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A Full Schedule

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I stood nervously in front of the Colonel of Staff's desk, trying desperately not to fidget in the stiff suit that I had hired for this occasion.

The man scowled down at the data pad in front of him, his bushy eyebrows almost knitting together from the gesture. They looked like two huge, hairy, Dagobian Caterpillars that were vying for dominance of the man's forehead.

I cracked a smile at the thought before catching myself and smoothing my features.

Don't laugh. This was serious. Not time for getting the giggles over such stupid things. Even if the Colonel's eyebrows really were humorous in their independent sentience.

"I see here that you graduated top of your class at the Academy." The man's voice was raspy and rusty, as though he didn't get the opportunity to use his vocal cords very much.

I straightened my back and stood a little bit taller.

"Yessir."

"Although you have no experience in the field?"

"No Sir," I replied flatly, hesitating self consciously at the slight twist to the Colonel's mouth. "B-but I only graduated last month. And logistics personnel don't usually get deployed into combat zones. Particularly if they are female."

The man hummed in thought, and I started to feel my palms grow sweaty at his deliberation. I needed this fucking job. The debt I'd left the academy with was crippling, and I hadn't spent six years of my life getting my degrees to let it all go to waste now. Besides: civilian officers of the GAR got their own accommodation on base, plus meals and medical coverage. I could do much, much worse in the current climate.

The Colonel cast his grey eyes over the data pad one last time before laying the device to one side, leaning back in his chair and staring at my critically. I did not flinch under the scrutiny. I would not flinch.

With a last billowing breath, the Colonel of staff picked up his pad once again and leaned on the desk, which groaned slightly from the addition of his above average weight.

"You will be awarded the rank of Lieutenant," the Colonel stated flatly, thumbing through the screen until he found the document he was looking for. "Standard pay, medical and absence days. You will be on probation for six months and after that point your contract with the GAR will be re-evaluated."

I blinked dumbly, mouth slightly agape as I took it all in. Lieutenant? Kriff, was I even up to this?

I gave myself a shake as I took the proffered data pad.

"Yessir."

The contract looked simple enough, but I skimmed my eye over the text none the less. At the bottom I added my signature before passing the device back to the Colonel.

"You will be assigned to Torrent Company of the 501st Legion under General Skywalker. Your commanding officer will be clone captain CT-7567. You will report to the GAR headquarters tomorrow morning at 0600 sharp, admin division, where you will be assigned quarters and a uniform."

Abruptly, the man stopped speaking and gave me a bored look.

"Any questions?"

Slightly in shock, I shook my head numbly.

"No Sir."

"Good. You are dismissed, Lieutenant."

....................

Damn, the uniforms that the GAR provided the civilian officers with were kriffing uncomfortable! I couldn't tell if it was the stiff fabric or the fact that the garments were standard size and designed to fit a man, but I felt extremely self conscious as I made my way to briefing room BF-163 early the next morning.

I'd barely had a chance to unpack my meager belongings, before my comm went off and I was summoned before General Skywalker.

I'd met Jedi before of course, but Skywalker had a reputation which was bordering on legendary, and I found myself nervously starting to sweat as I approached the briefing room. I paused just outside the door, taking a moment to make sure that my appearance was as neat as possible, before rapping sharply.

The door slid open in a second, and I strode inside with all the swagger and confidence I could possibly muster.

The room was stark to the point of sterility, and was empty of any furnishings save for a holo console at the centre and half a dozen chairs stacked in one corner.

Two pairs of eyes fixed themselves on me as soon as I entered and I faltered slightly under the scrutiny, before recovering enough to snap a salute.

"General Skywalker," I said in as brave a voice as I could manager. "You wanted to see me, Sir?"

The General's grey eyes sparkled as he smiled in greeting, the gesture somewhat cocky in a face which was much younger than I imagined. Karking Hell. He couldn't be much older than me. I'd expected a slightly crusty older gentleman, not the ruggedly good looking young man that stood before me.

The other fellow was decidedly more rough around the edges, although his face was still handsome, albeit it in more of a hardened way than the boyish good looks of the general. He was a clone, that much was glaringly obvious from his tan skin, brown eyes and plastoid armour. The only thing to distinguish him from any of his brothers however was the fact that his hair was dyed blond and cropped short, so short in fact that he almost seemed bald in the harsh overhead lighting.

I felt myself blushing slightly at the scrutiny of these two good looking guys, and chastised myself silently. I was not that desperate. Sure, I hadn't been romantically involved with anyone for quite some time - longer than I would ever admit out loud - but Force, I was not some doe eyed teenager who swooned at the slightest attention from any male.

