Sam’s world had narrowed to a tiny, impossible window. He swung his lightsaber this way and that, spun and shifted, every nerve, every sense completely focused on matching Azazel’s every blow. He could feel the Force flowing in his veins, could feel the waves of darkness and fury coursing out of the Sith.
Azazel was strong – incredibly strong – and the longer they battled, the more Sam could feel himself draining. He fought off a flutter of worry whispering his impending loss. He was only matching Azazel, after all – countering and meeting his attacks – not overriding them or getting any offensive blows of his own in.
They’d moved from the carbon freeze chamber, through doorways and hallways and were now in a darkened, empty reactor room. A massive glass window lined the far wall, giving an expansive view of the reactor shaft.
Sam shifted his stance to meet a fresh flurry of attacks from Azazel. He felt another shudder of worry. His arms were burned with effort. It would only take a miniscule lapse in concentration for the Sith to end him.
Azazel spun away, cape flaring. He backed several feet from Sam, who stood still, startled by the strange movement but glad for the brief respite.
“The Force is strong with you,” Azazel said thoughtfully, catching his breath. His scarred features were crinkled with surprise and confusion. He narrowed his eyes. “Who are you?”
Sam smiled and readjusted his grip on his lightsaber. “Sam,” he replied. His identity was his trump card and he wasn’t ready to play it yet.
Azazel waited a beat for a last name to come, and when it didn’t, his lip curled in a sneer. “Hell, I don’t really care. You know, as fun as this little interlude has been…” He lowered his lightsaber, but didn’t advance on Sam.
Sam’s brow crinkled. What is he doing?
Something hard and metal crashed into Sam’s back. He whirled to attack it and found another chunk of machinery flying at him. He tried to dodge it and was hit by a massive piece of pipe. Azazel was using the Force to dislodge as many objects and pieces of machinery as he could.
Sam tried to defend himself – tried to push back with the Force, tried to slice the objects with his lightsaber. There was too many and he was exhausted. He struggled and was hit, over and over. Pain exploded in his back, his head, his leg, his arm –
Just in time, he caught a glimpse of a column of red flashing towards him in the metal chaos. Sam lashed out wildly to counter Azazel’s strike, and their lightsabers smashed and sizzled. The Sith’s smile was feral as he struck, again and again, jarring Sam’s bones with the impact. Sam whirled.
His back was to the huge window when Azazel sent a huge column of metal flying at him. He swung his lightsaber to deflect it, catching its edge in a shower of sparks. It smashed the window and a harsh wind rushed into the room. Sam felt his feet slide towards the shattered window, and before he could react, a console shot straight at him. It crashed into his shoulder and sent him falling over the ledge.
Dean ducked around a corner, firing haphazard shots at the handful of troopers who’d chased him. He smirked when he saw a trooper fall with a smoking hole in his chest, the body tripping up the others.
Dean took off down another white hallway, trying to find his way out. Everything looked the same! He was taking too long in getting to his ship. He spit out a dozen curses and glanced back at the pursuing troops. Then he slammed full on into another running body and yelped as the impact sent him sprawling, his head smacking on the shiny floor.
“The hell!” he shouted, picking himself up and cradling his throbbing ribs.
Gabriel sat up from his position on the floor, rubbing his own head and moaning. “Ow, watch where you’re going, will ya? I already have two black – ”
Dean didn’t let him finish. He was on his former friend in a second, hand around his throat, blaster shoved to his temple.
“You son of a bitch!” he bellowed.
Gabriel threw up his hands defensively. “Whoa whoa whoa – wait! Dean!” he protested squeakily, choking as Dean pressed harder on his windpipe. “I had no choice!”
“Neither do I,” Dean growled, finger twitching on his blaster. He was gonna kill him, he was going to absolutely kill him for this.
“W-w-wait! I fixed it!” he wheezed. “I’m fixing it, bro! Listen!”
Dean clamped his teeth together – he didn’t have time for this and he didn’t want to freaking listen, he wanted to get the hell out of here! It must’ve been his history with Gabriel that made him do it, but he loosened his grip slightly.
“What?” he barked.
“I saw the kid,” Gabriel explained as fast as he could get the words out. “The place is locked down and I saw the kid going for the chamber, and my damn Imperial shadow was gone, so I had a chance and I took it. I sent some guns in after the kid, Dean, I got my staff to – ”
“Why should I believe you?” Dean rumbled, giving Gabriel a shove that had him gagging.
“You’re alive, aren’t you?” the other man replied shrilly.
