Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match
"It's so sad."
Silya Shessaun glanced up from her holopad and stared at her young friend, Padme Amidala of Naboo. They were sitting together in the Senate chambers cafeteria, located near the base of the massive building and filled at the moment with hundreds of customers. "What's so sad?" she prompted when Padme said nothing more.
Silya lowered her pad to the table and chuckled. "Well, I think he's doing a fantastic job, far better than Valorum ever dreamed. The way he solved that dispute on the Hydian Way proposed toll was nothing short of genius. You're still new to the senate, Padme. Give it time."
Padme laughed. "Oh no, not his politics. He's very capable there. I meant his social life."
"Lack thereof," Padme clarified.
Silya abandoned any hopes of catching up on the water bill that going to be debated this afternoon and focused on her fellow Senator. While Silya was in her seventh year as senator –having begun her senatorial duties at the impressive age of twenty – Padme was only in her second year, young, bright-eyed, energetic, and fully recovered from the earlier fiasco with Rush Clovis. She reminded Silya of the wonderful years spent together in the Legislative Youth Program. Padme Amidala was brilliant and driven even then.
Padme was grinning at her, so she quickly said, "I wasn't aware the Naboo put great stock in social lives."
Padme looked indignant. "We do too!"
"Mmhm." Silya's gaze went longingly to her Senate bill. She sighed. "Besides dear, this is Chancellor Palpatine. He's never shown any interest in a social life."
"And that's unfortunate," Padme insisted. "He's a very special old friend of mine and a mentor, and I think he would be a lot better off if he had some excitement in his life. Besides, we've not been seeing eye to eye on some of the Trade Federation rulings this month and I want to make it up to him."
Silya stared. "I asked him several years ago at a gathering whether he ever had a wife. He told me he was married to the work, which is admirable but perhaps taking it a bit far…"
Padme ignored her trailing words. "He's reclusive. His whole family died when he was young, and that's about all I know. He doesn't like to talk about it. Very tragic," she reflected, sobering for a moment. "I'm fairly sure he's never been married. Maybe that's what he needs."
"Galactic man of mystery," Silya dryly cracked and then smiled. "I know the Holonet loves to speculate about his personal life, but all this busybody snooping is unqueenly behavior."
"Well, it's a good thing I'm a senator and not a queen anymore, because that's what we do best," Padme grinned back and sipped from her drink. "Besides, it's a slow month in the Senate."
"Slower," Padme amended. "We only have two massive scandals right now. Gunray's case is going to the committees, and Dooku has cut off communication with us again because of it."
Silya was alarmed to catch a gleam of mischief in those brown eyes. She sat up straighter and pushed her tray fully onto the table. "Padme, I hope you aren't planning something. Whether or not we are, Chancellor Palpatine has to be very busy with the Trade Federation still posturing and Dooku trying to pull the Republic apart."
"All work and no play makes a politician old before his time," Padme quipped. "What harm could a little matchmaking do?"
"We are talking about Chancellor Palpatine, yes?" Silya cocked her head. "I think he lives for his work. Besides, how will you find who interests him? Even the Holonet can't figure that out. They've practically declared that he doesn't exist as a person."
Padme look appalled. "He does too! He's a Naboo. He just likes his privacy. We're still on fairly good terms, and I was his queen. I'll have a social gathering, not too large, and I'll feel him out with different options."
"You plan to get him drunk?" Silya felt her eyes bulging as she read between the lines.
Padme smiled. "If it's easier that way. It's for his own good, Silya. Do you want to come?"
Silya shook her head quickly. "Oh no, no, I prefer to watch fireworks from a safer distance."
"Suit yourself, but if I find out he secretly likes you, I'll let you know," Padme teased and rose from the table, taking her tray to the return and melding into the rush of senators and interns.
She missed the bright blush that flashed across the older woman's face.
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine scowled down at the datapad, the heat of his expression nearly enough to melt its case. Viceroy Nute Gunray's trial for violation of Trade Order 342 was being reintroduced to the Protective Trade Committee in three days. When would the fools ever learn to let things lie?
When he had envisioned ruling the galaxy, he had honestly not foreseen the levels of paperwork that accompanied the process. Or the levels of incompetence in his underlings. Gunray was still feeling the effects of his own stupidity from the failed blockade of Naboo, and Palpatine was tempted to let him languish for years more, were it not for the plans he would soon set in motion.
A few calls and favors would be required then. He reached for his com, but it lit up before he touched it, and Sate Pestage's voice crackled into the quiet office. "Chancellor, Senator Amidala of Naboo is in your waiting room. She wonders if you might have a few minutes."
