At the Oasis: Bikini Detective
In the last story in this series, Jacen was in a rather sticky situation as far as his love life went. But as usual the family comes to his rescue - in this case Anakin. Whether his attempt to help went quite as planned, however, is a moot point.
It started off as the kind of day that held the promise of good things, the kind of day you hope for when you're just beginning the holiday you've promised your wife and yourself for more months than you'd care to count. It started with sunlight filtering through the window shades, sending dancing sprites up and down the wall and over the few rumpled bedcovers we'd retained after the moist heat of the Corellian night. It started with Tahiri soft, golden, teasing ... breathtaking and both of us happily secure in the knowledge that Paddy was safely asleep at the other end of the house in the grandkids' nursery that Mum and Dad had had the wishful foresight, and, in hindsight, great benevolence, to build not long before she was born.
True, we had Tryst, but he was tucked up in his cradle, honing his newly acquired skill of sleeping through the night. Nestled amongst the fluff of baby dreams he slept on with a peculiar deafness to parental voices that I'm sure we won't greet with such appreciation in a few years time. But like most parents, we've learned to grab whatever meager advantage comes our way and enjoy it to the full for however brief a moment it may last. And as he dozed on, I have to say that that particular morning was especially advantageous ... and made even more enjoyable by our rediscovery of the wonder of water pressure for although I hate to admit it, I haven't quite managed to rig up a good hot shower in our little home in the caves on Tatooine.
The faint stringent tickle of salt in the warm air rising from the sea as we ate breakfast on the verandah; the background concerto of leaf-hoppers celebrating the prospect of a new day; the city of Coronet sprawling lazy and unhurried over hills leading down to the harbour it was a morning like no other morning. It was dare I say it perfect ... which probably explained the silly grin I caught a glimpse of on my reflection in the silvery surface of the Alakathan caffeine pot.
Which might go some way to explaining how I let myself get hoodwinked into sorting out my brother Jacen's love crisis and ended up ... vaping meteors, I still can't say it without cringing.
Stang, now I guess you want to find out what happened? Well, I suppose if I don't tell you then Dad will he loves this kind of thing. So I'm not going give him the satisfaction.
Sitting comfortably are you? Then I'll begin.
I had taken Paddy out for a walk with Dad down to the seafood market in the hope of finding some fresh scampi, and also to take her round the stalls so she could see for herself some of the buskers and sideshow entertainers I used to enjoy when I was a kid. I'd often told her about them when we visited markets back on Tatooine, but somehow my descriptions always fell well short of the reality, although to be fair I think most people would be hard put to explain the atmosphere the colours and the jostling crowds, and the sing-song cries of the sellers parading their wares. It's one of those things you need to experience for yourself.
So experience it we did, and sticky-fingered from the Selonian cream ices we'd over-indulged in and smelling decidedly fishy, we tracked back up the hill to the big shady house, only to find my older brother Jacen in the kitchen. He'd just arrived having spent the last few months on what he'd termed "study leave" in the frozen wastes on Hoth recovering from that unfortunate incident on Roon. And in case you don't know what I'm talking about, I can summarise it in one word: women. Jacen and women don't appear to be a combination that's really working at the moment. But I guess I'm jumping the gun here, so let me fill you in on a few of the facts.
Big brother is what you might call a xenobiologist. I say "might call" because there are some who might call him something different; Dad, for instance, who doesn't really get Jacen's consuming passion for tracking through jungles and wildernesses in search of strange and exotic wildlife. And Jaina, who can't understand anyone who can eschew funk music and what's hot for a life of cold showers and creepy-crawlies.
I can't say Tahiri and I understand him either, but there again I doubt Jacen really understands himself sometimes. I think he's one of those people who live with their heads in the clouds somewhere, always wanting to make the galaxy a better place but kind of forgetting that he still has to live in it. So things like doing his dishes and sorting out workable relationships with women are a bit beyond his capabilities.
Which, I guess brings us back to my story with Jacen in the kitchen being interrogated by Mum and Tahiri who I could tell were in full fix-it mode. Unfortunately for Dad and me, they saw us before we could escape; and unfortunately for me, thanks to the earlier events of the morning dulling my reflexes, I wasn't able to beat Dad at coming up with a job that suddenly needed my attention. So while he swaggered off chuckling to fix an, until then unmentioned, loose leg on the spare bed, I was forced to listen, yet again, to the sad story of how Jacen's first attempt at a live holo-documetary turned into a mud-wrestling spectacular starring the two women at the center of his current problem.
