Disclaimer: Old tunes. Nothing's mine just playing in the sandbox with a few characters.
A/N: *cough* So here is the new (and quite long) chapter, dear folks. It still follows the story of Rex and Ahsoka in an AU universe where Ahsoka got sent on Temple-guarding while Rex fought in the galaxy after the capture of Slick, the traitor clone. I'd like to thank laloga for the help of Betaing, inspiring, encouraging and you guys should send applause for her in comments. If not for this great person, Darasuum would still be dusting on my laptop unfinished, unchecked and probably forgotten. But enough of talk, let's read!
Ahsoka and Rex walked through the Temple with a lazy pace towards the glass elevators.
The captain's mind stubbornly refused of the thought of the Togrutan journalist and his interactions with Ahsoka. No matter how hard he tried to concentrate on her smooth steps next to his, or the beautiful Temple around them, he just couldn't help it. The silence was pregnant, so Rex felt the urge to get rid of the awkwardness that was between them.
Ahsoka's apologetic glance and accompanying smile up to him made his lips twitch with amusement.
"You go first," she said, withdrawing her gaze, but not her smile.
Staring at her profile for a while, Rex decided to break the silent walk and accept her offer to start a conversation; their small accident a moment ago confirmed his suspicion that she also wished to talk. He wanted to ask everything about that male - Zaz - about how much time they had spent together or what had transpired between them while she was confined in the Temple. Her reassuring about her dislike towards Zaz proved to be a temporary relief for his doubts.
As they walked along, Rex could imagine all kind of situations where the Togruta male must have seized the opportunity to bother her...like disturbing her at the Temple's gym or public bath..he imagined him salivating over her and inwardly sneered at the thought. The Togrutan probably followed her around all over the place and just to consider the possibility that Ahsoka had a pursuer -against all logic of being a Jedi, made his pulse quicken with anger.
Realising that Ahsoka was still waiting for him to go ahead, he cleared his throat and broke his angry fantasies in half with a mental snap of his fingers.
"So how are you?"
The question sounded ridiculously shallow even to his own ears but her smile didn't waver, and her spontaneous reply almost faltered his footsteps.
"I'm happy now, thanks for asking."
Ahsoka's smile faded when it was her turn, and Rex wanted to face-palm himself for his idiocy in making small-talk. He should have known she would ask things eventually that he couldn't share, and realise he was too much of a coward to ask what was really on his mind.
"How did you get that scar, Rex?"
Rex's bright happiness dissolved into grey. His face frowned for a second before he composed his features and answered. He knew that avoiding the questions would only make things worse.
"It's nothing of importance, Sir. The person who caused it suffered a great deal of more scars..." he glanced away quickly. "...before I finished her off."
Ahsoka's white eyebrow raised with curiosity.
"We were fighting in a planet at the Outer Rim to protect civilians and an important town from the Seppies and a bunch of locals joined with the rebels in secret."
His vision turned inwards and Ahsoka let him remember. "They managed to send a spy and she planted sensors in town to open the defense shield. Many brothers died during the attack and she scarred me. We were caught off-guard..she was an elite member of society."
"I'm sorry, Rex" she placed a hand on his gauntlet and he moved his helmet in his other arm as a distraction.
"Yeah..me too." His voice was laced with sorrow.
The pain he emitted was obvious to Ahsoka and after that she dropped any lingering questions about the mysterious woman. Most of the journey after his story was spent in silence since it opened up too many scars.
However, she was struggling with her questions within herself as she had a great deal of inquires about her masters. Ahsoka could sense that Rex had information about Skywalker and Master Obi-Wan, which he would not share with her for some hidden reason. In fact, for the first time in months, his silent attitude made her nervous.
They reached the elevators and without any word, they embarked to the first available one. The glass doors closed with a majestic arch and Ahsoka started to fumble with her fingers as the elevator shot upwards toward the upper levels of the Jedi Temple.
