Saga - PT "Now You're a Home" | OTP #16: Milestones Challenge | Rex/Ahsoka; AU, post-TCW/RotS; Novel

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Sep 5, 2020.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha WIP Month Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, this was exquisite! Her musings and longings and uncertainties all tangled together. =D= Very realistic. Superbly written, although frustrating to us as well as Ahsoka. She has earned a respite. She, and Rex also, shouldn't be expected or coerced into fighting.

    There's nothing wrong with the SW variant of a picket fence, a porch swing, and an equine to ride ;)

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
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  2. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    At first I was all "oh no Rex, please don't sulk! Sulking is NOT cool, so not cool." Then I spent a night and a day thinking about what Rex might be thinking and now I suspect that he is sacrificing his happiness by torpedoing his developing relationship to make sure he doesn't slow Ahsoka down. Ever the hero, just as much as Ahsoka.
    Can't wait to see where MJ takes this next.
  3. jedi113

    jedi113 Jedi Youngling

    Mar 28, 2021
    Oh my goodness! I have been checking in occasionally and it is amazing to see a new chapter! I can fully understand the reasoning behind your hiatus, but don’t be too hard on yourself! We have fallen in love with this story because of your writing and storytelling ability. Rest assured, without having read this chapter I am beyond excited not only for it but what is to come as well! When you set your mind to it and put pen to paper an amazing story is sure to follow :).
  4. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker WIP Month Winner star 4 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 9, 2002
    I'm heeeeeere!:D

    [face_laugh] Agreed! :p

    I loved all your descriptions of the work leading up to Eventide. As always, you flesh out the world so thoroughly that I have no idea where the line is between canon and fanon, and the world just feels completely lived-in and tangible.

    I've got to admit, reading Ahsoka's longing for a simple life and family and home really made me want that for her, even if it means not joining The Cause. The duality of her desires and thoughts in this chapter were just so well done. I simultaneously want her to have the quiet life away from war, while also wanting her and Rex to join the fledgling Rebellion and help take back the galaxy.

    Even if romance didn't enter into it at all, this still rings completely true. Ahsoka and Rex are a team and companions, and after everything they went through together, I just can't imagine them parting ways. So it seems natural to me that she would feel this way about him. [face_love]

    But then romance does enter into it, and you deal with Ahsoka's growing awareness of her feelings so well. I also love how you incorporate her Togruta heritage into that awareness, and how she reacts to those feelings even as she tries to approach them from a more intellectual level. The mate of her heart part was lovely also because it can read romantic, but it's also about companionship and partnership, which I'd say is essential to a lasting romantic relationship anyway. Very beautifully expressed, all of it! [face_love]

    So true!

    Such a bizarre and unfair dichotomy, isn't it? But she's at the point now where she knows her feelings are reciprocated, so that's a step in the right direction, right? [face_batting]

    Oh, this was beautiful. Kind of terribly beautiful, and it put me in mind of Stover's descriptions of Anakin in the RotS novelization. And I love that last, If she emptied herself, what would remain? And even though Ahsoka is coming from a place of righteous anger and we know she won't slip into the darkness the way her master did, I still couldn't help thinking of Vader here, and maybe even some other Sith Lords - canon and otherwise - for whom this rings true. If you give up all that rage, what's left? Who are you without that fire, that hate? (Sort of rambling here, don't mind me. :p)

    Poor Ahsoka. =((

    I was really struck by this image, and it even reminded me of komorebi, with the interaction of light and shadows caused by the tree branches. Also, I really like the name "smoke-oak" for some reason. :p

    Ugh, Mara. What gave you the right??? :_|

    [face_love] Of course this would be one of my favorite moments. Of course it would. :D

    Ooooh, this was so good. I am always a sucker for this dream/Force vision stuff, as you know, and everything about this - Ahsoka's fear and confusion, the way her consciousness edges right on the truth, and of course, Vader reaching out, searching - was so beautifully written and portrayed. =D=

    Aw, Rex. :( (Even though I sort of wanted to smack him upside the head by the end of this scene. :p)

    I could really feel this. We've all had those moments, haven't we? When we know we said something wrong but aren't sure what we should have said instead. Or when we are the ones looking for a specific response, and we don't get it. I could feel that heaviness in this scene.

    Well, that hurt. =(( (Also, I love it. [face_mischief])

    So good to see you're back at it and having fun writing this story again! It's always a treat to delve into this world and these characters. :D I can't wait to find out what happens next, and you know I'm here to the end, no matter how long or short the journey is. ;) [face_batting] [:D]
  5. Findswoman

    Findswoman Ammonia-Breathing Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Just caught up, and wow, Rex and Ahsoka are definitely in "two steps forward, one step back" territory here! Hurts so good, I must say! D And I say that because I am pretty sure I know what it means: namely, when Rex turns away (!) from Ahsoka, it means that he is at least as self-conscious about the whole "talking about us" business as Ahsoka is. In some ways I think his little "is that an order" barb is an attempt to cope with it, too—trying in way to steer the conversation back to more familiar territory, kind of sort of. All good signs, in their way! ;)

    Ahsoka's musings and thoughts and internal conflicts throughout the chapter are wonderful—she's got so much to think about, and you make it all so believable and organic and immediate. I get the feeling she isn't just trying to decide which "either/or" to choose but would like to be able to reconcile her attachments, and her desire to just live out there in the beautiful farmcountry of Saleucami, too her connection to the Force and the Jedi in some way. Which seems to very much fit for her as a character!

    And, whoo boy, that was some dream! :eek: So much bittersweetness, too, with her memories of Anakin as teacher and Barriss as close friend. And I recognize that little red-haired girl! What will it mean for her developing relationship with Rex, I wonder? Because if they get to the point where they're sharing Everything Else, she will certainly be sharing that sort of experience with him, too. [face_thinking]

    Keep up the wonderful work—looking forward to seeing where things will go now! Eventide's right around the corner, and perhaps some new realizations of the "oh." variety are, as well! :D =D=
  6. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    Ugh, idiots! Just kiss already!
  7. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Lean into your strengths! :*

    Aw [face_blush] You know, the flip side of that is that even after all these years, I still think "if only I could have seen this one archived" when I come across a really good story. This is one of them [face_love]

    And like the clones, the padawans should never have been on the front lines to begin with, if you ask me. Jedi child soldiers are still child soldiers.

    Ordinary life is underrated, seriously. And to someone who's been through what Ahsoka has, how much more so.

    And "simple beauties and common joys" has transformed itself in my mind to "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood", even though Guinevere's ideas of such are not quite so ordinary :p

    The curse of all our favorite characters in this saga, when you come right down to it. Probably a lot of them would have had personally happier lives if they'd just hunkered down somewhere and kept quiet, but they just couldn't. (Which is why we then have to write them stories where they get happy endings and ordinary bits of life to make up for all teh dr4m4 :p)

    Heh, I used to work in food service, and an industrial lemon slicer comes down with a very satisfying thunk. It was a great bit of side work when you were really mad. Churning butter would definitely be along the same lines :p

    Or could they? [face_thinking]

    You be quiet, leave me my hope

    Why, hello there, baby Mara!