Amidala. The two of them had not spoken in several weeks, as they found themselves on opposite sides of the current Trade Federation dispute. Well, not completely opposite, but as Chancellor he was expected to remain neutral, and Amidala…well, she loved Naboo. Their friendship had cooled slightly as a result.
Could she be here about Gunray? More indignant calls for justice that he would politely have to squash? Her zeal to avenge their planet was commendable and quite tiresome, and he considered turning her request down immediately. But no, if she was planning something for his lamentable excuse of a viceroy, he needed to be aware of it.
"Let her in," he grumbled softly, standing up and coming around his desk, brushing the wrinkles out of his long thick robes and wishing for a moment that he had chosen a lackey to serve as Chancellor, just to handle days like these. Perhaps a clone someday…
"M'Lady!" he gushed out when Padme Amidala stepped into his view. "It warms this old heart to see you so well and beautiful, as usual. It has been some time."
The young senator offered a gentle bow in return as he offered her his hands. "Supreme Chancellor, you are terribly kind to me."
He chuckled good-naturedly and waved her into his office. "Nonsense. I only speak the truth, you know."
They laughed together at that notion, but for entirely different reasons, he mused. Her pretty little head would spin so fast if she knew… When he motioned to one of the seats from across his desk, he found her eyeing him with a curiously unfathomable stare. She reddened when she realized she had been caught.
He tossed his interest in her odd behavior aside as he swept gracefully into his chair. "Now, I confess a modicum of curiosity at your request to see me." And if you give me one more reason that Nute Gunray deserves to be strung from Coruscant's highest traffic cable, I shall probably…regrettably sit here and continue to smile at you. The impotence of a double life was annoying at times.
Padme smiled back at him, though in all likelihood hers was a sincere smile and not a masquerading snarl. "I apologize as the request was unexpected, and I hope you weren't too busy."
"Never too busy for one of my dearest friends," he lied cheerfully. "But you seem on edge. I do hope everything is in order on Naboo." How simple it was to lean forward and fill his pale eyes with a troubled concern.
"Everything is going well on Naboo," Padme assured him. "In fact, that's the reason I'm here."
Amidala never just showed up when things were running smoothly. Instantly on alert and still half-suspecting a side attack on the Trade disputes, Palpatine steepled his fingers and leaned back. "Well, that is good news, although usually I am not required when things do go well."
"Well, you're certainly not required, but you are invited," Padme's smile was decidedly mischievous now. The young senator had never been able to hide her true emotions from him, even as the icy queen of her people, and now her body language screamed, I'm planning something!
He only had to partly fake his confusion. "Invited, m'lady?"
She fixed her bright eyes on him. "The Queen sent me the annual reports on Naboo's plasma operations. Ever since the Trade Federation was called to account for the blockade of Naboo, we've been able to increase the gross income nearly twenty-three percent this year by working with other intermediaries."
I know. I've been hearing Lott Dod squawking about that for some time now. He schooled his face into a proper display of pleased surprise. "Excellent news! Naboo is finally getting a chance to make its stand in the economic sector."
"Yes," Padme nodded, "and I want to celebrate this historic occasion."
Surely not…"With…a party?" he asked slowly.
She grinned again. "How else? I would be honored by your presence, Chancellor. It will be a small gathering at the Naboo Embassy."
He thought back to the last time he had seen Amidala at a party, remembered the awkward drunken moment and nearly shook his head in denial then and there. It was one thing to dutifully listen to the pleas of his citizens, quite another to mingle in socially contrived settings. "I hope you understand that I would be delighted to attend. However, I fear that my presence may be required in the Senate."
"Oh, no fear of that," Padme assured him. "I've planned it for a week and three days from now, a Senate holiday actually. And I had my office check with yours to make certain your diplomatic schedule was free. I didn't want to stand in the way of reuniting the separatists to the Republic. To be honest, we have not seen much of each other these past months, and I wish to chat with my old friend like we used to."
And someday your old friend will dissolve into the nothingness he always was, Palpatine considered her for a long moment, wishing that her will was less strong so he could just force her secrets from her mind and be done with it. Sober, Padme could be a formidable mental obstacle. So what did she want from him? Among politicians, "chats" did not exist. Was she intending to soften him for some extreme favor?
But then, Padme had always been naïve, and if he wanted to know her designs then he would have to indulge her youthful exuberance a while longer. Patience came easily to him. "You have prepared admirably, and I could use a break from this tedious paperwork. Very well, my lady, I know when to surrender."
"Good," she exclaimed, sounding like the definitive queen of old and standing suddenly. "I'll have my office give yours the details. I won't take any more of your time today, Chancellor, but thank you."
