Chapter 1: Convergence
The TARDIS’s phone was ringing, and the Doctor almost missed it; he had been on his way out and only caught the sound just before he closed the door behind him. Looking out at the stunning blues and pinks of a strange new planet, he sighed and turned back to his TARDIS, knowing that the call might very well take him away from this almost-adventure, but what was the point of having a phone if you just let people wait impatiently on the other end? He had to answer it.
“Hello,” he said cheerfully, wondering who would be on the other line. He hoped not Marilyn; she was still upset about that whole wedding misunderstanding.
“Doctor!” came a fondly familiar voice, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Amy Pond, good to talk to you. What’s happened? Not more Cybermen, I hope—“ He’d given them his number in case they needed him for some world-ending emergency, or to invite him to another Christmas dinner.
She cut him off, “Oh, no nothing like that. It’s just, well, it’s our anniversary, Rory’s and mine, and we were wondering if you could take us to a nice peaceful location, without any other people around, maybe sometime a few million years ago? But not far enough back for the dinosaurs because that doesn’t sound relaxing at all. Lately we’ve felt like we can’t get half a moment to ourselves.”
The Doctor was silent for a moment. They wanted to travel with him again, even after all he’d put them through.
“I promise this is just a one-time trip, to a nice empty beach,” Amy continued, as if reading his thoughts, “On Earth. No aliens, no life-threatening situations, just a nice vacation.”
“Oh, alright,” he replied at last, his smile turning into a wide grin. “I’ll be right over. Prepare for the best anniversary trip in the universe!”
They said their brief goodbyes and the Doctor hung up, typing in the space/time coordinates of Amy and Rory’s house.
About a minute later, he landed. “Alright, Sexy,” he said, “We’re having company, but don’t be jealous—you’re the only girl for me. But don’t tell River i said that, you know what it does to her.” Trailing his fingers briefly over the controls, he turned and dashed out into the street, expecting to see the Ponds’ cute little house.
Instead he saw a dark alley, and it wasn’t a particularly clean one, either. This wasn’t a residential neighborhood, and by its smell, it wasn’t even in England. He looked at his watch. He was in the right time, but the wrong place.
Frowning, he began to turn back towards the TARDIS’s door, wondering why Sexy had missed so badly, but flickering streetlamps paused his steps.
Well, now, trouble. Wasn’t as if he could walk away from that.
Dean didn’t notice the newspaper in front of him for a few seconds after Sam had tossed it there, but eventually he made his eyes drag across the headline. Dozens of missing people. Huh. He sipped his glass of whiskey apathetically.
“Well?” Sam asked impatiently, “What do you think? Sounds like our kinda job.”
“Probably, yeah. Guess you wanna go check it out.”
“Don’t you? We’ve been getting nowhere with the Leviathan, so maybe a regular job is what we need to get out of this slump.”
Dean was finding it difficult to muster the wherewithal to care. He’d hardly slept the night before because of the dreams—in them he watched Castiel die over and over—and his exhaustion went deeper than mere physical tiredness. Everyone he cared about was gone except Sam.
And now Sam wanted him to give a shit about some missing people in—he glanced back at the newspaper—Atlanta. But there was nothing else to do, really. Dean rubbed his eyes and nodded. “Yeah, let’s get packed, long drive.”
The following night they arrived in Atlanta and checked into a cheap motel on the edge of town. Sam began planning a course of investigation immediately, and Dean pretended to listen to him.
“The people all disappeared from a relatively safe area, Midtown. I mean, Atlanta has a high crime rate, but these disappearances are different. I’m thinking something with teeth and claws is pigging out here.”
“Mmhm,” Dean murmured, staring at the wall, wondering if he should bother trying to sleep.
“It’s too late to head out now, but I think we should get an early start. I was thinking FBI, but they might already be here, and we don’t—”
Dean glanced up at his brother, whose expression was pained though he was obviously trying to hide it; Sam’s right hand was holding his left palm, knuckles white. “We don’t have Bobby. Yeah. So what do you think? Reporters?”
“I think we should go now, take a look around.”
“It’s 2 AM, Dean.”
The older man shrugged. “We don’t have to go into any buildings, right? I know I won’t be able to sleep, so let’s just get this over with.”
They drove to Midtown and parked a block down from the area where most of the people had gone missing. Armed with just about every weapon they knew would hurt various monsters and spirits (including industrial soap), the brothers began to move slowly down the street, looking for signs of anything.
“No EMF so far,” Sam whispered, “And I don’t see any sulfur.”
“That narrows it down.” Dean rolled his eyes. He was about to make some comment about the uselessness of their investigation and that they should just go get drunk or something, but a voice floated out of a nearby alley, stopping him.
“Oh, hello there, little girl,” said a man in a British accent, “What are you doing here this late? Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
“My boss sent me to work. I think he’s mean,” replied a sweet, childish voice. “I’d rather eat than work.”
“Well,” the man answered, “how about I take you home so you can get something to eat?”
Sam and Dean were almost to the mouth of the alley, and the latter had a definite bad feeling about who or what that little girl was. They both wordlessly raised their shotguns and peaked around the wall.
The girl had white-blond hair and was wearing a baby-blue dress; the Winchesters arrived just in time to see her turn into a monstrous thing and pounce at the man. Without hesitation, Dean fired, hitting the girl—the demon. She screamed and turned on them, then paused.
“Oh, no,” she said petulantly, “It’s you! You’re ruining all my fun!” And with that, she burst into a cloud of black smoke and rushed away.
“You okay, buddy?” Dean asked, walking towards the man, seeing him for the first time. He was young and had a sort of hipster look about him—bow-tie and suspenders. But at least he didn’t seem to be bleeding.
“You shot her!” the man said, “Well, I assume it was a her. What was that?” He gave a mean frown to the weapons in the hunters’ hands, then glanced back up at them.
“A demon,” Sam answered, “She wasn’t a little girl, only disguised as one. She would have killed you.”
“A demon?” the man was smiling suddenly, “That’s marvelous. Where am I?”
“Uh,” Dean exchanged a look with his brother. “Midtown. Atlanta.”
“Ah, the Deep South,” his smile briefly faltered into a grimace. “Haven’t been here in a while. Well, thanks for helping me. I’m the Doctor, by the way. Who are you?”
“I’m Dean Winchester, this is my brother, Sam,” he found himself saying before he could stop, which shocked him. Giving their real names to a stranger was completely idiotic considering their recent infamy.
“Nice to meet you, Dean, Sam.” He looked around. “Did this demon cause the flickering lights?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sam responded. “I’m sorry, you’re the…Doctor? Doctor who?”
“Just the Doctor. Well, I’d better be on my way.”
“Wait—it’s still dangerous out there. Something’s been taking people, and it wasn’t the demon.” Judging by what the demon had said about working for a boss who didn’t want the Winchesters bothered, she’d probably been sent here by Crowley, which meant the demons had no idea what was happening, and that wasn’t good.
“Taking people?” the man who was apparently called just Doctor turned slowly back around to face the hunters. “And you’re positive the lights were a result of this demon? Absolutely sure?”
“Uh, yeah, like, maybe 95 percent,” Dean answered, glancing at Sam, who shrugged his vague agreement. “Spirits usually cause electrical problems. Why?” He narrowed his eyes, “What else could it be? Do you know something about this?”
“No, I only just arrived. And I really need to be getting on,” he threw a glance down the alley, and Dean followed his eyes, noticing at last the oddly placed blue telephone booth. It looked British, but he’d thought they were supposed to be red. “But I should stay long enough to be sure,” the Doctor finished quietly, as if to himself. “Yes, alright!” Whirling around and pulling something from his breast pocket, the Doctor strolled past the Winchesters, moving towards the street. “Is this the area where the people disappeared?”
A strange, warbling noise almost interrupted Dean’s answer in the affirmative.
“What’s that thing?” Sam asked before his brother got the chance.
“Just a screwdriver,” the Doctor answered dismissively, pointing the thing in random directions.
“Why is it glowing and making noise, then? And what screws are you attempting to drive?”
The Doctor gave Dean an annoyed frown. “It’s a Sonic Screwdriver, and it does more than screws. It does everything. Except wood.”
“Yeah,” Sam said, his tone clearly conveying just how insane he thought this bow-tie-wearing man was.
“Something is very wrong here,” the Doctor continued, ignoring Sam, “There’s a thinness here that shouldn’t be. This isn’t the site of a rift. So these things you call demons,” he turned back to the other men, “They’re some sort of alien?”
The Winchesters broke into simultaneous peals of laughter that echoed inappropriately off the dark alley walls.
“Aliens don’t exist, dude. Those demons are real demons. You know, from Hell.”
The Doctor stared at them seriously. “You don’t remember a few years back when the Daleks stole the planet? Whole new sky…? Were you lot asleep the whole time?”
“What’s a Dalek?” they both asked, voices in perfect unison.
“No,” the Doctor said incredulously, raising his screwdriver and pointing it first at Dean, then at Sam. Both of them tensed up, neither sure it wasn’t a weapon, but nothing happened but that strange, warbling noise. The Sonic Screwdriver popped up and the odd man looked at it, gasping. “No! This isn’t possible. Nothing about this can possibly be evenly slightly possible.”
“Hey,” Dean asked irrelevantly, “If that’s a Sonic Screwdriver, why does it have the light? That just for show, or?”
The Doctor rolled his eyes. “You humans, never focusing on what’s important.”
Humans. The man—no, not a man—said it in a way the made Dean certain the Doctor wasn’t human. Both the hunters raised their guns, aiming for the stranger.
“What are you?” Dean spat.
“I,” the Doctor answered quietly, his hands raised but not appearing afraid, “am not someone you want to point those things at. You believe in demons and spirits, but not aliens?”
“Well, then, you need to open your minds. I’m an alien. But I’m not just from another planet. I’m from another universe entirely, and I’ve landed here by an impossible mistake.”
“If it was impossible, how did it happen?” Sam asked, a little snarkily.
“I can’t very well figure that out if you two stand here all night threatening me. I’m not human, no, but why does that mean I want to hurt you? Or anyone? I’m just here to help.”
“Why do you look human? Did you steal that body?” Dean held his gun steady but was having doubts about his original opinion of the Doctor. He seemed sincere, and that made the hunter want to trust him.
“Steal it? No, this is just how I look. I’m a Time Lord. You lot look like us, but there are differences. I have two hearts. If you’ll let me,” he began to slip a hand into his pocket, then slowly withdrew a stethoscope, “I can prove this body isn’t human. Listen to my hearts.” He tossed it to Sam who caught it easily.
Though his younger brother didn’t need telling to be cautious, Dean said it anyway. Rolling his eyes back at his brother, Sam lowered his gun and raised the stethoscope to the supposed-alien’s chest. After a moment, he let out a small gasp.
“It’s true. Two heartbeats.”
Dean reluctantly lowered his gun. He’d never heard of anything with more than one heart, so the Doctor could be on the level. Something about the man seemed honest and straight-forward, but Dean wasn’t prone to trusting strangers easily.
The Doctor lowered his hands and took the stethoscope back from Sam. “Well, now that no one’s threatening me anymore, I can try to find out how I got here. It wasn’t through a crack in the time vortex, or I would have felt it. So how?” The last words were clearly spoken to himself, and he once again turned and began to point his Sonic Screwdriver in random directions.
A few moments later, the warbling sound rose in pitch until it was almost unbearable to the Winchesters. Dean covered his ears with his hands, so he only saw the Doctor’s lips move, forming frantic words, and then the two-hearted being dashed off down the alley, motioning for the brothers to follow. The expression on the Doctor’s face—fear—made him take his hands from his ears and shout, “What? Where are you going? What’s happening?”
The high-pitched noise was gone now, so he and Sam could hear the Doctor when he replied almost frantically, “Run!”
But the Winchesters didn’t move; they weren’t about to follow a strange creature further down a dark alley—Dean still wasn’t sure this so-called Time Lord wasn’t involved in the disappearances.
Before he could make a decision on whether or not to follow the Doctor, the world around him shifted in some way that he couldn’t exactly perceive with his usual senses. Dean suddenly knew that something was terribly wrong with his surroundings, and he was sure, for a millisecond, that what had happened to the missing people was about to happen to him and Sam.
Closing his eyes and drawing in a slow breath, adrenaline stretching time out as it will, Dean decided he should have gone after the Doctor. The lids of his eyes slid open again; he would not face whatever was coming with his eyes closed.
What he saw was more shocking than anything he had imagined. A dark, off-the-rack suit, a loose blue tie that was almost inexplicably twisted and disheveled, a shadow of a beard, tousled black hair—Dean saw all this in an instant, but his vision settled on those blue eyes, and he said, feeling at once a mixture of relief, hope, sorrow, and despair that was so powerful and confusing that he could hardly make heads or tails of his emotions, “Cas.”
Dean thought he heard Sam say something similar beside him, and then the angel was touching both of them on the forehead, and they were at the end of the alley, next to that weird blue telephone booth. The Doctor opened the door with a key, shouting something—Dean wasn’t sure what, but he knew it didn’t matter—and Castiel pushed the Winchesters inside.
The Doctor closed the door behind them and sighed, leaning up against it. “Well, that was close, wasn’t it? You boys should learn to run when I tell you to run. Cardio is very important.” He smiled. “Who’s your friend?”
Dean didn’t answer; it all made sense now. He was dreaming again. Each night was a toss-up between having nightmares in which he witnessed the people he loved dying again and again or dreams in which his friends and family were still alive. He often dreamed that Cas was still with them, always there when he called, always willing to help. Those nights were worse than the ones filled with horrors; waking from a nightmare was a relief, but waking from a wonderful dream to an empty, grey world was soul-crushing after a while.
This was a pretty messed-up dream, what with the aliens and all, but Dean assumed he was in the Impala, Sam driving them ever closer to the case in Atlanta. He’d just fallen asleep wondering what could be taking the people, and now his subconscious was playing out this bizarre, nonsensical scenario in hopes of figuring something out. Sometimes dreams could be useful, but this one was a bust.
Still, he might as well go along with it.
There was a long silence after the Doctor’s question; the Winchesters were staring at Cas, and the angel was avoiding meeting their eyes now, his expression a little embarrassed and almost ashamed—and he looked so strange without his trench coat, like he was too small. Eventually Cas answered himself, saying, “My name is Castiel, and I was sent here to help you.”
“Help me?” the Doctor asked quietly. “Help me with what? And who sent you?”
“I don’t know with what, but God sent me.”
The two-hearted man’s mouth twitched up in an almost-smile as he said, “God? Like, the God?”
“Yes,” Cas’s voice had an unmistakable edge of an added, “Problem?” as he spoke. “And he sent me here just in time.” Turning to look at the Winchesters at last, he continued, “I know you sensed something happening back there. I can only assume I am meant to help this man discover what it was.”
Dean frowned, not because of what Cas was saying, but because by this point, when he realized he was dreaming, he usually began to slip into consciousness, especially if he was sleeping in the Impala while Sam was driving. But everything still seem solid, vivid.
For a single moment he allowed himself hope, but he crushed it ruthlessly. This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be. Cas was gone, and he certainly wasn’t standing inside a blue booth with an alien—
Glancing around the room, Dean finally noticed the discrepancy in the size of the interior of the phone booth. “Uh,” he interrupted, “Where the hell are we? This place—it’s bigger on the inside.”
“Yes!” The Doctor’s voice was bright, “Welcome to the TARDIS. That’s T-A-R-D-I-S, stands for—”
“But, wait, is this your alien spaceship or something?” Sam asked.
“Time and relative dimensions in space,” the Doctor finished, “And yes, it’s my ship. It does time and space. Best in the universe. So, Castiel, some entity sent you to help me. That means this is big. Dangerous.” He was grinning. “And it’s impossible, of course. I love impossible.” Eyes darting from face to face in the room—which looked to Dean like something off the set of a cheesy sci-fi movie, full of useless knobs and crazily designed gadgets—something changed in the Doctor’s expression, and he quipped, “Sam, I need your help. We have to figure out what’s going on, and for that I’ll need to know what brought me here. I think it might have to do with you and your brother.”
“Okay,” Sam nodded, looking dubious, but he followed the man to the other side of the room, where the Doctor began to speak quietly to him and wave that Sonic Screwdriver thing around. Even from that distance, Dean noticed that his brother was pressing the center of his palm; Dean didn’t blame him for doubting what was real.
Oddly accurate dream he was having. Very realistic, if you looked beyond the aliens.
“Dean,” Cas’s voice brought the hunter back to Earth—relatively speaking. “I want to apologize again for what I did. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I promise I will never lie to you or conceal anything from you again.”
This dream wasn’t really like the others; usually everyone went along as if nothing had ever happened. Cas never apologized because in Dean’s ideal world the angel had nothing to seek forgiveness for.
What if this is real? wondered a small voice in Dean’s mind. What if he’s really back?
“Cas, I want to forgive you. I want to let it go. But you let the Leviathan into the world. It’s gonna take time for me to trust you again.”
They both knew the Leviathan weren’t the reason Dean was having trouble looking Castiel in the eyes. The hunter had trusted his friend completely—he’d had complete faith in the angel—and Cas betrayed them. The only reason Dean wasn’t punching him in the mouth was that he knew he’d done it all with pure intentions. Cas had been trying to shoulder the responsibility of saving the world from becoming the battleground of some petty sibling feud.
Glancing around, Dean set his shotgun on the nearest available surface, beginning to surrender to the idea that he was awake and all this was real. Stranger things had happened to him, and an alien from an alternate reality wasn’t impossible, as he and Sam knew well.
He turned back to face Cas, stepping towards the other and pulling him into an embrace. “I’m glad you’re alive,” he whispered, “I’m still pissed. But you’re family." He released the angel and moved back quickly; the hug had been awkward, as if Castiel hadn’t been sure what to do with himself—or perhaps he was just surprised.
“Thank you,” the angel murmured. “And what I said before the Leviathan—” His eyes flickered down, and he swallowed, as if trying not to remember something painful, “I meant it. I will redeem myself.”
A sudden beeping coming from the weird-looking consol in the middle of the room prevented Dean from answering, though he hadn’t been sure of what to say, anyway. He was still sorting himself out, because Cas was back. This was real.
Across the room, the Doctor exclaimed, “Oh, well that’s interesting! Dean, Castiel, come over here for a moment,” he waved them towards him, eyes not leaving the screen he was looking at.
“So,” the bow-tie-wearing man began as the other three stood beside him, peering at the screen. To Dean it looked like a bunch of random circles and other nonsense, but apparently the Doctor could read it. “I was asking myself how I could have gotten here to this universe, but I realized that wasn’t the question that mattered—at least not at the moment. What’s really important is how the TARDIS still has power. You see, she’s draws the energy she uses from the universe, but it has to be my universe.” He stepped away from the screen and began to pace, talking quickly and gesturing demonstratively.
“But obviously she still has power, which means the TARDIS is still connected to the universe I came from. But that’s impossible, because I’m not in my universe.”
“Maybe the doorway is still open?” Sam suggested.
The Doctor was shaking his head. “I didn’t fall through a crack in the time vortex, or come through a doorway. There are no doorways.”
“Bullshit,” Dean interrupted, “We went to a parallel universe once,” he grimaced, “It was weird, but it happened.”
“You did?” the Doctor paused his pacing and took a pair of what appeared to be old-school 3D glasses out of his breast pocket. Putting them on and looking around the room, he laughed, “No, you can’t have gone. There’s no void residue on you.”
The Winchesters were taken aback by the Time Lord’s easy dismissal of their claims. “Uh, yeah, we did go. An angel sent us with some kinda spell,” Dean insisted, a little annoyed.
“Angels?” The Doctor’s voice was laced with mirth, “Angels and demons. What an interesting place I’ve landed. I hope these angels aren’t as violent as that little demon I met.”
“That would depend on which one of us you met,” Cas replied seriously. “Some angels have no love for mortals.”
“You’re an angel?” He laughed, “Well, I better not blink then, eh?” Chuckling, he glanced around the room, as if waiting for everyone else to get his joke. “Ah, yes, that’s right,” he murmured, sounding almost sad, “Never mind. So you’re an angel. No fluffy white wings?”
“This is just a vessel. I cannot be on this plane of existence in my true form.”
“A vessel?” The Doctor pulled out his Screwdriver and aimed it at Cas, scanning him quickly then looking at whatever reading it displayed. “My, you’re lucky people are bigger on the inside, or you wouldn’t fit. So it’s alright for him to use a human body as a host, but you were about to shoot me over the same thing?” He gave the Winchesters a disapproving glare. “Talk about double-standards”
“This body is not occupied by anyone else,” Cas said, surprising everyone. “Jimmy Novak’s soul is in paradise. This form was made for my use, I suppose so that you would recognize me.”
The TARDIS beeped again, drawing everyone’s attention back to it. The Doctor glanced at the screen, nodded, then resumed pacing. “As I was saying, I didn’t come through a crack, because if I had, the TARDIS wouldn’t be running at full capacity. The energy of the universe can’t traverse the void.”
“The void?” both Winchesters asked in unison.
“It’s what separates all universes. It’s the space between reality.” Their expressions, or maybe just Dean’s, must have prompted him to explain more fully what the hell he was talking about. “There are an infinite number of universes, each one arising from a different choice or action that was made. Some are similar to each other, some radically different.”
Everyone else nodded during the short pause in the Doctor’s explanation, even Castiel, who probably knew most or all of this already.
“In between them is the void, where there isn’t time or space or anything. Imagine the universes like bubbles, and you have this huge group of bubbles all floating around but not touching.”
“Okay.” Dean nodded.
“It’s nothing like that, really, but if the image helps.” He shrugged. “To travel between universes, you have to go through the void. Only I didn’t, somehow.” Stopping mid-pace, the Doctor’s eyes grew wide, and he whirled to face the hunters.
“You said something was taking people?”
They nodded, perplexed by the sudden change in topic.
“There isn’t a rift here, the TARDIS would pick it up. Which means the people are slipping into another universe through other means, the same way I got here.”
“Which is?” Sam asked impatiently.
“Impossible.” The Doctor ran a hand through his already-disheveled hair. “But there’s no other way.”
Sitting down on a strange bench-like chair near the center consol, Dean said sarcastically, “Let us know when you wanna stop being so mysterious.”
“I’ll need to run more tests before I’m sure.”
The knock on the door was so innocuous that at first no one seemed to notice, then it was repeated, a little more loudly, but still polite.
“What?” the Doctor said, giving the door a perplexed stare. Whoever was outside knocked again, and finally the owner of the ship—or whatever it was, time machine, weird blue magic phone booth—made his way to the entrance, opening the door slowly.
Dean was too far away to hear the exchange of words, but the Doctor seemed pleased about something, then confused. The hunter was distracted from eavesdropping by the sudden ringing of a telephone, though, which he saw on the consol. Thoughtlessly, he stood and picked it up, ignoring a look from his brother as he did so. Sam probably thought it was rude, but he wasn’t about to sit around listening to an annoying ringing phone.
“Uh, hello?” he said, wondering what sort of person called a time machine at this hour of the night.
“Who is this?!” demanded a woman’s voice, her accent sounding British—no, Scottish, maybe, Dean corrected himself. Probably Scottish. “Where’s the Doctor, and why is he letting random Americans answer the phone when he should be coming to pick up me and my husband? Well?!”
“Whoa, calm down lady, I’m just, yeah the Doctor guy’s here, but we’re kinda dealing with a situation and—”
“Put the Doctor on, and tell him he’s two hours late!”
Dean covered the receiver and called over to the door, “Hey, Doc, phone call, some chick who sounds pissed. Says you’re late.”
The Doctor had stepped out of the TARDIS, but he popped his head back in, frowning. “You answered my phone? Don’t do that! And oh,” he looked at his watch, “Tell her I’ll call her back in a bit, and that I promise I won’t be much longer!”
“He says he’ll call ya back,” Dean relayed the message cautiously; the woman on the other end of the line seemed fiery to say the least. “In just a few minutes.”
“Tell him he better,” she threatened, “And I’ll be looking forward to meeting the man who the Doctor lets run around answering his phone when he snaps at his own mother-in-law for doing it.” The line clicked dead after that.
Dean hung up slowly, wondering where the Doctor’s wife was, if he had a mother-in-law. Or maybe she’d been joking. “That was weird,” he commented to his brother, who was awkwardly loitering a few feet away, staring around the room.
“What part of this isn’t weird?” Sam retorted, still pressing his palm almost desperately.
“Sam, Dean,” the Doctor called, once again stepping back into the TARDIS, “You’ve got a friend out here who’s looking for you!” His smile was almost infectious, and perhaps Dean himself would have grinned, but he knew he and Sam had no friends left outside that room, which meant trouble.
“Weird thing is,” the Time Lord continued, “He looks like someone I used to know back in my universe. Weird how these things work out, isn’t it?” As he said those last words, the Doctor’s smile faded; he’d probably noticed the other three men’s expressions.
Dean picked up the shotgun he’d set down earlier, and Sam did the same. Then the three wordlessly walked towards the door, even Cas’s posture that of someone preparing for a fight.
“Why are you all so serious?” the Doctor asked nervously, “Is he not a friend?”
“Not likely,” Dean replied, pushing open the door. Standing in the alley a few yards away was Crowley, looking bored and impatient.
“Oh, nice of you to finally come out and say hello,” he rolled his eyes, “Just keep me waiting as long as you like. Not like I’m the king of Hell or anything.”
“What do you want?” Cas asked, stepping out of the TARDIS behind Dean and Sam.
“Well, look who decided to come back to life. Where’s that tan coat of yours? Finally decide to care about fashion?” Crowley began to meander towards them, but the Winchesters simultaneously raised their guns, and he stopped, lifting his hands up. “I’m just here to chat, not start a fight, so how about you put those things away?”
“Yeah, no,” Sam replied. “What do you want to chat about?”
“Don’t be daft. You know why I’m here. Something’s going on, and I want to help you figure out what.”
“Why?” Dean narrowed his eyes.
“Because nearly thirty people have gone missing here in the last two weeks. Things like that are bad for business, because those people didn’t die, they were taken. And some of those souls belonged to me.”
“Souls?” the Doctor said, joining the group in the alley, but standing next to the door, which he didn’t allow to close all the way.
“Oh, he didn’t mention? This guy runs Hell.” Sam’s expression was one of false mirth. “Great friend of ours.”
“Somebody’s got to be the bad guy,” Crowley shrugged. “And I’m an improvement on Lucifer, or the Leviathan.”
“Marginally less of a douchebag, still a douchebag.”
“So you want to help?” the Doctor interrupted, “I have an idea about what could be happening, but it’s impossible, so any other information you have about this—” He paused. “Wait a moment, Dean, what was the name of the woman who called me?”
“Uh, she didn’t give a name. Some Scottish chick who was pretty forceful. Said she was your mother-in-law.”
“That was definitely Amy,” he muttered to himself, “which means…” Letting his sentence trail off, the Doctor spun back to his TARDIS and ran inside. After a few seconds, everyone in the alley followed, even Crowley, despite the Winchesters’ collective mean glare.
The elder brother noticed Cas wasn’t taking his eyes off the demon and was staying in a position from which he could easily move to defend his friends. Dean felt a surge of gratitude, but it was cut off by the memory of what Cas had done.
What if I never get over that? Dean wondered as he stepped back into that strange control room.
“It’s unlikely there’s a version of me in this universe, since no one’s met any aliens, and let’s face it,” the Doctor gave them all an apologetic smile, “I sort of cause trouble wherever I go. Not that I mean to! It just happens. Anyway, that means that the woman who called the TARDIS wasn’t from this universe, but mine. She’s my Amy, and it’s absolutely impossible for her to call me. Not even the TARDIS can pick up signals from across the void—it’s like sound travelling through space, simply doesn’t happen.”
“But it did happen,” Sam said, his words almost a question.
“Which means there’s a link to my universe, also impossible.”
“Dear God, does this man think anything is possible?” Crowley grumbled.
“Probably that it’s possible to kick your ass right outta here,” Dean threatened, gun still trained on the demon.
“You said you were sent to another universe?” the Doctor asked the Winchesters suddenly. They nodded.
“It was freaky.”
“I believe you,” he said slowly, “Which means it’s possible to travel between universes without going through the void. But how?”
Castiel spoke up. “I know nothing of the void, but I do know that the spell used to create a gateway to another reality requires a great deal of energy. From my understanding of it, the power draws the universes together for a brief moment, long enough to send something or someone through.”
“So they touch. Fascinating. That’s brilliant! Our two universes must be touching in the same way, though the amount of power to sustain it over a period of two weeks must be—”
“An impossible amount,” Cas finished. “Nothing could do that.”
“Something is,” the Doctor chimed, seeming happy. “And we need to find out what, because this is very dangerous.”
“People are slipping through, aren’t they?” Sam asked, “That’s where the missing people are, your universe.”
“Most likely, or another universe that’s also touching this one. Remember the bubbles-in-a-room image? Picture some of the bubbles drifting together and then touching.”
“That’s what’s happening?” Dean asked.
“No, because universes don’t drift like that. The term parallel realities is accurate; they are all running parallel, running on infinitely but never crossing. Ever. The void is the space between.”
“So,” Dean began slowly, “Universes are like really long, line-like bubbles floating in a vacuum.” He chuckled, “What if one pops?”
“Normally, only that universe would end. But at the moment, if, say, I accidentally destroy my universe—”
“He sounds like that’s likely to happen. Is it likely to happen?” asked Crowley.
“This universe would also be destroyed, and any others touching it.”
“Isn’t it hard to destroy an entire universe?” Cas asked seriously.
The Doctor shrugged, evasive. “It’s not as hard as one might think. I mean. You know, sometimes things go wrong.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “That’s not the point. What matters is fixing this, preventing the universes from touching. First step is finding out just how many are effected by…the…thing causing it.”
“You’re not a real doctor, are you?” Crowley’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.
“Feel free to kick him out at any time, Doctor,” Dean commented.