    Mira, stop angsting up everyone :p

    Oh ho, what have we here? [face_thinking]

    I do like this wording [face_love]

    Mira, I almost laughed, your dedication to angst is so complete and total :p And it's delicious, artistic angst! But I'm going to start bugging you to write happy!fic occasionally like I do Vi; the angst is overwhelming [face_skull]


    *hypocritically goes off to write angst*
  8. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker WIP Month Winner star 4 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 9, 2002
    [face_dancing] ANGST![face_dancing]

    Seriously, Mira, prepare yourself. She's relentless. :p
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] [face_laugh]

    Maybe I can bribe both of you by saying that this 'verse just may become that AU where Ahsoka rescues more than a few Force-sensitive children from Palpatine and Mara might be one of them? You know, for all the angst and happy!fic potential. [face_mischief] But that's going to have to wait for a sequel coming soon to a board near you. [face_whistling] ;)

    To think that I told myself that this was only going to be a slight AU, too. :p [face_laugh] [:D]
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  10. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker WIP Month Winner star 4 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 9, 2002
    Aw yeah, that's what I'm talking about! :D [face_dancing]

    Lolol, isn't that always how it goes? But I love it, and I'm always eager to see where you take things in any 'verse you write in. ;)
  11. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    You wrote vivisection, and then you came up with a nice happy story where bebeh padawan Mara got to feel pretty in a poofy dress, and you expect me not to pester for more bebeh Mara? You have only yourself to blame [face_not_talking]

    Aw yiss :cool:

    (But also HSSV because my wee bebeh Mara *is relentless*)
  12. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker WIP Month Winner star 4 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 9, 2002
    You're always finding ways to bring it back to the vivisection, aren't you? o_O :*

    Don't mind us, Mira, we're just hijacking your thread... :p [face_whistling]
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  13. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Nice try, but Mira's on my side with the vivisection thing :p

    *disappears into the night; has never hijacked a thread in her life*
  14. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    How often is too often to check in on this story to see if MJ has added anything?
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha WIP Month Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    An EXCELLENT QUESTION! [face_laugh]
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  16. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    Mira_Jade, I am re-reading this (again) and wondering about your writing process. Yours is my favorite writing style I've read in my (new) hobby or reading fan fiction. How do you do it?
    I do a lot of technical writing for my work, where the goal is to translate complicated scientific concepts in the clearest, most concise way. Thus, when I challenge my mind to imagine a fictional scene, and imagine describing it in words, it is just so flat. So boringly descriptive. More like a screenplay (which is truly boring stuff, since it's missing all the interpretive flair added by the director and actors). But your writing gets all the flair in there and then much much more. Do you start with a flat descriptive idea, like something I would come up with, then rework it over and over again adding layers of the 5 senses plus inner monolog, or does it all just come together as a whole as you sit down to write? Is The complete story, from start to finish, in your head before you start the first page? And if so, how much mind reworking do you do with the concepts before you start typing? Or do you just start typing and see where it takes you?
    (I have so many questions!)
  17. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    So I spent lots of time on airplanes this past couple of days and reread all of this fic again, having preloaded the pages on my phone. It's just so fantastic! MJ, if you're struggling to get more written and need supplies (eg. junk food), drop your Venmo name here and I will provide! And if you're still worried that your resolution won't match the build up, fear not! You've got such great momentum going here that even a coast to the finish line would be satisfying to us readers. As I have been reminded by mentors many times in my career, in which I'm sometimes crippled by perfectionism, "don't let perfection be the enemy of the good." Your "good", or even just okay, is leagues better than most of what's out there, I am sure. Have faith in your readers, because we have faith in you!

    Also, since your last installment I've consumed a number of Fox/Rio fics and have a greater appreciation for this ship, so I have really enjoyed your take here in my third reading. I am really looking forward to seeing, hopefully, the interplay of Ahsoka, Rex, Riyo and Fox. Lots of different ways it coild play out.

    And I just love Suu the way you've written her. I wish she were real and a neighbor of mine! I suspect she could give me great parenting advice.

    Thank you again for this fic!
  18. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    I know this probably isn't healthy, but I still check this fic three or four times a week just in case it gets another chapter. It's so great! I did read the future ficlet to this story line and was thrilled that there was a previewed resolution. But I hope Mira_Jade's muse passes through this way again on this longer fic. But if not, thank you for the Rexsoka ship and Foxiyo ship gift that this has been.
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  19. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 21, 2016
    *pokes the author*

    "Hey. You alive?"
  20. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Notes: It has truly been forever and a day since I last updated this story, hasn't it? I must apologize for my unintentional hiatus, but I'm happy to report that I have the next chapter ready to go! (If it helps, this chapter is over 9k words long, and I had to cut it in half, at that - so I already have a good chunk of the next chapter written and ready to go. ;) [face_mischief]) I've challenged myself to finish this story this year, and I'm going to do my best. Towards that end, I hate to skip author replies, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to this time around in the interest of time. Please just know that I have appreciated all your kind words and encouragement more than I can say, and I hope that you enjoy the rest of this story going forward! [face_love] [:D]

    Now, without further ado . . .


    It was hard work, readying the land for the Scorch Season, but work he was grateful for.

    Rex didn’t have to think; he didn’t have time to think as he lost himself in the rhythm of reaping and cutting and bundling and threshing, over and over and over again. Even after the last stalk of mealgrain was cut, there was still work to be done in tilling the fields and planting cover-crops to fortify the soil over the summer. Their workload was heavy, but at least there was an end in sight. Come the Scorch Season there would be no working the land at all, only rest to be found as the fields themselves rested.

    The Lawquane family was in high spirits as a whole. Theirs was a unique sort of contentment, one that came from the simple pride of reaping the fruits of their labors after the investment of so much time and energy. Cut and Suu were more than pleased with their return from the land. This was the first year they'd been able to afford renting a harvester droid. That, combined with the additional help they recieved from their guests, meant that neither Cut nor Suu had to work themselves beyond the point of endurance. For their part, Jek and Shaeeah were giddy as only children could be, and happily shared stories about the Eventide festivities that were soon to commence. As the children picked up fallen ears of grain from the harvester droid (those remnants, Rex had learned, belonged to the community through Pantoran tradition, and would be divvied up for those in the crater who were most in need), they described hover-tractor races and livestock competitions and all sorts of fair games where a multitude of prizes could be won. Apparently, every sort of food that could be skewered on a stick was there and then some, and everything else was deep-fried. According to Jek, the sugared sticky bread seemed to be the agreed family favorite. Shaeeah was most excited about the dancing, and had even demonstrated the steps that she had been practicing with her mother to join the women in their traditional circle dance that year.

    Cut was happy to pick up where the children left off. With each passing day, the weather growing hotter. Eventide marked the eve before the official start of the Scorch Season – a brutally intense few months, during which it wouldn't be safe outdoors without the aid of a solar net or other protective covering. The temperatures would still be deceivingly tolerable for the next few weeks – overly dry and warm, yes, but not blistering – but it was the radiation levels from Saleucami’s star that presented the true threat, and silently so. During the Scorch Season, the locals shifted their daily activities so that anything that had to be done in town or with their neighbors was done after twilight and even into the night.

