The Study of the Four 4

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By nightmares06
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John frowned at the interaction between the brothers, turning the look into a scowl as he aimed it at Sherlock as soon as the mention of bruises came up.

"What happened?" he pressed.

"I suspected them of getting involved during key points of certain cases, not knowing what exactly to expect, of course--"

"No," John interjected before Sherlock could begin defending his actions. "None of that. What physically happened between you three?"

With a resigned sigh and a vaguely abashed glance at the brothers, Sherlock explained exactly what had transpired between Sam, Dean, and himself in excruciating detail. Right down to the amount of pressure he'd applied to Sam with his thumb to the centigram.

John gaped at him. "The hell is wrong with you? He's a kid!"

"He would have run away!" Sherlock insisted. "Or attacked me with that knife hidden in his jacket."

John looked back at the brothers, expressing apology to both of them, Sam especially. "Apparently with good reason," he remarked.

Sam flushed, staring down at the ground under his boots. He knew what happened wasn’t only Sherlock’s fault. They’d played their own part in matters by daring to go after something so open and exposed as the tea biscuits, a stunt Dean risked because he thought the human was asleep.

“We were just trying to get food,” he tried to explain, Dean hovering close. “We didn’t think you’d miss one biscuit, and after helping with the case…” He trailed off and shook his head. “We were overconfident.”

“We’ll remember that the next time we want to help,” Dean said grimly, though he was worried after hearing everything Sam had gone through while he was trapped under the coffee mug, and all in Sherlock’s cold manner of explaining things. Dangled in midair, pinned to a hand with a thumb that was close to their size… Dean couldn’t hold in his fretting.

“You don’t think he hurt one of Sam’s bones, do ya?” he asked. He could do a lot for injuries, but there were resources humans could get that were denied to them. If Sam healed wrong, it could make survival hard… or impossible.

John shot Sherlock a pointed look. The detective paused in his thoughtful chin-stroking and shrugged. "I didn't feel anything snap," he put in.

Shaking his head wearily, John carefully regarded Sam. The lad certainly didn't seem like he was in the amount of pain one with broken ribs would be in, so that was encouraging. Whether or not they were bruised was another matter entirely.

"Highly unlikely they're broken," John assured Dean. "But I may have to take a closer look to find out if they're bruised or not. Unless… Sam, have you ever bruised or broken a bone?"

Relying on the kid's personal experience wasn't ideal, but John wanted to give the brothers every opportunity to help themselves before John needlessly put them through another ordeal with human hands.

Sam paused, his innate shy nature rising up with the direct address from John. “I don’t… There was just that one time, when we were kids, but it healed fast enough.”

Dean shook his head. “You only had a dislocated shoulder from those asshats,” he said darkly, the day vivid in his mind. Sam had only been ten, so he didn’t remember the details as clear as his older brother, washed away as they were by the pain he'd been in. “Once I popped it in we just had to deal with some swelling for a few weeks. We couldn’t exactly grab an ice pack to help with the pain.”

John nodded, listening to every word. Despite how upsetting it was to hear about someone intentionally harming them at an even younger age, it was useful information.

"I'm afraid I'm going to need to see for myself if we want to be sure," he reaffirmed. It was necessary, but he wasn't about to force his help on them when they'd already been bullied enough. For a lifetime, it seemed.

Sam drew nervously back, his eyes flashing between Dean and John. He brought up his arm to hold his chest protectively again.

“No one’ll force you, Sammy,” Dean said gently, giving both of the giants in the room a look. A look that said he would brook no arguments about the subject.

Sam met John’s eyes, heartened by his steady, calming manner, the complete opposite of Sherlock’s. “What’ll you have to do?” he asked, memories of being pinned to a palm forcing their way to the front of his mind. “Will it hurt?”

Relief swept over John as Sam timidly accepted his help. "Mainly, I'll be going by look. Check on swelling, see if any bruises have formed already and how dark they are. Actually, with Dean here, I won't really have to touch you at all. I can just tell him what to look for. By the end, you won't be in any more pain than you already have.

"Of course, I'll need to see the injury, so if you wouldn't mind taking off your bag, jacket, shirt…" John trailed off when he felt Sherlock leaning over his shoulder for a closer look himself. Out of Sam and Dean's sight John's fist clenched and unclenched irritably, the urge to punch his flatmate in the face rising up once again.

"Sherlock…" Piss off was on the tip of his tongue, but that would be just as effective as if he'd said it to a brick wall. "Go, fetch the first-aid kit, okay?"

The dark-haired human frowned. "What for?"

"Just go."

