Give Sorrow Words
Gillian F. Taylor
"Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er fraught heart, and bids it break."
Macbeth. Act IV, Scene III.
Luke Skywalker stared gloomily at the half-finished report on his datapad, and thought again that being in command of an X-wing fighter squadron could be a lot duller than he'd have believed a year ago. He was immensely proud of Rogue Squadron, of course, and felt that the unit's first few months in operation had justified his arguments in favour of the elite squadron. But rough and ready as the Rebel Alliance tended to be, it still demanded regular datawork of its officers.
No wonder Han keeps refusing to join up formally.
At least Han had formal officer training, and knew about writing reports, and proper military etiquette. With the pressure of war, Luke's training had been minimal. His second-in-command hadn't had much formal training either, but Wedge had been part of the Alliance military for nearly two years longer than Luke and had a good grasp of how the system worked.
Luke gave up briefly on the datapad and looked across the desk to Wedge, who was sitting a little further along on the opposite side. As a captain, Luke was theoretically entitled to his own quarters and office. In practice, on improvised, converted bases like this old mining colony, space was too limited. Luke preferred to share an office with Wedge anyway, and was comfortable about sharing sleeping quarters with his friend. They made a good team in many ways, backing one another as they shared the responsibility of commanding the squadron. Wedge had been rapidly growing in confidence as an officer, and had proven himself indispensable to Luke, not least for his knack of writing acceptable reports.
At first, Luke thought that Wedge was engrossed in his work, then he realized that although Wedge was looking at his datapad, he wasn't seeing what was on the screen. Wedge's dark eyes were unfocussed, occupied with inner thoughts that seemed to weigh heavily on him. Luke was struck by his attitude, belatedly realizing that Wedge had been rather quiet since lunch, and maybe before then. He opened his mouth to speak, then stopped. Instead Luke concentrated, opening himself to the Force and reaching for Wedge's presence. Wedge always seemed easy to find in the Force. It was partly that they had spent a lot of time together since Ben had awakened Luke to his abilities, so Wedge's Force presence was as familiar as the way he walked, or his laughter. Luke was also starting to realize that some people, like Wedge and Han, had a stronger presence in the Force than others, even if they couldn't feel the Force themselves.
Luke's eyes widened as he felt the aching grief in Wedge's presence. He got impressions of loneliness, guilt, regret, love and homesickness, all wrapped in the sorrow that dominated Wedge's thoughts. Luke quickly dropped his mental touch, taken aback by the painful emotions he'd felt, and feeling guilty that he'd been spying on something very personal.
I have to learn when to be a Jedi, as well as how. Wedge needs a regular friend right now and regular friends don't read minds.
Luke cleared his throat and spoke his friend's name.
"Wedge?" When that didn't get a response, Luke tried again, a little louder. "Wedge?"
Wedge looked up, momentarily confused before recognition came to his eyes.
"Oh. Luke. I ..." He looked back at his datapad, trying to collect his thoughts.
"Don't worry about that," Luke told him impulsively. He hesitated briefly before deciding to go straight to the point. "There's something worrying you, isn't there? Can I help?"
Wedge shook his head, the sorrow back in his eyes. "It's not something anyone can do anything about now." He swallowed and forced himself to take a long, deep breath. "Today's the anniversary of the day my parents were killed. It was seven years ago today." He shook his head again, as if trying to shake off the memories. "I'm sorry, Luke. I'm just feeling it more than usual."
"There's no reason for you to feel sorry, Wedge. And you honour them by remembering them."
Wedge sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I wish I could honour them properly again. Visit their memorial and see my other relatives, talk to other people who remember them too. I was eighteen last time I saw family and visited the memorial. I'm not the same person I was four years ago. I want to go back to Corellia as the person I am now and stand in front of their memorial. But only the Emperor knows if I'll ever be able to go back to Corellia again." Wedge's voice trailed away.
Luke had never been as close to his Uncle Lars and Aunt Beru as Wedge had been to his parents, but their deaths had shocked and hurt enough that he understood how Wedge felt about his loss. What Luke didn't share was Wedge's feelings of homesickness and exile. He didn't feel any strong link to Tatooine, and it was a reasonably safe place for him to visit, if he wished. For Wedge though, the Corellia system was bound up with family and mostly happy memories. But so long as the controlling Diktak was under Imperial influence, Corellia was too dangerous for known Alliance members, especially a survivor of Yavin.
"There'll be a time when the galaxy will be safe for anyone to travel where they wish," Luke said positively.
"I believe that, Luke," Wedge answered. "But the odds are against me being alive to see it."
"You're a better-than-average pilot, Wedge, much better than average. The odds of you surviving the war are better than average. Besides, since when does any Corellian take notice of the odds?"
