The story takes place several months after the end of Aaron Allston's Starfighters of Adumar, which doesn't have any particular significance beyond placing it somewhere on the timeline. It is the fourth story in the saga follows The Loss.
The most glaring discrepancy (there are others, but this is fan fiction) between this story and the officially published canon works is the marital status of Wes Janson. For the purpose of telling this story, he needed to be married. The author was graciously granted permission to borrow the character of Jehri Janson from the fan fiction work of Shanon Stavenjord. I liked the character she created for Wes. Thanks very much, Shanon.
This story was originally posted elsewhere with the title Hobbie's Story, but then whole saga is Hobbie's story. There have been substantial revisions made; the plot, the characters and the outcome are the same. Additional details and the thoughts going on in the heads of the characters are primarily where the changes have been made. I hope that it makes the story more plausible and believable. Hobbie did seem to fall in love awfully fast in the original version.
P.S. I also thought it might be fun to see what happened after the end of the original version.
He read through the message on the computer screen again and picked up the nearest thing he could reach. A datapad went flying from his hand and smashed against the door to his quarters shattering into thousands of electronic components and shards of plastic casing. He didn't stop to look at the mess he'd made. He just stalked out of his quarters hoping that he did not cross paths with anyone for fear that he might do the same sort of damage to them that he had to the datapad.
He made it down to the hangar deck of the enormous Sivantlie Base complex without running into anyone and thought to himself ironically, "because none of them are here anymore. They've got real lives outside of the squadron and the military." He went straight to his X-wing and climbed aboard. He ran through a rapid pre-flight, but ignored the flashing light indicating a problem with one of his stabilizers, and called the base's control tower. "This is Major Klivian. Rogue Squadron. Requesting immediate clearance for takeoff."
The voice from the control tower crackled in his helmet speaker. "Good morning, Major. You're here early. The rest of the squadron isn't due for the training exercise for a couple more hours."
Hobbie tried to keep the tension out of his voice. "I know. I just want to run through some maneuvers before the rest of them get here."
"Sure, Major. Where are you going?"
"I'll be at the Northwest Flight Range."
"Okay, Major. Cleared to depart. Have a good flight."
Hobbie flicked off the comm unit and cut in the repulsorlift floating the ship off the hangar floor. He checked his monitors. Even on a planet that never slept, the early morning hours were a quieter time in terms of air traffic, which suited him just fine. He shot out of the hangar at a far faster speed than was considered safe and headed out to the Flight Range.
Wedge was startled out of a sound sleep by the urgent chiming of his comlink. He reached over and picked it up. "Antilles."
Tycho's voice came through and Wedge could hear the tension in it. "Wedge, meet me at the Medcenter. Hobbie crashed his ship at the Northwest Flight Range. He's in pretty rough shape."
As soon as he heard Tycho mention the Medcenter, Wedge sat up waking Iella who had been sleeping quietly beside him. "I'll be right there. Did you call Wes?"
"I'm calling him next. See you in a few... Out."
Wedge got up and started pulling on a day uniform, but stopped when Iella asked, "What happened?"
"Hobbie crashed at the Flight Range. He's in bad shape."
She started to get up. "I'll come with you."
Wedge looked at her and caressed her face. "Are you sure? You've got that little one of ours to think about." They had been married for nearly five months and Iella was carrying their first child.
She got up and gave Wedge a quick hug. "Hobbie is my friend too."
"All right. Let's get going then."
Tycho, Wes and his wife, Jehri, Wedge, and Iella sat or paced in the waiting area waiting for word of Hobbie's condition.
"Do any of you have any idea what would have prompted him to go off on his own at that hour of the morning?" Wedge asked looking around at the group.
Heads shook all around, but then Jehri Janson spoke up. "He shouldn't have taken that ship out at all, Wedge."
"What do you mean?"
She shook her head. "Hobbie is too good a pilot to crash for no reason. I called Zraii and asked if he knew of any problem that his ship might have that might cause a crash." She looked up at Wedge with a bleak expression. "His ship had a stabilizer problem. Not a big deal to fix; about forty-five minutes' work. It was scheduled to be done this morning before your training exercise."
Jehri Janson was an extremely talented flight mechanic. While she wasn't assigned to the Rogues at present, she was very close to most of them. She had been assigned to them a few years before, which was when she and Wes had met and eventually gotten married.
Wedge was surprised. "That's not like Hobbie at all. He is a stickler for having his ship in the best condition at all possible."
"In spite of that, he still has a magnetic attraction to the ground," Wes said. The joking tone did not hide his deep concern for his best friend.
"Something must have set him off," Tycho said. "We need to find out what so we can help him."
As close as they were, the Rogues most certainly did respect each other's privacy -- to a point. When something like this happened, they would do anything to help each other, even if it meant butting into private business.
Wes nodded. "I'll go see if I can find anything in his quarters that might give us a clue, as soon as we hear something from the docs."
As if on cue, the door to the waiting area opened and a doctor came in. "General. Ladies. Gentlemen. I'm Doctor Keyans. Doctor Telsan told me personally to handle Major Klivian's case."
Doctor Telsan, now Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Medcenter, was an old friend of Rogue Squadron.
They all stood expectantly. "Is he going to be all right?" Wedge asked for all of them.
The doctor took a deep breath. "If everything goes well, yes. The first couple of days will be touch and go because the Bacta can only do so much; the rest is up to him. He was very seriously injured in the crash. He'll be in the tank for at least a week."
"Is there anything we can do for him?" Wedge asked.
"Not really. He'll be unconscious for at least the first two days. After that, he'll be semi-conscious. If you wish, you may come and see him while he's in the Bacta tank. Some patients seem to be able to remember seeing people outside the tank, which helps them with some of the sensory deprivation problems. But only one or two at a time."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Wes knew Hobbie's quarters like the back of his hand. He had spent many an hour here plotting various pranks and jokes, but there was nothing funny about what he found. The first thing he noticed because he could not avoid stepping on the pieces was the smashed datapad. A frown creased his forehead. Hobbie did not have a temper. What could have made him throw a datapad in a fit of anger?
Then Wes glanced over at the desk. The computer screen was glowing. Hobbie hadn't bothered to turn it off, which was also not like him. Wes walked over to the desk and read the message on the screen. And sat down in the chair, hard. "Now why would that make him storm out of here and crash his ship?" he asked himself.
He pulled his own datapad out of his pocket and copied the message still puzzling over it.
They met again in Tycho's office a couple of hours later. "Did you find anything in his quarters to explain what happened?" Wedge asked.
Wes had spent the last two hours pondering the answer to just that question. "I don't know, Wedge. When I walked in, I stepped on a datapad that had been shattered into pieces from being thrown against the door."
Wedge and Tycho looked at each other, their eyebrows going up in matching expressions of surprise.
"Yeah, that's what I thought too," Wes said. "Then I noticed that his computer was not shut off. There was a message still on the screen. I copied the message, but there's nothing in it that would warrant Hobbie's reaction." He handed the datapad to Wedge.
Wedge read the message, then handed the datapad to Tycho.
Hello Derek. I just wanted to let you know that I will be arriving on Coruscant tomorrow morning. My new job begins in about a week. I hope we'll have a chance to get together and talk about old times. Sela.
"You're right, Wes. Why would he get angry about Sela arriving and wanting to get together? They've been friends and pen pals for years," Tycho said.
The three of them sat silently pondering the message.
Sela Milson was a little girl about five years old when Hobbie had met her fifteen years earlier. The Rogues had gone on a mission to find and rescue a hidden village that was being ravaged by Bilbringi Fever. Children had made up a large proportion of the refugees they had rescued. While the adults recovered from the Fever, many of the Rogues and other rescue personnel had befriended the children; and many of them had maintained contact with the children after they had been resettled. Sela had been found and rescued by Hobbie and Nia Ponsed, the nurse he had begun a pretty serious relationship with at about the same time.
Wes suddenly hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. "It's not Sela he's upset about."
Wedge and Tycho looked at him waiting for him to clarify his statement.
"Nia? She's been gone a long time, Wes."
"I know, Wedge. And you both know how devastated Hobbie was when he found out that she had died." His face, which normally wore a cheerful expression, had been serious. Now it showed real sadness for his friend. "I don't know if you guys remember this, but back on Home One just before the Battle of Endor, we took bets among ourselves about which of us would get married first, assuming we survived the battle."
Tycho shook his head remembering, "That was such a stupid thing for us to do, especially then."
"We were all young and fearless then," Wes said. "We had seen a lot of death and destruction, but we also saw hope for the future. The entire squadron picked Hobbie to be the first. It was an easy pick because it was obvious how much he loved Nia. I know you guys didn't know this because Hob never said anything about it afterward, but he told me right before the battle that he was going to ask Nia to marry him. It nearly killed him when he found out that she had been killed in the battle."
Wedge and Tycho sat back in their chairs recalling their friend's grief and understanding now why it had been so profound.
Wes rubbed a hand over his face and looked back in time. "I sat with him in our quarters while he forced himself to write the news of Nia's death to Sela. She had become like a little sister to both of them and he felt that he had to be the one to tell her. Sometimes, I think that the letters that little girl sent back to him were the only thing that kept him going."
"She's what, eighteen? No, twenty now?" Tycho asked.
"Yeah, something like that."
"But what does that have to do with Hobbie going off the deep end? I would think that seeing his young friend would be a happy thing," Wedge asked.
"Timing, Wedge. Timing." He looked from Wedge to Tycho and back again. "Sela's message reminded him of Nia, not that he could ever forget her. He had planned to marry Nia, but she died. Tycho is settled down; you're finally married and settled down. Stang, Wedge! Even I'm married and settled down, and everyone bet on me to be the last, if ever. He's always been really happy for us, but he has missed out on that happiness himself. The four of us are the last of the original Rogues here who would even remember Nia and the fact that they would have been the first of us to get married." He shook his head. "Sela's message dredged up painful memories when he is feeling very much alone. Our lives are moving forward, but he feels like his stopped at Endor and he's being left behind."
Wedge was impressed with Wes's insight into his friend's feelings. "Now I understand why he always expects the worst in any situation. He's already suffered the worst thing that can happen to a person -- losing the one you love like that." Then a new thought struck him. "Sela." He looked at Wes and Tycho. "She has no way of knowing about Hobbie's accident. She has to be here by now. We need to find her and tell her what has happened."
Just then the intercom on Tycho's desk chimed. "Excuse me, Sir. There is a young lady here asking to speak with Major Janson. She was sent up here from the hangar," his aide said.
"Who is it?"
"She says her name is Sela Milson, Sir."
All three of them sat up straight in their chairs. "Send her right in."
They stood and Tycho went to open his office door. A startlingly attractive girl of about twenty stood there. She had wavy blonde hair that just touched her shoulders and softly framed her face. Her clear blue eyes immediately picked out Wes among the three of them.
Wes stepped over to the door and greeted her, "Hello, Sela. I'm Wes Janson," he said extending his hand.
She smiled as she shook his hand. "I recognized you from the holos Derek sent, Major, but I remember you from Atrivis as well."
"Please, call me Wes." He ushered her into the office. "This is Wedge Antilles and this is Tycho Celchu. I'm not sure if you remember them, but they were at Atrivis too."
"I do remember you. It's very nice to meet you again." She smiled and shook their hands before taking a seat. "I just arrived a few hours ago. I was trying to reach Derek, but he isn't answering his comm. I was wondering if you would know where I could find him."
Wes's smile of greeting disappeared and his voice expressed serious concern. "He's in the Medcenter. He was in a bad crash just this morning."
Her composure dissolved as her face paled and her hand flew up to cover her mouth. "Is he going to be all right?" she asked in a shaky voice.
Wedge leaned toward her from his chair. "Yes, Sela. We hope so, but he'll be in the Bacta for at least a week and then be in for about a month of recuperation time."
"May I see him?"
Tycho offered her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "We were just going to try to find you, but you managed to find us first; we can take you over there. The doctors said that he'll be unconscious for the first couple of days and then only partially conscious after that, but we're all planning to visit him anyway. Why don't we go on over there now?"
"Thank you, Colonel. General."
Wedge smiled at her. "The first thing you're going to have to do, Sela, is drop those ranks. Just call us Wedge and Tycho," he said pointing first to himself and then Tycho. "We're not sticklers for protocol among friends."
The trip to the Medcenter had been a strangely quiet one. Instinctively, the three men felt very protective toward Sela. They did not want to upset Sela by telling her about their speculations about Hobbie's state of mind just before his crash. And Sela was obviously not going to be truly reassured until she could see Hobbie for herself.
The four of them walked into the Bacta treatment facility and were directed to the tank where Hobbie floated. Wedge, Wes and Tycho hung back a bit to give Sela some slight sense of privacy as she saw her injured friend for the first time.
