Title: London Calling
Warnings: Language, violence.
Sam frowned. “Dean, wait a second.”
“This isn’t Seattle.”
“If it’s not Seattle, then where the hell is it?”
Sam bent down and picked up a discarded Metro magazine from the floor. He looked around at the blue and white tiling and the smartly dressed commuters, and then he looked up at the ceiling. Inlaid into the tiles was a red circular sign that read Shepherd‘s Bush. “It’s London.”
Dean stared at the sign. “You have got to be kidding me.” he growled.
Written for the 1st Annual Supernatural/Gaiman Ficathon for dellastarr’s prompt: Supernatural crossover with: Neverwhere Richard or really any Neverwhere character. Three things that you want in the fic: plausible why are they in London , getting lost, having to be rescued. Your “Do Not Want” List: can be funny, just not fluffy London CallingLondon calling to the faraway towns
Author's Notes: No actual Supernatural characters were harmed in the production of this work. Warning: extremely low level of sexual content. May contain nuts.
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, I don’t want to shout
But while we were talking, I saw you running out
London calling, see we ain’t got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes…
London Calling(edit), The Clash.
“I lost a dozen men to your foolishness in the retreat from White City. I lost an eye.”
-The Earl of Earl’s Court, Neverwhere.
“Stop right there!“
Sam and Dean exchanged glances, and kept running.
There was rain in the air. They’d been in Seattle long enough for Sam to recognise this as the normal state of affairs. However, the group of policemen chasing them was definitely abnormal, and accounted for the large number of passers-by stopping to stare. It was rush hour, and so there were plenty of them around.
As a state capital, Sam thought, as he ran, Seattle had several drawbacks. The first was the hills. The second was the traffic. The third one was the lamentable persistence of its lawforce. And the fourth was the inability of its citizens to get the fuck out of the way.
He dodged a soccer mom pushing a stroller, hurdled the outstretched sneaker of an enterprising citizen, and landed smack in a crowd of pigeons.
“Come on!” Dean yelled.
Sam shaded his eyes with the back of his arm as the pigeons bounced from his jacket like small feathered missiles.
In front of him, obscured by a haze of feathers, pigeon shit and exhaustion, he saw bumper-to-bumper traffic and a red pedestrian light. He risked a glance over his shoulder and saw navy uniforms behind them, approaching at speed. The momentary increase in momentum that the sight produced was arrested by the sight of the four-lane highway in front of them. Sam slowed. “Dean-”
“Move!” Dean yelled. He reached up to the collar of Sam’s jacket and yanked him forwards. They stumbled into the traffic in a screeching of tires and a haze of exhaust fumes. Sam skidded to a halt as a Jeep skimmed past a bare inch in front of him. He dodged into the third lane, paused for a moment as a white Subaru trailing oil fumes from its exhaust accelerated by, and leaped onto the pavement like a swimmer escaping a pool of sharks. Dean followed, slamming a hand onto the bonnet of a stalled red Ford Camaro, and they set off again.
Behind them, a cacophony of shouts merged with beeping horns and the shrill sound of police whistles.
Dean grinned, head down, his coat flapping as he ran. “I think we lost them.”
Sam paused against a brownstone wall and glanced back. Most of the highway traffic had halted. Through the jam clambered several navy-uniformed officers of the law. They were just close enough for Sam to see the pissed-off expressions on their faces, and certainly close enough for him to see their pointing hands and hear their cries of “That way!” through the music of blaring horns. He pushed off from the wall and ran after Dean. “We didn’t.”
“Fuck.” Dean cursed. “Left here.”
Sam followed his brother around the corner and they set off into the heart of Seattle’s historical district. His legs were beginning to hurt, and he hoped the cops felt exactly the same.
Since when did I become the kind of man that runs away from police officers?
He looked at the back of Dean’s head as they ran, and knew that his brother was grinning.
Dean always seemed to enjoy chases a bit too much.
This may have been because Sam’s instinct when confronted by authority was to stop and explain himself. Dean’s was to light out through the nearest window, and keep running. The frequent practice of this theory probably explained why Dean wasn’t sweating nearly as much as Sam seemed to be(and what was with that; his legs were at least half as short as Sam’s?)
He almost ran smack into Dean’s back as his brother paused, squinting up at the street signs screwed onto buildings feet above even Sam’s head. “Dean?”
Sam wiped sweat from his eyes and followed.
If he’d been thinking more about where they were going, then he would have been able to correct Dean, and if he’d been able to correct Dean, then they wouldn’t have ended up where they did.
It was a pity that Sam didn’t realise that until five minutes later, when he turned a corner after Dean and found himself in a very short, very tall alley.
“Uh.” Dean said.
The alley had four storeys of brownstones forming each wall. It had asphalt-coated cobblestones on the floor, and those weird purple cellar-lights you only seemed to get in Seattle. What it didn’t have was anywhere to hide.
“I thought you said,” Sam panted, “that you had a short-cut.”
“I had.” Dean said. “This isn’t it.” he added unnecessarily.
There were a few doors set into the ground floor of the buildings. Dean tried them methodically, one after another. Sam crept up to the mouth of the alleyway, and peered around the corner. He thought that they’d lost the cops until he heard the noise of running feet echoing from the tall houses around them. As the first pair of highly polished police boots rounded the corner, he ducked back into the alley. “They’re still coming.”
Dean looked up from the last door. “Thanks, Captain Obvious. I sort of missed that.” He drew back his leg and booted the bottom of the door. “And this isn’t opening. We are so fucked.”
