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Grimm Truth 3: Dreams of Shadows

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Chapter 278: Nightmares of a Certain Future

Samuel James Winchester recoiled hard, ducking backwards out of reach. Eyes wide and horrified, the teenager watched the woman in the black slip slide free of the shadows. As familiar as her features were to him, there was nothing he recognized about that face now.

Marina Petrovka stood before him, her normally hot chocolate eyes the color of black pitch. While there was always a lethal grace to his foster mother, she had never looked like this. The body slinked forward, leonine and predatory. There was a cruel smirk on the beloved face, the expression twisted and unfamiliar.

Every fiber of him rebelled against the knowledge building in his mind. The eyes . . . the strange behavior . . . he knew what all of that meant.

There was a demon riding his foster mother. And the caring, gentle, protective woman he had come to love so fiercely, had been reduced to a meat suit. Marina was trapped within her own body, either helpless . . . or dead.

The thought sent agony slicing through him like a butcher knife through butter. That pain warred with the hot flame of rage, battling against each other to leave him stunted and speechless. The woman smiled, his face shining in the obsidian of her eyes, reflecting back to him the depths of his heartbreak.

Her mouth twisted as she sneered, “Oh, little Sammy . . . I wonder what you know about your destiny. What has Daddy Dearest told you?” An evil grin slipped across her lips as she laughed. “My Master has plans for you, little Winchester. As for me . . . I have plans for this body. Young and pretty - strong and durable; yes, she’ll do very nicely, don’t you think? And you’ll have a familiar face with you, when you’re ruling in hell. Won’t that be wonderful?”

The well of fury roiled through him and he lunged forward. Horror overtook him as he remained motionless, unable to move or rescue her. “Pretty little Boy King . . . what will you become? Won’t it be fun to find out? Personally, I can’t wait.”

Screams of rage poured from him, an agonized howl that reflected his fear, pain and anger. Hands came up to grip his shoulders, invisible but strong. “Samonik,” whispered a disembodied voice, the sound familiar and warm, “sweetheart, it’s just a dream. Wake up kiddo.”

Sam almost knew the voice, could almost call its owner to his memory. He knew it wasn’t his brother’s or his father’s, but even still, the person’s identity eluded his terrified mind. The woman - because that was not Marina - seemed to hear the voice too, because she cut in with a vicious taunt. “Are you sure this is dream, little Winchester? You see things in your dreams, true things; how can you be sure this isn’t your new reality?”

Despair ripped through him, earning another scream. The invisible hands tightened, as the earlier voice hardened, barking out, “Samuel James . . . wake! Up!”

The teenager’s eyes slammed open and he jackknifed upwards, nearly headbutting his foster father in his panic. “Marina!?” he demanded, hands coming up to grip the man’s wrists, “Where is Marina? Is she okay!?”

Will’s eyes were clouded grey as he watched Sam fidget uncontrollably, eyes roaming the room as though searching for some threat he believed was there. The man’s hand shifted from his shoulder to the curve of his neck, his thumb smoothing gently over his jawline. As for his voice, it was purposefully low and soothing, as he promised, “Marina is fine.” Catching the boy’s eyes, he held them as he reminded the kid, “She went with Nick and Maria on assignment, remember? It’ll be a cakewalk for those three.”

Feeling his heart rate slow at the reminder, Samonik joked feebly, “I thought directors didn’t go into the field.”

“Most directors aren’t Nick Fury; he gets antsy when he’s been stuck in his office for too long.” There was a ring of bright blue growing outward from the Colonel’s pupil as he gave the teenager a sly wink. “I think he just likes being allowed to go raise a little hell with my Marishka, from time to time.”

Sam locked up at the name, hand flashing to grab his foster father’s arm as he demanded, “And you’re sure she’s okay?”

“Last report, they were on the transport and headed home. Everyone accounted for and no injuries.” Will’s face turned fond as he shifted to crook one knee up onto the bed. “Nightmare was about Marina, then, huh?”

Shocked at the question, the youngest Winchester found himself nodding as he begged, “You have to keep her safe, Will . . . please!”

Samonik, I would love nothing more than to be able to promise that. Except this is Marina; she would do literally anything to protect the ones she loves, no holds barred.” Warm fingers ran through Sam’s hair as he chuckled fondly, “She wouldn’t be the woman we love so much, if we tried to cage her, Samonik.”

“But there are other ways to cage her, Will!” he protested with wide eyes. “Demons . . . my dad! He calls their vessels meat suits, and that’s not something I ever want to worry about. Not for Marina.”

Will’s eyebrows rose as little as he asked, “You dreamed about Marina . . . being possessed?”

His head nodded up and down in panicked agreement. “Sometimes, my dreams? They come true . . . and this is one dream, I don’t want that to be the case.”

“Come true?” Will echoed, eyes narrowing. “What do you mean? Come true how?”

“I don’t really know?” he replied with a sheepish shrug as he stared down at his hands. “Sometimes, I can’t remember the dreams themselves, but I know something bad is going to happen. Once it does, it’s kind of like pre deja vu? Sometimes, though, I remember everything that happened in my dream.”

The teenager shuddered as he insisted, “I hate those ones.”


“Because I’ll see them later on the news?” He could feel the all too familiar fear well up inside of him as he choked out, “My dad would flip out, if I tried to tell him I was a clairvoyant or something. And Dean? He’s in a good place right now! He shouldn’t have to go back to that life, just because his baby brother is fucking up his life again.” Looking up at the Colonel, the teenager implored fervently, “Will, he loves MIT.”

“Considering the dejected look on his face when he thought he was going to have to transfer out?” Will reminded him with a small, lopsided smile. “That I already knew. Besides, last I heard from Sarge, Dean’s made a new friend too.”

“You mean Mac?” Samonik asked with a fond smile. “Dean said he’s a little older than me . . . ‘builds crazy shit out of even crazier shit’. Direct quote.”

“Yeah; it’s good to hear though. I thought Dean was going to content himself with you and Sammichka for the rest of his life,” Will agreed with a grin. “Kid could afford to socialize more. Boston isn’t exactly around the corner.”

After a moment, the Colonel sobered, and returned to the original conversation. “You know, Samonik, there are others you can talk to about anything Supernatural.”

“No offense, Will, but you and Marina aren’t exactly experienced in that world.”

“I was talking about my Dad and Aunt Gretel,” the Colonel snarked with a roll of his eyes. “Dad heads up S.W.O.R.D. here at S.H.I.E.L.D.. He has a whole network of hunters, who could track down the people in your dreams to prevent them from coming true. You just have to remember to talk to someone about them, when they happen.”

Sam frowned, suddenly remembering the department the former witch hunters ran together within S.H.I.E.L.D. The department began collecting hunters not long after the blood moon hunt when the Grimms first met the Winchesters. Currently, there were upwards of fifty previously freelance hunters working for the department, and most of them were very well connected among other hunters. Probably one of the most unusual departments, S.W.O.R.D. stood for the Supernatural and Witchcraft Observation and Response Department.

He spared a moment to wonder whether or not S.H.I.E.L.D. could even manage simple name.

Then he blushed, ducking his head as he looked up at Will through his fringe. “I . . . ah . . . I actually . . . totally forgot about S.W.O.R.D.”

“Obviously,” he chuckled with a smirk and a wink. “It’s okay. We’ll talk to Dad tomorrow, okay? See what he recommends, about your dreams. This is kind of his job, and he’s always been pretty good at it.”

Samonik sagged in relief at the reminder, feeling the last of the adrenaline slip away to leave him exhausted. Giving the older man a feeble smile, he insisted, “Thank you, Will.”

The man’s smile was small but fond, chin nodding once in amusement. “You’re welcome, kiddo.” Eyes scanned the teenager as Sam yawned, slumping downwards and scrubbing his hands over his face. “You ready to go back to sleep now?”

“Yeah, I think so. I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Don’t worry about that, Samonik. I wasn’t asleep,” Will promised with a soft chuckle.

“Oh,” he breathed, suddenly reminded of Marina’s fussing at her partner about “self-medicating” as well as reminding him where to find the Ambien. Also, his brother’s pointed teasing during dinner about setting the record for staying up in a stretch suddenly made a lot more sense. “Yeah, I forgot you don’t sleep while Marina’s away.”

“I worry about her, too, Samonik.” There was a ruseful tilt to his smile as he guided the teenager flat and drew the covers up over his shoulders. “We’ll do everything we can to protect her, sweetheart, I promise.”

Bending, the Colonel pressed a kiss into the shaggy blond hair, completely unselfconscious about the action. “Love you, kid. Get some sleep; you have school in the morning.”

“Yes sir,” he murmured, a sleepy smile slipping free at the man’s muttered grumbling.
“Sorry Will.”

“It’s all right, Samonik. We’ll keep working on it.” Ruffling his hair fondly, he stood and promised, “I’m in my study, if you need anything, okay?”


“Cross my heart,” he agreed with a fond smile. “Sleep . . . I”ll see you in the morning.”

Yawning, he replied, “Kay . . . night.”

“Good night,” was the last thing he heard before Sam slipped into the Land of Nod once more.

For the rest of the night, he did not dream.

The next morning he woke at his usual time, eyes still half-glued shut as he dressed in his uniform and combed his hair. He might as well have been a zombie when he trudged into the kitchen and collapsed into a chair at the table with an unintelligible groan. “Morning,” he grunted.

A soft laugh brought his head up and he stared with growing relief building in his chest. Marina stood at the stove, wearing her favorite pair of black pajama pants under a too-large Army t-shirt. She was watching him with a fond smile, spatula in hand. “Good morning, love. How would you like your eggs?”

Fumbling out of his chair, he scrambled forward to throw his arms around her. Unable to help it, he buried his face against her shoulder, reveling in the soft reverent, “Oh!” the woman released in response.

Her fingers came up to pet through his hair as she murmured, “I’m okay, sweetheart. Your dream hasn’t come true yet.”

Sam closed his eyes at the promise, feeling guilt rise in his gorge as he murmured, “Christo!” directly into her skin.

She didn’t so much as flinch at the word, leaving Sam slumped against her in wordless relief. Ruffling his hair, she promised, “I’m okay . . . Vati and Gretel are coming over for breakfast. We’ll figure your dreams out, okay?”

“Sounds good,” he replied, finding himself unwilling to release her for a longer moment than either of them expected.

After a moment, she pressed her lips to his cheek and murmured, “Eggs over easy this morning?”

He grinned, eyes sparkling as he moved to take his seat at the table again. “Yeah. Hey Marina?”

“Yeah, Samonik?” she asked, fussing with his breakfast as she hummed happily under her breath.

“Thank you . . . for everything.”

She smiled at him, features warm and familiar as she vowed, “Anytime, love . . . anytime at all.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 279: Wrestling with Demons

Dean Winchester had never been in the habit of lying to himself. Lying to everyone else was just par for the course, considering his father’s “work”. He’s lied to teachers, social workers, and assorted cops, throughout his growing up years. But poe-tay-toe and toe-may-toe’; that is not the same thing.

Today’s drive, had been twice as long as any other time he could remember making the trip back to New York City from Boston . . . home to the base where his brother lived with their foster parents. A good part of that was probably Dean’s inability to get into his usual happy-go-lucky “driving mood”. From the time he left MIT, he tried everything he could think of to improve his mood, but so far nothing was working. Not even the rumble of Baby’s horses could improve his outlook as they shuddered through his palms.

The ROTC cadet had tried to blare his music at the highest volume his speakers could manage. However, every cassette had been tried, and every cassette had been tossed aside, one after the other. Finally, he’d shoved in his newest Metallica album, thinking that his go-to jam would lift his spirits, his hands drumming on the steering wheel as he belted along. Even that, though, had faded into nothing and he’d sighed as it too was ejected from the tape deck.

Literally, the world sucked, and he was right there with it.

Out of the blue, Dean was suddenly reminded of all the time he’d warned Sammy not to make friends, when they were kids. People always leave. Granted, the histories had typically made them the leaving party, considering their father usually waited long to pack them up and haul them out once the job was done. But still, the principle of the thing remained.

For the first time in his life, Dean was learning how hard it was to be person left behind.

There was a part of him that was chiding himself for a fool. That part of him was also the part convinced he should probably be used to being left. After all, John Winchester had spent Dean’s entire childhood leaving, before finally bolting out for good the year before. Which had sucked, to be fair, except that his dad had been gone for so long, Dean didn’t really notice he wasn’t around now.

Just then, the gates into S.H.I.E.L.D. appeared in his windshield and he groaned at the line of cars waiting their turn to get through. It wasn’t even five minutes before he realized that this line was both long and ponderous, shoving his mood even further down the toilet. By the time, he was handling his ID to the guard at the gate, he wouldn’t have been surprised to learn there was a mini-thundercloud building over his head.

Not even Maverick’s typically good cheer was enough to bring a smile to the younger man’s face. “Hey man! Welcome back!”

“Hey Mav; thanks,” he replied, making at least an attempt to remember his manners.

“You want me to let the Colonels know you’re back on base?”

Some part of him wanted to say “yes”, head his foster mother’s pleased surprise off at the pass. The rest of him - the larger part - wanted all the fussing Marina was willing to bestow. A small smile quirked one corner of his mouth as he insisted, “Nah, that’s okay. I was planning to surprise them.”

“Sounds like fun,” he agreed, gathering Dean’s ID from the computer and handing it through the window. “Welcome home, Winchester.”

The word struck a hard chord and the reverberating pang seized his lungs in a vice grip. The former hunter barely managed to nod his thanks, before guiding Baby onto base while contemplating Maverick’s statement.

Welcome HOME . . . something he hadn’t considered when Will and Marina had brought the two Winchesters home with them. They had an actual home; someplace to come back to, with people he cared about waiting for him. It wasn’t anything transient or temporary; no fear of a midnight move or being left to follow on.

The base house was permanent. The people in it were permanent. The realization was just what he needed to shoo away his earlier mood. As it was, the swell of emotion nearly took his breath away as he swung the Impala into the driveway. Two people sat together on the front porch swing, the shorter occupant coming to their feet, with curls a riot around her beaming face. “Dean!” Marina called happily, hands gripping the railing in front of her, mosaic opal flashing cheerfully in the sun.

Her companion joined her a moment later, and Dean’s smile widened at the sight of his little brother. Shoving open his door, he reached for his bag in the passenger seat and climbed from the car. He hadn’t even made it all the way around the hood, before Marina scampered down the front steps and bolted to throw her arms around him. The bag dropped at his feet, and he caught her up, her arms coming around his neck as he swung her off her feet.

Delighted giggles slipped free from the tiny woman as she clung to his shoulders, her eyes glowing as he set her back on her feet. “This is a wonderful surprise, shchenok. What brings you back to us?”

If she’d asked him during the drive, his answer would have been sullen and angry. As it was, he bent and pressed a warm kiss to her cheek. “Just . . . felt like coming home,” he insisted, guilt twinging at the small white lie. “It’ll be a short visit, because ROTC has a training mission scheduled for this week, but . . .” Here he paused self-consciously, cheeks glowing with warmth as she bounced happily in place.

“We’re just glad to have you here at all,” the Russian promised, squeezing his wrist fondly. “We’ll take whatever we can get. It’s always wonderful to have you here.”

“You too, Marina . . . it’s good to be home.”

She seemed to catch the particular emphasis on the word and squeezed his arm again. “Let me get started on something to eat for you, hm? Dinner's a couple hours away, but I'm sure you're hungry. Oh, and I know there’s some pie in the freezer.” Winking, she insisted, "You can consider it wishful thinking, da?"

“You’re the best, you know that?” he insisted with a grin. He let her drag him down for another hug and a quick kiss to his cheek, before watching her scurry away.

