Auntie ‘Soka and Little Leia (and Rex)
The counterpart to Uncle Ben and Little Luke (Original Post, Chrono)
Listen. You all knew this was coming.
This got... very long and detailed and I’m going to 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 “That, of course, is when things get interesting.”
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’re 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. She’s 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’s a female togruta, young and healthy, and in the Outer Rim, caring for a small human child. Sure, she has her lightsabers and plenty of combat experience, and she can keep them safe, but she’s just one person, and a major target for those looking to make some quick cash. It doesn’t 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’s there too! He’s physically like... 10-12 in natborn, maybe. They’re not sure, because clones age weird. He’s moderately more useful than Leia (who is very competent but also physically six, and short for that age), but he’s 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 “Oh, my adoptive brother’s kids” since it’s kind of the truth for Leia and she’s not touching the actual 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’s not like that means anything, right? Just, you know, your dad was my teacher! I don’t 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’s got kids: She’s 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’s a target, and also not the kind of person one generally gambles with. If she does gamble, people get upset when she doesn’t lose, in ways they don’t get upset about Ben doing the same, because she’s, again, a cute teenage girl. It’s exhausting.
As things go, she largely ends up stealing from people who deserve it and/or smuggling herself and her charges into someone else’s ship. They’re small, they can hide. Sometimes she can get them all passage by working as a mechanic, she’s good at that.
Once they’ve 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 born, depending on how successful they are at, you know, stopping the war and everything. Ahsoka, though, she’s going be born in two years, and there’s no reason to prevent it, so... she doesn’t want to steal baby-her’s name. That would be mean.
Leia is already calling her “Auntie ‘Soka” when she can for reasons like “selling the bit” and “manipulating adults” and “making us both feel better after we had a mutual breakdown about Anakin being Vader.” Ergo, she decides that whatever new name she picks better include that in some way, and decides on “Sokari” because it sounds pretty.
Overall, they don’t... they don’t actually make it very far before there’s 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’t recognize the armor. She does recognize the sigil, and thinks ‘well, they’re more likely to help than some,’ because from what she’s heard, the Haat Mando’ade are Decent People Overall. Her view is a little biased, mostly on account of the sheer level of grudge she has against Kyr’tsad. It’s fine! The True Mandalorians have the same grudge, right? And Mandalorians like kids and Ahsoka hasn’t slept in five days and it’s fine. It’s fine! IT’S FINE.
“Oh shit,” Rex whispers, before she can suggest anything. “Oh fuck.”
“Stop cursing,” Leia hisses, elbowing him. “People are going to notice.”
“That’s the Prime,” Rex panics, mostly quiet. Ahsoka’s heart drops, because fuck is right. “That’s Fett.”
Leia isn’t impressed. Ahsoka just angles herself between Fett and Rex and hopes that he doesn’t see them. That’s just asking for trouble.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is in fact running on none sleep with left trauma, and doesn’t notice Fett walking up and dropping into a seat across from them until he’s actually done so, removing his helmet to glare a little more efficiently.
“Wanna explain why your kid has my face?”
Ahsoka later tells herself that he’s killed Jedi and that’s 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’s 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 “that’s kind of a long story,” or “maybe he’s a cousin,” or “kriff off, I don’t know you,” or maybe even “he’s a clone.”
What Ahsoka actually 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’s back. Even when she was actually this age, she didn’t exactly cry much. Objectively, Fett quasi-aggressively asking a valid question shouldn’t send her into a panic. She’s been through torture and worse. She shouldn’t be crying.
But she is, sobbing her eyes out with no control, and he’s just sitting across from her and looking uncomfortable while Rex wraps his little arms--oh Force he’s so small--around her, and both ‘children’ glare at Fett.
“So, I’m going to take it she didn’t kidnap you from a loving family or do something illicit with a blood sample,” Fett says, after it becomes obvious that Ahsoka’s not going to be ready to talk any time soon.
“She didn’t,” Rex says stiffly, with just the right emphasis for Fett to catch what’s 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’s eyes dart to Leia, who folds her arms and draws herself up, every bit the unimpressed princess. “My father claimed her as a sister, so she’s my Auntie ‘Soka.”
The man dithers a bit, the conversation clearly not going where he’d expected. “Right,” he says. “You--you’re all kids. I thought she was a little older, at least, but I didn’t have a good look at her face before.”
She is 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.
“Where are you staying?”
“What?” Leia bites out.
“You’re kids, you’re alone, and you’re 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,” Fett explains. Ahsoka lifts her head to glare at him, but it’s probably not doing much with the way her eyes are rimmed with red and still wet. “Don’t give me that look, ad’ika, your kids looked as confused and horrified by that as the bartender did. They obviously didn’t think it was normal either.”
Well, kriff you too, Ahsoka thinks.
“And what do you mean by ‘blatantly,’ here?” Leia challenges. It’s adorable, but Ahsoka watched this tiny girl shoot a man last week, and wonders when people are going to start taking that seriously.
“There’s a lot of people in this galaxy, and I don’t exactly have the clearest memory of what I looked like at that age,” Fett says, slow and careful like he thinks they’re dumb. Ahsoka decides to chalk it up as being because Leia’s visibly six. “I would have thought it was just a coincidence if you hadn’t put in effort to hide him.”
Leia huffs, and Rex glares harder. Fett just sighs, like they’re all going to give him grey hairs.
“You can explain whatever the hell’s going on,” Fett says. “I’ll let you stay on my ship, there’s a spare bunk and you’re small.”
“For free?” Rex demands.
“A night on a bunk in exchange for information,” Fett clarifies. “We can negotiate from there.”
Ahsoka takes a few moments, notes that both of the others are waiting on her for the decision, and cringes. She doesn’t feel steady enough to carry that. She has to anyway.
“Rex?” she asks, voice rasping after the breakdown of the past few minutes.
He looks up at her, eyes calculating, and grimaces. “We don’t want Order 66. A warning is better, even if we... share information.”
She nods, and turns to Leia. “Any premonitions, princess?”
Leia glowers, cute and furious. “No.”
“No, don’t tell, or no, you aren’t getting any vibes about sharing info one way or the other?”
“The latter,” Leia clarifies, huffy to the last.
“Right,” Ahsoka says, and then just... hesitates. “Fett...”
“You’ve got conditions,” he guesses.
She bares her teeth in what could have, through a squint and perhaps a few drinks, been called an apologetic smile. “Just one, really.”
“No hurting, killing, or turning us in for bounties,” she says. “Any of us.”
“You’re children, I wouldn’t.”
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’t move as he clearly realizes why she made the condition she did.
“I left years ago, because I couldn’t stay without it ruining me,” she says. Still slow. Still careful. She’s so tired. “But if I want to keep Leia safe, I have to get back to Coruscant.”
His eyes finally lift from the sabers, expression blank. “Just her?”
“Rex doesn’t have the same monsters coming after him,” she says. “If it were just me and him, I’d worry less. Leia’s a different kind of target.”
“You’re putting a lot of faith on the table by telling me that,” Fett says, voice flat and toneless. “Considering my occupation.”
“She’s a child,” Ahsoka says, feeling heavy and boneless. “Even with what I was and will be, even with what money you would get from the right buyer, you wouldn’t.”
“There are other risks.”
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, “If she weren’t good, I’d still be a slave to those who grew me.”
Fett blinks, and then nearly growls the word, “What?”
“She freed me,” Rex reiterates. “While I was trying to shoot her.”
Ahsoka lifts a hand and puts it on his far shoulder, pulling him into her side. She doesn’t meet Fett’s 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. “Fine. A good Jedi kid, and two smaller kids, one of which is apparently in some way mine.”
Rex makes a face, which is fair, but also not helping.
“To the ship,” Ahsoka says, putting her sabers back on her belt and sliding out of the seat. “I’m... I’m Sokari.”
“You already know my name.”
Fett watches her like she’s 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.
“You’re dead on your feet, jetii,” he snorts. “And that crying jag didn’t do you any favors. Sleep.”
So she does, and Fett doesn’t even wake 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 ‘fresher in the middle of the night, but he doesn’t even comment when she collapses right back into the mediocre cot she’s 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.
“The kids wouldn’t let me near you,” he tells her.
“They’re good,” 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. “Did they tell you anything?”
“They waited for you,” he says. “But the little miss needed a nap of her own. They’re down in the other bunk.”
“I didn’t notice,” she admits. She should have. She’s Fulcrum. She’s a veteran of the Clone Wars. She’s... she’s supposed to be better than this.
“How long?” he asks, and then when she squints up at him, he clarifies. “How long did you fight?”
“My last fight--”
“No, whatever war you came out of,” he says. Her chest twists cold. “I don’t know if the Jedi sent you into it or if you waded in yourself once you left, but you move like a soldier.”
“I was,” she confirms. “But... but I don’t want to talk about the details. Not until the other two are here.”
He frowns at her. “Is there anything you can talk about?”
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’alor across the table.
“I’m not officially a Jedi,” she says, voice quiet. “Not anymore.”
“Then what do I call you?” he asks. “We’re not exactly close enough for names.”
“Torrent,” she says. “It’s not--I can’t claim my family name anymore. But I can claim Torrent, so I will. And if you want a title, I was a commander.”
“Bit young for that.”
“I got the rank when I was fourteen,” she says, and watches his face do something complicated and unpleasant. “Don’t. I know your own culture puts children on the field that young.”
“Not in command.”
She shrugs. “Yeah, well... the soldiers were technically younger. Adults, but...”
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’t 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’s a decent skill, but she’s not sure how long it’s going to work on her niece-in-spirit.
“Your body needs the chemical release of skinship,” she says, and Leia glares at her. “I spent way too much time with the boys to not know about this. Deal.”
Rex sits close enough to knock their knees together under the table, and his warmth is the old comfort she needs.
“Do you want the story you’ll believe, or the truth?” Ahsoka asks.
“What’s the difference?”
“One of them involves something so impossible that even most Jedi wouldn’t believe it,” she tells him.
Fett folds his arms and leans forward to rest them on the table, challenging but oddly open. “Try me.”
He blinks, just once, fully controlled. “That’s a tough one.”
“There were only three Jedi left alive when I died,” she says. “Or... 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.”
She refuses to look him in the eye. “They both outlived me by... six years, maybe. Got caught up while traveling instead of dying. Leia was twenty-two. Rex was thirty-five. I’m not technically the oldest anymore. I mean, physically I am, but that doesn’t mean anything, and it’s not exactly doing us any good, and--”
Rex bumps his shoulder to her arm. “I dunno, Commander. I’ve spent a long time looking older than I should. Nice to look younger for once.”
She shoots him a small, pained grin. “Could be worse, yeah.”
“Let’s say I believe you.”
Her attention snaps back to Fett, who’s looking damnably blank, and is showing even less in the Force.
He waits a second for her to relax back into her seat.
“Let’s say I believe you,” he repeats. “How’s ‘Rex’ connected to me? What’s so special about Leia there? And what war did you fight in that has you acting like a veteran?”
“Three years in the clone wars,” 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. “Then almost all the Jedi were wiped out at once, and I spent a year... drifting. Then black ops for the next fifteen.”
“Black ops,” he repeats, still damnably flat.
“There was a Sith Empire,” she says, and she can hear her own tone growing somehow emptier. “Glassing 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’d left the Order, I still had a duty to the universe.”
His eyes flit to Leia, who shrugs and tries to look prim. “I 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.”
“That why you’re special?”
Leia smiles, thin and patronizing. It doesn’t fit on her little face. “I’m special because my biological father was one of the most powerful Force users in history, and his Fall to the dark side and choice to become a Sith is why the Emperor’s rise was nearly uncontested. I do not like power, but it’s in my veins and I can’t change that. Force users are... a lucrative trade, and I’m still the size of a child, so I can’t fight back. I’ll be safer in the Jedi Temple, even if I don’t want to be a Jedi.”
Fett looks to Ahsoka, makes to ask a question, and then shakes his head. Not the time, maybe.
“So, that’s all... very complicated and I don’t know how much of it I believe, but it doesn’t explain...” he trails off, and sighs. “My kid, or whatever you are. I heard you mention clones.”
Rex grins. It is not a kind expression.
“Let me tell you about Kamino.”
Ahsoka has no idea if Fett believes them. Either he thinks they’re 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.
