It had been raining up until half an hour before, a deluge of water that had thrown itself down from the sky, soaking him instantly the moment he had ventured out. But now the sun was shining, bright and warm against his back, the smell of the damp earth still heavy in the air. But that was Yavin for you. It was the same every time he had come here for the past.... what.... six years? Seven? No, seven: nine years since they had finally defeated the Empire, seven since this memorial had been completed.
Colonel Jayde Gabhaan wandered further along the temple walls, his eyes running over the names inscribed in the stone: the names of every single Rebel Alliance casualty since before the destruction of Alderaan. Massassi, the place they had chosen to honour their dead, because that was where it had all really started: the destruction of the Death Star at Yavin. The first major victory for the Rebel Alliance after the Emperor dissolved the Senate and took power for himself. The first triumph in a struggle that had lasted longer than they could ever have foreseen. But they had persevered and finally prevailed.
He stopped, turning back, realising that, lost in his thoughts, he had gone slightly past the place. And there she was : Lieutenant Sharyl JhavraH. He reached up, brushing his fingers across the name, as he always did. Trailing to a stop at the carved representation of the Alliance Medal of Honour. "Hi, Jav," he whispered, "Long time, no see!" Strange to realise that she'd been dead almost as long as she had lived.... He looked away, his eyes misting, crouching down to place the bunch of flowers against the base of the wall.
Standing up, he moved back along the rows of names, just a few paces, his eyes automatically finding Jomanock's name. He stood for a moment, paying silent respect, then continued along the wall to the last place he always stopped: Lieutenant-Colonel Wedge Antilles.
There was a woman standing there. They smiled at each other, then returned to their respective silences. Finally she stepped forward, placing a lyna thorn-bud on the ground, beside the wall. She stood back, asking softly after a moment, "Who have you come remember, Colonel?"
He glanced at her, then admitted, "The first C.O. I ever lost, Lieutenant-Colonel Antilles."
She turned, "You knew him?"
Gabhaan nodded, "I flew with him the day he was captured."
"Beta flight...." she murmured.
He looked down at her in surprise, not quite sure that he'd heard her correctly, "What...?"
"I was the Controller that showed you out of Mitre...." she explained, her gaze still on Antilles name. "I gave him permission to go to his death. We were supposed to be having dinner when he got back."
"I was the rookie...." Gabhaan told her. "I'm the only one left now, apart from Solo. Jomanock was shot down over Che'Lan."
She nodded in understanding, "I don't think there's anyone who didn't lose someone at Che'Lan..."
"They were after Mothma..."
"They didn't quite get what they expected."
He grinned, "No..." Then he sobered, "But it cost us a lot... almost as much as Hoth..."
"I know," her voice filled with grief again, "I lost my husband there."
"No, Che'Lan... he was with Rieekan's forces.... I was with Solo's."
Gabhaan looked at her, incredulous, "You were on Che'Lan with Solo?" He whistled, "That must be some story!"
"We had some pretty hair-raising times dodging the Imperials...." she admitted with a sad smile, then turned to him, "Look, I need to visit Darik... my husband... but perhaps, afterwards, if you're not doing anything, we could meet? Talk about old times..." She shrugged her shoulders, "Get roaring drunk...."
"I'd like that," he told her, suddenly realising how much he wanted to talk to someone who had been there: who understood, who had known JavraH, Jomanock and the others, however briefly. Someone who could truly share the grief... and the pleasure, "I'd like that a lot. How about I meet you at the main gate in, say, an hour?"
"That's fine...." She laid a hand on his arm and together they walked towards Darik's name. Gabhaan left her, moving further along, back towards the gate. He paused briefly, first at Jav, then at Jomanock. "Sleep safely," he murmured. Then turned towards the future: and the past.