"YOU WHAT? My master."
Sidious smirked. "I told Kenobi that you had no family or place to go to for Winter Break. It took only three seconds for him to swear to invite you to his home for the week. What a good Jedi boy."
Maul wanted to howl with rage. He'd been looking forward to a Winter Break without having to listen to the two Jedi going at one another next door like crazed weasels. He'd just bought Jedi Roadkill VI! Exclusive soundtrack by Megadeth! Realistic gore and Jedi girly deathscreams! 150 levels of mayhem!
If videogames started to bore him, he could follow up on the new sentient civilization developing on the slice of pizza in the corner. It had reached the Industrial Revolution and might attain the proper level of technology within days at its current rate of development. At that point, he would have broken into Obi-Wan's apartment and set it against the other civilization living in the refrigerator. There was nothing like a little genocidal war to get the juices flowing. He might even have been able to convince his master to count it as a class project.
Besides, the look on Kenobi's face at the destruction that would surely greet him when he got back would be priceless.
But now... Maul couldn't tell Sidious any of this, because it would just make the old bastard even happier. Or maybe he already knew.
Maul had endured many menial, loathsome things in his quest to become a Sith Lord, withstood mental torments that would have broken a lesser man. He dealt with My Apprentice on a daily basis and lived next door to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
But could even he survive the whole Kenobi family in their natural habitat? "The whole week."
"The whole week."
Surely Sidious had some deeper plan than mere torture of his pupil. "You want me to kill them for you?"
"Torture slowly and maim?"
Sidious' smirk deepened. "No torturing, maiming, or killing. In fact, I won't let you take your lightsaber at all."
"I see. Then this is another pointless exercise about 'honing my hatred' that is only meant to torment me. But my hatred is honed, my master! You have no idea how much my hatred is honed!"
"Torment, yes. Pointless, no. Do you think I have nothing left to teach you?"
"If I did, I already would have struck you down." Maul looked around at the beautifully cultivated filth and dimness of his home and gave another thought to what a Jedi household would be like. What Obi-Wan's family home would be like. He couldn't suppress a shudder. "Are you sure I can't maim them?"
"Maul! So young, so impatient."
"Patience is a Jedi trait, my master."
"Whatever. I'll even be kind enough to give you a hint. Your lightsaber isn't always your deadliest weapon."
"That, and be sure to tag Obi-Wan a few times for me. Such a luscious boy." The old pervert actually licked his lips.
Yes, Sidious had to throw salt in that wound, didn't he? "That was an aberration. It will never happen again."
"Then it was a few aberrations. You can tell yourself it's just sex. Whatever you do, I'll be imagining the two of you together anyway. I have been for some time."
The hatred roared like a flooding tide! The glorious rush of the Dark Side! "DIE!" The lightsaber flew to Maul's hand.
Sidious cackled. "Yes! Give in to your--" Someone knocked at the door. "Company. Your destiny awaits."
"I will destroy--" Then Maul saw the box in Sidious' arms. "You bastard."
"Yes, Jedi Roadkill VI would be much harder to play sliced in two, wouldn't it?"
"When I strike you down, I will make your death as slow and painful as possible, my master."
"I would be disappointed if you didn't, my boy."
Maul seethed as he squeezed into the shuttle car with Obi-Wan and two large animal cases. It was like traveling with the circus. One case had two hamsters, one who seemed to be sightseeing through the clear plastic and another who huddled in a tight ball in the corner. It seemed that Cuddles hadn't recovered from his playtime a while back with Maul and My Apprentice. The other animal case held a kitten that looked very familiar.... She was one of My Apprentice's litter, the kitten he'd forced on Obi-Wan. She'd killed one of his last hamsters, then left the twit padawan for greener pastures. From the looks she gave the little rodents, she might have come back to finish off the new ones.
Obi-Wan would have spent most of the ride over blithering happily at Maul if his kitten hadn't used the Force to open the lock on her carrying case and demand immediate attention. "How did you do that, Mr. Whiskers? Aren't you a clever widdle kitty?" Obi-Wan baby-talked as he scratched her neck.
*You owe me, bub!* she thought at Maul. *Mmmm, he has such a way with his hands, but you already know that, don't you?*
As annoying as they could be, Maul had to admit to some pride in My Apprentice and her brood. As he'd left, she had whammied Sidious into laying out two cans of tuna, then crawling around on the floor playing mouse hunt with her, with him as the mouse. Maul had taught her well.
Her spawn was no less resourceful, but... *Obi-Wan is still blithering,* Maul answered.
