Daveir had tugged Maul between his legs and they sat propped up, watching the fire. Daveir nuzzled at his lover's neck and shoulders, lapping at his ears, using his rasping tongue.
"What is this, this little bump?" Daveir asked as he fingered the implant near Maul's left ear.
"Probably just a cyst," Maul lied easily.
"That's pretty strange for a Zabrak..." Daveir's doubt showed in his voice. Maul shrugged and pressed closer. "You are full-blooded, aren't you?" Maul nodded, his eyes half-closed. "But you've never been with another Zabrak before, only humans?"
"Mmmmmhhhmmm," Maul hummed, unwilling to talk. Slow now, deliberate, Daveir tugged down the soft blister of skin at the base of Maul's hindmost horn and licked softly, edging the tip of his tongue along the tender pink skin inside. Then he moved his lips to the rear base of the horn where a group of nerves were bundled beneath the skin. Snugged in erectile tissue, Zabraks knew that proper stimulus of these nerves gave ecstasy.
Maul went rigid. Sensation shot through him like lightning, white-hot pulsing in his groin now. No one had ever touched him this way.
"You like this?"
Maul trembled and could only moan in reply.
"It's called *mustrachka.* Ancient Zabrakian lovemaking." Around and around Daveir's warm mouth went, wetting the soft skin, exposing the pink flesh to cool air and flicking it gently with his tongue. He transferred his attentions to another horn and repeated the movements.
Maul began to purr.
Maul moved his head to allow the younger man access. His left hand went to his own hard cock, stroking convulsively on the tattooed skin. Daveir's lips and tongue surrounded a horn, suckling, teething gently, tugging with his mouth, blowing on the sensitive, exposed skin. Then suckling on the small bump of tissue again. Maul thrashed in his arms, utterly incoherent. Daveir moved leftwards and focused on Maul's half horn stub above and behind his left ear. Maul stopped breathing.
"It's all right." Maul said nothing. His left hand stilled.
"Maul, really, let me..." Daveir's fingers again, his rasping tongue again, the sharp wrench of feeling that shot through him. "You're so beautiful."
Maul gasped, his entire body frozen with sensation; the fire's orange light, the warmth of Daveir'smouth, the heat of his body pressed against him, the cool air in the cave. His testicles tightened upwards into his body and for an exquisite second he was poised on the edge of explosion.
"Daveir!" he cried out as his golden semen pumped over his moving fingers. His back arched and his hips thrust involuntarily. Daveir's mouth stayed on him.
He slumped against the cushions again, replete. "Oh, Daveir... that was wonderful," Maul said. His eyes closed.
"I love you, Maul." Daveir wrapped his legs over Maul's thighs and eased his strong arms around Maul's chest. Maul's eyes snapped open. "You don't have to say anything, I just wanted to say it to you. Let's go to sleep."
Maul allowed himself to relax completely, easing his body back against his lover's. *My lover. Who knew?*
"Daveir, I'm so pleased that you're here with me. Thank you." He kissed the younger man's fingers and clasped their joined hands to his chest. Sleep claimed them.
The next morning, Daveir suggested the three of them hike up to the Chandl Plateau for a picnic. They climbed for over four hours until the sun stood nearly straight overhead, leaving them sweating.
Obi-Wan stepped away into the bushes. "Nature calls."
Daveir tugged off his shirt, his expression making it clear that he knew Maul watched him. Just a hint of flirtation. "Let's swim, It's hot."
"No, not here. Too many *cradalians.* They nest here this time of year." He pointed at three of the huge reptiles, lounging in the sun on the opposite bank some thirty meters away. One lay with its mouth propped open, ugly teeth marred with gore. Maul could hear the flies buzzing around them.
"Oh, it's fine. Come on!"
"I said no. Don't go in, Daveir, I mean it."
Daveir ignored him and continued taking off his clothes. Maul grabbed his elbow. "I said no."
Daveir pulled away, his dark face frowning. "You're not my father. I want to swim."
Maul stood on the bank as Daveir moved into the river. The young turned and splashed some water back towards Maul.
"Come on, let's swim!"
Maul began pacing back and forth on the riverbank. His agitation grew; he could feel his heart racing and sweat form on his brow. Daveir swam sinuously in the water, looking completely relaxed.
