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 4 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 the fallout from the 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 Four: 10K+ Complete story: 30K+
A/N: This is the final of four chapters; to those of you who like to wait until a story is complete before reading - it's all here. Many thanks to everyone who joined me on this adventure and sent along such wonderful feedback; both mean a lot. 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. Written to fill the 'Job-related Injury' square in my h/c Bingo card over on LJ. Enjoy!
Stainless and Honorable Lives
Sam walked up the three steps to the armory exhibit and glanced around. Two full suits of armor flanked the entrance, as if on guard. Inside, each of the walls was covered with swords, shields, lances–anything a knight would have used in battle. It was an impressive display of weaponry, but there was nothing that even remotely resembled a grail–in any of its possible forms.
He turned to leave but stopped when his gaze fell on a long, shallow crate on the floor. The customs labels made it obvious it was one of the boxes used to ship the exhibit items from the London museum to the States. An inventory list, identical to the one Sam, Galahad, and Rev. Jeffers had combed through back at the church, sat on top of the crate. The first dozen or so pages were folded back, with writing covering the margin on the opened page. Intrigued, Sam picked it up.
His eyes widened when he read the notes, obviously written by one of the museum employees while setting up the room. He dropped to his knees and pushed back the lid of the crate. There was just one artifact left inside, and Sam's heart started racing when he realized what it might be. "Oh my god…."
"Sammy! We're about to have company. Get your ass somewhere out of sight and hunker down."
Sam's head snapped toward Dean's shouted warning, and he staggered to his feet. Shoving the inventory list into his back pocket, he moved quickly down the armory's stairs and headed back towards his brother. When he rounded one of the faux-stone walls and saw Dean, he was light-headed from excitement and sudden exertion. His hand shot out reflexively, pressing against the wall to steady himself, but he ventured a smile. "I think I found something. I–"
A loud bang followed by the sound of splintering wood made him jump. Like Dean, his head snapped toward the origin of the noise–the doors to the exhibit hall. In front of them, Bors and Percival stood shoulder to shoulder, swords raised, watching as the doors buckled a little more with each blow.
"You found something? Dude, your timing seriously sucks." Dean scrambled back to the table to check out the laptop, with Sam close behind him. Sam studied the images on the screen; two armored knights standing outside the doors with swords raised, two more throwing themselves at the locked doors to break them down.
Dean pointed to the figures on the screen. "That one's Mordred, that's Accolon…."
"Morgan's lover." Sam's gaze jumped between the screen and the door, flinching as the door took another blow.
"Yeah. And the two human battering rams are Mordred's kids."
"Melehan and Medraig." Sam turned again towards the doors. "What can I do?"
"Like I said, get your ass out of sight. You're here for the treasure hunt, remember?"
Sam shook his head. "Dean, come on. No way am I–"
"Sorry, Sammy–everyone's partnered up. At this hoedown, you get to play wallflower." Besides…." Dean picked up a sword from the table. "You're in no shape for a swordfight."
"And you are?" Sam stared at his brother incredulously. In all the weapons training they'd been subjected to growing up, broadswords had never really entered the picture. "When the hell did Dad teach you to use one of those?"
"He didn't." Dean held the sword with both hands, swinging it to test its weight. His smile at Sam was accompanied by a small shrug. "But I've got two working arms, which is one more than you."
"Just….just make damn sure you keep both of 'em."
Dean grinned. "That's the plan, believe me."
Sam swallowed bile; Dean was a damn good fighter and a quick study, but the knights had been trained to use a sword since they were kids. Then there was the armor versus his brother's street clothes. He scowled as Dean stripped off his long-sleeved shirt, leaving only his T-shirt and jeans. Even a glancing blow could….
"Take that and hide." Dean pointed to the computer. "If anything goes sideways, get these guys home, then get the hell out."
Sam shook his head. "Screw that. I'm not going anywhere without you."
"I'm touched, Sammy." Dean grinned. "But I'm not planning on checking out–not after you go and drop a cliff-hanger on me. I wanna know what you found." He winked, then turned to join the knights.
Sam slammed shut the laptop, shoved it in the duffel, then stepped behind one of the exhibit hall's large support columns. Yes, his shoulder was screwed, and yes, a broadsword required two hands to wield effectively, but being relegated to the sidelines still felt all kinds of wrong; there had to be something he could do….
With a final ear-splitting crunch of splintering wood, the doors flew open. Out of breath, Melehan and Medraig barged through then moved to each side, allowing Accolon and Mordred to follow them inside.
Mordred smiled as he caught sight of Galahad, Bors, and Percival; it was a cruel smile that turned Sam's stomach. "Well, well, well…." He bowed his head to Galahad. "This is a surprise."
"Wish I could say the same, you lying sack of shit," Percival growled.
"Sir Percival." Mordred's eyes glittered coldly as he turned to the knight. "As crass as ever, I see. Why Arthur tolerates your filth I will never understand. If I sat on the throne, your head would have been mounted on a pike long ago."
Percival matched his opponent's dark smile. "I will see you in Hell before your ass gets within a league of Camelot's throne."
Mordred chuckled. "I'm certain that can be arranged–sending you to Hell, I mean." His gaze traveled from one knight to the other before finally settling on Dean. "You must be desperate, Galahad. First you travel through time, then you allow this gutter rat to join your ranks."
Dean offered a mocking bow. "Good to see you live up to your billing. Sack of shit, indeed."
Galahad's voice was quiet, attempting to be the voice of reason. "There's nothing here for you, Mordred. Take your men and leave."
Mordred surveyed the exhibit hall. "Come now, Galahad–you're a pious man. You would never have embraced the magic it took to bring you here unless the reward was worth angering your god." He strode toward the nearest display case, studying the items inside. "No…. I'd say the plunder must be well worth the trip."
"Plunder? Now it is you who treat me as a half-wit. We both know why you came." Galahad's expression didn't change. "I ask you as one brother-in-arms to another–will you leave peacefully? What you seek does not belong with you."
Mordred's cruel smile widened. "We shall see." He lunged at Galahad, a loud metallic clang echoing through the exhibit hall as Percival stepped forward and blocked Mordred's strike with his own sword. Galahad spun out of the way and had his own sword raised in time to block an attack from Accolon.
A full-on battle quickly broke out.
Sam was in awe of the strength and savagery with which the knights on both sides fought. The grunts of exertion, the chilling clang of metal as offensive strike met defensive block echoed through the hall. Sam had worn Bors's armor for only a short time and he was amazed at how much the weight had slowed him down. But it seemed to have little effect on the knights; he had no idea how they could swing their swords with such ferocity, move with such grace while weighed down by all that metal.
Percival was paired with Mordred; size-wise they were evenly matched and their fighting styles similar, relying on brute strength. Galahad and Accolon, however, seemed more old-school, more in line with what Sam expected of a fight between knights. As for Bors…well, he just seemed annoyed that his opponent was young and green. He appeared content simply to defend himself…let the kid tire himself out before ultimately putting him out of his misery.
Hollywood had no fucking clue; any swordfight staged for movies or television paled in comparison to the scene playing out in front of him. Displays toppled, furniture splintered as each man battled in what was likely a fight to the death. It would have been fascinating to watch had his brother not been caught up in the middle of it.
