When Sam cracked his eyes open, he was happy to discover he was not dead. Either that or heaven (or hell) looked suspiciously a lot like the med bay of the rebel base on Hoth. He ached all over, feeling rather like he’d been trampled by a Bantha, but he was warm so he let out a sigh of relief.
He saw Dean asleep in the bed beside him, and though Dean had a few bacta bandages on his hands and one on his cheek, he looked otherwise well. Sam wondered what had happened – the last thing he remembered was going crazy and collapsing in a blizzard.
Sam also noticed, with a jolt of surprise, that the lump on the chair jammed between his bed and Dean’s was Bela wrapped up in a blanket. She was bundled uncomfortably sideways, her head resting on the edge of Dean’s bed close to his pillow. One of her arms was resting on the blankets, holding Dean’s hand. Sam only had a moment to look – and see the way Dean shifted and smiled a little; he was clearly awake – before the other man opened his eyes and caught Sam watching.
“Hey,” Dean greeted, snatching his hand out of Bela’s grasp and sliding it under the blanket. “You’re looking chipper for a guy who basically froze to death last night.”
Bela stirred with a soft moan, and sat up, blinking sleepily at the boys in turn. “Oh good,” she mumbled. “You’re both alive.” She yawned, raking her fingers through her mussed up hair.
“What happened?” Sam asked. He tried to sit up a little better and groaned as his aching body protested. “Where’s Jo?”
“You got lost and found a wampa,” Dean explained. “Jo helped them get you into a bacta tank and she stayed until they said you were outta the woods. Then she came.” He gestured with his thumb to Bela.
She scowled at him. “The woman needed sleep. I was passing by and offered to take a shift waiting by your bedside. Excuse me for caring.”
“Caring?” Dean repeated incredulously.
Sensing an argument, Sam cleared his throat. “So, how’d I get back? Back here, I mean. I just remember… a lot of snow.”
Dean broke off glaring at Bela and grinned at Sam. “That’d be me. And a tauntaun who, ah, didn’t make it. Went out after you when you didn’t come back.”
“Sorry,” Sam winced.
“Hey, no, it’s fine,” Dean shrugged. “I’m the one who let you go out alone, your first time on an ice planet.”
His tone was light, but Sam could hear the edge of guilt there and felt worse. Dean had warned him that wampas snuck up on their prey, after all. Sam had tried to be vigilant, but then while setting up the last sensor, he’d been focused on being done and getting out of the cold as soon as possible. He hadn’t bothered to keep close watch over his shoulder. That wasn’t Dean’s fault – it was all Sam.
“Don’t worry your pretty head,” said Bela, noting the tightness in Sam’s jaw. She tossed him a warm smile. “You made it back all right in the end, and that’s what counts.”
“Are you okay?” Sam asked Dean, who shrugged again.
“Little hypothermia. I didn’t go toe to toe with a wampa.” He eyed Sam, smirking a little. “You look like shit.”
Sam chuckled, hearing the note of relief and affection in the other man’s voice. “Thanks.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Bela, climbing to her feet. She leaned forward to gently grasp Sam’s chin, turning his face side to side.
He pointedly ignored the sudden flutter in his stomach at her touch.
“They’ve managed to keep your good looks despite a wampa slashing,” she said with a smile, fixing those pretty green eyes on him. “You’ll be fighting fit in no time – look like you could take on a Gundark right now.” She winked at him and moved her hand from his face to his shoulder, giving him an affectionate squeeze.
Sam laughed, feeling his cheeks heat up under her scrutiny. She was making him feel better despite the situation and he appreciated it.
Behind her, Dean rolled his eyes and snorted.
“What?” asked Bela, too innocently, and pulled her hand away from Sam.
“You’re nauseating,” Dean said. He threw off his covers and hauled himself out of bed. He scooped up the pile of clothes sitting neatly folded on small table beside his bed, and began pulling them on over the white t-shirt and shorts he was wearing.
“What?” she prompted.
