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Title: Reunion - Ahsoka Focus
Characters: Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex
Era: Rebels, Season 02; Post Episode 04
Summary: Missing Moment - Ahsoka and Rex get to have a chat
Reunion - Ahsoka Focus
Ahsoka couldn't help the sidelong looks she kept throwing Rex, taking in the changes she'd half expected but really hadn't become a reality until he's stepped into the hallway in front of her before reporting to Commander Seto to give his report with the crew of the Ghost.
He was older; she'd expected that. What she hadn't expected was the shaved head... or the beard. It was different from the clean cut, closely shaved soldier she remembered - but it fit his aging face well. She suspected he would look very similar to how she remembered him in her dreams if he were to cut it off. Without it, and the pure white it had become, she wondered if she'd feel like that errant Padawan again. So sure about leaving the order but not knowing where she'd end up.
While those were the most visibly immediate changes in him, there was also the fact he was more built than she could recall. There was a definition to his muscles, bulging from between the seems of his armor where no bodysuit remained, that hadn't been there during his younger years. Whatever he had been doing in this fifteen years since she'd left the Jedi Order had kept him in shape and beyond.
Despite the changes, his hug - their embrace - had felt like... well like home after so many years without it.
For years she'd been searching for her place and gone so far as to create it once it had been clear what the Empire was and intended, determined to bring down the Empire and all it stood for. She'd lost touch with Rex, following his movements when the Empire had declared the Clone Army obsolete and retired them from service. She'd feared the worst only to discover that the Emperor hadn't been willing to waste resources and instead of terminating the Army by killing them, had instead given them their freedom for service well rendered.
The relief she'd felt had been palpable and she would have no problem telling Rex that - if this kriffing debriefing ever ended. Part of her resented this need for protocol and reminded her too much of her time with the Jedi and the GAR. Yet, even as she acknowledged that part, she knew it was just because she couldn't wait to get Rex alone and talk with him. Fifteen years was a lot of time to catch up on and, now that he was here, she didn't want to waste a moment.
"Was there anything else, Ahsoka?"
She turned her attention to Seto just as he turned the conversation her way, deferentially bowing his head fractionally. A sign of respect to the only Jedi among them who would have achieved the rank of Knight - if she hadn't chosen instead to walk away. "Nothing on my end." she shot Rex another look, to find him watching her, amusement she well recognized and hadn't seen in forever in his amber gaze. "Are we done here?"
"I believe that's it, unless the Captain has anything else to report?"
"Not at present, sir." Rex's easy reply brought back too many memories to count - memories of when she'd been on the receiving end of that statement.
"If you think of anything else-"
"He'll report it," Ahsoka refrained from rolling her eyes and pushed from the wall where she was leaning. "Can I steal him now?"
She ignored Kanan's concerned inquiry as a half-smile formed on her lips, slanting a look Rex's way to measure his reaction and was gratified to see he seemed inclined to be stolen. "Fifteen years is a long time and I'd like to catch up with my friend." Seto waved her away and she turned to Rex with a tilt of her head that made her feel fifteen again. "How about it, Rex?"
"Lead on, Commander."
Ahsoka let out a soft laugh, stepping to his side and then beyond, leading him outside the briefing room and beyond prying eyes. She refrained from answering until the door slid shut behind them. "We need to break that habit. It's just Ahsoka now."
Rex, to her surprise, reached out and flicked one of the hilts on her belt, his expression amused. "Sure it is."
"You're retired," she countered, "technically you're not in my chain of command."
Letting out a chuckle, Rex instead pulled her into his arms again and hugged her firmly; more firmly than he had in the corridor before. The laughter died as she returned the hug, using all of her strength as she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed. "I've missed you, Ahsoka."
It was an unspoken admission she hadn't expected aloud quite yet but one she wasn't about to let pass by. "Me too, Rex."
Their hug lasted for several long moments, much longer than the one earlier when they'd had an audience, and Ahsoka buried her face in his neck, feeling the sting of tears behind her eyelids as she did. She wasn't an emotional person by nature, but this was a reunion she'd begun to doubt would ever take place.
"I was starting to think you didn't want to see me."
