Warnings: slow burn, mentions of Order 66, ptsd, injury, death, and future nsfw situations
Word Count: 1,906
A/N: the prologue takes place after the season 5 finale when Ahsoka leaves the order, so make sure you’ve seen that episode!
The footsteps of the entirety of the 501st legion sounded inside the hangar bay. The armor making contact with duracrete was a sound the Captain was familiar with, although it had been nearly a week since the familiar noise had found him. The Resolute would be disembarking from Coruscant shortly, and was only waiting on the General and his padawan. He hadn’t heard back from him since arriving back at the Temple and finding Ahsoka on level 1315. That was the last he’d seen of her as well.
He received a comm from one of the Coruscant ground troopers that the last remaining passengers had made their way on board. The alarm that notified that the doors were shutting began to sound and Rex felt the heavy movement of all doors come together and the engine roared. He took this as his que to stand aside and prepare for the arrival of the General and the Commander, awaiting orders for their mission.
The rest of the men conversed amongst themselves, some sitting on crates while others loitered the area. Their lax demeanors gave him anxiety. He was sure they were unaware of the situation that had just encapsulated their leaders 一 their commander.
Rex caught sight of the top of General Skywalker’s head and his eyes darted down to look for the top of Ahsoka’s montrals. The familiar shape never came.
The Resolute had a chill he’d gotten used to over the years, but Rex had never been this cold. Where was she? Anakin’s expression held no secret. Something had happened. The General was now close enough to speak, but didn’t. Rex had developed the ability to hide his emotions well, so he kept his face neutral and his posture in it’s naturally strict, upright position.
Anakin cleared his throat and made no attempt to unfurrow his brow, “Did the men have much issue prepping the ship for the mission?”
Not the first thing he thought the General would say, but Rex didn’t miss a beat, “Not at all, sir. There were a bit more supplies than normal, but nothing the 501st couldn’t manage.”
“Good. That’s what I like to hear.”
There was a pregnant pause and Rex decided to cut it short before it got too uncomfortable. He might not have another opportunity that presented itself. Asking about it now would be most reasonable, rather than later when it hadn’t clearly been an object of concern. “The Commander. What were the results of her trial?”
Anakin’s expression was shocked before it quickly fell. It really shouldn’t have surprised him that he asked. If she were gone for some reason without explanation, someone would have asked him.
“She was found not guilty.”
Rex had wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but held onto it as Anakin had opened his mouth to continue, “I actually found the person who framed her. It was someone she thought was her friend.” He must’ve realized he wasn’t going to stop if he kept going, the anger and pain was evident in his broken voice, “The Jedi Temple asked her back into the Order. She… declined.”
Rex’s face felt hot. His whole body burned. He physically felt the loss of her. As much as he wanted to slump his shoulders and drop to the floor beneath him, it was his duty to remain stoic.
“I’m sorry to hear that, General. It will be a tough change of pace to not have the Commander around.” That was all he was going to allow himself to say. Anything more would raise suspicion. Although, Anakin was quite emotive and attached to his feelings even though he shouldn’t as a Jedi. That has been going overlooked for years. He quickly remembered that not too long ago, he and Ahsoka had accidentally discovered something they hoped Anakin was keeping secret. Rex hurriedly pushed the memory away, still thinking that General Skywalker could somehow read his exact thoughts.
GAR Intel would never be as forgiving with their soldiers as the Council was with their Jedi.
His words had evidently given the General some kind of comfort, as he nodded and walked over to the rest of the men. Only then did Rex release the breath he’d been holding. Skywalker’s vagueness echoed in his head. Ahsoka wasn’t coming back. His ears still burned and his chest felt tight. This was the first time he had felt this way since Umbara.
Over the next year, Rex hadn’t been able to shake that pit feeling in his chest and the fire in his head. First, it was Tup. Then, it was Fives. He loved all of his brothers equally, but something struck him differently when Fives had died. It was harsher, more painful. It hadn’t been on the battlefield. What his brother had so hurriedly tried to warn him about was charred in the back of his mind. He could still hear every word in perfect clarity.
He did some investigation, hid it away under the General’s clearance code where it would be difficult to reach. The investigation 一 the inhibitor chips 一 didn’t lead to much available information. Everything he found out was something Fives had already uncovered. Nothing came from the archives. What Rex found, he had to research and experiment on his own and with careful precision in order to not get found out. It was considered sedition.
