the show. Tus agrees, and sends her to the back to meet the girls she’ll be working with. She meets a blue-skinned Twi’lek named Tib’ceva, or Tib, and Tib helps to get her adjusted to the club, as well as picks out an outfit for her for the night. Mc is very uncomfy and asks Obi-Wan not to watch (uncomfy dad moment).

Ahsoka and the Batch set up a perimeter in the town outside the club, and Ahsoka talks to Echo about Fives. Echo tells her that Fives is ignoring him, and he thinks that it’s because he no longer wants to talk to him. Ahsoka tells him that it’s because Fives feels guilty and responsible for everything that happened to Echo, and Echo decides to have a conversation with his twin when he can.

Anakin, Obi-Wan, Fives, Cody, Jesse, and Rex enter the club disguised as bounty hunters. Pon enters shortly after and sits at a booth across from them, and Tus comes on the loudspeaker and announces the start of the show.

Chapter 29: Infiltration

Mc uses her mutation for seduction and has a very provocative performance that leaves the bois absolutely speechless, and also a little uncomfy, Obi-Wan especially. But the performance works, and Mc exits the stage to seduce Pon directly. He’s aggressively creepy. Eventually, Pon tells her he wants to offer her a job, and invites her back to his place to discuss it more in private. Mc reluctantly agrees, and the squad follow her out to a building across from Pon’s penthouse flat.

Mc inquires about the job, but Pon only has one thing in mind, and attacks her. He assaults her, and the bois outside fight amongst each other about whether or not to sacrifice the campaign and help her. Mc refuses to fight back, not wanting to jeopardize the safety of the trafficking victims. Pon corners her into the bedroom and pins her down onto the bed, attempting to rape her. Jesse and Rex eventually say ‘fuck it’ and are just about to bust in when Pon jumps off of her, and a tall woman enters the room. She is revealed as Lada Tritassor, and threatens Pon, telling him mc is wanted for ‘him.’ Mc is tranqued, and she’s carried out by a squad of armed mercenaries.

The squad follows her to an underground operation and sneak in, only to find hundreds of women and children in a large room with an auction. Each victim has a stuffed convoree animal, all a different color. Fives finds mc, and notices she is the only person in the room with a red convoree. A bell tolls and mercenaries attack the victims, beating them senselessly. Lada appears afterwards and addresses the room, notifying the victims of the next scheduled ‘reaping’ as well as the attendance of a special guest, who will allow them the chance to change their colors. Mc wakes up right after Lada leaves the stage.

Chapter 30: The Ally

Mc wakes up in the ring, and notices Tib is there with her. She helps her up, and Tib explains the color system of the convorees. Red is for experimentation and whatever ‘the Master’ desires, white is for sex trafficking, purple is for royal and diplomatic slave trading, and black is for immediate execution. The mercenaries herd a group of black convoree victims to the stage and pull an eight year old girl to the front. Mc runs to shield the girl from the blaster fire, but the mercenaries stop, and Lada confronts her. She introduces the Master, who is indistinguishable, cloaked, and has a robotic mask that distorts his voice.

The Master addresses mc by her real name, shocking her and the squad that is listening above in their hiding spot. He demands mc join him, or suffer the consequences. She refuses, and the Master orders the mercenaries to bring her to her knees, drags the little girl in front of her, and shoots her in the head. Mc and the squad are horrified, and just as mc lunges at the Master, the 501 busts in and engages the mercenaries. The Master escapes through a hallway leading to a hangar, where there are two ships preparing to take off. One with the Master, one with victims. Mc saves the victims and brings them back to the main room, where the 501 has by now successfully driven off the mercenaries. Jesse and Fives stun and drag Pon away.

Rex watches mc as she turns back to the little girl, and runs to comfort her. Mc panics, thinking her death was her fault because she was too stubborn to comply. Rex holds her and soothes her until Tib approaches, and the two new friends embrace. Tib tells mc that the little girl is no longer in pain, and that she’s in a better place. Anakin comes and leads mc away.

The shuttles take the victims to the Resolute or the medical facilities at the Ord Mantell outpost, and Fives and Cody go with them to help mitigate the flow of victims. We learn Lada has escaped, and is on the lam somewhere. Rex and Jesse bury the little girl under a tree by a stream, somewhere peaceful and pretty. The squad splits up, the Batch discuss possible theories for mc’s capture, Tech settling on the theory of her possible dissection and analysis of her brain in order to replicate her mutation in others (nastay). Ahsoka and Tib take mc to the refresher to shower and change out of her clothes, and mc has a panic attack in the shower thinking about what happened with Pon the night before. Ahsoka helps ground her, and she instead vows vengeance for the little girl. Obi-Wan, Anakin, Rex, and Jesse have a very rough interrogation with Pon, and it’s very satisfying. Pon tells them that Lada has a hideout on the eastern side of the planet, on an island. He then threatens mc and Jesse punches the shit outta him (as he should you do you king). The bois ask Tus what he knows about Lada, and he says she is the leader of a radical Black Sun syndicate branch that used to deal in arms but switched sometime to trafficking recently. Tus then tells them that he has a holomap that he can show them of the island.

Rex and Jesse drag Pon to the shuttle to take him to the Resolute, and when they come back, mc is out of the shower. Ahsoka reassures Rex that she is doing fine, but Jesse isn’t so sure. He confronts her, asking if she’s okay, to which she replies that she will be. Jesse lets it go, but is skeptical. Mc chooses to compartmentalize (again) and buries herself in her work.

Chapter 31: Respite

Tus shows the team where the island is, and they form a plan of attack. Tech and the Batch inform the Jedi of their theory for mc’s capture. Anakin calls in a squad of scouts to take a look at the island, and in the meantime they relax, drink, and unwind in good company. Mc has a dance party (as she does) and a small minorly romantic spicy moment with Jesse. Anakin is starstruck by mc, and she embarrasses Rex at the end of the night by assuming he likes to be called ‘Captain’ in bed. Obi-Wan hugs a bottle of rum for comfort after drinking (mans been hurt too much fr).

