A Force to be Reckoned With
Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Author's Note: Here's the conclusion. Hope you enjoy it.
Numbly climbing to his feet, Sam took an unsteady step toward the closed seal. Lightly he traced his hands over the metal, wanting to grasp what had been just beyond his reach a mere hour ago. Was maybe, now, forever beyond his touch. He staggered as his ship groaned as a torpedo lanced across its forward shields. The Empire was about to bring its full measure of weapons against them, he could sense that. But the information barely mattered to him, made him vehemently wish that the Force would instead tell him what he wanted to hear: that Dean wasn't dead.
Head nearly resting against the seal, one palm pressed against the metal, he pulled out his comlink and lowly ordered, "Plot a course out of here, put deflectors on full on our flank but wait to move out for a signal from me."
"Sir….Sam, I'm sorry," his second in command's voice came over the comlink, his sorrow unmistakably real for his Captain. He had seen on the bridge monitors the tube's destruction, the bodies of those unlucky enough to have been caught in the tubing when it failed them. Knew that Dean Winchester, he would be the type of Captain that would be the last to debark from his ship, to seek safety for himself.
"Go meet up with the convoy when I give the order. And then, you have command of the Stanford," Sam resolutely announced. Drawing in a breath, he pushed away from the seal, began to stalk to a fighter ship renown for its maneuverability and strong deflector shields.
"Sir?! Why are you relinquishing command!" the panicked sound of his second in command rang through the comlink.
"Because I'm going to go get my brother," Sam announced, steel and resolve and need and anger coiled in the declaration, in the promise.
At the harsh statement, Sam clenched his teeth, barely held back a curse, fought to wrestle the tide of rage and denial..of darkness from taking control. Hand fisted at his side, he halted midstep, his other hand nearly crushing the comlink in its grasp. "No," he growled, though it felt more like a sob internally, a protest to the unthinkable, to the end of the world he had fought so hard to save, to the light he had waged a war to return to.
Regretting his harshness of his declaration, the second in command amended, voice stammering, "I mean…all reports would seem to indicate that there are no survivors."
'Then what does it matter if my life is lost too, added to the growing tally? If Dean is dead….' Sam sorrowfully thought but cut himself off, couldn't even contemplate Dean being gone. Verbally he didn't bother make a reply to his second in command's words. His friend didn't understand, no one had ever fully understood the bond between him and Dean. That to lose one Winchester was to lose them both.
With calm urgency he stalked forward, climbed into the fighter, began preparations to fire the engines to life. "I don't think any of the Empire forces lay in wait ahead anymore but still be careful. Just don't stop until you meet up with the convoy, until you all make a safe jump into hyperspace."
"The Impala's hangar bay…it's gone, Captain! You can't land there."
"You have your orders, officer," Sam levelly returned, firing the engines and launching the small ship from the Stanford's hangar bay. Over the ship's communication line he ordered, "I'm free of the Stanford. You have the com. Rendezvous with the convoy, now."
"Yes, sir, Captain sir. May the Force be with you."
"You too," Sam lowly returned before he disengaged the communication, focused on steering the small fighter the short distance through the asteroids and ship debris and cannon fire to the Impala. However he envisioned the destruction to his brother's ship, to the hangar bay, it was worse. Fires raged from the ship, the flames licking into the darkness, seemingly defying the artic cold of space. And half of the hangar bay, it had been ripped away, left the ship exposed to the forces of space. With dread, he saw that everything that wasn't bolted down was being swept out of the ship, that he would have to dodge that debris and worry about not being sucked out into space himself once he landed. 'You never do things half way, Dean.'
Drawing on the guidance of the Force, Sam dove the ship through the fires, plowed through the debris into the damaged hangar bay of the Impala. But there he encountered a landscape of dangers: scattered fires, a graveyard of burning, twisted ships, pieces of the Impala embedded in the hangar's deck like some weird form of art, while other pieces continued to fall… in front of him, behind him..on top of him all the while, tools and droids and planes whipped by him, sucked out into space by the gravitational pull. Only a Jedi could have navigated the pitfalls, could have maneuvered a ship through the destruction, force it forward when the engines began to fail and the right wing tip was snapped off by part of the Impala's falling ceiling.
Gritting his teeth, both hands coiled around the control yoke, Sam refused to give up, knew that, if he sat the ship down too far away from the doors to the Impala's inner corridors, he would be, more than likely, swept out into space, him and his ship. Turning past an enflamed Y-Wing he steered his fighter behind a wall, prayed that the more secluded section of the hangar bay would give him some kind of buffer to the pull of space. But even with his incalculable skill, he couldn't dodge the piece of ceiling that fell, found he had no room to dodge it. With a screaming of metal on metal, he watched as his left wing was ripped off from the fuselage of his fighter, found himself struggling with yoke and Force to achieve a controlled crash into the hanger deck.
