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The Apocalypse Stops For No Time Lord

Chapter Text

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Who dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth?

His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;

each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.

They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.

His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn.

Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.

Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds.

His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth.

 

Leviathan – Job 41:1-41:34

 

 

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Prologue 1

One dark night in August, 1988

 

The fuzziness of interrupted sleep made it hard for him to figure out exactly what had woken him at first. Darkness had collected in pockets about his room, the only relief coming from the splatter of moonlight that slipped through a chink in his curtains. There was nothing to be revealed though, just the clutter of a young boy’s room, toys and drawings and a .45. The clutter of a temporary home that would be his for no more than a week or two.

 

He was just about to roll over and fade back into sleep when the noise that woke him sounded again. It was strange, a sort of whooshing noise, almost like a siren but gentler.  It wasn’t like the other sounds the old abandoned house made, none of the creaking and rustling and pattering of rat’s feet. There was something different about the sound, something safe. Any fear that had been building up in him over the monsters his Dad had taught him about disappeared with that sound.

 

The wooden boards were cold and rickety under his bare feet, but they had been in the building long enough for Sam to know which boards were silent when you stepped on them. Everything was strangely quiet, no snores from his brother’s room or sounds of night from outside. Even the rats seemed to have fallen silent. It was as though the house was holding its breath, listening to the ‘vroop vroop’.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, the living room was flooded with blue light. In the centre of the room stood a tall blue box with a flashing light on the top. There was writing on it, white letters in a strip above the door, but Sam could only read ‘police’ and ‘box’ and he didn’t know what that meant.

 

Then the door of the box opened with a slight creak and a man slipped out into the room. He was taller than Sam’s Dad, with spiky, brown hair and a generous smile. He had a long sweeping brown jacket and a striped suit that looked so different from what Sam usually saw people wearing.

 

A step out from the blue box, the man pulled out a long metal stick with a blue light on the end. As he pushed a button the light glowed and a strange buzzing sound came from the device. The man started pointing it randomly around the room, eyebrows folding in, until he finally spotted Sam.

 

“Well, hello,” the peculiar man grinned, swinging around the rotting armchair to crouch down in front of Sam. “Who are you? I’m the Doctor.”

 

For a moment Sam considered not replying, his father’s words about monsters and bad men echoing in his head. Then he saw the sadness in the Doctor’s eyes, something lonely that reminded him of those people left behind. It reminded him of the people John brought home with him sometimes, dazed and confused, the ones he said had lost everything.

 

“I’m Sam Winchester,” he replied, offering his hand.

 

“Hello Sam,” the Doctor said, shaking his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Hello!” A pretty woman with red hair appeared at the Doctor’s shoulder. She looked as strange as the man, both of them flushed by the light from the blue box. “I’m Donna. Just ignore him, he’s a bit weird.”

 

“No I’m not,” the Doctor protested before quickly turning back to Sam. “So, Sammy ... do you mind if I call you that?”

 

For a moment Sam hesitated, weighing the question and the man who asked it. Then he shook his head.

 

“Tell me, Sammy, what year is it?” Sam tilted his head to the side, completely bewildered.

 

“How can you not know what year it is?”

 

“I lose track sometimes,” The Doctor replied with an easy smile. “There’s a lot of time out there.”

 

“It’s 1988.” Sam said with a shrug.

 

“1988,” the strange man repeated, pulling a face at his red-haired companion. “I might have overshot it a bit.”

 

“Do you think?” Donna replied tartly.

 

“And Sammy,” the Doctor turned his smile back to Sam. “Tell me, have you seen anything weird around here?”

 

He their strangeness understood then. “You’re hunters, aren’t you? My dad is a hunter too.”

 

“Well, I don’t think you could call us hunters. We’re just looking for a strange man. He would be-” The Doctor hesitated. “Well... green.”

 

Sam thought of the green men in his books about the stars, and the movies that he and Dean watched in black and white, crackling with static. There were green men on other worlds, green men in his dreams of the universe.

 

“Are you looking for aliens?” Sam asked. “Like the ones in my dreams and on tv?”

 

“No-“

 

“Yes,” Donna hurriedly interrupted the Doctor, glaring at him. “Like those things you see on tv. They’re not real, don’t be afraid.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” Sam replied confidently. “Dean says I shouldn’t be afraid of anything.”

 

The Doctor smiled softly at that, but it didn't quite reach the sadness in his eyes. “You’re very brave, Sam Winchester.”

 

“I haven’t seen any aliens, only monsters.” Sam frowned. “Why do you want to find the aliens?”

 

“We’re travellers,” the Doctor said. “I have this space-ship-”

 

“Your blue box?”

 

“Yes.” The Doctor reached out to rest his hands on Sam’s shoulder, smiling a smile that made his eyes look sad again. “My blue box. It can take us anywhere in space and time.”

 

“You’re astronauts?” Sam asked breathlessly, remembering all the stars and planets he had seen in the books Dean had stolen from libraries for him. “And time-travellers?”

 

“Yes, I suppose you can call us astronauts.” A soft beeping cut the Doctor off, filtering through the door of the blue box.

 

“Doctor,” Donna’s voice was hushed and secretive, like Dean and Dad talking about things that they think Sam doesn’t understand. “Isn’t that his signal?”

 

The Doctor’s hands squeezed his shoulders. “It was very nice meeting you, Sammy.”

 

“Can I come with you,” Sam blurted out without thinking. “In your box? Can me and Dean come with you and see the universe?”

 

“You’re very brave, Sam Winchester,” the Doctor said with his sad eyes and his warm smile. “Maybe I will see you and your Dean again.”

 

Sam didn’t have a chance to reply. Suddenly the Doctor was leaving, the red-haired woman disappearing into the blue box with him. Sam called out to the time-travelling astronaut but the whooshing sound had started again, drowning out his voice. For a moment nothing happened, but then the box started to fade; solid one moment, see-through the next, solid again, then only an outline. Every time it faded a little more until, finally, it didn’t come back.

 

Sam stood at the bottom of the stars, curling his bare toes into the thin, dusty carpet. He stared around the dark room and wondered where the time-travelling astronaut doctor and his companion had gone in their blue box. Slowly he dragged his feet up the stairs and into his room. With tired eyes he picked a planet in his book and fell asleep, dreaming of the Doctor among the stars.

 

 

Prologue 2

The first evening of December, definitely 2011

 

It is strange to think that he was just a kid once. Just a kid with so many dreams and an imaginary friend. Those sun-kissed memories of innocence have been overrun by the black grind of a life set out like a Film Noir. Whatever child that used to linger in Sam, egged on by his brother’s ever-protective presence, is gone; if it was ever there.

 

And now... now Sam has been to Hell and back, he’s died more times than he cares to count and he’s watched more people die than he could bear to think about. Now here, finally, is the end and it is a fitting death, Sam thinks. He’s survived a couple of wars, not to mention the apocalypse, so he’s kind of okay that it’s the second apocalypse he’s faced that is going to bring him down.

 

A roaring starts up then, so loud it whisks away the sounds of the fields and pulls them down into the lake spread out in front of them. The surface begins to swirl, like a giant has pulled the plug on the world. The whirlpool grows wider and wider until it is taking up the entirety of the lake and the brothers are standing on the edge of a roaring chasm that is waiting for them to jump.

 

For a second Sam feels as though he might; thinks that it would be so much easier to fall, pitch forwards into the swift darkness, than to suffer whatever might happen next. He isn’t given a chance, though, and Dean is gripping his arm so tightly that there is nowhere for him to go without his brother.

 

In a bizarre mockery of physics, a huge plume of flame bursts from the water, charging up into the sky and slamming into the Winchesters as scorching waves of heat. Slowly the fire spreads across the sky, devouring the white clouds and the blue blue canvas until Sam can only see flames beyond the trees.

 

Suddenly everything slows down, every cough of fire distinct from the next until Sam can see each tree getting caught in the devouring flames. He can see everything and all he can do is watch as orange and yellow engulf the opposite bank.

 

This is the end. Dean’s hand tightens around Sam’s arm as the colossal shadow rises out of the lake in front of them, towering over the world until its serpent head wears a crown of flames. The beast is gigantic, sucking the lake dry as its skin turns a glistening pearly grey from the water.

 

“Maybe he’s coming.” Dean is still muttering next to Sam, wistful thoughts coming out of his mouth before he can really process what he is saying.

 

“Come on, Dean.” It is strange, but somehow there is a smile on Sam’s face and part of him keeps expecting hysterical laughter to escape his lips. “You didn’t think that we would live forever, did you?”

 

“We’re not supposed to die, though.” Dean’s eyes were fixed on his gun hand, clenching and unclenching as though he is just waiting for something that he can fight with his fists. “He promised.”

 

Sam closes his eyes. This is the end and he is waiting, staring at the orange shadow puppets the flames paint across his eyelids. The colossal creature opens its mouth, displaying fangs like miniature skyscrapers, and roars once more. This is the end, and, Sam thinks, it is a fitting one.

Chapter Text

Part One

One rainy afternoon about three hours beforehand and still 2011

 

Sam found it hard to believe that once upon a long time ago in a state far, far away, life was easier. Life was about the next motel room and surviving the new school, and yeah, he hated it, but it was simpler. Now life was looking at your closest friend, your guardian angel, and seeing his skin peel away from his body. Now life was watching that same friend walk into a lake and dissolve beneath the surface, lost under the water in a death not fitting for him. Now life was losing someone who you would have died for and not having enough time to mourn him.

 

Dean kept Castiel’s trench coat in some unspoken agreement, tucked away in some dark corner of the trunk. They couldn’t always see it, lost in the shadows, but they knew it was there. Every now and then Sam would brush his fingers across the fabric and feel guilt and sorrow settle in his stomach once more.

 

After Amy, Bobby seemed to decide they needed a break from the whole ‘save the world’ rigmarole to calibrate with this new threat. He started sending them on random, small-scale hunts he would normally give to greener hunters, assuring them he would find a way to kill the ‘black-blooded sons of bitches’.

 

The brothers didn’t complain. There was tiredness in every movement they made, a weariness brought on by saving the world more times than most generations do in a century. Dean was moving gingerly on his leg although he liked to pretend there was no problem. The scar on Sam’s hand would never fade, sometimes leaking teardrops that stained his clothes in red bulls-eyes.

 

This was how they ended up in a fairly nice (by their standards) motel room in the middle of Montana with rain running down the window in occasional splatters. Dean was getting progressively more antsy, stuck inside for the last few days thanks to the rain and a case that required they hang around for a couple of weeks until the moon was just right. Or something like that anyway.

 

In a desperate bid to distract his brother, Sam was on all the local news websites and weather pages looking for something, anything, supernatural nearby to provide them with a quick hunt. He didn’t quite believe it when he finally found something. Freak weather patterns combined with freak water pollution and freak lights in the sky was normally the recipe for something evil.

 

Dean was delighted to have something to kill. Sam didn’t get past ‘Dude, listen to this’ before the shitty b-movie was turned off and Dean was fumbling around on the table looking for the keys.

 

"Come on, Sammy," Dean's grin was like a spark plug in the dark, setting the engine running between the two brothers. "There's no time to waste; people are in danger."

 

"Okay, Batman," Sam replied, trying valiantly not to smile as his brother all but bounced across the room, gun tucked into his waistband. "If the public are in danger."

 

"You know that makes you Robin." He paused, making a thoughtful face that Sam liked to think he rarely saw on his brother. "There was totally something fishy going on there. Just a billionaire, his butler and a young kid in that mansion."

 

"Sometimes I wonder why you're my brother," Sam groaned, heading for the door. Dean's laughter followed him.

 

"Man, you gotta love the internet."  Sam considered asking how Dean knew any websites except news and porn pages, then decided he didn't want to know where his brother had discovered the theory of Batman and Robin's... relationship.

 

Outside the rain had fallen into a short respite, puddles blotched across the pavement like a thousand mirrors to reflect the grey skies. The Impala was waiting for them, stretched out along the ground, water dripping steadily from her sleek body. Sam couldn't stop himself running a finger along her bonnet, tracing a line through the lingering rain. In his mind he would never stop thanking this car, this relic of the Winchester family. In his mind she was a constant reminder that Lucifer was gone, that the devil standing next to him wasn’t real.

 

It wasn't a long drive to the centre of the supernatural activity, only half an hour or so. If Google maps was right - Dean was skeptical but Sam would swear by it - the centre of the freak events was in a small wooded area that seemed populated by a single rundown building of some sort. Neither of them had any idea what the source could be so they were prepared for anything with silver bullets and salt-filled shells. Sam felt the heavy weight of the gun in his lap and wished it didn't feel like a safety blanket.

 

Five minutes out, the road degraded into rough gravel and Dean refused to go any further, terrified about the harm it would do to his freshly rebuilt baby. Sam rolled his eyes but figured it would probably be quieter to go by foot; not that the Winchesters were particularly good at stealth.

 

Thirteen minutes and much cursing later, they dodged yet another jagged bush and found themselves behind what had to be the house Google maps had promised. The building looked even more rundown than the grainy image had suggested. Parts of the roof had already caved in and creepers clung to most of the walls, climbing inside through the many broken windows. If the house had ever been painted, it was a long time since it had held even some streaks of its former coat.

 

"Well this looks like a lovely place," Dean sighed. "Back door?"

