“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Obi-Wan swore to himself. The fact that he swore at all, despite being alone, was a testament to just how exhausted he was. He’d spent his entire week-long stay on Joon Seconda so far chasing down Separatist spies, and the past twenty-four hours fighting off the strike force they’d somehow managed to smuggle on-planet. He’d sent a message to the Council for backup, but they’d cheerfully replied that they had their hands full, but were sure Obi-Wan had it handled. And true, he did, but the rest of his (very small) team had been needed to keep civilians out of harm’s way, which left Obi-Wan to single-handedly chase down every member of the annoyingly sneaky strike force through the network of service tunnels criss-crossing beneath Joon Seconda’s capital, and now, just when he thought that maybe, just maybe, he was finished and could head back aboveground for a good meal and a damn shower, the ominous sight and low hum of two familiar red lightsaber blades, accompanied by a glowing pair of yellow eyes, greeted him at the other end of the dim stone tunnel.
“Seriously?” Obi-Wan muttered, letting out a sigh that he categorically denied was a whine. “But I just fought you last month.” Darth Maul stepped forward into the faint pool of light cast by the only functioning wall light. His black markings stood out starkly against skin that looked more purple than red in the flickering light.
“Kenobi. We meet again.” Maul said. Obi-Wan sighed again, and reached for the lightsaber at his belt.
“Yes, hello Maul, nice to see you again, something something revenge, blah blah blah and all that.” Obi-Wan said, resignedly igniting his blade.
“Cut the chatter, Jedi, and let’s get this over with.” Maul said. He bent his knees and raised his saberstaff, assuming his usual ready position, clearly inviting Obi-Wan to attack first. In the light, Obi-Wan could see dark shadows around his eyes that had nothing to do with his black tattoos. His robes were disheveled, and his stance seemed heavier than normal. Maul was just as tired and strung-out as Obi-Wan was. The thought sent another wave of exhaustion through Obi-Wan, and suddenly, he was simply done. Too tired, that’s it, no more. Done.
“Can we just not do this right now?” he asked, turning off his lightsaber. He honestly didn’t care if Maul struck him down; at least then he wouldn’t have to move anymore.
“What?” Maul said, blinking.
“Look,” Obi-Wan said. “I’ve had a really long day. I’m tired. You’re tired. Can we just not fight right now? I’d much rather take a rain check.” He expected Maul to glare and attack. Instead, the Sith Lord narrowed his eyes and slowly straightened up, lightsaber still on but no longer raised. Force, he was actually considering this. Huh.
“But we’re already here.” Maul said. “It takes a lot of effort to track you down. I can’t just leave without fighting you. It would be a complete waste of effort.”
“Our fights never change anything, Maul.” Obi-Wan said. “We just meet up, talk shit to each other, bang lightsabers, and then leave and go about our business. It never makes a difference, so we might as well just not fight. At least not this time.”
“It’s not about changing the status quo, it’s the principle of the thing.” Maul said, and what the entire fuck, Obi-Wan actually had him arguing about the merits of having a nemesis. And here Obi-Wan thought that all he was capable of was shouting insults about revenge and growling.
“Well, we don’t have to fight to determine a winner for this little encounter.” Obi-Wan said, the spark of an idea forming in his head. A stupid, stupid idea, straight from the part of him that was more Anakin Skywalker than he’d ever willingly admit. Maul narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
“What did you have in mind?” he asked. In reply, Obi-Wan raised his hands, one flat and palm-up, the other in a fist a few inches above it. A universal offer recognized in schoolyards galaxy-wide. Maul gaped at him.
“Are you actually serious.” Maul said, once he’d found words. “Are you actually, genuinely, fucking serious right now, Kenobi.”
“Why not?” Obi-Wan said, which was the best defense he could think of. Oh, he hoped Anakin never found out about this, or he’d never hear the end of it.
“I am not playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who wins this fight, Kenobi!” Maul said, approaching a shout.
“But this is just so much easier!” Obi-Wan said. “Best out of three?” Maul seemed to struggle for words again, arguments being born and dying on his lips, until finally, he gave up, and sheathed his saberstaff.
“Fine.” he said, raising his own hands.
Obi-Wan won, two to one. Maul blinked owlishly at Obi-Wan’s rock crushing his scissors, seemingly at a loss for what to do next.
“Well, that’s that then.” Obi-Wan said, tension he hadn’t realized was there draining out of his shoulders. He stepped over to the edge of the tunnel and sank to the ground, resting his back on the wall. “Force, I’m tired.” He hadn’t even had time to eat that day, much less sleep. Maul came over and sat next to him. A sigh escaped his lips as he leaned against the wall. Obi-Wan hadn’t been wrong; Maul was clearly spent.
“So.” the Sith Lord said.
“So.” Obi-Wan echoed.
“What happens now?” Maul asked. “Are you just going to kill me, or...?”
“Force no.” Obi-Wan said. “That’s not what I’d do if I beat you in a fight, not unless I had to.”
“Bullshit.” Maul said. Obi-Wan turned to look at him, raising his eyebrows. Maul scoffed. “You literally cut me in half on Naboo, moron.”
“But you survived that.”
“Oh, so cutting someone in half is something you expect people to survive, then. Good to know the Jedi have such a wide definition of not killing people.”
“Ok, in my defense, I was kind of mad at the time, and besides, you don’t get to guilt trip me about cutting you in half. You’d literally just murdered my master!”
“Oh, is that who that was? He fought so incompetently I thought he must be the janitor or something.”
“Now you’re just being an asshole.” Obi-Wan said. He knew he should be mad at Maul’s insult to Qui-Gon, but he was just too tired to summon any ire, and besides, it had been years since Naboo, and Maul insulted either him or Qui-Gon every time they met, and Obi-Wan had fought Maul often enough to know that the insults meant that Maul had simply run out of other things to say. Obi-Wan sighed, “And anyway, I’m too tired to kill you.” Maul didn’t seem to have a good reply to that.
