Castiel was as gently relentless as usual. He praised Sam for being a fast learner when Sam not only was moving the rocks around, but stacking them neatly and holding them in place until he had constructed a tiny tower.
Cas had him move on to shifting and stacking the crates from the X-Wing next. Sam found the crates much more difficult to move because they were larger than the rocks. The other man promised him that it was not the size of the object in question, but instead a matter of harnessing the Force to do the heavy lifting – literally.
“You could move your ship out of the swamp,” Cas suggested, gesturing to the X-Wing buried in the murky water. It had sank lower and lower over the past few days so that the only visible part of it was the tip of one of the arms.
Sam barked out a surprised laugh. “I can barely manage the crates – how the hell do you expect me to move an entire ship?”
“By using what you’ve learned,” Cas said matter-of-factly. “You must stretch out with your feelings.”
Sam huffed and looked out at the ship poking out of the swamp. “I really don’t see how some breathing and focusing is going to…” he trailed off, rubbing at the back of his neck.
Cas clapped Sam on the shoulder. “Go on.”
Sam exhaled in a rush. “I’ll try.” He shrugged and walked to the water’s edge.
“Sam, you have to think in terms of do,” said the former Jedi. “Think do or do not. There is no try. You can do this.”
Sam pressed his lips together, unconvinced. He shut his eyes and started breathing slow and deep like he’d been doing while moving the rocks. He visualized the ship and he pictured it rising out of the water. He lifted his arm out in front of him and took another few deep breaths, imagining tendrils of light – the Force – wrapping around the X-Wing’s hull and wings and sliding it out of the muck…
He heard Cas’ breath catch behind him and then Sam could hear the sound of swishing water. Am I doing it? he wondered, but then he started to lose the feeling of focus. He struggled to keep hold of the light and the threads binding the ship, and he could feel sweat beading on his forehead. They were sliding, breaking, disappearing…
Stay calm, he thought. Focus!
But it was no good – it was slipping away. He opened his eyes to see the ship, barely higher than it’d been before, sinking back down into the water. Sam felt sapped and shaky as he faced Cas.
“It’s too big.” Sam shook his head, pushing his sweat-soaked hair away from his forehead and catching his breath.
Cas was visibly disappointed, but he smiled, giving Sam another clap on the shoulder. “We’ll try again tomorrow,” he promised.
They took a break for food and water, and after that, it was back to slogging and hiking through the jungle.
The conversation that evening turned to Sam’s childhood. He talked about Ellen, about Jo and the trouble they got into as kids. He talked about his voracious appetite for books, how Bobby used to come by and give him new ones, and take him and Jo to the marketplace. He talked about Rufus with his conspiracy stories and smiley Garth who ran a moisture farm a few kilometers over. He spoke about trips to the junkyard, about close encounters with sand people, and life on Tatooine. The more he told Cas about his old life, the more Sam realized he missed it.
He recounted the day Ellen died – everything Bobby had told him about his birth parents, about finding the rebel plans, and discovering the destroyed homestead. Cas waited in sympathetic silence while Sam wiped his eyes and battled his emotions.
And around the time where Sam mentioned how good it had been to see Jo again, his only remaining family, Cas apparently decided it was time to upend Sam’s world once again.
He leaned forward and seemed so careful and unsure. “Sam, she… Jo Harvelle is not your only family.”
Sam scrunched his eyebrows and felt his stomach tangle up in knots. “What are you talking about?”
Firelight flickered across Cas’ features. “I wanted to wait until the right time to tell you, and I am truly – I do not know where to start.”
“Just say it, Cas,” Sam’s heart pounded in his chest.
“Dean Winchester is your brother, Sam,” Cas finally said. “Your blood brother.”
Sam stared. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but that certainly wasn’t it. He blinked, laughed, stopped short and shook his head. “I – he’s – what?”
For starters, it made no sense. Secondly, Ellen would’ve told him that he had a brother out there somewhere.
But she didn’t tell you about Bobby knowing your father, said an unwelcome voice in the back of his head.
