SHAD: Part 4 Rating: R to NC-17 / Slash
(This section — Rating: R / Slash)

Gillian F. Taylor

It took ten days for Leia's messages to reach Luke Skywalker, and another four days before his X-wing landed at Crieffs Base. Luke felt rather guilty at not coming here earlier. He'd been worried when Leia had first told him that Wedge had gone missing, but she'd assured him that General Cracken had assigned Intelligence units to the search. As weeks had passed, Luke had considered leaving his quest for further understanding of the Jedi, in order to help look for his friend, but then news had come that Wedge had been found. Luke had been aware that Wedge needed treatment to recover, but had allowed his attention to be absorbed by Jedi practices. Now, he hoped that some of what he had learned recently would be of value to the friend he'd neglected.

Following Leia's suggestion, Luke visited Dr Jansz and talked to her before making contact with Wedge. He took to the smart, motherly psychologist at once, sensing nothing but the desire to help and heal in her. After a long discussion of Wedge's condition, she consented to Luke's offer of help.

"But here, in this office," she told him firmly. "And I'll be in attendance. If, at any point I ask you to stop, you must do so. Commander Antilles' health must be our priority."

Luke nodded. "I understand. I'd never intentionally hurt Wedge, but this could be a difficult task."

"I suggest that you go and rest, eat, meditate or whatever you need to do to prepare yourself," Dr Jansz said. "I'll talk to Commander Antilles and see if he'll consent to this experiment. I'll do my best to persuade him, but if he refuses, we'll have to accept that."

"Of course. I just hope he agrees." Luke wasn't sure if he could help Wedge, but he sincerely wanted the chance to try.

In spite of his talk with Dr Jansz, Luke was still unprepared for the shock when he finally met Wedge, and found himself being looked at by a stranger. There was no recognition in Wedge's eyes, but a wary reserve where there had once been trust. Even Wedge's force sense was subtly different. Luke restricted his greeting to a handshake, instead of the hug that would have been so natural before. He let Wedge sit in his usual chair, with Dr Jansz close to one side, and pulled a light chair up close.

"Thanks for agreeing to meet me," he said to Wedge. "I can understand that this is a bit strange and nerve-wracking for you."

Wedge glanced at the doctor before answering. "Dr Jansz trusts you. She wanted me to try this."

His force sense rippled with anxiety and a touch of resentment but Luke could feel something else; a yearning for trust and peace of mind. Under the fear and confusion, Wedge/Shad wanted to be whole again.

"This is going to feel strange," Luke told him. "But it won't hurt. I've made contact with you before through the Force."

Curiosity replaced worry on Wedge's face. "When was that?"

"It was at Endor, when you intercepted a drone with a message and set off the self-destruct," Luke told him. "You went EV to stop it exploding by jamming your hand into the mechanism." At Wedge's look of astonishment, Luke added. "No, it wasn't a very sophisticated approach, but you didn't have time to do anything else. Anyway, I came out in my X-wing to help, and as your hand was being so badly crushed, you asked me to help control the pain. I made contact with you through the Force and got the pain under control."

Wedge was looking at him in wonder. Luke could feel a similar emotion from Dr Jansz, but he kept his attention on his old friend. Wedge wasn't completely relaxed, but Luke could feel a willingness to trust growing in within him.

"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.

Wedge took a deep breath. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just lean back in your chair and relax. Close your eyes if you like; let your mind drift."

As Wedge obediently relaxed into his chair and closed his eyes, Dr Jansz put one hand on his arm to reassure him of her presence.

Luke opened himself into the Force, reaching out to Wedge's bright presence. Very delicately, he touched Wedge's mind. Surprise and apprehension rippled through Wedge's sense; his hands clenched into fists but he didn't resist Luke's contact. Luke began to probe Wedge's memories, touching lightly on those at the surface of his mind. He glimpsed Shad's recent life, his time at Crieffs Base. Luke sensed a dark knot of other memories, still of Shad but something held very privately. He let those alone and probed deeper, trying to find Wedge's memories.