Obi-Wan and Maul sat in silence for a few minutes, exhaustion seeping into their bones. Eventually, Maul stirred beside him.
“So what do we do now, Kenobi? Do we just part ways until next time?” Obi-Wan’s stomach growled. Exhaustion and hunger was making him reckless and he knew it, but he couldn’t summon the energy to stop himself as words fell out of his mouth, driven by impulse.
“Do you want to get some food?”
Maul looked at him for a moment, his expression unreadable.
“Yeah, ok.” he said.
Sith Hells, he really hoped Anakin never found out about this. Obi-Wan walked down a semi-busy street in the gathering twilight, Darth Maul at his side, hood drawn up and eyeing everyone they passed as though they might all be assassins in disguise. Maul positioned himself so that Obi-Wan was between him and the majority of the people on the street. The city wasn’t a large one, so they could see a few stars above and the buildings around them were only ten or twenty stories high. The street level was dotted with food carts, filling the air with a dizzying array of smells. Joon Seconda was a bit of a cultural hub, and the wide array of food available reflected that. Obi-Wan steered them away from a cart selling Mandalorian chili: just walking past it made his eyes water and he wanted to eat food, not end up in the hospital, thank you very much.
“Any preferences?” he asked his companion. Maul shrugged, still casing the street like someone was going to quiz him on the best place to ambush someone or something. But Obi-Wan was curious; now that he had the chance, he wanted to know what kind of food a Sith Lord ate. “Spicy? Bland? Noodles?” he asked. “Soup? Meat? Vegetables? What kind of food do you like?” Maul shrugged again.
“I don’t care.” he said.
“What do you normally eat?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Whatever’s put in front of me.” Maul answered.
“Fine.” Obi-Wan made a decision. “We’re eating here.” He stopped them in front of a Vitookan cuisine stand with only a few people in line. Maul didn’t seem to be comfortable with the crowd, so Obi-Wan wanted to avoid making him be near too many other people. Nervous and Sith Lord seemed like a dangerous combination. He contemplated the short menu holo-projected into the air above the stand.
“What are you getting?” he asked Maul. Maul had made it clear that Obi-Wan was paying, since, quote: “this was your idea in the first place, dumbass”.
Maul shrugged again. “Just choose something for me. I don’t know what half this stuff is.” It looked like he was simultaneously trying to vanish into his hood and intimidate the entire planet by glaring at the same time. Obi-Wan ordered a noodle soup for himself, and after some consideration, an all-meat kebab for Maul. Judging by his pointed teeth, his species was probably primarily carnivorous. The vendor handed Obi-Wan their food wrapped in flimsifoil, and Obi-Wan left a generous tip in the jar.
“Come on.” he said to Maul, and led them down an ally to a quieter street where they sat on a couple of crates by the backdoor of a stained durasteel building. Maul positioned himself sitting cross-legged on one of the crates with his back to the wall, and Obi-Wan between him and the busier street they’d come from. Obi-Wan handed Maul his food and he took it, sniffing it suspiciously.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s a kebab. Not quite sure what the meat is, though.” Obi-Wan said.
“Kebab.” Maul repeated quietly to himself. Had Maul seriously never had a kebab before?
“Just eat it, it’s good.” Obi-Wan said, starting in on his own food. Maul gave the kebab another suspicious glance, then carefully bit into a chunk of meat, pulling it off the skewer and chewing it. He seemed to like it well enough, or at least be convinced that it wasn’t going to attack him, because he kept eating without protest. Obi-Wan took all of five minutes to demolish his soup. Maul ate more slowly, almost methodically.
“How was your food? Taste good?” he asked when Maul was finished.
“It was... adequate. I suppose it tasted good.” Maul answered. In any other person, that reply would have meant that they hated it and were trying to be nice about it, but Obi-Wan got the sense that Maul had genuinely liked it and was perplexed by that fact.
“Have you never had a kebab before?” Obi-Wan asked.
“No.” Maul shook his head. “I usually just eat ration bars because they’re the cheapest. That’s what my master would give me when I was growing up. When he remembered to feed me, anyway.”
“Your master let you starve because he forgot to give you food?” Obi-Wan asked, partially incredulous, partially horrified.
“I didn’t starve.” Maul shrugged, apparently unperturbed at recounting what Obi-Wan was just realizing had probably been a horrifically abusive childhood. “There’s rats on almost every planet, so I could always find something.” Obi-Wan stared at Maul, mouth agape. Maul had grown up eating rats. Maul’s master had never fed him proper food, when he remembered to feed him at all.
“Ration bars and rats? That’s awful.”
“I had other food. Sometimes, if I performed well enough, I was allowed to cook what I caught.” Maul seemed completely oblivious to Obi-Wan’s horror at his childhood. Obi-Wan was struggling with whether he should point out that cooked rats didn’t count as “other food” when Maul spoke again.
“I suppose the Jedi fed you every day, right? Made you soft.”
“Of course they fed me every day!” Obi-Wan cried. “Three times a day!” Maul frowned, as if trying to work out why someone would want to feed a child three times a day, then nodded slowly.
“I suppose that gives them more leverage to punish you. They can take more away when you fail.” Maul said, because of course he’d make the most horrific assumption possible.
“No! That’s not- you don’t deprive children of food just because they mess up!” Obi-Wan was appalled. “If we misbehaved, they might take away dessert, but not a meal!” Maul scoffed at the concept of “dessert”. Obi-Wan was suddenly wishing he’d bought Maul more food.