With a bone jarring impact, the fighter nose dived into the deck..but didn't explode, didn't forfeit its pilot's life, didn't dare oppose a Jedi's determined mission.
Wincing in pain, Sam recalculated his helmet for atmospheric pressure before pushing the ship's canopy away. Slowly but determinedly he inched his way free of the cockpit, ignoring the protest of his aching body. Half sliding, half falling off the still existing left wing, he landed on his back on the hangar bay deck with a groan. Stumbling to his feet, he leaned against his ship, felt the pull of gravity nipping at his clothing as he searched across the horizon of destruction for the door that would lead him to the internal corridor to the Impala. Spotting his objective, twenty feet away, across pockets of fire, sizzling ships and ceiling that looked ready to crumble, he gritted his teeth before he started forward, began to zigzag his way through the minefield of devastation. It took longer and came with more effort than he counted on before he finally found himself stumbling against the door he sought. Noting that the control panel was sparking with fire, he used the Force to open the door.
Squeezing through the door and closing it behind him with the Force, he leaned over, braced his hands on his knees, breath ragged through his helmet. Calling on the Force's strength, he felt a surge of energy flow through him and with it renewed determination. Standing up, he removed his helmet, tossed it carelessly aside and started running down the corridor. He had a brother to find.
When the airlock failed, space's pull of gravity nearly ripped Dean's arm from his socket, left him blowing in the gales as if he were a flag. Holding onto the balkhead merely by his fingertips, knowing that his hold wouldn't last much longer, Dean used the Force to rip a nearby ladder free of its mooring. The ladder flew by him, nearly clipped him on its path toward the yawning hole in the ship. At seemingly the last second, Dean manipulated the ladder enough that it didn't slip out the escape pod hatch but instead braced against it, created a grate across the yawning hole. Before he could congratulate himself on his tactic, his grip slipped free.
Harshly bouncing off the walls of the ship's corridor, Dean rebounded directly into the pod's concave side before he was flung toward the opening in space. "Aghh!!" he groaned in agony as his back slammed against the ladder. Pinned against the ladder braced against the hole, he was prevented from finding himself with a too vivid view of an asteroid field. But the gravity pulled at him with forces that were starting to bend the metal of the ladder, would soon tear his muscles and tendons and bones and skin apart layer by layer.
Knowing he only had minutes, maybe seconds, he thought quickly what could fill the vacuum. He yelled as the pressure seemingly increased, as he felt he was being grated through the ladder. But his brilliance had always been born out of desperation. This time was no different.
Using the Force, he envisioned the outside of the Impala, mentally ran along her contours until he found what he sought…a communication dish. Immediately, he set to his task. Straining with the Force, he rip the dish free of its anchor on the hull and, instead of letting it blow away to the four winds, he called it to him…or more precisely to the hole behind him. With all the strength the Force allotted to him, he slammed the dish into the side of his ship, into the escape pod hatch, wedged it there. The makeshift seal greatly diminished the flow of space stealing across the corridor, arrested gravity's cruel intention of taking him apart molecule by molecule.
Unceremoniously, he dropped to the deck as his ship's gravity parameters replaced the void's. He lay there, breathing hard, left cheek pressed against the bitter cold metal of the deck, pain radiating from every nerve, every muscle, from even his hair. But he wasn't foolish enough to think he had won a victory, that it was time to rejoice in the face of a show of mercy from fate. He had no energy to go anywhere and no where to get to. His crew, all of them were gone, some safe on the Stanford, others dead within the first five minutes of breathing in the cold vapors of space.
He was alone.
There was nothing left to fight for, no one left to save. The Force told him all he needed to know: Sam was alive. And, in the end, that was all that mattered. That Sam was alright, that he had not failed his brother.
But his survival instincts, they were still clamoring against his fate, couldn't accept the futility of fighting for another breath of life that would only prolong his agony. As he drifted into unconsciousness, he wondered vaguely if he owed the instincts to the Force or to his Winchester blood. Found he would lay odds that it was the latter. Then the void stole over him.
Having committed, in the past hour, the Impala's layout to memory, Sam knew where his destination lay but getting to it was proving be a bear. Fires, blown airlocks, levels just…gone. He had to reroute himself, climb up a level and down another, would have been lost had the Force not been there guiding him. As he came to kneel by a vertical hatchway on the floor, his hands trembled as they reached for the handle, knew his journey was nearly at an end..wondered his hope was also about to be distinguished.
He knew the risks, that the vacuum of space could rip him through the hatchway, down the ladder and out the escape pod hatch which had proven itself both a life giver and life taker. But his brother might be there, might still be alive, though the Force gave him no confirmations or denials to his pleas for that miracle. "Guess I have to do things the hard way, find the answers my own way."
