Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Star Wars movies and various pieces of the EU. No undue claim nor any material profit is expected or intended. There will be several verbatim quotes, including the first five lines of dialogue as well as certain phrases the characters seem prone to quoting. The subject of repetition will eventually be addressed in the story as well.

"He will not be trained," said Master Windu. His voice was deep and the words seemed very heavy.

Anakin couldn't believe his ears. For this, he'd left his mom behind with Watto? He could tell Master Windu didn't like him any better than Obi-Wan did, but he'd done all their tests. He'd done them perfectly! ...Just about.

"No?" Qui-Gon sounded incredulous. Qui-Gon was nice. Qui-Gon had said he should be trained, although Anakin was starting to wonder whether that was a good idea, if most Jedi were like the Council, and sat in shadowy rooms asking questions and making ominous remarks.

"He is too old. There is already too much anger in him," Master Windu went on.

Anakin scowled before he caught himself. Of course he was angry. They'd put him through all those tests and then said it didn't matter because he was too old? They knew how old he was before they started!

"He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon said with some heat. "You must see it."

"Clouded, this boy's future is." Anakin still couldn't figure out what species Master Yoda was. The old green being nodded, wispy white hair snagging on the edge of his robe. "Masked by his youth."

First he was too old, now his future was masked by his youth? He'd thought Jedi were supposed to be wise. He didn't think that meant not making any sense.

Qui-Gon drew himself up, opening his mouth.

A deeper voice than Master Windu's came from the shadows by the door. "I will train the boy, then. I take Anakin Skywalker as my Padawan learner."

The Council's heads came up; Qui-Gon whirled, and Anakin thought that Obi-Wan had huffed a little, as if he hadn't been expecting this but thought he should have, before he turned too.

The owner of the voice strode out of the shadows. He wore all dark brown, and was tall and dark-haired with touches of silver, and his robe draped from his shoulders like a prince's cloak and whispered after his boots along the smooth floor. He paced across the room, and Anakin thought he moved like Qui-Gon, relaxed and easy and sure he was in the right place, but the whole effect was much more intimidating. He stopped and looked down at Anakin. "Unless you refuse me?"

Anakin stared up at him. "Who are you?"

Qui-Gon coughed slightly. "Ah, Anakin, this is Master Dooku. He's a very respected Jedi Master, and he's done an excellent job at training several past padawans." His voice was slightly wry, but his eyes twinkled a little as he looked from Dooku to Anakin. "Including me."

"Oh!" Well, that was a good thing, then... wasn't it? "Pleased to meet you," Anakin said, offering a hand.

Master Dooku gave him what Anakin felt was a quietly doubtful look, like maybe he hadn't been expecting Anakin to remember his manners under the circumstances. He shook hands after a moment. "Likewise." His voice was very dry indeed.

"He is also," Master Yoda said, "not invited to this meeting!"

Dooku shrugged and bowed in the same sleek motion. "I followed Qui-Gon in. No one disputed my presence until now."

"Because quiet, you kept, Apprentice," Yoda retorted tartly.

"It was not necessary for me to speak, then. It is now. Does anyone contest my right to train this boy?"

"Already said he would not be trained, we did," Yoda grumbled.

"Yet the Council is not in charge of providing training once a child is taken as a Padawan." Dooku looked down at Anakin. "And he is, as it happens, old enough for that."

"I don't think it is wise," Master Windu said, "to start training him so late. He's young for a Padawan, but old enough, that's true. But he is some years past the age we've found preferable for the start of Jedi training." But Anakin noticed that Master Windu didn't say yes, I contest it, and thought that might mean something.

"The age we have found preferable," Dooku mused. "Master Yoda, how old were you when you began Jedi training?"

Master Yoda barked a laugh. "Adult, yes. But many centuries ago that was!"

"And it is only in recent centuries that we have begun training so early as a rule. Many of our greatest Jedi of the past begun their training as adults, even as you did, my Master."

"Reasons there were for making the change," Master Yoda said. "And not an adult is Anakin, either. Older than the time it is easiest to learn, old enough to have had other things in life become dear to him, not old enough to know in full what he is giving up."

"I knew when I left," Anakin protested. "I left my mom. I'm not a little kid. I knew what that meant!"

"Master Yoda is nearly nine hundred years old," murmured Dooku, "and spends as much of his time as possible with children under six... or the equivalent stage of development for other species. He has an unusual perspective."

"Well, he doesn't have to act like I don't know anything," Anakin grumbled, looking around the Council circle fiercely. "You knew how old I was before you tested me. Master Qui-Gon said I could be a Jedi, and Master -- Master Dooku thinks so too. He wants to train me. And I'll -- I'll let him." He looked up at Dooku suddenly, anxious. "Is there anything special I'm supposed to say?"

"There's a... bonding ceremony," Dooku said, sounding very slightly strangled. "Let us begin."

"The Council," Master Windu interrupted in his deep voice, making Anakin glare a little, "has not given its permission."

"The Council," Dooku retorted dryly, "may advise all it likes, may even command, but the choice of a padawan is a Master's alone in the end." He turned back to Anakin and held out his hands.

"This explains so much," Obi-Wan breathed.

Anakin resisted the urge to stick out his tongue, which would be rude, and put his hands in Dooku's instead.