From the other bank, a splash sounded and Maul saw a *cradalian* enter the river, its massive tail leaving a v-shaped wake on the surface. Fear moved towards him in the water.
"Come out of the water. Now!" Daveir ignored him.
"Get out, get out, get out!" Maul's voice rose to a shriek from the muddied shallows. He went in the water, feeling his leather boots grow sodden.
Daveir disappeared beneath the surface... no cry, no scream. He was just suddenly gone.
"Davier! Davier!" and then the other man popped to the surface, screaming.
The water frothed white as Daveir flailed. Maul raised his left hand and used the Force to wrench Daveir from the water. It swirled around them coldly as if a cloud had passed over the sun. Daveir landed with a harsh grunt on the bank, his lungs punched airless for a few seconds. Maul scrambled over to him, falling to his knees, his clothes sopping.
He didn't recognize the emotion at first. His stomach roiled beneath his ribs, clenching like a fist. His bowels twisted and he felt his hands go clammy. He was afraid, afraid of a grisly end to the morning. Terrified of what he would find. He leaned over the other Zabrak.
Daveir lay giggling on the ground. His face was full of merriment, his joke uncovered. In a millisecond, Maul moved from fright to relief to rage. Daveir's face changed as he saw Maul?ood alter.
"Hey, I'm sor--"
Maul wrenched him upward by his throat, an ugly growl rumbling through the air. Davier paled in his grip. Three quick punches to his belly had Daveir folded over in a second.
It felt good. So good.
Maul moved in, his arms a blur as he assaulted the younger man. Daveir defended himself as he was trained to do, but had no chance against an angry Maul. He finally just stood with his arms over his face, letting Maul punch at him, absorbing it. Maul was feral with rage.
"Break it up! Right now." Obi-Wan stepped between them. "What is going on?" Obi-Wan pushed Maul away with both hands.
Daveir lowered his arms and they could both see the ugly split in one cheek, his brown flesh abraded, the bright flash of blood looking sharp in the sunlight. His lower lip had started to swell.
With a snarl, Maul stepped forward and slapped Daveir across the face. "You stupid little cur!"
Daveir looked back at him with such agony in his eyes that Maul stopped breathing. The look of betrayal and fear on Daveir's visage made Maul reel backwards in shock.
*He's afraid of me! OhnowhathaveIdonenonopleasepleasenonono...*
With a loud pop, three trees near the clearing snapped and their top halves fell to the ground. Their leaves trembled like dying creatures. Maul took two staggering steps away, then fell to his knees, panting. His golden eyes rolled over white and he sagged face first into the mud.
Obi-Wan felt the wash of enraged Forceful energy when the trees snapped and recognized that Maul had dissipated it as he fell. Obi-Wan glared at Daveir with no kindness in his eyes. "What happened in the two goddamn minutes I was gone?"
Daveir shook his head.
"I wanted to swim and he wouldn't and he kept yelling at me to get out. He was worried about *cradalians.*" Daveir shivered as a breeze sprang up. He shrugged. "I was joking, playing around in the water and he thought..."
"He thought you were being attacked? Is that what you did?"
Daveir nodded miserably.
"Oh, gods. Not a good idea, Daveir, not at all."
"What's happening? What's wrong with him?" Daveir and Obi-Wan rolled Maul onto his back. Obi-Wan noticed his breathing sounded odd, hitched and uneven. Maul's skin had grayed, making him appear pale beneath his tattoos.
He reached out with the Force. Yes, Maul had shielded himself, heavily. Turned inward, Force driven emotions could cause enormous physical reactions.
"He's gone into shock." The Jedi tugged up one eyelid to reveal a whitened orb. "Bring me those towels, let's get him wrapped up."
As Daveir stepped away to their backpacks, Obi-Wan put both hands on Maul's face and Sent.
//You're all right... you're just in shock. It's like an adrenaline rush. Too much and your system can't handle it. You're not used to being angry any more.//
Maul couldn't answer.
