Narglatch in Shaak's Clothing Chapter 1
The first time he sees the boy, it takes his breath away.
The Youngling is thin and pale, with close-cropped ginger hair and ice-blue eyes that hardly blink as he stands before his opponent. Where the other youngling wears a light smirk of entertainment as though the bout is mere routine, his own angular face shows nothing but a fierce and empty hunger.
Jedi Knight Dooku has never taken much interest in the early training of the padawans, especially in the years after Qui-Gon… he shakes the dark thoughts away, but he pauses in spite of himself to watch. Something in that expression calls to him, a hunger that he has also known and embraced.
Hunger to excel.
The larger youngling moves in fast, intending to swipe the smaller target's legs out from under him. But the Youngling is no longer there, moving with preternatural speed over the sweeping appendage, wrapping wiry arms around the other's neck and sending him to the floor in less time than it takes Dooku to draw a breath.
The sparring master bestows a stern warning to the Youngling. He should know better than to use such a potentially dangerous maneuver on another student. The boy stands, head lowered slightly in deference, to all appearances chastened and contrite, but Dooku can see his eyes, and they are not humble.
They gleam with faint satisfaction, an emotion not easily recognized by most Jedi.
When the small group of students bow to their master and file from the room, Dooku approaches the older Jedi instructor and politely inquires about the Youngling.
"Sheev Palpatine," the master tells him, lifting his bisected, whiskered lips in faint disapproval. "He came to the Temple seven years ago, a son of some noble from some Mid-Rim planet, brought in almost too late to be trained. The boy has talent like I've not seen in decades, not since you, not since maybe ever, but talent isn't everything for a Jedi."
In my Palpatine challenges collection, guest reviewer Maryna mentioned an AU scenario in which Palpatine is "discovered" by the Jedi. That set off a jumble of what-ifs in my head, and this experimental story occurred, as I don't often write in present tense. Enjoy, and leave a review if you wish! More should be coming soon, I dearly hope, if life maintains a semblance of normalcy.