An Unexpected Chance Pt 12
On Circadian Rhythms and Sunshine
Feral was on the softest bed he had ever known.
Feral had been sleeping, curled up with his brothers, and the thought of that was still so amazing, still so new…Feral could not understand how that had happened, could not believe that this… It was true. All Feral had to do was feel the little life that was curled atop him and know it for true.
Feral’s clan-pair was alive, and he was with him. Feral’s clan-pair was named Maul.
It was a good name, a proud name, one that would serve his little brother well – and Feral had never thought that he would ever see him that little. He never believed that he would see him at all. The boy that had shared a womb with him…the one that he had been tied to had been taken… The severed bond within Feral’s mind, the one that ached in desperation, in longing for a person that Feral would never again be able to connect with had been part of the reason that Feral was inconsolable.
When Feral had been younger it had ached…as an infant that ache had been so bad that he had been unable to be soothed. He did not understand why he hurt. He did not understand why his brother was not there.
Feral sometimes thought of Savage trying to take care of him, trying to help a boy whose twin bond had been severed and believing that he would never be enough…
Savage had been wrong, though. He had been enough. When Feral had grown and understood more of what he had lost, more of what he had hurt…
There had been an empty space that would never be filled, but Feral had gotten used to it…
Feral had tried to get used to it.
Sometimes something would happen, and he would turn to a brother that had never been there, even now…something inside of him screaming… But it was never something that would happen and even now…
Even now that twin-bond had not reformed. Even now his brother was here and yet…he was not in Feral’s mind where he belonged. But that did not matter in the face of the fact that his brother was here.
His brother was here and Feral was sleeping with his little brother bundled upon his chest… Maul had been the youngest, Feral remembered, and it was something that…when he had seen Maul’s face in the holoimage, when he had seen the brother he had lost he had thought of lording it over him. He had thought of doing…so many things.
Now… Feral would do so much with him, he was able to do so much with him, but that connection was still not there.
It was worth it, however, Feral knew, it was worth it for the feeling of the small body curled up on his chest, the tiny breaths of air against his neck, the purr rumbling so hard in that tiny body that it nearly shook the life from him.
Maul was alive, he was here, and he needed them…
And he had freed them.
Feral could still not believe it.
He reached a slow hand out, careful, careful, and slowly ran his finger over a tiny cheek. It was hollower than it should be, holding that rawboned state of starvation that was always such an issue in the village, but he was somewhere…they were somewhere it was safe. They were somewhere they could begin to heal.
The knowledge pounded in his head, sang in his breast, they were safe, they were safe, they were safe.
Feral believed these people that had brought them here. Feral believed the ones that had given Maul this joy, this happiness even in the midst of what he knew to be sorrow that permeated this room.
It was a balance that Feral had long grown familiar with, but it was one that was tipping further towards joy and happiness and had been for a while.
Feral was glad.
Savage mumbled quietly and Feral turned his head slightly, locking his horns with Savage’s, settling his brother’s rustling.
Little Maul needed to sleep more yet, Feral could feel.
For now, it was good enough to just watch him, to take in the slow rise and fall of that small chest, to take in the feel of his weight and his warmth, and the knowledge burning in his soul that Maul was alive.
Maul was alive and he was safe.
They were all safe.
Maul woke slow.
Soft and groggy, Maul blinked his eyes open hazily, for a moment not sure where he was. He lay there in the dark of a room that felt familiar in a way that the Holocrons that he had taken felt, in the way that the ship that he had entered felt. That Dark and yet not feeling that he knew was synonymous with him. But he had never been in this area before.
There were posters above the bed he saw, ones that were of bands that he knew, and also a poster for a production of Macbeth. Maul had not been allowed to read that one, but he knew what it was for, knew who wrote it.
Maul was staring around at a room that felt like and was unlike the one that he had been using. It was a room that felt and looked like more of his own.