“You with him,” Dean growled. He cringed as he peeled off the bacta bandage on his cheek and tossed it into the bio-hazard bin. “You’re unbelievable.”
Sam very much wanted to slither under the blankets and disappear. He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
Bela made a scoffing noise but surprised them both by forcing a change in subject, though her tone was much colder than it’d been moment before. “By the way, your friend Benny came by. He popped in to see how you were doing. Also to let me know that it’s apparently too dangerous for Ree and I to fly out of here until the base’s energy shield is restabilized after the ion storm a few days ago.”
Dean nodded in response and leaned down to zip up his boots.
Bela crossed her arms over her chest. “I must say, it’s cute that you’re trying to force me to stay here with you.”
There was a loud bang as Dean’s head hit the bed frame in his haste to stand up. He cursed and grabbed at his head. “I what?”
“You asked me to stay, I said no, so clearly you’ve invented – ”
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Dean burst out. “I was out in a damn blizzard last night looking for him and you want to accuse me of coming up with some idiot scheme to make you stayhere?”
Sam desperately wanted to be anywhere but here. He shifted in his bed. He was still feeling pretty beaten up and moving to get out of the bed was harder than it should’ve been. He took it slow.
“Dean, relax. It wouldn’t be out of – ”
“Yes, actually, it would, because I actually have way bigger things to worry about than you,” Dean shot back. “Hell, I want you to go – I want you as far away from here as possible, as soon as possible, if not sooner. I don’t want anything to do with you, and I sure as hell don’t know why I bothered asking you to stay and help the rebellion against the Empire. I know better.”
“I’m just, uh…” Sam murmured, swinging his legs over the bed and gingerly getting to his feet. “Just gonna… go…” If the other two heard him, they ignored him.
“You don’t want anything to do with me,” Bela repeated, one part amused and one part annoyed. “And here I thought you simply didn’t want to let me out of your sight after all.” She adopted a mocking tone as she added, “Dean, please. Don’t deny it, darling.”
Sam grabbed his shirt and began awkwardly maneuvering his injured arm through the sleeve. The metal stabilizing cast kept catching on the fabric, though thankfully he probably wouldn’t have to wear it too much longer – that was the miracle of bacta.
Dean shook his head and zipped up his jacket with unnecessary force. “If you really think that, or that I somehow orchestrated anyof this, you’re more delusional than I thought. Why don’t you go find something useful to do instead of making doe eyes at Sammy all day?”
Bela’s expression became stony.
Sam had his shirt half on, both arms pinned up under the fabric, when Bela turned on her heel, rounded the bed, marched straight up to him, and kissed him full on the mouth. He was too shocked to react for a second, and then when her hand snaked up his neck into his hair, he found himself kissing back. It was over as suddenly as it’d begun, Bela breaking off and offering him a lusty grin.
Sam struggled to catch his breath, feeling light-headed, his lips tingling.
The doors to the med unit opened and Ree entered, holding a handful of metal parts. She glanced between the three of them curiously with those huge eyes of hers, before letting out a series of clicks.
“No,” Dean growled in response, with a withering look at Bela. “What is it?”
Ree answered, and Dean tore his angry focus away from Bela. His expression cycled between shocked, sick, and worried.
“What?” He crossed the room in a hurry, snatching the parts from Ree’s hands.
Bela glanced between them, equally as worried, and Sam wished he could understand what the green alien was saying.
“What is it?” he asked, then louder because his voice was too croaky and quiet the first time. He struggled to shake off Bela’s kiss.
“A tracking device,” said Bela.
Sam’s heart stumbled a few beats. He felt a shiver that had nothing to do with hypothermia. “Are they coming? Did they follow us here?”
“It was fried,” Dean answered, turning the metal over in his hands. “But we have no idea how much got through.” He handed the part back to Ree. “It’s not gonna matter if the shield is stable or not if they show up in the next few hours.”
The four of them shared scared, anxious looks before Ree squeaked and Bela nodded and the pair of them rushed away. Dean hurried over to Sam and briskly helped him with his shirt.
