Masqueraded Moments
by Aggy


Note: Dialogue marked with < > are directly from the comic Masquerade by Michael Stackpole. No plagiarism is intended by the use of his words.

What could she say to him? What words could take away the hurts she had inflicted upon him over the past few months?

She lifted her head, forcing her gaze away from the featureless ferrosteel of the floor. He was sprawled across his bunk, caged in a cell that was a mirror image of her own. She winced as she stared at the wounds Tavia had inflicted on the Rogue. He was no longer in those awful binders the guards had forced him into, but the tension in his back clearly showed that the restraints had twisted his body painfully. A growing bruise radiated from his left eye, a vivid purple almost looked black against the pallor of his skin. His other eye was closed as he fought to control the tremors that periodically racked his abused body. His lips were swollen; a spot of dried blood still marking a cut made by a ring worn by one of the guards.

Guilt ravaged her as she stared at the beaten pilot. How many times had she caused him pain? How many times had the lies she told to protect her cover ended with Tycho getting hurt? She had always known that he would not jeopardize her missions. No matter what tortures the Empire devised, the Rogue would never betray the New Republic.

He would never betray her…

And how had she repaid that loyalty? With snide comments meant to humiliate him and drive him away before her feelings for him deepened.

Had Tycho truly deserved to be treated so poorly? Especially after all he had ever shown her was kindness and trust?

She ran a hand through her artificially darkened hair, twisting a strand between her fingers as guilt twisted itself around her heart.

It was not Tycho’s fault that her work required a certain level of emotional detachment. It was not his fault that her commanding officers saw her as little more than a pretty noble playing spy games instead of an important part of Intel operations.

During the struggles of the Rebellion, her ability to blend into Imperial strongholds had given the Alliance a desperately needed edge. But she was rarely seen as an asset.

She had always found it strange that a Rebellion led by a princess would be filled with so much chauvinism.

In an effort to prove herself to these fools, she had lost part of her humanity. As she struggled to perform at a level far above her male counterparts, she became more distant and frigid. She lost part of her femininity in an effort to fit into a man’s world.

Since everyone else around her saw being female as just another ‘ass’et for infiltrating some Moff’s household, slowly she had began seeing herself in the same way. Only acting female when the mission required a woman’s touch, the rest of the time acting as asexual as a droid. All blasters, combat fatigues and unyielding, inhuman intensity.

Then somehow Tycho managed to break through those emotional walls. At first she had seen him as a reminder of the past, of a homeland annihilated, and after learning that he had been an Imperial cadet, a reminder of the Empire that had destroyed Alderaan.

But slowly, he had shown her that he was more than a bittersweet reminder of a lost home. That he was deeper than the dense flyboy stereotype she attempted to cast him as. No, Tycho was far more than that.

Tycho possessed a complexity that allowed him to defy all definitions. There was a nobility of soul that allowed him to accept hardships with a rare grace that she always found amazing. No matter how much sorrow entered his life, the Rogue still managed to continue, never letting his grief get the better of him.

She wished she had dealt with the death of Alderaan with such dignity…

And beneath that dignity was a personality that should have been at odds with his aristocratic bearing. Accepting, and occasionally aiding Wes in his pranks. A temper that could rage as hot as the suns of Tatooine. A steadfast loyalty to the Squadron that never wavered no matter what assignments were forced upon them.

Despite, or maybe because of this complexity, he had somehow fallen in love with her. Her! How could someone so generous and compassionate fall in love with someone who had shown him nothing but indifference?

Hells, the only time she had ever shown Tycho her true emotions was on Tattoine. She had been so sure she had lost him during that final dogfight. His x-wing had shattered against the desert sands. And Wedge…Gods, she had been so furious when Wedge had finally admitted that Tycho was safe. That the Rogue had ejected from his ship before impact.

Wedge still eyed her nervously whenever she was nearby, fearing that she would make another attempt at breaking his jaw.

That had been one sign of her true feelings for Tycho, that and the intense, desperate kiss they had shared when he had finally returned to the squadron’s improvised base.

She had dreamed about that kiss for months…

And now, because of her, Tycho was again in danger. It was all because of her that he was lying injured in a cage. She was the one who had requested that he accompany her while she impersonated Leia. If she had not specifically asked for Tycho…

"I’m sorry." She didn’t know she had spoken aloud until Tycho answered.

"For what?" His voice sounded tired but strong. He slowly eased himself into a sitting position.

"For this." She gestured widely to include their cells, "For you getting hurt." She sighed, letting the gravity of the situation finally sink in. <"I knew the mission would be dangerous, but not this way. I apologize for getting you into it.">

Tycho shook his head cautiously, careful of his injuries. <"You didn’t get me into this.">

Winter let out a quiet growl. <"Sure I did. I suggested we use Rogue Squadron and you specifically for this duty. I wanted to see you again…">

<"I’m glad for that. Despite where we are. If I’d not been ordered on this assignment, I would have volunteered for it. And I liked talking to you about Winter.">

She blushed at the mention of that conversation. A conversation during which he had discussed his feelings for Winter while she pretended to be the Princess. Shame broke through her pretended indifference. <"Sorry about the deception."> she murmured softly.

Tycho smiled, easing her embarrassment. <"Don’t be. I was glad to learn where I stand. And before you apologize again for where that is, look, others are less in danger because we’re here, right?">

Hesitantly, she returned the smile; suddenly feeling exposed as they discussed emotions she had denied for so long. She stood and began pacing the minuscule length of her cell, considering their situation from as many angles as possible. <"True. But what do you think will happen when Tavira learns Leia is elsewhere?">

Instantly, Tycho became serious, wincing as the cut on his lip opened up again. Absentmindedly, he wiped away the blood that began seeping from the wound. <"She’s not the most gracious of hostesses, is she? Question is whether she’ll pull us from the cells or just shoot us in here.">

Crossing her arms over her chest, she smiled wryly at the Rogue. "Dying in one of these cells isn’t how I want to go out."

Slowly, Tycho stood, reaching through the bars. Tentatively, Winter stretched out to touch his hand. <"We’re not dying in these cells, I promise you that. We’re getting out when the time is right and Tavira will pay for the lack of hospitality.">

She would have laughed at his arrogance, but from previous experience, Tycho had a way of making such outrages statements into truth. <"You Rogues have a rep for doing the impossible, but getting us out of here has to tax even your skills.">

The intensity in his voice startled her. The quiet determination that was etched into his very being was frightening. <"It’s not the difficulty of the task, M’Lady, but the degree of motivation. You once rewarded me with a kiss, and for the chance at another, I’ll tear this ship apart. Believe it…">

Confronted with such resolve, how could she not believe? If he could tear down the walls around her heart and find a way to thaw her frigid reserve, how could she doubt that he could save them both? After all, Rogues had a way of making the impossible happen.


Finis


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