 

"Back door," Sam agreed. They quickly made their way to the back entrance of the house, guns fitting perfectly into their hands. The back door was swinging on its hinges, creaking softly in the light wind. Beyond it the house seemed empty, darkness tucking itself into every corner that wasn't already claimed by dust and spiders. Sam couldn't decide if the building was perfect for a haunted house or just pathetically clichéd.

 

Dean went in first, posture dropped and gun extended in front of him. Sam followed quickly behind. Inside the house it was strangely quiet; whatever sounds they could hear outside simply dropped away, sucked down into the warped wood. Apart from the constant creak of the house, it was silent. A chill ran down Sam's spine and he pushed it to the side, gripping his gun tighter.

 

They had ended up in a small thin room which they quickly passed through. That led into what was surely once a kitchen, the blackened edges of a stove still visible under thick blankets of dust. It too was empty of any kind of domestic clutter. A pantry was off to the left, its doors lying splintered on the ground, fallen soldiers in the war against pestilence.

 

Steadily the brothers passed through the rooms on the first floor. Dean went first, Sam brought up the rear. Each room was empty, not even footprints in the dust to indicate some kind of life asides from their own. On the second floor it was different. There were footsteps everywhere, trailing in dots and dashes, twisting around the rooms in Morse code stops and starts.

 

It wasn't until Sam walked into the smallest bedroom that he stopped breathing. Soft blue light painted the walls and cast shadows over the footprints in the dust. In the middle of the room stood a blue police call box.

 

“No...” Sam’s voice was a whisper in the soft light. “It can’t be.”

 

With a creak the box’s door opened and a man stepped out wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches. He straightened his red bow tie before turning his gaze upwards, finally noticing the two hunters. Sam flinched back, eyes not quite sure if they were seeing properly. It had to be the man from all those years ago, the man with the blue box.

 

Except this man, with his wide nose and deep eyes - this man looked nothing like the time-traveller from space. He carefully ignored Lucifer, poking the blue box as if it might vanish at any second. This was real, not something in Sam’s mind. Dean was rigid beside him, eyes not leaving the man in front of them. It was real.

 

“Oh, hello!” He smiled widely, that smile that couldn’t shake the sadness, the age, in his eyes. Sam’s mind turned in a circle, corners blurring on memories that were once so certain. It had to be him. It just had to. “I’m the Doctor.”

 

“You’re the astronaut,” Sam blurted out before he could think about the words. For a moment the Doctor looked confused then, wrinkles creasing his brow and sending shadows over his eyes. “The time-travelling astronaut. You asked me what year you were in 1988, but your face...” He trailed off, unsure of what to say. Unsure if there was anything that could be said.

 

The Doctor’s brow smoothed out and a smile spread across his face. “Sam Winchester! I remember you. Brave Sam Winchester and his Dean.” He looked Sam up and down, pausing for a second. “Though you were much smaller back then.”

 

“Why do you look different?” Sam could feel his hands trembling, too many questions and doubts and so many thoughts trying to make themselves heard. “You can’t be the Doctor, who are you?”

 

“I’m the same Doctor that you met, Sam. I’m just older.” Sam couldn’t reply to that. There weren’t words that could voice the disarray in his mind. Here he was, the Doctor, the strange man who had become his imaginary (and often his only) friend for years. Here he was with a different face, a younger face, telling him that he had grown older. The curious case of the time-travelling astronaut. Sam swallowed the urge to laugh.

 

“Not that this reminiscing isn’t nice and all,” Dean broke in, gun still pointed at the Doctor. “But who is this guy, Sam?”

 

“Guns.” Fleeting disappointment flashed across the Doctor’s face as he pasted the picture together. “Sam Winchester and his guns.”

 

“Hey, easy Dean,” Sam soothed, pushing his brother’s hands down. “It’s alright, he’s the Doctor, my imaginary friend from when I was five.”

 

“I was your imaginary friend?” The Doctor was smiling strangely now, another one of those moments when words meant more to the time-traveller than they did to Sam. The hunter just nodded and for a moment, the sadness left the Doctor’s eyes.

 

“Wait.” Disbelief had taken up permanent residence on Dean’s face. “You mean the Doctor’s real?”

 

“I told you so.” Dean was opening his mouth again when a loud thud broke through their conversation. Instantly all eyes turned to the door, the Winchesters already raising their guns. Another thud cut through the house, this one followed by muttering voices.

 

The three men were in the corridor seconds later, moving perfectly in time with each other. It was hard to pinpoint the source of the voices, sound filtering like smoke through the cracked wood of the old house. The Doctor pulled out the stick-shaped device Sam remembered from the last time he saw the time-traveller. Pushing one of the buttons, he started waving it about randomly like some kind of dance, the green light on the end cancelling out the faint blue of the police box.

 

“This way!” The Doctor shouted, seconds before dashing off down the stairs. Dean gave Sam a doubtful look but all the younger Winchester could do was grin and chase after his imaginary friend. They caught up with him at the bottom of the stairs, managing a breath before the Doctor was racing off again. This time he stopped and hunched over outside one of the larger and more cluttered rooms of the huge house.

 

Sam thought it was probably once some kind of master dining room. It was long, stretching the length of the house, and in the middle there crouched a gigantic dining table that looked too heavy to lift with anything less than a crane. It was the only furniture in the house and now it had four men clustered around the end.

 

The two hunters and their astronaut guide silently slipped inside, crouching behind what seemed to have been a small cabinet for keeping refreshments. Hidden behind the cabinet they couldn’t see anything but the conversation floated along to them, sound crowded in by the low ceiling.

 

“I thought we said one person only.” A voice pointed almost lazily and Sam was sure he had heard it somewhere before. “I count two of you.”

 

“It seems we both have escorts.” Beside him the Doctor tensed, eyes widening. “I’m sure we can work around this issue.”

 

“Very well.” Dean was recognising the voice too, brow furrowed in concentration. “Down to business?”

 

It clicked then - all the clogs meshed in Sam’s head and he knew that voice. It was one of the leviathans. He locked eyes with his brother, mouth opening, but Dean figured had it out too.

 

“Leviathan.”

 

“What? Who?” The Doctor asked.

 

“That’s a Leviathan out there,” Dean supplied. “A creature from purgatory. They’ve been giving us Hell for ages now.” He cocked is gun and Sam’s fingers were already fitting perfectly around his.

 

“Let’s go.” The brothers burst out from behind the cabinet, guns raised and hearts hammering faster and faster. This was another opportunity to test these creatures’ immortality. The Doctor was yelling something in the background, words trying to push through the adrenaline cloud in Sam’s mind.

 

The brothers didn’t listen. They knew the supernatural, knew Earth and its extremities. They were hunters, where the Doctor was a time-travelling astronaut. He knew different times and different places. The Doctor knew the planets and stars of space. Sam and Dean, they knew the star-burst splatters of blood that dead monsters left behind.

 

Surprise was written across the Leviathan’s faces when they saw the Winchester brothers barrelling towards the group. There were two of the creatures, both familiar although Sam couldn’t place them in the haze of violence that had infected his mind.

 

Two more people were standing at the table; one a man with sharp eyes and a sharper nose, the other hidden underneath some kind of brown habit. Surprise crossed the man’s face as well but it melted away before the first bullet was zinging towards them.

 

Sam hit the Leviathan closest, Dean aiming for the second one. Targets were already allocated in that wordless way they managed to communicate. Before either of them could squeeze the trigger for a second time, the sharp-eyed man was wrapping long fingers around the shoulders of both Leviathans. The monk rested a hand on the man’s elbow and then they were gone - static for a second and then simply not there.

 

“What the-” Dean was cut off as the Doctor appeared from behind the cabinet.

 

“I told you to wait.” Anger flashed in the time-traveller’s eyes, anger that Sam somehow never thought he would see in his imaginary friend. “But give one of you a gun and suddenly you think you’re invincible.”

 

“Where'd they go?” Dean was typically ignoring the Doctor’s words, questions fixed on the recent disappearing act. “What was that?”

 

“Short range teleporter,” The Doctor replied briefly, waving his green light stick around again. It whined in pitches, reminding Sam of broken machinery or Geiger counters. “Probably wired to their mothership somewhere up there.” He waved wildly at the ceiling, eyes still fixed on his electronic device. “Must have some kind of cloaking device if I can’t find them with the sonic. We’ll certainly never know now that you’ve scared them off.” He fixed the hunters with a glare. “Put your guns away before you hurt someone.”

 

“Who were they, Doctor?” The gun was warm in Sam’s grip, a weight that slotted perfectly into the waistband of his jeans and suddenly he didn’t know what to do with his hands. “You knew them, didn’t you?”

 

“Yes, of course,” the reply was distant and only half-present, the Doctor already turning away to pace in twirling patterns over the floor. “Members of The Silence. A headless monk and that man, he was there, but what are they doing here? The TARDIS locked onto their signal but from what and why Earth?”

 

“Doc-”

 

“Shhhh,” the Doctor cut in, slapping a palm against his head. “Think, think, what am I missing? No reason for them to be on Earth, not now. I haven’t crossed time-lines so River isn’t here and – wait.” The pacing drew to a sudden halt and the strange astronaut darted over to Sam, pointing at him with revelation on his face.

 

“You said you recognised those other ones. What did you say they were?”

 

“Leviathans from purgatory,” Sam replied quickly, the Doctor’s urgency catching on. “We’ve been tracking them, trying to figure out a way to kill them.”

 

“Right, Leviathans look like humans and someone opened Purgatory again. I love this planet.” Dean turned and mouthed ‘again’ to Sam with a mildly incredulous look on his face. “Good, good, who was it this time?”

 

“A demon called Crowley and two angels, Raphael and Castiel. What do you mean ‘again’?”

 

“Oh, Castiel,” the Doctor’s face lit into a grin. “Lovely angel although a few daddy issues. What was he doing opening purgatory with a demon?”

 

Sam rolled his shoulders uncomfortably, pointedly not looking at Dean. There was an unspoken rule between them, a boundary that neither of them needed to voice to know was there. They didn’t talk about Castiel, nothing more than a fleeting mention, just a name delegated in history. It wasn’t a difficulty in facing what had happened, the blood-covered rooms or sigils on the walls. There was no glitch in the who, what, when, where or how. Only in the why. Only in the guilt, betrayal, anything that wasn’t cold hard fact.

 

“Oh,” the Doctor breathed, eyes flicking back and forth between the Winchesters, swaying slightly on his feet. “Oh, bad question.” Then he was off again, a constant distraction as he somehow managed to simultaneously stride and spin across the room.

 

“What have we got then. Leviathan and the Silence meeting on Earth in... 2011. I am right there, it’s not 2005 like last time? Almost told good old J.K. how to end her book.”

 

“Uh, yeah,” Sam replied, pointedly ignoring the ‘what-the-hell-is-your-imaginary-friend-talking-about-now’ glare Dean was now directing at him. “It’s 2011.”

 

“Fantastic.” The Doctor paused for a moment, frowning and knocking his teeth together. “Oh no, can’t say that. I still manage to forget about the teeth.” And then he was darting off again, heading for the stairs. “2011, not the best year for you humans. You make it through, of course. Amazing you lot are.”

 

By the time Sam reached the second floor the Doctor was already disappearing into the blue-lit room. When the Winchesters burst through the door, he was waiting for them, grinning like a madman with a mad secret.

 

“What’s going on Doctor?”

 

“I have no idea,” the time-traveller replied. “And that’s not something that happens to me often.”

 

His excitement was infectious, catching like a cold until Sam was smiling back at him. All the fear, all the unknown that had been building up in Sam’s mind, faded away. Somehow he just knew that everything was going to be okay. Like a belief imprinted in his mind, he just knew that the Doctor would make everything alright.

 

“What's that?” Dean didn’t believe like Sam did. Although he aimed at nothing more than the heart of the floor, Dean hadn’t let go of the gun, hands readjusting over and over in a nervous twitch. “Your blue... box... thing.”

 

The Doctor didn’t blink, though Sam could see the itch under the astronaut’s skin as his eyes lingered on the gun. Instead the Doctor just leaned back against the object in question, arms crossed, with a patient look on his face. Or, at least, Sam thought it was a patient look.

 

“Time And Relative Dimension In Space.”

 

“What?” Dean’s forehead was curved into the frown that too often casting shadows over his eyes.

 

“Time And Relative Dimension In Space. This is my TARDIS.”

 

“Your space-ship,” Sam elaborated.

 

“Yes,” the Doctor conceded, sounding amused. “You lot do like to call her something like that.”

 

“Why do you say that?” Sam wasn’t entirely sure he wanted the answer to his question, wasn’t entirely sure that would be an answer he could process. “Why do you say ‘you lot’? Aren’t you human too?”

 

The Doctor straightened his jacket and smiled in that way that meant a million possibilities wrapped up in adventures stretching the universe. Somewhere Leviathans were plotting but it no longer mattered.

 

“Tell me, brave Sam Winchester; in all those planets and stars, in all the things that you see when you look up at the sky and wonder at how small the Earth is, didn’t you ever think that maybe you’re not alone?”

 

And then he was gone, slipping into the TARDIS as though he were slipping on a second skin. Something told Sam he shouldn’t follow that mad man into his box, that there would be no way back. For a heartbeat he considered not pushing open the door, conveniently left ever so slightly ajar. He could feel Dean’s gaze on him, uncertainty lingering in his brother’s mind.

