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Ahsoka Tano wasn't one to work alone, having been both raised and trained in a temple hosting thousands of other Force-sensitives like herself. On the battlefield, she had always been flanked by her troops and by her fellow Jedi. Even alone in the cockpit of her starfighter, she had had an astromech at her side and the voices of her squadron in her headset. Despite this, at present, she found herself once again navigating the labyrinthine streets of the lower levels of Coruscant with only the small holo-emitter she held clutched in one hand and her own wits about her.

She landed lightly on one of the rusted catwalks that arched over a dirty, deserted alley and paused to flick on the emitter and run through the information stored there. The tip-off had been useful; she had amassed a somewhat reliable network of informants throughout her time in the lower depths of the city-planet. Reaffirmed in her task, she tucked the emitter away in a pouch at her belt and dropped silently down in to the alleyway below.

She felt him before she heard the wet slap of his boots hitting the ferrocrete, echoing down the alley corridor and against her montrals. Felt a presence so strong and achingly familiar that she actually stumbled and threw a hand out to steady herself against the wall. She heard his footsteps falter too, though he was still out of sight around the corner.

There was little doubt in her mind as to who it was, blazing like a bright flame in the Force as fiercely as the day she had met him, though she could sense how the passage of time had worn away at his spirit, how the things he had seen and done had eroded his signature in to a new shape, one she didn't fully recognize.

Belatedly, she realized he wasn't alone.

“Sir?” The instantly recognizable, tinny voice of a trooper in-bucket startled Ahsoka and she sank against the wall, suddenly wary. The Grand Army of the Republic had long since been disbanded, the clones' inhibitor chips deactivated en masse once the plot against the Jedi had been revealed, but she still felt uneasy with the knowledge that they had been meant to harm her at all. She reached out tentatively in the Force and counted five of them, all somewhat familiar.

“It's nothing. Keep going, two klicks east. Comm me when you reach the warehouse.”

A chorus of “Yes, Sir!”s followed, and then Ahsoka saw the five troopers jog past, silhouetted at the entrance of the alley. A moment later, Anakin emerged from around the corner, his stance guarded.

His hair was longer than when she had seem him last, the soft waves just brushing the tops of his shoulders. She could see his face illuminated by the dull glow of the enormous holonet display projecting between two nearby buildings. He looked stunned, like the time Hardcase had accidentally decked him upside the head while becoming overly-animated in recalling a tale of heroics from the front lines.

“What are you still doing on Coruscant?” His voice wavered and Ahsoka swallowed past the lump in her throat, peeling away from the wall.

“Where should I have gone?”

Anakin looked taken aback, and it became obvious to Ahsoka that, if he'd had the same chance, he would have left for greener pastures long ago. But Coruscant was the only home that she had known, and Ahsoka had never been one to turn her back on people who needed her. The aftermath of the war had more than supplied her with a reason to stay.

Anakin didn't answer, so instead Ahsoka approached him cautiously. “What are you doing on the lower levels? And what were they doing with you?” She tilted her montrals in the direction the clones had run off to. “I thought the clones didn't serve the Jedi anymore.”

Anakin relaxed slightly, a hint of pride that she recognized creeping in to his voice. “They don't, but a bunch of the 501st didn't want to be fully relieved of duty. They requested to stay on as special guards of the high council.” He leaned in conspiratorially. “They call themselves 'Skywalker's Fist', but it wasn't my idea.”

Ahsoka snorted. “I'd hope so. What does the rest of the council think about that? Wait...” She paused, then leaned back to slug him in the upper arm. “Since when are you on the high council?!”

He barked with laughter and held up his hands in defeat, effortlessly falling back in to the easy informality of their friendship.

“Well... initially, it was sort of a less-than-official thing. Chancellor Palpatine appointed me right at the end of the war. I don't know if I've ever seen Master Windu look so upset.” He smiled shyly at Ahsoka and she grinned back, sharply aware that it was the first time she'd done so in longer than she cared to remember.

“But once he realized I was right about the Chancellor, the council had a change of heart.” He swelled slightly, looking proud but also slightly sheepish. “They raised me to the rank of Master, Ahsoka. I've formally been on the council for three years.”

Ahsoka beamed up at him. “Congratulations, Master!”

Anakin's smile faltered.

She hesitated, her face falling. “I mean. I meant-- not my master, but--”

“Do you want to go for a walk?” he cut her off, his expression suddenly unreadable. She reached out timidly in the Force, but he had closed off from her. She nodded, relieved for the excuse to not have to look directly at him. His presence, she decided, was welcome, and her affection for him had not waned in their years apart, but her heart felt tight, her muscles tense when she looked at him.

They picked their way through the winding streets of Republic City's underbelly. Ahsoka gave him an abbreviated summary of her time away from the Temple, describing the messy aftermath of a planet that had been thriving financially on war and how she had sought to find a role in its healing. She described the encounters she'd had with various crime lords, the attempts made to cease the slave-trade, and even the occasional partnership with the former Sith-acolyte Asajj Ventress (Anakin had given her a stern look at this), whose knowledge of the seedier sides of Coruscant she had found exceptionally helpful on several occasions.

“It was hard getting used to these at first,” she motioned to the blaster holstered at her hip and the sheathed knife strapped to her boot. “I wanted to build new sabers, but it didn't seem right to.”

Anakin suddenly looked incredibly guilty, and he turned away, looking blankly in to the general distance. Ahsoka felt a spike of bitterness flow through her as she sensed Anakin close himself off in the Force once more. She frowned and knit her brow.

“Why are you even down here? Do the Jedi even know how to function in peacetime?”

“We're.. finding our place. Right now, it's mostly about cleaning up the mess we've left behind.”

Anakin relayed to her his current mission, finding and capturing the nameless bounty hunter who had been responsible for stealing and selling unused military-grade weapons and ammunition left over from the war to off-world buyers. He'd been hard to locate and easy to lose, and he wore outdated Mandalorian armor, he told her. Ahsoka stopped in her tracks and turned to him, brows raised. When Anakin looked quizzical, she drew the small holoprojector from her belt and turned in on. The image of a figure clad in modded Mandalorian armor flickered in to existence, rotating slowly in the space between them.

“Is it this guy?”

They were interrupted as Anakin's wrist comlink crackled to life, Appo's voice rising above the general clamor of the streets.

“We're more than a bit outnumbered, sir. I've called for backup, but we could use you down here now.”

“Copy that, Appo. I'm on my way,” Anakin dropped his wrist and looked at Ahsoka, who regarded him with uncertainty. “Coming?”

 

---

 

They could hear the blasters long before the warehouse came in to view. Charges of red and green streaked out from an enormous hole which looked to have been recently blown in the roof. The warehouse, enormous and dark, was located in a level of the city that was largely abandoned and that police rarely monitored, but if the ground-shaking explosions were anything to go by, Ahsoka doubted there was much the police could do.

Anakin and Ahsoka both landed from above in to crouches along the rim of the destroyed roof. The scene below was one of pure chaos: the five dispatched clones had been pushed in to a corner of the cavernous building, which was mostly empty save for a handful of crates that they were using as cover and a veritable army of battle droids, both B1 and B2 class. The second floor's open grated balconies bristled with them as well. The droids were methodically descending upon them, the air thick with blaster fire. Ahsoka watched as one of the troopers, she couldn't tell who from this distance, lobbed an EMP grenade into the droids' midst. It detonated seconds later, but instead of disarming them, the droids continued on as if nothing had happened.

“I thought we were tracking a bounty hunter!” Ahsoka yelled to Anakin over the din of blaster fire.

Anakin gave a baffled shrug and drew his lightsaber, then vanished in to warehouse. Ahsoka took a moment to compose herself. It had been years since she'd fought a droid battalion, years since she'd been shoulder to shoulder with the clones she had considered family. This day, as a whole, was proving more emotionally taxing than she had anticipated. Pulling a cloak of serenity about her, she unholstered her blaster and dropped down in to the crossfire.

Nimbly dodging the crackling beams of blaster fire, she made her way to where Anakin was crouched beside Appo, firing the occasional shot with an accuracy that made her Force-sensitive status obvious.

“They've been reprogrammed, completely recircuited from the ground up,” Appo was reporting hurriedly as he loaded fresh charges in to his rifle. “Electro disruptors aren't effective at all, they must be running on a different frequency. We can't keep up with them; if there were more of us...” He paused, noticing Ahsoka for the first time. “...Commander Tano..?”

Ahsoka waved this away, leaning in so that should could be heard above the tumult. “Why are they here at all?”

“We're not sure, sir,” he responded, and Ahsoka winced at the honorific. “We think the Mandalorian left them here as a parting gift, knowing we'd be on his tail, but he's long gone. The shipments we expected to find here are also missing.”

Another clone, one she knew by sight but not by name, leaned in. “If he's already been stealing weapons from the Republic, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's done the same with the Seppies. The foundries on Hypori were operational right up until the end of the war, and there were plenty of clankers that weren't deactivated afterwards.”

Anakin made an unhappy noise and thumbed on his lightsaber. “Well, I bet they're not immune to this.”

He looked sidelong at Ahsoka, who was unsheathing the knife at her calf. “You take left flank?”

She nodded, adjusting her grip on the knife and motioning with the nose of her blaster to get going. Not the weapons she would have chosen if she had known she'd be facing off wave after wave of tinnies, but she was familiar enough with their style of combat that she felt confident. As she launched herself out from behind the crate, she heard a clone behind her mutter to Appo “wish we could get our hands on some of those lightsabers.”

“Stow it, Nax,” came the reply, and then Ahsoka was out of earshot and in to the deafening clamor of the droid's line of fire. She had to be careful: no lightsaber meant no way of blocking the barrage of blaster fire. With practiced agility, she wove her way in to the incoming crowd, droids falling by her gun before she reached them. When she reached the droids outright, she rolled and slid on to one knee, deftly slicing four of the droid's legs with one clean swipe. They crumpled around her like tinfoil. Somewhere off and to the right she could see the blue beam of Anakin's lightsaber blazing a path through the swarm of battle droids.

Combat went on much as it would have on the front lines with Anakin and Ahsoka leading the charge and the squad of five troopers bringing up the rear, easily picking off the droids that had been left behind by the two Jedi. Ahsoka and Anakin had each cut a swath through the outer ranks and were closing in on their center, but Ahsoka was slowing, having run out of charges and relying solely on her small, close-range knife now. Anakin sensed her distress and caught her eye from across the room. It was only a moment, but his attention was diverted long enough that one of the droid snipers on the upper scaffolding took advantage and aimed its weapon. Ahsoka noticed the danger a second before the rifle discharged, throwing out her hand and knocking Anakin out of harm's way. He skidded to a halt a few meters away looking startled, but quickly gained composure and righted himself, giving a two-fingered salute her way.

She huffed a sigh of relief and watched as one of the clones picked off the snipers lurking in the upper levels. It was in this moment of distraction that she felt blaster fire slam in to her shoulder from behind. Pain blossomed outwards, radiating down her arm. She yelled as her body jolted forward, anger at her own carelessness lancing through her. She Anakin shout her name but didn't react, instead rolling in to her fall and coming up swinging on the other end. The smell of her own seared flesh met her nostrils as she decimated the droids around her with new-found focus.

It was only ten minutes of so later that the seven of them stood panting in the center of the warehouse, the wreckage of battle strewn about them. Smoke rose lazily from the broken shells of countless droids. Nax was opening up the crates that had been left behind – all empty – and one of the others was comming the temple to tell them reinforcements were no longer needed. Anakin extinguished his lightsaber and jogged over to Ahsoka, his forehead creased with concern.

“How bad?”

Ahsoka twisted to look over her shoulder to where the blaster mark fanned out over her coppery skin. It wasn't deep, but she had been badly burned. “It's nothing. I have a medkit at my place.”

“Why don't you come back and have us take a look at it? I'm sure Kix would be more than happy to..” he trailed off as Ahsoka shook her head. She slid her knife back in to the sheath on her boot and gathered her discarded blaster from the ground.

“Council wants us back at the Temple for debriefing,” Appo said gruffly, sidling up beside them. He had his bucket off and his hair was matted comically to his skull. “They may have intel on where this guy's moved to, and where he might have gotten ahold of them.” He thumbed at the fallen masses behind them.

“Since when does a bounty hunter smuggle firearms? Since when does he reprogram droids?” Anakin ground out, looking bewildered and frustrated.

“Things are tough all over,” Ahsoka replied coolly. “We all have to adapt.”

The clones looked uneasily between themselves. Finally, Appo said, “Your orders, sir?”

“You head back. Tell the Council I'll be along shortly. And.. tell them to send a clean-up team over to deal with this.” He gestured to the warehouse at large.

They nodded and readied to move out, clearly appreciative to have something to do that didn't involve staying in the vicinity of what was clearly an uncomfortable situation. Ahsoka watched them go, her expression one of despondence. For someone who had been raised in a lifestyle of detached tranquility, she had never been one to clear her face of emotion.

“I suppose I can leave the rest of this up to you and the Order,” she said finally, brushing the dust from the front of her trousers.

Anakin looked abashed. “If you'd like. Or, we could continue working together until we bring this guy in.”

