Author's note: I normally refrain from doing the long, drawn-out notes, but if you are familiar with any of my other works, this story kind of needs an explanation. Basically, a decision was made at the end of Old Wounds that affected the trajectory of the stories that came after it: Bomb in a Birdcage, Awakening, Duty and Destiny, and Sacrifice. However, I wanted to explore what would have happened had another path been taken; thus this "AU" fic was born.
If you've read my other stuff, this story begins at the final chapter of Old Wounds and supersedes the fics that follow; if this is your first foray into my little world, it is recommended that you read OW up to the last chapter, then begin this story. Confusing? Perhaps, but I promise it's worth it!
In any case, thank you for reading! Please, please enjoy, and leave feedback if you are so inclined. It helps. :-)
One last thing: SerendipityAEY, you rock. That is all.
ALL OR NOTHING
At first, Kalinda Halcyon thought that she was dead, though after some time she decided it was not so, it was only that her thoughts were addled, roiling around in her head like an ion storm; they were shapeless, formless, without beginning or end. Memory and dream coalesced and she was not sure if she was awake or asleep. Eventually, she became aware of voices around her; though she couldn't make any of them out, she tried to listen, to figure out why she felt so disconnected and strange. As she listened, her focus sharpened and her thoughts became more orderly.
The dreams faded while the memories resurfaced.
Asajj Ventress held me captive, she thought, and she nearly killed me. I escaped...no, we escaped, Stonewall and I. But how? She tried to open her eyes, but they wouldn't respond to her brain's commands, which she found frustrating. Finally she gave up and focused again on the voices that were above her.
She recognized the voices, though she couldn't quite match them to any of the faces that she'd seen in her dreams or memories. I must try to open my eyes, she thought. I need to know what is happening, what has happened.
There was suddenly a presence very close to her, a voice so familiar that it might have been her own. "Kalinda? It's Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan? The name struck a chord within her. The other name...her name. It was a rope, thrown down to her in the darkness; Obi-Wan's voice was the light shining down showing her the way. She swallowed. Her eyelids fluttered, then opened.
She was in a small room, a cabin on a ship, and two men were standing over her. Well, one was standing – she recognized Anakin Skywalker – and the other, Obi-Wan, was kneeling beside her. He looked anxious. A faint smile crept onto her face at his expression. "What's wrong?" The words were barely a whisper and her voice sounded foreign in her ears.
"I'm just...going to tell Stonewall that she's okay. Rex said he was asking about her." Anakin's voice faded as he left the room, but she hardly noticed.
"Are you...how are you?" Obi-Wan asked, as he peered at her.
She managed a shrug, then winced at the pain that blossomed in her shoulders. "Okay. Though I feel like I lost a fight with a gang of Hutts." She lifted a hand and ran her fingers through his beard. "I didn't mean that about the animal," she added. He looked confused, and she sighed. "When I said that your beard looked like a small animal was attached to your face...I didn't mean it. It's quite attractive, actually."
He chuckled, though his gaze on her was pensive. "Forgiven and forgotten, Kali."
Nodding, she glanced around the room. "Where are we?"
"Aboard the Resolute," Obi-Wan replied, leaning back a little. "Heading for Coruscant. We should be there by tomorrow evening. You have an appointment with one of the Healers."
Something Anakin had said jolted her memory. "Stonewall! Is he...?"
"He's fine. He was a little chilly when I picked you two up, but there was hardly a scratch on his armor." Obi-Wan paused. "He will be glad to know that you are awake at last."
"He's one of the good ones," she replied. "He saved my life. I'm not sure what I would have done without him." He made no response, so she cleared her throat and looked at him. "What happened to Ventress?"
Obi-Wan let out a sigh. "She managed to escape - again. She had a third escape pod, as well as a contact nearby that we didn't notice. They jumped to hyperspace while we were rescuing you and Stonewall."
"Thank you for coming to my rescue. Though I must admit, I'm surprised that they let you; it seems like they would have preferred that you stayed out of anything that involved me." His eyes shifted to one side and she felt a broad grin split her face. "You went against the rest of the Jedi Council?" She laughed outright. "Are you crazy?"
"Possibly," he replied with another sigh. "Though..."
