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#uncle obi
lady-of-the-spirit12 hours ago
Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru do not get the appreciation they deserve!!
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darthlilytano22 hours ago
leia: hmm what do u think we should call our son?
han: uhhh...
luke: how about the name of someone you never met, not to mention that it wasnt even his real name?
leia + han: his name is ben!
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It's chapter two! I was too excited not to post it, it be like that sometimes....
Title: Do I Look Like a Creche Master to You?
Pairing: Obi-Wan Kenobi/Anakin Skywalker Warnings: none
Rating: Gen (for now, that will 110% be going up)
Summary: Mace has foreseen the unthinkable. The Temple is attacked and all the younglings are killed. To save them, they separate them and move them under the care of different Jedi Masters.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a good guardian but his Padawan was nine when he got him. Handling a five year one is a whole other ball game he isn't sure he is prepared for.
Anakin Skywalker would do anything to help his master. And honestly, the kid isn't so bad anyway. Besides, this may be the only chance he ever really gets to have a family with Obi-Wan the way he's always wanted. He's not going to give up the chance now that its been dropped in his lap.
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softieskywalker7 days ago
(Diff Obi-Wan&BabyLuke anon I just saw the idea and wanted to jump in) imagine like. "Old Uncle Ben" who Luke runs off too whenever he's feeling that need for Adventure. Because Old Ben knows all these fun stories and is *still* trying to convince him that planets made up of entirely water exist. Ben tells him about all these wonderful places & all these frankly stunning planets and one day Baby Luke asks 'which is your favorite' and Ben responds 'Tatooine'.
"But Uncle Ben!!!!! You said Kamino was completely covered in water! And Felucia had plants the size of buildings!!! How can Tatooine be better?"
Obi-Wan smiles. "Because Kamino and Felucia don't have you, Luke."
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softieskywalker7 days ago
Kenobi anon again, with a further image (sorry not sorry?) :Obi-Wan wearing Luke in a baby bjorn type thing while showing him holos of Padme and telling him stories about her fairytale style so that he might be able to know her at least a little bit. (I've been having Ben and Luke feels since the bts pics dropped, and I have Padme and Luke feels pretty much always, so I will def take any opportunity to share them with others who can truly appreciate them.)
馃槶鉂わ笍馃槶鉂わ笍馃槶鉂わ笍馃槶 that's so adorable!!!!!!! just uncle obi trying so hard to preserve padme's memory 馃ズ馃ズ maybe knitting onesies, socks or baby hats in padme's iconic colors??? or making a shaak plushie so luke has something reminiscent of naboo 馃ズ
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softieskywalker7 days ago
So which would you rather from the Kenobi series: Obi-Wan accidentally taking baby Luke along on high-speed chase shenanigans and thereby further cementing that Skywalker Need For Speed, or Obi-Wan wrapping baby Luke in the tiniest, cuddliest little blanket burrito with his plush bantha and singing him lullabies so that we are all graced with Ewan's lovely singing voice once more?
ok first of how RUDE of you to torment me with those extremely self indulgent images now i won't be able to think about anything else for an entire year. second, the second option. i firmly believe some kind of "obi wan protects tiny luke from danger" scene is inevitable so i would literally trade my soul to the devil to get that second one. just uncle ben singing lullabies??? to baby luke???? jedi songs that he probably learned in the cr猫che?????? songs that 25 years later luke discovers in like really old holocrons the empire didn't bother to destroy because baby songs are irrelevant to them??? and he sings them to grogu maybe??? and something in the back of his mind feels nostalgic??? like he already heard this song once???????????? 馃ズ馃ズ馃ズ馃ズ
i have. So Many Feelings. about this concept.
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onlyhoped9 days ago
I had always wondered how stayed under the radar on Ta//tooine when the planet residents legitimately knew him as B.en Ke/nobi, Crazy old Ben Ken;obi. One way this is explaned, through John Jackson Miller鈥檚 book聽鈥淜.enobi鈥 is that Ken/obi is a very common name on Tatooin..e. I personally like that. The idea that Kenobi is an old settler name on the sand planet, perhaps even distant, distant ancestors to Though, he doesn鈥檛 take the time to explore the other Ken..obis on his planet. As far as he鈥檚 concerned, Luk.e is the only family that matters.
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claranidala14 days ago
Padme: Quick question, where are the kids right now?
Anakin: They鈥檙e upstairs
Padme: They鈥檙e at daycare
Anakin: They鈥檙e at daycare?
Padme: They鈥檙e upstairs!!
Anakin: Why are you messing with me?
[Later that day]
Obi-wan: Where are the kids?
Anakin: I thought they were with you
Obi-wan, panicking: What? No!
Anakin: I鈥檓 kidding. They鈥檙e at daycare. Ha!
Obi-wan: What about me makes you think my heart can handle that joke???
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penguinkiwi-writes15 days ago
Who Am I But A Collapsing Galaxy?
Fandom(s): Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars (Prequel Trilogy)
Summery:聽Picking up the pieces is always harder with grief weighing on on you. Sequel to 鈥淲hen Night Falls鈥
Okay I admit, I thought about turning this into Cin/Shaak comfort smut but decided against it because I just wasn't feeling the vibes
minor note: Varrom Selon is the name I gave the Grand Inquisitor if you haven't read any of my other Temple Guard works yet.
Dantooine was decent enough, Cin supposed. The Temple wasn鈥檛 in as much ruin as Yoda had suspected鈥 though it would take a lot of work that they might not have to get it restored. For now, the Jedi were settled in ships, the Elders and Masters shielding the younglings and padawans, with the Knights filling in the gaps. Yoda鈥檚 shields alone were enough to put Cin鈥檚 shoulders at ease for a little bit.
But still, he had his reservations.
Dantooine was too out in the middle of nowhere with two Hyperspace Lanes too close for comfort. It was too predictable鈥 of course, the Jedi would want to hide out in the middle of nowhere. On top of that, Skywalker might be gone, but how many others did the Sith have with him? Varrom Selon had clearly turned his back on them as well, going after the other Guard during the Chaos that had been the siege of the Temple before Shaak had killed him. Once all the Guard had arrived鈥 all those who had survived, at least鈥 Cin had taken a headcount.
The numbers that had once totaled to two-hundred and fifty-six had been cut down to a meager eighty-three. Over half had been killed by either the Clones, Skywalker, or Selon.
The Core Guard, the Guards who were the closest to him, most trusted by him, it had been decimated.
Nira Tal killed by Selon, Hakra Dragoa shot over and over in the chest as he moved to protect a group of fleeing padawans, Tacar Anulig choked to death by Skywalker, and Saa Kowa, Adona Halis, and Lofanurra鈥 had stayed behind with several others to ensure their escape. Sienna Tanneri and Styr Rox had both reported that Yin鈥橲hinhen had been killed by Selon as well.
That meant that of the core, only Mari Gildow, Ashe Lark, and Syo remained along with the Charhound, Roq
Flin Ros-Vel. Mavvo Veenningels. Cimzo Mes. Ner Askau Maar. Kita Sheridan. Eder Rhis, Chahnoi Roka, Selah Mars, Dron Uttox, Kara Le, Eyal Trut鈥
And those were only a handful of those among the Guard whose names were among the dead鈥 and still, hundreds more had yet to be fully noted down. Thousands more. The Jedi Order was gone, or at least the Order as Cin had known it.
Now, their already small numbers had been cut down even more.
Several killed because of the Yinchorri Uprising before Naboo, Qui-Gon dead on Naboo, over a hundred dead on Geonisis at the start of the war鈥 and how many more had died throughout the War? How many were slaughtered and left to be unburied the night that the Temple Fell? The night when the Clones turned on them?聽
Too many. And there were too many gaps left to fill.
Of the Masters who remained, only five of the twelve Councilors survived鈥 Oppo Rancisis, who had met up with Tera Sinube when the Order had been Issued, Shaak Ti and Coleman Kcaj, who had both been at the Temple with Cin, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grandmaster Yoda who both survived the Order.
And the seven other seats needed to be filled somehow.
Fae Koon had taken his nephew鈥檚 seat with a grim look, and Cin had allowed himself to be set in Kit鈥檚 old seat. He didn鈥檛 dare look at Tholme as the Master sat where Saesee had once been. Jocata had gracefully taken her old position back, though sat where Ki-Adi had once been, while T鈥檙a Saa had silently accepted the seat of her former Padawan between Yoda and Fae. Vokara Che had taken up Stass Allie鈥檚 seat, and a 鈥榬escued-just-in-time by Voolvif Monn鈥 Depa Billaba had taken up her old seat as well.
But a Council did not make the Order, only gave it a sense of stability. And even within the Council storms and tensions brewed.聽
The sense of stability was a farce, with both he and Vokara rarely attending Council in person鈥 Vokara preferring to listen from where she was in the makeshift Healing Ward and Cin from where he stood with the rest of the Guard watching the skies. Cin had tried to refuse a seat on the Council, but in the end, they had won out.
Still, Oppo Rancisis鈥 righteous anger that Skywalker had been made a Knight so soon鈥 which had surely lead to his downfall as well鈥 clashed with the deep-rooted grief that clouded Fae Koon鈥檚 presence, the eldest of the Koons had lost so much already, to lose the child who had been like a son to him鈥 Cin could only imagine how much nearly four hundred years of time together hurt with Master Plo Koon gone now.
Vokara Che鈥檚 constant check-ins and interruptions from the makeshift Healing Ward only sparked more worry among the Councilors (It was strange to even think that he was counted among them anymore), and there was the minor detail that Anakin Skywalker had apparently been the father of two children, the two of which Kenobi had brought with him and Yoda.
And extremely powerful in the Force.
It was... worrying.
Furthermore, Yoda was wavering, wanting to step down from Grandmaster鈥 wanting to leave the Order. Wanted to make聽him Master of the Order. Cin refused and would keep refusing. He had allowed himself to be seated as a Councilor, but he wouldn鈥檛 allow any other tasks to keep him from the Guard save for finishing up Bene鈥檚 training鈥 even if some who had given up viewed it as pointless.
There were just too many things to do, Cin knew. But they all needed to be addressed... eventually.
There were many questions still, what were they to do now?
Rebuild, shore up defenses, and fight back, or scatter and hide and wait for an opportunity? Create a rebellion against this Empire that was rising or work in the shadows in silence? Try and contact those who had left like Ahsoka Tano or Eeth Koth or fade into obscurity?
And on top of that, there had been a storm brewing inside of Obi-Wan. Something violent and burning. Ready to burst forth and Cin knew what it was about. Like any parent, any Master, the other man was reluctant to believe the truth about Skywalker. That he had lead Clones onto the Temple鈥檚 grounds, had fought to kill, had done聽all聽that he had done. As if Cin didn鈥檛 have an ugly scar that went from shoulder to hip to prove it. As if Cin hadn鈥檛 lost full range of one of his arms because of Skywalker.
But Cin knew that a confrontation had been coming, he had been the one to kill Skywalker, after all.
He had hoped that it wouldn鈥檛 be today.
It rained more on Dantooine than it did on Courscant, despite both planets having temperate climates.
From what Cin could remember, Coruscant only had an average of a fifth to a fourth of the year having rainy days, and very rarely all day or weeks on end. And here on Dantooine, it had been raining for a week and a half straight.
The very young children who didn鈥檛 quite know what was going on were having fun splashing around under the watchful eyes of the Cr猫che Masters and members of the Guard who weren鈥檛 standing on lookout or patrolling the fields around their makeshift base. Some of the Padawans were as well, and maybe he saw one or two Masters and Knights sitting in the rain as well, but who knew. He didn鈥檛 leave the spot where he had positioned himself out in the front of the base.
Cin recalled that it rained much more on Lavisar. He had only gone back once or twice during his Padawan years, however. And if it wasn鈥檛 raining, the sky was still dark with smoke, smog, and dust. The cons of a mining and manufacturing planet, he supposed.
Rain made the new scars burn, an uncomfortable feeling accompanied by an equally uncomfortable itching feeling. Some days they ached, but that was beside the point.
He felt Obi-Wan Kenobi鈥檚 presence before he saw him stop next to him, the hood of his robes up and protecting him from the rain as best it could while Cin remained still and silent. Cin had since stopped tying his hair in a loose, partially back state, and the long strands remained in a tight bun out of his face, but it wasn鈥檛 as if it did much for him after standing in the rain for so long. It barely had time to dry before Cin was back outside, watching the skies for any danger.
Nonetheless, it wasn鈥檛 as if Kenobi鈥檚 cloak did much more for him in terms of keeping the rain off if he planned on just standing outside next to him.
鈥淪o,鈥 Kenobi started after a long silence. 鈥淵ou killed him.鈥
Cin was silent for a moment longer, closing his eyes for a moment. It seemed as if they聽were聽doing this today.
鈥淚 did,鈥 He confirmed after opening his eyes again. 鈥淚 believe I gave a full report to the rest of the Council. If you still have doubts, then there are many others among our numbers who can give you the details and confirm what I had done.鈥
There was another pause.
鈥淜illing is not the Jedi way, Master Drallig.鈥
鈥淚s that so? Then by all means,鈥 he starts, not looking over to the other Jedi. 鈥淧lease, tell that to the numerous Guards he murdered in an attempt to get past us.鈥
鈥淚s all you care about the Temple Guard?鈥
The sentence was blurted out, and Cin had to suppress a sigh. Obi-Wan Kenobi was grieving, was in so much pain. It would do Cin no good to lash out at his lineage鈥 great-nephew. He knew that. Still, the comment dug deep. It was something that Cin was often criticized for鈥 why not extend that care to the other Jedi as others do? But鈥 it was because of that love for other Jedi that he didn鈥檛.
鈥淜enobi. If I do not care for the Guard, who will? Do you remember where they stand all the time? Do you remember that they are there, that they live their lives without names in order to Serve other Jedi?鈥 he asked him. 鈥淩emind yourself, that Skywalker marched into the Temple with part of the 501st Legion, into our聽home聽where our聽children, our聽elders,聽and聽injured聽were with the intent to kill them all. I did what I had to.鈥
鈥淵ou could not have captured him?鈥
He turned fully to Kenobi at that, looking up at the slightly taller man.
鈥淜enobi, if he wanted to be captured alive, he shouldn鈥檛 have marched on the Temple and killed so many, ordered his men to kill so many. I watched him strangle one of my Core Guard in front of me, watched as she struggled, clawed at the invisible hands holding her, watched her fall limp and get tossed aside like a rag-doll鈥 you tell me, Kenobi, how was I supposed to capture him聽alive聽when it was clear he was already gone?鈥
The silence stretched between them, the only noise that could be heard was the sound of the rain and the sound of the children playing far in the distance. Kenobi took a breath, tugging at his hood.
鈥淚 loved him, Master Drallig, he was my brother鈥 like a son to me鈥︹
Cin鈥檚 eyes softened a bit at that. 鈥淚 know, I helped you train him in what little saber-fighting classes he chose to attend,鈥 he told him softly. 鈥淚t hurt, knowing that child had become so hateful, so swayed by the Dark.鈥 He turned back to the fields, gazing straight ahead. 鈥淏ut, I could not show mercy. Because what hurt more was knowing that very few of the Guard that stood with us as the Iron Wall would not make it out alive.鈥
Silence fell between the two of them again and then Kenobi sighed, shoulders sagging. 鈥淚 understand,鈥 he murmured. 鈥淟ike how Anakin was to me, the Temple Guard are like family to you. And you lost鈥 much more than I have鈥斺 鈥淒o not downplay your grief, Obi-Wan Kenobi,鈥 Cin said sharply, making the other Master startle. 鈥淭he grief you feel, the betrayal, the pain, the sorrow, it is not something that is lesser than mine鈥 your pain is not lesser, Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is just as painful as mine, as Shaak Ti鈥檚, as Bant Eerin鈥檚, as the Koons鈥, as the Grandmaster鈥檚, as Master Saa鈥檚. Do not downplay it. You are not in the wrong for feeling what you feel. You not only lost someone important to you, but you also lost many others with the betrayal of the Clones.鈥
He was silent for a moment, letting Keno鈥 no,聽Obi-Wan聽take in his words before tilting his head up, looking at the skies above again.聽
鈥淒antooine鈥檚 rain is beautiful,鈥 he tells him. 鈥淎nd out here, no one can tell if it is rain or tears.鈥
Obi-Wan did not wish to be held, nor did he wish for others to see the tears he shed. And Cin continued to gaze up at the sky, giving the younger Master the privacy to let go of his emotions that he needed to in the Dantooine rains.
There was supposed to be a more explosive argument but I chose not to go that route
At least Depa lived!
I'm also very tired while editing this so it might be hella off.
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uncle-kenobi23 days ago
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Look, I don鈥檛 even know how to shade but there are two very important messages I have to get across about Uncle Obi:
He has a lot of freckles
He is the best uncle there could ever be if you ask Leia
Thanks for coming to my talk, I鈥檒l take no criticism about these two points.
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fluffyhales24 days ago
Uncle Ben is the one who showed Peter the Star Wars movies for the first time.
He also looks like Ewan McGregor because I think that would be amazing.
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yolkygoblin24 days ago
I love how George lucas decided to make a franchise where the main character has a pretty normal name in our world but a ridiculous out of place one in his own
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nevertheless-movinga month ago
Anakin: Do you want to be Uncle Obi-Wan or Grandpa Obi-Wan?
Obi-Wan: I'm too young to be a grandfather!
Anakin: So Uncle then?
Obi-Wan: [strangled groaning noise] Sure.
I love Anakin asking this like you ask a small child if they want peas or carrots for dinner instead of asking if they want vegetables. Way to practice parenting on your dad brother by presenting something off-putting as a choice. Gold Star Anakin, I actually mean it.
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phoenixyfrienda month ago
Thoughts on 鈥淎untie Soka and Little Leia鈥 now that I鈥檝e actually got it posted:
Call it a director鈥檚 cut! The process of actually writing the thing, and also jokes made along the way. Link to the actual fic.
Unfortunately, I don鈥檛 have the energy for image descriptions, even the text screenshots. Might come back that later. Most of this was DMs with @atagotiak鈥.
This was an entire thing before I even started writing:
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Before I decided on ages and stuff Ahsoka, to Jango, who has had zero contact with Kaminoans: Okay I know I'm a Jedi kid so you hate me but this toddler is your clone from the future. Jango, tired: What the FUCK are you talking about. Rex, barely able to talk: Don't you dare leave me with him, Commander! Ahsoka: I'm not going to leave you I just--I'm so tired I'm so fucking tired I haven't slept in five days and someone tried to kidnap Leia two days ago I am so fucking tired I need help
Ben: [twenty years of depression followed by a 'now I'm safe' breakdown over the course of weeks] Sokari: [whatever the FUCK this mess is]
When Ahsoka mentions there only being three other Jedi at the time of her death, 聽I was thinking Kanan, Yoda, and Obi-Wan (Leia told her about the latter two living past her). She's not counting anyone that received training after the Temple fell, and she didn鈥檛 know about Cal.
When Leia says 聽鈥淚 was adopted and raised by one of the founders of the rebellion, a movement built on the desire to instate freedom and democracy in a galaxy that had lost even the pretense.鈥
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Depa: I'm no therapist but I diagnose you with "incredibly fucked up." Ahsoka: yeah, that鈥檚 fair
"Why did you pick Depa for--" She's pretty and I'm gay. Also because of the Kanan thing But mostly I'm gay "It's not a visual medi--" GAY
Empty of context beyond general post-fic AU: "Hey Sokari, we need to engage in psychological warfare against this individual and--" "I'm going to break into his office and leave a threatening note on his desk and leave no other sign that I was there. He'll see that his security is nothing and the only reason he isn't dead is because I'm too nice to kill him." "...okay, not what we were planning, but that works. Why is that your first choice?" "I really like breaking and entering, it's soothing." Ben just standing there with a bland smile like This Is Normal.
"We need someone to infiltrate a highly guarded facility in hostile territory." "So we're sending the Torrent kids?" [sigh] "We're sending the Torrent kids."
Rex and Sokari insist on both going by "Torrent" even though Rex could be a Fett. Jango really wants him to be a Fett. Rex has too many grudges to agree to being a Fett for... a while.
I really hope it's blatantly obvious that Ahsoka's not a reliable narrator for some things Ahsoka: Fett could care less if I died Jango: jfc even if you are older than me I can see you're fucked up. Drink your hot chocolate. Hells. She's got good reason to expect him to hate her as a Jedi! BUT. THAT IS NOT REFLECTIVE OF REALITY
We don鈥檛 get a lot of actual characterization for Jango, but the way I played him out here is he has never really parsed that Jedi are people before all this. It's a lot harder to treat them as a monolith when the traumatized former child soldier is having regular breakdowns in your shitty little kitchen
Fett: I respect you Ahsoka: No, don't do that
Ahsoka鈥檚 vigilantism is something that, in my mind, she's associating heavily with Zygerria and then the clones.
I figured that she never bothered to learn Quinlan鈥檚 teacher鈥檚 name but in the process of looking up some basic facts (whether he had a surname), I found that Wookiepedia was forced to give us a VERY wide range of possible death in Legends.
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Please take a moment to imagine Quinlan's FACE when Ahsoka initially dismisses him. Quinlan has put a lot of effort into being rogueishly charming! It's very useful for his line of work! He knows to expect either irritation or a return flirtation when he acts like this with people his own age! Ahsoka is not flustered OR rolling her eyes and insulting him, she's just ignoring him and it's a bit of a blow to the ego
This just makes me really happy:
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This was the initial comment I made, as a joke What if Maul is just. There. On one of the planets they make a pitstop at. What if Maul exists as the walking problem he is, but fifteen, and Ahsoka immediately tries to kick his ass and drag him back to Coruscant. I do not have room for this plot but What If
Despite not having room for this plot, I proceeded to write this plot.
Maul is kidnapped and it鈥檚 the best thing that ever happened to him HE'S FIFTEEN HE'S DUMB AS SHIT AND HAS A BAD ATTITUDE AND YEAH HE'S A DARKSIDER BUT HE'S FIFTEEN
Ahsoka: I sense... Maul [takes off sprinting] Rex: [immediately takes Jango's blaster and runs after her] Jango: Wait who Tholme: Who Quinlan: Who Jango: [looks at Leia] Leia: I don't know who that is either! Ahsoka, already wrestling a teenager to the ground: Oh no, you're a child, REX STUN HIM AND GRAB THE CUFFS, I'M SURE FETT OR THOLME HAS SOME
Fighting him isn't even legal, they have NO evidence of criminal wrongdoing, so first she needs to yell until he admits to something she can fight him about
Ahsoka: When I see Maul, it's on SIGHT Maul: WHO ARE YOU
Ahsoka: The Force didn't give me hands just to NOT throw them when I run into That Crafty Son Of A Bitch
Ben, when they arrive, after the tearful reunion: You... you brought Maul. Ahsoka: Well, yeah, he's fifteen and kinda dumb. I figured we could drag him here and force him into therapy, see what happens. Ben: I can't quite tell through the gag, but I think he's threatening to feed you your own spleen. Ahsoka: Lol, yeah.
Ben is absolutely on team "get Maul therapy" and will fight the Council on rehabilitating the baby Sith But also it's like. Here's your daughter! And your niece! And your daughter's QPP! Also your best friend, but baby, and his teacher, and the biological origin of a number of people you cared for deeply! AND ALSO THE GUY WHO SPENT LITERAL DECADES CRAVING YOUR DEATH, FOR SOME REASON
I just really want Ahsoka lovingly bullying Maul She gives him noogies and the horns don't protect him because girl has reinforced gloves
Maul's only allowed a low-power training saber and his fights with Sokari involve Much Taunting by her and Eventual Screaming by him, and everyone pops by to see: 1. Sokari doing the most absurd flips, for fun. 2. The bullshit that is ataru-shien reverse-grip jar'kai in the hands of someone who makes it work 3. What a Sith lightsaber form looks like 4. Just the general nonsense that is the way these two fight
Tia said 鈥淲rt ridiculous flips. I'm remembering that time she beheaded four Kryst'ad at once.鈥 and I just Rex brings up the quadruple beheading at one point to get someone to stop asking questions and the awkward, horrified silence almost makes him regret it. And then Sokari just snorts and makes a joke about how Rex once speared a slaver point-blank and everyone's just like hello??? "are you two okay" "no"
Maul absolutely starts crushing on Sokari after a 'sword under chin' moment and she's just very "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you're fifteen, bye" GO MAKE PUPPY EYES AT OBI-WAN OR SOMETHING
The crushes are the worst part of everything, really, she's an attractive young woman that can kick a lot of ass, and a lot of people are into that! Unfortunately, most of those people are a decade younger than she is, mentally, because all the people her actual age look at her and see a child on account of the 17yo body.