All he found was a very definite block. When he tried to push through, Wedge gasped and Luke felt him begin to resist. Luke lightened his contact, giving Wedge the chance to relax and calm down. As he waited, Luke considered how to approach the problem. Not being a Force-user, Wedge could only resist him so far. If Luke wanted, he could push through the barrier in Wedge's mind and touch the memories hidden behind it. It was a brutal approach, which would certainly cause Wedge distress, and could harm him mentally. Luke needed to find a more subtle way through.

He began searching Wedge's mind again, sliding through Shad's memories, trying to find any memory that might connect in some way to that block. Luke made the briefest contact with each memory, more interested in its associations than with what Wedge/Shad actually remembered. In spite of his effort to intrude as little as possible, he could feel Wedge's growing disturbance. He could feel Wedge's heartbeat as clearly as his own, feel Wedge's pulse rate rising and his blood pressure increasing. As Wedge became more agitated, his feelings set off a chain reaction of memories and associations in his mind. Somewhere in the whirlwind of impressions that Luke received, he felt one that he instinctively knew was important. His mind flickered that way, chasing the brief glimpse.

Wedge made a small sound of protest as Luke chased after the elusive memory. Luke was having to work harder as resistance grew. A moment later, Luke found the memory of a fire, of dreaming of fire. The memory seemed to reach through the block that separated Shad from Wedge. Luke understood in a heartbeat. Shad had dreamed of the fire that killed Wedge's parents. Luke reached into the memory of the dream and followed it through the mental block to its connection to Wedge's own experience. From there, Wedge's memories opened up around him like a star going nova. From the fire to Booster Terrik, to Loka Hask and being imprisoned on Mrlsst. Flying his X-wing, flying through the heart of a Death Star, flying down the trench of another Death Star. Millions and millions of impressions, memories barely glimpsed by Luke. Wedge cried out as the block crumbled and his memories burst back into his conscious mind.

Luke immediately lightened his mental touch, just keeping a light contact with Wedge's presence. Wedge was shaking his head, struggling to make sense of the conflicting memories and self-knowledge in his mind. He opened his eyes, looking at Luke and Dr Jansz in bewilderment.

"Where ... what's happening ... who?"

"It's okay, Wedge," Luke said, sending reassurance through the Force.

"You're going to be all right," Dr Jansz added.

Wedge stared at one then the other. "I know you," he said to Luke. "And you," he said to the doctor. "But I don't ... I know you both but you're both strangers ... I ... " He curled up in his chair, covering his face with his hands.

"Breathe slowly," Dr Jansz instructed him, rubbing his shoulder. "You're in shock. Just breathe slowly and try to relax."

Her Force presence was suffused with warmth and a confidence that reassured Luke. She didn't seem to be as alarmed by Wedge's reaction as he'd been. Luke reached into his own centre, letting his anxieties bleed away. He needed to be calm now. After a minute or so, he sensed Wedge beginning to calm down too. The initial wave of shock had passed, and Wedge lowered his hands. His eyes were stormy with emotion but Luke was relieved to see that the panic had gone.

"I'm Wedge. I became Shad; he told me my name was Shad. The moff. That's what happened, isn't it?"

"That's right," Dr Jansz reassured him. "Dissociative amnesia brought on by the stress of interrogation."

Wedge nodded, his eyes fixed on her motherly face. "You told Shad that. I remember you telling me, but it's like it happened to someone else."

"In a sense, it did," she told him.

Wedge shuddered. "He broke me," he whispered. "He made me ..." His voice trailed off and Luke felt a sudden surge in his emotions: anger, humiliation, disgust and guilt.

Luke knew what Wedge was remembering. Dr Jansz had briefed him fully on the relationship between Shad and Moff Raworth, warning him that Shad's conflicting feelings about his sexuality could cause problems. Luke felt desperately sorry for his friend, but for all his growing Jedi powers, he didn't know how best to help.