“They put chips in our brains to make us kill the Jedi we respected, cared for, even loved. I tried to shoot ‘Soka, 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’d 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’d followed without question because of a thrice-damned Sith slave chip in their head.”
“So no, I won’t call you father or acknowledge you as clan until you do something to prove your worth it, shared blood or not.”
What Ahsoka does get out of the arrangement, for all that Fett’s route mostly takes them on a meandering path that isn’t faster than their previous system, is sleep. She gets to rest. She gets to trust that Fett won’t kill Rex, out of guilt for something he hasn’t done, that he won’t kill Leia out of a worry that she’s just a delusional child, a real child, that he won’t kill ‘Sokari’ because it would ruin any chance of gaining Rex’s favor, ever.
She’s not safe, won’t believe she can be until she’s in the Temple and Sidious is dead dead dead, but she’s safer than she’s 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’s favored shock troopers, and Leia had... Alderaan had more off-world survivors than there had been Jedi at all.
It’s not worth comparing their pain. It’s stupid to even think it. Part of her can’t 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. “I probably shouldn’t.”
“That’s a definitely shouldn’t.”
She doesn’t lift her head from her arms until the mug clicks down in front of her, ceramic on plastisteel.
“Do I ask what it was this time?”
She shrugs. “It’s hard to explain to non-sensitives.”
“Try me anyway.”
Ahsoka twists the Hoth chocolate in her hands, takes a sip as she thinks. “The Force isn’t just one thing. It’s... 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’s possible to feel the life 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.
“So just... just imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to feel the screaming of all those Jedi in the Force as their trusted men shot them down.
“Some of them were close enough that I could feel them die,” she manages. “I... it’s horrible. It’s horrific. It’s not something I can ever forget, and I want to. I want to forget what that moment was like. Not that it happened, but...”
She can feel the tears. Fuck..
“You want to dull the edges.”
“Don’t we all?” she asks, scrubbing the back of her hand across her eyes. “Leia lost her entire planet, billions of people, and she was forced to watch. Rex... Force, I can barely imagine, and I was there for most of it.”
Fett watches her, measuring. “From what he said, they were as much your brothers as his, by the end.”
“No,” she immediately demands. “They could have been, maybe, but the ones I was closest to died earlier, and then I left, 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’t get to do that with the rest. I don’t have the right.”
“You’re hard on yourself.”
“Fate of the galaxy, my good bitch. Guess who’s got it on her shoulders.”
He snorts at her, and nods at the mug. “Drink your Hoth chocolate. We’re landing in eight hours, and you’ve got kids to look out for.”
There’s a twitch in the Force when they land, something pulling at her in a way she barely feels. She’s had her shields up so fully for so long that it’s 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.
“Auntie ‘Soka? Why’d you stop?”
She doesn’t have an answer to Leia’s prodding question. “I don’t know.”
It’s almost familiar. Old and half-forgotten, not the same as what she remembers, but--
“This way,” 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’t 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--
“Oh,” 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.
“Torrent, what the hell?” Fett demands, finally catching up. “You can’t just run off like that!”
“It’s Depa,” she says, eyes still fixed on the woman parsing through a datapad with an irritated vendor. She has a padawan braid. It doesn’t 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’s ready to be promoted.
Ahsoka feels light-headed.
Fett waits for her to elaborate, but she can’t. This was Kanan’s master. This was a member of the High Council. This was a woman who died and--
“You need to sit down,” Fett says, not a touch gruff. He puts a hand on her shoulder and guides her off the main walkway. “I’m... going to talk to the woman in the Jedi robes. You three just stay there and don’t get kidnapped.”
Ahsoka nods, feeling like she’s not quite inhabiting her own body.
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’s preventing herself from reaching for a saber in reaction to the heavily-armored individual standing several feet away.
“Mando,” the woman says. “May I help you?”
“Are you Depa?”
Depa doesn’t 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. “I am Senior Padawan Depa Billaba, yes. May I ask why it is that you need to know?”
Ahsoka imagines Fett grimacing, or rolling his eyes, or maybe dithering. She can’t tell from this angle, and he has a mask on besides. It turns his awkward silences into judgmental ones.
“I’ve had some Jedi kids on my ship, hitching a ride,” he says at length. “One of them recognized you and then just... froze.”
“You have our younglings in your care,” Depa says, carefully not accusatory, but close enough to be a warning.
“Not quite,” he says. “The one that actually came from the temple is seventeen. One of ‘em isn’t Force Sensitive, and the last one is but hasn’t been to Coruscant before. They’re trying to get the little one to the Temple for her own safety.”
Depa considers that, and then passes the datapad to the vendor. “Lead on.”
It’s surprisingly simple, really. Fett did all the talking.
And then Depa is standing right in front of her.
“Like I said,” Fett sighs. “She froze up.”
“Hello,” Depa says, hands laced together inside her sleeves. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
Ahsoka shakes her head. “I know of you. I’ve seen you spar. You’ve never spoken to me.”
All true. A little misleading, but it’s fine, it’s all fine.
Depa waits a moment, and then says, “You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“Sokari T-Torrent,” she manages. The words feel clunky in her mouth, the sound abrasive for all that it’s just her own voice, no different from usual. A little shaky, maybe. She can feel a cool breeze on her upper arms. Shouldn’t she have armor? She should have armor. “It... it’s been a long time since I’ve seen another Jedi. I’m having a hard time believing you’re real.”
“I see,” Depa says. “Perhaps we should take this somewhere more private? You seem a little unsteady.”
Ahsoka lets herself be led back to the ship, in the company of Mand’alor Jango Fett, Jedi Padawan Depa Billaba, Princess-General Leia Organa, and good old Captain Rex.
It’s 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’s 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’s not quite what it will-was-could-have-been. This is happening.
It’s a textbook Traumatic Stress Response case, one of them says.
Fett has his helmet off. Ahsoka’s sure that’s 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’re still working on what that means for him.
It’s more or less true. Rex squeezes her hand the one time someone suggests separating them. She’s not letting that happen unless Rex wants to leave for whatever reason. They’ve worked apart before. They can do it again.
“Auntie Soka? You’re shivering.”
Leia cuddles in closer, and Ahsoka runs a hand over her hair. It’s an absentminded motion, and for all that she knows Leia’s hair is fine as silk, it feels like plastic in the moment.
“I don’t think I’m okay,” Ahsoka announces. The words hang in the air like lead balloons, and she can feel Depa staring at her. “I haven’t been for a very long time.”
“Yeah, we noticed,” Fett says. “Do you need to lay down, Torrent?”
“No,” she says. “I... I don’t know what I need.”
“The spicy drink,” Rex tells them. “It’s grounding.”
Fett goes to grab it, and Depa continues to watch.
“How long ago did you leave your master?” Depa asks. “Or... did he die?”
Ahsoka closes her eyes and shakes her head. She can feel the shivers now, tremors in her biceps and a shudder she can’t control in the height of her ribcage. Her teeth grind together, jaw like stone.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Depa assures her. “I’m... going to recommend you see a mind healer on Coruscant.”
That was a forgone conclusion.
A cup clinks onto the table. Fett’s back. “Drink.”
Depa and Fett continue discussing it as “the adults” at the table. She’s 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’t, without her even asking, because he knows her mind as well as she does. Fett rolls with it. Depa lets him.
She’s 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’s sitting at the table, datapad in her hands and caff on the table in front of her.
“Good morning,” Ahsoka says, rough and croaking, and Depa’s eyes flick up to meet hers. She nods a shallow hello.
“Much,” Ahsoka says, and goes about gathering a breakfast. There’s definitely some dried meat in here. She can get something fresh when they stop by the market later.
“I was hoping to speak with you about your options,” Depa tells her, once she’s sat at the table. “Fett 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.”
Ahsoka nods slowly. “Okay.”
“There is a Master-Padawan pair a few planets away,” Depa says. “The Council informed me when I spoke with them about you and your wards. They’d 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’d like for you and yours to have a Jedi escort, given what happened yesterday afternoon.”
Her complete spiral into nonbeing?
“I understand,” she says instead. “I suppose Fett agreed because he’s still trying to get Rex to like him?”
Depa shrugs. “That part isn’t my business.”
Of course it isn’t.
“Rex can stay with me for a while, right?” Ahsoka finally asks. “I know it’s not exactly protocol, but I’m...”
“In need of a support system until you’ve seen a mind healer, and against all odds, the child is part of it,” Depa summarizes. “Yes, I recognized as much. I think the Council will be able to allow some leeway there. I don’t know if he’ll enjoy it, given that all the others his age are Initiates, but we can adjust as necessary. On that note... Do you know Leia’s midichlorian count?”
“No,” Ahsoka says, and hesitantly adds, “But her biological father was my Jedi Master, and I’m told his count broke records even as a child. Given what Leia’s shown so far... it’s why I’ve been in a hurry to get her to the Temple.”
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 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’ll 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.
Her head snaps up. She hasn’t been a padawan in over fifteen years. It’s weird to hear. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I asked if you wanted some time to think it over before I presented the offer to Fett,” Depa says.
Ahsoka gets the distinct feeling that Depa is planning a report to the Council that has ‘needs a mind healer’ underlined at least three times.
“No, I’m--I’m fine. That sounds like a good plan.”
“I’ll speak with him, then. Would you like to come with?”
"No, thank you.”
Fett agrees. Ahsoka’s pretty sure it’s all to do with Rex and maybe Leia. It’s probably nothing to do with ‘Sokari.’ She’s a Jedi, an adult in mind and in body, or at least close enough to count. She’s a damn sight more ‘enemy’ to Fett than the other two are. Not as much as Depa, maybe, but Fett’s been playing nice with her for Leia’s sake.
He plays nice with Ahsoka for Rex’s. That’s all.
They’re 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’t given them a name--apparently it could have compromised the opsec for the Jedi team--but Ahsoka’s pretty sure she’ll 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’s dark and dreary, in the sense that the beaten-down port is full of petty crimes and less petty horrors, but it’s 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’ll be banned from doing so as soon as she’s reinstated as a Jedi, probably, but for now... for now, she can look at the drug cartels and ‘they’re not slaves, really’ workers and do something to help.
She doesn’t use her sabers. She doesn’t need to. It’s been a long time since she has, for small fry like these.
“What are you doing?” Fett asks her, landing heavily behind her back.
“Chip removal,” she says, hand pressed to the slave’s leg. Her eyes are closed, but she can hear him shifting. “Let me concentrate, I don’t have a meddroid for this.”
He’s silent until she finishes, and waits until the people she’s helped are on their way to the planet’s freedom routes. He doesn’t ask what she did with the owners.
“You’ve done this before.”
“Regularly,” she confirms. “You?”
He doesn’t answer that, just ambles over to the the chains and stares down at them.
“You go through this like it’s as easy as breathing,” he says. “It’s... impressive.”
“I guess?” she hesitates to continue. “I’m... I don’t think of it that way. This is the easy stuff. A time-waster that helps people. If I wanted to help for real, I’d been going after Jabba or Sidious or--”
“How old were you?” he asks, turning on his heel to face her dead-on. The vocoder of his helmet pulls the emotion from his voice. “When did this... these missions, the slavery battles, when did that start for you?”
“Fourteen,” she says. She’s 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. “Maybe fifteen. It’s a bit of a blur.”
“And you just kept doing it.”
“Of course,” she says. “If I have the time and the energy, if I need to do something and there’s nothing official on my hands, why not?”
He doesn’t answer her.
Rex greets them before she does.
Ahsoka, in her defense, is asleep at the time. It’s a restless sleep, but it’s enough that she doesn’t sense the nearing Force signatures until they’re almost at the ship.
She recognizes one of them.
“Auntie ‘Soka?” Leia questions, when she lurches to her feet and starts pulling on her boots with all the energy of a zombie. “Where are you going?”
“Jedi,” Ahsoka grunts. “Here.”
Leia dresses to follow her, in a little coat that’ll withstand the chill of the outside air, and Ahsoka makes it to the cargo hold just in time to hear Rex saying, “I’m not shaking your hand until you put your gloves on, Vos.”
She laughs to herself, breathless with the knowledge of what she’s 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. “Hello, there.”
One human, one Kiffar. She knows the latter.
“Would you be Sokari Torrent?” the Master asks.
“I am,” she says, with a slight bow. She can tell there’s a bit of judgement for how she’s dressed, but they’re covering it well. A Shadow and his trainee know the value of armor better than most Jedi bother with. “I’m afraid Padawan Billaba didn’t inform me of your names before we met.”
