“What’s the matter ?” Tycho called from the living area in the main room of Wedge’s quarters. He turned on the sofa, looking back at Wedge in the kitchen space.
“I spilled the jar of Taranishi beans,” Wedge answered from the other side of the worktop that divided the two areas. He turned in the narrow kitchenette to try and see how far the hard, yellow beans had scattered over the floor. As he moved to pick up the lid he’d dropped, he felt his right foot shoot out from underneath himself. Wedge tried to catch his balance, but the round beans were under his feet. He fell backwards, banging his head against a cupboard door, and landed on the floor in a dazed heap.
The next half minute was a confused blur. Wedge heard his name and tried to focus. The back of his head was throbbing. He could hear Tycho’s voice, and feel his friend’s hand on his shoulder.
“Wedge, are you hurt ?”
The question was urgent, almost frightened.
“Not really,” Wedge answered slowly. His mind cleared and he saw Tycho sitting on the floor beside him, leaning over him anxiously. “Just stunned myself a bit.”
Tycho sighed with relief. “From the crash I heard, it sounded much worse.”
“No lasting harm done,” Wedge reassured him. “Corellians have pretty hard heads.”
He started to sit up, taking Tycho’s offered hand. The change in position brought about a wave of dizziness and Wedge found himself lurching against Tycho, who put an arm around his shoulders to support him.
“Careful !” Tycho warned. “Take it easy for a minute; you as good as concussed yourself. Lean on me.”
The dizziness had been accompanied by a touch of nausea, so Wedge decided it was probably best to follow his friend’s advice. He relaxed into Tycho’s side, letting his head rest on Tycho’s shoulder.
“I guess I’ll have to think of something else to cook for dinner,” Wedge said, almost into Tycho’s shirt.
“We could order food in,” Tycho suggested.
“Maybe,” Wedge allowed. “I’ll see what’s in the cupboard when I get up in a minute.”
“There’s no rush,” Tycho said softly.
Wedge closed his eyes; the throbbing in the back of his head was already starting to ease so he rested against his friend, waiting for the weakness to pass. As they sat together, Wedge became more acutely aware of Tycho’s physical presence. Tycho’s arm was warm and comforting around his shoulders and he could feel the faint movement of Tycho’s body as he breathed. With his head against Tycho’s shoulder, he could smell clothes detergent and more faintly, Tycho’s favoured brand of shower gel.
The smells in particular seemed to register in some deep part of his brain. Wedge wanted to move his head and inhale the clean smell of Tycho’s light brown hair, perhaps brushing it with his lips. His groin throbbed in response to the thoughts. As Wedge tried to banish them from his mind, he realized that Tycho’s breathing had speeded up. Tycho turned his head slightly and Wedge felt something brush so lightly over his own hair. His spine tingled and his pulse jumped. Before he knew what he was doing, Wedge lifted his head and delicately touched Tycho’s neck with his lips. Tycho gasped softly, his arm tightening around Wedge’s shoulders.
Wedge changed position, bringing more of his torso into contract with Tycho’s, and slipping his arm around his waist. His whole body was tingling, the feeling centred in his groin. Tycho didn’t say anything, but his hand moved from Wedge’s shoulders to lower on his back, pressing their bodies together. He lifted his free hand and gently caressed Wedge’s dark, soft, hair. The touch seemed to cause a short-circuit in Wedge’s brain. He lifted his head and did exactly what instinct told him, kissing Tycho full on the mouth. It was beautiful, joyous. Tycho’s lips pressed firmly back against his, moving eagerly. Their mouths opened and Wedge’s tongue sought Tycho’s mouth. He touched delicately, though his heart was pounding away. It was what he’d been wanting for so long, so very long.
Reality crashed back into Wedge’s consciousness. He let go of Tycho and pulled back abruptly, moving so there was some space between their bodies.
“Tycho… you know we can’t.” His voice was hoarse, regretful.
Tycho sat still a moment, his mouth still slightly open. Wedge longed to kiss it again, but he forced himself to stay where he was. Tycho closed his mouth and swallowed. The light seemed to go from his brilliant blue eyes as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. When he had composed himself, he spoke.
“I’d better go.”
“No !” Wedge spoke without thinking. He paused, trying to clear his mind of the longing that possessed him and to think clearly. “You…you go sit on the sofa and I’ll fix us something to eat. We’ll find some trash to watch on the holovee and just enjoy sharing time together, like usual.”
