Author's note: This story takes place about three months after Duty and Destiny and references events that occurred in several of my previous stories: Old Wounds and Awakening, to be specific; I highly recommend checking them out! Also, I was hesitant to write Cad Bane, as I was not as familiar with him as I am with other characters, but he turned out to be an interesting guy to have around; hopefully I did him justice. I own Kali and Stonewall...Mr. Lucas owns everyone else, the lucky bastard. Please enjoy; again, feedback is most welcome.
Infinite thanks to SerendipityAEY for your continued feedback and encouragement!
After the mission to Bespin, after Stonewall had been made a Commander and Kalinda Halcyon granted the role of Jedi Master, after the assassin Asajj Ventress had finally been captured, there had been a celebration.
It was tradition, he'd been told, for a newly-appointed Jedi Master to spend a day meditating on their new responsibilities, but everyone had been so edgy from the mission so an impromptu gathering had been arranged instead at one of the local watering holes a few minutes from the Jedi Temple. Stonewall, Kalinda, Commander Cody, and General Kenobi, along with several other clone officers and Jedi that he didn't recall had attended and the air was convivial; though the bar was not small, it was filled with chatter and the sound of clinking glasses as the patrons blew off steam.
He remembered sitting at a table with Cody, who had promised to get him very, very drunk-another tradition he had been unaware of-while they reminisced about past missions when someone, one of the Jedi, he thought, though his memories were fuzzy, had turned the jukebox to a familiar song. Kali had been sitting across from him, sipping a glass of pale Corellian wine and listening as an unusually animated Cody and General Kenobi described a particularly eventful mission when the first notes of the music sounded. Pausing mid-story, the general smiled before slipping out of his seat to stand before her, his hand extended.
"Remember this one?"
She looked up at him, a smile on her face. "Is that your way of asking me to dance?"
The other Jedi took her hand and guided her to the floor where they began to dance, her pale tunic swaying with the motion of her hips. Her unbound hair floated behind her, weightless, when he spun her around during a swell of the music. Stonewall watched them move together; it was clear that they had done this many, many times as their movements were well-coordinated and graceful despite the copious amount of spirits each of them had consumed.
"This stuff never seems to affect them," Cody said with a sigh as he glanced down at his whiskey. "Jedi." He looked at Stone. "You think it's the Force that does it?"
Stonewall shrugged. Though his own latent Force abilities had recently come to light, he wasn't ready to admit it to his brothers. He felt different enough as it was. "Maybe." Kalinda was laughing at something General Kenobi had said while her hands rested on his shoulders. Unexpectedly, Kenobi spun her again, apparently catching her off guard because she had to grab at his hand to prevent herself from being flung across the room; rather than being annoyed she merely laughed as her fellow Jedi brought her back into his arms.
Cody sighed again. "Wish they'd given us those midi...midi things when they were splicing our genes. It'd make life a little easier, don't you think?" He waved his hand in an approximation of a Jedi using their innate power. "I've heard they can use it to influence minds," he muttered. "Change memories." The Commander belched, the sound reverberating in the clamor. "Is there anything you want to forget?"
Stone ignored him and sipped his drink, watching. A slower song had begun; General Kenobi dipped her low, her hair nearly brushing the ground which made her laugh again and nudge at his shoulder until he brought her up, his hand gripping her waist with a familiar ease when she said something to him. They moved together as the song progressed and grew in intensity, their eyes on one another. She smiled as he pulled her face to his and whispered something in her ear.
Stonewall downed the rest of his drink and glanced at Cody. "What've you been drinking? I'll get the next round."
"Toydarian," Cody replied with a shake of his head. "Though I should cut myself off."
Rising, Stone crossed to the bar and got two more whiskeys from the owner of the establishment, a thick joweled Corellian who refused his creds as he had done for all of the troops and Jedi. It was good for business, after all, to boast that yours was the place that the Generals and their officers came to wind down after a mission. He returned to Cody, who had taken to staring into his empty cup; as he approached, the other Commander glanced up at him as if surprised.
"I think I need to lie down," he said, his words slurring. "It's starting to affect me." Stone chuckled as Cody's head drooped to rest on his arm. For all of their stamina and strength, clones had a pretty low tolerance for alcohol and Cody in particular was legendary for being a lightweight when it came to celebrating. For his part, Stonewall sipped his whiskey, feeling his head begin to spin as he watched her and tried not to remember.
At this he failed.
Later, when midnight had long since come and gone, when most of the other Jedi and clones had dissipated, when Cody was snoring quietly across from him, they were still dancing. It was another slow song, one that he had never heard except once before when she sang it; she was still in General Kenobi's arms, swaying gently to the melody. As Stone watched, he could almost feel the curve of her side beneath his own hands, see the way her lips parted in her sleep, hear the sound of his name rising from her mouth as they embraced; he closed his eyes at the memories that flooded his mind. When he opened them, General Kenobi's back was to him but her dark eyes were fixed onto his own, looking at him with an expression that he didn't know how to interpret; her gaze on him was a living thing that had lodged itself into the deepest parts of his spirit and would not budge.
He lifted his glass to her but she made no reply until the general said something to her and she nodded. The song ended and the Jedi returned to the table, General Kenobi looking at Cody with amusement.
"He's a lightweight, sir," Stonewall said, though his own tongue felt thick. "I'll see that he gets back to the barracks in one piece."
Kali smiled. "Poor Cody. Who let him have Toydarian whiskey? I can't go near that stuff without getting dizzy." She looked at Stonewall. "You seem to be handling it well."
"Not really," he replied as he looked up at her, emboldened by the spirits burning in his belly. "It's just an act."
"It's late; we should be getting back," General Kenobi said to her after a moment. "Congratulations again, Commander." He put his hand on the small of Kalinda's back and guided her out of the bar. As they walked away, Stonewall didn't miss the way the general's hand slid to caress her hips, nor the way she grinned up at the other Jedi. He knew that look, as he'd seen it directed at him. On Mundali.
A lifetime ago.
Stone looked at Cody and sighed before getting to his feet, nudging his brother's shoulder. "Wake up, Cody. Let's get the hell out of here."