Dean frowned. There had been a lot of blasterfire and not all of it from the troops. It’d been difficult to discern in the chaos, with all the machines and tanks, steam and smoke, but now that he thought about it, not all of those bodies running around had been Imperial clad, trooper or otherwise.
“And your ship,” Gabriel continued breathlessly. “My people have it fixed – good as new – and the bad guys tried to sabotage the hyperdrive, but when shit hit the fan, I got a message out. It’s a hundred percent now, I swear – you can get out of here clean!”
Dean wanted to believe him, but he kept picturing the moment when he’d seen Azazel in that dining room. He still ached from all the shit the Sith had put him through. He was loath to trust Gabriel, even for a second.
“Why the hell should I – ”
“Behind you!” Gabriel shouted, pointing over Dean’s shoulder.
Dean whirled and shot down an approaching trooper before the soldier could get a shot off. Dean jumped to his feet, hauling Gabriel to a standing position as well.
“Now?” Gabriel asked hopefully.
Dean gave him another shove, releasing his grip. “If you’re lying, I’m not gonna hesitate to pull the damn trigger.”
Gabriel rubbed at his neck, purple and red where Dean had grabbed him. “I’m not. Now do you want to get out of here or what?”
Dean pushed Gabriel into a doorway as a round of blasterfire peppered the air by their heads. Dean leaned out to fire back at the troopers jamming the corridor, and Gabriel crossed the empty plaza at their backs to the control station embedded in the wall.
“What are you doing?” Dean yelled.
The other man ignored him, punching buttons until a slim intercom microphone protruded from the panel. Gabriel snatched it up and spoke calmly into. His voice came out amplified, echoing off the walls amongst the laser fire.
“Attention everyone, this is Gabriel Calrissian, the owner and handsome maintainer of this fine city,” said Gabriel smoothly, tossing Dean a wink. “The lockdown is hereby lifted and I advise everyone to evacuate immediately – as in right this second if not sooner. The Empire’s come to town and they ain’t leavin’, ladies and gents and others. There’s no telling what they’ll do, so get out, like, now. Have a fantastic day.”
He replaced the intercom in the panel and punched several more buttons until red emergency lights came on at regular intervals down the halls, followed by a whining alarm.
“That should do it,” he announced, joining Dean by the doorway. “You coming?”
Dean downed another trooper and glared at Gabriel balefully.
“Right sorry,” he waved his hands defensively at Dean. “Saving our lives, I get it.”
Within seconds, people swarmed the corridors, screaming and panicking, running with armloads of goods and bags, obscuring the troopers from view. The troopers’ shots stopped. It seemed, for now, that they weren’t up for killing civilians.
“Time to go, Winchester,” Gabriel said with a wide grin.
Dean didn’t return it but he took off after his former friend, who led the way to where Baby was docked. His stomach churned. Where were Bela and Ree? With any luck, they were already at the Impala impatiently waiting for him.
He barked at Gabriel to run faster and together they dodged and wove through the increasingly thick stream of people trying to escape the doomed city.
“Estimated time of arrival?” the Emperor inquired of the lieutenant standing near.
“Less than ten minutes, my lord,” the man answered.
Lucifer turned his attention back to the viewscreen as his cruiser leisurely cut through the atmosphere. He was eager to have this whole mess over and done with. He hated being summoned almost as much as he hated insubordination. And Quer’tik wine. God, that stuff was shit.
But he supposed if this really was it, and Azazel had Winchester in hand once and for all, then the trip would be worth it. Though Lucifer would make certain that such a request – the Emperor coming to the side of his apprentice – was never made again. It looked pretty bad and was only going to look worse if ‘Zaze had screwed up yet again.
Truth be told, he hadn’t forseen this in his visions. He saw the Rebels burning, however, and that was enough for now. He allowed a small smile, recalling the image with a sense of blossoming triumph. Soon. This would simply be the first step – or rather, the last. The nail in the coffin. The straw on the camel. Whatever metaphor you wanted.
Lucifer clasped his hands together. He could see why people admired this place; this city in the clouds really was quite beautiful.
Bela was bloody, bruised, exhausted, and worst of all, losing.
The pair wrestled and fought, dodged and attacked, ran and fell. She didn’t think much progress had been made aside from the fact that she was still alive. And these however-many-minutes were climbing her list of Worst Moments Ever (quite an accomplishment, really). That was until Ruby dragged her by the ankle around another corner and Bela realized the ship on the landing platform just outside the door was Ruby’s Slave I.
“For the… last time…” Bela panted, kicking out to force Ruby to release her ankle. She struggled to shake the fog from her head wounds. “I’m not… going… with you.”