“Eating food just because it tastes good only makes you weak.” Maul said, as calmly as if he was saying that push-ups make you strong. Obi-Wan struggled to wrap his brain around Maul’s childhood. If eating cooked food had been a reward, what awful things must have been used as punishments? What kind of a person would do that to a child? Wait, this meant that Maul had been raised as a Sith. He’d always sort of assumed that Maul had joined the order as a young adult, like the Fallen Jedi that they learned about in history classes, but here Maul was just casually saying that his master had raised him, raised him in the Dark Side of the Force, shit, what must that do to a child? With a dawning sense of horror, Obi-Wan realized something else.
“Does that mean you’ve never had ice cream?” he said.
“What’s ice cream?” Maul asked. Obi-Wan sputtered, trying to find the words to articulate the utter unfairness of Maul’s life.
“It’s... it’s ice cream! I can’t believe you’ve never experienced ice cream.” Obi-Wan came to a decision. He stood up and balled up his trash, throwing it uncaringly over his shoulder. He’d feel guilty about littering later; this was an emergency. Maul looked confused.
“This will not do.” Obi-Wan declared. “You are missing out on a vital life experience if you’ve never had ice cream. I don’t care if you’re my enemy, I won’t allow this injustice to stand. Come on, we’re getting you ice cream.” He grabbed Maul by the arm, ignoring a startled hiss of protest, and dragged him off.
Maul eyed the paper cup on the table in front of him as if it were a bomb.
“Is it supposed to be cold?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s supposed to be cold, it’s ice cream.” Obi-Wan said. He’d found a tiny ice-cream shop on the ground floor of one of the buildings. Since it was autumn on Joon Seconda, there were only a few other customers there, and Obi-Wan had bought Maul a small serving of vanilla (a fairly safe choice, he thought), and himself a strange local flavor he’d never tried before, and sat Maul down with his back to a wall, facing the exits, and was currently trying to persuade the reluctant Sith Lord to eat his ice cream.
“I don’t see the purpose of making it cold.” Maul said. “It doesn’t add any nutritional content, it just makes it solid. Why not drink it warm?”
“Because that would be disgusting.” Obi-Wan told him. “It’s supposed to be cold; it tastes better that way. And you certainly don’t eat ice cream for the nutritional content.” Maul glowered at Obi-Wan.
“Eating food just because it tastes good only makes you-”
“No, it doesn’t.” Obi-Wan cut him off. “Stop spouting nonsense and just try it.”
“I don’t see how this is a vital life experience.” Maul grumbled, but took a tiny spoonful. He reluctantly placed it in his mouth, then immediately coughed and spat it back out.
“Oh, for crying out loud, don’t be disgusting.” Obi-Wan said, grabbing a napkin and mopping up the mess.
“It’s sweet.” Maul said, as if this were a grave personal offense. “Are you trying to poison me, Kenobi?”
“It’s supposed to be sweet, you idiot.”
“It’s probably at least half sugar. I hate sugar.” Maul pushed the ice cream away and crossed his arms. “I’m not eating it.”
“You hardly even tried it.” Obi-Wan said. He should have considered that something like ice cream might be overwhelmingly sweet to someone who lived on ration bars and rats. “You’ll get used to the sugar.”
“I don't like it. I won’t eat it.” Maul said. Obi-Wan was irresistibly reminded of Anakin, who had absolutely refused to eat anything green until he was fourteen.
“Just eat half of it, and if you still don’t like it, I won’t make you finish the rest.” Obi-Wan said, accidentally slipping into the script he’d played out countless times with his padawan. You’d think that children who grew up scrounging for scraps would eat anything they could get their hands on, Obi-Wan thought, but Maul and Anakin both showed remarkable resistance to eating perfectly normal, tasty food.
“You can’t make me do anything, Jedi.” Maul hissed. It would have been intimidating if it weren’t about eating ice cream, of all things.
“I won the rock-paper-scissors, so you have to eat the ice cream.” Obi-Wan said, well aware that they’d agreed to no such thing.
“You like it so much, why don’t you eat it?” Maul said.
“Because I didn’t buy it for me to eat, I bought it for you to eat. Just eat half of it, and I’ll shut up.” Obi-Wan pushed the ice cream back across the table. Maul glared at him, but picked up his spoon and began to eat, taking absurdly tiny bites. Which was probably a good thing, Obi-Wan thought, as he started into his own ice cream. If Maul got brain freeze he’d probably think Obi-Wan was trying to kill him. Maul glared at him the entire time he ate, growling under his breath in a language that Obi-Wan didn’t speak. He ate precisely half of his ice cream, then shoved the rest towards Kenobi, who happily finished it off along with his own. They stood and left in silence. Obi-Wan noticed Maul licking his spoon before throwing it away.
They left the shop. Night had truly fallen, and the streets were starting to clear, the diurnal Joonans heading to bed. It was early yet for all but the earliest of nocturnal risers. There was a slight breeze, but not enough to chill them. Maul seemed content to walk beside Obi-Wan in silence. Not knowing where else to go, Obi-Wan retraced their path to the service building they’d exited the tunnels from. When they reached the dilapidated structure, they stopped, and Obi-Wan cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Well, that was certainly more pleasant than fighting.” he said. Maul made a noise that might have been agreement. “If you ask me, we should just skip the fighting altogether every time.” He tried a smile. Maul’s face was impossible to make out, the depths of his hood and the dim street lighting obscuring his expression in shadow. Only his eyes were visible, glinting gold. They were narrowed in some expression that may or may not have been a smile. Maul huffed out a breath.
“Don’t count on it, Kenobi.” he said. “Who knows, I might not be tired next time.” He turned and began to leave. “See you around, Kenobi.” he said over his shoulder.
“See you around, Maul.” Obi-Wan replied. He stood there for a minute more after Maul faded into the darkness, mind buzzing with feelings that he couldn’t quite identify.
