Much like my 'Seven Days, Seven Nights' story, I wasn't quite sure how exactly I wanted to end this fic. So, I decided to write two different endings…

Enjoy!

Cheers,

ThoseWereTheDays


Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars, etc.

12 Years After the Rise of the Empire…

(alternate version)


Ahsoka Tano had come to relish the time she spent piddling about in her garden. The season to grow her own fruits and vegetables was fast approaching, and already the flowers were beginning to bloom and fill the air with their sweet aroma. Digging her fingers into the freshly tilled ground at her knees, she scooped up a handful of soil and planted several seeds; covering the hole and smoothing the dirt out with her palm before leaning forward and breathing in the pleasant scent one last time. Having long ago grown accustomed to her daily routines, any break from the monotony of living out a life in exile was a most welcome one. And she considered working in her garden to be just that: a break. A chance to forget everything except the trees, the air, the rolling hills… appreciating the splendor of nature, just as it was meant to be.

Grateful for the temporary distraction, she lingered where she was until she caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of her eye. Smiling, she rose to her feet and turned to her energetic voorpak as it playfully scampered through the waist high turu–grass a short distance away. She couldn't contain a quiet chuckle when it pounced on a small, winged insect, but failed to catch it. It was odd, she mused, how she had never thought it necessary to give her rambunctious pet a proper name in all the years they had been together. Maybe it had to do with the fact that she considered names and titles to be of little importance, or that she would prefer to think of it as a free creature rather than something to be owned… or perhaps, it was simply her way of keeping it at arm's–length. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew that the latter was the more likely reason. And who could blame her? Even though the Jedi Code had forbade it, she had allowed herself to form attachments and care for others in the past; only to have them torn away in the blink of an eye.

Never again.

Ahsoka was pulled from her meandering thoughts a moment later when she felt a sudden jolt; not physically, but through her highly attuned connection with the Force. It was warning her. Pivoting on her heels, she swiftly spun around and reached beneath the folds of her thick robes. Her instincts taking over, she clutched the hilt of her deactivated lightsaber and quickly scanned the vicinity for intruders. A sigh of relief escaped her lips when she saw no apparent threat, and the sensation of impending danger gradually ebbed. However, she didn't dare let her guard down until it had vanished completely, and even then she couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong. There appeared to be nothing amiss or out of place, but still…

That was when her voorpak, seemingly frightened by some unknown disturbance, abruptly and unexpectedly fled the area. Startled herself, Ahsoka released her weapon and called out after it, but to no avail. Her reaction was too late. It had already disappeared into the trees by the time she found her voice, and she was left with no choice but to go after it before the approaching darkness could hamper her search. Peering up at the sky, she could see that the sun was just beginning to set behind the high mountain peaks and there would soon be no light left to help guide her way.

Not wishing to venture too far into the woods, for many nocturnal predators emerged to do their hunting in the dead of night, she gave chase without wasting another moment.


She had been combing the forest for close to an hour, and still Ahsoka had found no trace of her tiny voorpak. Already, the sun had been replaced by the moon and a shimmering sea of stars; the dim glow offering some light, but not nearly enough to illuminate the thicket of shrubs and bushes, and towering tree canopies that almost seemed to engulf her as she silently trudged along. Time was running short. The fact that if she failed to track her pet down before too much longer it would very likely be caught and devoured by something lurking in the shadows made her quicken her pace, and she resolutely pressed on.

That was when she felt it return… the same feeling of danger, even more powerful than before, caused her to freeze and reach for the hilt of her lightsaber a second time. Listening intently, she was further unnerved to find that the woods had suddenly fallen silent, and only the continuous sound of her heartbeat could be heard over the soft, whispering wind. At least, she felt as if she could hear her heart; pounding in her chest and ears as her pulse raced in anticipation. Gone was the usual murmur of insects chirping and the rustling of various critters as they prowled the forest to find nourishment. Even the breeze gradually dwindled until it had ceased altogether.

Slowly unclipping her lightsaber from her belt, Ahsoka brushed her thumb against the switch that would ignite its blade. It was a blade that she had not used or laid eyes on since the Jedi Order had perished. She had refrained from employing the device even in the safety of her own cottage, but now, something told her that she would see it again.

