Ahsoka fidgeted in the skycar as Skyguy stared forward, grimly fighting Coruscant traffic with the same intensity that he used for blasting Confederates out of the skies. Judging by her master’s grumbling, this mission would be considerably worse than any they'd ever had before, even the one when she'd fallen into a nest of Gundarks. Twice.
"Of all the lousy things to do," Anakin said, oblivious, continuing the rant he had started from the moment they left the Council chambers and was continuing well into their way to – wherever Anakin was taking them. She’d learned over her thus far month-long apprenticeship not to ask questions, not when he was this mad at the Council; he’d said something about taking her to see a senator, and she hadn’t asked who. She’d had to jog just to catch up.
"It's not that bad, Skyguy," Ahsoka said, rolling her eyes and trying to keep him from completely blowing his top. "It's just a dinner."
Anakin looked at her for a long moment; Ahsoka was pretty sure that it was only his Chosen-One Jedi reflexes that kept them from accidents, judging by the amount of angry honking.
"It's a peace conference, Ahsoka," Anakin said, his voice bitter ice. "That means a bunch of muckity-mucks from Telex-Delcor are going to be staring at us, waiting for us to slip up in some minute, unimportant way, and using it as an excuse to continue the war."
"They're not going to throw us out if we put our dal'mni in the zur'bash side, Master." Ahsoka rolled her eyes. What was the big deal? Sure it was disappointing that nothing was going to get blown up - hopefully - but it was a nice change of pace from their last mission. It didn't involve freezing her butt off on some ice planet, plus it gave her a chance to get a good meal and, if she was really lucky, iced tabat , so - Ahsoka couldn't imagine it being so bad.
"They could have at least sent a politician with us, then we could have at least...Well, it doesn't matter. They didn't." Anakin fussed with his gloves as he abruptly dove into a parking area; funny, she thought; if they were going to see a senator, they'd have gone to the Senate building, and yet here Anakin was, parking in what was very obviously an apartment tower. 500 Republica, it said in glittering writing on marble that she was pretty sure was more expensive than anything in the Jedi temple, and that in itself took some doing.
"Where are we?" Ahsoka asked, looking around the parking lot for clues. There were few, other than that she noticed most of the skycars were newer models, and many were luxury ones - whoever lived here had some scratch, alright.
"This way," Anakin said, grabbing her hand and pulling her forward. "Don't dawdle."
He seemed uncomfortable, she noted; Anakin ran a hand through his hair with his free hand before they'd made it to the elevator, and then began fussing with his robes nearly the moment they’d stepped inside. Ahsoka bit back the urge to ask him why he was so nervous, but she wondered. She knew Obi-Wan didn’t like politicians, and sometimes Skyguy grumped about it, too.
Focusing herself inward, she tried to center herself and stop from asking the questions out loud. She would learn soon enough.
"Nice job centering yourself, Snips,” Skyguy said quietly. She beamed. Meditation was always a struggle for her, and given that Master Anakin seemed to have problems sticking with it himself, it meant something.
The elevator opened and he pulled her with him, dragging her down the hall with a grim sense of purpose. She swallowed, suddenly nervous, when Skywalker stopped, abruptly, in front of a door. He opened his palm for a moment over the door as if he was going to wave some kind of entry code, then froze, and Ahsoka bit her cheek to keep from laughing. Poor Master must have been more tired than she thought if he even dreamed he could afford anything like this.
Skyguy knocked, repeatedly, and just as Ahsoka was going to say that perhaps their mystery host wasn’t home, the monitor on the wall next to them sprung to life.
“Anakin?” The Naboo senator popped up on the vid screen. Full color, that was nice, though at this point Ahsoka wasn’t surprised by the niceties on display. The woman on the screen giggled, sounding oddly girlish for a Senator. Ahsoka wasn’t surprised by her outfit, which was, as usual for Senators, ornate – a floral motif, a green dress with golden leaves and vines that Ahsoka was sure cost more than her lightsaber, especially once the golden tiara of ivy leaves was factored in. It did seem a bit formal for an unannounced visit. But she supposed Senators had enough meetings it was not unthinkable they had caught her between ones. “Why don’t you just use the – “
“I’m afraid I’m not here for a social call, ma’am,” Skywalker said; he kept his eyes low, which was also odd for Skyguy. He stepped back slightly; judging by the way the Senator’s eyes widened, the camera also panned and had shown her that Anakin wasn’t alone.
