Sam Winchester's visions were not always easy to decode. But they were rarely surrealist.
As he sat on his bed, Dean already getting a glass of water for him, the agony had begun to fade. He rubbed his temples to help the process along, as he started to try to piece together what he had seen. It didn't make sense. It usually made so much sense. Demon shows up, person gets killed was the typical formula. None of that happened this time, but he felt such a sense of foreboding that it made his stomach clench.
"I thought your visions were gone," Dean said over the sound of the tap running.
"They were," Sam said, and winced. He didn't have visions anymore. Not since they'd killed the yellow-eyed demon. This was the first in months.
"So what did you see?" Dean asked, handing Sam the glass. Sam took it gratefully and chugged the whole thing, ignoring the metallic motel tap water taste. He pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead, and shook his head vigorously.
"Man, it was weird," Sam said slowly. Dean watched him, his eyes bright and intent. "I don't...I don't really know what happened in it. It was at Ellen's, so that's definitely where we need to go."
"Ellen? Jo? Are they okay?" Dean asked urgently. Sam nodded, cracking his neck to try to relieve some of the pressure, and Dean relaxed the smallest bit. "So what happened?"
"Okay. So I saw this...thing. Looked like a man. Definitely not a man," Sam said, his eyes a little glassy at the memory. He shivered. "He kept...changing. I saw like almost a dozen different people. Always men. But I couldn't figure out what he looked like—old, young, tall, short, thin, big, hair all different colors...I mean, Dean, I couldn't pick this guy out of a line-up. He'd be the whole line-up."
"A shifter?" Dean asked.
Sam thought about it, then shook his head. "No. He was just...flickering through all of the forms. I couldn't make any of them out too well. He didn't stay in any of them long enough. But in my vision I don't think anybody else saw him like that." Sam took a deep breath, and then continued: "He had Jo."
Dean bolted up. "You just said that Jo and Ellen were okay," he said, accusingly. He grabbed his bag and Sam's, throwing Sam's over to him. "You can tell me the rest on the way," he said, "because we're leaving now."
Sam didn't argue. He didn't have the energy, and anyway, Dean was right. They needed to go and they needed to go fast. As they grabbed their few possessions that they had brought into the hotel, Sam kept talking. "He wasn't hurting her, Dean. He just had her by the arm, like he was...scolding her." He shut the motel room door behind him, then hurried to catch up with Dean, who was booking it for the parking lot. He had to raise his voice a little for Dean to hear him over the distance he'd put between them. "He let her go when Ellen told him to, and I didn't see him move to hurt either one of them. Ellen seemed to know who he was, and she said something about his new face. She had her shotgun out."
"Maybe your freaky pay-per-view gave you the wrong clip," Dean suggested darkly, throwing his bag into the Impala. Sam did the same, and they both climbed into the car. "Maybe he started throwing down after you were done watching."
Sam fastened his seatbelt and shrugged, uncomfortable, as Dean started the car and peeled out of the lot. When he didn't say anything for a minute, Dean looked over at him. "Well? What happened after that? Was that it?"
Sam tried to speak but couldn't find the words.
Some of the anger left Dean's face, replaced by worry. "That wasn't it," he said. "Sammy, tell me. You can tell me. What happened next?"
Sam shuddered as the vision came flooding back to him.
It was Ellen's new rent house, where she'd been staying since the Roadhouse was destroyed. Tiny, shabby, on the wrong side of town. The man stood in the doorway, and released Jo's arm as the vision cleared.
Still rapidly cycling through his faces, the man stopped talking to Ellen. He paused, looking puzzled—though Sam could barely parse out his expression from the blur of features—and then looked up at him.
Up. At Sam.
"How are you doing that?" he asked, frowning. Ignoring Ellen's queries of who he was talking to, he turned fully to face Sam, pulling a silver tube out of his pocket. The tip of it shone blue, and he pointed it at Sam. Sam felt a thrilling sensation in his stomach. "You shouldn't be able to do that." He glanced down at the instrument in his hand, and his eyebrows rose. He looked back at Sam with the barest hint of a smile, and for just a split second his face stilled: spiky brown hair, rectangular glasses, wide brown eyes. "That is interesting. Ellen, did you know the Winchester boy could do that?" He turned back to Ellen, as though they were old friends, Sam apparently forgotten. Ellen grabbed Jo and stepped slightly in front of her daughter.
And Sam snapped out of it.
"He talked to you?" exclaimed Dean, veering a little off the road in his surprise. Sam gripped onto the door handle, but he didn't say anything. Dean was freaked out, but he had a right to be, and there was no place on Earth that was safer than the Impala with Dean behind the wheel. Sure enough Dean righted the car, but stared at Sam, incredulous. "Sammy, that ain't possible."
