The message was to the point. Blitz's comms always were.
Gonna want to see this, vod.
The others had gone to the training room before him while Colt stayed back with some of Rex’s troopers in the mess, talking through some old battles he’d forgotten anyone would ever think was worth hearing about.
The message came with an image that took Colt a moment to decipher. A dark blur with a bright blur and another light smear to the side.
Shaak was sparring with her saber.
“Time to head out.” Colt pushed himself to his feet. Rancor Command was almost through their second day in orbit of Kamino with Torrent. If the comms from Rancor were any indicator, Alpha 17 was feeling the pressure, but Colt knew the vod wouldn’t give in too easily.
Colt could hear laughter spilling down the hall before he even got to the training room. Instead of heading in, he waited where he was just to listen. It was nice to be off-world, to be somewhere the snakes weren’t monitoring.
Knowing that this wouldn’t last forever, Colt found himself trying to capture these moments more and more often.
The door hissed open, and an arm dragged him off to one side.
“About time,” Rex grumbled. “Your boys said she doesn’t do this on Kamino.”
Shaak was talking with Rex’s ad’ika commander, with his general hovering around the two. Whatever General Skywalker said got a fresh burst of laughter out of others, and Colt couldn’t fight back his own grin. It was so good to see her laugh, see her easy and comfortable with her own.
Except they weren’t exactly her own, were they?
Ahsoka and Skywalker were vode, Rex’s own family.
He kept his eyes on the scene on the mat, as Skywalker fell back with a playful shove at his padawan and she set herself to face Shaak.
“How did you know?” Colt didn’t turn to watch Rex. “That they were vode?”
That they were yours? He didn’t ask. Couldn’t ask.
Rex made a low sound of considering that was just like the one Cody made, and Colt tried not to smile at the resemblance.
“They are aliit.”
If only it was that simple.
Tano was so young, younger than a shiny if he adjusted for the differences in their development. It was easy to see how the offer of family would win her over. Skywalker was less established in the Order, a Knight, not a Master like Shaak, high-spirited and impulsive compared to Shaak’s measured, thoughtful nature. Having a steadying hand like his Captain’s would be an invaluable counterweight to his own Master’s. Both of them would want an aliit of their own, flourish with an aliit of their own.
The sound of a saber humming to life startled him from his thoughts and made his blood run cold. Rex’s hand was gripping the back of his neck with a sure, steady pressure before he’d clocked his own reaction.
That sound ought to mean safety, the same way the sound of a recharged blaster did.
He nodded, unable to force out more of a reassurance for Rex, and fixed his eyes on the pair of Togruta Jedi still on the mat. Skywalker had fallen back to the edges, clapping his hands and calling out support for his vod’ika.
Shaak’s face was placid, but Colt could see the smile dancing around the corners of her eyes as she waited for the Padawan to engage.
The first strike was fast, sure, and the flurry that followed was a blur of blue and green crashes, as the sabers met. Rex tightened his grip for a heartbeat, grounding Colt well enough he could remember to breathe even as his pulse was still racing with the memory of the last time he’d heard that sound.
“Could step out.” Rex just reminded him it was an option.
Colt shook his head. This was too good to miss, too rare a thing to see. The past was the past, and he wouldn’t think about it.
Not when he could watch Shaak dart past Tano, blocking her twin blades and slipping one long leg between the Padawan’s, off-balancing her with an aborted swing that might have injured, and put out her saber to help Tano to her feet. The commander’s pout was clear across the room.
Of course she would want to impress her ori’vod, and there weren’t many chances.
Skywalker’s whole body seemed to protest the result. “Snips, your footwork!”
That drew a laugh out of Shaak. “I remember your own struggles with footwork, Knight Skywalker.”
Whatever she said next was whispered close to Ahsoka’s montrals, and met with poorly stifled giggles, pout completely forgotten.
She should have this.
Colt didn’t know who those beings were - her fellow Togruta back on Shili, the other Jedi the war had scattered, whatever life she ought to have been living far from battlefields and barracks.
Whoever they were, they would be karking lucky to have her.
Rex’s hand tensed again, dragging Colt from his thoughts. “You ask her?”
Whatever the question was specifically directed toward, the answer was no.
The next grip on his neck was a genuine scruffing and Colt shrugged the hand off.
“Not yet.” Soon. Sooner every day.
