Sometimes Carrick did things just because he wanted to.
Far too often he did things because they would help him in a political manner, because they would improve his powerbase and earn him favours from powerful and influential people. As a politician it was just kind of expected that he would turn things to his advantage and not at all far from the truth considering how much of the time he truly did do that.
But today he was on Serenno not to squeeze someone for blackmail material or offer a favour in exchange for another one further down the line, like he had done the last time he was on Serenno. No, he was here to do something he wanted to do and that was to take a Mando for a dinner date. Was it strange that he was taking an armoured warrior woman out for dinner?
Absolutely not and only a sexist would think there was - just because the woman could pummel him to a blood pulp if the mood took her, did not make her any less capable of being a captivating woman. In this case it actually kind of made Carrick even more interested truth be told. So he had sent her the time and date for their meeting via message and was now waiting at the spaceport for her to arrive.
He'd not so much dressed up as he'd worn what he usually did because that tended to be more dressed up than most people anyway. Humming a little bit as he waited, he double checked their reservation.
Perhaps Reiel ought to have thought things thoroughly first before she began flirting with an ex-Jedi during her last mission, but she would be a damned hypocrite for even attempting to deny the fact that she had enjoyed it.
If she was being honest, she never even thought that Carrick would hold true to his word about treating her to dinner. Most men wouldn't even bother despite showing interest in her – if they were actually interested at all in the first place. One did not simply offer to take a woman to dinner if she was clad in heavy armor and refused to remove her helmet for the kriffing galaxy to see.
So imagine Reiel's surprise upon receiving Carrick's message about that dinner they talked about, complete with the time, date, and location of their meeting. There was a bit of horror thrown in the picture as well, considering she had been with her father when she received the message. Lucky for her (and the ex-Jedi, maybe?), her buir was too busy freezing their bounties in carbonite for him to hear what the message was about.
Reiel stepped out of the freighter, thanking the pilot and his crew for letting her join them on the way to Serenno. All she had to do in exchange for the free ride was to get rid of a small group of bandits who were foolish enough to try and steal some crates full of Maker-knew-what (not illegal, to her relief) down the cargo hold where a fully armed and armored Mandalorian had been hiding – a complete stowaway who became a guard in exchange for being allowed in the transport.
Embarrassing, but, eh. She'd experienced worse.
She walked around the spaceport to check if the freighter had docked in the right one. It was her first time on the planet after all. Reiel would've wandered even further if she hadn't caught sight of her quarry.
"Oh, kriff," she muttered, suddenly feeling nervous. "It's really happening. Just– Just calm down, alright? Kriff."
Squaring her shoulders and standing tall (she rolled her eyes at the word) and a little proud to calm her nerves, Reiel made her way towards Carrick with a grin on her covered face.
"Say, mesh'la. Do you hang around here often?"
What a way to greet someone who's going to take you out to dinner.
Ah he thought he'd felt some extra nervous energy in the air and he had been right! He smirked ever so slightly as he turned to regard his guest for the evening. Reiel was, of course, still clad entirely in her Mandalorian armour and it looked rather shiny. Had she shined her armour for their date he wondered? Was that the Mandalorian way of dressing up when you were going out? It was amusing to think about it but he still didn't even know what she was calling him so probably best if he avoided drawing conclusions about her culture.
"Only when I'm waiting for a woman in heavy armour to come sweep me off my feet."
Didn't mean he couldn't flirt though.
He gave her a real smile for a moment before waving for her to follow him.
"Come on then my Mando - we've got a reservation to make."
Walking down the street with a heavily armed and armoured woman by his side was a feeling that Carrick knew he would never get enough of. People in fancy cloaks and capes were stopping to stare at them and he couldn't help but find it so amusing that they thought that their stares mattered. Carrick held out a hand to take Reiel's hand in his own.
"It's like they've never seen a woman before, honestly."
If there was anything Reiel was grateful for at this exact moment, it was for the existence of the strict Creed she followed that required her to never show her face to any other living being sans her close family.
