Chapter 1

Fives lay on his stomach feeling like some pastry as the bacta gel slathered on his skin worked its cool healing. He'd taken shrapnel and rock splinters at point blank range, every seam in the back of his armor covered by thousands of cuts, but the plastoid had held and he hadn't ended up as spatter on the canyon walls. Two metal splinters in the pit of his arm had nicked an artery and been life threatening though Kix had been at his side even before the baffles in his helmet had deactivated sufficiently to allow the sound of Kix's ongoing speech as he cataloged wounds, reported to the General, and verbally helped another trooper minister a less serious wound. There was one piece in his hip that Fives had felt as it happened, that had hurt.

On the battlefield Fives felt – well, not comfortable – but familiar. He knew the pattern of actions, the sounds, the smells. Here, back at Kamino in the medical center, it was the unfamiliar. Strangers – some with his own face – unusual patterns of action, not knowing. He sighed and tried to make himself a little more comfortable and less self-conscious of his slathered nakedness. Two other clones, neither that he knew, were in the ward. One, a series of bacta packs on his legs, was either unconscious or sleeping. Or doing a very good imitation of either. The other was awake, in pain – Fives knew that look intimately – with a pack over his belly. Fives had tried to make a joke of his own predicament, but the other had glared at him, then turned away muttering.

He could see his file though at the entrance. The small, card-size chip was green-marked for 'return to unit'. Fives could see the others patients files. There were all green-marked. All he had to do now was wait and try to get comfortable. He pushed his elbows down into the softness under his chest. There was a noise at the door – they were bringing another patient. Fives turned and smiled as he saw Rex.

"Captain." He was pleased to see Rex. At least he would carry on a conversation.

"Good to see you, Fives," remarked Rex, but they were both looking at the Kaminoan as she turned and placed Rex's file chip in the holder by the door. Both breathed a sigh of relief as they saw the flash of green. Rex had a bacta pack on his right shoulder and one wrapped around his left hand. His face was banged up a bit. Fresh scrapes from meeting with sand or stone were touched with the gloss of bacta as was a deep red welt on his lower lip. His right eye was puffy, mostly closed and developing a bruise with colors that would rival a Tatooine sunset.

"Really, Captain. You know you shouldn't remove your helmet in battle." Fives reprimanded with a grin.

"Better it than the head." He saw Fives' glance at his injuries and started to catalogue them. "Right shoulder was a blaster wound just a few minutes after you took that explosion." Rex looked at Fives and nodded. "That was well done of you."

Fives straightened his shoulders back in pride and ignored the twinges of irritation from his wounds. Praise from Rex was dispensed rarely but it was the fountain of their courage.

"Anyway, damn arm went limp, but I had the other. Kix threw a bandage around it so it wouldn't flop around and I kept going. Right behind the General."

There was a noise, a snort from the other clone as he interrupted Rex. "Rushing the guns, I supposed. Don't think the Jedi know anything else. 'We're going to rush the guns, men'" he mocked. "Prepare to rush the guns."

Rex raised an eyebrow at Fives who shrugged.

"They think they're such a kriffing, inspiring site, light sabers flashing, clones dying as they rush the guns. Never seeing us. Never acknowledging us."

Fives glanced back at Rex, then replied to the trooper who had returned to a sulky silence. "Well, our Jedi's pretty inspiring." Then he grinned. "Or inspiringly pretty."

"Why, thank you Fives." Ahsoka's voice came into the room before she did. "At least I hope you're talking about me and not the General."

Fives blushed pink, then red as he realized he had no cover and no way to get one.

Ahsoka came to Rex with a data pad in her hand along with what looked like an old style book. She looked tired – like they all did after a battle. Lingering tenseness lined her shoulders. A bandage was around her ribs, partially covering her bandeau while a pack was on the long, thin burn that stretched from her collarbone into the bandage and continued below it. She had scrapes and bruises all along her back and both arms, but nothing serious. "I knew you'd want the information as soon as possible, Rex." She flicked on the data pad and held it so Rex could view it. He struggled to sit and made it. Slowly a grin stretched over his face as he scanned the names. "No dead." Rex said as he fell back into the cushioned pad. "No dead." He whispered again – this time in wonderment.

Other men might mark their achievements with medals or commendations or promotions. Rex marked his achievements in living men. There were three in bacta tanks – severe injuries – and four yellow marked, but that was all. Ahsoka touched the data pad and cataloged the injuries of those in the bacta tanks.

"Tank must have thought he was one and walked around a corner without a cover man. He took a lot of blaster hits."

Rex frowned, murmured. "That won't hurt nearly as much as the general getting hold of him for that kind of mess up. I sense a lot of practice in his near future." He glanced down at the data pad and nodded. He'd seen Naf go down early in the firefight. The last bacta tank held..Kix? He glanced at Ahsoka, his eyes questioning.

"Kix was the one who actually was in the gunship pulling out the survivors when it exploded."

"You know medics." Five said from across the small room and she nodded as she held her arms around her ribs. Rex wondered if they were hurting. Ribs ached after an injury.

