This is a continuation from You're a Dream to Me and Awake & Alive. If you have not read those yet, I suggest taking a peek at them, this story will make more sense if you do.
I hope you enjoy and please review! Thank you!
I do now own Star Wars
"Ahs'ika, do you know how this all started?" Rex, former captain of the now infamous 501st Battalion breathlessly said as he heaved a heavy bale of hay to the hungry eopies who were impatiently pushing each other out of the way for their food.
Rex and Ahsoka had not talked much about their fateful night which it had changed their destiny forever. Order 66 had been issued to all clone officers and deemed all Jedi as traitors to the Republic, to the Chancellor and were to be exterminated sight on seen. Anyone who sought to disobey such order was also deemed a traitor and was not to be tolerated. For Rex, his loyalty to the GAR, to his creators and his loyalty to his heart had been severely tested.
If it hadn't been for his brother Fives, Rex might have become what he had feared the most. He would have proven right to every civilian that ever had the notion that clones were nothing but synthetic beings, nothing better than drones and he would have submitted without question. Thanks to Fives for making him wake up and realize what he was about to do and thanks to the love Ahsoka had for him, he had not pulled the trigger.
Together they had made a home for the last year and a half on Saleucami with Cut Lawquane, a clone who had deserted well before the order and his beautiful family on a secluded farm away from the trials and warfare at least for the moment.
The young Torguta woman Rex grunted with a smirk as he watched Ahsoka finish watering the animals.
"What start Rex?" She grimaced as the water from the hose sprayed across her legs. She fumbled for a minute before getting the hose turned off and then wiping her hands together to rid of the excess dirt. She examined the eopies with satisfaction as they gurgled and grunted with contentment and then turned to Rex.
"Do you ever think about what happened that night? About the reason why we are standing here and not…" Rex trailed off and scratched his now grown out golden locks awkwardly.
"You mean me not dead and you still in the military?" Ahsoka pierced the ex-clone captain with a cool stare. They had treaded lightly on the subject, worried that each would be stepping on thin ice and reopening deep wounds. It had taken months before Ahsoka fully felt comfortable in Rex's presence even with the sacrifice he had committed for her. Rex couldn't fault Ahsoka completely, not with her former master's betrayal, his brethren slaughtering her comrades and him almost taking her own life. With finding the wrong with his brother's help he had eventually gained her full trust, wellalmost. Ever since then they looked toward the future and tried not to look back. Even conversations about Fives, Bella and Mandalore dwindled, and even with Rex's persistent denial about not belonging there, she could feel though the Force his longing to be with his brother.
"Well, sort of," Rex held out his hand and helped her make her way through the thick mud and made their way toward the barn. "I know you don't like to talk about it, but it has been on my mind quite a bit."
"You miss them," Ahsoka wasn't mad or angry. In fact she wasn't sure how she felt. Numb maybe. Ahsoka always thought about that night, their flight away from hell and what could have been the end. She had nightmares that she never shared for it would only send those who would listen into endless nightmares of their own. "You want to go back to your troops, to your men don't you?"
"Yes, no, not to them," Rex tossed down his work gloves and flopped himself on the large bale of hay and looked up at the woman in front of him. "Those men, I don't know them anymore. They would shoot me without a second thought. That world out there, it's a world of chaotic order. Right is left, and to defend the helpless is weak. No, that's not what I was made for or want to go back to."
"Then what is it you want?" Ahsoka folded her arms across her midsection, warding off the chill in the air and the cold she felt building within her.
Rex sighed. "We haven't gone into town for a long time."
"Cut and Sue said it wasn't safe, that a royal guard was there," Ahsoka defended.
"That was a couple of months ago. Regardless we haven't stepped outside of the farm." Rex quickly got up from his spot on the cushiony hay pile and stepped in front of Ahsoka. He took her by the elbows and looked down at her, hoping that she would look him in the eye. "It's okay Ahsoka to be afraid, but you shouldn't have to live and breathe in it."