Ahsoka rotated her injured shoulder, but didn't respond.

He tried again. “Why were you chasing him to begin with?”

“Even if he's just capturing criminals and other sleemos, he doesn't have the right to take their lives in to his hands.” She met his gaze evenly. “Everyone deserves a fair trial before they are sentenced to death. Don't the Jedi teach that?”

Anakin faltered. “O-of course. But why him specifically?”

“I think I know who he is,” she turned and headed to leave, knowing he would follow. Anakin decided not to press the issue, falling in step beside her.

Ahsoka was lost in thought. The war had been over and she stripped of rank for years now, and yet it was without question that the clones she saw tonight accepted her position in command, as if she had never left. The Jedi had all but cut ties with her after she had left the Order; certainly, Obi-Wan had sought her out and pressed a stipend of credits on her, but no one else had contacted her since. It was clear that, in their eyes, she had made her decision, and in a world without attachments it was an easy thing to let one of their own drift away. She didn't dare ask where Rex was, or any of the other men she had considered family. The thought that they may be dead, like so many of their brothers, was something she could not bear.

She allowed him to trail her to the place she had been calling home recently: a tiny one-room apartment devoid of any personality in a manner not unlike the padawan dormitories back at the temple. Ahsoka keyed the door and it swooshed open to reveal a small, gray room furnished with a bunk, a stack of shelves, and not much else. The light was dim and cold. Peering around the corner, Anakin saw the door to an equally tiny fresher. While Anakin took in the place, Ahsoka unpacked her belt and laid it over the only chair in the room.

She pulled a small medkit from a drawer near her bunk and opened it, and set about soaking bandages in the container of bacta she kept there. When Anakin offered to help, she hesitated, and then sat on the bunk and offered her shoulder to him. He carefully snipped away the burned cloth of her sleeveless tunic with the small, silver scissors from the medkit and then smoothed layer after layer of bacta-soaked dressings over the wound. When he was finished, he leaned back against the nearby bookcase and made a “tada!” flourish with his hands.

They sat in uneasy silence for a time as the bandage dried, Ahsoka methodically unstrapping her boots and holster, Anakin carefully replacing the contents of the kit. Their force bond still hummed between them, but it was more like an echo, quiet and soft around the edges.

“You could have left, too,” she broke the silence finally, her fingers curling in to the thin, rough sheets that had come untucked from her bunk. “I know you wanted to.”

Anakin let out an exasperated breath. “It's not that simple. I can't use my issues with the Order as an excuse to leave it. I had responsibilities I couldn't just walk away from.”

The look Ahsoka shot him chilled Anakin to his core.

He raised a hand defensively. “All I mean is that I'm working to fix things from the inside. Now that I'm on the council, my opinion has a lot more sway. I've already made several appeals to them with regards to their practices during war times, and I'm working with Chancellor Amidala to implement a job-placement program for the clone veterans who are out of work.” He paused. “..And I've been doing a lot of research and seeking insight from other Jedi, not just ones stationed on Coruscant but all over the galaxy, about the nature of attachment and the benefits of allowing it.”

Ahsoka raised a brow. “That was an interesting segue. Things are going well with the Chancellor, then, I take it?”

Anakin looked momentarily ruffled. “The point is, things are changing, Ahsoka. The Order doesn't have to represent the same things it did during the war.”

“Is this you asking me back again?”

“No, it's...” Anakin shook his head almost imperceptibly, his mouth working. “I missed you, Snips.”

Ahsoka's expression crumbled, her shoulders sinking. She felt tears burning behind her eyelids and she huffed and looked at the ceiling to stop them from falling. Suddenly, she felt their bond sing to life, the connection flowing freely and openly, and the next thing she knew she was in Anakin's arms, staring blearily at the delicate weave of his tabard where it folded over the curve of his shoulder. She pressed her face in to his chest and gave an exhausted, stuttering sob, her shoulders shaking lightly, and she felt the mattress give as he shifted to sit beside her on the bunk, his arms still tight around her small frame.

She felt simultaneous great relief at his proximity and a bristling anger at herself for allowing him to glimpse the kernel of resentment and despair she had been silently harboring since the day she had walked down the temple steps for the last time. Slowly, she pulled back, exhaling a shaky breath.

“I've never been alone like this. My whole life there were always others around, in the temple, or on the Resolute, even on the front lines--”

“I know.” Anakin drew back slightly and gingerly touched her cheek with one gloved hand. “I'm sorry.”

Ahsoka laid her own hand over his and leaned in to his touch. “I suppose you need to get back,” she said after a moment.

“It can wait,” he murmured, and when she looked up to meet his gaze she was surprised by the intensity and openness she found there. Something coiled hot and low in her belly and they both felt the shift in tone strum along the thread of their Force bond. Anakin dropped his hand, but did not move to leave.

“Anakin,” she started quietly, and her eyes dropped to watch his throat work as he swallowed. Distantly, she was aware that she was leaning in to press her mouth to the point on his neck where she could see his pulse fluttering under the surface. He angled his jaw and she could feel his quiet, sharp inhale. When she felt his hands alight softly at her waist, she readjusted, cupping his face and kissing his mouth.

Their bond flared in response, blazing blindingly bright in the Force. Anakin made a small noise against her mouth and pulled her closer, and Ahsoka obliged, snaking her arms around his neck, suddenly desperate to be close. Her fingers found the wild, soft waves of his hair and wound themselves in, drawing him in. The room felt airless and Anakin drew away and bowed his head to her shoulder, breathing heavily against her lekku. Ahsoka dotted kisses along his cheekbone.

“This is--” he began, but she silenced him by pulling him back into another kiss, licking her way in to his open mouth. She didn't want to hear about why this wasn't okay, about which parts of the Jedi Code they were breaking or how she was dishonoring her former apprenticeship. The Order was a monolith rising stubbornly in the distance of her memory, crumbling under the weight of its own ancient, self-righteous attitudes. She further distanced herself from it.

His hands came up and she was afraid they were there to push her away, but instead they stroked lightly down both left and right lekku before continuing down to settle on her hips. She barely had time to gasp against his mouth at the sensation before he was lifting her, moving her just enough to sit squarely in his lap. She growled low in her throat and fisted her hands in his tabard, untucking the ends and pulling them roughly to the sides. Anakin looked dazed, his face flushed as Ahsoka easily undid his obi and dropped it to the floor behind her.

“Slow down, Snips,” he chuckled softly, landing a soft kiss on her forehead. His thumbs rolled soothing circles in to her hipbones. “I'm not going anywhere.”

Ahsoka exhaled and slowed her movements, resting her hands on his forearms. 'Not yet, anyway,' she thought bitterly, but she ushered the thought away and leaned in to kiss him again, this time languidly and thoroughly. Anakin's hands traced an unhurried path from her waist up and along her ribs and then down her back. When they slid lazily under the hem of her navy tunic, Ahsoka hummed and ground down with her hips. Anakin, beginning to feel a bit impatient himself, growled his approval, his hands squeezing against the muscles of her back. He allowed her to pull aside the layers of his over- and undertunics until he was just in his trousers and boots, his own hands now finding and undoing the unfamiliar clasps of her shirt until it hung open from her shoulders. He paused long enough to allow her to tug off his gloves. The durasteel of his prosthetic arm gleamed dimly in the low light.

Ahsoka placed a hand on his chest and pushed until he fell back against the mattress, straddling his hips fully. He gasped when she rolled her hips down against his obvious arousal, so she grinned and did it again. He watched raptly as she shrugged off her tunic, her heavy lekku draped over the ruddy curves of her breasts. When she began to work on the ties of his trousers, he gripped her at the hips and rolled them both until she was lying flat on her back on the bunk and he was propped above her.

She flinched when the cold metal of his mechno-arm brushed against her ribs, and he immediately withdrew, looking apologetic. “Sorry.”

“No, it's..” she smiled, taking his hand and weaving their fingers together, the rust-colored skin of her hand interlaced with black and gold metal. “It's nice.” She brought his knuckles to her lips and kissed them playfully, and watched as Anakin's ears turned red.

“I forget about it sometimes,” she went on. “You're always wearing gloves.”

“It's not the sort of thing I like to show off,” he said quietly.

She snorted. “I thought all you did was show off.” Anakin feigned injury and she slapped his upper arm and laughed. He grinned and bowed over her, parting her knees and settling between them, his hands skimming over her ribs and across her belly.

“Look who's talking.”

“I wish it wasn't you. Can you shut up, please?” She grabbed his face and pulled him down in to another kiss, smiling against his mouth. The feeling of being close with anyone after so long going it alone made her heart swell. The knowledge that it was Anakin, Anakin finally, after all this time, set her nerves on fire and she felt bright and alive, raw and stripped bare in a way that had nothing to do with her state of undress and everything to do with how the Force seemed to pulse around them. If attachments were forbidden, if this was wrong, then she had no more reservations about leaving the Order.

She became vaguely aware that Anakin was fussing with the fasteners to her trousers and she broke away from the kiss long enough to breathe and look down. Willingly, she lifted her hips and he tugged the pants and underclothes down and off, then came back up to line her neck with open-mouthed kisses. When he shifted from throat to the tapered length of her left lek, the muscles of Ahsoka's stomach tightened and she shuddered.

Anakin pulled back on to his elbows, an eyebrow raised in a sort of 'ah-ha!' expression. “So, the rumors are true.”

Ahsoka rolled her eyes and pulled his head back against her shoulder. “Do that again.”

“Tch, bossy.” His voice was muffled against her lek, but she could feel his smile. He mouthed his way down and along the flushed-dark chevrons, his teeth just barely skimming her flesh in a way that made her hips rise off the bunk and her breath come faster. When she reached down and palmed him through his trousers, he stopped abruptly, making a small, ragged sound. Encouraged, she pulled at the ties at his waistband until she could dip her hand underneath and draw him out. Anakin hissed and rested his forehead against her collarbone and Ahsoka kissed the crown of his head. After a moment he leaned back and shucked his boots and pants on to the floor before kneeling between her parted legs.

He looked up at her before continuing, his brows raised. “This okay?”

She nodded furiously.

Anakin's touch made it clear he was more than familiar with female anatomy. When he slid two fingers down and alongside her lips, his thumb pressed firmly to the bud of her clit, she gasped and fisted her hands in the sheets. Anakin grinned and held her hips with his mechno-hand as they stuttered.

“You're so wet, Snips” he murmured appreciatively, and Ahsoka felt herself flush a shade darker. She opened her mouth to retort but was left breathless when he lowered his mouth to her core. A wave of pleasure crested over her. She knew he could feel it too, reverberating back along their bond, and he groaned against her. When she lifted her head to look down at him, the sight of him bent before her, his tousled head between her thighs and his pupils blown wide open, she gave a full-bodied shudder and dropped her head back against the mattress. For his part, he read her body easily, discovering what she liked best and capitalizing on it until she was panting hard and rocking her hips.

“Master,” she said in a shaky voice, and he looked up sharply, his cheeks burning. She was flushed, her eyes heavy-lidded and dark, the white markings on her face standing out brightly in the low light. Despite her position, she still looked fierce and powerful, even off the battlefield, even naked and breathless. Anakin felt his love for her swell, washing over them both, and it was then that she cried out as her orgasm thundered through her, her muscles tightening like a bow string. She shivered as she came down, and Anakin kissed the insides of her thighs and smoothed his hands along their outsides before untangling himself and crawling up the bunk to lie beside her.

She only took a moment to recover before she descended on him, holding his face and kissing him hard. He made a pleased noise when she nipped lightly at the corner of his mouth, and an even more pleased noise when her hand went down to encircle his erection and stroke it firmly. A moment later she had flipped them again, straddling his hips, her hand still gently holding him behind her body. Anakin thought he might lose it then and there with Ahsoka sitting astride him, her body lithe and strong atop him and her signature hot and vibrant in the Force.

The sound Anakin made when she adjusted herself and then sank slowly down around him made Ahsoka pause and catch her breath, desire vibrating through her and pooling in her groin. He reached out towards her from his position prone on the mattress, but instead of letting him touch her, she took his hands in her own, intertwining their fingers and then pushing his arms back against the bunk. Leaned over him now, still fully seated around him, she licked a stripe from his collarbone up his throat.

“Ahsoka...” he bit out hoarsely, his voice a warning.

“Yes?” The tips of her lekku trailed against his chest as she righted herself in one slow, fluid movement, releasing his hands and smiling impishly. She was otherwise still above him, her hips flush with his, unmoving.

Anakin opened and closed his mouth, looking so overwhelmed with barely-leashed emotions that she had to laugh. His expression cracked and he allowed himself to chuckle too, surging up to mouth at the undersides of her breasts. Ahsoka wound her fingers into the waves of his hair and rocked her hips. She felt his muscles spasm beneath her, his fingers scrabbling to hold her around her waist. “This isn't gonna last long,” she heard him laugh breathlessly against her skin.

The double-meaning was not lost on Ahsoka. Her smile wavered, but she pushed the thought from her mind just as she pushed Anakin softly back down, keeping her hand splayed over his chest. With her other hand braced on his thigh, she rocked in earnest, her breath coming in gasps. Anakin looked lost beneath her, his lips parted and his hair sticking to his forehead and neck. His hands skated over her back, deftly avoiding the bandages and then skimming back down along her front and across her draping lekku. She mewled and bit her lip, moving more urgently. Anakin was snapping his hips now too, his eyes fluttering shut and his neck arching back.