Personally I still don't know what he's complaining about. The show's had more reruns than The Wizard of Ossus, and must have made piles of money, some of which must be helping run Jacen's xenobiological gardens on Ithor. But I kept my thoughts to myself in the hope that maybe Mum and Tahiri might forget I was there, and I'd be able to escape.
"So what do you think, Anakin?" Tahiri must have caught my surreptitious side-glance at the open door, because she marched over and closed it. Trapped! But as always in times of need, instinct came into play.
"What do I think about what?"
Unfortunately, Tahiri saw through that ruse. "And don't play dumb on us."
"I wasn't." Yes, I know I'm a liar. So shoot me. "I was just a bit distracted because I think Paddy may need to use the po-"
"Then put her on it." Mum slid the ornate Solo family potty across the floor, and bent down to Paddy smiling her special potty-time smile. "Paddy want to do wees?"
Paddy grinned back. I wonder if she knew she was dobbing me in? "I do wee wee on gwass. Gandad hold me so I not wee on shoes."
Darn it. I should have known she'd remember that, mainly because we spent the rest of the journey home explaining why everyone else doesn't use the grass instead of the 'fresher. Kids always seem to get really fascinated by things like that.
"Okay, okay, you got me. But you know I hate stuff like this. And anyway whatever I suggest, you're just going to blast straight through with an ion cannon. Why don't you ask Dad?"
"Because," Mum huffed, giving me a jaundiced look, "your father is even worse than you, and he's had years of practice at it. You at least do make some kind of sense sometimes."
Was that a compliment, or not? "Gee thanks. I think."
Tahiri moved over ostensibly to wipe some pink ice off Paddy's cheek, brushing up against me in the process. A calculated move, of course she knows my weak points too well. I knew I was lost, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight.
"At the moment, Anakin, I'll listen to whatever you have to offer," said Jacen wanly. I studied his face and have to say that three, or however many months it had been, on Hoth hadn't done him much good. Poor guy. I suppose it wasn't going to be much comfort if I told him that I'd read on the hypernet only yesterday that he was currently sitting at third place on the list of the galaxy's sexiest male mud-wrestlers.
Maybe he'd chosen the wrong profession.
No comments like that weren't going to do him or me much good, even though in a sense he deserved to get a good wake-up call. I mean how long can you string a couple of women along before they get sick of it and make a scene?
Are you with me here, or do I need to fill you in on some details about the situation? Well, I guess a short digression isn't going to do any harm. In fact maybe it'll work to build up a bit of dramatic tension or whatever they call it. Not that I really understand all this literary stuff of course.
Big brother, as well as running the famous Ithor Xenobiological Gardens, has a fairly popular holo-doc series that features him and his team tracking down rare galactic wildlife. Not really a problematic situation you'd think, except that his team comprises two women two very attractive women who both, quite obviously to everyone except Jacen, want to introduce him to the wonders of marital bliss. And anyway, to cut a long story short, it all came to a head a few months ago when, oblivious to the rising tension between his two helpers, he took them both on a search for the legendary Roon Mudman. And if that wasn't enough of a mistake, he made it even worse by letting himself get talked into doing the whole thing live, with catastrophic results an argument, a dried pond, a sudden deluge that turned the pond into a mud pool. And all neatly captured on holocam. Need I say more?
And now we were meant to help clean up the mess, if you'll excuse the pun.
I turned to Paddy, my little ally in times such as these, hoping she'd catch my pleading look.
"Unkie Jacen sad," I said. "He needs a cuddle."
"Poor Unkie." Paddy, bless her, has a soft heart. She wriggled to let me know she wanted down. "I give him snugs."
"Aww thanks Paddy. That 's definitely made me feel better."
One good thing about Jacen is that he doesn't mind messy, sticky kids probably a result of dealing with messy, sticky animals on a daily basis.
"That was nice of you, Paddy," said Tahiri. "And now that Daddy's had time to get his thoughts together, maybe he could come up with some useful suggestions."
"Yeah, I can actually. Get yourself tidied up, bro'. You and I are going to go out for a drink."
"Okay," said Jacen meekly, and let Paddy lead him away to his room.
I shared a wry glance with Tahiri. "Man, he is in bad shape."