“And yet your friend knew my padawan,” the Master says.
“By reputation,” she says, as smoothly as she can. “I’ve encountered Quinlan Vos before, though I doubt he remembers--”
“I’d remember someone like you,” Quinlan interrupts, with a grin she’s sure is meant to be charming and rogueish.
He’s... very young for her, and not her type. Mostly, she wants to pat him on the head, but that probably wouldn’t go over very well. She still looks like she’s younger than him.
“Anyway,” she says, turning back to the master, “I’m afraid I still don’t know who you are, Master.”
“I am Tholme,” he says, with the bow that a Master gives a Padawan. She feels a little slighted, but it’s fine. She looks the right age, it’s fine.
It’s not like they know.
“It’s nice to meet you, Master Tholme,” she says. “My charges are Rex Torrent, the young man behind me, and currently coming down the ladder is Leia Antilles. I’m sure you’re aware of Jango Fett.”
“The Mand’alor,” Quinlan volunteers, and Ahsoka can almost hear Fett’s teeth grinding.
“Don’t call me that,” he says. She’s sure he’s got a hand drifting for his blaster.
“There isn’t a whole lot of room on the ship,” she says before the men can get into whatever weird contest she’s sure someone might start. Her bet’s on Fett. “But Leia and Rex are small enough to share with me, so I’m sure we can make it work.”
“There’s spare rolls for anyone comfortable with sleeping in the hold,” Fett grunts. “Or on the floor in the passenger room.”
“Well, I guess I could ask for a little help fi--”
“Vos,” Ahsoka snaps, letting her voice take on the kind of ‘obey me or get fresher duty’ irritation that she’d perfected back when the rebellion still had her managing people, before they’d realized she was more use in the field. “Do not.”
There’s a moment’s pause, and Tholme looks unimpressed with that raised eyebrow, but the kind of unimpressed that’s split between his own padawan and the stranger before him.
“Um,” Quinlan says. “I just--”
“No,” she cuts him off. “No flirting.”
It’s weird and uncomfortable and she’d have maybe been okay with it if she was actually the seventeen-or-eighteen-ish(?) that she looked, but she’s not. She’s in her thirties and Vos is... what, twenty? Twenty-one? No.
He stares at her, and she wonders momentarily if she’d gone too far in the direction of judging his intentions in the Force and preempted actual flirtations.
“I’m sorry?” He offers, looking confused, but ashamed. “I, uh, I’ll keep that in mind.”
She definitely preempted the actual flirtation.
Ahsoka closes her eyes and breathes in. Breathes out. Opens her eyes. “Right. That was... I’m not sure how much Padawan Billaba told you about me.”
“Enough,” Tholme says. He moves forward and puts a hand on Quinlan’s shoulder. Ahsoka has no idea if it’s to comfort him or hold him back. “I didn’t share most of it with my padawan, but I have a general understanding of what’s going on.”
Quinlan darts a look at his teacher, but Ahsoka doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
“Thank you for your understanding,” she says, and bows, and stiffly turns away to walk to the galley.
Leia squirms into the bench seat, shoving her way under Ahsoka’s arm like a particularly wriggly tooka.
“What was that?” Leia demands, the authority of a rebellion general rather useless in the squeaky voice of a child.
“What was what?”
“The whole thing with Padawan Vos,” Leia says. “You blew up at him before he even did anything.”
That’s pretty true.
“I felt the flirtation coming before it happened and reacted inappropriately because I panicked. I’m significantly older than him, but I can’t tell him that, so it’s just awkward and uncomfortable and... I’m not okay, Princess. I haven’t been for a long time.”
“Yeah, we can tell.”
“What? I need therapy too! Captain Rex needs therapy! I’m pretty sure Fett needs therapy! You, Fulcrum, you really need therapy. None of us are okay.” She huffs, wiggling impossibly closer. “I don’t like it, but it’s true.”
“I know,” Ahsoka groans. “I just... I just need to hold out until the Temple.”
“Will you be able to hold it together if you see someone you actually care about?” Leia demands. “What are you going to do when you see Kenobi?”
“I’m serious, you--”
“Leia, that’s enough,” she snaps. “I was fighting that war before you were even born, and I’ve dealt with the consequences since. I know the risks and I’ll thank you to remember who taught you to control your own mind.”
Leia stiffens, sucking in a sharp breath. “That was uncalled for.”
“You’re not the child you appear to be,” Ahsoka reminds her, not a little sharply. “You 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?”
“I get it.”
“I’m not sure you do,” Ahsoka mutters. She isn’t 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’s an adult in the body of a child isn’t an excuse for poking at Ahsoka’s 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’ve been assigned. Neither seems particularly angry. Most likely, Tholme’s given the absolute shortest explanation of ‘child soldier, dead master, highly traumatized and emotionally unstable’ to Vos to smooth over the incident in the cargo hold. Rex is with Leia; he’s agitated, but less so than Leia herself. Fett’s annoyed, in the cockpit, but he seems annoyed as often as not. There’s a shudder at lift-off, and a few minutes later, they’re 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’t lift her head. “What do you want?”
“Do I need to keep Vos away from you?”
“Vos. He made you uncomfortable. Was that him being someone that hurt you in the future, or just the interaction being awkward?”
She lifts her head. She stares at him. “What?”
He leans back and crosses his arms. “Do you need me to tell Vos to stay the hell away from you?”
She’s gaping. “You realize I’m thirty-two, right? I can handle my own battles.”
“You’re also traumatized as hell and everyone can see it,” Fett argues back. “If Vos himself is a trigger, I can handle it.”
“He’s not,” she tells him. This is strange. Fett’s being strange. “He was actually a friend of my grandmaster’s. I’m just uncomfortable with the flirting because I’m a lot older than he realizes, and I can’t tell him that.”
He nods sharply, and then looks away. The silence sits.
“Thanks for asking?” Ahsoka says, well aware of how her confusion over the offer turns it into a question. “I mean, thank you for... caring.”
I guess, 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’s sure they’ve stocked up enough. On the off chance they do 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.
“Who’s going to cry if I spice things properly?” he asks.
“Probably Leia,” she says immediately. “Vos will try to power through it even though he’s going to be overwhelmed. No idea about Tholme, but I think he’ll keep a straight face whether he likes it or not. Rex and I are fine, ‘hot’ was pretty much the only flavor of seasoning the GAR had.”
“Grand Army of the Republic.”
He finally looks at her.
“You already knew I was a child soldier, Fett; don’t act surprised.”
“That doesn’t mean I like hearing about it.”
“I was fourteen. That’s old enough by Mando standards, Fett. Just think back, when did you get on the battlefield?”
“I take your point,” he says, lip curling unpleasantly. “It just hits different now that I’m old enough to look back and think of how damned young fourteen really is.”
Ahsoka shrugs. “Yeah, well--”
“You said the clones were ten.”
There’s the rub, isn’t it?
Of course it was about the clones.
“...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’d 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.” She looks down at the table, picking at a scratch in the plastipaint with her nail. “Rex and the rest of the ones from the beginning were basically twenty in mind and body, even if they’d only been decanted ten years earlier. The speedies... I always wondered. They’d gone from functionally twelve to functionally twenty in a year. That’s not... even in Kamino, that can’t have been normal. They didn’t act like adults, not the way the originals did.”
Fett rubs at his face, groaning. He swears under his breath in three different languages.
She pities him, if only because he hasn’t actually done any of this yet. He’s paying for the crimes of a man he likely won’t ever become.
She kicks him under the table. “Wanna make tiingilar and see how long it takes Vos to start crying while he insists it’s fine?”
Dinner is when the questions start. Some are relatively easy. Others, not so much.
“My Master was Leia’s biological father,” is an easy truth to share. “She inherited his power, so I need to get her to the temple for her own safety, because home no longer is.”
“Yes, her adoptive parents were unfortunately killed rather recently. We’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“Rex is with me. Where he goes, I go, and vice versa.”
That one gets her an odd look.
“I thought...” Quinlan trails off, gesturing between Rex and Fett.
Fett keeps his face impassive, but his discomfort and guilt leak into the Force. “I didn’t know Rex existed until I ran into these three in a spaceport cantina a few weeks ago.”
Quinlan blinks at him, looks at Rex again, and then turns back to Fett with a grin that might have been described as ‘saucy’ if he were less smug about it. “Wild oats, huh?”
“Are you shitting me right now,” Leia whispers, and Ahsoka elbows her.
“That was inappropriate, padawan.”
Quinlan’s grin fades as Fett just continues to eye him.
“How old is the kid?” Fett interrupts.
Darting eyes answer him, as Quinlan tries to gauge Rex. “Ten? Maybe twelve?”
“And how old am I?”
Quinlan’s grin fades further as he does the math.
“I’d have been between fifteen and seventeen when he was born,” Fett says, tone flat. “Between fourteen and sixteen at conception. I know damn well i wasn’t doing anything that could have resulted in a kid at that age.”
Quinlan rallies. “So, brothers?”
Tholme sighs loudly, hand over his eyes.
“I’m a clone,” Rex says, and Ahsoka can feel the amusement he gets out of Quinlan’s confused shock. They’d both had plenty of respect for Master Vos, but Padawan Vos was nothing but trouble. “Harvested genetic material, grown in a tube, inconsistent aging meaning I don’t even know how old I am for sure.”
“I broke him out,” Ahsoka adds, which is half true.
“There was a chip in my head,” Rex adds, with a bright smile. Quinlan’s discomfort grows. “She got it out. Also, lots of brothers. None of them are... around anymore. The creators were trying to make an army.”
Vos and Tholme have no response. Fett looks like he’s been carved out of stone. Leia’s just ignoring them and picking at her food.
Ahsoka lifts a hand and, without looking, Rex high-fives her.
“Drop your elbow.”
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.
“I know how to fight,” Leia grumbles. “I took lessons. I was good at them.”
“And I’m better,” Fett says, leaving no room for argument. “You want the Torrents to take over?”
The Torrents. Rex and Soka. She likes being referred to that way. Like they’re a team that never got split up.
Force, she wished they’d never gotten split up.
“Again,” 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.
“Think he’ll ask me to spar her again?” Rex asks, dropping down into the seat next to Ahsoka and passing her a drink.
“Maybe,” she acknowledges. “I think he’s wondering if it’s worth asking Vos to spar with her, so she gets more experience with size differences.”
“She flinched at his face again,” she tells him. “The whole... thing with Boba, I guess. She still won’t tell me why Fett triggers her sometimes, but he’s not pressing her to spar with him, and there’s only so much she can get out of fighting me. Asking Tholme would be presumptuous, but Vos is just a padawan. I think it’d work out.”
She looks at him, already feeling a cresting wave of bullshit she doesn’t want to deal with. “What about me?”
“Are you going to spar with the Jedi?”
She should. She hasn’t sparred with a saber since she got tossed back into a body only half-familiar to her. She’s 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. None of that, however, is... sparring.
None of that is against someone who knows what they’re doing.
How long has it been since she sparred with anyone other than Kanan and Ezra?
How long has it been since she 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?
“I should,” she acknowledges, eyes on where Fett is nudging Leia’s feet into position for some kind of leveraging flip. She’s so small. “It would probably be a good idea to spar against a master at some point.”
“Do you think you can?” Rex asks.
“I never knew him,” she says. “And he isn’t Dark. It should be fine.”
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.
“That man is a terror,” she informs them.
(She’d once described him as a slave-driver. She had not made that mistake twice.)
“Least it’s not Kamino!” Rex tells her cheerfully. When Leia refuses to look impressed, he laughs at her.
Ahsoka has a half-second’s warning before heavy boots thud to the ground next to her. “What’s Kamino?”
“Hello, Vos, it’s nice to see you too,” she drawls. “I’m good, thanks for asking, and yourself?”
The boy-not-quite-man rolls his eyes. “Hi, Torrents; hi, tiny one.”
Leia glares at him next.
“Planet by Rishi,” Rex says.
“Why were you there?”
“They specialize in cloning.”
Ahsoka covers her mouth as the conversation drops into the same awkward gap that always happens when Quinlan stumbles into a subject he didn’t know to avoid.
“Like... you were made there, or you were researching how it works for your own--”
Ahsoka slaps a hand over his mouth. “Now’s a great time to stop talking.”