"I know," Sam said. "What I'm seeing is the future. I'm not...there for it. He couldn't have talked to me. But he did. And he knew my name, and Ellen's name...Dean, I've got a really bad feeling about this. This is a new level of weird."
"Not like there's any getting out of it," Dean said. "We can't let Ellen and Jo deal with this on their own. That thing hurts 'em..."
"I know," said Sam quietly.
They drove in silence for a while. The highway was blank and featureless as it always was, but the immensity of their isolation seemed to hit Sam like it didn't, usually. It wasn't like they hadn't driven these roads countless times before since he'd started this stupid adventure, but right now...it was because his head wasn't safe anymore.
He frowned at the thought, which had risen by itself. But it was right. That's how he felt: like his head wasn't a safe place anymore. That creature had invaded it so easily. And Sam didn't even know what he was. He could be anywhere, hiding behind any of the trees that lined the highway, waiting to pop out in front of the Impala, sending Sam and his brother careening off the road to pick through Sam's brain in person.
Sam, his mouth not asking his brain for permission, whispered, "He scares me, Dean."
Dean didn't turn, but Sam could see that his knuckles were white against the steering wheel, his expression one of false hardness with concern underneath. "You don't scare easy, Sam," his brother said. "If you got a bad feeling about this, we need to be careful. Is it because he saw you in your vision?"
Sam shook his head, and reached under his seat for a dagger kept there. He took it out and gripped it, feeling its weight and its realness. He felt better with a weapon in his hands. "Yes, and no," he replied. "I mean, that freaked me out. But it's more than just that. He's powerful. He didn't just see me, just talk to me, he...affected me. I felt it when he pointed that thing at me. And Dean..." He laughed a little, but there was no humor in it. "Dean, if he'd wanted me to stay in the vision, I don't think I could have woken up from it. Don't ask me how I know that. I just feel it."
Dean didn't say anything to that. They drove on, and as Kansas stretched out behind them and started to turn into Nebraska, Sam couldn't stop thinking of the vision. Usually, even when what he saw was terrible (as it usually was), he could feel the horror fade very quickly. Whatever was happening that he'd seen, it was his job to stop it. And that gave him purpose, gave him a reason to snap out of it. This time was different. This time, that icy feeling in his stomach wouldn't go away. That feeling he felt every time, but that hadn't lingered since he'd gotten used to the fact that he saw these things.
He thought about that split second where he was able to see one of the faces that the thing wore. He felt himself having a hard time not saying man, but he knew that whatever this thing was, it was not human. There was something about him that set Sam's teeth on edge, something about him that said predator. Once he'd felt the thing's eyes on him, he felt frozen. Like if the demon wanted him there, he would stay. Even though that was impossible.
He picked up his father's journal and started rifling through it, hoping for something, anything that might explain this. Vampires, werewolves, demons of all types, minor gods...all of that was in the journal. Everything they'd come up against, their father had either taught them about or had left them clues in his journal. But this was outside of even what twistedly passed as familiar to the Winchesters.
Dean picked up his cell phone and started dialing. Sam looked over, and Dean said, hitting the speakerphone, "I'm calling them. If that thing is on its way I want Ellen prepared." Sam nodded, and they both waited for the ringing to stop.
"Hello." Sam almost wept at the sound of Ellen's voice, but kept it together.
"Ellen, it's Dean. Sam just had a vision, and you and Jo are in danger. Get out of the house now and we'll meet you wherever you tell us to."
A long moment passed. "Ellen?" Dean said. "Are you there?"
A small laugh. "You said Sam had a vision about me and Jo?" Ellen asked.
"Yeah, that's what I said. Now get out of there—"
"Jo's been missing for a week." Dean fell silent, and Sam stared at the phone. "So if Sam had a vision where she comes back, I want to be here. What did he see?"
Dean handed the phone to Sam, his eyes distant as he stared out the windshield. Sam took it in fumbling hands and said, "Ellen, it's Sam. I don't...it wasn't a normal vision. I don't know what the thing was, but Jo was safe. It was something you knew. Not human, but...it looked human. It kept changing faces, bodies. But I don't think you saw that, in the vision."
He heard a sharp intake of breath. "It looked like a man? Did you hear him speak? Was he British?"
Sam frowned. "Yeah. Yeah, he did have a British accent. It did," he corrected himself. "Ellen, do you know what this thing is?"
There was silence over the phone for a moment. "I'm not sure. But I have my guess. And if I'm right, and he's coming, then the two of you are not safe. Don't come here, Sammy, I'm not kidding."
"We're not leaving you alone with whatever that thing is," Dean snapped. "Whatever it is, we've seen worse, and we're on our way with lots of firepower."
