This story is an alternate ending to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Thanks to Rose and Raonaid for helping me whip this puppy into shape. Their comments were invaluable on everything from the overall plot to the nitpicky details. Thanks to Katherine the Art Chick for being a vociferous cheerleader. And finally, thanks to Hole's early albums for helping my hone my rage every time it started to slip. Grunge is dead. Long live grunge.
Oh yeah, Lucasfilms owns just about every stinking thing in this story. What they don't own, I made up. Don't sue me, George. I spent all my money on repeated Star Wars viewings and Star Wars merchandise. I'm way more valuable to you with a disposable income. This can not be redistributed or archived without my express permission. If you want permission, write and ask nicely.
Maul's Sith Infiltrator came to a landing on the hard-packed sands of Tatooine. His master had sent him here to find the Jedi and Queen Amidala, but Maul had his own agenda. He would obey his master, yes. But he would also work towards his own goal--the sacred duty of every Sith since their mighty order had been reduced to only two Sith at a time. He would undermine his master's control, and work towards the day when he could finally kill him and take his place.
That time couldn't come quickly enough for Maul. He grew weary of Sidious's paltry political ambitions and no longer wanted to be his errand boy. They should have confronted the Jedi head-on ages ago. This political maneuvering was the coward's way of seizing power, and Sidious seemed determined to work as slowly as possible towards that goal.
The old man had been head of the Sith for too long. It was time for a new man on top, and that man would be Maul. And once he seized control of the Sith, he would stop crouching in the shadows and act boldly. The time was long past for the Sith to come out of hiding and take their place as the rightful rulers of the galaxy. Conquest, not compromise, would bring order to the Republic.
He sent out his probe droids to search the planet. Two floated towards the largest settlements, and the third circled Maul's vicinity in an ever-widening spiral, looking for the Jedi's craft.
The first probe droid reappeared after a fairly short period of time and reported that a Nubian ship was lying disabled not very far away. It showed a fuzzy image taken from a careful distance of a human padawan shielding his eyes from the sun. Maul listened to the coordinates, then closed his eyes and reached out with the Force in the direction of the ship. Cloaking his mental presence, he reached out to eavesdrop on the padawan's thoughts.
A smile spread across the young Sith's face. This one would be easy to turn. This was definitely the Jedi he'd been looking for. He was high-strung, contradictory, hot-tempered, and had a very unapproved attachment to his master. Yes, this would work perfectly.
A second probe droid approached Maul and showed him the information on the Jedi Master. Maul mounted his speeder and prepared to intercept him, making sure to bring the probe droid with him as he approached the Nubian.
The battle between Sith and Jedi looked fierce to all observers, but only Maul knew that he could have easily sliced this old-timer in two mere seconds into the battle. Still, he put on quite a show for the probe droid's recording, and when Qui-Gon made his escape, he carefully cloaked his glee.
"I have failed you, my Master," Maul said as he sank down on one knee before Sidious. "The Queen and the two Jedi still live."
"What happened, my Apprentice?"
"I could not best the Jedi Master in battle, and he escaped."
Sidious sucked an angry breath in through his teeth. "Your training should have been sufficient."
"My training was not at fault," Maul replied diplomatically. "You have trained me well, my Master. However, he is a formidable opponent with several decades more experience than I have." Maul offered the probe droid to his master. "See for yourself."
Sidious took the droid, downloaded the data into his holoprojector, and played back the recording of the fight, watching it with a discerning eye. "He is indeed formidable, my Apprentice," he agreed.
"Perhaps..." Maul started, then fell into silence.
"Yes, my Apprentice?"
"Perhaps you should fight him," he said, voice carefully laced with a hint of reluctance.
Sidious turned and walked to the balcony, deep in thought. Maul calmly stifled all his anxieties over his plan, cloaking them in the veneer of concern for his master. After several moments of quiet reflection, Sidious turned back around. "Perhaps you are right. I haven't been in the field in quite some time, and I must say, I miss the exhilaration of the kill. And this particular Jedi is legendary for his combat skills, which should make it all the more sweet. However, I shall have to act swiftly so that no one notices 'Palpatine's' absence."
"Agreed, my Master."
"And you, Maul, shall come with me. I'm sure the Jedi will have his padawan with him. You may dispose of him yourself. There's nothing quite so satisfying as killing a Jedi, my Apprentice."
"Thank you, my Master."
Sidious had sent Maul on ahead of him to meet with the Nemoidians and act as his intermediary in his absence. Maul had also been apprised of the content of several pre-recorded messages prepared by Sidious that he could broadcast to the Nemoidians if any one of several possible situations erupted while he was in transit. So far, all was going smoothly, both for Sidious's plan and for Maul's.
As predicted, the Jedi and Amidala staged a successful raid on the Theed palace. Sidious and Maul had both feigned surprise in front of the Nemoidians, but they both knew the Jedi would do this. It was simply in their nature.
Maul prepared himself for battle, waiting just on the other side of the main hangar's blast doors. His part in all this was to keep the Jedi occupied, then separate them so that Sidious could face the Jedi master and he could face the padawan alone. The Queen was of no concern--Sidious had already set things in motion in the Senate in such a way that Palpatine was sure to be elected Supreme Chancellor. She was to be left alone. If she took out the Nemoidians, more the better. That simply meant Sidious didn't have to uphold his end of the bargain.
The blast doors opened, and Maul slowly raised his head to meet the Jedi. Yes, he could feel the anger flowing from the young padawan even now. This would work perfectly.
The three men went through the age-old ritual of preparing for battle, slowly shedding their cloaks and unsheathing their lightsabers before beginning the attack. Maul skillfully fended off both of them--now this was truly a worthy test of his abilities. He'd never felt so alive, and the aggression pouring from the padawan only fueled his exhilaration.
Maul led both Jedi into the generator complex, striking at the two men with a skill and precision that astounded even himself. His master was right--there was nothing in this universe quite so satisfying as battling Jedi. With a vicious kick, he knocked the Jedi master out of the way and led the padawan through a series of forcefields. Qui-Gon raced to catch up with them, but a forcefield surged to life between him and his padawan.
Sidious stepped out of the shadows and raised his hands in Qui-Gon's direction. "I shall enjoy this," he cackled as purple bolts arced from his fingertips, sending the Jedi crashing to the ground in agony.
Maul parried Obi-Wan's blade and looked pointedly in the direction of their masters. Obi-Wan's eyes followed and his concentration slipped as he saw his master writhing in agony on the ground. He opened his mouth to cry out, but Maul covered it with a gloved hand and pinned the young man to the wall. "There is nothing you can do," Maul purred in his ear as he struggled to escape. "The forcefield will not lift in time for you to save your master."
If Obi-Wan was listening, he didn't show any indication of it, and he tried once more to jerk free.
Maul tightened his grip on the padawan and whispered, "He's almost dead. You can see the life force slipping from him as we speak."
With growing horror on his boyish face, Obi-Wan watched as Qui-Gon gave one last twitch, then fell still. Qui-Gon was gone. Tears streaked down the padawan's face as the full weight of what had happened slowly played across his features.
Maul pulled him back out of sight from the gloating Sidious, who was too wrapped up in his kill to have noticed the two of them in their clinch. "There's only one thing you can do, Padawan."
"What?" Obi-Wan mumbled against Maul's glove.
"Revenge. And I can help you get it."
Maul felt the roiling emotions raging in the young man's chest and knew even now that he had won. Obi-Wan nodded, and Maul removed his hand from his mouth. The padawan turned to Maul and said, "I want him dead. I want revenge."
"Then you shall have it," a victorious Maul whispered as he brought the hilt of his lightsaber down hard on the back of Obi-Wan's head, rendering the man unconscious. He quickly injected him with enough tranquilizers to keep him deeply unconscious and thereby invisible to the Force for nearly a day, and then stuffed his body into the service compartment he'd prepared. The forcefields were about to unlock, so Maul ignited his lightsaber, sliced it through the air a few times to fill it with the smell of ozone, then went back to his master with a feral grin.
"Ah, you look happy, my Apprentice," Sidious said, pulling his attention away from Qui-Gon's lifeless body. "I take it you were as successful as I was?"
"Yes, my Master."
"And where is the body?"
"It fell down the melting pit."
"Excellent. We shall dispose of this one the same way. It pleases me to deny the Jedi their proper funereal rites." Sidious used the Force to levitate Qui-Gon's carcass to the edge of the pit, and then he let go. The two Sith stood at the edge of the pit, happily absorbing the sound of the Jedi's body bouncing down the chasm for an all-too-short moment, then Sidious turned back to Maul and said, "I must be going before Palpatine is missed. Continue to ignore the Queen, but kill the boy before you leave the planet. He is unnaturally strong with the Force, and I would rather see him dead than run the risk that we cannot turn him. Then you may have a few days to yourself. You have done well, my Apprentice. Take some time to savor your victory."
"As you wish, my Master."
Killing the boy and making it look like a piloting accident had been trivially easy. Spiriting Obi-Wan's drugged body to his Sith Infiltrator without arousing the suspicions of Sidious or the Naboo had been only nominally more difficult, but he had succeeded and was now racing to his personal hideaway on one of the moons of Coruscant VII, one of the gas giants of the system.
He lugged Obi-Wan's body deep into the caverns of the moon. The Republic had declared this rock to be uninhabitable, but that was more due to the machinations of the Sith than to any semblance of fact. This habitation had been handed down from apprentice to apprentice for centuries. The lucky apprentices were handed it by their masters when their master rose to the head of the order. The unlucky apprentices inherited it from dead apprentices, and had to spend careful months disabling all the security systems put in place by their predecessors. Several apprentices hadn't survived the experience. If anything happened to Maul, he was certain his successor would have a good chance of joining them.
The only way Obi-Wan was getting out of here alive was at Maul's side.
He dumped the padawan's body on a sleeping pallet in a very small room, then sat down, back resting against the far wall, and focused on his captive. Reaching out with the Force, he slowly invaded his mind, careful not to alert him of his presence. His drug-addled dreams replayed the death of his master over and over again, and Maul savored the sheer panic coursing through his body as he dreamed of struggling to escape Maul's grasp. In this dreamscape, Maul towered over Obi-Wan, and his visage was even more twisted and inhuman than it was in real life. But Obi-Wan fixated on the carrot that had been offered him--revenge. Even in his drugged sleep, even as his thoughts thrashed helplessly at the thought of his master's death, he still thought of revenge.
This padawan was definitely the one. He just had to take care with his training.
Deciding it was time to wake his captor up, Maul made his presence known in Obi-Wan's dreams. With a ragged gasp, the padawan jerked awake and looked in shock at the Sith. His lips moved, but no sound came out, and he lifted a shaky hand to attempt to scrub at his face.
"You're still drugged," Maul said dispassionately. "You will remain so until I can be sure that you won't attempt an escape."
Obi-Wan furrowed his brow and tried to speak again, but all that came out was a croaking sound.
"You're thirsty and hungry."
"Good." Maul turned on his heel and left the room, locking the door solidly behind him.
He waited outside as Obi-Wan recovered enough strength to bash at the door and howl in rage. He bided his time, soaking up the hatred, waiting for the Jedi to weaken again. The wait took longer than he'd expected--the Jedi was quite strong, and despite the drugs, he was able to gather enough of the Force around him to try to use it to unlock the door. But Maul was stronger, better trained, more focused. Obi-Wan couldn't best him.
After the pounding subsided, Maul waited several more hours, then entered the small room. The padawan lay barely conscious on the pallet. Maul stood and stared, admiring the way that Obi-Wan fought to keep his glare leveled at Maul despite his desperate longing to fall into oblivion, then put a plate of food cubes and a bag of water next to him and walked back to stand in the doorway, watching.
Obi-Wan's focused gaze never wavered as he reached out for the bag of water with shaky hands and took measured sips from it. Maul knew he was desperately thirsty, and yet he refused to show weakness in front of his captor. Yes, he was a strong one.
"Eat," Maul commanded.
Obi-Wan fumed at him silently, ignoring the food cubes despite his ravenous hunger.
"If you want to have any hope of getting revenge, you'll eventually need your strength," Maul noted. "You do want to help me kill Qui-Gon's assassin, yes?"
