So this finally came together...
Two apologies. One, for this taking so long I think everyone that was waiting for it gave up. I'm so, so sorry. It was a combination of lack of effort and not enough time. Second, that this was written over a period of...well, along time. And for some reason, I kept shifting tenses for my writing. I've done the best I can to weed it out and keep it consistent, but knowing me I still missed something. Sorry about that.
So here it is. The sequel to Mutual Misery. My birthday present from me to ya'll.
Shout out to Jade-Max and Sachariah for for the ideas and support.
If you haven't read Mutual Misery, I'd advise reading that before this. Oh, and Jade-Max's "Attachments Forfeit."
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars, or anything related to it.
There was a rush of noise and sound that Rex managed to filter through as he sat in the middle of their makeshift camp-the only piece of semi dry land around for miles- surrounded by his brothers, who were in high spirits despite the wet climate. Frowning, he took a small sip of caff, before continuing to scan through the file in front of him. There was some ribbing from his men telling him to lighten up; he gave a dry smile but nothing more to acknowledge them.
He knew where his eyes would fall if he looked up, and as much as he wanted to see her, he couldn't bring himself to. Not yet. It's strange, he thought as he continues to scan through lines of meaningless words. He'd never been so painfully aware of anything in his life; not even when-
He exhaled sharply and forced the thought away briskly. No more dwelling over what couldn't be. Rex might disagree with what happened, but he was not willing to cause Ahs-the Commander's-further unhappiness.
So he'd swallow his own emotions, and continue to place her wellbeing as his top priority. Still, it was hard, so very hard to push everything aside. It was still hard for him to get used to the distance after being so very close to her.
The thought of her chased him into the hours of the night. The flash of her eyes, the curl of a smirk on her lips, the cocking of her head to the side as she raised a delicate eyebrow at him with a skeptically amused look. He woke from another one of those dreams, a pleasing one, where she had not rejected him, where she had been laughing at something, her eyes sparkling and alive. The thought ran through his head as he stared at the roof of the tent in the dark, and reflected that it had been a long time since he'd seen her like that. He let out a long breath, rolled out of his sleeping bad and donned the rest of his armor.
He had never been able to sleep after those dreams about her, and if he wasn't resting, he might as well allow another brother to sleep when he could not.
He found Kix on watch resting against a fallen log, checking his supplies in the mid light of the fire his helmet at his side. "Get some rest," he ordered the medic, not unkindly.
Kix looks up at him, his expression indicating that he hadn't heard him approach. "I'm alright sir," Kix replied respectfully.
"A brother might as well get some sleep," Rex insisted, and Kix sent him a scrutinizing look.
Rex knew that look-and knew very well that the medic wasn't about to leave. Of all his men, it is only Kix that will completely ignore his orders. Silence fell between the two, and Rex still hoped that Kix might finally just get up and leave, but the man did no such thing. He fiddled with his kit for a long while, occasionally sending glances at Rex, and then another glance in the direction of the small bundle of blankets huddled around one of the fires that could only be Ahsoka.
Uneasiness settled into the pit of his stomach as Rex noticed the pattern between the two Kix is making, and his guard was up. Torrent Company noticed the change between him and their Commander, and Rex had no desire to humor curiosity. In truth, Rex wanted the answers to the change even more than the rest of his brothers-and was no closer to them.
"You know sir, she hasn't been sleeping well," Kix said hesitantly, glancing quickly at him out of the corner of his eye before turning his attention back to the lump of blankets.
Rex frowned, and discontent filled him as Kix confirmed what Rex had been susupecting for a while now. He let out a small noise of acknowledgement, but nothing more. If Kix was prying for information his own way, Rex refused to be baited. He knew well enough there was an understanding in his men that there was-had been- "something" between Rex and their Commander, but he refused to illuminate the situation further. Still, it didn't fail to unsettle him. He knew she hadn't been sleeping.
He knew that something was different with her-he just didn't kriffing know what it was. Or why.