 

It didn’t matter, though, none of it mattered. Sam was going to follow the time-travelling astronaut because in the dregs of his childhood, when everything was doasyou’retold, with monsters under the bed and one life instead of three, Sam’s imaginary friends were the only things that were his and his alone.

 

“Sammy.” The apprehension in Dean’s voice made Sam smile because he knew that Dean wouldn’t trust the Doctor. Sam’s brother was made of certainties and absolutes. He saw in black and white, blind to the shades of grey lingering in the shadows. Dean was born with his feet on the ground and hands curled into fists. It was Sam who floated a million miles away in possibilities and maybes. It was Sam who saw in Technicolour stripes and complexities.

 

“Come on, Dean.” He knew there was no way of convincing his brother to step into the TARDIS without proof of the Doctor’s good intentions, so instead Sam gave him no choice. If there was one certainty Sam had it was that his brother would follow him.

 

The TARDIS door creaked as he pushed it open. Behind him footsteps followed Sam into the paradox as his mind tripped over its own feet. There was a house inside the small, blue police call box. There was another world slotted neatly into a three person standing space. It was then that Sam decided that reality was no longer a viable concept.

 

The Winchesters synced in the space, speaking perfectly in unison. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

 

“At the same time!” The Doctor had a delighted look spread across his face as he seemed to talk to no one in particular. “They said it at the same time!”

 

“How...” Dean trailed off, not bothering to finish the impossible question. Meanwhile Sam was re-writing his world, integrating the Doctor and his TARDIS into the map in his head. His eyes traced the porous spirals and flashing lights, lingered on the buttons and gadgets and is that a cheese grater?

 

There were no words to put to this new world so he asked what he could. “Where are we going?”

 

“Where would you like to go?” There was a smile on the Doctor’s face as he leaned back against the circular display that took up the centre of the dais in front of Sam. “Think about it Sammy, the boy with dreams of other stars and other worlds. Which one would you like to see first?”

 

A thousand stars and constellations flashed through his head, each one named on the hood of the Impala. Each sought out by eye and mapped by fingers coated in clinging drops of condensation swept from beer bottles. A million planets and galaxies ran behind, torn from pages of books and the dreams of children.

 

“Our hotel room.” It was Dean who spoke in the end, breaking through the intergalactic travel down memory lane. “If the Leviathans are plotting with your Silence, we need to know why and how much firepower it’s going to take to stop them.”

 

Sam’s brother was right. Dean kept his feet and his mind on Earth. Sam had got lost in the universe and forgotten about the world that they had sacrificed so much to keep safe.

 

“Dean’s right.” The Doctor didn’t look surprised. Instead, something like concern clouded his face. “We need to work out what’s going on.”

 

For a heartbeat it seemed as though the Doctor was going to say something, perhaps even tell them he couldn’t help them. Sam wondered if he could the TARDIS now that he had seen inside. Then the Doctor pushed himself to his feet, spinning on his heels and darting around the console, pushing buttons and pulling levers.

 

“Hotel rooms! Always an adventure there. Which one is yours?”

 

It took a moment for Sam to remember, to pull his head out of the clouds. “Uh, room 23 of the Burwer’s Motel and Inn. It’s about thirty-five minutes south-west from here.” The Doctor pranced over to a hanging scanner that Sam had been eying up. A few buttons pressed and the strange symbols morphed into stranger symbols.

 

“Right then!” The Doctor grinned over his shoulder, something Sam thought might be close to insanity glinting in his eyes. “I haven’t tried a hotel landing yet, not with these fingers anyway, so prepare for some turbulence.”

 

“But you can land this thing, right?” Dean spluttered.

 

The Doctor winked then flipped a switch. Instantly the world tilted on its axis, loud creaking and groans weaving in with that whooshing sound Sam knew the TARDIS always made. The Doctor was laughing, Dean made a strange sound that could pass as a fearful grunt and Sam was somewhere in between. All those times that he imagined time-travel, it had been nothing like this.

 

“Wait, missed something.” The Doctor was somehow standing and staggering around the console, pushing and prodding various things. “You know, it takes seven people to fly her normally. Ah, there you are!”

 

A small ting echoed through the TARDIS as the time-traveller slammed his hand down on a bell sticking out of the console. Then, almost as quickly as it had begun, the insanity stopped. The floor levelled out with a creak and a groan before everything fell silent, apart from the soft whooshing of the TARDIS.

 

“Why didn’t you do that before?” Dean half-growled, pushing himself up from the floor.

 

“Can’t always keep track of that one, it likes to move.” Quickly the Doctor flipped a few more switches and pushed a couple of buttons, running back and forth around the console. “Now, here... we... are!”

 

With a flourish he pressed another button and the TARDIS gave a violent shudder. Thrown off balance once more, Sam collapsed into a conveniently placed chair just in time to feel gravity give up for a moment. Exactly as the contents of his stomach were about to make a hasty exit, gravity slammed back and the TARDIS shuddered to a halt once more.

 

“There!” The Doctor cried from where he was somehow still standing. “Textbook landing. Now let’s see where we are.”

 

There was a pained groan from behind Sam followed by a weak, “You mean you don’t know?”

 

“Landing in a hotel room.” The Doctor fixed his attention on the screen hanging over the console showing some kind of scanner. “Isn’t as easy as it seems.”

 

“It really doesn’t seem easy,” Sam groaned, finding his feet again.

 

“She doesn’t always land in the right room.” The TARDIS gave a particularly loud groan. “Okay, I don’t always land her in the right room.”

 

“Don’t you have GPS on here or something?” Dean asked as he hauled himself up from where his face had met the floor. “Kirk always knew where the Enterprise was.”

 

“I threw the GPS into a supernova. It was boring.” The Doctor turned away from the scanner, straightening his bow-tie. “Come on!” He didn’t stop to see if Sam was following him, just darted over to the door. He didn’t need to, of course, Sam was right behind him.

 

“Well then, Sam Winchester,” the Doctor grinned at him, leaning against the door frame as Dean half-stumbled over to join them. “You’ve just dematerialised and rematerialised in a new place.” With a smile he pushed the TARDIS door, letting it swing ajar. “After you.”

 

Sam was about to slip out the door when a strange, completely irrational thought exploded into his mind.

 

“You’re not going to leave, are you?”

 

And really it was a completely rational thought. Really it was perfectly plausible because the Doctor had the Universe spread at his feet. The Doctor had a million stars to wish upon and a thousand galaxies to explore. The Doctor had all this and Donna wasn’t with him anymore, not with this Doctor and his changing face, so really it was perfectly rational for Sam to think that the TARDIS might disappear if he ever turned his back.

 

The Doctor smiled but his eyes stayed sad. Then he disappeared through the TARDIS door and all Sam could do was follow him, Dean seconds behind. 

Chapter Text

Part Two

 

They found themselves standing in Room 23 of Burwer’s Motel and Inn.

 

Sam hadn’t really believed in the Doctor and his TARDIS until then, until the blue police box had flown them thirty miles in 30 seconds. Dean didn’t look like he had believed it either, one hand braced against the TARDIS as if it were the most real thing in the room.

 

“Well, that was certainly unexpected.” Sam spun around at the familiar voice, turning to face the man standing behind to the TARDIS. “Nice wheels.”

 

“Crowley,” Dean hissed at the same time as the Doctor cried, “Canton!” Now all eyes except Dean’s turned to the time-traveller.

 

“Okay.” The Doctor’s gaze flicked back and forth between them. “Not Canton. Canton’s face but-” he turned to Sam.

 

“Crowley,” he supplied. Seconds later the Doctor had the device he called the sonic out, waving it at the unexpected guest. The sonic made a slightly different noise than it had before and the time-traveller stared at it with a frown on his face. “Doctor, he’s a-”

 

“Demon. Yes, I know,” the Doctor said seriously, slowly put his sonic away, a closed look on his face. “I’ve met demons before.” He turned to Crowley, his eyes darkening. “You’re wearing a friend of mine.”

 

“You have more lives than any other creature in the world and I wear humans,” Crowley said with a strange half-smile. “We all have our eccentricities. I’m Crowley by the way. King of Hell.”

 

“But,” Sam hesitated. “You said your meat-suit belonged to a New Yo-”

 

“I lied.” Crowley gestured to his face with a pointed expression. “Demon, remember?”

 

“How’d you find us?” Dean growled, eyes still not leaving the demon.

 

Out from the shadows to Sam’s left a woman stepped, smirk already on her face. “Let’s face it, Dean, you boys never could hide from me.”

 

Sam’s stomach roiled and his mind screamed in protest. “Bela.” The thief looked the same as the last time Sam had seen her, wavy brown hair and defined features. The same body but there was something different inside

 

“Howdy,” she replied with a smile and for a moment her eyes flashed black. “Can’t tell you how lovely it is to see you boys again, especially now that we all know how Hell tastes. By the way Sam, how’s your head?”

 

“You bitch-” Sam managed to grab his brother before Dean followed through on the threat his curled fists were suggesting.

 

Crowley stepped in before the argument could escalate. “Now we’re all reacquainted, I have a business proposal for you.”

 

Sam gave Crowley a sharp look, still keeping a hand on his volatile brother. “What do you mean, ‘a business proposal’?”

 

“It’s a ‘let’s-join-forces-and-save-the-Earth-like-every-bad-b-movie’ proposal,” Bela supplied helpfully.

 

“We have information you need and you have- well, a hero-complex that we lack,” Crowley continued, gesturing back and forth between the two parties. “You need to know what the Leviathans and their new bed mates are planning and we need you to stop them.”

 

If there was one thing Sam had learned, it was to never trust a demon. He was sure that there were a hundred different phrases and sayings and smart little quips that he could throw at the wall over his experiences with the black-eyed individuals.

 

“How do you know what they’re planning?” And there he was, trying to work with them again.

 

“Sam, no.” Dean was glaring at him, hands still tightly curled into fists. “We can’t trust them.”

 

“We don’t have much of a choice, Dean.” Ignoring the smug look on Bela’s face, Sam turned to his other side. “What do you think, Doctor?”

 

The time-traveller gave a bright smile, tucking the sonic back into his jacket pocket. “Why not? Demons are always trouble and trouble is my middle name. Most of the time, anyway.”

 

“Okay.” Sam nodded to Crowley. “Tell us what you know and we’ll help you.”

 

“Excellent.” Crowley gestured to Bela. “I’ll leave my... associate to give you the information and any help she might provide. I’m needed down under.”

 

He was turning away when Dean cut in, eyes narrowed and his fists were still clenched at his side. “Why shouldn’t we think you’re in league with the Leviathans?”

 

“You met that dick yet?” Crowley looked over his shoulder, half-smile still firmly on his face. “Smuggest tub of goo since Mussolini. I hate the bastards. Squash them all, please.”

 

“Well, since you said ‘please’,” Dean spat sarcastically.

 

“Dean,” Sam hissed at his brother, willing him to suspend his prejudices for a moment as he had done with Amy. “Okay, give us the information and we’ll kill them.”

 

“And Crowley,” The Doctor gave a strangely disturbing smile that seemed anything but friendly. “Once Earth is safe I will make sure that Canton returns to his time with full control of his body.”

 

For a moment there was a long silence, the air tensing like it sensed the invisible stand-off. Finally, Crowley inclined his head. “We’ll see, Doctor.” Then he was gone and Sam had the strange suspicion that he was letting out a breath he had been holding for some time.

 

“Don’t relax,” Bela spoke up, lips pulled into her trade-mark cocky smirk, one Sam was sure he had seen on his brother more than once. “Contrary to what you Winchesters probably think, we’re not coming to you because we can’t handle ourselves. You’re just the only ones with a proven record of stopping apocalypses.”

 

“An apocalypse?” Sam managed to choke out. “The Leviathans are planning an apocalypse?”

 

“It’s not just a ‘raise the devil affair’ either.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean snorted. “Cause that was just a walk in the park.”

 

“Yes, Dean,” Bela snapped. “Compared to this it was. The Leviathans are trying to bring back their crown prince of Hell, essentially the father of all Leviathans. In case you’re wondering, this is-”

 

“Very not good.” All eyes turned to the Doctor and Sam had the strange urge to run at the grim look on the time-traveller’s face. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen old Crown Prince Ephialtes.”

 

“You know his name,” Dean said disbelievingly. “Don’t tell me, you were there when he last ‘walked the Earth’?”

 

“Not quite.” The Doctor smiled at the elder Winchester. “Last time I sent him to purgatory.” For a moment Dean looked like he might punch someone, then he smiled and shook his head.

 

“Of course you did.”

 

“Sorry to break the moment,” Bela cut in. “But who exactly are you, Doctor?” Sam was about to answer when he realised that he really didn’t know. This strange man had told them nothing about himself other than that he was an alien who could obviously change his face. It hadn’t mattered who he was, not really. All that had mattered was that Sam trusted the time-travelling astronaut.

 

“I’m the Doctor.” The man in question straightened his bow tie with a smile. “I’m a Time Lord, the last of the Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey.” He rested his hand against his blue box. “And this is my TARDIS.”

 

“How old are you?” Sam asked curiously.

 

“Why do you humans always ask that?” the Doctor said, straightening his jacket. “I might be touchy about my age.”

