Author's note: This story takes place after the "Savage Oppress" arc in the Clone Wars tv show and after my fic Awakening. It is recommended that you read "Old Wounds" or "Bomb in a Birdcage" before this to familiarize yourself with my OC's. As always, constructive feedback is greatly appreciated; regardless, thank you for taking the time to read the product of my hyper-obsessive imagination. Enjoy!
Duty and Destiny
From his vantage point on a nearby hillock, Obi-wan watched as the group of clones made their way through the battlefield on the marshy moon of Gelladon, ducking behind any available shelters while they continued firing on the battle droids that were advancing; he noticed that this particular group seemed to be well-coordinated and creative-when he realized that they were actually leading the droids towards a thick patch of swamp, he nodded with satisfaction. Just as they reached the edge of the swamp the clone captain, visible in his distinctive red armor, shouted an order to his men, causing them to begin firing on nearby pockets of earth, causing bubbles of steam to hiss and spurt in front of the droids. Another order and the blasts were directed at the air above the pockets which resulted in a blazing display of toxic swamp-gas that confused the droids' nav systems; the clankers that did not fall were drawn into the mire by the clones, who fired their cables and lifted themselves into the trees where they were able to finish off the remaining droids.
"Impressive," he remarked to Commander Cody, who was standing beside him.
The yellow-armored clone nodded. "Captain Stonewall's really come into his own these last few months. I think he'll make a fine ARC Commander."
Obi-wan frowned as he watched the troops slip back to the ground and begin their return to the base where they would tend to any wounds and regroup for the next assignment. He glanced at Cody. "Have the captain report to my quarters; I wish to speak to him." With that he began to walk down the hill, towards the temporary camp that the group had set up for the impromptu mission. While the moon was not of vital importance, it provided an excellent opportunity for a hopeful ARC Commander to prove his mettle to his superiors. It was not a task that Obi-wan had desired, but since Stonewall was one of Cody's men originally, it followed that he was to oversee the clone's advanced training.
His tent was ragged and torn; he knew that he would need a new one when they returned to Coruscant, which would hopefully be within a few days. While he waited for the clone to arrive, Obi-wan contacted the Jedi Temple to check in with Master Windu.
"Master Kenobi," Mace looked drawn, though he still radiated strength even through a flickering hologram. "I was about to contact you. How is the new Commander's training going?"
"Well enough," Obi-wan replied. "Though I'm not entirely sure he has what it takes"
Mace's brow lifted. "Do you need more time?"
Obi-wan shook his head. "No. We should be able to leave here within another day-or less."
"Good. I have another assignment for your team upon your return. Contact me when you are ready to depart. May the Force be with you."
"And you, Mace." Obi-wan sighed as the transmission ended and he felt the familiar presence of the two clones who approached. "Commander Cody. Captain Stonewall." He turned to face the identical men that stood at attention before him. Long ago, he had gotten over the unsettling mirrored images of the clones, but now...
Now it was different.
He pushed the thought of her from his mind as he regarded the captain. "You did quite well today, Captain. Very clever, igniting the swamp gas to confuse the droids."
"Thank you, sir."
Cody put a hand on Stonewall's shoulder. "Excellent job, soldier. How did you know that would work?"
Stonewall paused. "I did a bit of research before the mission, on our way out here," he said. "Learned about the...quirks of the terrain and decided to use them in our favor." He looked at Obi-wan. "What's next, General?" There was the faintest trace of hope in his voice, though Obi-wan could tell that he was trying to remain calm and unaffected.
Instead of answering, he looked at Cody. "We have received word from Coruscant; as soon as we are done here we are to head back to the Core to regroup before we go on another mission."
"Sir?" Stonewall's voice was hesitant.
The clone shifted. "Is my training complete, then?"
Obi-wan's jaw tightened and he reflexively lifted a hand to his beard while he studied Stonewall intently. "For the moment."
Cody looked between them. "He is to become a Commander then, sir?"
"Though your work today was admirable, Captain," Obi-wan said. "I do not think that you are ready for the burden of command quite yet. Perhaps after our next mission. Get the men ready," he added, turning on his heels. "I wish to leave here as soon as possible."
Cody and Stonewall watched the Jedi General walk away towards the forest, presuming that he was going to go meditate or whatever else Jedi did in their spare time. After a moment, Cody patted his brother's back. "Don't worry, the General is a difficult man to please. I'm sure he has his reasons."