The bounty hunter swiped the blood from her eyes. “I got you… this far… I can manage… the rest.”
Bela grated, “Go to hell.”
Ruby’s grin was stained red. “After you.”
When she lunged, Bela was ready. She brought her legs up to hit Ruby square in the stomach, tossing her to the side and knocking the wind out of her. Bela launched to her feet as the bounty hunter gasped for air. She ran forward, grabbed at Ruby’s collar and dragged her through the doorway towards the edge of the landing platform. Wind tickled her bloody, sweaty skin.
Ruby’s hands clamped around Bela’s wrist. She dug her nails in hard. Bela cried out and her grip tightened despite the pain. Ruby twisted, kicking. Her boot crashed into the back of Bela’s leg, making it buckle. She landed on one knee and it was the window Ruby needed to regain the upper hand.
She wrenched out of Bela’s grip and clocked her in the face. Bela saw stars and fell backwards, her back slamming to the ground, her head on the edge of the platform. Ruby grinned again, triumphant, and straddled Bela, pinning her.
“I’ve been… looking forward to… taking you down for so long,” she said between breaths. “Cocky… selfish… bitch…” She moved her banged up hands to Bela’s throat.
Bela thoroughly hated that this was going to be the last thing she saw.
There was a sudden clatter and something cold bumped against Bela’s hand. Ruby glanced down, Bela’s fingers closed around the object, and they both realized it was the dagger. The blonde’s eyes went wide and she released Bela to go for the knife, but too late. Bela brought the dagger up hard. Ruby jolted away so Bela missed her neck but sank the blade deep into the bounty hunter’s shoulder instead. Ruby screamed.
As Ruby leaned away and tried to grab at the blade buried in her skin, Bela kicked her legs up. Her knees connected with the other woman’s back. It wasn’t much of a hit, but it was enough to set Ruby off balance, hands splaying out to avoid falling off the edge. Bela rolled out from under her, swiveled –
“Right back atcha,” she said, and shot out her legs, connecting with the bounty hunter’s side.
Ruby’s scream pierced the air above the blaring alarms as she tumbled over the side of the landing platform. It was cut short a second later and Bela winced. Shaking, she looked up to see who had thrown her the dagger and saw Ree, unsteadily hobbling forward.
“Ree!” Bela exclaimed, tears springing to her eyes.
Ree had one hand pressed to her scorched stomach and was pale, wobbly, and sweaty as she limped towards Bela. Ree was perhaps the only real friend she’d ever had and she couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.
So you’re not dead, Ree clicked wearily. That’s good. Sorry I got shot.
Those were Ree’s words on their second outing together and Bela had realized someone actually cared whether she lived or died. They were the words she’d said to Ree years later on Mon Gazza after they’d been separated and Bela stranded. It became their ‘thing’ and Bela could not have been more relieved in that moment to hear those words.
She climbed to her feet and let the tears fall down her face. She hurt all over and Ree was clearly worse for wear as well, but Bela threw her arms around her green co-pilot and laughed.
She seriously did a number on you. Ree’s squeaks were a tired murmur. I think this is like the second time I’ve ever seen you cry.
Bela pulled back, wiping her arm on her filthy sleeve with a chuckle. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
That moisture on your face right now? It’s called crying. It happens when you’re emotional. Means you genuinely care about something.
Bela gently swatted Ree on the arm. “Oh, do shut up.”
Don’t worry, I won’t tell.
Ree slid her arm around Bela’s back and together they gingerly picked their way down the corridor towards the adjacent landing platform and the Impala.
Sam picked himself off the gantry below the window and ran for the control room doorway, glancing over his shoulder for the Sith. He had no idea how the hell Azazel got there so fast, but when Sam turned back, Azazel had cut off his exit to the control room, forcing the younger man farther out onto the gantry catwalk.
The Sith’s long black cape swirled with the wind and his yellow eyes glinted. Sam swung his lightsaber in a series of desperate attacks and could tell with each buzz and snap of their weapons that he was thoroughly outmatched – this was bad, this was worse than bad. He was getting backed into a corner and he was so very, very screwed.
“You can’t win this, Sam,” Azazel sneered, sensing Sam’s panic. Their lightsabers briefly touched the railing on his left, showering them in sparks. Azazel grunted and forced Sam further backwards. “You fought well, kid, I’ll give you credit for that. But it’s over now. You’re done.” He poured more energy into his blows and advanced.
Sam fumbled, narrowly avoiding the sizzling column of red. He was slick with sweat, his breathing heavy, heart slamming against his ribs. This can’t be over, he thought. With a wordless shout, he swung his own lightsaber harder, faster, with both hands. He felt blind with desperation, the Force ebbing away as he continued to lose focus, letting fear and anger flow into his chest.
