A FEW DECADES LATER
She was knee-deep in swamp, tracking down a minor bounty hunter, when the she got the call from the Master of Shadows. “Palpatine’s escaped from Kessel. You’re on the job. Vos will pick up on your search for Fett - he’s low priority as of now.”
“Do I at least get minions? It’s a lot harder when I have to do my own busywork.”
“Should’ve thought of that before you gave up that council seat and knighted your last padawan, Ellie. What was that you said, get some independence while you’re still young?”
“Yeah, yeah, you know how it is, never get back home long enough to pick up a new brat. I trust you’re sending details to my ship?”
“And extending your credit line. It’s like you know me or something. May the Force be with you.”
Won’t take too long, she thought, Stopped him the first time when I was eighteen, and I’ve gotten a lot better, while he’s just gotten old. She didn’t really take the planet-hopping and decades to simmer in rage into account.
Two years, hundreds of planets, and a dozen near misses later, she’s searching for clues on Ossus when word of Jinn’s close call on Tatooine reaches her. Toggling the secure line, she asks, “Do you want me to accompany them?”
“No, Jinn and Kenobi are bringing the Queen back to Naboo, hoping to break the blockade. Supreme Chancellor Valorum has given his official support, but you know that it takes forever for the Senate to actually do anything useful. It’ll take months before they get armament out there. Hopefully, Naboo will free itself before then. If the Sith, who we’re assuming is an apprentice of Sidious’, follows them there, Jinn can set a trap. He’s good at that, and Kenobi’s one of your ducklings in Sith Strat & Tact, right?”
“Yep, I’m hoping to steal him away once Qui-Gon finally gets his head out of his arse and knights the kid. They can handle an apprentice, or at least stall, especially if they’ve got civilian backup. If Amidala’s still Queen, remind her to call my sister. She fostered in the court of Arrendale, and I know Anna will send our fleet to help. It’s not big, but it might be enough to break the blockade.”
“I’ll pass on the message. What I want you to do is backtrace the apprentice from Tatooine. Hopefully, with only two years of training under his belt, he got sloppy and left some clues. Right now, the fact that Sidious trained an apprentice without us knowing about it is what’s got the Council concerned.”
“I’ll get right on it. Force be with you.”
She traces the apprentice to Borleias and is investigating an (abandoned) scientific research outpost when she feels a shockwave through her working pair-bond with Qui-Gon. They all had them - them and Tahl and Micah - but she’d only felt like this when Micah was on the brink of death. Closing her eyes and ignoring her surroundings, she felt his life-force, faint but present. From across the galaxy, all she could do was hope and wait for word, but obviously, they’d found the Apprentice, and the trail was leading back to Coruscant, so she packed it in. Kenobi would need her, whether Jinn made it or not.
True to form, Obi-Wan knocks on her door at three in the morning after getting in from Naboo.
Seeing his ident code, she opens the door silently, letting the young man carry a blonde child into her quarters, straight through to the vacant Padawan quarters in the back. He had deep circles under his eyes, and the stress and pain were radiating out in the Force.
“You’ve dropped the tall one in the infirmary, I assume?” She asked, handing him a cup of steaming caff.
Kenobi took it gratefully, rolling his eyes. “Oh, yes. He woke up long enough to inform Mace that I would be training Skywalker in his absence, never mind that I haven’t even been Knighted yet, and then dropped into a healing trance so he wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Healer’s say it’ll last four, maybe up to six months, based on the severity of the lightsaber wounds, his age, his existing scar tissue, and how little he wants to talk to Yoda right now.”
Elsa laughed. “Oh, so now they’re all messing with you!” At Kenobi’s confused look, she explained. “Look, Jinn’s been a stubborn ass about Knighting you, says you’re too young, because he’s paranoid after Xanatos. Yoda, Mace, and Micah think you’re ready, some of the Old Guard are equally paranoid about a Xanatos Mark II, and the rest of the Council is undecided. Refusing to take Skywalker as an Initiate forced Jinn to say that you’re ready for Knighting, despite his own fears, yes? Although I suspect he did so in the most thoughtless, insensitive way possible.”
Laughing despite himself, Obi-Wan nodded. “Totally. It was...horrible. And awkward.”
