Sam clutched tightly to his weapon, eyeing up the only safe exit in the room. It was all the way across the floor from him. The only way to get to it was straight through the middle of the room - the most dangerous part. He’d be out in the open, vulnerable and exposed. His pulse thudded in his ears, filling the silence with anticipation.
The human knew he was in the room, but they didn’t know where he was. His only advantage. They'd find his hiding spot soon enough if he didn’t get out of there fast.
It was all about the timing.
Sam shifted his position, trying to catch sight of the human without being spotted. A tall, dark shadow was all he could make out from his hiding spot - squirreled away behind a small stack of books piled on the floor. The only reason he hadn’t been discovered already was the small overhang the top book formed. It was enough to conceal the small hunter from sight. At least from a human's point of view.
Thank god for small favors, Sam thought to himself wryly.
The thunder of a footstep shook Sam’s hiding place beneath him. He flinched further back under the book, praying the human hadn't noticed his movement. Being hidden was the only thing he had going for him right now.
So far, the obvious hiding places had all been meticulously examined, one by one. The human was taking no chances. Behind the desk, under the bed. Even the discarded jacket on the floor had been lifted up and investigated. Sam shuddered at the thought of hiding in a place that could so easily end up crushed underfoot. He was desperate, not suicidal.
The gigantic boots stepped past the books, continuing on to the other side of the room. Sam tensed. This was it… his chance to escape.
He eyeballed the human’s position one last time, confirming their back was turned. The second the human went to take another step, Sam darted out into the open. His legs burned at the effort. In all his life, he’d rarely run flat out.
The human reacted with unnatural speed. Within seconds of his desperate dash, Sam heard an angry yell echo overhead, followed by a string of curses. The floor quaked under his feet, almost knocking Sam down from the aftershock of a footstep.
Sight narrowed to tunnel-vision, Sam focused on the escape path in front of him. Nothing else mattered. This time, he wouldn’t be caught. Not happening.
Right after that thought crossed his mind, a tremendous boot hit the ground inches in front of Sam. He couldn’t stop his forward motion in time, bouncing off the solid leather wall. He could almost feel the smug satisfaction from the human above, proud to have cut off his only escape.
Dammit! So close!
Wasting no time, Sam dashed towards the heel of the boot. With any luck, the human would lose sight of Sam back there.
The moment he started on his new path, the human reacted immediately. The boot picked up off the ground and slammed down in front of him again with the shadow of a hand darkening the area around Sam. Cursing, Sam covered the last few inches with a daring roll, getting out of the way as fast as he could. His satchel slipped off his back the second he hit the ground, the small weapon clattering out of his hand.
But his desperate gamble worked. The fingers missed by less than an inch, grazing the ground behind him. Before the human could recover and snatch at him again, he was on his feet and running. His possessions lay abandoned behind him, no time to grab them.
No time to waste.
A scraping sound filled his ears as the human shifted position. The other boot landed alongside Sam, fencing him in on both sides and forcing him to run in the direction they pointed. Spurred on by his impending capture, he gasped in a breath, trying to force his legs to move faster.
It wasn’t enough.
He was overshadowed by two massive hands as they swooped down on either side of him, closing him in darkness. Before he could even attempt to slip between the thick fingers, the hands slammed shut. Sam was cut off from the light as he tumbled in the enclosure. Vertigo hit as the hands lifted off the ground with Sam helplessly trapped inside. He scrambled against the fingers, searching for a weak point before he was too high off the ground to risk escape.
The hands tilted around him, sending Sam sprawling face first into the thick skin. Sam swore angrily as the human stood up, sending a sharp kick into the fingers walled against him. One of the huge palms was above him now, the other below. Trapped in a sandwich of flesh.
A loud voice cut through the dark after his kick. “Hey! Watch the goods in there, pint-size!”
The top hand lifted off the moment the hands stopped moving, letting in the light. Sam pulled himself to a wobbly stand, knees still shaking from his desperate dash. He steadied himself against an offered thumb.
Dean grinned down at the tiny hunter on his palm the moment Sam was free. “I’d say you’re getting better! You almost got away that time.”
Sam brushed himself off, annoyed with the ending. He sighed. “ ‘Almost’ won’t do much good if anyone ever finds me and you know it.”
“Hey, take it easy on yourself. Baby steps, remember? The odds are always stacked against you. We’re just trying to even them out a little.” Dean waggled his eyebrows. “Not to mention I’m a little quicker on the uptake than your average human.”
"I guess." Sam peered off the edge of Dean's hand, making sure his satchel was still in one piece. He spotted it on the ground, next to one of his brother's enormous boots. Dean was always very careful to avoid accidentally stepping on it during training, no matter how hot things got. He glanced up at Dean again. "You mind?"
Dean's mouth quirked up in a smile. " 'Course not."
