"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends."
It was rare to find a peaceful spot anywhere on the ever bustling planet of Courscant, but ARC Trooper Fives had somehow found one. Sitting alone on a cold metal bench with only the occasional chirp of the native bird and the slight wind rustling the blossoming tree that shaded his plated body, he stared blankly at the slow moving manufactured lake before him. A random pedestrian would walk by only to do a double take at him, making sure that their eyes weren't deceiving them. Seeing a lone trooper sitting near a lake in full uniform, minus his helmet was an unusual sight for a mere citizen, though Fives could care less.
Fives would have come up with some scathing retort if he was paying attention, but his mind was only focused on one thing. Escape, pain, loss… Only hours before he had returned from the Citadel mission which he hadn't quite decided if it was a success of failure. They had recovered the trade route information, but with losses.
Losses…Echo. "Oh Echo," Fives mourned. Leaning forward, his armor creaking with the movement, he buried his face into his gloved hands and wept. He had held it together during the mission. He had held it together on their return back to Coruscant and his briefing with the Jedi.
He had lost it when he had entered the barracks and a trooper asked him where Echo was. He was strong, he was brave, and he was an ARC trooper. But he was also human as much as his makers told him and as much as the public wanted to believe that he was a fleshy droid and couldn't have emotions. Fives knew that he had feelings and that he could be hurt just like anyone out there.
His lips trembled and his hands shook Fives quickly swiveled on his heels, leaving the questioning trooper confused and speechless. Fives ran as fast as he could, pushing and shoving and disregarding the angry comments directed toward him as he made his way out of the GAR headquarters with no particular destination in mind. He just wanted to get away so his shamed tears could not be seen.
He continued to run ignoring his begging heart to stop, screaming lungs to gulp for a breath; Fives needed to seek solitude from his grief. He had no concept of how long he had been running, but he finally had to stop or collapse and found himself in some sort of park. Seeing a bench under a large shady tree, he practically fell down upon it and tried to catch his breath.
Even after running that hard, the pain still lingered. In fact, it seemed to grow. "Echo, I'm sorry, please forgive me brother," Fives wept. Lost in sorrow, Fives did not hear the footsteps coming from behind and only when the hand touched the back of his head did Fives jerked his head up. Startled; his eyes widened in shock, fear and extreme embarrassment at the person standing beside him.
"Sir!" Fives quickly wiped his stained cheeks and rubbed his red rimmed eyes to no avail, stood up and saluted Captain Rex.
Rex returned the salute and then gestured for Fives to sit again. The younger clone looked hesitantly at his captain and then at the bench. "Sit down son," Rex commanded gently. It wasn't a tone that was heard often or even seldom, but it somehow seemed to pacify Fives. Both men took a seat on the bench, though Fives was far from being alright. He knew that he had gone against regulations and would end up in trouble and prepared himself for what Rex had to say to him and his punishment. A punishment didn't feel threatening though; in fact he didn't feel anything.
Fives continued to wait for Rex to say something and when he didn't the young ARC looked over at the captain to see him staring out at the lake as well. As if sensing his stare, finally Rex said, "You found a good spot."
"Sir?" Fives bemusedly asked.
"This is a very peaceful spot. I can see why you came here," he repeated.
"I just sort of stumbled upon it. I wasn't really looking for it," Fives sighed. "Am I in big trouble?"
Rex took his attention off the lake and turned it on Fives. He studied the distraught clone's face; saw the evidence of tears and the exhaustion of covering up the pain. "No Fives," He said simply.
Taking a deep breath Fives once again rested his arms against his legs and propped his face into the palms of his hands. "It hurts so much Sir," Fives murmured. "I witnessed most of Domino Squad being killed and it hurt. They were my mates. But Echo and I, we survived and became brothers in arms. We were blood brothers and best friends. Seeing him killed…Sir it throbs inside of me."
Rex waited a few moments before responding. He had unfortunately become a veteran in this field, witnessing too many of his brothers and friends being killed and maimed to ever become close as Fives and Echo had been, but it still hurt to see good men taken away and friends mourn over their losses.
"The loss of a friend, especially a best friend such as Echo will hurt for a long time Fives," Rex pushed down the rock that had been building in his stomach since the first time he step onto the battlefield and saw a comrade blown to smithereens.
"Such is life for a clone isn't it Captain?" Fives asked bitterly.
"I am not going to tell that the sting of his death with lessen or even to get over it, but you will eventually move on because that is the life for everyone clone or non-clone. The loss of a friend, a great friend such as Echo should never be forgotten. Always remember him by honoring his good name."
Fives ran his hands over his face. Muffled by his hands, Rex strained to understand what Fives was saying. "I'll miss him. I'll miss my best friend so very much." A sob escaped the ARC trooper's mouth, followed by another spill of tears.
Instead of the reprimand Fives thought he would receive, he was shocked and relieved when a supporting hand from Rex rested on his plated shoulder. Fives took a few minutes to compose himself and captain and ARC trooper sat in respectful silence.
"Sir?" Fives hesitantly asked.
"Yes Fives," Rex patiently answered.
"You won't tell any of the fellas back at base what happened out here will you?"
"No Fives. We all hurt at one time or another, just don't make it a habit of running okay? I'm your friend as well, if you need a shoulder; please feel free to seek me out."
"Thank you Captain." Fives took in a deep breath of air and exhaled it through his nose. "You think Echo is watching from wherever he is?"
"Without a doubt. So no messing up kid because one day, though not too soon you'll meet again and you'll never hear the end of it from him." Rex gave Fives a rare half grin. Knowing how Echo was with regulations, Fives gave a small chuckle. Both stood up and began their trek back to base.
I hope brother, my best friend you can hear me and know how much I miss you. Be well and see you someday.
In memory of my beloved friend and companion my horse, Charles
May you run freely in heaven and amongst the angels.