 

“Because you changed your face.” The Time Lord froze then, staring at Sam with like a bug under a microscope. “And you haven’t grown any older.”

 

“Right, yes, of course. Well, if you must know, I’m 1,108.”

 

“Bullshit,” Dean blurted out.

 

“I look good, don’t I,” the Doctor said with a wink. “It’s probably the two hearts.”

 

Two hearts!?”

 

“This is ridiculous,” Bela snapped, clearly not impressed by the alien. “We have an apocalypse to stop.”

 

“Yes,” the Doctor turned to her. “You’re right. What do you know about the Silence?”

 

“Very little,” the demon replied. “We know they’re basically the Universe’s Joker. They just want to burn Earth however they can but we don’t know where they’re from or why they have such a vendetta against the planet.”

 

“They want me.” The smile was gone from the Time Lord’s face now, replaced with a weariness Sam hadn’t see on his friend before. “I thought they were gone.”

 

“Well they’re still around and now they’re in cahoots with the Leviathans on the whole ‘raising the crown prince of Hell’ plan.” Bela shifted uncomfortably. “From what information we could gather, we’ve got less than 24 hours before they manage it.”

 

“No 66 seals or sibling feuds to stop them?” There was a forced humour in Dean’s voice but his smile was barely there.

 

“Not this time.” Bela sighed heavily. “I’ve told you all we know. Now you need to find out where they're planning to raise Ephialtes and how to stop them.”

 

“Find them and stop them.” Dean gave a weak laugh. “And how do you expect us to do that, sister?”

 

“We know what signs you can track the Leviathans with, you just need to watch for them and then work out how to stop them. That’s what you spend your pathetic lives doing, isn’t it?” Sam could see Dean’s jaw clench but to the elder Winchester's credit he refrained from punching the demon.

 

“I know someone who can help us,” the Doctor piped up with a wide grin plastered across his face. “A very old friend who I’m sure you’ll like.”

 

Dean looked dubious. “Please tell me he’s on Earth and human.”

 

Bela muttered something that vaguely sounded like ‘racist’ which Dean thankfully didn’t hear. “Yes, he’s on Earth.” The Doctor pulled a key out of one of his pockets and opened the door. “Come on.”

 

“Okay.” Dean smirked at the demon. “You stay here.”

 

“You can’t just leave me in this room,” Bela said acidly. “I have the information you need to find the Leviathans.”

 

“So give it to us and we’ll go and track them down and kill the sons of bitches.”

 

“Nice try, but that's not happening, tiger.”

 

“Yeah, well it’s not like we’re going to be stupid enough to trust one of you lot again.”

 

“Oh, and how many times have I outsmarted you?”

 

“But I got the last laugh didn’t I, bitch?”

 

“Sam.” The Doctor was looking at the arguing duo with something akin to worry. “Should we do something to stop them?”

 

The younger Winchester heaved a sigh. “Probably. I’ll distract Dean and you get Bela into the TARDIS.”

 

------------

 

A few minutes later a blue box disappeared from number 23 of Burwer’s Motel and Inn, leaving an empty room behind with only a few gentle ridges in the carpet to indicate the TARDIS had ever been there. It was a relatively quiet journey. Bela was sitting in a chair, staring intently at the various peculiarities of the time-machine with wide eyes. Dean was leaning against the wall as far away from the demon as possible whilst still within accurate shooting distance.

 

The Doctor, meanwhile, was silent, walking around the time-machine’s console, all spin lost from his movements. His head was tilted down, brows casting shadows over his eyes that made him seem darker than ever. Whilst his hands still expertly navigated the buttons and gauges of his TARDIS, it was clear that his mind was universes away.

 

Sam didn’t mind the silence; it gave him time to think. As far as he could figure, the Doctor was a wind-up toy. Every morning some Time Lord part of him got wound up and his second heart was kick-started so he could run through the day. Once he was charged up, the Doctor was... well, the Doctor. He laughed and smiled and twirled about the room in concentric circles like a child’s Spirograph. By day the Doctor was a mad man with a box and a hundred companions to share the Universe with.

 

At night Sam liked to think the Doctor felt more alone than ever. Of course he would never be truly alone, because in the end, when every other thing in the Universe has dripped away like rain on a windshield, the TARDIS would always be waiting for him. Sam knew that when everything had lost it’s meaning, when the narrow-eyed governments built colossal metal structures that reached for the sky to say ‘we were here’, the TARDIS would run away with her Time Lord.

 

So perhaps he would never be completely alone, but Sam thought that at night when the Doctor stared at the gentle lights of the TARDIS’s control panel and felt the Universes beneath his fingertips like a pulse, the assurance of life, he would close his eyes and see a million different planets and a bazillion different civilisations and a hundred gazillion different cities and so many people there aren’t words to express them. The Doctor would see all this and feel like an ant in the shadow of a shoe, like the smallest thing in the world.

 

At least, Sam liked to think that because under his feet the floor was vibrating softly and all around him the TARDIS filled his world with so many possibilities and promises and infinities. Sam was the tallest person in the room but he had never felt this small and he didn’t think he could ever grow tall enough to fit into the Doctor’s world.

 

------------

 

It felt like hours before they finally touched down but Sam knew it had only been minutes. The landing was a lot smoother, only the shudder or jolt of what could be passed off as airplane turbulence. This time the Doctor didn’t wait to check his scanner, just headed for the door.

 

There was a man waiting for them when they filed out of the TARDIS, one-by-one. He was wearing a blue military-looking coat and a smile that stretched across his entire face. As soon as he spotted the man, the Doctor headed for him.

 

“Ah, Captain Jack!” The two men met in the middle, easily falling into a tight embrace. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

 

“You’ve changed plenty,” the Captain replied happily, holding the Doctor at arm’s length with hands on shoulders. “I love what you’ve done with the face and is that a bow-tie?”

 

“Bow-ties are cool,” the Doctor assured him, smile never leaving his face. “Now, Captain Jack Harkness, this is Sam and Dean Winchester and Bela Talbot.”

 

“Well hello,” Jack said with a smirk, eyes running over the trio. “You should have dropped in sooner, Doctor.”

 

“Stop that, we didn’t come to flirt.”

 

“I was just saying hello.”

 

“Exactly.” The two men grinned at each other and Sam felt distinctly out of place.

 

“So why am I honoured by your presence?” The smiles faded, melting away as easily as butter over heat. “There must be something wrong to bring you here.”

 

“Where is here?” Bela asked, eyes lost on the room they had stepped into. Sam hadn’t really looked at the place the TARDIS had flown them to, attention on the man in military dress. Now that he moved his gaze on he could see why Bela was asking.

 

What must have been a huge space seemed cramped and cluttered by the volume of equipment that seemed to cover every surface. Lights blinked at Sam from out of every corner, red and green linking to make Christmas lights interspersed with the occasional yellow and blue. Huge tables sagged under the weight of hundreds of computers, devices and some things that looked vaguely weaponised. As far as he could tell, the TARDIS had taken them to the warehouse for every electronics company in the world.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Jack declared loudly. “Welcome to the temporary headquarters of Torchwood, Earth’s primary defense against negative alien creatures and objects.”

 

“Great,” Dean muttered sarcastically. “The men in black are on the case.”

 

“Speaking of Torchwood,” the Doctor continued, ignoring the snark. “Where are the rest of your team?”

 

Jack’s face fell then, changing into something else, broken sorrow cutting lines where he had seemed so young a second ago. Sam knew that look. He had seen it every time Dean heard the name ‘Lisa’, or Sam thought of Jessica on those mornings when the mirror reflected the weariness of life on his face. That look came when he thought of those seemingly endless months when Dean was a cold corpse in the ground.

 

“Who?” The Doctor’s voice was soft, almost hesitant, commanding a complete understanding of the situation.

 

For a moment Jack didn’t speak, then he took a deep breath, face hardening. “Ianto.”

 

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said carefully and Jack nodded. A long silence fell between the two men then, something sacred that Sam didn’t dare break. He had the distinct feeling that he didn’t belong in this moment, that he was someone from a different time and a different place. Although, he supposed, he was.

 

Thankfully a switch flipped in the Doctor and they returned to the warehouse. “We’ve got an apocalypse, always fun, and I need your help.”

 

“You know that I’ll do what I can,” the man in military dress said carefully, his stance shifting to attention.

 

Hearing her cue, Bela quickly jumped in. “If I give you the data, do you have the power and programs to track something? It’s traceable through weather patterns and data from bodies of water.”

 

Jack smiled and winked. “For you, Ma’am, I’m sure I can.” Offering her his arm, the pair of them headed further into the warehouse. Dean followed, saying something about keeping the demon in sight. Sam just ignored them, opting instead to follow the Doctor.

 

The Time Lord had darted off among the towering shelves of whirring electronics and cluttered graveyards of those machines whose lights had died. The sonic was out, whining and buzzing as the Doctor searched among the debris.

 

“What are you doing here?” He had stopped beside what looked like some kind of harness. The steel frames were perfectly shaped to fit a human body, wires trailing from the structure to what seemed to be a poorly built bathtub beside it. “You’re not supposed to be here. They said they’d destroyed all of you.”

 

Sam was about to call out to the Doctor when a noise interrupted him, a song coming from his pocket. He pulled out his ringing phone and instantly felt stupid for thinking it so bizarre. At some point he had just assumed that they were so far away from the world, here with the Doctor, that nobody would be able to contact them.

 

“Where in the Hell are you idjits?” It weird to hear Bobby’s voice come down the line when he answered. “It’s costing me an arm and a leg to call you.”

 

“Sorry, Bobby,” Sam replied, smiling at the curious Doctor. “I’m not actually sure where we are.”

 

“Sydney,” the Doctor supplied helpfully and Sam quickly decided not to share that piece of information with Bobby.

 

“You boys are alright, aren’t you?” Sam couldn’t hold back a smile at the question. It was an easy answer, always the same. They were never alright, but it was comforting to hear the concern in Bobby’s voice. It was always good to be reminded that they had friends out there when the world was falling apart.

 

There was an undertone to the question though. Sam could hear it swirling underneath Bobby’s words like held breath. His words were questioning nothing more than physical health but what Bobby was really asking was, ‘your egg’s still working, right? No more Lucifer. Dean’s still blundering on, right? Not too much of the liquid medicine.’

 

The Devil smirked at Sam from where he leaned against a stack of winking laptops, daring the hunter to tell the truth. Dean’s flask was still in the Impala, forgotten in the rush of endoftheworld.

 

“We’re fine, Bobby,” Sam replied and his voice didn’t even waver. There were more important things than unstable minds. “But Crowley and a fresh-from-Hell Bela found us with some information about the Leviathans.”

 

“That can’t have come cheap.”

 

“They made a ‘business proposal’, as Crowley put it. They give us the information and we kill the Leviathans.” Sam paused then, unsure of how to tell Bobby that there was another apocalypse rushing in on the horizon. Another apocalypse, another chance to die, another chance to not come back.

 

“What is it, kid?”

 

“The demons found out the Leviathans are trying to raise their crown prince or something like that. He’s basically Purgatory’s Lucifer.”

 

“Balls!” Bobby swore loudly. “I called you to tell you what I found. Turns out I was looking in the obscure section when I should have gone straight to the best-seller. I found this in the Bible:

‘His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;

each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.

They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.

His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of dawn.

Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.

Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds.

His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from his mouth.’”

 

“Bela said it was another apocalypse.” Sam’s voice sounded thin, even to him.

 

“As much as I hate to say it, she might be right on this one.” A shiver ran down Sam’s back, criss-crossing over his skin like breath from a whispered threat. It felt as though there was an uneasiness in the air that hadn’t been there before, as though the world was trying to accommodate the thought of the end after all it had survived.

 

A loud clang made Sam jump, snapping his mind away from thoughts as black as the sluggish innards of a tar pit. The Doctor burst up from behind a cabinet for a second, mouthing ‘sorry’, and an idea struck Sam.

 

“Doctor!” The Time Lord appeared again, brushing flyaway strands of hair out of his eyes. “Have you read the part in the bible about Leviathans?”

 

“The bible?” The Doctor thumped his temple, shaking his head. “Found it a bit dull in the middle so it seems I replaced it with Refaclorian etiquette.”

 

“Right.” Sam didn’t bother asking, instead switching his phone to speaker and heading over to the doctor. “Bobby, could you say that again?”

 

“Hello Bobby!” The Doctor called, leaning over the phone. “I’m the Doctor.”

 

“Pleasure,” came the strained reply, followed by the Bible verse. “What are you thinking?”

 

Sam looked over at the Doctor. His face had remained blank, impassive through the words, but the hunter could see the cogs turning in his mind. On the outside there was just a humanoid being but inside two hearts were beating to Time Lord thoughts.

 

“Doctor?” He looked surprised at Sam’s voice, as though he had forgotten that he was not alone in the room, and perhaps he had. “What are you thinking?”

 

“Sammy Winchester.” The Doctor’s face split into a smile and Sam felt hope swell in his chest. “I’m thinking about Hittite technology, magnetostatics and the Lorentz force. Lovely man, Hendrick Lorentz. Always got a little distracted by long division though.”

 

“Right.” Sam took a deep breath. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Without warning the Doctor grabbed the phone and darted off down the aisles of the warehouse, Sam struggling to keep up. “Bobby, hello, it’s the Doctor!”

 

“Yes, I know who you are, Memento.”

