He looked out at the conflagration, basking in the warming heat brought by the flames. They had spread down the walls now, and were licking at the floor. He was holding them back, tugging on the leash a little so that the woman stayed alive until her family member came. He was protecting the child and the doorway from flames, keeping clear a path between them, otherwise, this little effort wouldn’t reach its maximum effect.
It was always so exciting, so—enjoyable waiting to see who would come—there were so many possibilities here. Three husbands, a nearly grown child, several younger children. All might come and check on the strange flickering lights or notice the flames. But it was taking so long this time… and he was so very curious. He could feel the window starting to melt, not transparisteel then. That always took much longer. Destroying this home was far too simple. At least it was pleasurable to make the sandstone melt and crumble.
Foolish, foolish Jedi. Or not-Jedi. Force-sensitives, whatever they wanted to call themselves now. The current heirs to the Protectorate—what a conceited, self-important name, as if they could protect anyone from his plan. They were weak, rejecting both the Sith and the Jedi Order. And thanks to the tapestry of the force, so many interwoven threads of life and destiny, all it took was a few simple tugs and everything had fallen so neatly into his lap. Every Marker he had found had a child born this year…. All nicely spaced out so that he could visit each on their half-birthday. Kill the current marker, anoint and bind the heir, all while confusing the Chosen One and his simple brother and their too-cautious ex-Jedi guide, and best of all, making the Key jump through all his hoops—running in Circles until he was right where Azazel wanted. Until they were all where he wanted.
And the little ones would be so useful to him down the road. He could almost taste their power. Beautifully strong, yet completely untrained, unaware. When they were combined with the power of his faithful…
He wondered what was taking so long. Well, it had only really been a minute or two, but still, he was impatient! The fire wanted to burn and Lord Azazel so desperately wanted to unleash it. This Marker had seemed to know he was coming. Perhaps she was more skilled than he had thought. Perhaps she had heard of the other’s deaths, after all, she was the last… Soon the childish scheme the Protectorate had put in place would be gone and then he could gather the hosts.
Lord Azazel was so deep in thought, both he and his current host—a member of the Palace Guard and much more suitable than his last—missed the family member’s approach. Azazel came back to himself as the young, almost-grown girl stepped into the room. She must have finally heard the Marker’s pitiful broken pleas. She had caught sight of him though! Summoning the force to himself, Lord Azazel used it to move his host away from the house, giving the appearance that he had disappeared in a dark shimmer.
He held back the fire just long enough for the girl to “rescue” the little one, unknowing its fate was already sealed.
He watched the blaze grow and consume the house from afar, the Dark Side melting and twisting everything in sight. The broken family gathered in grief and shock.
Lord Azazel was disappointed that there was no rending cry in the force, no signal that another of the foolish runes had been destroyed. Three fires ago on the Bacta planet, he’d felt such a cry. It was pure power and filled him with glee. Still, there was nothing left of the Marker or the house, so if he was correct, there would be no way for the Chosen One to find the Rune this one had concealed.
Still, as Azazel steered his host back to the spaceport, he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that the girl had recognized him, or understood what he was.
John knew his sons were en route to Dantooine, and for a good thirty-six hours after his conversation with Miss’Ouri he was honestly sincerely planning on sticking around for them to arrive rather than running. He spent the night at Miss’Ouri’s instead of the Folly, bringing his datapads and notes on flimsi along and set up at her spare console and comm unit doing research. It was frustrating and nerve-wracking, especially the prospect of seeing Sam, considering that last time they’d been in the same room, they’d shouted so loud the walls on the Dream had rattled, and he’d wound up giving Sam an ultimatum: Walk down the ramp, you can never come back. “You’re not a part of this family if you’re not going to act like it.” He’d actually said that.
And then Sam had hitched his shoulder bag a little higher, given Chevy an affectionate pat, called out a “bye” to Dean who was still stunned, and walked out the door to attend the University of Coruscant, and they hadn’t spoken since. That was almost four-and-a-half standard years ago. John didn’t know if their reunion would be happy or sad. He didn’t know if Sam had forgiven him, or if he still blamed him, or worse if somehow he felt like Jessica’s death was John’s fault. But John was willing to face the music and find out.
At least, he was until lunch time, when sitting in front of his console with a bowl of leftover yot bean stew he saw a newsvid about a tragic fire on Onderon. Mysterious circumstances. Burned too hot. Mother dead. Baby’s nursery. He called up the Folly’s computer, did a little fact checking and sure enough, it looked like the Sith thing, this Darth Azazel had struck again this time on Onderon. “Blast!” John exclaimed aloud.
If only he’d followed the Sith rather than running to Miss’Ouri for answers, maybe he would have gotten there in time to stop him! Maybe he could still get there in time to catch Azazel. He always stayed in-system for six days, after all, or he had every time but when he killed Jessica. John had the notion that was special circumstances though.