"What is it?"
He made no reply, instead he ran a hand through his auburn hair. "How are you, really?"
"Fine," she answered, looking at him curiously. "I'm fine." There was a pregnant pause, then she raised her brow at him. "How are you?"
"Not so well."
At the tone of his voice, a knot began to tighten in her stomach, though she tried to ignore it for now. "What does that mean? Obi-Wan?"
After a moment he sighed again. "Kalinda...you know that I care for you. I always have. But-" He swallowed and leaned back in his chair, his eyes on hers. "But whatever it was that is between us...it needs to be set to the side, at least until things settle down. With the war...it's just too much right now. We each have a duty to the Republic that must come first. Perhaps when there is peace again, we can revisit..."
"When there is peace?" She shook her head. "And what if neither of us live long enough to see that day? You're acting like you're in a negotiation. It's me, Ben." At her words his eyes closed briefly and he nodded, though otherwise he was holding unnaturally still, as if the slightest movement would fracture him; when he spoke again, his voice was weary.
"Kali..." He met her gaze again. "I abandoned my mission; I went against the better judgment of the Council to help Anakin rescue you and in retrospect, I would have done much more to see you to safety. And though this time it worked out for the better, next time it might not."
His words were careful and she wondered if he'd mapped them out before hand. Very likely, knowing him.
"There might not be a next time."
He exhaled and nodded. "There will always be trouble in our lives, Kali."
"Exactly," she replied, her throat tight. "We're at war; we walk on a knife's edge all the time, Ben. But I didn't ask you to rescue me, now or ever." She held his gaze. "I've only ever asked one thing of you."
Obi-Wan paused and his eyes closed briefly, and she got the sense that he was casting his mind back to a distant, shared memory. "You and I...we have a history, but we shouldn't allow it to get in the way of our responsibility to the Jedi Order any more than we already have, especially now." He frowned as he watched her. "You have to understand."
"I do understand," she replied. "Responsibility. Commitment. Those things are so important and they can't be set aside, now or ever. But you need to understand that our time is so precious, especially now." She willed her expression to be smooth and impassive though her fists clenched at her sides. "We've been down this road before, Ben...over and over. And you need to know that I meant what I said on Basrah...I don't want to wait anymore."
"An ultimatum?" His brow lifted and she shook her head.
"No, Ben. A realization." There was absolute silence in the room for several moments as they both absorbed the words. Finally she spoke again. "I know that you love me, Ben." Her voice still sounded strange in her ears. "I know that a part of me will always love you."
Once more he sighed, running his hand through his beard. "Please, Kalinda. Just call me Obi-Wan." His eyes met hers one last time. "I'm so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you." Though the words were a whisper, they reverberated within her mind until she thought that would be all that she heard ever again.
"Obi-Wan," she repeated, her voice careful and measured. "Of course." They did not look at one another for some time until she cleared her throat. "You know, I'm feeling a little tired from the meds," she said, still not meeting his eyes.
"Certainly," he replied, rising from his place beside her. "I'll let you rest." With that he slipped from her room in silence, leaving her alone again.
By some mercy of the Force she was able to sleep, though her dreams were dark and restless; when she awoke, Kali realized that she had no desire to remain bedridden so she dressed in the fresh set of robes that had been brought for her and slipped out of her cabin. It was late – or early – and there was no one else about at this hour, which suited her mood just fine.
She made her way to the mess hall and stood by one of the wide windows that faced the blackness of space. Why aren't I crying? she thought as she gazed beyond the Intrepid to the stars beyond. I should be devastated, but all I feel is...nothing. Empty, maybe. Cold, definitely.
"I'm glad to see you on your feet, General."
The unexpected voice made her whirl around in surprise; it was Stonewall, standing at attention on the opposite side of the mess. "Thank you, Stone," she replied after a beat. "I mean...thanks to you, I suppose." He nodded stiffly, his back ramrod straight and she chuckled. "At ease, for goodness sake." She watched as he hesitated a moment before he removed his helmet to mop some of the sweat off of his brow. Kalinda smiled at him. "I see you've gotten some...additional duties." She nodded to the minuscule brush that he was using to scrub the mess hall floor.