//I'm going to stabilize your breathing and your heart rate. Do you understand me? Don't fight this.//
They wrapped Maul in the towels, warming him. Obi-Wan bent close, holding Maul's slack face in both hands. He
concentrated. Three deep breaths and he gently entered Maul's mind... //It's okay, don't fight me... and wove together the threads of his autonomic nervous system. Heart rate slowed, breathing even and deep, adrenaline levels dropping. He kept up a soothing cadence of Sending. //Easy, easy, calm, feel your body slow down, you're all right, easy easy easy.//
Maul gave a little gasp and came to. His eyes focused on Obi-Wan.
"You're all right," the blonde man reassured him. Maul nodded and relaxed back onto the mud, eyes closed.
Daveir took his hand. "Oh, Maul, I'm sorry, really, really.." His voice faded as he got no response from the other Zabrak. "Maul?"
Maul pulled his hand away and refused to look at him. Daveir's face twisted, his eyes gleamed with tears.
"We'll let him rest for a while here." Obi-Wan suggested. "Why don't you get some tea for him? He could use a drink."
Daveir nodded and walked away.
"How are you feeling, really?"
"Shaky. Weak. Stupid."
They both jumped a little as Daveir dropped the metal canisters that held the tea and camping cups. His fumbling became more obvious as he scattered them around as he tried to pick them up.
Obi-Wan looked back at Maul. "He's in pain too. He doesn't understand why this happened. You need to talk to him."
"All right. Do you want to stay and eat?"
Maul shook his head. Obi-Wan sighed and wiped his face with one hand. "You rest. I'll help Daveir pack up."
"Obi-Wan, don't say anything to him. Nothing."
"If that's how you want it, fine."
Obi-Wan took the tea from Daveir. He put one hand on Daveir's shoulder and spoke quietly. Daveir nodded then moved down to the riverbank to splash his face with water. He squatted there, his hands clenched.
Obi-Wan gave Maul the tea. He walked down to the river and soaked part of a towel in water. Daveir watched with narrowed eyes as Obi-Wan wiped the mud off Maul's face.
They walked back to the cave in silence.
While Maul showered, Obi-Wan and Daveir put away the picnic items. Neither wanted to eat. Obi-Wan insisted on treating the cuts on Daveir's face. The younger man kept glancing back to Maul's sleep area as if he could see through the screen. It was painful to see the confusion in his eyes.
Daveir set the fire going and they sat down in front of it. Daveir wrapped the warm throw over his shoulders. Their eyes focused on the flickering flames. Quiet for a few minutes.
"I like the fire, it reminds me of Maul's eyes." Daveir spoke so softly that Obi-Wan could barely hear him.
Obi-Wan knew the young man wanted to talk. "Yes, you're right."
"What happened out there, Obi-Wan? At first I thought it was a wave that yanked me out of the water, but it was something else wasn?t?"
"And the trees. It's a clear day... there was no lightning. What did that to those trees?" Daveir began tugging at the throw's fringe, just as Maul had done.
*Oh, gods. There's nothing I can tell him.*
"Obi-Wan, please. You know something, I know you do."
*I'm the reason he's here and there are many things he hasn't told you. Things you won't want to hear- about him and about us.*
"There's not much I can tell you, Daveir. It's up to Maul."
"And he's not talking right now. Not to me anyway." The sharp tone of resentment hung in the air between them. Obi-Wan knew Daveir was remembering the Jedi with his hands on Maul's face, wondering what the intimacy implied.
"I know he's hurting now too. Try to give him some space."
"He's so damn guarded, there's so much I don't know about him. So much he won't let me know."
"Daveir, you know him better than anyone ever has I'd guess. I know for a fact he's never let anyone in like--" Obi-Wan
motioned around the cave, evidence of Daveir's presence all around them. "--this. Ever. And I also know it's damned difficult for him for a lot of reasons. So give him some time."
Daveir nodded and took a deep breath. "I think someone hurt him once. I mean really hurt him." Obi-Wan's shoulder tightened, the comment was unsettling and accurate.
"I think you might be right."
They spent the afternoon reading... Obi-Wan with a realpaper book from Maul's nightstand and Daveir on the comm unit. A
few hours later their bellies were rumbling.
"Why don't you start dinner? I?'m ging to ta-- try to talk to Maul, okay?" Daveir rose and squared his shoulders, like a soldier prepping for battle.
