As always, it's Lucas' world, not mine.
Late in the night cycle of Tipoca City, his brother sat on the bench regarding the interior of the training helmet with an unreadable expression. Tup fought back another resurgence of guilt as he approached the bench in the too-empty barracks.
He watched Dogma's back, noting the tense shoulders as a nervous sweat slicked his hands and the items he held. Nicking the hollow needle from medical had been easy, acquiring the ink, however, had taken a lot more ingenuity. But he got it.
Decision made and materials gathered, he only needed to convince dogmatic Dogma to go along. Their brothers deserved to be remembered, and this mark would serve as a reminder to them both, he told himself. A reminder of what could happen should orders be ignored. A reminder to be a better soldier.
Several solid strides placed him in front of his brother. Dogma dully lifted his gaze to Tup's determined face before flicking down to the items in his hands. Prepared for an argument accompanied by a reminder of the Regulation of Appearance, Section 5, subsection C, addendum III stating no clone cadet will permanently mar his skin with ink or other substances, Tup straightened his shoulders with a deep breath. He wouldn't back down, not this time.
But Dogma simply set the helmet aside, taking the needle and ink in silence. Shocked at the taciturn acceptance, Tup allowed himself to be guided to sit on the floor between Dogma's legs, head resting against his brother's solid thigh as he stared at the durasteel underside of their berths above.
A sizable dent in the metal ceiling became the focus of Tup's concentration when the ink-filled needle pierced the sensitive flesh under his right eye. You wanted this, he reminded himself as each stab of the needle brought a stinging pain which only increased as the process continued. Fingers dug into the fabric on his thighs, but otherwise he was still. Gamut, Avo, Desh, he repeated their names while fighting back tears not wholly caused by metal piercing flesh. Gamut, Avo-
Dogma's quiet voice interrupted his mantra. "You aren't responsible for what happened today."
"I got them killed." Tup ignored the urge to squeeze shut his right eye. Gamut, Avo, Desh.
"No, Tup." Dogma's hands were warm where they touched his face, soft and gentle in contrast to their task. "You followed orders and stayed alive; they didn't. Even the sergeant said so."
Still staring at the dented ceiling, a flash of anger momentarily burned away his grief. "They were our brothers," Tup choked out, emotion clogging his throat, the burning behind his eyes threatening to spill over.
Dogma straightened, setting aside the needle whose ghost continued to jab itself into the other cadet's eyelid. "Close your eyes," he ordered and Tup obeyed, feeling warm liquid leak from beneath closed lids. Before he could raise a hand to swipe at the offending tears, a soft cloth was pressed with gentle firmness to the corner of his eye. His irritation lessoned in the wake of Dogma's gentleness.
"Remember what Sergeant Kano says: 'a good soldier follows orders.'" He removed the cloth and placed calloused fingers under Tup's chin, turning the other man's face to his. "You're a good soldier, Tup, never forget." Dogma leaned down to press their foreheads together.
"We're both good soldiers," Tup whispered.
The lines around Dogma's eyes deepened as he smiled. Lines that hadn't been there yesterday. "Yes we are." He lightly pressed his lips against Tup's forehead before standing and briskly collecting the scattered items, snatching Tup's wrist before curious fingers could inspect the swollen skin. "Don't touch it, you'll get an infection."
Tup sat quietly as Dogma gently daubed bacta on the broken skin under his eye. "I'll dispose of these," he indicated the needle wrapped in bloody gauze and bottle of remaining ink. "Stay here, and don't touch it!" he hissed leaving the room, the whisper quietly echoing in the near-empty barracks.
Overwhelmed with curiosity, Tup pushed himself up from floor and headed into the squad's small 'fresher. He had no idea what pattern now resided permanently on his skin. Anticipating Dogma's strong opposition to the idea and coming up with arguments to sway him had left Tup no opportunity to compose a design.
But Dogma hadn't asked, hadn't argued.
Peering into the mirror, Tup usually saw Dogma's face, Gamut's face, every brother's face. But not anymore. Now beneath his right eye a drop of blue ink wasetched into his skin, a sign of mourning for brothers lost. He brought his hand up, fingers hovering over red and puffy skin, but remembering Dogma's admonishments did not touch.
"Do you like it?" Dogma's face appeared over his shoulder.
"Thank you, vod."
Dogma gave a brisk nod of acknowledgement, watching him with a closed expression for a moment before leaving the room, calling over his shoulder. "Make sure the long-necks don't see it."
Tup smiled faintly, admiring the new mark in the mirror for several more moments before feeling the pull of sleep. Crawling into his bunk, he glanced at the sealed hatch of Dogma's below. Wavering for a moment over the decision to offer his brother comfort, Tup finally lay on the gaunt mattress with a sigh, activating the controls to close the hatch. A visit from Tup would only delay the acceptance of guilt for Dogma; his brother would hide the intense feelings until he was alone again.
Pulling the thin blanket across his shoulders, Tup smiled to himself as he drifted off to sleep.
Dogma did care. He just didn't always show it.
Many thanks to TheLightisMine and Jade-Max for assisting me with the story!