Naked Clones in the Jungle

Part III

"Time's up!" Gree ordered. "We need to move out! Let's go! Move it! Move it!" He bellowed out the order, then winced, bracing one arm protectively across his chest.

They sprinted for the cover of the jungle and just disappeared into the foliage as a squadron of droids returning from patrol burst forth and entered the encampment.

The 41st Elite took cover behind the trees, and observed the enemy.

"Run, or engage, Commander?" Barriss whispered, standing near him as they watched the droids take in the sorry state of their dispatched metallic brothers.

"Definitely engage, or they'll just be after us in a few minutes," Gree let go of Tag and Sabre. He leaned up against a towering jungle fern, and drew himself into a better position to observe the enemy.

"Take it easy," Barriss chastised, "I just finished getting you back together."

The clone shook his head, "I'm fine. I'll be even better once we get these men safely home." He nodded respectfully to the Jedi padawan, "On your orders, Commander."

Barriss stared toward the camp, "Let's do it."

With a series of hand signals, Gree moved his men into position, and then with one crisp drop of his fist, brought the signal to, "Fire!"

The jungle suddenly lit up with red blasterfire as the stolen weapons fired into the droid encampment. There was a brief spate of return fire, but the droids were sorely outmatched. Within a few minutes, the firefight was over.

"Do we go back in and look for our kit again?" Morriss asked hopefully.

Gree hesitated, for a moment, thinking longingly of his beloved armor. Then, he firmly shook his head, "No, armor can be replaced." He stabbed his finger, and pointed, "But, you can't. Not worth your lives. We need to get out of here before any more patrols show up. Commander Offee, can you take point?"

As the men all rose from their crouched positions, it finally hit Barriss that all of the troopers were naked. She'd been so distracted by her worries that she would be too late to rescue her men, and then by what happened to Gree, she'd hadn't thought to look past his bare chest. But, now, as she ran past all of the clones, she was increasingly conscious of how little they were wearing other than a terrible case of sunburn. She was suddenly very glad that she was taking point, because she was not certain she could be in the rear and stare at all of those naked… er, rears.

So, Barriss made her way back across the jungle with an entire squadron of naked, sunburnt troopers.

Once they were a safe distance from the encampment, Barriss called for a rest. She searched the native plants for the one that could provide relief for the troopers, and found it easily. It grew in great abundance on this planet. She grabbed several clumps, and brought it back to where the clones were resting. They looked up at her curiously, as she made her way back into their midst.

"Night Jade," she announced, holding up the plant and cracking open the thick bulbous leaves. A viscous liquid oozed out. She knelt down by the nearest clone, and immediately began rubbing some on his sunburnt face. He sighed in pleasure. She finished with his face, and then handed him the rest of the leaf. She distributed the rest of the plants, then held up the last one for inspection. "The rest of you, look for these. They are easy to find, enough for all of you. Treat yourselves. Cover yourself wherever you can. When we get back, I want to see all of you in the infirmary, but, this should hold you for now."

The clones quickly dispersed, headed off to this plant that would bring some relief to their tortured skin.

She also took the time to check on the other clones who'd been wounded in the initial firefight. Then, Barriss worked her way over to where Gree was resting. His eyes were closed. She cracked open the plant, and started by working the gel into his face. The commander's eyes drifted open sleepily, and he looked up at her in confusion.

"Something for your burns," Barriss said, soothingly, as she continued to work the salve into his skin. She massaged the plant extract in everyplace she could reach, without touching his chest wound, or anyplace too intimate. Those areas would need to be treated as well, but could wait until they were back at the infirmary. Gree watched her through heavily lidded eyes, a sigh of relief occasionally escaping his lips as the heat from his skin began to cool down.

Barriss found herself strangely disappointed when the plant had no more extract to give, and she considered going into the jungle to find more Night Jade. She gazed down at the Commander, and noticed he was watching her intensely. She'd managed to cover almost all of his skin with just the one plant. There probably was no reason to go and search out another. Yet… strangely, there seemed to be something very soothing about applying the lotion into the Commander's skin. She couldn't quite explain it. Maybe it was just the satisfaction that she took in being a Healer. Yes, that must be it. She enjoyed healing people.

Two hours into their trek, strange lightning began to flash across the sky, following by an ominous rolling of thunder.

Heat lighting.

