Hobbie glanced at his chrono, then looked sideways at Wes, sitting next to him. All the Rogues were present in the briefing room except for their commander. Tycho had arrived just a minute before the briefing was due to start and was busying himself at the podium, plugging in his datapad and checking the files.
“Bet you ten creds Wedge is still in his office and has forgotten the time,” Wes offered.
Hobbie glanced at Tycho, who didn’t seen worried that the normally-punctual Wedge was nearly five minutes late, and shook his head. “He may have had a meeting first thing that’s over-run.”
“He can’t have slept in,” said Gavin, who was sitting on the row of benches behind them. “Wedge never sleeps late.”
As he spoke, the door opened and Wedge strode in. At first, Hobbie thought that Wedge’s briskness was due to the excess of nervous energy he’d seen the evening before in the gym. Then he saw there was a bounce in Wedge’s step that had been missing recently. Wedge flashed a huge smile at his pilots as he made his way to the front of the briefing room.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he apologized. The ends of his dark hair were still slightly damp, as though fresh from the shower.
Hobbie frowned as Wedge and Tycho smiled at one another. Tycho was standing a pace away from the Wedge’s side as Wedge took his position at the podium, closer than he’d been in recent briefings. Both men’s body language was relaxed and easy.
“Are you seeing what I’m seeing ?” Wes whispered.
Hobbie didn’t have the chance to answer, as Wedge began speaking.
“Good morning, everybody. First of all, I’d like to say that I’m very pleased with the way yesterday’s sim session went.” He looked at one of the new pilots, a male Duros. “Stasi, well done on your slingshot manoeuvre around the asteroid. You timed it very well but a little more communication with your wingmate might have got an even better end result. That’s something for us all to remember.”
Wedge added praise to the other two new squadron members, before announcing some changes for the next sim. “Stasi, I want you to fly as Twelve, as Inyri’s wingmate. Tanis, you’re Three, alongside Hobbie.” The Rodian nodded, glancing at Hobbie. “And Iantha, you’ll be flying as Six, alongside Wes.”
Wes grinned and waved at the tall, copper-skinned woman. Her black eyes flashed as she stared coolly back.
“We’ll be running variations on the scenarios we’ve just done for the next couple of days,” Wedge continued. “I’ll look at those and talk to you all individually before settling on the final arrangement of the squad. It’ll have to be settled very soon, because we’ll be going into action in about three weeks.”
Wedge paused, waiting until the murmur of sounds from the pilots died away. He smiled again, looking confident, then settled to a more serious expression.
“The next information is confidential and not to be discussed with, or within earshot of, anyone outside this room. The New Republic’s next military move has been decided, and the first stages planned out and agreed upon. The overall intention is to clean out the Inner Core, where a number of former Imperial Moffs and Commanders have taken refuge, and effectively gone rogue. A lot of political strategy went into deciding how to approach the problem of dealing with the warlords, but you lot, fortunately for you, don’t need to worry about any of that. All you have to worry about is flying and fighting. Which, believe me, is a lot less deadly than a Ruling Council meeting.”
There were ripples of laughter from the pilots. Wedge glanced at Tycho, half-smiling, then carried on. Hobbie listened as Wedge outlined the opening campaign against Lord High Admiral Harrsk. Rogue Squadron were to perform some high-profile actions against very specific targets. With his attention on the tasks that lay ahead, Hobbie temporarily forgot about anything else.
The briefing lasted for nearly an hour altogether. When Wedge dismissed them, most of the pilots stood up, stretching, and talking amongst themselves. There was a general move to the lounge to get caf. Hobbie watched from his seat as Wedge turned to Tycho, smiling at him with obvious affection. Tycho returned the smile and the two commanding officers left together, shoulder to shoulder.
Gavin leaned forwards, his head between Hobbie and Wes.
“I’m kind of wondering if maybe Wedge did sleep in,” he said quietly, as the last of the other pilots left the briefing room. “Were you seeing the same holo I think I was seeing ?”