"Lieutenant," the General greeted me, closing the distance between us and clapping me on the shoulder in a very friendly manner. "Welcome to the 501st. Glad to have you on board."

I flushed a little bit deeper and met his eyes for the briefest of moments.

"Thank you, Sir."

Skywalker studied my face for a little longer before stepping away and out of my personal space.

"This is my first in command, Captain Rex. The two of you will be working closely together. At least for the first few weeks."

Right. CT-7567. Captain Rex. Skywalker's right hand man, and my newly acquired commanding officer.

I met the brown eyes of the clone and flinched slightly at the withering look he shot in my direction.

"Lieutenant." It was the barest of greetings, not cold per se, but devoid of any genuine warmth.

I swallowed loudly, holding his gaze for as long as possible. I couldn't appear weak. This was the military after all, where the weak got chewed up and spat back out.

"Captain. Pleased to meet you."

Captain Rex shot a disapproving look at the General, and I saw the Jedi raise his eyebrows in a silent question, before turning his attention back to me.

"Rex'll get you settled. Show you where everything is. If you have any questions, I'm sure he'd be happy to answer them."

The Captain did not look like he would be at all happy to answer my questions.

"I have Jedi business to attend to, but I look forward to seeing you around, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, Sir."

Skywalker patted me on the shoulder again as he passed me, and I was grateful that at least he was pleased I was there. Or at the minimum, bothering to pretend that he was.

"General, a word?" The Captain almost barked the words, and I was certain I didn't miss the slight sag in the Jedi's shoulders.

The taller man cast a look over his shoulder at the clone which in any other man I would have said was one of irritation. However, I knew that Jedi were not capable of feeling such mundane emotions.

"I don't have time right now, Rex."

"Itll only take a moment, Sir."

Skywalker looked like he was preparing to argue further, but the Captain had closed the distance between them in a heartbeat and was making his way to the open doorway with his head cocked inquisitively to one side.

The General sighed gustily before wearily trudging from the room with the clone hot on his heels.

"What is it Rex?"

They must have paused just outside the room, because I could hear their half lowered voices pretty clearly.

"Sir, I don't really understand why the Lieutenant's here."

"Because she has been assigned to the company."

"But Sir, we don't need a logistics officer!"

I felt a tightness in my chest as though someone had stuck a vibro blade between my ribs. I'd known this posting wasn't going to be easy, but I did at least half expect my superior officer to refrain from talking about me behind my back.

"Hey, she could be useful. She graduated top of her class at the Academy. "

"But Sir, I've been handling the logistical side of things fine on my own."

"I'm not saying you haven't been Rex, but I need you to start taking more of an active roll as my first officer. Besides, I know how much you hate all that boring behind the scenes stuff."

"What do you want me to do with her?"

"Show her the ropes. Let her get a feel for how things are done. The boys are on leave for another two weeks, but after that we'll be deployed back into the field and I want things to run smoothly when we do."

There was a pause in which I heard the clone mutter something in what I thought might be mandoa.

"But, Sir, she's.....she's a WOMAN."

Oh for fucks sake. Really? I couldn't believe that there was still room in the galaxy for such sexism.

"And I'm sure she's more than capable. Regardless of whether her reproductive organs are on the inside rather than the outside."

"Sir!" The Captain sounded disgusted. "That's not what I meant. I just worry she'll be a distraction to the men."

"Come on Rex," Skywalker replied, and from the tone of his voice I guessed he must be grinning. "A bit of distraction might be good for them."

So that was it then? I was just here to give the men something to look at? Not for my brain or skills, or for the fact that I had spent six kriffing years of my life qualifying for this job, but because I had tits and an ass.

What the fuck was I doing here?

I started chewing my lip furiously, tears prickling the corners of my eyes. Should I just leave? Could I just leave? Or would I be penalised for breaching my contract?

No. I needed this job. I couldn't afford to give up just because my feelings had been hurt.

The sound of brisk footsteps behind me had me stiffening and I blinked a few times to clear the mistiness from my vision.

Captain Rex strode past me to stand beside the holo projector, giving me a quick once over as he passed. I met his gaze with steely eyes and set my jaw. The stance seemed to confuse the man because he raised an eyebrow in the swiftest of movements, before roughly clearing his throat.

"Well, Lieutenant. Let me show you how we like things done around here."

You mean the way YOU like things done around here, I thought to myself, but I did not voice the sentiment out loud because I was not going to be fired on my very first day.

....................

"How many gunships do we have access to?" Rex asked as he walked steadily along the corridor with me trotting in his wake. It had been two weeks since I'd taken the job, but I still felt a little like a lost tooka.

"Fourteen, Sir."

