Wes trotted down the hallway toward Hobbie's quarters. He'd just finished a day of interviewing prospective candidates for Rogue Squadron; of course Wedge made the final decisions, but Wes's disarmingly pleasant temperament combined with his keen eye for potential let him save Wedge some time and pick out the best candidates for Wedge to meet in person. And with Rogue Squadron's growing fame and popularity, Wedge had ever more demands on his time.
But Wes had silenced his comm for the string of back-to-back interviews since lunch, and when he turned it on again at the end of the workday, the first thing that popped up was a notification from medbay. Hobbie was injured. Something had gone wrong with his prosthetic legs.
The second notification let him know Hobbie had been released from medbay and was resting in his quarters, so -- with, admittedly, a little bit of skidding as he reversed course -- Wes headed that way, wondering just how badly injured you got when your legs decided to kick your ass.
Wes's comm buzzed. Have you finished up? He could imagine Hobbie's annoyed gaze on his stoic face.
Wes grinned to himself, tapping in the keycode for Hobbie's quarters. "Surprise!" he chirped, popping into the room.
"Did you bring your blaster?" Hobbie asked from his bed. He was lying on top of his covers, dressed in undershorts and a sleeveless undershirt, pushing up on his elbows to look at Wes.
Wes blinked, confused. "Why?"
"To end my suffering once and for all," Hobbie told him, miming a blaster with his hand.
Wes nodded. "Ah, of course. Well, I didn't bring my blaster, but I can smother you to death with my amazing muscles," he offered, smirking cheerfully. "Much more pleasant way to go out."
Hobbie huffed, amused. "Well, I've tried about everything else," he said. "They are impressive. Good job."
Wes barked a laugh and leaned against the wall to take off his boots. "So how badly damaged are you, anyway?" he asked, looking Hobbie over. There was some bruising along the side of Hobbie's face, plus marks on his arms and what was visible of his skinny chest.
"Just bruises, and my pride might be dead," Hobbie said wryly. "Depends. Too many mechanics saw me go down, so I need to end it all so they can't make fun of me."
"No no no, that just means they can make fun of you at your funeral," Wes said, finishing with one boot and starting on the other. "What you need is revenge."
"What sort of revenge do I aspire to when my legs were the ones that shorted out?" Hobbie asked wearily.
Wes finished taking off his boots and crawled up onto the bed, supporting himself over Hobbie and grinning down at him. "Obviously we need to plot revenge... on your legs," he declared mock-solemnly, managing a split second of almost-straight face before the facade cracked and he was back to grinning broadly.
Hobbie laughed. "Of course. I should have known." He leaned up, kissing Wes quickly, then lay back down flat.
Wes flopped down next to Hobbie. "Do you want cuddles, or do you want me to let you rest and maybe bring you soup and painkillers and a hot pad?" he asked.
"Just stay," Hobbie said. "I need you. You can get me soup later. I have painkillers right here."
Wes wrapped his arms gently around Hobbie's waist. "I was worried," he murmured softly.
"I'm ok. More embarrassed to be honest," Hobbie assured him. "There was a short in the nervous system connections so movement was obviously not going to happen."
"If you can't walk, you fall over," Wes agreed. "As we proved on Hoth."
"Definitely," Hobbie agreed. He leaned against Wes, soaking up his heat. "Today has been awful."
"Shall I tuck us in with blankets and you can complain all about it?" Wes asked sympathetically.
"I don't really want to talk about it," Hobbie said. "But I do like the idea of wrapping up in blankets. I'm sore and just that tired where I can't quite sleep but it's hard to do anything."
"Blankets it is," Wes said decidedly. He leaned up and kissed Hobbie's cheek quickly. "You lie there and rest, I'll fetch some. Do you want a hot pad too?"
Hobbie sighed. "Please?"
Wes patted his chest reassuringly, a quick pat-pat, and rolled out of bed. He trotted off to rummage through Hobbie's storage cupboards, digging out blankets.