And Bobby! He spent days on a ship with Sam and Dean, and at the base on Hoth – he definitely would have said something.
He didn’t know, Sam decided. He couldn’t have – he would’ve told me for sure.
Except then Sam remembered the way Bobby had been on Hoth, on the day of the invasion. How he’d clearly been trying to tell Sam something huge, had promised it could wait. Was that it? Was he about to tell me I was freaking related to Dean Winchester, leader of the Rebel Alliance?
Cas waited several long minutes while Sam absorbed this new information. Sam looked up and demanded, “How? How is this... possible?”
Castiel sighed. “It took me some time to piece it all together, but I spoke to Bobby on Hoth. Once I knew Mary was your mother, I finally understood it all.”
Sam felt a trickle of ice sliding down his spine. Bobby did know. He knew and he never said a word. And I left before he could tell me.
“When your mother, Mary, left the Order to be married, it was to a pilot named John Winchester,” Cas explained. “She soon became pregnant and had her first child: Dean. After a massive attack on Threstosii, she and John fled with the baby to a safer place. But it was the middle of the Clone War, and there was no safe place. John kept flying and he made a name for himself – he was the best, and the Separatists hated him.”
Sam listened, twining his fingers together in his lap. He was only now realizing that both Ellen and Bobby had always conveniently never told Sam what his birth parents’ last name was. It hadn’t ever seemed relevant, he supposed, and he’d never asked.
“Dean was only a couple years old when you were born,” Cas continued. “Darth Azazel had risen to power, and the Empire was rising to full force under him and Emperor Lucifer. They were determined to wipe out Winchester and his family, and as you know, Azazel tracked down Mary and John and killed them.”
Cas leaned forward in his chair, fixing his intense gaze on Sam. “But you survived – you and Dean were saved in time. With the Empire so intent on destroying the Winchesters and the Jedi, the decision was made to separate and hide you. They spent years trying to hunt down the child of Winchester – the Empire only ever knew about Dean. Sam, they never knew about you.”
Sam raked his hand though his hair. His mind was reeling. He remembered the talk he’d had with Dean aboard the Impala about Dean’s childhood. Sam couldn’t tell if he was blind or stupid that he hadn’t put this all together sooner himself. Both adopted, with birth parents who were important and murdered during the Clone Wars…
“When Dean Winchester began making trouble for the Imperials, Azazel believed he’d found his man, the surviving son of John and Mary. It’s why he’s so determined to make Dean pay – it’s because of John. Dean is a task left unfinished. The child he didn’t get the chance to kill, all grown up and actively working to destroy the Empire.”
“And he’s… he’s my brother,” Sam murmured, trying the words out. He was startled by how right they felt. This explained the bond he felt with Dean – the connection and trust he hadn’t been able to articulate before. We’re related.
Cas sat back in his chair. “I believe that’s why I trusted him from the start. I felt echoes of Mary in him too, before I understood what it really was – though not a fraction as strongly as I felt it when you walked into my cell that day.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t… I didn’t tell you sooner,” Cas finished hesitantly.
Sam stood up to pace but sat back down, unsure what to do with himself. He didn’t know quite how to react, how he felt. He was shocked, yet somehow not at all, like he’d known all along. He was upset, he was calm. He was wound too tight, he needed air, he couldn’t move.
He wanted to be angry at someone for keeping something this huge from him – Bobby? Ellen? Cas? – but it was obvious they’d done it to protect Dean and him from the Empire, and it had clearly worked. Azazel and the Imperials believed there was only one threat, only one Winchester out there trying to take them down.
Sam clenched his fist at his side. Well, aren’t they in for a fucking surprise.
Fire flared in his chest and for the first time in his life, Sam felt like he knew where he belonged in the galaxy. He wouldn’t just be the son of Mary Campbell, former Jedi. He wasn’t just a junker from Tatooine, caught up in something he barely understood. He’d be the son of Mary and John Winchester, the brother of Dean Winchester.
Now all he had to do was train like hell and join said brother in burning down the Galactic Empire once and for all.