It鈥檚 almost a good thing she鈥檚 in no place mentally for a relationship.
I just want Ahsoka to wear beskar.... I think that would be Nice........
This AU is also what caused this post.
I'm deeply enamored by the idea that Ahsoka can win fights against "older" padawans pretty much unilaterally, even when they team up 2v1 And then she offers to fight 5v1 "But only if I have permission to fight dirty." Ben approves it, a horror show full of "I fought many wars and will scream in your face or kick you in the balls if that's what it takes" follows She wins. There are no permanent injuries, but her reputation certainly gets weirder. Nobody under the rank of Knight agrees to let her fight dirty again. She just lets that stand because, well, she's not actually a padawan, she's thirty-three.
I鈥檓 not going to write this but my brain was EVIL and suggested it:
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IT WOULD BE REALLY SAD IDK maybe 9yo Anakin has nightmares about what's happening to baby Ahsoka because bullshit about time-traveling force bonds IDK ANYWAY he cries to Sokari about the nightmares and she's like "oh shit" and it's time to go rescue herself from motherfucker unlimited
It's either that or she's like, expecting to welcome mini-me aaaany day now, for like, several months, before she realizes Something Went Wrong. Anakin鈥檚 dreams could even start right as she鈥檚 starting to realize something鈥檚 off.
Obi-Wan has never had a padawan that doesn't at some point bite Even Luke will, when pushed
OH also once the twins get Baby's First Lightsaber (training sabers, not real kyber), Sokari begs to borrow them for a dumb joke and tells Rex to get on her shoulders for a "Grievous Greeting" and they do The Thing
Jango and Ahsoka wrt Quinlan is just 鈥淒o I need to beat him up for you鈥 鈥淵ou realize I鈥檝e beaten up sith lords before?鈥
JANGO'S TRYING He's just. "Can we be friends? Can I--can I be the guy that just noticeably gets in the way of a creep on the subway so you can be more comfortable without someone making a scene? I'm fucking trying here, give me a hint."
We didn鈥檛 actually figure out Jango鈥檚 age until this point. The only reason Fett's age matters is for Quinlan making a Wild Oats quip after Jango says he didn't know about Rex until a few weeks ago, and Fett going "How old do you think I am? And how old do you think the kid is?" and Quinlan getting Very Awkward as he does the math. Rex overhears and lets Quinlan sweat for a bit before saying "I'm a genetically-modified clone someone grew in a tube, he didn't know or have reason to know until he saw me with Sokari." Which is like. Eight additional layers of WTF, obviously, but at least Jango gets to avoid awkward wild oats jokes
Like, you鈥檇 expect the rebuttal to be 鈥榟e鈥檚 my brother just with a biiig age gap鈥 or 鈥榟e鈥檚 my nephew鈥
I find it very unfortunate for Quinlan that I've decided his defining characteristic in this context is going to be repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth
He鈥檚 trying so hard but "That sounds like a cool thing, maybe I'll ask ab--and it's another fucking trauma."
I'm doing Ahsoka&Jango t w i c e (there鈥檚 another fic where I鈥檓 doing it)
It鈥檚 just a fun dynamic! So much resentful respect.
Like she's twenty seconds away from calling him a bitch at any given time and he's just there like "I don't like you but I do see you move like you're about to tell an entire building to get on their knees with their hands in the air and I can respect that" Also she's probably much less judgmental about using blasters than Obi-Wan is The Maul subplot actually started with me daydreaming about Ahsoka grabbing a blaster for Reasons
I like the idea of Jango just deciding the most Useful thing he can do is help teach the Smol how to fight. He's AWKWARD around Rex and Soka because he doesn't know if there's anything he CAN teach them.
I didn鈥檛 actually plan for Tholme to figure out the age thing, he just SAID it and I had to sit there like Wait.
Ahsoka, Rex & Leia: ahhh, children Tholme: you say that like you aren鈥檛 children
I liked getting to write Rex's little "I have worked with all of them, and they're all Terrible" He loves them But They once got stranded on a planet that didn鈥檛 exist and Ahsoka died and Anakin killed a god.
There was research and discussion as to whether Ahsoka could win against Tholme but seeing as she held her own against Vader, and fought Grievous at that physical age without dying, etc.... yeah, the only thing holding her back was her body not being what she was used to, and she鈥檚 had a few weeks go adjust.
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鈥淚 miss being able to just jump off skyscrapers鈥 is such a jedi thing
Jango: I'll take the gun back if he tries to leave, they can't get far before--WHAT THE FUCK He knows Jedi are scary but he鈥檚 still not really used to just how over the top ridiculous they are He knows how to deal with Jedi in battle, not Whatever The Fuck These People Are Doing
Rex isn't even a Jedi, he's just so used to working with them. 鈥淥h yes time for free-falling without a parachute again, same shit as always.鈥
Tia: I鈥檓 imagining Jango freaking out and Quinlan and Tholme being like. Concerned but mostly exasperated Clearly if they鈥檙e jumping off buildings it must be serious? But jfc they could鈥檝e maybe communicated a bit more?
Leia: I want to finish my juice Tholme: Quin, stay with her while we go figure out what those two are doing. Quinlan: Wait what
Jango: Oh now he鈥檚 jumping off a building too??? Tholme: Sokari, you are not registered! You can't legally jump out windows yet! Jango: What the hell is going on? Is this normal?
We don鈥檛 necessarily know how often Ahsoka and Maul ran into each other after Mandalore. There was the later thing on Malachor, but other than that I'm just going with the idea that they ran into each other every year or two and just went for the eyes like feral cats
Ahsoka: I need to kick ass and you're coming with me. Rex: Yeah, okay. [several minutes later] Rex: Whose ass are we kicking?
Ahsoka and Rex
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Neloms aren鈥檛 a SW fruit to the best of my knowledge, I just wanted to mess around with lemons/melons
Jango: you didn鈥檛 think any of this through, did you? Rex: you were there, you know we didn鈥檛 "When the Jedi says to jump out a window, I jump out a window."
Tholme鈥檚 real composed about stalking the ancient nigh-mythical enemy of his people, very 鈥淟ife is already so goddamn weird鈥
This fic has been so heavy on the trauma but then I introduce Maul and suddenly it's the worst kind of comedy Nobody is competent, everyone's a little dumb, the bad guy is just grocery shopping
My propensity for banter has turned this into a six-person buddy cop comedy about Maul buying grapes They spend a significant amount to time ineffectually stalking Maul before Quin suggests the sensible option Quinlan just "You remember this is my literal job and specialty right"
Ahsoka sees Maul and all her brain cells go out the window except "Fight good" Usually she doesn鈥檛 need to worry about doing things legally. Maybe she needs to worry about someone seeing her do illegal things but she spent the past 15 yrs in a place where her existing was illegal
I feel like he鈥檚 also maybe kinda wanting to reassert that yes he is competent. Bc like. Ahsoka鈥檚 been kinda condescending this whole time and also can beat everyone up so. It's not his fault that he's actually the youngest person there, but.
Jango is finding this whole being friendly to Jedi thing a lot more overwhelming than he thought it would be. And overwhelming in different ways.
Maul usually signifies things getting worse and more horrifyingly tragic but he's just a dumb teen that they needed to arrest for his own good.
Quinlan: Look, I'm useful! Ahsoka: I've been through hell, wanna hear? Quinlan: NO. I DON'T. WHY.
Quinlan: I understand the concept of joking about your traumas, I do it sometimes myself! But sith hells that鈥檚 a lot of trauma.
Quinlan just wanted her to treat him as a Competent Individual, and here she is whipping out stories about Dying and Gods and the Force insists it's the truth and he just???? And apparently emo darksider over there is a Sith. And just, sure. Why not
A lot of people鈥檚 interactions with the time travelling disaster lineage is just
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Tholme and Fett arguing and聽 Ahsoka's just waiting for a moment to pop in with "Hey, when's the last time either of you worked with the other's culture before this mess? Yeah, that's what I thought."
Much like Leia and Ahsoka hurting each other earlier, and Tholme figuring out the de-aging, we ALSO have Fett鈥檚 confrontation with Ahsoka being something the characters just did,聽rather than something I planned.
FTR the only time I managed to trigger myself while writing this fic was the聽鈥測our behavior isn鈥檛 actually acceptable and we鈥檝e all been trying really hard to give you room to recover but you have to at least make an effort to not be a bitch鈥
Writing about people having PTSD and symptoms of such: Yay! Writing about people having PTSD and engaging in toxic behavior to cope: Shit Ahsoka had... basically my exact reaction. It's "remind yourself that you're in the wrong, that they have a point, and then be overly formal in the apology because fuck if you accidentally make them feel sorry for you when they're the injured party"
Quinlan: Can we be friends? I mean, you're an asshole, but you're really cool. Let's be friends. (He MIGHT be nursing a crush) (Neat mysterious girl who can beat him up.)
Also he realises she's probably nicer when not having a slow-motion breakdown He's like "Huh, you'll probably be less of an asshole once you've gotten therapy."
...also, she pretty and got Nice Biceps
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I love writing a good mental breakdown
I was so close to including a "he tried to kill me" just early enough for Jango to wildly misinterpret as her thinking Quinlan tried to kill her. He'd have been very confused, considering Quinlan's the one that called them down in a panic and currently has Ahsoka having her massive breakdown in his lap But
Tia:聽 I could see Jango interpreting it as idk, Quin resembling someone or for a moment acting like someone who tried to kill her and she had a flashback or something like that
There's absolutely room for a couple reasonable interpretations there And "trapped in a flashback about someone who tried to kill her" is absolutely what's happening! Just. You know. For a different reason. Jango probably wouldn鈥檛 assume Quin would hurt her, for one thing he seems to like her, for another even if he did he鈥檚 smart enough to pick a way that wouldn鈥檛 be so likely to get him caught
I had to step back and actually say聽鈥淎lso I'm just. Wow. I'm really just shoveling QPP Rex&Ahsoka at full speed鈥
Me, a few weeks ago, joking: Two halves of the same idiot black ops specialist Me, now, entirely seriously: Two halves of the same idiot black ops specialist
Me, belatedly: Oh, Ahsoka being joyfully mean to people was a form of mania she was unconsciously using to build a barrier between herself and her impending meltdown
She went from "just died" to "in charge of Rex and Leia" in like. Two minutes.
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Confession: I've been delighting in the mental image of this whole Mess leading Jango to try to retake Mandalore, and Ahsoka loans him a saber for a 1v1 to get the darksaber.
鈥淐an鈥檛 I just fight him barehanded? That鈥檚 how I did it on Galidraan.鈥 "But the drama, Fett!"
Probably Rex has learned how to use a saber as well, because you never know when you have to borrow a weapon
I later changed my mind to Jango asking聽her to help, rather than her just sneak-teaching him, but it was funny.
Background nonsense to all this is Ahsoka and Rex, despite Rex being as force-sensitive as a lump of coal, having developed a process where she can extend her sensitivity to him mind-to-mind for weird symbiotic battle trance that scares everyone around them. It鈥檚 very similar to聽Battle meditation.
CONTEXT FOR LEIA BEING WORRIED ABOUT THOLME HIDING THINGS: Tholme is hiding the fact that the Council reached out and told him that the people he picked up might be connected to Ben and Luke, who showed up after the Depa thing but a solid week and change before Jango's ship makes it to the Temple. They asked that he not share that information to avoid getting anyone's hopes up in case the two situations aren't related. Ben and Luke haven't shared enough information for anyone to really be sure if the other three are connected Because the info Tholme has isn't quite the info Jango has, etc. And they can't just say Ben is a future Obi-Wan over comms
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I just have a lot of feelings about people trying to do something right and just. Nobody's at fault! Not really! It's just complicated!
Tia: I like how when Ahsoka isn鈥檛 doing maladaptive trauma response stuff she鈥檚 very mature. And of course she鈥檚 had to be but it鈥檚 a good like, contrast. Where when she slows down to think about things she鈥檚 very sensible
Jango just spends most of this story lowkey wanting Ahsoka to Be His Friend but there's too much baggage that he's only metaphysically responsible for
Local aroace(?) has a squish
Ahsoka: He just wants to get on my good side because of Rex. Jango: I'm pretty sure you could kill an entire army without trying but you wouldn't because you have actual morals and stuff... and when I met you it was because you were killing yourself trying to keep (what appeared to be) children safe... you seem cool please be my friend.......
Ahsoka鈥檚 #1 weakness: mountains of trauma Ahsoka鈥檚 #2 weakness: she just doesn鈥檛 get why so many people think she鈥檚 cool and want her to be their (girl)friend
Jango, a 27yo massacre survivor who's killed Jedi masters with his bare hands: [gets lectured on various government structures by a tiny girl that's missing several teeth and needs to sit on books to see the table properly]
Ahsoka was raised in a religious meritocracy but developed all her opinions during a galactic war and then became a vigilante spy, Rex comes from a military cult, Leia is from an inherited monarchy that participates in democracy, Quinlan was originally from what appears to be a dynastic dictatorship, and IDK about Tholme other than that he is also from the religious meritocracy. And in legends Quinlan came to the religious meritocracy after his aunt sacrificed his parents to a vampire cult and then forced him to experience the psychometric echoes of that. There's just. A lot going on.
Leia at least has knowledge about structure and admin in theory that isn't based in either the military or populations under 10k
Jango: I want to be your friend. Ahsoka: Sounds fake.
I am unfairly fond of "Rex destroys a conversation by bringing up his own horrifying childhood and calling it a cult"
"Why does Sokari call you 'Rex'ika'?" "Because she's older than me." "...can I--?" "No."
Nickname privileges are extended ONLY to Ahsoka and older clones. There are no more older clones, so it's just Ahsoka.
Me joking about Star Wars AUs: Would you like a crackship? Me writing actual Star Wars fic: My favorite character type is apparently 鈥渢oo traumatized to have a relationship鈥 so this is at least 90% gen.
I had to pull a scene opening at one point because Ahsoka's skill with not getting shot is actually much less useful than Tholme's clearance levels.
Now I really want a team-up of Ahsoka, Rex, and Jango where they do have to get in a dogfight of the "she flies, we shoot" variety and Fett just has to scream because the speeder thing to catch Maul was one thing, but this....
Ahsoka, before TCW: I know all the traffic rules but I'm not that great at flying! Ahsoka, after TCW: I'm great at flying but if you let me behind the wheel we are absolutely getting arrested.
She went from "knows the rules but doesn't have the skills" to "has the skills but primarily in the form of not getting shot" which! Is delightful! "Bet I can get us through that alley--" "DO NOT"
Jango and Ahsoka are both just very "Is this friendship? Is this camaraderie? My heart's been fried on platonic love by so many murders that I'm not sure anymore." "I've lost a lot of friends. I kind of forgot how to make those."
I have no idea if "hasn't been closer than Alderaan except that one trip to Chandrila" is canon-compliant but ehhhhhhhh It feels plausible enough?
Belatedly realized that I could just explain my optimal Rex&Ahsoka dynamic as just... drift compatible. It's vague enough on the specifics while still digging into the meat of what they mean to each other and how they work together. The terminology is already in existence. I can just use it.
Romantic? Platonic? Familial? Doesn't matter! They're drift compatible.
They are important to each other and that is what matters
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I really like the Leia&Quinlan thing. He's just like "This small child needs a friend that isn't super depressed," and decided he's going to be her friend. I keep trying to toss in "Quinlan volunteers to 'baby'sit." She's not much older and she has a Baby Brain, it works out
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There's a running bet as to whether Leia will leave the Order the second she turns thirteen, or if she'll let Sokari "train" her for a few years first. And... that鈥檚 how I came up with Leia Antilles, Senator of Serenno.
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They'll be bullshitting Ben as her new master to "finish out the padawanship" since they can't tell everyone she's really in her thirties and he's conveniently there and already knows everything and was half her master anyway. Like Ben was planning on taking on Luke, but Luke is "six" and even he can't swing that as old enough to be a Padawan, and it's not like Sokari will take more than a handful of years to justify knighthood, sooooooooo
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phoenixyfrienda month ago
Auntie聽鈥楽oka and Little Leia (and Rex)
The counterpart to Uncle Ben and Little Luke (Original Post,聽Chrono)
Listen. You all knew this was coming.
This got... very long and detailed and I鈥檓 going to聽have to clean it up and post to AO3. As in, this was supposed to be 2-3k and is literally ten times that long. It crossed 25k. And the initial section actually glosses over a bunch, actual fic-style writing starts at聽鈥淭hat, of course, is when things get interesting.鈥
Warnings: discussion of various canon traumas (most relating to being child soldiers), general PTSD, several scenes featuring dissociation or panic attacks upon being triggered, and canon-typical violence.
Rated T, gen.
I still want there to be de-aging nonsense involved so Ahsoka is physically a late teenager despite having a solid two decades of field experience behind her (we鈥檙e pulling her from Malachor).
Leia, much like Luke, is now six. She just came from being a rebellion general. She is not happy about being a child. She was already short, this is just mean.聽 She鈥檚 a human espresso.
UNLIKE BEN, Ahsoka is not happy about this turn of events. Being seventeen-ish is not helpful in the outer rim. She鈥檚 a female togruta, young and healthy, and in the Outer Rim, caring for a small human child.聽Sure, she has her lightsabers and plenty of combat experience, and she can keep them safe, but she鈥檚 just one person, and a major target for those looking to make some quick cash. It doesn鈥檛 matter how good she is; she needs sleep at some point.
It makes my heart happy to treat Ahsoka and Rex as two halves of the same black ops specialist so you know what, he鈥檚 there too! He鈥檚 physically like... 10-12 in natborn, maybe. They鈥檙e not sure, because clones age weird.聽He鈥檚 moderately more useful than Leia (who is very competent but also physically six, and short for that age), but he鈥檚 still... very small.
Reminder that none of them have been born yet.
Ahsoka has a harder time explaining WHY she has children with her, since she's barely more than a kid herself, and clearly unrelated by species. She sometimes just says聽鈥淥h, my adoptive brother鈥檚 kids鈥 since it鈥檚 kind of the truth for Leia and she鈥檚 not touching the actual聽truth about Rex with a ten foot pole.
Ahsoka definitely knows about Leia being a Skywalker, or at least has suspicions that Bail never outright confirmed but was conspicuously quiet about. She does tell Leia about it, but it鈥檚 not like that means anything, right? Just, you know, your dad was my teacher! I don鈥檛 have to tell you he became Va--oh shit, you already knew that part. Well, fuck. What do you mean he had a son? OH SHIT, PADME HAD TWINS.
Alt take for explaining why she鈥檚 got kids:聽She鈥檚 my foundling, I know her name as my child (Leia shut up!!!)
(Ahsoka can fake Mandalore. Sometimes.)
That said, there is... significantly less gambling and significantly more theft to get to Coruscant.
As previously stated, Ahsoka is a black ops kinda gal, and more importantly, she looks like a fairly attractive young woman in the Outer Rim, with two children in good health. She鈥檚 a target, and also not the kind of person one generally gambles with. If she does gamble, people get upset when she doesn鈥檛聽lose, in ways they don鈥檛 get upset about Ben doing the same, because she鈥檚, again, a cute teenage girl. It鈥檚 exhausting.
As things go, she largely ends up stealing from people who deserve it and/or smuggling herself and her charges into someone else鈥檚 ship. They鈥檙e small, they can hide. Sometimes she can get them all passage by working as a mechanic, she鈥檚 good at that.
Once they鈥檝e got a handle on when they are, they have to decide on Names. None of them have been born yet, so technically they could use their own names without anyone Knowing. Rex and Leia might not even be聽born, depending on how successful they are at, you know, stopping the war and everything. Ahsoka, though, she鈥檚 going be born in two years, and there鈥檚 no reason to prevent it, so... she doesn鈥檛 want to steal baby-her鈥檚 name. That would be mean.
Leia is already calling her聽鈥淎untie聽鈥楽oka鈥 when she can for reasons like聽鈥渟elling the bit鈥 and聽鈥渕anipulating adults鈥 and聽鈥渕aking us both feel better after we had a mutual breakdown about Anakin being Vader.鈥 Ergo, she decides that whatever new name she picks better include that in some way, and decides on聽鈥淪okari鈥 because it sounds pretty.
Overall, they don鈥檛... they don鈥檛 actually make it very far before there鈥檚 an Incident. Again, teenager with small children. They spend a lot of time hiding out in space ports looking for an opportunity.
That, of course, is when things get interesting.
Specifically, Ahsoka spots a Mandalorian.
She doesn鈥檛 recognize the armor. She does recognize the sigil, and thinks聽鈥榳ell, they鈥檙e more likely to help than some,鈥 because from what she鈥檚 heard,聽the Haat Mando鈥檃de are Decent People Overall. Her view is a little biased, mostly on account of the sheer level of grudge she has against Kyr鈥檛sad. It鈥檚 fine! The True Mandalorians have the same grudge, right? And Mandalorians like kids and Ahsoka hasn鈥檛 slept in five days and it鈥檚 fine. It鈥檚 fine! IT鈥橲 FINE.
鈥淥h shit,鈥 Rex whispers, before she can suggest anything.聽鈥淥h fuck.鈥
鈥淪top cursing,鈥澛燣eia hisses, elbowing him.聽鈥淧eople are going to notice.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 the Prime,鈥澛燫ex panics, mostly quiet. Ahsoka鈥檚 heart drops, because fuck聽is right. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 Fett.鈥
Leia isn鈥檛 impressed. Ahsoka just angles herself between Fett and Rex and hopes that he doesn鈥檛 see them. That鈥檚 just asking for trouble.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is in fact running on none sleep with left trauma, and doesn鈥檛 notice Fett walking up and dropping into a seat across from them until he鈥檚 actually done so, removing his helmet to glare a little more efficiently.
鈥淲anna explain why your kid has my face?鈥
Ahsoka later tells herself that he鈥檚 killed Jedi and that鈥檚 why he can sneak up on her, and that she can be forgiven some slip-ups with the exhaustion being what it is, and that she鈥檚 obviously going to be dealing with some emotional instability in light of the sudden return of teenage hormones and new forms of anxiety that are markedly different from those she was dealing with a few weeks ago.
What Ahsoka wants to say is聽鈥渢hat鈥檚 kind of a long story,鈥 or聽鈥渕aybe he鈥檚 a cousin,鈥 or聽鈥渒riff off, I don鈥檛 know you,鈥 or maybe even聽鈥渉e鈥檚 a clone.鈥
What Ahsoka actually聽does is burst into tears, which is embarrassing for her, for Fett, for the kids, and for the entire rest of the bar.
It really is the straw that broke the eopie鈥檚 back. Even when she was actually this age, she didn鈥檛 exactly cry much. Objectively, Fett quasi-aggressively asking a valid question shouldn鈥檛 send her into a panic. She鈥檚 been through torture and worse. She shouldn鈥檛 be crying.
But she is, sobbing her eyes out with no control, and he鈥檚 just sitting across from her and looking uncomfortable while Rex wraps his little arms--oh Force he鈥檚 so small--around her,聽and both聽鈥榗hildren鈥 glare at Fett.
鈥淪o, I鈥檓 going to take it she didn鈥檛 kidnap you from a loving family or do something illicit with a blood sample,鈥 Fett says, after it becomes obvious that Ahsoka鈥檚 not going to be ready to talk any time soon.
鈥淪he didn鈥檛,鈥 Rex says stiffly, with just the right emphasis for Fett to catch what鈥檚 implied. Ahsoka just keeps her head down, eyes pressed against the heels of her palms, trying to get her body to stop rebelling against her.
Fett鈥檚 eyes dart to Leia, who folds her arms and draws herself up, every bit the unimpressed princess.聽鈥淢y father claimed her as a sister, so she鈥檚 my Auntie 鈥楽oka.鈥
The man dithers a bit, the conversation clearly not going where he鈥檇 expected.聽鈥淩ight,鈥 he says.聽鈥淵ou--you鈥檙e all kids. I thought she was a little older, at least, but I didn鈥檛 have a good look at her face before.鈥
She is聽older, but actually admitting that is only going to make this worse, both for her pride and for her chances of making it out alive.
