A/N: So I was trying to write something for Valentine's Day, but it morphed into this oneshot that has nothing to do with Valentine's Day. It's set a couple of days after the Battle of Yavin. The title is courtesy of Shakespeare. I can't recall which play the quote comes from, but it goes something like this: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…"
Dodonna had promised him that new recruits would be coming in a week, but that week stretched out ahead of Wedge Antilles as barren and interminable as the cavernous starfighter hangar that Red Squadron had once called home. The ceiling was too short for the length of the chamber and it felt heavy beyond belief, especially hanging loose as it did over the empty starfighter berths.
Just a couple of days ago the whole place would have been swarming. Piggy and Biggs would have been right there laughing over a hand of sabacc, as always, and Hutch would be yelling at them to shut up because he couldn't read a damn thing over their racket, as always. The techs would be trotting by at intervals to fix some malfunctioning component or other, and Commander Dreis would be at his desk on the far end yelling at Hutch to stop yelling at Porkins so he could fill out the repair requisition forms in peace. Tyree'd be sitting on the nose of his fighter ripping open a ration bar, grinning when the rest of them prophesied that he wouldn't be able to stand the things once he actually tasted them.
Now it was just…silent. The techs were busy in the other hangars, the ones that still had ships and astrodroids and pilots to use them. Wedge walked down the length of the hangar towards his starfighter, past berth after vacant berth, bare pavement circled with hoses and tool racks and charge stations, gaping at him like empty crypts. His footsteps cracked in the stillness like laser blasts. The air should have been hot from the Yavin jungle, but he felt marble-cold even in his insulated jumpsuit. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked faster, staring at the floor determinedly.
"Hey, Wedge," a voice said out of nowhere.
Wedge jumped and whirled, breathing hard. He knew who it was—at least, he knew that there was only one other person who had any business being here now—but he hadn't expected the kid to be here.
Still, there he was, sitting on the stone and leaning against one of the landing struts of the starfighter he'd somehow managed to fly to victory two days ago. His knees were drawn up and he'd thrown his arms out balanced on top of them, twisting his fingers aimlessly.
"Sorry," he added, trying to smile. "Guess you didn't see me."
Wedge drove his heart rate back down by sheer force of will. "What're you doing here, Skywalker?"
He wished he could have taken the words back as soon as he said them—Skywalker was new, but like Commander Dreis always said, that didn't make him any less a member of the squad—what was left of it. But the newcomer just shrugged.
"I don't really have any place else to be," he said. "You?"
Wedge kicked the edge of a paving stone with the tip of his boot. "Same."
Skywalker nodded and pulled his hand back over his hair. It was dry. Unlike most people on this blasted jungle moon he wasn't sweating, and Wedge wondered why. Not that that was a real good conversation starter.
"Um…it's Luke, isn't it?"
He glanced back up with a more natural grin. "Yeah, it is. Luke Skywalker."
Something tugged at Wedge's memory. "I think I heard Darklighter mention you a few times."
The fragile grin collapsed. "We grew up together," he said hoarsely. "Used to fly Beggar's Canyon and dream about going to Academy."
"I remember he went to Academy," Wedge agreed uncomfortably. "Did you go with him?"
"Nah." Skywalker chucked a piece of stone away, staring at the far wall of the hangar. "Good thing, I guess," he added after a moment.
"I like him," Wedge said. "I mean—well, I liked him. Good pilot."
Skywalker nodded mutely.
He appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable with the praise. "I'd be dead right now if Han hadn't come back when he did."
"I'm sorry," Wedge mumbled. "I should have—dammit, I—"
"There wasn't anything else you could do," Skywalker said, glancing up at him. "If you'd stayed back there you'd just have gotten vaped. I don't want any more people dead."
Wedge fell silent, staring back down the long, vacant hangar, and wished he'd just stayed in his bunkroom. Why'd he bothered coming in here? Did he think they'd be back?
"Don't why I came here," Skywalker said aloud. "Guess…guess I just hoped they'd be here somehow."
Wedge glared. "You didn't even know any of them," he snapped. The emptiness was making him edgy and the fact that Skywalker seemed capable of reading his thoughts didn't help matters.
"I meant my family," he said distantly. "They're dead too."
Wedge felt yet another spasm of guilt and kicked at the stones, wandering a couple steps closer by way of apology. "You make it sound like it wasn't long ago."
"Just a few days." Another chip of flagstone sailed away across the hangar, clattering over the ground and sliding to a stop against a length of coiled cable. "The Empire shot them." Ching. "I wasn't at home." Thunk.
A flash of ugly memory, full of screams and blossoms of fire, prompted Wedge to suddenly sit down on the pavement next to Skywalker. "Me too. Family, I mean. They're dead."
Skywalker glanced at him, and now that he was up close he could see the grief in the younger pilot's startling blue eyes. Grief, confusion, and a hell of a lot of guilt.
"There's a lot more people like us after what I did," the younger man muttered, turning back away.
"We all feel that way," Wedge told him. In his mind's eye he saw the Death Star going nova, again and again, blowing itself outward like the beginning of its own universe, a big bang of death, and every glittering fragment seemed as sharp as the cry of a new widow. Then he remembered that Alderaan must have looked just like it, only worse, and his eyes wandered around the morgue of a hangar they sat in.
Skywalker blew out a deep breath. "Dunno if I can keep doing it."
Tyree had said the very same thing not long ago, after a raid for supplies. "The trick is remembering it's bigger than us. Bigger than them. We pilots give up a damn lot."
Skywalker tilted a wry eyebrow at him. "Peace of mind included?"
"You did the right thing," Wedge told him firmly. "And nine hells, come on! You hadn't been there to pull that off, we'd all be vapor right, and then who's gonna rescue the galaxy?"
Skywalker managed another halfhearted grin. "Just wish I'd been a little faster about it," he sighed. "Then maybe this wouldn't suck so much." He waved a hand at the deathly stillness of the hangar.
Wedge glanced towards the place where Biggs and Piggy would have been playing sabacc. Probably he would have joined them by now. "Yeah." Shavit, Darklighter, you owed me three hundred creds. Not that he needed to worry about paying Hutch back anymore.
He shoved the thoughts to the back of his mind. "I talked to Dodonna. There's new recruits coming in a week and I think a bunch of new defectors. Alderaan's making a lot of people think twice about the Empire. We'll have a squad again soon."
Skywalker nodded, still staring into the distance. "But they won't know what this week has been like, will they?"
His stomach felt like a space vacuum. "They won't know. Just us two." He grinned suddenly. "We'll have to show 'em the ropes. Skywalker and Antilles, the rogue survivors. We'll make rogues out of 'em all."
Luke laughed. "Rogues is right." He turned back. "I don't exactly know the ropes myself, you know."
"We got a week to get you up to speed," Wedge shrugged. "I can run you through the battle books, tell you the old stories. Shavit," he whispered, eyes on the empty spaces, "we had such good stories…."