Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to Disney and is the intellectual property of George Lucas; he created the sandbox. I'm simply destroying the sandcastles.

Author's Note: Huge thank you to laloga for helping me keep this 'canon compliant' - there is a Rexoka version that will be going up in the other thread shortly after this one. Thanks girl!

Title: Distraction - Canon Compliant
Author: Jade_Max
Characters: Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano
Genre: Friendship, Angst
Era: The Clone Wars
Summary:Set after Episode 14, Season 4; Rex tries to help Ahsoka sort through the conflicting emotions after her latest brush with Lux Bonteri.


Distraction

GAR Compound Coruscant - Mess Hall

"Am I boring you, Commander?"

Rex watched as Ahsoka jerked with his polite inquiry, her forearm jumping under the fingers he'd placed there to get her attention.

Her gaze flew guiltily back to his, cheeks flushed darkly, the chevrons on her montrals deepening as she did - the Togrutan equivalent of a blush. "What?"

"Am I boring you," he repeated, partially amused by her distraction but also worried; it wasn't like Ahsoka not to be focused in the here and now - especially when talking to him after such a long absence. She shook her head, meeting his gaze for a brief moment before dropping it back to the mostly untouched tray before her. She'd moved her food around but taken only a bite or two – also unlike her.

"Sorry, Rex," she murmured, taking a tiny bite. "I guess I'm a little preoccupied."

An understatement if he'd ever heard one. Considering her for a long moment, he watched her gaze go unfocused again as she seemed to get lost within her thoughts once more. Knowing she wasn't paying him any attention, Rex took a moment to openly study her, forcing himself to do so dispassionately – as a leader examining a soldier.

He noted new additions to her features that hadn't been there when he'd last seen her several weeks ago. The strain lines around her eyes and lips; bars of worry and concern that she'd never before displayed in so public a setting. Her expression was more worrying; distant and anxious, as if her thoughts weren't pleasant ones.

Letting his gaze drift downwards, he noted the lax grasp on her utensil as it dipped, unused and forgotten, towards the tray of uneaten food. Her other hand rested on the table top, tracing lines absently on the surface.

Watching her fingers for a moment, his brow furrowed; it looked like she was spelling something… something that ended in an... 'x'?

Looking around the crowded mess, he found it was fuller than normal.

With Torrent Company on Coruscant for a couple of days after their last assignment, they were enjoying a couple of days of downtime while waiting for General Skywalker to come back with their next orders. Ahsoka's sudden appearance this morning had been an unexpected and welcome surprise.

But, while he and Ahsoka were known to share their meals given the chance, she'd done little more than push hers about her plate while he'd long since finished. Clones were seated to the left of their end table position, across the table and behind; they hadn't been able to get a corner or wall seat as they preferred.

There was little privacy here but that didn't stop him from reaching out to touch her hand, stopping her idle drawing, and bringing her attention back his way. Her hand tensed, but he didn't remove his. Waiting until she made eye contact, he pitched his voice low, knowing he sounded concerned – and he was. "Are you all right?"

She glanced left and right before meeting his gaze again, ever so briefly only to have it drop almost immediately. Hiding from him, he realized. Whatever was bothering her wasn't something she wanted to talk about and he inwardly cursed. She wasn't all right; he could see it and hadn't really needed to ask, but she also wasn't going out of her way to find an opportunity to explain the reason why.

Making a snap decision, Rex knew what he had to do. "Are you done with that, Ahsoka?" Her gaze snapped back to his with the use of her name in public and he pointed to her tray, continuing. "If you are, let's go."

Catching his meaning almost immediately, her eyes widened and her grateful expression told him he'd done the right thing; it was all he'd wanted to see and wasn't disappointed. She nodded, her unspoken agreement all the encouragement he needed, and stood together.

Collecting their trays, they headed for the entrance, placing them on the recycling rails next to the door and headed out. Ahsoka seemed to be caught on a detail, her eyes having gone glassy again as she stepped through the portal.

Rex, seeing Fives was in their way, gave the ARC trooper a nod and a pointed look when Ahsoka didn't greet him.

Fives was opening his mouth to fix that oversight when he caught Rex's eye and snapped his mouth shut. With obvious reluctance, he stepped aside, throwing Rex a concerned look. Rex gave a miniscule shake of his head, a sign he didn't yet know either and Fives nodded once. It was a sign he understood what Rex was doing. He should; he'd seen how close the Captain and Commander were. Fives entered the mess hall once they'd passed, Rex missing the frown he cast over his shoulder.

