Howdy this is yet another one of Owlie's Fives Is Perfectly Fine fanfictions. Please enjoy!
Summary: After the Clone Wars have officially ended, the Senate commissions a memorial to be built on Coruscant honoring the men who fought and died for the Republic. Echo realizes he hasn't dealt with certain things as well as he'd hoped. ~6K words
Warning: There is some description of a panic attack in here, so if that's not for you, please go explore other works in my (unofficial) Fives Is Perfectly Fine Collection on my Ao3 page. Take care of yourselves!
Looking up from the obstacle course of scattered parts and equipment he and Tech had created, Echo flipped up his eyeshield and waited. He was pretty sure he’d heard Hunter call his name, but with the noise these tools made, it was impossible to be certain.
“You need me, Serge?” he called back after several seconds of silence. Tech had helpfully paused his own work.
“Yeah, Rex is on the line, it’s for you,” came the response.
“Be there in a bit,” he replied. Turning to Tech, he said, “I’ll be back, I guess,” as he took off the eyeshield and rearranged his right limb into something more hand-like. Tech made a noise of acknowledgement, then powered up his welder again.
When he got to the cockpit of the Marauder, sure enough, there was Rex’s little blue hologram hovering above the control panel. “Hey, Echo.”
“Hi, Rex. What do you need?”
“It’s about the memorial they’re putting up on Coruscant–the one for the clones.”
Echo nodded. “What about it?” He glanced at Hunter, who just shrugged. After the survey he’d gotten to help decide which of the 501st’s fallen soldiers to honor on the GAR memorial, no one in the Bad Batch had heard anything, it seems.
“Well, they need experts,” Rex said. He was trying to play this as a casual conversation, but he was not succeeding. Something about it had him uneasy. “The designers want to make sure they’ve got the blueprints right before construction begins, so they’re asking us to send in someone to make sure they’re on the right track.”
Echo frowned slightly. “For the statues?”
“Yeah, just to… y’know, make them look right. All the battalions are sending someone, from what I gather. I… figured you’d want to go, since–well, since we found out who they chose.”
He nodded slowly. The Bad Batch were only a few hours’ flight from Coruscant, patching up after a short mission before heading back, so it wouldn’t be much effort. “Yeah.”
Rex paused, shifting on his feet. “Yeah, you’ll go, or…?”
Echo nodded more firmly. “I’ll go. Gotta make sure he looks like a proper idiot for future generations, right?” Despite the attempt at humor, the words almost caught in his throat. He had a bad feeling about this.
If Rex noticed, he didn’t mention it, thank the Maker. “Yeah, something like that,” he said with a small smile. “I’m still around, so I’ll see you when you land. I’m sure Jess and Kix will want to say hi too.”
“Yeah, I look forward to it,” Echo replied. Rex gave another little wave or salute, then the transmission ended.
Hunter looked up at him from one of the pilots’ chairs. “Heading to Coruscant, then, yeah?”
Echo took a breath and nodded. “Looks like it. I’ll let the others know.”
Echo had never been to the Jedi Temple before. He wasn’t entirely sure why this meeting was taking place here, but perhaps it had something to do with the Jedi having a better reputation with the clones than the Senate did. The Senate had been the ones to commission the memorial, but the Jedi had fought and died alongside the clones on the field. But, then again, the Jedi were offering the space for it, outside in one of the public gardens.
He shoved down another pang of anxiety as he continued up the steps, following the group of multicolored clones on the same mission. It was certainly something to see this many battalions represented in the same place. Some colors, Echo had never seen in person before, like the Nova Corps. He felt a little odd, being there in grey and red, not blue and white, but he’d made that choice months ago.
Why was he so nervous about this whole thing? Glancing around, it didn’t look like anyone else was bothered. A few clones were talking quietly with each other. The task was simple, was it not? Go in, look at a drawing someone had made, tell them the goatee needed to look just stupid enough, that the grin needed to be cockier, then he could go. So why couldn’t he shake this feeling of unease? It was the same feeling that came after avoiding one ambush, yet knowing there were more out there. Waiting.
He hated it.
“Welcome, troopers.” Echo looked up, and some of the anxiety dispersed upon seeing General Ti at the doors. He suspected that was purposeful, on the part of the Jedi. General Windu stood next to her silently. “Thank you all very much for agreeing to help in the design of the GAR memorial. Please, follow Master Windu.”
