Sam tiptoed along the silent corridors of Ahto City. Dean, Bobby, and Chevy trailed along behind him, all equally silent. Dean and Bobby each carried an ysalimir in a special backpack on their shoulders. The old guardian lizard had stayed behind to guard the ship, partially masking the presence of the Dream. Dean and Bobby were trying to stay far enough back so that Sam wouldn’t feel the effects of the lizard’s Force bubble. It was working, mostly. If Sam slowed down too much, just the slightest hesitation could close the gap and put him under the ysalimiri’s control. Considering how badly he’d reacted to the disorienting effects of the ysalimiri on his first encounter, he didn’t want to risk a repeat performance. Not to mention, stepping inside the lizards’ force-bubble would block his access to the Force.
As they trundled along, Sam realized that if he wasn’t so tense, he might have been reacting in awe to just how good his brother’s upgrades to Chevy had been. Since their reunion on Coruscant, his only opportunity to be with Chevy someplace eerily silent had been Alderaan, and well… Azazel’s appearance had pretty much short-circuited his assessment of that experience. Even in the deserted city, Chevy was able to roll along whisper-silent.
Sam did his best to mask his presence like Miss’Ouri had taught him. He concentrated on keeping his mind contained and bound within his body, holding himself tight inside, and not letting anything leak out. It felt strange to be so cut off, in the last few weeks Sam had realized that he’d always been a little Force sensitive—it wasn’t just something that burst out of him when faced with Jessica’s death. All those years hunting, he’d always had a keen sense of intuition, he could tell things about people, moods, impressions, sometimes he’d even know things a split-second before they happened. He realized, sorrowfully, that John must have been Force sensitive too, otherwise the Thought Bomb wouldn’t have killed him. Sam wondered when his father had figured it out. He wondered if his mother had known. Sam felt the loss of his parents so acutely he almost stumbled again, and feared that his mental shields might have wavered. There was so much about his family that he had never known, never understood, and now it was all too late. Maybe if they had just been honest with each other this wouldn’t have happened… Or, maybe it’s all preordained, my Destiny, proclaimed by a prophecy thousands of years ago, and set in motion by the Force, and nothing we ever could have done would stop it. Sam certainly hoped that wasn’t so, if they were to have any chance of succeeding.
He came to the end of the corridor. There was a door and on the other side, Sam knew was a big, open landing pad. The same place his mother had come to him in a vision. The same place his father had died. The same place Lord Azazel was now, with sixty-six dead bodies around him and the Thought Bomb containing his father’s trapped soul. Any minute now, he would tear open the rift, and the condemned souls of his Sith brethren would be pulled into the world. Sam had to stop it.
Dean crept up behind him and tapped Sam gently on the shoulder. “What’s the plan?” he asked.
Sam noticed Dean had left the ysalimir on its frame a few strides behind, where Bobby was, an action for which Sam was seriously grateful. Dean still seemed wary, but he had been following Sam’s plan more or less without question since they landed. Sam was honored that his brother seemed to have so much faith in him, but feared that he would still fail; fail, and they would all die. Vaporized like their father.
Sam forced the image of John’s death, his throes of agony, from his mind, and focused on Dean. “As soon as we open that door, he’ll know we’re here, if he doesn’t already. I can use telekinesis, I’m sure it will work when I see him, to hold him back, or hold back the Thought Bomb, he has to bring the two spheres together. He used a special ritual to create the second Thought Bomb—I felt it. Azazel’s using it, and the power from it and Dad’s death,” Sam’s voice caught slightly, “as an anchor to pull the old Thought Bomb out of its hiding place in the Dark Side. If he can get the two spheres to touch, he can get them to swap places. The old Thought Bomb will stay here, and the new will be pulled back into the Force. Then he’ll slash the old with his lightsaber to release his followers’ souls.”
