AN: First story in a long while. Beside the usual disclaimers and remarks about English not being my first language I'll try to make it short. Please note that even though I don't really like the Rex/Ahsoka-shipping, this fic is in no way meant as a take-that against anyone who does; it's merely me having some fun with the concept.
AN2: Since my scene dividers disappeared, I've done some editing. (May 2010)
Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi General, sensed his captain's presence long before he entered his improvised quarters. Still, out of courtesy he waited until the clone had entered himself before addressing him. Curiously he noted annoyance from the usually calm soldier. Even some embarrassment.
Anakin frowned. It was really bad, then.
"Rex? Is there something you want to tell me?"
The captain quickly saluted before casting a quick glance over his shoulder. The Jedi still wasn't sure of what the problem was, but patiently waited for the clone to continue. Something was clearly amiss, and now that the fighting had finally calmed down he would perhaps even have the time to solve the actual problem.
"This is silly..." Rex muttered, but Anakin didn't give up so easily.
"Is something bothering you?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," he replied, looking uncomfortable in a way Anakin had never seen him before. "Or rather, someone."
"Someone's bothering you?" Anakin asked, surprised. He didn't see how that could be possible. He really couldn't imagine clones bothering each other, and there was no one else present at their current location. At least, there shouldn't be. He doubted that Rex would feel "bothered" by Separatists. Which only left...
"It's not my padawan, is it?"
The clone remained quiet, his silence confirming Anakin's suspicions. A number of scenarios passed through his mind, though none of them seemed likely. Yes, Ahsoka Tano could be as bad a Jedi as Anakin, but she usually got along just fine with the clone captain. There seemed to be respect on both sides. But if embarrassment was what she had caused, she had probably gone too far.
He stood up.
"I'll find her," he said; to his great surprise, the clone immediately made a quick gesture with his hand, telling him to sit down. Rex took a few steps backwards.
"Forget it, it's stupid."
He made an attempt to escape, but Anakin closed the door with the Force. This was not like Rex at all; had he not recognised the clone's familiar Force signature, the Jedi would have suspected some kind of imposter.
"Captain," he requested kindly, while promising himself to find his padawan as soon as possible. "There's obviously something wrong, and I can't have unsorted problems between my commanders."
"It's nothing, sir," Rex tried to assure him, but Anakin didn't believe a word. Why couldn't the clone tell him, his general, his friend? Was he somehow involved in this?
For a moment, Anakin considered ordering Rex to tell him, but he didn't wish to take advantage of the clones' obedient nature; it wasn't right. He had to find another way.
"Please, Rex; whatever it is, I'm sure we can handle it. You can tell me anything, ask me anything... but if my padawan is involved, I need to know."
Rex still seemed reluctant to continue, and in his mind, Anakin could almost hear his former Master's voice telling him to stay calm. Obi-Wan had always been the more diplomatic one. Finally, with only the slightest hint of the Force in his voice, Anakin said:
"Why don't you tell me?"
It was not a mind-trick; rather a suggestion which the clone could choose to resist. Fortunately for Anakin, though, it seemed the clone still wanted to speak his mind, despite hesitating, and finally found the courage to do so.
"General, the Jedi Code forbids attachment, right? That includes... romantic relationships, doesn't it?"
Anakin froze, hoping he had not heard what he thought he had heard. His captain was not implying that his padawan was involved in a... romantic relationship?
Things suddenly seemed very complicated. It would certainly explain the awkwardness; witnessing such a... scene, would certainly arouse such feelings. Or maybe the padawan had actually confessed, given how well they got along. Either way, if this was true, Anakin was in for quite a mess. How was he supposed to lecture her on the Jedi Code and non-attachment when he himself was married? Maybe he could have Obi-Wan talk to her, claim that he had to be elsewhere...
But who? Who had Ahsoka been around long enough to actually engage in such behaviour? Relieved, he understood that it couldn't be himself; he simply would have known. The female Togruta considered him nothing more than maybe an elder brother.
The clone captain shifted uncomfortably as the final piece of the puzzle hit Anakin.
"No, Force..." he groaned, burying his head in his hands. Yes, the clone troopers were nice guys, and probably the only boys Ahsoka actually were around nowadays (after all, she was in that age), but to imagine his teenage padawan having a crush on a soldier... Any other time, anywhere else, he might even have found it mildly amusing, but not today.
"Yes," he said, realizing that he still had to calm the captain. "Yes, the Jedi Code forbids romantic relationships. And if I've interpreted this correctly, the object of this... affection, is... a clone? From our troops?"