Obi-Wan was beginning to regret his life choices.
“I’m beginning to regret my life choices,” he said, the humid air clinging to his skin and the sight of the ravine dropping away beneath him making his stomach roil. His face was damp, as much due to nervous sweat as to the humidity.
Next to him, Maul grinned, a terrifying expression that managed to show off every single one of his pointed canines.
“Remember, you agreed to this, Kenobi.”
“Yes, but I didn’t think you’d make me jump off a bridge!” Obi-Wan definitely didn’t shriek. The rusted metal footbridge they stood on spanned a greenery-covered canyon that had to be at least five hundred feet deep. Obi-Wan could just see the glint of a river at the bottom through the low-hanging clouds of the rainforest planet they were on. The bridge itself hadn’t been used- or repaired- in decades at least, and Obi-Wan was half-worried that it would collapse under them before he even had to jump.
“Turnabout’s fair play, Jedi.” Maul said, looking positively gleeful. How he could stand the heat wearing his usual layers of black robes, Obi-Wan had no idea.
“How in the Sith Hells is this fair?!” Obi-Wan said. “I made you eat ice cream! You’re making me commit suicide!”
“And here I thought you were all about new life experiences, Kenobi!” Maul said. He was mocking him, the bastard. Obi-Wan took back every sympathetic thought he’d ever had about Maul; the Sith Lord truly was evil to the core.
“This isn’t a new life experience, this is a life-ending experience!” Obi-Wan protested. “I absolutely refuse to go through with his!”
“You’re missing out on a vital life experience if you’ve never been bungee jumping.” Maul quoted back at him, his eyes wide with sincerity. The effect was ruined by his predatory grin. “Besides, you did agree.” Kenobi made a frustrated noise that might have been halfway to a terrified wimper. He had agreed. When Obi-Wan had been separated from his unit in the forest and had stumbled across Maul, doing who knows what on this overheated hellhole, they had both agreed that it was too hot to properly fight. Obi-Wan had (somewhat facetiously) offered rock-paper-scissors again, and two poor tactical choices later, found himself with the business end of Maul’s lightsaber at his throat.
“You know, just because you won doesn’t mean you have to kill me,” he had said, cursing himself for a complete idiot. “I mean, I bought you dinner last time.” Maul had narrowed his eyes, considering.
“I suppose I don’t have to kill you.” he said. “But if I don’t, you have to agree to do something just as unpleasant as that ice cream. My choice.”
Obi-Wan was beginning to think that Maul had decided to kill him after all, and had just chosen a more roundabout way of doing it. The harness he was strapped into was faded and old, and he was fairly sure he’d seen Maul wipe a spot of rust off the carabiner when he’d clipped it to the railing. His ankles were bound tightly, clipped to the elastic rope that was attached to the bridge.
“Is this thing even safe?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Yes.” Maul replied. “Probably.” He added. “At least, it was the last time I used it.”
“Do I even want to know when that was?” Obi-Wan groaned.
“It wasn’t that long ago. Only twenty years. Maybe twenty-five.” Obi-Wan attempted to glare at Maul, who simply grinned back. Obi-Wan felt a bit foolish for attempting to out-glare the undisputed master of glares. Maul had to be joking. Right? Did Maul joke? Was a sense of humor part of Sith Lord training?
“Why were you even bungee jumping in the first place?” he asked. Maybe if he could distract Maul, he wouldn’t have to go through with this.
“Training.” Maul said, simply. Obi-Wan frowned. What kind of training...? “And you’re stalling.” Maul added. “Get on with it.” Obi-Wan felt a most un-Jedi like hatred towards Maul. He took a deep breath and shuffled to the edge of the bridge where the railing had been removed, the toes of his boots hanging in thin air. He swallowed as he looked down. Which, bad choice. He looked back up and over his shoulder to where Maul was standing behind him.
“Alright, but first, I really think we should-” Obi-Wan started, before Maul planted his boot in the small of Obi-Wan’s back and shoved him to his doom. His aborted “think this through” turned into an incoherent scream as he plummeted towards the river below him, chased by what he was almost certain was laughter from the Sith Lord still on the bridge.
Several terrifying minutes later, the bouncing had mostly stopped and Obi-Wan’s heart slowed from a careening gallop to a sedate desperate canter, and he was calm enough to think something other than oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Namely, he could think on just how much he resented Darth Maul, and how the Sith Lord seemed even more determined than Anakin to end his life via premature heart failure. But Anakin’s never this bad, Obi-Wan thought. At least Anakin never kicked him off of bridges; he was polite enough to give Obi-Wan heart attacks by proxy and keep the leaping from insane heights for himself.
There was a clatter as a rope with a carabiner on the end dropped from above. Remembering Maul’s instructions, Obi-Wan clipped it to his harness and waited as Maul kicked to life the ancient motor of the crank bolted to the deck of the bridge, slowly raising him back up.
By the time he was back at the top, dangling by the ankles from the rusted boom arm that swung out over the edge, his head was aching from the blood pooling in his skull and he was fuming instead of terrified. He folded his arms and fixed Maul with a Look. Maul, completely unaffected, smirked back at him.
“Have fun?” he said.
“I most certainly did not.” Obi-Wan said. He was well aware of the fact that his “I am disappointed in your actions” look was being undermined by the fact that he was dangling upside down, his face no doubt bright red from the blood rush. “I hate you. I hope you are aware of that fact.”
“Shame.” Maul said. “I was hoping a bit of adrenaline might get the stick out of your ass.” Obi-Wan sputtered in surprise.
“I do not have a stick up my ass.” he said, as Maul swung the boom arm around and lowered him to the surface of the bridge.
