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Aftermath: A Series of Consulted Shorts

Chapter Text


Dean groaned, shifting sleepily in his nest of fabric. One hand groped blindly for a cover, his arms prickling with goosebumps in the early morning chill of the flat. Taking off his jacket before bed made him vulnerable to the cold that seeped into the walls when the fire in the fireplace died down.


This time, the light voice by his side made him sit bolt upright, trying to blink the sand from his eyes so he could see in the dimly-lit interior of the walls. Staying up late the night before had left him groggy and unable to focus so early in the morning, the darkness all around trying to pull him back to sleep.

Dean looked around the dark room he shared with Sam. His little brother remained out cold, lying on his side to keep the weight off the tender brand on his back while also keeping his injured leg stretched out. The fragile limb would heal, but it needed time and Dean fully intended to give Sam that time. It didn’t look like he’d moved since Dean had sunk into his covers the night before, and that was for the best. Running around the day before with giants and taking care of a house full of rescued captives took all of his energy, leaving little for himself. 

Speaking of captives, when Dean turned the other way he found the source of the voice. 


Eight years old and barely two inches tall, the girl was scrawny for her age. The only sign she was recovering from her trials was the healthy flush across her cheeks and the optimistic look in her eyes, her spirit unbroken by Euan and the professor's treatment of the little people.

“You finally woke up!” Kara declared triumphantly, her voice a hush despite the exclamation, acclimated to quiet from years of living in the walls out of sight of humans in her own motel. There was an ache in Dean’s heart to realize he’d been cursed longer than she’d been alive.

Even so, Dean held a finger to his mouth to indicate quiet. Sam needed the rest more than anyone else, and he didn’t want Sam disturbed. Kara settled down, her grey eyes bright as she fidgeted in place.

“Okay,” Dean whispered. “Is everything alright?”

Kara bobbed her head, following Dean’s example for quiet. “Daddy’s sleeping and he told me to go back to bed, but I couldn’t wait to get up!”  She shyly cast her eyes down at her hands. “Since daddy’s asleep and I’m not ‘upposed to wake uncle Mikael, I was hoping you could help me make a new hook. Those mean people threw mine in the trash with the supply bag daddy made.” There was no denying the hope that shone in her when she looked back up at Dean.

Dean’s sleep-deprived mind struggled to keep up, vaguely remembering his promise the day before to help her find a new hook. Even without that, he could never turn away someone who, after losing everything but her father and uncle, still had such optimism in life. “Ah.” Giving up on sleep, at least for the time being, he shoved what remained of his fabric scraps from his lap, pushing himself to his feet.

Stretching his arms over his head, Dean felt his back crack with a satisfying pop! Kara giggled, then took the hand he offered, following his lead as he tiptoed out of the room. “C’mon, munchkin, let’s go get you some gear.”

The main room of Sam and Dean’s home was silent. Dean stood Kara by the table, leaving her bouncing on her heels while he splashed a drop of water on his face from the bottle cap he’d filled the night before, trying to wipe away his sluggishness. It worked like a charm, leaving Dean awake to face the morning. He attempted to straighten his crooked spike of hair with another drop of water and only partially succeeded, the short strands resisting his coaxing.

The other liberated captives remained fast asleep in the main room. Moira was curled up in her own nest of fabric not far from the table where Dean and Kara stood, near Bree. Soon, she would have to return to her home to let her parents know she was safe, and likely drop the bomb about the captives, not to mention Sam and Dean’s involvement with the humans in the flat. The trip was long, but not overly hazardous, and Dean would be sure to see her off if he didn’t have the time to accompany her back.

Mikael and Christian remained in the same places from the night before, looking like they hadn’t budged an inch since Dean dragged himself to bed, and Anita and Mark were curled protectively toward each other with their foreheads touching, reunited at last after such a long separation.

Grabbing clean pants and another black shirt, Dean ducked quickly back into the room he shared with Sam and changed. Shrugging into his leather jacket for warmth, he declared himself ready, snagging his duffel bag on his way back to Kara.

Kara excitedly took his hand again as he passed by her, and he cautiously led her around the peacefully sleeping forms, hoping to leave them all asleep to gain back their energy and begin to recover from their prolonged suffering. They were all snuggled close for warmth in the shredded remains of John’s shirt. Assistance like that was something Dean would normally refuse from his… flatmates, but they needed the fabric for bedding now. Without John’s help, all they would have to offer the others to sleep on was Dean’s small nest.

Dean had to sweep Kara off her feet to avoid Mikael, carrying the giggling little girl in his arms to the main exit from the home. The supplies Dean needed to help Kara make her own hook waited for them in the supply room placed next to Sherlock’s chair, but Dean had a stop to make first, for his own peace of mind.

The bookshelf looked better with the old tomes back in place, Dean determined when they got out there, finally seeing it again in the light. Less… open. Wide spaces like that made him feel naked and exposed.

The wood paneling beneath their small feet was smooth and dust-free, swept clean from Sherlock removing the books the day before.

Kara’s eyes were wide at her first real look at the flat beyond. There had been no time for sightseeing the night before when they arrived at Dean and Sam’s place. “This is your home?!” she squeaked in awe, her eyes briefly pausing on John’s armchair, where the kind human doctor had gone to sleep the night before, head supported by a Union Jack pillow and lolled toward the bookshelf.

Dean grinned as he knelt down next to her, ruffling her light brown curls into a mess. “You bet,” he said, sweeping an arm out to put the whole of the room on display. The desk covered in scattered newspapers and scrawled notes, the violin next to Sherlock’s armchair, the smiley-face painted on the wall with bullet holes dotting the yellow paint (one of Dean’s personal favorite vantage points for spying on the humans, back before they’d befriended them).

Out of sight from their place on the shelf, the vials and beakers scattered throughout the kitchen, some with experiments Sherlock was working on inside them, the fridge likely filled with more. Kara would never have anything to fear from those jars.

“Home sweet home,” Dean said, suddenly surprised to hear those words from his mouth. He had a home, and a place where he belonged. It wasn’t quite what he envisioned when growing up in the Impala, but it was his life. Even the sight of John’s slumped figure, as gigantic as a building and with steady breaths that Dean could hear from where they sat, was welcome. They had people they could count on, at both sizes.

“And the humans really don’t mind?” she whispered, her eyes wide as she watched John shift sleepily, brow slightly pinched.

“Not these two,” Dean promised, knowing in his heart, after all they’d gone through together, it was true. “You’ll never have to be afraid of John or Sherlock.”

With a sniff, John's eyes squinted open. From his armchair, even hushed voices from the smaller folk had slowly tugged him out of his light slumber. It was the entire reason he'd gone to sleep there, so he could be easily reached by any of the people crashing in Sam and Dean's home behind the bookshelf.

John gave a light groan, feeling a kink in his neck coming on as he lifted his head a bit to blink the blurriness from his eyes and focus on the figures standing by the books.

"Hey," he whispered as he rubbed at his eyes. He glanced at his watch, then offered a tired but warm smile when he saw the small frame next to Dean. "Bit early to be up. Everything okay?"

He kept his tone light and conversational, not wanting either of them to feel put on the spot. John wasn't interrogating them, just checking up in case they needed something.

“Dean’s gonna get me a new hook!” Kara declared, bouncing on her heels as she gripped the side of Dean’s pant legs.

Dean gently extricated her fingers from the fabric and had her stand in front of him so he could keep his hands on her shoulders. The only reason he was doing better than John with sleep was because he’d washed his face before coming out, otherwise his nest back in the hidden home was a heavy draw. Out of everyone in the flat, Dean had been up the latest, and now was awake the earliest. If he smelled even a drop of coffee coming from the kitchen, he’d make a beeline for it.

“Gotta get you back on your feet and climbing, right kiddo?” Dean asked with a grin, keeping his exhaustion to himself.

She craned her neck back and looked up at him with an excited nod. “Then I can show you how good I am!” she told John.

"I look forward to it." John's smile widened, feeling a bit more alert as though Kara were sharing her enthusiastic energy with him. He hadn't had much time to spend with any of the people he and Sherlock rescued from that horrible place Sam had been taken to, but Kara and her spirited attitude certainly stood out in his memory.

"Be sure to come and find me once you're ready for that," he added, realigning his back and settling back down in his chair. Not only was John curious to see the child's climbing skills, but he also would prefer to be around when she started doing this around the flat. He and Sherlock (mostly the latter) kept a great many things lying about, and John wanted to be sure she wouldn't get into anything too hazardous. Not like there was ever an occasion to child-proof the flat before, let alone for a child pushing a handful of centimeters in height. "I'm usually around."

“Okay!” she chirped, her light brown curls bouncing with her excitement. “Once I’ve got my thread allll ready I’ll look for you.”

“Once your dad is ready too,” Dean cautioned, visions of a tiny child climbing around and getting in trouble into John and Sherlock’s stuff dancing in his head. John wasn’t the only one who saw that as a recipe for disaster considering the state of the flat and the continuous experiments Sherlock had going on. Dean knew all too well how dangerous humans could be by accident. Sam had once almost been plucked up by John right out of a jacket pocket without John ever knowing both brothers were near.

“Say goodbye for now,” Dean encouraged Kara with a knowing grin, squeezing her shoulder.

“Bye sir!” Kara waved.

“Bye John,” Dean corrected, one of the few times he’d ever called the kindly doctor by his name instead of a companionable nickname.

“Bye John!”

John gave a small wave back, lifting his fingers from the arm of the chair and letting them drop back down. "See ya round, Kara," he replied.

Then to Dean he nodded, understanding that the smaller man had a rough night and an early start. He hoped that, once Kara quite literally let him off the hook, that Dean would be allowed a few more hours to catch up on sleep.

"Good morning," he bade as they turned to go, biting back a yawn.

Dean gave John a cocky salute, holding out a hand for Kara. She took it, her skinny fingers wrapping around just two of his. She skipped along at his side, her quick paces keeping up with his longer strides.

“I’m gonna show Uncle Mikael and daddy as soon as they get up!” she chattered on excitedly as they reached the books. “They’ll have to get climbing supplies too!”

Darkness fell over them and Dean let Kara take the lead. “Just take a right when you get to the back,” he cautioned her. “That way leads to our supply room instead of our home…”

His voice trailed off into silence as they slipped into the walls, leaving John alone in the living room.

The doctor sighed, glad to know that all the awful recent circumstances hadn't discouraged little Kara in the slightest. John had nearly forgotten how small she was, almost half Dean's height. It was lucky she seemed attached to the elder Winchester; he knew the flat and he knew the humans, and if anyone could assure these newcomers that they were safe, barring a badly injured Sam, it was Dean.

Still, John couldn't help but think about how much responsibility that put on Dean. He had no doubt the little fella could handle it. He'd jumped into a leadership role fairly quickly the night before, even asking John for help with providing them all with a place to sleep. 

But that was just it, no one could be prepared to suddenly go from feeding, watering, and sheltering two people to nine. John recalled how much food Dean had been fetching when he and Sherlock interrupted him hours ago, and as much as Dean hid it from Kara, John could see the toll all that work was taking on him.

John turned all this over in his mind, shooting a brief glance over his shoulder at the kitchen before relaxing into his chair and the Union Jack pillow to hopefully snag an extra hour or two of sleep.

Artwork by @mogadeer

Chapter Text

Contrary to his promise to Kara, John was long gone by the time Sherlock rolled out of bed and shuffled into the kitchen. According to the note the detective found on the morning tray of tea and biscuits that was always sure to appear on the table, his flatmate had gone on a quick grocery run. Not too long ago, if the warmth of the teapot was any indication.

Nibbling at a biscuit, Sherlock squinted blankly at nothing as he recalled the events of the night before. So much happened, and so much was revealed. The latter centered mostly around Dean, who introduced himself to Sherlock's brother Mycroft and one of the elder Holmes' underlings, and subsequently brought up a rather unsavory concept for the detective.

Reminded, Sherlock glanced at his work table where he'd left Dean's small sample in a plastic envelope. Sulfur, his small companion called it, left behind by a demon after it burned three people to death.

The thought brought on an exasperated sigh, and he angrily chewed through the rest of his biscuit while mulling it over. On some level, Sherlock wanted to hear Dean out. He trusted Dean as a partner and knew he could rely on his judgment, but the issue of the existence of demons was not one he was inclined to have on his own. No matter how much Sherlock tried to contain himself, reflex demanded he dismiss such ideas without John to keep him grounded, to shut him up when he needed to be.

In the two minutes he'd been awake, Sherlock hadn't seen or heard a trace from any of the smaller folk, much less Dean, so he decided to take the opportunity to kill time. He grabbed the sulfur and set his microscope up on a cleared space on the kitchen table, then set about gathering the necessary materials for a few small experiments. He knew the properties of sulfur well enough to be able to predict the results.

Perhaps it was childish to attempt to delay the inevitable, but Sherlock was bored and frankly couldn't care less.

As the morning marched on for the quiet flat, one particular new resident grew bored. All the adults in Sam and Dean’s small home remained passed out long after the sun had risen, leaving Kara to amuse herself.

After finding the perfectly sized paperclip for Kara in his stash nestled close to Sherlock’s bookcase, Dean had only stayed awake long enough to twist it into shape for her. Kara watched with wide, excited eyes as her new hook took form in front of her, the smooth metal catching the small bits of light that made it in the hideaway from the main flat. Dean also gave her some black thread, enough for her to be able to toss the hook onto the furniture just like she used to be able to.

For a time, Kara sat at the makeshift table in Dean’s home, idly winding the thread up so she could put it over her arm. Once Moira was awake, Dean had said she might have a small bag Kara could use until she got her own. Any bags Sam or Dean owned were too big for the thin little eight-year-old, but their sister’s would be perfect.

A groan came from the side, and Kara bounced eagerly for a moment as she saw the fabric covering her father start to shift, Christian lazily stretching out.

Then he settled back into the grey fabric nest and his breathing evened out again.

Kara let out a frustrated sigh. After so long spent without any climbing supplies, now that she finally had them, she couldn't use them! It just figured.

Stepping quietly over Moira, Kara peeked into Dean’s room. After helping her out, the elder Winchester had only kept his eyes open long enough to be sure there was enough food on the table for when the others woke up, then collapsed face-first into his nest of fabric, almost snoring before he hit the ground. Kara giggled at the memory. Her dad was like that some days, and she always ended up spending time with Uncle Mikael while he slept.

“Dean?” she whispered furtively, glancing to the side to be sure she wasn’t going to wake up Sam. That was a big no-no, and she didn’t want to let anyone down, especially not after Dean got her the hook.

“Mmm?” came a sleepy mumble from the nest where Dean was buried.

“Can I go climbing?” Kara asked, her whisper an excited breath.

“Juss…” Twin green eyes peeked out at Kara. “Only if someone watches you,” he finished, closing his eyes and laying back down. “No goin’ alone.”

Kara pursed her lips, thwarted again as Dean went back to sleep.

Maybe John was out there now that she was ready to show him her skills.

Kara’s hopes didn’t pan out with the good doctor out of the flat for a grocery run. John’s armchair was abandoned, the only sign of his presence the indentations in the cushion caused by his weight. Kara would never be able to make an impression on the chair like that.

Humans were big.

While she was standing on the bookshelf, disappointed she’d have to wait to try out her new hook, she caught a sound from the kitchen, where John had given her that healing gel that took the heat from her burn. She smiled at the memory, glad that they’d found nice humans this time. All the bad stories her dad had told her had come true, but something Christian had never imagined had come true as well-- humans that cared. Like a scene from a fairy tale Kara had overheard a human mother telling her daughter.

Sherlock was in the kitchen, working at a device Kara had never seen before. She wondered at its size, large enough to tower over even Sam if he was standing straight, and marveled that humans could use such things with ease. Maybe Sherlock would like to see her climbing.

Distracted from Dean’s rule about no climbing while unsupervised, Kara busied herself finding a place to hook the edge of the bookshelf so she could climb down and show off her new supplies to Sherlock.

After carefully prying open the tiny tinfoil package with tweezers, Sherlock divided the sulfur evenly between three empty disposable petri dishes, one to be the control and the other two to test. There was just barely enough sulfur to form miniscule piles in the center of each dish, but as Sherlock had promised Dean the night before, it would be sufficient for small tests.

Not as time-consuming as he'd originally thought, but he would make do.

With the first dish, he took a butane lighter and grazed the flame over the sample three times. Immediately the smell of rotten eggs permeated the kitchen, which Sherlock did his best to ignore. Once that aired out, Sherlock took a good long look under the microscope to see if the crystals had cracked as expected, comparing those to the control dish. Afterward, Sherlock exposed that sample to the flame a little longer, causing the sulfur to catch fire and melt. The yellowish substance sparked with blue flame and gave off another burst of odor, and of course this result was closely examined after it had cooled.

Next, Sherlock took the remaining sample and preset it under the microscope, focusing all his attention on carefully squeezing drop after drop of warm water from the teapot next to him through an eyedropper onto the sulfur to watch the crystals dissolve. He waited until the process had stopped after each drop, though given the size of the sample it wouldn't take long at all before it was all gone.

As focused as Sherlock was on his experiments, he didn’t realize he had a visitor. Kara, after a quick dash across the floor and a climb up the towering sides of the kitchen table, had arrived to scout out what Sherlock was up to and show him her new hook. 

Light and quick footsteps heralded her arrival, and she waved her hand to try and dispel the odd smell that was in the air. She was fascinated by her surroundings, strange objects towering overhead that she’d never seen before in her home motel, and certainly never while she was in the cage. The most scenery in that place was the trip to see the professor, and that room always made her shudder to remember.

A teapot that could be a swimming pool sat in the distance, an odd bit of color among Sherlock’s equipment. The microscope loomed the most, and Kara had no experience with such things to know what it was or what it did, but Sherlock certainly was fascinated as he looked into it. What caught her eye was the tweezers she stood near, a bright metal that reflected the overhead light back at her. She nudged them with a foot, impressed at the length. Each side was longer than she was tall, and she might be able to walk across the metal like a balance beam.

“Whatcha doing?” Kara asked Sherlock, her grey eyes bright as she looked from the tweezers to the human.

Sherlock blinked and he drew back from the microscope to lock eyes with the two-inch-tall child staring back at him. He frowned, glancing around the rest of the table to ensure she was alone. Obviously he had a tendency to get sucked into his work on occasion, but he thought he'd at least be able to notice someone approaching as closely as Kara.

"How'd you get there?" Sherlock shot back rather than answering her question. It bothered him that until she piped up he hadn't sensed the girl.

“I climbed!” Kara said with a laugh at such a silly question from the human. “How else could I get up here?” Sometimes she wondered what went through humans’ heads. They said such funny things.

She let the coils of thread slip down her arm and brandished the hook for him to see. Black thread pooled at her feet. Not completely sure he could see from all the way up in the air, Kara hoisted it proudly above her head. She could feel there was something about Sherlock that was different than all the other humans she’d met, and John too. They made her feel secure, and didn’t look down their nose at her like she was just a pest. Not to mention how Sherlock had saved her and her family, putting them safely in his pocket until they were far, far away from the professor.

“Dean promised he’d make me a hook, and he did! Since… the bad people took mine away. They threw out all our stuff.” She poked the tip of the hook into her palm. “Dean said Moira might have a new bag for me, so I haveta wait until she can go get it, but at least I can climb now! It’s been forever. I don’t know how you humans livewithout any climbing. It’s so fun!”

Sherlock arched an eyebrow as the child presented that bent paper clip attached to a dark cord, not so dissimilar from the fishhooks Sam and Dean used to get around the flat from time to time. The main difference was, of course, the choice of grapple; far less sturdy than the hooks he'd seen, but he supposed that hardly mattered given how little the girl must weigh. At two inches in height and much slimmer than any of Sherlock's fingers, it really was no wonder that she mastered the art of silence.

"Yes, well, humans have a tendency to alter the world around them to make life just a little easier. Always new houses to build, staircases, escalators and elevators. Everything's built to suit us specifically so we don't have to climb." As he spoke, Sherlock swapped the spent water sample under his microscope for the control dish for one last long look at the unaltered sulfur. He switched to a stronger magnification, readjusted the focus, and peered intently at the crystals, determined not to let Kara's visit distract him from his distraction.

Kara pursed her lips as she thought that over. “That doesn’t sound like much fun,” she decided, remembering how she and her dad had explored unknown parts of the motel. Places never before seen by any of the people that lived there, back in the days before they were stolen away. There was always something new and exciting, and changing things around to suit them less so. It wouldn’t be as much of an adventure.

“ ‘Sides,” Kara said as she thought it over, “we can’t all-ter things like humans can,” she stumbled over the new word, “people would notice, and then we’d get caught more.

All these new thoughts had Kara’s mind racing with different questions, and she couldn’t waste the chance of having a willing human nearby for answers. Her father did his best, but humans were impossible to understand and did so many things that were incomprehensible to the smaller folk.

“Why’re you so big?” Kara asked, pure innocence as she looked up at Sherlock.

"Because my DNA said I would be, therefore I am," Sherlock muttered while he reached across the table for a probe and began poking at the tiny sample to break down the larger chunks of crystal. His answer was reflexive and overly simple, a part of him hoping that she would eventually run out of questions if he kept replying.

“DNA?” Kara repeated, wrinkling her nose at more strange words from the strange human. Hidden away in a motel, Kara and her family had no exposure to high school or college students, even if she was inclined to look in on them while they were studying. It was better to keep far away from humans like that, though Sherlock and John were an exception now after what they’d done.

She wandered closer to where he steadily worked, wanting to know more, especially while he was in the mood to answer questions. “Is that like your mom and dad telling you things? Do you have to do what it says or can you be small like me?”

"No, it doesn't actually say anything, and it doesn't work like that." The detective sighed as he rotated and shifted the sample under the lens, deciding that perhaps he'd simplified too much.

He elucidated, "Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule, an invisibly tiny structure made of chemicals that acts like an instruction manual for living organisms. These instructions tell your cells what you're meant to look like, how your body is meant to function, and how tall you are meant to grow. You and I have no choice in the matter, Katherine, it is simply a fact of existence."

“It’s Kara,” she corrected instinctively, not expecting such an odd name from Sherlock. “Not Katherine.”

That aside, she mulled over his answer. She was too young to completely understand what he’d said, and she couldn’t quite remember the full name for DNA, but some parts made sense. She held out a hand, flexing her fingers. “So… DNA made me look like this? And it made you look like you and Daddy like Daddy. We’re small ‘cause it says so.”

Which brought to mind more questions. “If it’s invisible, how do you know? I can’t see it, and you’re even bigger!

Sherlock glanced back at Kara, surprised that she was still going on and frankly growing bored of seeing the same crystals over and over. He knew all too well that he was indeed looking at sulfur, there was nothing left to be found. The little girl was learning far more from Sherlock's mutterings than he was from the samples.

"I know because I studied DNA for a very long time, and now I work with it on a regular basis," he explained as he set aside the probe. "It can only be seen through microscopes like this-- well, not exactly like this, you'd need a far more powerful one to see anything like DNA, but I digress. It lets me see things much more closely than I would normally be able to."

While Sherlock spoke, he gathered the dishes into a pile and reached past Kara to drop them into a waste bucket. He could find some other way to pass the time while he waited for John to return. He just needed to think.

Kara had other plans entirely. She forgot her questions when Sherlock reached past her, still enamored at the sight of one of the humans moving so close by where she stood and yet feeling no fear of him. Fascinated at the sight of such a large hand, as Sherlock was pulling away, Kara snagged a hand on one of his fingers, using the crevices and cracks in his skin.

The skin wasn’t as good for climbing on as a bedcover would be, but Kara had no problem pulling herself up and scrambling onto the finger. She held out her arms, walking along towards Sherlock’s knuckles like she was on a balance beam, her innate sense of balance keeping her steady and smooth.

That was the last thing Sherlock expected from the small child, and he stared in shock as she crossed his finger with ease. Her tiny feet hardly made an impression on his skin, and he could only feel her steps if he concentrated.

For a moment he simply watched her, arm stuck half-outstretched to avoid throwing Kara off, dumbfounded by her behavior. He'd expected to get up, find something else to do with his time, and likely continue to answer the seemingly bottomless pit of questions the girl harbored. This was one option the detective did not foresee.

"What do you think you're doing?" he asked at last, his tone too confused to be the sharp demand he'd intended.

“Lookin!’ " Kara sang out as she placed one foot in front of the other, then hopped over Sherlock’s knuckles. “You’re the first nice human I met, why wouldn’t I look?”

Rhetorical question aside, Kara was quickly too fascinated to keep talking, staring down at the surface under her feet. Even through the soles of her small boots she could feel the warmth emanating from Sherlock’s hand. It took away the chill that clung to the air in the flat. Kara didn’t have a jacket like Sam and Dean did to protect her from the cold, mostly because hers was tossed out along with her bag and hook after capture.

The back of Sherlock’s hand was a broad platform, and she busied herself stepping carefully over the tendons so they didn’t trip her up. Kara held out her hand to compare, flexing her fingers to see how it reacted and imagining she was standing on the back of her own hand.

Her curiosity was drawn again to Sherlock, only this time she inched towards his wrist. The edge of his sleeve just covered up the base of his hand, and she picked up the fabric to peer underneath.

“It’s like a cave!” she called up to Sherlock.

Then she slipped up the sleeve to see how far it went, vanishing from sight.

Chapter Text

Sherlock hummed thoughtfully to hear Kara refer to him as nice. He supposed, compared to the others she'd encountered, he would certainly seem that way, though it was not a word often used to describe the detective.

Unsure of what to do, he observed her as she explored his hand, more than wide enough for her to walk across without a problem. He considered plucking her up and replacing her on the table so he could go about his business, but there was something intriguing about seeing her make observations of her own. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

All that flew straight out the window when she crawled under his sleeve.

