persephone_kore: (Dooku choice)
[personal profile] persephone_kore
Title: Protégé: Vigil
Authors: Persephone_Kore and Dreagoddess
Timeframe: Post-TPM
Characters: Anakin, Dooku, Palpatine, others
Genre: General, AU
Keywords: Dooku, Anakin, training
Summary: Sequel to "Protégé: Chosen" and "Protégé: Padawans." Dooku has continued training Anakin... and the Sith Master is looking for a new apprentice.

Previously in series: http://persephone-kore.livejournal.com/tag/protege



Chapter 3

The Jedi Temple was dark and quiet. Or most of it, at least. With a variety of species on different diurnal cycles, there were some Jedi guaranteed to be out and about at any given moment. And with the Temple in the heart of a planetwide city, there was business to be taken care of at all times. Still, most of the Jedi maintained the local diurnal patterns and were fast asleep at this time of night.

Certainly the boy slipping quietly into the infirmary in his night clothes should have been.

As his eyes adjusted to the dark of Dooku's private room off the infirmary, Anakin took in the array of equipment quietly beeping and taking stock of his Master's vital signs. Dooku was still asleep. He had been ever since that brief period of wakefulness earlier, when he'd warned them all about the Chancellor-Sith. Healer Caudle said it was a good thing, that it would help him heal faster if he rested. But Anakin swallowed hard as he slipped closer and put his small hand in Dooku's large one.

"Don't be mad, Master," he whispered. "They told me I couldn't do anything else here and I should rest. I tried, really. Master Qui-Gon's staying with me, he said you'd want it that way. But -- I -- I just couldn't. I dreamed... like with my mom." He put his head down against Dooku's side briefly. "You'll be okay. I know you will. I just... thought I should be here."

There was no response. Dooku didn't so much as twitch, and his breathing remained steady. His thoughts did too, the slow relaxed rhythms of deep sleep. Obviously being unconscious for days on end wasn't worrying him.

Anakin sighed very quietly and straightened up. Without letting go of Dooku's hand, he perched on the visitors' chair next to the high bed and hooked his feet together underneath the seat, swinging them, careful not to kick anything. He could get down and adjust the height so they didn't dangle so much, but if he forgot to put it back, somebody might notice.

His jaw stretched as he fought against a yawn and lost. It was really tempting to just lie down on the floor for a little while, but then he'd probably fall asleep. He needed to get back before Qui-Gon woke up. He ought to go back soon enough that he'd be alert when he had to go to classes tomorrow.

He could stay a few more minutes, though.

The room was warm, maybe because of Dooku not being able to move. Anakin felt his eyelids droop several times. Maybe just a few minutes wouldn't hurt. The urge to sleep felt like a heavy dark blanket pushing down on his mind, flattening out his thoughts. He pulled his feet up--they felt numb--and put his head down on his knees. His hand went limp; Dooku's flopped down.

The sound of footsteps, just on the edge of hearing, woke him up again. Feeling as if his ears and brain were full of sand, Anakin lurched off the chair. A Healer must be coming to check on the patients, and might come in to see about Dooku's condition. He carefully put Dooku's hand back up on the bed and darted around it to duck behind the mobile supply cabinet. He breathed as quietly as he could, trying to blend into the Force and wake up at the same time.

A slow, steady, quiet tread crossed through the main infirmary outside, then turned toward the door to the private room. The door slid open with a soft hiss, letting twilight in from the rest of the infirmary. The urge to sleep suddenly felt like a blanket of sand, one of the treacherous dunes sliding down to smother him.

Anakin clawed his way out from under it in time to feel Dooku's thoughts sort of... drop flat and go sideways, without particularly changing tempo.

The person who came in was not a Jedi. Anakin was entirely certain of that.

Whoever it was wore a long dark cloak, with dark clothing under it, and walked with a lowered head. The person did not look toward Anakin, but stopped next to the bed and lifted a hand, palm down, over Dooku's forehead.

Dooku opened his eyes and rasped, "Chancellor."

Anakin sucked in a breath, barely covered by the rustle of fabric as the visitor--the Chancellor?--drew back slightly. He had to do something. He didn't think he could fight a Sith, not one who'd nearly killed Master Dooku already. He couldn't call a Healer without giving himself away.

The visitor raised both hands to the edge of the concealing hood, paused briefly, then pushed it back and let it fall to his shoulders. Palpatine. "Master Dooku." He nodded slightly. "I was told you weren't able to speak."

Anakin's commlink was digging into his side. Comm--that was it. He could call someone. He could call Qui-Gon. Only, he'd answer, of course, and then Palpatine would know somebody was here.

"Not much." Dooku's eyes closed slowly, then opened again. "I have had... time to think."

Anakin shifted sideways, as quietly as he could, and pulled free the commlink. It was the work of a few seconds to open it up and disconnect the wires for the speaker, then put in the code for Qui-Gon's link.

There. That was the best he could do for now.

He hoped it would be enough.

"Think?" Palpatine's voice wasn't the warm, friendly one Anakin remembered from their brief meetings. It was cold and held shadowy hints of menace. "I believe you told me you did not need to think about my proposals."

"I did." Dooku really sounded exhausted. He didn't specify whether he meant he did tell Palpatine that or did need to think about it.

"And what did your thinking teach you?"

"That... the dark side is more powerful than I imagined."