Holding his breath, he opened the hatch. Noticed two things immediately: the air, though vastly deprived of oxygen and uttering a whistle of space currents, wasn't a vacuum. And secondly, there was no ladder attached to the hatch. Encouraged, Sam dropped through the hatchway, landed gracefully onto the deck. Heading toward the section where the tubing had once been connected, he sidestepped the debris that was scattered along the corridor and swallowed sickly at the blood on the walls. Fought the urge to reach out, see if he could sense Dean's essence in the blood, in the trace of DNA marked on the ship in drops and pools and handprints.
Instead he fisted his hands, strode forward, dreading and needing answers alike. But his heart pounded in his chest as he turned the corner, knew that one more such turn would bring him to the escape pod hatch. 'There is still hope,' he told himself, wasn't sure if he believed it or just wanted to. Forcing himself to keep moving, he turned the last corner and stumbled to a halt before he cried, "Dean!" and ran forward, dropped beside his brother's limp form.
Gently but urgently he rolled Dean over to lay across his knees, his brother's body seemingly boneless. Laying his hand on his brother's cheek, he leaned down close to Dean's face, quietly implored, "Dean? Dean?!" At the lack of response, he pulled his brother closer, more firmly into his embrace. "I said I would lead you back when it's time, well it's time. Well past time," he quietly stated, as if it were simply a matter of willpower, Dean coming back to him, staying with him. Then he forced himself to close his eyes, to lose sight of his brother's too pale features. Surrounding himself with the Force, he sought out his brother's unique light amid the brightness. With his brother lying so still in his arms, each moment he waited for some spark, some sign, some proof of life in Dean felt like an eternity.
Holding his breath, Sam felt his own heart slow as if he was in a Jedi trance, was teetering between life and the Force. 'Who say's I'm not. If Dean's gone…' but he couldn't finish that thought, knew he wasn't ready to submit to the universe, wasn't willing to surrender his brother to it. Not yet, not when Dean had so much he could still teach him, not when he greedily clung to the mirth that only his big brother could generate in him, not when he needed the light Dean provided. 'Dean, for once in your life, let me take the lead. Follow me home,' he implored, head coming to rest on Dean's forehead, arms gathering his brother more tightly into his hold, refusing to let the Force have his brother.
The answer was a pliable, weak. 'Sammy?'
Sam's head snapped up, his eyes anxiously searching his brother's still lax features, praying it wasn't just a voice from the Force echoing to him. "Dean?" the name choked, imploring, pleading.
'I'll follow you.'
Nearly laughing in joy at the sound of his brother's voice in his head, Sam immersed himself in the Force, found the strand of light he knew better than his own soul. Reaching out with all of his being he coiled his soul around the strand of Dean's light, fused them together and, like a drowning man, struggled to the surface, his brother in his grip. Fought against the currents, defied the odds as he broke to the surface of consciousness, to air, to the world that still existed.
Dean came back to consciousness, to life with a gasp of air and arched in the arms that held him. Though he didn't open his eyes, the voice that greeted him instantly stilled his turmoil.
"Easy, Dean. I got you, big brother. Just breathe for me, alright," Sam soothingly cooed, couldn't fight the tears of joy and relief gathering in his eyes as he looked down at his brother.
Doing as Sam asked, Dean pulled in another breath, tried to ride out the pain, felt his brother's hand slip into his. Squeezing Sam's hand, he got a handle on the pain enough to open his eyes and keep them open, to see Sam hovering over him, wearing a goofy, happy smile that Jedi Knights weren't supposed to sport. Ever. But when had Winchesters ever cared about decorum.
"How? Ship.." he gasped, couldn't find enough air to verbalize the rest, left it to his internal communication with his brother. 'How did you get here? The ship, she's in her dying throes. Why are you here?!' Because he knew where he was, that he wasn't on some cushy space port recuperating, could feel the Force chanting, 'danger, danger, danger' in a continuous loop in his head.
Holding his brother in his arms, the Impala rocking under him, the low whistle of space humming in his ear, Sam couldn't hold back his smile, his smirk. "What can I say, I got lonely for your company."
"We need…to .." Dean wheezed, hand tightening in his brother's grip while his other hand latched onto the front of Sam's black Jedi tunic.
"Leave," Sam finished, didn't want his brother to use up all his energy. "Yeah, about that…" and he smiled, sadly now, had no intentions of verbalizing their fate. For him, it was enough that he was there, that he was with Dean. That was peace enough for him. Was more than he thought he would deserve a few months back.
Dean's brow creased, read Sam's mind as if he had spoken. Found out what Sam had wanted to omit…that he had ditched his critically damaged fighter craft into the hangar bay, that the hangar bay was destroyed, along with any ships once parked there. Sam had wanted to protect him from the bleakness of their situation. 'As if I don't already know that.' But at his brother's kindness, at the sight of Sam there, with him, both encouraging him and terrifying him with his presence, he managed to pull on a smirk. "Plan B then?"
Sam laughed and it was a real one. "B?! I think we're about on Plan Z, Dean."
