Part One: Sleepless
Coruscant: Sometime after Ahsoka left the Jedi Order and before the chip conspiracy.
Silas can’t breathe. He can’t breathe. He can’t breathe.
Blackness closes in around his vision, his chest, his body; but his mind—his mind won’t stop playing the nightmares over and over. His mouth opens in protest, a plea, an entreaty. It still won’t stop. They never do.
Jansel’s ears are attuned to the slightest shift in normalcy. He wakes up in a warm, sleepy delirium; a rough break out of REM causes him to feel mildly intoxicated. Sitting up, his hands automatically grip the edge of the hard, narrow bunk he’s on. Despite fatigue, his brain is fully alert now.
The sound is odd and out of place. As a medic Jansel knows what it is: the desperate gurgling of someone unsuccessfully trying to breathe. It comes from below him. He swings silently and carefully out of the bunk and down to the floor, where his practiced hands grab the med-pack he keeps nearby. His hands shake ever so slightly as he hunts for a sharp. This patient is not just anyone.
“Silas, I’ve got your back,” he whispers, familiar words he repeats to every trooper he’s ever treated. “You’ll be fine.” The words are reassuringly firm and confident. “I know what I’m doing.”
Silas’ eyes are wild with fright and shock, and he cringes as Jansel stabs the needle in his left bicep, right through the bodysuit. “Breathe, vod,” he instructs, “breathe.”
Silas is struggling and his mouth hangs open like a newborn baby’s, sucking air and sobbing. His eyes are watering and tears trickle down his contorted face at the pain of the effort. Jansel is gripping his brother’s shoulders, feeling the straining, hunched muscles beneath the skin. He can see the bulge of veins in his forehead and the tautness of his neck. It’s bad.
“Can you sleep, Si?” Jansel asks softly, gently caressing his shoulders. Silas can’t stop crying. Tears flow, unchecked, streaming down his cheeks. He shakes his head, expression blank.
Jansel hunts through the medpac but can’t find the sedative he’s looking for. He sighs and whispers, “I’ll be back, brother,” and lets his hand linger on his shoulder a moment. Then he quietly makes his way past rows of bunks, out into the hall. He knows other troopers are awake due to their breathing patterns, but they politely feign sleep, for him and Silas.
The medbay is on the opposite side of the barracks, so it takes a while for Jansel to get there. The barracks are eerie at night: deathly silent and coldly dark. Sometimes, occasionally, a sleepless trooper might fix himself a cup of caf in the mess, or a haunted brother might sleep there where there are lights. Tonight, however, he doesn’t pass a single soul.
Lights are on in the medbay. As he walks in a voice stops him. It is kind but firm.
“No more stims. I can’t let you hurt yourself any further.”
“I’m not looking for stims,” Jansel says, slowly walking in, purposefully, toward a cabinet. “Need a sedative.”
There’s a sigh. The blue-marked armor turns in the chair and faces him. “Can’t sleep? I have something that might help you.”
Jansel opens the cabinet with a code only medics have access to. The other medic sees the red sigil on Jansel’s shoulder and refrains from reprimanding.
“Not for me,” says Jansel, plucking a syringe from a tray. “Someone else. A friend. He’s a medic too.”
“Hard, isn’t it? There are things Kamino doesn’t tell you. And those things are those that hurt the most.” There’s silence as Jansel locks the cabinet.
“I’m Kix. From the 501st. Stay here to guard the stims, you know…” He smiles ruefully. “Lotta men in our group.”
“Jansel.” Jansel pauses at the door. “77th.” He turns to go.
The voice stops him again. “Hey, if you ever want to talk, I’m usually here.”
Jansel pauses, handling the sharp, remembering. Remembering a time when he and Silas would talk together like this. Talk medic to medic, friend to friend, brother to brother. That was before. Before all this mess PTSS had wreaked on them. Dear Si.
“Thanks,” says Jansel as he turns his head back once. He hurries back to his waiting brother.
Kix. Kix doesn’t know and could never know. What it’s like. What it’s like to lose everyone.
501st boys feel invincible, despite the losses they’ve incurred. But the 77th knows real war, real battle, real defeats and losing men. Even losing a general.
Skywalker would never do such a foolish thing as General Quinn, an ARC of the five-oh-first said. Jansel agreed. But he knows the truth: Quinn cared. Quinn loved his men. Imagine Skywalker doing what Quinn did. No. It wouldn’t ever be heard of.
Jansel pushes his way through the opening door to where Silas sits, in the same position as he left him. Ace is trying to talk to him but Silas ignores him. At the sight of Jansel Ace walks over, informing him, “He won’t talk to me.”
Jansel’s face twists into an angry frown. “Of course, di’kut, he doesn’t know you,” he replies, barely keeping his voice level. Ace gives him a strange look. He does know him, he wants to retort. They grew up together side by side in the 77th. He could argue he knew Silas long before Jansel, who hadn’t even heard of the 77th till he was assigned last year.
But no one knows Silas like Jansel.
Jansel is murmuring something to the stony-faced, war-bitten medic, something inaudible but soothing, judging from the wrinkles subsiding on Silas’ forehead. The sharp is a quick pinch and is done. Silas, tired, sick with lack of sleep, rests his head against his brother’s comforting shoulder. He finally drops off, in Jansel’s arms.