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Barriss steps into the club, holding back a grimace at the way she is instantly accosted by noise and smells and bodies. Her eyes scan the room casually for a good vantage point from which to people watch and keep an eye out for her contact.

“You’ll know them when you see them,” is all she has to go on for the person she’s supposed to make contact with, which is both irritating and extraordinarily stressful. Barriss breathes through the flicker of anxiety that provokes, and tries to release some of the tension in her chest. She wouldn’t have been assigned this mission if she wasn’t capable of seeing it through to completion, so she’ll have to have faith in her own skills and her ability to adapt and follow the guidance of the force if anything goes south.

She forces her chin up and shoulders back, and walks as confidently as she’s able towards a table that’s out of the way enough that she won’t have a stranger to her back, but not so much so that it would incite suspicion. The floor is sticky beneath her chunky lace up boots, and she pays special attention to making sure her footsteps aren’t as quiet as they’d normally be.

Barriss did winged eyeliner specifically for the confidence boost it gives her, and thank goodness for that because she has never felt more out of place in her life. It's hard work to keep her hands relaxed at her side; they twitch minutely with the urge to stuff them in the pockets of her synthleather jacket, but she manages to restrain the impulse, reaching her intended table and smoothly taking a seat.

She is deeply regretting her decision not to search up the club beforehand on the holonet, because all the dancers are Togruta, and she really could have used some mental preparation for that fact.

Her eyes are drawn unwillingly to the stage, heartbeat picking up at a flash of familiar orange-red, before she shakes herself, and shrugs it off as ludicrous. She hasn’t seen Ahsoka in years, just because she’s in a club with Togruta dancers doesn’t mean she’d see her, especially not on stage; Barriss needs to get her head screwed on straight and focus on the mission at hand. Except—

Oh no. It can’t be. But she’d recognize those markings anywhere. There's an elegance to her now that Ahsoka hadn’t quite grown into yet at 18 when they’d last seen each other, but it’s undeniably her. Barriss doesn’t think there exists an iteration of this galaxy where she wouldn’t recognize Ahsoka.

She's stretched into one long sinuous line, circling the pole with the sort of effortless sensuality that Barriss both envies and has come to terms with never possessing. Her walk is almost a prowl—there’s something so enchantingly dangerous about the way Ahsoka holds herself that has Barriss's eyes glued to the stage. She lingers on the way Ahsoka's hand grasps the pole, before sweeping her gaze down to the subtle definition in her arms, her slender torso, and the diamond pattern on the outside of her thighs.

She could maybe be wearing less clothing, but it would be a genuine challenge to achieve.

Barriss is kind of wondering how everything stays in place while she’s dancing. Maybe the outfit has some kind of adhesive to keep it from shifting around? She’s has always been baffled at how that tiny little tube top she used to wear would stay put in the midst of combat.

Ahsoka hooks her calves around the pole and climbs, all lithe strength and grace. She makes it look effortless, of course, which is a thousand times more unbearable. Barriss briefly considers just how long Ahsoka practiced to get to this point, before banishing that train of thought from her mind. It’s best not to know.

Once she’s midway up the pole, Ahsoka grips the pole with her thighs and then lets go, arching her back down towards the floor as she’s held in place through the friction and strength of her thighs. Barriss very carefully doesn’t think about that either. She's far too busy tracing the curve of Ahsoka’s back with her eyes and attempting to swallow through a desert dry mouth. She's almost tempted to peek through the slats of her fingers, but she is an adult, and she can handle this.

Ahsoka loosens the grip of her thighs to slide downward, lowering herself until her hands touch the floor and she can kick off, smoothly getting to her feet once more. Barriss finds herself zoning out a bit, admiring the curve of her ass in the tiny blue underwear she’s wearing, before the feeling of overwhelming guilt kicks in and she wrenches her gaze elsewhere.

She flags down one of the waiters for a drink, taking the opportunity to attempt some measure of self control by looking away from the stage. It feels illicit to see Ahsoka like this, but Barriss struggles to pull her eyes away. She’s not sure where to look so as not to be creepy—there's just so much skin exposed and none of it is safe. Is it suspicious to only look at one dancer? Though, honestly, not that the other dancers aren’t gorgeous, but she can’t really imagine someone looking at anyone other than Ahsoka when she’s on stage.

The waiter returns with her drink and Barriss drags her eyes away from the stage long enough to properly thank them, before staring into the bright purple liquid like it’s the answer to all her problems.

“Kriff me,” she mutters, throwing back half the glass in one long pull. She swipes a hand messily across her mouth and sets down the glass a tad more unsteadily than she’d like.