鈥淲here are you staying?鈥
鈥淲hat?鈥 Leia bites out.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e kids, you鈥檙e alone, and you鈥檙e clearly not okay if you were trying to hide the one with my face as blatantly as you did, and then... whatever this is, when I confronted you,鈥 Fett explains. Ahsoka lifts her head to glare at him, but it鈥檚 probably not doing much with the way her eyes are rimmed with red and still wet.聽鈥淒on鈥檛 give me that look, ad鈥檌ka, your kids looked as confused and horrified by that as the bartender did. They obviously didn鈥檛 think it was normal either.鈥
Well, kriff you too,聽Ahsoka thinks.
鈥淎nd what do you mean by聽鈥榖latantly,鈥 here?鈥 Leia challenges. It鈥檚 adorable, but Ahsoka watched this tiny girl shoot a man last week, and wonders when people are going to start taking that seriously.
鈥淭here鈥檚 a lot of people in this galaxy, and I don鈥檛 exactly have the clearest memory of what I looked like at that age,鈥 Fett says, slow and careful like he thinks they鈥檙e dumb. Ahsoka decides to chalk it up as being because Leia鈥檚 visibly six.聽鈥淚 would have thought it was just a coincidence if you hadn鈥檛 put in effort to hide him.鈥
Leia huffs, and Rex glares harder. Fett just sighs, like they鈥檙e all going to give him grey hairs.
鈥淵ou can explain whatever the hell鈥檚 going on,鈥 Fett says.聽鈥淚鈥檒l let you stay on my ship, there鈥檚 a spare bunk and you鈥檙e small.鈥
鈥淔or free?鈥 Rex demands.
鈥淎 night on a bunk in exchange for information,鈥 Fett clarifies.聽鈥淲e can negotiate from there.鈥
Ahsoka takes a few moments, notes that both of the others are waiting on her for the decision, and cringes. She doesn鈥檛 feel steady enough to carry that. She has to anyway.
鈥淩ex?鈥 she asks, voice rasping after the breakdown of the past few minutes.
鈥淗ow much?鈥
He looks up at her, eyes calculating, and grimaces.聽鈥淲e don鈥檛 want Order 66. A warning is better, even if we... share information.鈥
She nods, and turns to Leia.聽鈥淎ny premonitions, princess?鈥
Leia glowers, cute and furious.聽鈥淣o.鈥
鈥淣o, don鈥檛 tell, or no, you aren鈥檛 getting any vibes about sharing info one way or the other?鈥
鈥淭he latter,鈥 Leia clarifies, huffy to the last.
鈥淩ight,鈥 Ahsoka says, and then just... hesitates.聽鈥淔ett...鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檝e got conditions,鈥 he guesses.
She bares her teeth in what could have, through a squint and perhaps a few drinks, been called an apologetic smile.聽鈥淛ust one, really.鈥
鈥淣o hurting, killing, or turning us in for bounties,鈥 she says.聽鈥淎ny of us.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e children, I wouldn鈥檛.鈥
She blinks at him, slow and careful. She hesitates. She reaches down, out of sight, sees him stiffen.
She unclips her sabers from her belt and puts them on the table.
His eyes are fixed on the weapons the second they enter his line of sight, and don鈥檛 move as he clearly realizes why she made the condition she did.
鈥淚 left years ago, because I couldn鈥檛 stay without it ruining me,鈥 she says. Still slow. Still careful. She鈥檚 so tired. 鈥淏ut if I want to keep Leia safe, I have to get back to Coruscant.鈥
His eyes finally lift from the sabers, expression blank.聽鈥淛ust her?鈥
鈥淩ex doesn鈥檛 have the same monsters coming after him,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚f it were just me and him, I鈥檇 worry less. Leia鈥檚 a different kind of target.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e putting a lot of faith on the table by telling me that,鈥 Fett says, voice flat and toneless.聽鈥淐onsidering my occupation.鈥
鈥淪he鈥檚 a child,鈥 Ahsoka says, feeling heavy and boneless.聽鈥淓ven with what I was and will be, even with what money you would get from the right buyer, you wouldn鈥檛.鈥
鈥淭here are other risks.鈥
鈥淭here are.鈥
They stare at each other for too long, probably, and then Fett jerks as Rex kicks him under the table. The boys glare for a moment, and then Rex says,聽鈥淚f she weren鈥檛 good, I鈥檇 still be a slave to those who grew me.鈥
Fett blinks, and then nearly growls the word,聽鈥淲hat?鈥
鈥淪he freed me,鈥 Rex reiterates.聽鈥淲hile I was trying to shoot her.鈥
Ahsoka lifts a hand and puts it on his far shoulder, pulling him into her side. She doesn鈥檛 meet Fett鈥檚 eyes again, because part of her is back on Mandalore, dodging her own soldiers and crying out as her family dies across the galaxy.
Fett breathes in. Breathes out. He puts a hand to his head, visibly frustrated. 鈥淔ine. A good Jedi kid, and two smaller kids, one of which is apparently in some way mine.鈥
Rex makes a face, which is fair, but also not helping.
鈥淭o the ship,鈥 Ahsoka says, putting her sabers back on her belt and sliding out of the seat.聽鈥淚鈥檓... I鈥檓 Sokari.鈥
鈥淵ou already know my name.鈥
鈥淚 do.鈥
Fett watches her like she鈥檚 a predator, which has the benefit of being accurate and slightly flattering. She lets other two take care of most of talking, and then Fett tells her to sleep first, and talk in the morning.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e dead on your feet, jetii,鈥澛爃e snorts.聽鈥淎nd that crying jag didn鈥檛 do you any favors. Sleep.鈥
So she does, and Fett doesn鈥檛 even wake聽her. He just lets her sleep. He watches her in the way of a guard. She sees him when she gets up to use the聽鈥榝resher in the middle of the night, but he doesn鈥檛 even comment when she collapses right back into the mediocre cot she鈥檚 borrowed for the cycle.
Rex and Leia are safe, her hindbrain tells her, even in the depths of sleep. Her mind curls around theirs in the Force, and she trusts that they are here. They are not happy, but they are alive and unharmed, and that has to be enough.
When she stumbles her way to true wakefulness, groggy and loose-limbed, Fett greets her with caf.
鈥淭he kids wouldn鈥檛 let me near you,鈥 he tells her.
鈥淭hey鈥檙e good,鈥 she says, cupping her hands around the mug. She feels wobbly, in every sense. Her body, her mind, her emotions, her connection to the Force. Nothing is on-kilter right now.聽鈥淒id they tell you anything?鈥
鈥淭hey waited for you,鈥 he says.聽鈥淏ut the little miss needed a nap of her own. They鈥檙e down in the other bunk.鈥
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 notice,鈥 she admits. She should have. She鈥檚 Fulcrum.聽She鈥檚 a veteran of the Clone Wars. She鈥檚... she鈥檚 supposed to be better than this.
鈥淗ow long?鈥 he asks, and then when she squints up at him, he clarifies.聽鈥淗ow long did you fight?鈥
鈥淢y last fight--鈥
鈥淣o, whatever war you came out of,鈥 he says. Her chest twists cold.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 know if the Jedi sent you into it or if you waded in yourself once you left, but you move like a soldier.鈥
鈥淚 was,鈥 she confirms.聽鈥淏ut... but I don鈥檛 want to talk about the details. Not until the other two are here.鈥
He frowns at her.聽鈥淚s there anything you can聽talk about?鈥
She shrugs and looks away, trying to take solace in the warmth of the caff she holds above the table, as if it can hide her, guard her, from the disgraced Mand鈥檃lor across the table.
鈥淚鈥檓 not officially a Jedi,鈥 she says, voice quiet.聽鈥淣ot anymore.鈥
鈥淭hen what do I call you?鈥 he asks.聽鈥淲e鈥檙e not exactly close enough for names.鈥
鈥淭orrent,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 not--I can鈥檛 claim my family name anymore. But I can claim Torrent, so I will. And if you want a title, I was a commander.鈥
鈥淏it young for that.鈥
鈥淚 got the rank when I was fourteen,鈥 she says, and watches his face do something complicated and unpleasant.聽鈥淒on鈥檛. I know your own culture puts children on the field that young.鈥
鈥淣ot in command.鈥
She shrugs.聽鈥淵eah, well... the soldiers were technically younger. Adults, but...鈥
Ahsoka can see the way he casts about to figure out what species grows at that rate. He guesses a few, and she shoots all of it down.
She won鈥檛 tell him. Not until Rex is awake.
This part of the story is his.
When Leia tries to sit alone, a foot away on the bench like a proper adult, Ahsoka refuses to let it happen. She pulls the younger girl to her side and quells protests with a glance. It鈥檚 a decent skill, but she鈥檚 not sure how long it鈥檚 going to work on her niece-in-spirit.
鈥淵our body needs the chemical release of skinship,鈥 she says, and Leia glares at her.聽鈥淚 spent way too much time with the boys to not know about this. Deal.鈥
Rex sits close enough to knock their knees together under the table, and his warmth is the old comfort she needs.
鈥淒o you want the story you鈥檒l believe, or the truth?鈥 Ahsoka asks.
鈥淲hat鈥檚 the difference?鈥
鈥淥ne of them involves something so impossible that even most Jedi wouldn鈥檛 believe it,鈥 she tells him.
Fett folds his arms and leans forward to rest them on the table, challenging but oddly open.聽鈥淭ry me.鈥
鈥淭ime travel.鈥
He blinks, just once, fully controlled.聽鈥淭hat鈥檚 a tough one.鈥
鈥淭here were only three Jedi left alive when I died,鈥 she says.聽鈥淥r... whatever it is that happened to me. I think I died. All I know is that one moment, I was thirty-two and dying, and the next, I was... seventeen again, and had these two with me. All of us younger than we were. None of us have even been born yet.鈥
She refuses to look him in the eye.聽鈥淭hey both outlived me by... six years, maybe. Got caught up while traveling instead of dying. Leia was twenty-two. Rex was thirty-five. I鈥檓 not technically the oldest anymore. I mean, physically I am, but that doesn鈥檛 mean anything, and it鈥檚 not exactly doing us any good, and--鈥
Rex bumps his shoulder to her arm. 鈥淚 dunno, Commander. I鈥檝e spent a long time looking older than I should. Nice to look younger for once.鈥
She shoots him a small, pained grin.聽鈥淐ould be worse, yeah.鈥
鈥淟et鈥檚 say I believe you.鈥
Her attention snaps back to Fett, who鈥檚 looking damnably blank, and is showing even less in the Force.
He waits a second for her to relax back into her seat.
鈥淟et鈥檚 say I believe you,鈥 he repeats.聽鈥淗ow鈥檚聽鈥楻ex鈥 connected to me? What鈥檚 so special about Leia there? And what war did you fight in that has you acting like a veteran?鈥
鈥淭hree years in the clone wars,鈥 she whispers, glancing to Rex and forcing herself to not go for her sabers to defend against an attack that her paranoia says is coming and the Force says is not.聽鈥淭hen almost all the Jedi were wiped out at once, and I spent a year... drifting. Then black ops for the next fifteen.鈥
鈥淏lack ops,鈥 he repeats, still damnably flat.
鈥淭here was a Sith Empire,鈥 she says, and she can hear her own tone growing somehow emptier.聽鈥淕lassing planets. Enslaving entire species. Committing genocides all over. Of course, there was a rebellion, and of course I joined it. I was one of the only people left with Jedi training. For all that I鈥檇 left the Order, I still had a duty to the universe.鈥
His eyes flit to Leia, who shrugs and tries to look prim.聽鈥淚 was adopted and raised by one of the founders of the rebellion, a movement built on the desire to instate freedom and democracy in a galaxy that had lost even the pretense.鈥
鈥淭hat why you鈥檙e special?鈥
Leia smiles, thin and patronizing. It doesn鈥檛 fit on her little face.聽鈥淚鈥檓 special because my biological father was one of the most powerful Force users in history, and his聽Fall to the dark side and choice to become a Sith is why the Emperor鈥檚 rise was nearly uncontested. I do not like聽power, but it鈥檚 in my veins and I can鈥檛 change that. Force users are... a lucrative trade, and I鈥檓 still the size of a child, so I can鈥檛 fight back. I鈥檒l be safer in the Jedi Temple, even if I don鈥檛 want to be聽a Jedi.鈥
Fett looks to Ahsoka, makes to ask a question, and then shakes his head. Not the time, maybe.
鈥淪o, that鈥檚 all... very complicated and I don鈥檛 know how much of it I believe, but it doesn鈥檛 explain...鈥 he trails off, and sighs.聽鈥淢y kid, or whatever you are. I heard you mention clones.鈥
Rex grins. It is not a kind expression.
鈥淟et me tell you about Kamino.鈥
Ahsoka has no idea if Fett believes them. Either he thinks they鈥檙e telling the truth, or he thinks their delusional kids. Either way, he offers to take them closer to the Core. Ahsoka quietly offers to take a look at his engine in return, and then pretends not to notice when Fett awkwardly drifts to and away from Rex.
鈥淭hey put chips in our brains to make us kill the Jedi we respected, cared for, even loved. I tried to shoot聽鈥楽oka, Fett. She was seventeen and risked her life to get that chip out of my head while I was trying to kill her. I have never hated myself more than when I woke up and realized what I鈥檇 almost done, and I was one of the few that were able to fight it. I heard the stories of dozens of brothers who woke with their chips having degraded and chose to eat their blaster rather than live with the guilt of the orders they鈥檇 followed without question because of a thrice-damned Sith slave chip in their head.鈥
鈥淪o no, I won鈥檛 call you father or acknowledge you as clan until you do something to prove your worth it, shared blood or not.鈥
What Ahsoka does聽get out of the arrangement, for all that Fett鈥檚 route mostly takes them on a meandering path that isn鈥檛 faster than their previous system, is sleep. She gets to rest. She gets to trust that Fett won鈥檛 kill Rex, out of guilt for something he hasn鈥檛 done, that he won鈥檛 kill Leia out of a worry that she鈥檚 just a delusional child, a real聽child, that he won鈥檛 kill聽鈥楽okari鈥 because it would ruin any chance of gaining Rex鈥檚 favor, ever.
She鈥檚 not safe, won鈥檛 believe she can聽be until she鈥檚 in the Temple and Sidious is dead dead dead,聽but she鈥檚 safer than she鈥檚 been in a long time.
Every night, Ahsoka wakes up and stumbles to the little galley, deaths and torture sparkling behind her eyes with the energy of a thousand lost Jedi, ten thousand mourned brothers and sisters.
She is not the only one of their little group to be a survivor of a near-total genocide, but Rex could not feel his brothers die in the Force, even if his nightmares featured what they heard of suicide missions by the emperor鈥檚 favored shock troopers, and Leia had... Alderaan had more off-world survivors than there had been Jedi at all.
It鈥檚 not worth comparing their pain. It鈥檚 stupid to even think it. Part of her can鈥檛 help but do it anyway.
She feels a lek twitch in response to the voice of the only other person on board who can reach the top shelf.聽鈥淚 probably shouldn鈥檛.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 a definitely聽shouldn鈥檛.鈥
鈥淗oth chocolate?鈥
She doesn鈥檛 lift her head from her arms until the mug clicks down in front of her, ceramic on plastisteel.
鈥淒o I ask what it was this time?鈥
She shrugs.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 hard to explain to non-sensitives.鈥
鈥淭ry me anyway.鈥
Ahsoka twists the Hoth chocolate in her hands, takes a sip as she thinks.聽鈥淭he Force isn鈥檛 just one thing. It鈥檚... energy and philosophy and spirit, a sense of being that ties the entire universe together. Sentient and inanimate and living and dead, empty space and lush forests and stifled cities. For those of us who are sensitive to it, it鈥檚 possible to feel the life聽of everyone around you, theoretically possible to feel entire systems. If you have a Force bond, like a master and padawan, that can stretch across planets, even systems if one or both are particularly powerful.
鈥淪o just... just imagine, for a moment, what it鈥檚 like to feel the screaming of all those Jedi in the Force as their trusted men shot them down.
鈥淪ome of them were close enough that I could feel them die,鈥澛爏he manages.聽鈥淚... it鈥檚 horrible. It鈥檚 horrific. It鈥檚 not something I can ever forget, and I want to. I want to forget what that moment was like. Not that it happened, but...鈥
She can feel the tears. Fuck..
鈥淵ou want to dull the edges.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 we all?鈥 she asks, scrubbing the back of her hand across her eyes.聽鈥淟eia lost her entire planet,聽billions of people, and she was forced to watch. Rex... Force, I can barely imagine, and I was there for most of it.鈥
Fett watches her, measuring.聽鈥淔rom what he said, they were as much your brothers as his, by the end.鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 she immediately demands.聽鈥淭hey could have been, maybe, but the ones I was closest to died earlier, and then I left,聽and by the time the Empire rose, all but a handful were... no. Rex, I will claim as a brother in all the ways that matter, but I don鈥檛 get to do that with the rest. I don鈥檛 have the right.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e hard on yourself.鈥
鈥淔ate of the galaxy, my good bitch. Guess who鈥檚 got it on her shoulders.鈥
He snorts at her, and nods at the mug.聽鈥淒rink your Hoth chocolate. We鈥檙e landing in eight hours, and you鈥檝e got kids to look out for.鈥
There鈥檚 a twitch in the Force when they land, something pulling at her in a way she barely feels. She鈥檚 had her shields up so fully for so long that it鈥檚 natural to hide away what she is to the point where she can hardly tell what anyone else is, either. It takes more than a moment to remember how to let herself spread out across the world.
鈥淎untie聽鈥楽oka? Why鈥檇 you stop?鈥
She doesn鈥檛 have an answer to Leia鈥檚 prodding question.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 know.鈥
It鈥檚 almost familiar. Old and half-forgotten, not the same as what she remembers, but--
鈥淭his way,鈥 she says, and wanders off into the crowd. Leia and Rex follow without question. Fett curses and rushes through the rest of his transaction with the docking attendant. The sound of him jogging after them is almost funny, with the armor, but she can鈥檛 focus on that.
Ahsoka slips between people with the ease of a career built on such a habit, children trailing like ducklings. She knows this feeling, she knows this person, what is she missi--
鈥淥h,鈥 she breathes, going stock still. She knows that face. She knows those braids. She even knows the presence.
Younger than Ahsoka had ever seen her, but unmistakably Master Billaba.
鈥淭orrent, what the hell?鈥 Fett demands, finally catching up.聽鈥淵ou can鈥檛 just run off like that!鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚 Depa,鈥 she says, eyes still fixed on the woman parsing through a datapad with an irritated vendor. She has a padawan braid. It doesn鈥檛 feel like Master Windu is on-planet, so this might be a solo mission, a... oh. Senior Padawan, Knight Elect. This is the kind of mission taken to test if she鈥檚 ready to be promoted.
Ahsoka feels light-headed.
Fett waits for her to elaborate, but she can鈥檛. This was Kanan鈥檚 master. This was a member of the High Council.聽This was a woman who died and--
鈥淵ou need to sit down,鈥 Fett says, not a touch gruff. He puts a hand on her shoulder and guides her off the main walkway.聽鈥淚鈥檓... going to talk to the woman in the Jedi robes. You three just stay there and don鈥檛 get kidnapped.鈥
Ahsoka nods, feeling like she鈥檚 not quite inhabiting her own body.
It鈥檚 Depa.
Her eyes track Fett without conscious control, and her montrals pick up the sound.
Depa looks up when the armor comes close enough, free hand tensed in a way that says she鈥檚 preventing herself from reaching for a saber in reaction to the heavily-armored individual standing several feet away.
鈥淢ando,鈥 the woman says.聽鈥淢ay I help you?鈥
鈥淎re you Depa?鈥
Depa doesn鈥檛 do anything so dramatic as gape or step back, but she does blink rapidly for a moment. She then folds her hands down in front of her, drawing her spine up ramrod straight.聽鈥淚 am Senior Padawan Depa Billaba, yes. May I ask why it is that you need to know?鈥
Ahsoka imagines Fett grimacing, or rolling his eyes, or maybe dithering. She can鈥檛 tell from this angle, and he has a mask on besides. It turns his awkward silences into judgmental ones.
鈥淚鈥檝e had some Jedi kids on my ship, hitching a ride,鈥 he says at length.聽鈥淥ne of them recognized you and then just... froze.鈥
鈥淵ou have our younglings in your care,鈥 Depa says, carefully not accusatory, but close enough to be a warning.
鈥淣ot quite,鈥 he says.聽鈥淭he one that actually came from the temple is seventeen. One of聽鈥榚m isn鈥檛 Force Sensitive, and the last one is聽but hasn鈥檛 been to Coruscant before. They鈥檙e trying to get the little one to the Temple for her own safety.鈥
Depa considers that, and then passes the datapad to the vendor.聽鈥淟ead on.鈥
It鈥檚 surprisingly simple, really. Fett did all the talking.
And then Depa is standing right in front of her.
鈥淟ike I said,鈥 Fett sighs.聽鈥淪he froze up.鈥
鈥淗ello,鈥 Depa says, hands laced together inside her sleeves.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 believe we鈥檝e met.鈥
Ahsoka shakes her head.聽鈥淚 know of you. I鈥檝e seen you spar. You鈥檝e never spoken to me.鈥
All true. A little misleading, but it鈥檚 fine, it鈥檚 all fine.
Depa waits a moment, and then says,聽鈥淵ou seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don鈥檛 know yours.鈥
鈥淪okari T-Torrent,鈥 she manages. The words feel clunky in her mouth, the sound abrasive for all that it鈥檚 just her own voice, no different from usual. A little shaky, maybe. She can feel a cool breeze on her upper arms. Shouldn鈥檛 she have armor? She should have armor.聽鈥淚t... it鈥檚 been a long time since I鈥檝e seen another Jedi. I鈥檓 having a hard time believing you鈥檙e real.鈥
鈥淚 see,鈥 Depa says.聽鈥淧erhaps we should take this somewhere more private? You seem a little unsteady.鈥
Ahsoka lets herself be led back to the ship, in the company of Mand鈥檃lor Jango Fett, Jedi Padawan Depa Billaba, Princess-General Leia Organa, and good old Captain Rex.
It鈥檚 like the start of a sick joke.
Fett and Depa talk where she can hear, but they rarely address her directly. Both seem to realize that she鈥檚 not particularly useful right now. Leia and Rex are pressing up against her at the little table in the galley, and Ahsoka lets them.
This is real. She can feel Depa in the Force, recognizes her energy even if it鈥檚 not quite what it will-was-could-have-been. This is happening.
It鈥檚 a textbook Traumatic Stress Response case,聽one of them says.
Fett has his helmet off. Ahsoka鈥檚 sure that鈥檚 wrong for some reason. She thinks he might already be on wanted lists. Should she worry about Depa trying to arrest him?
Depa asks about Rex at one point. Fett tells her that someone cloned him without his knowing, but the kid is more comfortable with Ahsoka so they鈥檙e still working on what that means for him.
It鈥檚 more or less true. Rex squeezes her hand the one time someone suggests separating them. She鈥檚 not letting that happen unless Rex wants to leave for whatever reason. They鈥檝e worked apart before. They can do it again.
鈥淎untie Soka? You鈥檙e shivering.鈥
Is she?
Leia cuddles in closer, and Ahsoka runs a hand over her hair. It鈥檚 an absentminded motion, and for all that she knows Leia鈥檚 hair is fine as silk, it feels like plastic in the moment.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 think I鈥檓 okay,鈥 Ahsoka announces. The words hang in the air like lead balloons, and she can feel Depa staring at her.聽鈥淚 haven鈥檛 been for a very long time.鈥
鈥淵eah, we noticed,鈥 Fett says.聽鈥淒o you need to lay down, Torrent?鈥
Does she?
鈥淣o,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚... I don鈥檛 know what I need.鈥
鈥淭he spicy drink,鈥 Rex tells them.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 grounding.鈥
Right. That.
Fett goes to grab it, and Depa continues to watch.
鈥淗ow long ago did you leave your master?鈥 Depa asks.聽鈥淥r... did he die?鈥
Ahsoka closes her eyes and shakes her head. She can feel the shivers now, tremors in her biceps and a shudder she can鈥檛 control in the height of her ribcage. Her teeth grind together, jaw like stone.
鈥淵ou don鈥檛 have to answer that,鈥 Depa assures her.聽鈥淚鈥檓... going to recommend you see a mind healer on Coruscant.鈥
That was a forgone conclusion.
A cup clinks onto the table. Fett鈥檚 back. 鈥淒rink.鈥
She does.
