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Snowball's Chance on Hoth

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From space, Hoth is a swirled blue and white marble. Nothing much to look at, and there's even less to see when Han touches down outside the new Alliance base, or what there is of it so far, in a swirling cloud of loose snow kicked up by the Falcon's jets.

In spite of the fact that the Falcon's main viewport is a solid wall of white, Luke is still half out of his seat, leaning forward and craning to see. He was doing that through the whole approach to the planet, too.

It's weird having the kid in the co-pilot seat instead of Chewie, but Chewie's halfway across the galaxy right now, acting as an ambassador of sorts between the Alliance and a rogue group of escaped Wookiee ex-slaves on a mining colony called Tuushik. Turns out Luke's pretty good at the basics, which Han figures he might've known from the way Luke handles that fighter. Still, it's going to be a while yet before he's willing to let Luke handle the Falcon's controls.

The fact that he's even considering it surprises him.

"That's a lot of snow," Luke says, leaning on the control panels.

"Watch where you put your hands."

Luke jerks his hand away from the controls, but his eyes are still fixed on the view that is slowly emerging from the white haze as the snow settles around them. It's an open, sweeping vista, with sharp-edged mountains hanging over them. Han has to admit it's a nice view. Sure, he's seen better. Kid's never been off Tatooine 'til just recently, though. Got to cut him a little slack.

"Don't forget your coat," Han says, locking down the controls and getting up.

Their brand new winter gear, freshly acquired on the trip out to Hoth, is stashed in the back. Han shakes out his parka, contemplating how much he hates ice planets. They're such a pain in the ass. Not quite as bad as swamp planets -- you can dress for cold, but you can't really dress for humidity. Still, give him a nice warm climate-controlled space station any day.

For what it's worth, Luke handles the winter gear without trouble, shrugging into the parka and leggings and stomping into the boots, pushing his goggles on top of his head as Han does with his own. Right now, it's what passes for daytime on sunny tropical Hoth, a balmy -30 Standard. It won't really hit dangerous temperatures until nighttime.

Apparently few of the Alliance vehicles work properly here, because of the bitter cold. Han's not really worried about the Falcon, at least not too much; he's weathered worse with the old girl. Still, he's looking forward to getting her into the hangar that is even now being hollowed out beneath the glacier by the Alliance construction crew. There's a low, distant thump of explosives, shaking the ground underfoot.

"Ready to go?" Luke asks, looking cheerful.

"No," Han says, dropping the ramp.

In a cloud of steam from the Falcon's warm interior, they exit into a frigid wind that seems to be sweeping straight down from the depths of space. Luke staggers a little, his eyes watering.

Nearby, work is proceeding apace on the new Rebel base. There are a number of hastily erected temporary warmup shelters, a few transports with white netting over them to protect them from the risk of Imperial scanners, and a lot of people in white winter gear working on the outer levels of the new Echo Base. They're using modified blasters to melt into the snow -- guns on the lowest, most broad-spectrum setting, turning the high-powered laser to a dull red heat ray. Han watches them for a minute before his attention is drawn by Luke, who is looking around in a way that reminds Han of the way he looked when they first got to Yavin IV. When his attention was drawn by all that green. Actually ... it's a lot like he looked on Yavin ...

"Have you ever seen snow before?"

"Of course I have," Luke says absently, staring around him with eyes slitted against the cold, wind, and the sun's reflection off the snow. ".... in holos."

"You've really never seen snow."

"You saw the planet I came from, right?"

Okay, he'll give the kid that. He's definitely been to more desolate places, but Tatooine is one dull, barren armpit of a planet. Even though parts of it must be cold enough to snow, there probably isn't enough water.

"Do they have snow on Correllia?" Luke asks.

"Parts of it," Han allows. "Always tried to avoid those parts as much as possible."

Luke glances at him like he isn't sure if Han's pulling his leg or not, which admittedly is a look Han gets a lot, and then crouches on the trampled, crusted snow around the Falcon's landing struts. He pokes at it, and then scoops up a handful, which sifts through his fingers.

