Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" and Kevin J. Anderson's "Jedi Academy" series of novels.
No copyright infringement is intended.
The three of them collapsed into one of The Pinnacles’ roomy booths, open to the spectacular cityscape view of the Imperial City far below them. “Maera merlot,” said Mirax to the waiter, and Leia nodded.
“Not for me,” said Qwi. “Have you Whyren’s Reserve?”
“At lunch?” asked Mirax.
“Or any single malt will do,” said Qwi, remembering with what reverence Wedge always pronounced the Corellian whiskey’s name; perhaps it shouldn’t be a lunch drink.
“Yes, ma’am,” said the waiter, disappearing.
“Drink what you like,” said Mirax, slightly flustered. “It’s just, Whyren’s is sort of expensive for lunch.”
“Any single malt is fine,” said Qwi. “I just like the generic flavor. Wedge likes Whyren’s, it’s the name I know, that’s all.”
“Nothing wrong with Wedge’s taste,” laughed Leia. “I remember him telling me once he liked Whyren’s Reserve and Montyrn.”
“And Rhyferrlan,” said Mirax. “That’s not ... well, I guess it is, with the Sector closed still. Yes, I guess he is leaning to the expensive, anyway.”
“Is there a high-class beer?” asked Leia.
“Rhyferrlan’s ale,” protested Mirax. “That is high-class beer.”
Leia laughed. The waiter reappeared and put their drinks silently before them. “A few more moments, ladies?” he asked.
“Gods, yes,” said Mirax, picking up her menu. “What’s good?”
Leia said, “I’m having orange learan. They do it so well here.”
“That sounds good,” Mirax perused the menu. “Ooo, so does this: carac braised with a smoky bourbon sauce. Or Tiapan swordfish... Actually, it all sounds good.”
“It all is,” said Leia. “How about you, Qwi?”
“The swordfish, I think,” she said, closing the menu. “If you have the carac, Mirax, you can taste ours.”
“Well,” said Mirax. “Maybe a bite ... okay, you talked me into it.”
The waiter reappeared and took the orders. After he left, Leia took a drink of her wine and said, “The service here is just wonderful.”
Qwi wondered if Leia ever actually got bad service, on Coruscant anyway. “Wedge likes it, too,” she said. “I’ve liked it when I’ve been here before; it’s ... quiet.”
“It is that,” said Leia.
“At these prices, the service ought to be good,” said Mirax. “Wedge eats here?”
“Sometimes,” Qwi said.
“Whoo. Generals must make good money.”
“He’s not really extravagant,” Qwi defended him.
“I’m sure,” Mirax said. “Wedge wouldn’t know how to be extravagant. It’s not in his nature.”
Bread and salads appeared on the table, along with cruets of dressing. For a moment, there was silence except for the clink of glass and silver. When conversation resumed, it was on a different topic. “Starting to get a good idea yet?” asked Leia.
Qwi shook her head. “There are so many," she said. “How can there be so many stores selling brides’ clothes?”
“There are a lot of people on Coruscant,” said Leia, “and more come here all the time.”
“The point is,” said Mirax, “have you got a good idea what you want? We can eliminate a lot of stores if you do.”
“I did,” Qwi said, feeling helpless. “Now I don’t. I should have bought that one in the second store we went to; I liked it.”
“It was the first one you liked,” protested Mirax. “You can’t buy the first one, what if you’d seen the perfect one on the way back?”
“Do you still like it best?” asked Leia.
Qwi shrugged. “I can’t tell now. I can’t remember what it looked like anymore!”
They all laughed.
Leia’s dark eyes sparkled. “You won’t regret buying that black one for the honeymoon, anyway.”
“No,” said Qwi, though she wasn’t as sure as they were.
“Wedge won’t regret it, anyway,” said Mirax, waggling her eyebrows.
“I suppose he won’t.” Qwi hoped not, anyway; since she hadn’t ever tried to dress for him, she wasn’t at all sure what he liked.
“You don’t sound sure,” said Mirax.
“Trust me,” said Leia. “The way you looked in it, he’ll like it.”
“Being Wedge,” Mirax conceded, “he may not want you wearing it in public, but he’ll like it.”
Qwi shook her head. “I don’t know; it’s just ... I don’t know,” she finished helplessly.
“Trust me,” said Mirax, seriously. “He’s going to love it.” She leaned back as the waiter arrived with their main courses. Once the food was there, and the waiter was not, she continued, “He’s crazy about you. He’ll love the dress.”
Qwi took a bite of swordfish while she debated what to say. “It’s just ... I’ve never loved anyone before.”
“Neither has Wedge,” said Mirax. “Oh, sure, he’s had a few moments, back when he was young, but he’s been as celibate as a Jedi priest for years. And he was never serious about anyone-”
“Yes, he was,” interrupted Leia.
“Who?” demanded Mirax.
“I can’t remember her name, it started with an I -”
“Iella Wessiri?” Mirax sounded astonished. “That never happened.” She turned to Qwi. “It didn’t, really. It was just, he sort of thought about it, that’s all. Because she was Corellian.”
“Wedge dated Iella Wessiri?” said Leia, sounding equally astonished.
“No!” Mirax paused. “That’s not who you meant?”
“No,” said Leia. “Why’d you think I did? What didn’t happen-- sorry,” she said, glancing at Qwi.
Qwi shook her head. “Don’t,” she said, “I want to know about his past. I want to know everything about him. I know he’s not enormously fond of her now, anyway.” She shrugged, not able to explain how she felt, glad he’d had love and sure he loved her yet worried that she wasn’t enough and hungry, always, to know everything there was about him... She finished, “Tell me.”
Mirax shrugged, swallowing a mouthful of carac. “That’s good... how’s the swordfish?”
Qwi gestured at it and Mirax tried a bite.
“That’s good, too.... We were trying to take Coruscant, so things were... up in the air. Uncertain, you know? And she’s Corellian. So he sort of thought maybe it would be nice to have a relationship with someone from home. He never even asked her to dinner, though.”
“I hope not,” said Leia. “She was married.”
“She was a widow, or thought she was, then. Honestly,” rejoined Mirax. “And it was a good thing, anyway, that her husband resurfaced. Because she was firmly in the ‘Tycho is a traitor’ camp, and that would have torn Wedge up, if they’d been dating.”
“Would she have still believed it?” asked Qwi, finding it hard to comprehend someone who would have, knowing Wedge.
“Lord,” said Leia, “most of the known universe believed it.”
“But she was working for the prosecution,” said Mirax. “And she believed it before Corran went missing. It’s the reason she was so hard on Winter, you know, not to mention took forever to believe I was who Wedge said I was.”
“He could never love someone who was trying to get Tycho Celchu executed,” said Qwi, knowing that for the truth. Whatever these two thought, Wedge had loved someone before. He had loved Tycho. He still did. “I am glad her husband came back before he become fond of her.”
“So who did you mean?” demanded Mirax.
“Somebody, I can’t remember her name,” said Leia. “She’s been dead a long time, she died during the evacuation of Yavin. Iridia? No... Inidia. Inidia Something.”
“And this was serious?”