The phone rang again, and the Doctor suddenly looked nervous as he answered it. “Hello? Don’t worry, I’m on my way right this second, just have to—no, I’m not off on some adventure, I got lost and—well excuse me if I ended up in Atlanta—what do you mean, picking up boys?! I’m not picking up boys—tell River if you want, she’s no cause to be jealous, I just ran into—stop talking—fine, fine, I’m leaving right now, see? You can hear the TARDIS starting up. I’ll just be a moment.”
As he’d been talking, the Doctor began to push buttons and press switches; the consol in the middle of the room began to make a weird, scratchy noise, and the center moved. A second later, Dean almost fell over, and he had to lower his shotgun in order to grab onto a nearby rail. Everyone else in the room seemed similarly occupied with not tumbling off the raised platform.
“What the hell is wrong with this thing?!” Dean demanded.
“Nothing at all!” responded the Doctor cheerfully, “She’s in perfect order, not having any trouble getting back to our universe.”
At last the TARDIS came to a stop, and for a moment no one but the Doctor moved. He seemed fine with this, saying quickly, “Don’t go wondering off, I’m just popping in to collect my friends, then I’ll take you lot back to your own universe.”
Though none of the men, demons, or angels in the TARDIS knew it, when they all simultaneously decided to ignore the Doctor’s orders and go investigate this different universe, the Time Lord would not have been at all surprised.
Dean poked his head eagerly out the door but was disappointed to see they’d landed on a boring dark residential street. The houses were small and squashed together, and the air felt like summer. The area looked vaguely British. Or maybe they were in Scotland?
Either way, it was boring, and the doorway to the TARDIS was getting a little crowded with four people trying to see outside without actually leaving the time machine. Dean didn’t like Crowley being that close to his unprotected back. He turned around and shoved his way past the demon, who grumbled and said something undoubtedly pithy under his breath.
The consol seemed oddly still and quiet after that brief but jostling trip. Meandering over to it, Dean stretched out a hand to touch a random knob.
“Don’t think you should mess with it,” Sam advised, striding over and putting his gun down on the bench. “Alien technology. Who knows what those buttons do.”
A heavy silence settled over the brothers; Dean heard Cas and Crowley step outside, their voices low and drifting away.
“You look like you’re going to a funeral,” Sam began after a long moment. “Cas is back. This is good news, remember?” When Dean didn’t respond, his brother continued, “He messed up, but it’s not like I haven’t—and you, too. I mean, we kinda accidentally started the apocalypse. And Cas was always there to help us. He just made some bad decisions.”
“Just gonna take time,” the other said at last. “I’m glad he’s alive. I am.”
“Four hours late!” Dean and Sam turned to look out the open TARDIS door; a stunningly beautiful redhead in a bikini was walking towards them, shouting at the Doctor. “Are you ever on time for anything?!”
She was carrying bags, and a man was following her. He was also dressed for the beach and carrying a suitcase. The redhead was way out of his league.
“I’m sorry I was late, but I ended up in another universe! Doesn’t that count for anything?”
“At least he got here this decade,” the man joked. The three had reached the TARDIS, and the two new people paused just inside, taking in the Winchesters.
“So you were picking up boys, Doctor,” said the woman, “Not too bad, either.” She walked past them, towards a hallway. “Let’s put our things away, Rory.”
“Nice to meet you,” the man—Rory—nodded at them as he passed, and the brothers quickly introduced themselves.
“Now, where’re your two friends? I told them not to go wondering off…” The Doctor poked his head outside, calling for the angel and the demon. In a few seconds they were striding back into the TARDIS. “Alright! Just going to pop back over to your universe and drop you all off. I don’t even know how to begin addressing the problem of the universes touching, but I’ll figure something out. Always do. I’ll work on it after the Ponds’ vacation.” Dean assumed the man was mostly talking to himself, so he didn’t comment. “You lot just stay away from Atlanta. I’m sorry, but I don’t know where your missing people are, and I could spend a lifetime looking. To recover them I’ll have to figure out how many universes are touching, and at what points.”
“So we’re just supposed to go home and forget it? Maybe put up some caution tape?” By his tone it was clear that Sam wasn’t going to take the Doctor’s answer. Dean felt the same way—he didn’t know how they could help, but they had to do something.
“Well,” the Doctor hesitated, “I don’t really think they’ll want you along for their anniversary trip,” he nodded towards the hallway the two newcomers had retreated to.
“You’re going on vacation, and people all over who knows how many universes are disappearing into God knows where?” Dean crossed his arms, watching Sam do the same in his periphery.
The alien looked torn, then relented, “Ahhhh you’re right, I just can’t. I’ll have to drop the Ponds off and come back for them.”
“Drop us off where, now?” the redhead asked, coming back into the control room, or whatever it was.
“At the beach! You’ll be safe, I promise.”
“Hah! You’ve got a lousy track record for safe, Doctor. We’re sticking with you.”
He smiled. “Then you better change.” Glancing around, he asked, “All aboard? Good! Let’s go save the multi-verse!”
The TARDIS began to move again as the Doctor leapt about, pulling levers and hitting buttons seemingly at random.
“Do you even know how to drive this bloody thing?” Crowley called, clinging to a rail in a very undignified manner.
“Of course I do! Been driving her for centuries!”
“He’s like an old person who doesn’t realize how bad he is,” Sam joked, and the brothers began to laugh.
The TARDIS shuddered to a stop, and the lights went out.
“What’s happened?” Rory and Amy were back, dressed in normal clothing now.
“Dear God, he really doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
“Shut up, Crowley,” Cas growled, “This man is very important—”
“Yeah, yeah.” The demon waved his hand dismissively.
“No, no, no!” the Doctor exclaimed, “This can’t be happening!”
“What is it, Doctor?” the redhead asked. Suddenly she turned a flashlight on. It occurred to Dean that he should learn her name. She was really hot. What had the Doctor said her name was?
“We’re in the void,” he whispered, leaning his forehead against his palms. “We’re stuck in the bloody void!”
“But you said the void was gone!”
“It was! And now it’s not. I’m so sorry.” He looked up at them. “We’re trapped here. Forever.”
“That’s pretty melodramatic,” Sam insisted, “there has to be a way—”
“Without power, the TARDIS can’t take us home. She draws her power from my universe, and we’re completely cut off.”
As if to contradict him, something bright and glowing appeared in the middle of the room. After his eyes adjusted, Dean saw that it was a woman. Her curly black hair was messily put up, and her dress had seen better days. Nice rack, though.
“Hello, Doctor,” she said, but her voice was wrong in a way Dean couldn’t understand. There was a darkness in it, an emptiness.
“But you’re…” He looked like he was talking to a ghost. Maybe he was.
“We are not your TARDIS. We are merely utilizing this form to communicate our final message to you.”
“Who are you? No, wait, that doesn’t even matter—how are you doing this? Any of it? It’s all—”
“Even if you cannot fathom things with your small, finite mine, they still may happen. You believe your little box to be impenetrable?” She laughed, and it made Dean want to sprint from the room screaming. He’d faced monsters since he was a teenager, and this bitch was terrifying him. What was she? “This machine is simple.”
“What are you, then?!” the Doctor demanded, sounding offended.
“We are the Voidsong.”
“And that is?” he crossed his arms. “Go on, we’ve got the rest of our lives.”
She smirked. “You are always the same, Doctor. No matter how many of you we trap here, you always speak with such arrogance, such assurance in your abilities. If you knew us truly, your mind would shatter.” She paused. “We told you what we are. We are the song of the void.”
“That is the closest word you material things have to describe us. Words, but more than words, a voice, but woven into it layers of meaning that can be interpreted in many ways. We are the Voidsong, we are infinite, and you will waste away here in the blink of an eye while we destroy everything you have ever sought to protect.”
The Doctor began to laugh. “You—you’re telling me that the void is alive, and you’re it?”
“We are not alive.”
“Some sort of computer, then?”
“No. You cannot comprehend what we are. We are Voidsong, and you are the very last thing standing in our way.”
“Well, bad day for you, then, isn’t it? Because I’m the only one you don’t want keeping you from your plans, whatever they are.”
“We have trapped all other versions of you, Doctor. You are different by only a margin.” Her smile was wicked, triumphant. “And that margin will never be enough. Goodbye Doctor. We could kill you, but that will happen in time, and our efforts are needed elsewhere. I wonder, will you also resort to cannibalism? Most of the others did.” And with that, she flickered away, and they were left with only the redhead’s flashlight to see by.
“Did—did that bitch just James-Bond-villain it up? Really? She’s gonna leave us here to die?” Sam shook his head.
Almost everyone else laughed, though Cas only stood awkwardly, looking vaguely confused.
Glancing at the redhead, the elder Winchester commented, “I’m Dean, by the way, and this is my brother Sam.” He managed a smile. “And just so you know, no one’s eating anyone. We’ve got bullets to go around if it comes to that.”
“I’m Amy,” she said hesitantly, “And no one’s shooting anyone! We’re getting out of here. And who are they, then?” She nodded to Cas and Crowley.
After everyone had been properly introduced, an awkward silence fell. There wasn’t a clock in the room, but Dean could practically hear one ticking away the minutes of their lives. Dying in a time machine with an alien. Not how he thought he’d go.
The Doctor, meanwhile, was underneath the glass platform, searching for something. After about five minutes, he cursed, saying, “The Voidsong must have drained all the reserve power! It’s useless.”
“Great, me and angel boy trapped here for the rest of eternity with your corpses. Just what I always wanted—a bloody wife.” Crowley rolled his eyes. “Wish I could starve to death like the rest of you.”
“I could kill ya right now if you want,” Dean offered amicably.
“Are we resorting to that already?” Rory joked. “It’s only been five minutes. We could at least tough it out another half hour.” His laugh was awkward.
Cas was making his way to where the Doctor sat, head in hands. Dean watched the angel silently, wondering what it would be like for him to watch his only friends die in front of him, powerless to stop it.
“Doctor,” Castiel began; the alien looked up. “This ship is powered by energy from your universe?”
“You have three sources available to you, why not utilize them?”
“You mean us, me and Amy and Rory? There’s no way we could supply enough, not to mention I have no way to interface living people with the TARDIS.”
“You have the energy, and I can access it. But it will be painful.”
“And how will you get it to the TARDIS?”
“That’s what we should work out. We have time,” Cas almost smiled. He’d made a joke. Dean found himself grinning, then stopped. They were still almost certainly going to die here, unless the Doctor and Cas could somehow magically whip up a solution to an impossible problem.
If he’d asked Amy or Rory, they would have told him that solving impossible problems was almost easy for the Doctor, but he didn’t. Instead, he sat quietly, staring at nothing, thinking about the many points of his life that he wished had been different. The things he wished he could take back, all the things he should have said and done. In short, he was preparing to die.
Amy and Rory had somehow found a Scrabble board and were setting up a game. The latter was placing a few candles around the area, lighting them so as to spare the flashlight’s batteries. Sam wondered over and politely asked to join; they accepted readily. Crowley also joined, asking less nicely, but hey, there were four places, so why not?
“Don’t worry,” Amy said as she arranged her letters in front of her, “the Doctor’s smarter than he looks. They’ll figure it out.”
“What’s with the bow-tie?” Sam asked in a low voice.
“I have no idea. He thinks it’s cool. Whatever you do, don’t let him near any sort of stupid hat.”
“Oh, God no,” Rory agreed. “Remember the fez?”
“Destroy all fezzes on sight,” Amy advised seriously.
Dean stopped listening at that point. They had hope, faith, maybe, but he didn’t. Not in some random time-traveler and an angel who looked half his normal size without a trench coat. Cas’s missing garment was currently residing a million billion miles away, in the trunk of the Impala, nestled next to Dean’s oldest and favorite shotgun. He resolved to give it back to his friend if they got out of this.
Time passed meaninglessly; the Scrabble game ended, and someone found a deck of cards and thought Texas Hold ‘Em would be fun. Sam invited Dean to join, but he declined.
Without warning, the screaming started. Everyone jumped, and Dean was halfway to where Cas and the Doctor sat beneath the raised platform before he realized what was happening—the angel was tapping into the alien’s soul—or whatever he had that was like a soul. Said alien had managed to calm his scream into a whimper, but Dean could tell the man was in horrible pain. Across the room, Sam was physically keeping Amy and Rory from interrupting what the angel was doing. He didn’t blame them for wanting to.
“This better work,” he mumbled to no one, turning away. What felt like hours later, the Doctor grew quiet, and the lights came back on in the TARDIS.
Despite his obvious agony, the Time Lord sprang up, making his way to the controls, starting the ship up. “We should make it back. Dean, check on Cas,” his words were interrupted by the sound of the engines—or whatever they were—making their grinding noise. The TARDIS began to move violently. “See if he’s still alive.”
“What?!” Cas, Dean saw, was lying below the platform, motionless, his arm connected to wiring. The angel’s eyes were closed, and the man couldn’t tell if he was breathing because of the violent motion of the TARDIS.
Kneeling beside him, Dean checked his pulse; there, but weak. “If you die, you son of a bitch,” he threatening in a whisper, “I’ll pull your ass back from angel hell and kill you again myself.”
The TARDIS landed; Dean distantly heard a sound that was likely the Doctor collapsing, then footsteps that were probably Amy and Rory going to check on him. Suddenly Sam was next to his brother.
“He’s alive,” Dean said preemptively, “Barely.” But as he spoke, Cas gasped, eyes opening.
“Yeah. Cas, are you—?”
Cas sat up, pulling the wiring from his arm, then nodded. “Good. I can only assume that was what God sent me back for. The Voidsong said that all other versions of the Doctors failed. Perhaps he needed me to escape.” He looked up, through the glass. “Is the Doctor alright?”
“I’m fine!” the man in question answered, “Just a bit wibbly. We’re back in Atlanta, right where we left.”
“Great,” Dean said, standing, “I need something from my car. Coming, Sammy?”
“Yeah.” Giving one last look at the angel, who nodded that he was alright, the Winchesters left the TARDIS, still cautious in the dark, deserted pre-dawn.
They’d parked the Impala a few blocks down, but the trip didn’t take long. Dean remembered the building they’d stopped in front of, and—
The car was gone.
He felt that his mouth was slightly open but didn’t care. His car—his baby—was stolen. Stolen!
“Man, fuck Atlanta!” he shouted. “I cannot believe this!”
All their guns and supplies—their whole lives—gone.
“Well, shit,” Sam shook his head. “Can we not have like, one good day? Ever?”
“The Doctor has a time machine. Maybe we can go back and un-steal it.”
The Winchesters turned back towards the TARDIS. They didn’t notice the odd thinness of the area around where their car had been, or that roughly ten seconds had passed since they’d left, which wasn’t much time for someone to steal a car in.
They also didn’t know that somewhere very, very far away, in a London similar to their own in many ways but strikingly different in one, a Detective Inspector was about to receive a very strange phone call, and that the Detective Inspector in question would then call another man, one who specialized in strange things and unsolvable crimes.
The Doctor and his companions will return in
The Case of the Impossible Impala!
Chapter 2: The Case of the Impossible Impala
The search for the Impala leads the Doctor and his new friends to a very interesting universe.
The Case of the Impossible Impala
John Watson had long been in the habit of idly coming up with catchy names for cases as he assisted Sherlock Holmes in solving them. The more popular his blog became, the more he enjoyed crafting the descriptions of these cases, and sometimes he felt he was rather clever and not a half-bad writer. The doctor knew that alliteration could be taken too far, but he felt “The Case of the Impossible Impala” rolled off the tongue nicely.
Cold wind attempted to dishevel his collar; he pulled his scarf up a little, hunching down slightly. Though he was nowhere near as skilled as his flatmate, John did attempt to take in he entire scene, thinking that this wasn’t what he’d expected to be doing when he woke up that morning.
The sun had risen over a familiar scene in 221B Baker Street—Sherlock was pacing around the living room talking to himself. Unfortunately, he’d been doing that all night, as John had been painfully aware. Occasionally the man had exclaimed something that made little sense to his friend, like, “But what about the cappuccino?!” or, “The bees! The bees!” He had a case that was one of the most confusing ones to John, and even Sherlock seemed to be drawing to a dead end on it.
Midmorning, Lestrade had called Sherlock, who, of course, had been far too busy looking at some books on the species of bees in Italy to be bothered actually answering his mobile, so he’d shouted at John to get it and put it on speakerphone.
“Sherlock, I’ve got a case.” Lestrade sounded puzzled.
“I’m already on a case!” he’d barked in reply, “Sorry, you’ll have to—”
“I really think you’ll want to see this one. It’s… I can’t explain it, really. I promise it won’t disappoint.”
“Too busy,” Sherlock replied again, flipping a page, “but I’ll send John over. He can take notes, or—dear God! The bees! It was the bees!” He stood up and sprinted out of the room, hardly stopping to grab his coat and scarf on his way.
So John Watson had asked Lestrade for the address, and an hour later he was standing on the roof of a thirty-story office building, looking at a classic car that was inexplicably parked there.
“American, obviously,” John said, walking around the car, trying his best to be Sherlock but knowing he was probably missing everything important. “Great condition, recently washed—whoever owns it took care of it. Except,” he peered more closely at the interior, “It also seems pretty lived-in, like whoever owned it drove it places. So not just a show car sitting around in a garage.”
“But how did it get here?” Lestrade asked, shaking his head. “I mean, how do you get a car on top of a building? Any why do it in the first place?”
“Practical joke?” John shrugged, “Maybe a fraternity thing. I’d check out any American students at all the nearby universities, focusing on the wealthier ones. Not cheap to have a car brought over, not to mention however much it cost to get it up here. Have you found any identification?”
“None in the glove box, but we’re working on the boot.” As Lestrade spoke, the locksmith gave a triumphant cry, and with a click it opened. John crowded around the back of the car with everyone else, and when Lestrade opened the false bottom, he was the only one who broke the stunned silence.
“Well. Bit more than a practical joke, then?”
Dean Winchester was slightly worried that when he and Sam turned the corner to the alley where the TARDIS should have been waiting they’d find it gone as well, but it wasn’t. As they approached, the door opened, and Crowley stepped out, looking smug as ever.
“Well, boys, I’m off, but do have fun with your little,” he turned and waved vaguely at the blue box, “alien time machine, and good luck saving the universes, blah, blah.”
Before either of the Winchesters had a chance to reply, the demon was gone. Dean wasn’t sad to see him go, either. Wordlessly, the brothers entered the TARDIS.
The Doctor and Cas both seemed to be recovering, and though it might have been a little insensitive of him, Dean’s first words to them were, “Some dick stole the Impala, so you gotta take us back in time, Doc, so we can un-steal it.”
“Please,” Sam amended politely. “If it’s not too much trouble.”
Dean gave him an exasperated look.
“What?” Sam asked defensively, “We just barely escaped some evil bitch monster and now you’re asking him for favors? At least be nice about it.”
“I would take you back if I could, but I can’t go mucking about in people’s personal time-lines, sorry. But,” he added quickly, turning with a flourish to type something into the consol, “I can track it down!”
“Sweet, thanks,” Sam said, shutting the door behind them. “So, Crowley bailed. No surprises there.”
The TARDIS began to move, and Dean didn’t even bother commenting on the bad driving this time. He was eager to see his baby again, make sure she was alright. He vowed that if some punk had stripped her down in a chop-shop, he’d bring a world of pain to those responsible.
“Well,” Lestrade said after a long moment, “Still doesn’t rule out your fraternity theory, Dr. Watson. Let’s run the serial numbers on these, see if we can track down the source.” He carefully picked up a sawed-off shotgun, “These are illegal even in America. Whatever angle whoever did this was working, I’m just not getting it.”
“I’m calling Sherlock,” John said, pulling out his mobile, “Even he may not be able to make heads or tails of this.”
Sherlock arrived about a half-hour later, looking very pleased with himself. “I solved the case, you’ll be happy to know,” he was almost swaggering as he approached the door to the roof. “The answer was in the bees. I’ll tell you about it for your little blog later.”
“Sure, fine, but this one,” John shook his head. “You won’t be bored for a while.”
The weather was still cold and miserable, but a few rogue bits of sun were peaking through the clouds as the two friends walked out onto the roof. The car was still there, shining impossibly in the afternoon light. Sherlock frowned at it, then glanced at John.
He frowned at the car some more, striding towards it. Eyes flickering in seemingly every direction at once, Sherlock mumbled, “This is a new one.”
“Yeah, it’s…” John let out a long sigh. “I don’t know what. Bizarre. You should see what they found inside it.”
Forensics had already bagged most of the guns and were storing them in evidence boxes, but Lestrade had a small box in his gloved hands, and his expression went from puzzled to shocked when he opened it.
“Fake IDs, looks like,” he commented as John and Sherlock stopped beside him. “American, all of them. Same two guys, a dozen names. Least we have some suspects now.” He handed the box of IDs over to a forensics guy, then gingerly pulled something else out of the boot—a largish tan piece of cloth—no, a coat, John saw as the Detective Inspector held it up.
Lestrade fished around in the pockets, apparently finding nothing until he searched the inside breast pocket. From that he withdrew yet another fake ID—FBI this time. The picture was different from the others, though. Interesting, though to John that didn’t make the situation any clearer. He hoped Sherlock saw something in it all.
The consulting detective was currently buzzing about the car, looking in the interior, inspecting everything. After a few minutes of that, Sherlock suddenly stopped, asking Lestrade if he could speak to the person who found the car.
“Sure,” the Detective Inspector answered, “Janitor found it this morning, he should still be working.”
The three men turned and began to walk towards the door. As it closed behind him, John Watson thought he heard a strange noise, like a scratchy breathing almost, but he dismissed it as random noise from the city below.
The Doctor peaked cautiously out of the TARDIS, something he almost never did when landing in an unknown location. But since the car had been stolen—and since it’d been stolen in a city more well known for its crime than its soda—he thought perhaps a little prudence, however uncharacteristic for him, would not be remiss. A cold wind rushed into the TARDIS, so abrasive that he closed his eyes against it for a moment; when he opened them, he was surprised to see not a dark building occupied by shady criminals, but what looked like a roof of a building. The TARDIS had landed just behind a corner of a wall, but by leaning out a little he could make out the rest of the area. He sniffed, then closed the door, turning to his companions.
“Ah, this is a bit awkward,” he began, “but we seem to have left Atlanta. And probably that universe altogether.”
“What?!” Dean had been pacing since they’d landed, but now he stopped. “You mean instead of—”
“I’m trying to tell you that your car wasn’t stolen,” the Doctor cut in, “It just slipped into another universe.”
“Oh,” Dean’s face was impassive for a moment, then it fell. “Oh. What’s out there? Is it bad? Is she okay? Oh, God, my car got sucked into a black hole, didn’t she?”
“No! No, no,” the Doctor’s voice failed to be entirely reassuring. “It seems to be in London. On a roof. There may or may not be some policemen around it, and forensics…” He trailed off nervously. Dean seemed to have the same attachment to his car that the Doctor had to his TARDIS; he could imagine how annoying it would be if someone broke into his ship and started taking things and bagging them up.
“Shit,” Sam said, “They must’ve found our weapons. So is this version of Earth pretty similar to ours?”
“From what I saw, yes, though we should of course proceed with caution.” Had he really said that? “We’ll wait until it’s dark and then get your car. I imagine they can’t figure out how to get it off the roof, so it should still be here.”
“Should?! What if they—”
“Shh,” the Doctor said, and Dean fell silent, looking a little perplexed. “Everything is going to work out just fine. Now, since we have quite a few hours to kill—”
“But this is a time machine,” Sam interrupted, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes, but look at you lot,” he gestured to all the humans in the room, “You’re all exhausted.” Turning to the typewriter with flourish, he began to input specifications for a few new bedrooms, wondering how the Winchesters felt about bunk-beds.
Amy, as if reading his mind, rolled her eyes. “He’s probably giving you all one room with bunk-beds. Do they make them three beds high?”
“They make them as many beds high as I want,” the Doctor replied, “And bunk-beds are cool.”
Heading off further arguments about the coolness of things that were obviously very cool, he gave them all directions to their rooms (the Ponds’ had moved a little and he’d added a swimming pool to it in an attempt to make up for the lack of beach vacation).
The humans wondered off down the hall; he could hear Dean and Sam arguing over who got top bunk.
“Look,” said Dean, “I’m oldest, so I get the top bunk. Those are the rules.”
“Since when? I should get it.”
“You? What if the bed breaks? It’ll be like getting squished by a moose. Not happening.”
Their voices faded as they rounded a corner. The Doctor let his smile fall now that he was alone, and turned to lean against the TARDIS’s consol.
Castiel was standing a few feet away, staring at him. The Doctor jumped, then laughed. “You don’t want to see your room? It’s got a hammock!”
“I do not require sleep,” he said, then resumed standing awkwardly in the middle of the room.
“Oh, well, then, there’s lots to do on board the TARDIS! I’ve got a library, a pool—well, they’re in the same room; happened by accident but I quite liked the result, so I kept it—a billiards room, a kitchen, if you’re hungry—”
“I also don’t eat. If I’m making you uncomfortable, I’ll go.”
“No!” the Doctor insisted sincerely, “I just thought you might be bored standing around here all day.”
“Oh. No, I’m fine. But don’t you need to sleep?”
“Not human, don’t need to sleep as often as they do.” His smile felt thin on his face, but he tried to hold it there. Castiel could clearly keep calm in a bad situation, but the Doctor didn’t want the angel knowing just how bad this whole Voidsong thing was.
“You’re troubled.” Cas sat down on the bench, leaving room for the Doctor to join him. “These Voidsong may seem like an undefeatable enemy, but don’t lose faith. We’ll prevail.”
Sitting next to his new friend, the Doctor sighed. “I’ve been alive for almost a millennium. After that long, you begin thinking you’ve seen it all—or at least enough of it to be able to handle anything. But a consciousness in the void? It isn’t possible, at least not according to what I’ve always been told.”
“Questioning their existence won’t solve the problem,” Cas replied quietly. “We have to find a way to stop what they’re doing.”
“But we don’t know what it is, really. We know they’re pressing universes together by manipulating the void, but we don’t know their motivation.”
“We also know they want you dead, which means you’re a threat to them, which means we can beat them, given enough time or the right weapon.”
“Weapon.” The Time Lord sighed, shaking his head. “How do you destroy something that doesn’t exist in the same way we exist?”
“I don’t know. But it has to be out there somewhere. And we have to stop them. That woman who appeared, she said the Voidsong wanted to destroy everything you protect.”
Cas’s words sparked connections in the Doctor’s mind. Springing up, he exclaimed, “That’s it! they’re joining the universes together so they can destroy them all at once. But making an infinite number of things touch would take an infinite amount of time to accomplish.”
“You’re assuming these things follow the same rules that we do. I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened.”
“There’s nothing to say it hasn’t. They’re just waiting for one universe to end so that all of them will.”
“Then in one of those realities, a weapon is waiting for you. After we retrieve the Impala, we should begin searching.” The angel’s voice was filled with conviction.
“Yes.” The Doctor was feeling slightly more hopeful after his talk with Castiel, but he still knew it was a monumental task to undertake. “After this little side-trip, to infinity, and beyond!”
Cas looked very concerned as he said, “Doctor, you can’t go beyond infinity, I don’t—”
“It’s from a children’s movie. I—you’re not very up on popular culture, are you?”
John Watson finally began to drift into sleep; eventually the sound of Sherlock’s pacing had become a sort of white noise and his brain began ignoring it. As the world faded, the doctor’s lips curved up in a slight, unconscious smile, and if he’d been awake enough to think it, he would have said to himself, “Ah! At last!”
Three seconds later, Sherlock burst into John’s room, not knocking as usual, and certainly not bothering to be quiet. “John! I’ve thought of something, but I need to be sure. We’ve got to get back on that roof.”
“Mmmf, wha? Sherlock?” He’d missed most of what his mad flatmate had said, so the taller man repeated himself. “Do we have to go back now? In the middle of the night?”
“Yes. I could be wrong, and if I am, I’ll need to devote my efforts to other possibilities.”
Half an hour later, a very grumpy Dr. Watson and a hyperactive Mr. Holmes were zipping downtown in a cab. On the way, Sherlock went over what he knew again, possibly to bring John up to speed, but more likely just to say it aloud.
“The facts. At seven thirty-five this morning, a janitor went onto the roof to check the exterior of an air-conditioning unit. There are three access points to the roof, all of which are standard-sized doors. On his way to the unit, he saw the car. He called his superiors, who then contacted the police. The last person on the roof before the janitor was a security guard doing a routine check at seven, thirty-five minutes before.
“So, whoever put the car up there did it in slightly less than thirty-five minutes, and they did it without being caught on any of the cameras. The feed wasn’t tampered with, and the cameras cover about ninety-eight percent of the building.
“The only way to get the car onto the roof without a crane would be to disassemble it, transport it through the building to the roof, and reassemble it there.”
“Lot of work for a prank,” John commented.
“Oh, your prank theory was a nice one until they found the weapons. That brings it to a much higher level. University students punking each other wouldn’t leave guns and forged IDs in the trunk. They’d know the car would be found and investigated—why set someone up for criminal charges? No, this was done by someone who wanted to get the owners of the car in trouble.”
“Why not just call the police? Leaving an anonymous tip would have been easier.”
“That I don’t understand. I’m missing something big. Perhaps they didn’t want the owners of the car to have a chance to hide the evidence. Or perhaps they just like making a scene.”
“Then why are we going back to the roof?”
“I just need to take a look around the entire perimeter. The people who assembled the car left no trace—not a footprint. I must have missed something; no one can be that immaculate.”
Sherlock’s pale, thin fingers were drumming against his leg. He had the vaguely obsessive look of a junkie about him, but the man also seemed happy, excited.
John felt tired and annoyed, but the impossible Impala had piqued his interest.
The night security let them in easily enough, though Lestrade’s police badge probably helped more than Sherlock’s internet fame. One lift ride and a flight of stairs later, they were back on the roof. The weather hadn’t improved much with the absence of the sun; John thought he was going to freeze to death up here, and he’d dressed in layers.
