For a prompt: "Of all the lights in all of space, none burn so bright as this."
The Rebel base on Belatha barely deserved the designation—little more than a signal relay, some spare fuel cells and a couple damp-smelling cots tucked away in a cave. “Whelp,” Han says, considering it all his hands on his hips. “Glad the Alliance is finally making good on those all promises of luxury and comfort.”
Luke huffs our something like a laugh, and Chewie grumbles under his breath that Han is welcome to share the Falcon’s narrow bunk with Jedi Knees-and-Elbows if the accommodations weren’t to his liking. Leia just sighs and trudges over to the signal relay, crouching down and tapping hopefully at the keys.
They’ve been sent on enough missions together that there’s very little talk, between then and when dusk finally falls. Luke jerks his chin toward the cave, and Han follows; Chewie goes to check the water supply as Leia swears at, kicks and gets the relay up and working. Luke and Han drag the pallets out into the starshine, play-shadowboxing with them until they’ve knocked all the dust and spores out. Luke throws his head back and laughs, even as Han tells him to keep his head down, Jedi, and throw his punches from the shoulder unless he’s looking for a broken wrist.
Leia transmits whatever message she’s meant to transmit—she’s got a security clearance far above the rest of them, hard-earned from so many years in the Imperial Senate, even if she does tend to get a little snobbish about it sometimes. When she straightens up, her knees pop. She uses the relay sparkplug to light the fire Chewie has been building; he grumbles his thanks.
Starset comes early, evening drawing all of them close to the fire. They’re used to the long hours of Yavin IV, where afternoon is heavy and dusk lingers, caught on the thick of the trees. Here there are few trees, and when darkness falls Leia looks up, and shivers. Han comes, wordlessly wraps his jacket around her shoulders.
Luke and Han have stretched out the pallets by the fire, to dry.
“This is so…primitive,” Leia says later that evening, poking at the protein pack Luke heated over the fire. It wobbles.
“We used to do this all the time at home,” Luke says, throwing Leia a look, and her eyes go half-lidded, her mouth turning down at the corners. “Aunt Beru cooked all our meat over a carbon-smoke fire, she said it improved the taste.”
“If this was any less like meat, farmboy, it’d be green and we could have picked it off a tree” Han says through a mouthful of protein pack. (He’s a spacer—he wouldn’t know the taste of real organic protein if you served it to him on a golden platter. Both Leia and Luke are thinking this at the same time, though Luke is thinking of the few times Owen brought home fresh bantha and Beru roasted it in the courtyard, till all the air smelled of sizzling fat; and Leia is thinking of traditional Alderaanian chicken, with spices that made her cry. They both promise themselves that later, when the war is over, they’ll—
Well, they will.)
After dinner, the pallets are still damp so they stretch themselves out across the grass. It’s soft enough, and Chewie is coaxed to sing in a high, yodeling voice that is sweet and yet somehow mournful. Han is between Luke and Leia and he finds himself translating, even though his understanding of Shyriiwook past pluperfect is shaky.
(He has his hands tucked behind his head, and at some point, Luke’s head comes to rest on his bicep, with Leia’s hand tucked into the pocket of his jacket. Han stutters out the next verse, stammering, and then, the brave hero Bacca, dark-eyed clever Bacca, who loved—)
They are almost asleep, when the star goes blazing across the heavens.
They’re soldiers—even Han, who claims not to be—and so they’re on their feet before it can disappear, all that brightness. It is silver and terrible, light flooding the world and turning it to unforgiving edges. Luke is the one who looks up first, instead of to the treeline, searching for enemy blasters, but Leia is the one who chokes, stumbling backwards.
“What the hells,” Han breathes, shielding his eyes. “It looks like an explosion, did leadership say anything about a battle—?”
Leia makes a noise like a wounded animal, and when Luke and Han look, she’s staring up at the sky the way she sometimes looks at Draven, or Mothma, like she’s thinking about people that are still here, when others aren’t.
“Leia…” Luke says tentatively, reaching for her arm.
“That’s Alderaan,” she says, and her voice is hollow, half a sob. “I can—that’s where it was in the sky. That’s—Mother of Kwath, we’re…”
Han hisses, low in his throat—he’s good at interstellar calculus, he knows how far they are from that field of meteor dust, suspended in space. Light travels slower than you might think, really; there are some places it doesn’t reach for months, even years, after it lit up the sky of a world.
Alderaan died one standard year and three months ago, but that’s not that long, when you consider how far they are into the Outer Rim.
Leia goes to her knees even before Luke can turn, and follow her down. He wraps his arm around her neck, and she sobs against his stomach. She mourns—too late, an lightyear and several months’ too late, but Leia still sobs against the scratchy white of Luke’s tunic. He holds her by the hair, his fingers wound tightly, and maybe Leia thinks—
(The problem is Luke and Han, or Leia and Han, or Luke and Leia and Han, or—no one’s really sure what the problem is, except this uneven swinging balancing act between them, full of sweetness and pain and agony. ‘Vital’ is nonspecific, it only communicates the urgency, the hotblooded need, which doesn’t….need isn’t neat. ‘Need’ is urgent, doesn’t care what it takes.
Han feels sick, watching Luke and Leia, Luke-and-Leia. They’re wound so profound, so tight—)
Leia cries all night, after. When they wake in the morning, the dying light of Alderaan is still silvery-green above them; the most immediate moon watery and weak. “We are coming home,” is Leia’s transmission, decoded because Luke and Han have gone serious and uneasy, and she can’t stand the thought of losing them.
“We are coming home, and all will be well. I tell you—all will be well.”
They fly the whole way back to Yavin IV with Han’s hand skitting across Leia’s skin, and Luke with his cheek, pressed flush against hers. An endless feedback loop of all will be well, and this I tell you; all will be well.