She walked forward alone and slowly raised a hand to the transparisteel encasing her friend in the healing Bacta fluid. She tried as hard as she could to control her emotions but just couldn't do it, and started to cry softly as she pressed her forehead against the transparisteel wall.
Wes walked up to her and put his arm around her shoulders. He turned her away from the Bacta tank, walked her over to a chair, and sat her down. "It's all right, Sela," he said in a very gentle tone. "He really is going to be all right. He's come through a lot worse than this."
To Wedge and Tycho, Wes sounded almost as if he were trying to convince himself as well as Sela. They walked over and sat down with her and Wes. "Wes is right, Sela. He has come through worse than this," Wedge said.
She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes, then she said, "But he had Nia then." She buried her face in her hands and started sobbing again.
Wes put his arms around her and let her bury her sobs in his shoulder. He looked over the top of her head at Wedge and Tycho and knew that his own face reflected the bleak expression he saw on theirs.
None of them said anything for several minutes until Sela stopped crying . Then Wes asked her gently as he released her, "Sela, you're supposed to be starting a new job? Where are you supposed to go?"
She took a slow shuddering breath trying to pull herself back together. "I'm supposed to start my job with the Children's Services Bureau in about a week," she said, her voice still shaking from barely restrained tears.
"Do you have some place to stay?"
She shook her head. "I was hoping that Derek would be able to help me find a place. I don't know anyone here on Coruscant besides him."
Wes took her hand. "Oh yes you do," he said smiling at her. "You know us and the Rogues take care of their own. You're coming home with me. My wife will be very happy to meet you. Hobbie's talked about you so much she already thinks of you as his little sister."
"Oh no, Wes. I couldn't impose like that," she said shaking her head in protest.
Wedge smiled at her too and took her other hand. "It's no imposition, Sela. Wes just beat us to it, but Tycho and I were about to make the same offer." Tycho smiled and nodded his head in agreement as well.
She looked from one to the other of them and then back toward the Bacta tank.
Wes followed the direction of her gaze. "Hobbie would expect nothing less from us."
She almost broke down in tears again, only managing to stop herself by taking several deep breaths. She looked back at them gratefully. "Thank you."
Wes had called Jehri to tell her that he was bringing home a houseguest, then they had gone to pick Sela's bags up from the storage locker where she had left them. They stepped out of the turbolift and walked toward the Jansons' apartment. "Here we are. Home, sweet home." He opened the door and went in and Sela followed him tentatively.
Wes's wife came out of the kitchen to greet them smiling. "You must be Sela." She reached out and took both of Sela's hands drawing her further into the apartment. "I've heard so much about you, I feel like I already know you." She took a step back still holding Sela's hands. "The holos Hobbie has shown us don't do you justice. Come in and sit down." She walked Sela toward the living area and offered her a seat.
Sela was overwhelmed at her warm greeting. "Thank you, Mistress Janson."
Jehri's smile stayed in her eyes, but her face momentarily took on an expression of mock indignation. "Mistress Janson?" She smiled again. "You just call me Jehri."
Wes had taken Sela's bags and put them in the guest room, but now came back to sit with Jehri and Sela. Jehri looked up at him and asked, "How's Hobbie?"
Wes's cheerful expression faded slightly. "He's in the Bacta tank, but won't regain consciousness for another couple of days. We're all going to rotate going to see him until he's out of the tank and afterwards."
He looked at Sela just a little self-consciously. "Sela, if you hang around the Rogues long enough, you'll find out that there's not much we don't know about each other's business, and that there's almost nothing we won't do to help each other." He paused a moment before continuing, "Wedge asked me to ask you something. Would you like to delay starting your new job until Hobbie is out of the woods? He's got the pull to arrange for that."
Sela's eyes widened. "He would do that for me?"
"He'd be doing it just as much for Hobbie, but yes, he would do that for you," Jehri answered her. She looked over at her husband and smiled. "I know Wes has probably already told you this ... the Rogues take care of their own. You're one of us; if there is anything we can do, anything you need, you have only to ask."
She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Please tell him that I really appreciate the offer, but no. I've been anxious to finish school so that I could start doing this work. Derek and Nia were the ones who rescued me when I was little. I knew almost right from that time that I wanted to be able to help other children who were victims of the fighting so I chose to go into Children's Services to honor Nia's memory. I don't think I should put off starting what I've wanted to do for so long, and having something to do will keep me from worrying about Derek so much. Until I do start my job, I would like to be there at the Medcenter with him, though."
Jehri put a comforting arm around Sela, whose eyes had filled with tears again. Just then, two high pitched voices came from the back part of the apartment. A boy, about four years old and a girl, about two came running into the living room. "Daddy, Daddy! You're home!"
Wes picked them both up, kissed them on the cheek and swung them around. They responded with gales of laughter and Jehri and Sela smiled as they watched. He put them back down on the floor and sat back in his chair with his hands on their shoulders. "Kids, say hello to Sela. She is a friend of Uncle Hobbie's, and she's going to be staying with us for a while. Sela, this is Spanner," he said ruffling his son's hair. "And this is Gunnar." He kissed the top of her head.
Sela smiled at them, "Hello Spanner. Hello Gunnar."
Gunnar immediately went over and crawled into Sela's lap to give her a hug, which Sela returned smiling.
Spanner looked at her and asked, "Where's Uncle Hobbie?"
Sela's smile faded and Wes answered his son. "Uncle Hobbie's been in a bad accident. He's at the Medcenter."
Both children's eyes filled with tears. "Is he going to be okay?" the little boy asked.
"He will be, Span," Wes said hugging his son.
Gunnar had started to cry softly when she heard about her adopted uncle and Sela hugged her tightly, her own eyes filling with tears again.
"Uncle Hobbie will be fine, Sweetheart," Jehri said to her son. "But it will take time, and he'll need our help." She stood up. "Wes, Hon, why don't you help the kids get washed up for dinner while I help Sela get settled in?"
The relaxed family dinner had helped Sela feel much more at ease in her new surroundings. She had enjoyed listening to the children tell Wes and Jehri about their adventures during the day and smiled at the way he joked with them.
The children were very curious about her too and asked lots of questions. Their eyes widened when she told them that Uncle Hobbie and their daddy had rescued her and a lot of other children when she was only a little older than the two of them. Wes smiled and nodded his confirmation of her story when they looked up at him.
"Do you still hear from those four little brothers that you and Tarrin rescued?" she asked him. "They didn't stay at the colony for very long after we were resettled."
"Oh yes. A couple of them came through pilot training. They're flying in Tarrin's squadron someplace in the Mid-rim right now, I think. The other two are here on Coruscant with their parents pretty close to finishing school." He smiled. "From what I understand, a lot of the kids we rescued stayed in pretty close touch with us and the other rescue team members. I don't know; something special happened with you kids out there."
Sela smiled back at him. "You made us feel safe when we really needed that."
"Okay, kids. You need to go get ready for bed," Jehri said.
"Okay, Mommy. Daddy, will you tell us a story?" Spanner asked.
Wes smiled at his son and then looked over at Sela. "I think Sela might know a good story."
She looked up at him startled for a moment and saw the glint in his eye. She couldn't help smiling. "I think I know which story your daddy is thinking of. You go get ready for bed and I'll come in and tell it to you."
Jehri had just tucked Gunnar into her little bed and Spanner sat next to Sela, who put her arm around him. Wes had brought a couple of chairs into the room for himself and Jehri so they could listen to Sela's story as well.
Sela looked over her shoulder at the two of them with a smile and then at the children. "This story is called The Princess and the Giant Fire-breathing Dragon. Your Uncle Hobbie told it to me when I was a little girl."
She paused for a moment to compose her thoughts, then began. "Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Leia. She lived in a beautiful land called Alderaan. Her people were very happy, but she knew that there were other people who lived in other lands ruled by an evil wizard. He had a giant fire-breathing dragon that he would send out to frighten them or hurt them. The princess and some of her friends snuck into one of the lands ruled by the evil wizard to find a magic spell that would destroy his dragon. They found the spell, but the wizard saw them and chased them. He captured the princess and imprisoned her, but she was able to send a message out of the wizard's land..."
Unlike the first time she had heard the story, Wes's children both stayed awake through the whole tale. Their eyes widened with fear for the princess and the heroes when they were in the most danger and they cheered when the dragon was destroyed. "Wow!" Spanner said when it was over. "That was a great story, Sela."
She smiled and hugged him. "I thought so when your Uncle Hobbie told it to me."
"Okay, Span," Wes said to his son as he stood up. "Time for bed." He bent down and kissed his daughter good night and piggybacked Spanner off to his own room.
She leaned over to kiss Gunnar on the cheek before she stood to move out of Jehri's way. Then she carried the chairs Wes and Jehri had sat on back out of the room.
"Here. I'll take those," Wes said to her. He put the chairs back where they belonged and ushered Sela back to the living room. "That story hasn't lost a thing in the telling," he said smiling at her.
Jehri had followed them and sat down next to Wes on the couch. "He's right, Sela. You captivated the kids with it. Wes told me about the story, but I had never actually heard it before tonight. He said he couldn't do it justice, and he knew it would be too painful for Hobbie to ask him to tell it. I'm glad I finally got to hear it."
"Your children are so sweet." She smiled at them. "That story got me through a lot of really rough times, especially after Nia died. I would hear Derek's voice inside my head telling me the whole story and it would always make me feel better." She took a deep breath. "Thank you so much for letting me stay here. I'll try to get out of your way as soon as I can."
"Sela, you're not in our way," Jehri said. "You're staying with us as long as you need to."
Sela spent almost all of her time over at the Medcenter just sitting near Hobbie's Bacta tank, for the next couple of days. She met the rest of the Rogues and many of Hobbie's other friends when they stopped by to visit. Wes had already told them about Sela so they all greeted her as if they were already friends and soon she felt very comfortable with them all.
Hobbie's visible scars were healing, but Wes wondered if the emotional ones ever would. He and Jehri stood at the door watching Sela as she sat and watched Hobbie floating in the Bacta. They had come by the Medcenter to take her home with them so that she could rest. She insisted that she was very comfortable with them, but more than once they had heard her crying softly in the middle of the night.
Wes walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Come on, Sela. It's time to go home."
His voice and touch had startled her, but she turned and smiled. Then she spotted Jehri. "Both of you here to escort me home? What? Am I out past my curfew?"
Wes chuckled. "Yeah. You're out past your curfew. No. Seriously. You need to try to get some rest. There really isn't anything you can do for him right now. And you know that the rest of us are in here all the time. If there is any change, they'll let us know right away."
She stood and walked with him back toward the door.
Jehri took her hand and patted it. "Sela, you're wearing yourself out staying here all hours, and we know you're not sleeping well. The Doctors Janson hereby prescribe an evening of complete distraction for you. Tonight is Janson Family Fun Night. As a member of the household, you are obliged to participate."
Sela smiled. "And what goes on on 'Janson Family Fun Night'?"
"First things first," Wes grinned. "Fuel for the frivolity. We pick up carry-out food that is totally unhealthy in massive quantities."
"Sounds good. Do you know a place that sells really good ice cream? I make unbelievable ice cream sundaes."
Jehri laughed. "A girl after my own heart. Ice cream is one of my favorite vices."
They were just finishing their breakfast and laughing over the fun they'd had with the children the night before when Wes's comlink chimed. "Janson."
Tycho's voice came out of the tiny speaker. "Hi Wes. Is Sela there?" His voice didn't sound strained or anxious.
"Yeah, Tych. She's right here."
"I stopped by the Medcenter on my way to the base. Hobbie is starting to regain consciousness. I thought she'd want to know."
Wes heard Sela's sigh of relief and smiled feeling relieved himself. "Thanks, Tych. We're just about to head over there now."
"Okay. Wedge just walked in. We'll wait for you. Out."
Sela was consciously having to restrain herself from walking faster to get to the Bacta treatment facility in the Medcenter. When she and Wes got there, they saw the doctor talking quietly with Wedge and Tycho.
"How is he, Doc?" Wes asked.
"He is coming out of the sedative slowly, but he should begin to become aware of his surroundings fairly soon. This is when it is a good idea for familiar faces to be outside the tank for him to latch onto. He is still in a considerable amount of pain, but if we leave him under for too long at a stretch, it will aggravate the sensory deprivation problems. Why don't you go on over to the tank so he'll be able to see you when he comes to?"
The first sensations Hobbie became aware of were a feeling of weightlessness and being totally submerged in warm liquid. For an instant he panicked and flailed slowly, but then realized that he was not suffocating. He felt the breathing mask on his face and realized that he was in a Bacta tank. Again. His thought processes were still slowed because of the sedative in his system, but he knew that if he opened his eyes he would dimly be able to see outside the tank. What he saw out there would tell him just how bad off he was.
