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A Burglary at Baker Street

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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.

A Burglary at Baker Street by fujonosamy

Artwork for the chapter by @fujonosamy!

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.

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John chuckled sheepishly, feeling every nerve in his body relaxing when he was certain Dean was okay. He could feel a bit of heat rising in his neck; that hadn't been his most dignified moment, any more than it had been Dean's. 

John's hand lifted away and his fingers curled in toward the tingly spot Dean's small weight had left behind, only to come in contact with the thin paper of the teabag. It had escaped his notice, Dean being his main concern. A bewildered smile tugged at his lips as he considered what it implied. 

"Er, what are you two up to?" he queried conversationally, easing his arms back to his sides, one hand wrapped loosely around the teabag. "Bit early to be out and about, isn't it?"

“Just… gettin’ some breakfast,” Dean answered, unaccustomed to explaining to the human that lived in the flat that they were going through his food. Without him knowing. Their leather bags were still empty, as their morning raid had only just commenced when John came into the kitchen.

“We’re always up at this time,” Sam said, one arm around Dean for support. John was the first person aside from Dean he’d ever opened up to about their twisted past before coming to live in London, and he felt more of an attachment to the man than Dean seemed to.

Sam’s eyes fell on the hand John had closed around the teabag Dean had tried to give him, and instead had gone along for the ride. “It just doesn’t normally end like this,” he said with a grin.

Dean tried to twist out of his grip. “Next time, you do the hard work handing a teabag to a giant and I’ll go look for food,” he griped. Finally pulling free, he stumbled a few steps before brushing himself impatiently off.

"So you… Is this a thing you guys just do?" John asked, glancing back at his hand. Though the scare from accidentally scooping up Dean had jolted him quite a bit, a fair part of John's brain was still waking up. He didn't put thought into much before his morning cuppa, and before now he never had reason to question how his teabags were always there without fail. He'd reckoned it just sort of happened.

Now he knew it did.

"Well, ah, carry on, I suppose," he nodded. "Didn't mean to interrupt." 

Sam's grin grew wider at John's reaction. “It's a ‘thing’ that's happened ever since you couldn't find a teabag and almost found us instead,” he explained gamely, thinking of all the times since they'd gone through the routine. Any time John was getting tea and they were in the cupboard, really. “Dean stuck a teabag in your hand when you almost spotted me instead and that time it worked. We've done it every morning since.”

The kettle going off offered a welcome distraction from the careless disturbance John had caused the Winchesters, and he quickly removed it from the heat before its whistle could grow too loud.

As the tea was steeping, a thought struck him and he turned back to the brothers. "Oh! Do you want some coffee? I could, y'know, get you a brew, for your trouble."

Dean froze up at the mention of coffee, his eyes growing wide. Sam could swear his pupils dilated at the offer from John. “C-coffee?” he asked hoarsely. For months they’d lived near the kitchen with no way to enjoy the heavenly brew that the human residents made.

“Isn't there too much for just us?” Sam asked with concern, always worried about waste. Considering the coffee pot was bigger than both brothers together-- in fact, closer to the size of their living room-- they would never finish it. It would be like drinking from a pool.

"Nah, it'll be fine if I make a half pot," John insisted, giving his tea a light stir with a small spoon. Through his few encounters with the brothers, he was more than aware of their complex about receiving things from humans. As much as he wanted to just make Dean the coffee, the young man's reaction to its mere mention obviously exciting him, John knew better than to start it before they'd accepted the offer.

"I'm sure Sherlock will drink whatever you don't," he added helpfully. He could only imagine what even half a pot of coffee would look like to someone four inches tall or less. It was quite a daunting thought.

The brothers exchanged a long look, torn over accepting the offer. Though they’d agreed to help out John and Sherlock in exchange for food, John’s offer came before they’d actually done anything to help, leaving them in a conundrum. So many years of their lives had been spent avoiding humans and the thought of reliance, a lesson they’d learned better than most after nearly ending up as pets.

“If Sherlock’s having some anyway…” Dean said, tentatively accepting the offer and taking a step forward to address John. He was steady on his feet now that he’d recovered from his unexpected morning ride.

Sam came up behind Dean, slapping him on the back and nodding that he’d take some as well. Though, he did feel the temptation to ask John for some tea, instead, remembering the times their adopted family had procured teabags and steeped their supply of water in the brew. It was never hot tea like John had, at most they got lukewarm tea, but the drink was soothing. Moira, especially, was fond of tea, and had nagged her two older brothers incessantly to get them to return with a biscuit for it while they were out. She knew about and was fond of Dean's particular knack.

“Same,” Sam said, putting the tea out of mind. Something in him refused to let him just come out and ask for tea, tying up his words.

John smiled. "Great," he said, already preparing the machine.

He tried not to feel bad that he kept putting the brothers on the spot with his spur-of-the-moment offers. He'd do the same for anyone he knew as well as he knew the Winchesters, and that wasn't even much; John had a feeling he'd barely scratched the surface with those two. Still, he had to keep in mind that they had every right to be suspicious of anything freely given by a human.

As he set the coffee maker to start on the brew, he realized he didn't exactly have cups Sam and Dean’s size. "Um. Do you need something to drink it with?"

“A bottlecap if you have one,” Dean answered promptly. They’d already made several bottle caps vanish around the house to help hold their water supplies, covering the containers with a strip of fabric to keep any pests from partaking of the refreshing liquid. Thimbles would work just as well, but Dean didn’t see Sherlock or John as the type for that, though Mrs. Hudson probably had a few downstairs. 

Dean made a note in his mind to check her place sometime in the future. Lost needles were very useful as makeshift weapons. Not as handy as their knives, but a knife fashioned by a human was an incredibly rare commodity, and not one that anyone else would own. If they found some extra supplies like that, they could drop them off back with their family. It had been some months since their last visit, caught up as they’d been with Sherlock’s discovery and the subsequent pranks until coming to an understanding.

“Once it cools, we can just use our foil,” Dean continued, knowing that no matter how hot he could drink coffee himself, there was no way he’d be able to hold the foil cup with hot liquid in it. 

John was surprised he didn't think of that. Christ, I need to wake up. He nodded numbly and went in search of what Dean had requested.

It took a bit of looking, but he found an abandoned water bottle in the back of the fridge, screwing off the cap and giving it a quick rinse and dry. By then the fresh, dark liquid had begun to pour itself into the pot.

"Milk? Sugar?" John asked, fetching some for his tea. The question came automatically, and it hit him a little late that the brothers probably wouldn't know their preference.

Dean wrinkled his nose. Contrary to what John thought, he knew to declare, “The only way to drink coffee is black,” as he recalled the times he’d made coffee for his dad while he was growing up. Or ordered it at a coffee shop. There was nothing like the bitter flavor of the black brew to wake someone up.

Sam glanced between Dean and John, realizing he didn’t have an answer for them. “Sugar…?” he said tentatively, more question than answer.

"Yeah, sure," John chuckled at Dean's unexpectedly strong opinions about coffee. He supposed it made sense, he was a few years older than Sam. Plenty of opportunity to garner a taste for the stuff. 

After setting up his own tea with a pair of sugar cubes and a drop of milk, the coffee finally finished up. John picked up the pot and carefully filled the bottlecap, setting it near the brothers along with another sugar for Sam. Then he grabbed a tall mug for Sherlock's portion and set it aside at the table.

"Fair warning," he put in as he sank into his own chair with his tea. "Sherlock doesn't stay asleep for long after the coffee's been brewed." John reckoned it was the smell, wafted straight down the hall into the detective's bedroom. Perked him right up, like magic.

Sam leaned over the bottlecap with one hand propped against the counter, staring down into the murky liquid. His reflection stared back at him, dark eyes looking up. The surface rippled as Dean dipped a foil cup into it, only taking a drop so it would cool fast.

Dean sighed deeply as he drank down the bitter drink. “That hits the spot,” he mumbled around his cup.

With Dean clearly in one piece, Sam decided the drink couldn’t be that bad. He fished out his own sheaf of aluminum foil and mechanically folded it into a cup, his hands following through with motions he didn’t have to think about after so many years doing it. The end result was a thin bowl that served as a cup, and Sam dipped it in, following his older brother’s example.

Taking a sip, Sam hacked and spat it out. “Dude! How can you drink this?!”

Dean’s smug grin was hidden by his cup as he tilted it back for another draught, this one longer as the liquid cooled. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

John took a long, luxurious sip while he watched the brothers try the coffee. Dean was clearly acclimated to the bitter flavor, but poor Sam looked almost affronted at the taste. The doctor bit back a chortle as he swallowed his drink and put it down.

"Here, try it with a bit of sugar and milk," he suggested, standing to fetch the milk from the fridge. "It really helps dilute the taste."

As he poured a tiny bit of milk into the jug cap, far less than the amount of coffee he'd given Sam and Dean, the telltale creak of a door sounded from the end of the hall and soon enough Sherlock lumbered into the kitchen. He squinted in the dim morning light, his dark curls in utter disarray, barely aware of his surroundings.

"Morning," greeted John automatically, inwardly commenting that the detective looked like he'd gotten about as much sleep as John had.

Sherlock grunted in response, dropping into the chair opposite John's tea. He plopped two sugars into the mug that had awaited him and kicked it back without bothering to stir.

Sam leaned over the bottle cap again to avoid looking at Sherlock, unable to completely hide how the detective unnerved him. He tilted his cup so the drop of dark coffee splashed into the milky brown color. Dean made a face at him as he pulled over the cube of sugar, contemplating just how much to add to the bitter liquid.

“Now you’re just ruining it,” Dean complained as Sam tipped the entire cube into the cap.

Sam arched his eyebrows. “You’ve already got enough,” he chided, scooping up another cup. His second sip was far more tentative than the first, but this time he was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.

“Like drinking liquid sugar,” Dean muttered into his cup, tilting back his head for more.

John smiled, glad that the sugar seemed to improve Sam's taste for the coffee. Then he turned back to his flatmate, still chugging down his tall mug without so much as a breath.

"Rough night?" he surmised, smirking into his sip of tea.

Sherlock downed the last of his drink and gave a small shudder, shooting a flat look at John. He rubbed his face sluggishly, still trying to process the small voices he'd heard a moment ago. Those weren't usually there in the morning. A glance around as he smoothed down his curls revealed the Winchesters fairly relaxed on the counter. He quirked an eyebrow at the sight of an entire block of sugar sticking out of a coffee-filled bottle cap. Even from that distance, Sherlock could make out each brother's countenance and easily deduce whose idea that was.

Someone's got a sweet tooth, he thought, smirking faintly.

With the caffeine slowly filling his body with energy, Sherlock forced himself to get back up and fetch a slice of bread and a tub of butter, spreading the latter into the former with a dull knife. He was too lazy to make toast like he usually would, yet he glumly partook in the soft bread topped with cold butter as though he had no other choice.

"This will take getting used to," he remarked, his voice even deeper than usual from the disuse that came naturally with sleep.

Dean, having drained his cup of coffee, was in agreement with Sherlock for once. “You’re telling me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve had caffeine in the morning in ages.”

Crumpling the foil cup, Dean was about to toss it aside when he caught Sam’s look of disapproval. With a grimace he flattened it out, flicking the remaining droplets of coffee from the edges. Waste not.

Sam was dutifully nursing his cup of coffee, a distinct counter to Dean chugging his. “It definitely tastes better with sugar and milk,” he said to himself.

Forgotten off to the side, the cube of sugar finally dipped completely below the surface of the milky liquid, dissolving into the warmth and likely turning the coffee into liquid sugar just as Dean predicted.

"So, what's on the agenda for today?" John asked the company, stretching his arms overhead. He felt his joints pop and the tension leave his shoulders, and gave a satisfied sigh.

Before either Winchester could chime in, Sherlock asserted, "Dean and I are going to work toward honing his ability."

He said this matter-of-factly, as though it had been decided long in advance. This was the first John had heard of such plans, and he turned a confused frown to Dean in hopes of confirmation.

Dean’s eyebrow rose up of its own accord, though it was doubtful either human would be able to see it from their relatively distant vantage point. Sam’s mouth flattened as he tried to hide a snigger, already knowing that Dean had no idea what Sherlock had planned out for them for the day. This was all news to the brothers.

A distant part of Sam’s mind wondered how he could possibly hone his own ability, seeing as it needed other humans around to have any effect. John only made his neck prickle like pins and needles while Sherlock had a low-level burn that was slowly lowering in intensity the more time he spent with the detective. At that thought, Sam’s hand went to his neck, distractedly rubbing at the sensation to try and dispel it.

“We are?” Dean asked sternly, carefully flattening out the rest of his tinfoil and folding it up, keeping his hands busy while his mind raced. What could Sherlock possibly have in mind to hone his ability? Would it help, or would he end up spending the day chasing his tail? 

And when the hell had he signed up for impromptu training sessions? This sounded as much fun as the time Sam had gotten the jump on him during their prank wars, not only soaking Dean’s hair with a thimble but also pinning him to the ground before Dean could react. He might be faster than Sam, but Sam had reach and strength on him.

"Of course we are," Sherlock said around a bite of bread, a touch of exasperation leaking into his tone. It was so bothersome when nobody was on the same page with him, which was often. "We discussed this yesterday and decided sooner was better than later."

John blinked. "They didn't even come round yesterday," he pointed out. John, at least, didn't recall seeing them the evening before.

"I assumed someone was listening," Sherlock shrugged.

“Oh, well that clears everything up,” Dean said, sarcasm heavy in his voice. Out of all the times he’d seen Sherlock pull that one on John, he’d somehow never expected to have it turned around on him.

After being plucked out of the cupboard without warning and then told he was going to be training, also without warning or any way to prepare, this was shaping up to be quite a day already.

“You’ll have to refresh my memory,” Dean said, his gruff little voice as firm as ever and speaking with a level of authority that contrasted with his size. “Seems I have a difficult time recalling conversations I was absent for.”

Sherlock brushed his hands off, having finished his meager breakfast, and crossed his arms with a pointed stare at Dean. "If we are ever to put your skill to effective use, we first need a basic understanding of it. How it works, and whether or not it can be used at will and not just by instinct. If it can, then the next logical step is to improve upon what already exists, refine it until you're sharper, faster, as close to one hundred percent reliable as possible. Are we in agreement on that?"

Dean crossed his arms, mirroring Sherlock’s posture back at him. Sam sat this argument out, sipping his coffee in peace and his eyes wide at the small showdown.

“I agree that honing our skills is for the best,” Dean said, not giving an inch in his stubborn behavior. “A skill is useless if you don’t know how to use it.”

If Sam was surprised at this admission, he tried his best to hide it behind his foil cup as he choked down another sip of coffee instead of laughing. He could certainly grow used to the taste, he supposed, thumping his chest to clear his throat. It wasn’t the worst in the world. Plus it did give him an odd shot of energy that he didn’t normally have this early in the morning.

“But if we’re really doing this,” Dean continued, “then we do it together. I’m not playing fetch. And,” he held up a finger, “I better get some damn breakfast before we start.”

A smirk tugged at Sherlock's lip. He knew he was right, like always, even if it took everyone else a little longer to get there. "Done, then," he agreed, retreating to his room to get dressed.

John threw up a hand as the detective left without fulfilling his end of the bargain with Dean. He had stayed out of their banter, finding that his input would be next to useless. Heaving a sigh, he set aside his mostly empty mug of tea and turned in his seat to face the counter.

"Anything I can get you? Something to eat, or…" He trailed off with a shrug, not wanting to give the impression that he thought they couldn't fetch food for themselves. The polite offer came naturally, but John would resolve to hold it in if it put the Winchesters off.

Dean was still watching where Sherlock had vanished to. “We’ll figure something out,” he said to John, turning down the offer. They’d already pushed their luck enough for one morning with the teabag and the coffee.

Standing, Dean brushed his pants and jacket off, trying to resume his previously composed demeanor from before being swept out of the cabinet in a hand. He gave his shred of foil one last flick to get rid of any remaining coffee before tucking it into his duffel bag.

“Comin?’ " Dean asked Sam.

Sam looked from Dean to John, and then down at the bottle cap full of sweetened coffee. His ears flushed and he sprang to his feet, downing the rest of his drink. “Y-yeah!” Sam gave his foil the same flick as Dean to rid it of the droplets, slightly rueful at the thought that now his satchel would smell like coffee for weeks. The mice he knew in the row of buildings would just love that, him smelling like the humans in the building, but it was unavoidable if he wanted to avoid wasting the foil.

“Thanks!” Sam said, turning to John briefly.

John nodded and gave a small wave as they left. Too much, he concluded, making a note to himself to try not to toe that line next time.

"Welcome to the flat share," he murmured just before he watched them disappear. Something told him that unusual mornings like this would turn out to be not so unusual anymore.

Chapter Text

"Start from the beginning," said Sherlock, hands folded in front of his lips as he leaned over the table in the main room across from Dean. The detective had changed into his suit and waited patiently for Dean to return. When he did, Sherlock began his initial line of questioning, just like any other case.

"What does this ability entail for you? What do you feel when it happens?" Despite being reluctant to accept the existence of curses and witches, these knacks the Winchesters claimed to have consumed Sherlock's curiosity. His intellectual side wrestled with his inquisitive side over the whole affair, and in the end the latter won out.

Dean was unable to halt his pacing. Though the books to the side would form a perfect seat for him, the nervous energy that buzzed under his skin kept him on the move, trying to work it out.

It felt like a hundred times he's seen this same scene act out in front of him, watching warily from the walls while Sherlock drilled victims, the police, John himself in much the same way as he was now drilling Dean. It was the same as all those other times, but it felt different because it was him standing under that intense gaze. And of course, unlike all those other victims and clients, he stood directly under that gaze because of his size.

Better than Sam, Dean knew. Such close scrutiny would not only make his little brother uncomfortable but also burn at his knack, a side effect Dean was glad to have apparently escaped with his own.

Pausing in his pacing, Dean planted his boots and stared up at Sherlock. "It's a feeling we get on the back of our neck," he said, pointing. Right now, there was no sensation of pins and needles vying for his attention, with all his focus on Sherlock.

"It started when we were growing up. We started to notice that when I was in the lead, we'd find what we were looking for. Whatever we were looking for. And Sam got uneasy long before anyone stumbled over us." Dean tried to give the most basic overview without going in too deep on Sam's ability. Eventually, he knew they'd have to tell Sherlock that an intense gaze could actually burn at Sam, but for now Dean left that up to Sam to bring up if he wanted to.

Dean shrugged. "It just... kept getting stronger the more years we spent cursed. I can tell when I'm following that, or just following a hunch. And the more I need something and the closer I get, the stronger the feeling."

Sherlock's brow furrowed thoughtfully the more Dean described the remarkable senses he and his brother exhibited. Stubbornly ignoring the detail about the curse, the detective took mental notes. Then he pushed his chair out from the table and leaned his elbows on his knees for a closer interaction with the elder Winchester, and continued on with his questions.

"Is it ever voluntary? Could you walk into a room determined to find something of use? Or something specific like, say, a coin. Have you tried anything like that?"

Dean took a step back as Sherlock leaned in, trying to hide how unnerved he was. At least Sherlock wasn’t leaning over him anymore; he was just closer than Dean was used to. Figuring out a natural way to interact with the two humans in the flat was a lot harder than he’d expected.

“I found the shoelaces, didn’t I?” he asked guardedly, wondering if this was a trick question as he recalled the week he’d dragged Sam everywhere in the flat searching for every last shoelace Sherlock owned. Even shoes that hadn’t been touched for ages by the detective. Dean followed his sense straight to them with Sam as his lookout.

Dean’s lips thinned to a line as he remembered just what he’d done that first time. “I just knew I’d need every last pair if I wanted it to work, and we must have tracked them all down.”

Sherlock couldn't exactly dispute that, so he gave a crisp nod. He certainly hadn't forgotten that maddening week in which Dean continually snitched his shoelaces. Sherlock had tried everything, from buying replacements and hiding them to using twine, even hijacking a set from John's shoes. Each time, the laces had systematically disappeared without fail.

Except for John's, which were returned to him before the next morning, folded nicely on his nightstand.

Pushing past his resentment for the brothers' obvious favoritism with John, Sherlock's eyes darted around the room. "Then I'd suggest our efforts should be working toward collaboration and communication." That said, he stood and crossed the room to the hooks behind the door, fetching his scarf and wrapping it meticulously around his neck.

Curiosity overriding Dean’s nerves, he walked towards the edge of the table. “Collaboration and communication?” he repeated, turning the words over in his mind and applying them to his knack. He wasn’t sure what he expected of Sherlock’s ‘training,’ but it was already going different than he’d thought.

Of its own mind, his hand fell on his duffel strap and trailed over to the hook that hung from the side. He rubbed the prong with one thumb, letting the cool metal under his touch focus him. “What did you have in mind?”

"In order for your ability to be helpful on cases, it's imperative that we learn to work together. If you're sensing something halfway across London, I can't exactly let you down and follow you around." Sherlock tugged on his long wool coat, letting the collar stand tall.

"Significantly less dangerous option," he continued, crossing back toward Dean, "we practice, simulate less extreme scenarios until we have a proper system. Once you're able to point me where you need to go, then we can work on strengthening your sense's accuracy."

Dean considered it, for a moment letting his mind cast out to the familiar knack. Even now, he could feel distant objects calling at him, an almost imperceptible feeling that was always there because he couldn’t get out of the flat to go find them.

Well, maybe he’d get the chance. To Dean, Sherlock looked as eager as he ever got at the idea of refining this strange knack.

Dean gestured for Sherlock to give him a hand. “Well, what are we waiting for, then?”

Sherlock smirked and proffered a hand for Dean, smoothly ferrying the elder Winchester to his shoulder. With Dean settled, Sherlock turned to face the room, not entirely sure of what to expect. And for once, the uncertainty wasn't irritating, but exciting.

"Where to, Winchester?" he queried, awaiting Dean's instruction.

Dean was silent for a long moment. He very rarely tried to actively use the ability. Mostly it just happened. They needed food, and he would suddenly just know where to go. Questioning it when their lives depended on the ability seemed like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

As he focused, the prickles on the back of his neck began to grow more prominent. His surroundings dropped away. He no longer noticed the rhythmic cadence of a pulse that throbbed through Sherlock’s neck next to him, and the steady sound of breathing, air rushing in and out of Sherlock’s lungs, was gone. It was like he was standing next to Sam once more, trying to hurriedly clear his mind and listen to Sam’s constant litany of ‘advice’ for how to do it.

With focus came clarity, and Dean found himself pointing before he realized his hand was moving.

Psychic freak slipped into his mind and he angrily crushed the thought as he told Sherlock, “That way.”

Sherlock almost didn't notice the tiny hand, but he frowned when he tracked its path with his eyes. Dean was pointing at the door out of the flat.

The detective's steps were halting as he approached the door, confused about what Dean was supposed to be leading him to. At his right, John entered the main room from the kitchen, a biscuit in one hand and the morning paper in the other. John paused as he noticed Sherlock's odd movements, eyeing his flatmate as he sank into his armchair.

Sherlock slowly wrapped his hand around the doorknob, wishing he could look at Dean questioningly.

Dean didn’t notice the odd looks John was shooting at the strange pair from his armchair, unknowingly placed beside the nook in the walls the brothers had chosen for their home. If Dean spared a thought for where it was placed, he imagined it was just about at John’s eye level while sitting.

But right now, his thoughts were all tied up with the feeling on the back of his neck. After years of stubbornly ignoring the ones that were out of reach, it seemed that giving it his full attention had brought it flooding around him, more important than anything else. He needed it, and this was his chance to finally see what, and where, the thing was that was pulling at him in London.

When Sherlock didn’t open the door, Dean felt his impatience come to the fore. “Well?” he burst out. “We’re doing this, right? Or was this just some test run?”

John raised an eyebrow at Sherlock as the man's eyes flashed to his shoulder without moving his head. And while he couldn't make out what was said, he swore he heard Dean's voice. Finally he understood what was going on, and he and Sherlock exchanged a glance. The detective nodded in response to both John and Dean, and he proceeded out the door, shutting it on his way out.

"Sherlock?" John blinked, hearing his flatmate descend the stairs. The doctor hadn't expected Sherlock and Dean to leave the flat right away. Abandoning the paper, he rose to his feet, torn between going after them and letting it go.

In any case, there was someone else who needed to know about their excursion. John had gathered from the look Sherlock had given him that they hadn't told the younger Winchester.

"Sam?" called John. It felt awkward to hail someone he couldn't see, but chances were Sam could hear him, wherever he was.

It took a suspiciously short amount of time before John caught sight of a small form shuffling out from behind the books on the shelves right next to his armchair. Sam’s hands were full of sheets of paper, and he tried to awkwardly shuffle them into order before stuffing them into his satchel and looking up at John, blinking in the light.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked curiously, glancing around the room to see that they were alone. A momentary thought struck him at how much his life had changed that he’d actually come out into the open when a human called him.

Their adopted family would be so proud, Sam thought wryly.

“Did they start their training?” Sam asked, smoothing down the flap of his satchel and clasping the metal hook on the side closed so the sheets wouldn’t fly out.

"Yeah, they, ah," John said, a little thrown by how quickly Sam had responded to him. Noticing what the little fellow had in his arms, he hoped he hadn't interrupted anything. "They did, but it looks like they… left." He looked briefly at the door. "Dunno if they were expecting that, so I thought I'd let you know."

John paused, scratching the back of his head as he gathered his thoughts. "Then again, I have absolutely no idea where the hell they'd be going. I was thinking of following them, if you wanted to--"

He cut himself short, realizing what he was about to say. Given the lad's past experiences and the lack of contact between them, the thought was almost unprecedented. Turning back to Sam, John decided it was only fair to finish the question. He stammered, "If-if you, um, wanted to come?"

Sam blinked in surprise. “They left the flat?” he repeated back, finding it hard to imagine just walking out that door himself. Yet this was the second time Dean had gone, and without telling him again.

Maybe it was part of Sherlock’s plan for training. He hadn’t explained much when Sam was around.

And of course, Sam remembered the times Dean had mentioned something pulling at him from outside the flat. If he couldn’t focus it to find something without leaving, Sherlock might not want to quit training so easily. 

John’s offer had Sam wondering. Would they finally get to see what had pulled at Dean for years? There was no way Dean would turn down the chance if he got it, and Sam felt the same way. He’d been curious what could possibly be so important outside of the walls they knew so well.

“I-- I’d like to come, but only if you want…” Sam said, his stutter betraying his nerves. He checked his bag, making sure he’d packed his hook before running out of their home. He’d spent the last hour working on reorganizing his notes, unable to keep from fretting about how Sherlock would want him to train his ability. Considering it had to involve him being seen, he wasn’t eager to try it out. “I can just wait here if it’s too much trouble.”

John's brow shot up. "Oh, no-- No trouble at all! Honestly, I'd prefer you came rather than…" John trailed off, not wanting to admit how much leaving Sam by himself would worry him. He knew the lad could take care of himself, but even so.

Clearing his throat, John stepped closer to Sam, surprising himself as he held an upturned hand out to the younger Winchester.

"Come on. Can't let them leave us behind again." John smiled invitingly, hoping he wasn't pressuring Sam into something he wasn't ready for.

Chapter Text

Sam took a hesitant step forward as he sized up the fingers forming a bridge to the bookshelf. This was the first time he'd ever even considered putting himself willingly into a person's hand. He wasn't even sure if he could manage it if it was Sherlock offering, not after what they'd gone through. 

Yet John was patient and careful, had helped Sam when he was hurt and listened when he needed to talk.

That was what decided Sam in the end. John was the first person to sit around and just listen to him that wasn't Dean, and Dean was one of the worst people at expressing his feelings. Sam felt he could trust John, and trust was hard to find in their lives.

His first step onto John's fingers was timid, and he stared down at the way the skin slightly sank under his weight. He wasn't heavy enough to make much of an impression against the thick skin, and it made him wonder just how much John could feel them on his hand.

Sam walked across the long fingers, staring at the palm that was spread out before him, and found his eyes trailing up John's arm, all the way to his shoulder. On Sherlock, that was where Dean had chosen as his spot. Sam had seen his older brother sitting up there as casual as can be, and now it was Sam's turn to do the same on the other human. John didn't wear a scarf like Sherlock, but Sam didn't see that as a problem once he got up there. He could hold onto the jacket collar and be more stable than what Dean had contrived.

As Sam's foot sank into the divot of John's palm, his weight shifted and he switched from a timid walk to a determined run. He didn't show any of the nerves that Dean had at the thought of being suspended so high in the air on a shoulder, and because of that it was almost effortless for him to dash over John's wrist and scale up the thick jacket fabric, his small hands finding purchase between the black threads the same way he'd used comforters to climb up onto beds. It was a more reliable option than trying to climb up with his hook sometimes.

Sam reached the top of John's arm before he knew it and his eyes went wide at the audacity of his plan. He hadn’t thought this through. To hide any nerves he might still harbor, he quickly pushed the collar aside and found a place where he'd be able to sit.

"Ready when you are!" he chirped brightly, pausing to look around the room and all the way down at his bookshelf, the small opening between the books where he'd come out of looking even smaller from this point of view.

John breathed deeply and slowly, doing his best to stay relaxed as Sam slowly crossed his fingers. They were thicker than balance beams to the kid. Trying not to think of that, John watched Sam step into his hand.

Willingly-- that's what really amazed John. After everything Sam and his brother went through when they were children, and again not so long ago with Sherlock, not to mention the clumsy grab John had made at his brother that morning-- Sam had every right to outright refuse contact with the doctor. To fear it. The amount of trust displayed by the miniature man stepping onto his palm was baffling to John, and actually quite touching.

And then it became terrifying.

John's breath hitched and he stiffened as Sam shot up his arm in the time it took him to blink rapidly. By the time John was sure his heart hadn't stopped, Sam’s little voice piped up and John bit back a flinch. He'd never heard either Winchester's voice so clearly, and certainly not the more timid brother's. Now he was right next to John's ear, tucked between his collar and his neck. 

How the hell does Sherlock do this?

Swallowing hard, John carefully sidestepped out in front of the mirror to see if Sam was hidden alright. He let out a small sigh; Sam was barely noticeable, which was both a relief and stressful to John. He could only just feel Sam's slight weight on his shoulder if he concentrated a bit. The amount of control and power Sam had entrusted him with hit John all at once, making him feel bigger than ever.

It was not a feeling John was accustomed to, to say the least.

"Right," he muttered, tweaking his collar a bit before heading decisively out of the flat before he could change his mind.

As John walked down the stairs, Sam found himself shrinking down for balance and for security.

With swift steps Sam could never keep up with, John was taking him out of the only home he’d known for years. From where his adopted family lived two houses down to their current accommodations in Sherlock and John’s flat, they hadn’t stepped foot out into London in years.

Guess this can’t be counted as stepping foot in London, Sam mused to himself, temporarily entertained by the fact that he was sitting on a human much like John and Sherlock rode cabs, only with less control.

As John opened the door of 221B and left the flat behind, Sam swiftly leaned against his neck, his hands tightening on the collar of John’s coat. A cool breeze hit him, and he was glad for the warmth John put off, keeping him from shivering, but the sudden feel of a constant thud against Sam’s side almost made him throw his weight in the other direction from shock.

He was feeling John’s pulse.

And not only that. Each breath John took was now a palpable sensation against Sam’s side. He could feel everything down to the smallest twitch. How does Dean do this with Sherlock? Sam found himself wondering, and he put a hand on John’s neck for support.

“This is something else,” Sam said, his voice low as he finally tore his attention away from John and stared out at their surroundings, scanning the street for any threats.

"You're telling me," John muttered in agreement, doing his best to express his awe at the feeling of tiny shifts against his neck as little as possible. No one was supposed to know Sam was there, and John would be damned if he even inadvertently revealed him. So, though he was on high alert, eyeing every single pedestrian for signs of suspicion, his outward countenance remained calm.

With a sigh, John gathered his swirling thoughts as he kept an eye on the back of Sherlock's dark curls further down the walk. Wherever he and Dean were going, they weren't wasting any time. John worked to keep a pace quick enough to keep up with them, yet smooth enough for Sam.

"How ya holding up?" he queried, hoping this all wasn't too much.

Sam couldn’t help but flinch slightly at the voice, having fallen into a daze as he watched Sherlock striding away from them, John keeping up with his quicker, shorter paces. Both humans too fast for Sam to keep up with on his own.

“I, ah… I’m fine,” Sam managed for a reply, though his tone was less convincing than his hesitant words. He dared to look up at the sky, both awed and terrified at the sight of how open the world was around them. The freedom of the road in the Impala during his childhood was gone to him now. He’d adjusted to the comforting sight of dark walls and dark halls, always on the alert.

That instinct was what made him duck down whenever a trace of a tingle crept up his back, alerting him to other humans in the area. With John’s eyes pointing forward, and Sam crouched close enough to his neck to be almost impossible to see anyway, the human couldn’t interfere with the ability, and so far Sherlock gave no sign that he’d noticed his distant tail.

“It’s so… open,” Sam said. He took a deep breath of the crisp, clean London air, so different compared to the stuffy walls he called home. “People everywhere… cars, shops, so much going on…”

John stopped himself from shrugging at Sam's observations, remembering how much even the slightest movement could affect the lad. Nodding seemed too shaky as well. While John was glad that Sam was staying hidden, he wished he had some way to see him, be able to reassure the lad with his eyes.

"Well, that's London for you," he quipped under his breath. "Never really stands still."

He went quiet for a moment, not wanting to draw attention by talking to himself for too long. With Sherlock well in sight, John chanced a glance around at the street, the row of buildings and alleys they were passing. "Do you reckon there are others?" he whispered, curiosity taking hold for a moment. "Like you, I mean, out around the city."

Sam’s grip tightened on John’s collar as the human looked around the street. “Yeah, of course,” he said reflexively, remembering his family and the others they talked to down the row. Past them, there were lines of contact with others throughout London. Certain places where it was safer to congregate, or areas that were only safe for one or two families in a home. “There’s a bunch down the line, plus our family--” 

Then, he remembered himself, and exactly how they’d feel if they knew he was telling a human. “Just-- don’t tell anyone,” Sam said insistently, flushing a little. “They took us in and we owe them better than that.”

John's brow shot up. "Oh, no! Sorry, yeah," he blurted, trailing off when a couple of passersby eyed him strangely. After a moment, John continued his assurance more quietly. "I won't tell. Didn't mean to pry, just curious."

Still, he couldn't help letting his eyes wander. A month ago, the thought of tiny people living hidden in London would never have occurred to him. Now he could think of little else. Every night he pondered over the questions he'd collected that day: how many were out there? Did they all live hidden in houses? What did they do for hobbies? Did they have hobbies?

John made sure to never press Sam or Dean on any of these matters, of course. They kept to themselves, and John could respect that. He had to admit, though, he was a little proud that Sam was starting to open up to him. Slowly but surely.

“I just need to make sure,” Sam said softly, putting a hand against John’s neck. The beat of a pulse fluttered against his fingers. “Trust doesn’t come easy.”

Hunkering down again, Sam paid careful attention to the feeling on the back of his neck, which grew and waned in intensity as John walked by other passerby as he followed Dean. The shock of a burn never came, and Sam took that to mean that none of the city goers knew he was there. Focusing on it was a good way to distract himself from the sheer openness of the world around them, and Sam used the collar of John’s jacket and his neck as a substitute for the walls of his home, helping lower his nerves. He was safe here.

John blinked at the smallest touch against his neck, and it took him a second to work out that it must be Sam's hand. He gave the subtlest of nods. 

"I understand," he murmured, putting his attention back on Sherlock. Apparently right on time, as the detective made a sharp turn and crossed the main road. John picked up the speed a little so he wouldn't lose sight of him for too long.

"Do you have any idea where you're going?" Sherlock griped as Dean directed him across the street. Knowing every road and back-alley in London was only so much help when Sherlock was being led by a tiny man on his shoulder who hadn't set foot outside in over a decade.

Dean rolled his eyes. “No,” he said pointedly. “The only times I’ve been outside in London, I’ve either been on your shoulder or in a cage.

The pull at his neck slowly changed direction as they walked along, and Dean was beginning to get a feel for following it so swiftly. “You wanted to see if you can find what I track, and that’s what I’m doing.” He straightened. “But I think we’re getting close.”

Closing his eyes to concentrate, Dean tried to ignore everything else past the puzzling tingle. “It’s like it’s moving, but I think we’re moving around it, and it’s staying in place.” He jabbed an arm directly towards where the feeling originated from. “Hook that left comin’ up.”

Sherlock sighed, but obediently made the turn Dean requested. He wasn't accustomed to doing anything obediently.

The detective's eyes darted around the street, giving the ground a fair amount of focus, on high alert for Dean's mystery quarry. It had honestly surprised Sherlock that he was drawn to something so far from the flat. The descriptions he'd given heavily suggested a more isolated, much smaller radius. Apparently the elder Winchester had held himself back, and was leaping at the opportunity to branch out.

"Is it getting stronger? Does it feel closer?" muttered Sherlock, wanting to gain an intimate understanding of Dean's knack.

“It’s hard to explain…” Dean said, trailing off as he tried to find a way to put a feeling into words. “It’s more… refined than it was. Like we’re following a pin, instead of a beach ball.” He rubbed his forehead. That wasn’t quite right. “Like the closer we get, the more accurate a read I can get on its location.”

The location of what still nagged at him. He could always feel other things buzzing in the back of his mind, but with no way to search for them he’d steadfastly ignored them until it was nigh unnoticeable. “Can’t wait to see what we win,” Dean muttered. “All these years and I can finally go figure out what’s been pulling me.”

Sherlock hummed, mentally jotting down these new details. The confirmation of Dean having exhibited stronger tugs from outside the flat all along brought a knowing smirk to his lips before he sobered up and glanced around again.

He'd reached a busier street, lined with shops of all kinds. Sherlock ignored them, paying more attention to the people on all sides of him. His eyes were colder than usual now that he had a passenger to protect. The air of I am not to be trifled with was amplified around him, and peopled naturally gave him a bit of space as he strode past various shops.

With so many unknown humans around, Dean arranged the scarf around him so he was completely hidden from sight, keeping his mind focused on their rapidly approaching destination more than their current location. Sherlock was the one in charge of this ride, so he didn’t have to worry about letting his eyes drift closed. They’d keep going, regardless.

Then, without warning, the feeling went from in front of them, to beside them, to behind them, and Dean stiffened, his eyes flashing open.

“That’s it!” he hissed excitedly, repeatedly jabbing Sherlock in the side of his neck with a finger. “That shop you just passed!”

Flinching at the sudden pricks from Dean's frantic pokes, Sherlock walked backwards until he stood parallel to the shop entrance.

His brow arched as he sized up the place, and his lips parted in confusion. A glance on the street revealed a parking garage, reaffirming that this was indeed what Dean had indicated.

Sherlock had gone into this endeavor with minimal presumptions, but the last thing he ever expected to be led to was a bakery.

On the other hand, though Dean had no expectations for where they were going, only a driving curiosity for his chance to finally find out what pulled at him from distant points in the city, was not surprised to see the bakery before them as he pushed the blue folds of the scarf out of his way.

The full force of the aroma of the bakery hit Dean, and he was pulled back into his past. He could see a piece of pie held out for him. Warm, gooey apple chunks dripped with a sheen of sugar and cinnamon. Crust flaked off as a fork bit into it.

How ‘bout some pie?

Dean was practically bouncing in place as he caught sight of the spread of pastries in the bakery, his eyes drawn to a line of warm, steaming pies. “Dude, they have pie! 

Sherlock lowered his gaze from the sign above the shop to frown at the pastries lining the window  across from him. "I see that," he murmured, clarity starting to breach the perplexed fog that had ground Sherlock's thought process to a halt.

Of course something as simple as pie would be sought out by Dean, if given the chance. Sherlock often ignored the fact that he and his brother used to be human (mostly because a large portion of his principles had to do with relying on scientific fact, not magic). Hence, he forgot that Dean, in his youth, could easily have developed a fondness for the treat. A treat that had been denied him for over a decade as he lived separated from the human world.

And now that it was in his sights, the tiny man was simply buzzing with an animated energy that Sherlock hadn't seen in him yet. The detective supposed he couldn't deny him.

Pressing his lips together with a determination one didn't usually exhibit walking into a pastry shop, Sherlock entered.

John hesitated when he saw Sherlock stop and backtrack, looking around in confusion. He continued to approach slowly, trying to find a way to get a look at the kind of shop Sherlock was going into. He had to chuckle when he saw the baked goods in the window.

"What the hell…" he mused, grinning at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

Sam leaned forward, cautiously peering past John’s collar so he could see what was going on, and ready to duck back under cover in a moment’s notice of the burn of someone’s eyes fell on him.

He lit up at the sight of the bakery, recognizing the pleasant smells and familiar, if oversized interior. America or England, a bakery was a bakery, and now Sam knew exactly what was calling Dean’s name all these years.


Distantly, Sam wondered if he should have known that of all things in the world, a slice of pie would call his brother’s name enough to feel it across a city. It was Dean’s favorite food, more than burgers and french fries, and had been for as long as Sam could remember.

“I can’t believe it,” Sam said, unable to choke down a laugh. “He actually managed to find pie. In London.

"Ah, he would, wouldn't he?" breathed John, shaking his head as he followed Sherlock inside.

The detective stood staring at the menu hanging from the ceiling above the cash register. "What kind?" he asked in a hushed whisper to Dean, ignoring the bell that sounded when John came in. His priority was keeping his passenger hidden and choosing the correct flavor of pie.

Dean’s eyes were round as he scanned the counters, jumping from pie to gooey pie. After years of nothing, he suddenly had a feast laid before him, and someone asking him which one to get.

He didn’t even need to see them to know where the one he wanted was. It still called to him, a siren song inside his head while his knack flared with their proximity to his goal. He pointed.

“That one. The apple pie.” Simple, elegant, delicious. There was nothing like a slice of warm apple pie.

Sherlock nodded and approached the register, putting in the order. It was between breakfast and lunch, the perfect lull to ensure Dean would get his pie as soon as possible.

While he waited, the detective glanced around the shop and found John hovering near the door with a smirk. Sherlock blinked, surprised that his flatmate had followed him all that way without tipping him off. Either John was much stealthier than he gave him credit for, or Sherlock had inadvertently put all of his focus on Dean the whole way there.

Either way, Sherlock made a note to be more mindful in the future.

He shot John a questioning look, wondering if he'd left Sam alone in the flat. Picking up on his meaning, the doctor's smile softened and he gave the smallest tilt of his head toward one shoulder. Sherlock's eyes dropped to John's collar, but they didn't linger there for long. If he stared, it would draw attention to the younger Winchester. Best to avoid that, especially since John's coat offered a less shelter for Sam than Sherlock's did for Dean.

The tingle that ran up Sam’s neck at Sherlock’s glance had the youngest of the group ducking down, wary of being spotted. He had no way to separate out a friendly glance from Sherlock from anyone else’s look and knew it was best to play it safe in such a vulnerable position.

With John’s head movement and the loss of the tingle against his neck, Sam couldn’t help but lean out slightly so he could peer around the room and see what was happening. There was no sign of Dean on the tall detective, but with the blue scarf all wrapped up, that meant nothing. Sam grinned at the sight of the pie the bakery attendant grasped, recognizing the apple without a problem. He might not be as big a fan as Dean, but there was no denying the appeal of a warm dessert.

John resisted the urge to look to the side to check on Sam after his flinch, reminding himself that he wouldn't be able to see the lad anyway. He seemed to have relaxed a bit after that, so John did as well. Carefully pocketing his hands, he waited while Sherlock accepted his fresh slice of pie and curtly thanked the man who served it.

"John," greeted Sherlock, stepping out and holding the door open for his flatmate.

John lifted an eyebrow at the little plastic box Sherlock held. "Successful hunt, then?" he asked on his way out.

"Objectively, yes." With that, the pair started back toward Baker Street in matching stride.

Chapter Text

As the odd group left the bakery behind, Sam hidden by John’s collar and Dean by Sherlock’s, Dean came to realize that there was something missing. For the first time in years, probably the first time since they’d ever realized their knacks existed, he felt nothing on the back of his neck. No lingering tingle from other parts of the city.

Just a cool breeze.

It made Dean realize that all those years, the mysterious tugging he’d felt was the pie, calling his name. All the different directions the tugs came from were just the different places in the city the pie was waiting for him each day. Now that it was held in Sherlock’s hands, all those impressions were gone, and Dean had nothing pulling at him.

It felt strange after so many years living in the walls.

Stretching out his legs in the blue waves of the scarf, Dean let himself relax, the even pace from the detective smooth and relaxing now that he had adjusted to their odd travel method.

Down on John’s shoulder, Sam leaned forward to see if he could catch a glimpse of Dean and Sherlock, but he was on the wrong side of John. The way the pair was walking along put Sam on the outside edge between the group. Failing to spot his older brother, he leaned backwards to try in the other direction, keeping one hand on John’s collar the entire time. The shorter human’s quick pace resulted in his shoulder bobbing, and Sam was getting the hang of shifting his weight in time with John’s walk.

The sight of the collar vanishing behind John’s neck gave Sam an idea of how he could get close enough to see Dean and Sherlock.

Keeping himself down below the level of the collar, Sam carefully put one foot in front of the other. The neckline of the jumper John was wearing under the jacket gave him a place to plant his boots, and all he had to do was not slip down the edge of the cliff of John’s back. Sam’s pulse quickened. Just like at home, he encouraged himself, calling to mind all the daredevil stunts he’d pulled on Dean over and over again.

John blinked when he felt Sam's weight shift, what little he could make out of it. He seemed to be shuffling further back, and for a moment John worried that he was moving too fast or jostling the little fellow.

Sam's intention became clear, however, as he moved across the back of his neck.

John's shoulders tensed and tiny hairs stood on end as the younger Winchester's tiny body brushed against them.

While John focused on the barest sensation of someone walking on him, Sam was focused on the task at hand. After he reached the halfway point, he pushed himself off harder, clambering at last to John’s other shoulder.


Only when Sam made it safely to the other side did John remember to breathe. He doubted he would ever truly be used to any of this. Not like they teach how to handle interacting with tiny people in school.

Sam blinked at how high up Sherlock’s shoulder remained from his new seat, oblivious to John’s nerves over his casual move. There was no sight of Dean all that way up. Poking his head just above the collar, Sam gave a cursory glance around their surroundings, waiting to see if his knack would react to any humans catching sight of him. When nothing happened, he cupped his hands over his mouth to direct his voice.

“I can’t believe you spent all those years needing pie! 

A very little hand could be seen grabbing the edge of Sherlock’s collar, then pushing it down. Dean’s madly grinning face peeked over at Sam. “Dude, right?!”

Supernatural Borrowers by GTPanda

Artwork by @justanothergiant!

The brothers calling out to each other surprised both humans, who turned their heads slightly toward their respective passengers. They were still out of sight to their taller counterparts, but their voices were loud and clear in Sherlock and John's ears.

Yet, no one but John and Sherlock were paying them any attention. They were far from the busier street, only a pedestrian or two going by. Even shouting, the Winchesters' small voices were easily drowned out by the street traffic, imperceptible to anyone but each other and their humans. And given how stressed John would have expected the pair of them to be, their evident excitement made him smile.

"Feel better, now you've found it?" he asked Dean, with whom he was at eye level for once.

Dean was as proud as a peacock as he smirked back. “I’ve been wondering what that nagging feeling was for years,” he said, glancing between John at eye level and Sam down below. It felt oddly satisfying to be the one looking down at his younger brother for the first time since they were teenagers and Sam hit a growth spurt that just didn’t stop, leaving Dean behind in the dust.

At least he was taller than the rest of their adopted family.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam duck back down behind John’s collar and instinctively followed suit, trusting Sam’s knack like it was his own to keep them out of sight of anyone else.

The sensation was fleeting, and Sam pulled himself back up a moment later. “Next thing you know we’ll be running across town for a bacon cheeseburger,” he teased Dean across the gap between John and Sherlock.

All he caught sight of from Dean was a tiny hand, flipping him the bird.

"Let's not," Sherlock interjected, cutting off an amused chuckle from John. His mind was far from the brothers' antics. "While it was-- interesting to observe just how far your sense can reach," he glanced down at the packaged pie, still warm in his hand in spite of the mid-morning chill, "we should focus next on improving your accuracy on demand."

John shot Sherlock a look, which went ignored as they crossed the main road back toward Baker Street. He got that what he was trying to do with Dean's knack was important, but Sherlock could stand to be less robotic about the whole affair.

"Come on, Sherlock, let him have his victory," he chided. Lowering his gaze to where Dean was hidden, he added, "You deserve it."

Dean was unaffected by Sherlock’s comment. “Hey, so long as we both get some of that pie,” he said, peering off the edge of Sherlock’s shoulder once more to make sure the pie was really still there, “I’m sure we can run through another session or two today.” After such a successful run, he could feel a huge surge of confidence for finding the pie in an entire city with no clue where he was going.

Despite his detached attitude, Sherlock smirked at the notion that after he'd gone to the trouble of purchasing the very thing Dean had apparently been yearning for years for, the smaller man wouldn't get his share.

"Oh, I'm certain I couldn't finish all this myself," quipped the detective, opening the door to the flat with a creak. Any remaining tension in his shoulders from their venture into the city was released as he ascended the stairs, John following closely behind with Sam. "Knock yourself out," he said as he placed the box on the kitchen table, lifting a hand to transfer Dean from his shoulder to the surface.

John smoothly lowered himself into one of the chairs, propping the elbow that was attached to Sam's shoulder against the table while his free hand reached over to open the box. If Sherlock wasn't partaking and Sam and Dean didn't mind sharing, the doctor reckoned a few bites of the dessert wouldn't hurt.

Sam took the trip down John’s arm more cautiously than his trip up, carefully navigating the folds of fabric and keeping one hand attached to the jacket at all times. It went by quick, and Sam was glad that John let him have his independence with something the human might be tempted to offer his help for. Sam prided his ability to get around such a large world on his own.

By the time he reached Dean, his older brother had put together two plates made of tinfoil and was heaping apple pie onto them, more than Sam thought either of them had a chance of finishing. Shrugging it off, he figured any leftovers could be saved for later on. It’s not like Dean would waste pie like that.

Sam sat down and dug out his own foil to start crafting small spoons for them to eat with. “So, does this make you a pie-hound?” he asked with a grin.

Dean gave Sam a flat glare. “Not funny.”

“K-9 Search and Pie Squad?”


"Alright, boys, behave," John chuckled, leaning back in the chair once Sam was clear. He reached back to fetch a fork from the drawer, holding it in his lap while he waited for the Winchesters to gather their shares. 

Watching the brothers work with tinfoil only became more fascinating the more John witnessed it. They used it for so many things, in ways John thought were incredibly resourceful. He quietly wondered what couldn't be done with tinfoil.

He tried not to stare, worrying that he wasn't doing a very good job at that. Still, he smiled and continued. "We're celebrating here. A job well done and a pie well found."

“All the pie you can eat,” Dean declared, clapping his hands together and immensely satisfied with the amount piled on his and Sam’s plates. He shoved one at Sam and got a fork in return, and wasted no time digging in, letting out an “Mmmm" of enjoyment.

“Nothin’ else like it!”

Sam was slower to start on his pie, but no less appreciative of the flavor. “You said it,” he said, toasting Dean with a scoop before taking a bite himself. There was nothing else in the world like sitting on a giant table, enjoying pie with humans that outsized them by nearly twenty times. Nothing.

"Hear, hear," John agreed, leaning over to snag a small bite for himself. As he ate with the Winchesters and Sherlock shuffled around the kitchen behind him-- one eye on his phone while fishing through the mess of instruments on the counter, lost in his own world-- it sank in how extraordinary this whole situation was. How far they'd all come.

It wasn't too long ago that John walked in to find Sam and Dean trapped by Sherlock, the younger brother balled up in terror, twitching at every single movement the humans made, and the older all bluster and anger. Now Sam was climbing up and down John's arms with ease, Dean and Sherlock were solving crimes together (among other things), and the pair of them were perfectly content sharing a meal or a treat with the humans they were so afraid of in the beginning.

It turned something as simple as eating pie together into something marvelous, and John wondered where they'd be if Sherlock had picked up on them much earlier, or not at all. He could hardly imagine it, despite the fact that a month ago he wouldn't have dreamed up the position he was currently in.

Chapter Text

Later on that day, Sam found himself alone in the small home he and Dean had eked out for themselves, placed directly next to the bookshelf that bordered the fireplace in the flat shared by Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

Dean was off practicing his knack with Sherlock, this time staying in the flat, a technicality he’d missed during Sherlock’s initial explanation of the planned training. Sam found himself wondering if Dean had missed it like he claimed, or purposely misheard for the chance to get out of the flat and find out what had nagged at him all those years since their knacks surfaced.

Their home was quiet, so it was a good chance for Sam to go through his notes. He’d haphazardly stuffed them into his bag that morning when he heard John calling for him-- the last thing he’d ever expected to hear. Now that he had heard that booming voice through the walls, it was nowhere near as terrifying as he’d always thought it would be.

He was also bored.

Sam stared down at the pages arranged in front of him, a collection of notes taken throughout the last few weeks. So much change, so many new things to learn… He made sure to mark down everything he remembered hearing. Unlike Sherlock and John, Sam had no easy way to access information, so instead he compiled it all himself. It gave him something to do while Dean worked at his various projects around the flat, some of which Sam would find himself hauled out of their home to help Dean setting up, especially if there were clifflike heights involved. The twine snitched from Sherlock during the shoelace fiasco went a long way in alleviating Dean’s problem with the climbing. The walls now had twine at every high intersection.

There was a creak from directly to the side, and Sam’s head snapped towards the wall. He’d almost forgotten that John was around for the day, likely relaxing on his armchair while updating his blog.

Sam perked up, and shuffled his pages back into a pile. He could check on what John was up to and escape some of the monotony in the walls for a bit, an option they didn’t have available until recently. If John was too busy or didn’t notice him, he lost nothing.

The pages were placed back in his satchel with care, along with one of the broken pencil tips he’d found and taken for writing. Once Sam finished working with the pages, he could arrange them on his side of the bedroom, around the comfortable nest of fabric he’d gathered to sleep in. Dean’s side was full of other types of clutter, experimenting with any tools he found or created.

The exit to the bookshelf was pretty much the brothers’ front door, though they’d never shared that information with Sherlock or John. It went against their instincts to let the two humans know where they lived, and neither had come poking at the place the brothers appeared when called. 


Stepping out into the light, Sam chose to pass through two books leaning sharply on their sides, his eyes fighting to adjust to the brighter light found in the flat. Only a dim glow made it into their main room, and the darkness in the bedroom was far more complete.

Sam smiled when he saw he was right about John working on his computer, and sat down on the edge of the shelf, content to share in the peaceful air of the flat and listen for any hint of what Sherlock and Dean were up to as he leafed through a few pages of paper.

John rubbed at his eyes, going over his latest blog entry one more time. He'd had enough of Sherlock grilling him about his grammar time and time again. Nowadays he proofread each entry at least twice before uploading it, usually three or four times to be safe.

At least Sherlock was currently distracted, so John didn't have to worry about the detective breathing down his neck about it. He had recruited John to hide a few small things in the upstairs flat-- coins, tacks, bullets. Things for Dean to seek out and lead Sherlock toward, both verbally and silently. John could hear Sherlock moving around, griping every now and then. John shook his head, ever baffled at how those two managed to work so well together.

Movement in the corner of John's eye caught his attention, and he glanced over toward the bookshelf. He was less surprised to see Sam casually sitting there than he would normally be. All things considered, that was the place John had seen the brothers show up the most, as though they had a preference for the spot.

Not wanting to bother the lad too much, seeing how he looked preoccupied with his papers, John simply caught Sam's eye and offered a friendly smile and a nod before turning back to his computer.

Even so, he couldn't help peeking curiously in Sam's direction once in a while, wondering what he was busying himself with.

Though Sam remained focused on his notes at first, trying to organize them before he got distracted, he could feel John’s gaze each and every time the human glanced over. It was growing easier to ignore the feeling, and the more time he spent with John the lighter it felt against his neck. Unlike Sherlock, whose gaze remained as heavy as ever from his customary intensity.

Eventually, Sam felt curiosity of his own bubble to the surface, and he folded both hands on the pages to hold them in place as he looked up at John, staring at the computer with open curiosity. For the last year, he’d heard Sherlock and John talking through the walls, often discussing John’s ‘blog,’ but before now Sam wouldn’t even risk peeking out at him while he worked unless he was in a well-protected hideaway, like the yellow smiley face Dean was so fond of, using the bullet holes for windows. The laptop was always closed when the humans left, putting it out of Sam’s reach.

