Necessary Separation Rating: PG
Gillian F. Taylor

This story is a companion piece to So Proud, also by Gillian F. Taylor.

Han Solo finally admitted the truth to himself. He was bored. Leia was engrossed in meetings with Cal Olmas and the Advisory Council, meetings that Han had little interest in and even less to contribute to. Their temporary quarters here on Mon Calamari were impersonal and held little to distract him. Han considered a visit to the Millennium Falcon; he could find something that needed tinkering with, he was sure. Han sighed. What he really wanted was some company.

The thought of working on the Falcon brought with it memories of Chewbacca, dead almost four years now.

Has this war really lasted that long?

Too many deaths, and too many deaths close to home.

Han shook his head. Company. Undemanding, honest company. He paced back and forth, thinking. Another memory came to mind. Sitting in the cockpit of a YT-1300 with his feet up on the control board, gazing across a darkened hangar at the glitter of stars in deep space. Han smiled, and left the room at a brisk walk.

Han was in the turbolift, and on the point of pressing the button for the floor where Wedge's quarters were, when he realized he would most likely be heading in the wrong direction. It was early evening, but as Iella was away on undercover work for the Insiders, Wedge would almost certainly still be in his office. Without Iella to drag him away, Wedge worked, ate and frequently slept in his office, driven by his need to do everything possible to keep those under his command alive.

It took Han Solo half a standard hour to reach Wedge's office. The outer office was empty; Tycho, or whoever used it, had gone for the evening. The door to Wedge's inner office was open, and light spilled through from inside. Han crossed the small space quietly and paused in the doorway. Wedge was studying a holoprojection of a Yuuzhan Vong frigate analogue, floating in the air above his desk. His brown eyes were focussed intently on the image, drinking in the information. Han looked at him sharply, noticing the touches of grey scattered through Wedge's dark hair and the lines around his eyes. Wedge's lithe build and fine bone structure had once given him a youthful appearance that surprised many people when they first met the legendary leader of Rogue Squadron. Now he looked tired, older than his real age and lean, worn down by worry.

Han knocked on the doorframe. Wedge started, looking up as though he'd forgotten that the rest of the galaxy existed. After a few moments, he recognized his visitor, and a smile blossomed on his face.

"Han! What are you doing here?" Wedge looked puzzled. "Is something wrong?"

Han entered the office and stood facing Wedge across the desk. "There's a problem with one of the New Republic's most senior officers," he answered.

Wedge looked alarmed. "What is it?"

"The commander of the Third Fleet is working himself to the point of exhaustion," Han told him. "He's getting too tired to think properly about the reports he's studying, and he's getting to the point where he's going to start making unnecessary mistakes though sheer fatigue." Han reached out and switched off the holoprojector.

Wedge tried to stop him, but was too slow; he scowled up at Han. "That's the latest Intelligence we have on those Vong ships. I need to know as much as I can about them so I can use my ships, and my people's lives, as effectively as possible against them."

"Wedge, if you weren't tired, you would have been able to stop me hitting that button."

Wedge stared stubbornly at him, then looked away, silently admitting that Han was right.

"Wedge, shut down your workstation, leave your office behind and come have a drink and a game of sabacc with me," Han said.

Wedge looked up in disbelief. "A game of sabacc?"

"Remember when we were chasing Zsinj?" Han asked. "That was war work. Lots of pressure. You staged a 24-hour mutiny on the Mon Remonda; drinks, sabacc, gambling, dancing, astromech races. Everyone had a good time and was all the better for it. The war against Zsinj didn't fall apart while we took a breather. We still won."

Wedge's face relaxed, a glow of good-humour warming his eyes. "I haven't thought about that day in years."

"Well think about it now," Han insisted. "Let's go to a bar and bore some young pilots with outrageous stories of what we got up to when the New Republic really was new. And then take all their credits at sabacc."

Wedge chuckled. "All right. After all, how can I expect younger men to listen to me if I don't listen to the advice of my elders?"