Echo saw Commander Neyo of the 91st Recon Battalion fall in step beside his former general. Old habits really did die hard. Especially the genetically programmed ones. Even if the Jedi had stepped down from their military positions now the war was over, the clones were finding it hard to shake the instinctual need to follow them.
General–well, he supposed he should call her Master Ti waited at the doors as the men filed past her. Echo was towards the back of the group, and he was surprised to see her features light up with recognition as he approached.
“Echo, what a pleasant surprise,” she said.
Masking his own surprise, he dipped his chin, resisting the urge to salute. “Master Ti. I’m… surprised you recognized me.”
She gave a knowing smile as she started walking with him, bringing up the rear of the group. “Your signature in the Force has not changed as dramatically as your physical appearance has.”
Right. Jedi stuff. “Of course.”
“I see you have transferred to Clone Force Ninety-Nine,” she said, and again, he struggled not to gape at her for a second. Of course she knew about them.
“Yes, ma’am. I transferred soon after I was rescued from Skako Minor.” He was finding it difficult to maintain a casual conversation while passing through some of the most spectacular architecture he had ever seen. Lofty ceilings, huge stone pillars, doorways upon doorways leading off to countless hallways and rooms–the Jedi Temple was enormous. He caught some of the clones ahead of him craning their necks back to look around.
Master Ti barely noticed. “It would make Ninety-Nine happy to know one of Domino Squad is working with those four,” she went on. “He doted on them as cadets.”
Echo nodded. He’d had a couple conversations with the Bad Batch about Ninety-Nine. The chit chat usually stagnated once it got to the part where he’d died in Echo’s arms on Kamino. He chose to omit that from this conversation. “Yes, I’m sure he’d be thrilled just to know one of Domino Squad actually stayed alive this long. Rishi Moon didn’t give us the best head start in that regard.”
Maybe he was just used to the slightly morbid, dark humor most clones shared. With other clones, that would have drawn a few chuckles, but it only made a shadow fall briefly over her face. “No,” she agreed, “it did not.” There was a pause in which Echo silently berated himself for murdering the conversation yet again, then Master Ti extended a hand and said, “We’re here.”
The room into which the Jedi had led them was elliptical, and large enough to comfortably accommodate the several dozen troopers gathered there. Large arched windows ran around two thirds of its perimeter, and there was a large crate at one end holding cushions to sit on, if Echo had to guess. A holotable stood in the middle of the room, slightly off center, and what Echo quickly recognized as blueprints already hovered above it. A rodian man and a pair of ithorians stood next to it, having a hushed conversation as they turned the hologram this way and that.
Master Windu and Master Ti made their way to the three individuals by the table, then Master Windu turned to the clones gathered and spoke.
“These are the architects designing the memorial that will be built in honor of the soldiers who fought and died in this war. They’ve created holographic blueprints of the memorial, as well as scale models of all the men your battalions have nominated.”
One of the ithorians lifted a create from the floor onto the edge of the table. Echo hadn’t been able to see it past the troopers in front of him.
“We asked you all here to look at both of these and give your feedback. This memorial is honoring your brothers. We want to make sure it is as accurate as it can be.”
With that, he nodded to the ithorian with the crate, and they began handing small figurines to the rodian, who then called the battalion or legion number, and the trooper representing that group came forward to collect it.
The feeling of unease that had been plaguing him since receiving the transmission from Rex was worsening by the second. It seemed the figurines were ordered by battalion number, which meant he had some time to wait, but he just couldn’t shake this feeling. He suddenly wished he hadn’t eaten as much for breakfast as he had.
A gentle tap on his vambrace brought his attention back to himself. “Hey, Echo.”
He blinked. “Oh. Hey, Boil. How’d uh…”
Boil caught the unasked question. “Cody mentioned you’d transferred. And I didn’t see any royal blue paint around. Figured someone had to be here. Makes sense it’d be you.”
“Right.” He turned to look at the rodian handing out figurines again, then realized he hadn’t asked an obvious question. “Who are you here for?”
Boil’s mustache twitched when one corner of his mouth raised slightly. “Waxer. Who else?”