Actually, there were a lot of things Rex wasn't too clear on recently, and that fact was beginning to irk him. He was a Capitan, and he knew when his men were keeping something from him. He was-had been, he corrected firmly-Ahsoka's friend. He knew when she was keeping things from him too.
Her behavior had started as soon as he'd woken up from a mission gone wrong several months ago. He'd woken up alone, which in itself was not unusual, but the distinctive lack of a certian Jedi padawan was slightly disheartening. When his men found he had finally awakened, he was greeted enthusiastically, and then scolded later by a grim faced Kix, warning that next time the infamous Capitan of the 501st wouldn't be so lucky. Kix refused to talk to him further than that, fussing around with remaining patients, and Rex had inquired to his men about the medics words.
He had been meet with an unusually tight silence from every single one of them that had been on the mission with him. No matter who he questioned, he received a short, hesitant reply which repeated the same thing "You shouldn't have made it sir. None of us should have. You were just lucky the Commander was there." No elaboration. No grand retellings of a harrowing escape. No bragging about how many clankers were killed. The lack of embelishments made him uneasy.
He sought out the Togrutan apprentice immediately afterwords-if anyone would clear up what happened, it would be her. The only problem was, that it took him an usually long time to be able to track down the young woman, and by that time the undercurrent of unease had turned into a full fledged, feeling that something was definitely wrong.
By the time he had finally caught the young woman, it was clear that she was avoiding him-and her answer to what had exactly happened on the mission was curt, as she looked anywhere but directly at him.
It was an ambush. They got caught, they managed to get out.
He pressed her for answers, but she had snapped at him, telling him to just be lucky he was alive before she stalked off, leaving him bewildered and more than a little injured.
He was being left in the dark about something, and no amount of pressuring his men could get them to give insight, leading him to eventually realize that they'd been ordered to keep their mouths shut. That Ahsoka meant to keep him in the dark.
That, more than anything, stung him.
Rex let out a puff of air at the memory, and Kix glanced back at him curiously. "Sir?" He prompted after Rex failed to respond.
"Any reason she might not be sleeping Kix?" The question was cool, but pointed.
He can almost feel Kix wincing, before he reluctantly mutters a tentative affirmative.
"Care to explain?" It was blatant dig for answers that he already knew he wouldn't get, but he had to try anyways.
There was an uncomfortable pause, as Kix shifted, sighed, and looked away. "Can't sir." The reluctance was clearly there, apologetic and resigned. Rex bites back a bitter retort-he knew orders are orders, but they are brothers-he forced himself to swallow the bitterness.
He stared into the fire, and let out a low grunt. "I figured," he replied. Defeat made his voice heavy.
Kix started to say something, before he thought better of it and let out a low sigh. The apology was there, filtered in the heavy air.
Rex didn't acknowledge it.
The next morning, Ahsoka stood awake and alert before the sky started to lighten. Another thing out of the norm-it was usually Rex or General Skywalker that had to rouse the young girl from her slumber, and she never was particularly friendly about being woken up either. Maybe he was being resentful. He should be grateful that he didn't have to keep after his Commanding officer, but the only emotion he could dredge up was annoyance.
Ahsoka had been acting too strange for it to be a welcome change, and no matter how responsible she was acting, it only served to irk him. But he stuffed it down beneath the professionalism, and pulled on his bucket as Kix, Jesse, Sinker and several other shiny's fall into place around the Commander. Intel said there was Separatist movement on the planet, and Ahsoka and a squad was dispatched to confirm the rumor.
The squad trudged through the damp terrain, the rich brown mud stuck to their boots, as they attempted to navigate the thick jungle. It had been moments like now when Rex envied the Jedi-Ahsoka was hopping neatly between the driest spots she could find in attempt to not get mud wrapping her calves in another pair of leggings.
The air was thick with humidity and alive with chatter of the local wildlife, but there was no beauty to the swampy terrain-it was all muted browns and dark greens, even the skies seemed permanently in a grey haze. They had trekked through the swamp for the better part of the day, but there wasn't a trace of Seperatist movement.