Even Sherlock could take a hint every now and then. Once he'd skulked off to take his time retrieving what John had asked for, John let out a long breath. "Sorry about him," he said, a long-overdue apology.

“He’s a real peach,” Dean said sharply. He wasn’t quite recovered from hearing about the events during his entrapment under the coffee mug and all the blame for that rested solely on Sherlock.

Sam was more important though, so Dean turned his back on John for the first time. “You sure about this?” he asked Sam intently, lowering his voice in the hopes that John wouldn’t hear their quick conversation. “You heard him, he doesn’t think you have any broken bones. We can just get back in the walls if you don’t want to go through with it.”

Sam shook his head slowly. “Nooo…” he said, drawing out the word. “If he can really help, we might as well get it over with instead of waiting until it’s too late.”

Stepping back, Sam let his satchel fall to the ground with a wince. It slumped to the side, the hook likely tangled with all the extra sheafs of paper he’d squirreled away over time. Tucked into a corner of a bag was a broken piece of pencil lead, tracked down for him by Dean for his birthday so he could actually use the pages he’d collected.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Sam took his jacket off next, leaving it next to the satchel, followed swiftly by his grey t-shirt. The air in the flat was cool against his bare skin, and he kept his arms close to his sides as goosebumps prickled his skin. He looked up at John with lingering trepidation, feeling more vulnerable than before.

John scooted the chair back from the counter so he could lean forward without looming over Sam and Dean. He wasn't much closer to them than before, but eye level gave a more intimate feel than his normal seated position.

"Doesn't look too nasty just yet," he thought aloud for Sam's benefit, keeping his voice low. John made an effort to concentrate on Sam's ribs alone, and not dwell on how malnourished he seemed. He was much too skinny for his body type, and it could only be assumed that Dean wasn't much better under all those layers, but that was a conversation for another time.

"Dean, I'm gonna need you to run your hands over Sam's ribs, light as you can," John instructed evenly. "A little swelling isn't too worrisome, but if there are any bumps or dents, give a shout. That's definitely a sign of broken ribs, and will need immediate treatment. Watch out for anything that feels like a crack as well. Can't be too careful."

John rested his chin on his knuckles as he watched them, focusing on their movements. "Sam, does it hurt to take a deep breath?"

Sam followed through with what he was told, taking deep breaths like he was at the doctor’s. Dean did as instructed as well, lightly touching Sam’s bruised skin. He worried about pressing too hard, trying to avoid exacerbating Sam’s condition.

“No pain,” Sam confirmed, watching Dean’s hands carefully trail over his ribs. “And the burning’s gone now.” This comment was directed at Dean, letting him know John really did want to help them. There was no danger in the sense Sam had.

Dean glanced up, recognizing what Sam meant. “Sherlock?”

Sam shrugged helplessly. “Guess it’s not the same with everyone that sees me. It’s not his fault.”

Dean was quiet while he finished the other side of Sam’s chest, intent on his work. He straightened and nodded. “I don’t feel any cracks,” he told John.

"That's great." Satisfied, John sat back in the chair, appraising the unique pair.

"You'll be fine, Sam. No bruised ribs," he announced with his fingers laced in his lap. "How you proceed from here on is really up to you. You could take it easy for a week or so, ease yourself into a more regular rhythm at your own pace. If you like, I could put together an ice pack for you, that'd help bring down any swelling and numb the ache. I could also send you off with painkillers, as long as you've got a decent water supply to help wash it down. I'd suggest something solid in the stomach beforehand. Oh! And, keep the biscuit! In fact, have as many as you like. You've more than earned it."

He closed with a friendly, still slightly bewildered grin, reaching across the counter to slide the package of biscuits within their reach in case they took him up on that last offer. Both brothers froze up, but managed the willpower not to flinch back. That done, John backed off again and waited for their response.

Dean watched carefully. He trusted Sam’s assessment that the man meant no harm, and humans didn’t seem to think about how big they might come across. Of course, neither had Dean, back before their curse hit. No matter the warnings they'd heard about doctors in general and this flat in particular, things were going better than he'd dared to dream.

“Ah… thanks!” Sam blurted, not sure how else to answer the solid stream of words and kind gestures. He stepped back, picking up his shirt to cover himself back up. He didn’t want to stand there bare chested any longer than necessary, and pulled it on hastily to hide the bruises again.

“Ice, yes,” Dean answered for the pair, “painkillers no. We don’t know how they’ll react in our systems since we’re… y’know, and we don’t have a way to measure out a proper dosage. Unless it’s life or death, we try not to use any pills.” He knew better than to rule them out completely, since there was always the chance that one day their lives would rely on a pill-- or rather, the crushed-up version of a pill since what humans took looked more like it belonged on an episode of Futurama with the professor announcing to the world Good news everyone! It’s a suppository.

