Just a little something that wouldn't go away..Hope ya'll enjoy it!
Warning: Theres a tiny bit of Rex/Ashoka if you tilt your head and squint your eyes, but if that pairing isn't your thing, then you can easily look over it.
I don't own anything, sadly.
They are not the first to realize a change in their Commander, and they know it. If anything, by the time they've taken note of it, it has been old news to at least Captain Rex and General Skywalker by now-if not several others. It wasn't a noticeable change, not at first, or any clone with half a mind and a pair of eyes would have noticed immediately. Jedi were a different breed from clones, and even from the civilians they occasionally had contact with. They were an odd sort of people, Jedi, and while some of their habits could simply be brushed off as just one of those things they did, or just by who they were, some oddities were not explained away so simply.
But there was a change there, a shift that went beyond the oddities of the Jedi. Fives knew it. Echo knew it. There was an understanding glance that passed between the two clones, a silent agreement. Echo was worried for her, while Fives was merely curious at the change. It was odd after all, that neither General Skywalker nor Capitan Rex –the two men that were most protective of her-had not confronted the young Togrutan woman about this change.
And perhaps they shouldn't, they had murmured amongst themselves in the short downtime they had, in the darkness as they stared up at their bunks. Echo wanted to let it be, he'd rather not upset the Commander, and in turn set both the General and the Capitan on them in retribution. If neither Rex or General Skywalker had confronted her, it might be best to just follow suit. But Fives' curiosity grew and gnawed at him, poked and prodded his mind with whatever possibility it could come up with, until it kept him up late at night, long after he and Echo had finished their whispered conversations. It had kept him up late enough one night, that Fives gave up the hope of getting a decent sleep. The restlessness in his mind had spread to the rest of his body, and he chose to get up and leave the sleeping quarters before he got half awake curses thrown at him for accidently rousing a brother.
He wandered the half lit halls of the Resolute as quietly as he could, with no destination in mind. His feet led him almost everywhere, until he finally decided on heading to the mess for a cup of caff. He entered the room, and started when he realized there was someone else there. In the corner, with her back to him, was the very reason Fives was up walking in the middle of the night.
Her head was cradled in her arms as she faced away from him, and he wasn't sure if she was asleep or simply staring at the wall. Awkwardly, Fives shuffled as he walked towards the girl. "Commander?" He inquired hesitantly. Ashoka snapped up, whirling around to face him-sky blue eyes flashing in the grey light. She paused upon seeing him, and relaxed, her expression shifting from bordering hostile to sheepish in a matter of moments as she recognized him.
"Hey Fives," she greeted softly, her voice friendly, but tired. "Shouldn't you be asleep Commander?" He asked her warily, and the young Togruta raised an eyebrow fractionally. "Shouldn't you?" She retorted, but the sharpness in her voice was mitigated by the small quirk of her lips.
"Couldn't sleep," he admitted to his young Commander, as he shifted uneasily. "Me neither," she murmured, her eyes meeting his for a moment, before flickering away-but not before Fives caught something dark and haunted in normally cheerful eyes.
That change in her again. There was an moment between them, where Fives wanted to ask what was wrong, the question on the tip of his tongue, but knew enough of body language to recognize if he did ask, she'd either run, or give him a firm rebuttal. He wished for neither, so he swallowed the question, and it burned in his throat.
"Caff?" He finally blurted out, the first thing he could to break the silence. Ashoka glanced back up at him in surprise, before her lips once again quirked into a ghost of a smile. "Sure," she said agreeably. He returned to the table a few minutes later with two durasteel mugs full of the thick brown liquid. He sat across from her, and slid her mug to her. She took it and murmured a small thanks before lifting it and taking a long drink.
Fives sipped his, relishing the hot, rich flavor, before glancing at her again. She was staring into her mug, her eyes were shadowed and had bags under them. She hadn't been sleeping recently, he realized. Maybe that was it, he tried to reason. It was just that she was tired, not that there was anything wrong.
