Wedge wakes up with a pounding headache. He thinks, as he often does in his foggy hangovers, that a civilization as advanced as theirs ought to have invented a form of recreational drink that didn't cause the drinker to wake up the next morning feeling like the entire Republic Navy was taking potshots at his head.
He doesn't remember drinking that much last night. The Rogues are undercover, on some planet he'll remember the name of as the hangover-fog clears, and part of their cover story involves them being here for pleasure instead of business. To this end, Wes had suggested the squadron hit the bars; there wasn't much else on this planet that qualified as recreation. Pretty much the entire planet was employed by the Empire in the local factories, manufacturing military ration bars.
No wonder the local ale packed such a punch.
Wedge remembers going to the bar. He remembers sliding into the booth with Wes and Tycho and Hobbie. He remembers Wes ordering, with great gusto, a round of whatever the barkeeper considered the best and strongest ale in the establishment. He remembers drinking those first several rounds of drinks. And now he's woken up back in his quarters.
He rolls over partway and hears someone in bed beside him breathing. The fog in his head starts to dissolve into panic. Sithspit! He'd brought someone back with him. One of his pilots is going to get an earful for this; he isn't sure if it should be Wes, for enabling and allowing him to become so drunk, or Tycho, who was supposed to be acting as his wingman and backup for the evening. It is obvious that both of them have failed miserably in their duties of keeping their commander from jeopardizing the mission and making a fool of himself.
He is suddenly acutely aware of his lack of pants.
Beside him, Wedge can hear his mystery girl stretch, yawning. He squeezes his eyes shut tightly, trying to mentally review his options. He's afraid to move, afraid to let on that anything is wrong; after going over all the scenarios in his head, he forces a casual exterior and rolls over to see how just strong last night's ale-goggles had been. Last time he woke up in bed with a girl by accident, she'd had a face you could land starfighters on--and, Wes had added gleefully afterwards, one on which you wouldn't hesitate to do so.
He finds himself nose-to-nose with Tycho, who leaps backwards out of the bed with impressive speed. Sitting up in bed, Wedge notices (with the same burning embarrassment Tycho apparently feels) that Tycho isn't wearing pants either, as Tycho clutches desperately at the sheets and some shred of dignity.
Neither of them speaks for one long, awkward moment.
"Just how much did we drink last night?" Tycho finally manages.
Wedge shakes his head, still unable to trust his voice. He finds it odd that, of all voices his brain is tossing up right now, the loudest is expressing something like relief. He hadn't jeopardized the security of the mission; Tycho hadn't failed as his wingman...for some value of "failed."
When he speaks, his voice is quiet. "I'll make some caf," he says, locating his pants and shirt beside the bed and pulling them on quickly as he gets up. Tycho has done the same behind his sheet and is perched on the other side of the bed, facing away from Wedge.
When the caf is ready, Wedge dispenses it into two cups and sits at the table, sliding Tycho's cup towards the chair across from him. Tycho comes over to the table and stares into his cup of caf, not meeting Wedge's eyes.
Tycho looks ashamed of himself, and Wedge isn't sure why that stings.
Wedge speaks first. "First off, let's not jump to any conclusions."
Tycho's eyes finally come up from his caf cup, and Wedge actually flinches away from the hurt look he is given.
"I mean," Wedge continues quickly, "For all we know Wes and Hobbie brought us back here passed out and left us stripped in the bed."
"That was some strong ale we had last night..." Tycho admits, looking away.
There is an uncomfortable pause in the conversation. Both of them know there are questions they're not letting themselves ask. What if it isn't just one of Janson's stupid pranks? And if it isn't, where does that leave their friendship and their professional relationship? They've been through a lot, from Endor to the conquering of Coruscant, and yet somehow it looks like they won't be able to even face each other after this.
Wedge's mind offers up a strange memory, a confrontation he'd had with General Salm outside Admiral Ackbar's office back when they were still in negotiations about reforming Rogue Squadron. Salm had cornered him in the corridor as soon as the door closed behind them.
"Antilles," Salm had said menacingly, "I refuse to let the safety of The New Republic be jeopardized by your personal feelings."