So, quickly dismissing his resolution to stay and reunite with his boys, John quickly and hurriedly packed up his belongings, sheets of scribbled flimsi and all and within fifteen minutes was ready to go.
“John,” Miss’Ouri said sternly, warning. “Don’t go. You won’t be able to do anything now. It’s too late. The mother’s dead and you don’t have any weapons to use against Azazel,” she pointed out. “Stay here. They’ll be here within a day, at least see them, hug them, let them know you’re all right.
“I can’t Miss’Ouri. I can’t let the trail get cold. Offer the family comfort. Sam and Dean ‘ll be just fine without me. You, you teach Sam, you hear? Please? Make sure he learns what he needs to. Keep them together, keep them here, and keep them safe. Don’t let them go anywhere until they’re ready. I’ll see them, just later. When it’s safer. When I know more,” John begged from Missouri’s front hallway.
“They’re grown men, John, not little children. Not that Dean has been a child in over twenty years, of course, but he’s not just an adult now, he’s all grown up, too,” she tried.
John just fiddled with the strap of his shoulder bag with his hand on the doorknob.
“John, they need to know you’re all right. Otherwise they’re gonna come looking for you,” Miss’Ouri warned. “Please, just stay a little longer.”
“No,” John said stubbornly. Jaw set. “I’m keeping them safe by going after this Sith. You do your part and see they don’t follow,” he said gruffly, opening the door. “Please?” he called over his shoulder when he thought better of his gruffness.
“Just take care of yourself, John!” Miss’Ouri called after him.
And so, John’s resolution was broken.
It was late when Sam and Dean Winchester arrived on Dantooine. So late that Miss’Ouri knew they’d already eaten. But she still prepared a pitcher of chulaberry juice and a plate of cookies for her living room table. She knew they’d be there talking for a while.
“Why Sam and Dean Winchester, as I live and breathe! It is so good to see you all grown up,” Miss’Ouri said as she opened her door to reveal John Winchester’s two tall sons. “Sam, I am so sorry about Jessica,” she added upon seeing Sam’s tortured eyes. “I know you need answers, and I’m going to do my best to give them to you.”
“H-hi,” Dean said shyly. Miss’Ouri had to stifle a laugh. If she knew anything about this boy by the presence he left in the Force, it was that he certainly wasn’t shy… or rather that, he usually played at being confident and full of bravado. It certainly was refreshing, if not a little shocking, to see him so… naked, honest, stripped of his usual defenses. “I remember you,” Dean added.
“Glad to see you’re talking again, properly,” Miss’Ouri added. “I was always telling John he just had to give it time. Can’t rush healing,” she added.
Sam turned to his brother, and my Sam was tall! “You didn’t talk?” he said, confused.
Dean hung his head embarrassed. “I had trouble talking after the fire,” he admitted. “You didn’t know that?” he said, somewhat surprised.
“I don’t ever remember you not talking to me,” Sam said, “and Dad certainly never said anything.”
“Boys, boys, come in,” Miss’Ouri interrupted, not wanting them to get into it standing in her front doorway. The wood door was growing heavy in her hands, and she could tell days of exhaustion, injury, stress, and confusion had them both wound so tight they were ready to snap—at each other if she didn’t intercede and quick. She stepped aside so the two Winchester brothers could enter and led them into her living room directing them to take a seat on her couch and help themselves to the cookies and juice.
Dean gave her a funny look that suggested he thought the instructions more appropriate for a six-year-old than a twenty-six-year-old, but he had enough sense not to say it out loud.
“Where’s Chevy?” She asked. Surprised that Dean’s droid and constant companion wasn’t hot on their heels.
“We weren’t sure if you liked droids,” Dean said shyly. “She’s waiting outside, uh, just off the road.”
“Boy, I remember when you and your momma built her, you get that little droid in here before she gets sick with worry about you,” Miss’Ouri insisted.
She used the time Dean spent calling in the droid on his comlink—which Sam spent looking around her living room at the spare walls and simple, but comfortable furniture—to prepare herself for the conversation to come. When they were all seated around her living room table, she said, “I’m gonna tell you boys the same thing I told your daddy.”
“When?” Sam interrupted. “When did you tell him, was he here?”
Surprising. She expected that from Dean. She reached out and nudged Dean’s Force-presence, pulling back immediately when she sensed the overwhelming loneliness and inadequacy and abandonment she felt there. He’s resigned himself, she thought.
