Once they were in the clear, Dean came to see Sam and Bobby in the small med bay of the Impala.
It wasn’t much: a few cots, a handful of cupboards stuffed with medical
supplies, and a small oxygen tank. Truthfully, until now, Dean hadn’t
needed it for much more than stitching himself up after missions and
His voice was rough as gravel when he asked, “How is he?”
Sam sighed. “Alive, for now. I put some bacta salve on the wound and I stopped the bleeding on his head, but I’m not exactly a doctor, so I don’t know how bad it could be.” He shook his hair from his eyes. “We have to get him to someone who can help him.”
Dean blinked away the moisture in his eyes. He hadn’t seen Bobby face to face in at least a few years, but the man had always been there for his father, always been there for Dean whenever he needed him. He kept up an encrypted database of Rebel safe houses, passed on information about Imperial movements, organized the smuggling of important vehicles, tools, and supplies – all from an isolated shack in the middle of a nasty desert on an Outer Rim planet. The man was a hero if there ever was one – a pillar of strength in the war against the Empire. To see him down for the count like this…
“We’re hurrying,” he assured Sam.
“Where are we going?”
“To the base.” Dean cleared his throat to mask the emotion there. “You still got those plans?”
“Good.” Dean moved to leave the med bay but hesitated. “When we were outside the cells, in that firefight. What’d Cas say to you?”
Sam avoided the other man’s gaze. “It’s not important right now.”
Dean didn’t reply at first. He tried to wait Sam out, but the kid stared steadfastly at Bobby’s sleeping form, lips pressed firmly together.
“Uh huh,” Dean finally said. “So ‘not important’ that he took a minute to whisper in your ear before walking in front of laser fire for us.”
Sam shrugged. “Guess so.”
“So he just – ”
“Look, can we talk about it later?” Sam interrupted firmly. He seemed rattled, but Dean didn’t want to let the issue drop. He needed to know if it had anything to do with Cas sacrificing himself for them all.
“I want to know what he told you,” Dean pressed stubbornly.
“You gonna tell me what happened between you and Bela?” Sam shot back.
“Nope,” Dean replied without hesitation.
The kid shrugged again and seemed to deflate as he returned to watching Bobby. “Then I guess we can focus on getting Bobby some help and talk about it later.” He hunched his shoulders away from Dean.
Dean frowned, irritated, but reluctantly backed off. His curiosity about what his friend had said to Sam had been eating at the back of his mind, and now that things had calmed down, that curiosity was at the top of his thoughts again. Right alongside the image of Azazel’s red blade coming down over Cas’ head and Bobby crumpling to the floor at Dean’s side.
The memories made his stomach churn and he couldn’t stand to be near the med bay anymore. Dean headed for the kitchen instead, intent on finding some alcohol to numb his guilt until they reached Hoth.
Either Bela had cleaned out his stores or hidden her booze extraordinarily well, because Dean couldn’t find anything worth drinking. He searched the kitchen high and low before attacking the common area. He moved on to hand-searching all of the hidden compartments he could think of, before finally heaving a frustrated sigh and circling back to the work room (at least he’d killed some time).
The work room was next to the main engine room. Most of his tools were strapped in above the workbench as he usually had them while traveling, though a number of them were in the wrong spots. This irked him and he spent several minutes putting everything back in its rightful place. He hoped seeing the tools rearranged would annoy Bela the next time she needed one.
To find something else to do, Dean dug through a bin of broken parts, eventually scooping up a battered compression coil. He needed to keep his mind off of Bobby, off of Cas, off of Alderaan and his parents…
He blinked rapidly when Bela entered the room. Her face was soft and sympathetic when she spotted him, emotions she rarely wore, as though she knew what was plaguing him.
“Are you – ” she began, but he sharply cut her off.
“I’m fine. Just want to get those plans to the base.”
She nodded, then hesitantly offered, “Do want a hand with that?”
“I can manage a fried compression coil, thanks,” Dean bit out. “I don’t need your help.”
Bela recoiled a little, and her tone had a cold edge to it when she replied, “And you’re welcome for the rescue earlier, by the way. I’m sure you didn’t need any help then, either.”
“I could’ve managed.”
She laughed. “Of course. With Darth Azazel having scheduled your imminent execution and you locked in an Imperial cell, you clearly had the situation well in hand.”
He twisted too hard on the metal ring he was fighting to reattach and it popped off, pinging onto the bench, then falling and rolling across the floor.
“I said I didn’t need your help,” he grumbled. He stooped to grab the metal ring and tried to re-affix it to the greasy engine piece.
