It was hours after the training session with Stan had concluded. In that time, Dean had challenged him time and time again, persisting in the lessons they were working to drill into the agent's mind.
And, as it turned out, having quite a bit of fun while at it.
Dean's 'game,' originally conceived as a way for the brothers to practice escaping giants and now turned into a way to teach government agents how to rescue other borrowers, had become a hit between them. With Dean plenty willing to be the target, it was a good way to get practice. He was determined and inventive, and never pulled any punches, metaphorically speaking.
Though he’d probably have no problem actually punching the giants. It was a good thing he couldn’t do much damage, as excitable as he could be over it all.
Now that night was falling, 221B Baker Street was peaceful. There was no sign of Stan playfully trying to catch Dean, or Sherlock interrupting the game to serve tea at the worst time. It was a good time to rest and think.
Sam, his leather satchel over one arm and his crutch tucked under his other, slowly made his way out onto the shelf next to John's chair.
His leg was healing, but he was still under doctor's orders to keep any weight off it for a few more weeks, minimum. No one wanted the risk of the bone healing wrong or aligning incorrectly, complications that could make life difficult for a human, nearly impossible for a borrower. Running and escaping from people who meant him harm was a necessity, and Sam couldn't risk losing that.
Plus, he really liked climbing. Not to mention the look on Dean’s face when he outdistanced him with ease.
Since John was around in the flat, and Sam had checked to see if Mrs. Hudson was around (she wasn't), he took it upon himself to hobble out to the shelf on his own. A bit of fresh air could only do some good, and Dean had brought back several new shreds of paper for him to use. It focused him to be able to write out his thoughts, making a journal, of sorts, that was small enough for him to use.
Leaning against the wall of the shelf, Sam slid down, able to stretch out his injured leg and relax. He wasn't going anywhere fast anytime soon, but he didn't have to, and that made him glad to call Baker Street his home.
After agent Baker left, Sherlock and John ordered Chinese for dinner. They sent Dean off with as much as he could carry, even though they had been informed that he wasn't obligated to feed so many people anymore. Any little bit they could offer Sam and Dean was worth it, especially with Sam on the mend.
John still spent most of his free time in his armchair, relaxing and casually guarding the home he now knew existed behind the bookshelf nearby. With Sam stuck to a scant few places he could reach on his own, John preferred to keep himself within reach in case either brother needed help.
By the time Sam appeared on the shelf, John was deep in a novel he'd been too busy to read until now. Ever since he met Sherlock, and certainly after meeting Sam and Dean, John's life never halted for long. It was rare to have a little time to slow down and relax a bit in between cases.
He'd spent plenty of time on his computer earlier in the week to blog a little and update his resume to hopefully seem less 'overqualified' but still put off a professional air that didn't downplay any of his accomplishments. Now all he had to do was wait and kick back, warming his feet by the lightly crackling fire.
John heard and saw Sam enter in the corner of his eye, taking his usual seat on the bookshelf. He couldn't help a slight tug in the corner of his lip, proud that Sam was feeling more and more comfortable coming out for a bit of air even with John around.
And yet, John could feel the tic in his left hand from where it rested on the arm of the chair closest to the shelf.
With a frown, he spread his fingers wide in attempt to stretch the feeling away. Though Stan Baker had turned out to be a dedicated and helpful ally at heart, it had still been nerve-wracking to walk into the flat and see someone chasing Dean around. He couldn't bear the thought of someone trying to take Sam or Dean away so soon after the last intrusion, but he knew now that it was a false alarm, and he shouldn't be worried about it.
Clearly he still was. John clenched his hand into a fist before glancing at Sam. Not wanting to worry him, the doctor simply put the book down on the side table next to him and brought his twitching hand into his lap to methodically massage his palm to calm the muscles.
John might not have wanted to worry Sam, but it was impossible to hide such obvious motions to a guy small enough to fit in a palm.
Sam looked up from where he'd been staring into space, enjoying a moment of blissful silence after so much excitement. Soon he might begin to go through his notes, letting his mind work in cathartic circles of thought, staying away from the images of his captors that tried to haunt him while he was alone, but for now he let it rest. His brow creased when he saw John holding his hand tenderly.
“Are… you okay?” Sam ventured tentatively, ears slightly flushed. Little by little he was breaking out of his shell, but he still had moments where he grew shy even around John.
