aka, A Picnic at the End of the World. My Shadows of Mindor quoting saga continues…
Han sat on the polyfilm survival blanket under the Falcon’s starboard
mandible, hugging his knees and waiting for the sun to rise. Leia lay on the
blanket beside him, breathing slowly and easily now. She looked like she
was only asleep.
He didn’t think he should wake her up.
The only word Leia had been able to speak had been light. She’d kept
asking for light, even with every light source within the Falcon dialed up to
maximum. She must have been talking about a different kind of light.
And when Han had gotten the grim news on their situation from Lando,
he’d figured that he might as well give her what she was asking for.
Everyone was going to die anyway. There was no escaping this trap. The
choice was between being killed by the breakup of Mindor or being roasted
alive by Taspan’s stellar flares.
So he’d set down the Falcon on the shattered battlefield, spread the
blanket, and made Leia as comfortable as he could. Chewbacca had hung
back; he watched over them from the Falcon’s cockpit, out of respect.
Humans, he understood, often wanted privacy at times like these.
Han had stayed at Leia’s side as her seizures quieted; he stayed at her
side as her every pore oozed black and shiny meltmassif, as it drained off
her and puddled on the blanket. And he would stay at her side as the
groundquakes strengthened and the killing sun rose over the horizon.
He would be at her side when the planet exploded.
A bitter irony: she had suffered so much from being forced to watch her
homeworld destroyed. Now she would die in very much the same brutal
fashion as had her family and all her people.
That was why he figured he probably shouldn’t wake her up.
But the Force again displayed that nasty sense of humor; Leia stirred, and
her eyelids fluttered. “Han… ?”
“I’m here, Leia.” He felt like his heart would burst. “I’m right here.”
Her hand sought his. “So dark…”
“Yeah,” Han said. “But the sun’s coming up.”
“No… not here. Where I was.” She drew in a deep breath and released it in
a long, slow sigh. “It was so dark, Han. It was so dark for so long I couldn’t
even remember who I was. I couldn’t remember anything.”
Her eyes opened and found his face. “Except for you.”
Han swallowed and squeezed her hand. He didn’t trust his voice.
“It was like…like you were with me,” she murmured. “You were all I had
left - and I didn’t need anything else.”
“I’m with you now,” he said, his voice hoarse, unsteady. “We’re together.
And we always will be.”
“Han…” She pushed herself up to a sitting position and swiped a hand
across her eyes. “Is there anything to eat?”
“I’m hungry. Is there any food?”
Han shook his head, baffled. He nodded around at the stormtrooper
corpses that littered the field. “Nothing but, y'know, Imperial ration packs.
And they’re probably stale.”
“I don’t care.”
“Are you kidding?”
She shrugged, and gave him a smile that even now, even here, minutes
from their deaths, made his heart race and his breath go short.
“We’ll make it a picnic,” she said. “We’ll have a picnic and watch the sun
rise. One last time.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that sounds good.”
He stripped some ration packs off dead troopers, and they sat together,
shoulder to shoulder, eating in silence as the horizon began to blaze as
though the planet were on fire.
“Well, one thing’s for sure.” Han pushed an echo of his old half grin onto
his face. “This is one meal we’ll never forget as long as we live, huh?”
Leia smiled, though her eyes sparkled with tears. “Always the joker. Even
now. Even here.”
Han nodded. “Well, y'know, we always get romantic when we’re about to
die. It was getting repetitive.”
The ground beneath them spasmed once, then again, and Leia said, “I
think we should respect the tradition.”
“Kiss me, Han. One last time.” She lifted a hand to his cheek. Her touch
was warm and dry, and impossibly precious to him. “Once for all the kisses
we’ll never get.”
He gathered her into his arms and lowered his face to hers - and then a
great Wookiee yelp of joy that echoed all the way from the cockpit yanked
his head up and popped open his eyes. “What? Chewie, you’re sure?”
Chewbacca pounded on the cockpit’s transparisteel and waved both his
arms, frantically beckoning. Han sprang to his feet and lifted Leia as
though she weighed nothing at all. “Han - what is it?” she gasped. “What did
“All those other kisses you were talking about?” His eyes alight, he pulled
her toward the Falcon’s freight lift. “He said if we move fast, we might get
every one of ‘em after all!”
- Matt Stover, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor