To Each His Own
It is the quest for honor that makes one honorable.
"Yes, you and I may be clones, but we're still individuals."
We were sitting at the small kitchen table. Cut was right across from me, carving up some sort of local animal on the serving platter in front of him. After the children had all but coerced me to join them for a meal, I knew Cut and I were in for a confrontation. I hadn't expected Cut to take the lead, however. I should be lecturing him. He was a deserter. A traitor. No better than Slick, I told myself.
I scowled in response to his remark. Actually, I had been scowling most of the time since I entered the house.
House. Home. It wasn't a particularly spacious place. Nothing as well crafted as the quarters aboard the Resolute. It wasn't even cleaned properly. Yet there was an air about this place like nothing I had ever felt before. It felt so right. But no - it's completely wrong, I thought to myself. It had to be - didn't it?
I had watched as Cut proudly pasted his son's drawing to the conservator door.
Son. And a daughter. Children. Children of a brother. I knew they weren't his biological children - most likely his Twi'lek wife had been a widow when they met. It didn't matter. The tender, caring, endearing way he talked to them - was there for them - made it clear there was more to family than genes. He cared for them in a way I didn't know clones were capable of.
Love. Cut loved these children. I had seen plenty of kids in my time with the 501st. Kids were sorta fun. Playful. Like us clones, actually, when we had time to spare. Easy to like. This was different. I didn't think a clone could love. That was a mystical, silly, sentimental emotion that existed only in holo-vids. Clones weren't that way. Clones didn't love.
Cut was a clone. Cut loved. Loved his family.
Family. We clones liked to think of each other as family of sorts. We were brothers, after all. Shared the same DNA, for Sith's sake! Cut should be ashamed of himself, for betraying that family. It was disgusting - or at least it should be. Individuals? What was he thinking?
"You have a name, not just a number, Rex. Why is that?"
He was still talking. I snapped of my reverie. Individual or not, there was no way Cut was besting me here. I had the high ground, in every possible way.
"Perhaps our superiors find it a more efficient way of distinguishing ourselves." I responded sternly. What, did he think his duty could be shirked because he had a name?
"More efficient than a number? I doubt the Kaminoans think that way," Cut mused.
Stating the obvious again. It was the Jedi's idea to allow names, personalization of armor, even haircuts. It was a nice gesture, sure. It made it easier to spot who you were looking for. Hardly a license to defy command.
"Still," he continued, " a name has to make you feel unique; especially in an army where everybody looks like you, talks like you, acts-"
I interrupted, "Actually, I've never really thought about it". It was a lie. And a lousy one at that. I wasn't liking the way this conversation was going. I needed to change the subject, and fast -
"Oh yes, you have."
So much for that. Apparently this was the conversation we were going to have. It is his home. "And how would you know?" I shot back, trying to keep an accusatory edge in my voice.
He leaned towards me, speaking in a lower tone. "Because I'm as close to you as any lifeform can be."
Well, no arguing that. We were both clones, after all. I guess it stands to reason that we would think of things in a similar way. He continued, while serving the meal. "I've seen how you look at my family, at our home."
Blast! Was it that obvious? No way I was going to get through to this man if I let him think I was jealous of his crime -
"Come on Rex, admit it. You've thought about what life would be like if you were to also leave the army, choose the life you want-"
"What if I am choosing?" I interjected forcefully. "What if I'm staying in the army because it's meaningful to me?"
I was startled by my own words. 'Staying' in the army? Like I have a choice in the matter? 'Meaningful'? Why does it matter if it's meaningful?
"And how is it meaningful?" Cut asked, skeptically.
If you had asked me that the day before I would have looked at you like someone had crossed your genes with a Hutt. I never needed a reason to do my job, to fulfill my duty. Orders. That's all there was to it. Sure, I may be a bit loose with some of the finer points of regulation and protocol. It was a bad habit, I had told myself that many times. But one my General and Commander had encouraged. It was sorta pleasant in a way. But meaning? As in a cause? A purpose? It had never mattered before. That was for overgrown brains at the Jedi Council or the Senate to ramble about. I was a soldier. I did what I was told.