Echo nodded after a moment. He’d only run a few missions with the 212th before the Citadel, but he did remember Rex and Cody making plenty of jokes about each having their own pair of inseparable troublemakers. Not so inseparable, it seemed. “I didn’t know he’d died,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry.”
Boil gave another strained smile, turning his helmet in his hands to examine a small painting of a twi’lek girl on its side. “Yeah,” he said. “Umbara. You weren’t there. It’s alright you didn’t know.”
That was understandable. No one in either battalion liked to talk about Umbara. Echo had coaxed bits and pieces out of Rex and Jesse, so he knew about the firing squad, and Hardcase blowing up the supply ship just like Hevy, and about the trap that forced the two groups to fire on each other. But the bare bones was about all he’d gotten. Kix and Coric wouldn’t say anything other than calling it a bloodbath. He wouldn’t press Boil about what had happened.
After a few moments, the rodian called for the 212th, and Boil made his way through the troopers in front of them towards the center of the room. Echo took a glance around the room. They were only about a quarter of the way through the battalions, but he could already see a trooper in 41st green wiping his cheeks roughly with his free hand as he held onto his figurine with the other. A closer look around revealed more than a few troopers doing the same. He felt his heart rate tick up just a bit more.
Boil returned seconds later, turning over his figurine in his hands. He stood next to Echo and held it out so they could both see. It was made of some kind of plastoid–not dissimilar to their armor, a little longer than the length of Boil’s hand, and painted with the battalion’s colors just as it had been on Waxer. He stood at rest, feet slightly apart, helmet under his left arm, facing straight ahead. The golden orange paint and the dot of black for the soul patch were the only colors on the otherwise white figure, but even so, Echo could see the detail was incredible.
“Huh.” He looked at Boil. His eyes had glossed over, and his mouth was pressed in a thin line, as if both a smile and a frown were tugging on it at the same time. Eventually, he sniffed, blinking away the threatening waterworks, and cleared his throat. “It’s good, I’ll give ‘em that. Paint’s just about spot on.” Turning the figure in his hand, he tapped the helmet with a finger. “Gonna need to add Numa to the bucket though.” For reference, he brought up his own helmet, turning it so the twi’lek girl’s face was clearly visible. “Waxer’d kick my ass next time he saw me if she wasn’t on there.” He nodded to himself, then added, much quieter, “And he’d want to be smiling.”
He studied the figure silently after that, and Echo had nothing to add, so he was silent with him. More troopers walked up to the rodian to receive a miniature, and more and more, Echo saw men struggling to keep their composure as they examined them. That nervousness in his gut grew sharper. He still didn’t really know why it was there in the first place.
Finally, the rodian picked up a figure and called for the 501st. His deep indigo eyes roamed the crowd until they found Echo as he made his way forward.
He gave Echo a once-over, looking between him and the figurine. “Five-oh-first?” he asked, eyes narrowing slightly.
It was then Echo noticed the room had gone largely quiet. There was only the occasional sniffle as the whole room focused on him. He looked down at his red and grey armor, understanding the designer’s hesitation. “Yeah, I’m here for the five-oh-first,” he said, very aware of how well his voice carried from this point in the room. He held out his remaining hand for the figurine. “I’m… I’m his batchmate.”
A ripple of whispers circled the room as the rodian nodded and handed him the figurine. Echo could understand the attention, even if he hated it. The former chancellor’s assassination had been plastered all over the holonews and holonet for months, not including the subsequent investigation. From what Echo had gathered, people were just as eager to speculate on the evil Sith Lord Palpatine as they were to theorize about the assassin being shot out of Coruscant’s atmosphere and killed.
It was one of the few reasons Echo appreciated wearing red and grey, not blue and white. He’d watched Rex, Kix, and Jesse fend off reporters and other brothers left and right for months, all begging for more information about what had happened. He thought that if any of them had figured out who he was and had started asking questions about the “ARC turned assassin,” he might have throttled them.
Echo didn’t look at the figurine as the designer handed it to him. He took it, turned away, and made his way back through the crowd of very attentive troopers back to Boil. The feeling of that many eyes on him was oppressive. It made the hairs on the back of his neck prickle like he’d just walked through a high-powered scanner.
Boil nudged his arm again. “How’s it look?” he asked quietly.
He finally uncurled his fingers from around the figure, and looked.
