If Obi-Wan Kenobi scoured his mind he could probably find situations more mortifying than the one he was in. The Andorilan peace accord came to mind. How was I to know it wasn’t the soup? Vomiting onto Shaak Ti’s robes, that was a proud moment. Being caught masturbating in the Archives by none other than Grand Master Yoda himself. Catching Anakin much the same way while giving a tour to a couple of Senators. That time I stepped on Mace Windu’s robe and sent him tumbling down the stairs. Those were bad- but compared to right this exact moment Obi-Wan would choose to relive any of them. Because right at this exact moment Chancellor Padme Amidala and her pet Sith were having loud, increasingly verbal sex right on the other side of the wall by Obi-Wan’s head. Padme’s guest room was lovely but it shared a wall with her bedroom. And for the last… he checked the chrono again… three hours Obi-Wan had been fighting an erection and hating himself.
His encounter with Maul in Theed had been the apex of Obi-Wan’s life. His entire existence was divided into before and after that chaotic hour. He had been knighted for killing Maul, he had taken Anakin as his apprentice less than a week later. Obi-Wan spent the last five years living out the consequences of his encounter with the Sith. Now Maul had gone from a silent, mysterious and terrifying persona to... to someone whos groans and growls of pleasure came loud and clear through the wall. It was hard to process.
The sound of a smack, something heavier than a palm, made him lift his head- until Maul growled harder! and another smack made it clear what was happening. How will I face them in the morning? Obi-Wan groaned and tried to sink deeper into the Force. (smack) I am one with the Force, there is peace in the Force…
He counted himself down. It worked when he was a child, maybe now... Down from ten- ten, nine (smack) ignore them! ten, nine, eight, seven-
"Harder- fuck! damnit Padme not that hard!” Ignore them ignore them. Down from twenty- nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen....
Somewhere between fourteen, and the quiet mewling sounds Padme apparently made at her peak, Obi-Wan lost the numbers and faded into the dark.
The next morning was as bad as he imagined, with Padme flushed and humming happily to herself while Maul sprawled on the couch drinking coffee and sniping at Obi-Wan. The Sith seemed to be reading all of Padme’s books at once, as well as eating everything she had in her kitchen. Watching him pace back and forth, balancing a plate in one hand and a data pad in the other Obi-Wan was seized by sweeps of vertigo.
The Sith was so… ordinary. He didn’t match the looming terror of Obi-Wan’s dreams and memories. I spent months overcoming nightmares of this man, and learning to accept what happened. And then years reliving that moment. And how he is here eating a sandwich - like it’s nothing! Obi-Wan couldn’t stand it. Muttering about needing supplies, he fled to the Temple. He needed time to think.
“Do you think he’ll be back?” Padme asked Maul that night. She was a soft weight in his arms, warm and completely relaxed. Maul ran his fingers through her hair- unbraided like this it nearly covered them both and he couldn’t seem to stop touching it.
“Yes, he’ll be back,” Maul said.
She shifted around.
“I think he is in shock,” Padme murmured into his neck.
“He lost his padawan,” Maul said. He was drifting fast; he didn’t especially care about Obi-Wan Kenobi. Padme propped herself up onto an elbow, forcing Maul to look up at her.
“No, it’s about you. You being alive all this time,” she said.
“He said he knew I was alive,” Maul grumbled, trying to pull her down again. She shook his shoulder.
“That isn’t the same, Maul,” she said. “Having you here in the flesh is a shock to him!”
Maul pushed his irritation down. He didn’t want to talk about Kenobi. Talking about him meant thinking about him. And thinking about him was making Maul angry. There was too much history there.
“If being around me is so hard, then he is welcome to leave,” Maul snapped.
“Oh stop it,” Padme said. Maul rolled his eyes.
“Well why should I care about him being in shock?” he demanded.
“Obi-Wan has thought of almost nothing else since Theed! His entire life changed there! He-”
Maul sat up, suddenly furious
“And mine didn’t?” he hissed. “He killed me that day! I would remind you how you found me! Bleeding out with my own intestines in my hands. Kenobi destroyed my entire life that day!”
Padme didn’t back down, sitting up herself and glaring at him.
“In that case, he saved your life,” she said coldly. Maul shook his head.
“No,” Maul said. He touched Padme’s face. “You did that.”
There was a moment of quiet and she leaned her forehead against his. Maul sagged into the touch. She has me in the palm of her hand. And I am glad of it.