He concentrated the sluggish command he had over his body on the task of opening his eyes and succeeded in the effort. He saw four silhouettes that gradually became clearer as they moved closer to the tank. Wedge, Wes, and Tycho. I must have been pretty badly hurt for the three of them to be here together, he thought. Then he noticed the face that Wes was making at him right up against the transparisteel. It was their own private code worked out years ago. The sillier the face, the more serious the original injury, but a surefire way to let each other know that they would be all right. I was pretty bad off. I haven't seen that face since Hoth.
Remembering his time in the Bacta tank after Hoth brought memories of Nia to the surface, which in turn reminded him of how he had wound up in the tank this time. You idiot! he berated himself. You had no business flying a ship you knew needed repairs. It would serve you right if you were grounded. Then he remembered the message that had sent him out to do such a stupid thing. He narrowed his eyes to try to make out who the fourth silhouette outside the tank was, although he was pretty sure he knew. She put her hand up to the wall of the tank and looked at him intently.
Sela. He was glad to see her. She had always been a little island of innocence and serenity when he had been so often surrounded by chaos and war. He berated himself again for reacting the way he had to a simple message from his young friend. He tried to raise a hand toward hers to acknowledge her presence, but the pain became too much for him. The system monitors detected his growing distress and injected pain medication and a somewhat milder sedative and awareness slipped away.
Sela saw Hobbie close his eyes as the sedative took effect. "Did he see us?" she asked looking at Wes.
"Yeah, he saw us. He'll be okay. We just have to give him time now."
Just after the two of them had joined Rogue Squadron and realized that they might wind up in Bacta tanks periodically, Wes and Hobbie had devised a private code of stupid expressions that they would be able to read through the walls of the tank. The stupider the expression, the worse the original injury. Others who had seen them making those faces had never realized that they were not typical Wes and Hobbie antics. They were actually a means to reassure each other.
Wes felt as if a weight had been lifted off his chest. Hobbie's emotional well-being was still in question, but at least physically, he would be all right. He turned to Wedge and Tycho. "He's going to be okay."
Wedge smiled. As often as Hobbie had been injured, he knew that once Wes said he was going to be okay, he would be okay -- even if the medics were still waffling. The reverse was true as well. He was amazed every time he saw it, but was grateful that neither of them had been proven wrong yet. "All right. Now that Doctor Janson has made it official, how about if we go on to work?"
Tycho grinned. He knew exactly what Wedge had been thinking because his own thoughts were the same. "Yeah. Some of us have to work while Hobbie takes his Bacta vacation."
Sela smiled at their banter. She had really only known them for a few days, but felt as if she had been adopted into an extended family who truly cared about each other and about her.
Wedge reached out to squeeze her hand, "If you need anything, call. You've got our comm codes. We'll be right here."
Tycho also had some parting words for her. "You haven't met Winter yet, but she wants to meet you. She's going to stop by a little later."
Wes said nothing, but put his arm around her shoulders and gave her an affectionate hug.
She watched the three of them leave and then turned back to watching Hobbie in the tank.
"Sela? ... Sela?"
Sela jumped slightly in her chair and turned toward the voice that had been calling her name for a minute or two before it actually registered on her consciousness. She saw a woman standing a couple of steps away from her. She had a beautiful, kind face with piercing blue eyes, but the most striking feature about her was her white hair. It was arranged in a long braid that had been wrapped around her head as if she wore a crown. Her bearing was regal, but her expression was gentle.
"Hello, Sela. I'm Winter. Tycho told you that I would be stopping by, didn't he?"
Sela stood and smiled. "Yes he did. I'm pleased to meet you. You're a friend of Derek's too?"
"Yes. Actually, today I'm here on a spy mission for another friend of his: Councillor Organa Solo."
Sela's eyes widened. "The Princess?"
Amusement glinted in Winter's eyes. "The same."
"I met her when I was a little girl," Sela said in an awed, hushed voice.
"I know. She was very flattered to have been the inspiration for the story Hobbie told you." She looked over at the tank and asked, "Has he regained consciousness again since this morning?"
"No he hasn't."
Two more people approached from behind Winter. "Hi Winter. Hi Sela." Corran Horn's wife, Mirax, greeted them.
Wedge's wife, Iella smiled a silent greeting, then asked, "How is he doing?"
"He came out of the sedative for a little while this morning, but the monitors showed that he was still in a lot of pain so he was put under again," Sela answered.
"In that case, Corran ordered me to kidnap you and take you out of here for lunch today. Iella? Winter? Would you like to join us?" Mirax looked from one to the other.
"I have to be back in the office in an hour and a half, but I'll go," Iella said.
"I will too, Mirax," Winter said smiling.
"No, I really should stay..." Sela started to protest.
Mirax cut her off. "No, you really should go, Sela. You need to take care of yourself, which means not subjecting yourself to the stuff they mistakenly call food down in the cafeteria here. Now, come on." She took Sela's hand and pulled her toward the exit, with Iella and Winter close behind.
The four women went to a tapcaf not far from the Medcenter and had a very enjoyable lunch. Mirax had succeeded in distracting Sela by telling stories of some of the Rogues' adventures that she had gotten tangled up in. Sela responded by recounting Hobbie's version of those same adventures that he'd written to her over the years; some of the discrepancies causing outbursts of laughter.
Iella and Winter mostly sat back and watched Sela, especially when she talked about Hobbie and Nia and the letters they had both sent her.
"You know," Sela said thinking back to those letters she had received, "even though I was only five when they started writing to me, they never talked down to me. They never wrote as if to a child; always as if I was an adult and capable of understanding what they said, and sometimes even what they didn't say. I could tell how much Derek loved Nia from the way he wrote about her. I knew they were going to get married."
Her face became still as she looked into the past. "I was so heartbroken when I got Derek's letter saying that Nia had died. She was the big sister I never had. He wrote so honestly about what had happened, not wrapping it up in euphemisms, and how much it hurt that she was gone. Even at six years old, all I wanted to do was be able to make his hurt go away."
She fell silent and the others let the silence stay for a few moments as they exchanged glances full of speculation.
Iella reached over to squeeze Sela's hand. "We all want to make his hurt go away, Sela."
They left the tapcaf and walked Sela back to the entrance of the Medcenter. After she went inside, Mirax looked at Iella and Winter and asked, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Iella had a thoughtful look on her face. "She has obviously loved Hobbie since she was a child, but now she has fallen in love with him. And it is no childhood crush."
"I think you're right, Iella, but she hasn't entirely realized it yet," Winter added.
"I'll bet if I called Jehri and asked her, she'd agree with us," Mirax said. "I wonder if the boys have figured it out yet?"
Iella smiled. "No, I don't think so. I think they've got her pegged as a little sister. They feel very protective toward her like a bunch of big brothers. It hasn't occurred to them that even though she's young, she is a grown woman."
Iella's first marriage had been to a man twenty years her senior. She'd had to overcome family and societal objections to her marriage, but it had been based on love and respect.
"The difference between your situation with Diric and Sela's with Hobbie is that you and Diric met when you were already an adult," Winter said to Iella. "Hobbie has known Sela since she was a child of five. As far as he's concerned, she is his little pen pal. He may not be able to see past the little girl she was to the young woman she has become. I just hope Sela doesn't wind up getting hurt."
To everyone's amazement, Hobbie's recovery went more quickly than the doctors had projected. He was ready to come out of the Bacta tank two days ahead of schedule. Wes, Jehri, Sela, Tycho, and Wedge were at the Medcenter early that day. They stood and watched as the technician directed Hobbie to surface and helped him out of the tank. He was still weak, but with rest his strength would come back quickly. The medtech got him cleaned up and settled into a repulsor chair to move him to a private room for a couple more days of observation before he would be released, but first let him have a few minutes with his friends.
"You scared us again, Hobbie," Tycho said cuffing him lightly on the shoulder.
"Yeah. Poor Sela gets here and finds you swimming in the goop again," Wes said, the expression on his face a combination of the usual good cheer and concern for his friend.
Hobbie remembered that all of the Rogues and many of his other friends had stopped by to see him while he was in the tank, but Sela had been the constant. Every time he had regained consciousness, she was there with her hand on the wall of the tank until he lost consciousness again. He lifted a hand from the repulsorchair toward Sela, who took it in hers and bent down to kiss his cheek. "I'm sorry about that, Sela. Have these guys been looking out for you?"
Jehri smiled. "She's been staying with us, Hobbie. The kids love her."
Sela's eyes lowered and she felt herself start to blush. "Everyone has been so kind to me since I got here. I would have been completely lost without them."
Hobbie's gaze traveled over the group surrounding him. "Thanks for taking care of her," he said feeling grateful that he had such caring friends.
Wedge smiled and reached over to ruffle his damp hair. "The Rogues take care of their own, Hobbie."
Hobbie did actually have a place of his own outside of the Sivantlie Base, but had almost never spent any time there. Even on a planet as crowded as Coruscant he had felt too isolated away from his friends, who were all associated with the New Republic military in one way or another. He did spend time with them in their homes, though, especially with Wes and Jehri, whose kids considered him family. Realizing that he couldn't face going back to his quarters at the base after the stupid way he'd left there, Hobbie decided to do his recuperating in his own place.
Wes, Jehri, and Sela went to the Medcenter to take him to his apartment and get him settled in.
"Hobbie, there is not a single thing to eat in this place," Jehri said coming out of the kitchen. "Come on Wes. Let's go get him stocked up so he won't starve to death while he is supposedly recuperating."
"Sure, Hon. Sela, why don't you stay here and keep him out of mischief till we get back?" Wes said with a grin.
Jehri kissed him on the cheek. "We'll be back in a little while."
They left and Hobbie and Sela sat in silence for a few moments. He looked at Sela marvelling at how much she had changed. She was not a girl anymore; she was a very lovely young woman. "How long has it been since the last time I saw you? You must have been about fourteen, fifteen?"
"Sixteen. You came for my prep school graduation," she said smiling.
"And now you're ready to take on the galaxy. Your mother must be so proud of you. How is she?"
"She's doing very well, but she was very upset when I told her about your accident."
Hobbie smiled. Sela's mother had adopted him and Nia almost the same way they had adopted Sela, and had been just as devastated as Hobbie and Sela by Nia's death. He thought that she thought of him as a surrogate son and older brother for Sela and had welcomed his frequent letters and occasional visits. "Next time you talk to her, tell her I appreciate her concern, but I'll be okay. It's not like this is the first time I've banged myself up this badly."
"I don't know what I'd do if I lost you too," Sela said, her voice almost a whisper and her face showing dread at that thought.
Hobbie's chest felt tight as he was again reminded that Nia was gone from both their lives. A flash of light on Sela's wrist caught Hobbie's eye. Looking closer, he saw that she was wearing a bracelet with a small gold charm. It was a birthday gift he had given Nia only a month before she had been killed. He had sent it to Sela and asked her to wear it as a remembrance of Nia. "I miss her too Sela," he said quietly.
Their thoughts focussed on Nia, neither of them had recognized the deeper significance of what Sela had just said.
Hobbie decided to change the subject before his own emotions got the better of him. "Why don't you tell me about this new job you're starting?"
Sela sensed that it was not the right time for them to talk about Nia, but she could not begin to do as he asked without mentioning her. She just hoped that she would not add to his pain. "I wanted to work with children orphaned by the Rebellion because that's what almost happened to me. You and Nia made a huge impression on that five year old girl you rescued, and I wanted to do something that would honor her memory. What I'll be doing is working to place orphans with new families. There are so many; it is a huge job." She looked at Hobbie and saw both sadness at Nia's absence and pride in her.
"She would be very proud of you, Sela. She loved you very much," he said still in a quiet voice. He took a deep breath, then asked her, "So, how do you like Wes's kids?"
She smiled, glad that they were onto a more cheerful subject. "They are so sweet. Spanner talks about nothing but Smashball except when he's asking when Uncle Hobbie will come over again. And Gunnar is too cute for words. She crawled into my lap and gave me a hug before she even said a word to me." She looked up to see how he would react to her next words. "I've been appointed 'official storyteller', but they only ever ask for one story."
To her relief, Hobbie grinned. "I'm not surprised you got trapped into telling that one. I wouldn't have minded telling it to them, but the right opportunity never came up."
"Okay. Next time, you can tell it," she laughed.
They continued their comfortable conversation and reminiscences until Wes and Jehri returned with the groceries.
"Are you sure you're going to be okay here, Hobbie?" Jehri asked.
He smiled at her concern. "I'm a convalescent, Jehri, not an invalid," he said with mock indignation. "Go on. Get out of here. I'll talk to you all tomorrow."