Shaak glanced his way, flashing that bright, full-fang smile and Colt couldn’t help but smile back. He didn’t know anything about how the Force worked, but he could see the mischief shining in her eyes.
Colt raised a brow.
Shaak winked, and waved at Skywalker and his Padawan on. “Perhaps you both could help me test my own footwork.”
The smirk Rex’s two Jedi exchanged was pure Shebse. Rex must be proud.
Shaak eased back into her loose, easy stance, lightsaber an extension of herself, as the two sprang into action.
He’d seen her spar with Vau, he’d sparred with her himself near-daily for months, but he’d never seen anything like this.
She moved like she was born for this, like the rules of gravity did not apply to her, like the other two Jedi were part of her dance, moving with her not against her. Shaak rolled and spun and twisted like the sea.
And as the strikes sped up and the tempo increased, she began to laugh.
This was the part of her he could never reach. It was meant for her own kind, and Colt would never ask her to choose to give it up.
Before long, the other two began to laugh with her, breathless and carefree, and Colt didn’t need the Force to know it was with pure joy. The Jedi might never have heard of shereshoy, but Colt had never seen a better example.
Colt had never seen Shaak more beautiful.
Colt could barely tear his eyes away from the Jedi long enough to enjoy the bright, wide grins on Blitz and Havoc’s faces as they watched their usually-reserved Jedi play like a cadet let out early from training.
As the laughter overcame the lesson, the lightsabers were extinguished and the training became a chase, until Skywalker distracted her with a flashy flip and his padawan went for a tooka-like pounce.
Because she wasn’t impressive enough already, Shaak took the leaping vod’ika in stride, landing on the mat in a roll, both dissolved into a breathless tangle of giggles, Skywalker throwing himself onto the mat beside them to wrestle his padawan into an aggressive snuggle.
Maybe this was what her own years as a youngling were like at the Temple, before the war gave her the title of general.
Maybe this would be what her life would be like after the war ended too.
“I’ve got a hold of this one, but I believe the other one is on your watch, Colt.” Skywalker had his padawan trapped in a wookie-hug. “They better give us Droidbait back before Master Ti has too much fun.”
“I take my training very seriously.” Shaak straightened her tunic primly before calling her discarded robe to her hand and walking towards him, still warmly flushed and blushing. “The Commander is well aware of how seriously.”
“The staff training we’ve been working on,” Colt clarified before he had to face the smirk on Rex’s karking face.
“Can I do staff training?” Ahsoka piped up, Skywalker still resting negligently on her. “Will you teach me?”
“Next time we’re together,” Shaak agreed. “Unless you find a teacher sooner.”
A little petulant frown flickered over the teen’s face, and Colt bit back a grin. Obviously, it wasn’t as much about learning a skill as it was about spending time with Shaak.
“But if you happen to begin training before I see you next, you can show me how much you have learned,” Shaak recovered with customary grace, slipping an arm through Colt’s.
Ahsoka’s eyes were bright with the challenge.
Colt could just see Rex’s shoulder’s slump as Shaak sweetly assigned Torrent additional additional-training for their too-clever, too-energetic padawan.
Affirmative. Question. Shaak’s long, slim fingers signed slowly along the sleeve of her robe for Colt’s eyes only.
He had not taught her battlesign.
As far as he knew, none of his men had either.
And yet, she was using it, and finding a new and creative way to make his vod’ika’s life delightfully more complicated. How could a di’kut like him have gotten so lucky?
Colt guided his General toward the door of the training room. “If you have a moment, perhaps we could go over some scheduling?”
His own excuse was as poor as hers was.
He signed back once he was sure they were out of Rex’s eye line.
That would keep his vod’ika and his men busy for a while. Rex’s two Jedi might be pure Shebse, but with a move like that, Shaak would have made a brilliant addition to Edee.
“I believe this is a perfect moment to catch up on scheduling.” Shaak’s smile was full of fangs, and Colt couldn’t look away from the swirl of stars in her dark eyes.
Colt gave Rex a nod, and walked his Jedi out of the training room, very deliberately not-hearing the ‘oh, kriff’ of dawning realization from Commander Tano. Rex could field the follow-up questions from his padawan.
Alpha-17 was only going to hold out for so long. It was best for Colt and Shaak to make the most of their time together.