“Pretty…” the Alderaanian’s voice trailed off, and then she said, “Well, he was nineteen. It was as serious as men get at nineteen.”
Qwi felt sure that Wedge had never been anything but serious. Leia was probably trying to spare her feelings. I’m not concerned with whom Wedge may have loved a dozen years ago, nor whom he might have loved had conditions been different half that; I am only concerned with now, Qwi thought, but she couldn’t have said it out loud for worlds. Any more than she could explain why the thought of Tycho was not threat but comfort, except for Wedge's sorrow.
“I thought I knew him,” Mirax sounded as though she couldn’t decide if she was amused or affronted. “He never mentioned her to me.”
“He only knew her a few months, if that,” demurred Leia. “I’m sure if I hadn’t met her he wouldn’t have mentioned her to me... he wasn’t sure if he really loved her or not, after she died.”
“He didn’t,” said Qwi. She was certain of it, and they both looked at her. “He would have told you, Mirax, if he had loved her.”
“Well…” the Corellian woman began.
“He would. He’s too close to you not. You’ve known him all his life,” Qwi insisted.
“Yes, I guess so,” Mirax nodded, her eyes a little far-away. Qwi thought she must be remembering moments when it would have come up.
“You’re younger than he is, though, aren’t you?” asked Leia.
“A little,” she nodded.
“He talked about you when we first met,” the Alderaanian said. “He sounded like you were his little sister.”
“He’s not that much older!”
“How much older is he?” Leia was curious.
“Seven months ... and a few days,” she added with a casualness that didn’t deceive Qwi into thinking that the other woman didn’t know to the day, possibly the hour, what the difference was ... just as she’d known with her next sister, the one who got to do everything first. Mirax added, “It’s unfair, really; he’s just enough older that he remembers my mother much better than I do.”
“Did you miss her?” Leia asked, looking like she was thinking about her own mother, whom she remembered so faintly.
“No,” Mirax said. “Not really. I mean, sometimes I missed having a mother, but I never knew mine enough to miss her. I missed Mrendy, though. Wedge’s mom,” she added for Leia’s benefit in case she didn’t know the name. “Mrendy was the closest thing I had to a mom. I missed her.”
“What were his parents like?” Leia asked. “He loved them very much, I know, but he doesn't talk about them much. Not substantially. I always thought they did a wonderful job raising him.”
Mirax smiled. “They did, didn't they?” Then she sobered. “It hurt him so much when they died. For a while Father and I were really worried about him. I still get mad thinking about the way CorSec basically blew off that investigation--”
“Why did they do that?” Leia sounded very much as if she'd never quite gotten up the nerve to ask Wedge.
“Grey--Wedge's father--sometimes let dissidents refuel at the station,” Mirax said. “And they were friends with us.”
“Politics.” For a career politician, Leia sounded very disgusted.
“Yes,” Mirax nodded. “But it was probably a good thing, is what I was saying. If Wedge hadn't had that quest to keep his mind busy, that hunt, he might never have come back to us, he was that hurt, that lost... They were wonderful people.”
“It's obvious they loved him.”
“Absolutely,” Mirax agreed. “They loved each other a lot, and him, too. They could have left him in school on Tralus, or Corellia, company expense, but they thought he should be with them.”
“Away from his parents?” Qwi asked. “How could that be right?”
“For schooling,” Mirax said. “I mean, he couldn't commute for school from Gus Treta, it was too far. So the company would have paid for him to be in boarding school back in the System. But because his parents wanted him to stay with them, he actually got a way better education--you had to do better to be home schooled. Legitimately,” she grinned. “My father just sort of blew the whole thing off.”
“That can't have been easy for Wedge.”
Mirax shrugged. “He always got good grades, and he didn't seem to knock himself out over it. He wouldn't have liked it, anyplace but Treta anyway. Not just away from his parents, though he'd have hated that--you know how hard it is for him to let people inside--but on a planet.” Mirax laughed. “He hates planets.”
“That's true enough.” Leia made a face. “Sometimes I think I've done him a big disservice by keeping him here...”
“He likes his job,” Mirax said. “And anyway, Coruscant is about as unplanet-like as you can get. For a planet.”
“He truly likes the little moons,” Qwi said, almost a question.
“Yes, he does,” Mirax and Leia both said, and laughed at the simultaneity of it.
“Airless rocks with beautiful views,” Leia added. “That's what he told me once.”
“But he was happy?” Qwi asked.
“As a pooklet,” Mirax answered. “Sorry--that means very happy. Happier than I've seen him since. Until now.”
Qwi was lying on the sofa when he came in. He sat on its arm and took the hand she held up to him, smiling slightly. “Tired?” he asked, smiling back.
“And my feet hurt!” she said. “We must have walked ten miles today, just looking at dresses. Only dresses! There are thousands of dresses in this city. If I had enough money, I could wear a different dress every day for the rest of my life.”
“Probably,” he agreed. He let go of her hand and moved to sit on the couch, taking her legs and putting them in his lap. “Did you find one you liked?” he asked, rubbing one of her high-arched feet.
“Oh, that feels so good, Wedge,” she said. “No; I found many. I could not decide. I wish you would come and help.”
“I’m not even supposed to see it before the day,” he said, amused. “How can I pick it out? Just pick anything; I won’t... well,” he paused, switching to her other foot, “within reason, I won’t care. As long as you like it.”
She made a face at him.
“Weren’t Leia and Mirax any help?”
“Some,” she admitted, “but they liked even more dresses than I did!”
“How many did you buy?” he asked, feigning apprehension.
“For the wedding?” she asked. “None. I’m supposed to think about them tonight, and then tomorrow I will hobble out and buy one.”
He laughed. She kicked him, very lightly, with the foot he wasn’t holding. He caught it and held both of them, rubbing them gently.
She sighed deeply. “I should have bought the first one I liked. But they were so appalled by that, I couldn’t. And then there were so many…”
“How many did you buy, not ‘for the wedding’?” he asked curiously.
“Just three,” she said. Then she blushed, her throat and cheeks turning lilac.
Wedge really wanted to know why, but he didn’t ask. If she wanted him to know, she’d tell him. And he’d probably find out anyway, he figured, if he just waited.
Qwi continued, quickly, “Mirax wants me to buy a green dress with lace and crystal beads all over it. She says it’s the kind Corellian women wear.”
“Some do,” he agreed. “If they can, I guess. Mirax got married in a black jumpsuit. So maybe she wants you to wear what she wishes she’d worn... you wear what you want.”
“What do you think?” she asked.
“Well,” he hedged.
“Wedge,” she said, sitting up and tucking her feet under her. “Haven’t you got any opinion?”
“Okay, I do,” he admitted. “My tastes don’t run towards frills and such-”
“You have it easy,” she interrupted. “You’ll just wear your uniform. Which is pretty frilly, in my opinion. I should give up, anyway; I can’t be as attractive as you’ll be.”
“Come on,” he protested. “The uniform does all the work; anybody looks good in it. Whereas you make whatever you wear look spectacular. I meant, I like simple dresses. But don’t buy for me,” he said, and made her blush again. He choked down his curiosity and finished, “You get what you like.”
