Disclaimer: George Lucas owns da boys. We make no money and what little we do have is spent entirely on Qui-Gonís music lessons.
Note: The name of God the Great and Gracious is used more than once in this story. The whole story may be meant for entertainment, but never, nowhere do we intend blasphemy.
Thankyousas to Nocturne for betaing this beast into submission!
As we had feared, living with a Jedi and a Sith was not easy, at least not at first. As Maul progressed in his recovery ó and he did quite soon, so obviously there really was some kind of healing Force and it wasnít all hocus-pocus ó his tameness disappeared totally. He was overbearing, somewhat aggressive and generally seemed to be nervous. When Qui-Gon and he were in the same room, he picked at the Jedi constantly. On rare occasions did these confrontations go beyond words, but there was constant tension in the air. Qui-Gon took it all with his unwavering calm, which occasionally seemed to frustrate Maul. But again his frustrated anger met Qui-Gonís calm and unconcerned expression. Maul was galled then, and complained of food, weather, our stupidity, this primitive world, and everything else. Other things didnít concern me, but when he complained of food, I once took it personally, went away to my room and fretted there. Immediately, Mary followed to console me. Through the wall we could hear parts of the conversation between our two boys.
"You are taking their help for granted. You forget that they owe you nothing, Maul. What they give they give out of their kindness."
"Donít patronize me, Jedi scum. And itís Lord Maul to you."
"Very well, Lord Maul," Qui-Gon retorted, "I am Master Jinn, you may also address me Ďyour graceí, as is proper with a Jedi. I have no intention to patronize you, unless you act like you need a good whacking. I am just trying to ensure that we have a place to stay until we can find means to go back, and I wish you would co-operate."
I heard the heavy thud-thud of his boots as the Zabrak paced the length of his room. I could imagine Qui-Gon sitting on the couch, his long legs stretched out.
"Whatís your secret?" Maul thundered finally. "Why do you have the Force and I do not? What is this place? Why canít I feel the Force? Tell me!"
"You must be patient," the Jedi said quietly.
"Aaargh!" There was a frustrated roar and something crashed. I tried to remember what items there were in his room ó any vases, cups, plates? But it didnít really matter any more. Whatever it had been, it was gone. "You sound like Lord Sidious!"
I smiled. The battle was won.
"Perhaps you need to adjust," I heard Qui-Gonís characteristic accent. "The Force is here; it has to be."
I heard the couch creak ó it must have been Qui-Gon pulling his tall frame up.
"Thereís more Iíd like to talk with you about," he said. "You must have noticed our hostesses know some things about you... about me, too. Have you wondered why is that?"
Maul apparently continued his pacing and didnít give an answer.
"For example," the Jedi continued, "Theyíve shown me pictures of the person they claim to be your masterís last apprentice, who will destroy the Sith."
The pacing came to an abrupt halt. The Zabrakís answer was given in a low hiss and I couldnít catch the words.
"Why don't you just ask!" Qui-Gon called and strode out of Maulís room.
The Zabrak did as recommended. He stormed into the common room where we had set up our computer, and demanded to see.
"See what, Maul?"
"This. Everything. What you know about us, how do you know it, where it all comes from. And NOW."
"I'm not sure what you mean, there is nothing special," Mary hesitated, but Maul wouldn't be dissuaded.
Mary once again tried to avoid a disaster, although I wasn't quite sure which one of the many: "Why this sudden interest? Have we hidden anything from you? I donít think so ó you've had free access to everything: books, newspapers, TV, the Internet..."
"I donít want to discuss the difference between hiding and not mentioning. Now!" Maul's voice was low and cutting.
"I canít see a reason why Lord Maul shouldnít be acquainted with the same things you allowed me to see." Qui-Gon had joined us and moved to stand beside Maul. Aha! I thought, for once they're on the same side, and mentally filed away the fact.
"Thank you... Master Jinn," Maul acknowledged still with suppressed fury in his voice, without taking his stare from us.