    To celebrate their last day together in the light was the entire point of Eventide. As the sun set, there were firework displays and a great communal fire was lit in the town square. There were dances where everyone wore and carried whatever bits of light they could in memory of the daylight. All throughout Eventide, gifts were given to friends and loved ones to serve as tokens to remember each other by when their time spent together would be limited going forward, though traditionalists exchanged gifts with their families as the sun rose the following morning.

    The children took great joy teasing each other about their respective Eventide gifts. They goaded their sibling to guess their presents and then laughed for the answers they received, with each guess growing progressively sillier than the last.

    As for the adults, Rex knew that Cut had picked out a proper wedding ring for Suu, and a matching one for himself. She didn’t need a ring, she’d said when they couldn’t afford such an indulgence over the years – wedding bands were a Human tradition more so than a Twi’lek one, anyway, and Suu had added markings for Cut next to the designs she had tattooed for her children on her lekku long ago. Still, Rex imagined that she would be pleased with the gift for the loving bond it symbolized.

    Of course, when Cut showed him the simple golden band with its single Corisca gem, Rex couldn’t help but think about the crystals he'd found. Would Ahsoka even stay long enough for him to give them to her?

    As if summoned from his thoughts, he heard the bright sound of laughter come from the family’s orchard. When he looked, Ahsoka was high in the branches of a meiloorun tree, shaking the boughs to loosen the fruit that Jek and Shaeeah couldn’t reach on their own. The children didn’t notice her use of the Force to really give the tree a good shake like Rex did, and there was a soft, sad smile on Ahsoka's face as she watched them race to pick up all the fruit they could gather before giddily asking her to repeat her trick over again and again.

    The Force is not a toy to be used so frivolously, Rex could hear General Kenobi sigh as if he stood there next to him. The memory bubbled up unbidden, of a moment’s lull in a campaign where Ahsoka had been levitating their helmets, spiraling one after another in the air as the younger troopers egged her on and wagered aloud about the limits of her power. She’d been up to a dozen by the time the generals had interrupted, and Fives had been ready to add his own helmet to the mix.

    It's not a toy, sure, but it's still a tool we use, right? Ahsoka had returned with a cheeky grin.

    An ally, more so than a tool, had been General Kenobi’s tart reminder. And not an ally to be treated lightly.

    Cody had leveled a stern look at the 212th men who’d joined in on the ruckus, but Rex hadn’t quite been able to follow suit. Instead, he’d grinned and offered up his own bucket when General Skywalker waited for General Kenobi to leave before boasting: I bet I can levitate twice as much as you, Snips, and then the game was on.

    For once, his memories from the war brought a smile to his face, no matter the familiar swell of pain that accompanied them.

    Watching her now, he knew that his heart was in his eyes – and maybe that was why Cut crossed a line he usually carefully stayed on the other side of: “Something hasn’t been right for days now,” his brother challenge. “What did you say to her?”

    With that, Rex tore his eyes from Ahsoka. “I didn't say anything,” he answered, and turned back to work with a deliberate sense of finality.

    He hadn’t said anything – and wasn’t that just the problem? But, even days out from their argument (could it even be called an argument when he hadn't let her speak, and neither had he said anything of worth in return?), he still couldn't quantify the absolute terror that had filled him when she tried to address their future. We need to talk, she’d said, and for all the worlds he'd felt like he was facing opening charge of a frontal assault, unarmed and without his brothers at his back.

    Are you asking what we should do?

    Even remembering her hesitation before she’d answered made the ground seemingly shift beneath him. I think that there are many paths going forward, she’d selected her words so carefully, with not a single plural we to be found. I want to take the right course.

    He’d panicked then – he knew he had – panicked like he was still a rain-soaked cadet in his first simulation with live rounds before he gathered himself and faced the enemy like he was bred and designed to do. She was going to leave, of course she was – most likely right after Eventide with Senator Chuchi’s delegation, if Rex knew his commander at all – but he hadn’t been ready to hear her actually confirm his suspicion and make his intuition a reality. She was going to leave, he knew; she would be gone, while he . . .

    . . . what would he do next? What did he want to do next? Did he want to follow her? Could he follow her into the fray all over again? Or, would he rather . . .

    Yet that was a terrifying thought all on its own. Not even a year ago, he had but little ability to choose anything for himself. His every day was decided for him down to the very last detail, from what he ate and what he wore to where he slept and when he would aim his weapon and at whom. His entire existence came with the caveat that he live and die no differently than a flash grenade being produced in a factory and then thrown to detonate. What was he supposed to do now, when he was sundered from the only life of unquestioning obedience he'd ever known?

    If he was being brutally honest, Rex thought to know what he wanted. Yet, if she left, could he follow her? He thought that he could. Her Republic was his Republic. No matter his origins for existence, he’d found pride and meaning in his service as a soldier. He was more than just a living weapon; he truly believed in what he fought for. To honor that sense of duty he still felt, there had to be a way to free more of his brothers from their chips. There had to be Jedi out there who survived and were in hiding, even. They could find them, they could help them, they could -

    . . . they could fight. And yet . . .

    . . . he knew that, in his heart, he never wanted to pick up arms and march again – or did he? He was still grappling with his sense of self and who he wanted to be as himself. At the very least, he knew that he wanted Ahsoka there with him through whatever came next. She was one of the few things in the whole blasted galaxy that made sense. Selfishly, he didn’t want to let her go.

    With Ahsoka, he felt as if he was more a man than a soldier – could she possibly see him the same in return?

    Rex knew that thought wasn’t wholly fair to Ahsoka, yet it was almost easier to exist within the parameters that had initially defined his existence. It was easier to think of himself as a purchased weapon rather than a sentient being with a heart and mind of his own. Why then, he wondered, was it so hard for him to set his feet to marching again?

    That night, when he bowed his head to say his names, it was easy to imagine Cody sighing next to him. I never took you for a coward, his ori’vod remarked lightly, a deceiving casualness about his voice that bellied the sharp consideration in his eyes.

    What are you waiting for? to the contrary, Fives held himself back with no such constraints. In his memory, he threw up his hands and groused: Karking hells, but this is beyond painful to watch.

    For the first time since burying his brothers on that nameless moon, Rex found that he couldn’t finish his remembrances. Instead, he closed his eyes to his ghosts, and futilely chased the nothingness of sleep until the dawn.

    Maybe that was why – when he was nursing a strong cup of caf in the morning and bemoaning the loss of stim shots – Cut baldly watched him over the rim of his own mug. “You need to get your head out of your shebs,” Cut declared, just as bold as any of Rex’s imaginings from the night before. “You’re being a coward.”

    “Excuse me?” Rex found himself growling, narrowing his eyes in a way that even his shinies had known meant not to cross him until after the next rest rotation.

    “You can put away that captain osik, too.” Predictably, Cut waved a hand in dismissal. “You were never my captain, and you sure as hells aren’t now.” Yet his voice softened to add, “I know it’s hard to think of yourself away from your armor, but there’s a whole life waiting for you once you do.