After they left, Hobbie sat on the couch and looked around the room. It was a relatively small apartment, but more than adequate for one person. What he had always hated about spending time in it was that it felt like a cold impersonal box. He remembered Wedge saying something before he and Iella got back together about his own apartment being the place where he lived, but not home. Until today, that was what this place had felt like. Just sitting here and talking with Sela for a couple of hours has changed it from the place where I live to my home. She came here to visit like normal people do. He smiled at that thought. I like normal. He closed his eyes and fell asleep with a smile still on his face.
The next morning, Jehri Janson called Hobbie and invited him over for dinner that night. "The kids have been worried about their Uncle Hobbie. They want to see for themselves that you're okay. Will you come?"
Hobbie smiled. "Tell them I'll be there, and thanks."
"Shall I have Wes pick you up?"
He snorted. "You don't have to baby me, Jehri. I can get myself over to your place just fine."
She laughed. "Good. We'll be celebrating Sela's first day of work too. See you tonight."
As part of his recuperation, Hobbie had been told to begin light exercise, so he began his day with a workout. That took up about an hour, but he noticed that time really seemed to drag. He attributed it to the fact that he could not remember when the last time was that he'd had absolutely nothing to do to make the time pass more quickly.
Wedge and Tycho both called to check up on him, but those conversations didn't take up much time either. Finally, out of sheer frustration, he left his apartment. At first, he had no destination in mind. Then he decided to see if he could find Sela and maybe take her to lunch on her first day at work. He located the Children's Services Bureau and tracked her down to the Placement Division. When he knocked on her cubicle wall, she looked up and a smile blossomed on her face. "Derek! How did you find me?"
A warm, pleasant sensation came over him when he saw her smile. "I didn't have too much trouble," he answered.
"Are you sure you should be up and about so soon?" she asked him.
He smiled at her concern. "I'm fine. If I didn't get out of my place for a while, they would have had to come and take me back to the Medcenter in a straightjacket." He looked at the piles of datacards on her desk. "Can I persuade you come and have lunch with me, or are you totally swamped already?"
She looked down at her desk and then back up at him. "It's my first day. I should really try to get myself organized so I can get something accomplished."
"Was that a lunch invitation I just heard you turn down, Ms. Milson?" a voice said from behind Hobbie.
He turned and saw a tall, formidable looking woman in her mid-forties standing behind him. She smiled at him pleasantly, but addressed Sela. "The work will be here in an hour, and you have to eat."
"Ms. Darrens. I'm sorry. I was just trying to sort through these..." She got flustered and decided to just make introductions. "Ms. Darrens, this is my friend, Major Derek Klivian of Rogue Squadron. Derek, Ms. Darrens. My boss."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Major."
"Likewise, Ms. Darrens," he answered shaking her hand.
"Now take this young lady out of here and don't bring her back for an hour." She turned back to Sela, "The first thing you have to learn around here is not to let the work bury you alive. It will always be there, but invitations to lunch with heroes of the Rebellion don't come along every day. Now, shoo!"
Hobbie grinned, liking the woman immediately. "You heard her, Sela. She's the boss."
Sela blushed, but stood to comply. They walked out with several sets of eyes following them with interest.
When they got out to the street, Hobbie said, "She seems to be very nice. What was that business about me being a hero of the Rebellion?"
Sela laughed. "Well, that's kind of obvious, isn't it? You're a Rogue and the Rogues had more than a little to do with its success, but I think she was actually referring to something I said in our meeting this morning when I first reported to her."
"Oh? What was that?"
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye before looking down at her feet. "I told her about how you and Nia and the rest of the Rogues rescued me and the other children when I was five. If you hadn't, I would have been an orphan too. That makes you as much of a hero to me as any battle you've ever fought in."
He didn't quite know how to respond to that. Instead, he offered her his arm. "Come on. Let's find some place to eat. She did say I had to have you back in an hour."
Jehri Janson answered the door buzzer and found Hobbie laden with two bouquets of flowers and a tissue wrapped bottle standing there. "For the lady of the house," he said smiling and handing her one of the bouquets as he kissed her cheek. He saw Wes come up behind Jehri and handed him the bottle. "Here. Make yourself useful. Go put that in the cooler."
Wes grinned. He was happy to see Hobbie in such a good mood. "What's this for?" he asked raising the bottle.
"Jehri did say we were celebrating Sela's first day at work." He saw Sela come up and presented the second bouquet to her. "For you in honor of your first day at work."
"Derek, you're going to spoil me. First lunch and now flowers," she said blushing.
Wes and Jehri both turned to look at her. "Lunch? You didn't mention that he'd taken you to lunch." Both of them had very amused looks on their faces.
"And you. Aren't you supposed to be taking it easy?" Wes asked looking back at Hobbie.
Hobbie grinned at him. "Well, today was her first day, and taking Sela to lunch is not what you could call strenuous activity."
Wes's eyes began to widen and he turned to Jehri with a questioning look. She smiled and silently mouthed the word 'later' to him.
Hobbie hadn't seen it because two little voices started yelling. "Uncle Hobbie, Uncle Hobbie!" He turned and Wes's children slammed into his legs.
He bent down to pick Gunnar up and hug her. "Uncle Hobbie are you okay?" she asked looking at him with her eyes wide.
"Uncle Hobbie's fine, Sweetheart," he said hugging her again. He put her down to tickle Spanner. "Who's ahead in the Smashball standings, Spanner?" he asked getting down on the floor on his back and holding the little boy up in the air straight-armed.
Wes couldn't help himself and burst out laughing. "If you're ready to wrestle with that kid, I'm going to tell Wedge and Tycho you're ready to go back to work."
Hobbie laughed too. "Please. I'm bored out of my mind with nothing to do."
Spanner stopped giggling long enough to ask Hobbie, "Did somebody shoot you? Is that why your ship crashed?"
Hobbie stopped laughing and sat up to answer the little boy seriously. "No, I crashed because I did something really stupid." He looked over at Jehri, "And your mother will tear strips out of me if I ever do anything that stupid again."
Jehri did not want the mood of the evening to change. "Hey, who's hungry?" she asked. A chorus of voices answered her and they all trooped into the dining room.
The celebratory dinner was a lot of fun for all of them. In addition to celebrating Sela's first day on the job, the unstated reason to celebrate was Hobbie's surviving yet another serious injury. This was the fastest Wes had seen his friend recover since he had been shot down on Hoth and Nia had been the one to help nurse him back to health. He was beginning to speculate that Sela's presence had something to do with it, which seemed just a little odd to him, since it had been her message that had sent him off on that ill-fated flight in the first place. He intended to ask Jehri what she thought, but not until he could do so privately. In the meantime, he just enjoyed his friend's good spirits.
The children were included in the conversation around the table, but they also patiently let the adults talk for as long as they could sit still. Finally, being children, they'd had enough. "Sela, tell us the Princess and the Dragon story again, please?" Spanner asked looking at her expectantly.
Wes and Jehri exchanged quick worried looks, but this time Sela's eyes glinted with amusement. "It's your Uncle Hobbie's story. How about if he tells it to you tonight?"
Both children cheered and ran off to get ready for bed. Hobbie was grinning, which surprised Wes and Jehri, but they weren't going to question what they saw as a good thing.
Tonight it was Spanner's turn to have story time in his room so everyone got themselves situated in there. Wes and Jehri sat in chairs near the door. Sela sat next to Spanner, who was tucked under his covers and Gunnar sat in Hobbie's lap wrapped in a blanket. Hobbie looked at both children and Sela and then began, "Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Leia. She lived in a beautiful land called Alderaan ..."
By the time Hobbie had finished the story, Spanner was all but asleep. "Thanks, Uncle Hobbie," he mumbled before closing his eyes. Gunnar, wrapped in the blanket, had succumbed to sleep earlier and her little head rested against Hobbie's chest. He stood to carry her back to her room and Sela followed after tucking Spanner back under his covers. Wes and Jehri said nothing, but smiled as they made their way back out to the living room.
When Hobbie and Sela joined them, Wes thought that it might still a little bit of a sensitive subject, but he couldn't help commenting, "It was really good to hear you tell that story again, Hob."
A fleeting look of sadness appeared in Hobbie's eyes for a moment. "Thanks, Wes." Then he smiled again. "I would have told it to them before, but you never asked me to."
Sensing that a change of subject might be a good idea, Wes said, "Hey, you got out of the Bacta bath just in time for the Admiral's bash."
"Oh yeah. That's coming up, isn't it? In what? A few days?" He looked over at Sela. "Would you like to go with me to the party?" Then another thought crossed his mind. "Ugh! Dress uniforms."
Jehri laughed. "Oh, you suffer so."
Wes chuckled too. "Look at it this way, Hob. No one is going to be looking at us anyway. We'll just be there showing off our dates."
Sela looked distressed. "I'd love to go, but I haven't got anything ..."
"Oh, don't worry about that, Sela," Jehri smiled. "Mirax will help you find the right dress." She looked at Wes giving him a private smile and he returned it knowing what she had been thinking of. She knew, personally, what Mirax could do in finding very special dresses for very special occasions.
Hobbie had had enough of sitting. "It was a really nice evening earlier when I got here. Sela, would you like to go for a walk?" He turned to Wes and Jehri. "You don't mind, do you?"
They both laughed and Wes said, "No, we don't mind." Then, remembering Sela's comment about curfews at the Medcenter, he added in a mock admonishing tone, "Just don't keep her out too late."
Sela and Hobbie left for their walk and as the door closed behind them, Wes turned to Jehri and asked, "Now, why do I get the feeling that I should be out there chaperoning them?"
Jehri laughed softly again as she put her arms around him to give him a hug. "We were wondering how long it would take you to pick up on that."
He looked confused. "We who? Pick up on what?"
"Mirax, Winter, Iella, and I."
"Pick up on what?" he asked again, still confused.
She gave him another hug. "Men! Sometimes you can be pretty dense," she said smiling to keep the sting out of her words. "Don't you recognize it when your best friend is falling in love?"
"Falling in love?!" Wes was stunned. "Jehri, she's like his kid sister."
Now, her voice took on a note of asperity. "Wes, she is young, but she is not his sister and she is not a kid. She is a grown woman, and she loves Hobbie very much."
Wes found himself with nothing to say, but quite a lot to think about.
Jehri saw that his thoughts were churning, and added, "For pity's sake, don't tease him. That would ruin everything."
He realized that she was right. "I won't, Hon. I'm not gonna mess this up for him," he said giving her a warm hug and kiss.
Jehri smiled as she finished getting ready for the party. Hobbie and Sela had spent quite a lot of time together over the last few days, even though she was just getting settled into her new job. They might not yet consciously realize what was happening between them, but Hobbie and Sela were definitely in love.
Sela is going to knock his socks off when he sees her, she thought to herself. Mirax had outdone herself finding the right dress for Sela to wear. Jehri had seen the dress when Sela had brought it home, but wearing it Sela would look magnificent. "Sela, do you need help with your hair or anything?" she called across the hall.
"No. I'm ready." She came out of her room and turned herself around to show Jehri the dress. "Do I look okay?" she asked anxiously.
Any red-blooded male who gets a look at you will sit up and take notice, Jehri thought. "You look a whole lot better than okay, Sela. You look beautiful."
"Hey, are you two ready?" Wes's voice came from the living room.
They went out to join him and Wes's jaw dropped. "Sela, you look great!"
The door buzzer sounded and Wes went to answer it. "Are you guys ready to go?" Hobbie asked stepping inside.
Wes said nothing as he stood aside so Hobbie could see Sela.
He stopped dead in his tracks and forgot to breathe. She was the most exquisitely beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
Her hair was swept off her neck and pinned up in the back, but small shimmering golden wisps framed her face. The floor length dress was an opalescent blue with sparkles of other colors dancing over the surface as she moved slightly and the light changed. It was strapless, and draped close to her body until the skirt began to flair out at her hips. A matching stole was looped behind her back and over her arms.
"Don't just stand there, Hob. Say something," Wes nudged.
He caught his breath. "Sela, you are beautiful."
Wes went over to his wife and offered her his arm. "Come on, Hobbie. Let's go show off these ravishing creatures."
The rest of the Rogues were already at the party when Wes, Jehri, Hobbie and Sela arrived. Hobbie had almost always come to these affairs alone and only stayed long enough to satisfy protocol. When word had gotten around that Hobbie would be bringing Sela, they were happy that he would actually enjoy himself for a change. His young friend had grown close to their hearts very quickly.
Wes and Jehri spotted the other Rogues and started to walk over in their direction with Hobbie and Sela following behind them.
Mirax had seen them approaching. She was standing next to Iella and winked whispering to her, "Watch this."
Wedge, Tycho, Corran and the others had turned to greet the newcomers, but stopped in mid-sentence when they caught sight of Sela. One after the other, they swallowed, or gulped or took a deep breath before complimenting her.
