Ahsoka woke slowly. She felt good. Lighter, somehow. It took her a few moments to realize she wasn't in her room, but beyond the fact that the pillows here were nowhere near as comfortable, she didn't really care. Ventress' presence was strong. In another time, it would have worried her. Now it was a reassurance, a feeling that buoyed her heart and made her smile.
Her happiness lasted until she realized that Ventress was here, and not with Chuchi.
Ventress looked up from the corner she'd been meditating in, slowly stretching her stiff limbs before she moved to stand.
"I'm here. How do you fe-"
"Doing…senator things, I imagine."
Ahsoka managed to sit up before Ventress could take the high ground, and shoved away all attempts to push her back down.
"Why aren't you with her? I'm not the one that needs protecting! How could you just-"
"I can't be in two places at once, and it was a choice of staying with the person who would have complained less."
Ahsoka's hands shot out, grabbed the other woman's arms and squeezed with surprising strength. Her anger more than made up for how tired she felt.
"No! It's my responsibly and I-"
"Ahsoka, stop. The Republic can look after their own."
With effort, Ventress pried the togruta's hands away. Ahsoka's mind flickered between anger and confusion, and the moment Ventress turned away, she slowly rolled herself off the bed and began staggering towards the door. Ventress quickly intercepted her.
"Oh you can be adorable at times, you know that? …I can't remember the last time I used that word."
Ventress mumbled something to herself and frowned. She didn't even look in Ahsoka's direction when she tried to step around her, bending down to shove a shoulder into the girl's gut and straightening quickly. Ahsoka found herself upside-down as Ventress carried her like a sack of irate vegetables back to bed, kicking and shouting all the way.
The door opened, and Chuchi was treated to the sight of Ahsoka sullenly eating under Ventress' unflinching gaze. Ahsoka noted her presence in moments and immediately leapt off of the bed and ran towards her.
"Chuchi are you alright? I was so worried you didn't have someone to protect you because I let myself-"
Chuchi cut off her friend's babbling with a hug, which Ahsoka didn't hesitate to reciprocate.
"Ahsoka, I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Chuchi laid a hand on Ahsoka's shoulder when she turned to throw a glare behind them, and moved so that the two faced each other again. "Don't blame Ventress. I asked her to stay and look after you."
"I…I'm sorry, Chuchi. I messed up."
"It happens. For now, just worry about getting your strength back."
Chuchi walked her friend back to the table and sat down beside her, acknowledging Ventress with a nod. Ventress didn't respond, but didn't ignore the gesture either, sliding a basket across the table.
"So…how much do you remember about your talk with Nelson?"
Something in the Senator's voice caught Ventress' attention. It wasn't a casual question.
"At first, he completely brushed me off. He was completely unapologetic for his actions and all but accused Barriss of intentionally sabotaging things on Chromistro. I just got so angry that I…might have…um…bounced a few troopers off the walls?"
Ahsoka's expression withered with shame, while Chuchi's remained carefully neutral.
"And what happened to you afterwards?"
"…I can't remember. Just…pain and anger. I was ready to just wring his neck and I-" An audible snap made Ahsoka pause and take a breath, carefully setting down the piece of cutlery that had broken in her grip. "I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how this must have reflected on you. And now there's no way I'll get another chance to speak to him."
"No…but not for that reason that you think."
"What do you mean?"
"…Admiral Nelson died last night."
Ventress burst out laughing.
"I didn't think you had it in you! Was it as good as you hoped it would be?"
"I didn't kill him! I…wanted to kill him…but I'm…pretty sure I didn't."
"You didn't." Chuchi shook her head and placed a minicomp on the table between them. "The medics say it was some kind of neurological damage. It was extensive and likely developed over a long period of time."
"Oh. …Is it strange that I don't feel very bad about that?"
"Yes." Ventress said flatly. "After everything he did, the Admiral will get a hero's burial and never have to face up to what he did. Privately, the Senate will likely pin any wrongdoings on him posthumously, and no one will punished for what happened. You should be angry."
"That's…" The almost-guilt in Ahsoka's eyes was washed away, and her expression became hard, fixating on Chuchi. "That's exactly what the Senate's going to do, isn't it? How can you even stand to be a part of something like that?"
"It's the battlefield I fight on. The fight may not be physical, but the stakes are just as high. No matter what people may think of those on the Senate, giving up my position would mean letting the kind of people who would want Chromistro and it's suffering to be forgotten to have unchallenged control of the Republic."
Chuchi had replied in her best diplomatic tone, but internally, she was shaken by the accusation that Ahsoka's words carried. There was anger-no…disgust in Ahsoka's eyes, and it was being directed at her. Under that gaze, Chuchi looked away first. Ahsoka finished the rest of her food and left without another word, and Chuchi could only watch her go.
"I…" Being at a complete loss for words was something she didn't experience often, and Chuchi fumbled for the words she needed. "I've never seen her like that."
Ventress was watching the empty doorway just as intently. She flicked her fingers and pushed Chuchi back into her chair when she tried to stand.
"I need to-"
"Chase after her? Say exactly the right thing to calm her down and make everything right again?"
"Well, don't. You're going to need more than a few platitudes to calm her down this time. For her, this isn't just 'personal.' This is everything Ahsoka believes in not making sense anymore."
Realization dawned, and it all came together.
"That's why you helped her on Coruscant. You saw your own past in what was happening to her."
The look in Ventress' eyes wasn't anger. It wasn't exactly sadness, though, just…acknowledgement. You're exactly right, her eyes said, even if the words could not be spoken aloud.
"But…with Nelson dead, how can Ahsoka possibly find any kind of closure?"
"She can't. You can only push it aside by giving her a new direction in life, a new reason to live. That's what Dooku did for me."
"But that…that would mean changing her, turning her into something…"
Acknowledgement again, with no anger or accusation in Ventress' voice. And those two words made plain that Ventress detested the thought of what had happened to her, happening to Ahsoka.
"And all of this…" Chuchi refilled her glass as she spoke after a long minute of silence between them. "Because a hundred Republic officials couldn't notice one of their own going mad."
"Hmp. You'd think that an admiral would at least receive regular medical examinations during wartime."
Chuchi froze, glass halfway to her mouth. She set it down slowly, wiped her hands, and stood gracefully.
"Thank you, Ventress."
Chuchi smiled, tapped a button on her comm, and began making calls. She needed to see a doctor about a brain.