Sam crossed the alley in a few long steps and took the lock pick from Dean’s hand. He knelt down beside the door in a litter of leaves and Styrofoam cups and inserted the bent piece of steel into its keyhole while Dean fidgeted behind him.
He’d always been better at lock-picking than Dean. It was the only one of their father’s lessons in which Sam had excelled. He’d had little cause to use the skill at Stanford (except for a couple of times when he got locked out of his dorm) but he had got quite a lot of practice recently, and it was funny how things came back to you.
The lock clicked, rain beading on the bronze key plate. Sam shouldered the door open, and they dived through the opening into the dark. Dean caught the edge of the door and sent it spinning closed.
They tumbled down a flight of extremely steep and narrow steps, Dean cursing all the way. They both skidded to a half at the bottom, and then they waited.
The sound of several pairs of rubber soles on flagstones came closer, paused for a long second-and faded out into the distance. The high wail of a siren drifted in the air.
Sam exhaled. “They’ve gone.”
“Thought so.” Dean said, from somewhere behind Sam, in the dark. There was a scuffling noise, and a sudden flare of amber light.
Sam glared at his brother.
The look on Dean’s face was a textbook example of injured innocence. “What? I tried to explain to them. We didn’t kill the guy. We were just-”
“Desecrating the corpse.” Sam said. He winced, reached up and flicked strands of fine white cobweb from his hair. “Yeah, that one went down real well. Remind me to never let you explain anything to anybody ever again. ”
“How was I to know it‘s two years and an unlimited fine ‘round here for desecrating a grave?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong.’ Sam said, “but I don’t think grave robbing goes down well anywhere.”
The first policeman had caught up with them a few blocks south of Seattle’s Pioneer Square, relaxing after their latest mission. (Relaxing, for Dean, meant ogling the tourist girls over a cup of triple-strength espresso. For Sam, it meant browsing through a copy of ’Top Tourist Sights of Seattle’ with headphones in, listening to a selection of music that Dean wouldn’t allow him to play in the Impala.) The conversation had started with “Wasn’t it you boys I saw at Lakeview cemetery last night?” and progressed to questions about one R. H. Blyth’s present whereabouts. Dean’s answers had failed to ring entirely true, perhaps due to the fact that the brothers had spent the previous night enthusiastically salting and burning Mr Blyth’s bones after a nasty series of roadside hauntings. Sam hadn’t noticed until things had moved from Potentially Hazardous to Really Quite Nasty, and everything had just gone downhill from there.
Leading, via a circuitous and necessarily speedy route, to this cellar.
Sam peered at their surroundings in the light of the flashlight. Lumps of plaster clung to the walls and black metal pipes jutted out at odd angles. A grimy purple glass skylight overhead let in hardly any sun. The general effect was of the aftermath of an explosion in a Wild West lumber yard.
Dean played the flashlight over dusty bricks and tumbled planks of wood. “What the hell is this place?”
“I’ve read about this.” Sam said. He ran one hand over the peeling plaster.
“Yeah. Seattle nearly burned to the ground in the eighteen-hundreds. Instead of levelling up and building, they built and then shored up afterwards.”
“Years afterwards, Dean. Meant that the street level was on the first floor of the houses.” He pointed at the steep flight of steps that led up to the door. “People had to use ladders just to get to the other side of the street. They built over the gaps later, and whole areas just got lost. Underneath.“
“That’s really dumb.” Dean said, in an utterly uninterested voice.
“It did take years to build the sidewalks. They do tours down here.”
Dean looked vaguely interested for the first time. “People pay money?” He kicked at a chunk of rubble. “Idiots. You think that’s where we are?”
Sam shrugged. “Must be.“
“Sweet.’ Dean said from halfway up the steps. “I mean, thanks for the history lesson and all, but-” He tugged at the handle and a puzzled look passed over his face. “It’s locked.”
“It can’t be.” Sam told him. “It‘s, like, a hundred years old. It‘s not a Yale, Dean.“
Dean slammed the palm of his hand against the door, which refused to budge. “You try.” He scowled down at Sam, retreated a step or two down the stairs and gestured with one hand towards the lock. “Be my guest.”
Sam frowned, shoved past him and wrenched at the doorknob. When the door failed to open he gave that up and jammed one hand into the pocket of his jeans to search for the lock pick.
It wasn’t there.
They spent the next thirty minutes searching in the rubble in the light of Dean’s rapidly-fading flashlight.
“I don’t know why you couldn’t’ve remembered a pick.”
“Because I’m normal, Dean.” Sam hissed. “Normal people don‘t carry house-breaking tools.”
“ You never know when you’re gonna need them.“ Dean straightened from his crouch and shook the flashlight. The beam brightened for a second, then faded.
There was a thunk as Sam straightened and mistook a beam for ceiling shadows in the dark. “Stop waving that thing around.” He rubbed his forehead, a bruise already beginning to blossom.
Dean shook the flashlight again. The beam resolutely failed to brighten. “Quit bitching, Sammy.‘ he said unsympathetically. “We need to find another way out.”
“There has to be a cellar. A door. Something.”
They set off between the crumbling brickwork pillars. Dean went in front, flicking the flashlight over the rubble. Sam looked back once at the pale silhouette of the door, at the peeling paint and the cracks of light that crept between the jamb and the hinges. It felt as if they were retreating into the darkness under the buildings, leaving the normal world behind.
Under the buildings, the spaces smelt of sawdust and unwashed bodies, brick dust and earth and the heavy, dank smell of the vegetation that crept down between the skylights. There was a sense of being watched that made the hair on the back of Sam’s neck prickle and Dean reach for the gun that was always tucked into the back of his jeans. There were no people, and no sound except for the distant rumble of traffic and the rhythmic knocking as Sam’s skull bounced off the ceiling beams.