Her mind is stuck in an endless loop of doomed, doomed, you’re so kriffing doomed, all while her traitorous eyes are drawn back to the stage. She gropes blindly for her drink before realizing that she’ll have to actually look away from the stage if she doesn’t want to just knock the glass over like a clutz.

When she glances up again Ahsoka is looking directly at her, a predator’s smile curling around her lips. Barriss's drink goes down the wrong pipe and she chokes, coughing into the crook of her arm, quietly mortified and trying not to draw further attention to herself. she knows her face is stained green, and she keeps her gaze on the tabletop until she regains her composure, not that she manages it before—

“Hello,” comes a familiar voice above Barriss. Her voice has deepened and matured in the time since they’ve seen each other, because of course it has, but the knowledge of such a stark change hits Barriss somewhere low in her gut.

Ahsoka leans against the table, all long legs and pretty skin adorned in gold. She towers over Barriss like this, montrals nearly fully developed, and Barriss tries and fails not to stare at her arms.

“I'm Cherry. You interested in a dance, gorgeous?”

Barriss snaps her gaze away from Ahsoka’s arms to look at her face, which is just as terrible, actually, and might even be worse than the sight of her arms. She's biting her lip shyly and looking at Barriss through the sweep of her lashes.

“Yeah,” she rasps, reduced to monosyllables in the face of that expression. She's unsure what the expectation is here, but it’s not as though she’s going to turn Ahsoka down. That would be horrible, though she’s not entirely sure for whom.

Ahsoka looks stupidly relieved at her response, like there was any doubt in the galaxy that Barriss would accept.

“Please,” Barriss adds, because she still has manners, for goodness sake. She can’t let down Master Unduli too horribly.

Ahsoka’s face does something funny at that, but before Barriss can think on it further, Ahsoka steps right up to the bench and straddles her thighs, hips moving in one long sinuous roll that hits Barriss like a freight car, breath tangling in her lungs.

Her clavicle is dusted in the same gold that’s on her cheekbones and eyes. Barriss did not want or need this information.

She has no idea where to look—with Ahsoka so close she takes up almost all of Barriss’s field of vision, and Barriss doesn’t know what to do. She was best friends with Ahsoka for over ten years, half in love with her for at least 4, and now she’s got a lap full of her and is maybe quietly panicking about that fact.

Barriss will complete the mission, of course, but she won’t escape it unscathed.

“Hey,” comes a gentle voice, steadying, like she always is, “you can look at me, you know. That’s kind of the point.”

Barriss makes a wordless noise that she hopes conveys can I though?! and can’t muster anything further. Ahsoka ducks her head, giggling, before grasping Barriss’s chin gently between her fingers.

“Come on, gorgeous,” she croons, and there’s that damned word again, gorgeous, that crosses wires in Barriss’s head and does something deliciously shivery to her insides. She’s not silly enough to think it’s for anything other than the show, but it’s hard to convince her body of that when she wants to hear it so badly.

“Eyes on me,” Ahsoka murmurs.

Where else would I look when you’re around, Barriss wants to say but doesn’t, and drags her gaze reluctantly away from the sign she’d been staring blankly at to meet Ahsoka’s eyes.

She's beautiful everywhere, of course, but it’s her eyes that hold a galaxy’s worth of joys and sorrows.

Ahsoka doesn’t really have a sabacc face to speak to, or didn’t the last time they’d seen each other. Barriss is used to her wearing her emotions clearly—either on her face, or in the depth of her eyes. but now—

Barriss has never seen the expression she’s wearing before, and doesn’t know how to read it. She's not closing herself off, like she used to when she was overwhelmed and didn’t know how to talk about it; her countenance is startlingly open, her eyes an endless blue teeming with unidentifiable things just below the surface. It makes Barriss squirm, being on the receiving end of such a look, but she doesn’t want to look away, wants to figure out what it all means, wants to spend the rest of her life cataloguing the intricacies of every expression if that’s what it would take.

She's loved Ahsoka for years, in different ways and different forms, but always with the same quiet commitment running through to her core. It's not surprising, necessarily, this relit dedication, it’s as familiar to her as her own skin at this point, a well worn page of one of her favorite books that she can return to at a moment’s notice. She’ll always love Ahsoka, Barriss thinks, as she is, as she was, as she will be. It’s steeped down to her marrow, tangled around her bones, and she no longer knows where she ends and where that gentle ember begins.

“Let's go somewhere more private,” Ahsoka suggests, breath hot on the shell of Barriss’s ear.

“Okay,” Barriss agrees, wishing desperately for the capacity to summon something longer than a single word.

