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Fifteen years ago, Feemor had disappeared for a week. He had returned to the Jedi Temple in a different ship than the one he'd left in and brought with him six younglings from Dathomir, three brothers -- Maul, Savage and Feral -- and three girls -- Asajj and the sisters, Naa'leth and Karis --, all of whom where Force sensitive.

However Feemor had convinced the Council to accept all six was beyond Obi-Wan, but Feemor had.

Fifteen years later and Maul had been Feemor's padawan for years. Not that it'd done anything for his temper.

"Look," Obi-Wan said. "I don't like Padawan Ventress either, but could you try not to antagonise her deliberately?"

"You do like her," Maul said. He leaned against the wall, forcing Obi-Wan to stop walking. "I'm not trying to antagonise her."

"Could have fooled me." Obi-Wan leaned against the wall next to Maul. Maul shrugged, miles and miles of black fabric whispering as he did. He let himself slide down the wall, the cloth draping itself over him until he disappeared entirely.

"Maul?" Obi-Wan knelt next to him.

The pile of fabric sighed dramatically. "Feemor says I should meditate more."

"Okay?" Obi-Wan really wasn't sure what to say to that -- 'sorry your Jedi Master is being like every Jedi Master ever and suggesting meditation as a cure-all'? He tried it.

The pile of fabric shivered, revealing Maul hiding a smile behind his hand. Obi-Wan took that as a victory.

"Let's go somewhere else," Obi-Wan said. "We'll get in trouble blocking the corridor."

"Yeah," Maul said. "Okay." He stood up. As he rose, his robes settled back around him and Obi-Wan could see him stand straighter, prouder as Maul settled back into himself.

They were already pretty deep in the bowels of the Temple, but there was still some foot traffic. As they'd unfortunately found out when they'd been found out. By Padawan Ventress, even.

They made their way deeper into the Temple. Obi-Wan took Maul's hand, navigating the many layers of fabric with the ease of long practice. Maul's smile this time was real and unhidden. Obi-Wan's answering smile was the same.

"Let's explore," Maul said.

Obi-Wan nodded. They turned left where they usually turned right. Obi-Wan didn't notice at first, but eventually the air did feel noticeably colder. He shivered. Maul draped the upper layer of his robes around Obi-Wan.

"Aren't you cold?" Obi-Wan asked.

"No."

Two levels down, Maul added, "It's kind of very warm, actually. Really, really weirdly warm."

Obi-Wan's teeth were shattering. Maul's hand was burning against his. They backed off until the temperature felt more like it should.

"What," Obi-Wan asked, "was that?"

"We're going to find out," Maul said. He began disrobing. He piled the black fabric on Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan snuck glances at Maul's bare torso even as he wrapped himself in Maul's robes. Maul was bigger than he was, but with his own robes on, Maul's robes fit.

Maul squared his shoulders and walked back in. It occurred to Obi-Wan that if he had believed in luck, he could have asked for a kiss. He sighed. One more missed occasion.

 

Still. He took Maul's hand in his and faced the unknown at his side.

And face the unknown they did.

Even past the temperature --whether heat or cold -- the air seemed to ooze with the same sort of, of, of whatever it was that glowed out of the walls. It stuck the skin, something like cold sweat, something like fear.

Maul snarled. With surprise, Obi-Wan found he was mirroring the expression himself. His face felt alien, like it belonged to another man. Someone angrier, more hateful. Cold. Calculating. Relentless. Ruthless. powerful.

"Obi-Wan," Maul said.

"What?" Obi-Wan snapped. The snarl on his face was deliberate now.

Maul didn't say anything. He put a hand on each side of Obi-Wan's face and leaned in until their foreheads touched. Warmth spread from the point of contact.

Obi-Wan's face relaxed, almost despite himself. His anger clawed at his heart with furious talons, his wrath wrapped around his mind like trip wire, but love flowed through him, like night chasing away the day and he felt stillness return inside his soul.

Maul's hand found its way to the back of Obi-Wan's head, pressing the two of them closer together.

Obi-Wan kissed him briefly and pulled back. "Thank you."

Maul pulled him closer and was silent.

"Maul? Are you --"

Maul kissed him, a half-crazed look in his eyes. "No. Yes. I have no idea." He smiled, vicious and bright. "What is this place? I want -- no. I need to know."

Obi-Wan felt the same way.

They set off down the corridor again.

Hate bubbled in Obi-Wan's heart. He was watching for it this time and so he was not surprised, but he was still affected.

So was Maul.

He slammed Obi-Wan against the wall, arm on his throat. Obi-Wan fumbled for his sabre. He stopped himself with his thumb halfway down the ignition button.

He took a deep breath. He took another and tried to Force Maul's breathing to match his. Maul exhaled in time with him. On the inhale, he pressed his arm further into Obi-Wan's throat then relented. He let go.

Obi-Wan wheezed. He put a hand on Maul's shoulder. He thumbed Maul's earring, grounding himself in the contrast between metal and skin.

Again, they returned to their journey.

The cold deepened. It dug into the layers Obi-Wan was wearing, slipping through folds of fabric like a worm burrowing in the earth. It hurt. It clawed within the skin, scraped at bone with teeth like vibroknives.

Maul staggered. Obi-Wan fell to his knees. His teeth rattled in his skull. His entire world was suffering. His blood beat at the inside of his veins, jackhammer thunder of pain.

He took one step forward. It was the hardest thing he had ever done. He tasted copper in his mouth and just like that the hurt was gone, leaving his ears ringing in the aftermath.

He stumbled against Maul and they both collapsed on each other. For an instant, they were content to breathe the same air.

Maul broke the silence. "This a Sith shrine."

"This is the heart of the Jedi Temple," Obi-Wan said. It wasn't a rebuttal, not exactly. Maul wouldn't have spoken if he hadn't been sure.

"We have to tell the Council."