Author's Note: I warn you, I wrote this in a lot of separate sittings, so I apologize if it seems all disjointed. It hasn't been beta-ed, and it's only gone through slight editing when I typed it. Hah. This is my longest fic ever. So. Yeah. Enjoy.
My father has always been a survivor. It's his blessing and his curse. Sixty-six years old, and he still stands as tall and straight as he ever did, posture bred into him by almost thirty years in the military. Almost half his life on the front lines, risking his life everyday for a cause he believed in. Back then, the lives of fighter pilots were usually measured in missions, rather than years. But in the typical Corellian way, he beat the odds for so long
I look at old holos of him sometimes, just to see how he's changed over the years. He's still got a full head of hair, but now it's white peppered with grey, rather than the dark brown it used to be. He has the same slim frame, thought not quite as toned and muscled. His once fresh and youthful face now has deep lines in it—most prominent around his mouth and eyes. His brown eyes are still alert and as warm as freshly brewed caf—but they can still snap into that ice cold glare I remember from my childhood.
My father still looks every bit the dignified general he once was. He looks ready to hop back in his cockpit the second the New Republic needs him. He never truly retired. At the first sign of trouble from the Yuuzhan Vong, he and Uncle Tycho offered up their serviced to Colonel Darklighter. When the New Republic leadership had been corrupted, he was the leader of a whole new Rebellion.
Even after the Vong crisis, the New Republic was constantly in contact with him—asking for advice with this, help with that. My father almost always said yes, to my mother's annoyance. He rarely left home for it, but he was constantly advising the leaders of the New Republic military. He would tell us that it kept his mind sharp, kept him from going senile. Then my mother would roll her eyes and remind him that retirement usually meant you didn't work anymore. No one knows better strategies for starfighter units than my father. No one.
I remember when the news about Uncle Wes came. My sister, my mother, and I had just gotten home from shopping—I was eleven, Syal was thirteen. Mom had gone into the other room to check the terminal, and came back shaking, white as a sheet. We asked what was wrong, but she refused to answer, and sent us to our rooms. And of course, being the precocious little children we were, we disobeyed and waited at the top of the steps for Dad to get home. Mom sat at the table waiting for him.
We didn't have to wait long. My father immediately strode over to my mother, asking what was wrong, all concern and worry. Mom looked as though he was the last person in the world she'd want to say this to. And then I understood why. Uncle Wes had died. A dumb accident during a training session.
I thought about Uncle Wes, and all the pranks he used to play on Dad, his smart mouth comments, and the stories he would tell us. About Hoth, the Rogues, the Wraiths, Lieutenant Kettch… And I remembered him telling Syal and I about how everyone used to talk about my father… About how he had 'cold space lubricants for blood' or 'enough ice water in his veins to replenish the Coruscant ice caps'.
I'd always thought he'd been exaggerating.
Many words can be used to describe my father, but I never would have put cold among their number. Until then.
He held my mother tightly as she cried into his shoulder for a moment. He then asked, his throat tight, but calm as you please, when the funeral was going to be. Next week, she said. She kept asking if he was alright, despite his assurances that he was.
I didn't understand. How could he be alright? One of his best friends had just died! My mother was a strong woman, and she was unable to keep a grip on herself. My father terrified me all that week. He barely gave Syal and I a second look.
The funeral was nice, if such things could ever be described as nice. Rogues and Wraiths past and present, pilots Uncle Wes had trained, and many others came to pay their last respects to the infamous Major. Uncle Hobbie looked grief-stricken, and Uncle Tycho almost looked lost. None of them thought Wes would be the first. I overheard Dad confessing to Mom that he always thought he'd be the first to go.
I'm pretty sure that Uncle Tycho and Uncle Hobbie thought the same thing about themselves.
Six years later, Uncle Hobbie was the one my father was worried about. He was sick—very sick. I can't remember with what. All I knew was that his body was failing him. But it was Uncle Tycho who went first. A landspeeder accident. It was another few months before Uncle Hobbie's body finally gave out.
A training accident. Sick in bed. A landspeeder crash. Hardly fitting ends for three men who were once three of the best pilots in the galaxy. Three men who were closer to my father than anyone else in the universe. And he didn't shed a tear.
Even at my mother's funeral.
It's kind of sad. Family is supposed to take up the first few rows, and yet there were just four of us. Syal and I sat on either side of our father, and Syal's husband was on the other side of her. Well, five of us, I guess, if you counted little Zakai, sitting in my father's lap—smart enough to know to be sad, but too young to know why. Sure, there was more 'family' there—my cousin Jagged, for instance—and people we almost consider family—such as Corran and Valin. But it was really just the five of us.
