The halls were silent, save for the occasional rodent scuffling behind the walls. The Rebels had evacuated the Yavin IV base shortly after their victory and relocated here, to the rocky moon orbiting Corulag. The Rebels hoped that the high metal content of the moonís surface would disrupt any Imperial sensors.
Two men walked along the deserted corridor. Both were just shorter than average height, one with a sandy blonde head, the other with fine, floofy brown hair. A late-night sabaac game had them hurrying to their quarters to catch a few hoursí sleep before an early patrol.
As they halted at the entrance to their shared room, the door across the hall slid open and a couple came into view. The man was wrapped in a thick robe, making his form seem bulkier than it was. The light from the hall illuminated his dark blonde hair and somber expression. The woman was smaller, her red hair cut short, and she stood on tiptoe to mold her body to her companionís lean frame. They shared a long kiss with more tongue than a dentist sees in a month, then the man stepped back and smiled sadly.
"You donít know how much this means to me," he murmured, "just to have someone to turn to."
The woman cocked her head to one side. "You can always call on me, Derek. For anything." She emphasized the last word, turned to go, and flushed crimson at the sight of the two men across the hall. Head down, she scampered away.
"Hey, Klivian," the dark-haired man called.
"Antilles. Skywalker." The blonde pilot nodded, then grinned and turned back into his quarters.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
"...and he asks me to bunk out at least three times a week!" The speaker, a rookie named Dack Ralter, stood by his X-Wing and glared at his blonde bunkmate.
Wedge Antilles smiled and rubbed at a spot on his own snubfighter. "So he must be pretty serious about the little red-headed girl?"
Dack looked confused. "What little red-headed girl? Heís been seeing that Bothan in provisions. You know, the tall one with the tawny fur and the green eyes?"
"But last night..." Wedge shook his head. "Never mind. It was late; I could have been mistaken."
The younger pilot snorted. "Kinda hard to mistake a Bothan, sir. You do know that weíre on alert status, donít you? No liquor allowed," Dack added with a smirk.
"Thanks, Ralter, I know." I know I didnít see a Bothan last night.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
And Iím not seeing a Bothan now. Wedge rounded a corner in the hangarís storage area and stopped short. Derek was sitting on a metal crate of exhaust vents, his arm around Danu Milton, the pretty, dark-haired captain of Specter Squadron. As Wedge watched, half in shock, half in awe, Derek sighed deeply and leaned his head on Danuís shoulder, prompting her to stroke his face and murmuring something inaudible. When the man sat up and offered her a weak smile, she patted his shoulder and kissed his cheek.
"Tell you what," Wedge heard as he drew closer, "Iíll stop by tonight and weíll talk some more. Iím sure weíll find some way to cheer you up."
If he gets any more Ďcheering up,í he wonít be able to walk. Wedge hurried away before they saw him lurking there.
"What are you going to do?" Luke asked after Wedge recounted the daysí events.
"Not a damn thing. Well, I might ask him what his secret is, but other than that..."Wedge sighed. "Three women! What can they possibly see in him?"
"Ask one of them," Luke suggested. "Ask Danu."
"Right," Wedge snorted. "Hey, I noticed you kissing on Derek Klivian, what the hell is that about?"
"Not like that. Come on,"the Rogueís leader stood. "Iíve got an idea."
They enlisted Dackís help and settled in around Danu as she sat down to dinner.
"Mind if we sit here?" Wedge gave her an ingratiating smile.
"ďOf course not," she said, scooting over to make room. "Iíve been meaning to talk to you anyway."
"Oh?" Wedge tried to sound surprised. "Whatever about?"
"Youíre a Rogue short, right?" The men nodded. "Iíve got a guy in Spector thatís a real hotshot. He used to be in the Yellow Aces, name of Janson. If you guys want to run him through a sim, Iíd approve the transfer papers."
"Oh." Luke sounded disappointed. "Sure, send him over."
"Hey!" Dack spoke up. "Whereís Klivian?" he asked, looking around. The other men shrugged, their eyes wide with innocence.
Danu swallowed a mouthful of nerf and said, "Heís on patrol. Heíll be back in a couple of hours." She didnít blush as the men looked at her. "Donít you make up his schedules?" she asked Luke pointedly.
He choked on his drink and nodded hastily. "Yeah. Um... I forgot."
She eyed the blonde curiously, but let it go.
"Heís a bit odd, isnít he?" Wedge asked, staring at a spot on the wall.