“Yes you do.” Maul said. “You’re mister Perfect Jedi, always going on about your Code and your Council. I thought pushing you off a bridge would do you some good.”
“Next time, just kill me.” Obi-Wan said, staring at the cloudy sky as the blood slowly re-entered his lower half. “It’ll be easier for both of us.” Maul let out a bark of laughter.
“Not a chance, Kenobi. Just the look on your face was worth it. Now come on, it’s my turn.” He stripped the harness from Kenobi and strapped himself in, neglecting the ankle tether and clipping the bungee to the body harness. With a grin and a sarcastic wave, he took a running start and dove from the bridge. As his wild yell faded into the ravine, Obi-Wan thought that this was the first time he’d seen Maul actually enjoying himself. Granted, that came directly at Obi-Wan’s expense, but still. The memory of Maul’s sharp laugh echoed in his mind. Maybe bungee jumping wasn’t so bad after all.
“Welcome back, Master.” Anakin greeted Obi-Wan as he finally trudged back into their camp that evening. He changed his mind; bungee jumping was awful. Maul had made him go three times. THREE. He wasn’t sure his heart rate would ever make it back to normal. Obi-Wan put on a weary smile for his former padawan and headed towards where he could smell food cooking.
“Are you alright?” Anakin asked him, hurrying alongside. “We couldn’t contact you on the comms, and I thought I felt something through the bond, but we were too far apart. It felt like you were in danger.” Obi-Wan sighed. He didn’t particularly feel like telling Anakin about Darth Maul; he certainly wasn’t going to tell him that he was solving his disputes with Sith Lords with rock-paper-scissors. He didn’t want to give Anakin any.... ideas.
“I ran into an.... enemy.” he told Anakin. “Who pushed me off a bridge. No worries, I’m fine, though.”
“Did you get him, Master?” Anakin asked. Of course that’s what he was worried about.
“No, I did not.” Obi-Wan said, thinking resentfully of a laughing Sith Lord and the way his tattoos stretched around his mouth when he grinned.
“That’s too bad. You’ll just have to find that guy again and get him back, Master.” Anakin said. “Payback, and all.”
“Oh I will, Anakin.” Obi-Wan said, ideas already forming in his head. “Believe me, I will.”
Obi-Wan deliberately made himself easy to find after that, broadcasting his movements on the holo-net and lingering longer than was strictly necessary on various planets and moons. It took Maul three weeks to find him again, on a bustling deep-space station, formerly a prison colony, currently a thriving city. Obi-Wan had brushed up on his rock-paper-scissors tactics (or just gotten lucky), and had dragged Maul to the nearest bakery, where they now sat, the Sith Lord looking shocked and a little bit scared at the plate of cookies in front of him.
“Why.” he said.
“Because you’ve never had a cookie before.” Obi-Wan answered. It was true. Also, he wanted to make Maul suffer, just a little bit, for the bridge thing. If that suffering came hand-in-hand with introducing Maul to the amazing invention that was cookies, well, that was just bonus points.
“Whhhyyyyyy.” Maul said again.
“Probably because you had an awful childhood.” Obi-Wan said. “Now eat. You have to; I won.”
“Last time you at least got me good food first.” Maul muttered under his breath as he picked up the blandest and most innocuous-looking cookie. He regarded the unfortunate pastry as if it had personally insulted him.
“I’m a Zabrak. We’re not designed to eat this... processed wheat.”
“Zabrak? Where are you from?” Obi-Wan asked, momentarily distracted by curiosity about Maul’s past.
“Dathomir. At least, that’s what my master told me.” Maul said. “I shouldn’t be required to eat this.”
“Have you ever been to Dathomir?” Obi-Wan asked him.
“No.” Maul replied.
“Then you don’t know if your people eat cookies.” Obi-Wan said. “Maybe they eat cookies on Dathomir all the time.” Maul fixed him with a sharp glare.
“I hate you.”
Obi-Wan smiled at him, which only made Maul glare harder. “Good for you. You still have to eat at least three of these.”
Maul swiped Obi-Wan’s canteen on the way out of the bakery, rinsing out his mouth repeatedly. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes.
“Stop being dramatic, they weren’t that bad.” Maul had eaten exactly three cookies, bitching the entire time, and had slipped a fourth one into his pocket when he thought Obi-Wan wasn’t looking.
“Yes they were.” Maul insisted. “Disgusting wheat by-products.” he muttered to himself. He was stubborn, like Anakin, who would cling to a point he was trying to make long after he was proved wrong.
“You know,” Obi-Wan said, without thinking. “You remind me of my former padawan sometimes.” Maul stopped walking. Obi-Wan cursed himself- comparing a Sith Lord to a Jedi had to be insulting. Maul didn’t explode, but he had on that implaccable mask that made it impossible for Obi-Wan to tell what he was thinking. After a beat of silence, Maul started walking again.
“Your padawan?” he asked, his voice giving no more away than his face.
“Yes, his name’s Anakin.” Obi-Wan said. “He’s a great kid, really. Well, not so much kid anymore. He’s a full Jedi in his own right now. All grown up and leading armies.” Maul was still silent. “I just, you reminded me of him because you both can be really...” he struggled to think of an appropriate word. “Strong-headed.” Well, that probably wasn’t it. Maul didn’t react; he just walked alongside Obi-Wan. Whatever thoughts swirled behind his tattooed face were undetectable.
Obi-Wan lead them to a nearby park, where the ground was terraformed with turf and plants from nearby Alderaan, and the top of which was open all the way to the hull of the station. He didn’t want to part from Maul just yet; he had nothing but paperwork waiting for him back where his unit was stationed, and he’d found that he liked spending time with someone who didn’t expect him to be responsible for things all the time. Nevermind that that someone was his sworn enemy whom he was probably supposed to be capturing right now.