It was a large funeral—probably larger than Mom would have wanted. But a lot of people wanted to show their support for Dad. And the fact that Mom had been high up in Intelligence meant that more people were able to show up without having been invited.
Political figures. Dad never could stand them, and I don't have much tolerance for them myself.
I suppose Syal sees herself as the one to take care of Dad now. As though he can't take care of himself. The man's sixty-six, and except for a few creaky joints, he's still in perfect health. But he'll put up with Syal's fussing. He always has, both him and Mom.
I'd already done my mourning. I was on Commenor, dropping off a shipment of rare Nubian wine, when I heard. I had worked with Mirax for a few years before she passed away, and she had left her business and the Pulsar Skate to me in her will. My parents told me that both Mirax and Booster had left me a lot to live up to.
The message my father had sent me was text only. I understood why—it was easier for him to control his emotions that way. But it didn't stop the message from feeling horribly impersonal. It made me think of how many times he must have written letters of notification to families whose sons and daughters had died while flying under his command. How much death he had seen without even blinking an eye. How much death he had caused. He had become numb to it now. That was the only explanation I could think of, the only reason behind how he could be so casual at the deaths of his best friends, so cold at the death of his wife.
'Enough ice water in his veins to replenish Coruscant's polar ice caps.'
My father's always been a pillar of strength for so many people—myself included. When it felt like the galaxy was spinning too fast for me to ever get my feet in, he was there, helping me, steadying me. I've always been grateful for that strength, that anchor. But that night, I resented him for being so strong.
I drank enough that night to incapacitate a Wookiee. Drunk and morose, I sat on the hull of the Skate, watching the night sky. It was dawn before it really hit me. My mother, the strongest woman I'd ever known, was dead. I bawled like a baby. Never before had I ever felt so utterly alone in the universe.
The trip home, alone in the Skate, was almost too much. But being home was some how worse. My father met me at the spaceport. He looked tired, but had a detached sort of demeanor, bordering on cold. He hugged me tightly, and I tried not to flinch from his touch. I wanted to push him away, hit him, yell and scream at him for being so distant. But I didn't.
The funeral dragged on for ages. Countless people, some I knew, some I didn't, gave their condolences and paid their respects. I lost count, and stopped paying attention. A bowed head and a murmured 'thank you' seemed to be enough for them.
I asked Syal if I could stay at her house for the night. She refused, of course, insisting that someone needed to stay with Dad, to make sure he was okay. I bit my tongue. Syal had enough on her plate, without having to hear my rants about how our father lacked a soul.
The two of us hardly spoke over dinner, and we were hidden away in our rooms by eleven.
My sleep was dreamless, thankfully, but it was also fitful and restless. I couldn't sleep for even an hour without waking up, tossing and turning.
Finally, at two in the morning, I couldn't take it anymore. Throwing back the sheets, I got out of bed and quietly left my room. Perhaps some tea would put me to sleep
I froze as I stepped through the doorway into the kitchen. My father sat at the table, his head in his hands. A half-full tumbler and a half-empty bottle of Whyren's Reserve were on the table in front of him. I tried to leave as quietly as I entered, but Fate had other ideas. A floorboard felt the need to creak quite loudly under my foot.
My father straightened up and turned, hand immediately going to his hip, despite the fact that he hadn't worn a blaster in years. Old habits die hard. Seeing that it was me, he immediately relaxed. "What are you doing up?" he wasn't drunk, but I could still smell the alcohol on him. Uncle Wes always said that with his Corellian liver, Dad could drink anyone in the fleet under the table.
Thinking about Uncle Wes was painful, a pain which quickly transformed into anger at my father. "I couldn't sleep."
He looked at me for a long moment, before glancing back suddenly to the whiskey on the table. He cleared his throat and stood. "I was just heading off to bed," he said as he picked up the bottle and the tumbler. He seemed almost embarrassed.
Which infuriated me even more. Everything he did, everything he said, just seemed to be twisting a vibroblade further and further into my side. "Don't stop on my account," I replied, unable to keep the cold bite from my voice.
He would have had to have been deaf for him to have missed it. He set the bottle on the counter, looking at me, brows furrowed. "What's the matter?"
"I should be asking what's the matter with you," I snapped back. There was no stopping it now. All of my anger and frustrations were now rising to the surface, aimed at a clear target. My HUD was red and I was hearing the tone for a good missile lock.
He could tell this wasn't going to be pretty. He downed the remaining contents of the tumbler before setting it on the counter. "What do you mean?" There was no defensiveness, no accusation in his voice. Despite the fact that he was staring down the launch tube of an armed proton torpedo, he was still as calm as ever.
"What is wrong with you?" I practically exploded. "Three days after your wife's death, and you act as though nothing happened! Are you completely numb? Are you even human? After years of flying and fighting and killing, have you just become numb to death? Is it just some everyday thing for you? What about Tycho, Wes, and Hobbie? Do you miss them? Do you even miss her?"
