As always, It's Lucas' world, not mine. Only Melek and the dark-haired mystery woman belong to me ;)

The hard tapping of plastoid boots on the permacrete floor echoed down the corridor as Cody strode purposely toward the durasteel hatch leading to the outside world. Another pair of armored boots added their rhythm, a faster tempo than the first.

"Commander Cody." The younger trooper snapped into a smart salute as they met a few meters from the door. "I have the information you requested, sir."

"Ah, yes." Cody subtly glanced at the distinguishing armor markings, even as his HUD displayed information from the armor tally. "Sergeant Melek, wasn't it?" The trooper nodded in affirmation, falling into step as the commander continued down the hall. "Right. Walk and talk, trooper."

Melek started speaking just as Cody palmed the activation panel for the exterior hatch. The heavy durasteel doors slid open to reveal the uncovered dirt walkway bridging the HQ and medcenter. He stepped out of the building, Melek at his side. Cody noticed a slight hesitation between the other trooper's words, and it took him a moment to figure out the cause.

It was raining.

Pouring, actually. So hard he could hear the tap, tap tat-tap over the chattering comms in his helmet. Unbalanced electrostatic charges rumbled across the sky intermittently, exposing the muddy landscape around the two troopers in flashes of stark relief. The entrance to the medcenter was barely discernible through the sheets of water.

With every flash of lightning and subsequent rolling boom of thunder, the clone sergeant at his side would give a small start, hiding the action behind armor and bravado with only a small pause in the delivery of information. Cody felt an odd sense of triumph the inclement weather hadn't disturbed him at all, and he savored the feeling.

One less silly thing to be afraid of.

Melek continued to give his briefing, walking a few paces before noticing his commander was no longer at his side. He turned in time to see Cody remove his helmet, fat drops of water hitting his face.

"Commander?" What the kriff is he doing? The commander looked as though he enjoyed the rain. That couldn't be right. No clone had any positive feelings for the torrents of water that poured down from the sky, reminding them of sterile rooms and impersonal caretakers. Of trying to fall asleep in sound-proofed barracks with the incessant thunder echoing in their ears.

No clone stood in the midst of a downpour with his bucket off and...Did the commander just smile?

Indeed he had. Cody stood, face tilted up the sky, barest hint of a smile, just enough for a brother to catch. Eyes closed, recalling a dark-haired woman dancing about in a similar situation, an inviting gleam in her eyes.

"Come on, Cody," she smiled at him, one hand extended in invitation. "There's nothing here to hurt you." Her words held a double meaning, as they always did when she used that serious tone. "Besides," she laughed, slowly spinning around the small patch of earth. "It's fun!"

He watched her bounce about in the rain, enjoying the effects the downpour had on her white shirt. Hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans, he enjoyed her impromptu dance around the garden while he hid from the rainstorm beneath the overhanging roof of the patio. He could watch her forever.

"I can enjoy the view just as well from under here," he called back to her.

Glancing down to her now see-through top, her laughter only increased as she bounded towards him. Grabbing his wrists, dragging his hands from their pockets, she pulled him from his shelter and out into the warm summer rain.

"It's always more fun with two," she said clasping her hands together at his back, trapping him between her arms.

Water ran from her soaked hair, following the curves of her chest before disappearing behind the near-translucent material. He could feel the slight sting as the drops pelted his exposed skin, rivulets began to fall down his face.

Pulling her flush against him, he tilted his head back, eyes closed, mimicking her earlier actions. The warm, soft body pressed against his alleviated his discomfort, her presence almost banishing the half-buried memories and terrors away. Her fingertips rubbed soothing circles on his lower back. Finally, he looked back at her, a giant grin on her face as her eyes silently inquired.

"This isn't so bad." And it wasn't. There was nothing to fear from the rain. Just childhood memories.

"See? Make new, good, memories to replace the old bad ones."

"I can think of a few memories I'd like to make," he told her, his voice low.

If possible her grin widened even further. "I betcha I can think of a few more," she said provocatively.

"I accept your challenge," he growled, capturing her lips.

The bare smile playing about his lips turned into a full, smug grin which he didn't bother to hide.

"Uh, sir?"

Melek's voice brought Cody sharply back to the present. "Yes, Sergeant?"

The trooper hesitated, and Cody chuckled, shaking his head. "Replace the bad memories with good ones, Melek." Moving to join the other trooper, he paused, staring at the sergeant somberly as a thought struck him. In all likelihood, Melek would never have a dark-haired, rain-soaked goddess show him how to overcome his fears, never know a woman of any sort to suss out those fears, to help heal him.

Chances were, Melek wouldn't leave this planet alive.

Cody understood, in that moment, the look she - and others - on occasion gave him and his brothers. A look close to pity at each admission of incomprehension for something the rest of the galaxy took for granted. Sorrow for the all the things clones would never have a chance to know or see or feel or experience.

But Melek wasn't pondering the future of his bleak existence. Instead, he was staring at Cody as if the commander was a few starships short of a fleet. "Uh, yes, sir?"

Cody let out a troubled sigh. At times the reactions from his naive brothers made him regret his experiences, the new perspective he'd gained on life and everything around it. The few months he'd spent out of the army had changed him - for the better, he thought, though not all agreed. Consequently, there now existed a rift between him and his brothers, one he thought might never be crossed. "Nevermind, trooper. You were saying?"

He listened to the young sergeant rattle off information with half his attention, walking beside the man with his bucket under one arm, replaying that night's events in his mind's eye. The medcenter doors hissed open and the two troopers stepped into the reception room. A dark-haired woman stood at the main desk flicking through a datapad. At the sound of the doors, she looked up and spotted Cody instantly. A wide, familiar grin spread across her face as she caught his eyes, more brilliant than the sudden flash of lightning which lit the room and caused Melek's armor to creak as he flinched.

No, he decided, striding up to the desk. He didn't regret things one bit.

Well thank you for getting this far! Many, many mucho thanks to the wonderful laloga (Happy Birthday!) and awesome toolarchy for being patient enough to put up with my insane ideas, and then helping me edit them into something sensible.

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