Han gave him a wounded look. "Just for that, you're buying the first round."

* * * * *

Han was surprised to find Leia still up when he got back much later that night. She was curled on one end of the over-large couch, listening to some music. Han joined her there, wrapping his arms around his slender wife, and kissing her.

"You've been drinking?" Leia raised an eyebrow. "I can taste whiskey."

"It was in a good cause," Han replied. He told her about his evening with Wedge. "He looked better when we finally left the bar," Han finished. "But tomorrow he'll be working even harder to make up the time spent doing something other than war work."

Leia rested her head against Han's shoulder. "That's Wedge all over; give him more responsibility and he'll rise to it, no matter what the cost to himself. What he should do is get himself busted back down to say, captain, and fly X-wings again. He'd be happier with that. But it would be a waste of his abilities and he knows it."

"Wedge finds it hard to be irresponsible unless there's a good reason for it," Han agreed. "I always thought that was one reason why he liked working with Wes Janson. Janson knows how to make Wedge have fun."

"Wes Janson," Leia mused. "He's still very attractive," she said with a mischievous glance at her husband.

Han refused to notice her comment. "You're going to be tied up here for a few more days, aren't you?"

Leia nodded, wondering about the change of subject.

"There's something I want to do, for Wedge," Han told her. "I'll need your help to pull a few strings though."

Leia looked at him warily. "Tell me."

Han did.

* * * * *

It was late the next afternoon when Wedge looked up to see Han Solo standing in the door to his office again.

"Don't you ever knock, Solo?" he asked, mildly irritated.

Han's grin turned into a smirk, changing Wedge's irritation to suspicion. He came closer and held out a datacard, which Wedge reluctantly took. There was nothing on it to indicate what files it might hold. Wedge slotted it into his datapad and opened the only file. The message was short and surprising.

"A four-day leave? Effective from tomorrow?" Wedge looked up at Han. "What am I going to do with myself on Mon Calamari for four days?"

Before he could say anything else, Han gave him a piece of flimsi with a note hand-written on it.

"A return ticket for a round trip on the Millennium Falcon, between Mon Calamari and the Jedi Shelter," Wedge read. He frowned at the note for a moment until his mind made the connection. "My girls," he said softly, blinking back sudden tears.

Syal and Myri, his little girls. Hidden away in the Jedi Shelter in the Maw, so he and Iella could concentrate on war work, knowing their children were safe.

"Oh, Han. I'd love to see them, but ..."

"But nothing," Han interrupted. "That leave's been signed off by Admiral Sovv. If he really couldn't spare you for the next four days, he wouldn't have granted leave."

That was certainly true, but Wedge found it hard to simply abandon his work at such short notice.

"There's a major military push starting in a few weeks," he said uncertainly.

"All the more reason for you to go now," Han said firmly. "When was the last time you saw your daughters?"

Wedge pushed thoughts of the war aside and concentrated on family memories. "I got a recorded holomessage from them twenty-seven days ago, Mirax brought it back with her."

Han shook his head. "No, Wedge. When did you last see your daughters? Actually see them in the flesh, to hug?"

Wedge swallowed. "Ten months and five days ago. Iella saw them four months ago."

"Then it's way past time you saw them again." Han's face was serious now. "And they need to see you, Wedge."

"They're enjoying themselves at the Shelter," Wedge said. "Kam and Tionne are doing a good job."

"This military offensive you mentioned, you'll be out there commanding a fleet, won't you?"

Wedge nodded.

"You'll be in the thick of the action, Wedge. You might never come back." Han paused and took a deep breath. "Your daughters should have the chance to see their father again before he goes into battle. Give them those extra days with their father, more memories to treasure, if memories are all they're going to have of you."

Wedge closed his eyes, the old ache for his own dead parents suddenly as strong as it had been when they died, thirty years ago. How often through those years had he wished that they might have lived just one more day, to add to the memories he carried? Only when he felt he could speak without choking up, did he reply.

