Brothers At Heart
by Commander Wedge
The oppressive heat and humidity that cloaked the jungle moon of Yavin IV made waking up in the morning difficult even for someone like the young dark haired Corellian who was use to being up around 0430 hours; throwing off his clammy sheets, he sat on the edge of his bunk rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with his knuckles; leaning over, he shook one of his roommates on the shoulder, "Hey, Wes, Wes, wake up, it's damn near dawn and I don't want to be out running in the heat before breakfast - come on Janson, wake up."
"Ah Wedge, go away - it's too early to get up," Wes whined looking at his wrist chrono, "We just went to bed a few hours ago; how can you be up so early after all you drank and not be throwing up - you should be sleeping just like everyone else on base," Wes groaned as he rolled over covering his head with his pillow in a vane attempt to block out the insistent sound of his younger bunkmate's voice.
"Come on Wes, please; it'll be good for you," Wedge pleaded as he reached over and grabbed Wes' pillow - tossing it to the floor - then grabbing his shoulders and dragging the blue eyed Taanabian out of bed naked, Wedge forced him into a sitting position on the edge of his bunk.
Yawning and stretching, his muscles sore from lack of sleep, "You know Antilles, these early morning runs of yours are going to be the death of you - and I'll be the one doing the shooting," the dark haired, blue eyed Taanabian grumbled as he pulled on his sweats and running shoes; when he looked up, he saw Wedge was similarly dressed only barefoot, "How do you run barefooted, that ground has to tear up your feet."
"Easy," Wedge laughed softly as they left their room and their other two roommates, Biggs Darklighter and Jek 'Piggy' Porkins, sleeping soundly, "I grew up going barefoot on Corellia when I spent my summers with my grandparents on their Nerf ranch - when I wasn't Thak riding and herding Nerf, I was off in the woods or down at the lake on their ranch and I did it all in my barefeet; the soles of my feet are like boot leather."
Reaching the outside of the Great Temple that was home to the Rebel Alliance, they took off running through the dense jungle on the well known, and worn, path; an hour later, the two young men returned, tired and sweaty, and headed back to their room and the showers - fifteen minutes after returning to their quarters, they had changed out of their sweats, showered, shaved, dressed in the bright orange flightsuits that were standard pilot issue, and headed for breakfast.
Most people who did not know the two young men, or meeting them for the first time, often mistook them for brothers - they both had dark brown hair and the lithe build of fighter pilots although Wes had sparkling blue eyes that always held the promise of mischief as opposed to Wedge's dark brown serious ones: Wes was also taller and broader in the chest and shoulders; but it was the way they interacted with each other, almost like twins, which gave people the impression they were related and it had been like that since Wes had transferred to Red Squadron from the Tierfon Yellow Aces six months ago - Wedge had been with them since Dantooine having joined the Rebellion when he was about seventeen, that was three years ago - being the two youngest members of the squadron, Wedge and Wes naturally gravitated towards each other becoming instant friends. Reaching the Great Hall that doubled as an Officer's Mess, Rec Room and pilot lounge, the two future Rogues picked up plates and silverware and stepped up to the buffet: Wes loaded his plate up with generous portions of everything and grabbed himself a couple of glasses of blue bantha milk; Wedge on the other hand, only took small amounts of some eggs, meat and fruit before he too took a glass of bantha milk: looking around, the two found a table for four against the wall and sat down to eat while waiting for their other two roommates.
Wes shook his head as he looked at the small amount of food on the Corellian's plate, "I just can't figure out how you manage to survive on so little food Wedge," he teased his friend.
"Yeah, well I don't know how you manage to eat so much and still fit into your X-Wing - besides, I eat enough," Wedge kidded back; they continued to talk as they ate: Wedge looked up slowly as a familiar shadow fell across his plate, "Hey Biggs, Piggy," he smiled at their other roommates who were several years his and Wes's seniors.
"Morning Wedge; I see you yanked Wes out of bed again to run with you, or maybe I should say I heard you yanking Wes out of bed again this morning," Biggs Darklighter said as he set his full plate, piled high with food, down and took a seat next to Wedge, reaching over and ruffling the younger man's dark brown hair as he did so: Piggy took his place opposite Wedge and Biggs and sat next to Wes; he nodded good morning to his two roommates as he dove into his first plate of food, munching away happily as he chowed down on his breakfast.