“I will,” she said. “Or at least, I’ll like what I get... if I can make up my mind.”
“Can’t help you there,” he smiled.
“Or won’t,” she said, but she was smiling at him.
“Now, Qwi,” he said, “what did Mirax say about asking my advice?”
“Both of them said grooms only have one thing to do -- show up on, as you said, the day.” She shook her head. “Otherwise, they said, you’re incidental at best.”
“I like that,” he said with mock indignation, though he was secretly (or, he reflected, probably not so secretly) glad not to have anything to do with it. “Try to have a wedding without one.”
“I wouldn’t even dream of it, Wedge,” she said, sounding hurt.
For a moment, he believed she was. But when he reached for her, starting to say something, she came into his arms with laughing eyes, and realized she’d been teasing. “Trying to get around me?” he asked. “I’m not bucking thousands of years of tradition; I’d never survive it.”
“Poor Wedge,” she said. “I can see you’re trembling with fear I’m going to ask you to come and pick out my dress.”
“I know my limits,” he said. Then, with a hint of real concern, he asked, “Mirax and Leia aren’t running over you, are they?”
“No,” she said. “Not that they aren’t trying... well, sort of. They’re both women with strong opinions, but I’m holding my own.”
“I’ll bet,” he said.
She hugged him, and then sat up, stretching. “Would you like some tea?” she asked.
He stood up. “I’ll get it,” he said. “You stay off your feet.”
Her voice followed him. “At least they don’t always agree with each other.”
He laughed. “I imagine they don’t. Smuggler and princess aren’t as far apart as Alderaanian and Corellian.”
“Mirax is full of instructions on the Corellian way to get married. It seems very strange to me. But I watched the videos of Leia’s wedding, and that seems very strange, too. It all seems so very, very strange.” Her voice had turned pensive.
He watched the water and thought about that. Finally he said, “Do you want to get married with Omwati customs?” She’d never mentioned it, but perhaps she’d just never thought about it before... or never thought he would agree.
“What?” Qwi sounded surprised. “Oh, no, Wedge. No. I don’t even remember them well, I was only six when we last had a wedding in the family. And we couldn’t use what I remember if we wanted to. All I do remember, you’d need other wives and husbands to do.”
“Sorry,” he said, filling the cups. “That obliging I won’t be.”
Her musical laugh filled the room. “And I don’t know anything at all about new families.”
“Sorry?” He came back into the living room and put the tray on the table.
“New families... when two people get married.” Qwi laughed. “I remember watching a film once, when I was little, maybe seven, until second-mother came in and ran both me and Fenitse out. She said I wasn’t old enough to watch it, and Fenitse was too old. Tariqwa begged to watch it, and second-mother let her, but she got bored with it and never saw the end. I suppose they got married in that film, but I didn’t see what they did.”
Wedge asked, “How old were your sisters?”
“Fenitse was about sixteen, and Tariqwa was eleven. She still thought boys were icky.”
“Do all girls do that?” Wedge asked, amused. “Mirax did; I remember.”
“She never thought you were, surely?”
“I don’t think she thought of me as a boy, exactly,” he said ruefully. “All the same, why would she get to watch it?”
“Watch what? Oh. Tariqwa. Well, I suppose second-mother realized she’d get bored. Fenitse might have thought it was romantic, I guess, and I’d have asked awkward questions.” She giggled. “I used to do that. I remember once my first-mother excused some very excessive,” she paused, and then used the Omwati word, “ketseqoloq?”
“Bragging?” he hazarded. Ketseq meant a boast, he knew that.
“Sort of. Pride in possessions? Anyway,” she continued, “my friend Hile did it, and my first-mother excused her by saying that her family was very new and didn’t know anything about raising children. It was very clear to me that a new family was not done. But it occurred to me that once upon a time Raqwon and Alitse must have started a new family.”
“Who?” Wedge asked.
“They Founded Xux, oh, a thousand years ago or something. We celebrated them every year, and had a big ritual for them every eight years. But they must have been talked about by their neighbors, too, I thought, so I asked how long it took for a family to stop being new and start being Honorable. Like Xux.”
“What happened?” he asked, curious. Qwi as a rebellious child... well, no; Qwi as a rigorously rational and inquisitive child, that he could envisage.
“I got grounded,” she shrugged. “The point is, I don’t know any customs for two people getting married. We’ll have to use Republican customs of some sort.”
“Fine,” said Wedge. “Then I’m not picking out your dress. Right?”
“You idiot.” She giggled again. “That’s Republican enough, to listen to Mirax and Leia.”
“I’ve think you’ve listened to them enough,” he said.
She put her empty cup down and laid her hand on his knee. “You don’t feel left out, do you?” she asked seriously. “Do you want to choose things?”
“Sith, no, Qwi,” he said, surprised. Then he smiled at her and covered her hand with his. “I got to choose the most important thing: who I’m marrying. The rest is detail.”
She leaned over and kissed him, her free hand taking hold of the nape of his neck as she unbalanced him, and they ended lying side by side on the sofa. “Completely... unimportant... detail,” she agreed between kisses, her fingers moving through his hair and holding on as though she were afraid he’d slip through them.
He had no immediate intention of going anywhere. The taste of her lips, the feel of her shoulders and her fine, gossamer hair in his hands, were more than enough to keep him right where he was, come Sith or starfall. She kissed him deeply, and then, as he kissed her throat, she tightened her hold on him and murmured, “I love you so,” then, in the Omwati she’d taught him, “You I love, Wedge of-Antilles. Yours am I, always and for ever.”
“And you I-as-well love,” he said carefully, “for ever...” his words turned into a purely wordless pleasure; her lips had moved down his throat and her fingers unbuttoned his collar, and when she began kissing his shoulder, she chanced on that place he’d almost forgotten about. When the sensation subsided somewhat, he realized that he was lying on his back, and that she had unfastened his shirt from neck to waist and was proceeding to explore, with questing fingers and gentle mouth, what she had uncovered. His first impulse was to help her, his second to stop her while he still could; caught between the two, he did nothing at all for a few moments too long, and then his hands moved of their own accord, seeking what they hadn’t touched in far, far too many years... She yielded to him, her mouth releasing him, her long back arching to fill his hands, her throat releasing soft, delighted sounds.
It was those sounds that brought him to his senses. He’d meant to wait, had always meant to wait, long before he’d gathered that Omwati did; this relationship was the real thing, what he’d only had, at best, the illusion of before. And while it felt like forever, he didn’t know how to deal with forever. He was afraid of its fragility, afraid to destroy it with the wrong move, desperately afraid of being clumsy or hurried, that most of all, afraid of pushing it too fast and killing it. He took a deep breath and reined himself in, reluctantly releasing Qwi, looking for the right words.
Before he could find them, her hands had left his body and gone to the neck of her creased and disarranged tunic. In one sharp, decisive motion she pulled it over her head and then tossed it over the sofaback. She wore nothing under it, as he had already learned, and now she dropped her hands to her side, baring her slim body to his gaze.
With an effort, Wedge managed to look away, to her face, but the words he’d managed to find were silenced by what he saw there. She’s afraid, he realized, not of what I want, but that I won’t want ... that I won’t like what I see. He swallowed hard, and all his good intentions fled.