Rex gave his brother little thought beyond being grateful that Fives had understood not to say anything.

Lost in thought, Ahsoka's pace was automatic and Rex stepped to her side, reaching out to direct her to the left with the pressure of his fingertips at the small of her back. She came back to herself with a shake of her head, looking at him, and blushed again as she narrowly avoided walking into a corner courtesy of his timely direction. "Sorry, Rex; did you say something?"

He shook his head, leaving his hand where it was but not touching her just in case she drifted again. "No." Casting her a pointed look, he nodded back to the mess hall. "But Fives will be upset you didn't acknowledge him."

"What – Fives? When?"

Rex nodded behind them. "As we were leaving the mess just now."

She groaned. "I'm going to owe him an apology. I'm sorry, Rex; I didn't even notice."

"So you keep saying; 'sorry' has been every other word out of your mouth since you got back." His look turned pointed, not letting her look away as concern entered his tone. "You haven't been yourself since returning from that bungled peace negotiation."

"A little more happened than just the peace negotiations," she admitted. "Where are we going?"

"Some place we can talk."

She was quiet, following his lead, and Rex headed for the only place he could think of where they wouldn't be disturbed; his quarters.

On planet there were few places that didn't hold many, many troopers and, as a Captain, he had the choice of bunking with his men or having his own room. He'd opted for the latter; privacy wasn't something the GAR was big on for its troops, but General Skywalker had insisted his commanding officers be given something.

As a result, it was the only place he knew of nearby where they wouldn't be interrupted or watched. Without an observation deck to visit in the middle or the night, or an empty training room, it was the closest thing to privacy they'd get. And Ahsoka wouldn't speak with him, to him the way she so obviously needed without that kind of isolation.

Ahsoka looked at him curiously as they walked, her gaze tracking down across his civvies with interest - she'd not really seen them before - and though he could feel it, he didn't respond to that curiosity and she chose not to voice it. His concern for her was more than it should have been and he knew it; she wasn't just his commanding officer but his friend. His best friend. What happened to her often affected him.

She had choices to make, mistakes to muddle through and a future to look ahead to. He didn't. It wasn't about him anyway; it never had been.

Everything he did for her was to help her, to push her; to give her the tools to cope when he wouldn't be beside her anymore for, inevitably, that day would come. He was a soldier and he would one day sacrifice his life for the greater good. If he was lucky, he'd do it saving the lives of others; he would do it saving hers.

Rex could think of no better way to go down than to trade his life for the chance she would live.

They entered his quarters without a word between them, and Ahsoka – true to form and much to his relief – took a moment to examine her surroundings as he closed the door and put his back to it. He watched, removing his blasters, as her gaze traveled once around the room before coming back to linger on the items of interest. His armor piled neatly on the locker at the foot of the single bunk, his helmet neatly on top. As her gaze drifted away, his blasters joined the pile, the holster and belt folded neatly underneath.

The bunk itself; a standard issue frame, mattress and covers – tightly creased and folded as per regulation. His pillow sat at one end and her lips twisted into a faint smile; Rex wondered what she was thinking of, but her gaze moved on.

To the small table and chair beside the bunk, the data pad on top next to the only decoration in the room that made it his; the small two inch mock up of a blaster rifle, a clone's helmet over one end and an inscription in Mandalorian in raised letter across the base.

Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc, ni partayli, gar darasuum.

It had been the one and only gift Ahsoka had given him when she'd discovered clones didn't celebrate their lifedays as other beings did. Her reasoning at the time had been that everyone deserved to celebrate even if they only did it once.

She gravitated towards it, her fingers reaching out to trace the inscription, translating it as she whispered the words. "I'm still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal." Her fingers dropped back to her side and she finally looked at him. "I can't believe you still have that."

"It was a gift, from a friend," he returned with a faint smile. "What else would I do with it?"

"Throw it away?"

He shot her a pointed look.

"Okay, maybe not. I'm glad you like it."

"What's wrong, Ahsoka?"

She sighed and exhaled loudly. "Nothing." He remained silent as she turned back towards the table, placing one hand on it as her shoulders suddenly slumped, her voice dropping. "Everything."

When she didn't seem inclined to continue, he braced himself for a discussion he suspected he didn't want to have, pushing aside the personal reluctance in favor of her needs. "Everything."