“You… use that to ‘blog,’ right?” Sam ventured tentatively, uncertain of the phrases Sherlock and John used when they talked about computers. When Sam was a kid, computers didn’t exist in the form and numbers they did present day.

John's brow lifted a fraction at Sam's question, and he stopped typing to give the lad his full attention. He had begun to suspect that, with Dean training with Sherlock, Sam had come out to seek silent company, and John had been prepared to not bother him while they both worked. It was a pleasant turn of events that Sam initiated contact after their contented silence.

"Ah, yeah, I use it for my blog. Among other things," said John to answer Sam's question. The part of his mind that still had a hard time considering the Winchesters as not human wondered how a young lad such as Sam wasn't up-to-the-minute with matters like laptops. Then he remembered. "Oh, right. Computers like this weren't around when you were…"

John trailed off, hopefully before his lack of tact could drive the kid off or set back any of the progress made between them in recent weeks. "Sorry. Um, do you wanna see?" He moved his hands underneath the body of his laptop, ready to adjust the angle if needed.

Sam’s ears burned with embarrassment, and he was glad for the hair that blocked them from sight. He ducked down his head for a second before looking hopefully back at John, unable to resist the temptation of the invitation.

“I’ve always been curious about computers…” Sam said, always truthful with John. “If I’m not interrupting. I watched you work on it a few times during the last year, but I could never see what you were doing.” His eyes drifted to the yellow smiley face across the room from their seats. It was distant enough from John’s armchair to make it hard to read the laptop.

"Not interrupting me at all," John assured. "I'm just finishing up, but… well here, have a look."

The doctor shifted his weight to lean a little more toward the bookshelf, rotating his computer so that he and Sam could both have a good view of it. "I had a therapist a while back, before Sherlock and I met. She reckoned that keeping a blog about what happened to me would help me adjust to life after Afghanistan. Don't see her all that much anymore, but I do keep up the blog. Sherlock certainly gives me plenty to write about."

Sam made no effort to hide the fascination on his face as he hungrily scanned the planes of text that coated the laptop screen. It was the size of a movie theater screen from his childhood, and they could arrange a number of seats for that movie on the keys John’s hands would dance across. Sam couldn’t hope to reach from one end of the keyboard to the other without walking.

“It’s about what happens to you?” Sam repeated, intrigued at the similarity to his scattered sheets of paper he collected and covered in everything he learned and knew… and more than a few saved for venting at Dean’s latest stupidity. “Like a journal.” John smiled, glad to see Sam taking it all in and understanding the basic concepts John was offering very well, considering they were foreign to him.

That brought him back to John’s last statement. Sherlock certainly gives me plenty to write about. And Sherlock was currently immersed in working as a team with Dean to hone his ability to help on cases. 

“Does that mean you put us on the blog?” Sam asked, nervous at the thought of that kind of breach of the trust their adopted family had put in them when they struck out on their own. An entire community of people small enough to fit in a hand lived scattered throughout London, and avoiding notice was one of their main goals.

John’s smile melted and his eyes widened. "Oh, no! No, not without your permission," he insisted, appalled by the idea of going behind Sam and Dean's backs like that. As their flatmate (while he was a little hopeful of having earned the title of their friend, he thought it best not to make assumptions) John owed it to them to keep their secrecy.

Though, thinking back on it…

"Well, actually," he amended, "I might have mentioned you in a couple of the more recent entries. Nothing specific, of course! Very vague stuff, just enough to give you and Dean a little credit for your help on the cases, without saying it was you. The ones I know about, at least."

Now it was John's turn to feel a bit of heat rising in his neck. To give Sam an example, he clicked on one of the links in the sidebar, opening his write-up of the case involving the Red-Headed League. He'd put it up in the earlier stages of the case, after the murderers had been arrested but while Sherlock and Scotland Yard were still baffled. Later on, he updated it with the allusion that new information had come to light for the detective. Generally, that was as specific as John got about the brothers.

Sam leaned forward, gratified to at last be able to read one of the blog entries he’d heard so much about. He scanned through the text, remembering the weeks of listening about the case through the walls with Dean while Sherlock spun himself into circles.

“Dean was pretty proud of that one,” Sam admitted as he recalled finding Dean up by the smiley face lookout. “But we had to wait for ages for the newspapers to be left on their own to leave a note, and Dean came up with what to circle so Sherlock might be able to figure it out…” Sam smiled in recollection. “Hell, without that case, we wouldn’t have taken such a risk getting the biscuits while Sherlock was in the living room. But he looked asleep and you were out, so…” He shrugged.

"And the rest was history," John finished, chuckling to hide the wince that still came when he recalled how he'd found Sherlock with Sam and his brother. He tried not to let it get to him, knowing that however they met, it had all come together. They were doing well, against all odds.

"There's more than just my blog, of course," he went on, "there's tons of things you can look up. People put all kinds of information on the net-- though, not all of it's true, check your sources-- but yeah, it's fairly easy to access just about anything you want to know more about."

“I’ve always wondered about it,” Sam said, letting John in on one of his secrets. “I keep everything I can in my journal pages,” he lifted up his small pile of scraps, half of them covered in writing and the other half waiting for him to start, “but it’s not the same as an actual journal. I always have to find ways to keep them in place so I don’t lose them.”

There was a thump from upstairs, and Sam found himself looking at the ceiling and wondering what Dean was getting up to. He could make out the sound of Sherlock’s steady voice, but Dean was too quiet to make out through the walls and insulation, and could be drowned out by Sherlock even when they were in the same room as Sam and John.

“Our dad used to keep a journal,” Sam said thoughtfully, remembering John Winchester’s pride and joy, the journal outlining every monster hunt in his long and varied career. Sam had only gotten to peek at it a few times before their curse, and without Dean’s explanation of everything that ‘goes bump in the night,’ would have been caught off guard by it all. “I always wondered if he would switch to computers and cell phones the more we see them around.”

John shrugged. "He might have done. We all do eventually." John certainly had to; he could recall his early years in medical school, when technology was making great strides. The rise of the internet. John didn't know many people, but he got the sense that most took for granted how much was readily available to them.

Looking at Sam and his pages, his notes, John understood that Sam was definitely not one of those people. He'd spent half his life separate from it all, yet he did the best he could with what he had. John admired him for that.

"If you like, you can use my computer sometimes," John suggested. "I could show you how to find whatever you want, give you my password in case you get locked out, I dunno. Would you be interested?"

John had a feeling he knew the answer, but he asked anyway. Sam was still getting around to accepting what John offered.

Any surprise Sam felt at the offer was washed away by his eager desire to discover what was out there. “Oh, I’d love to if you're ever not using it!” he blurted out, catching himself off guard with his enthusiasm at the idea. “I mean… if you don’t mind.”

So far back as Sam could remember, he didn’t recall even Sherlock being offered John’s password. Sam had actually watched the detective hack into the computer, intrigued at what he was doing and amused when John came home and found out.

“Even Dean might want to see what’s online if he ever escapes Sherlock’s training,” Sam said, again looking up at the ceiling. It was odd being so far from Dean like this. For so long, the farthest apart they ever went was no longer than the length of a wall in the flat.

"Well, er…" A slow grin passed over John's lips as he put the finishing touches on Sherlock and Dean's latest escapade, lovingly titled 'The Noble Bachelor,’ and set it to upload. Then he leaned back in his seat, a hint of excitement in his eyes. With the other two doing their own work elsewhere and John's blogging done for the day, he was left with quite a bit of free time for Sam to fill. "Not using it now, if you want to get a head start on Dean."

“Really?” Sam scrambled to his feet, hurriedly pushing his scrap paper into his satchel. Those could wait for another time with an offer like using a laptop on the table. He clasped it shut with the metal fasteners on either side and rubbed the smooth leather with a practiced motion. “I’d love to give it a try,” he said breathlessly, unable to deny the allure of a chance to look at the internet. If John wasn’t so vigilant about keeping Sherlock off his laptop and had ever left it lying around, Sam had to admit he might already have given it a try, just as he used to try and sneak a peek at the books around the flat.

He paused, wondering if he should take the time to climb to the ground and up onto John’s armchair. Normally, climbing everywhere didn’t bother him at all, but he’d feel bad making John wait that long.

Noticing Sam's hesitation, it didn't take John long to figure out what the problem was. Without a second thought, he leaned over a bit and reached his arm out to the shelf, setting his palm face up on the shelf next to Sam. He knew perfectly well that the lad could and would probably prefer to get over on his own. John's option was simply quicker.

"Here," he offered, hoping he wasn't overstating any boundaries with the gesture.

Though Sam didn’t turn down the offered help, he stepped onto John’s hand with more gravity than his first time earlier that morning. The rush to catch up to Sherlock and Dean had compelled him to more reckless behavior than his norm, and now the full import of what he was doing as he stepped onto the firm hand hit him.

He’d only been in hands a few times before John’s, and none had been pleasant.

Sherlock, though he’d bruised Sam’s chest, had still responded when Sam told him he was hurt. The people in his childhood, snatching up the two brothers when they’d gone to ask for help to find their father, hadn’t even done that much.

A quick grab had dislocated Sam’s shoulder, and he’d bitten down the pain until the fist loosened around them, leaving them to rot in a cage while their fate was stolen away from them. Dean had popped it in, but the amount of pain Sam was in had made him black out for a good amount of time, leaving his older brother alone to face their captors with his obstinate behavior.

John was a level above everyone else, and even as Sam moved himself to the center of his palm, staring down at the lifeline under his boots with unabashed fascination, he wasn’t afraid of those powerful fingers snapping shut on him.

Taking a steadying breath, Sam gave John a thumbs up that he was ready.

Chapter Text

John let out a long breath of his own, letting his fingers curl into a guardrail behind Sam as the little guy held out his hands for balance. Though the sensation of holding an entire person in his hand and the awe that came with it hadn't lessened, John felt that he was beginning to get the hang of it. He just needed to relax and keep a steady arm as he carefully ferried Sam across the gap between his chair and the shelf.

He paused briefly before lowering Sam onto the surface of his laptop, right in front of the keys. They looked so comically large in comparison to the lad, making John ponder how much effort it would take Sam to press them down. As he opened a new tab to a search engine, he supposed he'd find out.

"There we are. All yours," John announced, pulling his hands back to give Sam room to work.

Sam’s head was on a swivel as he stepped towards the keys, taking it all in. He’d seen laptops operated before, but this was his first chance to see it all from up close. The screen loomed overhead, a search engine ready and waiting for him as he committed it all to memory. The hard drive whirred powerfully from underneath his boots, and Sam could swear his feet felt warmer than the rest of him.

Dropping his satchel down at the edge of the keyboard, Sam pulled out a blank sheet of paper and his pencil tip, just in case he needed to remember anything. He stuffed them both in his jacket pocket, pacing over to the trackpad. He knelt down, swiping his entire hand over the flat surface and was pleasantly surprised to see the mouse react to his touch the same way as it did for John or Sherlock’s fingers. It took him more work, but a few swipes moved the cursor over the entire screen, Sam slowly getting used to using it.

He clicked the search bar, then paused, realizing he had no idea what to search for first.

There was so much out there, and all waiting at his fingertips, but his mind went blank. Should he look up information about London? Try and find out what became of his father back in America? Indulge his curiosity about the monsters he’d read in John’s journal all those years before his curse?

A long moment of Sam staring at the screen passed, and then he finally settled on a course of action.

Sam sidled up to the edge of the keyboard, peering down at the keys. He had a feeling that if he measured them in comparison to himself, they’d be at least a square foot in size, and raised up above the rest of the laptop casing. He might be able to step between them, if he was careful.

Well, there was nothing else to it but to try. Sam hopped over to his first key, then to the second, arms pinwheeling as he nearly stumbled. This was a lot more involved than it looked.

By the time he was satisfied with what he had in the search engine, he was feeling winded from the workout, having to backspace his mistakes out several times. Sam walked around the edge of the keyboard and back to the trackpad, clicking Search on Impala 67 BQN 9R3 in the hopes of finding any information about John Winchester.

John chewed his thumb as he watched Sam work. What would take John seconds to do with little energy spent required so much more effort for someone four inches tall. But the doctor sat back quietly and tracked the younger Winchester's progress. If Sam needed or wanted help, John would gladly give it, but until then he would give Sam his space.

He perked up when it looked as though Sam had finished typing, his search results popping up. John skimmed over the screen, his brow lifting when he connected the words to something Sam had mentioned more than once.

"Ohh, the Impala's a car," he realized. Suddenly the few anecdotes he'd heard from Sam made a lot more sense. "Your… father's car, right?"

John's heart gave an uncertain flutter. Sam was looking for his father. John wasn't sure what to expect from this search, but he hoped for Sam's sake that somethingwould come of it.

“I grew up in that car,” Sam said, distracted by the images on the screen. He scrolled down, discarding a few as other cars and zeroing in on a picture from 1998. “Looks like he ran a red light a few years back…”

Bringing the cursor over to the image, Sam found that clicking it enlarged the image. He squinted his eyes, trying to make out the image in the driver’s side seat. His heart twisted a little to recognize his father’s shape, but he couldn’t see John Winchester’s eyes.

Sam exited the image, breathing heavily after seeing the ghost from his past. His father had survived that hunt for the witch. How had she gotten past him to the brothers? Surely John would have known she was going for his room.

A few tears threatened his vision, making the laptop screen swim, but Sam pushed on. He scrolled down, his brow furrowing. There was no record of the license plate after 1999. “Must’ve changed the plates…” Sam said, his shoulders slumping at the dead end.

"Could have done, yeah," John agreed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He was a bit surprised by the lack of information appearing about John Winchester, even if it was only through the car.

Seeing Sam so downhearted made John switch his focus immediately. Doing his best not to jostle Sam on the laptop, the doctor leaned on one arm of the chair, attempting to catch the lad's eye. The temptation to reach out and comfort the smaller man was strong, but John resisted. "Don't worry, okay? It's just one search. Why don't you try another."

“You’re right…” Sam said, blinking as he tried to push away his frustration. It was only a setback, as Dean would say. His first chance to use a laptop, and Sam couldn’t give in that easily. “ ‘S’not like Dad ever made himself easy to find,” Sam said thoughtfully as he took control of the cursor again, sliding his palm over the trackpad to erase his search.

The next he decided to try was a search for John Winchester. It was getting easier to hop from key to key the more he did it, but he often had to delete extra letters or gibberish from putting his boot down in the wrong place. Sam raked his fingers through his hair as the search came up at last, staring up at the very few news articles from his father’s life.

The main one Sam recognized from his childhood, announcing the fire at their house when his mother died. Sam didn’t bother going to the article. He knew it by heart after finding it tucked away in his father’s journal.

The rest of the information was sketchy. An announcement from years back when John Winchester returned home from the Marines. His official marriage announcement to Mary. Nothing that would help him track John down.

Sam deleted that search and got started on the next. Bobby Singer…

Despite the poor luck Sam had in finding his father, John was impressed by how quickly he was getting used to the relatively gargantuan machine. John doubted he'd be doing so well if put in the same position. It was good to see that Sam was as adaptable as he was agile.

The new results caught John's attention again, this time leading to something called Singer Salvage Yard. Again, John recognized the searched name in the back of his memory. "Friend of yours?" he asked, curiously skimming over the screen.

Sam nodded, reading over the information on Bobby’s business. “Old family friend,” he said over his shoulder, glancing up at John for a moment. “We used to stay at his house when Dad had a hunt in the area. It was better than getting stuck in some motel room for a month or two, going to a new school five times a year.” As time went on, he found it more natural to open up to John. The kind doctor always listened to him, never interrupting or making fun of what he thought.

Before moving on, Sam dug out his scrap paper and scratched out Bobby’s phone number and address, storing them in his pocket like they were lined in gold filigree. It wasn’t much, but it was a connection to his past he hasn't had a few minutes ago.

“But I’m not finding what I was afraid of,” Sam said as he deleted the search for Bobby to switch to Pastor Jim. “I’m not finding obituaries. That means that they’re okay.

"Good point," John nodded, glad that Sam was thinking positively, even taking notes that were too small for the human to make out without magnification. It didn't take John long to figure out that Sam was jotting down contact information for these people he was finding.

"Hey, if you, um, ever want to reach out to anyone, I'd be happy to help," he proposed. Whether it was a phone call or simple email, John wouldn't hesitate if it meant Sam and Dean could find solace in a connection to their past.

Sam folded his hand on his lap, fingers absently drumming. “Maybe,” he said, unwilling to discount the possibility. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea right now. We’re not exactly what we used to be.”

The truth of the matter was John Winchester might be their dad, but he was also a hunter of all things supernatural. They were a lot of things, and had survived the farce of their life with their hides intact, but they also couldn’t be called human anymore. They were too strong for their size, too small to fit in and their psychic abilities set them apart if nothing else did.

Their dad might want to hunt them if he found out how they’d survived.

It was just like a werewolf. Once it was bitten, it became something else. Though Sam and Dean would never try to hurt anyone else for their own gain the way a werewolf would, they were still unexplainable. It was a risk that Dean and Sam had both worried about more than once, despite the fact that being uprooted to England seemed to have removed all possibility of being reunited with their dad.

“Besides,” Sam said, trying to lighten the mood, “it’s not like we can hop in the Impala and search the Midwest for them like this. We’ve got a place, and helping out on cases with Sherlock gives us something to do with our lives. Something useful.” He looked at the screen, now detailing Pastor Jim’s parish and contact info. Unfolding the scrap paper again, Sam copied it down. “Better to focus on what we can do.” He glanced up at the screen. “I just wish we could let Dad know we were still alive somehow.”

John nodded again, respecting Sam's judgement, and decided not to bother him with any more questions. He simply sat back and let the young man work, observing with no small amount of curiosity. The more Sam looked up and jotted down in his notes, the more John felt he was learning about Sam. What interested him, what was important enough to him to keep record of, what made him happy and what didn't. It was all more than enough to keep them both completely absorbed for hours.

The doctor and the cursed American sat in contented silence well into the night. Sam had a lot to catch up on.

Chapter Text

John overslept the next morning. It was one of the few days in the week in which he had an early shift at the clinic, and in all the excitement of the past few days, he had nearly forgotten. Now he was running late.

He stumbled into the flat, shoes tucked under one arm as he finished buttoning his shirt, and rushed to the kitchen. He didn't have time for a proper breakfast, so he grabbed a miraculously fresh apple and dropped into a chair to shove his boots onto his feet.

A series of tiny grunts made him freeze. Quirking an eyebrow, John glanced around the kitchen for the source, momentarily distracted.

Over on the countertop, in a small gap of space bordered by Sherlock’s collection of beakers and glassware, the two tiny men who lived in their walls were involved in a mock fight. The two small leather bags were pushed to the outside of the circle, kept out of the way as the brothers tussled.

Between the pair, Sam was easily the taller and broader of the brothers. Sherlock and John had no way of knowing which would be the stronger of the pair, but Sam was a safe bet. Yet, despite being smaller, Dean was fast.

Dean darted at Sam from the side, catching one arm in a firm hold and sweeping his boot at one of Sam’s to knock him off balance and send them both plummeting to the countertop, Dean on top with a challenging grin.

With a bemused grin, John watched both brothers go down. "Morning," he greeted, certain now that he'd probably never have a normal morning again.

It was a slow burn, but the brothers were gradually warming up to the idea of having free rein of the flat. If they wanted to have a sparring session out in the open, they were welcome to. John found himself impressed that either of them had previous combat experience, even more so by the way Dean expertly toppled his younger but taller brother.

"Good form there, Dean," John commented, unable to help himself.

Dean met Sam’s bitchface unflinchingly, neither caught off guard by the sound of John’s voice. They’d come out into the kitchen for more space for their regular workout, one of the best ways for them to keep in shape and stay sharp, always ready to defend themselves.

The training could get heated, but they never went so far as to injure each other, aside from the bumps and bruises that arose naturally from tossing each other around. Sam would be feeling his fall to the ground later.

“Mornin,’ doc!” Dean called gamely, keeping his eyes trained on Sam. “Learned it all from my dad!”

During Dean’s brief distraction, Sam took advantage of his only chance to get out of the pin, knowing Dean could keep him in place. Sam kicked out, tossing Dean off balance, and then aimed his kick at Dean’s side, smoothly knocking his older brother to the ground and reversing their positions.

“You were saying?” Sam grinned, one hand around Dean’s throat to keep him from trying to get up.

"Ooh, nice one!" John snickered, his foul mood lightened in the presence of the Winchesters. Even when they were bickering or pounding each other into the floor, they both had a certain charm that was almost guaranteed to lift John's spirits.

"Keeping sharp, I see. Good on you," he remarked, leaning down to tie his shoes. "Careful not to let that focus slip, though. There'll always be distractions, the trick is not to let them put you off."

John gave his shoulders a roll as he sat back up, glancing back at the brothers with a shrug. "That's how it goes for me, anyway."

“Maybe you’ll have to show Dean some new tricks,” Sam said brightly as Dean glared. “He’s getting predictable.”

“Get your Sasquatch weight off me,” Dean grumbled, trying to push Sam aside.

Sam held him down for a moment longer to drill in just who’d won their bout, then lightly stepped back from Dean and held out a helping hand. Dean eyed it with suspicion, but accepted it with a sigh, his hand clasping Sam’s wrist and Sam’s hand doing the same with his.

The moment they had a good hold on each other, Sam dragged Dean effortlessly to his feet, steadying his older brother before his wobbling knees threatened to send him off balance yet again.

Dean pushed Sam and his hovering away, brushing off his leather jacket in an attempt to play it cool. He checked that the silver knife was in place in the inner pocket, then strolled over to where their bags were left. “I’m just waiting for Sherlock,” he called over his shoulder at John. “We figured we’d try training out here where we’ve got some room to see how it goes, instead of staying in the walls like normal.”

John hummed, wondering how Sam's joking suggestion would play out in reality. He couldn't exactly demonstrate anything on either of the brothers. Most likely, it would involve a lot of verbal explanations, trial and error… John bit back a chortle at the image of dragging Sherlock into it, demonstrating various holds and breaks on the disgruntled detective.

"Maybe I could give you a few pointers one 'a these--"

Yes! ” Sherlock's exuberant shout echoed from down the hall.

"Ah. Speak of the devil," muttered John as he stood. Sherlock hurried past the kitchen, throwing on his suit jacket in his rush as he dashed by. He disappeared around the corner to fetch his coat and scarf.

An unruly mess of curly black hair popped back in the entrance to the kitchen, blue-green eyes all but sparkling as he wrapped his scarf around his neck. "Dean. Lestrade just called. It's a small case, but it's an ideal road test for your knack. Ready to go? Body's getting cold."

Dean perked up at that, grabbing his duffel bag from the ground.

Sam grinned. “Looks like your ride’s here,” he said, stepping back to pick up his own satchel. He clasped Dean’s arm, and pulled him unwillingly into a half-hug. “Take care of yourself out there,” he said quietly, aiming for only Dean to hear.

“You should tag along one of these times, Sammy,” Dean said, pulling free. “You know I can’t deal without you watchin’ my back.”

“Maybe next time,” Sam said, his eyes flashing to where Sherlock was watching them. With John leaving for his own job, Sam didn’t feel as comfortable as Dean to run across the city with the detective. He would rather be with John than Sherlock.

“Ready and waiting,” Dean called up, strolling towards the edge of the counter.

Sherlock smirked, straightening his collar in preparation for his passenger. He held out a gloved hand as a platform to ferry Dean to his shoulder. "I'll show you the texts in the cab," he informed the elder Winchester, rushing out without another word to John or Sam.

John stood there for an extra moment, a newfound reluctance holding him in place. Leaving Sam and Dean to their own devices was one thing, leaving Sam by himself felt different somehow.

Are you gonna be alright on your own?

The question was on the tip of John's tongue, but he shook his head and decided against it. Despite being at least a dozen years younger than John, Sam was an adult and probably wouldn't appreciate John's mother-henning.

A glance at his watch brought John back to reality, and he went into the main room to put on his coat. Before he left, he stood in the entrance to the kitchen one more time.

"See you later," said John, checking on Sam one last time.

Sam nodded back, his hand going to the strap of his satchel for some form of support as it began to sink in that the moment John stepped out of the flat, he’d be completely alone for the first time in years. For so long, he’d been by Dean’s side. Two brothers facing the world together after it grew out of their reach. He’d be lying if he said the thought of being alone didn’t make him nervous.

They’d come a long way with John and Sherlock over the last few weeks. Even with Dean gone, there was a time when Sam would much rather have John gone because having a human around always came with the threat of capture. Now, the realization of a completely empty flat was far less reassuring.

“I’ll see you when you get back,” Sam offered with a cautious smile, stepping back towards the entrance back into the walls. He looked forward to another chance to see John work on his laptop, maybe even with a front row seat.

John smiled back, hesitating one more second before heading out resolutely. He let out a long breath once he was outside, hailing a cab automatically. Sam would be fine, he kept repeating that in his head. It will be fine.

John spent the entire cab ride convincing himself of that.

Mark shuddered in the darkness. He didn't know this flat or the layout of the inside of the walls, but that was nothing new. Never still, that was him. Never visited the same place twice.

He held out a strong hand in front of him to keep himself from bumping into anything unexpectedly. He'd just come from outside, pulling his large wool coat close as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

"Hello?" he called, his deep voice echoing in the passage. He didn't see any lights except for what little leaked in through the drywall. He hoped whoever lived here could see him better. Mark's dark skin did wonders to keep him hidden, and not always when intended. "Anyone there? Please, hello?"

Sam perked up at the sound of a voice, his ears automatically keying in to listen for the sound and automatically registering the difference between what he heard and what he expected.

The voice didn’t rumble through the air like John or Sherlock’s would. Which meant the person was Sam’s size.

His alarm drew him straight to his feet, tucking the paper he was working on into his bag without looking. He didn’t know that voice, and aside from their younger sister, Moira, they didn’t often get unexpected visitors at their home. 

“Hello?” Sam called, briefly glancing over his home with Dean to make sure everything was in order before he stepped out. Sam pushed the block of wood that doubled as their back door out of his way, his hazel eyes intently scanning the passages in the walls. “Who’s there?”

Mark's heart clenched at the response, and he sped up now that he had a bit of light to follow.

"Hey!" he cried, putting on a weary, relieved smile, his bright green eyes shining. "Fella! Sorry to intrude, but I think I've got myself turned around. Where am I?"

As he got closer, Mark could make out a vague silhouette of the young man. He sounded like he was around Mark's age, and he was certainly around Mark's height. That was a change; he was used to towering over everyone.

“It’s no bother,” Sam said, keeping his voice and bearing gentle and non-threatening. It was a long time since he’d met another person their size like this, and he couldn’t stop the eager curiosity rising up in him. No matter how many years he’d spent under the curse, he never stopped wondering about the people who’d always lived this way.

He couldn’t let his curiosity keep him from being properly hospitable. Sam took a few steps more towards the other man, squinting to see his dark form in the shadows. Even Sam’s vision was strained to make out his features.

“This is 221B Baker Street,” Sam explained. “You’re in the walls of one of the flats. Did you need any help?” He gestured in the direction he’d come from. “My place isn’t far, and if you want to rest up and get your bearings, you’re welcome to visit.”

"Cheers, bruv," Mark murmured, following Sam's lead. He was used to such kindness, since most people their size hardly had a reason to turn anyone away. He only wished he could return the kindness somehow.

Closing his coat and securing it shut, Mark gave one last residual shiver. "Gettin' chilly out there, innit?" he offered a weak smile as he took in what little he could see of the small home he and Sam entered.

“A little, I guess,” Sam said, fishing for some extra aluminum foil to fashion a cup out of. Dean was already planning on keeping a store of already-made cups and plates now that they had Sherlock and John giving them free rein over the flat, but with the excitement of refining Dean’s knack, had not yet gotten around to it. “Don’t get out much, myself,” he said, his memory briefly flashing back to the trip outside the day before. Sitting on John’s neck, tucked out of sight in his collar, Sam hadn’t felt the cold like he normally might.

After he filled the cup up with water, Sam offered it to the other man. “My name’s Sam,” he offered with a genial smile. “What’s yours?”

Mark covered up a wince with a long sip of water. While he was truly grateful for the hospitality, the drink especially being a welcome treat, he disliked knowing the names of the people he visited. It made it all the harder to leave them.

"Ah, Mark," he replied, surprising himself as he continued. "Mark Bend."

Taking one more pull from the cup, Mark cleared his throat loudly and arched his brow at Sam. "Thanks, mate. You're… don't take this wrong, but you ain't from around here, are ya?"

Mark knew he shouldn't be making idle conversation, but Sam was kind. Most everyone was kind, but Sam was downright generous. It was hard not to open up to him.

“You might say that,” Sam said, his forehead creasing briefly before his face relaxed. Those bad memories from his childhood might never be completely gone. The images of cages often haunted his nightmares, keeping him from sleeping as deep as Dean.

“I was born in America,” Sam said, “out in the Midwest. Didn’t really plan on coming to London, but y’know, shit happens. And there aren’t any airlines out there that cater to us… so here I am.” He glanced towards the other exit from their home, the one that led to John’s bookshelf. “It’s not a bad place to live.”

Switching topics, Sam asked “So what about yourself, Mark?” He was genuinely interested. “Not many people pass through around here. The rumors about the humans around keep visitors away most days.”

Mark did his best to hide his surprise that the place had rumors around it. He'd been out of touch with the minutiae that people like him and Sam usually passed around like wildfire.

"Oh, I'm kind of a drifter, y'know?" Mark answered, shaking his head. Inadvertently, his voice dropped even deeper than it already was. "Nothing really feels like home, so I just sorta… keep moving."

He glanced around the room. His eyes had acclimated themselves to the dark, and he could see rough shapes of almost everything around. Then he frowned, looking back to Sam. He could see the other bloke much better as well, and he was struck by how young he looked despite his height.

"Does anyone else live here?" he inquired, keeping a curious pep in his tone.

Sam bobbed his head, seeing no reason to keep it secret. From what he’d learned, very few people like them lived on their own. To hear about a drifter-- not just someone running messages from place to place but a drifter with nowhere else to go-- was unexpected.

“Dean lives here with me,” Sam confirmed. “He’ll be back tonight, if you’re around. We’ve got some space if you need a place to stay for the night, you’ll just have to make sure to stay away from any of the projects Dean’s got going on.”

Inwardly, he wondered how they’d possibly keep their relationship with John and Sherlock a secret from the other man if he stayed the night. Past the fact that Dean would arrive riding on Sherlock’s shoulder, either human was wont to come calling Sam’s name if something came up, and that would give it away in a heartbeat. It wouldn’t matter how good Sam or Dean’s poker face was. Yet it wouldn’t stop him from offering. Years ago, he was rescued as a child by people like Mark, a kind and welcoming family who discovered the two children huddled in the dark, afraid of every shadow and terrified of being caught again. It was the least Sam could do to pay some of that kindness forward.

"Oh! N-- nah, no need for all that," Mark insisted, refocusing. "I just, ah… had a bad way of it. Lost my satchel, all my supplies."

He smoothed down his coat, a little too big for him and honestly getting a little hot now that he was inside, but he swallowed his discomfort and carried on. "Do you think… That is, would you mind giving me a hand resupplying? My climbing gear's missing an' all."

“Sure!” Sam said, his eyebrows climbing his face. He briefly wondered at how Mark was getting around without supplies to climb, but that was overridden by his desire to help. It wasn't like Sam was a stranger to shimmying up or down a table leg if he had to, another activity Dean despised.

He gestured to the front entrance. “Got a way into the flat right past here. You should see how much stuff they leave around this place. It's a wonder they can find what they need some days.” While talking, Sam pulled his hook from his bag, heavy and solid, too big for most people to use for climbing yet Sam did so everyday.

The hook gave Mark a start. Not many people were burly enough to use such a thing as a climbing tool. It really spoke to Sam's strength that the hook was his go-to.

"Lead the way," he granted, trailing after Sam.

Mark squinted at the difference in brightness out on the bookshelf, even behind the books. He blinked hard, his heart racing as he kept close to Sam. Going out into the flat was necessary, and Mark couldn't afford to lose Sam now if he wanted to survive.

His brow rose as they emerged fully and the flat came into view. It was eclectic, to say the least; from its ghastly wallpaper, to the violin lazily strewn in one chair, to the piles of newspapers littering the floor and nearly every surface available. Mark started to get an idea of what sort of rumors Sam might have been talking about. These humans seemed odd.

Luckily, they were gone.

Chapter Text

Sam looked back and saw the nerves on Mark’s face. He interpreted them to be directed at the humans, much like his were for so long when they first moved into the flat, trying to learn John and Sherlock’s habits and schedule-- of which a pattern was decidedly lacking, especially in Sherlock’s case. 

The detective had a habit of sitting on the couch for hours on end, doing nothing but staring into the distance and occasionally talking to John, who may or may not be around at the time. The brothers were as confused by this habit as much as John was, and maybe more so because of the way they’d get startled in the walls by Sherlock booming out a question to someone who they’d assumed wasn’t around.

“They won’t be back for hours,” Sam said reassuringly as he hooked onto the edge of the shelf, using a small notch that John and Sherlock consistently overlooked before the brothers’ discovery. “All we have to keep an eye out for is their landlady, Mrs. Hudson. She sometimes drops in unexpectedly to bring groceries or make sure that her flat is intact.” Sam’s eyes drifted to the shot-up smiley face on the walls.

Offering his black thread to the other guy, Sam grinned encouragingly. “Shouldn’t take us long at all to get you some supplies to work with,” he said, his mind already cataloguing where the paper clips were kept and what other items they could grab for Mark. He didn’t think either human would mind a few extra scraps gone missing.

Sam's voice broke Mark out of his thoughts, and he approached the offered rope. His coat restricted his movements a little, but soon enough Mark was climbing down at nearly his full speed, which was still pretty fast. Once he was on the floor, Mark looked up to find that Sam was even faster. As much as he wanted to chalk it up to the kid being younger and unhindered by a coat, Mark had to admit Sam had talent.

Mark wandered across the floor, neck craning to peer up at the surrounding furniture. Where to go, where to go…

"What's up there?" he called to Sam, pointing up at the table against the wall in the middle of the main room, resting underneath a hanging skull of some kind. It seemed fairly cluttered, yet perhaps with enough space for him and Sam to walk around.

Sam glanced up, blinking as he tried to recall. It wasn’t a table they climbed up often. Sherlock’s work table usually offered the best takings, haphazardly arranged and normally messy. “Might have a paperclip or two,” Sam called as he flicked his hook down to catch it in one smooth motion. He jogged over to where Mark was, tense the entire time he was out in the middle of the floor.

Friendly humans or not, being out in the open was dangerous. John wasn’t the only one to appreciate just how small they were next to him when he was standing, and if anyone came home with Sam out in the open, they might not see him in time.

“I’m sure we can check it out,” Sam said, letting his hook fall from his fist to casually swing as he walked. “It’s a change from what we usually do.” Starting to swing the hook in a circle, Sam gauged the distance before letting it fly.

Mark came to stand next to Sam as they watched the hook catch on the edge of the table. He glanced at the other man, distantly struck by the differences between them. Sam was pale as could be, and Mark's complexion was deep and dark. Sam's hair was long and floppy, while Mark's was closely shorn.

Yet they were all too similar. Mark was just about the same height as Sam, if a little more filled out in the muscles. But despite his relatively wiry frame, Sam was naturally strong. Might even be equal with Mark.

He supposed he'd find out.

"How old are you, Sam?" Mark found himself asking as he watched Sam shimmy up the rope.

“Just turned twenty-two a couple’a months back!” Sam called over his shoulder, not even pausing as he climbed. Climbing came as easy as breathing, and he only gave it half a mind as he reflected on how random that question seemed. Almost out of place, for anyone else their size he’d met. They very rarely put much stock into how old they were, only attentive enough to know their own age. Sam and Dean had tried introducing their adopted family to the concept of birthday parties, but only Moira had really taken to the idea.

Reaching the top, Sam clambered over the edge and paused to make sure the hook was secure before waving Mark up. He glanced around the table, stepping over the pages Sherlock had scattered and wishing for Dean’s ability to know where anything they needed was waiting for them. It made these trips much faster.

“Why’d you ask?” Sam inquired curiously.

Mark shrugged. "No reason, really," he admitted, coming toward the rope himself. He climbed a little haltingly, a bit of soreness in his ribs acting up. He pushed through, making it up to the table shortly after Sam.

"I'm twenty-five," he confessed, reaching a hand into his coat when Sam wasn't looking. He drew it back out when Sam seemed to turn toward him, but by then the deed was done.

A cold pit grew in Mark's stomach as he pretended to look around the table with Sam. The bloke was only a few years younger than he was, so bright and wide-eyed. Like Mark used to be.

Within minutes, Mark's sharp ears caught the sound of the lock being picked on the front door downstairs. As if on cue, he made straight for the hook he and Sam had used to climb onto the table and silently dislodged it, letting it fall to the carpet below.

Almost in time with his hook falling, Sam stiffened. An icy cold shudder ran up his neck even as the warning tingle started to burn, and the sound of the front door being tampered with almost screamed at him. Never had Mrs. Hudson incited such a strong reaction in his knack, and even Sherlock was dulled down compared to it.

Sam whirled in place to look at Mark. “We’ve gotta go,” he said hurriedly, trying to think of any entrances Dean kept close to the end table. “There’s--”

He paused, seeing his hook gone. “What the…” he trailed off, his brow furrowing. There wasn’t time to wonder at it being knocked free. “We’ll have to climb using the table legs,” he determined, only slightly derailed by the absence of his hook. “It’s not safe here anymore.”

Mark's eyes closed as he hesitated. He never wanted to do this. Sam didn't deserve it any more than any of the others before him had. He looked at Sam with pleading, bright green eyes.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, throwing his coat off for greater mobility. The small device strapped to his back was visible without it, its bright red light flashing rhythmically, but it hardly mattered.

Six years ago, Mark had discovered a skill that, as much as it pained him, gave him a significant advantage over his own kind. His legs were incredibly powerful. His jumps could reach well above an adult human's knee on a good day.

Mark didn't require anywhere near that amount of energy as he lunged at Sam, closing the distance between them almost instantly and tackling him to the worktop.

Everything happened almost too fast for Sam to take them all in, but the moment Mark lunged for him, it all clicked into place.

Sam saw the blinking device. He saw his hook, knocked free from its place on the end table. His mind's eye let him imagine what it looked like, fallen so far out of reach. A brief wish that Dean was here with him crossed his mind, remembering Dean's constant insistence that they climbed with one hook and kept the second for backup.

Then Mark slammed into him, and there was no more time for thought.

Sam hit the table with a "Whuff!" as the breath was knocked from him. Mark was heavier than Sam, and much heavier than Dean. If he got a solid hold on Sam, there might not be any way for him to get free.

Sam's knife taunted him where it was pinned to his chest, but he kicked out of the hold before it solidified, using momentum to slam his leg into Mark just like he'd done to Dean not so long before. The time for talking was past. Now was time for survival.

Mark felt the power shift between him and Sam. That was new. Not many people he encountered knew a thing about hand-to-hand combat. He and Sam had one more thing in common.

Letting Sam shove him onto his back, Mark bent his knees and planted his feet on the ground. He grasped the collar of Sam's jacket tightly as he pushed off with a force that sent the two men flying until Sam was slammed into a pile of books. Mark pinned him there, momentarily caught up in seeing if Sam was badly hurt and the sound of the door creaking open downstairs.

Dazed and bruised, Sam was operating wholly on instinct as he heard someone entering the flat. “You son of a bitch,” he slurred, weakly trying to push Mark’s arm from where it was braced to pin him down.

Instincts guided his other hand, and Sam’s fingers wrapped around a familiar hilt. One he’d always kept at his side, but never wielded against another person.

In a flash, Sam’s silver knife was at Mark’s throat, trying to force a stalemate.

“Let. Me. Go,” Sam said, his daze shaken off by the adrenaline that surged through his body.

Mark froze at the cool touch of sharp metal against his neck, but his arm remained firm against Sam. He'd had weapons pulled on him before, but he'd never let any of them get this close. Mark's breathing quickened, tears pricking in the corners of his eyes with every rumbling step ascending the staircase just outside the flat door.

"I-I can't," he whimpered.

He shoved his knee into Sam's stomach, releasing Sam's collar to jump away from the knife. Tucking his chin in close, he lunged again to land behind Sam, quickly grabbing hold of his arms and twisting them behind his back. His grip on Sam's knife-wielding wrist was firm, yet he hesitated to deprive him of it.

"Please stop fighting," he begged, whispering in Sam's ear as the human outside drew ever nearer. "I don't want to hurt you. He will."

Sam snarled, suddenly resembling Dean more than ever as he railed against the inevitable. Even if he escaped, he'd never get away before the human got there.

"Do whatever you want," Sam growled. "My answer's not gonna change. Let me go, you sonovabitch."

Trying to twist away, Sam found Mark's hold on him too strong. He needed another way out. His mind racing, his lips moved to shoot out more sass and keep Mark distracted.

"So, what is this?" Sam asked derisively. "You'd side with a human over your own kind? Sell us out-- For what? Some extra food?" He snorted with derision. "You're no better than a pet." Sam slammed his head back on his last word, aiming to knock Mark out.

Mark flinched back to avoid that fate, unable to dodge a solid blow to the chin. His grip tightened as he reeled back against the books again, the machine attached to him digging sharply into his ribs. He rolled his jaw and winced at the pain blooming across it.

It still hurt less than Sam's words.

"I don't have a choice…" Mark's defensive protest trailed off as the door across the room swung open. If the human overheard him speaking out, Mark would really be in for it.

A tall man in a dark suit and tan wool coat stepped in, his light blond hair slicked back and his cold grey eyes glancing up from his phone to dart around the flat.

"Ma-ark…" he called in aloof singsong.

"Euan!" Mark cried, drawing the human's attention. The human’s lip twisted into a grin that still shot daggers through Mark's stomach, no matter how many years he'd worked alongside the man.

"Well, aren't you an adorable little thing," Euan cooed, approaching the table and leaning over for a better look at Sam.

Sam froze, the burn against his neck almost painful with the intensity. The human loomed overhead, a feeling that made Sam feel smaller than ever. After spending so long around John and Sherlock, who at least tried to lessen that effect, it was sobering. His grip tightened against his knife.

Dean might have been the only one to land a blow on Sherlock, but that didn’t mean that Sam wasn’t just as willing to lash out. If it bought him any time at all, he’d do it.

“Keep saying that,” Sam told Mark, hunched down in his grip. “That’s what makes people believe the truth, right? Repeating it until they don’t know any better.” He tried to writhe free.

Mark's heart sank and his eyes shut. He offered no dispute, even though he had every reason in the world to do what he was doing. Sam would never believe him now, not after Mark had betrayed his trust in the worst way imaginable.

"Aw, you've grown attached to this one, haven't you?" Euan clucked his tongue. "Come now, you know better than that."

Rising to his full height, Euan held out an expectant hand. "Fun's over, boy. Hand 'im over."

Mark swallowed thickly before shoving Sam toward Euan's hand, which moved to scoop Sam into its palm.

Sam stumbled towards Euan’s hand, his eyes wide as he tried to halt his forward momentum. “No!” he yelled.

Twisting on his heel, Sam slashed out with his knife to keep the hand from closing around him then launched his body into a roll, trying to dodge under the grab in the hopes of reaching the edge of the end table before Euan recovered. 

So long as he was free, there was always hope. 

Euan hissed in pain and drew his hand back, inspecting the cut on his finger. Thin but deep and starting to ooze blood.

As soon as Mark realized what Sam was doing, he swore under his breath and darted after him. How could I forget about the knife? He leaped toward Sam, struggling to grab hold of his wrists again. This time he twisted Sam's knife hand until the weapon dropped to the tabletop, kicking it out of reach. It skidded across the surface, stopping at the bottom of the book pile.

"Little late for that, don't you think?" Euan snapped, shooting a sharp glare at Mark as he roughly snatched Sam from the smaller man's grip with his non-injured hand.

Mark bowed his head, breathing deeply as he recovered. "S-sorry," he mumbled loudly enough for the human to hear. He cringed, knowing better than to assume he wouldn't be punished.

Euan's eyes rolled, his smirk returning as he lifted Sam to eye level. The last two fingers were wrapped tightly around the tiny pelvis and part of his torso, the rest curled loosely so he could see nearly all of Sam. His legs dangled and his back was pressed against Euan’s palm as he held it at an angle. "Oh, I can't stay mad at you, Marky-boy. Not after you hooked such a wonderful specimen." His tone was deceptively soft once again, his eyes hungry as they drank in Sam's few inches.

Sam hissed at Euan, still struggling as much as he was able. The grip was tight, but better placed than Sherlock's was the last time he was caught.

This human knew what he was doing.

That should have been apparent from Mark's familiarity with the stranger, but the understanding of that importance was lost to Sam until he was in the man's hand. He was restrained with no way of fighting back.

Sam still refused to give up the small glimmer of hope. Sherlock and Dean could come stumbling back into the flat at any time, or maybe John would leave his job early... anything, even just Mrs. Hudson coming upon a stranger in the flat she rented, might be enough for Sam to find an escape and get back in the walls where he was better defended. Mark might be able to get the upper hand on him, but Sam wouldn't make it easy on him.

Sam kicked backwards in an attempt to score a hit on Euan's palm. "I'm not a specimen," he growled. "I'm a person, just like you. Hell, better than you. I'd never make someone betray their own kind!"

Mark's shoulders bunched up as Sam talked back to the human. This guy's insane! he lamented, far too anxious and guilt-ridden to look up.

"My, the gob on this one. That won't last." Euan pursed his lips at Sam's outburst, brow lifting slightly in a look that vaguely resembled pity. "My poor, delusional little morsel. Dunno who put such fanciful ideas in that wee head of yours, but I'm afraid you're wrong."

Without warning, Euan's hand tilted abruptly to shift Sam higher up on his palm, then quickly closed his fingers around him, just barely allowing him room to breathe with his head still in plain view. A sparkle shone in his eye at the feeling of the little bones straining in his grasp.

"You are not, in fact, a person," he went on, a dangerous bite to his tone. "And you are certainly nothing like me. I don't scuttle about the city, doing absolutely nothing productive for the world. But don't fret, you'll soon make some rich sod quite happy. Cute ones like you sell fast."


Sam sucked in a gasp as memories threatened to rise up and overwhelm him, insistently pulling at his attention and trying to drag him from the present. Careful not to let that focus slip, rang in Sam’s head in John’s voice, offering kind encouragement to the scuffle with Dean for both brothers. Don’t let anyone ever own you, came in Dean’s voice. Sam might not be able to keep himself from being taken away, but he could fight back with everything he had.

Even if it was only words.

“I should have known,” Sam said, his voice dripping with venom. “You think you’re better than me because you’re taller.” He struggled to draw in a breath. Something in him refused to quit, no matter how foolish it was to backtalk a human. The memory of cages was trying to wash rational thought away, and if that happened Sam would be curled into a ball, no more useful than a mouse pup. Just like the last time he was trapped, by Sherlock.

This time, there was no John to let him out. No Dean to help him fight back. Just Sam, more alone than he’d been in years.

“And I certainly do a lot more good than you,” Sam said tightly, remembering helping Dean solve cases. Saving the lives of people who would rather sell them as pets.

"And that's enough out of you," said Euan flatly, giving Sam an extra squeeze. Enough to knock what little breath he could catch out of him without causing any permanent damage. 

He frowned when he felt something digging into his palm, and he snapped his hand open, turning it to form a platform underneath a dazed Sam. His other hand swooped in to take hold of the tiny satchel and yanking it free of Sam's shoulders. 

"Won't be needing this where you're going," he taunted, letting it drop to the floor as he shoved Sam into an outside pocket of his coat. With a practiced motion, he zipped the pocket shut before Sam could so much as gain his bearings.

Straightening his coat, paying no mind to how it would affect Sam, Euan turned back to Mark. "Just him, yeah?"

Mark nodded, finally working up the nerve to meet Euan's gaze. "H-he was alone," he confirmed with careful wording. It wasn't a complete lie.

"Well, hurry it up, then. Chop-chop," Euan barked, holding out an impatient hand. Mark gave a start, then rushed to gather his coat, clutching it close to his chest as he hopped promptly onto the proffered palm.

Euan smiled coldly. "There's a good lad." He lifted Mark up to chest level, carrying him there as he left the flat and descended the staircase. He stopped at the bottom to put Mark into his pocket, a dark chuckle escaping him as he glanced into the ground-floor flat. 

"Excellent work with the landlady," he commented, sneering at the sight of the old woman slumped over her kitchen table, her cup of tea knocked to the floor.

"Thanks," murmured Mark, sliding into the inside pocket the human held open for him. The darkness enveloped him, giving him a basic comfort that he rarely felt. There he was safe to curl into a ball and bury his face in his arms. Euan wouldn't feel Mark's shoulders shake as he vented his pent-up emotions.

One thought kept him from completely breaking down: Someone would notice Sam was missing. Euan was an awful person, but he was also overconfident. He'd left Sam's possessions haphazardly strewn about, and whoever Dean was, he would know something was up. Maybe he could get help.

It was a longshot, borderline fantasy, but it was the only thing keeping Mark sane right now.

Down in the pocket, Sam hugged his arms close.

He didn’t bother struggling. The zipper over his head was shut fast, and no amount of cajoling could move it, though he’d tried multiple times, fitting his fingers between the metal and trying to pull the base of the slider. There was no way to brace himself, and once the walking started up, he couldn’t keep a grip. He just slid down into the depths, over and over.

Sam blinked back tears, trying to keep himself focused. But the thoughts kept intruding on him, no matter how hard he tried.


Just like when he was a child. 

No escape. Sam shuddered, withdrawing into a ball.

“Dean…” he pleaded, his voice barely a whisper. Sherlock. John.


Chapter Text

Though he wouldn't say so, Sherlock was quite proud of the progress he and Dean had managed to make with his knack in such a short amount of time.

When he received a call from Lestrade, the first thing Sherlock did was look up the name of the deceased. She was young, beautiful, popular, and very active on social media in her life. Even Scotland Yard would be able to narrow down a few suspects for her murder, but Sherlock, like usual, was focusing on what mattered: how to findthe killer.

She was found dead in a hotel room on her own. No signs of forced entry or struggle, with the exception of a small bruise around the middle joint of the middle finger of her left hand. A quick browse through her Facebook photo history was more than enough for Sherlock to know exactly what to look for.

And he knew just the four-inch-tall man to recruit for the job.

In the cab, Sherlock pulled up a few of the pictures he'd found of the woman and showed them to Dean, encouraging him to pay attention. Then, while he ran through deductions for Lestrade (really just showing off; there wasn't much that needed deducing) he pointed out the importance of her hand.

A pale mark all the way around the base of her finger, indicating the previous presence of a ring. In all of her photos, going back into her childhood even, she had worn an emerald ring. Family heirloom, she was never without it, even when swimming.

Lestrade argued that she might have taken it off, but Sherlock dismissed that immediately, highlighting the bruises on her finger. The Detective Inspector suggested that could have been from her removing the ring herself, if she'd had it as long as Sherlock said. Sherlock insisted that the bruises were formed after death; he'd performed enough experiments about such things to have an eye for them.

Whoever killed her had some sort of complex about them-- him, most likely, a former lover-- and wrenched the ring off her finger, taking it with him on the way out. Perhaps as a memento, sentiment and all, it didn't particularly matter to Sherlock. If they found the ring, they'd find the killer.

With the challenge in place, Sherlock readily followed Dean's directions the moment they came. Spouting off some clever-sounding nonsense for the trailing Inspector's benefit, the detective was sent on a most exciting chase through London.

Even if the end result turned out to be an anti-climax-- the killer was an old boyfriend-turned-stalker of hers, with whom she had broken it off years ago; he wanted her back, she said no, and he poisoned her with a rare, undetectable poison, filching the ring for himself; guilt-ridden, he returned to his house and shot himself in the head. Short and grisly, no arrests, only more bodies-- Sherlock was more than pleased with Dean's performance. He sought out an object that he'd only ever seen pictures of, and somehow tracked it down.

Lighter on his toes than usual, Sherlock practically flew back into 221B and glided up the stairs.

"I think I might actually indulge in some of that pie of yours…"

His jest toward Dean was cut off when he entered the flat. Something was off, and it wiped the grin right off his face. Frozen in the threshold, Sherlock held out a steady hand as though it could sense the imbalance in the room.

"Something's wrong," he rumbled.

Sherlock’s worry drew Dean out of the visions of pie and triumph dancing in his head. Though he wouldn’t admit it, the actual search for the ring had given him a headache, stretching his knack further than he’d ever tried before. Normally, it just came to him. Now he was trying to actively find specific items that he might not personally have a need for, but he was able to imbue in his thoughts the need to save lives, and combine that with any thought of the ring.

Dean straightened in place, pushing Sherlock’s collar out of his way and kicking out of the blue scarf. “What do you--"

He trailed off, something in him immediately drawn to a part of the room he almost never bothered with because it rarely had supplies for them, adding in to the fact that it was right next to where Sherlock would often perch for the day, thinking.

The end table under the skull.

Dean’s ability didn’t need any thought this time. The blood-covered glint of a silver knife was almost a part of him before he spotted it.

Dean practically jumped in place, his heart dropping into his boots and staying there. “Sam!” He tugged on one of Sherlock’s black curls. “The end table! Over there!” He was almost, almost tempted to climb down on his own, if he didn’t know Sherlock could get there faster.

Sherlock was already moving toward the table, having spotted something on the floor. He stepped swiftly but carefully, using his hand to transfer Dean to the table.

He crouched low to the ground, pressing himself flat as he examined the evidence with his pocket magnifier. Sam's hook was first, the line haphazardly strewn about. It had fallen from the table, but the prongs showed no signs of blood or struggle. Sherlock quickly moved on to the tiny satchel. Something in him was glad he'd noticed it before it could be stepped on and damaged it. Further damaged, he amended, noting the rumpled state it was in.

Putting away the magnifier when the satchel also came up relatively clean, Sherlock sat back up to check on Dean, see if he'd found anything.

While Sherlock investigated the floor, Dean hit the end table at a run, straight for gleaming knife waiting for him at the base of the stack of books, almost lost in the sheer size of everything. Dean could find that knife on a pitch black night in an unknown house. It tugged at him stronger than anything else he’d ever felt.

“Sammy…” he whispered, falling to his knees. Blood covered the blade. Enough blood that if Sam was the one that was hurt, they’d need to get him help immediately, but Dean was betting that the blood belonged to Sam’s assailant. His little brother was more than able to defend himself, and had done so many times against rats and other pests.

Don’t touch it, cautioned a voice in Dean’s head. Sherlock was a detective, this was what he did. Anytime they went to a crime scene, Sherlock would look everything over with a keen eye before disturbing it, knowing that moving anything could destroy any clues they had.

Dean glanced up as Sherlock peeked over the edge of the table, helplessness covering his face. “Sam’s in trouble if he lost his knife,” he said. “He’d never let it go.”

Sherlock frowned thoughtfully at Dean's assessment, eyes falling onto the knife. The red tint on the blade had him up and rushing to the kitchen without a word or second thought. Tossing his coat carelessly over the kitchen table, the detective retrieved three small paper circles from a container on his worktable, folding them as he walked back until they formed wedge-like shapes. He passed one of the folded circles to Dean. It was almost as long as his arm and nearly the width of his torso at its widest end.

"Get up as much blood as you can, as close to the tip as possible," he instructed, laying the extra sample-gatherers on the table in case they were needed.

Sherlock sat back on his heels, eyes darting around the entire room for the smallest of details, the slightest shift that could offer a clue as to what had occurred there.

Euan leaned out of the rolled-down window of his dark navy Nissan, scanning his keycard so the garage would let him in. While he waited for the door to rise, he gave the pocket Sam occupied a not-so-gentle pat.

"Hope you're awake, little fella," he sang, a false sweetness to his voice. "Got a big day ahead. Don't wanna miss a moment."

He drove ahead and parked in his usual spot. From there, it was a short walk across the room to a swiveling storage shelf which hid a door. Euan fished his key from his trousers and strolled on in.

"Euan!" a gravelly voice called enthusiastically, calling the blond man's attention to the corner of the room. A large, tanned man with wavy brown hair had his feet propped up on a table, a thick book clamped in his enormous hands. "Haven't seen your ugly mug in ages!"

Euan smiled tightly, making his way smoothly through the room. "Geoff, pleasure as always."

Geoff pouted. "Aww, you ain't still mad, are ya? You know I's just foolin,’ eh?"

Ignoring Geoff, Euan stalked toward the repository that held the tiny folk they currently had in stock. The container was about a meter wide and a meter and a half tall with two dozen individual spaces, each about the size of a shoebox. Currently only two containers were filled; they'd hit a bit of a lull.