Yet, when Cut asked me that piercing question, something snapped inside of me. I responded rapidly, belying the tremendous turmoil that was churning my head as I spoke.
How is it meaningful? What is my purpose? What am I fighting for?
Suddenly, it all made sense. Home. Family. Children. That's what we were fighting for. That's what I was fighting for. That's why I stood in harm's way every day. To keep people like them safe.
I spoke with a conviction I didn't know I was capable of. "Because I'm a part of the most pivotal moment in the history of the Republic." I locked eyes with my brother, the father of the children that were staring at me with innocent wonder. "If we fail," I continued severely, "than our children - and their children - could be forced to live under an evil I can't well imagine."
The weight of my own words was crushing. This was not CC-7567 speaking. This was a new person. I guess his name would be Rex - he looked just like me. He was me. But he - I - wasn't the same man that had come through the door moments ago.
"If you were to have children," Cut mused casually. "But, that would be against the rules, wouldn't it?" He was still probing. "Isn't that just what somebody programmed you to believe?" he asked coolly.
"No, Cut." I wasn't lying this time. Nobody told me this. Nobody trained me to have purpose, meaning in my short life. "It's simply what I believe." It was.
I continued "It doesn't matter if it's my children or other peoples' children." It felt strange saying the words "my children". A ridiculous concept. Yet it came through my mouth with the severity of a death sentence. "Does that meet with your 'approval'?" I asked finally. I struggled to remain antagonistic.
"Absolutely!" He responded wholeheartedly. His face displayed absolute satisfaction. "To each his own," he quipped, "That's what I always say".
"What does that mean, Daddy?" the little girl - his little girl - asked innocently. They had all been deathly quiet as we talked. Suu was especially grave. I knew why. While I couldn't detect any signs of self-preservation in Cut's motives, I knew that his wife was painfully aware of what would happen if I were to report her husband.
If? What do you mean 'if'? It's your duty, soldier! I have no choice! I can't just pick and choose the orders I want to -
Cut was answering.
"It means that you can do anything with your life that you want to."
Much more happened that night. Over a dejarik board Cut and I shared the pain of brothers gone, brave men who were lost to us with nothing to remember them by. Blast, we took on a platoon of commando droids that assaulted the house.
Those memories will fade for me - it would be far from the last time I would mourn for my brothers. Far from the last time I would fight a one-sided battle against mindless killing machines.
No, it would be that battle over the dinner table, with Cut's family on the sidelines, where my life was irrevocably changed. That I'll remember. That will survive, to comfort - or haunt - me till the day I die.
To an observer, it may have seemed like nothing had changed. I wasn't leaving the army. Cut wasn't coming back. Stalemate, right? A tie.
Cut's smile told me in no uncertain terms that he had won this round. No, he had won the war.
And I knew it, too.
The next day I rejoined General Kenobi for the pick-up. I disobeyed orders that day. I failed in my duty. My superiors never learned who the Saleucamian farmer really was. I told myself it was a special case. An exception. It wouldn't happen again.
I knew I was lying to myself. It wouldn't be the last time I disobeyed an order. Somehow I knew that much.
I wondered what it would cost me.
Somehow I knew that when the time came, I wouldn't care.
To each his own.
Disclaimer: I own very few things. Star Wars is not one of them. I gain nothing from this.
A/N: This is my first story ever - forgive me if it's not all that classy. I literally wrote this in about an hour while taking a break from work - the lines had been going through my head for awhile. I was going to hint at a Rex/Ahsoka pairing, but I wanted to stay as close to canon as possible, and I'm not very hopeful about that pairing ever being official. Sigh. If you think such a hint would work well here, let me know! Please review!