Ahsoka watched through hooded eyes as climax coursed through Anakin's body, felt it as he shouted and bucked beneath her and simultaneously experienced it explode around her in the Force. It overpowered her as well and she felt herself clench around him, bowling her over with its unexpected momentum.

They stayed joined for a few minutes afterwards, panting and shaking, before Ahsoka slowly rolled off and lay beside him. Anakin looked both exhausted and exhilarated, and he grinned at her as he turned to face her, throwing an arm over her and stroking her side. He exuded contentment and affection in a way Ahsoka had never experienced from anyone else. She placed a lingering kiss on his lips and relaxed back against the mattress, adjusting her lekku to be more comfortable.

After a few minutes, she threw Anakin's heavy arm off of her. “You're too hot.”

"No I'm not,” he mumbled into the mattress and rolled further in to her, draping himself over her.

She laughed and struggled feebly. “Get off, you big bantha!”

“I don't know what you're t—HEY.” He shot up, looking both delighted and betrayed, when Ahsoka tweaked his sides. Ahsoka opened her mouth in mock astonishment, as if she had just discovered a great secret (which, of course, she had), and descended upon him with relish, catching him under the arms and tickling him mercilessly. He howled and curled in on himself, holding his hands up uselessly to fend her off. When she stopped to point and laugh, he scooped her up around the middle and kissed her.

 

---

 

An hour later, Ahsoka and Anakin stood at one of the many speeder platforms that lined the enormous, portal-like holes that tunneled up to the surface. High above, a small circle of sky punched through the murk, but the sunlight only filtered down a few levels before it become lost in the smoke and grit of Coruscant's underbelly. The air was filled with speeders and cars zooming by, but one speeder in particular descended lightly from above and landed in front of them. A clone stepped off, and Ahsoka realized she recognized him.

“Kix!” she exclaimed, trotting over to him with her arms wide. He beamed at her as he dismounted and swung her up in to bear hug.

“Commander Ta-- er, Ahsoka!” he grinned and plunked her back on the ground. “When Skywalker contacted me to come and pick him up, I didn't believe him when he said who he was with! I never expected to see your face again.”

He looked older than she had expected – all of them did, she realized – but more relaxed, too. Peacetime had suited him. He had stopped shaving his head in intricate designs, but his Aurebesh tattoo, “a good droid is a dead one”, was still visible through the fuzz. He wasn't kitted out in his armor, either, instead dressed in a standard Jedi medic uniform.

“They're still letting you hang around the temple, huh?” she quipped, taking in his appearance.

Anakin strode up to them, his arms crossed over his chest and a smile playing on his lips. “Kix said he wasn't done doing his duty, so we let him stay on in the infirmary. It would have been a waste to not put his skills to good use.”

“Skywalker says you've got a nasty blaster burn on your shoulder. Mind if I take a look?” said Kix, unstrapping a medkit from the back of his speeder. Ahsoka shot Anakin a look, who shook his head innocently, but acquiesced, pulling back the damaged shoulder of her tunic to show the clone.

“I already treated it with bacta, it's really not anything bad,” she said as Kix tutted and peeled back the bandaging Anakin had applied.

“No, nothing serious,” he agreed, “but I'd rather you used this on it instead.” He pulled a bottle of what looked to Ahsoka like regular bacta from his kit and handed it to her. “Extra strength,” he explained. “This is what we used in a pinch on the front lines when we knew we weren't going to be getting back to the medbay anytime soon. Anakin says you're not returning with us to the temple, so...”

Ahsoka took the bottle and dropped it in to a pouch on her belt, beginning to look uncomfortable. “Thanks, Kix. I really appreciate it.”

There was an awkward pause in which Ahsoka fussed with her belt and Anakin pretended to be looking at the cars speeding by. Eventually, Kix clapped his hands on his legs and said, “Well, suppose I'll just put these things away,” before shambling back to the speeder and organizing his first aid items.

Ahsoka let out a quiet breath as Anakin turned to her.

“Can you even stay in the Order? After.. this?” She gestured vaguely to the two of them.

“I told you, things are changing,” he replied, but his eyes were sad. He brightened a moment later, though. “Listen, I think you should visit the Chancellor and I sometime. You'd be welcome whenever you like. She has a beautiful penthouse outside the senate building now.”

Ahsoka raised a brow incredulously. “Don't you think--”

Anakin shook his head, holding up a hand. “No, it's.. I think it would be good.” He closed a hand over her uninjured shoulder. “Just trust me.”

Warmth and peace radiated out from the place Anakin touched her, but she could sense the conflict in his mind as well. While he ascended up in to the glittering spires of the world above to sit on a council with his peers and to live happily with his wife, Ahsoka would remain in the perpetual night of the underworld, scraping by. But the literal upper crust of Coruscant was not what Ahsoka wanted nor needed anymore: the corrupt government officials, the gilded domes and lavish gardens, the greedy discussions of loans and interest rates. Her people were now those below, the people on which the opulent relied.

She missed only the cool, quiet halls of the temple, the dusty beams of sunlight as they slatted down through the corridors of books in the library, the peaceful courtyards. She wondered sadly how the younglings she had brought on their quest to build their lightsabers were faring.

As if reading her mind, Anakin patted her lightly and then withdrew his hand. “You know,” he began thoughtfully, “I think you ought to revisit Ilum. See what you can find there.”

She squinted at him. “Why would I go there?”

“Because I have your lightsabers sitting in my room back at the temple, and I think Obi-Wan would notice if they went missing.”

Ahsoka looked at him, nonplussed, and he offered her a lopsided smile as he made his way over to Kix and the speeder.

“Goodbye, Ahsoka! You come and visit real soon, eh?” Kix saluted to her. Anakin clambered on the speeder behind him, then turned and locked eyes with her.

“Real soon, okay, Snips? I mean it.”

Ahsoka nodded silently in a defiant attempt to hold back tears. She was not someone who cried easily or often, and twice in one day was certainly out of the question. Anakin nodded back once, his gaze still holding hers, and then they were off, jetting away towards the daylight.

She took her time making her way back to her apartment. She had always just assumed that life after the temple meant life alone, but Anakin made it sound like a continued partnership wouldn't be all that complicated. Perhaps she had miscalculated what a life outside the Order meant for her. And if Anakin truly was trying to change the teachings when it came to personal attachments... She palmed open the door to her room, taking in the four walls, the sparse furniture. The bandages were still laid out and the bedsheets were crumpled with use.

The sight made her unimaginably sad. This room, which she had thought of simply as a place to sleep and recuperate for some time now seemed oppressively lonely and empty without Anakin's tall, gangly form taking up space in it. She tidied up unhurriedly, and then, for the first time in a long time she sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor and tried to meditate. It was a skill she had never been particularly adept at, and also one she had disregarded since leaving the Order, but here and now she found quiet stillness in its practice. Far in the depths of the city's core, centered in her tiny room, she sat peacefully, while high above where the sun was just setting and casting the ceiling of the planet in a golden glow, Anakin climbed the temple steps. 

Chapter Text

“You saw former padawan Ahsoka Tano?”

“I didn't just see her, I spoke with her.”

Mace Windu leaned forward in his chair, his fingers steepled below the grim line of his mouth. The other jedi in the council circle looked amongst themselves. Obi-Wan sighed audibly and massaged his forehead and Anakin made it a point to ignore him.

“We were outnumbered without her,” Anakin went on. “If she hadn't been around to help take out those battle droids--”

“--the backup your squad called for would have taken the initiative themselves.” Windu cut in smoothly. “Skywalker, when we appointed you to this council, it was with the understanding that while you are often rash and reckless, you have also been a uniquely irreplaceable member of this Order. Your master has imparted wisdom to you, and we have watched as you have become someone we can trust and rely on.”

Anakin shifted in his chair, unaccustomed to praise.

“However,” Windu continued, any warmth leaving his voice, “your weakness has always been your willingness and proclivity to attach to others. Your emotion often takes precedence over your mission. It is a flaw which makes you vulnerable. It makes us vulnerable.”

“With all due respect, Master, I don't see how this is relevant,” Anakin ground out, and he could feel Obi-Wan's gaze flicker up to him in warning. “We should be discussing the fact that Boba Fett has become a potential threat again, a kid who has had it out for you since before this war even started.”

“It is relevant, Skywalker, because you have always had a tendency for clouded thinking when it comes to Tano. We allowed you to stay on this council despite your illicit romance with Chancellor Amidala, despite you fathering children--”

“Keep my children out of this,” Anakin bit out, his nostrils flaring.

“Anakin,” Obi-Wan murmured placatingly. Windu sighed and leaned back in to his chair, folding his hands over his stomach. Anakin trained his eyes out the enormous windows, focusing on the endless crisscross of cars and speeders jetting by the temple, and willed the fiery-hot coil of anger in his chest to settle and cool.

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke next, his quiet voice clear in the uneasy silence. “Skywalker is right, however, about the threat of this wayward clone. He may have been just a boy when you last encountered him, Master Windu, but he is swiftly becoming a man, and one with dangerous connections, it seems. It is a testament to his cunning that he has eluded us thus far.”

“Yet, we have more pressing concerns to attend to,” rumbled Plo Koon, his facemask bobbing as he spoke. “This Fett child may simply be a small time criminal. I suggest that until we know the extent of his motivation we focus our attention elsewhere.”

“Ah, I'd advise the council to consider pursuing this matter,” Obi-Wan spoke up for the first time, his eyes on Anakin's face. “Perhaps it would be best to allow Skywalker and his squadron to continue handling this situation – without any outside help.”

Anakin reached out to his former master in the Force, extending a thread of curiosity. 'Let me vouch for you,' came the response humming along their bond, reassuring but detached in a way Anakin had become accustomed to over the years. Aloud, Obi-Wan said, “I see no reason not to pursue this criminal, especially considering his history. I believe Anakin has more than proved himself in the past, and is equipped to handle the issue. There is little evidence to suggest his interaction with Ahsoka has negatively affected his mission; indeed, it seems she has been an asset in this instance.”

Murmurs of dissent rumbled to life at this, but Obi-Wan swept on. “However, I agree that it is in everyone's best interest that a similar situation be avoided in the future.”

From his small chair, Yoda cleared his throat and shifted forward, clasping his claws together thoughtfully. An obedient quiet fell in the council chambers.

“Remain on this mission, Skywalker shall. The council awarded him our trust when he was appointed. Trust we must show him now.” He turned his head to fix Anakin with his pensive gaze. “Aware of your shortcomings, you must be, young Master.”

“Yes, Master Yoda, but I still fail to see how--”

A gnarled, green hand came up and Anakin quieted.

“Important, it is, to remember that which makes us Jedi, hm? Within serenity, understanding shall we find. 'There is no emotion, there is peace'.”

Anakin fought the urge to roll his eyes at the recitation of the Code, and Obi-Wan must have felt it through their bond because he gave his former padawan a pointed look. 'Peace?' Anakin wanted to say. 'What right do we have to claim that as a value?' Instead, Anakin inclined his head politely.

“Of course, Master.”

 

---

 

The halls outside the council chambers were cool and quiet, echoing with the hum of the day-to-day lives of the Jedi who inhabited them. The very walls and pillars seemed to resonate with the muted energy of a thousand Force-users. Obi-Wan paused outside the chamber doors, waiting until the other members had filed out before falling in to step beside Anakin. They passed a window that looked out over the courtyard and Anakin could hear the voices of a group of younglings practicing saber forms outside.

“They're still treating me like a child,” Anakin said at length. The anger Obi-Wan had sensed radiating off of him in the council chambers was gone, replaced instead by a sullen sort of acceptance.

“Anakin, you're still the youngest Jedi to be appointed Master in a century. If they're being a little hard on you, it is because it's unprecedented. They've already made many allowances for you. Perhaps try to see things from their perspective?”

“I'm supposed to be their equal, Obi-Wan. It's obvious they don't see it that way.”

Obi-Wan sighed and patted Anakin's shoulder in a less-than-comforting way. “They respect you, even if you can't see it. They're just concerned about your relationship with Ahsoka.”

Anakin stopped and turned to Obi-Wan, his brow furrowed. “What relationship? I haven't been allowed to have one.”

“And that is for the best. The council has been more than lenient with you in the past, your marriage to the Chancellor..”

They don't know that, they think it was a one time thing!” Anakin hissed, guiding Obi-Wan by the elbow in to a more private alcove.

“Yes, and suppose they did know,” Obi-Wan whispered back, exasperation rising in his voice. “Do you think you would be allowed to maintain your position on the council? Jedi more renowned than you have been exiled entirely for less. You may have been Qui-Gon's 'chosen one' but sometimes the special treatment you expect, honestly, Anakin...”

Anakin's expression turned to stone. He loomed over Obi-Wan, squaring his shoulders. “Do you think a nine-year-old can grasp the concept of salvation? That I really had a choice when you came to Tatooine, when you took me from my mother? I didn't ask for this, Obi-Wan. None of these children did.” He extended his arm back, gesturing at the temple at large.

