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Ahsoka Tano wasn't one to work alone, having been both raised and trained in a temple hosting thousands of other Force-sensitives like herself. On the battlefield, she had always been flanked by her troops and by her fellow Jedi. Even alone in the cockpit of her starfighter, she had had an astromech at her side and the voices of her squadron in her headset. Despite this, at present, she found herself once again navigating the labyrinthine streets of the lower levels of Coruscant with only the small holo-emitter she held clutched in one hand and her own wits about her.

She landed lightly on one of the rusted catwalks that arched over a dirty, deserted alley and paused to flick on the emitter and run through the information stored there. The tip-off had been useful; she had amassed a somewhat reliable network of informants throughout her time in the lower depths of the city-planet. Reaffirmed in her task, she tucked the emitter away in a pouch at her belt and dropped silently down in to the alleyway below.

She felt him before she heard the wet slap of his boots hitting the ferrocrete, echoing down the alley corridor and against her montrals. Felt a presence so strong and achingly familiar that she actually stumbled and threw a hand out to steady herself against the wall. She heard his footsteps falter too, though he was still out of sight around the corner.

There was little doubt in her mind as to who it was, blazing like a bright flame in the Force as fiercely as the day she had met him, though she could sense how the passage of time had worn away at his spirit, how the things he had seen and done had eroded his signature in to a new shape, one she didn't fully recognize.

Belatedly, she realized he wasn't alone.

“Sir?” The instantly recognizable, tinny voice of a trooper in-bucket startled Ahsoka and she sank against the wall, suddenly wary. The Grand Army of the Republic had long since been disbanded, the clones' inhibitor chips deactivated en masse once the plot against the Jedi had been revealed, but she still felt uneasy with the knowledge that they had been meant to harm her at all. She reached out tentatively in the Force and counted five of them, all somewhat familiar.

“It's nothing. Keep going, two klicks east. Comm me when you reach the warehouse.”

A chorus of “Yes, Sir!”s followed, and then Ahsoka saw the five troopers jog past, silhouetted at the entrance of the alley. A moment later, Anakin emerged from around the corner, his stance guarded.

His hair was longer than when she had seem him last, the soft waves just brushing the tops of his shoulders. She could see his face illuminated by the dull glow of the enormous holonet display projecting between two nearby buildings. He looked stunned, like the time Hardcase had accidentally decked him upside the head while becoming overly-animated in recalling a tale of heroics from the front lines.

“What are you still doing on Coruscant?” His voice wavered and Ahsoka swallowed past the lump in her throat, peeling away from the wall.

“Where should I have gone?”

Anakin looked taken aback, and it became obvious to Ahsoka that, if he'd had the same chance, he would have left for greener pastures long ago. But Coruscant was the only home that she had known, and Ahsoka had never been one to turn her back on people who needed her. The aftermath of the war had more than supplied her with a reason to stay.

Anakin didn't answer, so instead Ahsoka approached him cautiously. “What are you doing on the lower levels? And what were they doing with you?” She tilted her montrals in the direction the clones had run off to. “I thought the clones didn't serve the Jedi anymore.”

Anakin relaxed slightly, a hint of pride that she recognized creeping in to his voice. “They don't, but a bunch of the 501st didn't want to be fully relieved of duty. They requested to stay on as special guards of the high council.” He leaned in conspiratorially. “They call themselves 'Skywalker's Fist', but it wasn't my idea.”

Ahsoka snorted. “I'd hope so. What does the rest of the council think about that? Wait...” She paused, then leaned back to slug him in the upper arm. “Since when are you on the high council?!”

He barked with laughter and held up his hands in defeat, effortlessly falling back in to the easy informality of their friendship.

“Well... initially, it was sort of a less-than-official thing. Chancellor Palpatine appointed me right at the end of the war. I don't know if I've ever seen Master Windu look so upset.” He smiled shyly at Ahsoka and she grinned back, sharply aware that it was the first time she'd done so in longer than she cared to remember.

“But once he realized I was right about the Chancellor, the council had a change of heart.” He swelled slightly, looking proud but also slightly sheepish. “They raised me to the rank of Master, Ahsoka. I've formally been on the council for three years.”

Ahsoka beamed up at him. “Congratulations, Master!”

Anakin's smile faltered.