"That won't be enough."

"Sorry, Sir, but that's all I could get my hands on. The rest are tied up off world."

"See if you can scrounge a couple more from the 212th."

"I already have, Sir. Acquisitions only assigned us ten to begin with."

"Oh." Rex shot me a side eye and drummed his fingers on the side of his helmet which was clamped under one arm. "Right. Well done, Lieutenant."

"I have acquired six AT-TE's as well, Sir, they're being loaded onto the Venator as we speak. Felucia is quite hostile terrain. They might be useful."

"Good thinking, Lieutenant."

I shamefully preened slightly at the praise, catching myself before I got too comfortable. The Captain had grudgingly accepted that I would be a part of his squad for the foreseeable future, but he still seemed less than thrilled by the prospect.

"What about billets for the men, Sir? I have two mobile barrack units on standby."

"No need. The GAR already has a base set up there."

"Oh. I'll get those cancelled then."

"What's the situation with med supplies?"

"We should have enough, Sir."

"I doubt that. Whatever you have on order from acquisitions Lieutenant, double it."

I nodded, feeling myself blush as though I had been told off.

"Shall I do the same for rations? At present we have enough supplies to last three months shared between 145 men."

"That will be enough. Just add extra for another man."

"Oh? I thought General Skywalker had Jedi matters to attend to, Sir?"

"The extra is for you Lieutenant."

I faltered, breaking my stride and stumbling at the news.

"W-what? B-but Sir, I've never been in the field before."

"There's a first time for everything."

"Sir, I'm not sure how much help I'll be out there."

"There's always plenty of paperwork, Lieutenant, even out on the front."

Oh kriff.

I'd never been the praying sort but considered that perhaps I should start now.

....................

The six clone troopers eyed me curiously as I stood jammed between them in the gunship. At least, I thought they were staring at me - it really was hard to tell where their eyes were beneath their helmets.

I bit down on my tongue as the ship jostled slightly, gripping the handrail so hard that my hands hurt. The troopers seemed unphased by the turbulence, barely even shifting their feet to regain their balance.

This was terrifying, I concluded as the LA-AT jolted again. The inside of the craft was dark, the only illumination coming from the red emergency lighting on the ceiling. It was disorienting and frightening and all I wanted was to be back on Coruscant in my nice safe office, instead of here, flying into a warzone.

One of the troopers cleared his throat coarsely and shifted the grip on his blaster.

"So, Lieutenant, you got a boyfriend back home?"

I balked slightly at the sudden and inappropriate question.

"W-what?"

"A boyfriend. You got one?"

"Hardcase," chided one of the others, the guy with the skirt that wasn't Rex. "Leave the lady alone."

"Just making conversation."

Silence descended on the hold, broken only by the sounds of the engines. The ship took another dive and I staggered, momentarily losing my balance. If it wasn't for one of the troopers reaching out to steady me I felt sure I would have ended up on my ass.

"You alright there, Lieutenant?"

I nodded, frightened that if I opened my mouth I might be sick. Or cry.

The trooper that had caught me held my arm for a moment as the craft jiggled about a bit more. I noticed the red cross adorning one pauldron and realised this was the squad medic. Good to know that there was someone nearby with medical training if we did get shot down.

"It'll settle down in a minute," assured the man, letting go of me gingerly just in case I stumbled again. "Once we break the atmosphere."

"Yeah," chortled the one called Hardcase. "Then we'll be in range of the flack guns!"

Something of the terror I was feeling inside must have shown on my face, because Rex stepped forward and removed his helmet.

"Stop frightening the Lieutenant." He shot a stern scowl around the group of clones, although the look he directed toward me was almost sympathetic. Unusually so.

Maker, did I really appear that pathetic?

"Yeah," said one of the others, the one with the Republic symbol painted on his helmet. "Besides, there won't be any surface fire. We're flying through friendly space."

Hardcase hefted the enormous blaster cannon he carried.

"What?"

"Yeah, didn't you read the briefing?"

I felt the slightest bit of relief at the news. I of course had read the briefing, but if I was being honest the military slang and unfamiliar lingo had confused me to no end and I hadn't fully understood any of it.

Harcase actually seemed to sag at the revelation, and I found it extremely unsettling to see just how disappointed he was at the thought of not getting shot down.

"Of course he didn't read the briefing, Jesse. He never reads the briefings." The final clone, the one with the teardrop painted on his helmet piped up.

"Why would I need to?"

"Because it's important!"

"Says who? I've always managed without reading them."

"Maker, Case! How have you survived this long?!"

"I don't need briefings! Just point me in the direction of some clankers and let me loose."

"Yeah, he's fine as long as we're there to save his shebs."

