Taken on Trust: 2 Rating: R (m/m slash)
Gillian F. Taylor

The next morning, Wedge received a summons to Admiral Ackbar, who was now about his flagship, Home One. There, he was officially given the news he'd been expecting for some time, that Rogue Squadron was being recommissioned, and happily accepted the post of commander. He spent another three days on board the Home One, in further discussion with Admiral Ackbar and dealing with various administrative necessities, including a full medical assessment. After a day of being scanned, poked, tested, injected and observed, Wedge was almost relieved to get away aboard a diplomatic shuttle for another 'smile and wave' propaganda visit.

Herzob was an agriworld, several hours' flight away. It had a small population, but the amount of grain produced on its vast farms made it an important potential ally for the New Republic. The rolling plains and endless fields reminded Wedge of the farm school he'd attended on Corellia, prior to the death of his parents. He happily accepted offers to visit agricompanies and found himself relishing the sunshine and fresh air after weeks either aboard ship or in the underground base on Folor. For Wedge, the highlight of his visit was the opportunity to ride a slopewing, something he'd not done since leaving school. In the end, he wasn't sure if the planetry dignitaries had been more impressed by his war exploits in an X-wing, or his ability to herd nerfs from the back of a slopewing. Pleasant though the visit was, Wedge was still grateful to head back to Folor after his eight days away.

On the way back, Wedge had little to do other than start worrying about Tycho again. He'd sent a couple of holomessages to his friend but had only had a brief, uninformative subspace message in return. Wedge knew in his head that Tycho's messages were being monitored, so Tycho wouldn't disclose anything personal that would be read by security. His heart, however, worried that Tycho's near-silence was a sign of withdrawal.

On arriving at Folor, Wedge stopped at his quarters just long enough to dump his kitbag on his bed, then went to Tycho's room. Tycho wasn't in, so Wedge called security and was informed that Captain Celchu was in the canteen. Wedge headed over there, arriving at the same time as a group of officers from a frigate. He joined the back of the group and entered the canteen as part of a crowd. Standing quietly behind a pair of talkative Bothans, he was able to look around the room without being obverved.

Wedge very quickly spotted Tycho, sitting at a table with the female security officer opposite him. As he watched, a stocky man in engineering uniform approached the table as if to sit at one of the empty spaces. The engineer looked twice at Tycho, then turned abruptly away and sat at a more crowded table. Tycho sat very still for a moment, then went back to poking listlessly at his bowl of red noodles. The security officer said something to him that made him look up, his expression lightening briefly. She pointed to the bowl and Tycho lifted a forkful of noodles and ate slowly.

I shouldn't have been away so long.

Wedge's thoughts were interrupted by a nudge from the Bothan standing behind him.

"Do you want to get served or not?" the golden-eyed Bothan asked tetchily.

"Sorry." Wedge turned his attention to the servers who were waiting for his order. He took a bowlful of the Corellian spiced nerf stew and a dish of sunfruit cream fluff, adding a large mug of caf at the strongest setting available. Tycho didn't bother looking up as he approached, still poking at his noodles. Only when Wedge set his tray down, did Tycho look up, somewhat surprised. The look turned to delight as he recognised his friend.

"Wedge! When did you get back?"

"Just now," Wedge answered. "How are you? You're looking fitter."

Which wasn't entirely true. Tycho looked close to his usual weight now, but the slump of his shoulders and a pinched look around his eyes told of ongoing mental stress.

"I'm all right," Tycho replied off-handedly and changed the subject. "Is there any news from High Command?"

Wedge nodded, and pointed his spoon at Tycho's dish. "Carry on with that and I'll tell you."

Tycho looked at his bowl as though he'd forgotten it was there. He wound up a forkful of noodles and chewed absently, looking at Wedge.

"It was like I thought," Wedge told him. "Rogue Squadron is being recommisioned and Admiral Ackbar offered me the post as commander." He couldn't help grinning at the knowledge that he was going to be back in the cockpit of an X-wing, where he belonged.

"That's great," Tycho said sincerely. "I understand the importance of the diplomatic work you've been doing, but now the propaganda has built up Rogue Squadron so much, they need to have it active again, and there's no one better to lead it than you."

"No one's irreplacable," Wedge said promptly. "Remember how we all felt lost when Luke left?"

