Ahsoka stood at the observation window staring down at the arena like room beneath them next to her Anakin stood with Obi-Wan and Luminara Unduli along with other Jedi mostly padawans and younglings all watching out of childish curiosity the sparring match in the arena below.
"I should be more worried about this" Ahsoka said as she stood shoulder to shoulder with Leon at a concealed corner of the temple's courtyard, "If anyone finds us standing together like this".
She was resting her head against his shoulder holding each other's hand as they stared out at the city of Coruscant. A week had passed since they were rescued from Korriban and a week had passed since she accepted how Leon felt about her and returned the same feelings. After finally admitting it she felt lighter a weight that had been bearing down on her was finally gone. She still believed in the code, but she also felt now that as long as they keep their feelings for each other in check there would be nothing to worry about.
Though she was still nervous about their evolved relationship she was happy and part of her enjoyed the challenge of keeping it a secret and concealing her affection for him in front of others, it gave her a certain rush. She wondered if he felt the same, but those thoughts were quickly answered aside from the relieved happiness Leon hadn't really changed from the way he already was still making jokes and still coming off as borderline insane, but it didn't take her long to realize she enjoyed those things about him. He made her smile and laugh and ultimately happy when he settled down and became serious.
Of course there were many questions for her and Leon when they returned and recovered, most of them directed at Leon from Master Windu. The Jedi Master's questions bordered on direct interrogation and then in front of her and the Council, Leon challenged his master to a duel.
"Would you say you're concerned for my future Master Windu?" Leon asked him.
After a few seconds his master responded, "I am you have a great amount of potential and you are aware of it, but you're actions have become increasingly rash and dangerous. I am concerned that you are allowing your emotions to guide your actions and judgment".
Leon seemed to ignore his observation entirely, "How long has it been since we last dueled Master? Quite some time if I remember correctly".
Master Windu's eyebrow rose questioningly, "What are you getting at?"
"Quite simple really" Leon answered with a curved smile, "You're concerned about me and while I appreciate that I wish to show you that I'm fully capable of handling myself and making proper decisions that aren't guided by my emotions" his smile vanished in a second and he set a determined gaze on his master, "I challenge you to a duel Master no…I challenge you to a complete sparring match without holding anything back".
Silence fell in the Council Chambers, Leon had challenged Master Windu the best swordsman in the Jedi Order to a no holds barred duel.
"I accept" he answered as stoically as ever, "We will see how far you've come and if you are as in control as you say you are".
"Splendid" Leon said clapping his hands together, "Oh one stipulation we must be using training sabers".
"And why is that?"
"Because I will be treating this as if we were enemies" Leon replied, "And I will be striking as if I had the intention of killing I advise you to do the same".
Ahsoka watched Leon stand across from his master each of them armed with training sabers to prevent serious injury allowing them full contact sparring. It wasn't unheard of for a master and padawan to engage in this type of duel, but according to Obi-Wan it had not happened since he was a padawan himself. Many of the younglings at the temple had gathered to watch as well, they liked Leon probably because he had a habit of making lunch for them every few days if they performed well in their training. A good memory she had of him it was also how she first learned of his cooking skills and he often entertained some of the younglings with short, exaggerated tales of his missions. What really caught her attention about this upcoming match was Leon's smile.
She had seen him smile hundreds of times and in different ways and she recognized this one, he was happy he was going to enjoy this and that smile alone told her he had already planned the entire match out in his head. The yellow training saber flared as it was switched on and he rolled his shoulders back pointing his saber toward the ground waiting for his master to give the word to start.
Leon flipped the saber in his hand holding it reversed and charged forward attacking the Jedi Master head on bringing the saber up and down in an overhead swing which was easily blocked and pushed away. When his attack was deflected Leon shot out his free hand using the Force to push his opponent back charging in again. His training saber skidded across the floor before coming up in an angled slash Windu stepped back avoiding the poorly aimed attack, but that was Leon's intention after his master stepped back Leon attacked again swiftly bringing up his forward leg and kicking at Windu's knee and then jumping back putting distance between them.
Leon's attack ended he flipped his lightsaber again holding it upright ready to defend himself as his master recovered from the sudden kick to his knee. Windu noted Leon's attack pattern realizing that his padawan wasn't lying when he said he wasn't going to hold back. Leon smirked and held his free hand out to the wall calling a second training saber to him. Armed with dual weapons Leon planted his foot and kicked off the floor using the Force to launch himself forward, immediately closing the distance between himself and his master their weapons clashed. Waiting for his first strike to be deflected Leon stabbed with his second forcing Windu to step inside his reach to evade the weapon's tip.