She hesitated, her face falling. “I mean. I meant-- not my master, but--”

“Do you want to go for a walk?” he cut her off, his expression suddenly unreadable. She reached out timidly in the Force, but he had closed off from her. She nodded, relieved for the excuse to not have to look directly at him. His presence, she decided, was welcome, and her affection for him had not waned in their years apart, but her heart felt tight, her muscles tense when she looked at him.

They picked their way through the winding streets of Republic City's underbelly. Ahsoka gave him an abbreviated summary of her time away from the Temple, describing the messy aftermath of a planet that had been thriving financially on war and how she had sought to find a role in its healing. She described the encounters she'd had with various crime lords, the attempts made to cease the slave-trade, and even the occasional partnership with the former Sith-acolyte Asajj Ventress (Anakin had given her a stern look at this), whose knowledge of the seedier sides of Coruscant she had found exceptionally helpful on several occasions.

“It was hard getting used to these at first,” she motioned to the blaster holstered at her hip and the sheathed knife strapped to her boot. “I wanted to build new sabers, but it didn't seem right to.”

Anakin suddenly looked incredibly guilty, and he turned away, looking blankly in to the general distance. Ahsoka felt a spike of bitterness flow through her as she sensed Anakin close himself off in the Force once more. She frowned and knit her brow.

“Why are you even down here? Do the Jedi even know how to function in peacetime?”

“We're.. finding our place. Right now, it's mostly about cleaning up the mess we've left behind.”

Anakin relayed to her his current mission, finding and capturing the nameless bounty hunter who had been responsible for stealing and selling unused military-grade weapons and ammunition left over from the war to off-world buyers. He'd been hard to locate and easy to lose, and he wore outdated Mandalorian armor, he told her. Ahsoka stopped in her tracks and turned to him, brows raised. When Anakin looked quizzical, she drew the small holoprojector from her belt and turned in on. The image of a figure clad in modded Mandalorian armor flickered in to existence, rotating slowly in the space between them.

“Is it this guy?”

They were interrupted as Anakin's wrist comlink crackled to life, Appo's voice rising above the general clamor of the streets.

“We're more than a bit outnumbered, sir. I've called for backup, but we could use you down here now.”

“Copy that, Appo. I'm on my way,” Anakin dropped his wrist and looked at Ahsoka, who regarded him with uncertainty. “Coming?”

 

---

 

They could hear the blasters long before the warehouse came in to view. Charges of red and green streaked out from an enormous hole which looked to have been recently blown in the roof. The warehouse, enormous and dark, was located in a level of the city that was largely abandoned and that police rarely monitored, but if the ground-shaking explosions were anything to go by, Ahsoka doubted there was much the police could do.

Anakin and Ahsoka both landed from above in to crouches along the rim of the destroyed roof. The scene below was one of pure chaos: the five dispatched clones had been pushed in to a corner of the cavernous building, which was mostly empty save for a handful of crates that they were using as cover and a veritable army of battle droids, both B1 and B2 class. The second floor's open grated balconies bristled with them as well. The droids were methodically descending upon them, the air thick with blaster fire. Ahsoka watched as one of the troopers, she couldn't tell who from this distance, lobbed an EMP grenade into the droids' midst. It detonated seconds later, but instead of disarming them, the droids continued on as if nothing had happened.

“I thought we were tracking a bounty hunter!” Ahsoka yelled to Anakin over the din of blaster fire.

Anakin gave a baffled shrug and drew his lightsaber, then vanished in to warehouse. Ahsoka took a moment to compose herself. It had been years since she'd fought a droid battalion, years since she'd been shoulder to shoulder with the clones she had considered family. This day, as a whole, was proving more emotionally taxing than she had anticipated. Pulling a cloak of serenity about her, she unholstered her blaster and dropped down in to the crossfire.

Nimbly dodging the crackling beams of blaster fire, she made her way to where Anakin was crouched beside Appo, firing the occasional shot with an accuracy that made her Force-sensitive status obvious.

“They've been reprogrammed, completely recircuited from the ground up,” Appo was reporting hurriedly as he loaded fresh charges in to his rifle. “Electro disruptors aren't effective at all, they must be running on a different frequency. We can't keep up with them; if there were more of us...” He paused, noticing Ahsoka for the first time. “...Commander Tano..?”

