YOUNG MAUL IN LOVE
A Completely Impossible Romance
This one's for you, skywalker05. (Told you I'd write it.)
Senator Palpatine's callous voice reverberated through the darkened room. Well, to the outside world, at least, he was good old model senator and model citizen Palpatine. Oh, that Palpatine, people would whisper excitedly as he passed them in the streets. Always so goll-durned concerned with the Good of the Galaxy and Other Quite Magnanimous Causes. What a guy. Someone should give him a medal. Someone should elect him Chancellor. Why, someone should let him overthrow the Republic and seize iron-fisted control of the entire galaxy—well, he hadn't quite heard that one yet, it was a bit of wishful thinking on his part.
At any rate, at that moment, in that room, he wasn't Palpatine at all, not by a long shot. He was Darth Sidious. His two personas, he had learned long ago, could be easily exchanged merely by employing a black cloak, a severe change in vocal tone, and the benefits of contemplative solitude. In fact, sometimes when he was alone in his office, he'd put on the cloak, cast around a few furtive glances at his "domain", and giggle to himself for a few precious seconds before going back to his endless datawork. Times like those made him remember why he liked being Dark Lord of the Sith.
Except when one had to deal with a lazy apprentice.
"Maul, get up, you lethargic so-and-so!" Sidious's patience, which had already been worn thin by the incompetent waiter at dinner earlier (three ice cubes when he had explicitly asked for two, honestly, the nerve of some Bothans), finally snapped. Rolling up his sleeves, he unleashed a blast of Force lightning at the indolent Zabrak. Hopefully, Maul would survive.
"I'm—already—awake!!" the beleaguered apprentice barked between jolts of energy, gathering his incredible willpower around him and tumbling out of his cot to land in a kneel at his master's feet.
"Oh." Sidious looked down at the young Sith and sent a final, small bolt of lightning through Maul's body. "One more, just for good measure."
If he wasn't so loyal to Sidious, Maul thought, that old man would have been long dead. Or at least dead two weeks ago, which was when the Sith Lord had apparently thought it quite droll to fill Maul's bath with Ubuugan fleshborers. What a fiasco that had been. He supposed it was just his master's own perverse way of teaching his apprentice constant vigilance. It was a shame that Maul had to kill the medic who had treated him, what with Sidious's policy of "let no one live who knows you exist". Rather ridiculous, Maul thought. Couldn't a Zabrak even get lunch without having to go through all the trouble of massacring everyone in the restaurant afterward? Oh, the number of sumptuous dishes he had only gotten to enjoy once because of the untimely demise of their creator!
With a huff, he looked up, his blazing red eyes searching for Sidious's in the recesses of the man's Sith cloak, the one that Maul had always envied so much. Unlike his own, it had pockets and a comfortable satin lining. Maybe, he thought, one day, he'd receive the deluxe model. Maybe Sidious was saving it for when Maul himself became a Sith Lord. Maul wondered what, exactly, he'd have to do for the promotion to take place. Every time he had questioned Sidious about it, his master would fumble awkwardly before changing the subject to the day's weather programming or the latest holodrama. Puzzling, indeed.
"I have another mission for you, apprentice," Sidious intoned slowly and dramatically (because that was, after all, the best way for Sith to speak, especially if they were absolutely oozing with the power of the Dark Side).
Maul snarled viciously in reply. He enjoyed snarling. He had also long since learned that if he dared try anything ridiculous enough as speaking to his master politely and civilly, he'd be in for a world of hurt—or "correction", as Sidious so fondly termed it.
"You are to travel to Naboo," Sidious continued, "and do away with that idiot King Veruna. Not only does he owe me twenty credits," the Dark Lord seethed, "but he forgot my birthday. Twice." At this he had to disguise a sniffle as a small sneeze.
Maul nodded, and added another snarl just in case he wasn't expressing the proper amount of rage and hatred.
"Leave no evidence—wait, no, scratch that, better idea. Make it look like Governor Bibble did it. He's worn that absurd goatee for far too many years." Sidious flung one arm flamboyantly towards the doorway. "Go."
"As you wish, Master," Maul growled, Force-pulling his lightsaber and regulation-style black cloak to him and stalking out the doorway.
