Beta: A huge thank you to cariel for beta reading this for me!
Author's Notes: This tale was inspired by Fialleril's series titled 'Nervous Conditions'.
Ahsoka did not allow herself to think about what she was doing as she destroyed the droid soldiers. Nor did she allow herself to acknowledge their dying Force signatures, how their fading requiems sounded so similar to that of a sentient being. Denial enabled her to embrace the battle and to make the victory hers.
Only when the last droid fell to the ground did the pungent stench of acrid smoke reach her nostrils, permitting reality to set in. The emptiness that followed was almost all-consuming. Ahsoka suddenly wondered what would become of all of them after the war. Was there life beyond the heady rush of battle or the savouring sense of empowerment that came with victory?
Her master's stormy blue eyes met her own and Ahsoka knew she was not the only one who feared the end. He would never speak of it, and neither would she. Doing so meant having to admit things Ahsoka was not ready to accept.
From the distance, she heard Captain Rex telling the men that it was over. Her master promptly ordered the man to pack it in. Ahsoka responded without hesitation. The clean up provided the perfect distraction from her thoughts.
While the bodies remained behind, their memories lingered in her thoughts, haunting her with questions she could not fully understand. She wished she could talk to someone, anyone at all. Despite her young age, Ahsoka knew she was changing and it was not for the better. Though her fellow Jedi never spoke of it, she could see in their eyes that they were very aware of her transition.
In the past, their unspoken accusations had hurt, now it just frightened her. Before the war there was no question in her mind about where she stood; she was one of them, a noble Jedi warrior, a good person. However, the war redefined everything that the Order supported and believed, permitting even the most noble of warriors to cross lines they normally would never, and should never, cross.
Everyone had their own way of handling the guilt, silencing the nagging voices of their conscience that belied the propaganda which promoted victory above all else. Ahsoka, too, did her best to bury her doubts, to imagine it away. It was easier to pretend that it was not real than to face the facts. Yet, as time passed and the stakes of the battles grew, she found it increasingly difficult to convince herself that the Jedi were all that they should be, that she was the Jedi she should be. If she was not one of them anymore, then what was she? More importantly who was she?
Her eyes scanned the battlefield and in the distance, she saw Chopper carefully rifling through the dead, collecting droid digits. He was discreet about it, but not enough for her to miss. Ahsoka sensed him avoiding her gaze and immediately realized that she was doing the same.
Where do men like him go in times of peace, she wondered sadly. How does one survive the quiet times, the peaceful years, when death and war is that one has ever known in life?
A heavy hand fell to her shoulder, causing her thoughts to immediately clear. It is only then that Ahsoka realized she had been standing motionless in the midst of the carnage for some time.
"You OK, kid?"
Her cheeks burned while her heart raced both in fear and in shame. She wanted to tell the captain about her fears, the doubts that robbed her of rest, but she did not. Reminded of her master's actions, his brooding silence, Ahsoka forced back her emotions. Master Skywalker and Captain Rex respected silent strength and so she tried to emulate it, if only to make them proud.
Ahsoka told herself that she felt nothing, nothing was wrong, and it would all pass. It always did. Forcing a smile, she beamed up at the captain and gave a chirpy reply. It was the usual naïve response, the kind of reply that Ahsoka always gave.
Beyond Rex's mask, it was hard to tell if he saw through her act. Nevertheless, through the Force, his emotions were clear and Ahsoka knew that he knew. She was almost relieved when he did not speak of it. "We should return to the ship," she suggested, wanting to keep the mood light and off topic.
Rex nodded and together they departed for the ship as though nothing had ever happened.
Despite her denial and attempts to bury her doubts, the haunting images of her dead comrades and the strange cries of the droids still threatened to consume her mind. Falling back on her training, Ahsoka forced her thoughts to clear while reciting her personal mantra. She used it more often than she liked to admit.
It is going to be OK...everything is going to be fine. I'm OK. I'm going to be all right. She hoped this time, she would finally believe it.