Dean was paired up with one of Mordred's sons. He looked slightly younger than the one battling Bors, so Sam would assume it was Medraig. Dean didn't have the training or the grace of his opponent, but he had brains, fearlessness, and an uncanny ability to think on his feet. "Why so shocked?" Dean had retorted when many years earlier Sam had once asked him about the latter. "Life has dropped us headfirst in the shitpile so many times, we'd have suffocated long ago if we couldn't… improvise."
His brother was definitely improvising here. Medraig was circling him arrogantly, his sword cutting through the air as he put on a display like an animal trying to intimidate his adversary into submission. But Dean wasn't easily intimidated; he didn't back down to anyone, especially in a fight. Medraig's antics were just pissing him off.
Sam moved in closer in time to see Dean flash a dangerous smile and throw out his own taunt. "Is this a dance or a fight? 'Cause, dude–I don't dance."
That pushed Medraig into action, and when he attacked, he was vicious; arrogance did not make him a weak opponent. But while Medraig was more experienced, Dean was more agile; he blocked strike after strike, effectively if clumsily, sometimes staggering under the force of a blow, but quickly regaining his feet .
When Medraig caught his breath, again peacocking around his opponent, Dean smiled. "That the best you got?"
Medraig returned the smile in kind. "Not even close."
The battle between Galahad and Accolon had moved closer to Sam, blocking his view of his brother. He darted for a pillar fifteen feet away, peering around it in time to see that Dean's taunt had fueled another attack. Medraig unleashed another flurry of strikes; Dean countered successfully but almost went down, regaining his balance at the last second. But he mistimed his last block, his adversary's sword sneaking through to carve a long slash across Dean's cheek.
Medraig smiled at drawing blood. Dean's eyes narrowed, and for the first time, he went on the offensive. He wouldn't earn many marks for form but, unencumbered by armor, he came at Medraig with a speed the knight was unused to, and Medraig was soon backpedaling under the force of each two-handed strike–something that both surprised and angered him. Then as Dean smashed his sword down on his adversary's, knocking it toward the ground, he let go of his own weapon with his right hand and leveled a solid punch to Medraig's face. Despite the noise from the other fights in progress, Sam liked to think he heard bone crack.
"You little fuck."
Yeah; by the sound of the knight's voice, Dean had broken his nose.
Dean grinned. "Mission one–accomplished."
Then the knight played dirty. He snapped a pouch from his belt and threw the contents in Dean's face. Choking on the black dust, his eyes watering, Dean stumbled backwards, swiping a hand across his face in an attempt to clear his vision while swinging the sword blindly one-handed just to keep his opponent at bay. Medraig was smirking, stalking toward Dean just waiting for his opening.
Sam riffled through the duffel then stepped into the open. "Hey!" As Medraig's attention snapped to him, Sam rolled a bottle of water along the floor toward his brother. "Dean–at your feet." He circled away from Dean, keeping the knight's focus on him and away from his brother. "That the only way you can win a fight? Blinding your opponent?"
Medraig studied Sam, making no attempt to hide his contempt. "No sword…no armor…. The rats are indeed rallying to Galahad's call."
Out of the corner of his eye, Sam watched Dean crouch down, fumble around until he found the bottle, then quickly twist off the lid and tilt his head back to pour the water all over his face, rinsing away the dust. Sam glared at Medraig. "I dunno–taking on an unarmed man seems just your speed." He took a step forward. "Come on–what are you waiting for?"
"You'd like that wouldn't you?" Medraig's smile was cruel. "But one rat at a time." He spun without warning, swinging his sword at Dean.
Dean had dropped the water bottle and again had both hands on his sword, but was still blinking to clear his vision. He reacted instinctively to the blur of movement in front of him, raising his sword in time to deflect the knight's blow. But the force of the strike knocked the sword from Dean's hands, and momentum carried through the strike, Medraig's blade slicing into Dean's side.
"No!" Sam's horrified shout disappeared almost immediately behind a gunshot. He'd reacted instinctively; the moment he saw Medraig spin towards Dean, Sam had reached for his gun. His aim was true, the bullet hitting Medraig between the shoulder and neck where the chain-mail was vulnerable.
Medraig went down immediately, but so did Dean, his knees buckling as he clutched at his side, his gray T-shirt beneath his hand rapidly turning red. Medraig gaped at Sam, unsure of what had happened, of what had taken him down.
Dean put him out of his misery. "Good night, knight." He slammed his fist into the man's jaw, likely breaking that along with his nose and knocking consciousness from him. With the momentum of the punch, Dean pitched forward and collapsed on top of Medraig with a groan.
Galahad was fighting Accolon a few feet from Dean. Whether it was the gunshot that distracted Accolon or the sight of his comrade going down, Sam couldn't be sure, but whichever it was gave Galahad the opening he needed. He drove his sword into a joint in Accolon's leg armor and when the man went down with a scream of pain, slammed the hilt of his sword into his head. Mordred's lieutenant was unconscious before he hit the ground. Galahad left him there and joined Sam in scrambling toward Dean.
"Hey…." Sam dropped to his knees at his brother's side, but needed Galahad's help to pull Dean off Medraig and roll him onto his back.
"Fuck." Dean swore loudly at being moved, then shot a bleary look at Sam. "You said don't shoot him, then you go and do it?"
"I never said don't shoot him." Sam pulled Dean's hand away from his side and peeled his T-shirt out of the way, revealing a long, deep gash running from just under the ribs to the pelvic bone. "I said don't kill him."
"Details, Sammy…. Son of a bitch…." Dean screwed his eyes closed, forcing out short breaths as Sam examined the wound. "How's that bullet in his neck gonna change history when we ship him home?"
Sam turned to Galahad. "I need the duffel bag–over there. It's got the first-aid kit in it."
Galahad nodded and went to get it.
Sam turned back to Dean and pressed his hand firmly over the wound. "We'll dig out the bullet, but I think his armor took the brunt of the shot. Besides…." His stomach lurched at the sight of his brother's blood on his hands. "If he'd–"
"But he didn't." Dean glanced up at Sam, a simple look offering unspoken reassurance; even hurt, he was still in full-on big brother mode.
"Damn it." Sam cleared his throat and pressed down a little harder. "We've gotta get the bleeding under control."
"I like that plan." Dean blinked to clear his vision, then glanced around. "How are the good guys doing?"
Sam turned toward the fights still in progress. "Two down, two to go."
Bors seemed to have tired of simply holding off his opponent; he was fighting in earnest now and real fear was visible on Melehan's face as he quickly realized he was outmatched. Stumbling sideways under the latest onslaught, Melehan snarled a curse, then threw black powder in Bors's face.
Bors roared in fury; Melehan smirked–then made the mistake of gloating.
"You're too slow, old man," he taunted. "No match for the strength of youth. You–"
Bors lunged at Melehan. Eyes screwed shut, zoning in on his opponent's voice, he swung his sword with all his weight behind it, knocking Melehan's sword from his hands. Before Melehan had a chance to react, Bors dropped his own sword and grabbed his opponent by the neck of his breastplate, yanked a dagger from his belt and plunged the blade into the younger knight's neck. Melehan died with shock still frozen on his face.