Her cheeks were burning underneath her helmet and she wouldn't be surprised if Carrick would actually feel the heat if he ever touched the beskar covering her head. Alright, that may have been an exaggeration on her part, but that tiny smirk on the ex-Jedi's face when he turned to look at her – and the way he eyed her, really – suggested that he had noticed the extra shine on her armor. Reiel had been busy wiping any blaster marks or grime off and cleaning the armor to the point of looking fresh out of the armorer's forge back there in the privacy of the freighter's cargo hold, actually feeling paranoid about how she would look like (her helmet and armor, rather) once she met up with him. It was obvious that she had never done this before, this "going out for dinner" thing – well, once, technically, with another Mandalorian in their clan who... wished to know her better. But that one ended in a disaster, the guy admitting that he had only asked her out because he lost a bet.
She could still feel the pain in her knuckles if she thought back on how she beat him up and sent him running back to his stupid friends.
Reiel let out an amused chuckle at Carrick's response and curtsied playfully.
"Lead the way, then, gorgeous."
The Mandalorian was quick to fall in stride beside him, taking in the sights around her. A lot of people in fancy clothing out here, openly staring at the two of them, and, hey, were those two women in elegant dresses whispering with each other while raising snobbish brows at her?
Reiel didn't bother to hide the giggle at the looks they were receiving. There was only one person in this planet whose opinion about her mattered at the moment and he was right here, walking beside her and, oh–!
She looked at Carrick's proferred hand, wide-eyed and all too pleased at his following remark. The Mandalorian threw her hesitation to the wind and – feeling a little bolder than she would ever admit – slid one glove off then took his hand with her now bare one. It shouldn't surprise her how big his hand was compared to hers, but here she was, staring at their joined hands with interest.
His next words made her look back up at him and she smirked, nodding her head in agreement.
"Maybe they never have," Reiel commented. "It's a shame, really. Look at these poor saps. Stuck dealing with damsels who can't cover your back in a barfight. Laandur."
The Mandalorian then shifted her focus back at Carrick, helmeted head tilted to the side in curiosity.
"So... what kind of dinner arrangements have you planned for me, Carrick? Do we get a private room or something?"
No facial exposure, right? Sometimes, Reiel did hate having to follow the Way of the Mandalore – the stricter interpretation, that is. Never did her good in scenarios such as this one. It's either Carrick ate blindfolded or they sit back to back and have him promise not to take a peek.
A lesser man may have felt as though they were being mocked for being called gorgeous - preferred to be called handsome or something similar - but Carrick was not a lesser man. Instead he responded with another smirk over his shoulder and a wink. She seemed to enjoy his more open responses to what she did. The expressions he made were only slightly exaggerated and only for her amusement so he hoped she didn't feel as though he were having fun at her expense.
He was having fun though.
Of course he did pause ever so slightly when she seemed to be surprised by his offered hand. He had a few seconds where he was concerned he had misread her intentions and how comfortable she was with expressions of any kind. But these were put to rest swiftly when she did slide one of her hands in with his. The fact that she had slid a glove off to do so was a rather nice touch.
His thumb ran along the back of her small hand with a ghost-light touch.
"And the men are just jealous." he agreed with a smirk, "They're looking at me, walking hand in hand with a Mandalorian, and they're wishing they could be me. And you know what?"
"It's worth them being jealous over."
Her hand was a contrast of calluses from hard work and softest skin - it was both feminine and warrior in one and that was her all over it seemed. He led the way to the restaurant he had made reservations at, handing his credit chip to the doorman and being escorted through the main floor of the restaurant to a private room. The door closed when the waiter left, leaving them alone in the room aside from a protocol droid.
"Droids don't count, right?" he asked for clarification as he pulled out a long strip of heavy cloth, turning away from her slightly so she could tie it for her, "Be a dear and tie it? Tight as you like - if I get a peak I want it to be because you want me to, not because the blindfold slipped."