At the end of the night, she tells Fives to confront Echo, and that he just wants his twin back. Fives thanks her, and confronts her about the kiss in the rooftop disaster. He’s worried she was uncomfortable with his actions, but she tells him that she actually liked it, and Fives is elated. Mc almost kisses him again, but has a flashback to her assault and freezes up. Fives notices and comforts her, although he offers to leave if it’s what will make her most comfortable. She refuses and asks him to stay, and he holds her the rest of the night. He silently vows to do whatever it takes to make her happy, and the two of them fall asleep.

Chapter 32: Snake’s Pit

Mc wakes up and finds Jesse very hungover on the stage. She makes him a hangover breakfast, complete with vitamins, (mom friend at her finest) and Rex joins them on the stage. Mc thanks them for being there for her and supporting her this entire time, and Jesse tells her that she’s stuck with them whether she likes it or not. She returns the jab, saying they’re stuck with her, and Rex tells her they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fives confronts Echo finally and apologizes for not coming back to get him after The Citadel. Echo forgives him, and the two make up (yay thank GOD i love domino twins more than life itself). Mc watches, happy, and Fives silently thanks her. She’s pulled away by the Jedi, who inform her of Tech’s theory.

That night they launch an aerial attack on the island facility. Mc shows off, (as per usual go off queen) and they take the beach, stationing a squad at the last available escape route in case if Lada tries to sneak out. They infiltrate the hideout, branching off into two groups once they reach a crossroads in the tunnels. Obi-Wan and Cody take the Batch to the left, while mc, Anakin, Ahsoka, Rex, Jesse, Fives, and Kix take the tunnel to the right. They find a control room with a live feed to a lab in which they can see organ transplants on Nal Hutta. Ahsoka notices Lada has triggered a countdown, and that they have about ten minutes until the hideout explodes.

They run back up the hallway and down the route the others had taken, only to burst into an underwater room surrounded by mercenaries and Lada at the front. Mc confronts Lada, moving to restrain her, but she’s stuck with a toxic dart that disables her mutation for several minutes. The room explodes into action, and Lada escapes. The squad moves to escape out the route Lada had taken, Jesse taking up the rear and providing cover fire. Tech gets the last door open, but it has been rigged to malfunction so they have to move a couple at a time. Mc fastens her rebreather and yells at Jesse to follow them.

Jesse is shot in the shoulder, and mc rushes to help him but is held back by Rex. Jesse gets up and runs after them, and Rex yanks mc through the door. They are shot out into the water, and while Rex kicks for the surface mc looks desperately for Jesse. He appears seconds later, and she relaxes, but then the hideout explodes. She panics, looking around for Jesse, and just before she breaches the surface of the water she sees Jesse sinking to the bottom of the lake.

Chapter 33: Breakthrough

We see Jesse’s perspective of the explosion, and just before he falls unconscious he realizes (or does he) that he’s in love with mc. Cut to above the water where mc is having a full on mental breakdown (me too queen), and Rex and Fives are holding her back. She freezes up and nobody knows what’s happening; in mc’s mind her mutation confronts her directly and tells her if she gives in and lets go of her control it’ll help her save Jesse. She agrees, and the mutation fully takes over, communicating with the others and gets Jesse out of the lake.

Mc collapses after the mutation fades, and wakes up shortly after. She remembers what happened and begs Jesse to wake up and pull through, saying that he promised her she was stuck with him. Mc is just about to give up when Kix revives him and gets to work on his blaster wound. Evac comes and takes all of them (including Lada who was stunned by the patrol) to the Resolute.

Kix sends mc back down to Ord Mantell to finish up with Tus and Tib, and they each say goodbye. When she gets back, she sits in the medbay with Jesse and sings to him, knowing that he likes it when times are hard. While she’s singing she has flashbacks of their times together, and doesn’t notice Jesse is awake until he talks to her. They have a wholesome romantic moment (love that) and Kix interrupts, to Jesse’s chagrin. Kix tells mc Obi-Wan is looking for her, and she leaves the two brothers together. Kix teases Jesse over his obvious feelings for mc, and tells him that she was the one who saved him.

Obi-Wan has a discussion with mc about the mutation and how it is changing in the officer’s quarters, eventually settling on the idea of it being a distress response. He promises to meditate on it and give her answers later, but tells her to go get some rest before the Lada interrogation. Mc swings by the medbay on her way back, but Kix kicks her out, and he, Fives, and Jesse talk about her fondly after she leaves.

Chapter 34: Snake’s Bite

Anakin wakes up mc from her nap, and she invites him into her quarters while she gets ready for the interrogation. He apologizes to her and promises that he won’t let anyone hurt her again, and they almost have a little spicy moment, but are interrupted by Ahsoka, who can definitely tell that they’re super uncomfy around each other. She decides to be a friend for mc when she needs it, and will listen to her problems (god bless therapist Ahsoka). They meet Obi-Wan in the brig, and get to work interrogating Lada, who spends half the time insulting mc and Ahsoka, as well as all of the victims she trafficked (dirty, nasty bitch we hate Lada). She also tells them that the operation is far bigger than they could imagine, and that they have no chance of stopping it.

Sirens go off in the Resolute, and Lada is satisfied, thinking the Master has come back for her. Mc laughs and tells her that he likely isn’t there for a rescue, but to kill her, and Lada panics. Mc and Ahsoka head to the bridge, meeting up with Cody on the way, and tell him to send a patrol to the brig to help defend the prisoners. When they get to the bridge, there’s a full blown firefight outside the ship, and the Master pages them, telling them to surrender the prisoners, or else. They refuse, and the Master fires a massive electromagnetic pulse at the Resolute, disabling it for a while. Admiral Yularen mans the bridge while Ahsoka, Rex, and mc watch as the Master boards the hangar.

