The Study of the Four 17

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By nightmares06
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Sam leaned back, staring up at his work from the past several hours.

On his side of the room he shared with Dean, the walls were covered in scrap pieces of paper. Each was carefully gathered over time, along with the collection of broken pencil tips scattered to the side. Sam had substituted these torn scraps for a journal of his own, and now had placed the latest piece of paper in its home.

It hung slightly askew, and with a frown Sam reached up to adjust it, trying to work the old scotch tape so it held fast. It didn’t quite work, sagging down to the other side.

Sam huffed in frustration. He should go find another piece. Or see if he could drag some thumbtacks out of Dean’s strangely well-attuned sense of need.

But when Sam got up to search for Dean to propose his idea, he found the rest of their small home empty. The main room, the carefully split-up bedroom, the hall to the kitchen…

Dean’s duffel bag and climbing supplies were gone.

Maybe he was in the storage room across the fireplace. Grabbing his satchel, Sam slung it over his back. All the bruises were gone from his front, and the lack of pain was welcome. It made it easy for him to run the distance to their storage room.

No Dean.

Sam was really starting to worry, and he glanced down the passage that lead from their storage out to the main room of Sherlock and John’s flat. Nothing. He peeled the wallpaper back to see if Dean was in the main room.

Nothing. Sherlock was gone as well. His voice had distantly registered in Sam’s mind while working through his scattered journal, but now he was missing too.

His worry ratcheted up another level, and Sam found himself darting towards the kitchen.

John heaved a sigh as he shut the door behind him. Days at the office seemed to drag on ever since he and Sherlock found out they were no longer alone in 221B. Examining patient after patient quickly became tedious, and he found himself going through each appointment on autopilot. He felt completely drained when he came home.

Running his hands down his face, John shrugged off his coat and went straight for his armchair. It didn't strike him as odd that Sherlock seemed to be out; the detective was fairly intent on a case when John left that morning. In fact, the most exciting part of his day had been finding an article pertaining to the case and sending it to his flatmate. No doubt Sherlock had gone to investigate the new evidence.

John breathed deeply, wondering if it was going to be a quiet afternoon after all.

By the time John sank into his armchair, Sam was in a near panic. Dean was nowhere to be found. All the passageways they kept clear between the two of them were empty, he wasn’t in any of the kitchen cabinets scavenging food, and even calling out in Sherlock’s room from the floor entrance near the bed resulted in nothing.


Sam leaned against the wall, his breathing stuttered from anxiety. This was the first time he’d ever had trouble finding Dean in over a decade. He closed his eyes, trying to think. What could he do?

Dean wouldn’t go to their adopted family’s home without telling him. It was too far, several houses down the line. Ever since their curse, they’d stayed near each other for security and safety. They were too small in the world. If either brother lost track of the other, they might not be able to find each other again.

There was a creak from outside the walls, and Sam paused.

He’d lost track of time. John was back in the flat, sitting in the armchair that guarded their small home, without a clue that they lived so close. He would probably be on his laptop, updating his blog or finding out what Sherlock was up to…

And Sam was running for the entrance to the bookshelf before he even realized his feet were moving.

“John!” Sam skid to a stop at the edge of the books, bracing each hand on a book so he could lean out. “John!” His eyes were wide.

John had just pulled his computer into his lap when Sam's voice rang in his ear. He whirled around, immediately put on edge by the younger Winchester's tone of voice. It didn't matter that Sam had appeared unexpectedly and seemingly out of nowhere. John had never seen the kid this stressed, not even when Sherlock had them trapped in jars.

"Sam," breathed the doctor, taken aback. "What's wrong? Are you alright?"

Sam had to pause before he answered, sucking in a deep breath and raking his fingers through his long hair. His pulse hammered in his chest. “It’s-- it’s Dean,” he finally managed to say, pushing through the panic that was nipping at the edge of his mind.

