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The Study of the Four 13

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John managed a chuckle at the reminder of Dean's disposition when it came to interacting with Sherlock and himself. The detective especially put the elder Winchester off, but he had that effect on a lot of people.

Taking Sam's reassurance to heart, John took a second to work up his nerve before he looked back at Sam. It wouldn't be easy for him to simply stop worrying, given that evidently something as simple as looking at Sam could affect him. He practically felt obligated to worry, but John trusted the lad's judgement and knowledge of his own sense, however bizarre it may be.

"It, uh, sounds like you and Dean were fairly young when the curse hit, yeah?" John inferred. Though it was still mind-blowing to think that somehow, there was enough magic in the world to drastically change the young Winchesters' lives, the idea of them having to deal with their lost height as children was almost unthinkable. In the few bits and pieces John recalled from previous conversations with the smaller men, Sam at least seemed to mainly recall the human side of things from his early childhood. It was hard for John, who was not the world's only consulting detective, to draw any other conclusion.

Sam nodded, confirming John’s assumption. “I’d just turned ten about a month before it happened,” he said, feeling an inexplicable weight lifted from his shoulders as he shared something that before now, no one but Dean knew, not even their adopted family. Dean wasn’t one for talking about it much if he didn’t have to.

“Dad used to travel from town to town, taking jobs and helping people out.” Sam stared at the countertop, his memories from that time all crowding in at once. “I’d sit in the back of the Impala and go through the maps, plotting out other paths we could use if anything came up. Dean mostly just listened to music. Whenever Dad was on a job, he’d set us up with a room at the motel and sometimes enroll us in the nearby school if we were in town long enough for classes. But this time… something else found us.

“All I remember is how strange it was that she was just standing in our room, right next to the deadbolt holding the door shut. Then Dean charged at her, and she never put a hand on him but he was slammed into the wall. She ignored him, and after that there was just a bright flash of light… and nothing.” Sam looked back up at John. “We woke up a week later, stuck in a hexbag together.”

Even though he only understood about half of what Sam was telling him, John knew a kidnapping when he heard one, and for Sam to endure it at the tender age of ten… John swallowed past the lump forming in his throat.

"That's terrible," he remarked, holding Sam's gaze. All discomfort and worry about the little fellow's knack was forgotten in favor of offering support. Never mind that John's main source of information about witches came from Harry Potter, and even then his knowledge was extremely limited. "It's a wonder you and your brother escaped."

Sam nodded. “Turns out, the witch ended up being the least of our problems.” He shifted where he was sitting so his feet were curled under him, and pulled his silver knife out of his jacket. “She didn’t bother searching us and taking away our weapons, and Dean made us these knives just a few months back, his as a test run and mine for my birthday. They’re silver, and Dean made them so we’d have something to defend ourselves if any shapeshifters tried to take us away. One of the few weapons that work against them, in fact.”

Brushing a hand over the familiar blade helped Sam focus himself. It had been by his side ever since their curse, a reminder that Dean was always there for him. “Dean cut us an opening, and we got out. She wasn’t in the room, and we climbed down the cord of the alarm clock. First time I’ve ever seen Dean overcome his fear of heights, and he did it for me.”

Sam could remember that day like it was yesterday. Waking up, hot and stifled in the dark bag. Feeling Dean to the side, slowly assessing their prison by brushing his hands over the fabric. It was the first answer for someone who’d lost their sight. Feel your way around. Listen close for an escape. Rely on all other senses, don’t let blindness be the cause of your death. Back then their vision had been no better than any other humans.’

“We got away, and we tried to find someone who could help us track our dad down. He had to be searching for us, Dean said he was hunting the witch when we got caught. But it turns out witches and shapeshifters aren’t the only monsters out there in the dark. Humans can be just as bad.”

Sam grew quiet. He could remember the relief after their escape, and the desperation to find their dad. Waking up to a world that soared over their heads was bad on its own. How could they know if they were even in the right world? Sam had read up on strange disappearances like in the Bermuda Triangle. Anything was possible, but eventually they were forced to accept that the world hadn’t changed; they were the ones unsuitable to live there anymore.

“They put us in a cage,” Sam said quietly as he thought of the humans they’d gone to for help. “Some of them didn’t even acknowledge when we talked, they just acted like we were some kind of… parrot or something. And then they shipped us overseas before we could find a way out, and sold us to the highest bidder. To be pets.

One by one, questions popped up in John's mind. What were shapeshifters? What did silver have to do with anything?  A part of John was ready to dismiss the notion of monsters altogether, insisting that they didn't and couldn't exist. And yet, there was Sam, continually disproving logic and reason just by being.