"Well, maybe not everything," she admitted, glancing back his way with the faintest of smiles. "You're back so that's something." A pause, and then- "I've missed you, Rex."

"Likewise." But she'd never know just how much. "What happened, Ahsoka? Last I heard you'd been assigned to Senator Amidala as her primary bodyguard on Mandalore; she's fine, isn't she?"

"She is," Ahsoka agreed. She turned and, to his surprise, slumped to the edge of his bed instead of taking the chair next to it. The mattress dipped as she seemed to curl in on herself, her shoulders hunching, her hands folding in her lap, looking much smaller than normal. Smaller than he'd seen her before.

Ever.

Alarmed, he moved, crossing the room in three strides. "Ahsoka?"

Her eyes were swimming with tears as she looked up, meeting his gaze, and he jerked back as if she'd struck him. He'd never seen her cry. Not when injured; not when saddened; not when things had looked their bleakest. She hadn't cried when faced with death on Naboo by the blue shadow virus. Hadn't cracked when Bane had threatened to space her – he knew; he'd seen the holo.

The impact of those tears was completely unexpected, settling like a stone in his chest and the need to alleviate whatever had caused it had him moving before he consciously considered the consequences. Crouching before her, his hands settled close to either of her hips, the cool metal of her lightsabers pressing against his forearms as he searched her features for what was wrong.

"What is it?" his eyes narrowed as a thought occurred to him. "Did someone hurt you?"

"I hurt myself," she admitted on a dejected whisper, her head tilting forward a fraction without losing eye contact. She looked crestfallen. "I'm a horrible Jedi, Rex. I don't deserve to be a Jedi."

His eyebrows snapped together. "Says who?"

Staring at him, tears trembling on her lashes, she shook her head.

"You're one of the most dedicated, inventive Jedi I know - and that's saying something."

Thankfully, she laughed, reaching up to brush her hands over her cheeks but her laughter was tinged with the sound of her tears. "With Anakin as my Master, I had better be."

"Give me a name, Ahsoka," he urged. "I'll set them straight."

"Me," she whispered, her smile fading. "I'm the... I..."

"You never doubt yourself," he searched her gaze, hurting because she was hurting."What brought this on?"

She stared at him for a moment before deliberately unclipping her lightsabers from her belt and set them aside, on his pillow, her gaze never leaving his.

He understood the gesture; it was her way of saying that she needed to be just her. To be Ahsoka Tano and not Commander Tano or Jedi Padawan Tano; just Ahsoka. "I'd do the same, but," he drew her gaze to the foot of the bed, "I can hardly be more out of uniform than I am now without getting us both into trouble."

She laughed, as he hoped, nearly choking on the sound before giving her head a shake. "Skyguy would never understand."

"I'd have the chance to explain?"

Her smile, the barest tilt of her lips, flashed across her features. "Probably not." It died before truly finding purchase, tears glittering on her lashes again. "Do you... remember when we had that talk a few months back," she swallowed, searching his gaze, "the one on the observation deck about... crushes?"

He'd hardly forget it and gave her a sharp nod. His world had been off kilter for a while since she'd given him a name to label his feelings for her. It would have, he reflected, been better if he'd been able to leave them as he'd thought them to be. It had taken her leaving for several weeks and the situation on Kiros for him to come to terms with them and move forward. "I remember."

She stared at him for a moment before turning her face away and he swore he saw something akin to shame in her eyes as she did. "I'm... I like Lux, Rex," her words were whispered, soft, as if she didn't dare say them any louder. "I'm a Jedi; I can't afford to. Jedi aren't supposed to get… attached."

"Jedi get attached all the time, Ahsoka," he corrected her with a shake of his head, leaning forward and daring to touch her cheek to draw her gaze back his way. "You're attached to Anakin."

"He's my Master; that's different."

"How?"

"He's… he's a Jedi." She faltered, not moving to break his touch, her brow furrowing, "Eventually he'll have to let me go when I'm knighted and end up with a Padawan of my own, to be a Master like he is."

"Like Anakin is with Obi-Wan?" Her smiled faintly. "Masters and Padawans form strong bonds, Ahsoka. Anakin's not just a Jedi. He's your mentor; like… your brother." That was apt and he followed the thought through, trying to reassure her. "Like you are with the men of Torrent Company; with me."

There was a momentary pause, heavy with meaning, before she sat back, breaking his hold and his hand dropped to his side.