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.
“You’re all children,” Leia accuses, conveniently forgetting that Ahsoka and Rex are both over a decade older than her.
“I can throw you the length of a swimming pool,” Ahsoka tells her. “One of the fancy competition-ready ones that would make a Tatooinian cry. You are absolutely the child here.”
“Using the Force is cheating, sir,” Rex informs her.
“Only if there’s a competition,” Ahsoka shoots back. “And proving that a certain princess is a small child is not a competition. It’s a declarative fact.”
“I’m going to rip open the seams on all your tops except the ugliest one,” Leia decides.
“Try me,” Ahsoka challenges. “Adi’ka.”
A low, rough cough interrupts them. “Are you done?”
Fett has his arms crossed, and an eyebrow raised. He knows they’re all adults here, and is entirely unamused. As the silence drags, the eyebrow climbs a little higher.
“Done with what?” Quinlan finally asks, thereby volunteering himself to spar in hand-to-hand with Jango Fett, as one does.
“Poor, poor Vos,” 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.
“Throw him!” Ahsoka calls. To her delight, Fett obliges.
The thing is, Quinlan isn’t bad at brawling. He’s got training, endurance, skill. The man knows what he’s doing, objectively. He’s 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’t take questionable jobs in the Mid-Outer Rim, and Ahsoka’s 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 against Fett without his saber.
Even the saber wouldn’t help, if Fett had his armor.
“Whose idea was this?”
Ahsoka cranes her head back and smiles. “Hello, Master Tholme. Vos... volunteered.”
“Did he know he was volunteering?”
Tholme snorts, crossing his arms and eyeing the spar in front of him. “I thought Fett hated Jedi. Giving us a ride for the sake of you three is one thing, but why is he teaching my padawan?”
Ahsoka shrugs. “Constructive bullying?”
There’s a small twitch of a smile, quickly gone. “He said something wrong, I’m guessing?”
“There was no way he could have known,” she dismisses. “We’re just, like, ninety-percent tragic backstories.”
“You’d think the Force would warn him,” Rex notes.
“That’s not how the Force works,” Leia chides.
“No, no, he’s right,” Ahsoka corrects. “The 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 rational while being more irrational than they likely ever will be again.”
“Do I want to ask what you were doing at that age?” Tholme asks.
“Running bla...” she trails off, then whips around to gape at him.
He smiles, bland and unassuming. “Does Fett know?”
“Know... what?” Ahsoka asks.
“That you’re significantly older than you look,” he says, voice just low enough that the sparring duo can’t hear him. “All three of you.”
Ahsoka turns back to the spar, only catching Tholme out of the corner of her eye. “He knows.”
“Mm. Were you planning on telling the Council?”
“Yes.” That part was never in question. “How did you figure it out?”
“I am a good investigator,” he says. “And you rely a little too heavily on your physical forms to obfuscate. Were it just one of you, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the pattern repeated across three is a little easier to discern.”
“I hoped the whole ‘child soldiers’ thing would be a bigger distraction,” 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’d decided that at the very start. It didn’t 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’re waiting on her orders. Stiff and unhappy, in Leia’s case, but they trust her.
“Will you be telling Vos?” She asks.
“No,” Tholme says. “Your secrets remain your own unless they endanger us, and I’ve a feeling they won’t be.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Rex jokes, smile not reaching his eyes. “I’ve been working with this family for too long to trust that trouble won’t find them around the next corner.”
“This family?” Tholme repeats.
“Sokari was telling the truth about her master being Leia’s biological father,” Rex says. He shrugs. “I 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.”
“Ah, but that’s not the secret that’s putting us in danger,” Tholme points out. “Simply existence as a Jedi.”
Rex shrugs. “Fair enough. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.”
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. “A spar, Master Tholme?”
He looks past her, to Quinlan, and raises a brow. “Would you not prefer to spar with someone a little closer to your level first?”
She barks out a laugh. “Master Tholme, I’m afraid I’ve spent more of my life fighting to survive than having normal friendly spars. My style is more lethal than the average, and you’ve already seen what war’s 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’t appropriate, I trust that you’ll be more able to stop me than a senior padawan.”
He smiles. “Yes, I gathered as much. Still, better to ask. Shall we wait for them to finish up?”
Ahsoka shrugs, turns, and yells. “Clear the deck!”
Rex snorts behind her, and lowly mutters, “Sir, yes, sir.”
She smirks at him over her shoulder. “At ease, Captain.”
“That’s ‘Commander’ to you, I got promoted,” he sniffs, chin held high.
Heavy steps herald Fett’s arrival at their little group. “The hells are you doing?”
“I’m going to have a spar with a Jedi Master, and I want you and Vos to not get stabbed.”
“I’m not that easy to injure in an actual fight, let alone by accident,” Fett grouses. He looks up and over at Vos, who is already significantly taller, if a fair shot less built. “This one, on the other hand...”
Ahsoka laughs and backs into the center of the cargo hold, drawing her sabers. “Don’t worry, Vos, I won’t play dirty. You’ll probably get your master back in one piece.”
He wrinkles his nose at her. “Getting a bit ahead of yourself there, aren’t you? He’s a Jedi Master and former Watchman. You’re... what, eighteen?”
Ahsoka raises a brow and activates her sabers, tapping the blades together and watching as more than one person winces. “Wanna bet on how long I last?”
“No,” he says immediately, stepping back to join Rex on the bench. “You’ve already blindsided me enough. I’m not dumb enough to fall for whatever you’ve got up your sleeve.”
“I don’t have sleeves.”
“Greaves go on the legs, these are vambraces.”
He throws his hands up in the air. “I’m just going to stop talking now!”
“Good plan,” 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, instead of a blaster or thin air, since she arrived in the past. She’s only mostly 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 when she was this age. Still adjusting to her body or not, her lineage is one of battle, and it bled true.
“You’re terrifying,” Quinlan tells her after they’re done, smiling like the sun as he hands her a towel. “Please never turn that on me.”
She laughs at him. “Would you believe that I’m out of practice?”
“Out of practice with what?” he asks, horrified and fascinated. “Fighting Sith Lords?”
“Among other things,” she says, and smirks when he chokes on his drink. “Multiple darkside users who claimed 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’t technically allowed to be a Darth because of the rule of two.”
Tholme meets her eyes past Quinlan’s shoulder, head tilted and eyes half-shut in consideration. He’s taking her seriously. He knows what she’s not saying.
“How...” Quinlan trails off and shakes his head. “You know what, no. Asking you people questions never ends well.”
“Good plan,” Ahsoka says, clapping a hand down on his shoulder. “Also, you need to spar with Fett more. Your footwork is shit.”
“It is not,” Quinlan gripes. “You’re all just scary good at this stuff.”
“You mean surviving?” Leia pipes up, and smiles innocently when Quinlan turns to pout at her.
“You’re getting bullied by a six-year-old,” Rex informs him.
“Yeah,” Quinlan sighs. “I know.”
Ahsoka laughs, and it’s fine. It’s all fine. For a week, everything is honestly great. She trains, she laughs, she works through the nightmares.
Then fucking Denon happens.
Denon is a city-planet on the intersection of two major hyperlanes. It’s the kind of place where they stop for two things:
Technically, there’s a whole mess of paperwork they have to fill out to continue along this specific hyperlane, since they aren’t official Republic ships, and don’t have the licenses to just pass along like ships that are pre-registered to the Trade Federation or the like. They could sneak past--literally all of them know smuggler’s routes--but it’s honestly less of a pain to do things legally. They have a Jedi Master. They have cash. Some of that cash wasn’t quite legally acquired, but nobody needs to know that.
It’s supposed to be a pit stop. That’s all.
It’s just a pit stop.
But no, the galaxy isn’t that kind and Ahsoka’s 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?
“Motherfucker,” Ahsoka snaps, lifting her head up and slamming her drink on the table.
The glass is empty. That’s good. They’re in a restaurant right now, a little splurging after weeks with only each others’ company, and spilling the sugary child-friendly juice with that move would have drawn way too much attention from the servers.
“Language,” Tholme says, voice idly unconcerned.
“Sir?” Rex asks, kicking Ahsoka under the table. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wr--that jackass,” she hisses, getting to her feet. “Rex, grab a blaster, I’ve got shebs to kick.”
“Okay,” Rex says, grabbing one out of Fett’s holster and scooting out of the booth before anyone can tell him not to. “Whose?”
“I didn’t even know that he was... osik, I don’t have jurisdiction,” she realizes. “I don’t have any record of wrongdoing. I can’t arrest him since we don’t have evidence of criminal wrongdoing...”
“Are you two going to explain what’s going on?” Vos asks. “Or sit down, maybe?”
Ahsoka makes her decision. She eyes the window--the restaurant in question is a little dingy, but it’s also several dozen stories in the air. “Rex, remember the thing we did on Geonosis that you hated?”
He pauses, and then sighs heavily. “Yes, sir. I remember the... yeeting.”
Hah. That slang doesn’t even exist yet.
“Great. With me!”
It’s a good thing the windows are forcefields instead of transparisteel. A bit of a twist to the energy and they’re gone.
She only hears a little screaming before the wind tears all noises away while they plummet.
They land lightly--of course--and Ahsoka wraps them both in a don’t notice me aura. Nobody even notices that they’ve just come from above. It’s great that she can just Do These Things again, and get brushed off as Weird Jedi Shit, instead of worrying about the Empire. She’s missed being able to jump out of windows without fear.
Rex follows her as she starts running through the city. They don’t have comms, and he’s still so small, which means he can’t keep up with her even if she runs at normal speeds without Force enhancement.
“Should you carry me?” he asks, before she can figure out if it’s worth suggesting. She did it a few times before they joined up with Jango.
“It’s not... urgent, I think,” she says. She hesitates to speak, even as she keeps jogging with Rex at her heels. “Honestly, I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything I can ding him for so we can attack him. It’s all well and good that I can beat him right now, but all the crimes I know about haven’t happened yet, so it wouldn’t be legal...”
“I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
She scrolls the conversation back mentally, considers, and says, “Oh.”
“Who’s getting steamrolled?”
“Uh, Maul’s here,” Ahsoka admits.
“Ah,” Rex says. He makes a face. “I understand the desire to jump out a window, now. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.”
Ahsoka laughs. “I mean, I just... every time I’ve seen him for almost twenty years, it’s been like... on sight, you know? We’ve 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.”
“So... what do we arrest him for?” Rex prompts.
“Um... carrying a lightsaber without a license?” she hazards. “We’ll need Tholme there. Hopefully I can just shout at him and he’ll 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.”
“...do we have to stalk him?” Rex asks, sounding like he’d most likely sigh if he weren’t mid-run.
She scoops him up and swings him around onto her back before she answers. “I think we have to stalk him, Rex’ika.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Maul is... exceptionally sneaky, actually. Either that, or he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Ahsoka’s betting on the former, because she’s seen this particular skocha kung take over a planet before anyone realized he was the most dangerous person around.
Or maybe he’s just not committing crimes, and is in fact just here to buy groceries.
He’s examining a papaya.
She fantasizes about jumping across the market and greeting him with a heel to the cheekbone.
“Are you imagining a flying kick, Sir?”
“He’s examining a papaya, Sir.”
“Does he know we’re here?”
“I don’t know. Maybe? Do you think I should go hit him?”
“Should I hit on him?”
“No, Sir. I would not advise that.”
“He’s looking at the neloms.”
“I can see that.”
“Why does he have to be so bo--did he just fucking bite a nelom?”
“It appears so, Sir.”
“Like... like rind and all. Just bit the little fucker.”
A scuff of metal. “What the fuck are you two doing?”
Ahsoka tips her head around to peer through the grate. “We’re spying, Fett, what does it look like we’re doing?”
Rex cranes his head. “We’re hanging upside-down from a fire escape to get a look at a suspected Sith Apprentice that is currently shopping for various fruits, Mand’alor.”
Ahsoka waves. “Hi, Master Tholme.”
“Sokari,” the master greets. “This seems a very conspicuous way to spy.”
She shrugs as well as she can from this angle. “Yes, but you see, this way’s more fun.”
“Is it now.”
Rex shifted. “He’s on the move!”
“To kill someone?!”
“No, to the deli meats.”
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’ nonsense. According to her, if they couldn’t be bothered to explain the nonsense, they didn’t need her.