Reiel could only hope that she was properly expressing just how much fun she was currently having through her words and gestures, if not for the smile reaching her eyes that Carrick could not see. It didn't even bother her in the slightest what he might think of the state of her hands hardened by years of training and labor. There were people who saw beauty in hands who knew of life's hardships, and somehow she knew that the ex-Jedi was one of them.
He was beyond ordinary, anyway. That much the Mandalorian knew.
She allowed Carrick to lead her to a restaurant, ignoring the looks they were receiving, and into a private room. Reiel could not help herself from thanking the departing waiter for his services before turning to the protocol droid.
"No, they don't count," she confirmed, returning the droid's bow with an incline of her head. Reiel then turned to look at Carrick then at the strip of cloth he offered her. She took it, tested it's length and strength, then nodded in satisfaction.
"Someone's been prepared – lovely," the Mandalorian jested but deeply appreciated the gesture. She covered his eyes with the cloth, tying it securely but not too firmly to the point of discomfort before stepping in front of him. There's no way she would let that blindfold slip without her permission. Her identity as a Mandalorian was at stake here. He would not see her face. Nor anyone in this building, for that matter.
Unless he'd agree to be a part of her family, whether as a brother or – too soon, she thought, blushing – a spouse. A nervous giggle escaped her lips at the latter option.
Yep. Way too soon.
Reiel awkwardly waved a hand over his face. Just making sure that he's not really seeing anything.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" she asked, clearly joking but curled her hand into a fist nonetheless. "Nah, I'm kidding. Did I tie the cloth too tight? I hope not. Wouldn't want you to be even more uncomfortable."
She knew she was stalling, but eventually she would have to remove her helmet. Reiel took a deep breath, raised both hands to her buyce, and swiftly took it off with a snap-hiss before she could chicken out even further.
Shoulder-length hair cascaded down, finally free from their prison. The cool kiss of natural air always felt so good, and she closed her eyes for a few seconds to savor the feeling. The Mandalorian nervously ran her fingers through her messy hair, taming and smoothing the usually unruly dark brown locks down before lifting her head to look at Carrick with her own eyes.
Gorgeous, indeed. And considering the combat prowess she had seen during her last mission, Reiel's use of the word was justified in Mandalorian standards. Beauty wasn't limited to physical features to a Mando, see.
"Hey there, handsome," she greeted, her unfiltered voice floating in the room. "The name's Reiel. What's yours?"
Another joking attempt. Helped calm down a warrior lady, no?
Thank the Force that droid didn't count - and that she wasn't one of those weirdos who liked to act like their droids were living things. They were nice companions and all but they weren't alive so they didn't really rate highly in his opinion as a Jedi trained politician. If they got the right to vote he would really be interested in keeping them on side but, as it stood, they were property all over the Galaxy so he didn't worry about their feelings.
He chuckled a little bit.
"Ah but I didn't think to pack the restraints this time." he teased her as she tied the blindfold around his eyes tightly, "Next time, eh? Just so you're aware - I will be using the Force. It doesn't give me details just... it's like touching something."
He shrugged a little bit and tilted his head slightly when she held up a fist.
"A fist." he confirmed with a small smirk, "Don't worry. I'm comfortable enough and getting more relaxed all the time. Not like I have to worry about my safety when there's a Mandalorian warrior sat at my table, right?"
Carrick moved, slowly, to sit down in the chair that was going to be his. Sitting down equally slowly, he held his hands out ahead of him, touching the cutlery and plates with light touches to confirm that the very hazy outlines of things he could 'see' with the Force were true. Force Sight would, usually, be a lot clearer than this but... well he had intentionally made his technique rather sloppy so it would still be next to impossible for him to actually see her features, even if he could tell she wasn't wearing a helmet.
He chuckled a little bit.
"I'd say you're as enchanting as I thought but, well, I'm not good with details right now." he joked right back, "Carrick. My family name isn't really mine yet - trouble with going to the Jedi young was that my family took me off the family tree... getting back on is a pain and a half for sure."