As the younger Winchester described the horrible things that happened to him and Dean, the doctor became less occupied with what didn't make sense, and more so with what Sam was telling him.

John's hands clenched and unclenched, and he tore his gaze away for a moment, trying to keep the anger he was feeling out of his expression. The nearly instant drop in his faith in humanity was palpable. The thought of someone treating people, treating children that way, had his heart pounding against his ribs. If John had been there--!

But he hadn't. He couldn't have been. And that wasn't changing anytime soon. Right then and there, Sam was settled on John's kitchen counter, the acts of those people still weighing him down, but he was safe. That was what mattered to John.

Turning back to Sam, John's eyes softened; he wanted nothing more than to reach out and physically comfort him somehow. He hadn't brought himself to touch either of the brothers since he'd met them, unable to truly trust himself when they were the size of a finger. After hearing Sam's story, he doubted that more contact with a human would be welcome, so he met in the middle, holding out his arm and resting the tips of his fingers on the edge of the counter near Sam.

"I am so sorry that all that happened to you," he said, just above a whisper. "And while I definitely can't say I'm happy about the circumstances that brought you here, I'm… I'm glad you found this place. Found us."

Sam nodded in acceptance, not afraid of the hand that was so close. He could understand the gesture, though it was impossible for him to respond in kind. “Thanks… That means a lot. Really. And Dean might not say it, but I know he was worried we’d have to leave this place after our capture, too.” He slid his knife into his jacket, leaving its reassuring weight leaning against his side in its sheath. “They never got to deliver us to our… ‘buyers.’ They really shouldn’t have left a paperclip next to the cage.”

That part, at least, was a happier memory. Dean, lighting up with hope when he managed to squirm his arm just far enough through the bars that his fingers brushed against the cool metal of the paperclip. Sam held his breath next to Dean the entire time, afraid to break his concentration and ruin the attempt. At only two and a half inches, and Dean at only three and a half, they were underestimated, and their captors lost out on their ‘prize pets.’

“Dean can get in or out of anything, if he’s got the right tools,” Sam said, proud of his older brother. “A paperclip might be a hell of a lot bigger now, but it can still pick a lock if you know what you’re doing, and at our size it’s easy to be precise with the tumblers. Dean made sure to teach me the second he could, in case it happens again.”

He shrugged, and leaned back. “That’s about it. Some people took us in when they found us curled up in the first dark corner we could find away from those people. They taught us how to survive. They might not have been able to give us back our old lives, but they taught us how to live with our new ones.

“You know, they warned us about moving into this flat, but we thought they were exaggerating about Sherlock.” Sam laughed. “There was so much space in the walls, and plenty of room to work with, we figured we’d make it work. And helping with his cases is fun. We get to help people, one way or the other, just like Dad.”

"Oh God," John chortled, letting his hand drop. He could only imagine what kinds of things-- factual and rumor alike-- that could be spread among the smaller community. The fact that there was a smaller community that knew about them, or Sherlock at the very least, was equally thrilling and weird to think about.

"I certainly hope you weren't around when Sherlock decided to give the wall a makeover," added the doctor with a glance toward the main room. It seemed like ages ago, but it had to be a few months shy of a year since John had come home to a yellow smiley-face spray-painted to the wall and Sherlock shooting the living daylights out of it.

That had also been the night there was an explosion across the street, doing little damage to the flat overall apart from the blown-out windows. John cringed to think of how devastating something like that could be to Sam or Dean, or anyone their size. Absently, he hoped those people were well-protected wherever they were hidden, and that went double for the Winchesters.

Sam’s eyes went to the entrance to the main room, looking towards the smiley face. “We were here when he shot the wall up, but not on that side of the flat,” he said. That part of the room was less useful at the time to them, so they’d only venture through it when doing a perimeter check or if they were particularly low on supplies and needed to check all angles-- or were bored and needed to stretch their legs. “Now it’s a good lookout, as I’m sure Sherlock figured out.”

"Do you ever, um, get out to visit them? Those people you grew up with, I mean." John himself was fairly detached from his family, but he still called Harry at least once a year.

The thought of the small adopted family Sam and Dean were saved by brought a smile to Sam’s face. “We keep in touch,” he said, thinking of their younger sister. Her black hair made her good at hiding in the shadows, letting it fall over her face to cloak herself in darkness. Some of the fairy legends must have come from people like her, able to vanish in plain sight. “They’re a few houses down, but there’s a good path that goes through the attics of these old places, connecting them. And they keep in touch with others. We were pretty surprised to find out how many people our size live in London undetected.”