Hobbie had not entirely gotten over his own reaction to Sela, but he was enjoying the fact that she was causing such a sensation among his friends. He let them fuss over her for a few more minutes then took her hand. "Come on, Sela. Let's dance." The others smiled and turned to their wives to lead them out to dance as well.
When she had been a little girl, Sela had loved stories about princesses and dashing heroes. The story that Derek had told her when she was a child had been about a princess and her heroes. He'd even called her "Princess Sela" when she was little; and she had already admitted to him and to herself that she thought of him as her own hero. The music and the lights and the colors surrounding her seemed to sparkle with magic as she danced with Derek. She felt like the princesses in those stories she had loved. With his arms encircling her as they swirled around the dance floor, she came to a startling realization. He is my hero, she thought to herself, and my heart. And she knew she had well and truly lost her heart to him a long time ago. If they had not already been dancing, she didn't know how she would have been able to contain the joy she felt.
Throughout the evening, Hobbie had reluctantly relinquished Sela to his friends while he danced with their wives -- also something he had done on only a few occasions. But he rarely took his eyes from her. Magical she seemed to him to be as well. Light danced around her as if she were not entirely in the same time and space as everyone else around her. No matter where she was in the room, though, her eyes and his always found each others and he knew that she belonged to him. He could not remember how long it had been since he had felt so happy.
He was dancing with Sela again and looking into clear blue eyes that shone with a glow he found himself unable to resist. He bent down to kiss her and time seemed to stand still and the world disappeared around them. Holding her close in his arms, he was lost in the wonder of emotions that he hadn't felt in a very long time. Sela was, for that timeless moment, the center of his universe.
Suddenly, reality crashed back into his awareness shattering the magical light surrounding them. Sela. The little girl that he and his beautiful love, Nia, had taken into their hearts... Oh Nia... The voice inside his head made her name an anguished cry. What have I done?! He broke the kiss hardly able to look at Sela, feeling revulsion at himself for what he'd done. He held her away from himself, then dropped his hands from her arms. "I'm sorry, Sela. I shouldn't have done that." He turned and walked away leaving her in the center of the dance floor confused and alone and hurt.
Wes and Jehri had been watching them, smiling as they danced. Then they saw Hobbie break their kiss and walk away from Sela leaving her standing alone and looking lost. They wound their way quickly through the other dancers to Sela's side. Moments before in the arms of the man she loved, she had been the happiest girl on the planet. Now, her heart ached and she felt lost. She looked up at Jehri and Wes. "What did I do?" she asked, tears of confusion and pain in her eyes.
"It's not you, Sweetheart. It's him," Wes said barely able to control his voice. He had never been so furious with Hobbie. "How dare he treat her like that?" Wes said to himself as he stalked off in Hobbie's wake.
Jehri, put her arm around Sela. "You didn't do anything, Sela," she said as she led her off the dance floor.
Wes and Jehri had not been the only ones to see what had happened. Winter, Iella, and Mirax had been sitting at a table and chatting and watching them. "I was afraid something like that might happen," Winter said.
"What is the matter with him?" Mirax asked, incensed at what she'd seen.
Jehri and Sela came up to the table only long enough to pick up their handbags. "I'm taking Sela home." From the tone in her voice, it was obvious that Jehri was furious with Hobbie as well. She turned and led Sela toward another door.
Tycho, Wedge, and Corran had come up behind them, but the look on Jehri's face stopped them from saying a word until after she and Sela had left.
"What was that?" Corran asked as they sat down.
"What got into Hobbie?" Wedge asked looking around the table. "They were dancing and having a great time and Boom!"
Iella looked at him with a sad smile. "You should know by now, Sweetheart, that love can be a very complicated and painful thing."
"Love?" he looked at Iella. "Hobbie and Sela?" He thought about it for a few moments. "Hobbie and Sela," he said, beginning to accept the notion.
"But what just happened?" Tycho asked, as mystified by Hobbie's bizarre behavior as the rest of them.
"They'll have to work that out between themselves ... if they can," Winter said quietly.
Wes had not been able to catch up with Hobbie before he left the building. He had looked around in every direction, but Hobbie had disappeared. He spent the next couple of hours looking in all the places he thought Hobbie might go, from his apartment to his quarters at the base to their favorite tapcafs and bars. He tried reaching Hobbie on his comlink, but he didn't answer. Eventually, he had no choice but to give up and go home. He would try again in the morning to find the best friend he wanted very much to punch out for treating Sela the way he had.
He let himself into the apartment quietly and found Jehri waiting for him in their bedroom. "Did you find him?" she asked.
"No, but that's probably a good thing. I'm afraid I would have hit him if I had." He came over to Jehri to enfold her in an embrace, which was as much to calm himself as to reaffirm their emotional bond. "How is Sela?" he asked.
"About what you'd expect. She is hurt and confused, and now she thinks it was a mistake for her to come here to Coruscant." She took a deep breath and went on. "I was as angry with him as you were, but I've had some time to think. Do you remember telling me right after his accident about the discussion you had with Wedge and Tycho?"
"Yeah. What about it?"
"You said you thought that Sela's message had dredged up memories of Nia and how painful it was for him to have lost her."
"Yeah, but he eventually got over that."
"Why do you suppose he has never had a long term relationship with anyone since Nia died? And why do you think he hardly ever even dated anyone?"
Wes looked at her frowning before enlightenment dawned on his face. "He still loves Nia? He'll always love Nia."
"It's not just that he still loves her or that he'll always love her. He has been faithful to her in his own way. He has never let himself love anyone the way he loved Nia." Jehri looked up at Wes with heartache in her eyes for their friend. "That it is Sela he's fallen in love with in spite of himself, makes it so much more painful for him now. I think there is more to it than that, though, but I haven't able to work out what it is and I haven't had a chance to talk to Winter, Iella, and Mirax yet."
The last of his anger toward his friend dissipated as fresh concern for his emotional well- being reasserted itself. "Oh, Hobbie. Why did you do this to yourself? I have to find him; talk some sense into him."
Jehri held him tight. "He needs time to think; give him some time. You can talk to him tomorrow."
"All right, Hon. I'll talk to him tomorrow."
The last thing Hobbie wanted to do was go anywhere that he would likely be found. When he had left the party he'd taken a repulsorcab to a metropolitan park far from any place he had ever been on Coruscant. He had gotten out of the cab and started walking through the park aimlessly, ignoring the chiming of his comlink until it stopped. He found a bench under a tree and sat down heavily putting his head in his hands.
"What have I done?" he asked himself over and over.
He thought back to the first time he had ever set eyes on Sela. She was a beautiful little girl of five in a village of refugees being ravaged by Bilbringi Fever. Nia, his sweet, beautiful Nia, had spotted Sela in the doorway of the little hut she and her mother lived in. She had handed Sela over to him, while she had gone to take care of Sela's mother. While the plague victims recuperated, he and Nia and the other relief team members had befriended many of the children. It had been an amazing experience for all of them and many long-term friendships had started then. With himself and Nia and Sela, something very special had happened; their bond was almost instantaneous and very, very strong.
After the refugees had been resettled, Nia and Hobbie had both written to Sela and she had answered every letter. He used to write her funny stories about the Rogues, and Nia had written about helping the sick and injured as well as stories of life with the Rebel fleet. Oddly enough, both of them had found it very easy to write to the little girl about their feelings for each other. When Nia had died during the Battle of Endor, Hobbie had agonized over the letter he felt he had to write to her. He could not hide the truth of what had happened nor how heartbroken he was from the little girl he and Nia cared about so much. The day he had gotten her letter back, he had taken it back to his quarters and wept. Sela had loved Nia as much as he did, and had wished that she could make his hurt to go away.
In all the years afterward, they had continued their correspondence. He had even used some of his infrequent leaves to go and visit Sela and her mother like a big brother going home. Now, the big brother had violated the little girl's trust and abused her faith in him.
"What kind of a monster are you to have done that to her?" he asked himself, the voice in his mind filled with self-loathing. "And you, Nia," he said hating himself more with each passing moment. "I've betrayed my love for you too."
A strange thing happened when Hobbie pictured Nia and then Sela in his mind's eye. Nia's image appeared to waver and seemed indistinct, and her smile was one of farewell. Sela's image was crystal clear and he felt himself drawn toward her even as he tried to resist the pull. He tried to reach for Nia, but she remained beyond his grasp.
The next morning, Wes left early to go looking for Hobbie. He wanted to find his friend to try to help him, but even more he wanted not to have to see the pain he knew would be in Sela's eyes. He retraced his steps from the night before checking Hobbie's apartment and the tapcafs, but then he realized where Hobbie would be.
He went to the Sivantlie Base complex and back up to Hobbie's quarters where this whole nightmare had begun. He knocked on the door. There was no response. He knocked a second time; still no response. "Hobbie, open the door. I know you're in there." There was still no response. "I'll blast the lock if I have to, Hob. Now open the door."
Finally, he heard Hobbie approach to unlock the door, but it still didn't open. By the time he opened the door, Hobbie was seated back at his desk with only the glow of the computer screen providing any light inside the room. A nearly full bottle of really awful Rylothean brandy was sitting next to him on the desk, open.
Wes was shocked to see how terrible Hobbie looked; it was obvious that he hadn't slept at all. He had looked better right after he had come out of the Bacta tank. "Been beating yourself up, I see," he said picking up the bottle.
"I thought I'd save you the trouble," Hobbie answered without looking at him.
"What are you doing?"
"Writing my letter of resignation from Rogue Squadron and the New Republic military."
Wes sat down on the bunk, stunned. "Why?"
"Why?" Hobbie exploded, spinning the chair to face Wes. "Because I don't deserve to wear the uniform. That's why."
"What makes you think that?"
"What I did to Sela." The pain on Hobbie's face made Wes's chest ache.
"Leaving her standing alone in the middle of the dance floor in front of the Brass and all the holonews service cameras was not one of your more stellar moves, Hob," he said knowing perfectly well that was not what Hobbie was referring to.
"She trusted me, Wes, and I violated that trust."
"You kissed her, Hobbie."
"That's just it, Wes. Don't you see? I should never have done that."
"Why not? You love her."
"I can't!" He spun the chair back toward the desk. "That little girl trusted me..."
"Hobbie!" His sharp tone made Hobbie turn back toward him. "Sela is not a little girl. Not anymore. She's all grown up and she loves you."
"I can't, Wes. I can't." He put his head in his hands.
"It isn't just Sela, Hobbie," Wes said quietly. "It's time to let Nia go." He saw Hobbie's shoulders begin to shake and realized that he was sobbing silently. He sat quietly waiting for his friend to spend his grief.
After several minutes, Hobbie pulled himself upright in the chair. "I'd like to be alone for a while, Wes." His voice was ragged.
"Are you going to be all right?" Wes asked, giving his friend's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"I'm not sure yet."
His eyes narrowed. "You're not going to do anything stupid, are you?"
"I don't think I could do anything stupider than what I've already done." He looked at Wes with a half smile. "Now, can you let me be for a while?"
Wes stood up to leave. "If you need anything..."
"I know. I'll call. Thanks, Wes."
After Wes left his quarters, Hobbie stood up and looked around. The semi-gloom of his darkened quarters, lit only by the glow of the computer screen, seemed to close in on him and he did not like the feeling. He flipped on every light in the room and the psychic darkness receded. He noticed the open bottle of horrid Rylothean brandy that he'd taken a single swallow from earlier sitting next to the computer. What was I thinking? This stuff will kill you, he thought to himself. He picked it up and carried it into the refresher to dump down the sink.
Standing at the sink, he could not avoid seeing his reflection in the mirror and was surprised to see how awful he looked. "Well, you are a piece of work, aren't you?" he said to his reflection. "Pull yourself together before there's no reason for you to." He stared at himself in the mirror and realized that if he let Sela continue to believe that he didn't love her, she would leave and he would have lost her forever. He had already lost Nia; he could not lose Sela too.
He closed his eyes and saw Nia's image floating before him again in his mind's eye. "My dear, sweet, beautiful Nia." he said to her. "Did you somehow know that we would never have our chance?" Her image, which had been clear and sharp, started to dissolve. "You know that no one has ever touched my heart and soul the way that you did except for Sela. You stayed with me while I waited for her, and now you're leaving me so that we can have our life together. You will always be in my heart my beautiful, beautiful Nia."
He had never had any strong spiritual beliefs about what happened to the soul after death, but he knew that Nia had heard him and that she would want him to have happiness with Sela after so many years of pain. He took a deep breath and felt himself feel alive again. Whether that feeling would have any meaning remained to be seen. He had to go to Sela to beg her forgiveness, and to tell her that he finally understood what was in his heart.
It was early afternoon when the door buzzer sounded startling Wes from his reverie. He got up to answer it and found Hobbie standing there. He had cleaned himself up and looked much better than he had that morning. Still, there was something about his eyes that made Wes think Hobbie's pain was not yet completely gone.
