Wedge Antilles can bisect his life into two neat sections.
There’s before Yavin, and after Yavin.
The Battle of, he will sometimes clarify, though not always. Narrowing it down is difficult. He’d like to say that everything changed when the Death Star blew, taking with it a million lives, and avenging all those who’d lost theirs on Alderaan, on Scarif, on Jedha. He suspects that the moment is earlier; either when he shot a TIE fighter off Luke, saving him, enabling him to make the shot, or when he pulled out the Death Star trench. That’s when his soul was ripped from his body. Maybe it was reforged in the embers of the Death Star, remade and shoved back into his body – but by then, he was irrevocably changed.
All he knows is this; he landed a different man.
Sometimes, he wonders if it happened earlier. Whether the transition took place as battle raged above Scarif. He didn’t fight in that battle, though many assume he must have, and there are few alive who could correct the rewriting of history.
In his heart, he knows it didn’t. But… what happened to him, it has its roots there.
There are, without a doubt, significant moments in his life before Yavin.
(The deaths of his parents, leaving a sixteen year old boy standing in the ashes of everything they’d built and being unable to see a future; being boarded by Imperials whilst he was running Contraband for Booster Terrik and being terrified that his life was over, and them delivering a recruitment pitch instead, which he’d taken without a second thought; the arrival of Sabine Wren after he’d started to have doubts, who’d stood on a bridge of Skystrike Academy and said I was sent in to get you out.)
He’s with the Rebellion for three months before he is sent on a mission to aid in the rescue of a number of important persons from an Imperial Camp. He is briefed by one of the myriad Fulcrum Agents – this one a man, with wide eyes and dark hair and the shadow of stubble dark on his cheeks. He’s young, but there’s no innocence about him. There isn’t a lot of innocence going in the Rebellion.
He crashes the A-Wing he’d been given into the lip of a Volcano, not entirely on purpose. But it provides sufficient distraction for Fulcrum to get what was needed, even if Wedge does end up breaking his leg in three places. He’s pulled out the wreckage of his ship by Sabine Wren and Zeb Orrelios, who bind him up well enough to get him back to the Ghost, and off planet. “I can’t take you anywhere,” Sabine Wren sighs, as she bundles him into her bunk to rest. “You know I’m not always going to be around to rescue your ass, right, Antilles?”
Wedge thinks that he’s two-for-two, and that’s not so bad. “Maybe someday you’ll need me to rescue yours.”
Sabine snorts, and rolls her eyes. “Yeah. That’ll be the day.” But she grins at him, and Wedge smiles back. Then she pokes his leg, and he lets out a gasp of pain. “You need proper medical attention, you know.”
Wedge nods, his attention momentarily caught by a shadow in the doorway. “You did good today, Antilles.” Fulcrum looks weary but none the worse for wear. “The Rebellion thanks you for your service.”
For just a moment, a smile crosses his face, and it lights up the entire room. But it’s gone as quickly as it appears, and then Fulcrum is too.
Wedge hears the roar of celebration from the gathered crowd at Yavin, watches as the Princess throws Luke Skywalker at that no-good-Corellian smuggler who’d saved them all, and fights the rising bile in his throat.
He wants to be sick.
He almost is, dry-retching as he settles his feet back onto solid ground. Strips off his gloves, throwing them to the floor, and waves his helmet at a passing tech. He wants to be out of these things. His skin crawls, as he thinks of how he pulled out that trench, left Biggs to die, left Luke to make the shot on his own. It had been the right choice, Wedge knows that intellectually, but he can’t fight the wrongness of it. He slinks underneath his X-Wing, thanking that he is no one remarkable. No one but the pilots is going to remember who was in Red Two. And there aren’t many of those left.
It’s late evening, as he steps out of the temple and out onto the planet’s surface. He clambers down the steps, contemplating wandering out into the jungle and just… never coming back. Why is he the only survivor? It’s not enough that the pilots’ roster was decimated at Scarif: now it has been culled even further.
But there’s Skywalker. This brazen, blonde-haired kid, who’d shown up and believed and fought, who’d saved them all.
He’s going to need a friend. And yes, he’s got a couple of those, and maybe he doesn’t need Wedge like that. But – if he’s going to be a pilot, and after the display Wedge has just seen there’s no doubt he will be – he’ll need someone to guide him through that.
Wedge can do that.
Wedge’s skin is itching for action. He’s standing near the back of the largest briefing room on Yavin, hearing about the latest weapon the Empire has created, a weapon with the power to wipe them all out.
Erso’s words have their intended affect on him. Rebellions are built on hope. Even as everyone else debates the merits of her plan, Wedge wants to fight. Erso’s right – they need to take this thing down, no matter what it takes. Wedge looks to Mon Mothma, who weighs the words of each of her councillors, before coming to a decision.
