Sam opened his eyes. The fan above him revolved slowly. He was used to waking up in Bobby’s panic room. What was it this time then? Had he been possessed? Had he managed to lose his soul again? Or was he some kind of new monster?
He moved his arms, then legs, slowly. He was quite surprised to realise he hadn’t been restrained. Pulling himself up slowly on the cot he looked around the room. Instead of bare walls, the room was crammed with supplies. Bobby’s notes were scattered across a table, and next to Sam, on a low box was a glass of water, a scrap of paper… And Dean’s gun. And he knew he was alone. Dean and Bobby had left him in the panic room for his own protection, while they went and… Went and… Did what? He didn’t know. He couldn’t….remember.
He felt stiff. He had no idea how long he’d been out, or why he’d been unconscious. Carefully he stood and stretched, testing himself for wounds. No physical pain? That was a start. He bent down and grabbed the paper. It was Dean’s handwriting. An address. Sam grabbed the gun and tucked it down the back of his jeans; he also stuffed the note in his front pocket. Quickly he took a swig of the water to clear his dry mouth. It tasted fresh.
He stepped away from the cot, toward the iron door…
And that’s when the wave struck. A wave of pain. Of memories. Of glass under his skin and things crawling behind his eyes. Of burning and ripping and peeling flesh. Of blood and sin and sacrifice. And mostly, singularly, of loss. Of the loss that tears out your heart and leaves behind a chasm of darkness, a pit… Never to be filled.
Sam dropped to his knees and clutched at his head. He thought he might be screaming, but his blood was rushing so fast in his ears he couldn’t tell.
Then he heard his name. Sam. A whisper in his consciousness.
He reached out to it. A piece of himself. Of Sam Winchester. Brother, son, friend.
The whisper vanished, the darkness tried to consume him and he screamed again. He could taste blood in his mouth.
Sam. Stronger this time. It called him with purpose.
Sam clung to the call. Shadows moved around his mind. Whispering then screaming. Trying to break his hold. Then the pain came again. Visceral and unending. His body racked and spasmed. But still he held on.
SAM. The voice was shouting now, gaining strength against the internal struggle. It felt like light. And love. And freedom. And hope. And home.
And then the darkness was falling away. The pain was fading as he was pulled back into himself. Sam gasped; drawing in lungful’s of air. He thought he had the strength to open his eyes. After the darkness, the dim light in the panic room was almost blinding. He blinked and tried to focus.
He could feel hands, gently cradling his face, fingers pressing lightly on his temples. A light, tender, kind touch. When his eyes adjusted he saw a strange man kneeling before him.
"Hello Sam," said the man softly, "I’m The Doctor."
As the doctor spoke, Sam realised it had been that voice inside his mind. He hadn’t heard it. He’d felt it.
Sam sucked in another lungful of air and tried to speak, “What…? Who…?” his mind was still clouded and his body ached now. His muscles screamed at him.
"Shusshhhh now", said The Doctor ducking under Sam’s arm and looping it over his shoulders. He helped Sam to his feet and held him there, waiting patiently while he regained his balance and composure.
The Doctor, apparently satisfied that Sam wasn’t going to topple over, released his hold and stepped in front of him. They were still inside the panic room, so The Doctor was apparently no demon. No angel either, Sam thought, remembering Bobby’s recent addition of enochian wards.
Sam swallowed, and paused briefly, attempting to gather his thoughts before asking again, “Who are you?”
"I told you already. I’m The Doctor."
"The Doctor?" repeated Sam.
The man beamed at him like he was a child speaking his first words. “Indeed! I’m here to help you Sam Winchester.”
Sam examined the man in front of him more closely. His age was…. difficult to determine. He appeared young, but when Sam had looked into his eyes he’d seen… something… Something not unakin to the eon old stare of an angel. He was tall, though he couldn’t meet Sam eye-to-eye, slim built with wide shoulders, his hair flopped into his eyes, just like Sam’s did. And he was dressed in tweed. And a bow tie.
The Doctor apparently noticed Sam’s appraisal of him and twiddled with the tie. “Bow ties are cool.” He commented with immense self-satisfaction.
"So!” exclaimed The Doctor, causing Sam to jump slightly, "Down to business then," he said rubbing his hands together like an eager child, he began pacing about the panic room.
"You, my dear boy, have just been blasted with the Trumpets of Jericho. Nasty business. Good at knocking down walls, eh?" The Doctor rounded on Sam and tapped at his own forehead. "Angel toys! Very potent, very effective, a little unrefined… but they do get the job done." The Doctor began pacing again as he continued, "Jericho, well now, that was quite the party town. Until all the…shenanigans", he waved his hands around. "Not a lot left afterwards… rather dusty though", he frowned.
Sam winced and clutched at his head again as another wave washed over him. He felt like he was falling. He felt like he would never stop falling. He looked down and he could see fire. And he knew. The fire would burn him but not kill him. And the torment would continue. And he would feel his skin peel and his muscles char and his bones turn to ash, over and over.
"Whoops!" He felt The Doctor grab hold of him and guide him back to the cot. "Just, take a moment," he said as he helped Sam sit down. "They’ve left you a bit scrambled…" Sam’s vision cleared again and he could hear a strange buzzing noise. The Doctor was pointing a little green torch at him, running it up and down his body. He was staring at a display on the side of the device and tutting.
"Dean…" Sam muttered, "I need to get to Dean. He… He’s…” Sam knew his brother needed him. He knew he had to find him. To… save him? From what? Sam gasped “Cas!”
"Mmm?" Questioned the doctor. "Oh yes. Castiel. He’s being rather reckless at the moment isn’t he? Angels!" The Doctor squatted in front of Sam and placed a hand on his knee reassuringly, "Don’t worry about Dean. He’ll be fine. We have plenty of time…"
Sam interrupted and pushed The Doctor away as he tried to stand, “No, I need to get to Dean… I have to help…” Sam struggled to his feet and launched for the door. He swung the heavy iron to the side and stepped out of the panic room, swaying slightly. His path to the stairs was completely blocked. A large blue police box (?!?) was directly between him and the exit. The path to Dean. He barely had time to wonder how it had gotten there when The Doctor stepped up beside him. Grinning, The Doctor snapped his fingers and one of the doors to the box creaked open. A soft glow emerged, it looked warm and welcoming. There was also a low thrum, like a finely tuned engine idling.
Sam stared down at the man, eyes wide. “What is it? What are you?” A whole host of possibilities ran through Sam’s mind… Demon? No. Angel? No. Demi-god? Possibly. Minor deity? Likely.
The Doctor grasped at the lapels of his tweed jacket and stood up straight and proud, “Time Lord.” He stated. “And this glorious sexy thing is my TARDIS. Isn’t she beautiful?” He beamed at Sam.
Time Lord? Sam had never heard of a Time Lord before. Hadn’t encountered the phrase in his father’s diary (he’d pretty much memorised the whole thing), nor when hunting with the Campbell’s, nor when studying the family archives at the Campbell’s storage facility. What was he? Enemy, friend, malevolent, harmless…
The Doctor stepped into the light and held the door open for Sam, “Well? Come along then Winchester. Places to go, people to help, worlds to save…” He stood looking at Sam expectantly.
This man… thing… Time Lord…. was offering to help, and from what Sam had experienced so far, he seemed to be genuine. He’d pulled Sam back into himself, and at the moment Sam wasn’t sure exactly how much use he would be to Dean even if he could find him in time. He was desperate. He needed help, and here was this strange man who seemed to know all about him, his brother and Castiel. He looked at The Doctor, standing, smiling in his weird box offering his assistance freely.
Sam stepped forward into the light.