SUMMARY: Murders in two separate cities draw the brothers into a case that has Sam teaming with someone he never thought he'd meet, and Dean fighting for his life in a way he never imagined. Casefic. Chapter 2 of 4.
SPOILERS: Technically, the story is set within Season 9, post trial-related fallout, but is a standalone case-fic–no spoilers–and may become slightly AU depending on what happens in Tuesday's Season 9 premiere. Right now, though, it fits within canon.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke, Jeremy Carver & Co. I am playing in their sandbox, with their toys, with much gratitude.
RATING: T for swearing, including the 'big boy' words, as Jensen calls them.
WORD COUNT: Chapter One: 5K+ Complete story: 24K
A/N: A scene set late in Season 8 inspired this case-fic. Which one will become obvious as the fic progresses, but to state it here may spoil things. It's four chapters long, and all chapters are complete. I'll post every other day this week. Many thanks and big hugs to my beta, Harrigan; my stories are always better with your help. I tinkered post-beta, so any remaining mistakes are mine and mine alone. Thanks also to Freya for the encouragement to get this done. And Suzee51: the scene you wanted the last time around that wasn't there? It shows up in this story. Cryptic enough? On the whumpage front, I'll just say that neither brother escapes this fic unscathed. (Shocking I know, coming from me.) Written to fill the 'Job-related Injury' square in my h/c Bingo card over on LJ. A great big thank you to everyone for the lovely reviews of Chapter One. They are very much appreciated. And now, on with Chapter Two. Enjoy.
STAINLESS AND HONORABLE LIVES
Sam was vaguely aware of being hoisted off the ground and his good arm slung around someone's neck. Arms encircled his waist from both sides, keeping him upright. He tried to get his feet to move, keep pace with whoever was holding him up, but they dragged uselessly along the ground.
His chin was on his chest, his head too heavy to lift, and his eyes refused to open. Around him sounds were muted, like everything was underwater. He tried to ask what the hell was going on but all he could summon was an unintelligible croak.
The effort proved too much, the pull of unconsciousness too strong. Sounds faded, lights dimmed and then he was aware of nothing.
There was no gentle release from unconsciousness. One moment Sam was blissfully unaware, the next screaming jolted him awake; it took a few moments more for his brain to catch up, to realize the screams were his own. Pain ripped through him, the stench of burning flesh right under his nose. He was lying on his stomach, rough hands holding his arms and legs, pinning him down. Fueled by fear and adrenaline, he fought back, instinctively flipping himself over to face his attackers.
Eyes wild, he glared up at the unfamiliar faces hovering over him. There were three of them; Sam ignored the two now grabbing his arms, again pinning him to the floor. His focus was on the one with the sword, the blade of the weapon red-hot and smoking. His struggles intensified as the sword was lowered toward him. "No…no…no!" He screamed as the metal touched his skin, his body bucking violently until the searing pain again ripped consciousness from him.
Dean took a gulp of bitter, vending machine coffee, checked his phone for the millionth time, then resumed pacing the hospital waiting room, ready to punch the wall in frustration. The gunman who'd lost his arm had been in surgery for hours–seven and counting–as the trauma team tried to reattach the severed limb. Nurses had emerged to offer periodic updates but it would still be hours more before the patient was coherent enough to offer any clue as to what the hell had happened–or where Sam might have gone.
Hanging around the hospital was a waste of time. Dean set off down the corridor toward the elevators.
There had been no word from, or about, his brother. Dean had checked admissions at all other hospitals–and morgues–in the city but there was no one fitting Sam's description. There had been no calls to Dean's phone, and the blood trail from the crime scene had dried up less than a block away. Fueled only on coffee, Dean had spent the hours since his brother's disappearance combing the streets north and east of the crime scene and had squat to show for it. Now that he'd checked in with the hospital, he was ready to search the streets to the west, and then start all over again if necessary until he turned up something, anything, that would lead him to Sam.
His phone rang, call display showing a number he didn't recognize. "Yeah."
Dean froze in his tracks. That was the name on his current FBI badge and business card. He didn't know the voice. "Yeah. Who is this?"
There was no answer.
"Look, I'm in the middle of case. I don't have time for screwing around so–"
"Come to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard–side entrance."
Dean scowled. "Who the hell is this?"
"My name…." The caller hesitated. "My name is Greg Jeffers–Reverend Greg Jeffers. We found your card in Sam Osbourne's jacket."
"Sam? Is he there?" Dean's heart rate picked up. "Put him on the phone–now!"
"Please, we'll explain everything, I promise. Just…come quickly." The caller hung up.
"Son of a bitch." Dean didn't need to be told twice. He dropped his coffee in the nearest trash can and bolted down the hospital corridor.
Sam opened his eyes, but his vision was slow to focus. He felt weak, nauseous and way too warm. He wanted nothing more than to kick off the heavy blankets that covered him, but the signal from his brain to his legs seemed to have short-circuited.
