A/N: Many thanks to Buttercup for the quick and thorough beta! This fic was written for the Secret Valentine's Challenge on Livejournal, organized by Imadrablue.
She walks in front of me, her weapon hanging at her side. Her reflexes are quick, and I know from experience that it would take but the span of a breath for her to draw her lightsaber and destroy any that oppose her. I do not question her skills. She is a Jedi General. It is what she is.
She picks her way through the huge plants, blue skin often blending into the background of towering blossoms. She is careful to avoid the roots that have been known to grab a man – or woman – and drag them somewhere unknown. They look innocuous, but not everything that seems safe is so, and several soldiers fell to their hunger before we learned to avoid those roots that bear the distinctive yellow veining. I do not begrudge the plants their need; they are carnivorous. It is what they are.
I scan the surroundings, alert for anything that might bring harm to the company. To her. She is more than just my General, even if she does not realize this. As it often does, the memory of the arena, the first time I ever saw her, fills my mind. We spiraled in on the Geonosian arena, creating a perimeter around the survivors, as commanded. She stood in the middle with the others, disarmed and outnumbered. But brave, still. The Jedi did not flinch, or beg for mercy.
They are programmed almost as well as we are.
Recognizing beauty is not part of our training; it is an unnecessary skill for a soldier. Perhaps they couldn't program it out of us, or perhaps I am flawed, and they forgot to program it out of me. Whatever the cause, when I look at General Secura, I know that she stands above all others. She is beautiful. I knew this in our first campaign, there on Geonosis, when she led my division into battle after we halted the slaughter in the arena. As the fighting slowed around us, I saw her kneel beside the body of a fallen trooper and slide one elegant finger in the gap between his helmet and his shoulder armor. I watched her, thinking I was safe behind my concealing helmet, but when she felt no flutter of life under that finger she let out a sigh and looked up, staring directly at me. It was as if my helmet and armor did not exist, and I was laid bare before her. The strange orangey light of the planet shone over her, highlighting the weary droop of her eyelids, glowing on the bloodstains that added depth to her smooth, blue skin. Wisdom, and strength, and beauty such as I had never recognized before. I nodded, slowly, and saw her nod in return. Then she stood, and we returned to the fading battle.
She caught my attention then, and kept it. We see women but rarely, and when we do, few pay much attention to us – we are little better than droids, to their eyes. But we are not droids. We are men, though those that created us do not see us as such.
I maneuvered to serve under this Jedi General, or perhaps she maneuvered to have me serve with her. It would please me, if that were so. After battles on many worlds, we now find ourselves here, on Felucia, where we have met many enemies and defeated them all. I will follow her anywhere. Beauty and strength in one package is something to savor, and I savor it so much that I wonder if that strange mania known as love has infected me. It matters little; such a thing is forbidden for her, as it is forbidden for me. I accept this truth, though the curve of her hip as she bends to avoid a hanging branch causes me some distraction. I am not shamed by this; I am a man. It is what I am.
As we continue through the overgrown underbrush, my holoprojector beeps, and I pull it from my belt, holding it up as the other troopers pass me by. Their orders are to continue marching, to follow the Jedi General. I expect no less than their continued obedience; they are soldiers. It is what they are.
A miniature image of the Chancellor appears in the air above the holoprojector. The command is simple, and one that has been deeply ingrained in my being, trained into me since I took my first breath. "Commander Bly. Execute Order 66."
My answer is just as simple. "It will be done, my lord."
The traitor to the Republic looks up, her beautiful face turned to the sky as a large winged beast flies overhead. Distracted, unaware. Now is the time. I lift my arm to signal the others, and then raise my blaster rifle.
I do not hesitate; I do not question.
I am a clone trooper.
It is what I am.