"Yeah, well I have to do something to burn off all my nervous energy, and at 0430, Dodonna wont let me in the Sims, something about me needing my sleep or something," Wedge muttered quietly as he pushed the food on his plate around, picking at it occasionally, not really interested in eating.
Noticing that his younger roommate was not eating the food on his plate, "Hey Wedge, if you don't want your breakfast I'll take it," Jek, 'Piggy' Porkins spoke up as he polished off the food on his plate.
"You're welcomed to it Piggy, I'm not real hungry this morning," Wedge said pushing his plate towards his roommate, "I'm full anyhow."
Jek reached across the table - gratefully accepting Wedge's uneaten breakfast as he slid the smaller man's plate towards himself; he dove into the young Corellian's untouched food contained on it as though he had not eaten in days, "Thanks Wedge," he mumbled between mouthfuls; when finished he excused himself and headed back to the buffet for second helpings.
Wes absently wiped his mouth on his sleeve, "I cannot believe that you are not hungry Wedge after that excruciatingly long and exhausting run you dragged me on; don't do that, I need my beauty sleep," Wes winked looking at their bunkmates, "Imagine, being dragged out of bed and being forced to run half asleep, cold and hungry at 0400 nonetheless, it's horrible" - Wes finished his plate and took a sip of his drink.
"Yeah, well, I'm just not, ok," Wedge put a hurt look on his face and frowned; leaning back in his chair, he crossed his arms over his chest, "And it was not 'an excruciatingly long or exhausting run', it woke you up didn't it; and besides, it was not 0400 hours, it was 0430," he broke into his familiar lopsided grin, "Beauty sleep, yeah, right, Wes." Looking around, he lowered his voice, "Hey, you guys think we can sneak into the Sims this morning."
Wes grinned at Piggy, "I guess I really shouldn't complain I can sleep when I usually do - during briefings, on missions," Wes said as he got up for seconds: returning to the table, "So, I wonder if something big is going to happen soon the whole base seems abuzz - you guys think we could we be seeing some action soon against the Imps," Wes asked, his eyes darting around the table at his roommates.
"I don't know but it sure feels like something big is up," Wedge said softly sipping his bantha milk as Wes returned to their table with a second helping of breakfast; he reached up and brushed his dark hair off his forehead and out of his eyes as he gauged his roommates reactions to his and Wes' comments.
Biggs motioned his roommates in to huddle closer together over the center of the table so they could speak without being overheard; whispering, looking around conspiratorially, "I've heard that the Princess's ship had been captured by Darth Vader and that most all aboard were killed in the attack - I don't know how true any of that is but if the rumor is true we are in serious trouble and I would not be surprised if some of us were tapped to go out and attempt a rescue mission."
Piggy nodded his head in response to Biggs' statement, "I heard the same thing from some of the guys in Gold Squadron," he commented as he gnawed a piece of fresh fruit, "They were saying that Vader sent out a comm signal claiming all on board except the Princess were dead, including the Captain of the ship - which doesn't look good if he uses typical Imperial interrogation techniques on her."
"B-b-b-but the Princess would never betray the Rebellion," Wedge stuttered, his voice filled with dismay and his dark eyes full of confusion, as they flickered back and forth between his two older roommates, then to Wes, "She just wouldn't - nor do I think she could," he added adamantly.
Wes stared at Wedge, "Of course she wouldn't - not purposely anyway," he declared as he took a big bite of his eggs, "I've heard about some of the interrogation techniques the Imps use, ruthless is one word that comes to mind." Wes gulped down his drink and finished off his plate - Wedge still looked stricken with shock; "Hey, Wedge, buddy, it'll be ok, I'm sure the Princess is ok - she wouldn't divulge our location," Wes glared jokingly at Biggs. "Don't scare Wedge like that, Biggs, you know how much he loves Princess Leia - L-O-V-E loves her," he laughed and punched Wedge in the shoulder.
Biggs grinned and retorted, "Serious up, Janson this isn't a time to be joking, a lot of us could die - and probably will die; I'm ready for a fight just bring 'em on," he added grimly.
