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Burc'ya vaal burk'yc, burc'ya veman

Chapter Text

“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.

Chapter Text

“Hands above your heads! Take your sun bonnets off,” Rex shouted, blaster raised as he faced down the three troopers before him.

“Uh, sir?” The nervous trooper didn’t sound like a droid, but Rex wasn’t taking any chances.

“Take them off,” he barked the command. “NOW!”

The three troopers rushed to obey; much to his relief, he found three faces nearly identical to his own staring back at him. Rex had opened his mouth to speak again when suddenly a Rishi eel burst out of the earth behind them. Rex didn’t hesitate, firing off a shot with deadly precision, pining the beast in the eye. It crashed to the ground with a shriek, flailing for a moment before going deathly still.

“Nice shot,” one of the troopers said appreciatively.

“The name's Rex, but you'll call me "Captain" or "sir",” Rex replied gruffly, shifting to stand shoulder to should with Cody. For now, at least, it seemed like the Marshal Commander was happy to let him take charge.

“Sir, yes, sir!” the three troopers responded, snapping to attention.

“And I'm Commander Cody,” Cody said, speaking up at last. “I'm your new boss.”

The troopers before them seemed to view Cody’s introduction as an invitation to role call. One of them stepped forward.

“My trooper designation is Clone Trooper 27-5555, sir,” CT-27-5555 said. Rex struggled not to wince – hopefully the troopers had some chosen names, because CT-27-5555 would quickly become a mouthful.

Thankfully, one of the others stepped forward, gesturing to each of his vod’e in turn.

“We call him Fives,” he said, gesturing to CT-27-5555. “I'm Hevy, and this is Echo.”

“Where's your sergeant-in-command?” Cody asked, his gaze scanning Hevy, Fives, and Echo. It was the latter that spoke up.

“Dead, sir,” Echo said softly. “We're all that's left.”

Rex’s heart clenched at that; more vod’e, lost too soon to the war they’d been created and trained to win, leaving behind only a few vod’ika who were clearly fresh off Kamino and out of their element.

“Looks like we got us a bunch of shinies, Commander,” Rex said lightly to Cody. Cody nodded, clearly having come to the same conclusion as Rex.

“Shinies, sir?” Echo echoed, and Rex smirked slightly. He could see where the shiny had gotten his name from.

“That's right,” Rex confirmed. “Your armor, it's shiny and new, just like you.”

“Sir, my squad is ready to take back that station, shiny or not,” Hevy stated firmly, the look of determination on his face unwavering. Fives and Echo nodded too.

“There's hope for you yet, rookie,” Rex said with a smirk.

~~~

When Rex returned from the Rishi moon with two new shinies in tow, he should have expected the uproar from his vod’e, especially those among Torrent Company who would be expected to work with Fives and Echo.

“Where’d you find the shinies, Captain?” Coric asked, peering around Rex to look at Fives and Echo curiously. Ever since Coric had emerged as one of the few Torrent Company survivors on Teth, he and Rex had been closer than most, so it was expected that he would butt his head in first.

“I’d be interested to hear that story as well, Captain,” Appo added. “Since I’m the one that’s going to have to do the paperwork for their transfer, I assume?”

Rex grinned, somewhat ruefully, as he gestured to each of the shinies behind him in turn.

“This is Fives, and this is Echo,” Rex explained. “Cody and I picked them on the Rishi moon during our inspections. They helped us take back the command centre – took out a fair amount of clankers alongside Cody and I in the process.”

“I like the sound of that!” Attie announced. He stepped around Rex to clap Fives on the shoulder. “Welcome to the 501st, boys!”

“Let’s get you two settled in the barracks,” Denal said, joining Attie to lead Fives and Echo out of the landing bay. Coric followed them, promising to take the two shinies to the mess once they’d bunked up. Rex watched them go, trusting that they were in good hands with his vod’e.

“Should I be expecting you to bring home strays from all your missions, Captain?” Appo asked, his voice tinged with a fond amusement. Rex shoved his arm gently, huffing out a long-suffering sigh.

He wondered what Ahsoka would think of his two newest recruits for Torrent Company.

~~~

“Torrent seems welcoming enough,” Echo said, glancing towards Fives, who was walking at his shoulder.

“I imagine we’ll see plenty of action with them,” Fives replied. “Otherwise, all this training the Captain has lined up for us would seem kind of pointless."

“Training is integral to a soldier’s survival,” Echo intoned, drawing a good-natured groan from Fives. Echo could recite reg manuals and anecdotes from their instructors on Kamino verbatim – if he could find someone to listen to him, that was.

“Not now, vod,” Fives groaned. Echo opened his mouth to reply, but stopped short as they arrived at their destination – the training salle aboard the Resolute. The two exchanged a quick glance before stepping inside.

The only two people inside were Captain Rex – which was expected – and a togrutan female – which was not expected. Unsure how to proceed, both troopers looked to the Captain, who was leaning up against the durasteel wall by the door.

“Fives, Echo,” he said by way of greeting. “I hope you don’t mind – Ahsoka here asked if she could train with us this morning. Since it’s just the four of us, I thought this would be a good opportunity to observe your skills. Get an idea of what I’m working with.”

Echo looked at Fives, the confusion clear on his face.

“Sir?”

“We’ll just run through some basic sparring drills for Rex, don’t worry,” the togruta said, striding up to the three clones casually. Echo and Fives sized her up. She was easily a foot shorter than them, even with the montrals, and skinnier as well. Unlike the clones, who were clad in full armour, she wearing only a dark red bandeau top and skirt with white tights, along with dark red boots and fingerless gloves, as well as a purple sash – no armor in sight. A diplomat then, maybe, or a friend of General Skywalker’s?

“If you’re sure…” Fives acquiesced.

Tano smiled at the acceptance, sauntering to the middle of the salle. Fives and Echo followed, stopping a suitable distance away from her.

“Who would you like to spar with first?” Echo asked, shuffling his feet nervously. Ahsoka put her hands on her hips, sizing them both up. A small smirk appeared on her face.

“I think I can handle both of you at once,” she said. “What do you think, Rex?”

Captain Rex merely smirked before replying, “Play nice, Tano.”

“Don’t I always?” Ahsoka called back, earning a chuckle from the Captain. She turned back to the two troopers. “Well, shall we?”

Echo and Fives shared another glance before briefly nodding at one another. They had sparred side by side enough times to anticipate the other’s fighting style – they could work together fluidly and effectively. Though normally, the rest of Domino would have had their backs.

As the two troopers shifted into position, Ahsoka widened her stance, a feral grin on her face.

~~~

Less than ten minutes later, Fives found himself pinned to the ground by the tiny togruta, panting for breath. Echo had already tapped out, and was laying on his back a few feet away, struggling to catch his breath.

“Ready to tap out, soldier?” Ahsoka asked, that feral grin reappearing.

Fives grunted, trying to raise his arms and hips to escape her hold, but Ahsoka merely shifted slightly, tightening her grip. Gritting his teeth in frustration, Fives tapped her thigh twice, flopping back in relief as she finally released him, bouncing up with surprising vigor.

“And you thought I couldn’t take both of them at once,” Ahsoka said, somewhat smugly, as she sauntered over to Rex. Rex was already shaking his head.

“No, I told you to play nice,” Rex replied. He gestured to where Fives and Echo were still recovering. “You’re going to scare our poor shinies away if you keep using the Force to win.”

Fives’ ears pricked at that. The Force –

“You’re a jetii,” Fives wheezed, making the connection as he pushed himself into a sitting position to look at the torguta more clearly. It explained her unexpected strength, the unnatural speed with which she had attacked and defended…

Ahsoka merely shrugged.

“I’m General Skywalker’s Padawan,” she explained, as if that clarified everything.

“But that would make you –” Echo trailed off, a dawning realization spreading over his face.

“Commander Tano, yes,” Ahsoka finished for the dumbstruck clone. “It was a pleasure to meet you both.”

With that, the Padawan turned to leave, scooping up her lightsaber from where she had stashed it on the bench, clipping it to her belt as she slid out the door.

It was silent for several moments.

“What the kriff,” Fives yelped.

Rex burst out laughing.

“Our Commander does like to make a lasting impression,” Rex explained between barks of laughter. “When she heard I brought home two new shinies, she asked if she could spar with you. I couldn’t refuse.”

Echo was openly gaping at the Captain, his mouth actually hanging slightly open.

“Close your mouth, Echo,” Rex said once his laughter had abated. “You two did well.”

“With all due respect, sir – we lost,” Fives replied, since Echo seemed to be struggling to find his voice.

Before Rex could answer, the durasteel door slid open, revealing Denal, Coric, and Attie, all of whom had shit-eating smirks on their faces.

“Is the Commander done wiping the floor with them, then?” Coric asked.

When neither Fives, Echo, or Rex answered, Denal piped up.

“If it makes you feel any better, she’s been taking turns beating all of us into the ground for weeks,” Denal explained. “You can blame Rex for that – he had some grand idea to train her up like a proper soldier.”

Rex shrugged at that.

As the rest of their brothers moved around the training salle, stretching out and warming up for a training session of their own, Fives turned to Echo, who was still staring at Rex with something akin to shock. At a nudge from his vod, he turned.

“Commander Tano is spectacular,” Echo breathed. “I’ve never seen anyone fight like that.”

“I think I’m in love,” Fives agreed.

Chapter Text

"Allow me to present the return of the infamous Blue Shadow Virus,” Dr Nuvo Vindi explained to Senator Amidala, looking inordinately pleased with the abomination he had created.  

"The Blue Shadow Virus?! I thought that deadly disease was extinct," Padm é exclaimed.

“The Blue Shadow Virus in its natural form thrives only in water," Vindi continued, speaking slowly as if he were explaining the situation to a child.

“That is not liquid,” Padm é observed blandly, playing along for the time being.

"Your eyes do not deceive you, Senator,” Vindi confirmed. “I have perfected an airborne strain of the Blue Shadow Virus. Once the first droid leaves this laboratory, all of Naboo is doomed!"

~~~

Kix, like all of his brothers, had heard of the Blue Shadow Virus. Kebiin Kyr'am their instructors on Kamino had called it – The Blue Death. Several thousand years before the Clone Wars, the Blue Shadow Virus had encompassed the galaxy, killing millions who drank the infected water. The virus was eventually eradicated, so Kix had never thought to worry about the deadly virus much before.

Then, he had received the news that Dr Nuvo Vindi had somehow recreated the virus, in some kind of attempt to create a biological weapon for the war. Vindi had planned to release the deadly virus in several key systems in an act of heinous biological warfare. Thankfully, General Skywalker and General Kenobi, along with Commander Tano, Senator Amidala, and a handful of Kix’s own vod’e, had thwarted his plans.

Not without consequence though.

General Skywalker and General Kenobi had managed to discover a way to make an antidote to the virus using reeksa root in time to save those who had been infected. The antidote had already been delivered to those who were ill - Commander Tano, Senator Amidala, and a handful of Kix’s own vod’e among them – but that didn’t mean that they were entirely recovered as of yet.

Which was why Kix’s med bay was currently filled to the brim with whining, notoriously difficult di’kuts.

“Kix, we’re fine,” Rex argued. “A little bit of rest, some food, and we’ll be back on our feet in no time.”

Kix glowered at his Captain.

“With all due respect, sir,” Kix began. Rex rolled his eyes, already knowing where this was going. “You’re not going anywhere, until I say so. And if you think you can get away with pulling rank, don’t – you know as well as I do that I outrank you in here, so lay back down and relax.”

“Do you always let your troopers speak to you like that, sir?” another clone asked. He was new to Torrent, but easily identifiable from the cog-shaped symbol of the Galactic Republic tattooed on his head.

Kix all but growled as he gestured at his vod.

“Do not start with that osik, Jesse” Kix snapped. “Or I’ll make sure that you are stuck on that cot for a very, very long time.”

Jesse, at least, had the good sense to look chastised.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of the squabbling between the clones, Commander Ahsoka Tano had quietly slipped out of her own cot, quietly making her way to the door. Padmé was still asleep, exhausted by the whole ordeal, and with the clones distracted by their argument with the medic, no one was paying attention to the Padawan.

At least, she thought that no one was paying attention to her.

“That goes for you as well, Commander,” Kix called without turning to face her. Ahsoka froze in place, her expression surprised.

From his own cot, Rex barked a laugh.

“He’s got you there, kid,” Rex said. “Kix, you’ll have to put her in a cot further from the door if you don’t want her sneaking out every time you turn your back. She takes after General Skywalker in that regard, I’m afraid.”

Ahsoka huffed a sigh, crossing her arms as she did so.

Kix turned and gestured to the cot next to the clone with the cog-shaped symbol of the Galactic Republic tattooed on his head – Jesse, if she remembered properly.

“You heard the Captain,” the medic said. “You’re not going anywhere, until I say so. I’m sure that General Skywalker wouldn’t appreciate having to come down here to deal with his wayward Padawan.”

Ahsoka scowled as she slunk to the new cot, ignoring Rex’s smirk. Once she was settled in, she looked at him and muttered, “Traitor” – earning herself a laugh from Jesse.

Kix merely rolled his eyes and went to check on Padmé, a choice which put him firmly between the door and his more reluctant patients.

“Pleasure to formally meet you, Commander,” Jesse said. “I’m CT-5597.”

“But we call him Jesse,” Rex interjected.

“I was getting to that part,” Jesse squawked with indignation.

“You were with us? In Vindi’s lab?” Ahsoka asked. Jesse nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes, sir,” Jesse replied. “Didn’t seem like the best time to introduce myself though.”

“Yeah, probably not,” Ahsoka agreed. “Wait – were you the one who punched the droid?”

Kix whipped around so fast that it was honestly impressive that he didn’t give himself whiplash.

“You did what?” Kix shrieked, stalking over to Jesse. Jesse paled, hurrying to hide his hand under his body. Kix noticed the motion, and this time he did growl.

“What did I say?” Kix demanded, poking Jesse in the chest, hard. Jesse squawked indignantly. “I warned you – if you punched another kriffing droid and broke your hand, you’d be applying your own kriffing bacta, you di’kut.”

Ahsoka looked over at Rex, and the two winced.

“It’s not broken,” Jesse argued. “Just bruised – Coric already checked it out.”

Kix growled some choice curses – most of which Ahsoka didn’t understand – before stalking back to Padmé, who had finally been awoken by the commotion. Thankfully, fussing over the Senator gave Kix something else to focus on, leaving Jesse, Rex, and Ahsoka to their own devices.

“Is he always this –” Ahsoka began, only to be interrupted by the two clones, both of whom had choice suggestions.

“Instense?” Rex suggested.

“Terrifying?” Jesse contributed.

“I was going to say committed,” Ahsoka finished. “But those work too.”

“Yes,” Rex and Jesse answered together.

“I can hear you, you know,” Kix called over his shoulder.

“You’re proud of how terrifying you are, don’t pretend otherwise,” Jesse snipped back.

Di’kut,” Kix responded, though Ahsoka noticed the fondness in his voice.

“You’re lucky – to have each other,” Ahsoka observed. The Jedi path was a lonely one – she couldn’t help the slight jealousy that stabbed at her heart as she watched the clones – brothers – bicker. They had something she would never quite have, not really, despite their creation and their lives. They had a family.

As if sensing the sudden melancholy in her, Rex leaned forward.

“You have us, too, you know,” Rex said gently. “You’re our vod’ika now, just as much as Jesse is my vod.”

Vod … that means brother?” Ahsoka replied, her voice equally soft.

Rex nodded, “And vod’ika means little sister. We’d be happy to call you that, if you’d have us.”

“But I’m not – I’m not really your sister,” Ahsoka replied, surprise colouring her voice.

Aliit ori'shya tal'din,” Jesse said gently. At Ahsoka confused expression, Rex explained.

Aliit ori'shya tal'din – it means “family is more than blood,”” Rex translated, smiling slightly as Ahsoka’s expression shifted from confused to shocked.

“You would – you consider me –” Ahsoka choked out, her blue eyes suddenly shining with unshed tears.

“Of course, we do, vod’ika,” Rex assured her. Ahsoka grinned back, then suddenly she was up, crossing the med bay to leap into Rex’s arms. He caught her with a slight “oof” at the impact, gathering her on his lap as he would a vod.

Kix turned around at the commotion, intent on scolding his vod’e again, only to pause, open-mouthed, when he saw Tano curled up on Rex’s lap, hugging him tightly. Jesse caught Kix’s eye and gave a subtle shake of his head, dissuading the medic from interrupting whatever was happening between the Commander and the Captain.

“Thank-you, Rex,” Ahsoka sniffled. “Or should I call you vod now?”

Rex chuckled, “That’s ori’vod to you, vod’ika.”

Ahsoka pulled back, her brow knitted in confusion.

Ori’vod? What does that mean?”

“It means older brother,” Rex answered smugly, earning himself a good-natured smack on the arm from Ahsoka.

“I am three years older than you!”