The stabbing lightsaber was raised to defend after the missed strike blocking Windu's overhead swing. In a weaker stance Leon was overpowered and forced to one knee as his master's superior strength pushed him down. Down on his knee Leon tilted his defending saber down and Windu's saber slid down its blade freeing Leon's arm and he jumped back once again extending the distance between them. As confident as he was Leon knew his master was superior in skill and was aware of Leon's combat abilities specifically his skill in hand to hand combat meaning he would want to keep distance between them, but he wasn't aware of Leon's custom Force power or the knowledge he acquired from Tulak Hord's tomb giving Leon another surprise advantage. Of course keeping distance between them gave Windu the advantage since Leon's control over the Force was only average meaning he would have to find an opening and quickly exploit it.
Tightening his grip over his lightsabers Leon ran forward again making a violent sideways swing from his right hand allowing the block to deflect the hit and the shift in momentum to attack from the left. As his master went to block Leon dropped his left hand saber and kicked his knee, grabbing his wrist he twisted around and threw his master over his shoulder. Grabbing his master's throat Leon drew back his closed fist aimed right at his opponent's chest a hidden stare of surprise looking up at him.
Leon lowered his fist and stood up backing away from his master, "Get up" he told him, "Stop holding back on me I'm beginning to take offense to it".
"What's the point of this?" Master Windu asked him, "What do you have to gain?"
"Do you really want to know?" Leon asked him his grip tightening on his weapons once again, "Defeat me and I'll tell you".
His weapons flared to life once again and he charged forward throwing his left hand saber as a distraction and then his right hand saber behind it. Waiting for his master to block them he reached out grabbing his legs with the Force and tripping him with one hand while pushing him with the other. His opponent off balance Leon's speed increased using the Force to increase his physical movement and close the distance between them before Windu could recover. Grabbing his arm and pushing against his shoulder Leon attempted to flip him, but Windu was ready for him this time. As he grabbed his master's arm the Jedi Master stepped into him and then around him wrapping his own arm around Leon's neck and then kicking out his knee.
"Your first mistake was challenging me. Your second was thinking the same trick would work on me twice".
"Don't you dare lecture me" Leon growled dropping down to his knees pulling his master's arm with him.
Master Windu's chin met Leon's shoulder and managed to stun him taking advantage Leon turned around grabbing his master's leg and pulling it up tripping him. Turning back the opposite direction Leon was forced to jump back to avoid a defensive slash from his master's lightsaber it seemed he was finally taking this as seriously as Leon wanted him to.
"Good. Now we can really begin".
Activating his two sabers once again Leon's eyes locked with his master's it was time for him to go all in.
"Impressive" Obi-Wan noted seeing Leon's quick reflexes, "Master Windu is holding back, but he's still being caught off guard by Leon's…let's say unconventional battle tactics".
"Well we've all seen how he fights before so we shouldn't be surprised" Anakin said.
"True, but I'm still concerned" Luminara said wrapping her hand around her chin, "Why is he so insistent on not holding anything back".
"I think I know the answer to that" Anakin said looking over to her, "Master Windu is hard to impress as I'm sure we all know. I think Leon is fighting to gain his respect. There's no denying he's done some extraordinary things and even in spite of his accomplishments Master Windu hasn't shown much approval toward him".
"So it's a matter of pride then?" Obi-Wan asked his former student.
Anakin shook his head, "No not something that simple. I think he just wants Master Windu to look at him as an equal at least in terms of combat. He's rash and sometimes acts before thinking, but he's always meant well and has always fought for good reasons".
Ahsoka remained silent watching Leon run and drop into a slide to avoid his master's strike then lunging back up with his arm extended to the side. His arm connected against his master's throat and his body weight along with his momentum knocked Master Windu down. Immediately scrambling back to his feet Leon jumped away and pivoted on his heel and jumped back toward his grounded master stabbing one of his sabers into the ground.
Master Windu rolled to the side and extended his hand pushing Leon away, but Leon intercepted his attack with his own. The two Jedi collided in a clash of Force power vying for dominance, the pressure between them building like magnets trying to push each other away while being forced together. Master Windu's years of experience allowed him better control and with a simple thought he was able to send a second push out while Leon struggled to block his first overpowering him and sending the young Jedi rolling across the floor.