"Who the kriff would build a base on this sort of backwater planet anyways?" Asked one of the shinie's-Kicker- sourly in their buckets. There was a dull mutter of agreement. Temperature regulated suits or not, the mud made it a pain to navigate-and Rex wasn't exactly looking forwards to getting all of it out from in-between the cracks in his armor.
There was quiet grumbling from the shiney's as their trek continued, which eventually dissolved into chatter that Rex normally cut down on during missions, but he couldn't stir up anything in him to repremaind them.
A renting shriek quickly shattered through the chatter as several huge spiders dropped ontop of his men. Shouts of dismay echoed through their communications, and no small amount of swearing as blaster fire rent the air. Long, hairy mandables clicked angrily as blasters sizzled against their skin, flinching away from the assult, and then back to attack again. One frenzied spider knocked Rex against a tree, but a blaster bolt to the face made it skitter away quickly as it had come. The rest of the encounter was in a daze for Rex as his head throbbed at the whiplash.
Kix and one of the shiney's- Torque maybe- scrambled to their feet as the spiders retreated, and joined the attempt in fending the creatures off. Most of them skittered away, around the fire and retreated up into the trees for easier prey. There was a shout from Jesse as one of the spiders attempted to bring it's prey with it as it retreated from the assalt, pincers digging in between cracks in his armor, dragging him up into a tree. Jesse cursed fluently as he leveled his blaster at the creatures face.
The arachnid screeched as blaster fire burned it's eyes, rearing back and dropping Jesse, before crawling back up the tree, blinded. Jesse's cursing hadn't to let up even after Kix rushed over to the injured man. Rex winced as he saw the armor was cracked down the leg, and there was a slow trickle of blood coming through the cracks.
"What were those kriffing things?" Kicker demanded to no one in particular. "Local wildlife," Rex told him shortly as he watched Kix strip the armor from Jesse's leg quickly, revealing a bloodied mess underneath.
"Great. So we're going to be eaten by giant kriffing spiders while we sleep," Torque muttered sourly as he absently rubbed his ribs.
"If they're smart, they'll leave us alone after this." Kix replied tartly as he set to work cleaning the wound before wrapping it up. "I have some bacta back at camp," he informed Rex. "He'll need more after we get back to the Resolute, but it could have been worse." The medic turned his attentions then to the rest of the men, who stood gingerly, but no one had gotten anything worse than a few hard knocks besides Jesse.
"Is he able to walk?" Ahsoka's higher voice cut through the grumbling baritone of his brothers, and Rex turned to face her. She stood a respectful distance away from the injured man, directing her words at Kix.
"Yes Commander, however I wouldn't recommend.." "We finish the patrol, then back to camp." She said briskly, before she turned and resumed picking her way though the marsh without so much as a glance back at the wounded man.
Indignation swirls in him as she doesn't even look concerned for Jesse as he's pulled to his feet. "Commander," Rex heard himself call to her before he could stop himself, the word tight with anger.
She stiffened in surprise, but when she turned around she was all serenity and haughtiness. He approached her, leaving Kix to finish tending to Jesse. "What are you doing?" he demand, his voice pitched low enough so their men don't overhear.
She leveled him with a cool look that was worthy of General Kenobi himself. "Finishing the patrol, Capitan. What we're supposed to be doing," she told him stiffly.
"Jesse needs rest, not tramping around on his leg," Rex told her taughtly.
"Kix said he was well enough to walk," Ahsoka retorted coolly, crossing her arms infront of her.
"That doesn't mean he's fit to continue with a patrol," he replied sharply.
"Neither Kix or Jesse is protesting Capitan." She said haughtily. Anger he'd tried to keep pinned down finally snapped up at her nonchalant attitude.
"What's gotten into you?" He snapped, frustrated and bewildered.
The momentary loss of his control seemed to shake the young Togrutan, who's blue eyes widened in surprise and guilt and maybe a tinge of hurt as she took a half step back, hands falling to her sides.
The moment of weakness was all Rex needed to press her further. "You've been acting like this," he gestured to her change of dress and her previous attitude sharply, "For months now. Kriff Ahsoka, if you can't even-why won't you just talk to me?" He asked exasperatedly, and a little bit desperate.