Ahsoka waved this away, leaning in so that should could be heard above the tumult. “Why are they here at all?”

“We're not sure, sir,” he responded, and Ahsoka winced at the honorific. “We think the Mandalorian left them here as a parting gift, knowing we'd be on his tail, but he's long gone. The shipments we expected to find here are also missing.”

Another clone, one she knew by sight but not by name, leaned in. “If he's already been stealing weapons from the Republic, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's done the same with the Seppies. The foundries on Hypori were operational right up until the end of the war, and there were plenty of clankers that weren't deactivated afterwards.”

Anakin made an unhappy noise and thumbed on his lightsaber. “Well, I bet they're not immune to this.”

He looked sidelong at Ahsoka, who was unsheathing the knife at her calf. “You take left flank?”

She nodded, adjusting her grip on the knife and motioning with the nose of her blaster to get going. Not the weapons she would have chosen if she had known she'd be facing off wave after wave of tinnies, but she was familiar enough with their style of combat that she felt confident. As she launched herself out from behind the crate, she heard a clone behind her mutter to Appo “wish we could get our hands on some of those lightsabers.”

“Stow it, Nax,” came the reply, and then Ahsoka was out of earshot and in to the deafening clamor of the droid's line of fire. She had to be careful: no lightsaber meant no way of blocking the barrage of blaster fire. With practiced agility, she wove her way in to the incoming crowd, droids falling by her gun before she reached them. When she reached the droids outright, she rolled and slid on to one knee, deftly slicing four of the droid's legs with one clean swipe. They crumpled around her like tinfoil. Somewhere off and to the right she could see the blue beam of Anakin's lightsaber blazing a path through the swarm of battle droids.

Combat went on much as it would have on the front lines with Anakin and Ahsoka leading the charge and the squad of five troopers bringing up the rear, easily picking off the droids that had been left behind by the two Jedi. Ahsoka and Anakin had each cut a swath through the outer ranks and were closing in on their center, but Ahsoka was slowing, having run out of charges and relying solely on her small, close-range knife now. Anakin sensed her distress and caught her eye from across the room. It was only a moment, but his attention was diverted long enough that one of the droid snipers on the upper scaffolding took advantage and aimed its weapon. Ahsoka noticed the danger a second before the rifle discharged, throwing out her hand and knocking Anakin out of harm's way. He skidded to a halt a few meters away looking startled, but quickly gained composure and righted himself, giving a two-fingered salute her way.

She huffed a sigh of relief and watched as one of the clones picked off the snipers lurking in the upper levels. It was in this moment of distraction that she felt blaster fire slam in to her shoulder from behind. Pain blossomed outwards, radiating down her arm. She yelled as her body jolted forward, anger at her own carelessness lancing through her. She Anakin shout her name but didn't react, instead rolling in to her fall and coming up swinging on the other end. The smell of her own seared flesh met her nostrils as she decimated the droids around her with new-found focus.

It was only ten minutes of so later that the seven of them stood panting in the center of the warehouse, the wreckage of battle strewn about them. Smoke rose lazily from the broken shells of countless droids. Nax was opening up the crates that had been left behind – all empty – and one of the others was comming the temple to tell them reinforcements were no longer needed. Anakin extinguished his lightsaber and jogged over to Ahsoka, his forehead creased with concern.

“How bad?”

Ahsoka twisted to look over her shoulder to where the blaster mark fanned out over her coppery skin. It wasn't deep, but she had been badly burned. “It's nothing. I have a medkit at my place.”

“Why don't you come back and have us take a look at it? I'm sure Kix would be more than happy to..” he trailed off as Ahsoka shook her head. She slid her knife back in to the sheath on her boot and gathered her discarded blaster from the ground.

“Council wants us back at the Temple for debriefing,” Appo said gruffly, sidling up beside them. He had his bucket off and his hair was matted comically to his skull. “They may have intel on where this guy's moved to, and where he might have gotten ahold of them.” He thumbed at the fallen masses behind them.

“Since when does a bounty hunter smuggle firearms? Since when does he reprogram droids?” Anakin ground out, looking bewildered and frustrated.

“Things are tough all over,” Ahsoka replied coolly. “We all have to adapt.”

The clones looked uneasily between themselves. Finally, Appo said, “Your orders, sir?”

