Iella gritted her teeth as the wave of stomach cramp came again, and thought silent curses about her decision to have the spiced meatloaf at dinner. She held her breath until the spasm passed, then relaxed back into the wide bed again. Beside her, Wedge stirred slightly and opened his eyes. In spite of the discomfort of the intermittent cramps, Iella couldn’t help smiling across the pillows at him. Sleepy, and with his thick, dark hair dishevelled and almost in his eyes, he looked endearingly boyish.
“Are you all right ?” he asked, his voice gravelly with sleep.
“It’s not fair,” Iella said plaintively. “You had the spiceloaf too, but it didn’t give you stomach cramps.”
Wedge’s teeth showed white in the dim light as he grinned. “First rule of being a good pilot; gotta have a cast-durasteel stomach to survive on the food the military gives you. You can’t fight well if you’re about to vomit up boiled tauntaun into your own cockpit.”
Iella shuddered. “Nasty. But if you did, you’d be better off than a TIE pilot would. At least you wouldn’t be throwing up inside a full-face helmet.”
Wedge wrinkled his nose. “If that happened, I’d probably want someone to vape me.”
Iella grinned, amused, but also reached out under the covers to touch him and reassure herself of his living presence. Wedge had only recently returned from active combat duty and every second he’d been away, she’d lived with the possibility that he could have died out there, and left her alone again. Not entirely alone though.
“It’s not fair,” Iella repeated. “Not only do you not have the decency to get stomach cramps when eating the same meal I had, it’s your fault that I’m huge and my back hurts and I can’t get comfortable.”
“I’m sorry.” Wedge slid closer to kiss her softly, and rested his hand on her vast stomach. “But it’s not only my genes that made that baby; fifty percent of them are yours.”
“My 50% would have sat around quite happily as eggs, doing nothing. It was your genes interfering with them that made me pregnant,” Iella grumbled, enjoying the silly argument.
Wedge grinned at her. “As I remember, you rather like it when I interfere with you,” he said in lecherous tones.
Iella managed to suppress a giggle. “Exactly. That’s how I got into this mess in the first place. I was a nice girl and you…” She broke off as her stomach cramped again.
Iella involuntarily tightened her grip on Wedge’s shoulder as the sensations built. The bulk of the baby had been making it hard to get comfortable, and to get a decent night’s sleep for what seemed like weeks now. Tired from the strains of late pregnancy and away from home, it seemed as though this stomach cramp lasted longer than the last. When it did pass, Iella let out a long breath and stayed just as she was, her eyes closed.
“Do you feel sick ?” Wedge asked softly.
Iella grunted. “No, thank the force.”
Wedge nestled closer and slid his hand over to start rubbing her back. He’d got good at knowing what helped most, and she began to relax again as his warm hand moved in circles against her skin. Iella tried to relax, hoping for sleep, but after a couple of minutes she opened her eyes again.
“Real, Corellian spiceloaf,” she muttered darkly. “It sounded like such a good idea when you suggested we come back to Corellia for the birth. Romantic – our daughter born on the same planet we both were. ‘Cept you weren’t even born on Corellia, spaceboy. It’s not like we’re going to raise her here; we live on Coruscant. You can’t commute from Corellia to Coruscant every day, and our friends all live on Coruscant, anyway. If we hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have had actual Corellian spiceloaf, with actual Corellian spices that do bad things to my stomach. Don’t have any more ideas, Wedge. Ever.”
“I’m sorry,” Wedge said, but Iella spotted the slight twitch of his mouth as he repressed a grin.
For a moment she was angry at him, then she saw the humour of her situation. With a quick, practised move, she tickled Wedge’s stomach. He yelped and jerked away. Discovering that Wedge was ticklish had been one of the most satisfying moments of Iella’s life. She tickled him again and he batted at her hands.
“Not fair,” he protested. “I can’t retaliate properly when you’re in a delicate condition.”
“There’s kriff-all delicate about pregnancy,” Iella retorted. “The baby kicks me. My bladder’s squeezed so I need the bathroom all the time. Nobody warns you about haemorrhoids…”
“I’m sure Mirax mentioned that. In fact I remember her complaining too.”
“Don’t interrupt when I’m moaning.”
“You’re beautiful when you whine,” Wedge told her, smiling.
Iella snorted, and pulled him closer so she could kiss him. “Flatterer.”
Wedge’s kiss was gentle and loving. His presence beside her was comforting as her rebellious insides ached and spasmed and she felt a sudden rush of love for him.
“Close your eyes and try to rest,” he said softly, brushing his fingers over her tangled hair.
“I don’t think I’ll sleep,” she answered. “But I’ll try.”
With her hand pressed against his chest, and Wedge’s hand on her arm, Iella closed her eyes and made herself relax. Her thoughts drifted, moving from her stomach troubles, to the Corellian spiceloaf, to being here on Corellia again, to living here so many years ago with Diric.
How strange and far-away that seemed now ! As a young woman, changing from the theory of college to the reality of working in CorSec, Diric had been a rock for her. He’d offered stability and security and just plain love, when she spent her working life experiencing some of the seediest and cruellest aspects of human nature. Of course, she’d been young, and life had been exciting too. She and Diric had never seriously discussed having a family. Iella had vaguely thought that children would have their place later in her life but at the same time, she’d known deep down, that Diric hadn’t really seen himself as a father. Looking back, Iella wondered if she would have outgrown that marriage in time. She’d loved Diric, no doubt about it, but maybe the security he offered would have become a cage that stopped her from spreading her wings as she matured.