But her eyes were all wrong. She was just….off. She wasn't just tired. Torrent Company had seen her tired. They had seen her sick. They had not seen her like this, and it was causing the men to fret. There was an unspoken tension that had been growing. It was there during time at the mess. It was there when they trained. It did not diminish between missions, only grew when there was no immediate danger to anticipate. Fives knew. He felt it, had heard it discussed in half formed murmurs. And Fives desperately wanted the answer to all the questions. The tension growing was making him restless, and he did not like this change that had come over their spunky young Commander.
"You know, if you have a question you should just ask," Ashoka's voice brought him out of his thoughts. He glanced at her, and she met his gaze evenly, but with a touch of amused exasperation. "I thought you realized by now I don't bite," she chided him quietly. "You've been off," Fives told her finally, the words coming out hesitantly, afraid of offending his commanding officer.
Her brow crinkled, white markings of her eyebrows drawing together. Fives steeled himself as he tried to clarify the statement. Briefly, he wished Rex was here-he always had a way with talking to the Commander. "You said you couldn't sleep. And you haven't been sleeping. And something's just been…off about you," he finished lamely, unable to describe it as more than just a feeling.
Her brows drew together even further, before comprehension dawned, and then her face quickly melted into a discontent look, and her gaze dropped to her mug again. Fives fidgeted uneasily. This was the exact reaction he was hoping not to encounter. He might be better with civilians than some of his other brothers, but in the end he really had no idea how to deal with females.
"Is it that obvious?" She asked finally, and Fives stopped fidgeting, and looked at her. "Has it really been that obvious?" She asked again, her voice small and fragile as she refused to meet his gaze. "You're our commander. We're supposed to notice when something's wrong with you," Fives said carefully, hoping the answer would be received better than his last. "We?" There was now stress and dismay in her voice, as her head shot up, and her wide eyed gaze met his, and it took everything in Fives not to cringe at her reaction. No, that was a lot worse.
"What do you mean 'we' Fives?" She asked him, eyes shining even brighter with-oh, kriff was she about to cry? He hesitated, knowing he should tell her the truth, but deciding it might be better for her sake that he hedge around it. "Echo thought something was wrong as well," he admitted, which wasn't a lie. Some of the distress in her expression faded, and after a few blinks, her eyes weren't as glassy.
She dropped her head and took another swig of caff, while Fives watched her carefully, making sure she wasn't about to cry again. If she did and the Capitan ever found out he had made her cry, he was a goner. She mumbled something to her mug which Fives couldn't quite hear. "Commander-?" He asked hesitantly. "Nightmares," her voice was soft, her shoulders hunched.
Fives had never seen their Commander look so small, and for the first time realized that their slender, upbeat female Commander was just a child. Spunky, headstrong, and able to do some freakishly unnatural things, like move objects and have some weird sixth sense, but she was still wasn't even close enough to be considered an adult.
"You've been having nightmares." It was a clarification, not a question.
"...Yeah," Ashoka murmured, hunching down even farther, as if shying away from the truth of the matter.
Was this what it was all about? Nightmares?
It was far from cry from what he expected, and he had the nagging suspicion that General Skywalker should have addressed this issue, but he knew from experience that it was something that needed to be addressed, and sooner than later. "Everyone has nightmares," Fives told her quietly, leaning across the table, and hesitantly touching her arm, not sure if the action would be considered inappropriate or not. The assurance did not appear to comfort Ashoka, but then again, she hadn't flinched away from his contact, so he figured his first attempt to comfort her wasn't a total failure. "Even Jedi," he added, attempting to lighten the mood.
She glanced at him for a moment, then quirked a half smile. "Not even Jedi are above nightmares," Ashoka agreed ruefully. "Though we're supposed to be.." she added under her breath. Fives couldn't help but give a snort. "Jedi are supposed to be a lot of things they're not," he said tartly, and then cringed. "No offense commander," he added hastily, expecting her to become irate. Instead of an expected rebuke, there was another long sigh from the girl, and the half smile she had slipped back into a frown.
