Title: Snowballing Author: devilinthedetails Timeline: During the Clone Wars between AOTC and ROTS. Characters: Anakin Skywalker; Ahsoka Tano; Obi-Wan Kenobi; Captain Rex; Commander Cody Genre: Friendship; General Summary: A training assignment ends in an embarrassing rescue and snowball fight. Author's Note: This is a gift exchange story written for the marvelous @Mira_Jade. Her request was: Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka (bonus: any Clones you can include, should you so desire) 1. An embarrassing rescue 2. A snowball fight 3. Lots of banter I don’t want: I have no constraints! Happy holidays, Mira_Jade! I hope this story makes this special time of year a little more festive for you and that it lives up to your expectations Snowballing Mission Parameters One successful mission concluded, and it was time for another one to begin, Anakin thought, familiar with the rest-free rhythm of the Clone Wars that had dominated his life since Geonosis. He stood around the briefing table across from his former Master and Commander Cody with Captain Rex on his left and his erstwhile but eternally smart-mouthed Padawan at his right, waiting for Obi-Wan to relate the details of the next assignment relayed to them by the Jedi Council. “Our next mission is supposed to be easy.” Obi-Wan’s tone conveyed his faint, polite skepticism that this would be the case. They had all seen enough war to know there were no easy missions, and the ones that seemed easiest at the outset could prove the most complex and dangerous by the end especially if underestimated by the foolhardy. “Easy, General?” Rex asked, feigning disappointment. Both he and Cody had their buckets off, showing the cloned faces that should have been identical but weren’t to Anakin. He could detect the subtle differences in their faces—indicative of differences in personality and experience—that made them unique. “Regardless of if it’s easy, it’ll be important, Captain,” snapped Cody, and, not for the first time Anakin wondered if the clone commander’s funny bone was perpetually broken or if he just was incapable of comprehending humor because it was undefined in the rules and regulations he had been made to memorize on Kamino. “Now why don’t you let General Kenobi finish his briefing without further interruption?” “Certainly, Commander.” Rex flashed a salute that could only be described as ironic, and Anakin could hear Ahsoka stifle a giggle on his right. “Centax-1.” Obi-Wan called up a holochart, tinging their faces azure in the glow of Coruscant and its four moons. “Coruscant’s first moon.” “The Centax-class heavy freighters are outfitted there,” Anakin remarked, his mind, ever in space, made the automatic association with the manufacturing of starships. “Yes.” Obi-Wan zoomed in on what appeared to be a standard issues, drab, and prefab Republic Army base like a thousand strewn across the galaxy. “It also houses a military staging base. Twenty-thousand troopers are garrisoned there. Our assignment is to take part in a series of training missions with these troopers.” “Sounds fun.” Rex had obviously decided to risk antagonizing Cody by speaking again. “Sounds like a serious responsibility.” Cody shot Rex a stern glance before returning his focus to Obi-Wan. “We won’t fail in our duty, General.” “You never have.” Obi-Wan favored Cody with a slight smile. “That being said, I have the understanding that this assignment is meant to be a bit of a downtime for us. If we find ourselves having fun, that’s not outside the parameters of our mission…” Not a Reason Ahsoka dumped her single duffel of spare clothing and supplies—if she hadn’t known how to pack lightly before becoming Anakin’s apprentice, she had certainly learned the knack of carrying little baggage with her from world to world and outpost to outpost as his Padawan—on the narrow bunk of the officer’s quarters she had been assigned to share with her Master. The officer’s quarters were more spacious than the standard trooper barracks, but they were still cramped especially to someone who had just disembarked a battleship. Battleships seemed to loom large until you were stationed on them, Ahsoka thought. Then you realized how confined they could be. “I’m going to take a walk,” Ahsoka informed her Master as he entered and dropped his own duffel on the bunk across from hers, stretching her legs that ached with the need to roam. She didn’t ask for permission because then she figured that her Master couldn’t forbid her. “I want to do some exploring.” Her theory that her Master couldn’t forbid her if she didn’t ask for permission was tested when he arched an