Maul was silent most of the way to the park. He spoke when they stepped onto the grass, Obi-Wan leading them to the base of a nearby tree.
“Tell me about him.” he said.
“Hmm?” Obi-Wan said, not fully paying attention.
“Your apprentice. Tell me about him.” Maul said.
“Oh.” Obi-Wan sat down at the base of the tree, leaning against the trunk and leaving Maul space so that he could sit next to him and be able to see the nearby path populated by strolling elders and families.
“Well, Anakin, he’s.... completely reckless, for one.” he said, as Maul took the offered spot. His hood was drawn up the way it always was in public, but he leaned forward enough that Obi-Wan could see the edge of his face. “Stubborn, too. Sometimes he can be a complete ass. So I suppose you have that in common, as well,” he teased. Maul nodded, but otherwise did nothing. “He’s loyal to his friends. He’s got an incredible sense of dedication, and if he puts his mind to it, he can do anything, no matter how ridiculous or impossible.”
Obi-Wan smiled, memories of Anakin’s apprenticeship floating to the surface. “When he was nine or so, one of the younglings in the temple lost her favorite stuffed toy. She’d left it on a transport ship after a field trip off-world, and Anakin came to me and asked if we could call the ship back. I told him we couldn’t, because the ship was on contract and had already left for a different system, and that it was too bad, but probably a good lesson in letting go of attachments or some such nonsense. Anakin said ‘yes, Master’, and went to his room. I hadn’t had him for that long, and I was pretty inexperienced myself, so I hadn’t yet learned that ‘yes, Master’ always means trouble.” Obi-Wan chuckled.
“When I went to fetch him for dinner, Anakin wasn’t there. Bedtime, he wasn’t there. Breakfast the next morning, still no Anakin. I had the entire Jedi Order scouring every inch of the Temple for that boy. He turned up the next day, escorted by a couple of flight attendants, and holding that girl’s stuffed toy. He’d snuck on board the next transport out- he even stole Master Windu’s system password to figure out the right ship to get on- and reverse engineered the flight plans of the entire Greater Coruscant system to figure out a series of flights that would land him at the same transfer hub at the same time as the ship that took the younglings on the field trip. He stowed away on three different flights. Three! And he didn’t get caught once. He found the right ship, found the girl’s toy, then got off and walked up to the flight desk and said “Hi, I’m a Jedi and I’m lost.” Obi-Wan shook his head.
“He did all that without a second thought, just to make one little girl stop crying. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell him off for it.” He glanced over at Maul, who was gazing at him steadily. He still said nothing, so Obi-Wan kept talking. He so rarely got to brag about his apprentice; he’d take an opportunity when it was handed to him.
“Anakin’s also whip-smart. He learns lightsaber forms so fast. Picks up new tricks like that-” Obi-Wan snapped his fingers. “-though I can’t get him to stop showing off when he duels. He likes to do silly dramatic things like a jumping riposte to the back, or around the back of his head. He’s going to get himself killed doing something ridiculous in a fight someday. Or just something ridiculous in general. He once leapt out of a speeder fifty lanes high during Coruscant’s rush hour to follow a possible assassin. I swear he lives just to give me heart attacks.” Obi-Wan shook his head again.
“He was the first of his age group to pass the flight simulator test. And he beat my high score while he was at it. And he already leads his own squadron, and does a damn fine job. He’s always right there in the thick of it with them. One time he snuck behind enemy lines to take out a shield generator to save our heavy cannons from a droid attack. I’m so damn proud of that boy.” Obi-Wan said. “He’s grown up into the best Jedi knight I’ve ever seen. He even has a padawan of his own know, as if I needed the extra stress.” He laughed.
Finally, Maul spoke.
“He sounds.... Interesting.” he said. “Is he better than you?”
“Better than me? How so?”
“A better knight than you. Better swordsman.”
“Oh, most certainly. Better Jedi, and swordsman both. I mean, sure, he has his flaws, but don’t we all. And he’s growing all the time. There’s not much left for me to teach him, honestly. Besides maybe patience.” Obi-Wan let a proud smile creep onto his lips. “I have no doubt that Anakin will do great things, and be remembered as one of the greatest Jedi Knights in history.”
Maul nodded, taking in Obi-Wan’s words.
“When do you think he’ll kill you?” he asked, and Obi-Wan choked on nothing.
“What?!” he asked.
“When do you think he’ll kill you? You said he was better than you; I’m surprised he hasn’t tried already.”
“Anakin would never try to kill me! Why would he try to kill me? I’m his master! He’s my padawan!” Maul gave him a look that said that Obi-Wan was being dense, but Obi-Wan was completely lost.
“Because you’re his master, and he’s your padawan.” Maul said slowly, like he was explaining something simple to a child.
“Jedi knights don’t just kill their masters.”
“How else do they prove themselves as worthy Jedi?”
“By passing the Trials! By being, you know, a good Jedi.” Maul looked, if anything, confused. Obi-Wan was struggling to comprehend what it was that Maul didn’t get. “Going on missions and upholding the Code and being a good example to the younglings, things like that.”
Maul sat back against the tree, a slight frown on his face. “My master said the Jedi Order was weak, but I had no idea it was that weak.”
“How exactly is it a weakness that we don’t all kill our masters?” Obi-Wan asked, exasperated.
“Well,” Maul frowned. “If you don’t kill your master, how do you know that your master isn’t going to kill you? How do you know who is your ally, and who is your enemy? How do you trust each other if you don’t prove your strength and put the weaker ones in their place?”
“Because it doesn’t matter who’s stronger than who! Normal people don’t go around attacking people to get what they want!”
“So how do you get what you want, then?”
“By asking nicely?” Obi-Wan said incredulously.
