story and art by Rose
With apologies to George Lucas and Irvine Welsh.
Special thanks to Siubhan for being so patient during the innumerable variations this piece went through in the course of being written, and to Katherine for all the encouragement.
Darth Maul sat on the sofa, shoveling cheese-puffs into his mouth with one hand, the remote control clutched in the other. He'd fried his speakers trying to drown out the noise of his neighbor's horizontal calisthenics and the Play Station was clogged with regurgitated cat hair again which left him the choice of either leaving the apartment or watching TV. As the lift was broken and he really didn't feel like walking down forty-two flights of stairs, the TV had won. Unfortunately, it was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday and there was nothing on but the usual soap operas, talk shows and endless repeats of Home Improvement.
Next door, Obi-Wan's moans spiraled to a breathtaking crescendo that Maul knew from experience as both active participant and involuntary audience meant the twit had reached the, er, climax of his activities. Soon, the only sound spilling through the thin walls was that of the Kessel Spice Girls' posthumously released Greatest Hits C.D., which was enough to make Maul decide that forty-two flights really wasn't all that bad.
Pulling on his boots, he headed out. There was a sale going on at Electronics Boutique, maybe he could find some new games for the computer. The front door had just swung shut behind him when he remembered his keys were in the pocket of his other jacket. "Aw, shit!"
This door was a replacement he had bought after the original had been blown to smithereens by that red-necked yahoo, Harlton Cheston some months previous. Made of solid plasteel and magnetically shielded, it had been purchased with an eye towards security and the naive hope that maybe, just maybe it would keep his master, Darth Sidious, from waltzing into Maul's apartment anytime he felt like it. The warranty stated it was acid, flame and laser resistant and "Guaranteed in zero G or your money back!"
Well, he was a Sith Lord, wasn't he? No mere door could withstand the power of the Dark Side. Smug in his superiority, Maul kicked the thing as hard as he could.
It didn't budge.
Cursing in half a dozen different languages while hopping up and down on one foot, he gathered his anger about him, added a good wallop of loathing for the Kessel Spice Girls (and every other bubble-gum pop band he could think of), stirred in a hefty dose of jealousy over Obi-Wan making those kinds of sounds with anyone other than himself, realized the implications of that last thought and magnified his rage times ten, then sent the whole vile, blood-tinged mess spewing at the door.
It still didn't budge.
"Mock me, will you?" he snarled, pulled out his lightsaber and attempted to cut through the lock.
When the smoke cleared, the door remained in its original condition, not even a smudge of black soot marring its pristine surface.
"ARGH!!!!" Maul shouted, and pounded his head against the metal frame. While the rational part of his brain knew that this was not going to work any better than kicking had, the loud clang of his horns against the frame made him feel a whole lot better.
He whirled to find Obi-Wan peering out of his own doorway, concern written plainly on his features.
Maul sighed. There was no getting out of this one gracefully. "I have accidentally locked myself out," he admitted.
Obi-Wan stepped further into the hall, dressed only in his bathrobe and pink bunny slippers. "I do that all the time," he said with a rueful chuckle.
Anyone surprised by this, raise your little hand, he thought. Aloud, he said, "I will need your phone to call the super."
"Oh, that won't be necessary," Obi-Wan replied breezily.
Before he could react, the padawan stepped up to the door, pulled a bobby pin out of his pocket and bent over the lock. The sight of Obi-Wan's smooth, pale nape was ... distracting. Maul leaned forward unconsciously as his brain filled with sudden visions of himself biting that vulnerable piece of skin, sucking on it until the tender flesh turned bright pink...
The door clicked open.
Obi-Wan straightened up, the back of his head catching Maul smartly beneath the chin, causing his mouth to snap shut hard enough to make him see stars. Both men yelped and ducked out of each other's way.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Obi-Wan cried in dismay. "I was so intent on the door I didn't even realize you were behind me."
Maul shrugged, not sure what disturbed him more; the fact that Obi-Wan had just picked the lock to his front door or that he'd been this close to grabbing the padawan, throwing him to the floor and humping his brains out in the middle of a public hallway.
His mingled confusion and desire must have been evident in his face because the padawan flushed to the roots of his hair and began backing towards his own apartment. "Right. Well. Your door's open now, so I guess I'll be going."
Maul decided he wasn't letting the twit off that easy. "Where did you learn to do that?"
"Pick locks." Maul folded his arms across his chest and aimed a pointed glare at the padawan. "That's not the sort of thing they teach in Jedi Finishing School."
"No, I guess not." Obi-Wan laughed nervously. "It's just something left over from my misspent youth, that's all."
