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

Title: Onderon III

Author: Jade_Max

Characters: Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano

Genre: Friendship, Angst

Era: The Clone Wars

Summary: Set during Episode 2, Season 5; Rex has a word with Ahsoka after her reunion with Lux isn't all she apparently hoped it would be.

Onderon III

"You shouldn't let him get to you."

The soft comment startled her enough that Ahsoka dropped her lightsaber and had to twirl her wrist in a sharp motion to ensure it didn't hit the ground. Twisting as she did so towards the familiar voice and halfway to her feet before she exhaled softly, belatedly realizing she wasn't in any danger.

"Rex."

He watched her with a knowing look, one hand on the wall above her head, his face and eyes partially obscured by the scout helmet he wore.

The look was enough that she squirmed as she sat back against one of the ruin's walls in her previous position, her legs dangling over the short drop to the ground below. It was a secluded spot, as far as things went in the small camp, and one that didn't afford her the view of Lux being waiting on hand and foot by that woman. "What?"

He crouched next to her, not taking a seat, but then he was in 'Captain' mode and had been since they'd hit the ground. "You shouldn't let him get to you."

"Who?"

He gave her another look as if to ask if they were really going to play that game and Ahsoka felt the chevrons on her montrals darken. Rex knew all about the troubles she'd been having with her feelings for Lux and didn't deserve to be treated as if he didn't. She knew it; he knew it – which was why he was probably turning to go that very moment.

Reaching out one hand, she grabbed his forearm, stopping him. "Rex – wait." Their eyes locked as he looked back her way. "I'm sorry, I- can you take that silly thing off? I can't talk to you when you're wearing that thing."

Taking a knee, he tugged off his helmet and goggles, leaving them to dangle from his fingertips for a moment before placing them on the ground. "Better?"

Relieved he now not only sounded like Rex, but looked like him too, she nodded. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "Lux shouldn't have come after you like that."

Shortly after their introduction to the group, Lux had made a point to take Rex aside and demand an explanation; one Rex had been unable to give. Lux had wanted to know about the assault on Aargonar that had killed his father, stopping just short of actually accusing Rex of having done the deed himself.

Ahsoka, seeing the confrontation, had stepped in to break it up.

"I don't blame him, Ahsoka."

"I do; it was neither the time nor the place," she shook her head with frustration, releasing him as she just realized she'd still been holding him practically captive with her grip. "I thought he knew that."

"Just as he would know to allow an opportunity to eliminate the Count slip by if it presented itself right now? Or how he should have known not to take a Jedi to Carlac and the Deathwatch?" She blinked, not having thought of it, and Rex shook his head in an echo of hers, except his was tolerant. "The boy lost his father on Aargonar, Ahsoka; it may have been a long time ago, but wasn't it you who said he holds a grudge?"

"Trust you to use my own words against me."

"Only if I have to; I can usually find my own." They shared a look and Ahsoka was the one to look away first, Rex shifting his weight a little on his knee. "I don't blame him for harboring that resentment and neither should you."

"I don't," she denied, "but I do blame him for choosing the worst time to bring it up."

"Simply saying the words appear to have been enough, Ahsoka; let it go."

"I can't," she admitted, staring out without really seeing. "It's bad enough he went after you, but..."

Rex waited silently and she knew it as she struggled to find the words to tell him what she was thinking, what she was feeling. How could she explain that seeing Lux again had been a kind of rush she couldn't quite describe? Rex knew she'd never fully understood what she was feeling, had never really put a name on it beyond 'crush', but did that describe now?

Did that help quantify the surge of frustration that surged through her veins every time she saw Steela and Lux interact? Or the hurt she felt when the boy she'd been in knots over for months didn't even seem to realize she was really there in favor of another? What about when he chose to help Steela with the drills Rex was teaching them without so much as a glance in her direction?

She finally sighed and glanced back at him, confusion, frustration, and hurt she knew he'd see in the depths of her eyes. "You know this isn't easy for me."

"You knew it wouldn't be."

"I didn't… I wasn't…"

There was a pause before he smiled faintly and finished her sentence. "You didn't expect competition."

She grimaced with his astute observation but didn't deny it. "How shallow can a girl be, huh?"

"I don't think it's shallow; I think it proves you've emotions and feelings like the rest of us."

"I don't think I'm supposed to feel like this."

"Even Jedi are allowed to feel."

"Feel yes, but jealousy is the path to the Darkside, Rex," she sat back against the wall. "It leads to fear and hate; I don't-"

"You won't."

He sounded so certain she relaxed fractionally. "How can you know?"

"Because it goes against everything you are; everything you believe. You won't let it control you."

"No. But… I am distracted, Rex," she admitted. "My focus is off; it isn't where it should be."

He didn't say anything.

"Anakin commented on it." She pulled her knees in and dropped her forehead. "If he's noticing, that's not good." There was a moment and then, to her surprise, a soft, low sound of amusement reverberated through her montrals and her head came up – to find Rex chuckling. "It's not funny."

"Sure it is," he countered, giving her a nudge and his half smile. "How many times have you and I been a part of operations involving Senator Amidala?"

She blinked at the sudden change in topic and answered without thinking. "A few."

"And how many of those were planned?"

Ahsoka was quiet for a moment as she gathered her thoughts, considering the question but she couldn't recall all of them. Which meant, of course, that there were quite a few and most of them had been impromptu; rash acts on Anakin's part. She still wasn't following his line of thinking. "So?"

"My point is that Jedi are not emotionless beings." He paused for a moment, looking away as if to gather his thoughts before starting abruptly on a surprising topic, his smile gone. "Growing up on Kamino, the long necks told us that emotions made a man weak. They compromise your ability to think and to make solid command decisions. To accomplish your goals. We weren't encouraged to feel; many thought we couldn't."

"Rex-"

He held up one hand, indicating he had more to say and stopping her interruption. "The training on Kamino is difficult. It has to be to create the soldiers capable of fighting this war. But the long necks were wrong." He spoke with conviction and intensity; certainty he was right. "There are two sides to emotions. While potentially detrimental, they can also be a source of strength." His gaze came back to hers and his smile this time was faint. "You taught me that."

"What's your point, Rex?"

"My point, Comman-"

"Rex."

"My point, Ahsoka," he amended with a nod of respect, "is that we - you and me - are allowed to be just as emotionally vulnerable as the rest of the Galaxy; we simply have to be able to control it better. We have to know when to let those feelings sway us and when to let them go."

"Rex!"

Ahsoka grimaced at the echo from behind their perch. "Anakin's looking for you."

"Ahsoka!"

"For us," he offered her his hand. "Break time's over. Shall we show these amateurs how it's done?"

Looking at his outstretched hand for a moment, Ahsoka nodded, met his gaze and grasped it with a smile. "Let's."

fin