Sherlock's hand clenched in surprise and his entire body tensed, falling entirely still. He felt her continue up his arm, but his mind was racing so fast that the rest of him had no time to catch up.

Being one of the least sociable of individuals, Sherlock wasn't particularly good with kids. Kara seemed to be an exception, mostly because the child was persistently curious and unwavering in the face of his intensity, unlike her adult caretakers and even Sam and Dean. He was wholly unprepared to deal with an absolutely minuscule child dashing up his sleeve, and nothing in his previous experience would help him now.


For the third time that morning, Dean found a voice by his side, whispering his name with some urgency. The urge rose up in him to simply grab his blankets and tug them over his head, ignoring the rest of the world in favor of some much-needed sleep.

Yet Dean’s deepest nature prevented him from trying, and when the second “Dean!” came, he blinked open his eyes.


It was hard to form coherent sentences after a night without sleep and a morning nap interrupted. His voice croaked and he blearily rubbed sand from his eyes, slowly piecing together the silhouette that stood in the doorway to his and Sam’s room.

Barely taller than Moira and much thinner than either brother, Christian gave off a nervous energy that set Dean’s own nerves buzzing just looking at him. The other man was rubbing his hands together, wringing them out as he waited for Dean to wake up.

Dean finally found the strength to push himself to a sitting position, trying to brush his hair into some semblance of order. One quick glance to the side revealed Sam peacefully resting, his leg outstretched. He hadn’t moved since Dean collapsed back in his nest after getting Kara her hook.

“What’s goin’ on?” Dean asked, bringing himself into focus.

“I-it’s Kara,” Christian stuttered, his nerves overflowing. “She’s missing.”

That cleared up any exhaustion. Dean sprang to his feet. “Missing? Do you know where she was last?”

Christian shrugged helplessly. “She asked me if we could go climbing, but I told her to go back to sleep. Things were quiet, and I must have drifted off again, and now… Mikael can’t find her in any of the nearby tunnels.”

A bad feeling trickled into Dean’s mind, and he pulled Christian out of the room so they wouldn’t disturb Sam. Others were slowly waking, and Moira sat at the table eating some breakfast from what Dean brought back the night before.

“I might have an idea where she is,” Dean said, remembering John’s offer to watch Kara’s climbing. “C’mon.”

Artwork by mogadeer!

Dean and Christian arrived on the kitchen counter right as Kara reached the crook of Sherlock’s elbow, giggling about her explorations, but they couldn’t hear her soft voice from where they stood. Dean skidded to a halt at the edge of the counter so he could call over to Sherlock, Christian only slipping out of the walls hesitantly.

“Have you seen Kara? She’s missing!”

Still frozen and in a mild state of panic now that Kara was further up his sleeve and nearly impossible to retrieve without risk of hurting her, Sherlock only dared to move his eyes to meet Dean's. One of the other Americans, the girl's father, was trailing behind him.

It was another moment before Sherlock responded to Dean, flummoxed as he was.

"Yes, I did… see her," he answered at length, turning his focus back to his partially extended arm. "Just before she crawled up my sleeve."

Dean paused, waiting for the other shoe to drop or for Sherlock to finish his joke. When it never came, exasperation bubbled out of him.

“Your sleeve? ” Dean demanded, his voice flat as he pulled his hook out by instinct and attached it to the side of the counter in one swift motion. “She went up your sleeve.

Christian froze, and his eyes followed Sherlock and Dean’s as they all stared at the human’s sleeve where a little bump could just be made out as Kara started to climb up Sherlock’s arm.

“Kara!” Christian cried out as loud as he could. “What have I told you about leaving the walls without me?”

Dean rolled his eyes and gestured Christian over. “She can’t hear you,” he reminded the girl’s stressed father. “We’re too far away. How fast are you at climbing?”

Christian stared at the black thread that Dean proffered. “Fast,” he said.

“Good, you first.” Dean pushed the thread into Christian’s hands and patted him on the back, almost knocking the smaller and thinner man off balance before he started his climb down. Dean shortly followed, ruminating that if anything, his time around Sherlock and John was doing wonders for his climbing skills. He made use of one of Sam’s tricks, holding the thread with the sleeve of his jacket so he could slide down to the floor much faster. They needed to get over to that table, and it didn’t look like Sherlock would be able to offer them a hand.

Sherlock let out a long breath as he watched the two small men approach. He could feel his tensed muscles slowly relaxing, with the exception of the arm Kara climbed on out of sight. It was difficult to feel her movements given how light she was, but Sherlock concentrated hard on the tiny crawling sensation.

"Thought you two were supposed to be in charge of her," muttered Sherlock, keeping his eyes diligently on his sleeve with only a few spared glances at Dean and Christian to mark their progress.

Christian flinched at the tone from Sherlock, his grey eyes wide and fearful as he craned his neck to look up at the human, but Dean was having none of Sherlock’s lip.

Tugging his hook off the counter to catch it in one smooth motion, Dean rounded on the detective as he stalked towards the table. “Oh, right. I’m supposed to be watching everyone that’s staying in my house at all hours of the day, despite the way I spent most of the night out, had to stay up even later because you didn’t notice you had a stowaway, and was already up once this morning already because Kara wanted help and everyone else was asleep.”

“I was watching her,” Christian chimed in timidly, “but she’s always good at slipping away--”

Dean froze him with a glare as he tossed up his hook, catching it on the top with unerring accuracy as always with a quick gesture for Christian to start climbing. As Christian started to expertly scale the thread with skill that might be equal to Sam’s, though the speed was much slower, Dean went on with his voice raised so Sherlock could hear.

“Besides! How did she just get up your sleeve? Did you just sit there and watch, or did she sneak up on you?”

Sherlock frowned at the mention of a stowaway, but he shook that off in time to roll his eyes at Dean's questions.

"She grabbed onto my fingers and climbed onto the back of my hand, what would you have me do? Pluck her up and send her packing?"

The detective gave another, more irate sigh, but continued in an even tone as Dean began his ascent. "In any case, I hardly expected her to do such a thing, and by the time I thought to do anything about it she was out of reach."

Christian reached the top, hauling himself over the edge of the table with a huff. He stepped back nervously from Sherlock, continuing to wring his hands as Dean slowly made his way up. “S-sorry,” he managed to get out, face flushed.

At the collar of Sherlock’s shirt, Kara popped out of the fabric with a grin that only broadened when she saw Christian. “Daddy, look!” she called, waving at him.

“Kara get down here!” Christian called with his most commanding voice (not commanding at all), beckoning her down.


Dean finally made it with a grunt, rolling over the lip of the table. “Climbing, it’s always climbing,” he muttered in annoyance. “You stay here in case she comes back down, I’ll go grab her,” he told Christian as he pushed himself into a run, jumping onto the hand Sherlock continued to hold out. “And neither of you move a muscle!” he barked at Kara and Sherlock.

Kara laughed, sensing the start of a new game. “Can’t catch me!” she called out, scrambling to the back of Sherlock’s shoulder.

Sherlock resisted the urge to turn his head to the side to look at Kara, knowing he wouldn't be able to see her anyway. His experience with Dean had taught him that much.

Unlike Kara, Sherlock remained obediently still as Dean gave chase, grateful to be able to see and feel the smaller man climb. He was much heavier than Kara, who continued to move out of the detective's sight, sending involuntary shivers down Sherlock's spine as she brushed the back of his neck.

Kara clung to the back of Sherlock’s neck, using the little hairs that stood on end to keep from falling. “It’s like an earth-quake! ” she said, making a face as she sounded out another unfamiliar word she’d picked up from humans. “Only it should be called a Sherlock-quake ‘cause you’re not earth!”

Dean sent one last glance over his shoulder to check on Christian, spotting the other man standing nervously close to Sherlock’s frozen hand. Reassured Christian would be fine, Dean resumed his path towards Kara. Dean trusted the detective not to bother the other man. Hell, as frozen as Sherlock looked, he wasn’t going to bother anyone until Dean fetched Kara down.

“It’s like my hair!” Kara called down, and Dean looked up in time to have his breath catch in his throat.

“Be careful!” he called as he started to scale up Sherlock’s biceps, just in time to see Kara using the dark curls that were just in reach for her to climb up.

Chapter Text

One of the last people in the flat to wake up, Sam groaned as he tried to stretch in place.

That didn’t last long as the pain from his back and leg came flooding back. The groan became a moan of pain, and he settled back down, blinking blearily at the room around him.

Home. He was home safe, the dark walls around him a comfort.

Close by, he could see Dean’s nest of fabric. The elder Winchester was no longer there, however, and for a moment Sam’s heart jumped in his throat. The fear of being alone in the world with no one to watch his back hit him again.

As Sam was locked in his panic, the sounds of the world around him began to slip through the cracks. A murmur of voices in the brothers’ main room, Moira’s laugh. Distantly, Sherlock’s deep rumble as he argued with someone Sam couldn’t make out. Either a phone call--

--Or Dean.

Sam pushed himself up, eyeing his leg critically. There wasn’t much hope he’d be able to get himself up or down any of the furniture in the flat until it healed, but maybe he could use the wall to support his weight. Enough so that he could get around the house without Dean helping him out.

His struggles to stand drew attention soon enough. Sam couldn’t get to his feet without putting weight on the broken leg, and he sagged back to the floor. Mikael materialized at the opening to the bedroom, his brow furrowing with concern when he saw the state Sam was in.

“You shouldn’t put any weight on that at all if you want to climb again,” he scolded fiercely as he came over to offer Sam a hand. “Give me a call the next time you need help.”

“I was…” Sam was out of breath by the time they were standing, one arm draped over Mikael’s shoulders. It was times like this he regretted being the tallest around by far. Mikael and Dean were both too short to really support him when he walked. “I need to find Dean.”

He couldn’t put to words just why he needed to see his older brother. It was just a fact. Sam had spent so long the day before believing he’d lost his family for good, he needed to see him and know he was okay.

Mikael’s look softened. “Dean’s helping Christian find Kara. Come on, I’ll take you the way they went. I didn’t see anywhere you’d have to climb.”

Halting and hesitant, the two men slowly made their way out of the small home in the walls.

Dean finally reached Sherlock’s shoulder with a huff just as Sam and Mikael slipped out of the wall on the counter. Sam blinked when he saw Sherlock sitting there placidly, and Dean throwing his arms up in exasperation.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dean groaned as he saw where Kara had got to.

Sherlock finally allowed his arm to relax the second no one was climbing it, lowering it to the table with care so as to disturb the nearby man as little as possible. A flicker of movement caught his eye across the room, but the human's focus was elsewhere.

He was paying close attention to the two people on his shoulders, as close as he could without looking, and it took a moment for him to figure out what Kara was doing. Light tugs on his hair and a crawling sensation at the base of his scalp that took effort to resist scratching at. Sherlock was utterly nonplussed to conclude that Kara was climbing through his hair.

The notion of reaching up to retrieve the child passed briefly through his mind, quickly written off as too much of a risk. Compared to Kara, Sherlock's curls were like a jungle. It would take some digging to find her in a blind grab, and considering the creeping feeling spreading through his nerves with every move she made and the tugs which were likely higher up than Kara's actual location, there wasn't much hope for accuracy.

The most the human could achieve, in all likelihood, was knocking Kara loose. A less than desirable outcome. So Sherlock took a long, deep breath and trusted Dean to find a way to get her down.

“Just… don’t move,” Dean warned Sherlock severely.

I can’t believe I’m about to do this.

Before he could rethink his actions, Dean stood on his tiptoes on Sherlock’s shoulder, stretching to reach the black curls that cascaded down from above. Never once had Dean ever considered climbing up there, yet here he was.

Kara thought it was all the greatest game, squirming up to the top of Sherlock’s head. She could see the entire kitchen from up on the high perch, and waved at the distant forms of Sam and Mikael when she saw them over on the counter. 

Using Sherlock’s curls, Dean was able to get a good grip to climb, carefully bracing his boots against Sherlock’s neck while he climbed and tried his best to treat it like walking up a severely steep incline. The hairs were slick compared to the coarse thread the brothers used to climb, and he had to tighten his grip to avoid falling back down.

Sherlock blinked in lieu of a flinch when Dean started climbing after Kara. He was much heavier than the girl, his steps more defined, and his tugs strong enough to elicit a wince every now and then. Doing his best to heed Dean's warning, Sherlock continued to breathe through it all, fighting against shudders and blinking back twitches.

“Hi, Uncle Mikael! Look how high I am!”

Kara's voice ringing out from the top of his head caught Sherlock off-guard, and his eyes darted around the room for the subject of her greeting. The two tiny figures on the counter caught his full attention at last, the older gentleman Kara called her uncle Mikael, and Sam. There was no mistaking the younger Winchester; his height and the way he relied heavily on the other were both dead giveaways.

Deciding to ignore them for the moment like he was already doing with Christian, Sherlock focused on the fact that Kara was on top of his head. His hair wasn't nearly as thick up there as it was where Dean was currently climbing, and he considered how easy it would be to simply scoop her up from there.

His eyes rolled up as he turned over this thought, trying to sense where exactly Kara stood, and unwittingly his head tilted back in the slightest millimeter or two.

This movement caught Dean off guard, and left the smaller man clinging to the curls in surprise. “What did I say about movin'?" he scolded, frozen in place until he was absolutely certain Sherlock wasn’t going to knock him off. “This is hard enough already! I’d like to see you climb someone’s hair.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself and forcing any thought of how high up he was suspended in the air on a moving person, Dean started to climb again.

Only now, he put more effort into where his boots dug into Sherlock’s scalp. 

For traction.

Clenching his jaw to keep himself from physically reacting to what felt like tiny kicks to the skull from Dean, Sherlock rolled his eyes without moving his head and resigned himself to being everyone's jungle gym today. Why not.

All he could do was breathe and move his eyes, and all he had to look at were the three smaller folk in the kitchen with him, staring back at him.

And to top it all off, before long Sherlock heard the slam of the door downstairs and ascending footsteps, both of which brought on an annoyed sigh. John was back and Sherlock was stuck with two tiny people climbing his head. Perfect.

Over on the counter, Sam’s mouth almost dropped at the way Sherlock let Dean get away with his griping. Even from where he and Mikael stood to watch the antics, several feet away, Sam could see that Dean was digging his boots in more than he needed to, and Sherlock was letting him. No threats like Euan would make, not even a complaint.

After his experiences the previous day, Sam had almost forgotten what it was like to be around humans that cared.

Triumphantly, Dean pulled himself up into Sherlock's head. “There you are!” he declared, running to catch Kara.

She giggled as she tried to dodge out of the way, but there was no escaping Dean’s arms as he swept her up into a firm hold.

“Didja see how good I am?” Kara asked as she squirmed in his arms. “Best there is!”

A hair of tension left Sherlock's shoulders as it sounded like Dean caught up with Kara. Their shifts were difficult to decipher-- What I wouldn't do for a MIRROR right about now-- so he had to ask, "Have you got her?"

"Eh?" called John as he neared the landing, assuming Sherlock was speaking to him. Sherlock's back was to the kitchen door, so all the detective could hear was the halting of John's footsteps in the threshold and the faint rustling of plastic grocery bags.

Of all the things John expected to come home to, this was far from on the list. Dean and Kara standing on Sherlock's head, the detective seemingly stuck underneath them. The more John took it in, slowly skirting the kitchen table to meet Sherlock's side-eyed glare with an ever-widening grin, the more amused he became.

"Shut up," Sherlock hissed, eyes narrowing at his flatmate's insufferable smile.

Chapter Text

John considered playing it cool, containing his mirth to spare Sherlock, but after such a long and stressful night following nearly an entire day of nothing but worry, he couldn't hold it in. Once he started giggling, he just couldn't stop.

Sam looked up as John started laughing, a smile slowly forming on his face as the sheer ridiculousness of what he’d woken up to started to really sink in. Dean looked confused where he stood on Sherlock’s head, holding out Kara and staring blankly at John. Then, slightly betrayed when he realized Sam was laughing along.

“Here--” Sam managed to gasp out between laughs. “Let me just…”

Mikael helped him sit on the counter, stretching his bad leg out and leaning against a glass beaker for support.

Dean shook his head in annoyance. Of course Sam would be around for the part where he was practically swimming in Sherlock’s curls holding up a kid so she didn’t get lost.

“I got her,” Dean confirmed. Then, to Kara, “Next time, you’re sticking in the walls unless one of us is with you, okay?”

“‘Kay,” Kara replied gamely. “Toldja I could climb good!”

Dean shook his head. “You sure did. Next time, wait for me so you can show me.”

"We shall all be grateful," muttered Sherlock, reaching up a hand to scoop up Dean and Kara at once. He was completely done with being frozen, unable to so much as move while Dean did all the work climbing his hair and kicking his scalp. Even so, he was careful with his grip as he snatched them from the top of his head, opening his hand as soon as it was level and promptly lowering them to the table next to Christian.

Dean didn’t lower Kara to the ground until Christian was next to them, and her father sealed a hand around her wrist. "What did I tell you about running off on me?" Christian hissed, tugging her back from Sherlock to gain some distance from his hand.

Kara stuck her lip out. "But everyone was asleep, and I've wanted to climb for months," she complained loudly.

"No one got hurt," Dean soothed Christian, wondering how such a nervous man managed a girl as rambunctious as Kara.

Or maybe that was why he was on edge all the time. Experience.

"Just make sure someone's with you the next time you want to leave the walls," Dean said, squatting down next to Kara. "We can't go running off on our own, now, can we?"

"I guess," Kara said in reply. "I like exploring though! We spent so long all locked up."

"We'll check out the walls later," Christian muttered. "I promise you'll get to explore." He brushed a hand through her curls.

For his part, John continued into the kitchen on autopilot as his spell of laughter began to peter out. He almost started to put away the groceries he'd just bought, but if there was anything he was just reminded of, it was that their flat was more occupied than usual. He finally noticed Christian next to Sherlock's hand, and after a quick glance around the kitchen he found Sam and Mikael on the counter nearby.

That sobered the doctor right up.

"Hey, Sam," John greeted, still grinning as he set the groceries down on the floor near the counter. "How are you feeling?"

Sam shifted where he was sitting, unable to hide all the discomfort he felt. "Better than it was before you found me yesterday," he said honestly, skirting around how much it hurt by habit.

"Caught him trying to walk," Mikael said bluntly.

Sam's ears turned red, and he wanted to bury his face in his hands. "I was trying to find Dean!" he protested.

John scratched the back of his neck with an awkward chuckle, glancing back at Sherlock as he leaned back in his chair and pointedly ran both hands through his curls in attempt to claw away the phantom sensations of tiny people crawling around back there.

"Yeah, that may have been my fault," John admitted. "I promised Kara I'd be around to watch her climb and, well, then I left."

Turning back to Sam, John chose his next question carefully. As a doctor, John was responsible for tending to his patient's injuries; and as a friend, he was concerned. Suffering traumatic injury, unable to walk properly without aid, feeling helpless… John would bet that he was the only person in the room that understood what Sam was going through. Understood the desire-- the need for self-sufficiency and how much it dug at him to have his own helplessness pointed out.

Unfortunately, Sam's injury was far from psychosomatic like John's limp had been. There was no quick fix that even Sherlock Holmes could whip up on a whim.

"How 'bout the burn?" he asked. "How did the gel treat you?"

“It’s better,” Sam said, unable to stop from rotating his shoulder. The skin on his back stretched with the movement, and he winced. “It helped me sleep.”

Over on the table, Dean ignored Sherlock and his antics with his curls now that he was free of anyone standing or climbing on him. It felt like weeks since Dean had last seen his little brother instead of just the other night. So much had happened, and he dreaded how much information he had to fill Sam in on. There could be no secrets between them, but Sam deserved to rest and recover instead of worry over mysterious deaths and fires.

“C’mon, Kara,” Christian said nervously, pulling her to the edge of the table. “We should get back and get you some breakfast.”

She hoisted up her new makeshift hook. “I even have my own hook now!”

“Oh, trust me, I know all about it,” Christian muttered.

At the sound of tiny voices, John briefly regarded Kara and Christian. They seemed to be preparing to leave; he wasn't about to stop them if that's what they wanted to do, but he did have to refrain from offering them a lift. Knowing Kara, she'd be eager for the ride, but her poor father seemed plenty frazzled already. John recalled that he seemed like an anxious fellow by nature, one who had only just escaped captivity. He needed time.

It was one thing to offer help when everyone had just gone through an intense ordeal, but John had a feeling that if he kept that up he'd only make them uncomfortable, at best. He'd only provide assistance if they asked for it or in emergency circumstances.

For the most part.

"I should probably have a look at that before you go back," he informed Sam, mindfully pulling a chair closer so he wouldn't tower over the counter, "change the bandage and apply more medicine."

“Yeah, uh, right,” Sam said, trying to hide the wince at the thought of letting John so close to his injuries again. He knew it wasn’t John’s fault for any of it, and trusted the man to treat him with care, but after being pinned down by fingers as long as he was tall and broken, something in him froze up at the thought of how vulnerable he was next to the human doctor.

But Sam knew, deep inside, that John would never be like those people, and did his best to push away those damaging impressions.

“We should race to the bottom!” Kara said, breaking through Sam’s worry with a voice as bright as the sun. She was the only one who showed no signs of fear for the two humans in the room aside from Dean, resilient in her childhood and unending optimism.

Christian glanced at Dean. “You mind if I--” he asked haltingly, glancing at the hook Dean had left attached to the side of the table while chasing Kara.

Dean waved it off. “Feel free.”

Kara already had her makeshift paper clip hook in the side of the table during their aside, and quickly built up a head start on Christian while he swung down to follow on Dean’s thread. He caught up to the tiny kid in no time, passing her with a grin as some of the tension of being near humans wore off with the exposure to his daughter’s excited demeanor. “Make daddy proud!”

John was certainly glad to be sitting in the chair by the time the father and daughter started down their ropes toward the floor. Somehow he felt like less of a hazard to them while seated. That left Dean with Sherlock, which had more than proven to be a safe arrangement. The taller of the two pulled out his phone, seemingly ignoring the tiny folk, so John didn't worry about them as he reached for the first aid kit he'd left on the table.

"Might be best if we just get it over with," John suggested, opening the kit but waiting for Sam's okay before taking anything out.

He took a moment to prepare himself to see the brand again. The night before he'd had no idea what those people had done to poor Sam and it caught him by surprise; while his guard was dropped Sam caught sight of John's outraged glare. Accidentally scaring Sam like that had been an eye opener, and John was determined to be more careful and allow Sam to readjust at his own pace.

“Right,” Sam muttered, taking a deep breath to compose himself. He could do this.

However, he couldn’t do it on his own. Mikael proved to be ever-helpful, assisting Sam as he moved away from the glass beaker he was leaning on, and taking a few steps closer to John so the doctor wouldn’t have to worry about his hands fitting between the scattered glassware on the counter. It put Mikael and Sam out in the open, an uncomfortable thought, and once again Sam had to remind himself that they were safe in this flat.

Sam sat back down cautiously, pushing his satchel to the side and draping his jacket over it. He kept his back facing John as he tugged his black shirt off over his head, that alone showing that he was beginning to recover from his trials. The night before, Dean had to help him with his clothes. Now, Sam couldn’t hide a shudder at the cooler air as it hit his back, the burn making the air feel colder than it really was.

While Sam and Mikael approached, John got all the necessary materials set up. He watched them out of the corner of his eye, quietly worried about the risk of Sam hurting his leg if he continued to be supported by men shorter than him when he wanted to walk. If he put any weight on the injury, there was always the chance of the set misaligning.

Giving himself a mental shake, John decided to deal with one problem at a time and set out the extra bits of gauze and medical tape that he'd cut the night before but neglected to send home with Dean.

"If you could just remove Sam's bandage, um… Sorry, I don't think I caught your name," said John sheepishly as he turned to Mikael.

“Mikael,” came the response, the man in question stiffening at John’s scrutiny. “Mikael Foyer.” He was not prepared for such interactions after his past; both before London and after. Years of living hidden from humans in the motel, and then months packed with too much interaction after his capture.

Introductions over, Mikael knelt down next to Sam. “Easy does it,” he cautioned as he worked his fingers under the medical tape, pulling it up from Sam’s skin as delicately as he could. Unlike regular tape, it didn’t stick harshly to Sam, but based on Sam’s flinch, it stung.

Sam tried to look over his shoulder as Mikael tossed the used gauze to the side, trying to see. “How’s it look?” he asked, his eyes drifting up to meet John’s.

John leaned in for a closer look, managing to keep any negative reaction to the brand or the bruises that mottled Sam's skin to himself. Any redness around the wound had gone down significantly, leaving only a slight pinkness around the charred lines. It wasn't an enormous improvement, but John would take what he got as long as it wasn't getting worse.

"It's on an upswing," John answered Sam's question honestly while he sat back and opened the burn ointment. "As long as we keep up a regular treatment, it should heal without a problem. Here comes the gel."

In time with his gentle warning, John squeezed a tiny drop onto the tip of his finger and lightly applied it to Sam's brand. Once it was evenly spread, the finger retreated and John passed Mikael a small pile of pre-cut gauze and tape. "Would you make him another bandage, please?" he asked, closing and placing the tube of ointment in the kit.

Down in his coat pocket, John’s mobile chimed. He ignored it, prioritizing Sam above all else.

Mikael set to preparing the bandage without a word, focused on the task to the exclusion of everything around him. Tending injuries came naturally to him as it had for years, but it always burned to remember how helpless he was to help his own wife when she was injured by a rat. Equipment like John had might have saved her life.

Christian and Kara were the closest Mikael had to family, and these humans had saved that family.

