An hour before dawn, something changed.
Ahsoka sat bolt upright, suddenly feeling more lost and alone than she had since her Master turned to the Dark Side. Something was missing. Rex was missing.
She turned in the bed, her headtails reaching out to touch his chest and throat. He was cool, cooler than he should be for this time of year. His chest didn't rise and fall with breath, his heart didn't pump.
He was gone.
She threw back her head and wailed, and the sky answered her with the roar of thunder. Rain began to patter on the roof, and she curled herself around her husband's body and wept.
The rain cleared by midmorning, and Ahsoka crawled out of the bed. She pushed aside the clothes in their wardrobe and dug out an old wooden chest. The lock broke under a smack of Force-energy, and she lifted the lid to reveal Rex's armor. It had been upgraded over the years - the alloys of trooper armor exchanged for durasteel, breastplate and backplate reforged from beskar, kama made from real leather. Even the helmet was upgraded. But the colors were still the same, and she trembled as the blue Jaig eyes looked up at her.
Hands shaking, she pulled out the breastplate and dug out the armor tally. It was deactivated, but the data of his number, rank, legion, and name were still on there.
Ahsoka hugged it to her chest for a long moment. Rex. Rex was gone.
The wind swirled around their little cabin, and she got to her feet. Despite her shaky legs feeling like they would give out any moment, she managed to dress him in his armor. Her hands lingered on his face; Force, these twenty-five years had been so much longer for him than for her. They should have had so much more time-
She couldn't put the helmet on him. Covering his face just made her break down in her tears. He was Rex, not a faceless clone trooper. Rex, who preferred two pistols to one. Rex, who'd earned the Mandalorian combat distinction of the Jaig eyes on his helmet. Rex, who'd tolerated the fact that his General cared more about an R2 unit than him. Rex, who'd put up with a sassy little togruta padawan and taught her how to be a soldier. Rex, who chose her over his duty.
Her headtails lingered on his chest, sometimes reaching out to run over his face. She raised one to wipe the tears from her eyes, her fingers clenched along the bottom edge of his helmet.
A brief patter of rain stirred her, and she forced herself to her feet, helmet still in her hands. The rain cleared as she went about their cabin, turning off the power to everything and putting the food out for the wildlife. Their pictures, she locked into the wardrobe, after taking out the only clothing she wanted - her sash, the dress he bought her on Corellia, and her lightsaber.
Turning, she reached out with the Force to gently lift his body from the bed. With his helmet under one arm and his armor tally tucked into her sash, she guided him carefully outside.
Outside, the smell of wet earth filled the air. The rolling hill their cabin sat on felt alive, green, unmindful of the summer sun that would come in a few months and sear it all. Some part of her raged at it, and a sharp crack of thunder sounded in the distance. Clouds covered the sky, rolling in slow bands of storms across the entire range.
Still bearing her husband's body, she climbed up the hillside. Mud squished between her bare toes, briars pricked at her feet, then as she climbed higher, rocks cut at her soles. She did not falter. She refused to falter.
Rock capped the top of the hill, and there she knelt, resting Rex's head in her lap. His helmet she set beside her, and her hands came to rest lightly on his head. "I hope you're not too impatient waiting before we can begin this next great adventure. But I have to clean up a few things first."
She reached out through the Force, feeling the joins and splits in the rock as sensations in her montrails. It was a sense she'd never been able to describe adequately to Rex, this fusion of the Force with her innate togruta spatial awareness. Though, she'd tried so hard, but more often than not, she gave up when he started nibbling on them.
Keeping one of those moments firmly in mind, Ahsoka lashed out with the Force. The rock cracked, split, screamed as it opened a space large enough for two people to lie side-by-side.
Ahsoka smiled. Aayla was so wrong about Jedi needing detachment. Attachment gave her more power than she'd ever imagined having at the Temple.
Carefully, she wrapped her arms around him and lifted him up, using only a little bit of telekinesis to help. She kissed his mouth softly, then stepped into the grotto. The wind whistled overhead as she laid him out, straightening his kama to lie attractively. Then she raised a hand and brought the helmet to her. That, she set to rest in the crook of Rex's elbow.
She looked at him, her old soldier, her husband, her lover. Even the father of her children, if she'd been closer to human or he'd been closer to togruta. Tears welled up in her eyes again, but she bit her lip until they drained away.
The grotto grew darker, and she could feel the rain advancing over the hill. It hadn't reached them yet, but-
With another slash of Force-power, the rock groaned and closed over their heads. In absolute darkness, Ahsoka reached out and laid her hand on Rex's breastplate. The pulse in her own fingertips echoed back to her as she reached out searchingly to caress his face. Her fingers found his skin, now grown cold and stiff, and this time tears did spill from her eyes.
Rigor mortis. The first part of decay. She'd seen it enough, hadn't she?
-No. Not her Rex. He couldn't fall apart, she wouldn't let him.
Plunging into the fury of grief and love inside of her, she channeled the Force, impelled it to flow through her body at a faster and greater rate than ever before. It burned her with ecstasy, it thrilled her with agony. It could have destroyed her, she felt dimly, but she knew what she wanted it to do, and she bent it to her will.
Not everywhere. Barely anywhere at all, in fact. Barely the space of an electron above Rex, it flowed on as normal.
But not in him.
Ahsoka smiled in the darkness and collapsed atop him in exhaustion.
The world was made of starlight.
They blazed around her, soft but overwhelming in their multitudes. Life beyond count, from simple bacteria to the complex organism of her own body.
She turned away from the life-lights, plunged into the deepest places of the flow. Muted presences, softly iridescent in the light of her life, brushed against her, through her, but none of them were Rex-
Her light was slowly dimming, stripped from her by the power of her immersion in the flow.
A presence touched her, achingly familiar-
Don't do this, Ahsoka.
Her voice cracked. Her body felt stiff and heavy, alien from disuse. Her senses felt dull, and for an anxious moment, she wondered if she was blind. No, it was merely the darkness of the tomb.
His body rested under her hands, but he himself was long gone. Gone to a place she couldn't follow, not yet.
Someone had turned her back.
She hunched over him and wept, simultaneously lashing out with the Force. The rock over the tomb split asunder with a crack like the world breaking. Or perhaps it was a crack of thunder, as the storm raged all around, rain slashing against her skin, wind yanking at her clothing.
Eventually, the rain slowed to a drizzle and then to nothing. The wind died. The thunder and lightning moved on. Ahsoka lifted her head from her dead husband's chest.
"Rex," she whispered and kissed him a final time. Then she rose and climbed out of the tomb.