Hobbie covered his face with one hand. "You're too good to me, Wes."
"I'm the exact right amount of good to you and you know it," Wes retorted cheerfully. "You need somebody to cuddle you and mollycoddle you. If you try to evade it I shall bring you hot cocoa." He nodded decisively and dove into another cupboard.
"Force forbid," Hobbie said. "I'm yours to cuddle and mollycoddle. Mollycoddle. Is that like caring for someone?" he asked.
"Very gently," Wes said. "Wrap them up in sheet padding and don't let any harm come to them."
"Oh. Ok," Hobbie said. "Too late for that last one," he grinned.
Wes stuck his tongue out. "I should keep you locked to my wrist at all times so you stop injuring yourself when I'm not around." He frowned for a moment. "You might scare the babies, though."
"That's my purpose in this life," Hobbie told him. "Making everyone scared and being a sarcastic bastard."
"You balance me out," Wes agreed, trotting over to the bed with his arms full of blankets. "I found a couple of hot pads, where do you want them?"
Hobbie rolled onto his left side. "One up at my shoulders and another on my lower back, please."
Wes slid the hot pads into place and smoothed them out for Hobbie. "Good?"
Hobbie nodded and nuzzled his nose against Wes's. "Very. I'm off-duty until tomorrow. Barring an emergency."
"Only until tomorrow," Wes said dryly, glancing at where Hobbie's faulty legs leaned against the wall near the foot of the bed.
"They fixed it for now. They're sourcing me some replacements. These are old enough that they were made in the Clone Wars," Hobbie said.
Wes could feel his face going through about seven different expressions before it settled on... something, he wasn't quite sure what. "I suppose it just didn't occur to anybody to upgrade you before they actually dumped you on your face?" he asked, sarcasm trying to mask rising anger. "What if that had happened in combat? We're the New Republic now, we're supposed to have supply chains, especially for the pilots who are being built up as symbols of doing the impossible!" He was shouting by the time he finished, fear and frustration and outrage all bubbling up inside him. He huffed out a ragged breath and tried to calm down. "You know it's not like I'm saying we should get the best of everything. But more and more, Rogue Squadron is getting sent into scenarios that nobody else would get out of alive. So you'd think somebody could at least kriffing run some kind of routine tune-up to make sure that, oh, maybe none of our crack pilots are going to have their legs explode underneath them and leave them to die!" He was shouting again.
Hobbie looked at him, surprised. "I never brought it up, I suppose. I do maintenance regularly and they passed every threshold. But, come here," he said, opening his arms. "It was really kriffing terrifying. I'm glad it happened like this but you're absolutely right. I'll be more careful. But I promise, they have been maintained."
Wes crawled into Hobbie's arms and held him close. "I could have lost you," he choked, his eyes stinging. "If this happened in combat. I couldn't... you'd be a target..." A sob surprised him. All too clearly, he could see it -- Hobbie's fighter dead, his own wheeling frantically around it, trying to field attacks from too many sides. The sick taste of failure when he inevitably lost. He sniffled and blinked, trying to banish the phantom, but tears began to flow.
Hobbie held him, stroking his spine. "It's valid. Let it out. That's the danger we've accepted. Anything can happen in battle but it's ok to feel this. You didn't lose me, I'm fine. We'll make sure I get more updates and upgrades. We're wingmates and we watch out for each other. I'm ok. I'm just fine. I'm not going to say it'll never happen again but we’ll deal with it as it comes. I'm still pretty damn dangerous even down a few limbs."
Wes sobbed quietly, clinging to Hobbie. "We accepted the necessary dangers," he managed, stammering a little. "This one was preventable. Should have been." He gulped. "It... it had to be, right?"
Hobbie considered it. "For the most part, yes. This is a glitch that came with the fact that they're fairly old. Yes, I should have upgraded. But it was easier to just keep what I had. That's on me."
