Sons Of Beaches
by Andrea Evans
[Read Andrea's author bio]
Disclaimer: Thanks, George, for the Sithalicious gift of Maul. I promise not to whore him in biker bars or otherwise make money from him. Thanks to the Intrepid Housemate Melissa Emerita TM for the apartment block's rooftop, to the Plaid Adder for the incense, to Siubhan for added bits on the beach, and to Rose, Katherine the Art Chick and Siubhan for giving Obi-Wan his nads. ...The flashback's setting is the fruit of my misspent youth on the Gold Coast. :)
Gasp pant puff pant Nearly there... gasp groan Close enough to taste it Puff pant gasp pant Come on, come onnn...
BANG! Maul finished his sprint up the staircase, flung open the door to his beloved rooftop practice arena and stood poised in what Sidious would have identified as a flawlessly executed Dramatic Entrance #181. I am hot...
"SHIT!" Maul cried the word aloud. His rooftop! His very own abandoned, grimy, empty, dirty, garbage-heap, wonderful rooftop!
Oh, sure, the garbage was all still there, moved into piles around the edges to leave a large space in the middle of the roof. ...But not an empty space, ohhh no. Maul's disbelieving eyes took in a gleaming expanse of ...sand. Sand! Spread out thickly enough to hide the lovely grimy, cracked tar and concrete of the roof beneath a coat of disgusting sparkly whiteness. And there, stretched out in the middle of this ghastly setting, was a huge fluffy towel in revoltingly bright colors. There was a waterproof CD player, crooning moldy old nostalgia songs of the sort Maul never listened to. There was even a beach umbrella, hovering horribly over the scene like some sort of psychedelic vulture. Even the sight of Obi-Wan, stretched out face-down on the towel and clad only in tiny skintight lycra swimming briefs did little to improve his mood, probably because the briefs were patterned with the same eyewateringly bright day-glo colors as the towel and the umbrella.
As Obi-Wan startled to a sitting position, Maul strode impatiently over the sand, absolutely loathing the way it ground between his bare toes and worked its way under the nails. Oh yes. The one good thing about sand, Maul thought, is that it soaks up blood rather well. "Obi-Wan," Maul growled, his voice now ominously quiet, "Are you having a flashback?"
The cagey narrowing of the blue-green eyes looking up at him and the level answer of "No" reassured Maul, on that point at least. This had to be Ballsy-Wan. Perki-Wan would have gone for the waterworks, or at least the twembwing wower wip, for sure.
"Well just what in the Nine Sith Hells do you think you're doing up here?" Maul snarled, cranking the volume and the indignation higher and higher, gripping the extinguished haft of his lightsaber hard enough to leave claw marks in the metal. "Up here on MY rooftop!" Sidious had never bothered to climb all the way up here after him, and so he'd always come up here whenever he wanted to exercise his body or his mind, whenever he needed something vaguely resembling quiet. This was the place where he'd faced death, and triumphed. This was the one place he'd ever known where he could really be alone. He didn't give a shit how stupid it sounded, this was his place, and damned if he was going to let Obi-Wan pervert it into some disgusting Jedi garden!
"What'm I doing?" Obi-Wan blinked up at him, as if it was all perfectly reasonable and obvious. "I'm sunbathing."
"SUNbathing?" On a roof that was in permanent shadow from the surrounding spacescrapers? That was it. Maul realized that his excitingly unstable ex-junkie boyf... erm, fucktoy, had just taken a swan-dive straight off the S.S. Sanity and was going down for the third time (and not in the good way). But then, Maul's libido panted and tugged at its chain, forcing him to notice for the first time the way the light was gleaming on Obi-Wan's taut muscles, turning his whole body into a sculpture of gold. ...Waitaminute. Light? Maul took another few steps closer, moving carefully in case Obi-Wan's wacko cooties rubbed off. Up close, he saw that the 'beach' umbrella was silvered inside, like a photographer's reflector. Peering cautiously under the canopy, Maul Saw The Light.
"You know those new Ultra-Safe tanning lamps?" Obi-Wan asked cheerfully, shifting over a little to make more room on the beach towel as Maul came closer.
"The ones the Coruscant Home Shopping Channel are hawking to gullible idiots?"
"Yeah, well one of the gullible idiots is named Yoda."
Maul cracked a grin. "What?"
"He really shouldn't have tried to pick me up that night at the Gray Side. If he hadn't delayed me, we could've been out of there quick enough to avoid running into Cynthia." Obi-Wan smiled sweetly up at Maul, twirling a Latinum Excess credit card between his fingers. "And the sand was courtesy of a cargo freighter from Tatooine. Building supplies, intended to pave a new courtyard outside Yoda's quarters."
Maul took another step closer, onto the beach towel. To the ninth Sith hell with cooties. Maul shared a conspiratorial smile with his lov... ah, his Sith Apprentice-to-be. But the next instant the smile was replaced by a concerned frown. "You really have lost it," Maul growled, "The sales'll be traced back to you!"
"Not when I used Yoda's name and asked them to deliver the lamp and the sand to the Temple. Do you know how easy it is for parcels to get lost in the internal mail, what with the repairs and rebuilding after all the times it's been mysteriously blown up? And these freighter captains are incredibly sloppy, it's amazing how they'll suddenly decide to just dump cargo at the coordinates given without bothering to check what's underneath."
"What a shaaame..." Maul drawled, echoing Obi-Wan's sweet smile. (Well, as much as his carefully stained teeth would let him.) Theft from your precious Jedi Masters? Maul thought secretly, And all for revenge? ...I guess I'm gonna have to start thinking of a new name for My Apprentice. She wouldn't like getting confused with you...