eyebrow at her. “What do you want to explore, Snips?” “This moon’s got a dark side to it I’d like to check out, Skyguy.” Ahsoka shrugged. “There’s also ruins of the prison built here after the Alsakan Conflicts that are said to be marvelously spooky.” “You’re not going to the dark side of the moon.” Anakin’s flat prohibition made Ahsoka’s montrals quiver with irritation. “Why not?” She could feel the start of a scowl forming on her face. “Because I said so.” Anakin’s voice remained infuriatingly flat. “That’s not a reason.” Ahsoka’s scowl deepened. Ignoring this argument, Anakin consulted his chrono before adding a further, even more humiliating restriction. “Stay safe and be back before nineteen-hundred. You need your rest, and this mission is supposed to be downtime for us.” “Nineteen-hundred?” Ahsoka’s jaw gaped in disbelief at this early expected time of return that permitted her precious little time to explore the strange surface of Centax-1. “That’s a youngling’s bedtime.” “It’s a Padawan’s curfew.” Anakin’s arms folded across his chest in a manner that doubtlessly meant he thought Ahsoka was acting like a youngling at the moment. “Specifically, my Padawan’s curfew.” “I’d better go then before I run out of time for my exploring.” Ahsoka stomped out the door of their quarters, slamming it in her wake and not caring if she appeared like a stubborn youngling instead of the strong-willed young woman she so desperately wanted her Master to see her as because it was so frustrating to be coddled rather than allowed to explore. Like Master, Like Padawan As Ahsoka slammed the door and stormed out into the corridor, Anakin had the urge to yell at her to come back so he could reprimand her for her insolence. He liked to think of himself as a fairly lenient and even cool Master—no other Jedi in the Order would allow his Padawan to refer to him so informally as Skyguy, he was certain—but perhaps he had inherited more of Obi-Wan’s strictness than he wanted to acknowledge…He had, after all, uttered the very phrase he had once hated to hear and had sworn to himself he would never utter when he was a Master (“Because I said so”). Maybe the passing years and his own experiences were morphing him into his Master… The notion didn’t horrify him as much as it should have. Obi-Wan, he mused, had been a more patient Master than Anakin had perhaps given him credit for as a Padawan. Not that he ever planned on admitting that to Obi-Wan. Yet somehow his feet carried him across the hallway to lean on the frame of the open door to his former Master’s quarters. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Obi-Wan glanced up from perusing what appeared to be a topographical holomap of Centax-1’s uneven surface with its jagged craters and steep peaks that rose and fell abruptly along a landscape that had been buffeted by the many asteroids. “I’ve been wondering”—Anakin stepped into the room and shut the door behind him—“how did you manage to always stay patient with me when I could be such a stubborn Padawan?” “Your memory flatters me.” Obi-Wan’s face split into the wry grin that used to make Anakin feel as if he were being mocked, but that now he understood was more a sign of self-deprecation. “I didn’t always manage to stay patient with you.” “True.” Anakin perked up with the hope that maybe one day Ahsoka’s memory would flatter him with the idea that he had always been patient with her. At his core, he was convinced that memory was more emotion than fact anyway. “I just hope that one day Ahsoka thinks I’m half the Master you didn’t have to be.” “Oh, but I did have to be your Master and train you to become a Jedi.” Obi-Wan gave a gentle shake of his head. “I’d given my word.” “To Qui-Gon?” Anakin’s lips felt heavy and awkward as they formed Qui-Gon’s name. Even after all these years beside Obi-Wan, it felt strange to mention the name of the man who had brought them together with his death on Naboo. Most of the time Qui-Gon remained a silent ghost hovering between them. “To Qui-Gon and to you.” Obi-Wan’s gaze was as warm as it was intense, and Anakin felt his heart heat with the memory of how at Qui-Gon’s funeral after he had sniffled and asked Obi-Wan what would become of him, Obi-Wan had softly and solemnly assured him that he would be his Master and that he would become a Jedi. “Do you remember?” “Yes. It was many years ago—before the war.” A sudden surge of affection for his former Master made Anakin’s throat tighten as he attempted a roguish smirk. “Ahsoka is quite a lot like me, isn’t she?” “Indeed. She’s like you, which means she’ll be all right in the end. There’s worse sentient beings