This was true and accurate.
Quinlan shows up while they’re still stalking Maul, having moved to a low rooftop for a decent vantage point with less likelihood of being spotted. He’s giving Leia an eopie-back ride, and the pout on her face at needing it is adorable. She pouts harder when she sees them.
“Are you even trying to hide?” Leia scoffs.
“Not really,” Ahsoka admits. She’s got Fett’s binoculars out. “I’m not sure he’s caught wind of the fact that we’re here yet.”
“Or he has and he’s just biding his time to escape while we’re distracted,” Tholme points out.
“Meh,” Ahsoka says, avidly devouring the visual that is a teenage Maul glaring at leafy vegetables. “I just want him to do something so I have an excuse to beat his ass.”
“Do I get to know who?” Quinlan asks, setting Leia down on the roof. “Or are we going to keep being completely unwilling to share information?”
“Baby Sith Lord,” Ahsoka says. “He’s fifteen. A child.”
“A baby,” Rex agrees.
“You’re... that’s... ugh,” Quinlan groans as loudly and as dramatically as he dares, flopping down to the rooftop. “Master Tholme, please tell me this isn’t a real Sith.”
“He’s Dark,” Tholme confirms. “Sith is... up for debate until we have evidence.”
“He’s a bitch is what he is,” Ahsoka mutters. She observes the teenager in question stop to poke at some pink tomatoes. “E chu ta, break the law, already!”
“Does he have a lightsaber?” Quinlan asks. “If he has a lightsaber and no Jedi ID or specialty license, we can probably arrest him.”
“Auntie Soka doesn’t have a license or ID,” Leia points out.
“She’s got a Jedi escort,” Tholme says. “And if our supposed Sith is polite and plays nice, we can probably escort him to the Temple as well.”
Rex snorts derisively.
“Do you know why he’s on Denon?” Fett asks.
“No clue,” Ahsoka admits. “Evil reasons, probably.”
“You’re useless,” Leia tells her.
“Thanks, princess, how’s that attempt to open the jam jar by yourself coming?”
Leia says something very inappropriate for a princess, for a child, and for a lady. It’s fairly appropriate for a soldier, which is admittedly what she’s been for a few years now. Ahsoka sticks her tongue out at the girl like the mature operative she is.
“I wish we could still get him to lose his osik by just showing up and insulting him,” Rex mutters, low enough that Quinlan probably can’t hear.
“I wanna punch him in the face,” Ahsoka confesses. “I want him to try to punch me in the face, and fail.”
“Don’t bully the baby Sith,” Rex admonishes.
“He’s a Sith.”
“He’s fifteen, it’s tacky.”
“But it’s Maul.”
“I know, but you’re tw--significantly older than him.”
“But... but it’s the motherfucker himself.”
“...you can bully him a little, but only because he’s a Sith.”
Fett steals the binoculars. “You can borrow them again when you stop acting like children.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Rex says, dry as Ryloth. “I’m ten.”
“Pretty tall for your age,” Ahsoka mutters, and then giggles.
“Don’t steal my jokes,” Rex says. He elbows her, hard.
“You know,” Quinlan says, slow and tired. “Master Tholme and I are trained investigators.”
Ahsoka and Rex look at each other, and then up at him.
“...do you want me to find actual evidence of this guy doing something criminal?”
“Oh, yes please.”
Quinlan, as it turns out, is not overselling his skills. He does catch Maul doing something illegal later that day. It’s a little more ‘stealing corporate secrets in the dead of night’ and less ‘torturing people for kicks,’ but it’s 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 takes point on that, of course. She’s the best pilot.
(Rex looks bored, but someone is likely to puke by the end of the night. She hopes it’s not Leia, who insisted on coming for some fucking reason.)
“How the kriff is a teenager that good?!” Quinlan yells, clinging to the edge of the speeder to avoid getting tipped out as Ahsoka swerves around a corner with a wild laugh.
“He’s a Sith!” Leia shouts over the wind. “What do you think?”
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’s pretty good at dodging cross-building walkways, but she’s better. She bares her teeth, hissing, and tries to pick a plan.
“Vos, how’s your aim with Force throws?” She calls to the backseat.
“Great! Fett’s the projectile!”
Vos takes a second longer to process that than Jango does.
He cuts off, screaming, and is flung forward by Quinlan to crash headfirst into a teenage Sith.
“Take the wheel!” 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’s not sure who’s going to win that fight.
She jumps from the speeder they’ve been violently dragging around Denon, and lands feet-first on Maul’s... shoulder.
That definitely dislocated something.
“You should wear armor!” she chirps at him, drawing both sabers and grinning as he whirls to face her, eyes wide with hate.
He’s utterly silent.
That’s disturbing. Expected, but disturbing.
“Did you just throw me?” Fett demands, higher pitched than she’d normally expect.
“No, Vos threw you.”
“Because you told him to!”
“Yeah, it’s a good strategy!”
“It is not!”
“Why not? Throwing people was standard practice in the GAR.”
She can’t see his face, but she’s pretty sure he’s about ready to strangle her.
Ahsoka cannot, at that point, continue snarking with the father of her best friend, because there’s a red lightsaber coming for her throat, and she should probably worry about that. Maul’s very good at killing people and she’d like to avoid becoming part of that statistic.
As she is quickly reminded, he is... fifteen. And shorter than she’s used to. And already injured.
It’s 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.
“You have Force-negating cuffs, right?” Ahsoka asks.
“No, Master Tholme has them.”
“Oh,” she says, and grimaces. “I guess I’ll just... keep sitting on him then.”
Maul snarls, and she raps him on the skull. “Stop that, it’s uncivilized.”
Jango makes a noise that is incredibly frustrated with the lot of them, and turns on Rex. “Was she telling the truth?”
“Throwing people being standard practice for the GAR.”
Rex’s face goes pained. “It was in the five-oh-first. And a few others.”
“What’s the GAR?” Quinlan asks.
“None of your damn business,” Fett snaps.
Quinlan throws his hands up in the air again. “Come on! I just proved I know what I’m doing!”
“And their tragic backstory is none of your business, prudii!”
Quinlan blinks at him, and then glances at Ahsoka. “Um.”
“He called you a shadow since your training, um, seems to be pointing in that direction,” she says as carefully as she can. “We were theorizing.”
“Wh... you actually paid attention?” Quinlan asks, looking horribly confused. “I thought I was just annoying you.”
Ahsoka laughs at him. “Oh, Vos... I’ve been running black ops for... much longer than most would guess. Trust me, I know another spy when I see them.”
She smiles as kindly as she can, because she hadn’t actually meant to make him feel left out or unwanted or... well, she’d 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’d been sixteen for Zygerria...
Deciding to ignore him for a bit, she shifts on Maul’s back and pats him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, Baby Sith. We’re going to get you lots of nice therapy. Mind healers, no Sith tortures, all that fun stuff. Maybe some plushies.”
“You’re also getting therapy, right?” Quinlan asks. “Please say you are. I’m required for the specifics of my training and if anything you’ve said is true, I feel like you really need it and I’m scared of what’ll happen if you don’t.”
Ahsoka laughs, knowing exactly how empty it sounds. “Oh hell, if I didn’t get therapy, I imagine Kix would rise from the grave to force me into it.”
The name means nothing to anyone except Rex, and... ah, yeah, she told Fett about Kix a few weeks ago.
“No more throwing me without warning,” Fett grumbles, dropping to sit on the ground next to her. “Especially not at baby Sith Lords.”
“I am not a child!” Maul spits.
“He speaks!” Ahsoka cheers. “Aw, I knew you could do it.”
“’Soka, I told you not to bully him,” Rex complains. “It’s tacky. You’re being tacky.”
“I’m allowed to be tacky,” Ahsoka declares. “I’ve died twice, that’s, like, permission from the universe.”
“You’ve died twice?” Quinlan asks, back in ‘fascinated horror’ territory. “Wait, no, I shouldn’t ask--”
“Too late! The first time was on a planet that doesn’t 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.”
“I--what? No, that’s--what?”
Ahsoka smiles brightly. “You asked.”
Tholme finally shows up with the cuffs.
“You should eat something.”
He glares at her.
“Baby Sith Lords need to eat.”
He keeps glaring at her.
“Maul, you’ll never get big and strong and ready to kill if you don’t eat your vegetables.”
He bares his teeth.
“No, I don’t eat my veggies, but I’m a Togruta, so if I eat too many vegetables I throw up.”
Rex kicks her thigh, right on the faulds. “What did I say about bullying the Sith Lord?”
“And what are you doing?”
“Making him eat his vegetables.”
He kicks at her again. “Get up, we’re swapping out the watch.”
“But I wanted to hang out with my favorite little criminal mastermind.”
Rex drops to the floor and presses his forehead to her shoulder. “How the hell is being around this guy the first thing to make you cheer up in weeks?”
“I’m allowed to be mean to him.”
“He’s going to bite you.”
“I’ll bite back.”
Rex jabs a finger into her ribs, and she squeaks. “Go get something to eat, Commander.”
“Fine,” 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’s on the side, watching with wide eyes, and little Leia’s drinking a juice box at his side, tucked up under his arm and occasionally saying things to fan the flames. Ahsoka assumes she’s 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 ‘real adults’ don’t notice.
“I’m like ninety percent sure you’re doing this to mess with me but also...” Quinlan trails off, staring at her with horror. “Why?”
“A girl’s gotta eat.”
“Yeah, but all the obligate carnivores I know are like... generally holding to basic rules of courtesy when it comes to not grossing people out,” Quinlan says. “Like, I don’t chew with my mouth open. You don’t... eat in the most intimidating--did you just crack the bone with your teeth?!”
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. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this isn’t polite society. We’re in a galley on a bounty hunter’s ship, and I’ve been living on the run or in an army for most of my life. Table manners are optional.”
“No, they’re not,” Leia orders. “Fett, it’s your ship, tell her to--”
“--and another thing!” Fett 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’s at. Mostly, it seems to be at ‘talking past each other.’ Neither of them seems to have fully grasped more than the absolute most basic parts of the other culture, and that’s only enough to insult each other, not actually have a constructive conversation. She’d have expected more out of Tholme, at least. He’s not exactly young.
“Hey, quick question,” she says, in a moment where both of them have paused for breath and the opportunity to seethe. “Fett, when’s the last time you worked with a Jedi, or any member of a Force-based religion, before I popped into your life?”
His nose scrunches up as he makes a face.
“And Tholme, when’s the last time you worked with anyone from the Mandalorian system?”
Tholme’s reaction isn’t any more gracious than Fett’s.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she says. “Vos, were either of them actually interested in that conversation, or just looking for an excuse to yell?”
“Now listen here, jetiika--”
“Fett,” she snaps. “I am not a child.”
“And neither am I,” he growls right back. “This is my ship, and I damn well don’t need you treating me like a misbehaving youngling. You’ve got a problem, you bring it to my face, not get all smug about people’s tempers blowing over.”
She smiles thinly. “Of course.”
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.
“You know, I’m just--I’m just gonna go,” Quinlan mutters, pulling Leia out with him, the girl hanging from under one of his arms. “This, uh, this looks like a problem for... you folks. Um. Yeah.”
He sidles out.
Fett rubs at the bridge of his nose, and then gestures at the table. “Sit.”
“I’d prefer not to.”
He drops his hand and glares at her. “We have another week on this ship together. We are going to have this conversation. Sit.”
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.
“We all know you’re older than you look,” Fett says. “I heard Tholme mention it, I know that much has been shared. You’re acting like an actual teenager, and I’ve... I’ve put up with a lot. I am trying to keep things civil, particularly with you. I’ve tried to be friendly. You’ve been fucked up since we met, fine, everyone’s got trauma. The thing where you’ve started talking shit to our faces for what seems like your own amusement? That has to stop. You’re older than me, Torrent. Fucking act like it.”
She blinks at him, slow and not exactly happy, and turns to Tholme.
The man shrugs. “I was planning to put up with it until we arrived to the temple and handed you over to some mind healers. Fett doesn’t have that kind of time.”
There’s a curdle in her stomach, defensive and angry and guilty.
“You’ve been... a bitch,” Fett finally says. “You know that. I’m not going to mince words. You’ve been holier-than-thou and rude and condescending, and aiming that at Antilles is one thing, when you’ve apparently known her since she was a toddler and taught her things. Aiming at the rest of us isn’t going to fly. We’re all adults trying to share a space. Stop acting like... just like you have been.”
