Plagueis took one look at Sidious’ face and poured an extra finger of gin into the glass. Force knew the man looked like he needed it.
Sidious took the glass with a grunt and downed the whole thing, scrawny throat working as he chugged the gin down.
Silently Plagueis took the offered glass and refilled it.
“My apprentice is killing me,” Sidious said, glaring balefully at the fresh glass.
“Ah-ah! Rule of two - remember?” Plagueis said with a smile. Sidious sighed and rubbed his eyes.
“Sorry, the assassin I am training who happens to be Force powerful- is killing me,” he said. Plagueis generally never missed a moment to say “I told you so” but his poor apprentice looked so exhausted he let it go this time. But really- this was why Sith didn’t take children- as he had told Sidious when the man came home with the little red monster tucked in his jacket.
“Well, he is the right age for his first attempt on your life,” Plagueis said helpfully. Sidious shot him a venomous look.
“He is 17,” he snarled. “And he has already tried to kill me three times.”
Plagueis grinned. He couldn’t help the twinge of pride. My grandson!
“So what is the problem this time?” he asked, taking a seat beside Sidious.
There was an awkward pause. That became an awkward silence. That drew out into an awkward void in the Force thrumming with unsaid things.
“oh. oh!” Plagueis said, glad his species was beyond blushing. “So your water bill is really, really high?”
Sidious seized on this polite metaphor.
“Yes! So high! His use of the fresher is… ridiculous… and his use of the laundry service droid is… excessive! Really, really excessive!”
“Whatever you do, don’t look at his browser history,” Plagueis muttered, downing his own drink.
“too late,” Sidious said, burying his face in his hands.
“He is 17, my apprentice- maybe it is time to let him go back to Dathomir for a bit.” Plagueis considered his words. “He could spend some… quality time… with the men of his tribe, maybe.”
“I tried,” Sidious said with a laugh. “His mother sent him back under escort. She said if I can’t civilize him then she would find a witch who will and we’d all be sorry.”
“oh.” Plagueis said, embarrassed. “Precocious is he?”
“You have no idea,” Sidious groaned. “I had to throw away his droid. Just threw the whole thing away.”
“Is this the third droid?”
Another miserable silence drew out. Plagueis was thinking. He refilled both glasses and began to pace across from his apprentice. Sidious looked up hopefully.
“I may know someone,” Plagueis said. He loved his grandson, doted on him. But he also needed his apprentice to take over the galaxy. And Sidious was in no shape to do that while parenting a teenage Maul. “Let’s see if my friend can help us.”
“Are you sure this will work?” Sidious muttered under his breath. Plagueis shrugged, trying to seem more confident than he felt. The two men were seated on an expensive looking couch in a stately receiving room. It was typical uplevel Coruscant- impeccably luxurious but understated.
“She has very good references,” he answered. Both men had their eyes glued to Maul. He stood off to the side, elegant in his blacks. As usual the not-Sith apprentice was composed, straight-backed and perfectly still. His face was solemn as an owl. In the Force he was his usual raging torrent of emotions- as befitting a maybe someday Sith. But perhaps not in public…
“Maul, dearest, shhhh,” Plagueis said gently. Maul smiled at him and the torrent blinked out like someone had flicked a switch. The boy was completely hidden. “Boy” didn’t really apply anymore. Maul would never be tall but he had shot up, broad shouldered and more dignified than one would think based on their reason for being here. The boy, the young man, Plagueis amended- took himself very seriously. He was a credit to them all really.
“He is so good at that, really I am so proud. He is such a natural,” Plagueis beamed. Sidious glared. He was about to say something when the far door opened and an elegant human woman came in, gliding along in a floor-length white gown, her dark hair a cascade of curls down her back. The Sith Lords stood and bowed; she curtseyed back, a smile at the corner of her mouth.
“Hego darling, how are you?” she said. “And Senator! What a pleasant surprise!”
“Amina, dearest, thank you so much for seeing us,” Plagueis said. “This is my grandso—my appren- This is Maul.” He waved a hand at the boy. “Maul, this is Countess Amina Li.”
Maul blinked at the woman before executing an elegant bow, one hand on his heart, the other on his saber. Plagueis beamed.
“Oh he’s lovely! Such good manners, Hego! This is your son, Senator?” she asked breezily. But her eyes were shrewd and a smile was trying to form on her full lips.
“Um, no…” Sidious said awkwardly. “I am training him to head my personal security detail.” That was true enough.
“Well," Countess Li said after some polite chatter. "I think I have just the being for you, a Zabrak as well. He can settle your… employee very well. I will send him around to the address you gave me.”
“Are you sure about this?” Sidious whispered as the speeder pulled up to the portico of Plagueis’ secondary residence. They had agreed to meet Amina's man in person. So the two Sith were standing at the door, waiting.
“Yes,” Plagueis answered. “I have been doing some research. Otherwise he will be impossible.”
“He is impossible…” Sidious agreed. Maul was inside, waiting in his usual stillness. Sidious could sense him of course, but he had muted the bond. This was not the time to have a psychic connection with a teenager.
When the speeder shut down and the door opened Sidious had a moment of doubt. Plagueis had four moments of doubt, and a fifth was coming.