For a moment the feeling and the sights around him drove all else away, and then he slowly became aware of the fact that he was sleeping on something…that was moving.
Maul remained still for a moment, fear rising in his breast, uncertainty beating within his heart, and then he heard a soft rumbling sound, gentle and slow, and felt his horns gently hooked by another’s. Maul closed his eyes as they slotted easily with his own, hearing the purring rumble that was deeper than Eeth’s, wilder than Agen’s. And then he realized that there were two. Two chests he was sleeping against, two people who he was cuddled between.
Maul did not understand, for a moment so fuzzy, and then…and then…
Ships over the Temple, Hondo…
Maul had brothers.
His brothers were here.
There was a soft sound as someone yawned, and he shifted, feeling a hand rest on his back, light, a feather-soft touch that firmed as Maul pressed closer to it. It curled around him gently, and he was pulled down closer, horns clicking as he rolled with the movement, his eyes closing as a nose finally pressed against his own.
“Hello, little brother,” a deep voice rumbled, soft, and he opened his eyes to gold. “It is good to see you,” the voice of Savage rumbled softly, and Maul still…could not believe it.
“Hello,” Maul breathed softly, and pulled back, only to have another pair of hands gently run over his side, pulling him into a hug, and he was staring into more gold, staring into the eyes of Feral, crinkled in a smile, and a kiss pressed to his cheek.
“Hello, little brother,” Feral said. “How did you sleep?”
“Well,” Maul said, and it was true. He was rested and he felt nice, no dreams haunting him, merely sleep. “Thank you. How did you sleep?”
“Better than I have in years,” Feral said and Savage laughed aloud, gently hooking horns with Feral, before leaning forward and connecting with Maul as well. Maul grinned, hooked between the brothers, his brothers.
“I can attest to this,” Savage said, his voice a low rumble. “He sleeps very poorly most of the time.”
“You don’t sleep very well either,” Feral said, sniffing. “If you slept better I believe I would as well.”
Savage rolled his eyes and Maul giggled, finally pulling back from the two of them. “I slept better than usual as well,” Maul said softly. “I usually…I have nightmares.”
Savage and Feral looked at him and their brows creased, Savage running a thumb across his cheek. They were so tactile. There was so much gentle touch, so many little gestures of affection… If it wasn’t for the fact that they were so tactile with each other Maul would think…he would expect that it was because they were still seeing if he was real. Maul knew that this was the reason he kept touching, the reason he had his fingers wrapped around Savage’s thumb, the reason that he had hold of Feral’s sleeve.
They were here. They were here, this was happening, he had brothers they were here.
“What burdens your soul so?” Savage asked softly.
Maul…paused. He did not know what to say, what he could possibly explain, how he could ever…
“I wasn’t always with the Jedi,” he finally said softly. “Before…before they took me in…before they found me…” Maul was quiet for a moment, “it is…hard to explain.” He said finally. “I know that it’s been…so many years, that I’m really so much older, but me, but I…to me it was months ago. Barely four months ago I was still with my Master, and he…” Maul hesitated. “He hurt me,” he breathed. “He…he wouldn’t touch me, and didn’t hug me, and didn’t feed me, and…and…” he trailed off, aware of the tears in his eyes and the… Arms were wrapping around him, pulling him close, tangling him with his brothers, and voices shushed him. “He did so much to me,” Maul breathed, “he lied to me, and he twisted me. He made the Dark scary, he was trying to make me into a weapon. There was a droid…and he had a stick, and he would hit me with it. He made me stalk it and it would hurt me and I…” he swallowed, “he had lightning…he could shoot lightning from his fingertips and he…if I did…if I…if I…”
“I’ll kill him,” Savage rumbled and it was low and fierce and full of such hate, such utter rage, and Maul was very aware of the anger and the rising hatred that was bubbling within Feral, and he was held so tight, their arms so protective. But the words were in his mind and Maul was terrified, and softly, immediately,
“No, no, you can’t! You can’t hurt him, you couldn’t hurt him…” Maul’s voice broke, “but he’s dead. He’s already dead, you can’t…” he closed his eyes. “He’d kill you. He’d kill you both and I’d lose you before I even got to meet you!” A sob escaped and Maul had not cried so much, never wailed as much in his life, desperation, and something else, something that felt like it was loosening inside of him. Like he was finally letting his guard down after so long…
“Alright,” Savage said softly, “alright, I won’t…we won’t.”