Euan's eyes narrowed. "Did we sell a few from the American batch?" he inquired, noticing a few were missing.

"Nah, Prof's got the kid and the girl," Geoff assured. "Check-up, he says, make sure they ain't infected or nothing."

"Ah, perfect. I'm sure he'll want a look at our newcomer." With a proud smirk, Euan unzipped his coat pocket and swiftly wrapped his hand around Sam, lifting him into the low fluorescent light.

Sam twisted and writhed in Euan’s grip, his hair in complete disarray from his time in the pocket. Being subjected to the whims of a completely unknown human once more, trapped, helpless, taken away…

It was almost too much for Sam to bear.

The burst of flame on the back of his neck ground the situation in better than anything else could. In plain view of unfriendly eyes, it hurt the worst he’d felt in his life. Like it would have done when he was a child, when their knacks first surfaced.

“You bastard,” Sam hissed, forcing himself to meet Euan’s eyes without flinching. He could do this. He just had to push through the pain and the unease…

And being stuck in a hand.

“They’ll find me,” Sam threatened. “You should save yourself some pain and just let me go now.”

Chapter Text

Euan's brow knit at the strange words coming out of his find, but his inquiries were interrupted by Geoff nearly barreling into him trying to get a better look at Sam. The little guy flinched, staring up at the massive new human.

"Ooh, that one's a looker," he grinned. "Almost as big as your one, in't he? And American, too! He'll feel right at home."

Euan smirked. "He may catch eyes, but as you can see he's got quite the mouth on him. We'll have to fix that." With a dark gleam in his eye, he tightened his fist around Sam to cease his infernal squirming.

"Finally, something fun might happen around here," Geoff chuckled, leaning against a table with his hands in his pockets.

Stepping toward the repository, Euan fiddled with the padlock on the top-leftmost container, just below his eye level. After he wrenched the lock off, he swung open the clear door and unceremoniously dumped Sam into it. "You can say hello to my little bird, morsel," he said, relishing in the impact that affected all the tiny people when he slammed the door shut.

In particular, a dark-skinned woman in the back of Sam's cage curled further in on herself, her hands pressed to her ears underneath a cascade of curly black hair.

“Dammit!” Sam said, slamming a fist into the closed door. The blow had no effect on the clear barrier, sealing him off from the rest of the world.


A shudder ran up Sam’s back at that thought. He was trapped. In a cage, just like his childhood, only this time the cage was better designed, and he didn’t have any supplies to attempt an escape. His satchel was on the floor of 221B Baker Street, and he could only hope that it would be seen and they’d realize what had happened.

It was a longshot, and Sam knew it, but it was all he had.

“No, no, no…” he murmured, almost a moan as he stalked back and forth in front of the door. If he stopped to think, he’d curl into a ball and never come back. 

Trapped. No way out unless a human let him out. His pulse pounded and his breathing came in short bursts as he tried to keep from panicking. Panicking now would just make him more susceptible to his captors, easier to control.

Twisting around, Sam took in the rest of the cage. This time, he noticed the girl trapped with him, her dark skin a contrast to his pale.

“Hey, are you okay?” Sam asked kindly, seeing how terrified she looked. A lot like he’d be, if he let it sink in just how screwed he was. Sherlock may have stuck him in a jar before, yet even then Sam had ways out while here he had nothing.

Her shoulders bunched up when Sam spoke to her. Despite the few sets of tiny air holes between the opaque cages allowing for a bit of contact between them, no one really talked to her all that often. It had been ages since they had put someone in the box with her, but she knew better than anyone that Euan had a sick sense of humor.

Outside, the human's smirk widened at Sam's overt panic. As he stepped away, thoroughly satisfied, he felt a desperate squirming against his chest.

"Ah-ah, easy now, boy," he murmured, his tone halfway between a scold and a coo. "You know you can't see her until you've earned it."

Geoff sneered as Euan passed. "I still can't believe the big boss lets you play with the twins," he grumbled, a teasing grin plastered to his face.

Euan rolled his eyes, ignoring Geoff like he always did. He could complain all he wanted. It wouldn't change the fact that the higher-ups had faith in Euan’s ideas when it came to the little pests. Had faith in him. With a proud smile, Euan left to find the professor and explain everything.

Back in the cage, the girl simply stared at her bare feet and shrugged in response to Sam's honest question. She wasn't sure if, after years of enduring captivity, she even had a definition of 'okay.’

Sam watched her with concern, his attention torn between the girl’s well-being and the sound of the humans outside. On one hand, he couldn’t do much about the humans, but on the other… ignoring them would be foolish.

The pieces were beginning to fall together for Sam more and more. He and Dean had been captured as children by humans in America, and after they were assessed, were sold off and shipped overseas. As children, they’d believed that to be their final destination as pets, and had escaped before delivery to their ‘home,’ but what if they were on their way to a supplier like this? A place that existed as a twisted type of pet store for people like them…

Sam didn’t like the path his thoughts were taking.

His arms shook as the adrenaline began to wear off from the trip in the pocket. Sam let himself lean against the wall, sinking down into a spot a few inches away from the girl as his captivity truly began to sink in. Trapped. With no way out.

“Dean will find us,” Sam whispered to himself. “They’ll get us out. There’s always a way out.”

The girl blinked. She knew it was foolish to indulge in the hope that the other person was trying to convince himself of.

Yet, something about him sparked her curiosity like nothing had in years.

Loosening her hold on her knees, she tried to tuck her hair behind her ears, but it fell right back down. The humans, mostly Euan, refused to cut her hair despite the fact that it had grown well past her shoulders and was beyond manageable anymore. She’d hardly ever let it grow past her chin before. She smoothed down her plum shirt, all rumpled and wrinkled from lack of care, and looked inquisitively at Sam with bright green eyes.

"Who's Dean?" Her disused voice was rough.

Sam looked up in surprise, drawn out of the dark spiral of thoughts that threatened to pull him back inside himself, into a place he’d made to hide in years ago. After his first attempt at communication with her, he hadn’t expected a reply to his words, knowing if it was himself sitting there in a ball, he’d never even hear the person talking. 

Not unless they were Dean.

“Dean’s my brother,” Sam said, a breath of hope surrounding those words. “He was out when Euan grabbed me. The second he realizes what happened, he’ll find me. He promised he always would.” He twisted his fingers together into a knot, the knuckles turning white as he held tight. “He promised,” Sam whispered.

She sighed, her expression softening sympathetically. She remembered when she had the exact same hope regarding her own brother. It was the hope that had nearly driven her mad, and she'd learned to push the thought far away if she wanted to survive with her sanity. The humans were too powerful… it was an impossible situation.

The new fella, however, seemed to be grounding himself on that hope, like it was the one thing keeping him together. She doubted that would last, but since she and he were going to be trapped with one another for a while, she decided to help ease him through his own process.

"He and someone else?" she asked. Then, flushing a little, she added, "It's just… you said 'they'…"

Sam’s lips thinned to a line, realizing he didn’t want to mention that his friends, the people he was relying on to rescue him, were humans. If Euan found out about Sherlock and John and how they treated Sam and his brother, he might take more precautions. It might even put Sam forever out of reach. He didn’t know this girl he was trapped with, or if he could trust her, and after his experience with Mark, he was ill-disposed to offer his trust so freely.

“Friends,” Sam said simply. “Dean was with them when I got grabbed. I don’t know how, but they’ll find a way. I know they can.”

Before he found himself going further along those lines, Sam switched up topics. “So… what’s your name?” He offered a strained smile. “Mine’s Sam.”

She tentatively smiled back, grateful to have such friendly company for once. "Anita," she replied. "Good to meet you, Sam."

A shift from Geoff made Anita flinch and her smile dropped away. As much as she appreciated the way Sam almost made her forget about her terrible life, she couldn't let her guard down like that. Hugging herself, she remembered the way Euan had been talking before he left, and a cold pit fell into her stomach.

"Mark brought you here, didn't he?" she realized, whispering.

“Mark--" Sam cut himself off, his fingers curling into a fist as he remembered the man that had kept him in place long enough for Euan to grab. He scowled, curling his feet closer to the rest of his body.

“I was helping Mark,” Sam recalled as he wrapped his arms around his legs. Mark was the first person Sam had ever threatened with his knife, and the memory soured in his stomach, wondering if he would have gone through with it if given the chance. Him or me. “He needed supplies. And then I felt a human coming, and he changed. He didn’t let me get to safety. He helped that human.” Sam squeezed his eyes shut. “We could have escaped,” he breathed.

Anita's shoulders bunched up, balling up in a less angry mimic of Sam's movements. Her insides rearranged as Sam described Mark's actions, and she regretted bringing it up at all. Now she knew exactly what her very existence meant for Mark, what Euan was making him do because she was still alive. It made her feel ill.

Maybe she would have been better off in ignorance.

"S-sorry I asked…" she mumbled wetly, turning her face away from Sam in shame as her eyes welled up with tears and her shoulders shook from stifled sobs.

“Whoa-- hey,” Sam uncurled, his own worries put aside as Anita began to cry. He reached out a tentative hand, putting it on her shoulder and gently coaxing her to face him.

“You didn’t do it, right?” Sam asked, funneling what little calm he could find to her. “You don’t have to be so upset. And when Dean finds us,” and he will, Sam swore inside his head, “you’ll be free too. I promise.”

Anita let out a long, shaky breath as she brought herself to look Sam in the eye. While it still pained her to be an indirect part of Sam being there at all, there was nothing she could do to change that. And now that he was comforting her, she felt awful for encouraging his hopes.

"You're very kind," she said softly, wiping her eyes with the heel of her hand. Then she looked at the larger one on her shoulder, which brought a mite of warmth to her heart that she had been deprived of for so long, and shied away from its touch. "But you're wrong, about all of that."

There was a time when she dreamt of her brother coming to free her. A time when she thought she could protect him. It had nearly torn her apart when all that was ripped from her, and it was only fair to Sam for her to be honest. 

"These humans… you don't understand what they do to us. Some are sadistic like Euan, the rest couldn't care less, and they're all dangerous. We aren't people to them. I'm just Euan's prize, and you're gonna be sold before long. I know it's terrible, but it's true," she insisted, eyes shining all over again. While Anita hated to be so blunt to someone as nice as Sam, he deserved to know exactly what he was in for.

Something in Sam stiffened at the thought of being sold, knowing that every step away from this place would put that much more distance between him and Dean, and make it that much harder for Sherlock or John to track him. He’d be a pet again, just like they’d tried to do in his childhood.

But despite all the attempts to make Sam and Dean pets as children, they’d escaped that life once, and Sam clung to that thought. He could do it again.

“I do know what they’re like,” Sam said softly. “I was only ten the first time we got caught. Dean got us out then, and I know he’ll get me out now. We didn’t have anyone else to rely on all those years ago, but now we have friends he can go to for help. None of us are in this alone.” Maybe if he kept repeating it, he’d believe it himself. He kept his eyes locked on hers, an attempt to ignore the cage around them.

Anita shook her head slowly, continually perplexed by Sam's words. "I dunno if I envy or pity your faith," she admitted, resting her chin on her knees. She felt as emotionally exhausted as she looked, and she wasn't sure if it was because of Sam so freely offering support and comfort, but she was ready to fall asleep in the middle of the day. That hadn't happened in years.

A door opened and closed, and Anita was on high alert all over again. It didn't matter who it was, or that they hardly ever wanted her unless they were Euan. All humans put her on edge, frightening her without effort. 

Coming into view from the right side of the repository was an older man, black hair greying around the sideburns, rimless spectacles forming a heartless barrier in front of equally heartless brown eyes. He accessed the cage adjacent to Sam and Anita's, whispering to the two small figures in his hand as he replaced them inside and shut it behind them. 

Once the lock was secure, he stepped in full view of Sam and Anita, eyes falling immediately on the new addition. He studied the small man for a moment before removing the lock and reaching in for Sam.

Chapter Text

If it wasn’t for the dire circumstances they were in, Dean’s face would have been painted with fascination at the chance to work with the tools Sherlock used on his cases. As it was, he set to his task with no wasted energy, carefully mopping up every drop of blood that speckled Sam’s knife. The murky gleam of red was soon replaced by the more familiar shine.

Dean’s small size made it simple to get the blood right on the tip of the paper. It was like working with oversized construction paper, and since the blade was made for Dean’s size, he didn’t have a problem.

A small mimic of Sherlock, Dean sat back on his heels, holding up the folded paper circle for Sherlock to take, its white surface marred by the ring of drying blood.

Sherlock accepted the sample, carefully unfolding the paper and dropping it into a fresh sandwich bag. He pocketed this for later examination. He turned his attention downward again and delicately picked up Sam's other belongings, memorizing the spots on the floor where they'd been.

"I assume these wouldn't willingly leave his possession, either," he remarked, placing the hook and bag near Dean. The few times Sherlock had seen Sam up close, it seemed he was never far from either. Perhaps Dean would be able to glean more from the items than Sherlock had, since they were to his scale and belonged to his brother.

“No, no they wouldn’t,” Dean said, his voice starting to choke up. Every one of Sam’s important possessions, and no Sam. The knife was bad enough, the bloodstains making Dean’s heart sink, but this? Wherever Sam was, he was defenseless.

The hook was the first item Dean took, carefully touching the sharp prongs one after the other. It was Sam’s backup weapon, and its surface was unmarred. Whatever happened, the hook was either out of reach or Sam had the knife the entire time. Dean slowly began to wind the black thread around his arm, an old habit to help him focus.

“Sam can climb better than me, and he can probably scale the table without anything but his hands, but he would never leave his hook behind,” Dean said, his explanation halting as he found himself explaining more than he ever would have expected to Sherlock. “These are our life.”

When the thread was wrapped, Dean twisted the end into a knot to hold the loops together and pulled Sam’s bag over. Aside from being rumpled and the papers inside crushed, nothing was out of place. Dean tucked the hook inside.

“I need to see if he’s here, but hurt,” Dean said suddenly. “If someone attacked, and he managed to escape. If not--" The image of cages sprang to mind, and he couldn’t say anything more.

Sherlock nodded in agreement, stone-faced. Dean's concern was well-placed and necessary for their search. While the idea of someone harming and possibly kidnapping Sam burned in his gut, Sherlock was accustomed to being the one to detach himself from such emotions. They kept him from the cold, hard facts of a given case, especially one involving people he knew.

He saw and heard no sign of Sam in the immediate area, so Sherlock held out his hand for Dean again, relying on the elder Winchester's expertise when it came to his brother. "Where to?"

Gathering Sam’s supplies into his arms and pausing to tuck the second knife into his jacket next to his own, Dean stepped into Sherlock’s palm. He rubbed his face, the stress almost wafting off him in a cloud as he tried to think where Sam would go. Where he might be.

“He’d go to our place,” Dean determined. “Especially if he lost his climbing gear. I’ve got the walls set up so we don’t need our hooks to get around in there, a ‘just in case’ precaution. I should start there, and work my way out, check anywhere he might have gotten stuck.”

Waving towards the bookshelf next to John’s chair, Dean hoped he was doing the right thing, letting Sherlock know where to go. If Sam was close by, they would have heard him calling. “Just let me off by the books,” he said heavily.

Sherlock's eyebrow quirked as he crossed toward the bookshelf. Dean and Sam had thus far been determined to keep the location of their home a secret. He hummed thoughtfully to himself as he noticed the proximity to John's armchair. It seemed they favored the doctor long before either of the humans were aware of their existence.

He lowered his hand to one of the middle shelves, around eye-level if one were to sit in the adjacent chair, which Sherlock did. He watched Dean go with curiosity, a mite of concern showing in his expression.

"I'll check around the rest of the flat," he announced. "Give a shout if he doesn't turn up. Then I'll call John."

Dean stopped before he reached the turn past the books, looking back at Sherlock. “Might be a while,” he warned. “I’ll check anyplace I can think of where he might be. I might be able to get around here, but it takes time.”

Then, his face softened the tiniest bit, imperceptible to Sherlock. “Thanks.”

Dean turned to go, slipping back into the shadows. “Sam!” he called, his voice loud enough to pass through the wall to their house. “Sammy!”

Though he wouldn’t admit it, every single time he called Sam’s name and there was no response in return, his heart plummeted a little further. Their small home was still and quiet as he pushed through the front entrance, scanning the main room with a desperate need to see Sam asleep, recuperating from whatever trials he’d gone through while they were out working with Lestrade.

But there was nothing, no one, and no sign of any problems.

Dean placed Sam’s satchel on the ground next to his latest pile of scrap paper, mindlessly reaching into the bag to straighten the pages crumpled inside. Sam wouldn’t want them messed up, Dean told himself. Everything would be perfect, and they’d find Sam in the flat. That was that. All Dean had to do was make sure Sam’s belongings were in perfect condition.

All the belief in the world couldn’t make those desperate thoughts true. After Dean was done with the pages, he stood and glanced over their dark home. All that was out of place was a tinfoil cup, left folded up. Dean frowned. Sam always insisted on keeping their tinfoil straight, only using it to make what they needed, when they needed. He found himself sweeping the cup from the ground, shaking a few drops of water out, and placing it in his duffel for safekeeping.

The bedroom was as clear as the rest of the house, and Dean cautiously sealed up the home behind him. From there, he ran through his standard perimeter check. Sam knew exactly where Dean went during those checks. If he was able, he’d put himself in a place Dean knew where to look.


Repeated shouts throughout the flat revealed nothing. No echoing reply, not even the squeak of startled mouse pups. An icy fist balled up in Dean’s stomach. The chances of finding Sam fell with each second that passed.

Where are you?


Dean was forced to call off the search when he found nothing. There was no sign Sam had ever gone into the walls. Whatever happened, had happened on that end table, and Sherlock was the best person to figure it out. With a sigh, Dean turned and trudged towards the kitchen.

Maybe there’d be something for him to do there, something that would yield more results than his fruitless search.

Sherlock took a long, deep breath before slowly rising to his feet. With light and even steps, he went back to the end table. He didn't think he'd missed anything, but it seemed like as good a spot as any to begin his search. Keeping in mind that Sam could be unconscious or in too much pain to respond, he meticulously checked behind and underneath everything that could effectively hide a four-inch-tall man.

When nothing turned up there, Sherlock got up to repeat the process around the room. He paused before he could get far, squinted and leaned over the worktop to scrutinize a minuscule smudge. There were a few tiny dots of blood, long since dried, a short distance from the book pile where the knife had been found, one of them spread thin in the vague impression of the toe of a minuscule boot.

A tiny foot kicks Sam's knife across the surface, hard enough to cover several inches in distance.

Sherlock frowned at the image that flashed in his mind. If Sam was truly in danger from another human, why would he rid himself of his sole weapon? 

Unless he wasn't alone…

He filed that away, unable to find anything stronger to prove it. It was a distinct possibility, and he kept it in mind as he moved on to do a quick sweep of the kitchen, his bedroom, even the washroom. The detective ended up pacing back and forth in the main room, maddened by the lack of information available to him.

And if Dean's muffled shouts inside the walls were any indication, he wasn't having any more luck.

Impatience settled in, along with the knowledge that Sam was not in the flat anymore, Sherlock phoned John. He deserved to know.

John rushed home as soon as he hung up-- actually ran, if his panting was any indication-- and by the time Dean showed up in the kitchen, Sherlock explained what little he and Dean knew. Sherlock was still pacing, and John was hunched in a chair at the table with an untouched cup of tea beside him, holding his head in his hands and looking thoroughly miserable.

"Anything?" Sherlock demanded of Dean, spotting the smaller man first. John's head snapped up, dry and puffy eyes landing on the elder Winchester.

Dean’s shoulders were slumped in defeat as he walked closer to the edge of the counter, keenly feeling his size without Sam at his side. “Nothin,’ ” he said disconsolately, shaking his head. He scuffed a boot on the countertop. “Checked our place, ran through all the main passages in the walls, and there’s no sign of him or anyone else…”

Trailing off for a moment, Dean’s eyebrows furrowed. “There was one thing that was a little weird,” he said in recollection. Letting his duffel bag slide off his shoulder, he knelt on the ground to dig out the aluminum foil cup.

“Might be stupid,” Dean admitted, holding up the cup to show it to the two humans. “Sam never lets me go without unfolding these and saving the foil for later, and this was just chillin’ in our place on its own. I know I’m not the one that left it there.”

John blinked at the little bit of evidence Dean offered, frowning thoughtfully as he glanced at Sherlock. The detective skirted around the table and knelt next to the counter for a closer look at the cup.

"Break in the pattern," John pointed out, earning a nod from Sherlock. To clarify for Dean's sake, John went on. "Sherlock was telling me that it's possible for someone else, someone your size, to have been here when--"

"I'll show you," Sherlock interrupted, shooting to his feet. He scooped Dean into his palm without further warning, whisking him into the main room before John could scold him.

Chapter Text

Letting out a sharp sigh, John got up and approached the counter, where Dean's duffel had been left behind. He reached for it, his hand faltering before his fingers could touch it. Even his smallest finger outsized the bag.

Sam was just as outmatched, and he'd been all alone.

The crippling guilt crashed down on John all over again.

He knew it was irrational to blame himself for what happened to Sam. There was no way he could have known something so horrible would come about, but a harsh voice inside kept screaming at him that he should have known, should have stopped it.

John couldn't help that, after all Sam had been through and confided in him, he felt responsible for the lad.

No, Sherlock's voice reprimanded him, an echo of what the detective had said when John first came home in a panic. Thinking like that won't do any good. Not for Sam, not for you.

Sometimes John hated when Sherlock was right.

Taking a deep breath, John got his thoughts straight and carefully moved Dean's duffel to his palm and followed after Sherlock. Hopefully before anyone got hurt.

Dean tried to catch his balance on Sherlock’s hand during the detective’s swift, unstoppable movements, but only ended up tumbling to his rear, sitting with his legs splayed out and the tinfoil cup held in his hands like it was a liferaft.

“Watch the goods!” Dean grumbled, though his heart wasn’t in the complaint like it might normally be. Without Sam around, the complaints fell flat. “All you humans are too damn fast. You don’t give a guy a second to catch his breath.”

Complaints-- or attempted complaints-- aside, Dean was more grateful than he’d ever been before with Sherlock and John treating Sam’s disappearance--

Call it what it is. His abduction.

--as seriously as they’d treat anyone’s abduction. Not acting like certain other people might have, as though the brothers were lost pets to reclaim, but instead were people in their own rights, only much, much shorter.

Dean pushed himself to his feet, using Sherlock’s thumb to hold himself in place when the detective began to slow down. Maybe one day he’d grow used to Sherlock’s sheer speed.

But he doubted it.

If Sherlock heard Dean's complaints, he made no indication of it. He went straight to the end table, letting Dean off next to the more subtle marks of blood.

"This pattern here suggests that the knife was kicked across the table," Sherlock explained, pointing with the hand that had carried Dean there. "The boot print at the start seals it. Highly unlikely that Sam would do such a thing to his own weapon, but I suspect that boot doesn't belong to Sam. Hard to tell, I haven't exactly gotten around to measuring your feet, but it seems a bit too large to be Sam's from what little is visible."

"Think you could've told him that without the sudden grab," John cut in, entering more calmly than Sherlock. Certainly calmer than he felt. Ignoring the detective's rolling eyes, John approached the table and placed Dean's duffel next to the smaller man with a certain reverence.

Moving past John's comment, Sherlock urged Dean, "Confirmation?" If anyone could determine if that bootprint belonged to Sam or not, it was his brother.

Dean gave Sherlock a flat glare for a number of things, chief among them being grabbed without warning and any implication of them being ‘measured,’ but he let himself move past that for the moment. Sam was more important than any annoyance from Sherlock.

Stepping up to the bootprint, Dean looked it over before placing his own boot next to it. He tried to ignore how self-conscious he felt with John and Sherlock both watching his every move. He was the smallest person in the room by far, and without Sam around to ground him, he felt even smaller.

“Definitely not Sam’s,” Dean confirmed, looking at how much wider the print was compared to his own. “I know that kid like I know myself.” He paused for a second, pulling the boot off his foot to look at the treads. The rubber treads were carefully attached to the bottom, keeping the boots from falling apart as fast as the leather slippers Moira preferred. “The treads don’t match either,” Dean said as he stood there, one foot in only a sock.

He craned his neck back to be able to look the humans in the eyes. “But Sam’s one of the biggest people I know,” Dean said slowly. “He’s a friggin’ Sasquatch next to our family, and he knows how to defend himself. He wouldn’t go easy in a fight.”

"Maybe he was caught by surprise," John suggested as he sat in one of the chairs tucked into the end table. More than ever, he hated the way he towered over Dean. "Like we were saying earlier about a break in the pattern. The only reason Sam would do anything out of the ordinary is if something unusual happened."

Sherlock, still pacing, elucidated. "It's safe to assume that you don't get many visits from your own kind, given the amount of time you spend around the flat with us. Therefore, someone appearing while Sam was alone would throw him off."

"Someone who needed help, or pretended to need help," John added.

"Someone Sam would offer a drink to.” Sherlock gestured toward the cup Dean held.

"If Sam got all the way over here without suspecting anything, he might not have seen it coming," John concluded, the clarity of it all offering no comfort whatsoever. "Especially if this bloke was as tall as Sam, or even bigger."

Dean took in all the information as they talked, his brow furrowing more and more. Sam was always happy to find people their size, and he’d never turn anyone away. He was far more giving of their supplies than Dean would be, and wouldn’t hesitate to offer hospitality if he found someone in need. Especially since the Winchesters had chosen to work with the detective and the doctor. They had supplies to spare.

Infuriated, Dean’s hand closed into a fist around the tinfoil cup, crumpling it into a ball. “Son of a bitch! ” he snarled, whipping the ball of foil at the stack of books. Glowering at the way it bounced off the topmost book, he shoved his boot back on, threading the laces and pulling them as tight as he could, searching for a place to funnel his anger.

“Sam would never turn anyone away,” Dean said, almost spitting in his anger at his little brother being taken advantage of like this. “When I get my hands on that guy, I’m gonna rip his lungs ou--”

"Hey, hey," John said, keeping his tone low in attempt to calm Dean down. The elder Winchester had every right to be angry about what happened to Sam, but they all needed a clear head. John's own guilt and ire was all but forgotten in favor of keeping Dean grounded. "We can't worry about him right now. For all we know, he's long gone. Right now, we need to focus on finding Sam."

John looked at Sherlock, whose pacing had finally come to a halt in reaction to Dean's outburst. "Sherlock's got that blood sample," John went on. "We'll find the bastard, and find Sam. No matter what it takes."

“Whatever it takes,” Dean agreed. “If they lay one finger on Sam, I’ll make them all pay. After what he’s already been through with cages, I promised him never again, no matter what. Even if it means I take his place instead.”

Dean’s tirade ground to a halt as the other part of what John had said began to sink in. “Find him,” Dean echoed. “Find. Ain’t that what I’m supposed to do? Track things down-- Find them. Like some pint-sized bloodhound.

“Well, I’ve never needed anything more than my little brother, safe and sound.”

Before anyone could interject, Dean closed his eyes, a hand pinching the bridge of his nose as he started to concentrate, trying to bring his ability around to focus on Sam instead of any object. Nothing mattered more.

John blinked at the sudden shift in Dean's trajectory, concern mounting as the man fell silent. He glanced at Sherlock again, whose frown deepened. "Is this-- Has he ever tracked a person? "

"Not to my knowledge," muttered the detective in reply. His arms were crossed tightly over his chest and his eyes darted between Dean and John. Sherlock wouldn't say it aloud, but he was looking to John for answers as much as John was to him. As a doctor, his expertise was more expansive than Sherlock's from a medical standpoint. There was no telling what sorts of limits Dean's ability held, or the toll it would take.

After working and living with Sherlock for so long, John was more than able to interpret that look, so he moved his chair back and leaned in close, trying to catch Dean's eye.

"Dean? Don't strain yourself, alright? You don't have to do this all on your own."

John’s words were lost to Dean. All of his focus, all his concentration, was locked onto his knack, letting the image of Sam become the sole thought in his mind. Everything else, scents, sounds, even the feel of John’s breath gusting past him from his proximity, ceased to exist.

But it wasn’t working.

Dean redoubled his efforts. The prickle at the back of his neck started to burn, losing its familiar pins and needles sensation to be overcome by dagger spikes down his back. Instead of a clear impression of where to go, Dean’s vision was overwhelmed with red, even with his eyes shut.

Blood dripped from his nose.

Unable to break the attempted connection, Dean wavered in place. A migraine throbbed in his temple, and Dean’s ears began to ring.

With a gasp, the connection shattered. Blood poured from his nose and Dean felt himself tip to the side, consciousness fleeing to be replaced by blessed darkness.

Chapter Text

Sam stumbled to his feet, instinctively reaching for a silver knife that wasn’t there. “Get back!” he shouted, almost tripping as he tried to dodge away from the unknown human’s hand.

Whatever it was that drove his knack did not like any of the people in the building. This man’s gaze burned more than Euan’s, and Sam felt every part of him tense.

Instead of running, an attempt he could already see was fruitless, Sam let himself fall from his stumble. He hit the ground in a roll and curled into a ball, protecting his chest from further bruising. Every time he had been grabbed in his life, his chest and stomach and back had come out the worse for wear, and now he did everything he could to prevent that, knowing it was a useless attempt as the huge hand eclipsed him.

Sam was scooped up with practiced ease, the weathered fingers closing gently around him only for a moment while the human removed Sam from the cage and smoothly secured the door. As he walked, his grip loosened and his fingers formed a low, curved ceiling over Sam's head. He'd gone through this exact motion countless times, it was hardly given a thought.

He retreated into a well-lit back room where Euan was waiting.

"Are you going to hover there the whole time?" he asked Euan flatly, his deep voice reverberating strongly in his chest.

Euan scowled at the hand that held Sam. "This one's a troublemaker, Dakota, I can tell," he spat. "Someone's got to be the disciplinarian round here."

Rolling his eyes, Dakota sat down at his desk and put Sam down on the surface. He was as yet unrestrained, but he was thoroughly enclosed by various medical instruments and stacks of binders. Dakota reached over Sam's head to retrieve a clipboard and pen, then sat back in his computer chair to quietly observe Sam for a moment.

Sam jumped to his feet, keeping his hand up defensively while he assessed his surroundings, turning slowly in place. There was no obvious route for escape, at least none that Sam could see as usable before one of the humans swept him from his feet and back into their grasp.


Shuddering, Sam planted his boots when he was facing Dakota, though his glare was meant for Euan. “A troublemaker. Huh. What a strange phrase for my kidnapper to use. You took me from my home, Euan.

"You do not speak to--!"

"Ignore him," Dakota droned, cutting off Euan's shout. This instruction was directed toward both Sam and the other human in the room, but his calculating eyes never left Sam.

"Dakota…" Euan growled

With a sigh, the older man turned to frown at Euan, one hand coming to rest on the desk to discourage any escape attempt. "If you wish to remain, you will let me finish. Then you may discipline him to your heart's content."

Dakota turned back to Sam, knowing Euan didn't have a leg to stand on. Euan knew this too, and after a few failed attempts at speaking up in protest he slunk into a corner and crossed his arms petulantly.

"Name?" Dakota asked of Sam, clicking his pen and preparing to fill in the appropriate blank on his sheet.

Sam's glare didn't relent. At least now he knew which human was in charge for the time being. Euan had backed off all too easily with Dakota around.

Not that it made a difference in how Sam reacted to the two humans. He'd still been taken from his home and only family, wrenched away without a choice.

“Screw. You,” Sam snapped in response, holding onto what little resistance he had left. He gave away such information freely to Mark and Anita, but clung to it with all his might when it came to the humans.

Dakota cut his eyes at Sam, studying him for a second. He could see what Euan was talking about, but it didn't faze him. Few he catalogued reacted much differently.

"Alright," he sighed, setting his pen and clipboard in his lap for the moment. "Let's try this again. I am Professor Adam Dakota. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. I'm not going to torture the information out of you, but the faster you answer the question, the sooner you can leave."

The implied threat of the ‘hard way’ hung in the air as Sam assessed the new human. He didn’t like his situation in the slightest. So long as he was on his own, he was vulnerable, not even a weapon for defense. Though he hated to admit it, this was marginally better than being given a ‘pet’ name. 

Drawing himself up proudly, Sam kept his chin straight. “My name is Sam. I’d like to go home, now. Please.”

Ignoring Sam's plea, Dakota jotted down the given name along with the information he could discern for himself.

"Sex: male," he muttered under his breath. "Of Caucasian descent. Hair: brown." Then he turned his disinterested gaze back to Sam, requesting, "Your age, if known. If not, approximate."

Sam’s frown deepened as he listened to Dakota talk about him like he wasn’t there. The creeping feeling of being reduced to an animal started to poke at the edge of his mind. As though he was not an individual fully capable of the same emotions and thoughts as a human.

Crossing his arms, Sam kept up his defiant bearing. “I’m twenty-two, and more than old enough to know that you can’t treat people like this. People can’t be taken and sold like property. There have been entire wars over that.”

Again, Dakota only seemed to hear what he needed to know and took note of it on his clipboard. Then he lowered the clipboard and pen to his lap for the moment, removing his glasses and cleaning them with a little cloth from his pocket.

"I can see you are determined to be difficult," he observed, hardly glancing at Sam as he fiddled with his spectacles. He wasn't angry about this like Euan was, silently stewing behind Dakota, but he wasn't pleased about it either. He didn't seem to feel anything about it, positive or negative. "As such, you may feel the need to resist while I take your measurements and examine your health. I would advise against that. So long as you do what I say, I shall have no cause to have Euan restrain you."

Dakota paused to stow his cloth away. "Believe you me, I would rather avoid that as much as you. It seems you've gotten on Euan's bad side, and I'd dread to think what sorts of injury he might accidentally cause if left to his own devices." He maintained his emotionless monotone throughout, despite his dangerous implications.

Sam arched his eyebrows. “Oh, I didn’t know. Guess I’ll have to try really hard to get on the good side of the guy who kidnapped me and took me from my home. It’s really hard for me, you know, especially since I made a bad first impression, trying to fight for my life.” The sass rolled naturally off his tongue, honed from a lifetime of living with Dean and meeting him snark-for-sass.

"You're stalling," Dakota pointed out, disregarding Euan's sharp, aggravated mutters. Replacing his glasses on the bridge of his nose, the professor leaned his elbow on the desk, effectively looming over Sam.

"I won't ask again. Do I have your cooperation, or must I resort to less pleasant measures?" A touch of warning leaked into his tone, darkening it.

“Stalling’s one word for it,” Sam conceded. “Another way of putting it is I won’t cooperate with my kidnappers.” He tilted his head to stare defiantly up at Dakota. All of the fear and stress Sam felt at the thought of being caged and sold again just like in childhood was hidden, replaced by the righteousness of his statement. “You might have taken me from my home, but you won’t ever own me.”

Dakota let out a long breath, visibly disappointed. "Very well," he said quietly. He stood from his chair and threw a flat, knowing look in Euan's direction. "No permanent damage."

Euan smirked darkly and he nodded as the professor stepped behind the desk, turning his back and occupying himself with other things. The blond stomped forward and shoved the computer chair out of his way, slamming Sam into the wood of the desk with one hand. The small body was completely pinned by his palm, a tiny head and shoulders sticking out between two fingers.

"Not so talkative now, are ya?" Euan taunted, gradually increasing the pressure on Sam.

The impact was bad enough; Sam’s back rammed against the desk and he grunted in pain. The pressure was worse. Any bruises he’d acquired earlier on in the day during the struggle with Mark and his subsequent capture by Euan were inflamed, throbbing in time with the pulse that pounded in the surrounding fingers. There was no doubt that new bruises were joining the old ones.

Letting out a gasp as the pressure became too much for him, the air was forced from Sam’s lungs by the hand relentlessly crushing him against the desk. His ears burned with shame for how helpless he was in Euan’s grasp. If only he wasn’t cursed…

But that was just a dream, and Sam had no energy to waste on useless daydreams of grinding Euan’s face into the ground.

What little breath Sam had left, he called up to grit out “Terrible. Crowd… to work with… Why talk?”

Euan's face twisted with irritation. He was sick and tired of this Sam's backtalk, but as much as he wanted to silence the little pest for good, he was valuable merchandise.

"You need to learn your place, boy," he seethed through clenched teeth.

If Euan pressed any harder, he would risk causing damage to Sam's ribs and the fragile organs they surrounded. So, thinking quickly, he changed tactics and instead increased the pressure to the heel of his hand-- to Sam's legs-- with a feral gleam in his slate-grey eyes.

Sam sucked in a breath as the pressure lessened on his chest, but the relief didn’t last. Euan didn’t need to be so cautious against Sam’s legs, and that fact quickly became obvious to the tiny man. No amount of effort could free his limbs from under Euan’s hand, though Sam struggled with everything he had.

His eyes squinting shut without realizing it, Sam let out a cry of pain as Euan continued, no longer able to bite it back.

"Euan. That's enough," Dakota ordered, putting away the files he'd been glancing at.

His words fell on deaf ears as Euan over-enthusiastically persevered. He enjoyed the sound of Sam's suffering far too much to stop now. The tiny body writhed under his touch, completely confined and unable to escape.

The feeling of something giving way under his hand brought Euan back to the present, along with the professor rushing in to knock him away from the desk.

Chapter Text


Before he could think about what he was doing, John's hand shot out to catch Dean and stop him from hitting the table.

His breath caught as his fingers took on Dean's weight-- all of it, Dean wasn't holding himself up at all-- and were hardly affected. This was so different from the last time John had held Dean, so much worse. Then, Dean had been full of life and energy, albeit nervous energy. He was able to right himself and snap at a remark he didn't approve of, making him seem much less vulnerable than he was. Making himself seem bigger through sheer bluster, an art the kid had seemingly mastered.

Leaning on the slight incline of John's fingers, some of which outsized him in length, Dean had never looked smaller and more vulnerable.

This was further accentuated when a longer, paler finger came from behind John to poke at Dean's shoulder, effortlessly flipping the tiny person onto his back.

"Stop that!" John hissed, slapping Sherlock's hand out of the way. The hand supporting Dean wavered ever so slightly, causing his head to loll to the other side. John froze all over again, growing more frightened of how much his smallest movements affected Dean.

"He lost consciousness," Sherlock pointed out as he leaned in close, his chin all but resting on John's shoulder.

"Yeah, I can see that, thanks." John frowned deeply as his mind reeled. Was that all to do with Dean's knack? Had he really pushed his mind so hard that it overwhelmed him?

Was he all right?

Shifting his hand to lay more horizontally, John carefully maneuvered Dean into his palm, mindful of his tiny flatmate whom he now considered his patient. Once he was sure that nothing was twisted at a wrong angle (and trying to ignore the stain of blood that had been left behind on his fingers), the doctor cupped his other hand beneath Dean's for support and lifted him closer to eye level.

After staring and squinting at Dean's chest for a moment, John turned to Sherlock, who was watching intently. "Hand me your magnifier," he ordered, holding his unoccupied hand out expectantly.

He felt Sherlock retreat from his perch over his shoulder, and within seconds John had the little lens pinched between two fingers. It took him a while to find the right angle, but John was able to make out the subtlest rise and fall of Dean's chest.

"He's breathing," he announced for Sherlock's benefit. He lowered his hand and adjusted the position of the magnifier to see Dean's face. Besides being blood-streaked, his skin was paler than usual and his features soft in the absence of consciousness.

John couldn't help but marvel at the amount of detail he was able to see through the small lens, if slightly distorted. The individual spikes of Dean's hair which swayed as though in time with a breeze; it didn't take John long to realize that the breeze was his breath, and he made a conscious effort to lessen the gust. Freckles across Dean's cheeks and stubble on his chin, the tiniest things that John wouldn't be able to make out ordinarily. Bloodstains on his black shirt, and… John squinted and looked closer, a little thrown by the sight of a necklace resting against Dean's chest. Even with the magnifier, all he could really make out was an outline of a leather cord and a metallic gleam from a pendant.

"What is that? " Sherlock piped up, leaning in close again. John rolled his eyes, biting back a sigh with the new knowledge of how powerful his breaths could be to Dean.

"Don't worry about it," he shot back, shoving Sherlock's intrusive head out of his personal space. Then he shut and handed back the detective's pocket magnifier.

Sherlock took it back with a huff. "Right, I won't worry about possibly the world's smallest pendant," he muttered.

"Hey," John snapped, glaring at Sherlock. "None of your snark. Sam's missing, and Dean's unconscious. Until he wakes up, and probably for a while after, he'll be my patient; I'll take care of him. If you want to be useful, go analyze that blood sample and figure out who did this!"

Sherlock blinked, a flicker of hurt passing over his eyes before they fell on Dean again. His look hardened, then a rekindled determination sparked like a flame as he stormed across the room and bundled himself up to leave.

"I'll be at St. Bart's," he informed John as he tugged on his gloves. "Call me if anything develops."

With that, the detective was gone, and John was alone with Dean lying limply in his hand.

He swallowed thickly, then gingerly got to his feet, tucking the hand holding Dean close to his chest as he made his way toward the kitchen. There was nothing much he could do now except clean the blood off as best he could, try to stop the bleeding if it persisted.

"I said stop! " Dakota barked, yanking the computer chair back over and sitting in it in one smooth motion. Deft fingers danced over Sam's body, gently prodding in search of injury. He paid close attention to Sam's leg after a clear moan of pain escaped the little fella.

"You fractured his tibia," rebuked the professor with a glare over his shoulder as he fetched a first-aid kit from a drawer.

Euan crossed his arms defiantly over his chest and shrugged. "Little sod had it coming."

Dakota huffed and turned back to Sam's injury. He braced his fingers around the injury, but hesitated to look the small man in the eye. "Apologies," he murmured, somehow managing to muster up an almost imperceptible amount of sincerity. "This was never meant to happen."

That said, Dakota set the bone and worked quickly to put together a makeshift splint with the few resources available to him.

Tears streaked down the side of Sam’s face as he tried to suppress the pain, groaning as Dakota’s huge hands surrounded him, focus centered around the injured leg. His hair was matted to his face with sweat from the stress of the moment and the burn from his knack was lost with the rest of the pain he was in.

“Sorry if I can’t quite believe you,” Sam gasped out, barely able to cling to consciousness. He blinked fiercely to try and clear his eyes, but could see no more than blurs through the pain. “I think he meant it to happen since he found me.” 

Sam raised a shaky hand to his face, covering his eyes and rubbing the liquid away before letting his arm just collapse next to him on the surface of the desk. Such a simple movement to clear his eyes had expended almost all his remaining energy, and he could feel his mind trying to shift towards darkness, yearning for the emptiness of unconsciousness.

Dakota frowned as he bound Sam's leg tightly with a layer of gauze over his jeans, then splinted it with fragments of a tongue depressor propped on either side of the leg and secured with medical tape. For once, he considered the tiny man's words and found that he agreed with them.

"Euan, get out," he commanded, his voice falling back into the dispassionate tone from earlier.

The blond man blinked, thoroughly affronted. "Professor--"

"Get. Out,” Dakota emphasized. He might not technically have authority over Euan, but he certainly had seniority on his side. They were a team, each with a task to do. Euan was getting in the way of Dakota's. "Fetch Geoff, I need an extra hand."

A faint smirk tugged at the older man's lip when he heard the door shut behind Euan. He could feel the tension leaving his shoulders already. Letting out a long, satisfied breath, he worked a finger under Sam's shoulders and began to strip off his tan jacket.

Thanks to the injury, the professor would have to postpone the rest of his examination, but he may as well get the nasty bit over with while he had his supplies at the ready.

Sam didn’t have any resistance in him after his leg fracture. The throbbing pain in his leg stole away most of his focus as his jacket was peeled off, revealing his favorite black t-shirt and his arms. They were only just beginning to build up muscle with the consistent meals the brothers were able to have due to John and Sherlock’s side of their bargain. The friendly humans had never seemed farther away as much as that moment, with Sam’s body expertly manipulated and his fate out of his control.

Head lolling to the side as his body was shifted, Sam snapped out of his daze in confusion at the chill in the air with his jacket off. “Whu… what are you doing?” he asked blearily, unable to piece together what was happening.

Sam's question went unanswered. The door opened again and Geoff's heavy footsteps approached. "You rang, prof?"

Dakota set Sam's jacket aside, then worked on gently turning Sam over without upsetting his leg, laying him facedown on the desk.

"Hold him still," the professor instructed. He kept a light finger on the small of Sam's back to keep him in place while he gathered his supplies with his free hand. "He's going to be in a lot of pain, and more so if he moves."

Geoff leaned in like an eager dog, his hand hovering over Dakota's in anticipation. He'd never been entrusted with something so delicate, and he felt quite important at the moment. After the professor used a long pair of tweezers to pull the back of Sam's shirt up to his shoulder blades, Geoff made short work of putting down one finger to keep it in place.

"Like this?" he asked, arranging his middle finger on Sam's shoulders, his index at the base of his spine, and the pad of his thumb across the back of the little legs.

Dakota nodded in approval. "Very good," he said distractedly. "Just keep your fingers out of the way."

Sam instinctively tried to writhe free, the movement of tiny muscles visible on his back at the effort. He was pinned as completely as when Euan had held him down, without the steadily increasing pressure to beat the fight out of him.

There was no real fight left in the small man.

“Lemme go,” Sam said, only just able to turn his head enough to catch sight of the people leaning over him. Microscopic goosebumps covered his exposed skin, and Sam tried to push himself up with his arm. He needed to get away from these people and their uncaring hands and harsh words.

"Whoa," Geoff murmured, a bit of wonder in his voice. He'd held a few of the little folk before, but this felt different somehow. Feeling those itty bitty muscles flexing under his fingertips was just plain weird. "This one's a squirmer, in't he?"

Dakota hummed in agreement, flicking on a lighter. He held up a small tool, about the size of a pen, and let the tip heat up in the small flame. The fine wire, expertly crafted into a design about the size of Sam's hand if his fingers spread, was sufficiently heated in no time, the end flaring red to signal its readiness.

Extinguishing the lighter, Dakota leaned over Sam and approached with the tiny brand as he had done so many times before. "This is going to hurt," he warned.

Chapter Text


The hot metal was pressed to the back of Sam's ribs, just to the right of his spine. 

Sam’s cry of pain bit off into a strangled gasp as the brand touched against his skin, the smell of charred flesh accompanying the burn. The pain was strong enough to make him forget his fractured leg and his bruises. Flesh sizzled for just under a second before the brand retreated, leaving Sam permanently marked with the Roman numeral for 2 enclosed in a circle. The pain lingered as the brand lifted away, sending sparks of fire shooting down his nerves.

Panting, Sam could only lay there as his back convulsed involuntarily. It hurt enough to keep him from falling unconscious, receiving no escape from the horror of his reality. In less than a half hour, he was branded, bruised and broken in more ways than he’d ever been in his life.

Geoff cringed and recoiled from the sounds and the smell. He'd known about this as a part of the process, but hearing about it and being right there were two different things. His large muscles locked until Professor Dakota waved his hand out of the way. Letting out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding, Geoff wrung his hands and watched the older man work, awaiting further instruction.

The brand was set aside immediately to cool, and practiced hands folded a small amount of gauze until it was as small as Dakota could manage-- which was still much larger than the brand. Placing the gauze with the brand straight in the middle, the professor smoothly applied more medical tape with a solemn finality.

"Hand," he ordered as he gently scooped Sam up from the table, minding his injuries. Geoff readily held out his palm, and Sam was deposited onto it.

"Same cage?" Geoff inquired, watching Dakota reach back.

Dakota shrugged. "Put him in with the other Americans, I suppose." As he said this, he dropped Sam's jacket next to him. Geoff nodded and strode off to do as he was told. Once he was alone, the professor leaned back in his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose.

He needed a vacation.

Moira hummed to herself, happily skipping her way through the last of the passages that separated her family from where her wayward brothers, Sam and Dean, had decided to place their new home.

It was just over half a year now since she’d heard from her adopted older brothers. At only eighteen to their twenty-two and twenty-six years of age, she’d known them most of her life and considered them as much family as her mother and father. Dean had taught her to fight, letting her join in on the training sessions with Sam no matter how much mother complained that it wasn’t proper, and Sam had taken her along on their secret supply trips, making sure she was never left out of the fun when Dean got an idea into his head.

She definitely missed having them live down the hall from her. It just wasn’t the same without watching for Dean’s newest pranks, or Sam's retaliation.

Black hair bounced with her skips, cascading past slim shoulders. She never cut it, arguing more than Sam ever had if anyone tried to convince her otherwise. Didn’t they know? Hair like hers was invaluable in her trips to find new supplies. All she had to do was find a shadow to hide in, using her black hair to conceal her overly pale skin, almost translucent at times from the absence of sun during most of her life. Even Sam and Dean had more color than she did.

Half a year. It felt so long. Didn’t they knew their family worried about them? Especially with the flat they’d claimed as their own. Moira have a brief, involuntary shudder at the memory of what the last person living in the walls of 221B Baker Street had found. That person had left and never looked back, putting the flat and its strange humans behind them to find a better home.

Moira supposed she should have seen it coming. Sam and Dean were rarely as social as anyone else, keeping to themselves more than anything. She was glad they’d let her in a little, treating her as close as a blood relative, though the strange Americans were as far from related to Moira and her parents as they could get.

Spotting an opening in the wall covered up by a block of wood, Moira slowed down her pace, walking smoothly. Her mother had insisted she wear actual boots for the trip to visit her brothers, and with a sigh she’d given in, knowing they could rescind their permission in a heartbeat. Moira had to follow the rules just like anyone else. Without Sam and Dean around to flaunt those rules and constantly toe the line between safe and fun, she found herself sticking closer to safe.

“Dean!” she called out, her light voice airy with excitement. She kept the volume down enough to keep the sound from leaking out of the walls, but it was hard to contain the anticipation she felt at seeing them.

Moira pushed the block of wood out of her way. “Dean! Sam!” she said, glancing around the dark interior of their home. It was more spartan than her room. No decorative wall hangings covered the smooth wood interior, and they’d put down no rugs. The only dash of color came from Sam’s papers hanging on the walls, and with a grin, Moira took one down.

“What’s this, Sam?” she called out gamely, reading an entry that was scratched out in aggravation. “Dean dumping water over your head again? ” She shook her head. “He never gives up.”

With the continued absence of a reply, she began to wonder if they were even close by. Perhaps they were around the flat, spying on the humans or getting food. Eager to track them down, she replaced the paper on the walls.

“You should come out,” she sang happily as she hitched up her satchel and pulled the block back in place in front of their home to set out and search. “Mother packed some treats! I know Dean wouldn’t want me to eat all his cake…”

John drummed the fingers of his free hand nervously. It had been nearly an hour since Sherlock left. The doctor had done his best to wipe the blood off of Dean's face, getting most of it off with a dampened paper towel. He was sure he'd missed a few places, but the thought of trying to maneuver his fingers under Dean's chin or in the crook of his neck stressed him out more than the idea of him waking up with dried blood on his skin. It would just have to wait.

That done, John wandered the kitchen aimlessly for a bit, planning out what Dean would probably need when he woke up. Water, definitely, and something to eat, possibly an ice pack. All of those things were within reach, but John couldn't very well get to them with one occupied hand unable to do anything.

After reviewing where everything was, John had settled down at the kitchen table, angling his chair so he could sit back and know immediately when Sherlock came home. He tried his best not to dwell on the fact that there was an unconscious man curled in the hand propped against his chest, or imagine what sorts of horrible things might be happening to Sam.

Leaning his head back, John closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to relax as much as Dean was relaxed in his hand. He hadn't put the young man down for fear of hurting him without knowing or meaning to. In any case, Dean had lost quite a bit of blood and might have trouble feeling warm on his own. John's hand offered more than enough heat to sustain him.

The doctor hoped Dean would be alright with that when he woke up, and that keeping himself calm would help. John couldn't imagine waking up in the hands of a distressed giant.

Moira heard the sounds of a human in the kitchen, and nearly turned and went back to Sam and Dean’s home to wait for their return. They had to come back there eventually.

What held her back was the way the human was acting.

Moira frowned. For some reason, the human in the flat, one she vaguely remembered from when she’d helped Sam and Dean move in, was paying a good amount of attention to his hand. Looking down, swallowing nervously, a lot like he held something to worry about. 

But what could possibly make a human act like that? They were big and powerful, and seemed to be indestructible as far as Moira was concerned. Heaven knows that if this one got his hands on her she wouldn’t be going anywhere.

Holding her breath, Moira let her hair fall over her face and cautiously edged out from the wall entrance.

It was slow going, and she fervently wished that she’d worn her slippers instead of her boots. How was she supposed to walk without making a sound if her feet were covered in such big, clunky things? It really wasn’t natural. She couldn’t figure out how Sam and Dean dealt, but maybe it was because they were so tall.

Moira’s heart pounded in her head as she reached the beakers and vials scattered over the countertop. They were for experiments. Every one of her mother’s warnings ran through her mind, warning her in a thousand different ways to not get caught, to not end up as an experiment in the fridge…

And then she saw what the human held cupped in his hand, and all the warnings about capture and experiments fled her mind.

Oi! ” Moira shouted as she leapt out into the open, her hair fanning around her body as she twisted, her pin slipping out from her belt and held at the ready. “Let ‘im go!”

Chapter artwork by @mogadeer!

Chapter Text

John's head whipped toward the new voice and he shot to his feet in surprise, his empty hand cupping protectively around Dean through the movement. He blinked when a tiny young woman appeared on the counter, brandishing a sewing pin like it was a sword.

If John were honest, despite her vehemence, she didn't appear to be the kind of person who would be in the business of tricking others her size into being captured, but the doctor decided to take no chances. Not with his patient and flatmate on the line.

"Who are you?" he demanded, cautious of the miniature girl.

Backing off a few inches at the reminder of just how huge the human was, Moira tried to steel her heart. Dean was in trouble, and she needed to get him out of that human’s hands, now. Then once Dean woke up they could escape and find Sam, wherever he was, even if the human had him trapped somewhere else.

“I’m Moira,” she snapped defiantly, the pin wobbling slightly in her grasp. His voice was so huge and booming, like it could overpower hers without any effort. Just another thing to drill his size in, as though she could miss it.

Her dark brown eyes were glued to the hand she knew Dean was in, but with the human standing, Dean was out of sight. Just like that, and her brother was out of her reach.

Moira’s lip curled, and she glared up at the human. “You’re that human doctor, aren’tcha?” Her voice dripped with disdain from all the stories she’d heard of others like her and Dean being experimented on, often by these “doctors.” “I won’t let you run tests on our Dean!”

John's brow furrowed in confusion when she-- Moira, she'd called herself-- acknowledged that he was a doctor, then it shot up as she went on. Then the pieces started to come together. She knew Dean, and knew of John because of where Dean lived. She must be part of that family that took Sam and Dean in!

A cold shot of dread stabbed through John's gut.

"Oh!" John exclaimed, wincing when he realized that might be too loud. "Sorry. Okay, um, look, I'm not running any tests on Dean. I'm just trying to watch out for him, he passed out about an hour ago and I couldn't just leave him like that."

John clamped his mouth shut after his ramble, frozen in the residual shock of meeting someone so close to Sam and Dean.

Moira narrowed her eyes at the doctor. “An’ that’s why you’re holding him?” she asked, wondering how gullible this human thought she was. She edged an inch closer, eyeing up the man’s hands and wishing she saw a way up there. Her paperclip, twisted into shape by Sam, would do her no good climbing something with a mind of its own. All the doctor had to do was pinch it between two fingers.

Her jaw firmed. “Dean would never let himself get that close to a human, and certainly not while ‘e’s unconscious!”

"Okay, I know how this looks," John sighed, bowing his head abashedly. However this girl was related to Dean, she knew him well, but clearly she was in the dark about recent developments in Sam and Dean's lives. "But I swear, I'm only trying to help. Here."

He stepped slowly and toward the counter, not wanting to startle Moira or give her reason to use that pin of hers. It wouldn't do any permanent damage unless expertly placed, but it would still sting like hell and it would take all of John's self-control to not flinch. With Dean in hand, that wouldn't go over well.

Lowering his hand toward the counter, he hesitated only for a second to meet Moira's eye and say, "Please don't stab me," before placing it down a few inches from her. He flattened his fingers to the surface, eliminating the appearance of intention to close.

Moira waited a good, long moment, sizing up the huge hand sitting so close to her. Dean lay prone, sinking into the human’s palm. He looked surprisingly peaceful there, his head tilted towards her. She could see him take slow, even breaths, as though he was sleeping.

Worry for Dean trumped fear for the human. Keeping her pin at the ready, Moira stepped lightly towards the hand. She sent a few furtive glances up at the human’s face, searching for any deception in his expression.