"Boys," Rex interrupted, shifting his feet and shooting me a side eye. "That's enough. You're setting a bad impression for the Lieutenant."

The clones fell silent, and I saw some of them fidget sheepishly.

"Sorry Lieutenant," said Hardcase, sounding more than a bit dejected.

"We're really not as kriffing unorganised as we seem," added the other one with the skirt.

"Fives! Watch your language! Apologies Lieutenant." Rex gave me an uncomfortable look.

"That's ok," I said with a weak smile. "It takes a lot to offend me."

The Captain cocked a half smile at me, and I felt my cheeks growing hot. I was glad that the poor illumination didn't give anything away.

"Well that's good," said the medic, "because this lot are more or less feral."

"Hey!" Barked Jesse indignantly.

"We know how to act around.....around a.....female." The one called Fives stammered pompously.

"Yeah," added teardrop, "we know not to use rude words.

"Or take our clothes off around them," stated Hardcase.

"That applies to everybody, not just females."

"Why? We all look the same underneath our armour."

"Maybe so but still, no one wants to see your bare sheb'ika first thing in the morning."

"Enough!" Rex cut the banter off before it began to escalate.

I couldn't help but grin to myself.

Maybe this lot weren't so bad after all.

....................

I collected my tray from the counter at the mess hall, peering at the undistinguishable array of grey mush, interspersed with brown mush which now formed the majority of my diet. Kriff, what I wouldn't give for something home cooked and full of carbs.

We'd been stationed on Felucia for two months now, and it didn't seem like we would be heading back to Coruscant anytime soon. I didn't really mind, I supposed. The base we were station in was a fair distance from the front and aside from a few skirmishes, nothing much had happened. Not that I had any knowledge of what was really going on aside from the brief morsels of gossip I overheard from the boasting troopers whenever their patrol rotations brought them back to base.

Sighing, I moved away from the grub line and turned towards the canteen, eyes scanning for somewhere to sit amongst the sea of troopers.

"Hey! Lieutenant! Over here!"

Twisting, I caught sight of some of the Torrent boys sitting at a table over in the far corner. ARC trooper Fives was waving me down as though trying to hail a taxi, and I hastily hurried over.

"Come and sit with us Lieutenant," said Tup, giving me a coy smile before lowering his gaze.

I seated myself between him and Jesse and gave the man a grateful look.

I was uncharacteristically proud of the fact that I had learnt all of their names in the few weeks that I had known the men. Well, at least the ones with any discernable features. Jesse had his Republic tattoo which covered most of his head. Kix had his shaved scalp adorned with the phrase "a good droid is a dead droid" tattooed in galactic basic. Rex had his shaved blonde hair. Tup had his teardrop tattoo and long locks, tied up in a knot at the back of his head. Hardcase had his lineal facial tattooes. And Fives had the number five stamped on his temple, along with his trademark goatee. It made them all much easier to recognise. Some of the newer recruits - shinies the veterans called them - really were absolutely identical and I was ashamed to admit that I couldn't tell one from the other.

This batch in particular seemed to have taken it upon themselves to protect me at all costs. From the second we had disembarked the LA-AT on the planet's surface, they had hovered around me like bulky, over protective shadows. I supposed I didnt really mind, even though the more independent side of me screamed that I didn't need them.

"What's the rota for today boys?" I asked as I started pushing the food around my plate in an effort to try and make it look more appetising.

"We have a patrol going out at 0930," stated Jesse, watching my spoon as though it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen.

"How exciting," I replied vaguely.

"It's really not," added Fives with a comical expression on his face.

"Why don't you come with us Lieutenant?" asked Hardcase, giving me a wistful look which didn't sit right on his tattooed face.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Rex chimed in, sipping his caff and giving Hardcase a hard stare.

"The Captain's right. I don't even know how to fire a blaster."

"What?!"

"Really?!"

"We could teach you." Tup gave me another shy look and I smiled at him.

"Maybe some other time. I have a lot to get through today."

"Lieutenant, did you get my memo about med supplies? We're running low on a few things." Kix held my gaze, his eyes soft and steady.

I nodded, mouth too full to reply immediately.

"I did. All on back order. I expect it'll arrive with the next shuttle."

"Thank you."

"That's what I'm here for."

There was a pause while I worked my way through my breakfast, the troopers watching me to the point that it was becoming uncomfortable. I heard the soft sound of someone clearing their throat and looked up to see Hardcase looking at me through his eyelashes.

"Lieutenant...."

I cocked an eyebrow at him and laid down my spoon. The tone of his voice was odd, almost pleading.

"Yes trooper?"