Depa and Fett continue discussing it as 鈥渢he adults鈥 at the table. She鈥檚 older than both of them. Rex is older than all of them. Ahsoka follows about half of what they say. She agrees with most of it. Rex bullies his way into speaking when she doesn鈥檛, without her even asking, because he knows her mind as well as she does. Fett rolls with it. Depa lets him.
She鈥檚 going to reach out to the Temple and see about getting them a ride back to Imperial Center Coruscant.
Fett makes her go to bed, taking Leia with her.
She feels more like a person come morning.
Depa鈥檚 sitting at the table, datapad in her hands and caff on the table in front of her.
鈥淕ood morning,鈥 Ahsoka says, rough and croaking, and Depa鈥檚 eyes flick up to meet hers. She nods a shallow hello.
鈥淔eeling better?鈥
鈥淢uch,鈥 Ahsoka says, and goes about gathering a breakfast. There鈥檚 definitely some dried meat in here. She can get something fresh when they stop by the market later.
鈥淚 was hoping to speak with you about your options,鈥 Depa tells her, once she鈥檚 sat at the table.聽鈥淔ett and your friend Rex took care of most of the negotiation, and I feel like I have an idea of what would work best for you.鈥
Ahsoka nods slowly.聽鈥淥kay.鈥
鈥淭here is a Master-Padawan pair a few planets away,鈥 Depa says.聽鈥淭he Council informed me when I spoke with them about you and your wards. They鈥檇 be headed back to the Temple in a few days anyway, and the Council has agreed to extend an offer to Fett to handle the transportation. The presence of a Jedi Master on board will allow for him to get in and out of the Core unmolested, and we鈥檇 like for you and yours to have a Jedi escort, given what happened yesterday afternoon.鈥
Her complete spiral into nonbeing?
鈥淚 understand,鈥 she says instead.聽鈥淚 suppose Fett agreed because he鈥檚 still trying to get Rex to like him?鈥
Depa shrugs.聽鈥淭hat part isn鈥檛 my business.鈥
Of course it isn鈥檛.
鈥淩ex can stay with me for a while, right?鈥 Ahsoka finally asks.聽鈥淚 know it鈥檚 not exactly protocol, but I鈥檓...鈥
鈥淚n need of a support system until you鈥檝e seen a mind healer, and against all odds, the child is part of it,鈥 Depa summarizes.聽鈥淵es, I recognized as much. I think the Council will be able to allow some leeway there. I don鈥檛 know if he鈥檒l enjoy it, given that all the others his age are Initiates, but we can adjust as necessary. On that note... Do you know Leia鈥檚 midichlorian count?鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 Ahsoka says, and hesitantly adds,聽鈥淏ut her biological father was my Jedi Master, and I鈥檓 told his count broke records even as a child. Given what Leia鈥檚 shown so far... it鈥檚 why I鈥檝e been in a hurry to get her to the Temple.鈥
Depa frowns at her, clearly working through the implications of a Jedi having a daughter and still teaching... and then visibly dismisses the situation, eyes closing to breathe in the steam of her caff.
Biological father聽certainly implies a child that was raised by her mother or adopted out so the Jedi father could remain in their chosen career without a conflict of interest or duty.
She鈥檒l tell the council the truth, or... at least Master Koon. Master Kenobi is still a padawan, but she can tell Master Koon.
She already told Jango Fett, of all people.
鈥淧adawan Torrent?鈥
Her head snaps up. She hasn鈥檛 been a padawan in over fifteen years. It鈥檚 weird to hear.聽鈥淚鈥檓 sorry, what?鈥
鈥淚 asked if you wanted some time to think it over before I presented the offer to Fett,鈥 Depa says.
Ahsoka gets the distinct feeling that Depa is planning a report to the Council that has聽鈥榥eeds a mind healer鈥 underlined at least three times.
鈥淣o, I鈥檓--I鈥檓 fine. That sounds like a good plan.鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l speak with him, then. Would you like to come with?鈥
"No, thank you.鈥
Fett agrees. Ahsoka鈥檚 pretty sure it鈥檚 all to do with Rex and maybe Leia. It鈥檚 probably nothing to do with聽鈥楽okari.鈥 She鈥檚 a Jedi, an adult in mind and in body, or at least close enough to count. She鈥檚 a damn sight more聽鈥榚nemy鈥 to Fett than the other two are. Not as much as Depa, maybe, but Fett鈥檚 been playing nice with her聽for Leia鈥檚 sake.
He plays nice with Ahsoka for Rex鈥檚. That鈥檚 all.
They鈥檙e only a few planets over from the meeting point, and they have a few days to hang around before the escort meets them. Depa hadn鈥檛 given them a name--apparently it could have compromised the opsec for the Jedi team--but Ahsoka鈥檚 pretty sure she鈥檒l be able to identify almost anyone. She gets the feeling that the Force is going to send her a familiar face, just as it did Master Padawan Billaba.
Ahsoka lets herself feel the world around her. It鈥檚 dark and dreary, in the sense that the beaten-down port is full of petty crimes and less petty horrors, but it鈥檚 still lighter than most of the Empire had been. She sneaks away from the ship at night, ignoring Fett at her back, and performs a bit of vigilante justice while she can. She鈥檒l be banned from doing so as soon as she鈥檚 reinstated as a Jedi, probably, but for now... for now, she can look at the drug cartels and聽鈥榯hey鈥檙e not slaves, really鈥 workers and do something to help.
She doesn鈥檛 use her sabers. She doesn鈥檛 need to. It鈥檚 been a long time since she has, for small fry like these.
鈥淲hat are you doing?鈥 Fett asks her, landing heavily behind her back.
鈥淐hip removal,鈥 she says, hand pressed to the slave鈥檚 leg. Her eyes are closed, but she can hear him shifting.聽鈥淟et me concentrate, I don鈥檛 have a meddroid for this.鈥
He鈥檚 silent until she finishes, and waits until the people she鈥檚 helped are on their way to the planet鈥檚 freedom routes. He doesn鈥檛 ask what she did with the owners.
鈥淵ou鈥檝e done this before.鈥
鈥淩egularly,鈥 she confirms.聽鈥淵ou?鈥
He doesn鈥檛 answer that, just ambles over to the the chains and stares down at them.
鈥淵ou go through this like it鈥檚 as easy as breathing,鈥 he says.聽鈥淚t鈥檚... impressive.鈥
鈥淚 guess?鈥 she hesitates to continue.聽鈥淚鈥檓... I don鈥檛 think of it that way. This is the easy stuff. A time-waster that helps people. If I wanted to help for real, I鈥檇 been going after Jabba or Sidious or--鈥
鈥淗ow old were you?鈥 he asks, turning on his heel to face her dead-on. The vocoder of his helmet pulls the emotion from his voice.聽鈥淲hen did this... these missions, the slavery battles, when did that start for you?鈥
鈥淔ourteen,鈥 she says. She鈥檚 not entirely sure, really, what counted as a mission for ending slavery and what counted as just a part of war, but she can round down.聽鈥淢aybe fifteen. It鈥檚 a bit of a blur.鈥
鈥淎nd you just kept doing it.鈥
鈥淥f course,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚f I have the time and the energy, if I need to do something聽and there鈥檚 nothing official on my hands, why not?鈥
He doesn鈥檛 answer her.
Rex greets them before she does.
Ahsoka, in her defense, is asleep at the time. It鈥檚 a restless sleep, but it鈥檚 enough that she doesn鈥檛 sense the nearing Force signatures until they鈥檙e almost at the ship.
She recognizes one of them.
鈥淎untie聽鈥楽oka?鈥 Leia questions, when she lurches to her feet and starts pulling on her boots with all the energy of a zombie.聽鈥淲here are you going?鈥
鈥淛edi,鈥 Ahsoka grunts.聽鈥淗ere.鈥
鈥淚 see.鈥
Leia dresses to follow her, in a little coat that鈥檒l withstand the chill of the outside air, and Ahsoka makes it to the cargo hold just in time to hear Rex saying,聽鈥淚鈥檓 not shaking your hand until you put your gloves on, Vos.鈥
She laughs to herself, breathless with the knowledge of what she鈥檚 about to find. She jumps the railing of the upper walkway, drops down just in front of the Master-Padawan team, and keeps her back to Fett and Rex.聽鈥淗ello, there.鈥
One human, one Kiffar. She knows the latter.
鈥淲ould you be Sokari Torrent?鈥 the Master asks.
鈥淚 am,鈥 she says, with a slight bow. She can tell there鈥檚 a bit of judgement for how she鈥檚 dressed, but they鈥檙e covering it well. A Shadow and his trainee know the value of armor better than most Jedi bother with.聽鈥淚鈥檓 afraid Padawan Billaba didn鈥檛 inform me of your names before we met.鈥
鈥淎nd yet your friend knew my padawan,鈥 the Master says.
鈥淏y reputation,鈥 she says, as smoothly as she can.聽鈥淚鈥檝e encountered Quinlan Vos before, though I doubt he remembers--鈥
鈥淚鈥檇 remember someone like you,鈥 Quinlan interrupts, with a grin she鈥檚 sure is meant to be charming and rogueish.
He鈥檚... very young for her, and not her type. Mostly, she wants to pat him on the head, but that probably wouldn鈥檛 go over very well. She still looks聽like she鈥檚 younger than him.
鈥淎nyway,鈥 she says, turning back to the master,聽鈥淚鈥檓 afraid I still don鈥檛 know who you are, Master.鈥
鈥淚 am Tholme,鈥 he says, with the bow that a Master gives a Padawan. She feels a little slighted, but it鈥檚 fine. She looks the right age, it鈥檚 fine.
It鈥檚 not like they know.
鈥淚t鈥檚 nice to meet you, Master Tholme,鈥 she says.聽鈥淢y charges are Rex Torrent, the young man behind me, and currently coming down the ladder is Leia Antilles. I鈥檓 sure you鈥檙e aware of Jango Fett.鈥
鈥淭he Mand鈥檃lor,鈥 Quinlan volunteers, and Ahsoka can almost hear Fett鈥檚 teeth grinding.
鈥淒on鈥檛 call me that,鈥 he says. She鈥檚 sure he鈥檚 got a hand drifting for his blaster.
鈥淭here isn鈥檛 a whole lot of room on the ship,鈥 she says before the men can get into whatever weird contest she鈥檚 sure someone might start. Her bet鈥檚 on Fett.聽鈥淏ut Leia and Rex are small enough to share with me, so I鈥檓 sure we can make it work.鈥
鈥淭here鈥檚 spare rolls for anyone comfortable with sleeping in the hold,鈥 Fett grunts.聽鈥淥r on the floor in the passenger room.鈥
鈥淲ell, I guess I could ask for a little help fi--鈥
鈥淰os,鈥 Ahsoka snaps, letting her voice take on the kind of聽鈥榦bey me or get fresher duty鈥 irritation that she鈥檇 perfected back when the rebellion still had her managing people, before they鈥檇 realized she was more use in the field.聽鈥淒o not.鈥
There鈥檚 a moment鈥檚 pause, and Tholme looks unimpressed with that raised eyebrow, but the kind of unimpressed that鈥檚 split between his own padawan and the stranger before him.
鈥淯m,鈥 Quinlan says.聽鈥淚 just--鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 she cuts him off.聽鈥淣o flirting.鈥
It鈥檚 weird and uncomfortable and she鈥檇 have maybe been okay with it if she was actually聽the seventeen-or-eighteen-ish(?) that she looked, but she鈥檚 not. She鈥檚 in her thirties and Vos is... what, twenty? Twenty-one? No.
He stares at her, and she wonders momentarily if she鈥檇 gone too far in the direction of judging his intentions in the Force and preempted actual flirtations.
鈥淚鈥檓 sorry?鈥 He offers, looking confused, but ashamed.聽鈥淚, uh, I鈥檒l keep that in mind.鈥
She definitely preempted the actual flirtation.
Ahsoka closes her eyes and breathes in. Breathes out. Opens her eyes. 鈥淩ight. That was... I鈥檓 not sure how much Padawan Billaba told you about me.鈥
鈥淓nough,鈥 Tholme says. He moves forward and puts a hand on Quinlan鈥檚 shoulder. Ahsoka has no idea if it鈥檚 to comfort him or hold him back.聽鈥淚 didn鈥檛 share most of it with my padawan, but I have a general understanding of what鈥檚 going on.鈥
Quinlan darts a look at his teacher, but Ahsoka doesn鈥檛 acknowledge it. It鈥檚 fine. Everything is fine.
鈥淭hank you for your understanding,鈥 she says, and bows, and stiffly turns away to walk to the galley.
Leia squirms into the bench seat, shoving her way under Ahsoka鈥檚 arm like a particularly wriggly tooka.
鈥淲hat was that?鈥 Leia demands, the authority of a rebellion general rather useless in the squeaky voice of a child.
鈥淲hat was what?鈥
鈥淭he whole thing with Padawan Vos,鈥 Leia says.聽鈥淵ou blew up at him before he even did anything.鈥
That鈥檚 pretty true.
鈥淚 felt the flirtation coming before it happened and reacted inappropriately because I panicked. I鈥檓 significantly older than him, but I can鈥檛 tell聽him that, so it鈥檚 just awkward and uncomfortable and... I鈥檓 not okay, Princess. I haven鈥檛 been for a long time.鈥
鈥淵eah, we can tell.鈥
鈥淲hat? I need therapy too! Captain Rex needs therapy! I鈥檓 pretty sure Fett needs therapy! You, Fulcrum, you really聽need therapy. None of us are okay.鈥澛燬he huffs, wiggling impossibly closer.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 like聽it, but it鈥檚 true.鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 Ahsoka groans.聽鈥淚 just... I just need to hold out until the Temple.鈥
鈥淲ill you be able to hold it together if you see someone you actually聽care about?鈥 Leia demands.聽鈥淲hat are you going to do when you see Kenobi?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 serious, you--鈥
鈥淟eia, that鈥檚 enough,鈥澛爏he snaps.聽鈥淚 was fighting that war before you were even born, and I鈥檝e dealt with the consequences since. I know聽the risks and I鈥檒l thank you to remember who taught you to control your own mind.鈥
Leia stiffens, sucking in a sharp breath.聽鈥淭hat was uncalled for.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e not the child you appear to be,鈥 Ahsoka reminds her, not a little sharply.聽鈥淵ou want to dish it out, be ready to take it. What will you do when we see Bail Organa? When we see the toddler that is Anakin Skywalker?鈥
鈥淚 get it.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not sure you do,鈥 Ahsoka mutters. She isn鈥檛 surprised when Leia ducks out of the embrace and leaves the galley. She lets the girl go, guilt warring with the memory of how Master Kenobi had more than once spoken that way to Anakin at the height of the war. The fact that she鈥檚 an adult in the body of a child isn鈥檛 an excuse for poking at Ahsoka鈥檚 open wounds. It was cruel and unnecessary, and unbecoming of a... not a Jedi. A princess. A politician.
She rests her head on her arms and zones out. She should meditate, but that seems like... too much effort.
She can feel Vos and Tholme setting up in the room they鈥檝e been assigned. Neither seems particularly angry. Most likely, Tholme鈥檚 given the absolute shortest explanation of聽鈥榗hild soldier, dead master, highly traumatized and emotionally unstable鈥 to Vos to smooth over the incident in the cargo hold. Rex is with Leia; he鈥檚 agitated, but less so than Leia herself. Fett鈥檚 annoyed, in the cockpit, but he seems annoyed as often as not.聽There鈥檚 a shudder at lift-off, and a few minutes later, they鈥檙e in hyperspace, headed for the Core.
Fett finds her, falls into the seat across in full armor, and drops his elbows onto the table. The helmet clunks down a moment later.
She doesn鈥檛 lift her head.聽鈥淲hat do you want?鈥
鈥淒o I need to keep Vos away from you?鈥
鈥淰os. He made you uncomfortable. Was that him being someone that hurt you in the future, or just the interaction being awkward?鈥
She lifts her head. She stares at him.聽鈥淲hat?鈥
He leans back and crosses his arms.聽鈥淒o you need me to tell Vos to stay the hell away from you?鈥
She鈥檚 gaping. 鈥淵ou realize I鈥檓 thirty-two, right? I can handle my own battles.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e also traumatized as hell and everyone can see it,鈥 Fett argues back.聽鈥淚f Vos himself is a trigger, I can handle it.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 not,鈥 she tells him. This is strange. Fett鈥檚 being strange. 鈥淗e was actually a friend of my grandmaster鈥檚. I鈥檓 just uncomfortable with the flirting because I鈥檓 a lot older than he realizes, and I can鈥檛 tell him that.鈥
He nods sharply, and then looks away. The silence sits.
鈥淭hanks for asking?鈥 Ahsoka says, well aware of how her confusion over the offer turns it into a question.聽鈥淚 mean, thank you for... caring.鈥
I guess,聽she finishes in the privacy of her own head. Or at least pretending to.
Fett makes a face, still not facing her. He eyes the galley instead. She can guess where his thoughts are going. The galley is... not very big, especially with six people on board instead of one, but she鈥檚 sure they鈥檝e stocked up enough. On the off chance they do聽go through more than expected, because of how many growing bodies are in residence, they can stop off and buy more. They have those resources now.
Jango never does ask what she did with the slavers.
鈥淲ho鈥檚 going to cry if I spice things properly?鈥 he asks.
鈥淧robably Leia,鈥 she says immediately.聽鈥淰os will try to power through it even though he鈥檚 going to be overwhelmed. No idea about Tholme, but I think he鈥檒l keep a straight face whether he likes it or not. Rex and I are fine,聽鈥榟ot鈥 was pretty much the only flavor of seasoning the GAR had.鈥
鈥淕rand Army of the Republic.鈥
He finally looks at her.
鈥淵ou already knew I was a child soldier, Fett; don鈥檛 act surprised.鈥
鈥淭hat doesn鈥檛 mean I like hearing about it.鈥
鈥淚 was fourteen. That鈥檚 old enough by Mando聽standards, Fett. Just think back, when did you get on the battlefield?鈥
鈥淚 take your point,鈥 he says, lip curling unpleasantly. 鈥淚t just hits different now that I鈥檓 old enough to look back and think of how damned young聽fourteen really is.鈥
Ahsoka shrugs.聽鈥淵eah, well--鈥
鈥淵ou said the clones were ten.鈥
There鈥檚 the rub, isn鈥檛 it?
Of course it was about the clones.
鈥...closer to seven, by the end. Kamino was just making speedies at that point. Triple growth on the average instead of double, but averages in that case meant they鈥檇 been growing at double rates for six years and then got forced through four growth cycles in a single year to beef up the army when we kept losing men.鈥 She looks down at the table, picking at a scratch in the plastipaint with her nail. 鈥淩ex and the rest of the ones from the beginning were basically twenty in mind and body, even if they鈥檇 only been decanted ten years earlier. The speedies... I always wondered. They鈥檇 gone from functionally twelve to functionally twenty in a year.聽That鈥檚 not... even in Kamino, that can鈥檛 have been normal. They didn鈥檛 act聽like adults, not the way the originals did.鈥
Fett rubs at his face, groaning. He swears under his breath in three different languages.
She pities him, if only because he hasn鈥檛 actually done any of this yet.聽He鈥檚 paying for the crimes of a man he likely won鈥檛 ever become.
She kicks him under the table.聽鈥淲anna make tiingilar and see how long it takes Vos to start crying while he insists it鈥檚 fine?鈥
Dinner is when the questions start. Some are relatively easy. Others, not so much.
鈥淢y Master was Leia鈥檚 biological father,鈥 is an easy truth to share.聽鈥淪he inherited his power, so I need to get her to the temple for her own safety, because home no longer is.鈥
鈥淵es, her adoptive parents were unfortunately killed rather recently. We鈥檇 prefer not to talk about it.鈥
鈥淩ex is with me. Where he goes, I go, and vice versa.鈥
That one gets her an odd look.
鈥淚 thought...鈥 Quinlan trails off, gesturing between Rex and Fett.
Fett keeps his face impassive, but his discomfort and guilt leak into the Force.聽鈥淚 didn鈥檛 know Rex existed until I ran into these three in a spaceport cantina a few weeks ago.鈥
Quinlan blinks at him, looks at Rex again, and then turns back to Fett with a grin that might have been described as聽鈥榮aucy鈥 if he were less smug about it.聽鈥淲ild oats, huh?鈥
鈥淎re you shitting me right now,鈥 Leia whispers, and Ahsoka elbows her.
鈥淭hat was inappropriate, padawan.鈥
Quinlan鈥檚 grin fades as Fett just continues to eye him.
鈥淯m, so--鈥
鈥淗ow old is the kid?鈥 Fett interrupts.
Darting eyes answer him, as Quinlan tries to gauge Rex.聽鈥淭en? Maybe twelve?鈥
鈥淎nd how old am I?鈥
鈥...early thirties?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 twenty-seven.鈥
Quinlan鈥檚 grin fades further as he does the math.
鈥淚鈥檇 have been between fifteen and seventeen when he was born,鈥 Fett says, tone flat.聽鈥淏etween fourteen and sixteen at conception. I know damn well i wasn鈥檛 doing anything that could have resulted in a kid聽at that age.鈥
Quinlan rallies. 鈥淪o, brothers?鈥
Tholme sighs loudly, hand over his eyes.
鈥淚鈥檓 a clone,鈥 Rex says, and Ahsoka can feel the amusement he gets out of Quinlan鈥檚 confused shock. They鈥檇 both had plenty of respect for聽Master聽Vos, but Padawan Vos was nothing but trouble.聽鈥淗arvested genetic material, grown in a tube, inconsistent aging meaning I don鈥檛 even know how old I am for sure.鈥
鈥淚 broke him out,鈥 Ahsoka adds, which is half true.
鈥淭here was a chip in my head,鈥 Rex adds, with a bright smile. Quinlan鈥檚 discomfort grows.聽鈥淪he got it out. Also, lots of brothers. None of them are... around anymore. The creators were trying to make an army.鈥
Vos and Tholme have no response. Fett looks like he鈥檚 been carved out of stone. Leia鈥檚 just ignoring them and picking at her food.
Ahsoka lifts a hand and, without looking, Rex high-fives her.
鈥淒rop your elbow.鈥
Ahsoka tries to cover her smile at the dirty look that Leia shoots Fett. Fett remains unimpressed by the glare of royalty, just gestures for the girl to do as he said.
鈥淚 know how to fight,鈥 Leia grumbles.聽鈥淚 took lessons. I was good聽at them.鈥
鈥淎nd I鈥檓 better,鈥 Fett says, leaving no room for argument.聽鈥淵ou want the Torrents to take over?鈥
The Torrents.聽Rex and Soka. She likes being referred to that way. Like they鈥檙e a team that never got split up.
Force, she wished they鈥檇 never gotten split up.
鈥淎gain,鈥 Fett orders, and Leia moves through the Mandalorian kata with ill grace in her emotions and all grace in her sweeping limbs.
Well, as much grace as an undersized six-year-old can, at any rate.
鈥淭hink he鈥檒l ask me to spar her again?鈥 Rex asks, dropping down into the seat next to Ahsoka and passing her a drink.
鈥淢aybe,鈥 she acknowledges.聽鈥淚 think he鈥檚 wondering if it鈥檚 worth asking Vos to spar with her, so she gets more experience with size differences.鈥
鈥淪he flinched at his face again,鈥 she tells him.聽鈥淭he whole... thing with Boba, I guess. She still won鈥檛 tell me why Fett triggers her sometimes, but he鈥檚 not pressing her to spar with him, and there鈥檚 only so much she can get out of fighting me. Asking Tholme would be presumptuous, but Vos is just a padawan. I think it鈥檇 work out.鈥
鈥淎nd you?鈥
She looks at him, already feeling a cresting wave of bullshit she doesn鈥檛 want to deal with.聽鈥淲hat about me?鈥
鈥淎re you going to spar with the Jedi?鈥
She should. She hasn鈥檛 sparred with a saber since she got tossed back into a body only half-familiar to her. She鈥檚 let Leia borrow the shorter one to learn some basic blocking moves, Shii-Cho and then, with hesitance, the first Soresu form. Another time, she loaned it to Rex to practice some attacks; they both know that the next time he picks up her saber in battle, having lost his weapons or she her grip, it will be neither the first or last time he wields a sword of light.聽None of that, however, is... sparring.
None of that is against someone who knows what they鈥檙e doing.
How long has it been since she聽sparred with anyone other than Kanan and Ezra?
How long has it been since she聽sparred without the looming specter of Darth Vader in the back of her mind, without fear of the Inquisitors, without the knowledge that any saber held by someone other than her two friends would be red as blood and twice as drenched.