"My mission to Mandalore didn't go so well," she admitted, the switch in topic catching him off guard as she avoided giving him an answer. Scooting backwards on his bunk, she set her back to the wall and pulled her knees to her chest defensively. "Senator Amidala was fine when I left her..." she paused and then winced. "I abandoned her, Rex; I left my post when I was supposed to be protecting her; I..."

Staying crouched where he was, he took in her defensive posture and slid into the nearby chair and drew it up close. "I refuse to believe you abandoned her without good reason," he told her firmly, "and knowing the Senator, she likely gave you permission."

"That doesn't make it right," she protested, confirming his suspicion.

Senator Padmé Amidala was enough like Anakin Skywalker that Rex had come to expect the unexpected with her. Watching Ahsoka as she gathered her thoughts, he realized that he hadn't actually touched on the real reason she was distraught. He waited, with far more patience than he knew he possessed, as she tilted her head to rest her chin on her knees, her hands before her face. Her fingers visibly trembled before she clenched her hands into fists.

"Lux Bonteri was there, Rex." Her tone was even, almost flat, and without inflection as she dropped the name of the young man she'd mentioned to Rex a few months ago. It didn't last as her voice shifted, taking on a note of hesitancy, and then urgency. "He... spoke out against the Separatists, claiming that he had proof Count Dooku killed his mother, not the Republic as we'd been told. The Separatists... they went crazy, claiming it was an internal matter and hauled him away."

Rex's stomach clenched; he could see where this was going. "You went after him." It wasn't a question.

Ahsoka flinched. "I had to," her eyes unfocused and words were whispered, distant, as if she was trying to convince herself more than him. "Padmé said... she said I..." her gaze snapped back to his. "I abandoned my post because I couldn't let them kill him."

"Nor should you," he agreed. Ahsoka considered the boy a friend and he'd have been disappointed if she hadn't acted. For all a part of him didn't want to hear about her and this Lux character, she needed this and he wasn't about to deny her no matter what he wasn't within him to turn his back when she was obviously hurting. "Were you able to reach him in time?"

"Barely." she exhaled a shaky breath. "It was a close one but we were able to get away from Mandalore and I - can you move those somewhere, Rex?" she looked at her lightsabers. "I can't..."

He reached down and collected both weapons, placing them on the table behind him, blocking her view with his body.

"Thanks. I... where was I?"

"Leaving Mandalore."

Rubbing her forehead with her fingertips, Ahsoka then pulled them away but didn't appear to really see them. "We left Mandalore. I'd intended to bring him here but Lux pulled a blaster on me."

"I hope you kicked him in the shebs."

She blinked and then chuckled, shaking her head. "I should have; it might have saved me what came next. He stunned me after I disarmed him. I-"

"He what you?"

"Stunned me."

That's what he thought she'd said. He frowned. "With the blaster."

"No, with a hand stunner."

Which meant they'd been closer than he'd anticipated. If Rex ever met the little Bonteri boy, he'd have a thing or two to say about his treatment of Ahsoka. Stunning someone could be dangerous; stunning someone and dragging them into an unknown situation without their permission was completely unacceptable. Especially when that person was Ahsoka. His reply was laced with derision. "That wasn't very friendly of him."

"He was desperate; I wasn't listening to him."

"That's not an excuse to stun you." She exhaled raggedly and Rex relented, tramping down his indignation to deal with her confusion. She needed Rex the friend, not Rex the military commander who objected to his people, of which she was one, being taken against their will. He exhaled, his voice even when he spoke. "How long were you out?"

"I don't know, but I woke up on Carlac."

Frowning as she paused, Rex sought the planet in his memory. "Snow; Ice; indigenous planet-bound nomads?"

She nodded.

"An odd place to take you."

"Not really," Ahsoka swallowed hard. "Deathwatch was on the planet."

Rex came half off the chair before he checked the reaction, his hands clenched at his sides, reaching for the blasters that should have been there. The power of the fierce protective surge the words had wrung from him caught him off guard - and not all of it came from a soldier wanting to protect their Jedi. Or rather, it did, just not in the same manner his brothers would have felt.

He would be the first to admit, in the most private recesses of his mind, that his perception of Ahsoka wasn't as professional as it should have been. Especially after all they'd been through recently with Kiros and Umbara; they'd been through too much together.