He reached to touch her gently, almost tentatively, and then said, in a voice unfeignedly breathless, “Ah, Qwi. You are so beautiful you take my words and change them into breath which you then steal out of my body, just like you did my heart. Living stars...” and then he truly had no more words, but it didn’t seem to matter, as they came together like a cliché, like two halves of a long-sundered whole. And their awkwardness and their discoveries were of no more importance than a pebble underfoot when the end of the race is in sight, nothing more than the first steps in an exploration of a vast, starlit expanse that would, Wedge knew, take him the rest of his life to learn, and delight him at every turn, and in no way more than giving delight back to Qwi.
When it was over, and they lay quietly together, his hands still almost unbelievingly caressing her, he wanted words. Silence, for once in his life, would not suffice. He wanted to say something, not just drift into sleep as though this wonder were a commonplace, but he needed something beyond the ultimately meaningless endearments that were what he had used in his youth. Qwi was reality; she required conversation. He couldn’t think of anything to say, but he could remember something Tycho had said once: when you can’t think of anything to say, and you have to say something, just open your mouth and listen to what comes out. But only when silence is worse than idiocy, the Alderaanian had added, and that was the case now…
“I hadn’t realized,” he said, “what you said earlier, I mean...” his voice trailed off as he recognized he wasn’t at all sure what he saying or where it was going to take him. I should know better than to take Tycho’s advice...
She raised her head off his chest to look at him. “Which that I said, Wedge?”
“That new families...” he hesitated, and then tried again, “that families, all families I mean, were so big.” She was watching him with that unblinking indigo gaze. He stumbled across the right words suddenly, and spoke them almost with relief. “Will you be lonely?”
“Lonely?” she smiled suddenly, her eyes warming. “Oh, never again, Wedge. Never with you.”
He opened his mouth to say something, he wasn’t sure exactly what, but she laid her hand on his lips before he could get a word out.
“Lonely I have been, I think, but you fill my world so, I can never be lonely again. You are all I want, Wedge.” She moved her hand, first into his hair and then down his throat in a gentle caress. “I want no other husbands. More-most!-I want no sister wives. I am very, wickedly, santoloqi about you, Wedge, my beloved, my heart, my life. I am altogether uncivilized.” She didn’t sound the least repentant.
“Santoloq,” he said tentatively, knowing he was getting the q wrong and hearing the stress stubbornly land on the wrong syllable (the last) even though he managed to keep it off the first. “I don’t know that.”
She laid her face against his shoulder and said, “Sant - selfish, oloq - possession. And -i --”
But he knew that: feminine adjective. He tightened his hold on her, feeling again how exactly she fit against him, and said, “Not half, not one quarter as santoloqo as I am of you.” This time, he even got the stress right.
She sighed happily and stroked his ribs. “We shall be uncivilized together.”
“Aqmolqa, an deqwontsin,” he said, as sure of the sound of these words as he was of their meaning. Together, forever.
And she repeated them, drowsily, the words warm against his skin. He cuddled her against him as she fell asleep.
He wondered, for the first time, how he appeared to her. He hadn’t ever given that any thought; he hadn’t given it any thought either way, in fact, beyond simply appreciating her long, slim beauty. Sometimes he despaired of his powers of observation; how could he have missed that? How could he have failed to show her just how beautiful and desirable he found her? Well, he reflected, smiling to himself, she must know now. And in the same way, he thought she’d found him acceptable enough. But now that it had occurred to him, he wondered... did she even know what an Omwati man looked like, naked? Color apart, he didn’t, that was for sure. Would those skinny, spiky-haired little boys have grown into tall, slender men with bones as long and fragile-seeming as Qwi’s? Or would they have been stronger looking, thicker?
They’d have still been spiky-haired, though; that much he knew. Qwi had always found his hair very different. Fortunately, she liked it; she could hardly keep her hands out of it. That was lucky; but then, he liked the way hers felt, too. He slid a flat strand of it through his fingers, and then ran his hand gently down her spine, that longer spine that made her look taller, to the navel indented just above the gentle swell of her hips, taking a detour to stroke that longer, deeper ribcage. Her breathing was slow and rhythmic under his hand and against his body, and he felt himself falling to sleep with her.
...He was standing in the dark, which wasn’t good. It was darker than dark ever was, no light anywhere. He was tense, waiting, because something was out there in the darkness. He didn’t know what it was this time but he knew it was something horrific. It always was.\ Wedge opened his eyes. He wasn’t in his parents’ arms, but Qwi’s. It was her hand in his hair, and her shoulder he was nestled against. Her eyes were dark and unreadable, but her voice was gentle as soon as she saw he was awake. “Wedge? Are you all right?”
“You think she’s beautiful?” the light voice came from behind him. It was a voice he knew, though he didn’t remember it at first; when he did, it almost stopped his heart. “Wasn’t I beautiful? She’s forever? Wasn’t I forever? I loved you.”
He hadn’t heard that voice here in a decade, and it filled him with a cold dread. He turned, slowly, reluctantly, as if compelled. Her thick fair hair glowed, the only light in the utter blackness, showing him what he’d rather not have seen. Her silver eyes were dead white, her ruined face turned blindly towards him, and shattered bone gleamed through torn and burned flesh and uniform. “Did you love me? Did you?”
She reached for him with a hand half pallid bone and he backed away, horror-filled. He’d forgotten, though, forgotten the first rule: never go where you can’t see. He collided with something, something yielding. He spun on his heel. They stood there, together. Dull eyes looked unseeingly in his direction, one pair above a sharp nose and a dark mustache, and the other in a round face with a light-colored beard. They leaned against each other, neither having enough body left to stand up with alone, and the final support was provided by the jagged, burn-scarred chunk of Death Star that pierced what was left of Porkins. They raised their broken arms, pointing at him.
“Looking good, Antilles.”
“Landing on your feet.”
“Like you always did.” Their voices started out flat but became accusing as the litany went on.
Wedge shook his head in protest, but as always he could find no words to answer them. Other shapes were looming in the darkness beyond them, shapes somehow visible, a deeper black. He looked around, almost frantically, seeking escape but knowing there was none. She came towards him, stretching out her hand, from one direction, and they, all of them, were in the other. He started to run, though he knew there was no point, and he stumbled and fell. The ground was soft; it tried to swallow him. He fought his way back to his feet, but now he was surrounded. He covered his ears; he’d have closed his eyes, except for the hard-won knowledge that that was absolutely the worst thing he could do. Under his feet the ground shivered, threatening his balance. Another shape began taking form, this one more familiar than his own reflection in a mirror. He heard someone whimper, and knew it was himself.
Then, suddenly, something that had never happened before: a hand, a whole hand, soft on his shoulder, but firm. A voice, full of strength and comfort, spoke. “Wedge,” it said, as the hand turned him in another direction and pushed gently. “Go there, go through the door.”
Door? There was no door, there were no doors here... but his hands found the latch and he pushed it open, almost fell through it, slammed it behind him, and leaned against it, breathing hard. After a moment, he realized that there was light ahead of him, and he went towards it, carefully, through the unfamiliar darkness.
