Tahiri was annoyed. She had looked for Anakin in all the usual places but she couldn't find him anywhere. It was especially annoying as she was sure that when Anakin told her at lunch that he had some jobs to do for his uncle, that they had agreed to meet at dinner -- but when she had turned up in the large dining room there was no sign of him. Jacen and Jaina had been there, along with Tenel Ka, Raynar Thul, Eryl Beesa and several of the other young Jedi who had arrived on Eclipse recently. She considered asking them if they'd seen Anakin, but then decided to find Master Skywalker as it was possible Anakin was still with him, but he was nowhere to be found either.
She wondered if perhaps Anakin had been called to the laboratory, and then, when she hadn't found him there, it had occurred to her that he might be in the hangar working on his X Wing. That would make sense, she thought. When Anakin got busy with anything mechanical, time usually ceased to exist for him. It was quite likely he had started doing some simple maintenance job and then decided to perform a major overhaul. Of course, he would have been so busy enjoying playing around with hydrospanners and grommets that he would have forgotten about time and dinner.
She hurried down the corridor and waited for the turbo-lift. It was ironic really because that morning she had had to be quite devious in order to get rid of him, telling him that she had promised Eryl some help with cleaning the refreshers. Usually she and Anakin spent the days together, training, helping out with the various maintenance tasks required to keep Eclipse functioning and, since very recently, aiding Cilgal with her research on the terrible creatures known as voxyn. It was a bad time to be a Jedi, as the galaxy seemed rather to have turned against them.
That was why she had cheered up considerably when she had noticed a small article on the main HoloNet news page a few days ago. It was a reminder to all Corellians about one of their favourite celebrations -- Valentine's Day. Apparently on Valentine's Day Corellians indulged their more romantic leanings and sent cards, flowers, sweets or just greetings to their loved one. Tahiri had decided right there and then that, although she wasn't Corellian, she was going to celebrate Valentine's Day. It sounded like fun, and fun was something she and Anakin hadn't been able to have much of. And anyway -- Anakin was half Corellian. It would be a nice surprise for him.
The only problem she'd had was deciding what to give him, as it wasn't exactly easy for her to rush out to the shops and buy a present. There were no shops. In fact there was no planet nearby that had shops. Eclipse was of necessity far from anything resembling civilisation -- its purpose being that of a safe refuge for the Jedi. She had just about given up on the idea when she suddenly remembered some of the conversations she and Anakin had had with Corran on their trip to Eriadu a while ago. Somehow or other the conversation had turned to Corellia -- in fact she seemed to recall Anakin asking Corran to tell them about it. Anakin had been to the Corellian system once when he was younger, but Corran had lived there until he was nearly twenty, so he knew quite a lot of interesting things about it. Along with some of the political facts, he had also told them about some of the things he missed -- one of them being some of the special Corellian foods.
Inspired, Tahiri had searched some of the culinary sites on the HoloNet until she had found what she wanted -- a recipe for a particular Corellian delicacy she had remembered Corran waxing lyrical about. After she and Anakin had had breakfast, and she had pretended to go to meet Eryl, she had set to work in the kitchen. She had enlisted the help of one of the cheery cooking staff, an older man whom she knew would be able to keep a secret, to help her find the right ingredients, but she had done the actual mixing and cooking herself. When she had finished, she had proudly taken the fruit of her endeavours to her room, and hidden it carefully under a cloth on a shelf in the corner. She couldn't wait to see Anakin's face when he saw it.
The turbo-lift arrived at the hangar and she stepped out. Anakin's X Wing was parked in the same place it had been yesterday. She wandered around it and then amongst the assembled vehicles, looking for the telltale sight of long legs poking out from under one of them, but there was no sign of Anakin at all. Tahiri began to feel slightly uneasy. What if he had taken his X Wing out for a test flight, and run into trouble? But then she thought how silly she was being. If anyone could look after himself, it was Anakin.
Tahiri sat down on an old pilot's couch that had seen better days and frowned thoughtfully. This was most unusual. Obviously Anakin had got himself involved with something that had made him lose track of time. Suddenly Tahiri's eyes narrowed as she remembered the new Jedi who had arrived a few weeks ago. She was a Twi'lek girl who, tragically, had lost her sister in a voxyn attack. Initially Tahiri had given her quite a bit of sympathy, but the last few days she had noticed the girl eyeing Anakin in a way that made Tahiri quite uncomfortable, and she sensed that Alema would, if given the opportunity, make a play for him. She didn't want to think that Anakin would be stupid enough to take any bait Alema offered him, but she also knew that guys operated on a slightly different set of rules to girls. Because Anakin was the way he was -- that is, slightly introspective - he probably wouldn't notice she was making advances until it was too late. Sometimes he was a bit of a dope in that department.