“We have you,” Feral said, “and we’re not…we’re not going anywhere, you hear me? You’re stuck with us. I…” Feral swallowed, “I’ve been missing you my entire life. I’ve been longing for my twin my entire life, and I finally have you.”
“Mace said that I didn’t have brothers,” Maul breathed, “he said that he asked…Mother about it…and he knows when people lie…”
“She did not entirely lie,” Feral said, his voice low, “we are half-brothers. Even us, even you and me…Sisters can bear two from two different donors, for the particular ritual that gave you your skin, that gave you your Dark…that is necessary.”
“I am…the product of ritual?” Maul asked softly.
“Yes,” Savage said. “But you are still our brother, even if we do not share a father.”
“Savage and I do not even share a father,” Feral said with a slight shrug. “It is not uncommon among us.”
Maul took that in for a moment and finally nodded slowly. “But we are brothers.”
“We are,” Savage said. “I remember you when you were given to my arms. I remember your skin, the pattern of your horns, the feel of you against my chest.” Savage took him, lifting him, maneuvering him to lay against him, Maul curling up against him, lowering his head to Savage’s shoulder, his temple horn rising just above. “I trailed my thumb over your ears,” he said softly, following the motion, “uncurling them gently…” Maul closed his eyes, soothed by the voice rumbling within the chest he lay against, lulled by the gentle touch along his ear. “And I looked at you and knew you for my brother.”
Maul lay there for a moment, so warm, so content, feeling that arm around him, feeling the two hearts that beat in a chest… And then Feral began pushing at him, gently, gently, Maul blinking, curling further back as Feral sprawled on top of Savage, his oldest brother letting out a grunt as Feral’s entire weight crushed him down.
“And then of course he got me,” Feral grinned brightly at him as Maul raised his head to meet his face, “I’m a bit too big for this now, though.”
“Get off, Feral,” Savage grumped and with a heave rose and rolled, Maul falling to the bed with a laugh, Feral bouncing right alongside him, giggling. “I did get him,” Savage said, smiling. “I felt you click in place in my mind…” he paused. “Losing you…” he paused. “I was so young…I was just…I was twelve. Twelve years of my life I was alone before I was blessed with the both of you…” Savage swallowed, staring into his eyes, “and not even a week later I could not even…I could not protect you. I could not stop him. I could not save you…” he shook his head, and Maul was aware of the tears, aware… “I was meant to protect you…and I failed.”
“You could not have stopped my Master,” Maul said softly. “I do not…I don’t blame you,” Maul said. “I…” he paused, “if he had killed you both…because you would not let me go, I would have…I would…” Maul swallowed. And then Feral was there, Feral wrapping his arms around Maul and pulling Savage close, pressing his horns to them both.
“We are here now,” he said, “we are here now, and you are here now…I have you both, I have you.”
Maul sunk into it for a moment, basking, and then slowly beginning to pull away, wiping at his eyes. “Where are we?” he asked softly. “I don’t recognize the bedroom.”
“It apparently used to be yours,” Savage said, sitting up on the bed and paying more attention to everything that surrounded them. He eyed the curtains then that they were pressed against and finally pressed the button to raise them. It happened slow, gradually rising up and up to fill their small space with the light of a setting sun. Maul’s breath caught in his chest, hearing a similar sound from the other two, all of them straightening up, staring out.
“Oh,” Feral breathed softly, “oh it’s beautiful…”
“It’s so…different,” Savage said, “but it is so close all the same. Our sun…was never as bright as this.”