“They must’ve been shorter back then.”
Dean grinned, teeth bright in the glow of the flashlight. “You’re just a freak.” He stepped over the remnants of an ancient rusting cash register, the keys permanently stuck on its last purchase of four dollars and seventy-five cents. “This place is cool.” He bent down to poke at the tarnished keys. There was a thud and a whack as Sam stepped straight into a particularly large pipe, and the sound of muffled swearing.
“Little light here?”
“No chance. Older brother gets the flashlight. Younger brother shuts his face.” Dean scanned the cellar, searching for an exit. “Hey. Is that a door?”
It was also narrow, low and securely locked. Neither of the brothers noticed the way the bricks around it changed from chipped and crumbling red to smoky yellow, or the way that it smelled old bricks and rot, and, unusually, of sheep. There was a verdigrised and crumbling handle in the exact centre of the door. Dean wrapped his fingers around it and yanked, but the door steadfastly refused to open.
Sam regarded the door with suspicion. It didn‘t look like it had been opened for at least a hundred years. “D’ you think it goes anywhere?” It was hard to imagine a quiet office block filled with software companies and coffee booths on the other side of the door, but stranger things had happened to him. Most of them involving demons.
“Sure it does.” Dean said confidently. “Can’t you hear? Now give me a hand.”
Sam drew closer to the door. Closer, he could hear what Dean had noticed. It didn‘t sound like a software company, or a coffee house. It sounded much more crowded than that. He could hear hurrying footsteps and the sound of people talking, followed by a rush of air that crept through the cracks around the top of the door to ruffle his hair.
“It must be the subway.” Dean said. He kicked along the bottom of the door, dislodging thick yellow dust, and smiled as the door creaked and moved a bare centimetre.
“That’s better. Got it!”
The door swung open. Dean disappeared through the opening.
‘Seattle doesn’t have a subway.” Sam said quietly to thin air.
He ducked his head and stuck it through the door, expecting to find Dean up to his neck in some kind of trouble or other.
Despite Seattle’s apparent subway-less status, the room the door opened in was unquestionably a subway station. And not just a subway station, but a subway station at rush hour. Sam had to duck to avoid a tall girl’s hair sticks.
Dean was standing on the edge of the platform, boots an inch from the yellow warning line. He gestured out onto the tracks. “Looks like we made it.”
Sam warily came out from behind the door. It was immediately slammed shut by a passing party of more or less spherical schoolchildren wearing jeans and heavy rucksacks. They looked normal enough, and Sam was pretty sure that the green substance cascading from the smallest child’s nostrils was snot rather than ectoplasm. Despite the crowds, it was oddly quiet. The commuters seemed to be wearing less plaid than most of Seattle’s residents, but Sam had to remind himself that not everybody shared Dean’s dress sense, himself included.
They headed for the exit along the tiled tunnels, through the crowds and a badly played busker’s version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Dean grinned, and somebody walked right into him.
“Hey, watch it there, buddy.” Dean snapped.
The commuter, a middle aged gentleman dressed in a suit and tie, said nothing. He reclaimed his briefcase from the floor and walked straight off without a glance.
Dean scowled. “Don’t, y’know, apologise or nuthin.’
Sam frowned. “Dean, wait a second.”
“This isn’t Seattle.”
“If it’s not Seattle, then where the hell is it?”
Sam bent down and picked up a discarded Metro magazine from the floor. He looked around at the white tiling and the smartly dressed commuters, and then he looked up at the ceiling. Inlaid into the tiles was a red circular sign. It read Shepherd‘s Bush. “It’s London.”
Dean stared at the sign. “You have got to be kidding me.” he growled.
“I heard ya the first time. Huh. Nice name for a subway.”
“I mean, London.’ Sam said again.
“Yeah.” Dean scowled at the sign. “Great. That‘s a hell of a way from Seattle.” He turned and held up a hand. “And if you say ‘I don‘t think we‘re in Kansas any more‘, Sammy, God help me, I will kill you.”
Sam bit back the words on his lips. “Didn’t you ever want to travel?”
“I travel all the time, Sammy. Now let‘s go back through that door.”
There had never been much money for travel when they were growing up. Or rather, there had always been money for travel, just as long as it was down the interstate to the next hunt. Sam’s college fund had gone on ammunition, but it had also been spent on gas. They’d fought poltergeists in Utah, zombie crocodiles in Louisiana, vampires in Montana and spirits in nearly every one of the fifty states- but they’d never left the country.
Sam had always thought that was a shame. Dean never gave any indication that he thought about it much, but then Dean never thought much beyond the motive of the next demon and the colour of the next girl’s underwear.
He looked down at the magazine in his hands. It was a simple enough item, but the paper was different in weight, colour and texture. There were unfamiliar looking pound signs in the text. It was familiar-but different.
“Can’t we just visit for a while?”
“Come on, Dean.”
Dean folded like a cheap sheet. “Okay.” he hissed. “But we have to go back.”
Sam held up both his hands. “No problem. We’ll just head up top, get a drink, and then we can go back to Seattle.”
It as a simple plan, but like most things when the Winchesters were concerned, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. The corridors were crowded, and Sam was tall, and the English seemed to have no regard for personal space, which went against pretty much everything he’d ever heard of them. By the time they reached the ticket gates Sam was black and blue from other people‘s elbows and Dean’s jaw was clenched in the manner than said that if somebody bumped into him one more time, he’d haul off, punch them in the jaw, and worry about the cops later. Sam had a story ready for the staff about lost tickets and late appointments, but the gate guard was in a conversation with a Japanese family about the best way to purchase an all-day-return, and ignored them.
