Lyrics are from "Somewhere Down the Road," by Feist.
Eye of the Storm: Third Epilogue
Part Two: Life As We Know It
Stars up in the sky,
Where they're always alone;
They're on their own.
But I know they'll always shine.
And I know they'll always shine,
The first thing he noticed about Mundali was green.
It was everywhere and as he stood at the edge of the ship's docking ramp, Obi-Wan felt like he was drowning in the verdant color. For a few moments he was only able to blink his eyes against a kind of brightness that was so far removed from that of Tatooine, though gradually his eye adjusted and he was able to step onto the planet itself.
Traxis and his companion, the Twi'lek Ares, had ferried both Obi-Wan and Kali to Mundali – Tatooine had apparently been the final stop on a long journey – and they were in the process of unloading supplies they'd gathered. Turning back to the ramp, Obi-Wan made to help but the scarred clone shook his offer away and nodded to the dark-haired woman who stood several meters beyond him in the grass.
Kali beckoned to him and Obi-Wan followed, thinking it had been far too long since he'd seen trees, since he'd felt the softness of humid air against his lungs, since he'd closed his eyes and heard the songs of birds-of-paradise. The Force was vibrant here. He smiled at her but said nothing.
Of course, she knew anyway. "Glad you came, aren't you?"
Neither one spoke as they threaded their way through the forest, until they reached the collection of structures that she'd told him about on their journey. The temple was vast, but as he paused to examine it, she urged him on towards the buildings that he figured made up the living quarters and infirmary she'd described. It was quieter than he'd imagined, though he recalled she'd mentioned that their sanctuary was relatively light on residents at the moment.
As if sensing his question she glanced his way while they approached the steps that lead up to main building. "Everyone's usually pretty busy during the day. Honi, Zar and Weave are at the infirmary; Crest and Sita are in their garden; there are others about as well, but I wanted..." She faltered here and paused at the door that led to the building's interior, taking a deep breath.
She took another breath and pushed open the old-style swinging door, and they entered the room.
It was larger than he'd reckoned, outfitted with a long table at one end and a sort of kitchen area at the other, with large windows of glass at intervals along the walls, but he hardly saw any of it when his eyes fell on Stonewall and the children.
Seated at the table, the former captain was holding a baby – perhaps six-months – watching as the toddler beside him scribbled pictures on bits of flimsi; the boy appeared to be about three years old, and when he looked up at the sound of the door Obi-Wan realized with a start that his eyes were the same, startling blue as Kali's old master's, the man who had also been her father.
Immediately, the boy broke into a grin and scrambled down from the bench beside the table to hurry over to Kali, who had dropped to a crouch, arms extended. She swept up the toddler and kissed his cheek several times, grinning as he wrapped his arms around her neck and buried his face in her hair, the same dark color as his own. "Mom! I missed you!" He pulled back and looked at her with wide eyes.
Kali touched her nose to his and nodded. "I know, Mi. I missed you too." She glanced at Stonewall, who had risen to approach the Jedi, the baby still securely in his arms. "All of you."
The former captain met Kali's eyes, and Obi-Wan got the sense that they were speaking through the Force. After a moment he smiled and extended his hand to the newcomer. "It's good to see you again, Obi-Wan. Welcome to our home."
The baby – a girl – looked up at the bearded Jedi with honey-brown eyes and gave a slight gurgle before turning her attention to Kali, who immediately shifted the toddler to one arm and held out the other. Stonewall slid the baby to her and Obi-Wan watched as she bounced each of the children on her hips. "You're both getting so big...soon I won't be able to do this anymore," she said. After a moment she looked up at Stonewall. "They weren't too much trouble, were they?"
"Between myself, my brothers, two Jedi and Sita we managed," he replied with a lifted brow. "Barely."
Kali gave Obi-Wan a wry look. "As it turns out, Force-sensitive children are something of a handful. Though, admittedly I have nothing to compare them to." She turned so that each child was facing Obi-Wan as she said their names. "Ben, this is Milo, and this is Kamala. Guys, this is my dearest friend, Ben."
Both children studied him and he was startled to feel each child's awareness in the Force, gently brushing over his mind. Seeing Obi-Wan's expression, Stonewall chuckled and reached for Milo, who went into his father's arms though he continued to crane his head around at the Jedi.
"They're curious about you," the former captain said. "Once we learned...where you were, Kali talked of little else. Didn't she?" This last part was said to Milo, who grinned and nodded, his eyes still on Obi-Wan.
"So," Kalinda said after another moment. "We would be remiss if we didn't invite you for a swim, Ben. Are you up for it?"
Later on, Obi-Wan sat on a smooth rift of limestone at the edge of the spring, watching as Kali played with her daughter, and thinking that the last time he'd been immersed in water was Utapau, but this was vastly different.
On Utapau, the water had been icy cold, eager to rip the breath from his lungs and send him plunging into darkness while he was pursued by bolts of plasma. He remembered feeling the bile of fear and confusion rise in his throat right before he pushed it back and forced himself to stop, to think. The sense of betrayal and loss that had undercut every other emotion that day sometimes caused him to wake up in the middle of the night, coated with sweat and gasping as if death was just inches away.
On Mundali, everything was warm and soft. Even though the spring was cool, it was inviting, and was a bright shade of blue unlike any he'd seen in so long. After a vigorous but pleasant swim of his own, he had taken to sitting on the side, dangling his bare feet in the water and observing the others. Honi, her Padawan and the members of Kali's old squad – along with Sita, Ares and a few other clones he vaguely recognized – had elected to join them at the spring; he could hear their laughter rippling in the air around him while they swam.
At his side, Kali chuckled as the baby gurgled and waved chubby arms in the direction of her father and brother, the latter of whom was on the former's shoulders, shrieking with delight as Stonewall moved through the shallow end of the spring.