"Yeah," Stonewall replied. "I'm sure he does." He and Cody returned to the others to prepare them to leave, but all the while he worked, Stonewall turned the events of the past few months over and over in his mind; he kept coming to the same conclusion. He had proven himself at every task that he had been given, the men under his command were some of the finest around, and he had shown himself to be a creative, tactical thinker. I have earned the title of ARC Commander many times over, he thought as he watched the others load the transport. Yet he refuses to acknowledge the fact. Jedi were not supposed to feel emotions like anger, passion or jealousy, but he knew better than most that what Jedi were "supposed" to feel and what they actually felt were two different things.
Again his thoughts returned to Kalinda. They had come to know one another intimately during their last mission together on the Outer Rim world of Mundali, where she had been possessed by an ancient spirit who demanded release in the form of sexual gratification. He recalled General Honi Tallis, the young woman who had been Kalinda's Padawan-whom they had originally come to assist- as she was forced to ask him to...well...
The memory was quite clear.
"I...I don't quite know how to say this, Captain." General Tallis' light eyes shifted from side to side. "The spirit possessed her; Master Halcyon has her mind-for the most part-but it has her body, and is apparently...hungry."
He shook his head. "Hungry? Don't you have rations...?"
The red-haired Jedi's cheeks grew pink. "No, trooper. Not like that. She...in life, the spirit was a disciple of their people's goddess of love-specifically the act of love." She would not meet his eyes. "It seems, after being trapped without a body for so long, the spirit desires only one thing. Master Halcyon can hardly stand, the desire is so intense, the need so strong." She worried at the edges of her tunic, her eyes remained downcast. "Nothing I can do will help her; she requires a kind of release that I cannot give."
Stonewall raised his eyebrows. "What are you saying, General?"
Honi grimaced. "I'm saying that she needs help and I need some time. I think I can figure out a way to separate her from the spirit, but I need time. She is in agony right now-not pain," she amended quickly, seeing the look on his face. "But longing. Do you understand? You must help her. You are able to, aren't you?" She glanced at his torso with apprehension.
"I...yes," he replied, stunned. "I am...functional. But...she..." He sighed. "You're certain this the only way?"
"Don't you want to?" she countered, regarding him with curiosity. "You obviously care for her. I would think that you would be quite pleased at this opportunity."
It was his turn to frown. "I'm not...that is, what I want isn't the point, General."
Despite his initial misgivings, he had wanted it. Stars and galaxies, he had wanted to kiss her, to feel her skin burning beneath his hands...and it had been the best few days of his short life. But when it was over, when the spirit had been driven from her body and they were left with what remained...She sent me away, he thought, his throat tightening. No matter what her reasons, she sent me away. True, he had hoped to be promoted to Commander, longed to do his duty to the Republic, but she had awakened something else within him. She was right, he thought. We can never go back.
And there was General Kenobi, the man whom Kalinda had named as her lover and best friend, the man who now was in charge of his fate in the GAR, the man who could not completely conceal the enmity in his eyes when he looked at Stone, for all that he attempted to mask it. The clone captain watched as the last of the supplies were gathered aboard the transport, then lifted his comm unit. "Commander Cody?" he said.
"We're ready to move out."
The line of stars receded as Kalinda's fighter returned to normal space, joining the stream of traffic that was heading for Coruscant. As a Jedi, she had privileges that included allowing her to pass by the normal lanes of traffic, but she chose to remain in her place in line even if it would only to delay her return to the Jedi Temple for another hour or so. However, the universe, it seemed, had other plans.
"General Halcyon?" She grimaced as Mace Windu's familiar voice sounded through her comm.
She could picture his frown, his dark eyes narrowing as he spoke to her. "We have you on our scanners...why are you in the public lane? You should be here already; we have much to discuss."
That's never a good thing, she thought. "Of course, Master. I'll see you in a few." With a sigh, she disconnected her ship from the lanes, transmitting her authorization clearance to the traffic monitors before setting a direct course for the Temple. Within fifteen minutes she was walking through the corridors of the Jedi Temple, though her mind was far away on a distant planet in the Outer Rim.
"I want to thank you," she whispered, taking Stone's hands in her own. "You've been such a steady presence in my life these last months, and I don't know how I would have survived this particular ordeal without your...enthusiasm." Here she gave him a wry smile, which he returned.
"It wasn't exactly a hardship for me, Kali," he replied, raising her hands to his mouth and kissing them gently. "And I would have done much, much worse things to help you." He met her gaze, then, as if on impulse, lowered himself to his knees. "Kalinda Halcyon, I pledge my oath of loyalty to you until such a time as you choose to release me from it. I am your man; without reservation, without hesitation, today, tomorrow and always."