Chapter Text

From where she lay on the med bay cot, Ahsoka Tano looked up at her Master, her sadness and pain evident on her face.

“Master, on the ship, Barriss was gone, and she wanted me to kill her,” Ahsoka said, and her voice sounded small, even to her own ears. “She told me to –”

“But you couldn't do it,” Anakin Skywalker finished for her, his own voice far gentler than it normally was.

“No. No, I couldn't,” Ahsoka admitted bitterly. “But should I have? I mean, it worked out now, but if we had failed, and the ship docked and the worms spread, and –”

Anakin placed his right hand – his hand of flesh and blood – on Ahsoka shoulder, and she trailed off, leaning into the warmth.

“Ahsoka, it's your duty to save as many lives as you can. Barriss knew you could save thousands if the worms were destroyed, which she thought meant destroying her too. But you did the right thing. You knew the freezing cold would kill the worms. Letting go of our attachments is a difficult struggle for all of us. You followed your instincts. I'm sure she would agree that you made the right choice,” Anakin reassured his Padawan.

After several long moments, she nodded, though the sadness and pain didn’t leave her face.

~~~

After General Skywalker left the med bay, it was all that Kix could do to keep his vod’e out.

“She’s resting,” Kix hissed at his vod’e, his face resolute. “She almost kriffing died, she needs to sleep, not put up with you di’kuts.”

Despite Kix’s best efforts to keep his voice down, he had forgotten how sensitive togrutan hearing was. The togruta's montrals allowed her to sense the movement of objects around her through echolocation – and gave her an enhanced hearing ability, far better than that of an average human.

“Who’s there?” Ahsoka asked, her voice heavy with sleep.

At the sound of their vod’ika’s voice, Rex, Fives, Echo, and Jesse pushed past Kix into the med bay, ignoring his continued protests.

Vod’ika,” Rex said softly, approaching her cot. “How are you?”

“I’ve been better,” Ahsoka admitted. She tried to sit up, but the movement caused the heavy blankets that Kix had draped over her to shift, and she shuddered harshly at the sudden cold. Rex reached forward and pulled them back up.

“What happened?” Rex asked. “Last I saw, you were headed off with Commander Offee to recuperate from the foundry explosion.”

Ahsoka nodded.

“We were sent to transport medical supplies to Master Windu on Dantooine,” Ahsoka explained. “Master Skywalker and Master Unduli thought it would be a safe, easy mission.”

“Why weren’t troopers from the 501st send with you,” Rex growled. He knew that none of his vod’e from the 501st had joined Ahsoka and Commander Offee.

“We had troopers with us, Rex – Scythe, Ox, Edge, Trap – we had the entirety of Tango Company,” Ahsoka said, smiling slightly at the protective tone she heard in her ori’vod’s voice.

“Still, Tango isn’t Torrent,” Fives grumbled.

“I’m glad that you weren’t there,” Ahsoka said honestly. “It was – it was awful. One of the troopers was infected with these Geonosian brain worms while we were still on planet, and he infected the rest of the ship's crew before Barriss or I knew what was happening.”

Ahsoka shuddered then, looking down.

“What happened then, Ahsoka?” Echo asked gently.

“We – we had to defend ourselves. They were attacking us, we didn’t understand what was happening,” Ahsoka explained desperately, looking from clone to clone, as if begging for forgiveness. “Barriss, she had to kill them, in self-defence.”

Ahsoka choked off then, a sob wracking her body as she remembered the dead clones, so much like her own vod’e of the 501st. It could have been them dead at her feet, with worms in their brain, attacking her like mindless droids…

“Ahsoka, breathe,” Kix commanded, his voice breaking through the haze of her thoughts. “Breathe, vod’ika.”

Ahsoka struggled for breath, choking on her own tears as her chest tightened. Someone – Echo – grabbed her hand and placed it on his chest, over the handprint painted there.

“Breathe with me,” Echo instructed gently. He followed his instructions with a deep breath in, then out. Ahsoka focused on mimicking him, the feel of his steady breath a reassurance. Her vod’e were still here, still alive.

“Better,” Echo said with a smile, pulling back. Ahsoka kept hold of his hand for a moment longer, squeezing it tightly before dropping it. Then she turned back to Rex, determined to finish her story. She felt that her vod’e deserved that, at least – to know how, and why, their vod’e in Tango Company had died.  

“We managed to get away, but when Barriss and I split up, something happened – I don’t know how, but she had been infected by one of the worms,” Ahsoka explained, shivering at the memory. “I couldn’t kill her, but I couldn’t help her, either.”

“You did, though,” Kix pointed out. “Help her, I mean. Commander Offee is alive, thanks to you.”

Ahsoka shook her head.

“I learned from Anakin that I could freeze the worms – but even after I froze them, and killed the brain worm in Barriss, she begged me to kill her,” Ahsoka said, tears gathering in her eyes again. “That’s the last thing that I – that I remember.”

Ahsoka cried in truth then – not the horrible sobs that had stolen her breath before, but unrelenting tears that shook her body. Around her cot, the clones glanced at one another, unsure as to what to do. Finally, Jesse pulled Rex away, speaking quickly in a hushed voice.

“She’s vod, right?” Jesse began. “You said so yourself - Aliit ori'shya tal'din - family is more than blood.”

“What are you getting at, Jesse?”

“So why can’t we comfort her like a vod?” Jesse asked. Rex sighed, catching on to what his brother was implying.

“I’m not sure she would appreciate that,” Rex replied slowly.

“Why not?” Echo butted in. “Togruta typically live in groups, right? Companionship might be exactly what our vod’ika needs right now.”

Rex sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Fine,” he agreed at last. “But I doubt Kix will let her leave the med bay, so you’ll have to do with what you can find in here.”

Jesse and Echo grinned, exchanging conspiratorial glances as they moved away, dragging a protesting Fives with them. They set to work right away, gathering extra blankets from the cupboards, and pulling cots to the ground, pushing them together as they went. Kix, seeing what they were up to, immediately squawked in protest, jumping into action to make sure they didn’t make too big a mess of the med bay.

Rex drifted back to Ahsoka, who was watching the scene with guarded curiosity. Rex observed the scene alongside her for several minutes, snorting quietly as Kix all but tackled Jesse to the ground, pining the larger trooper beneath him to stop him from completely dismantling the med bay. Jesse, undeterred, nuzzled at Kix's neck before tickling him, taking advantage of the baar'ur's distraction to slip away. 

“What are they doing?” she asked, wiping away a few lingering tears.

“Taking care of you, the only way they know how,” Rex explained, smiling fondly as he watched his vod’e. “Sometimes, after a particularly bad battle, or a hard loss, we do this – come together to hold and protect one another.”

“It looks warm,” Ahsoka said wistfully. Indeed, the “nest” – so to speak – that Jesse, Kix, Fives, and Echo were building in the middle of the med bay did look warm.

“They’re almost done,” Rex replied. “Can I help you over there?”

“I can walk by myself,” Ahsoka grumbled, pushing herself into a sitting position. When her feet touched to durasteel floor, harsh shivers wracked her body, and Rex caught her before she could fall. Scooping her lithe frame up into his arms, he pulled her close. Normally warmer than the average human, he body was still positively icy from her brush with death. 

“There’s no harm in accepting help every once and awhile, vod’ika,” Rex said softly, walking her over to the giant pile of pillows and blankets that his vod’e had made on top of the mattresses they’d pilfered. He set her down gently, taking a moment to pull a blanket around her shoulders before he pulled back.

“Is it okay if we join you?” Rex asked, gesturing to himself and the other clones. Ahsoka regarded him with a bemused expression.

“I thought that that was the whole point of this… cuddle pile,” she replied.

Rex chuckled at that, but didn’t hesitate to sit down, pulling Ahsoka to him. She snuggled close without hesitation, basking in the companionship she hadn’t known she needed. Jesse and Kix were next to join, the latter snuggling up next to Ahsoka before drawing Kix to him. Kix practically purred when Jesse began tracing the intricate patterns of his hair, nuzzling into his neck. Fives and Echo followed last, settling in on Rex and Ahsoka’s other side, wrapped up together in a tight embrace.

It was warm, and most importantly, it was safe.

One by one, they drifted off to sleep, comforted by the presence of aliit.

Chapter Text

Rex regarded the clone before him. A deserter, to be sure, but also an enigma.

“I like to think I'm merely exercising my freedom to choose: to choose not to kill for a living,” Cut Lawquane retorted, crossing his arms stubbornly as he glowered at the injured Captain before him.

“That is not your choice to make,” Rex growled back. “You swore an oath to the Republic. You have a duty.”

“I have a duty. You're right, but it's to my family,” Cut replied, his voice deadly. “Does that count, or do you still plan to turn me in?”

“Do I have a choice?” Rex answered.

Do I have a choice?

~~~

Ahsoka paced nervously around the hangar bay, waiting for the dropship carrying her vod’e – namely Jesse, Hardcase, Kix, and an injured Rex – to arrive.

Several hours after the events aboard The Invisible Hand, which had resulted in the rescue of Master Eeth Koth and General Grievous’ escape, Commander Cody had sent her a brief message, explaining that Rex had been injured in the pursuit of Grievous. Thankfully, Cody had convinced Kenobi to send Rex and his brothers from the 501st back to the Resolute immediately, so that Rex could receive proper medical treatment.

Finally, after what felt like hours, the dropship arrived, slowly lowering itself into the hanger bay. Once it had safely landed and powered down, the gangplank lowered, revealing the four clones. Kix was walking in front of his three brothers, barking orders back at them. Jesse and Hardcase were doing their best to listen, an injured Rex supported between them.

His armour had a large blaster whole clean through the breastplate, just below his collarbone. Upon seeing it, Ahsoka’s breath caught in her throat.

“Rex,” Ahsoka breathed, rushing forward. Before she could embrace her ori’vod – ensure that he was alive and breathing for herself – Kix caught her, gently pulling her away.

“He’s alive, vod’ika,” Kix said softly. “But I would prefer if you didn’t tackle him in his current state.”

“I’m fine, Kix,” Rex muttered, shrugging off Hardcase and Jesse so that he could stand on his own accord. “Come here, vod’ika.”

Ahsoka pulled out of Kix grasp, but she was gentle as she embraced Rex, careful not to push too hard and press too much.

After several moments she pulled away, her fingers gently tracing the blaster hole in his armour.

“What – what happened?” Ahsoka asked, looking up into Rex’s honey-brown eyes.

“A story for later,” Kix interrupted. “After our dear Captain has visited the med bay for treatment.”

Rex sighed, but nodded in agreement.

“Later, vod’ika.”

~~~

Ahsoka found Rex later, resting in the med bay, under strict orders from Kix not to even think about leaving his cot. For once, Rex was listening to the medic, a sign of how injured he still was.

“How are you feeling?” Ahsoka asked, dropping into the chair beside his cot.

“I’ve been better,” Rex replied, with an amused smirk.

“I seem to remember saying that myself, not too long ago,” Ahsoka replied. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”

Rex looked away briefly, as if considering saying no, then looked back, his expression guarded.

“If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone,” Rex said. “Not our vod’e, not the Generals – no one.”

Ahsoka tilted her head in confusion, but nodded anyways.

“I promise,” Ahsoka replied. That seemed to be enough for Rex, who quickly launched into his story.

“When I was shot, we made the decision that it was best to leave me behind – so that I wouldn’t slow down the hunt for Grievous. After Jesse, Hardcase, and Kix left me at the farm, I discovered that the owner of the farm was a clone deserter named Cut Lawquane,” Rex explained. “At first, I couldn’t understand his choice to desert. I would stay in the army – with my vod’e – no matter what happened.”

Rex took a deep breath before continuing.

“Then he explained why he had left the army,” Rex said. “He had a duty beyond that to the GAR – he had children, Ahsoka. His wife and children, they found him and cared for him after his squad had been ambushed and killed off.”

“So, you decided not to turn him in?” Ahsoka guessed, smiling slightly. It seemed that Rex’s big heart extended beyond his vod’e and vod’ika, after all.

“How could I?” Rex said. “He has a family now – one that he built for himself. I could never take that from him – it would break him. Just like it would break me to lose my aliit.”  

Ahsoka nodded, reaching onto the cot to hold Rex’s hand.

“You made the right choice, Rex,” Ahsoka said softly.

As if on cue, their vod’e of the 501st burst into the med bay, shoving one another in their rush to see their Captain first.

Ahsoka stood up, drifting away from the cot, giving the clones time alone with their Captain. Rex smiled at her between their shoulders before she slipped out of the med bay.

“Rex, what’s this I hear about you almost dying?” Fives exclaimed, shoving Rex’s shoulder gently. When Rex winced, Echo slapped Fives over the head.

Di’kut,” Echo grumbled as Fives rubbed his head.

Rex observed his brothers with a smile on his face. They were his aliit, and he was glad to have them around him, even if they were a bunch of di’kuts. He wished Ahsoka had stayed, but he knew that she was simply respecting the kinship that he and his vod’e shared.

“What’s on your mind?” Kix inquired, noticing their alor’ad’s distracted expression.

“Just thinking about Ahsoka,” Rex replied honestly. Kix shot him a knowing smile, even as Jesse looked around.

“Why did she leave? She could have stayed,” Jesse said.

“I think that she wanted to give us some space,” Rex replied. His vod’e looked around at each other, confused.

“But she’s aliit too,” Hardcase said.

“We know that, but I don’t think that she has quite accepted it herself yet,” Rex admitted.

“You could adopt her,” Fives suggested, earning him another smack from Echo. “Gev! I was being serious, Echo! Why can’t we adopt her?”

Rex remained silent, considering what Fives said. He didn’t know the words – didn’t know the Mandalorian adoption vow – but he knew someone that would.

“Do you think – do you think that it would help?” Rex asked. His vod’e nodded slowly.

“We already consider her aliit,” Kix said. “But if she’s struggling to understand that, adopting her – even if it would be mostly symbolic – might help her understand how much we all care for her.”

Hardcase nodded enthusiastically.

“I’ll ask Wolffe,” Rex acquiesced.

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CT-7567 added CC-3636

CT-7567 changed their name to CaptainRex

Captain Rex changed CC-3636’s name to CommanderWolffe

CaptainRex: Wolffe, I have a question for you.

CommanderWolffe changed CaptainRex’s name to Rex’ika.

CommanderWolffe: What is it, vod’ika?

Rex’ika: Seriously?

Rex’ika: Fine.

Rex’ika: You can’t tell anyone, do you understand?

CommanderWolffe: Fine.

Rex’ika: What are the words for the Mandalorian adoption vow?

CommanderWolffe: Ni kyr'tayl gai sa'ad. It means – I know your name as my child.

Rex’ika: Thank-you!

CommanderWolffe: Now spill – who are you adopting?

Rex’ika: It’s none of your business.

CommanderWolffe added CC-2224, CC-1010, CC-5052, CC-1004, CC-6454

Rex’ika: You promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!

CommanderWolffe: Look again vod’ika.

CC-5052: Who are you adopting?!?

Rex’ika has left the chat.

CC-6454: Did Rex’ika seriously just leave without telling us?

CC-1010: I swear, if I have to do extra paperwork for this, I am going to kill him.

~~~

Ahsoka entered the med bay, surprised to find Rex alone – she had thought that the others would stay longer, and had expected some kind of ambush when Rex commed her, asking her to come back.

“Is everything okay, Rex?” Ahsoka asked, approaching his cot. The Captain looked nervous, fidgeting with his hands.

“Yes,” Rex replied quickly. “I just, um, had something that I wanted to ask you.”

Ahsoka smiled warmly – Rex really was adorable when he got flustered like this.

“I’m sorry if I upset you by leaving when the others got here,” Ahsoka began, but Rex quickly cut her off.

“It’s not – it’s not that,” Rex said. “Well it is that, I suppose. But I’m not upset. I just – I want to do better, for you, vod’ika.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know that the vod’e and I, we view you as aliit,” Rex explained. “But I know that you still feel like you’re on the outside, looking in. I understand, I do – but I don’t want that for you.”

Ahsoka froze, unsure where Rex was going with this. Was he about to push her away, because of her own reluctance to accept this new family that she had found?

“Rex, I –” Ahsoka began.

“I – we – want to adopt you,” Rex explained. “Ni kar'tayl gai sa'vod, Ahsoka.”

“What – what does that mean,” Ahsoka breathed.

“I know your name as my sister,” Rex said. “The traditional vow is Ni kar'tayl gai sa'ad - "I know your name as my child" – but you’re more of a sister to us.”

“Do you – you mean it?” Ahsoka breathed. Rex nodded.

“Then I accept,” Ahsoka replied, prompting a huge smile to break out on Rex’s face.

Chapter Text

“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 listened quietly as Rex continued.

“But I also know that none of that training was specifically about fighting a war,” Rex finished.

“Maybe, 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.

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.”