"Yes, sir. I'm surprised you haven't noticed yet."
To be honest, Anakin was surprised as well. He knew that he had overlooked certain things, like Obi-Wan had done when Anakin still was the apprentice. Had he really let it get this far?
"Do you... do you know who the clone in question is?" Anakin asked.
"Unfortunately, I do," Rex said, taking a short breath. "Apparently, I am."
At some point, Anakin realized how stupid he must look. His mouth still gaping, he tried to gather himself enough to start acting rationally. The captain watched him hopefully.
"You are romantically involved with my padawan?" Anakin asked in disbelief.
"Obviously not," Rex snapped. "I wouldn't be standing here then, would I? I was hoping... that you could tell her to leave me alone. I find her stalking... disturbing. And my men doesn't take me seriously any more. It's not good for the discipline to have them laughing behind my back."
In a lower voice, he added: "Not that they stop when I turn around."
On the one hand, Anakin felt sympathy for his captain and friend. It was indeed an embarrassing situation, even if all troopers weren't familiar enough with the Jedi Code to understand the problems that would arise.
On the other hand, and he knew he shouldn't think like this, he might have found the perfect solution to his own problem...
He smiled kindly towards Rex, trying to look as wise as possible - trying to look like a Jedi.
"Forgive me, I didn't think... This is a very grave situation indeed, and it would be the subject of much debate in the Council, should they ever find out... which I obviously would like to avoid. Rex, I know this isn't the answer you wanted, but I think you'll have to sort this out yourself. I may be her Master, but she would only see me as a fellow Jedi, completely ignorant of her feelings-"
"But what about my feelings?" Rex exclaimed. "This is a Jedi problem; it's your rules. She doesn't listen to me, I've tried!"
"You'll simply have to try again," Anakin said. "And your problem is not our Code. Explain to her that her behavior bothers you. She knows the Code - we simply need to remind her. Mention that she might be expelled from the Order."
But she was his padawan; he had to help her. As a Master, she was his responsibility. He sighed, and added:
"Captain, I'll speak to her when you've finished, but for now, I think it's you two who need to talk."
"I understand," Rex said, though Anakin still sensed his dissatisfaction. "I'll talk to her."
"Thank you, Rex. May the Force be with you."
"I have a bad feeling about this," the clone muttered as he exited, and Anakin took a deep breath, trying to clear his thoughts. If they dealt swiftly with this problem Ahsoka might yet realize that this couldn't continue. Most of all he appreciated not having to do the talk himself - with any luck, his captain could talk her out of it, and he only needed to warn her from doing it again. Then life would proceed as normal, no one would find out and they'd never speak of it again.
It could take a while until everyone forgot, though.
"Stupid Jedi," Rex muttered, not sure whether he referred to Skywalker or Tano. Most likely both.
He had known that going to the General for help was a bad idea. The captain was not stupid. He knew that Skywalker was involved in a romantic relationship with a certain Senator, no matter how well he thought he could hide it. So when confronted with this kind of problem, he obviously wouldn't do anything. Maybe he should have tried with General Kenobi instead, but he had left a couple of days earlier for another Jedi mission. And that had been before the female had tried to kiss him, in front of his own men!
Not that the last part was entirely her fault. The troopers had unknowingly entered the scene as it was unfolding, snickering and giggling like girls when they realized what was going on. That was when he decided that he had had enough. Since he first noticed, he had tried to gently tell her off, but as the weeks passed and she showed no signs of changing, even the captain found himself growing more uncomfortable.
He most certainly wasn't going to talk to the Togruta. Maybe, if he avoided her long enough, she would forget all the weird things she had told him. Hopefully, he would forget. But unfortunately, the war would be long, and he could only hope that the Jedi would come to her senses and concentrate on fighting, or their work would become much more difficult.
A soldier approached him, and Rex tried to ignore any feelings on the former matters. He still had work to do, despite... distractions.
"Commander... Commander Tano is looking for you."
A barely audible snicker. By now, the entire 501st Legion seemed to know of the troubles their captain was facing. Only that they didn't see it as troublesome, but rather... amusing.
"Your comlink appears to be broken, sir," he helpfully added.
They both knew that there was nothing wrong with the comlink. Rex had turned it off a couple of hours ago, only because that padawan wouldn't stop pestering him. Unfortunately, it also made it quite difficult to make contact.
"I shall see to it," he said, an empty promise as he had no intentions of turning it on again, despite the drawbacks. He knew that somewhere beneath the silence of those helmets, his brothers were busy laughing at him. He did not need a lovesick teenager to add insult to injury. "Thank you, soldier."