"Is that it?" Mum had crossed her arms and was looking titchy. "You're going to take him out and get him drunk?"
"Since when does going out for a quiet drink equate with getting him drunk?" I really wish she'd forget about the Kyp incident, and the Zekk incident ... and the Jag incident. I DO learn from my mistakes. I stay well clear of Jaina and her poor unfortunate hangers-on now.
Mum gave me one of her I've-heard-it-all-before looks and marched out, presumably to check Dad's progress with the broken bed leg.
"I think what your mother is saying is that Jacen really needs to talk to someone who can set him straight and give him a few pointers," Tahiri said.
"I can think of two people at least who'd be quite enthusiastic about giving him pointers, but probably not the sort you're talking about more the sharp stick variety."
"There you are then," she smiled, and kissed my cheek. "You can prime him up on pre-emptive strategies."
"Pre-emptive strategies I like the sound of that." I could feel the silly grin creeping back, and couldn't help noticing the mischievous response in my wife's green eyes. "You're very good with words, you know amongst other things, of course."
"You mean like cooking and mending your socks."
"Oh yeah, definitely, I'm the object of a lot of jealousy, especially about the socks."
Tahiri giggled. "Well if anyone needs someone to help organise his socks, it's Jacen. Did you notice he was wearing one red and one green?"
"And neither goes with the lavender shirt."
Tahiri covered her eyes in amused horror at the memory and nodded. "Poor Jacen. Where do you think you'll take him?"
"Dex's maybe. It's usually quiet there at this time of day. But who knows maybe we'll just go for a walk."
My beautiful wife kissed me on the cheek. "Well, I need to do some shopping this afternoon, so we'll meet you later on at the pavilion. Just com us when you're finished."
"Do I get a reward for doing this?"
"Anakin Solo are you being greedy?"
Well what could I say? Greed gets too much bad press. And anyway who could blame me?
"I was just checking the ground rules whether it's enough to just give it a go, or do I have to produce a result?"
"Don't worry, Anakin. I'm sure that you'll perform on both counts."
I couldn't help wondering if she knows what that smirk does to me. But there was no time to pursue it at that point, because Paddy returned with Unkie Jacen in tow.
"Unkie Jacen funny. He had da wong socks."
"She's a great little organiser, isn't she? I think I'm fully colour-coded now."
Hey maybe that's the answer get Jacen married off and then his kids can keep him on the straight and narrow. Not too bad a plan if you ask me.
"See you later, kitten. Try not to blow the budget." As I kissed her I have to admit to, yet again, feeling sorry for my brother. Did he know what he was missing out on? It was as I lifted Paddy up and gave her a peck on her little pink cheek that I realized he didn't. No guy does until he has it.
Well, it was up to me to make big brother see sense, and I decided right there that I was going to give it my darndest.
Tahiri's grin told me that she must have been reading my thoughts.
"Good luck," she murmured.
"I'll need it," I murmured back, and managed to snaffle another kiss before following Jacen out the door.
* * * * *
"The thing I don't get," said Jacen studying the contents of his tankard, as if by some miracle the cloudy amber liquid might reveal some hidden answer to his dilemma, "is why they have to turn everything into a contest. I mean, I'm a cooperative sort, and I go out of my way to encourage it amongst all my staff."
"Yeah, but you've got to put yourself in their shoes, bro', and see it from their point of view. Think about Tenel Ka, for instance. She's been with you right from the start, and stuck with you through some of the tough times you had getting the holo-doc up and running. Maybe she feels a bit put out that all of a sudden you decide to bring Danni into the equation, when it seems to most of us the show was running just fine without her."
"Well, that wasn't my decision," he confessed. "The holo-channel bosses felt the show needed to widen its appeal."
"Did they define what they meant by that?"
"Not really. I just assumed they wanted someone from a strong scientific background, because Danni, as you know, is a qualified xenobiologist as opposed to me "
"A Jedi who just happens to have an affinity with animals, but who is pretty much self-taught as far as theory goes," I finished for him.
"Exactly." He took a large gulp from his tankard, before thumping it down and frowning thoughtfully at the table top. "Actually, now I think about it, she didn't really seem to know much more than Tenel Ka."
"Well, as Dad's always saying there's no substitute for experience."
"True," he nodded.