Sam joined him, hazel-green eyes sparkling as they embraced firmly. “I didn’t think you were gonna be able to make it back this week.”

“Again, not for long,” he reminded the younger brother, roughing one hand through his hair fondly. “Something’s better than nothing, yeah?”

“Hell’s yeah!” The kid was nearly vibrating with curiosity and Dean chuckled as he shoved him towards the door. “What are you chewin’ on, Geek Boy?”

“So, when do I get to meet Mac? He sounds awesome! Look at you, friends with a geek!” the kid teased, unknowingly piercing the heart of his earlier bad mood.

And just like that, Dean’s good mood was buried six feet under and he grunted bitterly. “I dun know.”

“What!? Why not?” the teeangers asked, visibly confused at the sudden turnaround.

“I said, I don’t know, Sam! Back off!” he barked, tone snappish and bitter.

Sam recoiled hard, looking as though someone had kicked his puppy or something ridiculous. Before the older brother could say anything - or apologize - Marina stuck her head out of her kitchen with a frown. Her hot chocolate eyes narrowed and she spoke firmly. “Samonik, would you go check on the girls for me? They should be waking up soon from their naps.”

“Sure thing, Marina,” he agreed, trudging towards the stairs.

“Thank you, sweetheart. Dean, kitchen,” she ordered, tone firm and disappointed, “Now.”

Dean cringed a little, shoulders coming up around his ears as he obeyed, “Copy that.”

The two Winchesters separated, one tromping up the stairs and the other slinking into the kitchen. The Russian pointed to a chair at her nook table, ordering brusquely, “Sit.”

“Marina . . .” he protested, tone meek.

“Nope, don’t wanna hear it. Sit!” she repeated, placing a plate in front of him as he obeyed. “Eat . . . and once you’re no longer as grumpy as a sleep-deprived badger, we’ll talk. Da?”

Dean grimaced; second language or not, Marina definitely had a way with words. “Yes ma’am.”

“Thank you,” she sighed, features stern even as her fingers ruffled fondly through his hair.

There were times Dean wondered what Mary Winchester would have thought of Marina Petrovka. Granted, if his mother had lived, there wouldn’t have been any reason they would have met. He didn’t remember a lot about his mother - losing her at the tender age of four had guaranteed that - but he liked to think she would have liked Marina.

He did remember one thing, though. Mary Winchester had been a terrible cook. He couldn’t even feel bad about acknowledging the fact; her husband had teased her for it ruthlessly. Dean could remember laughing as his mother had chased his dad around their kitchen wielding a knife and a giant grin. Take out and pizza had been a staple of his childhood diet, which had given him a firm appreciation for home cooked meals.

Smiling at the hazy memory, he turned his attention to his plate and tucked in to the steak and potatoes he’d been given. About two minutes into his meal, the Russian joined him at the table. Concern and kindness warred in her eyes, and she frowned a little as she folded one hand over the wrist laying beside his plate. “Dean . . . sweetheart . . . what’s wrong, love?”

Caught out, Dean swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. “How did you know?”

“You just about ripped your brother’s head off?” she replied with a single cocked eyebrow. “Not your usual MO.”

“Yeah; I should apologize.”

“Yes, you should. But first, I expect an answer,” she insisted, firm and utterly implacable.

“So, when we were kids, I used to tell Sammy not to make friends,” he began, using his fork to push the potato cubes around the plate. “Not to be mean or to make him miserable, but . . .”

Marina nodded solemnly, as he trailed off, finishing his thought. “To protect him from getting hurt.”

“Yeah, pretty much. We never stayed anywhere for long and I just trying to do my job. Protect Sammy!”

Those eyes pinned him in place as she cocked her head at him in silent question. After a moment, she asked, “This have anything to do with Mac?”

Emerald eyes were huge as his head snapped up to look at her. “You know about Mac?”

“Mhm,” she hummed in quiet agreement. “Sarge mentioned that the two of you were getting to be close? And Sam’s been looking forward to meeting your ‘nerdy friend’.”

“Yeah, he mentioned,” the cadet snorted with a roll of his eyes. Sobering once again, he sighed, “He’s dropping out; gonna join up.”

Her body sagged in shared remorse as she reached out to caress his shoulder. “Oh honey, I’m sorry. I know how hard it is to watch people you care about, leave you behind.” Her mouth twisted as she continued, “I also know how hard it is to be the one leaving everyone you care behind. It’s not always easy to be the one leaving, I promise.”

“So why do people leave?” he huffed, well aware that he was being irrational.

“Lots of reasons. I left my sisters and Zima behind so I could protect my boys from Cahill; I didn’t see any of them for nearly three decades after that. When you were kids, your brother would leave his friends behind, because he had to . . . your father would leave and he had to go too.” A small, sad smile tilted the corners of her mouth. “Have you asked him why? MIT is a big deal; he probably has a good reason why he’s going.”

“No, not yet,” he confessed with a shrug. “I kinda huffed and puffed a bit. We argued.”

“I’m sure that made your living situation a lot of fun,” she snarked, one eyebrow lifting sardonically. “A single room, two person dorm isn’t exactly big enough for two people to hide from each other.”

He blushed a little, feeling his ears grow warm at the gentle scolding. “Yeah, not really. Part of the reason I came home for the weekend.”

“And we love to have you home, but he’s your friend shchenok. Even if you don’t like his decision, you should still support it. And just because he’s going to join up, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your friend.”

“He’s leaving, Marina.”

“Uh-huh, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to come back. My Misha left us when he joined up, all those years ago; his brothers loved having him come home and they still follow him with eager devotion. I wasn’t able to follow him into the service for nearly six years after that, but at the end of that time, he was still mine. What about Jay? He was still my boy, even after he joined up too. And Brian . . . I can keep going, you know,” she teased, a sly smirk on her lips at his exasperated huff.

“Very funny,” he snarked, giving her a half-hearted glare. “Do you always have to be so . . . mom-ish?”

“Welcome to parenthood, honey. One day, you too will get to enjoy the thrill of never being wrong. You may not always be right, but you will never be wrong.”

He chuckled at her cheerful teasing, even as he shook his head. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, love,” she chirped with a wink.

There was a clamor from the door and both turned to see Valya barrelling into the kitchen, going at least a hundred miles per hour on her still unsteady legs. “Dean! De! De! Dean!”

Lunging to catch her before she face planted into the tile, Dean scooped her up onto his lap. “Geez, Trouble. Haven’t you ever heard of a speed limit?!”

“That’s rich, coming from you, Dean,” was the accompanying snark from his little brother, Katenka seated on his forearm as they paused in the doorframe. “You don’t even know what a speed limit is.”

“Not in my Baby I don’t,” he cheered, earning a scolding look from his foster mother. “I mean, shut up, Bitch.”

The comment earned his brother’s epic bitchface as well as a sharp, “Dean Matthew!” from the Russian.

Dean winced, earning a gloating smirk from the youngest Winchester. “Serves you right, Jerk.”

“Samuel James, you too!” was the resultant scold, Marina’s eyebrows disappearing into her hairline. “Bozhe moi! Get out of my kitchen, the both of you. And watch your mouths around your sisters! Valya is a mimic bird, and I’m blaming the both of you if she starts swearing. Is that understood!?”

“Yes ma’am,” they agreed meekly, glancing at each other sheepishly.

“Good . . . out!” she ordered, throwing her hands up and muttering in disgruntled Russian as she pushed up from her seat at the table

The two Winchester beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen, the twins giggling in their arms as they fled. Just before he disappeared from sight, though, Dean took one last opportunity to tease her. “Love you, Marishka Mama!”

“Love you too, shchenok,” she laughed in replied, the sight of her head shaking in fond exasperation the last he saw of her before the kitchen door swung closed between them.

It would be more than week before he understood the impact his teasing had on the people there; on Marina, on himself . . . and on his brother.

Chapter Text

Chapter 280: Missing in Action

Sam Winchester was never late.

It was the one completely unassailable fact Rene Grimm knew about his foster brother and best friend. He’d promised to meet Rene and the girls after the conclusion of both Debate Club and Student Council. So far even Dacia and Inari were with him, waiting, but Sam was still a no-show.

Debate Club had let out ten minutes ago.

“This isn’t like him,” the blond teenager insisted, pulling his phone free for the tenth time to check for texts he may have missed. Same as before, there was nothing. “Something’s wrong. I can feel it.”

Just then, small hands grabbed his bicep and all but threw him around. Velma Dinkley, square framed glasses stark against usually pale features, looked pink-cheeked and livid. “Where is he!?”

“Who?!” Rene stammered, summer blue eyes wide as he stared at her. Behind Velma, he recognized several members of the debate club, as well as Velma’s friends, the clique known as the Scooby Gang” (so named for their dog, a lovable if cowardly Great Dane, Scoobert “Scooby” Doo). Getting over the shock of her action, he felt his jaw hardening as he demanded, “What the hell, Velma!?” Yanking his arm free from her grasp with a fierce glower, he snapped, “Where is who!?”

“Your brother!” she sneered angrily. “He had all of our notes, and he never showed up! We were completely unprepared for practice today.”

Her features hardened into the know-it-all look Sam was always muttering about. “If we lose our spot at regionals, it’ll be on his head . . . our ‘Beloved Captain’! I knew this was going to happen! I should be Captain! Clearly, I can at least be counted on to be dependable.”

Inari glanced over at her sister in concern, before both turned to look at Rene. The blond had gone drastically pale, staring at the petite senior in horror. It was clear to both Wesen that Rene was quietly freaking out. The dark haired girl rounded on Velma, tone hard as she demanded, “Explain!”

“What is there to explain?” the girl snapped, narrowed eyes aimed at the Asian girl - there wasn’t a kid in school who didn’t know about her feeling for Sam or his for her. Clearly, Velma was holding those feelings against her as she continued caustically, “We counted on him, and he bailed.”

Rene’s tone was strangled as he insisted, “No, he didn’t. That’s not like Sam at all, for starters. Secondly, I felt him at the doors of the auditorium, before I went to Student Council.” He frowned as he explained, “He got a call just before he went inside, so he was still in the hallway when I rounded the corner, but he had one hand on the door handle.”

“A call?” Dacia echoed with a frown. “From who?”

“I don’t know. He answered it though, so it had to have been someone he knew. You know how he is about his phone,” the blond snarked, one hand shoving back through his hair. “It can’t have been anyone in the family, though.”

“Why not?” was the curious inquiry from Daphne, her red hair gleaming in the sunlight.

Dacia spoke up in concerned reply. “Because we’d know about it already. During school hours, or while we were at school, it would have been a roll call or a round up. If we don’t know . . .”

Her sister bit down on her lip with a soft hiss. “. . . then Oba and Oji probably don’t know about the call either.”

“You call Cat, Inari,” Dacia insisted, her eyes on the blond. “I’ll keep Enj busy.”

“I hate that name,” he muttered trying to sound as though he meant it, all while feeling as though his throat was starting to seal closed in a kind of distant panic.

“Bullshit,” was the warm reply, the younger teenager waving off her sister.

Velma’s eyes were searing as she stared at Rene, taking in his quiet devastation and growing panic. After a bit, she paled as the realization of Sam’s whereabouts suddenly struck. “Is Sam . . .?”

“He’s gone,” Dacia agreed, wrapping her arms around her best friend’s waist and holding on as tightly as she could manage. “And we don’t know why.”

Fumbling for his phone once again, Rene dialed his brother and pressed the plastic to his ear. His other hand pulled on his hair as he listened to the ringing. “Come on, Sam . . . answer the phone,” he muttered, a silent prayer building as he hoped there would be an answer.

A few more rings sounded through the phone, before the call went to voicemail. Sam’s voice was warm and practiced as the recording played. “Hey, this is Sam Winchester. If I know you, please leave a message and I’ll call you right back. If this is Dad, hi? And if I don’t know you, you can shove off.”

Rene snorted, amused as always about the message. “Sam, man, call me. You know my mom is going to flip out if you’re not okay, so for all of our sakes, please be okay.”

Clicking the phone off, he instantly redialed only to get the voicemail once more. “Damn it! Why won’t he answer his phone!?”

“He either no longer has it, or he can’t answer it,” Velma rattled off in her usual matter-of-fact manner. After a moment, she winced as she realized how that would be received at Rene’s glare. “I’m just stating the options.”

Growling, Rene looked down to redial his phone once again. Dacia, however, snatched it away before he could complete the call. He reached for it, feeling his features contort as she held it out of his reach. “Dac! Give it back! Right now!”

“No,” was the simple refusal, the two blonds glaring at each other as she continued, “If Sam still has his phone, we need it functioning and we need it on. If you keep blowing up his phone with voicemails, you’re going to kill his battery.”

Inari spoke up then, holding her hand over the receiver on her phone as she waited for her own foster mother to answer her line at the precinct, “If you need someone to call, Rene, you could call Oba.”

“Right; so Mama can go on a murderous rampage? That’s a brilliant plan,” he hissed before taking a deep breath. “I’ll call Dad first. Dad can fix this . . .” Accepting his phone back, he dialed his father’s office line as he insisted, “He will fix this.”

As he lifted his phone to his ear, he turned to find the Debate Club kids starting to walk away. Frowning, he demanded, “Where the hell do you think you’re going, Dinkley!?”

The girl binked, pausing at the front of the group and bringing the rest to a standstill behind her. Confusion was visible in her eyes, even behind the lenses of her glasses. Glancing around at her friends and teammates, she replied cautiously, “Um . . . home?”

“Like hell you are,” he argued, feeling Dacia step up beside him.

Reaching out to wrap her hand around his wrist, she picked up the argument. “Rene’s right. You and your friends need to stay here. They’ll need to talk to you.”

The club members exchanged glances, before one of them asked the hesitant question, “Who is ‘they’?”

Just then Hadley’s voice came through the earpiece of his phone and he held up a hand to signal for patience as he turned his attention to his father’s aide. “Hadley, this is Rene. I need to talk to my dad.” He could feel his jaw tightening in genuine anger as she put him off. She had a million reasons for why the Colonel couldn’t come to the phone and he finally snapped, “Hadley, I need to speak to the Colonel, right the hell now! It’s an emergency, and I guarantee you, he’ll take my call if you tell him so. Thank you!”

The woman’s huff was audible through the phone, causing his blood to boil. A moment later, the line went silent as she put him on hold. A soft grunt escaped the teenager before he refocused on the other kids. He could feel the plasticity of the expression on his face as he answered the earlier question, as cheerfully as he could manage, “My parents.”

Velma looked seconds from protesting, though a gruff voice came through the receiver only seconds later. “Rene?! What’s wrong? Are you, Sam and the girls all right?”

“I’m okay; so are the girls. But Dad, Sam . . .” he stopped, choking at the words at the reminder. “Dad, Sam’s gone. He didn’t go to Debate Club, even though I dropped him off at the door to the auditorium. His teammates are saying he never showed up and he’s not answering his phone either. I’ve called twice, and both times it went to voicemail.”

Rene had never been privy to the underlying rage within his father. The Colonel was notoriously stone-faced and ice-cold - even Rene had heard the rumors about the ice in the man’s veins and the glacier for his heart. As the man’s son, though, Rene knew better than anyone how deeply the Colonel’s emotions went and how poignantly he felt.

Even still, Rene would never have believed the heat of the man’s fury without having witnessed it for himself. Will Grimm’s tone was vicious and furious as he proceeded to cuss a blue streak down the line. Finally, the Colonel fell silent, though his anger was still palpable in the tremble of his tone and in the sharpness of his consonants. “I’ll call your mother and we’ll be right there. Did you can 911?”

“‘Nari called Cat - she’s on shift at the precinct today apparently,” he replied firmly.

