Happy New Year's! 2011...holy cow.
Anyways, enjoy! A warning, though: this chapter is kinda fluffy. Beware the Fluff!
The Strange Doings of Gamma Squad
* * * Chet * * *
I don't think the General believed me about me having a hunch about her drawing abilities, but what was I supposed to say? "Uh, so that one night when you fell asleep and I was taking you back to your room, I saw your pictures and they were amazing but I didn't want you to be upset or something if you found out I saw them when I wasn't supposed to?"
Yeah. A tad bit awkward.
I've got no idea what possessed me to offer her the completion of my krayt dragon sketch, but I rather liked the idea. She'd do a great good job on it, way better than I could. Besides, if a clone's armor tells his story, it seemed right that she should be a part of it.
I'll admit it - I'd been worried that she'd become the good little Jedi General and distance herself from us now that we were actually on our mission, but she didn't, not at all. If anything, she was more a part of everything that before.
We walked over to join everyone at the lamp for a Gamma tradition: when we were on a mission and it was possible to do so, before we went to bed we'd get in a circle and talk, just hang out. Or, to use Flash's term, "chillax." Yeah, it sounds boring, but honestly, it's how we got to know each other as well as we do, and it's really relaxing after a long day of blowing stuff up and nearly dying. It was one of the things that kept me sane. And it really is a good way to catch up with each other.
I tried to give the General the log Lex had rolled over to sit on, but she insisted on sitting on the ground like everyone else, the stubborn Jedi (how can you be chivalrous if the person doesn't accept it?) I sat down next to her, shifting uncomfortably. My armor's saved me more times than I can count, but whoever made it forgot we'd need to sit down. It was downright painful.
Flash was telling a story we'd heard about a million times – a comic narrative of when he was a typical rebellious young ARC clone and a prank he pulled on his instructors (one of his favorite accomplishments). We laughed, the General especially, and we went around the circle, taking it in turns to tell a story or share a particular talent.
* * * Mera * * *
Way before I was ready, it was nearly my turn. I really had no idea of what I could do…I wanted to do something special, like the others had done, but what could I do?
Maybe I could show my sketches? No, I didn't have anything particularly special to show. Jedi moves? Nah, they'd already seen those. Tell a story? Nothing came to mind.
That was pretty much the extent of my talents…except for one thing. But there was no way I was going to sing! I hadn't sung in front of anyone before, not even Master…
But then again, I couldn't not do anything, because that would be just plain rude.
But singing in front of everyone – I gulped. I'd never sung in front of anyone…
Chet, with that uncanny instinct he had for people's feelings, gave me a look of concern and reached out and squeezed my shoulder, which gave me the confidence I needed. He wouldn't care if I did badly, only that I'd had the guts to do get up there and sing anyways.
After Torch was done demonstrating his fire-breathing – he very proudly called it "Dragon's Breath" – I'd chosen my song and was ready. It was a favorite of mine, even if it was an odd choice for a Jedi, being a love song and all.
Everyone cheered, Cade giving me a huge smile and a thumbs-up, and I blushed hard, my cheeks probably the dark midnight blue of the sky. Much as I appreciated the support, they weren't exactly making things easier.
Chet shot them all a look, and they went quiet instantly.
I coughed, decided to keep sitting as opposed to standing up, and hummed a scale for a warm-up. Before I changed my mind and ran away as fast as I could go (like a smart person would), I launched into the song.
It had a sweet, uplifting melody that surprisingly helped me relax, as much as Chet's hand on my shoulder had. Singing in front of people really wasn't so bad, once you had the guts to do it.
No one said anything until I'd finished, just watched and listened. After I let the last note trail off, there was a moment of shocked silence. But before I started freaking out and made a run for the border, Torch spoke up.
* * * Chet * * *
"That was amazing," Torch said quietly. Everyone nodded in agreement, letting him voice what everyone felt.
The General twisted her hands together, blushing like crazy, and shot me a pleading look. Before she died of embarrassment, I took charge, taking the attention off her.
"Alrighty," I announced, standing up. "It's getting later and later, and we need an early start."
It was a tribute to how the song touched us all when everyone got up without a word of protest and started to head off to their bedrolls. Vick, shy young Vick, turned around.
"Can we do it again?" he asked.
The General smiled at him. "If you want," she promised. Vick beamed, and trotted off into the darkness.
She watched him go, her head tilted to the side, then turned to me. "Thanks," she whispered, violet eyes shining.
I shook my head. "Nope. Thank you, princess."
She smiled, her teeth flashing in the dark, then gracefully got to her feet and padded off.