"I guess that must have been pretty annoying for Tenel Ka having to share the spotlight with some newcomer, especially one who she could see didn't quite live up to her so-called credentials."
Jacen frowned intently at the table top for a few seconds more before lifting his eyes slowly to mine.
"Are you saying Danni's a fraud?"
"Would it worry you if I did?"
No wonder Jace gets himself in such strife with women you can read his face like a book. I must try and get Dad to encourage him to spend some time with Lando, who is probably the best proponent around on the art of the sabacc face. I followed his expressions from shock through disbelief, questioning, realization, denial, more questioning, further realisation, conviction and back to shock.
"But, but ... why?"
I shrugged. "That's the way the entertainment world functions, bro'. It's all about money, ratings and sex appeal. If you want my opinion, I think your bosses just wanted to spice your holo-doc up with a bit of potential romance."
"But that's ridiculous. It was an informative programme about animals, not some silly holo-soap."
"Agreed but you and I aren't studio bosses whose reputation depends on the size of our audience."
Jacen made a wry face. "Well, my reputation is pretty much shot now. No wonder I like animals they don't care about money and sex appeal."
I drank the last of my lum and then put the tankard aside. I sensed we'd reached the point at which big brother was going to have to do some soul-searching. I took a deep breath and hoped like the blazes this was going to work after all my reputation was at stake here too. Well kind of.
"I wonder how this has affected Danni?"
It was a test question. I wanted to make sure my instinct about who Jacen really cared about was correct, even though he probably didn't realize it himself.
He stared at me blankly for a moment, and then frowned.
"Yeah," I nodded. "Remember her the little blonde with the pert behind and the hairdo that could withstand hurricane force winds?"
Jacen's eyes widened at the description as if this view of her had never occurred to him. Mind you, he had probably never watched his own show.
"I hadn't really thought ... I mean, I haven't been in contact ... I, uh "
"You haven't heard from her?"
"No. At least I don't think so. I've been kind of incommunicado as you know." He paused. "Although I did receive a few messages from Tenel Ka letting me know that things at the Gardens were okay."
"Did you realise that when you mentioned Tenel Ka, your face changed?"
"You got this kind of half-smile and your eyes went all soft."
Jacen stared at me dumbly again. "I, uh ... " He scratched his head. "I can't see what that has to do with the conversation."
"Look you stupid dope, it has everything to do with the conversation. You're in love with her it's written all over your face. And there's no doubt that she's in love with you and has been for years. The question is what are you going to do about it?"
Jacen looked like a Corellian gulping guppy that had been hit by an ion bolt. Only his mouth moved, but no sound came out for several minutes. I helped myself to a quick draft of his lum, as a kind of minor reward for progress.
"V-vaping meteors! I'm in love with Tenel Ka!"
"Shhh!" I managed to push him back down on to his seat, and waved an it's-okay-he's-quite-safe signal to the people sitting two tables away who were looking a little nervous.
"But, Anakin, I'm in love! I've never been in love before! Do you know what this means?"
"Er, bro', do you think you could keep it down a bit. I think you're scaring people. And no I don't know what this means."
"It means," he said waving his arms wildly. "It means that I Jacen Solo am in love with a wonderful woman. A wonderful warm, clever, strong, exciting woman, whom I don't ... " He reached across the table and grabbed my arm. "Whom I don't deserve. I don't deserve her, Anakin."
"Yeah, okay bro', um keep your voice down could you?" Uh-oh, too late, the bar manager was on his way over.
"Is there a problem here?"
"I'm in love," Jacen informed him. "Isn't that great? I can't get over it."
I have to hand it to the guy. He took it all in his stride even the bear hug my brother had enveloped him in. "Well, maybe you could get over it somewhere else, sir. You're rather disturbing the clientele."
"I'm sorry, I'll take him out. It's just that he's had bit of a revelation. You know how it is." I grabbed Jacen's arm and led him out into the fresh sea-scented air.
"I have to go and see her, Anakin. There's so much I have to say. I need to apologise."
He set out at top speed back up the hill to the house.
"Jacen, listen to me. Calm down and take a few deep breaths, and then start thinking. The last thing you do is rush to her side declaring your love, especially in the state you're in now. She'll probably think you've gone crazy. You have to be subtle about it ... and romantic. You have to set the right mood, and lead up to the subject slowly."
He stopped walking. "I do?"