Twenty minutes later, the first tiny droplets of rain began to fall, so light she wasn't sure it was real at first. But, the absolute deluge that followed within minutes could certainly not escape anyone's notice. The dry-packed earth quickly became a sodden, muddy mess.

The troopers slogged through the mud, making their weary way back to the camp of the 41st Elite.

Exhausted as they were, many of the men stumbled into the mud and had to be helped back to their feet by the brothers. The Night Jade plant caused the mud to cling to their skin even more. Many of the clones were completed coated in the thick mud by the time they finally stumbled back into their own camp, hours later.

Even supported as he was by the two heavy gunners, Tag and Sabre, Gree had stumbled and fallen twice. His reddened skin was now almost perfectly covered by a layer of brown. Barriss took over for his exhausted brothers, sliding her own arms underneath Gree and supporting him the resting of the way to prevent him from falling again. He still held up remarkably well, considering he'd been belly shot and pronounced dead earlier in the day.

They finally reached their own silent, abandoned camp around sundown. Despite their hunger and exhaustion, most of the clones headed straight to the showers. They huddled together in groups, helping wash off the thick layers of mud.

Many of the troopers headed to straight to bed, but Barriss saw as many as she could at the infirmary. With the aid of their squad medic, she treated the troopers for dehydration, sunburn and any cuts and abrasions they'd gotten on their feet as a result of the hike across the jungle.

Gree stubbornly wanted to head back to his own tent, saying he was feeling 'fine,' but Barriss wouldn't allow it. She kept a firm grip on his arm, and tugged him along with her to the infirmary.

"I need a shower," the Commander grumbled, staring down at his mud-coated self. He seemed to have long ago forgotten about his lack of clothing.

"There's a refresher in the infirmary," Barriss said, not wavering.

She walked him to the door of the refresher, and then hesitated. "Will you be alright? Do you need help?"

Gree grunted, then made a noise of exasperation, "I'm fine, Commander."

Barriss raised up an eyebrow, taking in his sunburnt, mud-covered body in one quick sweeping glance. "Rrright." She tried not to let her gaze linger on certain parts of him where it would be inappropriate to gaze, mud-covered or not. Somehow when it came to Commander Gree, her thoughts seemed to have a way of straying into new and dangerous territories that Barriss was at a loss to explain. The refresher door closed behind her with a soft 'click.'

Barriss went back to assisting the numerous other sunburnt members of the 41st Elite. She was thankful for the help of the medic, Bryce. Freshly showered, the troopers were coming in wearing their fatigues. She had to make them strip down again in order to treat their damaged skin. But, to their relief and hers, the medic had suggested they just strip down to their regulation black boxers. It was somehow easier to treat the clones with at least a little bit of cloth between her and all that raw… maleness. Healer or not, this was a lot to take in during a single day.

Barriss was keeping an ear-pealed to the sounds coming from the refresher, in case Gree called for assistance. So, she easily heard the telltale 'thud' and the muffled cursing that followed. She quickly handed off the tube of salve she was using to the clone she was treating, and rushed into the refresher without knocking.

"Commander! Are you alright?"

Gree was slumped on the floor of the shower, trying to regain his footing. One hand clutched his chest, and he looked up at her with a mixture of pain and annoyance.

"Do I look alright?" he gritted out, as water continued to pelt down on his head.

Barriss noticed he hadn't succeeded in washing all of the mud off. Night Jade was an effective remedy in a pinch, but it could also be used as an adhesive.

"Do you… want help?"

Gree attempted to rise one more time on his own without success, and then gave a resigned nod.

Barriss stripped off her cloak and her shoes, setting them aside, and stepped into the shower in just her undertunic and barefeet. The water had turned tepid and she shivered.

"Plumbing here wasn't exactly designed for long showers," Gree said, wryly as he watched her, "but… it does provide some kind of relief."

The Jedi reached a strong hand down and pulled him up to his feet. He immediately turned so his back was facing her. Barriss put a hand on his skin, and felt the heat coming off of it. She sighed, "We'll treat your skin. The others are all responding well."

Gree twisted his face back so he could see her, and their eyes met under the beading water of the shower, "Thank you for coming for us…. We wouldn't have lasted much longer."

It was strangely intimate, just the two of them, and Barriss wasn't sure what to say. "You would have done the same for me, I'm sure."

