A/N: This is a series of character one shots about clones. This is set in the same timeline as Live To Fight Another Day, which is not to say it doesn't fit into canon, it's merely to say that the characterizations explored here fold into what's presented in ltfad as a singular character history. Also note that any closeness between clones is intended as familial, NOT romantic. We see clones as TCW presented them as basically agender and entirely ace (and sterile), with most of them being aro too. Anyways please enjoy! And we love comments. Not sure when another chapter will be up... it will be when the whim strikes in between working on ltfad chapters.


Characters: Jesse, Kix, Dogma, Hardcase

Rating: K


We have art in order not to die of the truth

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Kix paused a moment just outside his tent. It was snowing lightly, none of the harsh driving winds of earlier while they'd been setting up camp. But it was still cold, and quiet. He could hear murmurs and whispers all around him carrying through the tent walls, most of them alight with blurry silhouettes cast from the lanterns inside.

He took his helmet off and instantly felt the sting of cold air on his cheeks, nose, ears, and neck. His breath misted before he ducked inside the tent.

"Jesse?" Kix laughed under his breath as he began shedding his cold weather gear. "What are you doing?"

On the bedroll on the far right side of the tent, a trooper-sized lump was hunched over inside a sleeping bag. Kix glanced to his left and saw that Dogma was lying flat on his back in his own bag, eyes closed.

There was no response from Jesse, and Kix finished stripping down before trying again in a loud whisper.

"Hey! Jesse!"

"What?" The lump rustled and Jesse's head emerged halfway for a moment. Kix grabbed the bag at the seal and yanked it open. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't what he saw.

Jesse held a pen and several sheets of flimsi in both hands, and his wide-eyed face was mortified as he grabbed the sleeping bag's edge with one hand, dropped some of his sheets and fumbled to pick them up again.

"I, uh, I-I it's nothing! Forget it!" Jesse laughed nervously and shoved the sheets behind him with an overly innocent grin which quickly wavered into a pleading grimace.

"Uh… now I'm really curious." Kix sat down on his sleeping bag next to Jesse's. "What are you writing? Letters to someone?"

"Maybe," Jesse mumbled, shifting so that Kix couldn't see behind his back.

"Okay… who is it?" Kix felt a bit baffled. Jesse had never mentioned friends outside the 501st before.

"Nobody!" Jesse shrugged and lay down on the pages, which crinkled loudly. He re-zipped his bag. "Hey, turn off the lamp, will you? Let's get some sleep."

"Jesse, come on!" Kix couldn't keep a grin off his face . "Why won't you tell me?"

It was amazing how "innocent"—and thus, how guilty—Jesse could look without even saying a word. Eyebrows high, he pulled the top of the bag up to his chin and kept looking away, then back again at Kix.

"Lights out?" Jesse prompted, rolling so his back was to Kix. "You were the last one in."

"Let me see!" Kix insisted, tugging the bag open again and trying to dig his hands under Jesse's side

"Hey!" Jesse's body jerked; he quickly stuffed the pages down to the bottom of the bag and sat up, stubbornly guarding the top of the zipper with both hands.

An incredulous laugh burst from Kix. He just looked so ridiculous. "Jesse, what—"

"Try and get it now you... you nosy…." Jesse trailed off and scooted like a clumsy worm toward the tent wall with a warning look as Kix edged closer.

Kix frowned and let his outstretched hands fall to his lap, staying where he knelt. He considered for a moment, and then sighed. "So… what, you don't trust me?"

"What?" Jesse's stubborn look wavered.

"Fine," Kix went on softly… sadly. "I guess I just… wasn't expecting you to ever feel like you needed to keep secrets from me, that's all."

Jesse was really squirming now. Kix could see it in his face. "That's… not what... I…."

Kix just looked at him expectantly, expecting him to give in at any moment. He just had to be patient.

"Well… it's…." Jesse struggled, still curled up in that ridiculous little ball. "It's just sort of…."

An exasperated sigh sounded from the other side of the tent. When Kix looked over, Dogma was sitting up and giving them both dirty looks.

"You are prohibited from owning flimsi!" Dogma hissed. "Unless you're writing a report, but I don't see why you would. You're not even a sergeant! So you had better hand over those notes to a superior officer!"