At the time, Wedge had been too busy trying to puff himself up and show Salm he wasn't scared by stupid, empty threats to give it much thought. Even afterwards, the remark made sense in the context--Wedge had nothing to go on at that point but his gut, telling him that Tycho wasn't one of Isard's Lusankya spies. But that, combined with other similar ambiguously-worded episodes from throughout his career with Tycho, makes Wedge start to wonder. Is it possible that everyone else could see something he couldn't? Something he couldn't face?
He runs a hand through his hair and looks over at Tycho, who is sipping his caf with his eyes closed. It looks like he's trying to gather his thoughts. On an impulse, he waits until Tycho rests the caf cup on the table and reaches over and touches his hand. Not expecting this, Tycho jumps, spilling hot caf on Wedge, resulting in Wedge jumping up from the table, hopping around and swearing. Tycho finally breaks, laughing despite the how inappropriate such a reaction is in this situation, dashing to get the coldpack from the medkit.
"Sit down and let me look at it," he tells Wedge, waving the coldpack enticingly.
"No," Wedge replies petulantly, holding his injured hand close to his body, "You've done damage enough already."
"Seriously, boss," Tycho says, his face sobering, "Let me look at your hand. If you're hurt too bad to go today, we'll have to scrub the whole thing."
Grudgingly, Wedge offers his hand, muttering, "I've had worse."
Tycho doesn't say anything to this claim, just applies the coldpack and pressure to Wedge's burn. After a minute, he looks at the burn again and then grabs some tape out of the medkit and starts to gently tie the coldpack in place. "Just for a little bit," he says reassuringly. "I can't hold it there forever."
His touch is so gentle that Wedge has to laugh. "I think I saw this in one of Face's holodramas once," he says, trailing off weakly as he looks up and catches Tycho's eye. Next thing he knows, he's pushed Tycho down onto the bed and is kissing him recklessly.
Apparently there are no questions now.
The memories from last night are coming back to him in flashes, intense and physical; it looks like the same thing is happening to Tycho, because he pulls away quickly, wearing a look that is something between longing and disgust.
"Don't make me order you not to stop," Wedge's mouth growls--seemingly on its own, because Wedge doesn't remember thinking the words.
Tycho laughs, a sound that somehow isn't funny. "I'd like to see you take that insubordination to court, sir." The venom in Tycho's voice is unmistakable, and Wedge backs away shakily.
"Where did all this go wrong, Tych?" Wedge asks, facing the wall, unable to look the other man in the eye.
"I think it was somewhere around when you pushed me down on the bed--" Tycho begins, but Wedge's shoulders slump forward in exasperation and he stops. "You mean when did we change?"
Wedge turns to Tycho and nods. "We did change, right?"
Tycho doesn't answer for several long moments. "I couldn't tell you for sure," he finally says. "You were the only one who really believed in me after I was released from Lusankya, and something like that tends to have an effect on a friendship..."
Strange that they should both come back to that incident, Wedge thinks.
"You know what's funny?" Tycho says suddenly, "When I'm with Winter, sometimes I feel like the destruction of Alderaan as a planet isn't important, like with her and me it still has a future." He pauses, and Wedge shifts uncomfortably. "But when I'm with you... When I'm with you, I can forget. The hole inside me feels like it's gone."
The other man looks to Wedge, obviously expecting some sort of similar soul-baring insight. Wedge wishes he had one. He shrugs, embarrassed, saying, "This is the most whole I've ever felt, right here, right now. I don't think it really matters what happens after this."
And then neither one of them is sure what else to say. Tycho seems to know that Wedge doesn't really fill the hole Alderaan left in him; Wedge knows that this much breaks pretty much all the rules he's set for himself. He's said from the start that he isn't going to get involved with his subordinates, especially not from the squadron. He's watched couples in the squadron get torn apart by orders, reassignment, and death, and maybe he was being a little selfish but he didn't want to go through that. Too many things could go wrong in a relationship like the one that is hanging unspoken in the air between them here.
But really, does it matter? Isn't that a bridge they've pretty much burned by now?
Tycho makes the next move. He grabs Wedge's wrist, under the pretense of looking at the burn on his hand again, and pulls him down onto the bed. "Apparently we've done this once before," Tycho says with a sly grin Wedge didn't think he had in him. Then he's kissing Tycho hard, not caring about everything else; it feels strangely, stupidly, like he's flying. There's a freedom here, a joy, and a giddy falling sensation in the pit of his stomach.
