The words came more easily than Wedge expected. He was clear in his own mind about why he was choosing to die and knew what effect he wanted his suicide to achieve. While he worked, Tycho rigged a holocam to take pictures and transmit them to Wedge’s datapad. They settled on the times to send the various messages, and worked back from those to fix a time for their deaths. The message to Hobbie and Wes was the hardest to record, and Wedge was glad for Tycho’s input. When both of them were happy with their last public words, they checked one another’s work.
At 05:45, a message from Wedge announcing his intent to commit suicide along with his lover, and their reason for it, accompanied by a holofilm of their deaths, would be sent to most news networks on Coruscant. Wedge guessed that most of the networks would only show carefully chosen still images of their bodies but the film would help convince editors that their deaths were real, not posed images. The same package of information would be sent via holonet to major news networks on a dozen other worlds, including Corellia. Ten minutes later, a personal message would go to Wes and Hobbie’s comlinks, which would wake them. They should be able to get to Wedge’s quarters before Command had a chance to react to the breaking news.
When he was satisfied that everything was ready, Wedge looked at the chrono.
Not quite five hours left to be together. Will it fly past too soon or will we be waiting forever for it to be time for us to pluck up our courage and kill one another ? I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you, Tycho, and I will. I’d just hoped for it to be longer.
Tycho came over and put his arm around Wedge’s shoulders.
“I wish it hadn’t come to this but I’m grateful for some things about dying this way.”
Wedge looked at him in surprise.
“I always dreaded being wounded and crippled in some way,” Tycho confessed. “This will be quick and final. No lingering, no being trapped in a damaged body. And I was also scared that that could happen to you; I hated the thought of you being anything less than yourself. I also hated the thought of you getting killed, alone in your X-wing or ejected into space. Now I know that I’ll be with you when you die. And you’ll be with me as I die.”
“And if death is a transition from one state to another, we’ll see each other again on the other side,” Wedge said.
“And if not, I’m happy to have known you and loved you in this life.”
Wedge’s heart seemed to swell in his chest, and for a moment he couldn’t speak. He took Tycho’s hand, then tugged him in the direction of the bedroom.
“Come on, I want to use the time we have left telling you how much I love you, with my body as well as my voice.”
The bedroom had been tidied and Tycho had remade the bed neatly, with fresh sheets. Wedge glanced once at the waiting holocam and then shut it from his mind. Instead, he reached for Tycho’s tunic, sliding his hands underneath, then lifted it up and over Tycho’s head. They undressed one another slowly, dropping light kisses onto revealed flesh. As they stood naked before one another, Wedge put his hand flat on Tycho’s chest, over his heart. Tycho’s skin was warm, and his chest moved gently under Wedge’s hand as he breathed.
I can feel your life in you, Tycho. And soon I’ll be taking that life from you. This strong, toned body I love will become empty and useless. The shape of you, but not you; just something to be disposed of tidily. I can see you, hear you, touch you, smell you and taste you: my body gives me all these sensations to be savoured. And I will make no protest or struggle when you plunge a knife into me and turn this living, feeling body into inert flesh.
“Do you feel as alive as I do ?” he asked.
“Yes.” Tycho’s voice was rough. “I’m going to die in less than five hours. I want to experience everything I can in that time. I want to experience everything I can about you, Wedge.”
They embraced, then slipped into the waiting bed. At first, they just clung together, softly kissing. As the minutes passed, the affection became more sensual. Mouths opened and tongues touched; hands stroked and caressed. As Tycho shifted position, Wedge moved away and sat up. He smiled at Tycho, liking the way his dishevelled hair hung over his forehead, than turned to the nightstand. Picking up the bottle of Whyren’s Reserve, he poured two generous glassfuls, and passed one to Tycho, who had also sat up. Wedge raised his glass.
“To love; for everyone.”
“To love, in whatever form,” Tycho answered.
Wedge took a generous sip, letting the whiskey pool on his tongue for a few moments before swallowing. He savoured the woody taste and the warmth spreading from his mouth down to his belly. He circled his glass, watching the amber liquid swirl inside, then knocked it back in a couple of mouthfuls. The spirit scorched its way down, producing a brief, light-headed rush. Tycho’s second taste was a more cautious sip.
“Drink up,” Wedge urged. “There’s no reason not to be a little crazy.”
Tycho stubbornly took another sip. “I don’t have your Corellian head for alcohol.”
Wedge set his glass on the nightstand and grinned. “I thought you liked Corellian head.” His hand slid down Tycho’s stomach to his groin. “And Corellian butt, and Corellian cock.”