On more than one occasion, Mom or one of Dad's old squadmates had told me about some time or another that my father had been backed into a corner, and he'd snapped, going off in some unexpected and unpredictable direction.
This was one of those times.
With surprising speed and strength, he grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me into the nearest chair. "Don't you dare ever say that again." His grip on my shoulders was tight, but I was too stunned to react. He looked down at me, his brown eyes fiery, burning with an intensity I'd never seen before. "You're right, death was an everyday thing for me. I've had countless people die around me, friends die right before my very eyes. And yes, I have killed hundreds of people; I've left thousands widowed and orphaned—you have to become somewhat numb to it, or the guilt will eat you alive. But that doesn't make it any easier. I have nightmares to this day about things that happened over forty years ago. Tycho, Wes, and Hobbie were the three people who'd been with me through it. The three people I trusted more than anyone in the galaxy, the three people I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could rely on. Losing them was like losing a part of myself, like losing both of my hands. And your mother, I—"
His voice cracked, and he finally tore his gaze from mine, closing his eyes for a moment. I still don't know if he was trying to control himself or simply trying to make his thoughts coherent. When he opened his eyes again, his gaze was softer, the pain now more evident—both in his eyes and his voice. He spoke slowly and softly, choosing his words carefully. "I miss your mother more than you can imagine. I feel as though I have no heart or soul, because they died with her. It hurts. It hurts so much that I just… I just want to curl up in a hole somewhere and die."
He held my gaze for a moment, before finally releasing my shoulders. He looked more exhausted than I had ever seen him before. For the first time I could remember, my father looked frail and fragile, about to shatter to pieces at someone's touch. He slumped into a chair and held his head in his hands.
I still couldn't move, practically glued to my seat by his reaction. Never, ever had I seen my father act like that, lose control like that. I stared at his still figure with wide eyes. It was a full minute before he spoke again—thought it seemed as though hours had passed. He didn't move from his hunched over position, didn't lift his head up, didn't even look at me. His voice sounded as though he was fighting back sobs.
"Everyone dies, Myri. Everyone has died. I've outlived my usefulness. There are no more wars to fight—not for me to fight. The New Republic has new heroes, new pilots, new leaders, new generals and commanders. And I'm okay with that. You and Syal are grown now, you can take care of yourselves. I'm okay with that. It's time for me to grow old, to let other people take care of the galaxy. But the people I had always imagined growing old with are gone. Mirax, Luke, Han, and Leia all aren't here. Hobbie's not here to reminisce with. Wes isn't here to laugh with. Tycho's not here to talk with. Your mother's not here to grow old with me. To watch our daughters make their own families. To watch Zakai grow up. To have a cup of caf with, to sit on the porch with, to do all those sentimental things aging couples are supposed to do. I… I miss her. So much…"
There was another long moment of silence. My heart ached for my father, and I regretted every hot-headed thing I had said. "I'm sorry…" My voice was barely a whisper, my words inadequate.
Taking a few deep breaths, he stood, finally getting himself under control. He forced a half-smile and looked at me. Past me, more like. "Survivor's Guilt. Story of my life." He gave a half-hearted chuckle at his half-hearted joke, and then cleared his throat. "I'm going to bed. You should probably do the same."
And suddenly, my father was himself again. All the pain, all the passion locked up once again behind his mask of strength. A mask made of necessity, dating all the way back to when he was a child, his family ripped from him. Barely anyone had ever seen beneath that mask. I almost wish I hadn't.
I went to bed, but I didn't sleep the rest of the night. When my father drove me to the spaceport the next morning, neither of us said a word the entire trip. We acted like nothing had happened the night before. I felt almost uncomfortable in his presence. As though I had seen something I was never meant to see. My father in a moment of weakness.
He walked me to where the Skate was docked. I was anxious to leave, though at the same time I wanted to stay. I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't know anything anymore.
"Goodbye, Myri," he said softly. His body tensed slightly with surprise when I wrapped my arms around him tightly in a hug. It was the first sign of affection I had shown towards him since I'd arrived. It was a moment before he returned the hug, just as tightly.
"I love you, Daddy," I muttered against his chest.
"Love you too, Myri." He placed a soft kiss atop my head before releasing me.
I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and said "Bye, Daddy," before retreating up the Skate's ramp.
My sister and I are all that my father truly has left. He's going to have to learn to live alone again. But he'll do it. At sixty-six, he's still got a lot of years ahead of him. My father has always been and always will be, a survivor.
Author's Note: So, what'd you think? I always found it terribly interesting how many Wedge death fics there are out there, when it's been proven time and time again that the man's a survivor.