Carrick smiled and held the glass as the protocol droid filled the glasses.
"Naboo red - I brought the bottle from home." he admitted with a little chuckle, "Give you a taste of my home rather than completely tipping things against you and bringing you home. Neutral ground is far better for a first date, right?"
For an embarrassingly short moment, Reiel was left wondering what Carrick meant. She had no idea what he meant with packing restraints. Was there a bounty in the restaurant that needed capturing? The Mandalorian didn't bother carrying a pair of cuffs with her, but maybe her whipcord will do if someone needed tying up–
And then the meaning hit her. She felt like an idiot for completely missing that one out. Reiel laughed, equal parts embarrassed and flustered at the teasing she had been shot with. She shook her head, one hand flying to lightly smack her forehead at her mind's own sluggishness. She acknowledged his use of the Force with a consenting nod – Reiel, by all means, would have been cautious by the prospect but meeting Jedi Knight Fiach Dubh months ago in Tatooine had eased her suspicions about the Force. The female Jedi had been a good teacher, answering Reiel's questions about the Force with as much detail as she could.
"If it helps you, then by all means use it," Reiel told him, but narrowed her eyes when Carrick guessed correctly. No, he didn't guess – the Force was involved. But if it entailed sensing things with something that resembled a touch, then she's still safe and a mile away from breaking the Creed.
She walked beside him as he made his way to his seat. Only when Carrick had occupied his chair did Reiel sit on her own, gaze drifting down on the table and head tilting at the arrangement. She was not used with such fine dining, but at least she could tell what knife and fork to use when eating certain food.
These things could kill as well, she mused. Just exert the right force and strength, let alone the angle and body part which could be cut or stabbed so easily–
Stop right there, sheesh. It's not like you're here to kill anyone with cutlery, Manda's sakes.
"Ah, it seems a little unfair on your part. Here I am, feasting my eyes on a gorgeous man, and he can't even see my face," she teased, smirking a little. Reiel was quick to remove the smirk off of her face at the mention of his family name – or the lack, thereof. From what she'd learned, the Jedi Order once took Force-sensitive children from their families at a young age, not only to simply have them learn about the Force early in their lives but to also teach the younglings to avoid creating attachments. But Carrick's case seemed different. Having your own family cut you off?
Not her place to ask, so she simply shrugged and watched as the protocol droid began filling their glasses with wine. A grin appeared on Reiel's face – she doubted that this would even make her feel tipsy.
"How thoughtful." Reiel let out a laugh at his follow-through, lifting her glass and drinking the stuff like it was some good old-fashioned Mandalorian ale. "Even more thoughtful, that – rule number one in first dates: No taking your date home. And yes, neutral ground is far, far better. Imagine the havoc I could wreak upon your home if you ever made the mistake of taking me. Or the uproar the clan will surely make if I took you home. It'll be chaotic, but the two of us we'll have a lot of laughs out of that."
She gestured for the droid to refill her glass and looked at Carrick with a smile. "So... is this the part where we get to know each other better, mesh'la?"
The fact that she didn't seem to get his joke about the restraints being required amused him to no end but he hid it rather well. A small twist of his lips was all he allowed himself - he wasn't laughing at her after all and he didn't want to give even the hint of that as an option. Instead he kept his visual reaction rather understated. He shrugged a little bit as he wiggled his fingers a little bit in a so-so gesture when she allowed him to use it if it helped him.
"After so long it's like losing a limb and a sense when you cut yourself off from it entirely." he admitted, "So I'd rather not cut myself off from it like that if you see what I mean."
Every part of him was as he had advertised and that included his connection to, and use of, the Force. It was a part of him and it always would be, even if some of his political opponents were already trying to use it against him. Thankfully none of them truly knew how to demonize Force users because they were so incredibly inexperienced in dealing with them as politicians.
More the cult-like versions of them.
