Requiem for Mr. Fluffy
By Rachael Sabotini
[Read Rachel's author bio]
It is impossible for me to write anything without a team...
Thanks to Siubhan for letting me play in her backyard, to Suze & Lum for the comedy consult, and to Sandy and elynross for the edits, Christy the beta, and Maata Hari for inspiration.
Some time ago, on a concrete lanai far, far away:
Smoke spiraled into the air, the tiny pyre filling Obi-Wan's porch and spilling out over the ledge and onto his neighbor's, the hibachi's coals burning red. It had taken several months, but the permits must have finally come through; Maul watched from his sprawl on the living room couch as Obi-Wan carefully laid a small, frozen bundle over the coals. In no time, the smell of burning hamster filled the air, a nice change from the city's normal "fresh scent," but the day was made complete by the bereft wail that occasionally punctuated the rest of the evening:
"Mr. Fluffy, nooooOOOOOOooooo!"
Each time he heard the cry, Darth Maul smiled before turning back to his latest game, "Tomb Raider XLIV: Jedi Temple Assassin." He was finding Master Yoda very hard to kill. He had poisoned the green-skinned toad three times so far, and the Jedi Master refused to die.
Kind of like Sidious in that way...
He was so caught up in his game that he barely noticed when Obi-Wan's cries of torment stopped, replaced by rumbling sighs and groans as Qui-Gon comforted him. But the instant the John Tesh CD started, Maul gave a cry of agony of his own. Still clad in his black "love my lightsaber" boxers, Maul staggered over to the sliding glass door and slammed it shut, yelling "Die, pale, misbegotten son of a Hutt!" as he did so. He shook his head. Still didn't have quite the ring he wanted for the day he struck down Sidious; he needed to work on developing a better battle cry. But yelling was a good way to hone his anger, and everything around him was tinged red with his rage. He gnashed his teeth that Sidious was not around, because now would have been the perfect moment to rise up and kill him.
His anger faded slightly, the red mist in front of his eyes slowly dissipating, only to reveal a delicate form watching the hibachi pyre. Tiny and fluffy, with needle-sharp teeth and claws, the faint, red-tinged figure looked up at him from the neighboring porch and nodded, then skittered into the twit's apartment, hatred for a thousand small injustices and passion for revenge screaming out to Maul in its wake.
Darth Maul shook his head to clear his mind, accidentally gouging yet another hole in the door-jamb with one of his horns. He shuddered and blinked twice, then turned back to his PlayStation. For an instant, it had looked like Mr. Fluffy had returned.
Pulled back from the edge of sleep, Maul recognized that something was beating against the door to the balcony. He snorted and rolled over to sleep some more. If My Apprentice wanted in, she could open the door herself. Sith do not open doors at three a.m.
In the corner of the room, the Sith Handbook calmly noted the new rule while Maul pulled the pillows over his head. He sent out a mental blast -- Use the force, idiot -- and tried to get back to sleep.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, the incessant pounding stopped. Maul felt the force contract and heard the door slide open. About time, he thought to himself, burrowing even deeper under the covers.
His first thought, as the mattress bowed a bit next to him, was that My Apprentice had definitely put on weight. He would have to take care and make sure the cat laid off the tuna for a bit. Without opening his eyes, he reached out and ran his fingers through the soft fur. He was a little puzzled at first, as the fur seemed longer than he remembered. Coarser, too. Plus there was an overpowering scent of hibachi smoke and herbal essence shampoo...
Maul bolted upright as if he had been dashed with a bucket of cold water, putting another gouge in the headboard in the process.
"Thanks for inviting me in, neighbor!" an obscenely perky Obi-Wan said. "Something weird is going on in my apartment, and I wanted to make sure you were all right."
Maul stared at the figure in blue silk pajama bottoms with tiny teddy bears on them, his eyes following the Padawan braid curling around the slender neck, the tip of it seeming to point at Obi-Wan's nipple. He jerked his head back to Obi-Wan's face just in time to catch the idiot's eyes glaze over as he stared at Maul's stomach. "Oh, my. I'd forgotten how far that tattoo extended."