    Rex didn’t bother with a response. Instead, he put his mug down in the sink and marched out the door without looking back.

    You’re getting good at running, Cody remarked mildly in his thoughts, while not my captain, Fives seethed in contrast, his eyes flashing in his behalf. Distantly, with a dull edge to his thoughts from his exhaustion, Rex wished that all of his ghosts would just buzz off and leave him with a moment’s peace.

    Yet Cut was no ghost, and he was as stubborn as all the vod’e were stubborn and then some. He followed him out to the barn, as impossible to shake as his own shadow now that he’d decided to make his opinion known.

    “It’s one thing when you're only hurting yourself with your thick skull – but now she’s hurting too, and you're the one hurting her. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed. Hasn't she lost enough already?” Cut pushed forward. “Haven’t you lost enough?

    In answer, Rex wanted to punch something. He wanted to stand his ground and fight; he wanted to run and keep on running and never look back. Instead, he stood motionless just inside the barn. He couldn’t move, he could hardly think as every muscle in his body tightened as if instinctively preparing for battle. Before he wholly understood his intention to speak, his mouth felt full of too many words. Where would he even begin, explaining just how thoroughly everything had changed? Ahsoka was poised to have her purpose and her sense of self returned to her; she was set to recoup her losses in the only way she had left, while he would lose . . .

    However, one word out of those dozens was all it took to start. Before he knew it, he was telling Cut everything, from finding the kyber crystals to Sabé Amidala and the clone by her side and Senator Chuchi and the terrifying idea of fighting back and resisting, until -

    - Cut absorbed his words, listening without interrupting until his speech ran its course. Wearily, Rex slumped down on one of the crates when he finished, and Cut sat down next to him. For a long moment, he didn’t speak.

    Until, finally: “Do you want to go with her?” Cut asked, as if it could be just that simple.

    “Yes,” it was reflexive for Rex to answer. “No,” he amended. A heartbeat passed, and then he added more honestly with a sigh: “I . . . I don’t know.”

    Silence fell in the wake of his admission. Rex felt himself wilting, tapped as if he’d just ran ten klicks in full tactical gear and was still expecting to take on enemy fire at any moment. Cut hummed thoughtfully as he crossed his arms. “Does she want to go?” he adjusted his initial question.

    Rex shrugged. “She’s a Jedi.” That was all that needed to be – that could be – said.

    “That’s not an answer.” Maddeningly, Cut shook his head. “Do you know that she wants to go? Has she told you so herself?”

    “Well, no.” Still, Rex didn't see how that mattered when he knew. "Not exactly."

    “Maybe you should ask her, so you know for sure. This won’t go away if you just ignore it – or, at worst, she will leave and you will have lost your chance to factor into her decisions at all. Both of you deserve better than that – and Ahsoka certainly deserves that much from you.”

    Rex bristled, even when he knew that Cut was right. This wasn’t a conversation he could escape, and it would be for the best if he faced Ahsoka and accepted her decision sooner rather than later.

    And yet . . .

    While he knew what he had to do – what he would do – that didn’t mean he wasn't dreading the conversation to come. He was about tell Cut as much when: “Papa, Papa!” came two exuberant voices, spilling over each other in unison as Jek and Shaeeah came running down the path from the house to the barn. “Oumi Jinpo’s here to see you. Come and see!”

    Cut had just enough time to level him with a last piercing look before he turned to catch Jek by the waist. He spun and swept Shaeeah up with his opposite arm, lifting both children off the ground at once.

    “Good morning to you, too,” Cut’s wide grin bellied the mock umbrage in his voice as peals of giggles met his antics. With a huff of effort, he managed to shift their weight so that both children were slung over his shoulders like sacks of dry feed. “I couldn’t get you two lazy-bones out of bed for anything, but your mother - ”

    “ - Mama is scary,” Jek was still at an age where he had no problem admitting the truth as he saw it, and Shaeeah nodded emphatically to agree.

    “Oh, your mother is scary?” Cut growled, rocking so that the children dipped close to falling one way before reversing to do the same in the opposite direction.

    “You’re not scary, Daddy!” Jek called out, delighted, and Shaeeah compounded her brother's words through her own laughter by echoing, “Not scary at all.”

    “Somewhere,” Cut caught Rex’s eye to mutter, “Kami Ra is scowling into his fish juice, and he has no idea why.” But the thought just made him grin all the wider, and Rex couldn’t help but give a small huff of his own in agreement.

    “All right then, fine.” Cut let the children slip to the ground. “I find it’s always best to listen to your mother, too.”

    “And Mother said to tell you that Ouni Jinpo is here,” Shaeeah repeated their message. “She didn’t want you to get started on the fields before you saw him.”

    “Copy that, ad’ika,” Cut saluted the girl. Even so, he glanced at Rex with a knowing look. “Although I’m pretty sure he’s not here for me this time.”

    “Not this time, my boy,” a new voice agreed from just outside the barn. No matter his words, Cut took the time to greet Jinpo with a cheerful smile, which the Pantoran happily returned.

    After their pleasantries were through, Cut swept Jek back up to ride on his shoulders and held Shaeeah’s hand as they turned for the house. It was a wholly human pang that thrummed in Rex's chest then, watching Cut with his children – a naturally sentient desire he thought he’d been fabricated to exist without, but, in that moment, he couldn't help but wish . . .

    “They grow so quickly, do they not?” Jinpo followed his gaze to watch. His words held an echo of his own sorrows and distant disappointments, but there was enough of a fond inflection in his voice for the former to almost hardly be noticeable.

    “Even since I’ve been here,” Rex agreed. It was truly something to watch the children grow. Every day they seemed to be closer to young adults than they were the last, in a way that Rex couldn't help but marvel for – even when compared to the unnaturally fast aging of the vod'e.

    Yet, Rex suspected, Jinpo wasn’t just there to solely reminisce about the children. In unspoken agreement, they both started walking at a leisurely pace down the path that led from the barn to the newly tilled fields, away from the house and the eyes and ears within.

    Not that it really mattered, Rex knew. He and Ahsoka had made quite a dance of avoiding each other the last few days, and he didn’t expect her to be looking for him now.

    Rex turned over the strange emptiness that thought inspired and tried to force it down the same as he normally did. It was getting harder and harder to do so, however, especially when Cut’s words from earlier rose to haunt him again. Instead of dwelling on that line of thought any further, he simply concentrated on his breathing the same as he would before aiming a particularly tricky shot. He looked past the fields, up to where the morning sunlight gilded the edges of the crater rim in shades of gold, and let his breath out slow.

    Finally, they were far enough away that Jinpo felt comfortable enough to say, “I have your gift ready.”

    With that, he handed him a small velveen bag with a woven cord. Rex took the bag with a nod of thanks and opened it to see two clean and polished gems within. Without the crust of earth and sediment marring their brilliance, there was no doubting what they were. He tipped the bag so that the kyber crystals landed in his palm, feeling each of the stones hum against his skin as if they had tiny heartbeats of their own. The way Ahsoka told it, they even sang into the Force. Closing his fingers over the warm, pulsing stones, it was more than easy to believe her.