Dr Jansz also knew what was on Wedge's mind now.

"We know what he did," she said gently. "Shad talked about it with me; do you remember?"

Wedge hesitated, then nodded.

"Remembering your time as Shad hurts, doesn't it?" she asked.

Wedge dropped his gaze, nodded in a quick, jerky gesture, then looked back at the doctor's face as though clinging to a lifeline.

"Did you ever, as Wedge, get drunk or angry, and do or say something you regretted later?" Dr Jansz's voice was still soft.

"Yes. I have," Wedge answered.

"And if someone, say, shouted at you when you didn't deserve it, and then later they apologized, would you forgive them?"

"I guess so."

"Becoming Shad, and knowing what Shad did, that hurts and it's going to take time for the hurt to fade, but it will happen," Dr Jansz said. "You, Wedge, weren't in control when you were Shad. You can't blame yourself for anything that Shad did. You have to forgive Shad, and remember that he didn't really know what he was doing; he was manipulated. Think of him as someone who hurt you when he was drunk, and has apologised. Do you understand?"

"I think so." Wedge closed his eyes. "It's ... it's so difficult." His voice grew hoarse and he struggled to choke back a sob.

Dr Jansz leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her comfortable body. "Go ahead, cry. There's no shame in it."

Wedge buried his face against her shoulder and wept.

Luke simply sat by and kept quiet, not wishing to disturb Wedge. When the worst pain had passed, and the sobs had eased into tearful sniffles, Luke used the Force to move a box of tissues to the table beside Dr Jansz's chair. She saw the box floating across the room from her desk, and her eyes widened, but she said nothing. She continued to cradle Wedge, making gentle soothing sounds as he gradually recovered.

"That's good, Wedge. Crying like that is very healing. I'm here to help you."

When the sobs had ceased, and Wedge lifted his head from her shoulder, Dr Jansz calmly offered him a tissue. As Wedge recovered his composure, Luke quietly got up and fetched a glass of water.

"Here." He offered Wedge the glass.

"Thank you." Wedge drank most of the water in one go and slumped back into his chair. "I feel a bit better now."

"You've still got a lot to come to terms with," Dr Jansz said. "But you won't be alone. I'm here to help you and support you for as long as you need it."

"You've got your friends too," Luke put in. "I can stay on here a while if you'd like me to."

"Yes, yes I think I'd like that," Wedge answered.

He still sounded frail, but Luke could see a new determination in his face. It was the determination of a man who would fly a snubfighter against a Death Star. Luke smiled in relief: Wedge would win this battle too.

* * * * *

For Wedge though, this was harder than fighting a Death Star. He'd known, with utter certainty, that the Death Stars had to be stopped, so his choice had simply been to destroy them or die in the attempt. This situation, the jumble of memories and difficult emotions, had Wedge deeply confused. While he was in Luke's company, he felt he had a docking grapple to anchor himself to. When he said goodnight to Luke, and found himself alone in Shad's quarters for the first time, he felt as though he were floating free in vacuum.

The room, the belongings, were familiar but strange. Dr Jansz had told him that Shad's memories would soon become less vivid but at the moment he seemed to be seeing everything through two sets of eyes.

Those coveralls: I wear them when Shad's repairing repulsors. Here's my flightsuit, at the back of the closet where Shad put it. One moment they seem strange to me, the next moment, they are as familiar as my face in the mirror. Who am I? Who am I going to be?

He closed the closet door and leaned against it, closing his eyes. Memories of his time with the moff resurfaced in his mind, and he shuddered.

"I did it," Wedge whispered. "I let him use me. I begged him to ..." He shook his head fiercely and tried to push the thoughts aside.

Trying to keep his mind a blank, he readied himself for bed.