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and shuddered, and Maul rode along inside his mind as the memory washed over him once more. Despite his hunger, Obi-Wan choked back a wave of nausea.
"Yes, it still consumes you. I can feel it. Let it wash over you, let it feed you, let it give you purpose. Anger is a gift. Accept it gratefully."
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, then croaked, "The food...it's drugged."
"Yes, it is," Maul admitted freely.
"I don't want it."
"It's the only food you'll get for now. You stay drugged until I say so."
Obi-Wan cast a baleful eye at the food, then turned away.
"You do want to live long enough to avenge Qui-Gon, don't you?"
That did it. Obi-Wan shot Maul a withering glare, then gave in to his body fell upon the food. With a grin creasing his face, Maul turned and walked back out.
"So how do I know you can help me kill...who was that who killed Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan slurred as he slumped bonelessly on his pallet.
"His name is Darth Sidious. He is my master."
"You're Sith, aren't you?"
Obi-Wan blinked several times, trying to string together his thoughts through the haze of drugs clouding his brain. "There can be only two Sith at a time."
"Yes, and soon those two will be you and me."
"I can't. I'm a Jedi," Obi-Wan insisted.
"You're not a very good one," Maul parried.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"What it means is that you're too passionate, too angry, too driven to be a Jedi. Their order is suffocating you and will crush out your spark if you let it. Your passions are your power. Embrace them."
"I have to get out of here," Obi-Wan said, struggling to rise up onto his elbows. "I can't...I have to..."
Maul strode over, planted his boot square in the middle of Obi-Wan's chest, and shoved him back down. "You're going nowhere."
"Dammit," Obi-Wan cried, reaching out to try and shove Maul's foot away. "Let me go!"
"There are only two ways out of here: at my side, or dead."
"Then kill me," Obi-Wan whimpered helplessly.
Maul stared down at him, letting the intensity of his gaze burn into his captive's soul for a long moment, then asked, "And what of Qui-Gon?" He reached into Obi-Wan's mind and stimulated the memories he harbored of his master's death, grinning as he watched the padawan writhe helplessly under his foot. "Remember the agony on his face as my master slowly killed him? Do you remember his twisted limbs, his cries of pain? Shall this go unavenged?"
"No!" Obi-Wan cried as he angrily shoved Maul's foot away.
Maul stepped back, self-satisfied grin widening. "You see, your anger gives you strength."
Obi-Wan turned and faced the wall, shame creeping through every molecule of his body. "Go away," he whispered.
"No, I think I'll stay. You only have privacy when I deem it necessary. Like it or not, I am your master now. You'll soon come to accept that."
"I'd rather die."
"No you wouldn't."
"I have to leave you for a few days," Maul said as he strode unannounced into his captive's cell. "My master requires my presence."
"You're doing a piss poor job of converting me to the Dark Side," Obi-Wan sneered in defiance as he struggled to his feet for the first time since he'd arrived.
Maul knocked him back down with a vicious backhand. "You'll convert yourself," he spat.
Blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth, Obi-Wan shot him a glare and then struggled back to his feet, only to be backhanded again, then kicked in the ribs once he hit the ground.
"It's not yet time for you to defy me," Maul threatened, watching Obi-Wan curl into a protective ball.
Teeth clenched, Obi-Wan looked up at Maul through pain-slitted eyes and hissed, "The Jedi will be looking for me."
"They won't be able to find you here."
"You'll die trying. You'll never make it through the security systems."
"Then I'll die," Obi-Wan countered. "Qui-Gon's revenge be damned."
"I don't believe you," Maul replied in measured tones.
"You'd better. You need me. If I die, you'll never be able to strike down Sidious."
"If you die, then I'll simply bide my time and find another padawan to turn."
"Now I don't believe you. You need me." With an unholy fire in his eyes, Obi-Wan once again struggled to his feet.
"You're angry," Maul said, voice flat.
"Good." Maul struck the padawan one last time, enjoying the small sound of pain he was unable to suppress as he hit the floor, then walked into the hallway and kicked a box into the cell. "Food and water. This will either last you until I return or you'll starve. Time will tell which will come to pass. As usual, it's all drugged." He stalked across the room, knelt down and grabbed the padawan's head tightly in his hands, fiery gaze burning into his pain-filled blue eyes. "Let your thoughts dwell on Qui-Gon while I'm away," he commanded, using the Force to drive it home.
With a whimper, Obi-Wan's head hit the pallet, mind awash with memories.
"That should fuel your hatred until I return," Maul said as he turned on his heel and locked the cell behind him.
"Palpatine's" senatorial duties had always kept him busy, but now, as supreme chancellor, he had little time to supervise his apprentice. Maul ran a couple of "errands" for him, then was released back to his own free time. "Keep training, my Apprentice," Sidious had commanded. "I shall be building my power base slowly, but soon we shall be able to reveal ourselves fully and rule openly as Sith. Until that time comes, train, and keep a low profile. We do not want the Jedi to ruin us again like they did a thousand years ago."
"Yes, my Master." Maul had been the perfect picture of obedience at all times, keeping his thoughts carefully focused on the here and now whenever he was in Sidious's presence. But now that he was streaking back to his lunar hideaway, he let his thoughts travel back to his new project. Would Obi-Wan have followed through on his threat to kill himself? Probably not. As much as he protested, Obi-Wan's every waking thought centered on Qui-Gon. A hunger strike was a possibility, but Maul hadn't been gone long enough for Obi-Wan to have actually starved to death. As his Infiltrator touched down on the hidden landing pad, Maul cast his Force-sense out to see if he could locate the padawan.
Yes, he was still alive. That much he could determine.
Maul descended the landing ramp and started making his way through the various security systems, keeping his Force-senses searching for Obi-Wan. He was close. Too close. He'd clearly gotten out of his cell. This wasn't entirely unexpected.
Maul's Force-sense started screaming, and he realized that his captive was just around the next corner behind an energy barrier. Impressive. He'd actually gotten though two of Maul's security systems without getting killed. "I know you're there," he called out.
"I know," a weak voice replied.
Maul rounded the corner to see Obi-Wan lying slumped against the wall. "So, you're trapped here."
"Yeah. I didn't realize it would be easier to get out than it would to get back in."
"How long have you been here?"
"Since a few hours after you left."
"So you've been without food or water for three days."
"I brought some water with me, but I finished it a while ago."
Maul nodded. "You're probably drug-free."
"Yeah, most likely."
Maul stopped to consider his options. On the one hand, Obi-Wan was probably too weak from hunger and dehydration to be able to harm him, but on the other hand, his Force abilities might still be strong despite that.
He'd just have to test it.
He raised his hand and waved it at Obi-Wan. "Look away," he commanded.
So, he was weakened. Maul took advantage of the moment of distraction to disarm the next security device, step through, then rearm it behind him. He crouched down, took Obi-Wan's chin in his hand, and forced his eyes to meet his own. "How did you escape?" he commanded. "Show me the memory."
A smile creased Maul's face as Obi-Wan's rage-filled memory replayed itself for him. "Ah, once again, anger was your strength."
"I was angry at you," Obi-Wan growled.
"It's perfectly customary for a Sith to be angry at his master," Maul replied dismissively. "Soon, I'll teach you to cast your hate out in a wider net." Maul pulled his lightsaber from his belt and knocked Obi-Wan out with a sharp blow to the back of his head, then tossed him over his shoulder and carried him back to his cell.
"Repeat to me what is written above the door to the Jedi Council chamber," Maul commanded.
A freshly-drugged Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes, then recited, "There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force."
"Tell me, do you believe any of that?"
"I try to."
"They're all false. 'There is no emotion; there is peace.' Tell me, Obi-Wan, when did you last feel peace?"
"Really? When I read your memories of him, I don't sense peace. You had what the Council deemed an 'inappropriate fondness' for your master."
"I had it under control," Obi-Wan muttered.
"Not entirely. You still wanted him, and chafed under the restrictions of the traditional Jedi master/apprentice relationship. Your frustration caused you to lash out at him any time you disagreed with him."
"I was getting better," Obi-Wan challenged.
"Yes, you were, but then Sidious killed Qui-Gon before you could fully repair your relationship, didn't he? He killed him before you had time to go through the trials and graduate from apprentice to knight. And if he'd lived long enough to see that, then you would have been able to have the relationship you so dearly wanted."
"Stop it!" Obi-Wan screamed, burying his head under his arms. "Shut up!"
Maul squatted next to the trembling padawan and said, "We'll just pass right over the idiocy of 'there is no ignorance; there is knowledge' and get right to 'there is no passion; there is serenity.' Feeling serene?"
Maul grabbed Obi-Wan by his ponytail and yanked his head up. "Your passions are what give you strength, boy. You know that as well as I do."
"Fuck you!" Obi-Wan roared, twisting out of the Sith's grasp.
Maul sat back on his heels and grinned. "My point exactly. And finally, 'there is no death; there is the Force.' If you truly believed that, you wouldn't be so broken up about Qui-Gon, now would you?"
Obi-Wan moaned and dropped his face in his hands. "It's these drugs you're giving me. If it weren't for them..."
"You'd feel exactly the same way," Maul countered.
"If I could think straight..."
"Is that what you want?" Maul asked calmly.
"Fine. Your system will be free of the drugs in twelve hours. We'll talk again then," Maul said as he stood up to leave.
Obi-Wan looked up at him, dumbfounded. "That's it? It's that simple?" he gasped.
"Of course not. I can't run the risk of you trying to attack me when you're at full strength."
"You have my word that..."
"Your word as a Jedi means nothing to me," Maul spat. Advancing on Obi-Wan with a gleam in his eye, he said, "This, on the other hand, is something I can trust."
Raising one foot, he brought it down savagely on Obi-Wan's kneecap, snapping the bone and tearing the sinews. Obi-Wan screamed in agony, but couldn't protect himself from the second blow that cleanly broke the tibia in his other leg.
"Now I trust you," Maul said as he stalked out of the cell, leaving the padawan alone with the echoes of his screams.
Twelve hours later, Maul stepped into the cell with a bag slung over his shoulder and stared down at his captive. "Healed yourself yet?" he asked.
"Of course not," Obi-Wan spat.
Maul nodded, then knelt next to the broken legs, gently putting the sack down next to him. "Then I'll help you," he said simply.
"Help me?" Obi-Wan gasped incredulously. "You already helped me enough! Get away from me."
"You're in no condition to protest," Maul replied as he pulled off his gloves, took some scissors from the bag, and started gently snipping the fabric away from the injuries.
"I don't understand you," Obi-Wan muttered.
"You will in time."
"You're only helping me now because I'm more useful to you healed. I can't help you kill your master if I can't walk."
"That is true."
"Tell me, did Sidious ever do the same to you?"
Maul looked Obi-Wan dead in the eye and very calmly replied, "I have suffered far worse than this by his hand."
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, and the tiniest sliver of pity showed in his eyes. "When did he start training you?"
"When I was twelve."
"That's awfully young."
"Jedi start training as infants."
"We're not abused."
Maul held his gaze for a long moment, then turned back to the injuries and said, "You're very calm for someone so gravely wounded. Tell me, are you in pain?"
"Of course I am."
"And how are you able to bear it?"
"Jedi training. They teach us that pain is our body's way of letting us know we're injured and need help."
Maul nodded. "That part of your Jedi training is correct. However, there is more than one kind of pain. Physical pain is your body's way of saying it's injured and needs help, but emotional pain is your soul's way of saying it's been injured and requires healing. Healing comes from retribution."
"Healing comes from meditation," Obi-Wan countered.
"Meditation only dulls the pain and puts it aside for a short while. Eventually, it comes back." Maul reached into the sack and pulled out several medical instruments. "I'm going to set the bone. This will hurt."
Obi-Wan gritted his teeth, then said, "Go ahead."
"I'll start with the worst of it," he replied, passing a medical scanner over Obi-Wan's shattered knee. "It's not as bad as it looks," he commented before setting down the scanner and lightly running his fingers over the injury. "Prepare yourself. Channel the pain."
"Hatred works for me. You may prefer a different emotion, but I would suggest hatred."
"How am I supposed to make myself hate Sidious for this?"
"You aren't. Hate me for doing it in the first place."
"I'd rather try to use a Jedi method."
"The Jedi have no methods for pain such as this."
"I'm still going to try."