“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.

~~~

Anakin Skywalker could not find his Padawan. The Resolute was a large ship, to be sure, but it wasn’t without limits, and he had failed to find his Padawan in any of her usual spots. Which, if Anakin was honest, he wasn’t really all that knowledgeable about. Outside of training and debriefings he mostly left her to her own devices, trusting that she would seek him out if she needed something.

Now, though, Anakin wished he had paid even a bit more attention to his Padawan.

“Perhaps she stopped by the mess hall for a snack?” Obi-wan suggested, a faint amusement colouring his tone. Anakin nodded. It was a good idea – Ahsoka had been experiencing a growth spurt in recent weeks, and from what Anakin had observed, she was currently eating more than either he or Obi-wan.

The two Jedi headed towards the mess hall, nodding respectfully to the clones they passed as they did. The clones wore a mix of 501st blue and 212th gold – an expected sight, given that Obi-wan had brought his own alpha squad, Ghost Company, with him for the upcoming mission.

When the two stepped into the mess hall, the clone troopers nearest the door – clad in 501st blue – turned to acknowledge them.

“Generals,” Appo said in greeting, moving to stand at attention. Obi-wan quickly waved him and his brothers down.

“At ease,” Obi-wan said jovially. “We’re looking for Commander Tano – has anyone seen her?”

Denal and Coric exchanged glances before answering.

“Last we saw, she was headed to the training salle with Commander Cody, Captain Rex, and some of the boys, sir,” Coric answered. Denal chuckled slightly at that, which confused Anakin. The statement hadn’t been funny. Likely Commander Cody or Captain Rex had invited her to observe a training session, and she had gone along to watch.

“Thank-you,” Obi-wan replied, when Anakin didn’t, steering his former Padawan out of the mess hall and in the direction of the training salle.

“Honestly Anakin, would it hurt you to use your manners every now and then?” Obi-wan muttered.

Upon stepping into the training salle, Obi-wan at his side, Anakin stopped in his tracks, confusion and surprise warring for control in his brain.

Ahsoka was on the sparring mats in the middle of the training salle, turning slowly as several clones in 212th gold – Boil, Waxer, and Wooley, if Anakin remembered their armour markings correctly – circled her. Ahsoka’s lightsaber was nowhere in sight, and the clones had discarded their helmets and blasters. To the side of the door, Commander Cody and some of the 501st were lounging against the wall. Rex was sitting on a stool, still recovering from his injury during the Battle of Saleucami.

When the clones heard the durasteel door slide open, they looked over, surprise colouring their expressions when they saw the Generals enter.

“General Skywalker, General Kenobi, sirs,” Commander Cody acknowledged with a nod, before turning his fight back to the skirmish on the mats.

Wooley had launched himself at Ahsoka, a move she dodged easily, landing several quick punches and a kick as she danced around the trooper. When he stumbled, she capitalized on his loss of balance, landing a low-to-high elbow strike to the back of his neck. When Wooley stumbled, Ahsoka leapt onto his back, dragging him down to the mats in an aggressive choke hold. The minute he tapped out, Ahsoka was up, assessing the two remaining clones.

“What is going on here?” Anakin choked out, turning to Rex, who was looking somewhat sheepish.

“Ahsoka wanted to see if she could best some of our vod’e from the 212th,” Rex explained, gesturing to the ongoing sparring match. Wooley, at least, had pulled himself out of the way, though he was still struggling to regain his breath.

“Fascinating,” Obi-wan observed, his sharp eyes tracking the Padawan’s movements closely. “I’ve not seen this fighting style before.”

“She didn’t learn it from me,” Anakin responded, some confusion in his voice.

“No, she learned it from Rex,” Fives contributed helpfully, leaning around Echo and Jesse to face the Generals.

“Some of it,” Rex admitted. “When we started training, it quickly became evident that she wouldn’t win fights using the style of combat we learned on Kamino – she’s too small, doesn’t have enough weight or power to maneuver an opponent the same way we clones do. So, we’ve been working on adjusting it, combining what I know with her lightsaber forms and combat styles designed to be effective for smaller combatants.”

As Rex spoke, Ahsoka took Boil down, trapping his leg in a complex-looking hold. When Waxer tried to approach, the Padawan tightened her hold, causing Boil to cry out in pain. Waxer back off, circling warily until Boil tapped out.

“How – how long have you two been training?” Anakin choked out. Rex looked at him in surprise.

“I assumed that she had told you, sir,” the Captain replied. “We started training shortly after Christophsis.”

Anakin gaped at his Captain. It certainly explained some of the changes he had seen in Ahsoka – the rapid strength gain, the newfound confidence in her lightsaber forms, her quickly growing knowledge of war strategies and military tactics.

“Well, it looks like our Padawan will be busy for awhile yet,” Obi-wan observed drily. “Cody, dear, once she’s done pummeling poor Boil, Waxer, and Wooley, would you mind informing Commander Tano that she’s expected on the bridge for a debriefing within the hour?”

Cody chuckled at the, his gaze still focused on Ahsoka and Waxer.

“Of course, sir.,” Cody answered. “Though I doubt it’ll be much longer.”

“No matter,” Obi-wan replied. “We wouldn’t want to spoil Commander Tano’s fun.”

With that, Obi-wan practically dragged a shell-shocked Anakin out of the training salle, chuckling softly. It seemed that their Padawan was full of surprises.

~~~

Ahsoka released Waxer, panting slightly as she struggled to her feet. Waxer remained on his back; eyes closed as he focused on regaining his breath.

Fives, Echo, Jesse, and Hardcase clapped her on the back as he made her way over to the side of the room to grab some water and re-attach her lightsaber, which she’d left under Rex’s chair for safe-keeping.

“That was certainly impressive, Commander Tano,” Cody commented, smiling down at the togruta. His compliment earned him a brilliant grin from the jetii, who genuinely seemed pleased that he had noticed.

“Thanks, Cody,” she replied. “Sorry about your troopers, though.”

She glanced over her shoulder, to where Wooley, Boil, and Waxer were still licking their wounds.

“They’ll survive,” Rex said. “It was nice to see you wiping the floor with someone aside from your own vod’e for once, vod’ika.”

Cody titled his head at the nickname, and the familiarity, but didn’t question it in front of the jetii. He would ask Rex later, when he and the alor’ad were alone.

“Hey now, that’s not fair!” Fives objected. “I managed to land a few good hits last week!”

Ahsoka chuckled at that.

“I saw that Anakin and Obi-wan were here?” she asked, directing the question at no one in particular.

“Yes, Commander,” Cody replied promptly. “General Kenobi asked me to inform you that he and General Skywalker would be expecting you on the bridge for a debriefing within the hour.”

“I’d better get going then,” Ahsoka said with a long-suffering sigh. Before she stepped out of the training salle, she turned to Echo. “I’ll see you later?”

Echo nodded, “Of course, vod’ika.”

Fives groaned, “Remind me to leave before you two start discussing regs again.”

Ahsoka chuckled at that, slipping out of the training salle with a little wave.

After she left, the vod’e from the 212th made their way over to the group; Waxer was limping slightly, still holding his side.

“Where did she learn to fight like that?” Wooley asked incredulously.

“Don’t worry, vod,” Hardcase said, clapping Wooley on the shoulder. “We’ve had our fair share of beatings from our little vod’ika.”

Fives and Echo laughed at that, remembering their own welcome to the 501st.

Slowly, the vod’e filtered out, chatting and laughing amicably, until only Rex and Cody remained in the training salle. The al’verde looked down at the alor’ad, who was still lounging on his chair.

Vod’ika?” he asked nonchalantly. Even as he did, his thoughts flashed back to a brief com earlier that week, shortly after Rex had returned from Saleucami.

Rex’ika: What are the words for the Mandalorian adoption vow?

CommanderWolffe: Ni kyr'tayl gai sa'ad. It means – I know your name as my child.

Rex’ika: Thank-you!

CommanderWolffe: Now spill – who are you adopting?

Rex’ika: It’s none of your business.

CommanderWolffe added CC-2224, CC-1010, CC-5052, CC-1004, CC-6454

Rex’ika: You promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!

CommanderWolffe: Look again vod’ika.

CC-5052: Who are you adopting?!?

Rex’ika has left the chat.

Rex rubbed his face, then shrugged, unsure how to explain what Ahsoka was to him – and to the 501st. Cody waited patiently, and Rex finally settled on the easiest truth.  

Ni kar'tayl gai sa'ad,” Rex said softly. Despite his suspicions, Cody’s eyes widened in surprise.

“You – you adopted your kriffing jetii?” Cody yelped. Rex nodded, looking up at the al’verde.

“She’s our vod’ika, Kote,” Rex explained nervously. “After Saleucami, after everything we've been though together – how could I not? Aliit ori'shya tal'din.”

Cody sighed and rubbed his own face. When he looked down again, he had a soft smile for his own vod’ika – though Rex was never a fan of being reminded that he was younger than his vod. Cody’s batch had adopted a vod’ika of their own, and they never let Rex’ika forget it.

“If she’s your vod’ika, then she’s mine too,” Cody promised. “I promise you; no harm will come to her if the 212th can help it.”

Rex smiled up at his ori’vod, then struggled into a standing position to envelope him in a hug.

Vor entye, Kote,” Rex murmured into the embrace.

The two pulled apart, but didn’t separate completely, moving to leave with their arms draped around each other’s shoulders.

“You know, the Mandalorians have a saying,” Cody said as they walked, his voice pensive. “Ke barjurir gar'ade, jagyc'ade kot'la a dalyc'ade kotla'shya – it means “train your sons to be strong but your daughters to be stronger.”

Rex smiled at that.

“Our little vod’ika will be the best of us all,” Rex agreed.

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

AhsokaTano added CC-2224

AhsokaTano changed CC-2224’s name to CommanderCody

AhsokaTano: I hear that you know a thing or two about taking down droids – without a blaster or saber.

CommanderCody: Where did you hear that?

AhsokaTano: Jesse said that he saw you roundhouse kick a droid’s head clean off.

CommanderCody: Works a whole kriffing lot better than punching them like your di'kut ARC's keep doing.

AhsokaTano: Teach me?

CommanderCody: I like you, vod’ika.

[END COMMUNICATION]

Chapter Text

The scene unfolded before Ahsoka, as if in slow motion. She reached out, despite knowing that she would be unable to stop the inevitable.

“This is our only chance,” Echo yelled over his shoulder. As he moved, he grabbed a shield and sprinted towards the ship. “We've got to stop him!”

“Echo, look out!” Fives cried, his warning falling on deaf ears. Too late, they were all too late.

 Ahsoka watched in horror as a droid destroyed the ship, the explosion engulfing Echo.

“ECHO!” Fives’ shriek was pure devastation. He scrambled forward, as if planning to run into the flames in search of his vod, but Rex grabbed him, struggling to hold him back.

“We have to go now!” Obi-wan called, his face grave even as he gave the order.

Cody nodded, moving forward to help Rex drag Fives away from the site of the explosion.

“Echo…” Fives sobbed.

~~~

Back aboard the Resolute, Rex held Fives down as Kix sedated him. He fought valiantly until the hypo knocked him out, dragging him into the unrelenting dark of unnatural sleep. Rex released his vod, sitting back to bury his face in his hands.

Kix, wisely, didn’t ask what had happened.

Didn’t need to, really. The moment the gangplank to the dropship carrying his vod’e had dropped, he had noted Echo’s absence. There could be no other explanation for Fives’ subsequent hysteria.

Echo was dead.

With a suppressed sob of his own, Kix punched Jesse’s frequency into his comlink, silently thanking the Force when his cyare answered almost immediately.

“Jesse here,” he said shortly.

Jess’ika,” Kix choked out, his voice breaking.

Cyar’ika, where are you?” Jesse asked immediately upon hearing the distress in his cyare’s voice.

“Hangar bay,” Kix ground out. “Need help moving Fives and Rex.”

Jesse made a noise of assent before cutting off the com. Kix closed his eyes, waiting in silence for their vod’e. Across from him, Rex sobbed silently, only his small cries of heartbreak giving him away.

When Jesse arrived, Hardcase and Coric trailing behind him, Kix didn’t react – couldn’t bring himself to. Upon seeing the three clones in the hangar bay – Fives, unconscious on the cold durasteel floor; Rex, curled into himself, face hidden; and Kix, eyes closed, but the pain on his face more evident than ever – they froze.

“Kix?” Jesse asked hesitantly, making his way to his cyare slowly, as if approaching an injured animal. He reached out, gently placing a hand on Kix’s bicep. When Kix didn’t flinch, Jesse pulled the baar’ur to him, engulfing him in a hug. Kix melted into the touch, curling his own body against his cyare’s.

“Where –” Jesse began, but Kix cut him off with a violent shake of his head. Jesse’s sharp intake of breath indicated that he understood, and he looked over his shoulder to Hardcase and Coric.

“Take Fives to the barracks – general berthing – and set him up in an empty bunk,” Jesse directed. “We’ll follow with Rex in a minute.”

Hardcase and Coric nodded, clearly relieved to have something to do. They gathered up Fives unconscious form as gently as they could, cradling him between them as they left.

Jesse cuddled Kix for a few more moments before pulling away slightly.

“Did he – did he tell you what happened?” Jesse whispered; he kept his voice pitched low so that their alor’ad couldn’t hear them. Kix shook his head.

“Just yelled at me to knock Fives out,” Kix breathed back. “He was out of his mind, Jess’ika. Screaming Echo’s name and clawing at Rex, begging him to take him back.”

Jesse pulled Kix back in for a tight hug before stepping away, turning to Rex. He crouched down in front of the alor’ad.

“Rex,” Jesse said softly. Kix marveled at his gentleness, at how it overpowered his normally rough and brash exterior. Rex looked up at the sound of Jesse’s voice, and Kix saw that his eyes were bloodshot from his tears.

“Jesse,” Rex croaked. “We lost him. We lost Echo.”

Jesse nodded, reaching out to pull Rex to him. Rex allowed himself to be manhandled into an awkward crouching hug, his head tucked under Jesse’s chin.

“I know, vod, I know,” Jesse murmured into Rex’s blonde hair. “Let’s get you to the barracks, hm?”

Rex didn’t respond right away, but eventually nodded, allowing himself to be pulled into a standing position. Jesse placed himself on Rex’s left, and Kix moved to his right, the two troopers supporting their alor’ad as they made their way to the barracks to join their vod’e.

~~~

Alone in her quarters, Ahsoka couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t stop replaying Echo’s death at the Citadel in her mind, wondering if there was something – anything – she could have done to save her vod.

Finally, she gave up on sleep, wrapping the soft quilt that Padmé had gifted her around her shoulders as she slipped out of her quarters. She briefly considered going to Anakin, but quickly brushed the idea away. He would try to console her, perhaps give her an awkward pat on the shoulder, but wouldn't really know what to say or do. He respected the clones, but he didn’t care for them the way that Ahsoka did. 

Instead, she made her way to the barracks, her bare feet nearly silent on the cold durasteel floor. Upon arriving, she punched in the code for general berthing, slipping in as the durasteel door hissed open. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dimmer light of the barracks, revealing that most of her vod’e were still awake as well.

Coric, Appo, Attie, and Kano had somehow squished themselves into one bunk, pressed up and piled against one another, as if afraid to let their vod’e go.

Jesse was wrapped around Kix in another bunk, the medic completely engulfed in his embrace. Ahsoka couldn’t even see Kix’s head, which she assumed was hidden in Jesse arms.

Hardcase and Rex were sitting upright on Hardcase's bunk, eyes focused on Fives, who was sobbing quietly on his own bunk across from them. Ahsoka approached them slowly, sitting down gently beside Rex. Without a word, the Captain shifted, pulling Ahsoka closer to him, blanket and all.

Vod’ika,” Rex said by way of greeting, his voice soft. “Why aren’t you asleep?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Ahsoka admitted, her voice equally soft. She kept her eyes trained on Fives’ shaking form as she spoke, her heart aching for her vod. “How is he?”

Rex didn’t answer for several long moments.

“He’s not good,” Rex admitted. “Hasn’t stopped crying since he woke up, won’t let anyone near him.”

Ahsoka didn’t respond, merely focused on Fives. His Force-signature was roiling in pain and heartbreak, so much so that Ahsoka had to resist the temptation to block it out entirely. Without a word, she got up, blanket still wrapped tightly around her shoulders, and made her way to Fives’ bunk.

Kneeling down beside him, she reached out to card her fingers through his hair. Fives tensed at the touch, but didn’t pull away.

Vod’ika,” he choked out, his voice rough and broken. Ahsoka didn’t ask how he knew it was her – with his back still turned to her, and his eyes closed, she assumed that her smaller hands had given her away.

“Fives,” Ahsoka responded. “Can I help?”

Fives shook his head, “Need to be alone.”

Ahsoka sighed, but didn’t give up.

“Fives, I know that you can make it through this,” Ahsoka said softly. “But you don’t have to do it alone.”

When Fives didn’t respond, Ahsoka continued.