John's brow lifted as he looked over at Sam. He'd tried to give the kid as much space as he needed, aside from their regular check-ups and bandage replacements. Sam was still recovering from his ordeal in more ways than physically, and John was hardly unaware of how nervous he continued to be around hands, as much as he tried to hide it.
He didn't want to bother Sam with his own problems on top of dealing with the aftermath of everything he went through.
So John gave a small shrug, and said "Fine, yeah." His fingers laced together and he let his elbow lean on the arm of the chair, trying to come off as casual. "I'm alright. Really."
Despite everything, Sam couldn’t help the slight smile that quirked the corner of his mouth. “Y’know, I can tell when I’m being lied to,” he countered dryly.
To soften the blow, Sam shrugged, looking briefly away before regarding John with a steady gaze. “I grew up with Dean. He might think he’s better at reading people, but I spent my entire life seeing through bullshit, enough to know when you’re trying to get it past me.”
John sighed, shaking his head at himself. Of course that wouldn't work on Sam. It was almost an insult to presume to be able to lie to Sam at this point, given how much practice he'd clearly had in sniffing them out.
"Yeah, I didn't think about that. Sorry," John mumbled, looking sheepishly at Sam. "But it's nothing, honest. Just… my hand…"
As though it could sense that John mentioned it, the grip of his left hand tightened on his right. John let out another exasperated breath, shifting to wring the offending hand again.
Sam frowned in concern. “Doesn’t look like nothing,” he said, quietly insistent. One of the first times he’d been so forceful with John, in fact. Usually he’d let the subject drop while talking to his much larger friend, but this time a bit of his stubborn streak reared its head for the first time in weeks.
“Do you need anything from us?” he asked. “I’m sure Dean can help if you need anything.”
"Thanks, but it's not that kind of a thing," John insisted, scowling at his hand for betraying him after a while of relative calm. He took a deep, steadying breath and glanced back at Sam with a much softer countenance, leaning forward a little in the hopes of relaxing some of the tension welling in him.
"It's a tic in my hand," he explained, letting his right hand curl over his left to hold it in place. "My therapist called it a tremor, said it was post-traumatic stress. It just sort of … goes off sometimes. Never really think about what causes it. Never used to think about it at all until it was pointed out to me."
He thought back to all those therapy sessions he would attend, encouraging him to write a blog, diagnosing his tremor and offering suggestions for how to calm it. Forgetting about it for the most part until Sherlock's brother pretty much kidnapped him and tried to intimidate him into spying on the detective for him. John's hand certainly hadn't been trembling then.
“Oh.” The explanation derailed Sam’s concern, not sure how to respond. Sam’s life after being cursed didn’t deal much with injuries and trauma.
At least, not until Sam was the one traumatized.
He didn’t have a tic like John’s but often when he saw any of the humans around in the flat, he’d flinch at the sight of their hands. It didn’t matter that neither had intentionally harmed Sam, it was an instinctive reaction, worse with Sherlock because of the accidental bruises he’d left on the youngest Winchester’s chest.
“I’ll try not to point it out, then,” Sam offered, the one option he had for help. “Like how I try not to think about… certain things.”
"That's thoughtful of you," said John gratefully, offering a smile to Sam. "You don't have to worry about it, though. I don't mind it, just… get concerned about it sometimes."
John bit back a cringe at the admittance. The whole point of explaining it to Sam was to dispel the kid's worry. He knew all too well that all the brothers wanted was to be treated like equals and left in peace when they weren't helping with cases.
He knew also that he could very easily come off as overprotective of them, partly because of their size and partly because of their age. He was working on trying not to seem like a mother hen, but at the same time be conscientious enough of the smaller folk to keep them safe. Even from himself.
Sam shrugged. “Dean tells me not to worry about things all the time,” he said, resuming that dry tone he got when he was stating the obvious. “Doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Deciding it was time to change the subject, Sam asked “So, what were you doing when I got out here?” It would give John an out from the conversation, one much needed from how uncomfortable he looked.
John couldn't hold back a grin if he tried. Here he was, worrying about helping and being a potential danger to Sam and Dean, and the youngest Winchester was helping him back. It certainly was an odd relationship John had with Sam, but a good one nonetheless. John would always be proud of that.