John nodded as he processed this information, sure that most of it was simply not hitting him yet. Living with Sherlock, John was accustomed to taking things in stride.

While it was a bit worrisome that Sam and Dean had been living in the flat all that time ago, John reasoned that they were far from the danger and were fine. As the lad said, they had a use for the holes now. It just wasn’t exactly what Sherlock had intended.

"That many, eh?" Sam hadn't mentioned any exact figures, but it must've been a lot from the sound of it. John had so many questions about how exactly all those people lived, if they were more spread out or if they kept in close community. He kept them to himself, certain he wasn't meant to know such things, but one thing was bothering him, and he frowned.

"But they can't have all been cursed, can they?" John was still shaky on how this magic stuff worked, so for all he knew it was entirely possible for a large number of people to be affected at once.

Sam shrugged. “We’re not sure,” he admitted. “We were scared when they found us, and by the time they helped us recover, we’d both heard the ‘humans are dangerous’ spiel ad nauseum.” He was sheepish. “We didn’t want to tell them that’s what we used to be, in case they decided we were too dangerous to help.”

He plucked a loose thread on his jeans. “They figured the humans took our original clothes and gave us ‘human-looking’ things, and were pretty surprised when we prefered the jeans and jackets. Dean’s leather jacket and our boots were from a rat we helped kill with our knives, and our adopted mom didn’t mind making the rest of the clothes. She took it all in stride.”

"I bet there was quite a stir when you decided to move here, then," John remarked, recalling the warnings Sam told him about earlier. He wondered what their family would think of their current situation, being on relatively easy terms with the humans living in the flat. Given how set they seemed to be about humans, John could assume that his friendship with their sons would not be well-received. If not for that fact, John was certainly interested in meeting these people.

He knew better than to expect anything, and he hoped they wouldn't find out the hard way. That'd turn out to be an awkward family visit.

“You could call it that,” Sam said, his thoughts distant as he remembered exactly what they thought of this flat, and the human within. John wasn’t the one that would worry anyone, coming off as far more normal than Sherlock to anyone that saw him, but Sherlock… he was good at picking up small details, and though they’d gone to great lengths to hide their tracks and any sign of their existence, the detective had still found them.

Guess we could have gone without helping him on cases, Sam thought ruefully, but more people might have been hurt if we did. Somewhere deep inside both brothers, they were driven to help in any way they could. A value their father had ground into Dean, and Dean into Sam in turn.

Sam looked up at John. “What about you?” he asked shyly, curious about this new human in their lives. “You’ve heard all about my life now.”

John blinked. "Me? Oh, I'm…" He paused, considering his answer. Apart from his relatively recent involvement in Sherlock's life and career, he didn't find his life all that remarkable. Then again, he was used to thinking in human terms. Perhaps anything would sound interesting to someone who had been basically cut off from humanity for over half his life.

"Well, I was an army doctor, over in Afghanistan," he began, lacing his fingers. "After I caught a bullet in the shoulder, I was invalided home, and… Not much else happened to me after that."

John had to actively remember those days. They blended together into a single day, an endless rut the doctor fell into. Waking up in his tiny flat, all he could afford on an army pension. Meals, therapy, the blog his therapist insisted he keep, and the nightmares. At night he always fell back into battle, gunshots and explosions and utter chaos haunting him without fail. Until he ran into an old friend from St. Bart's Hospital who told him of a mutual friend who was looking for a flat share.

"Not until Sherlock."

Sam glanced around the flat as though John’s words could summon Sherlock like magic. When the detective didn’t reappear, he looked back to John, the words sinking in.

“Our dad was a Marine,” Sam said, latching onto the one thing their dad had in common with the doctor. “He served in the Vietnam war before he settled down in Lawrence with mom. He never talked much about those days, though. Unless it came up while he was teaching Dean how to fight.”

Sam was not privy to those lessons growing up, obliviously going on with his life until he found his father’s journal and read through it. All the pieces had fallen together then, why Dean had a gun under his pillow, why their father was always gone. He was out hunting monsters, and Dean was training to do the same. That is, until the monster came and took that chance away from both brothers. What monster could they take on at the size of a finger? It didn’t matter how much lore they memorized. What Sam knew of those lessons John had given Dean, he’d learned long after, when Dean decided it was time for Sam to know to defend himself.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Sam told John. “However we all got here, it turned out okay.”

John smiled, thinking back to the man he was before he met Sherlock. He'd been miserable, literally limping through life on a psychological crutch. Now he could run and climb stairs and do everything he was meant to do, all because the detective picked up on his psychosomatic limp and helped him overcome it.