"Is Sela here? Can I talk to her?" Hobbie's voice betrayed nervousness, as if he was afraid that she might be not be there, that he might already have lost her forever. That was the pain in his eyes and his heart now.
"Come in, Hob." Wes said. "She's here. She's in her room." He looked closely at his friend. "Are you all right?"
"I'll know after I talk to Sela."
He went down the hall and knocked on Sela's door. "Sela, it's Derek. Can I talk to you?"
She opened the door, but said nothing turning to walk back toward the window. Hobbie closed the door behind himself and followed her. The hurt in her eyes squeezed his heart like a vice. "Sela, I am so sorry for the way I treated you last night. It was rude, selfish, humiliating, and totally unforgivable, but I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me anyway."
She turned back to look at him, "Why?"
"Because I love you."
Her eyes widened. "You do?"
"Yes, I do."
Her heart skipped a beat, then her mind reasserted itself. There was still someone standing between them; they had to talk about Nia now. She walked over to her bed and sat down. "Derek, I can't compete with a ghost. You still love Nia. You can't tell me that you don't."
Hobbie followed her, sat down next to her, and took her hand in his. "You're right, Sela, but the word is loved, past tense, not love. I loved Nia and I'll always have a special place in my heart for her and so will you. But Nia isn't here now." He could see that she wanted to believe what he was telling her, but she still wasn't quite sure. "I know that sounds like I'm trying to replace her with you, but I'm not. I've grieved for her and I've finally been able to let her go and say goodbye. You are the one I want to make my life with. I know that Nia would not begrudge us a future together. She would want us to go on with our lives and to be happy. Together."
She knew he had loved her ever since she'd been a little girl, but she saw in his eyes that that love had changed. In spite of the previous evening's disastrous outcome, the close bond they had shared since her childhood had deepened so that she could not even imagine being without him. Those serious dark blue eyes, the windows into his soul, told her that he had finally recognized that he could not envision his life without her either. She lifted her free hand to caress his face. "I've loved you almost my whole life," she told him.
Hobbie covered her hand with his own pressing it to his lips to kiss her palm. "I think I've loved you almost your whole life too." He smiled, the last of the pain in his eyes and in his heart vanishing as they finally expressed their true feelings to each other. "I just had to wait for you to finish growing up. And then I was too stupid to recognize that that was what I had been doing. I am so sorry for the pain I caused you."
He took her in his arms and kissed her softly and this time the magical light surrounding them did not shatter. "I love you, Sela. Will you marry me?"
Her confusion and pain had disappeared as well. "I love you, Derek." The light was back in her eyes to stay. "I am so glad you did wait for me. Yes, I'll marry you," she told him, sealing her promise with a joyful kiss.
"Good. Let's go." Hobbie said, a joy filled smile breaking across his face as they parted.
"Now?" Her eyes widened in surprise.
"Yes, now." There was a playful glint in his eye. "We've wasted enough time."
He took her hand and they ran back out to the living room. "Wes, is Wedge still officially considered the captain of the Lusankya?"
The apparent non-sequitor took Wes by surprise and he looked at Hobbie as if he'd totally lost his mind. "Yes. Why?"
"Good. We need the captain of the Lusankya to marry us. Right now." He picked Sela up in his arms and spun her around kissing her as he lowered her back to the floor.
Thus enlightened, Wes grinned at them both. "Yeah, I guess you do at that." And he could not wipe the grin off his face, not that he really wanted to anyway. Well, who was he to stand in the way of romance? He went to the comm unit and made the call to Wedge.
"Antilles." Wedge's voice came from the speaker.
"Hey, Wedge. It's Wes."
"Wes. What's up? Have you been able to find Hobbie? Did you talk to him?"
"Yeah. I talked to him. Are you and Iella busy this evening?"
"No. What's this about?"
"Good. Hobbie and Sela want to get married and they want you to do the ceremony aboard the Lusankya as soon as possible." He turned to look at his friend. "From what I'm seeing right now, the sooner you marry them, the better."
"No kidding?" Wes could picture the grin on Wedge's face. "That's great! I'll set it up and call you back."
"Listen, Wedge, would it be all right if Jehri and I brought the kids up with us for the ceremony?"
"Normally, I would say no because a warship is no place for kids, but I know how close they are to Hobbie. Yes, you can bring them."
"Tell that rascal I said it's about time he got his head on straight and give them both my congratulations. I'll see you all upstairs later."
Wes just laughed. "Okay, Wedge. Talk to you in a while."
Hobbie and Sela were still holding and kissing each other and being completely gushy. Wes didn't mind, though. Hobbie had been through so much. He was very glad that his best friend would finally have the happiness he deserved with such a sweet, wonderful girl.
He and Jehri had gotten to know Sela pretty well over the last three weeks while she had stayed with them. The Rogues had all liked her immediately, but he and Jehri and the kids had practically adopted her. When Hobbie had broken their kiss and left Sela in the middle of the dance floor at the party last night, he had been ready to throttle him, even though Hobbie was his best friend. Jehri had pointed out that, while Hobbie had fallen in love with Sela, he had not yet resolved his feelings for his first love. Although Nia had been dead for nearly fourteen years, Hobbie had never let himself love anyone for all that time. Now, with Sela he would finally have the love and happiness that had been missing in his life. There were some things about the relationship between Hobbie and Sela that neither he nor Jehri had been able to figure out, but none of that mattered now. They had worked out their problems and wanted to be together.
The children had been quietly playing in their rooms, but now came running out to see what all the commotion was about. Little Gunnar looked up at Hobbie and then Sela and asked, "Sela, you're not sad now?"
"No, Sweetheart," Sela said as she and Hobbie let go of each other and knelt down on either side of her. "I'm not sad. I'm very, very happy."
She hugged Gunnar, then Hobbie hugged her and told her, "Sela and I are getting married. That will make her your 'Aunt' Sela." He kissed the top of her head. "What do you think of that?"
Gunnar threw her arms around him. "I like that, Uncle Hobbie."
Hobbie turned to Spanner. "How about you, Spanner? What do you think?"
Spanner frowned while he thought about it. "Will you still stay here and tell us stories?"
Sela blushed, and Hobbie answered for her. "Well, she won't be staying here anymore because she'll be with me," he said smiling at her blush. "But you know that we're not far away and she'll come and tell you stories whenever you want, won't you, Sela?" he said looking over at her.
She pulled Spanner into an affectionate hug. "Of course I will; whenever you want," she told him.
Wes cleared his throat loudly. "Wedge is setting things up aboard the Lusankya," he said once he had their attention. "And he said that you guys could come up to the ship to see Uncle Hobbie and Sela get married."
Both children cheered.
"Well in that case, Spanner, I have a very big favor to ask you," Hobbie said to the little boy. "A little later, I'm going to give you a couple of rings to hold onto for a while till it's time for Sela and me to put them on. Will you hold them for me? I'd give them to your dad, but he'd just lose them."
"Sure, Uncle Hobbie. I won't lose them, I promise."
Wes's grin just refused to leave his face. "I'm going to call Jehri."
Sela and Hobbie both smiled knowing how happy she would be for them.
While they waited for Jehri to get home, Hobbie took Wes aside. "Wes, none of this would be happening if it weren't for you. You've been my lifeline more times than I care to remember. Would you stand up with me as my witness? I couldn't even imagine doing this without you."
Wes looked at his friend knowing how much pain and suffering he had been through to reach this moment. He had always felt that the Rogues were as close to a family as he would ever have before he and Jehri had gotten married, but Hobbie was like a brother to him. They had seen so much and suffered so much together that at times it seemed that they could almost read each other's minds. It was what had made them such effective wingmates and had helped them survive. Hobbie had stood up with him when he'd married Jehri, but he was still surprised and touched when Hobbie asked him. "Of course, Hob. It'll be an honor."
The comm unit chimed and Wes went to answer it. "Janson."
"Wes," Wedge's voice came from the speaker. "Mirax just called me. She talked to Jehri and the two of them have already started cooking up some plans. She has informed me that this is not going to be a 'no-frills quickie wedding'." He could hear the amusement in Wedge's voice. "She is making the arrangements for a nice reception after the ceremony, and Iella has called the rest of the Rogues and they'll all be there. They wouldn't miss this for anything."
Wes laughed. "Well, if Mirax is handling the party arrangements, it will be very nice. Sela and Hobbie deserve that, even if this thing is being thrown together in a few hours. I don't think they would care, though, if it was just the two of them and you up there."
"Probably not," Wedge said chuckling, "but we'll throw them a nice wedding anyway. I've got a couple more calls to make. See you later."
"Wouldn't miss it."
Jehri had dropped everything and made it home within half an hour of Wes's call. She ran straight over to Hobbie and Sela and hugged and kissed them both. When she finally released them, she turned to Hobbie. "I knew you would come to your senses, you big dope. You love each other and you belong together," she said kissing them both again.
Hobbie looked down, embarrassed. "If I had let her go, I would have been the biggest idiot in the galaxy."
"Well, you're not an idiot, but you are in the wrong place right now," Jehri said to him smiling. "You, my friend, are getting married. You've got things to do and so do we. I called Mirax as soon as I finished talking with Wes. She's on her way here. You just be on that ship in your dress uniform in four hours, Mister. Now, shoo! Wes, you go with him. Mirax will take care of Sela, and I'll take care of the kids."
"Yes Ma'am," Wes said walking over to kiss her before going to get his dress uniform. He was highly amused that the women had jumped so enthusiastically into pulling this wedding together.
Jehri let Hobbie kiss Sela goodbye, then shooed him and Wes out the door.
Just as Mirax arrived. "Hi Mirax! I thought you were handling the party arrangements," Wes said to her as she came in.
Momentarily ignoring Wes, Corran Horn's wife kissed Hobbie on the cheek. "Congratulations, Hobbie. I knew you wouldn't let a wonderful girl like Sela get away."
She handed Jehri a bag she had been carrying and turned to Wes. "I made the calls and then put Corran to work picking up all the stuff to take up to the ship. I've got another job to do right now."
"Yeah? What's that?"
She poked him in the chest. "Is your memory going or what? You don't expect Sela to get married in any old rag, do you? We're going to find her wedding gown."
Wes stared at her in disbelief. "In less than four hours? You've got to be kidding."
Mirax's expression became determined, as if she had been issued a challenge. "You just watch. Come on, Sela," she said taking her by the hand and pulling her toward the door. "We'll see you on the ship."
Jehri smiled. "If anyone can do it, Mirax can. She did it for me ... although she did have more than four hours to pull it off. Now, you two get a move on," she said pushing them out the door. Then she turned back to Hobbie and Wes. "Why are you just standing there? Get going!"
Sela was reeling. She had not slept much the previous night because she had been so upset. She and Derek had shared a very passionate kiss right in the middle of the dance floor at the party, but then he had turned and walked away leaving her there alone. At first, she thought she had done something wrong. Later, she had realized that he had not yet come to terms with his feelings toward Nia or recognized that he had, in fact, fallen in love with her. The heartache that realization had caused made her decide that she would not be able to stay on Coruscant and not be with Derek. She loved him too much for that.
When he had come to the Jansons' apartment to apologize for the way he had treated her, she wanted to be sure that she was the one he wanted, not Nia. She was so happy when he told her that he had finally been able to let Nia go. What she had not anticipated when she had accepted his proposal was that he would want them to get married immediately. She had been momentarily taken aback, but realized that she didn't want to wait either. More than anything, she wanted to be married to Derek. Still, to find herself looking at wedding dresses for a ceremony that was to take place in less than four hours was almost more than she could cope with. It had been an emotionally draining day -- and it wasn't over yet.
"Here, Sela. Look at this one," Mirax said holding up another dress.
How Mirax knew where to even begin to look was beyond Sela in her present state, but she had let herself be guided by the older woman. She looked at the dress. Like any other girl, she had often dreamed of her own wedding and pictured what her dress would look like. The gown Mirax held up could have been plucked right from her dreams. It was exactly what she had imagined herself wearing.
"Why don't you try it on?" Mirax told her.
"This is it, Mirax," she said as she came out of the dressing room. "It's perfect."
Mirax came over to inspect the dress. "I think you're right, Sela. It doesn't even need any alterations. You are going to make an absolutely beautiful bride. Let's get this wrapped up. We've still got a couple more things to do."
Hobbie and Wes were on their own mission. Their first stop had been to pick up Hobbie's dress uniform. Fortunately, it was presentable. It wouldn't have been if Wes had caught up with him last night. Wes would have punched him out for the way he had treated Sela at the Admiral's party, and he knew he would have had it coming. There was no excuse, not even his confusion over his feelings for Sela, for how he had behaved. He winced as he thought back again to the party.
"What is it, Hob? You're not having second thoughts already are you?" Wes asked him.