"I'm a superior officer," Kix offered, trying not to grin again. He held out a hand. "Come on Jesse. Hand 'em over. Don't make me knock Dogma out to keep him from telling on you."

Dogma gave an offended little puff. "Stop making threats! And Jesse, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for breaking the rules in the first place!"

Kix ignored him, trying to wrestle Jesse's sleeping bag open.

"No! Kix! I said cut it out!" Jesse half laughed, half whined, slapping his hands away. Kix tried again, and again, Jesse squirming and blocking each time until they were locked in a sort of arm wrestle, Kix trying to pry Jesse's arms away from where they crossed over the zipper.

"Honestly, you're both acting completely unprofessionally!" Dogma's whisper was getting shrill. "What if the General walked in and saw you right now?!"

"Ah, shut up Dogma," Kix huffed, backing off for a second. "You're not helping. I'm trying to get to the bottom of Jesse's insubordination here." He raised an eyebrow at Jesse.

Jesse rolled his eyes from where he lay nearly face-down on the floor. From the way he was bunched up, he looked like he had a stomachache.

"I'm going to tell the General!" Dogma stood up, crouching under the ceiling of the tent.

"Sit down!" Kix snapped, jumping to his feet. "You just stay here; I'll take care of this. You keep an eye on Jesse."

Dogma looked startled, then sat down obediently and fixed his eyes on Jesse. "Oh, I will. Fine. Very good, sir."

Kix tried hard not to laugh as he grabbed his helmet and walked out of the tent a few steps. He scooped up a bucket full of snow before hurrying back in, shivering.

"Wait, what—what are you doing," Dogma gasped and kneeled toward him, "Don't tell me—you're going to make it ALL COLD AND WET IN HE—!"

He cut off in a coughing splutter as Kix shoved a handful of snow in his mouth.

Jesse roared with laughter until Kix stuffed his face with a chunk of snow as well. As Jesse choked and hurried to keep the snow off himself and his bedding, Kix unzipped the bag all the way to the bottom and pulled out the crumpled pages.

"WAIT! HEY! THAT'S it!" Jesse growled, face red in patches from the cold. "NO! Give it BACK!" He scrambled for the pages but Kix kept shuffling backward, laughing as he twisted away.

"Evasive maneuvers!" Kix yelled, ducking under Jesse's outstretched arm, rolling away from his attempted tackle. "Hey, watch out, you're gonna tear them!"

Dogma was red in the face too as he lunged between them and chucked the helmet out of the tent.

"You two better cut it out if you don't want to be freezing tonight!" He zipped the tent door shut with a vengeance.

"Ah we'll just steal your sleeping bag if ours are no good," Kix snorted and kept both his hands tight around the bunched pages; Jesse was eyeing them desperately.

"You wouldn't dare!" Dogma sat on his with a wild look.

Kix plopped back down onto his sleeping bag, still chuckling a little even though it was damp. He flopped over, curled protectively around the pages, and looked up at Jesse with a crooked smile. "Listen, Jessecakes—"

"KIX!" Jesse sat down and thwacked the top of his head, nearly whining. "I told you never to call me that again! Especially not in front of Dogma. Now give me those back! Please?"

Kix tried to make some reply but he couldn't stop laughing

"It was one time when we were drunk!" Jesse scoffed. "Don't look at me like that."

Kix took one look at Dogma's appalled expression and had to wipe teary eyes against his shoulder. He stuffed his face into Jesse's bedding, trying to calm down enough so that Jesse wouldn't be able to wrestle the pages back.

"Get over on your own nice wet bag, Kixidust," Jesse muttered, shoving him with his foot. "It's not that funny."

"KIXIDUST?" Dogma blurted, and now Jesse snorted, coughed, and started into a deep chuckling laugh.

"I fff—" Kix could barely breathe. "I forgot about that! Where do you c-come up with this stuff Jesse? Ahahaha…!"

Jesse lurched forward and Kix rolled away just in time, jumping into a crouch. Jesse gave a desperate jump and both of them crashed backward into Dogma, who yelped. The entire tent rocked, the flexibility of its rods straining. Kix thought he heard one of the pegs pop free of the ice.

