Thankfully, Gabriel was true to his word this time and he indeed did ensure that the Impala was in far better shape leaving Cloud City than when she’d limped in. As Dean tended to Sam and Bela in the med bay, he felt the ship get buffeted by blasts from the pursuing TIE fighters. Luckily it wasn’t long before Gabriel and Ree sent the Impala shooting into hyperspace, out of reach of the enemy ships.
Dean let out a breath of relief – it was good to feel Baby purring and healthy around him again. He returned his attention to Sam, who’d passed out almost as soon as Dean had laid him on the cot.
The kid was beaten to a pulp, bruised and bloody up all over, though the worst spot was the nasty slice in Sam’s shoulder. Dean cut the kid’s shirt away to get a better look and nearly threw up. The slash was deep, scorched down to the bone.
Dean wasn’t used to anything more than minor injuries and blaster wounds, but he patched Sam up as best as he could with the remaining bacta in the ship’s stores. He put Sam’s arm in cross-chest sling to take the weight off his bad shoulder, then moved on to cleaning and covering the kid’s more minor wounds.
“He looks rough,” Bela murmured sleepily. She was laying on the other cot across the room, fresh bacta and bandages scattered over her arms and face as well.
Dean frowned, glancing between her and Sam. “Yeah, you two are quite the pair right now.”
“Not my best look.”
He stood with a wince and crossed the small space. “No, not really.” Dean crouched down beside her cot, holding his arm around his tender ribs.
“Gee, thanks,” she mumbled and rolled her eyes.
He chuckled and ignored the urge to clasp her hand. Now that things were quiet, the moment in which he’d watched her being lowered into the carbon freeze pit kept replaying in his mind.
I do care. Dean, I-I’m so sorry I…
The words to talk to her about what she’d said burned in his throat and he swallowed them down, unable to voice them. It was better not to say anything at all. They’d already blown way past ‘complicated’ but he didn’t doubt he’d find a way to make things worse.
She was watching him with tired eyes, like she could guess he was teetering on the edge of saying something too personal that they’d both regret. Like she was afraid he’d call her out on what she’d said earlier. Like she was considering saying something too, and that scared him. He was already in so very dangerously deep with her all over again and clawing his way back out of this pit did not involve showing her his heart. Not now that they weren’t about to be executed.
He wished she’d say something nasty and condescending to put them back on solid ground.
He gave his head a shake and cleared his throat. He locked away the memory of her face in the chamber, and buried the feelings he had from seeing her lying there, banged up all to hell. He didn’t have time for these emotions (except he did and that was exactly the problem).
“We’re a while out,” he said when she yawned. “Sleep.”
Her lips curled up in a small, slight smile. He could tell she didn’t want to fall asleep and was fighting it.
“I’m fine,” she retorted out of habit even as she stifled another yawn.
Dean leveled his gaze at her. “Bela, you just fought for your life against a freakin’ bounty hunter and barely made it out. Sleep or I’ll make you sleep.”
“So bossy,” she drawled, letting her eyes slide shut.
“Damn straight,” he said with a chuckle.
He got up and shucked her boots off for her.
Eyes still closed, she murmured, “Hey. Don’t steal my boots. I’m too incapacitated to stop you.” Her tone was lazily annoyed, but her mouth twitched into a half-smile she was too tired to fight.
He rolled his eyes and unfolded a blanket from the cupboard over her bed, spreading it out over her bruised form.
“And stop taking care of me. I hate it.”
Dean smirked. “Liar.”
She gestured weakly, eyes still closed, in the direction of her boots. “Thief.”
He shook his head. “Go to sleep, woman.”
She muttered again, this time too inaudible to make out. Dean settled back down on the stool beside her cot. He stayed beside her until her breathing evened out. He was again tempted to hold her hand and fought off another wave of emotion as his mind flashed back to the carbon freeze chamber.
Damn it, he thought, shoving his fingers through his hair, mussing it up. He’d fallen too far. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t let her trip him up or get himself tangled in his old, thoroughly complicated, feelings for her. Yet here he was, and damn it, damn it, damn her!
He busied himself for a few moments tidying up the medical area, tossing away open packages and bloody bandages and rags – anything to take his mind off that woman for a few minutes. He dosed himself with a little painkiller to take the edge off.
