Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to Disney and is the intellectual property of George Lucas. He created the sandbox. I'm making no money off of this and am simply destroying the sandcastles.
Title: Still Fighting
Characters: Cut & Suu Lawquane
Genre: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Family, Songfic
Era: TCW, One year post the Battle of Geonosis
Summary: PSTD affects even those trained and bred for fighting. Making the choice to stop the violence is sometimes only half the battle…
Author's Note: The song "A Soldier's Memoir" is by Joe Bachman and is used without permission. The Vignette follows the basic principles of the chorus from the song for the most part - I recommend listening to it before or as you read.
Author's Note 2: Another remnant from NaNo - written on "Remembrance Day" [Also known as "Veterans Day" in the States]
Cut swiped his forearm across his forehead, wiping away the sweat before he took a swig of water. The heat beat down on his back, the restless Eopie shifting in their traces as they waited for him to take up the reigns. Looking out across the field, Cut considered what his life had become since Geonosis.
He'd gone from intense training on Kamino to the thick of fighting, defending and rescuing Jedi from an arena of death. That hadn't been enough. The rescue had turned into a full frontal assault against battle droids and their armor in the effort to capture Count Dooku and bring the war to a swift and decisive end in its first real battle.
He'd felt invincible then.
He knew better now.
The field was far from the homestead, on the outskirts of their farm, next to swamp lands that matched the last place he'd been an active soldier. A place filled with death and dishonor. A place he sought to forget and never could. Even looking at the edge of the field, so close and yet so far away, he could almost see the crashed troop transport and smell the acrid smoke as his environmental controls failed inside his helmet. It tasted of death and destruction, the moans of the wounded echoing in his ears and overlapping the groaning sound of the restless Eopie.
Cut was pushed back a step as the hard head of the hairless beast butted him in the chest, its elongated nose curling about his forearm and drawing him back to the present. He found his arms raised, as if to hit the beast with the barrel of the blaster rifle he wasn't holding, its large liquid eyes staring at him placidly.
Lowering his arms, Cut rubbed shaking hands across its bald cranium. "Sorry," he muttered, his heart racing and feeling it pounding where it felt caught in his throat. Using the animal as a way to regain control of himself, Cut deliberately turned his back on the edge of the field and all its significance in his memory.
He finished the field without looking at it again, but it didn't stop his awareness of its presence or the darkness it held. It didn't release him from his guilt or the lingering knowledge that all he had to do was look and he'd see it all over again.
What should have been an physically exhausting day in the field, turned into a nightmare in of itself and, when he finally dragged his sorry shebs home several hours later, it was all he could do to hug Shaeeah and Jek and smile for them while avoiding Suu's eyes.
They'd been married for about six months.
Six months where he'd been struggling to be the man Suu needed him to be; provider, father to her children and loving husband. Being a provider was easy. He was no stranger to working hard and Clones were fast learners. Farming might not have been something he'd been engineered for, but Cut was finding he enjoyed the work most days. It was enough to keep him in the shape he wanted to be, the shape he needed to be in his mind, to protect his new family if anything should happen. It was almost mentally absorbing, most days, and far enough removed from the Soldier he'd been, most of it was new.
No triggers. Or rather, fewer triggers. The sounds on the farm were different from those he'd grown up with, different from the sounds of battle and the GAR's daily routines. If he heard something on occasion that sounded as if a blaster bolt had just missed him and he hit the dirt, took a knee or flinched, Suu never mentioned it.
Neither did her kids. Their kids. He still couldn't believe he was a father to two adorable half-Twi'leks who called him 'dad' and 'daddy'. They'd welcomed him with open arms, just like their mother once he'd gotten past her reserve. Not being woman savvy had, contrarily, helped him in this respect. Thinking like a child, despite his combat training, had integrated him quickly with her children and becoming their father had seemed like the most natural thing in the galaxy. There was nothing he wouldn't do for them.
The last - being a good husband - had proved more difficult. He loved Suu. Heart and mind, adored her, but he hadn't been able to trust himself to share a physical bond with her. He was too terrified of what he might do to her after he'd nearly hurt her the first time they'd tried.
She'd married him anyway, despite his misgivings, insisting she could and would wait until he was ready to share himself with her. Despite that remaining distance, he and Suu had begun to build a life together.
They'd carved out a farm from the swamp lands with their hands and the help of the Eopie. They'd built their home from the wreckage of crashed ships and various native plant life. Their fourteen months together had seen many changes, not all of them good, but Cut had dedicated himself to Suu and her kids, loving them the best way he knew how.
His reward was in the smiling faces that greeted him each day when he returned from the fields, trying to prepare for the planting season. In the meals that Suu cooked and provided; in the laughter and warmth that encompassed him and his family.