Gree studied her for a long moment, watching the water drench her, then he nodded in agreement. "Yes, always."

Barriss had to look away because it was all becoming too much for her. She was afraid if this intensity continued she would do something she regretted… something she could not undo. She reached for the soap, "Let me get the rest of this mud off of you. Night Jade is…. ah… sticky… Hold still."

With incredible gentleness, she set to scrubbing the remainder of the mud off Gree's sun-battered skin. The commander froze up the moment her soapy fingers touched him.

He must be in considerable pain to react like this, Barriss thought.

As her soapy fingers scrubbed his back, Gree moaned.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to hurt you. Should I stop?" the Jedi asked, in concern.

Gree shook his head vigorously, and managed to gasp out, "No… ah… Commander. Continue."

What a brave man, Barriss sighed. Willing to put up with so much.

He had a great deal of mud on his legs and feet, so Barriss knelt down and diligently scrubbed the Commander clean. She couldn't reach the front of his legs, which were completely coated in the sticky, goopy mixture. She sighed in exasperation. "If you could turn toward me, please, Commander."

Gree froze, but then with small hesitant steps did as he asked.

Barriss shook her head at his strange behavior, and continued scrubbing away at the persistent goo.

"In a pinch, I've used Night Shade as an adhesive for bandages," Barriss said, as she worked. She chuckled, and wiped some mud off of her thighs.

"Uh," Gree managed in a strangled tone.

Barriss worked at getting the mud off of Gree's calves, rubbing the soap, and then her hands up and down his legs. "Ugggh! This is soooo sticky!"

"Uh… huh…." stuttered out Gree.

As she was rising, she couldn't help but wonder if he needed help cleaning other parts of himself, as well.

Her gaze flew to the area in question, but as if sensing her thoughts, one of Gree's hands dropped down and covered himself.

"I can… ah… get that myself, I think, Commander," Gree said, in a strained tone.

Barriss straightened up, her back somewhat stiff from kneeling. "Alright, then," she said, handing him the soap. She peered at him curiously, noticing his face looked even redder than before. "You're not getting feverish, are you?" She reached a hand to his forehead, but Gree pulled back.

"I'm… fine," the red-haired insisted, exasperation beginning to creep into his voice. He flushed an even deeper shade of red, his skin beginning to match his hair. "Could… you… ah… turn around?" He made a turning gesture with his hands.

Barriss shrugged, and did as he asked. She stared at the tiled wall, but somehow found her thoughts immediately wandering to what was happening immediately behind her… namely the fact that Gree was bathing himself… in a most intimate location.


She heard the clone curse under his breath, and turned to assist but Gree insisted: "I've got this! Just this… Night Shade… makes everything stick…. together." He let out a huff of exasperation, and she heard some more cursing.

"Are you sure I can't assist?" Barriss asked, beginning to turn around.

"No!" Gree insisted. A few minutes later, the clone commander returned the soap to its' holder, saying in a relieved, exhausted tone, "I think that's the last of it."

Barriss nodded, deciding to take his word for it, rather than doing a thorough visual sweep of his person. If she still found some mud clinging to him later, she supposed she could always give him a sponge bath.

Now, why did that visual give her such a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach? Not like she hadn't bathed clones before!

She shook her head at how foolish she was being, and shut the water off with a quick flick of her wrist.

"I'll dry off first, and then help you out," she informed Gree.

"Alright," Gree said, quietly. He was leaning tiredly back against the tiled wall of the shower.

Barriss stepped out, and grabbed one of the standard Army-issue towels sitting on the bench nearby. If she was alone, she would have simply stripped off her undertunic and gone naked under her robe. As it was, she dried off the best she could, and then slipped her robe on over her damp tunic.

Gree tried not to stare. He could see everything through her white undertunic. Did she have no idea how she looked in it?

He hoped not. And, he hoped no other clone ever got to see her in it. Because if they did, he would have to shoot them.

Fully dressed in her usual cloak, she came forward to help him out of the shower. Although, he'd liked it better when she was just wearing the tunic.

He sighed.

"Are you alright, Commander?" Barriss asked, with concern.

Yeah, just thinking about the shower.

"Fine," he managed to grunt out.

Barriss gave him an exasperated look, "That seems to be your answer for everything."