“You head back. Tell the Council I'll be along shortly. And.. tell them to send a clean-up team over to deal with this.” He gestured to the warehouse at large.

They nodded and readied to move out, clearly appreciative to have something to do that didn't involve staying in the vicinity of what was clearly an uncomfortable situation. Ahsoka watched them go, her expression one of despondence. For someone who had been raised in a lifestyle of detached tranquility, she had never been one to clear her face of emotion.

“I suppose I can leave the rest of this up to you and the Order,” she said finally, brushing the dust from the front of her trousers.

Anakin looked abashed. “If you'd like. Or, we could continue working together until we bring this guy in.”

Ahsoka rotated her injured shoulder, but didn't respond.

He tried again. “Why were you chasing him to begin with?”

“Even if he's just capturing criminals and other sleemos, he doesn't have the right to take their lives in to his hands.” She met his gaze evenly. “Everyone deserves a fair trial before they are sentenced to death. Don't the Jedi teach that?”

Anakin faltered. “O-of course. But why him specifically?”

“I think I know who he is,” she turned and headed to leave, knowing he would follow. Anakin decided not to press the issue, falling in step beside her.

Ahsoka was lost in thought. The war had been over and she stripped of rank for years now, and yet it was without question that the clones she saw tonight accepted her position in command, as if she had never left. The Jedi had all but cut ties with her after she had left the Order; certainly, Obi-Wan had sought her out and pressed a stipend of credits on her, but no one else had contacted her since. It was clear that, in their eyes, she had made her decision, and in a world without attachments it was an easy thing to let one of their own drift away. She didn't dare ask where Rex was, or any of the other men she had considered family. The thought that they may be dead, like so many of their brothers, was something she could not bear.

She allowed him to trail her to the place she had been calling home recently: a tiny one-room apartment devoid of any personality in a manner not unlike the padawan dormitories back at the temple. Ahsoka keyed the door and it swooshed open to reveal a small, gray room furnished with a bunk, a stack of shelves, and not much else. The light was dim and cold. Peering around the corner, Anakin saw the door to an equally tiny fresher. While Anakin took in the place, Ahsoka unpacked her belt and laid it over the only chair in the room.

She pulled a small medkit from a drawer near her bunk and opened it, and set about soaking bandages in the container of bacta she kept there. When Anakin offered to help, she hesitated, and then sat on the bunk and offered her shoulder to him. He carefully snipped away the burned cloth of her sleeveless tunic with the small, silver scissors from the medkit and then smoothed layer after layer of bacta-soaked dressings over the wound. When he was finished, he leaned back against the nearby bookcase and made a “tada!” flourish with his hands.

They sat in uneasy silence for a time as the bandage dried, Ahsoka methodically unstrapping her boots and holster, Anakin carefully replacing the contents of the kit. Their force bond still hummed between them, but it was more like an echo, quiet and soft around the edges.

“You could have left, too,” she broke the silence finally, her fingers curling in to the thin, rough sheets that had come untucked from her bunk. “I know you wanted to.”

Anakin let out an exasperated breath. “It's not that simple. I can't use my issues with the Order as an excuse to leave it. I had responsibilities I couldn't just walk away from.”

The look Ahsoka shot him chilled Anakin to his core.

He raised a hand defensively. “All I mean is that I'm working to fix things from the inside. Now that I'm on the council, my opinion has a lot more sway. I've already made several appeals to them with regards to their practices during war times, and I'm working with Chancellor Amidala to implement a job-placement program for the clone veterans who are out of work.” He paused. “..And I've been doing a lot of research and seeking insight from other Jedi, not just ones stationed on Coruscant but all over the galaxy, about the nature of attachment and the benefits of allowing it.”

Ahsoka raised a brow. “That was an interesting segue. Things are going well with the Chancellor, then, I take it?”

Anakin looked momentarily ruffled. “The point is, things are changing, Ahsoka. The Order doesn't have to represent the same things it did during the war.”

“Is this you asking me back again?”

“No, it's...” Anakin shook his head almost imperceptibly, his mouth working. “I missed you, Snips.”