And that was the smaller pills.

“Thank you,” Sam said warmly, wanting to get that out of the way before it slipped his mind. “For everything.”

John's smile widened. "You're welcome!" Then he nodded in acknowledgement of Dean's decision and made a move to get up.

"Right, I'll get on that ice pack, then. Just, y'know, if you find you have need of meds, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sure we can figure out an appropriate dosage."

That said, he stood and headed straight for the refrigerator. His heart fluttered with every glance back at the brothers. Viewing them from his normal height felt wrong somehow, and he was certain he wouldn't get used to it. He'd almost forgotten how small Sam and Dean actually were.

That just happened, he thought, exhaling sharply and pressing his forehead to the cool door of the fridge for some sort of stability.

This is still happening, he reminded himself, and proceeded to open the fridge and dig around for the ice cube tray.

Just as he found a paper towel to wrap around the ice cube he'd cut to size with a steak knife, Sherlock stalked across the living room, peeking into the kitchen.

"Oh good, you’ve finished," he deadpanned, tossing the useless first-aid kit across the room. It landed on the couch with a thump.

"Behave, Sherlock," John warned, setting the bundle of ice and paper within Sam's reach. He rolled his eyes as Sherlock childishly mimicked him and jumped up to sit cross-legged on the table. Then John raised an eyebrow when he noticed something. "What happened to your finger?"

Sherlock flared the fingers of his left hand as his palm rested on his knee. The index finger now sported a light blue adhesive bandage between the second and third joints.

"I misbehaved and he had a knife," stated Sherlock with a glance at Dean.

John didn't even try to hold back a chuckle, mostly at how much of a drama queen Sherlock was being over the whole affair. "Ah, good on you, mate," he commended Dean. "If it wouldn't do so much damage, I'd have stabbed him ages ago."

“If he tries grabbing like that again, I’ll make sure it does more damage,” Dean said warningly, any sign of his briefly relaxed demeanor gone with Sherlock back in sight. He was tense and ready to move if Sherlock showed any sign of reverting to the way he’d been before John returned. If he had fur like a cat instead of his leather jacket, he’d be bristled.

Reminded of the knife Sherlock had taken, Dean stalked over to where it was abandoned on the counter, leaving Sam to gather up the ice and tuck it against his chest while he waited. His eyes were wide and he stared back at Sherlock, glad John was still around and starting to think it was time to go back into the walls. They’d overstayed their welcome. Humans weren’t supposed to know they were around.

Only a faint sheen of blood could be seen on the blade as Dean picked it up, most of it wiped clean from Sherlock tearing it out of his hands. Dean grimaced, wiping what he could onto his black t-shirt before leveling the silver blade at Sherlock. “Remember that. You grab, I stab.”

Sherlock smirked, knowing full well that the threat was not empty. "Noted," he replied as he tapped a finger to his temple. "Lesson learnt."

"And anyway, he won't be grabbing you anymore," John asserted before Sherlock could ruin the delicate balance he’d managed to achieve. Already, Dean looked so wound-up that John was afraid the little guy would jump two feet if someone so much as looked at him wrong. "Because we don't do that to people, do we Sherlock?"

The detective inhaled deeply. "Mm, nah I think I've had my fill of that for a while."

"And that is as close as we're gonna get to an apology." Shaking his head, John knelt by the counter to be level with the brothers again. "How's that ice pack treating you, Sam?"

“Better,” Sam said, offering John a hesitant smile in return for his friendliness. It was a balm after Sherlock’s intensity, which he could once again feel focused down on them even if he wasn’t hovering overhead. “We normally can’t get ice at--”

“We should go,” Dean said, interrupting Sam’s sentence. They shared a brief look as Dean walked back over, his casual saunter obvious now that he wasn’t running for his life. Dean didn’t want to give the two humans any more information about their lives and where they lived than they already knew. He was even contemplating closing up the entrance on the counter they used to get to the food, knowing it could be turned against them if Sherlock got it in his head to set any traps for them. They were small, and John wouldn’t always be around.

As today demonstrated.

Sam seemed to accept his implied scolding, falling silent. His eyes fell on the biscuits that John had pushed over, and he knelt down to slip one from the opening Dean had cut in the packaging. Dean glanced over at the biscuit he’d snitched before they were caught, and discarded it from thought. The rough handling from him dropping it and tripping over it had left a good corner of it in crumbs, so he took a second from the package.