The Master’s shuttle explodes, but he walks from the flames unharmed. He has a mutation as well, but is different than mc’s; it’s green and the energy pulse is different. The three of them make their way towards the brig, and stop when they find the patrol Cody sent completely incapacitated in the hallway, screaming and terrified. Rex calls in medics, and they proceed to run to the brig.

Anakin and Obi-Wan are continuing their interrogation when they hear Pon screaming down the hall. Lada panics and hyperventilates, basically telling the Jedi that she really knows nothing about the Master, only that he is building an army for Dooku for no motive other than wanting to watch the galaxy burn. The Master appears, and sends a floating green mist towards her that gives her an excruciating, gruesome death. Anakin and Obi-Wan go to fight the Master, but mc beats them to it, and engages him. They’re step for step, swing for swing, perfectly matched, neither one of them able to get a leg up on the other. Finally, the Master threatens the others, and mc stops. He tells them that he will spare everyone else on board if they let him go. Obi-Wan tells everyone to stand down, as they don’t have any information on how to beat or capture him anyways, and will not risk the safety of the men on board.

After the Master escapes, they return to the corridor with the patrol, and the medics are working on transporting them to the medbay. Kix tells them he’s never seen psychological trauma to this extent before, and they conclude that the Master likely has some kind of a mind mutation. Kix asks them for help transferring patients, and mc bonds with a severely traumatized shiny, whom she names Double. Rex watches mc interact with Double and is absolutely head over heels for her with how gentle and loving she is. Mc takes Double to the medbay and stays with him while he sleeps.

Chapter 35: Cleanup Crew

Double wakes up every now and then and mc comforts him each time until he goes back to sleep. Jesse wanders over and sits with her, and she tells him about the Master and what had happened. She also tells him that Lada and Pon are both dead, to which Jesse is disappointed seeing as he couldn’t kick Pon’s ass anymore (me too Jesse). He apologizes to mc, saying he broke his promise he made to her at the beginning of the campaign. She reassures him that she will be okay, and that it wasn’t his fault, although he remains unconvinced.

The power finally comes back on, and Jesse asks mc why she didn’t tell him she saved him. She tells him that she didn’t want him to feel like he owed her anything, and tells him what happened with her mutation. Jesse tries to tell her something else but is once again interrupted by Kix who throws a roll of medical tape at his head and tells him to get back in bed. He then tells mc that Obi-Wan is looking for her again, and she leaves for the bridge.

When she gets there, Obi-Wan and the Batch tell her that there is one more base of operations for Lada’s branch still up and running. Mc and the Batch infiltrate the base, extract information from Nal Hutta, and blow up the facility. We learn that Nal Hutta is not only an organ transplant operation, but is an entire black market with operations in artifacts, arms, etc. Mc theorizes that the desire for the holocron and other artifacts could be to try and replicate their effects in people as a mutation. Anakin and Obi-Wan leave to tell the Council the possibility, but notify mc and Hunter that they have an upcoming shore leave before their departure to Nal Hutta.

Mc worries about confronting her emotions, and broods over old memories. Part of what was retrieved from the base were images of toxin and dart manufacturing, each dart emblazoned with a small, golden rose symbol on them. Mc thinks that she recognizes it, but brushes it off as a coincidence. She thinks that if they can get their hands on the darts, then they might have a chance of using them against the Master.

Whew!

Hell of a plot summary lol

Hope that helps!! <3

Chapter Text

You woke up in a cold sweat, haunted by nightmares. You checked your holo, groaning at the time. The Resolute had been in hyperspace heading back to Coruscant for only about two hours, so you had decided to take the time to be productive and try and relax a little. You were just finishing up cleaning your quarters when you got a knock at your door. Who the hell is awake at this hour? You opened it to find Rex, who was in his blacks and had a smile on his face. You grinned wryly at him. “You should be in bed, it’s late.”

“I could say the same to you.” He looked around at your now spotless room. “Restless?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” You raised a hand to the back of your neck and chuckled. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Me neither. I was on my way to the training room, and just wondered if maybe you’d like to come with me?”

You brightened. A training session actually might really help you keep your mind off of things. You could at least try and release all the pent up stress and energy you’ve had the past couple hours. Well, past couple days if you were being honest with yourself. “Yeah, that sounds great! Just hold on, I’ll grab a couple things.”

You ran back inside and quickly grabbed your daggers and your speaker, heading back out to join Rex as the two of you walked together to the training room. “How’d you know I’d be awake too?”

“I didn’t. But, you sleep like the dead so I figured if I knocked you wouldn’t hear it anyways.” He shot you a sidelong glance and smirked.

“Hey! That’s not true.”

“Is too. One time Jesse and I almost had to pour water on you to get you up.”

“Okay yeah, but you didn’t need to in the end.”

He chuckled. “Alright, fair enough.”

You glanced back at him, smiling to yourself. You were excited to spend more time with him, it had been a while since the two of you had really gotten to hang out, especially with the campaign going on. Plus, Rex always seemed to know just how to make you feel better. You could always count on him to be able to make you smile, and it would be nice to be in the company of someone so kind and considerate. Your heart fluttered as you studied him for a moment. He was handsome, like the rest of his brothers of course, but with Rex, he had a certain appeal to him that was almost intoxicating. He was the type of man you just couldn’t seem to pull away from if you got too close. You shook your head as the two of you stepped up to the training room, and a flash of anticipation ran through you. You grinned at him.

