So many things changing too quickly
Life as we know it, has a funny way of throwing some major shade our way, just for the heck of it!
Hunter was not feeling it. Any of it.
The hum of the engines of the Marauder grinding at the back of his teeth. His senses on high alert. The sleep all but elusive. Hunter was the only one awake. Seated at the helm of the ship whooshing through hyper space. Leaving way too much time for Hunter to think about life as they knew it now.
The constant running and hiding. Scraping the bottoms of the barrels just to make their ends meet. Enemies lurking around each and every corner. Or so it seemed. The galaxy totally divided, half of it gone absolutely mental. And all of it was beginning get old and really, really fast.
Life itself tasted stale, like two week old caf. Nothing was the same anymore.
Crosshair was gone now. Having gone all nuts and deciding to side with the enemy.
Sure, Omega had warned them about the inhibitor chips, put inside of each and every clone to control their behaviour. Heck, even Tech had told them as much when the Order 66 hit the fan. The fact that Crosshair's actions might have been caused by just that chip controlling him? Well maybe. The jury was still out on that.
But it was still difficult for Hunter to fathom the man he had been decanted with, having grown up with. Their kin, their family. Simply turn against his batch in a flick of a switch. But Crosshair had and it was moot to think about changing all that now. He was gone. And hated them all. Well, it was a theory anyway, the hate part.
And it wasn't the only thing grinding the enhanced clone at the moment either. Or basically any moment these days, being the norm rather then exception for Hunter.
They had lost so much. Their home. Their security net, not to mention the Republic. Most of their brethren too, having turned all Empire and all. And now, the five of them only had each other to rely on. Fighting together for their own survival. Trying to be a step or two ahead of their enemy.
But as luck would favour the fools, they had stumbled upon an old friend of the Jedi. A contact named Cid, whom the Batch had gone out to look for and found them too. And so, landing on a somewhat mutual agreement, beneficial for. Well, at least Cid. As pulling jobs for the barkeep was certainly not as productive for Hunter's squad as it was for Cid, hardly getting the credits worth to cover the expenses for said jobs.
Still, somehow it was better than simply drifting along in the galaxy without proper means and purpose. At least, they were doing something to survive. So, there was that. Even if the jobs were somewhat on the shady side.
Yet, Hunter wasn't happy.
Even if he had procured this deal for his family. at least some way to survive for now. His heart was cold and the still open wound bleeding. Partly because of Crosshair. But at least, he, was still alive. And there was a slight hope still living in there, as Omega had tried to assure Hunter, that they could get him back. Somehow.
The bigger hole inside the cold organ of Hunter's was the one who was missing. Presumed dead. The one who had captured the living warm heart of Hunter's.
Rex, was gone.
The last news they had heard from the Captain, was that of the imperial's listing of clone troopers killed in action during Order 66. And Rex's name had been among them.
After hearing the news, on top of everything else, Hunter had become numb.
Withdrawn and going only through the motions of the daily grind. Sure, he was a trained soldier. A special one at that. And Hunter could easily compartmentalise his feelings, his tasks, his memories. And being able to function out there, in the field, was not an issue no matter how he felt inside.
Neither was it in issue when spending time with his family or being around other people. The fake smile plastered on his face whenever there was an occasion for that. Or the supportive shoulder given to any other member of his squad when they were hurting or feeling sad. But, there was no shoulder for Hunter. He did not even let the others see how he was really feeling inside.
Hunter knew they knew of course. But none of them ever let on. That Hunter was hurting, really badly.
Sure, they had tried at first. To console him. To lend their ear and their support. But, Hunter had turned them all away. Telling them, he was fine. Lying through his gritted teeth with that flashy boyish charm of his. And getting away with it too. At least for a while.
But the four of them had figured it out. But after some time and fashion, they had stopped trying.
And so, the daily grind went on. Working on these side quests for Cid. Keeping a low profile and avoiding the imps at all costs. Never stopping running. What a way to live!
Hunter got up after fidgeting around on the uncomfortable seat for far too long. Never having found a comfortable position during the several hours he had supposedly been keeping watch. Not that Hunter had needed to as the instruments would alert immediately if something went wrong.
Hunter started pacing in the small cockpit of the ship. At least, it was better than just sitting around. Getting some exercise in the process at least. That was the thing he was telling himself even if it was because Hunter was simply too wound up to just, be.
The reason for his frustrations were plenty.
Having piled up during the past few months. And not having any kind of avenue to release any of the pent up energy Hunter had inside of him. As there were not even clankers around to kill any more. Sure, there had been a few missions where they had used their skills, but less so lately.
Hunter had managed to channel his excess energy rather nicely before. As simply being the soldier for the Republic had made the Batchers run their hearts out in the war zones, all those so called suicide missions.
It had also been rather easy to use all the excess energy spilt over from the mission in some much more enjoyable activities. Especially when having someone Hunter had cared for, a lot.
Rex had been there for Hunter.
The two lovers having spent plenty of nights and stolen moments together in each other arms, with the most pleasurable bouts of sex. But that was no longer and option. Rex, was gone. And Hunter was not about to replace him. Not easily anyway. Despite the few comments Wrecker had made about Hunter needing to get laid. Something Echo and Tech had chided Wrecker of blurting out so carelessly.
Because they all knew quite well. What Rex had really meant to Hunter.
And so, Hunter kept on pacing around the ship. Because there was nothing stopping him from doing so. The others still soundly a sleep. He was alone.
As for Hunter? Well, he wasn't just feeling it. Any of it.
Where have you been Rex?
Lovers, friends, lost and found during the ages, simply turn around to be able to see them
"Bring the lizard and come to the back and will sort this all out."
