It was…big. Very big.
And jiggling in a way that both fascinated and repulsed.
“How…how is that even possible?” Ahsoka asked. It gave a wobble and her stomach wobbled right along with it.
“I take it you haven’t spent a lot of time in the common mess,” Rex said from her side. Ahsoka jerked her attention around to stare at his helmeted head. His T-visor reflected that…monstrosity in all its jiggly glory.
He sounded suspiciously amused.
“I eat with the men!” she retorted, trying and failing not to go on the defensive. Ahsoka had always been a light eater; it came with being both Togruta and Jedi. The clones, however, were anything but lightweights, especially when it came to food.
“And you’ve never seen jiggle-pudding?”
“Small favors,” Ahsoka muttered.
As far as schools of higher learning went, Batshua University was supposedly the best—the elite of the elite.
Or so Anakin had said, breaking down their assignment—something-something, Senator Amidala, surprise surprise—before disappearing beyond a crowd of students. Granted, the students were in the process of constructing some sort of odd, translucent-green pyramid—of…jiggle-pudding?—and Ahsoka was a little more distracted than usual.
At least Rex’s mood had improved; she’d learned that a particular stiffness to his shoulders meant a mission was a waste of time, and for this occasion, she couldn’t blame him. As far as she could tell, this was a waste of time—an Inner Rim university was not on the known Separatist target list—but nothing could sway Anakin when he thought Padme was in danger.
Rex had relaxed in tiny increments the longer they’d been on-planet, and now seemed outright amused—at least, outright amused…for Rex.
“Impressive,” Rex said.The pyramid had risen at least two meters into the sky, and not just by sheer size.
“How is that even possible?” At least three laws of physics were being annihilated by a...dessert. “Shouldn’t it just…collapse?”
“Hardcase made an entire sideshow out of protein cubes. Not sure how he managed a working jangler, but he did it.”
Ahsoka turned again to stare at the captain. “Protein cubes?”
“Better than that stuff. Holds form better.” Rex slipped his helmet off and tucked it under one arm. His face, like most times, was impassive, but she could still see the tiny upward tick at the corner of his mouth and a slight crinkle around his eyes. “And no good clone would waste a perfectly good dessert.”
“Dessert—” A half-second later, Ahsoka choked back a laugh. “So you’re saying you—”
She trailed off, waving one hand at the still-growing green pyramid. The system’s single sun had dipped down behind the university—itself an impressive tree of floating transparisteel domes, tier after tier reaching high into the sky—and the light cast down on the commons was all ruddy and brilliant.
He didn’t answer her. “Hardcase had KP duty for a month after that stint,” Rex said, voice still dry. “Fives got two months.”
“Wait—” Oh, this had to be good. “Fives?
Again, he didn’t elaborate. “Resources are resources. Intentional waste of necessary rations is worth more than a few days scrubbing droids.” He shook his head again and huffed out a sound like disgust. “Thank the stars they didn’t use the dessert.”
Ahsoka snorted but held her tongue. She didn’t have to go over supply reports like he did, but even she knew they were more likely to receive hover-brooms instead of ammunition during a deep space mission, thanks to the GAR’s ever-faithful lack of sensible requisitions and always-undependable sub-contractors. Such was military life.
But she’d had no idea he liked sweets.
The pyramid rose another few meters, and to the cheers of the students, its top was set aflame by a little spider-like droid that whizzed back down to land on one student’s shoulder.
Absolutely no part of it all made any sense. Ahsoka could only shake her head. “I…really don’t want to know.”
“Have you met any of our new recruits?”
He had a point. When it came to downtime, boredom made for…interesting results.
“C’mon,” she said. Ahsoka tipped her montrals toward the distant edges of the commons, where illumination globes spread pools of light and storefronts lit up the silhouettes of a thinning crowd.
Whatever Anakin had to do, he’d be taking a while. She and Rex might as well pass the time in comfort—and besides, there was more than one way to get juicy tidbits of information out of someone.
And Rex was hiding what had to be a rancor-sized story.
“There’s a tapcaf somewhere over there. Let’s go grab a bite.”
“Alright. Give.” Ahsoka nudged her crumblebun closer to Rex. The sugar-crust was covered in a sticky, golden glaze, dots of spice and caramel eddying in little waves down the pastry’s puffed sides and a white dusting of something powdery and heavenly dusted over it all. Rex had devoured his in less than two minutes and had made eyes at Ahsoka’s for the past five. “What did you do?”