Maul wanted to leap from his bed, grab Obi-Wan, and throw him off the balcony, just to see if he would bounce on impact. Instead, he found himself pulling the covers up over his chest. "What happened?"
The perky facade crumbled, and Obi-Wan started sobbing, big, hurkin' sobs that shook the bed and made his nose turn a shade of red only slightly more vibrant than Maul's tattoo. "It was terrible. Qui-Gon's CDs..." He gasped out between sobs, "They're...they're...destroyed."
"The John Tesh albums?" Maul asked eagerly, hardly daring to believe his luck.
Obi-Wan nodded pathetically. "Every last one of them. I woke up to this strange noise that sounded as if a thousand hamsters -- or one really, really angry one with razor sharp claws -- had decided to wreck my apartment. Every last CD is scratched to pieces and completely unplayable." He reached into his pants and pulled out a CD. "See?"
Maul nodded as he examined it. The work was most excellent. The album could never be played again. And the hatch marks actually formed "death to the Jedi twit" in the secret Sith tongue. Could Darth Mary Sue have been behind this?
She wants me. I am a babe magnet.
Obi-Wan was still sniffing a bit. "Not that I mind, really. I mean, they were Qui-Gon's..." He grabbed Maul by the shoulders and shook him. "But the fiends destroyed my first-edition, mint condition, commemorative Republic stamp collection. Chewed every bit of it up and made it into cage lining." Tears dripped down his downy checks. "They nearly suffocated Fluffi-Wan. If I hadn't woken up when I did..." He pulled Maul into a hug. "Hold me." This time, Maul pushed him off the bed, and Obi-Wan landed on his butt with a dull thud. "Owww."
Maul glared at him. "Sith do not hug," he snarled.
In the corner of the room, the Sith Handbook went into conniption fits trying to figure out if the rule did or did not contradict any of the previously documented sexual practices. It finally decided to note the rule as an addendum under "restraints."
Obi-Wan blinked his big, aquamarine eyes, his long lashes brushing like butterfly wings against his skin, and his lip began to tremble; the effect was almost as powerful as one of My Apprentice's mind whammies.
But Maul was strong with the dark side and could not be swayed.
Obi-Wan sniffed again, but Maul's adamantine heart could not be cracked.
A single perfect tear slid down Obi-Wan's downy cheek.
With a yell, Maul was out of bed and had thrown Obi-Wan over his shoulder. "Well, it's like a hug..." he heard Obi-Wan mutter as Maul carried him back to his own apartment. Maul kicked the door open and threw him on the couch, which had had its cushions shredded and the stuffing pulled out.
Maul blinked and looked around the place; the destruction was viciously sublime. Not a single one of the hideously pathetic boy band albums remained untouched, while the heavy metal and alternative rock went completely unscathed. Yes, this destruction had been wrought by someone strong in the dark side...as well as someone with at least a modicum of taste. He turned and stalked out of the room, catching sight of that red mist as he left. He whirled around and added one last exit line. "And next time, use the front door."
As exit lines went, it was pretty lame. He needed to work on his quipping. In his rage, he slammed the door behind him, which was hard to do, since it didn't exactly have hinges anymore, and tried again. "Death to Jedi scum!"
That was better. Sometimes it was best to go with the classics.
Sidious was already in his apartment, or rather Palpatine was. The senator stood in the center of Maul's living room, his lips curled in a snarl of disgust. What was this? thought Maul. Couldn't a Sith get a full night's sleep anymore?
The Senator was dressed in his fuchsia and teal silk shirt with ruffles at the collar and cuff, dark blue cape, jodhpurs, and black leather boots.
It wasn't a good look for him.
It wasn't a good look for anyone.
"What menial task brings you to my apartment, my master? Am I to go to the U-pick fields and gather fresh fruit today? I am sure that digging through the muck and the mud of insect-ridden balberry bogs would hone my rage." Besides, he'd come upon a great recipe for balberry cheesecake, and Sidious needed fattening up -- so he would be slow enough for Maul to strike down with ease.