“Hello?” Sam held up his hand. “We, uh, forgot our tickets.”
“We’re American.” Dean added, helpfully and unnecessarily.
“We can pay.” Sam held out his wallet.
“We can’t.” Dean grabbed at his sleeve. “We haven’t got any English dollars.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “They’re called pounds, Dean.”
The guard ignored them. “All day. All. Day. Six pounds sixty. Zones one and two. Understand?”
The tourists smiled hopefully, and held out a handful of five-pound notes. The guard rolled his eyes.
“This is weird. It’s like they don’t see us.“ Dean waved his hand in front of the guard’s eyes.
“You think we’re dead?”
“You mean like the Sixth Sense? Nah.” Dean withdrew his hand. “You’re no Bruce Willis. And we’d know.”
“We’d just know.” Dean said. “Now let’s go get a drink.” He snapped his fingers in the smiling family’s face. They ignored him. Dean grinned and removed a couple of banknotes from the father’s outthrust fist.
“What?” Dean held up one of the notes. “We need it.“
Sam looked at the money in his hand, then at the large bundle of cash as the Japanese father replaced it in his inside jacket pocket. “Maybe you’re right. We could buy a drink. “
“Hell yeah.” Dean said. He paused, and an expression of extreme dread passed over his face. “You think they have McDonalds?”
“Dean, everywhere has McDonalds.”
They vaulted the ticket barriers. Nobody tried to stop them. Nobody even noticed.
There was no McDonalds anywhere near the station, but they did find a greasy spoon cafe not far up the street. It had red and white chequered tablecloths, and plastic tomato sauce dispensers in the shape of a tomato on every table. Dean grabbed a table, and Sam walked up to the counter. The frizzy-haired waitress at the counter didn’t even look up.
“Two coffees, please.”
The waitress continued with her crossword.
The woman’s gaze slid and focused on Sam for a second, and then drifted back to the crossword.
“You’ve got seven down wrong.” Sam told her. “It’s ‘Hamlet’, not ‘Macbeth’. And you spelt it wrong. And did I mention I wanted some coffee?”
The waitress looked up and smiled. “Can I help you?“
Sam was about to repeat his requirement for coffee when he realised that she was talking to the skinny blond man standing just behind him.
The man put some money on the counter. “Two café americanos.“
The waitress moved to a coffee machine, which whistled and hummed. Sam took the note back off the counter and returned it to his wallet, and when the waitress put the man’s order on the table he picked it up and walked to Dean’s table. The waitress returned from ringing up the purchase, glanced down at the counter and looked puzzled for a second before she refilled the coffee machine and started over.
He carried the Styrofoam cups over to their table. Dean had picked a spot in the window. He had a tabloid open in the centre of the table and was staring at page three with an expression of faint wonderment on his face.
Sam set the cups down, slopping coffee onto Miss Cindy from Manchester’s natural assets.
“Hey! I was reading that!”
“You were looking at the pictures. And they‘re not real.“
“Dude, how would you know?” said Dean. He poked around in his cup with a spoon and an expression of deep suspicion. “And who cares?”
Sam blushed. Jessica had had a habit of pointing out cosmetic surgery in tabloids and glossies. She’d flick over pages of fashion magazines, reading articles and stabbing polished fingers at the pictures. “Real, not real. Maybe. Fake. Fake. Ohmigod, so, so fake. Real…..” It was all in the shape, apparently.
Dean raised an eyebrow. “I’m not going to ask.“
“Don’t.” Sam raised his hand and pretended to smooth his hair, hiding his eyes from Dean. When his brother’s attention had shifted and his own blush had faded, he gazed out the window and watched the passers-by.
It was weirdly like Seattle. The people talked English, with several accents (none of them the Queen’s English he’d come to expect from news broadcasts) and they looked like they came from all over the world. He thought maybe people looked a little smaller, and the buses and the currency were different, the sky a greyer than usual, but it could have been an odd-looking part of one of the larger northwestern cities.
Sam snagged a tourist brochure from a rack on the windowsill and flicked through it.
Maybe they could catch a few of the sights before they returned to Seattle (details were a little hazy on exactly how they were going to return to Seattle, but still).
He was interrupted by a thin tourist lady who leant across the table and snagged a handful of brochures. Her husband, a stocky man wearing a black-and-white T shirt that read ‘My Family Went To London And All They Bought Me Was This Lousy T-Shirt’, hefted a shopping bag in one hand and a small child in the other. The child was wearing a matching romper suit. “Look, honey!” A free table!”
It took Sam a few seconds to realise that the table they were pointing at was his.
The man marched across the café and sat down next to Dean, who had found another stack of Suns with which to indulge his love of two-dimensional breasts. The father grabbed the magazine out of Dean’s hands and rolled it up.
“Hey!” Dean grabbed at it. “Give that back!”
“Trash.!” the tourist puffed. “Why people read this stuff, I’ll never know.”
“You so have a whole stack of those right under your bed.” Dean said. “I know I do.”
Sam groaned. “They can’t hear us, Dean.” He drained his coffee. The woman sat down beside him, balancing a tray, and unloaded a baby right onto Sam’s lap.
Sam looked down. The baby made a noise of biological origin and burped.
Dean smirked. ”Dude, I think she likes you.”
Sam scowled. The baby reached across the table and stole Dean’s spoon. The door to the café opened, and in strode a horde of identically ’My Family Went To London And All I-’ T-shirted people.
The stocky man grinned like a pumpkin. “It’s the Tillings!” He beckoned. “Over here!”
“You know.” Dean said to Sam five minutes later, outside the café. ’This invisible thing?” It could have its drawbacks.”