Sam paused, realizing just how clearly he could see now what Dean had began to suspect sometime between finding Mom’s holocron and his confession on Ryloth. He’d hoped Dean was wrong, but it wasn’t to be. Pulling himself back to the present, he continued, “If I can keep them from touching, or pull his lightsaber away from him, we just might have a chance. He’s only got so long before the old sphere is pulled back into the Dark Side. It’s already been almost a half hour, so it’s got to be now, or he’ll lose his chance.” Or he’ll just have to kill someone else with a Thought Bomb, like me… He pushed the thoughts from his mind and continued. “Now, Miss’Ouri told me that making a Thought Bomb this way takes a crazy amount of Force-strength, so he’ll be tired, plus, he’s possessing an unwilling host, so he’s not as strong as he could be to start with. If I get in there now, I’ll have a chance. You and Bobby and Chevy need to skirt around the edges and place the Runes. Once they’re placed, it will trap him.”
“So, we just gotta get the Runes placed at the four compass points and chant a few words and he’ll be stuck?” Dean said sounding doubtful and gesturing to the four Runes of the Light that now hung from a small sack on his utility belt.
The idea was that the Cortosis ore in the Runes would make them resistant should Azazel try to attack or destroy them with a lightsaber, while the ysalimiri on backpacks would allow Bobby and Dean to move about the room without getting the brunt of any of Azazel’s force attacks. But Dean was right, given at how troublesome the Runes had been to find and collect, it almost sounded too easy. But he’d spent hours on the Dream pouring over the original legend Bobby had found discussing the Runes while they’d been en route to Manaan, and between that and the map and inscriptions from Dxun, the instructions seemed to be clear.
“Well, in theory. We know it will force the rift to close, and keep any more souls from coming out…” Sam said. It will also trap Dad… he thought sadly. There would be no way to free John without freeing the others. Maybe there would be a way to pull his father out, Sam thought. If Sam could get in there and slash open his father’s Thought Bomb, or let Azazel slice them both the Thought Bombs… but of course that would mean allowing Azazel to let the Thought Bombs touch if he was going to cut the old Thought Bomb open in the first place…
“What about the Rune he destroyed, the decoy," Dean asked.
Sam shook his head. “He crushed that with the force and melted it with fire. He’s got the hosts for his followers in there, he’s not going to risk burning them up, ‘cause that would kind of trash his whole plan. Besides, the longer the Runes are in the ysalimiri’s Force-bubbles he won’t be able to get anything anywhere near them using the Force.”
“Ok, got it,” Dean said curtly. “I just want to get this over with,” he muttered. Turning to Bobby, he asked, “You ready?”
Bobby nodded. “As I’ll ever be.”
Dean walked back and picked up the ysalimir and its frame backpack, hoisting it onto his back and over his shoulders.
“Is Chevy ready with the distraction?” Sam asked Dean, feeling a bit awkward talking to his brother about the droid when she was in the same room, but well, they couldn’t risk Chevy making any noise and Dean had the datapad.
“Yeah,” Dean said, while Chevy tilted forward on her treads in an approximation of a nod. “As soon as the door opens she’s going to overload the electrical systems in the docking bay. The lights should arc and hit Darth Azazel, and that should take enough of his power to momentarily weaken him, give you the opportunity to act.”
“Are you sure that’s not going to,” Bobby gestured, “make him stronger?”
“Dad,” Dean’s voice wavered, “Dad told us that he deflected the blaster bolts Dad fired at him, not that he absorbed the energy. And none research I’ve done on Azazel has suggested he has that ability. An electrical shock of that magnitude with no warning… he shouldn’t be able to deflect it. It should injure or distract him, not make him stronger,” Dean reassured.
Sam nodded in agreement. “From what Dad said about Naboo, I think if we hit him, it will damage the host more than Azazel himself, but that should slow him down even more, maybe even knock him out of the body, which will make it easier to use the Runes on him. I think that’s going to work to our advantage,” Sam added. He hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do next.
Dean caught Sam’s eye, and they exchanged a look that said I know, I love you, thank you, I’m sorry, I don’t want to die, I don’t want you to die, and pretty much summed up a lifetime of brotherhood. Awkwardly, Dean stepped forward raising his right arm to pull Sam into a hug.
Sam ignored the shock of the Force bubble and leaned into his brother, wanting for a moment to just be a little kid again, protected and loved. He didn’t want to have the fate of the universe resting on his shoulders. Careful not to put too much pressure on Dean’s recently healed left shoulder, Sam gave his brother a quick squeeze before pulling away.
Bobby patted them both on the back in affectionate reassurance.