“Please, let me help,” Ahsoka pleaded. Perhaps it was the sadness and desperation in her voice; perhaps it was his own need for comfort. Regardless, Fives broke, turning over to pull Ahsoka into his arms. Ahsoka crawled into the bunk, wrapping her quilt around both of them as she snuggled closer to Fives, simply holding him as he cried.

~~~

Eventually, morning came, the daily routines of the warship refusing to bend, even for loss and heartbreak. Most of the clones had drifted off at some point, safe in the embrace of their vod’e. Even Fives and Ahsoka had drifted between waking and rest, though Ahsoka knew that neither of them had truly found respite amid Fives’ heartbreak.

Ahsoka didn’t fully understand the depth of the relationship between the two clones; had never been able to decipher the whispered Mando’a between the two, the hushed promises for just themselves. But she knew that Fives and Echo had been closer than other vod’e, and that losing him was a worse loss than most. He hadn’t just lost a vod’e; he had lost his last batchmate, his other half, his partner in all things.

Fives stirred in her arms; his dozing state interrupted by the movements of his vod’e around him. As he came to, he whimpered slightly, and Ahsoka held him tighter, a slight hushing noise escaping her lips.

Rex made his way over, still clipping on the pieces of his armour as he did so, bending down to meet Ahsoka’s gaze.

“We’ll cover his duty shifts today,” Rex promised. “Let him rest. Kix can give him another hypo, if he needs it, though I know that he would prefer not to.”

Ahsoka nodded, and Rex slipped away, dragging several vod’e with him, so that they wouldn’t be tempted to invade their grieving brother’s space.

Eventually, Ahsoka’s com went off. She groaned slightly at the noise, grumbling angrily as she answered the call on audio only.

“Snips, where are you?” Anakin demanded. Ahsoka groaned, louder this time.

Kriff, Skyguy, can’t a girl sleep in?” Ahsoka grumbled.

“She could,” Anakin said testily. “If she were in her own rooms, which she is not.”

Kriff.

“I – I ended up falling asleep in the barracks last night,” Ahsoka explained, swiftly blending truth with lies. She didn’t think that Anakin would be pleased to learn that she had slept in Fives’ bunk. “Couldn’t sleep in my quarters, so I came here to see how Rex and Fives were doing – after the Citadel – and I guess I must have fallen asleep.”

Anakin audibly sighed, but didn’t comment.

“You’re late for a debriefing,” her Master said. “I’ll cover for you for the time being, but hurry up.”

“You’ve got it, Skyguy,” Ahsoka snipped back, before ending the com.

She looked across the bunk to see Fives watching her, his eyes still red-rimmed and sad.

“You need to go,” he said, his voice small and quiet.

“I do,” Ahsoka agreed. “Will you be okay?”

Fives nodded, “Thank-you, for last night.”

Ahsoka smiled, and pulled Fives in for another hug before moving to stand up. She left her quilt on his bunk, going so far as to tuck the edges in around him before she moved away.

“That’s what vod’ika are for, right?”

Fives didn’t reply, merely watched as Ahsoka walked towards to barracks door. She paused before slipping out, looking back at Fives.

“Master Obi-wan has a saying,” she began. ““Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day”. Promise me that you will try to find something good in today, Fives?”

“I promise, vod’ika,” Fives replied, his voice still small and quiet.

Ahsoka nodded once before slipping out, hoping that Fives would find something good in today, despite the sadness he held in his heart.

Chapter Text

“Waxer,” Rex breathed, moving to take off his vod’s helmet. “Tell me who gave you the orders to attack us.”

Waxer groaned, looking up at Rex.

“It… It was General Krell,” Waxer coughed out, reaching for Rex. Rex squeezed his hand. “He sent us to these coordinated to stop the enemy. We thought they were wearing our armor… but it was… you.”

A single tear trailed down the 212th lieutenant’s cheek. He took a final, rattling breath, then went still, his hand going lax in Rex’s. 

Rex’s eyes widened, his jaw going slack with horror, his brain stuttering as he tried to process what he was seeing. Waxer, dead. Too quickly, his mind caught up with the reality before him, and Rex lurched to his feet, screaming as he threw his helmet aside.

“Everyone, stop firing! We're shooting at our own men!” Rex shouted, flailing wildly as he launched himself into the middle of the battlefield. “They're not Umbarans! They're clones! Take off your helmets! Show them you're not the enemy! They're clones!”

Several clones hesitated, but the battle largely continued.

“Everyone, stop firing! Cease fire!” Rex screamed the words as loud as he could, his voice breaking. “They're not Umbarans! They're clones!”  

No one was listening. They were killing their own vod’e, and no one was listening.

Rex tackled a clone in 212th gold to the ground, wrestling off his helmet before holding him up to the so called 'enemy’.

“Look! We're clones! We're all clones!” Rex shrieked; his voice desperate. He just needed his vod’e to listen, to understand. To stop killing each other.

“CEASE FIRE,” Rex roared again.

Finally, the clones around him stopped firing, realizing with horror that they had been shooting at their own vod’e. Nearby, Rex heard his vod’e gasping, dropping their own helmets in despair. As he released the clone from the 212th that he had been holding, following him to the ground as he sunk to his knees, head in his hands. 

“What?!” Dogma breathed, dropping to his knees. “I don't understand, why did these troopers attack us?”

“This can't be happening, what have we done?” Tup gasped.

~~~

Rex was dragged out of his thoughts by the approach of General Skywalker and Commander Tano. He straightened, saluting as a good clone Captain should, ignoring the pulse of fear and apprehension he felt at the sight of the jetii and the jetii'kad at their sides.

“General Skywalker, Commander Tano,” Rex says, pairing the action with a stiff salute. He ignored the concern written all over Ahsoka’s face, focusing instead on Skywalker. He didn’t know if he would be able to keep it together if he let himself focus on his vod’ika.

“Talk to me, Rex,” Anakin says, and even the kindness in his voice threatens to break the thin veneer Rex has washed over his emotions.

“General Kenobi’s battalions have routed the last holdouts of Umbarans, and we’ve secured all sectors. We’ve effectively taken Umbara,” Rex reported, his voice carefully controlled.

“Rex,” Anakin started, but Rex held up a shaking hand.

“General Kenobi is waiting to speak with you via holo in the Command Center, sir,” Rex said tightly. Anakin opened his mouth, looking light he might say something else before deciding against it. As he made his way past Rex, he put a gently hand on the Captain shoulder, pulling away quickly when Rex flinched under his touched.

“Thank-you, Rex,” Anakin said softly instead, offering what comfort he could. As he walked away, he looked over his shoulder to his Padawan. “Ahsoka, check on the men.”

"Of course," Ahsoka replied without hesitation. 

Rex stayed where he was, still refusing to look at Ahsoka.

Ori’vod,” Ahsoka breathed, and the heartbreak in her voice nearly crushed Rex. “Rex, speak to me, tell me how I can help. Tell me what to do.”

Rex didn’t answer, simply looked down at the ground.

“Rex,” Ahsoka said, the sound of her footsteps growing closer. Rex felt as she reached forward, her hand hovering just short of touching him. “Gedet’ye, Rex.”

It was her rudimentary use of Mando’a that broke Rex. He stepped forward, causing her hand to collide with his shoulder. Ahsoka didn’t hesitate, pulling him into a rough hug. Rex all but collapsed into her arms.

“I knew I should have never started teaching Mando’a,” Rex said, the words coming out as a half-sob, half-laugh. Ahsoka hugged him even tighter.

“I promise to only use my new knowledge for good,” Ahsoka joked lightly. “I’m so sorry that we weren’t here, Rex,”

“You’re here now,” Rex replied, pulling away to look down at his vod’ika.

“I am,” Ahsoka replied simply. “Tell me how I can help.”

“Come with me,” Rex said, extending a hand to his vod’ika. She took it without hesitation.

~~~

They had visited the dead - Ahsoka had nearly broken down when she had looked down upon Waxer. Just weeks ago she had sparred with him, joking with him like one of the vod’e. Presently, they walked among the injured. Even without the Force, Rex could practically feel Ahsoka radiating pain.

“You don’t have to do this,” Rex soothed, giving her hand a tight squeeze.

Ahsoka shook her head.

“Of course I do,” Ahsoka replied. “One of my people – a jetii – did this. I need to know.”

Rex merely nodded, leading Ahsoka into the temporary med bay where their injured vod’e lay.

Ahsoka insisted on stopping to greet each clone, whether or not they wore 501st blue or 212th gold; albeit, there weren’t many living troopers in gold left. Rex paused as she stopped again, bending down to hold Kano’s hand, reassuring him.

“Master Skywalker and I are here now,” Rex heard his vod’ika saying. “He and Obi-wan have already asked for extended leaves for the 501st and 212th – I promise Kano, we’re going to do everything we can to make this better.”

When she turned back to Rex, her eyes were once again glistening with tears.

“What’s the point of all of this?” Ahsoka demanded. “I mean, why?”

“I don’t know, vod’ika,” Rex replied softly, taking her hand to lead her on. “I don’t think anybody knows.”

“This war… It takes too much,” Ahsoka admitted quietly. When she looked back to Rex, her eyes were no longer tearful, but burning with resolve. “I do know that someday this war is going to end. I will make sure of it.”

“Then what? We’re soldiers,” Rex said. “What happens to us then?”

Ahsoka was silent for several long moments.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “But I will always protect you –”

Whatever else Ahsoka was going to say was cut off by an angry screech from Kix.

“Lucky, get back in that cot, or I swear on the Force I will tie you to it,” Kix screeched, all but shoving the injured trooper down. Rex lurched forward to pull Kix off the injured trooper, while Ahsoka grabbed Lucky, helping him back into the cot.

“Thanks, vod’ika,” Lucky murmured.

“I’d stay in that bed for the time being if I were you, vod,” Ahsoka replied gently. Lucky shook his head.

“I need to go say my remembrances,” Lucky explained. “For Ringo.”

Ahsoka smiled sadly, remembering seeing Ringo among the dead. Rex had told Ahsoka that he had been killed by a mine explosion, along with Oz. A small mercy, perhaps, that they had not had to live through the horrors to come. Had not seen their vod'e struck down by a jetii they thought they could trust. Had not been tricked into shooting and killing their own vod'e.

“Later, vod,” she said. “For now – listen to Kix. He may be crazy, but he cares.”

Lucky nodded, and Ahsoka turned away, finding Rex holding a sobbing Kix by his shoulders. Ahsoka longed to move forward and comfort the medic, but she hovered by Lucky’s shoulder, unsure if her presence would be welcome.

“Come on,” Rex said. “Let’s get you to Jesse.”

Rex gestured to Ahsoka, and she jumped forward, taking a place at Kix’s right shoulder as Rex flank his left, guiding the medic out of the med bay.

“But the injured,” Kix argued. Rex cut him off.

“Coric has them,” he reassured Kix. “He’ll com if he needs help.”

The fight seemed to go out of Kix then, and he allowed himself to be led away. Rex seemed to know where he was going, so Ahsoka let him direct their trio.

They found Jesse – along with Fives, Tup, and Wooley – clustered near several cargo crates. Fives was sitting atop a crate, legs dangling down to bracket Tup, who had let his hair down from its usual top-knot. Fives was absent-mindedly carding his fingers through the younger vod's hair. Tup was leaning back into the touch, eyes closed. Jesse was sitting beside him, legs stretched out as he leaned against Tup’s shoulder. Wooley was leaning against a different crate, several hand breadth’s away from his brothers of the 501st, tear tracks evident on his dirtied face. At the sound of Rex, Ahsoka, and Kix’s approach, all four clones looked up.

Jesse reached forward without hesitation, pulling a crying Kix down onto his lap, drawing him into a heated kiss. No one else reacted with surprise or confusion to the interaction, so Ahsoka assumed that seeing the two kissing was not something out of the ordinary for the other - even if she had never witnessed the two embracing each other herself.

Rex dropped down beside Jesse with a groan, his eyes flickering shut. Ahsoka hesitated.

Vod’ika, don’t make me get back up to get you,” Rex groaned from his position beside Jesse. Ahsoka smiled and dropped down beside Rex. After a moment’s indecision, she extended a hand to Wooley, pulling him closer to her. He curled into her without hesitation, small tremors shaking his body as he cried silently. Ahsoka wrapped her arm around him more tightly as she curled into Rex.

They stayed like that as they slowly drifted off, one by one, comforted by each other’s presence.

~~~

Anakin approached his sleeping Padawan and the clones around her with a small smile on his face. She looked peaceful, wrapped up between Rex and Wooley, Kix’s legs draped over her own from where he slept on Jesse’s lap.

Not for the first time, Anakin wondered about the nature and depth of Ahsoka’s attachment to the clones. 

Ashoka, Anakin called, drawing on the Force bond between them to gently awaken his Padawan, without disturbing the clones around her. Along with her name, he pushed feelings of alertness to his Padawan, drawing her from her sleep.

She opened her eyes slowly, blinking up at him from where she was curled around Rex.

Anakin, she replied through the Force bond, understanding his inclination not the wake the clones around her. The Jedi Knight smiled, raising his right hand slightly as he used to Force to lift Kix off her legs. Understanding his gesture, she wiggling free of Rex and Wooley, leaning the latter against Rex’s shoulder before slipping away to stand upright. Anakin gently lowered Kix’s legs before gesturing for Ahsoka to follow him several steps away.

They didn’t go far – Anakin suspected that his Padawan would not be willing to let the clones out of her sight quite yet.

“Our request for an extended leave for the 501st and 212th has been approved,” Anakin informed her quietly. Ahsoka breathed a sigh of relief.

“Good,” she said, looking over her shoulder to the still sleeping clones. “They need it, Anakin. Whatever Krell did – they’re hurting.”

Anakin’s eyebrows drew together as he considered his Padawan.

“Ahsoka -” he began. His Padawan merely held up a hand, silencing him as effectively as his Captain had done earlier.

“Don’t, Anakin,” Ahsoka said. “Not today.”

Anakin sighed quietly, but dropped it. He would question her about the nature and depth of her attachment to the clones later. Or perhaps he would ask Obi-wan to handle that conversation – he certainly didn’t feel qualified to chastise her about her attachments. 

“We need to wake Kix, at very least,” Anakin said. “They’re preparing to evac the injured clones to the Resolute – Coric has prepared the most injured for the first few dropships, but I know that he would prefer to have Kix with him.”

Ahsoka nodded.

“I’ll let him know,” Ahsoka said. As she turned away, she paused, looking back at Anakin.

“Can you – can you do a favor for me?” Ahsoka asked. Anakin nodded; his surprise evident. His Padawan so rarely asked anything of him now, determined to be independent.

“There’s a trooper in the med bay – Lucky,” Ahsoka explained. “He – he needs to go say his remembrances for Ringo while he's still planetside. Can you take him?”

Anakin nodded. This, at very least, he could do for Ahsoka and the clones.

He had failed to protect them from Krell, but he would not fail at this.

Chapter Text

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CC-2224 added CT-7567, CC-3636, CC-1010, CC-5052, CC-1004, and CC-6454

CC-2224 changed his name to CommanderCody

CC-3636 changed his name to WolffeMan

CC-5052 changed his name to BlyGuy

CC-1004 changed his name to Greek

CC-6454 changed his name to JamesPonds

WolffeMan: We heard about Umbara, vod.

BlyGuy: Ni ceta, vod, ni ceta

JamesPonds : Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la.

CommanderCody: Vor entye

Greek: Me'vaar ti gar?

CommanderCody: I am managing. We lost a lot of vod’e, and to our own hands. Krell… not even the actual darjetii we have faced have been so cruel as him.

CommanderCody: He pitted our vod’e against one another.

WolffeMan: Demagolka.

CC-1010: And Rex’ika?

CommanderCody: I refuse to acknowledge your question until you remove those offending numbers.

CC-1010 changed their name to ForFoxSake

ForFoxSake: How is Rex’ika?

CommanderCody: Rex’ika?

CT-7567 has left the chat.

CC-2224 added CT-7567

CommanderCody: You can’t hide from us, Rex’ika, not this time.

WolffeMan: Copaani gaan?

CT-7567: Usenye.

CT-7567 has left the chat.

BlyGuy: What do we do?

CommanderCody: Leave it to me.