There is no defense to be made that they aren’t both already aware of.
She closes her eyes and tries to strangle the burst of irrational rage.
Their accusations aren’t unfounded.
They deserve an apology.
She is in the wrong.
She’s 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.
“My behavior’s been inappropriate,” she finally says, the words clumsy and too big in her mouth. “You’re right about that. I’m sorry, and I’ll endeavor to keep a tighter rein on my less pleasant behaviors in the future.”
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. “Am I dismissed?”
“...uh, no, not after that,” Fett says, sounding just a little horrified. “What the hell was that?”
Tholme hisses out a breath. “Let her go.”
“No, this needs to be discussed, that’s not a healthy rea--”
“Fett, let her go,” Tholme insists, low and heavy.
Fett looks between the two for a moment, seems to come to a realization he doesn’t like, and then gestures almost violently towards the door. “Fine. Go.”
She walks out, doesn’t sprint. She’s stiff. She’s controlled. She’s the one that fucked up, so it’s fine if she doesn’t feel great right now. Getting called out on one’s own failings as a person isn’t something to get upset about if the failings are real. The feelings are real and normal, but this was her fault, and so it’s up to her to fix it, and she can’t let them know it hurt her, because this was her mistake.
She goes to the cargo hold.
Ahsoka works out her frustrations on Fett’s punching bag. She does not augment herself with the Force, just uses raw strength and technique, ignoring the tears that press at her eyes.
It’s not weird. It’s not odd. It’s not strange to not notice she’s been kind of a bitch since her mood came up with the whole Depa thing, and then Maul. She’s been mean, mostly to Vos and Fett, and nobody’s confronted her about it until now. They let her have room for her trauma, and she hadn’t reined it in. She’s just gotten worse.
‘Snippy’ she’d always been, but age apparently hadn’t fucking tempered it.
She catches the punching bag, breathing heavily and covered in sweat. She hasn’t worked out all the twitchy, nervous energy yet.
“Vos,” she greets, once she’s caught herself enough that her voice won’t waver. He’s on the other side of the bag, but she knows his voice. “Do you need something?”
“You’re kind of... projecting,” he tells her, drifting to where she can actually see him. “Not self-loathing, but, um, recrimination? You just don’t feel very good and I was hoping to help”
Why in all the Sith hells does he have to be nice.
“I got called out on my behavior and wasn’t ready to face the fact that I’d kriffed up,” she tells him. “I’ll be fine. And I’m... sorry. I haven’t been fair to you and was using you as an easy target for some of my ruder comments.”
“I mean, I kind of figured,” he admits, coming closer. “I’ve been tutored by Shadows before, and a lot of them act like you. I just assumed it was more of that.”
“I still shouldn’t have let myself run loose like that,” she says. “I’m... it wasn’t appropriate. I shouldn’t have let it happen.”
He shrugs, not meeting her eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” she says. “Not with... not with you. Or anyone other than Rex and a mind healer, really. Most of it is...”
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’t appreciate.
There’s so much that beat her down, never quite breaking her, that she doesn’t even know what made her act the way she does.
“Want to spar?”
She looks over at him, wonders what he sees that makes him want to fight her when she’s visibly unstable.
He smiles, kind and easy, and it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. It’s genuine in intent, if not in energy. He wants to help. “You all keep saying I could work on my hand-to-hand. Just take off the armor so I don’t break a finger, maybe.”
“No, I’m Quinlan.”
She’s going to wipe the floor with this boy. “You sure you wanna fight me?”
“You won’t be able to meditate until you do,” he says. He’s right, damn him. “The 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’t want to do that, though, he’s still a kid.”
She eyes him, lips pressed together and mind awhirl with emotions and thoughts she’d tried to beat out of her head and into the bag. “Ever fought someone without the Force?”
“Was it cuffs?”
“Oh, you meant me not having the Force,” he realizes. “Er, no. Is... is that something you’ve done a lot?”
She smiles at him. “You’re 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’ll have to make do with you shielding like your mind’s a Kessel Spice Mine.”
“...do I want to know how often you’ve been captured?”
“No, you don’t.”
When he comes at her, it’s easy to dodge. It’s easy to tap him on target points, little pokes that show she could take him out, but isn’t going to until he’s learned something. He stays grinning throughout, letting her take the lead, and he treats her like... like a knight. Like a teacher. He’s stepped back and gone from trying to impress her as a fellow padawan, to proving himself to a full knight.
She’s 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’t gotten a wakeup call from Fett.
So she treats him the way she treated Ezra, for the year she’d spent traveling with Kanan. She treats him as a student that’s 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’d spent years on the frontlines of a war. She knew the worth of conserving energy. She’d teach it to any who stepped in to challenge her.)
“Who taught you to fight like this?” He asks, when they’ve taken a handful of moments to circle each other. His steps are heavy, sure, planted. Her own are light and ready.
“Soldiers,” she says. It’s true enough.
“Not your Master?” he asks, just as he tries to kick for her upper arm. It’s a safe question. For anyone else, it would be a safe question.
But for Ahsoka, it’s another chink in the armor, after a maelstrom of emotion, a storm of self-loathing, a dervish of instability.
She doesn’t break right away.
She spirals. She fights Quinlan, but doesn’t quite see him. Her strikes get sloppy, her feet stumble. She can’t make herself meet Quinlan’s 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’t 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 in a way that the damned respirator wasn’t.
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 come out of her mouth that isn’t the broken wail of a woman who hasn’t let herself think about how she died.
She feels herself pulled into someone’s arms, and she can’t quite tell who, but they’re bigger than she is, and feel warm and worried. They care. They don’t understand, they’re scared, but they care.
Her hands shake, clutched to her chest and she can’t breathe she can’t make herself take in enough air to do a Force-damned 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 HER ANAKIN IS GOING TO FIND HER AND--
Rex is here.
Her breath is coming so fast that she’s hiccupping more than she’s 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’s here. He’s calm. If he’s calm, then things are fine.
“What happened?” Light voice, high voice, small and distant. Leia. Little Leia little princess Leia she’s in danger she’s 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’t stop it.
“I don’t know.” That’s Vos. He was... they were doing something. He was here. Talking to her. “We were sparring, and she just--”
“I don’t know if I said something?” He offers, voice pitching up, unsure and worried. Is he the one holding her? He’s the one holding her. That’s embarrassing.
“Commander?” Rex prompts. “Commander, can you open your eyes?”
She tries. She can’t. She shakes her head.
“Soka?” he asks, voice quiet. “Where are you?”
“F-F-Fett,” she manages. It’s enough.
“And where were you?”
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.
“Commander,” Rex tries again, but her head is a vortex of Then you will die and Perhaps this child and not the Jedi way.
Our long awaited meeting.
I destroyed him.
Then you will die.
She can’t breathe she can’t breathe she can only see that yellow eye that’s too familiar but belongs to a stranger can only hear a voice that shouldn’t exist can only mourn and break and--
“Malachor,” she manages. “I--h-he--I died.”
“What did you say?” someone asks. A vod. It’s the right voice, almost, rough and business-like, not accusing anyone yet, and... and... no. No. Not one of her boys. It’s Fett.
“Um, right at the end? I asked her who taught her to fight like this,” Quinlan says, nervous. “And she said it was soldiers. And I joked, I asked that it wasn’t her Master, and she didn’t answer that. A couple minutes later, she just started...”
“Oh, Soka,” Rex whispers, pulling her closer. “Commander, just breathe with me.”
“H-h-he, he just--R-Rex, he j-just--and I c-c-couldn’t--”
“I know,” her captain whispers. “I know, just breathe with me.”
“He k-k-k-killed me,” she sobs, falling out of the Keldabe and into too-small arms. “I l-loved--he was my broth-ther and--and he just--he killed me, he didn’t even stop.”
“I know,” Rex whispers. “Soka, I know.”
Of course he does.
“It was just bad timing,” Rex says, once they’re in the room she’s 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.
“Is there anything we need to keep in mind?” Fett asks, gruff and uncomfortable. She wonders if he’s angry that she took his necessary confrontation and turned it into this mess.
“Don’t bring up her Jedi Master,” Rex says, and pulls her in when she shivers. Her eyes squeeze shut before she can stop them, tears beading up again. “Just... don’t. It’s too soon.”
“He Fell,” Ahsoka interrupts. “I 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.”
Fett swears, low and muffled. She thinks he has a hand over his mouth.
Quin and Leia aren’t there. She thinks they’re keeping an eye on their Baby Sith prisoner. That’s good.
“Soka,” Rex whispers, and she buries her face in his shoulder. She’s too old to be this kind of mess. She’s thirty-two. She’s Fulcrum. She’s...
She’s in need of a lot of therapy.
“We can avoid the subject unless you bring it up,” Tholme promises. “Definitely until the Temple. Is there anything else we shouldn’t talk about?”
Ahsoka can practically feel Rex’s deadpan look. “Sir, we’re a trio of child soldiers ripped from everything we know. Every other sentence is a risk. We’re just... working our way through.”
There’s a knock at the door. Oh. Quin and Leia.
“Just figured we’d drop this off before we went down to visit Mr. Grumpy-Face,” Quinlan whispers. He still thinks Leia’s a child. He’s trying to make things less terrible for her. That’s nice. “We decided he’ll be less angry if he tries Hoth chocolate, and made some for everyone.”
They definitely made it for Ahsoka herself, and Maul was an afterthought. Still. It’s sweet.
“Commander?” Rex prompts, jostling her a little to try and get her to sit up.
“Gimme a sec,” 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’t look six. She doesn’t even look twenty-two. This girl was always too old for her skin, forced to grow up in the hostile fear of the Empire.
“Thank you, Princess.”
She can barely taste it beyond the ashes she imagines coating her tongue.
I destroyed him, her memory echoes. His slightest hesitation before he made the final move, it haunts her. She almost reached him. If only she’d tried harder, yelled louder, been better...
“Do you need help falling asleep?” Tholme asks. “I’m a regular healer, not a mind healer, but...”
She probably should.
She takes another sip of her drink, willing herself to taste it. It’s good. She likes it. She knows she does.
“Can you make it dreamless?” she whispers.
“It doesn’t always work, but I can try,” he tells her.
She nods. “When I finish the chocolate.”
Everyone’s careful around her for days. The whole decision to be nicer doesn’t mean anything when she’s 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’kai. 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’t know how they feel. She thinks Leia might be judging her. She think Tholme might be pitying.
Maul simply hates. It’s an old and familiar sensation to walk into, and she takes unthinking comfort in his rage. She’s 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’s heard of her nightmares.
“You need to talk,” Rex tells her, when he finds her with a cold cup of caff, eyes fixed somewhere beyond it all. She lifts her head. “Soka.”
She just stares at him.
He sighs and pulls her into a hug. “Commander, please.”
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’t 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’s not the deep and dark lit only by red--
Then you will die, her memory growls.
“Breathe,” Rex tells her, too-small hands clinging at her back. “Just breathe, ‘Soka.”
She curls in tighter and tries to just breathe.
“Tell me something good.”
Ahsoka blinks. She looks at Leia. She doesn’t have the energy to parse that.
Leia chances a look at Rex, who isn’t leaving Ahsoka’s side any more than he has to, and Fett on the other side. Tholme’s asleep and Quin’s on Baby Sith duty. It’s just people who know, right now.
The little girl across the table, the child senator, the spy, purses her lips and huffs in irritation. “You knew my biological father before he became one of the worst people in the galaxy. Both of you did. Tell me something good about him.”
“You fought a war as a Jedi,” Leia prompts. “Surely you must have done some good things with him, or at least thought you were.”
Every mission ended in tragedy or was just a ploy of Palpatine’s. Every saved life was just...
“He built Threepio,” she finally says. “Your father wi--I mean, Bail wiped Threepio’s memory after the Empire rose, for your safety, but Anakin was the one who built him.”
Leia sits up, eyes brighter. “I didn’t know that. I... was Artoo involved? Did he build R2D2, or...”
“No,” Rex says, “But 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’t find out until you started working with the Rebellion full-time, but Artoo and Threepio were the witnesses for your bio-parents’ wedding.”
Leia gapes at him. So does Ahsoka. (Fett doesn’t know enough to care.)
Rex grins, and if it looks a little forced, that’s fine. “He 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.”