"Anakin tried to give him a bubble but.."

"Line of sight." Nodded Rex beginning to understand a Jedi's limitations after a year of fighting with two who actually tried to protect their men, who actually tried new tactics, new techniques.

"He breathed in flames." Ahsoka's voice quivered and her face was pale.

"But he'll be fine." Asserted Rex as he saw the green check next to Kix' name. "He's already marked return to unit. That bubble of Anakin's must have done some good."

"Yes!" breathed out Fives excitedly. Kix was one of his buddies.

Ahsoka seemed to remember that Fives was there and walked over to where he was laying. There was nothing he could do about the lack of covering and he only hoped she would have the grace not to mention his bacta-slathered naked self.

She touched his arm and her fingers were warm. "Thank you, Fives for shielding me when that explosion when off. It was all in too close and there was nothing I could have done." It had been true, her attention had been on Force-pushing falling debris from above. She kissed him softly on the cheek and he blushed further. "So, instead of being dead, I've only got two broken ribs and a burn." She was halfway back to Rex as she turned around, "But the next time you jump on me, you can leave your armor back in the barracks."

Fives slammed his face into the pillow. The commander couldn't have meant that! Both other clones made a noise; the one who'd been imitating sleep gave a laugh, the other something resembling a choking noise. Rex smiled and glanced down, then grinned at Ahsoka and saw she was oblivious to the connotation of those words.

"I'm going to visit Echo next. A flash grenade went off right in front of him, did some burn damage to his retinas." She held up the book. "I'm going to read to him."

"He'll like that." Rex said as he noticed Ahsoka, suddenly pale. "You're not looking so well, Commander. Are you ok? He strained to see if there was a medic, doctor or even a technician in the hall but his angle to the doorway and window prevented that.

She brought her fingers to her head and some color returned. "I'm fine."

"You're sure? A broken rib can..."

"I'm fine." From Ahsoka, that was a snap so Rex backed down. He glanced at the door; surely someone would come in soon. He caught Fives' red face glance up at her short outburst and look at her curiously, then at Rex, his face a startled question.

"Anyway, this book is one that Master Plo Koon gave me a long time ago. He said I should be aware of my heritage."

"Sounds interesting. What's it about?"

"Togruta mythology."

It was the moment that the unknown clone scoffed that Rex realized the problem with the commander.

"Children's stories." He muttered audibly. "Just like a Jedi to think we'd be interested in fairy tales."

Ahsoka gasped and her eyes teared up. She turned, moving towards the door in swift, Jedi movements.

"PADAWAN!" It was his command voice and Ahsoka's body stopped before she realized it. When she did, her face was dark with anger. Rex repeated himself. "Padawan. Come here."

She did so, her face pale and clouded in turns. He had no right to call her that.

"Relax, Ahsoka. Relax and breathe. Do one of those Jedi exercises to calm you." She looked at him quizzically, but did as he directed. He waited until she seemed better. "I didn't think you'd answer to 'commander'." He said by way of apology and she realized she wouldn't have answered to anything.

"He's in pain, Ahsoka. We all are. I know you'll identify it if you," he paused at a loss for words, "look. This is a hospital. There is nothing here but pain. Even the victories here are painful. Don't let it overcome you. Do not let one angry trooper in pain stop you from helping your men. From reading to Echo. Echo will listen and be pleased and there will be no tolerating him when he returns to the unit, I promise you."

Ahsoka looked at him, her eyes doubtful. Rex glanced at Fives; his head again buried with only the tips of his still-pink ears showing, and knew he wouldn't mind being the butt of this joke. Rex smiled, caught Ahsoka's eyes with his and nodded his face toward the naked trooper. "I didn't know you could get embarrassed all the way down to your …"

Ahsoka's voice burbled with laughter and Fives turned several shades redder, visible under the frosting of bacta and did, indeed, prove you could get embarrassed that far.

Ahsoka left and Rex breathed out deeply as he faced Fives.

"OK, trooper. Get your face out of that pillow before you asphyxiate." Then he turned to the trooper who had commented, but his back was turned to them, anger tense on his shoulders. There was nothing to say. It had been pain and anger at losing brothers, friends, and no one understood that better than Rex. You couldn't get angry at that. The trooper who had appeared to be sleeping lifted his eyelids and gave Rex a look of mild curiosity and respect.

"Who are you with?" he asked.

"Five hundred first. Torrent Company."

The other nodded. "I'll remember that." He returned to his sleep, or imitation thereof.

Rex sighed and turned his attention back to his man. "Thanks, Fives."

"You think Echo's going to be intolerable when we return to our unit?" came the muffled voice of Fives. "I got kissed!"

Criticism welcome.

I own nothing, I just play in other people's universes.

This has been a productive month for me in regards to writing SW: TCW fanfic. I have several other stories in the works including a new, revamped version of the completed 'A Little Treason', more work on 'What Happened After Rishi', this piece occurring in the Kamino medical center and the beginnings of a story about Chopper. Yes, this has been a shameless plug!

I will try to update this story on a two week schedule