Jacob woke with a quiet groan, rolling onto his back and rubbing his eyes with a sluggish hand. His dreamless sleep had ended sooner than he expected, and for a long moment he couldn't figure out why. He slowly catalogued the sensations around him in search of the answer.
The nest of fabric he lay on was comfortable and warm, and he hadn’t rolled off of it in sleep. There wasn't a sharp pain in his eyes to indicate the presence of an errant ray of sunlight. He could feel without even looking that some of his hair was sticking up at an odd angle thanks to the way he'd buried himself in the covers, but that wasn’t it either.
Slowly coming to, Jacob dragged his hand down his face and opened bleary brown eyes. He blinked at the ceiling above him for several seconds before finally the details of it began to slide into place and he glanced around. Cheap wood formed three solid walls along with the floor and the high ceiling of the room. The last wall was formed by gigantic, thick books stacked strategically, leaving an opening wide enough for someone his size to slip out.
The bed he lay on was actually a huge flannel shirt, stuffed into the corner opposite the opening and as far back as it would fit. Jacob had squirreled himself away in it to capitalize on the warmth it offered, making his sleep peaceful and comfortable. On the other side of the huge flannel nest, Sam was still out cold, flopped onto the fabric in his haphazard sprawl that Jacob recognized from years of sharing the same room with the guy.
Right. Under the nightstand.
The memories finally began to come back to him. He was sleeping in the "room" cleverly created under the nightstand by a human named Dean Winchester, Sam's older brother by birth. A little over a week had passed since Dean had accepted Jacob as a member of his family. That made him Jacob's older brother, too.
Jacob had yet to get used to that fact.
Three years back, when he'd first been struck by the curse that left him standing under four inches tall, Sam had been there. A previous victim of the same exact witch, Sam lost his own height over half his life ago. He showed Jacob the ropes and helped him learn how to survive in the world at his new size while providing a sense of solidarity in their shared experiences. Even Sam hadn’t had someone around who went through the same thing, not until Jacob came along.
All those years back, Sam had adopted Jacob as his own little brother. They'd never anticipated that Sam's long lost older brother would show up in the motel where they lived and capture Jacob.
Sam was the only reason Jacob was traveling with Dean by choice rather than trapped against his will. Once again he'd saved his life. And now, Jacob was traveling with both of his adoptive brothers. With Dean's help, he'd tried to find his own family, just like Sam had found his. That didn't work as they'd planned, and Dean had taken Jacob in instead.
So here they were. With the sleep gone from his eyes, Jacob realized what woke him. The nightstand was in a motel room, and Dean was walking around to complete his morning routine. Every step he took shook the floor, and if Jacob really listened he could hear the rush of air as he sighed. The man was over six feet tall, which made him quite a sight to take in for someone Jacob's size of close to four inches.
Jacob glanced over at Sam. He was dead to the world. Probably up all night on the laptop again, Jacob realized with a roll of his eyes while he got out of bed. Sam had wasted no time in trying out Dean’s laptop from the first day they ran into the hunter, and his curiosity carried on. He had a lot of the world to catch up on, and the laptop gave him that chance.
Splashing some water on his face from the small cup they had in their makeshift room, Jacob pulled his satchel over his shoulder. He hesitated by the "doorway," getting a glimpse of an enormous bed from a low angle.
Dean's family now. I should just ... go out there and say hi.
Jacob sighed. The hesitation came from the fact that he hadn't been alone with Dean since they first met. Then, Dean had stomped over to Jacob and snatched him off the floor, suspicious that he might be some kind of threat. Even if he wasn’t shrunk, that disinterested glare would have sent chills up Jacob’s spine. He ended up spending a few hours trapped under a vase before Sam came back and sorted things out with Dean.
Squaring his shoulders, Jacob huffed and crept up to the doorway… the small ‘entrance' between the books Dean had left them. He peeked out cautiously, still remembering all the advice he'd heard since shrinking. He had to stay alert, even if he wasn't nervous around Dean. His life could depend on those instincts, as he’d been told countless times before.
Hopping down from the shelf below the nightstand, Jacob didn't even make a thump on the carpet. It was now more obvious than ever when Dean took a step as he felt the aftershocks under his feet. Jacob didn't look for where the human was. Instead, he retrieved a length of braided twine from his bag and gripped the metal hook at the end. He took aim and threw the hook upwards, and it sailed through the air before catching with a faint noise on the edge of the nightstand. Jacob gave the twine a sharp tug to make sure the hook would hold in place, ever cautious when it came to putting himself several stories in the air.
And then, he began the steady climb to the top of the furniture to face the day on his own terms.
For himself, Dean Winchester was having a rare slow and peaceful morning.