As a parting gift of sorts, Sidious used the Force to sweep the Zabrak's feet out from under him.
Maul grumbled to himself as he slipped into the seat of his sleek black Sith Infiltrator and turned on some Screaming Jawas—the band's ear-splitting vocals, cacophonous instrumental accompaniment, and lyrics that were guaranteed to be about violence, anger, or (usually) both, were always great for getting him in the mood for an assassination job.
He patted the instrument console affectionately as he activated the Scimitar's stealth shields and pulled out of the hangar. The ship was like a brother to him. A 26.5-metre-long brother. With ion cannons. It had been a Life Day present from his master a few years back, he fondly recalled, and Sidious had been downright giddy when Maul first entered the ship and inadvertently triggered its security systems, because Sidious had somehow forgotten to register Maul as an authorized pilot. Another medic dead and gone because of that little incident.
The Sith cast one last glance at the glistening ecumenopolis before swerving his ship around and setting hyperspace coordinates for Naboo. "Coruscant…the entire planet is one big city," he mused, wondering if anyone else would ever be insightful enough to note the fact.
"Naboo…definitely not one big city."
The Scimitar approached the watery planet at a leisurely pace; whatever paltry defenses this world possessed were no match for the ship's cutting-edge cloaking, Maul chuckled to himself. His thoughts were interrupted by a blinking red message on the console in front of him.
CLOAKING DEVICE BATTERY LOW
Maul sat back in his seat and ran a hand down his face in frustration. Of course he had forgotten to charge the battery after his last mission.
He groaned, watching helplessly as a swarm of yellow-and-silver starfighters with long tail- and engine-finials spewed from the planet's surface, firing streams of fluorescent green lasers toward him.
Maul dodged the preliminary shots easily and charged the fighters, hoping to break through to the surface before he was accosted by reinforcements. The squadron reminded him dreadfully of the time he had been sent to exterminate a hive of Killiks, in order to…wait, just why did Sidious have him go on that mission? So Maul could discover that he was agonizingly allergic to Killik pheromones? Perhaps, as his master did seem quite delighted when Maul returned to Coruscant covered in hives. Yet another medic's career cut short.
"This is Bravo Leader to unknown vessel," a male voice crackled over the Scimitar's communications receiver. "You are flying a starship, repeat, you are flying a starship!"
Normally, Maul would remain completely impervious to communications, but this one was just too good to pass up. He rationalized that the pilot would be dead within the next two seconds anyway. "Thank you, Captain Obvious!" he snapped back, before opening fire on the fighter.
The small craft swerved up and out of the way—before Maul could react, he was thrown forward by a barrage of fire at the Scimitar's aft. Fasten your safety restraint, idiot boy, the Sidious-voice in Maul's head chided him. You call that piloting? Oh, and shine your shoes once in a while. Show some class while you kill people. Sometimes Maul suspected that his master was better at telepathy than he usually let on.
"We're giving you one last warning," the pilot's voice stated forcefully. "Tell us your business here or we will be forced to destroy you."
Maul's only response was another volley from his Infiltrator's ion cannons. The squadron retorted in kind by letting loose with everything they had; the ship was rocking so badly that the Sith could barely think straight, much less operate the controls. In frustration, he slammed his fist on the console, sending sparks flying. Sidious always told Maul that anger was the best way to solve all of his problems.
MAIN SHIELDS DISABLED
Maybe Sidious wasn't always right.
With a final jolt, the Scimitar keeled and began plunging into the atmosphere.
Well, at least the shaking had stopped and the ride down would be nice and smooth, Maul thought optimistically as he frantically scrambled to activate the backup shielding and emergency repulsors while keeping his pursuers at bay with scattered cannon fire. The ground approached rapidly, and the Zabrak barely had time to note that he was headed for a densely forested area before the ship crashed through the canopy and into a strangely glassy surface, which absorbed the impact far better than he was expecting it to. Maul looked out the cockpit window at ascending bubbles and bug-eyed fish peering at him out of a murky blue haze. Ah. Water. Of course. He let himself sit and ponder his predicament for a half-second before making a mad dash to the entry hatch.