“Come,” Maul said softly, sliding off the bed and grabbing their hands, immediately dragging them out of the bedroom, hoping…
There was a massive window…bigger than the one that was in the room Maul had been sharing with Mace, pointing towards the setting sun.
Maul stared with wide eyes, letting go of Savage and Feral, barely aware of how the two of them stepped with him towards the window, staring in silence. The sight of the speeders flitting past, reflecting gold and red, sparks in the gathering dark. They watched as purple overtook it slow, deepening to dark…
The rain would come soon.
The realization of how long Maul had been sleeping slowly dawned on him, and he looked back to Savage and Feral, the two of them sitting down on either side of him, their legs crossed, expressions of such awe on their faces…
“We slept late,” Maul said softly, frowning.
“I was going to say we woke up a bit early, really,” Feral said, stretching. “I could have used a couple more hours…” he paused. “If it wasn’t for the beauty of that.”
Maul took that in for a moment and then turned to look at them. “We truly are meant to be nocturnal?”
The reaction to that question was not quite what he was expecting.
Savage and Feral both looked at him with something like confusion, like…how could he ask that, how could he think otherwise…
“Yes,” Savage said slowly. “With a normal sleeping schedule, we rise a bit after the setting sun, and will go to bed when it is rising.”
Maul took that in for a moment, something twisting in his chest, “so many of my friends are diurnal though,” he said softly. “I don’t want…”
There was a nod from Savage, thoughtful, looking to his brother. “We could of course adjust to more naps?”
“That might work,” Feral said with a nod. “Though we shouldn’t be pushing your sleep schedule too much yet,” he said, and there was concern in his eyes. “You’re so little yet, you need your sleep to grow.” And then, the start of a tease on his face, in his voice, “you seem like you would need as much rest as possible.”
Maul sniffed, tilting his chin up which started the two of them laughing.
“Peace little brother,” Feral said, smiling, “it is not a bad thing to need rest. Nor is it a bad thing to want to be with your friends.” He frowned. “Is diurnal a common circadian rhythm?”
Maul hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said finally, blinking. “Mace has been working towards having me sleep more during the day, and I’ve been trying…” he paused, “my Master didn’t let me sleep when I needed to…” he said softly.
“Well,” Feral said, scooping him up, “you have us now.” He grinned, and Maul found himself smiling back. “Will you show us around?”
“Yes,” Maul said, nodding, “but I think we should…we should say something to Mace first.”
“He is the one that has been taking care of you, correct?” Savage asked softly.
“Yes,” Maul nodded, “but…but they all have. Tiq has been…he’s been helping me with my nightmares, and Ahsoka took me hunting, and…”
“Who is Ahsoka?”
“She’s a Togruta,” Maul said, “she’s my friend.”
“She?” Feral repeated softly, and the worry and the quiet uncertainty that burned…
Maul hooked his horns with Feral’s, “She,” he repeated softly. “And she’s nice to me. She’d never hurt me. She took me hunting because I lost a tooth.” He opened his mouth wide, let Feral see, listening to his soft exclamation of amazement, hearing Savage join. “And a Togruta…goes hunting and makes their first kill after they lose their first tooth! She…she shared her culture with me…because I didn’t know my own…”
There was a silence after that proclamation, and Maul watched as Feral’s face bloomed in a wide smile, and he knocked his horns into Maul’s.
“Well then,” he said softly, “I think we ought to find her and say thank you.”
“She is your friend, Maul?” Savage asked.
“Yes,” Maul nodded. “I let her touch my toe beans.” He held his foot out towards Savage who beamed, finally laughing aloud.
“Did you now?” he asked, “did she wish to?”
“She finds them very cute,” Maul nodded. “Most sentients I’ve talked to think they’re cute,” he said. “That’s why I let Hondo touch them.”