Maul mentally reviewed his knowledge of Obi-Wan's stultifyingly bland adoptive family and snorted. "You had a misspent youth?"
"Just typical teenage rebelliousness," Obi-Wan said evasively. "Nothing serious."
Maul knew a lie when he smelled one and this stank worse than My Apprentice's litterbox. "Of course," he said, grinning his best I know you're full of shit smile.
"I really have to be going now," Obi-Wan squeaked, turned tail and bolted.
I wonder what he's hiding? Maul thought as the twit vanished back into his apartment. Whatever it was, he would find out.
He had barely gotten settled back on the sofa when Sidious showed up. "Maul! Put down that remote and pay attention. I have a job for you. Something you'll like. Something interesting."
Maul rolled his eyes. Sidious's idea of 'interesting' and his rarely coincided. "And what is that, my master? Do you want me to wash the car? Darn your socks? Vacuum the cat?"
Sidious chuckled nastily. "No, no, nothing so mundane."
A newspaper landed in his lap, yellowed with age and beginning to turn brittle. Maul gingerly picked it up. It was one of those local community-produced papers, the kind usually found in bins labeled 'Free! Take one.' in convenience stores. The cover date made it about ten years old. "What's this?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Maul opened the newspaper. There was a page bookmarked with a Wilson's Leather Goods receipt. He turned to it and dutifully scanned the contents. "It's an article about juvenile delinquents."
"Look at the photographs, Maul. Look carefully."
Maul did as he was bidden. There were several grainy black and white photos on the page, one of which had been circled with a red felt-tip pen. This particular picture was of a grubby, teenage punk sitting handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser while a group of officers discussed matters nearby. The caption read, "Youth in crisis: police arrest teen in connection to drug-related crime." The punk looked familiar. Maul frowned, peering closer. Real familiar.
Oh, shit. It was his neighbor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Maul turned to stare at Sidious, a wide, evil grin spreading across his face. "Where the hell did you find this?"
"At the dentist's office," replied Sidious. "You know how doctors love to keep around stacks of old magazines and such for patients to read while they wait."
It was almost too good to be true. Little mister goody-goody getting busted by the cops for possession, and he had the pictures to prove it. "What do you want me to do?"
Sidious sighed, flicking cat hairs off his teal and black velvet senate robes with distaste. "Really, Maul, I would have thought it obvious. Your lover, excuse me, your casual sex partner has a police record; I want you to find out what's in it. What you do with the information afterwards is at your discretion. I'm sure you will think of something appropriate."
"Consider it done, my master!"
Looking back on it, Maul was surprised he hadn't considered the possibility of Obi-Wan having a checkered past before now. The twit had spirit buried beneath all that sweetness and fluff. It didn't surface often, but it was there. Then there was the matter of the padawan's deep abiding love for punk, Goth and industrial music; no-one with a shrine to Iggy Pop in his bedroom could be that squeaky-clean, no matter how hard he tried to insist otherwise.
Hacking into the Jedi Academy mainframe wasn't terribly difficult, nor was getting hold of Kenobi's public records. Maul rubbed eyes gone blurry from staring at the computer screen and grumbled. It was all so innocuous. Excellent grades, numerous citations for outstanding service to the community, yadda yadda yadda. Boring. There was nothing at all to indicate the twit was anything other than what he appeared. Except...
Yes, this was promising. A small footnote saying that Kenobi had entered the Academy on some kind of Jedi Council sponsored youth program. Maul queried the computer for more information.
"Deny me, will you?" he snarled, and reached out to the Dark Side.
Several hours and two keyboards later, Maul finally cracked the security codes, opened Obi-Wan's sealed files.
It was even better than he expected. The mugshot alone was worth the price of his headache. Kenobi looked like a starved cat, all gaunt ribs and dazed, bloodshot eyes. Maul couldn't resist printing himself a copy, tacking it to the wall above his desk with unholy glee.
And now for the crowning glory, Obi-Wan's police record.
He clicked the printer icon and settled back to wait.
Twenty minutes later, it was still printing.
"I don't believe this!"
He could buy the charge of grand theft auto. Lots of kids went joyriding in stolen hovercars, it was one of those things that dumb teenage boys did when they had too much time on their hands. Granted, not all of them specialized in nabbing expensive sports vehicles to sell at chop shops in order to support their drug habit, but still.
Resisting arrest? Yeah, okay. That went along with the dumb-punk-stealing-cars image.
But threatening to kill a police officer? Obi-Wan Kenobi? Maul shook his head and glanced at the wall separating his apartment from Kenobi's. It just didn't jibe, not unless the padawan was on some intense medication these days.