    “I take it you know exactly what these are?” Jinpo watched him closely all the while.

    “I suspected,” Rex answered. He looked, but couldn’t tell if the crystals would form a blue or a green bladed lightsaber. Maybe it was a Jedi thing, he finally acknowledged, and Ahsoka would know better. They simply looked opaline to him – a hot, brilliant white with hints of far-off color, like the heart of an ember.

    “It’s quite the find,” Jinpo commented, “but not a wholly unexpected one. In the times of the Old Republic, the Jedi had a Temple here on Saleucami, did you know? What remains of it is not far from Pachunagara, not far at all.”

    “Ahsoka mentioned as much,” Rex nodded an affirmative. “She can feel it, she said, to the point where it didn’t let her sleep much when we first arrived onworld.” That was one of the reasons he suspected that she couldn’t sense the crystals in the first place; there was too much else vying for her attention for her to notice one strain over the whole.

    “She holds a great power, then,” Jinpo blinked for his statement. “She’d have to, I suppose, to survive . . .” but even with the hush of the morning and not a soul to hear them between the empty fields and the breeze rustling through the fronds of the alim trees, Jinpo couldn't voice the words aloud.

    And yet: “She is,” Rex agreed. “Powerful, that is. She's fearless and determined and stubborn, all. No one is – well, no one was General Skywalker’s match in raw power, but there’s something special about Ahsoka. Seeing her in action was more like watching a storm rage or a wave break; she's all grace in motion, and she loved what she did. She cares so much – she still cares so much, even after everything. The men thought the worlds of her, and I,” yet his rush of words, pouring out before he could even think to hold them back, abruptly dammed in his mouth. He . . . he what? He respected and admired and cherished her, yes, just as he needed -

    “You love her.”

    Of course, it was almost reflexive for him to agree. Yet, between one breath and the next, Rex let that truth take on a new life as what had simply been a part of him for so long at last clicked into place and found an irrevocable definition and meaning. In one moment he was simply himself before he allowed that realization to anchor in his soul, and in the next he was hers . . . but he’d been hers for a long time by then, hadn't he?

    Of course he loved her.

    “What does that matter?” even so, Rex muttered. What do you want? Cut ever liked to challenge him, as if it was just that easy, as if it could possibly be that simple. What he wanted didn’t have any bearing on anything. It never had before, so why should it now?

    Jinpo, he thought, watched him with an odd expression – a considering expression, before he seemed to come to a decision within himself. “There is something I would like to show to you,” Jinpo finally said, his tone of voice measured. “I was going to wait for Eventide, but it seems more appropriate now.”

    Rex hesitated, not wanting to leave Cut to their work alone. “The harvest," he began -

    “ - will still be there in an hour or so," Jinpo waved a hand. This, Rex somehow instinctively felt, was important. "Come now," the Pantoran gestured, more insistently now that he'd clearly made up his mind. "Come!”

    Curious, despite himself, Rex nodded and followed where Jinpo led.



    Ahsoka passed the days following her argument with Rex in a daze. (Was it even an argument when she hadn't said anything that she wanted to say – and he hardly said anything, either?) She hardly saw Rex at all following their terse . . . encounter. He took his meals at odd times, if he even bothered to eat at all, and he didn’t come up to the attic to sleep. She, for her part, didn’t go and seek him out. (Could she seek him out again, without it seeming as if she was disrespecting his autonomy?) Instead, she kept herself distracted however she could; she worked, she laughed with the children, and she smiled with Suu – though not enough, it seemed, to wholly erase the unspoken questions she could see lingering in the older woman’s eyes.

    Mostly, though, she lived deep inside her own head. She tossed her options back and forth, considering the paths before her and trying her best to figure out what she was going to do next . . . what she was going to do next. Force, but her way forward felt dauntingly – painfully – singular. She’d left behind everything she'd once known and forged her own path before. If she had to, she could – and would – do it again.

    Yet the more she tried to convince herself, the more that former truth seemingly rang hollow. If she left now, she would be leaving part of herself behind, even more so than she had when she walked away from the Jedi Order. Leaving then had been necessary; no matter the pain of that sundering, she'd made the only choice she could possibly make. Now, though . . . now, she didn’t know how to cut the tether inextricably binding her to Rex so that she could do what must be done. What she wanted, what the galaxy needed, and what her own sense of duty and obligation to the Force demanded of her – it was a circular argument that only seemed to make her dizzy as it careened onward in an ever-tightening spiral to infinity.

    When Suu asked her to take a bushel of meilooruns to the Dhakpa farm in her stead, Ahsoka knew that she was being offered the task as a distraction. Even so, she took the opportunity for the clear escape it provided. Maybe getting away from the homestead for a few hours would help clear her mind. She was eager for the diversion, and accepted.

    Towards that end, she loaded the nets of fruit on both sides of the speeder-bike and set out to the Dhakpas' just after noon. The sun was already hot in the sky directly overhead. Feeling the heat bake against her skin, Ahsoka could only imagine how the yellow-white star would raze the land in the summer months, before feeling a pang to acknowledge that she would likely be gone before the Scorch Season arrived in full. That was, she would be if she decided . . .

    But no, she grit her teeth and stubbornly pushed her thoughts aside. She wasn't going to think about that now – she wasn't.

    Instead, she narrowed her eyes and pushed the throttle on the bike as far as she dared while still being mindful of her cargo. The last thing that she needed was for her own restlessness to bruise an entire bushel of fruit when the Lawquanes valued their yield from the land so very dearly.

    As the engine hummed in answer, she couldn't help but remember trilling: "You have to let me pilot on the way back."

    “You’re a fiend on a swoop, and I know better.” The memory of Rex's voice was as clear as if he spoke right there beside her, even as the wind whipped by her montrals and sent her lekku flying.

    “C’mon, Rexter, sometimes you’ve gotta let go and live dangerously. Don’t you trust me?”


    No matter the heat of the day, she felt a shiver, even as her heart skipped a beat – just as it had then. Or at least it had before he added: “Just not so much on a swoop.”

    Because that was the way of it, wasn't it? Was she just looking for what she wanted to find, refusing to see things for how they truly were, all because she felt as she felt, and she so badly wanted him to feel too . . .

    But that, Ahsoka was ruthless to remind herself, was no longer here nor there. Stubbornly, she turned her attention back to the road and endeavored to empty her mind of everything but the task she'd been commissioned to do.

    Towards that end, it was a quick ride to the Dhakpa farm. She pulled up in the yard before the farmhouse and killed the engine only a few minutes after departing the Lawquanes'. Even before she could dismount, Azalae came down from the porch to greet her.

    “Pashkat! I had thought to see Suu today, but your presence is a most welcome surprise!”