A hand slid beneath his head, lifting it off the pillow and a cup was pressed to his lips. "Drink this–you're dehydrated."
Sam coughed as he drank, as much water running down his chin as down his throat, but it tasted good, damn good, chasing away the rank, woolly taste in his mouth. Then, the cup was gone and his head returned to the pillow. "Dean?" His voice was barely audible, even to himself.
"Dean will be here soon. Rest…get your strength back."
Sam frowned; he didn't know the voice. He tried to sit up but crumpled with a groan, pain ripping through his shoulder, his head spinning. He screwed his eyes closed, fighting the urge to puke.
"Whoa there, son. I think it's a bit too soon to start moving about."
Sam peeled open his eyes and rolled his head toward the voice; it belonged to a bald, sixty-ish man wearing glasses and a clerical collar. The stranger wrung out a cloth over a steel bowl filled with water, then leaned in to wipe the cloth over Sam's face. Sam weakly batted away his hand. "Where…." He cleared his throat. "Where am I?"
"You're in my church. I'm Greg Jeffers, the minister here. It's Sam, right?" Rev. Jeffers held up Sam's FBI badge, blood smeared across the photo and shield. "Sam Osbourne?"
Sam's gaze locked on the blood. Jumbled images spun through his head–talking on the phone with Dean…being slammed into a brick wall…a fight…a gunshot. Subconsciously, he reached for his shoulder.
Rev. Jeffers stopped him. "You were shot…lost a lot of blood."
Sam swallowed; that explained a few things–just not why he was in what looked like the furnace room of a church. "Why am I here?"
The minister looked uncomfortable. "I'm sure you expected to wake up in a hospital…." He glanced across the room. "But…they thought this was for the best."
They? Sam followed Rev. Jeffers' line of sight and his eyes widened. Three men, wearing chain mail and leather, looking like they'd wandered in from a medieval battle, stood on the far side of the room, watching him. One was pacing, worry painted clearly across his features; another stood leaning against an old wooden work bench, cutting slices from an apple with a large knife–but it was the tallest of the three who held Sam's attention; he stood with one foot up on an old crate and a massive sword resting across his bent knee. As Sam's eyes met his, the man ran a whetstone along the edge of the sword, the metallic screech setting Sam's teeth on edge.
He'd seen these men before–out on street. They'd attacked the muggers who shot him.
"Are you a man of faith, Agent Osbourne?"
Sam ignored the question, his focus locked on the sword and the rhythmic grating of stone on metal. A jumble of new images flooded his head–the strangers holding him down…the blade of that sword glowing red… searing heat, blinding pain…. "What the hell did you do to me?"
The whetstone stalled, midstroke, the man holding it giving a slight shrug. "You asked for mercy–we granted it."
Mercy? Yes…he'd asked for mercy. Sam's eyes widened further when he remembered why. Never refuse mercy to him that asketh mercy…. He jumped when the reverend placed a hand on his arm.
"Do you believe, agent? Have faith in things beyond the science your job demands?"
Sam's breathing escalated, making him dizzy, but his attention was still locked on the sword. "I believe…in more things than you can imagine."
Rev. Jeffers swallowed. "Then I ask you to keep an open mind. What I'm about to tell you will be a shock–I assure you."
"No." Sam shook his head slowly. "No, it won't–because I know who they are."
Dean approached the church with his gun drawn. Sure, it was a House of God–but so was Pastor Jim's church, which always had a fully stocked weapons locker in the basement. If the voice on the phone was telling the truth, Sam was somewhere inside; one way or another, he was going in after him, but he wasn't walking in blindly. He'd been instructed to use the side entrance. Dean studied the building; no–screw that. Slinging his duffel over his shoulder and chambering a bullet in his gun, he moved silently to the front of the church.
The hinges on the big oak main door groaned softly as he pushed it open and stepped cautiously over the threshold. No service was in progress and all the pews were empty. Dean cut to the right, choosing to go up the outside aisle rather than the center one. Keeping the wall at his back, he scanned the sanctuary, vestibule to choir loft to altar, as he moved forward.
He made it to the front of the church unchallenged. Doors flanked the big altar; Dean chose the one on the left, the entrance he'd been instructed to use located on that side of the building. Through the doorway there was a set of stairs leading up to the choir loft, and a long corridor; Dean moved silently down the hallway. He hesitated as he passed a large, wrought iron grate in the floor, muffled voices from somewhere below leaking up through the vent. OK; the basement was the first place to check out.
At the end of the hall he peered around the corner and froze; there was a man about ten feet away, his back to Dean. He was of average height and pacing in front of a short set of stairs that led down to an arched wooden door. When he turned, Dean saw that he wore a clerical collar–the minister who'd called him no doubt, now waiting for Dean to arrive.
