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In Coldness, Warmth

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Ahsoka Tano always thought that if she was going to die anywhere, it was going to be Hoth. It wasn't any kind of mystical future sight or passive, calm Jedi logic.

It was, simply, that if anything could go wrong, it did go wrong on Hoth. It was as if the bitter cold added a twenty percent chance of critical failures in equipment. And with Anakin, somehow that twenty percent blossomed into fifty percent. Their usual, conversational tone was gone now, had disappeared the moment they'd answered the distress beacon and had found nothing but dead, frozen troopers. They had said nothing beyond what they had to as they'd started attempting to get the stations heating back online, as if by saving their breath they could somehow prolong the inevitable.

Anakin swore loudly as a control panel sparked at him, electricity lighting his face colorfully in the emergency only lights. Ahsoka closed her eyes and tried to hide her disappointment. She really hoped they'd have the heating back on by now, but even freezing their asses off, they were still luckier than the poor clones they'd found, iced over into clonesickles in their beds or frozen in place at the doorway. They at least still had jackets in their starfighters. Not that they helped much here; Tortuga had never evolved any defenses against biting cold. Little need at home.

She never liked the spooky old base on Hoth, but she liked it less now that it was inhabited by their ghosts. She wished, for one brief moment, that she had spoken up in favor of contacting Master Obi-Wan or Master Plo Kloon or even Master Windu when Anakin had picked up the emergency beacon. It had been automated, playing for weeks. Another hour or two later wouldn't have saved these men. Hot-wiring the hyperdrive — which had got them there six hours earlier but had also absolutely roasted the drive — was definitively not necessary. But hindsight, of course, was always clear.

In the moment, she would have done everything she could to be a hero. Anakin was the same. She knew that both of them would never have wanted to risk it, that if they had to take a chance to save these men they would have taken it regardless of their own safety. They were Jedi. It was what they did.

"Snips, see if you can find any input on the auxiliary station," Anakin said, still trying to find the source of the electrical discharge still rampaging through the console. "This one's trashed itself."

Ahsoka didn't give any pithy response, even though it was tempting to point out that Anakin had, in fact, been the one who had trashed it. But the knowledge they would be dead if they didn't get the door closed before the night winds started made her far less pithy than normal; even Anakin didn’t seem to notice her quietness, simply turning back to trying to get the main console online.

Ahsoka shivered as she walked away from him, wanting to put her hands up to her montrails to warm them. They were half-numb already in the cold, and it felt a bit like being blind. An akul could come up behind her no problem, now, and odds were she would not even notice.

They had to get the heater back on.

Unfortunately, the auxiliary power was near the fusebox, which meant traveling down into the ice caves, because whoever had first built out this old base had put them in the least convenient, most cold place possible - and why anyone wanted to put a base on Hoth, she would never understand. She pressed a hand to each montrail, rubbing it slightly. She wished she’d remembered to grab her coat that had a hood; without one, she was so much more exposed.

But before this, they had been on Endor, in wide forests that reminded her something of home… She sighed, thinking of how nice it had been to feel grass touching her feet again; Anakin had even smiled at her running barefoot in the wide grasses. She tried to grab a breath but it felt hard to draw. Bad sign.

She needed to…needed to get to the auxiliary power. She repeated it to herself, as if that could keep her safe.

She squeezed a hand over a montrail and felt it..barely.

With grim determination, she hurried forward.

- - -

The auxiliary console did her no favors. It was dark when she came upon it, causing her to audibly groan. Great. Another thing that needed repair, and she wasn’t a certified technician any more than Anakin was. But everyone who was was dead, and they were trying, desperately, to simply get things back up so they wouldn’t die. Of course, if Anakin hadn’t broken the hyperdrive punching through the atmo so fast, they might have been able to leave.

“S—-ips?” Anakin said; he was far enough away that the transmission broke up. “Every—-ing okay?”

“Console’s dark,” she said, only to hear a quiet groan in response.

“Gr—-t.” Anakin said something loud and —she was fairly certain—wildly explicit in Huttese; she smiled in spite of herself. She liked hearing his native tongue; unlike Torgruti, it was full of wild vowels. “Do yo—-best.”

“I’m on it, Skyguy,” she said; she knelt down on the ice-cold ground and winced; just what she needed, to be sitting on ice. Who put a computer console on ice? She was pretty sure whoever had built this base had been literally mad.

She put her hands over the console and attempted to pry off the base; her fingers slipped, and she swore. On a second try to undo the latch, her hands slipped as she shivered; on the third, she took a page from Anakin’s book and swore loudly, and that proved to focus her quickly enough to drop the panel out and access the guts underneath.

