Title: Between the Lines
Chapter: 1 of 4
Disclaimer: I do not own the Winchester family, their property, their friends or their enemies. If you recognise something, it's probably not mine.
A/N: This story originally appeared as part of the Supernatural Virtual Season. Although most of the characters are original, there is an appearance by a VS character who isn't mine. If you know the VS, you'll know who I mean when we get there.
It's three in the morning and Dean doesn't know where Sam is. Hell, he's not entirely sure where he is but that can wait. He's more concerned about his little brother. The thought "little brother" brings a smirk to his face that he can't quite understand, given the circumstances. Which are that Sam is missing, he's in a damp, dark alley and his head throbs like a brass band is trying to make its way out of his ear canal.
Reaching out a hand to push himself upright he grimaces as he makes contact with something soft and, well, squishy. Yanking his hand out of the offending substance he reflexively shakes his fingers away from his body with an automatic "crap." The sound of gloop hitting the ground by his boot is enough to make him shudder in disgust.
His stomach roils in protest but he tells himself to suck it up. Until he knows where Sam is, he's not going to hang around alleyways with God knows what coating the ground. As he hauls himself upright, using the wall behind for support, he hopes he doesn't catch anything from the filth.
Sam must be somewhere near, he decides. After all, they were together in the bar. Which is pretty much the last thing he can remember, and he thinks that should worry him more than the ground coverage. It means one of two things. Either he was so whacked out of his gourd he can't remember anything other than the bar. Or someone slipped him something.
On balance, now he's upright and the world has stopped spinning, he thinks the latter more likely. Taking stock of his personal wellbeing, he deduces there are no bruises other than those gained from falling to the ground, no lumps or bumps on his head and, thankfully, no blood seeping from hidden wounds. Which means however he got here, he didn't put up a fight.
Hence the deduction someone slipped him something. Because Dean Winchester waking up in an alley without putting up a fight? Doesn't happen. Ever.
He kicks himself for making such a rookie mistake. What was it Dad always, always, used to tell him? "Never let your drink out of your sight." So, so simple and yet he got it wrong tonight. And paid the consequences.
He takes a deep breath, regretting it instantly as the stench from the dumpster beside him hits his protesting stomach and it's all he can do to keep the contents inside him as he gags. He flings an arm in front of his mouth and nose to keep the odor from invading his body any further than it already has.
Fumbling his way along the side of the passageway till he reaches the street, he keeps his eyes peeled for Sam. He doesn't see him, but he wasn't really expecting to. Sam, he reflects, is far too sensible to have his drink spiked. Hell, the kid's probably out there somewhere, frantically searching for him. At least that's the scenario Dean keeps in his head. Because it's the only one he can contemplate.
The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
Stopping under a street lamp, Dean's relieved to spot his baby, patiently waiting for him where he left her. But that leaves another problem. If he's where they started the night, Sam should have found him by now. Which means Sam isn't around here.
So, where the hell is he?
Sam opens his eyes cautiously. He can't see much but that, he reasons, is because it's still dark and the room he's in doesn't seem to have many windows. He turns his head slowly to the left, spots nothing, and turns it to the right. Nothing there either.
He takes a minute or two to assess the situation, just like Dad taught him, just like Dean taught him. He's lying on a bed of what feels like straw but he doesn't spend much time on farms so he could be wrong. He knows it's not much of a mattress but it's better than nothing he supposes. The room smells of animals, of damp, of machinery oil and paraffin.
And it's quiet. Very quiet.
He thinks he can risk sitting up and stretches out one arm to the side. He gets about a foot from the side of the makeshift bed before his hand hits the wall. At least he thinks it's a wall. It's solid and damp and cold.
He tries the other hand, stretching it out to his full arm span without coming into contact with anything. This is more promising, he thinks, and pulls himself up until he's sitting on the mattress.
He fumbles inside his jacket, looking for the mini flashlight he always carries there. He's not that surprised to find it's gone. So has his lighter. And his matches. And gun. And the assortment of knives he carries around these days.