Tycho looked at the floor, visibly torn. His expression didn’t change, but Wedge could see different emotions flickering in his eyes. At last Tycho looked at him, his gaze steady.
“I’d like to stay,” he said quietly.
As Wedge worked in the kitchen area, rustling up a new meal, Tycho sat on the sofa and paged through a military history review holomag. By the time the meal was ready, the intense feelings had passed and both men were more relaxed. They ate on the sofa, and as Wedge had suggested, watched the holovee. After zapping through a few channels, Wedge found a family entertainment programme. Team members dressed in oversized, comic costumes, attempted to snag paint bombs from a hook suspended above a giant turntable. Paint burst everywhere. Players staggered and fell, the movement of the turntable sweeping them around to knock over others in turn. The audience cheered madly for their team-mates and the commentator was laughing so hard he could hardly describe what was happening.
The sheer, good-natured silliness of it all soon had both men laughing.
“Watching people fall over shouldn’t be so funny,” Tycho said, not looking away from the picture.
“Watching other people fall over is always funny,” Wedge replied, chuckling.
They stayed with the programme until it finished, by which time the meal was all eaten.
“Caf ?” Wedge offered.
Tycho shook his head. “No, thanks. I’d best be getting back to my quarters. I want to review a couple of those applications before we meet the candidates tomorrow.”
Wedge smiled, not sure if he were sad or pleased. “I’ll see you in the morning then,” he said as he followed Tycho to the door of his quarters.
“Thanks for the food,” Tycho answered. He lingered a moment in the doorway, then turned and with a brief wave, headed for his own accommodation.
When he got back, Tycho ignored the workstation on his desk and paced restlessly around the room instead. His quarters were in the same building as Wedge’s, but a couple of floors lower. They were also slightly smaller, and less lavish, though perfectly comfortable. Tycho didn’t mind; it was only a few months since he’d been promoted to colonel, and Wedge to general, and these quarters, here on Coruscant, were far better than anything else he’d ever had as a soldier.
He wasn’t thinking about his rooms as he wandered about though. Tycho was thinking of Wedge. It was nothing new for him. Wedge was his commanding officer and wingman. They spent a lot of time together in the course of their work, and off-duty too, as friends. All that was perfectly acceptable. What was not acceptable was to think about Wedge in the way he wanted to, the way he couldn’t stop thinking about Wedge: as his lover.
Turning suddenly, Tycho moved with decision to a cupboard unit by the wide viewport. He drew out a bottle and glass, and poured himself a generous slug of Churban brandy. Downing half in one go, Tycho topped up his glass and put the bottle away. He took the glass over to his desk, set the glass down and switched on his terminal. Even as he opened the military regulations document, Tycho knew his search was futile, but he couldn’t help hoping that somehow, something would be different.
It had been different back when he’d first joined the Rebellion. Tycho smiled to himself, remembering. After the discipline and formality of the Imperial Navy, the more casual ways of the Rebellion had been hard for him to grasp at first. He’d been told that Rogue Flight was a new, elite unit, and had been surprised to find that its leader and second-in-command were both flyboys, barely in their twenties, and neither with more than the most basic military training. It made sense for the Rebels to make their golden hero of Yarvin the flight’s leader, as he was an important symbol as well as a skilled pilot. However, Tycho would have put an Imperial trained pilot like Hobbie as Skywalker’s second, not some Corellian hotshot who happened to be Skywalker’s buddy.
Of course, the Corellian hotshot was Wedge Antilles. His potential as a pilot and an officer had been picked up very quickly, and he’d been leading missions even before the battle of Yarvin, regardless of his lack of formal training. It had taken a few cycles for Tycho to realize that Wedge fully deserved his position in Rogue Flight, but then their relationship had gotten off to a cool start. Wedge hadn’t addressed him by his first name for his first six cycles with the unit: only later had Tycho understood that Wedge had been distancing himself from the new pilot because, even though just twenty-one, he’d already seen many friends die, and had had to cope with their loss.
Even when Wedge became more friendly, he’d still been closer to Luke than anyone. Tycho had quite simply fancied Wedge from the first time he’d met him. He’d long had a weakness for dark hair and eyes, and Wedge had a vitality and charisma that made him hard to ignore. It was soon clear to Tycho that Luke and Wedge’s friendship was just that; Luke clearly wasn’t into men. However, before Tycho felt he could make a move on Wedge, Admiral Ackbar was appointed Supreme Commander of the Alliance Forces.