For a moment he thought he recognized the Ahsoka that stood before him, but she disappeared back into the shell she'd been masquerading as, and her expressive eyes fadde into cool neutrality so fast he wasn't even sure it even happened.
"As frusterating as Jesse's injury is, there's no reason to lose your temper Capitan." Her voice was as neutral as her expression, although there was a tinge of coldness edged there, before she turned on heel and stalked ahead of the group, leaving him behind without a further comment.
"It's frusterating because you should have noticed something before it happened!" The accusation was unprofessional and childish, but it was born of anger and indignation and concern for his men.
She whirled around to face him, her face angry while her eyes are bright with guilt. He recoiled at the sight, and she bared her teeth at him. "Don't you think I know that?" She demanded, her voice low and raspy.
"Ahsok-" He started to reply, realizing his mistake, before she pulled up her defenses again, and everything melted away to smooth indifference. "We continue the patrol," she said shortly, leaving no room for arguments before turning around and continuing to walk away.
Bewilderment colors over the myriad of emotions he felt as she walked away. For whatever reason Ahsoka had to be cross at him, the matter lay between them.
She made a point of pride to remember every brothers name, to mourn for those who died, to check up on every man in her Company after recovering from battle.
-No matter how angry she was with him, she never had walked away from a brother because of him. She had never ignored her mens best interests in favor of their missions. It was something of a frusteration for Rex, but it was a quality that had endeared her to her men.
He would have never believed that Ahsoka Tano could so collectedly march away from her wounded men in favour of finishing a kriffing patrol.
But it wasn't the first time his beliefs had been proven wrong.
The sight still left a bitter taste in his mouth.
They reached camp just before night fall, and Jesse was towed away by Kix so he could treat his leg properly and the rest of the patrol dissolved silently to their respective duties. Ahsoka disappeared to the farthest side of the camp, and for once Rex was glad that she's gone. It had been their final sweep of the land, and tomorrow their patrol would be picked up and they were to rejoin the rest of the 501st on the Resolute. No Seppie bases, only large and potential venomous spiders who found clones didn't make for an easy meal.
It had been Jesse's turn to take first watch that night, but Rex relieved him of the duty. His brothers were piled around the dying embers of a fire, forgoing tents in favor of company, and he could see Ahsoka sitting just beyond the dying light of the fire. They were the last two awake, and now there was no place for her to escape.
He's tired of the tight answers and wary glances and the off kilter changes going around him. He wanted answers, he had a right to answers, especially now that their conflict had reared it's ugly head in their duties and not just their personal life. He refused to be turned away again.
Ahsoka must have felt the change in the air, because he watched her stiffen slowly. There were a few taught moments, before she climbed to her feet. "I'll patrol the perimeter." She said shortly, refusing to look at him. "I'll come with you," Rex replied, getting to his feet. She glanced at him as if to reprimand him, but he stared back unflinchingly.
"Take the other side, I'll meet you halfway." Even cornered, she refused to give in. She plunged into the darkness silently, and he made a steady patrol around the perimeter around the other side.
He encountered her more than half way through the patrol, as she stood staring upwards, arms crossed around her. "Commander," He said quietly, and she whirled around, surprised.
She collected herself a moment later, and straightens. "Capitan." The word lacked her usual playful emphasis.
Tension radiated off of the young woman, just short of down right hostile. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest, her legs spread firm and challengingly.
The posture disheartened him greatly. Still, even setting personal issues aside, something needed to be said to her-it was his job as Capitan to keep his men safe. "Sir, what happened during the patrol-" "He's fine now, isn't it?" She cut across him with a slice of her usual impatience.
He grimaced. "Yes, but that's not the point." He protests mildly, as spikes of irritation grew.
"Your men are not in any sort of critical condition, and we leave tomorrow Capitan. I don't see where your concern is." She told him almost carelessly, as she turned on heel and walked away from him. Rex stood stunned as she sauntered off, staring after her disbelievingly.
"Your?" He finally forced out. She paused, but didn't turn around. "You said 'my men'." He repeated slowly.