Like a persistent itch in a place she couldn't reach, her curiosity wouldn't leave her alone, tugging at her mind as if it needed an immediate scratch to subside. After an internal struggle with the ethics of the idea, she tried hesitantly to reach out for Rex's thoughts. Unbeknownst to her, Rex was prepared to her move just by reading her body-language. The moment he sensed her approach into his mind, the captain turned blank and unreadable, causing Ahsoka to withdraw into herself.
Because of his secrecy, her thoughts were turning darker and darker with each passing floor and she finally sighed in defeat and summoned her courage.
As the elevator sped along, she turned to Rex with a serious face. "Rex, I need to know if Master Skywalker and Kenobi are still in one piece..."
When she faced him, her eyes held almost a pleading look and Rex's throat turned drier than the dunes of Tatooine. He couldn't recall having seen her so worried and he had never seen himself being the one to cause her pain. Or denying access to his thoughts...
"Commander, I..." Rex shifted his weight uncomfortably to his other leg, further away from her when he realised what was coming.
"I know you can't give me details..." she whispered in a choked voice over the buzzing sound of the elevator; as her fingers fidgeted with her nails, her eyes caught his with a desperate look. "But please...give me hope."
Rex swallowed hard and forced his attention toward the glass door and away from her. He couldn't stand the sudden heaviness hanging in the air; it was a breathless sensation and in a way far worse than Ventress' evil Force-clutch on his neck. Back on Teth, at least, he'd ben able to channel his hate toward that evil creature for trying to pray on his thoughts, but now, because he feared for Ahsoka, he had to deny her.
"I can't," he whispered back with his eyes closed shut.
Luckily for Rex, the elevator came to a sudden stop and its elegant doors opened just in time to steal her focus away from him. So that he could breathe freely, he hurried out; in his haste he forgot to let the young female depart first.
Ahsoka's shoulders dropped in silent defeat. It seemed like the captain would never trust her again, and she knew that if she kept probing his thoughts she would cause him serious emotional damage.
Rex decided in that moment to find a punching bag as soon as he had time to tear his knuckles raw.
He wasn't ignorant to the fact she still had something on her mind. The way she was chewing on her bottom lip all along was a clear confirmation. He should have been more prepared what to tell her if the subject came up...
In front of him, Ahsoka led the way through the shiny marble halls toward the Council's chamber with a stoic attitude and Rex let go of his self-hating for a minute to observe the impressive architecture. It was rare - if not unheard of - to allow an outsider of the Order to walk inside these halls. The high ceiling and white marble planted awe into Rex's heart and he found the soft blue carpets and endless glass walls complimented by a slow sunset.
It was peaceful.
Even though he had no understanding of the Force and how it affected the future, goosebumps broke out on the captain's skin. He only had a whisper of doom in his head by experience, and knew that nothing so peaceful could stay untainted these days. He had walked through many beautiful planets since his training days, and his thoughts turned sour at the memory of places where the War had wormed its way into. It seemed like nothing was spared, and so much had happened to mutilate the beauty of places like this in every corner of the Galaxy.
However, Rex also knew that he was part of that destruction.
The thought was incredibly disturbing, and he decided not to dwell on it right now. He would need all of his attention for the meeting ahead.
Ahsoka's voice pulled Rex back from his wondering. "We're here."
Before he could reply, the Council's door whooshed open; Ahsoka immediately bowed from her waist. Rex looked down to see a small green creature in rags apprear at his feet, barely reaching his knees, and he recognised one of the most skilled Jedi Masters in the history of the galaxy, so he stiffened into a formal salute. The captain's own issues surrounding Ahsoka faded into background as he realised the present situation. He was about to face the Jedi Order for the first time in his short life. The thought made him feel more than uneasy and a surprisingly big amount of fear caught hold of his heart.
The ancient master Jedi's throat resonated a "hm" in familiar approval. "At ease, young ones."