"Hardly," he finally let her go, his hands sliding from her form with the same reluctance hers did. "Wolfe hid your transmissions. He's been paranoid since the fall of the Republic. Believed all Jedi, even one who'd left the order, wanted us dead."
"Wolfe's still alive?"
"Yeah," Rex smiled as she expressed her cautious delight with the news. "He and Gregor and I have been quite the team. Enjoying our retirement and hunting Joopa on Seelos."
"Joopa?" She couldn't keep the amusement from her voice. "That some kind of slang?"
"Big game, actually. Difficult to catch but makes one hell of a meal."
Taking his hand, Ahsoka marveled again at the fact he was there, beside her again, after fifteen years of absence - and it felt like no time at all had passed. Still, she needed the physical contact to anchor herself in the moment for fear she really was dreaming. Even if she'd never dreamed of a reunion like this before. "And I want to hear all about it - just not outside the command center. Come on."
Rex made no move to reclaim his hand as she led him through the corridors. At first, she wasn't certain where she could take him so they could be alone and talk, but as she moved into the side corridor and towards her room, another idea hit her and she walked right past the doors and towards the aft section. Moments later, she opened another door and pulled him inside, the field of stars beyond the viewport reminiscent, despite their different configurations, to the ones they'd often viewed together ages ago. When the galaxy had seemed to make sense and their reason for fighting had been clear - before the Empire had risen from the ashes of their beloved Republic.
"Better than the one you left behind?" A chuckle was her answer as she waved one hand at the door, locking it. She didn't want to be disturbed. "What?"
"A man might think you want him alone... kid."
She burst out laughing, turning to face him with a brilliant smile. "Nothing gets past you, huh?"
"One might say it's in my blood." his half smile changed into a full one. "Not that I'm objecting. I wasn't expecting to get you all to myself so soon."
"Pleasantly so." he nodded to her, motioning to her waist. "When'd you build the new ones?"
"After the..." she hesitated, uncertain if she could say it, her throat tightening. Fifteen years and she still felt the deaths of so many Jedi as if it were yesterday. That the Clones they'd served with so closely had been the instrument by which they'd fallen had been devastating.
"Order 66." Rex's words were soft and solemn. "I'm sorry, Ahsoka."
"You didn't-" Ahsoka had always believed that if anyone could have withstood the order, it would have been Rex. Now that he was here, she had the chance to ask and wasn't going to pass up the chance to prove herself right. She had barely begun to ask the question when Rex was cutting her off.
"No. Wolfe, Gregor and I removed our control chips. Thanks to Fives, we knew about them. We had a choice."
They shared a moment of silence for their fallen friend and Rex's closest brother.
In her first months away, they'd kept in touch and the news of Fives' death had been devastating. More so because she couldn't be there to share it with him. Echo's recovery had happened just bare weeks before Order 66 had been given and while she'd been relieved at his recovery and appalled by what the Separatists had made him, she'd grieved knowing he would struggle with the loss of Fives more than any of them.
"Most of your brothers weren't so lucky."
"No." Rex shook his head. "And after that, you fell off the map."
"I hid," she admitted, looking away. "I was afraid they'd punish you for having contact with an ex-Jedi."
"And you what, spent your spare time making new lightsabers?"
She chuckled at his skeptical statement. "Part of it. I got in touch with Bail Organa and we started all this," waving one hand to the viewport, she indicated the fleet around them. "It started small, with just the two of us, but we knew where to look and where to go to find allies initially. Until the Empire's forces started rounding up sympathizers. Then everyone went to ground."
"It's impressive," he admitted. "Never one to be satisfied with half measures, were you?"
"We're still small," the counter was accompanied with a sigh as Ahsoka considered those already lost and how much further they had to go. "Small is good, at least in cells we have a chance to make a difference."
Rex let out a bark of laughter. "This," he waved to their small fleet, "isn't a cell."
"No, it's all of the cells who could respond to the call to rescue Kanan," she agreed. "The Ghost and its crew are just one cell among many."
"And you want me to help them."
"Can I be selfish and I say I want you to help me?" she stepped close again and placed her hand on his forearm. "You have knowledge and skills we could really use, Rex. If you're willing, that is."
"I would do anything for you." His hand covered hers. "All you have to do is ask, Ahsoka."