“He just left yesterday. I told him you boys were coming, but he got word of he fire on Onderon, and I couldn’t make him stay any longer.” She shook her head. “Fool, I don’t know what he thinks he’s going to get accomplished, except maybe run into Jedi. But you know how he is when he gets… he’s like a Rancor who’s smelled dinner… he’ll go running after it no matter how stupid or dangerous it is, and nothing’s gonna stop him.”
Sam twitched in his seat.
“Sam, don’t you dare think of running after him. You’re untrained, and that’s dangerous. Wouldn’t know what to do if you run into Darth Azazel or the foolish, misguided Jedi who’s on your trail.”
“Darth Azazel?” Dean queried.
Ahh, good, Miss’Ouri thought, noticing that moment Dean heard the name, his mind snapped away from dwelling on his father’s absence. “That’s the name of the Sith Lord who’s after you,” Missouri confirmed.
Sam protested, indignant, “I did ok when he killed my girlfriend. He was trying to kill Dean, and I…”
“You reached out with your anger and hatred and toasted his host, that’s what you did,” Miss’Ouri said. “Which was very, lucky and showed a damn bit of insight on your part, but it was dangerous.” Taking a deep breath she told the Winchester boys everything she had told their father. Word by word, line by line, explaining Azazel’s rise and fall and how the Lost Prophecy came to be. Only, she noted with pride, they knew how to listen, sitting with rapt attention, not interrupting her until she was good and done. John might have a problem holding his tongue, but he sure had raised his boys right. They knew how to give their undivided attention.
“I’m the Chosen One,” Sam murmured his mood somewhere between relief and horror—relief that he finally understood why his life had been turned upside down since he was six months old; horror that he was marked for death or corruption. “That’s why he’s after me.”
“I’m afraid so, Sam,” Miss’Ouri answered.
“How come I was able to… do what I did with the Force. These visions, why am I suddenly able to understand them?” Sam asked, curious. Miss’Ouri could tell he was itching to stand up and pace around, impatient that he felt he still didn’t understand.
“I’m not sure, Sam. I think it has something to do with however he bound you. He kept you cut off from the Force, or at least not able to realize your full connection to it. When that either snapped or he released you… I think maybe because you were bound, your abilities have been coming on stronger and faster than they otherwise would… to catch you up,” Miss’Ouri said, giving her best estimation. Even with all she knew, she still wasn’t sure exactly how Azazel worked.
“But wait, you said that the Jedi don’t understand, that the Force is about balance,” Sam argued. “Why would it be bad or dangerous or whatever, that I was angry when I defended us against Azazel? Even if that was the Dark Side, wouldn’t it be OK.”
Oh that boy is stubborn, and he’s going to be trouble, Miss’Ouri couldn’t stop herself from thinking. She really should guard herself more. Untrained didn’t mean deaf to screamingly loud thoughts.
Miss’Ouri let out a long sigh and turned towards Sam, thinking better of it, she stood. If he was so close to getting up and pacing, then maybe she could vicariously ease some of his nervous energy. “The Dark Side isn’t inherently evil and the Light Side isn’t inherently good…” she started hesitantly. “But if you use power that’s too much to one side or the other there are risks. Using the Dark Side—when you let yourself be ruled by hate or anger or passion, it makes you vulnerable to the influence of others; the power it gives you can cripple your judgment. You don’t want Darth Azazel getting control over you or tricking you into doing something that helps him, but draw on the Dark Side too much and that’s exactly what you’ll do. Go too far the other way, focus only on the Light Side, shun any sense of balance, you lose sight of the big picture. You risk becoming too judgmental and detached, out of touch with the universe by valuing certain aspects of nature above others, for seeing purposeful evil where only chaos exists. You become so attached to the how that you forget about the what.”
Using her hands to illustrate, she continued. “The Force needs balance to continue to exist, and when it goes too far out of balance, it tries to balance itself. Think of the Light as two continents rubbing against each other. The Light Side is calm, passive, and slow, so it takes a long, long time for anything to happen, and no one much notices it when it does, but over time, the Force gets more and more unbalanced to the Light Side. When it goes too far, when the force is too unbalanced, the fault lets go, causing massive destruction in its wake as it swings back to the Dark Side.
“The Dark Side is angry, active, and fast, and when it breaks out it sweeps across the universe like wildfire suddenly and ferociously. It all culminates in a confrontation between the Dark and the Light, in which the Light is able to triumph, barely, because ultimately the Dark Side burns too quickly to sustain itself for long. But the balance has been restored. But because the Jedi are blind to the balance, they start the process all over again, building pressure more and more until the cycle repeats, not realizing that if the respected the balance—allowed Light and Dark to co-exist, staying in the middle, not straying too far to either side—then the Dark Side wouldn’t periodically rise.”
She paused letting that sink in. “Azazel is trying to tip things so far that the universe is going to shake itself apart, so anything we do that tips the balance in his favor is dangerous because of the circumstances.”