And like that, the dam burst and Sam couldn’t stop talking, just like the first time he’d talked to John all on his own. “He’s gone and I can’t find him anywhere and he wouldn’t just leave me like this to go visit our family, we always go together and I can’t lose him, he’s all I have!” His bright hazel eyes started to grow glassy as those words sank in.

Losing Dean.

Sam’s biggest fear. Worse than being stuck at a fraction of his height, he could face that with Dean at his side. But if Dean was gone… Sam had nothing.

“Please I don’t know what to do,” Sam said, his chest hitching when he choked on the words. Without Dean, he felt more lost than he had in years.

"Hey, hey," John whispered, reaching his hand toward Sam. Riled up as the lad was, John was even more reluctant to touch him than ever, so he repeated his gesture from the last time he'd spoken to Sam, pressing his fingertips to the edge of the bookshelf.

"We'll find him," said John unequivocally. His heart bled to see Sam so worried, so lost without his brother. "You've looked in all his usual places, yeah?" John could only assume so, considering how sure Sam was of Dean's disappearance.

“Sorry,” Sam whispered, still trying to calm down. He rubbed his face, then hesitantly kicked a boot against the huge fingertip next to him on the shelf to accept the gesture, his small boot barely making an impression against the thick skin. He appreciated the sentiment, but he wasn’t quite ready to reach out and touch the human, friendly or not. Sam hadn’t spent any time in friendly hands in his life, unless he counted Dean’s when his older brother was taking care of him, and Dean's hands could hardly be counted as large. Not when dealing with people who could snatch up both brothers in one hand.

Which was why it was so important to find him. Sam couldn’t have his older brother getting into trouble on his own. Everyone needed someone to watch their back.

“I looked for him at home, all through the tunnels we use the most…” Sam closed his eyes to concentrate. “Checked the main room, the kitchen and Sherlock’s room, just to make sure he wasn’t getting into trouble, and nothing. All his climbing equipment’s gone with him, and that’s all I could find out. I just… I can’t find things like Dean. My stupid knack’s useless now.”

John nodded, glancing around the main room as he took his hand back. Absently, he ran his thumb over the fingertip Sam had nudged with his foot. If he concentrated, it was almost as though he could still feel it. He'd hardly expected any reciprocation from the lad, and considering it was the first physical contact shared between John and either of the smaller folk… The doctor would be beside himself if there wasn't a task set before him.

"Steady on, Sam," John encouraged, trying to keep the young Winchester from falling into self-flagellation. "Is there anyplace unusual that he might be? Or, have you checked upstairs? I know you've got at least one way in up there." John wanted to put all their options out in the open before he and Sam made any drastic decisions.

Sam flushed, remembering their illicit trip to John's room to return his shoelaces after Sherlock switched them to his shoes. Though Sherlock was fair game for the prank, John was not. He had saved them from being trapped in the jars for who-knew-how-long, and so he got his laces returned instead of pilfered.

“S-sorry about that,” Sam said, stumbling over his words with nerves again. “We, uh. Need ways around.” He shifted in place, antsy. “I didn't go up to your room yet, though. It's a long haul so we don't go unless we need to…” He trailed off uncertainly. Explaining things was harder than it looked. John and Sam didn't have much in common in their lives, something that stood out even more to Sam after the other day when they'd shared stories.

“And then if I check up there and he's down here, I might miss him,” Sam said, staring down at the edge of the shelf, frustrated by his lacking size for the first time in ages. “It shouldn't take this long to search!”

John sighed. Everything he said seemed to either worry Sam more, or make him feel self-conscious. Not for the first time, he wished that their difference in size didn't have such an impact on the way they interacted. Physically, John had all the power in any scenario involving Sam or Dean, but that was the last thing he wanted.

Sam was a person, no less than John. If only nature could allow them to be true equals.