Bed. Shad's bed. Wedge's bed now. Shad's bed. In the morning I'll ask to be transferred to another room. Bed. Moff Raworth took me to bed; took me in his bed. It was Shad he took, not Wedge. I'm Wedge ! Same body. It was this body that responded to him. This cock that got hard at another man's touch. Wedge was never interested in that: was I? I don't know myself any more.

Wedge flung the covers back and scrambled out of bed. The room lights came partway up, sufficient for him to see the bottle on the shelf near the door. It was a parting gift from Janson: Whyren's Reserve. Wedge wrenched the cap off and stared at the bottle for a moment.

This is a stupid idea. But here and now, I can't think of a better one.

He upended the bottle and gulped a good portion of the amber liquid. Fumbling the lid back into place, Wedge replaced the bottle and returned to his bed. He drew the covers up over his head, and waited for sleep.

* * * * *

When he met up with Luke again the next morning, life seemed to make more sense to Wedge. Conversation distracted him from painful thoughts, and he found himself slipping back into his role as the Wedge that Luke knew. At breakfast, they reminisced about past meals in places long since abandoned or destroyed. The memories were strong in Wedge's mind and his spirits rose as the old bonds of their friendship were renewed. All the same, after eating, he put in a request to be assigned to new accomodation. A few minutes later he had the keycard to a new room, and was soon back in the old one, packing his things.

As Wedge began folding his rather limited supply of clothes, Luke started on the other odds and ends about the room. He picked up the holocube and switched it on. Wedge glanced up, recognising the first image displayed as one from Hoth.

"That was the first snowball fight I ever had," Luke recalled.

"Wes started it," Wedge said.

Luke chuckled. "Wes always starts it, whatever 'it' is."

Wedge smiled in return, thinking how true that statement was.

Luke continued to study the holos displayed by the cube as Wedge got on with his packing. He commented on each one, remarking on how much younger some people looked, sharing his own memories of the occasions he'd been part of. Deliberately or otherwise, his words strengthened Wedge's slowly growing sense of self. As Luke talked so easily about things Wedge had seen and done, the less real the memories of Shad seemed to be.

Opening the closet, Wedge found himself looking at Shad's coveralls. They smelt of vehicle lubricant, a powerful and very real smell. Wedge hesitated, reluctant to touch them.

Maybe I should leave them behind, just forget all about Shad. But it won't happen that easily, will it?

Wedge lifted the coveralls from the closet and turned back to see Luke, looking at another holo and smiling.

Luke knows all about Shad. He was in my head. He knows what Shad and the moff did, how Shad yielded and begged for pleasure. But he's not thinking about that. He's disassociated what Shad did from the Wedge he knows. He doesn't despise me for what I did when I was ... sick. Like Dr Jansz said, Shad wasn't really responsible for what he did; he was trying to protect Wedge, and survive somehow. And I did escape the interrogation by becoming Shad. And Shad did keep Moff Raworth from killing him, me, by doing what the moff wanted.

"Are you all right?"

Wedge suddenly realized that Luke was staring at him.

"Uh, yeah. I was thinking," he answered. "About Shad."

Luke set down the holocube. "What were you thinking?" he asked gently.

"That if I hadn't become Shad, I'd probably be dead by now," Wedge answered. "I guess I owe him."

"You're a survivor, Wedge, even if it means doing something unconventional like losing your identity for a while."

Wedge managed a smile. "A strategy of rather limited applications, but it worked this time." He began to fold the coveralls. Maybe becoming Shad wasn't such a symptom of weakness and failure. Yielding, instead of fighting, may have been the right thing to do. I think that's how Luke sees it, so that's why he doesn't despise me for what Shad did with the moff. And if Luke Skywalker thinks it was acceptable, then I can learn to live with it too.

He packed Shad's coveralls neatly into his bag.