His friend, of course, barely seemed to notice. They walked swiftly towards the car, which from the doorway was obscured by the housing for an AC unit. As they rounded the unit, both men stopped.
There were six people huddled around the car, five men and one woman, who looked especially miserable in a short skirt and leggings. They seemed an eclectic group, one in a suit and tie, another in a sort of hipster outfit, two who were dressed like lorry drivers. The last man seemed the most typical, not standing out much in his casual clothing.
Sherlock pushed John against the wall, motioning for him to be silent. Rolling his eyes, the doctor wondered if Sherlock ever remembered that he’d had military training and knew better than to stroll up to a group of criminals and ask to be shot.
The people’s voices drifted to them, but little of it made sense. What was more enlightening than their babbling about shrink-rays and something called a tardis, was the mix of accents. Three Americans, two Englishmen, one Scottish woman. Interesting.
“Why would they come back here?” John whispered.
Sherlock just shook his head—he had as little idea as his friend.
“Should we call Lestrade?”
“Already sent him a text. Can’t risk a call. Did you bring your gun?”
“Yes.” He brought it on all the cases now, even the ones that seemed innocent. He’d learned his lesson after the Chihuahua thief fiasco.
“Excellent. Be ready for trouble!” And without further warning, Sherlock stepped out of the shadows and walked casually towards the group. “Hello!” His voice was bright. “Fancy seeing someone else up here this time of night. Come to admire the classic car?”
The group turned simultaneously; it almost looked choreographed it was so smooth. They wore varying expressions of shock, surprise, and in the case of the man with the suit, either a great poker face or bland indifference. Fear was missing from everyone, though, and that made John nervous.
“Good evening!” It was the hipster kid who was talking, “We just heard about it on the news and thought we’d have a look. I mean, how’d someone get a car up here?”
“Really?” Sherlock tilted his head. “That’s odd. I remember that the company who owns this building specifically wanted to keep the media out of this.”
“Oh, uh, well we heard about it on the internet,” said the shorter lorry-driver. “You know. On Reddit.”
“Since when do you read Reddit?” the very large American asked, but was ignored.
“Oh?” Sherlock pulled out his phone and began typing on it. “A long way to come to see a car on a roof, all the way from Kansas.” He didn’t bother looking up, John assumed the man knew that his words would have elicited an expression of surprise and wariness from the Americans. “Hm. That’s odd, I’m not seeing any such article on the site. Do you remember the URL by any chance?”
“Yeah, sure,” said the other English man, who was dressed comparatively normally. He stepped towards Sherlock; John tensed. “I’ll type it in for you.”
“Cute,” said the consulting detective. “I know you’re the owners of this car. What I don’t know is why and how it got up here. If you tell me that, I’ll convince Detective Inspector Lestrade to go easy on you. He’s on his way now.”
“Lestrade?” said the hipster, “Nice name for a DI, isn’t it? Bet he gets told that a lot though. Does that make you Sherlock Holmes?” By his tone, he was joking, and a few of the others laughed.
“Yes, actually. I see you’ve read my friend’s blog.”
At that, everyone but the man in the suit began to laugh in earnest. “Dude,” said the shorter American, “Is this guy LARSing or something?”
“Whatever. Where’s your funny hat?”
“Deerstalker,” commented the hipster.
“Is it Correct Dean Day or something? Look,” Dean continued, turning back to Sherlock, “I get why you called the cops. But this is all a mistake.”
“That hat wasn’t mine,” Holmes sighed, “You put on one silly hat once, and that’s all you’re known for. Now, just tell me how it was done. I can’t figure it out, and that’s saying quite a lot.”
“Why’s he still LARPing?”
“LARPing? I’m afraid I don’t know what that means. How did you avoid the security cameras?”
“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” said the nondescript Englishman, “If the cops are coming, you won’t mind us waiting over there, behind that little building thing?” he gestured to another AC unit. “It’s out of the wind.”
“No, I think we’ll all be staying right here.”
Dean stepped over to the hipster, whispering something in his ear. The latter shook his head, frowning as he replied. Then ensued a heated whisper-argument, which the American apparently won. Looking triumphant, Dean suddenly pulled a gun from his belt, leveling it at Sherlock.
Adrenaline rushed through John, bringing with it a strange sense of calm and focus; time slowed, and a singularity of purpose fell over the doctor. His gun was aimed at Dean’s heart, cocked, safety off before Sherlock had time to raise his hands into the air.
“Oh, come now,” Holmes was saying, “There’s no need for that. Besides, if you kill me, I doubt you’ll make it far.”
“I don’t hear police sirens yet.”
“Did I not mention? My dear friend Dr. Watson is here as well.”
John frowned as everyone began to laugh, even Dean. “Dude, you’re taking this role-playing thing to a new level. I mean I have a gun on you and you’re still make-believing you’re some Victorian super-sleuth? Who’s Watson, your boyfriend?”
“Why does everyone always assume that?” John asked petulantly, stepping out of the shadows. “We’re flatmates and friends and sort-of co-workers. Why does that have to be sexual?”
“So you really did have a friend. Is that a real gun?” the hipster asked. “Does everyone in this bloody universe have a gun but me? Humans are so violent.”
“Er, yeah, it’s real,” John answered. “So I would advise putting that away, Dean, or whoever you are, before someone gets hurt. That someone will be you, by the way.”
“Wow, a LARPer with balls. Alright, how about we all put the guns away and talk this out? We’re not criminals.”
“Technically, you are for having a firearm.” John lowered his gun slowly, matching the pace of the American. “And all those fake IDs had your pictures on them.”
“John,” said Sherlock, his voice nonchalant on the surface, but the doctor could sense an undercurrent of slight anxiety. “Where’s the other American?”
A quick count told Watson that one of the group was missing. Turning his head slightly, he scanned the area. “I don’t—” A skillful hand suddenly pulled the gun from his grip, twisting his arm behind him. “Found him, Sherlock!”
Rolling his eyes, Holmes spat sarcastically, “Great work, thank you.”
“Oh, yeah, like you’ve never had anyone sneak up on you.”
“If you’re referring to the incident with the bacon murderer, he was unusually—”
“Oh come off it, you know he got the drop on you!”
“Please be quiet,” said the man who was holding John’s arm. His voice was gravelly but gentle. “We’re not going to hurt you. We just want the car back, then we’ll be gone forever.”
“Not before you tell me how you did it,” insisted Sherlock.
“You won’t believe it,” replied the hipster, and everyone else in the group agreed, nodding and adding their own comments.
“Try me.” Sherlock’s voice was like ice.
“Alright,” the hipster shrugged. “I’m the Doctor, by the way, nice to meet you. I’m a time-travelling alien, and that man holding your friend is an angel. We’re all from a different universe—two different ones, really—and we came here because that Impala slipped into this universe by accident. Once we retrieve it, we’re going to look for a weapon that can kill something that doesn’t technically exist but exists anyway, thus saving the multi-verse.”
Sherlock was speechless, something that was usually only accomplished by the presence of a naked dominatrix. John himself was finding it hard to think of a retort. This was weirder than the comic book case. Graphic novel case. Whatever.
The normal-looking guy broke the silence. “Pretty good summation of where we are, Doctor.”
“Yeah you didn’t leave anything out,” agreed the woman.
“But it was succinct.” The big guy nodded.
“Excellent summary skills.” Dean put his gun away. “Let’s get the hell outta here. Oh,” the man had begun walking away, but he stopped. “Where’d they stash all the guns and stuff from the car?”
“And I should tell you because?”
John frowned. Sherlock would be all bravado—he wasn’t the one with his arm twisted painfully behind him. But before John could tell Sherlock to just tell them, the man’s phone rang.
“Mind if I get this?” he asked, sounding almost chipper.
“Not at all,” the man who’d called himself the Doctor answered.
Deftly the consulting detective pulled his phone out of his pocket and said, “This had better be good. Oh, Lestrade. Did you get my text? What do you mean, the car-on-the-roof thing isn’t important? Did I mention the culprits are here—what?! How many dead? Dear God, that’s obscene. Yes, of course we’ll come. Text me the address—I said text it!” He hung up after that, and his phone chimed.
A moment later, John realized the man had let him go; he turned around swiftly, but there was no one behind him. Glancing back at the car, he saw the American with the others. All of them were making their way around an AC unit, but the Doctor stopped, looking concerned.
“That call must have been about something serious, for the police to stop worrying about us. What happened?”
“Dozens dead in a restaurant about four blocks over. Lestrade said it looked like wild animals did it, but that’s impossible. No one saw anything.”
Sherlock’s voice had been loud enough for everyone on the roof to hear. The Americans stopped as he spoke, trading meaningful gazes with each other before returning.
“You need our help for this,” said the tallest American.
“Oh, I doubt it.” Sherlock’s retort was fast and tinged with amusement.
“Your little game of pretending to be Sherlock Holmes isn’t gonna help you solve these murders,” Dean snapped.
“Game? Pretending? I am Sherlock Holmes. Haven’t you read the papers? Seen my picture? Do I need to put a hat on to prove it?”
“Props for staying in character, but I’ve got news—Sherlock Holmes isn’t real. He doesn’t exist, he’s a made-up character. Get a life.”
The woman slapped Dean on the arm. “You don’t have to be an ass about it. If he wants to pretend to be Sherlock Holmes, he can. Who’s he hurting?”
Surreptitiously rubbing his arm, the man hissed, “Geez, sorry. I just think they’ll get themselves hurt. Whatever killed those people isn’t going to go easy on a couple of role-players."
“We’re not role-playing!” Watson shouted. “I am Dr. John Watson, and he is Sherlock Holmes! I don’t know what sort of drugs you’ve all been sharing, but we can’t stand here all night and talk. Come on, Sherlock.”
With a swirl of his coat, the consulting detective joined his friend in storming towards the door. By his face, Sherlock didn’t look confused at all, but he had to be, because John felt like he’d walked into a movie theatre half-way through the film, which was in French without subtitles.
Dean watched the two weirdoes leave, frowning as he did so. “Doc, we gotta go after them. Whatever killed those people seems like our sorta problem.”
“Just a moment, I think I’ve got the shrink-ray working.”
“Still can’t believe you have that thing,” Amy said, shaking her pretty ginger head. “It’s a bit sci-fi, even for you.”
“Well, sorry for being a bit sci-fi.” He pointed an object that looked like a laser gun from a ‘70’s B-movie at the Impala. A greenish beam of light surrounded the car, making both Winchesters flinch. But the car was fine; it merely shrank to the size of a toy. Dean picked it up with loving care.
“It’s okay, baby, we’ll have you right as rain soon enough.” Slipping it into his pocket, he joined the rest of the group as they returned to the TARDIS.
“I can track those two and follow them to the crime scene.”
They arrived at the scene before the men from the roof, but the place was crawling with police and forensics. None of them seemed to notice the blue police box in a shadowy corner of the large dining room, but the consensus was that someone might look askance at six strangers wondering around the place, so they decided to just watch what was going on through a crack in the TARDIS’s door.
Naturally, everyone wanted to see outside, which ended up in a short but brutally vicious struggle for dominance involving much elbow-throwing and pushing. Eventually Sam remembered that Castiel could choose not to be seen by humans, so it didn’t make sense for him to be trying to look out the door when he could walk around and investigate. Then the Doctor decided watching on his monitor would be more comfortable and less life-threatening, and probably he didn’t want to keep getting abused by a feisty redhead with shockingly pointy elbows, so he abandoned the fray. That left the Winchesters and the Ponds, who eventually settled on a sort of hierarchy of height.
They couldn’t see much from their vantage point, but Cas soon returned with news.
“I believe it was vampires,” he said, ignoring the expressions of disbelief from Amy and Rory. “Many of them. They went wild. The mortals here have no idea what they’re dealing with.”
“Shocking,” Dean rolled his eyes. “I’m guessing the vamps came through from our universe, or one like it.”
“Are they real vampires?” Rory asked, “Like, Dracula and all that?”
“Sorta. You have to cut off their heads to kill them.”
“But they are vampires, not just sexy fish from space?”
“Sexy…fish…from space?” Sam looked beyond perplexed, and Dean imagined he was wearing a similar expression.
“Long story,” Amy shrugged. “Just making sure they’re real vampires this time!” She shot a look at the Doctor.
“Sounds like one hell of a story. You’ll have to tell me sometime.”
“Are you hitting on my wife?”
“Er,” Dean gave Rory his most apologetic smile. “I may have been. Sorry, but she’s so hot, dude. It just slipped out, I’ll stop.”
Rory gave his wife a look of adoration. “She is hot, isn’t she? She’s so hot she flirts with herself.”
“Well, there was this mix-up with the TARDIS and there were two of her at once and—”
“Alright, alright, no need for that. I can’t help it if I look good in a skirt, can I?”
“Dean, could we perhaps focus on the issue here?” Cas interrupted, “There are probably a dozen vampires running around this city.”
Beside them, the TARDIS’s door swung all the way open; the man who called himself Sherlock Holmes was standing just outside, frowning, his friend a few feet behind him.
“How did you get here so quickly?” His voice was calm considering he was looking into a box that was much bigger on the inside. “And what is this room?”
“You noticed the TARDIS?” The Doctor practically bounced over to them.
“Of course I noticed it. A blue police box from the sixties is hardly to be expected in a five-star restaurant.” He sounded extremely offended.
“But,” the Doctor’s eyes flickered around the room. “No one else seems to care. Doesn’t that interest you?”
“They’re all idiots.” He swept past the Time Lord, staring around the interior of the TARDIS. “Odd for this room to be here. Some sort of themed dining?”
“No, this is my space/time ship. Remember how I told you we were from other universes?”
“Yes, it was very cute. Why did you follow me here?” His pale grey eyes flowed from one face to another, and when Dean stared back at them, he felt oddly naked, as if the so-called Sherlock Holmes could see through him.
“Cas, can I talk to you for a second?” he asked in a low voice, steering the angel from the group and down a hallway. Once they were out of sight, he paused. “Can you try to track down where the vamps went?”
Castiel closed his eyes. Nothing happened. A sense of dread slithered through Dean’s stomach.
“I’m cut off from heaven.” Cas sounded confused. “I was told that I’d be able to utilize some powers during my quest, even if I was exiled. But there’s nothing—I’m—I’m like a baby in a trench coat.” He looked down at his body, frowning more deeply. “Without even that, now.”
“But you weren’t cut off, what, two minutes ago? What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know.” Turning away, the angel seemed almost embarrassed and certainly angry with himself. “I’ll do what I can to find them.”
Dean almost stopped Cas as he began to walk towards the main room, but the words of assurance died in his throat.
“So, you’re saying,” John began, eyebrows drawn together, “that vampires are responsible for this bloodbath? Vampires? And you want us to just let you run off through the city hunting them?”
“Uh, yeah, that pretty much sums it up.” Sam gave him a pleasant smile; John still wanted to mentally refer to him as the Really Rather Large Fellow, but the hipster kid who called himself a doctor insisted, in the middle of this bizarre conversation, that they all stop and introduce themselves. No one believed he was really Dr. Watson or that Sherlock Holmes was in fact Sherlock Holmes, but they’d refused to give any other names. Why should they?
“And you don’t see how we would have a problem with that?” Sherlock sneered, exceptionally pithy because they kept accusing him of something called LARPing. “You’re clearly criminals, and possibly involved in this somehow. I should walk right out of this room and tell Lestrade to arrest you.”
“This isn’t a room, it’s my TARDIS,” insisted the Doctor with as much exasperation as John’d had when trying to tell them his name. “I can prove it to you. Will you believe then?”
Though a patronizing smiled, Sherlock replied, “Sure, yes, let’s just pop back to 1888 and I can clear up that whole Jack-the-Ripper thing that’s been bothering everyone for over a century.”
“What, seriously?” Sam was laughing. “You think because you’ve read all the books and seen all the movies that you can be like Sherlock Holmes?”
“What books?! What movies?! Nothing any of you say makes sense!” Watson was yelling now, but he didn’t bother stopping himself. “Why’s it so bloody hard to believe we are who we claim to be?”
Everyone’s smiles faded. “Well, Sherlock Holmes is a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”
“Who?! Look, if you’ve read the blog, you might think I made that stuff up, but I didn’t, this is him,” John gestured to his irate friend, “Haven’t you seen his picture in the papers?”
“We’re not from this universe,” the Doctor said, his voice gentle, as if he was preparing them for very bad news. “To us—you’d better follow me, and shut the door behind you, there’s vampires out there, and not the sexy fish kind.”
Though it went against every instinct he had, John was too curious to keep himself from following the strange group towards a hallway. Sherlock fell in step beside him, seeming to be in the same predicament he himself was in—common sense warring against an irresistible desire to know what they were on about.
The man in the suit, who hadn’t been around for introductions, stopped his approach when he saw that everyone was heading in the opposite direction.
“Oh, John, Sherlock—” the Doctor at least was calling them their names, “—this is Castiel, an angel of God.”
“Er,” John said, but Castiel merely nodded to him, then whispered something to the Doctor, something upsetting by the so-called alien’s expression. Cas didn’t follow the group as they moved on; instead he merely stood in the hall, watching them with a strangely sad expression.
The shorter lorry-driver-looking fellow, Dean, joined them on their way to what turned out to be a library—the largest he’d ever been in, and definitely the strangest.
The room was several stories high, packed with shelves, but everything had a sort of disheveled look to it. Inexplicably, just past the section marked “Fiction-ish,” there was a sprawling swimming pool. A tropical-themed bar waited nearby, and a few chairs and beach-balls were resting near the water’s edge. The whole thing simultaneously looked very inviting and completely mad.
Apparently the room made sense to the Doctor, because he marched right up to a shelf and took a book down, then handed it to Sherlock.
“A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” he read. “Funny, but you got the color wrong.” Sherlock accepted another volume. “The Hound of the Baskervilles?”
The name sent a chill through Dr. Watson. “I haven’t posted that one yet,” he whispered, voice uneven. “How did you know about what happened at Baskerville?”
“Because by some extraordinary chance, we’ve come to a universe where a storybook character is a reality. With an infinite number of universes, anything is possible. All possible stories have happened somewhere.”
“So, wait,” Dean interrupted, “Like, Harry Potter is real?”
“What about The Hobbit?” Amy asked, but any answer was cut off by her husband.
“I think you’re all missing the point,” Rory insisted, “I mean, this is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Sherlock Holmes! Right here!” A wide smile bloomed on his face. “Oh my God, you guys, you’re awesome! I can’t believe I’m talking to Sherlock Holmes!”
What ensued was the strangest bout of fan-boying and fan-girling that John had ever witnessed—even weirder than the comic book guys. Suddenly everyone was shaking his hand and asking for autographs and telling him how brilliant he was and how they loved reading about the cases. Even the Doctor, who apparently called the shots despite his youth, joined in whole-heartedly.
Sherlock looked beyond uncomfortable with it all, and eventually shouted for everyone to stop trying to put a deerstalker on him, which apparently the Doctor had on hand.
“I demand to see proof that you people are time-travelers from another universe! Take me to Jack the Ripper, or I’ll have you all arrested!”
“Sherlock Holmes is threatening to have us arrested!” Amy exclaimed. She seemed happy rather than worried. “Are you going to deduce what we’ve been doing?”
John thought his flatmate would refuse, but he wasn’t really surprised when the taller man began to speak rapidly.
“Fine, shall I start with the American brothers? Alright,” he whirled on them without waiting for a reply. “You’re from Kansas, but you travel a lot and haven’t been back there for some time. You live in cheap motels and sometimes your car, the black ’67 Impala, and you get by using less than legal means, probably stealing identities or taking advantage of drunk idiots in bars. You’re both expert marksmen and skilled fighters, and you’ve a habit of impersonating government officials in your country, probably because you hunt monsters, or at least think you do.”
“Sam.” The sudden shift in focus startled John, and the man Sherlock was staring at seemed nervous, shocked even. “You’re hallucinating and seeing things that aren’t here, either because you’re going through withdrawals or because of sever psychological trauma. Either way, you should be seeking help rather than following this man around and pretending to hunt vampires.”
Dean looked like he was going to punch Sherlock in the face—something John had sympathy for but would try to prevent on principle—but Sam stopped him with an outstretched arm. “How did you know that?” he asked hoarsely.
Rolling his eyes, the consulting detective sighed. “Everyone always wants to ruin the magic. Your forehead is sweaty but the temperature in this room is perfectly cool. Your eyes keep following things that aren’t here, that we can’t see, and sometimes they dart around. You drift away from conversations, and you keep pressing the palm of your left hand, where there’s an old cut that’s almost healed. Given the fact that you also believe yourself to be some sort of monster-slayer, psychological damage is likely. John here can recommend you a good psychiatrist; he’s seen enough of them himself.”
“I don’t remember Sherlock Holmes being such an ass,” Rory stage-whispered to his wife.
“Actually, if you look past the Victorian gentlemanliness, he really was a jerk,” the Doctor commented. “A genius, but a jerk. Well, come on everyone!” He suddenly sprang towards the door. “Don’t want to miss this!”
“Where are we going?” Amy asked as they all caught up with him.
“To 1888, of course! Sherlock Holmes has a crime to solve!”
The Doctor and His Companions Will Return In
Jack the Ripper is Actually a Stand-Up Guy
Chapter 3: Jack the Ripper is Actually a Stand-Up Guy
Sorry for the stupidly long wait for an update! Writer's block, house hunting, apartment fire, more writer's block, etc., kept me from finishing sooner, but I promise updates will be more regular in the future! Full notes and disclaimers at the end.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jack the Ripper is Actually a Stand-Up Guy
As it turned out, Victorian London was more or less exactly like everyone always portrayed it. Dean stepped out of the TARDIS into a night filled with sickly yellow fog. Nearby gas-lamps failed to make a significant dent in the darkness, and his boots made strange, muffled clacks on the cobblestone pavement.
“Cheerful place for a bunch of murders,” he said quietly, eyes scanning the area. They’d landed in an alley, and thankfully no one was around. The street beyond it also seemed deserted. Dean wondered what time it was—and then he wondered what the date was.
Before he could take two steps towards the main street, the Doctor grabbed him by his coat sleeve and began to rattle off a list of rules. “Rule number one,” the Time Lord said imperiously, “Don’t wonder off! And I mean it! If you wonder off and end up in another universe, you’ll likely be lost forever, or just dead or sucked into a black hole or something. So don’t wonder off!”
Dean sighed and freed his arm. “Fine, sorry. For a second there I thought I was a capable adult and not a five-year-old—”
But the Doctor didn’t hear the hunter’s grumbles; he was already talking again. “Rule number two: you all look terrible and you’ll have to change clothes. You can’t go walking around Victorian London dressed like lumber jacks,” he waved vaguely at the Winchesters, “and trollops,” a motion to Amy, who looked scandalized.
Dean was going to say something concerning the hypocrisy of the Doctor—who was wearing a bow-tie and suspenders—critiquing other people’s outfits, but the man was already herding everyone back into the TARDIS, towards the hall.
The two men who Dean was reluctantly beginning to think of as the real Sherlock Holmes and John Watson didn’t like being herded and told their clothing was insufficient.
“Oh, dull, you let us have a tiny glance outside onto that little mock-up of Nineteenth-century London, then hurry us away. What is this, Doctor,” Sherlock spat the title like a curse, “some sort of game? I don’t see the point, and I have the murders of dozens of people to solve, so kindly show me to the door. The one we came through.”
“You still don’t believe him?” Amy asked, incredulously. “Did you not see the swimming pool in the library? Not to mention the books about your lives. Think about it, smarty-pants, why would we lie about something as ridiculous as time-traveling aliens?”
Sherlock’s arrogant expression faltered, and he turned to look at his friend. Something completely unknown to Dean passed between them, a silent conversation—the type people who’ve known each other for a long time are capable of—and apparently they decided, for the time being at least, to go along with it.
The ridiculousness of the situation was still hovering around Dean’s own mind, but he’d been through so many impossible things that by this point impending doom of all universes and time-traveling aliens was almost normal.
A few hallways and turns later, the eight of them arrived in an expansive room that was completely lined with clothing.
“Ladies’ section is in the back, Amy,” the Doctor chimed.
“You have a collection of women’s clothing?” Sam asked, laughter in his voice.
“Yes. Doesn’t everyone?” Before Sam could answer, the Doctor was off again, telling Rory he had just the outfit for him.
That left the Winchesters, Cas, and the two from Baker Street standing around awkwardly, idly scanning through the randomly placed clothing on the racks.
“So,” began John Watson, “all this is real? And we haven’t all been drugged or something?”
“Do you feel drugged?” Dean asked, pulling a very puffy shirt off its hanger with a grimace. “When would anyone need to wear this? Nah, sorry to say this is happening.”
“Right. Great.” John’s voice was beyond sarcastic. “And we’re really going after Jack the Ripper?”
“Problem?” Sherlock asked, picking up a deerstalker and dropping it on the floor with disgust painted over his sharp features.
“No, just wondering if I’m somehow trapped in your dream,” John responded, selecting a plain white button-down shirt and a brown vest and jacket. “I mean, you get to tackle Jack the Ripper and prove once and for all how clever you are.”
“Jack the Ripper wasn’t a single person,” Cas said, examining a bright red toreador outfit. “A few demons decided to start killing prostitutes.”
“That was our universe,” Sam said, “It has to be different here—I mean, there aren’t any demons in this world.”
“No heaven either,” Cas agreed, and Dean was reminded of the angel’s limited power. He was practically human.
A mean stray thought floated through the man’s mind, How the mighty have fallen. But he sent it away. Castiel had been trying to help. That was the mantra he kept repeating.
Eventually everyone cobbled together something resembling period costuming, though of course it was easier for Amy, who only had to find one dress and a pair of shoes. In the end, Dean had to keep Cas from picking a pale lavender ensemble.
“Less Oscar Wilde, more average Joe, okay?” he said, putting the foppish clothing back and handing Cas a plain black suit, a dark blue cravat, and a dark greatcoat.
Once everyone was properly Victorian in appearance (save the Doctor, who for some reason didn’t change, the hypocrite) they set out for the exit. Amy was swishing gracefully along with them, but Dean himself felt out of place in the stuffy, high-collared shirt, and his younger brother looked equally uncomfortable. Cas seemed indifferent to the change; somehow, he’d messed up his cravat already, but at least he was more himself in a coat. Sherlock had that same dickish expression of arrogance, and even John didn’t seem too put out by the wardrobe change. Rory kept tugging at his collar, at least. That made Dean feel better.
Early morning light was muddling its way through the foggy air as the group left the TARDIS. The Doctor checked his watch and proudly exclaimed, “We made it! Just in time, too, assuming the dates are the same across our universes. It’s the morning of November the ninth, 1888!”
“The last murder,” Sherlock mused quietly. “Though I’m still not certain this is real.”
Out on the street, people were walking by, probably on their way to work in some dismal factory or something. They were all shabbily dressed in comparison to the time-travelers, especially Amy.
“We’re gonna get mugged,” Dean lamented.
“All eight of us? We have guns. We’ll be fine.” Sam sounded sure of himself, but Dean checked to be certain he’d stowed his gun in his belt again, and touched the box of extra bullets in his pocket.
“Well, we are in Whitechapel,” John said, “This place was supposed to be rife with thieves.”
Sherlock began to make his way towards the street. “We need to get to the scene of the crime as soon as possible. He won’t kill again, probably, so this is the only chance we have. I want to get to Kelly before the police arrive and destroy all the important evidence.”
13 Miller’s Court had no security to speak of, but still, no one thought it would be a good idea for all eight of them to go walking right up to where a dead woman would be found later that morning, so the Doctor—who seemed to be in charge, despite his youthful features—agreed that everyone but John and Sherlock should just hang out nearby.
To John that seemed almost as suspicious, but it wasn’t like there was CCTV or anything, so he didn’t protest as he followed his friend into the building where Mary Jane Kelly lived. Used to live, John corrected himself. She was already dead by now.
The scene of the murder was more horrible that the doctor expected. Seeing a black-and-white photo and dry old reports hadn’t properly prepared him for the reality. He wasn’t a stranger to carnage, but scenes of gruesome deaths never really got old.
The smell of the blood hit him first; it was too soon for the body to begin decomposing in earnest, but there was so much blood. The poor woman’s face had been destroyed as well as her abdomen.
Stuffing the pity that was welling up inside him down ruthlessly, John stepped closer. With a bare hand—not that it mattered, forensics being what it was at the time—he gently touched Kelly’s neck. “She’s been dead three, maybe four hours. Rigor mortis starting.”
Sherlock made a noise to signify he’d heard John, but the man didn’t spare his companion a glance. John moved to the doorway, letting the consulting detective work. It took almost half an hour, but finally Sherlock was satisfied with whatever he’d seen, and of course he didn’t bother telling John anything.
“Well?” Watson finally asked as the two left the building.
“I need to speak to whatever passes as an inspector here. I have a few ideas, but I’ll need their help,” he spat the words, obviously not happy about admitting his limitations. He had no web of informants here in this time period.
The Doctor greeted them excitedly. “Solved it, then?”
“Not yet.” Sherlock sounded annoyed; he always hated the attention of his fans unless they were extolling his amazing intellect or his clever little analysis of tobacco ash or something. “We’ll need to wait until the body is discovered, then talk to the inspectors who arrive. I have information that they may be able to use.”
A moment of silence passed, then Dean asked, “You gonna tell us what that is?”
“He’s just like in the stories,” Rory laughed, “Bet he won’t let onto anything until he’s totally sure, so the solution seems like magic or something.”
“What if he says the thing?” Amy bounced on her Victorian heels. “Sherlock, say the thing!”
“What thing?” he sneered. John wondered just how similar those books were to their own lives. The knowledge the others might have made him vaguely uncomfortable. Clearing his throat, he decided to try to change the subject.
“How about breakfast?”
“Can we go to a less shady part of London to eat? I don’t wanna catch syphilis from my eggs.” John wasn’t sure if Dean was making a joke or not, but he decided to just let it go either way.