Azazel stalked along the line-up of bounty hunters. There were a dozen of them – a solid turn out, he thought. These were the ones close to the fleet’s position or were fast enough to respond to the contract he’d put out, with a tight twenty-four hour response deadline.
There was a wide array of scum before him – some were familiar to him from past jobs he’d overseen, others were not. There was a battered war droid, a reptilian bipedal, a number of humans of varying age and attire, something with a metal respirator for a face, something with gills and tentacles… The smell coming from that one was particularly pungent, so Azazel grimaced and kept his distance.
General Roman was eyeing the lot with disgust. Not only was Azazel aware that Roman thought bounty hunters were a special breed of garbage, but the general was clearly rather put out that Azazel was assigning the discovery of the Impala to the likes of them rather than to his trusted, newly minted general.
His trusted, newly minted general who was currently failing at the task at hand. Given Azazel’s heightened temper as of late, he thought Roman would do well to find the Impala first and get back into his good graces instead of glowering at the about-to-be-hired hands.
Azazel clasped his hands behind his back as he paced before the bounty hunters. “I’ll make this short and sweet: I need the Impala and I need its crew. The one who brings them in will receive a substantial reward from the Empire, as well as the Emperor’s eternal thanks. And mine, which is rather priceless if I do say so myself.”
A black, humanoid man with a set of nasty, sharp-looking teeth piped up, “How substantial?”
“Pretty damn,” Azazel replied, turning his wicked yellow-eyed gaze to the man.
He shrugged one shoulder as if he were bored. “Just trying to see if this is worth my time.”
Azazel’s lip curled slightly. “Look…” He snapped his finger and Roman darted forward with a list of the gathered mercs. He pointed, and Azazel read the name, “Walker, have you had a contract with the Empire before?”
Walker shrugged again.
“Trust me, it’s more money than you’ll make in your entire pathetic, little life,” Azazel sneered at him and moved on down the line. Now, if he could avoid any more stupid questions…
“I want them alive,” the Sith lord commanded in a loud, dangerous voice. “I’ll say it again so you don’t mishear me: alive and unharmed. ‘Course, if they get a little banged up in the process, I’m not going to be too fussed about it. But I have business with them and I need a clean slate.” The smile he shot them was enough to make that Walker guy gulp.
“This means,” Azazel continued, raising his finger and pointing at the hunters he was familiar with in succession.
“No poison,” to a woman dressed in purple with a veil over half her face, blonde hair poking out from under her helmet. There was a small set of dark red initials reading M.M. on her breastplate. By the squint of her eyes and tilt of her head, he could tell she was smirking behind her veil.
“No copious torture,” to a weedy man with graying hair who was picking his fingernails with a long knife.
“But a little’s okay?” he asked in a drawling, nasal voice.
“Clean slate, Alastair,” Azazel told him. “Though I may require your services later.”
Alastair’s cold gray eyes glinted with malice and excitement. This was why Azazel kept him around.
To the fair-skinned woman with the fiery red hair, he reminded, “Bruised is fine, battered is not. Don’t play with your food.” She pursed her brilliant red lips but nodded curtly.
At the end of the line he pointed to the blonde in the brown leather jacket. “And you: no disintegrations.”
“You take the fun out of everything,” she said with a roll of her eyes. She slipped a dagger from her belt into her hand and gave it a deft flip. “But if that’s what you want. You’re the boss, Boss.”
Azazel stepped back and surveyed them for a moment before dismissing them. They exited the bridge, guided out by Commander Uriel, while Roman stayed behind frowning at their retreating backs.
“Don’t be such an infant,” the Sith lord said mockingly to his general. “We’ve wasted far too much time on this damn asteroid field as it is. You wanna be useful? Go find Winchester before the hunters do. Maybe then I won’t kill you before the week is up.”
Roman paled and scurried away.
Azazel approached the forward viewscreen, showing the vast, never-ending sea of asteroids floating amongst the stars before his ship. He crossed his arms over his chest.
Where are you, you little shit?