Tycho hastily plonked his glass onto his nightstand and parted his legs to allow Wedge to cup his balls. “You know what I love about you ?”
“My tactical genius ?” Wedge grasped Tycho’s stiffening penis. “My skill with a joystick ?”
Tycho whimpered slightly before speaking. “Your dirty mind.”
He continued to demonstrate his skill at manipulating a joystick, to Tycho’s great satisfaction. Tycho returned the favour, adding mouth and tongue to his skilled hands.
With their immediate needs taken care of, they began the bittersweet process of indulging themselves in one another’s physicality. They stroked, massaged and kissed each other from head to toe. Sometimes Wedge would be exploring Tycho, brushing his pale skin with his lips, listening to his heart beating, inhaling the musky scent of his groin or just gazing into the crystal blue eyes. Other times, he lay back, indulged and pampered by Tycho’s touch and his love.
He’d never been so aware of his body. Wedge felt the cool softness of the sheet below him and its difference to the warmth of Tycho’s skin. He was aware of his muscles as he moved, and the way Tycho’s hands eased the knots of tension from his back. His heart beat strongly and his lungs filled with life-giving air and sank again as he breathed out. Nerves relayed cool, warm, position, discomfort and pleasure as the time passed. All was in perfect working order and Wedge gloried in it.
They made love fiercely, Wedge taking Tycho from behind. Afterwards, they lay together and talked of times past. They talked of friends, happy times and triumphs, sharing lives well lived. The talk turned more intimate, revealing the years of unfulfilled longing. Soon, they were consoling themselves for the lost time with touching and kisses. The intrusion of a beeping alarm warned them that time was running out. As they had done the first time, they made love face to face.
As Tycho entered him, Wedge was suddenly, brutally aware that this would be the last time. Shock jolted through him and his rhythm faltered.
“Are you all right ?” Tycho’s face showed his concern.
Lying with his lover in his arms and in his body, Wedge recalled his resolve that no other lovers should be denied this bliss because they were the same sex.
“I was just remembering why we decided to sacrifice all this,” he replied.
Tycho nodded. “At least we got to share our love. There must have been thousands of New Republic soldiers who died without getting a chance to enjoy love. That must not continue.”
Wedge moved one hand to the back of Tycho’s neck. “I love you.”
Tycho’s reply was lost as Wedge pulled him down into a kiss.
Wedge surrendered himself to the lovemaking. It was slow and tender at first. Every cell of his body was primed, alive, tuned to the sensations that Tycho created within him. Wedge felt the intensity rising throughout his body as it became tauter, his hard cock sliding back and forth between their stomachs in rhythm to Tycho’s thrusts into his body. With every gasp and shiver he was aware that this was the last time. His mind wanted to delay the climax, to hang on to precious, exhilarating life, but his body was in command now, urgently seeking release. The tension between mind and body finally fuelled an explosive orgasm, tearing a sobbing cry from him as he came. Tycho gasped his name as he pounded hard into Wedge’s shaking body; a few moments later he came too.
At first, all they could do was to lie limply together, bodies joined. As his breathing slowed and the last, delicious tensions turned to languor, Wedge turned his head enough to kiss Tycho’s cheek. Tycho unpeeled himself from Wedge’s torso and settled next to him. He quirked a smile.
“Talk about going out with a bang.”
“It felt like a star going nova inside my head,” Wedge answered, smiling in return.
“You’re not the only one good with his joystick,” Tycho said smugly.
Wedge laughed. It seemed odd to be laughing, under the circumstances, but he felt content.
It’s been a short life, by normal standards, but a long one for a snubfighter pilot. I’ve risked death to help change the galaxy – and I can see the difference I’ve made – and now I’m about to die to bring about another change. Best of all, I’ve been blessed by the love of this brave, loyal, gorgeous man.
“I feel like the luckiest man in the galaxy,” Wedge said.
Tycho shook his head. “No, that’s me. For having you in my life.”
“And in your bed.”
“It’s actually your bed, Wedge.”
“Technically, it belongs to Starfighter Command. By tomorrow night, it’ll either be in a trash compactor or sold as a macabre souvenir.”
“Command don’t have that much imagination,” Tycho said. “I bet trash compactor.”
“I bet they clean it, store it a while, then issue it to someone else, to save money.”
“No fair, changing the bet…”
Tycho was interrupted by a trill from the alarm. It was the cue that the holocam would begin recording in two minutes.
They kissed once, then Wedge rolled over to pick up the two vibroblades from his nightstand. Tycho pushed back the crumpled top sheet that covered their legs, leaving them fully exposed to the holocam. He took one of the knives, then, after another kiss, they settled on their sides, facing one another. A faint beep from the holocam signalled that it was now recording.