    For the kind greeting, Ahsoka couldn't help but smile in return, the expression sincere for all that it was strained. Her entire body felt heavy, as if she'd been marching for days on end, but she summoned what energy she could and accepted the offer to come inside the farmhouse for tea and snacks. She'd known that she wouldn’t be able to deliver the meilooruns and run from the beginning – not that she minded, really. Instead, she was grateful to accept the tall glass of iced beebleberry tea she was offered, even if she couldn’t muster much of an appetite for the platter of noakmeal cookies waiting on the table between them. For that, she hardly missed the look of concern that Azalae did not bother to hide. Usually, she gave even the children a run for their credits when it came to scarfing down the homemade treats the Devaronian matron prepared for them. Between that and what she was sure was louder than words in the despondent drape of her lekku and the dull blue of her chevrons, she knew that Azalae knew . . .

    Ezch limenst,” Azalae sighed in her own language after they commented on the weather and the harvest, and she'd reported on the rest of the Lawquane family. All the while, Ahsoka had summoned what a polite mask she could – one she hadn't had to use since she was an initiate trying to pay attention during Master Sinube's lectures, or as a Padawan respectfully listening as Master Obi-Wan conducted some negotiation or the other, when it was crucial that she keep her true feelings to herself – but she knew that she was less than stellar company then, no matter how she tried.

    "I'm sorry," Ahsoka ruefully admitted her thoughts aloud, choosing to acknowledge her mood before Azalae could. "I'm not the best company today, I'm afraid."

    "You know," Azalae's wide mouth stretched in a smile that was all eagerness as much as sympathy, “I believe that I have just the thing to help your grey day pass – your gift is ready.”

    Though Azalae meant well, Ahsoka couldn’t help but cringe for her words – though her grimace thankfully went unseen by Azalae as she stood and left the parlor. She returned a moment latter with a small bundle in hand, wrapped in a finely woven cloth. Ahsoka looked, and Azalae pulled the corner of the fabric back to proudly show the vambraces waiting within.

    They were perfect, Ahsoka thought, her heart twisting as she reached out to touch the beautifully tooled bantha leather of the gauntlet and pressure clasps. Interwoven plates of slate-grey durasteel made up the main bulk of the design, as strong as they were decorative. The reinforced leathris serving as the foundation for the vanbraces was a deep, earthy shade of ochre that was nearer to green – a choice, Ahsoka couldn't help but approve, that would complement Rex's natural coloring even more so than their old 501st blue and white. She listened to Azalae share the comments from Duana and Neeta's Uncle Leepo, who had been essential in fabricating and then executing the design, overwhelmed as she thought about the circle of friends who'd come together to help her form her gift – who counted her as a friend in return, and wanted only to help as true friends could. Waves of gratitude and warmth crashed over her, overwhelming her with everything she so desperately wanted to hang onto and never let go. Selfishly, she wanted nothing more than to bury herself in the community she'd somehow found here and never leave again, even as she couldn't help but cringe and berate herself with: idiot.

    What kind of a laser-brain was she to commission armor for Rex? In retrospect, her choice seemed foolishly optimistic at best and callously presumptive at worst. Rex had made it abundantly clear (hadn't he?) that he didn’t want to leave Saleucami, and certainly not to fight again. That had to be why he was avoiding having this conversation with her at all, wasn't it? She, for her part, could hardly blame him for his choice. His entire life had been nothing but war and its waging, even beyond what she had known as a Padawan commander. Why shouldn't he take what peace he could find and claim for himself? He deserved everything he could reclaim from a life that had never been his own to live in the first place. Ahsoka would never ask anything of him that he wasn't first willing to give – he was hardly hers to command, not anymore, and it left a roiling sense of nausea in her gut that he ever had been in the first place.

    Yet, she tried to reason within herself, war had a way of coming to even quiet, backwater worlds like Saleucami, no matter how they tried to avoid the larger conflicts scouring the galaxy. Saleucami had hardly been able to avoid the Secession Crisis, and there was already an Imperial governor onworld, undermining Pantora's ancient claim on the planet. There was peace now, of a sort, but who was to say that peace would remain? At the very least, she could leave him with this small, symbolic token of protection, even if she was no longer there to watch his six and stand by his side to face any threat that came their way. She could phrase it exactly like that, even. Rather than saying that she expected (wanted, needed) him to come with her, she could . . .

    . . . she could use this gift to say goodbye.

    Her queasiness took on a pointed edge then, and she suddenly felt dangerously lightheaded. Distantly, she listened as Azalae explained how to mark the bracers with the jaig eyes she planned to add. She nodded along, asking questions and replying in all the right places as necessary, but Ahsoka felt beyond her physical self as she struggled not to be sick from the depths of her turmoil. She wasn’t truly there, in that moment, until -

    “ - and this, pashkat, is for you.”

    Ahsoka blinked, suddenly jerked back to herself. “For me?” she repeated dumbly. She didn't understand, even as Azalae held out another package to her. The bundle was small and soft, and wrapped again by a beautiful silken fabric tied with a golden cord. She couldn't even begin to guess what it contained within.

    “Yes,” Azalae’s clearly enjoyed her bewilderment, "for you.”

    “I don’t,” awkwardly, Ahsoka stuttered to reply. “That is, I’ve never . . .”

    It wasn't the Jedi way to focus on material belongings. They owned little more than themselves, and even of themselves they gave all they could in service of the Force. Towards that end, they eschewed most worldly possessions that weren’t absolutely necessary for them to keep. She . . . she’d never been given a gift like this before – as part of a celebration and holiday, all to say that she was valued and loved for and because of herself. Even when the Jedi Order itself was gone – and she gone longer still – she didn't know how she felt about the idea of a gift. How should she feel?

    And yet, she could hardly say as much, even to Azalae – no matter how much the Dhakpas had figured out about her past on their own. Instead, she was merely silent as she pulled back the cord to open the package. Within, she found . . .

    More fabric? It took her a moment to understand that she was looking at a garment of some sort – a dress. It was a dress, and a beautiful one, at that. She hardly knew what kind of fabric it was made of, with her limited knowledge of fashion besides silently ogling Senator Amidala's wardrobe over the years. The material was lacy, of a sort; it was translucent in some places and opaque in others where the mosaics of fabric overlapped and wove together in a confection of complementary textures and colors. The translucent pieces were a soft sepia, with the chroma edging closer to pink than the warmer oranges in her own skin tone, while the opaque patches of fabric gradated between delicate shades of soft purple and blue that reminded her of a sunrise. Needlework, finer than even her sharp eyes could see, detailed intricate patterns of flowers and vines and other natural shapes, uniting the two fabrics into a textile that was more of a work of art than a fabric ready to wear. Tiny beads accented the embroidery, catching and reflecting the light in a gentle and natural way. The sleeves were asymmetrical, draping over one shoulder while the other was bare. The fabric hung in elegant folds from that shoulder, stopping just higher than the hemline of the grown, which would be staggered and irregular just about her calves.

    It was . . . well, it was more beautiful than Ahsoka could find the words to express. Knowing that Azalae had threaded each one of those tiny beads and meticulous little stitches for her, to give freely as a gift . . .

    . . . what could she possibly say to that?

    “I’ve never owned anything like this before,” Ahsoka finally stuttered to breathe. The words weren't enough, she thought as her eyes burned – not nearly – yet Azalae seemed to understand the depth of emotion they conveyed.