"An interesting conclusion."

"But hardly unexpected. I have always been one of the strongest Jedi. And yet that barely kept me alive."

"You seem to be full of surprises."

A short, pained laugh. "As are you. You're here to kill me, I suppose."

The Chancellor laughed shortly. "Now why would you think that?" He paused, then said softly, "You did imply you might have... reconsidered some of your previous statements."

Dooku closed his eyes, his chest rising and falling shallowly. (Anakin squinted, troubled: Dooku was very particular about breathing from the diaphragm, Qui-Gon even more so. He didn't feel the pressure anymore, but then, Chancellor Palpatine didn't know he was there. He hoped. What if he was still pushing on Dooku?) At last Dooku said, "Your proposals still... trouble my mind. There are... many problems. With the Republic. With the Jedi. Between the two...." He trailed off.

"You said before that whatever problems the Jedi had, you would work on them from within."

"For all the good it's done me." Bitterly. "But you have... another way."

"Hmm, yes. You could go into politics. I think you'd be quite good at it."

Dooku took a breath, sounding pained. "Somehow I suspected from your earlier offer that you had something else in mind. Something more... active."

"Suspected? I thought I made myself quite clear." Palpatine scowled. "So did you."

"You tempted me," Dooku murmured. "Repulsed me, too."

Behind the cabinet, Anakin bit his lip.

"To change things as you suggest," Dooku went on, as if he hadn't felt the air shiver in fury, "the cost would be very high. Economically, yes, and in blood and honor." His breathing was harsh in the quiet room. "And yet to leave them as they are... is costly too. Does the Force will this? Is the dark side ascendant? Would it be better to make a swift cut, to play the tempter, to whisper into the cracks until they shatter, and rebuild?"

"The cracks and flaws you see," Palpatine said, "will break the Republic in the end. One way or another. The Jedi strategy is to go on patching and compromising. Meanwhile the bureaucrats and the cheats and the public they have blinded or bribed go on as they have for so long, lining their own pockets and pursuing their own power, sending you out to die for those who know how to play the game and against the innocent who inconvenience them... chipping away at the foundations of democracy, bleeding away even your ability to serve the Force itself. You know better than this, Dooku, and yet you let it go on. Join me. Be my apprentice. Give a voice to those who share your frustrations, rouse them to show the complacent what can happen, and when the war is over and the time comes to pick up the pieces, lead as you were born to lead."

"You might have left out the... foundations of democracy," Dooku remarked. He cleared his throat, wincing a little. "As you point out, I am an aristocrat by birth and earliest training. By personality, I am inclined to think I know best." He smiled, even though each word sounded like an effort. "By philosophy... I was speaking to my apprentice the other day... about the problems in both principle and practice... with tyranny."

Palpatine's face twisted, and he raised his hands, contorted and clawing the air, as Dooku's voice vanished into rattling coughs.

The noise covered the swish of the door opening, but not the hiss and buzz of lightsabers that followed. A blur of green light and shadow darted past Palpatine to resolve into Master Yoda, standing on the bed between Palpatine and Dooku; Qui-Gon hurried past to the other side of the bed to put a hand on Dooku's throat, which seemed to help him breathe easier. Master Sifo-Dyas stayed by the door, looking like he was about to throw up; and Master Windu strode into the small room and ignited his own blade in front of Palpatine's face and throat. "You're under arrest, Chancellor."

"So I see." Palpatine bared his teeth, then spun, moving as fast as Master Yoda had. A beam of red light came out of nowhere and slashed at Master Windu's exposed middle; the purple blade vanished and somehow showed up between them, but Master Windu got shoved backward.

Palpatine turned toward Sifo-Dyas then, his back to Master Yoda, looking like he was taking his time about it. It was when Anakin noticed he couldn't feel his own heartbeat that he realized Palpatine hadn't slowed down at all. He could just follow the motion now. That explained why Sifo-Dyas was moving so slowly--no, wasn't moving at all yet.

Master Yoda jumped off the bed, apparently in slow motion. Anakin's stomach turned over. Master Yoda was faster than he'd ever thought, but he might not get there in time. It was going to be close. He might get there in time, put himself between Palpatine and Master Sifo-Dyas, but then Palpatine could just... turn around. Was Master Yoda that fast? Was Qui-Gon fast enough?

Anakin scrambled over the cabinet, pushed off the top with one bare foot, and dived in under the red lightsaber. His shoulder slammed into the Sith's knee. There was a snap like corroded metal falling off your pod mid-race, and a yell. Time seemed to snap back to normal; Anakin's heart was pounding. Palpatine fell sideways. Anakin landed on top of his leg, then grunted as a weight struck his shoulder blades. The room flared green. The red lightsaber went flying somewhere, and when a purple light showed up again, Anakin assumed Master Windu had recovered.

When Palpatine finally lay still with Master Windu guarding his throat and Qui-Gon holding the red lightsaber, Anakin felt reasonably safe in twisting around to peer up over his shoulder.

Master Yoda hopped off his back. "Quick, your apprentice is, Dooku."

"Faster than you, apparently." Dooku sounded a little better.

Yoda glared, his mouth folding out and down into a frown.

Dooku laughed raspily and let his head fall back. "I know. Stop talking before you let the Healer back in."

Master Windu leaned over Palpatine. "Chancellor," he repeated, "you're still under arrest."


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