Come What May
by Angela Jade
Part six - some months after the Battle of Hoth
He’s alive. He’s alive. He’s alive...
The words whirled through Wedge’s brain over and over, a mantra he didn’t dare stop in case it evaporated and took with it the spark of hope that had kept him sane over the previous few months.
Turning the last corner before the med bay, he almost ran down the diminutive figure striding the opposite way. "Princess! I’m sorry - I wasn’t looking where I was going."
"Me neither." She looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes, the hint of a smile dawning along with recognition. "Wedge? Luke’s been asking for you."
"He has?" Delight that he hadn’t been forgotten warred with the fear that rumor-mongers had instilled in him over the past few days; days he’d spent fighting stubborn bureaucrats and narrow-minded officers determined to keep him away from the starship that held the man he loved. "How is he?"
A shaky sigh. "What have you heard?"
"Not much. I just got back from a run to Bothawui and no one will tell me anything." Except for the gossips: Luke deserted; Luke’s in prison; Luke’s dead...
She nodded absent-mindedly, as if trying to choose her words. "Physically, well, I guess he’ll recover. He lost a hand, but he’s been fitted with a prosthetic, and the graft has taken..."
A hand? He lost a hand? Bile rose in his throat; he fought to keep it down and to disguise the shaking that threatened to paralyze him. He realized the princess was still talking.
"But, mentally..." She shrugged her shoulders, her mouth a tight line. "I have no idea." Their eyes met again, and Wedge experienced a sudden affinity with the young woman he hadn’t felt since one angst-ridden night on Hoth. "He’s hiding something, Wedge. I just know it."
"Maybe he’ll talk to me."
"Perhaps." She laid a slender hand on his arm. "I hope so."
Luke was alone in the med bay when Wedge walked in, his nose centimeters from the huge transparisteel window that dominated the room. He either ignored or didn’t hear Wedge’s entrance, just kept staring out into space, his gaze directed somewhere beyond his own reflection.
Wedge’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of his erstwhile lover seemingly surrounded by stars, as if he were at the very center of the galaxy itself. He looked like he belonged there; larger than life, unencumbered by mortal constraints. For a long moment, Wedge simply stood and watched, drinking in the scene before him. He’d dreamed of this moment, tried to imagine what he’d do and say if he came face to face with Luke again, but now all his rehearsed conversations fled from his mind and he grappled with words that slithered eel-like out of his grasp. He took a deep breath. "Hi."
"Wedge?" Luke continued to stare at the star-strewn vista, cradling his right hand carefully in his left. "Wedge." His voice cracked and he made a tiny choking noise.
In seconds, Wedge was by his side, pulling him in, hugging him as if he didn’t dare let go. "It’s okay. I’m here."
But Luke’s arms didn’t return the embrace, and when his head lifted from Wedge’s shoulder, his eyes were dry. A tiny smile tugged at his lips but couldn’t quite settle there. "You’re just as I remembered you. You haven’t changed."
"You have." He slowly ran his hands up Luke’s arms, outlining tense muscles under the loose robe that tried to conceal them. His hands crept along broadened shoulders and skimmed up Luke’s neck, before finally coming to rest cradling his face. "Do you want to talk?"
Luke’s eyes snapped shut, but not before a glimmer of pain escaped through the lids, raw and intense. Wedge knew that if it wasn’t for the hands that gently held him, Luke would have turned away. Turned away, and perhaps asked him to leave?
"You don’t have to," Wedge whispered. What could make the normally communicative Luke Skywalker so unbearably reticent? Had they been apart so long that they could no longer talk to each other? He swallowed the hard knot that had formed in his throat; was their relationship a thing of the past? "I just thought..."
The eyes snapped open again, tearing Wedge’s words from his throat. So blue; blue as the sky on Yavin, blue as the seas on Corellia, blue as a stun blast straight to the heart... "I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell you."
"Then just tell me the unclassified stuff. Have you been letting Artoo cut your hair again?"
"Oh, Wedge!" The quaver in his voice almost matched the shaking of his body as he finally wrapped his arms around Wedge’s waist and returned the embrace.
Slowly stroking his back, Wedge buried his face in Luke’s hair, reacquainting himself with his unique scent. Okay, so humor worked. Don’t mention the serious stuff, keep the topic light, and we might get somewhere. Diplomacy - how hard could it be?
Wedge couldn’t think of a single question guaranteed to be repercussion free.