* * * * *

That night though, sleep still didn't come easily. Wedge shifted restlessly in his new bed, tired but unable to sleep. Without company to distract him, there was nothing to keep the anxious thoughts at bay. Unlike the night before, he was less worried about who he was. If someone had unexpectedly asked his name, his automatic answer would have been 'Wedge Antilles'. Remembering his time as Shad was still disconcerting, but it was beginning to take on the quality of an extended dream.

The part he couldn't forget was the intimate times with the moff. Moff Raworth had used him and manipulated him, but that didn't change the fact that he'd responded physically.

I enjoyed being held by another man. I liked the touch of his hand on my penis. I got pleasure from him making love to me. I'd never seriously thought about having sex with men before. I didn't think I was that type. Now, I don't know; I just don't know what I want.

Wedge rolled over onto his other side, drawing the covers up around himself. He stared across the room, seeing only the faintest shapes in the dim light from the window. He knew consciously that being homosexual was no big deal in most human cultures, and that most aliens simply wouldn't care. Wedge didn't care who his pilots slept with, so long as all parties were adults and consented to whatever they did. His only concern was whether anything affected flying skills or morale. If he'd declared himself to, say, Tycho or Wes as homosexual under ordinary circumstances, he was sure they would have accepted it.

So why is this getting to me so badly now?

Wedge gave up any attempt to sleep. He sat up in bed, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms round them.

It's discovering I'm not who I thought I was.

He leaned forward, resting his head against his knees and closing his eyes against the sting of unshed tears. Wedge wanted to cry, although he wasn't even sure why he did. It was partly the frustration of trying to hit a moving target. He was just starting to re-establish his sense of identity as Wedge Antilles, but a fundamental part of that identity had changed. All that frustration and anxiety welled up in him, spilling out in tears that slid silently down his face.

A quiet tapping at his door startled him from his misery. Wedge looked up, wondering if he'd imagined the sound. When it was repeated, he hastily wiped a hand across his face and climbed out of bed. Pulling on his robe, he opened the door to find Luke outside. Wedge blinked at him, puzzled.

"What is it?" He hoped Luke wouldn't notice the croakiness of his voice.

Luke's expression was soft. "I thought you might want a friend with you."

"Well, I ... " Wedge didn't know what he wanted. "How did you know ...?"

"My room's only a couple of doors away," Luke reminded him gently. "I could feel your disturbance through the Force."

Wedge sighed. "Come in."

He put the lights half up, and retreated to sit on the bed again. Luke settled himself on the chair at the small workstation.

"You seemed a bit steadier today, more at ease with yourself" Luke said quietly. "Am I right "

Wedge just nodded, then forced himself to speak. "I think Shad's ... fading. I don't feel so much like two people in one head any more. I'm Wedge, but ... I think ... I don't know. I don't know if I'm the same Wedge any more." He blurted out the last sentence, then stopped suddenly and drew himself into his defensive posture, with his arms around his knees.

"What's changed?"

Wedge looked across at Luke, trying to guess how much he knew or could sense. He could see sympathy and concern on his friend's face. Luke's blue eyes were steady, concerned only by how he could help. Wedge took a deep breath, trying to collect his thoughts.

"It's what I did with the moff," Wedge said slowly. He forced himself to bring his worries into the open. "It wasn't my idea, I never considered having sex with a man before, but I enjoyed it."

"Did you enjoy it just because it pleased the moff?"

Wedge shook his head. "I don't know. If someone had come up to me before all this, and pointed at Wes, for example, and said "Do you want to sleep with him?", I'd have said "no". I wasn't interested in men. But, when I was with Moff Raworth, it was good. He tricked me into doing something I'd wouldn't have chosen to do, but it felt good. Something always felt a little wrong about having sex with him, but I think it was because I knew he was using me." Wedge paused, swallowing a lump in his throat. "Shad knew there was something wrong in that relationship but I didn't know what. Moff Raworth was all Shad had in the galaxy and the moff created that situation and took advantage of it." He stopped again, trying to keep himself on track.

