Songfic, 'The Grafting', by John Schlitt – words & music by Dan Needham
She's too young to be a mother
But sometimes life is cruel and makes a life decide another
Scared but sees beyond the moment
She gives her boy away and prays someday he'll know her
love goes on and on
When he finds that life comes in the grafting
Freda gazed tearfully at the squirming infant in her arms, wishing for all the galaxy that things could be different.
She had just been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Then again, there was never a right place for a homeless teenager, one who scratched and clawed to make a living, usually mopping the floors of some run-down bar in the worst sectors of Caldera City.
It was always the wrong place. But that night, it was the wrong time, too.
He was just another drunk, probably a middle-class workman, with the dubious distinction as the winner of the last drinking contest of the night. Freda had stood in a corner, having arrived just a few minutes early, waiting for the carousing to die down so she could begin her work.
Somehow, this triumphant dipsomaniac had spotted her in the shadows. The only female left in the bar.
After an eternally long night of horror and filth, she had stumbled out of the joint, bruised and battered and bleeding.
And a carrying a new life, inside.
Freda had no family, no counselors to tell her to save herself the pain, the struggle, to just have some med droid rid her of the 'result' of that worst night of her life. She didn't need to. She knew what this would cost her. She knew what the consequences were.
Fiercely she swore that she would take them, and more. She would rise above this debauchery. No, she wouldn't, there was no hope for her. But there would be, for her child.
And so now she sat, in the small lobby of the new orphan house, to give her son one last chance, at the life she knew she'd never have. Just a small chance, that maybe, her son would find a father, and mother, who could look beyond his sorry beginnings, and give him an opportunity to know what life and love really were.
As the Gran nurse walked away with her still unnamed boy in her arms, Freda turned towards the door, vowing to never return, to never seek out the man that her son would become.
And praying that maybe, one day, he would find her.
They built their hope upon the future
Married young, they bought a house, a car, a crib to suit her
But years would pass without a baby
Until a miracle, a desperate girl reached out
And love went on and on
And they found that life came in the grafting
Things had changed so much, in so little time.
For several months after the fall of the Republic, the two of them had risked life and limb, trying to find and rescue other survivors, trying to outwit Imperial agents, trying to do something, to show the galaxy that resistance was not useless. That there was still light, and hope that the darkness would end, one day. They were rebels, freedom fighters, visionaries.
It was a far cry from their roles as a clone officer and Jedi commander.
Physically, they had changed as well. Ahsoka had altered her facial markings, to reduce the risk of detection. She had grown, though not as tall as an average Togruta, and her head was adorned with distinct, elegant montrals, and long, winding lekku – which, Rex had discovered, were also silky smooth and very responsive to the right kind of 'handling.'
Rex for his part had his familiar face masked by a rich beard and mustache, accompanied by thick hair that had grown to nearly shoulder-length, making him all but unidentifiable as a clone, without careful examination. Rex smiled warmly at that memory - he had only grown it out because they had run out of razors aboard their ship, but Ahsoka fell for it almost on the spot. 'Come on Rex! she had almost whined. "I don't have any hair, it's only right you have enough for both of us!"
Rex had stroked his now familiar mane with one hand. I can see why General Kenobi would be so fond of it - it does seem to catch a lady's eye.
Ahsoka had been reluctant to settle down, while the tyranny of the Empire still raged around them, while her former Master still terrorized the galaxy. In fact, had it not been for Kenobi's advice, and his whispered promises that there was still hope, that the foundations were being laid for a return of the Jedi, Rex doubted she would ever have agreed to go into hiding. Rex would gladly have followed her across the galaxy, waging her own war against the Empire, but that night, after leaving Tatooine, Ahsoka made her choice.
"It's time, Rex," she whispered, as they lay side by side on the small bed, designed only for one occupant.
"To settle down. To wait." She sighed wistfully. "This is your life too, Rex, and I want you to live it, not spend it chasing my own delusions of grandeur."
Rex stirred at that remark. "Ahsoka," he reprimanded her gently. "I told you before, do what you think's right, I'll-"
"This is what I think's right, Rex," Ahsoka corrected firmly. "I've done what I could. It's time for me – for us – to move on, to hope in the future, not try to dredge up the past."
She turned on her side, her face not even an inch from his own, letting him feel her words through the air, and well as hear them from her mouth. "It's your turn, now Rex. I know what you've wanted all along. Ever since you told me about Cut, I knew what you wanted."
