Author's note: Sequel to Of Lightbulbs and Sketching and What This Gets Us.
Disclaimer: George Lucas owns Star Wars, and I am not making a profit from this work of fanfiction.
... AND LET'S BEGIN
Anakin arrived for his second artistic venture with Palpatine nearly half an hour later, flushed and a little windblown from running up the emergency stairs to the Chancellor's 500 Republica apartment. It had been faster than waiting for a swift tube.
"Anakin! There you are! I was afraid you'd forgotten me, my boy."
Anakin blushed. Did the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic really think he was so irresponsible? "No, sir. I was held up in a debriefing."
"The Council again?" The Chancellor shook his head. "Sometimes I think they don't give enough consideration to your needs as an individual. Surely they must understand that even a Jedi of your remarkable energy needs some time to relax. Time to simply be a human being, without all the weight of their demands."
Anakin cleared his throat. "It was just a debriefing, sir. It's standard after a mission. I'm sure I'll get some time to myself later. In fact ..." he gave Palpatine his widest smile "... I'm pretty sure you're looking at it."
"Anakin! How stupid of me. I am honored that you should choose to spend your few free hours with me ... but perhaps you should be resting? I'd understand if you wanted to go out with your friends instead. Or meditate, or tinker with a droid. Whatever it is you do for fun these days."
Anakin swallowed. "Actually, sir, I don't think I have any friends at the Temple closer than you. I mean --" he blushed, realizing how presumptuous he'd just sounded "-- not that I expect you to feel the same way, Chancellor. It's just that Jedi don't ... um ... they don't get close, not really. And meditating and droids can wait." He grinned. "After all, we can't let anything stand in the way of creating fine art, can we?"
Palpatine laughed a rare, unfettered laugh. "Sometimes, Anakin, I really don't know what I would do without you. All right, then. I'd like to sketch you without your shirt this time, if I may. Let's see what that Jedi training has done for you."
Anakin's grin stayed in place as he stripped of his utility belt and layered tunics. It was unusual to see the Chancellor in such a carefree mood. Usually his responsibilities weighed so heavily on him that even his smiles, filled with affection as they were, seemed somehow muted, or practiced. As though he remembered what happiness looked like but had forgotten the experience, and he was just going through the motions for everyone else's benefit.
Tonight, he seemed ... looser, more relaxed. Even, oddly, content. Thrilled with delight at the prospect of an evening spent in the company of a boy two generations his junior, gleefully practicing his art when many would have preferred more sophisticated company. Palpatine didn't need anything but his pencils and something to draw; and if Anakin could increase his general pleasure in the few hours the Supreme Chancellor allowed himself free by making himself agreeable ... well, it was a privilege he would take, gladly.
And though Anakin generally preferred to be entertaining, if he was going to try and be entertaining, with his clothes on ... well, the Jedi knew that the body was nothing to be embarrassed about. And it wasn't like lying around on silk cushions -- privately Anakin thought they were overdecorated, but maybe that was his austere upbringing, first as a slave and then as a Jedi, talking -- was hard to do. Just a little unnerving, to be scrutinized so closely.
"Am I making you uncomfortable, my boy?" Palpatine asked, pausing with a charcoal pencil held in one hand, almost as though he had guessed Anakin's thoughts, and Anakin used his training to suppress a blush.
"Not at all, Chancellor," he prevaricated.
"Because if you want to put your shirt back on, Anakin ... if you don't feel entirely comfortable with me ... I can certainly understand. I'm sure I could manage to sketch something, even if I don't have exactly the line I was looking for ..." The Chancellor trailed off, frowning in concern, half at the paper in front of him and half at the reclining Anakin, adrift in silk cushions.
"No!" Anakin exclaimed, feeling guilty for even thinking about such a small nuisance as not having all his clothes. After all, weren't Jedi supposed to be above such considerations? Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter, he reminded himself. "I'm fine, Chancellor. Really. And I'm entirely at your disposal. Whatever you need, sir, I'll do my best."
The Chancellor grinned like a child who'd just gotten a treat. "Really, Anakin, you are remarkable. Very well, then. I shall take you at your word. Stretch out, there ... no, move your legs a little farther apart ... yes, perfect ... oh yes, Anakin ... and let's begin."