Riyo's heart was in her throat as she slipped out of Wolffe's room that morning, hair slightly disheveled from her pillow's thickly woven fabric. She hadn't meant to sleep in so late, but tried to crush her lingering guilt by reminding herself that she hadn't slept that well in months now.
She came to an abrupt stop when she spotted Rex standing in the kitchen, staring out the window at the fields of javun with a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He looked back over his shoulder at her with a soft smile.
"How is he?" Nothing could get by the captain, especially in such small quarters with two of the people he held dear to him.
Riyo offered a tired smile. "Healing. Able to hold a conversation, and be sarcastic," she added as an afterthought, feeling pleased when Rex chuckled. "I think he'll be alright."
The blond's smile turned bittersweet. "As alright as the rest of us," he sighed.
Her shoulders drooped. "I suppose so."
He grimaced apologetically and turned away, back to the window and the world outside. "Sorry, that was rude of me."
"But not untrue." Riyo made her way around the kitchen, snatching her favorite mug from the drying rack and a reusable tea bag from her cabinet before preparing a drink with the hot water pot and tea leaves Rex had left out on the counter.
He spoke up as she poured water into the ceramic mug. "I'm glad it was you."
She nearly spilled the pot all over herself with how much she jolted in surprise. "Pardon?"
Rex was looking at her again, eyes a deep gold in the morning light. "I'm glad it was you here." He lifted his drink to his mouth, but not in time to hide his sly smile. "I don't think there's anyone else that could really help him now. And I know Ahsoka's been glad to see a friendly face."
Riyo blinked at him vacantly for several long seconds. "And you?" She asked, choosing to side-step dealing with the confused swirl of emotions that now filled her.
Rex smirked, clearly knowing she was avoiding it. "I found it nice to see that someone held true to their oaths."
Her mind flashed back to when she'd first met Rex and his men, the renowned 501st Battalion. Orto Plutonia had been an unhappy experience, but one that she had grown much from. Seeing the lives of so many men cut short over miscommunication and greed, learning that her people were in the wrong, treating with a proud nation despite being uncertain of her place.
"'To die for one's people is a great sacrifice. To live for them, a greater sacrifice. I choose to live,'" she recited, those words seared into her soul until the day she died. She met his gaze with a steady look and a raised eyebrow. "What do you choose, Rex?"
He met her stare with an equally quirked brow, as if to say I'm here, aren't I? "I live for my brothers that haven't been freed. I live for the ones that already breathed their last." He paused. "I live for her."
"She chose you," Riyo said slowly, parsing out his hidden message. "She saved you."
"She saved you… but at the cost of your brothers."
He sucked in a breath. "Yes."
Riyo closed her eyes, feeling the pain that rolled off him in waves. "And you blame her for it, yet you owe her everything." She opened her eyes, and the devastated look on Rex's face showed she'd guessed correctly.
"Sometimes, I wish she'd let me die with them," he whispered into his mug, watching several stray tea leaves swirl in a gentle pattern. "To see them living, but not really alive–" He trailed off, searching for something, anything to keep him afloat. Riyo rushed forward, gently taking the mug from his hands and setting it aside before wrapping her arms around his waist. She hoped he wouldn't take offense– they'd never been close– but he readily clung to her, breaths coming in ragged pants as everything finally overwhelmed him.
She wondered if he hadn't allowed himself to feel until now, in this safe haven on a forgotten planet.
"It's a fate worse than death," he finished, fingers clutching at her knitted sweater.
Riyo stroked his back, trying to help soothe him. "It is for you and them," she murmured. "You can grieve for what you lost. You're safe here." She felt him tremble against her and tried to hold him tighter. "Would… would you like to come help me in the fields today? Ahsoka can stay here; she'll be able to monitor Wolffe and come get us if needed."
Rex exhaled shakily, but she could feel some of the tension leave him at the temporary escape she was giving him. "Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that."
It seemed that Wolffe wasn't the only trooper under her roof that she'd be helping to heal.
Riyo had woken Ahsoka after she'd gone to get dressed for the day. She wasn't about to leave the house without alerting her friend, seeing that her and Rex disappearing with no notice could trigger a traumatic response. As it was, Ahsoka opened one eye to listen to Riyo's explanation of where they'd be before mumbling her thanks and burrowing back under her blankets.
And so Riyo and Rex went out into the juvan fields.
They talked while they worked. Rex spoke of the brothers he'd lost, Riyo of the friends among the Corries. Color returned to his face and light to his eyes as the day went on and the memories piled up. By the time the afternoon light began to fade, he was able to laugh over some of the shenanigans his Torrent squad had got up to.
Ahsoka watched them both with curious eyes when they returned, but she didn't comment. Instead, she told them that while Wolffe had been muttering on and off in his sleep, he hadn't yet woken up again. Riyo made sure to set aside some of their soup that evening for him, thinking that he might finally be stable enough to eat. When dinner was finished, Riyo left Ahsoka and Rex to their low conversation as they spoke over washing dishes in the kitchen to check on Wolffe. To her surprise, he seemed to just then be waking.