"Now the only thing that's left to do is to 'bury the body'." Maul said aloud. "...I don't want you anywhere near that Happy Farms hellhole ever again!" he added in a growling undertone as he plucked the credit card lightly from Obi-Wan's fingers and tossed it into the air. With a sudden snap-hiss-hum and a blur of red energy, the card was reduced to a brief cloud of black smoke.
Obi-Wan smiled. You really care about my welfare now, don't you? he thought privately, You're coming closer to me all the time, my wild lover. Come in to the Light...
Aloud he said, "As long as you're making yourself useful..." Maul gave him a 'don't push your luck' glare, but it was replaced by a wry grin as Obi-Wan handed him a bottle of tanning oil and stretched out again on the towel. Maul uncapped the bottle, poured a little of the warm oil into the palm of his hand. The scent caused Maul to crank the grin a notch. Mmm, coconut...
Obi-Wan's mental voice was warm and amused. Takes you back, doesn't it?
As Maul poured the palmful of oil between Obi-Wan's shoulderblades and pressed his hands flat to spread the oil over the Jedi's sinewy shoulders, the tawny golden curves beneath his hands blurred until they resembled the well-remembered sweep of sand dunes, years ago...
As usual, it had all been Sidious's idea. A campaign trip to the opening of a new beach resort circling Tatooine's one small and extremely salty sea. Okay, so it was more of a large lake by the standards of any normal world, but on a desert planet any bit of water looks impressive, even if it is undrinkable. But calling the place Paradise Waters was way too much of a stretch in Maul's opinion. The part that worried the hells out of Maul was that it actually sounded like it might be fun. The place was a brand new resort after all, and its owner, Jabba's even slimier little brother Flabba the Hutt, was sparing no expense in the opening celebrations.
They'd arrived, and checked into the penthouse suite of one of the new hotels overlooking the beach. So far, nothing too disastrous had happened. The heat, Maul figured he could live with. It sure as hell wasn't Hoth, but then he didn't have the fur to worry about any more, either. The climate, and the relaxed dress code of any beach town, gave him the perfect excuse to show off his just-finished tattoo, and he knew that the gleaming layer of sweat only made his heavily ripped muscles look all the more impressive. Maul pulled on a pair of black swimming shorts, struck a pose in front of the bathroom mirror, and leered at his reflection. Damned if all the training and the saving up for the tattoo wasn't finally going to pay off after all! Beach babes, here I come!
Sidious poked his head round the door, took in Maul's pose (Interesting version of a #96, the boy certainly has the bod for it...) and sighed. The perfect opportunity for a glossy lycra G-string, but would his fashion-emergency apprentice take it? Nooo... Sidious threw one last hopeful whammy Maul's way, but the whammy just bounced off the rock hard shield of Maul's lustful anticipation, and slunk off to sulk in a corner.
"Enough ogling that incredibly well stacked body of yours, Maul." Sidious said briskly, for all the world as if he hadn't just been ogling a lot harder than Maul, "Come along, my public awaits!" Sidious adjusted the collar of his open-necked gold lamé safari suit, and swished toward the door, adding as Maul stepped into a pair of flipflops and followed him out, "Now I know this is supposed to be an informal holiday, but there's a lot of media coverage here for the opening celebrations, which makes it a marvelous campaign opportunity." Sidious smiled at the thought of all that free publicity. "I know I haven't taken you on too many of these appearances so far, so I'll make myself perfectly clear. With any luck I'll be in so many interviews and photo ops that I won't be able to watch you personally the whole time we're here. ...But don't let that little fact give you any ideas, Apprentice." The incipient grin on Maul's face faded into a pout. "Even if I'm not with you, I want you to be on your very best behavior. Keep yourself quiet and out of trouble. Don't do anything to embarrass me, or you'll regret it."
And with that they were out of the air-conditioned calm of the hotel and into the heat and light and noise of the main esplanade, a densely packed street lined with shops that circled the sea, erm, "Paradise Waters," and formed the backbone of the resort. Maul slipped on a pair of black Gargoyle shades at once and grinned to himself as he watched his master spend the next ten minutes wrestling with the necessity of keeping his famous face uncovered, despite the glare. At length Palpatine concluded that a photo of himself squinting would look even more unflattering than one with sunglasses, and he whipped out a glitzy gold and rhinestone pair that accessorized his safari suit.
As they walked, sand shifting and scuffing under his flipflops, Maul looked around. Signs screamed visually everywhere he looked on the street, in flashing neon and day-glo colors, and more languages than he'd ever seen before in one place. A huge sandcrawler pulled up beside them with a roar and a blast of oily smoke, and disgorged hordes of Jawa tourists in fluorescent floral robes. They gibbered excitedly among themselves and converged on Palpatine, snapping photos frantically. Palpatine turned on his 300-watt smile and immediately fell into his highly practiced Dramatic Pose #88 (Charming Senator Mingling With Admiring Citizens). The smile and the pose both wilted somewhat when the chattering and flashing knot of Jawas left him abruptly and continued to take photos of everything else in sight, including Maul, the sandcrawler, the sky, the pavement, and each other. As Maul watched, trying valiantly not to grin at his master's pout, the tourists trooped off en-masse into the maze of shops hawking shoddy souvenirs, and bought everything in sight. Every so often one would yell "Utinni!" and bounce up and down, triumphantly waving a cheap fake-fur eopie, a plastic ashtray or some other particularly eyewatering piece of kitsch.
Palpatine turned on his heel with a flourish and hurried to leave that crowd of ungrateful plebes behind him, crossing the esplanade and heading down an open track of sand toward the beach itself. Maul followed a few paces behind, growling lustfully at the occasional bikini-clad girl and netting more than a few appreciative glances in return. He puffed his chest out, and his tag-along-behind-the-master-yet-again slouch transformed into a baby-you'll-never-see-hotter-shit-than-me strut.
