The floor of the club thumped in time with the bass chords, sending vibrations through the soles of his sore feet. The former clone trooper-turned-stormtrooper-turned Rebel leaned against the bar, relishing the pulse of the music. His heart kept time with every drum beat as he drank in every chord, every harmony and melody the band sang out. Music was his passion, but tonight he did not give in to the song—not yet. He had just finished a third beer, and he didn't want to dance while he was drunk, however mild his intoxication. That was the whole purpose of only bringing enough credits for three drinks, so he wouldn't have more than three, and he wouldn't make a fool of himself on the floor. That would suck a lot, and truth be told his life had been sucky enough already.
A tap on his shoulder startled him from his reverie. His brother Vertigo mouthed, You done for tonight? He nodded in response, and the other clone responded, Good, 'cause I need a seat. Grinning, he gave up his bar stool and scanned the rest of the club for other members of the unit. The band playing was actually composed entirely of boys from the unit—the lead singer was none other than Captain Zyihn—and just about everyone had come to hear them and provide support, or rather, pretend to provide support while they guzzled real drinks instead of stuff with "fake" alcohol and socialized with people whose faces were entirely unfamiliar. The concept of wanting real drinks was foreign to this clone because he had never been a big drinker, and the idea of needing to talk to people who didn't resemble someone you already knew was a bit out there for him as well, as it was for all brothers. He really was there for the band, and more importantly, the music and the dancing that came with bands.
As he scanned the bar, his eyes fell upon a woman standing not far away. She was a human, dark-skinned, with long black hair that hung to her waist even though it was pulled up into a high ponytail. Her body was not at all "curvy", and she was noticeably small in areas where most men preferred bigness, yet instead she was lanky, with a wiry toughness evident even from this distance. There was a very prominent lack of men flocking around her and offering drinks, which was surprising since most of the patrons were males of varying ages and species, and most of the female patrons had at least one man hanging around.
He tapped his brother's shoulder and pointed out the woman. "Dark-skinned beauty, two-oh-clock, well within range of even your puny handguns," he half-whispered. If he had been speaking to anyone else, they wouldn't have understood him over the noise, but Vertigo was a brother.
Vertigo managed to search for her without turning his head, a trick most clones from the old days had mastered long ago. "You mean the shorty with Mr. Muscle-Man hanging off her, right, Tip-Tap?"
"What? No! The tall, thin one with the long hair."
"Her?" he asked incredulously. "Tip-Tap, I'm no expert on the opposite sex, but she's not that great. She's not ugly, but I wouldn't call her a beauty."
"What would you call her, then?" asked Tip-Tap, bemused.
"I don't know, average, I guess. Maybe kinda pretty. But not really. I'd go after the shorty myself if it weren't for the Meathead on her arm; she's better-looking than your pick. But hey, if you like her, you should go talk to her."
"Really?" Tip-Tap had absolutely no experience with women. Back before The Order (he stubbornly refused to think of it any other way, for fear of incurring bad memories), there was General Swiftwater and Lieutenant Bluebird, but they were sisters, not lovers. Besides, the general was gone after The Order, and what little experience he had with the women in the current unit was rarely flirtatious. Or maybe it was flirtatious and he was too naïve to realize it; even so, he didn't know, and he wasn't sure he could talk to anyone of the opposite gender like that on purpose without making a fool of himself.
"Yeah, why not? It's not like you have any competition, anyway."
"What do I say?"
Vertigo shrugged, taking a sip of his newly arrived drink. "I dunno. But women always find soldiers real attractive, when they're not clones. You can tell her you're one of the Rebels who helped get rid of the Imps out here, go on about all the whiteheads and officers you were able to pick off or some sniper thing like that. But you'll be alright, half the single girls in the unit think you're cute, and they all know you're a brother and there are a dozen men in the unit alone with our face, not to mention other deserters who aren't part of the Alliance. Imagine what she'll think, when she doesn't know about your 'extended family'."
Tip-Tap smiled, gaining some small measure of confidence. "I think I will talk to her. Thanks, Vertigo." And he headed off in her direction.
"Hey," he said as casually as he could when he reached her.
