Sam, Bela, and Dean ditched their trooper armor in the corridor
outside the trash compactor. There was no point in wearing the things
anymore, since their chances of being caught were about the same in or
out of the dirty armor at this point. Sam for one, was very glad to
leave the smell behind.
“Well gents, let’s get a move on,” Bela said and started down the hall.
“Uh-uh,” Dean stepped in front of her. “No way are you leading after that little adventure.” Sam opened his mouth to interject but Dean held his finger up. “And neither are you after that idiot rescue plan.”
“You ought to be grateful you’re not being executed right now,” Bela reminded him, planting her hand on her hip. “Instead of barking at us.”
Ree clicked in agreement.
Dean pointed at the green being. “Don’t you take her side like you always do.” He shook his head and turned to lead the way. “C’mon.”
Sam cleared his throat. “So, you guys know each other?”
“No,” Dean said quickly while Bela tossed her hair and replied at the same moment, “Obviously.” He shot her a glare over his shoulder.
“And you knew that other guy, too – Cas?” Sam said.
“Look, kid, how about we get the hell out of here and then we can swap stories and play catch up, all right?”
Sam snorted. “’Kid’? C’mon, you’re barely older than me.”
“If the shoe fits, Sammy,” Dean shot back.
“Wow, never call me that again.”
The foursome stopped to check the coast was clear before proceeding down the next corridor. Sam had no idea how Dean knew where he was going, but was glad he did. From what he’d experienced of the place so far, it was a maze. Everything looked the same.
“But seriously,” Sam tried again. “How do you guys know each other?”
The tension between Dean and Bela was thick and the looks they shot each other spoke of volumes of history. Knowing Dean was a Rebel leader and Bela was... not exactly the most reputable smuggler, it seemed strange to Sam they would cross paths. Then again, she was an attractive woman unafraid of crossing the almighty Empire, and Dean was a man who openly defied them on a regular basis, so maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.
Before either Dean or Bela answered Sam, they encountered a group of patrolling Stormtroopers.
“There they are!” one shouted, and the soldiers raised their guns.
“Run!” Dean hollered, though Sam hardly needed any encouragement as laser bolts singed his hair and clothes.
Sam pelted down the corridor, the others hot on his heels and at his side. He ducked down a hall on the left and nearly ran head long into a group of startled uniformed Imperials. They shouted in surprise, but none of them were carrying any weapons.
“Out of the way!” Sam yelled, waving his gun.
The Imperials scrambled from his path and cried out for reinforcements.
“Which way?” Sam barked over his shoulder.
“Your guess is as good as mine!” Bela answered.
Sam turned to ask Dean, and stumbled to a stop when he was nowhere in sight. Bela knocked into him.
“What're you doing? Run!” she grabbed at his sleeve.
“Where's Dean? And Ree?”
“Right beh– ” Bela stopped when she realized her partner was missing as well. She paled. “Oh my God – Ree!” she called.
Several white-clad troopers barreled up the hall and began firing. Sam seized Bela’s wrist and took off running full-tilt again, ducking laser bolts and firing haphazardly back at the troopers behind them. The pair careened down the corridor, whipped around another corner, and sprinted into a random doorway to lose the pursuing troops.
This, as it turned out, was a mistake. It only led to a dead end, a sort of storage alcove. The pair staggered to a stop and whirled, only to come face to face with a couple of troopers who’d managed to keep up with them. Bolts flew back and forth and Sam and Bela dove for cover behind some large metal crates.
Sam popped up and managed to clip the one trooper in the knee, but his partner was already shouting out their location and hollering for the other soldiers. Judging by the clatter sounding down the corridor, they were mere seconds away.
They were trapped.
Dean took a right, then another, until he’d almost done a full circle and ended up in the corridor adjacent to where they’d started. Finally Dean slowed, feeling rather proud of himself – he’d definitely lost the troops chasing them back there.
“Well,” he panted, but didn’t manage another word before Ree cut him off with a series of frantic clicks and squeaks.
Where’s Bela?! she snapped. She was right there!
Dean spun in surprise only to discover Sam and Bela were nowhere to be seen. “Where’s the kid?”
I was following you! Ree clacked, waving her long arms anxiously. Where did we lose them? Are they okay? Are they –
“I don’t know,” Dean stopped her. “I know as much as you.” He cursed and raked his fingers through his hair, his thoughts racing. He added in a grim mumble, “I don’t know when we lost them.”
Did he and Ree go back and try to find Sam and Bela? Trust they’d find their way to the hanger bay? Had they been gunned down? Captured? He had no idea where they were, what had happened, where Bobby was, where Cas had jetted off to… How the hell was he supposed to come up with a semblance of a plan now, with their party so scattered?
Dean paced in a tight circle. Ree waited, twisting her green hands.
“If roles were reversed, she’d leave my ass, wouldn’t she?” Dean questioned the green being wryly.
Ree made a shrugging motion. It depends on the day, she clucked with amusement. But yeah, she probably would.
Dean heaved an irritated sigh. “Well, lucky for her, and probably unlucky for us, I’m not her.” He squared his shoulders and readied his gun. “I hope I don’t regret this, but knowing her, I probably will. C’mon.”