Cid was ordering Hunter, Tech and Echo, after the squad had managed to get back one of Cid's client's most priced possessions. A lizard called Ruby. Omega and Wrecker having gone for their usually Mantell Mix run, of course. As per tradition after each mission.
Unbeknownst to them all, they were being watched. Intently. By someone hiding in the dark corners of the Parlour. Friend or perhaps a foe.
They all heard it. The gunshots.
Rushing out and towards the bar area of Cid's establishments with their blasters drawn, the three Batchers and Cid stood at doorway, looking at the shooter, who was now placing their blaster on the table.
"What's going on in here?" Cid pushed her way past Hunter who had been in the front with his blaster aimed at the shooter.
The hooded figure who had been the one shooting, scaring off Cid's two regulars, pulled their hood off. Revealing themselves to the gawking and rather startled group.
It was Echo who realised first as to whom the stranger was. Not a stranger. A friend. From their past.
Rex could only smirk slightly as clearly, the Batchers looked like they had seen a ghost. And in a way, they had.
Echo and Tech approached Rex. But Hunter remained in the side lines after Cid's side remarks about taking in another rogue clone and something about a club house and then leaving the four by themselves. Huffing and puffing to the back of the bar.
"Where have you been Rex?"
Echo approached his former Captain, greeting the man gingerly, only too happy to see Rex.
"Well, that is a long story."
Rex could only retort after Tech had greeted him too. Both clones seemingly happy to see the supposedly dead Captain.
But, as Rex glanced to where Hunter had been standing, their eyes meeting for a moment, Hunter turned on his heels and left the bar. Moving away quickly and out the backdoor. Leaving a very confused and disappointed looking Rex behind.
Rex, Tech and Echo were at the bar, having drinks.
Hunter was nowhere to be seen. But neither of the other two seemed to worry, even if Rex did. They knew how Hunter was and having mourned the loss of his partner, his lover, Rex, had taken its toll. Hunter was still raw and so, seeing Rex here now, alive, must have been quite the shock to the man. And so, Hunter had handled the situation in the only way he knew how. By running away.
It was how Hunter was. Something which Tech had tried to explain to Echo before. To leave well enough alone when Echo had been trying his hardest and longest to get Hunter talking about the supposed demise of Rex's. And to open up about his feelings. Somewhat successfully so, but mostly not.
"So, what's the story here then?" Echo asked. "You have been laying low or something?"
"Something." Rex replied solemnly.
"The imperial files have you listed as killed in action." Tech stated. "So, you can imagine our surprise, all our surprises when you turned up here just now."
"Well, like I said. It's a long story." Rex tried to defend himself.
"Yeah? We've got time."
Echo was letting Rex know in no small way he was not of the hook. Even if the man was a close friend and all, not just to Echo but all of them. Echo did not really like the fact that Rex had disappeared without telling them or Hunter he was still alive. Having seen and felt the hurt it had caused, not just for Hunter, but to all of them.
Rex took another sip and glanced at Echo and Tech. Realising only then, that there were more of them missing. After having seen Wrecker and the Kid earlier with the Batch, and Hunter of course before his disappearing act, one of them was still unaccounted for. Making him wonder as to the reasons why.
"Suffice to say, that Order 66 went off and well, guess I was luckier than most."
Rex started, not sure how to explain all of it. As so much had happened and even more had gone totally wrong.
"Yeah. We were there too."
Echo shook his head. Thinking back of the situation while back on Kaller and the aftermath of it all. The clones behaving oddly, them escaping, Crosshair… all of it flashing by in his mind.
"The chips…" Rex nodded.
"Yes, we know all about them." Tech stated flatly.
Rex kind of had put two and two together. As it was somewhat plain as the noses on their heads that something had happened to the snarky sniper of their group.
Tech and Echo blurted out sadly in almost perfect unison, the reminded brining back the bad memories of the happenstance.
Rex felt sad and sorry about the whole thing too. Even if they weren't the best of friends by far with the in your face former Batcher.
"He is all imp now."
Echo's voice was solemn. It was the brutal truth. Even if they had all wondered and dared to hope to go after him and get him back. Somehow.
Rex eyed the other two and then something occurred to him then. Something of a shock realisation.
"You all still have your chips, don't you?"
Rex was suddenly stiff and guarded, glaring at the other two. His hand placed onto his blaster. Just in case.
"Yeah, but they aren't active or anything."
Echo tried to assure Rex. After all, Tech had run his scans and pretty much concluded the four of them were different and the chips were fine.
"You don't understand. Those things are dangerous." Rex was adamant, his voice raised.
"Yeah? Well, we've kind of seen that already. First hand."
Echo sounded defensive as he too was annoyed and angry at Rex. Despite being glad he was still with them. But, here he was, back as if nothing was a miss and then ranting about the karked chips!
"You need to have them removed."
Rex's voice was demanding now and his eyes darting from Echo to Tech.
"Our deviant nature should have them impaired. We are fine."
Tech tried his best to defend their choice of not trying to remove the chips. But quickly seeing the flaw in his statement just then and clamped his mouth. After all, Crosshair was as deviant as the rest of them. Bu he had gone all bonkers and imperial despite that very fact.
Rex seemed not to trust the facts either and placed his hand on his blaster just then. As if he was going to shoot the two at the first sign of trouble?
"You don't understand. There is no controlling those chips."
Echo was not having it either. As clearly, Rex was jumping the gun on this chip matter of all things. As so far, none of the other Batchers had shown any signs of chip activation. Well, there were Wrecker's headaches. But he had banged his head a lot lately.
"Yes, you need to remove them."
Rex told the two flatly. No arguments. No comments contrary. He was on a mission now. In his mind the Batchers were in danger. And Rex wasn't wrong.