“You mean salmonella,” Rory suggested.
“No, I didn’t.” Dean turned and began to walk in the general direction of the TARDIS, and everyone else followed, the Doctor catching up to him and taking the lead.
“We’ve got almost three hours until we need to be back.” He turned and grinned at all of them. “So, breakfast, then some exploring! But don’t wonder off!”
The group ended up on the west side of town, which was only slightly less shabby than the East End. Everywhere John looked he saw the poor, shoved into alleys or begging in the shadows of buildings. The smell was awful, too, in a different way than his own London. Instead of car exhaust it was horses and mud and people who weren’t keen on bathing.
But still, London in the past. Pretty cool. John still felt a little like he must be dreaming, as real as it all was. Time travel! Parallel worlds! Jack the Ripper! The smile on his face faltered a little as he remembered the sight of that poor woman on her tiny little bed in that sad, one-room hovel.
Glancing at Sherlock, who seemed perfectly in place in his dapper clothing, John was hopeful; they would find that serial killer and bring him to justice. Perhaps they themselves were the reason Jack the Ripper claimed no more lives after Kelly.
“This looks promising,” the Doctor exclaimed, bringing John out of his thoughts. They were standing in front of a very posh hotel; there weren’t many people around, and John supposed that was because it was too early for lordlings to be up and about.
“We haven’t got any money,” the army doctor said. “How are we going to pay?”
“On credit, of course!” The Time Lord pulled out what looked like a leather wallet; flipping it open, he displayed a blank sheet of paper. Everyone but Amy and Rory looked confused or (in the case of Cas and Sherlock) extremely underwhelmed. “It’s psychic paper—it says whatever I want it to say! Isn’t that clever?”
When no one spoke up telling the Doctor how very clever his blank paper was, he frowned and turned away from them, practically storming up to the hotel entrance. John and the rest of the group followed, and they arrived in time to hear the doorman welcome them, saying something about a noble family from Venice.
The dining room was almost empty, and they were seated quickly. Only one other table was occupied; a man who looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties sat near the window, reading a paper and smoking a pipe. John paid him little mind, but Sherlock kept glancing in his direction, piercing grey eyes flickering over the stranger’s body in a way that would have been something like checking him out if Sherlock were the type to do that. Watson, of course, knew better; the consulting detective was deducing the man.
No one else seemed to care about him. Dean and Sam were trying to figure out what would be safe to order; Cas was ignoring the menu, looking down at the table as if lost in thought; Amy and Rory were practicing Italian accents for the hell of it; the Doctor was talking to their waiter, but he was asking for something called a hypersonic pancake and the waiter was obviously perplexed.
John turned to say something to his flatmate only to find that the man had gotten up and was approaching the other diner. He felt a disaster approaching.
Don’t make a scene, Sherlock, he silently pleaded. Whatever you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t.
“Good morning!” Sherlock said in his fake, I’m-a-nice-normal-person-not-a-sociopath-at-all voice. “Enjoying your smoke, Jack the Ripper?”
John Watson’s first thought was that Sherlock had somehow gone off the deep end on the sly and was going to be wondering around London accusing every man he met of being Jack the Ripper until he (Sherlock) was institutionalized. Holmes had spoken loudly enough for everyone else at the table to hear, and the entire group fell silent and stared at him.
The man Sherlock had accused stared up at him with confusion. “I’m sorry, sir, what?” He folded his paper neatly and placed it on the table. “Are you accusing me of being Jack the Ripper?” A smile appeared on his face. “Have the boys from the club put you up to this?”
Sherlock’s expression was blankly unyielding. “No, and don’t pretend. I have enough evidence to convince the police and a courtroom, though I doubt you’ll make it quite that far.” His cold eyes met John’s, then moved briefly over the Winchester brothers; John immediately understood. He wanted them to carry out the sentence of execution themselves, to keep history the same, but John wouldn’t allow it without absolute proof.
“Solved it before breakfast!” Sherlock smiled. “A bit disappointing, but it was blind luck that brought us to the same establishment.”
“Sir, I would like you to stop this joking at once! It’s no longer funny.”
John stood and moved to stand beside Sherlock, whispering, “Are you sure he’s the one?”
“Absolutely. Look at his shoes.”
“They’re just shoes—” But Sherlock was already rolling his eyes and sighing as if John had told him two plus two equaled seven.
“There’s blood on them, and the right heel is damaged on the left edge. The prints in Kelly’s room are a perfect match.”
The man’s face was pale as he stammered, “I—I stepped on some glass yesterday. I meant to have them repaired soon. But I don’t—I haven’t—I am not a madman! You’re making a mistake! I don’t even know anyone by the name of Kelly!”
“Where were you this morning around two or three?”
“At home asleep—!”
“Can anyone confirm that?”
“I live alone—”
“Thought so.” Sherlock’s mouth was turned up in a cold and triumphant little smile.
“Hold on,” John said, “We need to be sure. All of us.” He glanced back at the Doctor, who was standing to come join them.
The accused man stood huffily. “I assure you, I am not a murderer! Perhaps we should consult the police on this matter?”
“No dice.” The rest of the party had joined them; Dean’s expression was light-hearted, but there was a hardness in the man’s eyes as he spoke. “We aren’t exactly from around here, no time to deal with red tape.”
“Now, now, Sherlock,” the Doctor admonished, trying to smile in a friendly manner but missing his mark because of the faint worry in his eyes, “Perhaps we should be civil? Hello, I’m the Doctor,” he leaned forward and awkwardly kissed the air near the man’s cheeks, much to everyone’s confusion. “And you are?”
“A-Arthur,” he admitted reluctantly, eyeing Sherlock with open distrust. “Arthur Conan Doyle.”
To John, the name seemed vaguely familiar, like one he’d heard on the news in passing or read in a history textbook. Everyone else let out a gasp, save Sherlock, who merely looked puzzled.
“No,” Amy said, drawing out the word. “You can’t be! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cannot be Jack the Ripper!”
“I’m not Jack the Ripper! And I don’t have a title,” he added in a small voice. “I’m just a doctor!”
“If you’re not the killer, prove it,” Sherlock said icily. “The body still hasn’t been found; come with us and we’ll compare the footprints. We should also be able to get more advanced information?” His words were a question to the Doctor.
“Yes, the TARDIS is more than capable of running DNA tests and fingerprint analyses.” He bounced on his heels a little, clearly proud.
With only a little bit of further ado—consisting mainly of cancelling their breakfast orders and convincing Arthur to follow a large group of strangers to the bad side of town—the nine of them set off.
Arthur didn’t seem the killer type, but John knew murderers didn’t always telegraph what they were. The man’s sincerity could have easily been an act, but John had a natural sympathy for him; they were both doctors.
The crime scene would have the final word either way, John thought as they walked down the street, dodging other pedestrians and the odd horse-drawn cab. He tried not to make judgments, and he tried doubly hard to avoid getting to know the man.
Everyone but Sherlock and the Doctor waited outside the building; Arthur stood awkwardly on one foot, as they’d taken his shoe for comparison. Conversation was spotty and half-hearted as they waited.
The Doctor looked grim as they returned to the group, but Sherlock was smiling coldly. “Sorry, Arthur,” the Doctor began, “Footprints are a match.”
“That’s not possible! I’ve never been here in my life !”
“Well your right shoe was here.”
John rolled his eyes, feeling the familiar urge to punch the arrogance off Sherlock’s pale face. “There are such things as coincidences.”
“If the blood on the shoe is hers, will that convince you?”
All the color suddenly vacated Arthur’s face. “It can’t be hers! I don’t know how the shoe print got there. This is all—is this a joke? Because it’s gone too far!”
Everyone was silently staring at Conan Doyle, and no one’s expression was very hopeful. Amy, Rory, Sam, and the Doctor had touches of pity around their eyes and mouths; Castiel merely looked somber, as if he were about to attend someone’s execution—perhaps not far from the truth. Dean had a similar expression on his features, a sort of resignation that they had found the right man.
Sherlock looked like a child who’d just been informed that Christmas was now going to occur every weekend.
“We should head back to the TARDIS,” the Doctor said at last, gently touching Arthur’s arm, leading him in the right direction.
“Wh-what’s a TARDIS? I can’t believe you brutes are doing this—taking me hostage!”
“If you’re innocent, we’ll let you go.” The whole group was moving down the street now, forming a sort of herd around the suspected man.
Arthur’s name nagged at John; he knew he’d heard it before, and the others seemed to recognize it. Eventually his curiosity got the best of him and he asked Sam, who was walking beside him, what the significance of the man was.
“He, uh. Well, in our universe, and in the Doctor’s, he’s the man who wrote your story. He invented you guys.”
“Oh.” That was all John could think to say; it was a bit off-putting to be referred to as a figment of someone’s imagination, especially when that someone might turn out to be one of the most infamous serial killers of history. “Some coincidence,” he added after a moment, and he meant his words. Out of all the people Jack the Ripper could have been, it was a man who but for a few differences would have imagined Sherlock Holmes.
John could believe his friend worthy of being a storybook character. His flatmate was an extraordinary man, if an equally extraordinary ass most of the time.
“It’s not a coincidence,” Castiel said, making John jump despite himself. The man—angel, if he were to believe his strange companions’ claims—was so reserved most of the time that the doctor forgot he was there, and he’d been walking just out of John’s vision. “This is destiny.”
“Destiny?” asked Rory, sounding doubtful, “It’s our fate to have Arthur Conan Doyle thrown in jail? I loved those books. I don’t want him to be Jack the Ripper—do you know what that’ll do to my fond childhood memories?”
“I’m sure our Conan Doyle wasn’t a murderer,” Amy insisted. “When we get back to our universe, we’re checking, just to be sure!”
“I’m not a murderer!” Arthur insisted miserably.
“You really think this is destiny, Cas?” Dean asked, ignoring Arthur’s pretests that he was innocent.
“Yes. The odds against this sort of thing happening are astronomical. We were guided here for a reason.”
“We’re here because Sherlock insisted,” John interjected. He wasn’t sure if he believe in destiny and fate.
“And we crossed paths due to a seemingly random event. I know we were meant to meet—you’re meant to help us.”
“Help you with what?” For a moment, Watson experienced a moment of acute disbelief; he’d been in London only a few hours ago—his London, 21st-century London—and now he was more than a hundred years in the past, walking around with an angel, an alien, and people from parallel universes. They’d traveled here in a blue box that was bigger on the inside, too, with a library that featured a pool and a collection of books about Bizarro John and Sherlock. The disoriented feeling passed as quickly as it came, and he had to accept that what was happening was real.
Cas looked confused for a moment. “The Doctor explained on the roof of that building. We must stop the Voidsong before they destroy all of reality.”
“Sorry, what? Y-you were serious about that?” Laughter tinted his words, but he knew the mad people he was with probably weren’t joking. “Some song is going to destroy reality? Sherlock, are you listening to this?”
“You’re all complete nutters,” Arthur insisted, but no one bothered responding.
“I heard them, John. One problem at a time. We need to prove this man is guilty.”
“We heard you the first time, Conan Doyle,” Sherlock cut him off sharply. John sighed, wanting either a hot cup of tea or a strong drink—or perhaps both. The group trudged on through London, drawing a surprisingly small amount of attention for one that contained an angel, an alien, and a serial killer.
The Doctor read the monitor, frowning. They’d been back in the TARDIS for about fifteen minutes, and all the readings had come back. Neither his nor Sherlock’s keen eyes had discovered any fingerprints in Kelly’s room, but they’d taken a sample of her blood, and it matched the blood on Arthur’s shoes—not to mention the footprints were also a perfect match.
As much as he hated to admit it, all signs pointed to the almost-author as being the murderer.
Across the room, Jack the Ripper was still staring around in wonder, mumbling about how it was bigger on the inside and about how marvelous the lighting was. Normally, the Doctor would have found this continued behavior concerning, but they had sort of kidnapped him and accused him of murder before he’d had a chance to finish his morning paper, and Dean was currently holding a gun in his general direction. Fixation on the coolness of the TARDIS was understandable under the circumstances.
Sherlock caught the Doctor’s eye, and the latter motioned him over. “The blood’s a match,” he said quietly. “I suppose we should turn him over to the police.”
“Won’t that create a paradox?”
“What? Why would it?”
Sherlock’s tone was authoritative and a little condescending, but the Doctor allowed it because he was Sherlock Holmes after all. “If Jack the Ripper was arrested and tried, there would be no reason for me to want to solve the crime, so we wouldn’t come back here, and I wouldn’t catch him, in which case, he’d never be caught—don’t you see?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Time can be rewritten; remember that. You can muck it all up as much as you want with no paradoxes as long as you don’t mess up your own timeline.” He gave Sherlock his most serious look, though of course the bow-tie softened it. “You mean to kill him, and I won’t allow that. He deserves a fair trial.”
“He’s a murderer!”
“And I won’t be like him, and neither will you, not in my TARDIS!”
“I say we take him out back and shoot him,” Dean commented, making the Doctor realize they’d left whispering quietly in the dust sentences ago.
“No one’s shooting anyone!”
“Shut up, Jack,” Rory spat, “He didn’t say anything about breaking that nose, did he?”
Conan Doyle was silent after that, still chalk-white, but seeming a little closer to hopeful. The Doctor wondered if the seemingly gentle man was really a brutal murderer.
“Can there be any other explanation?” the Doctor asked Sherlock, remembering to keep quiet again.
“Perhaps, but in my experience, the simplest answer is usually correct.”
“Usually. That good enough for you? All we know for certain is that the man’s shoes were there. No fingerprints, no other DNA, no murder weapon, no witnesses. This is Jack the Ripper we’re talking about—do you want to go home wondering if you got the wrong man hanged?”
Uncertainty flickered in the detective’s cold grey eyes. “I suppose we could investigate further.”
“Excellent!” the Doctor clapped his hands and strode over to where Arthur was sitting with his head in his hands. “Let’s start by asking the man himself if he knows how his shoes found their way to a crime scene.”
“On his feet?” Dean muttered sarcastically, but the Time Lord was not put off by the convictions the humans had that Conan Doyle was guilty.
“On someone’s feet. Arthur, do you have any enemies who might want to frame you for murder?”
“No! I don’t think so. I assumed I got on well with everyone.” He looked lost, eyes wide and seeing nothing. His expression sharpened after a moment, though. “Well, I suppose Robert Stevenson might not care for me.”
“What’s he, coworker?” Sam asked, earning a mean look from Sherlock.
“He’s a member of my club,” Arthur said. “The Prometheus Club.”
“Will he be there now?” Sherlock asked sharply.
Dean wondered, as their large group once again set out through the busy London streets, why the Doctor didn’t take his oh-so-convenient space/time ship to the different locations they’d visited. Why all the walking (and running) around? Just as he’d made up his mind to ask the alien why they’d taken a half-hour long stroll instead of a ten-second journey, Arthur spoke.
“Here we are, the Prometheus club. I can get everyone in, except the lady, of course.”
Amy was none too pleased to hear this. “Excuse me? Why can’t I come in? Afraid all the cigar smoke and brandy will give me dangerous ideas?”
“No—but you aren’t allowed in. No women are.”
“We’ll see,” she said darkly, linking arms with Rory fiercely and practically pulling him to the entrance.
Dean let out a low whistle. “If we stay here any longer, she might start the feminist movement early.”
“Technically, it’s already started,” Sam informed him irrelevantly.
“B-but it’s the rules,” Arthur cried after them.
“It’s also the rules not to murder people,” Dean said with a fake smile before following the Ponds.
“I’m innocent!” he stammered, hurrying to catch up with everyone else.
The interior of the building was lit with warm lights; fires were crackling away in all the rooms they passed, though there were few people there. Everything was very Victorian and expensive-looking.
“What do you guys do here?” Dean asked, thinking that the place looked about as entertaining as a library.
“Well, the club is devoted to the improvement of human society. Scientific advancements, mostly, but we also care about moral and ethical advancement.”
“And you’re in the murder department?”
“I didn’t kill those women! I couldn’t!”
“Stop it, Dean,” the Doctor said, “We haven’t got all the evidence yet. There’s a slim chance he’s telling the truth.”
“Excuse me!” exclaimed a man who’s features were rendered practically invisible by the presence of an impressive handlebar mustache. After the initial shock the facial hair gave him, Dean pegged the man as being in his late thirties or early forties, and by his accent, he was Scottish as well as Arthur and Amy. “Who let a woman in here!”
“R-Robert! Er,” began Arthur, “I tried to stop her—”
“Who are these people?”
“Oh, just some people I met at breakfast.” Conan Doyle was an extraordinarily terrible liar, which Dean found unsettling. Either he was faking being a bad liar at the moment, or he was telling the truth about being framed for the Ripper murders.
“Actually, we’re here to ask you some questions about where you were last night.” Sherlock’s smile was icy to say the least, as cold as his eyes.
“Where I was at any given point is none of your concern. I’d like you to take that woman and leave. You’re disrupting an experiment—”
“Oh, a man of science are you?” Sherlock asked as he pushed past the man, entering a room that looked like a lab of some kind. “I am as well. What are you researching?”
“Several things,” Robert responded vaguely, “I am involved in many of the club’s endeavors. But those are not secrets we share with the public, not until we publish the results, of course.”
“Do you have an alibi for your whereabouts last night?”
“You sound as if this is a police investigation.”
The Doctor stepped up to Robert, pulling out a wallet and flipping it open. “This is an investigation. I’m Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard.”
“I was here last night,” Robert finally answered after inspecting what appeared to Dean to be a blank card. “A few other members can verify that. I went home some time after midnight.”
“Back here already?”
“My work is very important to me.”
“But not important enough to brag about to us?”
“Have you never met a modest man?”
“A modest man, yes, but never a modest scientist.”
Sherlock and Robert were glaring at each other by this point; everyone else was just watching. Dean himself was waiting for someone to start throwing punches.
“Your secrecy does not lessen my suspicions.”
“Suspicions that I did what, exactly?” Robert crossed his arms over his chest, glaring up at the taller man.
“Murdering an innocent woman.”
If Dean hadn’t been looking carefully at the mustached man as Sherlock spoke, he would have missed the brief flicker of alarm that flared in Robert’s eyes. His expression became defensive, then blank.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am certainly not a murderer!”
Feeling a tug at his sleeve, Dean turned and saw Sam, who nodded in the direction of the door. Dean followed his brother into the hall as surreptitiously as possible. He doubted anyone noticed their absence; he could still hear Sherlock and Robert arguing.
“That guy was lying,” Sam whispered.
“Duh. This place gives me the creeps. They have to be up to something.”
“I think that as well.” Cas had followed them into the hall, his steps soundless. “We should investigate. If Arthur is telling the truth about being framed for the murders, more than one person in this establishment could be behind it.”
“But why?” Sam glanced at the partially-closed door behind Dean. “What’s the point of killing a bunch of prostitutes?”
“Maybe their deaths were a cover for something. Organs were missing, right?” Dean didn’t know many of the details about the Jack the Ripper case, mostly just what he’d seen in movies and on TV.
“So you’re thinking these people were, what, experimenting on people they found expendable? Then they mutilated the bodies and made it look like some sicko did it?”
“Maybe.” Dean shrugged. “We should split up and look around this place.”
“Okay, Shaggy, you and Scooby go check out the kitchen.”
“Who is this Shaggy and Scooby, and why does the kitchen matter?” Cas asked, making both Winchesters sigh.
“I was—it’s a joke man. I wasn’t being serious, we need to stick together. You know what the Doctor said about the universes being in flux and stuff.”
“Fine, we search together,” Dean allowed. “But they gotta be hiding something major around here.”
The three men slipped down the hall, opening doors as they went. Most of them revealed rooms that looked like labs similar to the one Robert had been in, and the humans quickly became bored with riffling through hand-written papers and charts.
“What, like they’re just going to have a big sign that says ‘We’re evil’ hanging up somewhere?” Sam asked, throwing a stacks of papers down. “These guys are into every type of science known at this point in time, even psychology.”
“Any human experimentation?”
“No records of it so far, but this place is huge.”
“It isn’t likely they would keep delicate matters out in the open. Perhaps we should look for a locked room, or a hidden one.” Cas stopped flicking through a stack of papers, sighing.
Sam nodded. “Alright, Scooby, lead the way.”
“Pft, I’m not Scooby,” Dean scoffed.
“I was talking to Cas.” Both of them began to follow the angel as he walked towards a staircase that led down. “You’re Shaggy.”
“No, I’m Fred. Without that stupid scarf thing though.”
“It’s an ascot.”
“You’re an ascot, and you’re Shaggy.” They reached the lowest floor that the staircase had access to. Fortunately, there was only one way to proceed, so Cas made for it, humans in tow.
“No, I’m Fred, you’re Shaggy, he’s Scooby.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“This room is locked,” Castiel said, bringing the brothers out of their argument. The angel closed his eyes and sighed. “Perhaps I should learn how to pick locks. I’m practically human.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Dean commented, looking through his pockets for his lock-pick kit—there were so many damn pockets in his clothing he’d forgotten which one he’d used. “You’ll get your mojo back soon.” He didn’t want to think about that not happening; it reminded him too much of the possible future he’d seen, of a Cas who had completely given up.
Soon the door was open. The hallway was deserted, so they entered without hesitation. The room was empty of people but filled with clutter—papers, books, lab equipment, specimens in jars. At first glance it seemed no different than any workspace, but the first paper Dean picked up made him realize that they were done searching.
“Check this out,” he said, handing the page to his brother, who scanned the words, eyes growing larger and more alarmed with every line.
The Doctor was not an unobservant Time Lord, if indeed any Time Lords could be said to be unobservant by human standards. He was brilliant but not perfect, and he was ashamed to find that three members of his rather large group of companions were missing. How long they’d been missing he could only guess; he’d been distracted watching Sherlock work.
The man certainly had a presence about him, grey eyes cold and shining as he talked to Robert, searching out every secret he could. The Doctor watched him eagerly—it was the Sherlock Holmes, after all, a genius among humans.
The conversation between Sherlock and Robert had yielded little in the way of useful information, but the Doctor had quickly realized that Sherlock didn’t much care about the man’s evasive replies; he was using the time to inspect the room on the sly.
But that didn’t matter now—Dean, Sam, and Cas had run off, like his friends inevitably did, warn them however much he wanted, and he needed to find them before they got whisked away to some horrible universe populated by crazy cat ladies or something.
“Amy, Rory, stay with Sherlock and John. I’ll be back soon,” he said to them quietly, slipping out the door.
The soft, expensive carpet left clear footprints for him to follow (the boys had kept their own boots on, and he recognized the modern tread) so he pursued them hastily, preparing his speech about how important it was not to stray from the group when in a strange universe. The prints stopped at a wooden staircase, and the floor was uncarpeted at the bottom of it.
The hall he now stood in had the underground, secretive feeling of a basement, though it was just as meticulously clean as the rest of the building. There was no handy layer of dust to leave footprints, so he had to resort to his normal methods of doing everything—blunder around hoping that blind luck and his brilliant mind would work things out nicely.
On a whim he chose a door but found it locked. Not to be put off by such trivialities, he got out his Screwdriver and opened the metal lock easily. The room he entered was filled with papers and equipment, but no wayward travelers who couldn’t follow basic instructions about sticking with the group.
The Doctor turned to leave, but something caught his eye. In this room there was a layer of dust, which told the Time Lord that the room was too secret to let the cleaning staff into, and it told him that someone had been here recently. Some of the dust was disturbed around the papers, and there were smudges and fingerprints on the glass vials and jars.
Stepping slowly towards the nearest table, the Doctor noticed a single sheet of paper lying on the floor. If the disturbance in the dust had been caused by someone who did research here, he doubted they would have left papers lying carelessly on the ground.
Because he stooped to pick up the page, he failed to notice a book shelf behind him move noiselessly, or the silent steps of someone behind him. The Doctor had time to see just the first few words on the page before a blow to the back of the head sent him into darkness.
“Well,” said Sherlock suddenly, turning away from Robert and stepping towards the door. “This has been enlightening! We should be going.”
John hadn’t missed when half the group went missing. He’d kept glancing at the hall, expecting them to come back, but it hadn’t happened. Now if they left, there was no way to tell everyone where they’d gone. Not as if his mobile had reception in the Nineteenth century.
“Er, Robert, some of our, um, friends seem to have wondered off.”
“I’ll find them, John,” Sherlock waved his hand dismissively, then prodded the doctor, Arthur, Amy, and Rory gently but firmly towards the door and into the hall. Once they were out of earshot of Robert, Sherlock began to speak, his voice low but completely certain.
“Robert and the people he works with are obviously hiding something. Arthur, have you never noticed this before? They have something unethical going on here to say the least. It might even be criminal.”
“N-no!” Conan Doyle insisted, “We’re all devoted to helping the human race. Nothing bad is going on here!”
“Obviously they don’t let certain members in on it. We need to find the Doctor and leave.”
“Leave? I thought they were evil?” Amy crossed her arms. “We’re not bailing on this case if these people are hurting others.”
“I came here to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper, which I have done, not to solve the world’s problems. They’re so dull.” Sherlock sighed heavily, as if all the stupid in the building was getting to him.
John found himself siding with Amy. “Don’t you want to know what they’re doing?”
“I already know. Unethical science is nothing new. I solved the case I came here to, and we really should be getting back to our London.”
“Well,” snapped Amy, pulling out a silver key and shoving it at Sherlock, “You can go back to the TARDIS. We’re going to find the Doctor and shut this operation down. Coming, Dr. Watson, Arthur?”
“But he’s Jack the Ripper,” Rory protested, “You really want him helping us?”
“Allegedly Jack the Ripper,” Amy said fiercely, glaring at Sherlock.
John looked at his friend, asking silently for the man to follow them and help. Sherlock’s face was blank.
“See you at the TARDIS, John,” he muttered, then turned, flipping his coat collar up.
The doctor didn’t watch him leave, instead he joined the others as they walked in the opposite direction.
They walked down hallways and up and down flights of stairs for about twenty minutes before John decided to ask if Amy actually knew where she was going.
“Maybe it’s like being lost in the forest,” Rory supplied, “Maybe we should just stop and wait in one place so they’ll find us.”
“Where would the four of them have gone?” she asked, looking at her elaborate skirts. “And after all that talk of not running off.”
“They didn’t leave together,” Arthur said. “The Americans left first, then the Doctor noticed and went after them.”
“The question still stands. Where did they go?”
“Arthur,” John said suddenly, “Is there any place here that’s out of bounds to most members?”
“Um, just the rooms on the lowest level. Something about being unsuitable for—Where are you going?”
“To the lowest level,” Rory answered, hurrying after his wife and Dr. Watson, who had a head start on him.
Several flights of stairs later, the four were standing in a boring hallway that was lined with boring doors. John let his eyes slip over his surroundings, but then he remembered himself and began to focus, to actually see.
The bare wooden floors told him nothing, so he looked at the doors. They were identical to each other, all with fancy golden knobs that shone as if they’d just been polished. John glanced at the nearest one on the right again, noticing something slightly different about it. The handle had minute scratches on it.
“Someone picked that lock,” he murmured, getting his companions’ attention.
“Not the Doctor, he doesn’t have to.” Amy and Rory both came to examine the door, but Arthur hung back.
“I don’t like this place,” he half-whispered. John turned to face him and found the man’s eyes flickering about restlessly; a bead or two of sweat was forming on his brow. “Feels as if it’s haunted.”
“Oh, don’t be silly Arthur,” Amy reassured him, “No ghosts, only evil scientists. Anyone know how to pick locks?”
“I’m guessing the Americans know how,” Rory replied. “They seem sort of…”
“Yeah,” John agreed, “Guess when you live in a world filled with monsters you learn all sorts of interesting skills.” He didn’t bother mentioning he’d seen Sherlock pick locks more than he wanted. “Who’s up for kicking in a door?”
Everyone was very excited for that option, save Arthur, who just looked ill, but it proved to be more difficult than the movies made it seem. Eventually, though, John gave it a good enough kick to crack the frame a little, and with the Ponds’ help he pushed it open.
There were a half-dozen armed men standing on the other side; they’d clearly been waiting for the little group to break into the room. Standing slightly in front of the others was Robert.
“Should have left with your tall, cheekbone-y friend,” he drawled. “But we can always use the test subjects.”
“Cheekbone-y?” Rory asked, crossing his arms. “That’s the best descriptor you could think of?”
Amy shrugged. “He does have some cheekbones on him. So what’s your game here, boys? Gonna lock us all up?”
“Not all of you.” Robert’s smile was void of mirth, and his eyes moved to look at something behind Amy, Rory, and John.
A noise that could only technically be called laughter erupted from Arthur. It was a cruel sort of giggling. John knew his expression must’ve been much the same as the Ponds’—absolute shock. Conan Doyle had been pretending all along.
“Good to see you, Jack,” Robert said, his voice amicable enough but his eyes filled with disgust as they gazed at Arthur. “I’m afraid we don’t have any work for you just now, unless you’d like to help tie them up.”
“But there’s seven of them.” He was actually pouting, John saw, the serial killer was pouting! “You can spare one, right? The girl?”
“Leave, Jack, go find another whore.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” John said, ignoring the angry looks he got from the gun-wielding men, “So you, Arthur, have been pretending to be all nice and innocent this entire time, when in reality you are a murdering wanker?”
Arthur merely smiled in reply, then left the room.
“Well,” huffed Amy, “I’m not ever reading another Sherlock Holmes story again.”
“Our Conan Doyle wasn’t like that though,” Rory insisted as a man with a large mustache roughly tied his hands behind his back. “When we get back home, we’ll have the Doctor take us to meet him just to be sure.”
“You’re never getting back home,” Robert sneered, binding John’s hands with little care for the doctor’s comfort.
Dr. Watson was too distracted by the empty feeling of betrayal that was swirling around in his chest. He’d believed that Arthur was innocent. The man vowed that if he got out of this ridiculous life-threatening situation, he’d never assume a possible criminal was innocent based on the person’s actions and words again.