Soon the sandy walkway widened out and the buildings fell away in a last gasp of juice and ice-cream stands, and they were out on the beach itself. Trust a Hutt to turn a desert planet's one surplus into a selling point. But, looking around, Maul had to admit it was one helluva beach. Flawless golden sand in neatly manicured dunes, rolling away into the distance, to circle water so insanely blue Maul was instantly reminded of a toilet cleaner commercial. But after an initial glance round, the water was the last thing on Maul's mind.
Ohh yesss. Maul had just died and gone to beach babe heaven. Bodies, bikinis, breasts, butts, as far as the eye could see. He swallowed hastily and repeatedly. Even he, fashion neophyte that he was, knew that drool was not a good look (not unless someone else is wearing it, while looking at you). He knew he was amazingly hot shit right now: the exotic lines of his tattooing highlighting the ripples of perfectly-cut muscles, the tight shorts showcasing his impressive ...attributes. But all the same, something wasn't quite right. While there were more than a few interested glances and slow smiles, and admiring comments, "Rad ink, man!" "Are you tattooed everywhere?", whenever he tried to move in and get better acquainted, he always seemed to be asked the oddest question. "Where's yer board?" And when he shrugged or admitted that he didn't have one (whatever it was), their interest inevitably faded. Artfully tousled heads turned away and bronzed bodies lay back down again on beach towels, dismissing him.
At first he shrugged it off: there was always another babe just a few steps away. But when the same scene had played itself out half a dozen times, he began to suspect something was happening here, something he didn't quite grasp. Some mysterious local custom was keeping him a babe-free zone. Well, not for long! He'd solve this mystery soon enough. All it meant was that he needed to keep his eyes open, poke around, do a bit of surveillance. High time he started to put his Sith training to work. If he got to the bottom of this (and to the bottom and assorted other body parts of his share of those babes), it'd be something he'd accomplished. On his own. Without his so called master laughing at him all the way. Screw it. And screw tagging along after Sidious. (Just never, ever even think about screwing Sidious himself, that way lies tactical-nuke level squickitude, there was even a rule about it in the Handbook.) ...Time for some in-depth private investigations.
Sand. Horizon to horizon. Rolling, steep dunes. Nothing but sand. Maul slogged onwards through it, really starting to hate the way the near-scalding grit worked its way onto his flipflops. Even kicking the stuff onto every 98-pound weakling he saw hadn't really helped his mood. Sure, his tattoos meant he couldn't get sunburned, but why hadn't he realized how hot black could get? And the worst thing was that so far, his looking around had drawn a blank. All those beautiful bods lying around on those towels seemed to lack enough brain to even conduct a conversation, so there'd been little point in listening in. Not when the twitterings of assorted plastic boy- and girl-bands through sandproofed radios were the only sound. By now he just walked for simple lack of something better to do.
So it took him a moment to notice that those twitterings had been taken over by another sort of gibbering. Jawas. A whole clan of them, dots in the distance clustered round a sandcrawler whose shadow (inexplicably single, despite Tatooine's dual suns) served as a free beach umbrella for the youngsters while the adults lazed beyond its shelter.
Maul's eyes narrowed behind his shades as he stared at the 'crawler. Jawas went everywhere, heard everything. They'd have to know about these mysterious "boards" and why a bit of wood should be necessary to get laid. Unless, of course, they'd meant that sort of wood: it'd been Maul's working theory until he noticed that none of the other men lying around on those towels had anything of the sort. In those tiny swimming costumes, it would've been impossible to hide. Right. Maul cracked mental knuckles and a nasty smile, baring even nastier teeth, as he strode closer to the sandcrawler. He was just in the mood to get completely Sithly on their tiny robed asses. Jawa football was a sport he'd always wanted to try, and if he learned what he wanted to know as well, then cool.
There was a distant cry of "NNNOOOoooOOO!!!" and an impressively tattooed and surprisingly horned young man appeared over the crest of the dune, sprinting in a way that re-sanded a whole row of extremely scrawny young men who'd just dusted themselves off, and who, while groping around for paper to wipe themselves dry, found themselves suddenly drawn to cheaply-drawn Charles Stellar-Cartography ads in the Tatooine Times.
Maul caught his breath only after he was three dunes away. He was a Sith, dammit! He thought he'd seen everything, braved horrors unimaginable by mortal mind. Why, he'd even bikini-waxed Palpatine and lived to tell the tale. But nothing, nothing had prepared him for that!
He knew now, that there were very good reasons Jawas were never, ever seen out of their robes. He'd just seen a whole clan of them working on all-over tans. Maybe, if he was lucky, a Rancor would be over the next dune and would eat his head. That'd be the only way he'd get rid of the memory of what naked Jawas--displayed under Tatooine's pitiless suns, which illumined every ghastly detail from two angles--really looked like. He gave a full-body shudder, and had the distinct feeling his eyeballs were doing their best to crawl out of their sockets, roll away across the sand, and go hide somewhere hospitable, like in the guts of a goober fish. He stripped off the melted remnants of his shades and dropped the plastic mess as he staggered over the next dune.
A Tusken Raider popped up out of a mound of sand in a flourish of robes, lifting a projectile rifle high and hooting a feral challenge. Maul beamed happily. It wasn't a Rancor, but it'd do. He stood straight and tall--well as tall as he could manage--and flung his arms wide and puffed out his undeniably ripped chest. "Shoot straight you bastard, don't make a mess of it!"
And the Tusken shot him. Square in the middle of his chest. He felt the bullets burst against his chest with a splat. The sand skidded under his feet and he collapsed onto his back, grinning like a lunatic.