But why on earth would she be expecting to see him by himself?
“Hi,” Ahsoka said, awkwardly, feeling very much like the fifth wheel on a bantha cart.
“You’ve brought your padawan, I see,” Senator Amidala said; a shadow of something passed her face, but Ahsoka couldn’t quite catch it. “I’ll let you in, one moment.”
Skyguy glanced over at her, but said nothing, brushing some imaginary lint off of his shoulder at last. Ahsoka was just about to ask exactly what was up with his strange behavior when her master brightened considerably, smiling as the Senator opened the door.
She nodded to them both as they entered. Anakin awkwardly slung an arm around her shoulder and patted her, in a way that was so unnatural that Ahsoka filed it away to make fun of him later. Honestly. He looked like he was afraid he would crush her.
“Always a joy to see you, Anakin,” the Senator said, bowing slightly. She then turned toward Ahsoka, holding her hand out in a perfectly graceful opening.
“You must be Ahsoka,” she said, smiling. Ahsoka couldn’t help but be charmed and shook her hand. “Anakin has told me so much about you.”
“Good things, I hope. It’s…nice to meet you, Senator Amidala,” she said. She wondered how often the senator talked to her master; she’d never seen Anakin talk to her, but then Anakin often disappeared from the temple, and Ahsoka was suddenly aware that perhaps her master had a life beyond the walls of the Jedi: friends that had nothing to do with the war. It was...odd. She couldn’t imagine making friends outside of the order, to deal with someone who couldn’t touch the force at all - but then, she supposed it wasn’t that unusual. Obi-Wan had taken her and Anakin out to Dex’s enough.
But it was hard to imagine they had anything in common, Skyguy and the Senator.
“And you, as well. Please, call me Padmé.” She smiled. “I was just about to order dinner – if you’d join me?”
“Can we?” Ahsoka beamed. She wasn’t against the Temple’s food, mind, but anything the Senator brought was bound to be fancy and tasty, and way more expensive than the temples relatively bland fare. Having to make meals suitable to the vast variety of the universe’s sentient life was - well, restrictive.
“Ahsoka – that’s….” Anakin started, but the Senator — Padmé — shot him a look, one that said, simply: let her have it. “That’ll be fine.”
Ahsoka decided she liked the Senator after all.
Padmé wasted no time, ordering what Ahsoka could only imagine was a king’s bounty in naboo dishes. She’d never had naboo food, but words like lepyo, renu, fege, shaak, and ezo held tantalizing deliciousness from her imagination alone.
“So, what brings two Jedi to my door?” Amidala said, brushing her hands and moving through the kitchen as if having two Jedi around was the most natural thing in the world.
“Well, let me tell you, you’re not going to believe what the Council did — “ Anakin said and, sensing an opportunity to cut him off at the pass and hopefully avoid a repeat of Anakin’s lecture that had consumed their entire drive over, Ahsoka was quick to cut him off at the pass.
“The Council is sending us to a state dinner on Muunilinst,” Ahsoka interrupted. “Another Outer Rim deployment. One of the Banking Clan’s subfamilies – the Telex-Delcors – wants to change sides. The Council is sending us to get that done.”
“What she said,” Anakin said, waving his hand. “I thought you might help, since for some reason the Council wants us to fail, by not providing any diplomatic corps – “
“Say no more,” Padmé said, holding up a hand. “I’ve already got notes on the Telex-Delcor corporation. They’ve been hinting at wanting the war to end for quite a while. Give me ten minutes and I’ll have everything set up – oh, and be a dear, Ani, and get the door if the food comes?” She moved closer to Skyguy, and then reeled back, as if shot. Odd. Skywalker could get a bit musky – all humans did – but he wasn’t that bad.