"And how would you suggest we do just that?"
Tech wanted to know, feeling Echo's frustration as well. As here Rex was. Back in the world of the living now. And all he seemed to be yammering about was those kriffing chips. Because in Tech's mind they had already ruled them out to be a threat. The most of them anyway.
Then again… Tech had cold shivers running through him, reminded of all the craziness having happened when Crosshair's chip activated. So perhaps, removing them wasn't a bad thing after all.
"We'll, I might have a way."
Rex was reluctant to leave now as he had wanted to discuss things with Hunter. But the man was nowhere to be seen. And the inhibitor chips were not something he had counted the Batchers to still be carrying around or at all. And that took priority. The removal that was. As clearly, he had managed to convince Tech and Echo, at least on some level of the same.
"I need to make a few calls, but I will get back to you."
Rex did not want to leave, not without saying something to Hunter at least. But, he knew the inhibitor chip removal was not something which could wait.
"We'll be here."
Echo said sounding somewhat detached of the overall situation while Rex took his leave without much ado or goodbyes even, seemingly in a worried hurry.
"We, will be here."
Echo's repeated words lingered in the silence of the bar as he took another sip from his cup and glanced at Tech who shook his head in disbelief of the whole ordeal which had just taken place. Wondering of the odd behaviour the usually collected and calm Captain had displayed.
Echo asked after a moment had passed, well aware that Tech had messaged Hunter as soon as the Sergeant had disappeared through the back of the bar.
"He is in the Marauder." Tech said simply and took another sip before adding. "I can't believe what the Cap'n just pulled."
"Yeah? Well, it wasn't the first time his done a major boo boo and won't be the last one either."
Echo was reminded of the few incidents from their shared past, where Rex had caused some trouble. And then acted up. Echo knew well how Rex could sometimes be. It was only a pity it had been Echo and his team who had been on the receiving end of Rex's bad behaviour.
But still, this whole ordeal with the chip thing? It seemed odd to Echo, how badly Rex was taking it all. As the Batchers had not shown any signs of odd behaviour, noting related to the chips activating. So why had the Captain been so adamant and simply left in a huff?
"Well, at least he is still alive."
Tech tried then. Feeling totally relieved that Rex was among them still. But only hoping Hunter would be alright and that somehow, the two of them could patch things up. The sadness looming over their supposed celebratory moment.
"At least there is that."
Echo smiled at Tech and clinked his cup against Tech's. The two of them taking a swig out of their mugs. As their mission celebration and reunification with Rex had quickly turned into a poor clones drinking party. With just the two of them remaining at the bar in the end.
Echo's eyes were back on Tech again. At least the two of them were on good terms. Leaning in for a kiss, appreciating the other man and what they had.
As the kiss ended the two lovers had their eyes locked for a long moment, nothing disturbing the peace of their spell together.
"Have I ever told you how lucky I am to have you in my life?"
Echo's voice was soft, a hint of velvety quality present.
"You have. On seven separate occasions to be exact."
Tech counted them all. Of course he did. All of them. Always.
Echo simply snorted and leaned in for another kiss, stealing them all for himself. Because soon enough, their quiet moment would most likely get disturbed by someone bursting into the bar. But right now, all Echo knew was Tech and his lips against pressed against his own.
One set of inhibitor chip removals, please!
Control by someone or something else, can be such a good excuse for plenty of things having gone wrong
They had gotten the call from Rex soon enough.
The one he had promised to make to Echo and Tech about the removal of their chips. Having finally found the means and also the place to do it. On the junkyard planet of Bracca. They had agreed to rendezvous there.
At least, Tech and Echo had, having been dealing with Rex and making the arrangements. While Hunter was still at odds with having the Captain back and among the living. So, meanwhile, Echo and Tech were making the decisions for them all.
Ever since Rex had shown up at Cid's Hunter had been on the edge. Hiding himself even from his Batch. His emotions on the surface. As seeing the man alive and relatively well, had been a relief. But, it had also stirred so many things inside of Hunter and right now, there were too many things for him to deal with. So, denial and going to hiding were his options.
Rex re-emerging did not take away the time Hunter had spent in mourning. All the anger, the sorrow, the sleepless nights since Order 66 had happened, when the reports of the casualties had started to arrive. And then, the one of the 501st ship having gone down with all hands lost. Jedi and clones alike.
Hunter had not gotten over the loss of Rex, no matter how hard he had tried. Nor how much his family had tried to help him cope with his grief. The whole Rex being killed in action leaving a permanent mark on Hunter and his soul. His heart. Leaving Hunter a changed man. Not the good kind either.
And that changed man was having great difficulty in getting grips with Rex coming back from the dead. To find out now after all this time, that Rex was still alive had been a total shock.
All that wasted time. The shed tears. The anguish. It having been all for nothing. Hunter was angry. Not at himself or the galaxy like had been before. For taking Rex away from him. No. Hunter was angry at Rex now. For not letting him, Hunter, his supposed partner to know he was alive.
They had been an item after all. Everyone knew that. Having sworn their undying love for each other at one point during their relationship. Surely that meant something in someone's book. Right?
So why the Sith had Rex not come forth sooner? Why had the Captain not let them, him, know he was still alive? Why had Rex not tried to contact the Batch before now?
Rex seemed to have been more worried about those damned inhibitor chips than he had been of seeing Hunter. Clearly. As Rex had not even bothered to come after him.
But, the situation being what it was. Tech and Omega having explained what they both knew about the chips. It was serious. And the suspicion was that Crosshair's odd behaviour had most likely been caused by the control chip as well. Well, mostly.