Tycho pointed his fork at Wedge. "And you're the one who kept us together after Hoth and took over from Luke."

"Excuse me, sir," the security officer leaned forward and looked at Wedge. "Am I still required or will you be staying with Captain Celchu now?"

Wedge thought rapidly. "You'll finish eating before I do, and I have to unpack and get ready for tomorrow. You leave when you're ready, and I'll catch up with you later, Tycho."

Tycho nodded, and settled to eating his noodles while Wedge told him about the visit to Herzob. He soon slowed down, spending more time pushing the noodles around the dish than actually eating. His shoulders gradually slumped and the movements of his fork became jerky. Wedge finished the story about the hand-reared bantha cub and left a silence. He concentrated on eating his savoury stew and waited.

After a couple of minutes, Tycho looked up. Although his voice was carefully casual, he couldn't disguise the tension around his vivdly blue eyes.

"Have any decisions been made yet about the new squadron roster?"

The spicy stew lost some of its taste in Wedge's mouth. He swallowed, and took a deep breath. "Yes. I've been assigned Aril Nunb as my XO."

Tycho looked down at his dish. "She's a great pilot. Rogue Squadron has always been proud to have Sullustans amongst its members."

"She worked a lot with her brother in his smuggling days," Wedge said. "I expect she's picked up some interesting skills along the way."

Tycho nodded. He dropped his fork into his mostly-empty dish and decisively shoved it away from himself.

"I've had enough," he stated, looking around at the security officer. "I'm ready to go back to my quarters."

He stood and said goodbye to Wedge, who was busy with a generous mouthful of stew and could only nod and wave a hand in return. As Tycho and the security officer made their way across the busy canteen, Wedge bolted down more stew. When Tycho reached the door, Wedge took a swallow of caf, then shoved in a quick mouthful of his dessert before regrettfully leaving the rest of the sunfruit cream fluff as he rose and followed.

He knew Tycho was returning to his quarters, so it was easy enough to keep a turn or two behind and out of sight. A pair of engineering officers nearly collided with him as they rounded a corner. They would have passed Tycho further along, and were busy talking to one another as they all but walked straight into Wedge. He had clearly heard the words 'brainwashed' and 'traitor' before their conversation turned to apologies for carelessness. The apologies withered under his glare, and Wedge pushed past them and hurried on.

Pausing before the last turn into Tycho's corridor, Wedge listened and heard the security officer politely wishing him a good night, before his door hissed shut. Wedge rounded the corner and found the security officer heading back in his direction. She looked surprised to see him, and saluted smartly. Wedge waved a casual salute in return, and settled into a more relaxed pose as she approached.

"Is there a problem, sir?" she asked.

"That's what I wanted to speak to you about," Wedge answered. "How is Tycho holding up at the moment? He won't tell me, and I've not seen him in a few days."

The officer glanced back at Tycho's door before looking at Wedge again. "He doesn't really talk to me either. Not about how he feels."

"No, he woudn't," Wedge agreed. "But what do you see? Is he eating properly? It didn't look like it just now."

The woman gave an exasperated sigh. "My job is to escort Captain Celchu when he leaves his quarters, and to make sure he doesn't go anywhere he shouldn't, and to see that he doesn't do anything he's forbidden to do. That's all. I'm not a doctor or a psychiatrist."

But he's still a fellow being who's suffering unjustly. Don't you care about that?

Wedge was on the point of snapping at her, when he realized that the officer's attitude was frustration, not indifference. As she'd said, her job wasn't to try and help Tycho with his problems, and anything she could offer by the way of company and conversation was tainted by the knowledge that her company was enforced, not voluntary. She was his watcher first, and a companion second.

"I understand," Wedge said quietly. "I know this isn't what you signed up to the Rebellion for and Tycho's situation isn't your fault. But I'm asking just as his friend, maybe the only one he has in a position to help him."

The woman nodded thoughtfully. "You're right. He barely eats enough to get by, and that's mostly to please me. And then he burns it up in the gym. It's the only recreation he gets."

"Has anyone called on him: Captains Nunb or Vakil?"

"Captain Vakil did call on the evening after you left. But he's been transferred to another base since then. I don't know if Captain Nunb has made contact with Captain Celchu."