Bela crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll remember that the next time your ass needs saving.” She winced a little and he remembered the bolt she took in the arm. He was tempted to ask if she was okay, but since she was sniping at him, she was clearly not too bothered by the injury.
He tossed a glare her way, but she remained nonplussed. “Don’t act all high and mighty, sweetheart, like you’re such a good person for rescuing me. I know you’re only in this for money. As per freakin’ usual.”
She didn’t deny it.
“How much is he gonna pay you?”
“The exact amount was unspecified,” Bela answered. “A lot, I imagine, as I’m now delivering stolen battle plans and an important leader to them.” She examined her nails.
Dean chuckled humorlessly. “Same old Bela.”
“And what exactly were you expecting? I’m not here because of your precious revolution – I never have been – I thought I’d previously made that very clear.” She rubbed at the bulge under the sleeve on her upper arm where she’d bandaged herself.
“Yeah, and I thought I’d made it pretty clear I never wanted to see you again. Ever.” He stopped fiddling with the coil and pinned her with his gaze. “In fact, I specifically recall you actually promising that I wouldn’t.”
Bela snorted and rolled her eyes. “When I picked up those two boys on Tatooine, I was looking for a fare that I could pass on to Lillith and erase my debt. I didn’t intend to get caught in the middle of your galactic war.”
“My galactic–?” Dean took a breath, about to argue with her as he felt his temper rise, but he stopped himself just in time. They’d been around this block and it wasn’t worth his time.
“Whatever,” he grumbled, failing to hide the defensiveness in his tone. “You’ll get your precious money. And then you can be on your damn way.”
He could feel Bela’s stare, but by the time he looked up, she was flitting out of the room. He shook his head – damn that woman. He still regretted the missions he’d jeopardized in the past to save her ass, or even worse, just to see her (and then inevitably find himself missing something important or in deep trouble of some description, hours later).
Why I keep thinking one day she’ll actually use that heart buried somewhere in there… He gave his head another a shake. He was an idiot, and his extensive history with her only proved that point time and time again.
He sighed through his nose. The sooner he got rid of her this time, the better it would be for all of them – especially him.
Sam was idly playing a one-sided game of Dejarik when Bela joined him in the common area.
“How’s your friend doing?” she asked softly.
“He’s still sleeping. He woke up for a minute and… he… he said he couldn’t feel his legs.” His forehead creased with worry.
Bela pursued her lips. “Well, don’t fret until there’s cause to. I haven’t been to a Rebel hub like the one we’re going to now, but I’m sure they have top notch medical facilities to patch the old fellow up.” She offered Sam a smile. He returned it gratefully.
“How’s the arm?” He nodded at the small lump under her sleeve.
She gently rolled up her sleeve to reveal a rectangular bacta strip attached to her skin. “I’ve had worse.” She craned her neck and twisted her arm to inspect the injury. “Actually, probably should put a new one on – speed the healing a bit. Would you mind terribly…?”
“Not at all,” said Sam, and took a moment to retrieve a fresh bandage from the med bay. He stopped to check on Bobby, who was unchanged from when Sam had left him earlier.
Back in the common area, Sam got to work on Bela’s arm. He peeled off the bandage on her blaster wound and saw that the padding was no longer blue with active bacta. Bela hissed through her teeth.
“Sorry,” Sam murmured. He wrapped up the used strip.
The bolt had cut her pretty deep, but the bacta had already made progress on healing it up. He opened a new bandage, swallowed hard and looked away from the black and red slice in Bela’s skin.
“Really, Sam, it’s not that bad. You should see the other guy.”
He carefully dabbed a cotton ball soaked in antiseptic around the wound to clean up the inflamed skin.
“Or is it that you’ve never been this close to a girl before?” she teased and set her hand on his leg.
He chuckled nervously as he gingerly placed the new strip on her arm. He may have developed a small crush on Bela and her flirting with him was so not helping. Worse, she seemed fully aware of this fact and was flirting harder because of it.
He cleared his throat and sat back, his work finished. “There you go – all good.”
“Thanks, darling,” she said and rolled her sleeve back down.
Sensing this might be the only chance he might have for a while, and needing to take her away from flirting with him, Sam attempted to satisfy his curiosity.
“So…” he began. “I gotta ask. What’s the deal with you two? You and Dean?”
“Why don’t you ask Dean?”
“I did, but he won’t tell me anything.”