"Then I'll check upstairs," John suggested. "It'll be quicker for me, and if Dean turns up down here, you'll be there to give him hell for the scare." He offered a faint grin, but the effect was all but lost in the true weight of the situation. Dean and Sam had been together all their lives, especially after the curse. John couldn't imagine what Sam was feeling if he tried.

“T-thanks,” Sam said, blinking rapidly. “I’ll… search the kitchen again. I guess. Maybe I missed him or he didn’t hear me calling…”

He didn’t give voice to his worry that Dean might have been hurt and was unconscious somewhere in the flat. It was always possible that one of them could get injured while they were out gathering supplies. A rat could attack or a cat could try and sneak in. Mousetraps were always a possibility, though they both knew to avoid those, and their vision in the dark was strong enough to see the path in front of them.

Sam was about to step back on the path to his home and the kitchen, then paused. “Just call my name when you’re back, okay?” he asked. “I’ll come out when you do.”

"Right." With a resolute nod, John set his laptop on the floor and made his way upstairs. Halfway up, he paused and dropped his gaze. The notion that Dean might be hurt or stranded somewhere hadn't escaped him either, and he had a sudden thought that perhaps Dean had wandered from the upper flat to the stairs. They were steep, each certainly deeper than Dean was tall, so John kept an eye on each one before continuing upwards.

John hesitated in the doorway, scanning the floor for any sign of the elder Winchester. Since John didn't own much, and what little he did was either in his bedroom or the main flat, this space was bare. He couldn't imagine what Dean would be up there for, but it wouldn't hurt to check.

Calling Dean's name through the flat yielded nothing, even when John declared that Sam was worried about him. John was certain that that knowledge would make Dean desperate to reveal himself, even if he was stuck or injured, but there was nothing. Silence in the flat.

A thought hit John on his way carefully down the steps, and he bypassed 221B, continuing his descent to the ground floor. At the bottom, he paused outside the Mrs. Hudson's space, calling her name and then Dean's when there was no response. Wanting to avoid searching through his landlady's things, John called, "If you're down here, you'd better get your arse back to Sam!"

John continued downstairs to the basement flat, which was even more barren than the space his bedroom belonged to. Completely empty and damp, only one wall was papered, and the pattern was ghastly and peeling off. He highly doubted Dean would ever choose to come down there, but all bases needed to be covered.

Still no answer, and John's worry was mounting.

He was on his way upstairs when the main door opened and shut, and he sped up to see who was home. He paled at the sight of Mrs. Hudson slowly ascending the stairs, heading for 221B. Sam was up there, all on his own and in no state of mind to deal with one of the landlady's surprise visits. Heart racing, John hurried to block the older woman from going any further up the narrow staircase.

"Hey," he breathed, forcing a friendly smile to mask his stress.

Mrs. Hudson jumped in surprise, a hand going to her heart. "Oh! Goodness, you gave me a fright, John," she exclaimed with a relieved chuckle.

"Heh, sorry," said John abashedly. "Er, what have you got there?"

"Oh," she chirped, glancing down at the grocery bag in her hand. "Well, I was at the supermarket and I thought of you boys, busy as you are, and I said to myself, I said, 'I'll just pop round and drop off a few things'--"

"Ah, you're very kind," John interrupted, genuinely glad to have Mrs. Hudson around. She kept the flat running like a well-oiled machine, and yet was still unaware of her extra flatmates. "Well, since I'm in, I'll just take that on up, shall I? Don't want to stress your hip now."

Thankfully she conceded, passing the bag to the doctor and retreating into her living quarters with one last plea to keep Sherlock out of trouble. John promised he would, and finally returned to the flat.

"Sam?" John called, entering through the door that led straight to the kitchen. He set the bag on the table and promptly forgot about it.

Sam, already in the kitchen and waiting for John, stepped out into view instantly, his worry for Dean overshadowing any worry he felt about John knowing their usual hiding spots and passages. This was more important, by far. Without Dean around, there wasn’t a point to any of it.