*Battle is probably a good analogy. If Maul puts up a fight this could get ugly.*
Obi-Wan pretended to read, but listened as Daveir went behind the screen into their sleep area. A quiet murmur of voices, nothing sharp or angry. The soft slide of bedclothes moving aside.
He could feel Maul's anguish, imagine his pained face. The Zabrak broadcast with enormous strength, most probably unaware of it. The mood turned from cautious to conciliatory and after a few moments, it warmed with carnality.
*And now is when I make a graceful exit.*
"Hey, guys, I'm going for a walk. Let's have dinner when I get back," Obi-Wan called as he tugged on his robe. He felt relieved Daveir and Maul had begun talking, *fucking you mean,* glad for Maul, but sad for himself. He remained apart... left out, sensing their pair bond growing stronger the further away he walked.
The admonishment worked and he focused on the woods around him.
Maul had been awake when Daveir stepped behind the screen. The older Zabrak looked away, unable to bear the sight of
Daveir's wounded face.
"Can I lie down with you?"
Maul nodded, still refusing to meet his gaze. Daveir pressed close. Their bodies nestled with ease. Daveir's broad chest felt warm, inviting. They stayed quiet for a few minutes, listening to their own heartbeats and breathing.
"Please don't push me away again. Please, Maul... talk to me." Davier pressed warm kisses over Maul's skull.
Maul took a deep breath and told his story...
"... and Khoteir hopped the rest of his life."
Daveir lowered his hand from his mouth. The story had plainly horrified him; Maul hadn't held back any of the details. The blood, the water, the white bone of Khoteir's leg in the afternoon sun, the *cradalian* snapping back, looking for more meat. "I'm sorry that I played that stupid trick on you. I didn't realize."
"I know, Daveir. And I apologize for... hitting you." Maul's voice hitched. Daveir's face at that moment persisted as one of his worst memories. "I shouldn't have lost my temper."
"I understand now, but if you had told me this earlier, you know... This never would have happened."
Maul nodded. "I know. It's difficult for me to be... open."
"You can tell me anything. Don't you know that?" Daveir stroked his face and chest.
Maul nearly cried out in agony.
*Oh, if you only knew.*
"I know you were a soldier, so tell me." Daveir took a breath. "Were you a prisoner of war? Is that what happened to you?"
Maul snatched at the ruse, an easy and a quick solution. It wasn't a lie. The Jedi had kept him in a cell of sorts. That he had gone there voluntarily he deemed irrelevant for Daveir to know.
"I was imprisoned for five months, some years ago." Maul moved Daveir's fingers to the small lump behind his left ear. "I lied to you before. This is not a cyst... it's a tracking implant. I can never leave here."
Daveir stroked his wrists, rubbing the scar tissue that surrounded them. "I'm sorry, Maul. Now I know why I always felt like somebody hurt you. It was true." Daveir pressed his forehead to Maul's. "Maul, please, let me in..."
The sweet need in his voice took Maul's breath away. He hooked one knee over Daveir's waist, asking for sex. Pressed close against him, he could feel Daveir's testicles move, feel his penis thicken and rise against their bellies, delicious hotness cascading down his chest and into his groin.
At the end, Maul let his Force shields fall for the first time since Sidious, the hot flood of his emotions washing over them. Even a non-Force user would be buffeted by the wave of tumult swirling around their bed and Daveir?yes widened and he gasped, "oh oh oh" until he could speak no more. They both cried out, guttural Zabrakian obscenities spoken with passion and odd softness.
When their breathing eased and their heartbeats slowed, they lay for a long time, still joined.
"I can't mve," Daveir whispered.
"Gods, what did you do to me?"
Maul kissed his eyelids. "This time I loved you back."
The next morning, Obi-Wan left. There was no chance to speak to Maul alone since the two lovers stayed close together.
Daveir helped load his own speeder. "Just leave it at the port terminal. My uncle's car service will pick it up. Really, don't worry about it." Daveir shook his hand, warmth in his aura. The young man was happy again. After all, he had Maul back.
Obi-Wan moved over to Maul. They shook hands, an unpleasant and new way to say good-bye.
//Thank you, Obi-Wan. Come see me again, yes?//
//Yes, I will. I hope it all-//
They spoke to cover their feelings.
"Good by, Obi-Wan."
"See you next time, Maul. Thanks."