She'd also read enough information in some of the HoloZines to know that once you got guys to a certain point, they'd have to have a will of durasteel to not want to carry on. Lately, both she and Anakin had become aware that they were teetering on the edge of making their relationship more physical, and there was no doubt that Anakin's responses were as yet impervious to the rigorous Jedi control he could impose on other aspects of his life. One thing was certain -- all Tahiri's feminine instincts were telling her that of all the girls there, Alema would be the one who would try to seduce him. The others would be restrained by their sense of decency and their loyalty to maintaining the unity of the group. Alema wouldn't. She was the sort who would act to satisfy her own desires and worry about the consequences later.
With that rather unpleasant thought churning around in her insides, Tahiri marched back into the turbo-lift and pushed the button for her level. She stormed along the corridor, furious at both the thought of Anakin with Alema and even more furious at herself for thinking of it. It didn't help also that she felt bad for not giving Anakin the benefit of the doubt. She flung her door open intending to throw herself down on her bed and then stopped on the spot, all her fears, worries and guilt evaporating like moisture in the Dune Sea. She closed her mouth quickly.
"Hi," he grinned, rising from where he'd been sitting on her bunk, and taking her in his arms. "Sorry I missed dinner."
"Me too." She kissed him back, and then pulled back in surprise.
"Thanks." He grinned again. "I thought all that practice we've been putting in recently would pay off."
"Not your kissing technique, dummy. I mean," she ran her fingers round his chin, "you've shaved."
"Special occasion," he murmured enigmatically, providing her with another opportunity to enjoy his smoothness.
"You old smoothie, you," she giggled when their lips parted. It struck her how stupid she had been thinking the way she had earlier. Obviously love could sometimes make people possessive. She wondered if Anakin ever had similar thoughts about her. "What's the special occasion?"
"Ah." He led her over to a small table he had pulled into the middle of the room. Tahiri hadn't noticed it when she had walked in, but now she saw it was covered with a large white cloth. She wondered for a moment if he had found what she had hidden earlier, but when she glanced over into the corner, she could see it was still there. She transferred her gaze back to the table, and then to Anakin.
"Anakin," she smiled curiously, "what's going on."
"Well," he said. "You won't know about this, but on Corellia at this time they are celebrating something called Valentine's Day. It's a special day for people who are in love, and as I am in love with you," he bent his mouth down to hers. "I mean as I am crazy about you," he corrected a moment later, "I thought why don't we celebrate Valentine's Day."
Tahiri stared up at him, a look of amusement creeping across her face. "When did you think of all this?"
"Last night. There was a small item on the HoloNews about it, and I thought what a great idea it would be. But then I realised I wouldn't be able to get you any of the traditional presents, so I was going to flag it. But then I remembered something Corran had said, and," he pulled off the cloth to reveal a large, brown, sticky, delicious looking cake, "I made you a ryshcate."
Tahiri's hands flew up to her face and after producing a series of excited gasps and giggles, she peered over her fingers at Anakin, her green eyes wide. Anakin's heart leapt at the sight of her. He could have sworn that she became more beautiful every day, and he loved her in all her moods, but the look she was giving him now was more than worth all the effort he had gone to.
And it had been an effort. First he'd had to feed her a story about helping his uncle, and then he'd had to miss dinner because of all the trouble he'd had finding ingredients for the cake. The friendly old cook had helped him make the cake, and for some reason had seemed to know about ryshcates, even though Anakin was sure he wasn't a native of Corellia. The nuts the recipe had demanded had been unavailable, because, according to the cook, somebody had used the last of them just that morning. Instead they had improvised with some mixed nuts they had found in one of the boxes from the latest supply trip.
Anakin enjoyed the occasional cooking stint in the kitchen. There was something very mathematical about all the measuring, and apart from that, he enjoyed sampling the results. Food was, after all, an important part of life, and good food was a definite bonus. When he and Tahiri had their own place he had already decided they would share the cooking -- well, maybe not share it exactly, but he would certainly be willing to do a good bit of it.
"A ryshcate! Ooh, Anakin." Her eyes were twinkling.
"It's a Corellian specialty," he explained. "But as some day soon you are going to become a sort of pseudo Corellian I thought it was particularly appropriate."
Tahiri stared up at him, and then reached up and twined her arms round his neck.
"Wow," he murmured, breathing heavily, several minutes later. "If I'd known it would get this sort of reception, I'd have done it last year."
Tahiri laughed. "This time last year, I was a mess."