Once both Dean and Bobby had stepped back a safe distance so that Sam was no longer under the lizard’s influence, Sam took a deep breath and turned to Chevy. “Ok girl, let’s go.”
What happened next would be a blur in Sam’s memory. The door slid open, lightening arced into the room ahead of him illuminating Darth Azazel and the two pulsating orbs that hovered in front of him. Sam slipped through the door, dropping his mental shields and feeling the Force-voids that surrounded Dean and Bobby slip into the room behind him. He wished them well, and turned his focus to Azazel.
The Dark Lord had staggered when hit by the lightning, but he was now cackling with glee.
“Hoping to catch me unawares, boy? Silly fool, I knew you were coming centuries ago. This moment has been written in the Force since long before you were created.” Darth Azazel stood poised at the front of the room, on the edge of the landing pad. It was the same spot Sam had visited in his dream where his mother had spoken to him.
Unfazed, Sam stood strong, stepping towards the center of the room. He focused on Azazel, lifting his hand trying to stop the Sith Lord in his tracks. The second Thought Bomb was had fully emerged from the Force now, and the two were only centimeters apart, so close to touching. Vaguely, Sam felt the voids around Dean and Bobby move and realized the first of the Runes had been placed. The air seemed to be humming now, hinting at the trap that would soon be set. If only he could buy them enough time…
Azazel struggled against him, pulling and tugging against Sam’s telekinesis to draw the spheres closer together. You want to free your father, don’t you, if you let me open the spheres, maybe your father can slip out, yes, you want that…
Sam flinched as the Sith Lord’s thoughts floated into his mind. It was true, he wanted to free his father. The thought of John suffering forever, a prisoner of the Dark Side made his heart ache. He didn’t want that. He’d spent so many nights dreaming about facing the same fate ever since Dean confessed his suspicions to Sam on Ryloth. He hadn’t been sure he could face it himself, but how could he possibly leave his father to it?
Sam knew he could free him and still stop Azazel. If he let the spheres touch, he could pull Azazel’s blade, make it open John’s sphere too, and Sam was confident he could get John out before any of the Sith spirits spilled forth. Dean and Bobby would get the Runes laid and the chant finished before…
Azazel’s laughter slammed into Sam in waves, reverberating aloud and through his mind.
While Sam had been thinking about freeing his father, his focus on the spheres had slipped, and the spheres had slipped closer together, they were now touching, just at one point, but that was all it took.
Sam reached out with his hand, trying to use the Force to pull them apart, force space between them, but it was too late. With inhuman speed, Darth Azazel drew his lightsaber, extended its blood-red blade and slashed across the spheres.
“No!” Sam cried out. He could tell that Dean and Bobby were not yet done laying the Runes. It had been a trick, and Sam had allowed his desire to please his father, his need for approval, for praise—his need to not let his father not suffer his fate for him—to cloud his judgment, and now they were all paying the price.
He saw the first shimmering, dark form slip from the old sphere. At the same time, the air in the docking port began swirling and spinning, picking up bits of debris from the earlier explosion, and tugging at the bodies that lay strewn across the floor.
“Sam!” Dean shouted from behind him. “Hold on, just hold on a little longer.” He could sense the Force-void that was where Dean should be moving behind him, clinging to the wall. Out of the corner of Sam’s eye he saw Dean pulling himself along, struggling to place the last rune.
Sam felt guilty that his brother was reassuring him, but it gave him strength. With new resolve, Sam focused on the newly opened spheres. He could see something bright trying to slip from the sphere on the left, he found it in the force and pulled. Now way was he letting his father get pulled into the other Thought Bomb. Sam tugged with all his strength and threw, threw his father’s soul out over the edge of the docking port, over the water near where he had seen his mother’s spirit cross over in a vision. He thought he saw the spirit flash bright for a moment, got the sense of his father’s smiling face, and then blink out. He hoped his father had found peace, but didn’t have long to dwell on it. While he had been trying to pull John free, one of the black figures had managed to slip out of the old sphere. He could see it floating towards one of the bodies on the ground. He felt sick thinking of the poor innocent whose body was about to be possessed, but he stayed focused on closing the rift. If he could hold Azazel back and pull the tear in the old sphere closed and pull it apart from the new sphere, the old would slip back into the force. He just had to give Dean and Bobby enough time to finish the incantation. He felt the air shift as Bobby placed the last rune. The Runes were designed to adhere to a surface after they were placed, so Azazel’s maelstrom couldn’t pick them up and toss them around the room.