"Yeah." I searched for a suitable comparison that would make sense to him. "It's like those lesser spotted Ii'cini'ian tevathors you had in one of your programmes. Remember how the males take their selected female on a journey to another pond and climb those huge trees to bring fresh fruit to her as wooing gifts?"
Jacen pondered this for a moment.
"So what you're saying is that I should take her on a picnic to one of the lakes in the orchard region of the Mother Jungle?"
"Uh, bro', I was speaking metaphorically. I meant that you need to take her somewhere nice, and treat her to something a bit out of the ordinary something she wouldn't buy for herself. Let her know you've gone out on a limb, so to speak, and done something just for her that you wouldn't normally do."
I could see the romantic cogs beginning to turn in my brother's mind pretty rusty cogs too judging by the length of time he stood there. Finally he raised his eyes to mine.
"There's a conference we are scheduled to attend on Saccora in a few weeks. I'll suggest we stop off here afterwards to unwind."
"You're not going to stay with Mum and Dad though, are you bro'? You know what Dad's like he'll be all over her like a rash."
Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating. But Tenel Ka is Dad's favourite on the show, and I know he wouldn't be able to resist having a bit of fun at Jacen's expense.
"Um, oh. Okay, er ... so I guess I'll book a hotel. Two singles, of course."
You have to sigh, don't you? "Yeah but make sure they're next door to one another, and preferably connected by a balcony. Go for the sea view, too, and try and get a hotel on the beachfront. Beachfronts are very, very romantic."
"We could go for walks at night on the beach and look for rare Corellian sea winkles."
"No!" Damn just when I thought he was getting it.
"No looking for rare anythings. This is romance. You go for walks on the beach to look into her eyes and tell her how gorgeous she is, and how you can't live without her. I don't want hear any more mention of wildlife other than beach parties okay?" The amazing thing was that I didn't lose my temper with him. I mean normally I'd be whacking him over the head by now, but I was still feeling really mellow at the back of my mind were thoughts about tonight, and tomorrow morning and plenty of nice walks on the beach with Tahiri.
One thing at least Tenel Ka would have the muscles to keep him in line.
"Okay." He sighed. "This isn't easy is it?"
"Hardest thing you'll ever have to do, bro'. But once you've done it, you'll wonder why you didn't do it years ago."
He stopped walking again.
"What's the matter now?"
"You say I need to buy her something but what? She's not really the sort who goes shopping."
"Well that's good, because that leaves the field wide open." I slapped him on the shoulders. "And as Tenel Ka strikes me as a very practical woman, I'd suggest you go for the kind of thing that she might look at but never buy herself because she'd probably consider it frivolous."
Jacen considered this for a while. "Like a new heavy duty rain jacket? I did catch her eyeing one up on the hypernet once."
Did I bang my head against the nearest wall? No. Did I want to? Strangely enough no, although usually I would have.
Instead I led him through the door of the store that we'd been as luck would have it approaching, and propelled him past the hardware, shoes and raincoats to ...
"Mother of meteors!" he gasped. "I can't go in here."
"Uh, why not?"
"But, but ..." he clutched my arm and pointed inanely at the various colourful displays. "It's women's stuff you know ... smalls."
"You mean panties and things."
"It's okay, Jace, they won't bite you or anything. And anyway it's time you got used to this kind of thing. You can't go on pretending women's underwear doesn't exist you know. Welcome to the world of relationships."
I dragged him down an aisle of frilly lace things that I suspect might have been nightwear, towards the swimsuits. If he was taking Tenel Ka on a beach holiday, chances are she'd need a swimsuit a proper swimsuit and not some odd combination of shorts and cut-off shirt, no matter how attractive she might look in them.
"Here we are. Swimsuits. You're pretty safe here, bro' you can combine practicality with a little touch of something exotic."
Jacen appeared to have lost the power of speech, but he nodded dumbly, which I took as an encouraging sign. I lifted a stylish-looking emerald one-piece from its hanger and held it up for him. He gulped and his face went brick red.
"Take it," I ordered, and jammed it in his hand. "See, perfectly okay. Piece of cake. You're doing well."
"I, um ... I guess it's not as bad as I thought," he murmured, still looking somewhat goggle-eyed. "But as you say, I have to do this."
He seemed to steel himself for a moment and then lunged forward and grabbed at a silver and black number a bit too glittery for my liking, but I wasn't going to discourage him. He held it up triumphantly.
