The Planets Bend Between Us

Chapter 21

Sam woke up to find that the rain had stopped sometime during the night and that he was alone in Castiel’s home. It was a small, cozy hut hollowed from the base of a massive tree. The interior had roughly textured beige walls, and the sparse décor and furniture all looked handmade. The handful of rooms had rounded ceilings, Sam had to duck his head slightly through the doorways, but the space was comfortable, clean, and welcoming.

Sam helped himself to a bowlful of the still warm soup they’d eaten the previous night from a pot hanging over the smouldering embers in the fireplace. The soup was dark green and tasted a little too much like plant-life for Sam’s liking, but it was filling and it wasn’t too bad – was better than the protein survival bars from the X-Wing. After he’d gotten into some dry clothes and settled by the fire, he’d been hungry enough to down two heaping bowls of it.

Sam and Cas had talked as they ate. Sam told him all that had transpired on Hoth, with the wampa attack and the Imperial invasion, even hesitantly adding in the vision of Mary he’d seen in the snow. Cas had listened attentively, and when Sam finished, the other man told Sam a little bit of his story.

Castiel had trained at the Jedi Academy with Mary Campbell, and while they were never very close, they did develop a bond of friendship.

“She always had such a strong presence,” Cas had smiled. “She was warm and kind, and so talented with the Force. Many admired her.”

He went on to say that while he was away as a diplomatic envoy during a civil war on his homeworld, Mary departed the Order to be married – something not unheard of, but certainly not common. Cas had returned from his mission well after she’d left, and heard from others in the Temple that she was happy and with child.

“I always meant to seek her out,” said Cas sadly. “As I say, we were never close, but I always thought I ought to meet the family she departed the Order for. I truly missed her company many times.”

Then came the part that Sam knew from history lessons and the books he’d read over the years: the Clone Wars and the infamous Order 66. Cas and the other Jedi were scattered across the galaxy during the War on thousands of missions – medical, defense, diplomacy, aid.

“I ended up on Dellalt with nine others to diffuse a situation with the Separatists when the Order was given,” he continued somberly. “I barely made it out of that mission. The Emperor rose to prominence and Azazel began the Purge.”

Sam nodded. The Purge was when the remaining Jedi in the galaxy were systematically hunted and wiped out. Some of the surviving Jedi tried to continue fighting the Empire and were killed for it. Others went into hiding or denounced being a Jedi, all in efforts to survive. Some even turned and worked for the Empire in their desperate attempts to stay alive. The Emperor finally called off the hunt when there were so few Jedi left in the galaxy that they were deemed inconsequential.

With the firelight flickering over his sorrowful features, Castiel had looked even older than Sam could guess.

“I hid,” Cas had finally whispered. “I hid, and I… lost my way.” His eyes shimmered with tears for a moment before he blinked them away. “I found purpose again when I met Dean Winchester and joined the Rebel Alliance. It wasn’t until I met you, Sam, that I remembered who I truly was – who I am.”

He paused and took a few breaths before continuing. Sam toyed with his spoon and waited.

“You have so much of Mary in you,” said Cas, looking at Sam fondly. “I can feel so much… raw potential, so much power, right here.” He leaned forward and gently tapped Sam’s chest with his finger. “You’re the one, the Last Jedi, I can feel it – I’ve never been so certain of anything.”

He regarded Sam with such naked hope, such deep gratitude… like the secrets of the universe were sitting open on Sam’s face. It made Sam squirm.

“I’m no one,” he’d blurted in a hasty mumble, his skin chafing under Cas’s fierce admiration and attention. He shoved his hand through his shaggy hair, dodging the former Jedi’s gaze.

“Oh Sam, you are so much more,” Cas smiled. “Tomorrow, I will show you.”

So here Sam was, at tomorrow, exiting Cas’s moss-covered hut and wondering for the hundredth time how the hell he’d gotten himself into this. He still wasn’t at all convinced about this “Last Jedi” stuff, but he was, for now, willing to give it a try.

The sky was still opaque with mist though it hovered high above him, dusting the treetops rather than hugging the ground as it had the previous day. Sam breathed in the thick, humid air and glanced around at the dense jungle. It seemed a lot less foreboding when the fog wasn’t so prominent.