“Let’s get started.”

~~~

Hey, yeah! I wanna shoop, baby!

“You have the strangest taste in music.” Rex raised an eyebrow at you while you hummed along to the song, flipping a dagger between your fingers.

“Come on, you can’t tell me this isn’t a good song. Shoop-ba-doop…” You flicked the dagger up, catching it deftly by the handle and flung it into one of the targets in front of you, a perfect bullseye.

Rex snorted. “Well, if it makes you throw like that, you can listen to whatever you want.” The corners of his lips curved up in a smirk. “And I’ll give it to you, it is a little catchy.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” You turned and gave him a cheeky wink before throwing your dagger, keeping your eyes on Rex. He glanced at the target, then back at you with a twinkle in his eye, looking impressed. You turned to the target, seeing your second dagger embedded in the same mark as the first, the daggers lying side by side.

“Wow. I’m actually impressed.” Rex scoffed. “I’ve seen men practice for years with throwing knives, and not land a single shot as good as that. How’d you do that?”

You turned back to him, throwing your arms out to your sides with a mischievous smirk. “I’m just that good, Rex.”

“Alright, if you’re so good, let’s spar then. We’ll see how cheeky you are after a couple takedowns.”

“Bring it on, blondie.”

Excitement coursed through you, and you watched as Rex circled you slowly, muscles tensed in anticipation. You smirked. Let’s tease him a little. Rex lunged towards you, and you bent over backwards, dodging his first strike. He countered with an upwards blow, but you flipped agilely over, again dodging it perfectly. He huffed a laugh, an amused grin forming on his face. “Oh so we’re gonna play that game?”

You bit your lip, your smirk widening. “Come on Captain, hit me!”

He lunged forward again, and the two of you engaged in a contest of constant strikes and dodges. You might have had your mutation activated, but Rex was still a very competent fighter, and oftentimes you found yourself straining to dodge his onslaught of blows. He didn’t seem to tire either, you had been going at this for several minutes and he seemed to only be getting stronger and faster with each strike. You egged him on as he came at you. “Don’t let me get bored, Rex.” You yawned exaggeratedly.

“Oh you want something exciting?

Rex bowled into you, and you shrieked giddily as you felt the two of you topple over onto the mat. You twisted, rolling over and pinning him to the floor with an innocent smile. “Is this what you call exciting, Captain?”

His eyes widened slightly, and he panted beneath you, his chest heaving. “Well - ahem - actually, yeah.”

You blinked, realizing the position you had just gotten yourself into. You were completely straddling Rex, and you had pinned his wrists to the floor on either side of his head, your face inches from his. Heat flooded throughout your body and you flushed, suddenly very self-conscious. You released his hands and was just about to let him up off of the floor when Rex raised a hand to your waist to stop you, sending a jolt of excitement through you. You gasped lightly and turned back to him. He had an intense expression on his face, his eyes filled with adoration and… was that desire? You opened your mouth to say something, but stopped when he brought his other hand to your cheek, lightly brushing his fingers over your skin. You sighed contentedly, your eyelids fluttering closed. He snaked his hand slowly behind your neck and pulled you closer to him so that your lips barely brushed against his, the slight touch sending your heart rate into a frenzy.

“You want to know what else is exciting, mesh’la?” Rex’s voice was deep and breathy, and with each word, his lips would just barely graze against yours again, lighting sparks at their touch.

Another wave of heat came crashing through you and pooled in your core. “Show me.”

A low growl of approval rumbled through Rex’s chest, but before you could do anything about it, the grip on your waist suddenly tightened, and Rex flipped you over onto the mat on your back with a triumphant grin.

“Ha! Fooled you.”

You didn’t say anything. In fact, you didn’t look like you were even looking at him. Your eyes were round and clouded with terror, and you were trembling slightly. Worry and concern flashed through him, and he raised a hand to your cheek. “Izzy?”

You didn’t hear him. When you had hit the mat, you had been transported back to Pon’s penthouse flat. Instead of the tough material of the mat, your back had fallen on a soft bed. Instead of Rex above you, you were pinned to the mattress underneath Pon’s body as his hands roved over you, groping you roughly and biting into your skin. Oh no. Not again, please.

This isn’t real. You’re with Rex, it’s just Rex, it’s not… Pon leaned down towards you, growling in your ear. I’m gonna make sure you like it. Your breathing became quick and ragged, and terror coursed through you as your entire body froze, every muscle tensing up. Oh, God. Oh God no, get off of me, get off of me-

“GET OFF!”

Rex yanked himself away from you, fear and guilt flashing through him as he realized what was happening. Maker, I’m such an idiot! What have I done? He knelt beside you, his eyes wide with concern. You scrambled up, crossing your arms tightly over your chest and bringing your knees up defensively, your eyes still staring blankly ahead in front of you. You were breathing heavily and wheezing as if you couldn’t pull enough air into your lungs. Rex reached for you and then stopped, unsure of how you would react to being touched. “Izzy, I’m right here. He can’t get to you, he’s gone. I promise, you’re safe here with me.”

The sound of his voice woke you from your trance. Your head snapped to him, your eyes alight with terror. “Rex, I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to, I just can’t m-make it s-stop. I don’t know how, I-” You closed your eyes, bringing your hands up to clutch at your forehead. You took a couple deep breaths, trying to calm yourself. Guilt buried itself deep in your stomach. Shit. I fucked this up so bad, he’s definitely going to blame himself for this. You looked back at him and pushed yourself to your feet. “I’m so sorry, Rex, I should just go.” You quickly ran over to get your things, ignoring his protest as you swiftly walked out and ran to your quarters, closing the door behind you and squeezing your eyes shut with a gasp.

A loud, urgent knock on the door made you jump. “Izzy, please open the door.” He’d followed you back. You hesitated. You were absolutely mortified that you had reacted like that. But you also knew he wasn’t going to leave, so you opened the door and turned away, not daring to look him in the eyes. You went and sat down at your table, propping up your elbows and placing your head in your hands. You could hear the door close and his footsteps approach as he took a seat next to you. “I’m so sorry. That was stupid of me, I never should have done that, I just - are you okay?” You winced at the uneasiness in his voice.

“Please don’t be sorry, it’s not your fault. When this happens, it’s pretty random. I can’t control it, I’m so sorry for scaring you.”

“What do you mean ‘when this happens?’ Has this been going on for a while?”

You dared to sneak a look up at Rex, the pain and guilt in his eyes stabbing into you. Look what you did. You shook your head. “This is only the third time. It’s not a regular thing, I promise. I just don’t know how to handle it when it does happen.”

Rex looked at you for a moment and swallowed before reaching out a hand. “Can I hold you? Is that okay?”

You practically threw yourself at him, almost bowling him out of the chair. It was a bit of an awkward position and Rex grunted with surprise at the speed you had thrown yourself at him, but quickly recovered and wrapped his arms tightly around you, burying his head in your neck. He mumbled into your skin, his deep voice sending reverberations through your body.