"He's quite...vocal," Obi-Wan heard himself say.
Kali laughed outright at this, and bounced Kamala on her knees as she replied. "Milo's a handful, for sure. You know, I had no idea how much work they were...but it's worth it," she added, smiling down at the baby. He watched as her expression softened further as she leaned forward to kiss the girl's forehead.
"They are beautiful, Kali," he said in a quiet voice. "I'm happy for you and Stonewall."
She took a breath and looked at him. "I was...worried." At his look of confusion she elaborated. "About what you'd think of the fact that I...I'm not a 'traditional' Jedi any longer."
"None of us are," he replied at once, making a gesture to the sky. "Times have changed, and we must change with them, I suppose."
Neither one of them spoke for a moment as they watched the others. Milo had slipped off of Stonewall's shoulders and was currently urging his father to accompany him to "the deep end" of the spring, tugging at the adult clone's hand while simultaneously trying to paddle out of his careful grip. The former captain shot Kali a sardonic look before he said something in Mando'a to the boy, who sighed and pouted up at his father.
"He'll wear Stone down in a minute," Kali said at once. "I've never seen anyone wrapped so completely around a child's finger before." She glanced at Obi-Wan and lifted a brow. "It's going to be even worse with his daughter."
"And their charms don't work on their mother?"
Kali laughed and bounced her knees again, causing her daughter to jiggle up and down, a wide grin coming over the baby's face. "I'm not as immune as I'd like to think, I guess."
Beyond them, Stonewall had recruited Zara to accompany him and Milo, and the three of them made their way to the deeper section of the spring, where the water was an intense blue. The Nautolan girl swam in lazy circles around the clone and his son, occasionally flicking water towards the boy, who shrieked and slapped his hands on the spring's surface in retaliation, all the while wriggling in his father's secure grasp. If he closed his eyes, Obi-Wan could feel the Force at work here, buoying Stonewall and Milo, and he nodded to himself.
The boy is strong with the Force, he thought, glancing from Milo to Kamala. They both are.
"We're going to train them," Kali said at once; she'd followed his gaze. "We've already started to, a little bit. They must be...prepared." She blinked and looked down at her daughter. "Life won't be easy for either of them, I'm afraid."
Obi-Wan nodded but said nothing. After a moment she glanced at him again and gave him a somewhat guilty smile. "That's part of the reason I wanted you to bring Luke...I'm worried that they won't get a chance to interact with other children."
"I know," she said with a sigh as she smoothed a hand over Kamala's cheek. "I want them to have as normal life as possible, but I worry for them." Kam made a burbling noise up at her and she chuckled. "I guess I should get used to it."
"May I hold her?"
The question startled them both, but Kali nodded and passed the baby to him; for a moment Obi-Wan tried to study Kamala with an objective eye, but she gave him a toothless smile and he sighed to himself. "She has her father's eyes," he said after a moment. "But I think those are your ears. And your nose."
Kali laughed. "Stonewall thinks so, too. He was so pleased about her eyes," she added, a thoughtful look on her face. "Well, he'd be happy no matter what, but I know he likes the fact that her eyes are the same color as his."
As if eager to keep the conversation centered on her, Kamala let out a gurgle and gave Obi-Wan another grin, a wide one that he couldn't help but return. "She has your smile, though," he said, looking back at his friend.
Nudging her shoulder with his, Kali only chuckled, though she reached out and skimmed her hand over Kamala's hair, grinning as the baby squealed with delight. "She does, doesn't she?"
"I'd know it anywhere," he replied. When Kali met his eyes, he was reminded of the girl he'd known since his earliest memories, and he realized again just how much he had missed her. "I am glad I came," he said after a moment, looking down as the baby settled against his chest, her eyes drifting shut. "Thank you for being so adamant."
"You're not alone, anymore, Ben," she said, putting her hand on his arm and giving it a squeeze.
Words failed him, so he only nodded. After this, they didn't speak for several minutes, content to sit together with their legs swaying in the cool water below them, watching as the child slept in his arms.
Above their heads, the sunlight filtered through the trees, and Obi-Wan relaxed into its touch and relished the feeling of contentment. It won't last forever, he thought with a deep breath. But this time is precious, and I intend on savoring every moment.
Something pressed against him and he glanced over to see that Kali had rested her head on his shoulder; her eyes were open and she was watching her husband and son, but when she felt him move she lifted her gaze to him and smiled again. "No matter what else happens, Ben, you'll always have a place, here."
First of all, endless gratitude to my beta, muse, and inspiration, SerendipityAEY, for your feedback on this epilogue, this story, this trilogy, and...well...everything. Your continued friendship, encouragement and support mean more than I can really express, and all I have to offer in return is a humble "thank you"...as well as copious Obi-fluff. :P
Jadedsnowtiger, SWdeathlyhalows, reulte, DoubleEO, Admiral Daala, sachariah, Queen, LongLiveTheClones, Just A Crazy-Man, SerendipityAEY, Cnwriter, Dawn Of Time, Moondoe, & Lord Hollow: Wow! You guys are so awesome! Scrolling through all those reviews made me realize how lucky I am to have such amazing, consistent readers, and I hope you know how valued your feedback and comments are, because at the end of the day, sharing what I love with y'all is really the best part of the process.
To everyone who has left a review for the Eye Of The Storm trilogy, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a note throughout the course of these fics! :D
So...it's over. Not much else to say, except you should take a peek at my profile for news about the next story in my little 'verse: Wild Blue Yonder. It's slated to go live later on in March; there will be few Interludes and a Misadventure before then, as well as a short ficlet I wrote some time ago. There's also an AU on the drafting table, but it's going to be a long journey before that sees the light of day...
Anyway, I hope it was a fun ride. :) Thank you all again.