“Two cookies is more than enough,” he said, stepping quickly back as though the humans might snatch at them for their audacity. He snagged Sam’s satchel and jacket, slinging them over his shoulder to carry while Sam had the ice to hold.

John blinked at their sudden declaration of departure, but he nodded in understanding. He still had questions, hundreds of them. No doubt Sherlock had thousands, but they'd been put through enough for one evening.

"Right. Yeah, of course. Erm. Take care, rest up. We'll just get out of your way."

Sherlock scoffed. "I must say, your jokes are improving. Maybe your blog will finally garner some attention."

"Not a joke," John emphasized through grit teeth and a thin smile. "We're going. Now."

It was Sherlock's turn to be offended, mostly by his own intuition betraying him when it came to his flatmate. "John, you can't be serious--"

"Oh for God's sake, shift! " John snapped, shooting to his feet and pointing an unyielding finger toward the living room. Out of his line of sight, the brothers flinched from the sharp tone and quick movements, reminded of how overpowering even the calmer of the two could be.

Sherlock rolled his eyes and threw up his hands in mock surrender, sliding reluctantly off the table. He hesitated before reaching over and plucking the abandoned biscuit from the counter. He shrugged at the annoyed look John gave him. With half of the biscuit sticking out of his mouth, he gave the 'wings' of his dressing gown a sharp toss before disappearing around the corner and flopping on the couch once again.

John started to follow him, but after two steps a thought struck him. He whirled around, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"I know it doesn't show, but… For what it's worth, everything you did with the case, we really do appreciate it." He cleared his throat and added, "And, if you find that things get worse with the ribs or you need food, please don't let this put you off from coming back. It's the least we can do to make up for, well, everything."

“We wanted to help people,” Sam said. “Even though most of them don’t really look at us like people ourselves.”

“Thanks for the assist, doc,” Dean said. “Hopefully you won’t see us around again.”

John nodded resolutely when it was clear he was no longer wanted, and he turned his back on the brothers and left them alone. A part of him hoped he and Sherlock hadn't scared them badly enough for them to move on, facing an unforgiving world that was too big for them. A smaller part wished they had if living near the Consulting Detective and his doctor proved to be more dangerous than the alternative.

The brothers waited for John to leave, finding themselves on their own in the kitchen. Sam’s shoulders slumped. For the first time since their capture, no one was looking at him. The sudden absence of feeling from the back of his neck almost felt cold.

Sam was about to start his way back to their entrance when he paused, seeing Dean go back over to the biscuits. “Dean?”

Dean shrugged. “One more cookie won’t hurt,” he assured Sam as he removed another, trying to juggle all the different items in his arms. “We might not get another chance, since they know we’re here.”

Weighed down by two biscuits, Sam’s jacket and satchel and his own duffel bag, Dean lead the way back to the side of the kitchen. The crack in the bricks was just big enough for them to squirm their way back into the walls with their burdens, and Dean was glad the humans didn’t know where it was. It was one of the best places for them to slip out and get food, and he cringed at the thought of being out of the walls longer if they had to close it up.

Sam struggled with his own burden, holding the melting ice close to his chest and propping the last biscuit on his arm. Luckily, their home was very close, placed between the kitchen wall and the fireplace, nestled next to the bookcase by John's armchair. It was warm in the winter, heated by the fire that blazed, and far enough away that they didn’t need to worry about the fumes.

It was sobering to consider that after being found like that, they should move on and find another home to live in. It was too dangerous to stay.

They arrived back in silence, ears perked to listen to what John and Sherlock were doing in the main room. It was their normal ritual. Keep quiet or you’ll be found. Keep quiet or you’ll end up stuffed in a cage. The regular murmur of an exchange between the two giants made it into the walls, letting them know that things were starting to go back to normal.

Dean was inordinately glad that even if they’d spent time in the beakers and jars, they hadn’t been fully imprisoned. Something like that was hard to get over, and Sam carried scars from their time as pets. Treated as less-than-human things, much like the monsters their dad fought.

Sam slumped down into the nest of fabric that made up his bed the moment he arrived, letting out a huge sigh.

“Make sure to keep the ice on that chest,” Dean chided when he saw Sam’s grip slacken. “Once the ice is gone, it’s gone. There ain’t any more.” He kept his voice down. After everything else that happened that day they couldn’t take the risk that Sherlock would realize there were voices coming from one of his bookshelves. They’d really have no choice but to leave at that point.

“Right,” Sam mumbled. He hugged the ice to his chest, the grey of his t-shirt already stained with darkness from the melting ice.

Dean watched him for a moment until he was sure Sam had drifted into sleep. Safe. His little brother was safe now. Away from huge hands that dangled him high over the ground and pinned him down like a bug to examine. He didn’t know what the future held for them, but at least they could face it together, like they always did.