Dean swiped a hand over his eyes, blinking rapidly, as he watched the body crumple. "Dead?"
"Well, that just rewrote a few pages of history. He–
Bors reacted instinctively to Galahad's shouted warning, dropping to the ground. The dagger thrown at him by an incensed Mordred sailed over his head and plunged hilt deep into the wall.
With Bors in the clear, all eyes snapped to the one battle still in progress. Mordred had seen both sons and his lieutenant fall. Fury and hate seemed to refuel his strength, and he launched a renewed attack on Percival. The knight was holding his own, but slowly and deliberately being backed into a corner. Galahad dropped the duffel at Sam's side, raised his sword and moved quickly to help his friend.
Percival saw him coming and shook his head. "Don't you dare, brother. This bastard is all mine."
Mordred snorted contemptuously. "It seems all Galahad's rats have delusions of grandeur." He unleashed another vicious attack, with Percival countering each strike; Galahad reluctantly respected his friend's wishes, but stayed close.
The tide turned in an instant; a counter strike from Percival left Mordred slightly off-balance, and Percival launched himself at his opponent, sending them both crashing to the ground. His sword hand pinned under Percival's weight, Mordred had no defense against the punch that smashed into his jaw. Percival yanked a dagger from his belt and raised it, ready to strike.
Percival snapped his head toward Galahad, incredulous at the order.
Galahad shrugged apologetically. "He is worth more to us alive. Restrain him. Bors – you are well?"
Bors shook off his gauntlet and swiped his hand over his eyes. "I'm bloody fine."
Galahad nodded. "Good–then help Percival."
As Bors stumbled forward to help do just that, Galahad turned back to Sam and Dean.
"Ow! Son of bitch!" Dean glared up at his brother, who was using a bottle of water from the duffel to flush the wound in his side. "Go easy there, Sammy."
"Sorry…sorry." Sam worriedly studied his brother. "How's the vision?"
"Blurry." Dean snorted. "So you've never looked better." He turned to Galahad. "But good enough to see what just went down. You sure keeping that bastard alive is the best idea?"
"No." Galahad glanced at Mordred, who was struggling to free himself as Bors and Percival yanked him to his feet. "But his death would simply ignite his mother's fury. If she is busy negotiating his release instead of scheming revenge, that will at least give Merlin the chance to enact some spell to prevent her from opening a door through time again, from undoing anything we may accomplish." He glanced down at Dean. "How can I help?"
Sam motioned to the gauze pad he had pressed against Dean's wound. "Put pressure on this while I flush his eyes."
Galahad shook his head. "The effects of the powder are temporary. His eyesight will soon clear. Focus your attention on the sword wound." The knight looked worried. "Mordred's men are known to devil their blades."
Dean scowled at the knight. "With what?"
Sam stomach lurched again as he wedged another bottle of water between his knees while unscrewing the cap, his left hand still not fully cooperating. "Some kind of poison, I'm guessing."
"So if the wound doesn't kill you, the poison will." Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Fuck…."
Sam poured the entire bottle of water over the wound. He then reached instinctively for the antibiotics, but his hand froze on the bottle. "I can't give you this. If there's poison, I have no idea how it will react."
"Then use this." The knight handed Sam a pouch from his belt. "The powder of the calendula flower."
"Calendula…." Sam tipped some of the orange powder into his hand. "They still use this today. It helps the blood clot."
Galahad nodded. "And Merlin has added a few more ingredients to help battle Mordred's treachery."
Dean shot a suspicious look at powder in Sam's hand. "What kind of ingredients?"
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Ones that can counteract the poison. You really wanna know specifics?."
When Dean gave a terse nod, Sam mixed some of the powder with water in the palm of his hand to form a salve, then spread it on the wound.
"Beyond magic, Merlin is a skilled healer." Now it was Galahad's turn to offer reassurance. "You have done much to help us. I would not offer if I believed it posed any threat."
"Thanks–I"ll hold you to that." Dean looked on as Sam ripped a pressure bandage from its sterile packaging and pressed it into place over the salve. "You done?"
Sam nodded. "For now, but we need you checked out. Medieval poisons are little beyond my first aid skills."
"One crisis at a time, Sammy." Dean held up a hand. "Help me up."
Sam shook his head. "No way. You need to stay as still as possible until–"
"Fine. I'll do it myself." Dean began to push himself up.
"Damn it, Dean…."
Galahad frowned. "Do you need assistance in restraining him?"
"Back off, G." Dean glared at the knight. "I was just starting to like you. Don't make me change my mind."
Reluctantly, Sam moved in to help Dean to his feet. He knew better than to fight his brother; on this they were too much alike. Dean was no more staying put on the floor than Sam would've stayed at the church. Once upright, Dean seemed to pale a little more, but he was at least steady when Sam released his hold.
Bors and Percival were striding towards them, Mordred struggling between them, his arms pinned behind his back. The prisoner spat at Galahad, then started chanting something that to Sam sounded like an incantation. Whatever it was ended abruptly when Percival decked him.
"Did I not make myself clear," Percival grabbed Mordred's face. "You start pulling that dark magic shite and I'm gonna pull off your gauntlet and shove it so far down your throat it comes out the other end. We clear?"
Mordred just glared in response. Sam bent down and riffled through the duffel. "Here, use this to bind his hands." He held up a zip tie and demonstrated how it worked. "Put this end through here and pull. Trust me, he won't get out of it. There's more to use on the others, too."
Mordred was quickly secured to one of the pillars near the round table. There he was in plain sight, but far enough away that the brothers and the knights could still talk without being overheard. After Dean showed Percival a roll of duct tape, and what to do with it, the knight took great pleasure in slapping a piece over Mordred's mouth. Mordred's eyes lit up with renewed fury at that indignity. Bors and Percival then dragged the unconscious knights and Medraig's body into the open area of the exhibit hall near the entrance. When they were done, that's where they'd open the portal.
As Galahad walked back toward the brothers, his gaze fell on the bloodstain that covered much of Dean's shirt. "I am sorry you were injured trying to help us. I owe you a great debt."
"You owe me squat." Dean took in the damage the battles had caused: display cases upended–the glass smashed and contents shattered; paintings slashed; the faux stone walls torn and leaning. "All in a day's work, right?"
Galahad sighed. "Mordred does not have the grail–that is something. But we also have nothing."
"Hold the phone…." Dean grimaced as he moved too quickly, his left arm pressing tightly against his injured side. "You missed Sammy's big announcement, didn't you?"
Galahad turned to Sam, a puzzled expression on his face.
"I, um…." Sam cast a glance at the armory. "Just before Mordred and his men burst in here… I think I found something."
The knight's eyes widened. "Not–
"No." Sam shook his head. "Not the grail itself–but something definitely connected to it. And if I'm right, it's definitely what Mordred was after." He turned to the knights, Bors and Percival now standing on either side of Galahad, listening intently. "You already know that our history books are next to useless, so I just need to know…." He glanced from one knight to the next. "Does Castle Corbenic mean anything to any of you?"
Percival scowled. "I was there less than two moons past…escorting my sister to care for our ailing uncle who is master of Corbenic."
Sam's expression brightened a little. "Your sister is Dindrane, and your uncle Pelles–the Fisher King?"