[END COMMUNICATION]

~~~

Ahsoka looked down as her com beeped with an incoming message. She was surprised to see it blinking a yellow-gold, indicating a message from the 212th. With Wooley safely returned to Cody and Boil’s waiting arms, she hadn’t expected to hear from the 212th for some time.

Like the 501st, they had healing to do – healing best done among their closest vod’e.  

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CommanderCody: Vod’ika, where is Rex?

Vod’ika: Last I saw, he had gone to check on the injured vod’e in the med bay.

CommanderCody: Find him.

[END COMMUNICATION]

Ahsoka stood up quickly, already punching Rex’s frequency into her comlink. Cody wouldn’t have commed her about Rex unless he was really worried. When the Captain didn’t answer, she punched in Kix’s frequency. No answer. With a muttered curse, she jammed in Coric’s frequency.

“Coric here,” the trooper answered.

“Coric, are you in the med bay?” Ahsoka demanded, not bothering with an introduction.

“Yes, sir,” Coric said. “Captain Rex left the med bay about thirty minutes ago. Seemed upset.”

“Any idea where he was going?” Ahsoka responded, not bothering to question how he knew her query. The clones knew her well enough by now.

“It’s probably too much to hope that he went to his quarters to sleep,” Coric grumbled. “If I had to guess, I would suggest checking the training salle, vod’ika. He likes to go there to burn off steam.”

“Thanks, Coric,” Ahsoka responded before cutting off the com, her feet hurrying towards the training salle. She barely paused long enough for the durasteel door to hiss open before slipping in.

Rex was indeed in the training salle, beating a training droid within an inch of its artificial life. Each punch left behind a bloodied fist-mark, jolting Ahsoka into action. She rushed forward, not even hesitating before grabbing Rex’s arm to stop his next punch.

The Captain whirled, swinging blindly at his assailant. It was a testament to Rex’s own training that Ahsoka ducked easily, wrenching Rex’s arm behind him roughly. With a shout, he dropped to his knees, Ahsoka’s own knee digging into his back. Despite his pinned arm, he continued to writhe in Ahsoka’s grasp.

“Stop,” Ahsoka growled. “Rex, stop.”

Rex went limp in her hold, realizing who held him. His breathing was still heavy, and Ahsoka held him for another few moments, to be sure that he wouldn’t bolt, before gently releasing him. She moved around the stand before him, softly dropping to her knees so that her gaze was level with his own.

“Rex,” Ahsoka breathed. Rex looked up, and she was surprised to see his eyes filling with tears.

“I failed them, Ahsoka,” Rex choked out, his voice wavering. “I had a duty to protect my men, and when it came down to it, I failed them.”

“No, Rex, no,” Ahsoka soothed, reaching out to wipe away a tear that was making its way down Rex’s cheek. “You saved them. You ran out into an active battlefield to stop them. You took a stand against Krell.”

“I ordered Fives and Jesse to be executed,” Rex admitted. “I sent my vod’e into reckless, dangerous situations; I told Kix to leave behind injured men.”

“Maybe, but you also recognized that Krell was wrong, and called him on it,” Ahsoka reasoned, smoothing away another tear. “You made the right decision, in the end, going against orders that you knew were wrong. You risked your own life – risked being decommissioned or executed, to protect your vod’e.”

Rex shifted, pulling Ahsoka into a hug as he cried himself out. Ahsoka simply held her ori’vod, unsure what to do. Rex was their ori’vod, he was infallible; normally, it fell to him to comfort them when they were hurting, not the other way around. Finally, she settled on the only thing she could think of.

Punching Cody’s frequency into her comlink while still holding a sobbing Rex was difficult, but she managed.

“Cody here,” came the Marshal Commander’s voice.

Rex pulled away suddenly, a look of betrayal flashing across his face.

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Rex growled. Ahsoka winced, second-guessing her choice, but Cody had already heard her Captain.

“Give the comlink to him, vod’ika,” Cody growled back, the command in his voice clear. Ahsoka did as he asked, detaching her com from her wrist.

“He’s worried about you,” was all she said before she moved away to give Rex and his ori’vod space. As she moved away, she heard Cody’s familiar voice echo out of the com.

“Don’t you dare hang up on me, Rex’ika,” Cody ordered, no room for argument in his voice. “I will not hesitate to sic Wolffe on you the moment we touch down on Coruscant.”

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CommanderCody added CT-7567

CT-7567 changed his name to Rex’ika

Rex’ika: N'eparavu takisit, vod.

BlyGuy: There is nothing to apologize for, Rex’ika.

ForFoxSake: I don’t know, he was rude.

JamesPonds: Luubid, Fox, I will hurt you.

WolffeMan: Copaani gaan, Rex’ika?

Rex’ika: I have been better, vod. Umbara was not good.

CommanderCody: That’s why we’re here, Rex’ika. For each other.

Greek: We’re vod, Rex’ika. Even if Fox is a shabuir most of the time.

ForFoxSake: I take offence to that.

Rex’ika: Vor entye, vod.

Rex’ika: We lost a lot of good men on Umbara… It is good, to know that I still have vod’e.

CommanderCody: And a wonderful vod’ika.

Rex’ika: Cody, don’t you dare.

CommanderCody: Ah yes, I forgot to tell you all, I discovered who our darling Rex’ika adopted.

Rex’ika: Copaani mirshmure'cye, ori’vod?

CommanderCody: It appears that the newest member of our rather large aliit is Rex’s favourite little Togruta.

ForFoxSake: Please tell me that you did not adopt your kriffing jetii.

WolffeMan: Does this make me a ba'vodu?

WolffeMan: Or are we all technically ba'buir now?

ForFoxSake: Please tell me that you did not adopt your kriffing jetii.

Greek: Given that Rex is our vod’ika, I think we would be closer to being ba'buir now?

Greek: Except for maybe Wolffe, since Plo has now adopted him and Tano.

ForFoxSake: Please tell me that you did not adopt your kriffing jetii.

JamesPonds: This aliit is too confusing.

JamesPonds: My head hurts.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka could easily tell the different between each of her vod’e, despite what those who were unfamiliar about the clones had to say about their identical appearances.

It wasn’t only that they all had a different presence in the Force – Ahsoka knew their tattoos, their hair alterations and mutations, and even their armour markings as well. She could pick any of her vod’e – especially those in Torrent – out in the midst of a battle in a heartbeat.

Rex, with his single pauldron, kama, and the jaig eyes painted on his helmet. Fives, in full ARC trooper armor, personalized with a Z-6 rotary cannon picture on his thigh plate to honor Hevy, a Rishi eel on his helmet for Cutup, and recently added hand print on his chest plate for Echo. Kix’s armor was always easy to pick out of a crowd, the red medic symbol on his pack and shoulder plate – though the distinctive blue triangular design on his armor was easily identifiable as well. Jesse's helmet had the cog-shaped symbol of the Galactic Republic on it to match his tattoo, which was of the same symbol.

All the clones in the 501st – whether they were a part of Torrent Company, or simply members of the 501st Legion at large – painted their armor with a colour that had been affectionately dubbed “501st Blue”, proudly identifying themselves as members of the 501st Legion both on and off the battlefield.

Ahsoka also knew, logically, that her vod’e painted their own armor. Knowing and seeing were two entirely different things though.

So, when Ahsoka walked into the barracks to discover several of the clones who served with Torrent – including their newest vod, a younger clone named Tup – sitting on the ground with paint, brushes, and various armor pieces strewn around them, she was understandably surprised.

Rex looked up as she entered, paint brush tucked behind his ear.

“Do you need something, vod’ika?” Rex asked. Ahsoka slowly approached the area that the clones had cleared for painting as she responded.

“A break from Anakin?” Ahsoka replied lightly. “He doesn’t take to relaxation very well, apparently.”

Rex snorted. “I’m sure the Council will have some mission or project for him sooner rather than later.”

Ahsoka flopped down on the bunk closest to Tup, sighing dramatically.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she muttered. A few of the clones chuckled, but remained focused on their painting.

For the most part, they appeared to be touching up markings and designs that they had already included on their armor – Rex was retouching the jaig eyes on his helmet with a fine brush,  while Kix was using a brush with a broader head to fill in the scratches and dings on his chest plate.

Tup, however, was starting at the blank – shiny – armor in front of him, brush in his mouth. His expression was contemplative, but he had yet to make a single blue mark on his pristine white armor. Ahsoka leaned down, curious.

“What are you going to paint on yours?” she asked inquisitively. Tup shrugged, and popped the brush out of his mouth.

“I don’t know,” Tup admitted. “I never really thought about it, to be honest. Didn’t think I would make it this far – no one else in my batch did.”

The clones around them pointedly ignored the conversation - they were well aware that Tup was the last of his batch. But they also knew that Tup’s words were for their vod’ika alone.

Ahsoka, for her part, pondered Tup’s words carefully.

She knew that the clones had embraced many parts of their Mandalorian heritage, and that they often decorated their armor to reflect personal accomplishments – like Rex’s jaig eyes, which were a Mandalorian symbol of honor and bravery. They were also known to repaint their armor to honor their vod’e, both dead and alive – like Fives’ symbols for Hevy, Cutup, and Echo. Or, like Jesse, their armor included symbols or personal significance.

“You could paint a teardrop to match your tattoo, like Jesse’s cog-shaped symbol for the Galactic Republic,” Ahsoka suggested thoughtfully. The suggestion, in her mind, was two-fold – the clones’ tattoos were normally something of personal significance for them, and given Tup’s confession about his batchmates, she suspected that the teardrop symbol may also be a way to honor his fallen vod’e.

Tup nodded enthusiastically in response, moving to grab a finer tipped brush to do as Ahsoka suggested.

“Any other good ideas, Commander?” Tup replied, and Ahsoka couldn’t help but sigh at the honorific.

“It’s Ahsoka when we’re among just the vod’e, Tup,” Ahsoka reminded him gently.

“Or vod’ika,” Fives suggested cheekily. Ahsoka sat up at that, glaring at the ARC trooper.

“No way!” Ahsoka argued. “He’s my vod’ika! He’s newer that I am!”

Udesii, vod’ika,” Jesse laughed. “She’s right though, Fives.”

Ahsoka nodded before flopping back down on the bunk, satisfied by Jesse’s agreement.

“You should paint stripes or something on your greaves and vambraces like Rex and I,” Jesse suggested, leaning over to inspect Tup’s work so far. “Make that 501st blue easier to spot.”

Tup nodded and grabbed a thicker brush, settling down to work on the larger project.

Ahsoka watched quietly, basking in the calm and peace of the clones around her. They were truly at ease here, in the barracks, painting their armor.

After several long minutes, Kix broke the silence, his voice curious.

“What would you paint on your armor, if you had some, vod’ika?” the medic asked. Several of the vod’e chuckled quietly – by now, they were very familiar with Kix and Rex’s many attempts to convince Ahsoka to wear armor.

“Whatever I did, it would have to be blue, of course,” Ahsoka began. “To match all of you.”

“Of course,” Kix agreed, smiling slightly as he lured their vod’ika into an inevitable trap. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rex slip out a piece of scrap paper, the finest paint brush he could find already poised in his hand.

“And some markings like the ones on my sash,” Ahsoka added, fiddling with the traditional Togrutan sash in question as she spoke. “Maybe some Akul teeth, too - since a helmet like yours would cover my headdress.”

“We could probably manage that,” Jesse interjected. “Assuming you had armor, that was.”

Ahsoka finally sensed the trap, her thoughtful look turning into something akin to betrayal as she gaped at the vod’e around her.

“How many times must we have this conversation!?” Ahsoka yelped, drawing a laugh out of several of the vod’e. Tup merely looked up briefly, confusion flashing on his face, before quickly deciding that this was not an argument he wanted to partake in quite yet.

“At least once a week until you agree to wear some armor,” Kix replied, his voice dead-pan. “Unless you have a jaro?”

Ahsoka was familiar with the Mando’a term, having had Kix and Rex throw it at her more than once during these arguments.

“I do not have a death wish!” Ahsoka grumbled, crossing her arms petulantly. The stance, in combination with the look of pure indignation on her face, drew a few more quiet chuckles out of the assembled vod’e.

“Could have fooled me,” Kix muttered in response, sounding appropriately jaded.

“Your armor just isn’t practical for a Jedi,” Ahsoka reasoned, falling back on her usual argument. “I need to be able to move more freely. Plus, a helmet would never fit over my montrals properly.”

“Your armor doesn’t have to be like ours,” Rex reasoned, finally looking up from whatever it was that he was painting with such intensity. “No one ever said that.”

Ahsoka turned her glower on her ori’vod, who refused the back down.

“And where, exactly, do you propose I find armor more suited to a Togrutan Jedi, ori’vod?” Ahsoka ribbed back, her voice bordering on mocking. Rex merely arched an eyebrow, lifting up the paper he had been painting to display a rough sketch of what could only be described as a battle dress.

Ahsoka opened her mouth to argue, mostly out of habit, then closed it, quietly inspecting the painted sketch. It was an armored dress with a short skirt, a weapons belt, and fitted tights like she usually wore. Rex had also sketched knee-high armored boots, as well as forearm armor and fingerless gloves, which would allow her to better grip her light sabers, while still providing protection to her hands and lower arms.

“Rex,” Ahsoka breathed.

Beskar'gam could be added to reinforce the fabric of the dress – stitched right into so as to not limit your movement,” Rex suggested, his voice betraying the nerves he clearly felt. Ahsoka moved off the bunk to take the sketch, inspecting it more closely.

“You’ve put a lot of thought into this,” Ahsoka observed, earning a flush from her tongue-tied ori’vod.

“We all just want you to be safe, vod’ika,” Kix contributed, saying what Rex was currently unable to. Ahsoka inspected the sketch further, rubbing a gentle thumb across the drying paint.

“I don’t even know where I would get something like this made,” Ahsoka muttered, mostly to herself. The vod’e smiled, exchanging conspiratorial glances.

“Leave that to us, vod’ika,” Jesse said, snatching the sketch back out of her hand. The others nodded, smiling reassuringly to their vod’ika. Ahsoka smiled back without hesitation.

“I’m done!” Tup announced proudly. Ahsoka and the older vod’e turned to the newest member of the 501st, who was proudly regarding his finished armour. In addition to the blue standard blue markings suggested by Jesse, Tup had also painstakingly personalized his armor by painting a blue tear (identical to, and in the same positioning as, his tattoo) under his right eye on his helmet and a larger teardrop on each shoulder plate.

“Well put it on then,” Fives encouraged. “We want to see our verd’ika all kitted up in 501st blue for the first time.”

Tup scowled at the nickname, but moved to do as Fives instructed, carefully avoiding the still drying paint as he clipped his armor pieces onto his blacks. When he was all done, he stood awkwardly, helmet in hand, his vod’e inspecting his armor from afar.

It was Fives who got up to examine Tup’s handiwork closer. With her heightened sense of hearing, Ahsoka was perhaps the only one who heard Fives whisper into Tup’s ear.

Mesh’la, cyar’ika,” the ARC trooper whispered.

Tup flushed red at the praise.

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CT-7567 added CC-2224

CT-7567 changed their name to Rex

CC-2224 changed their name to Cody

Cody: Me’bana?

Rex: Ahsoka has finally agreed to wear armor, but we need your General’s help.

Cody: Me'copaani?

Rex: Udesii, ori’vod. She won’t wear our armor – something about it not being practical for a Jedi and needing to be able to move more freely.

Cody: I fail to see what this has to do with Obi-wan.

Rex sent an image file

[It features an updated, refined version of his earlier sketch of an armored dress with a short skirt, a weapons belt, and fitted tights like Ahsoka usually wore. Rex had also sketched knee-high armored boots, as well as forearm armor and fingerless gloves, which would allow Ahsoka to better grip her light sabers, while still providing protection to her hands and lower arms.]

Cody: I still don’t see what this has to do with Obi-wan.

Rex: Beskar'gam would need to be added to reinforce the fabric of the dress – stitched right into the fabric, and along the lining for as much protection as possible.

Cody added Obi-wan Kenobi

Obi-wan Kenobi: I must say, Rex, I impressed that you have managed to convince Ahsoka to wear armor. She can be even more stubborn than Anakin when she wants to be.

Rex: Thank-you

Cody: Oh, so it’s Anakin who’s stubborn about not wearing armor?

Obi-wan Kenobi: I imagine you’d like me to reach out to Satine to see if something like this can be made?

Rex: That was the hope.

Rex: Gedet’ye.

Obi-wan Kenobi: If it can be done, I am sure that Satine would be more than happy to oblige.

Obi-wan Kenobi: She’s had a soft spot for Ahsoka ever since she went undercover on Mandalore and ended up uncovering Almec’s plot against Satine.

Cody: Saving the Duchess and uncovering corruption on Mandalore all in one go.

Rex: That sounds like our vod’ika

Obi-wan Kenobi: Your vod’ika?

Rex has left the chat.

Obi-wan Kenobi: He knows I’m going to expect him to explain that the next time we’re alone together, right?

Cody has left the chat.

[END COMMUNICATION]

Chapter Text

“Alright, here’s the plan,” Obi-wan ordered quickly, smoke from the sniper’s most recent blaster shot still swirling around his profile. “Anakin, you flank him on the right. Ahsoka, you cover the lower streets. I’m going after him.”

Ahsoka nodded her assent as Anakin mirrored the motion beside her. Neither of them dared question Obi-wan when he was like this – focused, intense, a trained warrior ready to strike.

The three rushed out from behind the shipping crates they had been using for cover, igniting their light sabers as they did so. Ahsoka charged into the lower streets as her master and grandmaster scaled the buildings on either side of her with ease, vanishing into the night.

She heard the blaster shots above her as she moved through the streets, tracking the movements above her as best as she could.

Her com crackled, Anakin’s voice pouring out of it.

“I lost him,” her master said, frustration evident in his voice. “Obi-wan, do you have anything?”

Ahsoka paused at that, looking up at the buildings around her, her sharp eyes searching for any sign of movement, even as she reached out in the force.

She heard the shot ring out, heard Obi-wan’s pained shout. Saw, as he fell from the building above her, his body limp as he plummeted to the street.

“Obi-wan!”

Anakin’s shout ripped through the otherwise silent Coruscant night; his concern was palpable.

“I’ve got him,” Ahsoka said, looking up at her master for no more than a moment. “Go!”

She didn’t bother to watch and see if Anakin listened to her; her attention was already focused on Obi-wan, on his too still form on the ground.

She cradled his head gently in her lap, desperately reaching for Obi-wan in the force. She couldn’t help the tears that fell from her eyes when he didn’t respond.

Anakin returned sooner than anticipated, racing to their side.

“How is he?” he demanded, looking down at Ahsoka and Obi-wan, still cradled gently in her lap. Unmoving.

Ahsoka looked up at her master, tears brimming her eyes. She couldn’t find the words, couldn’t bring herself to say what she knew to be true.

Anakin dropped to his knees beside her, reaching for his former master.

“Obi-wan?” Anakin pleaded, his voice low and rough. “Obi-wan?”

Neither of them looked up as the Coruscant Guard arrived.