The light was dim, and then began to brighten. It was green light, the cool jade of Varra Gus pouring through the windows and pooling on the floors of the station. Always before that light had been an ominous herald, portending the worst that could be, but now he went forward in it desperately, somehow knowing the fear was behind him, not in front. Maybe that was because the exact memory of the fear was fading, maybe it was because he was somehow, he didn’t understand how, six again. He turned a corner and saw his parents.
They were sitting on the old, familiar couch, Mrendy in Grey’s lap, their arms around each other. They weren’t kissing, but looked as though they’d just stopped and might start again any moment. Grey blinked at the intrusion.
“Hey, what are you doing out here?” he said. “You’re supposed to be in bed.”
“Did you have a nightmare, Widget?” Mrendy asked lovingly.
Wedge still couldn’t find his voice, but he nodded.
“C’mere, son,” said Grey, holding out his hand, and Mrendy reached out one of hers as well.
Wedge ran across the floor and clambered into their laps, burrowing between their shoulders. He felt his mother’s hand on his back, and his father’s arm holding them both. After a moment or two, he forced himself to look up at Mrendy. She smiled warmly at him, her face whole and beautiful. He sighed and relaxed, and Grey ruffled his hair gently.
“You okay now, sport?” his father asked.
Wedge nodded, clinging to them in relief.
“You know nothing can get you, right, Wedge?” Grey asked, and Mrendy added,
“You’re safe while we’re here.”
He closed his eyes and snuggled against them. Grey’s hand made soothing circles on his back, and Mrendy began to sing one of her silly, loving lullabies, altering the words to a popular tune. ‘Stars shining bright above you, stars whispering to tell you we love you...’ Wedge felt himself falling asleep. Somehow he knew he was already asleep, and he tried to stay awake inside the dream just a while longer, but dream-child-Wedge was sleepy and safe, and it didn’t work. Mrendy’s voice faded as he drifted away.....
“Yes,” he said, and realized that it was true. “Just a nightmare, love,” he added, seeing her concern. “Just a bad dream.”
“I spoke, but you didn’t wake,” she said. “I touched you... was that a good thing, or not?”
He closed his eyes, realizing what had happened. “It was the best thing you could have done,” he said. “You ended it.”
“Do humans have such bad dreams often?”
He didn’t know exactly what to say. So he shrugged a little and said, “I don’t know about all humans, but I do. Not ‘often’, maybe, but often enough.”
She tightened her hold on him.
“It’s all right, Qwi,” he said, shifting in her arms to put his own around her. “I’m fine, and they’re just nightmares. They can’t hurt me.”
“Dreams have power,” she said softly. “Yours... are they prophetic?”
“Not these,” he said, puzzled but trying to put her at ease. “They’re just the past.” He immediately realized that had been the wrong thing to say. He tried to mend it, saying quickly, “A past that never was.”
“How can that be, Wedge? How can you dream of a past that never was?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “If you don’t want to talk about it...”
“It’s all right,” he repeated. “I just dream about people who are dead. That’s all.” He changed the subject a little, unwilling to discuss his dreams even with Qwi. “I should have thought about this. I should have known I’d wake you sooner or later. I’m sorry.”
She smoothed his hair and then pulled him closer to her breast, resting her cheek against his head. “Don’t be absurd, Wedge,” she chided him gently.
He laughed softly.
“What?” she demanded.
“Nobody has ever called me ‘absurd’ before,” he said, enjoying the feeling.
“Perhaps you have not been absurd before,” she answered, simply, agreeing with him without letting his apology stand unchallenged.
“Perhaps,” he agreed. He was more than willing to admit to absurdity with her, to a young foolishness parsecs removed from his usual flippant Corellian humor. He was, in fact, aware of a host of new or much-changed emotions, including this one, a bone-deep contentment and even protectedness such as he could barely remember. So, yes, “Perhaps,” he repeated. “You make me feel a lot of things I’ve never been before.”
Which inarticulate statement she seemed to understand completely. She moved her hands on him again, bringing him even closer, but this time she was less comforting than inquiring.
“Mmmmm,” he said, responding, surprising himself with the strength of his body’s reaction. “Don’t expect this to be a habit, but just this once...” He kissed her, and then shivered pleasurably as she stroked his back, scratching ever so lightly. After a moment he pulled away enough to slide one arm under her knees and stand up. He smiled down at her, such a light burden in his arms, and said, “But let’s try it in bed, this time. More room, less danger of falling.”
“Whatever you say, Wedge,” she murmured, wrapping one arm around his neck and petting his shoulder with the other.
This time, he slept straight through till morning, undisturbed.
When the door chimed late that afternoon, Wedge was somewhat surprised to see Mirax. She was supposed to be out with Qwi and Leia, buying dresses and whatever. She looked in a good mood, though, so he wasn’t worried, just curious.
When Wedge let her in, Mirax headed straight for his couch, where she collapsed bonelessly into its cushions. He shut the door and followed her, standing and looking down more in amusement than concern as she mimed exhaustion.
“Get me a drink, Wedge; I’m dying,” she said.
“What have you been doing?” he asked, fetching her a glass of Montyrn and sitting next to her. “And where have you left my fiancée?” Funny how the word still made him feel so good...
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, waving one hand carelessly. “Leia took her off somewhere before lunch. I had something I needed to do.” Her dark eyes sparkled as she contemplated whatever that had been.
Wedge didn’t feel up to pursuing it. “You two haven’t been wearing her out again, have you? She told me you made her look at thousands of dresses yesterday.”
“Made her? I like that.” Without spilling a drop of brandy she managed to lie down, her head next to him and her knees drawn up. “She might have started slowly, but she warmed up to it awfully fast... I remember the first time I ever saw the stores here. That Wessiri woman must have walked us twenty miles while I tried to convince her I knew you, and wasn’t an Imperial agent. If only I’d known,” her voice turned pensive, “that she was already convinced that you wouldn’t know an Imp agent if one bit you....”
Or if he had... well, that was a long time ago and scarcely worth bothering about. “Anybody who could take you for an Imp,” he said, tugging on a strand of her black hair, “was a worthy product of CorSec training.” She giggled, making no attempt to defend her husband’s honor. He felt, obscurely, good about that, but also thought he should change the subject. “Malina Afrit called today,” he said.
“Oh? Is she coming?”
“She told me I’d better not even think about getting married without her. Nothing short of a resurrected Vader would keep her away, she said.” And that made him feel good, too.
Mirax smiled warmly up at him from her sprawl. “I’m so glad. Now you don’t have to make any decisions, which is about right for a bridegroom.”
“Oh, thanks,” he said, and then, “what do you mean?”
“Well, the admiral clearly outranks all the other candidates. So she’ll stand with you, and you can just relax and let Leia and me do everything else.”