"Your job. I know you spend a lot of time putting requests in with acquisitions to get us med supplies and rations and to make sure we get all the gear we need.....but.....I was wondering.....can you put requests in for other things as well?"

I blinked numbly, feeling my face start to flush. What other things? Did I even want to know?

"That depends.....on what it is.....obviously I can't get my hands on anything illegal.....or inappropriate. "

"Oh," Hardcase spluttered, looking more than a bit embarrassed, "I-I wouldn't ask for anything like that! It's just not something we get issued with as standard."

I must have looked totally baffled because Jesse was shaking his head, an amused look plastered across his face.

"He means candy. That's what he wants."

I huffed a laugh at that, somewhat relieved that he wasn't asking for anything worse.

"Candy? Really?"

Some of the others were chuckling now, and even Rex had cracked a smile.

"I can't help having an over active metabolism!" Hardcase griped, and I could have sworn I saw a blush peek through his tan skin. "The rations they issue us with aren't enough to fuel this."

He gestured at himself with his hands, and I had to fight to hold in my amusement.

"No promises, but I'll see what I can do."

His face almost split in two as he beamed at me.

"Thank you Lieutenant!"

....................

I made my way down the bustling corridor with the package tucked carefully under one arm. It was busy with so many troopers stationed on such a small base, but most politely stepped aside wherever possible so that I could pass unhindered.

Torrent company barracks were identical to all the others: stark, sterile and smelling vaguely of body odour. Although I had to admit, their's had more personality than most of the others I'd been in, though whether that opinion was influenced by the men themselves I couldn't say.

I paused outside the door and rapped smartly on the plasteel. It was only a moment before the door had swooshed open and I was greeted by Kix.

"Lieutenant!" the man said. Damn that smile was really something. "What can I do for you?"

"Hey Kix. I was looking for Hardcase. He about?"

Kix studied my face for a minute before a slightly solemn look fell across his chiseled fearures.

"Yeah. Sure. Come in."

He stood back and gestured with his arms for me to enter the room. I did just that, feeling a little bit awkward to be invading the trooper's personal space.

Tup was lounging on his bunk with a data pad in his hand, which he promptly dropped at the sight of me, scrambling to his feet with all the grace of a Bantha calf.

Jesse and Fives were playing a hand of sabaac at the small table, and judging by the third pile of cards, Kix had been mid game with them. Both seated men grinned at me and I returned the gesture, feeling myself blush.

Rex was kneeling by the crate at the foot of his own bunk, and paused his rummaging to look up at me as I entered.

"Lieutenant? Something wrong?"

The Captain rose to his feet with a razor in his hand and cocked an eyebrow at me.

"N-no, sorry I didn't mean to interrupt you. I-I have something for Hardcase that I was just gonna drop off."

No one said a word, but I didn't fail to notice the way Rex's shoulders stiffened or how Tup seemed to sag. What had I done? Were they really that uncomfortable with me being in their barracks?

Hastily glancing around, I couldn't see Hardcase amongst the faces.

"Err, could someone show me where his bunk is and I'll just leave it there."

Fidgeting nervously with the parcel in my hands, I met Kix's eye and held it seeing as he was closest, raising my eyebrows in the hopes of prompting some sort of response from him. Maker this was uncomfortable.

Perhaps my face belied my desperation to extract myself from the scrutiny, because the medic blinked a few times before giving himself a little shake.

"Erm, yeah. He's over there Lieutenant," the man pointed to the other end of the room. "Did you want me to give him a message-"

There was a clattering sound from the other end of the room as the door the communal refresher slid open and Hardcase skidded into the room.

"I'm here! Lieutenant, I'm here!"

The man was totally naked save for a towel wrapped around his waist and, judging by the dampness of his skin had been in the shower only a few seconds ago.

"Sorry, Lieutenant, I didn't hear you come in." He was panting as though he had just run a marathon.

Force, my face felt like it was going to combust. I noticed several of the others seemed to be as shocked by the sight of the man as I was.

"T-that's ok trooper."

I literally didn't know where to look.

"You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?"

Yes, I thought, but I had not bargained on seeing this much of you.

"O-only came to drop something off for you."

"For me?"

He was suddenly right in front of me and at that point I really didn't have anywhere else to look. I contemplated closing my eyes but that would have felt rude. And besides, it wasn't as if he was unpleasant to look at. Damn, the guy had a great body, toned and tanned and muscular beyond what I'd imagined beneath the bulky armour. The tattoos which lined his face also continued below his neck, I realised, running all the way from his adams apple down his sternum to his navel and from there disappearing below the towl loosely draped around his hips.

Kriffing Hell! I couldn't help but wonder what else was tattooed.