"ARGHH get OFF me!" Dogma yowled, muffled on the bottom of the pile. "I'M GOING TO TELL THE CAPTAIN AND YOU ARE BOTH GONNA GET IT!"

Jesse was trying with all his might to pry Kix's fingers off the papers, and Dogma meanwhile was scrambling to get out from under them like a wet cat in a bathtub.

"LIGHTS OUT WAS TWENTY MINUTES AGO!" he added, huffing and puffing as he finally squirmed free of their wrestling match. "Break it up, break it u—" Dogma cut off in a yelp.

A low purring growl, loud and resonant, came from just outside their tent door. Kix and Jesse went still too as Dogma grabbed his rifle and pointed it at the darkest corner of the tent, wavering between invisible targets.

"Dogma," Kix hissed, narrowly rescuing the pages from Jesse's opportunistic clutches by grabbing Jesse's hand and twisting it in a carefully practiced grip. "Point that OUT of the tent!"

Dogma uncertainly shifted his aim to the tent door. They heard the slow compression of snow underfoot just outside, but then the zipper was moving—Dogma wavered, and in that moment Hardcase pounced inside.

"HaHA!" He said, shoving Dogma's rifle aside. "Scared you, didn't I?"

Dogma glared at him. "I could have—!"

"Hey, hey, what's going on, what's this?" Hardcase grinned down at Kix and Jesse, his hands on his hips. "Sounds like quite the party over here."

"You're bringing MORE snow in!" Dogma groaned. "It's all over your feet! Get back to your own tent!"

Kix was lying half on his stomach, guarding the papers from Jesse, who quickly rolled over onto his back and put his arms behind his head.

"Oh," Jesse said. "We were just… teasing Dogma. You know."

"More like breaking rules and causing a disturbance!"

"Oh? Is it against the rules to have a wrestling match now?" Hardcase chuckled and lay down right in between Jesse and Kix, forcing them to scoot a little further apart as he squashed and wriggled himself into the narrow space with a satisfied sigh, as if they were merely enormous pillows.

Kix shifted onto his back, papers tucked safely beneath him. As he shifted Hardcase stretched out his arms so that Kix's head came down on one of them. Dogma was looking down at them all as if wondering who these foreign life forms were and what they were doing in his tent.

"Yshhh, Cold!" Jesse complained at the touch of Hardcase's icy under suit.

"Exactly," Hardcase said with a happy sigh.

"The heat lamp's over there, you know," Kix grumbled, smiling. Hardcase didn't move.

"So," Hardcase said, after a moment. Kix glanced over at Jesse, who was staring at the ceiling of the tent as if it held the secrets of the universe. "Don't be shy. Sounds like you were having fun. What'd I miss?"

"We were not having fun." Dogma sounded offended.

"Oh, did you guys see the way General Skywalker looked at Senator Amidala?"

"He's a Jedi!" Dogma hissed. "That's ridiculous! You shouldn't talk about your superior officers behind their backs!"

"You're right, Dogma!" Hardcase grinned. "Next time I'll talk about it in front of his back."

"Hey, Hardcase," Jesse said suddenly.

"Hm?"

"Pin down Kix for me."

"Okay!"

"Hey!" Kix yelled, too late. Hardcase was quick and had both his arms pinned to the ground in less than two seconds. "Hardcase! You didn't even ask why?!"

"Okay now help me roll him over," Jesse said. "Don't let him get his arms behind him!"

Kix kicked and thrashed as Jesse pinned his legs together while Hardcase pulled him over onto his side. A moment later they released him and Jesse had the pages tucked safely inside his under suit.

"What is that?" Hardcase asked, as Kix caught his breath on the floor, the sting of defeat softened by knowing that Hardcase was going to be just as curious and stubborn about it, too.

"It's nothing!" Jesse groaned, arms folded tight. "Just leave it alone!"

"Woahohoho, Jesse, where did you get all that? I saw at least three sheets of flimsi there!" Hardcase sounded impressed.

Dogma scowled at them all from the wet side of the tent. Kix laughed under his breath at Jesse's face; he knew he was never going to get out of this now.

"Look, not so loud, alright?" Jesse hissed.