Yoda's eyes caught the captain's slightly nervous ones and held them longer than necessary to measure his feelings. The Master instantly recognised the poisonous fear taking root in the soldier's soul and his pointed ears moved a little higher on the side of his round, wrinkled face in amusement.
"Fear this place, you should not, Captain." Yoda's voice was soothing to Rex's nausea. Master Yoda's words were effective but not perfect, so Rex tried to push the nervous feeling away and remember his training; he studied his surroundings, noting that several members of the Jedi High Council were waiting inside the large chamber.
It didn't work so well.
Jedi always had a way of making him feel uncomfortable. At this fleeting thought, his eyes flickered toward Ahsoka and he shook his head inwardly.
Maybe some more than others...
The padawan was about to speak up to declare her departure, when Yoda raised his cane, pointing its tip to her.
"Inside with our guest, you may come, Padawan Tano. Hear what we have to say, you shall." Master Yoda bent heavily over the small wooden cane as he limped his way back to his chair.
The sight almost replaced Rex's nervousness with slight amusement, but when Ahsoka's surprised face turned to him, he shrugged under the armor. He was as at a loss to the intentions of the Council just as she seemed to be.
They both entered with measured steps and stopped in the middle of the magnificent room. Immediately, Rex's soldier training bubbled up in his brain, and he began scanning his surroundings with a critical eye; however, he had to remind himself that he was in no danger here, and to keep his posture free of tension. Despite this,he couldn't help his gloved hand's grip tightening over his helmet.
As Master Yoda took his seat, all of the Jedi Masters looked at Ahsoka, who cleared her throat before she began to speak.
"Captain Rex..." Ahsoka forced a smile on herself and half-way turned toward the man and Rex wished he could take her hand. "Let me introduce you some of the members of the High Council."
With her words, Rex instantly pushed every lingering thought about Ahsoka behind a mental wall, because it was too dangerous to let his fantasies and memories float around behind his thick skull when he was among these mind-readers. Rex figured that even the physical barrier of his helmet would not prevent the esteemed Jedi Masters from taking a peek into his deepest thoughts if they wished to; he'd rather be seen as a skittish clone than a man who desired one of the padawans.
"There are twelve Masters on this Council, captain, but due to the War there are only a few present now," Ahsoka explained as she put her hands behind her back. "The Grand Master of the Jedi, Master Yoda you know."
Rex nodded in agreement and respect toward the famous Jedi.
"This is Master Plo Koon." The captain couldn't miss to look at her warm smile from the corner of his eye as she introduced her father-figure and the person who discovered her on her home planet as a child. How could he forget the enthusiastic way she always talked about Master Plo Koon? As selfish as it may sounded inside his thoughts, Rex felt gratitude toward this Jedi for finding Ahsoka and he bowed toward him with great respect.
"Master Kit Fisto and Master Windu." Her small gesture of acknowledgment made the Jedi Master Fisto's alien eyes twinkle with amusement and earn the darkly dressed and skinned Master Windu's nod.
Rex saluted them both quickly, but Master Windu gave him pause. Rex couldn't quite place his feelings regarding this man, but he decided that Master Windu looked almost as dangerous as Skywalker, with a physical strength that couldn't be hidden by the robes and relaxed posture. The captain had met enough sentients, Sith, Jedi and soldiers to recognise danger;everything about Master Windu was like a tip of a spear; sharp and ready to act.
Again, Rex's thoughts were disrupted by Ahsoka's soft voice. "And this is Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, Master Agen Kolar and Master Saesee Tiin."
Rex just nodded to the unfamiliar Masters and turned his attention back to Master Windu and Yoda. He could sense that these two were the real leaders in this chamber even if democracy ruled their behaviour. One had the wisdom and age, the other an undeniable edge.
"Captain Rex." Master Windu raised his hands from the arms of his huge chair. "Welcome to the Temple"
"Thank you, sir."