Wedge looked into Tycho’s eyes, again amazed at how perfectly blue they were.
“On my mark,” he said steadily.
Wedge had to break his gaze briefly, looking down to check the position of his vibroblade, as did Tycho. The tip of the blade just touched Tycho’s pale skin, to the immediate left of his sternum. The point of Tycho’s knife pressed delicately against his own chest in the same way. Wedge’s heart was beating fast, adrenaline tingling in his body, but as he looked into Tycho’s eyes again, he was reassured. He thumbed the switch on the vibroblade, and a moment later, Tycho did the same.
“I love you.”
Tycho blinked once. “I love you.”
So many years we waited to say those words ! No one should be forbidden from declaring their love. Wedge tightened his grip on the blade and spoke.
He thrust his blade forward; it sliced into Tycho’s chest with almost no resistance. Simultaneously, he felt a sharp scratch on his skin and the odd sensation of something sliding deep into his own chest. Tycho’s eyes widened and Wedge knew his own expression must be much the same. He felt the blade move through his heart and the shock hit him, as he clumsily shifted his own blade around inside Tycho’s chest to open the wound further. There was curiously little pain, but a sense of urgency hit him and he tried to pull his vibroblade free, out of the way. Tycho pulled out his own blade and lifted his arm over Wedge; he let the knife drop and pulled Wedge closer. As he did, Wedge slid his vibroblade out of Tycho’s chest and let it fall onto the bed between them. He raised a heavy arm and draped it over Tycho’s body as they pressed themselves together.
Legs and arms tangled as they lay pressed belly to belly. Wedge could feel the warmth of Tycho’s skin against his, and the ooze of their lifeblood as it mingled and seeped between their bodies. They gazed into one another’s eyes, soaking up the sight of one another.
“I love you.”
Wedge kissed him, hard. So close together, he closed his eyes. absorbing Tycho’s presence by touch. He could feel the smooth skin and taut muscles of Tycho’s back under his hand. Tycho’s legs brushed against his own. Wedge could feel Tycho’s chest moving against his as they breathed. It was just like that first, beautiful night they had spent making love to one another, fulfilling their longings. Tycho’s mouth moved against his own mouth, yielding, loving, warm. The rest of reality seemed to be growing blurry and dim, but so long as Wedge could feel Tycho’s lips on his, he didn’t care. He would die satisfied, after so many years of denial.
Tycho coughed suddenly, breaking the kiss. Wedge opened his eyes and saw blood spilling from Tycho’s mouth. There was no comforting fantasy any more; his lover was dying. He looked into Tycho’s blue eyes once more, seeing his own love reflected there. Silently, they said farewell with their eyes.
It’s unfair ! I love him ! There should be no need for this. Tycho, I wanted to live with you forever.
Tycho’s eyes were bright with tears. Wedge was feeling vague and drowsy now. It was an effort to move, but he shifted his head enough to touch Tycho’s mouth with his own again, one last time. He tasted the blood, tasted salty tears, tasted Tycho.
All I want. You, Tycho. Tych…
Wedge’s mouth softened and slid away from Tycho’s lips as Wedge’s whole body relaxed in his grasp. Tycho opened his eyes, fighting to focus on Wedge’s face. Wedge looked peaceful, his eyes closed and a few strands of dark hair drifted across his forehead. Tycho couldn’t tell if he were still breathing or not. His vision was dimming as he fixed his eyes on Wedge’s face. It was all he could see now, and there was nothing else he wanted to see.
Vision faded away to nothingness.
The beeping of his comlink summoned Hobbie from his sleep. Cursing, he reached for it, blinking at the glowing numbers on the chrono beside his bed.
“Major Klivian,” he mumbled, though adrenaline was starting to kick in. A call this early might only be one of Wes’ pranks, but could mean urgent business.
“Hobbie and Wes.” It was Wedge’s voice; he sounded sombre. “You will both be receiving this message at the same time. I’m very sorry to have to send this, but I hope you will be able to forgive me in time, me and Tycho both.”
Hobbie sat up in bed, suddenly awake.
“You both know that Tycho and I were in breach of regulation 117/A. Yesterday, Admiral Ackbar issued me with an ultimatum in regard of that breach. It became clear to us that the New Republic military valued as us soldiers, but not as individuals, because of our sexuality. We could no longer stay in the military, nor did we wish to. I intended to resign, and to draw public attention to the discrimination which had forced us to resign. Unfortunately, our timing was bad. With the Harrsk campaign upcoming, it was made clear to me that if I tried to make a fuss, I would be disgraced and silenced. Tycho and I have agreed that no one else must be discriminated against and caused pain the way we have been. Nor will we be silenced.”