“Uh, Sure,” he said. He carefully walked around to the dining area, taking a seat in one of the chairs. Ahsoka followed, feeling slightly awkward.
“This is a nice place, isn’t it, Skyguy?”
“Padmé’s place? Yeah, it’s nice, I guess,” Skywalker said, shrugging. He leaned over and dove one hand under the cushions, and Ahsoka hissed; she didn’t know a lot about humans, but she knew that rooting around under your host’s furniture was considered rude .
“Uh, Skyguy, are you sure you should be uh —”
“Found it!” Skywalker grinned and held up his prize, a datapad, then carefully laid it on the table. Ahsoka wanted to ask how he knew it was there, but was robbed of the opportunity to, as Padmé grabbed it, inserted a datachip, and handed it to Ahsoka. Before Ahsoka could even ask what it was, Padmé was gone, grabbing two more datapads and putting chips in both.
“Hey, uh, Skyguy – “ She tried to figure out a way to asking how well he knew the senator, but there was a knock on the door. Her question went unasked as Anakin stood to let in a droid with, frankly, more food than the Jedi temple ever served them on a good night.
Ahsoka arose, helping Anakin lay out all kinds of dishes. The lepyo turned out to be a rice dish, aromatic and heavily laden with spices that made her nose twitch. Renu was some sort of vegetable, delicately sautéed in some kind of white, sweet-smelling sauce. The fege was a type of aquatic lifeform; shaak a cut of some kind of red meat. The ezo , a tableau of sweet fruits, looked most tempting.
Padmé smiled and looked at them both, then handed Ahsoka a plate. Ahsoka didn’t need to be asked again, and picked up one of the sweet, purple-looking fruits before Master Anakin made a funny noise in his throat.
Padmé was handing him a dish, their hands just lightly touching. Ahsoka paused, watching as master took seemingly ages to grip his dish and pull away. She rolled her eyes. Skyguy was being so dorky today, it was ridiculous. She wondered if perhaps he was right and the Council had wanted Anakin and her to fail – surely holding onto someone’s hand like that was rude.
“Hm,” Padmé said; her cheeks flushed a bright pink, and something roiled in Ahsoka’s stomach; a sense of unease that had nothing to do with the food on the table. There was something seriously weird about how Master Skywalker treated the senator.
“Okay, first of all, the first thing you need to know about Muuns – their society is excessively polite and bound to custom.” Padmé said, dumping a large portion of lepyo onto her plate, and, after a few seconds pause, passing the serving plate to Master Anakin before he'd even said if he wanted it.
“Great,” he groaned, dolloping out a large portion. “You can see why they put us on it.”
“Maybe they want us to learn something?” Ahsoka said; she was a padawan, after all. And Anakin had only recently been named a knight when she had become his padawan a few months earlier.
“I must confess I am not too happy about it either.” Padmé sighed. “I do not like when they send you out there. It's so far away…If anything happened…” The Senator looked down, crumpling her napkin in her hand.
Anakin looked up, visibly jostled by the Senator’s distress, and shook his head, giving her his best – I’m-Skyguy-and-I’m-bullshitting-this-but-it’ll-work-because-I-gotta-make-it-work smile. “We’ll be okay, Padmé. It’s just a state dinner.”
“Yes,” she said, and instantly, she recovered, shaking her head and moving into her food. “Even so. You must be careful. The Muun have more ceremonies based on meals than any other.”
“Of course they do.” Skyguy groaned.
“Senator-er, Padmé – what kind of ceremonies would they be observing? And since they’re breaking away from the banking clan – isn’t it possible they’re not going to be big, ceremonial types?”
“Good questions,” Padmé said, visibly brightening. Ahsoka was beginning to see why Skyguy came here: Padmé was clearly in her element. “The truth is, I’m not sure. It may be, but you’ll have to figure such things out on the fly. Fortunately, Muun’s always pray over a meal for at least one hour so you’ll have plenty of time to figure out if they’re adhering to tradition or not.”
