Aftermath: A Series of Consulted Shorts 7
Chapter 7: Doctor's Orders (1 of 2)
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.
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