"Help me up," Dean ordered but his voice was weak didn't convey the strength it had always carried. That didn't mean Sam didn't obey it out of loyalty, out of love. With careful, slow motions he slid his arm across Dean's shoulders and eased his brother into a seated position. Dean's gasp of pain and the way he gripped onto his knee for leverage, for an anchor to stay upright told Sam how painful the action had been. Arm wrapped around Dean, hand coiled around his brother's forearm, Sam sat there calmly, waiting for his brother to work through his pain, to open his eyes and tell him Plan Z. And Dean didn't have to know that he was leaking some of his own Force healing power into their connection.
"Stop it," Dean tiredly groaned before he looked at Sam, caught the flush of being caught red handed on his brother's cheeks. "Don't deplete your energy on playing medic, Sam."
"How I "deplete" my energy is my business, Dean," Sam countered but there was profound affection immersed in his defiant words. "So plan Z?"
"Since the hangar bay is a ship graveyard…I got a crazy idea," Dean looked at Sam, waited for the jab that never came. The old, 'you with a crazy idea?!" shtick. "What, no jokes, no doubts?"
"Ah, Plan Z, Dean. I'm all for crazy as long as we live to talk about it," Sam answered truthfully, knew Dean's crazy plans..they were sometimes some of the best.
Nodding, but stopping almost instantly with a wince, Dean lowly said, his pain evident, "On the level above the hangar bay, there's an old relic of a ship that the science section was using for research. Last damage control report I had, the level was still intact."
"Alright, then we got to get you on your feet and in motion…or do you want me to carry you?" Sam smiled at the glare Dean leveled at him. Sure, they were down but they weren't out, not yet. Wouldn't be if their stubborn Winchester willpower had anything to say about it.
Sam leaned Dean's sagging form against the hull of the relic ship and thought the description was only too apt. "This thing was probably a relic when we were just kids," he bit out even as he scanned her with his eyes, ran a hand down her hull. "But she seems sturdy enough. You sure the engines will fire?"
"Someone flew her into the hangar bay and we hydro-lifted her from the bay to here," Dean tiredly explained, felt his legs go even as Sam rushed to his side and gripped his arms, kept him off the deck. "The real problem isn't this ship," he drawled, letting his knuckles fall back to knock on the fighter plane's hull. "It's the hangar bay, right?" his eyes piercing Sam's, wanting, demanding the truth.
Instead of answering, Sam asked his own, "So how do we lower this ship down into the hanger bay?" his eyes leaving Dean's to scan the walls for a control panel even as his grip on his brother didn't waiver.
Sam's avoidance of the real issue made Dean stiffen, made him seek to read his brother's thoughts, to recall the mechanics of how Sam came to be on the Impala, what he had risked to come to him. Sam's memories came to him sharply, clearly, brutally. "Crap, Sam.." he breathed, the jolt of the danger, the miracle that Sam hadn't died flying into the hangar bay making him slump forward, to be caught in Sam's arms, his head to rest against his brother's collar bone.
"Dean!?" Sam called in worry, full focus returning to Dean, hands holding his brother tighter, pressing his brother's body more firmly against the relic's hull even as he welcomed the weight of Dean against him. "What's happening?! What hurts?"
"Shouldn't have come here…" Dean wheezed out, fingers clutching Sam's tunic, eyes clamped closed trying to shut out the images of what could have happened to Sam..what could still happen to him. Because of him, his failures. Realized harshly that he might not have saved Sam after all, might have instead condemned him to the same fate as his own.
Though his brother's words were quiet, barely reached his ears, Sam's soul heard them clearly, picked up his brother's thoughts easily. "I'm your brother, Dean. Where else would I be, huh?" his affection and warmth not bleeding away the determination in his words. Bending down slightly, he slipped his hand under Dean's chin, raised his brother's head until their eyes met. "Now stop being a pessimist and help save our butts. Mine and yours."
Knowing that hindsight couldn't save them, that it was still his duty to save Sam, Dean gave a small nod. Reinforcing his strength, he leaned away from Sam, would have fallen against the ship had Sam not maintained his hold, eased him back to lean against the ship's hull. "Control's are over there," he said, nodding his head to the left, watched as Sam looked that way, squinted to try and determine the readings from where he stood. Dean gave a small chuckle, "Less you learned how to improve your eyesight for long range, you can't read the control panel from here Sam. Go check it out," he ordered, standing upright, though he still leaned against the ship, hoped to convince Sam that he was Ok, could stand on his own.
Giving Dean an examining look, Sam hesitated, didn't want to leave Dean's side, not when the ship, when fate could kill them any moment now. Wanted to be there with Dean, as close as he could if the end should come for them. As if sensing his fears, his brother stood up straighter, gave him a pat on the chest.
"Move it, Sam. Maybe you haven't noticed but my ship's becoming one with the asteroid field. So unless you want the next Imperial ship to run into parts of us in the atmosphere, I suggest you figure out how to get this bucket of bolts into the hangar bay."