Rex could feel the Jedi Master's touch inside his head even as dark eyes swept over his face, like turning pages inside an old-fashioned book; the intrusion set Rex's left eye to twitching with annoyance and withheld anger, so he sent a mental note that there was no need of mind-probing and he would willingly tell anything if they would only ask.
In response, Windu's left eyebrow raised in surprise at his mental message and the elder Jedi stopped the unwanted probing.
The captain stiffened his back to stand in attention. "I am here at your request, Masters, and I am at your service."
"What news do you have about Master Kenobi and Skywalker?" Master Windu asked.
Rex could feel Ahsoka's back tensing in slight frustration and anger and his own displeased thoughts resurfaced about his current position. Here he was standing in front of the Jedi Order reporting of General Kenobi and Skywalker but a few minutes ago he wasn't allowed to tell anything to Ahsoka personally about their mission.
"I haven't heard from them since the last time I saw them, sir."
Rex noticed Master Windu's attention snap to Ahsoka and she instantly froze. Her reaction to the inquiry was badly disguised by patience and acceptance..Even he could tell she was pissed off about it. Her breath hitched in a tell-tale way and before she could compose herself, Rex caught a glimpse of grimace from the corner of his eye. He almost sighed with irritation at her talent to get herself into trouble by a mere muscle movement in her face.
"Patience is one of our most valuable assets, captain." Mace Windu's words were meant for Rex but he could see the Jedi's focus on the ashamed Padawan. Rex almost cleared his throat. He really didn't wish to stand next to Ahsoka once again while she got a lecture. The situation was too familiar and he knew he would step up for her...again.
"Master Kenobi and Skywalker's case shall be discussed at another time, then," suggested Master Kolar with a dismissive gesture of his head. Rex sighed with relief but Ahsoka's tension didn't cease next to him.
She barely nodded in agreement and held her gaze fixated on the floor. Meanwhile, Yoda spared a look towards Master Windu, then bent slightly forward in his chair and addressed Rex.
"Captain Rex..." At the Jedi Master's words, Rex set his shoulders straight. "A task, we have for you. Very important, it is, even though overreacting, it may seem."
Rex didn't have much time to ponder Yoda's words when Master Windu continued to explain, his dark features shadowing further. "We caught a transmission a few days ago from the enemies lines. It seems that the Separatists are preparing to attack Coruscant and take captive of one of our most important politicians."
Both Rex and Ahsoka's hearts missed a beat.
"We are prepared for the attack but we can not decipher who the target may be," added Master Plo-Koon. „We are selecting the most possible targets and sending each of them far away from the capitol with a Jedi and a clone officer escort."
Rex almost shook his head in disbelief of what he was hearing, and Ahsoka visibly paled.
The theory itself to attack Coruscant and snatch a well-guarded politician away from under the nose of the Jedi seemed impossible to both Rex and Ahsoka. The captain instantly started to analyse and calculate the chance of success of such a plan lacking the element of surprise and he couldn't stop one of his eyebrows to rise in doubt.
"With all due respect Masters, but this sounds absurd." Ahsoka uttered the words Rex was thinking under her shocked breath.
"Absurd or not, we can't risk to ignore the threat." sighed Master Windu. "If one Senator disappears, the home planet of the captive's will start re-elections or riots. We can't afford political instability in any allies's system" Master Windu's eyes turned to slits at her doubt and Ahsoka blushed from shame when she realised her mistake.
"Not to mention it would lessen the people's belief in our capabilities" added Master Tiin with a sad nod. The untold truth caused Rex to shudder under his armor from an unfamiliar kind of uneaseness. The unvoiced question whether the Jedi Order was still powerful or blinded had remained unanswered but Rex suspected something dark was happening in the midst of Jedi.
"Secretly, we have already dispatched several members of the Senate under such protection, but we can't spare more Masters on the issue." stated Master Plo Koon in his deep rasping voice and Ahsoka's eyes filled with respect and adoration towards the man.
Master Windu bent back from his knee as he gesticulated towards the captain and padawan.
