“This is a stupid plan,” the even, polished voice of Knight Maul—now Commander Maul—greeted Ahsoka as she skidded into the briefing room, late. Or, given Maul’s words, exactly at the right time.
None of the beings gathered around the holotable—Master Plo, Master Obi-Wan, Skyguy, Knight Maul, Cody, Rex, Hel, Fives and Echo—turned to watch her come in. Fives winked at her, but he was the only one to react in any way.
“Want to repeat that?” her master growled, arms crossing over his chest. It was well-known in the Temple that Skyguy and Maul did not get along. Master Obi-Wan and Knight Maul were close friends and had been since they were Padawans, which made the situation all the more tense. Maul’s general blunt way of talking did not help—though it did make him a favorite of the younglings in the creche.
Maul hadn’t visited the creche in a long time.
On the other side of the holotable from her master, Maul kept his arms at his sides—probably in a conscious contrast to Anakin’s body language. The two really didn’t like each other.
“You’ve got a prison build to hold Jedi in Separatist hands, being used for its original purpose. The plans we have from the Archives date back from its building—and given that the Archives are compromised, we can not rely on their accuracy, even as old as they are. You want to go in, you personally, along with Obi-Wan and a handful of soldiers—only half of them being trained for infiltration—blind and with no other plan than ‘we fly in, we fly out.’ Backup is the 104th, who could very well be delayed in a number of ways to run backup or extraction. You want to fool the life-form scanners by using carbonite and having your personal astromech pilot a stolen Sep shuttle in without knowing their entry codes or frequencies.” Maul moved slowly, leaning both hands on the table. The holo in the middle cast blue light over his red and black skin. “Tell me exactly how handing the heads of the 212th, the 501th, their respective seconds in command, a High Council member and the leaders of the 3rd System Army to the Separatists on a silver platter is a good idea.”
Captain Hel, Maul’s second in command, did not move or say anything during his Jedi’s tirade. There seemed to always be a cloud of low grade anger hanging over the commando regardless of the events surrounding him, and today was no exception.
“We are rescuing Master Piell—“
“No at the expense of more strategic personnel! This is why we have Special Forces!”
“Unfortunately,” Master Plo interrupted smoothly before Maul and Skyguy jumped over the table and started to trade blows, “our teams are spread thin as it is.”
“I’m afraid I must agree with Maul’s assessment,” Master Obi-Wan said, and Ahsoka groaned internally. Skyguy was going to be insufferable. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a credit chit pass from Echo to Fives, and Cody make a one-handed hand-sign she was pretty sure wasn’t military. “We literally are going into it blind, and with several people with key positions in the army. However, we do not have the resources for another type of operation. And before you offer, Maul, I know exactly when you and your company came back. Running you ragged will result in nothing but more risk.”
Maul crossed his arms and did the impassible face thing she was sure he and Master Obi-Wan had learned from each other.
“So when are we going?” Ahsoka said. Now all eyes turned to her.
Master Obi-Wan cocked an eyebrow at Skyguy, his hand going to Maul’s shoulder. “I think you have things to talk about, Anakin.” Everyone but Skyguy left the room.
Later, when she snuck around to get into the mission regardless of her master’s ideas of appropriate times to learn, she saw Master Obi-Wan and Knight Maul embracing before Maul walked out of the hangar bay.
“A freezing river my dear, really?”
“I’m sorry, were you hoping to take on three battalions on your own?”
“I’m sure I could have squeezed that in between two cups of tea.”
“Good to see you again, General, Commander,” Cody said to the dripping, bickering Jedi. “The named three battalions were destroyed in the blast and the fall into the river, as far as we’ve been able to see so far.”
General Kenobi looked up from the river bank where he was currently trying to twist as much water as he could from his clothing. “So far?” he repeated. His lips were blue.
Cody frowned under his helmet, pinged the closest medic to get there faster. “Half the cliff went down, and it’s still going. The cloud of debris is too thick to recon properly for now. Claw Company reported cracks as far back as two klicks from the original radius.”
“Destabilized limestone. Kriff.” Commander Maul had walked a bit further up the bank than Kenobi, and apparently had stopped moving after sitting down and wrapping his arms around himself. The plate covering his abdomen—as Commander Maul was the only Jedi with enough sense to wear full armor adapted to his morphology and abilities—seemed cracked. Due to his coloring, Cody couldn’t see if the Commander was hypothermic as well, if he even showed the same physical reaction as full Humans.
Thankfully a medic showed up and distributed survival blankets, even in the face of Kenobi’s gentle “we have meditations to raise our body temperatures” pseudo-reassurances.
Cody insisted on retreating to their staging ground. With their main route cut and four of the alternative routes they had identified to cut Separatists troops from advancing and retaking the factory being dismantled, they had some time to recuperate. For once, Kenobi listened, even if he repeated he was fine to every suggestion of their medic to get to the temporary medbay.
Once back, Maul said: “I’ll take it from there, Commander. You have the comm.” He grabbed at Kenobi with the hand that wasn’t keeping the blanket in place to keep the Human at his side.
Cody probably wasn’t supposed to hear Commander Maul say “Come warm me up, you idiot” to his General, but if that was what worked to keep his General from freezing to death, he was all for it.
Mace watched Obi-Wan and Maul watch the footage recovered from the Devaron Temple and wished he could be as free with his horror as the two younger Jedi as the massacre unfolded in shades of blues. Yoda, at their sides, said nothing, kept looking.
The recording stopped on the unknown warrior’s last parry, leaving the facial markings and horns eerily similar to Maul’s in plain view. Obi-Wan blindly offered his hand. Maul took it. He was not wearing gloves that day; his knuckles appeared as pale knobs under stripped skin as he squeezed the Human’s hand, hard.