He smoothed one hand against his satchel, some of his nervous energy working its way out through absent fidgeting.

“I didn’t see him in any of the passages,” Sam said, though that was obvious by Dean’s lacking presence. “I was thinking about checking the cabinets if you didn’t have any luck, make sure he didn’t knock anything over himself.” It was always a danger, having something larger than them fall over and knock them out or do worse, but so far they were quick enough on their feet to avoid any lasting injury to anything but pride. Sam finally managed to work his way to the important question. “Did you see him?”

John shook his head, guilt creeping into his eyes. "I looked everywhere, even downstairs. Not a peep."

The suggestion of the cabinets reinforced John's determination. He crossed the room and began throwing open the pantry doors. Mindful of where Sam was at all times, John propped a hand against the counter and reached up to move a few of the larger objects out of the way, peering toward the back of the shelves for any sign of Dean. The idea of finding Sam's brother trapped under something and possibly hurt wasn't pleasant, but it would be something. If he was in such condition, the sooner they found him the better.

Sam followed John’s movements from down on the counter, careful to give the doctor a wide berth as he was checking the cabinets. Sam worried his lip as he watched. John moved much faster than Sam could, checking each cabinet thoroughly in a matter of seconds while for either brother it would take minutes or more to check every square inch.

It was nothing short of amazing for Sam to realize that just a month ago, he wouldn’t have seen John’s thorough search with anything close to equanimity. He could remember the first time they were in the cabinet when John came searching for his tea. In order to keep the human from looking, Dean had shoved a teabag at his absently groping hand, and John had gone on his merry way without a clue that a man the size of his finger had passed him the teabag.

Sam found himself missing Dean’s cocky confidence in their abilities, and his constant snark. Without Dean’s quick thinking that day, their discovery might have come that much sooner, John coming face to face with the two tiny men trying to slip out of the cabinet without notice.

As time went on, Sam could feel his own confidence in their search crumpling. “But where else could he be?” he asked himself as John’s search lengthened, his brow furrowed.

John sighed sharply as each cabinet turned up empty. No Dean to be found. With his stress and frustration on the rise, he replaced the items he'd taken out of the cabinets with less care than he'd removed them.

Running a hand through his hair, John's eyes darted around the flat, desperate for an answer to Sam's quiet question. There had to be something, some sign as to where Dean was…

The doctor blanched when his eyes fell on the small table in the main room, half-cleared and covered in newspaper clippings. Sherlock… he'd been on a case.

"Oh, hell no…" murmured John, fishing his mobile out of his pocket. He stared at the table as he dialed Sherlock's number, praying for any tiny amount of movement. Praying he was wrong.

The call rang out to voicemail, Sherlock's pre-recorded baritone taunting John. “Shit,” he hissed, hanging up and trying again.

“What?” Sam ran along the counter, trying to follow John’s line of sight from far below and behind the doctor. Skidding to a stop at the edge of the cliff, he fought the temptation to pull out his three-pronged hook and climb down to look. He absently stroked a thumb down the prong that hung out of the bag, using the cool metallic surface to focus.

Sam couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary in the room. Just the normal mess left behind by Sherlock while he was on his case. Dean usually gave the detective’s work area a wide berth while he was working, trying to avoid raising suspicions about their presence in the flat.

Not that it mattered, anymore, with both humans more than aware of their uninvited guests.

“Did you find something? Can you see him?” Sam found himself wishing he could see what John was looking at, but his line of sight was too far down and partially blocked by the doctor.

John turned to Sam as he redialed and listened to the ring. It still gave his heart a flutter to look down at the lad, even as he stood on something as high as the counter. Always there was that brief pang that made him feel so ridiculously large. It only reinforced John's fears about what he suspected Sherlock had done.

He bit back another curse when the second call fell through, and he hung up again. This time, he stared at his phone, hand shaking slightly in his vexation. John took a deep breath to steady himself, then focused on Sam.

