Title: Oddments of Memory

Summary: What if things had taken a sharp, tragic twist in the Hand of Thrawn time period? One-shot

Note: I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning, if that's any excuse for its warped-ness. But I warn you, it IS warped! This ain't a warm-fuzzy story.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars.

One night it came to him. The reason was his X-wing. Years of living in it, tinkering with it, had left etched on his body the faint smell of things greasy and durasteel, of ozone, of exhilaration and the metallic aftertaste of killing.

He supposed that was what Luke had smelled like to her.

She shifted in her sleep, moaning, and he propped up on his elbow to look at her. Even after all these years she is so beautiful, he thought, reaching out to run a broad, callused finger down her bare spine. He had never been one for poetry, but Mara's skin in the moonlight always made him think of that moment when a ship is between real-space and hyperspace, and starlines, shining and clean, fill your sight like the essence of flight itself.

Disturbingly ironic, the comparison to flight…considering.

Her mutterings grew louder, and Wedge strained to hear the broken words. Ah. This dream. He sighed, and sat up completely, flexing his tired muscles.

"…No! No, please, please…Master…don't…I…kill him, I'll kill him!…no, no, no!…help me…" And then, like so many times before, she thrashed the covers off her legs and lunged for his throat, fingers of her prosthetic hand slightly more curved than the others.

Easily, he grasped her bird-like wrists in his hands and held her firmly against his chest, solidly still as she kicked and scratched and screamed and writhed helplessly in his arms. Shifting her wrists to one hand, he stroked her thin hair gently and hummed a lullaby his mother had sung him to sleep with as a boy.

Chika bird, chika bird, all alone,

What are you doing so far from your nest?

Have you no mama with downy breast

To hold you and feed you and make you to rest

What are you doing so far from home, oh

Chika bird, chika bird…

At last her frantic motion ceased, and she lay against him, panting. He released her arms, carefully. They fell like long-dead twigs to the bed.

"Mara, Mara," he murmured. And years of the same response did not stop him from shuddering as her face tilted towards his in an eerie mockery of comprehension.

"You know I'd never kill you, don't you?" Her voice was soft as a child's, desperate, pleading. "I love you, Luke. Nothing in my past or our future can ever change that. I love you, so very, very much. You…you do believe me, don't you?"

"Of course," Wedge said tenderly, aware of but disregarding the futility of the gesture. "I love you, too, Mara." And he did, he realized, with weary marvel. Not like Iella, his girl, his real girl who had died so many years before and took the majority of his heart with her. Iella, of the sparkling humor and adoring eyes. So terribly different from the woman nestled against his chest now. But this woman held the leftover scraps of his heart, and he felt that the other would not begrudge her them.

Never in a million years would he have seen himself as Mara Jade's mate years ago when he met her for the first time. They were both young then, she brilliantly alive and full of anger, he as yet un-jaded by horrors more personal than the horrors of the war he was winning. Flighty, was his inner appraisal of her, unimpressed. Boring, was her quick dismissal that he gathered from the way her startling eyes drifted over him when they passed in the hall. Then as the years passed and Luke Skywalker became an increasingly significant common factor between them, those eyes stayed on his for flashing seconds in hallways and hangars and offices. Wedge was Skywalker's friend, a part of him, and that made him worth notice. Be good to him, her eyes unconsciously beseeched in those brief glances. Take care of my farmboy.

I will, he knew his own eyes always answered back. And the understanding that neither of them acknowledged would jump into the space between their minds, binding them silently, unobtrusively.

The sting of pain distracted Wedge from his reverie, and he glanced down at his arm to see a drop of blood well from a shallow scratch and drop onto the sheets, staining them. He swiped at the wound absently and looked down at the fingers that had inflicted it. Up the arm, the bony hillock of her shoulder, her graceful, curving neck…her face, peaceful in sleep now.

A deep sadness came over him.

It was not the way she looked. The empty eye-sockets that had once housed emeralds gave him no terrors now. Neither did the ravaged face that no cosmetic surgery could repair. Twisted lips kissed just as well as any other kind, he mused with dark humor. No, he grieved for her hands, that once could have plucked his life like a blade of grass, now so stripped of power that their raging fury only left him with a single scratch and a lonely drop of blood.

She shivered, and a tiny sigh drifted from her mouth to puff warmly on Wedge's skin.

"Warm my hands, Luke," she muttered, and he complied, gathering them under his arms right where she liked them. After a while her breathing slowed and evened again, but Wedge continued to allow his body heat to soak into her palms and knuckles and fingers. This was a ritual of long years and daily repetition, for Mara's hands were always cold. Well, ever since then. They said when the rescue team went in her first intelligible words were complaints of cold hands. Not surprising, really, considering what she was gripping so tightly that they had to cut it away. Not surprising at all.

