This wasn't the first new senator Commander Fox had had to greet that day. A large number of Mid and Outer Rim planets had held elections recently, which of course meant a new influx of dreamers, bigots, and spineless sheep.

(Not that he'd ever officially say such blasphemous thoughts out loud. That would be a one way ticket back to Kamino, and no one would be left to protect his brothers.)

He and Commander Thorn stood next to two of the lead Senate guards in the lobby of the grand building to oversee the welcome of so many new representatives. They may never deign to address him as a sentient being worthy of respect, but at least from they'd know who he was from day one.

(And maybe in the future, their ire would be aimed at a recognizable Clone Trooper, and not a poor shiny just landed on Coruscant.)

He'd already memorized all of the relevant information about each senator, including their names, origin and political leanings. He knew Denon Pavum from Bonadan was the one who'd openly sneered at him and Thorn– a bold move acting superior considering the dismal state of his planet. Jido Thif from Naldar didn't even spare him a glance before shaking the nat-born Senate guards' hands, and Vitiion Haam from Thisspias had looked ready to spit on his shoes if she hadn't been in front of a crowd.

(He really deserved a commendation for how well he dealt with such hatred on a daily basis.)

Fox was silently praying for some sort of emergency to happen so he could be called out on duty by the time Padmé Amidala had come forward, leading a short, blue senator draped in flowing magenta robes. At least here were a few moments of reprieve.

"Commander Fox, Commander Thorn: a pleasure as always," Senator Amidala said with a genuine smile, something very different than the ones of a polite and forced nature he regularly saw her give on the Senate floor. "Might I introduce you to Senator Riyo Chuchi of Pantora?" She gestured at the blue skinned woman, who moved to carefully stand beside her, as was typical of those in close proximity to Senator Amidala's extravagant outfits.

Senator Riyo Chuchi's golden eyes studied both him and Thorn intensely before she gave a polite bow to them. "Wonderful to meet you both, Commanders." She held out her right hand to shake theirs. "I look forward to working alongside you both."

(Was this a trick?)

Fox stared through his helmet at her outstretched hand for long enough that her smile began to waver. He simply… didn't know how to react. A handshake signaled that both individuals were on an equal standing, that they were greeting each other with mutual respect and agreed terms.

A senator had never shaken his hand. Not even the sympathetic ones. That kind of action in public could be used against them, used to later influence their stance on bills.

And yet, here she was.

It seemed he had hesitated out of shock for too long, as Thorn had taken initiative and given her a formal salute instead. Fox followed suit only a heartbeat later, and to his relief, Senator Chuchi's smile remained despite her lowering her hand to hide it amongst the folds of her skirts.

"I hope to see you around, Commanders," she said with a dip of her head and a last glance at his and Thorn's helmets, seemingly wanting a last look to memorize their identifiable features before Senator Amidala guided her over to meet the Senate guards before moving further inside the building.

Fox continued to keep his head facing forwards even as he saw Thorn tilt his helmet slightly as he observed him carefully. Thankfully, he only did so for a moment before returning to parade rest so it at least gave the appearance that he was attentive to the next few senators. In reality, he had clearly turned off his outer speakers and was busy under the cover of his helmet, as a message notification popped up in the corner of his HUD. With a silent sigh, Fox switched off his own speakers and opened the chat.

[CC-3371] "Thorn": getting enough air in there, fox?

[CC-1010] "Fox": i'm fine. stay focused

"Thorn": riiiiight. stay focused on this mind-numbing parade of puppets and their masters. got it

"Thorn": really tho, haven't ever seen you freeze up like that before. you good?

"Fox": i said i'm fine. drop it.

"Thorn": hmm

"Thorn": you should apologize if you get the chance

"Thorn": she seemed alright for a politician

"Fox": Thorn.

"Thorn": fine!

Fox closed the chat with a huff and did his best to ignore the light shaking of Thorn's shoulders beside him as the next senator approached with their retinue. And so the day would continue to go, and the memory of Senator Chuchi's smile would be forgotten somewhere in the recesses of his mind...


...until a fortnight later.

As Commander of the Coruscant Guard, Fox rarely ever had any breathing room to relax. In the past fourteen days since the newest members of the Senate had been called to session, he'd already had to deal with three bounties, five counts of bribery, two fistfights, and one assassination attempt (a relatively light load, in hindsight).

He was returning from mediating a conference between a pair of warring planets' senators and the three other neutral representatives of the system when he ran into Senator Chuchi again– quite literally ran into her. He had just rounded the corner before the wing's elevators when a small body slammed into his front and went sprawling to the carpeted floor while he stumbled back.

"My apologies–"

"Oh stars, I'm so sorry–!"

Fox cut off as they spoke at the same time and looked down to find himself staring down at Senator Chuchi.

Tonight, she was wearing matching deep plum shoulder-less long sleeves and skirts with a shimmering golden shawl wrapped around her arms. Her lavender hair was done in twin looping braids that were tied in a bun at the back of her head and secured with three crystal encrusted pins. He watched for a moment transfixed as several strands fell free in front of her forehead as she bent down to pick up her datapad and bundle of flimsiplast that had scattered over the floor. He had to physically shake his head to clear his thoughts enough to kneel next to her and help collect the rest of her work into a neat pile, which he handed back to her silently before helping her back to her feet.

"Thank you for your help," she said, brushing herself off before she finally looked up at her helper. "Oh, Commander Fox! Hello!"

Fox coughed slightly and gave her a polite nod, although not as shallow as the ones he usually reserved for those in the Senate. "Are you alright, ma'am?"

Little crinkles formed around her eyes as she smiled up at him. "I'm quite alright, thank you. I'm so sorry for crashing into you– I was mentally drafting an amendment to a bill I'm helping sponsor and I'm afraid I got quite distracted."

"No worries, ma'am. My armor's protected against stronger attacks than that."

Kriff, had he just made a joke?

(After hearing Senator Chuchi's quiet laugh, Fox resolved to make far more jokes in the future.)

"I'm sure it has, Commander. I've heard about several of your more recent achievements from your fellow Commanders Thorn and Stone."

She'd spoken with Thorn and Stone? This was the first he was hearing of it. "I hope only good things, ma'am."

"Very impressive things," she replied. Was she teasing him? "I wasn't aware that a jammed blaster could be used as a baton." She was teasing him.

Fox found himself speechless. Never had anyone outside of a brother dared to do such a thing, and yet here was this tiny, newly elected senator from the Outer Rim who'd managed to do the impossible in under five minutes.

(He'd be interested to see what she'd accomplish.)

"It's all part of the job, ma'am," he settled on safely replying.

"Of course, Commander." She looked down as her datapad lit up with an incoming message. "Ah… do forgive me, Commander Fox, but I must get back to my office. If you ever have a moment, feel free to stop by and say hello!" She waved briefly and he gave her a casual salute before she walked around the corner and off down the hallway at a fast pace.

Fox watched her go quietly before turning back on his heel and finally heading towards the elevators.