Not finding any, she came to the edge of the doctor’s hand. She cautiously leaned over, keeping herself primed to leap backwards the moment he so much as twitched in her direction.

John was careful to keep completely still while Moira approached his hand-- approached Dean. He tried not to stare, but he couldn't help being curious. He knew next to nothing about this girl, and he had so many questions, but he got the impression that she wasn't in the mood to answer any.

One of Dean’s hands was resting close to where Moira stood, his limp fingers a stark contrast against the human’s skin. She could make out every wrinkle and crevice, so much more detailed than her or Dean’s skin was. Cautiously reaching out, she lifted Dean’s hand and folded her own around it, hoping for him to squeeze her slim hand back.

When nothing came, she put his hand down and looked over the rest of him. Some blood crusted the edge of his nose. She frowned with worry, but had to focus herself. Reaching into his jacket, her hand curled around a familiar hilt, a far better weapon than her own pin, which was currently tilted towards the countertop at her side with her concentration off it.

Yanking the knife out, Moira jumped back, holding it in front of her with the same stubborn cast over her fact that characterized Sam and Dean. She faltered when she saw whose knife she was holding.

“Why does Dean have Sam’s knife?” Moira cried out. Those brothers never left their knives behind.

John’s suspicions were confirmed when Moira jumped back again, this time with a knife from Dean's jacket. He tried not to look too hurt, knowing her reasoning was entirely founded. His heart sank as her fierce look punctuated her demand to know about Sam's knife.

"That, uh." John took a steadying breath, reaching behind him to pull a chair closer without disturbing Dean. He'd rather not be towering over Moira for the news he was about to break. "Sam went missing today."

Moira blinked, a thousand questions running through her mind. How did this human know about both brothers to begin with? Why did he look like he cared that Sam was missing? And, naturally, why was Dean collapsed in his hand in the first place?

She didn’t waver with the knife, knowing it was her best hope of defense, but the pin drooped in her hand, the tip tapping against the countertop as she considered what to say first. Sam always coached her to think before speaking, while Dean never seemed to think first, getting himself (and sometimes Sam), into more trouble than it was worth. She tilted the knife, staring at the scuff marks and wear that marked it as Sam’s. Dean treated his knife like a lover, she’d heard her mother say before when she thought Moira was in bed, while Sam treated his as a tool.

Tears threatened to well up into her eyes. “Why’s Sam missing?” she demanded, her voice starting to waver from all the fear and worry crashing over her. “And who are you? Why do you care, doctor? 

For a split second, John felt terrible for upsetting Moira. Then he realized it really couldn't have been avoided. The entire situation was incredibly troubling, and John reckoned it must be even more so for her, having known Sam and Dean for longer and being even younger than them.

"My name's John," he answered. "I am a doctor, which means I care about people. And you and Sam and Dean definitely fall under that category."

He paused to gather his thoughts, getting a little heated at the thought that apparently that was an unpopular opinion.

"We don't know exactly what happened, but it looks like someone broke into the flat and took Sam. He was by himself, and we think whoever took him was working with someone your size to earn his trust and lure him out. Clearly they succeeded. But we're trying everything we can to find him. That's why Dean passed out, I think, he was trying to use his knack to track down Sam and pushed himself too far."

John worried that that might have been too much at once, that perhaps he should have eased Moira into the situation a little more. She acted tough, but she was still a teenager by all appearances.

Moira’s eyes grew big as John talked. “B-but Sam and Dean are always together!” she said petulantly, wishing she could just block her ears and pretend she’d never heard a word John said. Just a step from stamping her foot in frustration. But she wasn’t a little girl, toddling around after Sam and Dean while they got in trouble, and they were just two boys learning how to get around in the walls. They were adults, and had clearly changed in the time since she’d seen them last.

“I just don’t understand how this could happen,” she sniffled, sticking her pin back in her belt to rub at her eyes before they betrayed her. “My brothers are always careful, and now one’s missing and the other’s in a hand...”

John's heart sank. Moira was their sister. Of course she was worried sick. And John wasn't making that any better by being blunt.

"If it helps," he said softly, hunching in attempt to be a little closer to her eye level, "I was only holding Dean because I was worried I'd hurt him if I tried to put him down. Maybe if you help me, we can move him to the counter? Then you don't have to worry about the… hand anymore, at least."

John tried offering a friendly smile, even though it thinly veiled his own grief for the situation. He just hated seeing Moira so confused and lost, and had no idea if anything he did would help. But he'd be damned if he didn't try.

Moira2 by nightmares06

Artwork by TinyFeatherpants!

Chapter Text

Moira crept closer to the hand again, eyeing it with suspicion. “You better not be trying to trick me,” she warned John, lowering Sam’s knife. Of all that she knew about her brothers, there was no way Dean would want to wake up in a hand, so she found herself again leaning over her oldest brother.

“What did you get yourselves into without me?” she asked softly, getting her free arm under his and trying to heft him up. He was a big guy, at least twice her weight, so she ended up sticking Sam’s knife in her belt as well, on the opposite side from her pin. Then she wrapped both arms around Dean, his arms limp and his head tilted against her shoulder. She’d never tried to lift Sam or Dean up before, and found him very awkward to move as dead-weight.

With Moira attempting to haul Dean's upper body, John's first instinct was to lift Dean's legs. Seemed like a natural setup for two people moving a limp body. Then, as he lifted his other hand, John's insides churned at the sight of how much of Dean's legs would fit between two pinched fingers.

John chickened out of that idea. Instead, he tilted his upturned hand slowly, hoping to assist Moira with a little help from gravity.

Moira let out a small squeak of surprise when the hand began to move, startled by the sight of how simple it was for John to move something so big.

Of course, she knew intellectually that his hand was just that-- his hand, and therefore moving it should be as easy for him as it was for her to move her own, but seeing it for herself was something else altogether. From so close it was another thing entirely.

Moira whimpered at the reminder that she was all alone with a giant, the only support at her own size unconscious in her arms. Taking on more of Dean’s weight, she pushed off from John’s hand, and froze up at the realization that she’d just touched the thick skin.

And nothing bad happened.

Pushing that thought from mind, Moira pulled gently at Dean until he started to slide off of John’s hand. Her older brother was much taller than she was-- just shy of Sam’s four inches, but passed out like this, he seemed so much smaller. Her brothers always seemed bigger than life, full of energy and ideas anyone else would think insane.

Moira sat down next to Dean, running a hand over his rough cheek to make sure he was still breathing okay, then straightened his head and arms in the hopes of making him comfortable against the hard surface of the counter. She didn’t want to attempt pulling him into the walls on her own. She might be able to support his weight fine if she got him in a better position, but trying to maneuver him into the walls, pushing aside the wallpaper, trying to move their wooden block door out of her way… The thought of doing all that on her own was daunting.

Which meant she was stuck here, watching over him until he woke up. With a human nearby.

Not that she knew if this John would even let her try and take Dean from his sight. She knew nothing of the man except that he was a ‘doctor,’ whatever that meant for humans aside from experiments and tests, that he’d been holding her Dean in a hand when she found him, and he knew of Sam.

Moira’s cheek flushed a little, and she looked up at John. “Thanks…” she said slowly. “For not grabbing me. And putting Dean down.”

"You're welcome," John replied, his now-vacant hand retreating.

He folded his hands in his lap and sat back in the chair, watching the tiny pair in concern. Moira looked so small compared to Dean, so young. John still had so many questions, but none of them were relevant in the current circumstances. As much as he wanted to lean in for a closer look at what she was doing with Dean, he decided against that as well. She was frightened of him enough at a distance.

"Is he all right?" the doctor asked with a slight tilt of his head. "I tried to treat him as best I could earlier, but, well, I can only do so much with a fella who can fit in my hand."

Moira fiddled nervously with the knife on her belt. “He just looks like he’s asleep,” she replied. “Just some blood on the edge of his nose…” Trailing off, she leaned over to get a better look at Dean’s face, but it didn’t look like an injury someone John’s size could cause. If the human tried to hurt them, splotches of dried blood at the edge of Dean’s nose would be the least of their problems.

“He’s never had a problem with his knack before, not like this,” Moira said distractedly, thinking back on her years with the Winchesters.

John nodded, relieved to hear an assessment from someone who didn't require a magnifying glass to see Dean up close. Despite their rough start, John was glad to have Moira around.

"Well, I don't know much about that from a medical standpoint," he said in response to her concern, "but… Well, he was upset about Sam's abduction. As he should be. He's been, er, working on improving his knack recently, and when Sam turned up missing he went straight for trying to find him. I don't know if he's ever tried tracking down people, but… I guess he got overwhelmed."

For the moment, he omitted Sherlock from the description of Dean's training. If Moira knew vaguely about John, she might have heard of the detective as well. He imagined her apprehensions for Sherlock would be equal to, if not greater than those for himself.

Moira frowned, her worry for Sam and Dean growing, not lessening. The amount that John knew about the brothers was bothering her more and more.

She knew they could be impulsive, but this?

“How do you know so much about them?” she asked slowly, keeping her guard up. No matter how mild this man looked, he was still human. He didn’t need to get angry at them to be a danger, and she refused to leave Dean’s side.

"W-well, ah…" John hesitated to explain what happened outright. For one thing, it all began with Sherlock capturing her brothers and trapping them in jars. He had a feeling Moira wouldn't take kindly to that. In any case, they had all found some way to move past all that, and it would be pointless to reopen that wound. With a sigh, John chose to be as honest as he could without distressing Moira any more than she would naturally be.

"We met about a month ago," he began. "They live here, and we… talk sometimes. I try not to bother them, honestly. They just keep coming back, and I do my best to make sure they're comfortable. As much as they let me, anyway, they generally don't seem to approve of anything that feels like a handout."

John frowned, wondering if that ramble made any sense.

“As they should,” Moira said firmly, shocking herself by talking to a giant in such a tone of voice. It was reminiscent of her mother telling father what was what. She glanced down at Dean. “No wonder you never come home to visit. Talking to humans? What were you two thinking? 

Sam had no idea what was happening to him anymore.

The world moved too fast, and mountains shifted around him. Leathery structures he might recognize normally as fingers closed around him, moving him until he landed on another surface, this one distractingly loud as something thrummed under his body.

It’s a pulse, remember?

The small, quiet voice of his sanity went unheeded. Sam instinctively tried to curl into a ball, but only made it so far before the pain brought him up fast. His leg, ignored in favor of the pain on his back, resumed its angry throb. Hot, too hot. The burn on his back extended throughout his entire body as he stretched an arm out along the human’s palm, faintly grasping at memories.

“Dean…” Sam moaned, trying to find his older brother.

Vertigo struck as the human moved, and a breeze started to cool Sam’s body. His stomach clenched with nausea. Good thing you didn’t eat breakfast, that same voice jabbed at him from the back of his mind.

Outside of Sam’s haze, Geoff tried to ignore the little fella's movements. The poor thing was clearly delirious and had no idea what it was doing or where it was. So he kept his eyes forward on his way to the cages, unlocking and opening it one-handed.

The others in this cage shied away from him and huddled all the way in the back. This allowed Geoff's hand plenty of room to reach in and tilt, letting Sam and his jacket slide off and onto the acrylic floor. Once he was securely shut in with the rest, the human called that a job complete and returned to his book across the room, thankful for a little rest after all that.

Anita perked up when Geoff came back in. Unlike those in the other cage, she scurried to the front of her cage to peer out of the clear door as best as she could. After her brief encounter with Sam, and seeing Euan storm off not too long ago, she felt a bit braver.

She was glad for this burst of confidence, because she managed to catch a glimpse of her new acquaintance between Geoff's huge fingers. Her heart jumped into her throat and her stomach chilled with worry at the sight of the state Sam was in. He looked like he could hardly lift his head without an enormous amount of effort.

As Geoff put Sam away in the other cage, Anita jumped up and made her way to a set of air holes set between the cages. They were small, only large enough for Anita to stick a few fingers into, and nearly reached the ceiling. Thankfully, she was tall and had long arms.

She hopped up and caught her fingers on the lowest hole, easily pulling herself up to try and peer through. "Sam!" she hissed, craning her neck to find him in the awkward angle.

Hearing his name, Sam tried to lift his head from the ground, only seeing the smooth blur of the floor and wall of his cage stretching out. Trying to shift the position his fractured leg was in only brought on more pain, so he stopped moving and paused. “Anita?” he called out. Her voice sounded so far off, and the rustling sound of movement came from closer, but he lacked the energy to look around.

Sam sucked in a deep breath to muster up what strength he could find. “Is that you? Where are you?” His confused memory could only show him snippets from when they were in a cage together, and she sounded too far off for that now. Nothing made sense to him.

"Don't worry about me, are you all right?" she emphasized. Though it wasn't obvious looking at her, Anita’s arms were abnormally strong, and it was no trouble for her to hold herself up and continue to peer through her tiny windows. She could see bits and pieces of Sam through the holes, and she blanched. None of the others ever looked this banged-up after seeing the professor, even after the branding. She hoped those crazy notions in his head hadn't gotten him into too much trouble. "What's happened to your leg?"

Sam groaned at the reminder. “It’s… broken or something. I think he said… fractured tibia?” he made a face as he recounted the unfamiliar word. John would understand, if he ever got to tell him. A friendly face that Sam held onto in his mind. “Euan got a little overzealous.”

A shadow fell over Sam, and he found himself looking up into two grey eyes as light brown curls cascaded down to frame a slight face. A little girl, barely half his height, stood over him holding out a little cup of water.

“Y-you should try drinking,” she offered, her eyes glassy with unshed tears. “It’ll help, I promise.

Chapter Text

As Dean started to come around, digging himself out of the black hole his mind had fallen into, he groaned.

Unavoidably bright lights, glaring overhead at him, burned spots in his vision as his eyelids fluttered open. Dean threw up an arm to block his sight, wondering at the migraine that throbbed inside his skull.

Did anyone get the number of the bus that hit me?

Words from another life crossed his mind, barely making any sense in the disjointed world Dean found himself in. If a bus hit him, there’d be nothing left… that made no sense.

What the hell happened?

He could hear voices, both rumbling and not, and the pain from his migraine increased. It was all so loud.

“Why’s everyone need to shout?” Dean mumbled, trying to roll into his side to get up. He didn’t get far, his pounding headache making him drop his head back down.


A different shadow materialized at Dean’s side, and he recoiled, trying to blink away the glare so he could see. The voice was familiar, but last he remembered, he was around John and Sherlock… which meant…

Moira?! Where did you come from?” 

John perked up the second Dean showed signs of movement. "Dean!" he hissed as he leaned in, forgetting all his earlier trepidations. "You're awake. How are you feeling? Anything you need?"

His brow pinched and his eyes darted over Dean's small form, automatically taking notes of anything visibly wrong with him. Aside from a possible headache, the young man seemed confused more than anything. Even so, John was ready to jump up and fetch whatever Dean asked for.

“Doc!” Dean’s confusion mounted, but he knew that voice. The big dark blob must be John… but that didn’t make sense. Why would Moira be close to John? Why was Moira even here?

“I feel like roadkill left on blacktop to bake for a few days,” Dean confessed, lowering his arm down from the light as his eyes began to adjust.

“You know him?” came a scolding tone from the smaller dark blob by Dean’s right, and he tilted his head to the side. More started to come into focus, and his eyes began to differentiate between Moira’s dark hair and her pale skin.

“He’s just the doc,” Dean said, rubbing the side of his head. “He’s harmless. He even helped patch up Sammy when he got hurt.” Crusted flakes came away with his hand and he blinked severely at the sight as his fingers came into focus at last.

Dried blood.

That was all Dean needed to remember what knocked him unconscious, and he sat right up. The pain spiked like a punch to the temple, and with a moan, Dean flopped back down onto the countertop. “Sam... What happened? What’d I miss?”

Something in John smiled when Dean vouched for him in the face of Moira's protests. The flicker of pride in the trust between them was quickly overshadowed by Dean's evident pain.

"Take it slow," he advised, whispering. "You passed out. You've been out for about an hour, and you lost a fair bit of blood."

John sat back, preparing to stand up but waiting for Moira's sake. "I'm gonna get you some water, but is there anything else I can bring? A bite to eat, a cold pack?"

“All of those sound awesome,” Dean admitted, letting his eyes slip closed. The throb of his temple hadn't given up.

“Dean!” Moira said, scandalized.

Dean looked over at her again with a sigh. He was exhausted beyond belief but it was better to deal with it now, before his body decided it was time to rest again.

“Moira, how are you here? With John?”

Moira scowled at Dean, her glare as potent as his own on a face that normally had a smile as bright as the sun. “You’re the one asking that? You? After I found you in a human’s hand?! 

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do your parents know you’re here?”

“Mother sent me! She wanted to make sure you two boys were getting along, especially since you haven’t visited in six months, Dean! You can’t make them worry like that.”

Dean sighed. “We meant to come visit, we just got… busy.”

Anita gave an involuntary shudder at the mention of Euan, and she lowered herself away from the holes while she recovered. She didn't have to try hard to imagine what sort of horrible ways the human could have hurt Sam. Reminding herself that he was gone, Anita swallowed thickly and peeked back into the adjacent cage again.

Her heart warmed a little at the sight of the little girl from the American bunch. At least someone wasn't afraid to help Sam, and Anita was glad sweet little Kara took that first step.

Another shadow came up behind the tiny Kara, and gently pulled her back. “Give him space, sweetheart. He can’t drink lying on the ground like that.”

“Here, let me help.”

A third unknown voice, what sounded like an older guy, came from behind Sam. Two hands inserted themselves under Sam’s armpits, and hauled him up. He wavered in place, and the second man helped stretch out his legs. Sam blinked at them, completely blank on who these people were.

“Too bad he can’t sit back,” tutted the older gentleman as he examined the splint job done on Sam’s leg. “That brand won’t be treating him nice right about now.”

“Who-- who are you?” Sam finally managed to get out. He found four sets of eyes staring back at him. Two matching greys, one set of oddly golden eyes, and from a distance away a young girl, barely Sam’s age, stared back with bright blues. She was curled into a corner, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest. Something about her didn’t quite fit with the others, but Sam had no room in his mind to wonder what as the first girl shoved the drink at him.

“My name’s Kara!” she declared, looking happier now that he was sitting up. “Now drink this so you can feel better.”

The older man with golden eyes chuckled darkly. “We’re your fellow prisoners,” he informed Sam. “I’m Mikael,” he nodded towards the younger man with the grey eyes, “that’s Christian, and the kid’s Kara.”

“Plus Bree,” Kara chimed in helpfully.

Sam took the water, his hand shaking at the exertion. Automatically, two sets of arms were around his shoulders to keep him upright. “ ‘m Sam,” he gasped, gratefully draining the water. “W-- why the cage swap all of a sudden?”

Christian shook his head, glancing over at where Anita was. “Who can know with these humans.” His voice was youthful, but carried a heavier burden than anyone should ever have to.

Anita's gaze lowered at even the smallest contact from Christian, and a shameful heat rose in her neck.

"Y-you were never meant to be in my cage, Sam," she quietly put in. "I'm not for sale like you all. Euan just has a twisted sense of humor."

Her shoulders bunched up, but she remained dangling by her fingers from the tiny windows between cages, still showing no signs of struggle or fatigue despite the height.

Christian looked back at Sam. “Her brother’s Mark,” he informed the newcomer. “The humans here keep them apart most of the time. Then act like they’re doing the twins the world’s biggest favor by letting them see each other, like they should be grateful.” He almost spat the last word.

“Brother?” Sam whispered, images of his own brother flashing into his mind. “I… but I… I threatened Mark. He… helps Euan.”

Mikael laughed, a sarcastic sound. “Welcome to our world,” he said dryly, patting Sam’s shoulder. “You did what you had to do, and he does what he has to. Now, drink up. You need your strength back.”

Kara was back with a second drink, holding it up for Sam with hopeful eyes this time instead of the worry and fear in them last time.

Anita touched back down on the floor while the others explained her situation to Sam. She felt terrible that he didn't hear it from her, but really, what could she have done differently?

"I'm s-sorry I didn't tell you earlier, Sam," she called, pressing her back to the thick acrylic wall. "You were just so angry with Mark, and I didn't know if you'd be angry with me if you knew, and…" She trailed off as the lump in her throat choked her up. Without her consent, her mind conceived of a dozen different ways Sam could have threatened her brother, given they were about equal size. A dozen more ways Mark would have taken advantage of Sam appeared after those.

Overwhelmed, Anita clutched her head, yanking her hair and breathing deeply in attempt to pull herself out of the downward spiral of pain in her own head. Slowly her mind cleared, and she was at least somewhat capable of rational thought.

Startled by Anita’s reaction, Sam’s first instinct was to leap to his feet to check on her. Naturally, this got him nowhere, and Mikael put a hand firmly on his shoulder to force him to lay back.

Sam stared at the ceiling of their cage overhead, blinking fiercely. Why did everything here have to be so confusing?

“It’s still not your fault,” Sam called up at her, struggling to keep his voice loud enough to be heard. His words wavered. “Whatever happened. Don’t blame yourself.”

“Rest, Sam,” Christian insisted, pulling Sam’s jacket over and rolling it up to use as a pillow. “You’re no good to anyone right now.”

Sam couldn’t fight back. He let them stretch him out on his side and straighten his leg. The pain from the brand wouldn’t quit, but the exertions of the day caught up to him the moment his head touched the pillow, and he was out like a light.

“Will he be okay?” Kara asked, nervously biting her thumb.

Christian put an arm over her shoulder, trying to keep a good face on for her sake. “He’ll be fine,” he assured her. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t hurt himself while he sleeps.”

Inwardly, he wondered if any of them would be okay, ever again. Deep down, so buried he barely knew they existed, his fears of being separated from his only daughter lay in wait, ready to attack Christian the moment he let his guard down and fell asleep himself.

Sam's waning voice stole Anita's focus, and she jumped up to the air holes for one last peek as things went quiet. She relaxed a little as she saw the others taking care of him, watching over him, and a wave of uselessness sent a chill down her limbs.

She dropped back down and sat on the floor, not exactly expecting conversation. Instead, she dwelled on what Sam had said. He didn't blame Anita for any of it, all the terrible things that happened to him, even after he knew how she and Mark were connected. 

It's still not your fault, he'd said.

But wasn't it? If she wasn't there, Euan wouldn't have anything to hold over Mark's head. If Euan didn't constantly threaten Anita with harm, to sell her, or even kill her if he got angry enough, Mark would have no reason to do what he did to Sam or any of the others that had come and gone before him. Anita felt like she was causing harm simply by existing.

Still, Anita found comfort in Sam's words. He didn't hate her like others her brother had taken hated her in the past. She wrapped her arms around her knees, worrying about Sam. She worried about Mark as well, but that feeling never went away. As long as he was with Euan, which he always was, she would worry.

Chapter Text

John moved quietly while Dean and Moira went back and forth, heel-toeing it across the kitchen. He pulled a water bottle from the fridge, setting it on the counter for later, and picked around for something Dean should eat. Iron, B vitamins, vitamin C… he kept these in mind as he gathered a small collection and transferred them to a cutting board.

Using a small knife, he chopped a peanut from a bag of trail mix left lying in a drawer. Small, yet rich in protein, iron and B vitamins. Then he sliced off a tiny section of cheddar cheese from a small block for a bit of dairy. Lastly, John recalled that he had been rather busy at the clinic before Sherlock had called him home; he hadn't had time to eat the apple he'd grabbed that morning. After retrieving it from his coat pocket, he cut a small slice and chunked it into manageable pieces for small hands.

Once that was all done, John transferred a bit of each onto a torn-off corner of a paper towel. He poured a bit of water into a bottle cap and slid it and the food carefully within Dean's reach.

Then John went to the freezer for a cold pack. After what Sam had gone through with the ice packs for his bruises, the doctor spent one of his days off scouring the internet for friendlier, less messy alternatives to ice. After finding something surprising, John went out and bought a bag of mini marshmallows to keep in the freezer. Apparently they absorbed the cold really well, and since they were soft they were easier to apply to sore or achy spots on the body. Dean wouldn't have to deal with the wetness of melting ice, and he'd have something sweet to nibble on later if he liked.

As strange as it was, it was a better option, in theory.

Tearing open the plastic bag, John fished one marshmallow out and quickly placed it in front of Dean before the heat from his fingers could pass into it. "Cold pack," he explained, fishing around a drawer for a fastener to keep the bag shut when he put it away.

Dean pushed himself up with a grunt, dubiously eyeing the offerings left next to him. “Marshmallow?” he questioned, picking it up. With a mental shrug, he held it to his forehead. “Oh, that hits the spot,” he declared, propping his elbow on his knee so he could stay sitting up.

“What is it?” Moira asked, prodding the side of the fluffy white cylinder.

“Trust me, it tastes good,” Dean said. “Reminds me of campfires and s’mores, and…” Trailing off, he realized he was talking about a past Moira knew nothing about. “You’ll have to try some,” he said, hurriedly covering up his mistake.

He took a bit of cheese, no energy left in him to argue against the food, and started to eat through the scraps. “Where’s my duffel?” he asked curiously, glancing around the countertop as he searched for a way to drink the water.

John's brow shot up. "Oh! Right, yeah, ah, one sec," he stammered, twisting the marshmallow bag shut and shoving it into the freezer. Then he hurried into the main room to fetch Dean's duffel.

Whether it was the unprompted urgency John had applied to the request or the fact that he'd had time to distance himself from his guilt, John had no qualms about picking up the tiny bag this time. He was just as careful, though, as he ferried the duffel back into the kitchen and put it down on the counter within Dean's reach.

"Feeling any better?" he inquired, sinking into the chair once again. He was glad that Dean had taken the cold compress and was eating some of the food without complaint.

Dean angled his head from where he was propped against the marshmallow. “Much,” he said gratefully, snagging the strap of his duffel to drag it closer. He pulled out a sheaf of tinfoil, and was trying to sort it into a cup, one-handed, when Moira snatched it out of his hand with a knowing look.

“Sit still and get better,” she snipped at him, quickly making the cup and scooping water into it. “You’re not doing yourself any favors by pushing it.”

“Thanks, mom,” Dean said tartly. “Who’s the oldest here again?”

"That'd be me," John pointed out, easily drawing attention to himself. He was steadily learning how to control his voice around the smaller folk, especially at close proximity. However, John supposed he couldn't prevent himself from being an overwhelming presence to them even at his quietest.

With a shrug, John went on. "And as a doctor, I have to agree with Moira. You need rest. And eat up, you're gonna have to replenish your iron and vitamins to get your strength back."

Dean gave John a flat glare. “You two,” he griped, pointing first at Moira then at John, “are not supposed to be on the same side!”

“Oh hush and eat,” Moira said, shoving the sliver of peanut into Dean’s hand while he was distracted. “Or I will get our parents and you can explain all this to them!”

Her threat hung in the air while Dean silently assessed his younger sister. Begrudgingly, he took a bite of the peanut, not calling her bluff. He knew poker, and he knew when to play it safe. This was one of those times.

“See?” he snipped. “Eating.” He made an exaggerated swallowing motion, then drained the rest of his water cup. He’d barely pulled it from his mouth before Moira snatched it from his hand for a refill.

John smiled, glad to hear some of Dean's snark returning bit by bit. In spite of everything, he was thankful that Moira was on his side when it came to helping Dean. He supposed, if she stuck around after they found Sam, he and she could reach some other form of common ground beyond their concern for the brothers.

The door to the flat slamming downstairs broke John out of his thoughts and shattered the delicate peace he'd achieved.

"John!" Sherlock called as he thundered up the stairs, eliciting a cringe from the doctor. Pinching his nose, he propped an arm against the back of his chair and turned to face the door that led to the landing, which Sherlock inexorably burst through.

"I've got a match! Now all we have to…" The gleam in his eyes and his triumphant smile fell under John's glare and the sight of another figure on the counter next to Dean. A smaller, female figure.

Sherlock shot John an affronted look. "I said to call me if something happened."

"This just happened!" John shot back defensively.

Euan leaned against the rough brick wall of the alley between the base of operations and the next building over, taking a drag from a cigarette. He'd angrily burned through the first one too quickly, so he made a conscious effort to savor this one.

Honestly, he'd had enough grief from Sam all morning, Dakota had no right to undermine his position in front of the little pest. He left Euan no choice but to take extreme measures to control their upstart newbie. The professor certainly wasn't about to. The guy was like a rock, never moving or showing any emotion. Euan was surprised to get such a vehement reaction out of the older man.

Shaking his head, he inhaled deeply to fill his lungs with nicotine and tobacco smoke. He frowned when he felt a telltale squirm from Mark as he shied away from the stench whilst inside his pocket. Knowing full well that the little fellow couldn't bear it, Euan pulled open his coat and blew out the smoke toward the inside breast pocket. A smirk played across his lips when he smoothed down his coat and felt the tiny spasms of Mark's coughs.

The control he had over Mark made it all worth it at the end of the day. It didn't matter that Euan was younger than Dakota. He'd only been twenty-three when he'd captured the twins himself, and it didn't take him long to come up with a brilliant idea and to get the higher-ups to agree to it. One could say that this entire division was formed based on his concept! This was all here because of him!

Not that that mattered to Dakota; nothing seemed to. And Geoff and any of the other grunts they sent over to be strongmen usually just took the mickey out of Euan for the ways he played with his twins. He did his best to ignore them all. At nearly thirty years of age, he was a genius, even if no one recognized it.

After he'd finished his cigarette, he spent quite a lot of time at a coffee shop down the street, letting the bitter scent within mask the smell of nicotine in his clothes. Once his head was cleared, he would head back to the base, perhaps go and send Mark out to find more.

He was just about to get up and throw away his coffee cup when The Imperial March blasted from his trousers. He fumbled in his pocket for his mobile, answering the phone to silence it without checking the caller ID.

"Euan Rummage," he answered, tossing his cup in the bin and hurrying out to the street.

The voice that came over the phone had an aristocratic air to it, a warm feminine lilt. “Euan, darling. Just the man I wanted to talk to. I think you and me have a bit more time to spend together before I leave for America. You’ve had more than enough of an opportunity to assess that batch I brought over.”

Euan's steps stuttered a little in surprise, but he kept on walking to avoid suspicion from his fellow pedestrians. This was certainly unexpected, and could either be very good or very bad for him.

"Miss Chandler," he breathed. "Yes, of course, ma'am, they're all set and ready for purchase. Too soon for buyers, of course."

“Mmm, yes,” Mina said, a purr clear in her voice. “I do so hope they bring in plenty. It’s not often that we see such youth in a catch like the little girl, and Bree is already acclimated to such a life.”

Bree, the only one in that group that had spent extended time in the care of a human, stuck out among the others in her cage. She was too different from them now, and did her best to keep away. Mina had noticed the behavior first when she accepted the sale for a paltry hundred thousand, and Euan and the others got to see it first hand upon delivery.

“I will stop by today to settle things then,” Mina said. “Expect to see me soon and I do so hope you have the second half of the payment ready before I have to leave for my flight.” Her warm attitude covered up an icy edge to her voice. She dealt with the American side of things, and often brought unexpected amounts of these ‘borrowers’ to sell.

"Absolutely!" Euan nodded even though Mina wouldn't see it. They had just received an enormous sum of money, straight from the top. From higher up than the higher-ups Euan had appealed to all those years ago. "It's all in, just waiting for you. Anytime you need to stop by, ma'am."

“Excellent.” The satisfaction was thick in her voice. “Expect me by within the hour, darling, and don't keep me waiting. Ciao!”

There was a click on the other end of the phone line as Mina Chandler hung up, cutting the conversation short.

Euan's phone remained at his ear for a while after Mina hung up. Catching himself, he quickly put away his mobile and quickened his step. The others needed to be informed of this at once.

"Mina's on her way!" he announced the moment he burst into their main area. Geoff and Dakota were sitting at the table, on opposite sides and ends of it, the former stuffing his face with his takeaway lunch and the latter quietly sipping tea out of a thermos. Right on schedule, the borrowers had been given their own food scraps less than half an hour earlier. Both the humans perked up at Euan's statement, in varying degrees. "She'll be here within the hour."

"I'll get the case ready," said Dakota, already heading into a back room where the safe was kept. Geoff, on the other hand, looked like a deer in the headlights with half a taquito sticking out of his mouth.

"Well? Get off your arse!" Euan barked, waving a hand at the mess that had accumulated around Geoff. "Get this filth straightened out! Place looks like a sodding pigsty! "

Inside her cage, Anita recoiled far into the back corner as soon as Euan was in sight. Despite the fact that he didn't seem to be bothering much with them, the human was a wild card that she could not even begin to predict.

The Americans in the other cage didn’t react as much, past the startled flinches from the volume of Euan’s voice. Christian directed a scowl at the door, recognizing the name Mina from the woman who’d bought them and brought them here.

Kara was sitting close to her father, hesitantly eating the food given to her. Both the men had given her a portion of their share, trying to help her gain weight. She was already small for her age. Being captured by humans was doing her no favors.

The rest of the food in the cage was left by Bree and Sam. The blonde girl hadn’t touched her share yet, and everyone was agreed that they should leave Sam to get whatever sleep he could. Sam had gone through more in his short time there than any of the others, and Christian thought the kid looked younger and more vulnerable than he should with his leg bound and bruises showing on the visible parts of his arms.

Will he be okay?

And Christian still had no answer.

Chapter Text

At the sight of the new giant in the room, a much louder human that moved around faster than John thus far, Moira shrank down next to Dean, trying to hide behind her older brother. “D-Dean?” she said in a wavering voice, blinking up at the intimidating giant. They were both too far from cover, even if Dean could move himself that far.

Dean lowered his marshmallow, covering her hand with his larger one. “Don’t worry, he’s not going to grab you,” he said in a voice loud enough for Sherlock to hear, staring across the room at the detective. “He’s helping find Sam, so we can get him back.” A solid wall of determination bordered Dean’s voice.

“But what about his experiments…” Moira whispered.

Dean patted her hand. “You’ll never have anything to worry about that. He’s safe.

With everything happening, Dean decided it was well past time for him to get up off his ass. He kept his hand on the cool marshmallow, but pushed up with his other hand to stand. Realizing what he was doing, Moira quickly caught Dean’s balance when the room began to tilt sideways. She was little next to him, topping out at almost a half inch shorter than Dean.

“Remind me to never try finding people again,” Dean said, holding the marshmallow against his head. “Sherlock, this is our little sister Moira.”

"So I gathered," Sherlock replied. While Dean was indirectly admonishing him, the detective's eyes focused on the newcomer. Clearly she and Dean had a close relationship, given their body language; she turned to him for protection and comfort, which Dean was more than willing to provide. The physical contact between them was not sensual enough to suggest romantic involvement, so it wasn't a difficult leap to assume they were family, or considered themselves so.

Nodding in respectful acknowledgement of Moira, Sherlock strode into the main room without another word. John sighed heavily, some of the tension leaving his bunched-up shoulders.

"He's happy to meet you," John assured Moira, rubbing his temple with thinly-veiled irritation.

Moira stared after the second human, uncertain how to react. She took solace in Dean’s strength and the arm that was draped over her, despite the way she held him up. Dean stood firm against the humans, and that gave her courage.

“N-now what?” she asked, nervous and tense but feeling some of that nervousness begin to evaporate. Neither human had tried to trap either of them once.

“Now, you go back to my place and wait,” Dean said, straightening. He untangled his arm from her, and took a few halting steps on his own to his duffel bag. “If he knows who has Sam, we need to go get him before anything else can happen.” Leaning over, he hefted his duffel bag with a grunt. Normally so effortless, Dean almost faltered at the added weight.

“But… what if you don’t come back?” Moira asked, her eyes beginning to shine with unshed tears once more.

“Not gonna happen,” Dean said with more conviction than he himself felt, then flinched at the way his voice pounded in his head. He pressed the marshmallow to his forehead again. “Promise.”

John worried at his lower lip as he watched Dean's unsteady movements. His left hand twitched involuntarily in anticipation, ready to catch the smaller man if he keeled over again.

"Dean, maybe you should--"

"John," Sherlock interjected, entering the kitchen again with John's laptop in hand. Typing furiously while he walked, he practically dropped the computer into the doctor's arms.

"This is our abductor." Sherlock pointed to what looked like an ID photograph of a pale, blond man whose grey eyes seemed to cut at John through the screen. Walking down the hall toward his bedroom, Sherlock continued. "Euan Rummage. I briefly researched him on the cab ride here, though not much came up. Not enough to track him down. I'll keep looking, while you look through the footage I've pulled up and follow him."

John blinked, taking a second to process the new information. Half of the screen before him was dedicated to the picture of Sam's kidnapper, the other to dozens upon dozens of video files.

"Where the hell did you get all this security footage?" John blurted.

Sherlock scoffed dryly on his way back into the kitchen, fiddling with his own laptop. "My dear brother isn't the only one with strings to pull."

“That’s the asshat that took my brother?” Dean asked, taking another hesitant step towards the two humans looming overhead.

The moment he looked like he was going to stumble, Moira appeared at his side, supporting him.

Dean glared. “I told you to wait back at my place,” he ground out, putting his foot down.

“You’re not leaving yet,” Moira said simply. “And until then, someone has to make sure you don’t push your luck. You can’t help Sam if you can’t even walk on your own.”

Dean might normally be stronger than his adopted sister, but with his strength drained by his overused knack, he didn’t have the energy to pull away from her. “I could walk on my own fine if you just let me,” he grumbled. He glanced up at the laptop overhead again. “And I’ve got plenty of energy to teach that guy a thing or two about kidnapping my little brother.”

Dean,” John urged, turning to his smaller flatmate with kind yet adamant eyes. "She's right. You should rest. Don't argue, you're not going to be left out of anything. It could take a while to find this monster, let alone track him down."

John glanced at Sherlock, furiously typing and scrolling and clicking, in case he had anything to add and back John up. The detective didn't even look up, all of his focus on the screen and nothing else. John wondered if he could even hear the conversation right next to him.

"Just relax for a while," John insisted, looking back at Dean. "When you're not doing that, eat. And when you're not eating, drink. We'll let you know immediately when we find him, and we won't leave you behind. But you're going to need your strength. For Sam. All right?"

Dean scowled, and almost looked like he’d keep arguing, but with his head pounding and the way he could barely stand upright, he didn’t have the energy for even that. His shoulders sagged as he gave in. “Fine,” he ground out between his firmly-clamped teeth. A rare vulnerability peeked through the cracks of his gruff manner. “For Sam. Just… I’m holding you to that. I wouldn’t be left out of this for all the pie in the world.”

He let Moira lead him back to the food, this time putting the marshmallow down on the surface and using it as a pillow. Moira grabbed the discarded tinfoil cup, insistently pushing it at Dean once it was filled with water.

She took conscientious care of her older brother, but repeatedly found herself staring at Sherlock while she did so, unable to ignore him. Somehow, her two older brothers were living in a flat where humans not only knew about them, but were clearly working together.

Dean just rested and ate the apple pieces, his jaw set.

John let out a long breath, grateful that Dean was listening. With Moira by his side to make sure he took it easy, John concentrated on the task Sherlock had set him on. He closed the picture of Rummage and expanded the videos to full-screen, confident that he'd recognize the man. Just looking at his face made John's stomach turn.

Less than an hour later, Sherlock slammed his laptop shut in frustration. The name Euan Rummage was as far from common as one could get, he should have been easy to pin down. Whoever this guy was, his tracks were thoroughly covered. Anything but the simple fact that he existed was impossible to find. No home address, no social media-- not even one drunk photo from his uni days! Abandoning his computer, Sherlock moved around the table to hover over John's shoulder.

John had found the footage of a blond man entering and exiting 221B Baker Street, and he'd followed him down the street as he climbed into a car parked a block away. It was slow going, but John managed to track his progress for a few miles, relying heavily on a map of the streets in the area. He marked Rummage's path on the map with pencil as he went.

Sherlock immediately snatched John's laptop from him, discontent with his progress. Ignoring John's protests that he was doing what Sherlock had told him to, the detective waved the doctor off, "Go and check on Mrs. Hudson," snapped Sherlock, scowling at the screen as he clicked.

The mention of their landlady sobered John right up. Sherlock had found her unconscious in her flat before John came home, her teacup reeking of anesthetic. Once he was sure she would be alright, he carried her to bed and explained everything to John. That had been hours ago.

John nodded numbly in agreement with Sherlock, casting one last worried glance toward the people on the counter before retreating down the stairs.

Moira and Dean had fallen quiet around a half hour before. The food and water, heavy in Dean’s stomach, had lulled his eyes closed, further encouraged by the way the bright lights burned his vision. Though he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even Moira, he was exhausted by the day’s activities. A fulfilling case was turned sour by coming home to his little brother gone, and the silver knife Sam owned covered in blood. Dean pushing himself to the limit had taxed his resources.

Because of all that, it wasn’t the most surprising when his eyes fluttered closed for the last time after a huge effort at staying awake and keeping an eye on John as he worked, and Dean slipped into sleep. Moira noticed, and slid closer to her older brother, briefly brushing the spike in his hair down and smiling at him. She pulled her satchel over and curled into a ball on the counter next to Dean, as close as a heartbeat if he needed anything.

She followed Dean’s example in no time at all, falling asleep so that when John checked them both they were calm and peaceful and gave no sign of noticing him there.

Sherlock was alone with the slumbering tiny people for less than ten minutes and never acknowledged them once. All his concentration was dedicated to the clips. John's method had been slow, moving steadily down the line of cameras until he found the correct car before marking down the street. Factoring in the time and tracing on the map, it had taken the doctor ages to follow Rummage a handful of miles.

On the other hand, Sherlock knew every street in London by heart. He jumped straight to the cameras on street corners, watching for which direction the car took from there, and then moved on to the next block corner. With his knowledge of back-alleys and side-streets wide enough to accommodate a car, it was a simple process of elimination. Sherlock was confident he'd find Sam's location in no time.

John found Mrs. Hudson was fine when he poked his head in. She was snuggled into her comforter, despite her street clothes, and seemed as content as one taking a late afternoon nap. John gently felt her forehead and took her pulse, but otherwise left her alone. No doubt she would be confused when she woke up, but hopefully he and Sherlock would have returned by then. He left the kind landlady in peace, eager to get back to business.

With Sherlock working tirelessly and Dean and Moira asleep on the counter, there wasn't much for John to do but keep an eye on the smaller folk, so sweet yet so vulnerable in sleep. He only left their side once, when the detective suspected he was getting close, to fetch his gun from his bedroom. Just in case.

"Got it!" Sherlock declared at last, scribbling the address in the margin of the map and penciling out the quickest route.

It was less than ten miles away, all the way out in Wembley, yet it would take them nearly an hour to reach it by car. The Overground would be quicker, but not by much. Every minute counted.

"We'll take the tube," asserted the detective, jumping up to retrieve his coat and scarf. "Wake Dean, quickly. The next train leaves in fifteen minutes."

John blinked as Sherlock dashed off. Glancing down at Dean and Moira, he was hesitant to disturb them. Not just because they looked calm and peaceful for once, but because he knew they were both readily armed with knives and were more than prepared to lash out with them if startled.

Hoping to avoid that, John reached toward Dean and tapped the counter with his knuckle, just outside of the smaller man's reach.

Contrary to John’s hopes, the light rap against the counter top did not yield the desired results. After living over a decade in the walls, Dean was used to the feeling of vibrations or booming voices in his sleep, though normally sound was more muffled. Moira, as well, could sleep through the humans in her own flat getting rambunctious.

Dean shifted in place, rolling on his side with a brief “Quit it, Sammy,” thrown over his shoulder before settling back down. Moira only curled into a tighter ball, her booted feet pulled up close and her arms bundled around her chest for warmth.

John's shoulders slumped after the failed attempt, and he glanced around the room for an alternative. Spotting the pencil he'd used on the map, he grabbed that and prodded at Dean with it, the rubber eraser gingerly pushing the sole of a tiny boot.

"Dean," said John insistently, lightly poking at Dean's shoulder next. "Time to go, Dean. You've gotta get up."

Dean moaned, trying to shift away from the huge eraser nudging at him. “Stop,” he mumbled, pushing at it with one of his small hands.

At the feeling of the rubber under his fingertips, distinctly unyielding to his touch and unfamiliar, his eyes snapped open.

Seconds later, Dean was sitting up as he rubbed at his eyes. A tiny knife lay buried in the eraser, deep enough that most of the silver blade was out of sight, the fine edge Dean had honed it to splitting the rubber like a knife through butter.

“Dude, what the hell,” Dean yawned, blinking blearily at the room around him. His headache had ebbed, leaving a distant throb on his neck where his knack lay in wait.

Chapter Text

John's breath caught in reaction to Dean's quick movements. It was a stark reminder of exactly why he'd used the pencil, and he was grateful that it wasn't his finger Dean had instinctively driven that knife through. Dean might be tired but his reactions were on point.

"We, ah, found Rummage," John explained. "We're heading--"

"For God's sake, I said quickly! " Patience lost, Sherlock came storming back in, holding a gloved hand out expectantly for Dean. "Train's arriving in twelve minutes, are you coming or not?"

Dean recoiled from Sherlock, then blinked as the detective’s words sank in past his sleep-addled mind. “Sammy!”

Leaping to his feet, Dean propped a boot on the eraser John was holding and tugged his silver knife free. He was stowing it in his jacket as he knelt by Moira and shook her awake.

“Mmm…?” she managed, staring blankly up at Dean.

“Go to my place and wait,” Dean instructed. “Keep Sam’s knife in case anything goes wrong.” He tapped the hilt stuck in her belt. “And don’t come out of there unless you hear me or John, okay? You need to keep safe.”

He didn’t give her time to reply as he strode over to Sherlock’s gloved hand, only pausing long enough to survey the thick black leather the gloves were made of. Distantly he wondered if Sherlock could even feel him through such a thick material, as it barely caved under his weight.

Once on Sherlock's hand, Dean was quickly conveyed to his usual spot on Sherlock's shoulder, between his scarf and his collar. Just like that morning, Sherlock rushed out of the flat as soon as Dean was settled.

John hesitated, getting a dreadful feeling of déjà vu. Here he was, running off and leaving another tiny person all by themselves. Only this time it was Moira, who was smaller and younger than Sam. John took comfort in the fact that they knew what to look for, and how to protect Moira as best they could.

"We'll be back soon," John promised Moira, haltingly making his way out the door. "Two hours at least. Sit tight and keep low. Okay?"

Moira nodded, her chest tight. She’d just watched her oldest brother be whisked away from the counter in an instant, out of the flat before she could blink. Sam was out there waiting. The lengths Dean would go to for his little brother continued to impress her.

And sometimes scare her.

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “Just promise to look out for my brothers.” She stared after where Dean and Sherlock had vanished to. “It’s a very big world.”

After speaking her peace, Moira twirled in place. She scooped up the remains of Dean’s meal and marshmallow, clutching them to her chest as she ran for the wall.

John nodded emphatically, even as Moira vanished. "Promise," he called, tugging on his coat as he followed Sherlock out of the flat.

Euan spent a solid ten minutes in the washroom primping and fussing in the mirror, and Mark watched from where he'd been deposited on the counter near the sink. As horrible as the human was, he understood that his fun would be over if he constantly kept Mark in his pocket all stuffed-up and smothered, so he let the borrower come out for air a few times a day.

Mark wasn't sure what it was about Mina that put Euan in such a state. It could easily be her wealth or her beauty, but that seemed a little too easy. More likely, it was her power Euan was drawn to, her influence. The higher-ups loved Mina, paid her greatly for her generous contributions to their operations. Mark knew exactly how much Euan wanted to get ahead in this game the humans were playing with borrowers' lives. Perhaps he hoped being on Mina's good side would help him advance somehow.

With a spritz of cologne and a mint to cover up the scent of fresh nicotine, Euan deemed himself presentable. He hardly glanced at Mark as he scooped him up and dropped him carelessly into his designated pocket. The smell of cigarettes was still prominent there, still made Mark's eyes sting as he settled down in the darkness.

Euan gave the main room one last sweep, pacing around and scowling at anything that wasn't perfectly in place. He paused when he passed by the cages, glancing into the one with the Americans. They were all sitting around, the pretty little blonde tucked away in the back. And Sam looked asleep, the little bugger.

"Look alive!" he ordered, rapping his knuckle harshly against the door. "Mina may want one last look at you lot. You won't like the consequences if she's disappointed."

That said, Euan gave them all one last glare before storming off to scold Geoff for his poor cleaning job.

Kara cringed back from the loud bangs, tears filling her eyes at the orders from Euan. Christian wrapped an arm around her, gently smoothing her curls. “Shh, shh,” he shushed softly, “it’ll all be okay. She’ll be gone before you know it.”

She turned her head into Christian’s shirt, tiny sobs echoing up and shaking her equally tiny shoulders.

Mikael frowned at Christian and his daughter, wishing he could make things better for them, but turned to watch the goings-on in the room beyond. He wanted to keep a close eye on the humans. They were unpredictable, and dangerous, as the collapsed Sam proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Though Mina had never threatened them during delivery. She didn’t need to, she had what she wanted, and that was them in a cage. The Mangas family that had sold them off first had done enough of their own threats to last, and Euan made up the rest of the difference.

Almost no time at all seemed to pass before a light rap came from the door, echoing around the room.

Euan perked up immediately, hurrying to the door, while Geoff jumped clumsily out of his seat and Professor Dakota stood by the table with the case of money at the ready. After one last swipe of his hand to slick back his light blond hair, Euan let Mina in with a gracious smile.

"Miss Chandler," he greeted suavely, "how lovely to see you again." He took her hand with the intention to kiss it.

Mina smiled with all the dignity of a queen as she stepped into the building, allowing Euan to pay her due respect. It was one of the many reasons she preferred her time visiting her homeland of England to the days spent dealing in America in her varied professions.

“A pleasure as always, darling,” she purred, all too aware of the effect she had on the man. Her heels clicked on the floor, her walk authoritative. She knew just how important she was to the operation and wasn’t afraid to flaunt it.

Taking her hand back, Mina peered around the room, taking in any changes since her stop earlier on in the week to drop off the American borrowers. “Sadly, this will be a short visit. Duty calls, after all.”

"Of course, ma'am. Right this way." Euan led her toward the table, stepping ahead to scoop the briefcase into his arms just as Dakota started to reach for it. The older man refrained from rolling his eyes, but only just.

"Just came in yesterday, from the Big Man himself as I heard it!" From what Euan had gathered, at the center of the web of higher-ups was a sponsor making everything possible. He didn't know his name or anybody that knew his name-- he didn't even know if he was a he-- but it hardly mattered. Whoever they were, they certainly liked Mina.

"We're all very grateful for your contributions to our efforts, Miss Chandler," Euan added, opening the briefcase a bit to reveal neat, thick stacks of £100 notes, all fresh, pristine, and untouched.

“Wonderful,” Mina breathed, trailing her fingers over the stacks. She plucked one up, brushing a thumb so she could flip through and see £100 repeated to her as the slight breeze threw off the scent of new bills.

Replacing the stack, she patted them down with a knowing smile. “And my little sweethearts are getting on fine?” she asked, breezing past Euan and going over to the cages. Her phone was out in an instant and a picture clicked the second she saw the new addition in the cage, lying on his side with his face peaceful and one leg stretched out. “This one’s new… I don’t remember seeing him when I was here last.” She stowed her phone into the small purse, out of sight in a flash.

A distasteful look flickered across Euan's features, but he quickly hid it as he followed Mina and came to stand next to her. Dakota bitterly thought he rather resembled an excitable puppy, desperate to please and be a good boy.

"Caught him today," the blond explained. "Freshly processed. He fought it the whole way, even gave my little sniffer dog a run for his money, so I'm told." He patted Mark's pocket, quietly delighting in the tiny flinch at his touch. "Wore himself out, I suppose," he commented, his cold eyes falling on Sam's still form.

“Hmm, well, the first day wears them all out, doesn’t it,” Mina said contemplatively, her green-eyed gaze briefly dancing over the others to mark their conditions. “He’s quite a looker for his size. Haven’t quite seen another like him before. What’s his name?” Her voice was all innocence, but with orders from her own master to keep an eye out for certain borrowers, the question came with a hint of command.

"Called himself Sam," Euan readily replied, though he couldn't fully bite back a touch of venom when speaking the little pest's name. With a small sigh, he continued, "I'm sure he'll sell quickly enough. Our usual clients do tend to gravitate toward the young, attractive ones."

Mina laughed at that. “My, yes, they do.” She hid any reaction she had to Sam’s name. “He might even end up paired with my Bree. They look about the same age. It’s always so hard to find suitable breeding couples.”

She turned and held a hand out for the case. “Perhaps I’ll be seeing you again soon, Euan. I always love a reason to come back here.”

Just like that, Euan was all charm and a wide smile. "I look forward to it, milady," he said courteously, clicking the briefcase shut and passing it to her. "Shall I see you out?"

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mina said as she took the briefcase and offered her arm, her most charming smile in place. Some honey went a long way with this branch of the operation, as she’d found on multiple occasions.

All the ‘borrowers’ left behind in the American cage watched their owner and their former owner with trepidation on their faces, knowing that their fates had just been passed on to Euan and the others in the building. That briefcase sealed the deal for them, and poor Sam who had no idea that a woman had his image on her phone, saved and marked.

In the back of her own cage, Anita relaxed a hair at the sight of Euan walking away with Mina. He led her all the way out of the room, presumably to her car, and returned shortly by himself. His surly attitude was back as well, and he stomped off to a back room without a word to the other two. Professor Dakota relaxed back in his chair, and Geoff not-so-surreptitiously pulled his lunch out from under the table and began digging in again.

With the humans happy to ignore them, Anita shakily got to her feet and decided to peek into the other cage. It had been a while since she'd spoken to anyone, and she was worried about Sam.

"Hello?" she whispered, pulling herself up to peer through and try to make sense of what little she could see. "How's Sam doing? Still asleep?"

Kara waved at Anita, giving her a big smile now that the tension was over. “Hey lady!” she called to their neighbor. “He didn’t wake up at all! 

She gave Sam’s good foot a light pat, the only limb she could reach from her seat next to Christian. Sam hadn’t even twitched when Euan knocked on their cage, and Mina’s scrutiny had gone unnoticed. Either being unconscious kept his knack from alerting him to the humans as they changed, or there were too many over for it to differentiate past too many!

Anita tentatively smiled back, sticking a few fingers through a hole and wiggling them in a small wave of her own. She frowned and tried to catch the others' eyes. Sam had slept through a lot, even Euan's harsh attempt to get him up.

"He's really in bad shape, isn't he?" she murmured, the question really meant for Kara's elders. Guilt bunched up her shoulders all over again.

Mikael stared back at her. “He can get better, if he gets time,” he said, feeling protective of all his younger charges. Even Bree, who made herself into an outcast because of her long estrangement from her own people. “The brand will heal, and his leg could be worse. He needs the rest more than anything, so we should be glad he didn’t wake earlier.”

“Plus water!” Kara put in. “He needs all the water he can drink.”

Christian put an arm around her. “Just like you. So drink up, kiddo.”

Anita nodded, grateful for the update. Not many others were so willing to talk to her. But since this bunch had come from overseas, they didn't feel betrayed by her brother like their predecessors had, or lash out at her when she tried to make contact. She appreciated the reprieve, knowing that it wouldn't last.

"Thank you, sir," she said, holding no small amount of respect for Mikael in her tone. "I'll, ah, leave you to it."

With that, she fell away and stalked to her own supply of water, however small. After hearing the way Kara talked about it, a drink sounded like a great idea. Though she did long for the days when she and her brother would sneak off to filch a drop of something stronger.

Coming down from the thrill the visit from Mina had shot through him, Euan relaxed as he supervised Mark, the borrower running through his regular workout routine. His little pet needed to stay in shape and keep those muscles of his built up, and with Euan there, Mark didn't have a chance of escape. Not that he'd tried that in years.

Euan allowed his mind to wander while Mark carried on with his press-ups and chin-touches and practiced his jumps and leaps and lunges on the prearranged table. He spent almost the entire time on his phone, keeping in contact with the other members of their team. They were all scattered around Europe looking for buyers for their new batch. After breaking a huge deal with the Irish that ran their stock low, international clients were a top priority for their branch.

After a long while, the human glanced at the time and gave a sigh, collecting Mark in the middle of his third round of press-ups. It was time for the borrowers to be fed again, and it was Euan's shift to do it. At least he only needed to deal with two cages.

The borrowers were fed through a small chute through the door that slid the food, stale crackers in this case, to the floor of the cages. Sealed tightly from the outside, even the unusually strong ones couldn't hope to break through. That didn't stop them from trying.

Euan started to walk away from the cages when an eager squirm came from his pocket again. He gave a sigh and glanced back at Anita's cage. It had been over three months since the twins had been allowed to see one another.