    “I suspected as much," Azalae gentled her voice in return. "Yet a woman needs to be ready for any occasion, does she not? I wanted to give this to you on Eventide, but thought that you might enjoy wearing the dress to the festivities, instead."

    Ahsoka gave a sharp little laugh for that, though the sound wasn't entirely happy. She'd hadn't planned past wearing her coveralls if and when she accompanied the Lawqaunes to the festival. It never even occurred to her to dress up when she didn't have anything to dress up in. Most Jedi hardly ever altered their wardrobe, whether they were marching into battle or attending the Supreme Chancellor himself, and she'd spent her formative years being of much the same mind. She'd never once considered . . .

    “Perhaps," Azalae continued, "you may even find a use for such a gown beyond Eventide, as well."

    That, however, was the straw that broke the bantha's back.

    “I don’t know." Alarmingly, the burning in her eyes intensified, and soon she was blinking back fully formed tears. No matter how desperately she tried, she couldn't seem to keep them from falling. "I don't know what's going to come next," she found herself hiccupping. Miserably, she admitted, "I don't know if I'll ever . . ."

    She buried her face in her hands then – dropping the dress to her lap first so that she didn't get the delicate fabric wet – and finally cried as she hadn't allowed herself to cry since Order 66.

    "Oh, pashkat," she heard Azalae whisper, and then she was being wrapped in an embrace by broad, strong arms. Rather than comfort her, the gesture only seemed to make her cry harder. Once she started, she couldn't seem to stop. She cried for everything she had lost, even long before Order 66; she cried for the years of war she'd already waged and the long years of war that now loomed before her; she cried for her dead, for every soul she couldn't save and all those she could yet still save if only she picked up arms and marched again. She cried for her duty, and she cried for herself, for everything she had sacrificed and would continue to sacrifice – for she knew, she knew, that she could hardly do anything less. She had lived, she had survived when so many had fallen. How else could she honor the memory of who the Jedi were – of who she still was – if she chose any differently?

    Yet that didn't mean that she couldn't grieve, and wish . . .

    Ahsoka hardly remembered her birthmother besides a vague, distant impression of a heartbeat that matched her own and a feeling of homesafetywarmth. She certainly couldn't remember any of the extended family in her clan. Yet she allowed herself to sink in Azalae's embrace, giving into the sentient need to be held and comforted in return. She was so Force-cursed sick of tears by then, and every reason she had to shed them, but she couldn't seem to stop.

    Didn't Master Obi-Wan used to say that a sorrow shared was a sorrow halved, though? Maybe that was why she found herself bubbling forth the entirety of her woes to Azalae then. Once she started, she couldn't seem to stop. She went as far back as she had to – farther back than she had with anyone – from the overwhelming sense of chaos she'd struggled to make sense of on Christophsis when she was first deployed as Master Skywalker's apprentice, to the first time she'd vomited for the scent of charred flesh and melted plastoid on the battlefield. She'd never told Anakin about that – she'd been so afraid that he'd send her back to the Temple if she acted like the youngling she still truly was inside, and the only way to be a Padawan and receive training from a Master during the Secession Crisis meant toughening up and soldiering on through the war. Rex had been the one to find her, and she'd been grateful for his lack of judgement as he put an awkward hand on her back and refused to leave her side. You may be a Jedi, but you're also a sentient being, though she'd understood that the clones were all their own individual selves almost from the beginning, Rex became truly unique to her then. Of course you're affected, and it's okay to let yourself be – we all are when our plates are still shiny.

    On and on she went, sharing how she lost the holocron of containing every single Force sensitive child in the galaxy to Cad Bane because she so badly wanted to prove herself to Master Skywalker. She was reckless and disobedient to direct orders, and others paid the price for her immaturity. From there, she went on to the horrors of Lola Sayu and Mortis and Kadavo with the Zygerrian slavers. She recounted the ugly days of helping her men through the aftermath of Umbara and the Carnage of Krell, all before the Temple Bombing and being framed by Barriss -

    - Barriss. Had she ever truly processed her grief and her betrayal and her rage? She was still so angry – at Barriss, who was her friend, and at the Council who hadn't trusted her as she'd so long trusted reveredadmiredrespected them and even at herself for being unable to accept the injustice of her trial and move on. She'd been unable to accept the will of the Force and meekly return to the same Order who had cast her aside so easily.

    How could she possibly have returned? She couldn't.

    She surprised herself with the realization that she was even still angry for the hurt and pain and sense of betrayal that Anakin had directed towards her when she said goodbye – as if she left him behind, and not the Jedi as a whole. This wasn't about him – this was about her, and he hadn't been able to see that. Though their bond had never formally been severed, there had been an icy wall between them from that day on – a bruise that she knew better than to prod at in an effort to see if any warmth remained on the other side. Anakin turned his back on her as thoroughly as he believed that she'd abandoned him, and it just wasn't fair.

    And that was even before Order 66 and -

    "You have been so very strong for so many years," Azalae whispered. "Gozta, but how you have struggled."

    Ahsoka merely shrugged, too weary to disagree and yet unable to agree in the slightest. Strangely, she felt drained and listless and yet lighter, somehow, as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders, simply by acknowledging it. She thought of Master Anakin and Master Obi-Wan and of all the true Jedi of the Order who wouldn't have let themselves give into bitterness and frustration like she did. Who was she, compared to them? Who was she to survive, when they . . .

    "You do not believe me, I see, yet you are so strong – stronger than you ever should have to be, at that."

    "I don't feel very strong."

    "Survivors rarely do."

    For that, Ahsoka looked down at her lap, and fiddled with the beadwork on her new dress.

    "And now, you do not wish to merely survive, but continue to fight. That takes a very special sort of bravery."

    "That's not what I want, necessarily," Ahsoka muttered. "But it's the only thing I can do – how can I not fight, when I'm . . ." When I'm alive and they are not, she thought, but could not say. "The Force must have kept me alive for a reason. I have to honor whatever that reason may be."

    "Hmm," Azalae did not immediately agree with her, nor did she disagree. "There are many things in the universe that are beyond my understanding. I will not pretend to understand the burdens on your shoulders and presume to counsel you one way or another. Yet I will merely say that, sometimes, who lives and who dies is a matter of chance, not choice – not even that of a higher power. Your survival is a blessing; you may honor your dead without guilt, especially when, I suspect, that is the last thing they would want you to feel on their behalf."

    Ahsoka swallowed heavily, feeling her eyes burn again, even when she was much too tired for tears. "I know that," she whispered. "I do, and yet . . ."

    "Knowing in the mind and knowing in the heart are two different things, are they not?"

    "That they are," ruefully, Ahsoka agreed.

    "Perhaps, then, the only thing left to ask is this: what is it that you want, little huntress?"

    "I don't know." Ahsoka met Azalae's expressive green eyes with a frown. "I know that what I need to do, but I don't - "

    " - no, no; you misunderstand. I ask, not what you think you must do, but what you want to do?"

    Ahsoka considered her question – honestly and truly. A hundred thoughts seemed to fly through her mind; like raindrops in a storm, she could hardly single out just one. "I want to honor my heritage," finally, she said. "I want to follow wherever the Force may lead me, however it may call on me to serve again. And yet . . ."