He followed a worn dirt path towards a large clearing; there he found Cas. The former Jedi had his bare feet perched on a set of rocks roughly a stride apart, and his arms outstretched, one forward and one behind. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and Sam could see black markings across his back. As Sam neared, he realized the markings were a beautifully inked set of wings.

“Good morning, Sam,” Cas greeted without opening his eyes or turning his head.

“Morning,” replied Sam. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt…” He gestured vaguely at Cas, not sure what to call whatever it was Cas was doing.

“No trouble at all.” Cas opened his eyes and stepped off the rocks, flexing his feet and rolling his shoulders. “I was just finishing.” He offered Sam a bright smile and bent down to retrieve his grey shirt from the ground.

“Where’d you get the wings?” Sam asked as Cas donned his shirt. He didn’t realize he’d said something wrong until Cas faced him with hard frown.

“That’s a rather personal question, Sam.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean – ” Sam sputtered, his cheeks flushing with embarrassment. He didn’t think asking about a tattoo would be upsetting.

Castiel’s expression cleared and he waved his hand at Sam. “It’s all right, you didn’t know. Where I come from, it’s disrespectful to talk about someone’s tattoo until you know the person well. I forget not everyone knows that.” He smiled then, which helped make Sam feel like less of an idiot. “Now, Sam Harvelle, shall we get started?”

Sam cleared his throat and nodded. “I’m not saying I buy into any of this… ‘Last Jedi’ stuff… but if I did, what do I do now? Where do I start?”

Cas had Sam take off his shoes and thin jacket, and perch on set of rocks just as Cas had been doing, and replicate the same stance. Castiel called it the warrior pose and had Sam do a number of slow breathing exercises while he balanced on the rocks. They were cold and slippery under Sam’s feet and he slid off more than a few times, but each time he stepped back onto them and tried again.

The purpose of the pose and the breathing, Cas explained, was akin to meditation. It was to clear the mind, calm it, relax it. Focus on breathing and quiet. It was far easier to get in touch with the Force when the mind was at ease.

“What are the rocks for then?” asked Sam, his feet wobbling and toes clinging to the hard stone. Standing on them was unpleasant at best, and he imagined the longer he tried, the more painful it was going to become.

“For balance,” replied the former Jedi. “For engaging your body, for the challenge of feeling pain and having to still empty your mind. It’s not supposed to be easy or comfortable.”

His voice took on a note of warning as he continued, “Nothing about your training will be. Are you prepared for that, Sam?”

Sam grimaced a little, his eyes shut, as he fought to stay on the rocks. He thought of seeing Mary in the snow and he thought about Jo telling him to go on an adventure. He thought about Dean’s face when he believed Castiel was dead and how badly the Rebels needed all the help they could get in the fight against the Empire. He thought about Ellen and the smoking homestead.

“Yeah,” he answered. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

As Sam soon found out, Castiel hadn’t been putting it lightly when he said it was going to be hard. Cas had him balance on the rocks for quite some time, then changed it up with different poses, designed to make it even more difficult for Sam to focus.

Castiel took him off the rocks and then had Sam try to move them using the Force. Sam told him about his experience with the remote back on the Impala, how he’d tried to reach out for the Force and thought he might have done it, and Castiel looked immensely pleased.

After a couple hours of focusing, breathing, stretching, and ‘reaching out’, Sam felt a jolt of excitement go through him when he finally, properly felt the Force. It was difficult to describe. One minute Sam was still and breathing and soaking in the gentle, muffled noises of Dagobah around him, visualizing moving the rocks, and the next, he was buzzing with energy and light and he was actually moving the rocks.

He gave a startled laugh. Perhaps it was because of Castiel’s presence or the hours of breathing and focusing, but Sam found he could recapture the feeling with greater ease the more he did it. Castiel’s grin grew even wider when Sam managed to not only shift the rocks, but lift them a couple feet in the air.

They took a break from rock-throwing to move on to physical training. Cas had him running all over the place: over dirt trails, through shallow water, up and down rocky mounds, traversing logs propped over sluggish streams. He had Sam climbing trees and hauling himself up and down thick vines, scrambling between massive branches high above the ground. It made Sam’s palms sweat to be that high without the protection of a vehicle of some sort, but he did it anyways.

He kept picturing Ellen dying because of the Imperials, and Mary’s legacy cut short, and he knew he had to push. He had to try. He was no Jedi, he was sure, and never would be. But he had to try, for them.