His lips quirked up into a little smile, and he allowed her to help him to one of the beds in the infirmary. She spent a great deal of time working a soothing salve into his sunburnt skin. He wondered if she'd spent this much time with each one of the troopers. It seemed she went over each patch of his skin at least twice.

He fell asleep just as she was performing a healing session on his chest wound. He tried to stay awake, but exhaustion finally took over.

"Rest now, Commander," Barriss said, soothingly, as his eyelids grew heavy, "I'll be here when you wake up."

# # #

Gree woke up in the middle of the night. At first, he didn't know where he was. He remembered the cage. The merciless sun. Feeling as if he was going to die. He remembered being shot. And, then, strangely enough, he felt as if he did die. His next clear memory is waking up and seeing… Barriss Offee.

He sighed, and shifted to get more comfortable in his infirmary cot.

Barriss Offee. One part healer. One part warrior.

Gree put his hand over his stomach wound. It hardly ached at all anymore. The woman truly was a walking miracle.

He lifted his head up and looked around. He saw a couple of his men, the others who'd been wounded, sleeping in the beds around him. Gree was grateful so many of his men made it back alive.

Gree knew he would have lost many more men if not for Barriss Offee. He let his head fall back down, and closed his eyes.

Even though he shifted around for a while, sleep eluded him. He finally sat up, thinking maybe he could tiptoe quietly back to his own private tent. He often still had nightmares there, but at least he had his reading materials there, and something to pass the time. He was just struggling to his feet, when he was startled by a voice behind him.

"Can't sleep?" asked a pleasantly accented, familiar voice.

Gree had almost forgotten how silently Jedi could move.

"Ah… no," Gree admitted, "So… I thought maybe I'd go back to my own bunk."

"I see," Barriss pursed her lips thoughtfully, and Gree suddenly found himself forgetting his reasons to leave. "I'd like you to stay at least another day."

Normally Gree would argue vehemently about being stuck in the infirmary. But, suddenly he was flooded with memories of being in the shower.

"Alright," he said.

Barriss laid a hand against the back of his arm, "Your skin is heating up again. I'll get more of the salve."

Gree noticed she'd changed into a different set of clothing. Her hair was unbound, for once, and she wore a long-sleeved dark shirt tunic and dark pants. As if on its' own, his hand reached out for her hair.

"You're not wearing your robes," he said, softly, then quickly withdrew his hand. He realized it would not be proper to touch her hair.

Barriss smiled kindly, not at all bothered by his comment or his gesture.

"My clothes were wet," she said, then she blushed, not quite sure why she was slightly embarrassed talking with him about why her clothes were wet. He was there, after all, and knew all about her wet clothing. "This is my only change of clothes."

Gree cocked his head to the side, and studied the outfit, "It suits you."

Barriss flushed, then smiled at the compliment, "Thank you."

The red-haired clone frowned, "Why do you always cover your hair?"

The Jedi sighed, "My Master. She said it is more proper. It is the way she wears her hair."

The clone commander looked puzzled, "Shouldn't you be allowed to choose your own hairstyle?"

Barriss laughed, and shook her head, "I wish it were so."

Gree was genuinely perplexed, "Even clones get to pick their own hairstyles." He reached a hand up to his two red stripes. "But… you don't?"

Barriss shook her head, and then wiped the salve off her fingertips. She gently touched Gree's two shaved strips of hair. "Must be nice to be able to do whatever you want."

The clone snorted, "Only when it comes to hair."

The two laughed, and their eyes met, sharing a genuine connection in that moment. Barriss looked away, and began re-applying salve to Gree.

He sighed as the salve began cooling his skin down again.

"Thank you, Commander," Gree said, "not just for me, but on behalf of all my men, as well. We owe you a great debt."

The Jedi smiled, "I'm glad. Maybe you can put in a good word for me when my Master returns. My rescue mission was not authorized. I can't imagine she'll be pleased with me. But, I can't say I'm sorry for what I did."

Gree stared at her, stunned. "You did all of this, without permission, or authorization?"

Barriss nodded, not quite sure to make of the look in the Commander's eyes. He was staring at her with such intensity now.

Before she could say another word, he had leaned in and his mouth descended upon hers. His lips lifted off, and he gave her a slow, lazy smile.