“We’ll need to start the evacuation,” he said, standing back. “I gotta find Jo. Go sit with Bobby – we’ll come for you.”
Sam nodded. “Look, Dean, about what just – ”
Dean seized the pants laid out for Sam and threw them at Sam’s stomach, cutting him off. “And get some damn pants on,” he snapped, and strode out of the room.
Sam swallowed hard and got dressed as fast he could. He took a handful of meds from the tray affixed to the bot waiting on him, then limped out the door.
The majority of the probes came back with no real leads. Darth Azazel dispatched Destroyers to go after anything that seemed solid. It wasn’t until Commander Roman reported sensors had picked up a final ping from the failed tracking device that Azazel knew they really had something. The signal was fragmented at best, but it was enough to narrow the search for Winchester’s ship to a single system.
Azazel wasn’t about to let Winchester and those rebel bastards slip through his fingers again. He immediately boarded a transport ship and transferred from the Death Star to a waiting Destroyer. Destroyers had the ability to travel at hyperspeed, the Star did not. Azazel sent out orders for the Imperial fleet to follow.
Commander Roman accepted the order with fervor, and took over the fleet organization while Azazel went over plans for a surprise attack with General Zachariah and several others of his more senior staff. Once they reached the system, the Imperials would use long-range sensors to determine their next course of action. After they discovered the rebels’ exact position and scanned their defense system, they would swoop down and wipe them out.
Azazel couldn’t help a small, feral smile. They had a formidable fleet, they had the rebels’ location, and they had the element of surprise. When he gave his report that the scum were finally reduced to a smoking heap of corpses and rubble, the Emperor would be very pleased indeed.
When the fleet came blasting out of hyperspace into the Hoth system, however, Azazel frowned.
He’d had such high hopes for General Zachariah.
Zachariah, who had claimed the ping had been too weak to properly trace, despite assurances from Commander Roman that this was not the case. Zachariah, who had stated that the detection of an energy shield generator on Hoth didn’t necessarily equate a base full of rebels, though sensors indicated life on an ice planet that was supposed to be devoid of human life. Zachariah, who had brought the fleet out of hyperspace so close to Hoth that he assuredly tipped off the rebels below (who were clearly there after all) to an Imperial presence. The secondary energy shielding on the planet was up seconds after the Imperial fleet’s arrival, and that was all the evidence Azazel needed.
Zachariah, who was currently dead at the Sith Lord’s feet.
The Sith regarded the body with an air of boredom. “I ordered him to stay back and wait.” He turned his sinister yellow gaze to Commander Roman. “Since we’ve blown the element of surprise due to General Zachariah’s stupidity, organize a ground assault to get around that shield. Shoot anything that tries to escape the planet.”
“Right away, m’lord.” Roman nodded sharply, an arrogant tilt to his lips.
“Oh, and,” Azazel added, “Don’t screw this up. General Roman.”
The alarms were blaring as Dean threw open the doors to the control room. He came barreling in, with Jo hot on his heels, and didn’t waste a second.
“Tell me,” he said to Ash, who had sprung to his feet.
“Well, pal, d’you want the good news or the bad news?” he drawled. Dean made an impatient noise and Ash continued with a bob of his head. “The bad news is that those Imperial assholes are on our doorstep, knockin’ and fixin’ to come on in for dinner. The good news is those sensors y’all replaced did their job and we were able to get all our shields up in time.”
Dean exhaled in rush, feeling a little shaky. Go time.
“They’ll be coming straight down for us then,” said Jo.
Dean nodded. “We need to evacuate.”
“I’ll sound the call.” Jo took off, grabbing Adam to help her.
Dean made for the main control stations when Ash held up a hand to stop him.
“Hold up, I ain’t even got to the best part yet,” he said.
Dean clenched his jaw. “What, Ash? We kind of have a situation here, so tell me – ”
“Dean-o, I think I found a crack.”