Dean's fingers curled up around Sam to hold him steady as he knelt down on the floor. He gingerly picked up Sam's satchel and the small wooden training knife he'd whittled for Sam. It was blunt so he couldn't slice Dean's skin during their training, but had the same basic shape and balance as his silver knife so he'd be ready for a real fight. Sam accepted them from the extended fingers, slinging his bag around his shoulder and tucking the knife into his jacket by one of his new canteens from Walt. He was sure to keep one on him constantly, in case he wasn't around Bobby or Dean to ask for water. It made him feel more independent that way.
His silver knife was stashed away on the bottom shelf of the bookcase in Dean's room so he wouldn't risk losing it while they trained. There was no way he'd risk it during training.
It had been Dean's idea originally. Have Sam practice escaping/trying to fight Dean off to prepare him for any future times that humans would try to get their hands on the little Winchester. Considering his luck so far in life, neither of them doubted it would happen again, so it was time to actually prepare.
They'd arrived at Bobby's house two days ago after their last hunt. Ever since arriving, Dean had been working on repairing the Impala from Ilyana's attack that had roasted the passenger's side of the car. He'd estimated it to take a week or two before he'd be done, and Bobby had offered them a place to stay in the meantime.
For the first time since being cursed, Sam was in a place where he didn't have anything to fear. He could go anywhere in the house on his own, and no one would try to catch him when he did it. Bobby had said Sam was as welcome there as anyone ever was, didn't matter that he was a little smaller than the normal house guest. He'd even said Sam could keep anything he found around the house, the little scraps that humans either discarded or didn't even notice. 'You'll find a better use for that stuff than I ever will. Who'm I to tell you that you can't use it?' had been Bobby's rhetorical reasoning.
Sam was honestly fascinated. This was the first place he'd been (aside from the Impala) that he'd explored both when he was human-sized and after being downsized. He could remember racing through these immense, sweeping halls with Dean, laughing and teasing the older boy.
Now, he couldn't manage that anymore. If he was to walk down one of the hallways without Dean or Bobby, he'd have to hug the walls to stay out of the pathway. He might trust everyone here, but he wasn't about to risk his life on a stupid gamble and hopethey were paying attention to where they stepped. It was too dangerous to wander around with him small enough to step on. Those boots compared to Sam were bigger than the Impala would be to Dean.
Instead, he could discover what else was in the house, out of reach from any human. Passageways behind the walls that leadeverywhere, ways into the vents so he could spy on any room in the house without being spotted. So far, the only humans around had been Dean and Bobby, but Sam aimed to be prepared. If anyone else ever showed up, he needed to know all possible escape paths, and he could find them by exploring.
What surprised him the most about these passageways behind the walls wasn't how many there were, but instead he was shocked by how much upkeep appeared to have gone into them. If he hadn't known any better, he would have thought there were others living here.
But he'd seen no sign of anyone else during his forays into the walls, which lead him to wonder if they'd moved out. Bobby certainly wouldn't have hurt or caught them, being one of the few humans that Sam had ever seen that knew about people his size before meeting Sam. From their point of view, however, he was a human and a hunter. Sam could understand exactly how frightening that could be when you were smaller than a hand. He'd felt the same when he was caught by Dean that first eventful meeting, and the same when Bobby had tracked him down effortlessly. If you didn't know a hunter, you stayed away from them. Period. If any people had lived in this house, they would have left the moment they found out he was a hunter. They wouldn't even consider staying.
Sam had to wonder if they'd lived here when he was a child. Back when he'd have been someone to avoid. Children were more terrifying than adult humans in a way. Aside from the exception of hunters like Dean and Bobby, they were far more perceptive and unpredictable than a regular human. It didn’t matter that they were smaller than adults when the person being grabbed is four inches tall. You were still outmatched, regardless. Even Sam had to admit he would have been fascinated by finding people so small.
He did wonder if the people that had once lived here were the ones that Bobby had seen in the fields. He might never know, since Dean and Bobby couldn't get close to them with Rumsfeld guarding, and Sam wasn't about to take a dangerous trek like that on his own. Animals were a huge danger, not to mention insects and spiders. He could get snatched up by a bird or stumble into another spiderweb.
For the moment, he let those questions slide from his mind. He settled down on Dean's steady hand while the hunter walked them both downstairs, leaning his head back against Dean's chest to the swaying, familiar walk. The adrenaline from their latest training session started to drain away as he let himself relax on his safe perch.
Ever since the hunt with Ilyana, Sam had thrown himself into being prepared for anything. He had Dean's full support for it, determined to find ways for Sam to face the world at any size. This curse wasn't being broken anytime soon, from what they'd managed to dig up on it (in other words: nothing, past the fact it was attached to his very soul), and they needed to focus on what they could change, which was how Sam reacted to the world.