Dean waited a few moments longer, surveilling the scene. When he saw no signs of anyone besides the minister, he stepped into the open. "I was beginning to think no one was home."
The minister whirled around, startled. His eyes grew wider still when he saw that Dean had a gun pointed at him. "You're Agent Osbourne's partner?"
"Bingo." Dean motioned with his gun. "Take me to him–now." The hairs on the back of his neck bristled as he sensed movement behind him. He spun around, gun raised; there was a metallic clang and a burst of pain as a sword smashed into his hand, knocking the gun from his grasp. The weapon clattered to the floor and Dean froze, the sharp point of the broadsword now pressed just under his Adam's apple, a warm trickle of blood running down his neck onto his chest.
"Please…no violence. This is a House of God."
That plea was from the minister, somewhere behind him, but Dean's focus was locked on the man holding the sword. He was big–Sam big–but with a good ten years on his brother. His hair was buzzed, there were scars visible on his face, and he was dressed like he was ready for the next battle in Moondor–nothing fancy, just simple soldier's garb. And he knew how to use that sword; Dean's hand was cradled against his chest, fingers throbbing from being smashed by the weapon–but he still had them. If the man had meant to take his hand, Dean had no doubt it would be on the floor beside his gun.
Dean grimaced as he uncurled his injured fingers, then raised his hands in surrender. The grimace became a smile. "Didn't we face off against the Shadow Orks at the mid-year Jubilee?" He grunted as the point of the sword bit deeper into his skin. The man wielding the weapon never spoke, but motioned with his head for Dean to turn around and start walking.
Dean slowly turned his back on his captor, keeping his hands raised. "You're good…. Where the hell were you hiding, huh?"
The only answer was the point of the sword jabbed between his shoulder blades, urging him forward.
"Please–just come with me." The minister in front of him didn't look happy about what had just gone down. "He won't harm you–you have my word."
Dean slid a hand across his neck, then held up his bloody fingers. "I'm gonna hold you to that, padre."
Rev. Jeffers swallowed. "Your partner–he's this way." He turned quickly and walked down the hall.
Dean shot a look over his shoulder, then with a little more encouragement from the sword at his back, followed the minister.
Rev. Jeffers led them to the end of the hallway, then down a long flight of creaky stairs to the church basement. He pushed open a door, stepped inside, then glanced back at Dean before gesturing toward the far side of the room.
Following him in, Dean took note of two men dressed similarly to his captor, but his focus quickly turned to the pile of blankets against the far wall and the long form lying beneath them.
"Sammy?" He crossed the room, dropping to his knees at his brother's side and letting the duffel fall to the floor. Sam's eyes were closed, his skin flushed, his hair damp and stuck to his forehead. Beneath the blankets, Sam's jacket and shirts were gone and there were bulky gauze bandages on the front and back of his left shoulder. "Hey…. You in there?"
There was no response.
"He was conscious for a while–quite lucid." There was no disguising the worry in Rev. Jeffers voice. "But he tired quickly. I thought rest would do him good."
"No, a hospital would do him good." Blood spatter at the crime scene has suggested a through-and-through injury; the bandages were consistent with that. Dean pressed his fingers to Sam's neck; his pulse was sluggish, blood loss the likely cause. Dean peeled off the front dressing to assess the extent of the damage and his stomach lurched. "What the hell did you butchers do to him?"
"It was one of your weapons that caused the damage." His captor finally spoke, his voice deep, his accent English. "Like the one I knocked from your hand."
"Bullshit. I know bullet wounds." Sam's skin was burned, pus leaking out from beneath the still-forming scab. "They don't do…this."
"Agent Osbourne–Sam–was losing a lot of blood when they brought him here." Rev. Jeffers was now standing behind Dean. "They…they cauterized the wound using one of their swords." He gestured to the old wood-fired furnace in the corner. "They heated it in there."
Dean glared at the minister in disbelief. "You have got to be fucking kidding me."
"He would have bled out before you got here had we not." The smallest of the three men, just slightly shorter than Dean with tousled dark hair, stepped forward. "This gave him the best chance to survive."
"No, doctors would do that–you know, the guys in the white coats with the six-figure salaries. You assholes ever heard of 9-1-1?" After what they'd done to Sam and the confrontation in the hall, Dean was spoiling for a fight–swords or no swords. But Sam came first. He pressed his hand to his brother's forehead; Sam was already feverish, infection taking hold.
There was an open first aid kit on the floor beside Sam. Dean shoved it aside, a quick glance telling him the contents were for blisters and scraped knees, not gunshot wounds. He riffled through the duffel for their own kit; knowing Sam may have been shot, he'd stocked it with everything they had in the car that may be of use.
"A scum-sucking mugger gets one of the best trauma teams in the country…." Dean ripped the sterile packaging from a syringe, pulled off the cap with his teeth and jammed the needle into a bottle of antibiotics. "But Sam gets what? Some riff on fucking medieval torture?"