It was another Zabrak. Not a Nightbrother, thank the Force. Talzin would kill us both if she knew about this. This Zabrak was large. Plagueis’ mind, always striving for scientific accuracy amended the thought: this Zabrak is enormous.
Sidious had what could only be described as a malicious grin on his face. It was his “rebellion-crushing” grin.
“Oh this will take him down a peg or two,” he chuckled. Plagueis was still gaping up at the Zabrak.
With creamy brown skin and a scattering of horns on his forehead, Commander Lish Wraxus wore the standard military jacket and trousers of Countess Li’s own security detail. He had short dark hair in a single stripe over his head, the sides shaved. There was a wide bronzite ring around his fore horn. He smiled and bowed at them. Sidious was rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
“See if he triples my water bill after this!” he crowed as they turned to go in. Plagueis walked behind the Zabrak, noting the broad shoulders, narrow waist and scarred hands. This will either work- or be a disaster…
Maul was his usual calm and composed self, meditating peacefully, his legs curled under him, palms relaxed on his knees. When they came in his only concession to the Zabrak was a single long blink as he tilted his head back to take the man in.
“Well, Maul,” Sidious said, suddenly nervous. Plagueis could feel the doubt in his apprentice. Maul was a foot or more shorter than the big Zabrak, but the Force was clear who was the more powerful being between the two.
This is the problem with having a teenager who is also The Son of Dathomir, Plagueis thought.
“This is, um, this is Commander Wraxus, Maul. He is,”
“Leave us,” Wraxus said. “The brother and I will make our own acquaintances.”
“Of course,” Plagueis said and pulled Sidious out by the arm. The Senator was crowing his victory but Plagueis had doubts. The last thing he saw as the door closed was Maul smiling, his pointed teeth catching the light from the windows.
Maul called them to pick him up four days later.
“That’s good, right?” Plagueis asked as they made their way downtown in Sidious’ limo.
“Maybe,” Sidious said. He was biting his lip nervously. “Needless to say I have kept the bond turned as far down as possible.”
“I bet.” Plagueis chuckled. “And what about now?”
Sidious’ face grew distant.
“He is very pleased with himself. Calmer,” he said.
“That’s good!” Plagueis tamped down the worry in his mind.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Sidious said.
They got out of the limo and paused before the doorway.
“Please let this have worked,” Sidious prayed. They walked in, down the hall and to the main chambers they had left Maul in.
It was exactly as they had left. Maul was meditating on his mat, legs under him, eyes closed, palms still. His saber was a gleaming line in front of him. He had clearly just cleaned and polished it. Plagueis reached out in the Force, sensing the boy. Calm, happy, pleased with himself. Really really pleased with himself. Worryingly pleased.
Sidious obviously sensed more. He was red faced and angry.
“Where is commander Wraxus?” he thundered. “What have you done with him?”
Maul’s eyes opened and Plagueis fought back a smile. The grin on Maul’s face was priceless. Especially as it corresponded to a spike in rage from Sidious. The young not-a-Sith pointed off to the right and both masters turned to look.
Commander Wraxus was hanging almost upside down in an elaborate rope harness Plagueis didn’t even begin to understand. He was also stark naked. He was gagged and red faced in fury, bellowing incoherently to the Sith Masters- probably to untie him. Plagueis looked away hurriedly, back to where Sidious was admonishing a now mulish and pouting Maul.
“How long has he been tied up?” Sidious demanded. Maul was glaring at the ground, looking mutinous. Plagueis could see the first faint crackles of lightening in Sidious’ fingertips.
“Now Lord Sidious, at least the boy showed creativity,” Plagueis said, leaning on his own bond with Sidious to make it clear he wouldn’t tolerate any Sith nonsense in front of the stranger. Sidious crossed his arms angrily.
There was an angry bellow from Wraxus and the three men looked over at the bound Zabrak. He was clearly trying to speak, the gag muffling what Plagueis presumed was some question about their ancestry. Maul frowned and snapped his fingers. At the sound Wraxus fell silent immediately and hung his head. Plagueis and Sidious looked at each other.
“Maul,” Plagueis asked, in his most Sith GrandMaster voice. “What have you done to Commander Wraxus?”
“I have trained him,” Maul said simply. Sidious was rubbing his chin, carefully NOT looking at the naked Zabrak dangling in his ropes. As the Zabrak revolved slightly Plagueis noticed a thinner rope was cleverly wrapped around-
“Trained him?” Sidious interrupted, probably for the best.
There was a long silence while the two looked at each other. Finally Sidious nodded.
“Very well,” Sidious said. “Force knows what we shall have to pay Amina Li-”
“Untie him Maul, and meet us out front,” Plagueis said, pushing Sidious ahead of him. “Thank you commander- have the Countess send us a bill.”
The two Sith Lords didn’t exactly run from the room as Maul walked over to his… display… it was more of a brisk walk.
A week later Sidious came to Plagueis’ apartment again. He was chipper and full of plans for conquest. They talked shop for a time and then turned to more personal matters.
“I take it our plan with Maul worked then?” Plagueis asked. Sidious shrugged.
“Did it?” Sidious asked. “My water bills are much more normal, but if the idea was to take him down a peg or two then it was a miserable failure.”
“Miserable. Failure.” Sidious rolled his eyes, but there was a little smile there. Plagueis supposed that would have to be good enough for now.