Just as he thought of the pair he’d taken in as his own, a hook clattered to the edge of the counter, and with halting, juddering stops, latched onto the side of the marble surface. Kara and Christian had made their way across the expanse of the kitchen floor while the two humans were distracted, and when Mikael glanced to the table, he caught sight of Dean inching down his thread, back to his regular slow pace with nothing on the line and no kids getting in trouble. He could work his way back over to where Sam was being tended.

Once the gel was dry enough, Mikael applied the bandage to Sam’s back just as he’d seen Dean do it the day before. It went on without a hitch, and he backed off to let Sam tug his shirt on. The kid’s ears were red and he slipped his arms back into the sleeves speedily.

John did his best not to bother the small family climbing near him while he put away the excess materials. He'd spent enough time around Sam and Dean to understand how easy it was to affect them without even trying.

He was about to send Sam off to join the others, assuming they were all heading back to the brothers' place through the counter entrance, but just then an idea struck him.

"Hey, mind if I take a quick look at your leg, Sam? Just to double-check that the bandages are holding."

John trusted that Dean's handiwork had held, he'd been quite impressed with it the night before. He only needed a reason for Sam to sit back and keep still for a few extra seconds.

Sam nodded, not thinking anything of John’s offer. He’d expected the doctor to examine his leg. Mikael helped him slide so he was facing John, keeping any weight off the leg.

Christian and Kara arrived while Sam was tugging up his pant leg, sidling to the side so they were out of John’s way. Christian had a firm grip on Kara’s arm to avoid any repeats of the shenanigans with Sherlock earlier on. 

Dean’s hook joined Kara’s, and as it quavered in place from his climbing, Sam finished adjusting his pant leg and looked up at John again to see what he thought.

Sitting forward again, John nonchalantly lay his right hand near Sam while his left tenderly brushed the bandages. His attention strayed only once to glance at the index finger of his inactive hand, lined up almost perfectly with Sam's head. Before too long, he pulled away with a definitive nod.

"Yep, it's holding perfectly," he concluded with a grin in Dean's direction. "Just take it easy, and let me know right away if it comes loose, right?"

Another chime rang out from his pocket, and this time John bothered to check it. He gave a small sigh, turning a flat glare in Sherlock's direction.

"Really? We're in the same room, Sherlock."

The detective's frown deepened, unwavering. John rolled his eyes and read the texts.

We need to talk -- SH

Cutting his eyes at Sherlock again, he held up a finger for him to wait a minute. Then he turned back to the small congregation of tiny people gathering on the kitchen counter, which was not something John would have ever thought possible a month ago.

"Anything else you need, let us know," he said for what felt like the dozenth time in the last twelve hours.

“T-thanks,” Christian managed to get out, tightening his grip on Kara.

Mikael stepped closer to the others, nodding respectfully at the doctor. “We should get back now.”

Dean strode over to where they were standing, winding his thread around his arm. “I can take care of Sam from here,” he said purposefully. “Kara knows the way to our supply room. I’ll be by later on to clean out some of the stuff, but if you want to get started, feel free. You can stay there until you find a home, it’s no problem.”

“We can never thank you enough,” Mikael said. “All of you.” He cut an awkward bow towards John and Sherlock, then held a hand out for Dean to shake. “Just let me know if we can do anything for you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Dean said, smiling softly at Kara and mussing her hair. “Just try keeping this one out of Sherlock’s hair.”

“R-right,” Christian said, taking a step back towards the wall. “She’ll stick with me from now on.”

Kara just grinned toothily as he guided her to the entrance back into Sam and Dean’s tunnels through the wall, a mischievous look in her eyes.

John offered an amicable smile, getting up to put away his chair so they could leave without a giant hovering the entire time. He still kept a keen eye on Sam and Dean's progress, hoping what he had in mind for the younger brother would help.

Apparently, that would have to be put on hold for a while since Sherlock had something they needed to talk about. Privately, seeing as he was reluctant to speak about it in front of company. So John picked up the groceries he'd left on the floor and began to sort through them, splitting his attention between that and the brothers.

Mikael, Kara and Christian vanished quickly into the walls, leaving Dean on his own with Sam. The moment they were out of sight, Kara pulled away from her dad with a laugh. “We gotta climb to get to the supply room!” she called over her shoulder to them.

Christian shook his head. “What am I going to do with her?” he asked Mikael in an aside.

Mikael frowned thoughtfully. “Be glad she didn’t find her way into someone’s pocket,” he decided, watching her skip away into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Dean knelt down next to Sam. “How you holdin’ up, kid?” he asked, lowering his voice so no one could overhear.

Sam shrugged. “Oh, you know. Another day in the life,” he said gamely as he tugged his pant leg back down to cover up the makeshift splint. “Slept better than I thought I would,” he said more truthfully as he looked back at Dean. “No dreams.”

“Small favors.” Dean sat on the cool surface of the counter, staring at the mottled colors beneath his boots. “It was a long day.”

“Right.” Sam looked away, grateful for a quiet moment with Dean for the first time since his rescue. They needed no words to know how the other felt.

After all the recent excitement, John was glad for a few moments of peace around the flat as well. Seeing Sam and Dean finally relaxing together, reunited and beginning to heal, lifted a huge weight from John's heart. If only they could be so content more often.

Sherlock, of course, had other plans.

The detective cleared his throat, catching John's attention. Sherlock's arms were crossed tightly over his chest and the expectant look in his eyes was sharp and, for his flatmate and closest friend, unmistakable.

"What, now?" John whispered, setting down the box in his hands.

Sherlock nodded, a slight tilt in his head indicating the brothers sitting on the counter.

John blinked, catching Sherlock's meaning but struggling to understand what was going through his head. Whatever he thought they all needed to talk about, it was eating him up inside. John could think of no other reason why Sherlock, usually an insufferable chatterbox, was being so taciturn.

"Okay, um… Sam, Dean?" John spoke up as he turned to face the counter. "Sherlock apparently thinks there's something we all need to discuss, so maybe we should--"

"We need to talk about what happened last night," Sherlock interrupted, sitting forward with his elbows propped on the table and his fingers laced in front of his chin, eyes locked intently on Dean.

Sam stiffened at the unexpected scrutiny as it fell on them, his knack flaring to life as though it had never stopped. The burn cream had soothed the pain from his back enough to be able to differentiate the two sensations, a good sign for him past how nerve-wracking Sherlock could be. It meant his knack had not vanished with the pain of the burn, a thought that had crossed his mind more than once.

Dean, on the other hand, displayed no surprise at all. He had seen this coming since the night before, and only wondered when it would happen.

“What does he mean, ‘what happened last night'?” Sam hissed to Dean. “Didn’t you--”

“We went back,” Dean said, interrupting Sam. “After everyone was settled. We wanted to make sure those people were stopped, that they couldn’t lure anyone else out of the walls to be captured.” He looked at Sherlock. “Did you do it? Did you check if it was sulfur?” The smell in the air of the kitchen spoke volumes of what Sherlock might have been doing before he was interrupted, but Dean needed to hear it from his own mouth.

Sam jolted at the word. “Sulfur?!

"Of course it's sulfur," Sherlock nodded, sparing the remnants of his experiments a glance. "You were correct."

John frowned, concern immediately peaking over Sam's reaction. He had no idea what this was all about, having been left behind to watch after the others while Sherlock and Dean went gallivanting off like they had a tendency to do. Sherlock had yet to fill him in on what exactly they did. "I don't understand. What's sulfur got to do with anything?"

"Rummage and the others, they were all dead long before we arrived--"

"Yeah, I know," John interjected.

"Sam doesn't," said Sherlock pointedly.

John instantly deflated, eyes flicking back to the brothers. "Right… sorry." He felt guilty for forgetting something like that, but so much happened in a short amount of time and it was hard to keep track of who was present for what and what happened to whom, especially since a good chunk of it happened to someone else.

“As it turns out,” Sherlock continued, “the sulfur could have everything to do with how they died.”

“But sulfur’s not something you find at everyday crime scenes,” Sam rambled, forgetting himself in the excitement over what he was being told. “It’s something dad would--”

“Right,” Dean interrupted, “and that’s just the thing.”

He turned to Sherlock, looking at the taller man for a long moment. “I think the time for secrets is long past, but you’ve gotta know, if I come clean, I’m telling you everything. This is our lives we’re talking about, start to finish. There’s a reason we don’t bring it up.”

Sherlock's brow furrowed and he exchanged a meaningful look with John, who sank into a chair again in preparation for a long talk. The detective moved his microscope from in front of him to his work table so he could lean forward and keep eye contact with Dean unobstructed.


"Yeah?" John glanced over his shoulder.

"If I start talking, shut me up."

John scoffed but gave Sherlock a nod. "Sure thing."

Dean's first move was to fill his little brother in on the full events of the night before. "After you and the others were in the house, Sherlock came up with a plan to shut down Euan and the others. To keep them from ever bothering anyone again. It involved his brother Mycroft."

"Mycroft?" Sam hissed. "You talked to another--"

"And a team Mycroft assembled to help," Dean continued on stubbornly, refusing to explain himself. "They were going to go in and stop Euan, but when they got there, they found everyone dead."

A moment of silence passed between them. "We went to investigate," Dean was quieter now. "All the people there were burned, like there was a fire. Euan-- the worst of all. Pinned to the ceiling and burnt. Sulfur caked to the walls."

Sam's face went white. He didn't know everything about that night so long ago, but he'd heard the stories, passed down from Dean and John both when they let down their guard. He knew how Mary had died, had heard it a thousand times, over and over until he felt like he had seen it himself.

Little did he know he had, if only as an infant.

Dean turned to Sherlock and John, taking a steadying breath. "You know our history. You know our mom died in a fire. What I left out-- What I always leave out, is howand what did it. I heard dad calling that night. Calling for me, calling for mom, calling for Sam. When I found him, he shoved Sam into my arms and told me to get out of there as fast as I could. Four years old, and I carried my infant brother out of a burning building.”

Tied up in those words was Dean’s entire life’s story. Saving his little brother had become everything to him, and in the end he couldn’t save either of them from one witch, in one motel room. All the events since seemed a farce of what their lives should have been. Saving people, hunting things, just like their dad. Instead they survived, and avoided people when and where they could, and that had only recently begun to change because of Sherlock and John, two humans who had proven themselves to be exceptions in so many ways.

None of this showed in Dean’s voice as he relentlessly went on and bared his soul. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. "I didn't find out what happened that night for months afterwards. Our dad's not the 'sharing and caring' type. We stayed in town for a while, but with no home and no place to go, it was only a matter of time...

"I found him one night, after I tucked Sam into bed, leaned over his journal muttering to himself as he scribbled away. He was drunk and rambling away over the phone to one of his old buddies about finding mom, pinned to the ceiling above Sam's bed.

"And then she burned, and with her our chance at normal lives."

Sam glanced over at Dean as the words died away. It was his first time exposed to the full details of that night. The time for secrets, as Dean said, was long past. "You never told me you're the one that got me out," he said quietly, humbled by the realization of how long Dean had given up on any of the credit for that act, leading Sam to believe John had pulled him out.

Dean shrugged. "Just didn't seem important," he said as the familiar words shouted through his mind, branded into his soul.

Get your brother outside as fast as you can! Don’t look back! 

Now, Dean, go!

The humans were silent as they listened, not daring to interrupt with Dean suddenly so willing to talk about his past. Sherlock had already begun to connect the dots, but he didn't trust himself to start adding to the conversation just yet.

That left John to put two and two together, which took a moment longer. Contrary to his counterpart, the good doctor had to process the description of the bizarre deaths, unlike anything John had ever seen or heard of. For it to happen in seemingly the exact same way, decades apart should have been unprecedented. And yet, here they all were.

"So… you think whoever killed your mother might have done this, too?" John inferred, carefully putting forward the question when he felt a pause in the conversation.

Dean shrugged. “We don’t know what killed her, only that it wasn’t an accident. No one ever believed dad, so he hit the road for answers. He found out that sometimes, you should be afraid of what’s out there, in the dark. Lurking where humans will overlook it. Me an’ Sam are the poster children for it. One witch and a curse was all it took to hit a dead end in our lives. I was going to be a hunter like dad-- Bobby said I was a natural. Sam wanted to go to college. Yet here we are.

“I know what my dad saw all those years ago. I know he didn’t make it up. It tore him up inside to know our mom was gone forever, and he threw himself into learning all he could in the hopes he could one day track it down and kill it himself.” Dean cut his eyes towards the remains of the experiments Sherlock had done on the sulfur. “We do have one thing he didn’t-- a clue to what it was that attacked those men, and maybe what killed our mom. Sulfur.”

"You told me that sulfur was indicative of demons escaping hell," Sherlock emphasized, preferring not to tiptoe around the subject, no matter how unpalatable. John's head whipped around to stare at Sherlock incredulously, momentarily forgetting their agreement in his surprise. He wasn't sure where this conversation was going, but that was the last thing he'd expected out of Sherlock's mouth. "Fire and brimstone and equally ridiculous--"

"Ah-- what he's trying to say is," John cut in, silencing Sherlock before he could shoot down anything Dean had to say. The detective let out a long sigh and ran a hand down his face to reign himself back in; he truly was making an effort to be less combative, but he was fully aware he was walking into a conversation that would significantly impact his entire worldview. Nothing could prepare him for that, and some part of him would always fight against it.

John kept him right. Kept him from isolating his friends. Sherlock didn't have many.

"It's just, er," John continued, speaking for himself and Sherlock. "We haven't spent our lives believing in all this-- witches and… demons-- like it seems you have. So it might take a bit to accept that such things exist. But we do believe you. Even if some of us don't know how to respond to it."

“You’re not the only ones that have a hard time with it,” Sam interjected softly.

Dean caught his eye. “Sammy here didn’t know a thing about the supernatural until he snuck away with our dad’s journal,” he said wryly. “We tried to protect him from the truth, and that didn’t go far.”

Sam gave him a flat glare. “Like anyone’s gonna believe he’s a door-to-door salesmen when he vanished for months at a time.”

Dean scowled. “What else was I supposed to do?” He jerked his head towards the humans. “It’s not like hiding it would have done anything once we got attacked.”

At least he had more to offer John and Sherlock than words and trust. Dean slipped his hand into his jacket. “We were raised in this life. I learned to fire a handgun when I was six. These knives we carry weren’t meant to be used on rats-- I made them out of silver, the bane of any werewolf or shapeshifter.” He proffered the silver knife in question, holding it out for John and Sherlock to examine.

Sherlock managed a sharp sigh in lieu of a scoff at the notion of werewolves now, but he kept his attention on Dean. As tough as it was to swallow, all of this information which the detective would ordinarily write off as nonsensical was apparently integral to Sam and Dean's lives. Thus far the brothers had been honest, if reticent.

Leaning forward to take in the tiny knife in a new light, John nodded to show he understood and glanced briefly at Sam as he recalled the kid mentioning shapeshifters in a previous conversation. John had largely ignored that detail in favor of more pressing issues in that moment that now seemed like an age ago, but he remembered it now. And now he knew what Sam meant.

It did nothing to dull the tragedy of their early childhood, but John kept his opinions about that to himself. What good would they do now?

"And you used things like that to… fight monsters-- you were monster hunters," John surmised, pushing through a phrase he never thought he'd ever say in all seriousness.

Dean nodded, all of his regular snark gone with the serious nature of their talk. “Dad was, and I was learning. Sam was too young-- I don’t think dad ever even knew that Sam found out what he did for a living before we were taken away. He was in town hunting that witch, but she found us first.”

“Other children went missing in town before us,” Sam said softly. “I think it’s safe to say we know what happened to them.”

Dean stowed his knife back in his jacket, leaving it secure in the sheath. “Friggin’ witches.”

John let out a long, steadying breath at the thought of innumerable kids like Sam and Dean being torn from their families, and that for all any of them knew, that witch was still out there carrying on. He had to remind himself that she was long gone and far in the brothers' past, and there were more pressing matters at hand.

"And what about demons?" he asked with only a touch of hesitation. "I mean, if they took out Euan and the others, is there anything we can really do about that? What if it happens again, only this time to someone less deserving of it?"

His hands clasped in his lap to keep an involuntary tic in his left hand under control. Most days John could ignore it, unless he was feeling uneasy or anxious (e.g. learning about a demonic force of nature that was clearly more powerful than anything he'd ever dealt with) and the tremor flared up. It was a major influence in John's decision to refrain from touching the brothers when it wasn't completely necessary.

“They can be stopped,” Dean said, “if you know who they are, or where they’re going to strike. There are ways to fight back against any of the monsters out there, demon or not. You just have to know what you’re up against.”

“Knowing where to look is the hard part, and what our dad was best at,” Sam said, joining in.

Dean nodded encouragingly. “Researching, tracking patterns, these things are usually pretty predictable compared to humans. They have certain types of targets, certain times of month or year they appear. Find the pattern, find the monster. Then you just have to stop them before they stop you.”

That got John thinking, and Sherlock's hand clenched into a fist as he looked at his friend and realized what he was thinking. While Sherlock was fighting with every fiber of his mind to keep from storming out of the room to peacefully continue denying the existence of the supernatural, John was actually considering the information in a practical manner. Sherlock could practically see his train of thought.

The way Sam and Dean put it, this 'monster hunting' sounded formulaic. Manageable, even.

"So," John mused, "if--"

No.” Sherlock shot a glare at his flatmate as John turned a flat look toward him. "We are not here to deal with hypotheticals."

John shifted in his seat to face Sherlock, unamused by his interruption. "It's not hypothetical if this thing has attacked already, is probably still out there, and could do it again,"

"And?" Sherlock shot back. "Hardly anything we can do about that now, is there. We don't know what it looks like, what its motives were, what it wants, or where it is. We can't even be certain it's still in London! What good would hunting it do?"

"I'm not saying we should go after it," John argued, "all I'm saying is that we should be prepared. This thing is clearly dangerous, and if it can pin a human being to the ceiling, think about what it could do to them." He waved his hand toward the brothers. "Any of them. We'd be thick to ignore a threat like that!"

"And you're going to protect them all, are you, doctor?"

John's lips pressed into a thin line, letting out a long breath as he ran a hand wearily down his face. He was not going to have a row with Sherlock in front of Sam and Dean. He'd already scared Sam once just by looking angry, the lad didn't need that kind of stress while he was still healing.

Sherlock took full advantage of John's pause and looked back at Sam and Dean. "What matters to me is the usefulness of this information, how this applies to our current situation. Obviously Mycroft will want to hear from me soon, considering it's his people who found the bodies and we need him."

Dean scowled right back, not put off by Sherlock’s intensity. “What we know is those three men were attacked, one pinned to the ceiling, the others burned where they stood.”

Euan pinned to the ceiling,” Sam said quietly, his encounters with the man running through his mind. He’d never had cause to want someone dead before, but to die like this, like their mom--

“And the fire put out before it grew out of control,” Dean continued on as though he’d never been interrupted. “So whatever did it, this was a focused attack. Targeted.” He frowned. “Dad always said demons wanted death and destruction for its own sake, yet here we are with the same M.O.D. twenty-two years later, across the ocean. There has to be a connection!”

“You mean like me,” Sam said bluntly.

Dean twisted towards Sam. “No that’s--” He cut himself off in realization, rubbing his hand down his face. “That’s not what I meant.” The words were hollow as it sank in that the only connection between the two attacks were the Winchesters themselves.

"Whoa, hey," John's brow shot up and he turned back toward the brothers with thinly veiled concern. "None of that is on you, alright?" Even if this thing was after Sam and Dean for some reason-- and John sincerely hoped that wasn't the case-- he didn't want them to blame themselves for things they had no control over. "We can figure this out." He looked to Sherlock. "Can't we, Sherlock."

Sherlock shoved his chair back and rose to his feet. "You three can 'figure out' all you like," he muttered, thumbing his phone and avoiding eye contact with anyone as he made his way toward the back of the kitchen.

John tossed up his hands. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to tell Mycroft not to fuss about the murders before he starts annoying me about it. I expect I'll pass out for some time after that."

"You can't just ignore this like there isn't something here!"

Sherlock rounded on his flatmate. "I'm not ignoring anything. I've listened to what they've had to say, I've accepted the information as integral to this particular case, but I will not be a part of any monster hunt."

“Tell him what you want,” Dean said shortly, pushing himself to his feet. “I said no secrets, and that’s what we did. Now you know. We’ve been caught up in this kind of thing since long before our curse. It’s practically in our blood to want to fight back. That witch just took away any chance we had of making a difference on our own.”

Dean went over to where Sam was sitting, legs outstretched and his satchel left to the side. “We should get back and get some breakfast,” he muttered, offering Sam an arm to help him stand. “I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had a thing since last night.”

Sam used Dean’s hand to pull himself off the ground, almost hopping in place when he was standing, cautious to avoid placing any weight on the broken limb. It took a moment before the two brothers were able to move as one, Sam leaning his arm across Dean’s shoulders for support and Dean wrapping his other arm around Sam’s back to hold him straight.

Before they turned to leave, Dean looked straight at John. “If you want to know more about how to stop a demon in its tracks, you know where to find me,” he said. “You might want to think about carrying some salt with you if people in the city are getting possessed.”

John nodded emphatically, ignoring Sherlock as he stormed off down the hall with a huff and a slam of his bedroom door. "I'll keep that in mind," he promised, wondering to himself what sort of effect salt would have in that kind of scenario.

Rubbing his temple, he added, "Look, don't let him get to you." John let very little of his irritation at Sherlock's behavior show in his expression, hoping the detective hadn't just put a wrench in the already delicate peace between the flatmates. "He'll come around. He's just stubborn as a rock sometimes."

“Don’t worry about it,” Dean said, waving it off with his free hand. “That’s about the reaction I expected. I warned him when he asked last night that no one ever believes us. I’ve seen my dad get chased out of a town with a shotgun because of it, even after he saved their lives.”

Dean shook his head to clear it of those thoughts. “Like I said, I’m around if you want to know more. You know where to look. C’mon, kid.”

With slow, halting steps, Dean and Sam started off towards the crack in the corner of the counter, heading towards their tunnels and home. With Dean’s help, Sam was able to go a little faster than with Mikael, since Dean was taller and bulkier. Yet it was still clear that the younger Winchester had to strain with Dean so much shorter, almost draped over his shoulders at times for support.

John frowned as he watched the brothers go, leaving him alone in the kitchen with the groceries. Even after such a huge reveal, Sam and Dean remained as enigmatic, yet strangely understandable as ever.

With a deep breath, John took a moment to let the events of the morning sink in before he got on with putting away his purchases. His mind turned, revisiting each and every bit of new information, more than Dean had ever freely given in the time he'd known the detective and the doctor. John marveled at the trust displayed by the elder Winchester.

His thoughts ground to a halt and his hand froze as it reached to put away a box of crackers. A glance at his hand reminded John of the idea he'd had earlier, and it brought a resolute smile to his face.

Chapter Text

Once all the groceries were put away, John began to pick through all the drawers and shelves in the kitchen for materials, constantly comparing items that were small, thin, and durable to his right index finger. Earlier he'd surreptitiously set it alongside Sam to act as a measuring tool, and as he looked back at his finger he could remember exactly how long Sam's body was in relation to it and, most importantly, the distance between his feet and his underarm.

John was adamant that Sam wouldn't have to rely on Dean and Mikael in order to get around anymore. Both were well-meaning men, the latter especially kind to offer help, but Sam was simply too tall for their shoulders to be sufficient crutches.

If John could find the right materials, he was determined to make one for Sam.

On the very last drawer he checked, John let out a triumphant "Ha!" as he dug out a half-used pencil. It was about four inches long, but John would need to cut the tip off anyway so it would fit comfortably under Sam's arm. The material was sturdy and strong, yet malleable enough for John to alter it however he liked.

Another idea popped into his head, and he strode into the main room in search of a small container full of tiny pins, similar to Moira's weapon but only a fraction of that length. They, in addition to tacks and other such pins, were used mostly by Sherlock to plaster his thoughts and findings to the wall when he was deep into a case. John chose one with a dark navy sphere on the non-pointy end, small enough for Sam to get his hand around easily for extra grip.

Now all he needed was some kind of cushion, a soft material to ensure Sam's comfort while using the crutch. Setting his materials on the kitchen table where he wouldn't lose them, John picked through both rooms for anything that could help.

Out of nowhere, John recalled waiting in line at the shop. Right at eye level, they displayed all kinds of impulse bought snacks or household items. He remembered seeing a few eyeglass repair kits, little tubes filled with tiny screwdrivers and, more importantly, those little pads for the bridge of your nose.

John went downstairs to ask Mrs. Hudson if she had a kit he could borrow. Sherlock was as good an excuse as any.

As luck would have it, their kind landlady was more than happy to give John a kit she had buried in her drawer with hardly a question. He politely indulged in small talk for a moment before hurrying back upstairs to assemble the crutch.

After cutting the pencil to size, John sharpened it just enough so that the end tapered but the tip was still flat. Then he worked to shape the eraser, which seemed relatively untouched; John could only deduce that Sherlock had used it for note taking in the past, jotting down thoughts as fast as they could come and hardly ever going back to erase. This made it very easy for John to carefully cut and wear down a small divot into the rubber in the shape of an underarm.

Once that was done, John meticulously placed the small pin to the exact spot where Sam could grip it with a comfortably bent arm, referring to his finger to make sure his measurements were correct. He embedded it about halfway into the pencil, then pulled it out and fetched a tube of super glue, adhering it firmly in place. The whole thing would be rubbish if the pin managed to slip out.

The superglue turned out to be handy; John used it to attach the nose-pad cushions where he wanted them, to make sure they stayed put as well. He cut them to size as he went, the material for one covering the eraser, another the hand grip, and much of the excess was saved for the very tip of the tiny crutch.