He fired up the speeder, its engine rumbling, then ran his fingers over the seat next to him for a moment. Once away from Maul's cave site and out of their sight, he had to pull over. His hands shook, his eyes filled with tears. He felt sad and conflicted, disappointed for Maul and lonely.
*I should be happy for him, for what he has. Instead I'm being selfish.*
Obi-Wan set the speeder into gear and drove on.
Five weeks later...
Their last morning together the sun gleamed gold into the cave. They made love as they had on their first night, Daveir astride Maul, belly to belly, thrusting against each other, crying out at the end. Maul trembled afterward no matter how much Daveir held him close or rubbed his back and arms.
After his shower, Daveir finished packing as Maul watched him from the entry, arms folded over his chest, shoulders tensed. Maul's senses were at full bore. He heard the clasp of the satchel snap close, saw the young man's fingers tremble, smelled the soap on Daveir's still-damp skin. Daveir shrugged on the satchel and turned to face him.
"You sure you won't keep the comm? I could write?"
Maul shook his head.
"Well, I may as well leave now, okay?" Daveir filled his vision as he approached, the hiss of his leggings loud in the quiet cave.
"Go." Maul grasped Daveir's fierce, pained face and covered it with dry kisses. Daveir's eyes flowed over. He licked away the tasteless tears and used his black tongue to soothe. Daveir moaned and moved to wrap his arms around Maul. Maul shook his head. He kept their hands at their sides, intertwined, stroking, straining. He heard their ragged breathing, felt Daveir's legs trembling.
"Go." Their fingers clasped tightly as Daveir looked into Maul's eyes. "Go."
Maul rested his forehead on Daveir's chin, the ultimate gesture of affectionate trust in Zabraks. Daveir kissed his patterned skin then turned like a dancer and walked away.
*Oh by the Force, I can't let him go.* Maul watched him leave, shadow-souled, cleaved in two. Again. *Please.*
Daveir's speeder left dust in its wake. Maul felt the grime settle on his damp face. He had to put one hand on his chest to make sure his heart was still beating.
*Oh, please, this shouldn't hurt so much. I knew it was coming.* He went back inside the cave and looked around. It seemed flat to him, the walls too bare and gray, the packed dirt floor ugly and worn. He felt the spaces where Daveir's things had rested. Without thinking, he went to the sleep mat where they had lain this morning. He sat down cross-legged and folded his head against his calves.
His awareness returned as the early afternoon sun slanted through the cave door. Numbly, he decided he needed more fire wood. As he shouldered both axes, he remembered the two days he and Obi-Wan had spent taking down the poisonous
chutzen tree. Then he remembered what he had made with some of the *chutzen* wood, the kitchen table and how the first one had gotten broken. His fingers clenched on the ax handle.
He returned to a dead *pintous* tree that he had spotted a few weeks ago. At first his movements were easy and steady, a rhythmic swing with the ax, tugging it out, striking again. But soon his head filled with an angry whine and he felt his vision grow sharp and red. His shoulders bunched tighter and he began to hack at the tree like a demon. Chips of wood and bark spit back at his face. The mild pain enraged him further. Swing, chop, tug, he moved faster. He no longer tried to take the tree down, just blindly swung.
The tree trunk cracked and shifted suddenly to the left. A small bird's nest landed on the ground a half-meter away from him. A nestling peered up at him, then opened its beak, chirping at him, the bright flare of the bird's yellow mouth warm against the brown of the dirt. Without thought Maul raised his boot and crushed it.
When he pulled his foot off the nest, the tiny bird was still twitching. The beak opened once, twice, then it was still.
*You stupid little cur.*
Like a sieve, he felt himself open and the violence leak out of him. He sagged to the ground on his knees. The ax fell from his trembling fingers. He had no more tears. Daveir had gone, taking his tears with him. He sat back on his haunches and surveyed the damage he had done.
Hunks of fresh wood littered the ground. Bits of bark were scattered about, the bottom meter of tree trunk stood, its torn wood thrusting upward like a broken limb. He could smell the wood and when he put his hands over his face, the smell of Daveir was gone, washed away in his own sweat.
After a few moments, he rose. He hadn't needed firewood... he could leave the mess here. Out of habit he checked the ax head for nicks, but it was fine and gleaming in the sunlight.