"What time do you want to leave?"

* * * * *

Flying the Falcon through the Maw was an exhilarating experience for Han. He twisted and turned the freighter through the overlapping fields of the black holes, skirting the danger zones with reckless, precise grace. His flying was a little riskier than it might have been had Leia been in the co-pilot's seat, but having Wedge there brought out Han's competitive edge. Wedge was studying his sensor boards intently, and now and again his hand would twitch as his pilot's instincts responded to incoming data. Han grinned to himself and pushed his ship just a little bit harder.

A few minutes later they had reached the safe space at the centre of the Maw, and Shelter, the cobbled-together space station, was visible through the viewports. Here, Wedge's daughters were kept safe from the Yuuzhan Vong, hidden away with the Jedi children, including Han's infant nephew, Ben Skywalker. Jedi nephew, Jedi wife and children, Jedi brother-and-sister-in-law. All bound by something Han couldn't experience or understand. Han loved his family dearly, but sometimes it was a relief to spend time with a straightforward, non-Jedi like Wedge. And sometimes, in the deep recesses of his heart, he envied Wedge his non-Jedi family.

Right now, Wedge was staring hungrily through the viewport, his eyes fixed on the space station as they drew closer to it. Han hailed the space station, identifying himself and his ship.

"Good to see you again, Han," Kam answered. "You won't believe how much Ben has grown."

"I guess not," Han answered. "I've got a passenger with me, General Antilles."

"I'll let his daughters know at once. We'll meet you in the usual docking bay."

"Okay. Falcon out."

Wedge tore his gaze away from Shelter long enough to look straight at Han. "In case I forget to say this later, thank you, Han."

Han just nodded his acceptance of the thanks. I know what it's like to send your children away so they can grow up 'safe', but light-years away from where you really want them. At least you got to be with yours when they were babies, Wedge, when they grow and change so fast. I lost mine to Winter, on Anoth, and then to Luke, at his Academy when they were teenagers. And I've lost Anakin forever now. Keep your children safe, Wedge!

Han docked the Millennium Falcon at her usual berth, in the dome that had once been part of a deep-space habitat module. As the ship drifted into place on her repulsorlifts, Han glimpsed a knot of people waiting by a cargo loader. He turned the freighter to keep them in view, before settling the Falcon gently down on her landing struts. It was unlikely that Wedge had noticed how smooth the landing was: he was leaning forward in his seat, peering eagerly through the viewport.

"My girls," he said joyfully, never taking his eyes off them. "It's my girls, but they're changing. Syal used to be as fair as Luke, but her hair's gotten darker. She's taller too, and ... she's not a little girl any more."

When Han glanced through the viewport, he saw what Wedge meant. Syal was twelve now, her body blossoming into a woman's shape. Myri, standing beside her, was still very much a child. Their similarity of looks in shared features and wide blue eyes, emphasized the difference between the child and the child-woman.

As the whine of the repulsors died away, the group waiting in the dock began to move forward. Wedge fumbled his seat harness undone and was away from the cockpit without another word. Han had barely finished the routine shut-down before he heard the access ramp open and Wedge's impatient footsteps leaving the ship. By the time Han was descending the ramp, Wedge and his daughters were clinging to one another in an embrace that excluded the rest of the galaxy. Han moved past them and went to greet Kam, Tionne, and the red-haired toddler who stared at him with big eyes.

* * * * *

Myri clung to Wedge's hand as she and Syal led him to the room that the girls shared. The décor and furnishings there were more functional than decorative, with just a few personal items scattered about. As Wedge sat down on Myri's bed, the girl climbed into his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. At nine years old, she was getting a little large to be sitting comfortably on his knees, but Wedge just held her and enjoyed the sensation of having his daughter close. Syal sat opposite them, on her own bed, and looked anxiously at her father.