The clone saluted and left, probably to gossip with his mates. In frustration Rex kicked the ground, gaining no satisfaction whatsoever. It had been worth a try, though.
The problem with the army was that you were never alone. Lately, there had always been someone to laugh.
He turned around, only to face Commander Cody. He had taken his helmet off, and Rex was relieved that his expression showed no kind of amusement, only his usual calm and serious approach to matters. The captain could have sworn that the commander was spending too much time with General Kenobi.
"Did you ask the General?"
Rex tried not to look too surly.
"Yeah. Told me that I need to sort it out myself. He doesn't want the Jedi involved."
"He won't talk with her?" Cody asked, and Rex almost smiled at his ignorance. He didn't know about the Senator.
But no matter how much frustration he felt, this wasn't the time for such a revelation.
"No. He didn't want to do it as a Jedi; I suppose he's right. Doesn't make it any more pleasant, though."
"You're going to find her, then?"
Cody was probably the only clone who hadn't laughed even once at him, except for when he had actually tried joking about it. The commander was one of the few who seemed to understand the seriousness of the problem, and for this, Rex was grateful. So grateful, actually, that he gave him a totally honest answer:
Avoiding Tano turned out to be a lot easier than expected. Even after being told to turn on his comlink, which had been Cody's original reason to find him, it had remained surprisingly quiet. The Jedi herself seemed to have disappeared; not that Rex minded. Of course he didn't want her to be lost, but constantly getting remarks about his cute eyes (which looked exactly the same as any other clone's, he was sure) was not something he enjoyed. Just the thought of her low, suggesting voice, implying that she was probably thinking of something completely else, was enough to make him squirm.
But if the padawan was difficult to find, soldiers from the 501st seemed to be everywhere, ready to laugh at his misery. If this continued, he might even consider... alternative methods to deal with the discipline problems. Possibly more violent ones.
At least, that was what he wanted to do.
But Rex had always been a reasonable man and knew that the only way to end this catastrophe was to deal with the root of the evil: whether he liked it or not, he had to find Tano, and talk.
"Soldier, I was told that the Jedi Commander was looking for me."
Rex couldn't believe he was actually doing this. The lieutenant did a good job of staying serious, however, and dutifully responded:
"Yes, sir; we haven't heard from her in a while, though. She was last seen around the outskirts, you could try there."
Rex followed the trooper's directions and walked in the general direction he had been shown. As he reached the end of their camp he encountered a few men who seemed to be patrolling the sector. He stopped them and asked the same question. They looked at each other before one soldier stepped forward.
"Yes, we saw the commander a while ago. Over there."
He pointed out the direction. He seemed like he was about to say something more, but decided not to.
"Very well. You may continue," Rex said, bracing himself for whatever awaited him.
"Good luck, captain."
And finally, he saw her. He approached her from behind, casually crossing the rocky ground. She turned around, alerted to his presence (those damned Jedi-senses!), with a mostly excited expression.
"Rex! You're here! I knew you'd come!"
The padawan shyly put away the weapon in her right hand.
"I was only... doing some lightsaber-practise. I've been waiting for you."
Rex acted against his instincts (which told him it wasn't too late to run away), and took a few steps forward, shaking his head.
"Kid... we need to talk."
The hopeful smile disappeared, and Rex sat down on the nearest rock, sighing deeply, knowing what had to be done. The padawan sat down beside him. Too close. He could barely breathe, lest she move closer.
"Why did you go to Anakin?" she asked, obviously disappointed. "Now it will be much more difficult... I almost thought you didn't want to come..."
"Tano, this won't work," the Captain said awkwardly, his gaze shifting from the ground to his feet.
"At least look at me!" she snapped. Maybe she actually was mature enough to realize what he was about to say. She was a Jedi. Rex reluctantly took his helmet off and turned towards the teenage Togruta. As he was about to repeat his words, now face to face, he found the words stuck in his mouth as he finally met her gaze.
Her big, blue eyes still held a certain amount of disappointment, yes; but there was more to it. He recognized that gaze. Though his memories of that particular mission were blurry, he remembered seeing eyes just like that on Naboo, because that was when he had realized what was going on.
It was exactly that way the Senator had watched General Skywalker.
It's not fair; I've done nothing to deserve this mess! Rex thought, growing more and more uncomfortable, wondering how a mere girl could reduce him to this state. The padawan leaned closer, and he tried to twist out of her reach as he become painfully aware of the Togruta female's way of dressing. A hand, however, found its way to his neck.