Obi-Wan had gone rather pink, the crease between his eyebrows severe. “It is a great honor to be a Jedi, Anakin. The Order is your life. This is where you can and will reach your full potential. Don't pretend it isn't important to you.”

“That doesn't mean I chose it. Not really.”

A small gaggle of younglings pattered by them, laughing and chattering, and the two men quieted as they passed. Obi-Wan blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair, composing himself. “I only want what's best for you, my friend. Ahsoka made her decision years ago, and you need to respect it. You are tethered to the past by your connection to her.” He paused, in thought. “Maybe a new learner..”

“No,” Anakin said flatly, and Obi-Wan pressed his lips in to a thin line.

“You may not be my ward anymore, but I hope you will at least consider my advice. I am..” Obi-Wan seemed to struggle to find the words, “..invested in your well-being.” He looked up at his former apprentice, willing Anakin to read between the lines. Anakin regarded him with thinly-veiled dissatisfaction, then turned to leave.

“I understand.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“You sure this thing'll even make it out of orbit?” Ahsoka ran her palm along the rusted hull of the tiny starship as she walked its length, her eyes roving over the worn casings on the ion engines. Something detached and clanged to the ground as her hand passed it, and Ahsoka shot a skeptical look towards the Rodian junk dealer.

“Of course, of course!” he assured her, rushing over to reattach the fallen component. The rubbery spines on his head bobbed comically as he flitted around the ship with nervous energy, tightening a bolt here, adjusting some exposed wiring there. Ahsoka looked leery as she folded her arms over her chest and stepped back to take in the ship as a whole.

The sun was just beginning to crest the upper lip of the gaping ventilation shaft, announcing the beginning of the sub-level's unreasonably short daylight hours. Dusty light filtered through a mile of ship exhaust and industrial fumes pooled in patches among the piles of scrap metal. In a cleared out spot sat the worn Starfarer looking particularly decrepit surrounded by the hollowed-out shells of similar shuttles.

“I trust you, Beela, but I also know starships, and this one can't have left the ozone in thirty years! I know I'm calling in a favor here, but can't you part with something a little more.. reliable?”

“Ahhh, Ahsoka, you know as well as I that you can't trust ship on appearances alone. I just put in a brand new hyperdrive last week, and the nav computer is all updated and ready to go. She'll get you where you need to go. Which is...?”

“Not important.” She clambered up the steps leading in to the ship's belly and peered around the cabin. It did look a bit better from the inside, in fact. The console looked newly refurbished and the cockpit seemed comfortable, if a bit cramped. The junk dealer followed her up the stairs, tapping his flat fingers against each other anxiously.

“Fueled her up this morning. I wouldn't part with a sturdy ship like this under normal circumstances, but she's yours if you want her. I haven't forgotten what you did to help my family last year.”

Ahsoka turned, her expression softening, and put a hand reassuringly on his slender shoulder.

“Thank you, Beela. This will do just fine. I don't have the credits right now, but you have my word that you'll be fully compensated when I do.”

The Rodian waved this away, shaking his head. “Nonsense, nonsense. You just promise to stop by and visit me now and then, that's all I ask.”

She smiled. “I think I can handle that.”

 

---

 

The trip was largely uneventful. The Starfarer did, in fact, prove itself to be a sturdy little ship. There was one moment of panic when Ahsoka threw it in to hyperspace and the hull shuddered in an alarming way, but it quickly evened out. Before terribly long, the bright lines of passing stars were shrinking in to solid points of light again and the enormous, pale sphere of Ilum filled the ship's viewport.

Ahsoka found herself apprehensive as the ship arced over the planet's icy rings and descended in to its atmosphere. The last time she had been here had been for the Gathering, when she had guided a handful of younglings on their own quests. Then, she had been complacent, content in the knowledge that she was where she belonged, that she had a place and function within the Order and, consequently, within the Force. Ilum then had been a world of new opportunity and hope as fresh and clean as the snow that blanketed its vast, lonely plains.

Returning felt like a failing.

The whir of the landing gear unfolding shook Ahsoka to alertness. She set the ship down on an expanse of flat ice that stretched from the towering cliff wall behind which she knew the crystal cave to be behind, out towards an endless horizon, broken only by the occasional jagged jut of stone. The weather was blessedly still, diamond dust drifting by the viewport in shimmering clouds. Still, the temperature reading was lower than Ahsoka would have preferred. She laced her parka up to her chin and tugged the thick hood low over her montrals, bracing herself as the hatch opened and lowered.

Stepping out in to the cold felt like hitting a solid wall. Ahsoka felt the air leave her lungs, saw it bloom white in the air in front of her.

Right, then. Nothing like a shock to the system to get a person moving.

She made her way to the clearing in front of the cliff face and brushed aside the snow with the toe of her boot. The circular stone tablet peered back at her, silent and cold as the rest of this planet.

The first time she had stood in this place, she had been surrounded by her peers, and it was with their combined strength and the guidance of their teacher that the cliff face had parted for her. The second time was similar, except that time she hadn't been afraid.

Now, she was. The wall seemed massive and impenetrable in a way it hadn't in the past, and she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that she was being traitorous by being there at all. Blowing out a breath, she raised her hand and narrowed her focus in the Force to a singular thought. Open. Open, please open.

The cliff front remained motionless.

Ahsoka grimaced against the cold and tried again, reaching out both in the air and in the Force. Her hand trembled with exertion, her boots digging in to the powdery snow underfoot. She felt sweat beading her brow despite the cold. High above, one of the great blocks of ice shuddered.

Encouraged, she pressed forward again. The door stood as solidly in her mind's eye as it did in the physical world, but she sought out the clefts in the Force and prised them open.

Slowly, agonizingly, the prismed layers of ice began to shift and slide. The ground shook as one block after another calved from the wall and sank in to the earth, sending great clouds of snow billowing up around Ahsoka. When the air had cleared, the familiar entrance to the cave stood open.

Ahsoka gave a relieved laugh and smoothed her hood back over her head with shaking hands. If the cave opened for her, perhaps it meant she wasn't so lost after all. The Force would guide her in all things, she told herself, as she entered the great antechamber.

The hall was silent and cold and her footsteps echoed loudly despite her soft tread. Around her, the enormous statues of Jedi from history rose like pillars to the ceiling. The gate to the crystal cave stood open, the steps leading up to it glazed with silvery ice. Apprehension slowed her pace as she crossed the floor and climbed the steps. It was quiet, quiet in a way that had nothing to do with this place's remoteness, quiet in a way she couldn't quite put her finger on.

Stepping in to the mouth of the cave was like stepping in to a cold, black pool. With the the drop in temperature went any trace of outdoor light, and any comfort Ahsoka had felt in the great hall went with it. The usual otherworldly glow that seemed to emanate from the ice itself was absent, and Ahsoka fumbled in her pack to produce a small hand-held light. She clipped it to the front of parka, and the milky pool of light it produced illuminated a fork in the tunnel.

She closed her eyes and centered herself. Extending herself in the Force, she reached out along the tunnels, straining for a hint of direction, for the familiar tug of insight. For long moments, she stood at the fork and concentrated.

She felt.. nothing. Just the quiet, endless hum of the planet spinning and the stars wheeling overhead.

Frustrated, she arbitrarily started down the left pathway. Maybe all the crystals had been harvested by this year's younglings? That didn't seem likely. Or had someone managed to break in and steal them since she had been here last? Hondo had made it clear that kyber crystals were beyond valuable on the black market. But there was no sign of forced entry, and only Force-users would even know where it was.

Unrelenting darkness yawned out in front of her, spurned only by the small circle of light from her lamp. The cave walls sparkled with crystals as she passed, but none jumped out at her as being anything but simple ice. Her sense had been.. dampened, like someone had thrown a dark cloth over her head.

At regular intervals, she planted a tiny flare marker in to the cave wall, uneasy as she was that she seemed unable to sense any crystals, let alone the way back. The tunnels seemed endless, occasionally opening up in to a small alcove before twisting on.

Hours passed, and Ahsoka's frustration grew. As a child, she had been the first in her group to return with her crystal, and she had been lauded for her speedy success. She had experienced doubt in many aspects of her life, but never in her connection to the Force. It had always come as easily to her as breathing; a constant, reassuring presence.

The tunnel widened in to a large chamber, and the air seemed fresher here. Ahsoka paused to rest, settling on the floor and unpacking a ration bar to nibble. It hadn't seemed likely to her that she would be in the cave for more than a few hours at most, but she had packed bedding and a small portion of food to be safe. When she was fed and moderately rested she positioned herself in the center of the room, her legs curled in on themselves, and let her mind go quiet. Meditation had often offered her clarity, but she seemed unable to shake the lingering feeling of wrongness that had only seemed to grow since she had landed on this planet.

If there truly were no crystals left in this place, there had to be another way to procure them. Jedi all across the galaxy had been able to find them, and not all had had access to the sacred caves on Ilum. A memory of a conversation with the bounty hunter Ventress rose to the surface of her mind. 

“Where're your lightsabers?” the assassin had asked on one of the handfuls of chance encounters they'd had. An uneasy friendship had grown between the two outcasts, born of mutual respect and convenience, in the years since Ahsoka had left the Order.

Asajj had looked only mildly interested when she'd described losing them the day she had first fled the Temple.

“And you haven't picked up a new one? They're a dime a dozen if you know where to look.”

“I don't want someone else's lightsaber.”

The Dathomiri had shrugged and tossed the short, blonde hair she'd begun to let grow out. “Suit yourself.”

Suit yourself indeed, Ahsoka thought to herself, shivering with cold in the depths of the crystal cave. Her joints ached and when she moved to stand up her garments creaked with frost. It was at this moment, rising halfway out of a tired crouch, that the floor of the cavern shifted ominously, a sound like steel cables snapping echoing throughout the chamber. She heaved her body out of the way just as the ground beneath her split, the floor falling away in to darkness below.

Scrabbling for purchase, she plunged her knife to the hilt in to the ice of the cave wall and glanced over her shoulder to watch the last chunks of the floor vanish away beneath her. Somewhere far below, the rumbling of great slabs of ice and stone landing faded into silence.

Kriff.

There was only a moment of quiet before the squeal of ice grinding against ice began anew, and Ahsoka felt the blade of her knife begin to slide. “Kriff!” she swore again, and kicked off from the wall just as it shattered around the knife. She twisted mid-air, aiming her body towards a small ledge on the opposite side of the chamber in a practiced leap, knowing that the Force would grant her the inhuman strength and agility she would need to clear the gap...

Her hands grasped at nothing. Her body fell like a stone, weighed down by the pronounced absence of any effort beyond her own corporeal agency. She had time enough to feel fear clutch at her heart before the ground below rose up to meet her. She landed hard and felt pain shock through her skull for just a moment before the world went dark.

 

---

 

Consciousness returned to her in levels. First she became aware of the cold. She shuddered and raised an arm to brush at her nose and lips where her breath had condensed in to clusters of tiny ice crystals. Pain was the next thing to come to her attention: it ached in her shoulder and knees from where she had landed, but mostly it pulsed through her head in dizzying waves. She reached up to her right montral and found the tip broken, the hard keratin jagged under her fingertips.

Hissing with the effort, she levered herself up in to a sitting position. Her flashlight had broken in the fall but she could see a bit of her surroundings; she was in another cavern, larger than the one she had fallen from. Giant blocks of fallen ice were scattered around her. She squinted up towards the ceiling in the dim light but couldn't make out where the hole was.

“You don't belong here.”

Ahsoka nearly jumped out of her skin. She whirled around and scrambled to her feet, feeling for her blaster beneath her parka. The holster was empty.

Before her, bathed in an ethereal light, stood a Togruta woman. She wasn't dressed for the cold, but rather in leather and armor. In fact, she didn't seem to fully exist at all; Ahsoka could see through her to the opposite wall.

When the figure stepped forward, Ahsoka was less surprised than someone else might have been to see her own face looking back at her. She relaxed a fraction, sinking back against the slabs of ice.

“You look different than the last time I saw you,” she said in a wavering voice, her exhaustion undisguised.

“So do you,” replied the vision. The light from her body cast no shadows and her voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. “What are you doing here? You have no place here anymore.”

Ahsoka bristled, sizing up her future-self indignantly. The figure was older, but unmistakably different from the vision she'd spoken with on Mortis all those years ago. Her facial markings were more wild, fanning out over her cheekbones and forehead, and her lekku were not as long, hanging to her waist. The chevrons on her headtails were irregular and rough, like the stripes on Ralltiir tiger. Her expression spoke of one who had seen more than she had cared to see.

“I'm still a Jedi, even if the Order doesn't count me as one.”

“No, you're not,” the vision said firmly, beginning to circle her. Ahsoka watched her cautiously from her spot on the ground. “As before, I am your potential. Your path has changed, however. You do not exist in the Force as you once did.”

Ahsoka's demeanor faltered. “I'm cut off here. I don't feel anything. I don't even know how it is I can see you.”

The vision nodded sagely. “This place is deeply immersed in the Force, even if you cannot feel it. I am a manifestation of the power that flows through these caves, not that which flows through you.”