That broke his attention. He still had a crumb along his bottom lip. “What?”
Ahsoka perched her chin on top of one hand. “You totally did something to mess with…someone. So tell.”
Rex pulled her plate closer. “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”
Ahsoka reached out with one finger and stopped the scrape of the plate across their table. “Nuh-uh. Tell.”
He glared at her, then, with a sigh, sat back, rubbing at his mouth with a napkin. “Off the record?”
Ahsoka nearly bounced in her seat. Win. “Of course.”
He still hesitated. Then: “Command training on Kamino was…”
Ahsoka nudged the plate a couple centimeters closer. “Intense?”
His snort was answer enough. “Made us good soldiers and better leaders. Weeded out the bad, strengthened the good. Made for the best of the best.”
There was enough weight behind his words that Ahsoka winced, but a hunch was itching at her lekku. “Even the best of the best have to blow off steam.”
Rex tipped his head in agreement. “True.”
Ahsoka tapped one finger against her chin. “Why do I have a feeling this involves a Kaminoan?”
Rex met her gaze and almost cracked a grin. Almost. “Close.”
“A really annoying one?”
“Right in three.”
Ahsoka nudged the crumblebun a little closer to him. “Just how big was it?”
He lifted his fork and pulled apart one side of the pastry. Ahsoka wasn’t at all hungry, but it still smelled divine, sweet and spicy and coating the back of her throat with a tingly, woodsy taste.
“Five meters tall,” Rex admitted. “Anatomically correct. Not exactly…flattering.” He puffed out a breath that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle. “Not at all.”
Ahsoka choked back a spluttered giggle. “Let me guess—let me guess—” That hunch was still itching fiercely along her third lek and she waved one hand helplessly. He lifted his eyebrows and she barked out a full laugh. “It had to be Cody.”
Her reward was a full, rare smile, stifled only by the way he kept his jaw clamped shut. It took her a moment to realize she’d made him laugh, and Ahsoka ticked a notch onto her mental scoreboard. This was quickly becoming one of her favorite pastimes.
“It’s amazing he didn’t kill me, but I’m not sure he ever figured out who did it. Cadet 2224 was…not the man I know today.”
Ahsoka crinkled her brow. It was hard to imagine Commander Cody being anything different than what she already knew—stern but fair, stiff but with a sort of dry humor that made any joint missions a trove for priceless commentary. “Really? Was he…mean?”
“Not mean, just—well, about as stiff as duracrete.” He lifted a forkful of crumblebun and pointed it at her. “Off the record,” he reminded her.
Ahsoka grabbed her own fork and snagged a bite before he could polish it off. “You can’t stop there. There’s got to be more.”
He didn’t, and Ahsoka soon learned her captain had an unusual—and somewhat terrifying—sense of humor.
“Thanks, Rex,” she said, after he’d finished the story. He was about to finish off the last sticky remains of the crumblebun, and when he glanced up at her, eyebrows raised, she shrugged. “For telling me.”
“Turnabout’s fair play.”
This time, he flashed his signature half-grin and Ahsoka—despite the distinct feeling she was cornered—notched another tally. “I heard something about the…High Council’s tower?”
Well. He was right. Turnabout was fair.
“So, it started as a dare, and it was not my fault…”
Rex was impressed.
And just a bit surprised—not to mention grateful it wasn’t a life-size statue made out of protein cubes, propped up in the mess hall. The little commander had a decent amount of common sense.
And more than enough creativity to make him a little worried.
Truth be told, he hadn’t ever expected to swap stories of pranks that could’ve gotten her killed—and him dropped like a womprat from a spacescraper, all the way down to janitorial duty—but he’d also never fully realized how bizarrely similar the Jedi were to…everyone else.
At least, minus the death- and physics-defying leaps and tendencies toward throwing him off cliffs.
But the commander was as stubborn and headstrong as he’d been—fearless, too—and now he wondered if all Padawans were the same.
Probably not—probably just the best of the best.
The best…who were also fairly good at sneaking into his quarters.
A mini-him stood in the midst of 501st blue jiggle-pudding, carefully arranged atop his desk. His legs and arms were made out of blue-striped sparklemint and his torso looked to be tightly looped bits of soft candy. Somehow, she’d even done a manageable job of making it all look like armor, and delicate blue leafs of crystallized sugar made a decent pauldron. A carved lump of…something…was his helmet, complete with tiny jaig-eyes.
Rex debated for .05 seconds whether to eat it all in one go and wondered if she could manage a crumblebun, next time.