At the time, her body had been overcome with desire and lust, but even through the muggy haze she knew what it was that he was doing: it was an approximation of the oath that all clone troopers swore to the Republic upon their graduation. She was aware of no other clone who had made such a promise to an individual, and the thought shook her. But the memory of him kneeling before her as he kissed her skin with a tenderness she had thought the Kaminoans would have bred out of the clones haunted her, even months later.
And of course, there was Obi-wan.
Kalinda stepped into the turbolift that would take her to the Council chambers, where Master Windu was undoubtedly waiting. While she stood, she toyed with the curving, silver ring that rested on her right hand. Many Jedi eschewed any kind of personal possessions, but this was one of the few things that she considered "hers:" Obi-wan had given it to her on a mission they shared-almost ten years ago now-and she kept it as a constant reminder that he cared for her. Though the exact nature of her...malady had been kept from the Council, she had confessed everything to Ben upon her return to the Temple, and he had been-surprisingly-taciturn about it.
Though I have my doubts, she thought wryly as the lift paused at the highest level. The doors opened to reveal Master Windu, speaking in low tones with another Jedi, Luminara Unduli, and her Padawan, Barriss Offee; the trio turned towards her as she stepped out of the lift and approached them. Mace nodded to her.
"Good, you're here. Master Unduli, thank you for your report. I will let you know my decision." He returned the bow that the Miralian woman gave him before gesturing to Kali to follow him.
"Good to see you, Luminara," Kalinda said to the austere woman. "Hi Barriss," she added, grinning at the younger woman, who returned the look before receiving a stern glance from her Master, who nodded to Kalinda.
"Welcome back to the Temple, Kalinda," Luminara said, her tone a hair's breadth short of cordial. "I am glad to see that you have returned to us, at long last." Her eyes flicked to her Padawan. "Come, Barriss." She nodded once more to Kalinda before turning to leave.
Kali hurried to catch up to Mace, who was striding down the corridor to one of the mediation chambers, activating the door lock once Kalinda had entered behind him. She frowned and looked at her old Master. "What is it? What's wrong?"
He said nothing for a moment, but she could feel his weariness, the tension that had long been inlaid in his mind with the war. "It is not going well, right now," he said at last, folding his hands before him as he regarded her. "But that is not why I brought you here. How was your mission? Did it allow you to fully recover from the incident on Mundali?"
She did not answer, instead began to pace through the chamber, passing through the slants of light that entered through the windows. It was so quiet, her footfalls seemed to echo. "The witnesses are safe, for the time being. Thank you for giving me...space, Master." She met his eyes. "It was a welcome break."
"You could take leave, if you wanted to," he said. "Anakin is on leave at the moment, but when he returns..." He studied her. "I read the accounts of Mundali, but never had a chance to speak with you about it. You are certain that you are...recovered?" He mistook her expression for confusion and elaborated. "The violent and intense nature of your symptoms was alarming, to say the least. I am glad that no one was injured."
She nodded slowly, pausing to stand next to him. "Thanks to my former Padawan and Master Nu. If not for her research and Honi's efforts..."
Mace nodded. "And your clone-Captain Stonewall, correct? We know of his involvement in the matter." The light from the mediation chamber was fractured across his face as he looked at her.
"He was committed so ensuring my safety, as well as the safety of the others," she replied, trying not to think of Stone's embrace, or his mouth seeking hers. "How is his training going, anyway?"
"I just spoke with General Kenobi several hours ago," he said. "He seems to think that the clone is not yet ready for a command position. However," he added, seeing her mouth open to protest. "I am sure that the two of you can reach an agreement on that score. After all, Stonewall will be leading your men; though Obi-wan is more experienced than you in these matters, you have a say in the situation, too. Which leads me to your next mission: there have been recent sightings of Ventress in the Bespin system."
Kalinda felt her hands chill at the mention of the pale woman's name, memories of her own violent capture and torture at the assassin's hands fresh in her mind. "I will find her, Master," she said. "I'll leave at once."
Mace Windu shook his head. "The morning will suffice. I've asked Obi-wan to meet with you as soon as he returns; I want both of you on this." He gave her a knowing look. "It is vital that we capture her, my old Padawan. Incidences of late have shown her to be even more unpredictable than we thought...we don't need another wildcard in this war."
She nodded. "I understand." After a beat she stood up and made to leave, pausing in the doorway to look back at him. "Master?"
I'm not the Jedi that I should be; I'm not the person that you think I am. I'm in love with the wrong man, again. I'm sorry. She cleared her throat. "May the Force be with you, Mace."
A flicker of a smile on his face. "And you too, Kalinda."