~~~

Ahsoka was silent as she walked into the 501st barracks that evening, her heart heavy. Obi-wan – her grandmaster – was dead. His body was gone – burned to ash – and his murderer was locked up in the Coruscant jail already, courtesy of herself and Anakin.

It didn’t stop her heart from shattering into a thousand pieces.

Most of the vod were already asleep when she entered the barracks, and she moved quietly. She wanted to be surrounded by her vod tonight, but she wasn’t sure if she was ready to talk about… what had happened. Their presence soothed her, a balm to her weary soul.

Obi-wan was dead.

“Ahsoka?” a quiet voice interrupted her walk to the bunk she normally slept in; easily identifiable by her the soft quilt that Padmé had gifted her, which Fives had returned in the weeks after Echo’s death.

She knew without looking that the voice belonged to Tup, the youngest of the vod. His head was raised from where he laid on his bunk, directly across from the bunk that Ahsoka shared with Fives. Like Fives, he slept on the bottom bunk, whereas Ahsoka had claimed the upper bunk.

“Go back to sleep, Tup,” Ahsoka said wearily.

Something in her voice must have given her aware, because the younger vod did the exact opposite, sitting up in his bunk and reaching out a hand towards her.

Against her better judgement, Ahsoka took it, allowing herself to be pulled into a crushing hug. She collapsed into Tup’s embrace, silent sobs wracking her body as he cradled her against his body.

Obi-wan was dead.

Tup merely held her as she cried against his shoulder, as he had only weeks ago when she had returned from Kadavo. Behind her, her other vod rustled slightly as they shifted from sleep to alertness, watching her and Tup carefully from their own bunks.

They all knew what had befallen General Kenobi – had been there when Skywalker had commed Rex with the news, their jetii’s voice heavy with emotion. Rex had simply listened quietly, nodded once, then ended the com, leaving the mess without another word. No one had seen him since.

K’uur,” Tup said softly. Ahsoka sniffled slightly before pulling away. She looked around, becoming aware that several of her vod – Fives, Jesse, and Kix among them – were quietly watching her from their own bunks, brown eyes glowing slightly in the dim light.

“Obi-wan is –” Ahsoka found that she couldn’t finish the sentence, even if the words had been rattling around in her head for hours.

“We know, vod’ika,” Fives said from his bunk, his voice gentle.

Obi-wan was dead.

Ahsoka held back another sob, but Fives saw it in the way her body shook. It was enough to prompt him to push himself out of his bunk. He grabbed her quilt on he way over, draping it gently around her shoulders. She accepted the blanket gratefully.

“Would you – would you teach me how to say remembrances for him?” Ahsoka asked quietly, looking around hopefully. “I know – I know he’s not vod, but he was family to me, in a way.”

“Of course,” Kix said from his own bunk. Beside him, Jesse nodded.

“Ni su'cuyi,” Fives started.

“Ni su'cuyi,” Ahsoka repeated, fumbling slightly over the pronunciation.

 “Gar kyr'adyc,” Tup continued the remembrance.

“Gar kyr'adyc,” Ahsoka repeated after the younger vod.

“Ni partayli,” Kix picked up where his vod had left off, his voice drifting through the room.

“Ni partayli,” Ahsoka repeated, tears gathering in her eyes once again. Fives squeezed her hand encouragingly.

“Gar darasuum,” Jesse finished the remembrances.

“Gar darasuum,” Ahsoka finished, looking around at her vod.

“Echo,” Fives said softly, drawing Ahsoka’s gaze back to him.

“Hardcase,” Jesse added somberly.

“Dogma,” Tup said the name of his lost vod with reverence, and Ahsoka understood.

“Obi-wan Kenobi,” Ahsoka said, her tears finally breaking free as she let loose another sob. Tup and Fives held her as she cried herself out, the sound raw and broken.

After several long minutes, Tup looked over her shoulder at his cyare  beseechingly, and with a sigh, Fives pulled her to her feet, gently cradling her against his own body.

“Come on,” Fives murmured. “Let’s get you to bed, vod’ika.”

Ahsoka allowed herself to be led away, then helped up to her bunk. Fives tucked her in her an uncommon gentleness. As he pulled away, he smiled sadly.

“We’re all right here if you need us,” Fives said, gesturing around the barracks to the other vod, many of whom were still watching quietly from their bunks.

Ahsoka nodded and pulled her quilt more tightly around her. She still wasn’t ready to talk, and her vod seemed to understand that. But they also knew their vod’ika, and they understood why she was here, instead of in her own quarters in the Jedi Temple. She had explained, before, that their presence in the Force soothed her, a balm to her heart during times like this.

Fives pulled away, but not before whispering softly.

“Everything will look better in the morning light, vod’ika.”

~~~

Ahsoka followed Padmé, her heart still tumultuous as she studiously ignored her master and her disguised grandmaster walking in step behind her. She’d known, of course, that Obi-wan was alive – the Council had had no choice but to reveal the truth of their deception once Anakin sensed Obi-wan in the force during their fight – but knowing and seeing were two entirely different things.

The man beside her master felt like Obi-wan, but he didn’t look like him. Still disguised as Rako Hardeen, he looked and sounded like the criminal he was impersonating.

“You look terrible,” Ahsoka heard Anakin say, his own voice reserved.

“Being a criminal is not easy work,” Obi-wan replied in Rako Hardeen’s voice.

“If I’d known what was going on, I could have helped you,” Anakin growled, his voice quickly revealing the anger still roiling inside him. He had not taken Obi-wan’s death well, and he had taken the subsequent deception of his former master and the Jedi Council only slightly better. “Too bad the Council didn’t trust me.”

Ahsoka knew that Obi-wan’s next words would break Anakin in a way nothing else had.

“Anakin, it was my decision to keep the truth from you,” Obi-wan said, Rako Hardeen’s voice sounding resigned. “I knew if you were convinced I was dead, Dooku would believe it as well.”

Anakin rounded on Obi-wan, no longer bothering to conceal his anger.

“Your decision?” Anakin snarled.

“Look, I know I did some questionable things,” Obi-wan tried to explain. “But I did what I had to do. I hope you can understand that.”

“You lied to me,” the betrayal, the hurt, the anger that Ahsoka felt as well was evident in Anakin’s voice as he snarled his response at his former master. Ahsoka didn’t need to look behind her to feel Obi-wan flinch. “How many other lies have I been told by the Council? And how do you know that you even have the whole truth?”

Obi-wan didn’t answer, didn’t try to justify himself further as his former Padawan walked away from him, rejoining the main ground in a couple strides.

Ahsoka could practically feel her master vibrating with anger, but she said nothing.

~~~

The conversation she’d been waiting to have was easier, somehow, now that Obi-wan looked more like himself. His hair and beard would take awhile to grown back, to be sure, but at least his voice and face were his own again.

“How do you feel?” Ahsoka asked, her voice reserved. Obi-wan rubbed his face before answering.

“I’ve been better, my dear,” Obi-wan admitted raggedly. “The facial transformation process is not – well, it is not pleasant.”

“Then why did you do it?” Ahsoka asked, and she couldn’t quite keep the hurt and accusation out of her voice. She knew that Obi-wan heard it, but he didn’t respond. Like with Anakin, he simply waited, knowing that more excuses and rationales wouldn’t help.

“Why did you let us think that you were dead?” Ahsoka demanded, her voice breaking on the last word.

“Ahsoka,” Obi-wan began, but Ahsoka cut him off.

“I can understand not telling me,” she said. “I can even understand not telling the men – not matter that they’ve been heartbroken since they found out. What I can’t understand is why you would choose not to tell Anakin.”

“I didn’t,” Obi-wan admitted softly. “I lied, when I told Anakin that I did.”

“I don’t understand,” Ahsoka admitted, her anger abating slightly to give way to confusion.

“I lied,” Obi-wan repeated. “This deception – it shook Anakin’s faith in the Jedi Council to his core. I couldn’t – I couldn’t risk what my grow out of that distrust. It is easier, somehow, to have him hate me, than to have him walk away from the Jedi.”

Ahsoka listened in silence, weighing her response. There was only one answer she could really give her grandmaster.

“Anakin deserved the truth,” she said at last. “He still does – not matter what the outcome.”

With that, she walked away from her grandmaster, her heart still heavy and hurting. It would take time, for this to heal, but she knew that it would, in time. Even if Obi-wan’s admission had shaken her own faith in the Council.

As she walked back to the barracks – not the Jedi Temple – she couldn’t help but wonder why she continually sought the comfort and presence of her vod, rather than that of the Jedi who had raised her.

The answer was unsettling.

Chapter Text

“This is the Crucible calling the Republic Fleet,” Katooni all but begged as she called for help yet again. At this point, she and the others didn’t care who answered their call - any answer would be enough. “Come in. Please - we need help.”

Katooni felt Petro at her shoulder, his presence reassuring as they waited in silence, hardly daring to breathe.

Finally, a steady voice with a fine Coruscanti accent crackled out of the ship’s com.

“This is General Kenobi. We have your transmission,” came Obi-wan Kenobi’s voice.

Katooni shared a quick grin with Petro, relief coursing through her.

“The General Kenobi?” Petro asked, incredulous.

At the sound of General Kenobi’s voice, Gungi, Byph, Zatt, and Ganodi – along with R2-D2 – joined Katooni and Petro on the bridge. All six younglings crowded around the holo-projector of General Kenobi.

“The pirate Hondo has attacked and severely damaged our ship,” Katooni explained. “He also took our chaperone, Ahsoka Tano.”

Obi-wan pulled at his beard thoughtfully before responding, gesturing to the clone beside him, who stepped into the hologram at the motion.

“I’m dispatching Commander Cody to bring you back,” Obi-wan decided. “Then, we shall deal with Hondo on Florrum.”

“Will Ahsoka be alright?” Katooni asked, uncaring of the worry that was evident in her voice. The General smiled kindly at the six younglings.

“Hondo would be even more of a fool than I think he is to hurt her,” General Kenobi replied, a hint of carefully controlled anger slipping into his otherwise controlled voice. “Once we’ve picked you up, we’ll focus on rescuing Ahsoka.”

Petro cut into the conversation then.

“But we can help Ahsoka a lot sooner than you can,” Petro pointed out.

“You’ve shown great bravery, but these pirates -” General Kenobi began, only to be cut off by Petro, who was determined to get his point across.

“It was us who managed to drive them from the ship,” Petro argued. The General’s features hardened, and his next words were more of a command than anything else.

“You will not jeopardize your safety trying to be heroes,” General Kenobi ordered. “Understood?”

The younglings looked down in unison, cowed by the powerful Jedi in the holo-projector before them. Even lightyears away, they couldn’t quite reign in their instincts.

“Yes Master,” the younglings said in unison.

General Kenobi ended the transmission without another word, leaving the younglings alone on the Crucible once again.

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CC-2224 added CT-7567

CC-2224: Cyare, I don’t have much time, so you need to pay attention.

CT-7567: I’m here Codes. Go ahead.

CC-2224: We just received a transmission from the younglings that Ahsoka was chaperoning to Ilum. It seems that they were attacked by Hondo Ohnaka and his pirates during their return to Coruscant.

CC-2224: Hondo has taken Ahsoka prisoner.

CT-7567: Osik.

CC-2224: The plan was to pick-up the younglings then go after Ahsoka, but before I could ship out to pick up the jetii, our ship was attacked by General Grevious.

CT-7567: So Ahsoka is still in Hondo’s clutches.

CC-2224: Elek.

CC-2224: Ni ceta, cyare.

CC-2224: We’ll get to her and the younglings as soon as we can.

CT-7567: Don’t bother.

CT-7567: I’m not leaving her with that shabuir any longer than necessary.

CC-2224: K'oyacyi, Rex’ika

[END COMMUNICATION]

~~~

“Rex?” Ahsoka murmured, her gait uneven as the made her way down the gangplank towards the familiar clone, the jaig eyes on his helmet unmistakable.

She stumbled, nearly falling to her knees before Rex caught her. His vod’ika looked up at him, blue eyes flickering shut as she murmured,” I knew you would come.”

With that, she fell limp in his arms, consciousness escaping her.

Rex cradled an unconscious Ahsoka in his arms, the jetii younglings crowding around him in such a way that it would be difficult for him to walk, should he have felt inclined to try. However, without knowing the severity of Ahsoka's condition, he didn’t dare move.

Instead, he shifted slightly, punching a familiar code into his comlink.

“Kix here,” the medic answered without hesitation.

“I have her,” Rex said without preamble. “But she’s in bad shape, Kix. I need medical, now.”

“We’re on our way, sir,” Kix answered, ending the com abruptly.

“Hold on, Ahsoka,” Rex murmured to his jetii. He held her tightly until he heard the tell-tale sounds of the hanger doors hissing open. He waited patiently as he heard the sound of approaching boots, looking up just in time to see the six jetii younglings ignite their lightsabers as one.

“Stay back!” the Nautolan jetii youngling shouted. The Wookie beside him voiced his agreement in what Rex assumed was Shyriiwook.

“Don’t come any closer,” the Tholothian jetii youngling ordered when Kix continued his approach, her blue lightsaber only wavering slightly as she leveled it towards Kix. The medic froze in his tracks, raising his hands above his shoulders. Behind him, Jesse tilted his head, clearly confused by the sight before him.

“What’s with the miniature jetii, sir?” Jesse asked lightly. Kix grumbled something unintelligible at his cyare, which Jesse chose to ignore.

Rex looked around at the jetii younglings encircling them, sighing inwardly. Must all jetii be so obstinate, even the tiny ones? He’d originally thought it was only Kenobi, Skywalker, and Ahsoka who were like this, but the more jetii he met, the more evident it became that they were all kriffing di’kutla.

“Stand down, soldiers,” Rex ordered warily, directing his order at the jetii younglings. “You can trust my brothers – they would never hurt you, or Commander Tano.”

The human male looked over his shoulder at Rex. “How do we know we can trust you?”

Rex restrained the growl in his throat, knowing that it would do little to assuage the fear on the younglings’s faces. They had been through quite the ordeal during their time on Florrum, if their filthy and tattered clothes were any indication. Hondo may have returned them to Rex and his vod eventually, but their journey had not been an easy one.

“Ahsoka is our family too, jeti’ika,” Kix said gently. “I’m a medic – a healer – I just want to take care of her.”

The jetii younglings exchanged glances, clearly considering their next move.

As if sensing their apprehension, R2-D2 rolled forward, letting loose a series of binary too fast for Rex to follow. The jetii younglings listened, but made no move to lower their weapons or to let Kix pass right away.

Then – finally – the Tholothian jetii youngling nodded firmly and stepped aside, de-activating her lightsaber as she did so. The other followed suit, moving aside to give Kix room to work. They didn’t go far, merely regrouped a few steps away, watching the clones with obvious distrust.

Kix set to work immediately, quickly completing a medical scan with a trained efficiency. He frowned at the results - whatever he saw on his scanner he didn’t like.

“Talk to me, Kix,” Rex growled. Kix stood up, gesturing to Coric to bring the stretcher they had brought with them over to Rex.

“Some internal bleeding, a couple broken ribs, potential concussion – the rest is mostly superficial,” Kix listed quickly. “I can’t treat her here – get her up on the stretcher, and we’ll move her to the med bay.”

Rex did as he was told, gently lowering his vod’ika onto the stretcher. Kix didn’t wait a moment longer, and before Rex could object, he and Coric were on the move, Ahsoka’s stretcher between them.

Once they were gone, Rex looked around at the jetii younglings who were still watching him and his remaining vod cautiously.

Rex sighed.

He had never been good with children – least of all jetii younglings.

Thankfully, Fives stepped forward, his bucket already in his hands, revealing a large grin on his face. He crouched down before the group, smiling at each of them in turn.

“What do you say we go raid the kitchens?” Fives suggested. “From what I hear, you’ve been on quite the adventure – I imagine you’re hungry.”

“We are,” the Rodian jetii youngling admitted, earning her a ribbing from the Tholothian female and Human male on either side of her. “Well, we are hungry, aren’t we?”

The others grumbled their assent warily.

“Excellent,” Fives said, standing back up. “Tup and I will take you there now – if you’re really good, we might even have time to raid Kix’s candy stash before he’s done treating Ahsoka in the med bay.”

Tup hurried to follow his cyare and the jetii younglings, gently encouraging them to follow the ARC trooper as he brought up the rear.

Rex stayed where he was, arms crossed over his chest.

“She’ll be fine, sir,” Jesse reassured him. Rex looked over at the trooper beside him – the only member of Torrent left in the hangar bay. “Kix is the best medic in the GAR – you know that as well as I do.”

“I know,” Rex said quietly. “But we should have been with her. She wouldn’t be injured – wouldn’t have been kidnapped and held captive – if we have been there.”

“With all due respect, sir, you can’t know that,” Jesse pointed out.

Rex sighed, rubbing his face tiredly. He knew that Jesse was right, but it did little to assuage his guilt of not being there when his vod’ika had needed him. Finally, he dropped his hands and looked over at Jesse, a wary smile on his face.

“Come on,” Rex said. “We’d better go check on Fives and Tup – I shudder to think what the two of them and six jeti’ika can get up to if left unattended for too long.”

Jesse chuckled at that, moving to follow his alor’ad.

“Honestly sir? These miniature jetii seem like more trouble than the regular ones.”

Chapter Text

Ahsoka was bound, hands and feet held in binders even as she though suspended in the ray shield. A cage meant for a Jedi.

“It would be wise if you let me go,” Ahsoka growled at her captor.

“No, it would be unprofitable if I let you go,” Hondo Ohnaka replied smoothly. “And why would I do something as short-sighted as that?”

Ahsoka glowered at the Weequay.

“If you don’t let me go, you will wish you had been born a protocol droid,” Ahsoka threatened, her voice barely more than a growl. Hondo merely chuckled.

“Sometimes I do anyway,” the pirate said lightly. “But you are really in no position to make threats, young lady.”

Ahsoka merely growled at her captor.

He turned away when she did not respond, joking and bantering with his crew.