"Alright," he conceded begrudgingly. "You did do well today. You've earned a treat." In one swift motion, he swept Mark out of the pocket and held him a few inches from the transparent door.

Matching green eyes met, widened, and watered in the same instant.

"Annie…" Mark breathed, his heart aching at the sight of his sister. Her hair had only just met her shoulders the last time he'd seen her, and now it was halfway to her elbows. She hated having her hair long. Clinging to trivial thoughts such as these helped keep Mark grounded through the knowledge that his sister, his other half, was out of his reach forever.

Tears flowed freely over Anita's cheeks as she pressed her hands to the acrylic that separated them, longing to reach out and touch her brother like she hadn't done in six years. Mark had bulked up significantly since she'd seen him last, it was no wonder no one stood a chance against him out there. Even she, who had incredible strength and stamina when it came to her arms, would probably have trouble against him. That thought drove a pit of dread into her stomach that she never wanted to feel again.

And just like that, it was over. Mark was lifted away from Anita, no matter how much she shrieked for him to come back, and he was stowed away in Euan's pocket. Leaning wearily on the door, Anita shook with silent sobs as the human so casually walked away with her only family.

Out of sight from all the other so-called borrowers, Sam’s eyes slitted open. He could see just enough of Anita and Mark’s heartbreaking reunion and the moment they were torn apart again, and anger boiled in his heart for Euan all over again. It wasn’t hard to see himself and Dean in the twins, a sibling bond used against them.

It made it easy to redirect any lingering anger he felt for Mark towards its rightful place. Sam knew now why Mark had claimed to have no choice as he removed any chance Sam had at escape.

Sam let his eyes flutter closed, seeking sleep once more.


Chapter Text

The ride on the tube added up to the longest thirty-eight minutes in John's life. Sherlock sat in the far corner of the carriage to minimize the possibility of any other passengers catching sight of Dean. The borrower remained tucked away out of sight in his scarf for the duration of the trip, but in their dire circumstances it was best not to take chances. 

The detective's foot tapped and his fingers drummed impatiently against his knee. Both humans could scarcely think of anything else but Sam and how they would go about rescuing him.

They knew what the building he was taken to looked like. That wasn’t enough to judge how easy or difficult it would be to track down a four-inch-tall man and free him. Sherlock, of course, would need little more than a glance to figure out a way in.

John stared out the train window. The sun was setting. He prayed they weren't too late.

"I'm off," Dakota announced, tugging on his coat. His shift was over, and he was more than ready to go home, reheat dinner, and fall asleep early.

Euan simply grunted in response, but Geoff sent Dakota off with an amicable smile and a salute. "See ya in the mornin,’ prof!"

Dakota rolled his eyes and left without another word. Moments later, they heard the garage door whine its way open and the engine of Dakota's car rolling out.

Leaning back wearily in his chair, Euan resigned himself to wait around, with Geoff, until he was relieved of duty. At least two operatives needed to be present at all times to guard the stock and protect the base. With everyone else out of town, relief wouldn’t come until the wee hours of the morning.

But after God knows how long of listening to Geoff try and explain what happened to Harry Potter and the gang in the last week of his reading, Euan excused himself for a well-needed smoke. Maybe two or three cigarettes to drag out the break.

With the sun setting and the temperature dropping, Euan decided to smoke in the garage rather than freeze his arse off in the alley.

If he had gone outside, he would have seen an odd pair running down the street, heading straight for the building.

Sherlock held one hand up to his shoulder to keep Dean steady during the desperate run. Once they got off the train, the detective could feel how close they were now, and every second wasted in polite walking was a second of danger for Sam. The hurried walk he and John had taken off the train evolved into a jog, and from there a full-out run.

He finally slowed down when they reached the correct building. Quite plain-looking from the outside, but looks could be deceiving. All of the ground-level entrances were only accessible via keycard, probably set off an alarm if broken into. Ignoring them all, Sherlock skirted around the building until he found a fire escape that led to the second floor.

"Hang on," Sherlock warned Dean, giving him a second to brace himself before jumping up to catch the lowest rung of the escape stairs and drag them down to ground level.


Dean's cry of surprise went unheeded in the swift motion as Sherlock jumped and snagged the ladder. The sensation of freefall was unwelcome for the smaller man, his fear of flying hitting him all at once when he felt himself become airborne as Sherlock dropped back down.

Freefall was over before it completely registered he was floating, and Dean was glad of the scarf cushioning when he landed back on Sherlock's shoulder. He wheezed, more out of breath than either of the humans after their mad dash, though for him it came from a completely different source.

"There better be a Sam at the end of this ride," Dean huffed as he again twisted the scarf securely around himself. "Or I'm demanding a refund for sure."

Sherlock rolled his eyes, hurrying up the ladder. John followed closely and pulled the ladder back up once they were both on the escape. He turned to find Sherlock struggling with a window, boarded up from the inside, and rushed over as silently as he could, not wanting to cause a ruckus on the metal grate.

"Let me," he hissed, shooing Sherlock out of the way. The window was jammed tight, and after the scare that John was sure Dean had endured during Sherlock's jump, he would rather not risk the lad being thrown clear off the detective's shoulder.

It took a moment, but John managed to pry the window open and shove the plywood boarding it up from the inside out of the way relatively quietly. He and Sherlock scrambled inside, just as the door on the ground floor below opened.

Geoff heard a clatter in the alley outside. Not entirely sure what it was, he decided to investigate. It's what they hired him for, after all. To guard the merchandise and keep away trespassers.

Hearing the second human leave, Anita uncurled from the miserable ball she'd wrapped herself in. She gave a quiet sniffle and edged toward the front of her cage, peering curiously into the room beyond. The room that had become her universe for seven years and which had never been left unguarded in all that time.

It felt so odd to be alone.

"What's got into them?" she muttered, anxiety and curiosity battling for her attention.

Christian watched the door of the cage with unblinking eyes. “That’s a first,” he observed, his arms wrapped tight around his legs. Kara dozed while she leaned against him, and Mikael kept watch from the corner.

Sam, sitting behind the others, blinked his eyes open in surprise and groaned at the return of all the pain he was in. He pushed himself up on unsteady arms, his balance completely off.

“What’s goin’ on?” he asked blearily, exhaustion hounding him.

Christian glanced over his shoulder. “The humans all left,” he informed the newcomer.

“Huh,” Sam muttered. He eyed up the door to the cage, wishing for the old-style cage he was trapped in the last time. The type with a lock he knew how to pick. “Wish I had my bag.”

"Split up," Sherlock whispered to John. The room they ended up in was dusty and dank with disuse; most likely they closed off this area of the building if they found no use for it. With light steps, they quickly found a locked door that led to the ground floor. Sherlock spoke quietly as he picked the lock. "John, find the breaker. Cut the lights. Dean and I will find Sam. He can see better in the dark than either of us."

John nodded. He wasn't the most graceful or fluid individual, but he could keep quiet while finding his way around. "I'll come find you when I've done it. Might need help."

"Likely," said Sherlock, the door giving a satisfied click. He stepped back to make way for John. "Be quick."

Taking a steadying breath, John slipped out the door and made his way efficiently around. He'd worked in office buildings similar to this one in his youth, and followed his instincts to find the breaker.

As it turned out, fate was on his side. Less than a minute later, all the lights in the building cut out.

Dean blinked, his vision adjusting to the darkness far faster than he could ever adjust to the sun. If anyone was to see his eyes, it gave him a curious look, the black of the pupils nearly eclipsing the thin green iris. It was yet another ability that he’d learned not to question, and one of the most important ones for their survival in the walls.

And one he didn’t remember ever mentioning to Sherlock.

Falling into the routine of guiding the tall detective around was beginning to feel natural for Dean, and the room being cloaked in darkness didn’t change this. The instructions came quickly, with Dean more determined to find Sam than anyone else. Then, he paused.

“When did you figure us out?” he asked, more restraint in the question than normal. At the rate they were going they might not have any secrets from John and Sherlock in a matter of weeks, and it went against Dean’s instincts to give away all his secrets to anyone but Sam. “The whole ‘seeing in the dark’ thing?”

"You live in the walls, obviously you can see in the dark," muttered the detective. Following Dean's instructions to the letter, he kept his steps smooth and slow so Dean could warn him of any obstacles in advance, but effective enough that it didn't take them long to come to a wide room.

Anita's breathing quickened as the sound of a door opening somewhere in the darkened room echoed all around. After all her time in captivity, her eyes were somewhat adjusted to the light. Now they were frantically trying to adapt to the sudden darkness, taking much longer than they would have when she was younger. Thunderous footsteps sounded, and an unknown shape entered her universe.

Kara clung to her father, and Mikael was standing, a silent sentinel as they watched the unknown human with unknown intentions approach. Their eyes, unlike Anita’s, were already adjusted, but it didn’t make a difference when they didn’t know the person looming in the shadows.

What really caught them all off guard was what came next.

“They put my brother in a cage?! ” practically exploded out of the darkness, the human’s lips never moving. “Of all the no good sons of bitches I’ve ever seen, I’m going to introduce their face to my fist the second I get my hands on…”

“Dean?” Sam whispered, desperately scrubbing at his eyes to clear them. 

He knew that voice.

“Dean, is that you?”

Chapter Text

Sherlock picked up on the tiny voice, Sam's voice, right away, something he would not have been able to do a month ago. He gravitated in the direction of the small sound, his outstretched hand meeting the cages Dean was so angry about.

The detective groped blindly at the cages, taking note of the acrylic material, and found his way to the one Sam's voice had come from. His fingers quickly found a lock of some kind, and he focused on that. It was a combination lock, one he couldn't simply pick open and would take far too long to figure out the code for.

"Dean," he rumbled, eyes darting around the room. It was a wide space, nothing jumped out at him in the shapes he could make out, nothing important, anyway. "I need something to break this off."

Cut off from his rant and still fuming, Dean forced himself to halt his tirade with one last “Asshats,” spat out. They needed to get Sam out of that godforsaken cage, and Sherlock had to be the one to do it.

Dean scanned the room, all of his focus concentrated on the task. “Okay, there’s a box in the corner. It’s full of old tools, some wrenches, a pretty hefty hammer--” heftybeing so big that Sam and Dean together would never budge it, “--and a drill that looks like it hasn’t been used since I lived in America. Turn right, about three steps. Watch out for the table, don’t want to go knocking that copy of Harry Potter onto the floor.”

With the victory of finding Sam inwardly brightening Sherlock's spirits-- his natural instinct in any case, especially one so dire, was to retreat inward and focus only on the task at hand-- the detective allowed himself a smirk.

"You're improving," he commented as he followed Dean's directions. Whether it was the stress of the situation or the urgency, it certainly seemed like Dean was showing off at this point. Not that Sherlock was complaining.

He crouched over the box once he found it, remembering a trick to break open locks using the opposing force of two nut wrenches. He couldn't recall if there had been a case involving such an action or if he'd simply learnt it on YouTube, but that hardly mattered. What did matter was that it would work, without jostling Sam too harshly. A small part of him dread to think what it would be like for Sam if he tried to smash open the lock with a hammer.

Wrenches in hand, Sherlock hurried back to the cages, groping around for the lock once again. It took some fiddling in the dark, but he managed to fit the teeth of the wrenches in the loop of the lock. He pressed inward, as though squeezing a pair of pliers, and the teeth spread outward, forcing the metal to bend and the lock to break with hardly a fuss.

Sherlock wasted no time removing the lock, swinging open the door, and using a hand to ferry Dean into the cage to retrieve Sam.

The others in the cage all instinctively drew back from Sherlock’s hand, but Dean frowned when he realized Sam hadn’t moved since spotting him. The little girl squeaked in surprise as Sherlock’s hand touched down against the cage floor, but Dean was already dashing for his little brother.

“Sammy,” he said, skidding to a halt by his little brother’s body. He couldn’t see everything in the dark, but he could make out enough to know something was wrong.

“H-hey,” Sam rasped, his voice hoarse. “You made it.”

Dean wrapped an arm around Sam, hugging him briefly and feeling Sam squirm away. Dean’s hackles were up instantly at that. “No more cages, just like I promised, kid.” He pulled back. “But what the hell did they do to you? Why can’t you move? What’s wrong with your back?”

Sam let out a barking laugh. “Fractured leg… burn on my back… y’know, day in the life.”

Dean swore so inventively that the thin, nervous-looking man in the back covered the little girl’s ears. Reminded they weren’t alone, Dean glanced back at them as he slipped an arm under Sam’s to try and support his weight. “What about you guys? Anyone hurt? We’ve gotta get out of here.”

Mikael crossed his arms, sternly staring at the unknown stranger in their midst. “Everyone else is fine, but you can count us out if you think we’re going near any morehumans.”

Sherlock's hand retreated at the sound of a new voice inside the cage. A child's voice, if he wasn't mistaken, which he hardly ever was. When an older man spoke up, the detective slouched to peer inside, the smaller walls swallowing more darkness than the rest of the space. Still, after a while spent in the dark, Sherlock's vision had adjusted enough, and he recognized darker outlines in the shape of tiny people. He just couldn't make much sense of them.

"How many of you are in--?"

A blast of orangey twilight shot in from behind and cut off Sherlock’s question, allowing him a fraction of a second of a decent view inside the cage. Along with Dean supporting a bandaged Sam, he could make out four other figures: two men, a little girl and a young woman. For a second Sherlock wondered how they were going to get all these people out of there safely.

The next second, a shadow fell over Sherlock, followed by a new voice bellowing "OI!"

And the next, Sherlock was grabbed by the back of his coat with two meaty hands and thrown to the floor.

With Sherlock torn away and an earthquake rattling through the cage, Dean instinctively tossed himself and Sam backwards, taking the brunt of the impact with Sam’s sasquatch weight landing on him. Dean grunted, dragging Sam as far back from the opening as they could get.

Two sets of arms latched around Sam and Dean, and suddenly Christian and Mikael were helping to get them to the wall. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are,” Mikael grunted as he let Dean go, “but you’ve got some balls just running into a cage like that.”

“I know Sherlock won’t close the cage behind me,” Dean countered, unable to hide a beat of hesitation from his voice. 

Once, Sherlock had been the human keeping them captive, but now Dean trusted that would never happen. Against all odds, they’d somehow become a team. An occasionally-dysfunctional one, but a team nonetheless.

Christian and Kara had Sam against the wall, his face contorted in pain at his abrupt removal to the back. The little girl’s eyes were wide, her pupils as dark as Dean’s as she watched the opening of their cage, the door swung wide open and leaving them vulnerable to whoever came out on top in the scuffle between Sherlock and Geoff.

Over in her cage, Anita was thoroughly confused and incredibly afraid. The new human seemed to have another borrower working with him closely, seamlessly. Like Euan and Mark. But Sam and the human had called him Dean. Sam's brother.

Why would Sam's brother be with a human?!

She didn't even have time to question this, or decide whether or not to reveal herself. The human hadn't seen her yet. And then Geoff got the jump on him before he had the chance to, giving Anita a terrible fright. She covered her head and balled herself up as tightly as possible, waiting out the earthquake of the giants' brawl.

Sherlock was briefly dazed from the impact. With the door closed, everything was dark again. But the second he saw a bulky figure move closer to the cages, to Sam and Dean and the others, Sherlock found himself on his feet. 

He threw himself at the larger figure, tossing him away from the repository. A few strangled grunts were exchanged. Sherlock's arms wrapped around a thick neck from behind, heels digging in to prevent the other man from coming any closer to the tiny folk.

Finally, Sherlock's opponent gave a growl and shoved him hard, backing into a concrete wall. Sherlock's back collided with it, the breath knocked out of him. His grip loosened and before he could come back to his senses, his collar was hitched up by a large fist, the shape of its match rearing back for a punch.



John's voice was dangerously quiet, the barrel of his pistol steadily pressed against Geoff's temple. Geoff froze immediately, sensing the danger, hardly daring to glance over at John.

"Put him down," John ordered.

Geoff immediately complied and put his hands up in surrender. He might love his job-- he might even be good at his job-- but he did not expect any of this. John lowered his gun and disarmed it.

"Thank you." Then, in a blink, John passed the gun to his other hand and bashed Geoff right between the eyes with the butt of it. Geoff fell unconscious.

John rolled his shoulders with a satisfied sigh, stowing his gun back in the waistband of his trousers. "Damn, that felt good."

"Thank god."

Out of all the people in the cage, Dean was the only one that reacted enthusiastically to John's rout of Geoff. The other borrowers in the cage stared at the open door with trepidation, afraid of what might come now that the humans outside had changed, and Sam curled into a ball at the reminder of what he'd gone through with Euan and the professor. Dean, meanwhile, leaped to his feet, taking a few steps towards the edge of the cage so he could assess the situation for himself.

Something snagged the cuff of Dean's jeans, and he found himself looking down at a little girl, the smallest kid he'd ever seen. Scrawny and short, even Moira must have outweighed this girl when she was younger.

"Please mister," Kara said, "it's dangerous, you don't want to see the bad humans."

Dean dropped to a squat to talk to her, meeting her grey eyes and giving her a gentle smile. "You don't have to worry about the bad humans anymore," he vowed. "Sherlock and the doc will take care of them for us and get us out of here." He looked up at the others. "They'll help all of us," he said, slowly meeting Christian's, then Mikael's eyes. Bree, in the corner, refused to turn towards the others, curled into a ball like she was. He held a hand out to Kara. "Whaddya say?"

"Where's Dean? Did you find Sam? Is he alright?"

Short of breath, Sherlock nodded in the direction of the cages in answer to John's questions.

John blinked and squinted at the structure, feeling his hands go cold at the sight of its shape. "They put him in that? " he asked, voice shaking with repressed anger.

"Not just him," Sherlock added, drawing John's attention again. "Others, too."

"Others?" John breathed. "Th-- Do you think there's more around here?" Sherlock barely had time to shrug before the doctor continued. "Look, you go check around, make sure they don't have any more people locked away like animals, right? I'll get them out. Just hurry."

With the decision apparently made for him, Sherlock wasted no time rushing out the door to give the rest of the floor a quick sweep.

John swallowed thickly, slowly approaching the cages. He was coming from the side, so he couldn't quite see inside any of them, but his ear caught the muffled sounds of tiny voices and they drove him forward. He fumbled in his pocket for his mobile, using the slight glow of the screen to illuminate the opened cage.

"Alright. Erm. Hello. My name's John. I'm a friend of Sam and Dean's. I'm here to, ah, rescue you."

Chapter Text

The light washing over them caught Kara off guard a second before she would have taken Dean's hand. Startled, she ducked behind the closest cover she could find, hiding behind Dean.

Dean put his hand on her head as he stood, uncoiling from the ground like a tiger. A very tiny one. Ruffling Kara’s curls for reassurance, Dean took advantage of the soft light to quickly look the others over and gauge their status. The frown on his face was almost sealed permanently in place the second he saw Sam, face scrunched in pain and leg tenderly stretched out.

Noting the fear on everyone's faces now that an unknown human was looming in at them, unavoidable for John considering his face would take up the entire door, Dean tried to quell their fears. He held up his empty hand. “You don't have to be afraid of John or Sherlock. They've been helping me track down Sam ever since he was abducted this morning.”

Kara peeked around Dean's leg. “B-but humans are so big! ” she said, sniffling.

Mikael scowled at Dean. “And how do we know we're not walking ourselves into the same situation with different people?” he retorted. “How do we know you're not trained like Mark to keep us off balance?”

Dean shook his head, at a loss for the suspicion. “We won't force you to come,” he said earnestly. “But think of the others. Isn't it better to get them away-- far away from people who'd put them in cages?”

All of the nerves winding up John's features fell slack as he got a good look inside, his thoughts swirling. Sam. The poor kid was covered in gauze and medical tape, and was obviously in a lot of pain. This had only begun to anger John when he glanced around at the others; they were all so afraid of him, and they were all so small,shorter than Sam or Dean. Especially the little girl, the sight of whom broke John's heart as she hid behind Dean. She was small enough to nearly vanish behind the other man’s legs.

John had scared a little girl, simply by being what he was.

The argument between Dean and the older gentleman finally sunk in, and John did his best to convince them he was genuine.

"We just want to get you out of here," he agreed with Dean. "Then you're free to go wherever you like, you have my word. I would never keep people against their will."

“See?” Dean coaxed. “He’s different than the humans you know.”

Christian finally worked up his nerve enough to tug Kara away from the tall newcomer. “Kara, don’t cling. You don’t know him.”

Growing frustrated, Dean stalked over to the last person in the cage, the only one who hadn’t spoke up. “We need to go,” he bit out. “What’s your name?”

The girl looked up at last, her large blue eyes catching Dean off guard. “ ‘Mm Bree,” she mumbled, her eyelashes lowered to avoid catching his eyes.

“Well, Bree, this is my friend John. He’s going to help us get to safety.”

When Dean held out his hand, he was inwardly surprised at how easily she took it.

Mikael snorted, unimpressed. “She’s used to humans,” he informed the brothers. “She belonged to the people who sold us.”

“It wasn’t Beth’s fault we were sold!” Bree protested, her eyes filling with tears. “She never wanted this!”

“I didn’t see her trying too hard to get you back!” Mikael shot back.

“Hey, whoa,” Dean pulled the girl into his arms, briefly stroking her hair to calm her down. She was young. Maybe even younger than Sam. “We’ll all get out of here together, promise. No more selling, no more pets.”

When he opened his arms and gave her a nudge, she stumbled towards the cage door. “H-hi, John,” Bree said shyly.

Dean set Mikael with a look. “Now, are you going to help me with my brother or stay here and waste away while someone else decides your fate?”

Mikael let out a sigh. “What’s exchanging one human for another?” he asked, resigned. “At least this way we won’t see Euan again.”

Something in John warmed when he heard Dean introduce him to Bree as his friend. John might have done the same thing himself moments ago, but hearing it from Dean himself meant a lot. He offered a kind smile to Bree as she approached him. Despite hearing that this was because she'd spent a long time with humans, it was still good to see someone accepting his help.

"Hey," he whispered back, grin widening when it seemed like others were coming around. "Don't worry, I'm gonna get you far away from here. You'll never have to deal with that monster again, if I have anything to say about it."

"I'm hurt," a voice sneered behind John, wiping the smile off his face before he found himself grabbed by the shoulders and slammed into the wall next to the cages, a thin arm pressed against his neck.

Euan froze the moment the lights cut out. Geoff was an idiot, this he knew for certain, but the man wasn't so incompetent as to accidentally shut off the power in the five minutes Euan had been gone. He let his cigarette drop to the floor and listened, waiting for an opportunity to slip out and figure out what was going on.

He suspected nothing good.

When he heard the loud ruckus of two men fighting, he slunk into the main room and stayed perfectly still in a corner. Just another shadow, observing the others. Then another man came in and easily defeated Geoff, and Euan was even less keen to reveal himself. But this man was shorter, and he quickly put away the gun he'd threatened the large man with. Euan had at least a few inches on him, and the element of surprise. He liked his chances once it was only the two of them in the room with the borrowers, so while the other man was distracted with the little pests, he took the opportunity to sneak up on John.

The doctor let out a strangled noise, inwardly kicking himself for the way his gun was pinned behind his back, out of reach. He glared at his assailant, eyes widening when he recognized the shape of that face, the slicked-back hair, the pale complexion.

You,” he seethed, scowling. “Rummage.

Euan quirked an eyebrow at John. "Have we met?"

"You'll wish we hadn't!" John growled. A white-hot rage suddenly filled him, and he hooked his foot around Euan's to throw him off-balance. Once the weight was off his neck, John grabbed the other man by the collar and switched places with him, landing a punch in Euan's stomach as he threw him into the concrete wall.

A shriek rang out from Anita's cage, and she finally moved from her frightened ball, practically throwing herself against the door to see what was going on. "Mark!" she cried, calling his name over and over again, praying he wasn't hurt or worse. Unfortunately, her screams fell on deaf ears as John's anger threatened to overwhelm him and Euan was accustomed to ignoring her pleas.

During the panic that ensued, Dean grabbed Mikael’s arm and dragged him over to Sam. “Help me!” he snapped out in a command. “We need to be ready to blow this joint the second there’s an opening!”

Christian held Kara in his arms, the scrawny kid clinging to her father desperately as they heard the last human they ever wanted to see again gain the upper hand on John. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she hugged Christian’s neck.

Together, Mikael and Dean each took a side and helped Sam to his feet, his fractured leg hanging uselessly. When another earthquake hit and Anita started shrieking in the cage next to them, he turned white, the blood draining from his face.

“What?” Dean demanded. “What’s wrong?”

“Mark!” Sam said, remembering the man who Euan kept in one of his pockets. Each blow they could hear landed with enough force to crush them from existence, rattling through the cages and threatening to throw Sam’s precarious balance off. “He’s in the middle of the fight!”

Dean looked towards the cage opening, his face grim. The two giants were out of sight, but he knew as well as anyone that that opening could fill with a face before they knew it, friendly or not. “Mark,” he repeated flatly, recalling the name from the argument with Christina and Mikael moments ago. Dean let Mikael take on all of Sam’s weight, stalking to the edge of the cage and blowing past Bree. 

“If I get my hands on him, I’m going to teach him a lesson he won’t forget,” Dean swore, leaning as far out of the cage as he dared to see John and Euan. He clenched a fist, wishing he could get a piece of the action.

Mark's heart was in his throat, pounding at a mile a minute. Euan was usually a rough ride, but this was worse. He was totally blind in the pocket and completely defenseless against the other human as he struck Euan. The impact shook the world below Mark, and then above him. A pained growl from Euan reverberated all around the borrower, who could do little else but fall into the corner of his pocket and brace himself, and hope against hope that he made it out alive.

John shook his fist out from the second punch he'd thrown, finding a bit of satisfaction in Euan's bloodied lip. His anger took over soon enough.

"You think you can just abduct people, take children from their homes, and put them in cages like animals?!” The doctor struck Euan across the jaw.

Tch! ” Euan scoffed, smirking with his reddened teeth showing. "Vermin, the lot of 'em. They're lucky we make pets of them. It's more than they deserve!"

Euan spat defiantly, spraying blood and saliva in John's face.

John saw red.

The next thing John knew, Euan was flat on the floor and he was punching him over and over again in the face.

Mark screamed when Euan tipped over and hit the ground, the force throwing the small man toward the top of the pocket. Fresh air blew over Mark, disturbed by the new human's every blow against Euan. Instinct took over in Mark, screaming at him to get away.

Scrambling out of the pocket, Mark shot a glance over his shoulder at the other human. It was truly a terrifying sight, the giant caught up in a blind rage, enormous fists connecting with Euan's cheeks with loud, dull thuds. Mark's blood ran cold, and he jumped down from Euan's shoulder without further hesitation. He'd never been more grateful for his natural ability to blend in with the dark as he made himself scarce.

Though Dean couldn't get involved in the fight between Euan and John, he was an enthusiastic onlooker, cheering when the doc tossed the other man to the ground and shadowboxing in time with John's every blow.

"You've got him right where you want him, doc!"

Sam and Mikael came slowly up behind Dean, and the older man let Sam lean against the wall to rest after so much work. Every movement sapped Sam's strength. What he really needed was a good long sleep at home, but for now he had to soldier through.

The sight of Dean, full of energy and within Sam's reach, the way things were supposed to be, brought a smile to the younger brother's face. Having his older brother around gave him hope of his own that things would work out for them.

Mikael scowled at Dean's back. "Is he insane? " he muttered to Sam in an aside, aghast at the sight of the borrower cheering on fighting humans.

Sam gave a half-shrug with the shoulder that wasn't propped against the wall. "Dean wasn't lying," he said, honesty in his eyes. "John and Sherlock really are here just to help us." He sighed. "I just hope Mark doesn't get hurt..." He trailed off, knowing if Mark got caught in the middle of the fight, there was no way to save him.

Dean barely knew the others were so close to him. He was tied up in the fight like sitting front row at the WWE Royal Rumble. A childhood dream come true combined with the satisfaction of watching Euan get what was coming to him.

Then, he saw something that everyone else missed. Sam and Mikael and Bree were too far from the edge, Christian and Kara crouched near the back of the cage, and even if John wasn't caught up in his rage, the room would be too dark for him to catch sight of the shadow that separated from Euan, seeking cover from the fight.

"Oh, hell no," Dean growled. "You are not getting away that easy."

Before he really thought through what he was about to attempt, and what a bad idea it was in a darkened room full of fighting humans, Dean had his hook out, attached to the edge of the cage, and was dropping down towards the faraway floor, leaving Sam staring wide-eyed at the vacant spot he'd left behind.

"Dean! "

Dean scaling down by nightmares06

Chapter artwork done by @iamthetwickster !

Chapter Text

Mark ran.

On a good day, his strides in a full-tilt run could span nearly eight inches each. Right then, limbs shaking with terror and sore from the workout that Euan had let run for too long (Mark could never stop without the risk of punishment), he only averaged about four or five inches at a time. It was still faster than any other borrower he knew could run, which is why he nearly tumbled when he ground to a sudden halt.


He whirled around and looked up at the cages now that he'd put several feet between himself and the giants. Her cage was still locked, hadn't even been acknowledged by the humans. He could see her shape in the clear door, but there was no way of knowing if she could see him.

She couldn't; Anita's eyesight had weakened in her captivity. Under regular circumstances, she would have missed his shadow fleeing Euan and John's brawl. Put together with the fact that she was sobbing loudly, tears blurring her vision, there was no way she knew what had become of her brother. For all she knew, he'd been crushed in the fight.

A determination rose up in Mark. He couldn't just run away like a coward while his sister was still trapped. He pivoted and skirted his way toward the cages, giving the humans a wide berth.

Mark's steps faltered when he noticed someone descending a rope to get to the floor. He didn't recognize them, and he didn't have time to find out what their intentions were. The second their feet touched the ground, another human stood in the doorway.

Sherlock stared open mouthed at the room as he tried to process what he was seeing. His eyes had finally adjusted enough that he could make out just who John was pounding into the ground. That was all well and good, but the cages were now left unattended and remained occupied. The detective frowned when he caught sight of the line leading from the opened cage to the floor, and the little shadow of what must have been Dean dashing from it.

Ignoring everything else, Sherlock closed the distance between himself and Dean easily, slamming down a hand like a barrier in front of the little guy and scooping him up to eye level.

"What do you think you're doing??" Sherlock demanded, more confused than anything else. He was not fond of the feeling.

“What am I doing?” Dean sputtered, absolutely irate over the way his dash to cut down the distance between himself and Mark had ended. He refused to admit the fear he’d felt when Sherlock’s shoes rattled the ground under his feet, no way of knowing if he was about to end up under a sole, friendly or not. “What do you think you’redoing?!” He aimed a kick at the nearest glove-covered finger, wishing he could make more than just a dent in the leather.

Dean jabbed his arm in Mark’s direction, glaring up at Sherlock. “You’re letting him get away,” he snapped, frustrated beyond belief to find himself too high up in the air to even attempt going after Mark again, at least without Sherlock’s help.

Sherlock's frown deepened and he glanced around, seeing nothing of what Dean had indicated.

As soon as the human started in his way, Mark booked it in the other direction. If he got captured by yet another human, he'd have no chance of saving Anita. While the new giant stooped down to snatch the other borrower, who'd been running after Mark for some reason, Mark mustered up the energy to push his strides to six inches. He took cover underneath a shelf by the time the human's gaze darted around the room.

Sherlock rose to his feet and peered into the cage, counting the shapes and finding them all in place. Whoever Dean had been chasing, he wasn't a priority.

"Doesn't matter. Time's up, we need to leave. Now," he reminded Dean, depositing the tiny ball of rage to his shoulder. Sherlock was sick of this place; it made his skin crawl the longer they were there.

Dean huffed in aggravation. If Sherlock had left him alone, he could have had that other guy. By now he could have gone anywhere, and from his shoulder perch, Dean couldn’t spot him.

Fine,” Dean growled, with no other choice but to cling to Sherlock’s scarf, his knuckles turning white in suppressed anger. “Sam, you ready to go?” he called out, turning his focus back to his little brother, still up in the cage.

“M-maybe?” Sam responded, his voice wavering. “I just--"

“Don’t worry, once we’re done here there’ll be no more cages,” Dean coaxed, remembering how his brother reacted to captivity. “We just need to get you back home, and for that I’m gonna need your help.” He glanced at Mikael. “And yours. Sherlock will put his hand in the cage flat for Sam to get on, I just need you to help Sam. And we’ll take everyone with us who wants to come.”

Sam stiffened. “We can’t leave Anita behind!” he insisted, remembering Mark’s sister, trapped in her own cage away from the others.

“Anita?” Dean repeated in confusion, his eyebrows scrunching together.

Sherlock blinked, finally catching sight of a small silhouette in the cage adjacent to the one he'd opened after a glance around. It was the only other cage with a lock, the only possible person Sam could have been referring to. She must have been huddled further in earlier, where the detective wouldn't have been able to see her. Now, though, she was slumped against the door in defeat, offering no reaction to her name being spoken.

With a sigh, Sherlock stooped with Dean clinging to his collar to pick up the wrenches he'd used earlier and dropped when they'd done their job, and made short work of breaking open the lock. Anita flinched at the noise and recoiled from the door, which swung open and left her vulnerable to the unknown human.

As much as Sherlock wanted to save time and scoop the trembling girl up, something forced him to refrain. Maybe it was the way Dean had implied they all had to choose to come, or the fact that she was trembling and cowering under his gaze, eyes streaming tears down her dark cheeks. Either way, Sherlock held an upturned hand out for her, not moving a muscle as he watched her.

At that point, Anita was sure Mark was dead. He had to be, with the other human still beating on Euan. There was no way her brother could have survived. She had nothing to lose, she decided as she shakily got to her feet, and if she could leave this cage behind forever she would take her chances with the human.

She stumbled on the uneven surface and unfamiliar texture of the leather glove, and collapsed in a heap in Sherlock's palm, sitting up with visible effort.

"John," Sherlock called, turning to his partner. Punches were still flying, and Euan's face was covered in bruises and welts, John's knuckles with blood. “John! I think you've got him."

Finally, John's fist paused as he reared it back for another punch. Seemingly called back into reality, the doctor looked up at the detective and realized he might have overdone it. He stood, taking the pressure of his knee off of Euan's chest. The man groaned, and in one last bout of anger, John planted the sole of his shoe squarely against his head, knocking him out and likely breaking his nose. John didn't care.

"Take Sam," Sherlock suggested. "He's been hurt, he'll need a good doctor. I can handle the rest."

The mention of Sam set John's priorities straight right away, and he nodded numbly, wiping his face with his sleeve. The blood Euan had put there smeared, leaving a dark spot on his black jacket. Then he stepped forward and put his hand up to the cage just like Sherlock had done before him with Anita.

"Come on," he breathed. "Let's go home."

Sam couldn’t stop himself from stumbling back from the hand when it approached so fast, his eyes wide and full of the memories of Euan’s hand closing around him. Leaning against his leg… fracturing the bone… Sam found himself panting at the memory. When his greater weight leaned to the side, he nearly pulled Mikael from his feet.

Mikael grunted at the effort to keep Sam from falling over. “You said these humans were your friends!” he retorted, partially at Dean and partially at Sam. Christian rushed over, Kara stumbling behind him, and caught Sam before the other two men went down, supporting Sam’s other side. Between them, they got him standing.

“S-sorry,” Sam stuttered, his body rigid. “H-hands… I don’t know if I can…

Understanding dawned on Mikael. “Your leg,” he said flatly, looking at the splinted limb. Sam going into that room with Euan fine and coming out injured. Now they knew from his reaction it was at the hands of one of the humans.

“C’mon, Sam!” Dean called from his place on Sherlock. “The doc’s harmless, remember?” He tried to bring up his attitude from those first days of getting to know Sherlock and John, back when Dean and Sherlock were continually quarreling, in the hopes of sparking a good memory for Sam.

“I’m trying,” Sam grit out, his legs unmoving. “It’s just not working.”

“We can get you there,” Mikael said, sending Christian a look behind Sam’s back. Together, the two other men slowly walked Sam over to John’s outstretched hand, lowering him carefully down onto the open palm. “Don’t move that leg,” Mikael warned when Sam flinched instinctively from the warmth.

In sync, the two men backed away from John’s hand, freeing him to move.

John's heart gave a nervous stutter at Sam's reaction, like he was afraid of him. It was one thing when the others in the cage, strangers, had acted this way, but this was Sam. John had been so careful to build up trust between himself and the younger Winchester, and now it was almost like none of it had happened.

When the realization struck that someone had physically put his hands on Sam and hurt him, John's eyes widened in horror and Sherlock's narrowed, contemplative. The two humans exchanged a meaningful look as John felt movement on his palm. John nodded respectfully at the men who'd helped Sam into his hand, but he felt a cold pit growing inside at the sight of his small friend. He'd never looked so broken, so fragile and vulnerable, and John could hardly stand it.

With more care than he'd ever done anything in his life, John lifted his hand and cupped the other underneath it for support as he slowly drew Sam out of the cage.

Chapter Text

It took so much effort for John to keep his hands from shaking. The emotions of the day caught up to him all at once: all the worry and guilt over losing Sam, the anger at whoever was responsible, the dread in not knowing where his friend was and what was happening to him. Now that he had his answers, John did not feel any better. Before his common sense could advise against it, he held his hand close to his chest, keeping it level so none of Sam's injuries would be bothered.

"I'm so sorry, Sam…" John whispered, clenching his jaw tight in an attempt to maintain control over his emotions.

Sam’s eyes scrunched shut, and he felt a few tears force their way out. The pent-up frustration and fear finally found an outlet, and he could feel his arms start to shake at the thought of being in a hand again.

His eyes snapped open, pushing away the memories of Euan creeping in on him. He was in John’s hand, and he could hear John’s voice and see the dark shape of his friend above him. Sam had to cling to that image to avoid sinking down into deceitful thoughts trying to trick him into believing Euan still held him down, that this was all just a cruel dream brought forth by a sleeping mind.

Not sleeping… I’m in way too much pain to be asleep.

Sam tried to laugh John’s words off, but the sound was harsh and barking for him, the events of the last day stealing some of his innocence away. “Not your fault,” Sam said, cutting across his chest with his hand. “Never your fault.”

Dean held tight to Sherlock’s collar, lost to the looks the two humans shared between themselves at Sam’s nervous behavior. All he could focus on was the sight of his baby brother, safe and out of danger in John’s hands. John was a doctor. If anyone could patch Sam up, it was him.

The hush of people talking amongst themselves pulled at Dean, and he reluctantly turned to the rest of their mission to get everyone out of the godforsaken place. “We just need to get the others, and we can blow this pop stand once and for all.”

John blinked and nodded in agreement, pulling himself together. Now was not the time to feel terrible about himself, not with others to save besides Sam. He backed up to make room for Sherlock.

Despite Sam's incredibly light weight, John's hands never felt heavier. His every step felt like it carried the weight of the world. An entire life in his hand.

Sherlock took John's place and held out his unoccupied hand out to those in the cage, his expression neutral. Negotiations were over; they would either come, or their own stubbornness would doom them to a life of captivity. He could hardly feel remorse for that.

Mikael and Christian drew back instinctively from the hand, but Bree stepped right on, her eyes glued to where Dean made sitting on a shoulder look so casual. Even her Beth had never allowed her there, always carrying her place to place in a hand. She didn’t say anything, merely crouched down like she always did to keep her balance centered.

Mikael glanced at Christian, then to Kara. “We go together, or not at all.”

Christian took a deep breath to steel himself. It would take a blind and deaf person to not see how different John and Sherlock treated Sam and Dean from the way Euan and the professor were around everyone else. “Then together.”

Before he could step onto the gloved hand, Kara darted past both of the men, and Sherlock’s hand. “You forgot your hook, mister!” she called to Dean, prying it from the edge of the cage and brandishing it at him.

Dean waved at her. “How ‘bout you hang onto that for me?” he called back. “Just be sure to take good care of it.”

“I will!” she proclaimed proudly and scrambled up after Bree, leaving Mikael and Christian no choice but to climb up next to her, Christian pausing to grab Sam's discarded jacket from the cage floor. The two men flanked Kara on either side as they got settled and waited for Sherlock to make his move.

Painfully aware that he was holding four entire people in one hand, Sherlock moved his hand steadily out of the cage. He paused, considering the next course of action with five tiny people between two hands waiting on him. After a moment, he shifted the hand that held Anita to be even with the other and tilted it a little to encourage her to switch. Flinching at the sudden movement, Anita scrambled to her feet and obediently hopped onto the other hand, settling down between Bree and Christian.

"I'm going to put you in my coat pocket. It's the largest and safest place for a travel group of this size. John and I took public transportation to get here, and will be again on the way back; that'll minimize the amount of time spent walking, and eliminate the time spent seated if we took a cab." That said, Sherlock slowly lowered his hand to the level of his pocket, the other hand holding it open to allow them all room to drop in.

Anita stiffened at the sight of the gaping depths of the pocket. After what her brother had gone through, everything in her screamed danger! Pockets were always bad news. Look at what they did to Mark, she thought miserably, reminded that everything she ever loved was gone. It didn't matter anymore, whether these humans really were friendly or if she was walking into another trap. Whatever happened would happen, and she accepted this as she slid over the edge of the hand and into the darkness.

Christian held Kara tight around her waist as they followed Anita, landing close by. Mikael managed to land in time to catch Bree, who looked the least stressed when she’d landed. One look at the others, though, and again she sequestered herself into a corner away from them. Kara squirmed her way into the middle of everyone, looping Dean’s black thread around her arm just like her father had told her to do with her own little hook.

Which was now gone. Kara bit her lip in concentration. She had to do this just right for Dean. He was nice.

Dean watched the others vanish into Sherlock’s pocket, glad he had the high lookout perch instead of stuck in a cloth cave, unable to see out. He nodded to himself, satisfied that they’d be safe there, or as safe as a pocket could possibly be.

Which left another question for Dean. He glanced over at where John held Sam, protectively cupping him close to his chest.

“What about Sam?” Dean asked. “He can’t exactly be dropped in a pocket like that.”

Sam looked up, staring back at Dean as he propped himself up on his elbows. “Well I don’t think I’ll be sitting on any shoulders like you anytime soon,” he said, voice heavy with exhaustion.

John's brow rose, his gaze darting between Sam and Dean and Sherlock's pocket. Unlike Sherlock, John had only walked around with a tiny person once, and that was with Sam on his shoulder. That option was already ruled out by Sam’s condition, which limited their choices. "I mean, I… If-if you don't mind, Sam, I could just, ah, holdyou in one of my coat pockets. It's really all I can think of to keep you hidden and safe all at once, so… Would you be alright with that?"

He waited for Sam's permission before making any kind of move. The poor lad had had enough of humans disregarding the importance of his consent.

Sam tried to lean so he could see the pocket from where he was held, but couldn’t quite see over the edge of John’s hand. He couldn’t hide his trepidation at the thought of being confined, but he looked up at John and nodded his agreement.


“Just-- don’t close your hand around me,” Sam asked, swallowing nervously as he gave John permission. He forced himself to lie straight on John’s palm, feeling his heart rate accelerate.

"Got it, yeah," John nodded, trying to ignore the panicked flutters he felt from within Sam's chest. They were faint against his palm, but they were there. It mattered to John how Sam felt, but at the moment his only goal was to get his friend home safe, and they both knew this was the only way.

John was determined to protect Sam this time.

With a hushed warning that he was about to move, he carefully brought Sam to his coat pocket. It was a little awkward fitting the hand inside with his coat unzipped, but with his other hand holding it steady John managed to work it inside. Pressing the back of his hand all the way in the bottom of the pocket allowed Sam plenty of room to breathe, as well as an (admittedly limited) view outside past John's wrist.

"All right?" he asked Sam, shooting Sherlock a hard look to match his impatient one. If Sam was uncomfortable or in avoidable pain, John was obligated to accommodate him before he started walking, a potentially jarring experience for the kid.

Inside the pocket, the darkness was more complete. Sam craned his neck to see out of the top of the pocket. He took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. “I’m fine!” he called up, but the fabric swallowed up his voice. The air was warmer, more stifling. Flat enough to make his call fail before escaping into the open.

Frowning, Sam contemplated his options, then kicked his boot against John’s palm twice, that way it wouldn’t be mistaken as an accident or him shifting position. He was pretty sure that the feeling of his hands hitting the thick skin could be brushed off as a tickle, but his boot was sturdy enough to avoid that problem.

John realized after a few seconds that it might be difficult for he and Sam to communicate while he was in the pocket. This had just begun to worry him when he felt two distinct nudges from Sam's boot, and he finally let the tension in his shoulders go.

"I'll take that as a yes," he muttered.

Finally,” grumbled Sherlock, leading the way out into the street.

Mark watched the humans from his hiding spot. Saw them leave with the other borrowers, with his sister! He didn't think twice before hurrying to follow them, dashing through the door just as it was about to close.

He shivered in the sudden cold. His coat was still in Euan's pocket, and there was no way he'd be able to get it back now if he tried. For now, all of his concentration and adrenaline kept him moving forward as he followed the humans at a safe distance. The steadily-darkening sky became Mark's best friend, keeping him hidden.

Chapter Text

Once they were outside, the detective put his hands just far enough in his pockets to stabilize them. The pockets were deep enough that this action did not invade too much of his passengers' space, but Anita still recoiled from the sudden appearance of a hand hanging above them all. Christian moved closer to Kara, instinctively hovering over his daughter as she finished winding up Dean’s hook with a triumphant smile.

Bree, of course, didn’t react to the hand above. She was the only one there aside from Anita who had spent a lot of time around humans, and most of her time was spent in hands, both friendly and not, unlike Anita, who had lived those days in a cage.

John did his best to keep his steps smooth and avoid jostling Sam as much as possible, while staying close to Sherlock and his many occupants. Now that he knew how Sam intended to communicate, he made sure to pay attention in case his own passenger-- and, as soon as they returned to the flat, his patient-- needed to call on him for any reason.

Dean kept a sharp lookout from his spot on Sherlock, and for the first time in his life, the height didn’t bother him in any way, shape or form. He had too much on his mind. He continually sent glances downwards to see how Sherlock’s pockets were faring, and had to admit he approved of the way Sherlock was keeping them from swaying with his stride. Dean would do the same.

None of that distracted Dean from sending worried glances back at John. Dean didn’t like having Sam out of sight, but if he trusted anyone with his little brother’s safety, it was the doctor who’d helped them so much already. He would occasionally pull down the back of Sherlock’s collar, making sure John was walking calmly along and that the hand that held Sam remained in place.

John met Dean's eyes whenever he saw the little head peeking over Sherlock's collar. He gave the elder Winchester a nod each time, indicating that Sam was alright. At least, he hadn't felt anything that resembled a distress signal. The rest of the time, he kept his eyes forward, wishing there was some way he could be with Sam. Even with the kid in his hand, he felt so detached having to hide him in his pocket.

It was a ten minute walk to the Overground station, where Sherlock and John unknowingly lost their tiny tail. Even in the early evening, dozens of other humans were filing in and out of the station. Far too many for Mark to be able to safely follow his targeted humans through doors he could not hope to open on his own.

Clutching his head in frustration, Mark's eyes welled up with tears. He couldn't bear to lose Anita, not now that they were both out! Before long, he realized that he couldn't escape his fate now. Euan would wake up soon and track Mark down with the device strapped to his back, the cold of its metal seeping easily through his shirt. Mark couldn't remove it without dying, though he was highly tempted. It was likely that without Anita to use to control him, Euan would just kill Mark anyway.

No, Mark thought. He was much too valuable to the human. So was Anita. Euan would do whatever it took to get them both back, despite the fact that Anita didn't have a tracker. Euan would find a way. And maybe, just maybe, the humans that had his sister now would defeat Euan again. And then Mark would have his sister back.

It was a longshot, but so were his hopes for Sam's rescue. And that had worked out. Feeling numb for more than one reason, Mark started back toward the base. Perhaps if he was found closer to the building, his punishment would be less severe.

Sherlock stood at the very end of the carriage on the train. Sitting down would be extremely risky for those in his coat pocket. John was not so hindered, and sat behind Sherlock, minding Sam every second. The doctor spent the entire ride leaning his head back with his eyes closed, but he was far from asleep. He was focusing all of his attention on his hand, feeling Sam's weight, his every shift.

Hating how he couldn't see or hear his tiny friend, John wished there was an efficient way they could communicate without putting Sam at risk of being noticed.

During the trip to the train, Sam did his best to remain motionless. Down in the pocket, he could only catch snatches of the outside if he looked up past John's wrist. The darkening sky, an occasional rooftop, maybe a bird passing by on its own business.

The remaining light from the sky above let Sam see his surroundings clearly. His and Dean's eyes were not perfect in the dark. They needed a small trickle of light for their nightvision to function properly. 

Now Sam could see enough to make out the individual stitches in the pocket, and the faint lines and crevices in John's skin. Sam traced a few with his finger to pass the time and distract himself, observing that his finger was small enough to fit in some of those lines.

When Sherlock and John reached the Overground station, Sam couldn't help but try and curl into a smaller ball. He could feel his knack respond to the sudden preponderance of humans out there, a faint burn separate from the pain on his back. And in the train, the noise level grew so loud that Sam doubted he could even hear John talking, never mind Dean or the others, with their softer, lighter voices easily drowned out by the ambient sound in the train.

Sam pushed himself up, trying to get comfortable despite the brand on his back painfully reminding him of its presence every time he lay flat. He ended up shifting onto his side, the only way he could lay so both his leg and back hurt the least. He did his best to ignore any involuntary twitches in John’s hand around him, continually reminding himself he was safe.

Sherlock and John arrived in Central London before they knew it, the trip back feeling much quicker than the trip out. They wasted no time in returning to Baker Street.

The second the door shut behind them, both humans let out relieved sighs. Safety had been reached at last. Ascending the stairs carefully, they both made straight for the kitchen. John lifted Sam out of his pocket with a hushed word of warning, cupping him to his chest again as he fetched his first-aid kit. After he'd tugged off his gloves, Sherlock reached a hand into his own pocket to do the same, acting as a platform for his passengers.

Most of the people in the pocket flinched away from the hand, remembering moments with Euan and the professor trapping them or pinning them down, but Bree simply climbed on, her limbs mechanically going through the motions with her mind detached.

Mikael looked at the others. “It's almost over,” he commented to Christian.

Kara bounded on next to Bree. “I'm gonna give him back his hook!” she chirped proudly, referring to Dean.

It was impossible to hide a smile at that, even in the most dire circumstances. Christian climbed up next to her. “Don't get it tangled now,” he encouraged his daughter.

Mikael held a hand out to Anita, offering her help. “Time to go see what's waiting for us,” he said encouragingly.

Anita's hand shook as she took Mikael's. She'd spent the entire ride in silent apathy, resigned to her fate, but now that she was there, instinctual fears and worries gripped her tight. For all she knew, these humans were no different than the others. Still, there was no avoiding it now, so she let Mikael help her into the hand, trembling as she sat.

When Sherlock was certain all five were in hand, he brought them out and let them off on the kitchen table, the nearest clear surface. Then he used his newly-freed hand to transfer Dean from his shoulder to join them, letting his coat drop as he took a seat near them all.

"Moira!" John called as he passed by the main room. "We're back, we've got Sam. Be in the kitchen."

He didn’t wait for her; checking on Sam was his first priority.

John sat opposite Sherlock and the others, laying the hand that held Sam flat on the table. With the other, he fiddled with the latch on the first-aid kit. "I know you're probably exhausted," he said to Sam, bedside manner kicked in, "but I need to see what they've done to you, and help ease your pain. If anything hurts when it's not supposed to, or at any time you feel uncomfortable, you tell me right away and I'll stop until you're ready."

Dean was all business the moment he was on the table with the others. He wound his way through them to make sure everyone was alright and their ride had gone smooth, pausing when he saw Anita’s trembling and the way Bree tried to avoid everyone’s eyes.

Kara distracted him before he could ask Bree what was wrong, tugging lightly on his sleeve. Dean glanced down, and the little girl held up his hook.

“I kept it safe for you, mister!” she said, her grey eyes hopeful.

Dean grinned at the little girl’s innocence, and squatted down. “You sure did, squirt,” he said, mussing up her hair as he took it back. “But I’m no ‘mister.’ You can call me Dean.”

Kara’s eyes grew wide. “Okay, Dean!” she said, “And you can call me Kara! Thanks for helping save me and my daddy!”

Dean turned bright red when she bounced up and planted a kiss on his cheek with a giggle.



For those who have forgotten what the Americans look like, or haven't seen them yet:


Art by @MogaDeer and @iamthetwickster 

Bree got dressed up a lot like a doll, Christian is perpetually Exhausted(TM), Kara has nothing but energy, and Mikael is the silver fox.

Chapter Text

To the side of the table, Moira came running out of the wall. Her hair was disheveled and her bag bouncing by her side, like she'd just snagged it and ran the moment she heard John’s voice. “Sam!”

Sam shifted in John's hand, distracted from the doctor’s questions by his adopted sister’s arrival. “M-Moira?” he said in disbelief, wondering if he'd really been gone only for the day.

Dean pulled himself away from the others at the table, waving at Moira to join them and coming up next to John’s hand. “It’s a long story, kid,” he said to Sam. “Getting you better comes first.”

Sam bit his lip nervously. “It’s more a question of what doesn’t hurt anymore,” he admitted, feeling the strain from the day’s trials on every bit of his body.

John frowned thoughtfully. "I guess we can start with the leg, fix up that splint job." Besides being rather bulky in appearance, John doubted Sam could be comfortable with it over his trouser leg. "Er, Dean, could you help Sam onto the table? I'll need both hands."

Sherlock remained silent where he sat, steepled fingers pressed to his lips as he watched the motley crew of tiny people settle in on the table. He couldn't help picking them apart one by one in his head. A father and daughter, obvious enough by their physical resemblance and his protective nature over the child. The older man was protective of little Kara, too, but he was protective of everyone. Even the one from the separate cage, and the loner who had personal experience with being handled. Her lack of hesitation where it existed in the others was proof enough of that. Tamed and conditioned.

In addition, the few others he'd heard speak were American, just like the Winchesters. If he believed in such things, Sherlock would call it incredibly lucky that he and John happened upon yet another group of people shipped overseas and rescued them before anything could happen. As it was, he was incredibly fascinated by the lot of them.

John looked back at Moira, keeping his hand where he'd put it on the table. With all that was going on, he distractedly started to reach a hand toward the Winchesters' sister before catching himself. Ears going pink, he stretched his empty hand flat as a platform, his arm forming a bridge over the gap between them. "Do you want to join us?" he asked Moira.

Moira eyed the hand up doubtfully, her heart fluttering like a hummingbird's wings from how quick it had moved at her before John caught himself. She wasn’t as sanguine with these humans as Sam and Dean appeared to be, with their fast movements and impossibly large sizes, but she was trying to do her best.

“S-sure,” she said, sending one last glance at Dean before she stepped into the palm.

Dean gave her a thumbs up from the table, torn in too many different directions by everything that was going on. He was driven to take charge, knowing the others rescued with them would need help adjusting, but Sam and Moira always came first in his mind. Sam, especially, needed the help. Christian and the others had no obvious injuries to Dean’s practiced eye, one reason he’d checked on them before coming over. They looked sore, but nothing like Sam.

“C’mon Sam, let’s get you onto the table,” Dean murmured, slipping one arm behind Sam’s back and the other under his knees.

Sam hissed with pain as Dean lifted him and swiftly laid him on the table. There was no hiding the amount of pain he was in, not from Dean and not from John.

“They did something to my back, too,” Sam said as he painfully lay flat again. “Burned it or something.”

John nodded as he carefully ferried Moira to the table, letting her off near Dean. It was hard for him to miss the bandage across Sam's back, half-hidden by his shirt, and he'd wondered what they could possibly have done to him there. Knowing it was a burn didn't make John feel any better.

"Right. One thing at a time," he muttered, mostly to himself. With both hands free, he flipped open the first-aid kit. He took out his own gauze and medical tape, using a pair of small scissors to cut both into strips that smaller hands could manage. "Dean, if you could work on cutting that splint off, please? And roll back his trouser leg to the knee once it's off."

Dean nodded, kneeling down next to Sam and pulling out his knife. He could ignore the scissors in John’s hand. Though the sharp edges on them were longer and more deadly than the small knives the brothers held in such high regard, he knew John would be assiduously careful with them near people so small.

Moira edged closer to Sam while Dean and John worked, her face a mask of shock at the condition Sam was in. She knelt by his side, taking his hand and squeezing it.

“Keeping out of trouble?” Sam asked, glad for the distraction as Dean made short work on the splint, taking his frustration out on the reminder of Sam’s captivity.

“More than you, apparently,” Moira said, brushing Sam’s bangs from his eyes. “Glad to see you back.”