Whoever brought him here – because he couldn't see a damn thing – did a good job. They were quick, efficient and knew his weak spot. One threat to Dean's safety and he was putty in their hands. Dean will be pissed when he finds out how they got to Sam but Sam doesn't really care about that.
He lifts his arms up, checking where the ceiling of the room is and, when he doesn't find anything, stands cautiously. He's pleased to find he can stand upright but when he reaches up again, he still can't touch the ceiling. He wonders about that, along with the other things he's learned about his environment. All things considered, he thinks he might actually be in a barn.
He feels his way around, finds the walls easily enough, trips over a few unidentifiable objects and eventually finds what must be the door. He pushes at it, slides his fingers over the hinges, tries the handle. Nothing works. The doors aren't opening any time soon. At least, not from the inside.
Sighing in frustration, Sam automatically reaches for his cell. Mentally rebuking himself for his stupidity when it's not there, he drops back down to the straw mattress. There's nothing he can do right now. Not when he can hardly see his hand in front of his face.
He'll have to wait and hope Dean finds him quickly.
The dawn breaks agonizingly slowly. Dean hasn't appeared yet but Sam's not unduly worried. He knows what they did to his brother. It was the only way they could get him to go with them after all. One spiked drink, one whispered threat in his ear and one very, very stoned and susceptible brother and Sam knew they weren't going to hurt Dean if he did what they said. He's far too valuable to them alive.
Which is why Dean sauntered off with that stunning redhead, a goofy and slightly incredulous grin on his face and Sam ended up in this barn.
Now it's light, he can see what was indistinguishable in the early hours. He was right in that he is in a barn but there's little here to help him get out so all he can do is wait.
Turns out he doesn't have to wait long. The creaking of rusty hinges and the sound of footsteps on the hard ground have him alert even before he sees his captors.
There are three of them, none of whom were at the bar last night. Sam takes in this information curiously. It means this must be a pretty big operation – at least six, probably more. He studies the trio carefully, takes his time since nobody seems to be in a rush to break the silence.
Two men, one girl. She looks young, too young to be consorting with the others who must be in their late forties, maybe older. But as they hover behind her, Sam concludes she's the one in charge, the one with the power. The older men look unhappy at the relegation and Sam wonders what she's got on them.
She cocks her head to one side as she studies him. He meets her eye and refuses to back down. Then she nods, flicks long, black hair back over her shoulder and nods again slowly.
"Sam Winchester," she declares, as though she's won a great prize. "I've been looking for you for such a long time."
Sam doesn't like the way she puts the emphasis on "such a long time." He rifles through his mental catalogue of known threats but can't identify her, or her cohorts. But it doesn't really matter as she crouches down in front of him.
"Oh yes," she murmurs as she reaches out a hand to him. He can't help but jerk back but she frowns at him. "Don't do that," she tells him, almost plaintively and suddenly he finds he can't move. Her hand rests on the side of his head, fingers playing in his hair and he wants nothing more than for her to stop.
And then she does. She sits back on her haunches, looking unnaturally comfortable and looks at the hair she's pulled from Sam's scalp.
"What's the incantation, Sam?" she asks and the question throws Sam completely. He just looks blankly at her, diverting his attention from her only long enough to glance at the men he's decided must be her bodyguards.
"What?" Confusion is palpable in his voice but she either doesn't notice, or chooses to ignore it.
"The incantation, Sam," she repeats patiently. "The one for the books. The one that only the master can speak."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sam tells her. And he really doesn't.
But she just smiles and leans forward to stroke his hair again, like a pet dog. "Yes you do, Sam," she reassures him. "You just don't know it yet."
She stands up abruptly and Sam feels an inexplicable sense of loss, as if she's taking a part of him with her. She turns to her companions and passes the strand of hair to the larger of the two. "You know what to do with it," she orders and Sam's blood turns just a little colder. "Don't worry," she tells him, not bothering to turn back to him. "You won't feel a thing," and she dismisses her consorts with a flick of a perfectly manicured hand.