Giving myself a shake, I swallowed audibly.

"Errr, yeah. Something from acquisitions that just came in on the shuttle."

He blinked slowly, his eyes suddenly travelling down to the parcel I was still holding against my chest like a kriffing shield.

"Is that....?"

"Yep. As requested."

Hardcase practically tore the box from my hands and in his excitement the towel slipped another inch or so lower. I could just make out a tuft of dark hair peeking from the top.

Pulling off the lid, the clone surveyed the contents of the package: a collection if brightly coloured packets of various sweets, candies and chocolates.

"Thank you Lieutenant!"

His face was absolutely beaming. It was almost worth the embarrassment I currently felt just to see that look.

"You're welcome trooper. Always happy to help."

....................

I adjusted my bath robe and settled down on my bed, propping the pillow behind my head and laying back with a sigh. Fuck, it felt nice to be back on Coruscant, where the constant threat of death didn't hang over me every minute of the day.

Feeling decidedly more relaxed than I had a few hours ago, prior to disembarking the venator, I reached over for my data pad, intending on finishing the book I'd begun reading back of Felucia. It was saucy and raunchy and not the sort of thing I would usually go for, but it held my attention and I was ashamed to admit it also got me a little hot under the collar.

I'd barely read more than a couple of pages when there was a knock at the door of my private quarters and I leapt out of my skin, dropping the pad onto the floor with a clatter.

Heart racing, I slowly got to my feet, carefully adjusting my robe so that it covered more of my frame, before opening the door.

Two clone troopers stood squashed together so they could both see me through the narrow opening.

"Lieutenant," Fives said brightly, briefly running his eyes over my apparel before his gaze fixed itself back on my own. "Sorry, are we disturbing you?"

Jesse shot me a worried look, as though concerned I would pull rank on them, lose my temper and tell them to kriff off.

I flushed slightly at the surprise visit, nervously adjusting my gown so that it fitted a little more snuggly.

"No! Not at all."

"Oh, that's good. We were worried you might have plans."

I glanced over my shoulder at the empty room behind me. Plans? Of course I didn't have any plans. It's not like I had any friends to spend my free time with.

"I err don't have any firm plans for the evening. Why do you ask?"

That sounded better. Like maybe I did have something interesting to do. Possibly. Better than the reality of sitting in my billet alone with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and a crappy holo book.

Fives and Jesse grinned in unison.

"Some of us boys are heading to 79's," Jesse said somewhat hesitantly.

"We wondered if you'd like to join us?" Fives finished with a hopeful look.

I blinked in the face of such an odd request. They were asking me to go out with them? Voluntarily? Why?

"Oh! I err, wasn't expecting that!"

Jesse looked like a sad tooka.

"You don't have to come. If you've got better things to do."

"No! I just, errr.....don't want you to feel like you have to invite me.....just because I've been assigned to the company."

Fives and Jesse gave me a baffled look.

"But, we want you to come with us Lieutenant."

"Only if you want to," Fives added, his eyes almost begging.

How could I say no to those beautiful eyes?

"I'd....I'd like that. Just give me ten minutes to get dressed."

They both looked like excited children as soon as I agreed, and I felt a little flutter in my belly at the thought of hitting the town with a squad of handsome clone troopers at my side.

....................

"Wow, Lieutenant, you look amazing." The blush on Tup's cheeks contrasted the confident way he complemented me.

I smiled shyly as I approached the group of men waiting beside the taxi rank, feeling unbelievably self conscious. I honestly couldn't recall the last occasion I'd gotten dressed up like this. Obviously at a time when I'd felt slimmer and sexier I concluded, judging by the fact that my little black dress was a lot littler than I remembered. But it was all I had, and I hoped that if I was sitting down no one would notice just how short or tight it was.

"Thank you, Tup," I replied, casting my eye over the assembled troopers to see who was present.

Fives and Jesse had accompanied me from my quarters, and aside from Tup, the only other's present were Kix, Hardcase and Rex. The latter was a surprising addition as I really had not expected the Captain to be the 'painting the town red' kinda guy. He looked just at ease as the rest of them though, decked in his full armour the same as his brothers.

"We'll have to take two cabs," the Captain said addressing the squad as a whole. Although his eyes lingering on me a moment longer than the others.

"Here, Lieutenant, let me." Kix stepped forward to open the door to the hover taxi in a very gentlemanly manner.

I smiled gratefully at him before slipping inside and shuffling along the back seat. The medic piled in immediately after me, so quickly that we almost bumped heads as he ducked in. I tugged at the too short hem of my dress as the door on my other side opened and Rex slipped in.