...A moment later, he blinked. Since when did bullets go splat? Bullets made you go splat. He lifted one hand and felt his chest. Wet, sticky; business as usual so far. But no pain. Blink. He raised his damp fingers. Damn. Either he was hallucinating, or he'd suddenly decided to bleed blue--and even though he didn't have the vaguest idea what his species was, he knew damn well he was a Red Blooded Boy--or else... Maul sniffed at his fingers, getting some sort of chemical smell. Whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn't blood. What the fuck? He lifted his head and focused blearily on a sign in the distance: "Sunscreen The Tatooine Way: Colored Zinc Cream Paintballs Courtesy of the Tusken Tourist Board". The Tusken Raider appeared silhouetted against the sun, bending over him. A mummy-swathed hand reached down: he growled at it and it was hastily withdrawn. He scuffled to his feet, wiped the blue gunk off his chest and stalked away.
Sunscreen? Sith don't need no steenkin' sunscreen! It's in the Handbook! He felt as disgruntled as My Apprentice when she'd come running round dinnertime, stepped on a blob of recently-sentient mayo and skidded all the way across the kitchen, landing up against the far wall. She'd taken care to sniff at the wall she'd landed against, as if she'd meant to do that all along. At the time, Maul had laughed himself sick. Okay, well, sickER. But now he felt something that was about as close to sympathy for her predicament as he could manage.
Maul only stopped that haughty stalk when he was sure he was several dunes away from the Tusken and anyone who even might've witnessed that latest in what Sidious insisted was a lifelong string of screwups. He paused, lifting his head to sniff deeply. Mmm, somebody over the next dune was having a beach barbecue by the smell: frying sausages, heavy on the grease. Maul's mouth started to water, for a different reason than the one it'd been watering forever since he copped his first eyeful of bikini babes. That was it, he just had to whammy his way into some satisfaction for his sudden junk food jones. He sprinted over the dune and jolted to a halt when he saw just what was broiling in the sun.
Flabba the Hutt. The even sharper entrepreneur of Jabba's family: the one who'd managed to get his name into the language, as the manufacturing genius behind "Flab" brand Bantha butter. "Enjoy Flab!" in its familiar curly red and white logo, had been plastered across the known universe, causing untold millions to die of diet-induced coronaries, and raking in even more untold billions of dataries into Flabba's coffers. It wasn't the sight of Flabba himself that was so disturbing, not to Maul anyway, given that he'd recently survived naked Jawas. It was the fact that instead of sweating in Tattoine's doubled sunlight, he was oozing oil. Grease rolled off every inch of his bloated body in continuous streams. And worse than that, was the way that all five Crumb brothers, Salacious, Rapacious, Suspicious, Delicious and Robert, were scurrying all over his sluglike body, scooping the grease off his warty hide and into very familiar brown bottles, before capping each bottle busily. The Hutt was surrounded with a small mountain of these bottles, each bearing the also-familiar Tatooine Tropic label.
Maul's stomach was doing a slow roll, not unlike the dunes themselves. Not only because he'd suddenly discovered the real Secret Ingredient in the famous tanning oil, but because, dammit, the Hutt still smelled exactly like a really succulent sausage barbecue--the type where the sausages are swimming in their own liquid lard. It was the conflict between his tastebuds (raring to go) and the rest of him (squicked to within an inch of his life) that really messed with his pointy head. He really, really needed to get the hell out of this weirdness, he thought as he backpedaled until he was out of sight (and of smell) of Flabba. He also promised himself to never ever use that brand of tanning oil. He shivered as he realized he'd had a lucky escape. As a devout pizza devourer from way back, he had absolutely no wish to find out where the cheese in Pizza the Hutt's recipes came from.
Maul realized suddenly that it'd been a long time since he'd last seen Sidious, and he tapped into the Dark Side hastily. It turned his gaze toward a small knot of people in the distance, milling around a makeshift-looking stand on the beach itself. Maul blinked as he walked closer. The sign on the stand read "Johnno's Sunscreen: 1/2 Datari." Or at least it had. The name was crossed out and "Palpatine" was substituted in a familiar flamboyant script. Maul suppressed a sudden, inexplicable urge to say to no one in particular, "I have a bad feeling about this."
Sidious straightened up from behind the counter of the flimsy stand. He was no longer wearing the gold lamé safari suit, which should have made Maul's day. The problem was, he was now wearing a damn sight less: one tiny G-string. Also lamé. Puce. A fiendishly appropriate name for the color, given the effect it was having. Maul's eyes snapped upward fast enough to almost beat the lightrays coming from the glittery scrap of fabric, and he had to clench his jaws fiercely to stop himself from hurling last year's lunch at the unspeakable sight of Palpatine's flabby, wobbly, gray-fuzzed, pasty-white body. It was like looking at a bowl of tapioca that his cat had shed onto. The desperate effort not to hurl pasted a panicky scowl onto Maul's face. Palpatine, on the other hand, was grinning like My Apprentice on a serious catnip jag.
Maul swallowed. Cautiously. Master, weren't you supposed to be campaigning?
Sidious's mental voice was airily dismissive. Not right now, Maul. After all, this is supposed to be a holiday as well. We may as well take today off. Run along. I'll see you back in the hotel. Later.
But Master... Maul paused, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer, but he was gripped by a sick, spectator-at-a-speeder-wreck fascination that forced him to ask, Why are you selling affordable sunscreen? Isn't protecting people against skin cancer at reasonable prices rather a ...Jedi thing to do?
Well for starters it can only do my public image good to be seen to be supporting a Worthy Public Health Initiative Without Making Personal Profit...
