After the battle, Maul found Kenobi on the bridge, looking like he was running on fumes and momentum alone. The General was swaying on his feet, covered in dirt and other people’s blood. His armor was cracked, he was missing his lightsaber (Maul would have to remember to ask Cody later), and his eyes kept glazing over as Anakin debriefed about how his squad had fared over the past week on that complete disaster of a planet. Kenobi looked the kind of exhausted that Maul called “only standing because he’s too tired to fall down”.
Maul strode into the middle of Kenobi and Skywalker’s debriefing, completely ignoring Skywalker and positioning himself right in front of Kenobi, folding his arms and looking up at him. Maul could practically see Kenobi’s mind lagging as he blinked, taking a few seconds to process the fact that someone was now standing between him and his former padawan.
“...yes?” he said.
“You,” Maul said, fixing the general with a look he had seen Senator Amidala use on Skywalker, “need to go to bed. Now.”
“Hey,” Skywalker protested from behind him, without much force.
“No, I’m fine, Maul.” Kenobi said, blatantly lying. He swayed, and Maul shot out a hand to grab his shoulder and prevent him from stumbling.
“No, you’re not. Bed.”
“I’m fine, I’m just a little tired from the battle.” Kenobi attempted a self-deprecating smile.
“Bullshit.” Maul said. “I’ve seen you. You haven’t slept in four days.”
“You don’t know that.” Kenobi said mulishly. “You weren’t at the city, you were with the squad taking the pass.”
“I do know; Cody told me. And you only ever start arguing like this when you get past the three-day mark.”
Kenobi frowned and muttered something that sounded like “betrayed by my own officer”. He looked down at Maul. It took him a visible effort to focus his eyes on him.
“I can last a little longer. I have to finish some things first.”
Maul scoffed. He had heard that line out of Kenobi far too often to buy it; Kenobi always had just a few things to finish before he would rest.
“Whatever you need to do, you can do it later. Battle’s over, you can go the fuck to sleep now, Kenobi.”
Kenobi attempted to draw himself up, putting on a facsimile of the General who Takes No Shit, but only managing General who got Run Over by a Train.
“I can’t rest while my men are still handling the aftermath. We have to secure our position and set up a pursuit of their retreating forces, there’s wounded to see to, I have to contact the Council, and Anakin and I need to discuss our strategy and the next steps we need to take, I have to do... you know, stuff.”
“No, you don’t.” Maul said bluntly. “Rex and Cody are already coordinating the pursuit, like you told them-
“And I have to be here to make sure it goes alright. They might need backup, or they might have a question, or run into a problem-”
“Which they can damn well solve on their own. They’re competent officers, you don’t have to micromanage them. They know how to do their jobs.” Maul felt Skywalker’s indignant glare on the back of his neck at Maul’s insult to his former Master, but Maul didn’t care. Kenobi needed to learn not to nitpick every single thing his officers did, just because he was worried and tired.
“I know they do.” Kenobi said. “I didn’t mean to imply.... besides, there’s still injured soldiers, I need to-”
“What? Carry them off the battlefield yourself? Treat their injuries? You’re not a medic, Kenobi, we specifically have medics who have that job, and they’re doing that job right now, and they’re doing just fine without your help. They don’t need you. Go to bed.”
“I can’t, I’m the general, I have to be here, they expect me to be here-”
“You have to go the fuck to sleep is what you have to do. You can’t lead if you’re falling asleep standing. And you’re not the only general here,” he said, gesturing pointedly over his shoulder to Skywalker. “If anyone needs a general’s authority for some reason, they can go to him.”
“But Anakin must be tired to,” Kenobi said. “I can’t rest and make him do all the work, it wouldn’t be fair-”
“I’m fine, Master.” Skywalker interrupted, looking right over Maul’s head to talk to the general. “I actually slept last night. Maul’s right, I can handle everything. You go sleep.” Maul was glad to have Skywalker’s support. The man didn’t like or trust Maul, and made no secret of it. The only thing that kept them from each other’s throats was their mutual respect for Kenobi.