"I do NOT love the Princess, at least not how you are implying it,&uqot; he said glumly to Wes as he sank down into his chair and pretended to sulk; suddenly he sat up, brightening - "Hey, if they're going to send someone from her to rescue the Princess that means it could be us so…" he stood up suddenly, grabbing Wes by the arm, "Come on, we can get some simulator time and I know just how to do it." He dragged Wes from the table, and Biggs and Porkins followed the two closely, as Wedge hustled them towards the Simulator Room.
Wes took one last bite of his food as Wedge dragged him off; he chewed and swallowed hastily, "Damn it, Wedge, don't do that! I could choke," he coughed - he could hear Piggy and Biggs snickering behind them - Wes turned and glared at them.
Wedge dragged his friend down the hall and into the Simulator Room; looking around quickly, he noticed that they were the only ones there, "Come on," he said as he lead the way to the X-Wing Sim pods where he quickly punched in a command override code into four of the pods - a code he had sliced earlier in the week so he could practice during the night when everyone else on the base was sleeping: he slipped into his Sim pod and programmed in an attack on a Star Destroyer, "Ready to play guys," he asked into his comlink as he fastened his crash webbing and settled a helmet over his dark brown hair.
Biggs and Porkins climbed into two of the other Sim pods and strapped in, "I am ready Wedge," Porkins replied, "I have four lit and in the green - I am good to go."
Wedge, Wes, Porkins and Biggs finished in the Sims, "Meet me in the Mess in half an hour Wes," he whispered to his friend as he left. Arriving at the Mess, Wedge looked around, he was almost as excited as if it was his birthday/lifeday - the droids in the mess had out done themselves fixing the place up for Wes's birthday party, right down to the Sand People Piñata hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room where the tables had been cleared away; along one wall they had set up tables that were now heavily laden with gaily wrapped boxes of all shapes and sizes. He sat down at his, Wes's and Biggs's and Porkins's usual table and waited for Wes to make an appearance escorted by Biggs and Piggy.
Wes sat tiredly in front of Wedge, "Ok, I'm here Wedge," he mumbled rubbing his eyes, "Happy birthday to me - what's in the paper," he asked as Piggy and Biggs sat down too.
Wedge was so excited about it being Wes's birthday that he didn't notice his friend did not look well; Wedge handed him the bottle first, "It is a bottle of Whyren's, I did some work on one of the Y-Wings for it's pilot in exchange for it," the young Corellian said shyly, "and," handing him the small box, "Some model X-Wings and Y-Wings - the Ys in the color of the Tierfon Yellow Aces and the Xs are white with a Red stripe down the fuselage," his face burned a bright red, "I made and painted them myself. I-I-I hope you like them," - he looked down at the floor sure Wes would think that the models were stupid.
Wes sighed and his face brightened, "Gee, thanks Wedge - you remembered how much I love that whiskey you Corellians make; the models are really cool, I've always wanted to start a collection." Wes looked at his friend, "And save the blushing for the women, it doesn't work on me, and it's embarrassing," he laughed and almost immediately broke out in a coughing fit.
"Hey, how could I forget - you, Biggs and Piggy are the closest beings I have towards family," Wedge said softly; then Wes began a coughing fit and a look of concern replaced Wedge's shyness, "Are you ok," he asked gently - as the fit keep up, "Maybe I should walk with you down to the infirmary - you don't look too good."
Wes' coughing subsided. "I'll be ok, really. I just need some sleep." he protested and then started coughing again.
"Want me to walk with you back to our quarters," Wedge asked as he gathered his presents to Wes up and took Biggs' and Piggy's unopened presents from them, "Let's go Wes."
"I'm fine, really," Wes sputtered in between coughs. "Ok, ok, I'll go lay down," he let Wedge lead him back to their quarters.
"Here," Wedge told Wes as he tossed him a pair of his own sleep pants and shirt, "Put these on so you don't get cold." As Wes changed, Wedge put Wes's presents on his dresser and pulled the blankets down on his friend's bunk, "Come on, crawl in and cover up," he said gently; he drew the covers up over his friend after he laid down then settled down into his own bunk waiting for Wes to fall asleep - watching his friend and worrying that his dragging him out of bed so early in the morning really did make him sick.