Wedge’s voice paused. Hobbie waited, a sense of dread deepening.
“We’re sorry for the trouble our actions will cause you,” Wedge continued. “By the time you get this message, we will be dead. A message explaining our decision in detail, and with holofilm of our deaths, will have been sent out to newservices across Coruscant and to other planets. Please, will you both go to my quarters immediately ? I can’t order you as your commander; I’m asking you as my friends. As soon as Command get to hear the news, they will be all over my quarters. I don’t want them to be able to clear things up and claim it was all some kind of misunderstanding.” Wedge sighed. “I’m so sorry to dump this mess on you. And Rogue Squadron too, Hobbie. I know you aren’t ambitious for command, but I wasn’t either; you’ll do fine. Wes will be a sound XO for you, but give Gavin some command experience when you can. I think he’s got the making of a great officer. I wish I’d been able to say farewell to you properly, but I’ve not had enough time.”
There was a brief pause, then Tycho spoke.
“I know you’ll find it hard to understand, but we really have to do this. We’re all soldiers, and we all decided that we’d be willing to die for a good cause. That’s exactly what Wedge and I are planning to do tonight. It’s been good to serve with you both, Hobbie and Wes, and even better to have you as my friends. I’m sorry to leave you so abruptly. Goodbye.” The last word was spoken by Tycho and Wedge together.
Hobbie listened to the hum of static at the end of the message for a moment, then switched his comlink off. After a moment’s stunned pause, he threw back the cover and bounded from his bed, heading for the bedroom door. Just before reaching it, he stopped and turned back, belatedly realizing he was naked. Hastily pulling on his uniform, Hobbie headed out again, still straightening his clothes. When the door to his quarters opened, he dashed out and almost collided with Wes, who was just about to push the buzzer. Wes’ hair was spiky and his tunic was on inside out.
“You got the same message ?” he asked urgently.
Hobbie just nodded. As one, they turned and ran for the turbolifts.
Standing in the car as it rose, Wes asked,
“You don’t think this could be a really sick prank by Wedge, do you ?”
Hobbie simply looked at him.
“I didn’t think so either,” Wes admitted, his shoulders slumping.
When they arrived at Wedge’s quarters, Hobbie lifted his hand to the buzzer and hesitated. Wes impatiently pushed in, mashing his thumb against the button. As they waited, Hobbie smoothed his sleep-dishevelled hair back from his forehead. Wes fidgeted, shifting his weight from foot to foot. The seconds stretched into something that seemed far longer than a minute as they waited for a reply.
Hobbie snapped first, entering the access code into the lock with sharp stabs of his finger. When the door hissed open, they entered together, looking around.
“Wedge ? Are you here ?”
Hobbie spotted the used bowls and glasses on the table.
“That’s bad.” He pointed them out to Wes. “They’re both tidy.”
Wes headed across the living room. “The light’s on in the bedroom,” he called.
Hobbie hurried after him. Wes waited, looking back anxiously as Hobbie caught up.
“I can’t hear anything.” His voice was strained.
“We have to go look.”
They entered the bedroom, Hobbie slightly in the lead. The room was unnaturally quiet and still, in spite of the two men lying together on the bed. They were naked, but neither moved or responded in any way as Hobbie and Wes approached them. Wedge and Tycho lay face to face, arms around one another. As Hobbie got closer, he saw the bloodied vibroblade behind Wedge, just below Tycho’s fingers, and dried blood staining the sheet below Wedge’s body.
“Sithspit, sithspit, sithspit.” Wes cursed softly and continuously.
Hobbie stopped by the edge of the bed and looked down at his friends. Wedge’s eyes were closed, and although pale, he looked peaceful, as though asleep. There was smeared, congealed blood around Tycho’s mouth. His eyes were open, fixed sightlessly on Wedge’s face. Hobbie knew it was a futile gesture, but he pressed his fingers against Wedge’s neck anyway. The skin was still warm, but there was no pulse. He shook his head.
“Wedge looks…content,” Wes whispered.
“He died in the arms of the man he loved,” Hobbie replied. “And Tycho died looking at the man he loved.”
“They…they shouldn’t’ be dead !” Wes exploded. “All they wanted was to be like this during their lives – with the person they loved. We can’t let Command destroy this, or hush it up.”
Hobbie tore his gaze away from his dead friends. As he glanced about the room, he spotted the holocam.