Sam seemed to get it. He nodded at least, and she felt dawning realization mixed with confusion rolling off of him.
As Miss’Ouri sat back down, Dean blurted out, “Who is this Healer, and when are they supposed to arrive.” He blushed, embarrassed at his insistence. “I’m sorry, Miss’Ouri, it’s just we’re tired, wounded, running on fumes. I want to protect Sam, but I don’t know anything about the Force, and I can’t use it, and all I want to do is keep Sam safe, but I don’t know how. So, if there’s something or someone out there who can help make that happen, I just want to know if they’re really going to show up.”
Miss’Ouri let out a small sigh, her features pained and tight. Dean’s frustration and desperation were palpable, she almost wished she could give him more of an answer. “The Healer will come in good time. I don’t know when, but the Healer cannot awaken until needed by the Chosen One. And the arrival of the Healer signals the beginning of the end.” Miss’Ouri answered. It was the truth, after all, but saying any more would be dangerous. She couldn’t risk manipulating the Prophecy.
Dean let out a sardonic snort. “D’you mean the beginning of the end of the galaxy, or the beginning of Azazel’s reign?”
Miss’Ouri explained that she didn’t know—couldn’t see. She had her hunches, but they were just that. Because the future was always changing, there could be no definitive interpretation, and it could be very dangerous to try to manipulate a prophecy. Better that they act on instinct, conviction, and their own plans and common sense.
She could tell Dean was frustrated, that he didn’t quiet believe her. Pre-destination and pre-determination went against everything the boy believed. He wanted to be master of his own life, to have confidence that he could shape or change an outcome with his actions. But at the same time, he feared that the prophecy was true, and didn’t want to act in way that would doom them, or the galaxy.
“Miss’Ouri,” Sam asked, taking a bite of his third chocolate cookie. “Bobby found this legend about Runes that are weapons against Azazel. He said you knew something about it?”
“Yes,” she replied with a nod. “The Protectorate—that’s the original group of Jedi who vowed to fight Azazel’s prophecy—worked and researched on ways to stop him. They developed a set of Runes that, if placed at the four compass points around Azazel when he was in spirit form, would trap him and keep him from resurrecting his comrades.”
“Where are they?” Sam asked. “Do you know how to find them?”
Dean’s expectant eyes matched his brother’s as he looked hopefully at Miss’Ouri.
Miss’Ouri sighed, “The Protectorate set up their network as cells. No one knows more than their mission and no cell knows more about other cells than they absolutely have to. I know that there are or were Runes or people who know something about them on Thyferra, Coruscant, and Onderon, and I know that the Runes are supposed to call out to the Chosen One through the Force. I know that because I was sent to be your guide, but beyond that, I know no more.”
“Thyferra, Coruscant, and Onderon…” Dean said, with alarm. “Those are all planets that have had fires!”
Miss’Ouri nodded. “I think Azazel may be targeting the Rune Markers,” she said. “People who have knowledge about individual Runes,” she clarified, when Dean and Sam met her with twin blank looks.
“Does that mean those Runes are just… gone?” Sam asked.
Miss’Ouri shook her head. “I can’t be sure, but I don’t think so, Sam. I think they would still call out to you if you went to those planets and looked… but not while they’re crawling with Jedi gunning for your head, and not while you don’t have a clue what you’re doing,” she added with a wag of her finger.
When their questions finally paused, Miss’Ouri stood, stretched, and yawned. “Well, boys, it’s late. I’m going to turn in. Why don’t you two rest up. You need to recuperate, heal. I need you both strong and sharp… especially you Sam, if you’re going to start training.”
The Winchesters grudgingly agreed and she showed them to her spare room with its two beds and a power charger, where they and Chevy could spend the night.
“What do you think?” Sam asked Dean when they were both in sleep clothes and climbing into bed.
Dean paused to think about it. How did he feel? “I feel like she’s almost a little too… teasing or jovial or something, but that reminds me of how she talked to me when I was a kid, and it’s soothing.”
“She frustrates me because I want to go after Azazel right now. I wanna meet this head on,” Sam began. “But, I think I understand where she’s coming from, and if she’s going to teach me, train me, so I have a better chance…” He shrugged. “I think I can be patient for that.
Chevy let out a trilled coo denoting her agreement with Miss’Ouri’s attitude towards Sam’s overeager attitude, which made both Sam and Dean laugh.
Sam soon started to drift to sleep, but there was one more thing Dean wanted to ask her. So, once he was sure Sam’s snores were genuine, not faked, he crept out of the room and found Miss’Ouri in her kitchen, probably expecting him to come looking for her.
“Miss’Ouri?” Dean asked.
“Yes, Dean?” she replied.