Wes shoved off the covers, "Don wan 'em, too hot," he slurred as he drifted off into restless sleep; he woke up shivering and pulled the covers up to his neck, then shoved them off again - groaning, he bolted for the 'fresher puking his guts out, he rested his head on the cool tile of the wall - man, he felt like bantha crap; Wes stumbled back to his bunk.
Wedge dozed off but woke with a start when Wes bolted from his bed and headed to the 'fresher; Wedge listened as Wes got sick in the next room and then he watched quietly as Wes made his way back to his bunk, worry creasing the young Corellian's brow; "Wes, come on, I think you need to go to the infirmary - now," Wedge said standing, grabbing his friend by the shoulders before he could fall back onto his bunk, "You feel like you are burning up with fever," he whispered as he gently led his friend to the door of their quarters and out into the hallway.
Wes tried to struggle, but he felt too weak, "Wedge..." he croaked, "Turn on a fan or something - it's too damn hot in here," he licked his dry lips and fought back bile - he shuddered.
Wedge caught Wes as the Taanabian began to sink to his knees; Wedge struggled under Wes's greater weight and height as he helped his friend to the infirmary, "Hang in there Wes, I'm getting you to the docs as fast as I can," worry filling the young Corellian's voice. "You know Wes, this isn't quite what I had planned for your birthday," Wedge kept talking to Wes in an attempt to keep his friend conscious, "I guess I will have to drink that bottle of Whyren's I gave you by myself tonight," he teased him, Wes's arm slung over Wedge's shoulders and Wedge's arm wrapped around Wes's waist.
Wes's head bobbed up and down with each step, "You better not drink it, Antilles," he muttered: his head felt like it was on fire, each footfall thundered in his ears, "Wai- wait. Got to rest - let me sit," Wes murmured as he slid to the floor and leaned up against the wall.
Wedge gave a nervous chuckle at Wes's comment, "I wouldn't think of drinking it without you Wes," he said gently as he sat down on the floor holding Wes close, supporting him against the wall, "Just let me know when you're ready to go again pal; we really shouldn't stay here too long - you need to see the doc and soon," Wedge whispered as he brushed Wes's sweat drenched hair out of his eyes, "Just hang in here with me Wes."
Wes managed to hold on to his lurching stomach, keeping his food in place albeit temporarily, "Ok, Wedge, let's go; I'm not looking forward to a dip in the Bacta tank, but I feel like hell - probably look like it too," he gave a weak laugh: standing with the aid of Wedge, they made their way slowly to the Med Bay.
Wedge was beginning to become scared for his Taanabian friend - after all, they really were both just kids and he was not use to taking care of someone who was sick but he still remembered how his mom use to care for him when he was sick and he would do the same for Wes but getting him to the Med Bay was Wedge's first priority and then staying by his friend until he was well, "We're almost there Wes, almost there," Wedge kept repeating softly, "Almost there." The two men finally made it to the Med Bay, "I need someone here, now," Wedge yelled as he gently helped Wes in to a nearby chair, "Come on people, I said I need help here now."
A 2-1B medical droid approached Wedge, "Lieutenant, I must ask you to keep it down, now, please explain to me quietly just what seems to be the problem," it queried Wedge in a detached manner.
Taking a deep breath, then letting it out slowly, Wedge looked up at the droid, "My friend here is real sick and needs to be seen by a doctor, now," Wedge said exasperatedly still holding the trembling Taanabian close, "Get me a doctor over here to see him now or I am going to raise holy hells until you do," he said it taking all his control to keep from shouting.
The 2-1B tilted its head looking at Wedge, "Sir, I am perfectly capable of examining your friend but first we must get him into an exam room," the droid stated motioning for two human med techs to bring a stretcher over, "These gentlemen will take your friend to a room, now let them help him."
"No," Wedge stated with authority, "You just direct me to the room and I will get Wes there," he said still holding on closely to his friend as he helped Wes to his feet. "We're going to take you to a room now Wes so the doctors can find out what is wrong - just hang in there Wes, just hang in there."
Wes was very pale now, "Wedge...I'm gonna be sick...let me go," Wes moaned falling to the floor: he grabbed a nearby trash receptacle and puked into it; he sat back against the wall, "Can you just get the doc in here, please," he croaked.