Which was entirely possible. According to the reports, the only thing that kept Kenobi out of serious jail time was his youth--not quite sixteen at the time of his arrest--and the fact he had no previous criminal record. At the urging of his parents, he'd pled out to a reduced sentence by agreeing to commit himself to some Jedi owned rehab called the Happy House (a division of Happy Farms, Inc.); eighteen months later, he'd entered the Academy on probation with Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda as his sponsors and had been a model citizen ever since.
It was certainly a lot of information to digest. So. Just what was he going to do with it?
The answer was simple. It was evil. It was a poster.
Ostensibly an advertisement for the Jedi Council Drug Rehabilitation Program, the 'before' picture was Kenobi's police mugshot, the 'after' a portrait lifted from the Academy's online student directory. Maul then went down to Kinko's, printed up a stack of 500 and began plastering them all over his apartment building, local storefronts, anyplace he could think of that Obi-Wan frequented. He even pasted one to Kenobi's front door, just for the hell of it.
Returning to his place, he pulled a Pete's Wicked Ale out of the beer 'fridge and kicked back on the sofa to wait.
Obi-Wan walked home from his evening classes, cheerfully humming the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" in time with his steps. Feeling thirsty, he decided to stop and buy a can of Cherry Coke from Store 24, maybe get some sunflower seeds for his hamsters and a tin of tuna for Maul's cat while he was at it.
There were several people from his building inside the store, picking up the odd bag of chips or just taking a respite from the summer heat. Obi-Wan waved but no-one waved back. In fact, most of them were openly staring at him like he'd just grown a second head.
That's weird, he thought. He checked his fly, just to be safe, found it closed. Shrugging, he headed up to the counter with his purchases. There was a thick stack of flyers by the register with an oddly familiar photo printed on it. Obi-Wan picked one up to read while the clerk rang up his soda and snacks. "Oh," he said, suddenly feeling very faint. "Oh, fuck."
The clerk gave him a knowing smirk. "Anything else?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes. A pack of Camels, please." Looked at the flyer again. "Make that a carton."
Maul glanced at his Felix the Cat wall clock and frowned. The twit was late. A little voice in the back of his mind nagged that, for someone he professed to hate, he knew far more about Obi-Wan's comings and goings than strictly necessary. Maul mentally told the little voice to fuck off and it subsided with an indignant grumble that sounded suspiciously like the noise his apprentice made when he dumped her off his lap.
Finally, he heard the sound of approaching footsteps in the hall. Rushing to the door, he eagerly pressed one eye to the peephole. Oh, the look on the twit's face was bound to be priceless.
It turned out to be something of a disappointment.
The padawan appeared weary more than anything else. There was no bounce to his step, no humming or whistling. Even his usual bright smile was gone. He looked like someone coming home after a very long day, mind focused solely on a bath, beer and bed.
The poster on his door gave Obi-Wan pause, but beyond a thinning of his lips and a slight tightening to his jaw there was no other outward reaction. Glancing pointedly at Maul's front door, Kenobi gave a long-suffering sigh, pulled the poster down and stepped inside his apartment, closing the door behind him with a soft click.
A few minutes later, Maul heard the sounds of a shower running.
Maul's apprentice butted her head against his shin and gave a small, inquisitive mrreep? He sank to the floor and pulled her into his lap, skritching her thoughtfully between the ears. "I have a bad feeling about this," he said.
If his apprentice had an opinion, she did not deign to share it.
Music. It was his bane. All the terrible, horrible things that happened between himself and Obi-Wan almost always centered around music. Somehow the twit had finally figured this out and was using it as a weapon of torture.
It started not long after Obi-Wan's return home. As soon as the padawan had finished his shower, he turned on the stereo loud enough to be heard through the thin walls with ease. This was normal enough procedure and Maul had paid it little mind beyond noting the artist, (The Cure), and the album ("Boys Don't Cry"). As the evening wore on, Obi-Wan's musical choices grew progressively darker. Maul began to get nervous. All this miserable music by miserable musicians for miserable people wasn't like Kenobi. In small doses, sure, but for six hours straight? Really, it was starting to get on his nerves. How in hell was he supposed to concentrate on blowing shit up on the PlayStation while Johnette Napolitano wailed about the darkening of the light? As a concept it had merit, but as a song repeated nine times in a row it was a bit much.
By the fifteenth repetition he was ready to gnaw open his own wrists.
By the twentieth, he was ready to gnaw open Obi-Wan's.
By the twenty-sixth, he was kicking open the padawan's front door with the intention of lightsabering the stereo into small, molten chunks.
