“There you are,” Dean greeted with a grumble. He was waiting beside Sam’s X-Wing, gathered with Bobby, Jo, and Dean’s good friend Benny. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Sorry,” panted Sam. “Bela was loading her…” He trailed off when he saw Dean’s expression go dark and hard. He hastily finished, “I got caught up.”
Benny and Jo exchanged knowing glances. Sam raised his eyebrows at his sister – did she know about Dean and Bela’s history? Oh, he was so going to ask her about that later.
“All right, you kids gotta ship out, so we’ll make this real quick,” Bobby said as he passed out a handful of plastic cups.
“Fancy,” Benny quipped, twirling his cup around.
Dean rolled his eyes.
“Sam, this is a tradition that your dad, Ellen, and I started back in the Clone Wars,” Bobby continued. “Dean here carried it on, and now we’re adding you to it.”
Sam smiled at the small knot of people gathered, realizing that these were all the people Dean was closest to. He immediately felt honored to be included, then sad when he realized that Castiel should’ve been there too. He shoved away the pang of grief.
Bobby unscrewed the lid on the bottle he was holding and sloshed a bit of dark brown liquid into each of their outstretched cups. Jo frowned at it and Sam wrinkled his nose. It smelled like tar.
Bobby held his cup up first. “To freedom,” he said sombrely.
Benny, Dean, Jo, and Sam repeated the toast in murmured unison, their cups making a dull clacking noise when they bumped together. Sam tossed the liquor back, mimicking the others, and he immediately coughed. Whatever the stuff was, it burned his throat and his mouth and made his eyes water. It tasted bitter and vile.
Dean made a face as he swallowed then laughed at his brother, while Benny hmmed thoughtfully, licking his lips.
“Sorry,” Bobby grunted. “This is all I could find.”
“Once you get past the burn, it ain’t too bad,” said Benny, only half sarcastic, reaching out to collect the empty cups.
“What – the hell – ” Sam coughed, “was that?!” His mouth and throat were still on fire.
“Hell if I know,” Bobby shrugged. “Label’s gone missing. It was the only thing left in the alcohol stores.”
Sam glanced at the older man incredulously and saw that Bobby was suppressing a smile, and not very well.
Benny and Dean laughed and Jo chuckled into her hand. Sam glanced between them all. Somebody was totally messing with him.
“Sorry, Sam,” his sister said. “It really is a serious tradition. But first-timers always have to drink Mekzatorian brew, which will pretty much peel paint. Dean’s idea.”
“I see.” Sam’s eyes were still watering and he directed his mock-offended gaze to his brother. “Jerk,” he wheezed.
Dean smirked. “Aw, you made it too easy, bitch.”
The final call for the pilots to man their ships went out and Sam’s stomach jolted. He was moments away from flying into battle and the notion barely seemed real – despite being suited up and about to leave. All those years on Tatooine dreaming about making a difference…
This was so much more than steering that speeder over Hoth’s icy surface, skirting around Imperial walkers. This was more, even, than going head to head with Azazel in the corridors of Cloud City. This was everything, this was it, this was why he’d followed Castiel to Dagobah – this was the Death Star and the Emperor. This was the heart of the Galactic Empire and he was about to dive straight at it.
Benny and Dean wished each other luck with a quick hug, followed by Benny and Jo. Benny stopped to shake Sam’s hand and give his shoulder a squeeze while Bobby spoke in low tones to Jo.
“Fly true, brother,” Benny said with a warm smile, his blue eyes twinkling.
“You too,” Sam returned.
“Promise I’ll get you somethin’ more palatable to drink when we’re toasting to the fall of the fuckin’ Empire.” He gave Sam’s back a slap and headed away with the last group of pilots.
Sam hardly knew him, but he liked Benny. When this was all over, he hoped he’d have the chance to employ Benny’s help getting back at Dean for the liquor prank, as well as take him up on the offer of something ‘palatable’.
Bobby embraced Sam when he finished speaking with Jo.
“I’ll be down in command with Anna, listening in,” Bobby assured Sam, slapping his back. “You kick some ass and stay safe, you hear me?”
Sam nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
Bobby pulled back to glare at him. “You’ll do better than that, you’ll come back down here – that’s not optional.”
Sam nodded again, feeling suddenly emotional, and faced Jo.
“I’ll see you when we land,” she said, but she hugged him tighter than normal and he held on a moment longer than usual. She sniffed when he let her go.
A loud wail caused all four of them to turn and look. They relaxed when they realized it was Ash, hollering with excitement.
“Wooo!” he called out.
“Oh my God,” Jo’s jaw fell open when Ash bolted past them.
Dean immediately bent over, howling with laughter, Bobby shook his head, and Sam tried to blink away the image of Ash streaking towards his X-Wing wearing nothing but his helmet.
“Was he…?” Sam attempted.
“Ash!” Jo bellowed. She gave the boys a quick salute and tore after her resident genius. “Ash, I’m not going over this again! You are not flying naked, no matter what the bet was!”
Dean cackled and wiped at his eyes.
“There are just some things in the universe you never need to see,” Bobby declared. With another shake of his head, he bid the boys goodbye and departed for the command center, leaving Sam and Dean alone.
