Disclaimer: Not mine. None of it.
Author's Notes: This tale could be considered a prequel to my drabble collection titled Aftermath.
Ahsoka knew she was not ready for knighthood. One look at her master's troubled gaze and she knew he felt the same way. The number of jedi knight's were rapidly deteriorating, forcing the Council to knight pre-mature padawans whose skills and training showed promise. Ahsoka was one of them.
At fourteen years of age, she was considered one of the youngest in the Order's history to lose their padawan braid. Ahsoka would have been proud if it had been real. The promotion was not given because she was skilled; it was given because there was no one left alive to fill the role.
Captain Rex watched her in silence as she stared outside the window of The Twilight. Coruscant was already within view reminding her that they would be landing soon. For a moment, Ahsoka allowed herself to pretend it was not real. It was easier to pretend that she was just returning for another mission briefing. It also ensured that her emotions would be kept under control. No one needed to know her fears, or her doubts.
Rex did not speak of it, yet Ahsoka could sense he felt the weight of her impending departure too. As much as she wanted the clone captain to join her, Ahsoka knew that he would remain under Anakin's command. She would receive new troops of her own, ones as green as she used to be. Ahsoka did not know if her path would ever cross with Rex's again, she could only hope.
"Ship's due for landing. General Skywalker says to be prepped and ready to go in ten."
Rex's voice was collected and calm, only through the Force did she sense his reluctance. Ahsoka was grateful to her master for permitting her to part ways with the clone captain. Truthfully, Rex was the closest she had ever come to having a real friend.
'Thank-you Captain,' she said as she glanced over to him. As always, he was the personification of the stoic commander. His armour though revealing signs of wear and tear was polished and clean. His bleached blonde hair was kept closely cropped, almost clean-shaven.
His brothers, Ahsoka and Anakin knew that it was his natural hair colour. Only Ahsoka knew that he used to be conscious of it until he began his service with the jedi.
She also knew that the scar on his chin was not from a training accident, as everyone believed. Rex had earned it while completing a mission off world. Though it had nothing to do with his mission, he chose to protect a local from being attacked by ruffians.
Ahsoka never told him how much she looked up to him. It was not necessary, he already knew.
A comfortable silence filled with both sadness and acceptance settled between them. A part of her wanted to break the silence; a greater part of her could not find the words.
Ahsoka reached up between her lekku and undid clasp that kept her Akul-tooth headdress in place. Holding it in her hands Ahsoka allowed her thoughts to drift off to simpler times, when everything was so clear--before the war, before it all became so complicated.
It had been Master Plo Koon's idea that Ahsoka undergo the Togruta's ritual and rites of passage as part of her preparations to become a padawan. The council though sceptical about its unorthodox nature, eventually permitted it.
Ahsoka could still recall the rush of facing the great predator-the battle that ensued and the narrow victory that she had earned. She had been so proud then, so confident and assured that she had what it took to become a great jedi knight.
Looking back it was hard to ignore how naïve she had been, so blind--so innocent. Ahsoka missed those days, now more than ever.
Glancing back to the clone captain Ahsoka took note of his thoughtful expression. His dark eyes studied her with a mix of curiosity and respect.
In silence, she offered the headdress noting with a hint of a smile his startled expression as his eyes flickered from the jewellery in her hand, back to her. "Commander?-" he began cautiously.
Formalities were always used whenever Rex was uncertain. The young togruta smiled sheepishly, feeling a little uncertain herself.
"So you don't forget about me," she quickly explained feeling her cheeks warm.
"Somehow I doubt that," Rex replied. If she did not know him better, Ahsoka might have mistaken his mannerisms for being bashful. With a hint of a smile, the Clone Captain graciously accepted the headdress from her hands.
A moment later, Ahsoka was holding his I.D. tags. Though she was touched by the gesture, Ahsoka knew his tags were more than just pointless jewellery.
"You'll need something to remember me too, kid. Besides, I have another set back in the barracks."
Rex's assurances dissuaded Ahsoka of her doubts. As her eyes fell to the tags in her hands, Ahsoka contemplated the battles they fought together. She recalled the victories and defeats they experienced. The long hours of tactical preparations and the rare but memorable conversations shared.
I am going to miss you old friend. she thought sadly, as she slipped the tags into her utility belt.
One day when it was all over, she would wear it with pride. For now, it would remain hidden both from her colleagues and her master.
Rex too, placed the Akul-tooth headpiece within his belt. With their reminders safely tucked away, the moment was lost.
"I should get prepped," Ahsoka said, breaking the silence. The captain's face as always was stoic, unreadable. His emotions however were clear to her and the compassion felt touched her deeply.
"Of course sir. I'll see you in C and C."
Ahsoka politely nodded before swiftly departing for her quarters.
Days later, the young togruta was knighted, given troops of her own and sent to the front lines. With the execution of Order 66's Ahsoka was unable to see her mission through. However, she did not perish like so many of her brethren.
A timely message of warning ensured she escaped the temple massacre. It was another unspoken secret, one shared solely between them.
That day she removed the old tags from their hiding place and placed on her throat.
She never took them off.