"You must think us terribly rude," she suddenly says, looking absently around the barn. "There was nowhere else though. I'm sorry. But it won't be for long." She drops back down to Sam. "You'll see. Very soon, you'll know and we can put all this unpleasantness behind us."
Sam shakes his head, watching her warily. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he tells her again.
"You're very sweet, you know. Has anyone ever told you that?"
The question seems incongruous and Sam doesn't have an answer for that one. He shakes his head and decides it's time to ask a few questions of his own.
"Where's my brother?" he demands.
The girl looks disappointed for a second. "Dean?" she asks. "He's fine. Probably has a bit of a headache but my girl took very good care of him for you. You'll see him soon, Sam. As soon as this is over."
"But where is he?" Sam persists.
She sighs and leans forward. "I don't know. In the bar still? Back at your motel? In his car cruising around? Don't worry about him."
"That's not good enough," he hisses, fed up of the non-answers he's getting. But she seems impervious to his tone of voice.
"We'll keep an eye on him for you," she informs him, but despite the softness of her voice, she manages to make it sound more of a threat than a reassurance.
Accepting he's not going to get any more information about his brother out of the girl, Sam hangs on to the fact Dean's okay, somewhere, and returns to the girl's initial question.
"Who's the master?" he asks, not sure if he wants the answer but he's always believed knowledge is power and he doesn't have much of that in this equation yet.
The girl looks mildly surprised and reaches out a hand. She rests it over Sam's heart and closes her eyes. Her face is a picture of concentration and Sam can feel the heat of her fingers seeping through his shirt. He vaguely thinks she's a little too warm but then she curls her fingers and her nails dig into his flesh, very gently but firmly.
"You are, Sam," she tells him and opens her eyes. She looks directly at him and he registers the color of her irises with little comfort. Soft blue has turned to brilliant blue, the color natural eyes should not be. She seems unaware of his concern as she continues, "I thought it was you but now," and she glances down at where her hand is gripping his chest, "now I know."
It seems pointless scouring the neighborhood for more than three hours but Dean doesn't know what else to do. He's tried his cell phone but Sam's not picking up and he can't hear it ringing anywhere. At first he thought it might have been dropped in the vicinity but he's finally accepted that's not the case.
The sun is beginning to show its face over the horizon and as the pale light wakes the world around him, Dean is grateful the stores are beginning to open. He wonders how the hell they managed to end up in the only town without a twenty-four hour dime store. But it doesn't matter now, he tells himself, as workers start to make their way around the streets.
He asks everyone and anyone if they've seen his brother. He drags out a single, creased photo of Sam. It's not in the best condition but it's been in his pocket for a long time now. Sam doesn't know he's got it and there's no way he'll ever admit to having it. He's folded and unfolded it many times, times when Sam was away, times when they'd argued and sometimes just when he's lonely.
But no one has seen him. The girl at the bus stop on Tyler Street thinks he looks familiar but that's only because her cousin has long hair like Sam's. It doesn't help that she looks at the image a little too keenly. Dean thanks her for her time and heads off down another street.
The man behind the newsstand eyes the hunter curiously when he shows him the photo. He takes the worn piece of paper and examines it closely before turning his gaze on Dean. Then he hands it back silently, shaking his head sadly.
"He'll be alright," he tells Dean. "He's with them."
Dean's not sure whether to kiss the man or throttle him. "Them?" he asks, not liking the sound of this.
The newsvendor glances up and down the street, checking out the locals. "You new in town?" he queries, pointlessly.
"Hmm. Thought so," the old man replies and drops back into a thoughtful silence.
Unable to take the suspense any longer, Dean raps on the pile of papers before the man. "Who's 'them'?" he insists.
But the old man just looks at him and chews his lower lip pensively. Then he glances up and down the street again and Dean can't help looking to see what the guy's looking for. When he turns back to the newsstand, the old man's posture has changed and he's holding out a copy of the local rag.
