Anakin left the Council Chambers with Ahsoka half a pace behind him. It didn't take any observational skills at all to notice his padawan was feeling down: her shoulders were drooped, her head bowed, and a miasma of self-recrimination surrounded her in the Force.
Truth be told, Anakin would've been in her exact position had he not needed to be a good example to his padawan. The battle had been brutal.
"Ahsoka?" he gently asked as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
His young padawan collapsed in on herself even more. "Yes, Master?" she replied in a small voice.
He squeezed her shoulder. "What happened wasn't your fault, Snips."
"Look, we got bad intel and did the best we could." He herded her into the turbolift and punched in the level his room was on. "We should always do our best, but sometimes that's not enough, and it's not your fault."
Ahsoka's mouth twisted and she leaned into him. He squeezed her shoulder. What else had he wanted when he'd been in similar situations with Obi-Wan? Gentle coaxing and understanding, yes, but – hugs. Yes. Ahsoka wasn't necessarily as much of a snugglebug as he was, but physical comfort was something Togruta did.
Anakin pulled her to him and put an arm around her shoulders. "You know, it's almost mealtime," he said. "How about we cook something and meditate after dinner?"
"Sure," Ahsoka said. She still sounded down, but she had been distracted from the deepest depths of misery.
As they made their way through the corridors, Anakin mentally catalogued the contents of his pantry. He had shredded pickled teal cabbage, the blue carrots should still be edible cooked, and a variety of canned fruit chunks. No starches other than flour, so bread it would be for him and Obi-Wan. Maybe some of the dwarf gourd chutney too. Meatwise, there should be some chunks of nerf in the freezer and nerf stock from the last time they'd cooked nerf. Toss one in the defroster and they could have nerf in sauce on bread.
"How does nerf sound, Snips?" he asked in a blatant act of manipulation – nerf was his padawan's favorite, and she knew he knew it.
"Sounds nice," Ahsoka said.
Anakin would've liked to cheer her up some more, but he recognized that if someone had tried to cheer him up in an equivalent circumstance, he'd only have become more bitter. Distracting her would have to suffice, and then he could help her settle her mind.
He waved the door open with the Force. "All right! Let's get started. Mind defrosting the nerf while I start with the bread?"
Anakin warmed up water for the yeast while Ahsoka pulled out the nerf and started going through the pantry. She rattled off an inventory as he added a pinch of salt and started mixing in the flour – he'd forgotten about some wilted radishes, but had otherwise remembered correctly – and asked for suggestions on what to make.
"Well, we still have some crushed pepper and gurkum root powder, right?"
"Maybe we could use the spiced bean paste?" Ahsoka suggested.
Anakin couldn't just squash the small spark of hope in his padawan's voice, but it was quite spicy and Obi-Wan didn't really handle that well. "Sure, but only a bit; Obi-Wan needs to eat it too, remember?"
"He can just eat some extra bread," Ahsoka replied, but she didn't feel too rebellious in the Force, so Anakin let it stand.
The ball of dough wasn't sticking to his hands anymore, so he covered the mixing bowl with a cloth and went to help his padawan while the dough rose and the oven warmed. "How do shredded radishes and carrots with nerf slices sound?"
"Great. Are you going to ruin the meat by overcooking it again?"
"No, and that was Obi-Wan's fault anyway." Anakin rolled his eyes. "I guess you're leaving the vegetables to me as usual?"
"Of course – I am the carnivore of the household, you know," Ahsoka said with an airy tone and grabbed her favorite chopping board.
Anakin smiled at her back. "Sure thing, Snips," he lightly replied and got to work on the radishes. "Be sure to cut it into small enough pieces!"
"Yes, Master," Ahsoka said in such a whiny teenager tone of voice Anakin had to bite his cheek lest he laugh.
It hadn't been that long since he'd been a teenager – Force, he was barely twenty – but caring for Ahsoka made him feel like a he should be a responsible adult, perhaps even a wizened old mentor. As he chopped the radishes he idly wondered if Obi-Wan had ever felt like this back when he'd taken on Anakin: old beyond his years yet completely unprepared for the responsibility.
Though Anakin had, at least, managed to distract his padawan from her sorrows. They should talk about it, but that could come later.
Ahsoka was done with the meat before he was done with the vegetables, of course, so he let her rub in the spices and gather the sauce ingredients. Then he dug out the larger pot and returned to the dough.
They didn't speak much as Ahsoka gave the meat a quick sear before adding the vegetables, spices, and just enough nerf stock to make it a stew. Anakin pondered how many loaves to make.
"Do you think Master Obi-Wan will come the moment it's all ready, or will he wait until we've set the table?" Ahsoka asked as she poked at the stew.
"He'll come in two minutes before the stew is ready and suggest we go to Dex's," Anakin predicted. He loved Obi-Wan, he really did, but he had witnessed Obi-Wan burning water back when they were ten and twenty-six, and there was no way Anakin was letting Obi-Wan anywhere near a kitchen. Obi-Wan thankfully realized the exact same thing about his complete lack of culinary talents and raised Anakin on a diet of takeout. Until Anakin had been old enough to cook, that is. Then Obi-Wan had been perfectly willing to enjoy the fruits of Anakin's labor and eat anything his padawan might make.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Ahsoka replied.
She was staring at the pot like its contents might escape if she blinked. Anakin couldn't help the pang of fondness that hit his heart at his adorable, talented carnivore of a padawan. "It's part of my duties as your master," he confidently stated and smiled at the inevitable eyeroll.
"Sure," she said in the most sarcastic teenage voice imaginable.
Anakin grinned like an idiot – Force, he must've been even worse at that age – and went to wash the last of the dough off his flesh hand. The battle must still weigh on Ahsoka, but for now she was happy and distracted. Anakin would let that be until the weight returned to her shoulders. And then he would do his best to shoulder her burden.