Ackbar had been Commander of the Fleet for a few cycles and had started on getting the Rebel Alliance’s ragtag army organized into a proper fighting force. During his captivity as Grand Moff Tarkin’s slave, Ackbar had learnt a lot about the workings of the Imperial Navy; he used what he had learned as the basic model for the Alliance Navy. Though, naturally, Ackbar and the Empire had differing opinions on many issues, they did have a few things in common. Mon Calamari physiology made same-sex relations effectively impossible, both biologically and mentally. They viewed it as a distasteful aberration in other species. With support from a couple of other senior officers, both ex-Imperials, Admiral Ackbar quickly introduced a regulation forbidding same-sex relationships between members of the Alliance military.
With the other changes going on, and the daily necessity of just staying alive, Tycho hadn’t taken much notice of the new ruling at first. It was what he’d been used to in the Imperial Navy anyway. There, the rule had broken occasionally and discreetly, but only for simple flings, never for a serious relationship. When Luke had left after Hoth, Wedge had been put in command of the squadron, and he’d chosen Tycho to be his second. As they spent more time together, their friendship had deepened, and both men had come to realize that they wanted one another. But with Ackbar’s regulation in force, there was no way they could openly admit their feelings.
It hadn’t been too hard at first: chances seemed high that one or both of them would be killed before long. If they were not actively in a relationship, the survivor would be less hurt by the death of the other. Very few pilots thought of their future – they got on with living day to day. As the years passed though, the Emperor was killed, Coruscant was freed and the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic. Neither Tycho nor Wedge were foolish enough to consider themselves safe while they were still flying X-wings, but the desperation of the early years was past, and even the recent war against Grand Admiral Thrawn had left them both unscathed.
Tycho sipped his brandy and sighed. Regulation one-one-seven stroke A of the Moral Conduct section was on screen, the cold, plain text denying him his love. Once again, Tycho began reading it, slowly, hoping to see something he’d not seen before. Some loophole or error that would give him hope. Because hope was all he had.
Wedge too had been tempted to re-read the military regulations, but he knew there was no point. He’d read 117/A so often he could recite it from memory. After tonight’s tantalising moments with Tycho, his dislike of the regulation was turning to active resentment. Same-sex relationships were acceptable and unremarkable through most of the New Republic. Even before puberty Wedge had realized that boys interested him more than girls. In his teens, when he’d understood himself fully, and told his parents of his preference, they had simply hugged him and told him that all they wanted was for him to be happy.
Sighing, Wedge settled himself in his wide bed. There was plenty of room for two in it. In other branches of New Republic service, like the Diplomatic Corps or Intelligence, there was no such ruling as 117/A; in fact, discrimination on grounds of species, gender or sexual preference was strictly forbidden. It was only those who served in the military, those who risked their lives for the New Republic, who were forbidden to express their love if for someone of the same gender.
Wedge shook his head, trying to banish the bitter thoughts. There had been moves to overturn 117/A, but somehow the proposals had never got further than talk. There had always been some crisis that demanded the military’s attention more urgently, and when the crisis had passed, the proposals for change would be conveniently forgotten again. Perhaps now he was a general, he could draw more attention to the military’s discriminatory policies. It would be a political battle, something Wedge hated, but he would risk his heart for something he believed in, just as he risked his life in an X-wing to fight for what he believed in.
In any case, there was nothing he could do tonight. Wedge sighed; things could have been so different tonight. Tycho should have been in bed with him. The taste and touch of Tycho’s mouth came vividly into Wedge’s memory and his crotch throbbed with desire. Without consciously realizing, he began to stroke himself to hardness as he relived the sensations of their brief encounter in the kitchen. The warmth of Tycho, the smell of him, the feel of his body against Wedge’s own. Fantasy made reality for a few, precious moments.
Wedge moaned, a mixture of lust and frustration. That damned regulation was robbing him of something he desired with his heart and body. Every day of life was precious to a combat pilot. Every day that he and Tycho had to deny themselves of what they longed for was a precious day wasted, and those days could run out all too suddenly. Military regulations controlled how Wedge lived his life, but they couldn’t control his need, alone here in his bedroom. He banished all thoughts but those of Tycho and concentrated on masturbating himself to an urgent, gasping climax.