That was so close to what he’d felt when Malina had called that he objected to hearing it out loud. Rank hadn’t actually entered his thoughts, and he could see where that helped ... still, he couldn’t let it go unchallenged. But before he could say anything, Mirax had put her brandy down on the floor and put her elbows on his leg, raising her head to rest on one hand. “I know, Wedge,” she said, her voice suddenly serious. “You want Tycho... and everybody else sort of fades into a mass that you can’t sort out, with Leia and Han being with Qwi I mean, and me doing your family, and Father out of it. You were having a hard time picking. But Afrit’s perfect ... and anybody else who might have thought you’d ask them is at least two grades lower ranked. Even though you’d pick her anyway, probably.”
“Damn you, Mirax,” he said fondly. “How’d you learn to read minds that way?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said airily and patted his knee with her other hand. “I’ve always been really good at other people’s lives.... which reminds me, there’s something I came over to talk to you about.” She sat up gracefully, tucking her long legs underneath.
“Oh?” he said carefully, but he couldn’t help grinning. Mirax would probably never stop trying to run his life; she’d been doing it for more than two decades now.
“It’s kind of awkward,” she said candidly, “and I’ve thought of half a dozen different ways to ease into it, but they all stink like rancor dung so I guess I’m just going to jump in with both feet.”
Wedge found himself wishing she wouldn’t. Not today, when he was feeling so good. He hoped it wasn’t going to be anything about Corran and his feelings about the wedding, because Wedge had a pretty good notion what they were, knowing what the other man had told young Gavin Darklighter about cross-species dating some five years ago. Corran wasn’t the type to get more liberal with age. He hoped Mirax wasn’t coming around to her husband’s way of thinking, or even contemplating appeasing him. He’d much rather have another argument about the Corellian Sanctuary. But he didn’t say anything, just waited.
“The thing is, well, Qwi’s not human.”
Wedge absolutely refused to have this fight with Mirax, no matter what portion of it she was bringing up. All he said was a gentle “I had noticed.”
“Of course,” she said. “The thing is, she’s not sure you’ve, well, really noticed.”
“What?” he said, taken by surprise.
“I mean, she’s, well-well, you haven’t,” she said, with an extremely impolite Outliers gesture that Wedge hadn’t seen in years but recognized immediately, “so she’s not sure you will. Or even can, for that matter, so you had better-” she broke off, catching his expression.
“I think she knows now,” said Wedge, feeling himself blush. If he were still in the habit of thanking gods for things, he’d have thanked one that the only people who could make him blush were these women he loved like sisters. It made him feel so damned young, and it wouldn’t have done his military career any good at all.
“You mean-last night?” Mirax asked. She didn’t wait for an answer or, more likely, read the answer in his face, and clapped her hands once in delight. “Good for her!”
Wedge leaned over, hiding his face in his hands, exaggerating his embarrassment but not by much. He felt Mirax lean onto his back, putting one arm around him. “Poor Wedge,” she said, ruffling his hair and hugging him. “I’m sorry.”
“You lie,” he said.
“I do,” she said unrepentantly, squeezing him. “I’m not a bit sorry. I like her.”
He sat up again. “I’m glad,” he said, hoping he sounded just a little sarcastic.
If so, she ignored it. “She doesn’t let the grass grow, does she?”
“She actually is quite fond of grass and flowers and so on,” said Wedge, sounding puzzled. “She’s not herbicidal.”
“It means, she doesn’t waste time, you horrible man,” her voice changed halfway through the sentence as she realized he was pretending not to know the idiom. “I should throw something at you. Is there anything here you don’t particularly like?”
“I am deeply and sincerely attached to everything in the room,” Wedge said, laughing.
“Oh, well, in that case,” Mirax began.
“And to nothing,” he continued, turning serious, “moreso than you.”
“You great idiot,” she said lovingly, leaning into his embrace.
“Takes one to know one,” he said softly into her hair.
“I haven’t heard you say that since I was what, seven? eight? You do know I’ll always love you, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” he said. “Never any doubts...” and then, because they were both Corellian and the moment’s mood couldn’t last and he wanted to beat her to it, he added, “Likewise, I’m sure, Rags.”
The old nickname made her giggle, which rather spoiled her threat: “Smile when you say that, Widget.”
“Promise,” he said. “Smugglers’ honor... I’ll smile every time.”
“Better yet,” she said, punching him lightly in the ribs, “don’t say it in front of anyone.”
“Nothin’ for nothin’,” he said, smiling.
“It’s a deal,” she agreed. “No Rags, no Widget... do you ever miss that? Being kids, I mean?” she added quickly.
“Sometimes,” he said. “Not so much. Do you?”
She evaded the question. “What about the Sector? It’s been a long time ... Miss that?”
He shrugged. “Bits and pieces of it, yeah, a lot. Most of it, though, not at all ... damnation.”
“I need to let Nirago know I’m getting married.”
She laughed. “Jes, jou should. She’ll be gratified.” She sat up, looking at him. “Anybody else you’ve forgotten?”
“How would I know?” he said simply. “I mean, if I’ve forgotten them...”
She laughed again. “Okay, I’ll look at your list before I go.”
“What would I do without you?”
“Get married in a tiny hole-in-the-wall ceremony and be very happy, I don’t doubt.”
Now he laughed. “Not with Leia around. And that reminds me, you never answered my question.”
“Which question would that be?”
He paused, thinking back. “Well, maybe I didn’t actually ask it...”
“Oh! That question.” When she’d finished laughing, she said, “So, what is the question?”
“How’d you know? I never noticed.” And if that was laying himself open for a cut against his powers of observation, well, they had rather failed him.
“What -- oh. Well, yesterday, when we were shopping. There was this clerk in Hoherny’s, with a rather piercing voice ... you know,” she finished.
“Hoherny’s,” said Wedge. “Let’s go. You can show me which one.”
“Sit down, Wedge. I took care of it. I spent all afternoon in Hoherny’s, pretending I had Leia’s money to spend, and finally I didn’t buy a thing and made sure her floorwalker knew how unsatisfactory I’d found the experience.” He must have looked doubtful, because she said, “They get paid on commission out on the floors, and I tied up her whole afternoon. And we didn’t buy anything there, and Leia’s never going in there again. Believe me, she’s sorry.”
He sat, somewhat unwillingly. “Was she upset?”
Mirax sorted out the pronouns with no trouble. “Not really. More thoughtful. After all, we’d spent lunch talking about you.”
“Oh, what,” he said protestingly.
“What do you mean, ‘what’? You. It’s what we have in common, after all,” she grinned at him. “And Qwi was fascinated to hear all about your younger days ... and your old girlfriends.”
“Women are terrible,” he protested, and then added, too little too late he was afraid, “Besides, there’s nothing to talk about.”
“Maybe that’s what you think,” Mirax teased. “We see things differently. Anyway, Qwi wasn’t upset, just pondering things. And I guess she took matters into her own hands ... she’s really quite beautiful, isn’t she?” She turned serious. “And brave... I really do like her, Wedge. She’s good enough for you.”
“Maybe too good,” he answered.
“Maybe,” she pretended to give it solemn thought, but as he had been serious, he didn’t rise to it. She continued, “Anyway, she loves you a lot, and she’ll take care of you, and you’ll be happy together, so it’s a good thing.”
“Mirax Terrik’s seal of approval,” he said, his tone belying the light words. “Now I feel a lot better.”