“There’s another—“ Maul cut himself off, his jaw playing under the skin.
“Confirmed that on Dathomir, Dooku was.” Yoda folded both hands over his cane. “From Dathomir also, this new opponent to be seems.”
“Ventress also has Dathomirian markers. Do you think Dathomir is— what, a training ground for Force-sensitive assassins?” Obi-Wan asked. He was as disturbed as Maul, Mace could feel in the Force, but hiding it better.
“The witches are not interested in the galaxy,” Maul said.
Mace frowned at him. Maul was not gifted with prescience like Obi-Wan—his skills laid primarily in telepathy and empathy. For Maul to sounds as assured as he had, it was probably more odd knowledge from his padawan years with Master Sifo-Dyas.
Mace often wished they knew what had happened to the man, if only to ask him in no uncertain terms what he had taught his Padawan—and where exactly he had found him.
“Travel to Dathomir, both of you must,” Yoda said. “Find the source of this threat, you will.”
“The witches will want nothing to do with either of us,” Maul replied. He still hadn’t looked away from the holo.
Mace found himself wanting to break that staring. He had a bad feeling about this. “How so?”
“We’re males. They’ll want nothing to do with us.” Maul finally looked up—both of Obi-Wan’s hands were on his, pressing hard. “Master Gallia or Aayla have better chances of not being shot on sight.”
Mace spent the rest of the day feeling like he had missed something in the exchange.
“I can explain.”
Timo thought the silence that followed those words would be best cut with a nice 20 points dead blade. Or a compact blast. Since his brother Hel had been made Captain and he and his brothers had integrated Claw Company under the leadership of Knight-slash-Commander Maul, they had had to learn new flavors of silence. There was “we didn’t lose anyone” silence, and “I’m going to eviscerate a normal-born Human” and “I’m going to kill a Sith,” where the difference was all in the tilt of the head and the darkening of Commander Maul’s pupils—naturally glowing gold eyes with night-time vision included, how cool was that—and the very important “I haven’t had caf yet” silence.
And then there was “General Kenobi fucked up” silence.
Hence the current moment. Because General Kenobi had fucked up: the scuttlebutt had ran fast on that one, carrying the news of the death of the Jedi, and then only a few days later the followup that it had all been a cover up.
Seeing how many of his brothers had reacted—Timo had contributed to the funds to get Commander Cody sloshed good and proper, it had been only right—and how his own Commander had reacted to his mess—talking even less than his usual, which made him and his brothers wonder if their CO was even there at times—Timo wondered how Kenobi would get the trust he had build since the start of the war back.
Commander Maul, his arms crossed, his face blank of emotions, kept staring at General Kenobi in the hangar bay of the Negotiator.
There were brothers standing back here and there, not even pretending to be working on the larties and speeders.
The ping of a helmet-to-helmet comm sounded in his helmet, followed by Maya’s voice: “Ten to one our Commander lays him flat.”
The following ping was followed by one of Toree’s audible sneers: “Ten to one he lays it on Kenobi with his mouth, and then we can go back to business as usual.”
Timo answered them both: “ ‘Afraid that’s going to take more than either of those solutions to get back to baseline.”
Timo never heard the explanation, as Maul and Kenobi left the deck to do that privately and Hel— the spoilsport—ordered him, Toree and Maya to the training rooms.
The next shift, Maul and Kenobi were seen eating in the mess at the same table, as was their usual. They never figured out who of Toree or Maya won that bet.
“While I’m very glad you are here, Knight Maul, I am sure this is overkill,” Senator Padmé Amidala said. She really was grateful that Claw Company and their commanding officer could escort her officially on such short notice, but surely her trip didn’t warrant such security.
Yes, she was meeting with former Separatist leaders now on the run with information vital to the war effort and the Republic, but—
Maybe she had let one of Anakin’s rant about Knight Maul color her judgment. The Jedi had had nothing but perfect manners, which she couldn’t say of all the Jedi she had encountered.
“The Dathomirian assassin is still at large, my lady, and given your ties to both Senate and Jedi, it was judged prudent to reinforce security.”
He kept pace with her easily, and like his men, the four Commandos in dark grey armor that seemed to always shadow him, he made no sound while walking. She dearly wanted to ask him—and them—to spar during the journey.
They made a striking picture in the Senate corridor, and she might have enjoyed the look of awe and discomfort on several faces a bit too much. Only a bit. It was high time Coruscant saw who was fighting for the Republic—that Maul was a Zabrak only reinforced the message. The Senate had taken a disturbingly Human-only bent on several occasions.
A greeting made them stop. “Senator Amidala, Commander Maul,” Senator Bail Organa called. Standing next to him as if they had just finished talking was Master Kenobi. In the exchange of greetings and disguised information that followed, Padmé noticed the looks the two Jedi sent each other, their closeness.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Knight Maul looked at each other like Anakin looked at her.
“Sand. That was your idea of a great place to be.”
Obi-Wan took Maul’s hand, pressing his lips to the black and red knuckles. “Sand and warmth. You won’t have to endure the horrors of cold weather.”
“We could have gone to Naboo. Deserts are freezing at night.”
“You’re absolutely right on that last point, which is why we’ll need to share body warmth.”
“Oh, so it was all a clever ploy to use me as your personal heater.” Maul took his hand back, tucked his layers more closely to his body, diminishing the chances sand and dirt would get through and inside his clothes.
Obi-Wan watched him. That, here, he could love—that he could watch his lover all his fill, without worrying about who would watch them in turn, who would see and ask questions. He could watch.
Maul looked up. His gold eyes seemed lighter than they had been in years. The impossible fondness Obi-Wan felt for him every time he saw Maul was rekindled all over.
He kissed Maul, with the desert for sole witness, and Maul kissed back.