The next day was a routine work day. The squadron had been given badly-needed leave after the campaign against Krennel and Isard. They’d succeeded in the end, but at a high cost that had left them drained mentally and physically. In spite of his higher rank, Wedge had taken less leave than anyone else in the squadron. He’d written report after report and attended more meetings than he could rightly remember. Every last piece of information he’d gathered on Prince-Admiral Krennel, Ysanne Isard and the clone Isard had been recorded and analysed to the last byte. There were also enquiries into the disaster of Distna. Wedge found it all heartily depressing, if necessary.
The buzz of his office door signal interrupted Wedge as he reviewed Iella Wessiri’s report on the Pulsar Station trap.
“Come in.” Wedge leaned back in his chair and stretched upwards, feeling his spine creak.
Tycho entered, greeting him with a smile.
“Have you forgotten we’re meeting the last two pilot candidates this morning ?” he asked.
Wedge glanced anxiously at his chrono. To his relief, there was still twenty minutes until the first interview. “Don’t scare me like that,” he said.
Tycho grinned. “I considered leaving it until the last minute before checking with you, but I thought you’d like the chance for a quick break to clear your head of whatever report you’re reading, and to get some caf. Watching you panic at the last minute would have been funnier though.”
Wedge snorted, glaring at his executive officer, though pleased at Tycho’s typical forethought.
Tycho had naturally taken over more of the routine squadron work, compiling personnel datafiles and reports, performance evaluations and the tedious business of requisitions. He’d also done most of the work in selecting applicants for the vacant spots in the squadron. The list had been narrowed down to six, of whom Wedge had now seen four. When he’d seen the last two this morning, he’d talk to Tycho, read their files, and make his final decision.
“Just for that, Colonel, you can make us the caf.” Wedge gestured to the caf machine in the informal part of his office.
“Yes, sir, General Antilles, sir.” Tycho threw a sharp salute, grinned, and marched to the caf machine.
Wedge stood up and moved over to the comfortable old sofa, glad of the chance to stretch his legs and move after a couple of hours at his desk. Here, in his office, in uniform, it was easy to stay professional. Wedge accepted the caf and sipped it as he worked with Tycho, both of them focussed on their job. The two pilots they interviewed, a Human female and a Duros male, saw nothing that hinted at a more-than-professional relationship between the squadron commander and his second in command.
After the interviews, they joined Wes, Hobbie and Corran for lunch, then Tycho and Wedge worked out at the gym before returning for another stretch of office work. On his own, in his office, Wedge tried to push his personal thoughts aside as he worked. Most of what he was reading was routine analysis; there was nothing to really make him think and to distract him from the frustration that simmered inside his heart.
Closing a report on problems in the supply of proton torpedoes, Wedge got up and wandered about his office, thinking of the two pilot candidates he’d seen that morning. He trusted his gut instinct as much as he did logic when choosing pilots for his squadrons, and he wanted to think about the impressions he’d got of the candidates, before reading their files. His attention kept slipping though. The mug that Tycho had used for his caf was still on the low table by the sofa. Wedge picked it up, wrapping his hands round it as his memory flashed back to those moments in the kitchen the night before.
Wedge shivered, and set the mug down hard. He prowled around the room once more, before returning to his desk and opening the pilots’ files with sharp stabs at his terminal keyboard. He took two, deep, slow breaths, then started reading, his face fixed in concentration.
The next day, Wedge had a meeting with Admiral Ackbar. He normally looked forward to meeting the Mon Calamari but this time, as he entered the familiar, humid office, it was hard for him to smile as he usually did.
“Greetings, General Antilles,” Ackbar said, returning Wedge’s formal salute. He gestured for Wedge to sit down. “I trust that seas are smooth with the rebuilding of Rogue Squadron ?”
Wedge sat. “Yes, sir. I’ve chosen the new pilots and have confirmed their transfer this morning. They’ll begin training with the rest of the squadron tomorrow.”
“How is Captain Darklighter ?”
Wedge thought a moment before answering. “Still mourning Asyr, and missing her very much on a day to day basis, I think. But he’s beginning to accept that she’s gone and he’s starting to lift his head and look forward again. I think the next weeks of training with the new pilots, and bringing them into the squadron, will help Gavin. It’ll give him time to ease his way back into combat readiness and give him something other than himself to focus on.”