“I’ve got you.”

You let out a small noise of appreciation, and the two of you sat there for a long moment together. Rex spoke again quietly, his voice hesitant. “Do you want to talk about it?”

You nodded and huffed a dry laugh. “Honestly that might help me work this out.” You drew back from him and sat back down in your seat, sighing and looking at your fingers. “It’s like… I see flashes of being back in the penthouse. A couple times now I’ve heard his voice whispering to me again, but one time it was just a brief memory or feeling that I’d get. This one though was like I was actually there. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t real, that I was just with you, but I didn’t do it in time, and I panicked.”

You saw another flash of guilt pass over Rex’s expression, and you quickly clarified. “It wasn’t your fault. You had nothing to do with it, I promise. I’m hoping it’ll get better, it's just… everything’s still a little fresh you know?”

He nodded slowly. “Yeah, I can understand that.” His voice was strained.

You let out a relieved exhale, feeling a little bit of the burden you had been carrying start to lift from your shoulders. “Thanks, Rex.” You hesitated before continuing. “Can I ask you something?”

He blinked at you. “Of course.”

You swallowed and leaned forward towards him. “How do you let go?”

“Let go?”

“Yeah. How do you let go of everything you’ve been through?”

He sighed deeply, bringing up a hand to rub at his jaw. “To be honest, I don’t.”

You furrowed your brows in confusion. “Then how…?”

An uneasy expression flitted across Rex’s face for a moment, and he heaved a deep breath. “Have you ever heard about Umbara?”

“In passing. I heard it was bad, but I don’t know what happened.”

“It wasn’t just bad, it was hell.” His expression twisted in anger. “General Skywalker was called away and replaced with another Jedi, General Krell. At first, we thought he was just reckless, but soon all of the missions he’d send us on turned suicidal. It got so bad and we lost so many men that eventually Fives, Jesse, and Hardcase hijacked enemy ships and went against direct orders to destroy a Separatist supply ship.” He glanced up at you, then away again, and you thought you saw a flicker of shame cross his features. “That’s… where Hardcase died. He sacrificed himself so that Jesse and Fives could get out. When they got back, though, General Krell had them court-martialed for treason, and sentenced them to be executed.”

You started. “Wait, what?” I… I didn’t know that about them.

He nodded, closing his eyes and swallowing. “And I… I didn’t do anything to stop it. Fives eventually talked the boys out of it but I should have done something.” His voice shook with anger. “Krell sent us to engage the enemy at a certain set of coordinates after, telling us they were disguised as clones. But they weren’t the Umbarans, it was the 212 th . He sent us to kill our own brothers.” He stopped and buried his face in his hands with a sigh, shaking his head.

Holy shit. You watched Rex, your mouth agape. You had known he had been through a lot in his time as Captain, but this… this was more than traumatic, it was nearly unspeakable. You couldn’t imagine the amount of pain, the amount of grief and guilt that he must have gone through, that he must still be going through. You stood and slowly approached him, kneeling down in front of him and resting your hands on his knees. He turned his head up to look at you, and your heart clenched at the amount of pain you saw in his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

He searched your eyes before taking another shaky breath and continuing. “We went after Krell after that. Charged him with treason, although it cost us a lot of good men to actually get him in custody. He admitted to sending us to our deaths, told us that we were nothing but expendable in this war. The enemy was approaching and he would have escaped if we didn’t make a decision.” His eyes narrowed. “He was too dangerous. We… came to the decision to execute him. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t pull the trigger.”

“Rex -”

“No!” Rex stood abruptly, pacing back and forth beside you. You stood, nervousness pricking at your insides. “I was a fucking coward. It was my job, I was supposed to be the one to do it, not -” He broke off, his brows furrowing. “Not Dogma.”

Dogma. You had heard the name before, but the boys didn’t speak much about him. You knew he was younger than them, and by the sounds of it, a bit stiff. The idea that he would take matters into his own hands and execute his superior surprised you, but then again, Krell did betray them all and turn them against their brothers. You swallowed, then took a couple steps forward and stopped Rex from pacing, placing your hands on his shoulders.

“Rex.”

His expression was marred with remorse and anger, and even though he stopped pacing, he refused to look at you, as if he were ashamed of himself. “You’re a good soldier, but you’re an even better person.”

His eyes turned up to yours, softening a little. “I’m telling you this because I haven’t let go. I can’t. But I use those experiences to keep me going, not for myself, but for them.”

“For your brothers.”

He nodded and hesitated before adding quietly, “and for you too, mesh’la.”

You blinked in surprise, feeling a small smile form on your face. “Are you going to tell me what that means, or am I just going to live in suspense forever?”

“You’re going to live in suspense.”

You chuckled. “Seriously though, come on. What does it mean?”

Rex brought a hand up to your cheek, brushing his knuckles against your jawline, longing burying itself in his eyes. He murmured softly in response. “Beautiful.” Your heart skipped a beat. Rex’s eyes bored into yours. “It means beautiful.”

Your lips parted slightly, and you felt yourself blush. Rex’s hand moved to cup your cheek, and you leaned into his touch, closing your eyes. I can’t hurt him. “Rex… I need to talk to you about something.”

“You have feelings for Jesse and Fives. I know.”

Your eyes snapped open, and you backed away from him a little. “W-What did you say?”

He suddenly looked unsure of himself. “Is that not what you were going to say?”

“No, it was, it’s just,” you swallowed, your brows furrowing. “How’d you know that?”

He shrugged. “I watch. None of you are very good at hiding your emotions.”

Great. You gulped. “Well, I think you’re right, I think I do have feelings for them but…” You looked at him and then away quickly, your cheeks burning. “I think I have feelings for you too.”

Rex’s heart jumped in his chest. He honestly wasn’t sure if you had felt anything for him, and to hear you say the words out loud, he didn’t think he could ever feel such happiness. He took a step towards you.

“But, I don’t want to hurt any of you. I need time to figure things out, and I don’t want to be selfish.”

Rex closed the distance to you and turned your face up to his, his other hand entangling itself gently around yours. Your heart skipped a beat as you entwined your fingers with his, and you looked deeply into his eyes. He looked nervous, elated, and… there was something else in his gaze that you couldn’t quite decipher. Some powerful and strong emotion that swirled in those enchanting, golden eyes. “Can I do something selfish?”

Your heart pounded in your ears. Your stomach fluttered and excitement coursed throughout your body. As you looked into his eyes, you suddenly started feeling much safer and comforted than ever before. You bit your lip, and nodded slowly. “I wouldn’t stop you if you did.” Your voice was barely above a whisper.