Ahsoka's expression crumbled, her shoulders sinking. She felt tears burning behind her eyelids and she huffed and looked at the ceiling to stop them from falling. Suddenly, she felt their bond sing to life, the connection flowing freely and openly, and the next thing she knew she was in Anakin's arms, staring blearily at the delicate weave of his tabard where it folded over the curve of his shoulder. She pressed her face in to his chest and gave an exhausted, stuttering sob, her shoulders shaking lightly, and she felt the mattress give as he shifted to sit beside her on the bunk, his arms still tight around her small frame.

She felt simultaneous great relief at his proximity and a bristling anger at herself for allowing him to glimpse the kernel of resentment and despair she had been silently harboring since the day she had walked down the temple steps for the last time. Slowly, she pulled back, exhaling a shaky breath.

“I've never been alone like this. My whole life there were always others around, in the temple, or on the Resolute, even on the front lines--”

“I know.” Anakin drew back slightly and gingerly touched her cheek with one gloved hand. “I'm sorry.”

Ahsoka laid her own hand over his and leaned in to his touch. “I suppose you need to get back,” she said after a moment.

“It can wait,” he murmured, and when she looked up to meet his gaze she was surprised by the intensity and openness she found there. Something coiled hot and low in her belly and they both felt the shift in tone strum along the thread of their Force bond. Anakin dropped his hand, but did not move to leave.

“Anakin,” she started quietly, and her eyes dropped to watch his throat work as he swallowed. Distantly, she was aware that she was leaning in to press her mouth to the point on his neck where she could see his pulse fluttering under the surface. He angled his jaw and she could feel his quiet, sharp inhale. When she felt his hands alight softly at her waist, she readjusted, cupping his face and kissing his mouth.

Their bond flared in response, blazing blindingly bright in the Force. Anakin made a small noise against her mouth and pulled her closer, and Ahsoka obliged, snaking her arms around his neck, suddenly desperate to be close. Her fingers found the wild, soft waves of his hair and wound themselves in, drawing him in. The room felt airless and Anakin drew away and bowed his head to her shoulder, breathing heavily against her lekku. Ahsoka dotted kisses along his cheekbone.

“This is--” he began, but she silenced him by pulling him back into another kiss, licking her way in to his open mouth. She didn't want to hear about why this wasn't okay, about which parts of the Jedi Code they were breaking or how she was dishonoring her former apprenticeship. The Order was a monolith rising stubbornly in the distance of her memory, crumbling under the weight of its own ancient, self-righteous attitudes. She further distanced herself from it.

His hands came up and she was afraid they were there to push her away, but instead they stroked lightly down both left and right lekku before continuing down to settle on her hips. She barely had time to gasp against his mouth at the sensation before he was lifting her, moving her just enough to sit squarely in his lap. She growled low in her throat and fisted her hands in his tabard, untucking the ends and pulling them roughly to the sides. Anakin looked dazed, his face flushed as Ahsoka easily undid his obi and dropped it to the floor behind her.

“Slow down, Snips,” he chuckled softly, landing a soft kiss on her forehead. His thumbs rolled soothing circles in to her hipbones. “I'm not going anywhere.”

Ahsoka exhaled and slowed her movements, resting her hands on his forearms. 'Not yet, anyway,' she thought bitterly, but she ushered the thought away and leaned in to kiss him again, this time languidly and thoroughly. Anakin's hands traced an unhurried path from her waist up and along her ribs and then down her back. When they slid lazily under the hem of her navy tunic, Ahsoka hummed and ground down with her hips. Anakin, beginning to feel a bit impatient himself, growled his approval, his hands squeezing against the muscles of her back. He allowed her to pull aside the layers of his over- and undertunics until he was just in his trousers and boots, his own hands now finding and undoing the unfamiliar clasps of her shirt until it hung open from her shoulders. He paused long enough to allow her to tug off his gloves. The durasteel of his prosthetic arm gleamed dimly in the low light.

Ahsoka placed a hand on his chest and pushed until he fell back against the mattress, straddling his hips fully. He gasped when she rolled her hips down against his obvious arousal, so she grinned and did it again. He watched raptly as she shrugged off her tunic, her heavy lekku draped over the ruddy curves of her breasts. When she began to work on the ties of his trousers, he gripped her at the hips and rolled them both until she was lying flat on her back on the bunk and he was propped above her.

She flinched when the cold metal of his mechno-arm brushed against her ribs, and he immediately withdrew, looking apologetic. “Sorry.”