Bela smiled, amused. She leaned a little closer to him. “Let me put it this way, Sam. I’m a smuggler – some would say merc, probably with a variety of unflattering adjectives – and he’s the leader of a revolution. I frequent seedy pubs, meet with less-than-reputable contacts, fly trade routes. Your boy recruits people to join the Rebel Alliance, procures hard to find and often illegal items, and does his damn best to outrun and outsmart the Imperial Empire.” She shrugged and her smile this time was both telling and mysterious. “We’ve crossed paths a number of times.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. That was so obviously not the full story, and he said as much.
At that moment, Dean came around the corner.
Bela glanced his way. “I’m sure if you asked especially nicely, Dean would be more than happy to tell you all about me.”
Dean shook his head, frowning. “Oh, sure, I’ll tell you about her,” he said. “She’s a lying, cheating, manipulative, selfish, bitchy – ”
“Stop, you're making me blush,” Bela deadpanned, looking a lot less amused. “You see Sam, the problem is, he hates me, but he also really, really likes me, and that causes problems. Isn’t that right, darling?”
Dean glared at her like he hoped his eyes would cause her to burst into flames. It didn’t work, try as he might. She smirked, fake-sweet; triumphant and challenging all at once. Sam wondered if he should leave the room to give them some privacy or step between them lest they come to blows.
Ree clacked and clattered over the intercom and the spell was broken.
“My presence is required in the cockpit,” said Bela. “I’ll leave you gents to it. Thanks again, Sam.”
“Yeah, you do that,” Dean retorted. “Just so you know, when we land, I’m taking my damn ship back.”
“You think so, do you?” she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “When we land, I’m going to make some repairs on my ship.”
Dean mumbled something under his breath that Sam didn’t catch, and Bela visibly bristled. She turned to Sam and offered him a stunning smile. She trailed her fingers across his shoulder and Sam stiffened.
“Thanks for the chat, Sam,” she said and returned her focus to Dean, whose jaw was clenched tight. Sam shifted in his seat, not wanting to get dragged into whatever messwas between them.
Dean and Bela stared each other down for a moment, and an unspoken conversation passed between them before she pushed past him. He gritted his teeth, then shouted after her, “Six hypo-stitches on Spirana! And it wasn’t his ship to give away!”
“You’re so dramatic,” she tossed back to him.
“I mean it! I’m going to kill him, then you!” Dean bellowed. Bela just laughed.
“Stitches? She… shot you?” Sam questioned after Bela’s retreating figure had disappeared down the corridor. He worked very hard to forget the sensation of her fingers on his shoulder. “And stole your ship?”
“Stabbed accidentally, trying to get out of an Imperial melee, after creating a diversion so she could save her precious cargo instead of helping me,” Dean spat. He shook his head. “And I left this ship with a friend of mine – well, not a friend – and she up and steals it…”
“If he wasn’t your friend, then why did you – ”
“Could we talk about literally anything else?” Dean snapped.
Sam whistled soft and low. There seemed to be an ongoing, never-ending argument between the pair, chock full of messy issues. In fact, most every word they said to each other was thick with it. Clearly whatever happened was a very sensitive subject.
Okay, he thought. I am so not getting into the middle of… whatever that was. He was going to stamp out his little crush on Bela as fast as possible. He didn’t need to get tangled up in their obviously complicated history.
Dean settled on the cushioned bench across from Sam with an angry huff. “How do you know Bobby?” he asked abruptly. Sam took the hint and steered the topic away from Bela Talbot.
“He fought in the Clone Wars with my mom,” answered Sam. “Well, my adoptive mom and my birth parents, too. They died not long after I was born.”
“Sorry to hear it,” Dean replied, his previous frustration visibly draining out of him.
Sam shrugged. “I never knew them.” He hesitated, trying to decide how personal Dean wanted to get. Was he asking simply to kill time or did he genuinely want to know?
Sam wasn’t sure he was totally at ease spilling out his life story to a virtual stranger, and yet at the same time, he felt inexplicably comfortable with Dean. As if he’d known him for years and simply hadn’t seen him in a while. Based on what he’d seen of him so far, Dean had no qualms about being blunt, so Sam figured if Dean got uncomfortable having a more personal conversation, Sam would know in a hurry.
So he went on to tell Dean a little about Ellen, who loved him and raised him as if Sam were her own. He spoke of how Bobby used to be around a lot he was a kid, then stopped coming by, and what he’d recently learned from Bobby about why. He added that his birth parents had been a pilot and a Jedi respectively, and Dean was suitably impressed when Sam showed off his lightsaber.
“What were your parents like?” Sam asked.
Dean leaned back on the couch and laced his hands behind his head. “Actually, I was adopted too. Never knew my birth parents either. Found out when I was pretty young that they’d been some big deal in the fight against the Empire but they were killed in action. My adoptive parents were pretty amazing people – they were involved in building and maintaining secret Alliance networks all over Alderaan.