~~~

Rex watched as Ahsoka shifted in her sleep, murmuring slightly now and then. Kix had said she would be asleep for awhile yet when he had left, med kit in hand and Coric in tow, to check on the jeti’ika – but that had been over an hour ago. Her movements were become more frequent, and Rex suspected that his vod’ika was growing closer and closer to consciousness with every moment that passed.

He dragged his eyes along her sleeping form again, mentally cataloging her injuries. Bacta and bandaging around her torso, covering the surgical incisions Kix had been forced to make to stop the worst of the internal bleeding. They also served to support and heal her broken ribs and the plethora of bruises and scratches that marred her torso.

Her arms were also covered in various bandages and bacta patches, covering the collection of superficial scrapes and bruises she had acquired during her time as Hondo’s captive.

More bacta and bandaging around her head and head tails, which Kix had divulged were bruised. The medic had had barely restrained anger in his voice when he had shared that information, and Rex knew why – he remembered what Kix had told them about keeping their hands to themselves when it came to certain parts of their vod’ika’s anatomy. And he had heard, had seen, how females with lekku and head tails alike were sexualized. He didn’t want to think about what the bruises on her head tails could mean.

Ahsoka twisted in her sleep again, crying out sharply, and Rex couldn’t stop himself as he reached forward, squeezing her hand to comfort her.

~~~

“You know that the Republic won’t pay a ransom for me,” Ahsoka tried to reason with the Weequay. “And the Separatists can’t be trusted. They’ll betray you and kill us both!”

“Yes, I know this, my dear,” Hondo replied. “The Separatists are no friends of mine.”

“Then what do you hope to achieve?” Ahsoka snipped back.

“The truth is, I have my sights set on criminals more nefarious than I,” Hondo admitted. “A businessman who will pay handsomely for a Jedi – a female Jedi at that.”

Ahsoka stomach roiled at the implication – she had been a slave once before, on Kadavo, and she had no intentions of ever being one again. The thought made her sick, but she kept her expression firm.

“You don’t scare me, Hondo,” Ahsoka responded darkly.

The only response she got was another chorus of laughter from the gathered pirates.

~~~

Ahsoka came to slowly, blinking away the dryness that had gathered around her eyes. She looked around, wincing slightly at the pain in her head, until her gaze settled on Rex, asleep in the chair beside her cot. He had removed his helmet and his upper armor, leaving him in just his blacks and the lower half of his armor, his pistols still firmly attached to his weapons belt.

Smiling slightly at the sight, Ahsoka opened her mouth to speak. All that emerged was a pained croaking noise – her throat too dry to make any sort of coherent sound – but it seemed to do the trick, regardless. Rex snapped awake in a moment, eyes quickly scouring Ahsoka.

Vod’ika, it’s good to see you awake,” Rex said happily. Ahsoka smiled back before trying to speak again. This time, her voice was more agreeable to her demands.

“How – how long was I out?” she asked, her voice rough. Rex winced at the sound, rising to get her a glass of water. He returned quickly, handing it to her before responding.

“Only a few hours,” he said honestly. “Kix and Coric had to knock you out to stop the internal bleeding and patch you up.”

Ahsoka nodded, taking another large gulp of the water before speaking.

“And the younglings?”

Rex chuckled wryly at that.

“Kix and Coric have gotten them all patched up too,” Rex said. “They’re in the barracks with the vod now – I believe Fives and Tup have bribed them with candy to convince them cooperate for the time being.”

Ahsoka breathed a sigh of relief at that. The younglings had been reckless, coming to Florrum to rescue her from Hondo and his crew with a plan.

“No more reckless than you and Skywalker usually are,” Rex said, causing Ahsoka to realized that she had spoken her thoughts aloud. She blushed slightly, reaching up to touch her head tails in embarrassment, freezing when she felt the bandages there. Someone had bandaged them, someone had touched them, someone had seen

Rex noticed the shift in Ahsoka’s demeanor immediately, and leaned forward, pulling her hands down to grip them tightly – pulling her attention back to him.

“Kix bandaged them while you were out,” Rex admitted gently. “He didn’t want to, but he knew that you wouldn’t want General Skywalker – or anyone else – to see the bruises.”

Bruises, shaped like hand prints, on her head tails.

Ahsoka looked away, and Rex tried again – he didn’t want to know, but he needed to.

“Ahsoka,” Rex murmured. “Who did that to you?”

Ahsoka looked back, and Rex was startled to see that her eyes were brimming with tears.

~~~

The next time Ahsoka saw the pirates, Hondo wasn’t among them. His lackeys gathered around her, their laughter echoing around the space.

“Do you know what your buyer intends to do with you?” one of them asked, his lecherous eyes scanning Ahsoka’s body openly.

It made her want to puke.

“I don’t particularly care,” Ahsoka responded evenly, despite the turmoil she felt. She flinched as much as her restraints would allow when another pirate ran a finger down her arm, trailing slowly from her shoulder to her hand.

“Perhaps we could show you what lies in store for you, hmm?” the pirate said, his breath dangerously close to her montrals.

Ahsoka looked obstinately ahead, even as the nausea she felt threatened to overwhelm her.

When she didn’t respond, the pirate stepped closer – as near as the ray shield would allow him, and reached out to tug on her head tail, hard. Ahsoka cried out against her will, the pain and violation briefly driving reason from her mind. He grinned and squeezed harder, causing tears to spark in Ahsoka’s eyes.

“Like that, do you?” the pirates jeered, and the male Weequay holding her head tail opened his mouth to say something else – but the sound of carnival music interrupted whatever he had intended to say next. The pirates drew away as the music grew louder, clearly disappointed.

“Next time, perhaps,” the first pirate said, his voice indifferent as he gestured to the others to lead Ahsoka towards the music.

The others grabbed Ahsoka as the ray shield dropped, grabbing her arms to drag her forward. It scared her how quickly a lack of food and water had weakened her body. It scared her more when one of the pirates trailed his hands down her body, pinching the curve of her waist before whispering into her montrals.

“We’ll have plenty of time tonight to show you what lies in store for you, little Jedi,” he said, his voice laced with dangerous promise. Her squeezed her other head tail forcibly for emphasis, and Ahsoka’s knees gave out.

~~~

“He – he touched me,” Ahsoka admitted raggedly.

“Hondo?” Rex’s voice promised murder, his honey-brown eyes flashing dangerously in the low light of the med bay.

Ahsoka shook her head.

“Hondo never – he just said that he planned to sell me to a businessman who would pay handsomely a female Jedi,” she whispered. “It was his crew. They came back without him; told me they would show me what my buyer would do with me.”

Her tears flowed freely now, but Rex pulled himself back, unsure if his touch was be welcome.

“The one pirate, he grabbed my head tails,” Ahsoka said. “Threatened me, touched me –”

Rex didn’t bother holding back his growl at that. He was going to kill Ohnaka and his crew for daring to lay a hand on his vod’ika. He had half a mind to com the bridge and tell them to turn the kriffing ship around right now –

Ahsoka loosed another sob, and Rex was pulled back to the present.

K’uur, vod’ika,” Rex murmured. He reached out his hand tentatively, and she took it, squeezing it tightly in her smaller hands. “Do you – should I call Kix?”

Ahsoka shook her head, and Rex pushed forward, stumbling over his words.

“Kix wasn’t sure – he didn’t know, and – and he didn’t want to, um, check,” Rex said haltingly, cursing himself. “But if – I mean to say, if they hurt you, like that…”

Ahsoka shook her head again, finally looking at Rex.

“They didn’t, Rex,” she assured him. “The younglings got there before they had a chance, and Hondo – he brought us back here, afterwards. They never had a chance.”

Rex nodded tightly, unsure what to do, or what to say.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get there sooner,” Rex said at last.

“You arrived exactly when you were meant to,” Ahsoka said softly.

They sat in silence for several long moment, Rex clutching Ahsoka’s hand tightly in his own. Finally, she broke the silence.

“I want to go see the younglings,” Ahsoka said. Rex sighed.

“I don’t think Kix –” he began, only to have his vod’ika cut him off, her voice firm.

“Kix knows our track record,” Ahsoka pointed out. “He would not have left us here alone unless he expected us to leave the med bay against medical advice at some point.”

Rex had to admit that she had a point.

With a long-suffering sigh that only an ori’vod with a younger vod could have mastered, he stood and scooped her up, ignoring her squeak of protest. When he didn’t put her down, she shifted slightly, making herself comfortable for the walk to the barracks.

~~~

Ahsoka and Rex stood gaping at the sight before them in the barracks, both completely flummoxed. When Rex had left the six jeti’ika with his vod’e, they had barely established a tentative alliance built on candy and poorly disguised bribes. Now, Rex regretted leaving them to their own devices for so kriffing long. The barracks were a disaster, and there were tiny jetii everywhere.

Kix was curled up on his bunk with the quiet Rodian that Ahsoka identified as Ganodi tucked under his arm, watching something on his datapad. Ganodi appeared to be asleep, but it was hard to tell from a distance.

Meanwhile, Fives and the Nautolan that Ahsoka identified as Zatt were playing catch with what looked to be balled up socks, sitting on two upper bunks across from one another.

On the bunk below them, Tup and Coric were lounging with the Wookie that Ahsoka identified as Gungi and the boy that she called Petro, teaching him how to play a card game that look suspiciously like Sabacc.

Finally, on another empty bunk, Jesse was regaling the quieter members of the group – the Tholothian named Katooni and the Ithorian named Byph – with what sounded to be a highly embellished retelling of their time on Saleucami. Some of the younger vod’e – Sterling and Vaughan included – were sitting around the bunk as well, listening intently.

Rex sighed loudly as Ahsoka giggled in his arms, grinning at the sight of her vod’e and the jetii younglings together.

At the sound, said vod’e and the younglings looked up, the latter jumping up in excitement. The ensuring racket woke Ganodi, who had indeed been asleep. Once she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, she too leapt up to join the other jeti’ika, who were crowding around Rex and Ahsoka.

“Padawan Tano, you’re okay!” Katooni exclaimed.

“Of course I am,” Ahsoka reassured the gathered younglings. “Kix is the best medic in the GAR – didn’t the others tell you that?”

“Then why is Captain Rex holding you?” Petro demanded.

“I’m just tired, Petro, nothing to worry about,” Ahsoka assured the youngling, pointedly ignoring Kix’s annoyed huff from across the room. “Now, I heard Jesse telling you quite the story over there – would you mind if I joined you?”

The others nodded enthusiastically, and the vod’e moved to help push some bunks around so that everyone could sit together. Rex was unsurprised to see many of the jeti’ika gravitate back towards the vod’e they had been with – though Katooni stuck close to Ahsoka, eyeing Rex curiously.

Once they were all settled in, Jesse began his story again, grumbling with frustration each time one of the vod’e who had been there – namely Kix, Fives, and Rex – cut into the story, adding their own details or contradictions. The jeti’ika listened intently, eyes wide. Soon, Rex found himself entranced in the tale too, Ahsoka curled up against his side, drifting between sleep and alertness.

He looked down in surprise when a small, warm body pressed up against his other side. Katooni had curled up against him, her aquamarine eyes regarding him hopefully. With a small chuckle, Rex shifted slightly to pull the jeti’ika against him, tucking her under his arm, so that she mirrored Ahsoka. With a content hum, Katooni snuggled closer.

Chapter Text

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

ARC-5555 added CT-7567, CT-5385, CT-5597, and CT-6116

ARC-5555 changed his name to HighFives

HighFives changed CT-7567’s name to TRex

HighFives changed CT-5385’s name to Tup’ika

HighFives changed CT-5597’s name to Jessica

HighFives changed CT-6116’s name to PumpedUpKix

TRex: Nayc, vod.

HighFives: I haven’t even said anything.

TRex: I already know that the answer is no.

HighFives: Well, since you’re not interested – would anybody else like to go to 79’s tonight?

Tup’ika: Elek!

Jessica: Oya!

PumpedUpKix: Coric would like to know why he wasn’t invited.

HighFives: I couldn’t remember his number – he is definitely invited!

Jessica: We can invite other vod’e?

HighFives: I don’t see why not!

Tup’ika: Oh good, because I already told Sterling, Vaughan, and Ridge.

TRex: Just so we’re clear, I will not bail any of you out of jail this time.

TRex: I will leave you to Fox’s tender care.

HighFives: Shabuir.

PumpedUpKix: I will keep them in line.

TRex: Sure.

[END COMMUNICATION]

~~~

Ahsoka was blissfully asleep when her comlink pinged. The first time, she merely rolled over in her bed, ignoring the sound. The second time, she grumbled and reached out to silence the comlink. The third time, she answered it, her voice rough with sleep.

“Ahsoka here,” the togruta grumbled, eyes still closed.

“Hi Commander,” came the jovial, very awake voice of a clone. The words were so slurred that Ahsoka couldn’t tell which one of her vod’e it was.

“Do you have any idea what kriffing time it is?” the Padawan grumbled back, slowly peeling her eyes open.

“We do,” another clone slurred. “But Rex won’t answer us!”

Ahsoka rubbed her face, sitting up in her bed. She had slept at the Temple, having finished training with Anakin too late to make her way to the 501st barracks. Rex had also recommended against sleeping at the barracks, since he had it on good authority that many of the men were going to 79’s, a popular clone bar. Ahsoka knew that the vod’e often went there to party and blow off steam while on leave.

This time, it seemed that her vod’e had indulged a bit too much while at the cantina.

“I can’t imagine why,” Ahsoka replied sarcastically.

“We need a ride home,” a more coherent clone – it sounded like Kix – added hurriedly.

“Please, vod’ika?”

Ahsoka sighed dramatically, but she was already on her feet, pulling on her leggings and preferred tunic.

“I’ll be there in a few,” Ahsoka ordered. “Do not get into trouble before I get there.”