"You haven't seen worse, and nothing you have in your trunk is going to kill him," said Ellen, her voice firm. "Believe me, boys, if it's who I think it is, you're not ready to deal with something like this."
Dean started to argue, but Sam held up his hand. "Okay, Ellen," he said, gesturing to cut off Dean's protestations. "We'll stay put. Call us in twenty-four hours to let us know you're okay, all right? That vision creeped me out and I want to know that thing didn't hurt you."
Ellen paused, and then said, "Okay, boys. I will. You stay safe. Sammy, if you get any more visions about that man, call me again." She hung up.
"What the hell, Sammy?" Dean shouted. "We'll stay put? What are you thinking?"
"That arguing with her was pointless, but that it didn't matter because there's no way we're turning around," Sam replied. "Keep driving, idiot."
Dean was silent for a moment, and then laughed. "Okay, little brother. Good move. Now, here's what's bothering me. Ellen knew what the thing you saw was, but she didn't want to say. If Ellen knew, no way Dad didn't. So why isn't there anything in his journal? Why didn't he mention anything about something like this?"
"What's bothering me is that Jo's been missing for a week, and I see this thing in my vision hauling her into their house like he's about to ground her," Sam said. "Even if he was the one who kidnapped her to begin with, why would he bring her back home? Unharmed?"
"Maybe he wanted Ellen to watch him kill her," Dean said grimly.
"No, I thought about that, too, but he just...let her go," Sam said. "When Ellen told him to. And Ellen had a shotgun out and trained on him. Why would he do that?"
Dean shrugged. "Don't know. Can't say I'm really interested in figuring out his motivation. What I want to do is go in, waste this thing, get a drink, and forget this happened."
The sun had begun to rise as the neighborhood the house was in appeared on the horizon. They hadn't stopped, and neither of them had slept almost at all the night before, so they were ragged. Still, Sam couldn't feel much but relief as they pulled up in the driveway.
They parked the Impala and walked up to the front door. Dean rapped impatiently, shouting, "Ellen? Open up!"
They heard the locks coming undone, and the opening doors revealed a very unhappy Ellen standing in the doorway. Her hair was bedraggled, and dark circles under her eyes spoke of a week of sleepless nights. She looked at them with a combination of disappointment, anger, and fear. "I told you boys not to come," she said, her voice flat.
"Couldn't be helped," Dean said with a winning smile. "It's not here yet, is it?"
"No." Ellen stepped back and ushered them in. "Get in here fast. And I want you in the back. Sammy, what time of day was it in your vision?"
"It was day, morning, I think," Sam replied.
"Soon, then," Ellen murmured. She made one more sweep of the yard with her eyes, then closed and locked the door. She turned to them with hard eyes. "Stay in the back. I am not asking you, Dean Winchester, I am telling you. I don't care what you hear, you stay in the back. I am not having you hurt, not in my house."
"I'm not lettin' that thing hurt you," Dean retorted, pulling his pistol out from the back of his jeans.
"He won't hurt me," Ellen said softly, putting her hand on Dean's wrist. He took the hint and grudgingly put away the gun. "He won't hurt Jo, either. But I can't promise he won't hurt the two of you. So promise me—promise me you won't come out while he's here."
"Ellen, what is this thing?" Sam asked. "What kind of demon is he?"
Ellen looked away, suddenly looking years older. "Boys, I wish I could tell you," she said, "but you are just not ready yet. You have to trust me when I say that everybody will be okay as long as you hide."
Dean started to argue, but Sam, watching Ellen's eyes, put a hand on his arm. "Okay, and I mean it this time," he said. "We'll do what you say."
"Sammy—" Dean started, but Sam shook his head. He quieted, unhappy but compliant.
Ellen nodded. "Right. You get into the back. When he's—"
They all stopped at a sound outside, from the back yard, like wind rushing and gears creaking. Ellen paled. "He's here. Get, now."
Sam grabbed Dean's arm, and they rushed into the kitchen, closing the door behind them but sitting next to it so they could hear what was happening in the living room.
"This is nuts," Dean hissed. "We can't leave them out there with—"
"Ellen knows what she's doing," Sam whispered. "We have to trust her."
Dean started to reply, but Sam shushed him as the back doors opened. They heard Ellen's shotgun as she readied it.
"Ah, Nebraska!" Sam froze at the sound of that voice. "Never get much of a chance to visit Nebraska. Not a whole lot of call for my services here. But I do enjoy popping by when I get the opportunity. Always good to see an old friend, isn't it, Ellen?"
"Jo, are you all right?" Ellen asked, her voice studiously even.