“It did work,” Feral laughed, “and they are very cute,” he took Maul’s foot in his hand gently and squished. “Oh, I love kitten feet,” he mumbled briefly, leaning Maul back on his arm, shifting him so he was cradled against his chest, able to look at Maul’s feet properly. Maul rolled his eyes. Feral laughed at him.
Savage was peering over, and Maul sighed, sticking out his other foot, Savage laughing aloud as he caught it, squeezing it gentle. “They are very good toe pads. They seem healthy and well taken care of.”
Maul smiled, without mentioning the fact that they had not been earlier. “Thank you,” Maul said primly, “will you put me down now?” he asked.
“Of course,” Feral agreed, and lowered him to the ground. “Shall we talk to Mace, then and then find Ahsoka?”
“Yes,” Maul agreed. “Where are we?”
“We are right next door to him,” Feral smiled, “he’s on that side.”
“You apparently did not move very far,” Savage smiled.
Maul nodded and walked out into the hallway, his brothers following him. They paused at the threshold, watching as the door before them opened and Tiq stepped out.
He looked…tired, disheveled, his robes on, but just slightly crooked, a hand rubbing at his eyes, which blinked at them blearily for a moment, before recognition spread and he smiled. It was a very soft smile, almost lopsided, but he nodded his head. “Hello,” he said, “it is good to see you.”
“Are you okay, Tiq?” Maul asked, “do you need to go to bed?”
“Hmm?” Tiq asked, blinking, “oh, no, I’m working on adjusting my sleep schedule, if you will recall,” he smiled, and it was gentle. “You are my patient, yes? It is my job as your Healer to be accessible. Usually, I would be perfectly capable of waking up like this, I have gotten used to it before. It is merely…my sunlamp bulb has died, and I am unable to get my blood up…”
“You need to bask!” Maul exclaimed, realization buzzing in his skull. “You’re cold-blooded!”
“Yes, that is correct, you remembered,” Tiq smiled. “But what that means is I have to leave the Temple. There’s technically one…inside of it,” he huffed, “but there’s a spa that’s simply better.”
There was a chime of a comm alerting and Tiq blinked, before immediately opening it. Maul narrowed his eyes at the image that flickered over the comm, taking in the sight of a pair of lizards…one of them with a very poorly cropped image of a lothcat head overtop one of the lizard’s heads, the two of them holding hands, the words ‘what if we sat on a warm rock to raise our body temperatures and optimize our vitamin D levels together~’ Tiq snorted, a startlingly loud and yet decidedly amusing sound, immediately looking around. “Alright, Agen, where are you at? You can come, you nosy Zabrak.”
Maul watched as Agen walked forward from where he had paused on the other side of the hall, beaming, putting his comm in his robes and Tiq made another wheezing sound, “did you seriously stand there and look for those images and slap them together as soon as you heard that I was planning on basking outside of the Temple?”
“Maybe~” Agen hummed noncommittally, grinning, before turning to look at them. “Hello,” he said, “would you like to come?”
“Agen, that’s pushy,” Tiq said, his voice low, the slight slur to his words deepening as he tried to hush himself. “You don’t know if they…would find it rude. Or…” he trailed off.
“It’s alright, Tiq,” Agen said, easily, “I have it.”
“You have…nothing,” Tiq retorted.
“I’m going to get it,” Agen said, grinning, “how are you three, did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” Feral said, his voice slow, amusement very clear in his face however, smiling at Tiq, and then at Agen. “Rodians are…often like this if they cannot bask?”
“Yes,” Agen laughed. “But we take care of them,” he nodded. “And by we I tend to mean Zabraks. We have a longstanding agreement with Rodians and a lot of shared spaces. You see, we both like heat, and we both like bright sun. Iridonia is a hot spring culture, we are communal bathers in a similar way to Rodians being communal baskers. I do not know if Nightbrothers are the same, but if you would like…?”