Wedge resisted the urge to ask if there had been anyone else; the answer was all too likely to be no. It was possible that Wes or Hobbie had sent a message and that Tycho had simply not told the security officer about it. But a message from someone many light-years distant was small comfort to a man surrounded by people who didn't trust him.

"All right. Thank you for your help." Wedge dismissed the officer with a nod.

She saluted and walked briskly away, while Wedge wandered back to his own quarters, his thoughts circling like a flock of hawk-bats round a granite slug. He was almost surprised when he found himself back in his rooms. Shaking his head, he tried to dismiss his worries about Tycho, at least for a little while. Deciding to take a hot shower, Wedge headed into the bedroom, and saw his kitbag lying on the bed where he'd dumped it earlier. That had to be tidied away before he could relax.

Most of his stuff went back where he'd had it before his trip, but there were some new items he had to find places for. The bulkiest was a pair of sturdy nerf-hide riding boots that he'd been presented with on Herzob. Much as he liked them, Wedge couldn't see himself having much use for them here on Folor. He dug around in the back of his closet, trying to make a space for them, and uncovered a large, shallow box. Forgetting the boots, Wedge took the box out and removed the lid. Gently, he moved aside the soft cobweb paper that filled it, so he could see the contents that the paper protected. This had been a lifeday present from Tycho almost two years ago, while Rogue Squadron had still been active. Wedge stared into the box, remembering. He bit softly on his lower lip for a few moments as he thought.

It's a risk. It could push him the wrong way. But if I get it right, I'll break down the walls he's built up. Tycho just can't go on like this!

Wedge stayed still a moment longer, then put the lid back on the box and stood up, with it in his hands.

"I have to try," he said aloud. "I have to."
* * * * *

The next day, Wedge had a quiet word with the security officer, and made sure that he was in the cantina at the same time as Tycho for the evening meal. As before, Tycho ate lightly though without needing any prompting. He showed no relish for the food though, and Wedge suspected that Tycho was eating mostly in order to stop Wedge worrying about him. When they were done, Wedge invited Tycho to join him in his quarters.

"I was given a bottle of the local whiskey while I was on Herzob," he explained. "I don't know what it's like, and I'm rather afraid to try it alone."

Tycho smiled slightly. "Wedge Antilles, Ace Pilot and Hero of the New Republic, frightened of a bottle of whiskey?"

"It's green," Wedge informed him.

Tycho's eyes widened slightly. "You're not doing a good job of selling this idea to me."

Wedge laughed. "Come on, Tych. I need my wingman to back me up."

Tycho smiled, looking more alive than he had for days. "OK, Lead."

Back in his quarters, Wedge produced the bottle of whiskey, which was a startling shade of green, and two glasses. He took the top off and sniffed cautiously, before pouring a generous slug into each glass. Tycho accepted a glass, eyed it warily, then took a sip as Wedge did the same. In spite of the distressing colour, the whiskey had a warm, smokey taste that Wedge liked. He knew it wouldn't be quite so much to Tycho's taste, but his friend nodded approvingly.

"You know, if you closed your eyes when drinking it, this could be a pleasant experience," Tycho remarked.

"It's certainly better than some of the things I've been given on these propaganda tours," Wedge answered. "And much better than the kissing babies thing."

Tycho shook his head. "Why would anyone in their right mind want a stranger to kiss their babies?"

Wedge shrugged. "I'm presented to them as someone special, or lucky, and it's seen almost like I'm giving a blessing to the child, or something."

Tycho looked frankly sceptical at that. "Don't go getting any ideas about being divine, Wedge."

"I'm not divine; I'm not even a Jedi."

"Some people think Jedi are pretty much divine," Tycho pointed out.

Wedge snorted. "Hey, we've both lived and worked alongside a real, live Jedi. I know Luke isn't divine; he farts and shits just the same as the rest of us."

Tycho nearly spat out a mouthful of whiskey at that, gulping it instead and breaking out into a coughing fit broken by laughter. Wedge smiled, inwardly delighted at his success so far in getting Tycho to relax.

"Shavvit, Wedge," Tycho sputtered. "Are you trying to kill me?"

Wedge shook his head.

No, I'm trying to get you to lower the walls you've built up. Whiskey and laughter is just the first stage.