"Suit yourself." Maul's fingers settled into position, and then he painstakingly started moving the bones back into place.
Obi-Wan howled and thrashed in pain, despite all attempts to use the Living Force to keep calm. "No! Ah! Stop! No!"
Maul stopped, sat back on his heels, and looked down at the gasping padawan. Once he thought Obi-Wan was calm enough to listen, he asked, "Willing to try my method now?"
"Damn you! You did this on purpose! This whole thing was just your way of manipulating me into using the Dark Side! Well I'm not going to do it!"
"Even when the power of the Dark Side is clearly more useful in this instance?"
"Just give me a fucking painkiller!"
"I don't have any."
"You have to have something in that bag of yours," Obi-Wan said, struggling to sit up and grab for the medical kit.
Maul pushed him back down. "I assure you, there are no painkillers in there. I don't need them. I have the Dark Side as my ally, and it serves me well when I am in pain."
"Well, I'm not going to do it," Obi-Wan countered.
"Then I won't be able to set your bones. Clearly, the Light Side isn't enough to still your thrashing. I cannot set the bone if you won't lie still."
"I'll try harder."
Obi-Wan clenched his hands into fists and said, "Just watch me. Do it."
Maul pulled out the scanner to get a new reading on the position of the bones, then carefully positioned his hands and said, "You can still change your mind," and started pushing them back into place once more.
Obi-Wan cried out and reflexively tried to jerk his leg away, then started screaming a long stream of obscenities at Maul. The pain abruptly died down.
Catching his breath, he wiped the tears of pain from his eyes and stared unbelievingly at Maul, who was running a bone-knitter over his knee. "What happened?"
"Once you channeled your pain into anger at me, you stopped moving and I was able to piece the bones together," Maul replied.
"I didn't...I didn't mean to."
"Of course you didn't, but it worked."
"Now see if you have any of that left for your other leg," Maul commented as he put down the bone knitter and scanned Obi-Wan's other break.
"I don't think I do," Obi-Wan said weakly.
"With time, you'll have a bottomless well of it. Prepare yourself. This one will go much quicker."
Obi-Wan nodded, clenched his fists, and one quick "Fuck!" later, the other bone was set.
Maul ran the bone-knitter over that leg for a few moments, then said, "There will be swelling and bruising, but it will die down. Your knee will take longer to heal, but it will eventually heal completely. We'll start your physical therapy in a couple of days."
"Meanwhile, you're going to drug me?"
"No, that is no longer necessary."
"Look, just because I used a little of the Dark Side to help me take care of pain, that doesn't make me a Sith," Obi-Wan challenged.
"Of course not. You're far from being a Sith." Maul returned the medical instruments to the bag, put his gloves back on, and rose to his feet.
"So, how did Sidious turn you?" Obi-Wan challenged, rising up on one elbow.
"Revenge," Maul replied simply.
"When you were just twelve?"
"Did you get your revenge?"
"Eventually. You are stronger than I was at that age. Your revenge will come sooner. Mine took many years."
"Didn't your anger die down over those years?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Sidious ensured that it didn't."
Obi-Wan stared at him for another long moment, then quietly said, "I'm sorry."
"For you losing your childhood like that. For you turning into this."
Maul let loose a short barking laugh, then said, "Don't pity me. I am more powerful than I ever dreamed I could be. The child that I once was was a waste of skin and meat. Every day, I thank Sidious for doing this to me."
"Even though you want to kill him."
"That is the way of things in the Sith."
"And if I were to join you, you'd expect me to eventually kill you."
"If you were worthy of taking over the order, yes. That is how it has worked for a thousand years."
"Have you ever thought that you might be more powerful if there were more than two of you?"
"Once we slay Sidious, we can discuss that. Now sleep," Maul said with a subtle wave of his hand. "You need to heal. I'll bring more food when you awaken."
Obi-Wan nodded, then put his head down and quickly fell asleep.
"Obi-Wan, you know we cannot. The code forbids it."
"Forget the code, Master. I don't care anymore. I just want you."
"You would throw away all your training? All that you have worked so hard for?"
"And you would ask me to do the same?"
"Master? No, of course not..."
"But that is what you're asking, Padawan. If you leave the order solely to have a relationship with me, and I took up with you, I would be ostracized."
"I would tell them it was all my idea."
"And I would be accused of encouraging you to abandon your studies. I would be accused of corruption. Is that truly what you want?"
"Speak of it no more, Obi-Wan. Now is not the time. Bury these feelings deep within you. A true Jedi knows only peace."
"Then perhaps I'm not a true Jedi."
"Don't say that, Obi-Wan. You've put in too much time and training to throw it all away for these feelings, however strong they may be. You are a Jedi, a very good Jedi, and soon enough you'll be a Jedi knight. I won't let you jeopardize your future, Padawan. Now, we have a mission to accomplish. Focus on that and that alone."
"How interesting..." a foreign voice intruded.
Obi-Wan awoke with a jerk to see Maul squatting next to him. "I was dreaming," he gasped.
"I know. I was watching."
"Can't I even have privacy in my dreams?"
"No. So, when did that little conversation take place?"
"Right before we went to Naboo."
"Only a few days before Qui-Gon's death then. Very interesting." Maul rocked forward to his knees with a satisfied smirk. "So even before you met me, you were questioning whether to remain a Jedi."
"I wasn't. I was questioning the rules."
"That's not what you said."
"I know, but it's what I meant."
"In the Jedi, is there a difference?"
"No...but questioning the Jedi is a far cry from becoming a Sith!"
"True," Maul admitted. "But you'll never be a Jedi again."
"No," Obi-Wan sighed. "They'd never take me back at this point. Not after what you've made me do."
"I haven't made you do anything. You've done it all yourself."
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again. After a long pause, he said, "Perhaps."
Maul grinned and softly trailed a gloved finger along Obi-Wan's jaw line. "I can see what Qui-Gon saw in you."
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and whispered, "Keep Qui-Gon out of this."
"Ah, but it's all about him, now isn't it?" Maul countered, thumb ghosting along the outline of Obi-Wan's lower lip. "It's all about vengeance and lost opportunity."
"I wanted revenge, yes..."
"You still want it."
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and stared deeply into Maul's. "But I don't deserve it."
"And why not?"
"Because Qui-Gon wouldn't want me to do it."
"But he's no longer here to tell you that, now is he? Speaking of which..." Maul reached in to his boot and pulled out a knife. "Take it."
"You're giving me a knife?" Obi-Wan asked incredulously.
"Yes. Since you're no longer a Jedi, you won't be needing that ponytail and braid."
Obi-Wan reached out in slow motion and took the black-handled blade in his hand. "Cut off my braid?" he whispered.
"If you've dishonored the Jedi, then surely you no longer have the right to wear it. Surely you dishonor them by letting it hang from your head."
Obi-Wan shook his head in disbelief, but his hands moved of their own accord and slowly sliced the ponytail from the back of his head. The hair fell to the mat with a whisper. He then moved the knife to his braid and hesitated. "I've been growing this since I was thirteen. The hair on the end is Qui-Gon's."
"Cut it off."
Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan brought the blade up behind his ear and sliced the braid off cleanly, nicking the back of his ear in the process. He looked dully at the severed braid as it lay on his sleeping pallet.
"You may keep it," Maul noted. "It can be a souvenir of all you've lost, and all you have to avenge."
Obi-Wan picked it up and brought it to his lips, then snarled and attempted to stab Maul in the heart with the blade. Maul easily deflected the blow, disarmed his captive, and dealt him a vicious backhand which left Obi-Wan's ears ringing. "Never try that again," he warned.
Slipping the blade back into his boot, he scooped up the hair from the ponytail and placed it in his pocket, then removed his gloves. "Now, let's look at your legs and see how they're healing."
Head still ringing from the blow, Obi-Wan lay motionless as gentle fingers examined his knee and calf. Were these the same hands that had been abusing him for the past few days? It didn't seem possible, somehow, but he knew they had to be. "How does it look?" he asked.
"You have some very vivid bruises, but the swelling is beginning to go down. You should be able to start walking tomorrow."
"I should kill you."
"Not just yet." Slipping his gloves back on, he strode into the hallway, then returned. "Food and water," he said, placing a tray on the ground.
Maul turned on his heel and strode out, leaving the door wide open.
"You forgot to lock my door!" Obi-Wan called out.
There was no answer.
Hours passed, and Obi-Wan stared incredulously at the open door. He didn't touch his food, he didn't sleep, he didn't meditate--he simply stared and wondered what kind of trap this was. For days now he'd been beaten, abused, brainwashed, drugged, dehydrated, starved... This had to be another trap. It couldn't be that easy.
He sat up and looked down at his battered legs. Maybe Maul thought he was too weak to attempt an escape. After all, he hadn't been able to get that far on his last attempt. Was Maul protected behind security fields as well, or could he actually get to him? Not that he was in any condition to fight him. He couldn't even walk out the door, and he sure as hell wasn't going to try and crawl his way out of here.
Casting his Force-senses out, he located the merest hint of his captor. He appeared to be sleeping. Somehow, he was surprised by the thought that Maul slept. He knew he was a mortal, just like him, but he'd taken on a larger than life persona in Obi-Wan's mind. What did he look like when he slept? Could he look innocent in his sleep under all those tattoos? Was there any trace of that twelve-year old left?
Okay, Kenobi, you have to try something, he thought, and struggled to stand for the first time in days. His legs screamed in protest, but he channeled the pain into a fierce bolt of hatred towards Maul and rode it out. There, that wasn't so bad. Okay, so I'm using the Dark Side to manage my pain, but that's all I'm going to ever use it for.
Leaning hard against the wall, Obi-Wan started slowly inching his way towards the door. His knee and calf still had a lot of healing to do, so the pain wasn't all that slowed his progress, but slowly, surely, the door to the cell loomed closer and closer. If he reached out, he could just about touch the doorframe.
He froze, sending his Force-senses out to try and detect Maul, and he couldn't.
He just wasn't there.
Okay, maybe he's just in a very deep sleep, or maybe he's meditating, or it might be that the strain of getting this far is making it hard for me to use the Force.
Or maybe he's deliberately hiding himself from me and waiting just on the other side of that door.
A fear deeper than any Obi-Wan ever remembered gripped icy fingers around his throat, and he froze in place, not thinking, just reacting. The open door yawned wide in front of him, silently mocking his inaction, but he couldn't bring himself to do anything. That door could be anything--freedom, death; escape, torture. Once he stepped through that door, there was no turning back, no matter what the outcome.
"Damn you, Maul," Obi-Wan hissed under his breath, and slowly inched his way back to his pallet.
"You haven't eaten," Maul commented as he walked through the door.
"I'm not hungry."
"Can you walk?"
"So why didn't you walk out the door?"
"It was a trap."
"Is that what you think?"
"I know it was a trap," Obi-Wan replied defensively.
"Then perhaps it was one."
"Everything's a trap here, isn't it?"
"I would have said test, not trap." Maul squatted down next to Obi-Wan and asked, "So, why didn't you just walk out? What did you fear?"
"Everything," Obi-Wan whispered.
"What was the worst that could have happened? A beating? Death?"
"Or another one of your damned attempts to make me pity you," Obi-Wan countered.
"I've never tried to make you pity me. I do not want, nor require, pity."
"What happened to you, Maul? What turned you into this? You were a boy once. Did you have a family? Did they love you? Did they try to teach you right from wrong?"
"That's what got them killed!" Maul spat as he rose to his feet.
Obi-Wan watched him pace the cell, then said, "I'm sorry."
"I already told you, I do not want, nor require, your pity!"
"Maul, what would your family think if they saw you now? Don't you think they'd miss the boy they knew and loved?"
Maul advanced menacingly on Obi-Wan, growling, "The boy they knew and loved couldn't save them. The boy they knew and loved could do nothing but helplessly watch them suffer and die. The boy they knew and loved is dead and he is never coming back! I will never be weak again!" Face mere centimeters from his captive's, he hissed, "You would do well to never mention that boy again."
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, then nodded.
Closing his eyes, Maul struggled to regain his composure, then straightened up, eyes burning with rage, and said, "The power of the Dark Side is stronger than you can possibly imagine. Sidious may have fueled my rage and honed my hatred, but the power he showed me was what convinced me to stay by his side and serve him."