“Maul, listen,” she said softly. “I know people. How they act, how think- it’s my job to see what others don’t.”
Maul nodded. He had to concede the point. She had an uncanny ability to see through people- for a Force null. Now she tilted his chin up with her fingers so they were eye to eye.
“There is something terribly wrong with our Jedi- the way he stares at you- something is going on in there. And I want you to find out what it is, and take care of him.”
Maul regarded her a moment. Our Jedi? We have a Jedi now?
“Very well,” he said. “I will try and find out what is tormenting our Jedi.”
When he saw the condition of Maul’s ship, Obi-Wan wondered what in the hell he had been thinking. It wasn’t the first time he’d wondered and likely not the last. The unreality of the situation still managed to bowl him over, weeks later. It felt like hiking through a swamp- firm ground suddenly gave way- dumping him into memories so strong they took his breath.
“I need time,” he said to himself, also not for the first time. “I need time to process- that’s all.”
“We don’t have any time, Kenobi,” an angry voice called down to him. “Now hand me that spanner before we die of old age!” The Zabrak’s voice echoed oddly from inside the engine room where he hung upside down trying to fix the ship’s dampeners. Or maybe its motivator- Obi-Wan really had no idea what any of it was. Mechanicals were Anakin’s area of expertise.
He shook his head and held up the tool in question, slapping it into Maul’s hand. The Sith’s arm vanished and there was some banging and cursing before something clicked loudly and Maul yelled in triumph.
“Ha! Take that, you bastard!” The Sith dropped down beside Obi-Wan in a crouch, spanner held back and away, like a saber. Obi-Wan shifted uncomfortably as Maul stepped past him. The Sith’s real saber hung from his belt. It looked strange, a gleaming, precise line over Maul’s dirty coveralls. Obi-Wan could barely take his eyes off it. It killed Qui Gon Jinn. And Siolo Ur Manka. Eldra Kaitis. That saber killed Pol Mu Fa and his padawan Mierk Ta, not to mention Master Judd. And how many others?
As he followed Maul into the ship Obi-Wan pushed back the memories that swamped him. obi-wan touched his beard- a solid reminder that he was no longer a boy- no longer that young padawan he had been.
Maul glanced back at the Jedi as he made his way along the catwalk above the hold. Kenobi still had the same stunned look he had in Padme’s apartment. Maul contained his frustration. If he doesn’t get his head straight before we get to Artivia I’ll leave him there. He thought, but it was an empty threat. Still, something would have to be done.
Maul threw himself in the pilot chair and fired up the engines. The freighter was ugly but functional. It looked worse than it ran. It had a solid interstellar pack and no one would pay it any mind as it made its plodding way along the routes Maul had planned. Kenobi’s white knuckled grip on the copilot arm rests made him roll his eyes.
They punched into hyperspace without speaking. Maul leaned back in the rickety seat with a sigh. The tiny rattles and chuffs of the various systems sounded fine- the bucket of bolts would make it a little longer. The Jedi seemed less sure. He was eyeing the blinking control panels with a frown.
“The ship is fine. You can stop worrying,” Maul snapped. Kenobi blinked at him, confused. Maul tried not to grind his teeth.
“I said- the ship is fine. You can stop glaring at the control panel- the warning lights are malfunctioning.”
“Oh,” Kenobi said, he glanced back at the panel. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Why not?” Maul snapped. “What is wrong with you?”
“With me? What is wrong with you?” Kenobi asked, raising an eyebrow. “How can you be so calm?”
“Why wouldn’t I be calm?”
“You don’t find this strange?”
“This.” Obi-Wan gestured between them. “We tried to kill each other and now we are errand boys for Chancellor Amidala? How is this possible?”
Maul cocked his head. Is that what was bothering the Jedi?
“I am one with the Force,” he began.
“And the Force is with me,” Obi-Wan finished. Now both eyebrows were up. “I didn’t know the Sith had that saying.”
“You don’t know anything about the Sith,” Maul sneered. “But that little gem I picked up from the Guardians.”
“You’ve been to Jeddha?” Now Obi-Wan sounded incredulous. “When?”
Maul sighed. He shrugged in a way that made it clear- the details don’t matter .
“I was sent by my master- to prove that I could hide myself in the Force. I worked in the Temple kitchens for the entire Season of Winds.”
The Jedi frowned. How was that possible? How would the Guardians have-
“In any case,” Maul said to cut off any more questions. “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me- it tells me, here.” He tapped his chest.