Ackbar nodded. “I hope you are correct, General. I believe Gavin Darklighter has great potential as an officer and it would be a shame if he chose to leave Starfighter Command.”
“I’ll tell him you said that; he’ll like to hear it.” In spite of himself, Wedge was softened by the admiral’s concern for the men he commanded, but confused too.
How can you concern yourself about Gavin’s feelings and his future, yet ignore the feelings of so many others under your command ?
“To business,” Ackbar said. “I’m glad to know that you have settled on your new pilots, General. Though Ysanne Isard is no longer a threat, the remnants of the Empire still require our attention. They are weakened after Thrawn’s death, while we have shown that we still have teeth, following our victory over Krennel. Intelligence suggests that there is more in-fighting among the remaining senior Imperial officers than there is unity.”
“Sounds like an ideal situation for us,” Wedge remarked. “We’ll have to be careful though. If we strike too hard, we could unify them against us.”
“That is how the Provisional Council feel. In essence, the plan is to leave the weakest warlords alone, and the most aggressive, and to strike at the others first.”
“The aggressive ones will more likely fight one another than join up against us,” Wedge said. “Or at least, they won’t work together until there’s only a few of them left. The weaker commanders may join us once they see stronger warlords being defeated, but some could be bullied into allying with the more aggressive warlords.”
Ackbar nodded. “It will be delicate work, choosing our targets correctly. This will be a war of minds as much as a war of lasers. Rogue Squadron will have an important part to play in this campaign.”
“I guess that sending the New Republic’s elite starfighter unit into any fight makes it a high profile action. Rogue Squadron can be used to draw attention in certain directions, making a point to outsiders about how seriously the New Republic is dealing with a particular target. And perhaps while attention is on the Rogues, the Wraiths can slide in elsewhere, unnoticed.”
“Excellent thinking, General,” Ackbar said, swivelling one large eye to look at Wedge more directly. “The position of Rogue Squadron became a subject of serious discussion when it was believed that you had all died at Distna. The loss of the squadron was potentially a major blow to morale. A few felt that having such a high profile unit had been a mistake, as the destruction of Rogue Squadron was disproportionately large in its effect, both within the military and in the media.
Others felt that perhaps it emphasized that no one, no matter how skilled or famous, was exempt from the very real dangers that our soldiers face every day. When you subsequently reappeared, heading a successful attack on two feared enemies, Rogue Squadron’s reputation was further enhanced in the eyes of the public.”
Wedge thought for a moment. “I was going to say that the Rogues are simply one of many starfighter squadrons, but we’re not. My pilots are an elite unit, and I’m proud of that. But every pilot who flies into battle is taking the same risks we do, and they deserve as much praise.”
“Of course. But the public will always have favourites.”
“Rogue Squadron is famous not just because of what we’ve done, but because the publicity machine has kept the public well informed of what we’ve done. I’ve had complete strangers approach me and ask to take holographs; not all of them ask first, actually.”
Ackbar opened his mouth in a Mon Cal smile. “There are many beings who dream their whole life of being approached by strangers wanting holographs.”
Wedge shook his head. “I’m not one of them.”
“Like it or not, General, you are the New Republic’s most famous starfighter pilot and a hero to many. Your apparent death was a cause of grief throughout the New Republic. Many agreed that there should be a new Rogue Squadron formed, but there were very few suggestions about who would be suitable to lead it.”
“If you had to bring someone in from another squadron, I think Pash Cracken would be best,” Wedge said.
“I shall bear your recommendation in mind, but I hope it will not be necessary,” Ackbar answered. “Losing you all once is once too often for my taste.”
Wedge nodded. “Thank you, Admiral.”
“Well, of course, being Rogues you did the impossible and came back from the dead. Therefore we must consider in detail your role in our campaign against the Empire. Once we are clear on what your first actions will be, you can begin simulation work on them as part of your new pilots’ introduction to the squadron.”
“A definite purpose is what the squadron needs now,” Wedge said, glad to get away from the subject of Distna and the reminders of his unwanted fame. “We’re ready to move on and look for new challenges.”