Worst of all of it, though, was that Sherlock had been right, and John would have to put up with his smugness, assuming they ever met again.
“So you knew all along that Arthur was a killer,” John began, both to buy time and to satisfy his own curiosity, “And you let him get away with it?”
“Such a quaint theory.” That was all Robert would say on the subject. Once the three travelers were restrained, the men led them through what appeared to be a secret passage behind a bookshelf.
“Very original,” John muttered, then wondered if at this point in time hiding a passage behind a bookshelf actually was novel. Time-travel was so confusing. He made a mental note to google the first mention in literature of a hidden passage like the one he was being forced into.
Dean Winchester stared at the wall opposite him, frowning as he wriggled his wrists around in an attempt to loosen the ropes that bound him to the chair he was in. He gave up the effort when he felt a trickle of blood slip down his hands; the skin of his wrists had long since gone numb, but he didn’t want to cause too much damage to himself.
Beside him, Sam was still trying to get out of his bonds, but he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
“Can’t believe those nerds jumped us like that,” Dean muttered. “We got kidnapped by a bunch of scientists with muttonchops. I’ll never forgive myself.”
Cas had long since given up trying to escape. At the moment he was sitting quietly with his eyes closed, probably wishing that his magical angel powers would return so that he could be useful to the escape effort.
Sitting on the opposite side of Cas, the Doctor groaned, returning to consciousness after a good half-hour of being knocked out. “Mmmmpf,” he commented, then shook his head and started over. “These scientists are obviously hiding something big. Where are we?”
“Looks like some kinda torture chamber,” Dean answered grimly.
“Or a lab,” Sam added. “At some point the two are the same thing.”
“Pretty cliché actually.” Dean sighed. “Bunch of evil Victorian scientists with crazy sideburns doing unethical experiments on people. Go figure.”
“This universe does seem to have an unusually high concentration of literary motifs and clichés,” the Doctor agreed as he squirmed against his bonds. “Interesting, but not really the issue at the moment. Castiel,” he turned to the angel, who at last opened his eyes. “Do you think you could reach my breast pocket if we tip over both our chairs?”
“That’ll pin your arms down,” Dean interrupted, shaking his head. “Might even break ‘em.”
“The backs of the chairs are wider at the top than the bottom,” the Doctor rejoined. Their hands were bound behind the backs of the chairs, close to the bottom where the backs and seats joined. “If we fall right it should be fine. Cas?”
“I’ll do my best. What’s in your pocket?”
“My Sonic Screwdriver, I can use it to get out of these ropes. Ready?” The Doctor moved his chair a few inches back, grimacing. “Stupid heavy chairs.”
“Good ol’ Victorian craftsmanship,” Sam said sarcastically.
After a few minutes the Doctor had moved enough so that Cas would theoretically be able to reach his jacket if they both fell in the same direction. Dean watched them, expecting the falling bit to go horribly awry.
With a loud crack the Doctor tipped his chair over, miraculously not pinning his arm. Cas followed suit, looking more determined than worried.
“Fantastic!” the Doctor exclaimed as Cas landed next to him, close enough to stretch his pale hands out and touch the alien’s jacket.
A minute passed, during which Cas remained absolutely silent as the Doctor gave him bits of encouragement and advice.
“The pocket’s bigger on the inside so you might have to get around some other things—No, that’s the toy mouse—Oh, I’d forgotten I brought Jenga with me today—Where did I pick up that Han Solo action figure? Ah!” he said at last, “That’s it! You’ve got it now?”
“Yes. How do I use it?”
“Turn the dial until I tell you to stop. Okay, that’s the setting for rope. Pass it to my mouth.”
Dean couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of the Doctor with the Screwdriver between his teeth, pressing the button on it, aiming it at the ropes that were tied around Cas’s wrists. As if by magic they broke, and the angel quickly untied his feet and stood, moving to help the Doctor.
Half a minute later, the four of them were free, but still in a locked room devoid of weapons. They’d all been thoroughly searched when captured—those damn nerds had even found the knife in Dean’s boot—but they’d missed the Screwdriver.
“Do you have a gun?” Dean asked the Time Lord, who looked offended at the question.
“No. I don’t carry weapons. I don’t need them.”
“Let’s get the hell outta here then, before they come ba—” Sam’s words were cut short by the heavy sound of footsteps approaching, and the unmistakable voices of their fellow time-travelers. From what Dean could hear, they seemed to be having a discussion on whether or not bookcases were a cliché way to hide a secret passage.
“It is a bit Scooby Doo, isn’t it?” Dr. Watson was saying. “But I’ll not call it a cliché until I know who was the first to do it.”
“Clichés are all about perception,” Amy insisted, “We all think of the bookcase thing as overused, so it’s a cliché. Doesn’t matter when the first one was. Perception is everything.”
“I don’t think it’s cliché if these people invented it,” replied Rory, but before the discussion could go further, a man—probably one with a gigantic moustache—began to shout for them to shut up.
Everyone in the room began to look around for a hiding place; not even the Doctor seemed to think of a viable plan for a moment, then he hissed, “Back in your chairs, pretend to be tied up!”
That was the only option, really, so they all did it quickly and without question. Dean put his hands behind his back just before the door opened. Half a dozen scientists entered, holding Amy, Rory, and Dr. Watson at gunpoint.
Glancing at everyone else, Dean was relieved to see that they all looked more or less how they had before the escape attempt—Cas’s cravat was a little more disheveled than it had been, somehow making the angel look more like himself despite the strange clothing.
“Where’s Sherlock? And Arthur?” the Doctor asked sharply, drawing Dean’s attention back to the scientists. He turned back to them in time to see his friends’ faces darken at the mention of Conan Doyle.
It was John who spoke. “Arthur is Jack the Ripper. He’s been lying all along and I—“ Watson shook his head. “Sherlock left. He’d already solved the case and didn’t see the need in investigating these people.” He spat the word like an insult. “But they apparently knew about the killings—”
“That is quite enough,” Robert interrupted.
Dean missed the rest of the man’s vague threats about what he’d do if they weren’t quiet; he was too busy digesting what he’d just heard. So Arthur had been the killer all along. That was surprising to the hunter. Conan Doyle had seemed sincere, kind, a bit inept perhaps, like a normal slightly awkward bookish type. Serial killers were good at hiding their true natures, though.
Being as surreptitious as possible, the older Winchester brother flicked his eyes towards the Doctor. Cas was in the way so it was hard to be sure, but he thought the Time Lord was still holding that Sonic Screwdriver in his hands. In this situation, a normal screwdriver probably would have been more effective as a weapon, but at least it was something.
The odds were terribly against them: six armed men against seven unarmed and uncomfortably dressed time-travelers. Amy would likely be especially constrained by her clothing—she was in a whalebone corset and about a million yards of fabric.
Still, they had to do something. Talking, Dean decided, was the best course. Smart people loved to brag about how smart they were.
“So did you put ol’ Jack up to it, or did you just find out about him later and think, what the hell, might as well study his crazy ass for the good of mankind?”
Robert frowned, leveling his revolver at Dean’s skull. “We did not create that monster, merely took advantage. Now be quiet—”
“What’s the point in shutting up if you’re gonna kill me either way?”
“It’s true what they say,” Robert sighed, “The only quiet American is a dead American.”
Leaning back in his chair, Dean gave the man his most sarcastic smile. “Then go ahead and shoot me. But before you do, I’d love to know why you let that monster kill innocent women.”
“Innocent?” Robert snorted. “They were whores, a disease of society.”
“So you wanted him to kill them?” the Doctor asked, sounding repulsed. “How, exactly, does this help anyone?”
“He has to kill someone,” Robert shrugged. “He can’t seem to help himself. That’s part of the results of studying him. We are beginning to understand things about the human mind that no one has ever discovered before.”
“Oh, yeah, that makes up for it,” Sam muttered, rolling his eyes. “You guys are dicks.”
“You know,” began John, bitter sarcasm tinting his words, “if you want to help people, you might try actually helping people instead of murderering them. Just a thought.”
“We tried helping Arthur,” Robert responded, seeming a little angry, his icy expression giving way to something more emotional. “But his condition cannot be cured, so it must be directed.”
“Ever think of having him arrested?” Rory asked snarkily.
“They wouldn’t understand him. You’ve seen it yourselves—you believed Arthur to be an innocent man, partially because he is innocent.” Robert actually lowered his gun.
“What?” Amy asked, “You can’t expect us to believe that! We saw him, he practically confessed!”
“You were speaking to Jack, not Arthur.”
“No,” the Doctor’s voice was half exhalation. “He has dissociative identity disorder.”
“What?” Dean asked.
“Multiple personalities. Dear God.”
Robert looked a little perplexed at the Doctor’s use of the term. “Yes, on the one hand he’s a nice enough fellow, a caring doctor, and on the other he’s a monster. Locking him up would only punish part of him, and the other part would suffer needlessly.”
“Does Arthur know?” the Doctor seemed angry; Dean noticed the alien’s knuckles turn white around his Screwdriver. “Did you bother to tell him he’s been killing people?!”
“Of course not! What purpose would that serve?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Sam interrupted, “He might want to keep himself off the streets?”
Most of the other five scientists had dropped their guard significantly, Dean was pleased to notice, and Robert looked like a man who was under a personal attack.
“Poor Arthur,” the Doctor whispered, “He thought you were setting him up, did you know that? Because of the way you look at him—like he’s a monster. Yet you let him walk free just so he can be your lab rat! You’re all partially responsible for those dead women.”
There was something terrifying about the Doctor in those moments; for the first time Dean was able to see through the youthful appearance of the man to what he really was: something much more than human.
“Let us go,” the Doctor implored, his voice gentler now. “Arthur is out there, we need to find him and stop him from killing again.”
Robert shook his head. “I can’t let you leave, you know too much. Rest easy knowing that your deaths will serve a higher purpose.”
“I don’t think they’ll be dying just yet.”
Dean glanced up sharply; somehow he’d missed Sherlock’s arrival. The man was standing behind Robert, gun aimed at the back of his skull.
“Put your weapons down or I’ll end him. Do it now!” The other scientists did as they were told, and John quickly gathered their guns.
“Rory, Amy, untie—”
“No need for that,” said the Doctor brightly as the four of them got out of their chairs. “We’ve been free for ages, just waiting for the right moment.” He turned on Robert. “I’ll deal with you lot later. Right now we’ve got to find Arthur.”
None of the others needed to be told to follow the Doctor as he dashed up the passage. A few minutes later, the eight time-travelers were out on the London streets.
“If I were Jack the Ripper,” Dean began, looking around in vain, “where would I go?”
“It’s the middle of the day,” Sherlock said, seeming far more at ease than anyone else. “He won’t kill anyone until long after dark, and since he’s just killed, it’s unlikely that he will do so again this soon.”
“I’m not looking for the murderer, Sherlock,” the Doctor said, “I’m looking for Arthur. Come on, back to the TARDIS!”
John had no time to question Sherlock about his actions while they were sprinting through the streets of London, following the Doctor, who didn’t want to waste time with merely walking about. But when they finally reached the TARDIS and the Doctor was busy fiddling with the controls, Dr. Watson confronted his friend.
“You left. Why was that?”
“I never left, I merely needed them to think I’d left. I assumed that the Americans had stumbled into trouble, and that none of us would be allowed to leave if we kept searching for them. I went out, then snuck back in and found the passage.”
The TARDIS began to move violently, preventing John from asking Sherlock why he had to be such an ass all the time. When they landed, the Doctor wasted no time in running out the door, leaving everyone to follow him or be left behind.
John dashed out just after Sherlock, surprised to find that they seemed to have landed on the middle of a bridge, though they were to one side of it at least. The time of day had also changed somehow; it was night, probably late night by the lack of traffic.
As he ran, John could make out the figure of a man standing a few dozen yards down the bridge. Nearing him, the doctor saw that it was Arthur. He seemed to be just staring out at the black water of the Thames as it flowed by underneath them.
Conan Doyle turned to watch them as they came to a stop. His face looked sad and lost.
“I.” He turned away. “I don’t remember walking here,” he murmured, and the group was close enough to hear it. The Doctor stopped a few feet away from the man.
“Arthur, there’s something you need to know—”
But Conan Doyle was shaking his head. “I don’t want to know. I don’t want to. Just leave me alone!”
The Doctor stepped forward, but Arthur whirled on him, pulling a revolver out of his coat. “S-stop! I didn’t kill those women! I can’t have—I would never—”
“We know,” the Time Lord’s hands were raised, and he inched closer. “You have a disorder, a mental disease, it wasn’t your fault.”
“I don’t remember doing it.” Arthur’s voice was faint, cracking with emotion, and his hand shook. “But the blood was on my shoes. I don’t remember leaving the club. I killed them all, didn’t I?”
“Well, yes, and no.”
“That’s not an answer!” Arthur was screaming shrilly now. “Am I a monster, Doctor?”
“We can help you, Arthur—”
“Help me?! What about those women? Who will help them? How can I ever do enough to outweigh their deaths?”
“You’re a doctor, you’ve helped people, saved lives. You just have more than one personality floating around in there. But I can help.”
Arthur began to laugh awkwardly. “If I’m more than one person, how do I know which one is real? Who am I?”
“This is the real you, Arthur—”
“You don’t know for certain! I’ll kill again unless I’m stopped. And if you won’t do it, I will!”
With resolve and speed that surprised John Watson, Arthur turned the gun on himself, pressing the barrel to his temple and firing before the Doctor could get to him.
There was a collective outcry, but loudest and most desperate of all was the Time Lord’s shout of “No!” even as the blood spattered across his face and torso.
Conan Doyle had been standing on the edge of the bridge, and as his body fell it tumbled over the railing and into the river with a strangely quiet splash, as if the Thames couldn’t be bothered to care about one dead man.
Silence filled the space between the eight people, strained and painful. The Doctor was turned away from all of them, staring after Arthur’s body, but the straightness of his back and motionlessness of his body told John that the man felt about the same as he himself did about Conan Doyle’s death: absolutely horrified and stunned.
“I guess that’s why there were no more victims,” Dean said after several minutes. “Jack the Ripper executed himself. What a stand-up guy.” The elder Winchester brother was obviously the type to try to lessen tension with humor, however misguided and inappropriate those attempts might be.
Dean’s words made the Doctor turn around; his eyes were bloodshot. “Back to the TARDIS, everyone. You’ll remember that we have to save modern London from vampires. You’re satisfied that we are who we say we are, Sherlock? John?”
“Yes,” Dr. Watson answered, finding the words came easily to his lips. He did believe, even though it was all mad.
Vampires in London. That had to be easier than Jack the Ripper, right?
The eight travelers slowly walked back to the TARDIS, all quietly preoccupied with their own thoughts. John glanced at his flatmate, surprised to find that though Sherlock had been right about the case, the man didn’t look triumphant, only a little sad.
Once inside the space/time machine, the Doctor seemed to brighten, jumping about, pulling levers and turning knobs, but even his energy seemed hollow.
“Here we are!” The Doctor exclaimed as Sexy landed, “London! Now let’s go save the day!”
He knew his attempt at seeming his usual bouncy self wouldn’t fool Amy or Rory, but he had to pretend to be alright, if not for everyone else’s sake, but his own sake also. The trick to not being sad was to actively try to be happy. So he tucked away the death of Arthur Conan Doyle, saving it for when he had time to grieve (and he made sure he never had much spare time at all.)
He was, as always, the first to the door, and as he opened it, something sped past him, ruffling his hair. The Doctor was only dimly aware of the noise outside—shouting, screaming, explosions and gunshots—because something hot and wet had just sprayed all over him, trickling down the back of his neck and onto his favorite shirt.
Before the Doctor had a chance to turn he knew that the liquid was blood, he could smell its sharp metallic scent, and he heard Amy scream and John and Sherlock gasp, Rory exclaim a curse and Dean shout, voice frantic, “Cas? Cas!”
The Doctor and His Companions Will Return In
Four Score and Seven Vampire Hunters
A.N.: First, thanks so, so much to all the lovely wonderful people who reviewed this! Your words of encouragement really inspire me! Also a big thanks to my darling betas!
Secondly, the versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson in this are purely fictional and not at all based on facts, so to those of you out there are are experts on these men, sorry for the inaccuracies.
Thirdly, sorry about the cliffhanger ending, but on the bright side, there won't be very many of those for the rest of the story! Thanks to all of you for reading, see you next chapter!
Chapter 4: Four Score and Seven Vampire Hunters
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Four Score and Seven Vampire Hunters
John Watson had blood on his face, but he hardly noticed. His eyes were locked on Cas, who for an angel had very human flesh and bones. The army doctor’s world shrank as he felt the blood spatter on him and heard the screams of his companions; in an instant no one else was there but him and Cas, and nothing mattered but the gaping wound in the angel’s shoulder.
He’d seen many types of battlefield injuries—gunshot, shrapnel, and the like—but he’d never seen anything quite like what he was looking at.
“Get back!” he shouted, pushing Dean and the Doctor away, “I’m a doctor, remember? Give me space to work!” Telling people to get away from an injured person was always hard, they always wanted to help even if they were only hurting, but everyone seemed to understand, though the Doctor had to pull Dean away. John made himself ignore the hunter’s expression of shock and disbelief; there would be time for all that later.
John removed the clothing from around Cas’s shoulder as best he could. Cas himself was in shock, eyes open but not comprehending much judging by their dazed quality. Dr. Watson spoke to the man anyway, mindless words of encouragement as he revealed the wound more fully.
He’s going to lose his arm, John thought with clinical coldness, distance. The bullet wound was large and ragged, arm partially detached from the torso already; the doctor had no idea what caliber had hit him. As he bundled up ripped clothing to make a compress, he noticed shards of bone in the muscle. Lose his arm or worse.
Cas began to convulse, eyes rolling back in his head. John felt warm blood squelch through his fingers as the movement knocked his grip on the compress loose.
“Doctor, we need to get to a hospital! Now!” He didn’t bother worrying about how severely he was overstepping in ordering the Doctor about; he would listen to reprimands later, when the dying man he was kneeling by was taken care of.
From the corner of his eye he saw the Time Lord practically leap to his controls, but before the Doctor could so much as press an inane button or switch, the lights in the TARDIS began to flicker, then went out completely.
“No, no, no! Don’t do this to me now, Sexy!”
Dean heard the Doctor cry the words through a haze; his brain was lagging behind a bit, stuck on the image of Cas’s shoulder practically exploding. The faint echo of the sound that had come from beyond the now-closed TARDIS door haunted him also—the screams of dying men, explosions, gunshots—the sound of war. Was that what the vampires had done to London?
Though the adrenaline in him had made time seem to pass more slowly, Dean knew that Cas hadn’t been on the floor for more than twenty seconds or so before the lights stopped flickering abruptly and came back on. The hunter waited for the tell-tale jarring movements and the scratchy sounds that meant the TARDIS was in flight, but they didn’t come.
“How the bloody hell did you get in here?”
Dean tore his eyes away from the shaking, twitching form of his friend to follow the gaze of the Doctor, who looked both confused and angry.
A woman stood a few feet past Cas, standing stiffly, almost formally in a way that nagged at Dean, seeming familiar somehow. She was in a fine dress, scoop-necked and dark blue, almost as poofy as the one Amy was still wearing. Her hair was black and pulled back in a complicated series of curls and ringlets, her skin even and fair. But the most striking feature about her by far were her blue eyes; when Dean met them, he had a sudden tilting feeling of vertigo and déjà-vu.
“The entity you call Sexy gave me admittance,” she said levelly, turning slowly from Dean’s gaze to face the Doctor. “She knew of your need and allowed me to pass by her defenses. I am here to help.”
“Help? How about you get him to a hospital then—” began Dr. Watson, but she cut him off by kneeling beside Cas and touching his arm.
“I’ve healed his vessel.” The angel’s bare shoulder was now whole and unmarred, and there was a large piece of lead lying on the ground nearby, presumably whatever it was that had hit him. The woman lingered by Cas, staring at him intently. “He must be an exceptionally loyal and effective angel to have been given such an important task.”
Dean was about to correct her, but Sam elbowed him. It was just as well, the hunter realized, since telling people in this world about what had happened in his wasn’t necessarily a good idea.
Standing again, the woman continued, “He may be unconscious for some time. Perhaps it is best. I believe I would not be able to keep myself from asking him questions whose answers I have no right to hear.”
“Who are you?” Dean found himself speaking. “An angel, right?” Demons didn’t usually refer to people as vessels; he’d only ever heard angels use that term.
“I am Castiel, and I was sent here by God to give what small aid I could before my duties bring me elsewhere.”
Dean immediately stopped admiring the angel’s fantastic cleavage and began choking on his own saliva. Sam gave him a knowing and vaguely amused look.
“You were eye-banging chick-Cas, weren’t you?” the younger Winchester inquired in a voice loud enough for only his brother to hear.
“Shut up, she’s hot!” Dean hissed back.
Everyone was looking at the brothers expectantly. “Er,” Dean cleared his throat. “So you’re Bizzaro Cas?”
“I don’t understand—”
“Yeah, yeah, we know,” Sam cut in. “So God told you to help us. Why doesn’t he just stop the Voidsong himself?”
“It is neither my place nor yours to question God.”
“Oh, shut up about—” Dean’s voice was antagonistic, but there was drying blood all over him and he was tired of being told that he should just sit back and accept whatever God decided to throw his way. Before the hunter could get into a debate about it (which, since he was talking to Cas, even if it was hot-chick Cas from another universe, wouldn’t really be a debate more than him shouting at a wall) the Doctor stepped in.
“Castiel, thank you for your help. We seem to have landed in the wrong universe, so we’ll just pop on about our way. Let me get the door for you.”
“That would be unwise,” she said, “You landed in the Hornet’s Nest.”
To Dean her words meant nothing, but the Doctor seemed to understand, even if no one else did, by their blank faces. “We’re at the Battle of Shiloh. The American Civil War.”
“Thought you said we were going to London,” John quipped. “Bit off. Are you always this bad at landing?”
Ignoring Dr. Watson, the Doctor continued to speak to the conscious Cas. “Well, if you got in you can leave the same way. But right now I need to get back to Sherlock and John’s universe.”
“To kill vampires, I know. I came here to heal his vessel and to deliver a message. The man you need is here. You will find him in the White House.” She smiled, looking so much like the other Cas that it made Dean certain that the female vessel must have been Jimmy Novak’s ancestor. “Seek and you will find what you are looking for, Doctor. Don’t lose faith.”
Then, with the soft sound of fluttering wings, she was gone.
“Huh,” Dean said. “The White House?”
No one else said anything for a moment; even Sherlock seemed to be just focusing on digesting what had happened. But for Dean and Sam, angels popping in and out with cryptic messages was par for the course.
“Right!” The Doctor spun back to the center of the TARDIS. “I guess we should go to the White House.”
“We should believe that angel,” Sherlock spat the word, obviously still not completely on board with the whole supernatural thing that was so obviously happening, “just because she popped in to say hello? Why should we trust her?”
The Doctor didn’t look up from what he was doing, and the TARDIS began to tilt wildly, the engines making their strange, scratching noise. “Why shouldn’t we trust her? She saved Cas’s life—not to mention the TARDIS herself let her in. I trust my ship’s judgment.”
“It’s alive?” John asked incredulously. “Like artificial intelligence?”
“Nothing artificial about her,” the Doctor responded brightly, barely keeping his footing as the ship tilted in an exciting new direction. Dean himself almost fell over, grabbing onto the railing just in time to prevent it. Dr. Watson was still kneeling by Cas, keeping the unconscious angel from being flung about like a doll.
“Who are we looking for, though?” Sam asked, speaking what Dean had been wondering. There were probably hundreds of people milling around that place. “And how will he be able to stop the Voidsong?”
“He won’t,” the Doctor replied cheerily. “This is about our current problem unless I am mistaken, which is unlikely. We need him to help with the vampires running rampant in London.”
“We can handle a few vampires,” Dean huffed, though it was hard trying to seem impressive and bad-ass when he could barely keep his feet.
“Someone upstairs has a different opinion,” Rory said, a joke in his voice.
The TARDIS landed at last, and as the engines stilled, Cas began to stir, opening his eyes slowly.
“What happened?” His voice was cracked and tired and terribly human.
“You got shot,” John said as kindly as it was possible to say something of that nature, “But, er, an angel fixed you.” The doctor looked to the Winchesters, a question obvious in his eyes: Should they tell him all of it?
“It was Bizzaro you,” Dean supplied. There was no harm in telling Cas about another version of himself.
“I don’t understand your reference,” he replied, bemused and still more than a little dazed around the edges.
“This universe’s version of you,” Sam cut in, rolling his eyes at his bother. “We kinda ended up in the wrong place. Again.” Everyone gave the Doctor a pointed look.
“Well it’s not my fault the universes have gone all wibbly! Now, they’re probably wondering why there’s a big blue box in the middle of the Oval Office, so we should go say hello! And look, you’re already dressed for the occasion.”
Everyone was still wearing their Victorian clothing, though now Cas’s coat and shirt were ripped apart at the shoulder. Somehow all the blood had disappeared from everyone, at least, likely because the other Cas had felt sorry for the state of their clothing.
Despite his exuberance, which Dean was learning was the norm for the Doctor, the Time Lord was cautious as he opened the door, understandable considering what had happened the last time he’d attempted to go running off.
“Good afternoon, Mr. President,” he said, door still opened only a crack, “Perhaps you could persuade your very able men to lower their weapons so I can come out and have a little chat with you?”
“The President,” Amy said, “As in Abraham Lincoln? Is that who that angel lady sent us after?”
“Not likely,” Sam responded quietly, while the Doctor tried to talk to Secret Service down. “But he’ll probably know of someone who can help us kill vampires. If there are angels in this universe, then there must be hunters, too.”
John gave a short chuckle. “You make it sound like angels need to be hunted.”
Dean and Sam were silent on the subject, merely trading glances and undoubtedly remembering similar things. Cas spoke up though, surprising the Winchesters.
“Not all angels love humans. Many despise them for their place in God’s sight.”
Rory fidgeted with his cravat. “You don’t hate us lowly humans, do you, Cas?” His voice was half jesting, half nervous.
“Of course not.” The angel’s blue eyes were locked on Dean’s. “For all humanity’s flaws, you are…” Cas hesitated, as if trying to think of the right words.
“Magnificent!” the Doctor supplied, turning from the door. “Humans are magnificent, and we can go talk to the President now.”
Everyone left the TARDIS, most of them cautiously, save the Doctor, who was bouncy as ever, and Sherlock, who looked like he couldn’t be bothered to care if he was about to meet Abraham Lincoln.
The President was sitting at his desk, and Dean was surprised to see that he wasn’t wearing a hat. A second moment of thought made him remember it was rude to wear hats inside, but still, he’d always thought of the man with the stovepipe hat on, as if it were a part of him rather than an accessory.
Dean came back to the conversation in time to realize the Doctor was making introductions.
When the Time Lord was finished with the pleasantries, he paused as if deciding what level of tact he should use in approaching the subject of their visit. Dean wondered what the Doctor had told everyone about the TARDIS and how they’d gotten into the Oval Office. Perhaps it had been the truth, though if it was, the President seemed to be taking it very well.
“What we’ve come here to discuss is a little—well, it’s a bit mad.”
“I assure you, Doctor, I have seen my share of madness in the world. If your strange blue box filled with people hasn’t upset me, nothing will.”
“I mentioned we’re from another universe. Well, their home,” he gestured to Sherlock and John, “is currently under attack by a large group of vampires that sort of slithered into their world. Someone told us there was a man here who could help."
“Someone?” Lincoln’s eyebrows rose slightly, and there was a tinge of wry humor in his voice. Dean was startled that he hadn’t asked the usual questions or made the normal comments of disbelief about vampires.
“You a hunter?” Dean interrupted rather more abruptly than he should have considering he was talking to Abraham Lincoln. But he couldn’t keep the suspicion off his tongue once it had snuck up in his mind. What if the President was the man Bizzaro Cas had sent them after?
Lincoln leaned back in his comfortable-looking chair. “In a manner of speaking,” he replied carefully. “And of course since I have taken office I have had a bit too much else to worry over.”
“Oh, you’ll do fine in the war,” Dean answered.
“Will I? The situation certainly does not seem so now.”
Sam cleared his throat pointedly. “Mr. President, can you help us?”
He shook his head, turning his eyes from the group for the first time to look at his desk. “As I said, there is too much work here for me to leave for any length of time. But I can put you in touch with some other fine hunters.”
“Are they as good as you?” the Doctor asked, “Because you came very highly recommended.”
“Who could have recommended me to you, if you are strangers in this world?”
“Well!” The Doctor turned slightly towards the Winchester brothers, catching their eyes in turns, deferring to them on this issue. They naturally had a better handle on this situation because they were themselves hunters and would know how someone would react if told an angel sent them a message from God.
Dean almost laughed. He would have thought they were bat-shit insane, or lying for some unknown purpose. He hadn’t believed in angels until one literally pulled his ass out of hell and then stopped by to tell him he’d done it.
“An angel,” Sam haltingly insisted. “An angel told us where to find you.”
“Oh?” Lincoln didn’t seem completely convinced they were lying, but he certainly wasn’t on board. “Why didn’t the angel help you itself? Why send you to me?”
“Uh, God helps those who help themselves?” Dean gave his most charming smile, but it bounced right off the President with no effect.
“I have seen many terrible things in my life as a hunter, and worse still as a leader of men. But I will not believe in something for which I have seen no evidence. If there are angels, they do not walk among us.”
“You’re looking at one right now.” Dean gestured behind him vaguely, where he assumed Cas was standing.
“The Doctor told me he was from another world far from Earth.”
“What?” Turning around, the elder Winchester saw that Cas was a few feet off from where he pointed. “No, Cas is the angel.”
“The one with the damaged wardrobe is an angel?” Lincoln sounded more than doubtful. “Cas is a strangely simple name for a heavenly being.”
