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Mrs. Novak's Solution.

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Jimmy had no idea how long he'd been in the dungeon. His only markers for time passing were the beatings, the rapes, the force feedings. He tried to keep track by how long the bruises, whip marks and cuts lasted but when the guards realized this he was blindfolded and denied this, too.

He knew he was never going to be able to keep from sniping at people, even the ones who laid into him with single tails until he bled, fucked him till he bled there, too.

Cas (his Cas, not the monster shaped like his brother but older) could make him be sweet and compliant for a while, but that was because he loved his brother with all his heart. Hatred, grief and fear were no substitute for love and no matter how badly he was treated he couldn’t stop his tongue from flapping when it should be still, couldn’t say the pretty words and save himself.

He began to wish he could break but to his surprise and annoyance he was much tougher than he had ever imagined himself to be. Some part of him wasn’t touched by the abuse and it just got more and more stubborn, more and more entrenched until even he was frustrated with himself.

He had no thoughts of revenge, no hopes of rescue or solace- all of that was extinguished, erased by the pain and the unending grief. But instead, for no reason that he could ever understand, he survived.

Then, in the middle of yet another rape, his attacker stopped moving, was abruptly gone. Jimmy hung in his chains, panting and feeling only the aches of his battered body. As usual he was blindfolded but he was also unable to hear because of the noise-canceling headphones that had lately been added.

He waited in that dark and silence, then startled in fright at a soft hand placed on his shoulder. But the hand rested there only a moment before it vanished leaving him feeling strangely, horribly bereft.

Then he realized his arms were being lowered, oh, so carefully, he was being supported on both sides, he was being...

Released.

Terror filled him and he began to shake. A soft blanket was draped around him and the ear pieces were gently, slowly removed, then the gag (when had he been gagged?) and the chains were gone, too. He was on the floor. Someone was holding him, carefully, softly. He was suddenly aware of a familiar scent, a subtle perfume, so out of context that at first he couldn’t place it and then-

"M-m-m-" was all he could manage between the tremors and the wretched state of his mouth.

"Jimmy." There was a kiss on his forehead. “My dear Jimmy. I never thought I’d see you again.”

"M-mom?"

"Yes."

There was a roaring in his ears and he fumbled with numb hands trying to push up the blindfold but he was caught in the blanket.

"Dim the lights," he heard someone say far away through the noise in his head.

The blindfold was removed and Jimmy looked up into his mother's face.

"Jimmy, I'm here now. I'm sorry it took me so long-"

Suddenly, he was struggling, numb with terror but too weak to do more than push vaguely at the blanket.

"We have to g-get out of here!"

"He's dead, Jimmy. Everyone who hurt you, everyone who helped him. They're all dead."

She held his eyes with her own, those eyes so much like his and his brother's, sapphire and twilight. He saw the truth in them, the flecks of blood on one smooth cheek, the firmness of her mouth.

He stared up at her.

"I killed him myself," she said. "You may see the body if you like."

After a moment he nodded, unable to speak.

There was water to drink, cool and plain, no drugs in it. There was another drink, some kind of smoothie that gave him a little strength. After that there were bandages, and soft clothes- sweat pants, t shirt, hoodie, socks, a pair of shoes, all familiar, all his. He was too clumsy to really do much on his own but he did his best and his mother helped him, her touch so steady and real that by the time he was dressed he had mostly stopped trembling. He rested a moment and thought at last to ask,

"Where's Dad?"

"He and his team are dealing with the Russian's victims." She hesitated and then added, "I don't know how but there is another Dean as well as the other Sam. He's in bad shape but your father thinks he will live."

Jimmy shook his head, unable to comprehend the bizarreness of what she was saying.

"What is this? A comic book? Alternate universes colliding? Clones?"

"No idea. Believe me, I'm as confused as you are. But they're safe now and we will help them in every way we can."

Jimmy nodded, sobbed once and then swallowed hard.

"Can you stand?"

Slowly they got up from the floor. He swayed a little but a few breaths later he was able to stand mostly on his own though he kept a tight grip on his mother. She kept her arm around him and guided him to the door one step at a time. He knew there were men in the room, too, men in tactical gear and bristling with weapons but he felt hysteria rising every time he caught a glimpse of them so he focused on his mother or where he was putting his feet instead.

It was a long way up to the penthouse. There were bodies littered along the halls, a faint smell of smoke and blood in the air. They said little to each other, just made their way to where the Russian had lived, to where his body lay lifeless, a single bullet hole in his forehead and a pool of blood soaking the fine carpet.

Jimmy stared at the man for a long time.

"Nice shot," he said at last. "Anyone else left alive?"

"Only his victims."

"Good."

"Shall we go home? I'd like to let the men finish taking this place apart."

"Sure. One thing first."

Jimmy let go of his mother and stood over the dead Russian. He tried to think of something to say, wondered if he should spit on the body or kick it or or or

At last he turned away.

"Can we go now?"

"Of course."

They left the building and though he was exhausted by the time he reached the car Jimmy walked on his own the whole way. As they got into the back seat of the limo he asked,

"Are you sure they're all dead?"

The doors closed and quiet surrounded them. His mother smiled a little as she fastened her seatbelt.