Hobbie glanced at Wes, who had a merry look in his eyes. “What holo was that, Gavin ?”
The young man frowned. “Wedge and Tycho have been acting funny lately. Tense, and, well, formal around one another. But today Wedge comes bounding in, late, and looking like a whisperkit that got the cream. He and Tycho keep grinning at one another, they both look kind of excited about something but it doesn’t seem like anything to do with the squadron.” Gavin paused. “They look like they just hooked up last night,” he blurted out.
Wes laughed. “I forget you’re not as young as I keep thinking you are. That’s how it looked to me, too.”
Gavin grinned, looking relieved. “I left Tatooine over three years ago, Wes. But why has it taken so long for them to get together ?”
“Because they’re not allowed to,” Hobbie told him flatly.
“What !” Gavin stared at him with disbelief. “Whyever not ?”
“How many homosexual couples do you know of in the military ?” Hobbie asked.
Gavin thought for a moment. “None,” he answered slowly. “I can’t even think of anyone who’s openly homosexual – not until Wedge told me a few days ago. I’d never given it much thought, though I did wonder about him occasionally. Even in Anchorhead, there were a few homosexuals, but I don’t seem to have met any since joining the New Republic.”
“That’s because there’s a regulation forbidding same-sex relationships in the military,” Hobbie told him.
“That’s ridiculous !” Gavin protested.
Hobbie nodded, and explained the background. “It also means that if Wedge and Tycho are together, they are in serious breach of regulations,” he finished.
Gavin looked troubled. “They couldn’t seriously discipline Wedge for who he falls love with.”
“Technically, they can.” Hobbie told him. He shot a look at Wes, who wore a serious expression now. “I don’t think Admiral Ackbar would want to but he could put a lot of pressure on Wedge. Wedge’s position is a double-edged vibroblade: he’s popular enough and respected enough to get away with things that others couldn’t. On the other hand, Ackbar might think that if Wedge is allowed to get away with flouting the rules, then it sets a bad example to others. If others breach regulations and are punished, then it looks like favouritism towards Wedge and Tycho. If no one is punished, then what’s to stop them from breaking other rules ? Either way, it weakens discipline.”
Gavin nodded soberly. “Which is bad for the military as a whole.”
“So Wedge’s superiors really, really don’t need to know about this,” Wes said. “Wedge and Tycho will have to be discreet and so will their friends.”
Hobbie looked straight at Gavin. “You won’t be the only one not aware of this regulation. Somehow, it’s never been much of an issue, except for those it affects directly. We’ve all been too busy just trying to stay alive to do anything about it. Most people won’t realize that Wedge and Tycho are doing something that’s technically wrong so there’s no reason for them to not gossip about it.”
“It’s not wrong though, is it ?” Gavin insisted. “Just different, like me loving Asyr.”
Hobbie nodded. “Exactly, Gavin. I said technically wrong because it breaches regulations, even if the regulations are unfair. We can’t change the regs but we can protect Wedge and Tycho. We have to pass word around the squadron quietly – remind people of the regulation so that no one accidentally draws attention to them.”
“Yes.” Gavin frowned again. “We may be guessing wrong, of course; you two know them better than I do.” He looked at them for confirmation.
Hobbie shared a long look with Wes. “I think Wedge and Tycho would have become lovers years ago if not for that regulation. I don’t know what’s changed now but I’d say you’re right, Gavin. Wedge is pure Corellian; if the rules don’t suit him, he’ll bend them till they do, and he’ll sweep Tycho along with him.”
“Tycho wouldn’t put up much resistance to Wedge,” Wes added.
“Well, I’ll do what I can to help them,” Gavin promised. “They deserve to be in love and to be happy.” He paused and blinked a couple of times, his eyes suspiciously bright. “Everyone has that right,” he added, before abruptly standing up. “I’ll be discreet,” he promised, before leaving the briefing room.