 

“I need your help.”

 

“I’ll do anything I can.”

 

“I like you. Pack a bag of whatever you use against the Leviathans and wait in your living room for my blue box.”

 

“Your blue what?”

 

“My TARDIS. We’ll come as soon as we’re done in Sydney.” With that the Doctor snapped the phone shut, tossing it over his shoulder and into Sam’s hands.

 

“Doctor,” Sam puffed. “What are we doing?”

 

“We’re running,” the Time Lord called over his shoulder. “And I’m being very clever.”

 

For a moment Sam considered asking the Doctor again, trying to get some sense out of the man with the blue box. Then, like so many other things he had considered in dirty motel rooms and against the soft leather of the Impala, he forgot them. Instead he let a smile crease his face and he kept running.

 

A few seconds later, and too many turns to remember, they skidded to a halt next to the computer that Bela, Dean and Jack were staring intently at. Sam could swear the warehouse kept getting longer. The hunter and the demon looked up, surprised, but Jack just smiled.

 

“Still running, Doctor,” he asked quietly, moving on without waiting for an answer. “We’ve found the Leviathans. They’re massing in the middle of some fields in a place called Trenzalore. I’ve never heard of it but they’re gathering around a lake there.” Jack paused, staring at the Doctor who seemed frozen in place. “Are you alright?”

 

“Me?” The Time Lord smiled and his eyes stayed sad. “I’m always alright.”

 

“Do you know Trenzalore?”

 

“Yes,” the Doctor replied slowly but before anymore questions could be asked and left hanging in the air, he was moving again, pacing about. “But that doesn’t matter because I’m extremely clever and I have a plan.”

 

“What do you need?” Jack stood a little straighter then and looked a little more serious, a little more distant. It was the stance that soldiers took as they prepared to return to war. “Torchwood will help in any way we can.”

 

Sam knew apocalypses and wars against things that were nothing more than fiction to most people. The thrum of adrenaline and the insane race to be halfway ready was nothing new to him, nor was the scramble to pretend preparation for something that could never be predicted.

 

But this was different, this hop, skip and jump that was the Doctor and his mind. Thoughts fell from his mouth in a million decisions and revisions and plans dictated in science until it was a guessing game just to figure out what the Time Lord was saying.

 

And all that time they never stopped moving. There were moments when Sam would be dodging his friends and moments when he would be suddenly alone. Even the Doctor, a seemingly constant presence would disappear and reappear only when someone questioned his absence.

 

Ten minutes of insanity and they were standing in front of the TARDIS. It took a head count but they were all there; two hunters, a demon, a military man and a time-travelling astronaut. The new Team Free Will.

 

“We don’t have much time,” Bela muttered, glancing down at the tablet Jack had presented to her with a flourish. They had taken a good five minutes making sure the device had everything on it they could need and a steady network connection. “If what we’ve found is right they should be raising Ephialtes in about thirty minutes.”

 

“You weren’t kidding,” Dean growled. “That’s no time at all. Doctor, are you sure this is going to work?”

 

“Most people have more confidence in my genius,” the Doctor grumbled. “Come on, I have a dinner date with Nefertiti that I’m late to.”

 

They filed into the TARDIS after the Doctor, pigs to slaughter or soldiers to war. Sam tried not to feel a sense of impending doom but it crept up on him anyway, sending a chill pattering down his spine. They clustered around the crates, waiting to see what was inside as the Doctor pulled out his sonic.

 

“Still using the old sonic screwdriver, Doctor?” Jack teased.

 

“What?!” Dean’s face was a perfect picture of disbelief. “That thing’s a screwdriver?”

 

“A sonic screwdriver,” the Doctor said indignantly. “And there’s nothing wrong with it.”

 

Echoing the Doctor’s defense, it only took a second to unlock the case, numbers scrolling by until the lock gave way with a click. Inside were four cylinders painted matte black and slotted into a porous black material like it had come straight out of a bad sci-fi movie. With the cylinders was a small plastic square with an inlaid switch and two options; ‘on’ and ‘off’.

 

“What are they?” Dean asked. “Bombs?”

 

“Bombs?” The Doctor shook his head. “Typical human.”

 

“They’re magnets,” Jack supplied. “Some of the most powerful magnets in the world. We based them on alien tech that came through the rift.”

 

“The rift?” Bela asked.

 

“I’ll tell you that story another time,” Jack said with a smirk.

 

“What do we want with electromagnets?” Dean asked. “That’s not going to help us defeat a Leviathan.”

 

“Oh my god,” Sam hissed as Bobby’s voice echoed in his head and it finally clicked in place. “The shields, right?” He turned to the grinning Doctor. “It’s the shields, right?”

 

“I visited the Hittites once,” the Doctor replied cryptically. “Amazing they are. First humans to understand iron and use it. Ephialtes is very old, older than me and his shields are still made of iron. A little help from Lorentz and my mind we should be able to make it work.”

 

“Lorentz?” Dean asked, looking to Sam. The younger Winchester just ignored him. It wasn’t like he had an answer anyway.

 

“Four magnets,” Jack muttered, nodding slowly. “All at different corners of the lake pulling the shields in four different directions.”

 

“This is insane,” Bela calmly declared. “You want to use magnets to stop a prince of Hell. You’re all insane.”

 

“It will work.” There was a cold determination in Jack’s voice that Sam knew was complete and utter belief in the Doctor. Idly, he wondered: if the Doctor said jump, would Sam say no?

 

“How can you be sure?” Bela looked as worried as Sam thought she would ever get and finally the Doctor stepped up to her, a smile on his face. “How do you know we won’t die?”

 

“I know what happened to you, Bela.” His voice was soft, almost not carrying to the others. Once more Sam felt like he no longer belonged in the moment. The Doctor had an uncanny ability to make even the TARDIS seem like it should only fit two. “I know how the girl became the thief.”

 

“I don’t know what you mean.” That was the only time Sam had seen Bela look vulnerable, pinned down by the Doctor’s words.

 

“Bela Talbot, not a good thief, a great one. I always know great people and there is something that you must know.” The Doctor leaned forward and whispered something in the demon’s ear. Shock flashed across her face, quickly followed by a gratitude that Sam had never seen on her, even when she wasn’t tainted black.

 

“Okay,” she said calmly, her face echoing the resolve that Jack had tried to convince her with. “Okay, Doctor.”

 

“Come along,” the Doctor called, spinning over to the control panel in a way Sam suspected only he could. “Dean, hold onto this. Jack, push that. Bela stand here and press that when I tell you to. Sam keep turning that and none of you touch anything else.” He reached out to pat the column in the middle of the console. “She gets grumpy during apocalypses.”

 

As human and demon and alien scrambled to their allocated positions, the TARDIS started her familiar whooshing. Sam couldn’t stop a smile from stretching his face. She wasn’t the Impala with her scars and soldiers MIA, but he loved the blue police box and her Doctor.

 

“We have one stop to make before Trenzalore,” the Doctor said over the sound of the TARDIS. “I do love meeting new people.”

 

A few seconds later there was a jolt and anyone who wasn’t a TARDIS frequent flyer was thrown to the left. Sam had barely righted himself when the Doctor disappeared out the TARDIS door.

 

“Hello Bobby!” The Doctor’s exuberant voice floated in from outside. “I’m the Doctor.”

 

There were a few moments of silence followed by a tirade of impressive swearing. “First Crowley and now a blue box appears out of nowhere in my living room!”

 

Sam exchanged a glance with Dean before slipping out of the TARDIS. Sure enough, the Doctor had landed in the middle of Bobby’s living room. The older hunter was standing behind his effortlessly cluttered desk and, strangely, Crowley was next to him, wearing a somewhat amused expression.

 

“Hey, Bobby,” Sam said, walking over and pulling the older man into a tight hug then nodded to the demon. “Crowley.”

 

“It’s good to see you, kid,” Bobby muttered gruffly. “But what in the Hell is going on?”

 

“Bobby,” the Doctor appeared at Sam’s elbow, smile as predominant as ever. “Lovely name Bobby. Bobby’s are always good. We need your help stopping the Apocalypse. You too, Canton.”

 

“Crowley,” the King of Hell corrected.

 

“Doctor,” Bela called from the TARDIS. “We have about 23 minutes left.”

 

“A countdown!” The Doctor grinned at Sam. “Haven’t had a countdown in a while. Lately the problem has been time happening all at once, not that you would remember that.”

 

“We’ll explain later,” Sam reassured Bobby, choosing to ignore the Doctor’s ramblings. “Just get what you have that can go up against the Leviathans and get it in the TARDIS.”

 

“We need industrial cleaners.” Bobby nodded to the demon next to him. “Crowley brought me a Leviathan nicely trussed up, and we finally found a way to cook them.”

 

“Good thing you’re on the case.” Bela was leaning against the TARDIS door, a scathing look on her face. “Now we know to clean them to death.”

 

“Comedian,” Crowley replied dryly, returning her glare with an equally caustic one. “There’s a chemical in the cleaner which has a similar effect to that of acid on human skin. Makes for a delightful mess.”

Chapter Text

Part Three

 

Five minutes later and there were three crates of industrial cleaner in the TARDIS and Sam’s credit card (or Scotty Varoski’s) was maxed out. They were parked rather conspicuously in the middle of a supermarket carpark but the Doctor had assured them that ‘you humans never care about things that don’t make sense’. Meanwhile Bobby had picked up the habit of glaring at the Time Lord whenever possible.

 

The crates of industrial cleaner were quickly shifted into the TARDIS and moved onto handy tables which seemed to fold out of the blue box’s walls. The Doctor had disappeared into the depths of the space-ship, returning with an armful of water guns. Bela had promptly declared the Doctor fantastic, propping the guns next to the cleaning fluid to be filled later.

 

“This is some of the best technology I’ve ever seen.” Now they were clustered around the tablet that the thief refused to part with. On it was a basic map of the fields of Trenzalore, potholed by a lake in the centre and marred by a ridge that ran through it. There were masses of red, green and white dots on either side of the lake, pulsating like infra-red vision.

 

“Torchwood uses it to track alien life-forms,” Jack explained. “It’s good to know what we’re supposed to be fighting.”

 

“The tracking system can even identify the individual species around the lake based on the signs we discovered.” Bela pointed to the west bank where most of the white dots were. “These ones here are Leviathans. The red and green ones on the other side are various member of the silence, some of them human and some are creatures called ‘The Headless Monks’. All of them seem to be massing around buildings.”

 

“Alright then.” Dean looked to the Time Lord. “What’s the plan, Doc?”

 

Carefully, the Doctor pulled out one of the magnets and passed it to Crowley. “Canton-Crowley and Bobby, you’ll be on the west side of the lake dealing with the Leviathans.”

 

“Delightful,” Crowley replied, inspecting the magnet.

 

The next one went to Jack. “You and Bela are on the east handling the Silence, and be good.”

 

“Always am,” Jack smirked, winking at Bela.

 

Then the Doctor turned to the Winchesters, handing Sam the magnet. It was lighter than he expected, barely there, like something ethereal. It felt wrong, a wonder that should be in a museum instead of war. He looked up at his time-travelling astronaut and figured it fitted in.

 

“Sam and Dean, you’ll be on the ridge to the north.” Sam just nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

 

“Where will you be, Doctor?” Jack’s voice was tight, although he still managed to look infuriatingly calm, as if war was everyday business for him.

 

“We’ll be on the south side,” the Doctor replied, walking over to lean against the TARDIS console.

 

“15 minutes,” Bela said quietly, looking down at the tablet. “We should get ready.”

 

Everything seemed quieter then, as though the world inside the TARDIS was muted by some godly power. Even the Doctor vanished into the heart of his spaceship. Eyes didn’t meet, focused on what they were doing and definitely not thinking for one second about who might not come back. Subconsciously, the question was still screaming at them though and, without anyone really realising it, personal space seemed to disappear.

 

It didn’t matter too much though, not really. They had a war to prepare for and maybe it was better if they didn’t talk. Sam suspected that if he did perhaps all his fears and doubts and howmanyapocalypsescantheysurvive? might come flooding out of his mouth in a tangled mess.

 

Desperately he tried not to think about it, tried to push other thoughts to the front of his mind. If he focused on something else maybe he would forget the dipping blood and the crunching bones and Lucifer laughing next to him. He stabbed a nail into the stitches running a heart-line across his palm and it’s all in his head. He knows it’s all in his head. The devil laughs.

 

“You okay, Sammy?” Dean was brushing against his side, not meeting his eyes but standing close enough that Sam knew he was not alone. “All safe in your melon?”

 

“Yeah,” Sam replied and if his voice cracked it was okay because there was an apocalypse knocking on the door. “I’m fine.”

 

“Okay.” Dean knew he was lying. The brothers knew each other too well for their lies to pass for truth. “If you say you’re fine, then you’re fine.” The problem was it didn’t matter, not right now. They had more important things to think about than lies covering up a broken picture.

 

They looked at the cleaning fluid they were mixing and didn’t meet each other’s eyes.

 

 ------------

 

By the time they were prepared and standing in a ring around the console, the countdown had fallen to 8 minutes. Crowley and Bobby were equipped with water guns that the Doctor had uncovered from somewhere in the TARDIS, filled with the deadly cleaning solution, and machetes. Sam would have laughed at how ridiculous they looked holding the brightly coloured plastic but it didn’t seem appropriate.