Percival's expression darkened. "What kind of devilry is this? You cannot know–"
"Stand down, Percy." Dean unsteadily took a step forward, placing himself between Sam and Percival, a warning hand against the knight's chest. "There's no devilry–just an Ivy League education and Sammy's freaky memory. He's going somewhere with this, trust me." He nodded to his brother to continue.
"Look, in several versions of the…folk tales we know, Dindrane and Pelles play central roles in the grail legend." Sam swallowed. "Backing up a bit…. At the time of the crucifixion, there was a man named Bron. He's thought to be the brother-in-law of Joseph of Arimathea, and the man Joseph originally entrusted with the grail. All the guardians of the grail are descended from Bron." He glanced from Percival to Galahad. "Including Pelles–who, if I remember your family tree right, is not just Percival's uncle, but Galahad's grandfather. This ringing any bells?"
Galahad frowned. "Percival and I are blood kin, that much is true – and we know of these guardians. But if we are descended from this Bron, are destined to become guardians, this is the first I am hearing of it."
Sam shrugged. "Given the idea of the guardians is to keep the grail off the radar, I'm guessing it may be a piece of family history that's shared only on a need-to-know basis. You didn't need to know–until you were next in line as guardian. I think this quest is kind of a trial run."
Galahad's frown deepened. "But my father still lives. If what you say is true, would he not be the next to serve?"
"I got this one." Dean gave Galahad a sympathetic shrug. "Lancelot kinda blew it when he fooled around with another man's wife. That pretty much takes him out of the running for anything 'stainless and honorable'–moves you to the front of the line."
Galahad looked puzzled. "This still makes no sense. How can Pelles be guarding something that is lost?"
"Because I don't think it is." Sam exhaled slowly. "I think the grail is still safely hidden at Castle Corbenic."
Dean shot him a WTF look on that one, voicing what each of the knights was also thinking. "If the grail is stashed safe and sound, one, why send Galahad and the boys to hunt it down? And, two, what the hell led them to 2013?"
Sam was pacing as he mentally sorted through the facts. "The grail is a symbolic object–hugely important historically, culturally–but, at the risk of being struck down for saying it, that's all. It has no power. One school of thought says it was simply a serving dish that held the lamb at the Last Supper."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "They sent three knights on a quest for a dirty dish?"
"Like I said, symbolically–it's a big deal." Sam glanced over at Mordred who was still struggling with his bonds, glaring at the men from the far side of the room. "But why would Morgan and Mordred want it? They're not even Christians."
Dean scowled at the trussed knight. "You mean other than a giant 'Fuck you–we found it first'? Or, 'Arthur can have it if he turns over the throne to Mordred.'" His focus returned to his brother. "I'm guessing you've got a third option?"
Sam nodded. "Another theory says the grail was the cup that held the blood of Christ–blood from a wound in his side after a Roman soldier stabbed him with a lance during the crucifixion. His weapon became known as the Bleeding Lance because, at least according to legend, whenever it's placed near the grail, it starts to bleed."
"Wait…I remember this." Dean scrubbed a hand down his face as he sorted through dusty memories. "Pastor Jim told me about it once when we were cleaning the weapons in his church. It's mentioned in the Bible but disappeared after the crucifixion. There's all kind of theories about who took it and where it was hidden." He glanced again at Mordred. "It's also supposed to be some kind of bad-ass weapon–has the power to heal along with the power to kill."
Sam nodded. "Legend also says the man who possesses it will have unlimited power."
Galahad cast a glance at Mordred. "And as the man trying to take the throne from Arthur, that would be reason enough for Mordred to want it."
Again, Sam nodded. "He's just one in a long list of power-hungry men who've tried to find it over the centuries." He shrugged at Dean. "Hell, it was even on Hitler's wish list."
Dean snorted. "The douchebag had necromancers on the payroll, so jonesing after a holy WMD? No shock there."
"If all this is true," Percival snarled, "when we get home, I'm going to take my lance and shove it up Merlin's arse. We've spent years riding all over seven kingdoms in search of the wrong fucking thing."
Galahad smiled. "Some of that fault rides on our own shoulders. Merlin said only that when our quest was successful, we'd know it. We simply assumed we were seeking the grail."
"Because he told us the story of the fucking grail before he sent us out on the bloody quest," Percival growled. "What the hell were we supposed to think we were looking for."
Sam smiled; Percival certainly had a point. "Look, what Merlin did kinda makes sense. Anyone who met you would see three knights on a quest to recover a sacred object–a pretty noble goal. But if they knew you were hunting for a legendary weapon that gives the man who possesses it great power…." He shot another glance at Mordred. "You'd have a lot more competition than just Mordred and his men."
"And perhaps figuring out the true purpose of this quest is all part of proving our true worth as guardians." Galahad turned to Sam and bowed his head. "We are indebted to you and your brother."
Sam shook his head. "No…you have no idea what it means to be part of this."
Dean stared at Sam for a moment, a smile toying with the corners of his mouth before he cleared his throat. "And you believe this Bleeding Lance is in the museum?"
"I think so. Check this out." Sam reached for his back pocket and pulled out the inventory list he'd found earlier. "This was on a crate in the armory. One of the museum employees has written notes all over it. Turns out, they found a piece that wasn't on the list. Because it seemed to be a genuine artifact, they called the London museum but couldn't get hold of anyone because of the time difference. They called Chicago, and it looks like someone there was a little sloppy with their record-keeping, because they pulled the old 'We don't know what you're talking about' defense. Chicago either left the lance in the crate or stuck it in a display without cataloguing it. It wasn't noticed until it arrived here in St. Louis."
Guilt now fueled Galahad's frown. "I was drawn to that armory. Felt…something there. But I was so focused on finding the grail, I overlooked what was right under my nose." He snorted. "What kind of guardian does that make me?"
"A human one." Sam took a step closer to Galahad. "Before you kick yourself too hard, maybe we should take a look at it and make sure I'm right." He smiled. "I'm human, too–got plenty of screw-ups on my record." He gestured with his head towards the armory. "It's in a long, flat crate on the floor."
Galahad nodded at Bors and Percival and the two knights headed for the armory, returning a few moments later, carrying the crate between them. They set it down in front of Galahad, and removed the lid. The lance that lay inside the crate was very ordinary in appearance–the shaft almost seven feet in length, the wood grayed and cracked with age, and topped with a triangular head affixed by a socketed iron shank. Galahad bent down to pick it up; as his fingers curled around the wood, etched markings suddenly became visible just below the shank.
"What the hell is that?" Dean leaned in to study the mark. "Long…Longinus." He frowned. "I know that name."
"As do I." Galahad stared at the etching. "Longinus was the Roman soldier whose lance pierced our Lord's side when he was on the Cross."
Sam's chest tightened with excitement as he reached for the lance. "May I?"
Galahad handed over the lance, but as Sam took hold of it, the etching vanished. "What…." Sam looked shocked for a moment, then a smile spread slowly across his face. He turned to his brother. "Dean, take it–I wanna check something."
Dean took the lance; there was still no sign of the etched mark.
"Hand it to Bors."
In the knight's hands, the lance remained unmarked.
"OK, Percival–your turn."