Hobbie knew he was remembering Asyr; her death was still a healing wound in the young man’s heart. He sighed, and stood slowly. “I need caf.”
“Me too,” Wes said. “And we’d better have a talk with some of the youngsters.”
Together, they left the quiet room.
I guess I should have included Wedge and Tycho in that memo, Hobbie thought, watching them in the officer’s mess that evening.
They had arrived together, which wasn’t unusual. What was new, was their obvious affection for one another. It was expressed mostly in looks and smiles, but it was there in their overall body language and the occasional, lingering touch. Friends from other units naturally stopped to greet them and Hobbie saw more than one glance thoughtfully at the pair, reading the new signals. While Wedge and Tycho looked happier than they had in months, Hobbie was growing more agitated.
At last, he could no longer contain himself. Wedge got up to go to the bar; he put his hand on Tycho’s shoulder, then bent to give him a quick kiss before he moved away. Hobbie drained his glass and stood up too. Wes gave him a sharp glance, but Tycho was chatting to Inyri and didn’t seem to notice anything unusual.
Hobbie caught up with Wedge as he joined the crowd around the bar. Wedge smiled broadly at him.
“Have you tried the Kuat ale yet ? It’s pretty good,” Wedge said.
Hobbie shook his head. “Can I have a word with you ?” he asked quietly. “Somewhere a bit more private ?”
Wedge studied him, the smile fading. After a moment he turned and led Hobbie to a quiet corner. “What is it ?”
Hobbie swallowed. “Is this a good idea, Wedge ?”
“What, getting a drink ? I’d say that’s a good idea.”
“You know what I mean. You and Tycho being so together in public.”
Wedge’s face took on a stubborn expression that made Hobbie’s heart sink.
“Why shouldn’t we be ? We’re in love, just like those two over there.” He gestured towards a man and a woman sitting at a nearby table.
“They’re not breaking any regulations, Wedge.” Hobbie sighed. “Look, I’m on your side and I want you to be happy together, but that isn’t going to happen if you get hauled up on charges. I was going to be discreet about your relationship, and so was everyone else in the squadron. But you two sit in a busy bar, acting love-struck, and just in case someone hasn’t read your signals, you go and kiss Tycho, in public. That’s not discreet, Wedge.”
Wedge’s eyes flashed. “I’ve wasted seven years I could have spent with Tycho because of that piece of discrimination Ackbar introduced. We’ve both had enough of being forced to deny ourselves of love. I won’t let anyone make me act ashamed of what I am. I love him, and I’m not going to hide it. I’m going to do my damnedest to get that regulation removed so that everybody in the New Republic has the right to love whom they want.”
Hobbie thought before he answered. “Be careful. You’re committing yourself, and Tycho, to a battle, but you’re not planning your strategy as carefully as usual. You’re provoking the enemy when you haven’t got the resources to defend against an attack.”
Wedge shook his head. “Never tell a Corellian the odds, Hobbie.” He turned sharply and strode towards the bar.
But Tycho’s in this with you and he’s not a Corellian. I don’t know if this is a battle you can win, Wedge. Hobbie moved slowly towards the other end of the bar. But I want you to; really I do.
Wedge didn’t dismiss Hobbie’s warning, but he didn’t feel inclined to act on it either. After so many years of repression and uncertainty, he’d committed himself to his love for Tycho, and for him, only Tycho had the power to end the relationship. There was a heady freedom, a rightness, in being able to admit his true nature once again. He wanted to share his love, to be openly proud of the man by his side.
After the misery of the previous days, Wedge found himself filled with a new energy. The datawork seemed less oppressive, and he flew in the sims with a daring and brilliance that drew the rest of the Rogues along to achieve astonishing results. It was amazing how much energy he had, considering how little sleep he was getting. Every night, he and Tycho continued to explore one another, delighting in finding new ways to please each other. Some nights it would be a long, sensual session that took its time to build to an explosive climax. Other nights they just repeatedly sucked and fucked until they collapsed to sleep, bodies sated. Wedge felt he hadn’t been so happy since the death of his parents had abruptly ended his childhood.