Rex didn’t know if he even believed it. The entire notion was hard to swallow. He decided to just file a grievance report and be done with it. Every bit of the information was indivious to the Republic and the Chancellor.
He abandoned his research before a similar fate, like Fives’s, befell him.
The missions, while always having some dark cast shadow, seemed to be more overcast now that the Commander was no longer there to ease the mood. She always found a way of lifting the boys spirits and making the war itself seem somewhat tolerable. The Commander made situations enjoyable and some of his greatest memories in life are the ones he’s gotten the privilege to share with her; the others belonged to his brothers.
Some of his best days on the field were when he was close to the General. Whether it be in the war room or on a transport, Rex always caught a glimpse of her.
Her former master kept Ahsoka’s padawan beads in an interior pocket close to his chest. Since Anakin preferred multiple layers, they did sometimes tend to be a size bigger than what he needed. Whenever he slumped or showed consistent movement, the silka beads would peek out.
Rex’s heart churned everytime he caught a glimpse of them. They were the last physical reminder that she’d even been a part of their legion. Anakin confided in him later on sometime that she’d left behind her lightsabers as well. Those were a little less practical to carry around than a small beaded accessory. Skywalker was all that Rex, or any of them, had left. He’d just wished he had something for himself. It wouldn’t be orthodox to rob or ask for a memento from Anakin. He was just a clone and she was his superior. He just missed his friend.
It wasn’t that long ago that Rex did manifest that into his life. He’d never been one for tattoos or ink under one’s skin as his brothers were. They thrived on it, gave them even more sense of individuality. The Captain always figured his armor and hair had set him apart enough. However, it was only after Ahsoka left the order that he craved something more of himself 一 more of her. It almost cost him an arm and a leg to get it done. Of course, he couldn’t get a brother to do it. He couldn’t do it on the upper levels by another artist. It was too risky to have his brothers finding the art somewhere. He had to venture into the lower levels of Coruscant.
Rex, dressed in his civvies, walked into the establishment with nothing but credits and a folded up drawing he’d done himself. He also had a blaster tucked into his trousers and under his shirt and jacket, but no one needed to know that. Everyone in the lower levels probably had one anyway.
The tattoo was white. He thought it would be a nice change of pace from the dark colors his brothers always seemed to get. He also thought it would do her facial markings the most justice. For a long time he wondered where the tattoo would go. It needed to be out of sight when he had armor on. It wouldn’t bode well for him if any of the Jedi or GAR Intel discovered it.
He left the tattoo parlor with a pain below his neck. Careful not to touch it, Rex just shrugged his shoulders to ease the discomfort. The markings on her forehead were now forever on his upper back.
It was a while before anyone ever saw it. The communal fresher was perceivably empty late one night and so he took his leave. The Captain tried to clean up long after everyone else, both out of respect and his own privacy. Fives would’ve been the first to find out; that is if he were still alive. He imagined the man would give him hell for it. No, Kix was the one to discover his Captain’s secret tattoo. He had apparently been tending to some bad injuries a shiny had gotten, therefore making him late to the freshers. Kix waited until they were both decent to suggest he’d seen it, “I like it.”
Rex was caught off guard, “What?”
“Your tattoo. I’m sorry she didn’t say goodbye. It’s a nice way to honor her. I know some of the other men, including myself, miss her everyday.”
His brother’s kind words softened him, made him feel less alone, “Thanks, Kix. The kid sure was something.”
Rex knew his brothers could keep their own secrets. He also knew that they would keep his. He didn’t often step out of line before Umbara, but that mission had given him a new perspective and purpose in his short life. Jesse, one way or another, found out about much of the Captain’s personal endeavors and political opinions. He often agreed with him. However, Rex didn’t speak much about the Commander to anyone, not even Kix.
However, Jesse was the one who discovered that the Captain would comb the lower levels of Coruscant on his down time. Probably to look for her, Jesse concluded. If he knew or not, the newly appointed ARC Trooper never mentioned it.
Rex didn’t define it as searching for her, rather he liked to think he was just minding his own business and maybe if he caught glimpse of her, he’d feel a little better. He didn’t even know if she was on-planet. Whatever it was he was doing, or wherever she might be, Jesse always accompanied him. Even unspoken, his brother knew he needed someone to accompany him. He had always reckoned that Rex would confide in him and say something about her. He didn’t press him though.
And so they walked around the lower levels when they could, aimlessly turning corners and conversing. Neither of them were ever on Coruscant long enough to do any good.
Rex had always hoped to see her, but he never did.