Cas, for his part, kept up with Sam with infuriatingly little effort. For every tangle of vines that Sam scaled, Cas did it too with a lot less panting. He ran alongside Sam through the jungle and the mud, through clearings and thick underbrush, over rock-pitted hills and down the other side. While he was indeed sweating, he wasn’t drenched like Sam nor nearly as out of breath when they stopped.

They circled back to the hut to break for lunch (this time some sort of tart and delicious blue fruit, accompanied by a thick, pasty looking stew that smelled like pepper but tasted creamy and was pretty good) before they got back to it.

Sam wasn’t entirely sure what all this running and climbing had to do with anything, but knew Castiel had his reasons. Perhaps it had to do with exhausting the body so the mind could empty easier, or maybe it was simply making sure Sam was in better shape. Regardless, Sam ran on.

They returned to the hut when darkness began to fall. Sam was exhausted to the bone and aching all over. He barely stayed awake while Castiel prepared them some supper – a small creature roasted on the fire – and gobbled it down. The day had taken a lot out of him and he gratefully slumped to bed after he helped Cas clean up. He offered to take the couch and give Castiel his bed back, but the former Jedi remarked that he didn’t sleep much, so Sam was better off taking the bed.

Sam was far too tired to argue and simply nodded. He didn’t remember his face hitting the pillow.

With the constant darkness in the cave outside the Impala, there was no sense of day or night. Dean, Bela, and Ree didn’t keep much of an eye on the time either. They were focused on making the ship as functional as possible. The longer they remained undiscovered by Azazel and the Imperials, the better.

There were some occasional tremors and rumblings that made the ship shift and Dean feel edgy, but the movement would subside and not reoccur for several hours. Bela assured him she didn’t like staying here any more than he did, but it was better than flying the damaged ship into the asteroid field again.

Maybe they’ve given up, Ree suggested hopefully. She was on her back, head buried underneath the main piloting console. Maybe they think we blew ourselves up on that suicide run and they’ve moved on.

Dean adjusted the light he was holding for her. He scoffed. “I’m not that lucky. And I know Azazel. I guarantee he’ll comb every freakin’ asteroid for a sign of us before he even considers that we got away.”

It wasn’t unlike when the Sith had taken the fight to Alderaan and murdered Dean’s parents, years ago. Knowing they died as a result of Azazel’s grudge against Dean still stung. He shoved the emotion of it away before it could take hold, clearing his throat and adjusting the light for Ree again.

“You boys and your obsessions,” Bela mused from the corner where she was calibrating and adjusting a number of displays. She shot him a teasing look and Dean rolled his eyes.

The hours wore on. They stopped their repairs for meals when they got hungry and took breaks to play Dejarik, sabacc, and space poker so they could relax and put their minds on something else for a little while. They slept when they were tired, and once awake and fed, they resumed repairs. In a lot of cases, there was only so much they could do without new parts, but Dean was experienced with jerry-rigging things together, and Bela and Ree followed his lead.

Once they repaired the comm console, Dean prepared a message to send to Jo about his status – stranded and ready to limp to the nearest planet with a repair shop – though the density of the asteroid prevented him from getting a signal out. He wondered how she and the other Rebels were faring. He’d been so busy escaping Hoth with Bela that he didn’t even know who’d been killed during the invasion.

He wondered if Benny, Adam, Ash, or any of his other friends were dead. His stomach twisted into tight knots at the thought and he scrubbed his hands over his face. He suddenly felt exhausted to his bones. He needed to get back.

More importantly, he needed to make sure he could get back. The Impala had to be in good enough shape to outrun the Imperials if they were still out there. And knowing Azazel, as Dean unfortunately did, the son of bitch was nothing if not stubborn.

This spurred Dean to his feet, and he headed down the corridor to the secondary engine room to get back to work.

The second day of training was no less grueling, Sam discovered.

Castiel woke him at dawn, fed him some breakfast, and dragged him to the clearing to balance on rocks. Sam’s muscles protested. He was no stranger to physical labor, but the incredible amount of running and climbing the previous day had left him aching all over. Cas promised him it would all get better in time, though as Sam stretched his sore arms and legs, he wasn’t sure he believed him.