It’s not the one Wedge wants. It’s not the one he thinks she should be making. As the crowd disperses – because maybe they aren’t taking this mission but there will be others, and they need to be ready – he catches sight of the man standing besides Jyn Erso, and Wedge recognises him.
It’s the Fulcrum agent, the one from years ago. He’s talking in hushed tones to Erso, attempting to – Wedge isn’t quite sure whether he’s trying to placate her, or fire her up. He’s not close enough.
Regardless, Erso storms off. Fulcrum seems to consider following her for a brief moment, before letting out a soft sigh and turning back to the briefing table. There’s no one else in sight, so Wedge decides to approach. “Hey.”
Fulcrum turns his head, a biting response on his tongue. Then he sees Wedge and his features soften. “Hey. Antilles, wasn’t it? Still with us?”
“Never left,” Wedge replies. “Some things are worth fighting for.”
“Heh.” A cough catches in Fulcrum’s throat, and the edges of his lips quirk upwards into a smile. “That they are.”
“If you need any help—” Wedge starts. It’s an offer that’s largely baseless – what use does an Alliance Intelligence Officer have for a second-rate pilot? But he can’t let it going unsaid. If Fulcrum wants his help, Wedge is happy to offer it.
Fulcrum claps Wedge on the shoulder. “Thanks,” he says. “But I think I got it covered.”
“Why did you let Lieutenant Skywalker make the shot?”
Mon Mothma’s tone is perfectly neutral; she’s not accusing Wedge of anything, she’s just curious. Yet Wedge still sits on the edge of his chair, hands clenched into fists, unsure of why he’s there. When the Chancellor of the Alliance to Restore the Republic summons you to her office, you don’t say no.
“I—” Wedge throws himself back, to those panicked moments over the Death Star. When it had just been him and Luke and Biggs, three X-Wings that stood between the Death Star and the destruction of the Alliance. He’d barely been able to breathe, let alone think straight. “It seemed right.” Truth be told, he hadn’t let Luke do anything; it had just happened, and Wedge hadn’t questioned it. “He was there, and I—” His hands shake, just as they had in his X-Wing. “I didn’t believe I could make the shot. But he did.”
He looks up at Mon Mothma, expecting her to say something. But her mouth is still folded into a neutral line, eyes studying Wedge. “I was sat next to him in the briefing, did you know that?” Wedge finds the words slipping out his mouth. Anything to fill the silence. “I told him what you asked of us was impossible, and he told me it wasn’t. He had faith. More than me. So I wanted him to take the shot. If anyone could do it – it would be Luke.” He bobs his head, convinced that he made the right choice. “He did it.”
“That he did.” Mon Mothma’s eyes are clear. “You did well, Wedge.” The use of his first name startles him, makes him jump. He wasn’t even aware she knew it. “Your determination and service to the Alliance is much appreciated. All those on Yavin owe you their thanks.”
The words stir memories in Wedge. “That’s what Cassian—” Wedge trips over the name. It was never Fulcrum, for all that Wedge never learnt it until seeing it on the list of the dead. “—said, years ago.”
“You knew Cassian?”
Mon Mothma seems surprised at that. Wedge supposes that, even though she’s head of the Alliance, she can’t know everything.
“Knew is a strong word,” Wedge says. “We met, once or twice. He seemed like a good man.”
“Yes,” Mon Mothma says. “He was. And he wasn’t,” she adds, but does not deign to elaborate on what she means by that. “This war may make monsters of us all, before it ends.” She closes her eyes, deep in thought. “Skywalker. You know who he is, what he could mean to this Alliance?”
“I’ve seen the lightsaber he keeps on his belt, if that’s what you mean.”
Mon smiles, a slight, cautious thing. “You’ll protect him, won’t you? I know his type, and— let’s say that the Jedi like that were never famed for their preservation instincts.”
“Ma’am, you don’t have to ask.” There’s not a doubt in Wedge’s mind about how he wants to spend the rest of his life. “I’ll keep Luke Skywalker safe.”
The alarms sound loudly overhead, summoning pilots to their ships and soldiers to their stations.
Wedge doesn’t have a ship to go to; he’s a reservist, lucky to be cleared for combat as it is. He mills about, wanting to help in any way he can, preparing X-Wings for combat and aiding their pilots into them. That is, until he sees a familiar droid amble across the hangar.
He jumps down from the S-foils of the X-Wing and yells “Chopper!” as he chases the orange, white and yellow droid. The droid flat out ignores Wedge, continuing on with a warble. It’s Chopper all over. However, Chooper does lead Wedge to the Ghost, which is already preparing its take-off sequence.
“Captain Syndulla?” Wedge stands halfway up the gangway, one of his hands awkwardly grasping the frame of the ship.