Sam nodded. All things considered, he reckoned Dean had got out pretty easily. He had stains on his trousers from the baby, stains that he hoped were food but were certainly…biological in origin. “I don’t get it.” he said. “What’s with the doors? And how come people can‘t see us?
Dean shrugged, “Supernatural phenomenon?”
“Won’t wash, Dean. I’ve never heard of anything like this. And I read about all sorts of things. Travelling to mystical kingdoms, sure. But not England.”
Dean stared warily out into the street. ‘ You think it’s a trickster? That none of this is real?“
“I don’t think I can imagine this much detail.” Sam said.
“Me neither. “ Dean said. He looked a couple of short-skirted office girls up and down before returning his gaze to Sam. “Wish I could, though. Either way, I‘d feel better going back to check on that doorway. Make sure it‘s there. ‘Cause if it‘s not, then we‘ve got real problems.”
They turned away from the café and headed back to the now-familiar red station sign.
“That goop on your clothes….it could be demonic.”
“It’s hardly ectoplasm.”
“I don’t think normal kids make stuff that smells like that. “
Sam sniffed and ignored Dean‘s teasing, although he muttered ’Christo’ just in case. Nothing happened. He didn’t know whether to be pleased or disappointed.
The door turned out to be right where they had left it. Sam planted himself casually in front of it, and Dean jimmied the lock. He heard Dean’s muffled curse from behind his back, and spun.
Dean was staring at a cupboard that was much smaller than Sam remembered. It was filled with mops and buckets and bottles of bleach. “Shit.”
They felt along all the walls for a handle or a keyhole, rifling through the brushes and cloths for a door that no longer existed. It didn’t take long. Around them the station filled with passengers, then emptied as the next train came, then filled again.
“Shit.” Dean said again.
Nobody had noticed them hunting through the broom cupboard, and nobody noticed as they huddled next to the cupboard, hissing plans and tactics under their breath.
“Are you sure this is the right door?”
“Which one could it be? Look around. You see any other doors here? What the hell do we do now?”
“All we’ve got to do is show up at the embassy. No passports, no money, no visas-they’ll pretty much have to deport us.”
“Dude, are you crazy? We’ll have to fly. And remember the FBI?”
“Can’t we fake some passports?”
“Are you kidding? That’s way too illegal, even for me-”
They would probably still have been standing there arguing until the station closed for the night if Sam hadn’t felt a tug at his pocket. He grabbed at a skinny wrist as the hand withdrew, grasping his wallet in small, bony fingers.
The voice was high, a child‘s. “Hey, mister, let go, I wasn’t-”
Dean stared at the figure. “You can see us.”
The child froze. Close up, it seemed to be a girl, albeit a girl with a shaved head. A white-blond scalp-lock dangled from underneath the remains of a white silk bowler hat. Underneath she wore a random assortment of pale clothes, topped by a tattered frockcoat embossed with small pieces of silver wire. White knee socks and white baseball boots completed the ensemble, threaded through with feathers and beads and miscellaneous electronica.
She stared at Sam and Dean. They stared back.
The girl dropped Sam’s wallet and locked both of her hands together. She wrenched her wrist from Sam’s grasp and bolted out onto the platform. A train was just pulling into the station, the legend Ealing Broadway emblazoned on its windows. The child dodged through the nearest set of open doors and disappeared. Sam dived for his wallet, and Dean dived for the train. Sam followed the flash of his brother’s old brown leather jacket as he jumped through the doors and hit a wall of people.
Sam had seen footage of the Tokyo bullet trains in movies. The Underground train was not like that. It was much dirtier. It was semi-circular in shape, with a line of tattered seats planted down each side. The ceiling was an inch above Sam’s forehead. The air was hot and humid. There was somebody’s elbow in his kidneys, and a backpacker’s rucksack pressed up against his chest.
“Uh.” Sam said.
Dean’s voice drifted up from about a metre away. Sam could just make out the collar of his battered leather jacket. “You see her?”
Sam shook his head. His chin brushed an office worker’s ponytail. “No luck. You?”
“No…wait, there we go.” Dean’s voice sounded muffled, as if he was coming from a long way away. “Almost-”
The train pulled to a halt. Sam rocked forwards into the office clerk’s hair. The rucksack in front of him was lodged so far into his chest he was nearly certain that he would need a surgical operation to remove it. He could hear Dean swearing, loudly and colourfully, off to his left. The crowds cleared as more people rushed out through the doors, and Dean appeared as if by magic.
“You got her?”
Dean shook his head. “Lost her.” He snapped his head around and Sam caught a flash of white amongst the commuters. “There-”
Sam looked along the station and saw the girl pushing her way through the people. He looked around for Dean, but his brother was already halfway along the platform. The red station sign said White City . Sam had no idea where that was, but he assumed that it was in London, somewhere.
Sam started to run. He followed Dean, and Dean followed the girl, and for a moment he almost understood why Dean enjoyed the chase so much.
It was because he didn’t have to think about what he would do when he was caught, or when he caught the person he was chasing. There was just the chase, and the thud-thud-thud of blood beating in his ears, and the shocks reverberating up his legs from his sneakers as he raced down the platform. He hurdled a businessman’s briefcase and skidded down an opening in the tiled tunnels. It led to a wrought-iron spiral staircase. Sam took the steps two at a time. Dean, in front of him, dispended with the last spiral entirely and vaulted the banister, landing in a crouch on the concrete floor just as Sam reached the bottom. The noise of the tube station had diminished to a dull, constant hum, rising in pitch every time a train entered the station, and fading again as it pulled out.