“It tells me that I am not to kill you, but stay close to you. What I want doesn’t matter,” Maul said bitterly.
“And what is it you want?” the Jedi asked.
“I want to kill you,” Maul said. “But then I don’t.” He looked down at his hands. Obi-Wan noted the scratches, scars, the callouses. Aside from the coloring their hands were the same.
The Zabrak didn’t say anything else and Obi-Wan let it drop. It was all too much. The Sith was leaning against the bulkhead- lost in thought. Another wave of unreality washed over Obi-Wan.
We were just apprentices. We had no way of knowing what was happening. No one warned us.
They dropped out of hyperspace with a lurch. A panel by Maul’s elbow rattled and began to smoke. All the lights on the dash came on, went out and came on again in a way that made Obi-Wan flinch. Maul wasn’t phased. He gave the rattling panel a thump with his fist and turned a couple of dials on the dash before taking the yoke and guiding them into orbit.
“Where are we?” Obi-Wan asked. He looked up at the planet revolving slowly above them, filling the viewscreen. It was a sea world, wreathed in clouds and dotted with curiously square land masses. The squares were dark green in the bright blue; they looked like windows. Maul was guiding their freighter to a an orbiting planetoid, the terminal point of a space elevator. Silver cars whisked up and down it, disappearing into the clouds.
“What do you mean: where are we?” Maul snapped. “We discussed this. We’re on Artivia - Golden Fist’s leadership is meeting here.”
Obi-Wan vaguely remembered something about this. It had been so hard to focus in Padme’s apartment he had mostly just nodded and hoped for the best. Clearly that had been a mistake, judging by the way Maul was looking at him.
“I apologize,” he said. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
Maul surged to his feet. He snatched the front of Obi-Wan’s tunic and shook him.
“You must stop this!” His Core accent seemed to thicken as he grew angrier. The Force was pulsing as well. “You are a Jedi Master and yet you comport yourself like a weak little boy!” Maul shouted. “This is serious business and if I cannot count on you to carry your weight then you’ll stay in the ship until I return.” Obi-Wan shoved Maul back and raised his fists. But that only made the Sith smile, cold and hard, and raise his own.
“Do it, Kenobi. Give me a reason…” he said. His teeth gleamed wet and sharp in Artivia’s blue light.
Obi-Wan dropped his hands and straightened his tunic, pulling himself together. He pointed a finger at Maul.
“Don’t touch me again,” he snapped. “And mind how you speak to me. I am still a Jedi, as you so kindly pointed out. Even the Chancellor wouldn’t fault me if I cut you down.”
It was an empty threat and Maul knew it, throwing his head back and laughing. He shook his head and pushed past Obi-Wan. At the door to the cockpit he turned back.
“Don’t forget to change,” he said with a sneer.
“You look like a Jedi,” Maul snarled and turned back to the door. Obi-Wan looked down at his tunic and robes in confusion. Was he supposed to bring other clothes? The whole planning meeting was a blank. He hurried after Maul.
“Wait! What are you wearing?” he asked as he caught up to the Sith. Maul was already peeling the coveralls down to his waist, making for his berth. He frowned over his shoulder at Obi-WAn.
“A suit of course,” he said with a frown. “This place only caters to uplevel-types and gangsters. We have to blend in.”
Obi-Wan shook his head.
“I don’t have-” Why am I embarrassed?
“I know you don’t. So I brought an extra.” Maul said. Obi-Wan stood hesitantly by their berths while Maul opened a bulkhead storage unit. In it were clothes- mostly black. I wonder if he ever wears any other color. Oh Force! Obi-Wan spun away as Maul stripped out of the coveralls without fuss and hung them up.
“Now what is wrong with you?” Maul complained. “Take this kriffing suit.” Obi-Wan turned around, trying to look anywhere but at Maul. He is bright red and black- what else am I supposed to look at? Oh Force he is wearing a ring around- no don’t look. He could feel the blush rising up his neck. Reaching out he grabbed the offered clothes and shot out of the room to the fresher- ignoring Maul’s incredulous stare.
Once he had calmed down, Obi-Wan had to admit the suit was a nice one. It was clearly Maul’s; the legs were a little short and the shoulders were too big. But otherwise it looked good. Obi-Wan smiled to himself in the mirror. Maybe I could get used to this.
He returned to the ready room by their berth to find Maul only partially dressed. His shirt was open and he had a brush and a jar. Maul was peering into a mirror and painting red paint over his tattoos. The back of his head was still black, but his face tattoos were rapidly disappearing under the paint.