She laughed. "Force, ever since you told about that little boy on Coruscant, I knew what you wanted, though I wasn't so sure you wanted me in on it." She smiled mischievously.
Rex, more awake now, couldn't resist laughing a little as well, but he quickly sobered up. "Ahsoka," he insisted. "I don't want you giving up your dream for some fantasy of mine."
Ahsoka rolled her eyes, before assuming a mock pout. "And who's to say it's not a fantasy of mine, Rex ol' boy?"
Unable to resist laughing again, Rex suddenly kissed her. "It seems even when you give me what I want, it's always you who's winning the argument."
Ahsoka smirked at him. "Get used to it. Captain."
A month later, they landed on Saleucami.
They made their way to Cut's farm – the only place on the planet Rex actually knew of. His brother and fellow deserter welcomed them, giving them a place to stay, while they planned their new life.
Cut had helped Rex plan and build another small house, about a half klick away from his own. He taught Rex how to run a farm, how to care for animals, how to manage crops. Rex learned to work on new and unfamiliar machinery, and how to repair and maintain structures besides military bases and listening outposts. The two men planned an expansion of the farm, to take advantage of the increased capacity that Rex brought.
Suu had taken Ahsoka 'under her lek', as she put it, as well, teaching her how to clean and care for a home, how to prepare a meal, how to tend a garden and feed livestock. And, when Suu was otherwise engaged, Ahsoka would be quick to join the men, especially working on the farm's tractor, and Suu's speeder truck – a task at which all found her to excel.
Together, they learned a new life.
But one day, things began to change, again.
Ahsoka had accompanied Suu on her regular trip into town, to discuss crop prices with the warehouse manager. During their conversation, Chios had casually mentioned a development that shook Ahsoka visibly, causing the elderly Wroonian to kindly enquire as to her health.
It was hardly her health, that had affected her so. She scarcely knew what to think of the news, if anything at all. After several weeks of hesitation, she mentioned it to Rex one night, while the two of them sat alone on the porch.
"Chios says there's an orphanage opening at Caldera City," she spoke in muted tones, eying her husband warily.
Rex raised his eyebrows. "Oh...?"
Ahsoka sighed, taking another moment before answering the unspoken question. "I just thought... maybe you'd want to know."
They spoke no more of it, that night.
But Rex had known exactly what Ahsoka meant, the moment the words left her mouth. He hadn't spoken about the obvious 'omission' in their new family, but he was very aware of the unavoidable biological fact.
A Togruta couldn't become pregnant by a human.
Rex had avoided the issue purposefully. He had been blessed far more than he deserved, living in relative peace, with someone to love and cherish and protect, at his side. If that was all he was to be given, he was more than satisfied.
Still, he couldn't deny that he truly desired more. And, from watching Ahsoka as she babysat Cut's two adopted children, and learned the duties of a wife and a mother from Suu, Rex knew she wanted it, too.
The next day, they visited Chios with their proposal, and the kind Wroonian arranged for a surrogate couple to visit the orphan house at Caldera City.
Two days later, Chios comm'd them.
Their new son was waiting.
This life is a golden opportunity
To give and to love through all uncertainty
Just like the Father reaches down to us
And through His Son He grafts us to Himself
This is love, in the grafting.
"I'll get him, 'soka, don't worry about it."
Rex rolled from his warm hallow beside his wife. Slipping his feet into a pair of worn nerfhide slippers, he quickly strode to the makeshift crib.
"It's okay, lil' one, daddy's got you," he murmured as he scooped up the crying child, bringing him into his warm, protective embrace. Rex slowly rocked him for a moment, back and forth. The sobbing baby quieted tentatively, occasionally emitting a shrill hiccup, as his wide eyes danced with childlike uncertainty about the darkness of the master bedroom.
"Shh... shh..." Rex whispered, gently patting his new son's back. The boy whimpered for another moment, his tears running down Rex's bare chest. Finally the child's eyes began to flutter shut, his breathing giving off an amusing whine through his small nose. Rex smiled - he had learned quickly that a baby's nose was rarely cleaned.
Rex continued to sway, bending his legs in a steady rhythm, listening to the whistling song of his sleeping son. He's going to be a snorer, Rex thought, a playful grin spreading across his face.