"I'm sorry I didn't manage to bring you much," Wedge said. "We left at very short notice."

"It doesn't matter, Daddy," Syal answered. "We don't need many things really. We've managed fine with what we've got."

Which, as Wedge knew, wasn't much. So many favourite things — toys, clothes, holos, music disks — had been left behind when Iella and the girls had fled from Coruscant. Myri had mourned the loss of some favourite toys, but Syal had never, that Wedge knew, complained.

"Have you heard from Mummy recently?" Syal asked. She was sitting with her hands clasped tightly together in her lap. Her right leg jittered restlessly.

Wedge smiled. "Yes, I got a message from her five days ago. She's just fine, and looking forward to seeing you again soon."

"I wish she was here now," Myri mumbled into Wedge's shoulder.

So do I! Wedge struggled to keep his thoughts from showing on his face. He rubbed Myri's back comfortingly. "She's doing important work to keep us all safe," he said.

"Uncle Tycho, and Winter, and everybody?" Syal asked.

"Tycho is fine," Wedge said. "He's running my office while I'm away. Winter's very busy, usually helping Mummy and Auntie Mirax. Uncle Wes is still leading the Taanab Yellow Aces, and enjoying himself flying his X-wing again. I haven't seen Corran in a few weeks, but I know he's fine."

"What's happening out there?" Syal leaned forward as she spoke. "The Shelter's so isolated, and they don't tell us children very much."

Wedge hesitated before answering. His first instinct was to reassure his children, to play down the hard reality of the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. But Syal wasn't a little girl, to be easily reassured any more. There was nothing childish in her eyes as she looked at him, waiting for his answer.

"There is hope," Wedge told her. "More than there's been since the invasion really started. The Vong have taken a lot of the galaxy but they've over-reached themselves. Their forces are spread thinly; they don't have enough warriors and ships to properly defend all the systems they've taken."

Syal nodded. "Do we have enough ships to fight them?" she asked bluntly.

"We're producing more and more all the time. The war isn't being run by the government any more, it's being run by the military, as it should have been from the beginning." Wedge paused, fighting back the urge to lambast the self-serving, short-sighted politicians who had controlled the New Republic when the Yuuzhan Vong had invaded. He shook his head, and continued. "We'll be starting a big push against the Vong soon."

"You'll be fighting, won't you, Daddy?" Syal was looking straight at him.

Wedge took a deep breath. "I have to." He paused and cleared his throat. "I'm good at commanding fighters, and strategy. The New Republic stands a better chance of winning if I'm on a ship, doing my duty. Using my skills to fight the Vong is the best way I can protect you two."

"I wish I could go with you," Syal whispered.

Wedge shook his head. "You're safe here. I don't have to worry about you while you're here. I can concentrate better on my work." And you know what could happen if I make a mistake, don't you, Syal? You know that if your daddy doesn't do his job properly, he could die. He could still die even if he does the best he can. War's like that, and you know it already.

Myri spoke. "I want to go home."

Wedge looked down at the daughter who clung to him. "We can't go back to Coruscant, Sugar. The Yuuzhan Vong are there now."

"I don't mean Coruscant." Myri pressed her face into his neck, and Wedge felt the dampness of tears on his skin. "I want to be with you and Mummy. I want to go home."

Wedge's heart contracted at the longing in her voice. He lowered his head until his cheek brushed her soft hair. "Oh, Sugar. I wish I could take you with me. But I haven't got a home to take you to. I'm always moving around. I can't take you on a Star Destroyer with me, and Mummy's always moving too. There's no one to look after you while we're busy. Shelter is your home now, and we'll come and visit you as often as we can."

"I don't want you to go away." The last word dissolved into a wail, as Myri gave way completely to tears.

"Ssshh, Sugar. I love you, I love you." Wedge gently rocked the sobbing child. He blinked hard, feeling a tear of his own slide down the side of his nose.

"Oh, Daddy." Syal came over and wiped the tear from his face. "I love you."