Sidious's mental voice trailed off in a purr and Maul pulled hastily away from the mental contact, wishing he could rip his own brain out of his skull, drop it in the sand and scrub it; it felt really filthy, and not in the way he liked, either. He watched as a blond-and-tanned lump of muscle wearing maybe enough lycra to make a small handkerchief, emerged from the knot of surfers admiring Sidious (whose whammy must have been in as fine form as he was not). The man walked up and put a coin on the counter. Sidious ducked into the stall and rummaged around behind the counter, coming out again holding a metal pistol.
Maul watched with interest. Yes, this Incredible Bulk type was irritating, but was his master really going to shoot him in front of a beach full of witnesses? Had the old bastard finally lost it?
The burly swimmer just stood there as Sidious raised the pistol and pulled the trigger. He hit him, square in the chest. With a spray of oil. Sidious moved, revealing the fine transparent tube leading from the pistol behind the counter, where sudden chugging told Maul that a compressor had just turned on. Sidious laughed mentally at Maul, delighted in having deceived his apprentice, as he circled the swimmer, spraying away, eyeing him from a distance of inches to make sure every muscle on his body was covered in a gleaming layer of oil, spreading it carefully over the swimmer's body with his hands. Maul turned away, shuddering so hard he felt his tattoos were about to crawl right off his skin.
As he hurried to put a safe distance between himself and his master's latest exercise in combining PR and the lust whammy, Maul's spirits rose. Sidious was obviously going to have his hands (and presumably his bed) very full for the foreseeable future. That left Maul free to do whatever he wanted. A slow grin spread itself across the young Sith's face.
He found his hasty escape had taken him over the last line of dunes and within sight of the water. For the first time a subliminal sound, a hiss-thrum-crash-hiss, reached Maul's notice. This close, he realized that what looked from a distance like small ripples were full-fledged waves, a line of whitecaps far out rising into majestic curling combers, rolling and collapsing on themselves with that deep crash that set the air throbbing in the pit of his chest. The sound was pervasive, powerful. Maul had never seen anything like those waves. Mesmerized, he wandered closer to the water.
He was jolted out of it a moment later by running feet. A kid tore past him at full speed. Maul noticed he was carrying under one arm a vaguely oval plank covered in swirling designs in the ghastly day-glo colors that were splashed everywhere round the resort. This must be one of these damn "boards" everyone was asking about! What the hell's so important about it? He stood and watched as the boy waded through the water until it was about thigh-deep, then lay flat on the board and started paddling out furiously, toward the rows of curling breakers. Squinting, Maul glanced past the boy and realized that there were people way out there, riding on the wild water, some lying but most standing up on these ridiculous boards!
So that's what they're talking about, Maul thought with a grin. Well shit, how hard can standing on a plank be? He strode back up the beach toward the esplanade, intent on finding one of these boards for himself.
It was easy enough to locate a store. Oddly enough it called itself a "surf shop," though surf was the one thing it didn't seem to be selling. Maul paced up and down the racks of boards in the usual hideous neon colors, growling to himself. He jumped at the disgustingly perky voice at his elbow. "Can I help you, man?" Maul spun to face a particularly vapid-looking boy with a head like a post-hurricane haystack. On his tank top was a smiley-face sticker with "Hi! I'm Ben-Wa!" written on it.
"Haven't you got any of these in black?" Maul snarled, waving an impatient hand at the rows of boards.
"Nah, man, who'd want a board like that?"
Maul got nose to nose with the vacant-eyed, stringy-haired creature. "I would!" he roared, loud enough to give the surfer a new swept-back hairstyle.
"Yeah, well I can see where you're comin' from. It'd match your tatts, that's fershure..." the boy purred. Maul turned away with a growl and continued to stalk down the racks.
All right, so it wasn't black, but it was red. A fiery, Sithly red. His hand reached out of its own accord and he saw that the board was almost exactly the same shade as his tattoos. As he pulled it out of the rack he saw with a feral smile that it had jagged lightning bolts of gold, edged with black, painted on the upper and lower surfaces. Not the usual one or two, but three triangular fins jutted from the underside of the board. They were a cream color that reminded Maul of his horns.
"I will take this." Maul rumbled.
"Yeah, that's a slick board, WaveChopper Pro. Tricky for a beginner to handle, but hot stuff for a serious surfer."
Maul grunted and flipped Sidious's credit card over the counter. The old bastard could write it off as campaign expenses.
The boy watched Maul tuck the board just a little awkwardly under his arm and said doubtfully, "Hey man, how well can you surf?"
"I am not sure." Maul said, in an imitation of his master's most lordly tones as he turned away, "I have never tried."
Maul strutted out on the sands, once more, the all-important board under his arm. This time things would be different. This time he would finally be appreciated for the scorchingly hot shit that he was. This time he was going to get thoroughly laid. And ohh yesss, when he put the board down and stretched out beside it on the sand, the babes came to him! In a very short space of time, he was stretched out flat on his back, one of Candi's tanned thighs behind the back of his neck, while Mandi sat on his left and Brandi on his right, rubbing oil--not Tatooine Tropic, he'd checked--into his muscles. Yes, their names were a worry, and their collective IQ was almost up to pond scum level, but Maul really couldn't give a womp rat's ass about any of that. They were all gorgeous, they filled out their bikinis so eyepoppingly well that Maul wondered if there weren't tiny antigrav generators in their bras, and they were with him, and that was all he cared about. He just closed his eyes blissfully behind his shades and lapped up the attention, purring deep in his chest. Life really loves me! he grinned, happier than he could remember ever being before in his short and Sithly life.
But all too soon the stroking hands slowed. Candi squeaked, "Heyy! Let's go swimming!" and was greeted with a chorus of "Ooo!" and "Yes, let's!" Maul opened his eyes and sat up. Much as he hated to leave the previous bliss, maybe if he got them out in the relative privacy of the water he could get in some even more pleasurable activities. His grin returned, and was maturing into a full-grown leer as he climbed to his feet.