You didn’t need to say anything else. Rex dipped his head and pressed his lips to yours, the two of you gasping softly at the contact. You snaked your arms around the back of his neck and felt your heart flutter as his mouth moved gently on yours. It was gentle and soft at first, almost hesitant. You melted into Rex, and a deep rumble reverberated through his chest, sending sparks through you and shivers down your spine. You let out a low groan into his mouth, and you felt him smile against your lips. Gradually, the kiss became more passionate, and you felt his hands travel down to your thighs before picking you up and wrapping your legs around his waist. He made his way to the bed, and sat down with you on top of him. He drew back, kissing your jawline and worked his way down to your neck. Your body was on fire, his lips lighting a blazing trail as they traveled lightly across your skin. You sighed contentedly, running your hands slowly over his chest, feeling his muscles beneath his blacks, and flattened your palm against his heart. His heart seemed to be beating just as fast as yours was.

This was different from what you had experienced in years past. With Rex, this was passionate, it was caring, you felt as if you could lose yourself in him. You pulled him back up to you and pressed your lips to his again, the contact sending a bolt of lightning straight to your core. His hands charted a course across your back, to your waist and hips, and back to your thighs, every touch sending your heart into a frenzy. Heat pooled throughout your body, and you found yourself wanting more of him, but something held you back. “ Rex -” Your voice came out much more breathy than you had meant it to.

He groaned into your mouth, and you continued, speaking between breaths of air. “Rex I… I don’t know if… if I can -”

He pulled back, his lips slightly swollen and his pupils dilated. Oh God, that doesn’t help. Why does he have to be so hot. You opened your mouth to say something, but he only smiled and moved the blankets, sliding under the covers. He patted the side of the bed next to him. “Don’t worry, I know.”

You gave him a small smile, relieved that he understood. You wriggled yourself underneath the covers next to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek for good measure. He let out a deep rumble of a chuckle and snaked his arms around you, pulling you close to his body. You wrapped a leg around one of his. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” He paused for a moment, and then added, “I’m going to support whatever decision you make. I just want you to be happy.”

A rush of anxiety and guilt flew through you. He deserves so much happiness and love. You turned your head up to look into his eyes, reaching up and giving him another chaste kiss on the lips. “I want you to be happy too, Rex.”

He sighed contentedly, brushing a strand of hair out of your eyes. “I’m already happy, mesh’la.”

You sat in silence for a while, and you ran your fingers along his chest, tracing small shapes against his blacks. Finally, you broke the quiet, speaking reticently. “Thank you for telling me about Umbara. And I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I can’t even begin to imagine…”

“It’s okay.” He heaved a deep breath. “I don’t normally talk about it, but it felt nice to tell someone finally.”

You smiled, your heart warming at that. “I’ll always be here for you Rex, I promise.”

He hummed, the noise rumbling through his chest. “I’ll always be here for you too.”

You relaxed a little, and the two of you descended into a comfortable silence. After a while, the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest lulled you into a deep sleep. Your dreams were, for once, free of nightmares, thoughts of the clone Captain who held you in his arms that night harbored in your mind.

Chapter Text

Hmmm. You hummed and stretched. Something warm and comfy was stretched out beneath you. You sighed contentedly and snuggled closer to it, clutching it tightly. Then, it moved. A deep, rumbling chuckle sounded beneath your ear.

“Good morning.”

You gasped and shot upright. Holy shit. I fell asleep with Rex last night. Your face burned. HOLY SHIT, I KISSED REX LAST NIGHT! You bit your lip, still feeling a ghost of his lips on yours, and a shiver ran down your spine.

Rex’s face appeared in your peripheral vision, looking mildly alarmed. “Are you alright?”

A nervous laugh escaped you. “Yeah! Yeah, definitely I just…” You rubbed your face with your hands. “Are we back at Coruscant yet or did I sleep through it?”

He smiled and shook his head. “No, we should be coming out of hyperspace in the next few minutes though.”

“Oh, thank God, I thought we missed the landing for a moment.” You flopped backwards onto the pillow and turned to face him. “Do you think we have a debrief or -”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

You think your heart might have actually stopped. How’s it going to look when I have the literal CAPTAIN OF THE LEGION in my bed? Your eyes widened as you stared at Rex, who only stared back with an equally uncomfortable expression. You decided to throw caution to the wind and raised your voice slightly. “Who is it?”

“It’s Anakin. I need your help with something.”

NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO.

You think your mind must have shut down for a moment, or you must have had a very ridiculous look on your face, because Rex had to cover his mouth with a hand to stifle the snort that came out of him. “You’re overreacting,” he whispered. “This isn't that bad.”

“You’re not helping!” You hissed back at him. “Just go hide in the refresher! I’ll be right there!” You called the last part of your sentence out to Anakin, who you could hear grumbling impatiently on the other side of the door.

You waited until Rex disappeared into the refresher before going to open the door. Anakin raised an eyebrow at you. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah, everything’s great, why?” You waved a hand dismissively and silently chastised yourself.

Anakin gave you a strange look then shook his head, ignoring your behavior. His expression switched and he looked away from you for a moment. “Listen, I need a favor.”

“Shoot.”

He sighed, looking back at you, and you thought you saw a flash of nervousness in his eyes. “I need you to be my date to the Senate gala tonight.”

You blanched and stood in silence for a moment, Anakin looking at you expectantly. Then you started laughing. Okay, this is a joke right? But your laughter faded when you looked at Anakin again, his eyes narrowing. “Oh, shit. You’re serious?” He nodded.

“Oh, no. Trust me, I am not the person you’d want to bring to a gala. I - I don’t know the first thing about them here and I don’t even have anything to wear, oh God I’d have so much to do to get ready, and I -”

“Merc, just please.” He sighed exasperatedly and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I really need you to do this for me, I’ll return the favor somehow, but just please.”

Maybe it was the desperation in his eyes, or maybe you were genuinely curious about going to a gala with Anakin, but you sighed and slowly nodded your head. “Okay. Just as long as Ahsoka can have the day off to help me get ready.”

He brightened instantly. “You got it, thank you, I’ll comm you with all the details later.”

With that, he quickly turned on his heel and left you to stew in your own thoughts. You walked back into your room, closing the doors behind you. You groaned and rubbed your face in your hands. “Rex, you can come out now.”

He walked out with a shit-eating grin on his face. “A gala huh? You’re really moving up in the ranks, Izzy.”

You frowned and smacked your forehead against his chest dramatically. “I’m not ready for this.”

He laughed and wrapped his arms around you. “You’ll be fine. You’d better go find Ahsoka and get ready for it though, these things can be pretty extravagant.”

You let out a nervous peal of laughter. “I’m so dead.”

He kissed the top of your head, and you felt your stomach flip-flop. “Come on.” He grinned widely at you and dragged you out of your quarters to find Ahsoka.