"I thought of you a lot, you know." Luke’s voice came from somewhere around Wedge’s neck. "I missed you."
Relief flooded through Wedge. Luke still cared about him; whatever kind of relationship they had, it wasn’t over. "I missed you, too."
A long pause. Finally Luke raised his head, his eyes searching Wedge’s features. "I... my hand..."
"I know," whispered Wedge. "Leia told me." His head tilted to one side. "May I...?"
Hesitantly, Luke dropped his arms from their comfortable position around Wedge’s body. Cradling his right hand in his left once more, he slowly raised it, as if for Wedge’s inspection. "It feels... strange," he murmured. "Like I can control it, but it’s not truly a part of me."
Wedge carefully took the hand in his own and ran a thumb over the palm’s artificial creases. "It looks good." The fingers flexed automatically at his touch. He raised his eyes to meet Luke’s, and the air between them seemed to thicken with the obvious unspoken question.
Luke’s gaze dropped first. "I got some other injuries, too. Cuts and bruises, nothing broken..."
"You want to tell me how you lost your hand?"
"I... I’m not sure..."
Wedge caught Luke’s chin between thumb and forefinger and gently tilted his head back up. "Tell me."
Blue eyes tore into Wedge, eyes that were at once familiar and yet unknown. "It hurts, Wedge."
"No. My memories." He let out a shuddering sigh. "It was Vader. I fought Vader, and I lost."
Incredulity struck him dumb for only a moment. "Darth Vader? You fought Darth Vader? How?"
"My lightsaber. I... we dueled, and he cut off my hand..." Finally the deluge of tears broke through the barriers that had held them in check - real heart-breaking, gut-wrenching tears, loud and seemingly inconsolable.
Fighting his own paralysis, Wedge steered him towards the bed. He’d never seen Luke like this - not after screaming nightmares or friends’ deaths - never. Luke Skywalker was falling apart, and Wedge’s heart was doing the same. Sitting them both down, he wrapped his arms around his friend and held him.
The tears subsided surprisingly quickly and sobbing was replaced by shaky breaths and the occasional sniff.
"What happened, Luke?" Wedge’s words whispered into Luke’s hair. "What did that bastard do to you?"
Another sniff. "I... I don’t..."
"Did he torture you?"
"No. Not physically, anyway." Luke’s left hand clamped around his right wrist. "Apart from this, of course." He sighed and wiped his sleeve across his face. "He tried to turn me, to make me like him. A servant of the Emperor. He told me things..."
Wedge’s hands settled once more on Luke’s jaw and turned his face. Blue, tear-filled eyes focused on Wedge; eyes, he suddenly realized, that were looking to him for answers. "No one can ever make you like that, Luke. Not Vader, not the Emperor himself. You are a good person..."
"I have evil inside me, just like everyone else," whispered Luke. "I get angry, I feel jealousy, I want to avenge..."
"That doesn’t make you evil."
"But it’s there. And if I give in to it, the Force will still flow through me. But it will be turned against my friends, against all that is good in the galaxy."
"Then don’t give in. Fight it."
"I don’t think that’s the answer." One almost-steady hand rose to caress Wedge’s cheek. "He hurt Leia and Han and Chewie. Hurt them because of me. I don’t think I could bear it if he hurt you."
"You would have to." He bent forward and gently kissed him, their lips barely touching. "You’d have to cope, to go on without me, if necessary."
"I need you, Wedge."
"And I need you. But so does the Rebellion and the rest of the galaxy, and they matter more than I do." He silenced Luke’s automatic protest with another kiss. "You’re home now. Safe."
"Leia needs me. She’s fallen in love with Han, but Vader gave him to a bounty hunter..."
"Leia’s in love with Han?"
Wedge couldn’t suppress a teasing smile. "This wouldn’t have anything to do with the jealousy you mentioned earlier, would it?"
"Idiot." Luke’s answering smile quickly disappeared when he pulled Wedge in for a passionate kiss, their lips and tongues tracing familiar patterns against each other, a private dance of reassurance. When they finally parted, Luke rested his forehead against Wedge’s. "I have to be strong for Leia."
"Then be strong for her," whispered Wedge, his finger tracing the cleft in Luke’s chin. "Hold her when she cries, sit with her when she can’t sleep, listen to her when she needs to talk." His gaze flicked up to meet Luke’s. "Then come back to me and let me be strong for you."
"You sure you can handle that, Antilles?"
"I’m a Rogue and a Corellian. I can handle anything."
Continued in Part Seven