For almost an hour, Wedge and Ackbar discussed the next steps to be taken against the remains of the Empire. Although Wedge described himself as best as small-unit tactical operations, the more he worked with fleet operations, the more confident he became at planning with capital ships and bigger resources. Wedge was far happier planning and carrying out military operations than he was managing the day to day routine, and the time flew past.
At last, they had the beginnings of a campaign worked out, and Rogue Squadron’s next mission roughly defined. Ackbar would need to consult with other generals to refine the overall campaign, which would then be put before the Provisional Council. There would be more meetings, more planning, and more intelligence work to be done, but Wedge was satisfied with what they’d accomplished. He leaned back in his chair, relaxing for a few moments after the intensive work.
Admiral Ackbar relaxed too, taking a few moments to look at the globe of water suspended between anti-grav generators, and the bright fish that swam within it.
“It is too long since I last swam in the waters of my world,” he said thoughtfully.
“Book yourself some leave soon,” Wedge suggested, rolling his shoulders to ease away stiffness.
“I doubt if there will be time now,” Ackbar replied. “How about you, Wedge: did you take time away from Coruscant during your leave ?”
Wedge shook his head. “It’s too risky for me to go to Corellia and there wasn’t anywhere else I particularly wanted to go just then. It was nice being planetside with people I’d missed, like Mirax.”
Ackbar turned one eye to focus more closely on Wedge. “Captain Horn’s wife. I’m surprised you have not yet found a mate for yourself, Wedge.”
But I have !
Emotion made Wedge flush as he looked across the desk at the Mon Calamari admiral.
“There is no point in looking,” he said tightly. “Military regulations forbid me from choosing the kind of mate I desire.”
Ackbar blinked his large eyes, puzzled.
“Regulation one-one-seven stroke A. It forbids relationships between partners of the same sex.”
Ackbar straightened, his barbels twitching in agitation. “General Antilles ? Do you mean…?”
“Yes,” Wedge said brusquely, unafraid. “I am sexually attracted to men. I always have been; it’s simply the way my brain is wired. I didn’t choose to be homosexual any more than I chose to have brown eyes. And it would be easier to change the colour of my eyes than my sexual orientation.”
Ackbar shook his head. “I never thought…”
“Why ?” Wedge interrupted, leaning forwards. “Why did you never think I might prefer men ? Because you respected me and assumed I fit into your idea of how a being should feel and love ?”
“I… I made assumptions, yes,” Ackbar answered, his voice low.
Wedge took a deep breath. “Perhaps it is time you changed those assumptions.”
Ackbar reared back in his seat, drawing a sharp breath. Wedge was certain he was about to snap a refusal, and kept his gaze firmly on the admiral’s face. Ackbar hesitated, his large, finned hands curling and uncurling as his barbels trembled. Wedge said nothing, waiting, his heart pounding though he kept his expression firm. After a few, long moments, Ackbar swung his head slowly from side to side.
“Now is not the time for debate,” he said. “In the future, perhaps. For now, the New Republic military must act as one to defeat our enemy.”
Wedge’s heart sunk. He hadn’t meant to raise this issue so soon, but now he’d been open about himself to the admiral, he couldn’t let his needs, and those of many others, be pushed aside any longer.
“The military cannot be truly unified while so many are denied the same rights as others,” he protested. “Right now, we’re expected to fight and if necessary, die, for freedom, while being denied a major freedom ourselves.”
Ackbar made a chopping gesture with his hand. “I will not discuss this now, General Antilles. Your peculiarity may simply be a fluke of biology that you cannot help, but I cannot afford the time to accommodate you. The tide is with us now, and we must use it to wash away the stain of the Empire from the galaxy. Dismissed.”
Wedge sat rigidly for a moment, then snapped his arm up in a brisk salute. “Yes, sir,” he hissed. Standing, he spun around and marched from Ackbar’s office without looking back.
Nawara Ven entered the bar and paused, looking around at the unfamiliar room. It was a busyish place, with music pumping from scattered speakers and a general buzz of conversation from the groups clustered around the tables and the bar. A movement caught his eye and he turned slightly to see Wedge Antilles waving to him from a small table tucked away in a corner. Waving back to acknowledge him, Nawara threaded his way across the room to join his commander.
“Thank you for coming,” Wedge said, as Nawara slid onto the seat opposite. “I appreciate you giving up your off-duty time.”