Hardcase lowered his voice but was half-laughing. "Well just let me see it, come on!"

Jesse frowned. "It's private."

"Hah!" Hardcase slapped his knee. "Privacy? Since when do any of us need privacy?"

Jesse laughed self-consciously. "Look, it's really not important."

"Ohh, well!" Hardcase said, eyebrows high. "If it's not important, then why are you breaking protocol?"

"Yeah!" Dogma cried.

Hardcase laughed at that and Dogma looked confused for a moment before scowling.

"Not that you care about protocol," Dogma muttered.

Hardcase flopped back down next to Kix, arms behind his head. "Come on Jesse," he coaxed warmly. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours!"

Jesse looked puzzled until Hardcase reached inside his own under suit and brought out a few cards of flimsi.

Kix and Jesse both stared questioningly at the little packet—Kix could see a trooper helmet in several angles sketched out on it—while Dogma just shook his head with a severe look.

"You're both going to catch it from the General tomorrow. I don't understand how you were chosen to be part of Torrent Company."

Hardcase beckoned to Jesse, who came and lay down on his other side so he could see.

"That one's old, though," Hardcase said, and shuffled to the next one in the little pack, which was a stylized design of some kind of horned animal head.

"Is that a tattoo?" Kix asked, turning onto his side so he could prop his head up and see both their faces better.

"Yeah, it's a motmot head," Hardcase said, sounding pleased. "See the tusks and the little swirl of fur right there on the forehead? I drew that one for Thirty-Eight-Ninety when I caught him petting one back at base camp, but he said he might just put it on his armor somewhere. Maybe I'll draw him a better tattoo when he finally gets a nickname he likes. Hey, maybe Mott would be a good name!"

"You drew that?" Jesse coughed. "Whoa."

"Ah, I've done better." Hardcase smirked and rifled through the cards, many of them abstract designs, before choosing a new one. It took Kix a moment to tell what it was supposed to be, but then the deceptively simple shapes seemed to click into place; a Z-95 starfighter crashing, the smoke and flames twisting up in the shapes of birds.

"What?" Dogma barked into their silence. He stiffly edged a foot closer. "What is it? Let me see just how badly against the rules this IS."

"Oh, now you're ready to join the party?" Hardcase smirked, but didn't give Dogma a chance to turn down the offer to plop down with them. He turned the little "deck" around and showed Dogma a few of the drawings. All three of them watched his face turn from stubborn disapproval to surprise to doubt as he leaned forward to see them better.

"Nice, huh?" Hardcase said proudly as he set the little pile of sheets face-down on his chest.

"That's amazing," Jesse said quietly. Kix silently agreed. Dogma just looked perplexed.

"So… let me see yours." Hardcase held out a hand toward Jesse.

"Ehh…." Jesse grimaced.

"Come onnn," Hardcase coaxed, grinning. "A deal's a deal!"

"Alright, alright," Jesse gave in reluctantly. "Just… let me choose which one." He smoothed the crumpled pages face-down on his own chest.

"Hey," Hardcase complained. "I showed you all of mine I had on me! Kix, is that fair?" Hardcase whipped his head over to look at Kix. "Tell me that's not fair."

"That's not fair, Hardcase," Kix said seriously, trying not to smile.

"See Jesse? It's not fair. Dogma? Eh?"

Dogma just sat down after feeling for wet spots, scowling at them all as they sprawled over his sleeping bag.

"Well…." Jesse took a deep breath and handed the pages over to Hardcase and flung an arm up over his head, shutting his eyes in feigned non-concern.

Hardcase was grinning as he unfolded the pages as if expecting to peep at something incriminating. But his playful look vanished immediately. The sight of the sudden change sent unexpected tendrils of dread through Kix's chest, and he wondered what was making Hardcase's eyebrows furrow like that. What could Jesse have drawn or written….

He tried to shift so he could see, but Hardcase turned so the back of the paper was facing Kix. "Just a second," he said softly, and he sat up, blinking down at the words. Kix saw his eyes moving and his lips mouthing the words vaguely as he read under his breath.

Mystified, Kix glanced over at Jesse, who gave him a guilty-looking frown before going back to staring anxiously at Hardcase.