"This is snow?" Luke says. He picks up another handful. It's light enough that some of the grains catch on the wind, swirling around his fingers.

"Yeah?" Han kicks at some of it. It shifts around his feet. Yep. Snow.

"Can't you ... make snowballs, and things?"

"Well, some places you can, sure." Han kicks at the snow again. It's grainy and dry. "There are different kinds of snow."

Luke looks crestfallen. "Ah. I ... yeah." He runs a hand through the snow, and stands up again. "I guess I didn't expect it to be quite so much like sand."

And sand is something a Tatooine native would know a thing or two about. This dry, granular snow is actually a lot like sand.

"You were expecting something different?"

"Maybe," Luke says. He shakes his head back and looks up at the clear blue dome of the sky, and smiles a little. "Not so much. It doesn't really matter, right?"

Han thinks about this and then struggles through knee-deep, very sandlike snow to the nearest construction crew. He taps the first handy heat-gun-wielding construction worker on the shoulder.

"Yeah?" she says, pushing her goggles on top of her head.

"Can I see that for a minute?"

Puzzled, she hands over the heat gun.

"Thanks," Han says, and slogs off with it.

"Hey!" she yells after him. "Get back here with that! I don't care if you're a war hero, you can't just take things!"

"I'll have it back in a tick," he says over his shoulder. "Take a break."

She makes a disgruntled noise and stomps off in the direction of the tarped-over warmup shelters. Reminds him a little of a certain princess, come to think of it. Maybe the Alliance recruits for temper.

"Making friends as usual?" Luke wants to know when Han gets back to him.

"Hey, everybody likes me." Han tests it out, fiddling with the settings until he figures out how to get the red beam to float over the snow, melting it gently.

Luke looks miserably cold, his nose red and running, but he comes closer anyway, gloved hands tucked under his arms. "What are you doing?"

"Testing a hunch." Han crouches down to scoop up a handful of half-melted snow. Yeah, just like he thought: softened by the heat gun, it sticks together beautifully. He rolls it experimentally in the more powdery snow, then tosses the white ball to Luke, and tries not to notice that the kid snatches it out of the air without actually touching it. "There you go. Your first snowball."

"Hey!" Luke's delight is incandescent. "How'd you do that?"

Too much time spent in space, or more accurately, on backwater planets where heat, water, and air are all at a premium. "Figured it won't stick together because it's too dry or too cold, or both. Warm it up a little, melt some water, and it gets gluey."

"Huh." Luke kneels down and squeezes a fistful of wet snow together, then rolls it up.

Han casually packs another snowball and tosses it at the back of Luke's head.

He honestly thinks Luke is going to notice it coming and bat it away, with those preternatural reflexes he has. Instead, the snowball splatters across the blond hair and Luke yelps so loudly that the closest of the construction crew look up hastily, a few of them drawing unmodified guns.

Han waves to them cheerily and turns back to Luke, who is glaring at him.

"It's traditional," Han says. "On planets with snow, I mean. I couldn't not."

"People on Tatooine don't hit visitors in the head with rocks, even though we have plenty of them," Luke mutters, rubbing his head.

"Really? Because, from what I've heard about Tatooine --" and that's as far as he gets before approximately half the snowbank hits him in the face.

He goes down hard, dropping the heat gun. "Hey!" he manages through a mouthful of snow. There's snow in his eyes and hair and down his collar, and all he can do for a moment is flail. The fact that he can hear Luke laughing his fool head off is not helping. Neither is the fact that he's pretty sure Luke didn't actually pick up the snow.

"I'm sorry," Luke says when Han manages to scrape enough snow out of his eyes to scowl at him. He really doesn't look sorry.

"That's cheating," Han says, trying to get snow out of his shirt.

"I thought you didn't believe in the Force."

Han begins packing another snowball. A very large one. Luke makes a noise like "eek!" and flees behind the Falcon's landing strut. Possibly on the assumption that Han won't want to damage his ship.

Possibly Han doesn't care.