Disclaimer:It's George's sandbox, I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Story Notes: This series of one shots is a set of unrelated episode tags of things that I wanted to see, or I thought should have happened 'off screen' as it were. They're unrelated and out of order, but focus primarily on Rex and Ahsoka's tricky and complex relationship as friends and Commander / Captain.
Read into it at your own risk; these are supposed to follow the cannon development of the characters and will be relatively tame, all things considered. You've been warned.
Title: Two Inches to the Left
Characters: Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Era: Clone Wars
Summary: Set after Episode 10, Season 2; Rex returns to the Resolute to undergo further rehabilitation and treatment and gets an unexpected welcome...
Two Inches to the Left
"Welcome back, Captain," the deck officer saluted and then eased up as Rex stepped off the transport with the rest of the wounded, medics coming in quickly to collect those that couldn't move under their own power. "I hear we nearly lost you there."
"It was a close one, Shank," agreed Rex. "Two inches to the left and there would have been nothing Kix could-"
Both Shank and Rex paused at the excited call, turning in the direction to see one excited Togruta female striding across the bay with her normal energy, a wide smile of welcome on her young face.
"Hey kid," Rex greeted her with a smile. "About time you got back."
"I thought you'd still be in the thick of it with Commander Cody and Master Kenobi," she teased as she neared. "Did you get... sick... of..." her smile faded as she caught sight of the black, charred hold near dead center of his chest and she stopped dead. Her eyes widened as she stared at the hole, the white markings on her pale orange skin suddenly seeming more pronounced. She lifted her gaze back to his, her blue eyes shimmering with worry and concern. "Rex?"
There was a wealth of uncertainty and emotion in the way she said his name; an accusation and plea all at once.
Shank, watching the by-play, made himself scarce by returning to duty, leaving the Captain and the Padawan staring at each other from across the dozen or so feet that separated them. Rex moved first, towards her, his helmet under his left arm; the arm he'd only recently regained some mobility in. He wasn't quite sure what to say; clones were, after all, supposed to be expendable. If he'd died, Jesse or someone equally as capable would have been promoted to take his place.
Except the fear and concern in Ahsoka's eyes told him a different story. She wasn't afraid for just anyone; she was afraid for him.
Rex stopped just outside of her reach, letting her look for her gaze had dropped back to the damage in his armor. He forced a grin. "It needs some repairs."
She blinked, but the expression in her eyes didn't change. One of her hands came up, as if to reach out and touch the damage, but she stopped herself before it got close. Looking back into his face, she searched for something, as if looking for a sign that he wasn't as well as he appeared to be. As if she was looking for a way to identify this as some kind of cruel joke.
When she didn't find what she was looking for, her blue eyes darkened. "It does," she agreed quietly. "What about you? Are you okay?"
"I'm all right; General Kenobi ordered me back to have the medics take a closer look." He didn't resent the order, but he hadn't felt it was necessary and it must have shown in his voice for her lips twitched. "Kix handled the battlefield triage; he's one hell of a medic."
"If you're one of the walking wounded, Rexster, he did something right." A little of her previous glimmer of energy appeared, the fear in her eyes abating but not the concern. "You're sure you're okay?"
"Nothing a few hours under the right kind of care won't fix," he assured her, stepping past her. It was no surprise when she fell into step with him. "Are you coming with me to medical, Commander?"
"Someone has to see to it you get there," she accused, finding a smile for him. "If I don't do it, you're liable to duck out and fix your armor before you get yourself looked at."
Rex slanted her a look; she knew him so well. "What's a warrior without his armor at peak efficiency?"
"One who can't wear it because he can't lift it?" She smirked when he laughed at her sweetly derogatory comment. "You're better getting yourself patched up first; it means you can modify whatever they replace rather than have to stare at it when you give yourself a setback."
Wisely steering the topic away from his injury and the armor that had proved to be of very little use at all, he nodded towards her belt, having noticed a shift in her appearance. "Nice handle. There's something different about it, isn't there?"
"You noticed!" she was obviously delighted and grinned, pulling her lightsaber hilt off her belt as she spun it to give him a view. "It was time for something different. What do you think?"
"Is that a new lightsaber or did you just modify your old one?"
Her eyes lit up, finally banishing most of the concern that still lurked in their depths. "It's new. I've grown some since becoming Master Skywalker's Padawan," her grin turned cheeky. "It was time for a longer blade but it was only part of the reason I was away."
Rex arched his eyebrows as they turned down one of the corridors that would take them to the turbolifts. "You constructed a new lightsaber for that?"
She nodded. "I needed something a little better suited to my reach and, unlike you, I'd rather not be used for target practice."
"You any good with it?"
"I think so." A cocky half smile that was reminiscent of her Master crossed her lips. "Care to find out?"
"Later," he agreed as stopped near the lifts and he pressed the call button. "Once the Medics give me the green light and I can hold my DL-17s comfortably again."
The smile in her eyes died and Rex was suddenly sorry he'd mentioned his injury for her eyes dropped once more to the hole in his armor. He couldn't read her thoughts or see them reflected on her face as her gaze darted along the damage once more. With the acknowledgement that he wasn't up to one hundred percent he'd given her a hint as to just how badly he'd been hurt. As to how close he'd come to not coming back at all... except, maybe if he'd been lucky, in a body bag.
She swallowed hard even as her hand automatically slid her lightsaber back on her belt. "That's... that's awful close, Rex."
"Two inches close," he agreed, his words soft and solemn, drawing her gaze back to his. "I was made to get shot at, kid, I'm used to the odd scratch."
"That was more than a scratch, Captain!"
"Yes sir!" He snapped automatically to attention at her sharp reprimand before consciously easing his posture. "Don't worry; I'll be good as new in no time."
Silence settled between them for a long minute and the lift arrived before she found the words to reply.
She didn't join him when he stepped inside and, as the doors were closing, his hand shot out to stop them. "Are you coming, Commander?"
Ahsoka, surprisingly, shook her head despite her earlier conviction he wouldn't go without her prodding. "I'd better not. You can tell me about it later at lunch." Her gaze dropped back to the battle damage. "All of it; but don't wear that, okay?"
She reached out and gently pushed his hand away from the doors, her fingers cool with slight tremors even through his gloves. Answering as the doors closed between them, she gave him no time to respond, but plenty to reflect on her words as the lift doors secured and it shot away from the deck. They seemed to echo about him, the lift's only occupant, and she likely wouldn't have said them if he hadn't been.
They followed him as he exited the lift and headed towards medical. Ran round his head he divested himself of his armor and allowed the droid and medics on duty to examine Kix's handiwork. Bounced through his skull even as he was ordered to take a couple of days to allow the nerve damage to fully heal before jumping back into the fray, never abating even as he was taking his armor to be replaced.
It wasn't until he found himself standing at the mess hall - freshly showered, shaved and dressed in fatigues, his arm in the mandatory sling the medic had ordered him to wear for the next day - that her words suddenly seemed to make perfect sense.
As he spied her across the room, Ahsoka lifting her arm in both relieved and amused greeting, Rex noticed several things at once. The sorrow in her eyes was gone, the concern replaced by acceptance as she obviously approved of his attire. He flashed her a smile and headed towards her, almost all traces of her earlier distress having vanished with his appearance without his battle scarred armor.
And Rex, the career soldier, found he couldn't have agreed with her in more as he slid into the chair across from her.
"I don't like the reminder I almost lost you."
Neither did he.