“Wedge?” He whips his head around, to see Hera Syndulla standing, hands on hips, at the end of the ramp. “What are you doing here?” she asks.
“Saw Chop, wondered if that meant the rest of you were here as well?” Wedge explains, shrugging his shoulders.
“Just me and Chop,” Hera replies. “Sabine’s on Mandalore.”
Wedge ducks his head, fighting the warmth in his cheeks. He guesses it’s only logical that he’d be looking for Sabine. She’s the only member of the Ghost crew he’d ever known well. And it would have been nice to see her, even if the crush he had on her – which was only to be expected, she’d saved his life twice – was mostly dead and buried. But that’s not actually the reason he came over. “Do you need a gunner? Navigator? Spare pair of hands?”
“You’re not going up in a Starfighter?” Hera raises an eyebrow, clearly questioning the wisdom of that decision. Wedge shakes his head. “I’ve got all the crew I need,” she says. “And while I’m not one to say no to an extra pair of hands – I’m not risking another life. Sorry, Wedge.”
Wedge swallows, irritated at how cleanly she’d seen through his desperation, to be up there, fighting amongst his friends, to die for the Rebellion. “That’s okay,” he says, scuffing his feet as he walks down the ramp. No point in delaying her take-off any further. “Stay safe.”
“I’ll try.” Hera catches Wedge’s arm, before he can vanish completely. “You look after yourself, too. Don’t do anything reckless. And I’ll pass your love onto Sabine next time I see her.” Her grip on his coveralls is secure and warm, and she holds it for a long moment before letting him go. Wedge staggers a step backward. He doesn’t have anything to say.
Hera vanishes into her ship, and a minute later – Wedge backed away to a safe distance – they’re lifting away, off to Scarif.
Wedge finds Luke in the pilots’ ready room, looking unexpectedly solemn. But his entire face brightens as he turns to see Wedge, shuffling over to make room for him on the bench. Wedge sits, slightly closer than necessary, finding the warmth and solidity of Luke’s body reassuring.
“They’re giving me a Squadron,” Luke says.
Wedge knows that Luke will do well. He’s seen Luke in action, lead pilots into battle. Maybe he hasn’t done as much flying as some would have expected, after the victory at Yavin – he’s taken a number of ground missions with Han and Leia, and has devoted himself to trying to find any remaining scraps of information about the Jedi.
“I want you to be my second. Executive officer, whatever the military lingo is.”
Wedge’s eyes widen in surprise. “XO, that’s the right term,” he confirms. “Is this ’cause you still haven’t worked out how the Alliance requisition forms work? It’s traditional for the CO to load as much of the datawork as possible off on their poor XO, and I can’t imagine we’re going to break with the trend.”
“No.” Luke’s hand is firm on Wedge’s shoulder, fingers gripping the material of Wedge’s flightsuit, and his blue eyes are bright and intense. “I want you because you’re one of the best pilots I know, because there’s no one else I’d rather have watching my back. Because you’re a leader, and the pilots trust you, and you understand them. Because I trust you.” Wedge looks everywhere but at Luke, abashed at his unexpected praise. “And yeah, I could do with some help with the datawork.”
Luke shoves Wedge away with a grin, and Wedge laughs, even as he attempts to get Luke back. They end up on the floor, Luke pinning Wedge to the ground. There’s a wide smile on Luke’s face as Wedge looks up and is utterly enraptured. Wedge swats lightly at Luke, and Luke, satisfied with his victory, goes with it, lying down beside Wedge.
“We need a name,” Luke says, turning his head so he’s looking at Wedge. His fingers brush against Wedge’s wrist. “We can’t have Red. I asked for it – apparently it’s in use elsewhere.”
Wedge has one. “Rogue.” He catches Luke’s wandering fingers in his. “Rogue Squadron.”
Wedge was in the comm centre during the battle.
(He shouldn’t have been. He stripped out of his orange flightsuit and into the standard Rebellion fatigues and slipped in and took up a post and no one said anything of it.)
He heard the casualties. Heard the explosions of ships, kept a running tally in his head of just how bad it was. And still, when he sees the number of ships which touch back down, the breath is sucked out of him. They’ve lost so much. He searches the X-Wings, desperately hoping for a single scrap of blue paint. He can’t find any. Just red. That means… all of Blue Squadron. The Rebellions’ best. Annihilated. And General Merrick gone with them.
Kriffing hells, what are they supposed to do now?
“Antilles!” Wedge runs towards the sound of the voice. It’s Red Leader. “You know a bit about mechanics, right?”
“A bit.” About as much as any Starfighter pilot with sense does – there’s always the chance that you’ll be stranded, when it’s just you and your ship, and you better know how to rescue yourself. And Wedge spent a lot of time while he was injured reading Starfighter manuals, and learning tricks. He’d been determined to prove himself useful in some way shape or form.