While he waited for the glue to dry, John sat back in his chair and looked over his work critically. He was quite proud of how it had turned up, but something in the back of his mind nagged at him. Getting either brother to accept anything he offered had been a struggle in the past, especially Sam. With everything the younger Winchester had gone through, the last thing John wanted to do was seem patronizing, like he was giving a handout.

John chewed his lip, pondering the best way to present his creation to the brothers.

The rest of the morning passed without event for the occupants of the walls in 221B Baker Street.

After Dean saw Sam to a seat at their makeshift table to have some breakfast with Moira doting on him, he traveled through the walls to check up on the supply room. Arriving there, it was only moments before Mikael chased him off with stern words to get some rest. Mikael wasn’t fooled by his protests and insistences that he was fine, he’d slept enough.

It certainly did make it easier to just collapse into his nest for a few hours. No one needed him for the first time in two days.

Eventually, Dean did have to get up. His nap gave him the energy he needed to contemplate the chores that were waiting for him. Plenty of people needed feeding, and after their trials, he didn’t want them fending for themselves.

Off to the kitchen he went.

Aside from Sam and Moira, no one else was at home when Dean left. He could only assume that Mark and Anita had joined the Americans in the supply room. At this rate, the room might be emptied of Sam and Dean’s overflow before either brother got over there. The room was carefully stocked with either extra supplies of what they used the most-- tinfoil, paper clips, pins and cardboard being a few, stuff Dean hadn’t found a use for, or older supplies they no longer used and set to the side in case they needed it in the future.

In the cupboard, Dean slowly went through the new boxes John had brought home, wishing one or two of them was open or even just on the side. He finally decided to give climbing the new box of crackers a try; he just had to get his arm and knife in to tear a hole in the wrapper and get some food. Later on he could make a run for fresher food after the humans had their dinner.

Of course, Dean’s run of bad luck continued when he knocked over a small box of raisins trying to climb the bigger box.


Out in the kitchen, John was still sitting staring at the tiny crutch lying on the table when he heard the small clatter in the cupboard. His brow rose when he realized he wasn't alone.

John got slowly to his feet and tentatively approached the cupboard, unsure of who he'd find, though from that muffled curse it was a safe bet that it was Dean. No matter who it was, though, John had to check on them, make sure they weren't hurt by whatever he just heard.

"You okay?" he called softly, opening the door a crack to peer in at the small person within.

Caught off guard by the unexpected flood of light, Dean stumbled to his feet, one arm half-raised in defense with his other hand diving for his knife. Years of instincts developed from his size had combined with the wariness he’d learned from his father, putting him constantly on edge and ready to act at a moment’s notice.

Realizing who was there, Dean’s eyes narrowed and he felt the tension leave his back. It was just John, and he meant well, despite how startling he could be.

“I’m fine,” Dean said gruffly, straightening as he pointedly brushed off his jacket, refusing to acknowledge the way his heart had leapt into his throat. These humans knowing them was still going to take some getting used to. If John had opened that door a few months back, Sam and Dean would both be diving for cover.

John nodded, taking Dean's word for it. He didn't seem to be hiding any major injury, at least. Even so, he did seem to catch the little fella by surprise, which was not John's intention at all. Given their size difference, he supposed it was unavoidable now and then. "Right then. Sorry for prying, just had to check, I'll um…"

He was just turning to leave Dean to his business when his gaze fell on the tiny crutch again, and he had a thought.

"Actually, could I ask you something? I need a little advice."

Dean paused in his brushing, his eyebrows going up. “Yeah?” he asked curiously, stepping closer to the edge of the cupboard. He sent one brief glare at the box of raisins and their betrayal of his position, already deciding that after his stumble, that box belonged to him. He could skip the crackers this time.

“We went a whole year without being noticed and now I can’t make it twenty-four hours,” Dean muttered to himself, then looked up at John. “What seems to be the problem, doc?”

"Well, you see I, er," John paused as he chose his words carefully, widening the gap in the cupboard door until it could stand open on its own. "I made something that I hoped could help. With Sam. To get around on his own since, y’know, he needs so much help with that lately and I know he must hate it."

John took a steadying breath before carrying on. "The thing is, I've been trying to figure out a way to offer it without it seeming like a handout, or that I think Sam's helpless because I know he isn't and... Do you see my problem?"

Dean pursed his lips in thought. “If it’s for his injury, it’s not as much a handout as it is doctor’s orders,” he reasoned as he worked through John’s problem out loud. “It’s one thing to take food we didn’t earn ourselves, it’s a whole other thing if it’s something Sam needs to get better.”

A huge part of Dean was determined to help Sam get better as fast as possible, just like after Sherlock bruised the kid’s chest, so he wasn’t against any ideas John might have. As shown by the day before when Dean had pulled Sherlock and John both into the search for Sam, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his little brother.

Dean held out his hands, beckoning at John to get on with it. “Lemme see whatcha got, and I can smooth things over with Sam if I have to.”

John blinked, surprised that Dean wanted to see it already. "Oh, uh, okay! Just a sec," he said, stepping back toward the table to delicately retrieve the crutch he'd made. Then he lifted it carefully to where Dean could reach and let the smaller man take it.

"Do you think he'll like it?" John asked as he watched Dean examine his handiwork.

Dean hefted the scaled-down crutch, his eyebrows going up in appreciation at the attention to detail John had paid while crafting it. It was fairly lightweight to Dean, so Sam wouldn’t have a problem lifting it up (another perk of being the taller brother was also being the stronger brother, leading Dean to spend more time learning how to turn that strength around on Sam or anyone else). He put it on the shelf and pushed down on the handle, making sure the workmanship was solid and didn’t wobble. 

Dean couldn’t give it a proper test, being too short to fit the crutch under his arm, but he stood on his tip toes with his arm over the cushion and bounced in place. The pencil held, the cushion didn’t budge and the pin held fast.

“Nice work,” Dean said appreciatively, tucking the crutch under his arm. “You wouldn’t do bad yourself at our size with this kind of skill.” The compliment did not come lightly; Dean rarely handed out praise unless it was well and truly deserved. “I won’t have the Sasquatch draped all over me the next time he decides to go wandering.” He looked up at John. “Sam’ll love it for sure.”

John practically beamed at the praise, knowing it meant a lot coming from Dean. If he recalled correctly, Dean had referred to himself as a mechanic the night before, and certainly knew his way around the insidious machine that bloke Mark had strapped to his back before Dean removed it. For someone as good with his hands as Dean to commend John in such a way was truly an honor for the doctor.

He'd never thought about it, but now that Dean brought it up John began to wonder how he would fare in Sam and Dean's world. He might be crafty and clever in a pinch, but would that be enough to get by in a world entirely too large for him?

"Glad to hear it!" John replied, shaking off his previous thought in favor of taking the compliment. Then with a glance around the cupboard, he remembered that Dean had been busy before John cut in. "I'll, ah, leave you to it, shall I?"

Dean gave John a jaunty salute with his free hand, hitching up his duffel and making sure he had a good grip on the crutch. “Do what you want,” he replied, though there was no undercurrent of envy in his voice anymore. John had his world and Dean’s was separate, and that’s all there was to it. “I’ll get this to Sam so he can try it out before he gets himself in trouble.”

When he turned to leave, he nearly tripped over the box of raisins again, catching his balance against the friggin’ crackers with his free hand with a strangled curse. Giving the raisins a look that accused them of sabotaging any hope he had of being ninja for the day, Dean scooped up the box before he headed for the walls and home.

John nodded in return and muttered, "Be seeing you," as he carefully closed the cabinet door. It was a relief to know that Sam would receive the crutch immediately; every extra moment Sam had with a healthy method of walking around added up, and John was proud to have helped.

Looking at the pantry reminded John that he hadn't yet had lunch. To give Dean time to be clear of the cupboard, John perused the fridge despite its usual slim pickings. He didn't have much of an appetite, but he knew he should eat something.

He did manage to find a small bunch of grapes, some deli-sliced turkey and enough cheese to put on crackers and a sandwich. By the time he'd gathered these, he judged that Dean should be gone and returned to the cupboard to fetch a handful of crackers from the new box.

While John was at it, he opened the other new packages he'd just added to the collection, realizing how much effort it would take for someone Dean's size to open them on their own. John wouldn't count himself as a good host if he went to the trouble of purchasing a wider variety of food for his numerous guests and then left them with the hard work of accessing it.

Chapter Text

Arriving back at home, Dean was unsurprised to find Sam left on his own.

The younger Winchester was sitting in a corner, his lap once more covered in the scattered papers that made up his journal. He wasn't writing in them at the moment, but instead carefully reading through. As Dean watched, Sam brushed his hand reverently down one to smooth the wrinkles on it, then set it to the side.

After a moment's consideration, Dean left the box of raisins against the wall, giving it an 'accidental' kick for the way it tripped him up multiple times in the cupboard. At this rate, neither of the humans in the flat would think he could slip around undetected.

Damn box. At least raisins lasted forever.

Dean strode over to his little brother, and Sam looked up at him through messy bangs. "Hey," Sam greeted, his voice hollow.

"How's it going?" Dean asked, squatting next to Sam and squinting down at the pages with a keen eye.

Dean caught sight of a familiar name on the plain paper right as Sam started talking, his heart freezing a little at Bobby Singer scribbled out in Sam's bold lettering.

"Just... going through the stuff I did before... y'know," Sam said lamely, pushing the scrap with Bobby's name to the side to join the pile. "John let me use the laptop the other night, and I looked up a few old friends."

"That was nice of him," Dean commented, his mind racing with possibilities. With Bobby's number, they could call him up. Try and reach out to find their dad, track down other hunters who might know more about the witch, get tips on hunting demons--

All of his thoughts came to a crashing halt. Didn't matter if they had Bobby's number. They were still 'not human' anymore. There wasn't much hope that hunters would help them. Maybe Sherlock and John, if they asked right and didn't question or dig at the pride of the hunters, but not Sam and Dean, two distinctly non-human guys with psychic tendencies. The psychic skills alone would make them 'dangerous.'

Sam followed Dean's line of thought as it crossed his face. "Yeah," he said. "My thoughts exactly." He covered up the paper with Bobby's name on it. "Maybe one day we can contact him."

Dean shook his head to clear it. "I almost forgot." He stood, untucking the crutch from under his arm. "John made this for you so you can get around while you're healing. Doctor's orders. Any weight on that leg could ruin the set."

Sam's eyes widened and his eyebrows went up. "He made a crutch? " Sam blurted in surprise, holding his hands out.

Dean had to laugh as he handed it over for Sam to inspect. "Made it, and sized it for you, I think," he said, watching Sam rub his hands up the side of the pencil. "I couldn't get my arm over the top without stretching."

"Here, lemme try," Sam said, jabbering on in his excitement. Dean helped haul him to his feet, Sam balancing on one leg while he fit the crutch under his arm.

For the next ten minutes, Dean watched his little brother try out his crutch, going as far as doing circles around their main room and checking out the passageway to the kitchen, all on his own. Dean had to hide the smile that came to his face at the thought of his little brother, home and safe and sound no matter what those people had tried to do with them. All because of Sherlock and John.

Later on as the day approached evening, Sam tentatively crossed the bookshelf that lay outside their front door. Just a few nights ago, he'd sat there watching John work. For a person his size, it was a rare opportunity to see a computer used from such a close vantage point, even so far as getting to work on it himself.

The going was slow as Sam used his new crutch, but a thousand times better than having to ask Dean or Mikael for help (there was no way Christian would be able to give him a hand considering the guy barely reached Sam's chest. Mark hadn't come anywhere close to Sam since the kidnapping; Sam kept his thoughts on that to himself). With the crutch, he didn't feel the need to explain himself to everyone when he wanted to stretch his legs, and there was no way Dean would help him to the shelf without knowing exactly why and how long Sam would be there.

The cushion under his arm kept the crutch from straining or making his side sore, and the pin was solid as he gripped it. Sam's practice earlier on in the day left him tired from the new strain, but exhilarated by the freedom, and now he was ready to test it out.

Sam reached the end of the books at last, skirting the edge of the shelf by a good margin and looking out into the open air, eager to thank John for his help.

The good doctor had spent most of the day in his armchair, getting up every now and then to stretch his legs and find something to eat or drink. Even with everyone seemingly settling in, he wanted to be sure that someone was around in case they needed anything. Despite this, John was far from bored. He put on the telly for a few hours to see if any of last night's events had caught any attention from the news; nothing out of the ordinary showed up there.

When he got tired of that, John turned to his computer for something to pass the time. The conversation with the brothers that morning provided plenty of research fuel for the curious doctor. His only issue was figuring out what was legitimate lore and what was fluff and superstition.

Sherlock emerged from his room exactly once to grab a bite, storming immediately back when he happened to look over John's shoulder and found a page regarding demon possessions. John ignored him and carried on.

Things were quiet until a soft clatter broke through the silence and John caught the slightest motion in the corner of his eye. Slowly, so as not to startle anyone, John looked over to find Sam shuffling into view on his crutch.

"Hey," he greeted softly, a small smile tugging at his lip to see the crutch being put to good use. "Getting on alright?" he asked as he settled back in his chair.

“It’s great,” Sam enthused, not deterred at the sudden flare-up of his knack when John caught sight of him. He was out here to thank John, on his own, without any help, and that was just what he was going to do, residual nerves or not.

Sam had spent most of the day-- aside from his brief trip to check up on Dean when Kara went missing-- in the walls of Baker Street. It was a relief after the day before to be away from prying eyes and burning tingles on the back of his neck, but he knew none of that was John or Sherlock’s fault. In fact, they were the only reason he and the others were free now, and Sam was determined to do his best to not let it hold him back.

“I don’t have to wait on Dean if I need anything,” Sam continued on, not letting any of his thoughts show on his face while he demonstrated getting around on the crutch. “Or ask his permission.” Sam screwed up his face in annoyance.

John's grin widened at Sam's enthusiasm as he watched the kid navigate the makeshift aid. "Thought you might prefer a bit more independence," he said with a nod. "Can't be easy, being the tallest with a leg injury."

It was hard to avoid remembering his own cane, one that John was once convinced he relied on. It had been a burden to John, and he had to remind himself that Sam's was the opposite.

"Glad to see it fits you alright!" John commented, shifting to lean on the arm closer to Sam for a better look. The lad had really taken to the crutch, to John's relief. All his pent-up worries from earlier in the day seemed to melt with each step Sam took on his own.

“I might not be able to get too far,” Sam continued blithely on as he practiced on the length of the shelf, “since most of the rest of the flat requires climbing, but at least I can get anywhere from here to the kitchen on my own.”

He finally came to a halt, taking a few deep breaths. All the renewed activity cost him his strength, and he was getting a handle on the strain the crutch put on his arm. It would take work to strengthen his arm the way he was using it now, and Sam was determined to try. 

“Do you mind if I hang out here for a bit?” Sam asked hesitantly. “It gets pretty boring inside, plus everyone’s really busy emptying the storeroom out for the others…”

"Not at all," John assured with a nod. "Yeah, rest up, stay as long as you like." It was good to see Sam willing to try spending time out and about with a human like John, after what he'd just experienced. Even so, he knew better than to expect Sam to simply bounce back like nothing happened. He'd need time, and John was more than prepared to give him the patience he deserved.

Looking back at his computer, John added, "I was just looking up one or two things, seeing what I can find about, y'know, the kind of stuff we talked about earlier, but if you want to do something else I don't mind. Probably wasn't getting very far anyway."

Sam made his way over to one of the thicker books. After Sherlock’s removal of all the tomes the night before, the layer of dust was gone from the shelf, giving Sam a good place to sit without ending up with motes of dust coating his hair and clothes.

Setting the crutch to the side, Sam slid down until he was sitting, the book giving him a decent backrest. His injured leg remained stretched out in front. Sam made sure the crutch was within reach, then peered at John’s computer, wondering just how much the human had found in his search online. It was one of the lines of inquiry Sam was interested in pursuing, much like he’d tracked down their father’s old friends the night before.

“Let me know if you have any questions,” Sam offered. “I might have snitched our dad’s journal a few more times than Dean knows about… Memorized a good portion before we lost him.”

John smirked, carefully shifting in his seat and turning his laptop so Sam could plainly see the screen. "No specific questions just yet, I'm just having a big of a hard time sifting through the information. It's difficult with the internet, can't believe everything you read. But looking up 'demons'… It seems all I can find is a bunch of religious stuff, or riveting articles titled 'Do You Have Demons In Your Colon?,’ which I highly doubt is a common medical issue."

With a scoff and a shake of his head, John scrolled through the page of search results and hovered over a few he'd considered earlier. "I read over a few interesting sources regarding demon possession and what to do about them, but it's all Greek to me. I can't tell what's real and what's not for the life of me."

Sam laughed. “Yeah, I’ve heard that’s a problem. Dean complains about how a lot of legends got mixed up in the retellings when they were passed down, so even legitimate looking sources can be pretty sketchy. Like werewolves never sprout fur during the full moon the way you see them in movies.”

It felt good to talk about something where Sam was the expert. He’d lived on stories about the supernatural while growing up under the curse. Werewolves, vengeful spirits, shapeshifters… John Winchester had fought them all, often with Dean at his side when he was old enough to know one end of a gun from the other.

“You won’t see any witches flying around on brooms,” Sam said thoughtfully. “They blend in better than most because they are human.”

With a thoughtful hum, John considered his search a little more carefully. He had a feeling that if monsters turned out to exist, films would be a rather poor source of worthwhile information. It was lucky he had Sam, who was clearly more knowledgeable about such things, to run his findings by.

"Suppose 'demons' might have been a bit of a jump for my first run at it, eh?" Running a hand through his hair, John returned to the search bar for a fresh start. Then he glanced back at Sam with curiosity and the slightest hint of apprehension. Of all the things to get tangled up in, monsters was the last thing he'd ever expected.

Even so, if it might help on a case one day and Sherlock was unwilling to pursue it further, John practically felt obligated to dive deeper.

"Any suggestions for a beginner?" John asked. This was all a huge part of Sam and Dean's old lives, and any chance at a better understanding of them would not be lost on John.

“A lot of it’s experience,” Sam admitted. “Some we have, some we don’t. Our dad learned things through trial and error, or from what others knew.”

That reminded him. Sam pulled out a sheet that was more than familiar to him after only days of having it. The number of Bobby Singer’s house, one person John Winchester had always relied on.

“If something comes up and we need information, we can call Bobby,” Sam said as he stared at the numbers. “Or, I guess, you can. We don’t know if he’ll talk to us anymore, since, y’know, we’re not really human now.” He folded the paper back up, pinching the crease and working out some of his nervous energy on the paper. “Not many hunters will pay attention to us since our change. They’re more likely to want to hunt us.”

"But Bobby, he's… you told me he was your friend," John recalled, not a single word of their conversation the other day forgotten. "He knows your dad, he knew you and Dean as kids."

John had only just learned about hunters and was far from an expert, and while he was fascinated by what they did, hearing about their demeanor was another thing. Anyone who could look at someone like Sam and treat them as less than human or, God forbid, hunt them down and kill them… The thought put a sour taste in John's mouth, and a glance at Sam's injured leg reminded him that there were such people out there.

"If… if that meant anything to him," John continued, "then at least in his case, what happened to you shouldn't change a thing."

Sam shrugged, wishing he could say different. “Bobby was our family friend,” he said. “Now… we just don’t know. Werewolves don’t get better; they’re tainted the moment they get bit. There’s no way to stop them from killing again. As far as most hunters are concerned, anything supernatural has to go.

“And then there’s us. We’re too small to exist, and we both have psychic abilities we shouldn’t. Sure, Bobby might not do anything to us, and Dad might be the same. But we don’t know, and unless it’s an emergency, we don’t want to risk it. What if they figure out about the others like us? What if other hunters find out through them? We owe them better than that.”

When Sam finished, John brought himself to nod in understanding of what he'd been told. He might as well have been frozen as he listened, a few blinks and a pinched brow the only signs of movement. Letting the computer slide to the side of his lap, he leaned forward and ran both hands down his face with a long, deep breath.

He tried not to let it anger him, how cruel the world could be. Working alongside Sherlock, he knew better than most how twisted-up some people could be in the way it manifested in the crimes people committed for one reason or another. Somehow, when it regarded Sam and Dean and others their size, it seemed personal. It was one thing with the brothers; he'd gotten to know them and felt real sorrow and guilt when Sam went missing. The outrage he felt at even the idea of anyone wronging the smaller folk was just as strong, and John had yet to find a way to control that.

He did his best to keep it to himself, for Sam's sake.

"Guess you're right," he murmured as he lifted his head to look back at Sam, his face a neutral mask with as much kindness in his eyes as ever. "I mean, obviously this is your department, so… I trust your judgment on this. As much as it sounds like I could learn, something tells me this type of stuff might not be a very pressing issue yet. Until then, I'd rather not do anything that would make you or Dean uncomfortable.”

With another deep breath and a glance down at his fidgeting left hand, John added, "For the record, anyone who thinks you or Dean or any of the others is a monster is an idiot. And that's not my opinion, that right there is fact."

“That means a lot,” Sam said, blinking back a surprising amount of emotion. He’d never expected to find such a good friend in a human after the curse. “We’ve known how hunters might react since it happened, so it’s nothing we’re not prepared for. Maybe one day we’ll give Bobby a call, but until then, if you need any help with research, I’m always around.”

Sam tucked the paper back into his jacket, in one of the pockets he’d sewn in right above where the sheath of his knife remained at all times. “I’ll keep his number around, just in case. There’s no one better to call about the supernatural, except maybe our dad, and he’s a lot harder to track down with no home address.”

"Sounds like a plan," John agreed, sitting back in his chair. With a heavy sigh, he let go of any residual tension in his chest after that more serious talk, and regarded his laptop again. He thought about putting it away, but Sam had just settled in and hadn't had the chance to use it since returning to the flat. The kid might not  be able to type on his own just yet, but John could help with that until he was well enough.

Clearing his throat, John waved at his computer and said, "Well, I've had my fill of this old thing." He offered a small smile to Sam. "Anything you want to look up?"

“N-no, I’m fine!” Sam blurted, caught off-guard by John’s offer. Somehow, he never saw the offers coming, leaving him scrambling a little to answer. He had other things to do and organize, anyway, which was what he had been planning on working on before John had sidetracked him with questions on hunting.

Sam patted his satchel. “I was just planning on working on my notes,” he informed the doctor. “It was too… quiet in our place. I needed some air.”

John nodded, knowing that asking Sam something like that was a long shot. He didn't intend to put any pressure on the kid either way, so he folded up the laptop and set it down by his feet.

"Alright," he muttered as he pushed himself to his feet, doing his best to ignore how small Sam looked from the shelf. By all accounts he should be used to sights like that. For whatever reason, John hesitated to get comfortable with being so large in comparison.

"I'm gonna get the fire started, but don't hesitate to give a shout if you need anything," John informed Sam. He didn't want the kid thinking that he was about to walk out on him, especially if it was simply friendly company Sam was looking for. Even if he was done with the internet for the day, John could find some quiet way to entertain himself.

Sam nodded in reply, doing his best to relax. John standing had made his heart jump into his throat, and it took a long moment for him to push through the dismaying thoughts that rose up in his mind. John hadn’t been the one to pin him to a table and brand his back. He hadn’t snapped Sam’s leg with a thoughtless motion. Yet if Sam didn’t get his nervous impulses under control, John would be the one suffering from guilt, and he didn’t deserve any of it.

With the room quiet and peaceful between the two flatmates, Sam dug into his notes while John prepared a fire to warm up the air, a good place for healing to begin.

Chapter Text

All was silent in 221B Baker Street. The sun was still rising when Mark and Anita tiptoed past the sleeping forms of all the other rescued borrowers, careful not to disturb anyone.

As much as they appreciated Sam and Dean's kindness and hospitality, it was time they moved on. They didn't necessarily have a home after so long in captivity, but the twins were confident in each other, and were determined to never be separated again.

It took the last couple of days to recover their strength and find enough material to fashion a couple of simple sling bags to start themselves off, and now they planned on quickly raiding the humans' cupboard before striking out on their own. It wouldn’t do to betray the delicate trust they'd gained from the brothers by making off with any of their food. No self-respecting borrower stole from another. What the humans didn't know wouldn't hurt them.

Anita got herself into position to move the block that covered the door and led to the walls when a faint knock sounded from the other side.

Identical bright green eyes met, both siblings at a loss for what to. This wasn't their house, and as far as they could tell, the Winchesters didn't seem like the type to get visitors often.

"Hello-o," a young woman called through the wood. "I know you're there, I need to talk to whoever lives here, please."

Another look was shared between the twins, and after much deliberation Anita decided to move the block out of the way. She and Mark were strong, together especially. If this person was about to cause trouble, they could take her.

They were both caught off guard when they got a good look at the visitor. She was much shorter than either twin, just barely claiming three and a half inches tall, and looked younger than they'd expected from her tone of voice. They doubted she was even twenty yet, and with her slim figure and her dark hair cut into a short bob, they'd almost call her unimposing. That is, if it weren't for her eyes: stern but kind, well worn and an unusual deep violet. The strange woman somehow commanded respect while giving off an impression of harmlessness that made her seem trustworthy right away.

The woman beamed at Anita and Mark. "Morning!" she chirped, bright and energetic despite the early hour, striding right past the bemused twins and into the house like she owned the place. "Hope I'm in the right place. This is two-two-one Baker Street, correct?"

"Hang on!" Mark finally snapped out of his confused stupor, reaching out to grab one of the stranger's skinny arms before she could go any further into Sam and Dean's home. She turned to acknowledge the hand grabbing her, but didn't seem afraid when she looked up to meet his gaze. 