He was livid but his hands gentle as he jabbed the needle into his brother's shoulder, just below the wound. He then rolled Sam onto his side to pull off the bandage from the exit wound; it had also been cauterized. "Fuck. I can't stitch this up–not until the burns heal, 'til the infection's gone…." He thought for a minute then turned to the minister. "You got any sugar?"
"Yeah, sugar–the stuff you put in your coffee." Dean gestured to the wound. "I can use it to draw out the infection."
"Oh…yes. Yes, of course." Rev. Jeffers quickly crossed the room and vanished up the stairs.
Dean temporarily re-dressed the wound, then rolled Sam onto his back. When he did, a pair of glassy hazel eyes stared up at him.
"Damn it, Sammy…." Dean shook his head. "You were at a museum–a freaking museum. Worst-case scenario should be a paper cut, not…this."
A weak snort was quickly followed by a pained grimace. "Ow…."
"Yeah–you're a mess. Here, these'll help." Dean tipped two pills from an amber container and opened a bottle of water before helping Sam sit up. He held on to Sam as he downed the painkillers, then lowered him back onto the pillow. "Let's keep moving to a minimum, OK? I've still got some cleanup to do." He shot a glare at their captors. "As soon as we get things…stabilized, we'll get you to a hospital."
"No." Sam weakly clutched at his brother's arm. "We stay. The men who brought me here–you know who they are?"
"Yeah–dead men walking." Dean rummaged through the duffel for supplies to clean Sam's wound. "They're still breathing only because keeping you alive tops making them dead."
Sam swallowed. "They tried to help."
"Help?" Dean gestured to the damage on Sam's shoulder. "You call that help?"
"Dean…." Sam gave him the look Dean had been unable to refuse since the kid was, well, a kid.
"Son of a bitch…." Dean glared at the three men still in the room's shadows. "OK. Since for some reason it's important to Sam, who the hell are you?"
The dark-haired man walked up to Sam's bedside. "I'm Galahad."
"And I'm sorry." Dean's expression didn't change. "Bet you got your ass kicked a few times in high school over that handle."
"No…." Sam's hand still rested on Dean's arm, the heat of fever radiating through the touch. "He is…Galahad."
Dean looked down at Sam, his face morphing into his best WTF expression. "As in the Galahad? Of the Round Table…King Arthur…Monty Python?"
Sam managed a pretty decent bitchface.
"Now I know you're delusional." Dean shot a glance at the two men behind Galahad. "The next thing you'll be telling me is Fric and Frac over there are King Arthur and Lancelot."
Galahad frowned. "No. My father and the king remain at court. This is Sir Percival the Younger of Ganis, and Sir Bors le Gros." He gestured first to the one man Dean had yet to meet, a tough-looking SOB with a boxer's build, and then to the man who'd waylaid Dean in the hall upstairs. Galahad shook his head. "It's still hard to believe you know of us in this time, but Sir Samuel seems well-versed in our quest."
"Sir Samuel?" Dean's snort faded as the reality of the situation hit home. He turned back to Sam. "You're serious? These are the freaking grail knights?"
Sam smiled, and nodded.
Dean turned and stared at Galahad. "For argument's sake, let's say I buy that. Next obvious question–what the fuck are you doing in 2013?"
A grunt of pain from Sam as he tried to move snapped Dean's attention back to his brother. "Dude, relax. Which part of keep still is giving you trouble? Let the painkillers kick in." Anger overrode worry as again he took in the damage to Sam's shoulder. "And grail knights or not, I am still kicking their asses for what they did to you."
"Muggers did this." Sam's tired smile over Dean's protective streak morphed into a grimace as he glanced down at the wound. "The knights…they just MASHed the damage–fourth century style.
"MASH?" Dean shook his head. "I'll MASH them for–"
"Here…I hope it's enough." Rev. Jeffers burst back into the room, carrying a battered yellow canister, the remnants of the word SUGAR written on the side. Out of breath, he handed it to Dean. "I thought this might be useful, too." He held out a bottle of orange juice.
"Thanks." Dean took both, then popped off the canister lid, shooting a glare at the knights. "Pay attention while I MASH this twenty-first-century style–no sword maiming required." He grabbed a bottle of distilled water from the duffel and used it to flush the entry wound on Sam's shoulder of pus and debris. After patting it dry, he poured iodine onto a large square of gauze, sprinkled sugar over it, then flashed an apologetic smile at his brother. "This might sting a bit."
Sam snorted weakly. "Not compared to what they did."
"Touche." Dean pressed the gauze onto the wound, cringing at the grunt of pain it elicited from Sam, then taped it into place. Sam exhaled slowly, then nodded at Dean, who repeated the process for the exit wound. When finished, he slipped a sling around Sam's neck, and secured his arm inside it to stabilize the shoulder.
"Done." Dean smiled as he wiped his hands. "Hanging in there?"