If his mind wasn't always with them all the time, Suu said nothing, supporting him in her strong, quiet way. She held him when he needed it, listened when he ranted, and allowed him to grieve and heal from the scars that she could see and those she could only sense.
Yet, there were some things he couldn't escape. In the dark of the night, he still cried out for the brothers he'd lost. Sounds, that were eerily similar to what had cost him everything he'd been and brought him to the man he'd become, still triggered memories he'd sooner have forgotten. Memories that were so real he sometimes wondered if the life he'd built with Suu was the dream.
I can still taste the powder
From the barrel of my gun
I can hear my Sergeant screaming,
"Run, Soldier, run."
I can feel the backpack on my shoulders
God, it weighed a ton
I see death in every single thought
They taught me how to put that uniform on
I just can't get it off
He tossed in his sleep, sweat beading his skin as one hand was flung out wide, and Suu placed one hand on his chest, fearing the children would hear him again even as she ducked his hand suddenly flung wide.
"Cut! Wake up. You are dreaming again."
Pressing her hand down on his chest, she shook him with enough force to drive his eyes open. They were wild but sharp, intent on something she couldn't see even as words she'd become used to hearing slipped from his mouth. "Medic!"
"You do not need a medic," her words were low but soothing. "You are not hurt. You are not on the transport."
"No!" the word was practically torn from his throat and she knew he wasn't yet seeing her as he struggled against her hold. "They're coming! They're coming!"
"You are not in danger," her tone intensified. "You are in our bed, Cut, on Saleucami."
"They're killing the wounded, I need to-"
Suu saw the intensity starting to wane in his eyes and placed one hand along the side of his face. Looking him straight in the eyes, she spoke. "There are no wounded. You are not on the transport. You are my husband, Cut. Our children, Shaeeah and Jek, are down the hall. You are safe here, with us. With your family."
There was a moment where he seemed about to resist before he sagged underneath her, finally focusing on her face. When he spoke, his voice was rough and uncertain. "Suu?"
"I am here." She offered him a smile in the dim light. "Have you returned to me?"
Cut's arms came around her and Suu pulled his head to her chest, caressing his head and combing her fingers through his rapidly growing hair. He trembled within her grasp, his hold tight, tighter than it had ever been before, and near bruising, but she didn't complain. Her husband needed her and she would be there for him.
She knew of what he'd dreamed. He'd told her once, the guilt of nearly harming her in the throes of the memory tearing the words from his lips. Cut had wanted her to understand what she never could. So Suu hadn't tried. Without his experiences, she would never be able to feel what he was feeling. Instead, she focused on supporting him. On being there for him. Holding him. Listening to him. Being whatever he needed as she waited for him to trust her, to trust himself, enough to consummate their marriage.
She'd recognized the look in his eyes when he'd returned to the house tonight. His posture and the way he'd avoided her gaze had warned her that tonight would be a difficult night. She'd prepared for it and now, holding him in her arms, Suu ran her hands over his sweat slick skin. She caressed his face with gentle finger tips and brushed her lips across his forehead.
"I am here, Cut," she told him softly. "I am here for you. For now. For always."
Yeah there's no end in sight
Cuz even though I'm home now
I'm still fighting for my life
Suu's touch penetrated the lingering sensation of the armor on his body, dispelling it, the weight lifting from his skin as her hands caressed it. Her words drew him back to the here and now, drowning out the screaming of his dying Sergeant as he'd been running from the transport, leaving his brothers to die as he saved himself.
Tilting his head, Cut looked up at his wife. Her smile was firm, her eyes clear, and everything in her expression was love and acceptance. She didn't expect anything from him except for him to trust her. Despite the fact he couldn't trust himself, he knew that she trusted him, as much, if it was possible, as he trusted her.
Suu would never hurt him. Suu would never leave him. Suu was his world, his life, and all he could give her was a man who didn't know what it was to live in a world where one didn't kill other creatures and things as a normal day to day occurrence.
Her fingertips touched his cheek, sliding downwards, her thumb gently caressing his lips. "Cut?"
"I'm here," he told her softly, one hand sliding up her back and gently grasping the tail end of her lekku and stroking the side and tip of it with his thumb. Her eyes half closed with a sound he'd never heard, her hand stilling on his face.
He would always be fighting, he suspected, for what others saw as normal. His normal was the patient acceptance of the beautiful Twi'lek in his arms. A woman he'd nearly wronged only to have her make everything right. He fought for each day, each peaceful moment, each crumb of the life they were building together.
It was in those moments, held securely in his wife's arms, when Cut realized he would always be fighting for his life. Be it from the nightmares and memories, or for what he wanted in his future, it would always be a struggle. That struggle would either drown him, or force him to become stronger.