Sidious was going to kill him, Maul realized, staring plaintively at the small lake that the Scimitar lay somewhere at the bottom of—if there even was a bottom. He had lost the ship, and Sidious was officially going to kill him for it. Now he would never get a cloak with pockets. In fact, his master might even kill him, transfer his consciousness to a cloned body or something like that, and then kill him again, just to teach him a lesson. Admittedly, he wasn't exactly sure if something like that was possible, but it just seemed like the sort of thing the Sith Lord would take pleasure in.
With a sigh, he decided to focus on the positive; it had always been a sort of guilty pleasure for him, even when his master had adamantly (and often painfully) insisted that the young Zabrak keep his anger fueled by remaining pessimistic. Maul made a mental checklist of things he could be thankful for in the situation. The starfighters were nowhere in sight—they must have figured the crash had finished him. He had managed to salvage the Bloodfin, so the assassination was still a go, if he could figure out how to get to Theed (a few violent threats to the nearest sentient would take care of that). And the weather was absolutely lovely.
The Zabrak hopped astride his speeder bike and shot off through the swamp, weaving through the dense tangle with precision reflexes gained from years of Sidious unexpectedly Force-throwing furniture at his head. As tree trunks, foliage, and shafts of sunlight whipped by, Maul noted a herd of extremely large, quadrupedal amphibians foraging among the leafy boughs just ahead of him. He tried to veer to avoid them, but it was too late—they had been startled by the noise and sudden motion of his bike.
The next few seconds were a jumble of sound and motion as the Sith was overwhelmed by the stampeding fambaas, their pillar-like legs sending tremors into the marshy ground with each panicked step and their alarmed cries echoing far into the woods. Maul quickly discovered that dodging things on a speeder bike was far easier when the things one was trying to dodge were both stationary and not in an unpredictable frenzy. In fact, he became so absorbed in dodging that he failed to see the massive tree trunk directly in his path.
Wake up! To your feet, insolent worm!
Sidious's harsh commands rang through Maul's head. The voice was muddled, as if Maul were drifting in a fever-dream through darkness, with the vaguest sensation of lying down, but at the moment his body felt very far away. Was he…dead? he wondered. Was this the afterlife—an eternity of nothing but his master's callous lectures, taunting him in a black oblivion? If he had known that sooner, he reasoned, he really would have taken himself out to lunch more often, inconvenient slaughters or no.
You call yourself a Sith? Sidious's stern tirade continued as Maul began to come to his senses. First the ship, and now THIS? You worthless…
That wasn't what the voice was saying at all. He listened closer, struggling to pick out the words.
"…Are you all right?"
Maul realized, as he eased back into consciousness, that it didn't even sound like his master's voice.
His eyelids snapped open, and he found himself staring into the green eyes of a young Human woman, her brown hair draped in a braid over her shoulder as she applied something to his shoulder that felt cool and stung slightly—a bacta patch.
He growled menacingly, hoping she would get the hint and back off, but she merely cocked an eyebrow and chuckled. "Is that any way to greet people, honestly?" she teased.
Maul struggled to raise himself from his prone position, but as he did so, piercing pain shot through his arm and leg, reminding him nostalgically of the time Sidious had attempted to teach him Force jumping by ceremoniously tossing him off of the side of the Senate building. Good medics were notoriously difficult to come by when one had to keep killing them off.
"Don't move, you're hurt pretty badly," the girl said with concern, pushing him gently back down into the bed (which was, Maul observed, marvelously comfortable; he seemed to be in a dwelling of some sort, with simple yet elegant décor and a cool breeze wafting through the open window).
The Sith lay there, puzzled. "Don't move?" That wasn't what he normally heard when he suffered an injury. "Walk it off," Sidious would say. "No pain, no gain." "Excruciating agony is just weakness leaving the body." None of this strange business of lessening the pain, of all things.
"You were out cold all night," the girl continued. "I'm…surprised you survived, really."
What was that supposed to mean? He was Darth Maul, of course he had survived. Preserving his own life while ensuring the death of others was what he deemed himself best at. At any rate, he was of no intention to stay and engage in mundane conversation. It was threatening time. With his free hand (as his broken arm had been carefully bandaged), he reached for his lightsaber…and found nothing.
"Where is it?!" he hissed, glaring at the girl. "Where is my lightsaber?!"
She shrugged. "Sorry…but I barely managed to pull you out of the flaming wreckage of what might have been a speeder bike. I didn't bother to check for any lightsabers."