"What if they find us Rex, what if he finds me?" Ahsoka shrugged out of Rex's gripped and took a couple of steps back from him. Sapphire gems glittered with angry unshed tears and she refused to let them fall. "I would never forgive myself if he found you. Not after what you had to part with."
Rex gritted his molars together and took a deep, calming breath. Not to be discouraged, he stepped up to her once again and took her firmly by the arms, "I will fight until my last breath is drawn before anything or anyone will hurt you. You got that?"
"This is different," she growled. "You could never stop the beast that my master has become."
"I'll die trying."
"That's what I'm afraid of. Rex, I can't lose you not to such darkness and pointlessness. I am not the same girl I use to be. I cannot, will not give into the temptation of the Force." She whispered harshly. "You know I have not used it since being here."
"Maybe it's time for you to try again," Rex suggested lightly.
"No," Ahsoka quickly snarled. "No, no no, Rex! Maybe you just don't understand, never understood how easily it would be for any Jedi hunter to find me, for him to track us down. I will not be responsible for anyone's death but my own."
"Soka," Rex started, but stopped. They were just going to go round and round in a vicious circle and end right back where they started with nothing accomplished. How were they ever going to be a true couple if she couldn't see that he was her partner, in life and death? How much more did he have to prove to her?
"Okay Ahs'ika, maybe another time," Rex soothed. "When you're ready we'll talk. There will be a time when we need to talk."
"I know," resigned, she fell into his comforting embrace and they stood in the barn letting the peaceful noises of the farm calm away their nerves.
As the pair made their way back to the Lawquane home Ahsoka's interest began to grow and turned to her partner. "How did this all start Rex?"
"Are you sure you want to talk about it?" he treaded cautiously especially knowing how sensitive the young woman was.
"You're the one who originally brought it up my curiosity is peaking. Please, tell me," Ahsoka urged.
Memories began to flood Rex as he recalled old friends, brothers, generals and his beloved 501st. Kicking off his muddied boots thoughts of two particular troopers came to mind and where his journey to finding his heart truly began. His chest compressed with angst as he recalled the mission to the Citadel and the selflessness of Echo's bravery which led to his ultimate doom. Everything happens for a reason, though the loss of life is never a good enough reason.
Rex was brought back to reality as he felt a soft hand prying his clenched paw apart. He had unconsciously clinched it so hard into a fist that his knuckles started turning white and left indents into his palm.
Sensing the storm brewing within, Ahsoka slipped her hand into his offering silent support.
The soft shuffle of feet distracted Rex and Ahsoka before he could begin his story and they turned to the new presence. Cut's lovely wife Suu, a native to Saleucami, mother to Jek and Shaeeah and who took Rex in when he was injured during battle, appeared behind the screen door. Illuminated by the dim light inside, it made her fuchsia skin glimmer and outlined her perfect athletic figure. While gentle and compassionate to her children, husband and those close to her, Suu was no pushover when it came to defending her farm or those she loved. Behind the beauty; the mother was an aggressive and strong-willed woman and knew how to handle a rifle.
Ahsoka and Rex found themselves fortunate to have her as a friend and for Ahsoka, a mentor and almost mother-like figure.
"Rex, you have an incoming call," Her elegant voice broke the silence and alerted the couple.
Giving Ahsoka a perplexed look he answered, "Thank you Suu." Ahsoka was just as baffled as the ex-captain. Who could be calling them? Why? As he could read her mind, Rex shrugged his large shoulders and entered the house to take the call.
Suu stepped out onto the porch as Rex passed by her and Ahsoka watched him until his silhouette could no longer be traced. "Who is it Suu?" Calm is what Ahsoka wanted to feel, wanted to present to her friend, but her insides fluttered like Corellian Field Butterflies. She had an inclination of who was calling Rex.
"Fives, young Ahsoka," Suu confirmed Ahsoka's suspicions. Not that it was bad that Fives was calling, but why now? After this lapse in time with no communication, what was so special about now? Rex was sure to fill her in, but her curiosity was killing her.