He stooped again, to lay the snoring child back in his crib.
Naturally, the baby had other ideas.
Rex immediately brought the screaming child back into his arms, shushing him gently again. Ahsoka stirred, turning to face the pair. "Rex," she whispered sleepily. "I can take him... I...," she yawned. "He might need to be fed, again," she suggested, propping herself up one one arm while rubbing her eyes with the other hand.
Rex shook his head. "No, 'soka, you just fed him an hour ago. Get some rest, I'll take him downstairs for a moment."
Ahsoka opened her mouth to protest, but Rex silenced her with an impressive sideways swoop, bringing his lips to hers while still cradling the indignant child. "Get your rest, kid" he murmured into their kiss. "I'll take care of him, for once."
His wife smiled, in tired gratitude, slowly laying back into their rickety bed. Rex turned towards the door, still lightly clapping the boy's back as he made his way down the stairs.
Rex seated himself in the old servo-rocker they had borrowed from Ossa and Arybas, as their child was no longer in need of such attention. With a quiet hum, the chair activated, and Rex slowly brought the rocking action up to a leisurely pace, still rubbing the boy's back reassuringly.
Rex sighed contentedly, as the small form snuggled deeper into his arms, still quietly whimpering. He regarded his new son. He was only a month old when they met him. The orphanage nurse had said the child appeared to have been born slightly prematurely, though not dangerously so. The mother was a rape victim, and had not given any contact information, though the manager of the house said he was acquainted with her.
He ran his hand through the thin wisps of blond hair, feeling the smooth, unweathered skin only partially hidden by the golden strands. The child's eyes were closed, but Rex had seen them plenty, wide, brown eyes, much like his own. And no doubt like... his father.
Rex's smile became a hard frown. No. That... 'man', if a monster like that even deserved that name, was not this innocent child's father. He may have given the boy his genes, but that was all.
And if anyone knew that family was more than genes, it was Rex.
He pushed the darker thoughts from his mind, focusing on 'the moment', as Ahsoka would say. His new son would never have the privilege, the joy he should have had, as the cherished and loved son of his birth parents. But he would know love, he would be given the affection and nurturing and training that he needed, Rex would see to that.
Because Rex also knew, that sometimes it isn't a matter of finding love – sometimes love finds you.
Rex had been bred to die. To know no emotion other than loyalty. To serve his short life as a weapon, as the Republic's perfect soldier. No one intended for him to know anything more, and, had it been left to himself, Rex knew he never would have.
But as Rex had always said, experience outranks everything.
And from experience, he learned that sometimes, like a branch from a muja tree is joined with another plant, to produce its rich harvest, one must break from their past, and allow oneself to be grafted into a life and love that was not originally meant for them.
Cut had shown him, and Ahsoka had demonstrated to him, that one could indeed be grafted into true love. The process was sometimes painful, but the reward was more than worth it all.
Rex resolved that he would not hide the truth, about his parentage, from his son. But he would teach him the lessons that he had learned, and see to it that he was given the love and care that birth had not provided him.
His son would be given the opportunity to love, and to learn to give that love away.
The parents did their best to raise him
They trusted God to build the roots the boy so greatly needed
But time had come for him to face her
The things he longed to say and dreamed for years could wait no longer
He slowly walked up to her door and rang the bell
The door came open wide
She stood there and cried.
Jayson bit his lip, gazing out the barn window at the early dusk sky, trying to decide how to put his desire into words. Dad waited patiently, a kind if tired smile on his tanned face. Oh come on, kid, he scolded himself. There's nothing to be afraid of. He took a deep breath, and spoke. "Dad, you and mom have been... just, you're awesome, and I love you and I know you love me, and I don't want to leave – I mean, I'm not leaving - unless you want me too - but I... I just..." he fidget nervously. This is not going well.
To his surprise, his father didn't frown or even relax his smile – if anything, his expression seemed to become more fond, almost wistful, as though he was being reminded of someone else.
"I want to find her," Jayson nearly blurted.
He winced as his voice cracked and almost squeaked. Oh, this is just perfect. He could feel his face heating, and he almost turned to flee the room, when his father's deep voice rang in his ears.
"Do you want to go alone?"
His eyes widening, Jayson looked up at his father, who still regarded him fondly, though there was a hint of pain in his eyes. Even after twenty years, he still didn't quite match his dad's height, nor his rugged build. Jayson was slender, and agile – more like mom, in a away, though he obviously shared little else in resemblance to the Togruta he called mother.