"No, my apprentice, not today. Today, I have need of your help in a political matter." He handed Maul a Button with "Vote for Palpatine!" on it and a striped red and black paper visor similarly labeled. "The campaign coffers are low at the moment. You are to go out and do some fund raising for me." He thought a moment. "Perhaps the small businesses would be best. Make sure they know what sort of accidents can occur if I no longer have the funds to protect them."
"But, master, these people aren't from Naboo..." Maul looked longingly at his PlayStation.
"Doesn't matter. The money's the important thing." He pulled his cape in close to him. "I will be back tomorrow to see how you're doing. And Maul," he turned, picked up the PlayStation, and glared at his apprentice, "no video games until you've collected every credit I need." With that, he whisked out the door, cackling.
Maul's vision was red with rage. Sidious always had a great exit line. When he was Master, he would, as well.
The canvassing had not gone well -- too many droids and not enough beings with heads to crack -- and Maul feared for his PlayStation. Unable to sleep, he was ready when Obi-wan knocked on his front door that night. Maul ripped the door open and grabbed the bucketful of water he'd had stationed near the door in case of such an event -- only to stumble over a red-tinged mist that zipped in his door as soon as it was open. The bucket came crashing down on top of him, soaking his T-shirt and shorts.
Obi-Wan stared at him and swallowed. "My, that's a new look for you, isn't it? I can't get my pants to cling like that." He held out a small cooler with a six-pack of iced Pink Lady Death Blasters. "I brought something to drink this time."
With a snort, Maul reached out to slam the door in Obi-Wan's face -- and grabbed the cooler instead. He threw the cooler onto the coffee table next to the couch, scattering papers and old magazine covers everywhere. He pulled out a bottle and flipped open the top, the little parasol automatically popping up to add to the experience. Great, thought Maul. Designer drinks.
Obi-Wan was talking about something, but Maul ignored him. Maul usually ignored Obi-Wan, actually; that was the beauty of their relationship. Torment the twit, and he always came back. He could think of nothing more amusing than messing with Obi-Wan's head.
The cat snorted and tried to look convinced.
Maul was just getting ready to smite My Apprentice for that when his attention was caught by something eating its way through the collection of a year's worth of TV Guides that had fallen from the coffee table when he'd thrown the cooler down. A small reddish mist surrounded a fuzzy creature...Maul stopped mid-drink and stared at it as the creature left the pile of papers and made its way up the couch.
The destruction of Obi-Wan's apartment...not Darth Mary Sue.
Darth Mr. Fluffy.
Maul watched in fascinated horror as the late hamster, now a force ghost of the Dark Side, mimed out the battle between it and Fluffi-Wan, when he had been caught wreaking havoc on Obi-Wan's CD collection. Using the back of the couch as a stage, the hamster played all the roles, gesturing and dodging as he demonstrated how he was attacked by and counter-attacked his arch-rival, and ended with its strategic withdrawal.
Nattering on, Obi-Wan seemed blissfully unaware of the simulated death and destruction going on behind him; not even when Darth Fluffy used the Padawan's braid to create a noose to hang himself did the Jedi clue in.
My Apprentice pounced.
Her claws dived through the dead hamster's ghost -- a tasty morsel that had been running back and forth over the back of the couch in a most attractive fashion -- and sank instead into the back of Obi-Wan's neck.
With a scream of pain and terror that made Darth Maul's heart leap with joy, Obi-Wan spun around to face the couch, his lightsaber in his hand, anger seeming to drip from his pores. "What the fuck was that!" the Padawan screamed, all traces of coy innocence eradicated the instant he was attacked.
Maul stared at Obi-Wan, the way his lips gleamed and the sweat stood out on his brow. Really, when the boy was angry, he had...potential. For a moment, Maul's eyes glazed over, with the image of Obi-Wan -- minus his Padawan braid and with a complete Sith body tattoo -- popped into his brain...
Denial, My Apprentice sent to him as she paused in her game of hunt-the-hamster.
Maul mentally bitch-slapped her for her impertinence.
