Author's note: This story is complete; I'll upload it a chapter at a time so that the length is, hmmm... a bit less threatening. ;)
Disclaimer: It belongs to Lucas, and was inspired by Jude Watson.Family Portrait
A Jedi Apprentice/Jedi Quest novel by FernWithy>
Anakin Skywalker pressed his advantage.
He pushed his enemy across the catwalk that extended over the lake, countering her quick and graceful style with simple and economical movements. A duel is not a performance, as Obi-Wan told him frequently. Extraneous movement will only show your weakness.
A surge of energy in the Force and a flash of light almost too quick to see were his only warnings when his enemy suddenly took the initiative. She was up and driving him backward before he could respond with more than a clumsy block. His heel hit the edge of the catwalk, and he fell backward, the rough steel digging into his elbows as he caught himself with a jarring thud.
A violet lightsaber was pointed at his throat and his enemy stood calmly above him, her hood hiding her face. "Will you surrender?" she asked quietly.
"Never." Anakin swiped at the blade with his own and managed to roll further back, but a blur of yellow light on his right side blocked off his escape. He felt a wrench in his right hand as the energy of the beams caught and locked, then the powerful tug as his lightsaber was pulled from his hand, leaving him prone and disarmed.
"Surrender, Anakin. You're beaten."
Anakin closed his eyes, blocking her from his sight and his mind, and reaching out into the Force around him. As always, it seemed to reach back in a welcoming way. He let it flow into him. When he felt strong again, he reached out his right hand, and called his lightsaber to him. It flew from her hand and landed in his as he flipped upward and landed on the rail of the catwalk.
"I'm just getting started."
He swung at her, and she had to turn away to block it. He took the opportunity to jump down from the rail and find surer footing. But she was quick. She swung her saber in a sharp arc. He barely had time to fall to his knees and raise his lightsaber over his head to block it. Again, she used her blade to wrench his weapon from his hands, this time ripping it into thin air.
He heard it clatter against the rail, and lunged for it--too late. He watched it fall, end over end, into the shrubbery at the lake's manufactured shore. He sighed, and turned around. "Fine, you win."
She laughed aloud, and pushed her hood back, revealing the silky blonde hair and fine, kind face that Anakin had secretly admired since meeting her. Siri Tachi put her lightsaber away, then reached a hand down to him to help him up. "Sorry about your elbows."
He examined them. The skin was split in a couple of places from their scrape against the catwalk, and he bet he'd get good sized bruises out of it, but there was no real harm done. "I've done worse." He stood up and dusted himself off. "You should have seen me after a few pod crashes."
"I'm going to get you to Malastare someday and see this business for myself."
"You'd love it. It's really rugged. I'll get you to Tatooine someday, and show you a real podrace."
Siri rolled her eyes, then lowered herself down to sit on the edge of the catwalk and look over the lake. She reached out casually and Anakin's lightsaber jumped up into her hand. She gave it to him. "You're good for me, Anakin. Better for Obi-Wan, but very good for me."
"Good for him?"
She smiled and ruffled his hair, which annoyed him, but didn't entirely surprise him. Siri had spent several years undercover, trying to bring down a slaver, and she had picked up some habits that often seemed out of place among the Jedi. She certainly tended to be more affectionate than Obi-Wan, or even Bant, if also still quicker to fight than either. "He needs to be challenged sometimes."
"Well, I guess I'm pretty good at that."
"And speaking of challenges," she said, picking up her lightsaber, "shall we have another go at this?"
Anakin was usually eager for lightsaber practice--he actually enjoyed it, in its own way--but he shook his head. "No. Obi-Wan will want to practice after his meeting. He'll let me win if he thinks you've been beating me all day."
"I'm astounded. Obi-Wan Kenobi lets you win?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sure, I'm sure. I want to beat him fair. Then he gets this funny look on his face and all the sudden something opens up."
"You should spite him and not take the opening."
"I tried that once. I got in trouble for it."
Siri looked fascinated. "Really? I wonder what he's trying to teach you."
"I guess to take a window of opportunity, if it happens to open."
"Somehow I doubt it. That's not particularly good Jedi philosophy. We examine the window thoroughly before going through it. Otherwise, it might be a trap."
"What do you think?"
"I don't know. I suppose you're not meant to realize that he's letting you win. Maybe he means to teach you how to win a duel without entirely destroying your opponent. You do tend to do that."
Anakin looked down. Siri had seen him fight, and he suspected that she knew--in a way Obi-Wan simply couldn't--how it was with him once he got started. Sometimes, trying to stop fighting was like trying to stop a sandstorm that was bearing down on him, only harder. "Maybe," he muttered.
Siri's hand touched his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Anakin. It isn't my place to try and interpret your Master's teachings, and his reasoning may be quite different. He may simply enjoy seeing you succeed."
"It's all right," he said, patting her hand. It felt good to be able to do that sometimes. "Are you going to take a padawan of your own?"
Her eyes grew far away. "I'd like to. I look around, I see the children. But I'm not ready. I don't know how to be a Master. I watch Obi-Wan, and I'm frequently somewhat mystified about what he's doing."
"So am I," Anakin said.
"Ah, but you're the padawan. You're supposed to be mystified and trying to understand your Master's mind. I'm a knight. I'm supposed to know."
"I think Obi-Wan doesn't know half the time."
He'd meant it to reassure her, but it seemed to annoy her instead. She frowned. "Obi-Wan is giving a great deal to your training, and fights battles in your defense quite frequently. It is not the place of a padawan to--"
Anakin waved a surrender. "Okay, all right. I know. I just think you ought to take a padawan, is all. I think you'd be just as good at it."
"Maybe so. My expectations are rather high." She winked. "Besides, how could I ever hope to compete with Obi-Wan? Not everyone can train the Chosen One."
She tilted her head back reverently and affected such an exaggerated attitude of piety that even Anakin had to laugh at her joke, though he usually found the prophecy more frightening than amusing. It was sometimes overwhelming to have people think he was destined to do something he didn't even understand.
He was trying to think of something to say when the comm-link hooked to his belt let out a sharp beep. He picked it up. "Skywalker."
Obi-Wan, as usual, didn't bother with preliminaries. "Anakin, where are you?"
"The Lake. Remember, I was practicing with Siri?"
A brief sigh. Obi-Wan didn't seem to like it particularly well when Anakin practiced with Siri, but he hadn't prohibited it. "Yes. Of course. Is Siri still with you?"
Siri leaned over the comm-link. "No, she's long gone."
"Amusing," Obi-Wan said, though he didn't sound the least bit amused. "But my padawan was due outside the Council room ten minutes ago."
Siri arched an eyebrow at him. "You neglected to mention that you were expected."
Anakin hadn't noticed how late it was--he'd been having fun with Siri--but he knew that either they wouldn't believe him or that it would be the cause of a lecture about being aware of one's surroundings at all times. So he just said, "I apologize for being late. I'll come immediately."
"It's as well you're with Siri," Obi-Wan said. "Yoda would like to speak to all three of us."