The apartment was pitch black save for the faint green glow of the readouts on the stereo system and the light spilling in from the hallway. Maul inched his way across the living room and clicked the C.D. player off. A soft sigh echoed through the darkness. Maul turned towards the sound, followed it back into Obi-Wan's bedroom.
By Maya the Mad Mambolica. Click to see larger image.
Kenobi sat on his bed, illuminated by the soft, flickering light of a single grey candle. He had smudged rings of thick, black kohl around his eyes, electric blue nail-polish and wore a battered biker's jacket over a white t-shirt with the word GARBAGE stenciled across the front in bold black letters, combat boots and the most gods-awful pair of plaid pants Maul had ever seen. The floor was littered with cigarette butts and empty cans of Guinness.
Lighting a fresh cigarette, Obi-Wan leaned back against the brass headboard. "Evening, neighbor," he said mildly.
Maul watched him warily. There was an odd disturbance in the Force around Kenobi, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. "When did you start smoking?"
"When I was twelve." He blew a series of perfect smoke rings into the air. "Want one?"
"No thanks." He nodded towards the t-shirt. "Is that an editorial comment on your life or are you just a fan of the band?"
Obi-Wan gave Maul a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Both."
He snorted. "You mean you're not proud to be a Jedi?"
"It's shite being a Jedi!" Kenobi snapped and Maul took a step backwards at the unexpected venom in his voice. "We're the most pathetic, servile bunch of tree-hugging, granola-eating new age pantywaists that ever walked or crawled. Some people hate the Sith. I don't. I feel sorry for them. We're just wankers, but they're the poor bastards who got beaten by wankers. That's a shite state of affairs, you do have to admit."
Maul felt his jaw come momentarily unhinged. He shut it with an audible snap. "Why you little--."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Obi-Wan said sweetly. "Did I hurt your feelings? How very un-Jedi of me, whatever shall I do to make amends? Perhaps a blow-job? Better yet, why don't you just bend over and--."
Maul cut him off with a snarl. "That's it, I am so kicking your ass!"
Teeth bared, he launched himself at Kenobi. The padawan rolled his eyes and flicked his cigarette. It struck Maul in the center of his chest with the Force of a brick wall and knocked him ass-over-teakettle back into the living room.
He lay in a dazed heap by the remains of the front door, wondering if anyone had gotten the ID code of the Corellian Cruiser that had hit him. There was a brief flash of light and then another cigarette dropped to the floor, close enough for Maul to feel the heat from the glowing red cherry on his nose. A combat booted foot slammed down right in front of his face, grinding the butt out beneath its heel, then moved on.
Life hates me, Maul thought.
He slunk back to his own apartment and settled on the sofa, intending to balm his wounded pride with a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The single aftereffect of his bout with PMS was a strange, overwhelming urge to eat ice cream whenever he felt vulnerable. Which, oddly enough, only seemed to happen when he was around Kenobi. One more reason to kick the padawan's ass.
The door to his apartment flew open with a bang and Sidious wafted in. "Maul!"
Note to self, he thought. Get better locks. "Yes, my master?"
"The posters are deliciously wicked. You have done well."
"Thank you, my master."
"So, has the Jedi seen them yet?"
Maul nodded. "He has."
"And how did he react? Was he humiliated? Did he perhaps run over here to find solace in his dear friend's embrace?"
I wish, Maul thought glumly. Paused. Considered the implications of that thought and started shoveling even more ice cream into his mouth. "He seemed to know I was behind it," he said between spoonfuls.
"Really? How interesting. Was he angry?"
Maul sank down lower into the cushions. "Very."
"Ah. Well, that would explain why I saw him breaking into your car."
Maul rushed to the window and opened the blackout drapes in time to see his precious black hovercar flash by with Kenobi at the controls. The padawan flipped him a bird, then gunned the engine and disappeared into traffic.
He turned back to face his master, so angry his vision was tinged blood-red. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
Sidious merely shrugged. "Drat this absence of mind."
Maul snarled in frustrated rage as he stalked down to the parking garage. Kenobi was clearly no longer firing on all thrusters. If he wanted his car back, he was simply going to have to go and get it.
Finding the car would not be a problem. Ever paranoid about keeping such a nice vehicle in such a lousy neighborhood, Maul had quietly installed it with both a security system and a homing beacon. Kenobi had clearly circumvented the security measures--not too surprising, given his abilities as both a Jedi and a not-so-reformed thief. But the homing beacon... no. The padawan would not expect that.
This left the matter of transportation. Maul sighed. Like it or not, he would have to take the speeder bike. It was a pathetic heap of junk, little more than a souped-up mo-ped with a top speed equivalent to that of an arthritic snail on Quaaludes but some things just couldn't be helped.