Despair bolstered by Dean's cockiness, Sam smirked, tightened his hand in Dean's Jedi tunic a moment before he released his grip, ran for the control panel across the room.
With Sam's strength gone, Dean faltered, fell against the wing of the old fighter plane but kept his feet…until the Impala lurked viciously to the right. Falling hard onto the ground, Dean's breath whooshed out of him and on his first renewed breath he groaned, heard the Impala reciprocate his verbalization, though hers was more ominous, spoke of metal contorting…and dying. "Sam, hurry up!" he shouted, pushing himself up into a seated position, hands reaching for the wing to lever himself to his feet, almost jumped when arms wrapped around his ribs from behind him and he was hauled to his feet.
"Time to leave," Sam announced hurriedly, unceremoniously giving Dean a push on the butt to hoist him up the side of the plane to reach the cockpit.
"Watch your hands, Wookie!" Dean disgruntly growled, even as he hauled himself into the cockpit, dropped heavily into the navigator/fire control seat with a painful groan. Before he registered Sam's presence, his brother's hands were reaching in and latching his harness into place. "Sam I got it!" he snapped, shoving his brother's well meaning hands aside. "Get in and drive this thing!"
Undeterred, Sam again reached for his brother's last snap, heard it click into place and gave it a tug to ensure it was secure before he slid into the pilot's seat. It hit him then, that Dean hadn't insisted on piloting the craft, was letting him do the honors. It spoke of how very injured Dean was, made the next words come out of him instinctively, because big brothers weren't the only ones who were protective. "You're going to be Ok, Dean. I'm getting you out of here."
Brow creasing at Sam's pledge, Dean countered, "Ah, yeah. Thought that was the plan, getting both of us out of here."
Sliding the cockpit canopy closed, Sam used the Force to flick the correct nozzle on the control panel across the room, felt the hiss of the hydraulic lift even as he returned, "That's the plan, alright. Let's just hope the Force is with us."
"If it's not, this will be a short trip," Dean mumbled but before Sam could reply, he slipped into officer mode, became second in command to Sam's Captain. "I've got the readouts up. Thing doesn't have much in the way of deflector shields and the communication range is short, won't make much squawk in the asteroid field." Dean replied, all officer now,
They both felt the fighter ship tremble as it was lowered, watched as the gravitational pull loose in the hangar bay leaked into the science room, created a tornado of air that swept up beakers, and chairs and cabinets. Both brothers ducked automatically as a cabinet nearly clipped the canopy over their heads.
"At this pace, this ship will be toast before we enter the hangar!" Dean shouted, as the ship began to be pelted by the objects in the science wing, big and small.
"Hang on!" Sam ordered as he overrode the safety precautions on the lift and they swiftly plummeted to the next deck down even as Sam fired up the engines, prayed that the relic did indeed still have the good sense to function. Inches from a harsh impact with the hangar deck, the engines caught and Sam pulled up on the yoke, kept this ship from nose diving onto the deck like his last one.
But the view outside his viewport…it was a wall of fire. "Dean…" he called, needing help, wanting Dean to have a way out.
"Ah, that's not good," came Dean's voice from behind him. "Alright, let's think." Sam could hear his brother flipping switches, felt his brother's mind running through a thousand scenarios, was about to plead with Dean to speak, to say something, anything, even if it was goodbye, when Dean spoke.
"This baby has a plasma flarebomb," excitement in his tone that Sam didn't understand.
"And that's the good news?"
"Fight fire with fire, Sammy. We set it to explode in that wall of fire, it'll blow the fire out, well at least long enough for us to make it through. Course then it'll cause a chain reaction, take out this hangar like a ten ton sonic bomb…will tear the Impala apart," a hint of remorse in his tone, in the implications that it would be at his hand that this ship would meet its demise.
"Dean, nothing's going to save the Impala now but its destruction can help to save us. Like you said, our losses have to count for something," Sam gently pointed out, feeling his brother's emotions easily through their link, just as he felt Dean's physical pain, insistently pushed a portion of his Force strength to Dean, to help lessen the agony his brother was in.
"Don't quote me, Sammy," Dean warned even as his trembling hands prepared the plasmabomb.
"Should I go back to quoting Yoda?" Sam taunted, felt a lighteness in his soul, wondered if it would be the last thing he felt, knew what a gift it was, that family was, that his brother was. Laughed at Dean's bark of "Do and die."
"Alright, Sam. When I release the bomb, we'll have five seconds before she explodes. I figure she'll eat up the oxygen in the fire and shut it down but only for a thirty second window then she'll go red-hot almost instantly."
"Thirty seconds, huh? That long," Sam drawled, even as he gripped the yoke, readied his muscles for the action ahead, trusted his brother's calculations fully.
"You ready?" Dean's quiet, concerned voice came to him, filled him with peace.