He’d started out the day by popping out of the room really fast in the early hours to grab a copy of the local paper. It never hurt to see what was going on in town, and it wouldn’t suit to pass through a town and miss a hunt sitting under his nose. The morning paper was a must. Practically a tradition of his own. While most people made a tradition of finding the corniest local tourist trap, Dean checked the obituaries.
When he got back in, he started up the coffee maker that sat in the room’s small kitchenette. It was hard to focus on anything, even a hunt, until he’d had his daily dose of caffeine.
While it brewed, he aimlessly wandered around the room. Checking to make sure everything was stowed in his duffel bag, running to the bathroom to make sure his hair was straight and to wash his face off… Seeking distractions. At least until the coffee was ready and he could focus on just the newspaper instead.
After all, he wasn’t alone in the room like he was used to, and no matter how he tried, he couldn't keep his thoughts from straying towards the nightstand.
Thirteen years ago, he’d lost his brother. Sam had vanished before Dean’s very eyes, going up in a flash of light while the older boy was taunted mercilessly by the witch that cast the spell. He’d come to find out that Sam hadn’t been killed that day, he’d been shrunk. All the way down to under four inches, all those years ago.
Now, Sam stood at exactly four inches tall, and was asleep under the nightstand with his own adopted brother. Jacob had been taken in by Sam and then by Dean. Unlike Sam, he’d only been small a few years, so a lot of his life standing so small was still new and fresh. He was only just learning how to get by when Dean had caught him in his room.
That moment still smarted in Dean’s memory. Having no idea what Jacob was, trapping him under a vase… He’d come to realize that whoever had sent that text message had picked the right person, whether it was what they’d planned or not. Unlike the majority of hunters, Dean had taken the time to find out more about the strange little guy, and had discovered that instead of being a supernatural menace, Jacob was merely a victim.
Just like Sam.
If Dean had caused either of them harm, he’d never forgive himself. They needed someone to help them, not capture and threaten them. He’d just started to come around to Jacob being innocent when Sam had appeared out of the blue, shocking everyone with his brave stance against the hunter. Jacob had called out Sam’s name, and that, coupled with the terrifyingly small yet familiar knife…
The rest was history.
The coffee machine beeped. With a grin, Dean went over to fetch himself a cup of the heavenly-smelling concoction. Hands down, one of the best drinks around. As his hand closed around one of the paper cups that the motel provided, a small movement caught Dean’s attention out of the corner of his eye.
Sure enough, a small hook was attached to the edge of the nightstand. Dean watched the small guy climb up, allowing himself a moment to appreciate the skill that went into such an action. He could climb as well as the next guy, but he was nowhere near Sam or Jacob’s level. None of the surfaces he’d ever climbed were close to the relative size that Sam and Jacob dealt with on just normal furniture. Jacob’s methodical movements suggested a lot more practice than Dean could have gotten, even after only three years.
Dean scooped up the coffee, pouring himself a cup. His eyes flashed to the table, spotting one of the bottlecaps that he kept on hand. It was easier for Sam and Jacob to use those to drink out of, even though they both had small leather canteens that Dean had discovered their adopted father, Walt, made himself.
Pinching the bottlecap between two fingers, he cautiously approached the nightstand, stopping a few feet away to avoid startling Jacob. He was trying his best to make amends for the mistakes he’d made back at the beginning. Hopefully it helped.
“Joining the land of the living so early?” Dean joked haltingly. “I’m surprised to see you awake before Sleeping Beauty down there. Usually he’s up at the crack of dawn.” He took a careful seat on the bed.
Jacob's eyes widened and drew in the faintest gasp, just from the volume of the voice. Dean was holding back, and there was still no chance of Jacob missing a word. He was getting used to it, slowly and steadily, but sometimes it still struck him. Dean was huge and powerful. He could reach out and grab Jacob right off the climbing rope, surround him in a fist, and Jacob couldn't do a thing to stop him.
But Dean had proven he wouldn't do anything like that. At least, not without a reason. Jacob climbed the last few inches up to the nightstand so he wouldn't keep Dean waiting on a reply, thinking about the one time he'd been completely engulfed in a hand.
It was right after Jacob's own mother had rejected him. Dean brought her the news that Jacob didn't disappear those few years ago, that he merely shrank, but she wasn't convinced even for a second that magic was real and she'd abandoned her son. The only reason Jacob was alive now was because Dean grabbed him to get him out of the way of her angry, swatting hand.
Jacob sat on the edge of the nightstand once he reached the top, leaving his hook secured to the edge, and turned his face up to look at the massive human sitting nearby on the bed. With his hands resting on the edge of the nightstand and his legs dangling over the side, Jacob shrugged and offered a faint smile. "Guess that's what we get for letting him have free reign over the laptop."
