I was bored. And lonely. And so depressed. Since We had left my apartment to win the heart (or areas lower) of Goldie from Mediocre Squadron, I had steadily sank into a malaise of depression. Until the only solution was to eat the leftover chocolate mousse Risha had made fore her dinner with Wedge and watch old Face Loran holos.
Celeste found me in this rather pathetic state. Sniffling over some highly sugared plot involving the hero dying tragically to save some Imperial noblewoman, only a chocolate smeared bowl remaining of Risha’s culinary creation. Celeste gave me an appraising look before plopping down beside me on the couch. "So what did he do this time?"
I tried to glare at my sister, ready to argue that nothing was wrong, but the evidence was there. Sappy movies, comfort food…sure signs of problems of the male persuasion. "He’s going to a party."
Celeste beamed at me. "That’s wonderful…" Her voice trailed off as she realized I was not happy about this improvement to Wes’ social life. "And he’s not taking you?"
I nodded, looking forlornly at the empty bowl. I wondered if I could con Rish into making another batch. "Oh Gods, he’s taking someone else."
"Right on target," I sighed. "He’s taking some babe from Gold Squadron."
Celeste immediately bristled. "Gold Squad?" she sputtered. "They’re…they’re amateurs compared to the Rogues."
"Every squad’s amateurs when compared to the Rogues."
"True," Celeste conceded vaguely as she ran her finger around the inside of the bowl. She licked mousse from her fingers thoughtfully. "He’s slumming. No Rogue should date someone from a squad with such a low survival rate."
"But he should date a thief?"
Celeste glared at me. "If you weren’t so scared of the commitment, you would be a Rogue. You’re an excellent pilot. But that’s not the point. The point is you’re miserable because he’s going out with another woman." The Jedi let out an exasperated sigh. "When are you going to give up this stupid pride and admit that you love him?"
"But I…" My protest died suddenly as I considered her words. Was it pride that was keeping me from Wes?
Weeks ago, Wes had kissed me senseless at some political gala, whispering lyrics from an old love song before disappearing into the crowd. The words were still haunting me.
"What'll you do when you get lonely? And nobody's
waiting by your side?
You've been running and hiding much too long. You know it's just your foolish pride."
Was it pride that kept me from telling him how I truly felt? Was something so simple but so priceless keeping me from happiness? For years I had struggled not to become what everyone wanted me to be. Fighting to be the person I wanted even if that person had a tendency to earn credits in less than legal ways.
For some reason, I had convinced myself that admitting the love I felt for Janson would somehow alter who I was. Yes, it would, but there was a very good chance that loving Wes and having him love me in return would make me a better person, not a weaker one.
Gods, what was I going to do? Keep my so valuable pride and lose something special or take a chance and maybe…
"So are you going or what?"
I hate it when Celeste knows what I’m thinking. Bad enough when she has to use the Force to know, even worse when she could tell just by reading my body language.
Sometimes it bites to have a sister who’s a Jedi.
I sank into the cushions, trying to figure out what the hell to do. "I can’t go. I don’t have an invitation."
Celeste snickered. "When did that ever stop you from crashing a party?"
"Usually I don’t crash parties frequented by military types. You know they could vaporize me for sneaking in."
"Oh, please." Celeste rolled her brown eyes. "They know you and Rish so well, they’ll just wave you in."
I was going to be stubborn, as usual. This wasn’t an easy admission, realizing I was in love with my best friend. And it wasn’t easy controlling the fear that he might not love me in return. "It’s a private party. By invitation only." I scowled at my sister. "You know all this. You’re a Rogue after all. You have an invitation."
Celeste grinned and I knew I had fallen into her trap.
"Correct." The cream colored flimsy floated onto my lap. "YOU have an invitation."
"But I don’t have anything to…"
"Oh, please. Don’t try that ‘I don't have a thing to wear’ routine with me. I go shopping with you, remember? We have an entire shopping complex in each of our closets. If you don’t have something that you want to wear, Risha or I will have something." She gave me that All-Knowing-Jedi look and I knew that I was in trouble. No sense in arguing. She had me in her sights and wouldn’t stop until I was at the party. "You are going to that party and you will win his heart."
"Unless he’s already won something else from Goldie."
"Quit being so damn pessimistic."
I stood outside of Rogue Headquarters, fidgeting nervously until the invitation in my hands looked as if it had went through a half a dozen wash cycles. You would have thought I had never been to RH before and this was my first time meeting the heroes of the New Republic.
This is stupid. You know these people. You’ve known them for years. Why be nervous?
Because I was going to offer my heart up to Wes as if it were some sort of fancy pastry on a silver platter.
I took a deep breath, trying not to be sick at the thought. Did I ever say I was brave? Nope…because I’m not. Stealing doesn’t really take that much courage. Usually it’s empty halls and electronic security. This was totally different. This time it was something of mine that could be lost. And the thought made me nauseous.