Would she be able to hold back as she fought?
鈥淚 should,鈥 she acknowledges, eyes on where Fett is nudging Leia鈥檚 feet into position for some kind of leveraging flip. She鈥檚 so small.聽鈥淚t would probably be a good idea to spar against a master at some point.鈥
鈥淒o you think you can?鈥 Rex asks.
鈥淚 never knew him,鈥 she says.聽鈥淎nd he isn鈥檛 Dark. It should be fine.鈥
Rex nods, taking her word for it. They watch as Leia stumbles on a final move, and Fett gestures for her to sit down and get a drink.
鈥淭hat man is a terror,鈥 she informs them.
(She鈥檇 once described him as a slave-driver. She had not made that mistake twice.)
鈥淟east it鈥檚 not Kamino!鈥 Rex tells her cheerfully. When Leia refuses to look impressed, he laughs at her.
Ahsoka has a half-second鈥檚 warning before heavy boots thud to the ground next to her.聽鈥淲hat鈥檚 Kamino?鈥
鈥淗ello, Vos, it鈥檚 nice to see you too,鈥 she drawls.聽鈥淚鈥檓 good, thanks for asking, and yourself?鈥
The boy-not-quite-man rolls his eyes.聽鈥淗i, Torrents; hi, tiny one.鈥
Leia glares at him next.
鈥淪o, Kamino?鈥
鈥淧lanet by Rishi,鈥 Rex says.
鈥淲hy were you there?鈥
鈥淭hey specialize in cloning.鈥
Ahsoka covers her mouth as the conversation drops into the same awkward gap that always happens when Quinlan stumbles into a subject he didn鈥檛 know to avoid.
鈥淟ike... you were made there, or you were researching how it works for your own--鈥
Ahsoka slaps a hand over his mouth.聽鈥淣ow鈥檚 a great time to stop talking.鈥
He licks her palm.
She bares her teeth and arches her fingers just enough to press nails into his cheek.
He bites at her palm, and she yanks her hand away.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e all children,鈥澛燣eia accuses, conveniently forgetting that Ahsoka and Rex are both over a decade older than her.
鈥淚 can throw you the length of a swimming pool,鈥 Ahsoka tells her.聽鈥淥ne of the fancy competition-ready ones that would make a Tatooinian cry. You are absolutely the child here.鈥
鈥淯sing the Force is cheating, sir,鈥 Rex informs her.
鈥淥nly if there鈥檚 a competition,鈥 Ahsoka shoots back.聽鈥淎nd proving that a certain princess is a small child聽is not a competition. It鈥檚 a declarative fact.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 going to rip open the seams on all your tops except the ugliest one,鈥 Leia decides.
鈥淭ry me,鈥 Ahsoka challenges.聽鈥淎di鈥檏a.鈥
A low, rough cough interrupts them.聽鈥淎re you done?鈥
Fett has his arms crossed, and an eyebrow raised. He聽knows they鈥檙e all adults here, and is entirely unamused. As the silence drags, the eyebrow climbs a little higher.
鈥淒one with what?鈥 Quinlan finally asks, thereby volunteering himself to spar in hand-to-hand with Jango Fett, as one does.
鈥淧oor, poor Vos,鈥 Rex laughs, watching as Fett barks out orders at Quinlan every five seconds to fix his footwork, to stop dropping his guard, to stop wasting energy on flips instead of just dodging the easy way.
鈥淭hrow him!鈥 Ahsoka calls. To her delight, Fett obliges.
The thing is, Quinlan isn鈥檛 bad聽at brawling. He鈥檚 got training, endurance, skill. The man knows what he鈥檚 doing, objectively. He鈥檚 just not a match for Fett, and is used enough to relying on his saber that his hand-to-hand skills are rusty. They are perhaps less rusty than those Jedi who don鈥檛聽take questionable jobs in the Mid-Outer Rim, and Ahsoka鈥檚 got a suspicion that Vos regularly gets into bar fights in his downtime, but none of that is enough for him to actually do more than survive聽against Fett without his saber.
Even the saber wouldn鈥檛 help, if Fett had his armor.
鈥淲hose idea was this?鈥
Ahsoka cranes her head back and smiles.聽鈥淗ello, Master Tholme. Vos... volunteered.鈥
鈥淒id he know he was volunteering?鈥
鈥淣o comment.鈥
Tholme snorts, crossing his arms and eyeing the spar in front of him.聽鈥淚 thought Fett hated Jedi. Giving us a ride for the sake of you three is one thing, but why is he teaching聽my padawan?鈥
Ahsoka shrugs.聽鈥淐onstructive bullying?鈥
There鈥檚 a small twitch of a smile, quickly gone.聽鈥淗e said something wrong, I鈥檓 guessing?鈥
鈥淭here was no way he could have known,鈥 she dismisses.聽鈥淲e鈥檙e just, like, ninety-percent tragic backstories.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檇 think the Force would warn him,鈥 Rex notes.
鈥淭hat鈥檚 not how the Force works,鈥 Leia chides.
鈥淣o, no, he鈥檚 right,鈥 Ahsoka corrects.聽鈥淭he Force does sometimes step in to stop a person from saying something stupid. However, Padawan Vos is at an age where people think they are very聽rational while being more irrational than they likely ever will be again.鈥
鈥淒o I want to ask what you聽were doing at that age?鈥 Tholme asks.
鈥淩unning bla...鈥 she trails off, then whips around to gape at him.
He smiles, bland and unassuming.聽鈥淒oes Fett know?鈥
鈥淜now... what?鈥 Ahsoka asks.
鈥淭hat you鈥檙e significantly older than you look,鈥 he says, voice just low enough that the sparring duo can鈥檛 hear him.聽鈥淎ll three of you.鈥
Ahsoka turns back to the spar, only catching Tholme out of the corner of her eye.聽鈥淗e knows.鈥
鈥淢m. Were you planning on telling the Council?鈥
鈥淵es.鈥 That part was never in question.聽鈥淗ow did you figure it out?鈥
鈥淚 am聽a good investigator,鈥 he says.聽鈥淎nd you rely a little too heavily on your physical forms to obfuscate. Were it just one of you, that wouldn鈥檛 be a problem, but the pattern repeated across three is a little easier to discern.鈥
鈥淚 hoped the whole聽鈥榗hild soldiers鈥 thing would be a bigger distraction,鈥 Ahsoka mutters. She glances at Leia and Rex. Both of them are used to being in charge to some degree, giving orders and making contingency plans, but in this... in this, Ahsoka is in charge. They鈥檇 decided that at the very start. It didn鈥檛 matter that Rex had lived longer and had more experience, or that Leia had held the highest Rebellion rank of the three of them. Ahsoka had been agreed as leader, and they were relying on her.
They鈥檙e waiting on her orders. Stiff and unhappy, in Leia鈥檚 case, but they trust her.
鈥淲ill you be telling Vos?鈥 She asks.
鈥淣o,鈥 Tholme says.聽鈥淵our secrets remain your own unless they endanger us, and I鈥檝e a feeling they won鈥檛 be.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 be so sure,鈥 Rex jokes, smile not reaching his eyes.聽鈥淚鈥檝e been working with this family for too long to trust that trouble won鈥檛 find them around the next corner.鈥
鈥淭his family?鈥 Tholme repeats.
鈥淪okari was telling the truth about her master being Leia鈥檚 biological father,鈥 Rex says. He shrugs.聽鈥淚 worked with him, with his wife, with both of his kids, with his master and his padawan. All of them, to a one, are trouble magnets.鈥
鈥淎h, but that鈥檚 not the secret that鈥檚 putting us in danger,鈥 Tholme points out.聽鈥淪imply existence as a Jedi.鈥
Rex shrugs.聽鈥淔air enough. Don鈥檛 say I didn鈥檛 warn you, though.鈥
Ahsoka lurches to her feet, turning with a smile and dancing backward into the the stretch of empty cargo hold they used for such things.聽鈥淎 spar, Master Tholme?鈥
He looks past her, to Quinlan, and raises a brow.聽鈥淲ould you not prefer to spar with someone a little closer to your level first?鈥
She barks out a laugh.聽鈥淢aster Tholme, I鈥檓 afraid I鈥檝e spent more of my life fighting to survive than having normal friendly spars. My style is more lethal than the average, and you鈥檝e already seen what war鈥檚 done to my mind. I ask to spar with you because, if I lose control, if I slip in time or react on an instinct that isn鈥檛 appropriate, I trust that you鈥檒l be more able to stop me than a senior padawan.鈥
He smiles.聽鈥淵es, I gathered as much. Still, better to ask. Shall we wait for them to finish up?鈥
Ahsoka shrugs, turns, and yells.聽鈥淐lear the deck!鈥
Rex snorts behind her, and lowly mutters,聽鈥淪ir, yes, sir.鈥
She smirks at him over her shoulder.聽鈥淎t ease, Captain.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚聽鈥楥ommander鈥 to you, I got promoted,鈥澛爃e sniffs, chin held high.
Heavy steps herald Fett鈥檚 arrival at their little group.聽鈥淭he hells are you doing?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 going to have a spar with a Jedi Master, and I want you and Vos to not聽get stabbed.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not that easy to injure in an actual聽fight, let alone by accident,鈥 Fett grouses. He looks up and over at Vos, who is already significantly taller, if a fair shot less built.聽鈥淭his one, on the other hand...鈥
Ahsoka laughs and backs into the center of the cargo hold, drawing her sabers.聽鈥淒on鈥檛 worry, Vos, I won鈥檛 play dirty. You鈥檒l probably聽get your master back in one piece.鈥
He wrinkles his nose at her.聽鈥淕etting a bit ahead of yourself there, aren鈥檛 you? He鈥檚 a Jedi Master聽and former Watchman. You鈥檙e... what, eighteen?鈥
Ahsoka raises a brow and activates her sabers, tapping the blades together and watching as more than one person winces.聽鈥淲anna bet on how long I last?鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 he says immediately, stepping back to join Rex on the bench.聽鈥淵ou鈥檝e already blindsided me enough. I鈥檓 not dumb enough to fall for whatever you鈥檝e got up your sleeve.鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 have sleeves.鈥
鈥淎rmwarmers-slash-greaves, then.鈥
鈥淕reaves go on the legs, these are vambraces.鈥
He throws his hands up in the air.聽鈥淚鈥檓 just going to stop talking now!鈥
鈥淕ood plan,鈥 Leia snarks, and then literally hisses when Rex ruffles her hair.
Tholme lights his saber and sinks into an opening stance.
Ahsoka mirrors him.
She wins, but barely. She's had a few weeks to practice her forms, has sparred hands-only with Rex and Fett, but this is her first real try at using her sabers against a person,聽instead of a blaster or thin air, since she arrived in the past. She鈥檚 only mostly聽adjusted to her body.
But Tholme is a healer and a watchman, not a duelist. Ahsoka held her own against Ventress, against Grievous, against Maul聽when she was this age. Still adjusting to her body or not, her lineage is one of battle, and it bled true.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e terrifying,鈥 Quinlan tells her after they鈥檙e done, smiling like the sun as he hands her a towel.聽鈥淧lease never turn that on me.鈥
She laughs at him.聽鈥淲ould you believe that I鈥檓 out of practice?鈥
鈥淥ut of practice with what?鈥澛爃e asks, horrified and fascinated.聽鈥淔ighting Sith Lords?鈥
鈥淎mong other things,鈥 she says, and smirks when he chokes on his drink.聽鈥淢ultiple darkside users who claimed聽to be Sith, at least. One being a full Lord, one that was disowned by his master, and one that was apprenticed to a Banite apprentice, so she wasn鈥檛 technically聽allowed to be a Darth because of the rule of two.鈥
Tholme meets her eyes past Quinlan鈥檚 shoulder, head tilted and eyes half-shut in consideration. He鈥檚 taking her seriously. He knows what she鈥檚 not saying.
鈥淗ow...鈥 Quinlan trails off and shakes his head.聽鈥淵ou know what, no. Asking you people questions never ends well.鈥
鈥淕ood plan,鈥 Ahsoka says, clapping a hand down on his shoulder.聽鈥淎lso, you need to spar with Fett more. Your footwork is shit.鈥
鈥淚t is not,鈥澛燪uinlan gripes.聽鈥淵ou鈥檙e all just scary good at this stuff.鈥
鈥淵ou mean surviving?鈥 Leia pipes up, and smiles innocently when Quinlan turns to pout at her.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e getting bullied by a six-year-old,鈥 Rex informs him.
鈥淵eah,鈥 Quinlan sighs.聽鈥淚 know.鈥
Ahsoka laughs, and it鈥檚 fine. It鈥檚 all fine.聽For a week, everything is honestly great.聽She trains, she laughs, she works through the nightmares.
Then fucking Denon聽happens.
Denon is a city-planet on the intersection of two major hyperlanes. It鈥檚 the kind of place where they stop for two things:
Technically, there鈥檚 a whole mess of paperwork they have to fill out to continue along this specific hyperlane, since they aren鈥檛 official Republic ships, and don鈥檛 have the licenses to just pass along like ships that are pre-registered to the Trade Federation or the like. They could聽sneak past--literally all of them know smuggler鈥檚 routes--but it鈥檚 honestly less of a pain to do things legally. They have a Jedi Master. They have cash. Some of that cash wasn鈥檛 quite legally acquired, but nobody needs to know that.
It鈥檚 supposed to be a pit stop. That鈥檚 all.
It鈥檚 just a pit stop.
But no, the galaxy isn鈥檛 that kind and Ahsoka鈥檚 luck is currently being compounded with a Skywalker, two Fetts, and Vos, which means that of course they run into trouble. Of course they do. There was never any other option, was there?
鈥淢otherfucker,鈥澛燗hsoka snaps, lifting her head up and slamming her drink on the table.
The glass is empty. That鈥檚 good. They鈥檙e in a restaurant right now, a little splurging after weeks with only each others鈥 company, and spilling the sugary child-friendly juice with that move would have drawn way too much attention from the servers.
鈥淟anguage,鈥 Tholme says, voice idly unconcerned.
鈥淪ir?鈥 Rex asks, kicking Ahsoka under the table.聽鈥淲hat鈥檚 wrong?鈥
鈥淲hat鈥檚 wr--that jackass,鈥澛爏he hisses, getting to her feet.聽鈥淩ex, grab a blaster, I鈥檝e got shebs聽to kick.鈥
鈥淥kay,鈥 Rex says, grabbing one out of Fett鈥檚 holster and scooting out of the booth before anyone can tell him not to.聽鈥淲hose?鈥
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 even know that he was... osik,聽I don鈥檛 have jurisdiction,鈥 she realizes.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 have any record of wrongdoing. I can鈥檛 arrest him since we don鈥檛 have evidence of criminal wrongdoing...鈥
鈥淎re you two going to explain what鈥檚 going on?鈥 Vos asks.聽鈥淥r sit down, maybe?鈥
Ahsoka makes her decision. She eyes the window--the restaurant in question is a little dingy, but it鈥檚 also several dozen stories in the air.聽鈥淩ex, remember the thing we did on Geonosis that you hated?鈥
He pauses, and then sighs heavily.聽鈥淵es, sir. I remember the... yeeting.鈥
Hah. That slang doesn鈥檛 even exist聽yet.
鈥淕reat. With me!鈥
It鈥檚 a good thing the windows are forcefields instead of transparisteel. A bit of a twist聽to the energy and they鈥檙e gone.
She only hears a little聽screaming before the wind tears all noises away while they plummet.
They land lightly--of course--and Ahsoka wraps them both in a don鈥檛 notice me聽aura. Nobody even notices that they鈥檝e just come from above. It鈥檚 great that she can just Do These Things again, and get brushed off as Weird Jedi Shit, instead of worrying about the Empire. She鈥檚 missed being able to jump out of windows without fear.
Rex follows her as she starts running through the city. They don鈥檛 have comms, and he鈥檚 still so small,聽which means he can鈥檛 keep up with her even if she runs at normal speeds without Force enhancement.
鈥淪hould you carry me?鈥 he asks, before she can figure out if it鈥檚 worth suggesting. She did it a few times before they joined up with Jango.
鈥淚t鈥檚 not... urgent,聽I think,鈥 she says. She hesitates to speak, even as she keeps jogging with Rex at her heels.聽鈥淗onestly, I鈥檓 trying to figure out if there鈥檚 anything I can ding him for so we can聽attack him. It鈥檚 all well and good that I can beat him right now, but all the crimes I know about haven鈥檛 happened聽yet, so it wouldn鈥檛 be legal...鈥
鈥淚 have no idea who you鈥檙e talking about.鈥
She scrolls the conversation back mentally, considers, and says,聽鈥淥h.鈥
鈥淲ho鈥檚 getting steamrolled?鈥
鈥淯h, Maul鈥檚 here,鈥 Ahsoka admits.
鈥淎h,鈥 Rex says. He makes a face.聽鈥淚 understand the desire to jump out a window, now. I don鈥檛 agree with it, but I understand.鈥
Ahsoka laughs. 鈥淚 mean, I just... every time I鈥檝e seen him for almost twenty years, it鈥檚 been like... on sight, you know? We鈥檝e never not attacked each other, except when I needed him to cause problems on Mandalore. But I always knew I was in the right, then.鈥
鈥淪o... what do we arrest him for?鈥 Rex prompts.
鈥淯m... carrying a lightsaber without a license?鈥 she hazards.聽鈥淲e鈥檒l need Tholme there. Hopefully I can just shout at him and he鈥檒l attack me, but I think he only went full nutjob after Master Kenobi cut his legs off. He might be too controlled to try to kill me just for yelling at him.鈥
鈥 we have to stalk him?鈥 Rex asks, sounding like he鈥檇 most likely sigh if he weren鈥檛 mid-run.
She scoops him up and swings him around onto her back before she answers.聽鈥淚 think we have to stalk him, Rex鈥檌ka.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 call me that.鈥
Maul is... exceptionally sneaky, actually. Either that, or he hasn鈥檛 done anything wrong yet. Ahsoka鈥檚 betting on the former, because she鈥檚 seen this particular skocha kung聽take over a planet before anyone realized he was the most dangerous person around.
Or maybe he鈥檚 just not committing crimes, and is in fact just聽here to buy groceries.
He鈥檚 examining a papaya.
She fantasizes about jumping across the market and greeting him with a heel to the cheekbone.
鈥淎re you imagining a flying kick, Sir?鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 examining a papaya, Sir.鈥
鈥淚 know...鈥
鈥淒oes he know we鈥檙e here?鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know. Maybe? Do you think I should go hit him?鈥
鈥淪hould I hit on聽him?鈥
鈥淣o, Sir. I would not advise that.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 looking at the neloms.鈥
鈥淚 can see that.鈥
鈥淲hy does he have to be so bo--did he just fucking bite a nelom?鈥
鈥淚t appears so, Sir.鈥
鈥淟ike... like rind and all. Just bit the little fucker.鈥
鈥淪eems it.鈥
A scuff of metal.聽鈥淲hat the fuck聽are you two doing?鈥
Ahsoka tips her head around to peer through the grate.聽鈥淲e鈥檙e spying, Fett, what does it look聽like we鈥檙e doing?鈥
Rex cranes his head.聽鈥淲e鈥檙e hanging upside-down from a fire escape to get a look at a suspected Sith Apprentice that is currently shopping for various fruits, Mand鈥檃lor.鈥
Ahsoka waves.聽鈥淗i, Master Tholme.鈥
鈥淪okari,鈥 the master greets.聽鈥淭his seems a very conspicuous way to spy.鈥
She shrugs as well as she can from this angle.聽鈥淵es, but you see, this way鈥檚 more fun.鈥
鈥淚s it now.鈥
Rex shifted. 鈥淗e鈥檚 on the move!鈥
鈥淭o kill someone?!鈥
鈥淣o, to the deli meats.鈥
Apparently, Tholme and Fett had told Quinlan to take care of Leia, as Leia had wanted to finish her juice and refused to get involved in the Torrents鈥 nonsense. According to her, if they couldn鈥檛 be bothered to explain the nonsense, they didn鈥檛 need her.
This was true and accurate.
Quinlan shows up while they鈥檙e still stalking Maul, having moved to a low rooftop for a decent vantage point with less likelihood of being spotted. He鈥檚 giving Leia an eopie-back ride, and the pout on her face at needing it is adorable. She pouts harder when she sees them.
鈥淎re you even trying to hide?鈥 Leia scoffs.
鈥淣ot really,鈥 Ahsoka admits. She鈥檚 got Fett鈥檚 binoculars out.聽鈥淚鈥檓 not sure he鈥檚 caught wind of the fact that we鈥檙e here yet.鈥
鈥淥r he has and he鈥檚 just biding his time to escape while we鈥檙e distracted,鈥 Tholme points out.
鈥淢eh,鈥 Ahsoka says, avidly devouring the visual that is a teenage Maul glaring at leafy vegetables.聽鈥淚 just want him to do聽something so I have an excuse to beat his ass.鈥
鈥淒o I get to know who?鈥澛燪uinlan asks, setting Leia down on the roof.聽鈥淥r are we going to keep being completely unwilling to share information?鈥
鈥淏aby Sith Lord,鈥 Ahsoka says.聽鈥淗e鈥檚 fifteen. A child.鈥
鈥淎 baby,鈥 Rex agrees.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e... that鈥檚... ugh,鈥澛燪uinlan groans as loudly and as dramatically as he dares, flopping down to the rooftop.聽鈥淢aster Tholme, please tell me this isn鈥檛 a real Sith.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 Dark,鈥 Tholme confirms.聽鈥淪ith is... up for debate until we have evidence.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 a bitch聽is what he is,鈥 Ahsoka mutters. She observes the teenager in question stop to poke at some pink tomatoes.聽鈥淓 chu ta, break the law, already!鈥
鈥淒oes he have a lightsaber?鈥 Quinlan asks.聽鈥淚f he has a lightsaber and no Jedi ID or specialty license, we can probably arrest him.鈥
鈥淎untie Soka doesn鈥檛 have a license or ID,鈥 Leia points out.
鈥淪he鈥檚 got a Jedi escort,鈥 Tholme says.聽鈥淎nd if our supposed Sith is polite and plays nice, we can probably escort him聽to the Temple as well.鈥
Rex snorts derisively.
鈥淒o you know why聽he鈥檚 on Denon?鈥 Fett asks.
鈥淣o clue,鈥 Ahsoka admits.聽鈥淓vil reasons, probably.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e useless,鈥 Leia tells her.
鈥淭hanks, princess, how鈥檚 that attempt to open the jam jar by yourself coming?鈥
Leia says something very inappropriate for a princess, for a child, and for a lady. It鈥檚 fairly appropriate for a soldier, which is admittedly what she鈥檚 been for a few years now. Ahsoka sticks her tongue out at the girl like the mature operative she is.
鈥淚 wish we could still get him to lose his osik聽by just showing up and insulting him,鈥 Rex mutters, low enough that Quinlan probably聽can鈥檛 hear.
鈥淚 wanna punch him in the face,鈥 Ahsoka confesses.聽鈥淚 want him to try to punch me聽in the face, and fail.鈥
鈥淒on鈥檛 bully the baby Sith,鈥 Rex admonishes.
鈥淗e鈥檚 a Sith.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 fifteen, it鈥檚 tacky.鈥
鈥淏ut it鈥檚 Maul.鈥
鈥淚 know, but you鈥檙e聽tw--significantly聽older than him.鈥
鈥淏ut... but it鈥檚 the motherfucker himself.鈥
鈥 can bully him a little,聽but only because he鈥檚 a Sith.鈥
Fett steals the binoculars.聽鈥淵ou can borrow them again when you stop acting like children.鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know what you mean,鈥 Rex says, dry as Ryloth.聽鈥淚鈥檓 ten.鈥
鈥淧retty tall for your age,鈥 Ahsoka mutters, and then giggles.
鈥淒on鈥檛 steal my jokes,鈥 Rex says. He elbows her, hard.
鈥淵ou know,鈥 Quinlan says, slow and tired.聽鈥淢aster Tholme and I are聽trained investigators.鈥
Ahsoka and Rex look at each other, and then up at him.
鈥 you want me to find actual聽evidence of this guy doing something criminal?鈥
鈥淥h, yes please.鈥
Quinlan, as it turns out, is not overselling his skills. He does聽catch Maul doing something illegal later that day. It鈥檚 a little more聽鈥榮tealing corporate secrets in the dead of night鈥 and less聽鈥榯orturing people for kicks,鈥 but it鈥檚 still enough to legally arrest him. Quinlan attempts to do so.