"You felt powerless, he showed you power. That's understandable," Obi-Wan agreed, absentmindedly fingering the padawan braid he'd knotted around his wrist. "But you don't need to stay with Sidious any more. You have power. You can leave."
"He's more powerful than you realize. Your master--he was well-known among the Jedi for his skills as a warrior, was he not?"
"Yes, Qui-Gon was a very good fighter, and he was strong with the Force as well."
"And you saw how easily my master killed him."
Obi-Wan suppressed a shudder as the memory washed over him once more. "I did."
"If I tried to leave, he'd find me and he'd kill me. And he'd take his time killing me. He'd stretch it out for months, years perhaps." Maul shook his head. "The only way I can get out from under Sidious's thumb is to kill him."
"And you think I can help you do that?"
"With training, yes. You're very strong in the Force, and the two of us combined could do it."
Obi-Wan struggled to his feet, gulping back a wave of pain, and said, "Then I'll help you."
"Yes, but only because I think that when he's gone, you'll have a chance to come back to the Light."
Maul barked out a short laugh. "There's nothing left in me to redeem."
"I think there is."
The two men locked gazes, blue searching gold for any small sign of softening, but finding none. "Eat," Maul commanded. "Then when you're done, we'll begin your training."
Leaning heavily on the crutches that Maul had given him, Obi-Wan carefully followed the Sith out of the filthy cell he'd been living in and out into the hallway. Maul reached out with the Force to unlock a set of heavy iron doors and said, "You will now be granted access to more of the compound. Heavy security will lie between you and places you are not yet ready to access, so any attempts at insurrection will fail."
"I already told you, I'm committed to helping you kill Sidious."
"A desire to kill a Sith Master does not make you automatically trustworthy," Maul countered. "Most Jedi would love to do just that. Here are your new quarters."
Obi-Wan painstakingly entered the tiny spartan room. They were much cleaner than the cell he'd been cooped up in, the bed looked more comfortable, and it included a full bathroom set, not partitioned off in any way from the rest of the room. "No privacy?" Obi-Wan asked, nodding in their direction.
"Privacy is an unnecessary luxury. There is nothing shameful about keeping clean and taking care of bodily functions. Privacy only makes you vulnerable."
"Oh," said Obi-Wan, understanding dawning across his face. "If you think you need privacy for those activities, then the very act of hiding makes you easier to ambush, and less likely to fully defend yourself."
"Correct. Modesty is a weakness that can be exploited."
"If that's so, then why do you wear clothes when you're here?" Obi-Wan countered.
"Habit." Maul gestured towards the facilities and said, "Clean yourself up. There is a seat in the shower that you can use while your legs heal, and there are clean clothes in the bureau."
"I need soap, shampoo, and a razor."
"You have soap."
"What about my hair and beard? I haven't shaved since Naboo."
"I don't have any of those things here. Make do with what's provided."
"Don't you have any hair?"
"No," Maul replied matter-of-factly.
"Guess that means no comb," Obi-Wan muttered as he hobbled to the shower. Turning back, he saw Maul continuing to stand in the middle of the small room. "I take it privacy's out of the question."
Obi-Wan sighed, set the crutches against the wall, and stepped into the shower. Sitting down on the shower chair, he started peeling off his filthy clothing and tossing it out into the room. Maul sat on the corner of the bed, unconsciously averting his eyes, and pushed a button on his control bracelet. A droid wheeled in and started picking up the dirty clothes. "Is it too much to hope that you'll clean and return those?" Obi-Wan asked as he stripped off his underwear and pitched it at the droid's head.
Realizing he'd been looking away, Maul's snapped his attention back to his captive. "Yes. Your clothes are disgusting. They'll be incinerated."
"I expected as much." Obi-Wan reached out and turned on the shower, sighing in relief as water cascaded over his filthy body. "This feels really good."
"Sensual pleasure is part of the Dark Side."
"'There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no passion; there is serenity.'"
"So enjoying a shower..."
"...breaks Jedi law, if you believe it literally."
"What if I serenely appreciate the shower?"
"That is a contradiction in terms."
"That was humor, Maul, or is that not something you find on the Dark Side?" he joked.
More quickly than he thought was possible, Obi-Wan suddenly found Maul standing in front of him, hauling him to his feet by his throat. "You will address me as 'Master Maul' or 'Darth Maul' or 'Lord Maul' or 'my Master' but never simply 'Maul.' Do not forget how this works. This is not a casual relationship. Do not make the mistake of treating it as one."
"Yes...Lord Maul," Obi-Wan croaked.
"That will do for now. Eventually, you will call me Master." He released his hold on Obi-Wan's neck and watched him crash sharply back into the shower chair. The anger felt good. "Finish cleaning and I will show you the other rooms you now have access to."
Obi-Wan nodded, rubbing reflexively at his sore throat, and finished soaping the grime from his body and hair. Quickly finger-combing his spiky hair, he switched off the water, wrapped a towel around his waist, and silently hobbled back out to the bureau. One drawer was filled with gray pants, another with gray tank tops, and yet another with gray socks and underwear. Maul was now standing by the door, so he took his outfit over to the bed, sat down carefully, and pulled it on.
Answering the unspoken question, Maul said, "Yes, that is all you get to wear for now."
Warily, Obi-Wan asked, "Is this all you got when you started?"
"Once I was given clothes, yes."
"You mean you weren't...? You didn't...?"
"No, I wasn't given clothes at first. Lord Sidious felt it best that I be nude for the first year of my training so I would get over my modesty and need for privacy. It worked."
Maul waved his hand threateningly. "There will be no more discussion of this point. Get up and follow me." He stalked out in to the hall and waited for Obi-Wan to catch up. "A kitchen," he gestured.
"No knives, no stoves, nothing I could use to kill you with?" Obi-Wan said.
"Not unless you're extremely inventive. I also control the food and water supply. If you try anything, I can cut you off and starve you out. And here is your training room." The two men strode into a small gymnasium with minimal equipment--bars, rings, mats, but nothing that could be easily used as a weapon.
"Once again, nothing I could kill you with," Obi-Wan noted.
"Your training will be done solely with your body for now. I would suggest using the bars for your physical therapy."
"Thanks. I take it this is all I get?"
"These three rooms should be sufficient for your training."
"And what will this training be?"
"Physical conditioning, meditation, lessons in what it means to be a Sith."
"Is that what you do all day, Mau...Lord Maul? Train, and 'hone your rage'?"
Maul appraised him through slitted eyes. "You're asking more than you're saying."
"Spit it out."
Obi-Wan took a deep breath, then asked, "Well, what do you do for fun?"
Maul looked at Obi-Wan like he'd just grown another head.
"I just..." Obi-Wan stammered. "I thought... You said earlier that sensual pleasure led to the Dark Side."
"One can embrace the Dark Side without being a Sith. Sensual pleasure leads to the Dark Side, but it also makes you weak. It shall be part of my Master's undoing. He's lived as one of the masses for too long, and it's making him soft. When I take his place, I will not make the same mistake." Gloved hands clenched, his gaze bored into Obi-Wan's, and he noted with growing fury that those blue eyes were filled with that thrice-damned pity again. "What?!?" he roared, hand surging back to Obi-Wan's throat.
Obi-Wan gasped, then said, "I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for you to be treated that way by Sidious, especially when you were so young."
"As I keep telling you, I am glad for it!"
"But...but no comfort? No pleasure? How did you stay sane?"
"Revenge," Maul replied. "I had my revenge. And then I had power. You will too."
"But...but...haven't you ever had...needs?"
"My needs are not important to Sidious. I am the apprentice, he is the master. That is how it has been for over half my life, and that is what made me the man I am today."
Another wave of pity surged out of Obi-Wan's eyes, and Maul squeezed his throat tighter, then pushed him away, grabbed him by the back of the head, and threw him face-down on the ground. "This will teach you to worry about my needs," he spat as he roughly pulled Obi-Wan's pants down around his knees. Obi-Wan tried to twist out of his grasp, but Maul had the advantage of strength and roughly pinned him down. "I am the master here," he ordered, reaching for the fastenings on his pants. "If I have needs, you will fulfill them without complaint and without protest."
"Is...is that what Sidious did when he had needs?" Obi-Wan croaked as his face was mercilessly ground into the mat.
"Yes, as did his master and his master's master before him. For a thousand years it has been this way," Maul growled as he stared at the helpless body below him. Obi-Wan was finally afraid. Finally vulnerable. He could have him now with one simple act, one that Sidious had performed on him countless times ever since he was twelve. Now, for the first time he would be the one fulfilled. Victory was finally at hand.
Only his body seemed to have betrayed him.
With a howl of frustration, Maul slammed Obi-Wan's face into the mat one final time and surged to his feet, tucking his limp member away and refastening his pants.
Obi-Wan lay on the ground in shock, unmoving. What just happened here? Was this another trap? Another test? Finally, he ventured, "Lord Maul?"
"Pull your pants back up."
Gingerly wiping blood from his nose, Obi-Wan quickly complied, staring in disbelief at the pacing Sith Lord before him. Why had he stopped? Why hadn't he...how had he managed to escape being raped? Quietly, he mumbled, "I'm sorry."
Maul spun on his heel and seethed, "Sorry for what?"
"Sorry that Sidious used to rape you."
Maul, nearly blinded by fury, savagely kicked Obi-Wan in the ribs and choked back a scream of rage.
Obi-Wan curled into a protective ball and wheezed, "I'm gonna kill him for you."
"I just may kill you first," Maul growled, grinding his teeth together so hard he could almost taste the powder.
"Let me kill him for you," Obi-Wan begged weakly. "Please let me kill him for you."
Maul took a deep breath and closed his eyes, storing his anger for later use. After a heavy pause, he said, "Your nose is broken. I'll get the medical kit."
"Thank you, Lord Maul."
Maul stepped into the shower after his grueling workout session and simply let the water cascade over him for a minute. It was indulgent. It was frivolous. It was pleasurable. It was everything he loathed in Sidious. But right now he needed a moment of calm if he ever was to have any hope of centering himself again.
Tonight should have been his moment of triumph. He should have taken Kenobi as his own, showing no concern whatsoever for his feelings. He should have had his needs totally fulfilled for the first time in his Sith existence. He should have filled the cowering padawan with his rage and essence and made him truly understand the depths of anger and hatred that existed for a Sith.
Instead he'd shown what? Weakness? Mercy?
No, not kindness, he realized as he picked up the soap and started methodically cleaning his worn-out body. And not mercy. It was simply a moment of personal weakness. The former Jedi still had too much good in him, and being so close to it was corrupting Maul. This was only to be expected, and with vigilance, could be overcome.
He reached out with the Force to eavesdrop on his captive's activities, and let a small smile ghost the corners of his lips as he realized that Kenobi was using both the Light and Dark Force to heal himself and manage his pain. And there was a white-hot spike of fury in him directed at Sidious. He was being corrupted. He just wasn't being corrupted quickly enough.
He'll help me kill Sidious. After that...
Maul's smile turned into a grimace as he realized he was entertaining thoughts of being merciful to the Jedi and actually letting him go.
No, no one walks away from the Sith. He has to die.
A small corner of his mind protested, and nothing he did could quiet it.
Sitting cross-legged on his bed, Obi-Wan's attempt at meditation was a whirling maelstrom of energies. Spiky black tendrils laced through his skull, weaving their way down his spine, churning in his belly, and radiating through his entire soul, but the white light at his core refused to be extinguished.
"I'll kill Sidious. I'll kill him."
'There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force.'
"Shut up. As soon as I'm strong enough, he's dead."
Jedi only kill in self-defense.
But Padawan, Maul is manipulating you. He tried to rape you. He's trying to turn you to the Dark Side.
"Shut up, Qui-Gon. You're dead. I'm the one living with it."
I do not require vengeance, my Padawan.
"This isn't about you anymore. It's about me. It's about avenging what I lost to that bastard."
But vengeance won't help you get it back. You can still come back to the Light.
A tear streaked down Obi-Wan's cheek, and he quickly brushed it away. "No I can't."
Then at least step away from the Dark.
"You weren't strong enough to protect me from it."
I'm trying now.
"No you're not. You're a figment of my imagination. If you really could have contacted me from the dead, you would have before now."