“Good; Cat and Tess will take care of what they need to do for an Amber Alert without causing a massive fuss. Rene, keep the girls with and all of you stay put. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir,” he agreed, nibbling on his lower lip anxiously. “Dad, was this John? Did he take his kids back?”

“I doubt it, kiddo, but we’ll find out. Last report had Winchester in Sacramento yesterday. Not to mention, even if he did have to go, Sam would have told you he had to go; he wouldn’t have just dropped everything and disappeared without a word like this.” His father’s tone gentled and he promised calmly, “We’ll find him, Rene. Sit tight; we’ll be at the school soon.”

“See you soon, Dad.”

“You too, kiddo,” was the last his father said before the line went dead in Rene’s hand.

Pressing his phone against his forehead in an attempt to steady himself, he took a deep breath through his nose then put his phone away. After a moment, he turned to face the other kids with a heavy sigh. “My parents are coming. They’ll be here soon. Inari?”

“I called Cat; she had to find Tess and then they’re coming too.”

“Okay, good,” he replied, feeling strangely detached and subdued now that he’d done everything he could do about the situation. “So now we wait, I guess.”

“Wait for what?” was the cautious inquiry from Fred Jones, one of Velma’s core friends with an ascot fixation.

“For my parents . . . for Catherine and Tess . . . for the end of the bloody world,” he snarked sarcastically. Huffing out a breath again, he turned to look at Dacia and informed her, “This had better not be John, or Mama is gonna hit the fan.”

“You think it could be?” Inari asked, eyebrows furrowed curiously at the statement. “I mean, Sam wouldn’t have just left, right?”

“That’s what Dad said, but John Winchester isn’t exactly the most subtle person. If it was him, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to think that he threw Sam’s phone out the nearest window so that they couldn’t be tracked.”

“He’d actually do that?!”

“According to Dean, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s forced Sam to cut ties in drastic fashion.”

“What about Dean?”

“Dean’s at an ROTC retreat for the week. Even if we wanted to call him, there’s no way to get ahold of him. He told Mama and Dad he was leaving his cell phone at the dorm, and to leave any messages with the RA.” Frowning, he sighed, “He won’t get back until tomorrow. And by then . . .”

“Don’t think like that. Dean will call us if it is John. And if it’s not, we’ll figure it out.”

Dropping into a crouch, Rene dropped his forehead onto his wrists as he folded them over his knees. His voice was muffled but still understandable as he asked, “Is it awful to say that I really want this to be John? I mean, at least then we’ll know he’s okay . . . mostly.”

“But I thought Oba . . .” Inari mentioned hesitantly.

“I know; she’ll flip out. Then head out to bring Sam back . . . and John’s corpse.”

“So let’s hope he’s not that stupid then,” Dacia replied, glancing over at her sister to see Inari watching their friend with the same sense of growing alarm.

Resting his chin on his wrists, Rene sighed, “Yeah . . . let’s hope.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 281: A Son’s First Hero

Will could practically feel the NSX vibrating with the depths of his partner’s anger. There was little in the vast world that could truly piss her off. Croatia, while annoying, was an irritant not really an antagonist. The Red Room, for all of its pain and tortures - and its well-earned titled as a circle of hell - was at least tolerated due to everything she’d gained from her time within it - Bucky, her sisters, the assignment with Stark, and him.

To date, there were really only two things in the world guaranteed to trigger her temper. Obviously Ross pissed her off, almost as much as he terrified her. But then there was harm to her loved ones, while made her anger at Ross seem like child’s play.

And now Sam had been abducted from his school. Damn, his Russian was pissed.

“Marishka, samaya malen’kaya,” he soothed, one hand reaching to fold over her own as she twisted them around her scarf in her lap. “Talk to me, zhemchuzhina.”

“He’s supposed to be safe with us,” she insisted, looking up at him with wide eyes. “He shouldn’t be . . . this should never have happened.”

“Agreed,” Will promised, lifting her hand to his lips and pressing a gentle kiss to the clenched knuckles. “But even we can’t prevent everything.”

“How could this have happened, Misha? Who would even dare to . . .?” here his Russian trailed off into a near feral growl.

“Calm, Marishka. We don’t want to frighten anyone, da?” he murmured, even as he acknowledged how close he was to joining her in her rage. Only their long-standing agreement kept him in check.

Over their long years together, the two had cultivated an efficient system between them. Only one could be out of control at a time, while the other focused on whatever problem had risen to blow their world out of the water. Currently that problem was Samonik being abducted, with the resulting goal getting him home safe . . . and destroying whatever - or whomever - had taken him from his family.

Will loved his sons, all four of them, whether they were officially adopted or not. It was no great secret about the lengths he would go to protect his children, but Marina . . .

She had lost a child; never held him or even looked into his face with her own eyes. All she had was a locket with a tiny portrait the size of his thumbnail. Once, not longer after their first night together, she’d told him of the weeks following that loss. The devastation, the feeling she’d been betrayed by her own body. She’d vowed to him then - and had renewed that vow often - she would never lose another child.

She’d risked her life to save Kenny, and Kenny’s brothers, after the termination order was given. Clint’s hospitalization at sixteen, and the hopeless prognosis the doctors had given them, had been met with fierce refusal to give up. The announcement of Kenny’s death had wrecked her, though she’d clung stubbornly to hope following Clint’s determined belief. Her stubbornness had taken a hit when Kenny had run from her, but Aaron was home now and she was determined to keep him protected - even knowing he didn’t need it.

Every one of her boys had her solemn vow to keep them safe, to make sure they returned home safe. None of her Misfits had ever misunderstood the dangers of the job, and they each knew the risks. Each of them knew without a shadow of a doubt, she would come for them if they were in trouble, trailing hellfire and blood in her wake. To date, she’d never let any of them down in that belief.

Samonik though . . . this one was the hardest hit she’d ever taken.

The teenager was taken from their own backyard, more or less. The safest place available to him, or so they’d believed. When they got the kid home - and they would - there was going to be a hailstorm of fussing. Frankly, Will was praying the younger Winchester was a lot more willing to be smothered by her affection than the elder had proven to be.

Marina drew a deep breath in through her nose, her hands twisting under his to clutch his hand tightly. “I’m trying,” she vowed, tone strained as she worked to calm herself. “What if he’s scared . . . or hurt . . . or . . .”

“Marishka!” he interrupted, pulling her attention to him immediately. “No matter what, we’re going to find him. Right?”

Taking another deep breath, she nodded firmly, “Hell yes, we are.”

The red brick face of Brooklyn Latin appeared, causing Marina’s shoulders to tighten up once more. “I want more security at the school. If they can snatch a child off campus, especially a child like Sam? He’s so tall and he has always stood out, especially in his uniform. Someone should have noticed something.”

Will nodded, leaning over to press a warm kiss to her temple. “I’ll talk to Jason and Principal Mayfield. We’ll work something out.”

Marina nodded as the sportscar rolled to a stop, her door open before he’d even put the car in park. He couldn’t bring himself to comment on it, however, equally as eager to lay eyes on the rest of the children as she was. The sooner the better, as the Colonel wasn’t sure how long he could stay in control, the agreement between them notwithstanding.

“Dad!” came the call from the doors, and Will’s head snapped up to look at his youngest son. Rene looked worried and frazzled, but mercifully whole, blond hair ruffling in the breeze as he rushed forward with the girls close behind. “Dad! Why would someone take Sam!? What about John? Was it him!?”

“We tracked John’s phone; he’s in Vegas and we have traffic camera footage of his truck from within the last hour. So it wasn’t him,” he promised, letting his son crash into his arms like a heat-seeking missile.

“Shit,” Rene huffed in a quiet murmur. “Is it awful that I’d hoped?”

“No; I hoped too,” his father promised, squeezing him for another second before releasing the teenager to his mother’s fussing. “So who was the last person to see Samonik?”

“Rene,” Dacia explained as she wrapped her arms around herself, hands clutching to her elbows. “Bärchen apparently never went into debate club, because no one inside saw him. But Rene dropped him off at the door on his way to Student Council.”

Marina nodded once, releasing their son from her embrace. “Did anyone see anything strange or unusual today? New teacher? Janitor? A parent you didn’t recognize at the curb this morning?”

“There was a weird car this morning outside the coffee shop, where we met up with the girls before school,” Rene replied with a frown. “Remember, Dac? I pointed it out to you.”

“Oh yeah! The grey one; it was really old and kinda beat up. It didn’t really look like it belonged there.”

“Why not?” Will inquired curiously, feeling a small flicker of an idea start to batter against the back of his brain.

“Cat and Vincent’s apartment is in an upscale neighborhood. Every other car on the street costs at least $15,000 resale; this one was a hunk of junk. Maybe three thousand, if it was lucky?” Inari explained, a worried tone in her soft voice as she nibbled on her lower lip.

“Did anyone get the license plate?”

Both Rene and Dacia nodded, as Rene announced, “We were going to tell you about it after school, just in case.”

“Good; we’ll get Jay looking into that in a second. Now, how about Samonik? Did he seem out of character at all today? Anxious, distracted, anything at all?”

“He had an exam third period, so he was spazzing out about it a little bit this morning. But after it was over, he seemed okay,” Dacia replied with a shrug.

Inari nodded as Marina directed a stern eye on her - it was no secret the two teenagers had been flirting steadily since the girls had arrived two months before. “He was normal after the test. But even before it, he didn’t seem all that out of character - he was the same as he always is before a big test.”

Reaching out to squeeze the girl fondly, Marina continued, “What about the coffee shop? How often do you four go there?”

Rene frowned, the girls exchanging looks with him before he replied honestly, “Every weekday, I guess? It’s under their apartment, so it’s the easiest place to meet up with them before school. We drop them off there too; sometimes we’ll hang out and do our homework there if we know that you and Dad will be home from S.H.IE.LD. late.”

“And you’ve never noticed this vehicle before? Girls, you’ve never seen a different car you didn’t recognize, lingering around the neighborhood?”

Shaking his head, the teenager frowned as Dacia insisted, “I’ve never seen this car before.”

“But there has been a customer I didn’t recognize coming in while we were there; everyday for the last two weeks,” Inari confessed meekly.

“What!?” was the alarmed demand from her friends, as they both rounded on her.

“Yeah; kinda stocky, wears a baseball cap and always orders a plain black coffee. It’s why I even noticed him; the place has every kind of specialty coffee imaginable, and they make you pay for the privilege. If you just want black coffee, the gas station around the counter or the corner store across the street is cheaper,” she offered with a sheepish shrug, watching as the two officers turned to look at each other.

Marina looked furious with almost literal flames in her eyes. As for Will, it was visibly evident he too was trying to hold on to his temper. The Russian hissed, her fists curled at her sides as she informed her lover hotly, “This was planned!”

“It certainly appears so,” he sighed, his face contorting for a moment before smoothing into calm once again. “Rene, why didn’t Sam go into debate club, when you left him at the door.”

“He got a call,” the teenager replied, looking between his parents with narrowed, calculating eyes. “He answered it, so . . .”

“He answered the call!?” the two adults echoed simultaneously, Marina’s eyebrows raising into her hairline while Will’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Yeah,” he agreed with a nod. Everyone knew Sam’s policy regarding his phone; unless he knew you, he never answered calls and very rarely returned any calls he’d missed. If Sam had answered his phone, the call was either from someone he knew . . .

. . . or someone he thought he knew.

Will fished for his phone in his pocket as Marina moved to meet Catherine halfway. The NYPD detective looked worried as the two women crashed together into a strong hug. His son’s voice drew Will’s attention back as he asked, “Dad?”

“Yeah kiddo?” he asked, lifting the phone to one ear and turning the rest of his attention onto his youngest son.

“Is Sam gonna be okay?”

“He’s gonna be just fine.”

“You promise, Oji,” Inari begged, eyes wide as she looked up at him with her heart in her eyes.

The promise was on the tip of his tongue, before he paused, looking over each of their hopeful faces. Taking a deep breath in through his nose, he nodded once firmly. “Maybe not right away, but yes . . . I promise.” A large part of him wished he could offer more to the kids, but Jason was now rattling off a laundry list of information into his ear and he turned his focus there.

He had a son to bring home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 282: Valiant Protector

This was NOT what Dean wanted to come back to.

The training mission for his unit had been grueling, brutal, dirty and a lot of fun. He and his guys had really come together, and Dean finally felt comfortable as his unit CO. As a result, he was riding a helluva high when he arrived back at the dorm and found the handwritten note on his pillow.

He stared at Mac’s chicken-scratch for at least ten minutes before his brain finally accepted what was scrawled across the page. “Son of a bitch,” he whispered, his eyes huge as he read through the note once more.

Finding no change to the contents, his fist tightened around the page, crumbling it into a ball as he roared, “SON OF A BITCH!”

There was anger in every movement as he stormed to his nightstand, fumbling open the door and for the phone he’d left inside. Getting it on and his screen up, he blinked to see an assortment of texts and voicemails. He flicked impatiently through the junk, before clicking on Marina’s message and gathering fresh things as he pressed the phone to his ear.

Dean, sweetheart, take a deep breath, okay? Because getting angry is not going to get Samonik back. I’ll call your RA once I get off this call to you, so by now you know that Samonik was abducted from school this afternoon.

Based on the evidence we’ve been able to put together, we’re pretty sure his kidnapper is a hunter, and that the abduction itself was planned. If you can get ahold of your father, honey, that would be a huge help. Misha and I have both tried, countless times, and he won’t return our calls.

His jaw tightened as the message continued, every muscle trembling as he forced himself not to react to what he was hearing. Come home, sweetheart, please. I’ll call you if anything changes before I hear from you, but please . . . come home, as soon as you get this.

Unbeknownst to the voice on the recording, the cadet was already on his way there. He left a message with his ROTC sergeant, explaining the details. After which, he called the attendance office at the school and managed to finagle the next week of classes into excused absences, with final approval being a note of some kind from his parents and/or the detective in charge. That he shrugged off as inconsequential; Will, Marina and Catherine would write him as many letters as he needed.

Hanging up with MIT, he called his father - once, twice, then three times, each subsequent voicemail more terse and angry than the last. The base had obviously been informed he was coming, as he was directed to a second gate before he got within a half mile of the gates, waved through without even a cursory check of his ID. Relieved he didn’t have to wait, he gunned it, flying through the base towards the house. His Baby ate up the pavement, as eager as he to get his baby brother back.

Rene and the girls sat on the porch together, looking completely miserable. Rene was practically a ball, his chin on his knees and his arms wrapped around his ankles. Dacia sat next to him, one hand on his shoulder while the other hand smoothed through her sister’s long dark hair. As for Inari, the evidence of a long, drawn out crying jag was all over her face, as she lay with her head in the blond’s lap. All three looked wrecked and worried.

His younger brother pushed himself to his feet as Dean shoved free of Baby’s embrace, watching the older brother warily. Dean barely noticed, pulling the kid into a warm hug, as he promised, “This is not your fault, okay?”

“I should have waited until the door closed behind him. Been there with him, when he was taken,” Rene insisted as he clutched to the older man.

“And if you had, we could missing you both . . . or Sammy could still be gone and you could be dead, okay?” Dean insisted, pushing him away to look into his face sternly. “Sam’s a big boy, okay? You shouldn’t have known what was going to happen.” Glancing towards the door, he jerked his thumb in that direction as he inquired, “The folks inside?”

“Uh, yeah. Uncle Jason found some intel, so he’s in with them. He just got here, so you shouldn’t miss much,” the teen explained, looking a little dejected as he pushed his hands in his pockets.

“What about Sam? He coming?”

Inari nodded in fervent agreement, tone quiet as she agreed, “Soon as he can. But the SRU is short-handed this week, with Team Two on the injured reserve list. Could be next week at the soonest.”

“He’s literally called every hour though, so he’s trying to be as supportive as he can be, from where he’s at,” Dacia insisted, with a rueful twist of her mouth.

Ruffling Rene’s floppy blond hair, he joked, “We have a pretty awesome big brother.”

“Hell yes we do. I have three,” the teenager agreed with a lopsided smile, face scrunching up as punched him lightly in the shoulder.

“As soon as I know more, Rene, I’ll be back to tell you what’s up, okay? I promise.”

“Thanks, Dean.”

Nodding, he dragged the kid into one more desperate embrace, before rushing inside. Jason was in the living room, setting up his laptop on the coffee table when the hunter burst into the room. Will sat on the couch, his arms folded over his chest, mercurial eyes flicking back and forth between his brother and his lover. The latter of these two paced the length of the room, a caged lioness and for once the very epitome of her infrequent moniker, “Hurricane Marina”.

Her features resembled a thunderhead, her jaw contorted with fury and chocolate eyes as hot as a boiling pot. Dean was absent for her reaction to his capture during the Blood Moon hunt, when Winchesters and Grimms had first met, but he’d heard stories. As most people usually did, he made his own assumptions of what her reaction had been back then. Add in a year of care and love, and the growth of their affections . ..

He had grossly miscalculated her reaction to Sam’s kidnapping.

Marina turned to face him at the sound of his footsteps, relief flooding across her face as she rushed to throw her arms around him. “Slava Bogu!” she breathed, tucking herself against him.

Dean’s own arms may as well have been vices as they pulled her closer, his face ducking to hide against her shoulder. “I’m all right, Marina.”

“A mother worries, shchenok, no matter how much you tell her not to,” she reminded him, stepping back after another hard squeeze. “Have you noticed anything strange or unusual at MIT lately? Anyone that didn’t belong, anyone that stood out?”

“I’ve been in the middle of a desert for the last week, Marishka Mama. Only things I’ve seen are sand, cacti, and my unit . . . and damn are they all ugly,” he joked weakly, relieved to earn a small snort of amusement from the woman. Sobering, he looked to Will and inquired, “She said it was a hunter, on my voicemail. How do you know?”

“Take a seat. We’ll go over the details now,” the Colonel replied, barely glancing at him before turning his attention to the Russian was practically vibrating herself to pieces next to Dean.

Knowing the man was worried, Dean turned to look at her and pulled on a sheepish smile. “Hey, I’m starved. I didn’t stop to eat after we were released from training, and I came straight here after I got your message. Is there anything to eat in the kitchen?”

Marina straightened sharply, instantly distracted from her rage as she insisted, “Oh, absolutely honey. Give me a second; I’ll get something fixed up for you.”

As she disappeared, Will turned his full attention on his foster son and insisted, “Thank you.”

“Spazzing out a little, huh?”

“I think I got more sleep than she did last night. That has NEVER happened before,” he agreed, standing slowly and approaching the younger man with his hand outstretched.

Dean consciously step-sided the hand and threw his arms around the man. Will made a soft sound of surprise, before softening and pulling the almost twenty year old into a firm embrace. “He’s gonna be okay, Dean. We’re going to bring him home. I promise.”

The ROTC cadet should have felt ridiculous - he was a Winchester, damn it. And Winchesters did not demand hugs from father figures or trust anyone outside of themselves with Sammy’s safety.

And yet . . . and yet.

“You think he’s okay?” he asked quietly.

Glancing at the kitchen, the Colonel shook his head once. “Not if what we know about his kidnapper is true.”

Blanching sharply, Dean felt his stomach roil at the thought, his knees turning to water under him. The Colonel braced the teen without though, guiding him into a chair and forcing his head between his knees. “Breathe, kid,” Will ordered, his tone gruff but kind as the action proceeded to banish Dean’s breathlessness and lightheadedness.

The cadet dragged in a deep breath, tears prickling in his eyes while the feeling of helpless futility attempted to swallow him whole. “Is my brother going to die?”

“Hell no,” Jason insisted, standing from where he’d been fiddling. “But that doesn’t mean he’s going to have been enjoying tea and candy with this asshole, either.”

“We need your help, Dean. Anything you can tell us would be helpful,” Will agreed solemnly.

“I’ll help however I can. I just want my brother home.”

“So do we; and we’re going to make that happen, I promise.”

Nodding, he sat up and scrubbed at the tears he’d never admit to with the heels of his hands. “So, what do we know?”

Marina came back in then, carrying a plate piled high with food. There was a steak sandwich on her famous homemade bread, alongside a pile of freshmade kettle chips and an apple. In the other hand, she held a bottle of water and a can of Coke. “Here you go, sweetheart.”

“Thanks,” he replied, with a small smile, before tearing in to the meal ravenously.

She nodded in acknowledgment of the thanks, before taking a seat on the armrest of her partner’s chair. Will’s arms came up over her thighs, his fingers drawing lazy designs on the skin of her knees as they both turned their attention to the middle Grimm. As for Jason, he turned on the television, the laptop connected and broadcasting onto the screen.

Dean frowned at the picture displayed there. “Wait . . . Carl Merrick? You think it was Carl!? Dude is harmless - a total whackadoodle, but still basically harmless.”

“You know him?” the technical specialist asked with a lift of his eyebrows.

“Yeah. He’s an old hunting buddy of my dad’s. They teamed up a time or two, way back.”

“Did you know he worked for S.W.O.R.D, here with S.H.I.E.LD.?”

“He did what!?”

“Yeah; your father directed him our way not long after his own recruitment. He was ours . . . for about four months.”

There was suspicion in Dean’s tone as he asked, “What happened?”

“We learned some disturbing intel. Merrick was obsessed with rumors of demons, specifically demon possessions. He was abducting people he suspected of being possessed, and torturing them,” Marina explained, her eyes going hot as the rage lit its fuse in her eyes once again.

“S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hands aren’t the cleanest, but we do not condone the torture or murder of innocent civilians. We couldn’t allow him to continue with his tactics, so we sent a tatical team to apprehend him and bring him into custody.” Will huffed furiously, as he continued, “He slipped our leash and fell off the grid, along with all the gear we’d supplied to him with S.W.O.R.D..”

“Including his phone,” Jason clarified. “The phone that showed up on Samonik’s caller ID as S.W.O.R.D.; he answered the call thinking it was one of our hunters here.”

Dean leaned back, the picture starting to take hold as he continued to look over the information Jason had on the screen. “And Dad trained us to always help other hunters. And Sammy knows Carl; he never worked with him personally, but they met once, when Sammy was maybe ten or so.”

“We don’t know why Sam went to help Carl immediately, instead of going into Debate club and then helping after. But we’re pretty sure, Sam went to help and Carl knocked him out, then took Sam with him when he fled the area.”

“Can’t you track the phone?” the younger man asked Jason, a frown on his lips as he turned to face the tech specialist.

“No; it’s off,” Jason replied with a disgruntled twist of his mouth. “And not even I can trace a phone that’s not sending out an active signal. It’s been off since he disappeared, except for three minutes when he used it to call Samonik.”

“What about Sam’s phone? Can we track that?”

Will shifted up onto one hip, then tossed something onto the coffee table between them. Dean blinked and the object resolved into Sam’s beloved Galaxy Note. The screen was spiderwebbed with cracks and it was clear someone had beaten the thing to hell before they’d abandoned it - Sam was going to be pissed if they couldn’t save the information from its internal storage. “We found this in the alley behind the school. Based on cameras in the area, we’re assuming that’s where he parked his car.”

“Do we know where they are, right now? Even a ballpark area at all?”

“We put out a worm to keep an eye out for the license plate the kids saw. The plates came back stolen; however, we’ve still been getting hits on traffic cams heading north through three states.”

“Three states? Where is he!?”

“The last anyone saw? He’d just crossed the border into Maine,” Will answered calmly, a frown on his face as he smoothed his fingers over Marina’s knee. “That was about four hours ago.”

“What about the border? Is he trying to get into Canada?”

“We’ve already closed the border - that was the first thing we did, when we noticed he was heading north. All the known crossing locations, legal or otherwise, have a border patrol presence; they’ve got sketches of Carl and a picture of Sam. They’re searching every car that attempts to cross the border and stopping everyone who even comes close,” Marina promised, her jaw tight with fury. “However, we don’t think he’s trying to get to Canada. He would have been there already, if he was.”

“So he’s in Maine?” the former hunter asked, some part of his memory screaming for his attention.

“That’s our best guess at this time . . . at least until the license plate pings against another border camera. Can you tell me why Maine? Do you know anything about why he’d go there?”

Dean frowned, struggling to remember when Maine was so signifcant with respect to Carl Merrick. He knew it was . . . he just couldn’t . . . quite . . . remember . . .

After a moment, it hit him like a freight train at full speed. “Wait! The Benning Manse!”

Marina’s eyebrows rose as she echoed, “The Benning Manse? What - or where - is the Benning Manse?”

“It’s an old abandoned house, just across the border into Maine. Dad and Carl had a hunt there once, maybe ten years ago? If you’re looking for a place to go, where no one will notice you there?” Here Dean paused, looking between the three with a worried frown. “It’s the perfect place to hide someone you don’t want found. I mean . . . Old Man Benning did it a lot while he was still breathing, hence the need for the hunt.”

The look Will and Marina exchanged was eloquent with restrained violence. After a long moment of silence, the Colonel spoke, “Call the crew, Marishka . . . our bird needs to be in the air in the next few hours. Sooner the better.”

Klassno,” she purred, flowing to her feet, the very picture of lethal grace. “Dean, you should be there too. We don’t have a lot of time, and we want to hit the ground running.”

Dean blinked at the statement, “Wait . . . you’re gonna take me with you?”

“Like I’d leave you behind,” she scoffed with a roll of her eyes. “So get a move on. I have to call Roslyy. We’re going to want him along for the ride, too, just in case.”

Jason spoke up then, tone matter of fact as he reminded the room, “Dean doesn’t have a comm.”

Will shrugging, insisting, “Then I guess you know what you’re doing while we’re gone, huh?”

“Copy that,” he agreed with a sardonic smile. “GPS locators embedded inside? The kind that can be remote triggered?”

“Was that actually in question?” Marina asked over her shoulder as she strode from the room, already focused on the mission and getting her son back.

Winking at his nephew, Jason’s eyes were calm, if worried, as he stated fondly, “Nah . . . not really.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 283: Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men

Vincent Keller was the last to arrive at the planning meeting, coming into Marina's kitchen to find everyone else assigned to the rescue already there. Will and Jason were bent over the map laid out on the table together, the Colonel’s eyes shifting between Dean and Marina even as he listened to the family's tech genius speak about the map.

Marina was fussing at the stove, bustling back and forth while still paying fervent attention to the goings on behind her. He smiled fondly; she was in full-on "Mom Mode" as Grant liked to call it. She couldn't do anything to protect Samonik at this exact second, so she was taking care of everyone else until she could.

Dean was pacing around the perimeter of the room, his emotions waffling between all-consuming rage and heartrending concern. Some part of the kid reminded Vincent of a powder keg from a cartoon, where the villain and the hero were racing each other along the fuse. At this time, the medic wasn't sure which of the two was winning - the anger or the worry.

Brian and Natasha were standing by the wall, having apparently decided that they were in charge of protecting - and shielding - the occupants in the room from anything that might show up. Knowing well Brian's affection for the elder Winchester brother, Vincent wasn't actually sure why he was surprised by his inclusion to their mission.

Even Joe Hardy was there, straddling the back of a chair next to the table, his eyes following Jason's fingers across the map with intense focus. Though the medic had never worked with the undercover agent personally, Brian had always been highly complementary of his agent. And the second eldest Grimm did not give out praise lightly.

The two brothers at the table looked over with the rest of the family as Vincent entered the kitchen. There was a rueful smile on the younger's face as he greeted him, "Sup, Vincent! You were Spec Ops, right?"

"Yeah," he agreed, tone wary and eyes narrowed suspiciously, "before Muirfield and the project anyway. Why?"

"We're having a difference of opinion and could use a new set of eyes," Will explained, a small quirk twisting his lips into a parody of his usual smile.

"Sure . . . hit me," he agreed, squeezing Marina's shoulder fondly as he passed her before leaning over the table next to them.

Will's pointer finger traced around a squarish gray shape next to the house. "What does that look like to you?"

After examining it for a bit, he hedged cautiously, "A shed?" The fact that neither brother reacted to his guess implied they had already figured out that much at least. Frowning, he turned his attention back to the map and considered it closer. After a moment, he reared back in shock, "It's new!"

"Ha!" Jason cheered with a whoop. "I told you!"

Will rolled his eyes in amusement. "I didn't disagree that it was new. I was arguing that it wasn't new enough; not to be Merrick's addition to the surroundings."

The medic's eyes remained on the map as he continued evaluating the building and its surroundings. "Well, I am going to have to agree with Will on that at least." He ignored Jason's grown as he traced the edges of the structure. "There's too much weathering on the edges of the roofs. It's been there for at least a year . . . maybe more."

"Which doesn't mean that Merrick didn't add it," Jason argued, his features set. "Merrick has been off the grid for a year - and that is the perfect hiding place! No one knows it exists, and those who do avoid it. Considering the deaths that happened there, it's completely isolated."

Will frowned at the statement, forced to concede the point. "And it's an abandoned house, so it would have furniture and a kitchen. So that makes sense." He grimaced as he continued, "And now I'm afraid of how many other people he's taken to that hell hole."

Dean's tone was brittle as he insisted, "Best thing to do, once we get Sammy back, is to salt and burn that bitch down." There was a slow burn in his tone. "It has housed far too many ghosts."

Will grunted in reluctant agreement, straightening from the table and folding his arms over his chest. "And while I agree with you, Dean, I also don't want to make a big scene. A fire at an abandoned house, tends to be pretty noticeable and draws a lot of attention."

Dean's eyebrows furrowed as he surged forward, protesting hotly, "Noticeable or not, that house is dangerous. Who knows how many ghosts Carl has added to it?"

The Colonel nodded, mercurial eyes focused on the younger man seriously. "No matter what, Dean, we'll deal with the house. I promise."

Brian's tone was gruff as he promised, "There's more than one way to skin a fish, De."

Everyone turned to look then as Inari wandered into the room, looking worried and skittish. Her whole demeanor perked up at the sight of Vincent, scampering over to hug him tightly. The man's arms wrapped around her just as fiercely, tone warm as he questioned, "Are you okay, Inari?"

"Yes, just . . ." here she trailed off, her lower lip trembling a little as she struggled to keep her emotions under control.

Her foster father gathered her a little closer, understanding without explanation. "We're going to bring him home, Inari. I promise."

She nodded, clinging close for another moment before stepping back again. Pushing away the escaped tears with the heels of her hands, she straightened her shoulders with a firm nod. "I believe you." Her lips twisted ruefully as she continued, "I actually came in for some snacks? If that's okay?"

Marina's tone was warm and gentle as she agreed, "Of course it is, sweetheart. My pantry is always open to you kids. Samonik and Rene know that; so should you and Dacia."

Inari smiled at her de facto aunt, teeth gleaming behind her smile. "Thank you, Oba."

"You're welcome. Come on; I'll put together a plate for the three of you."

As the plans - and his girls' random entrances - continued, Vincent watched as Will and Marina's eyes filled with genuine concern and fond suspicion. The two girls traded off, arriving in the kitchen for something or another, every half hour or so. It was quickly apparent, however, that Rene was avoiding the kitchen as obsessively as the girls were visiting.