*But at me, and it's much easier to take when he's stroking your back, don't you agree?*
But she kept casting the occasional glance at the hamsters in the other carrying case. Maybe being in Obi-Wan's presence was affecting his sanity, but Maul could swear that Fluffi-Wan shot glances back. Cuddles just shivered.
"You're such a beautiful kitty, Mr. Whiskers!" Obi-Wan put his other hand on the hamster carrier. "Not that you're not the cutest too, Cuddles and Fluffi-Wan."
Maul briefly wondered if he should bother telling Obi-Wan the cat was a she. Or that she was the same one who'd left him after killing his current hamsters' predecessor and had, Sith that she was, only mind whammied him into taking her back for a chance to kill the new ones. //There's something weird about that "Fluffi-Wan" anyway....//
Oh, hell, like it would make a difference. He'd probably be forced into a massacre/suicide by the end of the week anyway, if not sooner.
It didn't surprise him to find out that the Kenobi family was even worse than he expected.
"Mam! Da! I'm home, and I brought prezzies!"
"My boy! How much you've grown!" the woman gushed as she crushed Obi-Wan to her chest. She wore a Jedi's dull brown and beige robes.
"You're looking the proper padawan!" the man, also wearing a Jedi's dull brown and beige robes, said as he ruffled his son's buzzcut hair.
Maybe they wore the robes to evade predators, because they blended in perfectly with the brown, beige, and buff of their sparsely furnished home. Everything had been done in those colors. If Maul hadn't seen them move, he never would have noticed them at all.
He had an increasingly bad feeling about this. //Jedi trickery? It bends the mind!//
"You're not my widdle boy anymore! You're so sweet, yes you are!" the woman said as she pinched Obi-Wan's cheeks. Would ripping out her tongue be considered maiming? Maul knew he could do it barehanded, easily. "And you brought your cute widdle pets! And your--" She looked at Maul and obviously drew a blank.
Not helping, Maul just showed his jagged teeth in something that wasn't a smile. //Too bad she's too stupid to be scared.//
"This is the best neighbor anyone could ever have, Mam! This is Darth Maul."
Maul displayed himself to his best advantage in his battered leather jacket, "Sith Lords Kick Ass" T-shirt, tight black jeans, shitkicker boots, and of course tattoos. //I'm your worst nightmare, Jedi scum! And your son brought me home of his own free will, the fool!//
The Jedi female smiled. "Welcome in, young man! Please make yourself at home! I'm Maree-Jayn Kenobi, and my husband is Shawn-Penn Kenobi. Do you prefer to be called 'Darth' or 'Maul'? Obi has told us... so much about you."
The Jedi male clapped Maul on the back. "We have dinner and your room ready, depending on which you want first."
They were being nicer? How could they possibly?
"You will call me Maul, and I want dinner. Now."
"You're the guest!"
Dinner consisted of tasteless boiled vegetables, mostly potatoes. Where did Obi-Wan learn to cook, then? Maul had stolen the witless padawan's dinners for Qui-Gon often enough to know that they'd never tasted like this. He would have thrown them back if they had.
"Where's the meat?"
"We don't believe in eating anything derived from the pain and suffering of living creatures," the mother said.
"Then what's the point?"
"If it really bothers you, we could buy some."
"And ruin it the way you did the soup!"
"I guess you're right. We're sorry."
Over the course of the meal, Maul had insulted the food, the Guinness, Maree-Jayn's looks, Shawn-Penn's sexual prowess, their home, their ancestors, and anything else he saw, but they just became more polite. It was sick! Finally, unable to take it anymore, he stormed away from the table and went to the guestroom. More bland earth tones. This would not do!
Music started to pound through the walls at high volume, and Obi-Wan recognized it as Ministry's "N.W.O." He kept his face carefully blank. Cuddles, in his favorite place, tucked into Obi-Wan's collar, shuddered and nosed his neck, tickling him.
"It's okay, baby," he whispered as he petted Cuddles. He had to find a way to boost the little guy's confidence that didn't involve spending the whole day in his collar, snuggled against his neck. Qui-Gon was starting to get jealous....
"Do you smell something burning, Maree-Jayn?" his Da asked.
"Yes, but first we must buy tuna and toys for this lovely kitten our boy brought home."
"And hamster pellets for Fluffi-Wan. Yes, that would be a good thing."
"Mr. Maul, could you please turn the music down a little?" the mother shouted through the door. Maul gave her the only answer possible, the only he'd been giving for days: he turned it up louder. If this went on, he wouldn't be able to take it any further. "That's okay too, Mr. Maul. If you want to, you can play Monopoly with us downstairs. Come down any time you want!"
Like hell he would open that door. He feared contamination.