The moment was charged and she felt his touch acutely even though she didn't pull away. It had been far too long since they'd been together and she wasn't about to miss any of the nuances. Rex was a changed man - older and wiser and enjoying his freedom. That he'd give it all up for her, join their rebellion for her was something she hadn't expected. "Anything?"
"Within reason." He flashed her the half smile she well remembered. "I'm a free man, you know. Choices and all."
The tension between them disappeared as she burst out laughing, Rex squeezing her fingers. "What'd you have in mind," she teased. "Being at my beck and call?"
"I'm not?" he lobbied the tease back at her, his amber eyes sparkling with delight; it was a visible sign he'd missed their banter as much as she had. "Guess I'll just have to take it one day at a time."
"Sounds familiar." Like the advice she'd given him upon Fives' death.
"Like Jedi advice?"
"I'm not exactly a Jedi."
"And yet, you're not exactly not a Jedi." releasing the hand from his forearm, he flicked one of her lightsabers again. "Why'd you make yourself a target?"
"With the Jedi order all but gone, someone had to keep the traditions."
"Or at least the ones you agree with."
Ahsoka chuckled again. Despite the fifteen years since they'd spoken or seen each other, he still read her well. "Something like that. Jedi training is all I knew; all I've ever known. When the order fell, it gave me something to hold on to. Something to fight for. I might have walked away, but I could have always gone back."
"Once a Jedi?"
"Not exactly," she struggled to find the words. "There were things wrong with the order when I left, Rex. Important things. Jedi had lost their ability to use or feel compassion and emotion, turning instead to blind logic. That wasn't the kind of Jedi I wanted to be; it wasn't the kind of Jedi I was trained to be. Ana-" her throat closed on the name and stopped her. Anakin's fate was still unknown and she had a horrible suspicion as to what it was, she simply couldn't confirm it.
And didn't want to.
Rex placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed in silent support. When it was clear she was struggling for more than a second or two, Rex pulled her into a hug. Maybe he'd sensed she needed the contact, but Ahsoka was grateful for it.
She'd felt alone in this mission for so long, despite the other supporters of the Rebellion, and that isolation had been taxing. Few had understood her or her past and here, holding her now, was a man who knew both. Who had been there for her formative years as a Jedi and never judged. He'd been her teacher, her friend and confidant, and she his. Rex was her closest and oldest friend and she was ever so grateful to Hera and her team for bringing him back to her.
She would always, though they couldn't know it, be in their debt.
Ahsoka stood within Rex's loose embrace until she was able to speak again, grateful for his stoic presence in a way she couldn't explain. Rex had known Anakin, fought side by side with him, and if she was right, he'd be appalled by her suspicions. He was also one of the few who understood what her Master had been trying to teach her, had been there for almost every step of her training. In fact, Rex had done some of her training in her initial years when Anakin had seen her as something of a nuisance.
"I believe I can rebuild something of the order," she strove to continue, her voice slightly husky, her cheek on his shoulder; it was strange to be almost as tall as he was. It made the embrace familiar yet new. "Not into what it was, but what it should have been. Into what I thought it was."
"If anyone can do it, it's you, Ahsoka."
His voice rumbled through her lekku and she briefly closed her eyes, relishing it. He was here. After so many years of dreaming and wishing, he was finally there within reach and Ahsoka wasn't about to let him go without a fight. "Will you help me, Rex?" Lifting her head, she met his gaze, solemn in her request as she searched his gaze. "Not as my Captain or a Clone who feels he owes a debt to an old Commander, but as my friend? As a man who knew what the Jedi once were and could be again? As the man I trust more than anyone in this crazy Galaxy?"
His words contained no hesitation and a tension she'd been feeling in the years since starting this 'crazy Rebellion idea' with Bail began to unravel. "Just like that?"
"Just like that." He released her, taking a half step away to put some distance between them again and Ahsoka acutely felt the loss. "Where do we start?"
Taking a deep breath, she turned and took a seat on the edge of the steps leading down to the viewing deck, patting the ground beside her. "How about we start with the stories of what we've really been doing for the past fifteen years," she offered with a slight smile.
Rex sat beside her without hesitation. "And then?"
"Then we can figure out what to do next - together."