"What about your board?" chirped Mandi. Brandi added, "Yeah, aren't you gonna surf?"
Maul realized they wanted him to prove his manliness with a display of skill. Ha! They'd never laid eyes on a Sith before. He'd show them what this "surfing" thing was all about! He scooped up the board and strode imperiously off toward the water. The three girls ooohed collectively and sat down to watch their hero perform.
As Maul strode down the sand he saw a sandy-haired youth catch up to him on his right side, toting a hot-pink board. Maul sneered. The other boy must have mistaken the expression for a grin because he piped up immediately, "Hi there! My name's Obi-Wan, what's yours?" His smile was dazzling, and he spoke in the perky way that just about everyone here seemed to share. Perhaps it was something in the water. Maul made a mental note not to swallow when he was out there.
"Maul!" he snarled, unsure himself whether he was mentioning his name or stating what he'd like to do to the irritating boy.
"Well, hi, Maul. Nice surf up at the moment, you'll love it," he said, his feet splashing merrily as they waded out into the shallows. "Hey, those are really interesting tattoos you've got there..."
Maul thought he detected the same lust-glazed expression on the other boy that he'd been working to create in the beach babes, and he didn't like the idea one little bit. "Yeah, they stick the needle in until it hits bone." Maul growled, trying to scare the kid away.
Instead of the hoped-for "Ewww!" the boy said, "Wow, I bet that really hurt. You must be very brave, Maulie!"
"Don't fucking call me that!" Maul snapped, slogging ahead irritably toward deeper water. At least that shut the little twit up.
Only for a moment though. He caught up to Maul again, lying on that disgusting pink board and paddling easily. "Why're you still wading? You're even shorter than I am."
Maul growled, slapped his board down on the water and vaulted up to lie on it, scooping at the water with powerful arms, trying like hell to leave the nuisance in his wake. At last, the chirpy little idiot seemed to take the hint and fell back in Maul's wake. Maul's hard paddling soon brought him out to where he could feel the long swells rise and fall beneath him. He followed the line a few others took before him, circling round the area of the breakers themselves, moving further out still. He turned toward the beach only when he was behind the line of surf, moving in behind the swells, angling to try to catch a wave and ride it in, as he could see others doing.
He blinked in disbelief as two boards floated closer, heading for the best angle to catch the incoming waves. The boards were moving seemingly under their own steam though a tingle down Maul's spine told him they were being propelled by the Force. Jedi? Here? He boggled openly as the two boards drifted past him, each carrying a man sitting in a full lotus position. The first one was a hulking, longhaired, bearded slob sporting a deep tan under a thick mat of chest hair. He was wearing a pair of baggy swim trunks with a pot-leaf pattern. The second man was wearing tie-dyed trunks and his skin was an even darker brown. He was sporting an afro that was so thick it could have done double duty as an Ewok forest. As Maul watched, the second man began chanting "Ommmmmmmmmigodimsexy... Ommmmmmmanyouknowyouwanna..." He set a cone of incense down on the board in front of him and lit it with a Force-enhanced glare. He then turned the glare on his taller companion, who was busily taking the mother of all tokes from a really hefty joint. Incense-guy stopped the chanting (and just as well, the drone of it was making Maul's horns vibrate and his teeth ache). "Pass it back here Qui, don't make me get medieval on yo' ass!" The bearded hippie handed over the joint (now much shorter), and held his breath until his face went purple before exhaling several perfect smoke rings. "GrOOOoooOOOvy!" he beamed as his eyes crossed.
Maul was fuming hard enough to almost melt the board out from under him. _These_ were Jedi? These gibbering idiots who were too stoned to see straight? Flinging around the Force rather than do a bit of simple paddling? All of a sudden, Sidious and his rantings made sense! Maul positively blazed with righteous (wrongeous?) wrath. He surged up from where he'd been lying on the board, intending to land kneeling on the nose, there to crouch like a gargoyle of justice preparing to swoop down, as he paddled like the wind and beat both of those hippie idiots and caught the wave before them. ...That was his intention, anyway. Unfortunately, everything came apart as soon as he flung himself up into that kneeling position on the nose of his board. It promptly overbalanced and shot backward out from under him as fast as a greased podracer, dumping him face-first in the water.
Maul surfaced coughing and spitting and about as happy as My Apprentice at bathtime, ready to rip the heads off those Jedi, the curl off the waves and the suns out of the sky, whichever he could get his hands on first. As he trod water he wished to hell that Sidious had let him carry his newly constructed 'saber with him on this tour. ...But then, given his luck, the damn thing would have shorted out from grit before he even got near the water. He stopped staring around looking for those Jedi, and started staring around looking for his board, mentally kicking himself for having dismissed leg-ropes as wimpy.
"Here you go, Maulie!"
Maul spun in place with a slosh of water, staring aghast as that chirpy little twit, Obi-Whatever, kicked his way over, one arm stretched over that wussy little pink board, and the other on his board, which all of a sudden looked a lot less Sithly now that he wasn't on it. He gathered his breath to roar at the top of his voice, "Don't fucking call me that!" but only got as far as the "call" before a stray bit of chop sloshed some more of the incredibly salty water straight into his open mouth.
Obi-Wan giggled. An actual giggle. "Whoops! Gotta watch that, Maulie."
Life hates me! Maul thought as he directed a death glare at the twit, trying his damnedest to concentrate hard enough to summon up a Sith Chokehold. But his grip on the Force was nowhere near that practiced, and his concentration was broken as the idiot boy sent Maul's board skimming over the surface of the water toward him with a heave of what Maul only now noted was a fairly-well muscled arm. Not quite up to his standard, of course, he thought with automatic pride, but not bad. And the tan was pretty good too; the twit's skin was a warm bronze that looked good enough to lick.