“My name is Castiel. Cas is an abbreviation.”
“Well,” the President leaned back. “Prove to me you are what you claim, and then perhaps I will assemble a group of worthy men and women to aid you.”
Eyes moving away from the President to glance sporadically around the room, Cas answered, “I am cut off from heaven; I can’t reveal powers I do not currently possess.”
“How convenient for you.” There was a finality in his voice, as if he were a few heartbeats from dismissing them all back into their mad box and the hell out of his office.
“Will this be proof enough?” The Doctor held up a misshapen lump of dull metal—perhaps lead by its color. It took Dean a moment to realize that the object was the bullet that had nearly killed Cas.
“An interesting paper-weight, I’m sure—”
“This is a Minié ball, Mr. President, and it was until recently lodged inside poor Cas’s shoulder. We’ve just come from Shiloh.”
A darkness spread across the man’s face, making him look ten years older. “Is it going badly?”
“For everyone, yes, with these things flying through the air.” Anger crept up in the Doctor’s voice. “You humans are so brilliant, but you turn your minds to making weapons that outstrip your ability to heal. Men on both sides are being slaughtered.”
“What would you have me do? Let the Rebels tear this country apart?”
“No.” The Doctor shook his head sadly. “You can’t stop it. The war will happen one way or another. But there is a place where you can help, where you can save lives.”
“Doctor, I can’t leave—”
“Did I mention I’ve got a time machine? We can have you back five minutes ago.”
Dean saw signs of relenting on Lincoln’s face. Trying not to smile, he marveled at how easily the Doctor had distracted him from the issue of providing proof that angels existed. The Time Lord came off as a quirky hipster, but he was really very intelligent, and Dean felt he was only beginning to see the depths of that intelligence.
“It will take a few days for me to get messages to the people I would like to bring with us.” The tension lifted from the room; Dean noticed a great deal of it flood out of his shoulders that he hadn’t known was there.
“Not necessary, just give me a name and a vague address, and we can pop right over!”
Keeping track of time was difficult whilst zipping about on the TARDIS, but John thought they’d been roaming around the country collecting hunters for almost four hours before they got half a dozen on board. The trouble wasn’t in finding them—the Doctor seemed more than capable of that—but it was in convincing them to come into a strange blue box of mysterious origins. Dr. Watson was learning that hunters of monsters were suspicious by nature. The group of inter-universal travelers had all been put to various tests each time the President took them to meet a new hunter. John was tired of drinking holy water and being prodded with silver—so much so that he was about to suggest just what the next hunter could do with his supply of holy water and certain parts of his anatomy—when at last Lincoln told the Doctor that he was confident their group, now grown to fifteen, would be able to take on the vampires in London.
The newcomers were men save for one, and all were dressed sensibly for fighting: comfortable, well-fitting shirts and slacks with various vests and coats thrown in the mix as well as a healthy amount of weaponry. The woman wasn’t wearing a skirt like most members of her sex would have been in her time, and her dark hair was cut short, probably for convenience. She was the youngest, no more than twenty, but she didn’t seem out of place among the group of older men. Of the other five, only one lacked a beard—a tall, muscled man with graying hair. All of them had a blue-color air about them.
In short, they all looked like Nineteenth-century versions of the Winchester brothers; a certain light shone from their eyes, hard and cold—their eyes had seen terrible things, but they’d also seen terrible things killed by their own hands. The light was similar to what John had seen from soldiers but tinted differently.
Sam approached where John and Sherlock stood, the latter two observing the group of hunters quietly. Holding out two long knives, Sam gave them a sad sort of smile.
“Welcome to team hunter.” In his voice there was a limping humor, the kind that would inspire even the most nonviolent soul to put it down out of mercy were it an animal rather than an attempted joke. “I don’t think you’ll have to use these, but it’s best to have them. The only way to kill a vampire is to cut off its head.”
Sherlock gave a derisive little snarky chuckle; John sensed a fight about to begin. “Superstitious drivel.”
Amy and Rory were close by, close enough to hear him clearly. Their group was sticking together, probably because even though they were all from different worlds, they had more in common with each other than with a bunch of hunters from 1862. The married couple came closer.
“Do we get knives, too?” Rory asked, his voice almost casual.
“Yeah. Everyone needs them, just in case. But we’ll need to make a stop first.”
“Most of your weapons are in evidence,” Sherlock sighed lazily. “I imagine you’ll want them.”
“And we should change back into normal clothes,” Dean added, walking over. “Amy, be sure to wear something you can run in.”
“Oh, trust me, I’m no stranger to running for my life. Spend a little more time with our Doctor and you’ll see why.”
Half an hour later, the TARDIS jolted to a stop, and only the Winchesters and the Doctor left. The coast being clear, apparently, they returned with armloads of weapons, though their alien pilot didn’t seem happy to be retrieving them. The process took several trips, then, when the brothers were sure they’d gotten everything, they set about organizing it.
Their car was no longer in miniature; the Doctor had made a garage for it off the main room then un-shrank it with his shrink-ray gadget. The wall near the hallway opened when a person touched it, revealing a spacious room filled with tools that were mostly unknown to the doctor, either because of his lack of expertise in mechanics or because they weren’t human in origin.
Dean and Sam began to store most of the guns in the trunk, the bothers quietly fighting over where particular items had gone before the police had disturbed them. One item retrieved wasn’t a weapon—the coat. John remembered the finding of the garment though it seemed like it had been a year ago when he’d first been up on the roof, staring at a car that shouldn’t have been there.
Back then he hadn’t believed in aliens or parallel universes or vampires or angels. The adaptability of the human mind was astounding, he mused as he watched Dean pick up the trench coat almost gingerly, as if he were afraid of breaking it somehow.
The elder Winchester brother took the coat and walked to where Cas was sitting, avoiding the stares of the new hunters, who had been told what he was but probably didn’t believe a word of it. There wasn’t much for John to do, so he watched Dean idly; beside him, Sherlock did the same, cold grey eyes sharp with annoyed boredom—only he could find being on a spaceship with Abraham Lincoln boring.
They were close enough to hear Dean’s words as he spoke to Cas. “I found this and thought you might—that you would need it when you came back.”
This piqued John’s curiosity. He realized, then, that he knew very little about the Americans other than the basics of what they were—hunters and an angel—but as to who they were, he hadn’t the slightest idea. Listening to the exchange more closely, he reminded himself that it wasn’t really eavesdropping if the people were having the conversation right in the open.
“You thought I would return?” Cas asked, staring up at Dean.
“You always do.” Dean’s smile missed the mark of nonchalant so badly that it ended up almost sad. “And you look weird without it.” He pressed the coat into Cas’s hands, the silence stretching thin between them.
John glanced away, feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic. In doing so he noticed that Sherlock seemed to feel no moral objections to spying on them. The man’s eyes were fixed on Cas; he looked more curious than bored now, at least.
Clearing his throat quietly, John said, “Sherlock, you’re doing it again.”
“Doing it? Doing what?”
“Being impolite. Come on, we should probably learn as much as we can about the vampires and what to expect. People are dying, Sherlock. You can ask them all the questions you want later, after this is over.”
Giving John a level, piercing stare, Sherlock slowly replied, “And you think there will be much time for talking before the Doctor is off again to some other universe? That is assuming we all survive this.”
“So you believe it, then? In vampires?” John hardly knew if he’d accepted it fully yet.
“I believe in what I saw, and I saw dozens of people slaughtered, likely exsanguinated by their color. I doubt Dracula is to blame, but someone is.”
John looked at the long knife in his hand, wondering if he’d have to use it to cut off something’s head. He didn’t respond to Sherlock’s words; there was no response to such a statement.
The Doctor frowned at the large group of hunters, eyeing their weapons with distaste. He hated when things got to this point, but he knew it was unlikely that he’d be able to talk a swarm of vampires into just going home quietly without hurting anyone else. From the description Sam and Dean had given everyone, the vampires seemed to be ruthless murderers with no remorse. They killed for sustenance normally, but the group that ended up in London seemed to be on a spree. If he couldn’t manage to talk them down, he’d have to let the hunters do their jobs.
Across the room, Abraham Lincoln was talking quietly to his group of hunters; they all looked afraid—not for the task at hand, but because they were inside a little blue box that was far more advanced than anything even their most creative science fiction writers could dream of. The TARDIS was hard on people at first, both amazing and terrifying.
The hunters were of varying heights and builds, but they all had a hardness about them that spoke of their ability to handle themselves in a fight. Their clothing, though of different cuts and colors, all had much in common—the cloth was clean but worn, some places mended more than once. Hunting was apparently not lucrative work. The Doctor smiled to himself; those people, and the Winchesters, killed monsters to protect humanity, even if it meant they didn’t get to settle down with a steady career and a stable life.
“What are you so happy about, then?” Amy asked, sidling up to him. “Didn’t think this would be fun for you. It’s not exactly a diplomatic mission we’re on.”
“That’s not what I was smiling about,” the Doctor responded, then grew serious. “I don’t like the way they’re going about this. People will get hurt.”
“But we have to stop them somehow.” Amy crossed her arms, looking nervous.
Dean moved quickly up the ramp to where the two stood talking; there was a long sheathed knife in his hand. He held it out to the Doctor, who frowned more deeply.
“I don’t need that,” he insisted.
“Come on Doc, take it just in case. You haven’t seen a vampire before—”
“That doesn’t matter. I don’t use weapons.” His words must have been forceful enough to convince Dean his errand was pointless—the man had been about to say something else, but instead he just shook his head and turned away, walking to where Rory stood. Rory took the offered knife, glancing up at his wife with a protective gleam in his eyes.
Once everyone but the Doctor was armed, the large group walked out of the TARDIS with no real regard for what sort of reaction they’d get from the police milling about in the restaurant. A middle-aged man with an air of being in charge walked over, eyes flashing with anger that was directed at Sherlock and John.
“What the bloody hell are all these people doing here?” he asked, voice half sharpness and half exasperation.
“Oh, Detective Inspector Lestrade, meet some new colleagues of mine,” Sherlock replied with an almost sarcastic air of nonchalance. “They’re experts at this sort of thing, here to help.”
“Experts at what, murder? You know the homicide division are experts too.”
Sherlock didn’t bother hiding his derisive snort of humorless laughter. “Yes, well, have fun investigating here. We’re going to have a look about the perimeter.”
“No, now hold on just a mo’,” Lestrade insisted, placing a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder to prevent him from moving. “Where’d you all come from?” His eyes moved to beyond the group, towards the TARDIS. The Doctor watched him with interest, wondering if he’d even notice it. Confusion flickered across his face.
“What’s that old police box doing in here? Some kind of themed dining? Doesn’t really fit with the rest of the décor, does it?”
“You know how modern art is,” John said hurriedly, “Now, what have you learned about the victims? How were they killed?”
“Won’t know for certain until the autopsy reports, but it looks like they all died of blood-loss. Throats ripped right out of the lot of them.” Lestrade was speaking in a low voice, as if he didn’t want anyone other than Sherlock and John to hear him. Clearly he didn’t trust a large group of oddly dressed strangers, though at least he hadn’t had them all arrested yet. “What’s odd is the blood spatter.” He turned and looked at the nearest body, which was still being processed so it hadn’t been removed. “There’s hardly any blood around half the bodies. The other half are lying in big pools of it.”
Glancing at the group of Nineteenth-century hunters and then to the Winchesters, he saw worried looks pass between them all. The Doctor was very glad he had experts with him; he was rarely out of his element in his own universe, but these vampires were creatures unlike any he’d ever encountered before.
The brutality of the murders they’d done made him unhopeful about the end result of their endeavors; likely the vampires wouldn’t be in the mood to compromise. He wanted to find a way to send them back to their own universe, but if it was a question between letting them be killed or letting the vampires run wild, the Doctor knew what he’d have to do.
How very human it would be of him, to meet a new species and immediately order its eradication.
Dean shifted his weight from one foot to the other, impatient. Sherlock was still talking to Lestrade about the details of the crime, but the hunters didn’t really need any more info. Based on how many people were exsanguinated, there were likely about fifteen vampires on the loose. Not a number they couldn’t handle, but enough to make casualties likely. He worried about that—about Sammy, mostly, and Cas, who would die as easily as any human now what he was cut off from heaven.
The non-hunters in the group were a problem, too. It would be far easier for one of them to end up hurt or dead because they didn’t have any experience in killing vampires.
Also, it would really suck if ol’ Abe kicked the bucket. Lincoln’s universe would suffer for it. But Dean had spoken to the President a little, which was beyond weird, and apparently vampires had been his specialty before he retired into politics. The group he’d gathered, too, were mainly vampire hunters.
Apparently in that shitty universe they were a real problem, perhaps in the way that apocalypses were a problem in Dean’s own universe.
“We need to get this show on the road,” he muttered to Sam, then strode up to where Sherlock and Lestrade’s conversation was rapidly turning to an argument. “Hey, uh, we’re losing time here. The criminals are getting away. So let’s go.”
“He’s American?” Lestrade frowned at him, then something like recognition filled his eyes. “Hold on—you’re one of the ones on the fake IDs! And there are the other two! And that’s the coat we found in the trunk of that car!” He pointed at Sam and Cas in turn, looking like he was about to arrest them all.
The Doctor swooped in hurriedly, speaking in his usual quick manner, “Oh, well, that was all just a bit of a mistake, the car on the roof, and we’ve taken care of it, so you really should just let us all go do what we came here to do, which is rid London of a bunch of mad vampires—”
“Did he just say vampires?” asked a new voice, words laced with disbelief.
Dean glanced over to see a black woman approaching; she would have been hot if not for her very unpleasant expression—haughty and snarky and amused in a mean way.
“Detective Inspector,” she continued, glaring at Sherlock, then Lestrade, “You’ve really stooped low to let all these civilians in the crime scene. Especially if they’re going to talk about fairy-tale monsters.”
“I didn’t let them in—don’t know how they got past the perimeter.”
“And we were just leaving,” Dean interrupted, knowing that the longer they stayed in the restaurant the more likely a group arrest was going to be. He began to walk away, careful not to step on any bodies, hoping that everyone would follow his lead.
They did, though the angry woman tried to get Lestrade to detain them. Somehow the group of fifteen people made it outside, then beyond the barrier of yellow police tape. Dean didn’t stop hurrying away until they were out of sight of the flashing lights, thinking that it was best to be cautious.
At some point Sam fell in stride beside him, using his giant legs to walk faster than everyone else. “Do you know where you’re going, Dean?” he asked quietly.
“Nope. But I figure that many crazy vamps won’t be able to hide in a city like this. We’ll just follow the blood trails.”
“Great, so we just have to wait for more people to be slaughtered—”
A scream tore through the otherwise quiet night, and without needing to be told, the entire group broke into a run, following the sound of a fading scream.
“They ain’t taking their time!” Dean commented to his brother as the sprinted down the street. Whoever was screeching stopped in an abrupt manner that made Dean’s heart sink, but not before they’d tracked the noise to an alley a block down.
A man was lying on the ground, quite dead by the pallid look of his flesh and his open, blank eyes, but a woman—probably his girlfriend or date, the way they were dressed—was still standing. Her eyes found Dean’s, then flickered to the rest of the group as they arrived behind him.
The vampire between them (and it could only have been a vampire, considering its face was half-covered in blood) turned; Dean noticed it had been a human woman once. She was wearing a dress that looked like it belonged in Abe Lincoln’s time. A nasty suspicion was born in him, then, but he shoved it away. Now wasn’t really the time for pondering anything.
Dean loosened the knife from its sheath, seeing from the corner of his eye his brother doing much the same thing. At the same moment they sprang forward, approaching her from two angles, but the Doctor’s voice broke the eerie silence.
The Winchesters did as he asked, though both kept their knives raised, ready.
“What’s your name?” the Doctor gently asked the vampire; while she was distracted, Sam pulled the woman away, towards the street, where she stood behind the hunters, clearly in shock. But at least she was safe.
Meanwhile, the vampire just looked at the Doctor, expression turning from confusion to interest and then to contempt. “Tell me,” she asked, “Do you give your name to the animals you slaughter for dinner?”
Her muscles tensed as she prepared to move, but Dean was just able to intercept her, knife moving without thought as he drew it through her neck. Her body landed at the Doctor’s feet, head rolling a few feet away. Blood was covering the Time Lord, and his expression was livid.
“You killed her in cold blood!”
“No, Doc, she was about to kill you. You’re welcome.” Dean cleaned his knife off carefully, not meeting anyone’s eyes.
“Look at her clothing! She’s from another time—do you know how terrifying it would be to end up two hundred years in the future?”
“Not an excuse for killing,” Abe’s voice was calm but stern.
“You killed her because you were afraid,” he shot back.
“Scared of dying!” Dean was shouting, but he didn’t bother stopping it. “Look—it might be all rainbows and butterflies in your universe, but where we come from, it isn’t. If we don’t kill those monsters, people will die, and they’ll keep dying, for no reason!”
“Humans,” the Doctor sighed, “So blind. Vampires have a right to be alive just like you do, Dean.”
“Tell that to the people in that restaurant back there. Half those people were killed just for fun, not for food.” The fire of anger in him had simmered down, but it was still there; some alien hippie wasn’t going to convince him to let a bunch of monsters slaughter people. “When I see a mad dog, I put it down. You can’t compromise with vamps, Doc. Sorry.”
“Er,” Rory began, immediately diffusing the tension between the hunters and the Doctor. Everyone turned to look at him. “There’s some people coming towards us and they’re all sort of covered in blood, so.” He drew his knife, holding it with an air of unfamiliarity. All but the Doctor did the same, even Sherlock and John.
Their large group was clustered around the opening of an alley; from every other direction figures were moving nearer to them at a strangely slow pace.
The almost-victim still seemed to be in a daze. Sam took her by the arm gently, steering her back into the alley, then told her to sit still and be very quiet. Dean was pretty sure she lost consciousness after that. Probably better for her psyche, really.
He glanced back down the street. In all likelihood shit was about to get real. “You can try talking to ‘em, Doc, but don’t you tell me not to do my job if it comes to that.”
“Stop antagonizing our ride home,” Sam said, only half serious. “Focus, will you?”
The vampires had closed half the distance between them. Dean could make out their faces now in the orange glow of streetlights. All of them were covered in blood to some extent, and the hunter spared a brief moment wondering why they couldn’t bother to be a little neater when they ate.
“I can take you home,” the Doctor said, his voice loud, and though it was tinged with a hint of a question at the end, it was confident as well.
“Home?” The man across the street from them asked, laughing. “Dear God, why would we want to go home? That place was full of people like our dear President.”
Hurriedly, the Doctor got out his Sonic Screwdriver and pointed it at the vampires, then at Abe and his hunter friends. “You’re from the same universe!”
“All the more fitting for us to take care of this problem, then,” Lincoln answered levelly.
“Aren’t you a little old for vampire hunting, Abe?” sneered the vampire, who to Dean seemed like the group’s leader.
“It’s like riding a bike,” the older Winchester joked easily, “You never forget how.”
A yard or so away, Rory chuckled, murmuring, “Riding a bike, that’s good.”
At least someone thought he was funny. Sam was just giving his that mean, stick-in-the-mud look that said clearly, “Dean, really, now’s not the time for joking, we’re surrounded by vampires.” His little brother didn’t get that the best times for jokes were when one was in mortal peril.
“We don’t have to do this,” the Doctor insisted, sounding so convinced of his words that for a moment Dean wanted to believe him—wanted to believe that there could be a peaceful solution to the situation. “But I can’t let you stay here. This isn’t your world.”
“We’re not going back.”
“Looks like they’ve made up their minds, Doc.” Dean tightened his grip on the handle of his knife.
“Does he speak for all of you?” The Time Lord looked around at the other thirteen vampires. “You don’t want to have this fight—you won’t win. You can’t.”
The other vampires made no moves to desert their leader. “They’ve gone off the deep end, Doc. We gotta do this our way.”
Silence fell, then everything happened at once. The hunters and the vampires moved towards each other, and Dean lost track of almost everyone.
John Watson always thought that new experiences in life were important. They kept things interesting, and sometimes taught you essential lessons about yourself and the world in general. Cutting someone’s head off in on a dark London street wasn’t really the sort of thing he did normally—not on his bucket list, either—but he didn’t hesitate. The look in the vampire’s eyes was enough to convince him.
He aimed and slashed through the air, missing badly because the vampire anticipated his clumsy attack. A hand closed around the side of his neck, another around his wrist. Involuntarily he dropped his weapon, but just before the vampire lowered his head—with a mouth full of fangs that looked like something out of a bad horror movie about piranhas—to undoubtedly rip apart his throat, a knife decapitated the monster.
“Dr. Watson,” Rory nodded, then turned and ran to help his wife kill another one.
“Thought you were in the army, John,” Sherlock quipped as he stooped and retrieved John’s knife for him.
“As a doctor!” They shared a quick smile, then turned as another vampire jumped at them. This time John was a little faster, managing to bring the sharp-edged knife through the creature’s neck. It was a strange sensation, the blade running through bone and muscle—somehow not at all similar to surgeries in which he did much the same thing with finer tools.
Somewhere near him someone screamed, but the sound ended before he could help. Turning every direction, John failed to find any standing vampires; the fight had only lasted about thirty seconds, probably because of their fairly even numbers. Telling who was injured in their group was difficult because everyone seemed covered in blood.
“Alright, John?” Sherlock asked, breathing heavily. Nodding, the doctor found he was similarly winded, more from nerves than exertion.
A few of the hunters Lincoln had brought with them were clustered in a group around another. Pushing his way though, telling them all again and again that he was a doctor, John saw a man with a deep gash on his right arm. Not bothering to keep his voice from being a little snappish, he ordered the hunters to make whatever bandages they could and try to stop the bleeding until they could get him to a hospital.
“Are they all dead?” Sherlock asked the Winchesters in a low voice, but not so low that John didn’t hear.
“Yeah,” Sam answered. “Fifteen bodies total. I think only one serious injury on our side.”
The Doctor was standing on his own, staring around at the carnage with a horribly pained expression. John wasn’t sure what to say to him, or if he should say anything. The alien seemed to value all sentient life highly, and without his human bias, John could understand why he’d be upset about fifteen dead vampires. But they’d given the humans little choice in the matter.
As for himself, John was just glad to be alive, and glad that neither Sherlock nor any of his new friends had been hurt.
“Doc,” Dean had approached the Time Lord at last, “We need to get outta here before the cops show up.”
He seemed to snap out of his thoughts. “Yes, right! Everyone ready? Let’s get back to the TARDIS, then.”
John started to follow, then paused. Back to the TARDIS, and then to where? Obviously they’d be dropping Lincoln and his friends back off, but what about him and Sherlock? Did they even need to step foot back into that mad blue box?
Glancing at his friend and flatmate, Dr. Watson knew he didn’t even have to ask. They both fell in step together, following the Doctor wherever he would lead them.
The Doctor leaned against his consol, taking a moment to relax. They’d just bid farewell to the President and his friends (the injured man hadn’t been as badly hurt as Dr. Watson originally thought; a few stitches and he was fine) and that left the Time Lord with an important decision to make.
There was no longer any reason for Sherlock and John to be with him, but with him they were. Dean, Sam, and Cas could also go home—they had the Impala and all its contents back, and London was safe from vampires. The Ponds were still with him because they wanted to help, but he knew it would put them in undo danger—it would put anyone who came with him at risk of dying in the void or being trapped in some horrible universe.
Eyes moving around the room, surreptitiously examining the TARDIS’s other occupants, he wondered if he even wanted the hunters to come with him. As a rule he didn’t travel with their sort—there lives were violent and bloody and dark. Too much like his own past for comfort. He owed Castiel a debt, though, and the Winchesters had been fighting to save his life and the lives of others.
After a few minutes, the Doctor decided that he would have the hunters if they wanted to join him. There was much darkness inside the brothers, but there was far more good in them. They did what they did to protect the innocent.
“So where to now, Doctor?” Amy and Rory had joined him by the controls. He straitened up, smiling brightly.
“Well, the lady version of Cas told me to keep looking. I think I’ll take her advice. Out there somewhere is something that’s a threat to the Voidsong, and I’m going to find it.”
“Just you?” Her voice was guarded but hurt. “Thought we agreed to face this together. We’re not bailing on you now—still haven’t gotten that anniversary trip, and if we let you wonder off you might never come back. Not letting you get out of your promise that easy!”
“Dangerous, we know,” Rory cut in, “Not sure what part of our other adventures were safe.”
“Alright,” he felt himself saying, hating his weakness. The Doctor knew he was being horribly selfish to let his friends along, but he couldn’t tell them no.
“So you’re saying it’s all serial killers and vampires, then?” asked John, meandering over to them.
“You don’t have to come, I can take you home now.”
“Not a chance,” Sherlock insisted. “Do you know how dull London is this time of year? No more cases. But an infinite amount of possibility awaits us, if you’re correct, Doctor. I’d like to see this Voidsong nonsense through. Could be very instructive.”
“And if what Cas said was right, about destiny and whatnot, you might need us,” John added. “So, where are our rooms?”
“Don’t let him give you bunk-beds,” Sam cautioned. Now everyone was standing around the Doctor, and he had the feeling the Winchesters weren’t going to back down either.
“Or a hammock,” added Cas, in such a deadpan voice that the Doctor was sure the angel’d had some misadventure with it.
“Hammocks are cool, and you lot don’t have to stay.”
“What’re you talking about?” Dean asked, “Cas’s angel juice is still out. Don’t think the way home is open right now. Might not ever be.”
“But if he feels his connection with heaven return, I can take you home immediately.”
“Nope. Not till we kick some Voidsong ass. Those bitches almost took my baby away from me forever. Ain’t gonna take that sitting down.”
“Looks like we’re all in this together,” Amy chimed, a victorious gleam in her eyes. “Where to?”
Suddenly the Doctor felt his psychic paper vibrate. Pulling it out of his pocket, he read the message that was meant for him:
“Hello Sweetie,” it ran, in oh-so-familiar handwriting, “We’re out here waiting. Tell the old girl to look for us. Might take a few tries, but she won’t let you down. XOXO.”
A grin blooming across his face, the Doctor spun to face the controls, setting them to track the message. With a sound that never failed to make his pulse race with excitement, the TARDIS took off.
The Doctor and His Companions Will Return In
A.N: Vague inspiration from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Also I have a hard-on for Civil War history.
Because I have lots of random inspiration to write fluffy/silly things, I'll be posting occasional mini-chapters for this story. They won't be canon within the larger story, sort of like fics of my own fic. So if you come across one with a ship you don't like, or if you don't want to read it for any reason, you can skip it without missing any plot.
Also, if you want to see a few characters interact, feel free to drop me a request, and I'll write a little chapter about it. These won't change the over-all arch for the story or anything.
Thanks to everyone who reviews/adds/watches/etc. this story! You all inspire me to keep this fic rolling! Until next time, my darlings!
Chapter 5: Interlude - Insomnia
A.N: This is the first of (an unknown number of) mini-chapters that deals with a few of the characters and their random interactions. Some interludes will be fluffy, or humorous, or angsty, but none will go above the over-all rating of the story. Skipping these will not detract from the over-all story; these are like fics of a fic.
First Interlude: Dean/Cas hinted at, angsty.
Interlude – 1
The Doctor was sleeping, or whatever it was that Time Lords did if it wasn’t sleep. Dean Winchester had no data for or against the notion that aliens slept like humans, nor did he really care to acquire any. All that mattered to him at the moment was that he couldn’t sleep. Dean was no stranger to long nights spent wide awake, mind whiskey-soaked but still insistent on throwing nightmare after nightmare his way. But it had been a while since he’d been kept awake by the demons in his past.
He sat with the TARDIS door open so that his legs dangled out into space—literal space, since the Doctor had left his ship floating around in some universe or other. Somehow the air didn’t go rushing out, and the temperature was perfect. Bobby’s old flask was in his hands, half-empty now, and Dean had lost count of how many times he’d refilled it from the bottle by his side.
Everyone else was asleep; Dean was glad for the solitude. He was used to being with his brother all the time, but traveling in a group of eight got crowded. So here he was, staring at the most mind-blowingly beautiful nebula in all of creation, getting as drunk as possible. A stray worry about what would happen if he tumbled out of the TARDIS wormed its way through all the booze in his brain, but he shrugged it off. Worse ways to die than staring out at the whole damn universe in front of him.
“You also can’t sleep?” Cas’s voice was soft, and somehow his appearance didn’t startle Dean.
“What gave it away?” he answered unkindly, then hated himself for it. The hunter knew he had a bad habit of saying sharp, hurtful things to Cas, but at times he couldn’t stop himself. All that had passed between them still hung there, its weight not diminishing. Still too soon, so soon, but maybe it always would be. Common sense wouldn’t stop how he felt—betrayed.
“So you can be taught.” His face was impassive, but internally he cringed. Alcohol did have a way of preventing him from censoring himself. “Shit—Cas, sorry. Just in a bad mood.” And you’re making it worse. At least he stopped himself that time.
“You still haven’t forgiven me.”
Honesty hour, was it? Bring it on, Dean thought. “No, I haven’t. I want to, but there are some things I can’t let go of easy. Being lied to is one of ‘em.”
Dean expected Cas to explain himself, about how he’d done it all to protect the world and humans—and Dean most of all. But the angel was silent, merely sitting down on the floor a few feet away.
Several minutes passed; Dean emptied the flask.
“You’re far more lenient with Sam.”
“He’s my baby brother,” the hunter answered without pause. “It’s my job to accept his fuck-ups.”
“You once said I was like a brother to you.” There was a question in his voice.
Dean kept his eyes locked on the nebula. It seemed to swirl with him, colors shifting and blending, stars peaking through the dust that might one day form a star or solar system. “Turns out you weren’t.” Harsh words, but true. Dean had only ever had a younger brother, someone he was supposed to watch out for, protect. Cas wasn’t like that—most of the time, he didn’t need protecting. The angel had fallen into some weird category that Dean had no frame of reference for. “You’re something else.”