“You do follow communal bathing practices,” Savage said, and his voice was…that was relief there. Relief and something else, something close to…longing?
“Yes,” Agen said, “the density being what it is…” he paused. “Is it the same for you?”
“It is!” Feral said, “and if…if you truly are offering, then I would…” he paused, “oh I would love to, please. Would we be able to take Maul?”
“Absolutely,” Agen said with a nod, “we often take our kittens to the same places. I have…neither Eeth nor I ever took Maul to a communal bath,” he said softly. “We were uncertain if it was practiced in your culture, and it sometimes felt…” he paused. “I did not know. I did not want to overstep and I did not want to expose him to anything that…that was not accepted.”
Savage took a step forward, taking his hand, and softly, his voice so firm, and yet so tight all at once, “Thank you…for caring. For doing your best. I understand you…were one of the ones that was teaching Maul?”
“Yes,” Agen said, “Eeth as well, who was my Mentor…” he paused, “would you mind if we invited him?” he asked, looking to Tiq as well as the others.
“Not at all,” Tiq answered, waving a hand. “The more the merrier.”
“He should be getting up by now,” Agen noted quietly, taking his comm out, looking to Savage and Feral and Maul for confirmation. Savage and Feral both nodded their heads, indicating for him to call. There was a pause as the comm buzzed and finally.
“I am awake, what is it,” Eeth asked, voice rumbling and low.
“We’re taking the Nightbrothers to bask at The Spot,” Agen said, “get out here now, you’re coming.”
“Nightbrothers?” Eeth asked, and then there was a brief, “OH SHIT,” the sound of someone falling out of bed and then, “I’m coming out, give me a minute!”
Agen rolled his eyes, clicking the comm closed, but there was fondness in his expression. “He’s usually more on the ball,” Agen laughed, “we’ve been forced to adopt to a rather…different circadian rhythm.”
“It is not because of us, is it?” Feral asked, his voice soft.
“Oh no,” Agen shook his head, “some of us like Tiq here has,” he put his arm around the Rodian who was slumping slightly, Tiq’s head lulling on his shoulder, “has been forced to be a bit drastic in his change, but it is not usually like this. Once his new sunlamp bulb arrives he will be able to be up and about in no time. Eeth and I are crepuscular. We are active in evenings and mornings if given the opportunity, though neither of us have a problem adopting to a later time, usually. Earlier is sometimes difficult, and that is what has been happening recently, at least for Eeth. He is on the Council, you see, and they’ve got a lot of meetings. A lot of them have been running into times when he should be sleeping…”
There was a pause and then a door opened, Eeth walking out looking absolutely resplendent. Maul found himself unable to help the giggle that left him.
“What are you laughing at, little Mauler?” Eeth asked him, eyes narrowing in mock annoyance, amusement burning bright in the Force.
“Little Mauler?” Savage repeated, delight in his voice, “I might have to steal that…”
“You would be welcome to it and many more,” Eeth said. “Sabé is rather fond of calling him bean.”
“For toe beans,” Tiq giggled.
Savage and Feral both laughed aloud, even as Maul pouted up at them. That seemed to just make them laugh harder.
“Sabé is the once-handmaiden of a Senator that Maul is very close to,” Agen said. “Padmé Amidala was the Queen of Naboo, and is also and was also Maul’s very best friend. If you want stories about Maul, she is absolutely the one to talk to.”
“She was…” Feral hesitated, and Maul was unprepared for the way that Savage’s hand lowered to his head, the way it threaded through his horns, while also backing Maul towards him. “Maul was not…he was not promised…or…?”
“No!” the chorus of voices was loud and sudden, and there was genuine dismay on their faces. “Oh, no,” Tiq said, “no, no, Padmé…saw Maul as an equal, as a good friend, someone whose opinion and thoughts and person she respected. There was never a relationship between them. They were…”
“They were friends,” Agen said, and there was something so final in it. “They would visit each other and talk about so many things. There was never anything between them.”