Just as Diric had been the right man then, Wedge was the right man now, and would be for the rest of their lives. Diric had almost been a father-figure to her; Wedge was her equal. He was closer to her in age, temperament and values. His career as a general didn’t offer the same stability for her as Diric’s life had done, but she was mature enough to cope now. Wedge’s love was as strong and secure as she could wish for and he would stand shoulder to shoulder with her to fight anything the galaxy could throw at them.
Right now, the enemy was another wave of stomach cramp. Iella clamped her teeth on a moan that was as much protest at her situation as it was a sound of pain. She loved having the baby growing inside her, safe and warm. But she was so close to her due date now, and she was ready to get rid of this weight that squeezed her stomach and bladder, and made taking a deep breath difficult. She’d felt restless all day, her mood not helped later on by the effect the spiceloaf had had on her bowels. Her last visit to the bathroom before bed had not been a pleasantly fragrant experience.
The cramping passed and Iella let out a long breath. Wedge kissed her softly and rubbed his hand over her massive belly.
“Poor little girl,” he said. “This can’t be much fun for her, either.”
“Serves her right,” Iella said bluntly. “After the morning sickness, piles and all the other discomforts Syal’s caused, she can put up with some discomfort herself.”
Wedge chuckled softly, then looked at her uncertainly. “You really are happy naming her after my sister ? You never met Syal, after all.”
“I don’t mind,” Iella said honestly. “You’ve lost one family already, Wedge. This is your new family, right here, and the baby’s name will link both families together. You’ve done so much for people all over this galaxy by fighting the Empire. You’ve taken the shadow of fear and injustice from millions of other families. You deserve to be part of a family too. And giving your sister’s name to your daughter is part of that.”
Wedge smiled and gently stroked Iella’s cheek. “You make me sound like someone special. Many, many other people have fought in this war too. The Rogues would never have taken Coruscant without your help.”
“You might have done,” Iella said. “But never without you to put all the elements together, Wedge. You’re damn good, and you know it. After all, didn’t you once tell me that you are the best there is ?”
Wedge hesitated, then grinned cockily. “Well, yes,” he admitted. “I have to admit I am. I could never lie to you, my love.”
“Ooooh !” Iella’s hand whipped out and ticked his stomach before he could stop her.
Wedge squealed, flapping at her hand with his own. “Stop ! I surrender !”
Iella tickled once more then withdrew her hand, laughing. “If only the Empire had known of the infamous Rogue Leader’s weakness, this war could have turned out differently.”
“You can’t tickle someone sealed inside another spaceship,” Wedge pointed out.
“I bet Vader could have.”
Wedge thought about that for a moment. “I’ll have to ask Luke.” He frowned, then shook his head. “On second thoughts, maybe not. It’ll give him ideas.”
“Just be grateful that Wes doesn’t have Jedi powers. Just think how he could use them for his pranks,” Iella said.
Wedge shuddered. “Thank the Force that he’s no more Force-sensitive than I am. Though if he were, he’d be Luke’s problem, not mine.”
They lay together in contented silence for a few moments.
“You don’t need a Force-user to sabotage someone by tickling,” Iella said thoughtfully. “You just have to bribe a tech to put itching powder in the pilot’s flightsuit or helmet. Not technically tickling, I know, but a similar effect.”
Wedge stared at her. “I’m so glad we’re on the same side.”
Iella smiled. “Are you sure ?”
“Yes,” he said confidently, pulling her closer for a kiss.
Iella yielded to him, relishing the comfort of his warm, firm body pressing against hers and the security of his arms around her. She had come so close to missing out on this precious, generous love. She’d made a mistake, and then let pride stand in the way of putting things right. Wedge had had the courage to break down those barriers. Even if he should be killed in his next battle, Iella knew that she’d done the right thing in letting herself love him.
“I love…” Her whisper broke off as another cramp seized her belly.
Wedge just held her as she gritted her teeth through the spasm. When it passed, he was looking at her with deep emotion in his dark eyes. He kissed her softly.
“Better get up and dressed, love.”
“I don’t feel sick,” Iella protested.
“It’s not the spiceloaf causing you trouble. I’ve been watching the clock, timing how often the spasms come and how long they last. They’re labour pains, Iella. Our baby’s coming at last.”
Iella stared at Wedge in shock. The truth was obvious now he had pointed it out. “Why didn’t I…? …I should have realized,” she burbled.
“It’s a big thing,” Wedge said. “Maybe your mind didn’t want to face up to it until it had to.”
A sudden jolt of adrenaline hit Iella. “I’m in labour ! The baby’s coming !”
“Don’t panic. We’ve probably got a few hours to go yet.”
Iella struggled to sit up, hampered by her rounded belly. “Wedge, in those few hours time, we’re going to be parents ! There’ll be a baby depending on us. A completely helpless baby that needs us to feed it and clean it and keep it warm, and not drop it.”
“And we’ll cope, together,” Wedge reassured her, sitting up too. “I bet my parents said the same things before my sister, Syal, was born, but they did a good job with their kids, didn’t they ?”
Iella took a deep breath. “You’re right. We got into this mess together and we’ll see it through together. If an entire Empire, with Sith Lords, warlords, tyrants and Death Stars couldn’t defeat us, what chance does a baby have ?”
“That’s the spirit.” Wedge scrambled out of bed and moved around to help her get out too. “Now let’s get you to the hospital and get ready to welcome our daughter.”
Iella smiled and took his hand. “Let’s go.”
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