“I don't understand.” Ahsoka let out an exasperated breath. “This has never happened before.. I've never been cut off like this.”

“The Force has not abandoned you, child. It exists within you still. But if falls upon deaf ears.” The vision straightened, focusing her intense gaze on Ahsoka. “You do not belong here.”

“Where should I go, then? What am I supposed to do?” But the vision was already fading from sight, dispersing in to the air like ice crystals. “Wait! I can't feel anything, I'm completely alone--”

“Indeed,” came the response from all around her, and then all was silent.

 

--- 

 

The climb back to the entrance was long and laborious. It took Ahsoka hours just to find her way back to the upper level of corridors. She paused occasionally to rest and nibble ration bars, but didn't dare stop for long. A sinking feeling of dread had settled in her chest. She didn't belong there, the vision had said.

When she finally spotted the warm glow of one of her marker flairs down at the end of one of the passageways, she nearly sobbed with relief. The markers were beginning to flicker and dim, and she felt nothing but an extreme gratefulness that they were visible at all in the otherwise pitch-black tunnels.

The light from the antechamber was blinding after the darkness of the caves. Ahsoka blinked rapidly as she finally stumbled out from the cavern entrance. Daylight streamed in from the windows carved in to the ice high above. She followed her own footsteps back outside; as if sensing her departure, the great slabs of ice that formed the gate began to rumble and shift behind her, slowly settling back in to place. When Ahsoka reached the ship and turned to look back, the cliff face stood unassuming and nondescript as it had when she had first landed.

Once inside the cockpit, she collapsed bonelessly into the pilot's chair. It was several minutes before she had the energy to peel off her snow-crusted mittens and parka. She started up the engines and adjusted the environmental controls to hot, her hands hovering over the air vents. They were shaking, though from barely restrained emotion rather than from cold. She clenched them until they stopped and then lowered them to steering yoke.

“Right.”

It was a long trip home.

 

Chapter Text

It was late afternoon on Coruscant, and the sunlight slanted in across the spiny surface of the planet, painting a thousand window panes dazzling gold. Ahsoka squinted up at the glittering peaks of spacescrapers and domes as the taxi she'd chartered ascended from the depths of the city core. The beginnings of evening traffic were painting the sky in glowing criss-cross patterns, and the delays meant she had the time to really take in the horizon, her head leaning against the window.

The places they passed were familiar to her, but she felt only distantly connected to them. The world felt gauzy and out of focus, as if covered by a veil.

Off to the west, the pyramid of the Jedi temple loomed in to sight. Ahsoka felt a wave of nausea roll over her, and she closed her eyes against it.

The Weequay driver piloting the taxi canted his head in her direction, his eyes still trained out the viewport. “Can't say I get many fares who wanna come this far up from that far down,” he said cheerfully. When Ahsoka didn't respond, he went on. “What business you got with the Senate? You some kind of politician or something?”

“No,” she said flatly. The driver “tch”ed and shrugged, giving up on conversation, but Ahsoka couldn't feel his annoyance. She couldn't sense the joy the two Twi'lek women felt upon greeting one another as the taxi zoomed close over their heads, nor the distress of the man being mugged around the corner from them. She felt only a dull numbness, as though she was separated from the rest of the world by a thick layer of sound-proof transparisteel. She had been loathe to discover the Force-dampening she had experienced on Ilum had followed her home, and here, on the busiest planet in the galaxy, the Force was silent.

Ahsoka watched her own reflection in the cab window as the shining dome of the senate building came in to view. The taxi slowed and pulled in to a swooping arc down towards the base of the towering senate apartments. Ahsoka pushed the last of her credits on the Weequay and slipped out of the cab before he could make more attempts at conversation.

She felt the heat of his retreating engines against her back as she approached the front doors. Along the wall beside the doors ran a series of small, numbered buttons. Ahsoka punched in the correct ones and waited while the door chimed.

A small holo-emittered embedded in the wall flickered to life, and a rectangular view in to a pristine sitting area was displayed, hovering a few inches in front of her face. Ahsoka peered at the hologram and was about to call a questioning “hello?” when a loud voice said “WHO'S DERE” through the emitter's speaker.

Ahsoka jumped and sputtered, “Uh, I-- uh,” but in the next moment a woman who looked strikingly like Padmé stepped in to view on the hologram, looking apologetic.

“Pardon her, she's just learned how to answer the door chime. May I help you?”

Flustered, Ahsoka straightened and bowed her head. “Um, it's Ahsoka Tano, here to see Chancellor Amidala?” She swallowed, realizing how many people probably asked to see the chancellor on a day to day basis. “I'm an old friend,” she added lamely.

“Oh! Of course, Miss Tano, please come right up.”

The door buzzed open and Ahsoka stepped inside, nerves suddenly roiling her gut. The foyer inside was elaborately decorated with gilded filigree and exotic plants, and an ornate fountain rose from the floor between her and the turbolift. The security droid sitting behind a wide desk to her right looked blankly at her as she passed. As she stepped in to the lift, she heard it drone “top floor” to her before the doors whooshed shut.

When they opened again, Ahsoka found herself outside of a large set of double doors. Before she could reach for the panel, the doors slid open to reveal a short hallway and the comfortable-looking sitting room she had seen on the hologram. The Padmé lookalike stood to one side, smiling politely and clutching a small child to her hip.

Ahsoka eyed them both, struggling to make sense.

“Welcome, Miss Tano, please come in! My name is Sabé.” The woman offered her free hand, and Ahsoka haltingly took it as realization dawned on her.

“You're one of her handmaidens. You acted as Padmé's decoy during the invasion of Naboo!” Ahsoka couldn't keep the awe from her voice as understanding clicked in to place.

Sabé was slender and beautiful in much that same way that Padmé was, and their resemblance was indeed uncanny. Even her inflection was markedly similar to the chancellor's. She laughed lightly and nodded as Ahsoka shook her hand. “Correct. These days, however, I seem to find myself in less dangerous situations.” Ahsoka got the distinct impression that maybe this didn't suit Sabé.

The little girl in the handmaiden's arms leaned forward and frowned hard at Ahsoka, eyeing her up and down with judgmental scrutiny. Her hair was dark and shiny, piled atop her head in a braided crown, and her eyes were expressive and intense.

“WHO'RE YOU,” she said loudly, and Ahsoka immediately recognized her voice. She couldn't help but crack a smile at this child's upfront nature.

Sabé took the opportunity to place her on the floor, her expression stern. “Lower your voice, Leia. We are polite to people we haven't met, remember?”

“Yours?” Ahsoka asked Sabé, her eyes alight with amusement. Sabé laughed and shook her head, her hand settling on the child's braided head.

“Leia,” she said, “This is Ahsoka Tano. She fought alongside your father in the Clone Wars.”

Ahsoka gaped.

 

---

 

The sun had already set by the time Padmé returned home from the senate rotunda later in the evening. In the interim, Threepio, whom Ahsoka had only been partially glad to see again, had served her refreshments and otherwise been excellent at being in the way. Sabé had introduced her not only to Leia, but also to her twin brother Luke, who was decidedly shier and less assuming than his sister. Both had warmed up to her quickly, though, and Ahsoka's natural ease around children had proven advantageous.

Ahsoka was simultaneously watching showing Leia how to operate her comm unit and letting Luke examine the monkey design on her boot when Padmé rounded the corner in to the living area, her arms full of stacked flimsiplast. Ahsoka looked up in time to see surprise register on her face, followed almost instantly by relief. Before Ahsoka could open her mouth, Padmé had crossed the space between them in a few strides, drawing Ahsoka up in to an embrace.

Padmé drew back after a few moments to scan Ahsoka's face, her hands still warm and firm on her shoulders. “Ahsoka. I'm so glad you're here! I was worried.”

“Worried?”

Ahsoka took in Padmé's appearance as they spoke. She was still stunningly beautiful, her hair done up in an intricate headpiece, her clothing immaculate, but she also looked immeasurably tired, and Ahsoka had the suspicion it wasn't just from one long day of delegations.

Behind them, Ahsoka heard Sabé ushering the twins out of the room to get ready for bed. Leia was whining loudly.

“Anakin told me he saw you on the lower levels a few weeks ago. He seemed.. concerned about your living conditions, and worried for your well-being..”

Ahsoka snorted. “Anakin and I used to spend weeks in our tiny cabins on the Resolute, and he's worried because my apartment is a little small?”

“He said you were chasing criminals on your own.”

Ahsoka looked mildly affronted. “I'm not a teenager anymore. I did used to be a military commander.

Padmé squeezed her shoulders placatingly, her smile a bit sad. “It's not the part about chasing criminals that worries him, I think. He didn't like to see you alone out there.”

Ahsoka sagged slightly and Padmé drew her in to another hug, hooking her chin over the Togruta's shoulder. “It's so good to see you,” she said, and Ahsoka found herself digging her fingers in to the delicate fabric at the back of Padmé's dress.

“I'm not connected to the Force anymore,” she mumbled after a beat in to Padmé's shoulder. Padmé pulled back to look at Ahsoka, her brow knit.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I can't feel anything. I couldn't even tell when you'd come in the room, not until I saw you..” She swallowed thickly. “I'm completely cut off.”

Padmé had taken both of Ahsoka's hands in her own and was squeezing them gently. “Has this ever happened before?”

Ahsoka shook her head miserably. Padmé's eyes drifted up to the tip of her right montral where it had cracked and broken off on Ilum. Ahsoka followed her gaze and lifted a hand to finger at the jagged edge.

“Are you okay?”

“It's not a big deal. The horns shed naturally when I get a new growth plate anyway.”

“What happened?”

Ahsoka sighed. “How much time you got?”

 

---

 

The bottle of wine glugged merrily as Padmé poured another generous glass for Ahsoka

“I don't have much time to drink these days, but Breha Organa sent this over from her personal wine cellar last month and I've been secretly hoping for the opportunity to sample it,” Padmé said as she leaned back and corked the bottle. “It's from a small Alderaani province I've had the good fortune to visit twice in the past; very beautiful.”

“You're spoiling me,” Ahsoka grinned and breathed in the woody aroma emanating from her glass.

“You could use some spoiling.”

Night had fallen fully by then, and the sweeping view outside the penthouse windows was one veiled in deep purples and blues, the sparkle of a million illuminated windows glittering from horizon to horizon. The red tail-lights of grav-cars and speeders streaked by both above and below them, and in the background rose the great, sprawling dome of the senate building. The city seemed to pulse, endlessly awake and alive.

From a room down the hall, Luke began crying. Ahsoka watched Padmé's expression change from one of contentment to concern, and she began to rise from her seat. Before she could pardon herself, they both watched Sabé slip out from another room and head down the hall. The handmaiden waved at Padmé to sit back down before disappearing from sight.

Padmé sank back in to her chair, sighing softly. “I don't see them as much as I'd like. Thank goodness for Sabé and the others.”

“I'm keeping you from them.” Ahsoka looked guilty as she placed her glass back on the table.

Padmé laughed and drank deeply from her own glass. “My elected position is keeping me from them.”

Ahsoka ran two fingers along either side of the stem of her wineglass and swirled its contents idly. “I have to admit, I..” She looked up sheepishly, “..wasn't really expecting to meet Luke and Leia when I arrived today.”

The chancellor looked amused and a bit timid herself. “They were a bit unexpected for us as well. But surely you knew, Anakin and I...”

Ahsoka felt herself flush. “Well, I had my suspicions. And Anakin was never one to follow Order rules too closely.”

“That hasn't changed,” Padmé shook her head, her smile affectionate. Ahsoka shifted in her seat, suddenly visibly uncomfortable. She pulled her glass towards her and cradled it between both hands, frowning down in to its bowl. The burgundy liquid sloshed smoothly against the edges, appearing almost black between her hands.

“Padmé..” she began carefully. “...The day I ran in to Anakin, down in the Undercity..” She looked up when she felt Padmé's hand descend on her wrist. She was surprised to find the chancellor's expression open and warm.

“It's okay, Ahsoka. He's already told me.” She gave her arm a little squeeze before withdrawing, looking, perhaps, a bit entertained when Ahsoka's lekku chevrons flushed dark. “Anakin and I have known one another for a long time now. Our relationship isn't as black and white as some in the Order might believe.”

Ahsoka felt hot, her hands trembling very slightly around the cool curve of her glass. Intrigue raced through her and pooled in her belly, and she forced her hands away from her wine and down in to fists in her lap. “Oh?”

Padmé was fingering the stem of her glass and smiling benignly. “He may have mentioned to you that he's been researching the Jedi concept of attachment, and seeking out those who interpret the Code differently. It's always been a sore spot for him when it comes to his loyalty to the Order.”

“And that doesn't.. bother you?”

Padmé's eyes flickered up and locked with Ahsoka's and she couldn't hide the shiver that ran through her.

“We were quite young when we met, he and I. Relationships have a habit of evolving over time. Exclusivity is no longer a restraint,” she drank from her glass again. “For either of us.”

Ahsoka tried not to stare. This was certainly a day for revelations.

The chancellor laughed lightly and stabbed at the table with her index finger. “The point is: Anakin knew what he was doing, we both love you dearly, and you are welcome to stay as long as you like.”