Ahsoka was watching him with wide, surprised eyes and Rex realized he'd caught her off guard. Mentally chastising himself for his lack of discipline, he forced himself to sit back down, but leaned forward, spreading his hands deliberately on the top of his bunk. Eyes on hers, his voice was even, measured, certain he'd heard her wrong. "He took you... where?"

"To Carlac; he'd made a deal with the Deathwatch."

"And he just... brought you along."

She nodded.

"You. A Jedi. The one kind of being that Deathwatch hate above all others."

She nodded again.

"Is he stupid or just blind?"

"He didn't know, Rex," she corrected softly, miserably. "He's been sheltered; he was the son of a diplomat and raised to believe differently than we do. He doesn't... didn't have any real knowledge as to the war or the factions or the sides. He just... he wanted to avenge his mother and Deathwatch was willing to help him."

"That's no excuse," Rex protested. "You could have been killed, Ahsoka!"

"I know; and now he does too." Her lips twisted. "Trust me; we won't be visiting any more Deathwatch camps. Once was enough."

Exhaling softly, he grimaced. "I'm sorry; you were trying to tell me something."

"It's... good to know you care, Rexster." She eased her grip on her legs, letting them slide a little across the sheet, but her arms remained wrapped about them and resumed her story. "I was alone in the ship with Artoo when I woke up but Lux had taken my lightsabers."

Rex felt his features tighten, acutely aware of the two cylinders at his back, but restrained himself from interrupting. Ahsoka needed to tell this story and he, to his dismay, found he needed to hear it. If for no other reason than it would help her.

"I had Artoo search for them while I went to find Lux; that's when Deathwatch appeared." Her expression changed into one he'd never seen as she tilted her head back to look at the ceiling. There was a moment as she gathered her thoughts and then sighed. "They didn't take to my presence too kindly," she admitted, "I don't know if it's because Lux was supposed to be there alone, or if it's because I wasn't… I'm not…"

"Human."

Ahsoka flinched but nodded. "That's part of it; also because I'm female."

"Why would that matter?"

"Because women, to them, were little more than slaves," she grimaced. "It probably doesn't help I was an idiot and told them I was Lux's intended instead of his bodyguard."

"You… His… what?"

"Not one of my brighter ideas."

No; no it wasn't,he agreed silently even though he didn't voice the thought; he could see she was kicking herself enough without adding his opinion to it. Ahsoka obviously needed someone to lean on; not someone who was going to tear apart her mistakes and criticize. No matter how much he wanted to.

"Anyway, so they took us back to the Deathwatch camp and put us in this tent alone together and Lux tried to explain what he was doing. Driving through the camp to get there though was… it was kind of like being back in the Trandoshan's hands - except I had my lightsabers."

"When did you get them back?"

"I didn't. Not right away anyway."

"Ahsoka."

"Artoo found them on the ship," her lips tilted at the mention of the droid. "He'd been bringing them to me when Deathwatch showed up and hid them. If he hadn't had them, I might not have come out of there alive."

He didn't follow. "I don't understand; they let you keep them?"

"What?" she blinked and then shook her head as if trying to follow his train of thought. "Let me - no! Oh no; Artoo held onto them until later when we broke out. I simply meant that they were nearby unlike when I was taken by those hunters."

Rex nodded once, in understanding. "What happened next?"

His question brought the most unusual of reactions; her montrals flushed a deep, almost black hue and she looked away. Alarmed, concerned, his brow furrowed upon seeing her lips move but no sound come out.

"Ahsoka?"

Her forehead dropped alarmingly to the top of her knees. Her voice was muffled, but clear, as she repeated what she'd said, confusion clearly present in the statement. "Lux kissed me."

He should have expected it.

Knowing how she'd been after the last encounter with the Bonteri boy, Rex had suspected it was only a matter of time before one of them made a move. What he hadn't expected was the impact her words had.

He'd mentally prepared himself for this eventuality but nothing, nothing had prepared him for the surge of anger her words unleashed. His hands closed into tight fists, his breath catching as his jaw clenched, the idea that someone, anyone had manhandled her igniting a slow bleed of fury in his gut unlike anything he'd ever experienced.

Ahsoka belonged to Torrent Company; she was supposed to be untouchable. Especially by some... boy.

The silence stretched between them for long seconds which turned into a minute before Ahsoka finally lifted her head to look at him. Her expression was as confused as her voice had been but laced with something had hadn't expect to see; guilt.