Wes held him close, trembling. "I... I don't know why I'm crying. I'm sorry."
"You are allowed to be upset and cry. It's scary. I'd be just as upset if the situation were reversed. I know it doesn't feel enough but I'm ok. I'm doing everything I can to avoid this in the future," Hobbie promised.
Wes nodded and sniffled. "Blankets," he said. "Blankets and snuggles."
"Sounds fantastic," Hobbie told him. "I cherish you."
Wes hugged him tight for a moment, careful not to hurt him, then got back up and started spreading the blankets carefully over Hobbie. "Snug and safe," he said. "I really am going to start wrapping you in sheet padding, just you wait."
Hobbie chuckled. "Might be hard to fly with."
Wes glanced away for a second, biting back the impulse to admit that he didn't want Hobbie flying. He knew this was the bargain they had both made. But it hurt.
Hobbie cupped his chin and kissed him. It was unspoken but they both knew the stakes.
Wes returned the kiss tenderly. "Let me get tucked in properly," he said. "Do you want me to get undressed first, or may as well not bother?"
"Undressed is fine. I just want you," Hobbie told him.
Wes quickly undressed and slid into the bed next to Hobbie, cuddling up next to him. "Good, because that's what you're going to get," he teased.
"It is nice to get what I want," Hobbie teased. "Would you like to undress me?"
Wes smiled softly. "I would like that very much." He began gently helping Hobbie out of his underclothes, strong arms cradling Hobbie while Wes slid the garments off him, careful not to jostle or bump any of his bruises. He kissed Hobbie's skin in a few places, paused to gently caress his bony frame -- not pushing toward anything more vigorous, just trying to express the love that was sometimes too much for his stumbling tongue.
Hobbie looked at him like he was the best thing he'd ever seen. "I'm very lucky to have been found by you."
Wes lay down next to him and pulled him close. "I am so lucky," he replied fervently. "Every day. Every kriffing day we're together, I don't know how I lived any other way."
Hobbie nodded. "We need each other so. I adore you."
Wes made a shy little noise and blushed. "I'm glad you're okay."
"I'm glad too. You're so vital to me," Hobbie told him. "I don't want you going to battle without me."
Wes buried his face in Hobbie's shoulder. "I mean..." It was so, so hard to say what he meant. To wrap it into words and put it out there to be misunderstood. "You're my wingmate. I don't want to give it up. But I... I'd rather..." This was going to come out wrong, he just knew it. "I'd rather you'd be there to come home to," he mumbled all in a breath.
Hobbie rubbed a hand down Wes's spine. "I do understand. But I'm very selfish and I want to be your wingmate whenever possible. Piloting is important to me. I believe in what we fought for and what we still fight to maintain. I'm sure there will be a time where I decide I'm finished. But not yet. I can't give you that yet."
Wes nodded. "I know. I'm not asking you to. But... I'm selfish too."
"That's ok," Hobbie told him. "You'd keep me safe and protected if you could. I would do likewise but I'd rather be with you, being on your wing,"
Wes nodded. "Someday."
Hobbie hugged him close. "I'm not some fragile thing that you have to put under glass to keep safe," he teased gently.
Wes burrowed his head under Hobbie's chin. He didn't know how to respond to that. He wanted to... to accept that, to respect Hobbie's right to risk his own life at Wes's side, but the ever-present fear of losing his wingman had flared up and all he could think of was the encroaching bleakness that would be life after Hobbie.
Hobbie breathed in and out, holding him. "Don't be scared. Stay here with me, Wes. Be in the moment, my cherished one."
"I'm sorry," Wes said, his voice a little shaky. He needed to be stronger. "I should be the one comforting you. You're who got hurt."
"I'm far more prepared for this than you are," Hobbie told him. "You just being here helps."
Wes nodded. "Well, that I can do."
Hobbie held him, stroking his back. "I cherish you."
"I love you too," Wes said.
They laid together, lightly dozing. Everything was at peace for a brief moment.