The gesture nearly brought fresh tears, but Wedge took a deep breath and forced a weak smile. "Thank you, Sweetheart." I should be comforting you, my brave girl.

Syal sat on the bed beside him, leaning her warmth against him as he continued to rock Myri, and smiled at him.

My girls, my precious girls.

* * * * *
The next day, Han accompanied Wedge and the two girls to the game courts, for a lively doubles game of shuntball. Han and Myri won that game, amid much laughter and teasing. When Wedge suggested a change of partners for a second game, Syal declined.

"You and Myri play," she said. "I'd rather watch for a bit."

"I'm getting too old for all this running around," Han declared, joining her on the bench at the side of the court.

He didn't try to force a conversation with Syal, who was watching the game intently.

Now and again her right leg would start jumping, as though expelling excess energy, or stress, from her body. Her attention was mostly on her father, but when Myri scored with a good shot, her face lit up as she applauded. Myri bounced up and down, squealing with pleasure and waving her stick in the air.

"That is a happy little girl," Han commented.

"Oh yes!" Syal looked at Han, then her smile suddenly faded and she looked forlorn.

"What is it?" Han asked gently. "Is she often unhappy?"

Syal shook her hair, dark blonde hair getting in her eyes. "Most of the time we're okay, really. But last night, she was so upset, and that made Daddy miserable."

"I'm sorry." Han smoothed her hair back off her face.

Syal gazed at him, her right leg jumping, as she thought. Han put on his best reassuring smile, and waited for her to speak.

"I wish we could be with Mummy and Daddy too," she said softly. "I understand why we can't go but I worry so much about them. I'd rather be with them, taking the same risks they do instead of being shut up here. Lots of other children are out there, where the war is. I know we're lucky to be here in the Shelter but I feel guilty about it too. It's just because our parents know Master Skywalker and other Jedi. We're not special, like the Jedi children."

"You are special," Han told her firmly. "Jedi can do things that you and I can never do, but that doesn't mean that our lives are worth less than theirs. I know Luke Skywalker could never command a fleet in the same way that your father can. There's not a Jedi alive today who can match your father's skill as a tactician. Jedi aren't better than everyone else; they're just different."

Syal looked at him wide-eyed, thinking about what Han told her. "It still doesn't seem fair that Myri and me are in here, while other children are out where it's dangerous. There must have been millions and millions who never even got off Coruscant. What happened to them?"

Han winced inwardly. "You're right, Syal. There's lots of people still on Coruscant. The Vong mostly let them alone, and they're finding ways to survive."

She sighed. "I know the New Republic can't rescue them all, and I'm glad we did get away, but ..."

"Life isn't always fair. You just have to be grateful when it's you on the good end of the deal," Han told her. "You could say that you and your sister being here on Shelter is a reward for your parents for all the good things they've done for others. They've both risked their lives many times over to make the galaxy better for others, and they're doing it again. Knowing that their children is safe is the biggest reward they could ask for." Han stopped speaking abruptly as the pain of Anakin's death, and his constant worry for Jaina and Jacen, stabbed at him again.

"What will happen to us if Daddy ... if they die?" Syal's leg jumped in agitation.

Han forced his grief to the back of his mind and gave his attention to the girl beside him. "If — if — that happens, you'll be taken care of, I promise. I know they've made records of what they want for you if that should happen. Maybe you'd go live with Booster Terrik on the Errant Venture, or with Mirax and Corran. You've got family back on Corellia, and there's even your Cousin Jag's family. You certainly won't be abandoned."

Syal sighed. "I'd still rather be with Mummy and Daddy, no matter what happens. But I guess the only thing I can do to help them is to stay here so they don't worry too much about me and Myri."

Han smiled, and patted her shoulder. "You're a smart and brave girl, Syal. A real Antilles." An excited whoop made him look over at the court. "I think the game's finishing."