"Come, sit with me," Suu patted the porch swing and gestured for the young woman to sit next to her. Suu had been more than just a friend; she had been a mentor to Ahsoka in the year and a half that they had known each other. While Anakin had taught her the ways of the Force, to fight and to survive through war, Suu had taught and tendered to Ahsoka's needs of being a woman-a young woman transitioning into an unknown civilian world. She had listened to Ahsoka's rants when she didn't want Rex to hear, been a shoulder to cry on when she couldn't let Rex know she had broken down and answered questions that her former master had avoided and others had no time to answer for her. She owed Suu so much and would find a way to repay the family somehow.
"Fives?" Ahsoka tried to keep the surprise coming from her mouth, but was unsuccessful. She settled next to Suu on the swing and stared out onto the ongoing field.
"Does it trouble you that much that he is contacted by his brother?" The older woman asked.
Ahsoka jerked her head causing her lekku to hit her in the face. "No of course not!" Suu raised a skeptical brow. "Well, I guess a little."
The question was actually really simple. Why? Because I know he'll want to leave this sanctuary. I will have to go and face the world.
"Suu, I don't know if I am ready yet," Cringing, Ahsoka hated to admit that weakness within.
"No one is ever ready young one," Suu lightly tugged on Ahsoka's montrals.
"But what if we are found, what if he finds me!" Ahsoka's voice rose as the thought of the monster her former master had become formed in her mind. "I don't think I'm strong enough to stand up to him. I'm weak, so weak. I don't know how Rex can stand it."
"You've never talked to Rex about your fears have you?"
"I can't, Suu." Ahsoka ground out.
"Why?" Suu asked again.
Again with the why! Ahsoka sighed frustrated. "Because he has enough to worry about that's why."
"And you think he doesn't worry about you and the burden you carry every day? Maybe he wants to share that with you and maybe you should share some of his. That's what a partnership is about young Ahsoka, especially when you get married." Suu looked down at her with motherly wisdom as Ahsoka's blue eyes budged out of her head.
"Mar..married? Rex hasn't said anything to me about getting married!" Ahsoka sputtered. Suu slightly smiled.
"You both adore each other, it is inevitable that you will bond one day," at the mention of bonding made Ahsoka's orange cheeks slightly glow. "Or make it true and honorable. But before you can do that, you need to come to some truths and understandings with each other. You can't hold onto this dark cloud by yourself. Trust me, I know."
The two women sat in silence for a little bit, letting the creak and moans of the old wooden swing fill the void.
"I still have a lot of growing up to do, don't I?" Realization of how much Ahsoka still didn't know began to weigh down onto her world.
"We're forever learning don't let that get you down," Suu squeezed her friend's hand. "Just don't shut out the ones who love you and will help you grow and heal." Ahsoka placed her other hand on top of Suu's.
"I am beginning to realize that family is something the Jedi shouldn't have discarded so lightly. Thank you for letting me and Rex be a part of yours," the young Torguta wistfully said.
"Just make sure you invite all of us to your wedding and the birth of your first child!" Suu laughed and grabbed Ahsoka into a hug.
"Whoa, wait, we have to get through a few things before Rex and I talk about marriage let alone a child!" Ahsoka gasped but then fell into a fit of giggles. It felt good laughing as it eased some of the tension off of her chest and shoulders.
"I know young one, one day you'll know when it is right. Both of you will know and let the world be yours." Suu hugged her friend one more time and then left Ahsoka to her thoughts.
Later Ahsoka entered the home and found Rex in the study, his back to the door.
"Rex?" Tentatively she called out and waited to see if he would answer her. Frustration, conflict and longing leaked through the cracks of his tightknit barriers and as he blew out a breath a few of his golden tresses fluttered upward.
Ahsoka had teased Rex about growing out his hair, but it gave him a striking look. It was a luxury that she would never have and admired how baby fine it felt as she ran her fingers through the silken curls. He was at first self-conscious about growing it out, but after he raised trimmers to his head and Ahsoka practically begged him not to cut it; Rex relented and left his hair alone. Ahsoka explained that her teasing was all well and good and promised not to give him such a hard time about it. At least for a little bit.