They had a new training regimen set up and planned out. Dean continued giving Sam lessons on how to use his knife to the best effect, but he'd also thrown in unarmed combat now, along with various methods of self-defense, both armed and unarmed. Sam was left wondering why he hadn't thought of this before. Dean was an untapped store of knowledge right at Sam's fingertips, and he'd never even thought of using it until his life was threatened.
Their session that morning was one of their more dangerous ideas. Dean had no idea whatsoever where Sam was in the room (otherwise, catching Sam would be far too easy, and pointless for the training). They had to recreate what it would really be like for Sam if a human picked up on his presence in the room. So, Sam had to try and escape the room with a human that knew he was in there, and the way he'd win would be by reaching one of his escape routes into the walls.
Of course, with his opponent being a hunter like Dean, it was nowhere near as easy as it sounded. Not that it sounded easy in the first place. With any luck, practicing against someone with Dean's deadly fast reflexes would prepare Sam for the next time he was found by a human with malevolent intentions.
When they arrived in the kitchen, Bobby was already at the table, hunched over a bowl of cereal and a thick tome. He barely glanced up at the brothers as they came in. "Garth called," he said gruffly. "Needed some lore. He's out on a job out in Cali. Wanted me to check on some gods that might've been workin' some mischief, but it's startin' to sound like your run-of-the-mill witch."
Dean nodded distractedly as he lowered his hand down for Sam, not really paying attention. He was solely focused on food to the exclusion of the world around him. Sam, on the other hand, came over to the book Bobby had out, feeling his insatiable curiosity beckoning him.
The hunter didn't glance up at the four inch man, but he knew Sam was there, as always.
"What made him think it was a god?" Sam asked curiously. He didn't bother asking who Garth was. With the way things were for him, it wasn't likely he'd ever meet these other hunters Bobby mentioned. At most, he'd watch them through the vents, or maybe from a pocket if there wasn't time for him to get to safety.
Some days he thought about how odd that was. 'Take cover in a pocket,' when under a year ago he'd be running in the other direction. These days, it was reassuring to have the option if he needed it.
Bobby scowled down at the tome. "There's been disappearances in a certain part of the forest, near an old cabin, at the same point each year for over a decade. Problem is, there's nothin' connecting the victim's past the location. Different ages, genders, jobs, religions... not a single connection between them. Gods ain't against travelin' if they need to, so I'm thinkin' a coven's out there workin' some heavyweight black magic in the conveniently secluded area. The older covens are more likely to do that to work a ritual than these new agey witches." He shrugged. "Or some nutball with a chainsaw is hidin' out there takin' his yearly vacation to go off and murder some innocents. Either way, Garth's on it."
Sam was drawn away from Bobby and the book by Dean's plate clattering to the table with a bang, followed by a cup of coffee Dean was staring into like it was the nectar of the gods. He practically shook himself awake when he saw Sam wander over. "Here, sorry," Dean muttered, filling up the bottlecap they kept to the side for the smaller hunter. "Help yourself," he managed with a wave at his full plate. Dean wasted no time drinking down his own cup of coffee.
Sam inched his way cautiously over to the plate. Even after almost a year with Dean, the sight of so much food made his eyes widen. Humans were so casual about it. They had no idea what it was like to scrimp for enough to feed everyone in the family. And then, of course, the realization that his own brother was going to eat that mountain of food in one sitting would hit - hell, he'd eat it in five minutes if he could manage it. It underscored their differences better than anything else.
Sam picked at the eggs on the plate before hesitantly ripping off a piece of toast. He sent a questioning glance up at Dean before touching the bacon or sausage on the plate (Bobby had stocked up on everything once he knew they were staying), knowing those were Dean's favorite parts of the meal. He didn't want to push his luck.
All he got was a reassuring grin in return between gulps of coffee, so Sam dug in. Once he had everything stacked in his arms, he settled down next to his own coffee, using the napkin like a picnic blanket. He put cream and sugar (left to the side by Dean while he was getting food) in the coffee, just the way he liked it, and left the sugar to dissolve while he started on his food.
If there was one reason he wished Walt and Bree could have come with them, it was the food. The scraps Sam had grown up on had been replaced by full, (mostly) well-balanced meals. He'd been scrawny when Dean had first found him, but he was filling out, his muscles growing more defined as time went on. He'd never been weak, by any means, but he was definitely getting stronger. The regular climbing helped, and now added on with that was his and Dean's daily training sessions, along with an early-morning run around the bedroom. Dean wasn't even awake at that point, sleeping obliviously on while Sam did laps around his bed.
At the very least, Sam figured if he was ever on the same scale as Dean, he'd give the hunter a run for his money. Dean was trained in fighting, but Sam had to work out just to get around, giving him a leg up in the physical fitness department.