“Maul was never going to be and will never be her consort,” Eeth said softly. “Your brother was safer with her than he was with many others, and she was safe with him. They are still safe with each other, there is no harm done, and there will be no harm done.”
“They took me swimming,” Maul said, looking up at them. “They took me swimming and I was covered, and they gave me space and they were so…they’re always so nice to me. They massaged my feet and hands and filed my horns for me,” he said, touching the hand that was still holding his horns. “I was safe with them. They never scared me.”
There was a pause and then Savage finally nodded slowly, the tension in his grip fading. “Thank you,” he said, “I…I would meet her…”
“I would as well,” Feral said, “their job on his horns is immaculate,” Feral grinned, hooking the back of Maul’s horn and shaking his head fondly as Savage let go. Maul gripped Feral’s hand and smiled up at him.
“You will get the opportunity soon, I am sure,” Eeth said, “she has been a very frequent sight at this Temple recently. She claimed Maul as her best friend once again, so she has been doing her best to visit regularly.”
“Then I shall look forward to meeting her,” Savage said.
“Good,” Agen grinned, “now that this is settled we have to get this one into some sun lamps.” He hoisted Tiq up slightly from where he had obviously fallen asleep against his shoulder, letting out a rattling snore. Agen laughed aloud, hoisting Tiq up into a fireman’s carry. “Come on,” he said, “let’s get a ride.”
They exited the Temple together, Maul holding Feral and Savage’s hands, the brothers sometimes lifting him into the air, swinging him high and then carefully depositing him to earth again. Maul had to work hard at keeping quiet because there were others that were still sleeping like Tiq was meant to. Maul’s brothers delighted in doing it suddenly, trying to catch him off-guard.
But Maul was used to holding his tongue and did so, beaming all the while.
Maul knew when to be quiet.
Savage finally picked him all the way up, Maul balling himself up reflexively, stomach feeling like it had been left on the ground below as Savage lifted him high overhead, before finally putting him on his shoulders. Maul held onto his horns, breathless and giddy with the sensation buzzing through his limbs, laughter caught behind his teeth. It was the nicest thing to hold back.
Feral opened the Temple doors so Agen could carry Tiq out, delight burning in his expression as Agen finally lowered Tiq on the steps. Tiq gave a brief sound of surprise, realized where he was, and patted Agen on the cheek.
“Thank you,” he said, and then slumped up against Agen’s side again.
Agen laughed, the sound free and delighted now that they were no longer in any danger of waking anyone up.
“Do not laugh at me, you are warm,” Tiq said, his eyes narrowed, gaze unsteady. “It is not my fault you make a good basking rock.”
Agen laughed harder, and finally slung his arm around Tiq’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “You are right, friend, here, let me help until we get to the spa. It is chilly out here tonight!”
Eeth pulled his comm out and flicked through some contacts before he made a pleased sound, sending out a transmission, waiting for a reply. “Five minutes,” he finally said, looking to them with a smile on his face.
“Where are we going?” Maul asked. “What is a communal…what is it?”
“It is a cultural…bathing habit,” Tiq said, “or basking habit in my case.” He rubbed his face.
“Shh,” Agen said, laughing, “you’re sleepy.”
“I am not too sleepy to explain!” Tiq said, poking Agen’s cheek. “You are so mean to me, I am sleepy, not…not…oh. What are words.”
“Go to bed, Tiq, we’ll wake you when we’re there,” Agen laughed aloud, “Eeth, sandwich him.”
“No, no, cheating! Cheating,” Tiq called out as Eeth sat down on the other side of the Rodian, throwing his arm across Tiq’s other side. “You are…the worst…” he mumbled, snuggling down between the two of them, his eyes half-lidded. And then finally fell asleep.