Vincent would eat his medical degree if the teenager wasn't making himself scarce for the exact same reason the girls were hovering around.

Finally, Marina straightened from her place bent over the table, hands finding her hips as she stared Dacia down. The Blutbad froze like a deer in headlights, her eyes wide as she came to the realization she'd been caught out. "All right, Dacia. Subtle? You girls are not," she scolded with a fond roll of her eyes and an amused twist to her lips. After a moment, she sobered, her tone hardening as she demanded, "Explain, Dacia Joelle."

Dacia grimaced at the use of her full name, something she knew the family Russian only did when you were in trouble. Shooting a quick look in Vincent's direction earned a cocked eyebrow from the man in question. She sagged at the realization there would be no rescue there, before turning to face Marina again. "Okay; this isn't what it looks like it. Honest."

Will's tone was dry but amused as he countered, "It looks like you're keeping tabs on us for Rene."

She winced, tone meek as she agreed sheepishly, "So it's exactly what it looks like."

"Dacia, we're going to get Samonik home," the Colonel vowed solemnly, watching her with dark grey eyes.

"And Enj knows that. That was never in question, Dyadya, honest."

Marina's hip leaned against the table as her arms migrated to cross her chest. "So what is in question?"

"Nothing!" she protested instantly, the response too quick to be anything other than the truth. "I mean, not technically."

The family's Power Couple frowned in unison, causing Jason to speak up with clear curiosity. "Wait. Not technically? Define 'not technically'."

Dacia huffed a little as one hand pushed back through her hair. Finally, she spoke, "Enj is terrified he's going to lose his parents in the process of getting Sam back." A small flinch ran through her at Marina's horrified gasp, Vincent's eyes flashing to see the Russian's hands fly to her mouth. Straightening her shoulders, the blonde teenager continued, "His biggest fear is being alone . . . left behind by the people he loves."

Will and Marina glanced at each other, hot chocolate eyes worried and dark grey resigned. The medic couldn't help marveling once again at the silent conversation between them. After a moment, Will turned to Dacia with a firm nod. "Thank you for letting us know, Dacia."

"Don't tell him I said anything? Please? He'd be horrified."

Marina's smile was small and pained as she agreed, "We promise. Just between us."

The blonde teen nodded briskly in reply, then bolted. The Colonel's hand came up to squeeze his partner's shoulder, before she moved away toward the window. A deep breath in through the man's nose was his only reaction. After a moment, he turned to the rest of the room. "Let's take five okay?" Here his mouth twitched sadly. "We may need to reevaluate the plan."

The agreement from the rest of the group was clear as one by one, they trickled towards the doors. None of them went very far, however, each of them lingering outside the kitchen door. On the other side of the wood, the Colonel's tone was brittle and harsh as he insisted, "When we find this asshole, someone had better shoot him. Repeatedly."

Marina hummed in absent response, her attention on something else entirely based on the tone of her response. "Of course, Mishka."

Vincent turned to look at the younger Grimm as Jason began to cuss under his breath. Inside the kitchen, his older brother's tone turned coaxing as he inquired, "Marishka? Zhemchuzhina? Talk to me."

"Look at him, Misha. I have never seen our son so quiet . . . so withdrawn," she insisted, tone quiet and mournful. Her fear and concern for both of her children was clear in that tone, both for the son outside her reach for the moment and for the son still within her grasp. "I didn't even think about . . . I mean, we know that! His fear should not have been a surprise to us. We've known that for years!"

"Samonik is his best friend," the Colonel reminded his lover. "And even knowing that Merrick is our kidnapper, and a more than better idea of where Merrick took him?" Here he paused, cloth rustling together and heavy footfalls crossing away from the kitchen door, both obvious to Vincent's sensitive ears. "There's a lot of variables we can't control. We're all worried, Marina."

"Agreed," she replied, subdued and scared in a way Vincent had never heard from her before. It was different to the fear she had shown when Sam got bit by the infected zombie in Georgia . . . and wasn't quite like the fear she felt when Grant and Brian were incarcerated in Latveria. This was more than those emotions, as well as less than them too. It was a feeling she felt keenly . . . sharply. Her tone was firm and resolute when she spoke again. "Which is why one of us needs to stay here. For Rene. So he knows he's not alone."

For a while, it was silent on the other side of the door. There was no movement, no words, and no sound at all except for two people breathing in perfect sync. Vincent would have given anything to know what was happening beyond the door. After a moment, he turned to look at Jason, hoping to get a read on Will's Second. Those green bottle eyes were solemn and unreadable as they met Vincent's own, his head shaking once in silent answer to whatever question the medic was broadcasting through his eyes.

Apparently, Jay didn't know either. Or he did, but was reluctant to say.

After a moment, the Colonel's voice broke the silence. "When we were kids . . . when Jason was a kid. He fell and broke his arm, remember?"

Marina sniffled hard, tone curious as she agreed, "Yeah. He fell off the roof, trying to fix the PA system. Shattered his arm - he had to have surgery to reset the bone, and put in the plate to repair it."

"He was fifteen years old," Will reminded her warmly. "And all he wanted was you . . . his mom." There was a pause, as the two partners clearly exchanged some unspoken understanding between them. "You're Samonik's mom . . . he's going to want you most. I'll stay."

Chapter Text

Chapter 284: All for One . . . One for All

Marina Ivanovna Petrovka was more than livid. She didn't think there was even a word to describe how she felt at this moment. It was one thing to come after the agents, snipers, assassins and spies in her family; she was still going to kill you, but they at least understood and accepted the risks.

To come after her children? That was a whole other level of stupid.

However, Dean's fury - it was an entity unto itself. Her foster son's emotions were white hot and raging with uncontrollable fear, a veritable supernova of tangled emotions and violent revenge. The young man may as well have been an inferno, running wild . . . and out of fuel to burn.

It was a side of the young man Marina had never seen before. She always suspected that beneath his devil-may-care, easy going demeanor, there was a deeper well of emotion. There had been glimpses of his temper when she and Will had confessed about Cassian's existence, though it hadn't been directed at them personally. However, she knew Samonik had a temper - she had been a witness to it more than a few times.

Dean's temper, though; this she had not prepared for.

After he'd assimilated the information he'd been given regarding Carl Merrick, he suddenly turned stone cold and eerily focused. His announcement that he would meet her and Vincent in Maine had startled her, badly, and only Misha's quick thinking in confiscating his keys had prevented him from leaving them all in the Impala's dust. It was the first time the MIT cadet had ever been truly defiant with them, in their role as his foster parents.

When his bitter argument over his right to go had come to a rather ignominious end - her lover had forbidden him from driving and refused to return his keys - Dean had actually screamed with the force of his frustration and fear. The younger man slammed from the living room in a rage, storming to his room where a rush of bangs and crashes indicated the damage to a slew of his things. It went quiet for a moment, before a string of staccato, rhythmic thuds sounded against the walls.

Marina winced with each thud, able to easily imagine the damage her son was doing to his knuckles as he punched the walls full force. Will glanced at her with a sigh, earning a sad smile, before the continued sound sent her partner up the stairs for a second go-around with their boy.

The two had another brief argument, before Misha banished the hot-headed kid to the attic gym, and the heavy bag that hung there. A moment later, she found her lover in Dean's room. His hands were braced on the desk, his head hanging between his shoulders as his knuckles turned white with the force of his grip. Above them both, the Russian could hear the sharp thuds and angry grunts as their son worked out his anger on the heavy bag.

Arms coming up across her chest, she leaned one shoulder against the doorjamb as she watched him pull his emotions back behind their usual wall. "I'll talk to him," she promised, feeling steadier and more capable of taking control of their problem to let her lover release his own rage over the situation. Her eyes watched him carefully as she sought some indication that he was willing to accept her offer.

A blond head nodded once, the action sharp and forceful in agreement. His silence was looming and she frowned softly, "What's wrong?"

"Samonik . . . what he told me - told us! - last month," he began in a strained whisper, words halting and pained as he tried to force them out.

Marina flinched hard; no further clarification was needed there. She remembered her terror and her worry when Misha had imparted that information to her. "I know . . . I remember . . ."

He was silent for another moment, before he spoke again as though he hadn't heard her. "He dreams true dreams, but I know he didn't dream this."

Marina's eyebrows furrowed as she asked, "How do you know?"

Turning to face her, he shook his head. "He thought it was a kind of clairvoyance. Except there have to be gaps - he promised he'd tell us when he had another dream. And he didn't say anything about this."

"And you think . . ." she trailed off, knowing she didn't need to finish her thought for her lover to know her mind.

"I think that's why he was taken. Somehow, someway . . .” here the Colonel paused, a deep pain embedded in his eyes at the thought, ". . . Carl Merrick knows about Sam's dreams."

"Which means Carl didn't just take him as leverage against us," Marina moaned; though it hadn't been ideal, the initial scenario had at least guaranteed her son's safety.

"No; Merrick was hunting Sam. Ten to one, once Merrick has the information he needs from him, he intends to kill him."

Marina's face hardened as she hissed, "I will not let that happen. I will bury that mudak first."

"Good," he agreed, eyes blazing silver in an otherwise granite face. "Joe Hardy is going to be your most reliable back up on this assignment." Firming his jaw, he insisted, "He's under orders to drive for you the whole time, from the moment you leave the house until you bringSamonik home."

"But . . ."

"No." The refusal was finite as hep shook his head to negate her argument. "Dean's too upset and I can't count on him to be clear-headed right now. You're going to be focused on him on the way up there . . ." Here he interrupted himself at the look of betrayal on her face. "Don't give me that look! I know you better than that! Samonik is going to need you focused on the way home. Not to mention, Vincent will be all hands on deck once you have him back. A driver is necessary, for my own peace of mind, if nothing else." He sighed, running a hand back through usually orderly blond strands. "Joe Hardy is dependable, clear-headed, and a proven asset in a crisis. He's driving."

There was a small part of Marina that wanted to be offended that her lover didn't think she could handle the task. The other part of her knew he was only trying to look out for her and their family. Heaven knew they rarely made it easy for him. The Russian stepped further into the room, her arms coming up to hook over his shoulders while her forehead pressed against his sternum, taking comfort in the steady thrum of his heartbeat. "I love you," she breathed, eyes closing as she tried to settle them both so as to provide the best help to their son they could.

"And I love you," he replied, arms looping around her shoulders and pulling her in tightly. "Bring our son home."

"Copy that," she murmured in fervent reply, eyes clenched closed as she grasped for all the time she could feasibly steal before it was time to leave.

The doorbell rang then, indication the Joe had returned with their vehicle, pulling attention to the front of the house. Marina's shoulders straightened as she pulled back a half-step. "Looks like our ride has returned."

The Colonel hummed in noncommittal agreement as he leaned back himself. Both of them were aware of the clock ticking down in their heads and neither was willing to let it tick to the end. "You need to go," Will insisted, tone low and adoring. "Samonik needs you."

"I know. Take care of everyone here?"

"I will. I'll see you soon."

"Damn right you will," she vowed, going up on tiptoes to accept a quick peck. Pulling free, she moved to the door, "I love you."

"And I, you," he replied, his hands finding his pockets as he watched her leave the area. "Be safe."

"Hey, it's me."

"Kinda what I'm talking about," he replied, completely deadpan and utterly serious.

The last she saw of him was over her shoulder as she bolted from the room. Once her back was turned, he had sagged back against the desk, face pale and features drawn. Her heart wrenched in her chest, every inch of her torn between these two men she loved. Marina had never seen her lover look so old before . . . and she hoped she never would again.

Turning forward she bolted. Her son needed her now . . . her lover would have to wait.

Once they were airborne, the Russian allowed Dean to sulk for all of three minutes, before she smacked him up the back of the head. Dean flinched, grabbing for the back of his head with a shouted, "Ouch!" Glaring at his foster mother, he demanded, "What the hell was that for!?"

"Get your head out of your ass, Dean Matthew!" the handler snapped in reply, her arms coming up to fold over her chest. "I know you're angry and you're worried . . . I am too. But sulking in a corner and throwing a temper tantrum because we didn't let you book it to Maine by yourself is not going to bring Samonik home."

"I could be there already, Marina!" he protested hotly. "I should be there!"

Marina frowned at the wording; she was pretty sure she'd just said something about that desire. He was so adamant that . . . here the lightbulb in the back of her head went off. "Ah!" she breathed, suddenly understanding. "Honey, you're not alone anymore, remember?"

Dean froze, a veritable deer in headlights as he stared at her in startled shock. She could feel one corner of her lips quirk upwards, moving to wrap her arms around him and squeezing firmly. "I know it's hard for you to believe that, shchenok," she whispered as she felt the nineteen year old begin to tremble in her arms, "but Misha and I are here for you and Samonik, always."

His head dropped onto her shoulder heavily, as though it was suddenly too heavy for him to carry without the help, his fingers turning into claws in the back of her tactical shirt. "My dad . . . he won't return my calls. It doesn't feel like he even cares that Sammy's gone."

The constant, low-grade fury Marina typically felt for John WInchester at all times, flared into a roaring inferno as her jaw clenched hard on the nasty, unflattering things she'd like to say about the man. However the Russian forced herself to calm, to contain that anger, so as not to alarm the skittish child in her arms.

Her heart ached, feeling the desperation and the fear in the way he was clutching to her. Distantly, she wondered how long it had been since the last time someone had promised to help him in his trials . . . to help him protect his little brother. Every inch of him was screaming for reassurance and for some kind of attention. Though she wanted to, there was nothing she could say about his father - she had made a promise not to consciously lie to him.

Instead, she smoothed her fingers through his hair and promised, “I care. And we’re going to get Samonik back and bring him home.”

He nodded against her body, before confessing in a strangled whisper, “I wish we’d found you and Will sooner.”

Quiet joy shot through her heart as she murmured, “Me too, sweetheart. But you’re here with us now and we will never let you go.”

He sniffled hard as he straightened up, discreetly brushing at his eyes to wipe away the evidence of his small breakdown. Willing to let him get away with the small deception, Marina turned to get some water bottles from the mini-fridge to give him that time. She stiffened a little when he spoke up again, “Is Sammy gonna be okay?”

Biting down on her lip, she let herself feel the fear she’d been harboring for her children, before shuttering it away again. “Maybe not immediately, but eventually . . . yes. We’ll help him get better, if Merrick has hurt him. And we’ll be there when he breaks down. Because he will; someone facing the end of this kind of situation always does.”

Dean sank into a chair, dropping his face into his hands. “I’m supposed to protect him, Marina,” he sighed with a frown.

“Dean, I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell Misha every day - if you start blaming yourself for things you can’t control, you’re gonna sink into a pit you can’t climb out of,” the Russian scolded. “Misha and I are his guardians; how do you think we feel about this mess? He was taken on our watch.”

“But you’re here!” You . . .” he protested, cut off by her calm interruption, “So are you, shchenok.”

There was desperation in his features at her insistence, so willing to believe her words and equally unable to put his faith in them. She reached out to cup his cheek, and promised, “Take it from me, shchenok, regret will eat you alive. There is no point in it. We put faith in the school to keep him safe - that was a mistake. You were in Boston - that was not.”

“Promise?” he asked, wanting to believe her.

“I promise,” she agreed with a fond smile. “Now, let’s focus on getting our boy home, yeah? Tell me what you know about the Benning Manse. Anything you can tell us will be a huge help when we go in to get him back.”

The sound of movement near the doors of the lounge drew her eyes away from her foster son. Joseph Hardy leaned back against the wall, looking cold and lethal - a far cry from his usually fun-loving demeanor. It was a look she had seen more than a couple of time, and she smiled tightly to see it now.