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded. He wasn't about to let anyone be tricked by this woman, like he was once forced to do for Euan. Anita edged up behind Mark, equally tense and ready to spring into action if needed.

The woman blinked up at Mark, a touch of sadness flashing in her eyes before she was strictly down to business once more. "I'm Zepheera," she answered, "and I'm here to help."

The sound from the three by the passage to the kitchen was enough to rouse another visitor in the Winchesters’ home; their erstwhile sister, Moira. Though she’d initially gone to visit Sam and Dean for only a short while, her parents wouldn’t begrudge her a longer visit, at least until they discovered just what Sam and Dean had gotten up to while living on their own.

Not many people their size associated with humans, after all.

Moira pushed herself up on her elbows, tiredly rubbing at her eyes as she worked her way towards wakefulness. The longer she stayed with Sam and Dean, the harder it was to fall asleep. A strange insomnia plagued her, and the few times she managed a good night of sleep, it was interrupted without fail by nightmares that grew more vivid with each passing day.

Sometimes so vivid that she could swear it was like she was awake the entire time.

“Someone there?” Moira mumbled, sitting up and using the wall next to her to go to a shaky stand. She left her bag crumpled by her small sleeping area, tucked into a corner of the main room where she wasn’t in anyone’s way.

The small home in the walls had more space to offer at the moment. Kara’s small family had relocated to Sam and Dean’s supply room, leaving just Bree and the twins staying with the brothers while they tried to come up with a solution for where everyone could live. There was no real way to get them back to their home across the seas, and Christian and Mikael both admitted that the motel they’d made their home had grown so inhospitable that they’d considered leaving more than once after losing both their wives to various dangers within. Sam and Dean didn’t complain about the other three staying with them, but it was apparent (to Moira, who knew them best), that the close quarters were wearing on them. They'd adjusted to living apart from others like them, isolating themselves more than most.

Shuffling over to where she could see Anita and Mark, Moira halted when she spotted the visitor, her hands flying up to her hair to try and arrange the disarrayed bedhead. “Oh! I didn’t see you there!”

Zepheera smiled kindly at Moira, unperturbed by the meaty hand around her arm and making no attempt to escape from it. A quick glance around the room informed her of one other person in the first room, still slumbering away, but something told her that that wasn't who she was looking for either.

"Hiya," she greeted Moira, lowering her voice a little to be mindful of the sleeping resident nearby. "Don't worry about it, really, I've seen messier hair in my day. Doesn't bother me."

Mark frowned suspiciously at this strange, incorrigibly friendly-seeming woman still in his grasp. "Do you know her?" he asked Moira.

Zepheera looked back at him with a small shrug. "I don't get around to this area much," she explained, then turned back to Moira. "But I do need to see how many people ended up here after all the drama the other day."

“But how do you…” Moira cut off her line of questioning, glancing towards the darkness in the final room of the little house, where Sam and Dean were both out cold. “Scratch that. Dean should be here for this. This is my brothers’ home, and they’re not fond of… uninvited guests.” That was the best way she could put it after the rough week they’d had. She glanced between the twins, her eyes telling them to keep an eye on the newcomer, then twirled around and vanished into the other room with a flash of dark hair.

It was quiet for a moment before Zepheera regarded Mark again. He blinked, feeling her gaze bore deeply into his heart despite the softness in those strange eyes.

"I understand your concern," she said gently, speaking like someone who'd known Mark his whole life and understood exactly what he'd been through. It was impossible, and yet she came off as genuine. "But I'm really not here to cause trouble. There's no one waiting to swoop in and capture anybody, and I'm unarmed. I'll behave if you let me go."

The twins exchanged a glance, and Mark shrugged. He didn't see any malicious intent in Zepheera, but he and Anita wouldn't let their guards down. Mark loosened his grip and let Zepheera step away, while Anita came around to her other side, arms crossed suspiciously.

"So," said Anita while they waited, "how exactly were you planning to 'help' us?"

"Any way I can. And I can do quite a lot. Hey, you'd be surprised," Zepheera smirked as Anita scoffed at her ridiculously vague reply. "I've got friends."

Moira stepped carefully past where Sam was sprawled in the center of the room the brothers shared. With his leg injured, Dean never had the heart to complain about the way Sam tried to take over as much space as he could while sleeping, leaving Dean just his small corner to curl up in.

A few scattered projects surrounded Dean’s nest, though Moira couldn’t tell what any of them were or would become. He was always so crafty, in a way that not many others could match even after years of practice. It was like Dean had learned secrets they didn’t have access to, and not for the first time Moira wondered at the secrets her brothers kept after so many years of knowing them.

She knelt by Dean’s side, pushing his shoulder. “Dean,” she whispered, keeping her voice as low as possible to avoid waking Sam.

He groaned, trying to roll away from her touch. Since he was tucked into a corner, there was nowhere else for him to go, and his eyes squinted open in annoyance. “What?” he griped, rubbing his eyes.

“There’s someone here,” Moira said bluntly. “Never met her before, but she’s with Mark and Anita right now.”

Dean sat bolt upright. “Stranger?” He brushed at his crooked spike of hair in an attempt to fix it. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

Dean didn’t see the flat look Moira shot him as he stood up, groping blindly for his leather jacket. After tossing it on, he looked much more put together, his jeans, boots and leather jacket standing out among the normal style that other borrowers in their area wore. His insistence in wearing the ensemble was a remnant of his childhood humanity, and he had no plans on ever changing it.

Checking that his knife was in place in the hidden pocket against his chest, Dean deemed himself as ready as he could be. He spared a glance at Sam, still blissfully passed out, and stepped out of the room. His eyebrows went up as he saw the girl standing between Mark and Anita, much smaller than either sibling and completely composed.

Dean smiled charmingly. “I heard we had a visitor,” he said. “Name’s Dean Winchester, and this is my house you invited yourself to.”

Zepheera quirked an eyebrow of her own when she realized her host was American, looking him up and down before striding purposefully forward and offering a hand to shake. "Zepheera," she introduced herself. "You must be the bloke that got those humans to help take down that wretched place in Wembley. I'm impressed, and I don't say that lightly."

Dean took her slim hand in his, far more cautious in his approach. “I am,” he said slowly, looking from her bright eyes to the twins. Nothing was out of place in the room. Moira hovered behind Dean, watching the interactions without saying a word.

When the handshake was over, he took back his hand and it hung awkwardly at his side. Though the brothers had lived in London for a good portion of their lives, they’d only met a few of the other small folk that lived there. Their adopted family, a few passerby that drifted through the buildings on their way to other places, a few other families that were scattered throughout.

This girl was more confident than most of the other people Dean had ever met, and he wondered what her story was. It seemed that today was the time for his story, though, and he frowned at the memory.

“Once Sam went missing, I got John and Sherlock’s help,” Dean said gruffly, “but we haven’t been in contact with anyone else in the area since it all went down. How did you find out about Wembley?”

"I've been keeping an eye on that place for a long time," Zepheera explained, solemnity falling over her features as she looked into Dean's eyes. They told her everything she needed to know about what he went through to save his brother, what he was willing to risk. "I've got friends spread all around London. We see everything in this city, and I make it my job to know when something happens.

"They… took a lot of people from that area when they first started out," she continued, glancing briefly at Mark just as his shoulders bunched up, sensing the tension there. "A facility like that is tight, and not easy to dismantle for someone like us. I don't think I ever fully understood how terrible it all was, since no one who went in there ever returned. Even with my connections, I wasn't about to risk anyone else to those humans, and… call me old and cynical, but I always thought that an alliance with even the most trustworthy human was too much of a risk. Lots would agree, especially when they've seen what greedy humans can and will do. We're too tight of a community, and if word gets out it wouldn't take long for them to find us."

Zepheera swallowed thickly, refocusing her own emotions to bring the point around, a smirk playing at her lips once again. "And then you happened," she chuckled, shaking her head in disbelief. "Next thing I hear, humans broke into that place and rescued everyone. The place is in ashes, and I'm given the address of the humans who helped you, helped all of you! I had to see for myself."

Dean arched an eyebrow at her reference to herself as “old and cynical,” but chose not to comment on it at the moment. “John and Sherlock are two of a kind,” he agreed with a smirk. “Without them--” He faltered for a second at the possibility of losing Sam.

The past was in the past. Dean composed himself, a mask falling over his face to disguise the emotional crack in his façade. “Let’s just say we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about any of this,” he said gruffly. “No one should be put through what they did to Sam and the others. Ever.”

Zepheera nodded, all too aware of that moment of weakness. Her perception of the world, particularly the people around her, was different than anyone she’d ever known. She did her best to respect the privacy of others, but it couldn’t always be helped.

"Yeah, sounds like you found some good ones," Zepheera mused, eyes flicking towards the wall that separated Dean's home from the human flat. She considered peeking in at these humans, admittedly curious. "I'm glad those people can't harm anyone again.

"So! I came all this way, I figured I could lend a hand. Maybe I can help with relocation! I know this city like the back of my hand, and it's gotta be tight in here with…" Zepheera skimmed the room, counting those around her, and then closed her eyes and internally reached out into subsequent rooms and continued counting. "Blimey, nine people! Someone's been busy," she commented.

“Well,” Dean drawled, his accent thickening with the suspicions right back at the forefront of his mind, “looks like there’s more to you than just a pretty face.”

He stuck his hands casually in his pockets, and out of sight from Dean, Moira glanced between him and the newcomer, slowly edging over to Anita, who she’d warmed up to the more they talked. Having all the liberated captives around was a new experience for Moira, and she’d risen to the challenge of helping them all, including the task of keeping Kara out of the way of the two humans in the flat (mostly).

“Feelin’ on the back of your neck?” Dean asked, waving his hand at his. “Maybe a bloody nose if ya push it? Or worse?”

"Not as much these days," Zepheera shrugged. "Definitely when I was your age. Nowadays, the tingle's more of a warning system, but yeah, I get headaches if I get carried away. Or if I'm around really intense people. Do my best to avoid the 'nosebleed' level scenarios."

Anita caught sight of Moira's movements, caught up for a moment in comforting Mark after the reminder of everything they'd finally escaped. It was all still raw for both twins, and they had an unspoken agreement to be the person for the other to lean on. They had no one else.

She offered Moira an encouraging smile and gave her a look that asked if she was alright. She'd found an unexpected friend in Sam and Dean's younger sister. There was a kindness in her that Anita admired, reminding her of Sam comforting her when they shared a cage. Of all the people she and Mark would be leaving behind, Anita would miss Moira the most.

Despite her friendly and cooperative demeanor, the twins were still a little wary of Zepheera. Her sudden appearance was a major factor in their suspicion, and they hung on the edge of every word exchanged between her and the elder Winchester. If he warmed up to her, maybe they'd let go of some of that tension.

“Right,” Dean said. “This thing needs to come with a warning label over what to avoid.” He could remember the blinding pain from his headache a week ago all too well. The pain had lingered for days, flaring up whenever he considered trying to track anything down. It was for the best that Sherlock hadn’t found any cases for them to work while Dean was recovering. Only the last two days had the pain dulled enough for him to try it out, finding the ability still intact.

More than once he’d wondered if he’d burned himself out for good with that spur of the moment decision.

Crossing his arms, Dean assessed Zepheera again. “What kind of help with relocating can you offer us?” he asked. “I know a few people are thinking about staying in Baker Street, but there’s not many good places around here. Not enough for everyone.”

Zepheera clapped her hands together, excited to get down to business. "Yes, well, like I said, I know London backwards and forwards. I can find someplace to suit just about anybody's needs. Not to brag, but hell, I built some of them."

With a look around the room, Zepheera eyed the one person still sleeping in the room and pondered over the others. "Maybe if I just talked to everyone, we could work something out? I know these two were already on their way out, but I'm glad to help if I can," she added, jabbing a thumb toward the twins.

Mark and Anita stiffened, not expecting to be called out. Their gazes jumped between Zepheera and Dean, stammering out beginnings to different responses. Anita attempted to insist to Zepheera that she and her brother were trying to make it on their own, and Mark was failing to explain to Dean why they wanted to leave so quietly, without bothering anyone. They both petered out before they got too far, and Zepheera waved it off, a little thrown by the effect of her offhand statement.

"Don't worry about it, I'm not gonna judge your life choices after all you've been through," Zepheera assured. "No rush at all, especially if you've already made up your minds."

Dean turned towards Moira. “Go wake the others,” he commanded, nodding towards the door. “I’ll get Sam and Bree.”

Moira nodded, bouncing her way past Anita and Mark and vanishing around the corner to follow the path to the supply room. There were several ways there, some more direct than others, and Moira knew them as well as either brother. She had helped them just over a year back when they’d first moved into Baker Street, long before they ever suspected they’d befriend the humans in the flat.

With that out of the way, Dean gestured to the lone table in the room as he pivoted on his heel to wake the last two. “Make yourself at home.”

"Aye, aye, captain," said Zepheera, lightly teasing Dean for the way he took charge of the group as she meandered her way to the table and removed her small, single-strap rucksack. Not that she'd ever deride him for that, it was an admirable quality that she deeply respected him for. To go to such lengths as recruiting humans for help rescuing his brother, and taking in all the others they liberated from that unspeakable predicament without question…

Zepheera had only met one person so kind-hearted. And it took a lot to have as much heart as the man with two.

She took a seat by the table and eyed the food spread out on it. As it happened, she'd already had a bite to eat before she left to find this place, but she did take a small nibble from a raisin that caught her interest before folding her hands in her lap and waiting patiently.

Everyone else trickled in over the next five minutes, Sam and Dean the last of the bunch. Though Sam was on the mend thanks to John’s careful ministrations, he still slept the most, the healing process combined with the effort using the crutches to get around draining his energy faster than normal.

It felt like everyone was watching as he hobbled into the main room on the crutch John had constructed, and Sam’s ears turned pink at the edges as he sat in the chair left open for him, glad for his long hair to hide the obvious sign of his uncertainty.

Dean looked over everyone gathered, and nodded to himself. “That’s everyone,” he told Zepheera, giving her the floor.

Chapter Text

Zepheera regarded each person that entered with a thoughtful smile, quietly assessing their feelings about the situation. She tried not to get too deep, seeing as she was a stranger to all of them, and after everything they'd gone through they had a right to their privacy. To calm any nerves, Zepheera introduced herself.

"Hello! I'm Zepheera. I heard about what happened to you lot, and I understand you're in need of accommodations. I'd like to help with that. See, I've lived in this city for a long time, and I know the ins and outs better than anyone. I daresay that I could find anyone a place where they fit. We might be a tight community here in London, but there's always space for someone. So…what were we thinking? Anyone put any thought into this yet?"

The twins settled against a far wall while they listened to Zepheera, still deciding between themselves if they wanted to accept her help or attempt to make it on their own. They watched the others for their reactions, hoping to get a better read on the odd woman through her interactions with them.

Christian frowned, his hand on Kara’s shoulder. “It’s nice of you to offer…” he ventured tentatively, his voice as wound up as it ever was.

“We’ve found a place downstairs,” Mikael interrupted, smoothly taking over for the timid father. “After Kara went through so much, we didn’t want to put her through moving again, and this way she can stay near the few people she knows.”

"Fair enough," Zepheera nodded, grin widening as her eyes fell on little Kara. It was a wonder that, after everything she'd gone through, the child still had such a warm energy that spread to those around her. "It's a good spot, this, especially when you've got friends and family around."

“I could use some help,” Bree said, knitting her fingers together where she sat. “I don’t have anyone else.”

Zepheera’s smile faltered, receiving much more from the young woman than she ever meant to as they locked eyes. Zepheera's heart ached as she grasped just how long Bree had been estranged from her own people, her family. The poor thing had been under the control of humans for over half her life, cut off from her own kind until now.

"Oh…" Zepheera slowly got to her feet and approached the blonde with shining violet eyes. "Sorry, I know this is probably weird, but… Do you mind if I hug you, Bree?"

Bree’s lip trembled, a bit of her pent-up emotion threatening to spill over, tears on the edge of overflowing. “I-it’s not… I shouldn’t…” She blinked rapidly, trying to hold herself together.

“Bree,” Sam said gently, leaning forward in his seat, “it’s okay. You’re safe now, and no one’s taking you away again.”

“I-I know, it just feels wrong! ” she wailed, caught up in the mindset that came from years of living with humans, treated as a pet since she was a small child. She stumbled forward a few steps, and sank into Zepheera’s arms.

Zepheera hugged Bree close, a few tears falling freely down her cheeks despite her breaths being as even as ever. Hugs like this weren't usually her area, but her conversation with Dean left her thinking about an old friend who never ever hesitated to dole out an embrace to people who needed or deserved one.

She closed her eyes as she supported the blonde, shutting her sense off completely from Bree's emotions and memories. Bree was in a weak place, it'd be rude of Zepheera to pry any further than she had already. Instantly, her tears stopped flowing.

"I know, sweetheart," Zepheera whispered, smoothing down Bree's hair. She pulled back just enough to meet her bright blue gaze. "I might understand better than anyone what you're going through.” She might never have been a captive, but she lived with someone who, for all intents and purposes, appeared human. They were together for a long time, and adjusting to normal borrower life after all that…

"It's hard, getting used to being around people your own size again and finding where you fit in. But you can do it. You'll get there, and I'd be honored to help you do it." With a warm smile, Zepheera tucked a lock of Bree's hair behind an ear, completely confident in her words.

“I hope so,” Bree mumbled, brushing at her eyes as she straightened. Water droplets clung to her long eyelashes as she stepped back, avoiding eye contact with anyone else in the room. She didn’t consider her old owner Beth ‘evil,’ by any means, but now that she was free…

She could remember her family, and how they’d taken care of her for so long before she was lost to them, and knew now that she’d never see them again. They were worlds away from her old motel.

“And what about you two?” Dean’s voice interjected over Bree’s worries, the young man looking over at Mark and Anita. “Gonna take her up on her offer?”

Anita blinked, momentarily put on the spot as Zepheera turned to face them, casually wiping lingering tears from her face. The shorter of the twins stepped forward and hesitantly let go of her brother's hand. Zepheera's talk about adjusting to life without humans around dictating every aspect of their lives struck a chord deep inside both of them, Mark especially, and Anita's hand had been firmly clasped in her brother's much larger one since then.

"We'll follow you out," Anita stated, allowing none of her trepidation to show in her voice or face. "After everything, we really want to make it on our own, but… we could probably use some help finding our way around."

"That I can do," said Zepheera with a nod. She glanced around the room once more and then turned to Bree. "How soon would you be comfortable with leaving?" she asked gently, doing her best to not pressure the blonde one way or another.

Bree looked around the room in a fog, vaguely noticing Sam’s encouraging smile as she tried to remember what she’d need. “I don’t have much,” she said shyly.

The only real possessions to her name now were the few things she’d gathered over the last few days while tagging along. There wasn’t even a climbing rope to her name, and after all these years she wasn’t the most adept at scaling the heights around them.

Moira handed off Bree’s few belongings, then swept the older girl into a hug. “You should come visit my home when you’re all settled!” she said, her excitement breaking through Bree’s somber attitude. “We’re only a few houses down the line!”

“Oh, ah, sure,” Bree said, awkwardly patting Moira’s back as she pulled away. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Moira beamed as Dean stood and followed suit. “Watch yourself out there, kid.” He glanced at Anita and Mark. “All of you.”

Mark stepped tentatively toward Dean and, once the other man pulled away from Bree, offered a hand to shake.

"Thank you," said Mark hoarsely. "My sister and I owe you our lives." He looked at Sam, bright green eyes round and shining and offering a clear path to his heart. "And… I know it can never make up for anything, but I'm truly sorry. For everything."

Dean clasped Mark’s hand in a firm grip, looking up at the taller man and meeting those bright green eyes with his murky ones. “If anything like that happens again, you know where to come this time,” he said. “We’re always ready to help.”

“And so are John and Sherlock,” Sam put in, sitting forward on his seat. He gave Mark a far warmer smile compared to Dean. “You’ve got people who can help.”

“But try and stay out of trouble, alright?” Dean finished dryly.

"No arguments from us," Mark assured with an abashed chuckle as he pulled his hand away to sheepishly rub at his neck as Anita moved to hug Moira goodbye. The taller, stronger woman briefly lifted the other off the floor in her excitement.

"You take care of yourself," murmured Anita, putting Moira back down with a wide grin. The girl had been a more than gracious host to her and her brother during the times that neither of them were willing to directly approach the Winchesters.

Zepheera put a comforting hand on Bree's shoulder. "Don't you worry about a thing, love," she assured. "Things are different over here than they are in America. We all help each other, and if you like, you won't ever have to deal with humans again."

Turning back to Zepheera, Mark informed her, "We were just about to grab some supplies to tide us over on our journey."

"Probably a good idea to stock up," Zepheera agreed, stepping back toward the table to retrieve the small rucksack she'd left there, snatching it up by its lone strap. "I can carry anything you need in here. It's roomier than it looks. Which reminds me."

Undoing the latch, Zepheera reached into the bag-- perhaps a little further than she should have been able to-- and pulled out a small square of card stock paper. Crossing the room to pick up a spare pencil lead, she scrawled out her name and a series of numbers as neatly as she could while using the wall for support. 

"Anything else happens, if you need help at all or happen to find yourself with a full house again, call me anytime," she instructed, handing the paper and the lead to Dean.

Dean arched an eyebrow at the numbers on the paper before handing it off to Sam, who looked over it with far more fascination. A phone number was the last thing either Winchester expected to see when dealing with a person their own size.

“Got your own number?” Dean asked, bemused. “We’ll be sure to remember that.”

Bree made her way over to stand with Anita and Mark, keeping her eyes down out of habit, but just as ready for the chance to start a new life. Her pulse had slowed, plodding along at a regular pace instead of the rapid beats while she cried. She brushed off some of the remaining tears from her blonde eyelashes, flicking them away.

“Same goes for you,” Dean said gruffly, continuing on. “If you ever have a… situation, we’re more than willing to help. Us, and John and Sherlock.” He gave her a tight smile. “I’m sure you can find Sherlock Holmes’ number if you try.” Having never had need to call Sherlock, Dean didn’t have it himself, but he’d watched Sherlock field calls from his website (and John’s, more often than not), along with the collection of clients that were drawn to the world’s only Consulting Detective.

"I have my ways," Zepheera admitted with a smirk to match Dean's grin. "And I know where you live," she added in a false menacing tone, waggling her brow playfully at him.

Turning on her heel, she smiled at her small group. "Right then! We all set?"

Anita glanced at Bree and Mark, the former hovering quietly nearby and the latter nodding decisively. "Ready as we'll ever be," she answered for the three of them.

"Brilliant!" Zepheera shouldered her bag, straightening her clothes as she headed toward the entrance to Sam and Dean's home. She stopped for one last glance at the brothers and the small family who had decided to stay.

"Thanks for letting me steal your morning," she quipped. Then, to the brothers she said more genuinely, "And thank you again for all you've done. I'm sure we'll see each other again."

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, bright-eyes,” Dean said gamely, waving a goodbye to their erstwhile guests and visitor.

“Stay safe out there,” Sam said warmly.

“And don’t forget to knock next time!”

Zepheera rolled her eyes, the ones Dean insisted on commenting on and nicknaming her after. She had knocked, but he hadn't been awake for that. It would add to nothing to point this out, so she simply opened the way for Anita, Mark, and Bree to make their way out. With one last smirk and a two-fingered mock salute, Zepheera disappeared behind them, closing the door behind her.

Dean sighed, leaning heavily against the table. As sad as he was to see some of their temporary housemates leave, he wouldn’t mind having some space back. 

Speaking of, Christian scooped Kara up. “We’ll be heading out now, too,” he informed the brothers. “We found a good spot. Can’t let it go to waste.”

“Might as well leave at the same time,” Mikael said in agreement.

Kara squirmed, and wouldn’t settle until Christian let her give Dean a hug. “I’ll come visit!” she promised.

A grin tugged the corner of Dean’s lip. “I’ll be sure to do the same, squirt,” he said fondly, ruffling her hair. He looked between Christian and Mikael. “Take care of yourselves, and remember we’re always around if you need anything.”

“Will do,” Mikael said, nodding solemnly.

The last guests at Baker Street filed out, on their way to pick up the supplies they had in Sam and Dean’s former storage room that had substituted as a temporary home. Now, Dean would be able to move the clutter out of their home and back where it belonged.

Hopefully Sherlock didn’t come poking around while Dean worked. That could be a distraction.

For now, Dean collapsed onto the other seat they had for the table. “I need a vacation,” he groaned, and Sam smiled.

Things were going back to normal.

Chapter Text

A black cab pulled up in front of 221B Baker Street, and a man with bright red hair stepped out. It had been nearly two weeks since Agent Stan Baker's fateful first visit to this place, and he regarded the building with a certain weight as he saw it in the daylight for the first time.

Since their mission in Wembley, Stan and his team spent the week sorting through all the information they procured from the site, and the past few days brainstorming ideas for a solution to the clear and present problem in London and seemingly Europe as a whole. One solution was favored in the group, but everyone agreed that they were not even remotely prepared to carry it out. As the leader, it was Stan's job to prepare them, and he rapped on the large black door with the knocker to seek help from an expert.

Stan's brow went up when a small older woman in an apron and cleaning gloves answered the door, and he put on his most charming smile, shoving his hands casually into the pockets of his dark wool coat. Unlike the suits he and his team were encouraged to wear under Mycroft's direct instruction, Stan was on his own time today and decided to make this visit in his street clothes.