He chuckled a little bit.
"Ah unfair? Yes. But I take cultural boundaries seriously." he assured her with a grin, "I'm not about to suggest we start breaking taboos for each other... the night is still young after all."
He hummed a little bit.
"I'm sure I'd end up with some new holes in me if we visited your clan." he joked before agreeing, "I do believe it is - could we perhaps start with the meaning of that name you keep using for me? It really has gotten me curious."
A sorcerer could cut himself off of the Force? Curious. But she would not pry on it any further. She wasn't here to take extra lessons about how the Force works from another sorcerer's perspective, anyway.
Reiel hummed quietly at his explanation, propping an elbow on the table and resting her cheek on her fist. Here was someone who respected and took cultural boundaries seriously. The Mandalorian had been in the presence of those who did nothing but to be either antagonistic, discourteous, and downright dismissive not only of her way of life but others as well – so much that she had gotten used to it. She allowed her stare to soften, an appreciative smile tugging the edges of her lips upwards.
At the joke made, Reiel let out another laugh before reaching out and patting Carrick's hand gently as if to console him. "Don't worry about getting riddled with holes – just get behind me and duck a bit. I'll be your shield against the clan's wrath."
There was still her father to watch out for, but that's a story for another time.
Reiel had lost count of how many times she blushed in Carrick's presence, but the red on her face right now had to be the fiercest. He did tell her before that she'd have to explain to him what she had been calling him. The Mandalorian never used any praises in Mando'a lightly, having been reserved only for those she held in high regard or anyone she fancied (quite rare, really).
It was not the time to be embarrassed, though. He was curious – and she did promise him on their way to Coruscant that she would tell him what the word meant in Basic.
"When you call someone mesh'la in Mando'a, you're basically telling them that they're beautiful. And I don't use that word in terms of aesthetic. For me, someone who is mesh'la is also a good fighter. I've never seen you go all out in a fight on that job with the Senator, but Mandos know a capable fighter when they see one."
Her smile turned into a teasing smirk. "And you were so confident back there, walking down the hallways as if you owned the place. Then striding up casually towards those mercs in the hangar bay. Makes a woman feel things, you know?"
Carrick couldn't help but feel as though this whole experience was rather strange to Reiel. Not so much the date but that someone was actually respecting her cultural boundaries without needing to be asked. Painted a pretty sorry picture of the Galaxy that she had interacted with before him if a politician was the most tolerant person she'd met outside of her own culture. He turned his hand, squeezing her's gently once before letting her pull back.
"I'm not afraid to say that you're a lot less blast-able than I am." he agreed with a smirk, "Hope you don't think less of me."
He might be able to avoid being hit but nothing tanked harder than a well-armoured and well-prepared Mando in his experience. But she seemed intrigued enough that she was even going to teach him what she'd been calling him. Names used against him that he didn't understand? He'd had enough of that working as a Jedi when people wanted to vent their frustrations about him.
And when she started to explain it?
Well even a seasoned politician was allowed to blush a little every now and the, right? Thankfully she wasn't going to see the way he blushed all the way down to his neck because he still had a beard at the moment but still. She would be able to tell he just knew. He took a sip of his wine without making any moves to look at the wine, having mapped out where it was with the Force a moment ago.
"Well I can't honestly say I expected that but I appreciate it - and here I was thinking it was something about my hair." he chuckled a little bit self consciously, "Ah the confidence... part of it is real. Part of it is a projection to hide any hint of doubt."
Reaching down to his belt, he unclipped the lightsaber he kept there and presented it to her. It was intricately made and designed to be both practical and attractive. Within the lightsaber hilt itself was a crystal that resonated with the Force... but as she would see when he pointed it at himself and pressed the button?
It had no power cell.
Instead it was just a fancy little piece of kit that he handed to her easily.
"No power supply? No blade." he explained with a small, softer, smile, "Projection. People think I should be a preening peacock so I show them what they think I am and they don't tend to look any harder than that."