The girl was crouched against a closed steel door at the bottom of the staircase, her head buried in her hands. As Sam and Dean approached she looked up and flattened herself against the door, her hands white against the metal. Her eyes were wild and scared and heavily mascara‘d. Rings of silver wire pierced the edge of her bowler hat.
Sam held up a hand. ”Hey.“
The girl took one look at Sam from between her fingers, gasped and hid her face again. Her nails were painted with stuff that looked like White-Out, and ingrained with dirt around the edges.
Dean gave Sam a stay-back glare and edged forwards, his boots surprisingly quiet on the concrete. “We’re not going to hurt you. We just want to ask you some questions.” He crouched down and held out a hand, reassuringly. “You can trust me.”
The girl lowered her arms from her face, gulped, and stared at Dean. She straightened from her scared-animal crouch and reached behind her back. Sam relaxed. Dean was good with kids, and he was even better with women.
Dean’s voice was soft as honey. He slid one foot closer and held out his hand again, this time with an English five-pound note in the palm. “Is this London?”
The girl nodded, a small, tight gesture that made the rings in her hat chime together. She snatched the note from Dean‘s hand, lunged forwards and bit him on the web of skin between first finger and thumb. Dean snatched his hand back instinctively, and the girl jerked backwards, her hands wrenching at the handle behind her. The door opened. The girl disappeared down it, rocketing from her crouched position into a standing start that would have put an athlete to shame. Sam caught a glimpse of sloping, eye wateringly tiled back and white corridors as the girl disappeared in a flash of baseball boots and white feathers. The door slammed closed behind her.
“That could’ve gone better.” said Sam.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean cursed. He flicked the door open with the toe of his boot and stared into the tunnel. “Where’d she go?”
“There’s only one way, Dean.”
“Yeah. Down.” Dean scowled. “I fucking hate tunnels.”
Sam shrugged. He thought about pointing out to Dean that he should by rights hate tunnels more, because of the height thing, but decided against it.
They followed cautiously, walking quickly down white corridors. Despite Sam’s misgivings, they were more than high enough for both of them to walk comfortably abreast.
“This better not be one of those time-travel gigs.”
“I don’t think it is.”
“Just don’t tread on any bugs.”
Sam snorted. He would have retorted that time travel was clearly impossible, but then a few hours ago he would have said that travelling to London through a door in Seattle‘s Underground was impossible, so what did he know? “I think I hear something.”
Dean paused for a moment, then sped up. “Me, too.” He paused and drew his semi-automatic from the waistband of his jeans. “Okay. I’m good.”
They turned a corner, and then they were in White City.
Dean let his gun fall. Sam just stared.
They’d never made it up above ground, but Sam would have bet money White City was just another London borough with its coffeehouses and its pubs, its students and its tourists. The city in front of them was as large as most of the southern small towns they had been in, and much stranger.
Dean‘s mouth was open. “Dude, it looks like fucking Disneyland.”
Sam had to agree. He’d never been to Disneyland, but he’d watched a hell of a lot of Disney movies on cable in motel rooms all across America. The city in front of them looked just like the place in the Disneyland credits, at least until you looked up close.
It was a medieval city with moats and battlements and drawbridges, coated with cables and glowing with an unearthly pale light. White flags emblazoned with the Underground logo flew from every turret. It sat like a giant crusted shell in a thin ring of pale chalky fields, surrounded by a moat that glistened like mercury.
There was no sign of the child anywhere, but there were a great deal of people about, They all had the same pale, pinched, starved look as the girl and they were all dressed in white. Apart from the colour of their clothing and their downtrodden expressions, they had absolutely nothing in common. There were people dressed in Edwardian costume, wearing hats adorned with curling ostrich feathers. Servicemen dressed in vintage uniforms carried bundles with a man painted like a mime artist and a woman who wore a white vinyl suit spangled with the silver outlines of circuitry.
Dean hissed through his teeth. “What the hell is this?”
“White City.” Sam said slowly.
“Somehow,” Dean said ”I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.” He shook white dirt from his boots. “And this is just weird.”
Sam heard a shout from further in the fields and turned his head to look. The mime artist had turned to point at them. Heads turned. It was more attention than they ever got in the dodgiest of Dean’s pool halls, and it made Sam nervous. “I think they saw us.” he hissed. “Dean, put the gun away.”
Dean slipped the semi-automatic back into his jeans. He opened his hands and began to walk towards the city. The small bunch of white people in the distance edged backwards.
“So what do we do now?”
“Why don’t we try talking to them?”
“It never works in movies.”
“That’s because it’s no fun, Dean. There’s always a place for negotiation.”
“Right. Try telling that to the Benders. Or to those crazy vampires.” Dean kicked a discarded plough. “Where did everybody go?”
Sam shaded his eyes. For a cavern deep inside an underground tube station, it was surprisingly bright. The light bounced from the mirrored walls of the city and the white fields. “ I think they went inside the city.”
“Why’d they do that?’ Dean squinted. “We’re just two guys.”
“Maybe they saw the gun.”
“Dude, it’s not that scary. They’ve got a whole city.”
They crossed another field, at the centre of a rapidly widening circle of emptiness. There were people crowding atop the battlements inside the city and clustering around the nearest gate. As Sam watched, they hurried inside and pulled up the drawbridge behind them on bundles of thick white cables. He thought the child they had followed from the subway was among them, but he couldn’t be sure.
There was a shout from the battlements. “Upsiders!”
Sam and Dean exchanged glances.
Dean wrinkled his brow. “What the hell are upsiders?”
“I think they mean us.” Sam said. “Maybe if you hadn’t waved that gun around, we might actually have been able to talk to them.’