“Asking nicely.” Maul repeated flatly, as if it were the most absurd thing he’d ever heard. “So you’re telling me that you all just... blindly trust each other not to attack you? Not to kill you when you get mad? What the hell do you do when you argue, then? With the Sith, you know who will attack you and who won’t, because either you’re strong enough to defeat someone, or you’re not, and if you are, you do. You can trust your underlings not to kill you because you know they can’t, and they know they can’t. And you can trust your master not to kill you because he knows you can’t kill him, and as long as you’re useful, he’ll keep you around.” His voice had gone quiet. Obi-Wan looked at him. Maul had pulled his knees to his chest, resting his arms on them and gazing off somewhere in his own head.
“Would you kill your master, if you had the chance?” Obi-Wan asked softly.
“Yes.” Maul said, immediately. Obi-Wan didn’t know how to reply to that. Maul shifted next to him and rested his chin on top of his arms. “I’m not useful anymore.” he said, so quietly that Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if he was supposed to have heard.
“Maul?” he asked. “Are you...?”
“I’m not useful anymore, Kenobi.” Maul said, definitively, like a declaration. He turned his head and fixed Obi-Wan with his golden stare. “I failed my master on Naboo. I wasn’t strong enough. Wasn’t good enough. That’s why he didn’t come back for me.” His tone was controlled, almost calm. There was something dark in his voice, though, that Obi-Wan couldn’t quite identify. Anger? Pain? Grief?
“How did you survive Naboo?” Obi-Wan asked. He didn’t add after I cut you in half.
“Spite.” Maul said. "I kept myself alive purely out of spite. I hated you. And I hated my master. I ended up on Lotho Minor. I was there for.... A long time. I lost myself, I think. I just remember knowing that I had to survive, because I had to find you and make you suffer for making me fail my master. I was going to find you, hurt you, destroy everything you loved and make you watch. And then I would return to my master and show him what I had done, prove that I was worthy of being his apprentice. That’s why I stayed alive- to get back at you, and prove my master wrong.”
Obi-Wan was quietly stunned at Maul’s openness. How utterly alone must Maul feel if he was sharing this with his enemy? Feeling like he was stepping through a minefield, he spoke.
“And now? Do you still want to do that?”
Maul closed his eyes and sighed. Obi-Wan sensed years of exhaustion in the breath leaving his lips.
“I don’t know.” he said. “You’re damn hard to get to, Kenobi, and I just don’t.... it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I gave up on making you suffer years ago, but even just killing you is a lot of effort.” Maul gave Obi-Wan a half-smile, but then his face darkened. “Besides, I don’t want Master to take me back anymore. I hate him, and I hate what he’s taken from me. I don’t need him anymore, and if I see him again, I’ll kill him.” The conviction in his voice left Obi-Wan feeling... he wasn’t sure how. He needed to dedicate some time to meditation so he could untangle all of the unexpected things Maul had made him feel today.
“I wasn’t aware,” he said, “that you didn’t serve your master anymore.” Thoughts were buzzing around in his head- if Maul was no longer under the thumb of a Sith Master, would he be willing to divulge the other Sith Lord’s identity? Perhaps even work with the Order to bring him down? To his utter shock, Maul bit out a sharp laugh.
“You mean to tell me that you treated me to dinner, and ice cream, and now cookies, even though you thought I still served the man who ordered your and your master’s deaths?” he said, a mocking grin spreading across his face. “You have got to be the most ridiculous Jedi in the galaxy. The Order can’t have survived this long if they’re all like you.” Obi-Wan was equally offended and embarrassed at Maul’s perfectly valid point- if the Council ever found out he’d bought a Sith Lord dinner, he’d be expelled so fast he’d need reconstructive surgery- but the feeling was overwhelmed by relief at seeing Maul smiling again.
Maul closed the gangway of his ship behind him, mind teeming. He and Kenobi had sat under the tree in the park until artificial dark fell and Kenobi remembered that he’d been neglecting his duties all day. They had talked about inconsequential trivialities, debating ship maintenance and battle tactics. Maul honestly couldn’t recall most of what they’d talked about- his mind kept drifting back to their initial conversation. Maul had said a lot of things that he hadn’t meant to say. He never talked about his time on Lotho Minor, not even to Savage. He’d never before admitted that killing Kenobi might simply not be worth it anymore. What in the Sith Hells had possessed him to spill his heart to a Jedi, and Obi-Wan Kenobi no less?
Maul made his way to the ship’s small communal area and sat cross-legged on one of the padded benches, leaning back into the corner, his confessions to Kenobi playing on repeat in his head.
And Kenobi had- listened. No judgement or moral condemnation, like he’d expect from a Jedi. Kenobi hadn’t seemed angry at him when the subject of Naboo and Qui-Gon Jinn’s death came up. He had fed Maul, even when he’d thought that Maul’s allegiances hadn’t changed. Maul was just glad that Kenobi hadn’t asked Maul why he was still trying to kill him if he wasn’t bent on revenge anymore. Truthfully, Maul wasn’t sure himself. He didn’t think he had entirely forgiven Kenobi (what a ridiculous notion) for the years on Lotho Minor and the loss of his legs. His memories of those years were....hazy at best, but what he did remember, he flinched from recalling. He had the sense that he pursued Kenobi only because he didn’t know what else to do with his life. That was probably also the reason he kept agreeing to the stupid rock-paper-scissors game. If he stopped chasing Kenobi, or succeeded in killing him, he’d have to face figuring out who he was and what he was supposed to do with himself if he wasn’t Darth Sidious’ apprentice. Killing Kenobi was the only thing that had given him purpose for years. If he lost that...
That particular train of thought was thankfully interrupted by Savage striding into the room from the cockpit.
“Brother!” he said. “I didn’t hear you return. Did you find Kenobi?”
