For the first time in a long time, John Watson didn't sleep very well. After striking up a deal to work alongside Sam and Dean Winchester, a pair of tiny brothers he and Sherlock had discovered secretly living in 221B, the ex-army doctor's mind had been spinning with the possibilities of such a match. Even the least likely ideas popped into his head seemingly of their own volition, keeping him from a proper slumber.
Morning came at last, and John trudged into the kitchen early with a yawn, in dire need of tea. It wasn't often he relied on the caffeine so greatly; his first cup of the day was something of a routine rather than a true pick-me-up. This day was a rare exception.
Rubbing at heavy-lidded eyes, he filled and started the kettle and then turned to open the cupboard and fetch a teabag. It didn't matter how many times John had tried moving the tea to the counter where it would be more convenient to access, his genius of a flatmate, Sherlock Holmes, would always replace them in the cabinet for seemingly no other reason than he liked them there. John eventually gave up, knowing full well how incorrigible the consulting detective could be.
With a motion that had become habitual for the doctor, John reached up to grope blindly for the teabag that would certainly be there. But as he stifled another yawn, he inadvertently stretched a little further than usual. In his half-awake haze, he didn't realize he was holding something other than a teabag until he'd removed his hand from the cupboard.
For the Winchesters, despite the recent changes in their lives that they’d never seen coming, the day dawned like any other.
Hidden away in the walls of 221B Baker Street, the brothers rarely saw the morning rays dawning over London. The home they’d chosen in a thicker portion of the wall was nestled next to John Watson’s armchair, between the bookshelf and the kitchen, putting many of the necessities for life within easy reach.
It was a perfect setup, and if not for Sherlock Holmes, they might have lived there unnoticed for a long while.
Despite warnings to stay away from the inhabitants of the flat, Dean and Sam had felt a strange attachment to the detective that lived there. He constantly worked on cases, doing what he could to solve crimes-- to save lives, and one thing that ran in their blood was saving people, put there by their father years ago before their curse and abduction, a curse that had resulted in them dwindling down to just over a twentieth of their former height and an abduction that placed them in London, England, far from the American Midwest where they were born.
Sherlock had found them one night when they’d grown overconfident. After helping him to solve a case he was spinning his heels on for weeks, the brothers had slipped out to get some extra food for their home, some tea biscuits (cookies, as Dean continually insisted despite Sam’s argument to the contrary). They’d heard John leave to go to the store and waited for Sherlock to fall into sleep, not expecting him to feign sleep with such studied practice. That miscalculation had resulted in their capture, and later on, their agreement to help Sherlock with his work.
Dean Winchester had no need of an alarm clock to wake up at the right time in the morning. His father had long ago taught him the art, and he had only to place a time firmly in his mind to wake then. Without doing that, he would blithely sleep the day away, much like any other borrower.
He quietly woke Sam up. It was habit to keep quiet while they were in the walls. Though they now had an agreement with the two humans that lived there, it was difficult to go against instinct. It felt wrong, and Dean knew that was a good instinct to keep. Sherlock and John wouldn’t always be the only people in the flat and unless they were sure it was only the two, it was best to heed those instincts.
After their morning ablutions, the brothers set out towards the kitchen, climbing the wooden supports in the walls and carefully using the nails and twine until they were up at the level of the cabinets. It was their morning routine to see if there was anything left within easy reach in the cabinets. Though Sherlock and John had recently offered to let them share in the food, Dean thought it prudent to not rely completely on the humans, or they might lose their touch.
Sam was the first one to enter the cabinet; his strange knack of knowing when he was about to be seen or when he was being sought was invaluable. He was their early warning system, while Dean was the one who could find what they needed. Skills they’d discovered long after the curse had taken effect, and ones they’d learned not to question. They just were.
The feel of the ground vibrating under their feet heralded the arrival of one of the humans in the kitchen. While Dean was nudging around some of the boxes shoved haphazardly to the side, Sam peered out to see who was around.
John, he mouthed at Dean, and Dean nodded back his understanding.
They’d learned long ago that John would only search the cabinet fully if he couldn’t find a teabag the first time he reached in. Back then, they’d discovered that if they pushed it out to where he could reach it, he’d leave without ever glancing in. Nowadays, Dean figured it was polite to keep up the ritual. He dug a teabag out of one of the back boxes, and took it to where he knew John would blindly grope. The doctor was a good man, and they treated him with the respect he’d earned from them. Handing him his tea had become another strange morning ritual that they weren’t about to change just because he knew about them.
Of course, nice or not, John was still a human and still able to overpower either brother without any effort, and Dean would have done better to remember that this morning.
Dean watched as John’s hand reached for the teabag, and only stiffened a little, hearing a peaceful yawn from outside the cabinet as John went for his morning tea. Sam was a few inches back, sizing up a different box, and didn’t think to shout a warning when the hand reached just a little farther than normal.
Long fingers that outsized Dean closed in around the young man, sealing him off from Sam. It happened too fast for him to react, and then he felt the thick, leathery skin bump against his back, sweeping him up into a light, casual grasp that left Dean’s stomach somewhere behind him. The world moved around him fast enough for his vertigo to hit with a vengeance, making his face start to turn green.
Dean wasn’t sure what to hang onto in a half-cave of a broad palm and fingers, so he clung to the teabag and squinted his eyes shut with a prayer the ride would end soon. His legs drew in close, trying to keep his center of gravity as close to his chest as possible.
And another prayer that he wouldn’t plummet to his death on the hard tile flooring below.