Dean recovered his breath and cleared his throat. “Sammy, look,” he began, rubbing at his neck. “I don’t do gooey emotional crap, so…” he shrugged. “Last one to blow up the Emperor… is a little bitch.” He flashed Sam a cocksure grin.
“You already called me that,” Sam reminded him with a roll of his eyes.
One of the crewmembers dashing around making last minute adjustments gave Sam the thumbs up. Sam nodded in thanks and climbed the ladder into his ship.
“Yeah, and I’m gonna call you it again when you lose.” Dean started walking backwards. “Bitch.”
“I haven’t lost yet,” Sam said over his shoulder as he slid into the cockpit. “Jerk!”
He heard Dean’s loud laugh trailing away and shook his head. Smiling to himself, he fired up his X-Wing. He pulled down his flight goggles, fitting them securely on his face. If this was what having a brother was like… His grin widened as he strapped on his helmet. This is what having a brother is like.
The crew on the ground disconnected fuel hoses and waved bright red guiding lights in a variety of signals, directing the ships humming in the bay. Moments later, Sam steered his X-Wing out of the hangar bay with a dozen other snubfighters, then blasted up into the misty atmosphere.
I’m just saying…
“Yes, thank you, I heard you the first twelve times,” Bela snapped at her co-pilot. “I know what I’m doing.”
She steered the Impala along and started making calculations for the jump to hyperspace. She could still feel Ree’s gaze on her and she bristled.
“Stop looking at me like that. Do you really want to barrel into this bloody suicide mission? Hmm?” She spun in her chair. “Or would you rather ensure that we’re not murdered by bounty hunters in the near future?”
You really think Lillith is going to forgive you, just like that, just because you’re paying her back? She’s a gangster.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
You didn’t answer mine.
Bela huffed and resumed her calculations.
We could turn back. It’s not too late. If this is about Dean or your pride or something… As much as you pretend nothing affects you, I know you care about him. I was there in the carbon chamber too, you know.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bela shot back. “He made it quite clear how he feels about me, and I don’t love him either, so there’s really nothing to go back for.” As she turned to check one of the charts, she noticed the way Ree’s big eyes were sparkling. “What?”
I didn’t save ‘love’. You did.
Bela opened her mouth but found no retort. She hadn’t, surely she hadn’t. She didn’t love Dean, she didn’t love anything except being alive and getting paid. Those were her two favourite things and she’d never been ashamed of that.
And yet, his parting words had cut deeper than she was ever willing to admit. Standing there, mind made up to run, she’d suddenly wanted to take it all back. She’d wanted to prove him wrong. That look of disdain, the confirmation that she would always betray him with the most despicable course of action – hell, it was almost worth it to turn back right now just to contradict him on principle.
But she knew what she was. She wasn’t some wholesome hero out to aid the greater good. She was a con woman and a thief, a merc and a smuggler. She was every inch the self-serving lowlife Dean thought she was. It was time to stop pretending she wasn’t and time to stop pretending she could be better. She didn’t fit into Dean’s life and he didn’t fit into hers. Never had, if their past had taught them anything, and Bela was one who learned from her mistakes.
So she squared her shoulders and reached for the handle in the middle of the console. “Ree, I know what I’m doing,” she said as firmly as she could manage, hoping she sounded believable.
She would leave Dean and his hero complex to save the day, and she’d go find herself something appropriately shady to do, because that’s what she did. Maybe when she had Ree deliver the Impala back to him, she’d send a postcard or something. Really, it’d only been good sex and good cons – she never tired of seeing the way he looked when she screwed him (literally and figuratively). She was too shallow for more, always had been.
No, she couldn’t have said ‘love’. Bela Talbot didn’t love anything.
“I know what I’m doing,” she repeated, though she wasn’t sure who she was talking to anymore. She ignored the tremble in her voice, chalking it up to the vibration of the ship as the Impala rocketed into hyperspace.
A low-toned alarm and an officer behind the Emperor reported incoming Rebel ships. Lucifer skimmed the command display to the far left of the forward viewscreen. He could make out the red circle of Yavin with its four moons, and a flock of tiny green pinpricks coming to life and heading towards the white circular Death Star.
“Report?” Lucifer said over his shoulder.
Roman lifted his head from studying the display. “Estimated time to firing range is fifteen minutes, my lord.”
Lucifer nodded. Just like my vision. “Roman, get excited. This has been a historic week and we’re gonna end it on a high note. First we acquired Cloud City, then I smoked that pain-in-the-ass Castiel – oh, and that has been a long time coming, let me tell you.”
Roman nodded as if he understood and cared. Lucifer decided he was a good one to have around.
“And now best of all, the grand finale – the cherry on top. Today is the day the Empire wastes the Alliance, effectively ending the rebellion. You remember this day, Dick. It’s gonna be a good one.”
“Oh it’s a good day,” Lucifer sang. “For shining your shoes, yeah it’s a good day, for losing the blues – everything to gain and nothin’ to lose…”
Lucifer clapped his hands together once then spread his arms before the viewscreen. His smile was feral and it pleased him that even Roman shuddered at it. Lucifer fixed his eyes on the adorably tiny Rebel ships that were advancing on his magnificent Star.
“Yeah, it’s a good day for rebels to die... Come on, kiddies. Let’s play.”