Author's Note: Little thing I did for an action challenge ages ago.

Socked feet followed bare feet across the mat, stalking parallel, back and forth.

"Go on." Dooku's voice was amused. "You may begin."

Qui-Gon raised his eyebrows at him. "You can start, Master."

"I challenged you, as such, you begin the match. Let's have a little etiquette."

"I am having etiquette. I thought it was the other way around."

"It isn't."

"Right." Qui-Gon stepped sideways. Across, Dooku followed him. The boy frowned. "Don't."

"Don't what?" Dooku spread his arms, mildly.

"Stop following me."


"Because." Qui-Gon frowned again. In a flash, he whirled and struck out, lightsaber drawn, a blaze of green light. He jumped forward in a sudden charge, blade reaching to push Dooku on the defensive.

Dooku danced backward, laughing, his own saber suddenly swinging back in a wide arc to meet Qui-Gon's abrupt assault. He ducked to avoid a high swing, and leapt backwards. It was not often his Padawan managed to get him defensive so quickly in a match.

Qui-Gon grit his teeth and pushed his advantage. The boy seldom exchanged petty chatter in duel, Dooku thought, as he allowed himself to be driven backward. He supposed it was a generally a good thing, for the boy not to get distracted by taunting but still, utilizing a little mental intimidation never hurt anyone. Dooku was vaguely aware of being driven towards the wall.

So Qui-Gon intended to pin him.

That would be entertaining.

Sweat was beginning to show on the younger Jedi's face as he pushed his larger Master backwards, blow by blow. Dooku was putting up little resistance, and he could tell it was making Qui-Gon nervous. The Master never went into a fight without a strategy. And they had decided to play to first blood. It would only one touch to any zone considered 'vital' to end the fight...

Dooku's back was now to the wall. Qui-Gon slashed quicker, moving in for the final blow.

But it was never quite so easy with Dooku.

As suddenly as a sand viper's strike, the Master turned and swept sideways. In one fluid movement, he twirled into a reverse position and came down at Qui-Gon in a wide arc. The boy moved to block, but Dooku was quick, and the two sabers met with a hiss of sparks. He shoved him back, forcing him to turn to avoid his downward strike. Now the Padawan was the one up against the wall.

Dooku smiled at Qui-Gon, the light of triumph beginning to reflect in his dark eyes. He could see the younger Jedi's confusion at his sudden reversal; his unsteadiness. His defenses were low. Dooku whirled the blade faster. Qui-Gon's downfall was always his defense; the boy relied too wholly on moment-by-moment attack, rather than guarding weakness.

And once Qui-Gon's focus was broken, he would fall. And it was time to end the match. One hit to the neck or chest would do it.

Golden saber flashing, Dooku expertly cut through his block. Qui-Gon saw it coming, and tried to spin away, but the glowing blade caught him across the side. He jerked back with pain, but Dooku kept coming, pushing down his feeble attempts to block the next blows. Qui-Gon's back was now pressed against the wall; he had no room to even swing to mount an attack.

The small smile was back, and Dooku raised his eyes to meet the pained gaze of the Padawan, pausing for a fraction of a second. Qui-Gon knew the gesture well. It was an invitation to surrender, to save him the painful sting of the inevitable 'fatal' blow.

The beaten Padawan didn't give reply, leaning against the cool metal of the wall, an inanimate support that Dooku hadn't counted on. Their two sabers locked, and for a moment Qui-Gon had a second to breathe. Dooku could almost hear the frantic patter of his thoughts. He had run out of room, yes. He couldn't go any further back, nor could he move sideways without Dooku skewering him.

Abruptly, he dropped, covering his head with horizontal saber, and kicked out both feet. His bare feet slammed into Dooku's shins with full force. The Master staggered, and Qui-Gon threw himself into a sideways roll.

The kick merely disabled Dooku for a split second, but it was the second Qui-Gon needed, and before Dooku had a chance to turn again, the boy had hopped nimbly to his feet, poise and position regained in one quick move. Now they were out in the open, on equal turf. Both had underestimated the other, both had been surprised. Energy crackled through the room as they circled, crossing blades and then dancing back.