For the sake of his family, his wife and himself, Cut vowed, as he drew her head down towards his for an achingly tender kiss, to do just that. She deserved to be cherished, and cherish her he would. Immersing himself in her embrace, drinking from her lips like that of a dying man, he swore to fight for this too.
The smell of death was overpowered by the sweet scent of her skin, the feel of his blaster in his hands, by the supple muscles of her body, the cacophony of battle drowned out by her lilting accent as she murmured his name and a string of pleasures in Ryl.
Where he wanted to be fierce, she calmed him. Fast or furious, Suu helped him linger. She was his talisman, in the depths of the night, her brilliant eyes reflected in the light of the moon coming through their window and holding him as she used her body, her spirit, her love to banish the nightmares for fleetingly brief moments of pleasure where thoughts of death and war couldn't follow.
She brought him to life, showed him hope and tenderness. She drew him beyond his nightmares into the protective embrace of her body. When he came undone in her arm, she was holding him tightly, joy and love in every facet of her features.
When dawn came, Suu was wrapped in his arms, sleeping soundly, her head on his shoulder. His arms were around her, holding her close. Skin to skin, her chest rising and falling with deep even breaths. He watched her sleep, occasionally running his fingers carefully down the curve of her lekku or over the softness of her cheek to reassure himself he wasn't dreaming.
Here, with Suu, was unlike anything from his past life and he found himself terrified to wake and find that -this- was the dream and he was still on that transport with his brothers dying around him.
Suu woke early, stirring in his arms just as the horizon began to brighten. Her lashes fluttered, her eyes opening slowly and, when her eyes met his, Cut couldn't help himself. He needed to -feel- the truth in her kiss, her touch. His kiss was fierce, but not bruising, as her was conscious of the need to be in the moment without letting the moment escape him.
Suu opened to him as he kissed her, rolling her beneath him in the heat of the moment, her curves cradling his battle weary form as he found solace in her. With her. Putting what she'd taught him just hours before to use, Cut loved her intensely, with every fiber of his being, watching her, watching him, as he drove them both to the brink of madness and beyond.
Their harsh breathing in the aftermath, echoed in the room, Suu's gentle smile catching his eye before she drew him down with trembling hands for a sweet kiss.
"You, my husband," she told him in the lilting accent that had captivated him from the first and would ever fire his blood, "are more than just a fast learner."
His breathing was already back to normal as he tilted his forehead to hers. Unexpectedly vulnerable, his gaze searched hers. "You're sure I did it right? That it was okay?"
"There is no right way and no wrong way. Just the giving and receiving of pleasure, yes?"
"Give me another time or two," he told her huskily, "and I'll be damn near perfect."
"You, not we?" She chuckled softly. "Am I not required?"
"Essential," her contradicted. He still feared hurting her, but she'd given him a gift beyond price the night before in the peace he'd found in her arms. "Thank you, Suu."
He kissed her, allowing himself to linger, already recovering and ready for the next round. Still, he wasn't sure the protocol of the situation and managed to hold himself in check. "Everything." He murmured the words against her lips. "For everything."
She returned his kiss before giving a reluctant sigh, her hands sliding up his chest, her fingertip calloused and rough against his skin. "Much as I would love to spend hours in bed with you, the children will not understand if they find us like this."
He pulled away, stung by her words, but Suu wouldn't let him go. "They are young, Cut. They would not, and should not yet, understand this. As their parents, we must not expose them to things beyond their years." There was a directness in her eyes and tone that reached him, soothing him.
"Let the kids be kids, huh?"
Cut managed to find a smile for her. "I told you I don't know a thing about them."
"And yet, they already love you almost as much as I do." She kissed him again. "We do not have to be up for an hour yet." Suu slid from the bed and plucked his shorts and shirt from the floor. She tossed him his shorts before tugging his shirt over her own head. Even in the dim light, he got an eyeful, and something primitive within him approved of her choice of attire as she slid back beneath the covers.
Cut pulled her into his arms, already feeling the disconnect, the near dual aspects of his existence warring with each other. He concentrated on how she felt, all soft and womanly, a direct juxtaposition to the lasting imprint of the dying armored brother he'd held before meeting her. Stroking her lekku, he felt her shiver.
"Continue with that, Cut, and I will not be responsible for my actions."
He deliberately ran his fingertips up to the crown of her head, dragging his nails downwards.
Suu shuddered, her eyes half closing for a moment before she lifted her hand to his and stopped him. "Not so hard," her coach was husky, "like this," her finger nails traced the back of his hand.
He tried to mimic the pressure. "This?"
He did as she instructed and she pressed into his touch, her accented vocal appreciations making him shiver with the intensity of her reaction.