“Why… Why did Lord Azazel come after us? Why our family? I mean, why did mom die, and what made Sam the Chosen One?” Dean finally asked. It was a question that had been bothering him every since his mother died, and again since Azazel showed up on Sam’s doorstep. If it was all tied to some prophecy was it just random? Was there some reason?
Miss’Ouri gave a long sigh and met Dean’s eyes. I think you already know that, Dean,” she said.
Dean wasn’t so sure what he was supposed to know, but he knew a dismissal when he heard one, and he took the cue and returned to the bed room, Miss’Ouri’s words tumbling over and over in his mind. What did he know?
Finally, both Winchesters were asleep. Now Miss’Ouri could address the other part of the Prophecy that had been hanging around all evening.
“I can sense you, you know. Don’t have to be hiding in no shadows, boy. Show yourself,” Miss’Ouri’s voice demanded of the darkness. She crossed her arms across her chest and tapped her foot in impatience.
In the far corner of the kitchen the air shimmered and a translucent, barely there figure glowed into existence.
“Hmphf! It is you,” she added with disapproval.
“You know of the prophecy?” the figure’s echoing voice asked.
“Boy, I left the order because of what I know of the prophecy. Damn fool Jedi and their uptight procedures, not trusting in the force when it speaks to them. Doubting the past. Of course I know of the prophecy. That’s why I’m here, but then again, that’s why you’re here too. And you don’t need to hear me talking about them damn Jedi,” Miss’Ouri sassed back at the figure.
“As you said, that is why I am here. Against Jedi protocol.” The figure’s voice held a hint of amusement.
“Well then, if you don’t mind, I’m going to have a seat. You can sit too if your translucent little ass desires.” Missouri wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw the figure crack a smile as they both took seats in the rough hewn wooden chairs at either end of the rectangular dining table.
“Do you really have to do things this way? That boy is hurting… both of them are,” Miss’Ouri said with a sigh, looking over her shoulder towards the bedroom where the Winchester brothers were sleeping.
“The time is not yet right. The healer has not yet awakened. We cannot force the awakening it has to happen of its own accord. So says the prophecy.” The figure’s voice radiated strength and conviction. He lifted his translucent eyes to meet Miss’Ouri’s.
“Are you so blind a follower of the prophecy, that you do not question?” She asked, voice hard, demanding, drawing herself up in her chair and leaning forward over the table.
“No,” said the figure, deflating slightly. “But you know as well as I that trying to interpret prophecies leads to disaster. The force conceives of the universe in ways different from our own. Any Jedi foolish enough to try to avoid a prophecy will only ensure that its ends are brought about,” he said softly, eyes downcast. “But that is exactly why I cannot act, if I interfere now—”
“Because you might trigger the prophecy in ways you cannot anticipate,” Miss’Ouri finished with an understanding nod.
The figure nodded in reply.
“I do not want to see the child fall,” she added cryptically.
“Nor do I,” the figure admitted. “But the child is touched, tainted, like the prophecy said. Lord Azazel has had his way so far, stepping in now…”
“I understand,” Miss’Ouri said, closing her eyes, taking a moment to feel the breeze floating in through the open window. She let it bring her peace, the balance she had always sought from the force, the balance that had always been just out of grasp when she was a member of the Order. Wise though they were, the Jedi seldom understood the Force. They tried to harness it, control, it channel it, bend it to their will—but in doing so they failed to see how easily the force would come… they failed to understand that without balance both light and dark were wrong… not evil or good, but wrong. The universe could not survive on light or dark alone, but even after millennia of wars and struggles, that simple truth still eluded them. She opened her eyes and used the Force to look through the figure seated across from her, to see the truth in his being. “If we intercede now, reveal too much, we risk further unbalancing the force. A step to try to bypass the prophecy or tip the odds in the boys’ favor—”
“Could swing the balance to light or dark, defeating everything we have waited to achieve,” the figure finished solemnly.
“Yet you don’t trust completely?” She added voice rising in question.
“That is why I am here. Waiting on the sidelines feels too much like the old Jedi ways. Fifty centuries of existing in the force, and I am still not certain that we got it right. The stakes are too high, if we fail… we must not fail.” he admitted.
Miss’Ouri nodded again. A smile breaking over her face. “You will serve the healer well. With your help, maybe he will save the child,” she added solemnly.
“He is our only hope… the Universe’s only hope,” the figure added. “You are helping him too.”
Miss’Ouri chuckled and shook her head, her loose robe shifting around her shoulders as she did so. “He doesn’t trust me. Sweet boy, he can tell I’m keeping things from him.”
“It’s for the best.”
“Yes, yes it is,” she agreed. “But you and I both know that, explain as we might, there’s no way he’s going to understand that, not yet anyway.” She flipped her palms up and out in a gesture of surrender. “He’s so astute. Sees through things. I hadn’t expected that,” she admitted.