~~~

“No… Nope… Ugh definitely not… Ahsoka I don’t know about this, I can’t pull off any of these!”

The two of you had gone shopping in Coruscant again once you landed, and had returned to the boutique you had visited your first time on leave. Piles of gowns lay around the two of you in the dressing room, none of which seemed good enough for the gala.

She scoffed. “Are you kidding? You’re gonna be a total head-turner tonight, I promise.”

“Not with any of these dresses.” You wrinkled your nose in distaste at a garish orange gown.

“We still have a couple more to go, try the green one next.”

You shimmied into a green dress that was way too tight, practically constricting your lungs. “Yeah no. Not gonna happen.” You eyed her out of the corner of your eye, nervousness flickering in your expression. “Should I be worried about the Senators? I’m not sure I’m very prepared.”

Ahsoka shrugged. “Honestly, it can go either way. Just stick with Anakin and Padme, and you should be just fine.” She gave you an encouraging smile.

You relaxed a little. You actually liked Padme, she had stuck up for you at the briefing before the campaign, and she seemed genuinely like a good person. Maybe Ahsoka was right, and it wouldn’t be so bad as long as you stuck to her and Anakin all night. You scanned the remaining piles of dresses, picking up one in a 501 st blue color. You exchanged a look with Ahsoka, and she waggled her eyebrows playfully. “I bet the boys would love that one.”

You laughed and shook your head. “Worth a shot.”

As you were putting it on, Ahsoka spoke slowly, her voice lilted to a sly tone. “Speaking of the boys…”

Oh good God. “Do you want to talk about that?”

You snorted, thinking about everything that had happened last night with Rex. She has no idea how badly I need to talk about it . “Oh, for sure. Just, I’m not sure I can do it today though, I have so much to stress about that I won’t be able to focus.”

“Fair enough.”

With a sigh, you smoothed out the dress over your curves, and felt a smile creep onto your face. “I think we found a winner, Ahsoka.”