Maul is not your savior. Padawan, he tried to rape you.
"But he didn't! Something stopped him. I can free him. I know I can."
What if you can't free him? What if he corrupts you totally instead. Is this what you want to become?
With a ragged gasp, Obi-Wan's eyes snapped open. "No," he whispered.
Maul stood outside Obi-Wan's training area and took a deep breath. He would not let this Jedi make him weak. He would be a true Sith. He would show no mercy. His purpose would be tantamount.
Palming the handprint-activated controls, he stepped through a hidden door and watched appraisingly as Obi-Wan drew the Force around him and walked unaided. The Light and the Dark Side flowed seamlessly around him, and Maul had to admit to himself that he was impressed. He'd never known of anyone who could work so smoothly with both sides of the Force. "Excellent," he commented.
Obi-Wan wobbled and caught himself on the wall. "I didn't hear you come in."
Obi-Wan straightened himself up and said, "There's something I have to tell you."
Maul stood silently, waiting.
"I'll help you kill Sidious," Obi-Wan said, "but I will never be a Sith."
"You'll never be a Jedi again, either."
"I know. And I know you'll probably kill me once Sidious is dead."
Maul's brow wrinkled. "So why help me?"
"Because I want to."
"This is no longer about Qui-Gon."
"No, it's not. It's about me. I need to know that I live in a universe where Sidious does not exist."
"When he dies, I'll simply take his place."
"I don't believe you'll be as bad as him."
"You don't even know him."
"I know enough," Obi-Wan replied, blue eyes brimming with painful understanding. "I know what he did to you, and I know what you weren't able to do to me. That's enough for me."
Maul drummed his fingers on his thigh for a moment, standing his ground, then said, "I should kill you now."
"But you won't."
"How can you be so sure?"
Obi-Wan shrugged. "Faith."
"You seem awfully calm for someone with so much of the Dark Side in him."
"I know I'm tainted."
"The taint will spread."
"Maybe." Obi-Wan shrugged again. "Maybe not."
"Your hatred for Sidious is strong."
Sighing through his nose, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and whispered, "I know. And I should fight it."
"But you don't," Maul countered.
"No, I don't."
"It just may be enough to be your undoing."
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and shot a determined look at Maul. "Then that's a risk I'll just have to take. If I let go of that, then I've got nothing left to live for. I need to help you kill him."
Maul closed his eyes and soaked up the ray of anger emanating from the padawan. Yes, he could work with this. Opening his eyes again, he advanced on him, saying, "Believe what you will. I will not give up on you."
A small smile ghosted across Obi-Wan's lips. "I never thought you would."
"Now, together we will work on other ways to access the Dark Side."
"I told you..."
Maul's hand snaked out and grabbed Obi-Wan's wrist. "Do you want to kill Sidious?"
Obi-Wan looked down at Maul with confused eyes. "Yes, I told you..."
"You will not defeat him with the Light Side. The Dark Side is more powerful than you can imagine, and you need to fight it in kind. Now, sit."
Leaning heavily on Maul, Obi-Wan lowered himself painstakingly into a cross-legged position, riding out the searing pain in his knee until he was centered. Maul paced behind him and said, "Close your eyes. Your lesson is about to begin."
"Your progress this past week has been admirable," Maul noted, as he strode without preamble into Obi-Wan's training area.
Obi-Wan, now used to such interruptions, completed his tumbling routine without faltering. Reaching the end of the mat, he came to a stop, then said, "Thank you."
"Your legs appear to be healed."
"They are," Obi-Wan said with a simple nod, "thanks to what you've taught me this past week."
"Although you're still complementing those techniques with Light Side energies."
"I'm just using what works."
Maul stood a while in quiet thought, then said, "When I get back, you will teach me how to do that."
"Of course," Obi-Wan said, clearly taken aback by the request. "Wait, where are you going?"
"My master has requested my presence."
"How long will you be gone? Did he say?"
"He never says. That's his prerogative."
A wry smile quirked at the corners of Obi-Wan's mouth. "Qui-Gon could be that way sometimes too," he said, enjoying a fleeting pleasant memory before his face darkened. "Dammit," he whispered, then with a determined look said, "Don't worry, I won't try to escape. I'm committed to helping you kill Sidious."
Maul nodded at the simple truth of the statement, then turned and headed out to the hangar.
"Ah, you've arrived," Sidious noted as Maul glided silently into his chamber. "You took slightly longer than normal to respond to my summons."
"I was merely completing a training routine, my Master," Maul replied, falling deferentially to one knee.
"Is your training so important that it supercedes my orders, Maul?"
"No, my Master. I apologize."
Sidious smiled as he glided up to the kneeling form of his apprentice. "An apology? I haven't heard you make one of those in years. What's gotten into you?"
Taking Maul's chin in his hand, Sidious tilted his head up and looked him dead in the eye. "Perhaps I have been derelict in my duties as your master of late."
Maul met his gaze without flinching.
Sidious lightly scanned his thoughts and smiled. "You seem to be getting soft in my absence. I have an errand for you that should help take care of that. I recently had the son of one of the senators abducted for ransom in the hopes of distracting her in an upcoming vote. She's been lobbying rather strenuously against a particular pet project of mine and rallying the troops against me, so to speak." He paused, then frowned at Maul and said, "I sense you have an opinion on the matter. Share it."
"Forgive me, Master, but you are supreme chancellor now. Why must you go through such deceit? Why not move openly against your enemies?"
"It is not yet time for that. My rise to power must be handled delicately. It will go much smoother if it's gradual and subtle." Maul opened his mouth to speak, but Sidious waved his hand and said, "There is no discussion on this point. I am the master. You are merely my apprentice. Understanding is not required. Now back to the matter at hand. Unfortunately, simply abducting her son doesn't seem to have been enough. She's refusing to negotiate, refusing to back down on her stand in the Senate, and the lackeys I hired to do the job don't have the stomach to see it through. This is where you come in."
"I need pieces to be sent back to the senator."
"Pieces of the son?"
"Exactly." Noting Maul's hesitation, he said, "I fail to see what's so complicated about that. It's quite simple. Kill the lackeys, slice off the boy's ear, then mail it to the senator. If that isn't enough to shake her, pluck out one of his eyes."
Sidious grabbed Maul by the throat in a Force hold and hauled him roughly to his feet. As his apprentice gasped and grabbed at his neck, Sidious scanned his thoughts, trying to determine the reason for his hesitation. Finding it, he said, "You aren't identifying with that boy, are you Maul? After all I've done for you, you're identifying with the weak and helpless?"
Struggling for air, Maul desperately shook his head and redoubled his efforts to shield his thoughts.
Hissing in displeasure, Sidious released his apprentice and watched him fall to his hands and knees and take in deep gulps of air. "I have been neglecting you," he sighed. "You seem to have forgotten how this relationship works. I give orders, you obey without question."
"Yes, my Master," Maul gasped.
"I regret that I'm going to have to find someone else to carry out this mission."
"No, my Master. I will do what you ask."
"No, it is not that simple, my Apprentice," Sidious cackled as he raised his hands, bolts of Force lightning crackling from his fingertips.
Obi-Wan fell from his handstand as he felt the bolts of energy course through Maul. Ghost images of Sidious's crackling fingers flickered before him, and he saw a new jolt of energy arc through the air and cruelly dance all over his body. He jerked, feeling the echoes of Maul's pain, muscles twitching in unison with the other man's spasms. He could feel the scream building in Maul's throat, feel him struggling to clamp it down, keep it from escaping.
They would not give Sidious the satisfaction.
Gasping, Obi-Wan fell to hands and knees, muscles twitching of their own accord as the phantom pain seared through him from head to toe. Gritting his teeth, he poured all his will into biting back the scream that threatened to escape from both of their throats. It echoed through his chest, beating furiously at the constricted muscles of his throat, and Obi-Wan was gripped with the sudden fear that he and Maul would not win this round.
Suddenly, he knew what he had to do.
"I'll take it for you," he whispered, reaching out and pulling the lion's share of Maul's pain into his body. His screams were still echoing off the walls long after they'd both finally passed out.
"Hold it together, Kenobi. Hold it together."
Obi-Wan stood in the hangar, hopping from foot to foot, waiting for Maul's ship to dock, sending Maul every last ounce of energy possible to keep him conscious.
"Hold it together. Just a few more minutes," Obi-Wan chanted. "He's almost here."
Fists clenched so tightly that the nails bit through his palms, he watched as the Sith Infiltrator came in for a landing. He could barely feel Maul's life-thread, but there was just enough of him left to bring the craft to an imperfect, but safe, landing.
The ramp lowered automatically, and letting go of his connection, Obi-Wan sprinted into the ship, heading directly for the cockpit, where a scorched and bloody Maul was slumped over the controls. Obi-Wan may have taken the lion's share of the pain, but Maul's body had still taken all the damage. It was a wonder he was still alive.
Very gently, Obi-Wan scooped him up and brought him back into the depths of the compound.
Maul awoke to find a haggard Obi-Wan sitting by his bedside. Struggling to gather enough energy to talk, he croaked, "How did you...?"
"Sssshhh," Obi-Wan chided as he leaned forward to adjust Maul's blankets. "You need rest. You were very badly injured when I found you. Your medical droid actually recommended that I take you to a hospital, but I knew you wouldn't want that." He paused, brow wrinkled, then asked, "He did this to you because of me, didn't he?"
Maul nodded weakly.
"I thought so." A wave of anger rolled off of Obi-Wan, and Maul closed his eyes and absorbed it, letting it give him strength.
"You should kill me."
"I don't want to."
"You should escape."
"I'm not leaving you."
"Because you need me healthy if you're to have any hope of killing Sidious."
"Yes," Obi-Wan admitted. "That's true. But that's not the only reason."
"I'm weaker than you. Stop showing me kindness."
"And do what? Declare you my apprentice? How many times do I have to tell you that I don't care about that?"
Maul swallowed hard, then gasped, "Fool."
"You're in pain, aren't you?"
"When I first got here, you taught me to manage my pain through hatred."
Maul slowly shook his head. "I can't."
Obi-Wan pulled the blankets down, pressed his palm to Maul's bare chest and met his pained stare dead-on. "You're empty. You're totally empty. I didn't think that was possible. Why aren't you angry at him?"
"Because I deserved it."
"Deserved this? Deserved to be nearly killed? Dammit, Maul, what happened to your strength?"
"Compared to Sidious, I have none. I know that now."
"So now you're what? Hopeless? Weak? Helpless?"
What little strength Maul retained failed him, and he turned to look at the wall, unable to meet Obi-Wan's gaze any longer. "How did you get to me?" he whispered. "My security should have stopped you."
"The Force guided me through the security systems. We're linked, you know."
Reluctantly, Maul admitted, "I know. I've felt it."
"It can be a source of strength for us. It's the thing that will help us defeat Sidious."
Maul shook his head hopelessly. "We will never defeat him."
"We can, and we will. Now, let me help you manage your pain," Obi-Wan said as he laced his fingers through Maul's. "I can hate Sidious enough for the two of us."
"That's not how it works," Maul protested, but all protests died as a jolt of pure rage flowed through him, drowning out all traces of pain. "How?" he gasped.
"I'll teach you when you're feeling better," Obi-Wan replied with a smile.
"Wake up, Sidious is coming."
Maul jerked awake as he was hastily raised to a sitting position by Obi-Wan.
"Quick, we need to get you dressed," Obi-Wan said as he guided Maul's legs into a loose pair of trousers.
"He's going to kill us both," Maul said matter-of-factly as Obi-Wan pulled him to his feet and fastened the trousers. He leaned heavily on the taller man's frame, far too weak to stand unaided.
"No he's not," Obi-Wan replied.
"He'll sense you."
"No he won't."
"You don't realize how strong he is."
"You don't realize how this bond between us works," Obi-Wan countered. "I'll give you strength, and he won't even know I'm here."
"That's impossible," Maul protested.
"Just watch." With steely determination in his eyes, Obi-Wan backed away from Maul, who to his surprise suddenly had enough energy to stand on his own. Obi-Wan lowered himself shakily to the bed and smiled. "See?"
"Impressive. But he'll still sense you."
"Not if I pour everything of me into you."
"That will kill you."