“No, it's..” she smiled, taking his hand and weaving their fingers together, the rust-colored skin of her hand interlaced with black and gold metal. “It's nice.” She brought his knuckles to her lips and kissed them playfully, and watched as Anakin's ears turned red.

“I forget about it sometimes,” she went on. “You're always wearing gloves.”

“It's not the sort of thing I like to show off,” he said quietly.

She snorted. “I thought all you did was show off.” Anakin feigned injury and she slapped his upper arm and laughed. He grinned and bowed over her, parting her knees and settling between them, his hands skimming over her ribs and across her belly.

“Look who's talking.”

“I wish it wasn't you. Can you shut up, please?” She grabbed his face and pulled him down in to another kiss, smiling against his mouth. The feeling of being close with anyone after so long going it alone made her heart swell. The knowledge that it was Anakin, Anakin finally, after all this time, set her nerves on fire and she felt bright and alive, raw and stripped bare in a way that had nothing to do with her state of undress and everything to do with how the Force seemed to pulse around them. If attachments were forbidden, if this was wrong, then she had no more reservations about leaving the Order.

She became vaguely aware that Anakin was fussing with the fasteners to her trousers and she broke away from the kiss long enough to breathe and look down. Willingly, she lifted her hips and he tugged the pants and underclothes down and off, then came back up to line her neck with open-mouthed kisses. When he shifted from throat to the tapered length of her left lek, the muscles of Ahsoka's stomach tightened and she shuddered.

Anakin pulled back on to his elbows, an eyebrow raised in a sort of 'ah-ha!' expression. “So, the rumors are true.”

Ahsoka rolled her eyes and pulled his head back against her shoulder. “Do that again.”

“Tch, bossy.” His voice was muffled against her lek, but she could feel his smile. He mouthed his way down and along the flushed-dark chevrons, his teeth just barely skimming her flesh in a way that made her hips rise off the bunk and her breath come faster. When she reached down and palmed him through his trousers, he stopped abruptly, making a small, ragged sound. Encouraged, she pulled at the ties at his waistband until she could dip her hand underneath and draw him out. Anakin hissed and rested his forehead against her collarbone and Ahsoka kissed the crown of his head. After a moment he leaned back and shucked his boots and pants on to the floor before kneeling between her parted legs.

He looked up at her before continuing, his brows raised. “This okay?”

She nodded furiously.

Anakin's touch made it clear he was more than familiar with female anatomy. When he slid two fingers down and alongside her lips, his thumb pressed firmly to the bud of her clit, she gasped and fisted her hands in the sheets. Anakin grinned and held her hips with his mechno-hand as they stuttered.

“You're so wet, Snips” he murmured appreciatively, and Ahsoka felt herself flush a shade darker. She opened her mouth to retort but was left breathless when he lowered his mouth to her core. A wave of pleasure crested over her. She knew he could feel it too, reverberating back along their bond, and he groaned against her. When she lifted her head to look down at him, the sight of him bent before her, his tousled head between her thighs and his pupils blown wide open, she gave a full-bodied shudder and dropped her head back against the mattress. For his part, he read her body easily, discovering what she liked best and capitalizing on it until she was panting hard and rocking her hips.

“Master,” she said in a shaky voice, and he looked up sharply, his cheeks burning. She was flushed, her eyes heavy-lidded and dark, the white markings on her face standing out brightly in the low light. Despite her position, she still looked fierce and powerful, even off the battlefield, even naked and breathless. Anakin felt his love for her swell, washing over them both, and it was then that she cried out as her orgasm thundered through her, her muscles tightening like a bow string. She shivered as she came down, and Anakin kissed the insides of her thighs and smoothed his hands along their outsides before untangling himself and crawling up the bunk to lie beside her.

She only took a moment to recover before she descended on him, holding his face and kissing him hard. He made a pleased noise when she nipped lightly at the corner of his mouth, and an even more pleased noise when her hand went down to encircle his erection and stroke it firmly. A moment later she had flipped them again, straddling his hips, her hand still gently holding him behind her body. Anakin thought he might lose it then and there with Ahsoka sitting astride him, her body lithe and strong atop him and her signature hot and vibrant in the Force.