As Dean started to toss the scraps from the splint away from him and Sam so they could start rolling up the pant leg, Moira stood and took a few steps towards the strangers on the table. Her family didn’t entertain guests very often, but she knew how to offer hospitality. And, maybe, she could help reassure them, considering the way Sherlock and John could loom. Sherlock especially with that focused look in his eyes.

Moira spared him one last glance before opening up her bag, a smaller version of Sam’s. “Is anyone hungry?” she asked in a small voice. “I don’t have much, but my mother made some cakes,” she offered shyly, pulling one out and unwrapping it from the fabric coiled around it.

The little grey-eyed girl tugged excitedly at her dad’s hand, and he reached out cautiously to take it. The nerves had never quite left his face, and he quickly glanced at Sherlock and John before passing the cake to Kara. “Thank you,” he said.

“My name’s Moira,” she offered, smiling at the little girl. “Sam and Dean are my brothers. What’s your name?”

“I’m Kara!” Kara replied, her toothy grin thrilled as she took a bite of the cake. “Daddy, this is good!” She shoved some back at him.

Moira offered the other cake to Mikael, but he waved it off. “I think Anita and Bree could use it more,” he said, gesturing at the two girls. “I’m Mikael, and that’s Christian.”

Christian jumped slightly at his name. “Y-yeah. Thanks for the help.” He nervously fiddled with the cake.

Watching from above, Sherlock was intrigued by the new interactions Moira was introducing to the group. Taking note of her polite manners and sense of hospitality, he paid close attention to how each and every person reacted to her. Mikael refusing food in favor of the others was especially interesting. He didn't appear to be related to any of the others, yet he had established himself as an elder of the group and prioritized them over himself. A noble quality, Sherlock had to admit.

For her part, Anita stared suspiciously at the cake when she was offered one, but a glance over at Kara happily eating some helped her relax. Giving Moira a confused look, unsure what she or Sam and Dean were to these humans, Anita took her share with a grateful nod.

"Wh-what is all this?" she asked Moira after taking a tentative bite. All those years of eating bland food and drinking stale tap water had left her tolerance for food with taste all but nonexistent; she enjoyed the cake, but she would need to take it in slow, small nibbles. She glanced furtively up at Sherlock and John. "You're not their pet…?"

Moira stiffened at the implication of being ‘pets.’ “If anyone tries to make me into a pet, I’ll stick ‘em,” she said, brandishing the pin she wore at her side, her hand placed just above the rounded red bottom.

The quick movement caused the wing on her shirt to billow up enough to reveal the knife she still wore at her side, and Mikael’s eyes widened. “I’ve never seen a weapon like that,” he said, pointing at the knife.

“This?” Confused, Moira pulled the knife from her belt and held it out for them to see. “It’s Sam’s. I’m just holding onto it for him.”

“It’s… intricate.” Mikael stared, a cast falling over his face to disguise his emotions. “And… you trust these humans…?” he ventured, looking up at Sherlock, who continued to scrutinize them.

“Well…” Moira said, glancing from Sherlock to where John was carefully checking over Sam. “Dean trusts them, and he’s one of the smartest people I know. So I’ll trust them too.”

Sherlock shifted in his seat to lean one elbow on the chair's thin arm, stroking his chin in thought. "So," he began, his voice a quiet rumble over the six tiny people in front of him. "You're all American. Aside from you and you." He pointed at Moira and Anita, making an assumption about Bree, the only person he hadn't heard speak. He felt safe in that guess, given she was in the cage with the other Americans.

Mikael crossed his arms, standing as tall as he could when surrounded by humans. “That’s what they called us,” he said. “All I know is we lived in a motel in Hibbing, Minnesota. There… wasn’t anyone left in the motel but us…”

Christian looked over at Mikael from where he was crouched next to Kara, sharing some of her cake. “M-Mikael was caught first,” he added. “Then me. I couldn’t even get to Kara before they had me. And Kara made it two weeks on her own before they got her too.” His poor daughter, so thin and frail by the time she was in his arms again in that infernal crate. The only reason he was glad to see her was the fact that he knew she’d at least get consistent meals with them.

“I was already there,” Bree said, her eyes cast down. “They caught me and took me from my home when I was just a kid. I just… never expected they’d sell me. Not after they gave me to their daughter as a present.”

Sherlock's brow furrowed at the information being freely given to him. Sam and Dean had kept their stories close to their chests for weeks, but with these people, he'd asked one question and practically gotten a life story from each of them. Even the quiet one.

"Interesting," he mused. "You said you lived in a motel. Clever, taking advantage of drifting human beings in order to keep hidden from them. Though, I imagine pickings can get thin when business is slow."

Still, he had to admit, whatever these tiny people were, they were a hardy bunch. Even the little girl was able to survive on her own for a surprisingly long time. "Anyway, Minnesota is in America, that's why you're called that. Now you're in London, England. Making me, John, Moira, and…" He narrowed his eyes and tilted his head at the other whose name escaped him.

"A-Anita," she provided, her insides churning at the scrutiny she was suddenly placed under. Thankfully, her quick answer sent those enormous blue-green eyes back toward Mikael.

"English," Sherlock finished. "Or British. Either way."

Mikael thought that over. “So many different names for people,” he commented. “You humans love to name everything you find. Sometimes multiple times.”

Chapter Text

Dean huffed over by Sam as he finished rolling up the pant leg, disgusted by the swollen shape of his brother’s leg. “Good thing our jeans are loose,” he said with a scowl.

John bit back a wince; he'd seen far worse injuries in his career, but the fact that it happened to Sam… Besides the obvious break point, there was hardly a patch of visible skin that wasn't bruised. John ran a gentle finger down Sam's shin, minding the tender skin as best as he could while making sure the tiny bone was set straight and hadn't misaligned.

"Credit where it's due," John muttered, taking back his hand when he found the bone to be straight. "Whoever set this knew what they were doing."

“Yeah, well, don’t be too amazed,” Sam said, his eyes squeezed shut. “That just means he had people to practice on after Euan broke them.”

John scoffed. "Trust me, I don't hold this person in high regard."

Dean was kneeling next to Sam, hovering nervously as John checked his little brother. “If you need anything, just tell me what to do,” he said. “I’ve had plenty of practice stitching up my dad when we were kids.”

The doctor's brow rose. He had been hoping for Dean's help, but he had no idea the kid had priors. Especially ones involving giving first aid to his own father. He moved past that, in favor of getting this all over with so Sam could rest.

"Glad to hear it," he said, passing a few of the thin strips of gauze over to Dean. "Someone with a more precise touch should handle this after the shoddy job the last guy did." He couldn't keep a touch of bitterness out of his voice.

With a sigh, he started arranging tiny pieces of medical tape near the gauze. This time he spoke quietly and steadily, as he’d done before. "I don't think we'll need to splint this, so long as you avoid putting weight on the leg, Sam. You can just wrap that in a few tight layers, and secure it with the tape all the way up, should keep it stable. I'll send you home with a little extra gauze and tape, just in case something comes loose. Sound good?"

Dean took the gauze as John handed the strips over, gently binding them around Sam’s leg. “Nice and easy, Sammy,” he coached as he worked. “Nothin’ to it, right?”

Sam grit his teeth when Dean brushed against the tender skin. “Whatever you say, jackass.”

The medical tape was next. Small next to John, the strips he’d cut down were more than enough to bind the gauze to hold it in place. Dean worked deftly, the skills he’d learned as a young kid coming back to him from necessity. He had years of practice, all learned before he’d turned fourteen from the many times his father came home from hunts, patching up his father over and over again.

He’d always been glad for those skills after their curse, knowing they couldn’t go to a hospital if they wanted to, all because of their small size.

“There,” Dean said as he wound the last bit up and applied the tape. “I think we can make that work, what do you say?” He glanced over his shoulder at John, looking to see if the trained doctor approved.

John leaned in for a closer look at Dean's work. Kid wasn't lying, he really knew his way around an injury. "Excellent job," he complimented, genuinely impressed by Dean before his nerves returned at the thought of what he had to do next. He hoped it wasn't obvious, but he suspected that his size made it hard for him to hide anything from them.

"Right, ah. Guess I should take a look at that burn, then." He sat back and dug around in his kit for anything he could use to treat burns. "Dean? Could you help Sam out of his shirt, and get that patch off him?"

Dean felt a swell of pride when John approved of his patch job. A compliment like that was hard to come by growing up, and now he'd earned it helping an army doctorwith his little brother.

Pushing aside that line of thought, Dean turned his focus on Sam. “Let's get that shirt off,” he muttered. He helped Sam sit up, an action that was hard for the kid with the amount of bruising he'd been put through.

Sam groaned as his stiff limbs responded. Dean ended up doing most of the work stripping Sam's shirt off, Sam only able to raise his arms up at the right times.

Dean hooked his fingers under the medical tape, frowning as he gently peeled it off to a background of gasps of pain when Sam couldn't hold them in.

Then Dean saw what they'd done to his little brother's back, and the medical tape dropped free of his limp hands. Dean couldn't do anything but stare, his mouth moving but no words escaping.

John glanced at Dean to check on his progress, blinking when he found the small man completely still. The makeshift bandage had fallen to the table, a dark spot of blood in the middle.

"Dean?" The doctor leaned in to see Sam's back. "What's--?"

His jaw dropped at the sight of charred skin, and his hammering heart sank. Mind going blank, he touched his chin to the table for a closer look at the burn, moving much faster than his usual careful movements.

Burn, my arse, that's a BRAND!

Blood rushed in John's ears as the rage resurfaced. Those people were already monstrous for taking, caging, and selling people, but this? This was dehumanizing, reducing poor Sam to little more than a number if the Roman numeral was any indication.

John could hardly bear to look at it, blackened lines standing out on Sam's bruised skin, and yet he couldn't tear his eyes away. He felt ill from all the anger and disgust welling up inside him.

Dean reverently brushed some of the residue from the medical tape from Sam’s shoulder, unable to take his eyes off the brand. The skin around it was red, and Dean hated to think about how much pain Sam was in because of this unwanted mark.

Sam shifted in place. “What? What is it?” He tried to twist around so he could see his back, but naturally couldn’t make it. The brand was in his blind spot, and turning too far only pained it.

He caught sight of the look on John’s face and stiffened, some of the remaining fear from his time in captivity flooding back when he realized John was upset. The tips of Sam’s ears started to burn. “I-- I couldn’t see what they did to me,” he said meekly. “I don’t really remember much between my leg getting hurt and waking up in the cage later on.”

Dean tightened his jaw. “It’s nothing you have to worry about, kid. Right now you just need to focus on getting better.”

“But--" Sam cut himself off, staring down at the counter.

Seeing the fear in Sam's eyes sobered John right up. As upsetting as it was to see how horribly those people treated his friend, it was unprofessional to react so viscerally with his patient waiting on him.

"R-right," he stammered, backing off right away. "Dean's right, it-it's, ah…"

John cleared his throat, exchanging a glance with Sherlock. The detective's brow was furrowed in an unspoken question. Shaking his head dismissively, John took a deep breath to refocus. Right now, Sam needed him to be a doctor.

"Not much I can really do about this but cut down the pain, I’m afraid," he said with the equable nature of his profession, feeling his heart rate slowing already just by pretending that he was relaxed. He retrieved a small tube of burn ointment, squeezing a tiny dollop onto the tip of his finger.

Even in full-out doctor mode, John hesitated. He couldn't easily forget scaring Sam like that. Sam didn't deserve to be afraid, and John didn't have the right to frighten him after what he'd been through. To avoid surprising the kid anymore, John talked him through it.

"I'm going to apply some ointment to the burn, it's going to help soothe the pain, protect it from infection and keep the area from drying out. You'll feel a bit of cold pressure. Dean, if you'd cut up some of the gauze and tape to use as a bandage, please."

He slid the materials over to Dean, then with a murmured warning for Sam's sake, gently touched his finger to the brand. He could feel the heat in Sam's back from his body frantically trying to fix the problem on its own. The ointment would help that calm down. John's finger retreated when he was sure he'd covered all he needed to. "You can give that a few seconds to breathe before you apply the bandage," he instructed Dean, sitting back with a weary sigh.

Sam couldn’t quite hold in a shiver at the cold pressure on his back, but the relief it brought was palpable after spending so much time with his back on fire. He let out his breath in a hiss of relief.

Dean collected the material given to him, preoccupying himself with cutting things down and generally trying to create a distraction from the brand on his little brother.

Too late… we were too late…

Dean couldn’t keep himself from the thought that if they’d found Sam a little faster, been there a little sooner, none of these injuries would be there. At the time of the rescue, Dean had found John’s beating of Euan relieving all in itself, but now he wouldn’t mind carving a hunk of skin from the man himself. Euan deserved all that and more for what he'd done.

Arranging the gauze, Dean patiently waited to put it on, searing the memory of Sam’s injury into his brain. A brand would never go away. It might heal and stop hurting, but it would always be there, as permanent as a tattoo. Eventually Sam would see it, but Dean wanted to keep him from that as long as possible.

“Hold still,” he instructed Sam, brushing some of the excess burn cream from the edges of the mark.

Sam nodded, then stiffened as Dean applied the gauze, letting the gel help adhere it in place like glue before placing the tape on the sides.

John ran a hand down his face, struggling to keep his emotions in check. The anger hadn't gone away, he'd only forced it down. He could feel it bottling up, just waiting to overflow.

A look around offered a welcome distraction as he noticed the number of tiny people on the table. All the people they'd rescued, along with Moira and the Winchesters, added up to eight. Five strangers, four forcibly migrated from America just like Sam and Dean. Now that John wasn't occupied with Sam's injuries, the realization hit him all at once.

"Oh," he breathed. "I, erm, suppose you all need a place to stay for a while, yeah?"

The others looked up at John from their place closer to Sherlock, surprised to hear the other human address them. Sherlock was such an overpowering presence that John could almost be overlooked while he was quietly helping Sam with his injuries.

Mikael stepped forward, taking charge as he so often did among the small family he’d adopted after the loss of his wife. “We haven’t had a home in months,” he said, glancing between John and Sherlock, unsure who he was talking to.

Kara blinked up at John. “They took our supplies when they caught us,” she informed him. “Even the climbing rope I found myself.”

Dean pushed himself up off the table, and walked towards the newcomers. “Me an’ Sam have a place not far from here,” he said, gesturing towards the wall that lead to the living room. “We can probably clean out our storage room and make some space for you until you’re ready to move out.”

“And--" Christian swallowed nervously. “Do they know where you live?” he asked, trying to avoid Sherlock and John’s gazes.

“Well…” Dean hedged, realizing that as of earlier that day, Sherlock did know where their home was. Sam’s abduction had shattered Dean’s normal thought process, making him more careless around the detective.

John blinked at Dean's hesitation, cutting his eyes at Sherlock. The detective nodded in confirmation, and John's brow shot up. The brothers were always so careful to keep the location of their home a secret from the humans, Dean especially.

Now wasn't the time to wonder how the hell Sherlock managed to learn that, not with Christian's question hanging in the air.

"We won't bother you," he promised, speaking for Sherlock as well as himself. "You've all been through enough. Take all the time you need, we don't mind."

Anita's shoulders bunched up each time John spoke. It didn't matter how nice and softspoken the human seemed now, she couldn't shake the image of him crushing the life out of her brother. John didn't seem to even be aware of what he'd done to Mark, and that frightened her more than anything else. 

While she tried to calm her worries, convincing herself that the human probably wouldn't harm her intentionally-- he had helped Sam, after all-- she would have a hard time looking the human in the eye for a long while.

Christian squeezed Kara’s shoulder, looking over at Mikael to see his opinion.

Mikael let out a long sigh. “We don’t have any other choices, so I guess we’ll be taking you up on that,” he told Dean. “We’ll try and get out of your hair as fast as possible.”

“No rush,” Dean reiterated. “There’s plenty of room for everyone.” He was already plotting out where they could put the extra supplies while the others stayed in their supply room-- which was placed on the other side of the fireplace, the direct opposite position of where their home was. It would put the others in a place the humans didn’t know about yet, but also close to Sherlock’s chair.

Chapter Text

With a place to stay at for the interim seemingly decided on, Christian looked up at John, and swallowed down his fear. “T-- The humans did the same thing to everyone. What they did to Sam. I mean.” He shook his head, trying to gather himself. “The professor was checking the girls for infection over the last few days. Is there anything you can do for Kara…?”

John had just begun gathering the leftover gauze and tape, organizing a bit of it into a manageable pile and separating some for Dean to take home. The thin, nervous-looking man addressing him had been unexpected, but John heard him out. He'd been afraid of what Christian was telling him, and the confirmation that a little girl had been branded was maddening.

The notion that she might be infected brought his focus where it should be, and his doctor-mode returned promptly.

"Oh. Y-yeah, of course, I'll take a look if you want me to," he nodded.

Christian bobbed his head and gently nudged Kara closer to the doctor. “Come on, sweetheart, he just wants to check your back.”

Kara’s eyes were wide as she looked up at John like she was seeing him for the first time. “You look nicer than the professor did,” she decided on a whim. “He had dangerous eyes.”

John had to smile as little Kara actively set him apart from the people she'd been rescued from, even before he'd done anything. Such bright optimism was refreshing in the middle of so much pain and stress. He could almost forget that she, along with everyone else he and Sherlock had brought home, had been branded like an animal.

Dean held out his hand to her, and she took it, her small hand only wrapping around his pinky and ring finger. “Doc’s nothing like those people,” he said, leading her close to where Sam was sitting and resting. He winked at Christian. “He’ll help get you all better so you can show me your climbing skills.”

“I need a new string though,” Kara said, sticking out her bottom lip.

“Don’t you worry ‘bout that,” Dean dismissed. He turned her in place so she was facing away from John. “I’ve got you covered.”

“Lift up the back of your shirt, sweetie,” Christian instructed, trailing after Dean, his nerves around the humans still clear on his face.

“ ‘Kay,” Kara said, and held the front of her shirt down as Dean pulled the back up.

“Just hold still for me,” Dean said gruffly as he saw her back and his face fell into a mask of shock all over again.

John mirrored him. The sight of it as Dean lifted the girl’s shirt brought on terrible images of gigantic fingers much larger than her pinning her down to apply it. Any child would have screamed and cried. It was a wonder Kara still managed to find happiness in such dire circumstances.

John scooted his chair back so he could lean in for a better look without coming uncomfortably close. The brand was the same size as Sam's, but it looked so much larger on the little girl's back.

"Not too shabby," John commented. Hers looked more healed than Sam's fresh burn, but his view probably wasn't the best. He longed for a way to see these things close up without having to be close or using Sherlock's magnifier. They didn't deserve to feel less than human just because they were too small for John to see without aid.

"Dean, would you say that looks inflamed?" John didn't think it did from his angle, but maybe Dean could see something he couldn't. Then, with a softer tone, he said, "It was Kara, wasn't it? Kara, do you feel any pain on your back? Does it feel hot, or like it stings?"

For reference, John turned to ask Christian, "How long ago did this happen?"

Dean squatted down next to Kara. The rapid-fire questions didn’t catch him as off guard as they did Christian, whose mouth opened and closed a few times as he tried to process what John was asking them.

“It’s not inflamed,” Dean confirmed. His view was much clearer than John’s, with Kara the size of a regular child next to him, but he wished he didn’t see it so well. This was what Sam’s back would look like when it healed, and his stomach churned at the thought.

Kara looked over her shoulder up at John. “It still burns sometimes, but not like when they first did it,” she admitted, her cheeks pink with everyone watching her. She fidgeted in place.

Christian finally caught up with the others, and knelt down on Kara’s other side to put his hand on her shoulder. “Around a week, I think,” he said, his voice stronger as it sank in that John was treating them like any other patient. So different than the last few months of their lives. Christian squeezed his daughter’s shoulder. “You’re being so brave for daddy,” he whispered.

John nodded. "Well, it's not infected, so you don't have to worry about that. Still, it wouldn't hurt to use the gel." In fact, it would do the opposite, and that thought alone had John reaching for the small tube he'd already put back in the first aid kit.

When he brought his hands around to open the tube, he finally noticed the difference between his hands and Kara. Leaning in for a closer look, it was easy for him to forget that he was treating a child who was only two inches tall, half the length of any of his fingers and much thinner. He hesitated to apply the gel himself. It had been different with Sam, someone he knew and was used to interacting with. At least his back was wider than John's fingertip.

Feeling his heartbeat quicken, John changed tactics. He gently squeezed the tube until the thick liquid reached the opening, then put it down and slid it closer to Dean and Christian. "It might be best if one of you did it," he suggested. His fears of accidentally hurting the child aside, their smaller hands could be more precise than his fingers. "A nice thin coat on it should do the trick. And maybe give it a second to soak in and dry before putting the shirt down, so it doesn't get messy."

Dean and Christian both stared at the large tube, stretching out as long as they were tall. Since Christian looked uncertain, Dean cocked his head at it to encourage the man to apply the medicine.

Christian hesitantly reached out, his fingers sinking into the thick liquid in the opening. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “It’s pretty cold.”

Rubbing it onto both hands, Christian turned to Kara while Dean continued holding the shirt up. “Brace yourself,” he warned, gently touching her brand.

Though Kara stiffened at first, there was an obvious slump in her posture as the medicine began to take effect and take away the burn. Christian had to go back to the tube two more times before Dean was satisfied with the amount, slipping his fingers into the small opening to reach more of the gel.

Kara looked over her shoulder again, this time with her big grin in place. “It took away the pain just like magic, daddy!”

John chuckled lightly at Kara’s enthusiasm, feeling his heart warm with each second spent with the child. To him, something like the first aid gel was nothing special, yet to people like Sam and Kara, he imagined the medicine was invaluable. With that in mind, he glanced at Christian and the others.

"This is open to everyone, if you'd like it. It'll help with any pain. But that's up to you, of course," he offered, sizing up the few still standing over by Sherlock. The man seemed very strong-willed, perhaps the type to put others first and keep his pains to himself. The other two women were quiet and reserved, one who wouldn’t look at any of the others, and the other with tense shoulders glancing warily yet curiously over at Kara and Christian and Dean. She wouldn't meet John's gaze, and he worried that she might be traumatized by all that was going on.

Dean let Kara’s shirt drop, brushing his hands off as he went over to the tube of gel. “Everyone should get some,” he said insistently, stomping his boot onto it so more squeezed from the top. “There’s plenty to go around.”

They were slow and hesitant, but the ‘Americans' followed Dean’s lead, congregating around Kara. Mikael checked her over, nodding with satisfaction when he found her in very little pain. Dean backed off to give them some space, going over to his little brother.

Sam remained sitting to let his leg get some rest with the new bandages on it. “That’s really what they put on me?” he asked Dean as he watched Mikael apply the gel to Bree, his eyes glued to her brand.

Dean winced. That lasted long. “Don’t think about it,” he said.

“Right,” Sam scoffed. Then, he hesitated. “Did you see what happened to Mark…?” he ventured cautiously.

“Mark? We got everyone that was in the cages…”

Sam shook his head. “No, Mark’s the one that stayed with Euan. The one they made lure people out of the walls.”

A burning pit of rage started to fester in Dean. “Him.

Anita trailed behind the group, not wanting to be left alone near Sherlock, but did not partake in the ointment. Her brand had healed years ago. She hovered in the middle of the table, between the intense detective and the rest of her kind.

Her heart gave a start when Sam asked about her brother. He must have been too far back in the cage when the fight was going on to see, she guessed. While she was almost certain of what she'd seen, there was a tiny part of her buried deep inside that hoped Mark was alive somehow. If she listened to that part, she could feel it, but she'd long since learned to keep that hope quiet. It only led to pain.

Still, if Dean had seen what became of Mark, Anita wanted to know for sure. She had nearly worked up the courage to ask when she saw how angry her brother's name made Dean. Just like Sam had, only this time Dean had a lot of dangerous things at his disposal. That fishing hook of his, no doubt a separate weapon, and two giants.Needless to say, Anita kept her questions to herself.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed at Dean as he listened. "Is that who you were chasing?" he asked, sharing none of Anita's hesitancy.

John's head snapped up. "Chasing?" he repeated. When did that happen?

“Who did you think I was chasing?!” Dean spat, his annoyance at Sherlock flaring. “I saw someone escape from Euan’s pockets during the fight. Didn’t take too much to figure out that was the guy that lured Sam from the walls.” He jabbed a finger at Sherlock, bristling. “I would have had him if you didn’t grab me off the floor!”

John frowned, processing this new information. Someone had been in Euan's pocket while he was beating the living daylights out of him. While he punched the man and threw him to the ground, unable to do anything to protect themselves. His stomach soured at the thought of accidentally hurting someone Sam and Dean's size without ever being aware. It was awful to think about, but John might've killed the little guy and never known.

Luckily, Dean described the fellow's escape, even if he didn’t seem too happy about it.  Still, it didn't make John much more comfortable to know that both Dean and this Mark guy were on the floor during the time he was in a blind rage and Sherlock walking around.

Anita's hands were clamped over her mouth, tears escaping her eyes in a mess of conflicted emotions. 

Mark could be alive! A large part of her was overjoyed at the news. Another part feared for him. If he'd been left behind, he could still be in Euan's clutches. She could only imagine the world of hurt the human would put Mark through, taking his frustrations out on someone who couldn't fight back. It's what Euan loved the most about the borrowers.

Even if Mark somehow escaped that fate, it was likely nighttime by then. The outdoors offered so many threats to people their size, especially in the dark. Even if her brother managed to track her down somehow, he'd still have Dean to deal with, and with everything seemingly in the small man's control, Anita didn't like Mark's chances.

Sherlock let out a sharp sigh. "You would have had him, and then what? You'd drag him back up your rope and keep him prisoner? Or take on someone likely taller and heavier than you in hopes that you come out on top and teach him a lesson? We didn't have time for your revenge plot."

“It wasn’t a revenge plot,” Dean shot back stubbornly, wholly offended by the lack of faith from Sherlock. “And he might have the reach on me, but one thing I’ve found is almost no one this size has actual combat training. I might not have learned as much about fighting as I could have, but I do know how to take down someone bigger and stronger than me. I do it all the time when practicing with Sam.”

“It’s true,” Sam admitted. Their many practice fights often ended with Dean as the victor. The bout John had walked in on that very morning was an exception.

“What I was doing was trying to grab him so Euan and those others don’t have access to someone our size to lure more people out, otherwise what was the point? We can’t let others get lured into the same situation.”

For once, Sherlock didn't have an immediate retort. He simply stared, unwavering, back at Dean, a stalling move usually reserved for John when he got to the detective. After a moment, Sherlock said, "In that case, you should have made your intentions clearer."

"Or maybe you should have listened to him," John put in. Sherlock's gaze jumped up to the other human in the room, affronted that John was taking Dean's side. He only received a flat look from the doctor, so he sat back in his chair with an indignant huff.

Anita was torn. She knew for a fact that Mark wouldn't do Euan's bidding without his sister to dangle over his head. He'd rather die. She'd seen it herself, when they'd first been captured by the human.

She could remember it bright as day. She and Mark were freshly nineteen, all on their own but surviving together. They'd been out looking for supplies when the human caught them off-guard.

Mark got captured first, bravely facing Euan in order to give Anita a chance to escape. She could still hear her brother shouting defiantly at the human that he'd die before he became anybody's pet. Fearing for Mark, Anita tried to rescue him only to get captured herself. Once Euan saw how much Mark cared for her, that was it. He'd kept them apart ever since.

If Anita told them this, they'd know Mark posed very little threat to their people without her. But then they'd know Mark's weakness, and could very easily take advantage of it themselves. She and her brother would be stuck all over again, and she did not want to risk even the tiniest chance of that.

"Well, what does it matter now?" Sherlock shot back, his rumble of a voice cutting off Anita's conflicted thoughts. "Like you said, he got away. What would you have me do, hunt him down?"

John interjected as Dean threw his arms up in frustration, "I think we've all had enough excitement for one night." Turning to everyone else as they finished passing around the burn gel, he added, "You should all get some rest. We've kept you up long enough."

Dean was in agreement. He sent Sherlock one last glare before going over to Sam. “Right. You’ve all been through enough today.”

He helped Sam to his feet, slinging one of Sam’s arms over his shoulder so he could help support his brother and keep him off his injured leg.

“You’re too short,” Sam grumbled, leaning more of his weight on Dean than he wanted to.

“Not my fault you’re a Sasquatch!” Dean snipped. Compared to everyone else, the Winchesters were the tallest people in the room that weren’t humans, but Sam still managed to tower over him. If Dean was too short to brace Sam, the other borrowers wouldn’t be able to help either.

The brothers took a few halting steps together to see how they did, and Dean nodded in satisfaction. “I’ll empty the supply room tomorrow,” Dean said, “so tonight everyone can stay at our place. It might get a little crowded, but it’s safe.”

Mikael nodded his thanks. “Just lead the way. Though… we lost all of our supplies to get around.” He glanced around the room, staring past the two humans. The table was high in the air with no walls close by to climb into. They were essentially stranded, especially the younger Winchester with his broken leg.

John automatically offered a hand to help Sam, seeing as he and Dean couldn't exactly climb around with one brother supporting the other. Then, when he noticed Sherlock wasn't offering and the other tiny folk had gathered near him anyway, John carefully offered his other hand to them. Perhaps he could fit a few others on the hand he held out for Sam, but not all of them. Not comfortably at least.

"I'll give you a lift," he said. "At least until you resupply." With a friendly, hopefully encouraging smile at the little folk, John glanced at Sherlock, making sure he wasgoing to be showing him the way to Sam and Dean's home. After living together for over a year, no matter how thick Sherlock could still be regarding human emotion, they were both able to read each other's looks fairly well. He got a small nod from Sherlock in return.

Anita hesitated, glancing between the two giants. As intense as Sherlock was, at least she'd been in those hands before. On the other hand, with the knowledge of her brother's survival, her fear of John had lessened. A little. And he had been careful with Kara and Sam. He hadn't even touched the little girl.

Anyways, everyone else was closer to John. If they all went with him, Anita would rather not be alone on a hand. She shuffled over to join the others, gravitating toward the hand opposite Sam and Dean's. Regardless of the two giants in the room, Dean was the one who intimidated her the most. At least she knew Mikael and Christian were friendly.

Moira hooked her arm around Bree’s, walking the quiet girl over to the hand Anita was on. “John has steady hands,” she promised, chatting away to lessen some of the tension she could feel from the others. “He doesn’t move too fast either, and Sam and Dean’s place is close by.”

Kara stuck her lip out when Christian tried to follow them. “But I wanna go with Dean! ” she complained loudly, stomping her feet.

“Later,” Christian tried to coax her over. “Sam and Dean need their space.”

“But dad! 

“She can come if she wants,” Dean interceded quickly before they had a full-blown tantrum on the table. “So long as you promise not to bump into Sam,” he said to her, looking sternly at the tiny girl.

Kara blinked, starting to deflate. “I-- I promise!” she said.

Christian huffed, and walked over to the empty hand with Kara clinging to his hand. He waited patiently for the two brothers to carefully step up, Dean supporting most of Sam’s weight as they moved. “Don’t get in the way,” Christian cautioned, moving her so she could sit next to him.

Once he was certain the others were settled, Mikael chose to go with the girls, keeping John’s hands balanced with four people in each.


For those interested, Anita and Mark Bend can be seen in their glory here:

(C)Mark and Anita by DEATHANDTHEMOON

they're adorable I love them

Will they be reunited? We'll find out soon! Barring any possible delays (which are very possible!), this story should be wrapping up June 9th, on the 43rd chapter!

Chapter Text

John blinked, watching with awe as his palms slowly filled. It took a moment for it to sink in for him that he was about to carry eight people across the room in two hands. He'd never even held more than one! The responsibility of it all hit him at once, the sheer power handed over to him by the small crowd he was holding, and it began to stress him out. John was very rarely the tallest in the room, and he was certainly not used to being such an imposing presence to anybody.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, and doing his best not to cause too large of a breeze for his passengers, John looked to Sherlock. "Lead the way, then," he muttered, unsure of where they were heading.

Sherlock stood and walked from the kitchen to the main room and John, holding his breath, lifted his hands from the table and followed. He stepped slowly and carefully to keep the ride as smooth as possible.

He felt like a bus. A giant, inefficiently-shaped bus.

When he rounded the corner, John's brow arched. Sherlock was removing books from one of the shelves next to John's chair. His chest tightened as everything clicked. Sam and Dean lived right next to John's armchair, where the doctor worked, read, blogged, and took his afternoon tea. All this time they had been right there, and John never the wiser. Suddenly it made sense why the brothers had appeared on that shelf so many times, Dean once and Sam on multiple occasions. Why they were often in the kitchen; it was a straight shot for supplies. Mostly, John was amazed that they lived so close, but a small part of him worried that he might have accidentally disturbed them just because he hadn't been aware.

John shook that thought off in favor of approaching Sherlock. "Quit that," he admonished, frowning at the detective with the armful of books he'd taken from the shelves. With a sigh, Sherlock put the stack down on the floor and backed off, pointedly smoothing down his suit as he crossed to his own chair. This gave John room to squeeze between the shelf and the armchair and lower his hands to the space Sherlock had made on the shelf.

With John’s fingers forming a flat bridge to the familiar shelf, Dean carefully lead Sam off the hand. The others let the brothers lead the way, wide eyes taking in the new surroundings. With the books out of the way and a good deal of the normal dust brushed off by Sherlock’s impromptu cleaning of the shelf, it looked more open and welcoming than normal. A huge part of the reason Sam and Dean used to use the shelf, back before being discovered by Sherlock and John, was because of how the books were arranged and how simple it was to slip in and out with no one the wiser. They just had to keep an eye on the dust that accumulated there to be sure no bootprints or handprints were left in the layers.

Some of the tension in Sam’s shoulders unwound as he stepped onto the shelf. Home, where there was comfort and safety to be found for them, was so close. Not long ago he’d feared he would never see the place again, and now he crossed the worn shelf he’d been on so many times before.

The others began to file off John’s hand, and Dean took charge again.

“Mind giving me a hand?” Dean asked, beckoning Mikael over. They switched off, the older man acting as support for Sam while Dean checked that everyone else had made the trip to the shelf safe.

“Thanks,” Sam mumbled to Mikael, flushed red for the amount of help he needed to get around.

Mikael shook his head dismissively. “It’s the least I can do.” His face softened as Christian and Kara, the last to make the transit from John’s hand to the shelf, hopped over. Dean caught the little girl and swooped her through the air to happy giggles. “You’ve given us back hope.”

With everyone there, Dean gestured towards the back. “Right around the corner there. Sam knows where everything is. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

He waved them off, Mikael and Sam leading the way with halting steps, then turned to John, his face serious again. Dean crossed his arms. “Normally I’d never ask this of you, but we don’t have the supplies on hand for eight people to sleep with,” he confessed. “Do you have any scrap fabrics laying around you might not need? Anything at all would be a big help.”

Expecting them all to disappear behind the books, possibly for the night, John sat back on his heels and wrung his hands. There was a slight tingle in his palms left behind from little feet, a sensation John doubted he'd get used to anytime soon. He was a little surprised to find Dean hanging back. 

An even bigger surprise was Dean asking for help.

"Uh… I can look. I'm sure we've got something lying around." With a small grunt, John pushed himself back to his feet, eyes darting around the room. Scrap fabrics…

"Might be a while," he added at length. "I'll just bring whatever I find back here, shall I?" John gestured awkwardly to the empty space in the bookshelf, still grappling the idea that Sam and Dean's home was so close by.

“Anything you can find, we can put to use,” Dean said, the lines in his face softening. “Just doesn’t feel right makin’ them all sleep on the hard floor after everything we did to get them out of those cages.”

He shifted in place, glancing over his shoulder to see that the others had all vanished into the walls. It made what he had to say a little easier. “Look, what you two did… thanks. I don’t know what I’d do without my little brother.” Dean swallowed. “You might have figured out that I came close to losing him before, when we were kids, and I promised him that whatever happened, I’d keep him out of those cages. And… without your help, I don’t think I could have done it this time.”

John nodded, both in acceptance of Dean's instruction and acknowledgement of his thanks. It meant a lot coming from the more prideful brother. John knew he couldn't just brush off what he and Sherlock had done like he could with the offered food.

"You're welcome." John hardly needed reminding of Sam and Dean's first experience with cages; Sam had told him all about that a while back. John wondered if Dean knew his brother had confided such personal information in him. "Go on, take care of the others. Let us know if you need anything else. I know you've got a lot on your plate right now, so we're here for you."

Dean nodded and turned on his heel, following in the footsteps of all the people he and Sam had taken into their care.

John let out a long sigh after Dean was gone. Doubting he'd find any scraps around the flat, he made his way toward his bedroom in the upstairs flat in the hopes that something would turn up.

"Cages," Sherlock muttered just as John crossed the threshold.

John poked his head back in. "Eh?"

The detective's back leaned against the wall on the other side of the fireplace, arms tightly crossed with a thoughtful frown. "They were in cages as children," he inferred, looking to John as if for an answer.

John pursed his lips, glancing between the bookshelf and Sherlock. Out of respect for Sam's confidence, the doctor had kept that information from his flatmate. The brothers had made it clear at that point that they'd prefer John to keep the secrets they told him from Sherlock. Perhaps that was finally starting to change.

"You're the detective," John pointed out, "and you saw how all those people ended up here. Do you think Sam and Dean were treated any differently?"

That said, John continued his journey upstairs, leaving Sherlock to dwell on that thought. His mind rapidly connected a load of little dots, small details came to light. The way Sam had reacted to being placed in a beaker under close scrutiny, curled tight and unresponsive. With the knowledge of what he and his brother had gone through as children, it was now obvious that Sam had been traumatized by his previous experience with humans and cages, and Sherlock's actions had triggered a panic response. It explained why the lad was especially wary of Sherlock after that; a reminder of trauma was not so easily brushed off.

This shouldn’t be such new information, Sherlock admonished himself as he stooped to get a fire going. He’d known for weeks that Sam and Dean had been shrunk as children-- though a part of him still refused to acknowledge this so-called curse of theirs. All the signs had been there, Sherlock was simply too focused on his own vision of the world to see them.

He often mocked or scolded others for seeing rather than observing. This was a not-so rare situation in which Sherlock heard, but failed to listen.

Chapter Text

Sam almost stumbled, and Mikael steadied him.

"T-thanks," Sam said, his exhaustion almost complete. He jerked his head towards the wooden block they placed in front of their 'door' to keep pests out. "Our place is right back here."

Bree's eyes were wide as she looked around at her surroundings. It was well over a decade since she'd last been able to get into the walls like this, and the memories of her childhood with her mom, Mallory, and her father, Walt, came flooding back. She brushed a hand against the walls of the bookcase and glanced over her shoulder at where Dean could be seen talking to John. Moira patted her shoulder with a grin and directed her to pay attention to where they were going.

"Nice place," Christian said as he shoved the block out of the way, stealing the words from Bree's mouth.

The block opened up into the main room of Sam and Dean's humble home. Light drifted in from the main room of the flat where John and Sherlock spent most of their time, motes of dust dancing in the air as Sam and Mikael's passage disturbed them. Scraps of paper adorned the back wall, wrapping around to where the brothers' rooms were.

Sam sighed with relief, and Mikael brought him over to a block of wood covered with fabric and padded with stuffing to make a chair. He let out a groan as he sank down, slumping in his seat.

"There's food in the pantry," Sam said, waving towards a recessed area in the corner. Mikael went over and shoved the curtain open, revealing all the stored food they'd collected over the last week, including some flakes of crust from Dean's coveted pie. "You're welcome to all of it."

Kara came bouncing up behind Mikael, her energy much restored with the first-aid cream applied to her back. Dulling down the pain went a long way in returning her optimism. "What's that?" she asked, poking a finger into the crust.

Mikael shushed her and ruffled her hair. "Let's get some dinner first," he cautioned, picking up a slice of carrot Sam had absconded with. He could recognize pastry when he saw it.

Much like Bree, Anita found a nostalgic comfort in the dark, cozy space inside the walls. Rather than the cold and hard confinement of her cage, even the sharp corners felt soft and warm. This was a safe place. She could almost forget that the humans outside knew exactly where they were.

Trailing after Mikael, Anita peeked curiously into the pantry. Her stomach already felt heavy from the few bites of cake she'd eaten, but she reached in anyway and broke off a tiny shard from a broken potato crisp.

One last shadow came striding purposefully into the home, and Dean had a look of concentration on his face as he stepped over the threshold. "John's going to find us some padding to use for beds," he informed the room at large. "We can only split what we have so far."

Anita nibbled quietly at her morsel as Dean spoke. She was still wary of him, but something about the change in setting put her more at ease. He was still taking charge, but now his two most powerful allies were out of reach. Anita had a feeling she didn't have any more to fear from them as long as she kept her head down.

Sam waved a hand tiredly at the pantry. “Told them to get what they wanted.”

Dean nodded his approval. “We can restock without a problem,” he said, glancing from person to person to gauge their reactions. His gaze lingered on Anita for a moment more as he saw the trepidation that lingered there. “Eat as much as you can. Everyone needs to build up their strength again.”

There was no doubt in Dean’s mind that he’d need to go grab some extra food soon, probably that very night, considering their supplies had gone from being shared between two people to now shared between eight, a normally unforeseen number of people under one roof for the Winchesters. The brothers would never turn someone in need away, and in that spirit Dean joined Mikael at the pantry, scooping what he could into his arms.

The little box that doubled as a table was covered with a fabric scrap that served as a tablecloth, and Dean scattered their food on the table for everyone to share, making sure to push Sam’s coveted vegetables towards his brother. Sam was close to drifting off, but he had enough energy to pick up a carrot to nibble like Kara.

“Eat up,” Dean encouraged Kara when he saw her side-eyeing the carrot, a fresh option rarely seen at their size.

“Thank you,” Kara said, her eyelids heavy as she bit in. Unlike a human child, who might complain about being fed vegetables, Kara brightened at the flavor. “T’is good!”

Anita hung back from the table of food until everyone had gotten something. By that time, her crisp had been all but devoured. Must've been hungrier than I thought,she realized, wiping the her greasy fingers on her trousers. The salt didn't help.

Skirting shyly around the table, Anita looked over everything offered. She wasn't entirely sure what everything tasted like anymore, or what her stomach could handle at the moment, so she picked up a raisin. It was one thing she remembered she fancied quite a bit before she and Mark were separated. Her shoulders visibly slumped when she took her first bite, the sweet taste filling her chest with warmth.

Before Anita knew it, her stomach was full and half the raisin gone. She leaned wearily on the wall, the rest of the dried fruit cradled in her folded hands, quietly watching the others settle in and generally keeping out of Dean's way.

"Moira?" she called softly when the girl passed by. Now that she was free, before she could even think about finding Mark, there was one thing she needed to do. She wouldn't feel like herself until then. 

"Could I borrow your knife? Er, sorry if that's…” She huffed a sigh, regrouping her thoughts. “I want to cut my hair."

Moira twirled around, caught by surprise that anyone was paying attention to her with the food out. Anita’s question filtered through the rest of the soft voices. “Oh! But, it’s not my knife, it’s Sam’s…” She trailed off, looking over at where Sam was sitting at the table.

Hearing his name, Sam jerked his head up, snatched back from sleep. “Sure, whatever.” He gave Anita a tired grin.

Moira pulled the knife from her belt, pausing to wipe the blade off before offering it to Anita, hilt first. “Careful,” she cautioned. “My brothers keep their knives sharp.

Anita smiled tentatively back at Sam and took the knife from Moira gratefully. It was so light, yet it felt sturdy in her hands. Reverently, she ran a thumb over the flat of the blade, admiring the craftsmanship and the precision of the metalwork. She hadn't gotten a good look at it when Mikael pointed it out, but now she understood why he had been so fascinated.

"Thank you," she nodded earnestly. "I'll bring it right back, I promise."

Setting aside her food, she held the knife close as she meandered away from the group. She wandered until she found herself in a passage in the walls, staring down a steep drop into the darkness. It was quiet, as long as Anita ignored the echoing rumbles the human outside made each time he moved. She sat on the edge and took a handful of her overlong, ratty hair, easily slicing it short with the blade.

Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes, and she held that lock of hair for a long moment before letting it drop into the depths. With each subsequent cut, Anita could feel her life coming back under her control.

With so many people in their humble home, Dean had never found himself busier making sure they all ate and settled in.

Christian’s nerves seemed to calm down somewhat once Kara had food in her, the little girl’s grey eyes bright as she looked around a nicer, warmer home than she’d ever been in before. The home they’d shared back at their old motel was nothing like this, and near the end, right before the humans had taken them both away, pests like roaches and rats lurked everywhere. The motel had offered none of the safety and comfort of these new walls.

Mikael leaned against a wall, his hands cupped around half of a peanut, distractedly brushing the salt from it. All that mattered to him was seeing his adopted family out of danger, and somehow all of them were. Nothing in Dean’s demeanor spoke of fear for the new humans they found themselves around. Sam, the poor kid, couldn’t really help his flinches around massive hands after what he’d gone through, and even then he looked up at the humans with trust in his eyes. Just not their hands. It was like he was looking at two completely separate beings.

Dean eventually coaxed Bree over to the other chair they had for the table, letting her sit down across from Sam with some crackers and a raisin of her own. With them all settled, he divvied up the last of the water in their home, pouring it into several aluminum cups to pass around and leaving one extra cup on the table for Anita when she returned. In his mind, Dean made a checklist of everything he’d need to do before sleeping that night. Refill the water. Find more food. Get the bedding from John.

Which reminded him he needed to check on the shelf soon to see what the doctor had found for them. Stepping back from the others, Dean slipped to their front door. He glanced around the room one last time to make sure no one needed anything, then was gone.

Upstairs, John dug through his few belongings. Apparently finding fabric scraps lying around in a flat inhabited by two bachelors was harder than he thought. John didn't even have a handkerchief to offer.

He was about to give up when he remembered an old cotton shirt of his. Somehow he'd gotten a small tear in it, and the next time he washed it that tear became a gaping hole. Meaning to throw it away later, he shoved it in a drawer and hadn't thought about it since.

Pulling it out, John inspected the grey shirt carefully. Other than the tear, he could find no fault with it; it was clean, and the fabric was soft and fine. He figured it was as good as anything.

John gripped the edges of the hole tightly and, fueled by the anger and distress that had built up over the day, tore it in half. Thinking about Euan and what he'd done to Sam and the others made it very easy to break the shirt down into smaller and smaller pieces by hand. By the time John had a good handful of scraps, all those emotions had resurfaced. His heart raced and he breathed deeply in an effort to calm himself again before heading downstairs. Ripping something to shreds had been a decent outlet, but it wasn't enough.

Gathering the scraps and returned to the flat, John piled them on the bookshelf right away. He had no clue how small the fabric needed to be, so the sizes of the pieces varied quite a bit. Hoping that would be sufficient, John sank into his armchair more carefully than ever now that he knew so many people were hunkered down not so far away.

His fingers drummed vigorously against his knee while he waited for Dean. All that pent-up ire still gnawed at him, no matter how hard he tried to keep it down. He managed to keep most of it out of his face but one glance from Sherlock, sitting across from him and keeping an intense eye on the bookshelf, and the detective knew something was off with his flatmate.

The humans weren’t kept waiting long. At the back of the shelf, beyond where any of the books would reach unless they were shoved back all the way, Dean’s little shadow slipped from the corner. The crack he came from was expertly concealed to be hidden from view if one of the books in front was removed.

With the books gone, Dean had never felt so exposed leaving his own front door.

The tension in the air was so thick in the main room of the flat that even Dean picked up on it. He stepped up to the edge of the fabric John had gathered, his eyebrows going up as he saw it was all the same color. It didn’t take him long to piece together the fact that John had shredded a shirt for them to use, brushing a hand over a freshly-frayed edge.

Dean chose not to mention that if John didn’t. “Thanks,” he said, looking up at John and picking up a few pieces. “This’ll be perfect for what we need.”

"No problem," John replied with a tight smile. It was a little forced, but he truly was glad that Dean approved of what he'd brought. "Again, anything you need, just ask."

Sherlock nodded once, folding his hands under his chin. His eyes remained glued on Dean and that spot on the shelf, endlessly fascinated that so many people were hidden in their walls right at that moment. "Keep us updated if anything happens with our guests," the detective put in. Dean nodded back at him distractedly as he filled his arms with what he could carry.

Waiting until Dean disappeared behind the books with an armful of cloth, Sherlock finally turned his intense gaze to his flatmate.

"Something's on your mind," he surmised bluntly.

John scoffed. "You think?" he shot back, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Sherlock's brow furrowed, unsure if they were thinking about the same things. "What is it?"

John gave him a long look, then let out a long sigh with a glance at the bookshelf. "Not here," he murmured. He nodded toward the hallway behind them, rising mindfully to his feet and leading the way to Sherlock's room.

Naturally, Sherlock followed, unsure of what to expect from John. He hadn't seen his flatmate this visibly upset when it wasn't Sherlock's fault.

Chapter Text

The tension left Dean’s shoulders as he stepped back under cover. The naked bookshelf, combined with the stiff tension between the two humans in the room beyond combined to wind him up, and he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding as he stepped into his home.

Moira bustled about, making sure everyone was fed, but the rest of the room had settled down somewhat from when he’d left. The food stores were depleted, but replenishing their supplies was already top on Dean’s mind to do after everyone else was asleep in bed. Food, and water. He’d been up since early that morning, helping Sherlock with the case before finding Sam missing, but that didn’t matter. He’d make do on as little sleep as he had to.

Dean snagged Moira’s arm when she passed him by. “I could use a hand,” he said, holding out the fabric. She started to unload him, and he filled her in on what was happening. “There’s some more out front. We can probably get everything in a trip or two if we work together.”

She nodded, glancing back at where Sam was sitting at the table. The look in her eyes was as relieved as Dean’s for Sam’s return.

Leaving the soft fabric stacked by the table, they left together without another word. Moira hung back in the bookshelf as Dean walked to the ripped-up shirt, and saw him pause.

“What’s wrong?” Moira called, creeping closer to the edge.

Dean shook his head in confusion. “John and Sherlock… they were just here,” he said, his voice a hush as he stared around the empty room. The tension in the room beforehand, the abrupt departure… something about the entire situation struck him as off.

Bundling up the grey fabric, Dean pressed it into Moira’s arms. “Somethin’s not right,” he said. “I gotta go find them.”

Moira’s eyes were wide. “But… what about Sam?!” she protested.

Dean shook his head. “I’ll come right back,” he promised. “Get Mikael’s help. He knows what he’s doing. All you have to do is get Sam to his bed so he can rest. And get the fabric set up in the main room for everyone to sleep on. I’ll see what’s going on with John and Sherlock and come back when I can.” He winked at her. “One thing I’ve learned is when living with humans, always know what they’re up to-- whether they know about you or not.”

Moira was left to watch as Dean walked to the edge of the shelf, pulling out his hook.

Sherlock leaned against his bedroom door as it closed, watching John pace furiously back and forth. The other man was obviously riled up and struggling to gather his thoughts, a process which was taking entirely too long for the detective's liking.

"Well?" Sherlock demanded.

John ground to a halt to stare flatly at Sherlock. " 'Well?' That's how you're starting this conversation? Well? "

"If you'd like to start the conversation, then," Sherlock sighed, "seeing as it's the whole point in dragging me here--"

"The point, Sherlock, is that we just pulled Sam and all those people out of hell! Did you see what they did to Sam?"

The detective pursed his lips. "I didn't get a close look--"

"They branded him!" John didn't care that he kept interrupting Sherlock, but he did catch himself shouting and dialed it back to a more quiet yet equally dangerous tone. "They broke his leg and branded him, branded all of them like-- like cattle! Worse than cattle! That little girl…"

John wandered aimlessly as he choked up, turning his back to Sherlock and running a frustrated hand through his hair. Besides Sam, little Kara broke John's heart the most. A young child, not even aged ten yet, torn from her home and shipped across the sea to be tagged and sold like a pet! It turned John's stomach and put a sour taste in his mouth. 

After a long breath, he decided, "We have to go back."

When Sherlock didn't respond, John whirled back around. Sherlock stared right back at him, expressionless, with his arms crossed tightly.

"Did you hear me?" John snapped, his voice slowly rising again. "We can't leave that place the way it is! They could try and take Sam and the others back, and even if they don't… No one should be treated the way they treat people like Sam and Dean."

As John ranted, Dean could hear the two deep voices seep through the cracks in the wall. 

His trip to Sherlock’s room was one of the fastest trips he’d taken in the house. For the first time, instead of going along the perimeter of the flat by using the interior of the walls, he’d run, flat-out, all the way down the hall. Sure, he still stayed close to the wall-- only a madman would chance walking in the middle of the hall, where he might find himself in Sherlock or John’s path if they left the room in a hurry-- but he skipped the small detours, the areas where they had to climb or squeeze by wooden supports, and that cut down the travel time immensely.

The last part of the journey, Dean found himself staring up at the closed doors. The bathroom, shut tight so the only way in would be through passages out of reach. The bedroom door, beyond which he could hear John’s booming voice absolutely fuming.

It all added up to make Dean feel very small, and for the first time he appreciated Sherlock’s ability to consistently keep a level head, no matter how hotheaded the others could get.

Taking a deep breath, Dean brought himself to his current conundrum. 

He needed a way into Sherlock’s room without going all the way back around to the entrances they commonly used. All he needed was a little crack in the wall, some weak spot… Dean pressed his hands to the wall, pushing at a spot that had what looked like a water spot.

He hissed with triumph when it gave under his touch, and delicately pushed it just enough to squeeze into the walls. From there, he didn’t have far he could go considering how small the slip of wall was between the bathroom door and the door to the hall, but it was enough for Dean to find another crack that lead to Sherlock’s room. A crack Sherlock had overlooked when he was sealing it off from the borrowers in the walls. Old buildings had their uses.

And then Dean was in a room with two giants, one clearly angry.

Dean steeled himself and interjected before John could go further. “I think if you’re talkin’ about the people that took Sam, I want in on this conversation.”

John's anger melted as Dean's voice rang out from near Sherlock's feet.

"Dean…" he breathed as he looked down at the tiny man, awkwardly shuffling to sit at the end of Sherlock's bed. It still made his heart race to see either of the brothers on the floor. Dean had managed to catch their attention quickly this time, but John always feared the idea of him or Sam being unable to make themselves known to their larger flatmates.

Besides that grisly thought, John had hoped to avoid involving Dean in this discussion. He trusted the elder Winchester's judgement and valued his input, but he also worried that adding on all of John's baggage and desire to finish what they started would overwhelm Dean on top of so many sudden, unexpected guests he had to accommodate.

But Dean was here and obviously willing to participate. John wasn't about to shut him out.

Sherlock, on the other hand, let his arms drop as he looked down to find Dean mere inches from his shoes. Staring down at him at a bird's-eye view was admittedly daunting, but he was more interested in how Dean managed to get there so fast and appear someplace Sherlock wouldn't have expected. He'd long since combed his room for potential entrances for the brothers.

"You've been listening," Sherlock surmised.

Dean crossed his arms, keeping his boots firmly planted on the floor as he stared up at the two giants from the worst perspective he could have picked. With them already caught up in their discussion, he didn’t have time to waste to find more equal footing. He simply tilted back his head to meet Sherlock’s eyes all the way up in the air, his jaw firm.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time living at this size,” Dean said, briefly glancing over at John before looking back at Sherlock, “it’s to keep an eye on the resident giants in the flat. Now this is nothin’ like our old place with Moira’s family, where checking to see if pest control’s been called or anyone spotted one of us was just part of the norm, but when you two just up and vanish, let’s just say I know where I need to be.”

He shifted his feet, some of his uneasiness at the unequal setting slipping through his facade. He was not used to talking to humans from all the way down on the floor. “Plus, I could hear you two right through the wall. Kinda hard to miss, the way you rumble.”

John rubbed his neck sheepishly and averted his gaze for a moment, feeling larger and more cumbersome than ever. Being called a giant and described as rumblingreally put their actions into perspective. Something as simple as moving to the next room was enough to tip Dean off.

Sherlock and John often overlooked the amount of power they had over the Winchesters, and now their guests. Rather than letting it get to his head like Euan, John found every single reminder of his influence over them humbling. It meant he had to control his movements and consider the consequences of his decisions, and do his best not to isolate Sam and Dean if he wanted to keep their partnership and friendship going strong.

John had long since decided that he'd never take advantage of people like Sam and Dean, and that resolve only strengthened after losing Sam to that monstrous place.

Dean's discomfort did not get past Sherlock. The detective observed that the smaller man was on a fairly uneven plane, and talking to him at the angle they currently had would prove troublesome. Kneeling in place, Sherlock offered a hand for his counterpart.