"Yeah, me too," John agreed with Sam.

Reminded of Sherlock, the doctor glanced down the hall. He didn't recall hearing or seeing him leave, so Sherlock was still in his room. Being awfully quiet.

"I should probably check on him," said John quietly. "Pleasure talking to you, Sam, as always! I'm just a little suspicious of this silence."

“Right,” Sam said with a knowing grin. “Hopefully Dean isn’t getting into trouble again.”

He stood and stretched, one hand on the small of his back and the other over his head. No matter how many times he sat on a hard, flat surface like that, his back refused to get used to it. He thought yearningly of the seats back home, and grabbed his satchel to sling it over his shoulder. His knife could use sharpening. One of the first things Dean had found ages back with his knack was a small whetstone they could use to sharpen their weapons with. Its discovery has made them realize there was more to the pull Dean felt in certain directions than met the eye.

“Be seeing you,” Sam said, and started a light jog to reach the wall.

"See ya," John replied as he watched Sam go.

It was only after the lad disappeared into the walls that John realized the sheer amount of information that had been passed to him from the smaller man. Sam had every reason not to trust John, and yet there he sat only a moment ago, pouring his heart out to the doctor. That alone was nothing short of amazing.

John got up and crept up on Sherlock's room. The door was open, so John walked right in and frowned at the scene. The detective had stripped his bookshelves of their contents, carefully arranged them on his bed, and was running his fingers over every crevice and corner of the shelves. He froze when he heard John enter.

"Snooping around, are we?" asked John flatly, crossing his arms.

Sherlock sighed. "I'm not seeking them out, if that's what you're implying," he shot back. "I simply want to be aware of any entrances they might have to my bedroom. I have a right to privacy."

John's eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the detective for false intentions. Sensing none, he shook his head. "Fine, just… Don't mess with anything you find. You're still on thin ice with those two."

"Yes, thank you for graciously pointing that out."

Rolling his eyes at Sherlock's sarcasm, John left him to it. The most Sherlock did with anything that even remotely resembled a crack or other possible entrance was place something in front of it. Not enough to block the opening entirely, but enough to discourage entry.
CHAPTER 13: Pathways Converge

A bit of background on both sides, and it looks like even when Sherlock's out of the picture, he's snooping about for clues (If only he knew what John was doing just then)
 


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Comments32
anonymous's avatar
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Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
Such a nice conversation.
Amd Sherlock wants them to stay out of his room.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
If only Sherlock had the mind of a smol... Gotta find those entrances if he wants to keep them out.
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
Sticking books in front of all the vaguely entrance shaped things might help, though.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Dean's never been one to take a hint
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
True... And he might invade Sherlock's privacy more when he realizes the detective doesn't want them in his room.
guildedParadox's avatar
Sam's so cute!
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! I love the lil guy >w>
GigantaGiantessa's avatar
GigantaGiantessaHobbyist General Artist
Me wonders if they would freak if John were to pick em up
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
John seems to know that picking them up wouldn't be welcome, so he behaves (more than anyone else we've had in these AUs). Certainly gives Sam a chance to warm up to him
GigantaGiantessa's avatar
GigantaGiantessaHobbyist General Artist
Lol ik, it makes me wonder if anyone will pick em uo
Weeglyfeesh's avatar
WeeglyfeeshHobbyist Writer
John beating the ever-loving crap out of the people who dared hurt Sam and Dean -- now there's a satisfying mental image for ya. :D

The plot thickens...
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
John would toss anyone that tried to mess with teeny tiny kiddos, or his Winchesters. Don't mess! D<
TorchMLP's avatar
I feel your sentiment, John, towards those awful people who treated Sammy and Dean like pets. (ง •̀_•́)ง

Such a great heart to heart! Sammy really needed to get that off his chest.

nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
He did! It felt good to share with someone other than Dean, especially since his older brother keeps his emotions under tight wraps and never encourages heart to hearts.
TorchMLP's avatar
If only Dean realized that sometimes it's okay to have a chick-flick moment
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD He always softens on them... eventually
TorchMLP's avatar
Yes, and he may even feel better afterwards (though he will never admit it)
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD Never ever
TorchMLP's avatar
He will always deny it, and don't listen to Sammy saying otherwise, he's totally making shit up
gabimello's avatar
gabimelloHobbyist General Artist
It's quiet... Too quiet...
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
What could their sassy counterparts be brewing up
Zepheera221b's avatar
xD perfect description of John's brain there at the end
kopelowitz's avatar
kopelowitzHobbyist Digital Artist
Sam and John, the cutest of pals.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
I can never get enough of them
anonymous's avatar
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