As an afterthought, he grabbed a hypospray of a moderate sedative and injected it into Bela’s arm. After that fight, the longer she slept, the better. He knew from past experience she’d only get up and complain and annoy the hell out of him until he managed to dose her. He was just saving them both time.
With a sigh, Dean took a seat on the stool beside Sam’s bed and resumed cleaning the minor cuts and scrapes criss-crossing the kid’s face and arms. His brow furrowed in concentration, his movements slow and gentle. After a few minutes, Sam stirred.
“Where…” he mumbled incoherently. He glanced around blearily, trying to sit up. He cried out and Dean gently pressed on his unhurt shoulder, guiding him to lie back down.
“Hey, Sam, it’s okay – it’s Dean,” Dean assured him. “You’re safe. You’re on my ship, and we’re on our way to the base – to Jo. You’re okay.”
“Dean?” Sam finally focused on him.
“Yeah, uh… hi,” Dean gave Sam an awkward wave, taking his hands away from the kid. Somehow it’d been less weird to be cleaning his wounds when Sam was unconscious. Dean fiddled with the bloodied cloth in his hands and cleared his throat. “I was just… uh, you know.”
Sam shut his eyes and sighed, long and deep. “Thank you,” he said a moment later, opening his eyes again.
Dean shrugged one shoulder. “It’s nothing. I just… Jo would’ve killed me if I didn’t bring you back. I mean, literally, shoot me down in the street killed me.” He offered the kid a half-smile. It was easier to blame Jo then admit he felt so protective of someone he hardly knew.
Sam chuckled, stopping mid-laugh with a moan of pain. “Yeah,” he agreed when he’d recovered his breath. “I’m pretty sure she would.”
The strange tension Dean had felt when Sam first awoke began to ease, thankfully, though Dean still felt a little odd tending to his friend. He cleared his throat again and hesitantly resumed dabbing at a deep scrape on Sam’s side. The kid tensed and winced, but otherwise didn’t react. Dean was as gentle as he could be while wiping away the grime and blood.
“Azazel do all this to you?” he wondered.
Sam nodded. “Yeah.”
“You kill him?” Dean demanded, anger flaring.
“I tried,” Sam croaked.
Dean pressed his teeth together so tight it hurt. Azazel had taken his parents, had taken Castiel on the Death Star, so many of his friends, so many lives, and now he’d nearly taken Jo’s brother too. Dean wasn’t just going to kill the Sith, he was going to fucking annihilate him.
“Dean…” the kid began but didn’t seem to know what he wanted to say. Dean decided to save him the trouble and asked him some questions instead.
“How’d you know where to find us? Did Jo send you? Did she get my message?”
“I don’t know,” Sam answered. “After Hoth, I left the Rebels.”
Dean scrunched his eyebrows and swivelled on the stool to scoop up the last bacta bandage. Crap. At least I got the worst of it, he thought grimly, eyes skimming Sam’s exposed skin for more gashes that needed tending, though he had no more bacta patches to apply to them. It’ll have to do.
Aloud, he said, “You left?”
Sam nodded. “I went to Dagobah.”
Before he applied the last bandage, Dean realized that Sam was watching him with weird mix of emotions. He had clearly missed something. What was so important about Dagobah?
“Is… that supposed to mean something to me?” said Dean carefully.
Okay, now the kid’s eyes were shimmering with tears. He wished he had more painkillers to give him – that shoulder must’ve been hurting him pretty damn bad if he was choking back tears. Dean had to turn away. The look on Sam’s face was making him uncomfortable, like it didn’t have anything to do with physical pain. He gingerly pressed the bacta bandage along Sam’s side –
Sam cried out and Dean jumped away, terrified he’d hurt him, until he realized the kid was grabbing at his own head with his free hand.
“Sam? You okay?”
Sam’s eyes were shut tight. “Oh God… no…”
“Sammy? Talk to me, what’s going on?”
“No! Cas!” Sam yelled, pressing his hand tighter to his temple. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
Dean’s heart pounded against his ribs. What the hell is happening?
Sam yelped in pain, gasped, and then tears began streaming down his face as he tried to recover his breath. Dean was frozen, hands hovering over Sam, no idea what had just happened or how to fix it.
“Sam?” he said again unsurely.
“He’s gone,” Sam cried. “Dean, h-he’s dead.”
Dean felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped away. “Who’s dead?”