It was the movement that made John freeze. Teabags didn't move. Through the sleep-addled fog in his mind, he tried to make sense of what he was holding. If he concentrated-- a daunting task this early in the morning-- he could still feel minuscule shifts from inside his loose fist.
Bigger than a teabag, small enough to fit in his hand, and alive.
A chill fell over John as he remembered his tiny flatmates. Who were known to roam the kitchens sometimes in search of meals and biscuits.
John sucked in a sharp gasp, quickly turning his palm up and unfurling his fingers, leaving Dean Winchester sprawled across his hand looking disoriented. The doctor's jaw clenched in shock, eyes wide and breaths shallow. Up until this moment, he'd hardly been able to bring himself to touch either brother. The closest he'd come had been with Sam, and that had been with the lad's boot on his fingertip, nothing more.
With Dean in hand, John was reminded of exactly why he had chosen minimum contact in the first place. The elder Winchester hardly weighed anything in his palm, his struggles glancing over the skin with hardly a disturbance. There was an entire person there, and John could barely feel it.
So many questions nagged at the back of John's head. Where had Dean come from? Why was he in the cupboard so early? Where was Sam? He was afraid to glance away for even a second to try and find out the answer to his last question, hyper-aware of how much his every twitch could affect Dean.
By the time the disorienting movement ended, Dean couldn’t have told up from down. His stomach churned when he was thrown into a dizzying circle, the cage of fingers rotating with him and the teabag in the center.
Then he was on his back with his eyes wide, and everything stopped.
Dean’s mouth fell open and he panted, the vertigo and nausea combining with his spinning head. He was unable to focus on anything, staring blankly past John, unable to piece together any of his surroundings to figure out what happened. His death-grip on the teabag didn’t relent, clutched to his chest.
Up in the cabinet, Sam saw the fluid movement of John’s hand out of the corner of his eye, thinking nothing of it until he realized that Dean was no longer standing next to him. Sucking in a breath, he darted for the edge of the shelf, skidding to a stop right before sliding off the edge.
Sam sighed with relief when he saw Dean in one piece, if noticeably more ashen than his normal complexion (which, after living in the walls out of the sun most of their lives, was admittedly paler than in their childhood). “Oh, thank god,” he muttered, immediately searching for the fastest way down.
Sam's voice finally broke John out of his stupor. He tried to glance in the kid's direction, but was only able to make out the younger Winchester's general shape before his gaze darted back to Dean. He blinked rapidly as he noticed how shaken the poor lad looked in his hand, and the gravity of what he'd unintentionally done hit him at last.
"S-sorry," he mumbled, running his other hand down his face in attempt to fully wake up. "I am so… Are-are you alright?"
Focusing back on Dean, he resisted the urge to lift his hand higher to get a better look at the young man. Given how easily Sherlock had bruised Sam during their first encounter, John couldn't help but fret.
The voice from overhead gave Dean something to concentrate on, and the world slowly started to come into focus. The first thing he saw was the large eyes overhead, focused right down on him and nothing but worry written inside. Dean groaned and let his head drop, landing on a cushion of plush skin and breathed out, bringing himself slowly back under control.
“He’s afraid of heights!” Sam chimed in, one boot propped against the edge of the shelf while he leaned backwards to test his weight on his hook before climbing.
This was enough to break through Dean’s mild fugue. “Dude, I am not afraid of heights!” he protested, bringing himself around enough to push himself up. His hand didn’t make a dent in John’s skin, and his fingers were small enough to fit between the imprints that made it unique. “Just… flying.” He shuddered at the memory of their one fateful trip on an airplane. The turbulence during that flight was like an earthquake to the brothers at their size, and all the cushioning in the world couldn’t make it bearable for them. “There’s a difference!”
Dean finally managed to sit up, pushing the teabag off his chest. It slid down onto John’s palm, and Dean moved his leg out of the way, one hand shakily reaching for his duffel bag to make sure it remained at his side.
John's brow shot up, and he became aware of his surroundings. He looked at Sam and the distance he was climbing from the cupboard to the countertop. That alone was considerable for someone their size, never mind the gap from there to the floor.
A gap over which John was precariously holding Dean.
"Right! Yeah, I'll just, ah." John hesitated to put Dean down straightaway, considering the smaller man's admission. The poor fellow looked motion-sick enough as it was. Steeling himself with a deep breath, John carefully cupped his free hand underneath his occupied one, lowering Dean to the counter as steadily as possible.
Dean’s hand closed around the strap of his duffel bag while John carefully lowered him down, his knuckles turning white. There was just no getting used to being held in a hand, whether it be trapped in a cage of fingers or walking on of his own free will. It just wasn’t right to be handheld.
Halfway down from the cabinet, Sam saw where John’s hand was coming to a rest and sped up his trip down. Dropping the last few inches, he flicked his hook free, catching it in one swift motion. He was already winding the black thread around his arm as he jogged over to make sure Dean was okay after his unexpected flight.
By the time Dean realized where he was, Sam had crossed the distance on the marbled countertop, dodging around a few scattered beakers and leftover tools from Sherlock, paying them no mind. Living in the flat undetected as long as they had, both brothers had grown accustomed to the strange sights within.
Most of them.
“I’m fine!” Dean was already protesting when Sam reached him, his face screwed up in annoyance as he swung his legs over the edge of John’s hand. The teabag was left behind, since at least that belonged in the human’s grip.
After seeing that Dean was indeed fine, the color returning to his face in an embarrassed flush, Sam’s face split into a grin. “You shoulda seen your faces!” he snickered, grabbing Dean’s hand to haul him effortlessly to his feet.
Dean wavered in place, and the annoyance on his face only grew as he had to lean against Sam to catch his balance.