"Buy a paper," he suggests to Dean.
Dean shakes his head. "I don't want a paper," he replies. "I just want to know where my brother is."
"Buy a paper," the old man replies, refusing to meet the hunter's eye. "You never know what you might learn from the paper, son," and he virtually thrusts the journal at Dean.
Dean narrows his eyes and accepts the proffered paper, digging in his pocket for some change. He nods his thanks at the man, trying to mask his confusion, and tucks the paper under his arm. He asks a few more passersby if they've seen Sam but when it draws a blank he turns his attention back to the paper.
Cocooned in the security of his baby, Dean opens the paper, reckoning there must be a reason for the old man's insistence he buy one. There's not much of interest, even less to Dean, until he reaches the center pages.
The articles are nondescript, everyday tales of local do-gooders and busy bodies. But it's not the writing that's got Dean's attention. No, it's the piece of notepaper folded neatly in half that falls out when he turns the page.
He picks it up and lets the paper fall into his lap. The note smells faintly of tobacco and the handwriting on it is spidery and so small Dean has to raise it right up in front of his face. It takes a couple of minutes to decipher it but eventually he manages to make sense of it.
It's an address.
Dean grabs his cell and quickly brings up the local area map on the display. He smiles wryly as he does it. If Sam could only see me now, he muses, entering the zip code on the note. He waits impatiently while the information is brought up but when it does, he's glad he waited.
The map takes him to a bookstore on the outskirts of town. It's still only just after seven when he gets there, a good two hours before the store opens, but Dean reckons that's long enough for him to have a good look round before anyone notices him.
He parks the Impala a block away. Near enough for a speedy getaway if need be, but far away enough to not be conspicuous. Window shopping seems to be a popular pastime for the locals so Dean sees no reason to stand out from the crowd. He peers into the window of the store, trying to work out why he's been sent here of all places.
The books are a variety of new and old. The displays are modern and tasteful and Dean's pretty sure there's a coffee bar at the back. The sign on the door advertizes the opening hours as 9.30 till 7.00. He's still got two and a half hours to kill. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
But Dean's never been one for waiting, especially not when Sam is depending on him. The shop is conveniently located on a corner, so slipping in should prove no challenge to a Winchester.
Which is why Dean is so surprised to feel a heavy hand land on his shoulder as he crouches over the lock.
"We open soon enough, Dean Winchester," a deep voice tells him and he whirls around to confront his opponent.
Or he would if the hand holding him hadn't been so damn strong. Instead, the pressure increases, pushing him down until he's on his knees.
"Can't we talk about this?" he tries, wondering how the guy knows his name.
"But where's the fun in that?" another voice joins in, and Dean knows he's screwed.
"It was the old guy, wasn't it?" he manages to spit out, betrayal and disappointment lacing his words.
But it's like he's uttered the magic words. The hand that was holding him down releases him and instead, hooks under his arm, pulling him to his feet.
"Abel?" the second voice, a woman, asks.
Dean shrugs as he spins round to face them. "The news guy," he clarifies, assessing his new companions.
"Abel," the man confirms and holds out a hand to Dean. "Simon Turner," he introduced himself. He has a firm grip and Dean already knows the strength that lies underneath the muscular arm it's attached to.
The woman moves out of the shadows and holds out a hand in a similar gesture. "Elisa Turner."
Dean nods warily at them and shakes hands with Elisa. She's petite but Dean imagines she wears the trousers in this relationship.
"Dean Winchester," he replies. "But you already knew that, didn't you? How?"
"Let's talk about this inside," Elisa suggests, pulling a bundle of keys from some hidden corner of her person. She hands them to Simon who takes them wordlessly, opening the back door and disabling the alarm.
He leads the way into the depths of the stockroom, lined with boxes of books, some opened, some unopened, until they reach an office door. Simon looks to Elisa before continuing, unlocking the door and pushing it open. He stands to one side and waits for Dean to precede him.