“Castiel,” the younger man choked out.
“I know,” said Dean in confusion, thinking of the fight between Castiel and Azazel back on the Death Star. He’d assumed his best friend had been cut down then – had refused to let himself feel it. Sam had been there too, was he only just now feeling the grief? But the kid didn’t even know Cas…
“No, Dean, now…”
“Sammy, you’re not making any sense. What happened? Are you okay?”
It was several tense minutes before Sam seemed to be able to breathe again and could explain. “I saw it,” he said dully. “Dean, I left Hoth to go to Dagobah because I had a vision – before you found me, out there in the snow. I went – Cas was there on Dagobah, and he started to train me to become a Jedi like my mother. I had visions of you being tortured in Cloud City, so I came to find you and stop Azazel.”
The kid was barely making sense. Visions? Sam trying to be a Jedi? And Cas was alive? But then why the hell hadn’t he told Dean? And where was this all going? He waited, his stomach twisting itself in complicated knots, as Sam continued.
“Cas must have followed me to Cloud City after all. He must’ve decided…” The tears were still sliding down Sam’s cheeks, one by one. He scraped in a shaky breath. “I saw him – now. I had another v-vision.”
Dean’s throat constricted, but he managed, “What’d you see?” He absolutely dreaded what the kid was about to tell him but he needed to know.
Sam shook his head, his eyes glistening with a fresh wave of tears. “I saw him… die. He was in Cloud City and he was fighting and then… He’s gone, Dean. T-this time… he’s really gone.”
Dean blinked against the sting in his own eyes. “How?”
“The Emperor,” Sam replied, unwilling or unable to elaborate.
Dean ducked his head and bit his lip, struggling to keep his own tears at bay. He absolutely didn’t want to believe it. He’d had a hard enough time the first go around when he believed Azazel had taken Cas down, but there’d been that thread of hope that it hadn’t been true, that Cas had miraculously escaped, and Dean hadn’t seen what he thought he saw. The doors had shut after all, and Dean had never seen a body, so there’d been that ‘maybe’ lingering in the back of his mind all this time.
But if Sam was having visions that were coming true then this was it – really it. And Castiel was dead.
For an irrational moment, Dean wanted to jump up and run for the cockpit, and demand they go back to Cloud City for Cas. But suppose they rushed back into the waiting arms of a thoroughly pissed off Azazel and the Emperor himself? What if they arrived only to discover they were too late to save Cas? It’d put them right back where they were, only in even worse shape. All of them were injured, so what good would they be in an all out fight?
Besides that, he had to think of Sam, who needed a bacta tank for that shoulder at the very least, and of Bela who could use one too to heal from her tangle with Ruby. Not to mention Ree, with a solid blaster hit to her body that still needed medical attention, and even Gabriel, who Dean was still pissed at, but who’d certainly been knocked around enough to require some treatment too.
Dean supposed he wouldn’t say no to some bacta for himself too, given the way Azazel had treated him, as long as the others were seen to first. They were now completely out of bacta on the Impala, so he couldn’t even do some minor, temporary healing.
Not to mention the Rebels are counting on me to come back, Dean thought sadly.
He wished he had the luxury to try to save Castiel, even if it was risky and borderline suicidal. It felt like giving up to not even try, something against the fabric of who he was. He’d already failed once to be there for his best friend and he couldn’t bear failing him again, yet he knew had no other choice.
He covered his face with his hands and tried to breathe. Putting his emotions in a box was a lot harder with so many of them fighting to tear free. He couldn’t let himself think about Cas or he’d break apart. He needed to be here and stay focused.
“There’s more,” Sam croaked, breaking into Dean’s grief-laden thoughts.
I can’t handle any more. He let his shaking hands fall to his lap and forced his attention on Sam.
“And I don’t know how to say it, but… I’m just…” He took a breath. “Dean, you’re my brother.”
Dean blinked. Of all the things he imagined Sam might add to the conversation, that was certainly not one of them. Was he freaking serious?
“You know, now is really not the time for some backwards joke,” he said.
“No,” Sam sniffled. He attempted to sit up and when he couldn’t quite manage it, Dean leaned forward with a roll of his eyes to ease him upright. Sam coughed and continued, “I’m serious.”