Where the fuck did that thought come from? Maul scowled suspiciously at the boy as he snared the board, hooked an arm over it. If he didn't know better, he'd've sworn that was a full-blown Lust Whammy. He'd had more than enough practice shrugging off his master's efforts, luckily. No, he must've been having a flashback to a lifetime of those near-misses. It even felt something like Sidious's whammy. Maul snarled horribly at the boy as he surged up onto the board, collecting only another dazzling smile for his trouble. Maul's fingers curled, itching more than ever for his saber, as Obi-Wan jumped up onto his own board as well. Maul paddled gently over until his board was right next to that wimpy pink board. "Obi..." he said in a sing-song saccharine voice, "...I can call you Obi, can't I?"
"Sure!" Obi-Wan chirped.
Maul interjected hastily before the twit could go blithering on, "Goooood. Now, Obi," he murmured, dropping his voice a little. The tousled head leaned closer. "Would you do me a big, big favor?"
The brat licked his lips, and whispered "Anything, Maulie." before actually fluttering his eyelashes.
Maul fought down the wave of deep squickitude that washed over him, and crooned, "Could you paint yourself in chocolate..." He grinned inwardly at the gleam in the boy's eyes, though he was careful to keep it off his face.
"Ooh, kinky," Obi breathed, leaning in even closer.
"And THROW YOURSELF TO THE HUTTS!" Maul roared the last words at vein-popping volume.
Obi-Wan's eyes misted up in a way that was music to his Sithly soul. Even his lower lip trembled. It was beautiful. Just beautiful. Maul basked in the sight.
"You..." snif "You don't mean that." Obi-Wan said at last in a wobbly voice, "Not really truly."
Maul eyerolled, thinking it over. "Noooo, you're right." he admitted at last. "I don't."
The beaming smile was right back on the twit's face. It was like flicking a switch. Damn eerie, really. Maul made a mental note to amend the Sith Handbook when he was Master. Clearly the rule about "The only things Sith find eerie are what they see in the mirror." needed rewriting.
"You don't?" the boy simpered, lifting one hand as if he was dying to trace the jags and swirls of tattooing on Maul's near arm.
"No." Maul sneered, "I meant, throw yourself to a Sarlacc!" He jerked his whole body backwards, ripping his arm out of Obi-Wan's reach. He didn't get the chance to enjoy his well-earned moment of triumph, though, as the abrupt movement overbalanced him and the treacherous board dumped him sideways into the water. Again.
When he surfaced this time, he was seething. He couldn't just grab the twit's head in one hand, his body in the other, and play wishbone, no matter how much he was desperate to do just that. Sidious would be certain to make him regret it if the news got out; it'd put a major crimp in his campaigning. And there were too many other surfers within sight: it'd be impossible for him to hunt down and kill all the witnesses before one of them made it back to shore and spread the word. And his anger was so blinding that it was messing with what little control over the Force he had to begin with. A rule from the Handbook floated into the bloodthirsty fog that he currently had by way of a mind: "Sith choose their battles." Right. So would he.
He climbed cautiously onto his board again and paddled and kicked grimly, trying to outdistance the brat, just like before. Not even the receding whine of "Awww Maaauuuulieee! Come baaa-aaack!" tempted him to turn around and Take His Revenge. He even resisted the temptation to bang his forehead against the board until the pain stopped. Horn-holes would ruin the paintwork. No. He just lay on that board and gave his arms the workout of his short life, scooping desperately at the water. He realized he'd hit the back of the line of breakers finally when his speed began to pick up. Good. That'd be the quickest way away from the twit, and the way to impress the hell out of the babes back on the beach as well. Victory, twice over. Sweet.
Maul could feel the inbound current really start to take his board and run with it. The surface of the water tilted beneath him, and a slipstream blew against his skin. Wild exhilaration gripped him as he picked up pace, hearing the roar and crash of the breakers ahead, their power immense, untameable. At last he truly understood the point to this whole "board" thing. Grinning fiercely, he gripped the edge of the board and rose to his knees, crouching as the froth from the rising wall of water beside him slapped him in the ear, then he slid a little further down the curl and the wave crest rose higher than his head. He was there, on the wave, roaring with it at breakneck speed toward the beach. Now! Maul surged to his feet, to stand, perfectly balanced on the board. He laughed in exultation, before pacing up and down the board's length with tigerish grace, then standing poised on its point, riding it with supernatural skill. Triumph blazed in his soul. He threw back his head and howled aloud in Sithly triumph, thinking I AM HOT...
"SHIT!" Maul yelped as a pink blur cut across the curl of the wave in front of him. Obi-Wan, positively bouncing up and down with excitement on that wussy little board as thoughtlessly as if it was dry land, not even caring that he was cramping Maul's style. This was his wave, dammit!
"Hi Maulie, isn't it fun? I knew you could do it!" cried Obi-Wan. And was there just the slightest knowing spark to that beaming smile? Could it possibly be that this brainless little twerp did realize exactly what he was doing after all?
Maul rose to his full height and made an energetic series of eyewateringly-obscene gestures. And then his wet feet slipped. He'd seen other people cover the tops of their boards with ugly white wax and sand but had refused to deface the Sithly designs on his board the same way. So his board was as sleek and glossy and beautiful as new. And as slippery. As his feet and the board went out from under him everything seemed to slow down, turning his cry of "NOOOOOO!" into a long howl of anguish. Even as he reached out for the Force to break his fall, the board spun up behind him, caught on the rocketing wall of water, and broke in half on the back of his head.
Darkness. It surrounded him, it was him. There was nothing else.
Am I dead? Maul wondered, distantly. The question didn't seem important. He was completely at peace, for once in his miserable existence, content to simply be. To be one with the Dark.