Wedge reminded Tycho of their arrival on Hoth, and Luke's reaction to the deep snow.

"... and remember how much he loved that first snowball fight — shrieking and laughing like a five-year-old?" Wedge recalled.

Tycho was chuckling. "Right up until the moment when Hobbie got him right in the face with one. I don't think Luke realized just how cold snow is until then."

"He looked like he'd been slapped with a dead mynock," Wedge said. "He just stood there, gasping, then shook himself and started swearing like a twenty-year troop sergeant.

"I didn't think Luke knew most of those words," Tycho said grinning.

"I taught him most of them," Wedge confessed. "But he taught me three ways to insult a Jawa's mother, in return."

"Teach me," Tycho asked. "It's bound to come in useful some time."

"Some time," Wedge agreed. "But not necessarily within our lifetimes."

He taught Tycho the insults, and kept the conversation going. Wedge told anecdotes about his propaganda tour and stories about misadventures at farm school and about working with and learning from Booster Terrik. He kept the glasses topped up, establishing a routine of just adding a little at a time, never enough to be a really obvious refill. Tycho drank his whiskey without thinking about it while Wedge held his attention, talking instead of drinking himself. Wedge kept a careful calculation of how much Tycho had downed — the intention was to get him relaxed and soften his inhibitions, not to get him reeling drunk.

By about the third glass of green whiskey, Tycho was sitting casually in his chair, no longer tense, as though ready to take flight at any moment. The lines of his face had smoothed out as he relaxed and his blue eyes no longer had the wariness that had haunted him so for long. Wedge was delighted with his success so far but felt his throat turn dry at the knowledge that it was time for him to push on to the next stage of his plan.

Taking a swallow of whiskey, Wedge smiled and brought the conversation around to a luxurious base that Rogue Squadron had been stationed at, not long before the unit was decommissioned.

"I remember it," Tycho said, his gaze losing focus for a moment as he thought back. "There was a spa and a pool and beaches nearby."

"I remember the spa," Wedge remarked. His visit to the spa had been the first part of a highly memorable evening. Three members of his squadron had decided that he was too stressed and had taken it upon themselves to relieve that tension, in a variety most enjoyable ways. Tycho's diversion had been a session floating in a hot tub. That had been a pleasant surprise in itself, but Tycho's follow-up of hot, hard sex in the warm water had been even better. And from the look in Tycho's eyes right now, he was remembering that visit to the spa too.

"You said that if I wasn't relaxed after that, then you were a Hutt's dancing girl," Wedge said. "And I said you'd look good with a chain around your neck."

Tycho nodded, smiling. "I remember."

Wedge smiled too, and reached around behind his chair to pick up the shallow box he'd hidden there. Tycho's eyes widened a little in recognition as Wedge put the box on his lap and removed the lid.

"This was your next lifeday present to me," Wedge said. He lifted out a nerfhide collar in deep crimson, with golden buckle and D-ring. "Of course the colour suits you better," he added. He caressed the beautifully soft leather, then passed it across to Tycho.

Tycho turned the collar about, letting the leather slide through his fingers.

"I have all the harness in here still," Wedge said. "I've always taken great care of it." He took out one of the matching wrist retraints. "It means a lot to me."

"I'm glad," Tycho said softly, looking down at the collar in his hands.

Wedge watched him for a moment, then moved the box from his lap and shifted to the edge of his chair. "Just hold it up, Tycho, let me see how it looks against you, please."

Slowly, Tycho raised the collar and held it against his neck, over the collar of his dark blue tunic.

"No, that's not ..." Wedge crossed the narrow space between them. Opening the neck of the tunic, he took the crimson slave collar from Tycho and wrapped it loosely around his neck, just tucking the end of the strap through the buckle without fastening it.

"That's better," he said, moving back a pace.

The deep crimson glowed against Tycho's pale skin and Wedge felt a corresponding warmth throbbing in his groin. He had always loved to break down Tycho's aristocratic poise and hear him begging to be fucked. To have the handsome, noble-looking man collared like a slave and ready to obey his sexual demands was a real turn on for Wedge. He also enjoyed using the wrist and ankle restraints and the rest of the harness to control Tycho, to position him as he wanted him. And Tycho had loved to submit, to trust Wedge to excite and frustrate him and to shatter his self-control.