I don't think she understood what exactly she did for us. Clones' lives are short and miserable, with rarely any room for fun or any kind of love at all. ARCs are a bit of an exception, since we got the independent gene and are more…unsupervised than normal troopers. But that doesn't mean we had got the good life; we needed breaks from a clone's life, too.
Music was one of the ways you can forget life for a few minutes. And when it was music from a wonderful, caring friend who had the voice of an angel, it was even better.
But, I reflected, it had side effects. Love…most clones had no idea of what the word meant. For the moment we were taken out of our test tubes, it was brutal war training until the moment we were deployed. And then it's brutal warfare, until you die.
Love. The kind in the General's song was the kind we'd never have, because we were clones. Human war machines.
It made me homesick for something I never had, and most likely never will.
I sighed to myself just as Mera came back with her bedroll draped around her shoulders.
I raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
"Taking the watch so you guys can catch some zzz's," she said, plopping down in front of the lamp and pulling the edges of the blanket tighter around her shoulders.
"Oh, no! I take the first watch."
She narrowed her eyes. "This time, I'm going to."
"You're the one who lifted ten freaking grown men over a twenty-foot wall, and then walked miles to boot. You've got to be exhausted. You need way more sleep more than I do," I protested.
She glared at me. "I have the Force."
I snorted. "Uh-huh. You can run on Force juice for days and still be fit to fight."
She growled. "And you can run on nothing at all for days and still be fit to fight?"
We'd reached an impasse.
As we both tried to figure out ways to get the other to sleep, the wind blew and my stupid long hair flopped into my face again. I brushed it way impatiently, cursing Flash and his stupid dare. I'd probably just end up hacking it off with my knife, but I didn't want to slice myself open, either, so it would have to be still somewhat long…
The General eyed me triumphantly. "I'll give you a haircut," she said with the air of someone laying down a winning deck of cards, guessing correctly what was on my mind.
Oh my Force, a haircut? One that wouldn't look like a drunken nuna cut it? One that would stay out of my face and be done by someone who knew what she was doing? I could've hugged her, if she hadn't been blackmailing me.
"Low blow," I complained. "That's unfair!"
"Haircut and cookies," she continued.
I moaned and pressed my hands over my ears. "Stop! Or…I'll…" What could I do in retaliation? Nothing came to mind…except for a brilliant idea. "Or I'll tickle you until you beg for mercy!"
"What the – how did you know I was ticklish?" she accused, scooting away from me.
"I didn't, until you confirmed it," I answered gleefully.
She groaned and face-palmed. "Now that's unfair!"
"You know, I'm not going to let this go," I told her.
"I'm not going to, either," she replied, her chin set stubbornly.
We eyed each other for a minute, but neither of us was going to back down.
Behind us, someone cleared his throat uncomfortably. We both whipped around – I knew I was blushing, although I wasn't sure about the General – and there was Sparks, fidgeting nervously. He half-turned away, face set in a look that clearly conveyed, Am I interrupting something?
The General gathered herself with speed. "Hey, Sparks. What's up?"
He gestured at behind him at where everyone was curling up in their bedrolls, looking at us pointedly.
I immediately shook my head. "No way. You aren't watching for me. You need to get some sleep."
Sparks raised an eyebrow, meaning So do you.
"Uh-uh. Not happening."
Sparks narrowed his eyes and jerked a finger over his shoulder in an unmistakable get-out-of-here gesture. He waved a hand at our faces, pointing out the shadows under our eyes.
I snuck a look at the General, who had her stubborn face on. It was undermined by the fact that she looked exhausted…Sparks was right, she needed sleep.
I nudged her. "Hey, he's right. Go catch some zzz's."
The General growled at me. "If I'm not taking watch, then you shouldn't either. You're just as tired as me! You've had late nights for how knows how long! Last week, some nights you didn't sleep at all!"
"Just because I go to sleep last doesn't mean I'm tired," I hissed.
She snorted, and I glared. "Hey -"
Sparks coughed again, and we turned our attention back to him. His arms were crossed, and he was tapping his foot.
I grumbled under my breath, but Sparks, on very rare occasions, could be almost as stubborn as I was, and I was in no mood for an argument with him – since he doesn't talk, he pretty much wins every time. He had a very intimidating, unblinking stare.
I could still win, if I put my mind to it, but it wasn't worth it.
I got to my feet. "C'mon, General. I'll give up the watch if you do."
I offered her my hand. She eyed it for a second, then took it with a sigh. "Fine. But only if you give up the watch."
As we walked past Sparks, I muttered, "This isn't over. I'm taking the watch tomorrow."