Quinlan does not succeed, and is forced to jump out a window to avoid getting cut in half. Maul follows, steals a passing speeder by throwing out the driver, and takes off. Someone--looks like Tholme--drops back to save the driver, but the rest of them give chase. Ahsoka gleefully聽takes point on that, of course. She鈥檚 the best pilot.
(Rex looks bored, but someone is likely to puke by the end of the night. She hopes it鈥檚 not Leia, who insisted on coming for some fucking reason.)
鈥淗ow the kriff聽is a teenager that good?!鈥 Quinlan yells, clinging to the edge of the speeder to avoid getting tipped out as Ahsoka swerves around a corner with a wild laugh.
鈥淗e鈥檚 a Sith!鈥 Leia shouts over the wind.聽鈥淲hat do you think?鈥
Quinlan is not impressed by the claim of Sith.
Ahsoka screeches as she drifts across four lanes of traffic and into an alleyway to pursue Maul. He鈥檚 pretty good at dodging cross-building walkways, but she鈥檚 better. She bares her teeth, hissing, and tries to pick a plan.
鈥淰os, how鈥檚 your aim with Force throws?鈥 She calls to the backseat.
鈥淯h, decent?鈥
鈥淕reat! Fett鈥檚 the projectile!鈥
Vos takes a second longer to process that than Jango does.
鈥淚鈥檓 wh--鈥
He cuts off, screaming, and is flung forward by Quinlan to crash headfirst into a teenage Sith.
鈥淭ake the wheel!鈥 Ahsoka commands, not waiting to see who follows the order, because Fett and Maul are both getting to their feet, the other speeder is about to crash, and she鈥檚 not sure who鈥檚 going to win that fight.
She jumps from the speeder they鈥檝e been violently dragging around Denon, and lands feet-first on Maul鈥檚... shoulder.
That definitely聽dislocated something.
鈥淵ou should wear armor!鈥 she chirps at him, drawing both sabers and grinning as he whirls to face her, eyes wide with hate.
He鈥檚 utterly silent.
That鈥檚 disturbing. Expected, but disturbing.
鈥淒id you just聽throw me?鈥澛燜ett demands, higher pitched than she鈥檇 normally expect.
鈥淣o, Vos threw you.鈥
鈥淏ecause you told him to!鈥
鈥淵eah, it鈥檚 a good strategy!鈥
鈥淚t is not!鈥
鈥淲hy not? Throwing people was standard practice in the GAR.鈥
She can鈥檛 see his face, but she鈥檚 pretty sure he鈥檚 about ready to strangle her.
Ahsoka cannot, at that point, continue聽snarking with the father of her best friend, because there鈥檚 a red lightsaber coming for her throat, and she should probably worry about that. Maul鈥檚 very good at killing people and she鈥檇 like to avoid becoming part of that statistic.
As she is quickly reminded, he is... fifteen. And shorter than she鈥檚 used to. And already injured.
It鈥檚 really, really easy to take him out, actually.
At some point, the other speeder was safely recovered before it caused property damage, and their own is landing a few meters away with Vos and the kids.
鈥淵ou have Force-negating cuffs, right?鈥 Ahsoka asks.
鈥淣o, Master Tholme has them.鈥
鈥淥h,鈥 she says, and grimaces.聽鈥淚 guess I鈥檒l just... keep sitting on him then.鈥
Maul snarls, and she raps him on the skull.聽鈥淪top that, it鈥檚 uncivilized.鈥
Rex snorts.
Jango makes a noise that is incredibly frustrated with the lot of them, and turns on Rex.聽鈥淲as she telling the truth?鈥
鈥淭hrowing people being standard practice for the GAR.鈥
Rex鈥檚 face goes pained.聽鈥淚t was in the five-oh-first. And a few others.鈥
鈥淲hat鈥檚 the GAR?鈥 Quinlan asks.
鈥淣one of your damn business,鈥 Fett snaps.
Quinlan throws his hands up in the air again.聽鈥淐ome on! I just proved I know what I鈥檓 doing!鈥
鈥淎nd their tragic backstory is none of your business, prudii!鈥
Quinlan blinks at him, and then glances at Ahsoka.聽鈥淯m.鈥
鈥淗e called you a shadow since your training, um, seems to be pointing in that direction,鈥 she says as carefully as she can.聽鈥淲e were theorizing.鈥
鈥淲h... you actually paid attention?鈥 Quinlan asks, looking horribly confused.聽鈥淚 thought I was just annoying you.鈥
Ahsoka laughs at him.聽鈥淥h, Vos... I鈥檝e been running black ops for... much longer than most would guess. Trust me, I know another spy when I see them.鈥
She smiles as kindly as she can, because she hadn鈥檛 actually meant聽to make him feel left out or unwanted or... well, she鈥檇 been pretty patronizing, especially for someone seemingly younger than him. The smile does not work. Quinlan just looks kind of horrified about how young she just implied she started spy work.
Granted, she鈥檇 been sixteen for Zygerria...
Deciding to ignore him for a bit, she shifts on Maul鈥檚 back and pats him on the cheek.聽鈥淒on鈥檛 worry, Baby Sith. We鈥檙e going to get you lots of nice therapy. Mind healers, no Sith tortures, all that fun stuff. Maybe some plushies.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e also getting therapy, right?鈥 Quinlan asks.聽鈥淧lease say you are. I鈥檓 required for the specifics of my training and if anything you鈥檝e said is true, I feel like you really need it and I鈥檓 scared of what鈥檒l happen if you don鈥檛.鈥
Ahsoka laughs, knowing exactly how empty it sounds.聽鈥淥h hell, if I didn鈥檛聽get therapy, I imagine Kix would rise from the grave to force me into it.鈥
The name means nothing to anyone except Rex, and... ah, yeah, she told Fett about Kix a few weeks ago.
鈥淣o more throwing me without warning,鈥 Fett grumbles, dropping to sit on the ground next to her.聽鈥淓specially not at baby Sith Lords.鈥
鈥淚 am not聽a child!鈥 Maul spits.
鈥淗e speaks!鈥 Ahsoka cheers.聽鈥淎w, I knew you could do it.鈥
鈥溾橲oka, I told you not to bully him,鈥 Rex complains.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 tacky. You鈥檙e being tacky.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 allowed to be tacky,鈥 Ahsoka declares.聽鈥淚鈥檝e died twice,聽that鈥檚, like, permission from the universe.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檝e died twice?鈥澛燪uinlan asks, back in聽鈥榝ascinated horror鈥 territory.聽鈥淲ait, no, I shouldn鈥檛 ask--鈥
鈥淭oo late! The first time was on a planet that doesn鈥檛 exist and my Master lost his mind, killed a god, and used the good favor of another god to have me brought back to life at her expense. Not in that order.鈥
鈥淚--what? No, that鈥檚--what?鈥
Ahsoka smiles brightly.聽鈥淵ou asked.鈥
Tholme finally shows up with the cuffs.
鈥淵ou should eat something.鈥
He glares at her.
鈥淏aby Sith Lords need to eat.鈥
He keeps glaring at her.
鈥淢aul, you鈥檒l never get big and strong and ready to kill if you don鈥檛 eat your vegetables.鈥
He bares his teeth.
鈥淣o, I don鈥檛 eat my veggies, but I鈥檓 a Togruta, so if I eat too many vegetables I throw up.鈥
Rex kicks her thigh, right on the faulds.聽鈥淲hat did I say about bullying the Sith Lord?鈥
鈥淣ot to.鈥
鈥淎nd what are you doing?鈥
鈥淢aking him eat his vegetables.鈥
He kicks at her again.聽鈥淕et up, we鈥檙e swapping out the watch.鈥
鈥淏ut I wanted to hang out with my favorite little criminal mastermind.鈥
Rex drops to the floor and presses his forehead to her shoulder.聽鈥淗ow the hell is being around this guy聽the first thing to make you cheer up in weeks?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 allowed to be mean to him.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 going to bite you.鈥
鈥淚鈥檒l bite back.鈥
Rex jabs a finger into her ribs, and she squeaks.聽鈥淕o get something to eat, Commander.鈥
鈥淔ine,鈥 she huffs, rolling to her feet and moseying along to the galley. She walks in on Tholme and Fett having an argument about the ways in which Jedi and Mandalorians differ. Quinlan鈥檚 on the side, watching with wide eyes, and little Leia鈥檚 drinking a juice box at his side, tucked up under his arm and occasionally saying things to fan the flames. Ahsoka assumes she鈥檚 enjoying herself.
She opens the cooling unit, looks over the contents, and pulls out a raw leg of eopie mutton. She leans against the counter, bites into the chilled-but-not-frozen meat, and uses the back of one hand to wipe the blood off her chin. The聽鈥榬eal adults鈥 don鈥檛 notice.
鈥淚鈥檓 like ninety percent sure you鈥檙e doing this to mess with me but also...鈥 Quinlan trails off, staring at her with horror.聽鈥淲hy?鈥
鈥淎 girl鈥檚 gotta eat.鈥
鈥淵eah, but all the obligate carnivores I know are like... generally holding to basic rules of courtesy when it comes to not grossing people out,鈥 Quinlan says.聽鈥淟ike, I don鈥檛 chew with my mouth open. You don鈥檛... eat in the most intimidating--did you just crack the bone with your teeth?!鈥
Ahsoka smirks at him, using her free hand to take away the shard of bone so she can suck out the marrow without eating the bones themselves.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 know if you鈥檝e noticed, but this isn鈥檛 polite society. We鈥檙e in a galley on a bounty hunter鈥檚 ship, and I鈥檝e been living on the run or in an army for most of my life. Table manners are optional.鈥
鈥淣o, they鈥檙e not,鈥 Leia orders.聽鈥淔ett, it鈥檚 your ship, tell her to--鈥
鈥--and another thing!鈥澛燜ett snaps at Tholme, clearly paying less than no attention to the food argument.
Ahsoka keeps on eating, trying to catch wind of where the discussion鈥檚 at. Mostly, it seems to be at聽鈥榯alking past each other.鈥 Neither of them seems to have fully grasped more than the absolute most basic聽parts of the other culture, and that鈥檚 only enough to insult each other, not actually have a constructive conversation. She鈥檇 have expected more out of Tholme, at least. He鈥檚 not exactly young.
鈥淗ey, quick question,鈥 she says, in a moment where both of them have paused for breath and the opportunity to seethe.聽鈥淔ett, when鈥檚 the last time you worked with聽a Jedi, or any member of a Force-based religion, before I popped into your life?鈥
His nose scrunches up as he makes a face.
鈥淎nd Tholme, when鈥檚 the last time you聽worked with anyone from the Mandalorian system?鈥
Tholme鈥檚 reaction isn鈥檛 any more gracious than Fett鈥檚.
鈥淵eah, that鈥檚 what I thought,鈥 she says.聽鈥淰os, were either of them actually interested聽in that conversation, or just looking for an excuse to yell?鈥
鈥淣ow listen here, jetiika--鈥
鈥淔ett,鈥澛爏he snaps.聽鈥淚 am not聽a child.鈥
鈥淎nd neither am I,鈥 he growls right back.聽鈥淭his is my ship, and I damn well don鈥檛 need you treating me like a misbehaving youngling. You鈥檝e got a problem, you bring it to my face, not get all smug about people鈥檚 tempers blowing over.鈥
Well, then.
She smiles thinly.聽鈥淥f course.鈥
He stands with his arms crossed, in full armor save for the helmet. She puts aside the eopie meat and wipes her hands, smiling until she can put her hands on her hips and let it drop to a challenge.
鈥淵ou know, I鈥檓 just--I鈥檓 just gonna go,鈥 Quinlan mutters, pulling Leia out with him, the girl hanging from under one of his arms.聽鈥淭his, uh, this looks like a problem for... you folks. Um. Yeah.鈥
He sidles out.
Tholme doesn鈥檛.
Fett rubs at the bridge of his nose, and then gestures at the table.聽鈥淪it.鈥
鈥淚鈥檇 prefer not to.鈥
He drops his hand and glares at her.聽鈥淲e have another week on this ship together. We are聽going to have this conversation. Sit.鈥
She sits, right on the warm spot left behind by Quinlan and Leia. She crosses her arms, lifts a brow, and waits.
Fett takes the seat across from her. Tholme leans against the counter.
鈥淲e all know you鈥檙e older than you look,鈥 Fett says.聽鈥淚 heard Tholme mention it, I know that much has been shared. You鈥檙e acting like an actual teenager,聽and I鈥檝e... I鈥檝e put up with a lot. I am trying聽to keep things civil, particularly with you. I鈥檝e tried to be friendly.聽You鈥檝e been fucked up since we met, fine, everyone鈥檚 got trauma. The thing where you鈥檝e started talking shit to our faces for what seems like your own amusement? That has to stop. You鈥檙e older than me, Torrent. Fucking act like it.鈥
She blinks at him, slow and not exactly happy, and turns to Tholme.
The man shrugs.聽鈥淚 was planning to put up with it until we arrived to the temple and handed you over to some mind healers. Fett doesn鈥檛 have that kind of time.鈥
There鈥檚 a curdle in her stomach, defensive and angry and guilty.
鈥淵ou鈥檝e been... a bitch,鈥 Fett finally says.聽鈥淵ou know that. I鈥檓 not going to mince words. You鈥檝e been holier-than-thou and rude and condescending, and aiming that at Antilles is one thing, when you鈥檝e apparently known her since she was a toddler and taught her things. Aiming at the rest of us isn鈥檛 going to fly. We鈥檙e all adults trying to share a space. Stop acting like... just like you have been.鈥
There is no defense to be made that they aren鈥檛 both already aware of.
She closes her eyes and tries to strangle the burst of irrational rage.
Their accusations aren鈥檛 unfounded.
They deserve an apology.
She is in the wrong.
She鈥檚 felt freer than she had in years, and in that freedom allowed herself too much rein, let herself lace her words with barbed wires and poison instead of sparks and spices, comments that were cruel instead of just joking. Too familiar. Too comfortable.
鈥淢y behavior鈥檚 been inappropriate,鈥 she finally says, the words clumsy and too big in her mouth.聽鈥淵ou鈥檙e right about that. I鈥檓 sorry, and I鈥檒l endeavor to keep a tighter rein on my less pleasant behaviors in the future.鈥
At least she only lashes out with words. It could be worse.
She opens her eyes, fixes her gaze on the wall behind Fett, wrestles her expression into stiff neutrality.聽鈥淎m I dismissed?鈥
鈥...uh, no, not after that,鈥 Fett says, sounding just a little horrified.聽鈥淲hat the hell聽was that?鈥
Tholme hisses out a breath.聽鈥淟et her go.鈥
鈥淣o, this needs to be discussed, that鈥檚 not a healthy rea--鈥
鈥淔ett, let her go,鈥澛犅燭holme insists, low and heavy.
Fett looks between the two for a moment, seems to come to a realization he doesn鈥檛 like, and then gestures almost violently towards the door.聽鈥淔ine. Go.鈥
She walks out, doesn鈥檛 sprint. She鈥檚 stiff. She鈥檚 controlled. She鈥檚 the one that fucked up, so it鈥檚 fine if she doesn鈥檛 feel great right now. Getting called out on one鈥檚 own failings as a person isn鈥檛 something to get upset about if the failings are real. The feelings are real and normal, but this was her fault, and so it鈥檚 up to her to fix it, and she can鈥檛 let them know it hurt her, because this was her聽mistake.
She goes to the cargo hold.
Ahsoka works out her frustrations on Fett鈥檚 punching bag. She does not augment herself with the Force, just uses raw strength and technique, ignoring the tears that press at her eyes.
She鈥檚 fine.
It鈥檚 not weird. It鈥檚 not odd. It鈥檚 not strange聽to not notice she鈥檚 been kind of a bitch since her mood came up with the whole Depa thing, and then Maul. She鈥檚 been mean, mostly to Vos and Fett, and nobody鈥檚 confronted her about it until now. They let her have room for her trauma, and she hadn鈥檛 reined it in. She鈥檚 just gotten worse.
鈥楽nippy鈥 she鈥檇 always been, but age apparently hadn鈥檛 fucking tempered it.
She catches the punching bag, breathing heavily and covered in sweat. She hasn鈥檛 worked out all the twitchy, nervous energy yet.
鈥淰os,鈥 she greets, once she鈥檚 caught herself enough that her voice won鈥檛 waver. He鈥檚 on the other side of the bag, but she knows his voice. 鈥淒o you need something?鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e kind of... projecting,鈥 he tells her, drifting to where she can actually see him.聽鈥淣ot self-loathing, but, um, recrimination? You just don鈥檛 feel very good and I was hoping to help鈥
Why in all the Sith hells does he have to be nice.
鈥淚 got called out on my behavior and wasn鈥檛 ready to face the fact that I鈥檇 kriffed up,鈥 she tells him.聽鈥淚鈥檒l be fine. And I鈥檓... sorry. I haven鈥檛 been fair to you and was using you as an easy target for some of my ruder comments.鈥
鈥淚 mean, I kind of figured,鈥 he admits, coming closer.聽鈥淚鈥檝e been tutored by Shadows before, and a lot of them act like you. I just assumed it was more of that.鈥
鈥淚 still shouldn鈥檛 have let myself run loose like that,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚鈥檓... it wasn鈥檛 appropriate. I shouldn鈥檛 have let it happen.鈥
He shrugs, not meeting her eyes.聽鈥淒o you want to talk about it?鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 she says.聽鈥淣ot with... not with you. Or anyone other than Rex and a mind healer, really. Most of it is...鈥
She trails off, distantly noticing that her eyes are tearing up enough to blur her vision, and her nails are digging into the bag in a way Fett won鈥檛 appreciate.
There鈥檚 so much聽that beat her down, never quite breaking her, that she doesn鈥檛 even know what made her act the way she does.
鈥淲ant to spar?鈥
She looks over at him, wonders what he sees that makes him want to fight her聽when she鈥檚 visibly unstable.
He smiles, kind and easy, and it doesn鈥檛 quite聽reach his eyes. It鈥檚 genuine in intent, if not in energy. He wants to help.聽鈥淵ou all keep saying I could work on my hand-to-hand. Just take off the armor so I don鈥檛 break a finger, maybe.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e serious.鈥
鈥淣o, I鈥檓 Quinlan.鈥
She鈥檚 going to wipe the floor with this boy.聽鈥淵ou sure you wanna fight me?鈥
鈥淵ou won鈥檛 be able to meditate until you do,鈥 he says. He鈥檚 right, damn him.聽鈥淭he other option is that I go get your... vod, I think? I go get Rex and you two can talk it out since you trust him with more. I don鈥檛 want to do that, though, he鈥檚 still a kid.鈥
She eyes him, lips pressed together and mind awhirl with emotions and thoughts she鈥檇 tried to beat out of her head and into the bag. 鈥淓ver fought someone without the Force?鈥
鈥淲as it cuffs?鈥
鈥淥h, you meant me聽not having the Force,鈥 he realizes.聽鈥淓r, no. Is... is that something you鈥檝e done a lot?鈥
She smiles at him.聽鈥淵ou鈥檙e planning on Shadow work. That means getting captured and stripped of everything you are at some point, Force included. Unfortunately, the cuffs are in use on a very annoying Dathomirian right now, so we鈥檒l have to make do with you shielding like your mind鈥檚 a Kessel Spice Mine.鈥
鈥 I want to know how often you鈥檝e been captured?鈥
鈥淣o, you don鈥檛.鈥
When he comes at her, it鈥檚 easy to dodge. It鈥檚 easy to tap him on target points, little pokes that show she could聽take him out, but isn鈥檛 going to until he鈥檚 learned something. He stays grinning throughout, letting her take the lead, and he treats her like... like a knight. Like a teacher. He鈥檚 stepped back and gone from trying to impress her as a fellow padawan, to proving himself to a full knight.
She鈥檚 not sure when that change happened, or why or how, but it makes things much smoother. She wants to think that it would have even if she hadn鈥檛 gotten a wakeup call from Fett.
So she treats him the way she treated Ezra, for the year she鈥檇 spent traveling with Kanan. She treats him as a student that鈥檚 willing to learn, good but not yet great, competent but not yet ready to survive. She draws him into the kind of chest-heaving exhaustion that tells a fighter just how much energy they waste.
(Ahsoka may have had her own style, but her grandmaster had been the pinnacle of a Soresu user, and she鈥檇 spent years on the frontlines of a war. She knew the worth of conserving energy. She鈥檇 teach it to any who stepped in to challenge her.)
鈥淲ho taught you to fight like this?鈥 He asks, when they鈥檝e taken a handful of moments to circle each other. His steps are heavy, sure, planted. Her own are light and ready.
鈥淪oldiers,鈥 she says. It鈥檚 true enough.
鈥淣ot your Master?鈥 he asks, just as he tries to kick for her upper arm. It鈥檚 a safe question. For anyone else, it would be a safe question.
But for Ahsoka, it鈥檚 another chink in the armor, after a maelstrom of emotion, a storm of self-loathing, a dervish of instability.
She doesn鈥檛 break right away.
She spirals. She fights Quinlan, but doesn鈥檛 quite see him. Her strikes get sloppy, her feet stumble. She can鈥檛 make herself meet Quinlan鈥檚 eyes, not when the scrape of his heel against the metal sounds like the rasp of a breathing machine. Her shields get fuzzy, she knows, and she leaks what she feels into the air, making it sour and thick. She doesn鈥檛 notice, because all she can see, all she can--all she can hear and feel and--
She drops to her knees and grabs at her head, trying to stop it.
She breathes. In and out, harsh and jagged but natural聽in a way that the damned respirator wasn鈥檛.
Her master her teacher her brother the traitor the hound the executioner
Her face is hot. Something prickles. It might be tears.
She tries to say something, tries to say a name or a request, tries to make anything聽come out of her mouth that isn鈥檛 the broken wail of a woman who hasn鈥檛 let herself think about how she died.
She feels herself pulled into someone鈥檚 arms, and she can鈥檛 quite tell who,聽but they鈥檙e bigger than she is, and feel warm and worried. They care. They don鈥檛 understand, they鈥檙e scared,聽but they care.
Her hands shake, clutched to her chest and she can鈥檛 breathe she can鈥檛 make herself take in enough air to聽do a Force-damned聽thing the empire is going to feel her her shields are down and broken and her emotions are spilling and the empire is going to find聽HER ANAKIN IS GOING TO FIND HER AND--
Rex is here.
Her breath is coming so fast that she鈥檚 hiccupping more than she鈥檚 actually inhaling. She feels small hands in gloves on either side of her face, and then her forehead presses to something warm.
Rex. A Keldabe kiss. Her brother, her partner, her other half. He鈥檚 here. He鈥檚 calm. If he鈥檚 calm, then things are fine.
鈥淲hat happened?鈥 Light voice, high voice, small and distant. Leia. Little Leia little princess Leia she鈥檚 in danger she鈥檚 in trouble Anakin will--
No. Here and now. She needs to focus on here and now. Her throat feels cold. She breathes too fast, still. She can鈥檛 stop it.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know.鈥 That鈥檚 Vos. He was... they were doing something. He was here. Talking to her.聽鈥淲e were sparring, and she just--鈥
Right, sparring.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know if I said something?鈥 He offers, voice pitching up, unsure and worried. Is he the one holding her? He鈥檚 the one holding her. That鈥檚 embarrassing.
鈥淐ommander?鈥 Rex prompts.聽鈥淐ommander, can you open your eyes?鈥
She tries. She can鈥檛. She shakes her head.
鈥淪oka?鈥 he asks, voice quiet.聽鈥淲here are you?鈥
鈥淔-F-Fett,鈥 she manages. It鈥檚 enough.
鈥淎nd where were you?鈥
His voice is so soft. So worried. She held him the same way after Mandalore, after Order 66, after all his brothers, all her friends...
Her mind is spinning, and suddenly all she can hear is Anakin Skywalker is dead. I destroyed him.
Her breath hitches, and she wails.
鈥淐ommander,鈥 Rex tries again, but her head is a vortex of Then you will die聽and Perhaps this child聽and not the Jedi way.
Our long awaited meeting.
I destroyed him.
Then you will die.
She can鈥檛 breathe she can鈥檛 breathe she can only see that yellow eye that鈥檚 too familiar but belongs to a stranger can only hear a voice that shouldn鈥檛 exist can only mourn and break and--
鈥淢alachor,鈥 she manages.聽鈥淚--h-he--I died.鈥
鈥淲hat did you say?鈥 someone asks. A vod. It鈥檚 the right voice, almost, rough and business-like, not accusing anyone yet, and... and... no. No. Not one of her boys. It鈥檚 Fett.