“Yes,” Maul said, not entirely paying attention.
“And?” Savage said, after a beat.
“Oh, he defeated me again.” Maul said, offhandedly. “And then he tried to poison me with sucrose and wheat by-products. I survived.”
“Poison? That bastard!”
“Yeah,” Maul said, fishing the cookie he’d swiped earlier out of his pocket and tossing it at Savage, who snatched it out of the air. “Try it and tell me what you think.” Savage bit into the cookie and chewed thoughtfully.
“A bit dry, but overall a good cookie. I would have included more chocolate chips, though.” Savage said, offering his assessment. Maul nodded absently, still thinking of his conversation with Kenobi. Something else Kenobi had said occurred to him.
“Hey, Savage. Do they have cookies on Dathomir?” He hadn’t exactly been lying when he told Kenobi he’d never been there- his time on the planet had been brief, and his memories of the place were few and muddled. His mother’s face, promising to fix him. His brother’s voice, promising him revenge. The smell of sulfur.
“Of course!” Savage said. “Though ours are better than this one. Not many foreign cookies have meat in them.”
Maul frowned, glowering at nothing. Damn smug-faced Jedi. His frown became thoughtful, and he turned back to his brother.
“Hey, do you think Kenobi’s ever been skydiving?”
“Maul, I have never been skydiving-”
“Bullshit, you haven’t. I saw you last week, you jumped out of your lander a mile above the battlefield.”
“That was different!”
“How the hell was it different?”
“It was necessary! Anakin was in danger, I had to-”
“Oh, so if I kidnap your apprentice and throw him out of the ship, then you’ll jump?”
“Don’t you dare!” They were both having to shout over the sound of the high-altitude winds buffeting them through the open cargo bay door of a rented (probably stolen, actually, now that Obi-Wan thought about it) shuttle. Maul put on the smirk that Obi-Wan was coming to realize meant Maul was teasing him.
“Well, if it’ll get you to jump...”
“Anakin’s two systems away, thank the Force.” Obi-Wan said. “Although, if you did kidnap him, he’d probably jump willingly! But I don’t live on adrenaline like he does!” He’d allowed Maul to manhandle him into the parachute harness, intending to suffer through Maul’s idea of fun stoically, but now that it came down to it, he really didn’t want to jump out of the ship. Into a high-velocity jetstream. Multiple miles above the ground.
“Kenobi, I’ve seen you on the battlefield. You are fueled entirely by adrenaline and poor tactical choices.”
“But this isn’t a battlefield.” Obi-Wan insisted, glossing over Maul’s insult to his tactical skills. Maul didn’t get it, it just wasn’t the same. It was so much easier to pull dangerous, Anakin-esque stunts when lives were depending on him doing so, when he just had to act first and panic about it later, but if he had time to actually think before he leaped (so to speak), then he’d much rather do literally anything else.
“But you’d jump if your padawan were down there.” Maul said.
“Yes, but he’s not, so I refuse-”
“Would you jump if I were down there?” Maul said. Obi-Wan felt a particular looming sense of doom that he only ever got around Maul.
“Maul, don’t you dare, you’re not wearing a parachute-” But too late; with a sharp grin and a “Catch me if you can, Kenobi!” Maul had turned and flung himself out of the cargo bay door.
“You are a maniac.” Obi-Wan said, legs wobbly with receding adrenaline and the weight of a lunatic Sith Lord currently unlatching himself from being wrapped around Obi-Wan like an octopus. Said Sith Lord was laughing, almost howling with it. He’d been laughing ever since Obi-Wan had pulled the ripcord on his parachute after snatching him out of freefall.
Obi-Wan didn't think he'd ever properly appreciated solid ground before.
“Completely insane.” Obi-Wan continued, as Maul’s laughter began to subside. “Honestly, you should be committed.”
“It wouldn’t help, Kenobi.” Maul said. “Besides, I knew you’d catch me.”
“You could have died! If I’d been just a little bit slower, or one of us lost our grip-”
“But you weren’t, and we didn’t.” Maul said. He sauntered over to Obi-Wan, who was attempting to detach the parachute, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for saving my life, brave Jedi. How can I ever repay you?” His face was a picture of wide-eyed sincerity, and his voice dripped so much sarcasm that Obi-Wan could practically taste it.
“You can repay me by losing the rock-paper-scissors next time, so I don’t have to have an aneurysm for no good reason.”
“You know, I wasn’t serious about losing to pay me back.” Obi-Wan said, watching Maul attempt to stare down the pink confection in his hand. He was wearing the kind of expression that Obi-Wan saw on the faces of troopers about to be air-dropped into a combat zone without backup.
“I regret letting you win. There is no way saving my life is worth having to eat this. What even is this, Kenobi?” Maul said, eyes narrowed.
“It’s cotton candy.”
“This is literally pure sugar, Kenobi. The fluffy cloud is a deceptive disguise; this is pure, unadulterated poison.” A mother walking with her child gave Maul a disapproving glance as she hurried her child past them on the path. It was a local holiday on this planet, so the public park was full of families.
“It’s a common treat. People buy it for their children.”
“And that’s legal? I though the government was supposed to stop people from murdering children.”
“Since when do you care about laws? And there’s not even that much there, it’s mostly air anyway.” Obi-Wan said. A calculating look crossed Maul’s face, and before Obi-Wan could say anything, Maul had snatched his water bottle from his belt and poured it over the cotton candy, reducing it to a single, sopping handful of colored sugar, which he then shoved into his mouth and swallowed, clearly trying to bypass his tongue entirely. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Someday, I’ll find something sweet that you like. It’s impossible to hate everything with sugar in it.”
Maul fixed Obi-Wan with a haughty gaze.
“Is that a challenge, Kenobi?”