Virodeil gave some input for this chapter, if not quite as much as we might have liked due to RL time constraints. Many thanks, anyway.

Restored to perfect condition she might be, but the Mirage was not stocked for a trans-galactic tour. Therefore, the Alliance party returned to the Valiant by way of an ordinary shuttle, and the Mirage would be delivered as soon as she was properly outfitted for the trip.

Given the efficiency Luke had seen from their father's crew so far, the young Jedi didn't expect it to take long.

They had barely stepped off the shuttle aboard the Valiant, when Admiral Ackbar whisked Leia away to discuss the situation with the absent members of the Alliance High Command, while at the same time, Luke found himself recruited by General Madine.

The latter had searched out every outgoing transmission from the Valiant going back to Endor – had in fact recruited R2-D2[1], and through him several other astromechs, to ensure he would catch every transmission, not just the officially authorized ones – but now he needed additional manpower to analyze everything he'd found.

The young Jedi was to check for truthfulness once more as the Alliance Intelligence Chief interviewed those of his agents he wanted to use for the job. The men and women – mostly humans but also a single Mon Calamari – were the ones Madine trusted most aboard the ship, but it never hurt to doublecheck.

Or rather, "trust, then doublecheck and verify independently," to quote the intelligence chief.

The list of questions ran from the more or less neutral – "Did you share any knowledge gained since we left Dravian Starport with anyone, inside or outside the ship? If so, with whom? Did you send any messages to anyone?" – to the more generally inquisitive – "What do you think of the armistice and the developments since?" – to the downright blunt – "Do you think Princess Organa has amassed too much power through her cooperation with Lord Vader or sold out the ideals of the Alliance to the Empire? Did you do anything to undermine her position, directly or indirectly?"

Luke was surprised – and, until he thought a little about the implications of intelligence agents, a bit aghast – to find out how taciturn Madine's choice people were: most had not discussed any of the recent events with anyone, and those who had done so only with their closest colleagues.

The young Jedi was gratified, however, to find that the new course of the galaxy in general, and his sister's actions in particular, found widespread approval, at least in this highly selected group.

By the time the intelligence chief was satisfied that he could start his investigation without feeding the mole straight from the source, Luke was about ready to fall into bed, though.

Alas, on the way to his hard-earned rest, the young Jedi found himself waylaid by a grimly determined Wedge and a just as determined –if not quite as grim – Zev.

"Luke," the Rogue leader started, after a thorough look around to ensure there were no eavesdroppers, "you know how a hangar full of airfoils can do funny things to sound, like when you have to shout to get heard on the other side of a fighter, but three rows over they can hear you just fine at a normal voice?"

Confused but with a sinking feeling in his stomach, thanks to the Force thrumming in warning, the young Jedi nodded. "Yeah, sure."

Wedge leaned closer.

"Well, then, we were about three rows over while you had your little chat with Vader in front of that really nice starship he lent to the princess," he hissed. "Care to explain what that was about, Luke?!"

The young Jedi opened his mouth, found no words – and then a door opened somewhere down the corridor and ruined his chance to brush off the Corellian with a quick and easy explanation.

The interruption did give Luke the extra seconds he needed to clear his thoughts, though.

"We need Artoo," he hissed back. "Wedge, I promise I'll explain, but we need to find Artoo first!"

The Corellian ace pilot scowled but nodded assent, and so the young Jedi carefully reached for his comlink to call his astromech.

"Artoo, can you get to my cabin, right now? I need your help with something."

The droid tweeted affirmatively, and Luke led the way to the next round of awkward explanations.

Somehow, the prospect didn't grow any less daunting the second time around.

Oo oo oo oo oo oO

Wedge's scowl deepened when the young Jedi asked R2, "Can we talk?" as soon as the droid arrived, and the astromech visibly ran a scan over the room.

"So, you do have something to hide, Luke," the Rogue leader said bitterly. "Been working for the Empire long? Like, before or after I first met you?!"

The betrayed tone hurt. Wedge had been one of the first to befriend a Tatooine farmboy totally out of his depth in the great wide galaxy, and Luke really didn't want to lose that friendship.