She turned, giving him the visual once-over with stunning dark brown eyes. Whatever she saw, she seemed to like, because she smiled at him and responded, "Hey yourself." Her voice was like the music around them—melodic, deep, and many-layered.
"I'm Tip-Tap," he introduced, suddenly feeling self-conscious of his given name. It wasn't a real name at all; why couldn't he have a normal name, like Captain Zach did, or something that could pass for a real name, like Yeller or Cirid? Even Alf and Grav had better names than his when it came to dealing with civvies.
"Tip-Tap," she responded slowly. He couldn't tell if her smile was amused, teasing, or mocking. "Where did you get that name?"
"It's…a long story," he explained lamely.
"Really? What's the story?" she asked, still wearing that enigmatic smile.
His back was against the wall, and he felt as bare as if he was in a firefight without even a chest plate. So he did the natural thing—he ran for cover.
Vertigo found him cursing his stupidity in a locked stall in the refresher. "Hey, Tip-Tap, you okay?"
Tip-Tap ignored him and went through the list of Mando swears he knew, modifying each so it could fit in with his rant. He wished he had spent more time with Cap back in the day, for the pilot was like a protocol droid—fluent in over 6 billion forms of communication. A week would pass where he spoke entirely in foreign swears and insults which not even their multi-lingual communications officer Blake understood.
Vertigo tried again. "Come on, Tip-Tap, what happened?"
"I talked to her, that's what!"
"Jurkadir!" he shouted, using the Mando term for "Go away!"
"Tip-Tap, really? Please, I'm just trying to help. Will you tell me what happened?"
He sighed. Vertigo was renowned for two things: his lack of any vague inkling to a fear of heights (and subsequent habit of scaling the side of whatever building or cliff was most convenient, usually without climbing equipment), and his stubborn refusal to go away from a brother in need, no matter what insults or objects were thrown in his direction. Tip-Tap was not going to be left alone until he told Vertigo what had happened.
"I told her my name. She asked where I got it. I panicked and ran."
"That's it?" his companion asked, incredulous. "And you ran? You could've told her it was your code name or something. Heck, it practically is your code name, so it wouldn't have been lying, not really. You didn't have to run."
"Yeah, well, I'd like to see you try to explain why your name is Vertigo to some pretty girl. What would you tell her, huh?"
"That I give all my partners vertigo, and that my real name is Vince or something like that," he deadpanned.
Tip-Tap froze. "What? That's a load of ossik! You've never been with a girl, di'kut."
Vertigo chuckled. "Naw, I'm kidding. About the partner thing, that is. But I'm serious about saying my name is Vince. I'd do it, probably. If I wasn't scared," he admitted.
"And if you were?" challenged his brother, still in the stall.
"I would…probably run like you, I guess." He added quickly, "But that doesn't mean I wouldn't try again when I got over myself."
Tip-Tap laughed grimly. "I think it's a bit late for that."
"Don't be so sure." Tip-Tap couldn't see his friend, but he could imagine the stern look on his face. "You know what I said about half the single girls in the unit thinking you're cute? It's not 'cause they think your scars are dashing or you've got bigger muscles or anything like that. The only woman I know who even notices that stuff is Bluebird, but she's our sister. When they see you, they know two things: that you can dance better than you can shoot, even though you're a sniper, and that you say some real funny stuff.
"So here's what I think—get your shebs on that dance floor and show off your moves. Then, when she sees what a great dancer you are, invite her to dance, buy her a drink, and just talk. Don't try being funny, cause no offence, you suck when you try. But otherwise you're great. So just talk to the girl. I'll even give you some money so you can buy her something. Quit protesting, if it's such a problem you can pay me back tomorrow. Now go out there, I'm gonna talk to Captain Zyihn and get the band to play something really good so you can show off your best stuff. Good luck, Tip-Tap—not that you need it."
And just like that, Vertigo left. After a few moments, Tip-Tap picked up the credits he had put on the floor, unlocked the stall, and followed suit.
The band was taking a break at the moment, while an unseen DJ played some popular songs over the amps. Tip-Tap felt the beat of a rap tune he had never heard and didn't particularly like. Some rap was alright, and they were fun to dance to, even though they had some elements that made him a bit uncomfortable, but rap about killing anyone—regardless of who—always depressed Tip-Tap. He didn't think death should be talked about so casually, like it meant nothing. He had seen enough of it to know it was very real, and very serious.