Tycho starts laughing, awkwardly interrupting Wedge mid-kiss. "What's so funny?" Wedge asks, propping himself up on an elbow.
"Seriously, if I'm doing something worth laughing at I'd like to know," Wedge persists.
"It's not you. It's just...it's us. Do you realize how scared we were of us just half an hour ago? How awkward I thought this was all going to be?"
Wedge sniffs, mock-offended. "I'll have you know I was nothing of the sort! Corellians are never awkward. I was just playing along because you looked uncomfortable."
Tycho smiles at him, a big smile full of teeth and something like need, and pounces him back down to the bed.
Wedge enters the briefing late, followed closely by Tycho. He scowls at Wes, who is waiting for him by the door.
"What's wrong?" Wes asks innocently.
Wedge doesn't really answer Janson's question: "I blame you entirely."
Wes grins, then drops his voice down to something like a whisper, leaning in close to his commanding officer. "But are you happy?" he asks, the seriousness of his voice incongruous with the brightness of his smile.
And Wedge is about to fire back a sarcastic answer, something involving him shooting Janson, when he pauses. "Yeah, I guess I am," he says, although the scowl doesn't leave his face, matching Janson's grin for longevity.
Janson keeps grinning and slaps Wedge on the back, saying quietly, "I thought you might be."
Wedge finally cracks a smile and walks towards the front of the room to start the briefing.
"How awkward was it?" Wes calls after him. "Because Hobbie and I have a bet--"
When Wes comes back from the bar, Hobbie shoots him a look that's meant to make his brain melt out his ears. "You're not leaving me here alone again."
"You're not alone," Wes says, setting the drinks carefully on the table and sliding into the booth next to Hobbie. "You have the company of our illustrious commanding officer and his second-in-command!" As he mentions them, he slides each of them another drink.
Hobbie rolls his eyes. "They're telling war stories. About battles they were both in. Don't they ever just turn off and have some fun?"
"Do you?" Wes shoots back. Hobbie rolls his eyes again. "C'mon, Hobbie, I don't think they know how to relax. That's why we are getting them very drunk in the hopes of loosening them up."
"Why you are getting them very drunk. I'm just sitting here."
"Your cooperation is implied because you haven't stopped me," Wes beams.
"We're so both going to get court-martialed for this," Hobbie moans, taking his frustration out on the mug he's holding, taking long, angry gulps of ale.
"We'll do nothing of the sort," Wes replies, his smile bright. "If we do this right, they should thank us!"
Hobbie doesn't answer until he finishes his mug of ale. "I think I hate you."
They sit in silence for a bit, Hobbie staring darkly into his empty mug and Wes watching his friends drink. After a while, Wes nudges Hobbie with his elbow. "Do you see what I see?"
Hobbie quickly covers his eyes with one hand. "Will it get me kicked out of the service?"
Wes chuckles. "No, look at Wedge and Tycho."
Hobbie peeks out from between his fingers to across the booth; the two men aren't there. His gaze finds Wedge and Tycho at the bar, ordering their own drinks, leaning into each other and laughing. "It looks like they're enjoying themselves," he says, staring at them curiously.
"Look again," Wes says. Hobbie doesn't like the note of mischief in his voice.
"No, they're definitely enjoying themselves...son of the Sith." He's spotted what is making Wes sound so cocky--it's not that Wedge and Tycho are leaning into each other so much as how they're doing it. There's friendly, and then there's friendly.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Wes asks.
"That it's a good thing we let Corran go to that other bar?"
"No! Well, yes, but that's not what I'm thinking. They both need to relax..."
A light comes on in Hobbie's head, and he doesn't like it at all. "No. No no no no no. Wes, remember that part earlier where I was talking about court-martials? If getting your CO drunk isn't enough to get your ass hauled into military court, then this definitely is."
"Oh, come on, lighten up!"
"I'm being serious about this! And you ought to be too!"
Wes puts up a hand, silencing Hobbie. "You know, I don't think they're going to need our help." And sure enough, Wedge and Tycho leave together, grinning like the two happiest idiots in the galaxy.
Hobbie sighs. "That's going to be awkward in the morning."
"Nah, I bet it won't be, not too much."
Raising an eyebrow, Hobbie asks for odds.