As Percival took the lance, the word Longinus slowly reappeared.
Sam's smile widened. "It's some kind of…warding on it–a protective spell as a last line of defense. To most of us it's just an old–very old–but ordinary weapon. But in the hands of the descendants of Bron, the guardians of the grail–"
"It reveals its true origin." Galahad smiled at Percival, who still held the lance. "What would the gentlefolk of Camelot think of Sir Percival now?"
Percival just looked overwhelmed. "Bugger me–take it." He quickly handed it back to Galahad. "Before God realizes his mistake and lightning strikes me dead."
Galahad grinned, then placed the lance reverently back in the crate. "This has remained hidden for centuries. How is it that it is now so carelessly left unguarded?"
"Based on what Sammy found, I'd say it was never supposed to be part of this exhibit, never supposed to leave London." Dean seemed shaky as he took a few steps backwards. "Best guess? I'm going with latest guardian dropped dead. Between Chicago and here, that lance has been in America for close to a month. No way would it have gone AWOL that long if there was somebody around to notice it was gone."
"Speaking of noticing…." Sam checked his watch. "We've got about fifteen minutes before that meeting upstairs is over." He surveyed the damage in the exhibit hall. "None of us wants to be here when they see this."
Galahad nodded. "Then it is time we all returned home." He frowned at the blood stain on Dean's shirt. "But the lance supposedly possesses the power to heal. Can we not use it to heal each of your wounds? Surely that would be an honorable use given your service to its protection here today."
Dean shook his head. "If it's all the same to you, I think I'll stick with modern medicine. Messing with weapons of God, especially ones Hitler wanted–that's just got 'bad idea' written all over it."
Sam swallowed; he wanted so badly to say 'No. Go for it–make Dean better.' The sword wound didn't worry him too much; he'd stitch that up and, with time and rest, Dean would be fine. But if poison was involved…that was a whole different ball game. But Dean was right; as much as he hated to admit it, they couldn't use it–it was just as likely to kill him as cure him. "No, just pack it up and get it safely to Corbenic–make sure neither Mordred nor anyone like him ever gets their hands on it. I'll take care of Dean." He glanced at his brother. "It's what we do."
Galahad smiled. "So I've noticed."
Less than ten minutes later, Galahad was ready to begin the spell.
After Sam had done one last check on the computer, the cameras showing the meeting upstairs beginning to wrap up, he shoved the laptop in the duffel and Bors carried the bag to the exit closest to their car, where he dropped it beside the door. Bors then joined Percival, and the two knights freed Mordred from the pillar before marching him between them to stand beside his men and the crate holding the Bleeding Lance. Each gave a final bow to the brothers, a gesture promptly returned.
Galahad added the final ingredient to a small bowl and picked up the parchment on which the words to the spell were written. "Are you sure there is nothing more I can do to repay your kindness?" He glanced worriedly at Dean. "It would be my honor to carry you from here to a place of safety before I go."
"Hell no. No one's carrying me anywhere," Dean growled. "I can walk my own damn self to the car."
Galahad turned questioningly to Sam, who just nodded. "We'll get home in one piece. Thanks. You just do the same."
Galahad took a step toward his men, then turned back. "You do know that Camelot sits within the walls of the City of Winchester?"
Dean's eyebrow peaked. "I thought that was just more folk tale B.S."
Sam nodded. "I mean, even our so-called experts can't even agree where Camelot was, or if it even existed."
"Oh it exists–I assure you. It is my home." Galahad smiled. "And since you carry the name of Winchester as your own, then it seems it was also home to your forebears. It would not surprise me to learn that your ancestors were at my side in battle, fighting as fiercely as you did today."
Dean snort quickly turned into a pained grimace. "Hopefully they were fighting with you, not against you."
Galahad's smile widened. "Of that I have no doubt." He reached inside his cowl and tugged at a chain, freeing it from his armor then pulling it over his head. "Here." He offered the chain to Sam "I ask that you accept this as a token of my gratitude for your services to the Crown."
Sam's eyes widened when he saw the amulet that hung from the chain–a red rampant dragon holding a cross against a backdrop of Camelot's Round Table. He shook his head. "We can't… we can't take that."
"Why?" Dean glanced from the amulet to Sam. "Why can't we?"
"It's too much." Sam again shook his head. "It's the symbol of the Brotherhood of the Round Table. Only those called to serve by King Arthur himself were given those."
"And if Arthur were here, he would bestow this on the two of you himself." Galahad grabbed Sam's arm and dropped the amulet into his hand, folding his fingers over it. "To refuse would be considered a great insult."
"And we don't wanna insult him, do we Sammy?" Dean grinned at his brother. "I mean, the dude's a total badass with that sword. Pissing him off just wouldn't end well."
"Yeah." Sam allowed a small smile to escape, then glanced up at Galahad and nodded his thanks. "It was an honor."
"No…." Galahad bowed gracefully. "Sir Samuel, Sir Dean–the honor is mine. Your methods may be… unorthodox, but in your hearts, you are true knights of the Round Table."
Dean weakly smacked his brother. "Hear that–we're knights. That is so cool."
With a smile and another bow, Galahad turned and rejoined his men. After igniting the mixture in the bowl and reciting the words of the spell, there was a loud crack that made both brothers flinch, a brilliant flash of red light, then nothing. The knights had returned to the past.
Sam smiled. "And you'd never even know they were here."
Dean snorted, glancing again at the destruction that surrounded them. "You're kidding, right?"
"Yeah…suppose I am." Sam moved to put his good arm around Dean's back, lending support. "Come on, let's get the hell out of here."
Dean batted away Sam's arm. "Dude, I'm good. Just move."
Sam glanced down at Dean's injured side; despite the arm cradled protectively around it, it was easy to see blood leaching through the bandage. He was pale, sweat visible on his forehead, and his breathing too shallow, too rapid. "Dean, what's going on in there?""
"I feel like crap, so let's just…go home." Dean was already moving toward the exit.
Sam fell in step beside him. They were almost out of the hall when a metallic glint in one of the display cases caught Sam's eye. "Son of a bitch…."
"What?" Dean turned unsteadily. "What son of a bitch?"
"Looks like the knights got home safely." Sam gestured with this head toward the case. "In there, one of the exhibits–it's a piece of foil." He read the card under the fragment. "This small piece of processed aluminium foil has confounded experts. Found during an architectural dig in the City of Winchester, England, it has been carbon dated to the 5th Century."
Dean snorted. "Percival and his sandwich, right?"
"Yeah. Guess he took one for the road."
"I liked him." Dean smiled tiredly, setting off again for the exit. "He was my favorite."
"Can't think why?" Sam glanced over at his brother; Dean was moving robotically, one foot in front of the other. If he stopped now, there was good chance he wouldn't get started again. The best thing to do was keep him talking, keep him distracted. "You still think Batman could kick Galahad's ass blindfolded?"
"When we were kids, you read me that comic–Classics Illustrated–about the knights and the Holy Grail. You didn't think much of Galahad back then." As they reached the exit, Sam pulled the passkey he'd swiped from the docent from his pocket. "Pretty sure you called him a pansy."