Maul groaned, gritted his teeth, and tried to will himself to death, because that method was bound to be far less painful than whatever Sidious would have in store for him when he returned to Coruscant ship-less, bike-less, lightsaber-less, and, probably, assassination-less.
"Wait…lightsaber…are you a Jedi?" the young woman queried.
Maul flinched at being mistaken for the object of his utmost loathing. "No," he spat, determined to set the woefully misinformed Human straight. "I am a Sith."
The term showed no sign of registering with the girl. "…What's that? Are they like Jedi?"
"Oh, forget it," Maul grumbled. "How do I get to Theed?"
"You're in no condition to travel," she pointed out.
"I don't care. Tell me which direction Theed lies in."
She shuffled awkwardly. "It's…on the other side of the planet."
Oh, bantha poodoo. This was turning into the absolute worst mission he had ever been on. Sidious would definitely kill him now. For the first time since his master had begun "indoctrinating" him at a very young age, Maul felt that his lot in life was terribly unfair. Why must he spend his days being tormented so—
"My name's Edin Ozoie," the girl suddenly said, rudely interrupting his foray into self-pity. "What's yours?"
"Uh…er…" This caught him off guard. What was Maul's name—his real one, the one he could never quite remember? He had known it as a child, of course, but his Sith training had quickly pushed all reminders of his past out of his mind. Finally, he just opted for the easy way out. "Darth Maul," he muttered.
Edin regarded him quizzically. "Darth…Maul? No wonder you're so cranky. Pardon my asking, but what exactly were your parents thinking when they named you that?"
"My Sith Master named me," Maul corrected her.
"Darth Sidious is my teacher, my mentor. I am unswervingly loyal to him. If I serve him diligently, I will one day obtain the title of Sith Lord." He wondered why he was being so unusually frank and open with Edin, and settled on the fact that it was nice to finally have someone to talk to who didn't heap physical and verbal abuse on him every five seconds.
"What's he like?"
"My master…is the wisest being in the galaxy," Maul continued, reciting what had been programmed into him through years of brutal discipline. "He knows that power is not only the means to an end, but the end itself. He has dedicated himself to seeking power…at any cost," he finished with no small hint of pride.
Edin thought for a moment. "So what makes you think he'll promote you to Sith Lord, then?"
"Well, if he's so obsessed with power like you say he is, why should he share any of it with you? It sounds to me like he's just using you."
Indeed, this made Maul pause to reflect on the self-contradictory nature of what he had just explicated. He realized that in all the years of assassination jobs, Jedi-hunting, and takeout delivery, not once had Sidious ever accompanied him—or even lifted a finger to assist him (presenting him with a starship notwithstanding). Maul was, in a word, the man's lackey—and all he had ever received in return was heavy-handed nagging, Force bullying, and what he now realized, through course of logic, were merely delusions of grandeur.
All this was just too much for any Zabrak to handle, and so Maul laid there for a while, trying to figure out just where his life had gone oh so horribly wrong.
"Does it hurt?" Edin asked, breaking the silence.
"Of course it hurts!" Maul shouted, louder than he had intended. "My life is a lie! I have no purpose, no direction—"
"Er…I meant your arm. It's broken in two places."
"Oh." Maul looked down at his pathetic, bandaged appendage. "Uh…a little, I guess."
"Would you like more ice for it?"
Still in a psychological daze, the Zabrak replied, "Erm…sure."
As Edin made her way out of the room, Maul laid back and determined to take a long, hard look at his lifestyle—especially how it compared with the way he was currently being treated. As much as he hated to admit it, being doted on by a kind, considerate female was far more enjoyable than the rather violent type of attention Sidious always gave him. Even offing people, thrilling as it was, didn't quite possess this quiet sense of—what was it he was feeling now—peace? Peace was a lie, he reminded himself. But that was something his master had told him. And Maul's faith in his master was being rapidly shaken to its very foundations. He drifted back to sleep while mulling over his most unusual predicament.
"Edin…why aren't you afraid of me?"