"I'm fine, Mom, I promise." Jo's voice trembled just the smallest bit.
"Funny story," the demon said casually. "I found her in a warehouse a couple of towns away trying to hack the head off of a juvenile Blathereen! Probably shouldn't let her out of your sight until you're sure she's not going to run off and provoke an incident."
Sam met Dean's eyes, and he saw that his brother heard it, too. The demon might sound flippant, but there was a dark undercurrent of anger in his voice. It made the hair on Sam's arms stand up.
"Let her go," Ellen ordered.
"Of course," the demon said, and the Winchesters heard Jo running to her mother. The demon sighed. "Really, Ellen, a shotgun? You know how I feel about guns."
"Makes me feel better," Ellen said shortly. "Might not kill you, but it's got some stopping power. But I guess something got you: you got a new face."
"Yes, I did!" The demon sounded pleased—like he was flattered she'd noticed. "Bit of trouble aboard Satellite Five, but that's neither here nor there. Do you like it?"
Ellen snorted. "Very nice. Now get out."
"You know I can't. First of all, we need to have a discussion about your daughter," the demon said, his voice darkening again. "I've told you time and time again how dangerous it is for her to hunt. That Blathereen did nothing to her, or anyone. They're a harmless people. And I specifically told the two of you to let me deal with the Slitheen. I am, by the way, doing you a kindness by assuming the only reason Jo would have attacked that Blathereen is because she thought he was Slitheen." He paused, and then added, "This would be a very different conversation, if I thought otherwise."
"Don't you threaten my daughter," Ellen snapped, and Sam could hear the ringing tension in her voice. She was afraid.
"I'm not threatening her," the demon said coldly. "I'm warning both of you. There've been innocent casualties in this war of yours, and others are beginning to notice. Just like twelve years ago. You don't want that again, I promise you—" The demon's voice stopped. Sam's heart did, too. "How are you doing that?"
"Who are you talking to?" Ellen asked nervously.
Sam gripped Dean's arm. "This is what he said to me, in my vision," he breathed. "This is when he was looking at me."
"You shouldn't be able to do that," the demon continued. A high-pitched buzzing sound, and then: "That is interesting. Ellen, did you know the Winchester boy could do that?"
A shuffling sound—Ellen pushing Jo behind her, Sam remembered. "Do what?"
"He was just—nevermind, it's not important."
"Why are you here?" Ellen demanded.
The demon chuckled. "What, bringing your daughter safely home and preventing a war with Raxacoricofallapatorious isn't enough of a reason to stop by?" Ellen said nothing, and he sighed again. "You're right, Ellen. I need to find John Winchester."
Dean jumped as though electrocuted, and Sam put a hand on his arm.
Ellen laughed dryly. "You need to recalibrate your ship, Doctor. John's dead. You just missed him."
There was no sound for a minute. Finally, the demon—the Doctor—said, his voice very quiet, "I'm sorry."
"Thanks. Leave," Ellen ordered.
"If he's gone, I need to find his sons," the Doctor said. "At least the eldest is following in his father's footsteps, yes? He was a loyal boy."
"I don't know where the Winchesters are," Ellen said. Maybe just a hair too quickly. Sam winced.
The Doctor paused. "Ellen, lying is unbecoming," he said, his voice soft and dangerous. "I'm trying to—oh. They're here, aren't they?"
"Doctor, you leave them alone," Ellen cried, and Sam heard the Doctor's footsteps as well as Ellen's, approaching the kitchen. He and Dean clambered to their feet, and Dean pulled out a pistol.
The footfalls stopped at the door, and they heard the Doctor say quietly, "I'm trying to help, Ellen. I don't want to see anyone hurt." There was a silence, and then he said, "I understand why you've never trusted me. But it's not too late to start."
The door to the kitchen opened.
The face that Sam had seen for that split second was before him. The Doctor was fully humanoid, tall and thin, wearing a blue pinstripe suit and a long, brown coat. Thick-rimmed rectangular glasses perched on his nose. The silver instrument Sam had seen in his vision was still in the Doctor's hand. And the Doctor's eyes were wide, and focused right beyond Sam's shoulder.
Dean fired his gun at almost exactly the same moment that the Doctor depressed the button on the instrument.
Author's note: Here's the truth about this story, guys. I've been struggling with finishing it. I'm about seven chapters in and losing steam. I'm posting it so that hopefully I can get my courage back up to wrap it up, because I know where it's going, I just can't get it there. You guys have been fantastic to me in the past, so encouragement would be greatly appreciated in this case, as would constructive criticism! Much love.
And of course, standard disclaimers apply: I own neither "Supernatural" nor "Doctor Who", nor really much but my abiding love for the creative teams for both shows.