“I’ll always be your friend, Dean. However long you need to take to forgive me, I’ll wait.”
A strange, twisting pain ripped through his chest. “Cas, I—” He faltered. Why couldn’t he say the words, the he was sorry—sorry for being an ass half the time, sorry for the whole damn situation that had led to Castiel’s need to sneak behind his back and try to save the world by his lonesome. Was it pride? Stubbornness? Plain self-destructive stupidity?
Introspection was a dangerous thing for Dean Winchester. He immediately began to shy away from it.
“You’re a better friend than I deserve.” The words rushed out over his liquor-loosened tongue. “You might’a fucked up with the Leviathan and Sam but at least you didn’t start the apocalypse train rolling in the first place.” Not an apology, but something. A start.
He wanted to forgive Cas, he wanted it all to go back to the way it’d been before. Saving the world together, visiting strip-clubs, explaining pop-culture. Simple. Easy. Well, easy for a Winchester, which usually involved demons and other monsters.
Something was keeping him from it, though, from letting it all go. With surprising clarity considering his level of intoxication, Dean realized that he was afraid of trusting Cas because the angel might turn around and do the same damn thing to him again.
Finally tearing his eyes away from the nebula, he turned to Cas. The angel’s eyes were wide, his expression open and sad. Holding his gaze, Dean let the anger slip away a little.
“You seen this?” he asked, changing the subject because the pain in his chest moved and writhed in uncomfortable ways. “Never knew how cool space was. Everything’s so sci-fi.”
“The universe is a beautiful place.” Cas leaned up to look outside; Dean was practically used to his refusal to respect personal space, so he didn’t even mention their proximity.
“Statistically, there has to be a few ugly ones out there,” Dean picked up the bottle of whiskey and drank from it. “Glad we landed in this one.” Sleepiness began to steal over him, and after a long moment of just enjoying Cas’s quiet company, he moved to stand.
“Should get some sleep. Night, Cas.” Dean left the angel to sit and gaze out at the nebula on his own.
Half an hour later, the Doctor walked softly into the room. He wasn’t surprised to see Castiel sitting by the door.
“Something wrong with your hammock?”
“No. I am just having trouble sleeping. Adjusting to my lack of power is inconvenient at times.”
“Becoming a bit too human for comfort?” The Doctor sat beside Cas, looking out into space with him.
“I could be in this state indefinitely. I will grow accustomed to it. My only concern is that Dean and Sam won’t be able to return home.”
“We’ll find a way. Don’t worry.”
A comfortable silence fell; the two non-humans had taken to each other quickly. The Doctor had taught Cas how to play seven-dimensional chess, which the angel turned out to be very good at. Few non-Time Lord entities could grasp the complexity of it, and the Doctor hadn’t had a partner to play with in ages. They passed hours with the game when the others were sleeping. Humanity had been creeping up on the angel, though, and he spent less and less time awake while the others slept.
“Dean will get over himself eventually,” the Doctor said after a while. “He’ll come ‘round.”
“I did terrible things.”
“Now, I don’t believe all that. Mistakes, maybe, but terrible? You couldn’t. You care for him too much.”
“I lost sight of what was important. It’s a—a very long story.”
“Apparently your God forgave you.”
“He’s God, forgiveness comes naturally to Him. And he needed me.”
“Dean needs you, too.” The Doctor picked up the almost-empty bottle of whiskey, screwing the cap back on with a small sigh.
“Not when I’m like this. Without my angelic abilities, I’m useless.”
“I didn’t mean—” The Doctor stopped himself, smiling in a secretive way. “Oh, you’ll get it eventually.”
Cas gave the alien a questioning look; he was used to missing hidden meanings in things by now. But the Doctor just continued to smile as he stood up.
“How about a game, then?”
Chapter 6: Stadium Love
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They were running. Again. Sometimes Dean felt like they never stopped running. This time it was zombies chasing them. He’d had about all he could take of those bastards.
The zombies weren’t the usual Croatoan variety he, Sam, and Cas were used to; these were more Night of the Living Dead: slow moving but persistent, and in large packs very effective at eating brains.
Leaves crunched under his boots as he ran, branches from young trees stinging any exposed skin as he raced past. The terrifyingly close moaning of the undead spurred him on—he practically prayed that they wouldn’t get surrounded. The TARDIS was just a little further. Just a few hundred more feet through a young forest and they’d be home free.
Dean tripped; it didn’t surprise him, he’d seen too many movies for it to be a shock. Of course he tripped. That was how it went. Then he’d be eaten, torn apart—
Almost immediately Sam turned back to help him up, then they were both off again, sprinting full-out. All the older Winchester brother could hear was his heartbeat and his ragged breath and the sound of the zombies.
Oh God, he thought desperately, Is this how it fucking ends? Really? Some B-horror-movie death? I always thought the bacon would get me in the end. And now I’ll never get to eat bacon again. Or bacon cheeseburgers. Do we even have anymore bacon on the TARDIS?
A dozen yards in front of him, the Doctor snapped his fingers frantically. The TARDIS opened just quick enough for him to miss slamming into the door as he barreled inside. Amy and Rory followed right after, then Sherlock and John, then Cas, then finally—against all hopes and movie plotlines—the brothers made it. No one got eaten.
Sam closed the door quickly, leaning against it as he tried to catch his breath. “So—guess the uh—the weapon or whatever—probably not here.”
“If it were—it’d been eaten already,” John joked, equally winded. “Never thought I’d—meet zombies.”
“Well,” Dean began after a long moment, smiling in spite of their recent brush with un-death, “Who wants lunch?”
Though keeping track of time was difficult when you ran with the Doctor, Dean thought they might have been travelling together for about two weeks now. He’d gotten to know everyone else, some more than others. The Doctor seemed open at first glance, but Dean recognized the reluctance the Time Lord had to tell anyone about his personal life or history. Amy and Rory told him some of their adventures, but before the Ponds met the Doctor, there was a long blank stretch followed by a question mark.
The Ponds themselves were cool people, fun to hang out with, and so obviously in love that it warmed Dean’s heart in an annoying chick-flick manner. But their love wasn’t sappy or overt or nauseating. It was in the way they looked at each other, the way they knew what the other was thinking, all the little gestures.
Ah, to be young and in love. Dean envied them that, but in a vague, resigned way. His life was what it was, and even if he could go back and change things, he wasn’t sure he would—not the larger picture, at least. Details, of course, he’d fix all his stupid mistakes. But trading his life on the road with Sammy for bland domesticity wasn’t what he wanted.
Dr. Watson was just as easy to get along with as the Ponds were; he was a pretty regular guy, intelligent but not in an obtrusive way that made Dean feel like the high school drop-out that he was. John told stories about the war, and about the cases he worked with Sherlock.
Sherlock, on the other hand, was an ass most of the time, and the times he wasn’t being an ass, he was complaining about being bored. Holmes also had an annoying habit of asking the Winchesters questions that inevitably touched nerves. Their pasts weren’t exactly filled with rainbows and buttercups, and most of it Dean didn’t like to dwell on. Even answering the usual questions, like how he and Sam met an angel in the first place, dredged up memories that were just beginning to fade to a tolerable level. John easily picked up on the social cues and let the matter of their past drop, but Sherlock kept pressing, then, when it was clear Dean and Sam weren’t going to open up and tell him everything, he merely looked at them as if they were Rubik’s Cubes he was trying to solve.
They’d settled into something of a routine, visiting a new universe for a few days, exploring, searching, getting into trouble and then back out again. When their supplies ran low, they’d go back to a normal version of Earth and stock up. Then it was back out into the wild blue. They’d visited a half-dozen new worlds, none of them seeming to contain any weapon against the Voidsong, but none of them really boring, either.
The situation in his own world never left Dean’s mind for long, but as it was, he knew he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. The Doc had a time machine, anyway, so the Leviathan wouldn’t be able to go ahead with any world-ending plans without the Winchesters being there to stop them. Or at least try.
Cas’s powers still hadn’t come back, anyway, so their universe had drifted away from whatever cluster they were currently exploring. For the most part, Dean tried to enjoy the ride and not worry about things he couldn’t control. All he could do was wait, helping the Doctor out with his mission in the meantime.
Not a bad life. Everywhere they went, the Doctor found a way to help at least someone out with something. Defeating monsters, saving people—almost his old life. Just a little more sci-fi.
“Lunch sounds marvelous!” the Doctor exclaimed, and everyone else—even Cas—agreed. They hadn’t eaten in almost twelve hours, running around as they’d been. “How about a nice, relaxing picnic? I know a great spot in a quaint little galaxy—”
“Are there aliens there?” Amy interrupted.
“Well, not in our universe—”
“But there might be in this one?” She’d crossed her arms, looking more terrifying than Dean would have thought possible.
“Not at all likely. This place isn’t so different, Earth just happens to be completely overrun by zombies is all.”
Somehow the Doctor managed to convince everyone to go to this planet that he called “Absolutely perfect for picnics. Weather’s always temperate and partly cloudy, entire surface made of picnicking spots.” The name was unpronounceable, though.
A short TARDIS-ride later, the eight travelers were spreading blankets on the ground and haphazardly bringing food out. There were even bacon cheeseburgers.
Everything was just as perfect as the Doctor’d advertised, and soon even Dean had forgotten to look over his shoulder to watch for the lurching forms of approaching zombies.
A few hours passed pleasantly, then the group began to meander lazily back to the TARDIS. Dean was exhausted now that the adrenaline had faded to distant memory and he wasn’t starving any more. Only the Doctor didn’t seem similarly tired as they strolled through verdant grass that was somehow perfectly mowed.
Something hit him square in the back—sharp, briefly painful, then immediately numb—and Dean promptly fell over. He was perfectly awake but unable to move. Animal panic began to creep into his consciousness as he watched his brother and his friends fall to similar fates. They’d been shot in the backs with some weird laser-beam-thing, bright blue, almost painful to look at. He couldn’t make out the shooters, though, until everyone was down.
Humanoid-shaped creatures moved out from behind trees. They were faceless, genderless, all wearing the same dark uniforms and masks. Dean tried to move, growing desperate, growing angry, but it was useless. He could only watch, wide-eyed, as the people began to gather his friends and take them away.
Because the older Winchester had been lagging behind everyone else, and because he had fallen to his side, he could see through the fingers of his outstretched hand as one of the creeps grabbed Amy, jerking her up by her hair. Dean could see tears spring into the corners of her eyes—couldn’t blame her for that. If he’d had control of his facial muscles, he would have winced in sympathy. She was staring at her husband as they began to drag her through the soft grass. The hunter would have sworn he saw Rory’s form twitch, though he himself couldn’t move no matter how he tried.
It took two people to move Sam, since he was by far the heaviest. Soon someone was walking towards Dean himself. He could still feel pain, apparently, which he learned as the man grabbed him by one arm and began to pull him through the grass with little care.
They took him a few hundred yards through the sparse trees to where some sort of ship waited. It was black and sleek, about the size of a smallish mansion. A large door opened, and Dean was thrown inside. He landed on his back, hardly even feeling the added pain as he struck the metal floor.
By now his wild panic had subsided to a dull resignation to what was happening. He’d been kidnapped before, and freaking out never helped. As best he could, the hunter tried to take in as many details as possible, hoping one would help them escape. Hard to do when he could only see boring bits of ceiling.
The silence of the attack was truly unnerving. The people—or whatever the hell they were—had made no noise when they moved through the grass, and of course none of his friends could scream. Even the ship was silent. A tiny spark of fear ignited in the center of his mind. The lack of sound was terrifying. Only his breathing and heartbeat made him sure he hadn’t been rendered deaf by whatever had paralyzed him.
A shadow fell over him, and something pricked his neck. Consciousness slipped from him, then, leaving him with troubled, vivid dreams and the restless sleep that came with being drugged.
John Watson returned to consciousness in an instant; half a second later he jumped up so quickly that he became light-headed. The doctor was in a small cell of some kind. The walls were made of grey metal of the most boring shade imaginable, and the room was featureless save for the cot he’d been lying on and the door across from it.
The phrase “bored to death” suddenly took on new and terrible meanings to Dr. Watson.
Having nothing else to do, John sat down with his elbows resting on his knees, beginning to make plans to escape, stopping once in a while to wonder where Sherlock was, to wonder if he was alright, and if all his other friends were being held nearby.
Across a compound that spanned miles, his seven traveling companions were all doing much the same things. Time passed slowly for them all. Bruises formed where they’d been struck in various places, but still no one came for them. At one point or another, they all tried banging on their cell doors, calling out curses or pleas or just general pleasantries in hopes of coaxing a guard to tell them what was happening.
The silence continued, tightening around them all, driving even the Doctor a little mad after hours had passed. There was some small excitement when the lights dimmed, then went out a few minutes later, but that was just to signal that it was time to sleep. Perhaps it was night on the planet, if they were on a planet at all.
A small hiss brought John back from his futile plan-making, and a faint smell filled the dark cell. He didn’t recognize it, but he knew that being gassed with anything usually didn’t end well, so he held his breath as long as he could. Futile though it was, all his friends did the same as their own cells filled with the gas, but one by one they succumbed to it, falling into a dark, deep sleep.
A sound that was deafening after so much silence woke Dean. Thousands of people cheering—not what he’d been expecting, but he couldn’t find the source of the noise, so he brushed it off, looking around. He was lying in the middle of a room that was filled with weapons. His hand moved towards a shotgun instinctively, but then he paused. Clearly this was some sort of trap. He’d just spent the last several hours locked away, and now suddenly he’s given all these tools for escape?
A groan from the other side of a large gun rack drew his attention. The hunter found that his feet were steady, so he walked cautiously over. Sam was sitting up, looking as confused as Dean felt. The older man noticed that the other was pressing the palm of his hand almost desperately.
“The fuck?” his little brother asked. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Some bruises, nothing bad. You?”
Sam glanced away. “Better now that I’m not stuck in a box with only Satan keeping me company.”
“I can’t help but feel embarrassed.” The voice came from the other end of the room, filling Dean with relief. Cas was here, too.
“Why?” Sam asked, standing.
“We were taken so easily. I should have done something to prevent it.”
“Nothing any of us could do. Those bitches waited until we were vulnerable.” Dean felt a familiar anger flare up inside him as he recalled they way Amy had looked, being dragged away by her hair. Just thinking about it made his scalp ache and his hands curl into fists.
“But why are we here?” Sam picked up what looked suspiciously like a Desert Eagle and deftly pulled the clip out; it was loaded. He slid the clip back into place, double-checked the safety, then stowed the gun in his waistband.
Dean tossed Cas a pump-action 12-guage. The angel caught it, looking around for spare shells and finding a box, which he put in his pocket. He’d become rather adept at fighting like a human in the past few weeks. “Not gonna sit around and wait for some dick in a mask to tell us that.”
Grabbing various guns and knives and placing them wherever was convenient on his person, Dean began to wonder again where the sound of a large crowd was coming from. The room had no windows or doors that he could see, though they had to have gotten in somewhere.
“We’ll be ready when they come back.”
“Shoot first, ask questions later, right?’ Dean smiled at his little brother, then at Cas. “Then we’ll find everyone else and get the hell outta this place.”
He didn’t even have time to dwell on how much more confident he sounded than he felt before one of the walls began to open. Beyond it a bright light obscured his vision, but he heard the almost frantic screams and cheers of a crowd.
His eyes adjusted, and then he wished they hadn’t. The room opened up to a large stadium floor, metallic and bland as the rest of the place, and above it were probably hundreds of thousands of people. They could have been human, or something like it, but Dean couldn’t make them out very well.
Suddenly the weapons he had seemed less awesome and more disturbing. Dean had seen enough movies to know right where this was going.
Beside him, Sam had to shout to be heard over the crowd. “Not good! How the hell’re we getting out of this?!”
“I got a pretty good idea,” Dean answered, pulling back the hammer on his newly acquired Magnum. Cas’s knowledge of pop-culture being what it was, Dean knew they’d have to explain the situation to him. “We deal with whatever they send against us, then we go for the guards, or the crowds.”
Stepping closer, breaking the bubbles of personal space as he was wont to do, but for once having a legitimate reason for it, Cas asked loudly, “What’s happening?”
“You remember ancient Rome, right?” Dean responded, more or less shouting in Cas’s ear as necessity dictated. The angel nodded. “We’re in the fucking Coliseum, basically. So let’s gladiator it up, then break out! We need to find Doc and the TARDIS!”
An expression of calm resolve replaced the confusion on Cas’s face. The angel stood up straighter, becoming more like the soldier he was created to be.
“Let’s do this.” Dean glanced at his baby brother, hoping in a wordless, half-desperate way that he wasn’t about to watch Sammy die. He knew Sam could more than take care of himself, but Dean often had trouble remembering that.
Suddenly the crowd quieted to a low murmur, then an announcer voice that sounded to Dean exactly like the ones on those old arcade fighting games began to speak.
He heard the words in English, which meant the TARDIS was close enough to keep translating for them. Dean was too distracted by that thought to catch the first of what was said, coming in at the end.
“Match 12: Team Freewill—VERSUS—Team 221B!”
The crowd erupted again, but neither the Winchesters nor Cas moved.
“As in Baker Street?!”
Even Cas understood; they’d spent an afternoon summarizing the Conan Doyle books for him. “Does this mean we have to fight Sherlock and John?” The angel’s words were unusually tinged with emotion—obviously none of them were keen on murdering friends for the amusement of douche-bag spectators.
“Hell no! It means the five of us are busting out of here together!”
“Good,” Cas seemed more confident than Dean felt. “Together we shouldn’t have trouble leaving.”
As the three of them stepped out of the armory the doors slid closed behind them with an ominous slicing sound that was not entirely lost in the roar of the crowd.
Together Team Freewill—and Dean tried not to wonder how the bastards running this show had gotten that name—had stopped an apocalypse. This couldn’t be any more difficult, right?
John woke slowly, taking a moment to remember exactly where he was. Recent events came back all too soon, and he got up quickly, staring around the room he was in. Full of weapons. “The hell is happening?” he muttered aloud.
“Excellent question,” Sherlock said, from the floor a few yards over. “Why kidnap us and then leave us in an armory?”
“A trap?” John wanted to pick up a nearby gun, but he refrained.
“Undoubtedly. We didn’t come here by mistake. They’re playing with us.”
“What should we do?”
“Refuse to play.” Sherlock sat back down on the floor, leaning against a bare patch of wall. “They want us to arm ourselves. That means they expect us to fight.”
“But what if a bunch of those soldiers come back? Do we just sit here and let ourselves be killed?”
“If they wanted us dead, we’d be dead.” Sherlock seemed completely confident in his analysis of the situation. John wondered how he could be so calm after what had happened.
From beyond the grey metal walls came the sound of a crowd cheering. Dr. Watson didn’t know if it was real, or if he was just misinterpreting what he was hearing, but either way it filled him with dread.
“I’d feel better if I had at least one weapon.”
Frowning, Sherlock nodded. “The crowd does make things clearer. The guards might not kill us, but whatever’s waiting out there will.”
Together they began to look through the racks and racks of weapons for the ones they preferred. John took two 9mm pistols and a larger Desert Eagle. He also got an M-16, though he preferred handguns to automatic rifles. Versatility might count more for accuracy at some point. He also stuffed his pockets with pre-loaded magazines for all the weapons he’d chosen. There was no such thing as too many bullets. His eyes lingered over a grenade belt, but he decided that could end up hurting him or Sherlock, so he left it.
After they’d armed themselves, the two friends waited in silence, listening as the crowd’s cheering fell and rose and fell again, only to rise to an almost painful level. John had a feeling that whatever was going on out there had just come to an end. The wall suddenly revealed itself as a door, sliding open.
Beyond it was a stadium. John met Sherlock’s eye. They’d been through a lot together; he was confident they’d prevail here. Part of him couldn’t imagine Sherlock Holmes losing to anyone.
“Guess we’re supposed to—?”
Sherlock nodded. “Let’s go.”
A loud voice began to announce the next fight. “Match 12: Team Freewill—VERSUS—Team 221B!”
Someone was hitting the side of the Doctor’s face. He groaned and opened his eyes. “Amy? Stop it—that hurts!”
“Well you weren’t waking up! Rory and I were getting worried!”
“What’s happened?” He sat up and took in their surroundings. It didn’t make him confident. Weapons everywhere.
“Don’t know, we just woke up here a few minutes ago,” answered Rory. “Just glad you two are okay.” He was holding Amy’s hand as if afraid to let go.
“The TARDIS.” Standing quickly and searching his pockets, the Doctor happily found his Screwdriver. “We need to find her, then everyone else.”
Amy and Rory nodded, making the Doctor smile. He’d said the last sentence in an obscure dialect of Chinchillian. That meant the TARDIS was close enough to keep translating for them.
The Ponds didn’t ask him if he was going to arm himself; they already knew the answer. But they also didn’t ask his permission when they grabbed an assortment of guns and knives, and in Rory’s case, a sword. Humans. They always felt safer with instruments of murder in their possessions. He didn’t admonish them. The beings who had taken them weren’t amateurs—they’d known exactly when to strike. The Doctor felt guilty for letting it happen, but everyone had been shot at almost the same time. An ambush was hard to get out of.
They were in serious trouble, but they’d make it out. He had his Sonic Screwdriver, and the TARDIS was waiting for him somewhere in this metal building. That was all he needed.
“No doors in this place,” Rory was saying as he moved around the room. “Weird. Must be hidden.”
The Doctor aimed his Screwdriver around the walls. They were apparently metal with some wiring underneath; he couldn’t find a way to open them—deadlocked. Of course. They’d taken his Screwdriver before putting him in the cell, but apparently they considered it a weapon and had given it back.
“Not good, is it?” Amy asked rhetorically. Her face was calm, but her eyes betrayed fear and uncertainty. Rory looked much the same. They were still holding hands.
“We have seen better days,” the Doctor rejoined with a smile. “But also worse ones.
“I’m not gonna be a prisoner again, yeah?” Amy declared, holding a gun but doing it awkwardly. The Doctor hoped the safety was on. “Those losers in masks will have to kill me first.”
“Nobody’s dying,” Rory reassured her. “Just gotta find a way out of here.”
The unmistakable sound of a crowd prevented further comment. As the noise reached its crescendo, a wall began to open, making the cheering almost too loud to bear.
A voice that seemed human enough announced, “Match 13: Team TARDIS—VERSUS—Team Torchwood!”
The Doctor felt his mouth hang slightly agape. Torchwood? Here? Was there any bloody place in all the multi-verse where he wasn’t likely to bump into them?
Bigger things to worry about now, though, especially since it seemed obvious that they were expected to fight Torchwood. The Doctor had a glib tongue and could talk himself out of just about everything, but Torchwood had been created for the specific purpose of opposing the Doctor and other alien life-forms.
They would be forced to at the very least to defend themselves. He had the feeling this fight was for keeps. The weapons in the armory had been made to kill.
“Amy, Rory, stay close.” The Doctor walked out onto the stadium floor first, trying to shield both his friends, though it wasn’t entirely successful. The crowd went wild again, and the doors behind them closed.
Three seconds later, the bland metal floor began to shift, pieces of it flipping over and moving through the air. This flurry of motion lasted for a few moments, then suddenly so-called Team TARDIS was standing at the edge of a swamp. Even the smell was spot-on, much to the Doctor’s chagrin.
“Well,” he whispered, “This certainly makes things more interesting for the crowd.” They could still hear them, but it was a fainter, more distant noise. The Doctor could also still catch glimpses of them through tall, crooked trees. “Have to admit, this is really, really clever!”
“Doctor, if you say one more nice thing about our kidnappers I’m going to use this on you!” Amy hissed. “So these Torchwood fellows, think we can take them?”
“No one’s taking anyone! We need to talk to them, organize an escape plan.” The Doctor pointed his Screwdriver in a few random directions. “I’m sure they ended up here just like we did.”
“This is Match 13, though,” said Rory as the three of them cautiously began to move away from the edge of the stadium floor. “Who knows how many people the Torchwood team’s killed by now. They’ve probably gone native.”
“No. They’ll want to get back to Earth.” The Doctor was sure of this; Torchwood existed to protect humanity.
“You mean the one covered in zombies?” Amy asked, frowning down at her boots, which were quickly becoming soiled beyond repair in the murky, shallow water.
“Who’s to say they’re from this universe?”
Silence fell after the Doctor’s statement. Creatures from all over the universes were being shuffled about—it was a perfect climate for something like this arena battle. Monsters the crowds had never seen before could slaughter each other, and hey, no bother, because they weren’t even from this bloody universe!
The Doctor was becoming angry, but now wasn’t the time for it. Calming himself with a force of will, he focused on the task at hand—finding the Torchwood people and getting them to stop shooting long enough to talk.
Team Freewill. The name nagged at John, but he couldn’t remember where he’d heard it, so he let it go. He and Sherlock had moved out into the stadium, watching in wonder as the metal floor turned into something entirely different, becoming a three-dimensional environment.
They were standing in what appeared to be a run-down city. Vines covered the buildings, grass grew from the cracked pavement and sidewalks. The architecture was unrecognizable, probably belonged to whatever species had taken them. An uncomfortable silence permeated the area, making John more on edge than he already was.
Beside him, Sherlock seemed far more calm, the bastard. He merely took in everything with those sharp, cold eyes of his. “This does make things more interesting. Glad to have you with me, John,” he added, voice sincere, “You have more knowledge of military tactics than I have. What do you advise?”
“We should keep close to the outer wall—” Though the middle area of the stadium was completely different, the metal ring around it was unchanged, “—because the other team will likely move into the middle. If we circle ‘round, we might be able to sneak up on them. Best keep it to whispers, this place is bloody quiet.” Even the sound of the crowd had dimmed to almost nothing, though John could still make them out where they sat, high above the stadium floor.
Walking as quietly as possible, the two friends made their way along the outside of the ring. John had no idea how big the place was—he hadn’t been able to make out the other side, though. The stadium was likely several square miles.
Odd, that. With the size and the terrain, two groups could spend days searching for each other with no results. So why would a live crowd want to sit through all that boring middle time? When they’d been in the armory, the crowd had been very actively responding to whatever had been happening, so the people running this horror show must’ve had a way to keep it interesting.
That thought unnerved him more than the quiet city around them.
About fifteen minutes passed uneventfully. John was just beginning to relax a little. In retrospect, he realized he should have known better.
As he stepped on an innocuous-looking piece of asphalt, John felt his shoe press down further than it should have. An instant later he was throwing his weight back against Sherlock, who’d been following him, hoping that it hadn’t been a mine he’d just set off. They both fell to the hard ground.
“John?” Sherlock asked, annoyed, “I presume there’s a reason you’re lying on top of me—?”
“I stepped on a trigger.” Dr. Watson let out a long breath; nothing had happened so far. “Don’t know what it did. Sorry.” He stood cautiously, then helped Sherlock do the same. The taller man brushed off his long coat imperiously.
“Thank you,” he said after a moment, seeming to mean it. Before John could respond, a horrible screeching sound rose from a few dozen yards away. It was the sound of metal against metal.
Though the noise was dimmed, they could hear the crowd’s cheering rise in pitch. Not good.
Something that could only be described as a gigantic robot spider clawed its way to the top of the building nearest Team 221B. The thing’s body was about thirty feet long, each of its eight legs another fifty. Suddenly the gun in Watson’s hand seemed like a toy.
Probably should have taken the grenades, then. Too late for that now.
“Run!” Sherlock shouted, and John didn’t need to be told twice. He sprinted after his flatmate, cursing his shorter stride and the heavy weapons he was carrying. Abandoning their plan of sticking to the edge of the stadium, they took off through the maze of buildings. The spider was fast, but it was large, and if they could find a way to lose it amidst the structures and the returning foliage, they might actually live long enough to find Team Freewill.
Sherlock and John didn’t need to communicate about the change of plans; they knew each other well enough to guess what the other was thinking, so the doctor followed his friend as he dashed into a building.
John thought the insides might be hollow, the outer buildings just for show, but he was mistaken. They were in the lobby of a ten-story building whose purpose he couldn’t guess. The ceiling was two stories high—an uncomfortably large space considering they were fleeing a giant robot—but there were numerous hallways leading off from the main room. Sherlock chose one at random. As they disappeared down it, John could hear the spider breaking through the outter walls of the building. A sound suspiciously like that of a huge robot firing a missile followed soon after.
John pushed Sherlock through the nearest doorway just in time to miss getting hit with the force of the explosion and the debris that came with it. Heat flooded into the room, making John uncomfortable in his jacket. Sherlock was probably about to die in that long coat he always wore.
“We should keep moving,” Holmes breathed, keeping quiet because they had no idea what kind of sensors the spider was equipped with.
“Right, yeah.” Scanning the room, John saw they were in some sort of office. At the far side of it windows looked out to a partially destroyed street. “This way.”
The glass had been shattered long ago; now there were only vines and young trees to hinder their escape. Sherlock lithely jumped out onto the street, waiting impatiently for John to follow.
Can’t all be tall, he thought bitterly as he climbed out the window. At least I brought more bullets than he did. Once they were both on the ground again, they resumed sprinting through the alien streets, no real destination in mind, only caring that they got far away from the spider.
A few minutes later, they practically collapsed behind a broken wall. They sat regaining their breath for a moment. When John could finally speak more than one word at a time, he whispered, “I don’t think it’s following us.”
“Still the problem of Team Freewill.”
“The sounds will probably draw them in. Maybe the spider will take care of them for us.”
“Wouldn’t be very sporting of us.” Sherlock’s bright eyes scanned the area constantly. He rarely looked more alive than when he was trying to think his way out of imminent death.
The quiet of the street was broken by the sound of—well, John could only think of it as skittering. The first skittering was joined by another, then another, then Dr. Watson couldn’t distinguish them.
The image of thousands of metal spiders scurrying towards them came into his mind. Carefully, he used the blade of a knife to peak around the corner.