"Just reading," he replied, tilting his head toward the book he'd set aside. With his concerns taking a moment to drift away, an idea came to John at the reminder of Sam's situation all those weeks ago. A problem he'd noticed while rescuing the kid.
"Were you, erm, planning on doing anything in particular while you were out here?" he asked, not wanting to interrupt anything important.
“No…” Sam said slowly, looking at the leather satchel he’d discarded to the side. Contained within were his notes and blank scraps of paper, along with some pencil lead. Brought along in case he needed something to work on and didn’t want to travel back through the shelf.
“I just… wanted some fresh air,” Sam explained. “It’s nicer out here. Lighter. The walls can be stuffy.”
"Right, yeah," John nodded. At the risk of suggesting work Sam wasn't looking for, or reminding the lad of something he might not want to think about, he continued.
"If you wanted, I was thinking… Well, back when you were in my pocket, that one time… I dunno about you, but it felt weird not being able to communicate well. And I kept thinking, in case we ever had to be in a position like that again, we should know how to signal each other." Now that he was voicing his opinion and idea, with Sam speaking more freely than he had in weeks, John felt himself relax into the arm of the chair a little. Even his tensed-up hand.
"So I thought, maybe I could teach you Morse code sometime," John offered at last, looking to Sam to see what he thought of the idea.
Sam blinked, then looked at John to be sure he’d heard right. “Morse code?” he repeated, turning the idea over in his mind.
The phrase brought memories to mind of watching old movies, listening to the beeps as they repeated. Bobby calmly mentioning that the people were trying to send out an SOS-- Save Our Souls, and taking the time to write out a few different phrases for Sam. He was just a kid back then, and it was another thing forgotten in the moment as soon as the next interesting thing came along.
Thinking over the possibilities, Sam leaned forward and tapped out the one beat he remembered from the movie.
... --- …
Sam grinned at John. “Like that?”
"Know a little already, do you?" John beamed, leaning forward a bit, his crossed arms on the chair's arm, temperamental hand all but forgotten in his eagerness. Seemed that Sam was already somewhat experienced. John reckoned he'd pick the code up fast, if he really wanted to learn.
"That's a good distress signal, real useful to know if you wanna go ahead with this." John gave a shrug. "Never know when we might need you to hang out in a pocket for a bit. Personally I'd rather avoid that, but just in case… We can come up with a system. That way we can communicate back and forth without calling outside attention to ourselves. What do you think?"
As excited as John was quickly growing at the possibility, he wanted to make absolutely sure that Sam was on board.
“I like the idea!” Sam hurried to assure John. “I think… it’s a good plan. Especially if I’m going to be coming with you more, right? I mean…” He looked away, realizing he hadn’t mentioned this to anyone. “I’ll get to come with you, right? Out of the flat? I know Sherlock likes having Dean around, I figured… we’d all work together once I was better.”
"Oh yeah, absolutely!" John nodded. He hadn't realized that had been a question for Sam, and he didn't want to overwhelm the kid by asking. "If that's what you want, of course you can come along."
John thought about it for a second, suggesting, "If you like, once you're mobile again, we could go for a walk or something. Just you and me. We can try to figure out a system that works for both of us, when there's not a case to make things too complicated."
Sam bobbed his head. “Anytime you want to go. I had fun when we followed Sherlock and Dean to the bakery that day. It’s not often the chance to leave the flat comes along.”
Leaning back, Sam stared at his injured leg where it was stretched out, willing it to get better quickly. “I want to help people, just like you and Sherlock do. Just like Dean. We’ve spent so long hidden away, it never felt natural, and now we have the chance to change things. So… I’d like to be a part of it, whenever I can.”
"I hear you," said John softly. He could see how badly Sam wanted to get back on his own feet, and though he couldn't magically make it all better, John would do all he could to get Sam there as soon as possible.
With a hopeful grin, he reached over to the side table and dug out a small notebook and a pen, propping it on the arm closest to Sam. "In the meantime, we can get started on this. Can't be too prepared, eh?"
Sam instantly reached for his satchel, digging out the blank scraps of paper he'd saved (and some Dean had found for him while he was injured) and pulling them into his lap with his pencil tip at the ready.
"Ready when you are," Sam said, grinning. The thought of having something new to learn gave him a surge of energy that had been lacking since his abduction. He was going to have this code down pat before his leg healed.
Whatever else happened in the future, Sam would not be left behind again. Not if he had anything to say about it.