One Lesson Too Many

"You have become more unruly as the day has progressed. Do tell me why, why have you Padawan?" Jedi Master Yan Dooku asked as he drew himself up to his little over 6 feet in height. He was currently looking down his nose at the teenager. Keeping his hands clasped behind his back as he took on the instructor role once more. His dark robe swirled around him as the wind whipped the cloth roughly revealing an equally dark tunic and pants. His elegantly curved saber clipped on his belt reflected the sunlight shinning through the partly cloudy skies.

Qui-Gon Jinn, at sixteen was nearly the same height as his Master, but not quite as broad. His body was still lean but it held the promise of further growth. His clothing was nearly the opposite of what his Master was wearing. Clothed in a light tan tunic and pants, even his robe was much lighter in color. Crossing his arms and lifting his chin slightly, the Apprentice stared back at his Master. His blue eyes nearly glared with defiance.

"Because Master, what I did was right and you can't admit that to yourself. It grates on your nerves to realize that your very own Padawan did something right for a change while doing something else than what you originally ordered." Qui-Gon tried to keep his voice even, but it was hard. The two were nearly equals when it came to being stubborn. Over the years the two have bumped heads and some nearly came to full-blown arguments. Usually Qui-Gon would back down, but not this time. He had been correct in saving the sick stratt. Which normally at birth are known to be cuddly balls of fur, but quickly grow into voracious, muscle-bound carnivores with deadly claws and razor-like fangs and measure well over six feet in length from the tails to their snouts. These creatures were known to be a famous specialty at black-market pet shops. They had found out from the local wildlife specialist that if the animal had gotten worse, it could have without a doubt gone on a killing spree. Unfortunately the closest living beings near the beast's home that would have been considered a threat to it were the occupants of the town.

"I saved their lives, Master. Think about what Doctor Kel said. He said it would have torn through the village."

Dooku's brown eyes had slowly darken and sharpened as they reflected his gradual rising anger. A muscle twitched near his right temple, moving in rhythm with his elevating heart rate. He was controlling his breathing, but barely.

"That was not an excuse to defy my orders. I told you to stay with the mayor and his family while I finished with the negotiations. You left them. You went out on your own. Left them, Qui-Gon. They were considered at risk! They had been threatened earlier this week! And you left them because of an animal?! Dooku lost some of his control and the words came out harshly: "An animal, Padawan!" He shook his head, causing the little over shoulder length, dark brown hair to sway against his back. He had the hair hanging loosely due to the cold season that the village was currently having, but had the bangs tied back in a leather strip in order to see clearly in case combat erupted.

"Animals are precious life too! Just because they aren't as sentient as most beings in the universe are, it is no excuse!" Qui-Gon shot back as his control slipped. Why can't he see that? He's strong in the Living Force too... Why doesn't he understand?

Dooku shook his head once more as he picked up on the young man's thoughts through their bond. "I do understand, Qui-Gon. But you had orders to follow." He eyed the apprentice warily. It irked Dooku that his Padawan was way to reckless when it came to saving or helping any life, regardless of what it was. He has always had this problem with prioritizing. How many times must we go over this?! He sighed at the latter thought.

"Master, you tell me to follow the Force...go wherever it bids me to. Well I did! It pulled me away from Mayor Lasto and his family. I told them that I would be back. I didn't have to go all that far only a few miles into the forest." Qui-Gon said as he clenched his jaw. His blue eyes flashed while his own temper mounted.

Dooku's eyes narrowed. He did not like having his own words thrown back at him, especially in this manner. "Yes, Padawan, but not at the expense of the moment. You should have contacted me."

Qui-Gon lifted his chin higher, causing his long braid to twitch against his chest. The chestnut hair was cut in the familiar Padawan style, short except for the long thin braid behind the right ear and the small ponytail at the back. "Why? You tell me that I should start being somewhat independent. What? Do you not trust me now?"

Dooku nearly lost what control he had left as his jaw tightened causing the dark brown beard to nearly ripple. The sun overhead caught some of the silver that was beginning to show in the beard and hair. It seemed to add to the Jedi Master's glaring demeanor.

"Trust? Is this what this is all about? Yes, I thought I could trust you. I guess I can't." Dooku lifted his own chin higher in response to the Apprentice's own earlier action.

The words raced through Qui-Gon, making the breath catch as if the man had punched him in the stomach. He doesn't... The Padawan slammed his shields up before he thought anything further. Dooku had him working on strengthening his shields. Telling him that a Jedi must be unreadable sometimes by all, even from Jedi Masters. Qui-Gon knew that Master Yoda, his Grand Master -Dooku's old Master - frowned on this, but the little Master never voiced his disagreement.

"Don't you even care that these people didn't get hurt? Nothing happened to the Mayor or his family!" Qui-Gon pointed out.

"It doesn't make a difference! You left your charges! What if they were attacked? Hmmm? What if they were killed?!" Dooku motioned down the hill toward where the village was. The two were currently at the foot of the landing ramp of their ship. The negotiations were over and Dooku had been successful in getting the two warring factions to come to a peaceful agreement. They were now ready to leave and head back to Coruscant.

"'Ifs' Master. We aren't supposed to dwell on 'ifs', right?" Qui-Gon could not stop the sarcasm as it dripped off his words or the sneer that crossed his face. It was too late to take it back as he realized his mistake.

