Beta: A huge thank you to cariel for beta reading this for me!
Author's Note: This tale was inspired by fialleril's remarks about Asajj and Ahsoka post the events of ROTS and what could have become of them as well as Tim O'Brien's tale 'The Things They Carried'.
Asajj came to the jungle world Vendaxa seeking solace, answers, and time to heal. Though the darkness was no longer a part of her life, its shadow lingered, a silent memory of lost innocence and wasted dreams. It was behind her now and Asajj intended to keep it that way.
Humidity and the overpowering stench of flora and water were hard to ignore, yet the scenery was peaceful. Asajj felt oddly welcomed.
This place was not home, yet it was enough. Asajj was alone, but for the first time, she was not afraid.
Ahsoka belonged to the jungles of Vendaxa because she was the jungle. The rotted smell of decaying flowers, the hot humid air, even the acidic soil was in her blood. The togruta was part of the land, the beasts, and the dark.
The dead no longer haunted her. She was one of them now.
The Jedi Order was a distant memory, a dream she could not quite recall, as was her master, her friends, and the war. All that remained now was the jungle, the shadows, and the hunt.
This place was not her home. It did not matter; she was finally free. If only she could remember why.
When Asajj stared into the jungle, the jungle stared back at her. It peered into her soul questioning her motives and inviting her to join it.
The warrior within her wanted the fight, longing to feel the heated rush of blood lust. A greater part just wanted to find the eyes that stared at her from the shadows. She could not say whether she wanted to destroy or redeem it. Asajj watched and waited, knowing the truth would reveal itself in good time.
It did not make matters any easier nor did it make the nightmares go away.
Ahsoka knew she was not alone. The life that surrounded her was a part of her, this threat, however, was not. She had to consume it or it would consume her.
There was something familiar about threat, a recognition from another life, a horrible dream that she could never quite remember or quite forget. The jungle whispered in Ahsoka's mind, demanding she destroy it as she had done so often before, but this time, another small voice pleaded her to wait.
There was something familiar about the pale-faced warrior, something important, if only she could remember. So she waited and watched until the jungle made its demand,, dark hoarse whispers that would not let her be. Then she attacked.
For all of her training and experience, Asajj was caught in a desperate fight for her life. There were no blades, no Force attacks, no laser pistols; it was entirely hand-to-hand combat and it was the fiercest fight she had ever experienced.
There was no darkness found in her attacker, no real light either. Her aura was familiar, chaotic, primal, and damaged. The moons pale light did little to reveal her attacker, but as the battle progressed, they grew ever closer to the small fires of her encampment.
A mix of blue and purple blood flowed freely from the rattataki warrior and her assailant. Had it been another time, another place, Asajj might have appreciated the macabre beauty of a blood feud in the moonlight. Instead, she was taken aback by the shock of recognition. What the moons could not reveal, the light of her small fire did. The feral creature who sought Asajj's life was none other than Skywalker's protégé.
The inability to destroy the threat felt more like a victory than a failure. Ahsoka did not know why. So the hunt continued as well as the strange nagging within her. It was not long afterwards that old ghosts once thought dead began to return.
The jungle still called to her, but so did the small voice that she could not quite comprehend. Memories of strange, black eyes and the pungent stench of burning metal surfaced in her thoughts. There were faces too, friends whose names she had once known. Now when she roamed the jungle, she could feel another watching her. Ahsoka was no longer alone and it terrified her.
The tiny voice continued to whisper a single question: What have I become? The cold sweat she once knew to be fear returned.
Her instincts knew the answer.
The attacks stopped, but Ahsoka remained. Silent and wary, she watched Asajj's every action from the shadows. The rattataki warrior did not mind, the young togruta was not a threat anymore.
Asajj pretended that she did not see the former Padawan and continued her meditations and training in peace. When it grew too wet to remain, Asajj would retire for the night in the nearby village. No matter the weather, she always left a prepared meal behind neatly wrapped and carefully placed in an old cooking container.
The food was always there when she returned in the morning.
For weeks, the bait was left untouched. The togruta hunter never played along.
Then one morning, Asajj returned to find the crock pot empty, save for the small bones of the raptor she had prepared neatly piled inside. Ahsoka had finally accepted the offering; their truce had begun.
When Ahsoka awoke, the chill had taken over. Her body shivered yet her flesh was covered in sweat. The air was thick and heavy, a silent warning of rain but all she felt was cold. Bones ached and muscles protested as she attempted to take shelter. Something was coming; she knew it and had to get away.