“And so you should,” she said, a tinge of self-mockery in her own tone. “Men shouldn’t make these decisions on their own.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he nodded. “I’ll remember, next time.”
“Better not be a next time,” she said, “once is all any of us can handle... Listen, what kind of a host are you, anyway? I’m starving to death. Take me out to dinner.”
He almost asked her what her husband would say, but he quite suddenly didn’t want to hear the answer. So, instead, he stood up and held out his hand. “As always, your wish is my command. Make the most of it, I’ll be somebody else’s in less than a month.”
She took his hand and came fluidly to her feet. “And you have no idea what a relief that will be, to finally get you off my hands and into someone else’s.”
He smiled down at her. “It doesn’t really work like that, Rags,” he said, repeating the old, intimate name.
“No?” she gazed back.
“No. We’ve known each other way too long.”
“I expect you’re right,” she sighed. “I guess we’re stuck with each other, come Sith or starfall.”
“And beyond,” he nodded.
“Could be a lot worse.”
“It certainly could,” he agreed. They looked at each other for a long moment, and then he said, “So, Top of the Towers? Or Reggeriana?”
“Can you get into Top of the Towers without a reservation?” she asked. “I have always wanted to eat there. Not that I’m really dressed for it,” she added, looking at her dress.
Wedge said, with a fine disregard for establishments that make their patrons feel unworthy, “You look absolutely wonderful. And Vysko Monta thinks I’m personally responsible for keeping the Towers standing, so I can always get a table. Let’s go.”
“Are you?” she said curiously.
“Wait a minute; I need to leave a note for Qwi, in case she doesn’t eat with Leia,” he said, ducking into the kitchen.
When he came out, Mirax repeated, “So, are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Personally responsible for keeping the Triple Towers standing?”
“Sort of. It wasn’t on purpose, but don’t tell him if you want to eat there.”
“My lips are sealed,” she promised him. “Except for eating, of course.”
“Fool,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Wedge shut the door of the small room behind him and leaned against it. He could simply not believe how many people were already there. He could not believe that many wanted to see him get married. He didn’t know thirty of them, if that many. Well, maybe forty, but no more than that. No matter how many times Leia had told him “you’re a Hero of the Republic, you fool, you’re the Conqueror of Coruscant,” he had never believed they’d fill even half the Fleet Hall. Now, after his last look out over it, he guessed they’d overflow.
Amazing, he thought. He couldn’t believe he was that much entertainment value.
After a moment, he pushed himself upright and walked over to the rack where Sergeant Sunrunner had hung the just back from the cleaners uniform. Saber, cap, and gloves lay on the table beside it, along with a box in which, Wedge hoped, were his boots. Of course, if Sunrunner hadn’t brought everything necessary, it would be the first time in that young man’s life ... well, at least since Mestaar.
He looked at his chrono. Another hour. He couldn’t stand waiting for things to happen. He was starving, since despite this not being a religious ceremony he’d promised not to eat anything beforehand. And he hadn’t seen Qwi in two days. We should have gone to the registry office. He ran his hands through his hair, cut the previous morning so, Leia said, it would look best this afternoon, and watched it in the full-length mirror as it proved her right by falling exactly back into place. Well, he supposed, if you were going to do a thing, you might as well do it correctly, even if it was a nuisance. And this would be over soon. But he couldn’t help thinking it was an awful lot of avoidable trouble.
But worth it; he couldn’t help thinking that, too.
He sat in the uncomfortable chair and distracted himself wondering where Qwi had picked for their honeymoon. She wouldn’t even drop hints, and his staff had, to a person, taken her side and refused to tell him anything. He’d asked her if that was yet another Omwati custom, but she’d said no. “It’s mine. I want to give you something that no one else has.”
“You have,” he’d said, and meant it, but she still wouldn’t tell him.
There was a knock on the door, and Sergeant Sunrunner came in. He was neat and correct in the severe black uniform that was one step down from full dress, wearing, as usual, no ribbons even though he was entitled to at least a few. Wedge had signed the waiver without asking for reasons; his aide had been grateful but as unforthcoming about that as anything else. Wedge respected that. Now Sunrunner paused inside the door and said, “You should probably begin to get ready, sir.”
“I am ready, sergeant,” said Wedge.
“Yes, sir,” Sunrunner replied, “but you’re expected to show up in whites.”
“I know.” Wedge stood up. “Did I thank you for collecting this and bringing it down here?”
“It was my privilege to do it, sir.” Then he said, tentatively, “May I say, sir --?”
“Anything you like, sergeant.”
“I wish you and your lady very happy, sir.”
“Thank you, Sergeant Sunrunner. That means a lot to me.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll hold your calls for the next week.” He actually smiled for a moment.
“You do that, sergeant,” said Wedge, smiling back.
“The admiral will come for you, sir, when it’s time.” Sunrunner said, and went out.
Wedge shook his head and unsealed the cleaner’s garment bag.
Twenty minutes later Wedge settled his jacket across his shoulders and buttoned it up, checking in the mirror that they hadn’t screwed up at the cleaner’s and gotten a crested button sewn on upside down. What he’d do about now if they had, he wasn’t sure; he supposed someone in the building could sew. Fortunately, all nine buttons were on rightside up. He looked at his reflection for a minute, and then undid the top two so he could breathe. Choker whites, they were called, but his were so perfectly tailored he’d never felt the jacket tight at the throat before. But it was tight today.
He stood, his hands still on the buttons, and regarded himself. Booster would have told him, had told him, white was his worst color, but he liked this uniform. Booster’s standards weren’t the only ones, and most of the time it didn’t matter if his trick eyes were obvious or not. And, if he was honest, he liked the way he looked in it. He liked the way women’s eyes kindled when they saw him, liked the mingled envy and admiration in the eyes of civilians, and the respect in those of his peers. He liked the esteem that came when others solved the quilting of ribbons that that quietly but completely bragged on his career, from last year’s Nar Shadda all the way back to Dantooine... boasting or not, he enjoyed it. And he loved the way Qwi carried herself with him, beautiful enough to pull everyone’s eyes away and hold them on herself, and her eyes only on him.
The thought of Qwi’s indigo gaze somehow made his collar fit. He buttoned it up, checking that none of the shirt was visible and that the silver piping was straight. Then he picked up the saber. He had to laugh at the perfect general looking back at him then, remembering how Sainer and Mik had protested when he’d said he didn’t see the need to carry a weapon to his wedding. In some religions, young Mik had said, there’d come a point when he’d hand the saber to his best man (“well, the Admiral, I mean”), but of course he’d carry it. And Sainsy had said, “Need? Wedge, we’re talking about the way things are done, not sense.” And, with a wistful twinge of amusement, he recalled Tycho telling him that fully half the curriculum at the Academy was designed to teach young Imperial officers how to behave like young Imperial officers...
He smiled at nothing and shook out the flat silver chain that linked the belt to the scabbard six inches down from the first connection and held it at an unchanging angle, and buckled the saber’s belt around his hips. He adjusted the angle and then lightly polished a spot off the hilt with the fine linen square that he tucked back into his sleeve. No pockets in this. That simple fact said more than anything else, even the labor-intensive white wool and leather, the eight rows of ribbons on his chest, and the silver-gilt stars on his shoulders, about the position he’d achieved, about what his life had become. Fleet generals had flag lieutenants and adjutants to carry things. Even pocket change.