“What are you doing?” Obi-Wan asked.
“There are too many who would recognize me after Coruscant,” the Zabrak said. He stood back to check and nodded to himself as he put the paint away. Once he had buttoned up his black shirt, and shrugged into his jacket- he looked nothing like the snarling Sith from earlier.
Obi-Wan was struck dumb by the change in Maul’s face. Without his tattoos he looked… ordinary. A red Zabrak with chiseled features and a crooked nose. Maul frowned as he caught Obi-Wan staring. The frown was much less intimidating. Obi-Wan realized with a start that he was taller than the Sith. How had he never noticed that?
“What are you smirking at,” Maul snapped, pulling on a cloak with a hood.
“You’re still handsome without all those tattoos, but much less intimidating,” Obi-Wan said with a laugh. His laugh choked into nothing when he saw Maul’s astonished face and realized what he had said. Handsome.
Obi-Wan could feel Maul’s sudden focus in the Force and decided to just walk out. That seemed like the simplest solution. Just… walk away.
The spaceport was loud, choked with people. To Obi-Wan’s trained eye it was obvious that something was going on. There were not enough people coming back up “the Wire” as the elevator was commonly referred to. Everyone seemed to be going down. And the people were uniformly rich, uniformly well guarded, and uniformly suspicious of each other. In their suits and hooded cloaks neither man got so much as a second glance.
There were guards everywhere- none of it official. But Obi-Wan knew personal security when he saw it. He spotted Black Sun, Pikes, Off-World Brotherhood, any number of factions. He and Maul were just two more armed beings among many. Hiding their identity was easy in a port of people doing the same.
The cars moving up and down the Wire were casinos and pleasure houses in their own right- with spectacular views of the planet. It took half a day to make the descent, enough time for Obi-Wan to make a tidy sum of credits at the Sabbac table. Maul kept to himself at the bar, tucked into a corner and nursing a drink.
After the nonsense of the earlier, Obi-Wan decided there was no need to go over to the Sith at all. Instead he took his winnings and placed himself with the other tourists at the windows to watch the island below them approach. Like the others on the world it was a perfect square, with precise terraces of gardens leading down to the water. At the peak of the stepped pyramid was the Wire terminal and the silver cars offloading their passengers.
The terminal was huge, open to the sky and surrounded by white columns of stone. The sunset was washing them in a pink and orange light. Everything smelled of the sea and everyone seemed to be hurrying to get down the hill. Maul and Obi-Wan made their way through the crowd of tourists to the lower levels, getting closer to the crash of waves with every turn.
“So the entire planet is a hotel,” Obi-Wan said musingly. Maul shrugged.
“Of sorts. It’s held by a consortium- hotel and casino and resort - whatever else you may want. They operate the islands according to the whims of the visitors. We need to get over there-” he pointed with a gloved hand an island barely visible in the glare of the sunset on the waves. Tall skimmer ships were plying the waters back and forth between the neat row of ports along the island’s edge.
The sun had set by the time they reached the other island but it wasn’t dark. The terraces were festooned with multi-colored lights. They blazed overhead in the trees, and lined all the streets. Clearly things were just starting to warm up- music could be heard from every level, and people hurried by in various states of fancy dress, and undress, heading for the different gardens and their promised amusements.
Obi-Wan followed Maul’s lead as the Zabrak made his way up level and then around. He seemed to know exactly where he was going, not hesitating or looking at his comm even once. One last turning and Maul paused in front of an elaborate portico. He showed something to the two guards and they waved them through- ahead of a long line of beings waiting to get in. Inside, the garden was a dark and fragrant jungle. Tangles of trees and trailing vines covered narrow pathways that meandered through the underbrush.
Unexpected views opened up- ‘rooms’ with fountains and pools and tables of food and drink. And beds- everywhere Obi-Wan turned there were tangled couples and groups. There seemed to be no safe place for the Jedi to put his eyes. He kept them glued to his boots, trying not to see.
He saw enough to see the pattern though: rich beings and their companions who were uniformly young and lithe and dressed in small white kilts with golden bands around their arms and gold collars around their necks. Pleasure slaves then. Obi-Wan kept his eyes down, angry and embarrassed.
So he nearly ran into Maul’s broad back when the Sith stopped suddenly in the entrance to a large clearing. The Sith was shifting from foot to foot, more nervous than Obi-Wan had ever seen him. Maul’s attention was focused on a tall woman in a long white gown who stood by what felt like the central fountain of the garden.
