title The Pieces Don't Fit Together
Word Count 3493
Summary Rex observes his General; all is not well. Written for the substance abuse prompt on my hc_bingo card. Title and cut-text from "Astronaut" by the Dresden Dolls.
There's the sense that something is wrong with General Skywalker. No one says it, of course. It would be insubordination, and besides the General has always been a little different from the other Jedi military leaders. Clone Captain Rex can understand that, even respect it.
They joke about it - "Last one home buys the drinks, and three more for the General." Skywalker takes it in stride, laughs along with them, doesn't seem at all bothered; it's good-natured fun, all of it. The celebrations after the victories, dealing with the losses, and the adrenaline and whatever strange wonderful thing that flows through Skywalker's blood that makes him a Jedi, makes him super-human. Rex isn't in a position to stop any of it, but he's not sure it needs stopping. It seems, if not normal, then somewhatnormal, and nothing bad is happening - nothing besides the normal defeats in the war, anyway.
They're coming down from another battle - a victory, this time. Rex is cataloging the casualties and lost equipment with the quartermaster and Fives. Across the square, Commander Tano is scrubbing the dirt off her and the General's astromechs. General Skywalker is, for now, nowhere to be found. Rex catches Ahsoka raise her head every so often out of the corner of his eye - she's looking for her Master, and trying not to be obvious about it.
Soon enough, General Skywalker comes through he center of the square, hefting two jugs filled with some brown liquid in his hands. "Leave it to the General," Fives snorts, loud enough for Skywalker to hear. The General shrugs and hands off one of the jugs.
"For when you're done," he says. "You did a great job today. The Seppies'll think twice before trying something else in this sector." He always goes out of his way to say something encouraging, regardless of the outcome. And he was out in the fray with them; there are so many reasons they follow this man besides the Kaminoan conditioning. "We're heading back to Coruscant in the morning, unless orders change," he adds, which certainly goes a ways in explaining his chipper mood. Skywalker may think he is mysterious and sneaky, but Rex has been trained to read body language, and Skywalker is always happiest on Coruscant.
"Thank you, Sir," Fives replies, accepting the proffered vessel and gesturing at the one still firmly grasped in Skywalker's hand. "All for you, huh, General?"
Skywalker laughs. "Get back to work," he replies, sauntering towards his apprentice. Rex frowns at his retreating back, uncertainly uncomfortable for a moment. He can't place why, so he turns his attention back to Coric, Fives, and the task at hand.
General Skywalker isn't at the morning briefing the next day. His Padawan is instead, going over the previous day's battle and their plans to get underway to the capital. She does not make any excuses or give any explanations for the General's absence in front of the rest of the men, but Rex pulls her aside afterward. "Nice briefing," he comments.
"It's easier when nobody's around to interrupt me," she replies, referring to her Master's impressive ability to make her briefings into hisbriefings. "If you need something from Master Anakin, I'm sure he'll be on the bridge later. I think he was just... he needed the sleep."
And because it's just the two of them now, nobody makes a joke. Rex isn't sure what to say, exactly, either, since no one has come right out and said it out loud and he's not sure how much she sees. "Like I said, it was a good briefing, Li'l One," he replies, and she beams, still able to find happiness in small pleasures - like the acknowledgement of a job well done. He feels bad for her, but doesn't say anything as they both go back about their business.
When they're on Coruscant, Rex's path doesn't tend to cross with the Jedi he serves with. They are at the Temple, he is in the barracks, and so it is nearly a week before he sees Ahsoka and Skywalker again. They are arguing on the launch deck of the Resolute, all big arm movements and raised voices. Rex hangs back; he does not want to eavesdrop but it is difficult not to overhear. "So you WANT Obi-Wan to take over this mission?" Skywalker is demanding of her.
"That's NOT what I'm saying!" she snaps back. "I just said I was glad to have his company! Force, you are being SO ridiculous!"
"I can't believe you don't TRUST me!" he shouts, whirling around and throwing his hands up.
She storms after him. "I can't believe you don't LISTEN!" she retorts sharply. Before things can get more heated, Rex clears his throat and approaches them, saluting crisply. The argument immediately dies down as they try to pretend nothing is wrong. "Good to see you, Rex," Ahsoka says with a smile.
"Hey Rex," Skywalker echoes, face tight. Rex decides not to notice that the General's hands are shaking. "We're briefing in thirty." He shoots Rex a wild grin. "The Seps are amassing a fleet near Sullust." A space battle, then, which means they have a distinct tactical edge, especially if the Seppies don't know they're coming.