Dean's not sure what to make of this turn of events but the office looks like any other office he's seen. Elisa is already in, right behind him, and is turning on the coffee machine, while Simon is still standing at the door, guarding it, Dean thinks, but he has no real basis for that thought.
"How do you know who I am?" he asks again, hand never far from his waistband and the weapon safely tucked away there.
Elisa turns back to him and smiles. "You don't need guns here, Dean," she tells him and he has the grace to feel abashed.
"Sorry," he mutters. "Habit."
"Sit down," she invites, waving at a chair in the corner. It's a comfortable idea but Dean's not quite ready to let his guard down yet.
"It's okay," he tells her. "I'll stand."
She nods in understanding and Dean gets the feeling she knows a lot about a lot of things. She settles herself on the edge of her desk. Or at least, Dean assumes it's her desk. Simon seems to be a bit redundant here in the office.
"Dean Winchester," she begins, taking a long look at him. "Hunter." She raises a hand to stop his protest. "We know about hunters, Dean," she pacifies him. "We've seen one or two in our time. Including Bobby Singer."
"You know Bobby?" Dean's not sure whether to be surprised or not. Bobby gets around, he knows that and his opinion is one to be trusted.
"Oh yes," Elisa grins. "Bobby came to us a while back but he keeps in touch now and again. You can call him if it would make you feel happier," she offers.
Dean declines, but already knows he's going to make that call the minute he's done here.
"You're looking for Sam, I understand," she continues, passing Dean a steaming mug of coffee. "He's safe. They won't hurt him. He's too important to him."
Dean sets his mug down on a filing cabinet, ignoring the burn when a scalding drop jumps out of the mug and lands on his hand. "Who the hell is this 'they' that everyone keeps talking about?" he demands, frustration getting the better of him. "How come I'm the only person in the dark in this town?"
"I'm sorry," Elisa apologizes. "I thought you knew. I thought that's why you two were in town."
"Knew what?" Dean explodes. "All I know is that my brother is missing and everyone keeps telling me he's safe, that he's not hurt, that 'they' have him. I just want some freakin' answers!"
Elisa steps forward and lays a comforting hand on his arm.
"They're the Keepers of the Books," she explains gently, and then, seeing his confusion, she tugs him to the chair, pushing him into it. "They've been around for generations, seeking, guarding and protecting the seven books of Berengar, books of enchantment and spells."
"The books were lost over four hundred years ago," Simon pipes up from by the door. "Berengar was a warlock back in the middle ages, when sorcery was rife and everyone believed in it. He worked miracles and the people loved him. He protected his village and the surrounding villages from storms and famine. He cast out demons and gifted the simple folk with charms that brought them good luck and fortune. The people all loved him and he could do no wrong."
Dean leans forward, resting his arms on his knees. "This is fascinating," he admits, "but what's it got to do with Sam?"
"The story doesn't end well," Elisa resumes the tale. "Berengar got it into his head that he should be getting some reward from his magic, decided people weren't really grateful enough. So he turned the spells around, used them to make mischief so the people would come begging for his help. Which he would give."
"At a price," Simon interjects. "And one thing led to another and the next demon he cast out had a proposition for him."
"Which had probably happened before but he'd always turned them down. This time though, he listened. And the demon persuaded him to let it be and he would be rewarded with greatness and wealth beyond compare. But it came at a price. Berengar's soul was blackened, bit by bit and in the end it was as dark and brittle as charcoal."
"The people no longer ran to him for help – they fled in terror. Something had to be done."
"Okay," Dean replies after a pause. "This is a great fairy tale, but I still don't see where Sam comes into all this."
Elisa smiles at him and passes his coffee over from the filing cupboard where he's left it. "You'll see."
Simon moves away from the door and Dean feels slightly less trapped, although trying to get past his bulk would be problematic he surmises. He settles himself just behind Dean and the hunter has to crane his neck to watch him when he talks.
"There was a deputation. The people finally had enough and they sent word to the High Council of Warlocks. Collectively they were stronger and more powerful than Berengar himself. They colluded, came up with a plan of action."