she could emulate.” Obi-Wan’s words were tart, but there was a playfulness in his blue eyes that drew a laugh from Anakin. “I believe that’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me all month.” Anakin couldn’t help but treasure Obi-Wan’s compliments, which were rare and precious as kyber crystals. “Would you care to repeat it?” “Fishing for compliments is unbecoming in a Jedi of your stature, Anakin.” Obi-Wan snorted. “Now that’s the Master I know.” Anakin rolled his eyes. “Always right?” Obi-Wan lifted an eyebrow. “Always scolding.” Anakin emitted a long-suffering sigh. Checking his chrono, he saw that it was well past nineteen-hundred with no sound or Force sense of Ahsoka returning. Scowling, he strode toward the door, tossing over his shoulder, “Excuse me. I’ve a Padawan to kill for missing her curfew.” As he hurried out of Obi-Wan’s quarters and toward the garrison’s exit, he sensed, red as a distress flare, Ahsoka’s call for rescue across their Force bond: I’m in trouble. Save me, Skyguy. His legs churning into an adrenaline-fueled run as he raced toward her presence in the Force, his burning desire turned from metaphorically killing her for missing the clear curfew he had given her to saving her from whatever mess she had fallen into by staying out beyond her curfew. Prison Walls Ahsoka, chafing against the restrictions imposed on her by her Master, was too angry to watch where her feet carried her as she crossed the light side of the moon that forever faced Coruscant and its sun. Despite the constant sunlight, the air was cold enough that her breath frosted into spirals, her boots crunched in the snow that covered the hard ground, and more than once she almost slipped on shimmering ice. The snow and the ice forced her to slow her pace as she continued her march across the moon. Four kilometers outside of the garrison, she stumbled, flakes falling into her face in a fierce wind that was sweeping sideways across the rugged terrain, into the remains of what thousands of years before had been a Republic prison. The ruins of this prison, she reflected as she brushed snow off a once towering wall that had been reduced to less than a meter in height by the ruthless erosion of time and wind and claimed the cleared area as a seat, were all that remained of the prison that had been built to house the war criminals from the Alsakan Conflicts. That had been a galaxy-spanning war and now the only evidence it had ever occurred—that billions of beings had fought, bled, and died in it—were ruins like this and dry passages in historical holobooks. She wondered if one day the Clone Wars would be reduced to ruins and historical footnotes. The thought disconcerted her, making her shiver more than the howling wind and snow smacking her cheeks. It was uncomfortable to think of so much time passing that the galaxy she knew would crumble to dust in holobooks and in architecture, but it was especially so in a perpetual brightness that made it difficult to track the passage of time. As the eerie sense of timelessness of the endless light of the bright side of the moon washed over her like an ice bathe for the first, chilling time, she checked her chrono and muttered some swear words learned from soldiers as she noticed that it was past nineteen-hundred. Leaping to her feet, she hurried back along what she hoped was the approximate path she had taken out of the base, cursing herself for not keeping a better mental record of where she was going so she could retrace her steps. Anakin, she decided with morbid resignation, would kill her for being late for her curfew—for being disobedient—when she hadn’t meant to be disobedient. She had just been careless and allowed time to get away from her… As if to prove her carelessness beyond any possible dispute, she—foolishly not looking where she was going—put her foot down on ice she could barely see through the snow blowing past her eyes. Her boots skidded, the ground sloping sharply downward into a crevice. Heart pounding, she fumbled for a grip on smooth stone caked with ice and found none. She plummeted toward the unyielding rock of the fissure below, her stomach dropping inside her. Calling on the Force, she managed to slow her descent and cushion her fall so that the impact that crashed the air from her lungs didn’t shatter her ribs or her spine. She stared up at the long, slanting stone she would have to climb to escape the chasm into which she had fallen and shook her head as it occurred to her that she hadn’t brought the cable launcher she would need to help her scale a steep surface with no obvious handholds. Cheeks flaming