Dean stopped and for a second, thought he hadn’t heard Ash correctly. Then he thought maybe he did, but Ash didn’t mean what Dean thought he did.
“Ash?” he said, his heart racing.
Ash grinned and clarified, “There’s a hole in the Star, my friend.”
Dean wanted to cry with excitement and relief, but it was fast replaced by anxiety. The Imperials were scrambling to come down and destroy them right here and right now, and if they didn’t get the hell out of here, all Ash’s work finding that loophole would be for nothing.
Benny was shouting for Dean, so he settled for a hasty one-armed hug, laughing with a surge of exhilaration. Ash clapped him back, his usual lazy grin so wide it nearly bumped his ears.
We found it, Dean thought, head spinning as he hurried to Benny’s side. We can end this.
All they had to do was make it out of here alive.
Sam rolled his shoulders. The conversation with Bobby centered on their conditions and levels of healing. A med bot removed the stabilizing cast on Sam’s arm and applied fresh bacta. The meds they’d given him were doing wonders; he no longer felt like he’d been shredded by nature and a wampa, though there was a lingering ache in his limbs and muscles.
Sam told Bobby about Ree and the tracker, and they shared uneasy looks when the alarms started blaring. Sam deliberated whether or not to go find Dean, but Bobby grasped his shoulder and became very serious.
“Sam… look, I gotta tell you somethin’,” the older man said and Sam felt his gut twist. “Already left it too damn long.”
“Bobby, you’re scaring me.”
“Oh hell, I’m not dying – it’s nothing like that,” Bobby waved him off. “Soon as you can, you get yourself to Dagobah.”
Sam felt like the air had been shoved out of his lungs and his body was frozen. He was unable to process what Bobby had just said. Sam hadn’t told anyone what Castiel said to him back on the Death Star, and he hadn’t told anyone about his vision of Mary in the snow. In fact, Sam had been pretty sure he’d made that image of her up – dreamed it while he was freezing to death and losing touch with reality.
“That Jedi, from the Death Star?” Bobby continued. “Dean’s friend. He came to see me last night.”
Sam stared. That made more sense. Castiel must have told Bobby what he’d told Sam. But last they’d seen of the Jedi, he was about to get sliced by the scary dude in black back on the Death Star. Dean had assumed he was dead after that, so why hadn’t the Jedi come to see Dean and assure him he was all right? Or had he done so, and Dean just didn’t think it was important to mention to anyone?
“Look, Sam…” Bobby sighed. “There’s so much… there’s a lot of things you don’t know. A lot of things… I never told you. Balls, this is difficult.”
“Bobby?” Sam prompted. His life had already been upended a dozen times in the past several days. He doubted anything else could shock him.
“Castiel knew your mother – your birth mother, Mary,” said Bobby.
Sam nodded – Cas had said so back on the Death Star. “He told he me could feel ‘echoes of her’ in me. Told me I was supposed to survive, and then come find him on Dagobah because… Bobby, he said I… he said I was the last Jedi.”
Sam thought this was a surprising piece of information and that Bobby would chuckle and tell him it was bantha fodder. But the older man simply nodded, his expression somber. This caught Sam off guard enough that he blurted that he’d hallucinated Mary in the snow, sure that would garner a laugh. Once again, Bobby didn’t seem thrown, which in turn threw Sam even more.
“Son, I don’t think you imagined that,” said the older man. “I think what you had was a bonafide vision, and that just gives more fuel to Castiel’s theory.”
“I can’t be the last Jedi!” Sam sputtered, hopping to his feet. “I can’t, I – I’m just Sam Harvelle! I’m just a junker from Tatooine!” He raked his fingers through his hair. This can’t be happening.
“Sam, you’re so much more,” said Bobby. His sigh was deep and exhausted. He looked like he was about to explain further when Jo rushed into the ward, out of breath, her cheeks flushed pink.
“They’re here,” she said. She was as good at keeping the fear out of her voice. “We’re evacuating right now. Bobby, you’ll be going with the medical teams and the other wounded.”