“Dad was an ambassador, so he travelled a lot, but it meant making more contacts. Once I was older, I started going with him, meeting them – that’s how I met Bobby. He was an old Rebel buddy of Dad’s. Anyways, eventually I started getting my own thing going. Making my own contacts, joining up and going on missions.
“Started using my birth parents’ last name: Winchester. That way I could protect my adoptive parents – if I got caught it wouldn’t come back on them – and I could make it known exactly who I was. Stirred up some serious shit with the Empire when they realized whose son I was.”
Dean flashed a wide grin and Sam caught a glimpse of the brash, brave Rebel leader Bobby had told him about. Perhaps because of the way Ellen had chosen to keep Sam and Jo so isolated from the ongoing Alliance versus Empire struggle, Sam found it difficult to imagine growing up smack in the middle of it all. He both envied and pitied Dean.
“My birth dad was a big deal, like I said, and using his name was a way to carry on his work against the Empire, especially as the Alliance grew,” Dean explained. “And, it really pissed off Azazel – this Imperial kingpin, Sith lord bastard I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of tangling with over the years.”
The rebel’s smile faded. “Azazel found out who my adoptive parents were, though, two years ago now. He murdered them. Killed them to get to me.” A storm of emotion crossed his features and he swallowed hard.
“I’m sorry,” Sam offered softly. He wished he had something more comforting or substantial to say, but before he had the chance to even try, Dean was on his feet, apparently having reached his threshold for personal talk and emotion.
“I’m going to go check on Bobby,” he stated and left the room before Sam could reply.
I know what it’s like to have them taken from you, Sam thought, his thoughts centering on Ellen. I know exactly what it feels like. I miss her so much. Every second.
He had hoped the pain would dull over time, but if the look on Dean’s face a moment ago was anything to go by, the months and years had done little to take away the ache of losing his family.
Tears pricked Sam’s eyes and he swiped them away. He forced himself to get up and start practicing with his lightsaber again, if only for something to do.
Thankfully, they landed on Hoth without incident. The planet’s perpetual blizzards had briefly eased, allowing for a smooth landing in the Rebel’s concealed bunker on the far side of the planet. Dean exhaled slow and long when the Impala settled and powered down.
Bela immediately complained about the cold, getting up to fish several thick jackets out of one of the storage closets, and Dean rolled his eyes. Being from a cool, though much wetter planet, Ree was more pleased than Bela about the frigid temperature in the icy bunker, though Dean knew that probably wouldn’t last. Ree was generally far easier going than Bela, but she could be just as fussy given the right circumstances.
Sam stayed with Bobby as he was ushered on a gurney to the Rebel’s onsite medical unit. The kid started shivering the minute he set foot outside the ship and Dean pitied him. Coming from a desert planet and getting dropped on an ice planet was going to be a bit of shock. Hell, it was plain going to suck.
Bela and Ree disembarked to take stock of the damage the Impala had taken the past few days and to begin repairs. The smuggler insisted she would be on her way the moment said repairs to her ship were complete and she was handsomely paid for returning one of the most important Rebel leaders safe and sound. Since Dean had more important things to worry about, he bit back a hundred and one irritated replies (it would keep) and split off to find the command hub and pass on the stolen Death Star plans he’d worked so hard to procure.
His fellow Alliance members were relieved to see him and happy to have him back. Adam brought him a fresh set of clothes and several jackets. Dean recounted what had happened to him since his ship was taken down by Azazel. He struggled to describe the destruction of Alderaan.
“When we heard,” said Benny. “We thought we’d lost you forever, brother.”
“A few more hours and you would have.” Dean went on to tell the others about Sam finding him, and the ensuing narrow escape from the Death Star in Bela’s – in his – ship.
“D’you think they tracked you?” asked Adam, eyes wide with concern.
“Don’t think so,” Dean said, but added grimly. “But we better put all sections on alert and get ready for a speedy evac just in case.”
Dean explained that they had found Castiel alive and well in the Death Star, though the former Jedi ran off, and was last seen facing off against Azazel across the hanger bay. He skated past the implication that his friend was truly dead this time, though the others heard it all the same.
When Dean was finished, he joined Benny and several others in analyzing the Death Star plans. If they were ever going to have a real chance at ending the Empire once and for all, then they had to find a chink in the Death Star’s armor.
Adam passed Dean a chilled bottle of Adumari beer, and he took a deep swig of it gratefully. They certainly had their work cut out for them.