"Afternoon," he amicably greeted the woman he knew to be the landlady, Mrs. Hudson, even though they had never formally met. "Hope I didn't interrupt anything, I was just hoping to speak with Mr. Holmes."

Mrs. Hudson understood right away and let him inside, pointing him toward the stairs. He thanked her for her trouble and followed her directions, coming upon another door on the landing. It was closed, so he knocked and waited.

Sherlock Holmes answered the door after a moment, looking Stan up and down. Despite the hour, he was still in a dressing gown over an odd combination of a dress shirt and pajama trousers. Recognizing him from their most recent adventure, the detective's brow pinched.

"What is it?" he demanded bluntly, under the assumption that something must have happened or changed to cause Agent Baker to visit.

Stan made a move to unfasten his coat. "May I come in?"

Sherlock stepped aside, holding the door open for Stan as he entered and closing it behind him.

"Sorry for barging in on you like this," said Stan, shedding his coat and draping it over one arm, "but my team and I are in a bit of a bind and we need some advice."

"Yes, yes, get to the point," Sherlock grumbled impatiently.

Stan scratched at the back of his neck, a little hesitant. "Actually, sir, I was rather hoping to discuss this with Dean as well--"

"Dean! " Sherlock called to the seemingly empty room, knowing the smaller man would hear. Then he snatched a chair from the end table against the wall and placed it across from the fireplace, indicating that Stan should sit as he dropped into his own chair. Bemused, Stan did just that, laying his coat over the back of it before taking a seat, folding his hands in his lap while he waited.

They weren’t left waiting for long; it was only moments before there was movement deep in the bookshelf by John’s empty armchair.

After the rescue of the captives, there was very little dust left on the shelf from the time Sherlock removed all the books. This meant Dean didn’t get as messy when he passed through the crack that led to their home. The old spiderwebs that once draped over the area were gone as well, leaving a clear path.

In annoyance, the little guy stormed out into plain sight. His leather jacket was hastily thrown on and his duffel bag hung askew, and he was glaring right at Sherlock when he came out into the light.

“You know, I’m right there, like two feet away,” Dean complained. “You’re gonna wake the dead one of these days, and the last thing we need to deal with is any vengeful spirits knocking on our doors along with all the rest of the problems going on.”

The sight of Stan sitting across from him brought Dean up short, not expecting anyone else in the flat. Dean scanned him up and down, evidently remembering the man from the late-night case two weeks ago. “Stan!” he called, his voice warmer for greeting their guest than for scolding Sherlock. “Didn’t expect to see you droppin’ in!”

A smile broke through Stan's bemusement regarding the situation as a whole. As strange as it was to watch the tiny man appear from the bookshelf and chastise someone so much larger than himself, it was good to see Dean again. He was the first and only tiny person Stan had ever met, and he would not forget their meeting anytime soon.

"Been a while," Stan mused with a grin. "My team and I have been working round the clock the past few weeks, figured I'd stop in and give you an update."

That was enough to pique Dean’s interest. He’d wondered more than once how the team assigned by Mycroft to look into the operation was doing. They were trained to deal with this type of situation (removing tiny people from the equation, at least), and they had the resources and numbers John and Sherlock didn’t, preparing them to deal with the sheer scope of the operation. Which, according to Sherlock, was beyond what any of them had suspected when they’d rescued Sam and the others.

“I’ve been looking forward to this,” Dean said, wandering over to the wall of the bookshelf and leaning against it. He idly brushed the spike of hair on his head to perk it up, having rushed out of his and Sam’s home before he was ready with Sherlock shouting his name.

"Are you any closer to finding whoever's in charge of it all?" Sherlock urged, elbows resting on the arms of his chair with his fingertips pressed together in front of his chin.

Stan sighed and shook his head. "Unfortunately not." Trying to keep his focus even between Sherlock and Dean, he explained, "As you know, before the attack, the men that were killed were destroying any files containing vital information about the operation. We've since cleaned the entire place out and haven't found a single copy. No leads there."

Dean had other important topics to focus on. “And what about others like us?” he asked, trying to contain how eager he was for news.

Cases like his father used to work on, back in America when the brothers were both full-sized and uncursed, never felt so personal. This operation, wherever it originated, had targeted the brothers twice. Once as kids, snapping them both up at a motel in the Midwest, and then Sam again just a few weeks back. So to Dean, this was as personal as things got. No one messed with Sam without retribution of some kind-- not even Sherlock. The vanishing shoelaces had nearly driven him mad when he couldn’t figure out where they were going and how Dean kept finding them.

"Now, that's a bit more complicated, and the reason I'm here," Stan admitted, shifting to lean to one side, resting one ankle on the opposite knee. With Dean in the conversation, he already felt more relaxed.

"There is good news," he assured. "We were able to recover loads of other files from that place, sometimes even multiple copies. Apparently whenever they… procured someone, they kept thorough documentation. Everything, from their physical attributes to their demeanor, like some kind of sick catalog."

Stan couldn't help a distasteful frown as he described the information, and he took a moment to breathe deeply and regain his composure. "Anyway, they… They also kept records of who was sold to whom. Complete with names, addresses, even National Insurance numbers."

A bit of hope tickled at the back of Dean’s mind, a feeling that was almost alien to him at times during the harsh life they’d lived. This information from Stan meant Sam’s suffering might help them make a difference.

“So, you can track down the buyers?” Dean asked, restraining himself to just crossing his arms in the surge of renewed energy he felt at the good news. Tracking down the buyers meant they could find the ‘pets' they bought, which meant… “You can rescue the people they bought?”

"That is the idea," said Stan, the corner of his lip tugging into a grin.

"But?" Sherlock prompted, drawing Stan's attention and melting his smile. "You said this was a complicated matter, and you wouldn't be here if it were as simple as that."

Stan nodded solemnly as his gaze shifted from Sherlock to Dean. "Right. The thing is, now that we have this information, we don't really know what to do with it. Going out and rescuing these people, that's the obvious choice. I'm just a little hesitant to make it because we don't really know how to go about it.

"These people, they were treated like animals by humans like us. Breaking into their buyer's home would be the easy part, but getting the person your size out of there... I just don't see them coming along willingly with a bunch of strange giants."

Dean was shaking his head before Stan finished his sentence. “They’re not going to come along willingly, I can tell you that already.”

That would need expounding on, so Dean slid to his knees to sit, letting his duffel rest on the floor of the shelf next to him. “Me an’ Sam… ain’t your normal ‘borrowers,’ or whatever the hell we’re called. To say the least. So, me spending time out in the open seems normal, but it really ain’t.”

Dean looked between the two humans. It wasn’t even normal for them, yet, this laid-back manner of interacting with the humans in the flat. They were adjusting, a little more each week, and it was made easier by their past as humans. They knew better than anyone that not all humans would want to hurt or trap them, as much as they understood that some would.

“Most people our size want nothing to do with you giants, and they’ll try and get away from you, quick as they can if they get half a chance. But you have to get them away from their captors, or they’ll just end up back in cages.”

"I know," Stan said quietly, more subdued than he'd ever been around the other two. "Believe me, I want nothing more than for all those people to be free."

Letting out a long breath, he continued, "My main concern is our inexperience. My team and I, we've never dealt with a situation this sensitive, and I don't want anyone getting hurt because we were too rough or did something harmfully wrong because we didn't know better. I mean, you're the first… borrower I've met," he frowned as he tried out the word, looking to Dean for a reaction to the term. "But that was a while ago and only for a short time. None of the rest of my team have even seen you, and you and I never interacted. Not directly. I'm far from an expert in this area.”

Dean couldn’t stop a grin as Stan danced around the subject, already knowing where the conversation was heading. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Stan was asking. He didn’t have any direct interactions with people their size, therefore he’d come to the one place he knew he’d find someone willing to help. An expert, so to speak. If not an expert at holding people, an expert at knowing and understanding how they’d feel.

“Guess we’d better get you some hands-on experience in what you’re doing then, right?” Dean asked rhetorically, holding out a hand, palm-up. Much like Sherlock and John did when they let the smaller folk stand on their hands. “I should make sure your hands are steady before you go helpin’ anyone, anyway. And I could throw in a few lessons on what not to do.”

Chapter Text

Stan's brow went up at the suggestion, and his focus flickered over to Sherlock, the only other human he'd seen handle Dean in the way he was telling Stan to do now. The younger Holmes brother looked at Dean with a slight frown, perhaps in confusion, and then he arched an eyebrow at Stan before giving the smallest of nods. It was clear in his eyes that he would be watching Stan very closely, but he wasn't about to stop them.

"If… if you say so," said Stan as he turned back to Dean, swallowing nervously as he got to his feet.

He scolded himself for being so jittery about this. Stan was quite familiar with dangerous situations, it was practically his job description, but this was different to him. This was holding an entire life in one hand, a hand powerful enough to snuff out that life by accident. That was the last thing he ever wanted.

Breathing deeply as he sank into the armchair adjacent to the bookshelf, Stan hesitantly copied Dean's hand position and moved it closer to the smaller man like a platform. "Don't worry, I keep clean hands," he quipped to hide his anxiety behind a smirk.

“Good, ‘cause the last thing I want is to end up smelling like Cheese Curls,” Dean quipped back, hiding his nerves the same as Stan, aided by the fact that his face, so much smaller than the others, was much harder to read. Thus far, he’d only ever allowed Sherlock and John to hold him. Anyone else in his tumultuous history with humans had forced it on him-- From grabbing him and Sam and shoving them in a cage to checking them out before agreeing to ship them overseas.

John and Sherlock gave Dean and his younger brother full control over their fate, whether it be something as simple as putting them down when they asked or helping them when they were in a bind. Even Sherlock’s slips where he scooped Dean up weren’t dangerous. He was just annoyingly impatient, and Dean’s short legs couldn’t keep up with him on the best days.

Dean pushed himself up from his knees, slinging his duffel over his shoulder. He pointedly dusted off his jeans, gaining another second to compose himself before he put himself back in that vulnerable position.

Just a few months before, if anyone had asked Dean what he’d be doing with his life, it sure as hell wouldn’t be “helping a government agent get used to handling borrowers.”

Borrowers. What a stupid name that everyone in Britain accepted. It made him feel like a character in a kid’s novel half the time.

Dean took that first, fateful step onto Stan’s hand, nearly having to catch himself on his knees when the soft ground under him didn’t offer much in the way of footing. One thing was for sure-- despite weeks of working with Sherlock, Dean still had a lot of work to do before he was really used to being held in hands.

Stan blinked quickly as he watched Dean step on, and it took him a few seconds to remember to breathe. For all his bluster and readiness to boss around people much taller than him, it was easy to forget just how small and lightweight Dean was. His every movement, every shift of his minuscule weight, tickled Stan's palm, and it was all he could do to keep perfectly still. In such a precarious position, Stan certainly didn't want to knock Dean over with a twitch.

Once he felt that Dean was settled, Stan ventured to lift his hand. He stopped at an inch above the surface of the shelf, eyes locked on Dean for any sign of imbalance. Already Stan could see that moving too fast would jostle the smaller man, so he carried on slowly, sitting back in the armchair and moving Dean up closer to eye level. His deep green eyes were wide and his lips parted in amazement, but his hand remained as flat and stable as it had been.

Dean kept his arms held out to keep his balance as Stan moved, looking around the room from the new perspective. He might never get over the feeling of standing on a hand, no matter how many times he went through with it. On a platform that could cover the shared bedroom floor of the Winchesters, knowing there was more power in the muscles that he stood on than in his entire body.

Yet for some reason, they’d fallen into luck for the first time in their lives and found good humans in London.

“See?” Dean called once he was certain of his footing, letting his hands fall to his sides. “Nothin’ to it.” He stomped a foot to show Stan how solid the platform was for him. “You just gotta make sure your hands are steady and don’t move too fast. Unlike some people.” The last point was added with a brief glance at Sherlock.

A chuckle escaped Stan at that remark before he stifled it with a look at the other human in the room. He sobered up, reminding himself that as Mycroft Holmes' brother and his team's default resource for investigation should things ever get out of their depth, Sherlock was technically his superior.

Though technically, he supposed that being the resident expert on borrowers and the only one Stan had ever met made Dean his superior as well. Unofficially speaking.

For Sherlock's part, he simply rolled his eyes at Dean's jab. "Faster than you could go on your own, perhaps," he muttered in return.

Turning his attention back to the man in his hand, Stan couldn't stop an awed smile from creeping back onto his face. His head was nearly spinning with the thrill of being trusted to hold someone so small without a hint of fear from the other. "This is unreal…" he breathed, carefully lifting his other hand to give one of Dean's shoulders a light nudge with a fingertip.

Dean automatically brought his hand up, clapping it on Stan’s fingertip. The gesture surprised him, feeling like he was just clapping a friend on the back instead of a finger.

Sherlock’s comment, however, demanded a response. Dean jabbed a finger in his direction. “Everything you do is faster than me, obviously,” he griped, throwing Sherlock’s favorite word right back at him. “Doesn’t mean you gotta rub it in all the time.”

"It's not 'rubbing it in' if it's practically a necessity at this point," Sherlock countered with a scoff. Really, he knew Dean could get around on his own if he needed to. It could hardly be helped that the detective often got excited and wanted his smaller flatmate to come along when there was something to be seen or done. Even if his jab seemed a bit like a complaint, he truly preferred to have Dean close on a case.

Stan's grin widened in bemusement as he watched the others bicker, one perched on his hand and the other slumped in the armchair across from him. "Alright, so don't move too fast," he conceded. "Anything else I should know?"

Dean turned his attention from Sherlock to Stan, pausing to mull over the question. He had plenty of suggestions, most from his time spent around humans while this size. Sherlock had prompted some, Sam’s kidnappers more, and the rest came from Dean’s experience.

“First off, it’s not likely that anyone’s gonna stick around to talk with you. They’re gonna try their hardest to get away. Trying to convince them you’re safe might not go so well, and you can’t leave them in any houses you raid-- The humans will probably just catch them again if that happens, so you’ll have to catch them first.”

Dean held up a hand. “But,” he emphasized forcefully, “you need to be careful. No pinching around the chest, it’s too easy to make a mistake and push just a little too hard.” They’d all found that out well enough when Sherlock pinned Sam down. Which, thinking of-- “No pinning them to your hand. That’s too close to acting like they’re just some rodent or bug. Legs are more durable if you have to grab, but it’s safer if you just scoop them up into a loose fist. Loose. No pressure. We all found out it’s almost too easy to slip up and break a bone if you don’t pay attention.” The thought of Sam’s injury made Dean scowl. It was healing well, but every time he saw Sam trying to get around on his crutch, it set a low-level blaze of rage alight in Dean’s chest. He quickly quelled it; that was neither here nor there.

Stan's smile faded as he listened, taking each and every word to heart. As harsh as it was to acknowledge how fragile people Dean's size were, it wasn't surprising. Stan wasn't even doing much with Dean in his hand, and it was clear to him that he would be able to overpower the little guy with just a finger if he wanted.

The last thing Stan wanted was to cause the smaller folk any harm, least of all Dean or anyone who'd already been through enough cruelty at human hands. This information was necessary to his success in rescuing the previously sold borrowers, and he took it seriously.

"Loose fist, no pinching," he repeated back to show he understood, looking down at his unoccupied hand as he flexed and curled his fingers experimentally. Even with Dean standing in his other hand, it was hard to imagine an entire person fitting into his fist, no matter how loose.

"What if I need my hands free? Would a pocket be okay?" Suddenly a million scenarios were running through Stan's head, and though he tried to hide it, he worried that if he didn't find a safe way to handle every single one, someone would suffer for it in the future.

Dean nodded, but felt the need to add one stipulation. “Pockets work, but only if you either know the person won’t try to escape, or have a way to close them in. Chances are, the second you’re distracted, they’ll scramble to the top. Everyone this size is good at climbing; supplies or not, they’re gonna try.”

He looked straight at Sherlock for the next part, meaning this part more for him than Stan. “We got stuck in jars once, and if anyone turned their attention away from us, Sam woulda been out in a flash. He’s the fastest climber around.”

Sherlock's brow quirked at the pointed statement, fingers folding thoughtfully. Since the night Sam was stolen, the detective had pondered over their first encounter on several occasions. Obviously there were a good many things he could have done differently, and he tried to consider the brothers' perspective of the whole affair, something Sherlock rarely endeavored to do with anyone in any situation.

In this case, if he ever wanted to close the rift he'd rent between himself and Sam all those weeks ago, Sherlock would need to branch out a little. Thus, he took Dean's words as a presentation of facts rather than a jab and made dutiful note, all without one muscle of his face betraying the conflict.

Hearing about the brothers' skills was informative for both humans in the room, and Stan colored himself impressed. He, of course, had never seen Dean's brother and heard very little about him, but he knew that Sam was the entire reason he and his team had been given this mission, and now they had the opportunity to rescue so many more who likely had it so much worse.

"Don't suppose we can just go into any of this half-cocked," Stan mused, mulling over everything Dean said. He had a feeling that they'd only grazed the tip of the iceberg with this issue, and he was hesitant to leave without knowing everything he needed to know. "My problem is, the only way I can think to train for something like this is… well, to actually practice."

He trailed off a little at the end, understanding fully what he was suggesting. Sherlock's brow furrowed deeply as he caught on, looking to Dean for his response.

Dean took a few seconds more to catch up, arching an eyebrow in realization of what Stan needed to do. What he wanted from Dean.

It didn’t do much good just talking about ‘how to grab a borrower.’ Stan was going to need to train with an actual borrower.

Stupid name.

“So you,” Dean said, reiterating the facts for himself to mull over while he stood in a hand-- one that would likely be trying to grab him soon enough, “want me to practice with you? Like different scenarios, try and see what works?”

"Only if you're comfortable with it, of course," Stan amended quickly, glancing between Dean and Sherlock, the latter of whom was giving an intense stare to those across from him. Stan wasn't entirely sure if he himself was comfortable with the notion of trying to grab Dean, a person who had only just now allowed someone new to hold him, but he hardly had a choice.

Even so, he wanted to leave Dean a choice. It was his safety on the line, after all.

"I, ah, know you haven't known me long, but I've been training for high-risk situations since I was a kid. I'm perceptive, quick on my feet, and I listen to my teammates. I won't let you down."

Dean mulled over the idea carefully, turning it over in his head and looking at it from different directions. It sounded like a great plan-- Make sure Stan was prepared to interact with actual people when it came up, give him training with someone who already knew what was going on. Dean wasn’t about to run off on the humans if he got spooked like most other people their size would do. Even Sam might be open to training with Stan when he finished healing, if it helped others, and that went a long way in explaining just how different the Winchesters were to others their size.

The brothers knew there was more to humans than just the stories passed down from family to family, always touching on the worst case scenarios, the stories you told your children to get them to eat some carrot and go to bed on time. Though the Winchesters would err on the side of caution more often than not, they were perfectly willing to give people a chance once they earned it.

John Watson had earned that chance first, back when he’d freed Sam and Dean, no questions asked. Sherlock had taken longer to come around, but he was just as trusted as John these days. Rescuing Sam had won him Dean’s complete loyalty, no matter how much sass Dean threw his way on a regular basis to keep him on his toes.

And now Stan. Newer to the crew than anyone else, but ready to help save the people they tracked down.

Dean held up a finger. “I don’t see a problem with it, so long as you stop if I call a halt.” His eyes glittered, ideas spinning around in his mind, brimming with possibilities. “In fact, we can make this into a game if you want. See if you can beat me on my own turf.”

Stan's brow nearly jumped past his hairline to hear that that was Dean's attitude about it. Of course he was relieved that Dean seemed okay with the idea, but the last thing he'd expected was for this to become a game.

"Er… okay. If you say so. What did you have in mind?" He glanced around the room-- apparently Dean's 'turf'-- and wondered what Dean would have him do. Not that Stan would say no to any of it, whatever it was.

Dean grinned challengingly. “Where’s the fun if there’s no winner or loser?” he taunted. “Simple enough. You catch me-- you win. I get in the walls, any of the walls, I win.” He held up a hand to count off the rules. “No more grabbing once I get there, that way I can come out without worrying about getting snatched up. Any weapons used have to be training weapons, so you won’t have your fingers get cut up if you catch me, but you still have to react like I hit you with my knife.”

Opening the edge of his jacket, Dean flashed the silver of his knife so it caught the light and threw it back at Stan. “And if either of us calls a halt, for whatever reason, we stop. Got it?” The last rule he threw in mostly for Sam’s sake. If his younger brother wandered out while they were working, he didn’t want the kid getting spooked by a human grabbing Dean. Nothing good could come from that.

Chapter Text

Sherlock hummed thoughtfully, sinking lower into his seat as he frowned at his diminutive flatmate. Dean had certainly been quick to come up with this little 'game' of his. Almost sounded as if he'd thought of it before, though Sherlock doubted he quite had this learning outcome in mind. Dean might be a daredevil on occasion, but he'd never dream up any method for someone to catch him just for the hell of it.

This was an unusual circumstance, of course, and Sherlock gave Stan one more look up and down. He couldn't exactly object with Dean so excited about his idea and Agent Baker more than willing to listen in order to do something noble for complete strangers in need. It was obvious that he would never abuse that information, that much was clear from everything Sherlock knew and observed about him.

Admittedly, the detective was curious to see where this was going to go, and he pulled his legs up into his chair and crossed them, leaving the pair with as much space as possible. Might as well supervise them while they're at it. Should be informative.

"Whoa," Stan breathed at the sight of the tiny blade. As brief as the glimpse was, and as miniscule as the weapon was, he could tell that it was a well-crafted knife and was glad his fingers would be safe from its wrath.

"Got it, yeah," he nodded. Dean's rules sounded reasonable enough to him. With a deep breath to prepare himself for what he was about to get into, he forced a smirk and said, "Guess I should put you down then, eh? Not exactly fair if you're already in my hand."

“Only if you don’t want that hand getting attacked,” Dean warned with a grin, remembering the last-ditch attack he’d done against Sherlock, making the hand closed around him flex open and give him a window of escape. The window had closed in seconds and Dean still ended up trapped between two hands, but every second counted.

Dean waved vaguely at the floor. “Just drop me off wherever and we can get this show on the road.”

Stan did as he was told, letting his occupied hand relax down to chest level as he carefully stood and took a few steps into the room. He chose a spot a little ways from the frayed edge of the rug, a seemingly central spot in the middle of the hardwood floor. Deciding it was as good a starting point as any, he got down on a knee and lowered Dean down.

A pang shot through Stan's heart once Dean was on the floor and he straightened his back, sitting up straight and readying himself for what came next. Seeing Dean at eye level for so long had nearly fooled Stan into thinking that Dean was bigger than he was. Even in a crouch, he felt like he was towering over the guy, and it gave him another jolt to think about what he would see if he stood.

Nerves crept in from the back of his mind, reminding Stan of how dangerous he was to Dean. He could knock the guy over with one finger and do serious damage to his little bones if he wasn't paying attention, and he was expected to catch Dean with his bare hands. Trusted to refrain from grabbing hard enough to cause any damage.

Stan was never one to be intimidated by any responsibility handed to him, but he'd also never had so much power over a person. It was startling to say the least.

Down on the floor, Dean was unaware of Stan’s sudden doubts about their training. Unlike Sam, he couldn’t tell he was being stared at, but that was okay today. He figured they’d all get to watch the master at work.

First things first. He surveyed the floor around him, marking off possible directions he could take. He knew each and every entrance in the room by heart, having designed and built several of them, and taking advantage of previously-weakened parts of the wall for the rest. Several were merely lookouts, and fairly useless for him now. Back when they needed to keep tabs on John and Sherlock, those entrances and holes had come in useful. Now, the brothers only visited when they absolutely needed to check things out, or Dean was running through the walls on a spot check, to see if any mice or rats had moved into their territory.

The rest were distant, but within reach for the training. Dean wasn’t used to standing in the center of the room with so much open space around him. It sent an uneasy tingle up his spine, helped along by the shadow from behind that Stan cast.

One entrance was in the outer corner of the fireplace, a crack in the wall Dean had discovered before posing the possibility of moving to Baker Street to Sam.

The second entrance would be pointless to go to, placed up on the shelf above the fireplace entrance. It was their regular way in and out, but the amount of time he would waste climbing to it rendered it moot.

The third, and least used entrance he could take advantage of for their training was in the back of the room, close to the back leg of the couch (the couch had shifted incrementally since the entrance was put in). Dean had carefully, over the course of weeks, worked his way through the wood paneling, determined for them to not get caught out in the open after the time Sherlock came home unexpectedly, effortlessly trapping the brothers under the couch. No one but Sam and Dean knew about that day, and they weren’t about to bring it up. It was embarrassing to admit they’d spent hours waiting Sherlock out, only to get trapped again when John came home.

There were other entrances in the kitchen or hall, and of course several inside Sherlock and John’s rooms, only a few of which had been marked by the detective. Dean wouldn’t be able to reach them on his short legs.

With Stan standing between Dean and the couch exit, that left the fireplace as his best hope. Dean needed to get undercover as fast as he could if he wanted the game to last longer than the few seconds it would take Stan to lean over and snatch him.

Angling himself towards the back of John’s chair, Dean took off without warning, his legs pumping to cover the distance as fast as humanly (borrowerly?) possible, skirting right past one of Stan’s shoes in his attempt.

"He-hey!" Stan uttered, staggering back when he saw Dean passing so close to his shoe-- a shoe that was easily large enough for him to live in. He'd been waiting patiently for Dean to get his bearings, perhaps give a signal when he was ready to begin.

But no, they were jumping right into it and Stan was already a step behind.

Recovering quickly, he lunged to cover the distance Dean had gained on him, leaning down to block the smaller man's path with a hand. Dean wasn't exactly boxed in, but all Stan had to do was reach with his other hand and move the other toward himself, and he would have Dean cupped between two hands.