It was a mistake to mention odds, and Luke realized it as soon as he'd said it. Grief and pain rippled through the Force from Wedge, who blinked rapidly in an effort to dispel tears. Wedge leaned forward over the desk, burying his face in his arms.
"Wedge, I'm sorry ..." Luke stood up and moved around the desk.
Wedge's voice was muffled. "S'okay. I'll be okay."
Luke rested a hand briefly on Wedge's shoulder. "I'm going to take a walk. I could do with stretching my legs for a while, maybe get a bite to eat. I'll see you later."
Wedge nodded without looking up, his dark hair brushing across the sleeve of his uniform. Luke withdrew quietly from their office, walking away slowly with his friend's misery weighing on his mind.
At first, he wasn't sure where he was going. After a couple of minutes of aimless walking and brooding, Luke felt that he needed some company himself. He turned towards the secondary hangar, his walk speeding up. The hangar was pleasantly busy, droids and mechanics servicing the shuttles, tinkering with a couple of airspeeders. At the back of the wide hangar was the familiar disk of the Millennium Falcon, with the equally familiar sight of Chewbacca up to his armpits in one of the maintenance panels. Luke grinned at the steady rumble of complaint coming from the Wookiee as he worked. The old freighter seemed to spend every minute of ground time being repaired, and quite a lot of its flying time too.
"Is Han inside?" Luke asked, nodding towards the lowered access ramp.
Chewbacca withdrew one long arm from inside the panel and dropped a half-melted conduit switcher on the floor of the hangar. He let a out a minor-key rumble, somewhere between annoyance and agreement, and nodded towards the ramp.
Luke climbed the access ramp and paused to listen. Distant curses guided him to the cockpit, where he found Han Solo irritably stabbing at a sequence of buttons on the co-pilot's console. Han finished the sequence, and waited for a moment. Luke wondered what was supposed to happen. Han growled, thumped the console, then smiled as a light went green. He spun round in the co-pilot's chair, the smile turning cocky as he greeted his friend.
"Hello, Luke. I wasn't expecting to see you. Shouldn't you be up to the eyeballs in requisition forms?"
Luke grimaced. "Yeah. I needed to get out of the office for a little while though."
Han must have heard something in his voice, as the smile faded from his face. He gestured to one of the other chairs. "Stay a while if you like; I'm not too busy."
Luke sat, wondering what to say. After a few moments, he asked "When was the last time you visited Corellia, Han?"
Han looked surprised at the question. "Corellia? Must be a couple of years now."
"Do you miss it? Seeing your home system?" Han shook his head. "I'm a citizen of the galaxy. The Falcon's my home. Don't tell me you're homesick for that ball of sand you grew up on?"
Luke paused, not sure whether it was right to tell someone else about Wedge's private feelings. But he wouldn't have come looking for Han if he hadn't felt he could confide in him.
"It's Wedge," he said slowly. "Today's the anniversary of his parents being killed. I guess that's focussed all the feelings he has about losing them, and not being able to go back home, see other family." Luke shrugged helplessly. "I've never seen him so unhappy."
"Grief can sneak up on you sometimes. You just have to weather the ion-storm till it passes. Gives you a pretty rough ride in the meantime, though."
Luke nodded. "I wish there was something I could do to smooth that ride a little for him."
"Wedge seems to me a pretty level-headed guy. He won't drown." Han leaned back looking thoughtful. "You said his parents were killed. What happened?"
"They ran a fuelling depot on an orbital station. One day, when Wedge was sixteen, a group of pirates docked there got word that CorSec was coming for them, so they lifted off without detaching the fuel connectors first." Luke didn't need to explain to Han about the fireball that had followed when the ship's exhaust had ignited the spilled fuel. "Wedge's parents got everyone else off the depot section Wedge happened to be out on a friend's ship at the time but they stayed behind to detach the depot from the rest of the station. It drifted free before blowing up with Wedge's parents trapped aboard."
"They were the only people killed." Han finished softly. "I'd been out on a smuggling run. I got back insystem the day after it happened. The story about the Gus Treta fire was all over the system news." He looked directly at Luke. "I'd almost forgotten about it; I never connected the folks that ran that depot with Wedge. His name always sounded vaguely familiar, but then 'Antilles' is a fairly common surname on Corellia. The news reports of the time probably gave his full name, but I didn't know him, he was just a kid, so I had no reason to remember his name."
Luke thought for a moment. "Did you use the fuelling depot on Gus Treta? Did you meet his parents?"
"I must have done," Han answered slowly, sifting through old memories. "I only used that depot on Gus Treta a couple of times because it was Booster Terrik's hangout, and we didn't get on too well."