Sam tugged with all his might, trying to pull the rift closed and separate the two spheres, but Azazel was tugging back. Sam could feel himself weakening, tiring, but he was determined. Another figure slipped from the rift and moved even more quickly to a body. Sam couldn’t split his attention among so many targets, he just didn’t have the skill or training yet. He remained focused on Azazel, recalling how it had felt to face him when Jessica died. He remembered the feel of knowing that the host was vulnerable, could be separated from the body. If he could tug Azazel’s spirit free, then it would be trapped here as soon as the incantation was finished. Sam narrowed his concentration to too points, to tugging the sides of the rift closed and to pulling Azazel free from his host’s body. He could feel the maelstrom weakening as the connection between Azazel and his host weakened. In spirit form, Azazel was Force, but he couldn’t channel the Force very easily. Sam felt a surge of victory as he heard Dean and Bobby chanting behind him, he used that joy to pull the sides of the rift closed, effectively stopping anyone else from getting through. They were so close, they could really do this! He held the rift closed, and focused harder on Azazel, unable to stop the hint of hatred that slipped through. This man, this thing, had killed his parents, his girlfriend, and now Sam would destroy him. Stop him, trap him forever from being able to finish fulfilling the prophecy. He was so close, Azazel’s soul was almost free from the host’s body.
But as the hate flowed through him, Sam could feel glee in Azazel’s spirit. Belatedly remembering Miss’Ouri’s warning, Sam tried to stifle the hate, instead focusing on the joy he had felt moments before, but his concentration slipped, and the soul slipped fractionally back inside the host’s body. Undeterred, Sam kept pulling. He only had to hang on a little longer. “This stops, now,” he grit out, aloud. “I’m not letting you kill anyone else!”
“Sorry Jedi, but that future’s not in the cards for you,” said a harsh, feral female voice, and the body of a young Cathar woman stepped into his line of vision, her eyes growing bright with the unnatural yellow of a Sith. While Sam’s attention had been focused on Azazel one of the escaped souls must have settled into a host. Settled into a host and grabbed Azazel’s lightsaber…
Sam saw the blood-red blade snap-hiss to life a split second before he felt its burning blade stab through him, catching him high in the gut and quickly stabbing through, severing his spine. Sam felt like his insides were on fire, which heh they probably were, he struggled to breathe, feeling his lungs filling with fluid, and his sensation-less legs dropped out from underneath him, dropping him to his knees. He caught sight of Dean out of his left eye, and smiled. He’d tried. They were so close, at least he’d freed their father and closed the sphere… As life left Sam, he could feel it flowing away like the force. He was becoming part of the Force, flowing outward, expanding, sensing everything around him, feeling the life of the planet below. He hadn’t really understood what the power was, where it came from and now… now it was too late.
“Nooooooooooo!” Dean screamed as he saw the Sith woman stab Sam. He could smell the singed flesh and the ozone from the blade, and it was choking him, making him sick. He swore he could feel an echo of Sam’s pain. Sam caught his eye, and the look he gave Dean made Dean’s heart leap. Sam was so close, they had been so close to finishing. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right. Sam couldn’t die, he couldn’t. He was all Dean had left. He couldn’t lose any more.
“Dean, no! Finish the incantation!” Bobby yelled, his voice anguished.
Dean looked down, without realizing it, he had been moving from his station by the rune, unconsciously stepping towards Sam. His lips had stopped moving, the incantation only lines from being complete.
“Finish it, and the sphere stays sealed and goes back to the force. Finish it, and Sam didn’t die in vain!” Bobby pleaded.
Numbly, Dean returned his focus to the rune. He belted out the last two lines of the incantation, shouting to be heard over the wind that was increasing in strength again as Sam’s grip on Azazel had faltered. He spat out the last words and turned, crawling on hands and knees, instinctively shedding the ysalimir and its nutrient frame as he struggled across the docking bay. Scrambling until he was by Sam’s side. The woman with the lightsaber was still there, but he didn’t care. He needed to be with his brother.