"They tried to kill him," Elisa takes up the story again and Dean feels like his head is coming unscrewed with all the twisting and turning he's doing. "But the demon he was in with was stronger still and protected him. The Council had to think of something else. They exorcised his soul."
Dean's a little confused by this course of action. "But if he was human, wouldn't that kill him?"
Elisa shakes her head. "It would," she agrees, "but for the demon protecting him. His soul couldn't be destroyed so once they exorcised it, it hung around. The Council split it into seven parts. They enshrined it in a binding spell, within the covers of seven books – the Berengar books. The books were then sent to the corners of the known world and his reign of terror and destruction was over."
"Now," Simon intones, "this is where the story gets interesting. The books lay untouched for centuries, guarded by families entrusted with keeping them hidden and safe. The books were handed down through the generations and the story behind them got lost. They became nothing more than family heirlooms. Until Joshua Bryant began to track them down."
"Joshua is a direct descendant of Berengar. He knows the history of the books, knows what they contain and he's convinced he can put Berengar's soul back together, be the vessel for it and reap the rewards."
"So why not just stop him?" Dean wonders, edging forward on his seat, halting when he feels Simon's heavy hand on his shoulder again. He swivels his head and squirms like a four-year-old waiting for dinner but the hand is quietly insistent so he tries hard, really hard, to relax even while every muscle, every sinew, every nerve is telling him to get the hell out of there and find Sam!
"Joshua hides behind his minions," Elisa explains, gently. She pulls a chair forward so she's opposite Dean and for the first time he notices her eyes – crystal blue and slightly creepy if he's honest. "To get to Joshua, we would have to go through tens, maybe hundreds, of innocent people."
Dean can't repress the snort the escapes his lips. "Not that innocent," he blurts out.
"Yes, Dean, they are. In the grand scheme of things, his followers are nothing more than mindless sheep. He's conned them into believing that he's the next greatest thing." She glances up at Simon who lifts his hand off of Dean, slipping silently back to the door. Dean wonders if there's some hidden signal that he missed but she's looking back at him and Simon seems to have been forgotten.
"The thing is," she shuffles to the edge of her chair and reaches her hand out, resting it on Dean's knee, "he can't do it alone."
Dean really wants to pretend he doesn't know what's coming next, but the sympathetic look, the reassuring touch on his leg, the steadying presence at his back all make it impossible for him to deny the unfolding tale. He knows that somehow, somewhere along the line, Sam plays a major part in this story, unwittingly and unwillingly.
Sam's starting to get more and more frustrated by the enigmatic answers he's being given. The girl in front of him is beginning to creep him out now. She hasn't said anything for about half an hour but she's staring at him in a dreamy way and he's not entirely sure why. The birds have started singing beyond the barn walls and he wonders how Dean is doing.
Suddenly she tilts her head to one side, listening, and Sam finds himself doing the same thing. He can just pick up the sound of footsteps and, from the way the girl in front of him breaks into a slow smile and begins to hum, he doesn't think it bodes well.
He shuffles back till he's in a corner, easier to defend himself, and the girl doesn't appear to notice. But Sam registers her back straighten, just a little, and then, without a glance at him, she rises from her position in one elegant movement and glides to the barn doors.
Opening them smoothly, she stands to one side, head bowed, as an old man, somewhere in his sixties Sam reckons, enters, leading an entourage of about fifteen others. He pauses by the girl to give her a brief, paternal pat on the cheek, before striding toward where Sam is seated in the corner.
Out of nowhere a chair is produced and he sits, looking intently at the hunter at his feet. Sam doesn't say anything but takes advantage of the closeness to study his enemy. Because he's sure now that they are enemies.
He's older than Sam first thought but his eyes are youthful and sparkling. His skin is weathered and wrinkled from years in the outdoors and his frailty is deceiving. Sam knows he could take him easily enough but he thinks the man would still be able to put up an admirable fight.