"No, I'm not having second thoughts. How could I possibly have second thoughts about marrying Sela? There's nothing I want more than to be married to her."
"Then what is it?"
"I don't deserve her; especially after what I did to her last night."
"Hmmm ... You may have a point there." Wes gave his shoulder a friendly shake. "Hobbie, you dope! Yes, it was embarrassing for her to be left on the dance floor like that, but embarrassment is survivable. You had a lot to get past. She knows that. She forgave you, didn't she? What matters is that you love her and she loves you and you're going to be together now." He clapped Hobbie on the shoulder. "Come on. Let's go find those rings."
Hobbie smiled at his friend appreciating again everything Wes and all the others had done for him over the years, and especially what they were doing now. "Thanks, Wes."
"Jehri? It's Mirax. We're all set to go. Corran is on his way down in the Skate." Mirax was speaking into her comlink as she and Sela, laden with packages and bags, made their way to the docking bay where she kept the Pulsar Skate.
"I've got the kids ready. We'll be there in a few minutes."
"Did you take care of ..."
"Yes. It's all squared away. We'll see you in a few minutes. Out."
Sela looked over at Mirax. "What was that about?"
"Nothing for you to be concerned about, Sela. Just details," Mirax said waving her question away.
They had put down all of the packages while they waited for Corran to return from the Lusankya to pick them up. Mirax walked over to Sela, who seemed a little dazed. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Sela looked back at her. "Yes, I'm fine. It's just ... I just hadn't expected that I was going to be getting married today."
Mirax smiled. "You're surrounded by practical strangers dragging you here, there, and everywhere to throw together in a few hours a wedding that should be a very special and personal moment. I can see how you would be overwhelmed."
Jehri's voice startled Sela, but she turned and smiled at her and the c hildren, who were taking in everything about this wedding business, their eyes wide open. "No, Mirax," she said. "You're not strangers. You've all been so kind to me since I've been here. I really don't know how I could have managed without you."
The whine of repulsorlifts filled the docking bay and they all turned to watch the Skate touch down. A couple of moments later, the hatch opened and the boarding ramp lowered. Corran bounded down the ramp first going over to kiss Mirax, then turning to kiss Sela on the cheek. "Are you sure you want to go through with this, Sela?" he asked grinning.
She blushed, but she had gotten used to the Rogues' teasing. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Well, let's get going then. Come on kids," he said to Spanner and Gunnar as he went to pick up the packages and bags stacked by the wall.
The Lusankya was in a station keeping orbit around Coruscant because she was currently between assignments. Before she had been captured and recommissioned in the New Republic fleet, she had been one of Ysanne Isard's instruments of terror and her primary base of power. Wedge had become her de facto captain when she had been surrendered to him during the Battle of Thyferra. Despite extensive refitting, she still looked like the Imperial Dreadnought that she had been and still struck a subliminal chord of fear in most people when they approached her.
Today, it was different. Today this ship that had inspired and caused so much fear and pain would be the setting for a very happy event. Hobbie and Sela's wedding aboard the ship would continue it's rehabilitation into a symbol of hope rather than dread. Wedge smiled as he waited for Corran to finish landing the Skate in the Exec's landing bay. The rest of the Rogues and their spouses or partners were already aboard. Wes and Hobbie had arrived shortly before and Wedge had sent them packing before Sela arrived, Mirax having informed him that it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding.
"Is Derek here?" Sela asked him stepping down onto the deck from the Skate's boarding ramp.
"Yes, he's here," Wedge told her kissing her cheek in greeting. "We'd all go after him with guns blazing if he tried to get out of this," he added with a grin. "But he's not about to back out now." Wedge turned to Jehri and Mirax. "Iella and Winter are waiting for you in my quarters. Emtrey will show you the way and help carry these," he said waving a hand at the pile of packages.
"Come on, Corran," Wedge said. "Let's show Spanner around a little and then go find Wes and Hobbie."
Iella and Winter greeted Sela with warm hugs. The spacious captain's quarters gave them plenty of room to spread out in preparation for transforming Sela into a beautiful bride. She was quiet as the four older women began to help her with her hair and makeup and gown.
Finally, Jehri held up her hand to stop the others for a moment. "Sela, Honey. What is it? Is there something wrong?"
She shook herself to dispel the quiet around her. "No, nothing is wrong. It's just ..."
"Just what, Sela?" Mirax asked. "Do you want to call it off? It's not too late."
"No! This is what I want more than anything. It's just that I never thought that I would be getting married without my mother being at my wedding."
The other women exchanged concerned looks. Sela was only twenty years old. It was very natural for her to want her mother to be there with her.
"Sela," Iella said leaning down to take her hand. "You can still postpone this. No one will think badly of you for it."
Sela looked around at them. "No. I don't want to postpone the wedding. My mother will understand." Then she smiled. "Let's finish getting ready. Derek is waiting."
She turned back to the mirror and started brushing her hair with renewed energy. The others exchanged another silent glance. Then Winter spoke up. "Sela, I'll be back in a few minutes."
Once she left Wedge's quarters, she made a call on her comlink. "Tycho? It's Winter. Where are you? I need to talk to you."
"I'm in the lounge where the wedding is going to be. What's up?"
"I'll be there in a couple of minutes. I'll tell you then."
When she got to the lounge, Tycho was waiting for her by the door. "What is it? Is something wrong?" he asked her.
"Well, not wrong, but not quite right either. They're getting married in such a rush that Sela's mother can't be here. Iella told her that it would be all right to postpone the wedding, but she doesn't want to do that. I was just wondering if there is some kind of holographic recording equipment aboard so that we could record the wedding for them and then they would at least have that to show her mother."
Tycho smiled. "I think we can handle that. Consider it done."
"Thank you, Tycho," she said giving him a quick kiss. "I'd better get back."
She went back to the bride's dressing room and caught Iella's eye and nodded almost imperceptibly. Then Iella and Mirax excused themselves. Sela was by no means oblivious to what was happening around her. "Jehri, is something wrong? First Winter disappears for a few minutes, and now Iella and Mirax. What's going on?"
"It's nothing, Sela. Men don't know anything about putting on a wedding. They're just checking on details."
"Are you sure?" she asked still sounding worried.
"I just went down to the lounge where the ceremony is going to be to see if they were ready yet," Winter told her. "They still need a little more time to finish setting up."
Sela looked from one woman to the other. "You've all gone to so much trouble for us. We didn't need all this fuss. All we wanted was for Wedge to perform the ceremony."
Jehri sat down next to her on the bed and held her hand. "Sela, Honey. How often does a girl get married? It is a very special day in your life. You want it to be memorable."
She smiled at Jehri. "I'm hardly likely to forget it. How many girls get married aboard a SuperStar Destroyer?"
"You have a point there. Still, it is your wedding day. Let your friends make it special for you, okay?"
Sela hugged Jehri and then Winter. "I know it's going to be special. You are all the best friends anyone could ever ask for."
Winter walked over to Gunnar, who had been playing on the floor, and held out her hand, "Come on, Sweetie. Let's put your dress on."
Jehri and Sela smiled at the little girl, then Sela turned back to Jehri. "Jehri. You have already done so much for me, but there is one more thing I'd like to ask. You and Wes took me in when I arrived here and made me feel like a part of your family when I was so scared and alone. I lost one adopted sister when Nia died, but I found another one when I met you. Would you stand up with me and be my witness?"
Jehri's eyes filled with tears, as did Sela's. "Oh, Sela! I would be honored to stand up with you."
Iella and Mirax had gone in search of Wedge and Corran. "It's a sure bet that Hobbie hasn't given any thought to where they're going to spend their wedding night," Mirax was saying as they walked down the corridor. "Of course, four hours ago, he didn't know that he was going to be getting married," she added with a grin.
Iella smiled. "Well, their wedding night is supposed to be special. I assume you've had some thoughts along those lines? Besides that little package we had Jehri slip into Sela's bag?"
"Yep. And I've got the business connections to pull it off too. I did that before I picked Sela up at Wes and Jehri's. How does the honeymoon suite at the Galaxy Coruscant sound?"
"It sounds perfect, but the wedding night is one thing; having time for a real honeymoon is something else. They need to have some time alone together with nothing but each other to think about."
Mirax burst out laughing. "Like you and Wedge did?" she asked, pointedly not mentioning out loud the less than conventional honeymoon Iella and Wedge had had only a few months before.
"We spent a week on Dalarian before that," Iella said mock defensively before she joined in with Mirax's laughter. "I know Wedge and Tycho will authorize the time off for Hobbie since he's supposedly still on medical leave to recover from his accident. Sela just started her job with Children's Services. Arranging time off so soon after starting a new job is a little trickier. I'm going to ask Wedge to call her boss. Hopefully, he has enough clout to pull that off."
"Hmmm ... I hadn't thought of that. It's a good thing you did. Oh, there they are." Mirax had spotted Wedge and Corran and waved to them.
"Hey, there are a couple more details we need to discuss with you," Mirax said as they caught up to them. "Corran, were you able to get that shuttle for them?"
He smiled at his wife. "Of course. I haven't watched you operate without learning a few things. They weren't too thrilled when I said that we would provide our own driver, but they came around."
"Wedge, I'm going to assume that you and Tycho will authorize an extension of Hobbie's leave, but Sela just ..."
Wedge held up his hand. "For once, I'm way ahead of you," he said with a grin. "I called Sela's boss after you left to begin getting things ready up here. You know I had talked to her before Sela even started her job. Sela didn't want me to pull any strings to have her starting date moved back, but I thought I'd just let her boss know that Sela might be distracted from worry over Hobbie since he was so badly banged up." He smiled. "Do you know what she said when I called her today?"
"What?" the three of them asked together.
"She said she had been expecting my call. She told me that once she met Sela on her first day and then met Hobbie when he came to take her to lunch that first day, she just knew that they were going to get married -- that it was only a question of when."
"So what did she say about Sela taking time off so soon?" Corran asked.
Wedge grinned. "She said that it never hurt to have friends in high places. She pointed out that Rogue Squadron has a pretty high public profile and asked that some of you make some Public Service Announcements to publicize the need for adoptive parents for the orphans of the Rebellion. Since Sela's job was to do placement, it seemed only fair so I agreed."
"Some PSA's in exchange for a decent honeymoon for Sela and Hobbie? I can live with that," Corran said nodding.
"Good. You can do the first one."
Mirax laughed. "Never volunteer anything, Corran. Haven't you learned that by now? Still, it is a good cause. Iella, we'd better get back and get changed. Sela should be just about ready." She gave her husband a quick kiss and winked at Wedge. "Go put on those fancy uniforms. We'll see you in the lounge. And Corran ... would you please get this to Tycho?" She had pulled a datacard from her pocket. "It has the music Sela would like to use on it. Thanks."
In a conference room just down the corridor from the lounge where the wedding was going to be held, Hobbie was pacing back and forth. He was in his dress uniform and kept fiddling with the cuffs of the jacket or pulling at the tight collar of the shirt under it.
Wes, perched on a corner of the conference table and also in his dress uniform, could not suppress a grin. "Would you stop pacing? You're going to wear a hole right through the deck plates."
Hobbie stopped for a moment, but started pacing again.
"You're not nervous, are you?"
Hobbie gave him an exasperated glare. "No, I'm not nervous. I'm impatient." Then he panicked. "Where are the rings?"
"Hobbie," Wes laughed. "You gave them to Spanner. Span, come here and show Uncle Hobbie that you've got the rings."
Wes's son trotted over from the far side of the room and pulled the two plain gold bands out of his pocket. "Here they are, Uncle Hobbie. I promised I wouldn't lose them."
Hobbie crouched down and ruffled the little boy's hair. "I know you won't lose them," he said with a smile. "Just hang onto them for a little while longer, okay? Thanks."
Spanner smiled as he stuffed the rings back into his pocket and ran back to the game he'd been playing.
"You are marrying one very special young lady; you know that?" Wes said to his friend.
"I know," Hobbie said standing back up. "I just wish I had realized just how special before I hurt her."
"Well, I've told you before how thick-headed you can be."
"Yeah. A conversation about Nia aboard Home One comes to mind."
"And do you regret getting close to her, even though you lost her later?"
"No. You were right. Every day I had with her was a gift, and every minute of every day I have with Sela is a gift too."
Wedge came into the conference room now wearing his dress uniform. "Are you ready, Hobbie?"
"He's ready, Wedge," Wes said with a grin. "Come on, Spanner. Let's go get your Uncle Hobbie married."
The lounge that the Rogues had set up for the wedding was in officer country on the ship. It was spacious and had large transparisteel viewports. Through the viewports, the night side of Coruscant sparkled with lights as if it were encrusted with diamonds. Like most capital ships, the Lusankya had a safety perimeter around it where only ships on boarding approach were permitted to fly. Beyond that perimeter, hundreds of other ships both military and civilian carried on with business as usual, adding their colorful display to the view.