The song ended, and the band practically jumped back on stage. While the guitarist and bass picked up their instruments and the keyboardist powered his own up, Captain Zyihn stepped up to the mic to say a few words.
"This next number is an oldie, kinda like our General," he joked, and waited for the laughter to die down. "No, she's not that old, she's somewhere in her forties, but this song is very old, older than good old Emperor Palpie, if you can believe it." The crowd took longer to quit laughing at that. "But seriously now, this song goes out to one of my men who loves to dance. And if you saw him dance, you'd understand why he loves it so much. I've actually had to tell him to stop before—'Hey, Tommy, I know you love to dance, but could you stop now? You're distracting all the girls in the unit.' I'm serious, I really am. We'll be in the rec room or something, and somebody will turn on some music, and Tommy'll just start dancing. I look away for ten seconds and there's a crowd of women around him. I practically have to swim to get to him. If I weren't a captain, I'd never get there at all. I'd have to blow my way through a wall. He loves dancing so much his code name is Tip-Tap. So, this one goes out to Tommy, it's called 'Elevation' and it's one of his favorites. Here goes."
The song started with a single guitar line, joined occasionally by a ringing note of the keyboard's synthesizer. Tip-Tap started with a few mild separations, saving his energy for later. Then the whole band exploded in sound; at the same time, he followed suit with a wild spin and a small jump. People began looking at him, making room for him, watching as he let himself go into the music. By the time they reached the first chorus, there were quite a few cheers from the continually growing crowd, but he didn't notice. He threw everything he knew into the dance: slides and spins, the droid, tap dancing, a few lines of the moonwalk, pops and locks and drops, a little foxtrot, and even a couple "racier" moves, but he never did anything particularly dirty.
He finished with a sample of break dancing and roaring applause. He smiled wider than he would've thought humanly possible, basking in the adulation and joy he always felt after dancing. It took him a moment to notice the girl from before heading his way.
"Hello again," he said, feeling a mile high. "Sorry about running off earlier—I get nervous…."
"Nervous 'bout what?"
"I dunno. Just get nervous sometimes around pretty girls." It slipped out of its own accord, but he didn't have time to be embarrassed because she laughed, as clear a sound as bells.
"Thanks, I really needed that. And don't worry about it, you didn't weird me out or anything. I'm Nevaeh, by the way."
"It's very nice to meet you. Can I get you a drink?"
They spent the rest of the night together. Tip-Tap did brag a bit about his kills, but mostly their talk was about other things like funny stories of the unit and time before Imperial occupation and not-so-funny tales of battle and the actual occupation. She said she didn't know how to dance, so he insisted on showing her that anyone could; he admitted to a love of stargazing, a love which he had not recently pursued because of time constraints and light pollution in the city, and she took him to a garden on the outskirts of town where they could see the wheeling constellations in their own eternal, distant dances. After a long time of looking and talking about things that mattered and things that didn't, Tip-Tap dared to ask a question which had been gnawing at his mind.
"Can I kiss you?" It came out quietly, and if not for the absence of all but the slightest breeze Nevaeh might have missed it.
She turned to him slowly. "Why do you ask?"
"I just thought, we were having a great time, and it's really beautiful out here and kinda romantic even though I wouldn't know anything about romance at all, and I figured…."
"No, I mean, why didn't you just go ahead and kiss me?"
He shrugged, embarrassed. "Because of my…unique upbringing…I don't have much experience with women. Not like this. So I didn't know if it would be alright, and I didn't want to make a total—"
She leaned over and kissed him, softly, yet without apology. When she pulled away she smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Tommy, don't ask. You don't have to ask. Please, don't ever ask. Just kiss me. It's alright by me. In fact, it's perfect."
Later that night, he returned to the ship with a wide smile, a contact number for one Nevaeh Baxter, and the pressure of her mouth still fresh on his own lips. And for the first time in a long time, when he went to sleep, he had no nightmares or bad dreams. Not even one.
Tip-Tap is an OC. I was listening to U2's Elevation once and had a fantasy of him dancing in a random bar. enjoy.