“Wedge said he was sending holos to the media….” He spun and hurried back into the living room. Snatching up the controller, he switched on the holovee. A female newscaster appeared, with a large image of Wedge’s face behind her.
“…his message, General Antilles says that his suicide, and that of his partner, Colonel Tycho Celchu, is a direct consequence of this policy banning same-sex relationships in the New Republic military. We have no independent confirmation yet of the officers’ deaths, but there is a holo which appears to show them committing suicide together.”
The image behind her changed to a still holo of Wedge and Tycho lying together on their bed. Hobbie quickly changed the channel. He found a newsflash interrupting a recording of a shockball game. Wedge and Tycho’s faces dominated the holo. Hobbie didn’t listen to the words, but cycled swiftly through a half dozen more channels. All had either a news bulletin or a newsflash on Wedge’s death. The last channel was also showing Wedge and Tycho together, but it wasn’t a still holo. As Hobbie watched, he saw Tycho lift his arm over Wedge’s torso, and drop his blood-smeared vibroblade. Wedge slid his arm around Tycho and the two pulled themselves close, gazing into one another’s eyes. Hobbie quickly switched the holovee off. He turned to find Wes standing near the door of the bedroom.
“There’ll be someone official here soon,” Hobbie said. “Use that holocam; get more pictures of them. Record it all. We’ve got to confirm what happened here.”
Wes backed towards the bedroom. “What are you going to do ?”
Hobbie crossed to the holocomm. “I’m going to call some newschannels. Coruscant Broadcasting Corporation first. I’ll tell them what we’ve found, and we’ll send them more holos.”
Wes paused. “I’m with you, but if Command were willing to court-martial Wedge and Tycho for making a fuss right now, they won’t be kind to us for spreading their story.”
“I mutinied against the Empire when I thought it was the right thing to do,” Hobbie said. “Wedge and Tycho killed themselves to bring this regulation to public notice because they thought it was the right thing to do. Supporting them is the right thing, even if it amounts to mutiny. Let’s get going.”
“I’ve got some old holos of them I think the media would like,” Wes said. He flashed Hobbie a smile. “Wedge was right; you’ll be a fine Rogue Leader, Hobbs.” He turned and vanished into the bedroom.
Hobbie switched on the holocomm and paused, trying to get his thoughts clear. Decisively, he began calling the news media.
The proton torpedo that Wedge and Tycho launched at the military struck harder than they could have imagined. By the time High Command began to react to the news of their suicide, the firestorm had spread beyond control. The same images were being repeated all over the media: the second Death Star exploding; the Rogue Squadron crest; Wedge and Tycho at the ceremony for the first ever presentation of the Coruscant Star of Valour, a reward created especially to acknowledge Rogue Squadron’s actions; Wedge, in his orange flightsuit with his helmet under his arm. The most popular of all was one of Wes’ holos: Wedge and Tycho after the battle of Endor, their arms around one another’s shoulders, laughing together and momentarily carefree. It was often coupled with a head and shoulders holo of them together in death, their faces lifeless.
Admiral Ackbar offered to resign but was persuaded to stay on for the sake of continuity. A public memorial service was announced as the New Republic swung behind popular opinion and chose to celebrate the dead men. Major Derek ‘Hobbie’ Klivian, commanding officer of Rogue Squadron, put forward what became known as ‘The Antilles Proposal’ and regulation 117/A was swiftly removed from the books.
The campaign against Lord High Admiral Harrsk began a month later than originally planned. Rogue Squadron led the first stages of the attack. Rumour soon spread that they were following a plan devised by General Antilles himself, and were determined to succeed in his honour. Although there were only ten pilots in the squadron, they fought hard and often, apparently performing beyond normal physical capabilities, while taking no more than minor injuries. Morale among Harrsk’s troops crumbled, and when the final, full assault came, the New Republic made a quick, clean victory. Three pilots, all from either Rogue Squadron or Cracken’s Aces, were awarded the newly-created Antilles Star medal. Eight others received the Celchu Cross.
Hobbie looked at his new medal. It was a gold, twelve-pointed star, embossed with the silhouette of an X-wing, and suspended from a green ribbon. He put it carefully on a shelf in his quarters, next to a holo of Wedge and Tycho together beside Wedge’s green-painted X-wing from the Thyferran campaign. After looking at the holo for a few moments, he turned away, back to his duties. Hobbie hoped that if his two friends existed in some form, they knew that their sacrifice had been worth it. The freedom for other homosexual soldiers to openly enjoy love was their most personal victory and memorial, and the one that Hobbie felt would have meant the most to them. In their death, as in life, Tycho and Wedge had altered the shape of the galaxy. There would be no going back.