"How impulsive would you say Dean is?" he queried. He hadn't gotten to know the elder Winchester as well as he had Sam, and if anyone would know the answer to John's question it would be Dean's younger brother.

“Oh, uh…” Sam was caught off guard by the question, and he answered without thinking. “That… really depends. He's pretty methodical when it comes to repairs or checking the perimeter for any threats, but you've seen how he can be with Sherlock if he gets an idea in his head. He'll act first, think never if he's riled enough, and don't count on any apologies.” He smiled at the memory of some of Dean's pranks in the past, including having their thimble of water upended over his head in his sleep.

The smile vanished as John's serious tone sunk in. “W-why? What happened?”

John dragged a hand down his face. He'd been afraid of the confirmation in Sam's answer, and now that he had it, his worry only increased. He almost didn't want to tell Sam what he thought, the poor lad was stressed enough, but he had the right to know John's theory was at least a possibility

"It's just…" Clearing his throat, John gestured toward the detective's workspace. "Sherlock was working on a case all morning. Now he's gone… and so is Dean."
CHAPTER 17: Overreacting

One half of each pair is out on a hairbrained trip across the city, and the other half...

Well, Dean probably shoulda told Sam where he was going.

Research by GTPanda 

Artwork by GTPanda! They're wonderful :heart:

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John and Sherlock are written masterfully by Zepheera221b, this wouldn't exist without her! 


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Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
I hadn't realized how worried Sam would be, but of course he'd be super stressed! Go John, guessing the truth!
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Dean's never been so far away from Sam or out of reach in their lives! Poor guys are extra codependent, but at least Sam has someone he can go to for help
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
Yep. Now to text Sherlock, "Is Dean with you?" Just to be sure.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD "Did you take Dean or did he come willingly"
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
"I invited him, John. He's fine, just snarking in my ear a bit. Got to go, solving a case! Dean's helping!"
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD He's going to have to work hard to defend himself here
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
Yep. Dean, too. They can help defend each other, though.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Both stubbornly arguing.

"He asked me to help, how could I say no?!"
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LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
Dean, you butt. Your brother is worried sick that you're gone forever. At least you should have left a note!

Thank goodness John came around though. Sam stewing in that existential worry by himself for too long would not have been good.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Sam's got someone to ground him for a bit ^^; At least he's not stuck worrying by himself
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
Poor thing would worry himself nearly to death. ^^; He needs help, especially from somebody as kind as John.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
John definitely takes good care of both brothers. He's gone the longest of any of the AU characters without even holding one of them!
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
Which is a feat and speaks volumes, truly. The urge to scoop them up is strong.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD Especially when they just bleed panic, like Sam here
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
Exactly. Gotta protect the little guy, how could you not? The poor tiny bean is so distraught.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Don't take his Dean away XD 
BNZG's avatar
BNZGHobbyist Writer
Darn it, Dean! You have to let your brother know where you're going! At least on paper or something! Ugh, he's sure in for it when they get back! Worrying two people like that!
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD Dean vanishes, Sam panics and then Sam works John into a panic. Smooth
Weeglyfeesh's avatar
WeeglyfeeshHobbyist Writer
He didn't even hesitate, running right to John! John can fix it! Nod

Search party, anyone?
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
For the first time in his life Sam has someone else to get help from for his crazy older brother
CDupre's avatar
CDupreHobbyist Writer
Part of me anticipates the furious scolding Dean and Sherlock are destined to face, but the other part of me has a sinking feeling that Dean specifically won't get back to the flat so easily to even receive said scolding.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Whatever else happens, there will be scolds
CDupre's avatar
CDupreHobbyist Writer
This is very true.
Imperial-Radiance's avatar
Imperial-RadianceHobbyist General Artist
Dean could've left a note or something, damn it. These panics are tragic. XD 
anonymous's avatar
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