Finally leaving the poor piece of flimsy alone, I fidgeted with the gown I had selected. Celeste had been genuine about her offer of letting me have free rein of the Moonfire collection. I had more choices than a poor girl should really have to deal with. Velvet, satin, silk, lace. Everything from the scraps of cloth Risha called dresses to the long formal robes Celeste wore when attending functions as a Jedi Knight.
I had chosen something in the middle. Actually, Celeste had chosen it. And the outfit showed her rather wicked sense of humor. Honey colored velvet sprinkled with gold beadwork. The full skirts that were cut away to reveal gauzy saffron lace.
Instead of my customary rubies, a plain gold chain encircled my throat. She had refused to let me pin up my hair, saying that she KNEW Wes loved it when it fell down to my waist. I was going to protest this bit of information, then realized there was no point. Celeste was hell-bent on making sure Wes noticed me and nothing I said or did would stop her.
The bitch even managed to corner me and put some sort of golden powder on whatever skin was exposed; causing me to shimmer whenever the light hit me.
Sometimes, I really hate her…
And sometimes, I really should thank her for showing me that I’m a fool.
Well, if Wes wanted someone golden, I would definitely fit that description.
Suddenly, I realized the guards outside RH were watching me. And not with the appreciative looks I usually get when I’m wearing all these frills. It was the no-nonsense look of the military. Ugh, nothing like the boys in uniforms to spoil all my fun.
Then I remembered that Wes WAS one of those boys in uniform…hmmmm…correction, nothing like one of those boys in uniform to have fun with…
But these goons did not look friendly. And they looked like they might check identification.
And in my haste and in the middle of my bout of self-doubt, I had completely forgotten to "borrow" Celeste’s identity. We were triplets after all; I should be able to pass a cursory examination. No one would notice that my eyes were gray and hers were brown. Or that her hair was a shade darker than mine was. Women changed their appearances constantly. Especially if they were Moonfires.
Nope, I had been sloppy. And it was going to keep me away from my target.
Gods, I can be such a fool sometimes.
But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And what I wanted was too important to slink way now, especially since I had finally gotten some measure of courage.
I gave the guard a brilliant smile and handed him my invitation, pretending that yes, indeed, I really do belong here.
Too bad he didn’t fall for it.
"Excuse me?" Blinking at him in feigned surprise, I gestured at the invitation. "I was told that this was enough…"
"I don’t have any with me!" I protested. Slowly, I turned so that he could inspect the outfit and the body filling it out. "I don’t have anyway to carry my identification."
I had hoped that the little fashion show would weaken his resolve, but nope…I wasn’t that lucky. The man was completely impassive. Gods, did the academy drum out any trace of humanity out of the poor boy? Had to be an Imperial before the Emperor’s death. He was too straight laced to have been a Rebel.
"No identification, no entry."
Temper flared. "Do they teach you even the semblance of politeness at the academy?"
His mouth twitched. Dammit, he was enjoying this. The little twit was toying with me. He was going to make me beg to be admitted.
Nothing worse than a cadet with no real rank that’s hungry for prestige. Give him a scrap of power and he thinks he’s the Emperor incarnate. "Listen up, you worthless piece of Hutt slime. You had better let me into this party."
He checked the name and rank on the invitation then gave me the once over. This time his lip curled in a sneer. I barely managed not to punch him in the face. "You don’t look like a Rogue."
My hands clenched into fists. I will not start a fight on RH’s doorstep. I will not start a fight… "Why, because I’m not wearing orange?"
"Because you’re a…"
"Because I’m a woman?" I all but roared. Back stiff, I gave him a look that could have blistered paint off ‘steel. Then my voice became smooth and cool. And dangerous. "Listen up, you little punk. If you’re lucky I won’t report you to your commanding officer." He began to snicker, then stopped when I pulled rank. Too bad I had no rank. Oh well, role-playing is a vital part of my work. "I’m sure that your CO would LOVE to hear that you were harassing a higher ranking officer just because said officer wears a dress instead of trousers."
He was beginning to sweat, but Imperial prejudices die hard. "You’re not a Rogue."
"Oh yes I am…"
Suddenly the back of my neck prickled. I shivered, realizing sometime during my tirade; someone had crept up behind me. "I’ll hold you to your word, Selina."
"Wedge?" My voiced quavered a bit. Oh Gods, would the highly moral, Wedge Antilles expose my lies?
If he did…Oh Gods, then I’d have no chance of getting to see Wes before he got together with the babe from Mediocre Squad.
Instead of exposing the truth, he placed a hand on my arm. "Come on, Selina. There’s someone waiting for you inside."
He brushed by the guard, giving the fool a look that clearly stated that Wedge was not pleased by the boy’s chauvinism. When we were out of earshot, I whispered. "What do you mean, you’ll hold me to my word."
Mischief sparkled in his brown eyes…"Congratulations, Selina. You’re now a Rogue."
I ignored the panic that was threatening to send me screaming out of RH. Not only was tonight the night I was going to confess my love to Wes, I had somehow managed to accept a commission into the greatest squadron to fly for the New Republic.
I was now a Rogue…
Well…Celeste couldn’t say that Wes was slumming now…
If he truly did want me...
Continued in Part Two