“Nor had I,” the figure added. “And I have had far longer to speculate on his personality than you. He is truly strong with the Force.” The figure shifted and then rose. “I must be going now. The future will be unfolding quickly. Their destiny will not wait much longer, and I still must find a host.”
“You won’t be hijacking no bodies now, will you?” She asked, already knowing the answer.
“I am not a Sith,” the figure hissed.
Missouri nodded in agreement.
“Besides, the Force has had eternity to prepare. The host is nearly ready.”
The figure quickly began to fade away, and soon Miss’Ouri could feel that his presence had left her home.
Miss’Ouri remained seating for a few minutes longer, meditating in the silence. He is well chosen, wise, she thought. Still there were a few tricks she had up her sleeve that could help the Winchesters without involving the prophecy at all. Sharing a secret smile with the cool night air, she stood, reaching for the wrap she kept on the cabinet near the window. Years of living in Dantooine’s cooler climate and she still hadn’t adjusted to the temperature. Wrapping herself in the soft, woven fabric, she made her way silently to her own bedroom, sneaking a peak at the Winchester brothers on her way by.
They looked so peaceful in sleep. Grief finally absent from Sam’s face, the boy looked so young, like a child. The tension that seemed ever present in Dean’s body had also washed away, but having the weight of the weight of the world on his shoulders for so long had taken its toll. In addition to the healing ankle, which was currently propped on cushions at the foot of the bed, he had dark circles under his eyes, cuts and bruises were scattered across the left side of his face and down his torso, and his bandaged hands were clawed tightly around the blankets which were pooled around his hips. Even in sleep he wasn’t fully relaxed.
Looking back at Sam, she wished she could promise them both a dreamless, restful sleep, but she knew that she could not. There was one thing she could do though, turning back to Dean, she reached out with her hand in front of her and focused, her eyes closing and brow furrowing in concentration. The Force flowed through her and out, settling around Dean’s sleeping form. The boy let out an audible sigh and relaxed, his hands unclenching from the blankets, and his features going slack. It wasn’t much, but at least this way the boy might actually rest. Opening her eyes, pleased with her handiwork, Miss’Ouri left the room and entered her own bed. Settling down for the night and hoping the two boys sleeping in the next room would have the strength to endure what the universe was about to ask of them.
There were flames all around him. The room was on fire, everything burned, he should be burning too, yet the flames did not touch him. He looked up and overhead Jess was burning, beautiful, beautiful Jess, on fire, surrounded by flames that were first blue, then red. She called to him, asked him why?, the betrayal in her voice searing him to the core, burning hotter than the flames could ever hope. But Sam had no answer, and he could do nothing. Nothing to change the past. Paralyzed by what the future might hold. So he stood there and stared, tears falling down his cheeks unable to answer.
Sam woke with a gasp, or so he though, he knew it had been a dream, but now he didn’t understand where he was. He was seated on the edge of some sort of landing pad, his legs dangling down over the edge, but rather than floating in the air or in space, it was situated above a mesmerizing blue-green ocean. He was dressed in unfamiliar robes that looked rough but felt soft, and vaguely reminded him of what Jedi Knights wore. He noticed that the lacerations, bruising, and tightness in his chest were gone and his head wasn’t aching.
Sam looked around taking in the pristine, smooth, grey-white of his surroundings. He was in some sort of floating city, but it seemed to be abandoned. He didn’t recognize the planet or the constellations he could see in the night sky.
“Samuel,” a woman’s voice called to him, echoing strangely.
Sam jumped. He thought he was alone, but now he could see a woman approaching. She was dressed in white Jedi robes and appeared to be walking on across the water to him. He was trying to figure out whether the force would actually allow someone to do that, when he noticed that she was glowing, and actually sort of transparent.
Spirit he thought. But not the sort of spirit his father and brother hunted. Not the sort of spirit he had tried to put to rest as a child. This was the spirit of a Jedi. Sam had heard stories that some Jedi chose to stay around after death to watch over those they cared about, to transmit messages, to act as conduits to the other side. They weren’t trapped though, and usually left the mortal realm when the right time came, letting go to become one with the Force. Still, hearing stories about such things and actually seeing one were completely different.
Still, there was something familiar about the woman. As she came closer he noticed she had soft green eyes and long blond hair that seemed to float around her like a halo. A small, silver-hilted lightsaber hung from her belt. Somehow he knew that if the blade was extended it would glow soothing purple. He recognized her… from pictures. “Mom?” he asked, his voice uncertain. Sam had no memory of his mother, but he knew that this was her.
“Yes, Sam,” she said, smiling, “it’s me.”
