Hey all! I've had this scene idea stuck in my head for days now, so it's about time I got it out.
Takes place five months after Order 66, in which Ahsoka has been on the run on a ship of her own. As the scene starts, she is hiding in her ship (I envision the piping to be visible, as she bought this as an old, unfinished ship. So no walls to cover the tubing) as Imperial stormtroopers, having discovered the ship and learning that she is onboard, stay true to their name and storm it, ready to flush her out.
Thus the story begins.
Huge thanks to Sachariah, for betaing! (If you haven't read any of his Clone Wars stories, go. Right now.)
Disclaimer: Not George Lucas.
Ahsoka stills. Her breath hitches, catches in her throat, and she exhales slowly. All the while her eyes do not blink, cannot. She does not move, tries not to breathe, watches, with bated breath, as the man in front of her passes slowly.
She wants to shrink down even further. To slink backwards into the shallow safety of the disarrayed tubes and pipework of the craft, to hide herself completely from view.
But she cannot risk moving, for he is right there, and he has stopped, and she doesn't know what to do if he sees her.
Kill him, she supposes. But something seems wrong.
And as his helmet turns in her direction, her cerulean eyes alight in recognition and fear and shock.
She cannot see through the black visor. But she knows this clone, knows exactly who is now staring straight into her soul.
The blue T, a mask, the two eye markings, an extra set that unnerves her as it never did before.
She is startled to see he still has his markings – surely those no longer comply with regulations? She is glad, though. For without them, he would appear to be just another in the crowd, another clone; neither of which he had ever been, nor does she hope he is now.
Neither of the two beings move.
Ahsoka wants to pull out her lightsaber, should have. If this had been any other clone, she just might have. But on her mentor, her captain, her friend? Her hand stays itself.
It would have hurt. It always does. To take the life of a comrade, a fellow, a person.
No matter how much evidence is thrown her way that they are no longer people, but puppets, with a Sith Lord at their strings.
Ahsoka has never thought of the clones this way before. Not as puppets. As soldiers, and friends, and companions, men to laugh and play cards with. Him especially. He would advise her, and in turn listen to her own thoughts; not many gave such a young Padawan credibility for being able to think and plan on her own.
"In my book, experience outranks everything."
She wonders who has more experience now: the captain or the fugitive.
As Ahsoka stares into the mask of the man who once addressed her as commander, who supported her, mentally and physically-
"I knew you could do it, kid"
his arms, encircling her as she faints, her body at last succumbing to the poisons of the virus
-she wishes desperately that she could see through the black visor, could look him straight in his eyes, could read what he is thinking.
Instead, he is cold. The visor is unchanging, unmoving, unable to reveal any emotion. She can almost feel his eyes piercing her heart.
He is different. Frigid. Her throat, dry from five months on the run, with barely any interaction, croaks out, "Rex."
The clone does not move. His hands are still on his holsters, one on each of the double pistols he so loves and prefers.
He continues to stare.
That visor…that kriffing visor! What she wouldn't give to have him take it off for her right now, just to see his face one more time, to check, to make sure.
Is he still a man?
Or has he become a droid?
Deciding, finally, to make a move, to test him, to see who the being behind the mask really is now, Ahsoka steps forward. Her hands are loose at her side, but her lightsaber is within reach. If she chooses to use it. If she even can.
Immediately, he stiffens, hands gripping his pistols now, but not drawing them. She can only imagine what is going through his head right now. The last time he was threatened by my lightsaber was because Grievous was pressing it towards his head, she thinks to herself. How times have changed…
She watches him, does not say a word. Raises her hands in a gesture of peace.
As she studies him, she notices a slight, barely present, tilt to his head, as he processes her offer and takes two steps backwards.
She takes two steps forward to be out from amidst the piping.
They stand there, in the open hallway, facing each other in silence.
It has been five months since the order was called. A blink of an eye, an eternity, since she, on a solo mission, felt the disturbance in the Force. Since she ran for her life. Since she was chased across planets and systems. Since she acquired her own ship. Since the clones found her, and boarded her own vessel. Since she hid in the piping. Since she saw the clone captain last.
Again, she opens her mouth, for it is too silent, and Ahsoka has never been all that quiet. "Rexter," she says, her voice containing a slight hint of a playful youth, one buried long ago, one that dwells in the unreachable depths of her heart.
A slight response, this time.
His hands loosen their grip on the pistols.
Then a not so slight response.
He takes a step forward, and reaches his arms up, and takes off his helmet.
And he meets her eyes with his.
Within them, Ahsoka sees what she's only hoped.
His eyes are alive.
Wordless space fills the air around them.
Then he nods, and slips the helmet back over his head, and turns, and walks off down the corridor.
Ahsoka stares after him, stunned.
She follows surreptitiously, as he makes a brief and confusing stop by the airlock, then continues on.
At the sound of similar voices, Ahsoka darts down a different hall and leaps into one of the vents, and listens, straining to hear.
Familiar voices, the same but different, float to her ears.
One of them, a gruff voice she hasn't heard in so long, reports, "At ease, men. Arms down. Mission success."
"You found her?" one clone asks.
The captain nods, or so she imagines.
"Where is she?"
"Space." His voice sounds hollow, wooden, empty, as he says this. "She was hiding in the airlock; I flushed her out. Scanner indicates she's dead."
Ahsoka is amazed. He is lying. She knows it. He knows it.
He is lying for her.
She observes, having moved to a safe vantage point in the vents, in disbelief, as the clones leave, marching off of her vessel one by one, until only the captain is standing there, looking back over his shoulder.
She drops out of the vents, but he does not startle or flinch.
Ahsoka looks once more through that visor, this time knowing that, beneath it, are the eyes of a man; not a droid. Never a droid.
They stand there for a fleeting moment. A moment that lasts forever.
"Thank you," she says at last. It is all she can think of. But it means everything.
He gives her a curt nod. But as he spins, ready to head out, he murmurs, "You're welcome, kid."
Then the door slides shut, and Ahsoka has the ship to herself once more.
The vessel rocks as the Imperial shuttle detaches, and she is left free, no longer wanted by the Empire and believed to be dead.
All thanks to Captain Rex.
She steers the ship aimlessly, arms loose on the controls.
"You're welcome, kid" echoes still in her mind.
And again, she tells him, though he is far away and on another ship and cannot hear her, "Thank you."
In her mind, his eyes crinkle in a smiling response.
Perhaps not everything precious has been lost.