So, for that sake alone, Hunter was ready to put his personal feelings aside and do the right thing for his squad. Which was to remove the chips. And if it meant needing Rex's help to do that just that? Then so be it. Hunter could be civil and non-feeling for that very purpose alone. Right?
Despite his good intentions, Hunter still felt uneasy. The emotional turmoil within like a raging thunder storm above Kamino. But he was good at hiding things. From the others but also from himself.
And of whatever had been between Rex and himself was over. Hunter would deal with it. By himself. After all, he and his squad had survived worse situations. This was no different from any other obstacle Hunter had encountered before.
Taking a deep breath, Hunter opened his eyes as he collected himself. Just in time as the Marauder was on approach to their destination. Where Rex would be waiting for them.
"We are on approach to Bracca. Landing in a few." Tech's voice chimed from the cockpit just then.
Leaving Hunter staring into the distant swirling stars through the viewport, worth a heavy sigh and an even heavier heart.
They Marauder had landed next to Rex's ship, Rex already waiting at the platform for the Bad Batch to be arriving.
It was Echo who was the first one out the ship and already greeting the Captain.
While Wrecker and Tech did not really have any qualms with Rex, Hunter was still hesitant about seeing the man. But, the inhibitor chip removal was taking precedence over everything else. Personal feelings and grudges alike.
As from what intel Tech had managed to gather so far, from Rex, Omega and tapping into the files of the old Republic archives and the imperial files alike, there really was a grave danger for them all. No matter how enhanced they just might have been. The inhibitor chips had been put there for a reason and could easily activate in any of them.
It was also becoming obvious to Hunter that Crosshair had succumbed to the effects and there was doubt whether Wrecker's continued headaches were caused by the very same thing. Hunter only wished they could get to Crosshair, somehow, and get his chip out as well.
Putting on a brave face, or rather hiding it behind his helmet, Hunter glanced at the rest of his Batch standing on the platform chatting rather cheerfully with Rex. Omega especially, as the Kid seemed to have taken a liking to the older clone.
Hunter stepped down the ramp, closing the short distance to where the others were.
Rex who had already noticed Hunter and was only too glad to see him. Rex having had doubts whether Hunter would come to Bracca and remove his chip just because. Well, as Echo had explained some of the goings on while the two had chatted at Cid's. Rather briefly at that, but Rex had gotten the gist of it and knew how badly Hunter had taken Rex's supposed demise.
Rex could not really falter Hunter for wanting to keep his distance nor the disappearing act he had pulled when seeing Rex on Ord Mantell. But, Rex had hoped they could at least talk about what had happened. As neither the chips nor Order 66 was their doing. Both having survived and navigated through the rapids the best they could.
Granted, and Rex admitted as much, he could have made contact with the Batch sooner. But, him being in the middle of something now… well, it served him well to be legally dead. It wasn't that he had not trusted Hunter nor his squad.
Then again, had Rex really trusted any clone since Order 66? Even himself at some point?
But, there was an underlying hope deep within Rex. That perhaps, the two of them could somehow, move past all which had happened. Maybe even with a positive outcome for their relationship? Then again, it might be too late for saving any of what they had had.
Still, Rex at least hoped this group of clones would perhaps join him and the good fight.
After all, Clone Force 99 had proven to be siding with the good guys, if their most recent stints were any indication of that. And now, having their chips removed? Well, that was giving so much hope for Rex and maybe… well, first things first.
Rex voice had lowered several octaves. Calling out the name of the man he still was very much in love with. Until now, only having whispered the name in the dark corners of the lonely nights spent.
Yeah, it was a bitchy move from Hunter's side. But, he was in no mood for playing best friends with Rex. Not after the stunt Rex had pulled.
The anger starting to raise its ugly head inside of Hunter again, even if he wanted to be as polite and professional as he possibly could be. But with all the wounds deep inside of him opening up now after seeing the man to whom Hunter had wowed his undying love.
Hunter was standing as close as he was able to. The small group around Rex and him joining in with them not wanting to be the odd man out. Hunter however made no effort in extending his arm to shake nor anything else. Simply acknowledging the Captain's presence.
As it was, Hunter had already discussed the matter with Echo before coming to Bracca at length. It was Echo who had assured Hunter of the urgency of the chips and their removal. It was also Echo, who had become Hunter's trustee and the one who had leant the comforting shoulder for Hunter. Right after the Rex and Crosshair incidents. As the the team had come to call said happenings.
It wasn't really a surprise the one person being Echo. He was the oldest of them. With much more experience under his belt. But he also was the most adamant and stubborn of the lot. And finally, having managed to poke into Hunter's personal space and getting the man talking. Not too much, but enough. Even if Hunter insisted on working things out on his own. But Echo kept on pushing and Hunter trusted Echo. And so, to some extent, Echo had managed to ease Hunter's burden. Somewhat.
Having agreed before coming to Bracca, that it would be Echo taking the lead on this, mission of sorts. Hunter had promised to follow Echo's lead to the letter, no matter where it took them for the durance of this op.
Rex was taken aback from the usage of his rank rather than his name. Because the Batchers were usually never formal. And certainly not know, as rank had little if no meaning for those supposedly dead and buried troopers of the non-existing Republic. But, Rex could understand where Hunter was coming from. So, letting the sleeping krayt dragons lie, at least for the time being, Rex decided to get right to the business at hand.
"Let's get moving before the scrappers realise we are here." Rex said the batch. "There is a Venator-class cruiser just a spell away and we need to get there for the chip removal."
The group of clones quickly made their way across various piles of debris from many a starship, while getting to the one they needed to be on.
De-chipped and fancy free
Mistakes of plenty made in the past, but now as the excuses are all but gone, what remains?
