I think I'm done editing; I'm finally slapping this one withe the "complete" tag. If you have any suggestions for something that could use a little more thought or work, I'd be happy to hear them! Hope you enjoy it, and if you do, review please! Thanks for reading :)
I don't know who she was, or her name, or anything about her; but I do know one thing: she held my hand.
The warm, soft features of her aging yet somehow flawless face were distorted by the tears flowing from my eyes. She was leaning over me, smiling sympathetically, a few strands of her graying hair escaping from the neat bun on the back of her head and floating against her cheek.
"It'll be all right," she said, her eyes never leaving my face.
I bit my lip and blinked in response, cringing as I heard the Chief Healer waft into the room behind me. I dug my head farther into the plush headrest of the otherwise unremarkable examination table, trying to escape the inevitable horror that I knew was coming.
Without a word, without even an acknowledgment to my presence, without a bit of advice or comfort or anything at all, the Healer positioned himself behind me, barely bending over my head. I cringed as I saw him pull the tweezers from the sterilization jar; I winced as he haphazardly dumped cleansing solution over my mangled and unidentifiable shoulder.
It was coming. Soon, so very soon. My hands balled into fists – but there was no one to fight here. I angled my head to watch him, but she tilted it back, so gently that I had no choice but to comply.
"Just close your eyes, sweetheart," she cooed, peeling my hand from the armrest and entwining it with her own. She squeezed my sweaty and shaking hand tenderly as I complied.
Then it came. The unbearable, horrendous, terrific pain that I somehow thought would never come. None of the meditation techniques in the galaxy would have eased that pain. I opened my mouth to cry out, but nothing except air escaped. She squeezed my hand again. "Shhh," she whispered, wiping the sweat and tears from my face with her sleeve.
Again. The awful pain, this time coupled with a wretched tearing sound that I knew was coming from my flesh – it was ripping. My back arched and I pulled my knees up, my toes curling inside my boots that seemed about to burst. I exhaled as I heard the removed shrapnel clank against a metal bin.
She cupped her remaining free hand over the one she already held as more tears rushed down my cheeks. "It's okay," she said. "It's okay to squeeze my hand."
And I did. I squeezed, and I squeezed, with everything I had in me, so hard I thought she'd pull back, I thought she'd try to free her hand and break herself from the death grip. But she never did. She just squeezed right back, her hands somehow managing to be cool and warm at the same time, without being either clammy or sweaty. Just…soothing.
Finally, somehow, it ended. I hadn't realized it, and my eyes were still sealed tight when she brushed a hand across my face. "Ahsoka," she said softly, "it's over."
My eyes popped open and I squinted in the bright light, trying to readjust. I glanced at my shoulder, which was freshly bandaged in white and throbbing lightly. Beside it was a metal container, dozens of small shards of metal scattered about in a mess of blood and tissue. I felt something pulsating against my wrist and realized that it wasn't my own beating pulse – it was hers. She was still holding my hand, still smiling, still gazing at me with a look that could only be described as motherly.
"Where's Anakin?" I croaked, looking around the room. But I already knew the answer. He had gone back to the battle, to be certain. While it upset me that he wasn't with me, I couldn't blame him – I would have done the same thing were I in his position. Besides, he had left me in good hands. Literally.
"You were very brave," she said, leaning over to give me a gentle hug. I embraced her with my good arm and dug my face into her immaculate nurse's scrub, the fresh smell of it reminding me faintly of flowers and light rain during spring.
Spring. The thought of it made me want to get off of this Force-forsaken, forever-winter nightmare of a planet even sooner.
"You should try to rest," she suggested. I obeyed without hesitation. The fight earlier had exhausted me, and then that operation….I was surprised that my eyes were even capable of staying open.
I nodded sleepily, and noticed as I allowed my weary eyes to close that she was still beside me, still holding my hand. I heard the cry of one of the hundreds of injured clones from an adjacent room, surprised that she wasn't running to help the already understaffed medical squad. But she never left my side, staying faithfully with me, hand pressed softly against my own, until sleep took me.
It was weeks later when the report reached us: "Our medical center's just been hit!" One clone announced, rushing into the control room where Anakin, myself and Captain Rex were leaning over a hologram of the Separatist base, arguing over the best method of attack. My heart skipped a beat.
Anakin jumped around instantly. "What did you say?"
The clone, panting and bending over, straightened. "Sir, Commander Bly just sent the news; the Separatists have bombed our medical center."
I'm not sure why, but my mind suddenly raced back to the day of my injury. I saw the smiling face of the old Healer, I saw the age-lines on her otherwise perfect complexion, and – what surprised me the most – I felt the warmth of her hand around mine, with the comfort and peace that accompanied it.
"Survivors?" Rex demanded, taking a huge step forward. I felt a tinge of fear for Rex; half of his team was in the med center, all injured during the same explosion that had wounded me. My lightsaber had proved useless against thousands of tiny, metal projectiles, and apparently, the clones' armor had been just as ineffective.
The trooper hesitated before answering. "None reported, sir."
Funeral pyres littered the ground around the razed med center for what seemed like kilometers. For the most part, clones lay on top them, some of their bodies so charred or distorted that they had to be covered with sheets.
I walked through the endless ranks of them, Rex at my side, his expression hardened and solemn. He had lost six guys in the explosion – six guys that were never given a chance. They were more than clones; they were friends, comrades, brothers to us all. And the loss was excruciating.
I stopped when we walked past a pyre with a small, human female's body resting serenely atop the platform. There was no nameplate for this one; no flowers or little trinkets or letters. Just her anonymous, somewhat mysterious body.
"Commander?" Rex inquired softly.
I didn't answer. I just stared at this woman who had meant so much to me, who had been that comfort when I needed it, who provided love and care and understanding when I was on my own. And I didn't even know her name.
"Ahoska," Rex asked again, his voice barely a whisper. "Friend of yours?"
No, she was much more than that. For a moment, she had been a mother, she had been a sister and a best friend and an angel. She had shown more care for me in one small gesture than anyone ever had in my whole life. More than Anakin, or any of my friends at the Temple, or Rex, even. How was that possible?
The funeral pyres suddenly lit simultaneously, setting the dark night ablaze with violent streaks of red and flashes of orange. The corners of Rex's lips quirked in an understanding smile, the scar beneath his lip stretched, his eyes seemed to brighten when I grabbed his cold, armored hand and pressed it against my thigh. She gave me something special, I thought. The best way to honor her is to pass that on. And Rex definitely needed the warmth, the comfort, the love that my small gesture would provide.
I finally answered his question, my eyes never leaving her perfectly tranquil body in the midst of all that chaos, just as her eyes had never left me during my struggle. I tightened my grip on Rex's solid hand and smiled.
"She held my hand."