Wedge stepped out of the room and physically dragged a doctor into where Wes sat on the floor hugging the wastebasket, "Help him, Doc - we need Wes up in space with us." The doctor looked at Wes: he was a human male, and wore small spectacles on the end of his nose, he knelt down at Wes' side, "Lieutenant Antilles, I don't think Lieutenant Janson will be flying any time soon, he is a very sick man." Wedge's face grew as pale as Wes', "How sick, doc?" The doctor sighed and stood, "He has a very rare illness," the doctor pushed his glasses back on his nose, "Lieutenant, your friend has Heskin's Fever; it's quite fatal if left untreated." Wes moaned from the bed where Wedge had helped him up onto, "Then how about less talking and more treating, doc." The doctor glanced over at Wes, "I wish I had enough bacta to give him treatments but we are terribly short on supplies," he looked apologetically at Wedge.
"Is there anything I can do to help doc," Wedge asked looking over at Wes, concern filling his eyes for his friend and wingman, "I mean anything." He sat down heavily in a chair next to Wes' bed and held his head in his hands, "He's my best friend Doc."
Wes sighed, "I want to sleep," he said looking over at Wedge, "All I want to do is sleep." The doc practically ran to Wes' bedside, "No, no! Lieutenant, you must not fall asleep - that would mean certain death!" The doc looked back at Wedge, "Antilles, you must keep him awake until I can figure out an antidote or an antibiotic or something to help this poor lad!"
"Ah, yeah, sure Doc," Wedge said hesitantly as he looked at his wingman, "Uhm, how?" He looked around the exam room, "Don't go to sleep on me Wes," he stated as he got up and headed for the ice dispenser: filling a basin with ice and cold water, he grabbed a cloth and headed back to Wes's bedside. Setting everything down on the table next to the bed, he plunged the cloth into the ice water and then wringing it out he placed it on Wes's forehead, "I know it's cold but it is the only way I can think of to keep you from going to sleep on me Wes."
Wes groaned as the cold cloth came in contact with his feverish skin; his mind flashed forward in time... Cold, everything was so damn cold on this planet; ice was everywhere. What was the name of this place? Hogar? Himmel? Hoth? Hoth - that was it: of all the planets in the universe, the Rebellion Leaders had to pick Hoth to hide out on and now the Imperials had tracked them here. Wes looked down at the hanger floor, "We may not be able to convert these air speeders over for the cold weather in time," he yelled down to the maintenance chief. The human male yelled back up, "You'll have to if you want to live to see the Imperials vaped, Lieutenant!" Wes sighed and resisted the urge not to chuck his hydrospanner at the man's head… Wes shivered and reached out for the blankets as his mind returned to the present.
Wedge reached out to keep Wes from reaching the blankets knowing that if he covered up and got warm the Taanabian would go to sleep, "Sorry Wes, no blankets - I've got to keep you awake until the Doc gets back." He re-wet the cloth with ice water and began to bathe his friend's face and neck to keep him awake.
Wes slapped weakly at Wedge's hands, "Wedge, I'm so cold," he pleaded with his friend: yawning and shivering he erupted into a coughing spasm.
Concern crossed the young Corellian's somber face, "I know you're cold Wes but the Doc says you have to stay awake, pal," Wedge said quietly, ignoring Wes's hands slapping at him.
The doctor came back into the room, "I have concocted a cocktail of antibiotics; hopefully it will reduce Lieutenant Janson's fever and allow his body to heal itself: I just wish we had enough bacta."
"Doc," Wedge asked hoarsely, "Is this cough part of the fever too - can't you do something for it," Wedge was growing more concerned by the minute, Wes was the closest thing he had to family and he was scared of loosing him.
"I am doing everything that I can Lieutenant Antilles: without bacta there isn't much more I can do; and yes, the cough is part of the fever and this drug cocktail should help your friend," he said standing next to Wes's bed. "Lieutenant, sit up and take this," he said as he assisted Wes into a sitting position and handed him a cup filled with liquid, "You must drink it all."