"What? What does it say?" Dogma finally piped up again, crawling forward to peer at the page.

"Shh!"

Hardcase shoved Dogma's face away distractedly and went back to reading. Dogma folded himself up neatly by the heat lamp and went back to sulking.

Finally, Hardcase held out one of the pages to Kix, who sat up too and took it with both hands, guarding it from Dogma's view as Hardcase had done.

"That one isn't finished," Jesse muttered, but didn't move.

Our footsteps shoot holes
in the canyon walls
but if I stopped to listen

Kix stopped, startled. This wasn't what he had expected at all. He started over again with an odd shivering heat spreading out into his arms and face.

Our footsteps shoot holes
in the canyon walls
but if I stopped to listen
the ricochet might
hit me square in the chest
wind me, halt the march
we can't all stop
to recognize the answering
sounds that rattle the ice
beneath us
we can't even one of us
stop but to laugh and
think
what a thing
to be spooked over
the

The last line had several disjointed words scribbled out one after the other. Kix blinked at the page and glanced at Jesse, whose eyes were wide on him.

Hardcase handed over another page, and Kix read it, and the next and the next. When Hardcase was on the last page, he blew out a sigh.

"Wow, Jesse."

"What?" Jesse sat up like the rest of them, no longer able to keep himself still on the ground. "What do you mean 'wow'?"

Hardcase just kept his eyes on the last page until he was finished, then handed it over to Kix without a word.

"What?" Jesse croaked. "What's wrong?"

"Wrong?" Hardcase laughed, a soft little laugh. "Nothing's wrong, unless Dogma decides to tell on us—which he won't, right buddy?"

"Someone has to tell the Captain," Dogma muttered.

Kix reverently straightened the papers in his hands and held them back out for Jesse. "So, uh… how long have you been doing this?" he asked, not sure what else to say. The words he'd read made him feel oddly uncomfortable, like hearing a language that he only half understood, and he wasn't sure why, besides the cryptic use of metaphor.

Jesse shrugged sheepishly. "I dunno…a while?"

"Well, what even made you think to start? I've never even read anything like that before."

"Uhh, well, you know, it just sort of… happened," Jesse mumbled, scratching his head. "I heard something somewhere… kinda liked the way the words sounded… uh… yeah."

"Exactly!" Hardcase broke in, all grins again. "One day I was on guard duty and I was poking around in the mud with a stick and I just started making shapes and before I knew it..." Hardcase slapped himself on the chest and spread his hands in a self-admiring shrug. "Oh, oh, hang on." He fished out his bundle of sketches again and shuffled them around before holding one out toward Dogma. "Look, Dogma, this one's you."

Dogma jerked out of his morose ball for a moment to blink at the picture, before his face pinched back into its usual position. "That doesn't look anything like me. I don't think you're very good at this. Besides, it's a waste of time! We're soldiers!"

"Let me see." Kix grabbed the paper. There, staring back at him, in great detail and shading, was a portrait… of a forked stick in what looked like the mud of a grassy swamp. Choking back a laugh, he handed it to Jesse.

"This war isn't gonna last forever, Dogma," Hardcase said in a half-amused, lecturing tone.

"Oh and then you're going to be a famous artist? Don't count on it when I can't even tell what that's supposed to be!"

"It's a joke, Dogma," Jesse laughed and smacked his forehead.

"Well it's one more skill than you have," Hardcase teased Dogma. "Wait. Two, actually! Art and comedy. Anyway, you see this right here?" He held out another helmet and armor design. "I designed this myself! And just look at Kix's hair! That is some GREAT artwork right there!"

Kix smiled and raised his eyebrows accommodatingly.

Dogma sighed heavily. "What-ever… it's time for bed. So if you don't mind clearing out—this isn't even YOUR tent!" He pointed at Hardcase, then out the door.

"Oh." Hardcase scooted backward and put an arm each around Jesse and Kix. "It's not?"

Dogma just glared sullenly.

"We should get some sleep," Kix admitted.

"So let's sleep!" Hardcase fell backward, pulling Kix and Jesse with him so that their heads banged against his a little.

"Ow," Jesse grunted.