鈥淯m, right at the end? I asked her who taught her to fight like this,鈥 Quinlan says, nervous.聽鈥淎nd she said it was soldiers. And I joked, I asked that it wasn鈥檛 her Master, and she didn鈥檛 answer that. A couple minutes later, she just started...鈥
鈥淥h, Soka,鈥澛燫ex whispers, pulling her closer.聽鈥淐ommander, just breathe with me.鈥
鈥淗-h-he, he just--R-Rex, he j-just--and I c-c-couldn鈥檛--鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 her captain whispers.聽鈥淚 know, just breathe with me.鈥
鈥淗e k-k-k-killed me,鈥澛爏he sobs, falling out of the Keldabe and into too-small arms.聽鈥淚 l-loved--he was my broth-ther and--and he just--he killed me, he didn鈥檛 even stop.鈥
鈥淚 know,鈥 Rex whispers.聽鈥淪oka, I know.鈥
Of course he does.
鈥淚t was just bad timing,鈥 Rex says, once they鈥檙e in the room she鈥檚 been sharing with her little family, curled up under a blanket and watching the floor like it has all the secrets to how she lost her world three times over.
鈥淚s there anything we need to keep in mind?鈥 Fett asks, gruff and uncomfortable. She wonders if he鈥檚 angry that she took his necessary confrontation and turned it into this mess.
鈥淒on鈥檛 bring up her Jedi Master,鈥 Rex says, and pulls her in when she shivers. Her eyes squeeze shut before she can stop them, tears beading up again.聽鈥淛ust... don鈥檛. It鈥檚 too soon.鈥
鈥淗e Fell,鈥 Ahsoka interrupts.聽鈥淚 thought he died, but he became a Sith. And fifteen years later, we ran into each other, and I refused to join him in the Dark, so he tried to kill me.鈥
Fett swears, low and muffled. She thinks he has a hand over his mouth.
Quin and Leia aren鈥檛 there. She thinks they鈥檙e keeping an eye on their Baby Sith prisoner. That鈥檚 good.
鈥淪oka,鈥 Rex whispers, and she buries her face in his shoulder. She鈥檚 too old to be this kind of mess. She鈥檚 thirty-two. She鈥檚 Fulcrum. She鈥檚...
She鈥檚 in need of a lot of therapy.
鈥淲e can avoid the subject unless you bring it up,鈥 Tholme promises.聽鈥淒efinitely until the Temple. Is there anything else we shouldn鈥檛 talk about?鈥
Ahsoka can practically feel Rex鈥檚 deadpan look.聽鈥淪ir, we鈥檙e a trio of child soldiers ripped from everything we know. Every other sentence is a risk. We鈥檙e just... working our way through.鈥
There鈥檚 a knock at the door. Oh. Quin and Leia.
鈥淛ust figured we鈥檇 drop this off before we went down to visit Mr. Grumpy-Face,鈥 Quinlan whispers. He still thinks Leia鈥檚 a child. He鈥檚 trying to make things less terrible for her. That鈥檚 nice.聽鈥淲e decided he鈥檒l be less angry if he tries Hoth chocolate, and made some for everyone.鈥
They definitely made it for Ahsoka herself, and Maul was an afterthought. Still. It鈥檚 sweet.
鈥淐ommander?鈥 Rex prompts, jostling her a little to try and get her to sit up.
鈥淕imme a sec,鈥 she manages. It takes longer than it should to push herself away from him, to accept the mug that Leia gives her, too-serious worry in the furrow of her brow and the twist of her soul.
She doesn鈥檛 look six. She doesn鈥檛 even look twenty-two. This girl was always too old for her skin, forced to grow up in the hostile fear of the Empire.
鈥淭hank you, Princess.鈥
She sips.
She can barely taste it beyond the ashes she imagines coating her tongue.
I destroyed him,聽her memory echoes. His slightest hesitation before he made the final move, it haunts her. She almost reached him. If only she鈥檇 tried harder, yelled louder, been better...
She shivers.
鈥淒o you need help falling asleep?鈥 Tholme asks.聽鈥淚鈥檓 a regular healer, not a mind healer, but...鈥
She probably should.
She takes another sip of her drink, willing herself to taste it. It鈥檚 good. She likes it. She knows she does.
鈥淐an you make it dreamless?鈥 she whispers.
鈥淚t doesn鈥檛 always work, but I can try,鈥 he tells her.
She nods.聽鈥淲hen I finish the chocolate.鈥
鈥淥f course.鈥
Everyone鈥檚 careful around her for days. The whole decision to be nicer聽doesn鈥檛 mean anything when she鈥檚 walking about in a daze of too few emotions, drained of everything she could feel in favor of a grey cloud of fluff in everything she does.
She does forms. Single saber and Jar鈥檏ai. Ataru and Djem so and Soresu. Reverse grip, regular grip, partial reverse on either side.
Again. Again. Again.
She loses herself in the motions, not quite meditating so much as just empty.
Rex worries. Fett worries. Vos worries.
Leia and Tholme keep their shields locked up tight, and she doesn鈥檛 know how they feel. She thinks Leia might be judging her. She think Tholme might be pitying.
Maul simply hates. It鈥檚 an old and familiar sensation to walk into, and she takes unthinking comfort in his rage. She鈥檚 silent instead of snippy, when she plays the role of guard, and they stare at each other in silence. His eyes burn, and she wonders how much she鈥檚 heard of her nightmares.
鈥淵ou need to talk,鈥 Rex tells her, when he finds her with a cold cup of caff, eyes fixed somewhere beyond it all. She lifts her head.聽鈥淪oka.鈥
She just stares at him.
He sighs and pulls her into a hug.聽鈥淐ommander, please.鈥
She can鈥檛.
Ahsoka stares at the wall behind him, resting her chin on his head. Her neck itches under the lek at the back of her head, a little tingle of a feeling that she can鈥檛 bring herself to do anything about. The pale light of the galley is sharp against the chipped paint of the metal that surrounds them. It hurts her eyes to look, but it鈥檚 not the deep and dark lit only by red--
Then you will die,聽her memory growls.
She flinches.
鈥淏reathe,鈥 Rex tells her, too-small hands clinging at her back.聽鈥淛ust breathe,聽鈥楽oka.鈥
She curls in tighter and tries to just breathe.
鈥淭ell me something good.鈥
Ahsoka blinks. She looks at Leia. She doesn鈥檛 have the energy to parse that.
Leia chances a look at Rex, who isn鈥檛 leaving Ahsoka鈥檚 side any more than he has to, and Fett on the other side. Tholme鈥檚 asleep and Quin鈥檚 on Baby Sith duty. It鈥檚 just people who know,聽right now.
The little girl across the table, the child senator, the spy, purses her lips and huffs in irritation.聽鈥淵ou knew my biological father before he became one of the worst people in the galaxy. Both of you did. Tell me something good聽about him.鈥
Good things.
About Anakin.
鈥淵ou fought a war as a Jedi,鈥 Leia prompts.聽鈥淪urely you must have done some good things with him, or at least thought you were.鈥
Did they?
Every mission ended in tragedy or was just a ploy of Palpatine鈥檚. Every saved life was just...
鈥淗e built Threepio,鈥 she finally says.聽鈥淵our father wi--I mean, Bail聽wiped Threepio鈥檚 memory after the Empire rose, for your safety, but Anakin was the one who built him.鈥
Leia sits up, eyes brighter.聽鈥淚 didn鈥檛 know that. I... was Artoo involved? Did he build R2D2, or...鈥
鈥淣o,鈥 Rex says,聽鈥淏ut Artoo was his favorite astromech, and they always pushed each other into stupid stunts. We risked a hell of a lot to save that droid, more than once, and I didn鈥檛 find out until you started working with the Rebellion full-time, but Artoo and Threepio were the witnesses for your bio-parents鈥櫬爓edding.鈥
Leia gapes at him. So does Ahsoka. (Fett doesn鈥檛 know enough to care.)
Rex grins, and if it looks a little forced, that鈥檚 fine.聽鈥淗e had a holo recording. I was one of the few people left that knew about the marriage that might have wanted to see, so Artoo offered. It was... sweet.鈥
He waits, probably for Ahsoka to add something herself, but she has nothing.
鈥淚 think that鈥檚 when they swapped droids, since Threepio was more useful to a politician and Artoo did his best work when we set him loose on the enemy.鈥
鈥淗e never changed,鈥 Leia muses.聽鈥淒id he always swear that much?鈥
鈥淵es,鈥 Ahsoka answers, as Rex laughs.聽鈥淎lways. All the binary I learned started with the best swears.鈥
She tries to think of another good memory, something else that Leia might appreciate. Her mind ticks back to saving Stinky, which is just a terrible option, because that mission started with Hutts and ended with the Battle of Teth.聽That massive loss of life, all for the son of the creature that had put Leia in chains.
She wonders if she has anything in her memory that doesn鈥檛 end in blood and graves.
鈥淪oka.鈥 Rex.
鈥淩emember that time Fives and Echo got lost in the undercity their first time on leave, and we had to get the General to help us find them?鈥
She does.
He鈥檚 right, that鈥檚 a good story.
鈥淥kay, so what you have to understand,鈥 Ahsoka says, already digging the faint details out and dusting them off,聽鈥渋s that these boys were ARC troopers, top-notch, terrifyingly competent once they got through specialty training, and loyal as hell. Echo had memorized the reg manuals front to back, and Fives was... well, Fives ended up being the only person to figure out the chips before they went into action. Point is, the Domino twins were good...聽eventually. Just like everyone else, though, they started out shiny.鈥
鈥淭holme鈥檚 hiding something.鈥
Ahsoka wonders if Leia will just leave if she ignores her enough. Probably not. This was the girl that got kicked out of boarding school for leading a sit-in at age seven. She鈥檚 got patience.
鈥淗is job requires him to hide a lot of things,鈥 Ahsoka says instead.聽鈥淣ot as many as Vos will have to, eventually, but a lot.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 hiding something from us,鈥澛燣eia insists, visibly frustrated that Ahsoka isn鈥檛 as upset about this as she is.聽鈥淪omething important.鈥
The way she says聽鈥榠mportant鈥 is clumsy and impacted by the missing baby tooth. She can鈥檛 say the r. It comes out as聽鈥榠m-poh-ten,鈥 which is adorable, and if Ahsoka comments on it, she鈥檚 probably聽going to get punched by a six-year-old.
鈥淭he Force doesn鈥檛 care,鈥 Ahsoka says.聽鈥淚 trust his intentions, if not him as a person.鈥
鈥淚f you don鈥檛 trust him, then why trust his intentions?鈥
鈥淟eia, I don鈥檛 know if you鈥檝e noticed, but I trust one and a half people in the galaxy,鈥 Ahsoka points out.聽鈥淢e not trusting a person isn鈥檛 a sign of anything except my paranoia. The only person I trust fully and without reservation is Rex. Even you, I only mostly聽trust, because my brain starts screaming if I think too hard. That鈥檚 why you鈥檙e the half.鈥
鈥淥kay, whatever, paranoia aside,鈥澛燣eia barrels on,聽鈥淗e should tell us. Whatever it is that he鈥檚 hiding, we deserve to know. We鈥檙e not children聽that he can just hide things from for our own good.鈥
Ahsoka presses her lips together.聽鈥淟eia. Princess. I know you鈥檙e used to holding all the cards--鈥
鈥淭his isn鈥檛 about me being a control freak!鈥
鈥淚t is, though,鈥 Ahsoka soothes, and smiles.聽鈥淵our mother--the bio one--was the same way. You spent years as one of the leaders of the Rebellion, so obviously you鈥檙e used to having all the information, and people reporting to you... but Tholme is a Jedi Master. He reports to the Council and the Republic. Do you know how many people I kept secrets from while I was a padawan? We鈥檙e an unknown, Leia. They have no proof that we鈥檙e on their side, especially since we鈥檙e traveling with Fett.鈥
Leia crosses her arms and glares as hard as she can.
鈥淚鈥檓 not going to bother him,鈥 Ahsoka says.聽鈥淚鈥檝e already had, like, five unrelated mental breakdowns. I鈥檓 putting this on hold until we get to the Temple and I can trust that there鈥檚 a healer on hand to sedate me or something.鈥
鈥淵ou... want聽to be sedated?鈥
鈥淟eia, I don鈥檛 know if you鈥檝e noticed, but a Force-Sensitive losing their osik聽the way I have been isn鈥檛 actually safe. I know聽I broke a weapons rack last week.鈥 Ahsoka gestures vaguely.聽鈥淚f the Jedi Master isn鈥檛 telling me something for reasons that might relate to my clear and obvious mental instability, I鈥檓 going to assume he鈥檚 got a point.鈥
鈥淪o he should tell me or Rex.鈥
鈥淲e鈥檒l be on Coruscant in four days,鈥 Ahsoka soothes.聽鈥淛ust... let it be. They won鈥檛 hurt us.鈥
鈥淵ou don鈥檛 know that.鈥
Ahsoka shrugs.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 have to. The Force leads me in all things, including this.鈥
Leia isn鈥檛 impressed by that, but Leia isn鈥檛 impressed by much in the first place.
She strides off in a fit that is, perhaps, more influenced by her six-year-old emotional control than she鈥檇 like to admit. Ahsoka lets her. It鈥檚 not worth the argument.
It鈥檚 only a few minutes later that Fett strides in, takes the seat Leia was just in, and asks,聽鈥淲hat would it take for you to teach me how to use a jetii鈥檏ad?鈥
She blinks at him.聽鈥淵ou want to learn how to use a lightsaber?鈥
鈥淚 see.鈥
She does.
Ahsoka taps her fingers against the table, eyeing him with the kind of interest she copied from Master Kenobi, years ago. Fett doesn鈥檛 fidget, but she thinks he might want to. He just looks back, waiting for her judgement.
鈥淵ou鈥檒l need to justify it,鈥 she finally says.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 a significant difference from what you actually聽did, so I need to know your reasoning for doing it, and your plans for once it鈥檚 done.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 all?鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 step one,鈥 she corrects. She tilts her head, considering.聽鈥淢y standards for you aren鈥檛 built in a vacuum, and you know that. Explain to me what you plan to do and how you plan to do it, and if I approve...鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檒l help me achieve it.鈥
鈥淢aybe,鈥 she allows.聽鈥淎 lot聽of that depends on Rex.鈥
鈥淚 expected as much,鈥 Fett says.聽鈥淗e is... an admittedly large part of the reason.鈥
鈥淗e would be,鈥 she says. She gives the silence a few more seconds to sit awkwardly between them, and then stands up.聽鈥淚鈥檇 guess聽 you鈥檝e been brainstorming already. Do you have it written down or is it mostly just in your head so far?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 still... debating options, so to speak.鈥
She grins, and the shape of the predator鈥檚 smile, the baring of teeth... that聽almost makes him step back. She can see it in the twitch of his muscles. Smart man.
鈥淔ollow me,鈥 she says, and doesn鈥檛 wait for him to stand. She strides out with tooka-light steps, hears the heavy beskar tread behind her, and goes to the cargo hold. Fett鈥檚 confusion grows tangibly behind her, especially when she tosses him a wooden quarterstaff. She picks up the other and spins it in one hand.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e going to fight me,鈥 she tells him, stretching and letting the staff help with the process.聽鈥淎nd while we fight, you鈥檙e going to tell me what your plans for Mandalore are.鈥
He mimics her, but there鈥檚 a frown on his face.聽鈥淎nd why staffs?鈥
鈥淵ou and I, we鈥檝e only sparred bare-handed,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚 need a feel for how you fight with a weapon anyway. These are a good start.鈥
鈥淣ot the beskad?鈥
She grins, and the twitch is back.聽鈥淣o. That can wait. We start with the staffs.鈥
He takes a stance, and she mirrors him. She lets him strike first with a weapon, but she鈥檚 the one that asks all the questions.
(He is the only one on the ship that can fight her one-on-one right now, and he can win.聽Still, she makes him fight for every inch, and what she doesn鈥檛 win in bruises, she wins in words.)
(Fett might yet be a proper Mand鈥檃lor, but Ahsoka learned war from her brothers, negotiation at the knee of a general and in the shadow of a prince, and government at the side of duchesses and queens.)
(If he wants her help uniting his people, he needs to prove that he can hold them together once she鈥檚 gone.)
Ahsoka鈥檚 interrogation of Jango鈥檚 plans is thorough, and she鈥檚 not the only one involved. She brings Leia in, and has her join in on the grilling. She maybe laughs as the twenty-seven-year-old survivor of Galidraan, the Mand鈥檃lor, a man who has killed Master Jedi with his bare hands, gets lectured on various government structures by a tiny girl that's missing several teeth and needs to sit on books to see the table properly.
Still, Leia knows this better聽than any of the rest of them do. The girl might have grown up heir to a monarchy, but she got a classical education and was drilled on democracy and all associated forms of government. Where Ahsoka knows military protocol and law enforcement, intersystem relations and defensive measures, Leia knows agricultural subsidies and welfare programs, infrastructure and education.
Ahsoka may know how to find out if someone鈥檚 breaking a zoning law, but Leia knows why it exists in the first place.
鈥淎nd I grew up in a cult,鈥 Rex says, when an argument on that topic breaks out.聽鈥淭he Jedi grew up in a religious meritocracy; Leia grew up in a monarchy; and I grew up in a cult.鈥
Ahsoka elbows him. He鈥檚 not wrong, but still.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is about forty-seven percent sure that Leia will聽put her foot in her mouth when it comes to Mandalorian culture, blunt as the girl is. That prefrontal cortex isn鈥檛 anywhere near as developed as it should be, either, so impulse control for the princess isn鈥檛 great. Ahsoka refuses to let Leia and Fett talk about ways to mend the breaks between tradition and the pacifism of the New Mandalorians without either Rex or Ahsoka herself as a mediating presence. Tholme sits in a few times, but while he knows that Leia isn鈥檛 really six--though not about the time-travel, yet--Quinlan doesn鈥檛.
They admittedly end up doing this while he鈥檚 on Maul-sitting duty.
鈥淚t鈥檚 like he doesn鈥檛 even care聽about making nice with the people that, at this point, make up the majority of his people!鈥 Leia grumbles one night, as Ahsoka kicks over a step stool so the girl can brush her teeth.聽鈥淗e may not like the New Mandalorians, but from what I understand, it鈥檚 still early enough to prevent the majority of the cultural bleaching you brought up. If he stays this stubborn--鈥
鈥淟eia,鈥 Ahsoka says, and the girl鈥檚 mouth snaps shut.聽鈥淚鈥檓 aware of your reasons for not trusting his intentions. But if I may say? Chill.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 not even trying!鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 trying a hell of a lot harder than he did in the original timeline,鈥 Ahsoka reminds her.聽鈥淏rush your teeth.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not a--鈥
It鈥檚 a little worrying, how the child鈥檚 brain affects Leia, but... well. That鈥檒l pas sin time, hopefully. Until then, Ahsoka gets to be the aunt she should have been. This includes tucking Leia in, which the girl grumbles about despite the fond waves of comfort that enter the Force around her. Ahsoka doesn鈥檛 call her out on it, just brushes back wisps of hair to plant a kiss on Leia鈥檚 forehead, and then does the same once Rex stumbles in, grumbling about the limitations of a cadet鈥檚 body, but far more ready to follow the protocol that is bedtime.
Rex doesn鈥檛 pretend to not like getting tucked in, for all that he鈥檚 sharing with a grumbly, already-asleep princess. He smiles up at Ahsoka, lets her hug him, and pretends they can be a normal family for five seconds.
Quinlan鈥檚 making a late night snack for himself in the galley. Tholme is guarding the Baby Sith. Fett...
Ahsoka goes to the cockpit, takes the copilot鈥檚 seat, and watches hyperspace pass them by.
It takes long minutes before either of them say anything.
鈥淒o Jedi believe in souls?鈥
His shields are up, locked up tighter than the innermost chambers of the Imperial Palace. She has no idea where he鈥檚 taking this question. She has to cast about for an answer.
鈥淭hat depends on how you define a soul,鈥 she finally says.聽鈥淟eia told me about Force Ghosts. A Jedi Master who underwent the right meditations and training could pass into the Force upon their death without losing their sense of self. They could remain themselves, to an extent, and interact with force-sensitive individuals. I don鈥檛 know if they could last that way indefinitely, but depending on your definition, I could argue those ghosts were evidence of a form of soul.鈥
鈥淪o you believe that the dead pass into the Force, but that what聽passes could be a soul. Something must exist for a sense of self to disappear at death in a way that impacts the Force as you understand it, and many would use the word 鈥榮oul鈥 for that something.鈥
鈥淢m,鈥 Ahsoka considers it.聽鈥淚鈥檇 say that鈥檚 pretty accurate. You鈥檝e put a lot of thought into this.鈥
鈥淲hat about those not yet born?鈥
Her fingers feel cold, and she finds herself no longer able to watch the passage of hyperspace as passively as she had, and her eyes catch on streaks and motes of what is not聽dust, her vision unable to keep any more still than her heart.
鈥淥h,鈥 she hears herself say.聽鈥淭he clones.鈥
It鈥檚 a long time before he answers, but the walls come down. He carries a confused sort of grief with him, guilty and a mite resentful. His questions have been building for longer than she鈥檇 thought. His voice is rough.聽鈥淚鈥檝e taken plenty of lives, but I鈥檝e never known the name of someone I erased from existence before they were even born.鈥
鈥淭he stories we told Leia about the brothers.鈥
There鈥檚 a grunt of agreement from Fett, so those dots at least connect.
鈥淚 take it my answer wasn鈥檛 helpful,鈥 she manages to say.
鈥淲ill they still exist?鈥 Fett asks.聽鈥淲ill they be born elsewhere? Or is... is a soul something that only comes into existence after the body does?鈥
鈥淚 have no idea,鈥 Ahsoka admits.聽鈥淚 want... I want to think that I鈥檇 be able to find them eventually, to recognize them, if their souls are still born into this world elsewhere.鈥
鈥淎nd if your Sith finds someone else to build his army out of?鈥
Ahsoka looks at him, sharp and pointed.聽鈥淵ou wouldn鈥檛.鈥
鈥淭hey鈥檒l be doing it anyway, if their plans are as ironclad as you say.鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檙e already associating with Jedi,鈥 Ahsoka says, fighting the urge to break his nose. 鈥淭hey wouldn鈥檛 approach you, not now. They can鈥檛 leverage your anger against you. They won鈥檛 know everything, but they鈥檒l know that you have friends among the Jedi.鈥
鈥淵ou think they can鈥檛 come up with better lies?鈥
He has a point. He has more than one point and she hate hate hates it.
A Jedi does not hate.
I am no Jedi.
鈥淵ou鈥檙e going to have to convince me,鈥 she says.聽鈥淓specially if you want to somehow balance this with the darksaber thing. I won鈥檛 teach you how to fight with it if you鈥檙e not planning to retake Mandalore.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 how they鈥檇 sell it,鈥 he says.聽鈥淩etaking Mandalore. An army ostensibly for the Jedi, and ultimately...鈥
鈥淵ou鈥檇 build an army of slaves.鈥
鈥淣o, I鈥檇 be the inside man for when they build that army anyway.鈥
She holds his gaze. She looks away first.
鈥淚鈥檓 thinking.鈥
He lets her.
鈥淚鈥檒l need to talk to Rex. Probably Leia.鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 like this.鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 only just considering it. It鈥檚 an idea, not a plan.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 the only reason I haven鈥檛 ripped your throat out with my teeth.鈥
鈥淗yperbole doesn鈥檛 suit you.鈥
She glares at him, and leaves, her mind chopping up and laying out every possible angle on Fett volunteering to do the exact same thing as last time, but somehow worse.
Great. Just what she needed.
Ahsoka isn鈥檛 there for the shouting match between Rex and Fett, but she doesn鈥檛 have to be. She can hear it form clear across the ship, and Rex comes to her afterwars. He鈥檚 been crying, which isn鈥檛 as surprising as it could be. These bodies are still prone to such things, and will be for years. She doesn鈥檛 comment.
鈥淒o you want to talk about it?鈥 she asks.