Just one week after that tempestuous visit to Tycho’s quarters, Wedge was reviewing the squad’s last sim when he received an unexpected summons to Admiral Ackbar’s office. He could have been called for a variety of reasons, but Wedge still felt a faint twist of apprehension in his stomach as he entered and saluted.
“General Antilles, reporting, sir.”
Admiral Ackbar returned the salute and gestured for Wedge to sit down.
For once, the humid atmosphere of the Mon Calamari’s office felt oppressive to Wedge. He studied the admiral on the other side of the desk, trying to read the non-human’s body language. Ackbar shifted restlessly in his chair, his barbels twitching, before he spoke.
“General Antilles, I asked you to come because, I’m afraid, I’ve heard some disturbing rumours about you recently.”
Wedge’s heart sank. So soon ! I hoped for much longer before it came to this. He didn’t speak though; he merely kept his face still and waited for Ackbar to continue.
Ackbar moved his flippered hands restlessly. “The rumours are of inappropriate behaviour,” he said slowly.
How can loving a consenting adult be inappropriate ? Wedge managed to avoid scowling, and simply waited, forcing the admiral to be specific.
There was a short silence before Ackbar raised his hands.
“General Antilles, are you in a physical relationship with Colonel Celchu ?”
Wedge blinked, willing himself to stay calm. “Yes, sir, I am.”
Ackbar flinched a little, his barbels swaying. He took his time before speaking again and when he did, his voice was lower and more gravelly than usual.
“General Antilles, you are aware that regulation 117/A forbids same-sex relationships within the New Republic military ?”
It was a superfluous question, as Ackbar already knew the answer, but Wedge guessed that the admiral was hoping he would lie, or make some excuse, which would leave some room for bargaining. However, Wedge was in no mood to compromise.
“Yes, sir. I am fully aware of that regulation.”
Ackbar lifted his head and rolled one eye to focus on Wedge.
“Then you admit that you and Colonel Celchu have committed a serious breach of military regulations ?”
Wedge took a deep breath. “We have broken a regulation which never should have existed. It’s blatant discrimination, there are laws throughout the New Republic against such discrimination and it goes against everything that the New Republic stands for. Everything that I’ve spent my life fighting for.”
“Regardless of your personal opinion, 117/A is still a current military regulation and you have sworn an oath to obey those regulations.”
Wedge fought down a flare of anger. It’s not just my opinion – it’s the opinion of most species in the galaxy.
“I could have both you and Colonel Celchu arrested now, and court-martialled for your breach of regulations,” Ackbar continued. He sighed. “I have a great deal of respect for you, Wedge. From a personal point of view, I would be sorry to take such an action.”
“Then don’t,” Wedge said. “Leave us in peace and let us get on with our jobs.”
Ackbar made a wet, indignant sound of disapproval. “I cannot do that. The military cannot function if discipline is ignored. General Antilles, I order you to cease your relationship with Colonel Celchu.”
Wedge shook his head. He should have been alarmed, or dismayed, but he was too angry to be worried.
“I cannot and will not,” he said. “Your regulation is discrimination and I am about to submit a proposal to have it abolished.”
“No ! Wedge – this is not the time. We are about to begin…”
“Unless someone forces the issue, it will be never the right time in your opinion.” Wedge interrupted his commanding officer in mid-sentence. Ackbar’s body-language was stiff with offence as Wedge ploughed on. “I have to submit it to you, but I’m going to ensure that enough people know about it, that you won’t be able to sink it quietly with excuses about it not being the right time. Because we are the military and there will always be some action on hand, somewhere in the galaxy, otherwise there would be no point in having a military.”