"Comfortable there Lieutenant?" He asked as he shuffled a bit closer to me.

I nodded, feeling a little bit claustrophobic squashed between Kix and the Captain. There was plenty of room in the taxi, but they seemed to have moved as close to me as possible. So close in fact that Kix's knee plate was pressing into the bare flesh of my thigh.

I expected at least one more trooper to join us as there was space for more, and was surprised when the driver droid brought the engines online and pulled us away from the rank and into the steady flow of sky traffic. The cab was quiet save for the radio murmuring in the background. I sat, awkwardly huddled between the two bulky men and wondering whether this adventure really was a good idea.

Kix cleared his throat softly beside me.

"So, Lieutenant, have you ever been to 79's before?"

I shook my head quickly.

"No. Never."

"Oh. Well your in for a treat."

I watched as Rex nudged his legs apart slightly, so that his knee brushed against my own.

"We try and get down there whenever we get some leave. It's good to let off some steam once in a while."

"I agree. Everybody needs to let their hair down every so often."

The rest of the journey passed pretty uneventfully, with Kix doing his best to make small talk and Rex stiffly observing the exchange. The Captain seemed tense, and I wondered if he felt as uncomfortable and out of his depth as I did.

I had to admit that 79's was one of a kind, in total contrast to the men that regularly gave the place their patronage.

From the outside, it was much like any other place: loud, bright and inviting. But the whole unique experience came from the fact that the entire place was rammed to the gunnels with clones of every rank and division. Aside from myself and a couple of serving droids, it was a sea of identical faces.

I entered the bar with Rex and Kix flanking me on either side, Hardcase and Tup in the rear, and Fives and Jesse taking the lead. It was an oddly protective deployment, but one which I was grateful for because it largely masked me from the stares of some of the other troopers.

"Table over there!" Fives called, shouting to be heard over the thumping music and pointing at a booth at the other end of the room.

Swept up with the others, I found myself sliding into the booth beside Rex with Hardcase and Tup on my other side and the remaining three men sitting opposite me.

"What'll it be, Lieutenant?" Jesse asked politely as he got to his feet and prepared to approach the bar.

"Oh, errr, I don't mind. Surprise me."

"You can have whatever you want. Members of the GAR drink for free here."

"I'll just have a Meiloorun juice or something."

"Nonsense! No one drinks anything non alcoholic here!"

"Leave the Lieutenant alone," Kix chided, shooting Jesse a stern look. "If she doesn't want to get drunk with us, that's fine."

"No! I don't mind," I added, feeling like I was depriving them of their fun. "I'm just.....not very good at handling my drink."

"Oh, you and Rex are in the same boat then!" Hardcase said with a savage grin.

I caught the Captain's eye and he gave me a sheepish look.

"I'm the sober one this evening," the blonde haired clone remarked, "so if you wanna drink Lieutenant, I'll make sure you get back safe and sound to GAR headquarters."

It was such a chivalrous offer that I couldn't refuse.

"OK. Count me in."

....................

Spotchka was a LOT stronger than I'd imagined it would be.

I'd only had three shots and already the room was spinning, although not necessarily in an unpleasant way. The troopers barely seemed to be affected by the alcohol, which only served to make me feel like even more of a lightweight.

"I'm telling you it can see through anything!" Fives said with great conviction.

"No way. It's just a normal eye," Kix insisted, knocking back his drink and helping himself to another from the nearby tray.

"I swear it's not. Waxer from the 212th told me that once, on Ryloth, he looked straight through a building and told them that there was a whole battalion of clankers coming round the corner. And there was!"

I turned to look at the man they were discussing: a grizzled commander named Wolffe who was propping up one end of the bar in solitude, his cybernetic eye fixed on the next drink in front of him.

"Yeah but Waxer's full of shit," Jesse scoffed with a shake of his head, before abruptly stiffening. "Sorry Lieutenant. Didn't mean to use a rude word."

"That's ok," I said, speaking slowly so as to keep my voice from slurring. "I'm not Lieutenant tonight. I'm just me. You don't have to mind your manners."

The man smiled at me, the corners of his eyes crinkling from the gesture.

Conversation turned back to Wolffe and his eye and I leaned back into my seat and listened contentedly to the banter. I started when something brushed against my leg, before realising that it was just the Captain shifting in his seat.

"Are you having a good time Lieutenant?" he asked, resting his elbows casually on the table.

"Yes, I am. Thank you."

Rex cocked an eyebrow at me before saying something which was drowned out by a round of cheering from the direction of the bar.

"Sorry, what was that Captain?"

The man lowered his head towards me, moving his lips closer to my ear. I felt goosebumps erupting over my entire body as his breath ghosted my skin.