She was staring at them with her mouth open, her drink neglected in her hand, spilling slowly onto the grass. Maul pushed his hood back and the woman’s hand came over her mouth. She sagged onto the lip of the fountain, heedless of the spray. She closed her eyes and began to sway and Maul leapt to her side, kneeling in the grass so she could lean on his shoulder.
Obi-Wan approached more slowly, trying to piece together what was happening. The woman had gone white with shock but she was copper skinned, with cascades of pearls in her dark hair. She waved a trembling hand and an older slave began to shoo people out of the little clearing, making soothing noises about free drinks and old friends. When they were gone the woman took in a deep shuddering breath, her eyes glued to Maul’s. They were like chips of black stone, hard and unyielding despite the unshed tears she was trying to blink away.
“My lady…” Maul said, his voice hoarse with emotion. He got no further. Quick as a snake she slapped him- hard- snapping his head to the side. Maul grunted but didn’t speak, shaking his head as though to clear it. To make her point she slapped him again, the sound like a breaking branch.
“You were dead ,” the woman hissed. “I mourned you!”
Maul hung his head, pulling her hand to his lips. Obi-Wan saw a cut on the Sith’s cheek from one of her rings. For a wonder the paint was still there, though a few flakes clung to her fingers.
“I am so sorry,” he said simply. For a moment Obi-Wan thought she would hit him again- but then she pulled him into a frantic hug, nearly toppling them both into the fountain. Obi-Wan felt a jolt of shock when he realized that Maul was weeping as much as the woman was.
Obi-Wan waited patiently during the heated conversation that followed. Accusations, apologies, counter accusations, revelations, and two more slaps brought them to the final point in the matter. The Countess Amina Li of Enteca and Naboo was willing to forgive Maul for not telling her he was alive and she would get them into the meeting with Golden Fist, apparently taking place that very night.
Obi-Wan should have recognized her sooner. Even sheltered Temple Padawans knew who Amina Li was, a bon vivant with extensive charitable works but also a known slaver, and Palpatine’s niece. Did she know? Was she part of the Sith plot? Another hiding in plain sight?
When introduced to Obi-Wan, the Countess smiled knowingly.
“So this is the famous Master Obi-Wan Kenobi,” she drawled. Standing, she was taller than both men, and now that she had her composure back it was easy to see the ruthless noblewoman under all her glamor. Her eyes trailed the Jedi top to bottom. “I shall have to recall the contracts I have on your life, Master Jedi, since it seems you didn’t kill our Maul after all.”
Obi-Wan flinched. Our Maul? She tried to have me killed. Force- we have been so blind. Before he could reply she had turned and was leading them through a different opening in the hedge from where they entered. A few twists and turns and they found themselves in a stately avenue of trees, leading down to the sea. Obi-Wan stayed several steps back from Maul and the Countess, deciding not to intrude on the quiet conversation between them.
Just above the seawall they came to a door- solid durasteel and unmarked. The Countess laid her hand on it and after a moment there was a flash of blue light and it opened. Beyond was nothing but a long corridor. Before going in she took Maul’s hand.
“I know what you are going to do,” she said. “And after what you told me I understand why. But your Chancellor must know this won’t be the end of the matter. I have already moved my operations - my fighters no longer appear in Golden Fist bouts. But there are others, big players, who will take this as an act of war. She may be able to deny involvement- but everyone will know anyway.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Maul asked. “I know it. Did I not learn galactic politics at your knee?” Her gaze softened and she shook him gently by the horn.
“I am telling you to mind yourself , dearest. And mind your Chancellor. I like her- but I won’t lose you again- no matter how important her crusade.”
With that she gave them an elegant curtsey, her back straight as a saber, and left.
“How do you know her?” Obi-Wan asked Maul, who was still staring back the way she had gone.
“That is none of your business, Jedi,” Maul said, com and began to trot down the long hall.
“Is she- was she a Sith?” Obi-Wan continued. He could feel anger brewing in his heart and let it slide away in the Force.
“Don’t be absurd, Kenobi,” Maul snapped and stopped before another door. “Force! That might the stupidest thing you have said this trip.” He drew in a deep breath and went through before Obi-Wan could protest.