"Long as we go together, I'm ready for anything," Sam honestly admitted, didn't want what could possible be his last words to Dean to be a smoke screen, to be anything but the truth.
"You're such a girl," Dean laughed back but his thoughts raced across their currents as if Dean himself had sent them to Sam. 'Me, too, little brother.' "Bomb away…Now," he announced, pushing a bottom, saw the streak of the rocket from over Sam's shoulder. Then it was like a light show across his retinas followed by a beautiful increasing hole of black space..right in the center of the wall of fire. He was propelled back in his seat as the ship rocketed forward, tore through the hole in the firewall…and nearly collided with the hulking remains of three, once impressive, fighters.
Sending the old fighter into a half roll, Sam skimmed vertically through the carcass of the ships with mere inches to spare. He righted his fighter only to send it lurching to the right as a piece of ceiling dropped into his path. Skimming over a low burning fire and scoring the wing on a pile of burning metal that had once been a transport ship, Sam aimed the ship toward the relative openness of space.
Freed of the Impala's deadly hangar deck, Sam cursed as he found out that, what had appeared, through the Stanford's viewport, as an easily maneuverable maze of asteroids, was in fact, a dense blanket of rocky debris. With no Stanford only 10 feet away…or even in sight, with no safe destination in range..at all, the obstacles seemed overwhelming. Made a flare of resentment burn in him that his orders had been followed to the letter by his second in command.
Knowing that it was up to him, that Dean's life, and his own was in his hands alone, he wrapped his fingers tighter around the fighter's control yoke. He twisted and looped and banked around the obstacles in his way, opened fire with the weak weapons of the ancient craft upon the sections he couldn't squeeze by. But even with his skill, his Jedi's instincts on high alert, his ship was rocked unmerciful as it was scored and pelted and bombarded by asteroids and debris from the destroyed Imperial ship..not to mention parts of the dying Impala.
Internally, Dean had been counting down, but began to speak aloud. "Twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven , twenty eight…". The Impala's explosion tore his words from him, sent their fighter ship forward on a wave of heated energy, sent them colliding with chunks of asteroid and pelted them with scrap metal from one of the Rebellion Alliances' most infamous ships. Lending his Force strength to Sam's, he helped his brother regain navigational control on their ship, to override the asteroid field's disrupted currents and dodge a fast moving piece of cruiser-sized asteroid.
Finally drawing in a breath of air, his hands practically numb from their desperate grip on the control, Sam said, his voice teetering between hysteria and hope, even happiness, "Well, now all we have to do is dodge a million pieces of asteroid, blindly find our way out of the field and limp home without a hyperdrive."
"You shouldn't have come for me, left your ship, Sam. You could lose your Captaincy over this," Dean quietly said, his worry evidently for his brother, not himself, not for their chances of survival.
"You're worried about my career when we probably won't ever make it home alive again?!" Sam incredulously retorted, knew Dean thought his career mattered more to him than he did but having it verbalized still angered him. Especially after what they had both been through, after thinking Dean was dead…that they were both going to die, still could.
"What happened to 'do or do not, there is no try'?" Dean taunted, needing to lighten the mood, to ease Sam's anger.
"Shut up," Sam laughed back. "You totally know that shouldn't have worked, right? We should be dead already. Be just some one line mention in the Jedi annuals."
"If you can't be lucky…" Dean began.
Sam joined him on the punch line, "Then you better be a Winchester."
A beat of silence feel in the ship and an asteroid rocked them aft before another sent them careening starboard. It was only Sam's instincts that allowed them to dodge a spinning asteroid larger than the Impala. "Sooner or later..that won't be enough," Sam gravely predicted, knowing it could be that day, even after every obstacle they had so far overcome.
But before Dean could make a reply, their ancient communication equipment crackled to life.
"This is Impala's Scavenger Squad. You guys look lost. You need some directions and an escort home…"
Dean laughed, cockily said to his brother, "But its enough today." Then he opened up the comlink and heartily welcomed his X-Wing squadron's help.
The members of the old Jedi Council, they wouldn't have believed their eyes at the sight in the medic ward. Not only was one infamous "over exuberant" Winchester lacking in motion, but they both were. One in a medic bed and the other seated at his side, one bound in a worried vigil and the other immersed in a healing trance. But it would have surprised none that the Winchester brothers were together.
Sensing a change in his brother's breathing, Sam snapped his head up from the report he was scanning and he reached out to grip Dean's wrist, could feel the pulse quicken under his fingers. Discarding the report carelessly until the floor, he carefully claimed a seat on the bed beside his brother's legs. Moving his hand to rest lightly on Dean's chest, he intently watched as his brother's features twitched with signs of awakening. Knowing that coming out of a healing trance was confusion and pain and senses slowly resetting themselves, he tried to send calming waves of the Force to his brother even as he softly said, "Dean, it's Sam. You're safe. We both are. We're back at the base," he reassured, poured the words into the Force as well as the natural audible spectrum.