He waits, probably for Ahsoka to add something herself, but she has nothing.
“I think that’s 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.”
“He never changed,” Leia muses. “Did he always swear that much?”
“Yes,” Ahsoka answers, as Rex laughs. “Always. All the binary I learned started with the best swears.”
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. 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’t end in blood and graves.
“Remember 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?”
He’s right, that’s a good story.
“Okay, so what you have to understand,” Ahsoka says, already digging the faint details out and dusting them off, “is 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... eventually. Just like everyone else, though, they started out shiny.”
“Tholme’s hiding something.”
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’s got patience.
“His job requires him to hide a lot of things,” Ahsoka says instead. “Not as many as Vos will have to, eventually, but a lot.”
“He’s hiding something from us,” Leia insists, visibly frustrated that Ahsoka isn’t as upset about this as she is. “Something important.”
The way she says ‘important’ is clumsy and impacted by the missing baby tooth. She can’t say the r. It comes out as ‘im-poh-ten,’ which is adorable, and if Ahsoka comments on it, she’s probably going to get punched by a six-year-old.
“The Force doesn’t care,” Ahsoka says. “I trust his intentions, if not him as a person.”
“If you don’t trust him, then why trust his intentions?”
“Leia, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I trust one and a half people in the galaxy,” Ahsoka points out. “Me not trusting a person isn’t a sign of anything except my paranoia. The only person I trust fully and without reservation is Rex. Even you, I only mostly trust, because my brain starts screaming if I think too hard. That’s why you’re the half.”
“Okay, whatever, paranoia aside,” Leia barrels on, “He should tell us. Whatever it is that he’s hiding, we deserve to know. We’re not children that he can just hide things from for our own good.”
Ahsoka presses her lips together. “Leia. Princess. I know you’re used to holding all the cards--”
“This isn’t about me being a control freak!”
“It is, though,” Ahsoka soothes, and smiles. “Your mother--the bio one--was the same way. You spent years as one of the leaders of the Rebellion, so obviously you’re 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’re an unknown, Leia. They have no proof that we’re on their side, especially since we’re traveling with Fett.”
Leia crosses her arms and glares as hard as she can.
“I’m not going to bother him,” Ahsoka says. “I’ve already had, like, five unrelated mental breakdowns. I’m putting this on hold until we get to the Temple and I can trust that there’s a healer on hand to sedate me or something.”
“You... want to be sedated?”
“Leia, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a Force-Sensitive losing their osik the way I have been isn’t actually safe. I know I broke a weapons rack last week.” Ahsoka gestures vaguely. “If the Jedi Master isn’t telling me something for reasons that might relate to my clear and obvious mental instability, I’m going to assume he’s got a point.”
“So he should tell me or Rex.”
“We’ll be on Coruscant in four days,” Ahsoka soothes. “Just... let it be. They won’t hurt us.”
“You don’t know that.”
Ahsoka shrugs. “I don’t have to. The Force leads me in all things, including this.”
Leia isn’t impressed by that, but Leia isn’t 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’d like to admit. Ahsoka lets her. It’s not worth the argument.
It’s only a few minutes later that Fett strides in, takes the seat Leia was just in, and asks, “What would it take for you to teach me how to use a jetii’kad?”
She blinks at him. “You want to learn how to use a lightsaber?”
Ahsoka taps her fingers against the table, eyeing him with the kind of interest she copied from Master Kenobi, years ago. Fett doesn’t fidget, but she thinks he might want to. He just looks back, waiting for her judgement.
“You’ll need to justify it,” she finally says. “It’s a significant difference from what you actually did, so I need to know your reasoning for doing it, and your plans for once it’s done.”
“That’s step one,” she corrects. She tilts her head, considering. “My standards for you aren’t 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...”
“You’ll help me achieve it.”
“Maybe,” she allows. “A lot of that depends on Rex.”
“I expected as much,” Fett says. “He is... an admittedly large part of the reason.”
“He would be,” she says. She gives the silence a few more seconds to sit awkwardly between them, and then stands up. “I’d guess you’ve been brainstorming already. Do you have it written down or is it mostly just in your head so far?”
“I’m still... debating options, so to speak.”
She grins, and the shape of the predator’s smile, the baring of teeth... that almost makes him step back. She can see it in the twitch of his muscles. Smart man.
“Follow me,” she says, and doesn’t 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’s confusion grows tangibly behind her, especially when she tosses him a wooden quarterstaff. She picks up the other and spins it in one hand.
“You’re going to fight me,” she tells him, stretching and letting the staff help with the process. “And while we fight, you’re going to tell me what your plans for Mandalore are.”
He mimics her, but there’s a frown on his face. “And why staffs?”
“You and I, we’ve only sparred bare-handed,” she says. “I need a feel for how you fight with a weapon anyway. These are a good start.”
“Not the beskad?”
She grins, and the twitch is back. “No. That can wait. We start with the staffs.”
He takes a stance, and she mirrors him. She lets him strike first with a weapon, but she’s 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. Still, she makes him fight for every inch, and what she doesn’t win in bruises, she wins in words.)
(Fett might yet be a proper Mand’alor, 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’s gone.)
Ahsoka’s interrogation of Jango’s plans is thorough, and she’s 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’alor, 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 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’s breaking a zoning law, but Leia knows why it exists in the first place.
“And I grew up in a cult,” Rex says, when an argument on that topic breaks out. “The Jedi grew up in a religious meritocracy; Leia grew up in a monarchy; and I grew up in a cult.”
Ahsoka elbows him. He’s not wrong, but still.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is about forty-seven percent sure that Leia will put her foot in her mouth when it comes to Mandalorian culture, blunt as the girl is. That prefrontal cortex isn’t anywhere near as developed as it should be, either, so impulse control for the princess isn’t 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’t really six--though not about the time-travel, yet--Quinlan doesn’t.
They admittedly end up doing this while he’s on Maul-sitting duty.
“It’s like he doesn’t even care about making nice with the people that, at this point, make up the majority of his people!” Leia grumbles one night, as Ahsoka kicks over a step stool so the girl can brush her teeth. “He may not like the New Mandalorians, but from what I understand, it’s still early enough to prevent the majority of the cultural bleaching you brought up. If he stays this stubborn--”
“Leia,” Ahsoka says, and the girl’s mouth snaps shut. “I’m aware of your reasons for not trusting his intentions. But if I may say? Chill.”
“He’s not even trying!”
“He’s trying a hell of a lot harder than he did in the original timeline,” Ahsoka reminds her. “Brush your teeth.”
“I’m not a--”
It’s a little worrying, how the child’s brain affects Leia, but... well. That’ll 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’t call her out on it, just brushes back wisps of hair to plant a kiss on Leia’s forehead, and then does the same once Rex stumbles in, grumbling about the limitations of a cadet’s body, but far more ready to follow the protocol that is bedtime.
Rex doesn’t pretend to not like getting tucked in, for all that he’s 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’s 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’s seat, and watches hyperspace pass them by.
It takes long minutes before either of them say anything.
“Do Jedi believe in souls?”
His shields are up, locked up tighter than the innermost chambers of the Imperial Palace. She has no idea where he’s taking this question. She has to cast about for an answer.
“That depends on how you define a soul,” she finally says. “Leia 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’t 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.”
“So you believe that the dead pass into the Force, but that what 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 ‘soul’ for that something.”
“Mm,” Ahsoka considers it. “I’d say that’s pretty accurate. You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“What about those not yet born?”
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 dust, her vision unable to keep any more still than her heart.
“Oh,” she hears herself say. “The clones.”
It’s 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’d thought. His voice is rough. “I’ve taken plenty of lives, but I’ve never known the name of someone I erased from existence before they were even born.”
“The stories we told Leia about the brothers.”
There’s a grunt of agreement from Fett, so those dots at least connect.
“I take it my answer wasn’t helpful,” she manages to say.
“Will they still exist?” Fett asks. “Will they be born elsewhere? Or is... is a soul something that only comes into existence after the body does?”
“I have no idea,” Ahsoka admits. “I want... I want to think that I’d be able to find them eventually, to recognize them, if their souls are still born into this world elsewhere.”
“And if your Sith finds someone else to build his army out of?”
Ahsoka looks at him, sharp and pointed. “You wouldn’t.”
“They’ll be doing it anyway, if their plans are as ironclad as you say.”
“You’re already associating with Jedi,” Ahsoka says, fighting the urge to break his nose. “They wouldn’t approach you, not now. They can’t leverage your anger against you. They won’t know everything, but they’ll know that you have friends among the Jedi.”
“You think they can’t come up with better lies?”
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.
“You’re going to have to convince me,” she says. “Especially if you want to somehow balance this with the darksaber thing. I won’t teach you how to fight with it if you’re not planning to retake Mandalore.”
“That’s how they’d sell it,” he says. “Retaking Mandalore. An army ostensibly for the Jedi, and ultimately...”
“You’d build an army of slaves.”
“No, I’d be the inside man for when they build that army anyway.”
She holds his gaze. She looks away first.
He lets her.
“I’ll need to talk to Rex. Probably Leia.”
“I don’t like this.”
“I’m only just considering it. It’s an idea, not a plan.”
“That’s the only reason I haven’t ripped your throat out with my teeth.”
“Hyperbole doesn’t suit you.”
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’t there for the shouting match between Rex and Fett, but she doesn’t have to be. She can hear it form clear across the ship, and Rex comes to her afterwars. He’s been crying, which isn’t as surprising as it could be. These bodies are still prone to such things, and will be for years. She doesn’t comment.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.
“We need to take out Sidious before he starts anything on Kamino.”
“Agreed,” she says. “It’ll be hard, though.”
“I don’t care.”
“What did Fett say?”
“That if it wasn’t going to be my brothers, it would be someone else’s. Either we stopped the cloning from happening at all, or we mitigated damage by being there.”
“I don’t think Sidious is going to tap him for it,” Ahsoka admits. “Not unless you’re 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’s a gamble.”
He knows all of this.
“I miss them,” he says, and she cards her fingers though the curls he’s managed to grow in the past weeks. “I just... even at the end, I had Wolffe. I knew Boba was out there; I wouldn’t 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.”
“It wouldn’t be them,” she reminds him. She pulls him closer, puts her cheek to his head. “It would be the same process, the same faces, the same training, even, but the boys themselves...”
He clings to her and shudders.
“I can’t force them to grow up the way I did. I want them back. Sidious is going to make the army no matter what. Someone’s going to suffer, and I don’t want it to be my brothers, but they won’t exist otherwise, and...”
“And it’s an impossible choice,” she summarizes. “And it sucks.”
“It’s sucks Gungan balls, ‘Soka.”
She laughs, and feels him smile against her shoulder. Good. He needs to smile more.
“He’s still trying to get me to like him,” Rex says. "He’s still making an effort, and he never did that for anyone except Boba, and it’s weird. I don’t know what to do with any of that.”
“Gain a brother,” Ahsoka whispers, and she feels him jerk against her. “If that’s what you want.”
“He’s not vod.”
“Same blood as all the rest, and you’re older than him, so he’s not really in a position to be a parent to you like he was to Boba,” she says carefully. “You don’t have to do anything, if you don’t want to, but... I think he’s trying. I think this means a lot to him, and that he isn’t any more sure of what to do than you are. You don’t have to forgive him for what he did in the future, you don’t have to accept when he reaches out, you don’t have to ever talk to him again after we reach Coruscant if you don’t want, but I think... I think it’s worth at least considering what you have to gain. I think it’s worth looking at what he’s trying to give you.”
Rex huffs. “Why couldn’t he just be the shabuir I knew in training?”
“Something happened between now and then?” she offers. “I don’t 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’ll like him.”
He outright scoffs. “Soka, that’s not the only reason he’s trying to get on your good side.”
“...I’m a former Jedi who talks trash to his face,” she says slowly. “And I cried on him. There is no reason for him to be nice to me, other than you.”
“He thinks you’re cool and a good person and wants you to be his friend.”
Rex grins in a way that goes straight to smirking. “Soka, I’m not joking. Jango Fett wants you to be his friend.”
“Kriffing why?” she asks, more than a little horrified. “I’m a mess, look like I’m 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. Putting up with me is one thing, but I’m... I’m only barely not a Jedi. I’m a historical enemy of Mandalore, and part of the community he hates more than anything, and--”
“And his reaction to you kicking his ass was pure Mando,” Rex says. “In that he now thinks you’re a badass, and thus worth being friends with.”