It was the same pose as Waxer’s figure, one hand behind the back, the other curled around his helmet. The helmet was emblazoned with a remarkably clear Rishi eel design–tiny red eyes and tongue included, despite the small scale. The blue paint on his kama, vambraces, and boots was that slightly lighter blue he’d found Maker knows where and grown so attached to. Black and grey pauldrons, each color over the correct shoulder. His hair was painted black, his goatee was painted black and just the right shape, and there was a tiny, perfectly clear number five marked on his temple.
It was Fives. It was his brother, whom he hadn’t seen in… in…
It would have been before the Citadel, and that…. How long ago had that been? How long since he’d seen him outside of a screen? Outside of the couple hundred pictures and videos Rex had saved on their datapads?
Echo stared at the figurine’s face, at the white, motionless plastoid. If he tried hard enough he could imagine what it would look like if someone told a really stupid joke. He could remember what his laugh would have sounded like. He’d spent countless nights in a medbay clinging to memories because he couldn’t sleep, or he was cold, or his limbs hurt, or he was just lonely. He remembered wishing Fives had been there–just for a moment, just for a few seconds–to tell him he was going to be okay. He remembered begging silently with tears streaming down his face, clutching a datapad to his chest with the same videos playing over and over again.
And he remembered nothing happening.
Because Fives was gone.
Fives had been gone before he’d even resurfaced from the frozen hell of the Techno Union facility.
Suddenly, Echo was aware the room was much larger than he remembered it being when he walked in. It was too quiet–far too quiet. He could hear his own heart pounding behind his ribs, but everything else was lost to this heavy, clinging silence. There were far too many people around, and they were crowding him in, squeezing all the air from his chest and not giving him room to breathe more.
He couldn’t breathe.
Where was the command to breathe?
There was always a command code to breathe, it came like clockwork–it always did.
Why couldn’t he find it?
Were they letting him die?
He didn’t remember seeing a termination command. They would send one, if they were done with him.
Force, his legs hurt like all nine hells all of a sudden.
Where was the command to breathe?
He gasped. Someone had flicked his ear, and it hurt.
He refocused, recognizing a clone’s face in front of him. Ah, he was rescued.
No, wait, this was–
“Breathe. In with me.”
Boil, right. This was Boil. He took a shaky breath, following Boil’s direction.
“And out again.”
He breathed out, too quickly, but still felt the constriction around his chest and throat loosen just a bit.
Boil nodded. “There we go. Again, in with me.” They breathed in. “And out again.” They breathed out. They breathed in. They breathed out. They breathed in. They breathed out.
Echo was on the ground, sitting against a wall with his knees curled to his chest. He didn’t remember sitting down. He could breathe much better now, though. Turning his head, he almost jumped out of his skin to see General Ti there, her montrals looming over him, looking very concerned.
“Echo,” she said softly. “Can you tell me where you are?”
He looked over their heads and saw a high ceiling. Right. “Temple. Jedi Temple.”
She nodded. “Yes, very good. Do you remember the date today?”
He did, and told her as much. She nodded again.
“Do you remember why you are here?”
Echo looked at her, then at Boil on his other side. He saw his helmet lying on the ground beside him. He looked down at his hands, and they were curled tightly around the figurine he’d just received. Opening them, he ran his left thumb over its face.
His eyes burned, and he didn’t have the strength to fight the tears. “I miss my brother,” he croaked, fighting to get the words past the lump in his throat.
If he could, he would find some corner away from the rest of the world, curl up against Fives, and cry until the world fixed itself. It was all wrong right now. It felt like no time had passed since he’d woken up out of cryofreeze, and suddenly it had been almost two years without Fives. How had that happened?
“I know.” Boil put a hand on one of Echo’s knees. “Believe me, I was around when he lost you. He was a wreck too.” Echo suspected the sincerity of his words had more to do with the figurine he had received, but it didn’t matter.
“Is there anything we can do right now,” Master Ti said, “that might make you feel better?”
Echo sniffed and felt tears start running down his cheeks. “Um.” He wiped his eyes and squeezed them shut against the deep ache in his chest for Fives’ nonsense ramblings–the ones he always pulled out when Echo was upset and needed something distracting to listen to for ages at a time. When the worst of it had passed, he opened his eyes again and said, “I would like a hug and somewhere to cry.”