The chips now removed from the four of them, Omega never having had one. The Bad Batch was feeling a sense of relief settling in. A peaceful moment to take a deep breath in a long while.
It had not all gone as smoothly as planned and without yet another incident having taken place in the process.
Wrecker having gone all Sithspit on the lot of them when his chip had suddenly activated. The headaches suffered before a dead give-away for sure. Unfortunately none of them had put the two and two together, realising only now those had been the very sign of trouble.
Luckily, the matter had been rather efficiently handled after a brief chase in the corridors of the shipwreck. Rex managing to finally stun the bigger clone after Wrecker having chased Omega to a dead end. But yeah, guess that all had been unavoidable?
And so with thanks to the chip removal, all their quick thinking and swift action, they had gotten away with just a few bruises. Both on their skins but also egos. Namely Wrecker's as he had tried to hurt the others, not to mention Omega. Having full cognisance of the whole ordeal when he had been unable to fight the thing.
But Omega being the person she was, managing to assure her brother there was no bad feelings after said ordeal. As the whole thing had been out of Wrecker's control anyway. And so, sealing their friendship once again with a few well hidden chunks of their favourite Mantell Mix.
There was another 'ship' still lingering open and unanswered in the air. The one of Hunter and Rex.
The two of them having worked together rather well again all the while Wrecker had ran amok for a moment there. Chasing the clone across the corridors, moving in unison just like in the past. Well, with a few hiccups, but still.
But, that time had passed and their chips were gone. Rex had helped them as promised. And so, they would all go their separate ways.
They were starting to pack up the place. Echo, Tech with Omega helping the two with their devices and gear. Wrecker was still taking it easy. Having had the most difficult time of them all with his procedure. It had been touch and go there for a moment due to the chip becoming active. But Wrecker had pulled through nevertheless.
Rex had been standing some distance away from the others. Simply letting Echo and Tech take care of handling the medical equipment as Rex really had no knowledge of the procedure himself. Not how the equipment worked at least.
Having only been the observer as one by one the other clones had stepped into the machine. Hunter and Tech having needed a shave off some of their hair before the surgery. Not a big loss even if Hunter had made a complaint just the same. Something about his hairstyle not being even before it grew back.
Rex had had a moment, his breath taken away, while Hunter had removed his forever present bandana. Letting his long locks flow free for a spell there. Something which Rex had adored to see whenever the two of them had been in his private quarters back on Kamino. Loving the feel of his fingers running through the long silky strands of hair of his lover's.
Realising he was staring as the caught Hunter's glare for a moment before the other man turned his eyes away from Rex. It was all it took to pull Rex back from his stroll down memory lane and how things used to be between the two of them. The long nights spent together in each others arms. Lying languidly with their limbs tangled together after having made love for hours on end.
Shaking his head ever so slightly, trying to rid of the haze of the good memories Rex had once again sunken into. Something which had been happening to him a lot lately. Ever since getting the news of a rogue squad of clones having helped Rex's cohorts in acquiring the much needed data they had been after. Rex had started hoping it was indeed Clone Force 99 they had met during said op.
Rex having had no idea of which of his brethren were still among the living and whom were serving the Empire since the order had gone out while the Republic fell. Having only been able to accumulate fragments of intel of them. The depression having taken over at first, before deciding to do something about it rather than dwelling in the past and all the losses.
But that had also meant for Rex to push all personal feelings aside. Bury them with the past and only concentrate on what he could do and save in the here and now. That had also meant burying the Batch and Hunter alongside all those he had actually laid rest. So many of his kin lost!
However, since the news of the possibility of Hunter and the rest to the Bad Batch having survived, Rex's hopes had started to emerge again. Daring even to take a peek, a glimpse into the past memories of the times he had been happy in the arms of his lover. Hunter.
And so, here they all were. Alive and well. But whatever had been there between them, seemed to have been lost now. As Hunter was elusive and distant and clearly unwilling to even discuss any of it with Rex.
There was something Rex wanted to discuss with the squad though. And having noticed that Echo had been put in charge. As clearly, the Arc Trooper was the one conversing with Rex during the op. Not that Echo would not have talked to Rex whatever the situation might have been. But Rex had noticed Echo having been calling the shots during their stay on Bracca, the others following his lead, as was Hunter.
So, what Rex was now about to spring on them? An offer to be put on the table for them now? Well, it did help if Hunter had relinquished the leadership of the Bad Batch to Echo.
Because Echo, if Rex was quite frank, was a much more experienced soldier. And Rex could easily rely on Echo making the right decisions. Something of a qualm Rex had previously had with Hunter for not always making the best choices.
But first things first. As Rex wanted to at least try to talk with Hunter, no matter if the other man would talk back or not. Whatever they would discuss, well, it really depended on Hunter.
Rex walked to where Hunter was standing, a spell away from the rest of his squad.
"Hey." Rex started, feeling uneasy, but it could not be helped as this was not easy for either of them.
Hunter glanced at Rex having entered Hunter's personal bubble in the corridor of the broken ship.
"Hey." Hunter wasn't at least not-speaking to Rex, so there was at least that.
"How are you holding up?"
It was pretty much small talk Rex knew. But he had to start somewhere and at least he had gotten Hunter's attention now. Maybe it was a good start after all.
Hunter seemed to hesitate for a moment before responding. Because how was he feeling? Really?
His chip was gone now. The urgency of what might happen to him and his family, gone. Well, Crosshair was still out there of course. But at least there was hope for him as well.
And then there was Rex. Alive and breathing. Right in front of him. So close…
"I, will be fine."
Hunter decided simply. Because he was going to be fine, eventually. Right?