Thoughts of the tremors the sheer force the single step he took to catch up with Dean must have made and how terrified he'd be if he were the little guy being chased and grabbed at refused to leave him alone, causing the slightest stutter in his actions, making his free hand react just a little too late.

Dean skipped around Stan’s hands with a wild grin, the adrenaline pumping through his veins like it hadn’t in so long.

Despite it all, despite the way those hands were trying to close around him while humans loomed overhead, Dean was having fun.

It was the first time in years he could throw himself into such a challenge without the ever present fear of life or death hanging over his head. Though evading John and Sherlock for those months before discovery was a challenge, it came with the threat of imprisonment or experimentation if they screwed up. Here, if Stan got his hands around Dean, the most that would happen was dealing with a smug giant for winning, or being dropped into a pocket.

Dean kicked at the second hand that was too slow to grab him, one boot grazing Stan’s skin as he launched himself towards the small round table that stood next to John’s armchair, aiming to use the space under the legs to gain some distance.

Stan cursed under his breath as Dean evaded his grasp, hurrying to his feet to circle around the side table and chair to wait for an opening.

With all of his focus on Dean, he completely ignored Sherlock in the chair so close by, watching them both intently. The detective had seen Dean run when he thought his life or freedom were on the line, and his demeanor with Stan was entirely different. Downright playful. Dean was enjoying this.

It hardly took a glance to know that Stan, decidedly, was not.

The agent fidgeted in anticipation of his next grab, rubbing his thumb against a particular spot on one of his fingers-- the one Dean's small boot had kicked off from. The touch had been light and fleeting, but he could swear he still felt it.

One single misstep could cripple Dean.

Shaking off that thought, Stan dropped to the floor to peer in at Dean, letting one arm stretch out underneath the armchair in yet another attempt to cut off Dean's path. He had yet to know where exactly Dean was going, but he'd certainly find out if he let the little guy past.

“Is that the best you can do?!” Dean called over his shoulder, jumping to the side to get out of the way of grasping fingers. Stan hadn’t given himself enough room to maneuver next to the chair, and Dean was closing in on his destination.

The crack in the walls was only a foot away, and with renewed energy, Dean resumed his headlong run as his taunt hung in the air. He hugged the edge of the armchair, using that as cover until he was directly across from the crack in the walls.

It would be the most dangerous part, where he was most likely to get snatched up since standing exposed in the middle of the room. Dean was confident in his skills, though, and so he pushed away from the chair and focused only on that crack to the exclusion of everything else in the room, his vision narrowed to a tunnel, only seeing the darkness that waited to welcome him.

After yet another miss, Stan scrambled to yank his arm out from the small gap, losing precious time. He recovered and got his sights back on Dean just as he made a break for it. Stan finally caught sight of the entrance Dean had in mind, and hurriedly repositioned himself to be able to reach the little guy without anyone getting hurt.

This was his last chance, and Dean's taunt still rang in his ears trying to drive him to just go for it. It would be so easy to block the crack and scoop Dean up with one hand, but as he made a move to do it, his very muscles seemed to protest.

His fingers should have closed around Dean. Instead, they closed around empty air with a disheartening finality and Dean vanished into the walls.

Chapter Text

It was only a heartbeat of Stan staring at the crack where Dean had slipped into before there was movement again. Dean was cautious as he stepped out, making sure he wasn’t going to get snatched up for his escape and taunts, then walked into the light. Hands on his hips, he stared up at where Stan was crouched on the ground, shaking his head with a grin.

“I think we can call that a win for me,” he said smugly, straightening his shoulders in pride. After Sherlock’s capture of the brothers those months ago, Dean had feared they were losing their touch, but now he stood the victor.

Stan forced a chuckle, finally seeing just how much Dean was enjoying himself. At least someone was having fun, despite how dangerous the situation could become at any moment.

"Sure can," he muttered, offering a hand to give Dean a lift to start again. "You're speedier than I thought you would be," he admitted sheepishly.

“You bet I am,” Dean shamelessly bragged. “I’ve been training my whole life for this kinda thing, even before we had to worry about dodging giants twenty-four seven.” He waved one arm grandly to accentuate how long ago that had been, remembering his father’s lessons on hunting. Dean had taken each and every one of them to heart, and had continued to hone his skills long after he was too small to hold a handgun.

“Besides,” Dean had to pause and catch his breath, pulse hammering in his ears. “It’s been years since I’ve had so much fun during training. Sam’s always so serious when he gets an idea in his head.” Dean straightened, catching Stan in a look. “But you better not be taking it easy on me just ‘cause I’m short,” Dean warned. “It’s not hard to see you were hesitating the entire time we were going.”

"What? Me? Never," Stan scoffed, trying to wave off Dean's worries about his hesitation. He hoped this first round was a fluke, and if they tried again he'd be over it. That had to be it. He certainly wasn't slowing down to let Dean win. "Nah, I was just startled. Took me a sec to get over all your… awesomeness."

He extended his hand to Dean in the hopes of having another go. "Don't worry, I'll give you what for this time. Cross my heart," he promised with a flash of his most charming grin, more confident than he felt.

“You better,” Dean said, giving Stan the eye as he stepped willingly into the hand. Most of his energy was recovered, and he couldn’t deny how much fun he was having. A new challenge to work on and the thrill of the hunt-- even if he was the one that was hunted. “This won’t do you much good if you don’t manage to catch me, will it?”

Dean waved his hand at the floor. “If you think you can take me, better get started.”

Stan rolled his eyes good-naturedly at Dean's smack talk as he stood and returned to the middle of the room. Taunts during training were certainly not foreign to him, not when he trained with nearly every member of his family at one time or another, which included his older brothers of course. He'd heard it all, and any jab Dean threw at him wouldn't bother him.

Not nearly as much as the way his heart and stomach clenched the moment he saw Dean on the floor again. Stan let out a sharp breath and smoothed down his navy blazer, determined not to let it get to his head again. No matter how gigantic and hazardous he felt next to Dean.

At the very least, he wouldn't let himself get caught off-guard again.

This time around, Dean already knew the lay of the land as he stepped onto the carpet, briefly scuffing a boot over the thick threads. They were training, so he didn’t want to diverge too much from the previous run just yet. Not until he was sure Stan was giving it his all.

Since no one was going to yell ‘Go! ’ to Stan in the real world, Dean decided he wasn’t about to give the guy any warnings.

Shifting his weight, Dean dashed off again towards John’s chair, but this time he was ready to evade the hands when they inevitably eclipsed his path. He had more than one trick up his sleeve, he just needed to see what Stan was really prepared for.

Stan took half a second to watch Dean run, seeing that he was heading for the same entrance he slipped into before. This gave Stan a decent advantage, able to anticipate Dean's moves and block off the opening. Compared to the first run, this should be a piece of cake.

It only took a few steps for Stan to overshoot Dean, planting one foot in the smaller man's path in his excitement. Now that he was obstructing the way, plucking Dean up should be a cinch.

Against his best efforts, that dreadful feeling crept back in, especially with Dean rapidly approaching his much larger shoe-- more than large enough to crush Dean if he stopped paying attention for one second--!

Shut up! Stan chastised himself, determinedly reaching down to snatch Dean after yet another stutter.

Dean was persistent, refusing to give up the direction he was running and go around Stan’s shoe. If he did, Stan would have that much more time to grab him off the ground, and he knew all too well how speedy a human could be. There was just no way for him to outdistance the guy like this.

So instead, he amped up his pace, throwing more effort into the length of his strides, and went straight for the huge shoe lying dead ahead.

Halfway expecting the shoe to either lift out of his way or get corralled against it, Dean grabbed onto the black surface, his small hands able to use the hole punched for the shoelaces as a grip, and scrambled on top to dodge out of the way of the incoming hand. Before sliding down, he snagged one of the laces, the thick plastic of the end just thin enough for his hand to fit around it, and slid down the other side of the shoe, tugging the lace with him as he ran until it yanked loose, leaving Stan with an untied shoe. Dean grinned wickedly over his shoulder as he resumed his previous pace.

Of all the things Dean could have done, that was the last thing Stan expected. He gave a small huff at the state of his shoelace, aware that Dean was messing with him. It was evidently easy for him with Stan still so hesitant. That fact bothered him more than the action itself.

Stan couldn't sit there stunned forever, not with Dean still on a fast track to his entrance to the walls. He didn't need to chase Dean now that he knew where he was heading. In spite of his loose shoelace, he skirted around the armchair and placed himself between the wall and the chair, bending low to peer under the chair and track Dean's progress. If the smaller man decided to redirect with him well within reach to block his exit, Stan needed to be ready to jump up and follow.

Dean came to a fast halt when he saw Stan’s ploy, diving behind a chair leg to hide where he was standing from Stan. The last thing he needed was the human tracking him from where his boots were visible.

The hiding spot would only be viable for so long, so Dean quickly analyzed his situation. If he wanted to get to the walls and win, he had to come up with a way to get past Stan.

With a spark of inspiration, Dean dug into his bag. There wasn’t much there that would be useful, but he only needed to distract Stan for a moment. Grabbing what paper clips he had, he quickly attached them to each other to get some heft, then wrapped the aluminum sheets he had saved up for eating with later on. It was still fairly light, but just maybe he could get Stan to look the wrong way at the right time.

Dean punted the makeshift paper clip weight towards the back of the chair, praying it would catch Stan’s attention, then flattened himself against the ground to inch out from underneath the front of John’s chair and get to the wall he was so close to.

The movement caught Stan's eye right away. A small shadow toward the far side of the chair. Something in the back of his mind recognized that whatever that was, it didn't move like Dean, it didn't even register to him as being alive.

Perhaps it was that internal understanding coupled with the extra determination to not let Dean get away this time that compelled Stan to reach for the shadow.

Stan saw his mistake as soon as his hand closed around something metal instead of something living, and he cursed himself as he tossed the bundle of paper clips and foil out onto the carpet. He traced back its initial trajectory to one of the legs of the chair closer to him and swept his arm back to where Dean must be.

Now that he knew that for sure, Stan's muscles seized up again. He tried to push through and catch Dean before he could get away from him again, but the image of what that would look like wouldn't leave his head. Fingers as long as Dean was tall inexorably wrapping around him and dragging him away in their grip. Helpless. Trapped.

As his grab fell short yet again, Stan finally realized why this was giving him so much trouble, why he was acting this way.

All this made him feel monstrous.

Dean’s ploy paid off, but when he vanished into the walls this time he had a frown on his face. It was still in place when he came out, replaying the last few seconds of their ‘game' in his head as he brushed the dust from his spike of hair.

After army crawling out from under the front of John’s armchair, Dean had scrambled to his feet, already knowing that Stan had found and discarded his attempt at distraction. There hadn’t been much hope at reaching the walls--

Yet he had.

Are you taking it easy on me, or is something else goin’ on here?” Dean demanded as he brushed his jacket off in annoyance. “We need to get you adjusted to helping people my size, and we can’t do that if you don’t grab me.”

"I know," Stan murmured, staring at his hands as they folded and unfolded in his lap. He sat with his back against the side of the armchair, his long legs scrunched in the space between it and the wall. His inability to do this one simple thing frustrated him as much as it seemed to frustrate Dean.

"I'm really not trying to let you go, honest," he insisted, shifting to let one knee rest on the floor so he could more easily make eye contact with Dean. "It's just… I dunno, I'm off today. Maybe my reflexes just aren't what they usually--"

Before he could finish that sentence, Sherlock rolled his eyes and plucked a squash ball from the depths of his chair and chucked it at Stan's head without a word. Stan's hand flew up to catch the ball two inches from his head with barely a look.

Stan let out a resigned sigh as he lowered his hand to look at the ball and glance at Sherlock as he settled back in his chair with a knowing stare. He'd heard all about the man's intellectual prowess and his ability to know nearly everything about a person just from a look. Of course he would see that Stan's reflexes were excellent. Always had been.

He knew that excuse was unacceptable, but it was difficult to grapple with the truth.

“Okay.” Dean dragged a hand down his face, inordinately glad for Sherlock’s wordless backup. BSing the detective was nearly impossible. Dean was an expert at reading people, but going up against the sheer scale of humans could sometimes skew his perception.

Especially as he was currently standing on the floor with plenty of space around him, and Stan was squished into the small area between the armchair and the bookshelf and could barely move.

A part of Dean wondered what Sam thought of everything he could hear through the walls.

“Look, maybe we jumped into it too soon,” Dean offered. “Do you want to try just grabbing me? No running off?” He held out his arms in an open invitation.

Stan sighed, tossing the ball into the seat of the chair behind him as he ran a hand through his back-swept hair. He really didn't want to, mainly because it felt like they were taking a step backwards. Like he'd flunked out and got reassigned to remedial How To Be a Giant class. But he didn't have any better ideas.

"Sure, yeah," he said, resigned, refocusing his attention on Dean. With a deep breath, he leaned forward and reached a hand toward him.

Just like before, his hand slowed down when it neared Dean, and it took great effort for him to stretch it out and curl his fingers around the little guy. They came to a twitchy halt before they could even touch Dean. Stan's heart was racing too fast and his head pounded with conflicting thoughts.

Somehow, he saw Dean two ways at once: as his acquaintance and as a hypothetical borrower who wouldn't know Stan, wouldn't believe he was trying to save them. It didn't matter that Stan knew that Dean wasn't afraid of him, the knowledge that anybody else would be made something in him wilt. And the constant reminders of his size brought on that feeling of being much too powerful to be handling people so small in such a harsh manner.

He couldn't do it. Stan's fingers retreated and he could barely look at Dean.

"I… I don't want to hurt you," he admitted, his voice just over a whisper as the slumped hand near Dean anxiously clenched and unclenched.

Chapter Text

“Let’s get one thing straight,” Dean said sternly. Something in the air changed between them. It was no longer Dean-the-prey getting chased, but Dean-the-teacher lecturing Stan, and this Dean had no problem scolding a man who could pluck him up between two fingers, stick him in a pocket, and ignore his protests until he ran out of breath.

“You are not going to hurt anyone,” Dean said, and his tone brooked no argument. “Unless they’re one of the people that’s kidnapping and selling us as pets. You know how I know that?” He narrowed his murky green eyes at Stan. “Because you remind me of me. You’re quick on your feet, and your reflexes are what you said they are. Someone who can catch a ball like that ain’t about to squeeze too tight when he grabs a person.”

Dean advanced on Stan, taking a few measured steps towards the twitchy hand that refused to close around him. “I know the others are gonna run from you. It’s what we do.” For emphasis, he jabbed a finger into Stan’s knuckle for each word he stressed. “You can bet your ass I didn’t just sit around and let Sherlock grab me the first time we met. I sliced his hand up, and still ended up under a coffee mug. What you need to remember is it’s for their own good, and hang onto that thought for all it’s worth. Later, when they’re out of danger, you can explain things. They don’t want to listen? Fine. Once you’re sure they can survive on their own, let ‘em leave. If they need help, bring ‘em here. Me an’ Sam can explain things a hell of a lot easier than you humans. We can probably even hook you up with someone to help get them settled if they need it. Just don’t let them escape in their captor’s house.”

Dean's tone commanded Stan's attention, and his deep green eyes were round as he hung on every word. He hadn't realized how much confidence Dean had in him, and was particularly struck by the direct comparison between them.

The tiny pinpricks of Dean's finger jabbing into his hand was almost enough to distract him from the pep talk the smaller man was giving him. Or… perhaps it was a scolding? Stan chalked it up as a mixture of both, especially when Dean described the first time he met Sherlock Holmes. The details were a little vague, but he could hardly imagine the kind of drama that must have ensued between those two.

He glanced at the detective, slumped in his chair and frowning at thin air, pretending to be ignorant of their conversation. Clearly he wasn't proud of the actions Dean brought up, it didn't take a genius to notice that. And yet, despite that, the two of them seemed thick as thieves.

But Dean had a point, Stan remembered. He nodded, assured that Dean knew what he was talking about.

"Yeah, I hear you. You're right, of course," Stan replied, running his free hand through his hair with an abashed chuckle. "I, ah, guess this just kind of got to my head a bit. And surprisingly in a worse way than the mad power-hungry way. Just… couldn't help feeling a bit like a monster while we were at it. And I know I'm not, but it's… hard not to. Y'see what I mean?"

Dean nodded, listening carefully. “You need to see past that,” he said, working to redirect Stan into the right way to think. “Remember, you’re doing a good thing, rescuing these people. They’ll be nervous and scared, because they don’t understand. You can’t let that get to you or it’s all over. You won’t be helping anyone, and we both know you’re better than that.”

Turning on his heel, Dean casually strolled a few inches away. “What about it? I’m still waiting for you to make your move!” he jabbed confidently over his shoulder, though inwardly he was wondering when he’d gone from You grab, I stab to prodding a human to specifically grab him.

A smirk tugged at the corner of Stan's mouth as Dean once again exuded that cocky air he'd gotten to know. Before he could even give it a second thought, the hand Dean had been poking swept out, catching those little bowlegs behind the knees and curling his fingers into a low awning over Dean’s head as he fell into Stan’s grasp.

"Oh, my! What have we here?" exclaimed Stan in mock surprise as he lifted his hand to his eyes to peer in at Dean. Behind his smug grin, a warm bubble of pride rose in his chest, glad to be able to do that with none of the apprehension he had before. Even if it was just to rise to Dean's bait and tease him a bit. "You lost, mousie?"

Dean caught his balance with one hand braced against the fingers curled overhead, the other propped on Stan's palm, and not an ounce of fear in him. Though he still wasn't prepared for the sheer speed of getting caught, he was glad Stan was acting more like the man Dean had first met that night those weeks ago.

“Better watch it, beanstalk,” Dean warned with a wry grin, looking out the space Stan left open in his curled hand, not a bit worried about the huge hand closing the rest of the way. “I'll have Sam sic the ‘mousie’ hordes on you if you misbehave.”

Stan quirked an eyebrow, grin widening at the unexpected nickname and the image of having an army of mice sent after him. He couldn't even think of a witty retort for that, he was so bemused.

Absently patting the fingers curled overhead, Dean tried to see out into the main room, finding most of his view blocked by Stan's warm eyes or his shadowed fist. “I think you're ready for the next go around, if you think you can handle my awesome moves.” He grinned confidently with a wink, his mind already plotting out the next ‘game.’

"Know what they say, third time's the charm," Stan shrugged, mindfully standing and opening his hand flat to give Dean some space.

It didn't take more than a step for Stan to remember Dean's little trick with his shoelace from the last round and notice that he'd never taken care of it.

"At least do me the courtesy of letting me tie my damn shoe first," Stan quipped. With a roll of his eyes, he dropped to a knee and lifted a hand to his shoulder. This was a last second decision, mostly because he didn't quite trust Dean to not run off on him and start his game before he was finished. He decided not to dwell on it, worried about reverting to the way he had been thinking.

Dean practically bounced on his heels while he waited on Stan's shoulder, leaning on his neck for balance against the occasional tremor echoing up the lean arms while Stan readied himself.

"Maybe next time you'll catch me before I get my hands on your shoelace," Dean called challengingly. "I might just keep one as a souvenir, and you'll never see those laces again."

Part of his taunt was a reference to the pair of laces the Winchesters still had in their spare room, tucked between older supplies they had no current use for. It was Dean's claimed trophy from back when he was at odds with Sherlock, endlessly bugging the detective until he'd successfully tipped him right over the edge, at least until John rescued Dean and Sherlock from each other and forced them to talk.

“Consider it extra incentive!”

"Ha-ha, very funny," Stan scoffed as he fastened his shoelace tightly, smirking at the mental image of Dean trying to make off with them while they were still attached to his shoe.

"He's serious," Sherlock cut in at last, prompting Stan to meet his icy gaze. He was careful not to move too fast so Dean could remain in the precarious position Stan put him in. He was only glad Dean didn't seem to mind, and found it interesting to hear the little guy's voice so close to his ear. "He'll find them wherever they are, never to be seen again."

Stan quirked an eyebrow at Sherlock, adding an extra knot to both his shoes for good measure. "Seems like you two have an interesting story," he commented, briefly forgetting Sherlock's arbitrary authority.

"Believe you me, you haven't the faintest idea how maddening he can be when you're on his bad side." It took a bit of a stretch in Stan's imagination, but he could swear the corner of Sherlock's lip twitched into the tiniest of smirks as he said this. He couldn't be sure, though.

"I'll take your word for it," chuckled Stan while he finished up. Pushing himself up to stand, he made his way to another spot in the middle of the room, lifting a hand to ferry Dean from his shoulder to the floor.

Dean braced his legs against Stan’s palm, waiting impatiently for the hand to touch ground. There were a few more surprises stored up in his tiny body, and if Stan was over his block, Dean fully intended to give the man a run for his money.

Then, the hand landed against the ground, and even as the fingers flattened to the surface, Dean was off and running. This time, he wasn’t even going to give Stan a second to collect himself, hopping right over the unfolding fingers.

“Time to put up or shut up!” Dean called over his shoulder, the wind from his headlong rush whistling through his ears and his pulse pounding from the thrill of the chase.

Stan could see that takeoff coming a mile away, glad he'd thought ahead earlier to put Dean on hold while he tied his shoe. This might have turned out much differently if he hadn't.

He noticed Dean was really going all-out this time, so Stan resolved to put up his best fight.

This time, the pang he felt when he stood was much less severe. It was a reasonable caution reminding him to be careful rather than a crippling fear of being a hazard to the much smaller man. He could step swiftly forward to catch up with Dean without his mind filling with what-ifs and imagined worst-case scenarios.

Just him and Dean.

His hesitation was all but gone as he stooped to snatch Dean up. The detriment in his tactic this time was that he had grabbed Dean a total of one time when he wasn't running full tilt. Stan managed to get his hand ahead of Dean, but when he went for the grab his hand moved to a flatter position similar to the way he'd scooped the little guy up the first time, and he hadn't been trying to trap him then.

Dean saw the shadow of Stan’s hand approaching before he saw the hand itself, and urged his feet to move faster.

The moment the flattened hand moved to scoop him up like before, Dean hit the ground hard, his momentum carrying him into a slide on the carpet, going right under Stan’s waiting fingers.

Stan swore under his breath as he fell short once again. But at least this time, it wasn't because of his own hesitation. Dean was just that fast.

Quickly recovering from the miss, Stan tried his very first tactic again, slamming a hand down to act as a wall in Dean's path, trying to box him in while his other hand reached from behind with the intent to snatch Dean up cupped between them.

Dean nearly stumbled at the impact of the hand hitting the ground just in front of him. He was just able to slow down and cut back on the force he hit Stan’s hand with, unable to fully stop his run.

Shoving off Stan’s hand, Dean propelled himself towards the rapidly closing gap between the two hands, leaping into the air to dive out and praying he could be quick enough.

And he was, just barely evading Stan's grasp. The human's heart gave a stutter as his hands closed, startled by the near miss and unable to think of much else but how much damage could have been caused if Dean hadn't made it out in time and Stan was unable to stop himself. But he shook off that thought, deciding that that was one of his least favorite methods of grabbing someone so small. Too much of a risk, only to be used in an emergency. This was why they were training now, before unknown borrowers came into play.

Bringing himself back to the present, Stan focused on the tiny figure speeding away. With a burst of determination and confidence, Stan let out a sharp breath and lunged forward with an outstretched arm, going straight in for the grab. All of his concentration was on keeping a loose fist like Dean instructed, coupled with a strong grip to prevent escape. If Stan could help it, Dean was not going to get away from him this time.

The end came in a rush. One moment Dean was congratulating himself on his narrow escape from the confines of Stan’s hand, the next he could feel the air behind him rush at his back. There was no time to attempt a dodge as fingers surrounded him on all sides, Stan’s desperate grab paying off.

As the fingers closed in, Dean gave in to the inevitable. With no way to be sure he’d make it out before those thick pillars sealed around him, he tucked his knees to his chest, tumbling head over heels into Stan's grasp.

And then darkness.

When Stan's fist closed around something other than air-- around Dean-- he let out an elated chuckle. His back straightened and he sat back on his feet, grinning proudly at his fist as he lifted it.

"Gotcha!" he exclaimed, heart fluttering in his excitement. He finally did it!

Chapter Text

Dean gave one last kick for good measure over his head, collapsed on his back as he was. The interior of Stan’s fist was by no means roomy, but there was no pressure against Dean’s body, and no threat of him being crushed.

Stan’s smile melted the second he felt Dean's foot dig into his skin. Suddenly worried all over again, Stan tilted his hand to lay flat and unfurled his fingers, raising the smaller man to eye level to see if he was hurt.

"You alright?" Stan practically whispered, bringing a smirk to Sherlock's face. Observing the young man and Dean was quite amusing and at times fascinating, and despite his initial assumptions about Stan, the detective had to admit that he was surprisingly non-moronic for one of Mycroft's.

Dean found himself staring straight up at the distant ceiling of the flat as Stan’s hand opened, taking a few deep breaths to help reorient himself.

When Dean was sure he wouldn’t fall right over again, he pushed himself up to a seat, his jacket rumpled and the spike in his hair crooked. From the look on his face, one would never know he'd just been swept helplessly from the ground by a giant he had no control over.

He was beaming.

“I knew you had it in you!” Dean exclaimed, coming down off his adrenaline high from the chase. He jumped to his feet, briefly stumbling when his knees threatened to give out.

Stan's smile snuck back, glad to find Dean seemingly unhurt and reminding Stan of his victory. It was a relief to see how much faith Dean had in Stan to allow any of this without any fear.

"Thanks," Stan muttered, bringing up his free hand under the one Dean was standing on for extra support as he leaned in for a closer look. After his initial tries, he couldn't overlook all his concerns. "You are okay though, right? I didn't shake you up too badly?"