Bobby protested, “I’m not shippin’ out with the invalids. Let me help.”
Jo glared at him. “We need pilots, and – ”
“I don’t need to be able to walk to pilot a ship, damn it,” Bobby growled. “And I sure as hell don’t need to be coddled like some – ”
“Bobby,” Jo snapped, not unkindly. “There’s no time. They’re coming in for a surface attack, and we need everyone gone right now, except our best pilots.” She jabbed her thumb at Sam.
“Balls,” Bobby mumbled. “Hell, I know. I’m just tired of being useless.”
Jo spared him an affectionate smile before turning to her brother. She nodded her chin at his bacta-patched arm. “You good to fly?”
“Good. Let’s go.” To Bobby, she added, “We’ll see you at the rendezvous.” She dashed to the door.
“Bobby,” Sam began hesitantly, but the older man waved him off.
“Go, Sam,” he said. “I’ll see you soon.” He fixed him with a meaningful gaze and repeated, “Go.”
Sam swallowed. Dagobah. He still wasn’t sure what to do about that, and wished he had more time to talk to Bobby about it, or Jo, or even Dean who knew Castiel.
Jo told him to hurry, and Bobby waved him off again. Sam reluctantly bid his friend goodbye, and followed his sister out of the med unit.
“You okay?” she asked, as they bustled down the icy halls that were teeming with activity. She’d always been able to read him easily.
Sam pushed his fingers through his hair with one hand, keeping his sore arm close to his chest. He wanted to sit down and have a full conversation with Jo about everything, but there was simply no time. He hated having to quickly summarize it for her as they ran for the hangar bay, but he needed her to know about Dagobah and Cas in case they got separated in battle. He hadn’t decided yet if he was going to seek out Cas or not, but if he did, it was going to be as soon as possible.
She at least seemed appropriately surprised when he told her what Cas had said. “Well, I’ll be damned.” She blew air out her lips as the information sunk in. “I always knew you were special,” she said a beat later, only half-teasing.
Sam gently grasped her elbow and pulled her off to the side. “Jo, what do I do?”
She pressed her lips together, looking thoughtful and a little conflicted, before her expression cleared. “You should do it,” she replied. “You should go.”
Sam blinked, unsure. “Jo, I don’t even know this guy – I don’t know if he’s for real, or he’s just nuts. And I don’t love the idea of running off to some Outer Rim planet just because he claims he knew my birth mom.”
Jo laughed. “Sam, I know Cas. He’s a good guy. He… he has some baggage, but he’s a good dude, and he’s Dean’s best friend. I’d trust him – at least hear what he has to say.”
Sam shifted uneasily. “But I… I just got you back. And the Alliance needs my help – I just got here, to help, like I’ve wanted to for years and I can’t leave, I…” He sighed and shoved his hand through his hair again, mussing it up.
He was frustrated and he didn’t know why. Was his reluctance to leave really because of Jo and because he felt needed? Was it because the idea of being labelled something as massive as the last Jedi was terrifying and he wanted to avoid it? Was it something else? He felt a spike of grief in his chest as he thought of Ellen – she’d know what to tell him.
Jo, as usual, seemed to guess his thoughts and wrapped in him quick, tight hug. “Oh, Sam….”
When she pulled back, she fixed her eyes on his. “Go check out if he’s a nut job or not, and report back. Or, go become a totally wicked-awesome Jedi like your birth mom and report back.” Her lips quirked into a half-smile. “Either way, I’ll be waiting right here for your stories. Well, at the other base, not here. You know what I mean.”
Sam chuckled. She was right. Jo and Dean both knew Castiel well, so it was more a matter of discovering how and why he believed Sam was supposedly the last Jedi, and what that really meant.
He tugged his sister into another quick hug. “Thanks, Jo.”
“Anytime.” She gave him a squeeze. “But we better go blow up some Imperial ass now, or you’re not gonna get out of here at all.”
They broke apart and hurried down the corridor.