It would be a fruitless exercise though, Sam knows. His entourage consists of twelve men, all in their late twenties to mid forties, all bearing the signs of a training regime Sam recognizes as not that far removed from his own upbringing.
He's just about to scope the room for any hidden persons when the old man clears his throat, pulling Sam's attention back to him.
"I must apologize for the way you've been treated," he begins in a voice that wouldn't be out of place in a daytime TV show. "My people are unused to such greatness in our midst. I have, I'm afraid, failed to prepare them for your arrival as I would have wished." He pauses, waiting to see if Sam has anything to say.
Sam, however, is good at the waiting game and stays silent, regarding the old man impassively.
"My name is Joshua Bryant," his host introduces himself. "I believe you've already met my granddaughter, Alicia," and he waves towards the girl still waiting patiently by the door. "She's been longing to meet you, Sam. I hope you didn't find her too…intense."
Sam frowns, unable to decide what Bryant is after here. Any minute now he's half expecting the guy to produce a silver teapot and offer him a cup of tea and a slice of cake. He can't help the slight smirk that escapes with that notion.
Joshua nods thoughtfully and then stands, abruptly. "This is no good," he announces to the room in general. "We cannot keep our guest out here like some kind of livestock. It's unseemly." He pushes himself out of his seat and holds out a hand to Sam. "Let me show you to your room."
Sam eyes the proffered hand warily before standing of his own accord. He stretches his back, ignoring the pops his spine makes, and follows Joshua to the barn entrance. He feels Alicia fall into step behind him, feels her eyes on him, watching his every move as though her life depends on it.
Outside the barn door, Sam is surprised to see the sun high in the sky. He wonders just how long he was out of it. But he doesn't have long to think about it as the barn is only a hundred yards from the house Joshua appears to be leading him to. The assortment of followers have left them alone and Sam takes a quick survey of his surroundings.
Being a hunter means Sam can take in at a glance what most people miss first time round. He realizes quickly there's no point making a break for it now. The grounds between the house, barn and garden walls, over ten feet high and solid brick, are well guarded and Sam spots at least three snipers on the house roof. He suspects there must be more. He wonders if they're there for his benefit or whether Joshua has other reasons for protecting his privacy quite so dramatically.
And then they're at the door to the house, a grand affair but the bars on the ground floor windows are incongruous and worrying.
Ushering Sam through the door after her grandfather, Alicia peels away through one of the many doors to the entrance lobby and Sam is left alone with the old man. With no idea what to expect, he decides to follow him into a plush study.
Joshua turns and smiles at Sam and for the first time Sam feels almost, but not quite, at ease. He accepts the seat offered to him as the older man settles himself behind the ornate oak desk, furnished sparsely with an antique inkwell and pen, blotter and a few sheets of paper held in place by a crystal paperweight.
"You have the incantation, I presume," Joshua begins, folding his hands on the desk.
Sam finds himself shaking his head. "No," he replies. "I already told your granddaughter, I have no idea what you're talking about. You have the wrong person."
"Sam Winchester," the man returns. "I know all about you. Youngest son of John and Mary Winchester, little brother to Dean, studied law at Stanford, gave it all up on the death of your girlfriend to enter the family business." He breaks off and tilts his head to one side in contemplation. "Need I go on?"
Sam shakes his head. "So, you know who I am but that doesn't mean you've got the right person."
"Do I look like someone who does things by halves?"
"I don't know what you want from me," Sam insists.
Joshua smiles benevolently and Sam suddenly wonders what it would have been like to have a grandfather of his own. "I want the incantation, Sam. And you have to be the one to say it." He stands from his desk, and makes his way round to where Sam is sitting. "They said you don't know yet," he continues, "so we need to help you. You'll need to rest, it won't be easy." He drops a fatherly hand on Sam's shoulder and Sam is aware of a sense of peace vying for position with anxiety and he wonders whose emotions he's feeling.
"But we'll help you through it," the old man asserts. "We'll all help you."