"Thank you for listening to me," Syal said quietly. "I feel better now." Before Han could reply, she took a deep breath and turned to watch her father leave the court, with a giggling Myri held upside-down over one shoulder.

Han followed her cue, raising a smile as Wedge pretended to drop his daughter and Myri shrieked in delight.

I remember when Jaina was small enough for me to do that. Nowadays, she could use the Force to pick me up and throw me around. I wish I could hide my children away somewhere safe from this war. But my children are Jedi Knights now, and we need all the Jedi we have to make this galaxy safe for Syal and Myri, and billions of other children.

Syal grabbed his hand and tugged him to his feet. "It's our turn now."

Right now was not the time for thinking. Now was the time for shuntball and laughter and the things that made this life worth living.

* * * * *

That night, after the girls had gone to bed, Wedge joined Tionne and Kam in their quarters. He accepted a mug of hot caf and settled back into a soft chair. The room had a welcoming atmosphere to it; personal touches of decoration and possessions made it feel more like a home than anywhere Wedge had been in months. He caught himself yawning, and was surprised to discover how relaxed he felt.

"I swear, spending a day with two children is more tiring than a day commanding a Star Destroyer," he remarked.

"They are both valuable jobs," Tionne replied, smiling.

Wedge nodded. "I can't say how much it means to me and Iella to have our girls here. Your work here makes it easier for me to do mine."

"It's a pleasure to have Myri and Syal here at the Jedi Shelter," Kam said warmly. "They've settled in very well."

"Mmmm. I sometimes wonder how they've managed as about the only non-Jedi here," Wedge said, frowning. "It must be daunting."

"They've coped very well," Tionne reassured him. "And they're teaching the Jedi children useful lessons too."

"How so?"

"I sometimes think that keeping young Jedi isolated from the rest of the galaxy is a mistake," Tionne said, leaning forward so her silver hair spilled over her shoulder. "They are so used to the Force being part of the lives of themselves and every one around them, they find it hard to relate to non-Force users. They can't imagine how non-Jedi operate; how they feel, and plan and work. Young Jedi learn that they're special, and that it's their destiny to help the rest of the galaxy. It's a short step from there, to thinking that the rest of the galaxy can't possibly manage without them, and that they, as Jedi, are simply better than everyone else."

Wedge sipped his caf and thought. "The Jedi I know best are those who came late to their powers: Luke and Corran, Tyria even. They know what it's like to be ordinary. Even the Solo children spent a lot of time around regular folks. I can see what you mean though, about children like the ones you have here."

"That's why having Syal and Myri around is good for them," Kam said. "The Jedi children play with them, attend class with them and are their friends. They know what non-Jedi can contribute and achieve."

Wedge smiled. "And what have my girls achieved?"

"They both intelligent," Kam said. "So in regular school lessons they do well. In fact, I think they try harder because they can compete with the Jedi on equal terms at things like maths. We also have a few outdated X-wing simulators. The Force isn't as useful in a sim as in the real thing; you can't reach out through the Force to feel where the other ships are, for example." He smiled. "Syal's the best pilot for her age, and better than some of the older ones. She's your daughter, Wedge."

Wedge felt a glow of pride at the words. "Maybe in fifteen years or so, there'll be another Antilles commanding Rogue Squadron." The thought turned sour as soon as he'd spoken. That's if there's still a Galactic Alliance in fifteen years, if we win this war. I'm willing to lose my own life to give my daughters a chance to live theirs in peace and freedom. I want them to have a future worth living, but stars! I want to be in that future with them.

"Your daughters have the fine examples of their parents to follow," Tionne said. "You will always be in their hearts."

"Thank you." Wedge sipped at his caf again and let his muscles relax. "Han was right," he said. "Though please don't tell him I said so. But I did need this break."

"We're thinking of opening a chain of resorts for over-stressed generals," Kam quipped. "Hot tubs, full spa facilities, fine food and not a single alarm, buzzer or comlink allowed."