“Nah,” Dean blew right past Stan’s worries, waving his hand to dispel them. “Just fast. You’re fast, Sherlock’s fast, what’s a guy to do but hang on for the ride.”

He brushed his jeans off, checking that everything was still in one piece, and one hand absently closed around his duffel, checking to be sure the metal hook was in place. All he was missing was the paper clips and aluminum foil from the previous round, and Dean could replace those quickly enough.

The rumpled leather jacket was straightened with care, and Dean frowned as he tried to straighten the spike of hair he could just make out enough to see it was crooked. He managed to mostly fix it, but it was still flatter than it should be. “Not even a scratch, see?” Dean asked, showing off his jacket to alleviate Stan’s concerns.

"Well, that's good," Stan smirked to cover up his rapidly melting worry. He felt his confidence blooming in its place, a refreshing change after the stress of his first two attempts.

"Am I to assume that means you're ready to go, or do you want another minute to get your land legs back?" Stan gave a cheeky wink, nudging Dean playfully with a thumb.

Dean aimed a solid punch at the intruding digit, landing it solidly on the pad of Stan’s thumb before it retreated. “I was born ready!” he bragged shamelessly, part of him surprised to find it completely true, the other part of him wondering if he’d gone mad because of his size at last.

Admittedly, during the last week of Sam’s recovery, Dean had found himself wondering about ways they could have prevented it from ever happening. Clearly, Sam and not even Dean would ever turn someone in need away. Mark had struck at one of their weaknesses, and was big enough to take either of them on. Dean had found his unnatural leg strength particularly stymying, as he chased Mark from one end of the flat to the other while caught up in his rage at Sam’s abduction.

The possibility of practicing escaping John or Sherlock had occurred to Dean on more than one occasion, and he’d turned the ideas over in his mind. This was just the first time the subject had come up, and he’d hopped at the chance. Stan got to practice catching people Dean’s size, Dean got to explore different options for escape without being in any danger.

The rush of adrenaline and the thrill of the chase were just added bonuses.

Stan couldn't help a good-natured chuckle at the tiny punch against his thumb. He was glad that little hiccup had done nothing to dampen the little guy's enthusiasm, and he found that it was infectious. Reminding himself what this was all for did wonders for helping him push down any lingering uneasiness about the imbalance of power between him and Dean and anyone else his size. It would all be worth it in the name of saving innocent lives.

"Fine then, Speedy Gonzales. Now that you've got a decent opponent, show me what you got," he challenged, setting Dean back down on the floor, pushing himself to his feet with his hands on his hips, ready for whatever Dean had up his sleeve.

Dean, naturally, hadn’t run out of tricks to try against Stan yet.

This time, knowing Stan would be expecting him to dart off immediately, Dean took a moment to bounce from heel to heel, limbering up and shaking any residual impressions from his moments in Stan’s fist. Chances were, he’d be spending more time there during the day, but if he was going to go down, he’d go down fighting.

During one bounce, Dean shifted his weight by the slightest increment and was off like a shot, this time disregarding the entrance by the fireplace entirely and darting between Stan’s shoes for the couch.

Stan's brow shot up as Dean ran in the opposite direction he'd anticipated. With a stammered exclamation, he stumbled to turn around without risking Dean so close to his feet.

"Oi! Get back here, you li'l maggot!" he chuckled, a slight brogue leaking through his tone as he gave chase. Evidently Dean still had some surprises in store for their 'game.’

Now that the others had their system and were headed in the opposite direction, Sherlock rose to his feet, pointedly straightening his dressing gown. It was certainly enlightening to see for himself how Dean interacted with a human that wasn't him or John, hear how much Dean divulged about his experiences with his larger flatmates.

A tiny wink of light from the carpet reminded Sherlock of the small display of Dean's innovation. With a glance at the other two, he stepped forward and plucked up the foil-wrapped paper clips, humming thoughtfully to himself as he pocketed it.

"Fancy a cuppa?" he put in on his way to the kitchen.

"Ooh, do you have jasmine?" Stan perked up before giving a swipe toward Dean that ended in a narrow miss.

Sherlock gave Stan a flat look despite the fact that the man was recovering from the distraction the detective was throwing into the mix. "No," he answered simply.

"Whatever you have then," replied Stan over his shoulder as he sized up Dean's trajectory, trying to figure out where he was heading to anticipate his next move.

Sherlock shrugged and carried on to put the kettle on, curiously inspecting the little bundle of paper clips and tinfoil and pondering over how quickly Dean had come up with it.

With Sherlock distracting Stan, Dean was able to get himself under the couch and to the back leg without being seen. He froze the moment he was behind it, glad for once that he was small enough to vanish.

Hidden, he took a second to catch his breath, preparing for his new idea that had formed haphazardly in the back of his mind.

The disguised entrance that led into the walls from the back of the couch was close, but Dean wanted to get into it without Stan seeing him. That way, it would be harder to counteract when Dean used this direction. He had to be inventive.

Cupping his hands around his mouth, Dean practiced one of his least-used abilities due to living most of his life in hiding, and threw his voice to the right. “Who ya gonna call?!”

Stan was practically flattened to the floor, one eye squinted closed to peer under the couch. He regretted allowing himself to get sidetracked long enough to let Dean find cover down there. It was much darker under there than it was under the chair, and nearly impossible to distinguish the shadows toward the back. He was hesitant to reach in when he couldn't see Dean, but he also didn't want to let him get away that easily.

He was right to be suspicious when Dean piped up, seeing no reason for him to give away his position. But it was all he had to go on, so he crawled closer to where he heard the voice.

Just as he thought, poking around back there yielded no results. With a grumble to himself, Stan threw caution to the wind and shoved an arm under the couch, hoping to cut off Dean's path.

"How do you take it?" Sherlock called. The kettle wasn't near boiled, but it was admittedly fun to poke at their game.

"Cream and one lump," came Stan's strained answer as he prodded the back wall for Dean's entrance.

It was too late for Stan to find Dean behind the couch. He’d long vanished into the entrance hidden back there, painstakingly designed half a year back to blend into the wall.

The wall entrance by the couch was one of the most recent doors Dean had designed, and this was made to blend in. After being stranded under the couch by Sherlock, before the detective knew of his smaller flatmates, Dean knew they’d need a way into hiding that didn’t require them to cross such a distance or climb such heights. He and Sam had removed part of the wall after a week of hard work when John and Sherlock were out, piling up the leftover wood in their tunnel, and now the wallpaper could be peeled up and then flattened back down, making it nigh invisible.

After a minute of blind grasping, it was clear to Stan that Dean had won this round. He gave a resigned sigh, removing his arm and sitting back on his feet, brushing the dust off his sleeve as he waited for Dean to come back out to start again.

The agent frowned as time passed and his small training partner didn't come out to scold him for that round. Obviously, Stan allowed himself to get distracted by Sherlock. He hadn't meant for it to impact his performance so much, but now that he was aware of it as an issue, he would be able to correct it the next time.

But next time didn’t start, and Stan's concern started to mount once more. "Dean?" he called softly, briefly leaning over to peer under the couch again even though he couldn't see a thing.

Chapter Text

Stan sat back with a frown, scanning the area around the couch. Perhaps the couch had simply been a red herring and Dean was hiding elsewhere. But after another minute without some kind of jab or taunt, he doubted that was the case.

After the kettle was a good way towards finishing, he'd just begun to worry that he'd somehow hurt Dean without realizing it when a voice rang out from the other side of the room, startling Stan to his feet as he whirled around.

Dean casually strolled out onto his shelf with a shit-eating grin. “Didja miss me?” he called across the room.

Stan shot the small figure a flat look, crossing the room at an easy pace with his hands on his hips.

"Now that was just rude," he chided, unable to keep the playfulness from his deep green eyes.

Dean had the biggest grin on his face. “What, should I give away all my secrets?” he taunted gamely. “I’m not giving away where the entrances are if you’re too distracted to see me escape.”

He stopped at the edge of the bookshelf, catching his breath for a moment while he stretched his arms overhead. It had been a long time since he had such an intense training session, despite it being over a shorter period of time compared to when he sparred with Sam. Running through the walls fast enough to get the drop on Stan had been a push, but Dean didn’t want to miss a second of the fun.

“Up for another round?” Dean asked confidently. “I think the score is three to one so far. You’ve got some work to do.”

Despite Dean's taunts and score-keeping, both of which Stan rolled his eyes at with a grin, he had a point. Stan's main problem that time was that he allowed his attention to wander.

"You just wait," warned Stan, offering a hand to Dean to accept the challenge. "I'm starting to get the hang of this. Those numbers'll even out before you can say Aaah! Giant! Run for your life! "

Stan was a quick learner, and he felt this 'game' of Dean's was an excellent tool to show where the agent needed to improve. And now that he was on the downswing from his block, he was actually starting to enjoy himself almost as much as Dean was.


This could be easily seen by how quickly Dean hopped on his hand, already raring to go for the next round.

Wanting to keep Stan guessing, Dean took off at a dead run the moment his hand touched the ground, this time heading towards the armchair and bookshelf once more. He had plans of keeping the entrance behind the couch as a backup plan for when it looked like it was getting too easy for Stan, a little spice to throw into the round when he least expected it.

"This again, eh?" Stan muttered gamely with a smirk. He gave chase, laser-focused on Dean, determined to not let anything distract him this time.

Not even the downstairs door opening or the footsteps ascending the stairs.

John had had a long day of errands to run. On top of a trip to the bank and a run to the drugstore to restock his first aid kit, the doctor took a look at a few local surgeries for vacancies or openings.

Turns out, neglecting to show up for work for two weeks was not a good way to keep a job at a clinic, and John wasn't about to excuse himself by explaining that he was taking care of his four-inch-tall flatmate who had just been abducted, injured, and branded.

John decided not to worry about it. He was good at what he did, he'd find something. Hopefully soon.

It wasn't odd to hear movement from upstairs when John returned to Baker Street. It had been ages since Sherlock took a case, it was a miracle he'd lasted this long without breaking into one of his antsy episodes. What did catch his attention was a voice he didn't recognize, giving a grunted exclamation every now and then.

Get back here, you li'l--! ” rang out when John reached the door, and it set every single one of his nerves on edge.

Not again!

Stan was crouched by John's armchair, one hand blocking the entrance he was more than aware of by then, watching Dean carefully for his next move when the door burst open. His back straightened to peek over the edge of the chair at the blond man who entered.

No sooner had he registered the fury on the man's face than he found himself seized by the collar and tossed aside, landing roughly on his back in the middle of the floor with the wind knocked out of him.

Stan almost shot to his feet to retaliate, especially when he saw the other man scoop Dean right up from the floor, but he stopped when he saw Dean set carefully, if swiftly, onto the shelf and told to run. This man knew Dean, and clearly cared for him. He and Stan were on the same side, he just didn't know it yet.

If there was one thing Stan’s training session with Dean had taught him, it was that his reflexes were rubbish when he didn't want to fight. And all that hesitation was good for was trouble, like getting his shoe untied. Or, in this case, grabbed into a headlock by a man half a foot shorter than him.

It took Dean a moment to catch up to what had just happened, disoriented as he found himself standing on the shelf where this training plan had started, staring into the darkness between the books.

He clearly wasn’t about to run, not when things were just starting to heat up.

The scene Dean found when he turned almost made him laugh, if not for the fury on John’s face that made him worried for Stan’s position.

Stan was stuck in a headlock, unable to retaliate if he wanted to. The person who’d attacked out of nowhere, breaking up the training session, was none other than John Watson himself. Trained soldier, and no slacker when it came to hand-to-hand combat. Dean could remember a few offhand comments said by John back when the brothers were just starting to stretch their legs out of the walls and train out in the open. The man knew what he was doing when it came down to a fight.

Dean and Sherlock had forgotten to warn him about Stan.

Putting his hands on his hips, Dean hollered to get the two giants attention. “See? Now that’s how you do it!”

Misunderstanding or not, Dean wasn’t about to lose the chance to tease Stan about his hesitation.

John's head snapped up when he heard Dean's voice, eyes wide and an eyebrow lifted in confusion. Why hadn't Dean run? The stranger John now had in a tight hold had been chasing him a moment ago, and as far as John was aware, the whole situation with Sam was about to repeat itself.

John's confusion only grew when Sherlock came in from the kitchen, still in his dressing gown, carrying a tea tray.

"Oh. You're back," he muttered, regarding John only briefly as he walked past him and the red-haired man in his grasp to set the tea tray on the end table. That had John staring in earnest, agape at his flatmate's nonchalance.

"Will somebody please explain to me what's going on!" John demanded.

A tap at John's arm drew his attention back to the one he still had in a headlock, struggling to take a full breath. Despite the height advantage the other man had on John, he hadn't struggled or even attempted to break the hold on him. John was reluctant, but if Sherlock and Dean really weren't worried, then maybe there was a good reason for all this. Even if he couldn't think of one.

John let go, and Stan took a moment to catch his breath, sitting up on the floor with John crouched within reach. He kept a sharp eye on Stan, prepared to grab him again if he was wrong about this. But all Stan did was fix his hair and straighten his blazer, offering John a hand to shake.

"Agent Stan Baker, at your service, sir. You must be Doctor John Watson," said Stan with a friendly, respectful smile despite the position he'd been in with John moments ago. John hesitantly shook his hand, and Stan went on to explain, "I was employed by Mycroft Holmes to oversee your case, after the whole incident at Wembley went down."

That all sounded well and good to John, but he still didn't understand what he walked in on. He glanced at Sherlock, still preparing tea like nothing was going on, before turning back to Dean. "You know this guy?" he asked, trusting the smaller man's judgement. He was the one getting chased when John came home, after all.

Dean nodded, unfazed by the three giants sharing the room with him now. “Yeah, we know ‘im,” he confirmed. “He’s cool.”

Behind where Dean stood planted on the shelf, a shadow moved. Sam, roused by the rumbles and thunder of the giants’ scuffle, not to mention seeing Dean fly through their home on his way back out to the shelf during one of the rounds with Stan, had come to see what was going on in the flat.

Carefully hobbling on his crutch, Sam stopped at the very edge of the books, unwilling to go out in the open with a strange giant sitting on the floor right there, a bit of heat rushing to his face as he realized he’d interrupted something.

He didn’t know what, but something was definitely up.

“Sammy!” Dean said, stepping to the side so he could see his little brother along with the others. “Thought you were resting.” There was a slight edge to his voice, uncertain about having Sam around new humans while he was in recovery.

“Oh, uh.” Flustered, Sam stumbled over his words. “I thought something might be going on, so…” He trailed off, blinking at Stan.

All eyes turned to the shelf as Sam's name was called, though Sherlock's were the first to turn away. He still had tea to set up, now for himself and Stan and John if the doctor was ever going to get over this awkward bump smoothly.

Stan's brow rose at the sight of the half-hidden figure at the edge of the books behind Dean. The tiny voice drifting out made his heart lift with the knowledge of who it must be. He caught himself staring, however, and in an attempt to not put off the poor lad, turned back to Dean.

"Is that Sam?" he asked quietly, his tone almost awed. He'd been informed of everything Mycroft had been told about Sam's abduction, capture, and all the horrible things he'd gone through at that madhouse. Stan's heart bled for him the moment he heard about it, horrified that anyone could treat a person that way regardless of size, and it was truly an honor to have the opportunity to meet him in the flesh. The last thing Stan wanted to do was scare the little fella off just by being big and new.

Dean didn’t immediately answer Stan, going a few steps over to stand closer to Sam. He didn’t want his brother growing nervous around a strange new human, considering Sam was still getting over his skittish reactions to John, nevermind Sherlock or someone completely unknown.

“Sam, this is agent Stan Baker,” Dean introduced steadily, recalling the man’s full name. “He’s the one that came with us to the warehouse after we got you out, and I’m helping him train on rescuing other… borrowers like us. And Stan,” Dean turned on his heel to face the red-headed agent looking in at them, “this is my little brother--”

“Sam Winchester!” Sam chirped, taking a few steps out into the open with one hand proffered to shake. His eyes were a bit brighter, though he leaned heavily on his crutch.

Stan smiled as Sam came out all the way, his eyebrows nearly vanishing into his hairline. This was the person who'd started it all, the entire reason Stan was even here, making friends with Sam’s older brother in their own bizarre way. Sam looked younger than Stan had imagined, which only made the sight of him leaning on a makeshift crutch all the more heartbreaking. Poor kid looked like he'd been through hell and back, yet here he was, almost eager to introduce himself to a perfect stranger.

With another glance at Dean and John behind him staring in surprise at Sam, Stan moved carefully toward the shelf. He kept at a comfortable distance, only coming close enough so he could easily reach his smallest finger toward Sam's outstretched hand, the other fingers curled in on each other in a loose fist.

"How do you do," he grinned as he brought his little finger within Sam's reach and touched the very tip to the absolutely tiny hand.

“I’d be better if Dean would lay off and let me leave the home,” Sam smiled, attempting to grip Stan’s pinky and give his best handshake.

Dean made a face behind Sam’s back, miming Sam’s words as he talked in annoyance. They’d argued about the necessity of Sam getting his strength back many times.

“But otherwise, just fine,” Sam finished, letting his hand drop. He shifted the crutch into a better position while standing there. “I heard about you working with Dean…”

Stan took his hand back as soon as Sam let go, absently running his thumb over the end of his little finger. He could still feel the slightest tingle from the teeny little fingers grasping it and shaking it up and down in the slightest. Stan was awed by the amount of bravery and trust that must have gone into the smallest of gestures.

"Yeah, ah, I met him and Sherlock the other day," said Stan, sitting back on his feet. "Well, the other week, technically. We didn't get to talking much, your brother and I, but it was… interesting, certainly."

His mild ramble was cut off when Sherlock stepped over, lowering a warm teacup and saucer within Stan's reach. He took it with a quiet thanks, which the detective answered with a noncommittal grunt as he stalked off again.

"I still don't understand," John cut in from where he knelt on the floor a bit behind Stan. "If you're trying to help, what was with the cat-and-mouse?"

Stan shifted, turning a bit to the side so he could look at either John or the shelf with just a turn of his head, letting the tea rest in his lap.

"My team and I found loads of files in that place," he explained. "Records of all the people collected and sold. We have enough information to go after them, try and rescue those poor trapped souls, but… I was reluctant. Before Dean, I'd never met anyone this size, and my team hasn't even met him yet. I didn't want us to go blundering in there without knowing what we were doing and how to do it safely. People could get hurt."

Dean took over before Stan could go further, smoothly stepping in, and stepped in front of Sam, some of his old protective nature showing through and unable to suppress it completely. “We gave Stan some practice handling people my size,” he said, tilting his head up to meet John in the eyes. A sparkle of defiance hid in his murky green eyes, daring John to contradict his idea.

Sherlock approached John with his cup of tea while Dean spoke. John shot him an odd look, wondering why he was serving tea at a time like this, but he paid attention even as he sipped.

Emboldened, Dean went on. “Once he got the hang of it, we stepped it up. There’s no telling what he’s going to run into when he moves on a house. For all we know, the people there are going to try and get away from him, quick as they can. People our size are trained from a young age to get away from humans, as far away from humans as they can. If there’s enough of a distraction, they might take their chance to get back in the walls, and we can’t have that happen in the house of their captors. So I made a game for Stan to play. He catches me, he wins; I get into the walls, I win.”

Sam huffed out laughter behind Dean. “You’ve just been waiting for that idea to come in useful, haven’t you?” he asked dryly. Dean just grinned, a feral light in his eyes.

"Suppose I can't argue with that," John conceded, a smirk tugging at his lip. He was proud of how much the kid had healed in such a short amount of time. He really was resilient, if a little shy at times. "As long as it's professional."

Stan scoffed into his teacup. "Oh yeah, completely," he said flatly, turning back to Dean. "Excellent form out there, mate, especially that move where you undid my shoelace. Outstandingly professional."

John couldn't keep in a chuckle at that one, and his smile stayed where it was when the mirth passed. It was hard not to warm up to Stan. "Well, let me know if you ever need an extra hand," he offered, setting his tea on the side-table next to his chair as he stood to retrieve the bags he'd abandoned when he came home.

"Actually," said Stan at length, pushing himself to his feet as well. "I mean, we can probably wait a few rounds ‘til I get good at this," he mentioned to Dean, "but… It's kind of naïve, isn't it, to assume that in all these raids, no one's ever going to get the jump on me in the middle of a job. I should probably prepare in case anyone tries to stop me from taking their… 'pet.’ "

The word left a sour taste in Stan's mouth, disgusted by the notion of anyone treating people like pets. But it was the reality he lived in, and one he would have to dive headfirst into if he ever wanted to rectify it.

“Yeah, John,” Dean enthused. “You can help me tally up a few more wins. It’s only, what… four to one now?” He gave Stan a fierce smirk, then saw Sam trying to sit over against the wall and hurried over to help.

Sam tried to brush Dean off, but he insisted on taking the crutch and helping Sam slide down and sit, briefly supporting him with a shoulder. Leaning against the crutch left the kid sore, especially under his arm, so while it seemed like everything was going smooth with the humans in the flat, Sam chose to sit.

When he was settled on the bookshelf, Sam tried to bat Dean away with the crutch next to him. “I don’t need a babysitter,” he complained. Dean darted off with a grin, and Sam rolled his eyes. “Mother hen,” he muttered, then looked up at John. “Is there any more tea?” he asked, slightly shy. “I’ve only ever had it cold… lukewarm at most.”

John's brow shot up at Sam's request and he stopped in his tracks, drugstore bags in hand. He'd watched Sam recover slowly over the course of the past few weeks, getting used to being around his larger friends once again, but this was rare. Sam was outright asking for something, seemingly without worrying about being able to make up for it or earn it in some way. That was a big step for the kid who almost refused to share in John's breakfast all that time ago.

"Oh, yeah!" John exclaimed, eyeing the cup he'd left near Stan. "Mine's still warm if you want any, it's just got a bit of cream in, I've barely touched it--"

"Here, I've got it," Stan offered, seeing John's hands full. He was closer anyway, and he easily reached over to pick up the cup. Approaching the shelf, Stan knelt down next to it and lowered the cup to the shelf a comfortable distance from Sam and Dean. He didn't want to crowd them, after all.

"I can also fetch you some sugar if you'd like," he said with a gentle smile for Sam. Then to Dean he gave a flat look and added, "It's still three to one, by the way. That last one didn't count."

Dean gave Stan an identical look right back, already sliding his bag off his shoulder. “I didn’t hear anyone call a timeout,” he sassed back as he withdrew two pieces of tinfoil from the duffel.

In short order, Dean had two cups fashioned out of foil, just the right size for himself and Sam. He dipped them carefully into the teacup, filling them halfway with the warm liquid. He brought them over to Sam, handing one off to his little brother and settling down next to him with crossed legs to enjoy his own.

“Thanks,” Sam said warmly, looking from Stan to John.

“Better get some sugar,” Dean recommended, making Sam’s ears flame up.

Stan attempted a kind grin back at Sam, but Dean's behavior turned it into a toothy smirk. He could tell the elder Winchester was teasing the younger, recognizing the signs from his own childhood growing up with four older brothers. He was certainly ready to fetch sugar for Sam if he wanted it, but he'd wait for Sam to ask for it himself.

For now, he had a score to settle with Dean, in the most literal sense.

"I was choking, how could I call a time out?" he retorted, taking John's cup back and passing it back to the doctor as he returned from the kitchen where he'd dropped off the pickings of his errand.

John chuckled sheepishly, making his way to his chair. "Yeah, sorry about that," he put in.

"Oh, don't worry about it. No harm done," Stan waved it off as he stood, crossing the room to the chair left between Sherlock and John's from Stan's arrival in the flat. "And anyway," he shot back at Dean as though John never interrupted, "you didn't get to the walls, so it's at least a draw. I can let Sherlock slide, at least he knew what was going on, but Dr. Watson thought you were actually in danger!"

"Just John's fine," muttered the doctor as they all sat, bemused by their argument. He had no idea what Sherlock must have done to interrupt their training, but he was sure he'd hear all about it soon enough.

“Okay, fine,” Dean conceded with a smirk, sipping from his cup. “I’ll letcha off the hook for John. But it’s hardly my fault you got distracted by Sherlock and let me get into the walls without a fight.”

“Was that when you came flying through our place?” Sam asked, bemused. He followed suit, sipping at his own tea. His eyebrows went up in appreciation of the flavor.

“Gotta keep my mystique somehow,” Dean said smugly. “If they can’t figure out where the entrances are, they don’t get the privilege of knowing.”

"Got me there," Stan shrugged, taking a long, luxurious pull from his tea.

John cocked an eyebrow at Sherlock. "Distracted him, did you?" he smirked.

"Hardly," scoffed Sherlock, absently fiddling with the tiny bundle of paper clips and tinfoil in his dressing gown pocket, "I was simply making tea."

"What for? You never make tea. Not for everyone."

Sherlock simply swept a hand to indicate the present company. "Someone had to. You weren't here, and I could hardly bother Mrs. Hudson to do it, now could I."

John couldn't argue with that. Between Sam and Dean and now this new stranger, their landlady would have walked in on quite a scene.

"Well, don't worry," Stan cut in, "I'm a fast learner, and I won't make the same mistake twice." He addressed everyone, but his focus remained primarily on Dean with a confident smirk. "So don't get cocky yet. We've only just started."

Dean met him smirk for smirk. “We’ll just have to see,” he said, just as much confidence in himself, completely unperturbed. He took a long, slow sip of tea, his eyes glued on Stan the entire time.

“Once I’m finished with my tea.”

Chapter Text

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.