"Never have!" he snapped back. "Worked with, yes – but so have you, since Endor – but never for!"

Several decks above the young Jedi, pale flames rose in subconscious reaction to her twin's distress, and Luke hastily got his temper back under control before their father took notice, too. That might end with a dead Corellian.

The young Jedi scrubbed a hand across his face, so very tired of the whole day of politics and intrigue. He decided to give in to exhaustion and drop himself onto his bunkbed, leaning back against the wall. If nothing else, the seated position ought to come across as non-threatening.

"Look, Wedge," he started wearily. "Yes, I'm Vader's son. Yes, Leia is my sister – twin sister, actually. But I didn't know until Bespin – that revelation was the reason I was near catatonic when Leia and Lando picked me up. Vader didn't even know he had a son until after I had shot down the first Death Star – or a daughter, until Endor. And Leia didn't find out until the party yesterday, where Thrawn threw her enough hints for her to figure out something was off, and when she went to confront Vader about it … well, about the only thing more tactful in his delivery this time was that there wasn't a lightsaber duel involved."

The Corellian ace pilot stared at Luke.

"You've known since Bespin and you never ever told Leia?!" he asked incredulously.

The young Jedi winced. "Uh, at Bespin I didn't know I had a sister. That I only found out later, thanks to the Jedi never telling you what you need to know when you need it."

Wedge's lips twisted. "Yeah, I can see that."

Luke opened his mouth to reply and then buried his head in his hands. "Stars above, you're right. Kriff! Kriff, I'm really turning into one of them!"

Strong hands wrapped around the young Jedi's wrists and pulled off his cover.

"Small chance!" an angry Zev snarled right into Luke's face. "You haven't set up anyone to kill their own father – or fall for his twin sister, for that matter!"

Wedge made a choked noise in the background, and the younger Veers snapped over his shoulder, "Yes, I've heard all the rumors about that kiss! But really, Luke and Leia, they're like magnets, always drawn to each other! And without knowing, and meeting as teenagers, what did the Jedi expect?! No way that wasn't intentional, too!"

"Urgh," the Corellian commented astutely. The young Jedi could fully empathize. But still ….

"Uh, I don't think the last one was intentional," he explained. "They were all against personal attachments, so I think they just didn't get …"

"If that's true, then they were seriously out of touch with reality," Wedge cut in. "And since you had to specify 'the last one': so, they did set you up to kill Vader? Fully knowing who he is?!"

Luke sighed. He shoved back against Zev until the latter stepped aside, and gave the young Jedi a free line of sight towards his fellow Rogue leader again.

"Kenobi told me my father had been a Jedi, just before we left Tatooine," Luke explained. "Before that, I'd grown up thinking he'd been a navigator on a spice freighter. And Kenobi also told me that Vader had murdered my father, so things were kinda personal between us before I even joined up with the Alliance. They did try to warn me away from going up against Vader when he caught Han and Leia on Bespin, but they never said why, and I think it was mainly because I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell against him, with my tiny bit of training against decades of experience."

He scrubbed a hand across his face again. "I did have my own reasons for attacking the Empire's chief enforcer, too – same as you had, at that point, Wedge – so it wasn't a complete setup. But, yeah, divide and conquer, at best."

"Nine hells!" the Corellian said, with feeling. He dropped himself into a sitting position, too, against the wall opposite the bunk, and scrubbed a hand across his face, as well. "What a mess. But why, … why didn't you tell anyone? That's what I'm mad about the most, I think: that you went behind everybody's back!"

Zev, the last man standing, if also leaning against the remaining free wall, barked a short laugh.

"For real, Wedge?" he challenged scornfully. "You're the best friend he has here and you went up like an ill-kept fuel depot at the news. And now you ask why he was cagey about telling anyone?! I knew I had to keep mum about my father when I came here, or I wouldn't live through the revelation, and I'm not half the target Luke is!"

He tilted his head consideringly. "You took the news that I'm a Veers really well, come to think of it. Is being Vader's spawn truly that much worse, when the kids didn't even know about it?"

The Corellian ace pilot sent a half-hearted glare upwards. "Your dad's just a man! I could take him, if I had to. He's not that, … that black stormcloud with a lightsaber that Vader is!"