Sam nodded, the pain lines across his face easing a little. "Pills are starting to work so…yeah."
"Good. We'll change the dressing every two hours–unless we can get you to a hospital instead." Dean picked up the bottle of juice. "Think you can keep this down?" When Sam nodded, Dean unscrewed the cap and handed the bottle to his brother. "Now, let's get back to the elephant in the room." He turned to the knights who were watching the brothers closely. "Who wants to start? Why the hell are you here? Not to mention, how?"
"I know it must sound…fantastical–especially to a man of science like yourself." Rev. Jeffers took off his glasses, wiped the sweat from his face, then settled his wire-rims back onto his nose. "As a man of God, I regularly ask my parishioners to have faith…to simply believe in what may seem impossible because it's God's will. But–and it pains me to admit this–had I not seen these men, these knights, arrive as they did, I'm not sure I would believe this myself."
Dean scowled at the minister. "Define arrive."
"It was right here in my church." The minister sank down into a creaky wooden chair. "I was preparing for Evensong when there was this deafening crackle, like lightning, and the sanctuary lit up with this red light. I turned and…." He gestured toward the knights. "The three of them stepped right out of the light, dressed as you see them, swords raised."
Dean pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Galahad. "So what was this red light?"
Galahad held his ground, his gaze locked on Dean, his hand reflexively moving to the hilt of his sword. "First, sir, it would be proper to introduce yourself."
"Proper?" Dean huffed in annoyance. "Fine. I'm Dean–of Winchester."
"Winchester? I know it well." Galahad nodded his head in acknowledgement, his hand relaxing at his side. "But I know not what this red light is, only that it led us here. Perhaps I should start at the beginning. We are on a quest to find the sangreal–the holy grail sent to Briton by the followers of Joseph of Arimithea. We-"
"Yeah, yeah, I've read the comic, I know the story." Dean's gaze traveled from Galahad to Percival and Bors. "But time travel? I don't remember that in the book."
Galahad hesitated. "We have searched Gaul, Samartia, the Holy Land. So far, the grail has eluded us. Three moons past, we returned home to discover that we are not the only ones who seek it. And these others will use any means necessary to ensure they find it first–including dark magic that allows them to travel through time."
"So that fucking Merlin decides we need to fight fire with fucking fire for the greater good. We should've known it would all go to shite." Percival raised an eyebrow at Dean's look of surprise. "What? Didn't think there were ladies present, that I had to watch what I said."
"We're still in a House of God, Percival." For a big man, Bors spoke softly.
"And ain't that just my luck." Percival rolled his eyes. "If we're forced to do this again, I'm gonna tell that pointy-headed wizard to drop us in an alehouse." He walked up to Galahad, a wide grin across his face. "I would've picked whorehouse but it's embarrassing to see a grown man blush." He winked at Dean. "Galahad here takes his vows of chastity seriously."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "And you don't? I thought all knights did."
Percival guffawed. "Hell no, mate. I fight in the Lord's name, I say my prayers–but a good woman and a good beer, that's my earthly reward for a job well done."
Dean turned to Sam. "This guy–I'm starting to like. Jury's still out on the other two."
"So Merlin…." Sam was struggling to sit up. "He sent you here? But who–" His body not co-operating with his will, he collapsed back onto his pillow in frustration. "Fuck…."
Percival snorted. "A man after my own heart." He punched Dean in the shoulder. "He's a good warrior, that one. Was holding his own against the two who attacked him, at least until the weasel-faced one used that weapon. What the hell was it, anyway? The bugger used it on Percy, too–punched a hole right through his chain mail."
"It's called a gun, and without that chain mail, Percy would be in the same mess as Sam." Dean moved quickly back to Sam's side. He helped his brother sit up easily enough, but keeping him upright was another matter. There was just one pillow and the wall behind Sam was concrete and damp. Screw it; Dean sat down on the floor and used himself as a prop, leaning Sam against him and wrapping an arm around his back to keep him there. "Not a word," was his only response to Sam's surprised look. He turned back to Galahad. "OK, my head's spinning. I feel like I've been on a bender without any of the good parts. So let's back up. Merlin decided to send you through time because…."
"Because he believes that men who also seek the grail, men who would use it for evil, came before us. If the grail is indeed here, we must find it first." Galahad looked uncomfortable. "Or ensure they do not."
Dean stared at Galahad in disbelief. "Why–not to mention how–would the grail be hidden in another country, on another continent, fifteen hundred years in the future?"
"You ask valid questions, sir." Galahad began pacing again. "I do not pretend to understand the forces that brought us to this place…to this time. Only that as knights of the king's Round Table, we pledged to do all that is asked of us to find the grail, to search all corners of the earth so it may be returned to a place of honor and safety. When Merlin discovered that others had breached time to find it…he secured the means so that we could pass through the same door."
Sam frowned. "Part of the legend says the knights embarked on a great voyage to find the grail…that a holy man would direct them to a wasteland…. It kinda fits."