Rex was staring right into Hunter's eyes trying to find some hidden meaning behind Hunter's words. But there was none as far as he could see. Guess Hunter had decided he was going to be okay. Even without Rex.
"Tha… that is good to hear."
Rex yielded, not sure whether to push the topic further or simply let it drop. After all, guess it was all really over between them.
But, there were so many things Rex wanted to tell Hunter. To apologise first of all.
But it seemed to be difficult to get beyond the how are yous and other similar niceties. Guess the time for them had sped by, lost somewhere in the darkness of hyperspace. And all they could be from now on, were civil to each other.
That might become a problem or then again, not. Especially if they were going to pull what Rex was about to suggest to the Batch. But for that, it was becoming clear, Echo would be the one to talk to.
"Yeah. Well, it was really good of you to find this place for us to get the chips out."
It was the longest sentence Hunter had spoken to Rex so far. Much to both their surprises. But Rex did not mind. As long as they were talking, the topic did not matter.
"I had some, well, help." Rex smirked slightly, as luckily, he still had his contacts.
Hunter simply nodded and was about to say something when Tech and Echo both burst into the corridor finding the duo in a somewhat awkward conversation from the looks of both their stances.
"We need to leave." Tech stated flatly.
"The scrappers are close." Echo enlightened the two.
Rex placed his helmet on his head, none too happy to cut short his trial of talking with Hunter, only hoping there would be another chance for that.
"We'd better get moving then."
Wrecker and Omega had joined the others, all standing in the corridor now.
As they were about to start moving out and back to their ships, with Rex in the lead, he paused and turned back to the squad.
"Look, there is something we need to discuss." Rex started hesitantly to them all. "Can you follow me back to the base?"
Rex could see the surprised glares, despite their helmeted heads, part from Omega of course. Clearly having not expected an invite anywhere, let alone Rex's new base.
"Sure, we can do that."
It was Echo once again taking the lead. And, without hesitation this time around. Trusting that Hunter trusted him to make the right choices for the Batch. After all, Echo was their leader now, for the durance. As per agreed.
"Good." Rex said simply. "Now, let's hurry before they find us here and report back to the imps."
Knowing the scrappers were under the Empire's control and word of rogue clone troopers loitering in the area would soon spread if the scrappers would find them there.
The offer made, and rather hard to refuse as well
Sometimes the answer is right there, in front, the execution of it, easy as pie, right?
The Marauder had followed Rex's ship without any incident. Travelling fast in hyperspace to reach their destination. A planet hidden in the middle of nowhere space, the hidden structure there. Something which Rex was now calling his base of operations.
The two ships landed onto the small hangar, hidden inside a structure buried deep in the lushness of the planets foliage. It was certainly not easy to spot from anywhere.
As the Batchers stepped out from the Marauder, they could see other clones and few other people as well, roaming in the small area where they had landed. It wasn't a big place by any means, but clearly, Rex had managed to pull forces together for whatever op he was running from there.
"Welcome to our base!"
Rex was out and about from his own vessel and smilingly greeting the Batchers having debarked their ship.
"Looks, lively." Echo commented seeing the hassle going on there.
"It is. There are several of us here, brethren and nat-borns alike."
Rex sounded proud while talking about his merry band of rebels. As they were all that. Little, a small size of a group doing their very best to aid out wherever and whomever they could.
"So, you are running ops out there then?"
Wrecker was curios as to what this group of outcasts really were doing.
"Some. Mostly rescues. But I am hoping to start causing some real damage out there too. As soon as we grow bigger."
Rex stated adamantly. Clearly being the man with the plan and knowing they were just that. Growing bigger. And going to raise some havoc too. As each passing day, more and more people voiced their concerns for the Empire and some were even joining in the cause.
"So, guess our batch would be a good asset there then?"
Echo was pretty sure what the reasoning for Rex had been for asking the Batch back to the base with him. Glancing sideways at Hunter seeing the man shaking his head to Echo.
Hunter was really not feeling it. At all.
Joining some half-cocked cause? The Batch was laying low and this would not be that. At all.
But, Hunter wasn't going to argue the point. Not now, not in front of Rex. Even if he could see how eagerly Echo was siding with the Captain. And the rest of his crew seemed to be on board as well. With their eyes wide, listening to Rex and looking around? The sales pitch rather honed, that much Hunter was willing to give Rex at least.
"You would be. I am not gonna lie, we could really use your abilities. All of yours. Badly."
Rex glanced at Hunter then. But the man was not looking at Rex's direction. Not now at least.
The awkwardness between them still hanging in the air. And Rex wondered if he could get a word in with Hunter, undisturbed.
There were so many things Rex wanted to talk about with Hunter. An apology being on the top of the list. And if needed, some grovelling too.
Because the cause was still new and Rex needed all hands on deck. The Batchers being among the best of the best.
But, there was the underlying need too. For having Hunter. Rex wanted Hunter back. But that starship might have just flown way past its mark in hyperspace. Still, Rex needed to try at least.
"You already seem to have a lot of abled bodies around here. Not to mention plenty of craft."
Tech had made a note all the needed facts of course, just after they had landed.
"We do have some. But we need more if we are going to be successful." Rex admitted.
Rex and Echo went on discussing about the cause and the base and all of it. With Tech and Omega listening in intently. They too seemed to have been sold on the whole idea of a just rebel cause. Wrecker, understanding most of it what they had said, but when the words ammo and explosions were spoken, Wrecker immediately perked up and added his two credits to the pile.
Hunter was the only one out of the loop. Not that he wasn't listening in. He was.
But all of this, the base, the rebels, the regs, all of it. It was just too much for his family. Hunter had been in the war and for now, that part was over and he was pretty much done. Having already lost one member of his crew, Hunter did not want to put anyone else's life on the line. Not for someone else's cause.