Dean‘s eyes narrowed. “Maybe if you hadn’t lost the lock pick, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.”
“It was your fault the cops chased us!”
“So? It was your idea to come to Seattle.”
“I just wanted some decent coffee!”
They paused as an arrow thudded into the ground beside Sam’s left foot, kicking up a little puff of white dust.
The second shot dug a furrow across Dean’s right arm before thudding into the soil behind them both. Dean dropped his gun, and they both hit the ground. There was an upturned wheelbarrow a few metres to their left, white vegetables spilling from its basket. They crawled into its cover.
“Son of a bitch.” Dean gasped. His jeans were streaked with white soil. Dark blood welled up between his fingers from the graze on his arm. “Don’t think the natives are friendly.”
“If we ever get out of this..”
“Yeah, I know. You’re going to kill me. The feeling‘s mutual, buddy.”
‘ Damn straight.“ Sam groped around in the soil for a stick. He found one, poked it out of the wheelbarrow’s flimsy cover and waved it around. An arrow thudded down an inch from his hand. “Shit. We’re pinned down.”
Dean ripped a strip of cloth from the hem of his T-shirt and wrapped it around his arm. “Remind me never to visit London again.”
“I don’t think I‘ll have to.” Sam said. He reached his own coat and withdrew his own gun. “They haven’t got much range. Maybe we could make a run for it.”
Dean leaned his head around the corner and drew it back quickly as a arrow knocked a chunk of wood the size of Sam’s fist from the handle of the barrow. “Sounds like a plan.” He knotted the T-shirt with one hand and his teeth and crawled over to Sam’s side. “They didn’t start shooting till we were nearly at the walls. Maybe we’ve got time.”
Sam glanced back at the tunnel opening, a mere hundred metres behind them. “We could make it.”
“So when do we go?” Dean rested his Glock against his forehead. “Now?”
“Now.’ Sam said.
“It’s like Butch and fucking Sundance.” Dean muttered, but he rose from his crouch and started firing. Sam dashed from behind the cover of the fence, and they both ran like hell, glancing backwards every so often to fire another few shots off. It worked pretty well for the first few metres, right until Sam went down with an arrow in his calf muscle. They were nearly out of range, and so it didn’t penetrate far, but it hurt like hell and knocked his legs out from under him. Another arrow buried itself in the soil underneath his armpit. He heard Dean’s voice shouting “Sammy!” and then a man’s voice saying, very politely, “Erm..excuse me?”
Sam opened his eyes.
There was a man standing over him who looked almost normal. He wasn’t dressed in white, save for the hem of a T-shirt poking out underneath a ragged grey sweater. Somehow, he didn’t seem like much of a threat. People weren’t normally polite to people they were planning to shoot.
“We’re from America.” Sam gasped. The man’s expression froze and he wondered if he had said something wrong. He raised his hands and moved a sidestep away. Sam saw Dean standing behind him, his gun pressed tight against the stranger’s skull.
“Step away.” Dean grated.
Behind them, silhouetted against the white glare of the city, was a small, ragged party of people, their clothes dark against the pale soil. In front of them all stood a girl with a very pale face, dressed in several layers of old-fashioned clothes and carrying a white handkerchief on a stick. She stared at Dean with an outraged expression in her odd-coloured eyes.
Sam sat up and pulled the arrow from his calf. Everybody seemed to be paying more attention to Dean, which was fairly typical of their positions. Sam did the interrogation and the empathy. Dean did the violence and the setting things on fire. Sometimes it worked well. Sometimes it didn’t.
Dean didn’t look away from the stranger. “Sammy. You’re all right?“
Sam rubbed his leg. “Yeah. Had worse.” He looked up. “I don’t think he’s one of them, Dean.”
Dean didn’t move. “So where’re you from?”
The man shrugged. He was medium height, and medium build. He had medium brown hair and medium blue eyes. He was so ordinary that Sam wouldn’t have thought twice about passing him in the street. “Scotland. Originally.“
Dean lowered the gun, cautiously. “I thought Scots wore kilts and played bagpipes.“
“And I thought Americans dressed like cowboys and carried revolvers.”
“You got that last part right.” Dean muttered. “They stopped shooting. Why’ve they stopped shooting?”
The man coughed apologetically. “That would be us. I’m helping Door negotiate.” He gestured at the walls. “With White City.’
“I’m guessing here,” Sam said, “but I don’t think it’s going too well.”
“You’d be right.” The stranger stuck out his hand. “I’m Richard. Richard Mayhew.” He pointed at the pale girl standing behind him. “This is Door.”
“Lady Door of the Underground,” one of the other men said curtly. “And her consort. You may forgo the customary bow, given your circumstances.”
Dean held out his hand, the one without the gun in. “I’m Dean Winchester. And that sentence pretty much stopped making sense at ‘me.’”
Sam winced and got up, gingerly testing his weight on his wounded calf. “Sam Winchester. Pleased to meet you.” He took Richard’s hand, and shook it. He had a dry, firm handshake, and his hands were much cleaner than the child they had followed in from the subway. Door pointedly avoided the handshake. “So where are we? Are we still in London?”
“Not exactly.” Richard said. He pointed up at the ceiling. “That’s London Above. This,” he gestured at the city, “is London Below.”
“We know.” Dean said. “We’re below London.”
“No.” Richard corrected. “Not below London. London Below. It’s like an alternate dimension.”
Dean’s face cleared. “Like the Twilight Zone.”
Richard opened his mouth and then seemed to realise one of the most basic facts of Dean’s personality; that complicated matters were best explained to Dean using short sentences and pop culture references. “No. But -yes. In a way.”