The trooper shrugged. "Nothing too bad. Mostly cleaning...and lots of drills. Sir."
"Never a dull moment?"
"Not really," he answered. After a slight pause he spoke again. "How are you feeling?"
That was the moment that broke her; she lowered her face to her hands and tried to stop the onslaught of tears to no avail. Her cheeks were hot and streaked with wet as she tried to find her control, to keep her emotions in check even as Stonewall crossed the room to stand beside her, his hand hovering over her shoulder for a moment before dropping to his side.
When she was able to speak her voice was shaking. "I've been better." Something in her heart tightened and she took several deep breaths to calm herself before she looked up at him. "It's...been a long day."
"Copy that, General," he replied, his tone cautious. "Er...do you want to talk about it?"
She chuckled and dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her tunic, pausing when he held out a clean rag that had been tucked in his belt. "Thanks, but not really." Several more steady breaths brought order to her thoughts at last and she felt some of the restlessness fade. "What will happen to you when we get back to Coruscant?" she asked, scrubbing her face with the cloth.
"I suppose we'll get sent on another mission. It's really not for me to say, General."
Nodding, she looked up at him, taking a deep breath. "Tomorrow I'm going to speak with Commander Cody," she said. "And when we reach Coruscant I'm going to talk to the Council. I think that you deserve a promotion. After all, I'm not sure I'd be alive if it weren't for you, Stone."
His brow furrowed as he considered her words. "I was reckless and could have – should have, more likely – gotten killed." However, through the doubt in his voice she could tell that he was pleased.
Kali put a hand on his arm, the armored plating was cool to the touch. "But it was thanks to you that the other Jedi were able to find me," she replied. "And you destroyed Ventress' means of holding me captive, and managed to strike a blow on her, which is no mean feat." Her dark eyes met his lighter ones and she was struck at once by their color, like a jar of honey held up to the sun, though she put the thought aside. "I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for your bravery, Stonewall. Thank you. I mean that, I really do."
He didn't speak for a moment, but after taking a breath he nodded once. She removed her hand and turned to go, pausing at the door to the mess hall to glance back at him. "I think that I'll be taking on other missions when I'm fully healed; I'll need someone by my side that I can trust...what do you say, Stone? Would you be up for it?"
"Absolutely, General," he said, standing at attention and giving her a crisp salute. "It would be a great honor to serve at your side again." They exchanged a last look before she nodded once and slipped out of the mess, into the dark corridor beyond.
"Masters, I know that I can be of more use to the Order in the field rather than remaining the Temple." Kalinda worked to keep her voice steady as she faced Mace Windu and Yoda in the Council Chambers of the Jedi Temple several days later. "Though I know that I am not a skilled warrior, I feel that I have proven myself to be able to handle more than just instructing younglings and assisting Jocasta in the Archives; I wish to serve the Republic in the same capacity as every other Jedi "
Master Windu regarded her with his dark eyes, his fingers steepled before him. "So you would abandon your duties at the Temple?"
"An important task, the role of a teacher is," Yoda added, his large eyes unblinking as they remained fixed on her. "Not to be treated lightly."
"No, Masters," she said. "You're right. It's just...I feel that I should be out there," she gestured to the dimming Coruscanti sky beyond the windows of the wide, marbled room. "Helping the others. If this latest mission has taught me anything, it's that I am capable of a great deal more than what I've done so far." She met Mace's eyes. "Will you give me a chance?"
The Jedi Masters exchanged glances before turning their scrutinizing gazes back on her. "Very well," Mace said after a moment. "You will be given another mission, though I think you are better suited to intelligence gathering and covert ops rather than the front lines of battle." He glanced at Master Yoda before looking back at her. "What do you know of Doctor Nes Raphan?"
"The scientist? Wasn't he the man who developed a cure for Issican Fever?" The disease had been all over the holonet several years prior to the start of the war and the man who'd managed to cure it had been lauded a hero.
"Allied with the Separatists, he has," Yoda replied, his tone regretful. "A dangerous man to have on their side, he is. Find him, you must."
Master Windu nodded. "There are rumors that he's developed a particularly deadly toxin that could be used in biological warfare. You will find him and bring him to us, along with any of his research."