"You both have served the War and the Order faithfully, so the Council agreed with Master Yoda's decision"
Rex and Ahsoka stood like stone-sculptures as they awaited the order from Master Windu that would form the future.
"Captain," Master Windu said, bending forward and putting his elbows over his knees. "The Jedi Order decided that you are to escort Senator Chuchi back to the Outer Rims to Pantora, aboard her private starship."
Master Yoda regarded the two shocked faces before adding his own part of the order.
"Going with you, Padawan Tano is."
The words sent Ahsoka's heart in a spiraling frenzy.
Meanwhile, Rex felt like he was getting splashed on the face with icy cold water; suddenly his thoughts were drenched with the anticipation of getting to spend every second with Ahsoka. His face flushed to burning red within nanoseconds as the steps of his imagination lead to unwanted territories. However, the momentary mental slip sent a slap across his senses and Rex composed himself fast enough to hide his mistake with a small cough. He sent a prayer to every deity he'd ever heard of that the quick detour of his thoughts didn't get noticed by the Jedi.
"You will get all further information on a holo-disc; both of you are to meet the Senator tonight at her home. Padawan Tano, you are to return when you get a signal from the Temple," explained Master Windu with a business-like tone and Rex almost sighed with relief. His slip didn't get noticed.
Rex still couldn't quite grasp the situation. He understood the order quite clearly to escort a Senator back to her home planet on her private ship but why did it have to be Ahsoka to tag along?
Oh, yeah..not many Masters available..he almost snickered.
The one thing he dreamed about, he ever wished to get in life was Ahsoka and himself, alone on a private ship, not bothered by Generals, orders, clankers or battles or anything. One Senator's presence was acceptable in those daydreams he decided- but Rex couldn't decide whether to feel happy or cheated by the turn of events.
Rex was only sure about that he would have to endure being around Ahsoka for an unknown period of time, and still manage to keep his sanity because the temptation that would come with being around her with no supervision would be unbearably strong. For a moment he considered objecting, but no matter how hard he turned the imaginary pages to the manual of „polite refusal" and lined up his own reasons why it shouldn't be her on that ship alone with him..Rex couldn't find a way to tell them.
When all attention turned to the frozen captain, Ahsoka had to break protocol and firmly put her elbow into his armor covered rib-cage. That made him drop his imaginary book quite sharply.
"It was an order," added Master Windu with a steely glare at the clone.
As Rex looked around in the room and measured each expression on the Master's face, he forced his nervousness down in order to realise his luck, as well as appreciate the irony of the situation. He couldn't be sure, but he wondered if the Jedi Masters thought of him as nothing but a simple clone who lived for one thing: battle. They must have felt his whirling emotions, Rex had no doubt about it, but perhaps they misinterpreted them as attachment for the war and what it must have meant for an ordinary clone to be pulled off the battlefield. He couldn't help but frown at the thought...they were right, in a grim way. But not completely.
Captain Rex slapped his heels together in response as he realised he had no word in this matter. "Yes, sir."
Master Windu continued to regard the captain, but his attention was taken away from Rex when Ahsoka fidgeted again. "You are dismissed."
Both Rex and Ahsoka bowed to the Council before they departed. Rex started to marshal out of the chamber, as if praying for fresh air and less Jedi around him, but Ahsoka hesitated at the door. She turned to look at her Jedi Masters in the glowing sunset that painted everything into a shade of purple and orange. Some unexplained, distant feeling - like a good-bye - took a hold of her heart, and her eyes slipped over to Master Yoda because she suddenly felt like going back and hugging him.
"May the Force be with you, young one," Yoda said with a gentle smile and a nod.
Ears ringing with the sentence, Ahsoka spared one last glance towards Master Plo Koon, then she turned to follow Rex. The moment the door closed behind them, their eyes met and she couldn't contain her relieved sigh.
For once in her life, she was happy that not only the Force would be with her, but her captain as well.