Ahsoka hoped that these weren’t traditional Muun. It was hard to imagine iced tabat lasting for an hour. “So what does this entail, this er, prayer?”
“Simple, and easy. They simply stay silent and staring at their food for an hour while counting the names of their forefathers. Once the Muun with the longest lineage is finished and begins eating, the entire court can.”
“You’re so smart,” Anakin said, beaming between bites of rice. Ahsoka waited for him to continue since she doubted Skyguy was just going to give compliments and leave, but evidently, that was exactly what Skyguy was going to do: he tore into his food with a passion that left no room for speaking.
“How do we know which Muun has the longest lineage?”
Padmé frowned and opened her datapad, shifting through various pages. “You said it was Telex-Delcors’s board?”
“Yeah,” Anakin said, then reached up and stole a bit of fruit from the table. Skyguy, she noted, had never even bothered to turn on the datapad at his side, instead leaning over Padmé’s to look at what she was looking at. Even though Padmé had sent copies to both their datapads – perhaps he hadn’t noticed?
A variety of Muun’s filtered through Ahsoka’s screen; she watched as Padmé input different criteria, and was impressed at how deep the Senator’s cataloging efforts had gone. “You’re really good at this,” Ahsoka said, and wondered if perhaps Anakin would let her come over here to get a few lessons in this databasing – surely it would be helpful, after the war.
If there ever was an end to the war.
Padmé continued filtering until only two Muun were left on the screen. Ahsoka wasn’t great at telling Muun ages, but they looked older – their skin was more cracked, their eyes more wan. “It looks like it’s either going to be CEO Lak Pan or CFO Tix Rulidan. Which is fortunate, as they’ll be wearing marks of their station.”
Padmé blew up a picture of one of the muun as Ahsoka dove into her rice dish. She watched as Padmé manipulated it until 4 stars on the sleeve were visible. “Muun’s always wear a slash that denotes their level of service. One is lower level – children, basic administrative services, grunts, etc. Two is basic management – HR staff, IT, anything that manage some form of a business. Three is someone who makes money or deals with money – accountants, day traders; four is for the top honchos, and it’s limited to just major decision makers. They’ll likely be the only two there with that kind of slash, so look for it.”
“Man, I wish you could come with us,” Anakin said, and Ahsoka looked up, surprised.
“Me too,” she said, and Ahsoka detected the same pale, pink blush on Padmé’s cheeks. But before she could comment on it, it was gone, replaced by Padmé looking over to Ahsoka.
“How familiar are you with binary?” She cocked her head toward Anakin. “I know this gear-head knows it pretty well, but – “
“I’m alright,” she said, frowning. “Maybe not Skyguy level for on-the-fly conversions, but I’ve hacked my way into some programs written in it before.”
“Alright, that’s good. It’ll give you a start. The entire Muun language is based on it.” Padmé looked at her with deadly seriousness and raised one eyebrow.Ahsoka realized, with cold horror, what exactly Padmé was suggesting they do.
“Wait – can’t we rely on translators?” Ahsoka squeaked. “And aren’t they going to speak Basic?! And – And – how can you know Muun?”
“They may well use Basic talking to you or Ani….kin,” Padmé said, glancing toward Anakin after a slightly too long pause. She’d called him that nickname before, Ahsoka remembered, and that too was hard to understand - an odd nickname for someone as big and strong as Skyguy. “But they’ll talk to one another in their own language, and you can bet they’ll be sure you won’t be able to translate it. You don’t need to be fluent, but – I can teach you some words. My …old friend, Nash, he was raised by Muuns. We were close enough I – picked up some words.”
She and Anakin shared a look then; Ahsoka couldn’t translate them but knew they were, in a word, complicated . She made a note to ask what had happened to Padmé’s friend from Anakin later.
With a deep sigh, Ahsoka pushed away her meal and picked up her datapad, switching it into input mode so she could write notes. “Alright. Let’s get to it. Show me what you got.”