So Mary shrugged and seated him before the screen. I saw there was no room for me, so I picked a book and left them to browse through millions of virtual pages. Having seen how calmly our Jedi took the fact that there was a virtual and fictional universe on Earth mirroring his home-world, with a not so small bunch of fans worshipping various characters in different ways ó and he had had quite some enlightening experiences about the fannish image of himself ó I didnít think Darth Maul would drop dead from this revelation. Although I wasnít sure of his reaction to Darth Vader, the last and most unique Sith apprentice...
When I returned (and it was later, much later) Maul was still there, his unmoving stare fixed at the screen. He sat there glued to the screen, going through page after page with amazing speed. Mary had evidently given up and was now lying on the sofa, scribbling something in her notebook. Qui-Gon stood behind Maul and read over his shoulder.
"Maul, are you sure you are not taking it all too seriously?" I asked. "After all, it's nothing but fiction."
"I am not fiction." He didn't even bother to turn his head.
"So what do you hope to find there? The truth? Which of the many truths?"
I raised an eyebrow at that exhaustive reply.
"Interesting," was Maul's remark when he finally switched the thing off, bearing a satisfied expression.
ĒWhat is?Ē I asked.
"It's like Jedi Council politics," Maul answered. "Half-truths, twisted truths and outright falsehoods."
Obviously Iíd missed something here. I really wished Iíd been by his side, to see his reaction when he first read about himself and a certain padawan getting into an acrobatic clinch. So I asked him to elaborate.
"What Maul means is that your take on our world contains some shocking insights side by side with some things that have been turned completely upside down, which makes me wonder about their source," Qui-Gon spoke up. "I wonder if they have been deliberately fed to this... Mr. Lucas or whatshisname. What's the purpose behind it all, and who in the stars would profit from such vision of things?"
"So tell us what's not true."
Maul spread his arms and grinned smugly. "Well, the most obvious thing."
I stared blankly.
"We both are here, alive, in case you haven't noticed ó at least I am very much so. I refuse to be called 'alternate'."
"Of course, Maulie. You are the one and only," Mary smiled. "And we are glad that things are the way they are; really, we are."
Maul frowned in disapproval at the endearment. "Anyway, that's only the start." He obviously prepared to make a bigger hit. "You've got many other things wrong too. For example, there is no Sith temple on Korriban or anywhere else. There is no such place as Korriban, and the Sith do not have temples. We celebrate our existence wherever we are. Our body is our temple."
I noticed Qui-Gon prick up his ears.
"Neither is there any spirit of Lord Exar Kun hanging around on some moon or whatever. All Sith Lords are accounted for, and we keep good track of our people. Quite unlike the Jedi." He challenged the other with his glare. "I am aware of several Jedi whose fate is not known to you. Haven't you thought about them, Jedi? Does your council have nightmares about them having Ďfallení?"
Qui-Gon shrugged. "So? Are they fallen?"
Maul sent us a triumphant smirk. "Master Jinn hasn't told you about the Jedi. Of course not. What a bunch of halfwits and liars they are. You've often mentioned a Jedi called Mace Windu. If he is the same Windu who stepped down from the council three years ago, he is definitely not black. In his time he was said to be a wise councilor ó if a Jedi can be wise ó but it was he whose rule in the council cost the most Jedi lives after the Great Sith Wars. He then gave his blessing to the Hutt war that almost destroyed their spaceship industry in Corellia. But Jedi Master Jinn wonít mention it ó no, because it is a shame for every Jedi. Hypocrites, thatís what you Jedi are."
"Politics and power struggles are really not an issue here," Qui-Gon countered. "I donít think the ladies are interested in it."
"Of course!" Maul gave a derisive snort. "So now you hide behind them."
Frustration passed briefly over Qui-Gonís face, but then he shrugged. "Very well, if you insist. That particular confrontation was inevitable. It had gone too far, and even a Jedi councilor has limited powers and influence. The Hutts donít take us very kindly, as you know, Iím sure."
"Imagine that," Maul mocked. "And thatís what stops the great Jedi, guardians of peace and justice! Pathetic!"
Qui-Gon sighed. "I donít want to argue with you about free will and the policy of non-interference, because as a Sith, no doubt youíve been trained in a different way. So I guess we canít achieve an agreement here."
(Authors' remark: The following language problem is with all due respect dedicated to Siubhan, because our version of spoken English sounds much worse than whatever you've seen here.)