He checked the nest to make sure the bird was dead. It was. The pitiful crunched body assailed him... the utter defenselessness of the creature seemed to have a voice of its own.
*You're the bastard, aren?ou?*
He sighed and wiped his face with his forearm.
*No more. Remember what he gave you, cherish the memories and move on.*
A tenday later...
He felt the pain first, so familiar that at first he thought it was his own. Her grief rolled off her heart, like wind waves in a field of grain. When he looked up, he saw Sarenta, the girl he had saved from poisoning eight years ago. She stood at the cave entrance, panting. Filthy, she had gobs of wet leaves caught in her sopping dress, her legs muddied. The teenager clutched a puppy in her slender arms, its head lolling impossibly loose, its tail dripping water.
*That dog is dead. *
He felt her push down her fear of him. Her eyes widened as he walked closer. She glanced at his broken horns first, then met his eyes.
"We were just playing in the river and he was right there on the bank and then when I looked back he was gone and we all looked for him and I was so scared and we couldn't find him..." She let loose with a bone-chilling cry. "And then we found him. He drowned and it's my fault, he drowned!" She cried ceaselessly. He let her weep.
"You're a healer. You healed me... Please, you can save him! You can bring him back!" Her words came through her tears,
hiccuped with sobs. She pushed the wet puppy towards him and he could smell its damp fur. He raised his hands. "Please,
Maul..." Sarenta fell to her knees and clutched the puppy's body close to her. "Help meeeeeeeeeeeee..."
Maul squatted down, hearing his knees creak as he moved. He put one hand on her shoulder. "Sarenta, I cannot raise the dead. You know that."
She shook her head.
"Look at me." She refused. One finger below her chin and she met his eyes finally. "You know the truth." Her tears didn't stop. Whatever she saw in his eyes was enough. He felt her psyche ease from denial to sad acceptance, still grief-stricken, but letting go. Her sobs eased into hiccups of pain, then after a few moments, she wept quietly.
"Would you help me bury him?"
"Certainly. Where would you like to put him?" She pointed to the hill west of the cave and they rose together.
As Maul dug the hole, Sarenta started sobbing again. When he finished, he leaned on the shovel and looked at her evenly. At first, she pulled away, then knelt down before the grave.
"Kiss him goodbye and let him go." Maul spoke softly, one hand on her head. He noticed her horn buds had just started to show, pink and tender looking. Within a year they would break through. *The age I was when Sidious found me.*
Sarenta sobbed again as she put the animal into the cold dirt. She smoothed the towel over him and carefully brushed away a bit of dirt that had fallen into his open mouth.
"Do I have to stay for the rest?" She rose and smeared one forearm against her face, dirtying her cheek.
"If you want to but I'll do it for you."
To Maul's surprise she put one arm around his waist and leaned against his shoulder. He kissed her temple softly and hugged her shaking shoulders. Small comfort after her first encounter with final loss.
*Kiss him goodbye and let him go.*
He waited for her to be out of hearing range before scraping the shovel into the cold dirt again.
Solstice came and went with no word from Daveir. The spring day dawned with cool air, the sun bright in the sky. Maul heard a cargo speeder pull around the cave site and he went to the door, curious. The driver got out and loaded a hover pallet with several boxes. Without a word, Maul pointed him to the wall near the kitchen area. After Maul's quick signature, he left. Maul opened the boxes, knowing what he would find...reams of realpaper, bottled inks and a stylus set fit for a professional artist. There was a short note along with an elaborate decorated envelope of the type used for invitations.
My only Maul,
I'm sorry that I couldn't face you with this. It happened just like you said... he was there at the fireplace and we both knew. He's wonderful to me. Our bonding ritual is next month.
Thank you so much for letting me learn with you. I will always be grateful that you shared your life with me and I will never forget our special summer together.
Please know you can call on my family or me for anything you ever need.
Love, love, love always,
He lifted the paper to his nose and inhaled deeply. Just a touch of Daveir there... his warm essence. Maul tucked the note and the unopened invitation into one of the few realpaper books on his nightstand. He stood absolutely still and for a moment; the air charged around him. He smelled the ozone whiff of angry energy in the cave around him.
*Kiss him goodbye and let him go.*
Maul let go.