He wants to ask followup questions, but decides to wait until the briefing. He gets the feeling he won't have the General's full attention otherwise. He lets them pull him into a different topic, their argument seemingly forgotten.
The briefing goes smoothly, though General Skywalker seems tense with the presence of General Kenobi and some of the 212th. Rex finds this odd; usually, Skywalker welcomes his former Master's presence on missions. After the briefing is over, Rex goes to the docking bay to oversee the fighter prep. He knows it's something Skywalker does, but something tells him to go down there too.
When he arrives, the docking back is nominally empty - it's early yet and they're some hours out from Sullust. He sees Skywalker, a dark brown smudge stretched out across the wing of his bright yellow Delta-6 starfighter. Watches the General raise a flask to his lips, lower it, repeat. Rex wishes he were wearing his helmet.
Skywalker finally spots him and he shoves the flask into a pouch on his belt. He swings his legs over the side of his fighter's wing and waits for Rex to approach. The Captain does, eventually, weighing his options and saluting. "Hey Rex!" Skywalker grins, hopping down from his perch, putting a supporting hand against the fighter to keep his balance as he lands. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
"Thought I'd come down and help with the prep, Sir," Rex replies. It's not that he doesn't trust his General, he tells himself. It's not that he doesn't think everything is just as fine as it always is. Anakin Skywalker can handle himself.
Anakin gives him one of his lopsided grins. "Well thanks, Rex," he says. "I was gonna adjust the stabilizers for Gold Squadron, you can help if you want."
The ARC-170 fighters stretch in uniform rows down the docking bay, Skywalker's Delta-6 at the head. Rex assumes the stablizers in the Six have already been adjusted as far as they can go. Sure enough they start at the next in the line - Hardcase's fighter, his kills marked out on the nose in firm hashmarks.
They work in relative silence. Anakin hums to himself absently as he works, words of the song occasionally breaking through. It's not something Rex has seen him do before.
They work their way down the line. Rex decides to ignore how many times he has to pointedly redirect Anakin's focus. They are adjusting the stabilizers, not cleaning the intakes or dismantling the shield generators. Skywalker seems embarrassed, but laughs it off. "If I had time, I'd strip down the whole fleet," he says. Rex doesn't doubt it - what he does doubt is Anakin's ability to put it all back together again.
They defeat the Separatist fleet at Sullust, but not without heavy losses. A good half of the fighters Rex had helped work on earlier in the day do not make it back to the Resolute. He gives himself a moment to mourn his brothers, and then works on the reports, walking up and down the rows, tallying damage.
He hears Skywalker's voice ring through the docking bay. "I said I was FINE!"
Rex swallows and busies himself elsewhere until he knows he is alone again.
They're on leave on some backwater moon. Well, sort-of leave. There are no battles to fight for the moment; they are in a holding pattern until their next orders come in. Rex suspects they'll be sent to the Outer Rim this time - reports indicate major Separatist movement along some of the trading routes, and he doubts the 501st will be waylaid for long with that going on.
He's sitting in a bar with the rest of Torrent Company, nursing an ale and watching. Ahsoka is sitting beside him, wary, shifting uncomfortably. "This place smells," she comments. She doesn't just mean the bar; the whole moon has a particular rank odor that makes Rex grateful for helmet filters.
"The locals don't seem to mind," Rex replies.
"The locals seem too drunk to notice," Ahsoka points out glumly, resting her chin in her hand. "Like some other people I know."
Rex raises an eyebrow at her. "Now then, Commander," he says, deciding she is sort-of joking and matching her tone. "You couldn't possibly mean General Skywalker."
"I heard my name!" The aforementioned General Skywalker has plonked himself into the empty chair beside Rex, his drink sloshing over the side of the glass. "It's not nice to talk about people behind their backs, y'know."
"Then we'll just talk about you to your face," Ahsoka responds shortly. "We were talking about how excessive drinking effects cognitive functions like sense of smell." She wrinkles her nose for emphasis.
"Well, I know it smells like bantha farts here, so obviously you're not referring to mycognitive functions," Anakin retorts, slugging down half his drink. "C'mon, Snips, lighten up."
Ahsoka bristles and Rex kind of wishes he was somewhere else. He's never comfortable when the two Jedi have any kind of serious discussion; always feels like he's intruding. But Skywalker hasn't ordered him to leave, so he has to stay. "You're impossible," she snaps.