She cut off the com and grabbed her weapons belt, hooking her sabers to it before slipping out the door.

~~~

Ahsoka carefully pulled the speeder she had commandeered from the Jedi hangar up to the lively cantina, sharp eyes already searching for her vod’e. Clones and non-clones alike were milling about the front of the clone bar, but it wasn’t hard to pick her vod’e out. Even if they hadn’t been wearing their trademark 501st blue, the sight of Fives in a heated argument with a group of Coruscant Guards would have pointed her in their direction quickly enough.

With a sigh, Ahsoka hopped out of the speeder and began making her way to her vod’e.

“Listen here, Fox,” Fives was saying loudly, slurring his words all the while. “We weren't doing anything wrong!”

Commander Fox laughed cynically.

“Fives, I don’t believe you,” the Commander shouted back.

Ahsoka sighed and pushed herself forward to the ARC trooper’s side, slapping her hand over his open mouth.

“Do not,” Ahsoka growled. “Say another kriffing word.”

Fives mumbled against her hand, but backed down at the glare she leveled at him. She didn’t lower her hand as she looked over the shoulder at the rest of them – most of whom were looking at their own feet like scolded children.

“The rest of you, get in the speeder,” Ahsoka ordered. When no one moved, she dropped her voice to a menacing growl. “Now.

The rest of the vod’e hurried to follow her order – though Kix and Coric did have to forcibly pull Jesse away from Fives' side, where he was still trying to posture up for a fight (despite the fact that he could barely stand up straight).

Ahsoka turned back to Commander Fox, glowering up at him with the same fierce expression.

“What seems to be the problem, Commander?”

Fox opened and closed his mouth several times before answering, his voice aghast.

“That one,” he paused to gesture at Fives. “Started a fight with some vod’e from the 327th for no good reason.”

“I had a reason!” Fives interjected.

"Not a good one," Fox deadpanned. 

Ahsoka rounded on him, her expression fierce.

“I told you to stay out of trouble until I got here,” Ahsoka snapped.

“But they were making fun of you, vod’ika,” Fives explained. Ahsoka raised an eyebrow, but didn’t interrupt the ARC trooper. “Well, they were making fun of us for having to call our jetii to pick us up, but still.”

Ahsoka sighed, and turned back to Fox without another word to the ARC trooper, her expression shifting to one of clear exasperation.

“I’m going to take this di’kut – and the rest of them – back to the barracks now,” Ahsoka said firmly. Fox opened his mouth to interrupt her, but she forged ahead. “I will inform Rex of the trouble they caused here, and they will all be training with me bright and early tomorrow.”

Fox snapped his mouth shut. He nodded once, then gestured to the Guard behind him, moving away into the crowd.

Ahsoka grabbed Fives and dragged him towards the cruiser where his other vod’e waited. He hopped in without a word, cowering slightly between Tup and Kix.

~~~

Rex grumbled when his comlink pinged. The first time, he merely rolled over in his bed, snuggling closer to Cody to drown out the sound. The second time, Cody grumbled in his sleep and ribbed Rex gently.

“Are you going to get that?” The Marshal Commander grumbled. Rex mumbled something incoherent back, but made no move to answer the comlink.

The third time it pinged, he answered it, his voice rough with sleep.

“I told you kriffing di’kuts, if you got yourselves arrested, I wasn’t coming to bail you out,” Rex grumbled in greeting.

“No, but apparently they took that as an invitation to call me instead,” Ahsoka answered primly. Rex jolted upright, nearly sending a grumbling Cody sprawling off the bunk.

“What did they do?” Rex demanded, now wide awake.

“Got drunk and tried to start a fight with some vod’e from the 327th,” Ahsoka replied. “Now they’re trying to raid the barracks kitchens for snacks.”

“I’m on my way,” Rex said with a sigh. He ended the com and turned to Rex, surprised to find his cyare wise awake and grinning.

“Trouble with the ade, Rex’ika?” Cody cooed. Rex whacked him with the pillow, moving to pull on his upper blacks. Cody followed him, much to his surprise. At his raised eyebrows, Cody responded.

“There’s no way I would miss this,” Cody said cheekily.

~~~

Cody and Rex found Ahsoka, along with most of Torrent and several other members of the 501st, in the mess.

Ahsoka was doing her best to control the more drunken among her vod’e, including Fives and Jesse – the latter of which could barely stand upright. Meanwhile, Tup was cradling a bucket to his chest, looking positively green. Beside him, Kix was staring blankly into an empty mug, with Coric asleep on his lap. Vaughan was laying face down on the floor, absorbing the cold of the durasteel, while Sterling gently rubbed his back, murmuring reassuringly.

Ahsoka looked up at the sound of the durasteel doors hissing open, breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of Rex and Cody.

“Rex, do something,” Ahsoka pleaded, gesturing wildly at Fives and Jesse, who now appeared to be attempting to drunkenly wrestle one another over half a ration bar.

“Honestly, you should have just let Fox arrest them,” Rex said with a sigh. Regardless, he moved towards the two to split them up.

His brothers could be such di’kuts sometimes.

~~~

[OPEN COMMUNICATION]

CC-1010 added CT-7567, CC-3636, CC-2224, CC-5052, CC-1004, and CC-6454

CC-1010 changed his name to ForFoxSakes

CC-2224 changed his name to CommanderCody

CC-3636 changed his name to WolffeMan

CC-5052 changed his name to BlyGuy

CC-1004 changed his name to Greek

CC-6454 changed his name to JamesPonds

CT-7567 changed his name to Rex’ika

ForFoxSakes: Rex’ika, your vod’ika is kriffing terrifying.

Rex’ika: I know, I’m so proud.

CommanderCody: You know what was even scarier?

Rex’ika: Codes, do not.

CommanderCody: Watching her run a supremely hungover Torrent through drills this morning at the crack of dawn.

CommanderCody: Seriously, she didn’t even flinch when Fives vomited at her feet.

CommanderCody: Just told him to suck it up and get back to his laps.

WolffeMan: Please tell me that someone recorded that.

JamesPonds: I would pay good money to see that.

Rex’ika: Hold on, it gets better.

CommanderCody: When they were done running drills, she made them clean it up.

ForFoxSakes: Glad to know she follows through on her threats.

BlyGuy: Serves them right for messing with my boys.

Rex’ika: ‘Lek.

[END COMMUNICATION]

Chapter Text

Ahsoka, I am so sorry, about everything,” Anakin spoke first, standing at the edge of the semi-circle of Jedi facing the young togruta. The pain – the guilt in his voice – was as palpable as the hurt and distrust written into every line of his Padawan’s body.

Ahsoka waited in silence.

“You have our most humble apologies, little ‘Soka,” Master Plo Koon added, his deep voice rumbling out across the silent room. “The Council was wrong to accuse you.”

“You have shown such great strength and resilience in your struggle to prove your innocence,” Master Saesee Tiin added, glancing towards Master Ki-Adi-Mundi as he spoke.

“This is the true sign of a Jedi Knight,” Master Ki-Adi-Mundi continued.

“This was actually your great trial,” Master Mace Windu said, his voice confident as he spoke. “Now we see that. We understand that the Force works in mysterious ways, and because of this trial, you have become a greater Jedi than you would have otherwise.”

Ahsoka couldn’t quite keep the look of skepticism off her face as Master Windu spoke. She shifted, crossing her arms as she regarded the Jedi Masters, and Anakin, around her.

“Back into the order, you may come,” Yoda decreed.

When Ahsoka didn’t speak, Anakin stepped forward, his voice warm – if a bit hesitant.

“They’re asking you back, Ahsoka,” Anakin explained gently. “I’m asking you back.”

As the Jedi Knight spoke, he withdrew her Padawan braid from his robe – which he himself had torn from her headdress all too recently – holding it out between them. It was a peace offering, she knew. An apology – a request for absolution and forgiveness for what he – and the Jedi Council – had done to her.

Ahsoka reached out, unable to meet Anakin’s eyes as she gently cupped his wrist, using her other hand to slowly close his durasteel hand around her Padawan braid.

She looked up, not bothering to hide the tears gathering in her eyes, or the pain on her face, as she met his confused expression. Her heart was heavy, and it felt like it was apt to shatter at any moment, but she knew that she was making the right choice.

“I’m sorry, Master,” Ahsoka said gently. She closed her eyes briefly before continuing. “But I’m not coming back.”

With that, she turned and walked away, leaving the Jedi Council behind her.

Ahsoka knew, without having to ask or listen for him, that Anakin would follow her. She was nearly out of the Jedi Temple when his voice rang out behind her, desperate and breathless.

“Ahsoka, wait!” Anakin called. “Ahsoka, I need to talk to you!”

Ahsoka paused, but didn’t turn. She knew she had made the right choice – knew that she could never return to the Jedi Order – but she worried that even a glance at Anakin would shatter her resolve in this moment.

But as she felt his presence behind her, solid and familiar, she couldn’t resist. She turned to her Master – former Master now, she supposed – and waited.

“Why are you doing this?” Anakin asked, breathless.

“The Council didn’t trust me,” Ahsoka said. “So how can I trust them? How can I put my faith in people who have no faith in me?”

“What about me?” Anakin asked, his voice nearly breaking on the words. “I believed in you. I stood by you.”

“I know you believe in me, Anakin, and I am grateful for that,” Ahsoka said gently. “But this isn’t about you. I can’t stay here any longer, not now.”

“The Jedi Order is your life,” Anakin was verging dangerously close to begging. Ahsoka turned and shut her eyes, her resolve wavering. “You can’t just throw it away like this. You are making a mistake.”

“Maybe,” Ahsoka admitted. “But I have to sort this out on my own, without the Council.”

Ahsoka turned away again, unable to bear the hurt, pain, and guilt raging across Anakin’s features. For several moments, the two stood in silence, neither looking at the other.  

“I understand,” Anakin murmured at last. “More than you realize – I understand wanting to walk away from the Order.”

“I know,” Ahsoka replied, her voice equally soft. It was the closest either of them had ever come – would ever come – to outright acknowledging Anakin’s clandestine relationship with Padm é, his complicated relationship with the Jedi Code.

There was nothing more to say.

Ahsoka walked away then, not bothering to stop the tears that rolled down her face as she walked away from Anakin. From the Jedi Council, the Order, the Temple. From the first home, the first family she had ever truly known.

Anakin watched his Padawan walk away, his pain and guilt hardening into something dark and dangerous.

~~~

Rex was waiting, leaning casually against the wall beside the main entry to the 501st’s barracks on Coruscant, when Ahsoka appeared. She looked awful – haggard, tired, face lined with tear tracks, her arms wrapped around her as if she could keep herself from falling apart. No new tears – he suspected that she had cried herself dry on her walk here, judging by the heartbreak still written in every line of her body.

Rex didn’t hesitate to pull her into his arms, crushing her in the warmth of his embrace. She didn’t hug him back – merely leaned into the embrace. Rex held her against his body, holding her together until she could do it herself.

It could have been minutes – could have been hours – but eventually Ahsoka pulled away. Not enough to leave his arms, but enough to look up at her ori’vod. She didn’t have to voice the question that Rex saw in her eyes.

“Anakin commed me,” Rex explained. “He seemed to think that you may come here, after…”

Rex trailed off, unsure how to broach the topic of what Anakin had shared with him. Afraid that his words would be true. Afraid that they wouldn’t be. His vod’ika deserved better that the Jedi Order had ever given her, but he couldn’t fathom the day when she wasn’t a part of their lives. A part of his life.

“I left the Jedi Order,” Ahsoka said softly. “The Council didn’t trust me, so how can I trust them? How can I put my faith in people who have no faith in me?”

Rex smiled sadly at his vod’ika, his heart hurting for her.

“You know my thoughts on the Jedi Council, vod’ika,” Rex said softly. They had spoken of it, on quiet nights and duty shifts. More often, since the Rako Hardeen incident. Of tradition, and rules. Of choices, and mistakes.

Of freedom.

“Barriss was wrong about a lot of things. She shouldn't have killed anyone, and she definitely shouldn't have framed me for it, but –” Ahsoka trailed off, her voice tired.

Rex wondered how long it had been since she had slept.

“She had a point about the Republic and the Jedi. The Jedi Order – there is something wrong with them. This war – no one is considering its wider effects, no one is listening when they ought to,” Ahsoka continued. “The Jedi were never meant to be soldiers. We – they have lost their way, and I fear the consequences.”

“I’m not going to tell you that you’re making a mistake,” Rex replied evenly. “Or try to convince you to stay. I know that you have to sort this out on your own, and I’ll always respect that. So will the vod’e.”

“Do they know?” Ahsoka asked. Rex nodded.

“Come on – they’re waiting to see you,” Rex took his vod’ika’s hand and led her into the 501st barracks, where her vod’e were indeed waiting. Fives, Jesse, Kix, Tup, Coric, Hawk, Sterling, Vaughn, Ridge, Boomer, Kano, Appo, Attie – all her vod’e, new and old, were there, waiting patiently for their vod’ika.

Those closest to her – namely Fives, Jesse, Kix, and Tup – stepped forward, engulfing her in a wordless hug. Rex was a reassuring presence, his hand firm and warm on the small of her back. When her vod’e pulled away, she was surprised to see tears glistening in their eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Ahsoka whispered miserably. Fives laughed, the sound watery, and stepped forward again to wipe away a stray tear on her cheek.

“You’ve nothing to be sorry for,” Fives reassured her. “It’s us who should be apologizing – we should have done more to help you – should have done better.”

Ni ceta, vod’ika,” Tup reaffirmed Fives’ words. The sentiment – the grovelling apology – was echoed by the vod’e, and Ahsoka couldn’t help the small smile that crept onto her face.

“We thought – well, that is, if you’re leaving the Jedi Order –” Jesse fumbled over his words, clearly struggling to explain himself. With a nudge – and definitive sigh – from Kix, Jesse held out a brown satchel, his expression sheepish.

“What this di’kut was trying to say,” Kix continued with fond exasperation. “Is that you’re going to need a few things if you’re planning on going it on your own.”

Ahsoka realized then, what the clones were offering her. What little they had, they were willing to give to her.

“No, I couldn’t,” Ahsoka began, but Rex squeezed her shoulder, cutting her off.

“We won’t ask you to stay,” Rex said gently. “But we won’t let you go out into the world unprepared.”

Ahsoka quieted, looking around and realizing with something akin to awe that many of her vod’e were holding something or other.

She took the bag wordlessly from Jesse, and the procession began. A fully stocked med kit and extra bacta patches from Kix and Coric, with strict instructions to take proper care of herself. Extra ration bars and a handful of candy from Sterling, Vaughn, and Ridge. A small bag of credit chips from Fives and Tup, who explained that everyone had pitched in what they could. A DC-17 from Appo and Attie, who only handed the blaster over once she had confirmed that she knew how to use it.

Finally, Hawk stepped forward, a familiar bundle of fabric in his hands.

“I thought you might prefer wearing this,” Hawk said awkwardly, holding out the light blue mechanic's jumpsuit, along with a brown headpiece, that she often wore while working alongside Anakin in the hangar bay. She accepted it gratefully, slipping away to change and gather herself.

When she emerged, her eyes were blissfully dry again. Her dress and beaded headdress she had abandoned in the ‘fresher, along with the other elements of her outfit. She wouldn’t need them – not anymore.

Rex smiled, holding out a large box. At Ahsoka’s raised brow, he chuckled slightly.

“It’s the last thing, I promise,” Rex said. Ahsoka took the box and sat down with it on her lap, opening it slowly.

Whatever she had expected, it wasn’t this.

Laid on top of the fabric – fabric that was undoubtedly 501st blue – was Rex’s painted sketch from months ago. Without looking, Ahsoka knew that the clothing within was the new combat outfit her had designed, consisting of a blue-and-grey dress with a short skirt, blue tights and grey boots, as well as forearm armor and fingerless gloves. She ran her fingers along the metal edge, at a loss for words.

“Kenobi – along with the Duchess Kryze, before, well, everything - helped us add Mandalorian beskar plating to it,” Rex explained softly. “We were waiting for the right moment to give it to you.”

“Rex, I can’t accept this,” Ahsoka breathed, on the verge of tears again.

She found that she couldn’t look at her ori’vod.

Rex didn’t give her a choice, gently dragging her chin up so that her eyes met his own.

“Consider it a promise,” Rex said. “To keep yourself safe. To come back to us, when you’re ready.”

Ahsoka let out a choked sound and launched herself at her ori’vod, wrapping her arms around his neck. For the second time that day, he held her fast and tight, holding her together as she struggled not to break.

When she finally pulled away, her helped her carefully pack the battle dress – and all its accessories – into the satchel Jesse had given her. The bag was obscenely full now, bursting at the seams, but Ahsoka couldn’t fathom leaving any of the gifts from her vod’e behind.

She hugged them all individually, one by one, until there was no one left.

It was time to go.

Rex knew it too, and with a sad smile he inclined his head towards the tiny togruta before him. She had grown so much, since that first day on Christophsis. Had stood by them through thick and thin. Had trained with them, bled with them, nearly died for them time and time again. Had laughed alongside them and hauled them home after drunken nights. She was vod’e, as truly as if she had been grown in a cryotube on Kamino alongside them.

Ret'urcye mhi, vod’ika,” Rex said, the sentiment echoed by his vod’e around him.

Ret'urcye mhi, vod’e,” Ahsoka replied easily. "Ret'urcye mhi, Rex."

Then she turned and walked away without a backwards glance.

Until we meet again.