"Because," the young woman explained while methodically cleaning Maul's wounds, "your anger management issues clearly stem from a traumatic childhood compounded by a low sense of self-worth and an abusive authority figure, not to mention the various neurotic complexes gained by adherence to a hostile system of beliefs that emphasizes aggressively projecting one's negative emotions. It's nothing a little counseling can't fix."
"But…I'm a Sith. You know, the scourge of the galaxy? A harbinger of destruction? Unmitigated fury in physical form?" As the words left his mouth, he found himself contemplating how Edin's hair glowed a soft honey brown when the sun hit it. What was wrong with him?
"I don't judge people," came the frank reply—Maul noted how her delicate lips curved ever so slightly when she was trying to hide an impish grin. Why was he suddenly paying attention to these things?
"Well…isn't my appearance…a little unsettling?" While he waited for a reply, he watched her warm eyes, green as the rolling hills outside, and had to snap himself out of his stupor by mentally reciting some Sith tenets Sidious had drilled into him. Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Wait, that couldn't be true. He was feeling extremely peaceful at the moment. He decided to try another one. Through power, I gain victory. More like, through power I get to manipulate others, he thought bitterly. He vaguely heard Edin's voice amidst his inner reflections.
"Oh…sorry, I was thinking. What'd you say?" Had he just…apologized? Was he falling ill? It was the only way he could explain both that and the fact that every time he looked at Edin, he got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hoped it wasn't indigestion.
"Your appearance doesn't really frighten me. I've seen Zabraks before, when I was in the Legislative Youth Program. Although, I must admit, your skin patterning seems rather…unique."
Maul scanned the sinuous designs covering his body. "They're tattoos." From the look in her eyes, he suddenly felt a lot less proud of them than he used to.
"They must have hurt."
The Sith nodded in agreement, clandestinely enjoying the sympathy. He still remembered vividly the week he had gotten them. Sidious insisted on doing the job himself and dragging out the process for as long as possible. He had called it an exercise in pain tolerance.
"Well…are you feeling any better?" Edin asked.
"Yes," Maul replied. "Thank you…for saving me." What was going on? Why had he just done the forbidden and actually thanked another being? Almost unwillingly, he found himself staring deeply into Edin's eyes and oh no, by all that was dark and evil no, he knew exactly what was going on now. He was falling in love. The very idea filled him with such terror that he could barely move. What could he do? The most obvious solution was to kill her…but then he'd have to go back to being kicked around by Sidious. And she was definitely one of the friendliest medics he'd ever had (the rest usually tended to cower in terror). Besides, a tiny, meek voice whispered from a dusty corner of his mind, was love really all that bad? Being with Edin was making him happy, and uncomfortable as he was when he was happy, he thought he might actually be starting to enjoy it.
Edin looked around the room, fumbling for a conversation topic. "Senator Palpatine gave a most interesting speech last night at the Senate proceedings," she informed her houseguest.
She raised an eyebrow. "You've never heard of him? He's from Naboo, and he's become quite popular in the Senate as of late. Very charismatic man. I was going to bring the HoloNet receiver up to share it with you, but you were asleep."
"It's sort of odd," she continued. "He preaches grand ideals like galactic peace and unity, and he's gained a lot of followers, but…something just seems…off about him. Like what he says isn't quite what he thinks. Almost like he's living a double life, and goes and does things when he's not at the Senate Hall that the outside galaxy knows absolutely nothing about, some sort of secret agenda or something."
"Weird." Maul hated insincere people like that. Well, he hated people in general. But this Palpatine fellow seemed like a real rotten blumfruit. He was glad they would probably never meet.
"Oh, I'm sorry if I'm boring you," Edin apologized. "I just find politics very interesting. It's sort of a hobby of mine. I don't mean to brag, but I served as Second Assistant Counselor for King Veruna for a term when I was fifteen."
The name Veruna was setting off klaxons in Maul's head, but he disregarded them, preoccupied with the way her eyes burned with enthusiasm—politics was clearly her passion in life. "If you like politics so much, why are you out here, in the countryside?"
She looked down at her folded hands. "My parents need me here, at the villa. Someone has to herd the shaaks while they're away on business. I'm just glad they'll be gone for another month—I'm not too sure what they'd think of me hosting a Sith in our home."
She chuckled, and Maul laughed with her. It wasn't his usual hollow, raspy snicker, the one he used on days when he felt sufficiently satisfied with the amount of death he had caused. It sounded…normal.