And so she did.
Padmé didn’t show mercy on either of them; Anakin was chastised over his slow tongue-rolls (which, evidently, were the height of laziness to a Muun), and Ahsoka learned that the word um had seventeen different meanings, none of which were the equivalent of the word in basic, and some of which were, incredibly, vulgar.
This, sad to say, seemed to be Anakin’s favorite part of the course, his eyes heavy and dark as Padmé described the rather-colorful act that um evidently signified if said with a high and light sigh. Ahsoka made a note not to go around sighing much on Muunilist.
They studied until their eyes were all drooping; it wasn’t until Anakin finally put his head on the table in the middle of a treatise on how um in a low tone meant buy exactly 600 shares and uh in a high tone meant sell 900 shares before Padmé paused, looked around them.
“Ah. I do believe we might be at our limits for today.” Padmé didn’t even sound tired , and for the first time Ahsoka actually had some appreciation for politicians. She’d clearly been working on this for a while. “How long until you ship out?”
“About three days,” Anakin said. Padmé pursed her lips at that, then turned to Ahsoka.
“Can you and Ani come back tomorrow and perhaps part of the next day? I think I can get you up to speed – and maybe get some more concrete notes on Muun in my datapad kit so you guys can take a copy to study on the way – wait, can you even go to Muunilist?”
“Not officially.” Anakin’s lip twitched; Ahsoka had a feeling that Anakin might not have divulged that if she hadn’t asked. “We’re meeting on a nearby moon, Pon Morta. Neutral ground.”
“I see.” Padmé smiled at Ahsoka. “I suppose it will be quite different from your other training. Anakin has mentioned it’s very….violent, so far.”
“Never a dull moment with Skyguy.” Ahsoka winked. “Thanks for the food, Padmé. It was delicious. I can help you clean up, if you’d like?” She reached over to Anakin and grabbed his plate, but he seemed to barely be paying attention to her.
“Of course,” Padmé said, almost an afterthought. She handed Ahsoka her plate and smiled. “Anakin and I will gather the leftovers. The kitchen is to your left.”
“Thanks.” Ahsoka took the plates and heard Anakin rather quickly gathering leftovers. She could hear him and Padmé conversing as a low hum over the running water, but paid little attention the formless words, paying extra attention in getting the dishes clean. The Force knew she couldn’t afford to replace them, judging by the rest of the Apartment.
Fortunately, Jedi had good reflexes.
She put them into a dish rack and turned off the water. The words became understandable the second the water cut off – and, somehow, she was the topic of conversation.
“I hope you don’t mind Ahsoka being here,” Master Skywalker was saying, and Ahsoka bit back the urge to storm in there and demand to know why padwans shouldn’t be present. It was a natural part of her apprenticeship! But it was not the Jedi way to raise a voice against one’s master in public; Ahsoka bit her lip.
“Of course not,” Padmé said. “She’s a nice girl. Clever, too.”
“I’m proud of her,” Anakin’s voice was quiet, but still obviously full of pride. “She’s been really quick to pick up things, on the battlefield. Very smart.”
Ahsoka crept forward, pleased to see the smile on Anakin’s face. “I like her a lot. She’ll make an unbelievable Jedi, someday.”
“Of course,” Padmé was smiling too, and wrapped her arms around Anakin in a hug that Ahsoka realized, dumbly, was anything but friendly.
“When I think about our kids, I hope they’ll be like her,” Anakin whispered. Ahsoka’s brain short-circuited, the same sentence playing out multiple times but failing to quite reach her brain.
And then Padmé kissed him, square on the mouth.
Ahsoka felt numb; she gasped and pulled back, staring in shock as the two kissed. That was – that was not close, not like Jedi were meant to be close. That was – something else. And children ? Ahsoka didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about human courtship rituals, but she knew well enough that it implied a far-more-than-platonic relationship. A forbidden relationship.
“Kriff!” She whispered.
“Kids?” Padmé smiled and booped – booped ! – Skyguy’s nose. “Aren’t you putting the bantha ahead of the cart?”