Azazel’s grin grew wider and more sinister. “That’s it, kiddo. That’s it.”
At once, Sam realized what was happening and heard Castiel’s warnings in his head about the Dark Side. With a gasp, he stepped back until he was pressed against an instrument complex at end of the catwalk. He only had a half second to take another gulp of oxygen in the windy reactor shaft before Azazel surged forward. Sam’s clumsy defensive maneuver failed to stop the red column of humming light.
Sharp, hot pain seared in Sam’s shoulder and he dropped to his knees with a cry. He barely kept a grip on his lightsaber as Azazel stepped back. Sam could smell burnt flesh and though he couldn’t clearly see what the Sith had done to him, he could certainly feel it. Sam’s shaking fingers deactivated his lightsaber – he couldn’t hold it up anymore anyways – as he tried to breathe and focus on the man with the yellow eyes, instead of the agony radiating from his shoulder.
Azazel raised his lightsaber poised to finish Sam off. Instead of bringing it down, he hesitated. He cocked his head thoughtfully and remarked, “You know, you’re strong as hell. I haven’t seen anything like it in a very long time. It’s impressive. Annoying, but impressive.” He too deactivated his lightsaber.
Sam blinked at the sweat in his eyes, struggling to breathe through the blistering pain. He needed to get away, he had to get away somehow, maybe if he climbed out to the extreme end of the scaffolding, and oh God his shoulder – he could barely think. He edged backwards and shoved his lightsaber into his belt with his left hand. His right felt tingly and numb and slow – he wasn’t going to be able to fight back anymore even if he wanted to.
“The Force is strong with you, Sam,” Azazel continued. “But I still could kill you right here and now. Or, I could make you a little deal.”
“W-what?” Sam asked, his lips trembling. He couldn’t fathom why, but Azazel was letting him crawl out of reach. Sam wasn’t going to put much thought in it – instead he worked on not falling as he inched along the narrow metal support beam beneath his knees.
“With a little training, you could go far. I mean, I don’t want to blow your skills out of proportion here, considering how thoroughly I just whooped your ass, but I’m talking my apprentice, far. Successor, far.” Azazel shrugged. “Who knows, right?”
“I’ve already had my training.” Sam did not look down, he was not going to look down, he –
He fought off a wave of nausea at the sight of the massive, open shaft stretching into oblivion. He nearly slipped off the gantry, which had narrowed to barely a foot. He curled his arm around the instrument complex at the beam’s end. There was absolutely nowhere else to go.
“Sure you have,” Azazel allowed. “But nothing like what I’d teach you. You were probably given all that airy fairy Light Side stuff, right? And all the adorable little warnings about the Dark Side?”
Sam didn’t reply. Just held on to the cool metal with his left arm and tried to stay upright. He couldn’t feel his right arm anymore. That was probably a really bad thing…
“Just think: if you and I were allies, what kind of team we’d be...” Azazel held out his hand as if calling Sam back to him. “Kid, with your strength, we’d be unstoppable. We could rule the damn galaxy.” He closed the hand in a fist and his dreadful eyes glittered.
Sam felt sick all over again, though whether from the pain or the view or the Sith’s words, he couldn’t tell. “I’ll never join you,” he spat with as much venom as he could muster.
Azazel dropped his hand with a huff. “You know, and that’s what I get for trying to be nice.”
Sam glanced down at the darkness below and back at the Sith who had reactivated his lightsaber. He knew in that moment that Castiel had been right. He hadn’t been ready. But Sam had also stopped the Sith from going after Dean, and if that’s all he managed to do, Sam still thought it was pretty damn worth it.
When he smiled at Azazel, the Sith’s brow crinkled. “What?”
“Just thought you should know who I am, after all this,” said Sam. Smiling hurt, but hell, everything hurt.
Azazel rolled his eyes. “Look, I’m actually going to kill you now, so it really doesn’t matter.”
Sam ignored him. “I’m the son of Mary Campbell and John Winchester.” He relished the way Azazel’s face registered confusion, disbelief, and shock in quick succession.
“That’s not possible,” the Sith mumbled.
“I’m the brother of Dean Winchester,” Sam continued.
“That’s not… fucking possible,” Azazel growled, and Sam could feel the waves of shock and fury pulsing out from the Sith. “I killed them – I – that is not possible!“
Sam’s grin widened. “I am Sam Winchester, the last of the Jedi.”
And he let go of the gantry.