"Rex?" She gently touched his back and could feel his muscles bunch under her hand. What had she done to cause such tension?
"I assume that Suu told you that it was Fives who called, am I correct?" Rex's voice was very guarded.
"Yes," Ahsoka answered in the same tone. Don't start…you won't get anywhere building shields around each other. Changing her tone into a softer, patient timbre she repeated, "Yes Rex, she told me it was Fives."
"Bella is pregnant and is due in a couple months. So is Ordo's wife. It's practically a nursery over there," Rex halfheartedly informed his companion.
"Is that why he called you?" Rex finally turned around and faced the girl, giving her an incredulous look.
"Why would he call me just for that?"
Also becoming frustrated with his standoffishness and suddenly wanting to push her away, Ahsoka gave an irritated huff and growled, "I don't know Rex. Maybe it's because you won't tell me anything. It's not like I can read your mind!"
"You might be able to read me better if you used the Force like you were taught instead of hiding from it," Rex bit back.
"I can't!" Ahsoka drew her hand away from Rex as if she had been burned by him. "You know I can't."
Rex shook his head. "You can't or you won' t Ahsoka? Iknow there is danger out there, but that never made you afraid before."
"You'll never understand Rex," shes napped.
"Why is that? Just because I don't have Jedi powers doesn't meanI won't understand. I have to hide from my fellow troopers who by the way have all the same face and voice and also my former general. I may not have the connection that you had to your master, but don't think for a minute that Idon't understand the loss or fear of being caught," Rex's nostrils flared as he tried to control his temper.
"You know," she pointed an upset finger at the man, but as her hand began to tremble she put it back down at her side and tried to calm herself. "I'm tired of fighting with you Rex. There are reasons that I don't use the Force and you know why. We continue to keep going in circles about this and I want to be done. You either need to accept thatI am done being a Force user or figure out your own way to deal with it. But next time you try and lecture me about not being open, just remind yourself about this moment. This is why we can't get past our secrets." Ahsoka spun on her heals and was about to march out of the room when Rex with lighting quick reflexes made a grab for her thin arm. She looked down at his large fingers that could inflict so much harm, but held her gently in place and if she truly wanted out of his grasp all she would have to do was give a simple tug.
"Wait," he lightly commanded and she did. Following every movement with her big saffron eyes, she watched as he struggled to find the right words. Rex chewed on his cheek in anxiety, twisted his lips in uneasiness and then opened and closed them a couple of times until his lovely accented voice, deepened into a thick baritone of awkward emotion finding the words he was looking for.
"I need to go to Mandalore," the statement might have shocked Ahsoka any other time, but she had felt his need to be with his brother many of occasions even without the help of the Force. "When Fives told me he was about to become a father, something inside of me awakened." His russet colored eyes bore into her and goosepimples began to pop upon her flesh.
"We have known each other for along time Ahs'ika, been through hell and back and probably will face more demons in the future. We've been with each other, at each other-I want to be done fighting with you. But if that's the only way to hear your voice, then I'll argue with you all day."
What is he doing? Weren't we just fighting? Wasn't he just pushing me away a minute ago? I don't understand! Is this some unfulfilled male need to have a mate?The Jedi woman's heart began to beat faster as her lover continued talking.
"I don't want to miss out on anything more than I already, we already have," Rex finally stood up from his seat. He seemed gigantic, almost imposing as he loomed over Ahsoka.
"Rex," Ahsoka gulped. "Are you asking me to marry you?"
"If you'll have me?" Hope filtered through him.
"We have so much to work through," Ahsoka shook her head, but didn't back away. "I don't think you are ready to be a husband and I don't think I am ready to be a wife. Not yet."
"We can do it together. I know…" he started but Ahsoka cut him off.
"Do you? Do you know? Do you know how much more danger you'll be in if you take someone like me as your wife?" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Do you remember that girl who was killed at the checkpoint right before we made it onto the speeder?"