 

“Seven in the TARDIS again!” The Doctor appeared out of nowhere and instantly Sam felt a little safer, a little lighter. “Haven’t had this in a while, right old girl?”

 

“It was a long time ago,” Jack replied, the only one who knew the Doctor from any kind of ‘before’. Then his smile fell short and his face looked odd without it.

 

“Well you’re a depressing lot,” the Doctor muttered. “Did someone die? Oh no, better not ask that. It got me kicked out of Buckingham palace last time.”

 

And that, that was so like the strange Doctor and his eccentricities and peculiarities. It was all those little stories and frozen moments in time remembered like sudden coincidences and small ironies. It was the Time Lord and the TARDIS travelling through stars and galaxies to times Sam couldn’t quite believe would ever be reached. It was the Doctor and his flourishes and Sam just couldn’t stop a smile.

 

“Ah, see,” the Time Lord grinned and pointed at Sam. “I knew there was a smile in there somewhere.”

 

“You know, we’re facing an apocalypse,” Dean grumbled. “It’s not really that surprising if we’re a little bit concerned.”

 

“Dean Winchester.” The Doctor spun around the TARDIS to the hunter, straightening his jacket in a way that Sam was sure his brother would kill anyone else for doing. “Don’t give up on me before the battle has even begun. You don’t know me, not yet, but I promise you, I promise all of you, everybody lives.”

 

For a moment Dean was silent, staring at the alien that seemed so human. Sam thought he would argue in that way that he so often did. Dean would always argue against a plan he didn’t believe in, that was just who he was.

 

“Okay.” Sam’s brother was agreeing with the mad man telling him to magnetise a prince of Hell to death. “Okay, Doctor.”

 

Bela glanced down at the tablet still in her hands. “6 minutes.”

 

“Then off we go.” The Doctor danced around the TARDIS, giving everyone something to pull or push or crank or hold. All of them have something to do. Finally he pushed a lever and the TARDIS started her whooshing. “To infinity and beyond!” There was laughter in the spaceship.

 

 ------------

 

The Winchester’s home had been the road for as long as Sam could remember. For them, travelling was second nature and Sam had never felt motion sickness like he did then. His stomach lurched and roiled and his heart pounded in his temple like drums beating in his head.

 

It was as though the surreal nature of this apocalypse, the travelling through space, real aliens, the Doctor and his mad smile it all made everything feel so real.

 

They stopped on the east side of the lake first, touching down for just a second so that Jack and Bela could climb out.

 

“Keep an eye on her,” Dean growled at Jack, voicing his permanent suspicions. “She’s a demon.”

 

“That’s never bothered me before,” Jack replied, winking at Bela. Then they were gone and Sam couldn’t stop himself wondering if he would ever see either of them alive again – or in the body in Bela’s case. A second after they disappeared out the TARDIS door, he heard gunfire and decided not to think anymore.

 

Bobby and Crowley were next, faces grim. Bobby pulled each of the brothers into a hug and Sam felt a surge of gratitude for their old friend. They so often took Bobby for granted in their blood-drenched lives, forgetting that, unlike the Winchester brothers, his life wasn’t limited to two people and the monster of the week.

 

Whilst Sam’s thoughts rambled, the hunter and the demon drifted out the TARDIS door. More plastic soldiers that might never come back, lost in a ventilation world. Once again, the departure was marred by gunfire shouts as another battle began.

 

Finally it was the Winchester’s turn. From the door of the TARDIS, the world seemed made of green and blue. It was easy to see across the lake and Sam could spot run-down buildings to the east and west, where he supposed Bobby and Crowley and Bela and Jack were fighting. He could see the south side as well, waiting for the Doctor.

 

The strangest thing was the noise. It was as though everything was amplified where they stood. The birds cawed louder; the sounds of battle could be heard clearly across the lake. Even the water itself seemed to gurgle and churn with energy.

 

“The fields of Trenzalore,” the Doctor said, voice fighting against the strange soundtrack. “At least it’s nicer to look at than Demon’s Run.”

 

Without thinking Sam reached out and grabbed the Doctor’s hand. “Please come with us.” His voice cracked under the strain of all the things he wanted to garble out in a moment of truth, all the ‘please’s and ‘don’t’s and ‘stay’s, but he held back as much as he could.

 

“Please, Doctor.” Dean was beside him agreeing with that look in his eye that even Sam barely saw, that look that said he was scared. “We’ve fought the Devil. We know how to kill these evil sons of bitches.”

 

“How do you know you won’t die out there?” Sam gripped the Time Lord’s hand tighter. “How do you know that you won’t die and we could’ve saved you?”

 

“I’ve fought a devil too and I’ve still got all my limbs,” the Time Lord said, smiling at Dean. “It’s a small universe after all. Don’t ever let me sing that song at karaoke; it never ends well.”

 

“How do you know?” Sam’s voice was a thin wisp of sound, repeated words becoming weaker every time. “How can you be sure?”

 

“Because, Sam Winchester.” The Doctor’s eyes were smiling, a slightly crazed smile that laughed in the face of danger. “Brave, brave Sam Winchester, always dreaming of another life for him and his older brother, some other world where he was just a normal boy. There is something you have to know.” Hand gripping the TARDIS door, the Doctor leaned in until his face was inches from Sam’s. “Normal is so very boring and I always save the day.”

 

“Wait!” Sam wanted to let go, knew he had to let the Doctor go, but he couldn’t. There was something stopping, a question that he had asked so many times that it sounded funny now. It had been the nursery rhyme in his head and the mantra that was keeping his heart beating. “Tell me one thing, I have to know. What’s your name? I mean your real name. Doctor Who?”

 

For a moment it seemed like the entire world stopped, complete silence falling over the rolling fields of Trenzalore, like those moments when the world seemed to pause and sniff the roses. Sam was sure he was holding his breath, but he couldn’t seem to let it out. Slowly the Doctor’s face fell, collapsing into an uncertain expression.

 

Sam wondered if this was the end, if the momentary lull was the herald of the apocalypse and the final, inevitable end of the world. With an, increasingly permanent, grim look on his face, the Doctor opened his mouth to reply. Without warning he was drowned out as sound suddenly returned to the world. As quickly as the silence had fallen, it was swept away and the Doctor’s reply lost with it.

 

Then he was smiling again and Dean was tugging Sam backwards. The TARDIS was disappearing into space and time, and even with the cacophony of a world returning to sound, Sam heard one word echoing back to him, “GERONIMO!”

Chapter Text

Part Four

 

A roaring started up then, so loud it whisked away the sounds of Trenzalore and pulled them down into the lake spread out in front of them. The surface began to swirl, like a giant had pulled the plug on the world. The whirlpool grew wider and wider until it was taking up the entirety of the lake and the brothers were standing on the edge of a roaring chasm that was waiting for them to jump.

 

For a second Sam felt as though he might; thought that it would be so much easier to fall, pitch forwards into the swift darkness, then suffer whatever might happen next; but Dean was gripping his arm so tightly that there was nowhere for him to go without his brother and Sam could never give up on the Doctor.

 

On the other side of the lake he could see the TARDIS landing and the gentle whooshing joined the rest of the sounds of Trenzalore. The door opened and the Doctor appeared, just visible as a splash of brown on blue. The brown splash spun twice, darting to each side of the blue before crouching down and disappearing.

 

In a bizarre mockery of physics, a huge plume of flame burst from the water, charging up into the sky and slamming into the Winchesters as scorching waves of heat. Slowly the fire spread across the sky, devouring the white clouds and the blue blue canvas until Sam could only see flames beyond the trees.

 

Then everything slowed down, every cough of fire distinct from the next until Sam could see each tree getting caught in the devouring flames. He could see everything and all he could do was watch as orange and yellow engulfed the opposite bank and there was no blue or brown anymore. There was no Doctor anymore.

 

This was the end. Dean’s hand tightened around Sam’s arm as a colossal shadow rose out of the lake in front of them, towering over the world until its serpent head wore a crown of flames. The beast was gigantic, sucking the lake dry as its skin seemed to turn a glistening pearly grey from the water.

 

It took Sam a moment to realise its skin wasn’t really grey, more of a mottled green. The grey came from the hundreds of shields patterned in overlapping lines, sunk into the beast’s flesh. Each shield, nicked and scarred from wars fought or Purgatory survived, was at least as tall as Sam and as wide as a double bed.

 

The colossal creature opened its mouth, displaying fangs like miniature skyscrapers, and roared once more. This is the end, and, Sam thought, it was a fitting one.

 

“Maybe he’s coming.” Dean was still muttering next to him, wistful thoughts coming out of his mouth before he could really process what he was saying. “Maybe this isn’t the end.”

 

“Come on, Dean.” It was strange, but somehow there was a smile on Sam’s face and part of him kept expecting hysterical laughter to escape his lips. “You didn’t think that we would live forever, did you?”

 

“We’re not supposed to die, though.” Dean’s eyes are fixed on his hands, clenching and unclenching as though he was just waiting for something that he could fight with his fists. “He promised.”

 

Sam closed his eyes. This was the end and he waited, staring at orange shadow puppets the flames painted across his eyelids.

 

This was the end. A hand slipped into his. For a second Sam thought that perhaps Dean had forgotten their repeated promises of no chick flick moments. Then he realised that the hand was too small to be his brother’s and Dean was pressed against his other side.

 

Sam opened his eyes. The Doctor was standing beside him, face caught in the yellow glow of the flames soaring above them. The last of the Time Lords was standing beside Sam and he was so very alive.

 

“Doctor?” The time-travelling astronaut grinned and this time the smile reached his eyes.

 

“Run!”

 

There was barely a moment to breathe or grab the corner of his brother’s coat before they were running and there was no stopping them now. The world flashed by in green that would soon be black, and puffs of yellow flames. Heat was wrapped around everything, threatening to pull them down, but Sam hardly noticed it.

 

“You’re alive!” He shouted at the Doctor. “How are you alive?”

 

“Funny what debris falls through the rift,” the Doctor replied, winking at him. “Torchwood picks up all sorts of things, like flesh matrixes. You humans and your love of cloning.”

 

“Did he just say cloning?” Dean growled angrily even as Sam could see relief in his eyes.

 

“I think so.”

 

“I’m going to kill him.”

 

A few seconds later the TARDIS came into view around a tree, streaks of black painting racing stripes across her blue. Sam didn’t think he had ever been happier to see something with ‘police’ written on it. They didn’t stop, the Doctor still pulling them onwards across the ground.

 

“Don’t stop running.” The Doctor shouted back. “We’ll never stop running.” They crashed into the TARDIS, the Doctor fumbling in his pockets, trying to find the key.

 

“Why do you use a fucking key for your time-machine space-ship!?” Dean was shouting, or Sam thought he was, but the roaring fire slinking behind them cancelled out the words. For a moment the Doctor’s eyes met Dean’s and then a smile stretched across his face.

 

The wall of flames enveloped the trees two metres away as the Doctor raised his hand and clicked his fingers. With a gentle creak the TARDIS door opened and the three friends tumbled in, Dean managing to kick the door shut behind them.

 

“Go!” Seconds later the familiar whooshing of the TARDIS filled Sam’s ears and the ground beneath him started to rumble and shake. They were leaving; the Time Lord was flying them away. It was then he realised that the Doctor’s knee was digging into his side, tangled up after they tumbled to the TARDIS floor.

 

Heaving his head up and twisting it at an awkward angle, he could see the console and promptly started violently choking on air. There had to be something wrong with his eyes, a momentary hallucination brought on by smoke inhalation. It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be-

 

“Cas?” Dean’s breathy half-whisper made it real. The angel was looking down at them, a slight smile on his face, one hand resting on the TARDIS console. He was wearing a pinstripe suit that Sam could have sworn he had seen before and a trench coat sweeping down to his ankles that was so similar to the one in the boot of the Impala.

 

Slowly the three friends hauled themselves up, sprinklings of ash falling from their clothes like monochrome confetti. Sam stumbled up the stairs to Castiel, still not entirely sure that the angel was really there.

 

“You’re back.”

 

“Yes, Sam.” The younger Winchester couldn’t stop himself from gripping the angel’s shoulder, needing physical reassurance that Lucifer wasn’t playing tricks, so he could feel Castiel’s body under the angry red scar that traced a line along his palm. “The Doctor brought me back.”

 

All eyes turned to the Time Lord, readjusting his red bow-tie. “How?” Sam choked out.

 

“Simple contraterrene molecule reversal,” the Doctor replied with a smile. “Time Lords have used it for years to rebuild Espers destroyed by morphing bodies.”

 

“Oh, I get it now,” Dean said sarcastically, pausing before continuing. “Really though, whatever you did... thanks.”

 

“Yeah.” Sam smiled at the time-traveller. “Thank you, Doctor.”

 

“You are the Doctor right?” Dean continued suspiciously. “Not a clone or something?”

 

“We are going to the coordinates you specified,” Castiel interrupted, reading the symbols floating on the scanner. “We should be prepared for the Leviathan to be at full strength.”

 

“Wait.” Sam knew there was something else that was going to shock him but his mind couldn’t keep up with the Doctor and his madness. Then it clicked. “You can fly the TARDIS?

 

“I thought only the Doctor knew how,” Dean muttered, confusion lining his forehead.

 

“All Time Lords know.” The Doctor grinned. “Where do you think angels came from?”