It was a cosmic accident that they ended up together, he realized now. Let the dead have their destiny. Mara chose him because of his X-wing. Because he smelled like it. She could very well have decided to cling to any other pilot who walked in that padded cell so long ago; he was merely the first. By chance, he insisted defiantly to a reproachful ghost. If there were such a thing as destiny, you'd be here right now. Not me.

At long last he let her arms slide away from his and turned over, searching vainly for the sleep that his epiphany had stolen from him. It was not long in coming, but dreams troubled his slumber, reenactments of a past he could bury when waking but sprang rebelliously to life in his subconscious.

"I'd like to see her, if they'll let me." Princess Leia's face, wan and pale.

"I don't know if that's a good idea." Princess Leia's voice, brittle and lifeless.

"Please, I just…" Wedge, incapable of expressing his need to see what was left behind. Only his voice eloquent in inarticulate pleading.

Princess Leia, dipping her head in acquiescence.

Mara Jade, spinning around the sterile room like a dervish, throwing herself against the walls and keening in a high-pitched wail that makes his skin crawl.

Mara Jade's face that he glimpses at intervals, terrifying in its gruesomeness and still drooping from the massive sedatives they had to use to reconstruct what they could.

Mara Jade's hair, most of the famous color leached into premature white, not enough remaining to hide the bandages where her ears once were.

Mara Jade's eye sockets, like twin caves.

"Let me in the room." Compulsion overcoming him, whispering in an achingly familiar voice to let go of reason, to trust. It is hard, but he convinces them. Now he just has to convince himself.

Why, Luke?

"Mara…" tentative, speaking aloud though he knows she will not hear. "Do you know me? It's…"

Breaking off as she stills her wild dance and becomes completely still, face a mask of concentration. Her thin, elegant, nose, the one unmarred feature, twitching once. Her light-footed approach, hesitant at first and then running.

Throwing herself into her arms, weeping great tearing sobs, clutching his uniform in withered hands, digging them under his arms.

"Luke, Luke, oh, Luke…"

"We don't understand it." The medic whose name he never learned, puzzled, excited in a clinical fashion. "But for some reason you are the catalyst of a tremendous transformation. Except for this persisting fantasy that you are the late Master Skywalker, in your presence she functions lucidly for great periods of time. And given a while, perhaps even the delusion will pass. It's really quite remarkable. I don't understand."

Wedge, not understanding either.

"Will you? I know it's an inconceivable thing to ask…" Princess Leia's voice, timid at the temerity of her request.

"You're right. It is..." Princess Leia's body recoiling at the harshness of his voice.

Wedge, incapable of telling her that it is grief, not anger, that makes him so.

Anger at the drunk driver. Anger at Iella, mangled as her speeder and the reeking corpse of her killer.

Anger at the senselessness that flew into his life when Luke Skywalker flew out.

"…But I'll do it. Luke would've wanted me to."

Mara on his wedding night, hands everywhere, a blind tigress.

Mara trailing after yet another baby boy in a stranger's arms, crooning "Ben, Ben, Mama's here, little one."

Mara, beating against him and screaming "You're dead! I saw you die! I was there in that cave on Nirauan when our hands and you plummeted into the swarm of those creatures! I saw the flesh dissolve from your bones under a million little mouths. I felt the last of your power drive around me, protecting me well enough to save my putrid life, releasing yours to a place I could not follow! I touched your skeleton, Luke, pure white, like your soul. I held your hand as you died. Your face was the last thing my eyes saw as your residual power began to fade and they started on me. Your screams were the last thing I heard. You're dead, do you understand? Dead people aren't supposed to come back! Why, why, why do you come back to haunt me?"

"Why?"

Wedge woke up, sweating. It was morning now, the start of a new day in the life he had been living for thirteen years. It would be a day like all the ones before it, like all the ones to come after it until either one of them died.

"Why indeed," he whispered, and let the sweat take the salt from his body that tears could not. Wedge had spent all his tears the day of Iella's accident.

But he grieved nonetheless, quietly, tearlessly. He grieved this morning as he had countless times for a lost love, for a true friend, and for a little chika bird with clipped wings who was far, far from home.

Next to him, Mara Jade-Antilles stirred.

Wedge pushed aside his grief with practiced ease and swung out of bed.

…But if it was the X-wing, why did she cling to him still, years after he had flown his last flight and any lingering scent faded away?

End

A/N: Anyone have any comments to make regarding my sanity? Or why I put all these nice characters through such misery? Cause it's all in the disclaimer. People can't be held responsible for what their 2 AM brains produce! (ducks to avoid rotten tomatoes)