Wedge smiled. "That sounds wonderful. Reserve me a place now."

"You'll be first in line."

The gentle humour and the warm atmosphere created by Kam and Tionne softened the worry that lay coiled in Wedge's stomach. For all he knew, they were using some Jedi technique to calm and reassure him. He didn't much care. He just wanted to enjoy this respite while it lasted.

* * * * *

Their time at the Jedi Shelter flew past all too quickly. It seemed no time until Han and Wedge were back in the docking bay, saying goodbye. Wedge had his arms round his girls and was speaking to them too quietly for Han to hear. Han had Ben riding on his shoulders, the little boy chuckling with delight as he buried his hands in his uncle's hair.

"Careful there, junior thak-rider," Han told him. "Leave me some hair." He swung the boy down and set him on his feet. "I have to go now," he said, crouching to bring himself closer to the toddler's level. "You be a good boy, Ben."

Ben smiled and nodded before retreating to the safety of Tionne's skirts. The visit hadn't been long enough for him to completely lose his shyness around the uncle he couldn't remember meeting before. Han ruffled the boy's red hair and stood up again. Kam shook his hand. "It's been good to see you here."

"Mara and Luke will be pleased to have fresh news on Ben," Han said. "And Wedge really, really needed to get away from his command for a few days."

"I think he is much refreshed for seeing his daughters again," Tionne said.

Han nodded. I hate to take him away again, but ... "It's time we were leaving," he said loudly.

Wedge kissed his daughters and disentangled himself from them. "Keep yourselves busy and I'll be back before you know it," he promised.

The girls nodded, looking at him solemnly. Neither one was crying, but Syal took her sister's hand and drew her close.

"Go out and kill the Vong, so we can all be together again," Syal said to her father.

"That's what I'm going to do." Wedge's face showed little emotion, but there was a hoarseness in his voice he couldn't control. "You two look after one another while I'm gone."

The girls nodded again.

"Daddy ..." Myri stopped herself. "Good luck, Daddy."

"Thank you. Good bye, Sugar, good bye Sweetheart." With a last quick kiss for each of them, Wedge turned and walked briskly to the Millennium Falcon.

Han made his farewells to Kam and Tionne, and followed Wedge. He glanced at Syal and Myri as he passed them. Both were watching their father walk away, but Syal turned her head to look at Han. She smiled at him, silently thanking him for bringing their father to them. Han nodded once in return, and made sure that he didn't block the girls' last view of Wedge as he walked to the ship.

* * * * *

A few minutes later, they were in space again, negotiating their way through the Maw. Han had to give most of his attention to piloting his ship through the maze of hazards, but he glanced at Wedge now and again. Wedge seemed outwardly calm, his features impassive, but his gaze was distant. Han didn't attempt to make conversation, just concentrated on his flying. They had almost reached the outer edge of the Maw when Wedge suddenly spoke.

"If Shelter wasn't in the middle of the Maw, we could lure a Vong fleet here and massacre it. We'd have such an advantage from knowing the safe space lanes." Wedge's face had lit up, his eyes burning with a new determination. He looked across at Han. "This is our galaxy, and our children's galaxy. Nothing and no one is going to change that."

Han nodded. "We've defeated the toughest enemies that this galaxy can offer. The Vong have had numbers on their side, but they don't even have any Sith lords, mad Jedi clones or genius Grand Admirals."

Wedge's smile was dangerous. "They don't have any Corellians on their side either."

"You can't win a war without Corellians to ignore the odds," Han remarked.

Wedge's smile softened. "I don't fancy going back to Coruscant. When the war's over, I think we'll settle on Corellia, raise the girls there." He looked out of the viewport into deep space. "And may the Force have mercy on anyone who tries to separate us again, because I won't. I've lost family once before, and two homes. I won't let it happen again. My future is with my family."

"We'll win because we have to," Han said. "We're fighting for our homes and families."

Wedge nodded. "Homes and families," he echoed.

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