"Oh, yes. I was very thorough. I would have been here sooner but I wanted to make sure to do a proper job. The men have orders to photograph each face and take finger prints, all the IDs, computers and papers they find so we can track them back to their source."

She turned to him then and her face was pale but calm and implacable.

"We will not stop until we have crushed every last one of these... people... and rescued as many of their victims as we can." She smiled slightly. "It won't be enough but it will have to do."

Jimmy nodded, shivering a little at the coolness of her tone.

She triggered the intercom and said, "Home, please."

The limo pulled away from the curb.

Jimmy began to weep.

"Mom. H-how can it ever be home again?"

"I don't know." She sighed and took his hands. Her voice was thick and her eyes were too bright but she shed no tears. "It will never be what it was but we will do what we can with what we have in their names."

"And never forget them."

"Never."

 

Epilogue

Mrs. Novak was true to her words. It took little more than a year for her achieve her goals.

The Russian (they all refused to call him by name) and his people around the world were eliminated with a ruthlessness that secretly appalled Jimmy and his father even as they approved. The duplicate Dean became her right hand man, so grim and dire that only she and his brother truly trusted him. They were careful and thorough and when they were done there was nothing left of that vile group but smoke and blood and ruin. Then, the duplicate Dean took his brother and they vanished never to be seen again.

The Novaks sold their houses and relocated to Canada, buying a small island in the Queen Charlottes. Jimmy went with his parents but island living, while good for a while, was not enough for him. He went to the mainland, went back to school, became a doctor and then added a few more medical degrees after that while he worked mainly with the poor and homeless.

One cold and frightening night he met an ER doctor named Saul Forrester, a gentle, dark complected giant who reminded Jimmy a little of his Sam. Saul was smart and kind, as mild as a summer night. He moved quietly, spoke calmly even as he worked swiftly to save the near-dead kid Jimmy had brought in, made that horrible night into something bearable. There was a spark of recognition between them that might have hurt but didn’t. Later that week they went out for a date, ate Chinese food and told each other their stories, compared their scars and traumas and debated their recovery strategies. They were both surprised when the sun came up and they were still talking. After that they dated regularly but it was a long time before did more than hold hands or hug.

Saul wasn’t intimidated by Jimmy’s wealth or his body guards, wasn’t put off by the grief that still weighed on him, and seemed quietly amused by Jimmy’s tendency towards hyperactivity. Saul knew about grief, knew about unbearable loss and how to carry it without it owning him. Jimmy found himself leaning more and more on their friendship. At first he see-sawed between agonizing fear and a tentative joy but through it all Saul was steady and patient, and gradually Jimmy’s mood swings eased into something more like his normal state.

Then, the first time they kissed Saul said, “You taste like love.” Jimmy wept for a hour and Saul held him, tears of his own sliding slowly down his face.

After six months they moved took a small apartment together and a year later they married. Jimmy’s parents came to the mainland and helped them celebrate. Saul’s parents and most of his family were long dead but an uncle was still alive and stood with him during the vows. The after party was a good one, full of silly speeches, dancing to a live band and lots of good food and drink. No one remarked on the guards that stood in fours at every door and patrolled the perimeter.

Jimmy and Saul created a foundation called The Forrester-Novak-Winchester Fund, opened a home for trafficked kids and always had at least six or seven of them running around, causing trouble and generally getting under foot while being rehabilitated into health and contentment. After a while a couple of them didn’t leave so Jimmy and Saul had to get a bigger place to make room for them.

One day, Jimmy brought out a box made of fine wood. Saul looked at it, recognized what it was and came to stand beside him. They looked at the box together, at the entwined initials inlayed in silver on the top. S. W., D. W., C. N.

“I need to do something with this.”

“Okay,” Saul said.

“I, I can’t bear to spread these anywhere,” Jimmy said and burst into tears. “It’s, it’s all I have left of them.”

“Well…” Saul held him, the box awkward between them but he didn’t complain. After Jimmy’s tears abated some, Saul gently stroked the inlay with one finger. “I hear some folks get their loved one’s ashes turned into jewelry, or have some of it injected into a diamond or other precious stone. Or even made into a jewel. You could wear it then, have them with you forever.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that was possible.” Jimmy hesitated. “You wouldn’t mind if I did that?”

“No, of course not.” Saul kissed him on the cheek and nuzzled him a little. “You love them. They helped make who you are, into the man I love. How could I mind that?”

“Okay, then. That, that sounds perfect.”

It was a wrenching experience, sending the ashes away, but nine months later Jimmy took delivery of three beautiful gems. One was a deep, rich green, one a clear, twilight blue and one was a tawny gold. A local goldsmith was tasked with setting them in a simple band.

Jimmy wept again when he slid it onto the middle finger of his left hand, a companion to the two rings he already wore.

“They look good together,” Saul said, adding softly, “So much love.”

“Yes. So much love… You know, I never, ever thought I’d say this after, after everything, but I’m one lucky guy, you know?” Jimmy leaned against his husband’s broad chest, snuggled deeper into the arms that encircled him. “They would have loved you, Saul. They would have loved you so much.”

Saul kissed the top of Jimmy’s head.

“I’m sure I would’ve loved them, too,” Saul said. “Anyone you love is welcome home to me.”