Barriss stared at him, stunned. One hand going up to her lips, speechless. She blinked at him. Then, she automatically dug her fingers into the salve and began soothing it into his skin again as she stared at him. He obligingly held out his limbs as she worked in the burn cream again.

"Turn around so I can get your back," Barriss mumbled, not quite able to get over the kiss.

Gree rolled over onto his back. As Barriss began working the lotion into his back, the commander closed his eyes. Not only did the lotion soothe his sunburnt skin, but just the very act of having the lotion rubbed in felt incredibly pleasant. He hadn't realized how tense his muscles were until Barriss started massaging the knots away. He sighed in pleasure, and despite his best efforts, he fell back asleep again. As he was drifting off to sleep, he wondered if he should worry that he was the only one doing the kissing. But, exhaustion took over and he decided he would figure the matter out in the morning.

In the morning, he tried to sneak back to his bunk, mainly out of habit, since he always tried to get out of the infirmary early. But, it was a half-hearted attempt, at best. Barriss easily caught him, and sent him back to his bed.

"Just one more day, Commander," she said. "I know how much you hate to miss work, but your chest isn't healed yet. Rest some more, OK? I'll bring you some breakfast."

True to her word, Barriss brought him a heaping plate of eggs and nerf strips, and updated him on the efforts to get the camp back in order. Gree tried to listen attentively, but somehow his mind kept drifting back to 'shower' and how Barriss looked when soaking wet. He sighed and stabbed at his nerf steaks.

# # #

Two days later, a hazy, static-filled transmission finally came through from the Jedi Council. Barriss received word that a rescue mission had finally been authorized, and reinforcements were on their way. Her Master would be coming in with the 'rescue team.'

Before she could update the Council on her status, communications were lost again.

She threw her hands up in frustration, and went to update Commander Gree on the situation. She hadn't seen him much since he'd been released from the infirmary. He'd thrown himself into setting up a defensible perimeter around the camp, in the event the remaining droid forces on the planet decided to attack.

While she didn't relish facing her Master, the reinforcements were sorely needed. It was only a matter of time before the Separatists attacked again. They couldn't hold the planet with the numbers they had now. She went to find Gree to share the good news.

She found the Commander in his tent, dressed in his fatigues, going over defensive strategies with his second-in-command. When Barriss entered, he dismissed his second, and beckoned for her to enter.

"Can I help you, Commander Offee?"

Barriss looked around his tent, at the reading materials that lay stacked up near his cot. Gree flushed, and immediately began straightening up.

"No, leave it," Barriss said, staying his hand.

Gree froze when her hand touched his, and sucked in his breath. Their eyes met and locked. He straightened up, "Commander?"

Barriss nodded, "A transmission came through. Finally."

Gree's eyebrows rose in interest, but he remained quiet, patiently waiting for her to continue.

The Jedi couldn't help a nervous, sarcastic laugh, "The long awaited rescue mission. It will be here in two days."

Gree's eyes widened, "Two days? We all would have been dead. There would have been nothing for them to rescue!" His voice rose with indignation, and then quieted, "If not for you."

Barriss gave a quiet, serene bow acknowledging, "Well, that's not all. My Master is leading this 'rescue mission.'

Gree studied the Jedi padawan carefully, "You're worried." His words were a statement, not a question.

Barriss nodded, "Yes. She will be angry when she finds out I disobeyed orders."

The clone commander looked thoughtful, and then frowned, "If not for you, the entire 41st Elite would be no more."

"I still broke the rules," Barriss said quietly.

"To hell with those rules!" Gree shouted angrily, and then hung his head down. "I apologize for my outburst, Commander. I had no right to speak that way."

Barriss' face was turned down and away from him and he could not see her expression. He sighed, and decided to try again with an apology, but the Jedi padawan stopped him with a finger on his lips. "No need to apologize." Her eyes turned thoughtful, "I believe you are correct about the rules. And, we have two days. How about we make the most of it?"

"Commander?" Gree looked at the Jedi padawan in confusion.

Barriss reached into her belt pouch and pulled out a container of healing salve. "How about I apply this all over your back?"

The clone commander looked at her in confusion for a moment, "My back? It's fine. Why would I-" Understanding suddenly dawned and Gree's eyes grew huge. His mouth widened and he gasped. "Oh." He drew his shirt over his head and dropped it to the floor.

# # #