This new place was full of people, richly dressed beings laughing and drinking and looking down off concentric balconies into what could only be a fighting pit below. The sound was enormous, cheering and shouting and music playing from every level. There was the clink of glasses, and singing, shouts of laughter; and under all that the sounds of blows and screams and roars from the pit. They had found Golden Fist’s new operation.
Using the descriptions Countess Li had given them they made their way down another corridor. They could see the guards at the end. Suddenly Maul turned and put out a hand to stop Obi-Wan. They could not afford a mistake here. Maul didn’t like the way Kenobi’s Force presence was drifting in and out. He grabbed the human and shook him slightly.
“Jedi, do you understand what is about to happen here?” Maul asked in a low voice. His eyes were boring into Obi-Wan’s.
“We are going to break up Golden Fist,” Obi-Wan said, with some confusion.
“No. We are going to destroy Golden Fist,” the Sith said. “We will kill every single being on the other side of that door. There will be no discussion, no proclamations, no quarter.”
“But,” Obi-Wan began and Maul shook his head. He should have realized this would be a problem. I didn’t think of their damn code.
“Do you understand what I am saying?” Maul asked, searching Obi-Wan’s face. “I need to know. If your Code prevents you from this- you need to wait here for me.”
“I cannot wantonly kill a room full of people for no reason. We need to bring them to justice. We-” Maul cut him off with a push.
“Go back and keep our escape path clear. We will need to reach the Wire before the news does. Do you understand?” Maul asked.
“I won’t let you go in there alone, whatever you are going to do.”
Maul’s brows arched in surprise. Well isn’t he full of himself?
“Let me? You won’t let me?” he sneered. His anger spiked. He remembered stink and filth of the slave ship. The gamemaster- the old lightsaber with its rusty handle. “They drugged me, starved me, magna-shocked me. They were preparing to maim me when Padme came. I am here to kill them, Kenobi. Do not get in my way.”
Obi-Wan nodded reluctantly. His Force signature blazed, then steadied and his blue eyes held Maul’s. The Sith was pleased to see the durasteel there. Force, I remember that look.
The killing was fast- but ugly- close quarters and too many beings. Some of the Golden Fist leaders panicked and tried to flee, the other half, and all their bodyguards, fought back. The room was long, with a central table running down the room. Maul and Obi-Wan split left and right- and Maul leapt onto the table, sprinting down to the other end of the room. Kenobi spun and worked his sword, fast and precise. He was shining in the Force like a star. Maul caught himself shivering. He pushed me to my limits on Naboo and he has only gotten better .
Maul slid the last few meters down the table on his knees, ducking under a swung vibroblade and activating both blades on his staff, slicing the beings on either side with a flick of his wrists. He forgot about Kenobi as the Dark Side of the Force swallowed him whole, hate driving his blade. He felt the thrill of killing, the power, avenging himself on the beings who had enslaved him.
As soon as it was done they made their way down the corridor. Obi-Wan rubbed his hip where it had twisted during the fight. Maul was limping too and as they paused to peer around the corner Obi-Wan saw the dark spreading stain. Maul was bleeding.
“You’re injured!” Obi-Wan snapped, pulling Maul’s arm to try and turn him. Maul shook him off but nodded.
“It’s fine. Watch my back while I splice this terminal.”
”You’re losing too much blood!” We will need more time to make it to the ships.
“Be quiet Kenobi- I need to concentrate,” Maul said through gritted teeth. He stepped back and heaved a sigh of relief.
“There. All the cages are open. That should buy us time,” Maul said and turned the way they had come. Even as they turned into the long hall they heard the sounds of screams behind them- the building roar of a riot.
Obi-Wan tried to engage Maul as they made their way but the Sith ignored him. By the time they reached the docks Maul was leaving a bloody footprint with every other step.
“Enough of this,” Obi-Wan snapped and dragged Maul’s arm over his shoulder to help them move faster. The fact that the Sith allowed it was as worrying as his grunts of pain.
They were just in time- the ship pushed off and over side of the rails Obi-Wan spotted a couple in finery sprinting for the docks. The male was covered in blood and the female was sobbing. They were the first of what was sure to become a mob of people trying to flee the freed pit fighters and animals.
There was a car preparing to launch up the space elevator when they arrived and some rough Force work got them onto it before it left. There was no playing in the car’s Casino this time- the two men sat in a corner, keeping a low profile. Obi-Wan tied strips of his robe around Maul’s injuries, slowing the loss of blood. The first holo-comms about the riots were ricocheting around the car, people shouting and arguing with the droid crew. Half were urging the craft faster the other half arguing that the car should descend again-
“Millions of credits invested in-”
“You must take us down!”