This is not what I had in mind. She was supposed to say yes and be happy, Rex thought miserably. "How could I forget," somberly he answered.
"I asked Sergeant Skirata before we left and he told me the tragic story about her. The girl was a Jedi as well and she was married to a clone and they had a child together. After her death he couldn't cope with her loss and now is on a mission to kill the Jedi he finds. Rex, have you ever thought about what would happen if and when that time comes for me? What would you do? I love you Rex, with everything that I am, but we both hide behind walls of secrets and rages. Are you ready to let go and share everything with me? I don't think I am. I know how selfish this is sounding but we both know it's the truth." His grip loosened and slipped from her arm. When he had no answer for her, she nodded faintly. "Why is it that you need to go to Mandalore now?"
Anger swirled in the pit of his stomach and started to rise in his throat as bile of abhorrent words threatening to spill out. Grimacing, he swallowed it back down where it sat as a rock.
How could she reject him after all this time? She was supposed to say yes dammit! And he didn't know what he would do if she died, probably go insane just as his latter has done. His shoulders slumped in exhausted defeat when he realized she was right. They had to get through their personal hurdles first, but that didn't mean he wouldn't try again later. In the GAR I knew so much, men looked up to me for advice; here I am so lost. As a civilian, I know nothing.
"Fives couldn't say exactly why over the comm, but he said it was extremely important to the health of all clones and would only be a benefit if we made the journey." He murmured.
"To Mandalore," Ahsoka repeated.
Rex nodded. "To Mandalore."
A slight sigh escaped her soft lips. "I guess I can't hide here forever can I?"
A faint smile cracked his lips. "We'll make it through all this my Ahsoka. I promise you I'll show you I can be the protector you need and husband you secretly crave."
She gave a snort and lightly shoved him on the shoulder. Now with the friction somewhat broken, Ahsoka mirrored Rex's smirk, "You are already the protector I need, Rexster. So when do we leave?"
Even after a year and a half of being away from military life, Rex still had a hard time believing that he was able to be standing in a round pin helping to break the few eopies deemed suitable for riding and packing.
The eopie currently in the pin with Rex decided it had enough of jogging in a circle, stopped and turned to look at him. "Don't do it buddy," Rex warned ,slowly shortening the rope that was tied to the eopie's halter so that it was no longer dragging on the ground. Rex clucked to the animal to make him move forward, but instead the stubborn bull began to raise its long neck which only caused the pressure of the halter to tighten on his head. The eopie cried out in protest and reared, pulling Rex almost off his feet and right into the ground.
"Oh no you don't, get up there," Rex barked at the angry bull who shied away and bucked as hard as he could, jumping and kicking out at Rex, squealing in protest, leaping in the air twisting his head and trying to pull away from his handler; causing rope burn on his hands. Rex tossed the end of the excess rope at the eopie's butt to keep him moving and after one more kick at Rex for good measure, the bull finally settled down into a lope.
"You could have a profession in the eopie wrangling business if you wanted to. You seem to have a natural knack for that sort of thing," the ever familiar accent of his clone brother drew Rex's focus to Cut: former clone soldier, friend and some what of a mentor to Rex. Cut, who had his foot propped up on one of the round pin boards and leaned casually over to watch Rex with th eeopie bull looking ever the part of the farmer, father and civilian with secret lethality ready to spring at a moment's notice.
"Whoa," Rex called gently to the eopie who gladly stopped and turned to look at him once again. The beast this time regarded his handler with a bit of a weary but respectful eye as Rex slowly approached the bull. "Easy fella," Rex held out his hand for the bull to sniff. The eopie's warm sniffles left dirt and snot on Rex's hand, and once the bull realized Rex was no longer a threat he heaved a great sigh and a new trust between human and beast was bull waited for his master's next command.
With a pat on the neck, Rex led the bull over to Cut. "Maybe in another lifetime," Rex pushed the eopie away as it tried to rub his itchy head against his chest. "I thought I would give you a head start on breaking a couple of the good ones before Ahsoka and I leave."