“It’s no trouble,” Nawara answered, studying his commander. Wedge had called earlier in the day, asking for a private meeting in the evening. He’d asked for help on a private matter and Nawara was willing to do what he could, though he had no idea what Wedge wanted him for. Some kind of legal issue seemed the most likely answer. Whatever it was, it seemed to be important; Wedge looked more tense than Nawara had seen him in a long time.
A wait droid approached the table for their orders.
“I’ll get these,” Wedge said. “What would you like ?”
“Lomin ale, thanks” Nawara answered.
Wedge turned to the droid. “Two lomin ales, please.”
A green light flashed on the stocky droid then it turned and rolled away.
Wedge looked at Nawara and managed a rather forced smile. He took a deep breath but then didn’t seem to know what to say. Nawara decided to help out by taking the initiative.
“You said you wanted advice on something ?”
Wedge nodded. “Yes. I understand if you feel you can’t help. It’s not official squadron business…but it is to do with the military. There’s something I want to do, but I don’t really know the best way of setting about it or how to make things work for me.”
Nawara was a little puzzled by this. He wasn’t used to seeing Wedge so uncertain, and in his time as the Rogues’ XO, he’d found that Wedge had a solid grasp of military protocol and issues.
“What are you trying to do ?” he asked.
Wedge took a deep breath. “Are you familiar with regulation one-one-seven stroke A, from the Moral Conduct section of the personnel regulations ?”
Nawara stroked one of his lekku as he thought. “I can’t bring it to mind,” he admitted.
Wedge brought out his datapad and switched it on, opening a file. “In essence, 117/A rules that members of the New Republic military may not engage in same-sex relationships.” He held Nawara’s gaze, his dark eyes intense.
Now Nawara remembered reading the regulation, but as it didn’t affect him, he’d paid no attention to it. Bytes of data suddenly shifted in Nawara’s mind, revealing a new pattern. The times he’d seen or heard about Wedge going out with his friends, but never hearing of him showing interest in a woman, of any species. Wedge’s interest in this regulation. His close friendship with Tycho, perhaps, who also never showed interest in women.
Wedge nodded, reading Nawara’s expression. “Yes. I am homosexual. This regulation affects me personally; very personally.”
The wait droid rolled up to them, the drinks on a small tray. Wedge swiped his cred card through the payment slot on the droid’s body and they sampled their ale. Nawara was pleased to find it a cool and refreshing variety. He suspected, however, that Wedge had barely registered the taste of his. Taking the datapad, Nawara read through the regulation carefully.
“This is…quite comprehensive,” he said, looking up when he’d done. “Unambiguous.”
Wedge nodded. “It’s also wrong, blatant discrimination. I want it abolished.”
Nawara put the datapad down and sipped his ale as he thought. “The basic protocol for amending a regulation is to write the new version, then submit it to your commanding officer to be passed upwards.”
“I want to abolish it, not amend it,” Wedge growled. “And Admiral Ackbar is my commanding officer.”
“He’s also Supreme Commander, so your suggestion will get to the top at once,” Nawara said.
“And it will stop there – disappear into some administrative black hole of excuses not to deal with it.” Wedge’s hands clenched into fists.
Nawara stared at him, puzzled.
“It was Ackbar who brought in 117/A,” Wedge said, his voice harsh.
Nawara listened in surprise as Wedge explained the Mon Calamari aversion to homosexuality, and the history of the regulation forbidding it in the military.
“He put it off again,” Wedge continued. “When I said it needs to be thought about now, Ackbar refused. He just dismissed me like a common ground pounder who’d spoken out of turn. Seven years I’ve had to live under this regulation, Nawara. Seven years of being forbidden to love or be loved. No one should have to put up with that. I’ve had enough of it. I’ve been a soldier for eleven years, fighting for freedom and for most of that time I’ve been denied the most basic of personal freedoms myself.”
Nawara picked up his mug of ale again and sipped at it. A few moments later, Wedge did the same, his movements deliberately calm. The carefully controlled movements didn’t fool Nawara though. Normally Wedge’s head ruled his heart, but here, in this non-descript bar, Nawara got a strong sense of something dangerous bubbling close to the surface. There was an intensity to Wedge, especially in his eyes, that almost frightened the Twi’lek. He thought hard before he spoke.