He'd turned the music on loud the night he arrived and hadn't turned it off since. Speedmetal. Punk. Deathmetal. Industrial. He played Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey all the way through twice in a row just to see if they were paying attention. They only politely asked him to turn it down a little, then invited him to some odious family event.
He'd thrown his laundry out into the hall the first two days but promptly stopped when they'd returned it clean, pressed, and festooned with little perfumed notes of encouragement. He had to burn those clothes to dispel the aura of Jedi goodness arising from them!
They had to smell the burnt carpet odor since his first night and the rotting food smell coming under the door. Maul had taken to ordering pizza in, especially since you always got your pizza free if you scared the shit out of the delivery boys. It was easy too; you just had to jump out the second story window at them and growl. Obi-Wan's parents didn't say a word against it.
His rudest and nastiest behavior only provoked greater displays of kindness and politeness. Ignoring them only made them more voluble in their offers of hospitality and friendliness. They were too stupid to be offended! How could it be possible?
They were insane. One morning he watched them having their Christmas outside, shivering, in the snow, because they refused to cut down a living creature just for the holiday and plastic was not of the Force! They loved nature too greatly, they informed him through the door. Reverence for nature? Fear nature, for nature was not some warm and fuzzy thing but an overwhelming force of death and destruction that hated you! It spurned your love!
Nature was rather Sithly, actually.
No wonder Obi-Wan had grown to be such an insipid twit in this household. Only a strong soul could conquer such an environment, and Maul was that soul. He could survive a few days more of this, even if Mr. Whiskers and Fluffi-Wan didn't make things easier by bounding through the halls after one another at all hours. He could swear that hamster was strong in the Force somehow.
"Maul? You don't have to be shy. You're welcome downstairs. Maul?" Obi-Wan sounded almost forlorn. Eventually the twit left.
Shy? SHY? Maul had failed miserably!
Time to shift tactics. So, they only became more polite when faced with rudeness? Let's see what happened when you gave the little masochists a skewed taste of their own sweetness....
"Mr. Maul, could you--"
Maul opened the door with a smile that only faltered a little as he heard the putrid sounds of Neil Diamond wafting from downstairs. "Good morning, my most excellent hosts!"
Both of them this time, and the look of stunned surprise on their faces made them resemble sheep even more. "Good morning, Mr. Maul," the mother said. "About your music--"
"The traditional music of my people! We celebrate the holiday our own way." Stick that in your treasured open-minded Jedi inclusiveness! "It has to be played loudly. I trust it isn't too disturbing. The Zabrakian Blood Curse befalls those who fail to follow the ritual, but I would risk it for you, my hosts!" Maul hoped his face didn't crack from all the damned smiling.
But the guilt on their faces made it worth it. "Oh no, we wouldn't dream of it!"
"I want to thank you for telling me to make myself at home." Maul let the door swing open so they could get the full effect. Pizza and dirty laundry moldered in the corners. He rather liked the jagged stripes of blackened scorch he'd managed to create on the carpet and the walls, especially since he'd had to use his lighter alone. The room was buff and inoffensive no longer! "Likewise traditional!"
The rage and hate he felt in them made it all worthwhile. Then they went dead pale as they realized how close they'd come to the Dark Side. "Please excuse us, Mr. Maul." They dashed away in a panic.
The fun was just starting.
Hours later, Obi-Wan showed up at Maul's room looking flustered and tousled. Keeping the door open continued to pay off. Obi-Wan didn't look very surprised at the redecorating, but he knew how Maul usually lived. Maul fought to turn his leer into a malicious smile, failed, then gave up on it.
"Maul, do you have any idea why my parents are now housing an Xxatushian leper colony in my room? After that, Da went down to the pub, and Mam started knitting leper robes."
"No idea. Maybe some kind of Jedi penance? Though it looks like you're the one doing the repenting." Even if they didn't want to admit it. It seemed that the Kenobis understood passive-aggression after all.
Obi-Wan, of course, changed the subject. "Iggy and the Stooges and Megadeth are 'your people's' traditional music?"
Maul grinned. "Punks and metalheads are also my people!"
"Right. That would explain why you have to play it at earsplitting volume. I used to like Alien Sex Fiend's Curse before you blasted it three times in a row." He said the last sentence only half-jokingly.
Interesting. Frustration seemed to raise Obi-Wan's IQ and give him a bit of a spine. Who knew what he might become if he ever succumbed to the Dark Side?
"I get the feeling this isn't a casual visit. Are you having problems with the lepers?" Maul asked sweetly, the very picture of innocence if innocence ever had stained, jagged teeth and frightening red and black streaks tattooed over its body.