Dogma snorted derisively. "Well if you're going to sleep like that, you could at least give me back my sleeping bag."

"Jesse's didn't get that wet," said Kix, as Hardcase snuggled up against him in a big show of 'going to sleep'.

"You both were the ones who got it wet in the first place, so YOU'RE the ones who should have to SLEEP IN IT!" Dogma growled.

Kix sat up with an impatient sigh. "Well, we can't all fit in three sleeping bags anyway." He dragged the other two bags over and brushed the last few drops of water from the resistant outsides before wriggling down into his.

"Too bad," said Hardcase, maneuvering Dogma's so it was right between Kix and Jesse, while Jesse settled in.

"And where am I supposed to sleep?" Dogma asked.

"I've got a nice cozy bag waiting for you in tent number four," Hardcase said. He stood up and patted Dogma on the head—or tried to. Dogma jerked away with a sour face.

"No! I have to keep an eye on you all!"

"And keep us from doing what, exactly?" Jesse laughed, as Hardcase shrugged, slid into Dogma's bag and threw an arm over Jesse's chest in a cuddle.

"I don't know!" Dogma scoffed, bristling as Hardcase heaved a happy sigh. "I don't have an insubordinate's mind! But the way you're acting is against proper behavior! I don't know what's wrong with you."

"So add it to your list to tell the Captain tomorrow," Kix said. "Do you really think he'll care about something like this?"

"Added to all your other rule-breaking, I'm sure he will!"

"Right. Well, it's up to you," Hardcase sing-songed. "You can stand there being cold or go sleep in my tent."

"Just turn off the light on your way out," Jesse said, voice muffled.

Kix could already feel the body heat building inside his bag as the light dimmed and disappeared. He pressed his back against Hardcase, felt the reassuring rhythm of another's breathing calming him. In the quiet he heard Dogma collecting his armor, but then there was no sudden influx of cold air or sounds of the zipper. He blinked up into the darkness.

"Don't just stand there, Dogma, it's creepy," he whispered.

"I shouldn't have to be forced out of my own tent," Dogma hissed back.

"No one's forcing you," Hardcase coughed. "You could always bring my bag back here and join us." Kix could hear the grin in his voice as the sleeping bags rustled. "We'll even let you sleep on this side of the tent. Right between me and Jesse."

"No thank you. I, unlike you, have a normal sense of personal space."

"Aww come on. We're all brothers here, right? A good hug never hurt anybody. Well, I think I did almost crack somebody's ribs once… but that's just me."

A disgusted sigh filled the tent, and then came the dull rustle of armor and gear being collected, the fierce zipper sound, the chilly draft, and the quick crunching footsteps hurrying across the snow.

"I feel sort of… bad, actually," Jesse said after a moment of silence.

"Eh, you never know, maybe he'll get along better with the guys over there," said Hardcase. "I did offer to let him join us."

"But, I mean… he knows we have forbidden items now. Maybe it would have been better not to get on his bad side."

"I don't think there's any other side you can be on with him," Kix sighed. "At least not right now."

"Yup," Hardcase said with a wistful tone. "Hopefully someday he'll realize that some rules just aren't as important as he thinks they are. That there's more to life than what he can read in a reg manual."

Again the uncomfortable feeling rose in Kix, although he didn't disagree exactly. He was thinking of other words he'd read on Jesse's flimsi.

The ocean sand
storms and from where a man drowns
everything looks the same
but in the thick of that chaos
being one of many
it's easier to notice when even
a single grain is washed away

"Okay," Jesse whispered suddenly. "So what if he does tell the General, and we do get in trouble?"

"I doubt he'll care," Hardcase said. "But if he does confiscate it, I can hook you up with some more!"

"I'll just hide them for you," Kix whispered back. He had room in his med pack.

"Mine too?" Hardcase asked.

"Sure."

Hardcase reached over, patting around for the right place, and rubbed the tiny bristle hairs on Kix's head. "I owe you one, buddy."

Kix smiled into the edge of his sleeping bag; slowly, the uneasy feeling dispelled.

Their breathing became a gentle, reassuring chorus. Kix closed his eyes, and softly, in a scratchy pitter-patter on the outside of the tent, a heavier snow began to fall.