"You're outmatched" his master said walking over to him, "You know this yet you still insist on me fighting you without holding back. You have no chance of winning so what's the point?"
"You wouldn't understand the reason" Leon muttered under his breath throwing another force push at his Master only to have it matched and returned with greater strength once again sending him skidding across the floor.
"This is foolish Leon" he told him, "Are you trying to prove something is that it?"
Leon scoffed loudly as he returned to his feet, "Took you long enough to figure it out. You want to know the real reason?" he yelled, "I'm tired of your condescending attitude toward me I'm tired of the way you look down on me most of all after all I've done you have yet to show me any respect and I'm sick of it" he threw another force push aimed at his master's legs succeeding in pushing them out causing him to drop to one knee.
Grabbing his tripped legs as he fell Leon pulled them forward again the sudden jerk in motion disorienting his master. Lifting his opponent up as best he could Leon grunted as he pulled and ran toward him grabbing his master's weapon arm and slamming his open palm against his elbow. At the moment of impact Leon shot a pulse of kinetic energy into his master's arm join causing it to go numb and then stop moving entirely.
The numbness spread quickly feeling his arm grow heavy and then drop Master Windu turned over and pushed Leon off of him switching his lightsaber to his other hand. Leon rolled across the floor again and stopped on his knees both of his lightsabers active in his hands. The look in their eyes had changed they were both fully into this fight now discarding any further words between them. Jumping to the side Leon avoided another force push and threw his left handed saber at his master followed by his right waiting for the first to be deflecting before calling it back to his hand and throwing it again. Repeating the process to keep his master on the defensive Leon slid on his heel and pivoted spinning around his master.
Slamming his palm into the back of the Jedi Master's knee Leon used his force tap to numb and paralyze the joint before standing up and bringing his palm down over his shoulder striking at the side of his neck.
"Tsuyugiri" he yelled slapping the spot directly below the ear.
The struck pressure point went numb and the Jedi Master stumbled to the side leaving him open, Leon stepped around to his side and brought the knife edge of his hand down on the radial nerve running through his master's arm.
"Nagare" he yelled as he made contact and reared his hand back striking at the gap near the shoulder joint, "Daimon".
Master Windu could feel the left side of his body going completely numb as his padawan struck him again and again the focused bursts of force power making the pressure points hit go numb even quicker and briefly paralyze that part of the body.
"Ryumon" Leon shouted driving his index and middle fingers into the soft area near the clavicle, "Sai" he struck at his left inner thigh.
His body was numb his muscles were spasming this was serious his entire left side was shutting down. As his thigh went numb Master Windu swung his arm out as he dropped to his knee the training saber in his hand flying upward and Leon's eyes were drawn to the yellow blade mere milliseconds before it slammed into the side of his throat. The force of the impact briefly stunned him causing him to stumble away from his master before dropping to his knees one hand covering the spot he was hit.
Leon closed his eyes and released a growling exhale before punching the ground. He was so close he had managed to almost completely lock down half of his body, but his last strike left his flank open. If it had been a real fight that lightsaber strike would have killed him and that was the point of this fight to him to treat it as if it were real and he lost. The hit jarred a nerve causing a good bit of pain, but nothing he hadn't been through before he stood up and walked back over to his master and held out his hand.
He sighed, "You win Master".
Though his arm was still numb Master Windu managed to grab his padawan's hand and stand with his assistance taking a second to gain his balance.
"You fought well" he said, "I must admit I am impressed. I did not know you had knowledge of pressure points".
Leon panted, "Do you see now? I'm more than capable of handling myself all I need no all I want from you is some trust and respect that's it".
His master looked him in the eyes "I come off as a harsh teacher Leon because I expect the best from everyone that includes you. I volunteered to train you in Master Fisto's stead because I saw great potential in you. I know what you are capable of and I want to help you reach that point, but it is my job not only as your master, but a member of the council to remind you of the dangers of believing too much in one's own power".
Master Windu's body was still numb and partially paralytic from Leon's force tap strikes at his pressure points and his padawan had expended too much energy in his assault leaving him just as tired, they helped each other walk to the exit door of the sparring ring rejoining their fellow Jedi that waited for them.
"The only thing I ask from you Mace" Leon said handing his master over to a medical droid, "Is your trust. Trust that I will know where the line is I will not deny that I come dangerously close to it, but I will never cross it".
"You did well today Leon" he said allowing Plo Koon and the medical droid to help him toward the infirmary, "Congratulations you almost beat me".