True to form, Dean ate through his breakfast ravenously before going back for seconds. Sam took his time, making sure to enjoy the chance for a real meal. Bobby didn't glance up from his book, muttering to himself about rituals and sacrifices and 'dammit Garth, you're going to get yourself killed ' the entire time.
Dean sat back when he was finished, waiting patiently for Sam since neither of them had anywhere to be. Bobby glanced up at last at the movement, squinting at Dean. "Any plans for the day?" he asked with a fair bit of curiosity in his voice as he pushed away the book, rubbing his forehead.
Dean shook his head even as he answered. "Just working on the repairs. Those sprites did a number on the undercarriage. I'm actually surprised she made it all the way here after the attack."
Bobby shifted his gaze to Sam. "And you?" He knew as well as anyone that the brothers didn't necessarily spend all their time together, just a large chunk of it.
The moment the eyes were on him, the tingle of danger crept up Sam's back. He was honestly starting to think there was more to it than simply a reaction to a human's gaze - he even got it when he couldn't see the human looking at him. With Bobby, at least, he ignored it with the understanding he was safe.
Forcing his mind off that, Sam shrugged. "Just exploring, I guess." He wouldn't be much help with the Impala, so he wanted to try and stay out of Dean's way as much as he could. He could feel curiosity budding in him to check out the Impala's insides, and hewanted to watch Dean work, but it seemed like Dean already had his hands full. He didn't need to worry about keeping an eye out for his four-inch-tall brother at the same time.
Bobby nodded at that. He didn't ask Sam where he'd explore. He always avoided subjects like that, thankfully. Despite adjusting to having humans in his life constantly, Sam found it hard to drop his guard far enough to tell someone that wasn't Dean wherehe'd be. Knowledge like that could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and Sam instinctively kept it hidden. He got the feeling that Bobby understood the aversion without him having to say a word.
Once breakfast was over, Dean headed back upstairs with Sam perched on his shoulder to get ready for the day.
Sam found himself flexing his arm as they went out of habit, finding it hard to accept the lack of any pain whatsoever. From what they could tell, when Nixie had healed him, she'd healed everything.
There was no sign of burns on him, the ache where his broken arm had been was gone, even the nicks from shaving with his knife had vanished without a trace. Sam was surprised to find that even the scars on his palm from his frantic escape attempt months ago had vanished.
With her healing only two days past, he was still adjusting to a body that didn't hurt at all. It was nice. He could focus on other things.
Once they were back in the room, Dean paused after dropping Sam off by the bookshelf. "You sure you don't want to hang out with me for a bit?" he offered, brushing a hesitant finger through Sam's hair. He still acted like he thought he'd injure Sam if he moved too quick most times, but he was getting better. At least he didn't hold back during training. Sam had managed to dragthat much out of him.
Sam shook his head in response to the offer. "I'll just stick around in here. There's a few places I wanted to check out." He avoided mentioning how he was planning on staying out of Dean's way, plus the other reason he wanted to explore.
Sam mulled it over as Dean left to get a shower. Ever since Dean had given him the desk, Sam had wanted to find a way to reciprocate. He'd already missed Dean's birthday and Christmas, but he figured Dean wouldn't mind a late present.
To that end, while he was out exploring Sam had started to gather loose threads and scraps of cloth from around Bobby's house. Nothing that would be missed, but enough that at night, while the overhead light in the room was on, Sam would sit there and start to twine it all together the way his adopted mother had shown him once. He made certain to carefully wash out each and every thread, making sure they were clean before incorporating them into his project. With any luck, by the time they left, Sam would have a finished bracelet large enough to fit Dean's wrist, replacing the one that Ilyana had seared off with a careless fireball.
So far, Dean hadn't mentioned anything about the cup of water he left Sam every night growing extra dirty. Hopefully he didn't suspect what Sam was up to.
Sam had taken to using the sink in the bathroom to get baths now instead of using his cup of water. He was growing more confident using human appliances and items, and the one in the adjacent bathroom to where they stayed had a plug that covered the drain, that way he couldn't accidentally slip in if it came out, and was controlled by a metal lever behind the faucet. Both the handles for the 'hot' and 'cold' water were in easy reach, and Dean didn't mind either way. He'd accidentally walked in on Sam by accident once so far, resulting in a new knock to make sure he wasn't going to interrupt again. Both had been eternally embarrassed by the oversight.
For the moment, Sam made sure he'd emptied his satchel of his previous days findings. It was all carefully piled in the corner of his 'room' under the bookshelf, waiting for him to sort through it. He also took care to switch out his wooden practice knife for the solid handle and smooth silver blade of his real knife, and grabbed a leather canteen that had been filled with water the night before. He rubbed the soft leather, thinking of when he'd received it only a few days ago from Walt.
That done, Sam was ready for another day of exploration.