Sparks shrugged, a triumphant grin on his face, and sat down in front of the lantern.
The General's bedroll was on the outside of the group's, next to mine. We sat for a minute in silence, until I couldn't take it anymore. "…Can I still have the haircut?" I asked.
The General smiled at me. "Okay. You deserve it."
The breeze tugged at my hair again, whipping it into my face. I brushed it back with a growl as the General cracked up.
"More importantly," she gasped out, "you need it!"
"Ha ha. Funny," I grumbled, and she laughed harder.
* * * Mera * * *
After another hour or so, I'd finally curled up in my bedroll, but despite the fact that my body was screeching "SLEEP!" at me, I still couldn't doze off. I felt guilty that Sparks was doing my job for me, and I was nervous that I'd have my nightmares again and start freaking out where everyone could hear. Just because I'd broken through my fears on top of the wall ramparts when we were escaping didn't mean they wouldn't come back to haunt me in my sleep. I hadn't had a nightmare in a while, but you never knew.
Chet had the same problem, I could tell – always twisting around, a few low, frustrated growls. After a moment, I gave up the pretense of sleep and whispered, "You awake?"
He turned to face me and sat up, rolling his shoulders. "Stupid armor's impossible to sleep in," he muttered.
I sat up myself, drawing my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. I made a sympathetic noise.
Chet shrugged. "On the other hand, it's saved my life more times than I can remember, so it's a win-lose thing."
"What about you?" Chet asked. "You okay?"
"Meh, the usual."
He studied my face. "If you're scared about having a nightmare, Princess, I'll wake you up if you look like you're having one," he offered.
Aww. My heart warmed. Chet was such an awesome friend…I shook my head. "Thanks, but I couldn't keep you up."
Chet folded his arms. "You really do need sleep."
"I'll be okay for a night."
Chet eyed me, gauging his chances of winning the argument, but he could tell this was one fight he couldn't win. He rubbed a hand over his face. "Lex is going to kill me," he mumbled. "Fine. If you're staying up, then I'm staying up."
I couldn't stop a smile. "Okay."
We sat together, not talking so everyone else could continue sleeping. After a few hours, though, just before dawn, despite a monumental effort poor Chet could barely keep his eyes open. I used the Force to keep most of my exhaustion at bay, but Chet was on his own and about to fall asleep. I wasn't going to put him though more sleepless agony just so I could have a companion, so I started to hum, a slow tune that was (ironically) a lullaby.
He was snoring in seconds, sleeping sitting up.
It was impressive that he'd managed to last as long as he had; despite his denial, he'd been just as tired as I was. I hummed the last few bars and smiled.
Chet was a great guy, despite his stubbornness issues. He was an awesome friend…
I yawned and blinked owlishly, then caught myself. I wasn't going to fall asleep. No way, no how. Especially now that it was almost morning! I'd nearly made it…just another hour or so…
I yawned again.
No! Not going to fall asleep…not going to fall asleep…not going…to…
* * * Chet * * *
My eyes flickered open just as dawn started. I blinked, confused – it wasn't this bright out a second ago…
Realization hit me. Oh, snap! I'd fallen asleep. The General would never let me hear the end of it!
I groaned, then became aware of a weight on my shoulder. I looked over, and my heart nearly stopped.
The General was sleeping on my shoulder. The General was sleeping on my shoulder. The General was sleeping on my shoulder?
Her pale feathers, splayed over my shoulder plate, shimmered as she twitched and sighed. I'd never seen her look so much at peace, except for when she sang…she looked so small…beautiful too…
I realized I had a goofy smile on my face and quickly got rid of it. Unfortunately, the warm tingly feeling refused to be squashed.
What the heck was wrong with me?
Oh, dear. If the rest of the squad found her like this…I quickly looked around, but everyone was still asleep. I slipped my hand under the General's head and gently lifted it off my shoulder, carefully lowering her down onto her bedroll. She curled up in a ball and grinned in her sleep.
After a few minutes, I realized that I was still watching her (the sunrise made her blue skin and light fathers glow) and that the goofy grin had snuck back.
I'll say it again: what was wrong with me?
I tore myself away and got to my feet, shaking myself to regain circulation. Time to wake up the guys and all that.
The next time I had a few minutes to myself, I'd see if I could ask Lex for a diagnosis. Maybe he'd know why I was feeling off.
Off in a good sort of way, but still off.
Choking. On. Fluff! Sorry, but I needed it in there. The next chapter will be definitly more action-y, so hopefully that'll make up for it! And after the next two chapters, Chet will finally be able to get his 'diagnosis'...haha. Please review :)