Skywalker shrugs, stands, swaying only slightly. "You're funny," he says and swaggers away. Ahsoka scowls, and Rex frowns into his ale.
Rex loses track of the General after a while. Finally he gets bored enough to leave; Ahsoka has gone back to their makeshift barracks already and he doesn't feel like talking about battle with any of his brothers. He's always been a little different that way; he loves his brothers and the camaraderie they have, but tonight he is tired.
He makes his way out into the cool night air, wishing he had his bucket to filter some of the stinking air. Someone is in the alley beside the bar, retching into the mud. Rex thinks about just walking by, but the figure seems to be in distress, and if he's learned anything in his time with the 501st, it's not to leave anyone behind - or at the very least, not to leave without helping where he can.
"M' a kriffin' Jedi..." the figure is slurring to himself, and Rex snaps to attention, not that Skywalker is in any condition to notice.
"Sir?" he ventures, taking a few steps closer. "General, are you alright?" SKywalker retches again, liquid splattering against the stone wall, the dirt of the alley.
"M' fine." He stumbles sideways, slams against the wall.
Rex steels himself. "With all due respect, Sir," he says, hooking an arm around Anakin's waist and hoisting him upright, "You don't seem fine." Skywalker tilts, but Rex manages to keep them both on their feet. "Let's go back to the barracks."
Anakin shakes his head. "Don' wanna," he says, perilously close to whining. He gags, head tilting back. As they manuever out into the waning light in the main street, Rex can see Skywalker's eyes - they're unfocused, swimming. "Obi-Wan's gonna, he'll jus' le..." He gulps. "Lecture me."
Rex doesn't know what to say to that besides the fact he thinks maybe General Kenobi needs to do just that. He knows better than to say it out loud, though. "You need to sleep this off, General," he says instead.
Anakin shudders, and Rex is afraid he's going to hit the ground again. Somehow they manage to make it back to the barracks, and while Rex is grateful for that, he wishes Skywalker could be a little quieter. He's saying something about Coruscant, or the history of the Republic, or starship engineering - Rex can't quite follow the train of thought - loudly, exuberantly.
Fives and Hardcase appear in the hallway and Rex is embarrassed for his General - it's one thing for him to see this, but for the rest of the men to see it (and not just one time), it's different. It changes things, however subtly. "Good thing the Republic picks up the tab," Fives snorts, leveraging himself under Anakin's other arm to help Rex balance better.
"Fives!" Even in this state, Skywalker can still tell them apart, which has always surprised and slightly impressed Rex. "Fives, tell 'em..." He trails off, eyes sliding closed, head lolling.
Hardcase takes the lead, peering around corners, making sure the coast is clear. They're all but dragging Anakin now, and Rex is glad when they finally get to the General's quarters. Fives lowers him onto the bed and Rex pulls off his boots, rolling him onto his side.
The three leave quietly, nothing said amongst them. None of them mention it again - this was not something they were meant to see.
"You look terrible."
Rex decides to pretend he's not eavesdropping as General Kenobi places a hand on Skywalker's shoulder. Sure enough, they are on their way to the Outer Rim, and Rex is glad Kenobi is with them. Skywalker's behavior is growing erratic, and it's starting to be difficult to pretend not to notice. The men have started to talk, and in more than the joking way they had before. Rex does his best to squash the gossip, but it's hard when he sees the same things they do - and, sometimes, more.
"I appreciate the compliment," Anakin replies, pulling away. "But don't you have a briefing to get ready for?" He sounds defensive, shifty.
General Kenobi clears his throat. "Are you okay?" he asks. "Ahsoka..."
"Whatever Ahsoka's been saying is probably over-exaggerated," Anakin says. "I'm completely fine. Just ready for this kriffing war to be over."
Rex stands completely silent when Kenobi says, so softly, so concerned, "Please don't lie to me."
"You have no idea what you're talking about."
They're captured. Not by the Separatists, but by local insurgents who think having a Jedi and a Clone as bargaining chips will help them gain control of a civil war. Bereft of weapons, Ysalimari in the corners of their cell to inhibit Skywalker's powers, they sit and wait.
"Well, this is stupid," Anakin comments, testing the give of the cell door, seeing how high he can jump without the use of the Force, trying to reach the creatures in the rafters keeping him from harnessing the power.