“But the Council....” Kenobi protested.
“I will make our report to them, Master.” Skywalker said.
“But we might face another attack, they might have reinforcements. I can’t leave the bridge with only one Force-user to detect-” Maul cut him off.
“Stop pulling excuses out of your ass. I will sit on this bridge and listen to the Force and make sure we don’t get ambushed if that’ll make you happy. This is not a debate. Go. The fuck. To bed.”
“But you hate listening to the Force.” Kenobi said, a whine seeping into his tone. Maul knew he had won.
“Yes, but I hate it a lot less than I hate you being an idiot about your own health. Come on.” He grabbed Kenobi’s arm and started to walk him off the Bridge.
“Go on, Master, Maul and I will take care of things.” Skywalker said. Kenobi stumbled, trying to resist Maul’s tug on his arm.
“But I have paperwork...” he said, the final, pathetic flail of a defeated man.
“I will finish your damn paperwork. Bed. Now.” Maul hauled Kenobi into the lift.
By the time he got Kenobi to his quarters, the exhausted Jedi was leaning on his shoulder, head dropping, practically asleep walking. Maul stopped in front of his door, and waited for Kenobi to fumble through unlocking it. The door hissed open.
“Thank you, Maul, I’ll be fine from here.” Kenobi said. Maul scoffed and hauled him through. There were many things he trusted Obi-Wan Kenobi with, and not immediately finding some excuse to keep working the moment Maul left him alone was not one of them. He wasn’t leaving Kenobi alone until he was in bed and unconscious. Wordlessly, he shut the door behind them and pushed Kenobi towards the bed.
“At least let me take a shower first.” Kenobi said. Maul rolled his eyes.
“Fine.” He would have been happy to shove Kenobi into bed and let him clean up in the morning, but he knew that Kenobi had different standards for personal hygiene than he had grown up with. Maul knew from experience that Kenobi slept better when he wasn’t covered in blood and dirt. Strange man.
“...well?” Maul said, after half a minute of Kenobi standing and staring off into space.
“Oh. Yes.” Kenobi said, and began divesting himself of his robes, moving at an agonizingly slow pace. Maul sighed and stepped up to Kenobi, taking his robe and efficiently stripping him of belt, tunic, shirt, and boots. He left Kenobi’s trousers, remembering to respect the Jedi’s odd sense of propriety. He could probably handle taking off his pants on his own. Maul took Kenobi by the shoulders and steered him into the ‘fresher.
“Don’t take too long. I expect to hear running water in a minute.” Maul told him, shutting the door. Maul sat down on the chair at Kenobi’s desk. He let out a sigh and leaned back. His muscles were aching, and he’d probably have to see a medic about the sharp pain in his ribs from a scuffle with an assassin droid. His right knee was sticking and grinding in a worrying way. The casing was dented, and he was pretty sure the joint yoke was bent. He’d have to disassemble and fix it later.
From behind the closed door, Maul heard the hiss of water. He picked up Kenobi’s datapad from the desk, glancing through his inbox. Kenobi really needed a dedicated assistant for all the bullshit paperwork he had. The fucking Republic didn’t know shit about running an army, but they sure as hell knew how to do bureaucracy. The mere idea of paperwork made him shudder, and the massive column marked “urgent” made him want to bang his head on the wall, but he’d promised Kenobi he’d take care of it. If Kenobi woke up to a massive pile of nonsense it would only stress him out more and make him even less willing to take a break in the future. In his pocket, his comm puzzed. He pulled it out. A message from Skywalker. Frowning, he pulled it up.
Thanks. It read. I tried, but he hates admitting when I’m right. He always listens to you. I’ll make sure the officers know not to disturb him. And I will need your help on the bridge, once you’re done with that paperwork.