For Dooku it was no longer a playful completion. He had been bested once, and now he wanted to win. The intensity of the match flared another notch up.

Qui-Gon was matching him, though. He was no longer a child, he could keep up with Dooku. His eyes were bright with concentration, and sweat streaked down his neck and he fought for advantage. He could sense the change in his Master; he was taking him seriously this time.

But while Qui-Gon was nimbler, Dooku was stronger, and more experienced. It was coming down to a test of stamina, a battle the Master knew he could win. He stepped up the speed of the fight, whirling and spinning his saber faster, and chasing Qui-Gon back and forth across the length of the gym. He wanted his upper hand back.

And he would have it.

He moved in close, and aimed his saber swing lower. The edge of his blade bit into the top of Qui-Gon's saber and spun it out of his grip, as simultaneously Dooku force-threw the boy backward. Qui-Gon flew back one way, his saber in the opposite way. The Master smirked. Should all else fail in a duel, he knew he could always just toss Qui-Gon into a wall.

Qui-Gon was only air-born a few seconds before he crashed into the mat and skidded to a halt. He lay there for a moment, face down on the mat: a crumpled heap.

Dooku raised his eyebrows in mild self-congratulation at the sizable distance he had managed to throw the boy. It had been a while since he had been able to get Qui-Gon actually in the air. He deactivated his saber, and snapped it to his belt before strolling over to check on the still form of the Padawan.

"Qui-Gon" He peered down, his eyes narrowing. "Oh, come on now. You're fine...I didn't throw you that didn't even hit the wall."

Qui-Gon said nothing; remaining motionless.

Dooku frowned again, moving closer. He didn't mean to hurt the boy, perhaps he had landed wrong... He nudged the boy's shoulder with a socked foot. "Padawan...? Are you all right"

The boy whimpered slightly, stirring, his voice young and vulnerable. "M-master"

"Oh…" Dooku leaned down with guilty eyes. "-child, I didn't mean to-"

Qui-Gon moved faster than Dooku could have ever anticipated. The boy lunged at his Master, pained air forgotten, and tackled Dooku around the legs.

The Master actually yelled out loud in shock, staggering and trying to dislodge his Padawan from his knees. Qui-Gon clung grimly, and Dooku wavered for a moment, before falling to the mat with no trace of his usual dignity.

"The match is over!" Dooku bellowed, as Qui-Gon flopped his entire body weight down on him in an effort to pin.

Qui-Gon struggled to hold his much larger mentor down, gritting his teeth as he yelled back. "I never gave in, and you never scored a proper hit! It's still going on, and I'm winning!" He panted, trying to wrestle Dooku's arms down.

"You aren't winning in the least!" Dooku shoved him back, unsuccessfully. "You're finished" He kicked hopelessly at Qui-Gon, and then tried to squirm out of his grasp. The boy was heavier than he remembered.

Qui-Gon continued to hang on, pinning him. "Say it! I won! Just admit it"


"Say it!"

"Get off me!"

Qui-Gon smirked at Dooku. "Just say it. We both know"

Dooku bared his teeth, and rolled over, flopping Qui-Gon into the mat. Qui-Gon in turn kicked him. The two went head over front wrestling on the mat. The battle continued, as the two Jedi scrapped shamelessly.

Dooku had Qui-Gon in a chokehold, when he finally considered. "This is ridiculous."

Qui-Gon couldn't exactly speak, but he nodded.

Dooku released him, dusting off his tunic. "Are you hungry?"

Qui-Gon rubbed his throat. "A little bit."

"I'm not entirely certain, but I think it's time for lunch, if you'd like to go..."

"I'd eat some lunch." Qui-Gon allowed Dooku to help him to his feet, and he dusted floor lint off his tunic nonchalantly.

"All right, then let's go." Dooku nodded toward the door, and then paused, an afterthought. "We probably shouldn't speak of this again."

"I agree."

"Right, then come along, child." The Master strode toward the gym exit, heading for the turbolift that would take them down to the dining hall. He reached the door, but Qui-Gon hesitated. Dooku glanced over at his padawan in question. "Hm?"

For a long moment, the boy looked uncertain. Then he glanced down the hall, nodding toward the wide empty stretch of hallway. "I'll race you."