The wine and the topic of conversation had Ahsoka feeling both moderately overwhelmed and entirely too warm, and she slumped back in her chair. “I wouldn't have expected..” She motioned with her hands. “...any of this a few years ago.”

“No, I don't think any of us would have.” Padmé nodded. “But a few years ago, the galaxy was a very different place. Things might have been different if Sheev Palpatine hadn't been removed from power.” She was looking thoughtfully over Ahsoka's shoulder now to the window beyond, out onto the glittering cityscape.

Ahsoka's head had become very heavy, and she leaned it against one shoulder, her eyelids drooping. Padmé turned her attention back to her drinking partner and smiled fondly. “You'll stay the night at the very least, I hope? Anakin comm'ed before I returned home, he said he ought to be here late.”

Ahsoka nodded blearily, and rose from her seat to follow Padmé through a series of lovely rooms until she found herself in one with a large, exquisitely soft-looking bed. Along one wall was a ceiling-to-floor window which led out onto curving veranda. The room was lavishly furnished with all the trappings of Naboo royalty.

“I hope you'll forgive me, my aide is staying in the guest room at the moment. I have a bit of work to take care of before I turn in, and I don't mind staying out on the couch.”

“Padmé, no! That's silly, I'll sleep on the floor.”

But Padmé was tutting and pushing her lightly by the shoulders until she was sitting on the plush mattress. “Fresher is right there,” she said, pointing to a connecting doorway. “There's a tub with real water, if you like, and a sonic shower as well.”

“Padmé..” Ahsoka warned, but the bed was soft and inviting, and her body felt leaden. “..At least come to bed when you're through. You can kick me out if you want to.”

Padmé patted her shoulder fondly and turned to leave, and Ahsoka went to work shucking her boots, belt, and bracers into a pile on the floor. After a moment's thought she tidied them in to a neat pile at the foot of the bed, then pulled back the covers and slid between the luxuriously silky sheets. Conscious thought left her mere moments after her head hit the pillow.

Some time later, the mattress shifted and she became vaguely aware of another body sliding in beside hers. The sweet smell of flowers wafted over to her as Ahsoka listened to Padmé take out the many pins and clips that kept her hair so obediently tidy. Ahsoka rolled over to face her, her eyes half lidded, and Padmé looked down at her, her fingers still threading through her hair. They shared a secret smile in the dark.

 

---

 

Ahsoka woke for the second time that night, though this time it was abrupt and jarring. Consciousness slammed in to her and she found herself sitting up, gasping for breath and sweating. Where once her mind had been silent and empty, now all at once a thousand voices were clamoring for attention. It was as if someone had flung open a window and she could suddenly hear everything, the entire planet buzzing through her skull.

It was back. The din died down as she became accustomed again to the ebb and flow of the Force channeling through her, and she was left with a pleasant, familiar hum. She nearly sobbed with relief, scrubbing her hands over her face, then remembered where she was and looked back towards where Padmé was still sleeping soundly.

She looked peaceful and serene and her presence was comforting, but more than anything Ahsoka was grateful to feel her again.

There was someone else, too, blazing bright in her mind. Her stomach lurched in a not entirely unpleasant way.

“Anakin,” she breathed, a second before he stepped through the bedroom door frame.

His looming figure was shadowy in the darkened room, but she could see his face, awash in emotion.

Behind her, Padmé stirred and groaned. They both looked at her as she rose halfway from the mattress and blinked drowsily at him, extending her arm. Reaching for him.

“Ani. Come to bed.”

Ahsoka heard him let out a breath, his eyes bright as they flickered over them both. He ducked to pull off his boots and then made his way to the side of the bed, shedding layers as he went until he was just in his underclothes. Ahsoka could smell him as he leaned across her to lay a kiss on Padmé's cheek; ozone and the sharp, electric smell a 'saber gave off when first ignited, leather and earth. Then he was rolling her gently on her side and sliding in behind her so she was sandwiched comfortably between them.

“I'm glad you're here,” he murmured against the back of her neck, his voice low and grainy, and she shivered. She felt him reach around them both and pull them together, his forehead bowed against her rear lek. On her other side, Padmé smiled, her eyes still heavy with sleep, and ran the backs of her knuckles in lazy loops along the side of Ahsoka's montrals.

Eventually, she felt one and then the other drop into sleep, still curled around her. Anakin's chest was warm and firm at her back, rising and falling steadily, his mechno-arm a pleasant weight across her hip. The Force was resonating at a particularly sweet cadence through her body, and for the first time in years, she felt like she was exactly where she belonged.

 

Chapter Text

The weather was scheduled for rain, and it pattered down now, streaming in rivulets against the windows of Dex's Diner. Outside was dark and dreary, but the interior of the diner glowed with warm light, steam fogging the transparisteel windows. Ahsoka pulled her mug of caf closer so that the heat rising from it warmed her chin. Across the booth from her, Anakin was pushing the remnants of what had once been panna cakes and hash around his plate with a fork, his expression thoughtful.

“She wasn't wrong. It makes a certain amount of sense, if you ask me,” he said, pushing his plate away.

Ahsoka made an exasperated noise. “The vision told me I didn't belong there. Me! You know I've always had a strong connection to the Force!”

“But you're no longer a Jedi.” He pointed at her with his fork. “The cave reveals kyber crystals to the Jedi alone; it was they who first discovered it and it was they who converted it in to a temple. The place is steeped in Jedi lore.”

Ahsoka hunched her shoulders, leaning over her mug. “It's not as though I fell to the dark side. I'm still the same person I was before.”

“Are you?” Anakin took a long pull from his own cup of half-caf, considering his former padawan from across the table.

She looked up at him, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. Was she still the same person who was raised and trained among the Jedi? It was true that the trial and Barriss' betrayal still felt fresh and raw in her mind, but the rest of her life at the Temple seemed to have faded in to the background, a lifetime ago.

Finally, she said, “It shouldn't matter to whom my allegiance is, I'm still a Force-wielder. I don't understand why the connection would come and go like that. It seemed almost arbitrary.” She rotated her mug between her hands. “Almost.”

“Think of it this way, Snips. How did you first learn to use the Force? Not just connect with it, but truly let it flow through you and guide your actions?”

Ahsoka furrowed her brow. “Well.. meditation, self-reflection, combat exercises--”

“Your Jedi training,” Anakin finished for her. “You learned to tap in to the Force in a certain way. Maybe now that you no longer agree with the ideals that shaped who you were when you first learned to use it..” He shrugged and raised his eyebrows at her.

Ahsoka opened her mouth and then closed it again, and leaned back against the booth seat, her arms crossed over her chest. Her thoughts raced to lessons she'd learned on the binary nature of the pathways to the Force: the balanced, tranquil avenue that led to the light side, and the passion-driven emotionality that gave way to the dark. It had never occurred to her that it was possible things were not so black-and-white.

Just then, the comlink on Anakin's bracer crackled to life.

“General Skywalker, sir,” came Appo's voice, tinny over the signal.

Ahsoka raised her brows and silently mouthed “general?” as Anakin raised his wrist and tapped the channel open on his bracer.

“Go ahead, Appo,”he said.

“Sir, it's about Fett. We've discovered one of the service droids at the temple outfitted with the same tech that rendered our disruptors useless against those clankers a while back.”

Anakin made a face. “Why would you need to use an electro-disruptor on a service droid?”

“Because we've also discovered that it is rigged to explode.”

Anakin and Ahsoka's eyes met from across the table.

“Appo..”

A moment of staticky silence passed, then Appo's voice returned sounding agitated:

“Sir, more reports are coming in, it's.. it's looking like all the droids in service at the temple have been programmed to detonate. We can't risk just shooting them down, they need to be diffused safely, and there's no signs of physical tampering, which means they're being controlled remotely-”

“It's Fett. He's there.” Anakin's fist banged the table a little too loudly and some of the other patrons of the diner turned to look at him.

“I suspect so as well. I'm dispatching what troopers are still employed here to identify and quarantine what droids we can, and I'm letting the Council know. We'll begin a temple-wide evacuation.”

“Good.” Anakin was tossing credits down on the tabletop and reaching for his cloak.

“But sir, between the medbay, the hangars, the analysis wing, not to mention the personal droids..”

“There are thousands. I know. Keep your ears open for any sign of Fett, we're on our way.” Anakin looked at Ahsoka and inclined his head to the door as he spoke.
“We, sir?”

“Skywalker out.”

Ahsoka's poncho was hanging from Anakin's outstretched hand, hovering near her side of the booth. She sighed and slouched slightly against the padded bench.

“I don't belong there, Anakin. We just got through discussing that.”

“This was your mission to begin with, and it's time to see it through.”

Ahsoka made a reluctant noise but reached for the proffered poncho and pulled it over her head.

 

__

 

They both sensed him, a beacon of silent fury and intent radiating from amongst the support beams that ran along the ceiling of one of the ship hangars. The entire floor had since been evacuated, albeit discreetly so as not to alert the Mandalorian that they were on to him.

Ahsoka split off from Anakin and crept along the far wall until she found a ledge she could swing herself up to. A few moments later she was balanced on one of the lofty beams and she could make out the silhouette of someone crouched facing away from her farther along. As she got closer, she could see the armored figure hunched over something in his hand. A blaster swung at his hip, and she could make out the glint of a knife sheathed along his thigh.

Still unnoticed, she extended her hand and reached out in the Force, feeling for the device in the man's hand, seeing it in her mind's eye. It was just as she prepared to yank it from his grasp when the blur of a second figure zoomed in to her line of vision. Anakin was hurtling towards Fett, who only had a second to react before he was swept off his feet, landing bodily on the durasteel beam. Ahsoka heard the air rush out from his lungs even behind the battered helmet.

“So much for the element of surprise!” she yelled as she caught up to the two of them, running along the narrow beam.

“I dunno, he looked pretty surprised to me,” Anakin smirked, and in that moment Boba reacted, folding in on himself and sinking his boot in to the Jedi's abdomen. The bounty hunter jack-knifed up in to a crouch as Anakin stumbled back, his hand going to the saber clipped to his belt. Ahsoka's hands hovered over her own empty holsters; she growled in frustration as she remembered that she was weaponless.

Fett was fast, quicker than any non-augmented clone had any right to be. Before Anakin had the chance to draw his lightsaber Fett was bearing down on him, the flash of a metal blade shining in his hand. The Jedi reacted with similar speed, throwing out his arms and knocking Fett back along the beam. The bounty hunter skidded completely off and disappeared from view, and Ahsoka and Anakin had time to exchange a look before Fett swung back in to view, a grappling line hooked to his utility belt. This time, his blaster was drawn and as he landed behind them he let fly a volley of shots.

Anakin snarled and batted the bolts aside with his lightsaber, descending on Fett again with new purpose.

Fett holstered the blaster and flicked the knife up and in to his waiting hand, readying for combat at close range. Anakin lunged, but Fett sidestepped and moved to swipe with the blade. Ahsoka leapt in from the side, one leg sweeping out and knocking Fett's feet out from under him. She landed in a crouch above him as Fett began to slide over the edge of the beam, and she felt momentarily victorious before she realized his hand had closed over the broken stub of her montral, yanking her down with him.

She heard Anakin shout her name as they fell. There was only a split second to react as the ground rushed up to meet them, and she kicked off from the Mandalorian's chestplate, effectively dislodging herself. Fett rolled and skidded, his heavy armor protecting him, and Ahsoka landed, cat-like, a few meters away.

Before she could launch herself anew, Fett raised his fist, a small device clutched in it.

“You take another step, Jedi, and I'll blow this whole place sky high,” he barked, his outstretched hand shaking very slightly.

Beside her, Anakin dropped down, his lightsaber clipped back at his belt.

“Take it easy,” he said in a low voice. “You're outmatched. The Jedi are already shutting down your droids as we speak.”

“They couldn't do it before. Not without cutting them down. And a lightsaber to the hull of a droid rigged to explode would not be the wisest option.” Fett was backing away slowly, his hand still holding up the remote.

“So the battledroids from before, what were they, a test?” Anakin advanced as Fett retreated.

“You could say that.” The voice of a thousand other clones growled from behind the helmet.

Ahsoka could sense Anakin's aggravation mounting. “What you're doing is cowardly. Even a man like Jango Fett wouldn't--”

You keep my father's name out of your mouth!” Boba yanked off the modified helmet and slammed it to the ground, shaking with rage. Anakin took a step back, clearly caught off guard.

Ahsoka was briefly startled to see the familiar face of a full-grown (or nearly, at any rate) clone glowering at the two of them. He looked to be in his late teens, but scarred and aged in a way the accelerated growth of his cloned brothers didn't allow for. His hair was cropped close to his scalp, his eyes the familiar golden brown that all the Fett clones possessed.

"I have nothing to say to the Jedi," Boba snarled, looking more and more like a cornered animal.

Beside her, Ahsoka could feel Anakin bristle. She placed a hand on his upper arm and pushed past him before he could open his mouth to answer.

"Then talk to me." She approached him with palms upturned, doing her best to look nonthreatening. Boba's hand tightened on his blaster, and behind her Ahsoka knew that Anakin's hand had gone to the hilt of his saber. Protective fury was flowing off him in waves.