Wedge made his way to a spot in front of the center viewport and Wes, Spanner, and Hobbie followed, but Hobbie was soon waylaid by his squadronmates, who shook his hand or slapped him on the back as they offered their congratulations. Eventually, Hobbie took his place next to Wes and Spanner and turned to face the door. Mirax, Iella, and Winter had joined the rest of the Rogues just as Hobbie had come in.
The door opened again and processional music began to play as Gunnar walked in slowly concentrating on keeping a slow, steady pace. She wore a pink dress; a wreath of pink silk flowers topped her dark curls, and in her hand she carried a small bouquet of tiny pink flowers. Everyone in the room smiled at the little girl as she made her way to the front of the room, and Wes winked at her when she took her place opposite her brother.
Next, Jehri walked down the aisle in time with the music. She wore a deep rose colored three-quarter length dress, the multiple layers of sheer fabric seeming to float as she walked. The color complimented her complexion and set off her dark hair very nicely. Watching her, Wes recalled their own wedding and reminded himself how lucky he was to have found her.
The music segued into a traditional Ralltiiri wedding march, and everyone in the room stood and turned to face the door. As soon as Hobbie recognized the music, his heart leaped in his chest. He had not asked for any particular music; he had not even thought about it. The instant his eyes met Sela's, though, he knew that she had chosen it -- for him; although he had no idea how she had managed to find the time to do it.
He thought she had looked beautiful at the Admiral's party the night before. Now she was an absolute vision and took his breath away again. Her gown was a brilliant silver-white satin, simple but elegant in design. The bodice was fitted and had a dropped waist that came to a gentle point. The neckline was a modest "V" cut, but came just to the top of her shoulders with wide strips of fabric shaped as shoulder caps securing the dress on her arms rather than any real sleeves. The floor length skirt that gathered into the dropped waist was full without overpowering her slight frame. Her hair was swept up off the back of her neck, but golden wisps were left loose to frame her face. Sprays of delicate white flowers were pinned into her hair and she held a bouquet of the same flowers in her hands.
Sela was radiant with joy as she walked down the aisle toward Hobbie. At last, she would be marrying the man she loved. She reached the front of the room and the music faded away. She turned to Gunnar and gave the little girl her bouquet to hold, then turned back and placed both of her hands in Hobbie's.
For a moment, the silence was such that a pin drop would have been heard. When Wedge spoke, it was impossible not to hear the smile in his voice. "What can I say, Hobbie? I much prefer expanding the Rogue "family" like this to recruiting replacement pilots."
"I would love to have come up with something deep and profound to say on an occasion like this," Wedge said, "but to be honest, nothing is more profound than discovering true love, so I'm not even going to try." He glanced over at Iella and smiled and noticed that the other couples who were present exchanged the same glances. He paused to let the chuckles die down. "Let's just get you two married."
The ceremony which followed was nothing elaborate, just the traditional exchanging of promises, vows, and rings. What made it special was that two people were joining their lives together forever and that their closest friends were with them to share in the celebration of their love.
Wedge looked up from the book which held the text of the marriage ceremony. "By the authority vested in me as captain of this vessel, I now pronounce you man and wife." He looked at Hobbie with a big smile. "Hobbie, you may kiss your bride."
Which Hobbie did to the accompaniment of applause and loud cheers.
"Ladies and gentlemen. It is my great honor and privilege to introduce Derek and Sela Klivian."
Sela and Hobbie turned first to Wes and Jehri and the children to receive their hugs and kisses of congratulations. Then everyone else surged forward to congratulate the newlyweds.
Mirax truly was a miracle worker when it came to putting together a party on short notice. The reception was beautifully catered right down to the champagne and wedding cake; and all of the Rogues had contributed their efforts to transforming the lounge into a proper setting for the occasion.
Wes tapped on his champagne glass to get everyone's attention. "I would like to offer a toast." He waited until everyone had their glasses ready. "To the bride and groom: Sela, I don't know if you know this, but you have been the light in Hobbie's eyes for the last fifteen years. He has seen and suffered so much pain, but somehow you made it all bearable for him. You came here to Coruscant to find him seriously injured and hurting again, but your love brought him back to all of us." He paused for a moment and then directed his words to his friend. "Hobbie, you have had to wait a long time for a second chance for happiness and love to come back into your life, but all of us have seen the joy Sela brings out in you. Treat her right or you'll have me to answer to," he said with a grin, then raised his glass. "Be happy together. To Sela and Hobbie!"
Glasses clinked all around and another round of hugs and congratulations ensued. As it wound down, Hobbie noticed that Sela had gotten quiet, although she was still smiling. "Sweetheart. What's wrong?" he asked her.
"Nothing's wrong. This wedding is everything I could have wished for. I just wish that my mother could have been here to see us get married."
"Sela. I am so sorry." Hobbie took her hand and kissed it. "I shouldn't have rushed you into this. We should have waited till your mother could come." He stopped speaking for a moment as a new thought struck him. "I didn't even think to call her to ask for her blessing or permission. She's going to kill me."
"Derek," she said smiling at her new husband. "I wanted our wedding now as much as you did. I can't have it both ways."
Tycho and Winter had been standing close by and heard her. "Maybe not, Sela" Tycho said grinning. "But maybe this will keep your mother from killing Hobbie." He held a datacard up in his hand. "We need him, even if he does keep using our fighters to put holes in the ground."
Sela looked at what he held. "What is it?"
Winter smiled and answered her. "It's a holographic recording of the wedding ceremony."
Sela's eyes widened. "That's what you did when you stepped out earlier?" she asked Winter.
"Yes. When you said that you had not expected to be getting married without your mother present, it occurred to me that a recording of the ceremony would be a good idea. Your mother would at least get to see it that way, and it would be a nice thing for you to have as well. Fortunately, the equipment was available onboard."
Sela hugged Winter and Tycho. "Thank you so much!"
Hobbie smiled lopsidedly. "Thanks Winter. Tych, you may have just saved my neck."
Wedge tapped his glass and the buzz of conversation subsided again. "Sela. Hobbie. All of us are very happy that the two of you are finally together. We're so happy, in fact, that we don't want to see either of you for a month. What you do with that time is entirely up to you." He paused for a moment as everyone chuckled. "Hobbie, your leave is extended for one month." He saw the pleased look on Hobbie's face and the concerned one on Sela's. He raised his hand to forestall her. "Sela, your boss has approved a one month leave for you as well. Your job will be waiting for you," he told her with a smile.
"Thanks Wedge," Hobbie said shaking his hand.
Wedge looked over at Wes and then back at Hobbie and Sela. "Your chauffeur is waiting to escort you off government property," he said with a grin.
Farewells and 'thank yous' for their beautiful wedding were said and then Wes walked them down to the Exec. landing bay and onto a small civilian shuttle. He went forward to the cockpit and Hobbie started to follow. "What do you think you're doing?" Wes asked him.
"I'm not flying?" Hobbie asked puzzled.
Wes laughed. "The state you're in? No. When Wedge said I was escorting you off this tub, he meant it. Go on back to your new bride or she'll think you've tired of her already. Go on. Git!"
Hobbie grinned. "Whatever you say." And he turned and went back to sit with Sela.
Sela, meanwhile, had noticed that there were two bags in the small cargo compartment. One she recognized as hers and the other she assumed was Derek's. She knew she hadn't packed her bag. She thought that Jehri had probably done it and brought it up to put here. She smiled thinking of how much she had come to love all of the Rogues, but especially Jehri and Wes.
"I hope that smile is because you were thinking of me," Hobbie said coming back into the passenger compartment.
Her smile brightened. "Actually, it wasn't."
"What?!" Hobbie gave her a mock scowl. "We've only been married a couple of hours and already you're thinking of someone else?"
She laughed. "I was just thinking about your fellow Rogues. They have been so kind to me over the last few weeks. All of them have become so special to me, especially Jehri and Wes. I would have been completely lost without them."
Hobbie came and sat down next to her, then leaned over to kiss her. "They love you too. That's why they did all this for us. The roster may change from time to time, but once a Rogue, always a Rogue. The Rogues are a family and they take care of their own. I guess through me you've always been considered a part of the family." He took her hand in his and kissed it. "Now, we've just made it official," he said smiling at his beautiful bride.
The shuttle came in for a landing on a rooftop pad and Hobbie and Sela began releasing their safety harnesses.
Wes sauntered into the passenger compartment. "Here we are; safe and sound and in one piece," he said smugly, as if he were the only one who could have accomplished the task. He activated the hatch and boarding ramp and then went to pick up the two bags in the cargo compartment.
Hobbie and Sela had walked down the ramp hand in hand ahead of Wes, but Hobbie stopped in his tracks when he realized that they weren't where he thought they'd be. "Hey! This isn't my apartment building."
Wes had come down the ramp with their bags in hand and a huge grin on his face. "Of course not, you big dope! You don't think that we could possibly let you and Sela spend your wedding night in that dinky apartment, do you? With the compliments of Rogue Squadron, the honeymoon suite of the Galaxy Coruscant is yours for the next week. After that, you're on your own." He turned to the hotel's protocol droid that had been standing by silently. "Please escort Major Klivian and his bride to the honeymoon suite," he said handing the bags to the droid.
Both Sela and Hobbie were stunned speechless. Finally, Hobbie recovered himself enough to respond. "Wes ... I don't know what to say. Please tell them all thank you, from both of us."
Wes's grin softened to a happy smile for his friends. "I will. You two just enjoy your honeymoon. Be good to her, Hobbie." Then to Sela, he added in a teasing tone, "I'm ready, willing, and able to pound him flat if he gets out of line. You just let me know," he said finishing with a wink.
Sela let go of Hobbie's hand and stepped up to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you so much for everything you and Jehri and all the others have done for us ... Tell her ..." Her voice broke and she couldn't finish what she wanted to say.
Wes hugged her in return. "She knows, Sweetheart," he said, kissing her on the cheek and smiling as he released her. Then he turned back to his best friend and pulled him into a back slapping hug. "You've got a beautiful, sweet girl here, Hob. You take care of her, you hear?"
"You know I will, Wes," Hobbie answered. "Thanks again for everything."
"The Rogues take care of their own, Hob," he said with a grin. "Call us when you get back." Then he turned and went back up into the shuttle. He waved to them one more time from the cockpit and took off.
Hobbie and Sela followed the shuttle until it was lost among the other lights flying in the night sky of Coruscant. Then the hotel's protocol droid finally spoke. "On behalf of the management of the Galaxy Coruscant, allow me offer my congratulations. If you will follow me, please, I will escort you to your suite."
The suite the droid had shown them to was spectacular, but neither Sela nor Hobbie had eyes for anything except each other. They stood facing each other and holding hands. Hobbie was still in his dress uniform, but Sela had changed into a diaphanous peignoir she had found in her bag wrapped in tissue with a note attached. It had been a gift from Jehri, Mirax, Iella, and Winter.
As exhausted as Hobbie knew Sela had to be, she was absolutely radiant. Finally, Hobbie broke the silence between them. "Have I told you how beautiful you are?" Sela blushed, which entranced him even more. He drew her into a gentle embrace. "I love you, Sela, more than I can ever hope to express."
After a tender kiss, she answered him. " And I love you, Derek. All I have ever wanted to do was to make you happy."
"Sweetheart, in spite of all I've put you through, you married me. I can't think of a single thing that could make me happier than that."
She looked into his deep blue eyes. She had seen him with Wes and Jehri's children and she remembered how he had been with her when she had been a child. She knew of one thing that would make him happier: for them to have children of their own; something she very much wanted herself. I can, she thought to herself with a smile.
(One year later)
Sela sat in a bed in a private room at the Medcenter. The room was filled with huge bouquets of flowers; and some were even from the other Rogues. She cradled a tiny, precious, blanket wrapped bundle in her arms. Her face glowed as she smiled at Hobbie, who sat beside her on the edge of the bed with his arm around her.
He teased the little baby's hand open and she clutched her daddy's finger tightly. "She's beautiful," he said. "Just like her mother." He kissed Sela and then stood to take the baby to cradle in his own arms. "What are we going to name her?"
Sela smiled up at him. "Do you really have to ask?"
He looked at the tiny baby girl he held in his arms, completely captivated. "Our own darling little Nia."
Disclaimer: All content is made up, and no profit or lucre is expected, solicited, advocated or paid. This is all just for fun. Any comments, please e-mail the author or Wookiee Hut directly. Flames will be ignored. Characters and situations are based on those which are the property of LucasFilms Ltd., Bantam Publishing, Random House, and their respective original owners and developers. The rest is this story's author's own fault. This story may not be posted anywhere without the author's knowledge, consent, and permission.