Maul himself wanted nothing more than to go to bed himself. The week-long battle hadn’t been easy on any of them, but Kenobi was positively dead on his feet, and wouldn’t rest until he collapsed. Maul, at least, was getting better at recognizing when his body was telling him to stop, and actually taking care of it when he needed to. Most of the time, anyway.
The shower had been running for almost ten minutes. Kenobi was usually in and out in four. Maul sighed mentally, put the datapad down, and walked over to the ‘fresher door, rapping on it with his knuckles.
“Hey. Kenobi. I said don’t take too long.” He listened. Kenobi made some sort of inarticulate noise that may or may not have been an attempt at a word. Maul opened the door and stepped inside. At least Kenobi had made it into the shower on his own. Maul pulled back the curtain, uncaring of Kenobi’s privacy. Kenobi was standing under the water, rivulets running down his bruised torso.
“Do you need some help?” Maul asked sarcastically. Kenobi noticed that Maul was there and blinked.
“Oh. Sorry, I was just...”
“Staring blankly at a wall. Yeah.” Maul said. Kenobi seemed too tired to even care about being naked in front of him. Maul stripped off his outer robe and shirt, down to his tank top, and bent down to picked up the soap.
“Here.” he said, handing it to Kenobi. “Wash.” Kenobi complied, streams of dirt running off his skin as he cleaned. When Maul judged that he was clean enough, he reached out and took the soap back, trading it for shampoo. Kenobi stared at the bottle for a second, as if trying to figure out what it was for. “Hair.” Maul said. Kenobi nodded, managing to get shampoo on his head and half-heartedly lathering with one hand. Maul took the bottle back from him and set it down.
“Hold still.” he said. He reached over and rubbed his hands over Kenobi’s head, lathering up the shampoo. The quicker he could get Kenobi out of the shower and into a bed, the better.
“Shut your eyes.” He reminded him, as he guided Kenobi’s head under the shower stream to rinse. Kenobi accepted the manhandling without protest, seemingly content to let Maul take over where his own brain was too tired. With Kenobi clean, Maul shut off the shower. He grabbed a towel and threw it over Kenobi’s head, rubbing vigorously to dry his hair, then wrapped it around Kenobi and steered him out of the shower. Maul tried to recall Kenobi’s bedtime routine. Did he need anything else...? Ah, teeth. Kenobi brushed his teeth. And nagged Maul to do it, too. Maul had picked up the habit purely to get him to shut up. It hadn’t been necessary when he was an apprentice, since he hadn’t gotten to eat that often. Zabraks could grow back their teeth, anyway. He found Kenobi’s toothbrush, put toothpaste on it, and handed it to Kenobi, who had sat down heavily on the toilet. Kenobi took the brush and brushed his teeth. When he was done, Maul handed him a cup of water, then took him by the shoulders and tugged him to his feet. He wrapped an arm around Kenobi’s waist and guided him out of the ‘fresher. He sat the Jedi on the edge of the bed, and dug around in the wardrobe until he found his sleep pants. He handed them to Kenobi, who seemed at least awake enough to stand and put them on. Maul took the towel from him and threw it into the ‘fresher, letting it land on the floor.
“Thank you, Maul.” Kenobi said. “I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have to manage me like I’m a child.”
Maul grunted, staring over Kenobi’s shoulder. Maul hated it when someone apologized to him.
“It’s fine.” he told Kenobi. “You’re tired and out of it. It’s no problem. I get it.” He did. There were times when he was incapable of managing himself, and he would stare at a wall for an hour trying to get himself to stand up. It wasn’t directly correlated with tiredness, but being tired always made it worse. More than once, Kenobi had had to stand beside him and direct him through simple tasks that any child could have done alone.
Kenobi stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Maul. Maul froze, unsure of what to do. His hearts were racing, and he cursed the adrenaline that shot through him, rooting him to the spot. It was only a hug. He could handle a hug.