It spurred him into speech. He didn't really want to know, but she obviously needed to say it to be able to work through it. So he did what was expected of him as her closest friend; he asked. "What happened?"

She sighed and winced. "We were arguing about the Deathwatch; Lux was trying to explain that they'd agreed to help him kill Dooku to get revenge on for his mother and I was trying to tell him why it was a bad idea. I remember talking one moment and then Lux was kissing me the next when the leader of the Deathwatch came in. He… kissed me to shut me up."

Rex frowned. "And you didn't deck him?"

"Oh, believe me, I wanted to," she admitted. "I pushed him away but we had an audience so I couldn't really object without putting myself in further danger. If Deathwatch suspected I was a Jedi…"

It was hardly the romantic scenario he'd feared, in fact, it was more like… "Isn't that considered assault on some worlds?"

That made her laugh, softly and once, but really laugh, her posture relaxing a little more. "It is, yes, but if he hadn't…" she shook her head. "I might have given us away Rex; I was so focused on getting him to see reason, to make him see that Deathwatch was evil, I didn't sense their approach. Lux cut me off before I could give the game away."

Smart thinking on Bonteri's part, Rex admitted privately for all he didn't like the method. No one knew better than he did just how worked up Ahsoka could get when expounding philosophy on something she believed in deeply. "Did they believe your ruse?"

"They bought it initially; I was put in with some local women they'd... convinced to work for them." Her expression darkened, guilt and pain marring her expression. "I took an interest, got to know them, I figured if I had to play the part, I might as well know what I was up against and discovered they were being kept their mostly against their will to serve at the pleasure of Deathwatch."

"Did they all die?"

Ahsoka blinked, jerking back to look at him, confused. "What?"

"You're blaming yourself for something; something related to these women. I can see it." He held her gaze for a moment before repeating his question. "Did they all die?"

She exhaled, her shoulders slumping a little. "No."

"Someone did."

"She… she was the chief's daughter. Tryla. She reminded me of Kalifa - remember the-"

"Padawan who died with you during the Trandoshan mess," he finished with a nod. "I remember."

Ahsoka smiled at him wanly, a small acknowledgement, but didn't expound on Tryla; later in her narrative, he suspected, when the event actually occurred, he'd hear more. "I tried to convince Lux he was wrong about Deathwatch but he didn't want to listen. I... was put to work serving drinks, Lux in particular, but he wasn't inclined to listen to my warnings."

"Di'kut," "Rex interjected grimly. "And not just for ignoring your greater experience."

"His heart was in the right place."

"His heart?" the words exploded before he could stop them, the angry burn in his gut finding release, and Ahsoka recoiled, her back hitting the wall behind her. Despite her withdrawal, he couldn't help himself; the words came out hard and fast, clear criticism for the boy who'd been so cavalier with her life. "He should have been thinking with his head. Putting you in danger-"

"Rex!"

He bit his tongue, swore – and Ahsoka chuckled.

"Serves you right," easing back into her posture, she loosely wrapped her arms around her knees, "You, of all people, know I can take care of myself."

"Normally you're not surrounded by Deathwatch," the thought was chilling even after the fact; he was glad he hadn't known before hand.

"Just Trandoshan hunters?"

"Hunters that didn't realize what or who they'd captured. If Deathwatch had discovered you were a Jedi-"

"They did."

Rex froze, biting the inside of his cheek, his fists clenching as those two words reverberated through his being and, despite the urge to release it, he inhaled and exhaled evenly before trusting himself to speak. "I'm missing something here; between you being undercover and the Deathwatch learning your identity."

"A few things," she agreed, visibly appreciating his restraint and return to topic, her eyes meeting his briefly to convey it before flitting away again. "When Lux wouldn't listen, I thought I'd lost him. The leader of the group, Pre Vizsla, treated him like an equal... or, if not an equal, someone to be respected. He played to Lux's vanity and naiveteand made promises it seemed he could keep. He played the magnanimous leader, deliberately misleading him; twisting his words..."

At her pause, he leaned forward fractionally when it seemed she was disinclined to continue. "Ahsoka?"

She didn't answer.

"Ahsoka," he managed to catch and hold her gaze. "What did they do?"

"It shouldn't have surprised me," her words were bleak as her knees drew upwards towards her chest again, resuming their defensive pose as her hands tightened around her legs. "They promised the villagers their freedom, saying that they'd leave and never return."