"Wait, wait ó" Mary rose her hand. "Hutt industry on Corellia, was that what you said? What have the Hutts to do with Corellia?"
"Hutts are native inhabitants of Corellia," Qui-Gon explained calmly.
"What? Does this mean Jabba the Hutt is Corellian?" Mary giggled. "Han Solo is a Hutt?"
"Not 'Hutt'," Maul corrected her, "'Hutt'. You must say it with an 'u'. It rhymes with 'put'."
"Hoot," Mary echoed obediently. I heard a muffled noise and saw our domesticated Jedi look away and scratch his nose diligently. I couldnít hold back and burst out laughing.
"You know, sometimes I really donít get why you two canít be friendly, or at least normal with each other," I said when I could breathe again. "After all, you are so similar."
"You don't know what you're talking about, woman," Maul snapped angrily.
"Really, she's right," Mary came to my aid, "look at the way you take words out from each other's mouths. And you bicker like two political parties. Which implies some mutual understanding inbetween the political debates. Is that what makes the difference between your orders? The political differences only?"
"And," I added, "when it comes to you two against our world, like making your point to us for example, then you two are buddies and in complete agreement with each other."
"Like a certain loving couple of a princess and a slug of a Hutt ó Hoot ó whatever," Mary couldn't resist. The image of Leia and Han the Hutt, or Jabba the Corellian, was just too irresistible.
"Where do you take these strange ideas from? They're humanoid," Maul protested (as always changing the subject, to take our minds away from dangerous issues such as the possibilities of peace between Jedi and Sith). "Most of the intelligent 'life-forms' as you call them are humanoids. One head, two arms, two legs, no snouts, no duckbills, no eyestalks, no spider-legs. Haven't you ever heard of xenobiology before? The first law of xenobiology: all life forms capable of space travel appear as the result of an evolution toward the same phenotype." He paused and shot a glance toward the Jedi, then continued. "Well, mostly ó at least as far as natural development is concerned. Then, of course, there are all sorts of mutated freaks. For some even the gender is not so clearly defined." Maul's remark was flavoured with a concealed slyness, like a hidden dagger. What kind of dagger could it be?
"What are you referring to, Maul? Are there more than two sexes?" I voiced my amazement. Because if the Galaxy Far, Far Away truly sported so little diversity in intelligent life-forms, I'd think there would be no excesses in this area. At least not in the... umm... humanoids.
"Only two sexes there are, no more no less." The Sith let the words roll over his tongue, enjoying their taste. "But some persons do change between sexes. Repeatedly."
Qui-Gon furrowed his brows. "I cannot see anything awkward in master Yoda having originally been female. You know about the ecological disaster on his home-world that left them incapable of producing any male offspring. To use genetic engineering to safeguard the future of their genome was a most obvious decision."
Ohmigod! Frank Oz the cute and wise minimaster! Well, if Qui-Gon didn't see anything awkward in that, I did for sure ó the image of a she-Yoda with lipstick and all was just way too crazy. Mary agreed with me wholeheartedly ó she buried her head in the pillows, her body rocking from choked laughter. (Later, over a goodnight beer, she told me she had got the mental image of a she-Yoda flirting heavily during a council session.)
Qui-Gon obviously wasn't entirely happy that we seemed to share Maul's view on this, but he was wise enough not to remind us of our professed open-mindedness.
"But why, Master Jinn, not change back after the duty is done?" Maul continued nastily. "Why not put away the tool after it is used? Why has Master Yoda, after becoming a Jedi, transformed from female to male and back on a regular basis? Especially as he no longer contributes to the reproduction of the genome. I thought to be one with yourself and the Force is the major goal of the Jedi order."
"Master Yoda must have had his reasons, I am sure," the Jedi Master said quietly but firmly, his demeanor indicating that as far as he was concerned, the topic was already covered and closed.
After a moment's silence I decided that a change of subject was in order and went back where we had left off ó the discussion of xenobiology. "Why is space travel the determining criterion?" I asked. "It's just an aspect of technology."