"Tano, this can't go on any longer," he said seriously. Then, accusingly: "You just wanted my helmet off, didn't you?"
"You have beautiful eyes, you know that?" she said, gazing dreamily, but not at his eyes. By now, however, he had had enough and abruptly stood up. Making sure that he had her attention, he angrily said:
"If it's my eyes, you have some millions of guys out there, looking exactly the same."
"You're right," Tano said. "It's not just your eyes. I mean, you're a captain, and-"
"And you're a Jedi," Rex interrupted her, while holding up his hands to keep her from moving closer. "I know your Code. Relationships are forbidden. So why aren't you simply a good Jedi and-"
"I don't care about the Code!" Tano exclaimed. "Master Anakin doesn't care either, so why can't you simply understand?"
More quietly, she added:
"I love you, Rex."
And so she finally confessed. Not that the kiss had been entirely subtle.
But what the hell was he supposed to say here? Rex himself was by no means an expert on the subject; when studying anatomy at Kamino this particular part of biology wasn't in focus, as it was of little use in combat. They had been even less instructed on how to deal with it. But even the early signs of this teenage hormone-influenced era, which he now recognized in hindsight, had been there: the stuttering whenever he came near, the strange timidity that was nothing like her... but at the time, he had thought nothing more of it, other than mentioned it to Cody, who had been equally oblivious of her motives.
"But you do care about the Order," he finally said, knowing her well enough to say it. "And I don't want to be the reason for your... resignation."
"It could be a secret!" the padawan eagerly said, again sneaking closer. Resting her head against his chest (he tried to step backwards), she continued: "Like Anakin and Amidala! Well, Skyguy knows, but it's not like he can say anything..."
Rex wondered if all Jedi were this impossible to take a hint.
And suddenly a thought occurred to him. Ever since this had started, no matter the situation, he had never actually told her that he wasn't interested, because he had been busy avoiding her. Quite on the contrary, he had awkwardly tried to brush her off, making it seem as if he only didn't want to be seen. Mostly because he didn't want to be seen... but there also was the fact that he didn't, well, love her.
He sighed. Maybe this would be easy enough to solve.
"Tano, look at me," he said. He didn't need to ask her twice.
"Ahsoka! Call me Ahsoka!"
"Commander Tano, there seem to be some misunderstandings here..."
Once he had started, it didn't take long for him to realize that he had probably said something wrong. But by then, it was already too late.
"Well, I'll say it if it makes you feel better; as usually, you performed well over my expectations," Skywalker slowly said. "I doubt Ahsoka will be interested in boys for a while."
Rex winced, trying to ignore the headache. He had a feeling that he should be grateful towards the Jedi who let him stay in his quarters for the night, shielding him from both his amused troops and a very angry padawan.
He would never understand the female. His attempts at rationally explaining that no, it wasn't her age and no, it was not the fact that she wasn't human, had been met with little understanding. Rather, she had begun thinking that the clone captain had simply been "toying with her". Things quickly turned ugly from there.
Of course, the humiliation didn't end there. The same patrol he had asked for directions had heard them and rushed to their captain's "aid". Soon enough, everyone from the 501st would have heard of it. Even a concerned-looking Cody had checked in only moments ago, relieved to find the rumors "mostly exaggerated".
"Aren't you Jedi supposed to be calm and serene?" Rex growled. He was sure that Skywalker tried to hide a smile.
"She's young and still learning," the Jedi said.
"Don't worry, Rex," Cody added. "You've been through worse than this. That bruise will be gone in a few days. Nobody will see it while you're wearing your helmet, anyway."
Neither of them managed to make him feel any better.
"He's right," Skywalker said. "And Ahsoka is a bright girl. In time, she will realize that you only did what was best."
After seeing her that evening, Rex highly doubted it. He wondered why the Republic didn't simply consider cloning an army with Tano as the host, rather than his kind, and the Separatist would be begging to surrender. Skywalker, however, shook his head.
"You'd be surprised if you knew how quickly they change their mind in that age. Not even our Jedi training seems to be enough."
Nor had his training on Kamino been enough to prepare him for this. The Kaminoans and Fett had apparently overlooked the dangers outside the battlefield.
Nevertheless, as long as he was assigned to the 501st and General Skywalker, he would see Commander Tano a lot, so he hoped the Jedi was right. They had to get along if they were to win this war.
Still, nobody would probably blame him if he stayed closer to Skywalker for a while. At least there, he wouldn't have to worry about... relationships.