For what felt like the fiftieth time in too few hours, Sam was sure he was done for. A group of Stormtroopers were closing off their only exit, and he and Bela had seconds until they were shot to death or captured. Bela dropped and hissed through her teeth.
She clutched her upper arm. “It’s nothing,” she insisted.
Sam glanced at her and swallowed hard and tried to decide if surrendering would greatly shorten his already short life or possibly prolong it. He took a breath and made a motion to stand –
A great wail sounded, rather like a Rawwk on the hunt for food. There was an explosion of blasterfire from the corridor to the left, then the right, and several of the troopers were felled. Most of the remaining soldiers took off in both directions towards the sudden rounds of gunfire, leaving just a few behind to keep Sam and Bela cornered.
With the odds suddenly far more in his favor, Sam took advantage of the soldiers’ distraction and tugged Bela to her feet. He clasped the hand of her uninjured arm and leapt over fallen troops, firing any time he could get a clear shot.
The melee was over in a matter of seconds. An attack from three angles was too much for the troops to defend. Ree emerged from the smoky corridor on the right, while Dean came from the left, grinning proudly.
“Now that’s how you rescue someone,” he said.
Sam slumped in relief against the nearest wall. He mumbled out a “thanks” and tried to calm his heartrate while he had a moment to breathe – something that was proving to be a rare occurrence ever since he’d set foot in this place.
Ree hastened to Bela who was still clutching her right arm. The green female clicked and clacked so fast the noises sounded like a single blur to Sam.
“You’re hurt?” Dean frowned, moving close to Bela to inspect her wound.
“It’s not bad,” she promised, letting Dean lift her hand away from her arm.
The rebel scowled at Sam, still holding Bela’s left hand. “You let her get shot?”
Sam opened his mouth to protest but Bela placed her steady other hand on Dean’s chest.
“We were both a bit busy shooting back,” she said, her lips curling up with amusement despite the situation. “Really, darling, your protectiveness is adorable.”
Dean snorted and dropped her hand. He stepped back so her other hand wasn’t touching his chest anymore. “I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to shoot you first like I promised. Now shut up, and all of you stick with me this time.”
He gestured for them to follow and stalked away. Bela caught Sam’s eye and tossed him a wink and a flirtatious smile. Sam shook his head and followed Ree, wondering if he was ever going to understand what the hell had or hadn’t happened between Dean and Bela.
Castiel felt his presence long before he found Darth Azazel lounging against a wall in an otherwise deserted corridor. He was equally unsurprised to see that the Sith lord was expecting him.
“I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see each other after all,” Azazel drawled.
“I had to make a pit stop,” Cas replied dryly, and pushed back his robes to reveal his lightsaber hanging at his hip.
Azazel chuckled. “What can I say, I like collecting trophies of the Jedi I kill.” He stood up straight and advanced, spreading his gloved hands before him. “I have quite the collection, too, wouldn’t you agree?”
Cas didn’t let the man before him goad him into acting irrationally. His jibe hurt, though. He’d felt sick in Azazel’s quarters, seeing firsthand evidence of just how many of his brethren the Sith had murdered during the Clone Wars and the Purge – and that was only for the ones he’d kept ‘mementos’ of.
“Except I’m not dead,” Cas retorted.
“You were supposed to be, today,” said Azazel. “I had a couples execution scheduled for you and Winchester.”
Cas pressed on, “You held me captive for months. You tortured me and killed my friends and crew.”
“Blah blah, yeah yeah, is there a point coming any time soon?”
“You should have killed me when you had the chance,” said Cas flatly. “When I was listless and without purpose.”
“You were good potential leverage,” Azazel corrected, eyes flashing. “And no threat to me. Kinda like an angry dog that you’ve beaten into submission – small and cowering in the corner. Waiting for the next beating or a reward and not knowing which is coming next.”
“Things have changed,” Cas replied.
The Sith lord adopted a mock regretful expression. “Sure they have, little puppy. It’s a shame, though – I was so looking forward to killing you in front of your master, too.”
Cas refused to react. He swallowed his emotions and reached for the Force to give him strength. He could feel the cold, dark waves rippling out from Azazel. Cas gripped his lightsaber, tense and ready.
Azazel laughed, low and guttural. “It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I’ll simply kill you now, and dump your pathetic corpse at Winchester’s feet before I kill him too. Same result in the end.”
The Sith lord ignited his lightsaber, a beam of brilliant red, pulsing light. Cas flipped the switch on his own weapon, generating a column of vivid green.
Azazel bared his teeth in a nasty grin. “I’m going to make it hurt, Castiel,” he promised. “I’m going to make him pay for everything he’s put me through, every time he slipped through my fingers, and every time he and his Rebel shit friends had a so-called victory.”
He stepped slowly closer, his yellow eyes glinting with malice. “I’m going to make him watch while I burn his precious Alliance to the ground. Then I’ll cut the heart out of every damn Rebel that dared cross the Empire, and feed them to Winchester until he chokes.”
“Good luck with that,” Cas quipped, thoroughly finished with listening to Azazel’s threats.
Then in an instant, the Sith and the Jedi flew at each other in a flurry of red and green.