“Some things never change.” She smiled. “You weren’t Knighted then, though. You haven’t been through Trials, half the Council was against it - it wouldn’t work. So Qui-Gonn, in his infinite wisdom, decides to trick the Council, and you, into accepting that you’re ready. You get a couple of months to train and bond with this kid, comfort him about the loss of his family, speed him through the initiate crap that he should’ve had by this age, make sure he’s up to snuff on reading and math and astronav. Around the time your Master decides to wake up from his nap, you’ve proven yourself capable of training a Padawan and doing so responsibly. The reluctant Council members get to feel okay about Knighting you, as you’ve done just peachy without your Master for six months without going Darkside or wandering off to be a hermit on Dantooine. The kid gets time to get his feet wet, which means that when Qui-Gon brings him up as a Padawan, he’s got control on those rollercoaster emotions and is actually ready to be a Padawan. No one yells at sleeping beauty for any of this because they feel bad for him, and Qui-Gon doesn’t have to feel bad about Knighting you all of a sudden sans partner or support network, because you’re essentially grounded until he gets better.”
The young man blinked at her across the kitchen counter. “Remind me to never take a Council seat. This shit’s too complicated for me.”
Elsa grinned. “Nah, it’s just politics. It’s simple enough, once you get used to it.”
"I am NOT READY to have a Padawan, Master Elsa! I’m worried about his anger problems, and I’m worried about how powerful he is, and I just really don’t know how to teach someone whose strengths lie so far apart from mine. Like, Qui and I deal with our emotions through sarcasm and bickering and sparring and we knew each other so well and I just don’t know what to do”
“I’ll help with the kid.” She reassured him. “I had trouble dealing with my emotions at that age, too. Of course, I kept freezing things, but I figured it out eventually.”
"FREEZING THINGS? Wait, so that time when I was a new Initiate and we got to go ice skating in the middle of the Commissary?"
"That was me!"
and Anakin learns healthy healing mechanisms, ta da. Meditation lessons with an someone who actually has a family, unlike the rest of the Temple! Relateability! YAY!”
Of course AotC wouldn’t happen the same, with two masters, a mentor who understands, and frequent correspondence with Mommy, Anakin has no reason to jaunt off to Tatooine. He still accompanies Amidala when she decoys away from assassins, though, and they probably have Adventures with Queen Anna on Arrendale, who is of course Amidala’s mentor in Queening. No slaughter on Geonosis or clone army or quicky underage marriage, though. Padme/Anakin will happen, just in a less creepy controlling fashion than The Clone Wars. And with no Palpatine pulling the Republic’s strings, it’s a lot harder to start a war.
Dooku still tries, though, and Elsa’s had thirty-some good years of keeping control of her temper and staying away from the Dark Side (except when it’s fun and/or profitable) and doesn’t lose it...
AND THEN ONE TIME COUNT DOOKU THREATENS HER PADAWAN
AND IT ALL GOES TO HELL
in a handbasket
Amy: basically yes
me: When Judicial shows up, Dooku's a nice statue and Elsa's making ice sculptures for her apprentice to distract from the lingering pain of the torture
(she thaws him, of course, but only after Yoda gives her That Look)
"Thaw my wayward apprentice, you should. A second chance, you received, hmmm? Learn from you, he should. A test it will be, for both of you. Too much pride, he has. Learning from a youngling such as yourself, good for him, it will be"
"Master Yoda, I'm not a youngling any more!"
Thwaps with the gimer stick. "Not a youngling, hmmm? Not even a hundred, you are!"
Qui-Gon, of course, thinks this is hilarious, as Count Dooku was his master, and he's getting totally schooled by someone Qui-Gon's age
So she thaws him out and drags him back to Coruscant, where Anakin visits him in the cells. “You should really shape up and learn to handle your emotions in healthy ways, Count Dooku, sir. The Council will probably let you back in if you’re really sorry, but if you don’t learn coping mechanisms, she’ll make you sing The Song.”
Dooku laughs in his face, and Anakin shrugs. He was a hormonal teenager who held on to his emotions and channeled them in unhealthy ways, but once you’ve been forced to sing “Let It Go” with extra hand movements in front of the Padawan’s cafeteria, you shape up and get some humility.
Since Master Elsa’s currently head of the Shadow Council? Dooku’s pretty much screwed.