After the morning breathing exercises and rock-shifting, training went much the same as it had the first day. Castiel put Sam through the paces. He offered all kinds of advice along the way – hold your shoulders like this, slow your pace like that, lean into the Force, stretch your feelings – and Sam began to understand that much of what Castiel was trying to teach him wasn’t simply physical strength or endurance. It was about learning control, in every possible way, and figuring out how to let the Force flow through him while he did it.

In the evening, Castiel and Sam spent time talking. Cas told him about Jedi training at the Temple before the Clone Wars and the fall of the Jedi, about the other Padawans, Knights, and Masters he knew over the years. He talked about some of the more colorful missions he’d been sent on and how he’d met Dean.

“It was while I was on the run,” said Cas, leaning back into the cushioned wood chair. “I was on Cularin, hiding among the Tarasin. They’re a force-sensitive people and had been known to shelter former Jedi, so I built a safe house there. Eventually the Empire came – Cularin was a valuable mining operation.

“I was discovered by a group of Imperial raiders, taking it into their own hands to search every nook and cranny for remaining Jedi, and I barely managed to make it out,” Cas continued grimly. “I fled – they burned the place down behind me – and I ran into Dean. Literally.”

Cas chuckled a little then and Sam smiled, picturing Castiel crashing headlong into Dean.

“He had his gun out, I begged him to hide me, and somehow he believed me. He put me on his ship.”

“How’d you know he wasn’t an Imperial?” asked Sam. “Or… something else equally not good?”

“I… didn’t, exactly.” Cas tilted his head thoughtfully. “It had been years since I touched the Force, but when I saw Dean, it’s as though I felt some sort of… Something was familiar and… I can’t quite explain it to you, Sam. I trusted him. Even with his gun in my face.”

Sam nodded. He’d had the same strange feeling about Dean not long after meeting him too. He felt like he knew Dean, felt connected to him and trusted him, and couldn’t figure out why. He supposed that sometimes it simply happened like that – you found a connection with someone instantly, for whatever reason.

“It took some time for him to trust me, of course, given his history with the Imperials,” Cas continued. “Though eventually we became good friends and he brought me into the fold with the Rebels. Like I told you, I found purpose again when I was with them – I had something to fight for, and needed to make up for my cowardice.”

Cas paused. When he spoke again, his voice was brimming with pain and regret. “What kind of Jedi was I that I cowered and hid rather than defend my friends and the legacy of the Jedi? I did nothing to save the lives of the innocent.”

“The Jedi were being hunted and destroyed,” Sam put in earnestly. “I don’t think anyone can blame you for hiding.”

Cas shook his head sadly, unconvinced. His gaze drifted to the crackling fire.

Sam sat back on the couch, understanding flooding his chest. This was why his training was so important to Cas, more than carrying on where Mary could not. The former Jedi was trying to wash the blood of the past off his hands to make up for not defending his peers, his ideals, and more during the Purge. He wanted the legacy of all Jedi to live on, even if only for a moment, in Sam.

Sam didn’t blame him for a second for not standing up during the Purge – had Cas tried, he would’ve been cut down the same as the rest and been reduced to a name on a memorial.

After several long moments, Sam cleared his throat softly. “Did you ever look for… did you ever find anyone else?”

Cas shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “I tried. Part of my missions in the Alliance was to seek out other former Jedi – whether they had denounced the old ways or were in hiding like me. I only found a couple in all the years I’ve been working with Dean and the Rebels, and they were not… they were not receptive.” He grimaced. “The rest were dead or too well hidden.”

Sam swallowed. It was one thing to read that all but a few Jedi had been wiped out; it was another to hear it from someone who lived it.

“Cas,” Sam began hesitantly, not sure if he was crossing a line like he accidentally had with his question about the tattoo earlier. “How old are you?”

Cas smirked a little. “Older than I look.”

He stood with a sigh and began cleaning up the remnants of their supper, and Sam sensed the conversation was over for the night. He bid the former Jedi goodnight and headed for the bedroom.

“Sam,” Cas said, then faltered when Sam turned to face him. After a long pause, he finished, “Good night.”

Sam wondered what Cas had wanted to say, but figured it would come out in time. He put it out of his mind as he fell asleep. Though he slept long and deep, he still felt tired when Cas gently shook him awake the following morning.

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