Suu's hand curled around his, twining their fingers together and forcing him to stop when he would have continued. She offered him a shake of her head when he looked at her confused. Her gaze went to his, and then door. "Listen."
His senses sharpened, the amused tolerance in her voice lost to him as a switch practically flipped in his brain. A creaking noise in the hallway was followed by soft, slow thumping noises. Footsteps. Out of sync. Two individuals on an irregular approach. Soft and light, both under-
Suu's voice cut through his analytical assessment, drawing him out of the soldier's mentality as she squeezed his hand, her expression concerned. He didn't know what exactly to tell her, ashamed that even there, in the privacy of their bedroom, he couldn't escape everything he'd left behind. Her free hand touched his face just as the doorknob turned and the soft giggle of Suu's two children reached him.
"Let me look!"
"I'm older. I get to look!"
"Are they sleeping?"
Shaeeah and Jek's loud whisper would have woken him if he had been, and Cut, instead of waiting for Suu to tease her daughter, raised his voice. "Get in here, you two."
The door burst open with a shriek and the two children came pelting into the room, lunging at the adults on the bed crawling beneath the covers. For a moment there was chaos, but a happy chaos unlike anything his life had held until these last months. As Suu's daughter and son curled up between them, her daughter's arms wrapped around his waist, her shining eyes looking up at him with such love and adoration, it made his throat close.
"I love you, Daddy."
"Me too, me too!" Jek, not to be outdone, threw his arms around Cut's neck, nearly choking him as he automatically wrapped an arm around each of them . "I love Daddy, too!"
Suu's warm chuckle drew his gaze. "And it is as if I am not at your side, husband."
"I love mamma too," Shaeeah's hand reached out to include her mother in their embrace as Jek echoed the sentiment.
Suu did one better, wrapping her long arms around the three of them and planting kisses on the foreheads of her… of their children, "And I love each one of you," she turned her attention Cut's way and then kissed him softly, much to his surprise.
"Eww! No kissing!"
"Mommies and daddies are supposed to kiss!"
Shaeeah's know-it-all statement made him chuckle as he used the arm wrapped around the little girl's shoulders to draw her closer and wrap his fingers lightly around the tip of Suu's trailing lekku. Suu shot him a look he didn't quite get but addressed her words to the children. "What is for breakfast this morning?"
"Breakfast?" Shaeeah screwed up her face. "I don't know, mommy."
"Did you not say before bed that you and Jek would be making us breakfast?" Cut didn't recall that, but he held his tongue as Suu continued.
Jek let out a squeal. "Because we found daddy a year ago, Shaeeah!" He squirmed away, practically falling off the bed as he grabbed his sister and pulled. "We promised."
The two disappeared as quickly as they'd come and Cut looked at Suu uncertainly. "Is it safe for them to be in the kitchen alone?"
"For a few minutes," she slid back into his embrace, tucking her head between his shoulder and chin. "They cannot yet reach the top of the counters."
That made him chuckle as he pictured how long it would take the pair of intelligent youngsters to realize that fact and then discover a way around it.
"Thank you for bringing laughter and life back into our home, Cut." Suu's breath whispered across his skin.
"Suu-" He pulled her closer, wrapping her tightly in his arms, his lips against her temple. He had no words, nothing he could say that would express his own gratitude, and all he could hope was that she understood his unspoken message.
A crash in the kitchen drew them apart and Suu offered him a smile that spoke volumes. "Shall we go see what our children have gotten into?"
Cut nodded and Suu slipped out of his arms, dressing quickly. He followed her lead, dressing, but spending most of his time with his attention on her, one ear on the distant chatter of Jek and Saeeah. It was a battlefield of a different sort, one that would take him a long time to conquer and one that was no less dangerous for all its lack of physical hazards.
Living what most would call a 'normal life' was not going to be as easy as he'd once thought. Walking away from the GAR hadn't destroyed his memories or banished the nightmares. It hadn't stopped the tactical side of him from asserting itself, even at the most inappropriate of times. All of the things that were such an integral part of him simply couldn't be left behind, they had to be assimilated into what he wanted his life to become. Suu would help him. Their children would help him. He, in turn, wouldn't fight them and swore to protect them to his last breath. Dreams or no dreams, he would never hurt them no matter what reality he saw before him.
Dressed, Suu paused by the door, cocking her head when she caught him watching her, and her smile was almost playful despite the seriousness of her gaze as she extended her hand his way. "Are you coming?"
There was wariness in her gaze, as if asking if he was ready to join them or if he needed more time. Accepting what she offered, Cut stepped forward and grasped her fingers. As he did, he silently vowed he would become the best husband, the best father, the best man, they could ever possibly need. And he'd do it, he realized, only because of their love for him and their patience and understanding in letting him fight the demons which stalked him.
"I wouldn't miss it for anything."