Dean snorted. "Wasteland? The St. Louis Chamber of Commerce would love that. But a voyage through time? Exactly how did Merlin secure the means to do that?"
"A stranger to Camelot first visited Morgan, the king's sister, and passed along his magic to her." This was from Bors. Moving up to stand beside his fellow knights, he was easily the biggest of the three. "Merlin has spies everywhere. When he learned of their plans, he had the stranger brought to him. I know not what he promised him, or threatened him with, only that Chronos quickly handed over the same spell he'd given Morgan."
"Chronos? Son of a bitch." Dean shot a knowing look at Sam. "Guess that does explain the red lightning."
Bors frowned. "You know of this Chronos?"
"You might say that." Sam gulped down the last of the juice. "We killed him a couple of years back–after he tried to kill Dean."
"Of course, in your time he's still alive and stirring up shit like he always did." Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. "Time travel makes my head hurt. But how did you end up here, in 2013?"
Bors folded his arms across his chest. "Do you know what scrying is?"
Sam nodded. "A type of magic used to locate a person or an object."
"Merlin tried scrying for the grail in our time, but to no avail. He believed it to be warded against such magical means. Then this Chronos…." Bors swallowed, like the name left a bitter taste in his mouth. "He suggested Merlin look not for where the grail is, but for where it will be–where it might not be so carefully guarded. Then he gave him the means to scry through time. The wizard tells us the answers lie here."
Dean frowned. "Why only the future? Why not travel back in time…go back to a place where you knew the grail was kept?"
Galahad shook his head. "We cannot risk changing what is, only what may yet come to pass."
Dean rubbed his temple, and shot a sideways glance at Sam. "I don't know what hurts my head more–trying to make sense of time travel or the way they talk."
Sam was fading; he was leaning a little more heavily on Dean, his hand holding the empty juice bottle trembling noticeably. Dean took the bottle from his brother, pretty sure Sam would have crashed by now if he wasn't geeking out over the details of case.
Seemingly reading his mind, Sam shot Dean an I'm fine look, then turned to Galahad. "So have you found it…the grail?"
"What we've found so far is sweet bugger all." For emphasis, Percival jammed his knife into the workbench he leaned against.
"His words are not ones I would choose, but Percival is right. We have searched each night since we arrived but found nothing." Galahad smiled at Rev. Jeffers. "We were fortunate to land in a House of God, meet the good Father here who has offered us sanctuary and guidance to navigate this…strange world. It was he who suggested we search under the cover of night, keep our presence known to as few as possible."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, good job on keeping a low profile. Two severed arms in two days–that didn't raise any red flags at all."
"Oi." Percival jabbed his finger toward Dean. "Both those bastards were thieves. Where I come from, they lose their grubby mitts." He glanced over at Sam. "And while Sam here was handling things just fine until that…weapon was used, when he went down, we came to his aid."
"Hey." Dean shook his head. "I have no sympathy for those assholes–zero. It's just we don't use swords these days. So when you do, you get noticed–especially after the mess you made in Chicago and San Francisco. How'd you think we picked up on all this?"
Percival scowled. "What's a Chicago?"
Sam shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position. "The city where the rapist was cut in half. The other is where the drug dealer was decapitated."
Galahad looked confused. "The two men who lost their arms–that was our doing, I freely admit that. But…." The color drained from his face as he shot a knowing look at Bors and Percival. Bors's knuckles whitened as his fingers curled into fists and Percival exploded, grabbing a tin can from a nearby shelf and hurling it across the room, the nuts and bolts inside spraying across the floor in a metallic shower.
"Mordred. Fuck, Merlin was right–he is here." Percival was pacing, looking like he'd rip off the head of the first person who came within reach.
"Mordred?" Sam tensed in Dean's hold. "He's the one after the grail?"
Dean fought to place the name. "CliffsNotes, Sammy–King Arthur's bastard?"
"Son of Morgan, Arthur's half-sister–and yeah, some say Arthur's son, too. He wanted the throne of Camelot for himself and mom was willing to do just about anything to help him get it."
Dean's eyebrow peaked. "Up to and including time travel, apparently."
"Most versions of Arthurian lore say Morgan's powers as a sorceress equaled or even exceeded Merlin's–mostly because she didn't mind playing on the dark side." Sam glanced up at Galahad. "Is that anywhere close to fact?"
Galahad nodded. "Close enough."
Dean scowled. "OK, assuming Morgan used the same time travel spell, is searching for the same thing–why didn't Mordred pop up in the padre's church right ahead of you three?"
Galahad was pacing now. "Merlin says the future is always in motion." He stopped in front of the brothers. "Do you hunt, Sir Dean?"
Dean snorted. "Probably not in the way you mean, but yeah–we hunt. And it's Dean–no Sir."