"Problems? No. Not at all," Obi-Wan said far too quickly. "I can deal with cleaning up after their... shedding. But one of the kids bit the heads off three of my favorite action figures and started to choke. I--"
"--let the wretched little creature expire from its own stupidity in vengeance for your vandalized property?"
Obi-Wan's guilty hesitation was deliciously long considering his usual Jedi ways. "Of course not!" He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up more. "Now I just need a moment of quiet to refortify my mind. Calm." A ripping sound dragged his attention away. He looked out into the hall and yelled, "Not Tuggles the Bear! Nooooooooo!"
Life was good. Maul listened to the chaos and Obi-Wan's protests next door for hours. When the crashing turned to chanting, Maul finally ventured forth in curiosity. He looked in and saw that the 50 tiny lepers had Obi-Wan gagged and trussed up in a fetal position on the carpet in front of the Habitrail as they bowed and scraped, singing, in front of the Fluffi-Wan in his giant plastic home. Mr. Whiskers was out cold and bound as well.
"Fluffi-Wan! Ohhhooohhhhhoohhhyaaaa! Fluffi-Wan! Ohhhooohhhhhoohhhyaaaa!"
The hamster's beady little eyes seemed to be sweeping the room and his worshippers, and finding it all good. He kept looking back at Cuddles as if waiting for applause and affirmation that he was, indeed, hot shit. Cuddles, though, seemed to be doing the hamster version of horror and pleading for Obi-Wan's life.
It wasn't the strangest thing Maul had ever seen. After all, he was Sidious' apprentice. The restraints in particular just made it another Saturday night for his Sith Lord master.
Only a Jedi would let himself be taken prisoner by a bunch of midget lepers just so he wouldn't hurt them! Hell, he probably figured he couldn't interfere in their religious devotions!
Maul took a moment to admire the padawan's firm ass, well displayed by his posture and positioning, and consider possibilities involving restraints for the little twit later before walking down to talk to the elder Kenobis. The trepidation in their bovine eyes as they saw him approaching warmed him.
"I would be greatly honored if you let Obi-Wan stay in my room. It's part of my people's tradition. Besides, it would give the lepers more space in his room."
"More tradition?" the father asked.
"Oh yes. This is where we turn down the music and demonstrate our loving fellowship." Maul just managed to turn the snigger into a sneeze.
"Could you excuse us a moment?" the mother asked.
They didn't leave the room quite far enough. "We can't let our boy live with that little degenerat... poor unfortunate!" the mother said.
"We already have him living with lepers," the father said. "Besides, it's traditional. And he'll turn the music down."
That seemed to convince her. "And Obi lives next door to him the rest of the year, so what harm could it do?"
They came back. "I'm sure Obi-Wan will be honored."
"Great, but you may have to stop the lepers from sacrificing him to one of his hamsters first."
"What? My baby!" the mother ran for the stairs. She looked back. "Come on, Shawn-Penn."
"But their religious observances...."
"Our son! Now move!"
Dazed, Obi-Wan stood near the door with a sleeping bag under his arm. Maul's mouth watered as he stared at the chafed marks on his wrists. Maul had sworn to himself that he'd never touch Kenobi again, but he had to do this. The thought of Obi-Wan's parents downstairs....
"I'm glad Mam showed up when she did. I don't know how long it would have taken for them to cut out my heart with that plastic spork," Obi-Wan said. He put the sleeping bag down. "I'm surprised about this though. I thought they wouldn't want us to sleep in the same room together."
Maul grabbed Obi-Wan by the hand and tongued one of the chafe marks. The padawan's eyes dilated.
"Who said anything about sleeping?"
"Peace at last." Shawn-Penn took the earplugs out. "See, I know that savag... that poor boy would come around sooner or later."
"But what's that thumping sound?" They looked at one another. "Under our roof! We should--"
"But it would be rude to interrupt, Maree-Jayn."
"Oh! You're right. We'll wait till they're... done."
Maree-Jayn gave her a husband a considering look. "I didn't think a man could go for twenty minutes."
"Never mind. We have to get up there and--" The thumping resumed. "For crying out loud!"
Finally: The door swung open from the Force, revealing a warm darkness broken only by glowing yellow eyes. "You're really considerate hosts. You don't want to see the Zabrakian Blood Curse at work. This part of the ritual should be done by the time we should be leaving to get back. Thanks!" The door slammed shut.
Day 7, home again:
"Maul, where's your rage and hatred?" Sidious demanded. "You should be a quivering ball of insanity now!"
Maul grinned maliciously. "You're the one who always wants me to get laid. Deal with it."