Dean stared at Sam like he'd just grown a second head. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"That's convenient." Sam swiped the card through the reader and pushed the door open. After Dean walked through, he picked up the duffel and followed him. "Where'd you park the car?"
Dean had to think for a moment, which really amped up Sam's worry. "Um…over there, by the exit."
Sam nodded. "OK. Wanna stay here and I'll bring the car to you?"
Dean was moving again. "Already halfway there, Sammy–keep up."
Sam had to smile at that, and quickly fell in step beside his brother.
Dean slid into the passenger seat of the Impala under his own steam–or maybe Sam had helped him; things got a little fuzzy right about then. Very few places felt safe to Dean, but his car was one of them; maybe it finally felt OK to let his guard down–or maybe he'd just run out of juice.
He'd made it out of the museum upright–that much he was sure of. Sam talked the whole damn time on the trek from the exhibit hall to the car. It would've been annoying except he knew exactly what his brother was doing; giving him something to focus on besides the pain ripping through his side, his blurry vision, and just how much harder it was getting to focus on… well, anything.
Dean rolled his head across the seatback; Sam was beside him now, behind the wheel. That always felt wrong; it was his car–he was the driver, Sam rode shotgun. If it was a long-haul trip and they were pressed for time, they'd spell each other off; he was cool with that. But this…this didn't feel cool at all.
Sam was talking again but someone had hit the mute switch. He could see his brother's lips moving, see the worry etched into his face, but he couldn't hear a word Sam was saying. He scowled when Sam leaned in and pressed his hand on Dean's forehead. "Get the hell off." The sounds that came out sounded nothing like the words he was going for. He tried to pull away from Sam but suddenly seemed frozen in place.
Images flashed through his head of his fight with Medraig, of breaking the knight's nose, of the powder thrown in his face, of the searing burn when the sword sliced through his side. "Mordred's men are known to devil their blades." explained a few things–especially the terrified look on Sam's face as he grabbed for his phone. It was the last thing Dean remembered before the lights went out.
The next moment of awareness everything was in reverse; Dean couldn't see much but his hearing was working just fine. He heard the familiar, comforting rumble of the Impala's engine–and Baby was doing a full-out sprint. He was being tossed gently side-to-side, meaning they were on curving back roads, not city streets–a guess confirmed when he peeled open his eyes. It was dark outside–middle-of-the-night dark–the inky blackness broken only occasionally by a random streetlight.
"No, four hours is too far. He needs a doctor now." Sam's voice fell somewhere between pissed and panic. "If I knew one, I wouldn't be calling you, would I?"
Dean scowled at the itchy feel of wool on bare skin–he was covered by Dad's old army blanket. The damn thing always made him itch. He rolled his head toward Sam; his brother had his phone in his right hand, pressed to his ear, his left hand on the wheel. Something about that wasn't good, but Dean couldn't think what.
"Ben Chase? That's the doc from Bobby's book? No…no–that's good. And he's where? OK–I'm maybe…twenty minutes away. Just make damn sure he knows we're coming…. No, I have no idea what the hell the poison is so tell him to be ready to do blood tests." Sam glanced over at Dean and forced a smile. "Hey…. Just hang in there. We'll have you feeling better in no time." Somehow Dean didn't buy the smile that accompanied the reassurance.
The next time Dean woke, two things were very different–he wasn't in the car any more, and it wasn't dark outside. He squinted against the sun streaming in through the window and wished someone would close the damn drapes; the bright light was giving him a headache. He felt like someone had put him through the spin cycle at the Laundromat after he'd downed a fifth of Johnny Walker.
He frowned as he glanced around; it wasn't the bunker, and it wasn't a motel room–more like some kind of makeshift hospital. Yeah, the IV in his arm, the meter on his finger, the itchy leads taped to his chest all confirmed that. But the monitor beside his bed kicked it up a notch when he glanced to his left; Sam was in an adjacent bed.
Sam was awake, the head of his bed propped up so he was almost sitting up. He was facing away from Dean, lost in thought, and his arm was back in a sling. Dean's frown deepened at that; Sam had been shot, but he'd ditched the sling. Why was it back now?
"Hey." Sam turned toward Dean, smiling when he saw his brother was awake. "How you feeling in there?"
Dean tried to answer but his voice was on strike again.
"It's OK… it's OK." Sam threw back the covers and swung his legs out of bed; one step and he was at Dean's bedside. "You've had a rough ride but the worst is over. You're gonna be fine." He smiled when he realized Dean's frown was directed at his sling. "This? It's fine, Dean. The doc fixed me up right after he took care of you. Be good as new in no time."
Dean's frown deepened. Why the hell had Sam's voice suddenly developed a weird echo. He also felt really hot–and not in a good way; more like someone had lit a fire underneath his bed. His chest tightened, too, making it damn hard to breathe.
"Oh, fuck. Doc! Get in here!"
The shout for help, the expression on Sam's face didn't make Dean feel any better; he knew Sam's worried face all too well. Something was definitely wrong. He frowned when a gray-haired man he didn't know appeared beside his brother. The stethoscope around his neck made it a good bet he was the 'Doc' Sam had shouted for, but that's about as far as Dean got when it came to figuring things out; he was halfway through a silent objection to the oxygen mask placed over his face when everything faded to black.
Dean blinked three times to get his vision to focus. When it did, he was staring at an old dresser. It sat in front of a brick wall, magazines stacked neatly on top of it beside an old metal desk lamp.
He smiled; the space hadn't been his for long, but it was his. He was back in his room at the bunker, lying in his own bed.
Dean exhaled slowly; he felt like he'd just won a battle with the flu–starving and zero energy, but otherwise OK. He rolled onto his back and did a quick triage; arms and legs both worked, it didn't hurt to breathe and, unlike the last few times he'd woken up, it didn't hurt to think, either. His head was clear.
The events of the past few days ran through his head in fast forward–Sam getting shot, meeting Galahad and the knights, fighting Mordred's son, getting slashed and poisoned…. He slid his hand to his side; a heavy bandage was hidden beneath his T-shirt–a clean T-shirt, one with no blood, no gaping hole where the sword had cut through both fabric and skin. He smiled again. "Thanks, Sammy."
There was no sign of his brother. "Sam!" His voice was a hoarse croak. If his brother was anywhere in the bunker other than right outside the door, there was no way in hell he'd hear him.
"Screw it." He sat up quickly–too quickly. His injured side screamed its objection to the movement, and he slumped back onto the pillow, the walls of his room spinning in a dizzying kaleidoscope. He swallowed, fighting the urge to puke. "Oh, son of a bitch…."
Dean lay still, waiting for the room to stop spinning and his stomach to settle. "OK, let's try this again." He threw back the covers, slowly swung his legs off the bed, then pushed himself up, letting the muscles on his healthy side do most of the work. This time, there was no dizziness. Exhaling slowly, he pushed himself to his feet. He pulled a face at the feel of cold floors under bed-warm feet, but he was up and moving under his own steam.
In the doorway he paused to survey his room. His gun–cleaned by the looks of it–was back on his nightstand beside his wallet, his duffel at the foot of his bed. His stuff was back where it should be–in his room. Dean was smiling again as he moved slowly down the hall. It felt good to be home.
Sam sat at the map table in the bunker, tapping his pen absently against the polished wood while staring at the amulet Galahad had given them.