"It'll just put me in torpor." Obi-Wan lay back on the bed and said, "He's getting closer. Remember, I'll be with you at all times." With that, he closed his eyes and poured the last of himself into Maul.
A battered but mobile Maul limped towards the hangar, Obi-Wan's power coursing through his veins. It was odd--he didn't feel another presence inside him, but there was a different flavor to his energy. Sidious would spot it instantly, unless...yes, that was it. Pull up their shared hatred for the bastard. Let that color the energy. This could work.
Leaning heavily against the doorframe, Maul watched as Sidious's transport gently came to a landing and his master strode down the ramp to meet him. "What is your bidding, my Master?" he asked, painstakingly lowering himself down on one knee.
"Just checking up on you. You appear to be healing apace," Sidious commented, running a finger along a scorch-mark that bisected Maul's bare back.
"My compliments to your medical droids. You know, I had been having real doubts about you, Maul. You've never disappointed me before yesterday. But after I'd finished with you and had my droids dump you in your spacecraft, I sensed a certain duality about you."
Maul remained kneeling, saying nothing.
Sidious ran his finger along a scorch mark intersecting Maul's skull, then continued, "I didn't think much of it at first. After all, duality is very common among Sith Lords. Our inner battles are what give us strength. But then I remembered that I hadn't sensed that in you in years, and I began to wonder."
Maul's strength wavered momentarily, and he reached out to steady himself against the wall. His thoughts, however, remained firmly under control.
Sidious watched this, then sensing nothing more than fatigue, said, "Perhaps my suspicions were unfounded. I came here expecting to find you plotting insurrection, but perhaps that duality is actually a sign that your powers are evolving. Before I became supreme chancellor, I was able to guide you through these growth periods, but regretfully, I don't have that kind of time anymore. I shall simply have to trust that you'll come through this stronger, my Apprentice. Remain vigilant for personal weaknesses, and trust in the power of the Dark Side to see you through."
"Thank you, my Master."
"Now, I must return to Coruscant. That vote I was telling you about is coming up, and the senator who's opposing me is finally distracted enough to stand down. Continue healing, and when I have time, I shall call on you again to aid in this new stage of your training."
As Sidious's ship took off, Maul felt the world start to go black around the edges and collapsed to the floor. His last vague memory was of crawling back to Obi-Wan and climbing in bed with him, then nothing.
Maul stirred, then his eyes snapped open as he realized he wasn't alone in the bed. Propping himself up on one elbow, he fought off a wave of dizziness and then looked down at the sleeping face of Obi-Wan.
What the hell was going on here?
Obi-Wan blinked awake and scrubbed at his eyes. "How are you feeling?" he asked, voice thick with sleep.
"You know how I'm feeling, just as I can tell how you're feeling."
A small smile quirked at Obi-Wan's mouth. "So, you've finally stopped fighting it. It's so much more powerful when you surrender yourself to it."
"Tell me how this happened."
Obi-Wan rolled on to his back and said, "I'm not sure, but my guess is that something happened when we started using both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force."
"I never used the Light Side."
"Yes you did. You just never admitted it," Obi-Wan countered as he struggled to sit up.
Maul reached out to steady him, staring at him intently as he watched him fight off his own wave of dizziness. Obi-Wan quietly met his gaze. After a long moment, Obi-Wan broke the silence. "So now what?"
"We have to leave this place."
"And go where?"
"Anywhere. We're too weak to fight Sidious."
"We won't be for long."
"But we are now. We need to go somewhere where he can't easily find us until we've regained our strength."
"You said he'd find you if you fled."
Maul nodded. "Eventually. But he won't do it himself--he'll hire bounty hunters, and that buys us time. His duties as chancellor prevent him from taking the time for a manhunt."
"Wait...you're saying that Sidious is the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic?"
"Valorum was deposed. Palpatine is Chancellor now."
"Senator Palpatine is the Sith Master?"
"Wow," Obi-Wan muttered, shaking his head incredulously. "He seemed so...nice."
"He's very good at deception."
Obi-Wan's eyes narrowed. "Funny that he never taught you those skills."
"He didn't deem it necessary."
"Sounds like he never wanted you to take his place."
"No master helps his apprentice depose him."
"You think your tattoos were another method he used to keep you in line? Something he did to keep you from ever fitting into polite company?"
"They very likely were," Maul said with a small shrug. "That's not important now. We need to leave here immediately. He's sure to contact me again soon. We need to be gone before that happens."
"How do we do that?"
"If this bond is strong enough to hide you, then perhaps it is strong enough to hide us both."
"You may be right," Obi-Wan said with a sly grin. "And I think I know a way to buy us a little more time."
Maul closed his eyes and absorbed his companion's thoughts. "Yes," he hissed, matching Obi-Wan's grin with one of his own.
The two men helped themselves out of the bed, and leaning on each other for support, started packing.
Sidious stopped in mid-stride, a sheaf of official papers falling from his hand, as he felt a sickening disturbance in the Force. "Maul," he whispered.
"Chancellor Palpatine!" an aide shouted as she ran down the hall. "Chancellor Palpatine, there's been an explosion on one of the moons of Coruscant VII!"
Composing himself, he turned and ordered, "Have ships sent out there at once to investigate."
"They're already on their way."
"Good, keep me apprised."
Bending over to collect his papers, Sidious cast his Force senses out, searching for any sign that his apprentice had survived, but save for that panicked burst he'd felt earlier, there was nothing. Dammit, there was no time for him to train a new apprentice now. Of course, he wouldn't truly believe that Maul was dead until he had solid proof, but right now, things looked fairly conclusive. In the meantime, he'd just send a few of his own operatives to check out the debris.
"Here we are. Dagobah," Obi-Wan announced as the lush planet filled their viewscreen.
"You're sure the Jedi have abandoned this planet?"
"Unless they decided to take up residence since I've been with you, then yes, I'm sure. Besides, I don't feel them, do you?"
"No. We'll set the ship down by the edge of the largest swamp, unpack our supplies, then sink it to avoid detection."
The cloaked Sith Infiltrator gently set down on the planet, and the two men quickly unloaded all their supplies before using the Force to sink the ship. Once their roomy shelter was erected and all their supplies unpacked, Obi-Wan filled a bowl with freshly filtered water, carried it inside, soaped up his face, and started shaving off his beard with a sharp knife.
"Why bother with that?" Maul asked.
"You don't have one. You wouldn't understand."
"Your master had a beard."
Obi-Wan sighed, then said, "I'm just not a beard person. I think I look better without one."
"That is true."
With a snort of amusement, Obi-Wan said, "Glad you agree. So, when are you finally going to open yourself up fully to this bond we've got?"
"Most likely never."
"There are things about you I don't want to be opened up to."
Carefully scraping the hair from above his lip, Obi-Wan asked, "Like what?"
"Compassion. Empathy. Caring."
"Vulnerability?" Obi-Wan added.
"Most especially that," Maul agreed.
"What's so wrong about those emotions?" Obi-Wan asked as he splashed water against his now smooth face.
"They are not a part of me."
"You exposed me to all sorts of new emotions when you first kidnapped me."
"I did no such thing," Maul countered. "You had them all within you already. You just tried to deny them."
"Touché. But you must have had those other emotions before."
"Obi-Wan..." Maul threatened.
"Look, I know you told me never to speak of the time before you were a Sith, but..."
Maul surged to his feet and stalked toward the door of their shelter.
Obi-Wan jumped up and grabbed his wrist. "Maul, who were you before you became 'Darth Maul'?"
Whirling back to face Obi-Wan, he said, "No one."
"I'm serious, Maul. Who were you?"
"No one." He swallowed hard, then said, "I was in transit to my naming ceremony when my family was killed. I was no one. Literally. Maul is the only name I've ever had."
"Shit," Obi-Wan whispered, dropping Maul's wrist.
"And who were you before the Jedi?"
"My name was Ben."
"And what were you when you were just Ben?"
"The Jedi took me away from my family when I was just a baby. I wasn't anybody either."
"So much for Jedi compassion. Stealing babies from their families and then teaching them not to be hateful for it."
"I'm not defending the Jedi. Not anymore."
"But Maul, back when you were 'no one,' didn't you feel any of those emotions?"
"Yes, and they made me weak."
"No they didn't. They made you complete."
"Maul, compassion is what allowed me to take your pain when you were being tortured. Compassion is what let me give you the energy to safely land your ship. Compassion is what allowed me to blow through your security system to meet you in the hangar. Without it, you'd be dead right now."
Maul turned away and faced the door, shoulders tense, head shaking from side to side.
Stepping up so he was mere inches from Maul's rigid frame, Obi-Wan put his hands on the other man's shoulders and murmured, "You've showed me so much, Maul. I've found power that I never knew existed. Let me return the favor." He gave the rock hard muscles a squeeze, and felt them relax a fraction.
Maul felt his resolution waver, then gritted his teeth and said, "No," before storming out of the shelter and taking off into the trees at a run.
Obi-Wan watched his retreating form and sighed, leaning against the doorframe and waiting patiently for his return.
A couple of hours later, a sweaty Maul stood within eyeshot of the shelter, staring at it with a pained expression. A light shower had been falling for nearly half an hour, and with an ominous rumble of thunder, turned into a downpour. Maul closed his eyes and let the rain wash over him, carrying his sweat away and soothing aching muscles. He'd pushed himself too hard too soon, but that fool Obi-Wan had responded by sending him some of his own energy out of compassion.
"Dammit," he whispered.
Obi-Wan appeared in the doorway of the shelter and met Maul's gaze.
With a resigned slump to his shoulders, Maul walked over to the shelter and said, "Show me."
Taking his hand, Obi-Wan guided Maul in from the rain.
"You're soaked," Obi-Wan chided as he reached out to help Maul peel his tunic off.
"I can do it," Maul retorted.
"No, let me. You're tired." Obi-Wan pulled the wet fabric from his torso while he reached out with the Force and gently nudged at Maul's thoughts.
Warily, Maul lowered his barriers just enough to let a sliver of Obi-Wan's feelings leak through. It made no sense. He really did seem to care about Maul's comfort, his well-being. "Why?" he whispered.
Obi-Wan puzzled over his answer before shrugging and saying, "Because I care about you, I suppose. I mean, why does anyone help anyone else?"
He guided Maul to a chair, knelt at his feet and pulled off his boots. There was no subservience in the gesture. Maul had knelt for his Master countless times, but always out of deference or fear. Not this unfathomable emotion pouring off his companion. Maul found himself becoming dizzy, and struggled to put his barriers back up.
Struggled and failed.
"Okay, now stand up and we'll get those pants off of you, then dry the rest of you off."
Obi-Wan looked up at him, concern lining his face. "Are you all right?"
"You overexerted yourself, didn't you?"
"It's not that."
He felt Obi-Wan's mind gently probe his own and feel at the edges of the lowered barriers, then saw him nod grimly. "I suppose I should have expected this, considering how unhinged I felt when you did the same to me" Arm wrapped around the other man's back, Obi-Wan helped Maul to his feet. Together they stripped off his pants, and then Obi-Wan led him to his bed and gently lay him down. "I'll just go get a towel."
"I'm fine," Maul mumbled, hugging the covers to his chest.
Obi-Wan reached down and gently touched his arm. "You're clammy."
"A towel won't change that."
"No, I suppose not." Another wave of concern poured off him, and Maul swallowed heavily. "Are you all right?"
"I feel ill."
"Don't..." Maul gasped, holding his arms out protectively in front of him. "No pity. No compassion."
"I'm just trying to make you comfortable."
"Oh shit." Obi-Wan ran and grabbed a bucket, returning just in time for Maul to be violently ill in it.
Maul threw up so hard he was nearly convinced his guts were going to tumble out his mouth. He couldn't remember a time when he'd felt so sick. And just as he thought it was finally subsiding, a cool hand on the back of his neck and a wave of concerned thoughts sent him into a painful attack of the dry heaves. "Stop!" he finally managed to choke out.
"It's me, isn't it?"
"Can't you close yourself off again?"
"No!" Maul wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and groaned, "Enough with the pity, you miserable excuse for a Jedi."
"I'm not a Jedi anymore," Obi-Wan hissed.