"I, um," John began, clearing his throat as he refocused his thoughts. "I was just saying that we should go back and stop those people. I dunno how, but we've got to find a way to keep them from doing what they have done to so many people like you and Sam."

“Well, hell, you know I’m all for takin’ those people out,” Dean said, confidence he wasn’t completely sure he had ringing clear in his voice. He took Sherlock’s invitation, stepping onto the hand without any qualms. After what Sherlock and John had done for Dean that day, reuniting him with Sam when his little brother was all but lost, they’d earned Dean’s loyalty more completely than they knew or yet suspected.

Dean slipped his knife from his jacket, idly tracing the blade. “I’d love to get a piece of the guy who took my brother away, and there’s a few loose ends there that need tying. Like that Mark guy, all trained up to lure people out into the open. If he can take Sam on, others won’t stand a chance after all the training I’ve given Sam.” 

That part bothered him a lot. Dean’s little brother, Sasquatch that he was, could overpower just about anyone Dean had met at their size. Combining that with his knife, Sam was more dangerous than all the other ‘borrowers’ Dean had ever seen-- except himself, he was proud to add in his mind. Sam almost never got the jump on his older brother during their sparring sessions.

"If how is the major issue," Sherlock put in, lifting Dean to chest level and rising to his feet, "I have a plan."

John had been following Dean's progress as Sherlock straightened, relaxing a little now that Dean was off the floor and at a more even level. Then, when Sherlock spoke up, the doctor's gaze snapped up to meet his and he was wound up all over again. "Since when?"

"Since the Overground, trip back," stated the detective.

"And you waited this long to tell us because? " John demanded.

Sherlock's brow furrowed at the betrayal in John's voice. "Because it would risk everything. Everything we've all been building and working toward all this time." Eyes lowering to the man in his hand, a flicker of concern for Dean peeked through before his look hardened with determination. "You would have to meet my brother," he informed Dean.

Dean’s entire body went stiff. “Your… brother,” he said flatly, his mind a whirlwind.

Mycroft Holmes wasn’t unknown to the brothers, going on a year of living within the walls of 221B Baker Street. They did not know him, but they knew of him, both from his rare visits to the flat and John and Sherlock’s often-cryptic conversations, leaving Dean to piece together what little he could.

From everything he’d heard of the man, Mycroft might be the last person he’d want to show himself to. If Dean took that step, he was putting the fate of himself and Sam, and everyone else their size, in the hands of a stranger.

Dean jabbed a finger at Sherlock, all his focus on the detective. “You better have a damn good reason for this kind of risk, considering how many people are at stake if this falls through and we get discovered by the government. Nothing is worth their lives.”

"Hear me out," Sherlock insisted. Dean's consternation was only to be expected, Sherlock's dear brother had that effect. A glance at John, hoping for backup, showed the detective a look of trepidation to match Dean's. Sherlock was alone in understanding his reasoning. As usual.

"This is bigger than us," he sighed. "Much bigger than it seems. We're not dealing with a ragtag team of pet collectors on a power trip; no, this is organized, immaculate, and has been thriving right under everyone's noses. We can't just waltz in and claim the moral high ground."

"How do you mean?" asked John. "There were two guys in that whole place--"

"Evening shift," Sherlock interrupted. "Obviously. Probably understaffed for some reason, given the size of the garage they keep. Far too much space for two cars.

"That office building's old, at least thirty years, repurposed less than a decade ago if the warping on the boards covering the first floor windows is any indication. All the subsequent floors are shut off as well, but not completely. They work in small quarters on the ground floor, but they don't want to eliminate the possibility of expansion. I suspect it was a bit of a rush job clearing the building out as well, given the amount of junk shoved into corners in that main room. Loads of office spaces filled with unused desks and chairs as well, further into the building. Neat and out of the way."

"Any time you want to quit showing off and get on with it," John snapped.

Sherlock paused to blink at the doctor, offended. "I have a point, if you'd just listen." John hung his head in resigned irritation, and Sherlock continued.

"Like I said, they were understaffed, and we know of at least one other person that should have been there but wasn't. The little girl mentioned a professor, likely studied in science and-or medicine, someone who could validate the health of their 'merchandise.’ I highly doubt Rummage or that grunt you knocked out could fit that bill.

"I found copies of medical records during my sweep of the building, managed to glance at a few before I heard your fight with Rummage. My guess is the originals are kept in the filing cabinet I almost ran into crossing the room; large and full and right outside an office, kept in a common area for easy access. Some of the oldest records dated back seven years, detailing everything from physical appearance to demeanor. Those were paired with paperwork from their clients; understandably, tiny people don't come cheap. Their target demographic seems to be varied aristocracy, billionaires, whoever's rolling in enough cash with an interest in exotic pets. That is not a demographic that just anyone can reach.

"Then there's the biggest clue that this is more than it seems, something glaringly obvious. You pointed it out yourself, John," Sherlock reminded the doctor, eagerly awaiting his response.

John frowned, then his eyes widened. "The brand…"

"The brand. What is the historical purpose of branding? To mark ownership, to make them identifiable. No one would go to the trouble unless there was something bigger behind it, begging to be recognized by the few who are allowed to see it. This is methodically organized, with some level of hierarchy whispering in ears and lining their pockets. Something we cannot hope to defeat with just the three of us."

“Makes sense,” Dean begrudgingly admitted, following along with Sherlock’s line of thought. He jumped in as the detective tapered off. “It’s why we were shipped overseas as kids, when I would have thought it would be easier to just sell us there and then. They wanted to process us like they did with the rest of the people they caught. Branded.” He shook his head, still in disbelief that anyone would go to such lengths to assert control over people, small or not.

He took a deep breath. He and Sam had dodged a bullet as kids, and they’d never known how big. If they’d reached their destination, they might never have escaped. Worse. It was unlikely they would have stayed together. The brothers might be rotting away in some fancy cage, hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

“And you need me to meet Mycroft because…” Dean said leadingly, his mind racing.

Then it clicked, and the pieces all fell together like clockwork.

I’m the evidence, ain’t I?” Dean said in realization. “The proof this isn’t some sundream you came up with. Mycroft might not believe you and John that tiny people exist, but if I’m there, in the flesh, he can’t deny it.”

Chapter Text

"Sharp as ever, Dean," Sherlock nodded, a faint smirk playing across his lips. "Your constant presence is the entire reason I believe you exist. Mycroft's always boasted about being the smart one out of the two of us, he's not about to believe every outlandish claim I put before him. Not without proof."

"No, hang on a minute," John protested. "This is-- It's too risky! Dean had a point, Mycroft is the British government, you've said so yourself. If this all gets out and into the wrong hands, we could be making life ten times worse for so many people. Not to mention, it's completely unfair to just ask this of Dean out of the blue!"

"Who said life is fair?"

Sherlock got a glare from John for that one, so he carried on with a more relevant argument. "What do you suggest, hm? Go to Scotland Yard and have them storm the place? That would only accomplish putting their ground operations out of commission, and it certainly wouldn't stop the practice. In addition, we'd have to let them know about tiny people in order to prove something criminal was going on.

"I might not hold much love for my brother, but I know his head. He can be convinced that this matters enough to warrant action, and is important enough to keep secret. If there's one thing Mycroft holds dear, it's confidentiality. We play our cards right, and his discretion is guaranteed."

Sherlock glanced at the man in his hand before turning a hard look to John. "I ask you this: If not Dean, who? 

John's jaw set and he let out a sharp breath. Sometimes he hated when Sherlock was right, but this… If things went sideways here, it would be out of his hands. His andSherlock's, and certainly out of Dean's.

"If you're going through with this," he said emphatically to Dean, "then I'm with you the whole way. We both are. You won't be alone, ever."

Dean shook his head ruefully, understanding all too well what was being asked of him. “I hope you both mean that, because if I do this, my life is in your hands.” He crossed his arms, carefully considering his options.

There was no way he’d ever ask anyone else to do this. If he was going to risk someone’s life, it would be his own. If it helped protect others, it would be worth it. Sherlock and John had already proven the lengths they’d go to help the brothers; they’d dropped everything to track down Sam and bring him back home.

All of them were backed into a corner, with only one way out. Unless they wanted to leave those people to their deprived abduction of innocents, there was only one thing to do.

“I won’t ask this of anyone else,” Dean said at last, coming to a decision. “They barely trust the two of you already after what the other humans did to them. I knowhumans, because I used to be one and I’ve studied them from this perspective ever since. I’ll trust what you say about Mycroft. You haven’t let us down yet.”

John sighed, accepting Dean's decision. The doctor still didn't like the idea, but he understood that it was really their only option. Dean would need all the support he could get.

"Good," Sherlock muttered as he lifted his hand to his shoulder, freeing his hands to dig through his pockets. Once he had his mobile in hand, he hesitated for a moment. He wouldn't admit it to the others, but part of the reason he'd put this off for so long was the deep-seated need to avoid this moment. Calling his brother for help jabbed at his pride, and in any other situation Sherlock would be dodging this as much as possible.

But this wasn't about him. His pride was not the worst thing at stake, and that thought drove him to dial.

The phone rang on speaker once. Twice. On the third ring, a light, breathy voice dripping with condescension filled the room.

Hello, brother dear.

"Mycroft," Sherlock droned, sharing none of the amusement in his brother's voice. "We need to talk."

We are talking, Sherlock,” Mycroft sighed, “And as usual, I am extremely busy--

"Then drop it," Sherlock interrupted firmly. "Baker Street. Now. There's something important we need to discuss."

If it's so important, why can't we discuss it now? 

"Because you won't believe me unless you see for yourself."

With that, Sherlock hung up the call. He exhaled sharply, pocketing his phone. "That ought to get his attention, don't you think?"

“Right,” Dean said in resignation. “I’m friggin’ thrilled.”

With a gulp, he settled down on Sherlock’s shoulder so he was sitting with one leg up and one leg draped over the edge. Here he was, on someone’s shoulder, yet he’d never felt more alone. He couldn’t go to Sam or any of the others his size for support. They’d either keep him from leaving the walls when Mycroft got there or insist someone else went instead, and he couldn’t allow that. Especially Sam. With an injured leg and back, it was more important that Sam got some rest.

Leaving Dean on his own with soon-to-be three giants.

No, not alone, he thought in realization, glancing up at John, and then side-eyeing Sherlock’s profile. I’ve got people looking out for me. Just because they’re bigger doesn’t change that.

“How bad can it be?” Dean muttered aloud, wishing he knew the answer.

John pursed his lips. Clearly Dean was nervous, and he had every reason to be. Sherlock once described his brother as the most dangerous man John had ever met, and he doubted it would be any different for Dean. If anything it was worse, because the kid would have the weight of an entire people on his shoulders during this meeting, and his size working against him.

As much as John wished they could do this without risking so much, risking Dean, he admired the kid's bravery and willingness to put himself on the line to protect others.

With a grunt, John pushed himself to his feet. "Right then," he murmured. "On to battle."

Sherlock nodded and stepped away from the door, holding it open for his flatmate. He took a deep breath before following John back into the main room.

John went straight for the bookshelf, now cleared of the fabric scraps he'd left. As carefully as he'd done anything in his life, he began replacing the books that Sherlock had taken down. It had been a surprisingly thoughtful gesture for the detective, but the gap would not go unnoticed by the elder Holmes, and would certainly arouse suspicion.

The last thing they needed was Mycroft deducing where exactly he could find others like Dean in the flat. Especially if things didn't go according to plan.

John stood and looked to Dean on Sherlock's shoulder. The detective was glancing around the room, apparently on the same wavelength as John. The doctor simply voiced the question on their minds.

"How do you want to go about this, Dean?" he asked quietly as he sidestepped away from the shelf. "We're not going to reveal you right away, gotta prepare him a little first, but… Well, you could stick with one of us, or hide out on a shelf or the mantel, it's really up to you. You're the one sticking your neck out, after all. The least we can do is make sure you feel as safe as possible."

Dean considered the options offered to him and let out a laugh, surprised at his own choice. He fondly leaned an arm against Sherlock’s neck. “Believe it or not, I think I’ll stick with Godzilla here. The last place anyone would expect to find me. That way, Mycroft doesn’t get any hints at all about where I might be from, and I won’t be out of arm’s reach for Sherlock while he’s here. I’d rather stick close to my backup.”

"Alright," John chuckled, taking reassurance in Dean's decision to stay with Sherlock. He had to admit it was quite amusing to hear him call the detective Godzilla

The nickname coupled with Dean's casual posture was truly a testament to how far the trust between them had come. Which was a baffling thought for John considering how the pair had met.

He still remembered coming home to find Sherlock leaning over Dean and Sam trapped in separate jars, the older of the brothers fuming and defiant and spouting all kinds of curses. It was a miracle and a mystery that the two of them managed to get on such friendly terms.

Still, it was a right sight better than when they were fighting, so no matter how much Dean and Sherlock's relationship confused him, he wasn't about to question it.

Out of Dean's line of sight, Sherlock's lip tugged in a small, prideful smirk. Then he remembered his brother would be arriving soon, and it disappeared with a resigned sigh. Minding his passenger, he sank into his armchair and reached over to pull his violin into his lap. Plucking quietly at the strings helped him think, and secretly gave him a sense of security in most situations.

John, on the other hand, paced slowly around the room while they waited, walking off the nervous energy building up in him as time counted down. He tried to distract himself by closely examining everything he passed, making sure there were no obvious signs of tiny people residing comfortably in the flat. Despite the entire reason for inviting Mycroft over was to reveal that fact, it had become habit for John to fret about such things.

Both humans froze when the door downstairs opened and closed. John and Sherlock exchanged a look; the former took a chair from the end table to sit across from the lightly crackling fire, while the latter lifted a hand to Dean's shoulder. Mycroft ascended the stairs slowly but steadily, providing a dwindling window of time to get Dean out of sight.

Dean only froze up for a second at the realization that the human downstairs was coming up, ruling out Mrs. Hudson moving around and clinching in the fact that Mycroft was right there, and he'd agreed to let himself be displayed to the new giant.

Stepping lightly into Sherlock’s hand, Dean didn’t remain standing like normal, dropping to a crouch with his duffel bag tucked in front of him, ready to move at a moment’s notice. This way, however Sherlock was going to hide him, he was as compact as he’d get on his own, almost curled into a ball without any coaxing.

Looking up to meet Sherlock’s eyes, Dean nodded that he was ready.

Sherlock's fingers curled slightly once Dean was settled. It didn't escape his notice that even in a relaxed state, the digits stretched over the smaller man's hunched form. Rather than bothering him like it would John, that thought filled Sherlock with determination, reminding him of exactly why they needed to do this. If anything, his fingers curled in further as he lowered Dean, forming a protective awning above his head.

Letting his hand settle between his leg and the arm of the chair, Sherlock adjusted the violin to sit across his lap comfortably. When he was certain Dean would be safely out of sight until he needed to be otherwise, Sherlock glanced at John as he crossed to his own chair. Knowing that Sam and Dean's hidden home inside the walls was near the bookshelf behind his armchair gave it extra weight. John felt like he was guarding all those people he knew were settling in back there when he sat down, a feeling that only strengthened as the door creaked open and a lanky figure stepped in.

Mycroft looked as he always did, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit, perfectly shined shoes, a crisp white button-down with a maroon tie, carrying a large umbrella swinging from his right hand and a Machiavellian air that permeated the room shortly after his entrance. Cold blue eyes swept the room and his pointed features shifted from his usual aloof expression to an annoyed stare as they landed on Sherlock. The younger Holmes narrowed his eyes in return.

"Mycroft," John greeted, breaking the staring contest between them. "Glad you could make it." 

Mycroft turned to John with that wide grin that always seemed false and more than a little condescending.

"A pleasure as always, Doctor Watson," he replied before slipping back into his previous look as he side-eyed Sherlock. "I trust my dear brother hasn't exaggerated the importance of my being here."

Sherlock's chest puffed up and he irritably plucked one of the strings of his violin to keep the tension out of his occupied hand. Spotting this, John quickly intervened. "We need your help. There's a, er, real problem out there, and we can't deal with it on our own."

"What sort of problem? ” Mycroft inquired as he continued to stare down Sherlock, quickly growing impatient with him.

With another pluck of a string, Sherlock nodded at the chair John had provided and Mycroft had been ignoring. "You may want to sit down."

Mycroft simply smirked and stuck out his chin, leaning on his umbrella and crossing one leg behind the other.

Dean watched the proceedings, what little he could see, warily from his place in hiding. At least he could hear everything, the rumbling voices punctuated by the occasional pluck of a violin string. Sam and Dean had adjusted to the sound of Sherlock’s violin during their year of living in the flat, so if anything, it reassured Dean now.

All he could make out from beyond the small gaps between Sherlock’s cupped fingers was John in his armchair, his eyes directed towards what Dean could only assume was Mycroft. The tension in Sherlock’s hand was obvious from the moment his older brother walked into the room, and Dean shared that tension.

He was the one about to be presented as evidence when the moment arrived, after all. An act he’d never thought he’d allow, and here he was, willingly putting his fate in the Consulting Detective’s hand.

There was nothing to it but to follow through now, and wait it out. Any temptation to come out of hiding was tempered to the knowledge that Sherlock knew his brother best. Dean put a hand on one of the tense fingers over his head, idly patting it. He didn’t know who he was trying to reassure, himself or Sherlock, but it helped him prepare for what was going to happen, the clock ticking down.

Sherlock blinked at the light contact against his finger, and he resisted the urge to glance down at his hand. John had been avoiding looking in that direction as well, trying not to let Mycroft catch on too quickly. Sherlock's attention was drawn to how rigid his hand had gone, and he took a deep breath and willed his muscles to relax. He exchanged a look with John, who proceeded to explain.

"Well, we had a break-in today," John began.

"Mm, yes," Mycroft interrupted, frowning thoughtfully at his brother. Sherlock could be intransigent at times, but there was a difference between petty spite and what Mycroft was observing now. This was defensive, a protective nature Sherlock very rarely took on. "I noticed the hack in the CCTV files. Rather sloppy work, I must say, Sherlock. Had a glance at them myself, though your abrupt trip to Wembley still eludes me."

Finally, he regarded John again. "Is that what you were doing out there? Retrieving whatever it is that was stolen?"

John hesitated, not entirely sure of the direction he was going to go with this. "You could say that--"

"Oh, for God's sakes," Sherlock muttered, becoming increasingly antsy with all this beating-around-the-bush nonsense.  "It wasn't something that was stolen, Mycroft, it was someone."

With an irritated sigh at Sherlock's bluntness, John expanded on it. "We found this group-- this organization-- and they're abducting people and keeping them caged, selling them…" John trailed off, memories of that awful place and what they did to Sam throwing his train of thought in a dark direction.

"I fail to see how this concerns me personally," Mycroft commented, gaze flowing smoothly between the doctor and the detective. "Even Scotland Yard could make decent work of what you're describing. Why come to me? Unless I've given you the impression that human trafficking is somehow my forte. Believe it or not, I have more important matters that need dealing with."

"This is important," Sherlock insisted. "And it's not human trafficking we are talking about."

Sherlock finally flattened his hand, locking eyes with Dean as he lifted his hand to be even with the arm that had hidden him. The little guy uncurled from his crouch, stepping fluidly to the arm of the chair.

Mycroft's eyes widened and his brow furrowed deeply. His chin tucked in as he scrutinized the tiny figure revealed to him. "And what exactly am I to make of that? " he said at length.

“ ‘That’ is a he," replied Sherlock emphatically, reaching around the chair to retrieve his violin bow once his hand was free. "And he has a name, if you'd care to ask." Sherlock shot a glare at his brother, receiving only a bemused arched eyebrow in return.

Chapter Text

Dean squared his shoulders and tilted his head defiantly up to meet Mycroft’s eyes, letting none of his trepidation shine through all 3.8 inches of him. This was not the time to be nervous or afraid, not with everything riding on him.

“Name’s Dean Winchester,” Dean introduced himself, not risking a glance towards Sherlock or John. Mycroft was the only human standing, but down on the arm of Sherlock’s armchair, Dean stood lower than everyone regardless.

He let none of this show, keeping his eyes trained on Mycroft. All the pride he had in himself from years of surviving and keeping his only remaining family safe was apparent in the tilt of his chin. “My brother Sam was the one kidnapped.”

"Indeed," Mycroft mused, observing each of Dean's few inches. He seemed to skip right past the fact that Dean shouldn't exist to instead review the information before him. After a while, he finally tore his gaze away to regard John and Sherlock again. "So this is why the two of you have been keeping out of trouble lately. How quaint."

Sherlock pointedly tightened the violin’s bow hair, his glare losing none of its intensity. John across from him was at least attempting to hide his displeasure in the way Dean was being addressed and talked about like he wasn't there; his pursed lips and clenched fist were the only visible signs.

"Long story short, Dean and his brother come from America," Sherlock elucidated directly, concentrating on the bow in his hands rather than his brother, "and he's not only endured inhuman treatment, but after today he's also witnessed it."

Mycroft's brow rose and his tight, artificial smile returned. "That so?"

Sherlock lolled his head over to look pointedly at Mycroft. With a scoff, the elder Holmes planted his feet and settled his umbrella in front of him, thin hands draped one over the other on the crook handle. At last, his gaze dropped to meet Dean's. "Enlighten me."

Dean crossed his arms as Mycroft finally acknowledged him. His posture remained stiff and at attention while staring up at this new giant, practically grinding his teeth at the way Mycroft tried to sideline him in the conversation about him.

“When we were kids,” Dean started, knowing there was no going back now, “we were separated from our father.” He made no mention of his curse, and didn’t plan on breathing a word about how they were once human. They needed Mycroft to believe them, so he chose to split the information into easy-to-swallow chunks.

“I was fourteen, and Sam was only ten. We tried to find help to track him down, but it didn’t go so well. Our ‘help’ decided we’d make good pets, caged us and shipped us off to England. Back then, we found a way out before we reached our destination.”

He paused for a second, working his jaw. “Earlier today, we found out that wasn’t the end of those people. They lured Sam out into the open, took him away to Wembley and branded him. Like an animal for sale.”

Dean started to pace, the nervous energy in him working its way out in quick motions from side to side on the arm of the chair. “They had records dating back years of selling people like us. All branded. All helpless. Sam’s leg was broken, he can barely even move now.” He abruptly halted his pacing and stared up at Mycroft. “There needs to be a way to stop them from doing this to more people.”

While Dean talked, Mycroft's expression slowly shifted from undisguised condescension to a light frown as he considered the smaller man's words. This time, when he broke eye contact with Dean to address the others, it was with the impression that he was speaking to all three of them.

"I see why you called me. Obviously people like this--" Mycroft pocketed his left hand to lift his umbrella with his right, pointing the tip of it at Dean; seeing this, Sherlock swung his bow around to deflect the umbrella from underneath. Mycroft blinked but smoothly swung the umbrella up to rest on his shoulder, as though that had been his intention all along, but a knowing scowl from Sherlock betrayed that. He noted how solicitous his brother was about this Winchester fellow, as was John if the way he'd stiffened in his seat was any indication, before he continued. "--are a secret. So secluded that even I was ignorant of their existence. You can't go to the police, or else this would all be publicized and for all you know, your little friends will be taken away again."

"That's about the sum of it," said John through clenched teeth. "These people are a menace. They have to be taken down, brought to justice, but it needs to happen quietly and efficiently, so people like Dean and Sam don't have to worry about it happening again."

Sherlock nodded, looking to Mycroft with his least aggressive expression yet. "Whoever they are, the people we encountered today were not alone. They've got higher-ups somewhere out there that need tracking down and assets that need freezing to ensure that these dealings don't continue. It's a task that John and I simply do not have the influence to fulfill.”

Mycroft hummed thoughtfully. "Then it seems I'm your only hope." He turned his eyes back to Dean, a faint confident smirk playing at his lips. "I'll do my best."

Dean stared right back, unable to hide the bristle in his shoulders after watching a giant umbrella and violin bow whip around from so close. He was more grateful than ever he’d chosen to stay near Sherlock, who was prepared for whatever Mycroft might do. Their sibling relationship was nothing like Sam and Dean’s from what he’d seen both now and from the year of living unseen in the flat, watching Mycroft’s rare visits with a wary eye.

“I’ll just have to hope your best is as good as you think it is,” Dean said, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice. “Better not mention me, or someone might think you’re smokin’ the good stuff out there.”

John's brow shot up at the way Dean spoke to Mycroft. That nervous energy he'd had up until and throughout this meeting was still there, but clearly his position with Sherlock backing him up was giving the little guy enough confidence to back talk the most powerful man he'd ever met.

Across from John, Sherlock smirked at Dean's gall. He couldn't have said it better himself, and the snide comment sounded much more amusing coming out of the tiny American.

Mycroft chuckled dryly, very little humor in his eyes. "So quick-witted. I can see why my brother's taken to you. Dean Winchester, wasn't it?" With a reflective hum, Mycroft lowered his umbrella to lean on it again. "You should know, Mister Winchester, that even I cannot do this entirely on my own. I shall need a team to handle the decommissioning of this organization of yours on the ground level. You can rest assured, however, that I am very good at maintaining secrecy with those under my employ. As to whether or not they’ll believe me, well… they are rather inclined to do what I ask of them. Additionally, I am under no obligation to help you at all. A little gratitude wouldn't be misplaced."

"You won't tell anyone else, though, right?" John pressed, needing to hear the words. "This doesn't get past anyone directly involved."

"Naturally," Mycroft sighed, swiveling his gaze to meet John's. "I have no interest in meddling in such small affairs. Though I admit to curiosity, and I expect a much more detailed briefing, none of this will be made public. Are my answers to your satisfaction?"

John considered, watching Mycroft's face carefully. He wasn't usually one to lie, and he was a very secretive person. Having that to their advantage for once was definitely an appealing thought. He nodded, turning to Sherlock and Dean to see if they had any objections.

Dean shot a quick look up at Sherlock, then nodded to Mycroft. “Your discretion is… appreciated,” he forced out, setting his pride to the side for the sake of the others his size that might still be suffering. For them, he would do anything to help. Even be gracious-- or as gracious as Dean Winchester could get-- to Mycroft Holmes.

“Don’t let my attitude keep you from doing the right thing,” Dean said, coming close to a straight-up apology. “They deserve better than that. All of them.”

"Trust me," Mycroft smirked, "your attitude pales in comparison to a lifetime with Sherlock Holmes. Though I'm certain that will become clear to you in time, if it hasn't already."

With a long breath and a bored expression, the elder Holmes flexed his fingers around the crook of his umbrella. "I take it this is a matter of some urgency, and it would be prudent to get on it at once."

"Immediately, if you can manage it," said Sherlock snidely, brushing his fingers across the strings of his violin to ring quietly for a moment. "I'll text you the details."

"A shocking turn of events," Mycroft retorted, tone dripping with sarcasm. He then regarded the odd company around him with a polite smile that didn't seem to belong on his face. "Expect to hear from me soon." Turning to look at Dean one last time, he added, "We'll meet again."

With that, Mycroft slunk his way out of the flat and down the stairs, swinging his umbrella idly all the way.

John sighed heavily as soon as Mycroft was gone, feeling the tension unwind there after building up the entire conversation. "Well… That could've gone worse."

Dean snorted. “That went just awesome,” he said sarcastically, letting his arms fall to his sides and shaking them out in an attempt to relax from the strain he was under while looking up at Mycroft. It was more than just the physical effort of staring up at the tall human; it was the stress from staying composed the entire time, and not letting any of his nerves shine through his outward demeanor.

“Was that a threat or a promise that we’ll meet again?” Dean demanded, looking to Sherlock for answers. He couldn’t hide the bristle from his shoulders, disliking the fact that Mycroft now knew all about him, and some about Sam. Dean didn’t want to put his brother into any uncomfortable situations, and everything about Mycroft just screamed uncomfortable. Dean couldn’t imagine what Sam’s knack would feel like around the elder Holmes brother.

Sherlock shrugged, his focus on putting his violin away. "Probably both. He does love to be ambiguously enigmatic." With his instrument safely packed up and tucked aside, Sherlock dug his mobile from his pocket and began typing furiously.

Not wanting Dean to worry, John amended Sherlock's answer. "I wouldn't worry about it. He just kind of says stuff like that to put people off. He's usually too busy to bother with us common folk."

That said, John got up and held out an upturned hand to Dean since Sherlock was otherwise occupied. "Want a lift back?" he offered, tilting his head toward the bookshelf that hid Dean's home. "We could be waiting a while."

Dean briefly considered his other options, his eyes sliding naturally to the books that guarded his home. Hefting a sigh, he stepped onto John’s hand, inwardly admitting he’d rather save the time and effort that climbing down the chair and then back up again would cost him. “Guess I can’t turn down an offer like that, not with all the work I’ve got lined up tonight.” 

The humans already knew where their home was, there was no point in denying it. Plus, he’d need his strength if he wanted to go out and restock their food and water before hitting the sack. More mouths to feed meant even their abundant supplies would run dry in no time.

“Feels friggin’ weird, everyone knowing where we live,” Dean muttered as he made his way to the very center of John’s hand, scrupulously avoiding the edges and determined to not look down and go through the same vertigo from that morning. Once he was certain he was as centered and far away from the edges as he could get, he looked up at John and gave him a thumbs-up.

John carefully lifted Dean, stepping slowly and smoothly toward the shelf. The past two days had felt like a crash-course in holding and carrying around tiny people in his hands, and John finally seemed to be getting the hang of it. At least the nerves that usually accompanied the action were starting to dull.

"Well, like I said, we'll try not to bother you," he put in helpfully. "And in this case, we'll know where to find you when Mycroft gets back to us. So that's… something."

Letting out a short breath, John stabilized his hand on the shelf; with the books in place, there was less room for his entire hand like before, but he made do. After Dean left his hand, he sat back in his chair again and reiterated, "We'll be here if you need us."

“Right… We’ll letcha know,” Dean gave John a cocky salute, some of his regular confidence starting to return now that the confrontation with Mycroft-- at least, Dean saw it as a confrontation, considering how dangerous any human could be, and this man more than any other-- was over. He was back with Sherlock and John, and knew them enough to be able to let his guard down.

Turning to go, Dean let his hand brush against the book that leaned over his head. There wasn’t enough room on the shelf for it to slip down and crush the brothers (one of the many reason they favored the shelf), and its new placement felt just as sturdy. The light grew dimmer as he walked through the leather-bound tunnel, a splash of yellow against the back of the wooden wall that waited for him.

Dean turned left, and made his way back through the entrance of their home.

Chapter Text

It was quiet when Dean got back.

The fabric of John’s shredded shirt was scattered throughout the main room of the brothers’ home. Dean hid a smile as he stepped over Christian, Kara and Mikael, sleeping close together for warmth. He paused a moment to pull the grey fabric closer over Kara’s tiny body, and then did the same when he saw Anita in her corner. Moira slept close to Bree and Anita, and not far from the entrance to Sam and Dean’s room.

Once he knew that everyone was safely snuggled in for the night in the warm fabric, Dean poked his head into the room he shared with Sam. His younger brother lay on his side, staying off the brand while it healed with his injured leg stretched out. A few extra pieces of grey fabric had found their way into Sam’s already-huge nest, giving Dean the impression that Moira had made sure there was enough padding to keep Sam still.

All was well.

Slipping out of the room before he risked waking Sam, Dean grabbed one of the bottlecaps from their makeshift table. He’d do a few runs for water, then slip into the kitchen for extra food. By then, there was a chance John and Sherlock would be asleep and would never realize Dean had slipped out with extra supplies. They insisted the brothers were welcome to the food whenever, but some habits died hard.

Dean brushed a hand over his duffel bag to make sure his hook hung from the side before heading out the back. There was work to do.

As for the humans, John stayed vigil in his seat. He knew that Dean could find him wherever he was in the flat, but if he was needed-- if Sam needed his help-- the doctor wanted to remain readily available.

He tried to keep himself quietly distracted from worrying about Mycroft's progress. Reaching for his laptop, he paused when he remembered he couldn't update his blog; what could he possibly say? Instead, he leafed absently through a book from the small side-table next to his chair.

Sherlock managed to control his impatience for a whole five minutes, after which time he hopped out of his chair and wandered the flat for something to occupy his mind. The longer he and John waited, the antsier the detective became. Tossing a squash ball to himself turned into crumpling up old clippings lying around and tossing them into wastebaskets, which turned into restless pacing throughout the entire flat.

Little more than an hour and a half had passed before Sherlock's mobile rang, making Sherlock freeze in place and John's head snap up to lock eyes with him. The detective whipped out the phone and checked the caller ID.

"It's Mycroft," he confirmed.

John's brow arched. "That was fast--"

Dean! ” Sherlock called, cutting off John's comment as he took long strides toward the kitchen. It was the most likely place they'd find the tiny man, given the number of people now under Dean's hospitality. There was no way they were in any way supplied to handle that kind of strain beforehand; coming to John for help had all but sealed that. Sherlock had no doubt the Winchesters' food supply had been greatly depleted that night and would need to be refilled.

Biting back a cringe at the volume of Sherlock's voice, John heaved a weary sigh as he followed his flatmate.

The silence in the kitchen was shattered. Dean burst out from behind the glassware on the countertop, a good bit more frazzled than normal. His duffel was discernibly thicker than before, and a biscuit hung out of one arm. Clearly, he had been busy in the time since they’d seen him last.

What?! ” Dean hissed, his voice quieter than normal because of all the sleeping people he’d left behind in the walls. “And, what the hell?! How do you possibly always know where I am? It’s ruining my mystique!”

Sherlock rolled his eyes-- it really wasn't a difficult conclusion to draw-- and held up his ringing mobile. "Your mystique will have to wait." He pointedly answered the phone, putting it on speaker.

"Have you done it?" snapped the detective, glancing over to John to make sure he was paying attention. John was hovering near the kitchen doors with his arms crossed as he glanced over his shoulder toward the bookshelf he'd left behind. Clearly he was distracted, but he was listening.

Mycroft sighed on the other end. “We are in the process--

"Are they in custody, the men who work there?" Sherlock emphasized, cutting off his brother's answer. That was the update Sherlock, and he assumed John and Dean, wanted to hear most urgently. As long as the rest was handled by Mycroft and his lackeys, they could sleep easily.

…No, they are not.

Sherlock's brow furrowed, and he shot a brief glance at Dean. "Do we need to remind you how much of a threat these people pose to--"

Not hardly, dear brother,” Mycroft interrupted. “They're a threat to no one. They're dead.

“Dead?!” Dean blurted out, interrupting the call before he realized what he was doing. It wasn’t like he wanted to actively interact with Mycroft after their earlier encounter. Far from it-- this was one conversation he’d rather leave up to Sherlock.

But something in him just had to go and open his mouth.

Dean glanced up at Sherlock and John, instinctively gauging their reactions to his interruption before going on. “How could they all be dead? We were just there!”

Sherlock's frown deepened at the revelation of the fate of the people they'd left behind and he exchanged a look with John, whose full attention was now on the conversation at hand. The doctor blinked rapidly, his head spinning as he tried to wrap his mind around the fact that the men he was so angry with were no longer alive. Despite his latent fury, a wave of dread chilled his insides. Something about this wasn't right, and Sherlock's look told John the detective was thinking the same thing.

I was hoping Sherlock could tell me that, Mr. Winchester,” Mycroft replied to Dean without missing a beat.

Sherlock arched an eyebrow at his phone. "You're coming to fetch me, aren't you." It wasn't an inquiry.

Someone will be by,” Mycroft confirmed. “Unless, of course, you refuse…

The younger Holmes scoffed, knowing there really was no option despite Mycroft's coy implications. "How could I refuse?" With a faint scowl, he hung up with more force on the button than necessary.

"Hope to God he's not sending a helicopter," John muttered, running an exhausted hand down his face.

“H-helicopter?” Dean repeated, swallowing nervously. Getting grabbed against his will and flying through the air in a hand was bad enough. Trapped in a cage and placed in an airplane to fly across the ocean was worse. He could only imagine that a helicopter would be the worst yet. Smaller, with the propellers beating out a staccato rhythm, turbulence like an earthquake…

An experience Dean would rather live without, but he refused to be left out of this case. Sam’s abduction hit them where they were most vulnerable. Dean would see this through to the end.

“I’m going with you,” Dean said, making his mind up and planting his boots on the counter. He stared up at them, prepared to argue his way into coming, no matter whatkind of transportation they were taking. Flying or not.

A reassurance that Mycroft would more likely send a car than a helicopter was on the tip of John's tongue-- he had made the comment absently, not thinking about how it would affect Dean's fear of flying-- but Sherlock beat him to it.

"Oh, good. Saved me the trouble of asking," he murmured, pocketing his phone and scooping up Dean in one smooth motion. "I rely on an outside eye for cases like these, and since John's staying here, you're really my only other option."

John's brow furrowed. "Wh-- I am?" he asked as Sherlock strode smoothly past him and into the main room.

"Of course." Sherlock shot John a look, clearly assuming they were both aware of the solution. "Someone has to stay behind, look after the others; after today, they'll need someone larger on their side. Besides, you're exhausted."

Clenching his jaw to stifle a yawn, John had to concede to that.

As the detective walked around John's armchair, he couldn't help but muse that, perhaps without knowing it, Sam and Dean had chosen the safest spot they could have to make their home. If anyone would protect them to his last breath, it was John.

Sherlock lowered his occupied hand to the shelf, fingers forming a bridge for Dean. "If you're going to store that food, best do it quickly. Mycroft's men will be here any minute."

“Great,” Dean muttered as he jumped down to his shelf. “More humans.”

Gripes aside, he hastened past the books to his home. No matter what ended up happening with him, they’d have the food for the morning and John watching after them. Not even that Mark guy would be able to take anyone away with a human standing in his path, of that Dean was certain. The guy might be able to take on Sam, and maybe he could stop Dean if it came down to a fight, but a human was on a completely different level from them.

Dean emptied his duffel on the table, spreading out the food purloined from John and Sherlock’s cupboard so everyone would know they were welcome to it. If he had time (and energy) later on, he’d do another run, since this one had been cut short.

The bottlecaps of water he’d filled up first sat to the side of the table, the water rippling when Dean bumped against one. He steadied it, then nodded in satisfaction. If they didn’t make it back that night, everyone was taken care of. He didn’t have to worry about them with John watching.

Hitching up his much-emptier duffel, Dean made his way back through their front door. He took a steeling breath as he walked through the gap between the books and out into the light. At least Sherlock wasn’t too bad to deal with. Just a little grabby.

The humans were in their chairs again when Dean emerged, John relaxing in the warmth of the fire, and Sherlock cross-legged in his seat, intensely focused on his Sudocube. With a couple of murders lined up for him and being forced to wait for them, he was much more alert and antsy than his companion. The cube kept his hands occupied and his mind focused without the detective bouncing off the walls, and for that John was grateful.

Sherlock glanced up at Dean as soon as he was in sight. His fingers continued to impatiently fly as he worked the puzzle. Despite the fact that the detective claimed to know how to solve the cube, it was nearly always left unsolved around the main room of the flat.

Soon enough, a telltale squeak of brakes sounded from the street out front, and Sherlock immediately got up to get ready, setting the puzzle on the mantel. He had just wrapped his scarf snugly around his neck when a knock rang out against the front door.

"Mr. Holmes?" a voice called.

Rather than answering, Sherlock crossed back over to Dean and held out a hand to ferry him to his shoulder.

“I see we’re back to offering hands,” Dean said snidely as he stepped onto Sherlock’s hand. Being grabbed the last few times hadn’t gone unnoticed by the tiny man, though he’d had more important things on his mind at the time than scolding Sherlock.

John smirked wearily at Dean's snark. He'd wondered when all the grabbing Sherlock did more frequently lately was going to come back to bite him. Given Dean's initial attitude of you grab, I stab, Sherlock was getting off rather easy for it. He supposed that went to show how much their relationship had changed since they met.

A relationship John was beginning to suspect he would never understand.

Sherlock let out a short sigh, going through the motions of transferring Dean to his usual spot. The moment he was raised up to Sherlock’s shoulder, he stepped into the familiar folds of the scarf. Dean instantly wrapped it around himself, settling down closer to Sherlock’s neck than normal. If these people were sent by Mycroft, they might already know about his existence. He wasn’t about to make it easy for them to grab him if they got curious about the tiny freak, a term his mind always badgered him with whenever he dwelt on his strange strength and unique knack.

“Once more into the breach,” Dean quoted from memory, a forgotten story from a forgotten time as a kid.

Sherlock had to acknowledge that, today especially, he had been whisking the smaller man off for various reasons, all of which Sherlock felt were justifiable: taking Dean where he needed to go or preventing him from getting distracted. While admittedly he might have been excessive, the detective knew one thing for certain: Dean shouldn't feel powerless in this particular situation. Returning to the place where his brother had been abducted, investigating the deaths of Sam's kidnappers and tormentors.

Sherlock would do his best to keep Dean close throughout this endeavor, and make sure he knew his input was valid.

Still, as he glanced into the mirror to see that Dean was secure, he heard the quote and couldn't stop himself from being a smart-aleck once more.

"Unto the breach," he muttered. Much of the literature he'd learned in his early schooling had been deleted from his memory in favor of more important things long ago. For whatever reason, like Dean, that quote stuck with him. He couldn't hold in the correction.

That said, Sherlock hurried downstairs, cued by another knock. He stepped out to see a sleek black car parked on the curb and a ginger man in an open dark wool coat standing in front of it. Dean perked up at the sight of the car, the black finish reminding him of another car from another life.

Sherlock looked this man up and down, reading his entire life in a matter of seconds. Late twenties to early thirties, a little younger than average for someone under Mycroft's employ. His complexion and facial structure suggested Irish descent, probably second or third generation. Traces of dog hair along his trouser leg, which was slightly rumpled in a rushed attempt to lint roll it away. That indicated there used to be a lot of it, hastily cleaned after being alerted to Mycroft's out-of-the-blue mission. It was a German shepherd, easily identified by the coloration and amount of hair that used to be present.

This agent came from a military family, his attentive stance suggested that, but due to his longer, casual hairstyle and frankly soft and innocent eyes, it was doubtful he'd ever really served.

For good measure, Sherlock noticed a slight bump on the man’s sternum under his maroon button-down, one which he had a habit of smoothing down absently. It was important to him. The detective caught a glimpse of a silver chain peeking out under the agent's collar, so it was a necklace, but upon reviewing the shape of the bump, Sherlock found that it was no pendant.

It was a ring. More specifically, it was a ring that would fit this man’s fourth finger. Considering the lengths to which the agent went to hide the ring from his likely traditionally-valued family, keeping it hidden out of habit but close to this heart, Sherlock could only assume a secret engagement, presumably with another man since he was the recipient of the ring.

It took Sherlock less than half a minute to pick the man apart, and he didn't even know his name.

"Mr. Holmes," the man greeted. Sherlock hummed to himself, noting the distinct lack of an Irish dialect.

Before Sherlock could get a word out, a large gust of wind blew down the street, throwing the detective's collar back before he caught it and held it in place to shield Dean both from the elements and from sight. The man's brow shot up when he caught sight of the tiny figure contrasting the deep blue folds of Sherlock's scarf.

"And… Mr. Winchester?" he guessed at length.

Sherlock's grip tightened on his collar and his eyes narrowed.

There was no way for Dean to duck down out of sight after being spotted, likely by a man debriefed by Mycroft all about the tiny person that hung around with Sherlock, so he did the exact opposite from what his instincts demanded.

Dean straightened in place, letting the scarf fall down from his shoulders so more of him could be seen. The cool breeze had no apparent effect on him as he ruthlessly suppressed the desire to shiver. Determination could go a long way, and first impressions were the most important. 

Meeting the man’s deep green gaze with a level stare, Dean refused to cower from any human. “Mister Winchester is my dad,” he corrected, his voice level and even to avoid betraying any nerves. “You can call me Dean.”

Chapter Text

The man blinked at the casual demeanor of the tiny man on Sherlock Holmes' shoulder. Hearing about impossibly tiny people from Mycroft had been shocking to say the least. He was hesitant to believe it at all, but he had his orders. And there was Dean Winchester, exactly as he'd been described.

"Ah. I'm Agent Baker, head of the ground team in this operation. Though, I suppose if we're going by first names, you can call me Stan if you like." Agent Baker gave a twitchy smile, unsure how to feel about all this. He resolved that he was going to see a lot of odd things over the course of this job, so he'd do well to stop questioning them.


Stan Baker by quackghost!

"Shall we get on with it?" said Sherlock impatiently, striding toward the car.

Stan's flustered demeanor snapped back to his initial military-esque attention. "Right, sir," he answered, hurrying past Sherlock to open the door for him. 

Minding Dean, Sherlock sat carefully in the backseat, and Stan slid in on the other side. Once they were all settled, their driver carried them off.

Sherlock didn't speak to Stan, but the young man couldn't stop himself from glancing curiously at the detective's shoulder, quietly marveling that an entire person fit there.

Now, Dean decidedly did not have his younger brother's uncanny ability to know when someone was watching him. That was easily proven by the way Dean could still be caught off guard by the humans in the flat while Sam would jolt the second someone thought about looking in his direction.

Yet, with Stan, Dean didn't need it.

The man was not exactly subtle as he looked over at Sherlock's shoulder, and that was to Dean's advantage.

Dean glanced over at Stan, the scarf still draped down around his seat instead of wrapped to keep him hidden. His shoulders remained squared, keeping his bearing as proud as he'd ever been. He might be small, but he wasn't about to let that get him down now.

"Somethin' on my face?" Dean asked Stan. He briefly reached up to brush at his hair and make sure it was properly spiked.

Sherlock turned his head toward Dean at the question before he realized it wasn't for him. Side-eyeing Stan, Sherlock went back to staring out the window and waiting out the ride.

For his part, Stan had absolutely no clue how to react to the small man's witticism. He swallowed a chuckle, uncertain if that would be out of line or offensive. There was something about Dean's attitude that Agent Baker took a liking to.

"Would I know if there was?" he replied amiably with a faint smirk. A hint of an Irish accent poked through his words, confirming Sherlock's silent observation. Second generation, from the sound of it.

“You’ll have to tell me,” Dean said gamely enough, having an oddly normal moment with a human while sitting on the shoulder of another. He could almost get used to this, a complete contrast to the last decade spent out of sight in hiding, only coming out if they needed something. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m the normal one in the car. It’s you two that are the giants. And I think I’m adorable.”

Stan had to laugh at that, light and friendly. He wasn't ridiculing Dean's perspective, but basking in the relaxed banter going on between them. Once he was assured Dean did exist, his next concern was how he would be to work with. He imagined someone so small would find human beings monstrously large.

Despite being outright called a giant by Dean, Stan didn't feel like a monster at all.

"In that case, there's a fair bit of distance between us," Stan pointed out, smirk widening. "I could try for a closer look, but I'm pretty sure that would just be awkward for the three of us."

“Guess I’ll have to go on never knowing,” Dean lamented with a matching smirk. Sherlock didn’t seem to be the type to share his personal space-- much like Dean, normally. The arrangement with using Sherlock’s shoulder for transportation was an exception, though for Dean it was hard to feel like there was anyone infringing on his personal bubble. He had no idea what Sherlock thought of having a person on his shoulder.

Little did he know the detective's sentiments on the subject were similar to his own. While he was more than willing to get as close as he needed to examine a corpse or inspect an exhibit in a crime, he was hardly ever so familiar with living people. Dean riding on his shoulder was a separate phenomenon. Tucked so close to his neck and keeping himself hidden, Dean was as invisible to Sherlock as he could be to the rest of the world. The human could barely feel the tiny body there, Dean's weight imperceptible through the layers of Sherlock's suit and his touch barely noticeable through the scarf.

Were it not for Dean's constant flow of gripes and comments, Sherlock could easily forget he was there.

"Glad you can live with that," Sherlock retorted dryly, grinding the conversation to a halt. Turning as much as Dean's position would allow, he addressed Stan. "I want to know what we're walking into. What exactly happened?"

Stan's back straightened at the direct question from the younger Holmes, his chipper smile faltering. Suddenly he was Agent Baker again, down to business. "On that point, we're reliant on you for the most part. It's a rather confusing set of circumstances."

"They were dead when you arrived, yes?"

"Yes, sir. No sign of forced entry, and… indeterminate cause of death." His deep green eyes glazed as he remembered bursting into the building expecting a fight. The shock upon seeing the bodies. "We’ve never seen anything like it."

“The one time we can’t bring John with us,” Dean muttered for Sherlock’s ears only, a task easily accomplished while sitting almost directly below the detective’s ear. Dean’s voice was soft enough on its own to keep from being overheard unless he wanted to be heard.

Antsy, Dean shifted the scarf around him, getting the folds ready for when he would have to be hidden out of sight. Despite the grim circumstances, Dean was looking forward to getting to the building. People had died, but they were people that had broken and branded his little brother. Dean’s heart had very little room for forgiveness for such actions.

“A fresh set of eyes might figure it out,” Dean said at a volume for everyone to hear. “That’s why you’ve got me with you.” His voice was properly smug.

A tiny bit of Stan's old smirk tugged at the young man's lips at Dean's comments. "I truly hope you're right, sir-- ah, Dean." Stan was one to keep an optimistic outlook on life, but in his line of work he had grown used to balancing that with a realistic mindset as well. "Because we are baffled."

Mark huddled in the darkness as he contemplated his options.

He'd returned to the base of operations sluggishly, not looking forward to facing Euan after the night's escapades. As usual, the doors were sealed securely, but after six years of sneaking into buildings looking for his own people, Mark had strong instincts in that regard. He found a way into the ventilation system and navigated toward the main room.

The hard part was working up the courage to reenter once he'd found the correct vent, one set high in the wall above the central room. Everything in Mark screamed at him to leave this place and these humans behind, but he knew in his heart that wasn't an option. Not if he wanted to live and maybe, one day, see his sister again.

Still, he hesitated as he peered through the slats at the humans as they scrambled. Professor Dakota had been summoned back and was currently on his mobile leaving messages for the other members of their team, scattered throughout Europe. Geoff was running around frantically, gathering paperwork from various rooms in the building and tossing them in a bucket while Euan barked orders at him through the bloody rag he held against his face.

A slight twinge of satisfaction at his human's banged-up appearance left Mark the moment it occurred. 

Above the humans, a light flickered overhead, and the hairs on Mark's arms and neck stood on end in a terrible foreboding.The only thing Mark saw before the lights cut out completely was a fourth shadowy figure standing menacingly behind the other humans.

Then Mark was thrown back from the opening of the vent in a wave of heat and displaced air, sliding back several inches. Frantically pushing himself to his feet, he put even more distance between himself and the flames threatening to reach through the vent and consume him. The metal surrounding him heated quickly, and it was a long time before he could safely return to the vent and survey the mysterious damage.

Three charred bodies were left behind, the table the humans had been surrounding destroyed. Blackened streaks snaked around the room, but only near the places the humans had died. Mark's eyes fell on the long, thin body that had once been Euan, and his heart raced at the realization that he would never have to deal with the loathsome human again!

Before the shock of this revelation could wear off, more humans intruded into the space, reasonably shocked by what they found. Mark kept out of their sight as they worked to set up large lights to survey the room, snapping lots of pictures and taking lots of notes as they went.

Now that he was free of Euan, the natural next step for Mark was to find his sister, but the knowledge that he had nothing to go on froze his feet in place. After spending so much time being controlled by a human and separated from his arguably smarter half, Mark felt like he couldn't figure anything out on his own. He needed help.

His waiting paid off when, after some time, a chillingly familiar voice drifted up to his hiding place. A deep rumble that nearly made Mark jump out of the vent then and there, but he refrained and peered carefully down at the human who had taken Anita and Sam and the others earlier in the night. He watched silently as the other humans were ordered out of the room, leaving only the dark-haired human and the ginger man with him.

"Nothing's been tampered with?" Sherlock pressed, surveying the room with a measured gaze.

Stan nodded in confirmation. "Once we saw they were dead, this room was left virtually untouched. Aside from photographing every inch of the place for the sake of reference, nothing's been disturbed."

With the exodus of all humans but Sherlock and Stan, Dean pushed the scarf out of his way and felt his insides freeze.

It wasn’t the sight of the dead bodies, in and of itself, that got to him. Or the reek they left now that they were gone. Dean was no stranger to death, and had worn blood up to his elbows after a fight with a rat before. As a child he was raised with an understanding of death more than any child should.

What got to him was the char and the ash, the burned husks left behind by whatever had done the killings. Dean hurriedly covered his mouth with the too-long sleeve of his leather jacket, unable to suppress a gag at how potent the smells in the room were.

It all combined to bring back memories Dean would rather forget, from when he was four, almost five years old. Sam’s room bursting into flame, John shoving Sammy into his arms and pushing him out of the house.

Get your brother outside as fast as you can! Now, Dean, go!

“Oh, god,” Dean muttered to himself as he took it all in. Not again.

Sherlock knelt next to the nearest body, using his gloved hand to filter the stench as he examined it closely. There wasn't much left to go on; the remaining corpses were scorched beyond recognition to nearly anyone. This particular corpse was thin and tall, and what was left of the face seemed just slightly out of place. Sherlock had no doubt this was Euan, the man John had beaten within an inch of his life and left with a bloody face and broken nose.

The second body, massive and bulky even after what had happened to it, obviously belonged to the one who had attacked Sherlock earlier, and again was taken out by John. He ignored that one now in favor of the third, which he investigated next. Another male, going by the shape of the skeleton; farsighted, if the cracked spectacles were any indication. The remains of a white coat were strewn around the body, reminding Sherlock of the professor the little girl had mentioned hours ago. This must be him.

From there, Sherlock wandered the room, head swiveling with a deep frown. Most of the room was left intact. There was nothing left of the table in the middle of the room, suggesting a large flame, but the way the burn marks on the floor, walls, and ceiling were arranged looked like the fire simply stopped spreading. With no signs of flame repellent, that observation perplexed the detective.

"No forced entry, you said?" he queried, turning back to Stan. The agent hovered near Sherlock as he worked, hands clasped behind his back.

Agent Baker nodded. "That's correct, sir. No signs that anyone was here besides these three."

Dean kept his mouth and nose covered, surveying the rest of the room while Sherlock examined the bodies. He only distantly paid any attention to the humans’ talk. The stark similarities to his own past were burning a hole in his chest, and there was almost no chance this was all just coincidence it had happened so soon after Dean and Sam were in the building.

In the dark corners of the room, something caught Dean’s eye. He blinked a few times, wondering if he was seeing things, but the impression remained. He had no recollection of any yellow powder crusted to the floor and walls earlier that day, and it raised more suspicions. Dean really wished he had his dad or Bobby around just about now. They had plenty of experience with odd occurrences.

Dean jabbed Sherlock in the neck. “Give me a hand,” he asked, hoping to avoid the trial of climbing down a human.

Sherlock blinked at the tiny pokes from the man on his shoulder, promptly lifting a hand for Dean to climb onto. 

Stan's brow lifted a fraction as he watched the strange pair with unveiled curiosity. The action was so simple, yet it reminded Stan of just how small Dean Winchester actually was. Nearly all of Sherlock's fingers outsized him, and somehow he could walk onto that hand seemingly without trepidation. Stan had to admire the amount of bravery that must take, entrusting someone so large with your fate.

"Where to?" Sherlock muttered, feeling rather like a taxi. A human taxi for a very small man. His eyes darted around the room, trying to follow Dean's gaze in case he found something important.

“Anywhere close to the wall,” Dean said, gesturing towards where he could see the yellow powder at its thickest. Even then, it was a very small amount, easy enough to brush off as dirt or possibly a spill from the old company that owned the lot.

Yet the sight of it reawakened something in Dean from his childhood, when he was listening to his dad argue with Pastor Jim on the phone about a case they were on together. Something they shouldn’t ignore.

“Got an idea,” Dean said gruffly, hoping to avoid the entire ‘monsters are real’ conversation with Sherlock if it ended up being his imagination toying with him.

Chapter Text

Mark edged slowly toward the front of the vent, not keen on being seen just yet. He didn't know how to feel about this human, walking around with a borrower on his shoulder the same way Euan would keep Mark in his pocket. Theirs seemed like an easier mode of transportation, however, and Mark was amazed to see the human responding to the smaller person's requests, carrying him across the room at chest level.

The borrower pointed and the human followed.

As they walked out of Mark's limited window of sight, the temptation to climb out and keep watching them only grew. Perhaps if this human were truly safe, they would just bring him to Anita. He had to be absolutely sure he wasn't walking into a trap, though.

The opportunity arose when another agent stuck her head into the room, calling Agent Baker over. After a short, hushed conversation with her, Stan turned to Sherlock and Dean.

"I've got to take care of this," he called to them from across the room. "Come and find me before you leave, if you don't see me again."