鈥淲e need to take out Sidious before he starts anything on Kamino.鈥
鈥淎greed,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚t鈥檒l be hard, though.鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 care.鈥
鈥淲hat did Fett say?鈥
鈥淭hat if it wasn鈥檛 going to be my brothers, it would be someone else鈥檚. Either we stopped the cloning from happening at all, or we mitigated damage by being there.鈥
鈥淚 don鈥檛 think Sidious is going to tap him for it,鈥 Ahsoka admits.聽鈥淣ot unless you鈥檙e willing to stage that kind of fight publicly enough for Fett to claim the Jedi poisoned you, family, against him. It could work, but it鈥檚 a gamble.鈥
He knows all of this.
鈥淚 miss them,鈥 he says, and she cards her fingers though the curls he鈥檚 managed to grow in the past weeks.聽鈥淚 just... even at the end, I had Wolffe. I knew Boba was out there; I wouldn鈥檛 be surprised if the beskar let him survive a Sarlacc. I had brothers. Not as many as I used to, but there was always someone. I miss them all, so much it hurts.鈥
鈥淚t wouldn鈥檛 be them,鈥 she reminds him. She pulls him closer, puts her cheek to his head.聽鈥淚t would be the same process, the same faces, the same training, even, but the boys themselves...鈥
He clings to her and shudders.
鈥淚 can鈥檛 force them to grow up the way I did. I want them back. Sidious is going to make the army no matter what. Someone鈥檚 going to suffer, and I don鈥檛 want it to be my brothers, but they won鈥檛 exist聽otherwise, and...鈥
鈥淎nd it鈥檚 an impossible choice,鈥 she summarizes.聽鈥淎nd it sucks.鈥
鈥淚t鈥檚 sucks Gungan balls,聽鈥楽oka.鈥
She laughs, and feels him smile against her shoulder. Good. He needs to smile more.
鈥淗e鈥檚 still trying to get me to like him,鈥 Rex says.聽"He鈥檚 still making an effort, and he never did that for anyone except Boba, and it鈥檚 weird.聽I don鈥檛 know what to do with any of that.鈥
鈥淕ain a brother,鈥 Ahsoka whispers, and she feels him jerk against her.聽鈥淚f that鈥檚 what you want.鈥
鈥淗e鈥檚 not聽vod.鈥
鈥淪ame blood as all the rest, and you鈥檙e older than him, so he鈥檚 not really in a position to be a parent to you like he was to Boba,鈥 she says carefully.聽鈥淵ou don鈥檛 have to do anything, if you don鈥檛 want to, but... I think he鈥檚 trying. I think this means a lot to him, and that he isn鈥檛 any more sure of what to do than you are. You don鈥檛 have to forgive him for what he did in the future, you don鈥檛 have to聽accept聽when he reaches out, you don鈥檛 have to ever talk to him again after we reach Coruscant if you don鈥檛 want,聽but I think... I think it鈥檚 worth at least considering what you have to gain. I think it鈥檚 worth looking at what he鈥檚 trying to give you.鈥
Rex huffs.聽鈥淲hy couldn鈥檛 he just be the聽shabuir聽I knew in training?鈥
鈥淪omething happened between now and then?鈥 she offers.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 know. I never met him in the original timeline. I just know the guy that keeps trying to get on my good side so you鈥檒l like him.鈥
He outright scoffs.聽鈥淪oka, that鈥檚 not the only reason he鈥檚 trying to get on your good side.鈥
鈥...I鈥檓 a former Jedi who talks trash to his face,鈥 she says slowly.聽鈥淎nd I cried on him. There is聽no聽reason for him to be nice to me, other than you.鈥
鈥淗e thinks you鈥檙e cool and a good person and wants you to be his friend.鈥
鈥淏antha poodoo.鈥
Rex grins in a way that goes straight to smirking.聽鈥淪oka, I鈥檓 not joking. Jango Fett wants you to be his friend.鈥
鈥淜riffing why?鈥澛爏he asks, more than a little horrified.聽鈥淚鈥檓 a mess, look like I鈥檓 ten years younger than him, have gleefully kicked his ass in front of an audience; I even told Vos to throw him at a baby Sith Lord.聽Putting up with me is one thing, but I鈥檓... I鈥檓 only barely not a Jedi. I鈥檓 a historical enemy of Mandalore, and part of the community he hates more than anything, and--鈥
鈥淎nd his reaction to you kicking his ass was pure Mando,鈥 Rex says.聽鈥淚n that he now thinks you鈥檙e a badass, and thus worth being friends with.鈥
鈥淚 can鈥檛 believe that. I physically cannot.鈥
鈥淪oka, just accept it. The Mand鈥檃lor wants to be friends with you.鈥 He scratches at his scalp.聽鈥淚 mean, he met you while you were protecting what appeared to be children, and it鈥檚 apparently still early enough for him to care about that.鈥
She leans back in her seat, eyes on the wall ahead of her and back against the cool metal of the other side. Rex falls back with her. She wonders if Rex changed the subject so they didn鈥檛 have to talk about deciding how many of his brothers get to exist, and whether or not he can swallow the bitterness of his history to have a connection with at lesat one member of his blood. She doesn鈥檛 ask. If he wants to change the subject, that鈥檚 his right.
鈥淚 don鈥檛... no.鈥 She denies it as well as she can, and then the implications dig a little deeper. 鈥淚s this me accidentally signing up to be the Jedi Order鈥檚 official liaison to the Mand鈥檃lor?鈥
鈥淚 mean, this point in time... they鈥檝e got Kenobi for the Duchess, yeah?鈥 Rex shrugs.聽鈥淕ood relations with the system are probably a good thing, and you鈥檝e got a stronger connection than Tholme and Vos.鈥
鈥淯gh,鈥 she says. She rubs a hand against her head, and then lurches to her feet.聽鈥淔ine! Fine. If it鈥檒l get him to retake Mandalore before聽the Sith decide to bribe him with an army he doesn鈥檛 get to keep, I鈥檒l teach him how to fight for the kriffin鈥 Darksaber.鈥
鈥淭hat鈥檚 what makes the decision for you?鈥
鈥淲ell something聽had to!鈥
They only get one lesson in before Coruscant, but the lesson lasts a full day, and Ahsoka鈥檚 got his comm number. Fett鈥檚 a quick learner anyway, and Tholme was there to give pointers where Ahsoka couldn鈥檛.
He won鈥檛 measure up to a Jedi in saber-to-saber combat, but he doesn鈥檛 need to. He just needs to learn enough to turn all those skills with a beskad聽to something that works with a jetii鈥檏ad.
(The balance of a saber is wrong to those used to a physical weapon. The inertia doesn鈥檛 work the way anyone expects. There鈥檚 no need to worry about damaging the blade.)
(Fett is good. Ahsoka is better. And, bless his heart, he knows it.)
(She will mold him into the shape of someone who not only can, but should聽rule a system with a history like that, and he damn well knows that too.)
鈥淒ropping out of hyperspace in T-minus twenty seconds.鈥
The Slave I is not, in fact, a Venator-class starship, or anything else near the size and smoothness of the ships that Ahsoka grew up on. This is a bounty hunter鈥檚 vessel, and the drop to real space jolts like nothing else. Ahsoka鈥檚 in the copilot seat for the return, but Tholme鈥檚 going to swap with her as soon as they鈥檝e got confirmation that there were no problems with exiting hyperspace, and nobody鈥檚 shooting at them.
鈥淲e鈥檙e not going to get shot at,鈥 Tholme had assured her.
鈥淚 always get shot at,鈥 she鈥檇 told him.
鈥淚 have our clearance,鈥 he reminded her, seeming more amused than frustrated.聽鈥淭here鈥檚 no need to worry about getting shot at.鈥
鈥淚 also always get shot at,鈥 Jango had thrown in.
鈥淥kay,鈥 Tholme had allowed, after several minutes of his trust in the Temple warring against Ahsoka and Jango鈥檚 learned paranoia. The looks Quinlan had darted around the room when Leia and Rex also聽claimed聽鈥榗hronic getting-shot-at disease鈥 had been a treat. The paranoia of a Watchman and a future Shadow was great, but the paranoia of three revolutionaries and a galaxy-wide criminal was greater. 鈥淵ou can take us in close enough to get in radio contact, but the second we have to ask for clearance and a vector, I鈥檓 in the seat.鈥
She鈥檇 agreed, of course. She was paranoid, not inexperienced.
鈥淲e鈥檙e much less likely to get shot down by ground control if you tell them we鈥檙e with you,鈥 she鈥檇 said, to his hilariously apparent metaphysical exhaustion.聽鈥淥bviously.鈥
鈥淕ood enough,鈥 he鈥檇 sighed.
What that means is mostly just that Ahsoka gets to watch the distant star at the center of Coruscant鈥檚 system grow rapidly brighter. She can pick out the constellations she鈥檇 grown up with, the stars the creche had projected on the ceiling every night, the ones that she may not have seen from the surface, but had greeted her and then sent her on her way every time she left on yet another campaign that lost her men their lives for a Sith Lord's wretched plans. These were the shapes and stories she鈥檇 never seen again as Fulcrum, a woman so hunted that to come within a dozen subsectors of the planet was to court her death.
For sixteen years, she hadn鈥檛 ventured closer than Alderaan, save for a single trip to Chandrila.
And now, maybe twenty minutes away at this speed, was the Temple. It was home.
A home that didn鈥檛 know her, that had sentenced her to death, that had hosted the rampage of her former master... but home nonetheless.
鈥淪table?鈥 Fett grunts.
鈥淭hrusters are good,鈥 she confirms.
鈥淚 meant you.鈥
Ah.聽鈥淚鈥檓... fine. As good as I could be, anyway.鈥
She hesitates, but manages to speak before he does.聽鈥淵ou?鈥
鈥淚鈥檓 not the one walking into an entire building of triggers.鈥
鈥淥nly because you鈥檙e not entering it,鈥 she says.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 the home of your ancestral enemies who, bad info or no, killed off a whole lot of your friends.鈥
鈥淚 get to leave,鈥 he says.聽鈥淵ou don鈥檛.鈥
She plans to needle him a bit more, maybe on something a little less based in both their traumas. She needs to talk, if only to fill up the silence and keep herself from reaching out to all the lights in the Force. It鈥檒l be too much, she knows.
Tholme enters the cockpit.聽鈥淐hange of plans.鈥
鈥淏etter be a good reason,鈥 Jango says, voice flat.
鈥淟eia鈥檚 crying.鈥
Ahsoka鈥檚 unbuckling herself before she can process the words fully.聽鈥淲hat?鈥
Leia doesn鈥檛 cry for no reason. Her emotional control is as difficult as the body makes it, but she doesn鈥檛 just cry.聽There鈥檚 always a cause.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 know. Rex said to get you,鈥 Tholme explains.聽鈥淪he was saying a name. He seemed to recognize it.鈥
Not good not good not good. If Leia was feeling the Emper--No. She cuts the thought off there. No catastrophizing. Information first.
鈥淲hat name.鈥
鈥淟uke. Mean anything to--and she鈥檚 gone.鈥
Ahsoka ignores him, just sprints to where she knows the聽鈥榶oung ones鈥 are. They鈥檙e all in Maul鈥檚 room, because nobody wants to be alone with him now,聽but it鈥檚 the worst time to leave him without supervision. It鈥檚 not the worst option; he mostly refuses to talk, still.
This holds true, because he definitely isn鈥檛 talking when she bursts in. He鈥檚 sitting on the bench, in a corner, hugging his knees and watching Quinlan try to calm Leia down.
鈥淐aptain, sitrep.鈥
鈥淰os and Tholme attempted to show Leia how to reach out to feel the Temple from a distance. They felt that it would be a good use of the time, and an interesting exercise at this distance. She attempted to do so, struggled for several minutes, and then reacted with shock. She has repeated the name聽鈥楲uke鈥 several times since then, and we鈥檝e been unable to fully calm her down. I asked Tholme to get you, as you are the only Force-Sensitive on board that understands the situation in full.鈥
鈥淯nderstood.鈥 She nods to him, and then goes to nudge at Quinlan.聽鈥淰os, move.鈥
鈥淵ou can sit behind her, hold her in your lap like you did when we had lunch the other day, but I need to get in her face.鈥 She waits for him to comply, and then drops to her knees and takes Leia鈥檚 hands in her own. She radiates calm and assurance, even though she knows Quinlan鈥檚 probably been doing the same since this started. She dips her head enough to get in the girl鈥檚 line of sight, waits for her to meet eyes.
鈥淧rincess,鈥 she says, and meets Leia鈥檚 eyes.聽鈥淲hat did you feel?鈥
From this distance... they鈥檝e got half the system to go, at least, and Leia鈥檚 training shouldn鈥檛 reach that far for anything more than the fact that the Temple is there. Ahsoka could feel unshielded individuals from here, if she focused, but she鈥檚 also been doing this much, much longer. The twins theory holds more water than ever.
鈥淐an you show me?鈥 Ahsoka asks, instead of asking for more clarification. She squeezes Leia鈥檚 hands and smiles. 鈥淚n the Force?鈥
Leia nods, and closes her eyes. It鈥檚 not the first time they鈥檝e done this, but it鈥檚 the first time in a while that Leia鈥檚 needed Ahsoka to guide her through.
Luke鈥檚 light, for all that it鈥檚 unfamiliar to Ahsoka, is brilliant聽among the rest of the signatures in Coruscant. Like Anakin and Leia, he鈥檚 a star in his own right, but he鈥檚 brighter. He doesn鈥檛 have Anakin鈥檚 bitterness or Leia鈥檚 righteous anger, just... light. Ahsoka had asked Leia to show her instead of looking for herself because she鈥檇 expected to not recognize the boy, but she needn鈥檛 have. He鈥檚 unmistakable.
He鈥檚 so bright that she almost misses the other signature that she does聽recognize. She shies away, knowing that it would be there, but... but it鈥檚 almost twinned with another nearby. Not identical, but different in a way that comes with age, with trauma, with... death.
Leia hadn鈥檛 arrived alone, after all.
Why would Luke?
Her eyes snap open, her hand coming up not-quite-fast enough to clap over her mouth as she gasps. She feels a shudder, one that starts in her shoulders and reaches deep into her ribcage, finds a home in her chest and doesn鈥檛 stop.
鈥淥h fuck,鈥 Quinlan whispers.聽鈥淭orrent? Um, Sokari?鈥
Rex steps closer. 鈥淐ommander?鈥
鈥淭hat shabuir聽faked his death again,鈥澛爏he manages.聽鈥淭hree times, Rex!鈥
He blinks at her.聽鈥...I know way too many people who fit that description, Soka.鈥
鈥淢aster Ke--鈥 she cuts herself off. He might have changed his name, just like she had. There鈥檚 already an Obi-Wan here. Rex seems to be figuring it out, but she needs to give him another hint.
鈥淗e pulled a Hardeen,鈥澛爏he stresses, and Rex鈥檚 eyes snap shut with a tired groan.
鈥淲ho?鈥 Leia asks, her own tumult of emotion paused in the wake of Ahsoka鈥檚 shock. There鈥檚 a hope and relief to her, and Ahsoka belatedly realizes that her main worry had been that she鈥檇 misidentified what was going on, that she鈥檇 given herself a false hope. Ahsoka鈥檚 internal reaction, her approval and awe at Luke鈥檚 presence, had trickled over enough to give Leia the reassurance she鈥檇 needed.
Unintentional as it was, Ahsoka was glad that she鈥檇 succeeded in helping her charge.
鈥淓r...鈥 she trails off.聽鈥淚 don鈥檛 know what name he鈥檚 going by, right now. We鈥檝e spent so long in hiding...鈥
鈥淭he man Luke knew as Crazy Old Ben,鈥 Rex says, and Leia鈥檚 eyes light up.
鈥淥h,鈥 she breathes.聽鈥淕eneral O--no, names. The High General, then.鈥
鈥淵eah,鈥 Ahsoka says, not a little soft.聽鈥淵eah, I guess death didn鈥檛 stop him any more than it stopped me.鈥
鈥淚 could have told you that,鈥澛燣eia says, smiling far too widely. She squirms where she still sits on Quinlan鈥檚 lap. 鈥淗e was... he taught you, right?鈥
鈥淎s much my master as the official one,鈥 Ahsoka says. She glances as Quinlan, feels Maul鈥檚 gaze on the back of her head. 鈥淵our f... my official master was very young when I was assigned to him. He wasn鈥檛 ready to teach, wasn鈥檛 even ready to be a knight, entirely, so my training was split between him and his聽master.鈥
Quinlan pops in at that moment,聽鈥淵our grandmaster was military, too?鈥
We all were,聽she thinks. Even you, in your own way.
鈥淚 landed in their care mid-battle,鈥 she says carefully.聽鈥淚t was a complicated situation.鈥
He nods, and she vaguely notes that he鈥檚 got his arms wrapped around Leia, and his chin tucked on top of her head. She isn鈥檛 sure if Leia鈥檚 noticed, but Quinlan鈥檚 picked up聽鈥榖aby鈥-sitting duty so often recently that she鈥檚 fairly certain he鈥檚 all but declared her聽鈥榣ittle-sister shaped.鈥 It doesn鈥檛 matter that Leia鈥檚 older--she鈥檚 still taking the juice boxes and gummy snacks that Quinlan shoves at her every single snacktime.
鈥淒o you think...鈥 Rex trails off, something uncomfortable twisting in the Force, even though his face keeps it mostly hidden.聽鈥淢y brothers. If the General survived and... and made it back...鈥
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 feel any,鈥 Ahsoka says, because she knows聽she鈥檇 have noticed if it was anyone she鈥檇 met, and likely any clone at all. They all felt different in the Force, but they all held a spark that made her know it was one of them.聽鈥淚鈥檓 sorry, Rex鈥檌ka.鈥
鈥淎 long shot,鈥 he says, that dash of hope shriveling up. He must see something in her face, because there鈥檚 a curl of warmth in him, even if his smile is brittle.聽鈥淚t鈥檚 fine, really. I have you,聽鈥楽oka.鈥
Rex and Ahsoka. Two halves of one whole.
She can鈥檛 wait to hear the lectures on attachment, the way people who haven鈥檛 seen her wars try to criticize her for clinging to any chance at still having a will to live. She can鈥檛 wait to see them justify telling her that it鈥檚 selfish聽to hold her sanity in her hands and refuse to let the grief take it away. She can鈥檛 wait to stare someone down for asking her to聽鈥榣earn to let go鈥 after she鈥檚 lost her family, her life, her universe three times over.
Most of the Jedi are more sensible than that, are reasonable enough to see those shades of grey and how to approach rules in the spirit they are meant instead of the rigid letter, but there will be some.
There will be more than enough telling her she is wrong to hold her oldest, closest, best friend as dear as she can.
Attachment, they鈥檒l say.
What they鈥檒l mean is聽鈥榗odepedence.鈥
They won鈥檛 be entirely wrong.
She reaches out for him, lets him fall into her side and stay there, closes her eyes and reaches out for the man she鈥檇 long called聽father,聽when they鈥檇 still been in each other鈥檚 lives.
This time, past the deafening flare of surprise-love-hope聽of the little star next to him, she can feel him reach back.
The second the ship has landed, even before Tholme and Fett are done with the checks, Ahsoka鈥檚 waiting at the exit. She strains her hearing so she鈥檒l know the second the system will let her open the massive door of the cargo hold.
Leia clings to her side, and the boys stand to her back.
Quinlan鈥檚 stressed enough that she can feel it like a cloud. She is very much not trying to feel that stress. Quinlan鈥檚 stress levels, back where he鈥檚 got Maul so he can keep an eye on Ahsoka and the Baby Sith at the same time, are so low on her priorities list that it鈥檚 a a little sad.
It doesn鈥檛 take long for her to be able to punch the button and open the damn door.
It opens slowly. She bounces on her toes, because there鈥檚 a beacon of light and a steady, familiar glow on the other side, and she鈥檚 so, so close. She can鈥檛 see through the crack yet, because it鈥檚 day in this part of Coruscant, and the sunlight is blinding against the dark of the hold. So close. She鈥檚 so close.
鈥淭he hell鈥檚 wrong with you?鈥
Fett? Fett. He鈥檚 already here to get off? This door鈥檚 slow.
She doesn鈥檛 answer him, because the door is finally open enough to let her out, and she leaps through the gap.
She lands on a pourstone floor, feels pebbles and grit compress under her boots, frantically looks around as her eyes adjust to light and--
The High General, the Negotiator, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, looking just as he did when she first met him, if a little less armored and a little more fed. The hair, the beard, the crinkle in the corner of his eyes. His spirit is a little older, his smile a little more strained, his posture a little more tired, but it鈥檚 him.
He spreads his arms, low enough that she could have dismissed it if she鈥檇 cared less for hugs, except she鈥檚 almost as small as she聽was when they met.
And every other hug she鈥檇 given back then had been, functionally, her being a living missile aiming her montrals for someone鈥檚 organs.
She鈥檚 a little聽more aware of how to avoid stabbing her friends in the intestine now.
She sprints for him, collides and sobs, feels him stumble back and then sink to his knees on the too-hard floor, and can feel the tears pouring out of her already. Her breath hitches, and she wails like a child, and that last part of her that couldn鈥檛 even grasp at safety shreds itself. His arms are tight around her, warm and strong and Master Kenobi don鈥檛 you dare leave again.
It doesn鈥檛 matter that Sidious is out there, that the Republic鈥檚 been building towards war for a century, that even now someone鈥檚 kicking up the Trade Federation. Her dad is here.
鈥淚鈥檝e missed you too, my dear,鈥 he says, pressing a kiss to the side of her head, the bristles of his beard scratching along the skin of her forehead. Off to the side, the binary suns that are Luke and Leia grow brighter in proximity, so bright she can barely bear it.
(鈥淔ett, why the kriff are you reaching for your blaster?!鈥)
(鈥淭orrent said her master tried to kill her.鈥)
(鈥淒ifferent guy, that was a different guy,聽put the blaster away.鈥)
(鈥淵ou could have just warned me.鈥)
(鈥淚 didn鈥檛 expect you to go for a shot on sight!鈥)
(鈥滳alm down, Jetiika, if I was going to shoot on sight, we鈥檇 already be in a firefight.鈥)
She ignores everything.
鈥淚f you fake your death one more time,聽I swear I鈥檓 going to kill you myself.鈥
He tries to pull away to talk to her more directly. She does not let him. He apparently resigns himself to this, because he just adjusts how he鈥檚 sitting and pulls her in closer.
鈥淚n my defense, I was far from the only one presumed dead that took advantage of that status, by the end,鈥 he says, letting her slump into his lap and cry herself dry.聽鈥淚鈥檓 proud of you. You know that, I hope.鈥
She nods against his chest, smearing tears and snot across the linen and wool. She doesn鈥檛 care that they鈥檒l need a thorough washing. She can have her public breakdown and it鈥檚 fine because Master Kenobi is here.
He doesn鈥檛 even know what she鈥檚 spent the past fifteen years doing. Luke wouldn鈥檛 have known. He doesn鈥檛 know she鈥檚 thirty-two and broken, beyond a shadow and cut down by her own master. There鈥檚 so much he doesn鈥檛 know but the Force rings with the truth of it: he鈥檚 proud of her anyway.
鈥淚鈥檓 going by Ben, now,鈥 he mutters against her montral.聽鈥淭here鈥檚 already an Obi-Wan here, after all. Still, I remain a Kenobi.鈥
She can鈥檛 make the words come out of her mouth. She鈥檚 overwhelmed, so much so that speech is a mite bit beyond her.
Sokari Torrent,聽she presses along the frayed bond that鈥檚 knitting itself back to life with every breath they take. Leia was already calling me Auntie Soka, and Rex and I both took Torrent, for...
鈥淔or the men you lost,鈥 he mutters.聽鈥淵es, that鈥檚 fitting.鈥
He smells like sapir tea and a spiced beard oil.
There鈥檚 a whirl of activity about her, greetings and聽鈥榓 Sith apprentice?鈥櫬燼nd introductions. She distantly notes when Fett almost shoots Dooku before Rex shuts that down and advises the Master to leave the area before things spiral out of control. She feels Ben stand, and she stands with him, clings to his side like a child and trusts that whatever happens, whatever needs to happen, he鈥檒l take care of it until she can stand on her own two feet without swaying.
Rex grabs her free hand, and she feels herself settle back into her skin, bit by bit.
She鈥檚 back at the Temple. The twins are safe. Her grandmaster is here. She has her other half.
They can save the galaxy this time.
She鈥檚 alive she鈥檚 home she鈥檚 okay.
She鈥檚 okay.
Everything鈥檚 going to be okay.
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