Maul closed his eyes and absorbed the small wave of anger issuing from his companion. His stomach settled into place, and rolling onto his back, he sighed, "Better."
Obi-Wan rubbed his face wearily and said, "Okay, I get the picture. I'm s..."
Maul shot him a glare.
"Right. I'll just go take care of this," he said, picking up the bucket and carrying it out into the rain. Maul slowly eased himself out of bed, wrapped a towel around his waist, and headed outside to the water recycler. He rinsed his mouth out, washed his hands and face, and then crawled back between the covers just as Obi-Wan got back. A small wave of concern issued from his companion before he damped it down, and a thoroughly exhausted Maul finally drifted off to sleep.
Maul awoke the next morning to the smell of cooking food. What the..? Pulling on some clean clothes, he exited the shelter and saw Obi-Wan cooking over a campfire. "What are you making?" Maul asked. "We only have food capsules."
"I found some edible plants while you were sleeping. I thought it might be tastier than eating rations every day."
"Nutrition is more important than taste."
"I analyzed them. They're nutritious. Plus I put some of the food capsules in there too. Now sit," he said, gesturing to the log he was sitting on. "Let me know what you think of my cooking."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Maul settled down next to Obi-Wan, who handed him a steaming bowl of stew. "It's hot," Obi-Wan warned.
"I noticed," Maul replied, staring at the steam billowing from it. Obi-Wan snickered. "What's so amusing?"
"You are," he grinned.
"That wasn't my intention."
"I know. So, try the food."
Maul scooped up a spoonful, blew on it until it stopped steaming, then tasted it. He nodded in approval.
"You like it?"
"Palatable? That's it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you like it?"
"That's not required."
Dropping his head in his hands in frustration, Obi-Wan groaned and said, "Enough with the stoic Sith bullshit. Just tell me if you like it or not."
"I haven't thought about food that way since...before I was Sith," Maul admitted quietly.
Taking a deep breath, Maul wrinkled his brow and said, "It's not bad, but my mother was a better cook."
With a relieved smile, Obi-Wan replied, "I certainly hope so. Well, I'm glad you don't mind it. Is it better than just eating food capsules?"
Maul nodded, then put the bowl down and said, "I'm really not hungry right now."
Reaching out mentally, Obi-Wan noted, "You're feeling ill again. It's thinking about your family that's doing it, isn't it?"
Rising to his feet, Maul said, "I'm going for a walk."
"I'm going with you. Just let me put the food away..."
"I'm going alone."
"I don't think that's a good idea. Not the way you're feeling right now."
"I had the decency to leave you alone to process the experience every time I helped you make a breakthrough," Maul retorted.
"Decency? I hated you for that!"
"You still do."
"No I don't!"
"You can't lie to me. Not anymore. Not now that we have this damnable bond between us!" Maul thundered.
"Fine!" Obi-Wan conceded, throwing his arms wide. "Fine, so I'm still pissed at you for that. But last night, you asked me to show you those emotions that you'd locked away for years, and now you're backing away? What are you so afraid of?"
Maul looked away for a moment, then said, "Losing control."
"You mean like I lost control back in that cell you kept me in?"
"Turnabout's a bitch, isn't it?" Obi-Wan snapped.
Maul drummed his fingers on his thigh, then said, "I think my appetite's returned."
"Great," Obi-Wan said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
As Maul sat down to finish off his bowl of stew, Obi-Wan picked up the pot, and muttering under his breath, hauled it into the shelter to pour the leftovers into a food storage container. He was so distracted by his annoyance at how things were playing out this morning that he carelessly reached out to touch the hot metal of the pot with his right hand. Hissing both in pain and at his own stupidity, Obi-Wan pulled his hand away and ran out to the water recycler to run it under cold water.
Maul walked over cradling his right hand, asking, "What did you do? That hurts."
"You feel it too?" Obi-Wan asked.
"You burned yourself."
"On the pot."
Wincing at their shared pain, Maul said, "That was careless."
Maul walked into the shelter, pulled out the medical kit, and brought it back out to Obi-Wan, saying, "This is a disturbing development."
"Actually, if my hand didn't hurt so damn much, I'd say that it was an interesting development."
"Interesting to our enemies. It means that an injury to one of us disables us both. Here, let me," Maul said, taking Obi-Wan's burnt hand and applying ointment to it. He reached out with the Force to soothe the pain and start healing the skin.
"Wait, if your hand hurts too, then how are you doing that?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Wait a minute. Are you showing compassion?"
"The faster you're healed, the faster my pain ends," Maul replied.
"Hmm. Oh well. Okay, so one of us getting hurt means we both get hurt. There has to be a way around that."
"If you're suggesting we wound each other deliberately so we can practice..."
"No," Obi-Wan hastily replied. "Not in the least. Besides, I doubt we even could at this rate."
Wrinkling his brow, Maul admitted, "You're probably right."
Obi-Wan looked down at his hand as Maul absentmindedly caressed the now-healed flesh with his thumb. "I'm better now," he said quietly.
"You're still touching me."
Maul looked down at his hand with a puzzled expression, then pulled it away and walked slowly back to the fire.
Obi-Wan followed at a respectful distance. "You're thinking about your mother again, aren't you?"
"Would you just keep out of my head?" Maul replied wearily.
"Yes you can. I'm staying out of yours."
"You felt my pain."
"That was physical pain, not emotional pain."
"What about earlier? When you got me angry and you felt better?"
Maul slowly sat down on the log and said, "I used it to make me stronger."
Obi-Wan sat next to him and said, "Well maybe we can find a way to use this to make ourselves stronger."
Head resting in his hands, Maul noted, "When my family died, Sidious showed me how to use that pain to hone my Force skills. And he taught me how to revel in the pain of others and turn that into power."
"The Jedi taught me to acknowledge, but not give in to, pain."
"There has to be something in between."
"I don't think it'll work until you meet me halfway."
Maul raised his head. "What do you mean?"
"I mean you only care about my pain on a purely selfish level right now."
"You cared about your mother's pain."
"It hurt to see her in pain."
"Because you cared about her."
Closing his eyes, Maul said, "I still do. And my little sister."
"I'm not asking you to give me that kind of devotion," Obi-Wan said, resting his now-healed hand on Maul's shoulder. "I'd never dream of taking their place. But if there's any way you could extend even a fraction of what you felt for them out to the rest of the universe..."
"...or towards you..."
"...then maybe you'd finally understand."
Opening his eyes, Maul said, "I couldn't protect them. What if I can't protect you?"
"I can protect myself."
"There are much more powerful things in this universe than you, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"But I've got you now."
"How can I risk caring again after what happened to the only people I ever truly loved?"
"I can't answer that, Maul. All I can say is that I can't imagine living without caring."
"It's a very reassuring way to live. Very straightforward."
"Yes. Very lonely." Steeling himself, Maul admitted, "I don't want to be lonely anymore."
"Then let me in."
"This may take time."
Twilight descended on Dagobah, and the two men sat together silently finishing dinner.
"That was good," Maul commented as he put his empty dish aside. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. You know, you should learn to cook."
"I don't have the creativity for it. Give me your bowl."
Maul collected the dirty dishes and brought them to the water recycler to clean them as Obi-Wan watched him from the campfire. He doesn't, walk, he glides. It's like watching something supernatural.
I can hear that.
You don't realize how beautiful you are, do you?
You'll nip that train of thought right in the bud if you know what's good for you.
Out loud, Obi-Wan said, "I'm sorry."
Maul nodded, then headed for the shelter to put the clean dishes away. A moment later, he poked his head back out and said, "I heard that too."
"You're having incredibly filthy thoughts about me."
As a blush spread across his fair features, Obi-Wan said, "I'm really sorry."
"Then stop." Maul blinked. "Where did that come from?"
"Shit." Obi-Wan felt as red as Maul's tattoos. "I'm really sorry. I don't think I can stop. My libido's kind of running away on me here." A particularly wicked thought occurred to him.
"No," Maul immediately replied.
"You're sure you're not feeling it too?"
Laughing helplessly, Obi-Wan said, "But it would be the perfect way to test just how strong this bond really is."
"Why don't you just go take care of yourself and get it over with?"
"You'll feel it, you know."
"I'm just kind of pent-up, you know? I mean, I really haven't had the time lately to think about things like this, and then before that there was the whole Qui-Gon thing." Obi-Wan's voice took on a hysterical edge. "Oh god, I miss him so much!"
Maul watched Obi-Wan in the firelight, shadows dancing across the conflicted emotions playing out on his face. A strange pull tugged at his core, and he found himself unconsciously moving towards him.
Obi-Wan wrapped his arms tightly around himself and turned his pleading face to Maul's. "I loved him, you know."
"He was so strong. He was my fucking anchor. Nothing fazed him. He always knew what to do, always took care of me. I would have done anything for him."
Maul slowly lowered himself onto the log with Obi-Wan, never breaking eye contact.
"You know, once I became a knight, we were going to be so happy together. I mean, I hoped we would. He couldn't say anything to me to encourage me, but I think I felt it in him. I may have imagined it, though."
A harsh laugh escaped from Obi-Wan's ragged throat, and Maul saw tears in the firelight. "Well, I'll never know now."
"Obi-Wan..." Maul started.
Obi-Wan snorted, then stood up abruptly. "Listen to me, sniveling like a little kid. You're right, you know. This isn't making me stronger. It's just making me fucking weak."
"Wait, listen to me..."
"No, I know what you're going to say."
Obi-Wan turned and looked at Maul, eyes fathomless in their expression, and he sucked in his lower lip and said, "Yeah."
Maul narrowed his eyes and studied his companion's face. Did he really know?
Obi-Wan's shoulders sagged, and he said, "Look, I'm going to bed. You probably should too."
"Stop. No. You're hurting me! That hurts! No! Mother! Please no, MOTHER!"
"Wake up, Maul!"
With a ragged gasp, Maul sat bolt upright, right into the arms of Obi-Wan. Breathing heavily, he rocked back and forth, muttering, "I haven't had that dream in years."
"Sssssh, you're safe now."
"No, but...I'm...it's not just a dream."
Shakily disengaging himself from Obi-Wan's arms, Maul wiped tears from his face and said, "I thought I'd gotten over it."
"How can you get over something like that?"
"I had my revenge. That should have been enough."
"No," Maul whispered, a puzzled look crossing his features. "Sidious lied to me. That bastard lied to me. He said it would be enough." Turning to Obi-Wan, he started to say something, then stopped, reaching out to touch the bridge of Obi-Wan's nose. "You're bleeding."
Obi-Wan looked back at Maul, then reached up and swiped some blood off one of his horns. "Looks like you gored me in your sleep."
"You were sleeping with me?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"We went to sleep in separate beds."
"Wait, this is my bed you're in."
"I don't remember coming over here."
"I don't remember you climbing in with me either. I should probably bandage this," Obi-Wan said, getting up to head for the medical kit.
Maul gently pushed Obi-Wan back down onto the bed and said, "I'll take care of it."
"I did it, I should fix it."
"This isn't just because you're feeling it too, is it?"
"It doesn't physically hurt me. Not like earlier today."
Obi-Wan looked over at his companion's oddly soft eyes, and nodded.
When Obi-Wan returned from his morning jog, Maul was just rising from meditation. "It's damn hot," Obi-Wan noted.
"Dagobah is a swamp, and you chose it," Maul replied.
Obi-Wan laughed, and commented, "You know, for someone who swears not to have a sense of humor, you can be damned amusing sometimes."
Maul snorted and started moving through a challenging kata.
Stripping off his tank top, Obi-Wan sat down on a log and asked, "So, before last night, when was the last time you'd cried?"
Never once losing his place, Maul replied, "When I was seventeen. The last time I had that dream."
"How did it feel?"
"Pathetic. Just like you felt last night."
"I think we're both being too hard on ourselves. After all, emotions are what lead you to act, to change things."
"'There is no emotion; there is peace.'"
"All right, so maybe the Jedi are in serious denial."
"Fine, so the Jedi are in serious denial. Maybe that's what you and I have discovered here."
"We haven't discovered anything. We've had something thrust upon us against our will."
"So maybe it was the will of the Force that we come together."
"The Force has no will. It's simply an energy field."
"Oh, come on! What about midichlorians? Don't they speak to you?"
"Midichlorians are tools, not intelligent life forms."