“You must get us out of here faster!”
By the time they boarded their freighter Maul was whining low in his throat and could barely hold weight on his injured leg. Obi-Wan guided the old ship out of orbit and set a course for Naboo. It was one of the only systems he knew the coordinates by heart and he had no idea where else to go. Maul was in their improvised medbay fighting for consciousness while Obi-Wan moved them away. The Jedi found him there, braced against the wall, trying to hold a bandage against the back of his calf with shaking hands. He had managed to strip to his shorts but couldn’t seem to reach this last injury.
Obi-Wan took over, wiping the blood off the Sith’s leg and applying the bandages. He shot Maul up with a mix of stims and wrapped the Sith’s robes around his shoulders, easing him back onto the bunk.
Obi-Wan sent a brief message to Padme and sat back down by Maul. The sense of unreality was returning, the feeling that the years had blurred. Looking at Maul’s face and suddenly Obi-Wan reached up to touch his beard, a tangible reminder of the passage of time.
Maul was barely awake, regarding him with solemn eyes. His pupils were wide from the drugs- and his presence in the Force was a low hum of pain.
“You killed me,” Maul said softly. Obi-Wan felt the same swoop of vertigo he had when he saw Maul in Padme’s apartment.
“What?” the Jedi leaned in closer. Maul sighed, but flashes of anger were popping in the Force.
“You wonder why I am so calm about this,” Maul said, a mere flick of fingers gesturing between them.
“You killed me,” he said again.
And they knighted me for it. Obi-Wan thought bitterly.
“I was alive but my life ended that day,” Maul continued. His voice was slurred.
“My Master cast me aside for failing to kill you, for allowing you to carry word of the re-emergence of the Sith. I nearly died in the flesh as well.” He paused and there was an awkward silence.
“Padme said you floated for days,” Obi-Wan prompted gently. Maul nodded.
“That didn’t matter- My Master- Force! once Padme saw that he was Palpatine- Even killing her, capturing her- none of that would regain his favor. And she was… persuasive.”Maul said dryly. Obi-Wan smiled. Padme was more than persuasive- she was a force of her own.
Maul shifted where he lay. Obi-WAn could feel old anger and fear in the Force. It was muted by time but still strong.
“I was willing to let the Jedi try and kill Sidious.” Maul’s hands curled into fists. The muscles in his jaw bunched and skipped. Obi-Wan felt the dark side gathering in the Force. It thrummed in the air. Hatred and fear, loathing for a dead man…
“ Let them try - I thought,” Maul said. “I certainly wasn’t ready to challenge him!” He let out a hoarse bark of laughter. “He made sure I could never challenge him- he kept me no better than an animal,” Maul hissed. He closed his eyes. There was a moment of quiet and Obi-Wan wondered if Maul had fallen asleep.
“What was one more betrayal after failing him?” Maul’s voice was barely audible but the Force was boiling around them. “I never thought you would succeed,” he said.
He was clearly remembering the feeling. His Force signature was flares of sadness and fear and over it all an anger that took Obi-Wan’s breath. But there was fine thread of happiness in there as well. Slowly the happiness spread, Maul’s signature sank down into its usual dull roar.
“It took me a year to understand that I was free. Sometimes I still don’t believe it. So you see,” he said, reaching out and tapping Obi-Wan’s hand. He seemed to brace himself.
“You killed me, little Jedi, but you also saved my life.”
There was a long pause. Obi-Wan thought maybe the Sith really was asleep this time.
“I don’t know why I told you all that.” His voice was hoarse with emotion and slurred. Obi-Wan watched closely as Maul’s body sagged, his breathing slowing.
That night Obi-Wan lay in his bunk thinking about what Maul had said. He remembered the hunting and killing of the Sith Master. Would Maul feel better knowing how close they had come to failure? Maybe. It had not been as simple or easy as the Council had told everyone.
We are more alike than I thought. Much more. I wonder if he really did know- on some level? Obi-Wan shook his head as images of Qui Gon Jinn intruded on his thinking. He pushed them away with the ease of long practice and settled himself to sleep.
The next day found them still in hyperspace, still sitting around in the cramped cabin area of the ship- absently reading old holos and barely speaking to each other. Maul had refused to meet his eye since their talk, withdrawn and angry. Obi-Wan decided it was worth a try.