Springing into action, she nimbly dove behind the nearest tree when she heard a twig snap; followed by the unmistakable clomping of heavy footfall. Ducking out of view, she didn't have to see the source of the noise… she could sense it. More accurately, she could sense them. Taking a deep, calming breath, the realization that she wouldn't be able to hide immediately sank in. There were far too many for that. So, rather than making a futile attempt to escape, her only option would be to march out and meet them face to face.

Preparing for the inevitable, Ahsoka waited another moment before stepping out from behind the tree. No longer using it for cover, she found herself exposed to what she guessed to be over a dozen Imperial stormtroopers; all of which came to a halt and trained their blaster rifles on her the instant she revealed herself. Just as she moved to take the offensive, the soldiers, much to her bewilderment, lowered their weapons as if they had no intention of attacking. Tightly gripping her still deactivated lightsaber, she remained where she was and cautiously studied them. Her confusion was replaced by shock and horror when, after several seconds, they obediently stepped aside and allowed their commanding officer passage.

Her blood ran cold when she saw the ominous figure making its approach. Donning a suit of pristine black armor and standing more than a foot taller than its subordinates, it was a truly terrifying sight to behold. Its visage was concealed beneath a menacing mask topped with an immaculate, dome–shaped helmet, but Ahsoka recognized the distinct Force signature as soon as she felt it. Sadly, what had once shone like a brilliant beacon of light had been twisted and forever changed by the dark side. Its presence still burned stronger and brighter than any other she had ever encountered, but now, instead of providing her with comfort as it had so often done during the days of her youth, it chilled her to the bone.

She wasn't sure how the Empire had located her, but it made little difference… her whereabouts had been discovered, and she had nowhere to run. Peering into the imposing figures' expressionless mask, she watched as the Sith stopped and carefully scrutinized her. Darth Vader, the most feared and despised being in the galaxy, had somehow found her.

His thoughts were veiled and his emotions unreadable, but Ahsoka already knew his intentions: he meant to kill her. Bracing herself for the onslaught that was sure to come, she at last ignited her lightsaber and moved into a defensive position. It was strange, to see the emerald blade that she had once been so well acquainted with after years of keeping it secretly buried away. However, her time to reflect was short–lived; for Vader's own crimson blade sprang to life as he made his advance and purposefully strode in her direction. No words were exchanged. Leaping forward to meet him halfway, Ahsoka slightly staggered under the impact of his first blow, but she miraculously managed to hold her ground. He was strong… very strong.

Parrying his next strike, which was meant for her throat, she narrowly dodged it in time to prevent her head from being separated from her shoulders. Their lightsabers clashed a third time when she attempted to land the following blow, but Vader easily deflected her attempt to disarm him and viciously pressed the attack. Despite Ahsoka's best efforts, the battle only lasted a minute… it came to a swift end when, miscalculating a swipe at her wrist and making a fatal misstep, she was delivered a mortal wound as the Sith plunged his blade into her abdomen. Impaled and gasping for air, her lightsaber slipped out of her grasp and landed at her feet with a dull thud.

She didn't feel herself fall, nor did she feel any pain. She felt numb. Almost weightless. More and more, she could feel herself drifting into the warm, comforting embrace of the Living Force. It was as if it was there to guide her; to help her in her time of need, and bring her the peace that she had long desired. Washing over her like waves gently lapping against the shore, it was a kind of serenity that she had always sought out, but had never been able to attain. But now, at the very end, she had finally found what she had always been searching for…

Blinking back the tears that she hadn't even noticed were spilling from the corners of her eyes, she gazed up at the stars that she could just scarcely make out through the trees until a dark object materialized out of the shadows and blocked her view. Looming over her like an inert statue, the hulking silhouette of Darth Vader was soon all she could see. She could have sworn that, at that very moment, she felt remorse. Not within her own soul, but somewhere deep inside another. Surprising even herself, she smiled.

"There is still good in you…" she choked out, her voice barely above a whisper. "One day, you'll remember who you are."

And with that, Ahsoka Tano gave herself, fully and totally, to the Force.

fin.