"There you are you see. It's not too difficult is it? Just concentrate on the fact you're doing it for her."
"You're right, Anakin. That's exactly what I'm thinking."
He reached out for a rather nice aqua blue two-piece when suddenly he stopped as if suddenly riveted to the spot. I followed his gaze.
We both gasped as he slid it from the hook on which it was hanging. It was the cutest, cheekiest little bikini I've ever seen.
"I know I'm not meant to mention wildlife, bro'," said Jacen, "but this really does remind me of the spotted mountain cats of Chandrilla fantastic creatures, probably the most beautiful felines in the galaxy."
"Well, cats or no cats, it's certainly an eye-opener. I'm just not sure that it's really the right colour. I'd say Tenel Ka is more into the greens and aquamarines."
We searched around, but it appeared that this was the only one of its type there.
"Darn," I said. "It looks like you'll have to look again, bro'."
But Jacen clung to the yellow bikini, either mesmerised by its resemblance to the wonderful cats, or possibly visualizing Tenel Ka wearing it. Whatever the case, it was obvious that my brother's sense of colour matching was even worse than I suspected.
Somehow I was going to have to prove that buying the bikini was going to be a mistake, or I could see all my good work here going down the gurgler. And who'd get the blame if Jacen's last ditch attempt at putting his life back on track faltered due to a blunder about colour?
I glanced around in desperation when suddenly an idea presented itself a brave, foolhardy idea, but desperate times require desperate measures.
"Look, Jace," I said. "I'm kind of a similar skin tone to Tenel Ka, and we're not too far off build-wise either. I'm going to prove to you that this is not the right present." And with that I grabbed an auburn wig off a nearby store dummy, and dragged him off to the fitting room, warning him to stand guard outside while I changed.
I mean, I may be reckless, but I'm not stupid.
I took a deep breath and began pulling my clothes off, wondering what I did to deserve such crazy siblings. I managed to get the top bit of the bikini on alright even stuffed it with my socks just to give it the right effect. Well, yeah partly as a joke, too. I thought he'd appreciate the humour. The bottom bit was a bit of a struggle and I almost gave up, but with a little rearrangement if you know what I mean I managed it. Last of all, I picked up the wig, plopped it on my head and adjusted it so I could actually see.
"Hey, Jace!" I called out. "I'm ready."
He appeared not to have heard, so I called out again, louder. After a long silence, I peeked out between the curtains but the room was empty.
Where had he gone? I was just pondering what to do when I heard a loud crash, followed by the sound of shouts and screams that I could tell were coming closer. Training clicked in, and without stopping to think, I extracted my lightsaber from its clip in my inside jacket pocket and raced out into the main part of the store. Once a detective always a detective even when you're on holiday.
I'd just made it to the aisle where we had had found the bikini when a guy wearing a mask and wielding a sawn-off blast rifle came lurching out from behind a row of g-strings.
"Hold it!" I bellowed. "Put your weapon down!"
It isn't often you hear a man scream. Usually when it does happen it's because he's in pain due to some horrific injury. This was the first time I've actually seen a guy scream from fright. He just stood there making hysterical noises and turning as white as one of Mum's perfectly laundered sheets and then he turned and ran.
Well, maybe I should say he tried to run. Unfortunately for him, when he spun around, he knocked over the g-string display and managed to get his feet well and truly tangled in a web of lace and elastic. He tumbled to the floor emitting a stream of curses and watched helplessly as his blaster skidded away across the polished floor. Before he could scrabble after it, I launched myself towards him and landed squarely in the middle of his back, pinning him down amongst the lingerie. I was vaguely aware of a strange kind of creaky ripping noise, but the circumstances were such that I couldn't pay it any attention.
As it turned out, the g-strings proved to be a most effective alternative to stun-cuffs something worth remembering if you ever have to arrest a burglar in an underwear department.
Don't laugh it happens, as you can see.
Anyway I soon had the offender effectively bound with his wrists behind his back.
"Okay, sunshine, you're under arrest," I informed him.
"Why does stuff like this always happen to me," he moaned, spitting out some bits of fake fur from a particularly risqué little number.
"Dunno. Maybe if you'd try and keep on the right side of the law, it wouldn't."
"No, I mean other people get arrested by security officers or store detectives. I get sat on by some panty-stealing maniac in an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini!"