"Thank you, Senator Amidala. I look forward to it," he replied, mild and pensive as he walked her to his office door. Sate Pestage watched her leave the outer chamber and turned gleaming eyes on his superior.
"Fending off more attacks on poor Gunray?" he asked.
Palpatine shook his head slowly. "No. No, actually, I have a party of Amidala's to attend. The game never ends." Pestage's mouth dropped open slightly. Palpatine scowled and sent out a tiny flicker of the Force to put the man's jaw back where it belonged, then stalked into his office.
"He agreed," Padme blurted when she met Silya on the Senate steps.
"Impressive," Silya sidestepped an awestruck Jawa tourist and continued toward the entrance. Unfazed, Padme pursued her and fell into step alongside as they moved down the wide hallways that stretched around the main chamber.
She tried again. "Meaning I've now got to figure out who else to invite."
"Your other victims?" Silya chuckled at the astounded expression on her friend's beautiful face. She smothered a smile and passed her Senate ID in front of the lock to her office quarters. "Relax, Padme. I was only joking. Partly. How did you manage to get him to agree?"
Padme followed her into the wedge-shaped office and pondered the question. "Come to think of it, he gave in faster than I thought. The poor man looked terribly exhausted."
"Not surprising. Rumors have it that he goes days without sleeping," Silya muttered, sweeping a pile of paperwork off the chair across from her desk and waving Padme into it.
The Naboo senator sank gracefully in and grinned. "Hard to imagine, but if anyone is dedicated to our cause, it's him."
Silya silently agreed. Chancellor Palpatine was a refreshing starburst of honesty in a morass of corruption. A simpleton and naïve to boot, some Senators laughed, but Silya figured that anyone who could rise to Chancellor so quickly and settle squabbles in the Senate as smoothly as Palpatine did had to have significant political acumen. She shooed a hovering intern out of the room and turned back to Padme. "So, who have you chosen?"
Padme shook her head in obvious dejection. "I have some ideas, but there's so little to go on."
Silya thought about it. "I suggest staying with humans or near-humans." Padme shot her a look that said, really? Silya ignored it. "How about Mon Mothma? She's very political-minded and charming."
"Mon Mothma!" Padme grunted in surprise. "She's still half his age!"
And I'm older than Mon Mothma. "Well, she acts just as old or older."
"Silya!" Padme laughed, and they considered their mutual friend, Mon Mothma. The Senator from Chandrila was as career-minded as they came. When she wanted to, Mon Mothma could carry a sense of gravitas to rival the most established of Senators. "Well, maybe. He is well preserved."
Silya choked back a cough at that, quickly reached for her holopad, and buried her nose in it. "Really, Padme!"
"What? I was interviewed just two months ago by some tabloid writer, Kakka something-"
"Kakka Freetaan?" Silya interrupted and wrinkled her nose. "Why in the galaxy did you grant an interview to her? That woman is the worst tabloid writer of the bunch on Coruscant."
"And you have five more years of experience on Coruscant to know that," Padme crossed her arms. "Rest assured, it won't happen again. Anyway, she labeled him one of Coruscant's most eligible bachelors."
Silya studied her holopad closely, though she forgot to read the words. "Clearly, she doesn't realize that he hasn't placed himself on that list," she mumbled. "And you haven't either. I don't think this will end well, Padme."
Padme shrugged. "Well, I'll have you to comfort me if it doesn't."
"What?" Silya looked up sharply.
"You have to come, Silya. I need you there to back me up," Padme's round-eyed begging had only gotten better with time. Silya felt the excuses that had flooded her mouth begin to drain away again.
"I said I didn't…" she trailed off. Why did she feel like the guilty one when Padme was the schemer?
"I'll take you to Coruscant Heights for dinner tomorrow," the schemer cajoled, grinning brightly.
Silya's mouth watered and her will dissolved. "You'd better. But Padme, is this really all about getting Palpatine a lady friend?"
"Well that, yes. And if that doesn't go well, then I can always have a friendly chat about Nute Gunray while he's my captive audience," Padme shrugged. Silya shook her head. Too bad Padme was not older. Much like Palpatine, her kind and unassuming front hid an astute and political personality all its own.
This is just a little half-humorous follow-up to my other story, Courtship of Padme Amidala, set later in the same year, 24BBY. It'll be a two or three parter that's been running around in my head for over a month now.
I have made Padme and Palpatine fairly easy-going with each other mainly because of passages in Darth Plagueis and the start of Episode 2. At least for Padme, they seemed to be on fairly good terms at one point. We get glimpses of her happier side in the Clone Wars, and I enjoy having her interact with someone other than Anakin now and then.