After a few false starts, Sam saw his brother's green eyes open and focus on him. "Hey," he breathed, his voice as gentle as his relieved smile.
"You alright?" Dean hoarsely asked, coming back to himself, to the here and now, to his haggard little brother at his side.
"Yeah," Sam answered aloud but knew Dean heard the qualifier 'Long as you are.' "How about you? Have that bacta headache like you usually do?"
Wanting to conceal the warmth that flared in him at the knowledge that Sam knew him so well, Dean growled, "What do you think?!" But his growl was a weak, half drown kitten kind of growl.
At his brother's gruff, albeit weak, retort, Sam felt his smile brighten. Dean was going to be just fine. Removing his hand from his brother's chest before it really registered with Dean that it was there and he got all belligerent, Sam sat back a little straighter but didn't relinquish his position on the bed. If Dean didn't like his closeness, well then Dean should learn not to try his darnest to get himself killed next time.
In silence, Sam watched Dean run a hand over his face, draw in a deep breath and then begin to inch himself up into a sitting position. Nonchalantly, Sam used the Force to flick the bed switch on so it elevated his brother into a slightly seated angle even as he gently but persistently pressed his hand against Dean's shoulder until his brother was lying back against the raised mattress. His gestures earned him a glare but that only served to chase away more of his worry for his brother.
"They are going to give you a medal," Sam announced while Dean was busy fussy with the covers.
At the unexpected statement, Dean jerked his eyes up to Sam's, felt worry even anger building in him. "What about you?! Our crews?!" indignant that they were overlooking the real heroes.
Sam sadly shook his head, not in denial but frustration. He had anticipated this: Dean wanting the praise to land on everyone but himself. Picking up his brother's hand, he pressed his own medal into his brother's still feeble grasp. "Got this yesterday…" At Dean's raised eyebrow, he continued, "along with commendations for both of our crews. I wanted them to hold off on the ceremonies until you were awake but we're moving this base as we speak. Picking at non-existence lint on his brother's blanket, he offhandedly said, "The Empire's pretty pissed about our victory at that asteroid field."
"Victory?!" Dean hesitantly asked, dropping his head to seek out Sam's eyes. He knew he had played right into his brother's hands when Sam raised his eyes and he saw the sparkle in them, heard Sam's laugh.
"Yeah, the Imperial ships followed our convoy through the asteroid field and found themselves bombarded by a storm of asteroid chunks and pieces of two Imperial cruisers. I think you know something about that…" Sam felt like he had stored a victory himself when Dean smirked cockily. "They suffered 80% casualties and retreated, tail between their legs."
"How were our losses? Yours and mine?" Dean persisted, understood that he should care about the greater good but, for him, it always came down to protecting the people he cared about.
Sam's earlier mirth faded away, was replaced with sorrow, knew how the loss of one crewmember would affect his brother. "There were one hundred and seven lost on your ship, fifteen on mine. The convoy itself lost three ships."
Gutted by the number of lives lost on his ship, Dean knew at the same time, that it was a miracle his ship wasn't numbered among the lost, that his whole crew wasn't gone now. Knew that his miracle…was sitting beside him right now. "Thank you, Sam. You saved my crew…and me," his eyes earnestly held his brother's.
"Don't mention it," Sam shyly replied, fidgeted a little under his brother's proud gaze. "Anyway," he drawled, a lightness coming into his tone, "everyone's in an uproar over deciding if you'll get the Captaincy of the new Corellian ship or the modified…"
"Neither," Dean gruffly cut in, shaking his head, jaw clenched and features set.
"What?" Sam quietly prodded, didn't understand the answer or the emotion in his brother's eyes.
Facing Sam, Dean curtly stated, "I'm resigning my Captaincy, Sam. I can't take on the responsibility of all those lives again. Can't make the decisions I need to…"
"Reckless decisions, you mean," Sam surmised, heat in his tone and the look he seared into his brother. "You want to have free leave to risk your life…just your life. Dean.." but a shrill beep from his comlink cut off his reprimanding words. Glaring at Dean, his look promising that their conversation wasn't over, far from it, Sam answered the prompting. "Captain Winchester here."
Sorry for disturbing you, Captain Winchester but we need to talk about your decision," came one of the Rebel Alliance general's voice through the comlink. "I know you were resigning your Captaincy to be your brother's second in command but having two Jedi Knights on one ship…Well, honestly, it's an embarrassment of riches. The council and I ask that you please reconsider your actions and take back your rank."
At the General's revealing words, Sam quickly averted his eyes from Dean's. But with the cat, literally out of the bag, he couldn't help do a quick sweep to his brother's face, to try and determine what Dean was thinking. He felt his face blush at Dean's raised eyebrow of surprise and question. For a moment, he was floundering, and then, like a sign from the Force, his path, their path was clear. He smiled boldly, loved that Dean's look of big brother confidence swiftly changed to wariness. "Well it seems you don't have to worry. There won't be two Winchesters on one ship." Watching Dean's features tighten, he pressed on, "My brother and I are taking up the council's call for a two man scout team to do reconnaissance in the outer rim and inside the Empire held planets."
