Author's notes: A big thank you to fialleril for permitting me to make reference to her tale And they dreamed of Freedom Birds. Also noted this tale take place in the same verse as my other Chopper tale Dignity.
It all began when Jester shot his own foot. Chopper did not blame him for doing it, in fact, no one did.
The relief he felt upon learning that his friend would be spending time in the medical center was hard to ignore. Chopper knew what would have become of Jester if he did not get off the front lines.
A part of Chopper envied him for choosing to resist-to fight back in order to protect what was left of himself from the horrors of the war.
The realization both frightened and confused him.
Watching his only friend slowly succumb to the strains of battle terrified Chopper more than he wanted to admit. It was a deep-rooted fear, one that lodged itself in his bones and ate at his thoughts.
With his droid finger necklace and his rebellious attitude, everyone believed Chopper would be next to step out. A part of him feared it too.
Instead, Sketch shot his own hand to escape the frontlines. Shortly after, Punch, in desperation took his own life.
There was no denying the truth now.
Word soon reached the commanding officers, and they were swift to enforce the chain of command.
It was hard for Chopper to feel unnerved or intimidated after experiencing horrors that went far beyond explanation or words.
General Skywalker addressed them with his usual fire and fervency. Standing at attention, Chopper barely listened, he had heard it all before and wondered if the jedi would ever make up their minds. Were the soldiers of the 501st individual men, comrades in arms, or merely mass produced weapons at their disposal?
It was Commander Cody and Captain Rex's pep talk that left its greatest mark.
Their attempts to pretend to be non-con once amused Chopper, now it just sickened him. No matter how much they tired to mimic their generals and the civilian militaries it did not change the fact that they were and would always be seen as mere clones. However, Chopper was a soldier first and they were his superior officers so such thoughts were buried.
Commander Cody sternly-like a father to his wayward children-reminded them what became of those who abused the system.
Captain Rex did not bother with the pleasantries.
"You boys want to follow that rankweed Slicks's example your more than welcome to leave right now. The door is there and the brig is down the hall!
"The 501st doesn't have room for a bunch of deficient pansy ch'utu whiners who want to crawl back into their growth jar--"
Chopper could not remember what happened only that it did. One moment Rex was verbally stripping them with insults, the next, Chopper was beating the captain to the ground.
His fists, clenched so tightly, moved of their own accord, furiously pounding into the man's face. The distant, mocking sound of droid fingers clattering on his neck added to Chopper's fury.
It was not the captain that he fought, but the ghosts that haunted him whenever he closed his eyes. He fought the cold metal fingers that tore at his face in rest and the horrors that robbed his friend of all that was good.
The sickening crunch of bone pulled Chopper out of his blind rage. The captain had broken his nose.
Fives promptly pulled Chopper off, as Cody helped Rex back on his feet. The officer's left eye was swollen shut, his lip cut and bleeding.
Commander Cody was livid and demanded to know what Chopper's malfunction was. Like a faint echo in his mind, he vaguely recalled officer's threats and shouts to stand down.
"What a frinking mess. Echo get the med-droids," Cody snapped. The soldier gave a clipped 'yes sir' before promptly departing. He avoided looking at either the captain or Chopper. Echo was the only one who did not stare. Mixed emotions were riddled all over his face. It mirrored the rest of their brother's thoughts.
Gloved hands clasped Chopper's arms tightly. There was no resistance; he was too tired to bother.
Rex glared at him with his good eye. Chopper returned it with a hard gaze of his own.
"They can mend his wounds in the brig-we'll deal with his re-conditioning later," the captain stated through split lips.
Chopper scowled and spat blood in frustration.
"We're not mindless droids or broken weapons in need of fixing, sir. We are human, and we are your brothers. Try not to forget that."
Chopper's voice was calm, a sharp contrast to how he truly felt. Behind Rex's steely gaze and stoic expression, something shifted. It was there and gone. Chopper knew his point had been made.
With his jaw set and his head held high, the young soldier was guided out of the barracks and into the brig.
For the first time, in a very long while he felt relief. The war, for now, was over for him.