Galahad nodded. "Dean, then. Well, when you hunt with an arrow, you never aim directly at your prey, do you?"
"No." Dean's eyes narrowed. "You aim where your prey will be when the arrow gets there."
Galahad smiled. "Exactly. Merlin told us that traveling through the time portal was much the same, except we are the arrows. He opens the portal, but unless we step through at precisely the right moment, we miss the target–could be off by a full moon cycle, even years." He shook his head. "I've been hunting since I was a boy and can still miss if I misjudge the wind or a bird changes flight. This…this is so much easier to get wrong, and with far greater consequences."
Sam turned again to Dean, wincing at the pull on his injured shoulder but eyes bright as pieces of the puzzle clicked together. "That's why nothing lined up. Merlin gets hold of the spell, figures out where they need to go, but he's happy to…just hit the target–get the knights in the same neighborhood as the grail, then let them hunt for it. But Morgan, she's trying to give Mordred an edge, so she's aiming for the bull's-eye…wants to drop them right on top of the prize–but she keeps missing. She dropped them in Chicago, after the exhibit left town…dropped them in San Francisco after the schedule changed."
"So they keep going back and trying again?" Dean frowned at Galahad. "How many times have you done this?"
Galahad looked nauseous. "For us, once. That is enough. Traveling through time was never in God's plan. It is only to prevent a greater evil that we do this."
Dean looked skeptical. "Road to Hell, brother... But, OK, you have principles. What about Morgan?
"Not a bloody one." Percival shook his head. "That witch will do whatever it takes to get her bastard the crown." He shrugged at Galahad. "Merlin did say that returning to our own time was much easier. It's possible that they have made many journeys here."
Galahad nodded. "Indeed. Merlin says the future is always in motion, but the past is set in stone."
Sam smiled. "So to get home, you just pick a specific date, a specific place–it's a stationary target, much easier to hit."
Again, Galahad nodded. "And for us that target is the same moment we left so we disturb as little in our own future as possible."
"Good to know. But sooner or later, Morgan's gonna get it right and her little bastard is gonna show up here in St. Louis. So if we want to stop her from screwing up history," Dean pointed at Galahad, "which–spoiler alert–says you find the damn cup, we need to find it first." He turned to Sam. "And I'd say that exhibit of yours is a good place to start."
"Exhibit?" Rev. Jeffers frowned as he bent down to pick up a newspaper from the floor. "You mean the one at the museum down the road? About King Arthur's Court?" He passed the paper to Dean. "There's a story in here about it. The quest for the grail is mentioned so I thought it might somehow be tied into this…seems too great a coincidence that the knights and the exhibit would show up in this city at the same time." He glanced over at Galahad. "The knights were actually on their way to the museum when they found Sam."
"And Sam was coming from a meeting with the curator." Dean dropped the paper on Sam's lap. "But if the freaking Holy Grail was part of some touring exhibit, don't you think it would get top billing? I mean, you spent an hour-plus with the museum's top gun. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking if he had one of the most important relics in human history under his roof, he might've led with that."
"If he knew he had it." Sam scowled as he glanced down at his bare chest. "Where's my jacket?"
"You cold?" Dean reached for his forehead, fearing Sam's temperature had spiked again.
"No." Sam batted away his hand. "I want the inventory list from the museum–it's in the pocket. Look, the grail has been hunted for centuries." He waved his hand at the knights. "Not just by them, but by treasure hunters, historians, religious scholars–"
Sam shot his brother a look. "It's why Joseph of Arimathea appointed guardians, a job handed down from father to son over the generations. They got really good at hiding the grail because someone was always searching for it. What if the latest generation of guardians decided to hide it in plain sight?" He shrugged. "Put it in a museum, mixed in with a bunch of replicas–who'd think to look there, right?"
"Yeah." Dean glanced up at Galahad. "Merlin said the grail seemed to be warded against magic in your time, right? That's why he couldn't scry for it?"
The knight nodded.
Dean turned back to Sam. "What if the London museum is also warded? And wherever it was stashed before that? Then the guardian falls asleep on the job–"
"And the artifact is sent out with the traveling exhibit, sans guardian." Sam nodded, picking up Dean's line of thought. "Suddenly it's no longer protected…no longer invisible."
"And, bam, Merlin and Morgan both get a blip on witchcraft radar and send out their troops to hunt for it here, in 2013." Dean's eyes widened. "Holy crap."
Sam smiled. "Holy, yes–but crap?"
"Don't nitpick, Sammy–we just may get to see the freaking Holy Grail. " Dean returned his attention to the knights. "OK, you heard the man–where's the clothes he was wearing when you found him?"
"Here." Rev. Jeffers picked up a yellow plastic bag from near the bottom of the stairs and handed it to Dean. Dean pulled his arm from Sam's back, waited a moment to be sure his brother didn't topple over, then reached inside the bag. His stomach lurched as he pulled out the white shirt first, the front stiff and dark with Sam's dried blood. He grabbed the jacket next. "Left or right pocket?"