And then, something came to him, alone in the endless night. A sensation. Lips, pressed to his. Warm, caressing. A pulse of sensual heat uncoiled itself in the depths of Maul's being, and he found his Dark repose broken, found himself yearning toward that exquisite feeling.
Maul felt his eyes drifting slowly open. The luscious sensation of a warm mouth on his, lips moving, intensified. A sweet, enticing scent surrounded him, and he found himself staring into the eyes of whoever was kissing him. They were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. Blue as the endless sky, green as the open sea, fringed thickly with copper-gold lashes. He couldn't help himself; dizzy with the delirious haze of awakening, he sent, Are you an angel?
Mental laughter, warm and indulgent and caring, worlds away from the cold mockery of his master. That soft mouth left his, and he gasped, left raw and aching by that loss.
"It's just me, Obi-Wan!"
That little twit had been kissing him? He recognized the sweet fragrance now: no supernatural perfume, just the boy's coconut tanning oil. Maul's eyes snapped wide and he expressed his opinion of this little turn of events by projectile-vomiting onto the twit's lap, horking up what felt like his guts but turned out to be a fairly impressive amount of water, and several tiny crabs.
"Gah!" he spat when he could speak, scrubbing his mouth and scooting away on his back across the sand, "Get off me!"
The boy sniffled, eyes welling with tears, and Maul heard a dopey voice chide, "He just saved your life, y'know." Maul goggled blearily upward (way upward) at the bearded hippie he'd last seen sitting on a surfboard fellating a joint. A Jedi. A Jedi saw him. Oh great. Just wonderful. Maul lay there wishing the sand would open up and bury him, as the hippie continued. "When you came off your board and went under, he dived after you and carried you to shore. He had to give you mouth to mouth, man! You were out cold and had your lungs full of water."
Right. That would be why the back of his head felt like it'd been kicked by a bantha. Now if only he could get rid of the blazing mortification and shame. Would there have been anyone on this damn beach who didn't see him being carried in, helpless, and worse, see him being given mouth-to-mouth by this... this...
"C'mon, Padawan, I think he needs some privacy."
This padawan. This Jedi padawan. Who'd just saved his miserable Sith life. Maul shuddered. Sidious was going to kill him. Slowly.
"You'll be all right..." murmured a soft voice, and Maul looked up to exchange one last glance with the boy with the blue-green eyes, before he reluctantly turned away to follow his master, revealing one of those damnfool Padawan ponytails for the first time. The sea-breeze picked up a fine wet braid from where it had been plastered near-invisibly to the side of his tanned throat and chest, and waved it ironically in the air. At last, only the scent of coconut was left, fading on the wind.
The scent of coconut... Mmm...
Yeah, it takes me back, Maul Sent, purring as he started to lick the sweet coconut oil from Obi-Wan's neck with a warm, rough tongue. Just call this belated revenge.
Maul grinned sharply between the slow, rasping licks. Other men might've been sickeningly grateful for having their lives saved, but Sith don't do grateful, Maul reminded himself with relief. It was in the Handbook, after all. No, Maul thought reassuringly, he wasn't grateful. He was just being his usual Sithly, plotting self. After all, he certainly hadn't exhausted all the possible alternatives in his master plan to assassinate Obi-Wan (a plan he'd codenamed "The Smiling Stiff"). Just like he was scheming to kill off his master with heart disease induced by gourmet delights, surely there was some erotic technique, some yet-to-be-climbed summit of sexual ecstasy that would give Obi-Wan a coronary or make him burst a blood vessel somewhere crucial. Maul stubbornly refused to consider the fact that his target was about as young and fit as he was, instead thinking proudly that he was so dedicated to the Sith cause, so committed to proving his brand new assassination technique could work, that dammit, if it took the rest of his own life to kill Obi-Wan the hard way, he'd keep plugging away!
From floors below, Maul heard My Apprentice's mental sneer, I can't believe you're still hip-deep in denial, as well as in your neighbor! He blew a mental raspberry her way and strengthened his shields, forgetting her and returning to the delectable task at hand. Coconut oil and Obi-Wan's sweat. Mmm.
Obi-Wan sighed and arched his neck under the slow licking, as graceful as if he'd been taking pointers from My Apprentice. No, as if she'd been taking pointers from him, Maul amended. We could have picked a better way to meet, I suppose... came Obi-Wan's languid mental voice, as he rolled slowly onto his back and reached, smiling, for Maul.
Maybe, but you have to admit, I could have picked a worse way to give you crabs!
The shaking of laughter rippled through the warm and oiled body beneath him, and Maul grinned and reached for the bottle. He felt as though he could use a little oil, himself. At least in one or two strategic locations.
The CD player whirred and another track started. Maul snorted at the sly glint in Obi-Wan's eye, and let it play.
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now
I don't melt in the sweltering heat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I get away from the hustling crowds
And all that rat race noise down in the street
On the roof's the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Up on the roof...
At night the stars put on a show for free
And darling you can share it all with me
I keep-a tellin' you
Right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a Paradise that's trouble-proof
And if this world starts getting you down
There's room enough for two up on the roof
Up on the roof...
"And hello again from Coruscant Home Shopping Channel. We're sorry, but there are no more binoculars or home telescopes in stock in any of our warehouses, so please don't keep calling, viewers. ...You know, it's a funny thing, but all our recent customers for these items are priority-one rush orders, and they all live in just a few neighboring spacescrapers in a single block of a fairly ordinary residential district. You know the sort of area, budget student accommodation for the Jedi Temple..."
"Sky traffic alert: there is a major traffic snarl over the space of one block downtown in the residential area. Even though traffic is visibly at a standstill, for some reason more motorists are still trying to enter the area. Motorists are urgently advised to seek alternate routes."
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