“Good. We’ll need every hand we can get. We lost a lot of birds out there, and we need to be fighting fit. We’ll be repairing and salvaging what we can.” Dreis is totally calm about the situation. By Wedge’s count, he lost five men today. “Get to it. And find an X-Wing of your own, Red Two.”
Wedge nods, bashing off a quick salute. Dreis returns it, then vanishes – presumably to find replacements for the other pilots. He’ll find them. Hobbie Klivian brought a squad’s worth of defecting Imperial pilots in aboard the Rand Ecliptic two days ago. They might not know X-Wings, but they’ll do.
He scrambles off himself, to find a technician and work out where his help is most needed. And which X-Wing will be his. And, loathe as he is for it to come on the backs of so many deaths, he’s excited. Finally. A chance to be back in the action.
Losing pilots is never easy. Losing an entire Squadron is almost always awful. And when it was the entirety of Renegade Flight, along with Commander Naara… well, Wedge was taking it the way he usually did. Badly. He’d retreated back to his room, had a stiff drink of a liquor that had burned the entire way down, and added twelve more names to his litany.
A litany that is far too long already, and they are fighting a war with no end in sight, and Wedge knows that these are not the last names that will be added to this list. Maybe he will join them before it gets too long for him to remember.
He lies back on his bunk and waits for sleep – or something else – to claim him. Alone. Until his door opens a crack, and Luke slips in. “Wedge?” he asks, keeping his voice low.
Luke doesn’t bother asking if Wedge is okay, unlike everyone else Wedge has spoken to that evening. He knows Wedge isn’t, and he also knows that Wedge will have shaken this off by tomorrow to be the pilot that the Rebellion needs again. So, instead, Luke just steps across the room and crawls into the bunk next to Wedge. It’s cramped, not built to house two grown men, but they’ve done this a couple of times, and know how to fit themselves together. Luke pulls one of Wedge’s arms around him, pressing his back against Wedge’s chest, and threading his fingers through Wedge’s.
Wedge can feel the rise and fall of Luke’s chest, and that – that provides more comfort than any of the empty words he’s received that day. And he thanks the Force that Luke understands intuitively what Wedge needs, and is happy to provide it.
“Do you want to tell me about them?” Luke asks, his voice barely above a whisper. “It doesn’t have to be Naara’s crew. Anyone on that list of yours. If that would help, I want to listen.”
Luke’s right. Naara and Renegade Flight. Those losses are too new. “Can I tell you about the Rogues?” Wedge asks. “The originals, I mean? The Rogue One crew?”
“The team who stole the Death Star plans?”
“Yeah,” Wedge says. “They were an unlikely bunch. But I guess we all were. Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus – they were guardians, from a planet called Jedha. One with the Force in someway. You should have met them. Jyn Erso – she was like Han, I guess, in a way, reluctant at the start… I barely met her. She was here and gone so quickly. Then there was a pilot, an Imperial who defected – but I think he was like me. He was never really Imperial. Not where it mattered. His name was Bodhi. Bodhi Rook. They had a droid, too. K-2SO. He and R2 – they’d have got on well, I think. Similar sense of snark. And then… they were led by Captain Andor. Cassian. He was Alliance Intelligence.” Wedge allows himself a small smile in remembrance. “You know that time I crashed an A-Wing and broke my leg? Cassian was the agent in charge of that mission.”
Wedge carries on, reciting the names of the pilots of Blue Squadron, the others who joined the ground team, Admiral Raddus’s crew. Luke occasionally pipes up, with a question or two, a reassuring word, but otherwise just lets Wedge speak. Get it all out. He ends up coming back round to Rogue One. “Without them – we’d never have stood a chance. The flaw in the Death Star… I can’t believe we’d have done it, without them. I said it was impossible, and it really would have been. So many people gave their lives, just to give them a chance, and they gave their lives just to give us a chance.” Wedge’s voice gave out, and he pulled Luke even closer, burying his face into Luke’s neck.
“And we took it,” Luke says. “And we keep on taking it every day, Wedge. That’s all we can do. Respect the choices they made, and use what they gave us to build a new world.” He pauses for a moment, then says: “Didn’t Erso say something? Rebellions are built on hope. Thanks to them, we’ve got it, and we’re going to keep on until we bring it to as many people we can. No matter how dark things look.”
“Yeah.” Wedge nods. He doesn’t loosen his grip on Luke. “Thanks, Luke.”
“Anytime.” Luke lets himself relax. “Thank you,” he says, just before sleep overtakes him. “For telling me about them.”
Wedge doesn’t say anything in response. He’s just glad that the stories will live on.