Kriff. Well, there went trying to cheer her up. Good going Fives, he told himself darkly.
"I'm just trying to say..." he tried to explain, scrambling for something, anything to say to fix his error. "Clones-we're bred for war-for this-" he waved a hand absently, gesturing vaguely to their surroundings "and it doesn't stop us from having nightmares about it."
Ashoka glanced sharply up at him, brows drawing together. "…You have nightmares?" she asked finally, something odd in her tone of voice. Fives shifted uncomfortably at the sharpness of her gaze, and almost wished he hadn't said anything. But this odd emotion was better than dull gloom, he decided.
"Yes." There was no easier way to say it, and extra embellishments were beside the point. For a moment, his thoughts traveled to a battle field, of dust and the blood of his brothers, watching as his squad mates drop like stones to the ground-broken and unmoving. He remembered shrieking coming though his comm, his own voice, the voice of every brother, before it cut off into the harsh buzz of static. He shuddered, and was pulled into the present as Ashoka's gaze softened into something akin to relief mixed with sympathy, and her brows unfurrowed a little bit.
Did she really find it so amazing that a clone could have nightmares?
Perhaps she understood him and his brothers less than he thought. He pushed the bitter thought aside for the moment. "The first battle I was in, I had nightmares for weeks afterwards," he told her, meeting her gaze. She sat quietly, absorbing his words quietly for a long while. "Do they ever get better?" She asked him finally, her voice quiet, hoping.
No. No, he wanted to tell her. They never had for him. But he had accustomed himself to it. Still, he didn't think that was what she wanted or needed to hear. He hesitated. Never lie to a commanding officer.
But he remembers the General telling him that sometimes people lied to others-especially children-to protect them.
She was his commanding officer.
She was also little more than a child.
"If they don't, you can always come to talk," Fives tells her, not truly meaning the words until they are said, and hanging between them. He almost takes them back in the silence that follows, until he thinks that someone needs to look out for her, and how he would have traded anything to have someone to go to about his own nightmares. She blinks, taken aback, and then she smiles-not a faint curl of the lips, or a half hearted attempt, but a genuine smile. It is not the brighter-than-a-sun blinding grin that she gives when she is ecstatic, but there is a sort of warmth in it that dispels the shadows that lingered in her gaze and made her eyes glow.
It is not the truth, and maybe it is a lie because it was evasive, but he feels no guilt over it, not after watching her eyes returning to their former glow after weeks of them being dull. "Thank you," her words are quiet, but filled with such a gentle sincerity; it shakes Fives and makes him smile almost bashfully. Few people have ever thanked him-and certainly not with the intensity that she just had.
The rest of the night was spent drinking caff in a comfortable silence, pierced occasionally by murmured conversation.
He doesn't know how it happened, but the next thing he remembers is being shaken awake by Rex, who is staring down at him, disapproval written across his features. Fives attempts to snap up to attention, but realizes belatedly that he is still in the mess, as across from him, Ashoka blearily lifts her head across from him.
Rex reprimands them for falling asleep in the mess, and although he doesn't say it, Fives reads between the lines, and understands his disapproval is not for falling asleep here, but for the two of them doing so-and for Fives bothering the Commander.
Ashoka cheekily told Rex that he shouldn't be angry just because her and Fives had a party and he wasn't invited. Rex was visibly surprised at the change of demeanor in the Jedi Padawan, and after the surprise wore off, Fives noted that there was relief in his gaze, as well as affection as he looks down at the young Togrutan. Five watched as his Capitan and Commander established a friendly bantering and while Ashoka launched into a heated debated over something or another. Rex glanced at Fives over the Commander's head, and gave a small nod.
Life in the 501st continues as usual-there are missions, and there are battles. Some are won, and some are lost. But in the rare moments of downtime, a ritual is formed.
And some nights, after a particularly bad battle, a Jedi Padawan and a clone meet in the mess, share a cup of caff, and ward off each others nightmares.
Reviews and feedback are always appreciated. :)