The savory smell of the soup in her hands catches his attention first, and by the way his stomach rumbles, food was definitely what he needed. After a quick check to his bandages, Riyo held the bowl and helped him sip directly from it, finding that to be easier than trying to use a spoon. It was a slow and steady process, but she wanted to make sure Wolffe didn't eat too fast and consequently vomit it up because his body couldn't handle so much after so long asleep.
He seemed to be keeping it down well, to her relief, but then Wolffe mentioned needing to use the fresher, and a whole new set of obstacles arose. The first they barely managed to overcome as Riyo helped Wolffe stand by letting him lean heavily on her, and together they shuffled out of the room and to the fresher.
The second wasn't as difficult physically, but still proved to be problematic on its own.
Riyo glares at him, unimpressed. "Can you even get your pants off by yourself?"
Wolffe's indignant expression makes her fight back laughter. "Of course I can–" he starts, curling downwards slightly to try and pull them down far enough, but the crunch flares up his chest wound and he hisses. "Fine."
Riyo sighs. "Wolffe, it's nothing I haven't seen before. I had to change you into these when you got here. Besides, I often walked through the Corrie barracks on my own, and one time I made a wrong turn and ended up in the Flash squadron locker room, and–"
"Alright, alright. Your point has been made," he groaned with a roll of his eyes, and she finally caved in and laughed.
"Come on, then." He held still as she carefully pulled down the sweatpants and underclothes, being sure not to aggravate his thigh injury. She'd been honest about seeing him bare not bothering her; anatomy was anatomy, and it was nothing to be ashamed of or shy away from, especially when acting as an impromptu medic. "There, is that good?"
"Yeah, I can–" Wolffe shifted slightly and accidentally put weight on his bad leg, nearly falling if he hadn't tightened his hold around Riyo's shoulders. Her hands shot out to brace his waist and keep him from toppling over.
"You'll be able to do this alone soon, but not yet," she reaffirmed. Closing her eyes, she jerked her chin towards the toilet. "Get busy, soldier."
"Hilarious," Wolffe deadpanned, but Riyo could feel him relax under her fingertips. She'd hoped her nonchalant manner would be similar enough to any medical care he'd had before, and it looks like her bet had paid off. She was a statue, solid and silent next to Wolffe as he relieved himself for the first time since waking. He was trembling from standing for so long by the time he finished, and didn't say a word as Riyo helped him redress, wash off, and return to the bedroom. She knew how hard it was to accept help after spending so long being someone others relied on, and to be in a situation where he had no other option than to accept her generosity was bound to be even more difficult.
The unwitting sigh of relief that slipped through his lips as she guided him to lay back down on the bed was evidence of how taxing the short trip was. It worried Riyo. If he was to try and go anywhere further than the fresher, he'd need someone much stronger than her to steady him, and she didn't know how long Rex or Ahsoka were planning to stay. She was already surprised they'd remained for this long, but she figured Rex wanted to make sure his brother was definitely alright before leaving him again.
She looked up from maneuvering the blankets back over his legs at Wolffe's raspy voice. He was watching her again, appearing just as defeated as he had in the low light the night before. His eyes were flat, his face shadowed and paler than it normally was, which only served to heighten his haunted form.
"You're welcome," she finally replied after several moments of silence. "How do you feel now?"
He closed his eyes and let his head sink back into the pillows. "Tired."
Riyo smiled lightly. "You need to rest. Can you drink some water before you go back to sleep?"
Wolffe hummed, which she took to be affirmative. When she returned with a mug of cool water, it was to find Wolffe had already propped himself up and was looking somewhat expectantly towards her. She held the mug to his lips again so he could drink and distracted herself by watching the way his eyes fluttered shut as he emptied the mug. With that done, she set it aside on the bedside table and hovered in case Wolffe couldn't arrange himself comfortably on his back. To her delight, he was able to do it himself, albeit with shaking arms. Some progress was better than none at all.
Dusk was truly settling in and the room was beginning to grow darker with each passing second, so Riyo murmured a polite excuse and moved to leave. She was stopped by Wolffe's hesitant call of her name.
"Yes?" Hopefully he wasn't in too much pain…
"Can you…" His words died off as he gestured weakly towards the floor next to his bed.
Oh. "Of course I'll stay," Riyo agreed. "Let me wash up and change, and then I'll be back."
His eyes were closed and his chest rose and fell in a steady, slow rhythm by the time she slipped back into the room. His arm dangled awkwardly off the side of the bed so his knuckles brushed the chilled floor. This time Riyo was the one to take his hand in hers and rest them on her pillow, next to her head. He was warm and solid, something real that grounded her as she drifted off to sleep.
It was too dark for her to see the weary smile on Wolffe's face as his thumb rubbed gentle circles against her palm before he too was out like a light.