"I was uneasy because Moff Raworth was the wrong person to be having sex with, but when he started touching me, it turned me on. I wanted him to make love to me and make me come. I enjoyed having sex with a man !"

"I've never known you condemn anyone else for their sexuality," Luke remarked. "Why are you bothered about it in yourself?"

"I don't know !" Wedge wailed. "That's what I can't make out."

Luke sighed. "I wish I knew how to help, Wedge, but I'm not Dr Jansz. You might notice though that I haven't run away screaming just because my friend's told me he might be gay."

Wedge couldn't help smiling at that. "I guess you're right there. And I'm not showing much faith in my friends if I think they'll abandon me so easily."

"Is it the way you found out you might be gay?" Luke suggested. "The deception involved, or the fact that your first partner wasn't someone you'd normally choose?"

Wedge frowned and shook his head. "No, though those aspects probably do muddle things for me." He sighed and leaned back against the wall, suddenly longing for a good shot of whiskey. "I'm trying to kind of blank off what happened with the moff; that was something that happened to Shad, not Wedge. That's the easiest way for me to deal with it right now." He tried to recapture his earlier thoughts. "I'm trying to become Wedge again, but something I thought I knew about Wedge has changed."

"And you don't like it?"

"No, that's not quite it." Wedge tensed up, clenching his fists. "It's not just about whether I want to be gay or straight, or bi." He took a deep breath. "It's that I knew I was straight. From the first time I started thinking about girls, I was thinking about ... girls. I guess I wondered what gay sex was like, but I wasn't inclined to try it. If you'd asked me for some facts about myself, I could have told you that I have brown eyes, I'm right handed and I'm heterosexual. Basic, unchanging facts. And now it's like waking up one morning and discovering your eyes have changed colour overnight. Or more like discovering you've got breasts instead of a dick."

Luke's eyes widened as he contemplated this. "I'm beginning to see what you're getting at. I suppose it's like how I felt when I first really experienced the Force. That changed everything for me. It certainly changed who I am."

Wedge nodded, feeling a sudden lift at finally grasping the problem and knowing someone understood.

"That's it, Luke. I thought I knew who and what I was, but suddenly it's all changed. And I feel lost." He gazed at Luke, needing reassurance.

Luke thought before answering. "It won't last forever, Wedge, the feeling. You'll adapt in time, like I did after discovering that Darth Vader was my father."

Or like I did after my parents died. That hurt, and it changed me, but I survived.

Wedge fought back the surge of pain that came with the memory of his parents' deaths.

If they hadn't died, I probably wouldn't have joined the Rebellion. With the Rebellion, I've helped deliver people from a life of fear. The galaxy is and will be a better place for what we achieved. And the gender I chose to sleep with makes no difference to my ability to fly an X-wing. He let out a long sigh.

"Getting things in perspective?" Luke asked.

"Reading my mind?" Wedge replied.

Luke smiled. "I don't need the Force to guess how you're thinking at the moment."

"I guess not." Wedge relaxed, straightening his legs and leaning back against the wall again. "You're right; I'll get used to the idea that I can get turned on by men as well as women."

"It'll double your chances of getting a date," Luke pointed out.

Wedge laughed aloud. "That sounds like something Janson would say."

"Well, he's not here so I figured someone had to say it."

Wedge gave an exaggerated groan. "One Wes Janson is enough for any galaxy. But thanks for coming here, Luke. I feel better now."

Luke rose. "I'm glad I could help. It's what I'm here for, remember?"

Wedge nodded.

"Good night then." Luke touched Wedge on the shoulder, and left.

Wedge sat in the semi-darkness for a few minutes, trying to let his mind slow down and relax. It's still strange to think of myself as someone who may chose to sleep with men. It's going to take time to assimilate that. But I can't run away from what I did and how I felt. Some part of me has changed deeply, but some things are the same. I still want to fly, and fight. I'll try to concentrate on those things, and let my sexuality sort itself out. What will be will be.

