“Who's the youngling?” Rex asked, eyeing the tiny togruta standing petulantly before General Skywalker, arms crossed as she glowered at the jetii.
At his question, she looked over at him.
“I'm Master Skywalker's Padawan,” she replied shortly. “The name's Ahsoka Tano.”
Rex pushed down the surprise he felt at that, wishing he’d had the foresight to keep his bucket on for this conversation. Instead, it was uselessly propped against his side, doing nothing to hide his facial expressions.
“Sir,” Rex said, wincing slightly at the confusion that was evident in his voice, “I thought you said you'd never have a Padawan.”
“There's been a mix-up,” General Skywalker replied shortly. “The youngling isn't with me.”
“Stop calling me that!” the youngling – Ahsoka Tano, Rex remembered – grumbled. “You're stuck with me, Skyguy.”
Rex burst out laughing. He couldn’t help it – the look on Tano’s face revealed a stubbornness rivaling Skywalker’s own, and the nickname was too much.
“What did you just call me?” Anakin screeched over Rex’s laughter. “Don't get snippy with me, little one. You know, I don't even think you're old enough to be a Padawan.”
Ahsoka shifted, uncrossing her arms to prop them on her hips, the image of teenage rebellion.
“Well maybe I'm not, but Master Yoda thinks I am,” she retorted.
Rex choked down another laugh – General Skywalker was going to have his hands full with this one.
Rex tried to focus on the data pad in front of him, but his mind was a useless jumble of worry and exhaustion. Ever since he had first laid eyes on the tiny togruta – Ahsoka Tano – who was to be General Skywalker’s Padawan, his head had been a mess of emotions.
She was just an adiik – not even fully grown into her body, still all gangly limbs and misplaced hope – and the jetiise had made the choice to send her into the middle of a war zone. From what he could tell, Tano was smart, and she had spirit, but she was still an adiik – she had no place on the front lines of a war, especially without proper training.
Sure, the vod’e were technically younger than her, but Rex and his vod’e had been created and trained to be among the greatest soldiers in the galaxy. Rex himself had undergone intense, additional command training, in order to be promoted to Clone Captain and ARC in the Grand Army of the Republic.
“So, if you're a captain, and I'm a Jedi, then technically I outrank you, right?” Tano asked, mirth dancing in her blue eyes. Rex looked down at her.
“In my book, experience outranks everything,” Rex snipped back. “Commander.”
Tano had enthusiasm, but she lacked training.
And that worried him, because despite himself, he was quickly growing to like the snippy little togruta. So here he was, struggling to distract himself with meaningless paperwork, his mind drifting without cease to how he could keep his new vod’ika safe in the middle of the war.
With a growl, he slammed the datapad down and stood up, stalking out of his private room. He barely heard the durasteel door hiss shut behind him as he hurried away, his feet carrying him faster than his mind could stop them.
Within a matter of minutes, he found himself outside the door to the room that had been assigned to Commander Tano. Before his mind could convince him not to, he rapped on the door, the clanging of the cold metal against his fist jolting through him.
Moments later, the durasteel door whooshed open, revealing Tano. She was still wearing the same outfit she’d been wearing when she’d arrived on Christophsis - a dark red bandeau top and skirt with white tights, along with dark red boots and fingerless gloves, as well as a purple sash.
Hardly practical for fighting, Rex thought briefly. Perhaps he could convince her to add at least a bit of armor to her ensemble, like Skywalker and his former master, Kenobi, had. Perhaps some greaves, or vambraces…
“Captain Rex?” Ahsoka asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Commander,” Rex acknowledged. “I, uh, I wanted to discuss your – your safety in battle.”
Tano titled her head to the side, her blue eyes inquisitive as she regarded the clone captain.
“I’m not quite sure what you mean,” Ahsoka said at last. Rex looked down and rubbed the back of his neck, somewhat bashfully.
“My vod’e – brothers – and I, trained for years on Kamino. The Kaminii created and trained us to be among the greatest soldiers in the galaxy,” Rex explained. “I know that you’re a jetii, and that you have training of your own – we learned on Kamino that Padawans learn together for years along a strict, structured regimen of academics and combat.”
Tano nodded, then listened quietly as Rex continued.
“But I also know that none of that training was specifically about fighting a war,” Rex finished.
“Maybe it wasn't, but we aren't soldiers,” Ahsoka reasoned. “We're peacekeepers – and we’re trained as such. The Jedi Code often prevents us from going far enough to achieve victory.”
“The Jedi Code won’t stop your enemies for going far enough to achieve victory,” Rex said softly. A harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.
For several moments, the silence stretched between them, and Rex worried that he had overstepped.
“What do you propose?” Ahsoka said at last.
“Train with me,” Rex said. “I can teach you – hand to hand combat, battle strategies, military terminology – anything you’d like that would be helpful in the war. I won't claim that I know everything, but I can teach you what I do know - and for what I don't, I'm sure one of my vod'e or another jetii may have the answers.”
“That sounds like it would take up a lot of your time, Captain,” Ahsoka said. “What do you get out of it?”
“Peace of mind,” Rex answered, truthfully. “Though, if you’re offering some form of payment… You could also add some armor to your battle gear.”
Ahsoka barked out a laugh at that, her blue eyes twinkling.
“We’ll see, Captain,” Ahsoka said.