"I said the boys are glad you decided to join us. I haven't seen them this animated in months."

I gave him a soft smile, trying to keep my gaze on his. Damn, he was close. So close that I could smell his aftershave and pick out the amber flecks in his eyes.

The sound of someone clearing their throat behind me drew me back into the here and now and I twisted away from Rex, who looked a little embarrassed at how close he'd moved to me.

"Can I get you another drink, Lieutenant?" Tup asked, leaning a little nearer to me so as to be heard.

I focused my eyes on my empty glass and wondered if having another was a good idea.

"Maybe something a little less strong?"

Tup nodded before clambering over Hardcase to get out of the booth. The other clone used the moment to siddle next to me, fixing me with his standard grin.

"I just realised, Lieutenant. You never answered my question."

I blinked stupidly at the handsome trooper, wondering what in all creation he was talking about.

"What question?"

His smile deepened and he scooted another inch closer.

"The one I asked you in the LA-AT. When we were on our way to Felucia."

I frowned in confusion, mouth slightly open as I tried to command my anebriated brain to remember. Hardcase gave me a moment before chuckling deeply.

"You know. Whether or not you have a boyfriend?"

I was struck dumb. Four heads swivelled towards me as the other troopers turned to stare, as though waiting my response. I was saved from having to answer by the arrival of Tup, who passed me some sort of fruity concoction with a shy smile.

"Try that Lieutenant. If you don't like it I can get you something else."

"I'm sure it's fine. Thanks Tup."

The man preened at the praise before sitting back down. I took a sip before realising they were all still staring at me.

"You still haven't answered the question." It was Fives interrogating me this time, and I felt myself blushing self consciously.

I took a deep breath and fixed my gaze on my glass.

"No. I don't."

A few of them exchanged an unreadable look.

"Why not?"

"Hardcase!" Rex chastised the man, shooting me an apologetic half smile.

"What? The Lieutenant is a very attractive lady. It's a reasonable question."

I wanted to dive under the table from embarrassment. But there was another, more dominant part of me that was secretly flattered.

"Yeah, but it's also a very personal one."

"I.....I guess I'm just not very good at relationships....." I murmured, taking a big gulp of my drink in an effort to distract myself from the awkwardness.

"I'm sure that's not true," Kix said with a sympathetic glint in his eye.

"It is. I'm not keen on the idea of committing myself to one person. I get bored too easily. That seems to rub a lot of men up the wrong way."

"It wouldn't bother me," Tup said with surprising candidness.

"Nor me," added Hardcase. "But just out of curiosity. If you had to pick one us us to go on a date with, who would it be?"

I'd been halfway through taking a sip of my drink and almost gagged.

"What?!" I squeaked, voice several octaves higher than usual.

"Just out of interest. Who would you choose?"

Six pairs of eyes fixed themselves to me like the laser scopes of a rifle.

"I.....I don't know."

"There, see. The Lieutenant doesn't have favourites." I was surprised that Rex was joining in because he was usually the one telling the others off for being inappropriate.

"Clearly it's me," said Hardcase, with a cocky grin in my direction. "She gave me candy. That must mean I'm her favourite."

"In your dreams, Case," snapped Jesse, and there was an almost angry expression on his face.

"I.....I don't have a favourite!" I yelped, keen to de-escalate the situation which seemed to be hurtling downhill at breakneck speed. "I like you all the same! I couldn't choose just one of you!"

There was a momentary pause.

"What about all of us?" Fives asked casually.

My jaw dropped at that one and I hastily composed myself.

"If you couldn't pick one, what about all of us?"

What was happening?

Was he asking me out?

Were they all asking me out?

This couldn't be real. It must be the Spotchka.

And yet it was a damned tempting offer. The best I'd had in a long time.

"All of you? At the same time?"

"That'd be weird," Tup commented with a puzzled look on his face.

"We could take it in turns?" suggested Hardcase, so nonchalantly it was as if they were discussing who would be driving them home.

"Draw up a rota?" added Jesse.

Kriffing Hell, were they intending on sharing me round like some cheap pleasure girl?

I was shamefully excited at the notion. It was just like that filthy book I'd been reading of late.

"Sorry Lieutenant," said Rex with a bashful look. "They're only teasing. That is.....unless you want.....that?"

Did I want that? To give myself to these men? No strings. No commitment. Something new every day. It sounded like the perfect deal.

And I could do a lot worse than these six troopers.

"OK," I said, voice quivering with unbridled anticipation. What had gotten into me? "I'm in. If you all are?"

A flash of smiles around the table and I was blushing fit to burst.

It certainly looked like my schedule was going to be a full one.