Wedge wanted to do that now, to break down the walls Tycho had erected around his feelings. But since their last sexual encounter, Tycho had been held a prisoner for real. He'd been shackled and restrained, tortured and probably subjected to other physical and mental abuse that Wedge could only guess at. It was asking a lot of him to wear a collar and restraints again, even ones only associated with pleasure. Wedge knew that Tycho trusted him with his life and he hoped that this trust would help Tycho conquer his fears.

Now, Tycho just sat and looked at Wedge. The pupils of his eyes were wide and dark, but Wedge couldn't tell if it was from desire, fear, or even both emotions together. Slowly, Tycho lifted a hand and touched the collar. His fingertips slid over the smooth, soft hide. He licked dry lips, a gesture that made Wedge's pulse jump. Impulsively, Wedge moved forward and put his hand on Tycho's thigh, looking deep into those blue, blue eyes. As Tycho stared back at him, Wedge closed the distance between them and softly touched his lips against Tycho's.

After a moment, Tycho responded, his lips returning the pressure. The kiss lasted just a few seconds, then Wedge withdrew. Tycho's breathing was uneven and he trembled just a little.

"Wedge," he whispered. "I don't know ..."

Wedge silenced the protest with another kiss, this one longer and firmer. Again, Tycho yielded, his mouth moving against Wedge's. Wedge savoured the taste of the whiskey, softened in Tycho's mouth, and of Tycho himself. He moved, kissing along the line of Tycho's jaw to that sensitive spot just below the corner of his jaw. Tycho breathed out slowly, almost moaning, and Wedge's balls and cock responded to the sound.

"Trust me," he whispered in Tycho's ear, his voice husky.

His hand slid up Tycho's thigh to his groin, and gently caressed the bulge there. Wedge nuzzled Tycho's earlobe, then leaned back, his hand still on Tycho's groin.

Tycho was sprawled back in his chair, his mouth slightly open as he looked at Wedge. He was breathing fast and shivering slightly, his eyes wide. Moving slowly, Wedge put his other hand on Tycho's shoulder, sliding it down his arm. Some new emotion suddenly lit Tycho's eyes, but before Wedge could identify it, Tycho had leaned forward and grabbed him, pulling him close. Tycho clung to Wedge in a tight hug as he urgently sought the other man's mouth with his lips.

For the first moments, Wedge was aware of nothing but the feel of Tycho's body pressed against his, the arms holding him, and Tycho's lips and tongue against his own. As the first rush of feeling passed, a distant part of Wedge's brain began working.

Physical touch. He's been deprived for so long! I've hugged him a couple of times since he was released, just as my friend. But with half the people here refusing to even look him in the face, Tycho's been so isolated. I don't think either of us realized just how bad it's been for him until right now. The next few minutes were spent in fulfilling that need for touch. Wedge stroked and caressed Tycho, always keeping some contact between them. He kissed Tycho on the lips, the throat and the palms of his hands, licking his pale skin and getting his hands under Tycho's tunic to slide them over the warm flesh hidden there. At first, Tycho held on to Wedge, needing his solidity and physical presence. As Wedge delicately reassured and aroused him, the desparate need for simple touch became increasingly sexual. Wedge looked at Tycho's face and smiled. He caressed the sensitive skin of Tycho's throat, then leaned forward to fasten the collar properly. Tycho offered no resistance.

"That looks good," Wedge said. "Go take a look in the mirror." He gestured to the bedroom.

Tycho stood and obediently went through to the other room. Wedge slipped off his boots and socks, picked up the box, and followed.

Tycho was standing in front of the mirror, his eyes slightly dreamy as he brushed his fingertips over the crimson collar that circled his throat. Wedge set the box down on the low locker unit and took out the wrist retraints. Tycho turned to face him as he approached.

"It looks even better with these on," Wedge said.

Tycho didn't say anything, but just held his arms out. He watched as Wedge pushed his sleeves up and fastened the restraints around his wrists. When he was done, Wedge slid his arms around Tycho and pulled him close, their bodies pressed together as they kissed. He felt the tension leaving Tycho's body as lips and tongues met and explored each other. He could feel Tycho's warmth against himself, and feel the rhythm of the other man's breathing. When the breathing got faster, Wedge gently broke the kiss and stepped back.

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