Cut raised a surprised brow at the mention of departure. "Finally had enough of the farm life?" Cut joked.
Rex slightly smiled. "No nothing like that. In fact, I am much indebted to you and your family for taking Ahsoka and me in."
Cut waved Rex off. "We've been through this before Rex." Cut opened the gate for Rex so he could lead the pushy bull back out into the pasture where his herd mates awaited for him. Rex shanked the lead, teaching the large animal that it wasn't okay for him to step on his handler. The bull popped his head in the air again, but backed off and walked respectfully beside Rex.
"I will find someway to pay you back, I promise. Cut, let me ask you something." The younger eopies out in the pasture began chirping and mewing excitedly as their pasture mate was coming to join them. The bull began to prance in place and call back to his friends. He shook his head in impatience. "Quit," Rex scolded and finally got the halter off and both men watched as the bull galloped off to join his buddies.
"A twhat point did you know that this was the life you wanted? That the GAR, the men you were born with trained side by side and fought on the same battlefield were no longer home? How did you decide that this," Rex gestured with his hand out toward the pasture of eopies, to the crops they had planted and were just now beginning to grow through the fertile soi land to the old house he had called sanctuary, "That this was going to be your way of life forever?"
Turning around and resting his elbows onto the pasture gate, Cut regarded Rex thoughtfully. The man standing before him may have been a confident, well- respected soldier where many troopers looked up to him for guidance and leadership, having the only worries of not letting his general down and staying alive. Probably the idea of being a citizen never even occurred to the ex captain even in the midst of having a relationship with the young Jedi. Now without the rules and restrictive walls of the military, Rex was no longer the confident trooper, but an unsure orphan thrown into a busy bazar and told to fend for himself.
Much like what Suu had done for Ahsoka, Cut had taken Rex under his wing and shown him the civilian ways of life; how to sustain the farm and tending to the livestock. Rex hadn't questioned Cut much about relationships, specifically his and Ahsoka's, but Cut was no fool. He could see the tension between the two, the guarded secrets which kept them divided, the arguments Rex would have about Ahsoka not using her powers, him not understanding why, her not understanding his need to leave the farm occasionally. They would always come back to each other, but old wounds were never healed, new wounds opened, questions left unanswered and the need to understand each other left unfulfilled.
"I came to the realization Rex that if the GAR truly wanted, needed me they wouldn't have left me or my brothers to die. I can't say that when I look up into the stars at night, especially when it's clear and they are shinning bright that sometimes the old pangs of brotherhood creep up on me." Cut pushed himself off the railing and turned back to face the eopies. "We aren't too different from them you know."
"You are referring to their need to be in a herd?" Rex questioned.
Cut nodded. "Their instinct is to be in a group, not far from their friends and brothers. They are familiar and feel safer there. Some, like the bull you worked with today will become more accustom to being away from his herd with maturity and work, but the need will always be in the back of his mind just not the obsession. Others, no matter what you do will never be able to leave and always act within the herd."
"I asked Ahsoka to marry me and she said no," Rex kicked a chunk of dirt into the pasture causing the eopie herd to look up startled their way.
"Maybe she sensed your need to be back with your herd." Cut rested a calloused hand on Rex's shoulder. "You were able to break away once, but do you think you'd be able to resist joining the stampede next time? Take this time to learn, grow and decide who Captain Rex," Cut poked Rex in the chest to emphasize his point, "is and what he wants. You'll be surprised at what you'll find."
The two men began to make their way back to the house Rex had much to think about. "I don't ever remember being this unsure about anything in my life, granted my life hasn't been that long. I always knew where to step, what the rules were, who to go to and mostly who I could rely on. Nobody ever thought to train us to play the civilian role," Rex dejectedly said.
"Nobody ever thought we were more than droids," Cut pointed out. "There's no manual to life Rex."
I don't know how eopies are really broken to ride or used as pack animals (obviously since they aren't real), but I referenced a bit of my knowledge of working with young horses. They can be tricky and brats at the beginning stages.
I want to say thank you to Laloga for very helpful suggestions with the story =)