 

“But God-” Sam started.

 

“Alien.” The Doctor turned his attention to the symbols floating on the TARDIS display, words still running from his mouth. “Some Time Lords were tied to specific planets to keep the time continuum. They evolved into Angels. It wasn’t a popular idea at first, but none of us had ever seen a Snorax birthing party back then let alone the catastrophes your lot almost caused.”

 

“So angels are Time Lords?” Sam said slowly, getting the sense that he was more confused than when the Doctor had first started explaining. “And God is an alien?”

 

“Not quite Time Lords. More like half-Time-Lord and half-something-else which no one quite knows. It’s all DNA genetic-y... stuff.”

 

“So basically you don’t know what happened,” Dean said, looking thoroughly unimpressed.

 

“Well, I suppose you could put it like that.”

 

“Doctor,” Castiel cut in, a patient look on his face. “I believe the Leviathan is about to end the world.”

 

“Right, yes,” the Doctor dashed over to the TARDIS door, Winchesters and angel in hot pursuit. “Better not keep the big sea serpent waiting.”

 

Sam was sure this was the most surreal moment in his life. There they were, a flying blue box hovering in front of a gigantic sea serpent from purgatory, sucking the water from the lake and replacing it with fire. Below them the world was a mass of flames and smoke, fields of orange and yellow that would be charred black tomorrow. Dean had a death grip on Sam’s wrist that somehow managed to tighten a little more every time the Doctor leaned further out the door.

 

“Hello Ephialtes,” the Doctor called. “Remember me?”

 

The Leviathan let out a shattering roar, sending the TARDIS lurching backwards and its passengers clinging desperately to whatever they could.

 

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Then the smile faded from the Time Lord’s face and his tone was wrought with cold fury. “Then you’ll remember that I’m a lot kinder than anyone else you know and I will always give you a chance, just one chance.”

 

A low rumble started down below the flames, somewhere in the belly of purgatory’s beast. “Leave.” The Doctor’s voice set Sam’s hair on end and something cold curled down the small of his back. “Leave now and I will stop you from burning in the fires you have started. See I’m very kind, but I’m also very old and I know what you did last time you were here. You might have forgotten but I haven’t and I’m quite fond of the Earth.”

 

The Doctor’s face was patterned in the colours of the flames burning below. For a moment Sam thought he looked like a warrior, the sonic screwdriver his deadly weapon, but that was wrong. The last of the Time Lords wasn’t a warrior, he was a protector, a defender, a guardian of humanity. “So this is it, your one chance. Leave now and I will let you live.”

 

Ephialtes let out a thunderous roar and once again the TARDIS lurched drastically, just missing the plume of flame that exploded from the beast’s mouth.

 

“Then I am sorry,” the Doctor said quietly with his sad eyes and a sad smile. “Truly, I am.” He flipped the switch on the remote and the Leviathan’s roar morphed into a shriek as the magnets turned on.

 

For a moment it seemed as though the shields would stay on Ephilates, just wrench away to bare the soft skin underneath. Then one of the shields ripped away, whistling over to bury itself in the east bank of the lake, a chunk of flesh still hanging to the root.

 

“Right,” the Doctor rocked on his feet. “I didn’t think about that.” A second later shields started flying out in every direction like bullets slicing through the four points of the compass. Sam instinctively ducked, Dean going down with him but the TARDIS was already dodging the projectiles, the Doctor and Castiel carefully controlling her.

 

Dean groaned and closed his eyes. “We're all going to die.”

 

His words were cut off as the TARDIS gave a shudder that Sam recognised was the spaceship landing. Instantly the sounds of battle exploded into the TARDIS with screams and shouts and the harsh cough of gunfire. As quickly as he could Sam struggled to his feet, fingers finding the gun in his waistband and slotting into the grip.

 

Beyond the TARDIS it was as close to madness as Sam could imagine battle being. Jack and Bela were back-to-back in the centre of the concrete-walled space, guns drawn and firing at the mass of creatures swooping in and out of the room.

 

Every other second a loud thud would echo and the building would shake as one of Ephialtes’ shields hit the concrete. A few breaths after the TARDIS had landed, a particularly strong shield smashed through the concrete wall, coming to a stop buried through two men and a monk.

 

Sam didn’t wait to see if Dean was following him, just scrambled out of the TARDIS. It was louder outside the spaceship, as if the Doctor had some kind of silencer inside to block out the world. Outside the TARDIS screams and shouts became banshee shrieks and inlaid over it all was the screeching, writhing turmoil of Ephialtes burning in the fires he had coughed from his mouth.

 

A monk was trying to sneak around a pile of debris to blindside Jack. Sam raised his gun and fired, shooting the man in the head. The kickback rolled down his arm in a painful reminder of hundreds of monsters slain and it felt like it belonged.

 

The Monk’s hood fell off and there was nothing underneath. Sam didn’t pause to wonder what alien it was. He just pulled the trigger again. This time the bullet buried itself in the monk’s chest and the creature fell to the ground. It had no head, just a twist of skin, but that was okay. Sam had seen weirder.

 

“Hey there, Sam.” Jack swung up next to him, winking easily. “Come to join the party?”

 

“Typical Winchester,” Bela chimed in. “Always there at the last minute.”

 

“And here I thought it was my privilege to rescue the attractive young lady.”

 

“How cute,” Bela laughed as she shot a human member of the silence. “You seem to think I’m going to need saving.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me demons were such fun?” Jack asked as Dean appeared at Sam’s elbow, gun raised.

 

“Because eventually they try to kill you,” Dean growled. “They’re less fun after that.”

 

“Oh good,” Bela dead-panned. “The life of the party is back.”

 

“Party?” The Doctor appeared beside the quartet. “What party? I’m a great dancer.”

 

“I don’t think this is the time for a party,” Castiel replied. “We should start the ritual before Bobby and Crowley are over-run.”

 

“Why do you angels have to be so practical?” The Doctor grumbled. “It’s so boring.”

 

“What ritual?” Sam cut in.

 

“The ritual to reopen the door to purgatory,” Castiel replied calmly. “Normally this kind of ritual would open a portal into Purgatory that would suck in all those around it, but the Doctor can place a filter on it.”

 

“How?” Dean asked suspiciously, shooting a monk in the head. “And why won’t these sons of bitches die?”

 

“Haven’t you been listening?” The Doctor pulled out the sonic, waving it wildly around the room until it gave a shrill whine. “They haven’t got any heads and I’m very, very clever.”

 

“Bela,” Castiel turned to the thief as the Doctor darted over to the spot his sonic had chosen. “We need a demon to make the ritual work.”

 

“Alright boys,” she ducked out from behind Jack, letting Sam fill in the gap. “Don’t have too much fun without me.”

 

“Last time someone said that to me I woke up on a different planet with a lot of naked men.” Jack chuckled. “That was a good night.”

 

“Too much information,” Dean groaned.

 

Sam didn’t hear or see much of the ritual. It faded into the background as he aimed and fired, rinse and repeat. After a few minutes Ephialtes stopped thrashing and fell silent but the shields still thundered into the building from every angle. It didn’t matter, the crown price had fallen.

 

Unfortunately the loss of Ephialtes didn’t seem to slow the members of the Silence. If anything, they increased in numbers, bombarding the Winchesters and Jack. Every time one of them needed to reload, the other two had to work extra hard to keep up.

 

“Are you almost done back there?” Dean called as he threw a rock at an approaching monk in desperation. “There are a lot more bad guys than it looked on that map.”

 

“Yes well, ‘open sesame’ doesn’t work on inter-dimensional portals.” The Doctor called back. “I’ve already tried that.”

 

Sam emptied his clip into a monk that just wouldn’t die. Dropping to his knees, he quickly reloaded, not letting his thoughts linger on the single fresh magazine he had left. As he stood there was a faint whistling sound next to his ear and a second later burning pain sliced through his shoulder.

 

It took Sam a moment to react, to realise that there was a flaming-sword-wielding headless-monk trying to kill him and then another moment to convince himself that yes, he was awake. He was about to raise his gun when the monk lurched to the side and collapsed, a bullet hole in his chest.

 

“Sammy.” Dean’s urgent voice filtered through the haze of pain. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” he managed to grunt out between gritted teeth. “I’m fine, Dean.”

 

“Doctor,” Dean growled. “You really need to hurry it up.”

 

As if recognising its cue, there was a rumbling groan and the entire building started to shake, little tremors at first but quickly becoming fiercer. The time lord, the demon and the angel were all facing what was once a wall but now was nothing more than a yawning chasm into pitch black.

 

“Look out!” Jack’s shout reached Sam seconds before he was tackled onto his side, shoulder slamming into the debris strewn floor. He barely had time to register the pain, distracted by the body of a human Silence member flying over his head. Jack had knocked the Winchesters out of the way just in time.

 

“Oh my god,” Sam breathed, Dean professing similar sentiments from beside him. At first it was only a couple of creatures spinning wildly through the air, none of them alive, only corpses with no resistance left in them. Then, as the violent shaking grew worse, the first living member of the Silence was sucked into the hole, screaming and clawing desperately at the air.

 

“Good riddance,” Dean muttered angrily. More and more of the Silence were succumbing to the pull of Purgatory. The first Leviathans soared in from the west, smashing through the walls and into the chasm. Their terrified faces flashed, cut through by desperately reaching limbs. Screams and shouts joined the symphony of rumbling and groaning until Sam couldn’t look anymore.

 

Just before he hid his face in his arms and the draping material of Jack’s coat, he caught a momentary glimpse of the Doctor’s face. His lips were drawn tightly together, eyes sadder than Sam had ever seen them. It was the look of a man who was doing something simply because he had to, not because he wanted to. It was the look of a man who had seen too much death.

 

And still his gaze followed every face to their demise.

 

Sam stared at the fibres of his clothing and silently wished it would end. Lucifer was sitting cross-legged in front of him, laughing from his throne of debris. ‘Poor Sammy going to cry?’ The mocking edge was cruel and cutting, each word as clear as day even in the chaos. Sam stabbed the edge of a rock into the angry red stitches on his palm, not letting his eyes move from the threads of Jack’s coat.

 

Quietly he wished for it to end. 

Chapter Text

Part Five

 

Thankfully he didn’t have to wait long. With an almighty explosion, the carcass of the Leviathan obliterated the west side of the building, hurdling towards the portal. There wasn’t time to think, not really, just react.

 

All of them scrambled to their feet, dodging falling debris as they desperately sprinted for the exit. They made it with inches to spare, the Doctor staggering out of the building as it seemed to simply implode, crumbling into a pile of rubble. There was nothing left. It looked as though the concrete had fallen to the curse of weathering rather than an aborted apocalypse.

 

“Did- did you close the gates to purgatory?” Dean wheezed out, turning to the Doctor.

 

“No, no.” Sam almost flinched at the sadness in the Doctor’s tone. “The body of one of the crown princes’ of Hell is amazing and complex enough to cause the portal to collapse in on itself. I opened it, but he was the one who closed it.”

 

“We,” Castiel corrected, a strange tightness in his voice. “We opened the portal to Purgatory.”

 

“Yes... we.” A switch flipped and suddenly the mad Doctor was back, the sadness shut away again. His hands jumped from where they had been twisting together anxiously and carefully straighten his tie. "Still cool.”

 

“Hang on.” Bela was staring agape at Castiel, blinking rapidly as if it might help everything make sense. “I thought you went AWOL and let the Leviathans out Alien style.”

 

Castiel looked confused. “I don’t understand-”

 

“It’s a long story,” Dean broken in. “The Doctor will explain to us all at some point along with the story about his clone who was the one who flew the TARDIS here.”

 

“He was a flesh ganger actually,” the Doctor corrected. “It was alien tech in Torchwood, how was I supposed to resist? I needed one me to fly you lot about and one me to reassemble Castiel. I programmed the TARDIS to return to the real me if the ganger was destroyed.”

 

“Like I said,” Dean deadpanned. “It’s a long story.”

 

“Now...” Spinning back to the wreckage the Doctor spread his arms out, dashing over to a dusty but intact TARDIS half hidden behind a pile of rocks. “Hello sexy!” The equally dusty group of companions followed the Doctor to his spaceship, a few limping or dotted with blood but all still alive. Sam carefully ripped up his top shirt on the way, forming a makeshift bandage for his sluggishly bleeding shoulder wound.

 

“How did she not get destroyed when the portal collapsed?” Dean asked, peering at the blue police box with token suspicion.

 

“What, my TARDIS?” The Doctor asked indignantly. “It would take a lot more to damage her. The Titanic crashed into her once and it didn’t even leave a dent.”

 

For a moment Sam considered voicing the questions in his head aloud, then gave in and laughed. It took a moment but eventually it caught on until all of them except for the Time Lord were standing in front of the demolished house, surrounded by charcoal fields, holding their stomachs and laughing.

 

“And people say I’m the strange one,” The Doctor muttered. Casting a wink at Dean he raised his hand and clicked his fingers. With a gentle creak the TARDIS door swung open and the apocalypse survivors filed in. “Now to pick up Bobby and Canton-Crowley.”

 

The journey was short, the TARDIS barely leaving before she landed again, this time outside the still-standing building on the west side of the lake. It was until he was looking at the building, with its jagged holes like a bombsite, that Sam thought maybe the Doctor’s promise hadn’t come true. Maybe not everyone had lived.