Hunter was deep in thought. His anger seething again.
Because as it was, the more Hunter thought about it, he was totally against the idea. Of becoming something else. Being a part of some larger regime again. No, they needed to take care of themselves, their little family unit. Not worry about the galaxy. After all, they had suffered enough already.
Hunter felt like they were all against him now. Being the only one thinking this was total madness. To join some rebellion. Against the all mighty and powerful Empire. There was no way this could work! Right?
Deciding to talk some sense to Echo after the two of them had been left to their own devices.
"Echo, this is not a good choice for us to make. You should not have promised Rex anything."
Hunter was using the name again, even if he had referred to Rex as Captain while in mixed company.
"But why not?" Wrecker argued, not liking them fighting, at all.
"This is why you put me in charge in the first place." Echo reminded Hunter then.
"Echo is right, we should become a part of this." Omega seemed to been totally on board as well.
"I agree. This arrangement would benefit us all. We would no longer have to work for our mere survival but we could do what we do best. Be soldiers." Tech chimed in.
It was logical of course. What they were saying. Mostly. But, Hunter still did not have to like what he was hearing. It was mutiny as far as he was concerned. All of them turning against him.
"So, what you are all telling me is, that you want to go out there, risk your very lives. To save a few, what regs? Perhaps some poor farmer or another? Risk being caught by the imps?"
Hunter was countering the others comments now, with gusto.
There was a moment of silence before anyone else made any remark.
"Well, since you put it like that…."
It was Wrecker's turn to chime in. After all, he always sided, with everyone.
"I kinda see your point."
"Well, you are the only one it seems."
Hunter huffed and then after glancing around his troops, nobody saying anything more. Hunter simply threw his hands up in surrender.
"Fine. Do whatever you want!"
And with that anger filled spat, Hunter was gone from their quarters Rex had so graciously provided for the Batchers during their stay on the base.
As Hunter walked along the now quite hangar bay, trying to clear his thoughts, he got a glimpse of a family whom were staying at the base. The couple, two mothers with their small children in the distance, talking and playing. Something of a look-see and reminder to Hunter what this cause really was about.
Being then reminded of saving Omega. Then Cut's family from the Empire. It all made sense. And Hunter knew that. Making him wonder if the reluctance was simply there because of Rex being the one in charge.
Hunter had been sitting on the ledge for a while now, deep in his thoughts. Staring at the lush of the nature all around the base. It was then when he heard the clearing of a throat behind him. Hunter turned and could see the familiar man standing close by.
"Mind if I join you?" Rex asked politely.
Hunter sighed. He nodded and said. "It's your base."
Rex smirked only but took it as an invite just the same and the seat right beside Hunter.
Rex started small, even if there were more urgent matters on the top of his mind to discuss of. But he finally had his moment with Hunter.
"Yeah. It is, and right now, quiet."
As if hinting to Rex that Hunter wanted to be left alone. In quiet, with his anger and thoughts.
But, Rex knew Hunter well now. And he was not budging. Sensing the the conflict inside of the other man. So, deciding to play out his deaf, stupid and dumb card, Rex did not move from his spot.
Hunter was glaring into the wilderness visible from the edge of the hangar bay. He was annoyed, pissed off and mostly, wanted Rex to leave. It wasn't easy to sit beside the man Hunter really harboured feelings for. The big kind of feelings.
But Hunter knew also, it was the only reason he was acting up. And perhaps his Batch had been right after all? But everything was all so mixed up inside of his mind. And Rex's presence certainly did not help any. For Hunter trying to figure out what he should do.
After all, if the Batch wanted to stay, then what were Hunter's options? Take the Marauder and leave by himself?
"So, they turned against you then."
Rex statement was as simple as that, after a moment of silence having hung between them.
Echo had already pretty much blurted out they were going to support Rex's cause after all.
Hunter did not look at Rex. What could he say? That Hunter himself was a bad leader? Well, guess the choice had already been made for Hunter as well.
Hunter sighed and decided it was time for him to get up and leave. Being close to Rex was becoming somewhat of a personal hell for Hunter. And no good decisions would come out if he was in this kind of state of mind. The long since buried fiery sensations threatening to make an appearance.
Because of Rex being there. Right beside him. Those sensations… they always had emerged in the past. And so, they did now. Without a fault.
Just as Hunter was about to get up to leave, Rex stopped him, grabbing his arm gently.
Rex timbre was soft and pleading.
Are we still, us? Or are we going our separate ways?
Sometimes, rekindling what once was, is the best option, the best choice to make, sometimes
Hunter glared a while at the obtruding hand before letting his gaze follow it up all the way up and back to Rex's eyes.
Rex asked again, waiting silently, his glare pleading though. Finally getting an agreeing nod from Hunter as he settled back to the ledge beside Rex. Rex then reluctantly letting go of his arm.
Was all Rex managed. He was finding it difficult. Staying in such close proximity with Hunter and not being able to touch him. Not really. The brief contact still lingering on Rex's skin. The familiar warmth of Hunter's sending the familiar signals to Rex's system going alert and ready for something which was most likely not going to happen.
As Hunter was clearly not about to start any conversation, it was up to Rex to do so. Hunter waited as he kept on glaring into the lush greens in front of him. Seeing none of the beauty of it, as Hunter, was only seething in his anger at the very moment. Still very much present, despite Hunter's effort of trying to rid himself of any such feelings.
"Look, I know this isn't easy for you."
Rex started, trying to be as emphatic as possible for the other man's feeling. And, as there was no objection from Hunter, deciding to continue.
"I mean, you thought I was dead and all. And it was wrong of me not to let you know that I was very much alive."