Kalinda nodded; at his words, the knot in her chest had unraveled a fraction. He gave her some more information and a plan began to form in her mind, along with the knowledge that she would be glad to have something else to think about besides Obi-Wan. "Thank you, Masters." She paused and Yoda looked at her, his ears lifting.
"More to ask, have you?"
"You read my reports," she said after a beat. "The clone Lieutenant who stowed aboard Ventress' ship to rescue me...I respectfully request that he be promoted to the rank of Captain, as well as assigned to me."
Mace frowned. "I know that you haven't spent much time in the field, my old Padawan, but these things are not for you to decide."
"Why not?" she countered. "With all due respect Masters, we made an excellent team. I've even taken the liberty of speaking to Commander Cody, who feels that Stonewall is ready for a promotion, ready for the responsibilities of command." Her chin lifted as she met Mace's gaze; though she knew that he would always be the imposing, impossible-to-please Master of her youth, she had learned a thing or two about dealing with him. "At least let us try it, for a little while. If things don't go as you like, he can be reassigned and I'll come back here. All I'm asking for is a chance."
The dark-skinned Jedi took a deep breath as he regarded her; Yoda said nothing, deferring to Mace's judgment in this instance. Finally her old master nodded. "Very well. He will be promoted and assigned to you. You might also want to consider selecting a team of soldiers to accompany the two of you: a small squad should suffice. I'll let you inform you new Captain."
With that, she was dismissed. As she headed for the Temple exit, she felt a familiar presence approaching her direction; she steeled herself as Obi-Wan came into view. On impulse, she imagined a vast wall between them, behind which her thoughts and emotions would be hidden.
I will not let him in anymore, she thought, her jaw tightening. It has to be this way, if for no other reason than my sanity. They met in one of the wide, pillared walkways in the heart of the Temple and paused to greet one another. She was able to meet his gaze but said nothing beyond a customary hello.
After a moment his throat cleared. "What did the Council say?" She had told him of her plans before they'd left the Intrepid; his reaction had been neutral, much as it was now. "Will your request be granted?" His tone was polite and formal.
"It will," she replied, telling him of her assignment. "I'm going to have to put a team together, which will be interesting." A group of younglings passed by, some of them waving to her; she returned the gesture, thankful for the momentary respite from having to look at Obi-Wan's face.
After nodding to the children as well, Obi-Wan gave her a small smile. "You're not missing much by not being on the front lines, Kalinda. It can be a little too...exciting."
"As long as I can be of use to the Republic," she replied, keeping her voice steady. "And you? What's your next step?"
"Anakin and I are shipping out tomorrow," he said, his hands folding in front of him. "It should be interesting." She nodded, but made no response. It was all she could do, really, to face him with such calm, though a lifetime of training in controlling her emotions was serving her well, as was the mental wall she'd built. They looked at one another for a moment before he cleared his throat again. "You look like you've recovered from your ordeal."
"Thanks to you and Stonewall," she replied. "I owe you for that, B...Obi-Wan." She took another breath. "I have to get going," she said at last. "I have a promotion to give out."
"Tell him I said 'congratulations,'" Obi-Wan said, nodding to her, his arms folding before him. "It's well earned." There was a moment where something fluttered between them like a scrap of paper caught on the breeze; but it passed, fell to the floor at their booted feet. When she made to turn and walk away he said her name once more; upon meeting his gaze, she was struck at how that particular shade of blue never failed to make her heart skip a beat, though there was remorse and sorrow in the thought now. "Goodbye, Kalinda. May the Force be with you."
She nodded. "And you as well, Obi-Wan." This has to be the end, she thought, as she walked away from him. I don't think I can take anymore. When she reached the turbolift, she lifted her comlink. "Stonewall? Where are you? We have much to discuss." His form flickered at her wrist.
There was a pause before he replied, nodding. "I'm in the barracks, General. Can I meet you somewhere?"
General, she thought with an internal shudder. That's still going to take some getting used to. "How about the outside the Executive Building? North entrance...I think that's about halfway between the Temple and the barracks. Say in twenty minutes?"
"Of course, General Halcyon," he replied, saluting. "I'll see you there." Though his tone was polite and formal, she could almost sense his anticipation through the hologram and despite herself she smiled.