Leon smirked, "Just worry about yourself old man".
"Well that was an impressive display of combat skill" Obi-Wan remarked after Master Windu was taken away, "I am impressed Leon each time I see you in combat you continue to surprise me".
The exhausted padawan chuckled, "Get to know me I'm amazing".
"So I've heard" the wise master replied, "Although I must confess to curiosity as to how you learned to fight the way you do".
Leon rubbed his neck where he was hit, "I grew up on Dantooine remember? A farmer needs to know how to defend himself so basic blaster pistol training a bit of rifle and semi automatic rifle training and there's always the chance of a bandit or thief so I was taught to fight unarmed".
"By who though? Your parents?"
Leon looked to Luminara, "Did they never tell you when you took me?"
She shook her head, "I do not recall them telling me anything important other than their request that we take care of you. I do recall them saying that you are special".
"I wouldn't say special I'm just really observant and a quick study…a reason I progressed so quickly through my trainings" Leon said shaking his head and then clearing his throat, "At any rate I'm my father is a Thyrsian and my mother is Mandalorian".
He took a moment to let them acknowledge what he told them, the Thyrsians were a branch of the Echani species and shared the same fondness and skill in for unarmed combat as their relatives and it was no secret of the history of Manadalorians, in the past they thrived on combat. Trained by parents who had lineage from two species of deadly warriors and Leon's unusual skill in combat finally began making sense to them.
"So yeah that's a thing" he said shrugging almost uncomfortably, "I was trained to defend myself if I ever needed to since I was able to walk and run on my own".
"Well that certainly clears up a lot of questions about you" Obi-Wan smiled, "I've fought against Mandalorian warriors before and I've seen what practitioners of the Echani martial arts can do, but I have to say to know both of their fighting styles is impressive for one so young".
"Yeah I'm awesome we've established that" he chuckled, "But I do have something I wish to ask of the Council".
"What you want to challenge Master Yoda next?" Anakin joked finally speaking up.
Leon smirked and shook his head, "Yeah I'm not ready to commit suicide just yet. No what I want to speak to the Council about is I feel that I'm finally ready to take the trials, with Master Windu's approval".
Another surprise from the young man who had made a habit out of surprising and impressing everyone around him, he was offered a chance to take the Jedi trials before after he defeated Count Dooku and General Grievous, but turned down the offer feeling he wasn't ready. Now after half a standard year had passed he was ready to take them. Of course his master would have to give approval first and then the Council would have to meet on the matter and agree to let him take the trials. It shouldn't matter really Leon thought to himself as they stood there he had researched the trials before and after all he had done he was guaranteed to pass at least the first three the fourth was a maybe, but he was still confident that he had already passed it through his exploits.
The first, the trial of skill he had already proven his skill in combat and though his control over the Force wasn't as great as others he still manages impressive feats and his survival in high pressure combat situations had proven that.
The second, the trial of courage he was guaranteed to pass that one he stood against Count Dooku and General Grievous by himself even if he had lost that fight as long as he survived he would have passed that trial.
The third, the trial of flesh he survived a bomb a crippling illness that picks the worst times to affect him and the various injuries he suffered on Korriban. Though not as serious as some injuries in years passed they could have been fatal to others giving him a pass on the third.
The fourth, the trial of spirit sometimes referred to as facing the mirror. In this trial Jedi would have to fight their greatest enemy the darkness within themselves, Leon had done this in a way as well while he was on Korriban although it wasn't much it could be considered enough for him to pass that decision would be left up to the Council.
The fifth, the trial of insight the final trial for those seeking knighthood this one seemed trivial to him. His perceptive tendencies usually allowed him to see past common deception and trickery, but even still there was much he could learn from something like this if he were to undertake it.
He wasn't the only one who was sure of his chances though, his first master Luminara was the first to express her belief that Leon could pass and Anakin quickly agreed. Obi-Wan agreed as well commenting on what Leon had already run through his head that he was practically assured to pass the first three, but while Leon did appreciate their confidence in him only one person's opinion really mattered to him at this point. And that's when he noticed Ahsoka wasn't there he knew she was watching from the observation point, but she didn't come down with the rest of them after the duel.
"I'm hungry" Leon half lied, "Think I'm going to go make myself some lunch".