“Am I dreaming?” he asked, uncertainty creeping into his voice. This was impossible. His mother had been a droid programmer and engineer on Dantooine, not a Jedi Knight. He remembered his father saying something once when he was drunk on lum about Mary having done a stint in the Antarian Rangers before moving to Dantooine, but Sam was certain John had meant that his mom had been a Ranger, not one of the Jedi they supported. “You’re not a Jedi, how—”
“I’m sorry, Sam,” she said, her smile faltering. Her eyes looked Sad.
“Sorry?” He asked even more confused.
“This is not a dream, not really. This is a vision from the Force. I have been waiting for this time, to come to you to say goodbye and to apologize.”
“Say goodbye? Wait, mom, you just got here. Don’t go. I don’t understand?” Sam started to panic, scrambling to his feet so that he was standing on the edge of the landing pad, facing his mother’s spirit that was floating on top of the water just over the landing pad’s edge. He was taller than her, he realized. She looked so much like Dean, or rather, he understood now where his brother got his more delicate features and piercing green eyes from. Sam was still panicking, but somehow facing her, standing so close, she radiated a sense of peace that washed over him and calmed him.
“I do not have much time, Sam. I have waited for this moment, and when it passes, I must leave to become one with the force. I have been watching over you, and now my task is complete.” Her voice was sad, but resigned and yet loving, accepting.
Sam started to protest, but Mary lifted a glowing finger to her lips.
“There is much I must tell you before I go. I was a Jedi, my companion was a ranger who died. I am sorry for the deception, but in time, I hope you will understand. You too have the Force. It has awakened in you after all these years, and you must be careful. The call of the Dark Side is strong, stronger than anything you’ve ever imagined, and you must not fall…” her voice trailed off tears coming to her eyes.
“Dark Side? Use the Force, mom, please, I don’t understand…” Sam stuttered around the growing lump in his throat. “Please, mom, don’t go, don’t leave me again.”
“My son. I love you. I will always love you. Do not cry,” she said, smiling though her own eyes sparkled with unshed tears. She lifted her transparent hand and pressed it to Sam’s cheek, wiping away the tears.
He could feel the warmth the glow and power of his mother’s hand against his skin. He leaned into it, wondering if this is what it felt like to be cradled by your mother. The long standing ache of loss ignited in him again, pulling with it his grief over loosing Jess. For a moment, he had almost forgotten. He was so wrapped up in his mother’s presence that he had forgotten that his lover had burned before his eyes just days before. He felt the telltale wave of rage at the Sith that had caused her death, murdered her. His mother’s hand stilled. Sam looked down, her eyes were filled with worry.
“Sam, I am so, so sorry about Jessica. But you cannot give into your hate. That’s what he wants from you. You must be strong; you must resist.”
Sam nodded, not really understanding what his mother meant, but not wanting to see her upset. Resist what? Revenge was justice, after all, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that why his father had hunted after his mother’s killer for all these years? And now Jess’s killer was one and the same, shouldn’t he want to destroy the monster that had killed her? Not the same thing as revenge, a quiet voice in the back of his head pleaded. Listen to your mother. But he ignored it, pushed it aside for now. He had so many questions; he could figure all this out later. “I’ll be strong, Mom,” he said, reassuring.
Her eyes regarded him, and for a moment he knew she saw inside, saw the way his soul was twisting and turning, lost, but she just murmured, “I’m sorry,” again.
“What is this place?” he asked, partly wanting to change the subject, and partly filled with honest curiosity.
“The Force is showing this place to you. Something will happen here. Something important. The Force wants you to know. To be prepared,” she answered, her eyes staying locked with Sam, burning with an intensity he had only seen before in his brother.
“What will happen here?” he asked, nervous. It was his first Force-vision involving a Jedi spirit after all, not to mention his first—and probably only—conversation with his mother. Sam was generally feeling a bit out of his depth.
“I cannot tell you. That is not yours to know, not yet. All will be revealed in time,” she said, finally breaking eye contact and looking away, glancing over her shoulder staring off over the water at some unseen, distant point.
Sam felt a sudden leap of fear, knowing, but not knowing how, that his mother’s time was almost up. “Please, Mom, I love you. I’ve missed you. Tell me about yourself. I want to know. I want to know what it’s like to have a mother… don’t go. Stay. We need you…” his voice hitched and the words caught in his throat. He knew he was crying again. “Dad’s missing and Dean’s hurt and Jess died, and I don’t understand!”
She looked back at Sam, her smile growing, warming him, seeming to warm the air around him. “I love you too, Sam. I am sorry that I couldn’t be with you, but you’ve always had a mother… Even with me gone, you’ve always known the feel of a mother’s love.” She rose on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around Sam, drawing him into a hug and kissing him on the cheek.