Normally it would have been rather rewarding to learn that his imagination had exactly mirrored reality, but in this situation, he would rather it hadn’t. metal spiders roughly the size of terriers were swarming towards them—over buildings and rubble and vegetation without being hindered at all. John couldn’t keep from shuddering.
“Okay, new plan,” he said, not bothering to keep his voice down because the sound of the spiders was loud enough to drown out shouting. “We need to draw them to a choke point—we cannot let ourselves be surrounded. But we can’t be pinned in, either. Ideas?”
“Nothing seems to stop them.”
“Solid walls might. We need to find the right kind of structure…” His voice trailed off, eyes moving over the street they were near. Sherlock seemed to understand him.
“I’d wager those are entrances to whatever passes for an Underground here.” His long pale hand was pointing to a stairway that led from the street to something lower.
A quick nod was all John needed to communicate before both men were sprinting towards the stairs. John hoped that the next entrance to it was too far away for the spiders to go for, or that they’d be too stupid to try to sneak up behind them.
At the bottom of the steps was indeed a place similar to a subway system, though no trains were on the tracks. A low hum permeated the air; the place had power.
John unstrapped the M-16 and then turned the safety off. He and Sherlock stationed themselves a few dozen yards from the entrance to the tunnel.
“Sherlock—I just want you to know—”
“Spare me the melodrama, John, we’re going to survive this.”
“I was only going to say that you still owe me five quid for losing that bet about the zombies. I won’t forget it, either.”
They shared a grin, and then the spiders began skittering down the steps. John opened fire, wincing as the sound of gunshot reverberated off the metal walls. His ears began to ring—he’d almost forgotten how loud battle could be.
Fortunately it only took one or two hits to disable the robots; for a long while they held their ground. John took out the majority of them with short bursts of fire, Sherlock got the few who broke through John’s curtain of bullets. Reloading was perilous, but they did it in turns. The only thing keeping them from being overrun already was the piling mounds of machine parts and half-obliterated spiders building up in the entrance to the tunnel.
The spiders kept coming, and slowly they were pushed back. John chanced a brief glance at his friend; Sherlock met his eye, the former casual arrogance leaking from his expression.
This was it. The end. He wasn’t going out while he still had bullets in his pockets, though. Hell would freeze first.
“Well,” said Dean, “this is great. We had to end up somewhere like this—too fucking sci-fi. Can’t be easy, can it?”
The empty stadium floor had suddenly magicked itself into a damned run-down city. That would make finding Sherlock and John way simpler.
Sam seemed more impressed by what had happened than annoyed; for a moment he just stared around, eyebrows rising. “At least the sound of the crowd is almost gone. Let’s go.”
“Do you think it wise to wonder around aimlessly?” Cas asked. “We need a system so we don’t end up going in circles.”
“Anyone got some breadcrumbs?” Dean asked, smiling at his brother and then at Cas. Neither seemed particularly amused, though Cas undoubtedly just didn’t get the reference. “Nobody? Okay, then.” Pulling out a knife, he stepped to a large cluster of vines that was clinging to a building. He cut a crude arrow into them. “Let’s just hope David Bowie ain’t the one at the end of the Labyrinth.”
He led the way; behind him, he heard Castiel murmur to Sam, “I believe even if I live on Earth for another thousand years I wouldn’t be able to understand all his references. I am amazed at how much—” he faltered over the words, as if they were a strange language, “—pop culture humans learn without effort.”
“Anything to keep from putting our minds to productive uses,” Sam answered easily.
“Maybe we should start calling for them?” Dean suggested after a few minutes. “We could miss ‘em so easily in this place.”
“Uh,” Sam said, stopping. “Do you think they’ll realize that we’re Team Freewill? I mean, has anyone ever told them about—?” Even amongst the three of them, they were all reluctant to spell out where the name had come from. So many painful memories.
“I might’a mentioned it to Doc. Don’t you think Sherlock fucking Holmes would be able to, you know, deduce it?”
“Do you even know what deducing is?”
“Yeah,” Dean answered, a tad defensive. “If we’re shouting their names, they’ll know it’s us. They know our voices, too.”
“Fine,” Sam relented.
For the next several minutes, the three of them began calling for Sherlock and John, occasionally alternating to Dr. Watson, which somehow seemed more natural to Dean even though they were all on a first-name basis.
They stopped when they heard something that sounded like metal being torn apart. It came from an area to their left. Wordlessly, they began to sprint in that direction.
“There’s no mosquitoes,” commented Rory, “That’s something, isn’t it?”
“Not helping,” Amy snapped, cringing as she tried to pull her boot out of the thick, smelly mud. “Doctor, are they going to let us starve to death out here? It’s been an hour already and we haven’t seen Team Torchwood. What if we just keep missing them?”
“Hard to be quiet in this terrain,” he responded, having to raise his voice over the splashing sound that signified the early demise of his favorite pair of boots. “They’ll find us eventually.”
“What if they just shoot us?” Rory asked, glancing around in a paranoid fashion.
“I’m the Doctor. People don’t just shoot me without making a few gloating remarks first.”
“So they know who you are?”
“Naturally.” The Doctor was hesitant to tell them any further details. He was fairly ambivalent about Torchwood and outright contemptuous of their methods at times, but he had occasionally helped them, and had received help in return.
“D’you think they’ll make gloating remarks to us first, as well?” Rory’s hand tightened around Amy’s, as if doing so would shield her from bullets. They’d scarcely moved more than a few feet away from each other since entering the stadium.
“They’d better.” The Doctor continued to scan the area with his Screwdriver, looking for changes in the material. There hadn’t been any so far, and he had to stop himself from being vocally impressed with the technology. According to the readings, their surroundings were still metal. But everything looked and felt real. All of it was really rather fantastic.
“What’s that over there?” Rory asked, pointing to a spot through the trees. The Doctor moved so he could see it.
There was a light in the distance, yellow when he first caught a glimpse, then it shifted to green, then blue. It was moving, swirling in a beautiful way, as if it were dancing. Gorgeous. He could watch it for an eternity and not regret a moment of it.
The Doctor realized he’d taken two steps towards it, and the Ponds were several yards closer.
“Wait!” He called, forcing his eyes from the light. “Amy—Rory—it could be a trap!” They didn’t seem to hear him.
Dashing after his friends, the Doctor continued to call their names, but they didn’t respond. They only kept walking slowly but resolutely towards the light, ignoring the rising levels of water. When he finally caught up to them, they were in knee-deep.
“Amy, you’ll ruin your skirt! Come on, Rory, snap out of it!” He grabbed them both by the arm, but they pulled against him. His boots began to slip through the mud as they resisted being held still.
Maybe they needed to be shocked out of it? “Rory! Remember that time I kissed Amy? And then I was in the cake instead of that underdressed woman?”
Rory paused for a moment. Aha! thought the Doctor, Just have to make them angry. An emotional response must counteract whatever force is drawing them to the light. “Amy! Remember when the Silence took your child from you? When they held you captive? Remember how you felt. Both of you!”
They stopped struggling against him, and Amy turned her head, then started. “Doctor? What’s—why are we in this deep? Weren’t we just by those trees?”
Rory came back to Earth, so to speak, a moment after his wife. “Felt like I was dreaming.” He looked at the Time Lord. “Why’m I mad at you?”
“Probably nothing,” the Doctor responded happily. “Come on, back this way, don’t turn around.” He ushered them back to where the water levels were safer, hoping they didn’t encounter more lights.
On the bright side, they didn’t, but on a less positive note, they did encounter what appeared to be a gigantic alligator-like creature. It had a few extra legs and seemed to be able to breathe fire, but the rest of it was more or less alligator in nature.
It crawled up out of a pool of water as Team TARDIS walked past, and they’d been running away from it ever since. The terrain was terrible for sprinting, but at least the trees kept the monster from being able to chase them at a full run.
“You know—“ he said as they leapt over thick roots and splashed through murky puddles, “—that alligator really is—”
“Doctor!” Amy interrupted, “If you say it’s magnificent—I’ll shoot you myself!” She brandished her gun, and the Doctor ducked a little, afraid she might fire accidentally. “It’s trying to eat us!”
“Well there’s not much else here to eat! Can’t blame him!”
Behind them, the alligator roared, and the Doctor could feel heat from its fire-breathing at his back.
The voice was familiar, so familiar he hardly noticed that it hadn’t come from someone who was already running beside him. The shouting originated from high in one of the trees.
“Jack?!” the Doctor stopped running, Amy and Rory following suit.
None of them waited around wondering if they should do as told. The alligator was crashing through the swamp, drawing nearer at an alarming speed. Up into the tree they went, and a few seconds later the creature rushed past them, apparently not noticing where they’d gone.
“They’re stupid, thankfully,” Jack was saying, “They assume what they’re chasing will just keep running in a straight line.”
No one responded to that. For a full minute there was silence, the Doctor trying to think of something appropriate to say, or how to go about making introductions. It had been a long time since they’d seen each other; the Doctor had forgotten just how alarming the man’s immortality was, an affront to his Time Lord sensibilities.
“Er,” he finally began, “Amy, Rory, this is—”
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he finished, smiling flirtatiously at both Ponds. “An absolute pleasure. Been traveling with the Doctor long?”
Amy giggled, shaking the hand Jack offered. “A while, yeah, we’re old pros by now.”
Rory was similarly affected, and he didn’t even seem jealous, just flattered. “So you know the Doctor?”
“We go way back. First time meeting him in this regeneration, though.” Every work Jack spoke sounded like an invitation back to his hotel room. Not much had changed about the man, which was reassuring.
“How’d you know it was him?” Rory asked.
“Who else would wear a bow-tie? When I heard them announce Team TARDIS, I nearly fainted. I’m so glad to see you.” He became serious, his flirty façade cracking.
“How long have they had you?” the Doctor asked quietly. A million questions circled through his mind, but he held them back.
“Hard to tell. Few months, maybe. Rules are a team isn’t disqualified until all its members are dead. So, here I am.”
“I’m so sorry, Jack.” Pulling his old friend into a hug, he continued in a whisper, “We’re leaving this stadium. Bringing me here will be their last mistake.”
“We need to leave,” Sherlock barked, deftly reloading his gun. “I have a plan.”
“Well don’t wait on my blessing.” John’s shoulder was beginning to ache from the continual impact of the assault rifle on it. He was also running low on ammo; soon he’d be down to just the handguns.
Without further discussion, Sherlock began to back towards the edge of the platform, stopping just before the drop-off to the tracks. John followed next to him, matching their paces. “Get ready to run.”
Sherlock turned sharply and jumped, hardly taking time to regain his footing before sprinting down the tunnel. John was at his heels. The taller man moved to the center of the tracks, running between the electrified rails. Watson tried not to think of what would happen to them if they tripped.
He didn’t chance looking back, but he heard the sound of pursuit, followed by a few loud cracks that likely signified a spider had touched two rails at once. So that was Sherlock’s plan. Effective, apparently, because the sound of dying robots faded into the distance, and soon John couldn’t hear any skittering sounds that weren’t faint echoes.
By the time they reached the next platform, only the sound of their ragged breathing and slowing footfalls kept them company.
“Thank God—they were stupid enough—to fall for that,” John commented as they trudged up the steps to the street.
Sherlock stopped abruptly. “Do you hear that?”
Listening for a moment, John caught it—people were calling their names. He recognized them, suddenly. “Team Freewill!” he exclaimed, rolling his eyes in anger at himself. “Of course.”
His flatmate was giving him an odd look, so he explained, “I heard Dean use the name once, talking to Sam. I didn’t bother asking what it meant, seemed like an inside joke, and you know how evasive they are about personal questions.”
The shouting was coming closer. “We should stop them from being so loud.” Sherlock’s advice was sensible; no telling what else was waiting for them out here.
When they finally came within sight of the Winchesters and Cas, the relief was obvious on their faces.
“God, Sherlock, John, you alright? We heard explosions—”
“And was that a giant metal spider?”
Sherlock waved away the brothers’ inquiries. “We’re fine, just a spot of trouble,” he said in a low voice. “We should keep quiet. It’s not just us in here.”
“It’d be boring otherwise,” John muttered bitterly. “We need to find the Doctor.”
“Yeah, figured that would be the plan,” Sam said in a low voice. “But how? The walls are sheer, and even if we did get to the top, what’re the chances we’d be able to get into the audience, much less to wherever they’re holding the others?”
“Any plan we devise will be instantly discovered,” Cas added, in that oddly level voice of his, “Considering the technological advancement of the people who abducted us, it’s safe to assume we’re being filmed and recorded for the pleasure of the crowds.”
“So, they now know we won’t slaughter each other for their amusement,” John said bitterly. “But I don’t think the match is over until one of our teams is defeated.”
“Which means the level will have to kill us.” Dean sighed. “Just like a fucking video game. Great.”
The words had hardly left his mouth when a whirring noise drew their attention. All around them small, spherical metal objects were rising into the air. For one peaceful moment John thought they might be harmless, but then part of the metal shells opened to reveal various weapons—guns, knives, small missiles, that sort of thing.
“Shit,” Dean said, raising his shotgun. That was all the time anyone had to say anything before the five of them were sprinting in different directions. Simultaneously the drones began to open fire or started whirring after people.
The sound of gunfire swallowed all other noise, and John was running, hoping that everyone was going to make it to safety—wherever that was. Splitting up was the best tactic, he thought, because a group of people was easier to hit than a lone one, but he didn’t like doing it, abandoning everyone to fend for themselves.
He emptied his M-16 and destroyed two drones doing it, but there were still dozens more. Dropping the useless weapon, he pulled out a handgun and began shooting. Not as effective, but still something. From where he stood, partially behind a wall, he couldn’t make out any of his friends.
John didn’t want to end up playing field medic again. Sherlock, don’t get yourself killed, he thought desperately as he shot down another drone. You still owe me five quid.
Dean could just see Sam from where he crouched below what had probably been a concrete wall. His brother wasn’t hurt. Good.
Glancing in the other direction as he reloaded, Dean noticed Cas hiding behind the same wall only a few yards down. The angel aimed and fired, taking down a drone, but then, as Dean watched, Cas jerked back as if he’d been struck with something. Dread filled the hunter—no, no, no, not again, what’re you a bullet magnet now?—but then the angel turned to meet his eye.
Cas was almost-smiling; he looked peaceful, refreshed, somehow. Then he disappeared.
An explosion drew Dean’s attention, and his grin turned to an expression of awe as he watched the angel flit from drone to drone, dispatching them easily. In less than a minute, there were none left in the air.
With a gentle flutter of feathers, Cas was standing beside Dean. “We’re leaving.”
Before he could ask where they were going, exactly, or how they were going to find the Doctor and the TARDIS, the five of them were standing in a spacious, lavishly decorated room. Seats were arranged in rows, about ten total, and all of them were occupied by people who looked like perfectly human douche-bags.
Glancing around, he noticed with pleasure that he wasn’t the only one currently aiming a gun at them. Apparently it was hostage-taking time.
“Who’s running this?” John demanded.
There was a scramble for people to answer, but Dr. Watson cut them off, then singled out one man who looked marginally less idiotic than the rest of them. “Answer!”
“I—I don’t know who exactly, but it’s run by Google—everyone knows that!”
“Google?” Sam sounded like he’d just been told Santa wasn’t real for the first time. Utterly betrayed.
“Different universe,” Sherlock murmured, “Apparently far into the future.”
“Where would the main control room for this place be?” John snapped.
“H-how would we know!” shouted the woman sitting at the end of the row, “We’re just here to watch!”
“Wait here,” Cas said quietly, the disappeared. The people in the VIP room (and that’s the only thing it couldn’t been, judging by their expensive clothing and the décor) didn’t seem surprised. Just afraid of the men with guns.
Dean turned and saw chaos projected on a huge screen that floated above the stadium. Must’ve been a shock to see all five fighters disappear. Hopefully the guards would still be chasing their tails by the time the eight travelers were safe in the TARDIS and on their way.
The Doctor and his friends had just deemed it safe to climb down from the tree when the sound of soft wings interrupted them, and suddenly Castiel was sitting in front of him, their noses an inch apart. His appearance nearly knocked Rory off the branch, but Amy steadied him in time.
“Cas!” The Doctor hugged him, ecstatic because of all that the angel’s arrival meant. His connection to heaven was back, meaning their universe was accessible to them again. Not to mention having a powerful being around really helped him along with his escape plan. “Is everyone else alright?”
“You got some interesting friends,” Jack began, and the angel turned towards him. “Hi, Captain Jack Harkness—”
“Now’s not the time for flirting!” the Doctor interrupted, “Hit on everyone later, we need to leave before the guards stop us. Cas?”
The Doctor blinked, and the five of them were out of the stadium and in a pleasant room. The Winchesters, Sherlock, and John were waiting for them.
“Doc—wait, who the hell is that?” Dean asked in his usual oh-so-polite manner.
“Long story,” he replied dismissively. “The TARDIS is here. But before we leave, I’ve got an errand to run.”
“An errand?” Sam glanced away from the terrified people who still sat in their seats, his guard dropping. Probably was no need to be wary; they seemed completely cowed by the group of heavily armed escapees.
“They’re probably holding more people in the cells. I’m letting them go.”
“We are,” Amy corrected.
“Yeah, wasn’t that the rule—stick together, no wondering off?” John pulled the clip out of his gun and counted the bullets, nodding to himself and sliding it back into place.
“Jeez, Doc, you collecting strays now?” Jack was looking at everyone, by some miracle not taking the time to attempt to pick any of them up.
“Long story, tell you later. Well, come on then!” With an apologetic smile to the spectators, he dashed out into the hallway, his friends right behind him.
They ran through wide hallways marked with large, friendly signs. Apparently the authorities were keeping people in their seats to avoid confusion because they met no civilians along the way, only guards. And those Castiel was kind enough to put to sleep before any of his trigger-happy companions could kill them out of hand.
The signs directed the Doctor higher and higher, up staircases and winding ramps, until the décor became less friendly and more utilitarian. Bursting through a door labeled “Employees Only,” they finally found someone who could give them information.
The man was immediately compliant, stammering that the locks on the cell doors could be operated from any terminal, such as the one he was manning. Of course, he could open them all, no need for those guns, they were all civilized people here.
Flashing lights filled the room, and the Doctor smiled, watching the camera feed as hundreds of doors opened. Various sentient beings began to move out into the hallways, obviously confused but willing to roll with it.
“What do we do with ‘em now?” Dean asked. A valid question.
“Where are the ships?” the Time Lord asked the unfortunate Google employee.
“Er, three floors up form the cells.”
“Cas, if you’d be kind enough to make sure no guards stop them—?”
The angel seemed to understand. “I’ll be back momentarily.” He was as good as his word, returning thirty seconds later. “They shouldn’t meet resistance.”
“Now,” said the Doctor, feeling the anger he’d held down returning full force, and letting it this time. “We need to go have a word with the person in charge.”
Dean had never seen the Doctor like this—normally he was a cheerful guy, a bit spastic and goofy, but compassionate beyond all usual human bounds. He saw beauty and wonder in the smallest things, even in normal people—even in creatures Dean himself would label monsters and be done with. Sometimes it was easy to forget that the Doctor wasn’t human, but other times it was impossible.
Like now. He’d become angry, but not in a childish, petulant way. He was like a vengeful god set on destroying a system that hurt countless sentient beings. Watching the storm behind his eyes was frightening.
They moved through the stadium more slowly now because there were far more guards to take care of, and Cas couldn’t handle them all. Using nonlethal force, naturally, though Dean found it difficult. Any one of these people could have been the one who’d shot him, or who’d dragged Amy off by her hair.
Dean wasn’t about to get on the Doc’s bad side, though. Not now, not when he was already dancing on the edge of something terrible and dark.
The CEO of Google had special seats at the top of the stadium where he could see all four matches at once. Dean had been surprised to learn that the Doctor, Amy, and Rory had been fighting to survive at the same time the others had been, but apparently running one show at a time just didn’t bring in enough money.
No one had properly explained the arrival of the new guy, who must’ve been taking notes on fashion from the Doctor, because he was wearing suspenders. Who did that these days? Aliens. Go figure.
The guy turned out to be useful, though, so Dean wasn’t complaining. Apparently bullets couldn’t kill him, as they’d discovered when they’d rounded a corner without really looking first and had been met with a dozen armed men. The new guy had jumped in front of everyone, taking a chest full of rounds. Dean was sure he was a goner until he’d gasped awake and stood back up. Freaky, but fortunate.
Something to worry about later, though. Right now they were currently attempting to storm into the CEO’s private room. Dean aimed for the guards’ hands, shooting the weapons out of them, then the travelers moved in and knocked them unconscious.
“The door is locked,” Cas began, “should I—?”
“No, I’ve got it.” The Doctor pulled out his Sonic Screwdriver and soon the doors were opening. Jack and Cas wisely stood at the head of the group.
Turns out there was no need for caution. Only one man was in the room, huddled in the far corner, hands raised. “I’ll give you whatever you want!” he announced pathetically. Scanning the rest of the room, Dean was relieved to see the TARDIS waiting patiently by the far wall, on display as if it were a trinket or statue. Jack-ass probably had no idea what he’d gotten his hands on.
“I’ve already gotten what I want,” the Doctor said, turning his back on the man, then pausing. “One question, though. How did you come up with the team names?”
“M-memory analyzing technology. We found a phrase that meant the most to you.”
“And you have no idea who I am?”
The Doctor’s smile was humorless. “I’m the Doctor. Never forget that. I can forgive you for torturing and killing people for profit, but I can’t say the same for those I let out of the cells. Some might have just left, but others… Well, we’d better be off. Don’t want to get caught in any cross-fire.” He snapped his fingers and the TARDIS opened.
The CEO gaped as the nine of them disappeared inside.
No one spoke for a long moment. Dean himself just sat down by the Impala, leaning against it, weathering the tilting and jarring of the TARDIS’s flight. “Worried I’d never see you again, baby,” he murmured. “Good to be home.” The words fell from his lips unexpectedly, but he didn’t take them back. This was home, for the time being. He had his brother, he had Cas, and he had his car. Pretty much all there was left in the whole wide multi-verse.
Shortly after they landed, a conversation floated towards him, and Dean began to pay attention.
“I wish I could bring them back, Jack. I’m so sorry.”
“I would’ve lost them eventually. My team members don’t usually live to draw pensions.” The new guy was talking to the Doctor; Dean listened more closely, curious. “But seeing them go one by one because I couldn’t—couldn’t stop it. You were too nice back there, should’a blown the whole place up.”
“Too many innocents would have died.”
“Innocent?” Jack’s voice grew heated, “They paid money to watch my friends be slaughtered!”
The Doctor was shaking his head sorrowfully. “Humans never change. I won’t apologize for doing what I did.” Silence moved between them, and Dean thought they were done conversing until the Time Lord continued. “It is good to see you, Jack. Abomination and all. I’ll get you home as soon as you’d like.”
“Home, yeah.” Jack exhaled heavily. “Where I’ll have to hire a new team and—Well, you know. Try to get over the last one.”
“You always did get so close to people.”
“Learned that from you.” There was a smile in the man’s voice. “What’s the point otherwise? I have to make them all mean something. I have to remember them all.”
Sam began to put the weapons they’d gotten into the trunk of the Impala. Dean reluctantly stood to help him—otherwise, he’d put it all in the wrong place and mess up the system.
“Never going on a picnic again,” Dean huffed, and his brother began to laugh. He joined him, feeling the tension that had been with him the last several hours drain away. They were safe now—from that particular adventure, at least.
“So this guy,” Sam tilted his head slightly in the direction of Jack, “Wonder what his deal is?”
“Let’s go find out, Velma.”
Sherlock and John noticed what the Winchesters were up to and moved closer, as did Cas. Even Amy and Rory seemed to be watching.
“So you and Doc know each other?” Dean tired to sound less like a busybody and more like a curious passerby.
“Sure do. Captain Jack Harkness, pleasure to meet you. Any friend of the Doctor’s is a friend of mine.”
Dean found himself grinning like an idiot as he shook Jack’s hand, feeling suddenly special, as if he were the only one in the room, and—oh God, I’ve turned into a teenage girl how in the hell—is this guy flirting with me? Dean stopped his train of thought, coughing awkwardly and avoiding his brother’s eye.
“I’m Dean Winchester, this is my brother Sam, and that’s Cas.”
“The angel, yeah,” Jack turned to him wearing a dazzling smile. “So did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
“I don’t understand. I have not fallen from heaven, I am still in possession of my Grace, otherwise I would not have been able to—”
“It was a pick-up line,” Dean interrupted, rubbing his eyes.
“Jack,” the Doctor said, warning in his voice. “Stop it.”
“Sherlock Holmes, I hope you haven’t heard of me,” Sherlock said stiffly.
“John Watson. Thanks for your help.”
“I have heard of you.” Jack’s expression was bordering on fan-boying. “Doctor, are these guys the real deal?”
“Certainly are. It’s a big multi-verse out there. Speaking of which, we need to get back to it!” The Doctor glanced at Jack, grinning, and the new guy returned his expression.
“I guess I can go on one or two more adventures with the Doctor,” he said, voice light but clearly covering up a mountain of pain. “Earth will be there when I get back.”
Without waiting for further confirmation, the Doctor sprang to the controls, sending the TARDIS to another unexplored universe. Dean braced himself against the railing, unable to be completely unhappy about the bumpy ride. He now associated it with discovering some new and wonderful place, and holding onto the rails for dear life brought a smile to his face, on that didn’t feel forced or out of place.
The Doctor and His Companions Will Return In
A.N: Inspiration for this chapter was drawn mainly from a d20 system a friend of mine wrote; has lots of similarities with Battle Royal, the Hunger Games, etc., but I tried to do things a bit differently.
Going to keep writing mini-chapters, so keep a look out for those! Until next time, lovelies.
Chapter 7: Interlude - In the Cage Again
Been ages, I know! This is a very short, angsty chapter about Sam. Longer chapters coming soon, I hope, just been dealing with real-life stuff lately.
Sam Winchester was woken by silence. An odd thing to bring a person out of consciousness, but he was so unused to absolute quiet that it must have unnerved even his sleeping mind into alertness.
His shoulder and hip ached—bruised almost certainly from being thrown onto a metal floor without care for his well-being. After his initial experience of pain, his first thought was of Dean—he hadn’t seen his brother since something struck him in the back and paralyzed him. Sam had only been dimly aware of the Doctor, Sherlock, and John falling to similar fates. He could only assume all of them had been taken and put in these cells.
“Wow, this kinda brings us back, doesn’t it?” Lucifer said nostalgically. He was sitting on the other end of the cot, swinging his legs. “Bit more temperate here, but still a cage. Almost like you never left.”
Sam pressed the scar on his palm; Lucifer flickered away like the ghost he was, and silence returned. The hunter turned his mind to plans for escape, though there was really nothing he had to work with in this small, featureless metal room. He began to speculate why those jerks had taken them in the first place. Wasn’t like someone was going to ransom them. Maybe the Doctor had been wrong about the planet—maybe it was some sacred shrine or something, and they’d been trespassing. Maybe they were going to be executed for it.
“Looks like ol’ Doc isn’t infallible after all,” Satan commented casually. “I mean, what kinda Time Lord lets himself get ambushed like that? Shouldn’t he know better?”
The apparition disappeared as Sam touched his scar again, repeating the mantra, he’s not real, he’s not real, I’m out of the cage, not even Lucifer has this good an imagination, an alien flying around in a blue box is just too bizarre to be a fiction.
Time passed irrelevantly. Sam realized that he’d been sitting with his body tensed, as if he were going to tackle whoever was the first to come through his door. Forcing himself to relax, he sat back against the wall, exhaling slowly.
The hunter was ashamed of himself when Lucifer’s voice made him jump visibly.
“Maybe they’re going to let you starve to death. That was a fun one, wasn’t it? Remember the time—”
Sam closed his eyes and tried to forget the memory from the cage, forcing his mind elsewhere.
“Hey Sammy, did you know that silence can actually drive people insane? Not that you need much driving in that direction—aw, come on!” Lucifer flickered away; Sam’s knuckles were white as he clenched his hand on his scar.
Quiet returned, worse than before. The younger Winchester began to worry about his brother, about Cas, about everyone else. They could all be dead, or worse. Whatever the reason they’d been taken, it wasn’t a good one. Only a matter of time—
“Before they come for you, Sammy. Maybe it’ll be hellhounds this time. Haven’t done that one in a while.”
That time Lucifer only stayed gone thirty seconds before he was back. Sam wanted to scream, to shake the door and pound on the walls until someone came to silence him, but instead he just leaned back on his cot, hoping that sleep would bring some relief. He kept his hand pressed to his palm, but it was useless. He wouldn’t relaxed enough to even approach drowsiness—every muscle in his body was tense.
“How about a massage?”
With a cry of frustrated ranger, Sam sat up and threw his uncomfortable pillow across the room; it went through Lucifer, but the fallen angel seemed unconcerned.
“Well, you can forget the Happy Ending if you’re going to be like that.”
Sam thought he would break the bones in his hand he clutched it so hard, but Lucifer left him. The hunter slowly rose and retrieved his pillow. Feeling as if the edges of his mind were fraying, he laid back down on the cot, closing his eyes and covering his ears with the pillow.
This moment was not his proudest, but he assumed he was going to be killed soon anyway. He could summon his dignity when his captors returned.
He knew that, if by chance he and the others made it out of here, he needed to find a way to deal with his problem permanently. When Cas got his powers back—and Sam refused to think in terms of if—he would ask the angel to help him. The Doctor might also know something, Sam reasoned, he knew a great deal about so many things. Maybe human psychology was one of them.
Even through the pillows Sam could hear Lucifer; the apparition was singing “The Song That Never Ends” out of key. Closing his eyes and pressing the pillow around his head more tightly, he tried to think of pleasant things rather than his current situation.
His success was limited, and when he heard, over Lucifer’s hundredth chorus, the unmistakable sound of gas filling the cell, he was both relieved and afraid—but mostly relieved.