Ahsoka tangles their fingers together and tugs Barriss out of her seat with an almost disconcerting ease. Now that they’re both standing Barriss realizes just how tall Ahsoka is, with the montrals and with the heels, and it’s one more thing in a long list of things that Barriss is very deliberately not thinking about in order to maintain her mental faculties.

Ahsoka picks up the rest of Barriss’s drink and downs it in one go, licking the excess off her lips. Barriss spares a moment to wish she was a bit better at being a person, because if she was maybe it would be her tongue, chasing the taste of Ahsoka’s lips, instead of standing there with so much want twisted around her lungs she can hardly breathe through it.

Thankfully, Ahsoka seems not to pick up on that train of thought. Small mercies. It seems her shielding holds up even when she’s a moment away from unraveling.

“This way,” Ahsoka says, something mischievous curling around her mouth as she pulls Barriss behind her towards the private rooms. Barriss is kind of astounded she can even walk in the shoes she’s wearing, never mind walk quickly enough that Barriss feels buffeted around in her wake.

“How,” she starts, unsure how to even form the questions she has. Ahsoka, as always, is 10 steps ahead, and almost unnervingly good at reading her mind. It's a thrill and a comfort, all at once.

“How'd I end up here?” she guesses, shooting a grin over her shoulder, and Barriss nods, struck mute in the face of her smile.

“It’s kinda fun,” she says, still smiling, slowing her steps so that Barriss is walking by her side, “and I make decent money at it, too,” which absolutely does not answer Barriss’s question, not that she really anticipated receiving a response.

“Fun,” Barriss says faintly, thinking about Ahsoka's thighs gripping the pole and wishing for an airlock from which to eject herself, “yeah.”

Barriss ignores the quizzical look Ahsoka gives her and stares straight ahead. She's still trying to process the fact that Ahsoka gave her a lap dance, a task which is made enormously difficult by the fact that her brain leaked out of her ears the moment Ahsoka straddled her waist.

“This'll do, I hope,” Ahsoka says, swinging open the door to one of the private rooms.

“It’s cleaner than I expected,” Barriss comments without the full consent of her brain. It makes Ahsoka laugh, though, so she can’t be too regretful.

“The cleaning droids work hard,” she replies, leading Barriss over to the plush bench and pushing her down with a sly smile. Before Barriss can even begin to process that, Ahsoka has moved to straddle her waist again, leaning over so her mouth is right next to Barriss's ear.

“Should’ve known they’d send you,” she murmurs, which Barriss has no idea how to respond to. Her fingers twitch, and she tangles them in the fabric of her skirt to keep from reaching out for Ahsoka like the moronic little voice in the back of her head wants.

Ahsoka pulls away minutely, just enough for Barriss to see the smile that is a step away from wicked.

“You can touch me now, if you’d like,” she says, flashing her canines. Barriss kind of wants to parrot if you’d like back to her, because what in the hells does that mean and how is she supposed to interpret that. She's not brave enough for that, though, so she stays silent.

“There are cameras in here,” Ahsoka continues in an undertone. “Shouldn’t be any listening devices, but can’t be too careful.”

Barriss takes that hint for what it is and settles a careful hand on the taut curve of Ahsoka’s waist.

“You look good,” Ahsoka comments, like it’s easy for her, that heart wrenching honesty. “I like the eyeliner. It suits you.”

“Thanks,” Barriss replies, thoughts whirling as she tries to come up with something to say in response. Ahsoka’s skin is warm and smooth under Barriss’s fingers, and it robs any coherent thought from her mind. She briefly considers I like the gold, before her sanity kicks in and immediately vetoes that as the words of a lunatic.

“You too,” she continues stiltedly. “Do you—are you—you’re okay here?”

Ahsoka seems able to read between the lines to what Barriss was actually trying to ask. “I enjoy my work,” she offers with a smile.

“I'm glad,” Barriss says, offering a small smile of her own in return.

Then Ahsoka grabs Barriss's other hand that had been hanging limply by her side and places it on her waist as well.

“Enough talking, wouldn’t you agree?” she asks with an impish grin. Barriss's fingers twitch where they’re situated on Ahsoka's waist, and she can’t think of a single thing to say.

The last couple years were incredible for Ahsoka’s confidence, but unfortunately deadly for Barriss’s sanity.

It’s so much worse like this, in the private room, and Barriss hadn’t thought that was possible. The only thing to focus on is her: lower lip pulled between her teeth, fire in her eyes, and the movement of her hips under Barriss’s hands.

Ahsoka reaches out and cradles Barriss's face between her hands. She looks desperate, is all Barriss can think, all bright eyes and flush traveling down her lekku, but that can’t be right. Then Ahsoka asks, “can I?” panting the words against her mouth, and Barriss stops thinking, stretching towards her like a flower turning towards the sun.