She made a move like she was going to strike at him, but Dean turned to her and glared.
“Get back, bitch!” Dean spat, “You aren’t touching me, and you’re never touching my brother, again.” He threw himself over Sam’s crumpled form and waited for her blow to end it, but it didn’t come. He sensed her moving away, distantly, joining with her fellow escapee and Azazel. Dean felt the Thought Bomb that had housed his father pop out of existence now that it was emptied, and the other rejoin the force, as there was no longer a second Thought Bomb to take its place and anchor it here. He felt Azazel’s rage at the failure. He felt the three of them turn to flee—with their hosts, they could escape the trap—but Dean didn’t care. He felt it all, and all that mattered was Sam in his arms. Sam, his brother. Sam, his best friend. Sam, who he rescued from a fire when he was only four years old. Sam, who he promised to protect. Sam, the only family he had left…
The rest of the world slipped away. Sam couldn’t die. Sam couldn’t be dead. All that existed was him and Sam. Together, here, now. He thought absently that there wasn’t even any blood, but of course there wouldn’t be, lightsabers cauterized wounds. He noticed how light and yet how heavy Sam felt in his arms. He was aware that he was draping himself over Sam, his right hand hovering over the wound, pulling Sam onto his lap, but he wasn’t really conscious of what he was doing. He could feel something opening inside him, pouring out of him with his love for his brother, something that had always been there, but that had been dormant, waiting, waiting until he was ready. His mother’s voice came back to him. He felt the spot in his chest where she had touched him, felt it glow, he felt the life around him, from the oceans, felt it start to flow into him, channel through him and out into Sam, and he held on, understanding his mother’s words at last. He could hold on, and he wouldn’t be alone.
The Force slammed into him from all sides, moving through him and out into his brother, mending blood vessels, reconnecting nerves, stitching together bone, sealing skin... Dean didn’t know how long he was there, but he held on… until.
“Dean?” Sam gasped. Coughing. “Dean? What happened? Am I alive?” His voice was shaky and quiet and uncertain, but there, alive, real.
“Yeah Sammy,” Dean said, looking down and meeting Sam’s eyes, tears obscuring his sight. “You’re alive. We’re alive. The Thought Bombs are closed.”
He helped Sam to sit, aware that Bobby was hesitantly coming closer, no doubt confused by what had happened.
“Azazel?” Sam asked.
Dean realized he wasn’t sure and turned to Bobby for confirmation.
“He got away, took two of his little friends with him,” Bobby answered shakily. “But you did it Sam, you closed the rift. Got your Daddy free too,” he added. “I saw John cross over,” he admitted.
“But how?” Sam asked. “How did I?” He looked to Dean with wonder.
“I don’t know,” Dean started, hesitant to say what he thought had happened.
“You are the Healer,” a gravely voice said, coming from the edge of the landing pad, where Azazel had been.
Dean turned in sync with Sam and Bobby to find the source of the voice. A tall man dressed in simple Jedi robes approached. There was something familiar about him, like somehow Dean had known he would be coming, but he couldn’t place it, where the familiarity came from.
“What?” Dean asked, his tongue thick in his mouth.
“You are the Healer, and I am your Guide,” the figure said. “My name is Cas Tiel. I was a Jedi five thousand years ago and helped form the original Protectorate. I know of the prophecy, and it is my job to help you in your Destiny, Dean.”
“But we won, it’s over,” Sam protested. “I mean Azazel got away, but we stopped him…”
“You have won this battle, Samuel, but there will be many more battles in the war. I am here to ensure that Dean is trained to do his part,” Cas responded regarding Sam with a solemn expression.
“Me?” Dean asked, but somehow he knew. This was what his mother had been preparing him for.
“Well Dean,” Sammy said, still somewhat shaky. “I guess we’re both Force freaks now.”
Dean snorted. “Yeah Sammy, I guess so.” Right then, he didn’t care what the future held or how many more battles were ahead of him. All that mattered was that he was alive and Sammy was alive and their Dad’s soul was free, and for the moment at least, the balance of the Force in the Universe was safe.
Master Post | Part 18 | Notes & Acknowledgments