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Who Comes Safe Home

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Wedge steps forward, glass raised. "To Cassian Andor," he says, and though his voice doesn't shake, Luke senses the brokenness inside him, inside all the Rebel pilots who stand with them around the bonfire.

"To Cassian," the other pilots echo in unison, also raising their glasses, and Luke joins them even though he never knew Captain Andor, who died stealing the plans that enabled them to destroy the Empire's planet-killing battle station.

"To Jyn Erso," says Wedge, and the other pilots repeat her name with pride, though Luke knows that most of them never met the woman who led the assault on the Imperial security complex, where the Death Star plans were stored.

"To Ruescott Melshi."

"Ruescott Melshi."

"To Stordan Tonc."

"Stordan Tonc."

As they toast their fallen companions, Luke lets his gaze travel around the circle of firelit faces. Some are making no effort to hold back their tears; others, like Wedge, are trying, at least for now, to maintain a stoic countenance. Luke feels their grief; it's a like a hand on his throat, the fingers probing his jugular. It hurts to breathe, never mind speak, and after a brief time he stops trying, only mouthing the names and hoping that no one will notice. He's glad he tucked the medal inside his jacket before Wedge dragged him out here, away from Han and Leia and the others still celebrating their victory. There'll be a time later when he can take it out again, let it shine in the light and think, I earned this. I belong here. My uncle was wrong, and Ben was right.

Later.

After the last name is spoken there's a long, respectful silence before the circle begins to disband. Unsure of what to do or where to go, Luke hesitates, watching pilots wander off alone or in pairs or small groups, some leaning against one another, some holding hands.

A woman says, "Hey!" and Luke turns to see Shara Bey of Green Squadron. She waves and, smiling, he starts to raise his hand, only realizing at the last moment, before he can embarrass himself, that she's looking past him. Luke glances over his shoulder, sees Kes Dameron hobbling toward them on crutches, and lets his hand fall discreetly back to his side.

He watches Shara run to embrace her lover, mindful of his injuries, and wonders if anyone is going to come looking for him. It's starting to feel doubtful. Leia must be busy, he thinks. She's not just the beautiful princess he helped rescue, she's an important member of the Rebel Alliance. But where are Han and Chewie? Luke can imagine them hiding out on the Falcon, but surely they'd have come to see if he needed another well-time rescue first.

As he's finally turning to go, Wedge comes stumbling out of the shadows. He's quite drunk by now, and it takes two tries before he successfully grasps Luke's arm. "We're all tha's left," he slurs. "'f Red Squadron. S' just us."

"I know," says Luke. "I'm sorry." He doesn't know what else to say. He wonders if he should put his arm around Wedge's shoulders, like he saw some of the other pilots doing; he wants to, but he's not sure it would be appreciated. He doesn't really know Wedge that well. He isn't even sure how he'd manage it, given that Wedge is still holding onto his arm.

"Was thinking," says Wedge. "We shouldn't be Red Squadron anymore. Red Squadron's gone. Wanna change our name. Want us to be Rogue Squadron. S'that okay?"

"Yeah," Luke says. "Of course it's okay."

"You sure?"

It's not my decision, he thinks. I didn't know them. But he nods. These are his people now, so Rogue One - Cassian, Jyn, and all the others - are part of his heritage. If Wedge wants to honor their sacrifice be renaming his squadron after them, he has Luke's support. "I don't think it's completely up to us, though," he says. "I mean, shouldn't we ask someone? General Dodonna, maybe?"

"Already did," says Wedge, and there's a note of satisfaction in his voice, a conspiratorial quirk to his eyebrows. "'fore the ceremony. Asked Admiral Ackbar hi'self, an' he said yes. Wanted to do it 'fore anyone else got the idea."

"Oh." Now Luke is confused. "Then why ask me? If it's all settled, why--"

"'Cause you're gonna lead it. Rogue Leader." And with that, Wedge pulls Luke into a tight embrace. Luke grunts in surprise, the medal under his jacket digging into his sternum.

"I'm not--" he tries to protest, but shuts his mouth when Wedge begins to shake. Tears or laughter? Luke wonders. Despite his connection to the Force, it's impossible to tell; there's too much raw emotion all around him, and Ben hardly had time to teach him anything. Hugging Wedge back awkwardly, Luke thinks, I wish…

But what's the point of that? It won't bring anyone back, and what right does he have to wish for such things, anyway? He lost four people: Ben, his aunt and uncle, Biggs. Wedge lost nearly his entire squadron. Leia lost her whole planet.

I wish I'd known what war was really like, he thinks, before I got involved. Not that it would have made a difference. He was always going to leave Tatooine. I wish, if all these people had to die, it was to end the war for good. But the emperor still sits on his throne on Coruscant, and he knows the Rebels are on Yavin 4. He may have lost his most powerful weapon, but he still has his fleets of TIE-fighters and star destroyers, and his endless army of stormtroopers. It's only a matter of time before the Empire comes after them here, before this moon's clear skies are streaked with laser-fire. Luke has already heard whispered talk of finding another base.

Wedge lifts his head. "Sorry," he says, and though his voice sounds thick, his cheeks are dry - if a little roughened from Luke's jacket. "I hope you don't mind…"

"No," Luke says, not sure if Wedge means the hug or the new callsign. Or maybe he means making the decision to change the squadron's name without him, going to Admiral Ackbar on his own. It's possible he means all of it and more. In any case, Luke doesn't mind. As he returns Wedge's relieved smile, he thinks, This is my family now.

12/29/2016