Ackbar didn’t reply immediately. He sat in silence for a minute, barbels trembling, then abruptly turned and adjusted a dial built into his desk. Within a few moments, Wedge felt the air in the room become more moist and clammy. The admiral took a few deep breaths of the damp air before swivelling both amber eyes to fix on Wedge.
“General, even if you succeed with your proposal, it is not in effect now,” Ackbar said slowly. “We have both fought long and hard, and given much to create this New Republic. Rogue Squadron has been an important part of that fight. From both a military and personal point of view, it would be preferable for you to remain in command of the Rogues.”
He paused, and Wedge waited impatiently, his heart racing, to hear the rest.
“I could, possibly should, order you arrested and court-martialled for your insubordination and your shameless breach of regulations. Instead, I will demote you to the rank of colonel and leave you in command of Rogue Squadron.”
Wedge started to breathe out, then Ackbar continued.
“This is on the condition that you cease your relationship and Colonel Celchu is also demoted and transfers to another squadron. If you refuse to co-operate, Colonel Celchu will be court-martialled and discharged in disgrace.”
Wedge blinked, thinking furiously. The admiral’s offer showed how much he wanted Wedge to stay with the Rogues and keep a position of command. Tycho, on the other hand, was clearly more expendable: he could be sacrificed in order to keep Wedge where Ackbar wanted him. If Tycho were dismissed in disgrace, he’d never be able to serve again, and would have to build a new life for himself.
Tycho is not expendable – not to me.
Wedge sat very straight in his chair. “I’m sorry, sir. We have agreed that if you will not permit us to serve together, as we wish, then Tycho and I will both resign our commissions."
Admiral Ackbar shook his head slowly. “General Antilles, I had hoped you would not use this threat again.”
“It’s not a threat. If you force me, I’ll send in my resignation so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
“And abandon your squadron ? Deprive your pilots of their two most senior officers barely a week before a major campaign ? I thought better of you, General Antilles.”
Resentment and guilt tore at Wedge as he glared across the desk. He really didn’t want to leave his pilots in the lurch, especially so close to a war, but he hated the way Ackbar used his conscience against him. He absently tugged at the collar of his uniform, vaguely aware that his skin was uncomfortably clammy.
“If you want me with the Rogues, you’ll have to take me and Tycho together, or not at all,” he demanded recklessly.
Ackbar made an explosive sound. “General Antilles, you are in no position to bargain with me. You have shamelessly breached regulations, been insubordinate and by threatening to resign so close to military actions, are in danger of committing treason.” His pink skin was flushed darker and his mouth was open as he breathed heavily in the moist air.
Wedge knew that the admiral’s accusations were true. But you’ve forced me into this position ! He impatiently brushed sweaty hair away from his eyes. “I will not forsake Tycho,” he vowed.
Admiral Ackbar laid his flippered hands flat on his desk. “You have twenty four hours to make a final decision, General. Either Colonel Celchu transfers to another squadron, or he will be court-martialled and dismissed in disgrace. Regulation 117/A continues applies to you in both cases, so your relationship with him must cease with immediate effect.”
Wedge’s heart was in his boots, but anger kept his head up. He sucked in a deep breath of moist, unpleasant air.
“Will that be all, sir ?” His voice was cool.
Ackbar nodded. “Dismissed.”
Wedge rose and saluted, before spinning on his heel and striding from the admiral’s office.
Tycho frowned as he considered his next words. Wedge had been asked to contribute to a report on the future development of the X-wings, and had delegated the bulk of the job to his second. They’d discussed the starfighters together, and gathered opinions from the rest of the squadron. Tycho had the job of writing up their suggestions for Wedge to read and amend before submitting. As he started to type the next sentence, Tycho’s comlink chimed. He sighed impatiently and picked it up.
“Tycho, I’m at the bar – the officers’ mess. We need to talk.” Wedge’s voice was tense.
“What, now ? It’s the middle of the afternoon. Why ?” Tycho frowned.
“I’ve just been talking to Admiral Ackbar: he called me to his office.”
Tycho felt suddenly sick. “Was it about us ?”