A grin formed on Dean’s face. He busied himself pouring out a portion of his coffee into the bottlecap for Jacob while he talked. It was hot and black, just the way Dean liked it. He’d never seen Jacob try coffee, and Sam liked his sugared and creamed until it wasn’t even recognizable as ‘coffee.’ Dean could almost see Sam relaxing at a coffee shop, ordering the sweetest concoction they made and calling it good, along with claiming Dean's laptop for his own and taking over the table with his notes on their latest case. It was an image Dean held close to his heart, wishing that one day they could find a way to break the curse on the two smaller brothers.
Somehow, Dean succeeded in filling up the small cap without spilling it all over his fingers. He put it down on the nightstand an inch away from where Jacob was sitting and quickly moved his hand out of Jacob's way to give the kid some space.
“It’s good to see some things never change with him,” Dean admitted. “He always used to be up all night trying to sneak a peek at whatever books our dad had around the room. I swear Dad thought the kid slept 24/7 from the way Sam was conked out on some of our car rides.” Not that John had been around to actually know why Sam was always so tired. There were times it felt like Dean could count on one hand the nights John had actually spent in the room with them, and none of that changed after Sam's mysterious disappearance. If anything, it got worse until Dean was able to join him on more hunts.
Dean had spent so many nights alone from then on, his gun under his pillow and sometimes his hand underneath, clutching to it like a life raft.
Jacob nodded in complete agreement. He was certain that if it was safer back at Trails West, Sam would have gone after more books left lying around in the rooms. The laptop was the perfect way for him to make up a lot of lost ground. "Eventually I'll have to kick him off so I can have a try," Jacob quipped.
Even Jacob had occasionally missed being able to just pick up a book and read it. He was strangely strong for his size and could probably lift the covers of bigger books, but it was a lot more of a task than before. Combine that with being small enough for the books' owners to grab them in a hand, and it had been pretty much impossible for Sam or Jacob to indulge in a thirst for knowledge. Dean was changing all that for them.
Jacob glanced aside to the bottlecap full of coffee that Dean had poured for him so carefully. He'd never had the strong-smelling drink before. When he picked the cap up in both hands, he could feel the lingering warmth from the liquid seeping right into his fingertips. The aroma was stronger than ever from this close.
Sam and Dean both drank the stuff. Dean practically swore by it in the mornings, and Sam had taken to enjoying his own since they started traveling with the hunter. Jacob glanced up and thanked Dean for the drink before taking a tentative sip, expecting the warmth to nearly burn him.
The temperature didn't surprise him, but the flavor certainly did. Jacob pulled a face at how bitter the drink was and set the cap aside again hastily. "Augh, Jesus," he said, covering his mouth with a hand out of sheer surprise. He looked up at Dean, bemused, and asked "Were you gonna warn me that stuff is bitter as hell?!" Already there were traces of exasperated amusement on Jacob's face.
Dean practically choked on his own sip of coffee and had to cover his mouth to hide the snort of amusement. “Sam never warned you?” he asked with a laugh. “I figured he’d tell you how much cream and sugar he puts in it. Stuff practically isn’t coffee by the time he’s done with it.”
Figuring he’d make it easier for Jacob, Dean briefly dropped his own cup of coffee on the nightstand. Standing, he made his way back over to the kitchenette and got one of the little packs of cream and one of sugar. The real sugar, not the processed Sweet ‘n Low crap in the pink packages.
“This should help a little if you can’t take the real coffee,” Dean said with a smirk as he left them on the nightstand and took his own cup back. He took a long draught now that the liquid was cooling and didn’t scald his mouth, showing off his tolerance for the bitter flavor of black coffee.
Jacob rolled his eyes. He was certain he could list off a few Greek foods that would be tough for anyone to try, but the smirk on Dean's face told him that a challenge like that wasn't likely to get him anywhere. He grabbed the sugar packet. "Sam never did mention what it was like, no," he replied instead. He didn't have any difficulty tearing the paper, despite how thick it was in his hands.
After adding in plenty of the sugar, Jacob set aside the packet to avoid spilling it everywhere. He knew how easy it was to attract ants after a few years living in the walls. The bugs could be a real problem if they came in large numbers. His next sip of coffee was more cautious, but the sugar took the edge off and made the drink tolerable. A glance at Dean showed the human drinking the bitter, unmodified coffee like water. How he could stand it, Jacob might never know.
"I just kind of assumed it couldn't be that bad if you both drink it so easily," Jacob admitted.
Dean smirked. “I have no idea what you two are complaining about. It tastes fine to me.” As though to prove it, he finished off the rest of his cup. There was still more brewing, so he could have another cup in a few minutes. And Sam might not have to miss out if he manages to wake up in time. It was entertaining how grouchy Sam was if he didn’t get any of the coffee in the morning. It made Dean wonder how he’d survived all those years without.