Letting out a rattling sigh, Dean collapsed into his own nest, made of fabric discards collected from throughout the building. The future was a lot more muddled for them than it had been that morning. He wouldn’t admit it to Sam, but he didn’t know what they were supposed to do.

They were alone with this uncertainty.
CHAPTER 4: Bedside Manner

John got through his entire first encounter with the tiny Winchesters and never laid a finger on either smol... that's some kind of record in these AUs.
By contrast Sherlock took five seconds to grab them.

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


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LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
John is, as everybody expected, a godsend. Sherlock dramatics had me in stitches though! The poor Winchesters don't know what to do, now that things are all muddled... poor boys.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
He's the angel they didn't know they needed! All that time worried he'd experiment on them, and seeing all Sherlock's strange experiments around the flat DID NOT help this impression! John would be horrified to find out what they thought
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
Oh he would die of mortification. And probably apologize endlessly about it, the sweetheart. He's a doctor, after all, he wants to help people. Definitely not take them apart, like Sherlock sometimes seems to do.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
So much apology. Feeling sick to his stomach. No wonder they hide so much!
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
I have the feeling that the more John learns about the boys and their pasts, the more protective he's going to be of them. After all, they're victims.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
The smallest, most harmless victims, really. They can cut fingers with their lil knives, and that's about it
LaEscritora's avatar
LaEscritoraHobbyist General Artist
That's it, and that's all in self defense! Leave them alone!
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
John is the best. I love him.
And Sherlock. Sherlock is a petulant child. "I misbehaved and he had a knife."  "Wait, you're serious? You want me to leave the kitchen so that the incredibly interesting miniature people I found stealing a biscuit can leave without being watched? Really? Oh, fine then, but be well aware that I am annoyed at you a bit."*leaves dramatically*
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Sherlock is all the drama ever, he could match Dean drama for drama
Phoenix-FireMage's avatar
Phoenix-FireMageHobbyist General Artist
Absolutely. Such drama. Such snark.
kopelowitz's avatar
kopelowitzHobbyist Digital Artist
Ok I knew from the beginning that Sherlock and Dean would have an ~issue~... Ha too much sass in one room.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
So much sass the flat might implode if John leaves them on their own.

Someone should probably warn him
kopelowitz's avatar
kopelowitzHobbyist Digital Artist
Someone should definitely warn him...  
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer


The flat's gonna implode
kopelowitz's avatar
kopelowitzHobbyist Digital Artist
Oh god we're in for a ride!
GigantaGiantessa's avatar
GigantaGiantessaHobbyist General Artist
Oh my dear, u have outdone urself this time!!! I thank u and ur amazing crew I simply could not do without. 

Thank u for yet another amazing chapter that i enjoyed with each second. 

I love u and all the people that helped, thanks again for such an amazing book. 

Lol i legit think if u ever left, id cry like a big baby :D
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Aww thanks so much! I don't plan on leaving!
GigantaGiantessa's avatar
GigantaGiantessaHobbyist General Artist
Too Excited Chiyo Excited Icon Excited thranduil Ayumi Excited Icon Jibril Excited Icon excited Star Butterfly icon Enju Excited Icon Ayumi Excited Icon Happy Clap Yoshii-Excited (Baka to test) Chiyo Bursting Hearts Icon Lucky Star - Akira Kogami excited Yokoi Excited Icon Yui Chair Icon Kobori Excited Icon 
Imperial-Radiance's avatar
Imperial-RadianceHobbyist General Artist
Good guy John being a real team player. I love it. I mean, Sherlock's sass is everything, too, but John is the G.O.A.T.
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
Dean and Sherlock sass needs some John in between or they'll just never stop and keep getting worse. Sam could use another cool head!
Weeglyfeesh's avatar
WeeglyfeeshHobbyist Writer
Oh for God's sake, shift! Only John can make Sherlock do what he doesn't want to do! Giggle

Sherlock's little mini tantrum with the biscuit had me giggling. He'll do anything to have the last word, even through a mouthful of biscuit! :D (Big Grin)
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD I love that pair. Sherlock is just so determined to have the last word, making sure John knows how he feels about all this!
TorchMLP's avatar
You grab, I stab. XD Classic Dean

I'm glad that Sammy wasn't hurt too bad. Now if only John could successfully get Sherlock to work on his people skills...
nightmares06's avatar
nightmares06Hobbyist Writer
XD Dean's gotta make sure all his tols are on the same page. Lil guy has a lot of built up annoyance to get out at Sherlock, better not set him off!
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