Memories of Yavin 4 and Tahiri's long recovery flickered through Anakin's mind.
"And if it wasn't for you, I still would be," she added softly.
Anakin shook his head. "We're not going to go over that again, not tonight. Come on, let's sit down and nosh into this cake. I haven't had dinner and I'm starving." He disconnected his arms from around her waist, and went to sit down, but Tahiri placed her hands on his shoulders.
"Close your eyes," she said.
"Just do as I say -- humour me."
"Okay," he grinned obediently.
"Keep them closed," he heard her say. "Okay. You can open them."
His mouth dropped open.
Tahiri giggled. "Snap," she said triumphantly.
"You made one, too?" Anakin's blue eyes widened with a combination of surprise and amusement as he studied the twin cakes sitting side by side.
Tahiri nodded. "Same as you. I saw the stuff about Valentine's Day on the HoloNet and then remembered Corran talking about ryshcate."
They were both silent for a moment, staring into each other's eyes.
"You know what this means don't you?" said Anakin quietly.
"Yeah," she replied as he pulled her into his arms again. "Great minds think alike."
He chuckled, and nuzzled her nose with his. "Yeah, sort of." He kissed her lightly. "But of course, it means a lot of other stuff as well." He pulled her more closely against him. "Like, um," his lips brushed against hers as he spoke, "that we're really in tune with each other."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Tahiri."
"Happy Valentine's Day to you too."
"Hey, I got something else for us," he said when they had finally managed to disengage themselves from each other and sit down.
Tahiri watched as he pushed the cloth away further to reveal a slim bottle and two beakers. "Anakin Solo, are you planning on getting me tipsy?"
Anakin raised one dark eyebrow. "It wasn't an obvious part of my intention. But I guess if it happens I'll find a way of dealing with it."
Tahiri picked up the bottle and studied the label. "Ah," she said.
"My motives are honourable, you see." He grinned his lop-sided smile and pointed to the product name. "Sparkling pitaro juice. Note -- alcohol free. Lando managed to get hold of some recently, and as it's made in Iicini'ia and therefore fairly hard to get, he thought we might like some."
"Iicini'ia?" Tahiri watched as he flipped out the plastine stopper and filled the two beakers.
"Near Mantrusia -- remember?" Anakin's blue eyes studied her face appreciatively as he handed her a beaker full of the sizzling pale crimson liquid.
"Oh, right." She nodded, remembering their adventures a few months previously with Lando and Tendra on Balmorra, during which they had met some healers from distant Mantrusia. "Mmm. Golly, that's nice."
Anakin took a sip and his eyes registered approval. "Now -- two cakes. Which do you want to eat first?"
Tahiri laughed. "I doubt even you could eat two whole ryshcates."
"Okay, so I was wrong about the ryshcates," she mumbled several hours later as they lay cuddled up against the bolster, listening to the sound system Anakin had rigged up recently by connecting an old ship's intercom into the audio channel on the HoloNet.
"Well, I couldn't have done it without you," he said lazily. "And I think I can honestly say, yours was better than mine."
"Only because mine had the proper nuts."
"Possibly." He nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, mine were a bit too hard."
Tahiri snorted back a giggle.
"What? Oh!" He chuckled. "I'm a bit slow tonight, sorry."
Tahiri gave in trying to restrain herself and giggled out loud.
"Okay, I'll shut up," he said, rubbing his eyes. "Engage brain before engaging mouth. Maybe that stuff wasn't alcohol free after all."
"Try walking in a straight line and we'll soon see."
"Nah, I'd better go, otherwise I'll still be here in the morning." He swung his legs over to the side of the bunk, stood up and stretched.
Tahiri gazed up at him, admiring the athletic lines of his body, and their eyes locked. An unspoken message passed between them, an acknowledgment that the day when they would be waking up together was getting closer, and both knew it. It was something they had discussed on several occasions recently, both wanting to, but both also aware that it was not a step to take lightly. Both also a little scared, not of each other, but of the intensity of the passion that sometimes almost overtook them.
Anakin bent over to her so their lips could meet in a final goodnight kiss. "Pitaro and ryshcate," he grinned. "Nice combination. Very sweet."
"So are you," smiled Tahiri.
"Mmmm, I know. G'night."
"Yeah," he murmured, kissing her again, and walking to the door. He turned just before he walked out and blew her a kiss. She mimed catching it and blew him one back. Not long after the door closed she was asleep, and not long later, a few doors down, so was Anakin. But in their dreams, they were together.
NOTE: The reference to Lando and Tendra and events on Balmorra is from another story on this site called Many Happy Returns. The pitaro juice is also mentioned in another story -- The Mantrusian Affair.
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