Haltingly, Sam explained much of what Cas had told him on Dagobah. The weirdest part was that while the initial revelation had thrown Dean for a serious damn loop, the explanation didn’t feel as strange or impossible as he thought it should. In fact, as Sam went on, the more bothered Dean became. It felt true. But how could he have gone his whole life not knowing he had a sibling? He had no idea how the hell to react to this information or to the realization that his parents had never told him, though surely they had known.
He’d been an only child. He’d been raised to fight the Empire, to carry the weight of millions on his own two shoulders. The idea that he suddenly had someone with the same blood running in his veins, someone who wanted to share that weight, didn’t make sense. The idea that he actually had a real piece of a family again, and finding this out in the immediate aftermath of truly losing his best friend…? Dean was so overwhelmed he felt like bolting from the room.
Somehow Sam must have sensed that, as he reached out and gently gave Dean’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “I know,” he murmured. “It’s a lot.”
“Uh, yeah,” Dean snapped. “Just a bit!”
He wasn’t mad, he was… he didn’t know what he was. It was a lot, it was too much, it wasn’t enough, it was everything. He raked his fingers through his hair, his mind whirling.
“Is this…” Dean fumbled for words. “Look, I… heard you. Back on Hoth and again today. I didn’t know what it was, but it was strong this time. A feeling, and like… I could hear your voice, in my head. Is that… is this why?”
“We’re connected,” Sam nodded. “Dean, you’re a great pilot, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I mean, but what does that have to do with – ”
“The Force was strong with our mother Mary. She passed that on to us. It’s what gives us such strong instincts – makes flying so easy. And since Cas opened me up to… understanding it… well.” Sam lifted his good shoulder in the semblance of a shrug. “I didn’t know if you could hear me. I was just thinking about you – wishing I’d known you were my brother all along.”
The Force, as he knew of it, had never made much sense to Dean and he still didn’t get how Sam could ‘call’ to him like he had. But flying made sense and always had – relying on his instincts, feeling on fire when he flew, that he understood very well.
“I suppose it doesn’t hurt that our dad was apparently one of the best pilots out there,” Sam added with a soft chuckle.
After that, Sam quieted to let Dean process, which he thoroughly appreciated. This was still a hell of a lot to take in. Dean head spun with so much new information. He knew most of his birth parents’ history. His adoptive parents had told him things, others he’d found out on his own. Bobby, Sam’s adoptive mother Ellen, and Dean’s parents had certainly done their job well though; he’d never had any inkling that he had a sibling.
Dean felt another wave of emotion threaten to overtake him. He had the urge to hug the kid – his brother. Holy shit, I have a brother. He swallowed hard.
“So… we’re brothers.”
For a second, Dean thought he might actually cry, and instead he started laughing. He had no idea why, but then Sam started to laugh too and they couldn’t seem to stop. When they finally sat back, caught their breath, and wiped their eyes, Dean felt like he was looking at Sam in an entirely different light.
My brother. A surge of protectiveness rose up in his chest at the sight of the kid looking so battered and now he understood where that feeling came from. This connection they had, this bond – brother.
Dean frowned. “Lay down,” he instructed gruffly. “I have a brother now, and I have to make sure he gets to the base alive.”
Sam smirked but did as he was told, letting Dean ease him back down onto the cot with minimal hissing and wincing. Dean got him a protein pack and a bottle of water, supervised him while he ate it, then ordered him to sleep. He was now doubly responsible for him – once for Jo, and once for himself.
It was too new not feel weird thinking of this kid as his brother, but it was also bizarrely comforting and right. Which was scary and, yeah, just really weird.
“Wait, but you’re also Jo’s brother,” Dean said slowly, a number of very alarming thoughts springing to his mind. “So if you and I are brothers, and you’re her brother…” He stomach churned. Oh God.
Sam laughed outright at what must have been quite the look of terror on Dean’s face. “Relax. I’m her adopted brother. No blood relation.”
Dean exhaled and relief surged through him. That could have been extremely awkward. Before the kid could ask him any clarifying questions, Dean stood.
“I’ll come get you when we’re almost at Yavin, Sammy,” he promised, then winced. “Sorry. Sam. I know you don’t like that.”
The kid regarded Dean thoughtfully. “You know what? Sammy’s fine.”
A sudden burst of warmth filled Dean’s chest and he quickly turned away and walked out of the med bay before Sam could catch a glimpse of the grin threatening to break across his features.