"It requires a certain level of control over technology, and consequently a level of abstract thinking that other life forms have not been able to achieve," Qui-Gon explained. "Of course, it is difficult to draw a line where intelligent life-forms end and non-intelligent ones begin, but the fact is, all species that have developed a script, a system of abstract values and engage in space travel ó even if they have learned to do so from other species ó are what you call humans or humanoids."
Mary looked at me in sudden remembrance of a nightshift days ago. ĒThat bears another question. Are we of the same species so to say? Can you reproduce with Earthlings?Ē
"We can," Qui-Gon smiled. "That is another law of xenobiology: the similarity of phenotypes is positively correlated with the capability of successful interbreeding. Even Maul's race can, most probably."
"Ah, well," Mary said, "thatísÖ.good to know."
As soon as Maul was well enough so that we didnít need Qui-Gon constantly around (except for his healing seances), the Jedi withdrew into his room, or occasionally disappeared from the house for hours. He said he spent that time in the ship, trying to repair it and to get a signal from off-world. Theoretically it was possible that another ship might pass by in the transmission range; but the possibility was very thin. However, I suspect a good part of his time was spent meditating.
When Qui-Gon was out, we often sat with Maul, talking or surfing the net. This was something he had become very interested in. When the Jedi was at home, he tactfully kept away from Maulís room ó and Maul kept to his own room, to avoid the Jedi. Then weíd sit together in the living room or kitchen or veranda, Mary, Qui-Gon and I, and talk about many things, about his world and ours. Sometimes I wished Maul would join us, not wanting to exclude him from our circle; but he never came to us, and we felt it would be improper to intrude into Maulís privacy.
But Maulís self-imposed seclusion didnít last.
One day Qui-Gon (tall as he is, with a perfect view of things hidden away on top of furniture) found a guitar. He took it down and studied it with interest.
"Do you play guitar?" I asked.
"Itís similar to an instrument that I was taught when I was young... Not that I play really."
"Come on, play something," Mary urged.
He adjusted the strings, struck some chords, and tried a catch of a tune. Although I must say that he was not very successful. Besides, the instrument was clearly not in tune.
Maul had silently entered and stood by the door, listening. After a while he snorted. "Really, Jedi," he sneered, "this sounds worse than a dozen Yuzzums of Endor."
Qui-Gon smiled beatifically. "I suppose it does. My master always said so, anyway."
"Should have listened to him."
The Jedi Master smirked. "When do young men ever listen to their masters. I suppose youíve given yours many a headache yourself."
Maul opened his mouth, but closed it without saying anything. Qui-Gon did as if he didnít notice. "Oh yes, I could drive him nuts with my singing! Sometimes when he made me do chores or wounded my adolescent ego, I used it to get back at him." He continued to pluck at the strings haphazardly. "You know, he made me do katas in front of other knights and masters Ė somehow my legs kept growing ahead of me and there was a period when not a week passed when I didnít stumble over my own feet. Of course, I failed miserably. Then back in our rooms I went to shower and started... um, howling, I suppose. Popular tunes, like the Bith March, A Bonnie Ship Sailed Across the Stars... Whistliní Lady... Oh Ye Fiery Corellian Whiskey..."
"No!" Maul shook his head incredulously.
"Did too. With all the naughty parts. Roared them out especially loud, and I loved to hear my voice in the shower."
"Didnít he cane you or something?"
Now it was the Jediís turn to look up in surprise. "Of course not, weíre civilized beings--- Wait, do you mean to say you would have been punished for singing?"
"I suppose, if I had produced a sound like a nerfís baaing, he would have pulled harp strings from the skin of my back."
We all looked mildly alarmed, and Maul smirked triumphantly.
"What? I was only joking. Stars, will you stop this infernal noise!" He grabbed the guitar out of Qui-Gonís hands and for a moment I thought he was going to throw it across the room; but he merely placed it carefully on the table. "No, he allowed me to play my dhobo flute for recreation." He bent to pull out a thin instrument from what must have been a knife-pocket in his boot, and twirled it between his fingers.
I stepped closer curiously. "May I see it?"
He handed it to me. It was not unlike some types of flute of our world, small, light, and obviously well used and well loved. It sat perfectly in my hands and my fingers slid easily to their places, but before I could try a note, he plucked it away from me.