Rex could see where this was headed but remained silent, letting her say it.

"He made a big deal out of it, like he was trying to impress Lux; to show that they could be good guests and comply with... reasonable requests." Ahsoka tucked her chin to her knees, but didn't break their eye contact this time. "Lux bought it, which I think was the point. The next day, when we went to the village, the Deathwatch brought all of us women along. It was part of the agreement, their show of good faith, or being good guests. They proceeded to teach the good people a lesson."

"A fatal one."

She nodded, twisting her arms at an impossible angle and folding her fingers together, visibly squeezing. "When they shot the village leader and began to burn their houses down, I..."

He jumped in as she faltered. "You couldn't stand by and watch." Rex reached forward to catch her hands, frowning as he noticed they were unnaturally cool; more so than normal. Without thinking, he enclosed the folded digits together between his warm palms. It left him over extended at an awkward angle but he didn't notice; all he cared about was relieving the stricken look in Ahsoka's eyes.

"I made myself a target, Rex; I tried to help, to save them; to give them a chance and all I did was get myself captured."

"Did they finish burning the village?"

She blinked. "What?"

"After you exposed who and what you were, did they keep burning the village?"

"Well… no. I think they were more interested in a Jedi execution."

"Mission accomplished; by keeping their attention on you and diverting it from their original purpose, you saved the villagers and gave them a chance to salvage what they could."

"I hadn't thought of it that way."

"You're too close to the situation." Rex squeezed her hands and then released them, her fingers having slackened so she was no longer holding herself in a death grip. He was relieved when her legs slid back towards their semi-resting position, an indicator she wasn't feeling so… lost. "What happened after you made them pay for capturing you?"

"You sound so... sure of that."

"With the villagers out harm's way and you sitting in front of me now?" he gave her a look which deliberately said she needed to work on her acting skills; a moment of levity that worked.

She grinned, as he'd hoped, the first real smile he'd seen from her even though it didn't last and faded quickly. "They took Lux and I back to camp. I don't think he realized until Pre Vizsla said they were going to kill me exactly what their views on Jedi were." She sighed, drawing on the fabric of her knees with one index finger. "Artoo managed to get me my lightsabers and Lux helped me get free."

"Really?"

Ahsoka stared at him for a moment - and then, to his delight, even though it was at his expense, began to giggle. "Oh Rex, if you could see your face! Yes, really. Lux may not be much of a fighter, but he did play his part."

Somehow, Rex managed to keep the second of derision and incredulity he wanted to voice from doing so.

"Artoo helped too. He'd rebuilt the droids that Deathwatch was using for practice purposes and convinced them to help rescue me."

"You fought with tinnies?"

Her smile was tongue-in-cheek and reached her eyes this time, her tone taking on a teasing note. "You could say that; I think there was a battle droid or two in there."

"Traitor."

She snorted. "At that point I was willing to take what help I could get. Lux isn't much use with a blaster, but he is pretty handy behind the controls of a speeder."

"In other words, you did all the work while the boy drove?"

"We all have our strengths, Rex; it's not like I was going to ask him to take pot shots from a moving vehicle when he had a better chance of hitting me than the Deathwatch creeps. I'm used to having marksmen at my back like you, not Senators who barely know which end of a blaster to hold."

She had a point.

"Not all Senators."

"They can't all have Padmé's training," she agreed and shook her head. "It was a running fight, but we managed to get off Carlac. And then," her face fell, confusion written all over it once more. "And then Lux just… left."

"He spaced himself?"

"He took the escape pod."

So much for wishful thinking on his part, but Rex's animosity towards the young Bonteri was personal in ways Ahsoka wouldn't understand; in ways he wouldn't let on. Nothing in this conversation was convincing him his feelings about the boy he'd never met were anything but justified. "Leaving you the ship and a way home."

She nodded, leaning back against the wall and sighed. "Yeah."

He waited, watching her, sitting back in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest, knowing she'd eventually crack and want to know what he was thinking. He kept his expression deliberately neutral, just to annoy her.

She watched him, watching her, and he could see the way she fidgeted, shifting in her seat, her body curling forward over her knees, daring to meet his gaze head on a she stretched her fingers out to gently grasp her own ankle. The silence stretched into minutes before she finally frowned. "What?"

"I'm still waiting."

"For what?"

He smiled.

"For the part that makes you such a terrible Jedi."

fin