Dooku's face reddened slightly and his dark eyes flashed. Once again throwing the Master's words back into his face. Dooku quickly reached out and grasped the braid, encircling it around his hand; he then gave it a painful tug in order to bring the young man's face closer. Qui-Gon couldn't help the painful yelp that left his lips as the Master dragged him within centimeters of his face. Qui-Gon did not resist as he went along with the movement to reduce the pain.

"Must I remind you Padawan of your status? I am the Master. You directly disobeyed me. You have been on this rebellious streak for far too long and it is getting old very quick." Dooku hissed, as his voice was raspy with anger.

If Dooku thought that would cause Qui-Gon to back down, he was wrong. Not this time! "Then you are failing, Master." Qui-Gon hissed in return as he grabbed his braid and pulled it forcefully from the Master's grip.

The comment shocked Dooku long enough that Qui-Gon was able to pull the symbol of his Padawanship from the Master's long fingers.

Dooku's nostrils flared when the words finally hit home. The slap echoed throughout the ship and down the hill as the Master's eyes narrowed to dark slits.

"How dare you boy. How dare you even insinuate that I have failed! The only failure I am responsible for is obviously not disciplining you enough!" Dooku took several slow regulated breaths to bring his temper back under check. Slapping the young man had been a reflexive action, he had not meant to slap Qui-Gon. The boy needs discipline...perhaps I have been too lax of late. He is too hot headed and too stubborn for his own good.

Qui-Gon could not believe what just happened. Yes, Dooku had been known to vent and pull on his braid in the past...but never before had he done this. Qui-Gon's eyes misted slightly at the pain from the slap and the remaining pain from the tugging of the braid. He refused to reach and feel the cheek that he knew by now was red with the imprint of his Master's hand. But within a heartbeat later his blue eyes shimmered with even more defiance. Turning on his heel, he walked up the ramp and into the ship, leaving his Master outside.

"Qui-Gon! I have not dismissed you!" Dooku called out as he crossed his arms over his broad chest. The wind began pulling at his dark brown robe once more, allowing the chilly breeze to bombard the Jedi. He uncrossed his arms and pulled the edges around him as he looked up the ramp.

"Consider me dismissed, Master." Qui-Gon's voice drifted down the ramp. He kept his shields tight as the pain and disappointment flowing through him nearly became his undoing.

Growling under his breath, the Jedi Master went up the ramp and activating the switch that would rise the ramp. Once the ramp and hatch was secured, he headed for the cockpit to prep the ship for lift off.

Qui-Gon was quietly sitting in the co-pilot's chair readying the coordinates that would return them to Coruscant. He quickly got permission from the planet's aerial defense to take off.

Dooku then piloted the ship through the atmosphere, into space, and within minutes the ship entered hyperspace. The atmosphere in the cockpit remained tense and silent as the two Jedi ignored each other for the last few hours of the trip.

Once they returned, Dooku gave his report to the Council stating the success of the mission. Only one Council member was available to take the report - Jedi Master Yoda.

Once the report was finished, Dooku and Qui-Gon bowed as they prepared to leave.

"Not yet will you leave." The older Jedi said as he eyed both Master and Apprentice carefully then sadly. Pointing his gimer stick first at Dooku followed by Qui-Gon, he shook his head.

Raising his long ears, he continued. "Too much alike, the two of you are." He closed his eyes for a second. "Hmmm, yes. Stubborn and prideful for your own good, you two are. Two traits a Jedi should not have." Yoda sighed as he eyed the two for their responses.

Dooku's anger flared up momentarily as he felt slightly embarrassed from being reprimanded in front of Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon felt shame, as his face reflected the feeling. He lowered his head, looking down at his dark boots.

Dooku however, did not look down. Grinding his teeth he refused to say anything, as he looked over his old Master's head. I will not make eye contact with you, no matter how hard you try. He thought as he focused on a passing cruiser.

[Ashamed you should be, Padawan of mine. An example to your own apprentice, not being you are. Remind me of you at this age he does.] Yoda sent across their somewhat silent bond. That did the trick as Dooku then looked down into his old Master's eyes. Yoda's ears drooped a little as he felt the anger slice through the bond and saw the chocolate orbs that he had grown to love when the man was younger, darken and flashed. He wondered where that man had vanished to.

"Are you through....Master?" Dooku deliberately allowed the seconds between the last two words. The voice was controlled and unfeeling.

The little Master sighed inwardly as he nodded.

Dooku and Qui-Gon bowed again and left.

Once the doors closed behind the two, Yoda got down from the Council seat and walked slowly to his hover chair. The tapping of the stick seemed to echo in the silence that followed the departure of the Master and Padawan. He then sat down in the chair and activated it. He directed it to the large window so he could observe the never-ending traffic lanes that went to and from the multiple buildings throughout the planet.

He sighed audibly and wondered what had happened to his promising student of old.

Dooku and Qui-Gon did not speak to each other for the rest of the night once the Master gave out the punishment for the earlier disobedience. He was to meditate for the rest of the evening until bedtime, which came out to be roughly six hours. He was not to leave or even participate in evening meal for there was to be no food for the defying young man that night.

Dooku left the meditating Apprentice in their quarters while he headed for the Temple Archives. He needed to let off some steam and there was only one person he felt comfortable enough to talk with - the newly appointed Jedi Archivist Jocasta Nu who had been a true friend since his Padawan days.