"There is nothing my father can do that I can't do, too, at least in principle," the young Jedi said softly. "If it's Force powers you're leery about, Wedge, then I'm as much or as little a man as Vader is."

"That's not …! I didn't …!" the Rogue leader sputtered, but then he slumped. "I did, huh? Oh, hells!"

He ran a tired hand through his hair.

"Luke," Wedge said then, voice low but unwavering, "you're one of the kindest men I know! And I'm never going to say that about Vader, but I guess that means that he is a man, too."

He considered briefly. "I mean, he didn't kill your mother, right? It sounded like that, but not quite, and …."

"He didn't!" the young Jedi cut in fervently. "He was told he did, and she did die for real, but not by his hand!"

"Right. Good. That's good!" the Corellian gave back, then thought through his words and grimaced. "Uh, not that your mom's dead, I didn't mean …."

"I know what you mean, Wedge," Luke assured. Zev snorted and finally relaxed his tense – guard-like! – posture, letting himself slide down the wall until he was sitting, too.

An exhausted silence fell for a few seconds.

And then the Rogue leader sent his predecessor a sidewise glance. "So, Vader's wife – uh, she was his wife, right? Your mother, I mean? – she was a queen? Like, that makes you Prince Luke, to go with Leia?"

The young Jedi buried his head in his hands again, groaning. But if the dead-pan tone was anything to go by, Wedge was teasing him and that meant their friendship was on the mend.

Though, come to think of it, the Corellian would probably get in some retaliation for the shock Luke had caused him, and if he got the rest of the Rogues into the joke, too, if hopefully not the secret ….

To make sure they were all on the same page, the young Jedi glared back half-heartedly through the gap between his fingers.

"If I hear any of the Rogues call me that, you'd better have come up with an explanation that doesn't involve any family secrets!" he growled back, voice a bit muffled by the hands around his face. "I trust the guys with my life, but there's a lot more at stake than that, including Leia's life, and her position with the Alliance and with that the whole peace-with-the-Empire deal!"

The Corellian glared right back, then rolled his eyes sidewise. "Artoo, you are closest. Slap Luke upside the head for me, will you?"

The astromech gave back a rude-sounding splat, followed by a matching gesture that had Zev break into reminiscent chuckles.

Wedge followed suit, and the young Jedi found himself laughing, too, tension, relief and exhaustion merging into near-hysteria.

When they had caught back their collective breaths a few minutes later, the current Rogue leader pushed himself up straight again.

"Luke," he said seriously, "I promise, your secrets are safe with me. And I can understand keeping things close to the chest until more people had a chance to get used to the idea that Vader is not a complete monster. But at one point the secret will come out, and the more of the people in power – and your friends, too! – already know by then, the more buffer you'll have against the backlash."

He paused briefly.

"But I would tell Wes last, too, I guess," he admitted, then. "I'd trust the guy with my life any time, but when it's not flying, he's not that good at thinking things through before he acts, or shoots his mouth off, at least."

"Too true," the young Jedi agreed whole-heartedly, Zev snorted, and that was the end of the discussion so far, thankfully.

Luke was tempted to just let himself drop into the horizontal and forget about the rest of the galaxy for a few hours, but remembered to be a good enough host to remind his guests that they had beds of their own. Beds that were much more comfortable than the floor, too – though they were welcome to it if they insisted.

For that, Zev swatted at the young Jedi while he picked himself off said floor, and Wedge called Luke a pampered prince who didn't know what sleeping rough meant – totally untrue, all three of them had slept on worse than a nice dry cabin floor and they knew it! – but only R2 took the young Jedi up on the invitation.

And then Luke finally had a chance to get a few hours of sleep.

[1] It didn't occur to Luke until much later that maybe he should worry about how the ex-commando had obtained R2's compliance. If the Alliance Intelligence Chief had leverage potent enough to coerce that feisty droid, he could probably crash and burn the rest of the Skywalker family, too. Artoo had dismissed the idea of coercion offhandedly, and maintained that the man had merely asked for help. But still, the young Jedi wondered ….