Dean waved cheerily while Sherlock only hummed in response, dropping to a knee near the wall indicated. As he lowered his hand to the floor he scrutinized the small area, squinting through the darkness in search of what Dean could possibly be after.

Stepping down from Sherlock’s hand, Dean paused to assess his surroundings. After the grim events of the evening, the room that stretched out under his boots was a far cry from the room they’d saved Sam from. Now it was full of barely recognizable corpses and huge spotlights set up to illuminate all the details, erasing any shadows he could use for hiding.

Dean wasn’t interested in those, though.

He set his sights on the wall, jogging off with a firm destination in mind. The yellow powder slowly grew closer, and the scent of burnt flesh began to fade away, replaced by something far more pungent.

Sherlock leaned in as Dean moved away, shifting to his knees and propping a hand on the dirty floor for stability. He was trying to emulate Dean's line of sight as closely as he could, and puzzle out just what his small companion thought he saw down there.

A small amount of odd discoloration in the dirt along the wall had just caught his eye as Dean looked over his shoulder in annoyance. 

“Do you have to hover?” he griped up at Sherlock, jerking his head at his shadowed path.

Sherlock's brow furrowed, looking more than a little offended by the complaint. Even though he could see he was casting a shadow over Dean, the detective gave a small huff as he pushed himself to his feet. Shoving his hands into his coat pockets, he side-stepped out of the way of the light, letting it wash over Dean and his goal, and leaned a shoulder against the nearby wall. He gave a flat look and a shrug, as if to say That enough space for you?

While they were distracted, Mark gathered his courage and slipped through the slats of the vent, dropping a short distance to the top of a wire shelf. His legs caught him silently, but he ducked behind a box just in case he'd been heard.

Dean didn’t notice Mark at all, his attention divided between his goal and Sherlock. He arched an eyebrow at Sherlock’s attempt to not hover, wondering if he realized just how disconcerting it was to have a human standing at his full height so close by.

Instead of giving a reaction, Dean pointedly turned away from Sherlock, determined to ignore his companion’s attempts to get under his skin. He could deal. At least this way the spots on the wall were illuminated.

The smell was even more potent from close up, and Dean wrinkled his nose in disgust. The roiling smell of rotten eggs surrounded him, bringing back memories of the legends of brimstone that came with demons when they left hell. Many legends of hell existed, but the ‘fire and brimstone’ was fairly consistent in the ones Dean had read, and there were reasons for that.

Covering his nose again with the sleeve of his jacket, he reached his other hand at the yellow powder, brushing some from the wall. It flaked away and some coated his skin, and when Dean sniffed hesitantly, he coughed. That was definitely the source.

In one fluid motion, Dean pulled out a sheaf of aluminum foil and knocked another chunk off the wall, packing it away in his bag before he casually strolled away, closer to where Sherlock’s shoes waited.

Mark took advantage of the natural barrier the standing human had become, the expansive back and coat blocking him from sight all the way across the room as he carefully scaled down the pillar-like supports of the shelf.

Sherlock's eyes remained trained on Dean as he moved. Standing near the tiny man to make a point had been one thing, but the detective was more than aware of how easily the slightest movement he made could affect Dean. He kept perfectly still, watching Dean closely as he investigated something along the wall. While Sherlock had to admit that the presence of that yellow substance was odd and worth looking into, he couldn't fathom why, out of everything else in the room, Dean was fixated on it.

The detective dropped to a crouch when Dean approached, giving Mark a start. The tiny man's muscles seized and he froze until the human stopped moving. Mark had climbed down a significant distance in a short time, so he was still blocked by the human's hunched form, and he continued his descent with determination.

"What was that?" Sherlock inquired, holding out a hand as a platform for Dean.

Walking onto Sherlock's hand without hesitation, Dean tried his best to wave off the question. “Just thought I saw somethin’ that might help with the case,” he said lightly, one hand closing around the strap of his duffel bag. He doubted his theory of demons would go over well for the detective. So far, Sam and Dean had seen no sign that hunters worked in England, though considering the number of monster attacks that existed in America, there had to be someone keeping them under control here.

It could be that with monsters more scarce, they didn’t need hunters as much as in America, with the wide-open spaces and billions of places to hide throughout the country.

“Any luck?” Dean queried, hoping to get Sherlock’s mind off what he’d done and onto something else.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed at Dean. If the elder Winchester thought he was going to simply drop what had just happened, he was sorely mistaken. Still, he'd yet to meet anyone besides Mycroft who could keep up with his train of thought during his deductions, so he supposed he ought to fill Dean in.

"Not much," he muttered, pushing himself back to his feet. He kept Dean in hand, holding him at chest level as he turned back to the grisly scene that filled the rest of the room.

"Obviously they burned to death, no surprise there." Sherlock walked toward the bodies, strewn about almost like an explosion had gone off. Almost. "Three bodies, so someone was summoned here after we left. Him."

Pointing with his free hand, Sherlock sidled around the rest of the scene to approach the indicated corpse. "Older man, late fifties at a guess going by the heat fission throughout the skeleton. Remnants of a lab coat suggests he had a medical background, but earlier tonight that little girl mentioned a professor. Likely the closest substitute they could come up with that would both believe them and lack of morals to look past the ethical dilemma of trafficking.

"They were all working here," Sherlock whirled around to face what remained of the table, likely the epicenter of the fire, curling his fingers so Dean wouldn't be thrown off his hand by the quicker movement, "when they were attacked. It's the only explanation for why nearly everything else was left untouched, but this and everything on it was destroyed." That last comment was somewhat of a lament as Sherlock noticed a large metal bucket filled with blackened scraps of paper lay to the side of the table. Important documents that would no doubt have led Mycroft's team to the higher-ups off this operation. Even the Harry Potter book was half-burned, lying in a charred heap on the floor.

Sherlock grit his teeth and moved on. "Freak accident is ruled out for three reasons. One, if this had been an accident-- a stray spark while they were trying to destroy evidence-- they would have at least been smart enough to get away from it and put it out. No flame spreads so fast on its own, and I highly doubt they went to the trouble of soaking the place in kerosene.

"Two, each murder was deliberate, with clear intention." Sherlock waved his empty hand toward the professor's body, and then that of the man who had attacked Sherlock before. "He was thrown back against that wall, and he against that back shelf, both burnt alive there and left to crumble. And then there's Rummage…" Sherlock scowled at the horrendous man's remains. Unlike the others, the char marks from his murder were not around him, but on the ceiling above him. Complete with a rough outline of where his body would have been. It was all adding up to an extremely bizarre occurrence, and not in the way that usually excited Sherlock.

Weird, he could handle. This was just wrong.

"Could be an explosion, but it wasn't; the bodies would have been thrown more randomly and the destruction would have been greater and more widespread. Which brings me to number three: the flames just stopped. They weren't put out, and a fire powerful enough to do all of this would have consumed the building whole. But it didn't. No one came in, no one left, and nobody could have murder-suicided their way through this.

"So I ask again," said Sherlock evenly, looking down at Dean in his hand once more. "What did you find that you thought might 'help with the case?’ "

Dean’s grip was tighter around the strap of his duffel as he stared up at Sherlock, refusing to flinch at the detective’s intense look. He loathed the way he was small enough to hold in a hand, with no way to get down without Sherlock letting him, especially considering what Dean suspected was really going on. John Winchester didn’t talk much about the way their mom had died, but he did talk, especially while making his way through a six-pack of beer. 

Mary, pinned to the ceiling. Burned alive over Sam’s crib. Not even Sam knew that last part.

Much like this building, the house of Dean’s childhood still stood, only partially damaged in the fire. Rebuilt, and sold to a different family after the Winchesters hit the road. 

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!” Dean said, his voice raised as he bristled. “No one ever does!” The image of his dad hit him, the neighbors refusing to believe his fears, striking out on his own with two young children in an attempt to find answers and a way to protect the kids.

"People have died, Dean," Sherlock emphasized. "The next victims might not be so terrible as these happened to be."

Mark peeked nervously around the corner of his hiding spot. He'd reached the floor and ducked behind a barely-singed box when the human was on the move. While it had been amazing to listen to this man explain exactly what had happened, as though he'd been there, though there was no possible way…

Then again, Mark had seen a fourth human in the room just before it had exploded. He didn't get a good look at them, but the thought alone was enough to plant doubt in his head and make him hesitate.

Now it seemed like he and the borrower he'd been talking to were getting into an argument over something. Mark began to glean slivers of evidence that the human didn't know what was really going on, and he allowed himself to hope that he could be helped.

"Then again, I suppose it can't be that important if you're putting your pride ahead of it," Sherlock snapped, trying to get enough of a rise out of Dean. Asking nicely had failed to work twice.

Dean glared. “I’m not--” 

Stopping his protest, Dean dragged a hand down his face in exasperation. As if the memories of another fire battering at him weren’t bad enough, he had to deal with Sherlock at the same time.

“I’m not putting my pride ahead of saving lives,” Dean hissed up at Sherlock, offended at the accusation. His voice grew in volume with every word. “And if you want to know how these people died, you’ll have to ask the demon that killed them!”

Chapter Text

Sherlock stared, his face a neutral mask apart from a pinch in his brow and a few rapid blinks.

The detective carefully considered his response. His immediate instinct was to dismiss the idea entirely. Tiny people existing he could live with-- quite literally, in fact. Witches and a curse that altered ordinary human beings to be much smaller, he could ignore. But demons… Everything in him relied on logic, reason, and science. He believed what his eyes told him. God was a fantasy, angels were an idiot’s dream, and demons were strictly reserved for nightmares, something foul to blame for the hard times and shortcomings in one’s life.

On the other hand, he himself had no other explanation for how these murders were committed other than Dean's, who had earlier proclaimed that no one ever believed him. Sherlock had pushed and pushed and achieved the desired result. Now he had to deal with the answer, no matter how inconceivable.

Sherlock's head ached from the battling sensibilities and his own fatigue catching up to him at last. Heaving a sigh, he lifted Dean to his shoulder wordlessly and started out the door.

In desperation, Mark sprinted out of his hiding place, catching up to the walking human with seven-inch strides before he could disappear for good. When the human was close enough, the borrower took a large leap and caught hold of Sherlock's coat and dangled a few inches above the hem. His fingers dug securely into the wool as it waved this way and that in time with every gargantuan step the human took. If Mark ducked his head, he all but disappeared into the folds.

Dean didn’t say much as Sherlock put him onto his shoulder, simply latching his hands onto the fabric of the scarf. He pushed it around, making his usual hiding spot, though he didn’t vanish into it.

First he wanted to sear the memory of this room into his mind.

The ceiling, with the clear signs of where the demon had pinned Euan to it before burning him alive. From John Winchester’s stories, this was how Dean’s mother Mary had been killed. Pinned like a bug above Sam’s crib. John’s quick thinking had saved his son but not his wife.

Blackened corpses. Dean wondered at that. According to his dad, there was nothing left to find of Mary. But their house had taken more damage than this room, so either the creature that had killed her had cared less about collateral, or was just plain stronger.

He wondered if it even mattered in the end.

Dean slouched against Sherlock’s neck as he lost sight of the room, pulling the scarf over his hiding spot. He had no doubt that soon he’d have to answers he just wasn’t prepared to answer, and be expected to provide the answers.

Sherlock stormed past everyone he encountered on the way out to the alley. They all knew who he was and not to cross him. Everyone except--

"Mister Holmes!"

Letting out a long breath, Sherlock turned on his heel to face Agent Baker, who had followed him outside. Rather than let Mycroft's people drive him back to the flat, Sherlock had planned on catching a cab on the main road. Apparently that wouldn't be so easy with the agent Dean had become pals with.

"Well? What did you make of it, sir?" asked Agent Baker as he neared the detective.

Sherlock regarded the ginger man with a deep frown, one that discouraged further conversation. "Tell Mycroft I'll be in touch. I need to consult an expert."

Stan blinked. "Well… what of the bodies?"

"I've gotten all I need from them," Sherlock shook his head dismissively. "Do what you like, pick the whole place clean if you must, just stop this from happening again."

"We'll do our best," Stan promised. He dug through his coat pocket and held out a simple business card out to Sherlock. "Here's my contact information. Call me if you catch wind of anything, and we'll do the same. We know where to find you."

Sherlock stared at the small slip of paper for a moment before taking it roughly from Stan and pocketing it.

"Thank you, Mr. Holmes," Stan bobbed his head gratefully. Eyes falling on Dean's designated shoulder, he offered an affable grin. "Have a good night, gents."

Dean leaned out from hiding to wave. “See you around, Stan!” he called out gamely. He was going to miss having the guy around, a dash of normal interaction in a giant world. After so much experience with the wrong kind of human, it was nice to see that not everyone would treat them as lesser beings. Pets, animals, whatever.

[C] Bye! by QuackGhost

Chapter artwork by QuackGhost!

A smirk came easy to Stan, white teeth flashing in the dim street lights when he saw the tiny wave of farewell. As grisly as the circumstances that brought them together were, he was glad to have met Dean and looked forward to working with him in this mission.

He gave a salute to the pair of them, then marched off to order his team to ‘pick the entire place clean,’ as Sherlock had called it. In the last few hours, he'd gotten a glimpse into the secret world right under his nose. If it was in his power-- and with Mycroft backing him and his team, that was almost guaranteed-- Stan would do his best to protect people like Dean from threats like whatever the hell used to go on in this place.

Letting the scarf fall back into place, Dean leaned back against Sherlock’s neck for balance. And for warmth, though he’d never admit to how cold it could get. “He’s not so bad,” Dean said, angling his face to direct the words at Sherlock’s ear. Talking at a normal level, Dean was too quiet for anyone else to hear.

Sherlock only grunted in response, continuing on his way to catch a taxi. He was thoroughly done with social interaction for the night, only speaking when he needed to relay his destination to the cabbie.

Stepping out from the shadows of a nearby building, Celeste watched the taxi drive off with a thoughtful gaze.

The message from Mina earlier that day, complete with an image of a familiar face Celeste had begun to despair of ever finding again, had prompted her to travel across the ocean, a timely arrival not long after Sam’s rescue from the Gemini operation.

She tapped a long finger against her lips. Destroying the operation was by no means necessary, but after so long losing her Sam and his irksome older brother, she had decided on a whim that all involved with Sam’s injuries were bound for death.

If they had killed off her young Winchester, all her work would be for naught and for that they had paid.

She would have to talk to dear Mina again. See if she knew anything more about these new humans in the game. Celeste had plans, and no one was to interfere.

Not Dean, not Gemini, and certainly not this Sherlock Holmes or John Watson.

After the rough ride with the flow of Sherlock's long coat and the heart-stopping entrance of the cab, Mark was entirely surprised to still be alive and unnoticed. His arms gave out and he fell to the floor, flinching when he realized he was standing between two gigantic shoes. Mark recoiled from them, tucking himself as far back from them as he could. He was still debating whether or not to reveal himself to the human at all, with someone his own size around. Perhaps he could avoid direct contact with the human altogether. After everything other humans had put Mark and his family through, and now that he was free…he didn't know if he could go through it again. And anyway, if he included the cab driver it added up to two humans.

Surely Dean would understand.

Halfway through the drive, Sherlock's frown deepened. He pulled out his phone, opened a text without a recipient and typed, What did you gather at the crime scene?and held it where Dean could see it.


Dean jolted slightly when he saw the glow of the phone’s LCD screen. In the awkwardly silent cab ride, he’d started to doze off himself, worn down by a day more pack-full of action than he’d seen in a long, long time. Almost a lifetime, in fact.

Pushing himself up, Dean read over the question and sighed. There wasn’t much point in hiding it from Sherlock now, considering Dean had already let the cat out of the bag about the demon.

“Yellow powder,” Dean said grimly. “Smells like rotten eggs. Should be sulfur, if I remember everything right. And I never forget. No demon can escape from hell without the residue clinging to them. The whole ‘fire and brimstone’ part of the legends ain’t just a myth. It’s as real as you and me. As you can see.”

Sherlock bit back a frustrated huff, glaring out the window instead. He almost regretted asking, but his curiosity got the better of him. Until he'd met Dean, Sherlock had been perfectly comfortable in his reliance on science and physical evidence, able to dismiss myth and religion undisputed. And while he wouldn't trade his newfound partnership with Dean for anything, the detective's small companion was slowly dismantling his concept of reality bit by bit. All this talk of demons and hell could be the straw on the camel's back if he didn't give himself time to prepare.

Rather than respond to this new information just yet, Sherlock erased his previous message and wrote, I'll run tests, confirm it's sulfur.

Dean read the screen and smirked. “Right. You do that.” He leaned back, contemplating the discussion that was coming. If they got too deep into it, he might have to reveal to Sherlock why he recognized the method of death. Burned alive, pinned to the ceiling.

Sam would need to be part of that particular conversation. Dean already regretted just how much his little brother had missed out on. Making the unilateral decision to reveal himself to Mycroft Holmes had been the right thing to do, but it was one that could affect far more than just the brothers if Sherlock’s comments about his brother were right. And Dean had no reason to call him a liar at all so far, and certainly not there.

Maybe the test results of the sulfur Dean had gathered would help his impending argument. Plus, he and Sam were compelling evidence all on their own that not all was as it seemed in the world. Monsters lurked in the dark, and not just the murderers Sherlock dealt with on an everyday basis.

Dean missed his colt more than ever at that thought, and forced himself to try and relax. The conversation couldn’t be avoided, he might as well just accept the inevitable.

After spending the rest of the drive in silence, Sherlock and Dean finally arrived at Baker Street, unaware of the second tiny man dodging the human's feet and clinging to the wool of his coat as he exited the cab. Sherlock trudged steadily up the stairs, feeling the tension leave his shoulders as he stepped into the flat.

John was awake and alert when the detective entered, but he slumped back down in his chair when he saw who it was. Clearly he had been asleep, roused from his light slumber by his flatmate's return. The doctor's head lolled back toward the shelf to rest on the Union Jack pillow as Sherlock carefully tugged one arm out of his coat. He offered this freed hand to Dean so he could remove the coat (and his stowaway) with Dean safely in his palm.

With his coat and scarf hung up, he carried Dean into the kitchen and let him off on the counter. If Dean somehow had any energy left, he would be able to fetch more food for his drastically larger household if he needed to.

Running an exhausted hand down his face, Sherlock turned to head down the hall to his own room to collapse. He grunted under his breath when he remembered something, turning to hold his hand out to Dean again.

"I'll need the substance," he murmured. "For examination."

“Right,” Dean said, blinking tiredly. The long cab ride home had him just on the edge of sleep. Though he wondered if he would be able to rest after everything. There was so much on his mind, trying to crowd in on his thoughts.

Digging into his duffel bag, Dean found the folded sheaf of aluminum foil. He made certain none of the foul-smelling powder had escaped the makeshift pouch he’d created to hold it, hoping to avoid smelling like rotten eggs for the next week. He'd never get the smell out of the leather.

Dean stepped up next to Sherlock’s hand and placed his findings there. “ ‘S all I got,” he mumbled.

Sherlock's long fingers curled around the tinfoil package, securing it to his palm with a nod. "This will be sufficient," he assured.

With that, he carried it to his work table across the room. He dropped it into a plastic envelope to keep it fresh and left it on the worktop for the morning. Stifling a yawn, the detective carried on to his bedroom to collapse, not to be seen again for the rest of the night.

Mark had his back pressed to the baseboard of the wall, waiting for everything to go quiet before moving. His heart had leapt into his throat at the sight of the human in the tremendous armchair across the room, easily recognizing him as the man who had beat Mark's former human Euan. One wrong move from that man could have killed Mark. No matter how peaceful he looked now, the borrower was not about to get mixed up with him.

Once he was sure the other human was gone, Mark darted across the floor with the intention of finding a way into the walls and back to Sam and Dean's home. Perhaps they knew what had become of his sister.

For his part, Dean resumed his interrupted search for food, quickly securing another biscuit for the packed household. He would look deeper into the cabinets in the morning, since he wasn’t feeling alert enough to scale up and down the shelves for a proper search. Aside from Sam and Moira, these people had known nothing but captivity and stale rations for at least the last few months, longer for some of them. A fresh biscuit or two would go a long way, along with the flavored cereal he’d found before their trip back to the building, left scattered on the makeshift table in Dean’s home.

It was a good thing he’d already fetched fresh water.

As Dean turned to go back home, he frowned. From the corner of his eye, he could have sworn he saw a shadow on the floor of the main room.

Had someone woken up and left the safety of Sam and Dean’s home?

It was hard to imagine any of them wandering around the flat. Sam and Moira were the only ones in the group that had anything to climb with, and Sam was too far gone to lend his hook out. That, and the thing weighed as much as a tiny brick.

“Who’s there?” Dean called out, leaning partially off the counter and stubbornly pushing the height from his mind.

Mark flinched at the sound of the voice, fearing he'd caught the attention of a human. Recognizing it as a fellow borrower, Mark backtracked and craned his neck to find the caller. A relieved smile split his features as he caught sight of Dean. Despite the other man's evident familiarity with humans, he was still Sam's brother. If he was anywhere near as kind as Sam had been, Mark was hopeful his sister would be in his arms again in no time.

"Hey!" Mark hissed as he jogged toward the kitchen at a normal pace. Glancing nervously over his shoulder toward the sleeping human, he approached the table and came to stand near one of the chair legs so the angle between him and Dean wasn't so steep.

"I was just looking for you, actually. Hope Sam made it back alright, I heard he got pretty banged up." His gut twisted with guilt at the memory of listening to Sam scream from the confines of Euan's pocket, knowing all too well that none of it would have happened if he hadn't used Mark against his own people.

He had to remind himself that that was over now. He was free, and he was so close to finding Anita.

Dean had a completely different reaction to seeing Mark.

“ ‘Banged up?’ " Dean hissed in return, some of his earlier spark of anger returning as he recognized the man who’d been with Euan.

He was much as Sherlock had deduced. Tall, maybe even taller than Sam. Bulky and muscular, someone that could hold his own in a fight. Someone who’d gone up against Sam and won, the person who’d taken Dean’s brother away.

“He wasn’t just banged up, his leg was broken,” Dean snapped, his hand on his hook by reflex. Sherlock had stopped him from chasing down this man before, but now the detective was gone for the night. Dean would have his answers for Sam’s kidnapping.

In one smooth motion, imitating Sam’s casual skill in the heat of the moment, Dean had the hook on the counter and was dropping to the floor.

The smile was wiped off Mark's face as Dean descended the rope quickly, closing the distance between them. He suddenly remembered the person who had run at him earlier in the night. That had been Dean, and he was clearly angry with Mark.

For good reason, Mark lamented to himself.

He backed away reluctantly from Dean, raising his arms placatingly. "Hey, mate, I don't want any trouble!" he insisted, keeping his voice low to avoid waking the sleeping giant in the next room.

Dean landed on the ground, quickly twisting the thread around his arm to yank the hook down. “Then you came to the wrong place!” he snapped, under no compunction to keep his voice down. If John woke up, he woke up. Dean wasn’t worried about the human being awake.

Stalking towards Mark, Dean curled up his thread by instinct as he ranted. “If you didn’t want any ‘trouble,’ you shouldn’t have taken my brother away in the first place!” He stuffed the hook and thread into his duffel, his attention focused completely on Mark. Nothing else mattered. Not their surroundings, not the way Dean was casually stalking to the middle of the floor, an area he’d normally avoid like the plague. Anywhere humans walked was a place to stay away from, whether they were friendly or not.

Except for today, right now, with the man Dean had to blame for Sam’s abduction standing so close. 

“If you think you’re gonna take anyone else back to your handlers,” Dean growled angrily, his fists clenched, “think again. Those people are under my protection now.”

Chapter Text

Mark's eyes widened and his mouth hung open as he continued to retreat from Dean. Though the man was shorter than Mark, his intimidating demeanor made him seem all the larger and frighteningly dangerous. Mark realized that this must be how others saw him when he was taking their freedom away.

The device strapped to his back clattered against the leg of a chair as he blindly backed into it, making Mark nearly jump out of his skin. Every nerve in his body was on edge, suddenly worried about his chances of seeing Anita ever again. Dean had been able to convince humans to help him rescue his brother. What sorts of punishments could he have in mind for Sam's kidnapper?

"I-I don't want to take anyone away!" he breathed desperately, pleading with his bright green eyes. "I never did. Please, listen to me!"

“Oh, I’ll listen,” Dean fumed, his mind full of images of Sam’s broken leg. How he had to help his brother to walk just a few inches to John’s hand, and had to lie Sam on his side to keep off the burn.

“But first I’m gonna make sure you can’t get to any of the others!” Dean said, his eyes narrowed. “How’d you get in here? Where’s the human waiting?” He glanced over towards John, glad he was downstairs if they needed him. If someone got in and tried to take anyone away, they’d have more than just Dean to contend with.

A cold pit dropped into Mark's stomach as Dean interrogated him, forcing himself to maintain eye contact with Dean despite how much he wanted to hang his head in shame. Wringing his hands, Mark kept shuffling back from the other man.

"I f-followed you here," he confessed, praying his honesty wouldn't be a detriment to him. "Hitched a ride on your human's coat."

Mark shot a quick glance toward the hallway where that human had disappeared, and another toward the one Dean had regarded. The last thing Mark wanted was Dean using that human against him. But he quickly locked eyes with the other man again, trying to convince him of his sincerity.

"But I came alone, I swear. I didn't bring any humans, and I'm not here to take people, I only want Anita!" he blurted, his emotions rising the more he spoke until they finally reached a peak and forced out a distressed plea.

“Well you can’t have her,” Dean responded, instantly assuming from the way the remark was framed that Mark meant to take her away against her will just like Sam. “She’s free like the others to go where she wants!”

He stalked towards Mark, and now that he was closing the distance, switched to a determined run.

Mark cursed under his breath, instinctively leaping backwards. This put several inches between himself and Dean, but not for long. Mind going blank, Mark took off running toward the main room, shooting past Dean. 

His longer strides automatically made him faster than Dean, but he didn't want to completely escape him. Convincing Dean he meant no harm was his only hope, and despite how badly Mark seemed to ruin his chances, that hope was all he had.

For now, Dean was chasing him, so he ran.

“Goddammit,” Dean cursed as Mark passed him by. One foot hit the ground and he shifted his weight, propelling himself in the other direction to give chase. 

There was no way this guy was going to get to the others while Dean was around, but damn could he jump. Dean and Sam might be able to push themselves to jump three or four inches in one solid bound, but that was as far as they could make it, a necessary skill when jumping from one piece of furniture to the other. This guy was in another class. Dean’s feet hit the ground in inch-long strides, and he pushed himself to the limits of his speed to try and catch up. Dean might lack in the strength department next to Sam, but he’d always been the faster runner.

“Get the hell back here!” Dean called out as he ran, arms pumping at his sides in determination. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do!”

Between sharp, panicked breaths, Mark let out a miserable moan. All he wanted to do was explain, but thanks to his own stupidity Dean was less than willing to listen. As sociable and hopeful as Mark had been growing up, tact had never been his strong suit. That was always Anita's job; she was indisputably the smart one.

And if Dean was to be believed, Mark might never see her again because he was an idiot!

Mark's four-inch strides faltered for a second when he crossed the threshold and heard the human shift in his chair.

John sucked in a deep breath, frowning a little with a soft groan. Dean's shout had caught his ear, dragging him partially out of sleep. Half-awake, John realigned his back and settled back down. A part of him, dulled by sleep, kept an ear out for the noise that had woken him.

Even the slightest movement from the human frightened Mark, and he took a hard right to put as much distance between himself and the possibly-waking human.

Dean cussed as he overshot Mark, his arms pinwheeling as he tried pivot in place. Normally he was more nimble than this, able to turn on a dime to outmaneuver Sam.

Facing the new direction, Dean’s boot dug into the wood flooring as he shifted his weight and pushed off. One way or the other, he was going to catch Mark before the guy found his way into the walls.

“At least no climbing,” Dean huffed encouragement to himself. No climbing meant he had a chance.

The chase resumed, Dean tailing Mark with as much determination as ever. “Will you stay still already?! 

Mark chanced a look over his shoulder, gauging how close Dean was. He wished it was as simple as sitting still, but he doubted Dean was in the mood for a calm chat. The coffee table caught his eye, and he sped up with wider strides. Mark took a strong leap, throwing himself a little over a foot into the air and landing with a tumble on the surface, glad for the distance between himself and Dean. This would at least slow the other man down and hopefully give Mark time to make his case.

While he was distracted, John jolted a little at Dean's voice. He gave another groan and rubbed his eyes. "Dean…?" he mumbled, blinking blearily around the room.

Mark shot to his feet, blood running cold at the rumbling voice. Nononono! His wide eyes flashed between Dean and the human, frozen with fear and uncertainty.

“Son of a bitch! 

Dean skid to a stop, staring up at the end table as it towered over his head. One leap. That’s all it took this guy to get up onto the surface.

“What the hell are you on, borrower steroids?” Dean demanded at the air since he’d lost sight of his quarry. For all he knew, the guy could be getting away up there and he’d never be able to see him.

One hand dropping to the strap of his duffel bag, Dean glanced over his shoulder to the half-asleep human. “Over here, John!” he called, knowing that in this case, he could use some backup. He had a way up, but Mark had just proved how fast he could escape Dean.

John was a different story.

The more John listened to Dean shout, the more his tone sunk in and just enough adrenaline kicked in to wake the human up.

Dean was in trouble.

Blue-grey eyes quickly found Dean on the floor, his distress over that fact overshadowed as he caught sight of something else in the waning firelight. Another tiny, unfamiliar figure standing on the coffee table in front of the couch.

"What the hell…" John's brow furrowed as he slowly rose to his feet, thoroughly confused.

Mark tilted his head back, trembling under the human's gaze. Time seemed to slow down and his heart skipped a beat. All hope of freedom flew out the window, and before he knew it, Mark was bolting for the far end of the table and leaping for the arm of the couch.

“It’s the guy that lured Sam out of the walls!” Dean shouted, giving chase to Mark from down on the floor. Though his heart stuttered at the reminder of how big John was while looking up at him from all the way down on the floor, Dean knew he was safe so long as the human knew where he was.

Dean parallelled Mark’s desperate run as best he could from down on the floor, not wanting to lose sight of the man while he was on the loose. Dean fully intended to find everything out about this man, especially why he’d helped lure people to the mercy of those terrible people and why he’d come back here. Surely he knew they’d be on guard now after being hit once.

“Don’t let him get away!”

John blinked as the new guy took off like a shot, not expecting him to be so fast or jump such a distance as to land well into the middle of the leathery arm of the couch. As bizarre as it was to see, it filled the doctor with determination after Dean's explanation of who he was.

Approaching with quick but light steps, John stayed mindful of where Dean was, trying not to throw him off his own chase. Until now, John had done his best to appear non-threatening to the smaller folk, but that was all but forgotten in pursuit of this person. The person whose obvious advantage had helped him elude Dean and abductSam. Despite the anger resurfacing at the reminder, John couldn't help but wonder why he would risk coming back after what he'd done.

He and Dean would never know if they lost him. And the stranger might be able to outdistance Dean, but John would be much harder to avoid.

Mark stumbled on the unsteady surface of the couch arm, panicking when the human drew near. The amount of influence Dean had over the giant, who had come to his aid right when he called, was beyond frightening. Mark did not like his chances if either of them got his hands on him.

Before John could reach for him, Mark made another frantic jump over the side of the arm, aiming for the bookshelf against the opposite wall. He overestimated how high and far he could throw himself from such a plush surface, completely missing the higher shelf he was going for and ended up colliding with the second one to the bottom.

His stomach slammed into the wood, knocking the wind out of his already sore lungs. Weak attempts to find purchase failed, and he slipped and dropped roughly to the hardwood floor.

Mark took off the second his feet were under him without waiting to catch his breath, barely noticing which direction he was going and frankly not caring. Incidentally, he ran toward the table he and Sam had climbed up to earlier, each stride reaching nearly five inches in length.

With a speed Mark wouldn't have thought possible if he hadn't spent years around humans, John crouched and stretched an arm to cut off his sprint. Mark gave a startled yelp and shifted his weight, jumping desperately out of the way. This time, his flailing arms found a grip on the seat of one of the chairs tucked into the small table, and he clambered up, trying to work out his next move through the roaring in his ears.

“What the hell is this guy, a grasshopper?” Winded, Dean had to pause to take deep breaths, exhausted by his all-out run through the room. His eyes tracked Mark until he was out of sight again, blocked by the surface of the chair from Dean’s line of sight.

Then he was off running again.

Dean craned his head back as he ran, keeping an eye on John since he’d lost Mark. Moments like this really ground in how big the world was around him, but he was determined to keep up as much as he could. He’d never seen anyone jump the way Mark had, all the way to the surface of the chair from the floor. It would make getting around in the flat a hell of a lot easier.

When he reached the chair, Dean had his hook and thread in hand, tossing it up before he’d stopped running. Sam might be the better climber, but Dean never missed a shot.

Mark cried out in alarm as the hook sank its tooth in inches from where he was crouched. A second later, he felt the air shift behind him, and he whirled around to find the human peering at him through the gap in the chair.

That moment he spent frozen in shock was his undoing.

The next thing Mark knew, he was surrounded by fingers and shut into a fist before he could let out so much as a whimper. Limbs shaking, he curled into a tight ball in anticipation of the powerful hand either crushing the life out of him or ridding him of his freedom yet again.

Considering how close he'd come to being with his sister again, Mark couldn't decide which was worse.

Chapter Text

"Got him," John announced solemnly, sitting carefully back and looking down at his hand. Now that he was no longer a flight risk, John's anger started to wane. This was the first time he'd ever intentionally trapped someone in his hand, and the way Mark was curling up and trembling reminded him too much of the other morning, when he'd accidentally grabbed Dean. It was not a pleasant feeling, no matter who he was holding.

With a glance at Dean, who would probably object to what he was about to do, John opened his hand a smidge to peer inside at his captive.

“Thank god,” Dean breathed, more concerned with John keeping Mark from escaping than what he did with the guy.

Abandoning his hook and thread, Dean raced along the ground towards where John was sitting, easily getting a handhold on the fold of his pant leg and scaling up to his lap. From there, Dean ran at the wall of John's torso. 

John stiffened with Dean climbing on him. That was a new one, and he couldn't help but stare for a moment while Dean ran across his thigh, seemingly intent on getting up on his own. 

"We need to know if there's anyone else here with him," Dean said, his mind racing. His thoughts were preoccupied with the danger Mark represented more than the fact that for the first time, he was casually climbing up John like he was a bookshelf.

Reaching John's shirt, Dean jumped up and started to climb, his fingers lacing into the threads of the shirt to find a grip and making the trip as safe as using his thread, so long as John cooperated and sat still.

John’s attention was brought back to his hand when the sudden tension there made the guy inside flinch. He glanced back and forced his hand to relax, fingers opening wider to give Mark room to breathe.

Even with the added space, Mark remained tightly curled, arms folded over his head for protection. His shoulders were shaking and his chest rose and fell with quick, panicked breaths. 

John's brow pinched, hardly able to believe this was the person who had helped take Sam away. He cupped his free hand beneath his occupied one, keeping his elbow lifted to give Dean room as he climbed up John's shirt-- which was a bizarre feeling, to say the least. He reached a curious but gentle thumb to touch the tiny machine strapped to the little guy's back, miniscule straps appearing to dig into his ribs.

Mark jolted back from the touch with a shout, pressing his back to the curled fingers behind him. He stared up at John with bright green eyes full of fright and with tears streaking his cheeks. John's hand lowered to chest level, concern painted over his features. The poor fellow was terrified of him.

In this new position, Mark could see Dean climbing up the human, and the borrower’s words finally sank in. Scrubbing at his cheeks to dry them, he worked up the nerve to speak again.

"I t-told you, mate, I came alone!" He swallowed thickly with a nervous glance up at the human, unsure if his high-strung tone was too harsh. "I wouldn't l-lie to you, not now."

Dean changed the direction of his climb when he reached John’s arm, grabbing onto the thick fabric and hauling himself up. Like this he was able to scramble up onto John’s forearm, and walk along the arm like he was using a bridge, a bridge that held Mark trapped at the other end. There was nowhere Mark could go where John wouldn’t be able to catch him again.

“And how am I supposed to trust that? ” Dean demanded as he walked closer to Mark, his footing sure on John’s arm, unwavering in his purpose. “You helped them take my brother away, why should I trust anything you say?”

Mark gaped helplessly at Dean as he approached, strutting across the human's forearm like it was nothing. With a defeated sigh, he gestured toward his surroundings.

"I'm in a ruddy hand! " he exclaimed, trying not to hyperventilate again. Dean could be menacing enough on his own, but with a giant backing him up, regardless of the inexplicably worried expression he wore, Mark was petrified. Frankly shocked to be alive. "You have all the power here, I can't do anything you think I'd do! I'm unarmed and I don't have backup! "

"Well, what's this?" John chimed in, pointing his thumb at the device currently pressed between Mark's back and John's fingers.

Mark shied away from the large digit, looking up at the human with trepidation. He hadn't forgotten about the human, but other than chasing and grabbing him, John hadn't done him any real harm. Unlike Euan.

"I-it's a t-tracker," he admitted, casting his eyes down shamefully. "Euan-- my handler-- could use it to find me." Mark forced himself to meet Dean's gaze. "You saw yourself, he's dead now. He was the only one with access to it, and now he's gone. This thing's useless."

Dean paused his stride at John’s wrist, one boot on the strap of the human’s wristwatch and the other foot on the barest sliver of skin that peeked out between his sleeve and the watch. Dean estimated his distance enough so that if Mark lunged at him, there was time to react. If Mark could take Sam on, Dean didn’t want to risk the guy getting a hand on him and using him as leverage against John.

He was confident in his fighting skills, but a tussle on a wrist suspended several feet in the air was on the bottom of Dean’s list of places he was interested in fighting on.

“If it’s useless, why do you keep wearing it?” Dean challenged. “And why would you come all the way back here? You have to know how we’d react after you helped them take Sam away!” His hand balled into a fist.

"I c-can't take it off," Mark explained, glancing between Dean and his human.

John's brow was pinched in a bemused frown, both from the information he and Dean were gleaning from this small stranger and the fact that Dean was standing on his arm like it was a bridge. Like this was a regular thing for them, which it actually wasn't. John did his best not to let this show, since Dean was on a roll with their captive.

Mark went on, grasping the tightly-bound wires around his torso; two wrapped across his ribs and another over his left shoulder, each at least twice as thick as his fingers. "It's rigged so if I try to break out, I'll get shocked… to death. And it would continue to send a signal so they could find my body afterwards. So even if I couldfind someone to help me get it off," which he couldn't near the base; that area had been cleared out years ago, "they'd find others anyway.

"I came here because I had nowhere else to go," he emphasized, pleading to Dean with his eyes. "I never wanted to help those people, to cause so much pain to people like Sam, but… They had my sister. If I didn't do what they wanted, they'd hurt her. And did a few times when I was just starting out, had no idea what the hell I was doing. Made me watch."

With a hard blink to banish a few stray tears, Mark pushed down those memories, needing to push through if he ever wanted to see her again. "And now you have Anita."

Dean found his tirade ground straight to a halt at all the revelations that tumbled out of Mark’s mouth. His lips thinned to a line with each and every one, no quick comebacks coming to mind.

“So she’s your sister,” Dean repeated, Mark’s strange behavior at returning to the flat making sense with a belated clarity. It was for family. If Sam was held against Dean, or threatened, nothing would be more important than getting him out of danger. He had humans on his side, and needed no deal with the devil to secure Sam’s safety. He pointed, and they saved his little brother, and all the other captives and never asked for anything in return. For that, Dean owed Sherlock and John everything.

Mark had no one else, and it sounded like he’d only ever had Anita on his side. Dean’s brow furrowed, but this time with concern instead of anger. “I said so before, and I’ll say it again. She’s free. The only reason everyone’s stayin’ at our place is because it’s safe, and they need to recover.”

Dean took a halting step forward, looking up and down at the device strapped to Mark’s back. “I think we should have a look at that. No one should have to be afraid for their life every second of the day.”

Mark flinched a little at Dean's approach, but his words made him stop. Anita was safe, and she was free. If what Dean was saying was true, he and his sister could leave as soon as they had their strengths back.

His heart beat faster at the increasingly more real prospect of touching Anita again, holding her close after years of being separated by a wall. It was almost too good to be true, and that thought was the only thing giving him a little trepidation.

Mark was nothing if not hopeful.

"T-thanks… Sorry again for all the… I'm terrible at making a good impression when I want to." He chuckled wetly, some of the tension leaving his shoulders.

John's heart bled for the man as he heard his story. He knew he had a bad feeling about catching him, and now all he could focus on was how snug those wires seemed. There was hardly room for Mark to take a deep breath. It had to be painful. John would want to have a look at it after Dean got the infernal device off.

Dean came alongside Mark at last. When Dean stepped from his wrist to his palm, John finally felt free to move. He flattened his fingers to give Dean as much room to work with as possible, and brought his other hand underneath the first for stability. Dean would need a steady hand for what he was about to do.

Dean hesitantly reached for the wires that wrapped around the man’s torso to carefully examine them. If it could shock and kill Mark, it could certainly do the same to Dean if he made one wrong move. A jolt for a human would be a lot more dangerous at their size, so this device wouldn’t require much energy to run, but it did need a source of power, and one that could be swapped out when it ran low.

As he inspected the device, Dean talked to try and ease the tension in the air, falling into his old habits formed raising Sam. “Lucky for you, I’m a mechanic. My dad taught me everything he knew about fixin’ things, and this is no exception. I even learned a few tricks from some other family friends of ours before finding myself in London. I gotta say, it is fun coming up with new ways of getting around the buildings here, heights or no heights, new ways of getting water,” Dean’s idea of making a pulley system to hoist the water up came to mind before he shook it off in favor of focusing on the metal wires connected to the back of the device Mark wore, “maybe even some hot water for once.”

John could see Mark’s tension with Dean so near, still instinctively wary, but the more Dean talked to him the more Mark relaxed. The doctor's brow shot up as he learned of Dean’s history as a mechanic, wondering what sort of uses he could put that skill to around the flat like he said.

Dean found the wire that connected to the power source, and swiftly gripped it. Here goes nothing. All distraction from the conversation pushed aside, John found himself holding his breath with Dean. 

Not many of the other ‘borrowers’ around the city knew much about human mechanics, usually focusing on other solutions to their problems. It was a weakness Euan and the others had exploited with Mark, but one Dean didn’t share. Remove the wrong wire, get shocked. Disconnect the power source, remove the harness. Euan had to have a way to remove the device if they needed to make any repairs to it. He wouldn’t want his pet killed by accident.

Finally, Dean exerted that strange extra strength he’d gained since falling under the curse, and broke the connection.

Chapter Text

Mark gasped sharply when Dean ripped the wire from its connection. For a moment he was stunned, half-convinced he was dead. But with the wire gone, he found breathing came a little easier, reminding him his life was ahead of him now. He was halfway out of the dark.

"Is… is that it?" he murmured, fingers absently fiddling the rest of the wires binding the device to him. Its hold on him was considerably looser, and Mark's heart began to lift at the prospect of true freedom. "Is it safe now?"

Dean pushed at the wires around Mark's chest. "That's it," he confirmed, tugging the device away from Mark's back. "That one wire connected the power supply, and once disarmed, it can't shock you."

Once the tracker was loose, Dean ripped out the two other wires, glowering at the thought that if he'd pulled either of them first, the nefarious device would have shocked and killed Mark and Dean together. With those wires gone, Dean could remove it fully. He scowled, tossing it carelessly to the ground. It reminded him of a shock collar, controlling Mark like he was nothing more than an animal instead of a person with his own thoughts and feelings. A sister to watch out for.

Time slowed down for Mark as the last wires broke off and the feeling sank in, when the constant pressure against his back and around his ribs disappeared completely. He froze, overcome with emotion. His arms wrapped around his ribs almost in disbelief, reminding himself that they were gone.

For good.

Mark's breaths stuttered with bottled-up sobs, feeling lighter than he had in years. After so long, he was finally free of everything Euan had done to him, made him do, turned him into. His head spun with shock, relief, ecstasy, and the ability to take in more air than he had in years.

After a moment, Mark felt a light nudge against his shoulder that brought him back to reality. He bit back a cringe when he looked over to see one of the human's fingers retreating as quickly as it had come to prod him, his bright green eyes jumping up to meet John's. The warm concern in that face was a stark contrast to the blind rage Mark had found him in earlier in the night.

"How long was that thing on you?" the human asked softly.

Mark blinked, swallowing past his trepidation to answer, "S-six years. It got removed every now and then, but mostly it…stayed on."

John barely suppressed a wince at the memory of how tight those wires were bound around him. "Look, um. I'm a doctor, and I can't help but worry about this kind of stuff. Mind if we take a look at your chest, make sure there's no permanent damage?"

Again with the blunt phrasing, but John was much too tired and far too concerned for tact.

Mark's brow shot up. "Uh, I-I guess," he stammered out, uncurling his body and lifting his shirt until his ribs were exposed. There were clear lines where the wires used to be, subtle indentations in the man's dark skin. Aside from mottled bruising around those lines, there didn't seem to be any major injury to Mark's delicate bones.

John slowly lifted his hand to eye level to better examine Mark's ribs, reminded of the first time he met Sam and Dean. Looking after the younger Winchester's bruised chest. So much had changed since that day. "Is it sore?" he inquired.

"Not so much anymore," answered Mark, surprising himself with the ease at which the response came. The human simply had a calming manner about him, the antithesis of the soul-piercing stare the professor used to give off. "I think it's just gonna take me a while to get used to breathing properly, eh?"

"I can't imagine," John replied, lowering Mark and Dean back to chest level. "I'll get you a cold pack before you settle in, just in case."

Dean nodded to himself as he watched John check Mark over, mostly distracted by thoughts of what they were going to do with the kid. There was no way Dean would keep him from his sister, not after everything they’d gone through to free everyone, but he wasn’t overly keen on having Mark too close to Sam. 

At least he knew John would be out here, watching. “You can stay at our place with Anita while you get better,” Dean offered. “Just don’t bother Sam. He’s gonna need all the rest he can get after today.” The memory of how Sam had slumped while Dean supported his weight came back. Sam was the most independent person Dean knew, and now he couldn’t walk or even stand on his own.

Offering a hand, Dean gave Mark a smile. “Name’s Dean Winchester, and the doc here is John Watson.”

Mark stared at Dean's hand for a second. He hadn't expected such a friendly gesture so soon after that intense chase throughout the flat. The excitement that filled his heart upon hearing that Dean was letting him stay threatened to overwhelm him, and he had to remind himself to nod in agreement to Dean's condition.

"Absolutely! I-I can't thank you enough, mate!" With only a slight residual hesitation, he took Dean's hand. "Mark Bend. Good to finally meet you properly, Dean."

Mark glanced up at the human, managing a grateful, if twitchy, smile before skimming the rest of the room, his eyes freezing on the bookshelf that hid Sam and Dean's home. Though everything in him wanted to be there as soon as possible, he didn't want to seem overeager. As generous as Dean was being, Mark had a feeling he was still wary of bringing him into his house. Understandably so, after everything Mark had done to his brother.

Mark wasn’t the only one who wanted to get back into the walls. “I don’t know about you, but I think it’s long past time to get some shut eye,” Dean said, glancing between the other two, and avoiding looking at Mark’s former harness. The guy had been forced to wear that torture device for so long. Taking it apart had felt good.

Dean waved at the kitchen. “You can get Mark all the ice he needs, but I gotta get back to Sam to check on him. I’ve been gone for too long now with everything that happened today.” 

Meeting Mycroft and Stan, checking out the deaths in Wembley and coming back to a confrontation with Mark. All that time since he’d seen the others in his home, and long since he was able to check on Sam. He could barely contain the nervous energy that had build up in him at their long separation.

Mark looked to John again and, for the first time in six years, asked something of a human. The last time, he'd begged Euan not to hurt Anita, and that plea had ultimately not been heeded.

"I'd actually rather go with Dean," he said tentatively, doing his best to fight a flinch as John's brow lifted. He clasped his hands to keep them from shaking as he continued. "I can survive the night, I think. Maybe in the morning we can do the ice?"

Mark practically held his breath as he watched John consider his request, letting it out with relief when the larger man nodded. "As long as you're not injured, I don't see why not. Just take it easy, and see me sometime tomorrow if it's still tender," John conceded.

"Yes, sir," Mark beamed. He braced himself as John shifted, catching himself staring at Dean. All he could think of was how lucky he was to have found a couple of human beings who seemed to really care about Dean and his brother. And apparently, that extended to anyone their size.

John reached down to detach Dean's hook from the chair and pass it back to its owner. While Dean coiled the line and stowed it away, the doctor stood and walked smoothly to the bookshelf, letting the borrowers hop off on the edge. "I'll be right here all night," he reminded them as he crouched to be at eye level with them. "Anything you need, give a shout."

Dean nodded in reply. “Trust me, we will,” he said. With all the people in his care, taking Mark in was a calculated risk, but Dean wouldn’t be the one to keep the man separated from his sister any longer. It wouldn’t take long to know if he was telling the truth, based on Anita’s reaction when they got in, and if something went wrong, Dean would truss the man up himself (there was no room for Mark to jump away while in the small home), or call out for John if they needed assistance like before.

Turning his back on John, Dean gestured at the entrance. “Try not to wake anyone else up,” he warned Mark, knowing by now it was unlikely anyone was awake. They were all strung out and stressed, coming off the experience of being captives and offered freedom at last. Based on his own experience with captivity, anyone that fell asleep was likely to stay asleep well into the next day.

Dean lead the way past the books, darkness falling over both of the smaller men as they vanished from John’s sight. It was comforting to Dean after an entire day out in the open, though he’d never admit it out loud. Something in him screamed against wide, open spaces, knowing how hard it was to defend himself from all angles, especially without Sam watching his back. That kid’s knack was invaluable.

“They’re right back here,” Dean whispered, keeping his voice down to avoid waking anyone. He stood back to let Mark go ahead of him, preferring the other man in sight. No sounds made it through the door to them, no voices hushing at their movement.

Mark swallowed thickly before stepping into the home. The last time he set foot there, he was little more than a tool, his human's plaything, with barely a will of his own. Now, his footsteps felt lighter than they had in years. Euan wasn't waiting for him anymore. No one was going to get hurt.

Mark was free. Anita was free, and he was mere inches away from her.

He peered around the darkened room as his eyes adjusted. After a few blinks, he could make out the shapes of people asleep on the floor, resting on piles of fabric. He started to tense up again while he carefully tiptoed around them, worried they might be more people he'd helped capture, but as he looked at each of them closely in search of his sister, he found that he didn't recognize anybody. A sigh of relief that he might not meet any more hostility during his stay had just left him when his bright green eyes fell on Anita's sleeping form.

Mark's breath caught, feet shuffling numbly forward. A part of him didn't want to wake her at all, the sight of his sister so relaxed and at peace after so many years of seeing her in pain if he saw her at all. He had been the taller twin since they were sixteen, but now she just looked tiny, obviously malnourished from her time in captivity.

However, he couldn't stop hopeful tears from pricking at his eyes as he saw her hair. Formerly much too long, matted and tangled from lack of care, now it lay in a short halo around her face. Just the way she always liked it.

Mark slowly knelt down next to his sister, cupping her face in one trembling hand. The warmth of her skin was almost too much to bear after so long without contact with Anita, and yet it wasn't enough. He leaned in close to gently kiss her forehead.

Anita began to stir, his touch dragging her from the depths of sleep. "Wha's happ'nin?" she mumbled, blinking blearily.

"You cut your hair," Mark whispered.

Anita drew in a sharp breath and sat up quickly, eyes round as she stared at Mark's shape in the darkness. "M… Mark…" she breathed in disbelief.

Mark beamed, eyes welling up with tears in time with his sister's matching bright greens. "Annie…"

She reached a hand up to touch his face, but her fingers hesitated before they could. "Are you… Is this real?"

Instead of answering, Mark simply took her hovering hand in his, her lithe one nearly disappearing from sight. Anita let out a quiet sob and, overcome with emotion, she wrapped her arms tightly around her brother at last.

Mark bit back a wince under Anita's powerful embrace, the pain dulled by the joy filling him from head to toe. He hugged his sister back, tears flowing freely down his cheeks as Anita sobbed into his chest. Mark gently shushed her and rubbed her back reassuringly, not wanting to wake everyone else from their well-needed sleep. She nodded and caught herself, quieting down to sniffles, just happy to have her brother back.

"I've got you," she murmured, both a reassurance for Mark and herself. She finally had him back, and she wasn't going to let him go anytime soon.

Dean watched the twins reunite, feeling as though he was intruding on an intimate moment. Anita’s reaction to Mark helped lessen his fears about letting the man who’d helped kidnap Sam into their home. The methods used by Euan and those other humans were more damaging to their captives than first met the eye; it made people wary of Mark when he was really just a victim like the others.

Deciding to leave them be, Dean picked his way through the others, checking them one last time to be sure they were okay. Gone were any thoughts of returning to the kitchen to grab food. He could do it in the morning. There was no way he had the energy needed to scale the cupboards or carry out enough food for the others.

Bree was curled up not far from Anita, fast asleep. Moira was between her and Kara, her eyes quickly flicking from side to side in her sleep and moving restlessly. Dean shifted the makeshift pillow she was using so it was under her head again, and her breathing calmed. Christian and Mikael both remained protectively close to Kara, and slept as peacefully as could be hoped.

Assured that everyone was okay, Dean quietly moved to the bedroom he shared with Sam. His little brother was stretched out on his back, his face slightly scrunched up in pain in his sleep. There was no good way for him to sleep, with his leg needing to remain stretched out and his back paining him from the burn, not to mention all the other bruises that covered his body.

Dean found himself clenching his fist at the memory of everything that Sam had gone through without them. If only he had been there, they could have kept Sam--

But no. It was over and done with, and he had to focus on what was important. Helping Sam get better.

With that thought in mind, Dean tossed himself onto his own nest, curling all the fabric around him into a ball until he vanished in the folds. It was only seconds before his eyes fluttered shut and his breathing evened.

John let out a long breath and pushed himself to his feet, left alone with the borrowers all in the walls. Though he was tempted to throw himself into his chair in exhaustion, he knew it was out of the question with people recovering so nearby.

Instead, John let his gaze sweep across the empty room. After witnessing and participating in a chase with such small people running around, it seemed much more spacious than it did before. In his own humble flat, John somehow felt small and far too big at the same time.

A tiny reflection in the corner of his eye, the smallest difference in the room John knew by heart, tugged his attention away from that feeling. With a frown, John approached the tiny device he'd left behind on the floor after Dean threw it aside. The device that had been attached to Mark, constantly threatening his life.

The machine looked so miniscule as John loomed over it. Yet it had been a significant part of someone's misery for years, and it went much further than Mark, or Anita or Sam. Countless people had been affected, stolen from their homes and lives and put into captivity, all because someone, on a whim, attached that device to a person who would do anything to protect his family. 

John's foot came down on the awful thing, and he wished it was Euan's face his foot was grinding down on. Even so, it gave him a certain satisfaction to crush the plastic and metal into the carpet, despite the fact that it was as dead as its creator.

His shoulders slumped as he let out a deep sigh, feeling the weight of the day's events slip away as he slunk to the kitchen to find a dust pan, intent in disposing of the last trace of evil in the flat. Then he'd return to his chair and go back to sleep, watching over the shelf.

Tomorrow was a new day.

Blue eyes stare back at her, and a chilling laugh rends the air. There is no floor, no walls. She is suspended helplessly, a unrelenting grip around her waist. Struggling does nothing, screams fall on uncaring ears.

“And this sweet child will be especially useful when the time comes.”

The voice falls like the pounding of stakes on her ears, and she tries her best to block it out. She will never help, never give in, never--

Moira awoke with a gasp. An older woman with cropped brown hair was leaning over her. Moira stared up at the stranger, her dark brown eyes locking gaze with eyes just as dark. No one else in the room seemed to realize she was there. Bree briefly turned over in sleep, smiling in Moira’s direction.

“Yes,” the woman said, a smile gracing her lips as she drank in Moira’s form. “You’ll do nicely.”

With a flash, the moment ended and the woman evaporated into thin air. The nightmare was dispelled in the silent night air as Moira’s chest heaved in deep breaths, trying to remember what it was that had torn her from sleep, trying to reconcile that with what she’d seen after.

But all she could remember from her dream was a flash of blue, and even the memory of the woman began to fade like a shade of another life.

Eventually, her pulse began to calm, and she lay on her back, shaking in place. She curled the grey fabric of John’s torn shirt around herself, trying to hide from the nightmares that grew more vivid each and every night. This was the first time they’d leaked over into the waking world.

It was a long time before she found sleep again.


Chapter artwork by QuackGhost!