“Panels down,” she grunted; she would make a joke about it, do something to lighten the mood, but it was taking so long to even get the thing open, and now that she had, she wasn’t entirely sure what she had to do with it. Most of what she had picked up on this was knowledge from watching Anakin — though he had made sure she’d had an engineer’s kit of her own, which she pulled out of a pocket now.

“You —-right, Ahsoka?” Anakin’s voice had a tinge of wobble to it, even through the wire; he was worried. She couldn’t help but smile at that as she started to do battle with the wires, trying to isolate the bad one and find a good one to route in its stead. Master and her had gotten closer on this tour; at first, she hadn’t been able to imagine being his padawan, and now she couldn’t imagine wanting to be anyone else's.

“I’m fine,” she said, as she started yanking wires; she wasn’t, not really, but she wasn’t going to tell him that and make him feel even worse about trapping them here. Once the heat was on, the incoming hypothermia would be a non-issue, and she’d be back to making slightly off-kilter jokes with Anakin as they waited with caf in the mess for Mace or Obi-Wan or some other exhausted master to come and pick them up. They were all tired, now; Ahsoka knew that they’d lost enough Jedi knights that everyone was stretched thin, and younglings were more and more being called to become apprentices. She had been early at 14; she could not even imagine having had to wait until she had been 18; she was eighteen now and she couldn’t imagine waiting with the younglings so long, as Obi-Wan had.

Anakin had mentioned, off hand, that he thought she was almost ready the trials on Endor. A part of her was glad; she would be serving the Jedi, and she lived to serve. A larger, more selfish part of her, that knew that once she was a knight in her own measure she’d likely see him almost never — wasn’t. That part had won, as she asked him to hold off from nominating her for knighthood just yet. He’d looked at her then, and she’d seen an unfamiliar yet longed for heat in his eyes — and his cheeks had even blushed a soft pink as he said he would respect her wishes. She didn’t know human biology that well, but she knew what that particular sign meant. And she knew how dangerous it was for them both that neither had pointed out how selfish it was to withhold a perfectly good knight when so many were dying.

She shivered; it was happening more and more now, almost convulsively. Not just at the memory, that she’d replayed in her head a million times, but from the temperature changes. It was getting harder and harder to grip the stupid thing, now. She needed to - she glanced at the console, at the wire cutter in her hand.

“Sta—-us?” Anakin asked. “Not mu—- luck here.”

“Uhm,” Ahsoka bit her lip. She’d been distracted — was it the red wire, on the green one? She didn’t remember which she’d been tugging on a minute ago, so focused on stupid ideas that - that couldn’t even happen

“—-Re you Okay, Sn—-? Pl—- status.” Anakin’s voice really was trembling now. Reflexively, she pressed the comm link to broadcast audio only. She wasn’t going to be able to hide how bad she was otherwise. It took a few tries, but she knew she hit it when she was finally rewarded with a beep.

“Don’t worry, Master,” she said; she sounded dreamy, and she wanted to sleep, not that she could, with the way her body was almost convulsing. “I got it.”

She was running out of time. She gripped the green wire and spliced it to the red; it took six tries, but she smiled in bitter triumph as the console light up. She tried to stand, but the convulsions made it difficult. She felt woozy, tired. Maybe she’d - - maybe if she huddled against the console, took a little nap, maybe then she would — she would feel better. Now that it was - - now that it was on, it had to give off some warmth right? She’d just take a little nap and then-then she’d be strong enough to get the doors open.

“Console’s on, Skyguy,” she said, with a soft sigh as she huddled against the door. She’d just take a small nap, and then Anakin and her would be back to the war, just like they always were…

- - -

Anakin Skywalker was, in general, a worrier.

He had worried about many things in his life, most of which had come to pass. He had worried for his mother; his mother was dead. He had worried for Padmé’s safety; he had failed to protect her, and she was but one of too many casualties now. He had worried about Obi-Wan, who had brushed off such worries but was only growing more and more tired, more hurt every day.

And now Anakin worried about Snips. She was too attached to him — that much was obvious, he knew, though he could not bring himself to do anything to suggest she not be. Her request to not be put through the trials had relieved him; it had taken all his courage as a Jedi to even suggest it, even though he knew she was a capable and smart young woman who’d make an incredible knight.

But he hadn’t wanted to give her up.