Say what you wanted about the younger Hardy brother, but he knew the job . . . and he was damned good at it. To have him at her back brought her a significant amount of relief. At least one agent on this rescue mission would have a clear head. She could trust him to do what needed done, no matter how grisly the job. Making a mental note to apologize to her lover for questioning his insistence, she turned back to Dean once more.

The former hunter shook his head to see her attention once more. “It’s old and abandoned. I don’t even really understand why he’d go there . . . or even that he did. It’s just a guess.”


Joe spoke up calmly. “Thermoscans from our satellites indicate the building is inhabited. Two heat signatures - one has been stationary and unmoving throughout surveillance, while the other one is almost frenetic.”

“If the building is abandoned, we’re going with the heat signatures belonging to our guy and Samonik,” Marina agreed, flinching a little to know that Sam was at best restrained and at worst completely unresponsive. “Dean, where would Merrick have stashed Sam? Where would he have him, that he wouldn’t be worried about Samonik escaping or even being seen?”

Dean bit down on his lip, visibly cycling through everything he could remember. After a moment, he looked up, suddenly pale and sick to his stomach. “It has a cellar . . . or maybe it’s a basement.” He swallowed hard, before continuing with a twist of his mouth, “It’s where Old Man Benning use to torture his wives before he murdered them. When Dad and Carl were there, they ended up salting and burning the bones of ten women he’d buried in the floors and the walls. Dad was never a hundred percent sure that they'd found all of them.”

Vincent’s tone was dry from the other side of the room, as he insisted, “You know . . . just when I think I can’t like this any less . . .”

Marina sighed as she scrubbed her hands over her face, before nodding. “. . . it gets worse.”

Chapter Text


Chapter 285: Confessions From The Dark Side

William Grimm hated fighting with his kids and last name or no - legal adoption or not - Dean Winchester was his kid. John Winchester be damned. Which was likely anyway - seven calls and counting to the man with still no response.

Cleaning up the smashed lamp and other broken detritus in Dean’s room had kept him busy for thirty minutes following Marina and Dean’s departure. Ordering replacements online had kept him busy for another hour after that. However, once both of these chores were completed, he was at loose ends.

Vika had taken the girls for the foreseeable future, considering the situation - his Valya and his godson, Yasha, had been thrilled by the impromptu slumber party. Those two were already as thick as thieves, and some part of him had already accepted the inevitability of a relationship once they were older.

The louder part of him longed to keep his baby his “Little Girl” forever. Not that he thought that would work; there was so much of her mother in the eldest twin. It was both a comfort and a dread that Valentina would never be forced into - or away from - anything she truly wanted.

He ate the dinner Marina had left out for him. There was requisition paperwork Hadley had been pushing at him to complete. Then he called his eldest son; Sam was worried about his younger brother and furious as all hell that he was unable to come and help yet. A promise to keep the sniper updated on the situation went a long way to soothing the bulk of his fear, but both of them knew nothing would complete ease the worry until Sam was in New York and could see his little brothers for himself.

A brief conversation later, the Colonel hung up the phone then went to check on his youngest son. Rene was in Samonik’s room, curled up on the foot of his brother’s bed. It should have been a surprise to see Inari and Dacia curled up together across from him, but Will knew better. Leaning one shoulder against the doorframe, his hands found their places in his pockets. “Please tell me Cat and Vincent know where you girls are, considering everything that’s going on right now.”

“Cat is at the precinct tonight, trying to smooth things over regarding Sam’s kidnapping,” Dacia agreed with a small smile.

Inari continued with a small nod, “And Vincent went with Oba.” Her tone was meek and curious as she stated, “Is it okay if we stay?”

“Absolutely,” he promised, secretly relieved to have them close and accounted for. One corner of his mouth twitched upwards into a small smile as he insisted, “You both are always welcome here. You know that.”

“Thank you, Dyadya,” the blond Wesen replied with an equally small smile in reply.

“Rene, you okay?” Will asked, eyes locked on his youngest son. “You know I’m always here to talk, if you need to. It doesn’t matter where I am, what time it is or whatever I’m doing.”

The blond teenager snorted derisively, causing his father to blink in startled shock. A frown pulled at his mouth as he questioned with genuine concern, “You don’t believe me.”

“I believe you, Dad,” Rene promised, before his tone darkened angrily, “but would you mind letting Hadley in on that memo?” There was irritation and anger accompanying her name as his son all but snarled, “She apparently has a difference of opinion.”

“Wait; what about Hadley now?” Will asked, feeling his temper start to boil. He didn’t think he needed the explanation, but it was still a good idea to hear it anyway.

“She wouldn’t let me speak to you! Initially, she refused to transfer me!” Rene burst out, all his fire and passion lending heat to his words as he vaulted off the bed. “She didn’t even care that I said I needed to talk to you, because she had a dozen reasons for why you couldn’t come onto the line to talk to me . . .”

“Rene!” The Colonel spoke up, derailing the rant the officer could see his teenager working himself up to.

Startled by the interruption, Rene stuttered to a stop with a blink as he stared at his father in surprise. “Yeah, Dad?”

“I’ll handle Hadley, okay?” the man promised, his jaw tight as he tried to forced himself to remain calm while he was still with the children. “Have you guys eaten yet?”

Inari shrugged, “Kind of? We ate what Oba left out for us. But I’m not really hungry.”

“Me either,” the other two agreed, as they slumped back into the bed with a sigh.

Will frowned, watching them and trying to come up with something that would get the kids out of the house for a little bit. There were some things that needed to be taken care of, and for their own peace of mind, these three didn’t see to see them. Finally he asked, “Not even for Cold Stone?” He smiled to watch the two girls look torn between their interest and their concern. The Cold Stone Creamery on base was a noted weakness of the two girls - something that neither of them had ever had before. Digging into his wallet, the Colonel pulled out his AmEx Black and offered it to his son. “If you feel up to it, feel free to get some ice cream, okay? Or you can stop by the Coulsons and help put your sisters to sleep - I'm sure they'd appreciate seeing a familiar face for bedtime.”

“Dad, are you sure?” his son asked, looking wary at the offer.

“Yeah. I need to deal with Hadley and I don’t want you here for that.” A warm smile quirked his lips as he promised, “I’ll update you as soon as I know about Samonik, I promise. But waiting and moping around here is not going to help bring him home.”

The blond still looked hesitant before accepting the card with a nod. “All right. How long do you need us to be gone?”

“Be back by curfew. That should give me about two hours to take care of Hadley, and some other things that need doing.” Accepting his son’s strong hug, he let Rene cling for a minute before smoothing gentle fingers over the top of his head. “Stay on base, okay? You’ll be alright.”

“Okay,” he agreed, arms tightening for a second before the three teenagers pulled on their shoes and trooped towards the front door.

Though a large part of him wanted to deal with his aide now, the small and more rational voice in his head knew he was entirely too angry to handle the upcoming talk with any calm. As a result, he retreated to the master suite he shared with his Marishka, hoping that the lingering presence of her perfume would calm him enough not to blow his lid at the woman.

The canvas hanging across from the bed put paid to that in a heartbeat. Normally, he loved this picture - and he still loved it now - but the very sight of it stabbed through him like a knife. Sinking onto the bed, his hands fisted into the comforter while his eyes roamed over every face.

Two days after the twins turned one, while Sam was still in New York, Marina had announced an appointment she’d scheduled with a photographer for a formal portrait session. Then proceeded to bully each of their sons into sitting for the assortment of pictures she wanted done. (There was a charming picture of Sam, Julianna and Sadie sitting on both of their desk at S.H.IE.L.D.. The profiler held their daughter in her arms, while Sam had his arms around wife and daughter both, the married couple looking down at their sleeping child.)

But this portrait was just the immediate family. Marina sat in the middle, flanked on both sides by the eldest and the youngest sons. Sadie sat in their eldest’s lap, wearing a charming pink pinafore dress with lace trim. As for Rene, he held Katenka in his own lap, her favorite green dress matching her brother’s own dark green sweater with white collared shirt and navy tie. The four of them were smiling at the camera, their knees brushing against their mother’s own.

Samonik sat on the other side of Rene, a shy smile on his lips as he looked at the camera. Katenka’s eyes were on the younger Winchester, her hand reaching out and clutching his own. The fact that her fingers were holding him so tight was impossible to miss, as was the tight grip Samonik had on Katenka in reply.

On the other side of the portrait, Dean flanked Sammichka and Sadie, holding Valya on his own lap. The two of them were in blue, her jumper a pale blue that complemented his own navy button-down and black tie perfectly. Green eyes glowed in the picture, what little of his sister’s features you could see clearly adoring as she craned her head back to see his face. The girl they all called “Trouble” adored both of her Winchester brothers, though Dean was definitely her favorite. The cadet was infinitely more likely to indulge in a prank or a bit of mischief with her from time to time.

As for Will, he stood in the space between Rene and Marina, with his right hand draped over Marina’s right shoulder. Her own right hand had lifted to link with his, their fingers threaded together through ease of long practice. As for his left hand, its placement on Samonik’s right shoulder was impossible to miss. Will’s head was turned to look at Dean and Valya, frozen in mid-smile at the sight of the two siblings.

The sight of that portrait was a physical pain in his gut.

Will slammed his eyes closed, feeling fury well up through him like the tidal wave that heralded an incoming tsunami. He struggled to contain it, even as the logical side of him knew there was no need. Marina was out on the rescue with Dean. Rene had been sent off his friends. The twins were with Vika, Coulson and Yasha. There was nothing and no one requiring him to remain calm and in control.

The realization was like a butcher knife to fishing twine. His calm snapped.

Rage swelled like a living thing, pushing him to his feet in a reckless surge. His arms swept across the top of his dresser, knocking everything to the ground with an enraged scream. Candles shattered, papers scattered, and various toiletries flew to all corners of the room, causing chaos in their wake. Some part of him was soothed at the sight of the blatant destruction, pushing him onto the nightstands and then Marina’s vanity.

By the time his rage had abated, the master bedroom looking as though a tornado had hit. Marina’s jewelry chest - the one he’d made for her 30 years ago - lay smashed on the floor. The bed had been savagely ripped apart, while glass and other detritus shimmered maliciously in the carpets. The portrait alone remained untouched.

Dragging in a deep, calming breath, he sagged down onto his knees as he took in the scope of the mess. A heavy sigh pushed free before he moved to rescue his partner’s jewelry from the shards of wood. Placing the treasured pieces in the drawer of her vanity table, he left the room behind, already pulling his phone free. A quick call to their cleaning service would handle the mess. Then he called his brothers, the three of them still currently in town.

They arrived just after Will dispatched the cleaning crew up to the master bedroom. “What happened?” his Second inquired, eyes roaming over his brother’s face. “What are Heather and Stacy doing here?”

“I threw a tantrum,” Will replied bluntly, knocking back a glass of Glenlivet in search of a moment’s reprieve.

“You son was abducted, little brother,” Doyle reminded him calmly. “Most people would call your reaction ‘righteous fury’.”

“Maybe,” the Colonel allowed, pulling a set of keys from his pocket and offering them to the middle Grimm. “Can you please give the Impala a tune-up and whatever other upgrades you think would be appropriate for her?”

Jason accepted the keys cautiously, tone wary even as he agreed, “Yeah, of course. But why?”

“Dean and I had a fight; as such, I would like to make it up to him.” Turning to Aaron, he continued his thought, “After Jay’s done with the tune-up, can you make sure she’s detailed for him? I want her to look perfect by the time he gets home.”

“Of course!” Aaron promised with a nod, but his gaze remained focused on his elder brother. It took a moment, but understanding flared in his eyes as Will’s expression turned sheepish. His eyes went wide. “No shit! The jewelry chest!? Really?”

Will’s wince was answer enough. He sagged back into his armchair with a frown, one hand coming up to push back through his hair. “Yeah; I’m pretty sure it’s beyond repair, but . . .”

The two younger brothers exchanged a concerned look between them. The jewelry chest had been a gift for Marina for her fortieth birthday. The Russian loved the ugly, ridiculously clunky thing; she’d taken good care of it over the last thirty years, regardless of the rough-and-tumble circus life, the constant moves with the Army, and the years in storage. She was going to be devastated at its loss.

Aaron frowned, trying to remember what it looked like as he promised, “As soon as Samonik’s home, I’ll build her another one. The old one was . . .” he trailed off with a grimace, suddenly remembering that Will had actually built the thing himself.

“Hideous,” the eldest brother supplied with a snort. “It’s okay; it really was ugly. I tried to get her to replace the stupid thing a hundred times once we could afford it.”

“She loved it,” Aaron reminded him with a shake of his head.

Jason’s tone was awed and horrified as he nodded in agreement to that assessment, “I can’t believe you actually smashed it.”

“Not consciously,” the Colonel sighed, sagging back in his hair. “I wasn’t really focusing on any one thing. I just . . . fury will make even a brilliant man stupid.”

“You did something stupid? That’s not possible,” Doyle snarked, plopping down into the couch and narrowing his eyes at Will.

The Colonel forced his shoulders straight. He knew how far he’d unraveled, but he’d be damned if he let his brothers know how far he’d tumbled down the rabbit’s hole. A flash of warmth stabbed through Will as he snarked in reply, “Ha ha; very funny.”


The family’s Master Sergeant’s laugh was somber as he promised, “I’ll make her a new one. Maybe she won’t even notice the old one is gone.”

Will’s smile was small and forced as he shook his head. “Oh, she’ll notice. It was a hell of a tantrum.” Sheepishness tilted his lips as he announced, “I already know which diamond I intent to grovel with.”

Doyle’s tone was a low hum as he commented, “Marina’s never seemed to be the type who cared about stuff. I’m pretty sure she’s going to completely understand where you were coming from.”


“It’s just stuff,” the simultaneous intonation from the four Grimms, before Will grimaced. “And the fact that she’ll be understanding will actually make me feel worse than if she’d just yell at me.”

Jason’s tone was cheeky as he joked, “Hence the expensive apology.”

“Ha ha,” the Colonel snarked. “You two have your orders. Now get out of my house.”

The younger brothers nodded, each of them coming to exchange a hard, bruising hug with the family’s leader. Will knew better than anyone how perceptive each of them was - he may not want them to know how close he was to his breaking point, but what he wanted was typically worth horseshit around this crowd.

Once they were gone, Doyle folded his arms over his chest. It had not escaped his notice that Will hadn’t chased him out at the same time as the younger Grimms. “So what do you need from me?”

“For starters, I need you with me so that I don’t strangle Hadley before I fire her.”

“Fire her?” he echoed with ill-concealed surprise.

“Remind me later, and I’ll tell you all about it.” Shoving his hands back through his hair, he continued, “Secondly, I could really use a sparring partner right now, or I’m going to have cracked completely by the time Marishka comes back with our sons.”

The brothers watched each other for a long moment, before Doyle nodded once in silent agreement. “If you need someone at your side, Will, I’m your man. You wanna have her come here or do you want to do this at S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“I’d like to here, but at this point, she’s probably still at her desk.”

“Then I’ll call her and have her come here,” Doyle promised. “You shouldn’t be driving, Will; you look about as relaxed as a sprung spring.”

“Once Samonik is safe and home, I’ll settle out again,” Will promised, looking ashamed of his erratic behaviour.

Doyle’s hand was warm and familiar as he reached to clasp his brother’s shoulder. “Will . . . if this was Bellamy or any of my kids, I would be feeling the exact same way you are right now. No one is expecting you to just ‘settle out’ or to react to this calmly. Okay?” Those khaki green eyes were warm and sober as they watched the younger brother. “Frankly, it’s nice to see that you’re human from time to time.”

