-i wanted to make a note about the last chapter. someone mentioned in a review that they thought din's helmet had been knocked off. i actually meant that his helmet had hit the ground with his head still in it, haha

Din thought he could feel her hand on his neck, rubbing deft circles through the fabric of his cape.

"Xi'an." For someone so violent, the Twi'lek was an oddly talented masseuse – a little-known fact that few in the galaxy might ever discover.

Was she laughing? She always seemed to laugh at her name in his voice. He could picture her now, chuckling away from somewhere behind him.

"I missed you," Din said. The words had spilled out before any half-conscious thought could filter them. He shook his head, trying to clear old memories, old sensations.

No you don't, he told himself. You don't miss her. Not after what had….

What had happened? Din couldn't remember what drove them apart, and wasn't sure if he wanted to. Xi'an was her familiar self in this moment, squeezing his gloved hands in her own.

"You're cold, Mando. Ever try taking care of yourself?"

Something warm and heavy was wrapped over him. Din sighed and felt himself relax. He did miss her, missed when they could get along, share moments that didn't involve bickering or violence. Did she miss him too?

When Din returned to his senses, he saw only the mouth of a cave, heard only the hail of ice chunks as they poured outside. He realized that he had been dreaming, and felt hollow, bitter even, in reminding himself that Xi'an and their friends were gone, separated from him; that running off without them had been his sole option, and coming back would more likely lead to a knife in his neck than warm blankets and gentle massages.

Din felt stupid for even dreaming about her. She had been nothing but trouble for him, and it was impossible for her to help him now – not that she would have wanted to.

He looked around, though even this simple action was painful. He was lying on his side, facing the opening, and was covered in a layer of matted grass, or moss, gray and rotting, but at least dry. Under his helmeted head sat his cape. It had been rolled up into something like a pillow.

Din jolted as the thought finally hit him: something put him here, arranged him like a toy doll, then left him. He had never seen this place before, this miserable little cave tucked away from the dark clouds and the ice storms. Questions rattled in his head. How far from the slavers had he been taken? Would they know where he'd gone? Was it safe here?

Maybe not, Din considered, but stepping outside would be worse, with the ice barreling down on every exposed inch of dirt. He pushed onto his back, earning a stab of pain from the blaster wound in his knee. Jerking to grab it only reasserted the damage in his side and stomach. Din stilled for a moment, feeling pathetic. Even breathing felt uncomfortable. He looked down at himself; the clothes and his wounds under them had been left alone, the shrapnel still embedded. Most of the bleeding had seemed to stop with time. Moving might start it again, but Din wanted mobility, and would force it if he had to. Waiting here like a sitting porg would only give the slavers an advantage, should they manage to find him.

The pain ebbed, and he tried to sit up. Shifting onto his elbows was excruciating, but he held his breath, ground his teeth, and managed it. He shuddered as he finally exhaled. Even his vision felt fogged, but he tried to focus on a few pale shapes in the corner of the cave, shapes that might be animal bones, or maybe stormtrooper armor….

A fresh sting sent his hand to the shrapnel wound in his stomach. The metal piece was grinding against something under his skin, threatening to pierce further if he moved again. Din considered tugging it out, wondered if he would survive the blood loss that would follow. He gripped the exposed portion between his thumb and finger, pulling just slightly. The pressure eased. Only a few drops of blood began to pool around the wound.

Din stopped, wincing, and finally sat up. He didn't dare to pull the shrapnel further, not when he was most likely leagues away from the nearest bacta source. Sitting had become bearable. That was the most he could have hoped for.

Now to stand, he thought, though his injured leg seemed to hate the very idea of it. He held off for a moment, looking out at the storm. Ice still pelted the planet, but the general noise didn't seem as loud as before, so maybe it would let up soon. He wondered if the slavers had turned back when the storm arrived. Maybe now they would try to track him again. Thinking of it made him grab the cave wall and drag himself onto his feet.

The entrance to the cave stood several body-lengths away. Shoulder-against-rock, Din pushed forward. Hot trails of blood began to run down his leg, faster with every step. He paused to look, and swore at the state of his knee. The back of it was reopening further with every step.

Din dropped with his back to the wall. He fidgeted with his pant leg, already scraped and torn from the crash and subsequent ice storm. Tearing a piece long enough to bind the wound might work….

A loud rustle – a breath? – sounded from outside the cave. Din jumped, whirling to spot an enormous figure in the storm.

Reality struck him. No weapons, no cover, no way out. Plus three gruesome injuries that kept him practically immobile. They were forgotten momentarily, as adrenaline seized his muscles and sent him scrambling back from the opening.

The figure – vaguely man-shaped but far too large – lurched into the cave. Sheets of ice were dashed on its hide, and skittered across the cave floor. Silhouetted against the sky, Din could see only a dark, fearsome shape. He heard it breathing, snuffling, gibbering something that defied comprehension.

Din started screaming. No thought preceded the action; he had become a puppet of basic human instinct. Distantly, some piece of consciousness thought Wampa, and conjured old stories of republic outposts wiped by savage creatures. But all he could think on actively was a way out, a way away….

Away away away away

The creature seized him in one massive swipe, and held him still.

Author's Note:

-okay not sure if people besides luke and rey would have any idea what porgs are, but for the sake of funnies i thought it'd make a nice equivalent to the "sitting duck" idiom.

-din isn't really shown to scream his head off during bad situations, but i figure since this story happens over a decade prior to canon events, and he's less experienced, it's not as much of a stretch