    "I want . . . I want a home," Ahsoka whispered. She wanted somewhere to belong and someone to belong to, an extended clan of the heart like the one she'd once known, which she thought – which she knew – she was slowly forming here on Saleucami again. She didn't want to let this safe haven, this sanctuary, go.

    Azalae's smile was warm with understanding. "That is a beautiful thing to want."

    "It's an impossible thing to want." (Wasn't it?)

    "Is it?" Azalae mused aloud, echoing her deepest thoughts. "Who is to say that to have one, you must forsake the other?"

    For that, Ahsoka felt her brow furrow. "The Jedi believe -"

    " - and yet, what do you believe?" Azalae was firm, but gentle, to interrupt. "I ask that you consider whether or not you may honor both yourself and the tenets you were raised with. Is there a possibility that you may choose a course that serves both your sense of duty and your very natural, essentially sentient wants and desires as one?"

    Ahsoka, for her part, merely stared at the Devaroinain woman, unable to fully comprehend her words, let alone embrace them as true. She knew that what Azalae said made sense, in a way, and yet . . .

    . . . it wasn't that simple. (Wasn't it?)

    "In the end, above all else, you must allow yourself to live. Do not beholden yourself to your guilt for surviving, when it is instead a gift that you have this choice to make in the first place. Do not join your dead in their graves, not while you are yet alive."

    "I . . . I'll try."

    "Careful," Azalae refused to let her go so easily. "We may say that we try without fully endeavoring to succeed. Say that you will, instead."

    How could Ahsoka not give a dry laugh for those words, with her lekku rippling in amusement? "There used to be a very wise Jedi Master who liked to say something very similar." For the first time in a long time, she was able to remember Master Yoda with a smile. Instead of remembering his impassive face at her trial, she remembered how he liked to take a special interest in the younglings of the Temple, how he assured her that Master Skywalker would welcome her as an apprentice, how he stopped and truly listened to her when her years were so few, and his were so many. "I think," she dried her eyes one last time and summoned what a smile she could to say, "he would have liked you."

    "Of course he would," Azalae's flashed her own pointed teeth in a grin. "I am fabulous, am I not, pashkat?"

    "You are," Ahsoka readily agreed. When she finally stood to leave, she no longer felt as if she was struggling against the weight of some gravity-heavy planet. She breathed, and, for the first time in a long time, felt her lungs fill without aching.

    After they made their way to the porch, Azalae hugged her one last time before letting her go. "Though it may not seem like it now, I truly believe that everything will work out for the best in the end, one way or another. You only have to wait and see."

    “I hope so,” Ahsoka sighed. "I really do."

    “And that hope is a very potent thing, is it not?”

    It can be, she thought. “It is,” she agreed aloud.

    “And please know that no matter what happens, you will always have a home here to return to.”

    For that, Ahsoka felt her heart swell. “Thank you,” she whispered, the words hardly enough to convey the enormity of the gratitude she felt inside. Even so, she knew that Azalae understood.

    With that, Ahsoka keyed the ignition on the bike. She turned back down the drive, and waved behind her at Azalae when she came to the intersection of the main road. Once she was there, she glanced to her right. She should go back to the Lawquanes' farm, she knew. There was work waiting to be done, and she'd dawdled long enough. And yet . . .

    . . . she breathed in deep, and listened to the Force.

    Ahsoka felt it tug at her, drawing her, and, ever its faithful servant, she chose the path that veered away from the farm. She turned left, and followed its call.


    ~ MJ
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2022
    Findswoman , Kahara, jayjay and 2 others like this.
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha WIP Month Winner star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent confidings. =D= Azalae's warm empathy is a true healing for Ahsoka, as is her wisdom! She truly can have it both ways. :) Doing your duty and having a heart's companion is not mutually exclusive.
    Findswoman , Kahara and Mira_Jade like this.
  22. jayjay

    jayjay Jedi Padawan

    May 31, 2021
    Wow. Just wow! Good things come to those who wait.
    Thank you for returning to this fic Mira_Jade!
    These two with so much trauma. Some shared and some not. I know it's fiction but I got emotional for both of them. Big feels!
    Is Ahsoka headed to the ruins of the temple? If so, what lesson awaits? Where is Rex going? I can't wait for more! Thank you!
    Findswoman , Kahara and Mira_Jade like this.
  23. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    I don't know whether this is funnel cake or churros, but I am wholeheartedly in favor of both. And now I am sad because I have neither...

    I love Obi-Wan so much [face_love] :p

    Oh, Anakin :p

    Commissioning a clone army and treating however many thousands of sentient individuals like this was simply unconscionable, let alone that this was a literal army with all these sentient individuals dedicated to warfare from their conception without any of them having an iota of choice in the matter. It is genuinely such a shocking thing even to contemplate that I am forever amazed that we didn't see anyone in the Senate or the Jedi Order making exactly this argument [face_plain]

    lolllll :p

    You tell him, Cut :cool:

    Aww [face_love]

    I can take or leave the new canon interpretation of kyber crystals (for my own writing, I'll probably forever ignore it, tbh :p ), but when written well, it's beautiful, and you write it well [face_love]

    Well, look, someone had to say it :p And I'm a big, big fan of slow burns, I think they're far superior to love at first sight, but sometimes you just want to clunk the characters' heads together regardless :p

    Highly relatable :amidala:

    I am here for ALL THE FANCY GOWNS

    I was thinking exactly the same thing while reading that paragraph, just how much work goes into a piece like that. It's a lot [face_hypnotized]

    Good girl, Ahsoka :p

    And look at that, in all of two sentences you eloquently sum up what a crime against humanity (sentience?) it was to have pdawans on the battlefields [face_plain]

    =(( =(( =((

    Everytime I hear "do or do not, there is no try" now I hear Ezra demanding, "what does that mean?" and Kanan visibly thinking, then shrugging: "I'm not quite sure, but Master Yoda used to say it a lot" :p Azalae says it better than Yoda, tbh. Quit being so vague, Yoda! *shakes fist*

    I like her :p

    Well, well, now what [face_thinking]
  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Ammonia-Breathing Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    And upcaught at long, long last! Beautiful chapter, beautiful gifts, beautiful dress (I love a good brown–pink gradient!), beautiful catharsis, and SPLENDID advice from Azalae. Yes, Ahsoka, you can too find a way to satisfy both your sense of duty to the Force and the departed and your longing for home and belonging, because you (true to the title of the story) are the home. I love how both Ahsoka and Rex have these strong friends and meaningful gifts at their side to aid their journey toward realizing their feelings (not just for each other but for finally having a home), but I also love that that realization is taking place against the backdrop of the Eventide festival, when the community gets to be out in the sunlight together one last time before the weather begins to scorch—powerful symbolism there. Rex and Ahsoka will be each other’s light, even after all they endured, and their friends are lighting their way toward each other. Fabulous work (fabulous like Azalae herself!) once again—keep on keeping on and keep it coming! =D= [:D]
    Mira_Jade likes this.