"My cat," he glared at My Apprentice, "thought your hair was a cat toy," Maul lied smoothly as his cat returned to frantically chasing after the dead hamster, knocking over an end table in the process. "I assure you, she meant no harm." For if she had, you would be bleeding all over my furniture, you little twit.
Maul could feel the cat's anger and frustration grow as it was unable to catch the force ghost, its claws sliding through it every time it got close. Maul savored the experience. Perhaps he would let the little rodent hang out here in order to strengthen his apprentice's dark side.
Well, that and the ghost made an excellent cat toy. Maul really didn't want to think about how much of his budget had gone into tuna and catnip lately.
Maul looked over at Obi-Wan who was still contemplating the lie. "Okay, " he said, turning his lightsaber off and returning it to his belt. "I didn't mean to be rude."
"Think nothing of it," Maul said with a smile.
Obi-Wan swallowed hard. "My...when you do that, you look...uh, wow." He blinked. "Want another drink?"
"It's not Friday."
"Damn." Obi-Wan turned and stared at the pile of freshly-chewed TV Guides. With a gasp, he turned back to Maul and cried, "Oh, Maul! I know what's wrong. I'm being haunted." He curled up against the couch and laid one delicate hand on Maul's sodden thigh. "I think I've known it for weeks now, moments when I found some ribbons chewed or bills turned into a puddle of recycling before I had a chance to read them. I kept seeing what I thought was Mr. Fluffy in my room, nesting in my underwear drawer and shredding a few treasured books. I thought...I thought I was imagining it. That Qui-Gon was spending too much time with Mace Windu," his voice broke with a heavy sob. "So I brought home Fluffi-Wan. But now, I know." His voice broke completely. "I killed Mr. Fluffy!"
Maul tossed back a second Pink Lady Death Blaster. They weren't bad, if you ignored the faint wooden taste. "I thought Mr. Whiskers did that?"
"Well, technically, yeah." Obi-Wan nodded. "But he wouldn't have been able to do it if I hadn't been feeding Mr. Fluffy Cost-mo brand hamster nuggets in the large council-sized bag." He sobbed again, collapsing on Maul's chest. "I was just trying to save some money," he wailed, "I wanted a new Speedo for spring break."
Pain and regret poured off Obi-Wan in waves; it was a good night for Maul. Only one thing could make it more perfect.
Well, two, but it wasn't Friday, and this wasn't the Grey Side of the Force...
"You have any money?"" he interrupted Obi-Wan's hysterical sobbing.
"Yeah, a little, why? You want to order a pizza?"
Maul glared at him. "A large donation to the Sith Animal Shelter might appease the spirit of your dead rat. Give me everything you have plus your cash card and the PIN number, and I'll take care of it in the morning."
Obi-Wan hugged him. "Oh, Maul, thanks! You're a pal. Luckily, I just cashed my trust-fund check yesterday, so I actually have plenty. " Obi-Wan emptied his pockets and wrote down his pin number. "Oh, and, uh, since it isn't Friday, I should probably go see how Fluffi-Wan is. He was looking really exhausted earlier. Bye!"
He waved cheerfully at Maul and bounded out the door.
Maul rubbed his hands together with glee. Yes, this was a perfect night. He'd use the money to buy a second PlayStation, one that Sidious did not know about, and turn in the rest for the Senator's campaign fund.
Life was good.
"Maul! What are you doing?" Sidious said from behind him.
Someone is raining on my parade, thought Maul.
"Is this the campaign fund collection?" Sidious picked up the pile of money that Obi-Wan had left on the table. "Excellent, my apprentice." He tossed the PlayStation down where the money had been, destroying Obi-Wan's cash card. "Play tonight. Tomorrow, the U-Pick-em fields."
NooooOOOOOOooooo! thought Maul, staring at the wreckage of the cash card. Rage filled him, and he turned for Sidious, but his master was already gone.
Damn. Maul cheered himself by reminding himself that the exit line had been pretty lame this time. Soon, my master, I will strike you down.
In the meantime, he decided to order a pizza.
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