"Who, Derek?"The men exchanged meaningful glances as Danu bristled. "Heís an artist. Heís terribly sensitive."
Dack snorted as she continued. "And he seems so sad..."
"Iíd be sad, too, if I had to walk around with that face."
"Dack Ralter, you are an uncultured boor!" Danu was outraged. "Just because heís quiet and gentle doesnít mean thereís something wrong with him. You could stand to take a byte from his datapad. Excuse me."
Luke snickered behind his hand as she picked up her tray and stalked off. "Hey, díyou think if I walked around looking like Iíve got the weight of the galaxy on my shoulders, Iíd get more dates?"
"Itís worth a try." Wedge grinned at him. "Just remember, itíll catch up to you."
Not that Flight Officer Klivian was having any troubles. Wedge saw yet another human female-- a tall blonde-- going into his room a few nights later, and Dack caught him in a heated embrace with Danu the day after that. Though theyíd agreed that, in the interest of male solidarity, they wouldnít interfere, all three men were sick of him walking around the locker room with an insufferably smug expression on his face.
"I like him better when he was gloomy all the time," Wedge grumbled to Luke as they walked back to their quarters one evening a few weeks later.
"You canít begrudge the man his hot streak," Luke counseled. "May we all have one. Please," he added fervently, casting his eyes to the ceiling.
As they passed the corridor to the female quarters, a familiar raven-haired woman turned in front of them.
"Hey, Danu," Luke called.
Her shoulders stiffened, but she looked over her shoulder and smiled back at them. "Hey."
"We tested Janson." Wedge jogged a few steps to catch up with her. "You were right; heís great."
"Yeah," Luke chimed in, walking on her other side. "If youíll sign the forms, weíd love to have him. So... you going to see your Ďartistí friend?"
Wedge reached behind Danu and cuffed the back of Lukeís head. The blonde stumbled wilted under the combined glares of his companions.
"That is none of your business." The young woman replied stiffly. She turned the corner and yelped as Wedge suddenly grabbed her hand and tried to pull her back.
"Um... I... umm... need to... hangar... come with me..."
"Wedge!" She jerked away and rubbed her shoulder. "You almost pulled my arm out of..."
Her voice trailed off as she saw what Wedge had tried to keep from her. Derek was walking down the hall, his arm around the waist of the red-headed girl. He looked up at Danuís exclamation and his face turned deathly pale.
Wedge watched his fellow pilot consider and discard various reactions to the situation, before he finally settled on the ever-popular ĎOh, shití face.
The other woman looked in confusion from Derek to the trio of pilots, two solemn, one livid. "Derek, whatís going on?"
Her voice seemed to jolt Danu back to the present. "Yes, I think weíd all like to know that."
Wedge watched Derekís eyes darted from one woman to the other as a muscle in his cheek began to twitch.
"I... uh... itís not... I mean, itís... you werenít supposed to be here until nine," he finished lamely.
Bad move, son.
The red-haired woman glared at Derek and pulled away. Without a word, she drew back and struck the pilot lard enough to rock his head back. As he stared at her in astonishment, she growled, "Donít you ever touch me again!"
Then she spun on her heel and stalked away.
The injured pilot barely had a chance to recover his senses before Danu launched into a diatribe consisting of words that no pilot would use in polite company, and punctuated it with a resounding slap.
Wedge collapsed against the wall, laughing until his sides ached.
"Finished?" Danu asked coldly, standing in front of him.
"No. Wait. Yeah." He wiped his eyes and grinned at her, then yelped as her palm connected with his cheek. Wedge touched his stinging face and gawked at her.
"But I didnít do anything!"
"Exactly. You knew, and you didnít do anything. Youíre all jerks!"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Three men sat in a dark corner of the cantina, clasping bacta patches to their bruised faces.
"Sheíll hate us forever," Luke said unhappily.
"Sheíll never talk to us again," Wedge added.
"Sheíll tell all the women on base what I did," Derek mourned. "And I was on such a roll!"
He buried his face in his hands and Wedge patted his back. Half a minute later, the bartender brought over a fruit fizz and set it down before the sad pilot.
"From the young lady," he said, gesturing toward a lovely girl in a corner booth. "She said to give it to the mournful one."
Derek glanced at the woman and perked up. He started to rise, when Wedge grabbed his arm and pulled him back down. "Havenít you had enough trouble for one day?"
Derek shrugged and scooted out of the booth. "A manís got to have a hobby."
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