"You wouldn't understand," Boba spat, brandishing his blaster in her direction, the remote clutched in the fist of his free hand. "The Jedi took everything from me. My father, my life, even my retribution. Don't let them take this from me, too."

Ahsoka leveled a look at him. “It wasn't the Jedi who made the decision for you to end up here. You always had a choice.”

“That's not true. I had nothing after they took my father, no where to go and nobody to trust. The Jedi say they are keepers of the peace, but I've only seen them ruin lives and refuse to accept the consequences.” The clone raised the detonator in his fist, shaking it. “These are the consequences!

Ahsoka sucked in a breath as she heard Anakin's lightsaber ignite behind her. Her hand shot out and caught him in the chest as he began to stride forward with intent. Ahsoka sent him a wave of gratitude through their bond when he slowed at her touch.

“Master Windu showed you mercy once, don't expect that I will be as gracious,” he growled, his saber still drawn.

Mercy was not his to give!” Boba shouted, stamping his foot like a child. His face had gone red with passion.

“You're right,” Ahsoka said, and placed her hand on the barrel of Boba's blaster, guiding it down and away. Boba looked momentarily dumbfounded, a crease forming between his eyes.

“Ahsoka,” hissed Anakin from her left.

“You deserved better, Boba. A lot of people did. I'm sorry.”

“They claim they are saviors. They don't know what salvation is.”

“I know,”she said, and Anakin could hear in her voice that she believed it.

She reached for his other hand, the one holding the detonator.

“No.” His voice was pleading. “This is all I have left.”

“It's all that's holding you back.” Her fingers closed over both his own and the detonator, not pulling, just resting. “You are at a crossroads, Boba. Now is the time to make a decision that will shape the rest of your life. Are you content living out your days in a prison? This isn't something you can walk away from. Or will you be stronger, braver, wiser than the Jedi were to you?”

Boba flinched. His eyes were bright and wet, narrowed in to dangerous slits.

“He should have slain us both.”

Ahsoka's fingers tucked under the curve of the remote and tugged very gently, and it came away in her hand. Boba's arm dropped to his side limply. He sagged against the wall, his blaster clattering to the ground.

The heat and glow of Anakin's saber vanished as he extinguished it. Ahsoka let out a slow, shaky breath and handed the detonator to Anakin, who was watching her carefully.

“Now would be a good time to disappear.”

“And to not come back,” added Anakin.

 

---

 

The Council was less than pleased to hear that Boba Fett had slipped through the fingers of one of their own. Ahsoka watched as Anakin smoothed things over with practiced ease over his comlink before handing the remote off to one of the service corps members to be taken to the lab. A younger version of her would have felt severe guilt at disobeying a direct order from the High Council, but now Ahsoka felt only a sense of quiet calm. It had to be a feeling not unlike growing old enough to realize that one's parents weren't infallible, she thought, but of course she had never properly known her own, nor had any of the younglings raised at the Temple.

“Your sense of justice has been tempered by your time away from the Temple,” Anakin quipped as they made their way back outside to the Temple landing pad. The rain was beginning to ease, but their boots still slapped wetly on the duracrete as they left the shadow of the hanger. The walkway was beginning to steam as the self-drying stone activated, sensing the end of the storm.

“The only source of love in his life was taken from him, and he was offered nothing in return. A person can't live that way,” Ahsoka said quietly.

Anakin pulled his hood up the last straggling raindrops. “Ahh, but 'there is no love, only compassion',” he quoted in his best Obi-Wan voice.

“I know you don't believe that,” she said, looking at him meaningfully. He quieted then, and they continued to the speeder landing in silence. High above, the clouds broke and the handful of stars visible through the light pollution and atmosphere of the planet peeked through.

Anakin stopped before climbing on to his speeder and reached into his robes. “Oh, I almost forgot..” He withdrew the silver dagger Boba had been wielding. “He must have dropped it when you fell. I don't think a kid like that needs any more weapons than he already has, and seeing as how you lost yours on Ilum..” He held it out to her.

Ahsoka looked at it, splayed across the dark leather of Anakin's gloved palm. It was a rather nice knife. Just about as long as her forearm from pommel to tip, it gleamed brightly in the light of the glowrods along the landing pad walkway. Two white stones were inset on either side of the handle, and the grip was carved with intricate Mandalorian designs.

“It doesn't really feel right taking something like this for myself,” she said, eyeing the blade dubiously. But she couldn't deny that she felt drawn to it in a way she was inclined to trust. She took it and slid it in to the sheath still strapped to her boot, and was pleased to see it fit like a glove.

Anakin was readying the speeder. “You ready to head back to the apartments?”

“You're not staying at the Temple tonight?”

“I find myself less and less in the mood to these days.”

Ahsoka found herself smiling. “Doesn't the Council object to that?”

“They do!” Anakin assured her cheerfully. He clapped her shoulder and then clambered on to the speeder, and she climbed on behind him, hooking her arms around his waist. He gave her hand a quick squeeze before settling his own on the handlebars and pulling the speeder up and away from the pad.

As they flew, Ahsoka leaned her forehead against his back and allowed herself to feel the affection for him swell in her chest. Like a stream long-dammed with detritus but beginning to flow anew, the acceptance and encouragement of her emotions felt foreign, but welcome.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It had to have been very early morning when Ahsoka woke, though the sky outside the floor-to-ceiling windows showed no sign of the coming dawn. She wasn't sure why she had woken; all was still and silent. Beside her, the shadowed forms of Anakin and Padmé lay still asleep, Padmé's dark hair splayed out like a fan on the pillow beneath her head.

It had only been a few weeks since Ahsoka had first showed up at Padmé's door, but already the apartment was beginning to feel like home despite how unaccustomed she was to its grandeur. There had been a handful of occasions where Padmé had found Ahsoka packing what few possessions she had and preparing to leave and had insisted she stay on longer, and eventually Ahsoka had stopped pretending that she had any interest in returning to the tiny room she'd been previously renting down in the Undercity.

When Padmé asked if she would be interested in assisting in Luke and Leia's day-to-day care and eventual training, she had been offered a bed of her own, but it was obvious to everyone involved that the gesture was simply a formality and all three were much happier sharing. While nothing beyond sleep had taken place in their bed, Ahsoka felt more than grateful that Sabé had said nothing of the arrangement.

Ahsoka dug the heels of her palms against her closed eyes and ran her hands down her face, chasing the receding edge of sleep away. The room was both darker and quieter than any place on a planet like Coruscant had right to be, but she supposed that if government credits could buy anything, it was the illusion of solitude. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and padded barefoot to the 'fresher to relieve herself. It was on the return trip that she noticed the distinct glow emitting from under the half-folded pile of clothes she'd left at the foot of the bed.

At first, she thought maybe the hologram on her comlink had come on unexpectedly, but her bracers were resting several feet away on the bureau. Cautious, she approached the pile of clothing and toed them apart with one foot.

The holster with her new dagger still sheathed rolled out onto the floor from under one pantleg. The butt of the hilt was visible, though, and the two white stones inset in the handle were glowing, almost pulsing, like a heartbeat.

Ahsoka's mouth went dry as realization washed over her. She bent to pick it up off the floor and then shifted to sit on the edge of the bed, the knife laid out across her palms. It didn't seem possible. What were the odds of something like this?

From behind her, she both heard and sensed Anakin coming in to wakefulness. She felt the mattress shift as he rolled over to where she sat.

“Gghssoka?”

“I think these are meant to be mine,” she said, her voice thick. Anakin pulled himself up and put his hand on her shoulder when he noticed that she was blinking back tears. On the other end of the bed, Padmé was stirring, pulled awake by their voices.

Anakin peered around her shoulder at the dagger lying in her outstretched hands. “Are those..?”

“Kyber crystals,” Ahsoka whispered. She gently lay the knife on her knees and held her hands above the hilt of the weapon, her eyes falling shut. The knife slid out from the sheath with a quiet hiss of metal on leather, and Ahsoka manipulated it carefully in midair.

Padmé had moved to sit on her other side, blinking the sleep from her eyes. Between Ahsoka's palms, the hovering knife shuddered briefly, and then the two white stones popped free and rotated in the air. Ahsoka let the knife sink back to her lap, but held her hand out for the crystals, which promptly dropped in to them.

They were silvery-white in color and luminous in the dark of the room, and they felt both warm and familiar in Ahsoka's hand. She curled her fingers around them and brought her closed fist to forehead, leaning against her knuckles.

“Oh, Ahsoka,” Padmé said with fondness when she noticed the Togruta's shoulders were shaking.

“I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to construct lightsabers again. I didn't think I had the right,” Ahsoka sniffed and leaned against Padmé's side.

“You wouldn't have known them to be what they are if they weren't meant for you.” Anakin was beaming. “And you got them your way, without the help of the Jedi.”

“I got them from you,” Ahsoka corrected, her eyes shining in the dark. She opened her fist and looked down at the gemstones, still glowly dimly in her palm. “I think that's significant.”

“I think it proves that attachments aren't inherently detrimental when it comes to making connections to the Force,” said Padmé, and Anakin and Ahsoka both turned to stare at her in surprise. She rarely if ever had anything to say when it came to the subject of the Jedi's personal dogma, nor the Force at large. She shrugged somewhat apologetically. “That's just how it seems from here.”

Anakin leaned over and pressed a smiling kiss against Padmé's cheek.

Ahsoka slid off the bed and tucked the crystals safely in the pouch of her belt before returning to them. Padmé opened her arms to her and drew her back in to bed with them as Anakin said, “Tomorrow, we can go through the crates of parts I have and see what you can use to build.”

Ahsoka was swiping away unshed tears with the inside of her forearm. “Thank you.” She shook her head. “I can't thank you two enough. For everything. You didn't have to welcome me in to your home, you didn't even need to speak to me ever again..”

“This is where you belong,” Anakin said firmly. When she looked up at him, her eyes red-rimmed and unconvinced, he ducked down and kissed her, slow and sweet. She made a quiet sound against his lips and felt Padmé's hands petting down her shoulders in slow, soothing movements. Heat rose in her cheeks, and when Anakin finally pulled away she found herself blushing like the inexperienced teenager she no longer was. The knowledge that both of them wanted her there, were interested, flustered her in a way being alone with Anakin hadn't managed to.

“You don't have to be alone anymore. If this is what you want,” Padmé was saying.

“It is,” she said, perhaps a bit too quickly. She caught Padmé's smile in the dark, saw her gaze flicker appreciatively down Ahsoka's figure. Anakin was watching the exchange intently. He shifted on the bed, guiding Ahsoka with a gentle hand on her shoulder, until she was facing Padmé and he was kneeling behind her with his knees bracketing hers hips. Ahsoka's heart nearly beat out of her chest when Padmé scooted closer. She reached out and touched her cheek, drawing her fingers down and along the markings there.

“You're in charge, okay? You say the word and we stop.”

Ahsoka nodded, biting back the urge to laugh. Don't you dare stop, she thought, and felt the sentiment mirrored back along her bond with Anakin. It suddenly seemed insane that this hadn't happened sooner, after weeks of lying chastely in bed together. The three of them together, like this, now became the most obvious thing in the universe to her.

As if reading her mind, Padmé leaned in and kissed the corner of her mouth, her hand still resting delicately along Ahsoka's jaw. Quelling the thrill that surged through her, Ahsoka tilted her head and caught Padmé's lips in a proper kiss. From over her shoulder, she heard Anakin's quiet intake of breath and felt his arousal spike through the Force. He crowded against her back, his mechnohand settling on her hip. He always slept bare-chested, and she could feel the heat of him now radiating along her spine.

Padmé tilted Ahsoka's head with two fingers and began trailing kisses down her jaw and onto the surface of one lek. Ahsoka twitched inadvertently at the contact and Padmé leaned back, worried she had done something wrong. But Ahsoka was smiling somewhat drunkenly, her eyes half-lidded, and Anakin leaned in over her shoulder.

“She likes that,” he purred, running his own hand down Ahsoka's right lek in one smooth movement. He watched the chevron pattern visibly flush dark under his hand as Ahsoka let out a hissing breath followed by stuttered laughter.

“That's not fair.”

“Isn't this.. distracting? I mean, in day-to-day life,” he asked, thumbing the tip.

“No,” Ahsoka said with amusement, making sure he could hear how hard she was rolling her eyes. “It's only distracting in situations like this.”

“Can't blame me for asking.”

“Ani,” Padmé chided. Anakin chuckled darkly and flexed his hand on Ahsoka's hip. She leaned back against his chest and twisted her head, pulling his face down to hers. He obliged, dipping his mouth down against hers and pulling her tight against him, back to front.

Padmé's fingers found the hem of Ahsoka's nightshirt and slid up underneath it, skating over her ribs. Ahsoka shivered and made a soft noise against Anakin's mouth; she felt him smile in response, and nip at her lower lip before drawing back.

“Scoot,” said Padmé to Anakin, and he did, rolling to the side to give them room. Ahsoka raised her brows: Padmé looked positively impish as she guided Ahsoka back against the mattress. The Chancellor's satiny nightgown skimmed along Ahsoka's exposed stomach where her shirt was hiked up as she leaned over her body.