Master Ti and Boil both nodded. “That can be arranged,” she said, getting to her feet in a sweep of brown robes.
“Come on,” Boil said, standing and offering a hand to help him up. “I’ll comm Cody to comm Captain Rex, I’m sure he can send someone over if he can’t come himself. I’ll stick around until then.”
Echo took his hand and got to his feet, taking his helmet back when Boil handed it to him. “Thanks.” The other troopers in the room had backed away to give them space, and Master Windu and the three designers were attempting to keep them occupied, but it was pretty clear where everyone’s attention was. Echo hated it. Turning the statuette in his hands, he looked up at Master Ti. “We can keep these, right?”
She nodded. “Of course. As long as the designers get any feedback you have, you may keep them.”
Boil stooped to grab his helmet and the Waxer figurine from the floor. Putting himself between Echo and the rest of the people in the room, he said, “I know how it is. Hits you all at once, doesn’t it?” Echo nodded. “Same thing happened to me when we got back from Umbara.”
“Follow me,” Master Ti said, and Boil put an arm around Echo’s shoulders as they left the room.
-scene break: several months later-
Fives had never been to the Jedi Temple before. He’d been taken to the Chancellor’s … office? No, his office had that big window. Anyway, he’d been taken somewhere else to meet Palpatine, but he’d never been to the Temple, let alone their public gardens. And he’d never expected to see so many clones heading the same way.
It was odd to be back on Coruscant after so much effort spent getting away from it all those months ago. He had to keep reminding himself the war was over, the inhibitor chips had been unearthed and dealt with, and if those reassurances didn’t work, everyone thought he was dead regardless. So, here he was, back where it had all gone up in flames over two years ago, on a night just like this one.
The new memorial monument had only been open about a week, so the crowds were understandable, and frankly, he wasn’t complaining. The more people, the easier it was to slip away unnoticed. He’d learned that the hard way over the past months.
He followed along with the crowd as they turned a corner, allowing himself the momentary distraction of looking up at the bright lights of the cityscape above him. Speeders and ships whizzed by overhead, lit up white and red in streams. Neon signs and lit windows made the streetlights almost redundant as they poured so much light onto the sidewalks.
It felt good to be around clones again. Hearing familiar voices and seeing the same faces around was far more comforting than he had expected it to be. It made him realize just how lonely he’d been out there in the wide open galaxy. And, as long as the war was over and Palpatine was evil (and dead), he could stay. He could come home, finally.
The entrance of the memorial gardens was heralded by a chorus of oohs and aahs from the people walking ahead of him, and, like everyone else, he craned his neck and bobbed from side to side to catch a glimpse. The crowd pressed forward, funneled between massive stone statues of Jedi, complete with lit yellow lightsabers, into the gardens.
Fives had never suspected this much greenery could survive on Coruscant, but of course, the Jedi would be the ones to make it thrive. There were massive trees on either side of the stone walkway, their boughs crisscrossing overhead. Thick underbrush lined the path, with little signs labeling the plants. Lit lanterns hung on metal posts cast a warm glow on the foliage around them. It was a sight so surprisingly beautiful, Fives nearly forgot why he was there, until the steady movement of the crowd forward brought him out from under the canopy to the main part of the gardens, and there he saw–
Well, a twenty-foot tall stone version of himself, with the colored image projected onto the white stone from below, but, yes. Himself. Complete with goatee and confident smirk.
When he’d seen the opening ceremony on the holonews, he hadn’t really considered what it meant that he was the central figure in this memorial monument. But here he was, front and center, framed to be seen by every single person entering the gardens for the next… ever. Hopefully, they weren’t too upset he wasn’t actually dead.
He hadn’t realized he’d stopped to stare until other visitors jostled him back to reality.
Moving through the crowd until he was almost at his statue’s feet, he stopped yet again. His enormous stone boots were crowded with… stuff. Flowers, candles, empty bottles of his favorite beer–there were even notes left, weighted with rocks. Looking to the statues beside his on either side, he found their feet likewise swathed in offerings. They were gifts. Tributes to the fallen soldiers.