“Yes. We need to talk.”
Tycho took a deep breath and tried to think. “Is…is the officers’ mess the best place to talk ?”
There was a pause. “Probably not,” Wedge answered. “Come to my quarters.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Tycho promised. “I love you,” he added impulsively.
“I love you, too.”
A minute ago, the report on developing X-wings had seemed important. Now, Tycho closed the file in mid-sentence. His computer was still shutting itself down as he grabbed his jacket and left the office.
Wedge was already back at his quarters when Tycho arrived and let himself in. He hastily put down his half-full glass of brandy and strode across the room. They hugged fiercely, Tycho taking a half-step back to balance himself as Wedge pressed against him so strongly. Wedge released him enough to turn his head and kiss Tycho, passing on the taste of the brandy. His body was tense and he held Tycho to himself tightly
At last the kiss broke. Tycho studied Wedge with concern, noticing his hair was spiky in places, as though he’d been sweating. He gently brushed his fingers through the dark hair, smoothing it down. Wedge relaxed fractionally, though his mottled eyes were still bright with anger. Tycho was almost frightened by the fury he knew Wedge was restraining: it was something very rare, but when Wedge fought with anger as well as his usual cool skill, he could be ruthless. Whatever Admiral Ackbar had said, it had to have been something severe to provoke Wedge so much. Tycho’s last hopes of happiness together within the military were scorched away by the fire in Wedge’s eyes. Looking at Wedge, so vibrantly alive and passionate, Tycho’s courage rose, and he loved him more than ever.
“Tell me,” Tycho said. “Tell me what Ackbar said.”
“We both get demoted a rank, but that’s…” Wedge let go of Tycho briefly to make a dismissive gesture with one hand. “Ackbar gave me a choice. We split, and you transfer to another squadron. Or if we refuse to co-operate, you’ll be court-martialled and dismissed the service. We’ll be forced even further apart. Either way, I’m to stay with the Rogues.”
Tycho drew in a sharp breath. He didn’t know what hurt more: being forced to leave Wedge or knowing that the service he’d served for so long was willing to use him as a tool and throw him away if necessary. He swallowed hard, and looked at Wedge.
“When do we have to decide ?”
“He gave me twenty-four hours.”
Only twenty-four hours ! But then, it didn’t really matter if it were six hours or forty-eight. Having more time to think about it wouldn’t make the decision any easier. Tycho trembled slightly as he thought.
“If I’m dismissed, I’ll be stuck here on Coruscant while you’re away in the Inner Core. I’d rather be there too, in touch with you and doing something useful rather than fretting away here,” Tycho reasoned. “I think Pash would accept me into his squad.”
“Is that what you really want ?” Wedge demanded.
“No.” Tycho didn’t have to think about his answer.
“Ackbar isn’t going to let us have what we really want and I don’t feel like giving him what he wants,” Wedge said determinedly. “My feelings for you are not a bargaining tool. We’ve given in on this for long enough, and so has every other homosexual in the military. I won’t give you up now, Tycho; I’ll resign. I’ll go public about why I’m resigning and use every bit of fame and influence I’ve got to bring attention to this discrimination.” He paused and looked anxiously at Tycho. “I don’t have to specifically mention you,” he added.
“If you’re resigning, I’m resigning too,” Tycho said, certain of himself. “Even if I say it’s just to support you, everyone will assume we’re in a relationship. I’m not going to hide or deny anything any longer. I love you, Wedge, and I don’t care if the rest of the galaxy knows it.”
Wedge smiled. “I want the galaxy to know I love you. Fuck Ackbar and fuck Starfighter Command.” The smile turned into a grin. “Actually, I have a better idea. Fuck me, Tycho. Let’s go and fuck one another senseless, right now.”
Fear and defiance burned into a hot rush of lust that rose from Tycho’s loins. Impulsively, Tycho scooped Wedge into his arms and carried him into the bedroom to do just that.