“They nearly didn’t kill your master,” he said. Maul turned to look at him.
“You said you didn’t think we could. You were right. No one outside of the Council and I know this- but Palpatine killed eight Jedi that day. Eight Masters- in the end it was Dooku that killed him- barely. And then…”
“You found out Dooku had turned,” Maul said dryly. Obi-Wan nodded. They were terrible times in the Temple- Sith under every bed, behind every friend. Oh Quinlan how could you? The Council suspected everyone- told no one. How many Jedi had turned? Six? How many had simply ignored the Council’s request to return to the Temple when the war started? Dozens. The Jedi Order had nearly ended that year, torn apart inside without anyone on the outside knowing. Only the death of Tarkin and end of the war had allowed the Jedi to come to terms with how close they had come to destruction.
They sat silent for a long time. Maul paced, but more slowly, almost thoughtfully. Obi-Wan felt the present beginning to assert itself over the past. That was before. This was after. Maul was quiet in the Force, clearly working through his own thoughts. It was like looking at a closed door.
“There is something else,” Obi-Wan said. Maul turned to look at him, his eyes shining in the half light. Obi-Wan’s heart began to pound.
“You killed my master that day and my whole life ended then too- everything from that moment was just one failure after another,” Obi-Wan said. He tried to sound light but failed.
He centered himself in the Force. Was he really going to reveal this?
“But, and I have never told anyone this,” Obi-Wan said. “My Master-” He hesitated, stood, sat back down, stood again, looked at his hands. The words were pushing up out of his throat, crowding behind his teeth.
“My Master hurt me,” he said. Now Maul sat down, watching him warily.
“Hurt you how?” the Sith asked. The intensity of his focus was strangely reassuring. Obi-Wan tried a self-deprecating smile, but it slid away before it formed. He sat back onto the chair, perching uneasily on the very edge.
“He, he made me- he made me do things, when I was young- and even- used it against me, as- ” The words held heavy on his tongue, unable to come out. Jedi did not threaten. Jedi did not blackmail or- take advantage of their Padawans. Jedi certainly did not- did not hold evidence of inappropriate Master-Padawan relations over their students’ heads to keep them from pushing for Knighthood.
Qui-Gon Jinn could never have done any of those things, because Qui-Gon Jinn was a Jedi, a famous martyr with a statue in the Archives. Obi-Wan saw it almost every day, evidence that Qui-Gon Jinn was a Jedi hero.
Obi-Wan could feel his throat closing up, sweat breaking out across the top of his shoulders. He hadn’t thought about any of this in years. Even when the nightmares rose up, he never let himself think about it.
“Ah, I don’t think I can talk about this,” he said suddenly, standing up.
Maul regarded him thoughtfully. Now it was the Jedi’s turn to pace.
“Anyway, anyway, so,” Obi-Wan’s words were speeding up, running together. “So you see? You also freed me, in a way, and so- I always thought of you, in that way - just another apprentice like me. I thought you were alive; I knew you were. I knew it. And while I hated you, and was afraid,” he let out a bark of laughter, shrill and unhappy. “I liked to think that you knew, or that you were somehow, that we- we understood each other. Or that we, would see each other again and you’d know-”
He stopped in front of Maul abruptly. The words were gone- his throat was closed off, teeth clenched. He breathed through his nose, a little hmmm- hmmm- hmm of pain with each breath. He must have looked like a wild animal. He certainly felt like one.
Maul stood slowly, palms out to reassure. This is what Padme meant. This is what is wrong with our Jedi. He chose his words carefully.
“We will talk more about this if you wish it, whenever you want,” he said. “I understand. And I think it means-”
He was cut off as Obi-Wan grabbed the front of his coveralls and dragged him forwards, mashing his mouth against the Sith’s- kissing him hard and wet. Maul had a split second of shock before his baser instincts took over and he kissed back, open-mouthed and growling. Maul tangled his fingers into Obi-Wan’s hair and pulled- simultaneously pushing his hips forward- shoving the Jedi against the bulkhead. Yes, this. Kenobi and I, of course it’s us-
As quickly as it began it was over and they pushed apart, panting and wide eyed. Obi-Wan was crimson from neck to hairline and his lips were swollen and wet. He buried his face in his hands and ran out of the room. Maul collapsed into the pilot’s chair, clutching at his horns and wondering what the hell had just happened. Right on cue they dropped out of hyperspace with a faint lurch and there was Kessel- roiling ochre and grey and filling the viewscreen.