“I’ll have to check procedure, but I think that you’ll have to start by submitting your proposal to your commanding officer regardless.” He swiftly held up a hand to silence Wedge’s protests. “To actually abolish a regulation, rather than simply amending it, may take a decision by the Ruling Council. If I’m right on that, then the admiral would have to pass your proposal onto the Council. The trick is to ensure that he does so, rather than delaying or ignoring it.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to,” Wedge promised.
Nawara believed him utterly. He’d seen Wedge in action, and knew how he committed himself to whatever he believed in. Wedge was a very dangerous enemy to have and right now he was bristling for war. For a few moments, Nawara considered counselling him against bringing his proposal. It could lead to a long and bitter fight within the military at a time when the New Republic was still recovering from Thrawn’s war. A look at Wedge’s eyes told him it would be no use. Wedge would go ahead, with or without his support. Nawara knew he could do nothing other than support his friend and commanding officer, even if he hadn’t believed himself that the regulation needed to be abolished.
“I’m with you,” he said. “We’ll find a way.”
Wedge took a long swallow of the lomin ale. “You were here on Coruscant when the rest of the Squadron went missing at Distna. You saw the media reaction to the disappearance of Rogue Squadron and myself, didn’t you ?”
Nawara grasped what he meant. “Once it was known, there was a lot of attention. You were all listed as missing so there were no official obituaries, but there were features and articles about you all. Your name was the most prominent, of course, with emphasis on your war record and your time served alongside Luke Skywalker.”
Wedge nodded, his expression grim. “The admiral saw it too. I’m willing to use my name if I have to, to draw attention to this in the media. I can also go to Leia directly and ask her to speak to Admiral Ackbar. He won’t be able to hide away the proposal or refuse to discuss it if other Ruling Council members are asking about it and it’s in the media.”
“It will still take time, though.” Nawara warned. “Months at least to have the change signed into law.”
“I can wait months, so long as something is actually happening,” Wedge said, drumming his fingers on the tabletop. “I won’t wait through years without hope.”
“You shouldn’t have to; no one should,” Nawara asserted. “I can’t believe this discrimination has been allowed to go on for so long.”
Wedge’s eyes glowed. “It’s absurd. After all,” he gestured across the table. “It’s perfectly acceptable for you and Rhysati to marry and you’re not even the same species ! But you’re different genders, so it’s OK. I can’t have the man I want because I’m also a man.”
Nawara noticed Wedge’s inadvertent admission that there was a particular man he wanted. He’d suspected as much, and felt certain that the man in question was Tycho. Both were beings that Nawara liked and respected. It seemed deeply wrong that two such admirable people should be forbidden to freely love one another.
“I’ll do what I can,” he promised. “I can draft a proposal to abolish the regulation and end the discrimination. Quite possibly the regulation could be challenged on legal grounds in the courts anyway, but that would be expensive and even more time-consuming. I’ll find out the correct procedures for submitting the proposal and we’ll work out ways to ensure it doesn’t get swept under the carpet.
“Thank you.” Wedge leaned back in his chair, some of the tension leaving his lean body. “It’s been getting harder and harder to live with this regulation,” he said more quietly. “We…I’ve missed out on so much. So many years. I just want to be able to hold him and… I just want to be myself,” he pleaded. “There’s a hole in my life and there should be somebody filling it. There’s someone I want, and who wants to be there, but we’re just not allowed !”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while longer,” Nawara said gently, moved by Wedge’s unhappiness. “You can’t afford to do anything controversial or let anyone accuse you of flouting regulations while you’re trying to get a major change in military law passed.”
Wedge grimaced, but nodded. “I understand. We can wait a little longer.” He sighed, then downed the last of his ale. “With the new campaigns on the way, who knows ? I could get killed before any change goes through and it will be irrelevant anyway.”
“Not to others,” Nawara pointed out, picking up his own ale mug.
Wedge smiled, a little grimly. “Some wouldn’t see it as on a par with blowing up Death Stars, but it’s as important in its own way. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of beings affected by 117/A at the moment, and they all deserve to love whom they wish.”
“There will surely be more homosexuals in the military in the future,” Nawara added. “You are acting for them as well.”
“Always acting for the future and for the future of others,” Wedge mused. “But this will have an immediate impact on my life, for once.”
“You deserve it,” Nawara told him.
Wedge looked across the table at him, his dark eyes bright with emotion. “Thank you, Nawara. Thank you.”