It wasn’t quite like hugging a live person, but it was much more substantial than hugging air. For a moment, Sam felt like he was surrounded by love and peace. All fears and concerns were gone to his mind, and he just basked in his mother’s embrace. Then all too soon, her arms were leaving him, and she was pulling away.
“Be strong Sam. Your brother loves you. Never forget that,” she said, her words seeming to echo, as she turned away and headed back over the water. She stopped one more time and looked over her shoulder, “Tell your brother and your father that I love them.” The water seemed to shimmer underneath her, and then the air glowed bright in front of her and she seemed to step through an invisible doorway and disappeared.
“Mom?” Sam called after her, knowing she was gone. He felt so confused. The sense of peace she had instilled in him, was still flowing around him, but already his mind was awake, overwhelmed with questions, trying to take in his surroundings. Trying to figure out and understand. Then all too soon, the world was fading from around him.
Sam’s eyes popped open, and again he awakened with a gasp. This time, though, he felt the sting and pull of the wounds on his chest. His head ached and throbbed with the residual concussion, and he could hear Dean’s light snores from the bed next to him. He was clearly back in the spare bedroom in Miss’Ouri’s house on Dantooine. What did mom mean? Why was she sorry? What is that place? He wondered. But mostly, he felt the renewed surge of hate towards the yellow-eyed Sith for killing his mother, for killing Jess. Somehow, he would make it up to them. He would find that thing and stop it once and for all.
If only Sam understood just what that meant.
“Dean… Dean,” a familiar voice called softly in Dean’s ear.
Dean twisted in the bed, careful of his injuries, rolling towards the sound of the voice. He opened his eyes, smiling at the glowing figure in front of him. “Mom,” he breathed.
“Yes baby, I’m here.”
Dean shifted, turning his head so that it was almost in her lap, or where her lap would be if she were a real flesh-and-blood person. He felt the soft touch of her hands running through his hair. “You were a Jedi,” he realized aloud, wheels were turning in his mind, and suddenly it was like a lock had clicked into place. “That’s how you’ve been able to visit me. That’s why Sammy…” he shuddered at the thought of his brother controlling the fire. It had saved his life, but the aura of hate his brother had exuded when he burned the Sith’s host chilled Dean to the core.
“Yes baby,” Mary answered. “Your brother can touch the Force. That’s why it’s time. Time that I go. You’re ready now,” she said sadly.
Somehow Dean had known the words were coming. His mother had come to him from time to time over the years, he’d never told his father, because well… John was just so sad at any mention of Mary, and Dean feared that if John knew he was talking to a spirit, he’d either want to take Dean for psychological evaluation or hunt the spirit, and then again, it was also just Dean’s special time with his mom. But the visits had been fewer and farther between, and she’d always said she could only come while he still needed him. “Please don’t go? I need you. I don’t understand what’s happening with Sammy, and I feel so lost,” he pleaded.
“I know baby, I know,” she cooed. “I’d love to stay, but you are ready now. It’s time for me to move on. The Force is calling. I don’t belong here any more, but I’ll always be with you here,” she said, resting her glowing fingers over Dean’s heart as if he were still a small child.
Dean let out a shaky sigh. “I’m scared. I don’t want to do this alone.”
“Don’t be afraid. You won’t be alone. I promise. You just have to hold on. Trust your instincts. Soon, soon you will understand.” She leaned down and kissed his forehead before standing.
Dean immediately felt the loss of her touch. Where there was warmth, everything felt cold, everything, except the place where she’d touched his chest still seemed to glow and tingle with warmth. He focused on that, trying to hold on, keep his mother with him longer.
“Good-bye, my child,” she said softly.
“I love you momma,” Dean sniffed in reply.
“I love you too.” And then she just faded away.
Dean let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and gingerly rolled onto his back, letting his eyes drift closed, mulling over his mother’s words. So, that was to be the last of her visits. Moreover, she’d been a Jedi, well that did make sense. He’d suspected it for a while, but never really thought about it. Maybe that was why the Sith had come after her? The idea felt partly right, but Dean knew he was still missing something. Soon, his mother had said. He hated feeling so lost. He just hoped soon really was soon. Right now he felt like he was failing everyone. He should be strong not lost, yet here he was, a grown man crying for his mother, and missing his father. His brother needed him, and he didn’t even know what to do to help.
Dean felt the tingling in his chest again, reassurance where his mother had touched him. He focused on that and allowed himself to drift back to sleep. If he’d stayed awake a few moments longer, he would have seen his brother awaken, would have sensed his rage… but instead, Dean drifted into some much-needed rest. The last rest he would get for a long time. If he had known what would await him when he next awoke, he might have just held onto sleep a little longer.
Master Post | Part 8 | Part 10