"But it's not too bad, really. It's very tranquil here. Very beautiful."
"I agree," Maul murmured. He found things to be quite beautiful, indeed, without even having to look outdoors.
"Although…" Edin paused. "I do get sort of…lonely out here."
What were these strange pangs in his chest, Maul wondered. Heartburn? No, wait, he must be feeling…compassion. And that scared him.
Oh well, Maul sighed, as Edin began gingerly changing out the bandaging on his leg. He supposed he could live with the fear.
"Are they…for killing?"
"What? No! We keep them for their fluff, it's always in high demand as a textile material."
Maul's leg had healed enough so that he could walk around with the help of a makeshift crutch Edin had constructed for him; the two were out in the pastures so Maul could get some sun. She had taken him to see the shaak herds; they were waddling around the hillsides on their tiny legs, grazing against a backdrop of blue skies and towering cloud formations. The Zabrak felt bad for asking, but by the ghost of Exar Kun, if those things didn't look like the largest, most tempting punching bags he'd ever seen.
"So I can't kill them?" he asked in faux innocence, grinning mischievously at her.
"Of course not," she laughed, shoving him playfully.
In response, he pretended to have been knocked off balance, and used the opportunity to "steady" himself by slipping his free arm around her shoulder.
Edin's face turned almost the same crimson shade as Maul's skin. "I'm…glad you're here, Maul," she confessed.
"Me too, Edin," the Sith replied, giving her a tight squeeze. Life on Naboo was far preferable to life with Sidious, especially after the time the Sith Lord had added xenoboric acid to Maul's dinner. Where Sidious kept finding new medics, Maul might never know.
That night, as he lay in bed, Maul's thoughts ran over and over his mind. He had tried to recite his Sith tenets as often as possible, really he had, but for every single one of them, a logical rebuttal began subconsciously forming. And now they were slowly slipping away, out of memory. He reflected on the past few weeks of his life; they had been the happiest he'd ever known, even better than that time he caused the extinction of an entire species. Better, even, than the day he received the Scimitar.
He still didn't quite understand what was happening to him, but he knew one thing for certain. He liked it.
"I am Emperor of all I survey! And all that I don't survey, for that matter!" Sidious cackled from beneath the hood of his dark robes. He was sitting at his desk in his office in the Senate Building, engaging in a little "brainstorming" session.
"You!!" he howled, pointing accusingly at a potted plant by the doorway. "Bow before your lord and master!" The plant remained motionless. "Insolent fool! This will teach you to crack jokes about my mother!!" He proceeded to throw Force lightning at the defenseless assari tree, which incinerated in an instant, provoking a malicious laugh from the Sith senator.
He looked at the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, pretending it was Alderaan and contemplating the best way to blow it up, when his plotting was cut short by the snappy jizz ringtone of his desktop communicator. Palpatine pulled off the cloak and stashed it in a drawer before accepting the communication. However, as his apprentice's visage came into view, the senator frantically ducked under his desk; it was Darth Sidious who rose up dramatically in Palpatine's stead. "What news do you bring, Maul?" he breathed. "Is Veruna dead?"
"No," Maul replied simply.
Instantly, Sidious noticed the marked difference in his pupil's voice, expression, and even the way he carried himself. This was not the aggressive, homicidal Zabrak he had sent to Naboo. This was a kinder, gentler Maul—an abomination if ever there was one. Sidious's stomach felt like it had dropped to his feet.
"In fact," Maul continued, "I quit. I'm resigning from the Sith Order."
"What?! No! Why?! You can't do that!!" Sidious screeched.
"Because," the Zabrak said, putting his arm around a Human woman wearing a recognizably Naboo hairstyle, "I've found something I like a whole lot better."
Sidious had heard enough. He shut the communicator off, running his fingers through his thinning hair and wondering how his foolproof training methods had ever failed him. Where was he ever going to find another apprentice now? Surely it wouldn't be anywhere near as easy as, say, befriending a willful young Jedi Knight and using his fear of abandonment against him to turn him to the Dark Side, would it?
Slowly and methodically, Palpatine removed the cloak, tucked it neatly away, and began repeatedly hitting his desk with his head.
Good apprentices were so difficult to come by.