Will snorted with a roll of his eyes, feeling a lump growing in the back of his throat. Doyle continued seriously, “We’ll take up the slack - the kid is going to need his parents once he’s back home. Let us handle everything else. You just focus on being there for him.”

“We’re not his parents,” Will reminded the elder brother in a whisper.

“Like hell you’re not,” Doyle snapped back. “I don’t see Winchester anywhere, rushing off to rescue his son and smashing things because he’s terrified for that same son’s life. You’re the kid’s father . . . and when this is all over, he may not call you ‘Dad’ but he’ll know that you’re the one who was here for him, not the one who actually has the title.”

Muted joy at the thought filled Will from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, leaving him just that little bit calmer than he had been a moment before. His chin dipped in a small nod, accepting the reassurance in the spirit it was meant . . . with relief and pride. “Thank you, Doyle.”

The tactical specialist grinned, expression turning playful as he teased, “Eh, what else are big brothers for, right?”

Chuckling at having his own phrase turned back on him, Will shrugged, “Right - very funny.”

“You know, Scar tells me everyday I’m hilarious.” Doyle’s eyes warmed as he winked along with the growing grin. “I’m not always sure she means it as a compliment.”

Bursting into laughter at the joke, a small part of Will felt guilty for feeling lighter and calmer when Samonik was still in danger. Still, the younger man allowed the older brother’s patented teasing to cleanse away the stress that was dragging him over, and moving back onto an even keel. “Trust me, man,” Will teased somberly, “that’s not a compliment.”

“Ah hell, that means I’m gonna have to buy her flowers.”

“It’s going to take more than flowers to get a compliment from Scar, big brother. You know that.”

“Well look at you, bein’ a little shit,” Doyle laughed, relief scrawled over his face, the expression earning a small smile from Will. After a moment, he sobered once more and reached out to clasp Will’s shoulder firmly. “We’re going to be fine. Samonik is going to be just fine. You KNOW that.”

“Yeah . . . I know.” Here Will paused, a real smile on his face as he looked at his brother and promised, “He’s got an amazing family. How could he not be?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 286: Reality Bites

International terrorists, hijackers, murderous cults and criminals of every sort - Joe Hardy could name any number of insane situations he and his brother had faced since they were teenagers. He still didn't think that list could even come close to the crazy world of the Grimms, though.

Seven brothers wearing near identical faces, each with their own unique personalities and quirks. Not to mention their father (who carried a big damn shotgun) and their aunt (who busted at least as many heads as her Star-Spangled boyfriend).

A legendary assassin, who had been little more than a ghost, before his daughter pulled him from the cold. As for the daughter herself, she'd been raised by the assassin and the KGB to be a top-rate killer . . . who also managed to be one of the most maternal women Joe had ever known.

Witch hunters. Super soldiers. A hyper-elite brain trust called "The Nerds", a brain trust that included his older brother as a valued – and particularly favored - member.

Currently, Joe's entire world was a conglomeration of a million different fantasies - fantasies the younger Hardy hadn't even believed in prior to recruitment. Now those same fantasies were all too real.

Gifting the Scary Boss Lady a small smile, he nodded in response to the significant look she aimed between him and her son. The woman smiled tightly and pressed a brief kiss to his hair before bolting from the Quinjet's briefing area. As for the older of her Winchesters, Dean didn't even seem to have noticed that she'd fled.

A state of being Joe more than understood.

The older agent leaned into the back of the couch, watching the kid fret over his missing younger brother. The Hardy brother could relate; there had been more than a few times in their sordid, detective history where one or the other - sometimes both - of the brothers had gotten themselves into a situation it hadn't looked like they were going to get out of again.

It was hard to know you best friend was in trouble, as well as to know that there was nothing you could really do except wait.

Wait for the avalanche to stop, so you could hopefully find your buried brother in the snow.

Wait for your brother to disarm the bomb so it didn't kill everyone you cared about.

Wait for the storm to end, so as to rescue both Frank and their Girl Friday from the cave-in that trapped them in their suspect's cabin. (A cave-in that had prompted something between Frank and Nan, something that neither of them would confess to even years later. The not knowing nagged at Joe and one day, he was determined to wheedle the details out of at least one of them.)

It was especially hard when your best friend was also the one person you had always expected to be around for the rest of your life . . . living in your back pocket, always at your six, and consistently on your left. From all he could see, there was equally co-dependent relationship between the two Winchester brothers. And just like Frank would be blaming himself if something had happened to Joe, Dean was eyebrows deep in his own blame game for not protecting his little brother.

This is what Joe liked to call "Big Brother Syndrome". Fortunately, Joe was long practiced in distracting big brothers from the depth of this phenomenon.

It had been years since Joe last got a full dose of it from Frank, but the agent recognized the signs and symptoms easily enough. Time to get the kid out of his own head, before he did something he couldn't take back. Or spontaneously combusted - both were likely.

"So, how much younger is he?"

The younger man stumbled to a stop, clearly surprised over being addressed. "Wait . . . are you talking to me?"

"Yeah?" he drawled with a small smirk. "You have all the classic signs of 'Overprotective Big Brother' going on right now."

"That obvious?" he asked, emerald eyes shadowed by both the gloom and his own worry.

"A little bit, yeah," Joe agreed. "My brother, Frank? He has utilized that look a time or two, though - I know it well."

Dean Winchester looked wrecked, the kind of frenetic which could get an agent killed on mission. And yeah, he didn't have the job but this was a mission, personal or otherwise. Joe was assigned by the Scary Boss Man to protect the Scary Boss Lady AND their sons. Best way to do that was to cool the kid's jets and get him focused on a singular goal.

Not rescuing his brother or even finding his brother. That was the secondary goal. The primary goal was keeping himself safe or he would be completely useless to the younger Winchester when the time came.

"So I'm only a year younger than Frank," Joe explained with a wry grin, "but everyone knows that I'm the 'act first, think later' brother. It's his job to use that big brain of his to keep me outta trouble." A wicked quirk gripped the corner of his smirk as he continued, "Bless him, but he does try. It just - by the time he's finished using that big brain, I'm already halfway through whatever stupid idea I probably shouldn't have done in the first place."

Dean smile was small and worried as he replied, "Sounds familiar. Sam's the smart one though; the thinker."

"Yeah," Joe agreed with a twist of his mouth. "That I'd already figured out for myself."

"Suddenly I understand how Sammy feels," Dean scoffed with a roll of his eyes.

"What? Frustrated by our lack of basic intelligence? I get that from Frank all the time," the younger Hardy replied with a cheeky grin.

A soft snort slipped free as Dean sunk into a chair, his face in his hands as he grunted, "I'm worried about my brother. What if . . ."

"Hey!" the agent barked, anxious to cut off that train of thought before it left the station. "You don't want to think that way. That rabbit hole never ends."

"So what?" the cadet asked with a fierce frown and anger building in his eyes. "I just ignore the reality of the situation."

"Reality never starts with 'what if'," the agent recited. "That was the first thing Crazy Boss ever taught us in our training classes. Fear starts with 'what if'. Uncertainty starts with 'what if'. 'What if' is the fastest way for an agent to get himself killed."

His head jerked in the direction of the door Marina had disappeared through ten minutes prior. "Fear and uncertainty are also two of the last things that should be on your mind right now."

"How do you figure?" the younger man asked, with a single cocked eyebrow. There was visible skepticism in his features, as well as an almost desperate hope shining in those eyes.

Joe could feel his eyebrows climb towards his hairline as he threw a hand back towards the door. "Do you not realize the ace in the hole you have? Marina Petrovka is the damned VIPER, an assassin with a reputation for protecting her loved ones. That reputation is bloody as fuck, steeped in lethal efficiency and hardened by ruthless vengeance. You ever hear about her little soiree in Latveria last year?"

He paused, waiting for a small nod of acknowledgement from the cadet, just to be sure the Winchester knew what he was talking about. Once Dean's chin dipped with eyes narrowing in curiosity, he continued, "Let's just say, the rumors of her awesome have become even more awesome. And that particular rescue mission was for Ward and Crazy Boss."

Dean's eyebrows furrowed in clear puzzlement as he protested, "Grant is . . ."

"The Scary Boss Lady's Misfit?" the blond interrupted with a smirk. "Yeah, I know . . . everybody knows. Which proves my point - your brother isn't just her Misfit. He's her son; anything she did in Latveria is going to look like child's play by the time this is over."

Pushing himself to his feet, the Hardy brother laid a hand on the younger man's shoulder familiarly. "Your mom is gonna burn down the world to get your brother back."

"She's not my mom," was the only response the kid could come up with, Dean all but twirling in place to confront of the other man about the declaration.

Joe's smirk softened into an amused smiled as he paused in the doorframe. Blue eyes met green, the two staring each other down for a long moment. Eventually, Dean looked away, unable to meet those knowing eyes any longer. The older man’s tone was careful and respectful as he finally offered the only reply to the kid's statement that he could.

"Are you sure about that kid? Because, if so . . . you may wanna take a good look around you and ask yourself why you think so."

His knuckles rapped carefully against the steel door frame, insisting, "Gear up, kid. The landing lights just came on." His smile was sharp edged as he announced, "We're here."

With those final words, he left the space, leaving the kid behind to think about what he'd said. The eldest Winchester was clearly intelligent - a full ride to MIT on a GED was evidence enough of that - but Joe had a feeling it would take the cadet a little bit to come to terms with his place in the family he'd become a part of. When it came to the Scary Boss Lady's kids, though, they always seemed to figure it out sooner or later.

Yanking open his gear bag, Joe got kitted up in record time. Black tactical gear and an assortment of weapons scattered throughout the uniform - there were times he still wondered at the new world he had become a part of since leaving his teenage years before him. He joined the Marines at 18, while Frank had gone to Boston University to study a veritable litany of computer sciences.

This - the rush, the adrenaline, the batshit crazy - suited him much better than a desk or even a badge.

Ready to go, he bolted for the loading bay at the back of 'Jet. Marina Petrovka stood alone in the cavernous space, bare arms folded over her chest as she watched the ramp lower to the ground at the back of the plane. "What do you hear, goryachaya golovka?" the Russian asked, her tone cold and hard as she continued to glare out at their surroundings.

Not that there was much to see - it wasn't winter anymore, but apparently this far north, spring was running a little behind schedule.

Joe smiled at the well-deserved nickname, hooking his thumbs into his holsters as he replied, "Sounds like a hell of a party."

Even with her features in profile, the Hardy brother could see the wicked tilt that formed in the visible corner of her mouth. "Indeed it does. Let's make sure to bring the fire and brimstone - we wouldn't want to offend our hosts," she replied.

"I got the party favors right here," he agreed, patting the butts of his Magnums. "So let's blow this popsicle stand."

Chapter Text

Chapter 287: Love Them Hard

Brian Joshua Grimm was not a patient man. He never had been and more than likely never would be. So when he had to wait for his protégé to come to him, it was almost the worst experience of his life.

Almost . . . a very distant third, at best. Maybe.

The second eldest Grimm hated knowing there was nothing he could do to help calm his nephew, if the kid wouldn't let him help. So he paced, like an avenging dragon hell bent on destruction, while his woman looked on. As for his beloved Natasha - as fiery as her hair and twice as wild - she laughed at him as he stalked to and fro. "I just don't get it, Tasha . . . why won't he come talk to me? He knows he can, right?"

"Of course he does, Bri. You're his favorite uncle; he knows you're here because he needs you. He's not stupid."

"So is he angry with me or something?" he muttered plaintively, before rolling his eyes in frustration with himself. Ugh, chick flick moment - bleugh!

Natasha looked equal parts amused and concerned as she relaxed back against the armrest of her chair. "Brian, why don't you just go to him?"

"Because I know better," he replied with a miserable frown. "Going directly at Dean, is the quickest way to get to the kid to completely turtle."

She frowned at the explanation. "Oh."

The undercover agent grunted his agreement to the reaction, one hand pushing back through his hair while the other found its way into his pocket. Unfortunately, he knew better than to confront Dean in any way head on. The downside to that knowledge was that the direct approach was the only way Brian knew of to resolve any problem.

Attacking head on was most effective with his baby brothers, when the Terrible Twos were eyeballs deep in yet another prank war (one that would inevitably involve the entire family). It worked with the family's eldest Sam, who appreciated the straight talk, and with Rene, whose suspicious nature responded well to complete transparency.

Of course, it didn't always work out quite the way he wanted it to. With Marina, he made a habit of trying not to practically assault her, which usually led to her laughing at him when he tried to sneak anything past her. There was also the fact that the direct approach only worked on his elder brother when Will was drowning in "Perfect Soldier" mode. Otherwise it made the Colonel either clam up or lose his infamous temper.

A frustrating similarity his brother shared with his eldest foster son. Coming at Dean would result in the kid clamming up like an oyster around a pearl. The reaction would inevitably result in the teenager shoving away the very help he needed. It was a damned catch-22, and Brian's patience was running thin.

"Brian," Natasha murmured, her stoic features glaringly at odds with the fondness sparking from her emerald eyes, "have I mentioned lately how much I love your devotion to those you love?"

Guilt stabbed, harsh and deep, as he snapped, "I bailed on them once, Tash - I'll never fail them again."

"That was a whole other life, Bri, and your family forgave you for it years ago," she reminded him, her fingers warm and familiar in his hair as he flopped onto the floor at her feet. "Just talk to Dean."

"How?" he demanded lightly. "How do I do that? If I tried, he'd run. He always runs from the hard stuff - from the feelings he doesn't know how to process or doesn't understand and from the words he's afraid to say. I don't know how to reach him, not about this."

"He is his father's son," she agreed with a soft chuckle.

The reminder was like a match to gasoline, fury blazing through the agent like wildfire. "I don't even have words for how much I hate that man!" Brian growled, mahogany eyes turning as murky as swamp water. "John is such a . . ."

She interrupted the impending rant easily, tone firm as she insisted, “I wasn’t talking about John.”

Brian blinked at the statement, craning his neck around to stare at her in muted shock. There was adoration in the small curl of her mouth, her palm cool and tender on the joint of his jaw, as she guided him around to lock eyes with her. "Nat . . . are you talking about Will?!"

One elegant eyebrow rose as she teased, "Unless you're looking to be his father now?"

"Hell no! Favorite uncle - that's me! Means I can spoil the kid rotten, then ship him home to Will and Marina," he protested, even as he cringed. There was a part of him that yearned for the emotional stability to be a good father . . . even just to be an okay father, if that was all he could actually manage.

The Black Widow's fingers smoothed through dark blond hair, letting him gather his thoughts under his own control. Both members of the couple had their hang ups about parenthood, as well as an undeniable longing for the chance. Neither was entirely sure it was ever going to be in the cards for them, even as they refused to give up hope.

After a long moment, the Grimm frowned as he dropped his forehead to rest on his girlfriend's knee. "He's nothing like Will though. Will has never run from the hard job - hell, he's usually the first one running at it!"

"And while that's true, your brother has an intensely difficult time asking for help, whether that's from you or Marina or your dad. Not to mention, he refuses to let himself be vulnerable around you or your brothers, because he's terrified he's going to disappoint you."

He glanced at her sharply, earning a smirk as she reminded him, "My sister is your brother's partner, lover, soulmate . . . whatever the fuck they are. She betrays very few of your brother's secrets, but my sisters and I are very adept at extrapolating from what little she does say."

Brian rolled his eyes, prompting Natasha to narrow her eyes at him and continue her argument. "Furthermore! 'He always runs from the hard stuff - from the feelings he doesn't know how to process or doesn't understand and from the words he's afraid to say'." One eyebrow rose as she inquired, "Now, who does that sound like?"