"Whatever. The details of how this happened aren't important. Look, the Jedi are all about peace and tranquility, the Sith about anger. Maybe what gives you real strength is a balance of emotions."
"We don't know that for sure. We haven't been able to test it."
"Maybe not, but I have a pretty solid feeling about this. Maybe my midichlorians are chattier than yours." Beaming, Obi-Wan said, "I really think we've got something here!"
A wall of happiness smacked into Maul, and he fell over from the sheer force of it. "Stop that!"
"What? I'm happy, that's all. For the first time in a long time, I'm really happy."
"Stop." Maul wrapped his arms tightly around himself to try and steady his shaking frame.
Obi-Wan ran over to where Maul was sitting in the dirt, concern lining his fair features. "What is it, Maul?" He reached out to grip the other man's trembling shoulders. "What's so scary about happiness?"
Angrily blinking back the tears that were filling his eyes, Maul said, "The last time I was happy like that was before my mother and sister were killed."
"I'm so sorry."
With a roar of frustration, Maul surged to his feet, arms still tightly wrapped around himself, and seethed, "I feel so damned helpless!"
"It'll pass," Obi-Wan said, getting up and facing down his distraught companion.
"You don't understand! I'm not in control of myself anymore. I don't know how to handle these emotions."
"I understand perfectly! I went through the same thing when you first kidnapped me."
"I showed you power. This is nothing but weakness."
"Is that what you think this is? This is making you stronger. I can feel it."
Maul closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, they were burning with determination. Drawing the ragged scraps of his old Sith training around him for strength, he said, "I can't live this way," and strode purposefully towards the shelter.
"What do you mean?" Suddenly, the full weight of the statement sunk in, and Obi-Wan cried, "No!" as he lunged for Maul, whose lightsaber had already flown into his hand. The two men hit the ground, and Obi-Wan grappled the saber from Maul's clenched fist. "Don't you dare kill yourself!" Obi-Wan ordered, straddling the other man's body.
"I told you, I can't live this way," Maul replied helplessly.
"So you'd rather die?"
"What other choice do I have?"
"Live, dammit. I did."
"You had a reason."
"So do you."
"Me. Don't you dare leave me," Obi-Wan hissed, tears springing to his eyes.
Maul's gaze locked with his, pain flowing through the connection between them. Pain. Obi-Wan was in pain. He'd caused it. He could make it better. He needed to make it better. Maul felt a fierce protectiveness well up from deep within him, so strong it made his horns rattle, and he reached up and pulled Obi-Wan down, crushing him against his chest, feeling their hearts beating furiously against each other. "Never," he vowed, and he felt that vow overwrite every other vow he'd ever taken. He could make a difference here. He could protect this man in his arms. Revenge be damned. Atonement was the answer.
The two men suddenly snapped their heads in the same direction as their lightsabers flew into their hands. Moving in concert, they reached Force senses out, and hid behind separate trees and waited as the probe droids moved toward their location. Once they were in range, they made quick work of them, but the damage had been done.
The bounty hunter's ship landed moments later.
She stalked out, tall and pale, long fingers curled around her rifle as she advanced boldly on their location.
Stay put, Maul commanded as he stepped into view.
She aimed her rifle at him and asked, "Maul?"
"Your master wants you back. More specifically, he wants your head back."
"I take it he was unamused by my deception?"
"To put it mildly."
"And as a result, he wants me dead."
Obi-Wan slowly crept around behind the bounty hunter, easing himself into an ideal striking position.
"You're too dangerous to him alive," she said before whirling around in a blur and firing a shot at Kenobi, who barely dodged out of the way in time.
Maul launched himself at her just as she whirled back, gun blazing, one shot grazing Maul's shoulder. He snarled and pressed on, striking at her with his saber just as Obi-Wan scrambled back to his feet and landed the killing blow. Blood oozing from his shoulder, Maul grabbed Obi-Wan's forearms and asked, "Are you all right?"
"You're the one who's hurt," Obi-Wan countered worriedly.
"But you're fine," Maul said, eyes blazing with relief. "Good." He carefully rested his forehead on Obi-Wan's and let out a small sigh.
Struggling not to lose himself in the powerful tide of emotion flowing from his companion, Obi-Wan whispered, "Please, let me take care of your shoulder. I know it hurts."
Maul pulled back. "It does," he said simply.
"Then let's go fix it."
As they turned to head back to the shelter, Obi-Wan cast a glance back at the lifeless body of the bounty hunter and hissed, "Oh shit."
Maul turned to follow his gaze and saw the antenna of the sensor implant emerging from her cranium. "She's wired."
"Sidious knows everything."
"We don't have much time."
"Let me take care of you and then we'll kill him."
"Killing him is not the answer."
Obi-Wan led Maul into the shelter, pulled open Maul's shirt, and hastily started tending to his wound. "We can't just run away forever," he countered.
"Obi-Wan, I won't kill him, and neither will you."
"Give me one good reason why."
"I'll give you two. One is that I will not be responsible for the death of the Sith."
Dressing the wound with a field bandage, Obi-Wan asked, "What do you mean? He dies, you take his place."
"I am no more a Sith than you are a Jedi. I am not fit to take his place."
"Why not remake the Sith in our own image?"
"It wouldn't be the Sith."
"So the Sith die out. What do you care?"
Maul grabbed Obi-Wan's wrist and said, "I care. Would you help me exterminate all Jedi?"
Obi-Wan hesitated, then said, "Point conceded. And your second reason?"
"I was responsible for Qui-Gon's death. I set it up. Sidious was my tool."
Maul blinked. "So you really did know what I was trying to tell you about Qui-Gon."
"Yes. I suspected it before then, but I finally knew last night."
Maul sat back, fingers testing his bandage, and asked, "Why don't you hate me?"
"I'm not happy about it if that's what you're asking, but you did it before all this happened. You're not the same person that did that. Besides, if you hadn't done that, we wouldn't have this."
Nodding appraisingly, Maul said, "So be it."
Obi-Wan looked down at the braid he still wore twined around his wrist and gave it a wan smile. "I guess I don't need this anymore," he said, unknotting it and letting it fall to the floor. The two men started at it silently for a moment before Obi-Wan was overcome with nervous energy again and started pacing the length of the shelter. "So what the hell do we do now?"
"We confront him."
"We're not strong enough."
Blocking Obi-Wan's path, Maul took his hands and said, "Yes we are," as he relinquished the last hold he had on his barriers and finally opened himself fully to Obi-Wan.
I know everything about you.
Two men, one single thought.
Surely no one in the history of the universe had ever felt so fully alive as they did right now.
Now I truly understand the Force.
Light and Dark swirled, twined, fused, and exploded into a rainbow of color.
There's so much more to it than anyone's ever known.
Where their hands met, the kaleidoscope of color was strongest. They slowly let go, and used their combined will to forge a bond stronger than that of the flesh.
The Jedi and the Sith will never understand.
Reaching out, they sent a covert tendril of the Force out to Maul's former master.
So that's his plan. We can take care of that.
Picking up on the threads of Sidious's thoughts, they followed the appropriate one to its destination and disabled the threat.
Now we face him.
Heads buzzing, the two men strode together into the bounty hunter's ship and activated the holoprojector.
Sidious's image appeared before them. "So, Aurra Sing was no match for you. Pity. I thought she had promise. I was going to ask her to replace you if she managed to bring back your head."
"You can stop wasting bounty hunters on us now, Sidious," Maul said.
"You've gotten rather impertinent in your time away from me, my Apprentice."
"He's not your apprentice anymore," Obi-Wan retorted.
"And I see that you didn't actually kill that Jedi whelp after all. The seeds of your insurrection were sown deeper than I realized," Sidious chuckled. "But that won't do you any good now. I will find you, Maul, and I will kill you."
"No, you won't," Maul replied. "You can't."
"I can and I will. So, who's turned who here? I know you've gone soft on me, Maul, but this Jedi looks angry. Could it be that you've been bad influences on each other?"
The two men shared a sly grin, then Maul replied, "Good or bad, we've certainly influenced each other in ways you can't possibly imagine."
"For instance," Obi-Wan said, "we know that while you've been keeping us occupied with this conversation, you've had a squad of Republic ships closing in on our location. They're armed with enough heavy artillery to wipe out nearly half the surface of Dagobah. It's too bad that they're not going to exit hyperspace at the correct coordinates."
"Simultaneous instrument failure will actually cause them to exit hyperspace dozens of light years from here. All attempts to put the correct coordinates into their computers will result in the same error," Maul added.
The hologram of Sidious looked off to the right for a moment, ostensibly checking the latest reports. Hissing in displeasure, he replied, "I don't know how you did it, but you can't outrun me forever."
"We don't need to, Chancellor Palpatine," Obi-Wan said.
"You wouldn't dare."
Maul crossed his arms and said, "If you do not step down from your post by morning, then we will tell the Jedi Council exactly what you are. If the Jedi cannot hold political office in the Republic, than neither should the Sith."
"What's gotten into you Maul? You used to be such a loyal Sith. Why didn't you just try to kill me?"
"That was my original plan. It changed."
"Surely you could kill me now if the two of you are as strong as you claim to be."
"I thought about it," Maul said as the two men reached out with the Force and applied pressure to Sidious's windpipe. The Sith Master gasped in fear, a sensation he hadn't felt in decades, and desperately clawed at his throat. As quickly as it started, the pressure eased. "However, I won't do that."
"Strangely enough, he wants the Sith to survive," Obi-Wan said. "You should be grateful."
"Sith aren't big on grateful," Maul replied. Focusing on the gasping visage of Sidious, he said, "Resign by morning. Find a new apprentice. Keep the Sith alive. Someone needs to keep the Jedi in check."
Sidious turned questioning eyes to Obi-Wan, who shrugged and said, "I agree. I'm no more a Jedi than Maul is a Sith at this point."
"I will not let you rest," Sidious said. "I will have my revenge."
"I suspect the Jedi won't leave us in peace either," Maul replied. "Now go. Remember, resign by morning. We'll be watching you."
The hologram flickered out.
Obi-Wan turned to Maul and asked, "Do you think he'll do it?"
"He will. He cannot defeat the entire Jedi Council alone. He won't risk it."
"So, what do we do until morning?"
"Pack, raise my ship, and pick the booby traps out of this one. We may as well take it with us."
Obi-Wan reached out and rested his hand on Maul's forearm, smiling languidly and mentally sending a few interesting time-killing suggestions his way.
Maul snorted. "Don't push your luck."
Two ships came to rest on the surface of Tatooine as the suns set on the horizon. Two bodies walked across the packed sands into the trading city of Mos Espa. They strode purposefully through the city, into the slave district, and knocked on a door.
It opened, revealing the worn, sad face of a middle aged slave woman. "Yes?"
"Shmi Skywalker?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Yes, that's me."
"We never met, but I was Qui-Gon's padawan. He's dead now."
"And so is your son."
She nodded, twisting at her skirt. "I know. I felt it. Qui-Gon promised to protect him..."
"...but he couldn't," Obi-Wan said.
Maul added, "I used to be the apprentice to the man who ordered your son to be killed. I'm the one who did it. I'm sorry."
Shmi blinked back furious tears, then asked, "What do you want with me?"
"The Jedi made no attempt to free you, did they?" Obi-Wan asked.
Maul closed his eyes for a moment, then said, "Your transmitter has been destroyed. You are now free."
"How did you do that?" she challenged.
"It was quite simple."
"Qui-Gon could have done it," Obi-Wan admitted quietly. "He was bound by the Jedi code not to interfere, so he didn't."
Tears falling freely down her face, Shmi cried, "I should never have let my Ani go! I trusted the Jedi! I trusted them!"
"Many people do," Obi-Wan said. "Too many."
"Why are you here?" she whispered helplessly.
"He was Jedi, I was Sith. We've discovered that there's another way."
"And we want to teach it to you."
"You called to us," Maul replied.
Shmi looked at both men, and with a determined lift to her chin, said, "It's you who I felt, then. I wasn't dreaming."
"No, it wasn't a dream," Obi-Wan said.
Wiping her tears on her coarsely woven sleeve, Shmi stepped back from the doorway and said, "Come in. Please. Teach me."
[If you're 18 or older, click here for a bonus sex scene.]
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