Dean dug into the pocket and pulled out the sheaf of papers. Folded lengthwise, the outer pages was stained brown with dried blood. Dean's stomach did another somersault but the papers were mostly legible. After handing the list to Sam, he glanced at the faces around the room. "New plan–we divide and conquer." He turned first to his brother. "You're on the DL, Sammy. In or out? Your call."
"In." Sam cleared his throat. "Definitely in."
Dean nodded. "Fine, but you're working from the dugout."
"No, and don't give me the dirty diaper look–your ass stays parked here 'til you get your strength back and both arms work. You, Galahad, and the reverend go through that list, identify anything that could possibly be the grail. Percival, Bors, and me, we head to the museum. FBI badges will get us access to the exhibit. Once you come up with a list of possibilities, text it to me. We'll hunt them down. If these two can't give me a definite yes or no, I'll snap a photo and send it to you so Galahad can weigh in."
Sam glanced down at the list. "Say we find it–then what? I hate to be mercenary about this, but we need a way to get it out of there without you and me ending up back on the FBI's Most Wanted list. I'm already on the museum's security tapes and you're about to be. Something of value goes missing, it's not a big leap to the feds sending out new posters with our mugs on 'em."
Dean scowled. "And no way in hell am I putting Baby in the corner again to stay off their radar."
Galahad glanced from one brother to the other. "If it is a matter of storming the fortress, you know you have our swords at your disposal. I only wish I had more of them to offer."
Dean shook his head. "It's not swords we need–it's a way to shut down museum security." He turned to Sam. "Think you can hack in?"
Sam glanced down at his sling. "It'll be tricky one-handed, but yeah." Now he was thinking out loud. "I'll take footage of the empty exhibit hall and create a loop, then feed that into the system to play while you're in there. You'll be invisible to anyone monitoring the cameras or playing back tapes. Then I just have to re-route cameras between you and the exit and you're golden."
Dean grinned. "That's my boy." He turned to Galahad. "That portal home–you can open it anywhere?"
"Yes." Galahad gestured toward a burlap sack on the workbench. "We need the items in there to conduct the spell, but the location matters not."
"Good." Dean nodded. "Then once we ID the grail, we leave the room, wave to the cameras and make like we're heading home. Galahad joins us, Sammy works his magic and we sneak back in. Once we have the grail, G opens the portal and the grail leaves the premises without ever leaving the premises. The knights go home, I slip out–case closed. It's Miller time."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "You really think it'll go that smoothly? You do remember our last name, right?"
"Don't borrow trouble, Sammy. It'll hunt us down soon enough." Dean glanced down at his watch. "What time's the museum open until?"
Sam frowned. "Six, I think–but staff is usually there for a while after that."
"Then we're working against the clock." Dean took in the knights' clothes. "Padre, you got suits these two can wear so I can pass them off as FBI?" He pointed a finger at Percival. "And Percy, no swords."
Percival's growl of displeasure was audible to everyone. "I'm keeping my knife." He folded his arms stubbornly across his chest. "And if I have no sword, I want one of those…guns."
Dean snorted. "Fat chance. Now let's move."
Rev. Jeffers glanced from Percival to Bors. "I'm sure I can find something for Percival, but I doubt I have anything that would fit Bors."
"Get him my other suit." Sam ran a hand over his bare chest as he turned to Dean. "And while you're at it, get me some clothes, too–preferably blood-free."
Dean nodded. "Done, and done. Be right back."
Percival shook his head as he watched Dean leave. "Who crowned him when I wasn't looking?"
"That's…just Dean being Dean." Sam smiled. "You'll get used to it."
The alley was dark save for the meager spill from the lone streetlight at the far end. The wind picked up, knocking over trash cans and stirring up dust, as the street brightened with a wash of red light and the air filled with the buzz of electricity. A deafening crackle accompanied a fork of red lightning, and four men stepped out of nowhere into the empty street. Each was dressed similarly in dark cloth and leather under armor and chain mail, each holding a raised sword as if expecting a fight. Finding none, the swords were slowly lowered.
One man stepped away from the pack as he sheathed his sword. Tall, slender but muscular with longish dark hair falling over dark eyes, he scanned the street warily.
Seeing no one, Mordred removed a pouch from his belt and pulled a round, flat stone from inside it. Opaque white, it began to glow as he muttered an incantation. Mordred smiled. "It's here." His leather tunic creaked as he slipped the stone back into the pouch and motioned with his head for his men to follow him.
To be continued…
A/N: One of the things I discovered when doing research for this story is that there's no such thing as a canonical version of Arthurian legend. That made my job a lot easier. Much like SPN itself does, I could just cherrypick the best stuff from history and legend. I hope you enjoyed. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Enjoy tonight's Season 9 premiere! Next chapter will be posted Thursday.