Rex decides it's better not to point out that it was Anakin's lack of focus that landed them here. It won't do any good anyway, he knows his energy is better spent working out a means of escape. He scans the perimeter of the room, looking for any weakness. Across from him, Anakin wipes sweat from his brow and suppresses a shiver. "Are you alright, Sir?" he asks.
Anakin glances at him sharply. "I'm fine," he replies, "It's cold in here." It's not, though, and Anakin is wearing his thick robes. Rex frowns inwardly. Anakin picks up one of the bowls their captors had used to feed them earlier and hefts it, taking aim and throwing it towards the ceiling. It clatters down; he has missed his target spectacularly. He begins pacing.
Their cell has a 'fresher attached. Rex is somewhat surprised by this, but grateful when Anakin gets violently ill on the second day. Rex has some medical training and does his best to keep Skywalker comfortable, but he has no medicines and no idea what is wrong. "Call them for help," Skywalker gasps out, huddled on the floor. "We'll overpower 'em."
Rex supposes if they get out of the cell and Anakin gets his powers back, they just might be able to do just that. He wonders if it is being cut off from the Force that is causing Anakin's sickness, but doesn't ask. Instead, he pounds on the cell door.
Anakin does not allow Coric to examine him once they are back on the Resolute. Despite the lingering illness, the pallor and the shaking, he instead locks himself up in his own quarters.
When he emerges again, some hours later, it is like night and day. "Just needed some sleep," he tells Rex on the bridge. "Musta been a bug or something. All better now." Ahsoka frowns at this, and Rex decides not to think about Anakin's cure.
The rumors die down, the jokes and the banter slowly peter out. Anakin's behavior is on an upswing, all manic energy and daredevil plans. He's social, friendly, charismatic and engaging. No one ever mentions how he was for that short time. Rex thinks it, though, and he knows Ahsoka does too. She's waiting for the other boot to drop, and he gets the feeling she knows more than she lets on.
He catches her in the mess hall one night, coming off third watch. She's brooding over something, worried. He considers them friends, so he goes to her. "What's the word, Li'l 'Un?" he asks, sitting across from her as she pokes at her mashed tubers.
She frowns, headtails twitching. "I can't talk about it," she says sullenly. "Sorry, Rex." And she truly sounds sorry; Rex knows she probably doesn't have anyone else to turn to. The Jedi wouldn't hear of it, and she'd be afraid of censure. To talk to Rex or any of the other men would be insubordination. Rex decides that Ahsoka probably is feeling very alone.
He simply stays where he is, sitting there, until she speaks again. "He thinks I don't notice," she says after a long moment, putting her fork down. "And just because he's not open about it anymore doesn't mean... He just feelsdifferent, after, and I'm just afraid..." She swallows. "I don't know what to do."
Rex almost suggests involving General Kenobi, but he is sure Ahsoka has already thought of that solution and discarded it for whatever reason. "I don't know," he says after a long moment. And he doesn't, really - this is not something Clones are susceptible to, at least not in his experience. They're human, after all, so it's possible, but he's never seen it happen and Clones can be sent back to Kamino for reconditioning anyway. Jedi don't have that option, and he has no doubt Skywalker would never count anything he's doing as a problem. "Have you tried talking to him about it?" He realizes none of them have ever said anything to his face about it in anything more than a joking manner. He probably thinks he's been getting away with it.
Ahsoka shakes her head slightly, eyes cast towards the table. "No," she admits. "He wouldn't listen to me anyway."
Even without Ahsoka or Rex going to him, General Kenobi gets involved. Rex supposes the man knows Skywalker better than anyone, so he has probably recognized the changes himself. And besides, Kenobi has never been shy about putting the younger Jedi in his place.
Rex has a feeling neither of them realize he's there, because the conversation they are having is painfully personal. And General Kenobi says, "Let us help you."
And General Skywalker snaps, "I don't need help."
And General Kenobi replies, "I'm not giving you a choice. I love you, Anakin. I cannot see you continue down this path."
Skywalker's voice breaks. "I can't..."
"You are so much stronger than this, Anakin. Please."
And then there is silence and Rex shows himself out.
General Skywalker is escorted off the Resolute by Healer Offee, headed... somewhere. The men talk. The rumor is a facility on Belderone, but Rex cuts off that line of thinking. It doesn't matter where their General is. What matters is their own mission, and Ahsoka is more than capable of leading them.
She leads, and Rex follows, until the order comes through and it all goes to hell.