Wes groaned as he sat up; the doctor shoved a cup at his mouth. Wes took one sniff and shoved the cup away. "No, it smells nasty...I won't take it," he mumbled. The doctor sighed and put the cup against his lips again, "I'm sorry, Lieutenant, you have to drink it, you won't get any better if you don't take it!" Wes sighed and finally gave in to the doctor's command. He weakly pinched his nose and opened his mouth obediently; the doctor poured the liquid in and Wes swallowed noisily - a bitter aftertaste filled his mouth and Wes gagged; he turned to throw up, but the doctor put a restraining hand on his shoulder, "No, Lieutenant, you mustn't throw it up." The doctor finally let Wes lie back down after he was assured that the dark-haired Taanabian had swallowed all of the medicine, "We have to let the cocktail get digested and at least partially into his system before we can let him sleep. Keep him awake, Antilles, I'll be back to check on Janson in a few hours," he said to Wedge and left the room.
"Yes Sir," Wedge said as the doctor left his friend's room: sitting on the edge of the bed, he cradled Wes's head in his arms, "You heard the doctor Wes, I can't let you go to sleep even though I know you want to - I'm sorry buddy," he whispered as he brushed Wes's sweat drenched hair off his forehead, "Tell me again about Taanab Wes, and your family's vineyards."
Wes sighed as his coughing subsided. "Taanab - vineyards…don't remember much, just bits and pieces... and grapes," he muttered, trying to laugh, "Ouch, just do one thing Antilles, don't make me laugh - hurts like the Sith," he sighed again and squeezed his eyes tight and then opened them trying to focus in on Wedge's face, "The hills are covered with grapevines, supported on trellises- it's beautiful in the spring when the grape blossoms are blooming. Did you know...," Wes explained what few details about wine and grapes he remembered to his best friend: before he knew it, three hours had gone by; the doctor came back in, drew some of Wes' blood and left again. "I hope I get to sleep soon - the sooner I sleep, the sooner I can get back into space," he said. The doctor returned just then, "Well, Lieutenant, you won't be flying anytime soon but you may sleep: the cocktail has entered your bloodstream and is beginning to slowly fight the disease; however, no more than five hours, I will be back then to administer another dose. - rest well, Lieutenant," he said. The doctor glanced at Wedge, "You may want to get some rest as well Lieutenant Antilles; I hear you have a big mission ahead of you." Wes sighed and managed a feeble grin; he closed his eyes, "Thanks for keeping me up, Wedge," he said softly before slipping into a well-needed slumber.
Wedge leaned back in his chair, resting the back of his head against the wall, "Yes, Sir," he replied to the doctor's suggestion that he too should get some sleep, "Is it all right if I stay here with Wes - I can sleep in this chair."
The doctor gave Wedge a disgusted look, "Lieutenant, I really believe that you should go to your quarters and get some sleep but I can tell you are determined to stay with your friend so I will see to it that one of the techs fixes up a cot in here so that you can stay by Lieutenant Janson's bedside - remember, he needs to be awoken in five hours," with that the doctor left the room and soon two med techs entered with a cot, blankets and a pillow; they quickly set the cot up next to Wes' bed, "Lieutenant, Doctor Tanengle says for you to get some sleep and if he finds that you are not he has given us orders to sedate you." The techs turned and left the room, turning the lights low, leaving Wedge sitting in the chair; wearily he stood and pushed the cot up tight to Wes's bed before crawling in: settling himself on his right side, he pulled the covers up under his chin and reaching out he took Wes's right hand in his and fell into a light and fitful sleep. Doctor Tanengle looked in on the two sleeping friends an hour later and noticed Wedge's tossing and turning; silently he crossed the room; gently he reached out and swabbing Wedge's exposed hip, he injected a sedative into the young Corellian: Wedge soon fell into a dreamless sleep. Four hours later, the doctor returned to administer the next dose of antibiotic to the Taanabian pilot.
Wes' eyelids fluttered open; slowly pushing himself into a sitting position he looked around his Med Center room: seeing Wedge laying on a cot next to his bed, his covers tangled around body from his tossing and turning, he smiled - the Corellian pilot was zonked out, a thin trail of drool sneaking out of the corner of his mouth: as Wes awoke, Doctor Tanengle returned to check on his status, "How are you feeling, Lieutenant," he asked. "A little better, sir, but still pretty weak, slightly nauseous," Wes replied. "Well, that is to be expected; get some more rest, Janson," the doctor said and left again: Wes pulled the covers over his head and slipped back into dreamland.
Continued in Part 1b