“I can’t believe that. I physically cannot.”
“Soka, just accept it. The Mand’alor wants to be friends with you.” He scratches at his scalp. “I mean, he met you while you were protecting what appeared to be children, and it’s apparently still early enough for him to care about that.”
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’t 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’t ask. If he wants to change the subject, that’s his right.
“I don’t... no.” She denies it as well as she can, and then the implications dig a little deeper. “Is this me accidentally signing up to be the Jedi Order’s official liaison to the Mand’alor?”
“I mean, this point in time... they’ve got Kenobi for the Duchess, yeah?” Rex shrugs. “Good relations with the system are probably a good thing, and you’ve got a stronger connection than Tholme and Vos.”
“Ugh,” she says. She rubs a hand against her head, and then lurches to her feet. “Fine! Fine. If it’ll get him to retake Mandalore before the Sith decide to bribe him with an army he doesn’t get to keep, I’ll teach him how to fight for the kriffin’ Darksaber.”
“That’s what makes the decision for you?”
“Well something had to!”
They only get one lesson in before Coruscant, but the lesson lasts a full day, and Ahsoka’s got his comm number. Fett’s a quick learner anyway, and Tholme was there to give pointers where Ahsoka couldn’t.
He won’t measure up to a Jedi in saber-to-saber combat, but he doesn’t need to. He just needs to learn enough to turn all those skills with a beskad to something that works with a jetii’kad.
(The balance of a saber is wrong to those used to a physical weapon. The inertia doesn’t work the way anyone expects. There’s 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 rule a system with a history like that, and he damn well knows that too.)
“Dropping out of hyperspace in T-minus twenty seconds.”
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’s vessel, and the drop to real space jolts like nothing else. Ahsoka’s in the copilot seat for the return, but Tholme’s going to swap with her as soon as they’ve got confirmation that there were no problems with exiting hyperspace, and nobody’s shooting at them.
“We’re not going to get shot at,” Tholme had assured her.
“I always get shot at,” she’d told him.
“I have our clearance,” he reminded her, seeming more amused than frustrated. “There’s no need to worry about getting shot at.”
“I also always get shot at,” Jango had thrown in.
“Okay,” Tholme had allowed, after several minutes of his trust in the Temple warring against Ahsoka and Jango’s learned paranoia. The looks Quinlan had darted around the room when Leia and Rex also claimed ‘chronic getting-shot-at disease’ 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. “You can take us in close enough to get in radio contact, but the second we have to ask for clearance and a vector, I’m in the seat.”
She’d agreed, of course. She was paranoid, not inexperienced.
“We’re much less likely to get shot down by ground control if you tell them we’re with you,” she’d said, to his hilariously apparent metaphysical exhaustion. “Obviously.”
“Good enough,” he’d sighed.
What that means is mostly just that Ahsoka gets to watch the distant star at the center of Coruscant’s system grow rapidly brighter. She can pick out the constellations she’d 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’d 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’t 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’t know her, that had sentenced her to death, that had hosted the rampage of her former master... but home nonetheless.
“Stable?” Fett grunts.
“Thrusters are good,” she confirms.
“I meant you.”
Ah. “I’m... fine. As good as I could be, anyway.”
She hesitates, but manages to speak before he does. “You?”
“I’m not the one walking into an entire building of triggers.”
“Only because you’re not entering it,” she says. “It’s the home of your ancestral enemies who, bad info or no, killed off a whole lot of your friends.”
“I get to leave,” he says. “You don’t.”
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’ll be too much, she knows.
Tholme enters the cockpit. “Change of plans.”
“Better be a good reason,” Jango says, voice flat.
Ahsoka’s unbuckling herself before she can process the words fully. “What?”
Leia doesn’t cry for no reason. Her emotional control is as difficult as the body makes it, but she doesn’t just cry. There’s always a cause.
“I don’t know. Rex said to get you,” Tholme explains. “She was saying a name. He seemed to recognize it.”
Not good not good not good. If Leia was feeling the Emper--No. She cuts the thought off there. No catastrophizing. Information first.
“Luke. Mean anything to--and she’s gone.”
Ahsoka ignores him, just sprints to where she knows the ‘young ones’ are. They’re all in Maul’s room, because nobody wants to be alone with him now, but it’s the worst time to leave him without supervision. It’s not the worst option; he mostly refuses to talk, still.
This holds true, because he definitely isn’t talking when she bursts in. He’s sitting on the bench, in a corner, hugging his knees and watching Quinlan try to calm Leia down.
“Vos 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 ‘Luke’ several times since then, and we’ve 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.”
“Understood.” She nods to him, and then goes to nudge at Quinlan. “Vos, move.”
“You 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.” She waits for him to comply, and then drops to her knees and takes Leia’s hands in her own. She radiates calm and assurance, even though she knows Quinlan’s probably been doing the same since this started. She dips her head enough to get in the girl’s line of sight, waits for her to meet eyes.
“Princess,” she says, and meets Leia’s eyes. “What did you feel?”
From this distance... they’ve got half the system to go, at least, and Leia’s training shouldn’t 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’s also been doing this much, much longer. The twins theory holds more water than ever.
“Can you show me?” Ahsoka asks, instead of asking for more clarification. She squeezes Leia’s hands and smiles. “In the Force?”
Leia nods, and closes her eyes. It’s not the first time they’ve done this, but it’s the first time in a while that Leia’s needed Ahsoka to guide her through.
Luke’s light, for all that it’s unfamiliar to Ahsoka, is brilliant among the rest of the signatures in Coruscant. Like Anakin and Leia, he’s a star in his own right, but he’s brighter. He doesn’t have Anakin’s bitterness or Leia’s righteous anger, just... light. Ahsoka had asked Leia to show her instead of looking for herself because she’d expected to not recognize the boy, but she needn’t have. He’s unmistakable.
He’s so bright that she almost misses the other signature that she does recognize. She shies away, knowing that it would be there, but... but it’s almost twinned with another nearby. Not identical, but different in a way that comes with age, with trauma, with... death.
Leia hadn’t 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’t stop.
“Oh fuck,” Quinlan whispers. “Torrent? Um, Sokari?”
Rex steps closer. “Commander?”
“That shabuir faked his death again,” she manages. “Three times, Rex!”
He blinks at her. “...I know way too many people who fit that description, Soka.”
“Master Ke--” she cuts herself off. He might have changed his name, just like she had. There’s already an Obi-Wan here. Rex seems to be figuring it out, but she needs to give him another hint.
“He pulled a Hardeen,” she stresses, and Rex’s eyes snap shut with a tired groan.
“Who?” Leia asks, her own tumult of emotion paused in the wake of Ahsoka’s shock. There’s a hope and relief to her, and Ahsoka belatedly realizes that her main worry had been that she’d misidentified what was going on, that she’d given herself a false hope. Ahsoka’s internal reaction, her approval and awe at Luke’s presence, had trickled over enough to give Leia the reassurance she’d needed.
Unintentional as it was, Ahsoka was glad that she’d succeeded in helping her charge.
“Er...” she trails off. “I don’t know what name he’s going by, right now. We’ve spent so long in hiding...”
“The man Luke knew as Crazy Old Ben,” Rex says, and Leia’s eyes light up.
“Oh,” she breathes. “General O--no, names. The High General, then.”
“Yeah,” Ahsoka says, not a little soft. “Yeah, I guess death didn’t stop him any more than it stopped me.”
“I could have told you that,” Leia says, smiling far too widely. She squirms where she still sits on Quinlan’s lap. “He was... he taught you, right?”
“As much my master as the official one,” Ahsoka says. She glances as Quinlan, feels Maul’s gaze on the back of her head. “Your f... my official master was very young when I was assigned to him. He wasn’t ready to teach, wasn’t even ready to be a knight, entirely, so my training was split between him and his master.”
Quinlan pops in at that moment, “Your grandmaster was military, too?”
We all were, she thinks. Even you, in your own way.
“I landed in their care mid-battle,” she says carefully. “It was a complicated situation.”
He nods, and she vaguely notes that he’s got his arms wrapped around Leia, and his chin tucked on top of her head. She isn’t sure if Leia’s noticed, but Quinlan’s picked up ‘baby’-sitting duty so often recently that she’s fairly certain he’s all but declared her ‘little-sister shaped.’ It doesn’t matter that Leia’s older--she’s still taking the juice boxes and gummy snacks that Quinlan shoves at her every single snacktime.
“Do you think...” Rex trails off, something uncomfortable twisting in the Force, even though his face keeps it mostly hidden. “My brothers. If the General survived and... and made it back...”
“I didn’t feel any,” Ahsoka says, because she knows she’d have noticed if it was anyone she’d 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. “I’m sorry, Rex’ika.”
“A long shot,” he says, that dash of hope shriveling up. He must see something in her face, because there’s a curl of warmth in him, even if his smile is brittle. “It’s fine, really. I have you, ‘Soka.”
Rex and Ahsoka. Two halves of one whole.
She can’t wait to hear the lectures on attachment, the way people who haven’t seen her wars try to criticize her for clinging to any chance at still having a will to live. She can’t wait to see them justify telling her that it’s selfish to hold her sanity in her hands and refuse to let the grief take it away. She can’t wait to stare someone down for asking her to ‘learn to let go’ after she’s 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’ll say.
What they’ll mean is ‘codepedence.’
They won’t 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’d long called father, when they’d still been in each other’s lives.
This time, past the deafening flare of surprise-love-hope 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’s waiting at the exit. She strains her hearing so she’ll 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’s stressed enough that she can feel it like a cloud. She is very much not trying to feel that stress. Quinlan’s stress levels, back where he’s 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’s a a little sad.
It doesn’t 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’s a beacon of light and a steady, familiar glow on the other side, and she’s so, so close. She can’t see through the crack yet, because it’s day in this part of Coruscant, and the sunlight is blinding against the dark of the hold. So close. She’s so close.
“The hell’s wrong with you?”
Fett? Fett. He’s already here to get off? This door’s slow.
She doesn’t 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’s him.
He spreads his arms, low enough that she could have dismissed it if she’d cared less for hugs, except she’s almost as small as she was when they met.
And every other hug she’d given back then had been, functionally, her being a living missile aiming her montrals for someone’s organs.
She’s a little 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’t even grasp at safety shreds itself. His arms are tight around her, warm and strong and Master Kenobi don’t you dare leave again.
It doesn’t matter that Sidious is out there, that the Republic’s been building towards war for a century, that even now someone’s kicking up the Trade Federation. Her dad is here.
“I’ve missed you too, my dear,” 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.
(“Fett, why the kriff are you reaching for your blaster?!”)
(“Torrent said her master tried to kill her.”)
(“Different guy, that was a different guy, put the blaster away.”)
(“You could have just warned me.”)
(“I didn’t expect you to go for a shot on sight!”)
(”Calm down, Jetiika, if I was going to shoot on sight, we’d already be in a firefight.”)
She ignores everything.
“If you fake your death one more time, I swear I’m going to kill you myself.”
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’s sitting and pulls her in closer.
“In my defense, I was far from the only one presumed dead that took advantage of that status, by the end,” he says, letting her slump into his lap and cry herself dry. “I’m proud of you. You know that, I hope.”
She nods against his chest, smearing tears and snot across the linen and wool. She doesn’t care that they’ll need a thorough washing. She can have her public breakdown and it’s fine because Master Kenobi is here.
He doesn’t even know what she’s spent the past fifteen years doing. Luke wouldn’t have known. He doesn’t know she’s thirty-two and broken, beyond a shadow and cut down by her own master. There’s so much he doesn’t know but the Force rings with the truth of it: he’s proud of her anyway.
“I’m going by Ben, now,” he mutters against her montral. “There’s already an Obi-Wan here, after all. Still, I remain a Kenobi.”
She can’t make the words come out of her mouth. She’s overwhelmed, so much so that speech is a mite bit beyond her.
Sokari Torrent, she presses along the frayed bond that’s 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...
“For the men you lost,” he mutters. “Yes, that’s fitting.”
He smells like sapir tea and a spiced beard oil.
There’s a whirl of activity about her, greetings and ‘a Sith apprentice?’ and 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’ll 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’s 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’s alive she’s home she’s okay.
Everything’s going to be okay.
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