Maul could not stop giggling, hands pressed to his mouth, trying to bite it back but it was so…funny. He was so happy, his brothers were here, and he had never seen Tiq like this. He hadn’t realized how important basking was to the cold-blooded, and wondered whether or not Tiq would remember this later. He wondered how long it would take for him to properly warm up, and if that meant he would be more awake and aware. Maul did not remember being that tired, and certainly not given that sort of treatment when he had been so tired he didn’t think he could walk straight.
But it was nice to see it, nice to know that they cared enough about each other to take care of each other, even with their biological quirks, but that once again returned him to, “Cultural bathing practice?”
“Yes,” Feral said, reaching up to tug at Maul’s horn. “It is born of necessity, yes?” he said, “Dathomir is dangerous, and bathing is such a vulnerable position to be in. It is common to bathe together. You take care of your kittens this way, teach them how to clean themselves, and help your brothers when needed. It is…bonding through grooming, I suppose, if you wish to break it down this way.”
Maul was quiet for a moment, taking this in. “You would…wash me?”
There was a pause, Savage and Feral both quiet, before Savage carefully picked him off of his shoulders and placed him on the step, kneeling down to face him directly, Feral as well.
“I…” Savage paused, “would not do anything you are not comfortable with.” Savage stated. “I recognize…you have not grown up in this way. You would not be used to this at all, and I would not want to touch you in any way you are not interested in.”
“You are at the age where we would stop at your waist,” Feral said, “you would be trusted to wash yourself, and if you needed it we would help, but you do not have to at all.”
“I still wash this one’s ears and his back,” Savage grinned, nudging Feral. “He has a habit of forgetting.”
Feral rolled his eyes hugely and Maul smothered a laugh, “He is not wrong,” Feral finally said with a grin and Maul laughed openly. “But it is…a cultural practice that you have not…grown up in, and we do recognize that.”
Maul took that in for a moment, so quiet, so still, “you are…not disappointed in me?” he asked softly.
“No,” Savage said immediately, taking his hand. “No, no, never.”
“Not in a million years,” Feral said, taking Maul’s other hand.
“We are…” Savage was quiet for a moment, “you are not the first brother to be taken. You are not the first that is unfamiliar with our ways. But that is okay. You are loved all the same. If you do not wish to follow some of our practices then this is okay. You are okay.”
“You are always okay,” Feral echoed softly, “and you are always loved.”
“But you don’t even know me?” Maul managed, something caught in his chest.
Feral was quiet for a moment and softly, so softly, “I have been wanting to meet you my entire life. You are right in that I do not know you half as well as I would wish…but for what I do know, for what you have done…what you gave up, the pieces I have seen…how can you not be everything I have ever dreamed of and more?”
“How can we not love you, Maul?” Savage asked, “how can we not love the brother that we thought we would never see again? How can we not love the brother that freed us?”
Maul did not understand, something tight and something hot and something solid in his chest, rising up in his throat, and something so… Maul felt a sob shake loose, followed by another, his hands rising up to his face, broken and shattered and something so… Savage pulled him close, Feral held him tight, and they hushed him, gentle, gentle.
“You don’t…” he swallowed, “you don’t owe me.”
“No,” Savage said softly, “we do not,” he agreed, “but that does not mean I cannot see a sacrifice made, all of the work that you put into it, and not appreciate it for what it was. And even if I never meet the version of my brother that did this…even if I never do, meeting you, knowing you is enough. Because you are still here.” He pressed a hand to Maul’s chest – to the heart of his hearts. “And you yourself are worth knowing.”
“There is no obligation,” Feral smiled, “there is just you and me and Savage, and that is enough.”
And when his tears were dry he was still held between two brothers that he would have never looked for and never knew could be found.
It was good.
He was also aware in that moment that Eeth and Agen had taken Tiq further away from them, giving them as much privacy as possible while they still waited for their transport. The fondness that swelled in his chest was almost enough to bring more tears to his eyes, awash in too many feelings and feeling entirely too small to hold them all.
It was not something that he often experienced, but it was good.
It was good and Maul was happy.