She’s not entirely sure who leaned in first, and it doesn’t matter—all that matters is that they’re here now, lips sliding together, lightning sparking down the length of her spine. Her lower lip catches on one of Ahsoka’s canines and Barriss gasps, surging upward to press closer and slipping a hand around her back.

“Thought I was dreaming when you walked in,” Ahsoka admits, stroking a thumb across Barriss’s cheekbone and kissing her so sweetly that Barriss is liable to break apart, to split open and bare her beating heart, her messy insides, her carefully protected soul.

“So gorgeous, couldn’t believe you were there, looking at me,” she murmurs. Barriss shudders, and leans in to kiss her, because it’s that or admitting to things so humiliating she’d never live them down.

She gets a hand on the back of Ahsoka’s thigh and hauls her closer, until she’s close enough that Barriss can feel the warmth of her even through the fabric of her skirt. Ahsoka squirms, grinding down against Barriss’s hips and gasping out a desperate noise into her mouth. One of Ahsoka’s hands trails down Barriss’s chest, so gentle she can hardly feel the touch through the material of her jacket. She slips her fingers under Barriss's jacket momentarily to flit over the side of her ribcage and the jut of her hip bone, before drawing her hand away.

Barriss can tell Ahsoka is fiddling with something, but the tongue that slips into her mouth makes it enormously difficult to focus on anything else. She can feel her jacket being tugged on as Ahsoka slips the data chip into her pocket, and just barely manages to catch the sound of the zipper slipping closed over the slide of their mouths. Her face heats as awareness shifts back to her in a rush, and with it her sense of embarrassment and shame.

Ahsoka gentles the kiss, swiping a thumb across Barriss’s lower lip and wiping away the saliva that lingers from both of their mouths. She hovers there, holding Barriss's face with one careful hand and studying her with those endless eyes.

Barriss's oh so legendary composure has been completely obliterated, and she grasps at the tatters like they’ll protect her from baring anything else that’s too vulnerable.

Her hands fall awkwardly to her lap as Ahsoka moves to sit on the bench a careful distance away. After an unidentifiable amount of time spent pressed right up against her from hip to chest, Barriss is feeling the lack of that contact particularly strongly now.

“You okay?” Ahsoka asks, moving close enough that she can nudge her knee up against Barriss’s thigh.

“Yeah, always,” Barriss says, peeking over at Ahsoka. Her mouth is quirked up into a little half smile, and she hesitates for a moment, before reaching out and slipping her fingers between Barriss’s.

“Is this okay?” she asks again, and Barriss nods, murmuring an agreement that scrapes the lowest register of her vocal cords.

“I shouldn't keep you,” Ahsoka hedges, standing and tugging Barriss to her feet. Her blatant uncertainty is such a relief that Barriss can’t restrain her snort of amusement, however inelegant and inappropriate it may be.

“It's not as though I have anywhere else to be tonight,” Barriss says dryly, and Ahsoka laughs.

“How much do I owe you?” she asks, determinately pushing through the awkwardness of the question. It’s not like she can just leave with paying. That would completely defeat the purpose of everything they’ve built tonight. Well—not everything, but the mission would likely be compromised.

Barriss doubles the amount Ahsoka tells her and hands the credits over. Ahsoka gives her a look at that, and she crosses her arms stubbornly across her chest.

“I added a tip,” she explains in the no nonsense tone she’s cultivated for when she needs people to take her seriously, but they can’t get past her age or demeanor.

“I see,” Ahsoka says, amusement dancing around the corner of her eyes, alongside something else that’s harder to identify.

“When,” Barriss starts, before second guessing herself and plowing ahead anyway, “what time do you get off?”

“2 am.”

“I can—I can wait for you? If that’s okay?” Barriss asks.

“Yeah,” Ahsoka says, her smile warming Barriss more than the suns over Tatooine. She steps closer, and Barriss, pulled into her orbit, leans in and kisses her, careful and brief, settling a gentle hand beneath her right lek that lingers even when she pulls away.

Then Ahsoka tilts forward like she just can’t stay away, and if that isn’t the greatest head rush of the galaxy, Barriss doesn’t know what is. She peppers kisses on Barriss’s lips, then across to her cheekbone, the bridge of her nose right where her tattoos are, the tip of her nose, and back to her mouth. Barriss slips her arm around Ahsoka’s shoulders and kisses her and kisses her, until they’re both smiling too much to continue, and draw away just enough to breathe the same air.

“Yeah, I'd love that,” Ahsoka whispers into the space between their mouths.