While he was feeling a bit peckish he really wanted to spend more time with Ahsoka. Excusing himself from the their small meeting he stepped passed them and made his way through the corridors first checking by Ahsoka's room in the quarters and then the courtyard she wasn't there. So where would she be maybe in the cafeteria herself she knew him well enough to know he'd be hungry after the fight hell he was always hungry. Peeking inside the cafeteria he saw a few Jedi eating together, but Ahsoka was not among them quickly checking the kitchen she wasn't there either.
"Now where did you disappear to?" he hummed to himself stepping out of the cafeteria.
"I figured I'd find you here" the voice of the one he sought said from behind him.
He turned and set his eyes on Ahsoka restraining the urge to hug her while they were in view of others.
"Funny I was looking for you as well" he pointed back to the cafeteria, "I'm gonna make some lunch want to join me?"
"Maybe" she smiled teasingly at him as she walked by, "As long as you're the cook of course".
"I always make my own food" he reminded her following her inside and then leading her to the kitchen.
Manaan sliders, they had eaten those together before in fact it was the first thing he made for them. So long ago it seemed, but so fresh in his mind this was the same dish he made when he first made lunch for her and himself. He told her his thoughts and she agreed recalling the memory of that day as well the first meal they had eaten together, alone and now that they were…her thoughts fell apart and she looked around to make sure no one was listening or close enough to hear them.
"Why me?" she asked him.
"What?" he asked back confused.
"I mean why did you pick me? Don't get me wrong I'm happy I just want to know what is so special about me that you chose me over Thalia".
Leon set down the knife that was in his hand and walked over to her his arms gliding up hers stopping halfway to her shoulders his touch sending a shiver through her resulting in a smile that tried to hide.
"Honestly I don't know" he answered quietly, "I've known for a long time that I had strong feelings for you and Thalia and trust me I've tortured myself trying to figure out which of you I loved more, but when Thalia told me she was going to leave I kissed her. It was then that I realized which of you I cared for the most because even though I knew she loved me all I could think about was you".
He allowed his hands to slowly fall from her arms and stepped back, "In truth I don't know" he took a quick look around as well making sure no one was listening, "I just know I love you and that's enough for me".
Ahsoka looked at her feet blushing, "Not what I was expecting, but believable".
"So I told the Council I'm ready to take the trials" he told her as they sat down to eat.
"The trials to becoming a knight?" Ahsoka asked already knowing the answer.
Leon nodded, "I feel like I'm ready for them now and hopefully after today I've earned some trust and respect from Master Windu".
"He can be hard to please" Ahsoka muttered recalling the few times she had been on the receiving end of his seemingly overly judgmental glare, "But I'm sure he's like that for a reason after all he's the second strongest person in the galaxy after Master Yoda so maybe he just has high hopes and expectations for everyone including you".
"He still doesn't have to be so mean about it" he said with a fake cry.
Ahsoka chuckled at his bad joke, "You'd make a good Jedi Knight".
"That's it?" he asked, "Just a good knight, not a great knight or an amazing knight just a good one?"
She shrugged at him and he began laughing, "After all you've seen me do I'm just a normal run of the mill Jedi Knight. Haha, if that's the case I think I'd rather stay as the best padawan in the Order".
"And what makes you think you're the best?" she glared at him while smiling.
"Come on look at me" he said, "I'm just that good".
"And where do I rank?" she asked him burying a playful threatening tone in her words as a warning.
"Third" he answered.
"Third?" she gasped with a scoff, "You think I'm the third best?"
He laughed even louder, "I am so unbelievably amazing I'm counted as first and second".
Groaning Ahsoka dropped her forehead into her palm, "I don't even know why I fell for that one I should've seen it coming".
Leon continued laughing, "I have way too much fun when I'm with you" his laughter dropped to a chuckle and then faded entirely his smile remaining as he looked to her as she sat next to him, "I love you" he said quietly even though no one else was around.
"I know" she replied matching his whisper.
Finishing their lunch they returned to the courtyard where they spent their morning together, the same spot concealed behind a tall bush. They leaned against the rail and Ahsoka felt his hand rest on top of hers and his fingers gently curving their way under her palm.
Holding her hand he turned to her, "I'm really glad I have you in my life".
"Don't say something like that" she blushed, "It's embarrassing".
"But its true" he stepped closer to her and his other arm moved to her waist, "I love you".
She smiled her arm finding its way behind his neck, "I never would have imagined this would happen to me, but now that it has I…I'm really happy" they leaned closer to each other, "I love you" she whispered and kissed him the warm orange light of the setting sun bearing down on them as they remained hidden behind from the eyes of any who might be around.