"Who are you calling a panty-stealer?" I was outraged, so outraged I went to stand up ... and then sat down again really quickly. I'd just discovered the source of that funny ripping noise I'd heard earlier.
"Ah, good for you, bro'!"
I looked up to see Jacen jogging towards us with a couple of uniformed security guards behind him.
"He tried to rob the bank across the street," he explained, "but his getaway driver panicked and left him behind, so he tried to escape through the store. I'm sorry I took off on you like that, but I heard the kerfuffle."
"Uh, that's okay. I figured something must have come up." I was painfully aware of the two officers exchanging thinly disguised grins.
Jacen had been studying my face. "Is something up, bro'?"
That was too much for guards, who exploded. I chose to ignore it. Considering I'd done most of their job for them, you'd think they could have been a bit more respectful.
"Uh, yeah. I've had what you might call a slight hitch." I surreptitiously pointed down in the direction of my problem.
Jacen's eyes widened. "Oh!" he said, just as several of the saleswomen popped their heads up from above the top of the counter they'd been hiding behind. I heard a concert of gasps and then stifled giggles.
"I can explain this, you know," I told them testily. Uh okay, bad choice of words, but you get the picture.
In fact, you may very well have the picture thanks to the fact that a reporter for the local holo-news channel, who happened to be shopping in the store at the time, managed to nap several holopics of me sitting in all my polka dot glory on the robber's back. Some people have an amazing gift for being in the right place at the right time; people like ...
... my wife and daughter, for instance.
"Tahiri! I can explain all this really. It isn't what it looks like."
But Tahiri is real smooth in situations like this and no, it's not because she's had a lot of practice, if that's what you're thinking. She just happens to be very good at come-backs.
"Anakin how many times do I have to tell you? You don't suit yellow!"
Jacen moved over to stand beside her. "Actually, Tahiri, you're right. I can see it now. I definitely won't be buying that for Tenel Ka. Thanks, bro'."
What could I say; he looked so genuinely grateful. "No problem, Jace. Uh, could somebody get me a towel or something so I can stand up?"
I wanted to hand the offender over to the security guards who were still having severe problems maintaining their professional demeanour. I caught the eye of the younger one.
"You can have him in a minute," I informed them, and then bit my tongue. What is with situations like this that no matter what you come out with, it's the wrong thing! They stared at me, and then clutched at each other helplessly as they were both seized with paroxysms of mirth.
Tahiri and Paddy came to my rescue at last with a large beach towel.
"You petty, Daddy," she murmured hugging my legs, "I like yeyow."
"Thanks, sweetie, but Mummy's right. Although yellow is a nice colour it definitely doesn't suit everyone which, believe it or not was the very point I was trying to make."
Tahiri gazed at the growing crowd. "I believe you, Anakin thousands wouldn't."
Now I guess it might appear that what had begun as a perfect day had degenerated into something of a mess, but all was not lost. The next day I, very bravely I thought, took Jacen back to the store and this time he selected and bought a much more Tenel Ka-style two piece with a kind of little skirt attached to the bottom bit. It was emerald green, and I assume she must have liked it because he commed us from Ithor a few months later to tell us they were going to get married.
Dad, of course, made a real feast of the whole affair, watching every holonews broadcast and hypernet report for several days afterwards. He collected some of the news headings his favourite being the one above an image of me astride the unfortunate burglar: "Panty detective has lightsaber, will travel."
He had it reproduced in flimsy and framed.
But I can be big about it heh heh. Just as well really as the double-entendre lightsaber jokes went on for weeks.
I didn't come out of it too badly though. Not only was I back in Mum's good books, I scored an unexpected extra little treat. One day, a few days after the incident, a small parcel arrived by special delivery to the house. It was from the manageress of the lingerie department and contained you guessed it a new yellow bikini, although this time a smaller version. I'm guessing the lady concerned must have cast her practised eye over Tahiri and accurately assessed her size, because it fitted her like a glove. Well, better than a glove because, let's face it, gloves have very little in common with Tahiri in a bikini on a sunlit beach, and even less so with her on the same beach in the same bikini in the moonlight.
Yes, don't worry it was a very private beach. I may be reckless but no way could you ever, for even the slightest reason, call me stupid. I'm just a guy, an ordinary fallible guy, in love with the most beautiful, sexy, patient, amusing, exciting woman in the galaxy.
And enjoying every day of it.
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