It had been more than a week since the knights returned to their own time. Dean had lost consciousness shortly after they reached the Impala, and the early part of their high-speed exit from St. Louis was a blur of frantic phone calls as Sam sought medical help for his brother. Hospitals were out; the cops in San Francisco and Chicago had finally touched base after discovering the similarities in their cases, and sword wound was suddenly trending nationwide on law enforcement bulletins. Dean would be cuffed to a gurney the moment an ER doc got a look at him.
Sam drove instead to a retired doctor who now exclusively treated hunters. Dr. Ben Chase seemed liked a good guy, came with solid references, but it was the first time Sam had met him, had needed his services. Ben had seemed a little pissed when Sam insisted on watching his every move as he stitched up Dean and tested his blood to identify the poison. He hadn't fought Sam though; he'd dealt with enough hunters to know how that would turn out.
Hunting had left Sam pretty much immune to the sight of blood, but his brother's was his Achilles heel. It stirred up too many nightmarish memories–of Dean being ripped apart by hellhounds; of him being pummeled senseless by Sam's own fists under Lucifer's control; of him unmoving and barely alive in the back seat of a crushed Impala after being tortured by their possessed Dad; of him dying over and over and over in the Trickster's sick, twisted déjà vu lesson. That sensory overload combined with injury and the waning effects of painkillers trumped even Winchester stubbornness; about seventeen hours after the brothers landed on Ben Chase's doorstep, Sam passed out cold on the floor of the doctor's surgery.
He woke up a day later, pumped full of painkillers and antibiotics, Dean still unconscious in the bed five feet away. Ben had identified the poison and had given Dean the antidote. His life was no longer in danger but he was in for a rough ride over the next few days. There was no bullshit in that diagnosis; the ride had been rough–on both brothers.
When the worst was over, Sam had brought him home to his own room, his own bed. He smiled, Dean's voice playing out in his head. i"Memory foam, Sam–it remembers me."/i After all the crap his brother had been through, waking up here would be the best thing for him.
Sam's head snapped up. Dean, still wearing the sweat pants and old gray T-shirt Sam had dressed him in when they'd first gotten back, stood on the opposite side of the table, his arm cradled around his injured side. He looked stubbled and pale, but it was the first time Sam had seen him vertical in more than a week. "Hey….You should've called…I would've helped."
Dean snorted. "One, I've been walking longer than you–I'm good on my own, and two…." He gestured to Sam's sling. "I don't think you're in any shape to haul my sorry ass anywhere."
Sam smiled. After days of nothing but grunts and unintelligible mumbles as he kept Dean medicated and hydrated, it was good to have his smart-ass brother back. "How you feeling?"
"Starving." Dean eased himself slowly into a chair opposite Sam and grinned. "Maybe I'll make myself some sand-warlocks."
Sam returned the smile. "Stay put. I'll make'em." He put down his pen and pushed the chair away from the table. "What kind do you want?"
"Park it, Sammy. Grub'll wait." Dean motioned for Sam to sit. "I want a little 4-1-1 as an appetizer. Last thing I remember clearly was crawling into the Impala after our showdown at the museum."
Sam sat back down. "I wanted us well out of St. Louis before they found the actor's body. So, I put my foot down…didn't take it off the pedal 'til we rolled into the doctor's driveway."
Sam nodded. "His name is Ben Chase…he's a good guy."
Dean shook his head. "Never heard of him. How'd you find him?"
Sam swallowed. "Garth recommended him."
"Oh, god." Dean rolled his eyes. "There's three words that should never be strung together."
Sam snorted. "This coming from a guy who went to Dr. Robert–willingly."
Dean just frowned at that. "I remember bits and pieces from the doc's place." He motioned again to Sam's sling. "Why's that back?"
Sam shrugged. "We were there long enough that the infection cleared up so he was able to operate…put me back together."
Dean frowned. "Son of a bitch…. How long was I out?"
Sam pushed back his sling to check the calendar on his watch. "Galahad and crew went through the portal ten days ago."
"Ten days?" Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Shit…I've got memories covering maybe ten minutes of that."
Sam's smile didn't quite make it to his eyes. "Yeah…. It's been rough. You really feeling OK?"
"Yeah…really." Dean grinned. "Or I will after I eat. What happened after the shit hit the fan at the museum?"
Sam picked up his pen, again tapping it on the table. "The gala was postponed, a special task force working with cops in San Francisco and Chicago was formed to look into the sword attacks–even the State Department is involved because the exhibit items destroyed belong to the United Kingdom. Oh, and I dug around a bit into British news archives. Turns out a Sebastian Bellamy and his son Arthur were involved in a car wreck two days before the exhibit shipped out. Sebastian is director of antiquities for the museum, Arthur his assistant, being groomed to take over when dad retires."
"Two generations taken out in one accident–no wonder no one noticed the lance was missing."
"Exactly." Sam frowned. "But they're still not making a fuss–so I'm trying to figure out what that means."
"Maybe now that Galahad and crew have the lance, they found a better place to hide it and it was never shipped out in the first place." Now Dean's frown matched his brother's. "But then why do you and me still look like we've been through a meat grinder? If the lance was never shipped here, Galahad and Mordred would never have come through the portal, we'd have never fought Mordred's men…." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "The only constant with time travel is that my head hurts every time we try to make sense of it." He glanced over at Sam. "What about us? We get tied to this mess in any way?"
Sam shook his head. "The only faces caught by the security cameras were Mordred and his men."
"And good luck finding them." Dean grimaced as he tried to find a more comfortable position.
Sam nodded. "For the past two days, I've been poking around the police computers, tapping in to some conference calls. They've discovered the looped footage, are pissed about the gaps but, bottom line, they can't recover what was never recorded. The only thing that could really be traced back to us…." He swallowed, picturing the heavy bandages now hidden beneath Dean's T-shirt. "Is your blood. And I um, kind of tampered with the lab results. Shouldn't be a problem."
"That's my boy." Dean frowned. "And big picture-wise–we screw up any history?"
"Don't think so." Sam glanced at the stack of the books at the end of the table, books on Arthurian history he'd spent a good chunk of the past couple of days poring over. "Bors originally killed Melehan at the Battle of Camlann, after Melahan killing Bors' brother. Now, it looks like Medraig killed Bors's brother in retaliation for Melahan's death and Bors killed Medraig at Camlann."
Dean squinted at Sam. "Dude, I just woke up."
Sam grinned. "There's a few more twists and turns to the story, but we basically ended up in the same place."
"Good." Dean scanned the bunker. "And speaking of same place, how'd we get back here?"
Sam shrugged. "We got back two days ago. You've been mostly asleep since."
"I didn't ask when, Sammy–I asked how?" Dean gestured again to Sam's sling. "I didn't walk in, no way you carried me…. So, how?"
Sam's jaw clenched; this wasn't going to go over well. "Garth."
Dean's eyes narrowed again. "Garth drove us here?"
"So where's my car?"
Sam gestured toward the door. "Outside, where it always is."
Dean started to look nauseous. "I'm not liking where this is going."
Sam swallowed. "Look, you were out of it, I was a long way from a hundred percent, but I didn't want to leave the Impala behind, so…."