Ahsoka was sure the fluttering beat of her heart was loud enough to be heard by both of them. Her hands were hesitant when they came up to rest at Padmé's slim waist, but the way Padmé beamed at her when she did was reassuring. The Chancellor kissed her again, this time more deeply, and Ahsoka marveled at the distinct difference in Anakin and Padmé's technique. Where Anakin was firm and insistent, Padmé was patient, soft, and utterly thorough. Ahsoka came away from the kiss breathless and hot.

“Still okay?” Anakin asked from the sidelines. Ahsoka turned her head to look at him. He was kneeling off to one side, his hands braced on his knees and his eyes bright and alert in the dark. His signature in the Force was practically vibrating.

“Yeah. Yes. Definitely.”

Affection flared along their bond, and she wasn't sure from whom it had originated. It didn't really matter.

Finding courage, Ahsoka took initiative and hooked her fingers in to the shimmery cloth of Padmé's nightgown, gently tugging until it was gathered in folds around her waist. Padmé had been laying soft kissing along her throat but she sat back and flashed her a smile before pulling the whole thing over her head and dropping it over the side of the bed.

Ahsoka swallowed.

Padmé sat astride her hips in only her underclothes, her dark hair framing the pale, slender shape of her bared torso. She was pulling at Ahsoka's nightshirt now, and Ahsoka was quick to assist, squirming out of it and pulling it over her montrals.

Padmé looked pleased. Ahsoka glanced at Anakin and noted he looked more than pleased. Unbidden, a shiver ran through her.

And then Padmé was back, kissing her with new fervor, and any reservations Ahsoka might have had left her. She arched up against Padmé, skin to skin, and clutched at her back. The quiet growl Padmé gave sent a thrill lancing through her.

Padmé reached down and cupped her through her shorts, and Ahsoka's head dropped back against the pillow. She heard Anakin hiss, realized he was close to them again, and when she opened her eyes she saw him looming behind Padmé, brushing her hair to the side and lowering his mouth to the nape of her neck. She saw Padmé's reaction, saw the familiar way they moved against one another, and felt a rush of gratitude that she'd been allowed in to this private setting.

It was Anakin's hand, his human one, that slid confidently down Ahsoka's side from ribs to thigh, pulling her shorts down with it. Padmé moved enough to give him room to pull them completely down and off and then returned to her spot above Ahsoka, peppering her with kisses while one hand returned to the juncture between her coppery legs.

Ahsoka was vaguely aware she was making desperate noises, breathing hard against Padmé's mouth.

“You're very lovely,” Padmé murmured. Her fingers were massaging small, practiced circles against Ahsoka's skin.

Padmé,” Ahsoka breathed, dizzied by the sensation. Padmé smiled in response and moved her hand lower until one and then two fingers had slid smoothly inside.

Ahsoka's hands fell back against the bedcovers and dug in. Her hips rocked forward involuntarily.

Her voice caught in her throat when Padmé curled her fingers and made a beckoning motion inside her. She did it again, and dipped her head to swallow the groan it elicited from the Togruta. Ahsoka reached up to grasp at the back of Padmé's neck, her fingers weaving in to the soft hair there.

Anakin watched, rapt, his lips parted and his breath coming heavy.

The cloud-soft sheets, now properly mussed beneath them, clung to Ahsoka's damp skin as she flexed full-bodied against the bed.

Force, Ahsoka,” Anakin said in a low, strained voice. Padmé looked over her shoulder at him and hummed contentedly when he ground his hips against hers from behind, his sleep pants doing little to hide his excitement. Ahsoka whined when Padmé withdrew her hand from between her legs, her fingers trailing slick across the inside of one rust-colored thigh. She twisted to face her husband.

Anakin's hands came up to frame Padmé's face as he kissed her eagerly. All these years, and he still seemed like he couldn't quite believe his good luck when it came to the woman who loved him. Ahsoka lay beside them, quietly catching her breath and watching the two of them.

“Off,” Padmé smiled against Anakin's lips, tugging at the waist of his pants.

“Your highness,” he quipped, and she gave him a predatory look as he shucked his sleep clothes. Ahsoka raised herself on to her elbows as the rest of Anakin's lithe body came in to view. Padmé's small hand encircled his growing erection and stroked and Ahsoka's stomach tightened as she felt his pleasure flare in the Force. She rolled up on to her knees to be closer to them, her eyes darting between the two of them, asking permission. Padmé reached out to take her hand and squeezed it, and as Anakin and Ahsoka watched, she raised it to her mouth and licked a slow stripe from the base of her palm to the tip of her middle finger.

Both Ahsoka and her former Master shuddered.

Padmé guided her hand down to Anakin's cock and closed it around the base, leaning in to nuzzle at Ahsoka's shoulder. “Go on.”

Anakin made a breathless sound and the two women exchanged a look. When Ahsoka's hand began to move, Padmé removed her own and swept it up Ahsoka's abdomen and over her breasts, leaning her own body against her.

Anakin was looking at her with heavy lidded eyes, his lips slightly parted and his expression one of bared adoration. She felt the tug along their bond and tilted her head to kiss him, her hand still working between them. The hard durasteel of his mechno-arm slipped around her waist and pulled her in close so that she was straddling one of his thighs, the heat of her pressed flush to his skin. Ahsoka ground down on his leg and the dual sensation of her slick heat on his skin and her hand on his cock had him groaning against her mouth.

He lowered himself back against the bed with his free hand, drawing her down with him, and Ahsoka took the opportunity to re-position farther down his body to lay open-mouthed kisses along his sternum. When the sharp point of one canine scraped down his front she heard him grunt and the muscles of his abdomen tightened and flexed.

She looked up. “Sorry. I'll try to be careful.”

“Don't be too careful,” he chuckled, and so she nipped him gently on the hip before nuzzling him.

When her breath first ghosted over his straining erection, still fisted in her hand, Ahsoka could feel his anticipation flutter in the Force. She caught his gaze and held it as she drew him in to her mouth, felt him strain against the urge to lift his hips up off the mattress.

Before long he was stifling his gasps, his pleasure surging along their bond and reverberating back in a closed circuit that had Ahsoka giving small moans around him. His human hand slid, fingers spread, into the concave curve between her montrals. Not tugging, just resting, his thumb sweeping over one horn.

She pulled off and sat back when she felt him near his brink and watched him catch his breath, dazed and flushed. Padmé had been watching from just out of reach, her eyes hungry. She reached out to Ahsoka, and Ahsoka pivoted to meet her, bracing herself over Padmé's body.

“How you doing, love?” Padmé asked, stroking down the side of Ahsoka's broken montral. Ahsoka hooked her thumbs into Padmé's underclothes and tugged them down in answer. She bent and sucked a mark into the skin at Padmé's collarbone, and sensed Anakin behind her, pulling Padmé's clothes the rest of the way down her legs.

Ahsoka worked a thigh up between Padmé's and leaned, and simultaneously felt Anakin slip a hand between her own legs from behind. His prosthetic hand smoothed over her lower back, spanning the taut muscles there. Padmé sighed at the contact and rolled her hips, grinding against Ahsoka's thigh. She stroked one of Ahsoka's lekku from stem to tip and Ahsoka heard herself growl as she rocked between Padmé's leg and Anakin's hand.

She felt almost frenzied, her body buzzing with desire. Padmé was laid out beneath her, all softness and curves, and the coiled heat of Anakin's body was pressed up against her from behind. When Anakin pressed the head of his cock against her and curled over her back to mouth at her shoulder blades, Ahsoka keened and dropped to one elbow under his weight, her body pressed to Padmé's. Padme gave a light laugh and pet her head.

“Anakin,” she whimpered after a moment when he didn't move to enter her. He hummed near her neck and guided himself in, driving forward until his hips were flat against Ahsoka's flesh.

All three stopped momentarily to adjust, breathing hard in the darkened room. Outside the window, the first tinges of dawn painted the horizon a delicate pink. It was the quietest time in a Coruscant rotation, the skyways the least busy they'd be all day. Overhead, a frigate passed by, and the building vibrated very slightly.

Ahsoka rocked against them both, her face buried in Padmé's neck. The soft, sweet-smelling waves of her hair tickled her cheeks. Hair was still somewhat of a novelty to her, and she wound her fingers in to it and held it just as Padmé stroked down her lek again. Anakin finally began to thrust, his movements driving Ahsoka's hips down against Padmé's, who gasped and closed her eyes.

The cyclical nature of her Force bond with Anakin meant that Ahsoka could practically feel what he was experiencing: her own body, hot and vice-like around his cock, the silkiness of her skin under his human hand, the way the noises she was making skewered him to the core. She bowed under the sensations, her lekku draping over Padmé's chest.

Padmé looked nearly gone herself, her pupils blown and her skin flushed and damp. She was rolling up against their still-locked legs in earnest, one hand clutching Ahsoka's shoulder and the other reaching past her to cup Anakin's jaw.

Anakin closed his hand around her rear lek and pulled very slightly, his hips moving hard and fast now, and it was enough. She gave a shuddering sob and ground down against Padmé hard as climax washed over her. Along their bond she felt her own body spasming rhythmically around Anakin. He groaned in to the space between he shoulder and montral as he fought for control.

In the tingling aftershocks, she became aware of Padmé bucking and clutching at her as orgasm claimed her as well. She looked stunning undone, Ahsoka thought, and kissed her jaw and throat.

In a cascade effect, Anakin was coming, his hips moving shallowly. Ahsoka felt it surge through him and a gentler, lazier swell of pleasure rolled through her as well.

He paused to catch his breath before withdrawing from them and rolling to the side. Padmé leaned up to kiss Ahsoka's cheekbone as they untangled their legs. They got situated and Anakin tugged the sheet up over all of them. Ahsoka nuzzled her head in to the crook of his shoulder, her body utterly relaxed and boneless. Padmé's hand slipped over her side and stroked slow, gentle circles against her belly.

Drowsiness clouded the edges of her mind as Ahsoka lay between them. She didn't know how this would work, if this would work. The future seemed uncertain, but there was nothing frightening about it. Her heart felt full.

Dawn came, and they slept.

 

–--

 

“Anakin, you aren't making any sense.” There was a mild panic to Obi-Wan's voice that Anakin was more than accustomed to. His former Master bobbed after him as Anakin calmly gathered the few belongings he had strewn about his Temple apartment. “The Council will forgive you... in time. I still can't understand why you'd let a terrorist like Boba Fett go free after receiving strict orders not to, but your logic has always been a bit.. difficult to follow.”

Anakin picked up a model Corvette ship and turned it over in his hand, studying it for a moment before chucking it in the disposal unit.

“I'm sure they'll reinstate you if you can prove your worth,” Obi-Wan was still trailing him around the room, his frustration mounting. “Anakin, are you listening? Anakin!”

Anakin turned finally, and laid his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. “It's not about the Council's decision, Obi-Wan. I don't blame them.” He patted him fondly and stepped in to the 'fresher to sort through his toiletries.

Obi-Wan opened and closed his mouth and blinked rapidly. He followed him to the 'fresher door and leaned against the frame.

“Then what? You're not thinking clearly. You can't--” he put his hand on Anakin's arm, stilling him. Anakin turned to look at him. “--you can't do this. You can't just walk away. It's not something that can be undone.”

Anakin smiled sadly. “I know, old friend. And I hope you can forgive me for it some day.”

He cinched the top of the satchel that held his belongings and shouldered it. “But I don't belong here anymore.” He looked around the room, taking in the four, bare walls, the golden light slotting in through the blinds, the rolled futon. “I'm not sure I ever did.”

“Anakin,” Obi-Wan started again, sounding annoyed when Anakin began a last tour of his room. “This isn't a decision to make rashly. What will you do? Where will you go?” When Anakin didn't stop, his voice softened. “Anakin. Please.”

Anakin paused, his shoulders sagging. Obi-Wan looked... lost. Hurt. The beginnings of gray peppered the hair at his temples, and he had begun to carry himself more like someone who was middle-aged. A great tenderness for his Master welled within him, and he gathered him in to an embrace, hooking his chin over the shorter man's shoulder. Obi-Wan stiffened, and Anakin hugged him closer.

“I love you,” he said against Obi-Wan's shoulder. Anakin felt a surge of conflicting emotions radiate from his former Master before they were quickly tamped down. “Thank you for everything.”

Obi-Wan didn't move when Anakin released him. Anakin gave his shoulder a last squeeze and then adjusted his pack on his shoulder before heading past him towards the door to the apartment. The door was already sliding shut by the time Obi-Wan had grounded himself enough to turn.

Ahsoka was waiting for him on the speeder pad when Anakin descended the Temple steps. She stood leaning against one of the lightposts, looking out over the criss-cross of air traffic. On either hip, shoto and full-sized lightsaber hilts hung clipped to her belt.

She turned when she sensed his approached.

“You okay?”

He nodded for her to get on and went to strap his pack to the back of the bike. When he'd finished securing his pack he slid on to the speeder behind her.

“Yes,” he said, and there was no lie in his voice. His cirlced his arms around her middle as she palmed on the ignition.

From one of the broad windows of the Temple hallway, Obi-Wan watched their speeder become one of the nondescript thousands dotting the sky.