As he stood there, he watched other visitors–nattie visitors, quite a lot of them–come forward and add to the offerings. He started walking, following the circle of statues to his right, and saw it happen again and again. A little zabrak boy walked up to the 41st legion trooper’s boots and placed a model X-wing on the ground nearby, then ran back to his guardian, who patted his hair and smiled, telling him she was sure the trooper would have liked it.
Fives walked all the way along the long oval path around the statues. He paused at a moment when he recognized Waxer’s face. Looking to his feet, he saw a group of three twi’leks stop there too. The little girl with blue-green skin walked forward with a small doll in her hands, and placed it gently on top of Waxer’s stone boot, propped against his ankle. The little girl patted his stone leg, then hugged it, before going back to her parents.
Fives suddenly recalled the little design Waxer and Boil had shared on their helmets on Umbara: a little twi’lek girl with blue-green skin. He wondered what had happened to Boil.
By the time he’d made it all the way around to his own statue again (what a weird thing to think about), so many emotions were swirling around his mind, he felt like he’d just left hyperspace without warning. The maelstrom slowed when something caught his eye. There was someone else standing at the foot of his… well, at his feet when he returned. He was a clone in black armor with red paint, but Fives’ focus was immediately drawn to the numerous metal studs sticking out of his scalp.
When Fives got closer, he noticed the man had a pair of drinks held in one hand, in a way that suggested they were definitely fake, because real liquid and ice would not defy gravity like that. Well, it was a conversation starter at the very least, because Fives recognized those drinks. Red liquid in a martini glass with a peel. A red-to-yellow gradient of liquid and ice in a tall cylindrical glass. Yes, there was no mistaking those.
“Are those supposed to be stuck in there like that?” he asked, grateful for his helmet’s vocoder that made it more difficult to pin his accent.
The clone hesitated for a moment, no doubt a little uncertain why a nattie would want to know. But he answered, “Yeah, they’re not real. Just made to look like the real thing.”
“Yeah, I guess leaving alcohol out here isn’t the best plan,” Fives agreed, glancing back at the empty beer bottles.
The clone smirked, and for a second, there was something oddly familiar about the expression. “Nope. Besides,” he added, “it’d be a waste of good booze.”
That, Fives could appreciate. “Yeah, especially drinks like that.” He would know. He and Echo had made a tradition of ordering those exact drinks every first night on leave. Echo got a Coruscant Cosmopolitan, he got a Tatooine Sunrise. He hadn’t had a Sunrise in… well. Since losing Echo.
“You know these?”
“Used to have the Sunrise all the time.” He gestured up to his statue. “Did he like ‘em?”
The clone raised the two glasses and looked at them, and the dulled pain of memory was all too clear on his face. “Yeah,” he finally said. “We used to get these every time we were on leave.” He stepped forward and placed the pair of glasses on the ground beside one of the boots. “Haven’t had one in ages.”
When he turned around to return to his previous spot, Fives had to restrain himself from pointing and saying something stupid like, “You!” The clone had a handprint–a blue handprint–on the right side of his chest plate.
He took stock of a few poignant observations.
One: this clone was leaving gifts at his statue.
Two: Fives recognized the gifts and their significance.
Three: he had a blue kriffing handprint on his armor.
Fives knew how to do math, and one plus two plus three meant that this–this was Echo. His Echo. The dead one.
Granted, he was supposed to be dead himself, so that didn’t mean as much as it would have otherwise. But still! Echo!
Hoping he wasn’t vibrating in place from sheer anticipation, Fives asked, “Hey, you know something?”
Echo–because it had to be him–tilted his head slightly as he looked over at him. “What?” he asked, understandably wary.
With his heart beating hard enough to hear on Kamino, he said, “It’s uh…” He paused, reaching up to his helmet, hearing the seal hiss as it broke. “It’s really weird staring at a twenty-foot tall stone version of yourself.” He looked at Echo. “Or is that just me?”
For a few seconds, Echo just stared, wide-eyed in shock. He did a double-take between the statue and the person in front of him. Then, he punched him in the shoulder.
“You son of a hutt!”
“Ow!” Fives rubbed his shoulder. “I’m not wearing armor. No fa–umph!” He hadn’t finished his sentence before Echo let his helmet fall to the ground and grabbed him for a hug. Fives dropped his own helmet as gently as one could drop anything, and wrapped his arms around his brother in return.
