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Cold Fire

Chapter Text

There was a thud as a small green Jedi with a gimmer stick fell off one of the armless banquet chairs in the silence right after the broadcast of the ceremony on Corellia finished.

"Master Yoda--" the nearby recently elected Chancellor Palpatine put plenty of concern into his voice, as after all it wouldn't do for the Republic and Jedi leaders not to present a united front to the people. At least not yet.

"I think--" said Plo Koon uneasily, "that he may be suffering an anaphylactic reaction."

"To what? I observed no insects, and we are all fine." Shaak Ti pointed out.

Palpatine waited a beat longer than was strictly prudent for health outcomes, then pointed out, "I do believe an anaphylactic reaction requires immediate medical treatment."

"So it does!" Plo Koon, who must not have been trained in first aid, was galvanized into action at this statement, comming for medical droids and moving to levitate the Jedi grandmaster out of the room.

---

"TOO LATE: Medical Triage Fails Jedi Grandmaster Yoda!" the headline blared on the 5 am holo news. Peevishly, Palpatine was deeply tempted to remain in bed for another half hour or so, considering the late night that preceded this morning, instead of facing this unforseen windfall that had fallen into his lap. It looked as if it would be messy.

But the comm buzzed the Naboo priority signal and in the interest of maintaining political face, he simply had to address whatever it was his home world had chosen to throw at him.

"Oh--Chancellor, my deepest apologies, I failed to account for the time difference." It was Queen Amidala, in simple garb. "I simply wished to consult you on the matter of mourning Master Yoda, since the Jedi so recently helped Naboo."

"Forgive me, my queen," he said with affected humility, "I have only just awoken and had slept, presuming modern medicine would work its usual positive outcomes on the Grandmaster."

"Perhaps--" Padme's voice faltered, a sign of uncertainty she would only show in conference with her confidants, "I should allow you to catch up on the news and expect a call in return?"

"Yes, that seems prudent. Farewell, my queen," and he terminated the call.

No sooner had he done so than the private comm he maintained as Darth Sidious and used as a sort of doorbell for certain ...friends, buzzed. Who could that be at this hour? He scanned the text summary of the headline as he waited to see if the unexpected guest would reconsider and discovered that Yoda, due to extended oxygen deprivation, had fallen into a coma and was not expected to wake. What he had reacted to was unclear; the article confirmed that no one else attending the banquet had experienced any similar reactions.

In any case he had better get dressed and face the galaxy with a good cup of caff. The office protocol droid addressed him as he exited his bedchambers, "Master Dooku here to see you, sir." Ah. Yan was a long time friend and customary early riser, also probably the source of the doorbell.

"I'll receive him in the parlor as soon as I've gotten caff," he informed the droid, a little more bluntly than he would have in more wakefulness.

---

Master--no, acting Grandmaster Mace Windu was procrastinating. The kid from Tatooine, much too old to train except for his old, late friend Qui-Gon's stubborn streak, was not a priority to the Order. Really it didn't matter that one Anakin Skywalker had woken the wing of the temple with a piercing scream at all of 5:45 in the morning. Even if the boy intrigued Mace. Some of the residents were nocturnal and trying to get to sleep about now, but it was not policy for the council to be dealing with unexpected noises in the temple. Last year a training toy dropped by a youngling had jammed in the treads of a cleaning droid and caused an ungodly noise as the droid exploded, but no council member had dealt with the inconvenience.

The fact was, last night when Yoda had been ...taken ill, he had been having a peaceful dinner with Knight Depa Billaba, his former Padawan, in the cafeteria, talking about nothing of more consequence than a youngling she had her eye on for a future Padawan. He had gone to sleep reminiscing about some of her Padawan mischief and the younglings at his presentation earlier in the day. Jedi did not grieve, and he wasn't trying to, but he had been seeking out little bits of peace and hope ever since Qui-Gon hadn't come back from Naboo. Waking at 3am to Master Tyvokka informing him that he was now acting Grandmaster of the Jedi Order of the Republic had been nowhere on his agenda.

And aside from Yoda himself, the very first thing that had been foisted upon Mace when he went into the council chambers at 4:15, anticipating a meeting as soon as the other attendees of last night's banquet could be expected to wake (shocking as it was, and disturbing to Mace's routine, Yoda's situation did not actually constitute an emergency), was a Jedi leaving the Order.

He had thought Yoda had plans for trying to encourage his own former Padawan, and Qui-Gon's teacher, back into the fold, but Mace had no idea what they were. Frankly, given the sudden loss of Yoda ("there is no emotion," but...) and his own failure to react quite appropriately to the loss of their loose cannon Qui-Gon Jinn, he had no idea how to approach what had to be an emotional reaction on the part of the older man. He was fairly certain some people would suggest giving Dooku a new Padawan, but that seemed unwise.

He didn't have ready ideas for calming Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon's Padawan's now Padawan, but that seemed an easier puzzle than the political fiasco that was unexpectedly becoming Grandmaster, or the nearly unthinkable Leaving of a Master. By comparison, an upset, screaming Padawan seemed extremely normal, even if it wasn't.

---

"My old friend," Dooku greeted him uneasily, and Palpatine mentally reprimanded himself for lacking the foresight to have tea to offer him.

"And you are mine; what is so grave that you come to see me at this hour?" Palpatine was not customarily given to interactions at this hour; he might be awaking by now, but (as Dooku did, if he understood) he preferred to spend a solitary hour in easy problems before receiving guests or exiting his apartments.

Dooku sighed, and still standing before him explained. "I wished--before everyone demands your opinions and advise on the situation with Yoda--to tell you that I went ahead with my intention to announce my departure from the Order. Palpatine, I am no longer 'Knight' or 'Master' Dooku. I have--left near all I have ever known.

"But, the situation with Yoda has affected me more than I thought," he admitted, a certain unsteadiness in his voice. "I suppose no one thought of us losing the head of the whole order." Typically composed and gentlemanly, Dooku now fidgeted. Palpatine thought he understood the man's situation, though differently than he had explained it; it had been bizarrely decimating and yet freeing to rid himself of Cosinga, and he loved and ardently hated the prospect of Damask dying one of these days.

Surprising himself, the Supreme Chancellor of the Galaxy stepped forward and extended his arms in invitation. He hadn't embraced anyone for non-ceremonial purposes (or without heavy robes between them and just now he was practically in undress by that standard) in decades, but he was fairly certain it would help Dooku in this troubled hour.

And the new ex-Jedi enfolded himself, with all the desperation of a starving man seeking food, in Palpatine's arms, and clung to him for a long moment. For his part, the intimacy was surprisingly wonderful, again like food after its long denial. "I would have sought out Qui-Gon for this, if I'd thought of needing it and if--" Dooku said hoarsely. If he wasn't dead, was clearly the implied conclusion.

"In any case I cannot keep you, but"--there was an odd note of being kept back from minor triumph intermingled with the tumalt of grief--"I imagined you'd want to be the first to know."