Beta: A huge thank you to Cariel for beta reading this for me in spite of being for beta reading this for me in spite of being under the weather. It is greatly appreciated *hugs* Thanks too to for RJSteamboat77 and Queen noticing typoes that we both missed ^^;

Any brief encounters the young clones experienced with people outside of their regiment were considered an unspoken rite of passage. A clone was not fully grown until he had earned or experienced such an encounter. A poignant look, a brush of fingers a kind of word or even a sincere smile was the closest they came to knowing affection, so all of it was cherished.

Waxer learned firsthand that not all encounters were always positive. Life was fast, hard, and short on the frontlines; he soon learned it was not much different on the home front either.

Though he was only twelve years of age, Waxer's adult roguish appearance had caught the attentions of more than one woman. His good-hearted nature and eagerness to please made him easy prey. His first experience with the fairer sex was nothing like the romantic moments he occasionally saw on the holo-vids; it was cold, fierce, and without mercy. The clone was a quick learner and he did the best he could to ensure his companion was pleased with his performance. What he believed was the beginning of something special soon proved to be anything but sincere. Heartbroken and confused, Waxer could not rid himself of the strange feeling that he was dirty, even though he was physically clean.

Future lovers proved not to be so callous, but neither were they compassionate or understanding. At every opportunity availed to him, Waxer tried to find himself a girl; someone to help him forget who he was, someone he could care about, and who would care about him. His attempts to establish a relationship never lasted more than a night. His brothers were not jealous, for they knew that his actions were but a thinly veiled attempt to cope with the fruitlessness that was their lives. Only Waxer remained ignorant of the truth, for it was the only life he knew.

That was until Genne, a skilled sharp tooth hunter-turned-rogue pilot and mercenary, came into his life.

The Lethan Twi'Lek was drunk; the young clone wasn't sober. Even in his inebriated state, the clone knew that she was different from the other women who had shared his company and his bed. He could not say if it was the age he saw in her eyes or the weight of her smile. The scars that decorated her lekku held a warning of danger while her tchin, which was half flesh, half-cybernetic, held a story of suffering. She was damaged just like him and Waxer could not ignore the relief that intermingled with guilt.

'Just another faceless soul caught in the storm of war,' she said as she raised her bottle of Corellian whisky before joining him at his table.

Waxer smirked in reply as he raised his own bottle of ale. The night was young and he was more than happy to be able to share it with another. They settled into an easy conversation, two war weary fighters looking for a means to forget. She spoke of her past without self-pity and he spoke of his own without shame.

'Life is hard for a reason; without challenges, would we ever learn?' she said with a hint of a smile. The conversation that followed was light hearted and filled with amusement.

Waxer could not recall a time when he had ever spoke of anything that was not related to the war.

Genne spoke of her adventures at sea, the hunt, and her love of flight. She spoke of the family she had back home before confessing to her real name; he was sworn to secrecy about both. Waxer, in turn, spoke of the rare moments when he was able to be a man, not a soldier. With a sheepish grin, he spoke of his best friend, Boil, and of their surrogate sister Numa.

The hour was late when they ran out of words. Genne ended the comfortable silence with a gentle kiss against his lips. It was not the first time he had enjoyed the company of a woman. However, it was the first time he had ever experienced a kiss that was so sincere. Her lips were gentle, yet passionate, soft, powerful, and filled with the mysteries of the heart he had only dreamed of experiencing.

"Stay with me tonight," he whispered in her ear.

The Twi'Lek's smile and loving touch assured Waxer that he would not be refused.

There was no passion play, no desperate kisses or rushed undressing of garbs. In her embrace, there was no buried shame and no desperation. There was only the unspoken promise that, in the morning, she would be there with him.

The rest of the night was spent in one another's arms, his fingers gently caressing her cheeks while she held him near, their clothed bodies perfectly intertwined on the silken sheets of a rented bed. It was even more wondrous than his most fanciful dreams; in her arms, Waxer loved and was loved in turn.

Harsh reality came with the rising sun. Waxer's commanders required his presence back on the front while Genne's own clientele demanded she complete her own mission.

Their parting kiss was no less poignant than the one shared the night before. Now they were sober enough to understand its meaning.

"Will I ever see you again?" the young clone asked as he held her near, the weight of his world now hanging in the balance of her reply.

Genne's grin answered his question before she even spoke. "You can count on it."

With a wink and another quick kiss on his lips, she was gone, lost in the throng of passengers boarding one of the many transports.

Once alone, Waxer immediately realized he had no way of ever contacting her. Cursing himself for being too distracted to think of it sooner, he gave a soft sigh and departed for the transport back to base. A moment later, his comm link chimed demanding his attention. Activating the small device, the young clone could not help but smile to the message that awaited him.

Good luck on your mission, Waxer. When you get back to Coruscant, come find me. You know where I'll be waiting.