"It is Iridonian," he explained. "Master ordered me to stay in touch with my homeworld. Sent me there a few times. Made me learn things. Weíre not total savages, you know."
"Would you play something for us?"
"Yes, Maul," Qui-Gon seconded my plea, "it would be an honour."
But somehow it seemed as if the Sith had suddenly woken up and realized that he was fraternizing with lesser beings. He stood abruptly, hid his flute and left without a word.
Yet in the evening, when the stars were out and grasshoppers chirred in the night, we suddenly heard a quiet tune from the porch. Then another. Simple, but lovely.
Mary and I refrained from commenting when Maul came in later to get his before-the-bed tea and sandwich, but it was clear that something fundamental had changed in our relationship with the young Sith.
In the following days I often wondered if it had been real or a dream, because after that the boyz went back to their usual bickering and rivalry. But shortly afterwards I realized that at about that time they had begun to address each other easily as ĎMaulí and ĎJinní with no mention of any titles. Evidently they had decided that they could exist together in one world.
Maul sat on the windowsill. He had developed this habit since he had been able to leave the bed. Eyes closed, leaning against the window frame, he reminded me of an estuarine crocodile basking in the sun ó an unpredictable, dangerous monolith. Like those patient hunters, the Sith sat there motionless, but something in his attitude left no room for doubts that he would become a released arrow when the moment was right.
From time to time the crocodile graced me with a tilted gaze from his deep yellow eyes. I pretended not to care, because I didnít want to feed his arrogance. Although it was hard to do gardening work when feeling Darth Maulís presence. I couldn't help loving him! Couldn't you, Mary? ó I asked myself ó Is it because you have played around with fantasies about this screen-character for so long? Or is it because of the rare signs of attraction to you he shows occasionally ó preferring your company if he can choose, following you steadily like a shadow, watching you, if you are nearby, his smile... oh, his smile...
Burning salty sweat running into my eyes awoke me from my daydream. Yep, I knew the argument that to fall for a screen-character who looks like devil is just one way of making up for what you lack in everyday life by yielding yourself to the crowds of Azrael. Or the reasonable argument: Mary, running out of lovers, takes the nearest available specimen. I laughed silently, which earned me another flash from Maul's golden eyes. Maybe I was a hormone-driven chunk of flesh, maybe I wasn't. The Maul we housed was not a screen-character, he was a male, as was Qui ó very disturbingly so, in a way that wasn't easy to forget even for a moment. How to count the facets of his personality beyond what had been conveyed with five lines of text and three brief scenes of screen appearance? Thank Allah and the first law of xenobiology, he wasnít that much different from the movie; I stifled another snicker as some images arose in my mind. I would have loved to be with him, to get anything from him ó acknowledgement, partnership, sex ó anything.
No, Mary, that wouldn't be good.
"Damn, Maul! Do you read thoughts?!"
My outburst earned a smirk.
"It was just an finger exercise. Already forgotten what I saw."
"This isn't exactly the answer I hoped for, you know." I decided to be frank.
"Oh, Mary." Maul folded his arms in front of his chest. "What did you expect from a man stranded here in bad condition and without a ship? I don't want to make things more complicated than they are. I'm just joking a bit." The bitterness in his voice belied the amused expression of his features.
"Could it be you suffer from boredom?" I asked, with a sudden idea forming in my head. "How about your martial arts training? Don't you need daily training?" I would have loved to see him in motion.
Maul shook his head slightly, evaluating my suggestion. Then he jumped right out the window, landing in front of me. "I am not yet ready for the full training program, but I can teach you in the meantime. This will be a welcome distraction." He stepped closer. "You show signs of fast reflexes and not so bad body co-ordination."
I grinned, remembering the near accident with a glass of milk that my praised reflexes had avoided.
"But you must follow my orders and behave, Mary."
"Sure, Maulie, anytime."
"And never call me Maulie."
"And certainly not Ďwhateverí."
Then he kissed me and it was like ... Nothing. I mean really, nothing: One finger under my chin to lift my face to his and a brief soft touch on my lips. I overheard deliberately the faint voice in my head calling me a stupid bitch who assumes too much. A Sith Lord would never be attracted to you, only play games with you. But the gambler in me reached out and tugged playfully at his right temple horn.