"No," he answered quickly. "I mean..." he became uneasy. "Unless you'd rather not..."
His father's eyes seem to glisten, though he knew his dad never cried for anything. After a moment, dad spoke again. "You should tell your mother, too." He nodded, pressing his lips together in an approving gesture. "It might be a while before we have anything to go on, but we'll find her."
It was some time, before they found the now-retired manager of the orphan house. To Rex's surprise, and relief, it appeared that Jayson's birth mother was still somewhere in Caldera City. He and Jayson made several trips through abandoned streets, visiting old residents and piecing together clues.
Finally they came across an old Twi'lek man who seemed to remember a woman matching Freda's description. "She used to clean the floors over at the Baby Rancor, if my memory serves. Last I heard of her, some, oh, one? Two? Maybe three or four years ago she was trying to apply for a women's shelter in North County."
Thanking the old man, they wasted no time calling up the shelter. It was still in operation, thankfully, and yes, there was a woman by the name of Freda, working the night shift. She had been there for seventeen years.
Rex turned to his son. "I'll comm your mom, and Cut – we won't be home till late. You," he jabbed his finger into Jayson's chest, "call Shaeeah – no buts, lad" he added, smirking at Jayson's blush at the mention of his new fiancé. "There's nothing to be ashamed of here, Jayson. We're all family, we're all in this together. And if we're doing this together, we're doing it together."
Jayson twitched nervously, but nodded. "Okay, dad," he said with a sigh. Rex smiled warmly.
"It's time, kid."
Freda was puzzled when the head housewife comm'd her, saying she had a visitor. Her confusion only grew when the shelter's owner stopped her at the entrance to the turbolift, slipping her a flimsi envelope containing six month's worth of her allowance, turning to walk quickly away before she even realized what he had given her. What is going on? Growing almost apprehensive, she hurried to the lobby.
She glanced around as the turbolift doors slid open. Jilla, the home's receptionist was nowhere to be seen – an almost unheard of occurrence. Instead, four visitors stood in the center of the room. A married couple, no doubt, stood in the back, a rugged and rather intimidating human male, with a muscular arm around the waist of a much more petite and slender Togruta woman, both adults with warm smiles on their faces. Next to the Togruta was a young Twi'lek woman, who stood quietly, hands clasped before her, looking indescribably happy and shy at the same time.
And before them all, stood a human boy – no, a young man – who looked as though he was about to spontaneously ignite from the fierce shade on his cheeks. His hands were wringing uncontrollably, and he shifted from one foot to the other. His gaze though, was locked on Freda.
She smiled tentatively at him, trying to understand what they were there for. She looked closer at the young man. His blond hair, and even his facial features told her little, and his eyes, even less, though he appeared to be a nice enough fellow.
Freda blinked, trying to take in his face as a whole, rather than in parts. Something about him told her this was an incredibly important moment, but it wasn't quite clicking. He couldn't be the son of the couple – he was unmistakably human. But who was he?
Suddenly, the boy spoke, his voice cracking with emotion.
Freda gasped. No... it can't be... it can't be him... can it?
Suddenly, in that way that only a mother could understand, she knew. It was him.
With a cry that could scarcely be discerned to be from pain or joy, she threw herself in her son's arms.
He said "mother, don't be crying
I know you've wondered now if you were wrong for never trying.
For everything you did, I thank you
I have the life you always dreamed for me because
Your love went on and on
I found my life was in the grafting."
Love comes in the grafting
Author's Note: For those still upset with me for killing off an OC in my current story "When Night Falls", I hereby present evidence that I am, in fact, capable of fluffy, happy endings.
Perceptive readers will recognize that I am using Queen's "Homestead" origin story as a basis for this one-shot. I want to thank Queen for her permission to use her 'verse' as a backdrop for this tale. If you haven't, you must check her story out!
Jayson is named for my OC 'Jasen', from my other Rexsoka one-shot, "Far Far Away."
Also, you may note that Jayson is engaged to Shaeeah in this fic - yes, I know she's older. In my estimation, however, the age difference is no greater than that of Anakin and Padme, so I decided to go with it. If it bugs you, um, pretend it's somebody else. :P
Music video for this song is viewable at the following URL (remove the spaces): t. co/ gLca4UK