with humiliation, she realized that she would have to call upon her Master to save her, which would probably only make him continue to treat her as a youngling instead of a young woman. Reaching for her comlink to make this embarrassing rescue request, her embarrassment turned to panic when she felt no comlink in her pocket. Distress flaring red as a panic button in her mind, she wondered how she could have been stupid enough to leave the base without her comlink. That would be yet another thing for her Master to murder her if she didn’t freeze to death in this miserable, cold crevice. She never should have gone exploring…It would be the death of her…Out of desperation, she sent a frantic appeal for her Master’s help across their Force Bond and waited for her to come save her from her own stupidity…She felt his reassuring touch in her mind, promising her that he was on his way. Knowing there was nothing she could do except wait, she hugged her arms across his chest, trying to contain and conserve her body heat for warmth amidst the cold stone surrounding her like the prison walls of old had once held the war criminals of the Alsakan Conflicts. Rescue Anakin followed the beacon of Ahsoka’s distressed presence in the Force to the cusp of a crevice he might have missed in the blinding snow if not for the sense of her emanating from the fissure below. Bending over the edge, he called down, “You forget your cable launcher, Snips?” “If I had it with me, do you think I’d be shivering down here, waiting for your rescue?” Ahsoka’s prickliest tone echoed up the rock to him. “Lucky for you I have my cable launcher.” Anakin removed his cable launcher from his utility belt. “I’m about to toss it down to you.” As he dropped it, he felt her reaching out in the Force to grab hold of it and draw it gingerly into her hands. Once she had the cable launcher, she fired it so it hooked around the edge of the crevice and then began her assent. “I’ll never hear the end of this, will I, Master?” A sheepish Ahsoka climbed out of the crevice, retracting the cable launcher and offering it to him. “I wouldn’t say never.” Anakin smirked, thinking about how he never let Obi-Wan forget all the times he had saved the life of his often ungrateful former Master. “Just until you go deaf in your old age.” “You’ll be growing old and deaf before I will.” Ahsoka leaned over and rolled snow into a ball that she lobbed at his ear in an eye blink. As he stared at her in astonishment, she took advantage of his surprise to hurl another snowball at his gaping mouth. “You won’t grow old if you get buried in snowballs,” he retorted, rolling a snowball of his own and pelting her shoulder with it before she could dodge it. Laughing and teasing, they threw snowballs at one another until their arms ached and their clothes were damp with snow and sweat. “Let’s get back to the warm base.” Anakin draped an arm about her shoulder, knowing that he would cherish the memory of her at play rather than at war until these wretched Clone Wars were finally concluded. “My teeth are starting to hurt from the cold.” “That may be the sign of a dental problem, Master.” Ahsoka giggled, still sounding like an exuberant youngling rather than a young woman thrown into a war zone well before her time, and Anakin chuckled, feeling warm inside despite the frigid air around him because she was happy. Warm Inside “You look cold and wet.” Obi-Wan’s keen blue gaze swept over Anakin and Ahsoka’s snow-soaked robes as they entered the base’s mess hall, crowding around one of the many space heaters to warm their hands. “We were in a snowball fight,” Ahsoka explained, chirpy as a doki bird. “You look more like you became snowballs.” Obi-Wan shook his head, offering a mug of tea apiece to Ahsoka and her Master. Cupping her steaming mug between her hands allowing the heat to seep from her fingers and palms into the rest of her body, Ahsoka noted that her tea appeared to be lightened with the sugar and cream she preferred while Anakin’s must be in the black state that he favored. “I thought you might appreciate a mug of tea so I took the liberty of preparing some for you both.” “How did you know we’d want tea?” Anakin glanced over the rim of the cup he had lifted to his lips. “Because you’re always cold, Anakin.” The mocking affection in Obi-Wan’s voice made Ahsoka remember how Anakin had remarked to her once that the war had mellowed Obi-Wan when it had hardened so many others. “I’m not cold now.” Anakin continued to sip at his tea. “I’m warm inside now, thanks.” Smiling into her own mug, Ahsoka reflected that she, too, felt glowingly, snuggly warm inside.