The sound Anakin made when she adjusted herself and then sank slowly down around him made Ahsoka pause and catch her breath, desire vibrating through her and pooling in her groin. He reached out towards her from his position prone on the mattress, but instead of letting him touch her, she took his hands in her own, intertwining their fingers and then pushing his arms back against the bunk. Leaned over him now, still fully seated around him, she licked a stripe from his collarbone up his throat.

“Ahsoka...” he bit out hoarsely, his voice a warning.

“Yes?” The tips of her lekku trailed against his chest as she righted herself in one slow, fluid movement, releasing his hands and smiling impishly. She was otherwise still above him, her hips flush with his, unmoving.

Anakin opened and closed his mouth, looking so overwhelmed with barely-leashed emotions that she had to laugh. His expression cracked and he allowed himself to chuckle too, surging up to mouth at the undersides of her breasts. Ahsoka wound her fingers into the waves of his hair and rocked her hips. She felt his muscles spasm beneath her, his fingers scrabbling to hold her around her waist. “This isn't gonna last long,” she heard him laugh breathlessly against her skin.

The double-meaning was not lost on Ahsoka. Her smile wavered, but she pushed the thought from her mind just as she pushed Anakin softly back down, keeping her hand splayed over his chest. With her other hand braced on his thigh, she rocked in earnest, her breath coming in gasps. Anakin looked lost beneath her, his lips parted and his hair sticking to his forehead and neck. His hands skated over her back, deftly avoiding the bandages and then skimming back down along her front and across her draping lekku. She mewled and bit her lip, moving more urgently. Anakin was snapping his hips now too, his eyes fluttering shut and his neck arching back.

Ahsoka watched through hooded eyes as climax coursed through Anakin's body, felt it as he shouted and bucked beneath her and simultaneously experienced it explode around her in the Force. It overpowered her as well and she felt herself clench around him, bowling her over with its unexpected momentum.

They stayed joined for a few minutes afterwards, panting and shaking, before Ahsoka slowly rolled off and lay beside him. Anakin looked both exhausted and exhilarated, and he grinned at her as he turned to face her, throwing an arm over her and stroking her side. He exuded contentment and affection in a way Ahsoka had never experienced from anyone else. She placed a lingering kiss on his lips and relaxed back against the mattress, adjusting her lekku to be more comfortable.

After a few minutes, she threw Anakin's heavy arm off of her. “You're too hot.”

"No I'm not,” he mumbled into the mattress and rolled further in to her, draping himself over her.

She laughed and struggled feebly. “Get off, you big bantha!”

“I don't know what you're t—HEY.” He shot up, looking both delighted and betrayed, when Ahsoka tweaked his sides. Ahsoka opened her mouth in mock astonishment, as if she had just discovered a great secret (which, of course, she had), and descended upon him with relish, catching him under the arms and tickling him mercilessly. He howled and curled in on himself, holding his hands up uselessly to fend her off. When she stopped to point and laugh, he scooped her up around the middle and kissed her.

 

---

 

An hour later, Ahsoka and Anakin stood at one of the many speeder platforms that lined the enormous, portal-like holes that tunneled up to the surface. High above, a small circle of sky punched through the murk, but the sunlight only filtered down a few levels before it become lost in the smoke and grit of Coruscant's underbelly. The air was filled with speeders and cars zooming by, but one speeder in particular descended lightly from above and landed in front of them. A clone stepped off, and Ahsoka realized she recognized him.

“Kix!” she exclaimed, trotting over to him with her arms wide. He beamed at her as he dismounted and swung her up in to bear hug.

“Commander Ta-- er, Ahsoka!” he grinned and plunked her back on the ground. “When Skywalker contacted me to come and pick him up, I didn't believe him when he said who he was with! I never expected to see your face again.”

He looked older than she had expected – all of them did, she realized – but more relaxed, too. Peacetime had suited him. He had stopped shaving his head in intricate designs, but his Aurebesh tattoo, “a good droid is a dead one”, was still visible through the fuzz. He wasn't kitted out in his armor, either, instead dressed in a standard Jedi medic uniform.

“They're still letting you hang around the temple, huh?” she quipped, taking in his appearance.

Anakin strode up to them, his arms crossed over his chest and a smile playing on his lips. “Kix said he wasn't done doing his duty, so we let him stay on in the infirmary. It would have been a waste to not put his skills to good use.”