Her presence was calming, centering; he had never been a good Jedi, and then he had met her, and suddenly he had felt obligated to live up to all those standards that Obi-Wan had droned on about if only to set a good example for his little padawan.

But she wasn’t a little padawan now. And he was fiercely aware that it was not appropriate, whether or not she was, that he wanted to be with her so badly, that urges he had not felt since Padmé had - he swallowed. No. He couldn’t be distracted here. Snips certainly wasn’t.

He set himself to rewiring the main console to reroute power to the auxiliaries when he heard short bursts of static over his holocomm and froze.

“Are you okay, Snips? Please report status.” More static was his only answer, and he threw down his tool. Something was wrong. Something was badly wrong when Ahsoka didn’t talk to him.

“Don’t—-, Master,” she sighed; she sounded like she was asleep, like the times in the past when he had heard her call out for him in ways that were, decidedly, attached. He picked up his pace. “I —-it.”

“I’m coming,” he said — well, shouted, really. He was in a full jog now.

“Console’s —- Skyguy,” she hummed. She gave a soft breathy sort of noise that Anakin had always dreamed of hearing - - but hearing it now brought him no joy.

He grimly set himself to moving forward; if he used the force to held himself run faster - - - well, the Council would surely turn a blind eye to him throwing himself into the Force if it was to save Snips life.

- - -

It took him minutes to find her.

Calls of “Snips??” had produced no response; the auxiliary room had not been large but she’d all but hidden herself, scrunching herself into a ball between the console and its ripped off panel. He supposed he should give thanks that she hadn’t actually crawled into it. A quick look at her confirmed she wasn’t conscious, and he bent down to get her before he realized something else: the console was glowing.

“You did it, Snips,” he said, and smiled. He hit the buttons in quick order -  first, the button to restore the electricity, and the second to place a mayday call to any Republican ships that were passing. As the lights shuddered to life above him, he cranked the heat up and picked up snips. Her lips were a pale white, and the shivering of her body left little detective work necessary to figure out what was wrong with her.

Stupid. How could he not have known that Togruta were far more sensitive to cold?

He had known that, should have remembered it. And yet he’d put Ahsoka into danger, just - for what? So he could play hero?

Mentally kicking himself, he picked her up, carrying her. “Skyguy?” She murmured against his shoulder; forgetting all the proper codes of Jedi behavior, he squeezed her tighter to his chest and pressed his mouth to the top of her head.

“Yeah, it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay, Ahsoka.” He said it so that he would believe it, that he could — would — make it true.

“Mmm,” she said; he marveled at how she didn’t struggle in his arms as he carried her over to the medstation; he put her down on the table for a moment, searching for an emergency blanket until he found it. He wasted no time in putting her into it, and — despite the Ob-Wan voice that lived in his head reminding him that such a thing was surely forbidden — he pulled back into his arms, grabbing her and holding her firmly as he sat on the ground with her in his lap.

It was surely inappropriate, and yet - he certainly didn’t mind. And he doubted she did, either.

“Master,” she murmured, and he cupped her cheek as those warm brown eyes fluttered against him. “Master, I’m —”

“You’re not okay, Snips.” He rubbed her sides, trying to provoke feeling into her skin. “Shh. Save your strength. Heats up, mayday is out.”

She nodded and leaned into his chest. His hands reached her montrails and he hesitated for a moment, knowing how sensitive they were, how private they were. The bits of Togruta ah — “cultural history” he had watched on the holo-smut channel, not that he would admit to anyone that he had watched it - had featured frankly tantalizing amounts of foreplay with them.

“S’ok,” she murmured; then brown, exhausted eyes looked up at him. “I want you to - - - “

He didn’t need any more encouragement than that. With shaking hands, he slowly grasped on, running his hands over it as Ahsoka bit her lip; by the second pass, a soft moan had escaped her, and no power within him could stop him from doing it again then, both hands slowly and rhythmically trying to bring her back to him.

If she noticed the sudden erection, she didn’t comment, and he held her for a long while. Then his eyes met hers, and the Force itself couldn’t stop him from kissing her, propriety be damned.

She moaned hard, shifting his lap until she was sitting on top of him, her legs wrapped around his waist.

“So uhm,” she said, softly, looking up at him with an absolutely wicked expression. “Maybe we should take our clothes off, Skyguy? For heat sharing?”

He nodded, swallowing, though forced himself to say, “Not until you’re better. You almost died today, Ahsoka.”

“I won’t leave you, Master,” she said, and something in the force shimmered, some unknown crisis passing them by; he couldn’t help but suspect she meant it.