"They are, aren't they?" Her voice drifted coolly back to him, but the lines of her shoulders were taught, and there was a hitch in her voice.
"They're your men too," he reminded her quietly of her responsibility to them, that their loyalty was to her as well. One last plea for her to come back from where she now stood. For their men, for their company.
She stiffened, and for a moment Rex thinks that he'd finally gotten to her, but the hope was snuffed out when she continued her walk, her steps short and clipped.
"What did I do?" He asked her receding form, the question that he had kept wrapped up and shoved into the back of his mind spilled out of his mouth, heavy and just like that, they're not fighting over her actions as a Commander, her attitude toward their men, but everything that had been between them.
It had been a months since their last mission, where he had been shot, and woken up to everything changed. He'd tried to confront her before, and she'd only offered him excuses, told him that she couldn't.
He couldn't understand what he would have done to her that would have evoked that sort of reaction from the young woman.
She paused once again, but he didn't have the energy to try and coax her into fixing whatever has happened. He was tired and hurt, and wanted nothing more than to leave this entire mess behind him. "Why do you care?" The question was equal parts sullen and tired. She didn't say it, but there was a sorrow in her steadfast refusal to look at him, and then the unsaid meaning hung between them.
He snorted, staring at the graceful curves of her montrals, briefly wondered if she had forgotten everything between them. "Why do you think?" He asked wearily. If she hadn't figured it out by then…
She remained silent, clearly not appeased.
Because he simply could not flip a switch and make himself stop feeling for her like she'd done for him. Because even as she hated him, he could only care for her and her wellbeing; as much as he wished he didn't.
"Because you're not a machine, Ashoka." He told her, his voice soft and sharp, irate and pitying.
"I am a Jedi." She retorted tightly, refusing to look at him.
"Jedi." He echoed hollowly, mocking and skeptical and tinged with resentment; not at her, but at what she was trying so hard to be. What Ahsoka was giving herself up to be.
Experience had led Rex to know that you cannot become something you are not-and the passion that is Ashoka Tano could never be as detached as Jedi are expected to be. It would kill her, destroy everything that make her Ahsoka. It would destroy any being that had a heart.
And he couldn't watch her do that to herself. He loved her too much to see that sort of self destruction.
There was something hostile in the silence that followed that challenged him to say something more about the Jedi. She was looking for an excuse out of their conversation, a reason to be angry, a reason to finally burry everything they had between them.
And he refused to give it to her. He's too tired of fighting for her only to be rejected. If that's her choice, then so be it.
The lines of her shoulders dropped, and she began to turn around. He could see the outline of the side of her face, as she scrutinized him. He heard her take a deep breath as she turned to face him completely, but no words came. Her arms were wrapped protectively around herself, and some part of him that has not given up completely twists at the sight. He must have done something bad to merit that reaction from her. "You used to be able to talk to me kid." His voice was teasing, but wistful.
The old nickname fell past his lips effortlessly, and somehow putting himself back that far made his gut twist unpleasantly; but he found himself half wishing for the time when he was just her faithful Capitan, and she was just "kid."
She frowned at the nickname, confused and surprised and maybe a little bit hurt, but even if he used to understand every glow and dimming of her eyes, the emotions flickered past too quickly to catch.
"Don't call me that." She said sharply, and he forced back a flinch at the harshness in her voice. "Sorry Commander." He corrected himself, ignoring the bile that was rising in his throat. Her eyes darkened and her lips turned down sharply, as her hands sat on her hips. "Or that." She added, eyes flashing. "Ahsoka." He amended hesitantly, and she seemed placated, because her hands fell from her hips and crossed loosely over her chest.
The ease of the moment faded quickly, and Rex watched her carefully as she fidgeted with her lightsabers, the hem of her shirt, but kept her gaze somewhere by his feet. He knew she was getting ready to tell him something, and he had the patience to wait until she knew what she wanted to say. "You almost died." She whispered finally, and the words took him aback for a moment, not quite sure what she was talking about.