There was a long pause.
“You seem pretty okay with all of this.” Richard said politely.
“Let’s just say we’re hunters.” Sam said. ”Ghosts, demons, the supernatural. Back in the U.S.”
“I knew a hunter once.” Richard said. His hand moved to a long knife at his side. ”She died.”
“Ah, hell.” Dean said politely. “Hunting sucks sometimes.”
There was a long pause. The group of people moved closer. Dean began to explain to Richard exactly how they had come to be in London Below. Sam’s calf began to throb and sting, so he sat down again in the white soil. A shy dark-haired girl bent down and started to examine his leg. When he reached to stop her, she slapped his hand away and took a bundle of rags and a pot of salve from a patchwork bag at her side. She used a knife to cut away Sam’s tattered jeans, applied the salve with a wad of cotton, then bound his leg tightly with a handful of rags. The pain immediately decreased to a dull ache.
“Thanks,” Sam told her. He smiled at her, and she slipped the salve back into her bag and disappeared to the back of the small crowd. He caught sight of his brother’s battered leather jacket as Dean pushed towards him, Richard at his side.
“Looks like you’ve made yourself comfortable.”
Dean eyed the bandage professionally. “Nice job.” he said, then “Richard here says he can get us out of the Undercity. Back to Seattle.”
“Can you take us?” Sam asked.
“No.” Richard said. “But I know someone who can.” He turned back into the crowd for a minute and came back with the girl with the odd-coloured eyes. “Door’s an opener.” Richard said proudly. He said it like he would have said she was a waitress, or a teacher, or a bricklayer.
“Riiiight.” Dean said.
“What’s an opener?” Sam asked.
“She can open things. It’s her talent.”
Door‘s voice was quiet and sharp and much closer to what Sam thought of as the Queen‘s English than Richard‘s. “I’ll drop you off. I think I can get you back to Seattle.”
Sam and Dean exchanged glances. As an option, it seemed much more attractive than hanging around to get shot, and the choice was a bit of a no-brainer.
It took a surprisingly short length of time to walk up the twisting white corridors to the cold grey streets of London. Door took a right at the station entrance and walked straight through a general store. It was an old-fashioned, dusty store, the kind that sold sweets in jars, and it had an old-fashioned, glass-panelled back door. Sam thought at first glance that the door was deadlocked and bolted, but he must have been wrong, for as they approached the rear of the store Door held a hand over the lock for a second and the door swung open. She said “Through there.” and held out her hand. In the palm of her hand was a large, brass key. A short piece of green ribbon was attached to the key. “Take this.”
Sam took it and poked his head out of the door. Outside the store was a yellow-brick alley, its walls covered with fossilizing layers of posters. It didn‘t look much like Seattle, but he had been brought up to be polite. “Thanks.”
“We won’t forget.” Dean told her.
Door smiled, almost sadly. “No.” she said. “But you will.” She took a step backwards, inside the store. “Try the door.” She waved and then retreated into the shadows of the store. The door closed behind her. The back of the shop slowly smoothed into yellow brick, and the world felt real again.
“What door?” Sam said to empty air.
Dean knocked on the yellow bricks with his good hand and cursed vaguely at his skinned knuckles. “Hey, lady, what about getting us back home? What door?”
Sam limped down the street. There were no doors, and the alleyway was a dead end. Bags of rubbish were piled high against its walls. A streetlight gleamed, silhouetted in the open mouth of the alley ten metres away. Its sodium light illuminated a crude rectangle stencilled directly onto the dirty plastered wall. It was a foot taller than Sam, wider than both of them put together, and consisted of crude dotted lines with a pair of scissors painted at the top. At Sam’s chest height, or Dean’s eye-level, there was a keyhole.
Sam ran his hands over the wall. He touched the keyhole. The shape felt like paint stencilled onto brick, but the keyhole felt like real brass. “Dean?” he called. “I think she meant this.”
Dean joined him. “This is crazy.” he announced to thin air.
“You’re telling me.” Sam murmured.
“It’s just graffiti.”
Sam inserted the key into the lock. There was a click, and the section of the wall swung outwards.
“You know those times when you’re wrong?”
“What about them?”
“This was one of them.”
Sam pulled the edge of the door open. It was the thickness of a brick, and felt like bricks. It made a grating noise as it moved, and red dust cascaded from the section of the wall that he thought of as the hinges. They stepped through.
It was still raining in Seattle, as it turned out.
“Dean?” Sam said as they walked the two blocks to the Impala.
“What happened to those cops?”
Dean shook his head like he was coming out of water. “I dunno. Looks like he just gave up.” He looked down. “What happened to your leg?”
Sam shrugged. “Wasn’t it that selkie in Tacoma?”
Dean stared at Sam’s leg, at the neatly wrapped bandages and the cut hem of his brother’s jeans, and shook his head. “ I don’t remember.” He looked puzzled for a second and then shook his head again. “Either way, we should leave town. Those cops’ll be looking for us, still. I’m running out of fake licence plates.”
They got into the Impala and drove off down the interstate, and never looked back.
Notes: I shouldn’t have to explain that both the London and Seattle Underground are real places. Shepherd’s Bush and White City are both Tube stations in East London. London Below is most probably imaginary. All Supernatural characters belong to Eric Kripke, Warner Bros and associated companies. All Neverwhere characters belong to Neil Gaiman and associates. Door and the others appear briefly by necessity: the story was just getting too long. I never knew it would be so hard to write a story without using the words ‘petrol’, ‘motorway’, ‘torch’ or ‘pavement.’ God damn you, Supernatural. Why’d you have to be so American?