"Wedge was out on Booster's ship when the depot blew," Luke interrupted.
"The Antilles weren't too concerned about who used their depot, so long as they paid up and didn't cause a fuss," Han went on. "But they were well respected folk. Had a good reputation."
"I think Wedge would like to hear that," Luke suggested.
Han blinked, and looked at him sharply. He thought for a few moments, then came to a conclusion. "Okay, wait for me at the boarding ramp." He stood briskly, chivvying Luke along the corridor back into the ship.
Luke did as he was told, waiting for a couple of minutes until Han joined him, carrying a small case. Han didn't offer any explanation, so Luke contained his curiosity as they walked to his office. When they arrived, Luke reached out through the Force, finding Wedge's presence within. Luke knocked on the door, felt the change in Wedge's presence as he registered the sound, and opened the door a little way.
"Wedge? It's me, Luke," he called gently.
Wedge's presence seemed to diminish as he forced his emotions under control. "Come in."
Luke entered first, Han right behind him. There were smudges of tears on Wedge's face, and his eyes were reddened but he seemed a little brighter than when Luke had left him. Wedge stared curiously at Han, and hurriedly scrubbed a hand across his face.
"Sorry to kind of butt in on you," Han said to Wedge. "But I've brought you a couple of things." He laid the case on the desk and took the creaky seat next to Wedge.
Luke moved around the desk to his own place, watching as Han opened the case. Wedge didn't seem to know what to say. He just watched too, as Han extracted three heavy glasses, setting one before each man. After that, Han took out a bottle of amber liquid and unscrewed the lid.
"Is that whiskey?" Wedge asked, his voice still a little hoarse from crying, as Han poured some into each glass.
Han shot him a mock-offended look, and turned the bottle so Wedge could see the label. "This is Whyren's Reserve," he said significantly. "The finest Corellian whiskey made, and if you've never drunk it before, it's about time you started."
Putting the bottle down, Han reached into the case again and brought out three plates and a stasis box. Breaking the seal on the box, he carefully extracted a dark-brown, flattish cake of some kind that Luke had never seen before. Wedge's eyes widened.
"Is that a real ryshcate?" he asked, gazing at it as Han broke three chunks off the moist cake and doled them out onto the plates.
Han nodded. "I've been saving it for some suitable occasion, but I never found the right occasion. This seems right."
Luke studied the piece of cake he was handed, seeing some kind of nuts embedded in it, and noticing that it smelt faintly of whiskey.
"I ... er ... that's ... Thank you," Wedge mumbled awkwardly.
Han cleared this throat before speaking. "I only visited your family's depot on Gus Treta a couple of times, Wedge, but it was enough to tell me that your parents deserved the reputation they had. It was a good reputation; people liked them and trusted them. They didn't deserve to die the way they did, but they died doing a good thing; protecting others. They deserve to be honoured."
Wedge didn't quite smile, but his eyes expressed his pleasure at Han's words.
Han passed a plate laden with ryshcate to Wedge.
"We share this ryshcate in the same way we share our celebration of life," he said formally.
Wedge tried to speak, and choked briefly before getting his words out. "To the celebration of life."
Luke echoed him. "To the celebration of life."
They all sampled the sweet, delicious cake, then Han lifted his glass and led them in trying the Corellian whiskey. Luke rapidly concluded that he preferred the whiskey as part of a cake, rather than on its own, but Wedge seemed to like it.
"When did you visit our depot?" Wedge asked Han.
"Must have been ten, eleven years ago," Han answered. "I avoided your family's place after Booster Terrik said the Falcon was welded together from scrap I'd scavenged from a Jawa's garbage scow, and said it where Chewbacca would hear him. I didn't much care if Booster got his arms torn off but I didn't want CorSec coming after Chewie on a murder charge."
Wedge gaped for a moment, then burst into real laughter. "I'd like to see CorSec trying to arrest Chewbacca!"
Luke found himself smiling too. He ate the rest of his ryshcate and sipped carefully at the whiskey as Han kept talking. Han dredged up his memories of Wedge's parents, Booster Terrik and other characters from Gus Treta. Wedge listened avidly, interjecting his own stories and finding shared memories of nostalgic subjects like favourite vid programmes.
Corellian accents grew stronger, and Corellian words and references that Luke didn't understand peppered the conversation. He didn't mind though. It was enough to see his two friends talking happily. There was still a touch of sadness to Wedge's Force presence, but it was softer, wistful. The bleakness and loneliness had been banished.
Luke thought that the two Corellians had forgotten him, as time passed and they kept talking. Then Wedge flashed a glance at him. Wedge couldn't send a message through the Force, but his meaning was clear in his eyes.
Thank you. Luke read in that glance.
Luke smiled in return, satisfied.
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