“You’re a good friend.” Kenobi said. “I’m glad I have you, Maul.” Something in Maul’s chest tightened. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around Kenobi and returned the hug. He swallowed around a lump in his throat. Friend. He was... Kenobi considered him a friend. This was second time Kenobi had hugged him- the second time anyone had hugged him- and now Kenobi said ‘friend’. Maul felt something fragile and small between them, something he had been ignoring. It scared him. Even after he and Kenobi had stopped trying to kill each other, after Kenobi had forcibly saved him and dragged him, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows of his past, Maul hadn’t let himself think of Kenobi as... as someone who cared about him. Someone to care for. Someone he could trust, not only with his life, but with his heart. That thing between them, it had slipped in while Maul wasn’t looking, had grown while he was ignoring it and keeping Kenobi at arm’s length. Maybe he shouldn’t ignore it anymore. Maybe, one day, ‘friend’ wouldn’t be such a terrifying concept. He tightened his arms around Kenobi, just briefly.
“I’m glad I have you, too.” he muttered, pushing the words out. Kenobi hmmed in reply. His head was resting on Maul’s shoulder, and he was leaning on him, apparently willing to fall asleep right there. Maul was struck by how easy it would be to kill Kenobi right now. He was tired, physically and mentally, he was unarmed and unprotected. And Kenobi, vulnerable as he was, had willingly embraced Maul, compromising himself even further. And he had done it without a thought, just because he wanted Maul to know that he was thankful. Maul’s heart clenched. He tightened his hold on Kenobi and turned his head to press his nose into the back of Kenobi’s neck, wanting to keep him there just a little bit more. Kenobi’s damp hair pressed against his cheek. The overwhelming amount of trust that Kenobi had for him, and how offhandedly he showed it, like it was no effort at all, like it was second nature for him, made Maul’s heart ache in ways he couldn’t explain. Made him want to show Kenobi that he was worthy of that trust, made him want to give Kenobi something just as important. But what Kenobi needed right now was rest. And that, Maul could do. He inhaled deeply, then gently pushed Kenobi off of him, holding onto his shoulders and sitting him down on the bed. Kenobi didn’t need to be told to lie down this time. He fumbled for the blankets, which Maul took and placed over him. Kenobi sighed as his head sank into his pillow.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright if I sleep?” he asked Maul.
“Yes.” Maul said softly. “I’ll take care of things, don’t worry.” He grabbed Kenobi’s chair and datapad, and placed the chair right next to the bed.
“I’ll get started on your paperwork while you fall asleep.” he said. He turned off the light and sat down, the datapad’s faint glow was more than enough to work by.
“Promise me you’ll comm if anyone needs me for anything.” Kenobi said. His eyes were already closed.
“I promise.” Maul said. He quietly reached for Kenobi’s discarded robes and pulled the comm out of the pocket and set it to silent. People could comm all they wanted. Kenobi rolled to his side and exhaled. Maul could practically see the tension leaving his muscles. Kenobi rested one hand against Maul’s thigh.
“You should get some rest, too.” Kenobi said, his words trailing off.
“I will.” Maul said. After he took care of Kenobi’s paperwork and helped Skywalker handle the aftermath for the next 18 hours, which was how long he planned to program Kenobi’s security system to ping him if Kenobi left the bed.
“Good.” Kenobi said. “You should take care of yourself the way you take care of me.” Kenobi’s words once again found their way straight to Maul’s heart. He reached out a hand, hesitant, then made himself place it on Kenobi’s head, gently stroking his fingers through his damp hair. He hoped it expressed what he was feeling. Whatever that was. His eyes were stinging a bit, and he didn’t think he could say anything without choking on his words. He swallowed, took a deep breath, and swallowed again. Now was not the time to cry.
“Good night, Obi-Wan.” he said. Obi-Wan didn’t reply, he was already asleep. Maul wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, and turned on the datapad. There was a warm feeling in his chest, and it made the prospect of the massive “urgent” column seem not as bad. One hand still carding through Kenobi’s hair, Maul tapped the first item and got to work.