He smiled at the friendly memory of Tycho once more and said the words for the man who wasn’t there anymore. “Just look at you, Wedge Antilles. You’ve come a long way in a short while.” He turned sideways and regarded his image, the general who still struck him as a stranger. “Who’d have believed it,” he asked and then paused, reckoning the years up in his head, “sixteen years ago?” Just sixteen years...only half his life to get beyond what he’d ever dreamed of dreaming of. Sixteen years; he couldn’t decide if they’d been short or long, if there was more loss or gain in them, but though they’d been full of death there’d been more love than he’d ever thought to know. And Qwi to come, still, the rest of his life, however long that would be...
A sharp knock brought him out of his reverie.
“Are you decent?” Malina was outside the door.
“Do you care?” he answered.
“Not particularly,” she answered, coming in. “Oh, my,” she paused just inside the doorway and looked him over from head to toe. “The answer is ‘no’. There ought to be a law against good-looking men wearing that uniform.”
“Funny,” he grinned at her. “I was just thinking how much better it looks on you.”
She snorted at him. “If I were your betrothed, I’d smack you up the side of the head with this saber.”
He laughed. “If you were my betrothed, you wouldn’t be in that uniform.”
She raised one black eyebrow at him. “Before the wedding? Rogue Leader, verily.”
He had to laugh again. He had always been able to say things to her that he couldn’t have said to any other woman he knew. Probably that was because, with the exception of one brief victory-intoxicated moment on Endor’s Sanctuary Moon, there had never been any attraction on her part, which made whatever he might have felt immaterial and ignorable.
She smiled at him then and came closer to adjust his collar, ordering him “Stand still” as she did because he was shaking his head. He froze, but he was amused. He didn’t know what it was, but he could get his dress whites arranged perfectly and yet every woman who saw him still wanted to straighten something. Qwi would probably do it when they met in front of the registrar. Malina tweaked a shoulder and tugged on a sleeve, then stepped back, nodding in satisfaction. “You’ll do.”
“Nobody looks bad wearing this,” he said.
“You’re fishing,” she said. “Cap? Gloves?”
“Yes, to both,” he said, showing her. “Ring?”
“Of course I have the ring,” she said, pulling it out of her left glove to reassure him. “Would I forget your ring, Wedge Antilles?”
“I don’t know. Have you ever done this before? Because I haven’t.”
“Now there you surprise me,” she said. “And don’t look at me that way, I outrank you and it’s insubordinate.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said promptly, “or No, ma’am, whichever you wanted.”
She snorted, and then nodded. “You look ready.” She pushed up her sleeve to check the time, then tugged the white wool back into place. Wedge thought it again: the high-collared uniform suited her very well, especially with all the silver in her hair. She looked taller in it, even more serious than usual. “We’d better go,” she said. “You don’t want to be late.”
“No,” he agreed. He pulled on his kidskin gloves and tucked his cap under his arm. Suddenly, he felt more nervous than he’d ever felt before. He took a deep breath and said, “Let’s get it done.”
She nodded at him, her purple eyes warm. “Okay, boss,” she agreed, with the old pilots’ engage signal from their Rogue Squadron days. “Let’s do it.”
She led the way through the halls to the lecturers’ entrance at the side of the Fleet Hall. Wedge could hear the dull not-quite drone of hundreds of muted conversations, a sound familiar from full-scale mission briefings. But this time it was accompanied by music, a slightly jarring discord. One last time he thought, why didn’t we just sneak off? Malina peered through the glass panel and nodded. “We look set,” she said.
“Okay,” said Wedge, taking a deep breath.
Malina looked up at him, smiled, and abruptly reached up and pushed her fist into his jaw. “Ready?”
He grinned down at her. “As I’ll ever be. Let’s do it.”
“Give me that,” she said, taking his cap. Inside the Hall, the music changed to a standard Corellian wedding piece, familiar to Wedge from dozens of movies. The conversations slowly died off.
Once there was only music, Malina pushed open the door and stood aside for Wedge. He stepped through, and knew immediately that this was going to be nothing like the rehearsal. And it wasn’t just that there wasn’t an empty seat in the Hall.
The registrar, dignified in plain black, stood in the middle of the dais. On either side of him waited their ‘families’, Mirax and Han, both dressed to the nines. Mirax wore multi-hued brocade shimmering in the lights; Han, on the other hand, wore the severe black and gold of male Corellian formal wear, and still held his own as if he’d been as splendid as Mirax. As he crossed in front of his side to stand by Mirax, Wedge saw the gaudy bulk of Booster and the fluorescent figure of Nirago among the dress uniforms of his staff officers and ex-squadronmates. Luke, in plain Jedi black, drew the eye on the other side among Chewbacca, Qwi’s musician friends, and what looked like the whole of Yavaris’s crew.
It seemed to take ten minutes to reach Mirax. She gave him a quick smile when he finally got there. Han greeted him with a nod, and the registrar said something that Wedge didn’t hear, because the music had flared up at that moment. It changed to a processional and all the people in the Hall stood up. Wedge turned his head and saw Qwi.
For a moment, he forgot to breathe. She seemed to float down the central aisle of the Grand Fleet Hall. There was only a tiny hint of green in her dress. Mostly it was silver, or crystals, or something that shone like frozen light. There was blue in it, and purple, and glimmering trailing fringe across her breasts and shoulders that echoed the gleaming of her hair. Booster’s present gleamed around her throat, the creamy pearls taking on a luminous quality among all that scintillation, pools of light in the dazzle. Wedge knew she was the most beautiful thing in the galaxy. He could have stood and watched her walking towards him for the rest of his life.
When she reached the dais, he was almost startled that Leia was with her. Leia’s simple Alderaanian white enhanced her loveliness, but he barely noticed her next to Qwi. In fact, all the others all faded into the periphery, and it was a good thing they’d rehearsed because Wedge wasn’t able to think very well. Especially as Qwi’s eyes never left his face.
The simplified Corellian wedding passed like a dream. Han ritually embraced Qwi in farewell. Mirax as ritually welcomed her, and then stepped back smiling like she’d invented the concept of weddings, not just this one’s script, and Wedge and Qwi faced each other with their respective supporters in attendance. The registrar spoke for a few moments, and it was a very good thing Wedge already knew the formalities because he couldn’t have remembered them from this moment to save his life. He did hear Qwi though, her voice clear and pure, when she said her vows, and he assumed he got through his without erring. His instincts saved him as they had so often before, because although he didn’t hear the registrar he knew to reach for the emerald and gold ring that Malina held out for him. He took it from her without looking at it and slid it onto Qwi’s finger. She took his hand and claimed him with the plain red-gold band she’d picked for him. They stood for a moment, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes.
“Aqmolqa,” he said.
“Together,” she echoed him in Corellian, “forever.”
And he her, in Omwati, “an deqwontsin.”
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
|Original Fan Fiction|
Star Wars |
Power Rangers |
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
|Go Back to List of Karen's Fiction|