Beta: A huge thank you to cariel for beta reading this for me! Also a big thank you to her for inspiring me with her tale Birthday
Author's Notes: This tale was initially done for a 'challenge' made by fialleril (for Yané/Jester) and knight_ander (The story behind the poster girl in the Clone's barracks).
Yané's old photograph was in reality a memoir. She had been one of the first chosen to serve in Queen Amidala's entourage. She was also one of the only handmaidens who served Padmé through her entire reign.
It had been the last day of their service in court when Saché announced that they were going to "let their hair down."
"To show our children, and one day our grandchildren, that even handmaidens can have fun!"
Saché had a penchant for tacky antiques. The machine she used for the group shot had been nothing short of ancient. The girls had good naturedly teased Saché about it, saying it was a weapon in disguise. Soon, they posed with silly expressions and freedom hand symbols. Yané pretended to be an intergalactic holo-model causing her sisters to laugh and tease her as she showed a little of her right leg.
Looking at the old photo now, it was hard to ignore the innocence in their eyes. Despite the looming threat of war and the invasion on Naboo, they had been so naïve.
At one time, there had been five of them. Now, only three of the original handmaidens remained in Amidala's service. Rabé was the first to leave the group. She had defected with her lover to the Separatists. Her betrayal still weighed heavily on everyone's mind, though no one ever spoke of it. Eirtaé's love of politics took her down another path . She was now an ambassador on Alderaan.
Nevertheless, it wasn't for the past that Yané sought out the old photograph; it was for the future.
Surely, you have at least one holo-pic of yourself. Even if it's an old one!
Yané smiled to herself as she collected the tattered image from the small box resting on her lap. Year ago, if someone would have told her that one day she'd be involved with a clone soldier, Yané was certain she wouldn't have believed them. Yet, Jester was not at all as she had imagined or expected the soldiers who fought for the Republic to be. Unfortunately, the war kept them apart. Nevertheless, Yané understood the command of duty and its importance to her lover. She too had loyalties that demanded much of her.
Yané felt bad that she didn't have a better image to give him. Unfortunately, it was the only one she had to give. Handmaidens, like the clone soldiers of the 501st, weren't meant to be seen or acknowledged. Their presence was only to be felt in times of danger.
Since the photo-image was a relic of the past, it only seemed appropriate that she honoured the tradition by using an ink pen. With great care, she wrote a brief message, one that held all the weight of things neither of them could openly say. She hoped it would be enough to carry him through the dark moments or, at the very least, remind him that he was loved. With a sheepish smile, she ended her note with a signature and kiss. It was a small gesture, but one Yané knew he would fully appreciate. II
The battle had been a long one, filled with destruction and a casualty count that was hardly worth the victory. Jester knew enough to expect as much; it was what he was made for. However, watching his best friend and brother be killed by Dooku's assassin hit him harder than he wanted to admit.
Only hours ago, Jester was teasing Fives about his interest in Ellé, a young handmaiden who served in Senator Amidala's entourage. His brother had wanted to speak to her for some time, but was never able to muster the courage. It was only after Ellé had formally introduced herself that the young clone found his nerve. They were to go out on their first date upon the completion of this mission. It was not meant to be.
There was no tradition, no ritual performed, when it came to the death of a clone trooper. Yet, everyone mourned and honoured their fallen brethren in their own way. Jester honoured their memory through brief, private recordings to commemorate their lives. Eulogies were a Mandalorian practice, but tradition wasn't the reason he did it. It was far more personal. In a war where soldiers held no significance, Jester felt it was not only appropriate, but the right thing to do.
Seated before his private comm, the young clone thought of the past, the man Fives had been. After a moment of silence, he activated the holo-comm and began to record.
Fives was more than just another soldier. He was a brother and a friend, my best friend…
In soft tones, Jester spoke of the good times, the dark times, and all the things he admired about Fives. It was a small gesture, one he did for every clone trooper of his company who died. It ensured that their memories would never be forgotten. It helped ease the pain of loss and enabled him to let go. However, this time, there was no solace to be found. Concluding his recording, Jester sighed heavily. It wasn't the first time he felt lonely, but it was the first time he truly felt alone.
Studying the data chip used for the recording, Jester wondered where a clone's essence went after death or if there was such a place for one's life force to go. Did the powers that be--if there were even such a thing--truly view his kind as abominations? The religious protesters he saw on the holo-news seemed to believe so and it did little to ease his concern for his fallen brothers. Shuddering at the thought, Jester swiftly buried his fears. He couldn't change what he was anymore than a planet could change its orbit around a sun.
"Jester--got a package for you. Captain says it came straight from General Skywalker himself."
Upon hearing Gus's voice, he snapped out of his thoughts.
"That's either really good news or really bad news," he answered with a slightly forced smile. Despite the day's events, Jester was grateful for the distraction.
"Well, there's only one way to find out," Gus said as he offered the small sachet.
Jester was grateful to his brother for playing along, as he wasn't in the mood for pity or kind words.
Respecting his wish for a moment of privacy, Gus turned to leave only to pause a moment later. "If you're up for it later, the guys are hitting the Dak for some Corellian ale."
"I'll keep it in mind," Jester replied. The invitation was as close as Gus would get to offering support and a listening ear. This too was appreciated, though both men knew that Jester wouldn't be going.
Once alone, he carefully opened the small package, his heart skipping a beat as he did. To his immense joy, and surprise, it was none other than an aged photo-image of his Yané. While there were four other handmaidens in the picture, for the clone soldier whose eyes saw only his lover, the other girls may as well not have been there.
On the back was written a simple, if not touching, message:
Here is the photo-image I promised you. It's not exactly professional or even elegant, but it is the only one I have. Take care of yourself, Jester, and know that I will always be near, even if it is only in thought--and this tattered photo.
The note was elegantly written with an ink pen; a relic he had never seen in his short life. On the bottom was the burgundy imprint of her kiss. The soft scent of her perfume tickled his senses, causing Jester to close his eyes as he breathed in deeply. He could almost see her smile and feel the sweet taste of her lips against his own.
Yané always seemed to know just what he needed, even when he didn't. The perfect timing of her message was no different.
It was the very first gift he had ever received and one he would always cherish. To Yané, he was more than just another faceless clone soldier. He was important to her, someone she could trust and perhaps one-day even love.
Though the war wouldn't be without its many dark moments, and the loss of his brothers would always haunt him, there was one thing Jester could always look forward to at the end of each and every day. With much gratitude to his friend, Punch, and his hobby of making posters of holo-images, there now hung a poster-sized image of his beautiful Yané over his cot. There she stood watch, guarding his sleeping form and ensuring his rest would always be filled with peace.