"Huh," Dean grunted back in surprise. Instantly he felt tension slip from him, felt a wave of satisfaction, of contentment take its place. Settling back in his bed, he barely heard the rest of Sam's conversation with the General, just sat there and watched Sam's expression. Tried to determine when his brother had changed, had switched from officer on the way up the ranks to being the guy he could count on to have his back, to being the only person in the known worlds that he would want to have his back.
Ending his conversation, Sam tossed the comlink on the table beside the bed and faced his brother, was ready and willing to defend his decision until all the stars burned out. But his brother's expression made his words catch in his throat. Dean was looking at him…with a warm smile and an affectionate, happy look in his eyes that hadn't been around since the Clone Wars, since he had had to do mortal combat with his own treading-on-the-Dark-Side brother. "Dean…" Sam choked out, uncertain of his footing, of their footing. "I want… I didn't mean to make your decisions for you…I just thought.." Through his stammering, Dean remained uncharacteristically quiet but his smile didn't waiver, nor did the light in his eyes diminish.
"Thought you said we could do more for the cause captaining ships…if we were apart. That we couldn't be selfish," Dean softly repeated Sam's rationale when they had both joined the Rebel Alliance.
Sam gave a weak shrug, his eyes down a moment before they sought Dean's, conveyed his emotions before his words did. "Us both captaining our own ships…being apart…It might do better for the Alliance…but it didn't do me any favors," he confessed, his smile sad even as his eyes were beseeching, asking Dean to understand him, to agree with him, to see the truth in his words. At seeing that Dean's soft look hadn't turned to disgust, had instead deepened with greater affection for his little brother, Sam smirked, "Sides, thought you knew already…I'm a selfish jerk."
Dean gave a half smirk, "I heard a rumor about that.." and his eyes held Sam's in an unbreakable grip, "Didn't believe it for a second," he finished, his words, his sentiments, his beliefs set in stone, as hard and implacable as his lightsaber blade. Sam's smile and shining eyes told him that Sam had gotten the message, loud and clear. "But before we strap on our lightsabers and head to the outer rim, we have to get one thing clear between us."
Sam stiffened but was ready to concede to any terms his big brother stipulated, would do anything to not lose the invaluable gift of being at his brother's side from here on out. "What's that?" he asked because Dean would expect a protest, for him to put up some kind of struggle, even if they both knew he had already mentally replied, 'I would do anything for you, Dean.'
Pulling on his most cocky smile, Dean set down the law. "I'm the oldest so if I ever tell you to leave me behind again, you listen to me."
"Never happen," Sam said merrily as if they were words of agreement. The smile on his face lit up the room like a new sunrise on a planet with two suns, was in sharp counterpoint to Dean's scowl. "N.E.V.E.R. H.A.P.P.E.N," he slowly enunciated, knew that it was an oath he wouldn't break, ever. …Anymore than Dean would. As Dean started to rail in protest, he cut in, "Give it up, Dean. Like our Masters used to say…We Winchesters are a Force to be reckoned with. So you might as well concede and save yourself the aggravation."
"They said that about you," Dean sniped back but he offered up no more words of protest. "You sure this is what you want, Sam? You're officially a war hero, could climb up the ranks pretty quickly, get stationed somewhere permanent…well as permanent as this ragtag army is likely to have," his voice gentle, needing to make sure Sam knew he had a million better options. Wanted to prove to Sam that his big brother wasn't going to strong-arm him anymore about his choices in life. Not anymore, not since Sam had found his own path in life. But more than that, Dean needed Sam to know that he didn't need his big brother to keep him in the Light …that he was the Light.
Sam felt warmth ripple through his soul at his brother's words, at his offer to let him go his own way, at the belief his brother had in him, in the future he could have…if he wanted it. "This is what I want, Dean," he fervently pledged, needing Dean to know this was his choice, was what would make him happy, hoped it would make them both happy. "Just you and me in a ship, cruising the outer rim, looking for trouble and finding it.." he said with a smirk and a lightness in his soul that was only spreading wider and deeper.
Dean felt whatever darkness that had found harbor in his own soul flee at the brightness now emanating from Sam's soul in the Force. Knew that they had both traveled, together and apart, paths that they were never meant to. "I pick the music," he declared and only smiled wider as Sam began to make his protest.
But even amid their bickering, for the first time since the Jedi order had nearly been wiped out, they both had hope in the path ahead. And that path…they would travel it together and it would not lead into Darkness ever again.
You guys have been awesome to join me as I weaved this AU tale! Thanks for your wonderful compliments and encouragement.
May the Force be with you…ah ok, how about…Have a wonderful Day!