 

He raced towards the building and through the doorway, skidding on debris as he tried to turn the corner. It was silent in the empty building, devoid of the corpses, everything tumbling into Purgatory. It was the kind of still when you could hear your heartbeat pulsing in your head and the pain in Sam’s shoulder seemed heightened.

 

There was a loud crash at the other end of the house, followed by steady swearing. Sam raced towards the noise and burst into the room. He had two seconds to see Crowley and Bobby spinning around to face him, water guns raised and surprised expressions, before he was hit in the face with a stream of industrial strength cleaner.

 

“Hey! Wait,” he spluttered, hiding his face behind his arms. “It’s just me.”

 

“Sam Winchester, apologies,” Crowley said, looking mildly pleased with himself as Sam wiped an arm across his face.

 

“Where in the Hell have you been?” Bobby pulled Sam into a tight hug. “What happened? The Leviathans just flew off.”

 

“We opened the gate to Purgatory again.” Castiel and Dean appeared in the doorway, the latter taking in Sam’s damp face with an amused look. “The Doctor filtered who was sucked into the portal to ensure we survived.”

 

“I thought you were dead,” Bobby muttered, staring at Castiel.

 

“It’s a long story,” the Winchesters and the angel chorused, exchanging smiles

 

“Back to that again are we?” The Doctor slipped into the room, the rest of their party following. “Hello Bobby!” He turned to Dean with a knowing smile. “Everybody lives.”

 

“Everybody lives,” the older Winchester repeated, a smile creasing the soft crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes.

 

“Well, not that this wasn’t a lovely adventure,” Crowley interrupted. “But duty calls.”

 

“No.” That terrifying cold fury was in the Doctor’s voice once more. “I never forget about my friends, Crowley King of Hell, especially not when they’re in trouble.” Calmly the last of the Time Lord’s pointed his sonic at the demon, face clouded with anger.

 

“What-”

 

“I’m very kind, Fergus McLeod, so you get one chance.” A chill crept up Sam’s spine at the Doctor’s words, spoken against an enemy so much smaller but still a threat to the Doctor’s friend. “Get out of Canton’s body.”

 

For a moment, just a heartbeat’s hesitation, Crowley looked like he might refuse. Then he tipped his head back and a column of smoke exploded from his long-time vessel’s mouth. It billowed out of the room disappearing in the smoke-filled sky. Sam rushed forward in time to stop Crow-Canton from hitting the ground. The Doctor followed him over to help, waving his sonic over the man’s body.

 

“Thank-” Canton’s voice stumbled and he coughed violently before continuing. “Thank you, Doctor.”

 

“Anytime, Canton Everett Delaware The Third.” The Time Lord tucked his sonic away in his pocket with a slight smile. “I’ll take you back to your own time, now.”

 

“What about her?” Dean was glaring at Bela, hand lingering next to his gun. “She’s in a human body as well.”

 

“In case you haven’t noticed, genius, this one is my own body,” the demon replied coldly. “A welcome-back-from-Hell present courtesy of Crowley.”

 

“Yeah, well, you’re still a demon in a meat-suit.”

 

“Who just helped save the world,” Jack smoothly cut in. “Personally I’m glad that such a lovely body isn’t going to waste.”

 

“And here I just thought you liked my charming personality,” Bela almost purred back. Dean showed his usual maturity by making gagging sounds until the Doctor, Jack and Sam all turned their glares on him

 

Nothing more was said after that. Instead their rag-tag band of eight traipsed into the blue police box and Sam couldn’t hold back a goofy grin as they formed a ring around the console, Castiel taking over Crowley’s station as Canton collapsed in a chair.

 

“Eight in the TARDIS,” the Doctor said with a smile. “To 1972.”

 

Canton was the first to leave, disappearing out the door with a smile and a wink at the Doctor. “Until next time.”

 

“Sooner than you might think,” the Time Lord replied, with just a hint of sorrow.

 

Then it was Bobby, still holding his water gun and with an expression that said it would take a long time to believe what had just happened.

 

“See you soon Bobby,” Dean said with a smile.

 

“Make sure you do. Take care boys.” He turned to Castiel. “You too, Spock." The angel nodded with the hint of a smile. Finally the old hunter nodded to the time lord and slipped out the door.

 

The next stop was more bumpy, even with The Doctor and another semi-Time Lord.

 

“Temporary Torchwood Headquarters,” the Doctor said with a smile. Jack slipped over to the Time Lord and wrapped him in a hug.

 

“It’s been good to see you again, Doctor.” They pulled back, smiles tight with goodbyes. Then Jack turned to Bela and extended his elbow. “Ma’am.”

 

“Thank you, Captain Harkness,” she said with a smirk, resting her hand on the offered arm.

 

“Wait, what?” Dean looked like a math problem with letters in it had just been given to him. “You’re going with him?”

 

“You never do bother to ask,” Bela said icily. “But Hell is actually about as much fun for demons as it is for humans. Besides, I never did like being a ‘black-eyed bitch’. Even with you on their side, I rather like humanity.” Sam choked down laughter at the taken aback look on Dean’s face.

 

“I’ve asked Bela to join Torchwood,” Jack said evenly. “Haven’t had a demon on our team before and it will be nice to have another attractive person to look at.”

 

“You better watch yourself, sir,” Bela said with a smirk and an eloquently raised eyebrow.

 

“Then stop calling me sir,” he smirked in reply.

 

“Oh god,” Dean groaned. “Please just go.”

 

Jack laughed and then stood to attention, saluting the four left in the TARDIS. “It’s been a pleasure to stop the apocalypse with you.”

 

“Goodbye,” Sam said with a grin, nodding to both of the Torchwood members. “And good luck.”

 

The pair was about to leave the TARDIS when the Doctor’s voice stopped them. “And Jack, destroy that flesh machine. I know it helped us today, but it won’t in the future.” The Captain just nodded and then they were gone.

 

Four in the TARDIS. Their final journey was anything but smooth, lurching and diving, the floor shuddering under their feet. Sam was thrown from one side to the other, the console jarring against his ribs and battering his head until he cursed his height. Of course, he would want it no other way.

 

When they stopped it seemed too final, the whoosh of the TARDIS landing too loud. Perhaps it was the sudden still after the insanity of the journey or the realisation that reality waited for them beyond the walls. Sam couldn’t help spinning in a circle on the balls of his feet, taking in as much of the insane space as possible, collecting memories of this place that was bigger on the inside.

 

The TARDIS fell silent and there was no more running now. The four of them walked to the door, not looking at each other, steps in time while everything else was a muddle. Dean got there first, opened the door and saw the driveway to the old abandoned house where they found the mad man from the stars. The Impala was there, patiently waiting to carry them to the next red pin on their map.

 

“Well then,” the Doctor said and his eyes were sad, but they managed to mirror the smile on his lips. “I’m not very good at goodbyes, they’re too sad.”

 

“Then let’s not make a big deal,” Dean said gruffly. “See you later, Doctor.”

 

“See you later, Dean Winchester.”

 

“And Doctor,” he hesitated, leaning towards the outside world without quite leaving the TARDIS. “Thank you.”

 

“You are welcome.” They shared a smile, passed between soldiers, survivors of something bigger than they will ever be. “Good luck.”

 

Dean walked away then, moving to run a hand along his baby’s frame. Sam didn’t follow and he wasn’t expected to, waiting for Castiel to leave first. The angel stepped up to the time lord like old friends, brothers from planets Sam had only dreamt about.

 

“It has been good to see you again, Doctor,” Castiel said quietly. “You know I have to stay.”

 

“Of course,” the Doctor said with a smile. “I can’t defend the Earth all the time.”

 

“Goodbye.” The time lord didn’t give a reply, just nodded once and then Castiel too was stepping out of the TARDIS and into the late afternoon sun. Sam stepped up beside his imaginary friend and watched the hunter and the angel talk over the sleek back of the Impala.

 

“Would you like to see the stars?” Sam knew what the Doctor was offering. It was the universe, the world, everything out there in the past, present and future. It was cascades of nebulas and collapsing stars. It was too big for a boy who grew up in a ’67 Chevy Impala. It was too far for a hunter with only his brother, an angel and a drunk left. They both knew his answer.

 

“Perhaps another time, Doctor.” Without thinking, Sam pulled the Time Lord into a hug and it was strange to find him so much smaller than he seemed. Sam supposed he must be bigger on the inside. They fell back and the Doctor was grinning. “Thank you, for everything.”

 

“I have one last thing for you,” the Doctor said and for a moment there was a glimmer in his eyes, that knowledge of the Time Lord leaking into his brown irises. Slowly he raised his sonic and pointed it at Sam. By the Doctor’s shoulder the Devil rolled his eyes and laughed at Sam’s trust in the mad man in the bowtie.

 

The Doctor pressed a button. The sonic flashed on, green blinding Sam for a moment. When his vision cleared, Lucifer was flickering. The younger Winchester blinked once and the apparition was gone.

 

“How did you-” He broke off mid-sentence, shaking his head. Finally a smile broke his lips, hand dropping from where his thumb had been resting against angry red stitches. “I’ll see you again Doctor.”

 

“Of course,” the Time Lord replied with a smile. “Goodbye, Sammy Winchester.” Sam backed out the door, still trying to memorise everything, every little detail. “Go and be marvellous.”

 

“Goodbye, Doctor.” The Time Lord grinned, straightened his bow tie and then nodded one last time. Winking at Sam, he disappeared into the TARDIS with a twirl. There was a moment’s silence and then the gentle whooshing of the blue box started again. Sam didn’t think he would ever forget that sound, was sure that it would forever echo into his dreams.

 

He had just reached the Impala when he heard it again and for a second he thought he was really was dreaming. The earthly trio turned perfectly in time as the Doctor re-appeared, grin already stretched across his face as he stuck his head around the TARDIS door.

 

“Almost forgot.” He sauntered over to them, hand reaching into his blazer. “I found this floating through space and time and I love a lost thing.”

 

From the depths of his jacket he pulled a spiked metal amulet on a black leather string. It was slightly more tarnished than Sam remembered but it still glinted golden in the sun. Instantly Sam’s mind turned to memories of Christmases made for two brothers. Chasing it came the ever-lasting ringing of metal dropped into a trash can, Christmas reduced to pine trees browning on the roadside.

 

For a moment, Sam thought the amulet would hang in the Doctor’s hand forever. Then Dean was reaching out, fingers closing around the golden face as quickly as he could without seeming rude. All of a sudden Sam could breathe easier. The elder Winchester’s face was as closed in as ever, but Sam could see that echo of happiness in his brother’s eyes.

 

“Thank you,” Dean said in his customary growl. Carefully he slipped the cord back around his neck, letting the amulet fall to his chest like an old friend that had never really left.

 

By the time the trio had pulled their eyes from the returned hope, the Doctor was disappearing into the TARDIS. Once more, the time-travelling astronaut returning to the stars.

 

They leaned back against the Impala as the blue box faded in and out. The sleek black car dutifully carried their weight, held them up off tired feet. For a moment Sam entertained the idea of her looking at the time-machine-space-ship disappearing, wondering at her future generations.

 

It was then, when the TARDIS was nothing more than a wispy mirage, that the Winchesters and their angel heard it. A voice echoing back through space and time, carried on the back of shooting stars like a single-word prayer. The parting goodbye of the last of the Time Lords and the defender of the Earth.

 

Geronimo!

Chapter Text

Epilogue

Somewhere in the middle of February, 2012

 

It had been quiet since the fall of the Silence and the end of the Leviathan’s apocalypse. The supernatural seemed subdued, nothing more than a few ghosts and spirits of lost souls. Suddenly the Winchesters were finding themselves with extra time on their hands, the chance to go places they had only talked about.

 

Sam completed the Miami marathon and decided never to run a marathon again. Dean won $15,000 in Vegas and lost it all by dawn the next day. The Winchester brothers shouted into the Grand Canyon and laughed as the echo filtered back. Sam never saw Lucifer again and every week the brothers would introduce Castiel to another ‘human thing’.

 

Eventually they had started hunting more than just the supernatural. Every now and then Bobby called them with news about lights in the sky and sightings of creatures that could only be from another world. Dean still tried to prove that they weren’t aliens at every turn, debating with Castiel’s calm logic whilst Sam just smiled and shook his head.

 

They saw Torchwood once, Captain Jack and Bela Talbot, sweeping into a crime scene and quickly taking over. Sam considered saying hello but he didn’t think their fake FBI badges would get them that far. Instead they watched as Jack told stories and Bela laughed. The case was solved the next day and the Winchesters moved on.

 

In time even Crowley resurfaced, British accent still in place, but a new meat suit; a consulting criminal or something, brain dead from a bullet to the head. The demons had been lying low but Sam knew it wouldn’t last forever, knew it wouldn’t be long before black smoke filtered out from Hell once more.

 

For now though, they were in a small town in the middle of nowhere, their permanent address. Bobby had tipped them off to a spirit in the area, killing members of the book club. Their first stop was the local book store. Dean had instantly headed over to what he loudly claimed was the greatest manga porn collection ever. Castiel was debating philosophy with the animated clerk.

 

Sam flipped idly through the books on the half price shelf. Planets And Stars: The History Of The Universe. The younger Winchester opened the book, picked a planet and dreamed of the time-travelling astronaut among the stars.