“Skywalker says you've got a nasty blaster burn on your shoulder. Mind if I take a look?” said Kix, unstrapping a medkit from the back of his speeder. Ahsoka shot Anakin a look, who shook his head innocently, but acquiesced, pulling back the damaged shoulder of her tunic to show the clone.

“I already treated it with bacta, it's really not anything bad,” she said as Kix tutted and peeled back the bandaging Anakin had applied.

“No, nothing serious,” he agreed, “but I'd rather you used this on it instead.” He pulled a bottle of what looked to Ahsoka like regular bacta from his kit and handed it to her. “Extra strength,” he explained. “This is what we used in a pinch on the front lines when we knew we weren't going to be getting back to the medbay anytime soon. Anakin says you're not returning with us to the temple, so...”

Ahsoka took the bottle and dropped it in to a pouch on her belt, beginning to look uncomfortable. “Thanks, Kix. I really appreciate it.”

There was an awkward pause in which Ahsoka fussed with her belt and Anakin pretended to be looking at the cars speeding by. Eventually, Kix clapped his hands on his legs and said, “Well, suppose I'll just put these things away,” before shambling back to the speeder and organizing his first aid items.

Ahsoka let out a quiet breath as Anakin turned to her.

“Can you even stay in the Order? After.. this?” She gestured vaguely to the two of them.

“I told you, things are changing,” he replied, but his eyes were sad. He brightened a moment later, though. “Listen, I think you should visit the Chancellor and I sometime. You'd be welcome whenever you like. She has a beautiful penthouse outside the senate building now.”

Ahsoka raised a brow incredulously. “Don't you think--”

Anakin shook his head, holding up a hand. “No, it's.. I think it would be good.” He closed a hand over her uninjured shoulder. “Just trust me.”

Warmth and peace radiated out from the place Anakin touched her, but she could sense the conflict in his mind as well. While he ascended up in to the glittering spires of the world above to sit on a council with his peers and to live happily with his wife, Ahsoka would remain in the perpetual night of the underworld, scraping by. But the literal upper crust of Coruscant was not what Ahsoka wanted nor needed anymore: the corrupt government officials, the gilded domes and lavish gardens, the greedy discussions of loans and interest rates. Her people were now those below, the people on which the opulent relied.

She missed only the cool, quiet halls of the temple, the dusty beams of sunlight as they slatted down through the corridors of books in the library, the peaceful courtyards. She wondered sadly how the younglings she had brought on their quest to build their lightsabers were faring.

As if reading her mind, Anakin patted her lightly and then withdrew his hand. “You know,” he began thoughtfully, “I think you ought to revisit Ilum. See what you can find there.”

She squinted at him. “Why would I go there?”

“Because I have your lightsabers sitting in my room back at the temple, and I think Obi-Wan would notice if they went missing.”

Ahsoka looked at him, nonplussed, and he offered her a lopsided smile as he made his way over to Kix and the speeder.

“Goodbye, Ahsoka! You come and visit real soon, eh?” Kix saluted to her. Anakin clambered on the speeder behind him, then turned and locked eyes with her.

“Real soon, okay, Snips? I mean it.”

Ahsoka nodded silently in a defiant attempt to hold back tears. She was not someone who cried easily or often, and twice in one day was certainly out of the question. Anakin nodded back once, his gaze still holding hers, and then they were off, jetting away towards the daylight.

She took her time making her way back to her apartment. She had always just assumed that life after the temple meant life alone, but Anakin made it sound like a continued partnership wouldn't be all that complicated. Perhaps she had miscalculated what a life outside the Order meant for her. And if Anakin truly was trying to change the teachings when it came to personal attachments... She palmed open the door to her room, taking in the four walls, the sparse furniture. The bandages were still laid out and the bedsheets were crumpled with use.

The sight made her unimaginably sad. This room, which she had thought of simply as a place to sleep and recuperate for some time now seemed oppressively lonely and empty without Anakin's tall, gangly form taking up space in it. She tidied up unhurriedly, and then, for the first time in a long time she sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor and tried to meditate. It was a skill she had never been particularly adept at, and also one she had disregarded since leaving the Order, but here and now she found quiet stillness in its practice. Far in the depths of the city's core, centered in her tiny room, she sat peacefully, while high above where the sun was just setting and casting the ceiling of the planet in a golden glow, Anakin climbed the temple steps.