"What?" he asked guardedly, not quite sure if he'd heard her properly.
"You almost died," There was tremor to her voice, and he couldn't see her face, but he could hear the pain in her voice. There was a heaviness in her voice that Rex thought he could understand, but he had no words to place it .
"It's part of the job." He reminded her gently, frowning. She knew that. She had mourned for enough of his brothers to know that it wasn't expected to loose several men every mission-if not more. Being an officer was a title, and in the end, that title said nothing about the strength of his armor, or his luck on the field.
Small hands balled into fists, and she turned away. "I almost lost you," she murmured, her voice pained and distant. His heart twisted unpleasantly at the note of vunerability in her words. He advanceed on her cautiously, until he could make out her face in the darkness, and tentatively reached out to touch her shoulder in comfort. She flincheed in surprise, her face turning back to look up at him. For a moment, her eyes darkened, but she did not pull away. "When Kix said there was nothing we could do.." Her voice wavered, and her breath hitched. "I…" Her eyes darkened and sparkled with unshed tears. Another sigh was heaved from her, followed by a moment of silence.
"Jedi aren't supposed ot have attachments," she said finally, the rules sounding more like excuses than reasons. "Because attachments lead to the Dark Side," She murmured, and there is a weight of implications in these words that he thinks he might understand, but he's not sure he wants to. "And I've tried Rex, I've tried so hard not to…but I just-" Her voice cracked as her eyes squeezed shut, and her arms wrapped around her, even as he instinctively pulled her against him. She shuddered against him for a long time, before she finally stilled.
She pulled away, her eyes haunted as her eyes flit over him. "You almost died," she whispered again, fear and helplessness coloring her voice, as well as a desperation for him to understand something she refused to explain.
And slowly, he started to understand why she forbid her men from saying anything, why she had pushed him away. Why she pushed all of them away.
It made sense he realized, dread started grow in the pit of his stomach.
He understood then, what line has been crossed-the line that Ahsoka was so desperately trying to cross back over, but neither of them could turn back. Nor, he liked to think, would they chose to-and therein lay the problem.
Their bond was dangerous-to themselves, to their men, to their respective duties. Her anger; her refusal to acknowledge him was what should have been the best course, and had he been in her place, he couldn't say his reaction would not have been the same. But he was tired of trying to fight himself over this, when before it had been easy: careful, slow, but without all the painful, jarring rejections and helpless, useless words.
"I can't just let you go," Rex told her quietly, breaking the silence. Not now. Not after he had before, not when he knew she still felt for him, not when he was the luckiest kriffing man alive to have held her attentions.
Not when he knew she loved him.
"I know," she replied, her voice defeated and also a little bit relieved-and Rex knew it the closest he'd get to an agreement with this new Ahsoka, who now held to the code that used to be her reasoning as an excuse to hold her back. "But I can't-" she began, and he cut her off-he refused to let her retreat behind all the codes and regulations, and everything else that should have kept them apart.
"I'll take what I can," he told her, giving her an wry half grin that felt forced, and part of him loathed how desperate he sounded. The larger part didn't care as long as there was a chance of fixing them, and whatever they'd had.
One tan hand folded around one of her smaller slender ones. Slowly, her fingers tangled themselves amongst his.
The tension that crackled like an ionstorm between them had faded into the quiet.
That was enough for him.
I'd go back and do more editing, but if I did, I'm afraid this would never get done. And it needs to.
Clarifying anything that might have been vague or confusing- I'm doing this on the basis that Rex understands to some degree the code of attachment, and lets be real: He's been around Anakin enough to see what happens when you really make a Jedi angry. So no, he doesn't really know what Ahsoka did in Jade-Max's lovely "Attachments Forfeit" (which you should all read if you haven't) , but he does however understand that whatever happened was frightening enough for her that it was bad, and whatever she did to save his life was breaking some sort of Jedi Code/ touching the dark side, whatever.
This defiantly didn't turn out how I wanted it to. There are at least seven different versions of this on my laptop, but this was by far the one that was easiest to finish without turning into a miniature saga.
Hope you enjoyed it :)