Rex paused for a moment gathering his thoughts, trying to figure out the best words to tell Hunter. Because they did matter right now. Rex trying to convey just what he needed Hunter to know.
"I should have known better though. That you and your Batch had survived. I should have tried to find you sooner."
Right to the point. Without any kind of excuses or roundabout ways to tell Hunter rex had been wrong.
Hunter was surprised. Very much so. If he was honest, Hunter had been waiting for some lame excuses Rex was going to make about the why's behind it all. Why he had hidden from not only the Batchers but others as well and leaving all to think he was dead. Well, most people anyway.
Hunter turned to look at Rex.
Their eyes made contact again. The two former lovers staring at each other for a long spell. Trying to read what was there, presented for the other without any obstacles. It took some time before Rex spoke again.
"So, guess what I am trying to say here is… That I am so, so very sorry."
The words were spoken. The apology was earnest. Hunter could easily sense it.
There was no ultimate motive behind Rex's words. Well, except perhaps Rex wanting Hunter to stay. And not because of him being a great asset. But, because Rex loved Hunter. And Rex needed for Hunter to stay, out of his own free will, not just because.
Hunter was at a loss of words. He had been prepared to counter whatever Rex was going to tell him. Having suspected it to be some kind of a recruitment speech. Hunter had initially wanted to argue with Rex. Even if his facts and counter points were flimsy at best. But the anger inside of him, with the hurt, the wound in his heart still raw. Hunter had been prepared for a fight.
But, how could he do it now? The apology was sincere. Most likely coming from Rex's heart.
And wasn't it what Hunter had really wanted to hear?
That Rex was sorry for the anguish and guilt he had caused Hunter for thinking he was dead. And that it had all been somehow Hunter's fault for whatever unfathomable reason. As Hunter really loved to blame himself for things even out of his own control. It was just who he was. Unfortunately.
The sting behind Hunter's eyes was becoming uncomfortable and soon, uncontrollable too. Seeing the glint in Rex's eyes too, there was only one thing Hunter could do at the very moment. His decision made in a split second.
Reaching with his hand, Hunter placed his palm onto Rex's cheek. Rex immediately leaning into the gentle touch, his eyes closing with the tears soon falling freely.
Hunter's voice was but a low whisper. The rest of the words not needed anymore.
Rex opened his eyes and met Hunter's. Seeing the tears there as well. All the pent up emotions, the feelings they had for each other on the surface for both of them. The love never really having been lost, only misplaced. And now it was time to bury the anger and start healing. Together.
Hunter found himself pushed against the wall of Rex's quarters. A familiar position either of them had found themselves to be at one point whenever the two of them had slept together after a lengthy time being separated.
Rex's mouth was hungry. Devouring Hunter's fully. The kisses beyond passion, beyond love.
"I have… missed you… so very much." Rex managed between the heated kisses he was placing on Hunter's lips, his cheek, his neck.
Hunter had missed Rex too, of course. But he was not about to tell Rex that, not just yet anyway.
"Show me how much."
Hunter issued a challenge for Rex, wanting the other man to work for it. Work for Hunter. To get on the good graces of Hunter's. Not that much was needed, not how Rex was manipulating Hunter at the very moment. And besides, it had been way too long, for either of them.
Rex's hands were all over Hunter. Tearing the man's clothing off of him.
Hunter followed suit. His hands tugging into Rex's civvies, ridding the obstructive garments. Hunter needed to feel Rex's skin on his own. It had been far too long and despite Hunter's misgivings about Rex, whether they should be together now.
But all that had gone out the window the moment Rex had apologised. Not wanting to waste any more precious time staying angry and resentful. No, there was a new chance for them now and Hunter wanted to take it. With Rex. Hunter wanted all of Rex.
Rex moved them to the bed, Tangled on top of the beddings, skin on skin, Rex's mouth on Hunter's. Their need growing stronger with their bodies grinding against each other. The fire within both burning and soothing. It was all so new and familiar at the same time. Getting to know each other all over again.
"Just tell me one thing."
Rex's voice was husky, the emergence still there, but before he was to go any further, he needed to know the one single thing.
"What is it?"
Hunter's tone rivalled that of Rex's having been completely submerged in the heat of the moment.
"Will you stay?"
Hunter tried to compose himself as this was neither the place or the moment to discuss the matter. Even if his mind was already made.
"You are asking me now?"
Rex knew there was no better time for it, even if he was using all his strength to keep his hands and mouth off of Hunter. His heat in check. Even if it was an almost impossible feat to pull.
Hunter's eyes rolled, his mind having already gone numb, with the blood flooding elsewhere. And his body lost in the touches of Rex's, the fire burning hot and all consuming deep within.
"If I say yes, will you finish what you've started?"
Hunter tried to sound casual and joking, despite the dilated eyes and heavy breathing, the words pushed out of his mouth a struggle.
Rex let out a chuckle.
"Only if you mean it. That you want to stay."
Rex was more serious now, the smile fading as he stared into Hunter's eyes.
Did Hunter really have choice? They were making up, right? Trying to mend fences? Besides, the Batch had already pretty much made their choice. And that left little options for Hunter. Besides, Hunter still loved Rex. Very much so. His own quick actions in agreeing to have sex with the man a clear indication of the same.
After a brief moment, Hunter's eyes locked with Rex's, letting the man off the hook. Hunter told Rex what he wanted to hear.
"I will. Stay."
There were no further questions forthcoming. No more words spoken. Rex's mouth had found its target once again, making good on his promise. Finishing what he had started. With the knowledge this would be one of the many times Rex would be able to do just that. Because Hunter had decided to stay, with Rex.