The gown you had was a blue, off the shoulder, silk sheath dress that flowed to the floor. It was elegant and classy, and you looked absolutely exquisite in it. She grinned back at you. “I’d say we have.”

~~~

GAR Headquarters, 2000 hours

You waited outside the Headquarters at eight for Anakin to meet you. You had paired your dress with a pair of heels and curled your hair into an elegant, loose updo. You were incredibly nervous, and honestly just wanted to get the night over and done with.

“Wow.”

You turned to see Anakin walking up to you from the direction of the Jedi Temple. You turned and gave him a timid smile as he approached. “You clean up nice, Merc.” He gave you a smug smile and you rolled your eyes.

“Charming. Can we please just get this over with?”

He held out an arm for you, which you took lightly with one hand, and the two of you made your way to the Senate building. You found yourself growing more and more apprehensive with every step until your nerves were just about shot by the time you reached the building. You and Anakin waited in an excessively long line to enter the gala, and as you waited, he leaned in to whisper in your ear.

“Relax. You’re practically radiating anxiety.”

“Well can you blame me? I’ve never been to a gala in my life, let alone one for the Senate!”

“It’ll be fine, you’re with me.” An arrogant smirk pricked at the corners of his lips. “Nice tattoo, by the way.”

“What?” You reached up with your hand to touch the spot just behind your ear and scowled, grumbling. “Thanks.”

“What’s it mean?”

“Why do you want to know?”

He shrugged. “We’re stuck in this line anyways. Might as well tell me.”

You looked at him for a moment, swallowing. Finally you sighed. “It’s a promise I made to someone back home.”

“Where are they now?” He glanced at you out of the corner of his eye, then down at your hand on his arm when you suddenly stiffened. His eyebrows furrowed.

“Dead.” Your voice was strained.

Anakin cursed himself inwardly. “I’m sorry Merc, I didn’t mean -”

“Don’t be sorry. You couldn’t have known.”

You had reached the front of the line and checked yourselves in. As you entered the gala, you bit your lip to keep yourself from gasping. It was positively exquisite. Marble pillars towered above you, adorned with delicate golden vines wrapping around their base. Everywhere you looked, luxury and extravagance greeted you. The food, the ambiance, the people. Everyone was extraordinarily dressed, and you began to feel rather small and insignificant. You shot a nervous glance at Anakin, who to your surprise, took his other hand and gave your hand an encouraging squeeze. “It’ll be fine.” He chuckled. “What, so you can charge headfirst into a battlefield, but a gala is where you draw the line?”

You muttered under your breath. “I feel like the line is drawn much earlier than this, but okay.” He only shook his head and laughed at that. You stole a glance at him. He actually looked very handsome, dressed in fine robes. The two of you were a striking pair, and heads turned as you walked through the gala.

“Well, you two certainly make quite the pair.”

You turned, panic rising in your chest when a group of senators you didn’t recognize stepped up to you. One of them looked familiar however, and you started to recognize him as the senator who stood with Padme at the debriefing. One of the men extended a hand to you, looking you up and down slowly with a toothy grin. “And who might you be, my dear?”

You tensed slightly at the way he was looking at you, squeezing Anakin’s arm a little tighter. You offered him a polite smile nonetheless, and grasped his hand to shake it, but was caught off guard when he instead brought it to his lips. He pulled you forward hard enough to make you take a few stumbling steps forward, and you took a moment to collect yourself before plastering the same considerate smile on your face again. “Isabelle Greene. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mister…?”

“Bric Cir. I’m a representative for the Corellian embassy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”

Not at all. You glanced at Anakin for help before turning back to Bric. “I’d love to hear more about your work, Bric. Perhaps you can tell the General and I more about your accomplishments this evening?”

His smug smile grew so wide you thought it’d break his face, and his eyes roved over the front of your dress. You had to fight hard to keep the sneer and look of disgust from your face, and you felt Anakin tense underneath your hand. “I look forward to speaking with you, a little more intimately, later tonight.”

Did he just?! Your eyes widened and you took a half step closer to Anakin, who was glaring daggers at Bric. You didn’t know what to say, so you just cleared your throat and turned to the senator you recognized, relieved to see he was looking at Bric with a disgusted expression. “Excuse me, Senator?” He turned to you, his eyes softening slightly. “I believe we met very briefly over the holotransmission prior to the campaign on Ord Mantell?”

He gave you a small smile and nodded. “Bail Organa. It’s a pleasure to finally make the acquaintance of the woman who spearheaded the mission to save the lives of countless citizens of the Republic.”

You bowed your head sheepishly. “It’s lovely to meet you in person, Senator Organa. Your words are too kind, but I can’t take the credit, General Skywalker and the men in the 501 st were the true heroes of the campaign.”

Anakin gave you a strange glance, narrowing his eyes. Senator Organa turned to him, extending a hand. “General Skywalker, it’s good to see you, like always.”

Anakin grasped it and gave his hand a firm shake. “Likewise, Senator.”

A shrewd looking woman piped up from behind Senator Organa. “I must say, General Skywalker, I didn’t expect you to keep such vulgar company.”

You started, turning to face the woman. “I’m sorry?”

“You should be. Why, I frankly am appalled that they would let a woman like you in the gala, what with your reputation.”

Your eyes narrowed slightly. “I’m terribly sorry, I don’t catch your meaning. What reputation would that be?”

She scoffed, taking a sip of champagne. “Don’t be daft darling, surely you must know that the entire planet knows how you masqueraded as a whore to go undercover on your latest campaign. Not to mention your history as a mercenary.”

You swallowed hard, trying to bury the anger and shame that rose in your chest. “It was an unfortunate requirement of the campaign. I did what I had to do to save as many lives as I could.”

Anakin was fuming, and was about to open his mouth to defend you when the woman spoke again. “How unbecoming of a lady to associate herself with so many brutish men. I must say, however, your gown truly is exquisite. You almost can’t see the floozy beneath it.”

Anger flooded your mind, and you snapped, keeping your tone level and low. “Pardon me, ma’am, but my actions as well as the actions of those so-called ‘brutish’ men on that campaign saved the lives of hundreds of women and children, and kept them from an unspeakable fate. Not to mention, those very same men are the same ones that risk their lives every day on the battlefield to protect your right to be standing in a luxurious gala such as this.” You nodded to the others and Senator Organa. “Please excuse me, I need to go visit the powder room.”

The woman rolled her eyes, and after you walked away, Anakin wheeled on her. “That woman is the bravest, most selfless woman I have ever met, and she puts her life on the line daily to protect people like you. Next time, show a little respect.” He nodded respectfully to Senator Organa, and followed after you.

You flung the bathroom door open, rested your hands on the counter and stared at yourself in the mirror. Vulgar. Whore. Floozy. How dare she? I - I didn’t have a choice! Humiliated tears stung at your eyes, and you swiftly blinked them away. I’m not going to give her the satisfaction.

You heard a knock at the door. “Merc? Will you please come out of there?”

You heaved a deep breath. “Anakin, you said everything would be fine.”

Silence floated between the door for a moment before you heard Anakin sigh. “I know. I’m sorry, I didn’t think this would happen.”

You flung the door open, your expression twisted with hurt and anger. “Didn’t think what would happen, the scumbag representative practically undressing me with his eyes, or that horrible woman calling me a whore in front of some of the most important people in the Republic?!”

He lowered his eyes. “Neither. To be honest, I’m not sure how they even know about the campaign. They shouldn’t know the inner details, someone must have leaked the information.”

“Well it doesn’t matter now does it?” Your voice wavered slightly, and A