A clearly shocked Maul opened his eyes wide: "...This, too, falls under bad behaviour."
Maul was getting stronger and stronger and I began to fear that he would soon want his revenge.
"Donít worry," Qui-Gon said, "Twice he has tried, twice he has failed. This time he will wait until he is completely restored. And that should still be some time away."
How could he speak so calmly about something that involved himself, possibly in a most unpleasant way! And probably us too! "What a relief," I said with an edge of irony.
"As you must know already," Qui-Gon explained, "the truth is, I cannot heal him completely. I do not have the skills, and the unfamiliar feeling of the Force here doesnít help either. Yesterday he asked me to end those healing seances. Evidently he, too, found that I couldnít be of any further use. But I still think he needs to see a medic."
"I wonder why hasnít he sought help before. I mean, the way he was, he must have known he couldnít best you. Was he on a sort of suicide mission?"
Qui-Gon shook his head. "I donít really know. Perhaps I interrupted his healing when I found him on Mazarna and chased him to this place."
"Or his master denied it to him?" I guessed. "Because he failed?"
"With the Sith, that may be possible too."
"But heís stronger ó he looks much better now," Mary stated.
Qui-Gon nodded. "Thatís his way. He is very strong. Amazingly so ó Iíve never seen anybody like him. But right now it's still a far cry from his full strength that Iíve seen."
I tried to imagine the Sith in his full glory. And the Jedi in his full glory. And wondered if Mary and I would ever fit into the picture.
Evidently my doubts were unfounded. I began to notice that Mary and Maul seemed to have a thing going. When they sat together at the computer, Mary often laid her hand on Maul's (who controlled the mouse ó he never was one to let himself be led), and Maul would lean almost over her, showing her something, his knee brushing against Mary's. When we were together, Mary often winked at Maul or arched a questioning eyebrow, then Maul would respond with his intense stare, Mary would grin back or make faces, and Maul would respond with his own smug grin ó a whole conversation going on under our eyes.
One day I was surprised to see Mary doing some martial arts exercises in the yard, Maul standing behind her, hands on her hips, adjusting her body posture, then correcting and guiding her movements. They moved together through a kata, at first slower, then picked up speed; however, they stopped frequently and repeated some movements until Maul was satisfied. I stepped out, watching them. But I was not the only spectator: Qui-Gon stood, leaning against the gate, watching too.
After they finished the kata, Qui-Gon commented: "Maul, I knew you were an exceptional warrior, but you are also a wonderful teacher."
Maul just nodded in acknowledgement.
The Jedi master stepped into the yard. "I wonder if I could make use of your talents."
"Youíre braindead," Maul shot at him. "A Jedi asking to be taught by a Sith?"
Humour glimmered in Quiís eyes. "Iím on vacation," he offered and threw the Sithís lightsabre hilt that he had kept since Maulís arrival back to its owner. "I believe this is yours."
Maul caught the weapon, examined it briefly and hung to his belt, shaking his head at what he believed was the Jedi's naivetť. "You think Iím stupid? You think Iíll show you every trick so you can use it against me?"
"I was just hoping to keep in practice, perhaps also to improve," Qui-Gon said noncommittally.
Maul appeared to consider.
"A master like you doesnít need any further teaching," he finally said. Now it was Quiís turn to make a formal bow.
Then Maul laughed. His laugh was abrupt, derisive, not exactly pleasant but somehow very lovely in its unexpectedness. Mary and I exchanged surprised glances, then before we knew it we were laughing.
Maul scowled at us. "Whatís so funny?" he asked. We laughed even more.
"Women," Maul shrugged. Then added with a very interesting mixture of humour, confusion, denial and something else, "It appears Iím on vacation too. Very well, I could use some sabre practice."
Indeed, I thought, how else could he put up with owing his life to a Jedi, but to decide he was on vacation? And how else could Qui-Gon explain to himself helping a Sith, the same that had almost killed him?
I, however, liked the outcome. It seemed ó well ó promising.
End of chapter five. What will happen next?
"Finally Qui-Gon agreed to take Maul to his ship. It sat in a deserted quarry in the middle of woods over two hoursí walk from our house..."