Lost to memories from another time, another place, Ahsoka's ears heard the sounds of heavy metal steps and knew the jungle could not save her.
No lightsaber hung at her hip--a distant part of her remembered destroying it--no cocky yet brooding Jedi Master or clone captain to help her, only droids. There were so many droids. They were everywhere, choking out her senses with their warbling, the sound of their lasers and the stench of death.
She could not remember who they were or why they sought her out. All she knew was that she had to get away, to hide. This time there would be no escape.
Ahsoka made it no further than twenty steps before she succumbed to her fever. Her legs gave way as her body went limp. Cold hands caught her before she hit the ground.
Asajj was not a healer nor was she familiar with togruta anatomy. It did not stop her from attempting to break Ahsoka's fever. The shaman of the nearby village suggested Asajj bring the young woman to her. Asajj politely refused, but did not explain why. There were things that she could not explain and some things she knew Ahsoka would not want her to share.
The war had kept them on opposing sides; now the jungle now brought them together. She did not need to wonder what happened to the legendary Padawan. The war had a way of breaking even the strongest of soldiers.
Ahsoka did not respond to Asajj's administrations. When conventional medicines did not break the fever, she turned to herbs as instructed. When herbs were not successful, she turned to the traditions of her people: a mixture of religious ritual and desperate prayer.
It was not about heroics, mercy, or even gestures of friendship. The rattataki warrior's salvation relied on the feral woman's survival.
What the war took it never returned. The deepest parts of Ahsoka still tried to claim what had been stolen. She was not the only one.
As she stirred awake, the first thing her mind registered was the sound of a raspy voice speaking in soft tones. Ahsoka understood, but could not fully comprehend the woman's words. Speech was something she had since forgotten, though she vaguely remembered being able to speak as though from a dream.
Panic swiftly set in, gripping her heart demanding that she run, fight, or escape to the jungle. A strange, distant sense of peace came over her and the fear was calmed.
Her thoughts calmed, allowing Ahsoka to take in her surroundings. In her weakened state, even the night sky was too bright. The small fire nearby cast shadows all around her. For once, it did not set her on edge, its warmth was welcomed as was the comfort of the blanket that covered her form.
Ahsoka felt a warm spoon filled with hot food, some sort of meat and liquid. Her mind vaguely whispered stew. She felt the rattataki woman's relief as she instinctively allowed it to fill her mouth and make its way down her throat. As food filled her stomach, exhaustion set it.
The pale skinned woman fed Ahsoka and continued to speak about everything and anything without pause. Ahsoka found her voice oddly soothing and soon the former Padawan drifted off to sleep.
Asajj did not speak of the war. She did not speak of death, the dark, or the jungle. But she spoke of everything else until her throat became raw. She spoke of the rare moments of joy, the proud moments, and the moments she saw only in her dreams. She did not know if it would help Ahsoka, but it did help her keep it together.
After two days of no sleep, no food, no meditation, the rattataki warrior was finally rewarded for her diligence. Ahsoka stirred awake with a sharp gasp. Her panic was expected, the fact she actually calmed to Asajj's mental suggestions of peace, however, was not. It was the first time she had used the light side since the death of her mentor.
With care, she fed her spoonfuls of stew to the weakened togruta. Ahsoka ate more than anticipated and this was a relief. As Ahsoka drifted back into a peaceful sleep, the fallen warrior continued to speak, recalling the wisdom spoken so long ago by Ky Narec.
From beyond the dark of the jungle, Asajj could almost make out the jedi master's form and the proud smile he wore just for her.
Ahsoka remembered her voice, raspy, yet soothing. She remembered the warmth of the woman's force signature, the blanket wrapped around her and the warm fire. Most of all, Ahsoka remembered feeling safe.
At one time, she would have had more than her share of words to express the mix emotions she felt to the kindness shown. Now there were no words. Ahsoka wondered if the jungle had robbed her of speech. Asajj--a name she once spat with venom and now contemplated with confusion and gratitude-- claimed the war had robbed her of so much more.
Words were never exchanged; the understanding between them did not require the fumbling of spoken language.
The jungle continued to call to her; Ahsoka knew it always would. Most of the time, she would answer, but sometimes she did not. She was not strong enough to resist its siren call, but she knew that one day, she would be.
When it was time to let go of the jungle, Ahsoka knew she would not face it alone and that made the difference.