Skyguy shrugged, a lazy half-smile on his face. “I like kids.”
They were both quiet, almost deathly so, and Ahsoka was afraid to take even a step forward. Kriff, what would Obi-Wan say? What would Master Yoda say? But – should she tell them? To tell them was to betray Anakin, but this was surely a betrayal of the order, wasn’t it?
She thought of all the things that had seemed odd over the meal: the blushes, the forbidden glances, the stupid amount of Anakin being a total slack-jawed gibbon – oh yes, this was the cause.
Skyguy was in love with a Senator. And the Senator loved him too!
And it was just – it wasn’t right, but, looking at Skyguy, grinning like an idiot while holding onto Padmé – it wasn’t wrong, either.
She took a deep breath and coughed, loudly . The two lovebirds split apart in seconds, both looking a bit scandalized. Ahsoka waited a few seconds to open the door, then walked in as loudly as possible.
“Hey Skyguy, Padmé.” She grinned, and tried to make it look like nothing was wrong, even if everything inside of her was screaming kriff kriff kriff. “Thanks for helping us, Padmé. I look forward to learning more about the Muun tomorrow with you.”
“I’m looking forward, too,” Padmé said, and took two steps forward, holding out her hands and squeezing Ahsoka’s. “And it was lovely to meet you.”
“You too.” Ahsoka squeezed her hands warmly before moving toward the door. “Let’s go, Skyguy.”
“Yeah.” Anakin hugged Padmé fiercely, then turned toward the door. A few seconds later, they were gone.
It wasn’t until they got to the elevator that Ahsoka found it in herself to exhale.
“So, the Senator, she’s nice,” Ahsoka said, breaking an uneasy silence as they rode back home from the Padmés fancy digs.
“Yeah,” Anakin said, in a heavy sigh. “I like her a lot.”
No kriffing bantha shit , Ahsoka thought, but said instead, “I think she likes you too, Skyguy.”
“Really?” He sounded – careful . He looked over at her, Anakin Skywalker thousand mile patented stare glaring at her.
“Yeah,” she smiled. “She llliiiiiikes you.”
Anakin rolled his eyes, but smiled. “You’re reading too much holo-trash, Padawan.”
He glanced over at her, and Ahsoka realized it was now or never. She could laugh it off and pretend she’d never seen what she had seen. She could go to Master Yoda, and they could – they could talk to him –
But then she thought of him and Padmé, his silly dorky moves, her peaceful grins, and realized – well, maybe it was different. But when had Skyguy ever played by the rules?
“I think you should go for it,” she said softly, “if the situation ever comes up.”
Anakin hit the brakes so hard that Ahsoka nearly jostled forward. “What?”
“Just – keep your mind open, Skyguy. I won’t tell.” She winked over at him. “She’s way out of your league, so – you should be lucky if she even looks at you.”
He burst out laughing then, straight out laughing, and Ahsoka was almost afraid because he laughed so hard he cried. “Are…you okay, Skyguy?”
“Well, you’re right about one thing, Snips.” He said, wiping tears from his eyes as he went forward. “She’s way out of my league.”
They rode the rest of the way in a semi-comfortable silence, but when they pulled into the Jedi’s skycar lot, he patted her back, reassuring and solid. It didn’t change anything, Ahsoka decided; Skyguy was still her master, after all.
And besides, maybe she could learn some good tricks from Padmé, too.
She doubted Anakin would complain if they wound up going over there more often.
“Worried about Muunilist?” Anakin asked, glancing over at her. “You seem to have something on your mind.”
“No, just thinking - maybe when we’re not deployed, we could go spend more time with Padmé, from time to time?” Ahsoka asked, putting on her best smile. “She seems to know a lot.”
“She does,” he said, and once more he turned that full stare on her. A moment passed between them unsaid, then Anakin smiled.
“Sure,” he said. “I think Padmé would like that.”
“Me too,” she said, and she didn’t miss the small grin that settled on his face.
Everything, Ahsoka decided, was going to be fine.