Dean's eye twitched. "Who was behind the wheel, Sammy?"
"Who do you think?"
Dean shook his head. "No, I wanna hear you say it–who was behind the wheel?"
Sam blew out a breath. "Garth, Dean–Garth drove the car."
Dean looked like a goldfish for a few seconds, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly until his could wrap his head around that idea. "Did that doc throw in a free lobotomy when he had you under? You let Garth drive Baby?"
"Dean, chill. The car's fine." Sam snorted. "Trust me–of the three of us, she's in the best shape. Besides, since we're keeping the bunker on a need-to-know basis, it was either Garth driving or we were stuck at the doctor's place 'til you came to. I just figured you'd rather wake up here."
Dean had a look on his face that said Sam was right, but there was no way in hell he was admitting it.
Sam tried a smile. "Seriously, Dean–the Impala's good…not a scratch. Garth even offered to wash and wax it. Don't worry…." He cut off Dean as he started to object. "I told him you were pretty picky about that stuff, that you'd rather do it yourself."
"Oh, no." Dean shook his head. "Once that sling comes off, you Sam Winchester, are detailing her top to bottom, inside and out, while I park my ass on a cooler, beer in hand, and supervise. Letting Garth drive…." His rant trailed off as he caught sight of the amulet Galahad had given them. It now sat in a silk-lined wooden box on the table, surrounded by library cards covered in Sam's writing. "What are you doing with that?"
"I figured I should catalog it before we stash it away…record its history, symbolism…." Sam picked up the amulet and handed it to Dean. "The cross, that's to remind the knights of the love of God and man the order is based on, and to live stainless and honorable lives in the pursuit of noble deeds."
"One grail-slash-Bleeding-Lance quest–check."
Sam nodded. "The dragon–that's Arthur's symbol, so that represents the knights' allegiance to king and country."
Dean frowned. "Galahad honored us for service to the Crown." He glanced up at Sam. "As Americans, does that make us turncoats?"
Sam grinned. "When Arthur was on the throne, America wouldn't exist for almost thirteen hundred years, so, technically, no. And if Galahad's right, and our ancestors came from the City of Winchester, they would have fought for king and country right alongside the knights."
"Alongside?" Dean snorted. "We're blue collar, Sammy–not blue blood. Chances are our great-great-times-whatever grandfather would've been a front-line grunt, holding up a pike not a sword."
"Maybe." Sam glanced around. "But the Men of Letters had to start somewhere. I'll bet that between battles our great-great-times-whatever grandfather was shooting silver-tipped arrows into medieval werewolves, picking the lock of Merlin's castle to steal spells, and tossing rock salt grenades at the ghosts of other grunts, pissed about dying too soon on the battlefield."
"Sounds about right." Dean ran his thumb around the circle that backed the amulet. "The circle–that's the Round Table, right? Representing the equality of all men?"
Sam nodded. "And the eternity of God, and the unity and comradeship of the order."
Dean smiled. "For one little amulet, it's got quite a mouth." He placed it reverently back in the box and pushed it toward Sam.
"Yeah." Sam stared at it. "I've been doing some research on it. As far as I can tell, Dean, it's the only one still in existence. There are records of the symbol because of paintings, stories….but the amulets, they've all been lost–or hidden."
Dean smiled. "Then let's just call it our 401K. If we're ever in a pinch financially–"
Sam snorted. "When aren't we in a pinch?"
"Sad, but true." Dean stood up with a groan. "Right, I'm off to make sand-warlocks. You want one?"
Sam nodded. "Thanks. But lay off the beer. Doc says alcohol doesn't play nice with the drugs you're on."
"Yeah, yeah…." Dean turned back and stared at Sam.
Sam frowned, but nodded. "I'm fine."
"No B.S." Dean gestured to Sam's arm. "That's not gonna fall off in your sleep or anything?"
"It's good, Dean. Once the stitches are out, I'm back to a hundred per cent." Sam bit back a smile. "OK, a major league pitching career is out."
Dean's eyebrow peaked. "One, it's your left shoulder and you're right-handed, and two, you suck at baseball."
Sam grinned. "Then I've got nothing to worry about." He nodded at Dean. "You took good care of me."
"Damn straight I did." Seemingly reassured, Dean turned and headed for the kitchen. His phone rang when he was halfway across the room. He grinned when he caught sight of the caller display, then lifted the phone to his ear. "Charlie…. You are never gonna guess who we just met…."
Sam smiled, picked up his pen and got back to work.
"The Rounde Table at Wynchestere beganne, and ther it ende, and ther it hangeth yet"
– John Hardyng, Chronicle of England (1463)
A/N: It is fact that the Round Table thought to have inspired Arthurian legend hangs to this day in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle in England. It is believed to date back to around 1290, is 5.5 metres in diameter, weighs 1200 kg and 24 knights could sit comfortably around it. (Sorry, that's me channeling Sam, getting my geek on!). As the boys says, there is great debate over whether Camelot (in some form) actually existed and, if it did, where it was. I choose to believe it's in Winchester – a fitting birthplace for a long line of hunters. J This story was inspired by that wonderful scene in The Great Escapist, where Sam remembers Dean reading to him from the Classics Illustrated comic. I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear from you. Thanks so much for reading. Below are the vows of the Knights of the Round Table, from which the title of this story was taken. Until next time, cheers!
King Arthur's Charge
Knights of the Round Table
(From the website )
God make you a good man and fail not of beauty. The Round Table was founded in patience, humility, and meekness. Thou art never to do outrageousity, nor murder, and always to flee treason, by no means to be cruel, and always to do ladies, damsels, and gentle women succour. Also, to take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law nor for no world's goods.
Thou shouldst be for all ladies and fight for their quarrels, and ever be courteous and never refuse mercy to him that asketh mercy, for a knight that is courteous and kind and gentle has favor in every place. Thou shouldst never hold a lady or gentle woman against her will.
Thou must keep thy word to all and not be feeble of good believeth and faith. Right must be defended against might and distress must be protected. Thou must know good from evil and the vain glory of the world, because great pride and bobauce maketh great sorrow. Should anyone require ye of any quest so that it is not to thy shame, thou shouldst fulfil the desire.
Ever it is a worshipful knights deed to help another worshipful knight when he seeth him a great danger, for ever a worshipful man should loath to see a worshipful man shamed, for it is only he that is of no worship and who faireth with cowardice that shall never show gentelness or no manner of goodness where he seeth a man in any danger, but always a good man will do another man as he would have done to himself.
It should never be said that a small brother has injured or slain another brother. Thou shouldst not fail in these things: charity, abstinence and truth. No knight shall win worship but if he be of worship himself and of good living and that loveth God and dreadeth God then else he geteth no worship here be ever so hardly.
An envious knight shall never win worship for and envious man wants to win worship he shall be dishonoured twice therefore without any, and for this cause all men of worship hate an envious man and will show him no favour.
Do not, nor slay not, anything that will in any way dishonour the fair name of Christian knighthood for only by stainless and honourable lives and not by prowess and courage shall the final goal be reached. Therefore be a good knight and so I pray to God so ye may be, and if ye be of prowess and of worthiness then ye shall be a Knight of the Table Round.