I Can Wait Forever
Part Six

Rating: PG
AlianInvader

Kyp felt like a Rancor with a dozen toothaches as he made his way off the dance floor and looked around for General Antilles. It took him several minutes of pushing through the crush of people to finally find the General and Colonel Celchu at a table with several pilots of the Galactic Alliance engaged in a cutthroat Sabaac game. He watched for a while in awe silence and wondered at how these men and women could play with just instincts and intuition, without the Force, and win.

At the end of the hand, a pilot Kyp recognized from the Tierfon Yellow Aces gathered her winnings and left. This left an open chair directly in front of Kyp. From his spot across the table, General Antilles eyed Kyp while he shuffled the cards, “In Durron?”

Kyp shook his head. “Could I have a moment of your time, General? There is something I’d like to discuss ...”

“Sit.”

Kyp frowned at the command. If it weren’t important, he would have walked away. “I don’t play Sabaac.”

“Sit.”

With a resigned sigh, Kyp took the proffered chair, and Wedge started to deal. When everyone had the required number of cards, Wedge studied his hand and asked, “What do you want, Durron?”

“I’d like to buy Jaina’s X-wing.”

The General’s Sabaac face slipped into a frown. “Need it. We’re low on fighters, and it’s a seller’s market.”

Kyp’s mouth twitched at the corners, he set his cards face down on the table and reached beneath his cloak. From a hidden pocket sewn into the lining, he pulled a large handful of high denomination cred coins. The amount of money Kyp brought out caused a gasp from the spectators and a carefully blank look from the General.

“What if I have something of equal value to trade?” He added the required number to the pot and placed the rest in a pile on the table before him.

Antilles scowled at Kyp. “You don’t have anything I want.”

The air at the table crackled with negative emotions, but this time Kyp did smile. “Don’t be too sure of that, General. I’m offering my XJ Wing for Jaina’s X-wing and astromech.”

There was another gasp from the crowd, followed by an expectant silence. Wedge Antilles turned his head a fraction and met Colonel Celchu’s eyes. An unspoken question passed between them, and then after a pause, an almost imperceptible nod.

“Why?” Wedge demanded. His attention was now completely focused on Kyp.

“A Jedi needs transportation. Jaina knows her X-wing, inside and out.” The hand came around to him again, and Kyp added more cred coins to the sizable pot. “Having it is important to her. She’s grown ...” He discarded and picked up a single card, “attached to it.”

Colonel Celchu spoke for the first time, “You’re buying it to give to Jaina.” It wasn’t a question. He raised an eyebrow at Wedge Antilles, but the General was busy studying his cards.

“Yes,” Kyp said. “If she is going to help rebuild the Jedi, she’ll need a ship.”

“Don’t you need it?” Tycho asked.

Kyp shook his head. “I have a Sekotan ship. The X-wing is just surplus now.”

Wedge discarded two cards and picked up two fresh ones. “No deal.”

“No?” Kyp tried to keep his temper under control, but it was hard because he felt that the General was being intentionally short and difficult just to aggravate him.

“I can’t sell what isn’t mine.”

“I don’t understand ...”

“Not my problem, Durron.” Wedge spread his cards out on the table before everyone, his cards showed an Idiot’s Array, the one Sabaac hand that was unbeatable.

The other players cursed and tossed their cards onto the table in disgust. All except Kyp, who just glared at Wedge as he scooped up the mountain of credits and started counting them into neat, orderly stacks. At the end of his patience, and feeling as if he had been summarily dismissed, Kyp stood to leave with the last of spectators. A hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“Sit down, Durron,” Tycho said.

“Why should I? It’s obvious that you don’t give a Sith about helping Jaina. It was a mistake to think ...”

“It is a mistake for you not to sit down and shut your mouth!” Wedge snarled at the Jedi Master, and Tycho shoved him down into his seat.

Kyp couldn’t remember a single time when anyone had ever spoken to him that way, with that much raw hatred in their voice. He knew that General Antilles hadn’t forgiven him for hurting Qui Xux, but it was only in that moment Kyp realized the older man would never be able to forgive him.

There was a moment of profound silence, and the General seemed to get himself under control. Tycho pulled out the chair nearest to Kyp and sat down.

In a more conversational tone, Wedge said, “We’ve already decided to give Colonel Solo her X-wing and astromech. She’s earned it.”

Kyp nodded.

Wedge pulled a datapad out of his pocket and punched in some data. Satisfied with what he saw, he handed the datapad across the table to Kyp.

The datapad’s current entry contained only a single number: 95,550. Kyp stared at it, not comprehending its meaning.

Tycho peered at the screen, and said, “It’s a fair offer for a used XJX. You should take it.”

Kyp met Wedge’s hard gaze. “This is almost twice what I paid for it.”

Wedge gave a slight shrug, “Times are tough. We buy surplus ships and parts where we can find them.”

“I accept.”

“Fine, good. The credits will be in your account in forty-eight hours. Tycho will arrange for transfer of the fighter to our maintenance bay for inspection.” All three men stood and Wedge turned to go, but Kyp caught his arm. Wedge glared laser beams at him until he removed his hand.

“I’d change what I did, if I could.” They both knew what Kyp referred to.

Wedge’s eyes narrowed. “I would hope so.”

“The best I could do was make damn sure Jaina didn’t take that path, too.” Kyp ran a hand through his hair. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.” Let alone someone I love ...

Wedge shot Tycho a look, and tossed him a couple of cred coins. “You’re right. I think he has grown up. See you around, Durron.”

Kyp noticed the piles of cred chips still on the table, and called after him, “Wait ... General. You forgot your credits.”

Wedge glanced over his shoulder and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Consider it a donation for rebuilding the Jedi.” And then he was lost in the sea of people.

Kyp stared after the General in disbelief.

“You’ve forgotten that his daughters are still living with the Jedi children at Sanctuary,” Tycho said, quietly. He picked up Kyp’s Sabaac hand and smiled at the natural Sabaac. There was only one hand that could beat it, and Wedge had drawn it. Too bad Corellians didn’t go in for odds.



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