He took off his robe, turned the lights out and slid down till he was stretched out comfortably in his bed. At last, he closed his eyes and slept.

* * * * *

The night before Luke left Crieffs Base, they went to the bar together. It was busy, but they found a small table and a couple of stools. They chatted amiably for a while, sharing memories of bars on other worlds and other bases. The conversation lapsed a little, until Wedge spoke.

"I never really said ‘thank you'," he remarked. "For coming here and helping me."

Luke smiled. "I'm glad I could. It makes a change to use my Jedi abilities to help someone specific, a friend, rather than thinking in galactic terms."

"Makes me feel how lucky I am, to have a friend who just happens to be the galaxy's only Jedi." Wedge grinned wryly.

"Some people believe you get the luck you deserve," Luke answered. "I'm just happy to see my friend getting back on his feet again."

"I'm pretty much there," Wedge said. "I'll never quite forget being Shad."

"How do you feel about Shad now?" Luke asked quietly.

"Mostly, I feel sorry for him," Wedge said. "He was deceived and abused, he knew that Wedge's friends wanted Wedge, not him. He was confused about himself in every way. Dr Jansz has really helped me get Shad in perspective."

"Can you forgive him?"

Wedge nodded. "He was a victim. I can regret what happened to Shad. It's part of my, Wedge's, life, and I can't change that, but I can accept it without letting it swamp me. It's not easy, but I'm getting there," Wedge paused, then his face brightened, half-smiling. "I'm beginning to look forward to leaving here and getting on with things again."

"Do you know what you want to do next?"

"Yes." Wedge looked straight at Luke. "As soon as I'm passed fit, I'm going back to Starfighter Command. They may want me to do some more PR work at first, but I intend to fly an X-wing again. I haven't finished fighting the Empire." He saw Luke's slight frown. "I'm not after revenge for what happened to me. Moff Raworth is the only person who can be blamed, and he's already dead."

Wedge paused, biting softly on his lower lip as he tried to get his thoughts straight.

"That whole system needs to be destroyed. I was a prisoner in the Imperial system, and yet I vanished from within that system. Moff Raworth had the power to put me in hiding, and no one could question what he'd done, or what had happened to me. The people who worked at his residence knew that Shad was locked in the Moff's quarters, that he was some kind of prisoner, but no one either cared enough, or dared to say anything about it. No one should be able to wield that kind of power over another being, to do what they like without being held to account. That's what I want to destroy, and I can do it best from an X-wing."

Luke looked at him admiringly. "That sounds like the Wedge I flew with."

Wedge chuckled and held up his glass of whiskey. "To flying, and to the return of Rogue Squadron."

Luke raised his glass too. "To flying, and to Rogue Squadron." He echoed the toast. They drank.

* * * * *

The morning after Luke's departure, Wedge made his first visit to the simulator room on Crieffs Base. He'd avoided it when he was Shad, unwilling to test himself in a place where Wedge excelled. Now he was in his comfortable orange flightsuit, his helmet under his arm. Wedge settled himself into one of the X-wing simulators, a pleasant pulse of excitement in his veins. He strapped himself in and tugged his helmet on, actions as familiar as brushing his teeth. The cockpit lit up around him as he adjusted the controls to suit his height and flying style. The main display unit offered him a choice of sims to fly, and Wedge felt a touch of pride in seeing that several of them were based on actual missions he'd commanded. He selected one almost at random, then hesitated briefly over difficulty level. It was over six months since he'd last sat in a cockpit, virtual or otherwise. With a grin that any being in the galaxy would have identified as ‘pure Corellian', Wedge selected the hardest level of difficulty. A computerized voice spoke to him through his helmet speakers.

"Please state your name and a squadron designation, if applicable."

He smiled. "Commander Wedge Antilles, Rogue Leader. Four lit and ready to fly."

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