“‘Is that just me–’” Echo mimicked in his ear, hugging tighter. “You kriffing bastard.”
Fives tried to be stern, but a stubborn smile made it difficult. “Me a bastard? You’re supposed to be dead too, remember?”
His brother pulled back far enough to look at him, his hands moving to the sides of his neck, his thumbs resting on his jaw. For a moment, he just looked, and Fives did too. Echo had changed a lot. Finally, he sighed, and said, “Yeah, I know. Sorry about that.”
Fives rested his own hands on his brother’s vambraces, and noticed that only one of Echo’s hands seemed to radiate the typical amount of heat another person’s hands should radiate. “I mean, I did sort of get you back for it, I guess,” he said with a weak smile.
Echo glared at him, but the animosity wasn’t real. “Yeah, you didn’t need to, dumbass,” he replied. Holding up his right hand, he added, “I could’ve used the emotional support.” With a flick of his wrist, his hand broke away from his arm on a hinge, revealing a vibroblade-like tool and lots of wires. He snapped it back into place with another sharp movement.
The last time they had seen each other, Echo had been in the middle of a huge fireball, he did remember this. He added that to the pile of things to unpack later.
“Yeah.” He pulled Echo closer until their foreheads could rest against the other’s. “Me too,” he admitted. “Being fake-dead and on the run… kinda sucks.”
He heard Echo sniffle before he pulled away again. “But you’re back,” he said, a small tremor in his voice, probably unnoticeable to anyone else. “You’re back for real, you’re not…”
Even after the time they’d spent apart, there was no mistaking the look in his brother’s eyes as anything other than fear. Fives didn’t know what he’d gone through after the Citadel, but whatever it had been, he knew it had been twice as horrible coming out of it to find Fives wasn’t there to help him put the pieces back together. He nodded, tightening his grip on his brother’s arms. “I’m not leaving.” That was all Echo wanted to hear. “I am not leaving you, I promise.”
Echo nodded, once hesitantly, then again with more certainty. He moved in for another hug, bumping their foreheads together again as he did so. Fives leaned into it, burying his face against his neck and feeling Echo do the same to him. Force, he’d missed these hugs. He’d missed physical affection in general, but Echo hugs were something else. Concentrated Echo Hugs would probably make a killing on the black market.
“Welcome home,” Echo said softly, and Fives had to remind himself not to turn into a weeping mess in the middle of a public place with hundreds of people around. He could do that later, when he found Rex and Jesse and everyone else, and could afford to have no shame whatsoever.
“You wanna go get real drinks?” he asked instead to distract them both, working furiously to blink back the threatening tears.
His brother laughed, then sniffed, and Fives caught him wiping his eyes as he stepped back. “Maker, yes. I haven’t had a cosmo in years.”
He grinned. “You think they’ll give me free drinks for getting rid of the evil chancellor?”
Echo snorted as he bent down to grab his helmet. “I think we should find out.”
Fives grabbed his own bucket off the ground and hooked an arm around his brother’s neck. “I missed you like hell, you know that?"
His brother looped an arm around his shoulder and leaned against him as they started making their way through the crowds towards the garden's exit. "Right back at you, brother." He seemed tired, in a way. Fives couldn’t place it just now, but he felt it was his duty as a batchmate to keep the mood light.
"Hey, you think anyone will want my autograph?"
The disparaging look Echo aimed at him was worth the bad joke. He rolled his eyes and shook his head, but just as it had always been, a fond smile wouldn't leave his mouth. Fives had missed that look. Jesse got pretty close, but it wasn't the same. "They're gonna need to change the statue at this rate," Echo said. "If your head's gonna be that big."
He gasped at him. "How--you--" Echo snorted and started laughing at his dramatics. "If my helmet weren't in my other hand--"
"It would be plastered across your wounded heart, I know." Fives gave a smug grin and reached up to ruffle the short crop of curls on Echo's head. "Welcome back, you dramatic idiot," Echo said, planting a kiss on his temple.
Fives' cheeks were starting to ache from smiling, but he couldn't care less. His brother was alive. The war was over. They were home.
Ta daaaa! The End 😊 now tags: @soclonely @23-bears @thechaoticfanartist @fate-and-destiny @mercurydancer @darth-void idk I don't have a tag list lol @hootydoot @fivesarctrooper @dominosqd