Taking a moment to first pull the hood of his cloak firmly over his head, he eased the bike out from under its dusty protective tarp. If anyone actually recognized him with this thing, it would kill his reputation. Which, he thought sourly, was probably the twit's whole point.
Dressed like the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse but feeling like a weenie on a moterscooter, Maul clutched the tracking device to his chest and eased cautiously out into traffic.
An hour later, he was in front of the Gray Side of the Force.
This can't be right, he thought.
He circled the block twice, saw no sign of either Kenobi or his car. Even so, the tracker insisted with loud beeps and flashing red lights that his car was here. Or, rather, there. Inside the club.
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Maul parked the bike and headed towards the door.
It was early enough in the evening that the only persons present were himself, the bartender and the DJ. That made Maul feel a little bit better; if he was going to be humiliated again, at least it wouldn't be in front of a crowd.
Maul whirled, saw the bartender beckoning him over. He sidled up to the bar cautiously. "Yes?"
"Your boyfriend was in here earlier."
"He's not--." Stopped. Sighed. "What did he want?"
"Didn't say, just left this for you." The man reached beneath the bar and pulled out a cardboard shoebox. "He looked pretty pissed. You two have a fight or something?"
"Or something." He stared at the box on the counter for a long while, knowing in his gut what it held but still not quite able to bring himself to open it. Fuck it, he thought at last, and pulled off the top.
Inside was the homing beacon.
Maul banged his head against the counter and didn't stop until the bartender threatened to toss him out for gouging holes in the wood with his horns.
His car was waiting for him in garage when he got back to the apartment building.
Erase and correct. What was left of his car.
It was sitting up on cinder blocks and had been stripped down to the chassis. Not even the interior upholstery remained. He would not have been able to even recognize it as his if not for the fact that it was in his parking spot. That, and the single white rose taped to frame where the windshield had once been.
By all rights, he should be furious. He should be charging up the stairs in a blind rage to slice, dice and Julienne Kenobi with his lightsaber. Instead, all he felt was a grudging sense of respect and a deep, soulful yearning for chocolate in any form.
The lift was working again, so he took it up to his floor, just not feeling up to 42 flights of stairs at the moment. Trudging wearily down the hallway, he heard the sound of music playing on some distant stereo. As he drew closer to his apartment, he realized it was his.
Predictably, the front door was already open.
Tossing both cloak and keys on the chair by the door, Maul walked into the kitchen and grabbed a box of fudgesicles from the freezer. Comfort food in hand, he headed for the living room and flopped graceless next to Kenobi onto the sofa.
"You really should get better locks," said the padawan.
Maul grunted. "Tell me something I don't know. Want some chocolate?"
He shrugged. "Your loss. What are we listening to?"
"'Filigree & Shadow' by This Mortal Coil. You see the car?"
"Couldn't miss it. The rose was a nice touch."
"Thanks. Oh, and thank you for finding my AmEx card. I didn't even realize it was missing until all these strange charges started turning up on my statement."
Maul didn't even flinch at the obvious sarcasm in Obi-Wan's voice. "I imagine the money you made stripping my car and selling it off for spare parts should just about cover the bill."
"This is true."
"So, are we even now?"
"Not by a long shot."
"Figured as much."
Kenobi leaned back, cold can of beer pressed up against his forehead. "Qui-Gon is going to kill me if he finds out about this. He'll ship me back to Happy Farms where they'll put me in a straight jacket and force me to watch endless repeats of 'The Andy Griffith Show' until my head implodes, I just know it."
"My master won't exactly be thrilled, either."
"So what should we do?"
"Given the situation, I think we have only one choice."
"Head down to the Gray Side, get plastered and then make hot, sweaty Force-driven monkey-love until we have to be surgically separated."
"Sounds great, except there is no way in hell I'm riding pillion on that wussy mo-ped of yours all the way across town."
"Well," said Maul, "I did happen to spot a very nice sports car parked about three blocks from here..."
Obi-Wan's eyes glittered dangerously with a combination of mischief and lust. "Oh, really?"
As they sped towards the Grey Side, the car phone beeped. Maul picked it up. Before he could utter so much as 'hello', the voice on the other end began screaming.
"That's my fucking car, you bitchass motherfucker!" Mace Windu, sounding as though he would like to reach through the phone and rip out his throat.
"It's for you," Maul said, handing the phone to Obi-Wan.
"Bollocks!" Obi-Wan said cheerfully, and chucked it out the window.
Maul laughed, imagining the scene which would await Obi-Wan later, once Qui-Gon discovered his apprentice had stolen his lover's car. Yeah, he thought, this is gonna be fun.
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