The agent made a face at being quoted verbatim, muttering under his breath in unflattering Russian. Natasha giggled, earning a brilliant smile from her lover at the sound - his partner rarely giggled and Brian thrilled to hear it every time he managed to coax the sound free. After a moment, he huffed in exaggerated frustration, “So, we’re blaming Will for Dean’s squirrelishness then?”

“No more than we’re blaming you, handsome,” she laughed, her nose wrinkling a little as he stared at her in perplexed horror.

“Me!? Why the hell are we blaming me?”

“Stubborn. Devoted. Hard-headed to a fault. With a soft - virulently denied - underbelly when it comes to allegedly ‘annoying little brothers’,” she recited, smile widening with each grunt of reluctant agreement he released. “Not to mention, you both share the same aversion to quote, ‘chick flick moments’.”

“Hey!” he protested with indignantly, “I ‘chick flick’ with you all the time!”

“No, you ‘porn’ with me all the time,” she purred lustfully, her eyes sparkling as they scanned him from head to toes. “No complaints here, of course, but - Bri, you two are so alike, it’s scary. And he needs to know that you care enough to be there for him, even when everything in his head is telling him he doesn’t want you there.”

Brian frowned, tone hesitant as he asked, “So, basically come at him as though he’s me.”

“Except less ‘bull in a china hutch’ and more ‘Marina is worried about you’. Considering historical data, it’ll be more effective,” she teased.

The agent could feel his mouth twist with uncertainty at the clarification. “You’d think I wasn’t raised by the woman, considering I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Natasha rolled her eyes heavenward as she sighed, “Of course you don’t. My sister is a saint - dealing with you is cruel if you’re not getting anything out of it.”

“Ha ha,” he snarked, with a roll of his eyes as she chuckled softly. “And what exactly do you get out of it then?”

Her eyes were serious over her smile as she cupped his cheeks and pulled him to her, indulging them both in a heady, lengthy kiss. “I get you, which is more than I ever knew I wanted to begin with. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.”

He laughed, overtaken by a rare sentimental moment as he brushed the tip of his nose along her cheek. “I’m pretty sure I got the better end of that deal, Vdova.”

She kissed him once more then flowed to her feet. “That’s what you think, Skopa. You should hurry - the engines are winding down. I think we’re here.”

Cussing under his breath, he heaved to his feet with a sassy grin. “Working on borrowed time? I can work with that - sounds like every mission we’ve ever been on.”

“Not for a lack of your brother trying,” she agreed with a roll of her eyes. “Go; I’m going to find Marina.”

He pressed a haphazard kiss to her cheek, then dashed away. Brian found the kid arming up, a focused frown on his face as Dean glowered at the gear he’d brought. Brian scrubbed on hand over his face as he tried to figure out how to start the conversation, before finally giving it up for a bad job. “Fuck it,” he muttered, before strolling into the room as easy as you please. “Hey kid.”

Dean froze at the words, shoulders hauled up around his ears as his instincts drove him to try and protect himself. Brian could understand the reaction, even as pain stabbed through his heart like a hot knife through butter. “Just me, De. It’s okay,” the agent promised, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning against the doorframe so as not to crowd the teenager.

There was a sheepish look on the younger man’s face as he visibly relaxed, shoulders dropping and he turned to face his uncle. “Sorry; I’m just . . . my gut’s all in knots.”

“Understandable. I’ve been there a time or two,” he reminded Dean, mahogany eyes searching through emerald green ones. “I know you’re worried about Samonik, but other than that? How are you doing? You ready for this? It’s gonna be ‘go go go’ in a bit - there won’t be any real time to process once things get rolling.”

“I think so?” he hedged, taking a deep breath in to steady his nerves even as he sagged against the armrest of the chair behind him. One hand waved towards the door opposite Brian as he continued, “Joe just left. He said some things . . . things I hadn’t considered. I guess I’m just trying to absorb it all.”

Jealousy bit deep even as Brian shrugged the sensation away. At least his protege had talked to someone, instead of festering alone in the turmoil of his thoughts. Forcing himself to calm, he asked, “Like what?”

There was a moment where Dean just watched the older man, before he released a heavy breath and confessed, “Joe called Marina my mom. Said, ‘your mom is going to burn the world to get your brother back’.”

Brian blinked in surprise. On the one hand, it was a sentiment he agreed with, but on the other, he knew how protective the teenager was of Mary Winchester’s memory. His chin bobbed once in mute understanding, before asking, “And how did you react to that?”

“Told him she wasn’t my mom, and he asked me if I was sure.” Dean’s face turned down to watch his hands as they moved to disengage a clip from his gun, check it then slot it home once again. Hands flashed as the kid chambered a round then shoved it back into the holster at his thigh.

When he finally looked up at his uncle, Brian was alarmed to see the tears in the cadet’s eyes as he asked, “Is it wrong, that I’m not sure? Does it mean that I don’t love my mom anymore, if I find myself calling Marina ‘Mom’ in my head sometimes? Am I a bad son?”

“Of course not!” Brian protested firmly. Swarming into the room, he threw his arms around his nephew’s shoulders and pulled him in tightly for a hug. “De, no one ever said you couldn’t have more than one mother. I know I never met your mother, but I don’t believe the Mary Winchester you talk about could be jealous of any feelings you have for another set of parents. I’m sure she’s looking down on you, relieved to know that you have people who love you and who take care of you when you need someone in your corner - that you’re not growing up in motel rooms and you have a future that’s not built around revenge.”

“Dad would be pissed.”

“John Winchester can take a long walk off a short pier. And I can tell him so, if you’d like me to.”

Dean’s shoulders jerked with an aborted laugh even as he shook his head. “Thank you though.”

“You’re my favorite nephew, kid. I’m always gonna be here to punch that idiot for you, if you need me to.” Squeezing the cadet for another second, Brian released him and grinned. “All right - let’s go get Samonik back, yeah?”

“Hell yeah,” Dean agreed, emerald eyes glowing with warmth.

“Good kid. Come on - I’m sure they’re wondering what the hell is keeping us.”

“You think so?” Dean asked, looking surprised by the statement.

“Marina’s a mom, kid. Trust me; she’s always wondering about what her boys are doing. Adopted, Misfit, foster or Grimm - how they came to her doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they’re hers, and that they’re safe.”

“That’s kinda cool,” Dean hedged, looking shy about the fact that his grin was splitting his face in two

“Damn right it’s cool,” Brian agreed exuberantly, eyes wide and sparkling with mayhem. “Now come on - we have a little hell to raise.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 288: The Calm Before

Dean felt a little guilty for doubting his foster mother's persistent protectiveness, following his entrance into the cargo bay behind Brian. At the sight of him, Marina's face had smoothed with evident relief, her eyes warm and worried over the small smile she aimed at them. "Everything okay?" she inquired, those eyes watching the two men take up the empty spaces in the half-circle before her.

The teenager glanced over at Vincent with a weak smile, as the medic laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed. Joe was watching from the other side of Natasha, who had taken her usual place beside Brian. The six of them were the best hope his little brother had for a rescue, and Dean felt his heart swell into his throat with relief.

He nodded sharply along with Brian's own insistence, "As good as it's going to get for the moment."

The handler pinned Dean in place with those eyes, every emotion she was feeling easily seen as they scrolled through her. He smiled at her, relieved to see that she was looking for his own input into the situation. His jaw tightened against his fear, worry, relief and affection as he nodded sharply in silent agreement. Her chin dipped in reply, before she turned her eyes across the collection of assets before her. "All right then. With caution in mind, we are currently ten miles from the Benning Manse. Joe will be driving us to the location - once we have arrived, the last thing I want is for anyone to go rogue. We need tactical recon, so we can evaluate the situation in real-time."

Her jaw hardened as she insisted, "We will be performing a clean, coordinated strike, because we are not a ragtag band of vigilantes, we are careful and exacting government agents . . . HARDY!"

The cadet couldn't completely stifle his snicker, when Marina turned an arch glare in the direction of Joe Hardy. Whatever had prompted the look, the agent didn't even both to feign guilt or remorse. Instead he flashed Dean's foster mother a naughty grin, his eyes flashing with wicked amusement. "What did I do to deserve being called out like that, Scary Boss Lady?" he all but cackled.

Brian snorted at the seemingly innocent question, earning a spike in Dean's curiosity even as Marina scolded firmly, "We are not rushing in guns blazing, Joseph!"

"That happened one time!" he protested through laughter.

"And that 'one time' was so messed up insane, my smut/yan made a point to tell me about it," she reminded him, one eyebrow cocked upwards at the ludicrousness of his deflection.

The teenager chuckled at the exaggerated "Who me?" look that tripped across Hardy's face. Even Brian sniggered at the younger man, at least until Marina's tone turned saccharine sweet as she continued, "Joe, if the craziest of my boys is insistent in telling me about the 'Charge of the Light Brigade', batshit crazy thing you did? It was chertov insane."

"Well,” the young man chuckled, his eyes sparkling with mischievous amusement, "no argument there at least."

"Oh good!" she snarked with a roll of her eyes as her hands flew into the air in frustration. "I'm so glad we're all on the same page considering the insanity that was the Kostadin mission. There will be none of that crazy here."

"Yes ma'am," he agreed, gifting her with a cheeky wink that was at direct odds with the sincere smile on his lips and the solemn nod he gave her.

Huffing out in mild frustration, the Russian whirled on her heel to glare at Brian. "He's your agent, dikiy rebenok - I'm blaming you."

Natasha laughed outright at the statement, earning an aggrieved glare from her partner. The red-haired agent didn't even flinch, simply gifted him with a taunting smirk as she teased, "Love you, Bri."

Rolling his eyes at her, the undercover agent protested, "I have it on good authority that Joe Hardy was crazy long before I was ever in the picture, Marishka - just ask his brother. As a result, I cannot take all of the credit for his crazy."

"But you can take some credit," Marina chirped with a tight smile and a pair of bright eyes. As for Joe, the agent looked torn between laughter and offense as the Russian continued, "Ergo, he's your problem."

The younger Hardy smirked wryly as he joked, "Feeling the love here, Scary Boss Lady."

"Of course you are," she shot back, "because if we didn't like you, we wouldn't give you shit about your crazy."

The agent beamed at the reminder, before bounding off to help finish packing up the Jeep with Vincent. The medic had come prepared for Sammy to be in any kind of condition, which was both comforting and terrifying. With any luck, there would be no need for half of the equipment the doctor brought along. Amused by the fond interplay between his companions, Dean's lips twitched even as guilt swelled through his gut. While the familiar banter helped soothe his nerves, it still felt wrong to find comfort in the familiarity when Sammy was still in danger.

The older Winchester brother had been around long enough to experience the family's typical gallows humor in response to high stress situations. He used to employ the same tactic with Sammy when they were kids, and their father was home later than they'd expected. Laughter and jokes can diffuse a multitude of tense situations, as well as assist in focusing people before action needed to be taken.

He'd watched the way banter, pranks and teasing helped to focus the Grimms, steadying them for the sometimes gruesome work ahead. Dean remembered the almost gleeful teasing prior to the Blood Moon a little less than a year ago, as well as the cold ruthlessness with which they'd executed the coven who had kidnapped the children - and him. That mission had ended in a bloody massacre that they had handled as effortlessly as other, more seasoned hunters. Why and how the ploy triggered the switch to their more vicious natures, Dean didn't know. He would probably never truly understand the mechanics of the behavior, but he trusted in its effectiveness nonetheless.

The cadet was startled out of his thoughts with a blink as a warm, familiar hand curved around his jaw, pulling him back to the present from his musings. He smiled down at the petite Russian, trying to ease the worry he could see in those dark eyes. "I'm okay, Marishka Mama."

"Are you?" she asked, tone calm if a little challenging as she watched him closely. "I doubt it, to be honest. And it's okay if you're not, shchenok."

Dean bit down on his lower lip at the knowledge that she didn't expect him to be okay, and was there for him if he was freaking out. Not that he'd ever admit to freaking out - he was a Winchester and Winchesters did not freak out. Still, he couldn't help the plaintive question as he asked, "Do you think he's okay?"

Her mouth twisted at the question, pain flashing across her features like a wave over sand. "Oh honey," she breathed, voice cracking on the tears starting to build in the corners of her eyes, "no . . . he's not okay. As much as I wish he was."

The teenager's heart sank at the truthful response, already dreading the completion of her thought. Her hesitant "But . . ." earned a sharp flinch from the teen, as though the physical reaction would keep the knowledge at arm's length.

Her hand tightening against the skin of his cheek pulled his attention back to her and he blinked at the sight that greeted him. There was resolute determination in her eyes as she insisted, "Dean, as bad as it is, Samonik is not dead. He's going to be all right in the long run."

"How do you know that?"

"Because he has you," she replied calmly, a proud smile lurking in the corner of her mouth. "He has Misha and me . . . Rene and Sammichka and your sisters . . . Inari and Dacia too."

The cadet moved to protest or question the assertion . . . he wasn't entirely sure what he meant to say, but she cut him off before the thought could completely materialize. "It won't be easy; his physical condition and the severity of any injury will of course determine the length of his physical recovery. An uptick in his nightmares, as well as a tendency towards paranoia and hyper-alertness are very likely as well." There was sadness in her smile as she explained, "It's not going to be a quick process. It's impossible for even an agent to just bounce back from this kind of scenario and immediately 'be okay', let alone for a teenager."

"But," he hedged, knowing that she wasn't done yet, even though dread was building in his gut.

Her smile brightened as she agreed, "But . . . your brother is strong and stubborn and resilient as hell. No matter how long it takes, he will be okay. I promise - we'll all be right there with him to make sure of it."

He stared at her, overwhelmed with affection for this tiny woman with a heart twice the size of her body. Throwing his arms around her, he bent to bury his face against her neck and insisted, "Thank you, Marina."

"For what, shchenok?" she asked, clearly startled by the effusive behavior.

"For being here; for giving a damn about Sammy. He deserves to have someone who does."

Her mouth quirked as she huffed in disgruntled agreement, insisting, "You both do, honey."

Her lips pressed against his cheek in a tender moment of affection, before she backstepped so as not to crowd him per his usual reactions to affection. "I'm always going to be here for you boys - always. Okay? Family first, last and always."

"I know," he promised, closing his eyes against the unfamiliar emotions swelling his throat closed. "So do we know anything about who is where in the Manse?"

She nodded briskly, her tone sharp and professional as she reverted to work mode. "Complete debrief is in the Jeep as we go; and we're going as soon as we finish loading up. Like I said earlier, I didn't want to tip our hand to Merrick, so we're about ten miles from the house. He sees us coming? He could do something drastic that we can't take back."

"Good call," he agreed, torn between frustration that it would be another twenty minutes before they arrived and fear that Merrick had already killed his little brother. He glanced down at her, and noticed the guilt in her features as she watched him process that information. "Hey, it's okay - I get it. I don't want anything to happen to Sam either, so I'm grateful for the thought, really. I just . . . Merrick's already had him for so long."

"I know," she promised, with a quiet devastation in her tone. "The last thing I want, though, is unnecessary injury to Samonik or to ourselves. It sucks to have a wait a little bit longer, but better to be cautious and he's alive than reckless and he's dead." She grimaced looking sick to her stomach as she continued, "Gunshot wounds and torture can be fixed but death is permanent."

Dean shivered, unable to fault her logic. Bending to press a quick kiss to her cheek, he insisted, "I'll help load up," then turned and stormed away.

It was a chaotic rush from that point. Dean gave as much attention as he could to the debrief once they were on their way, but even he acknowledged that was even less than the bare minimum of what he could spare. All of his concern was for Sammy . . . and whatever state they would find him in.

He vaguely noticed the Devil's Trap in front of the door on the porch, and the other demonic booby traps littered across the front of the house. He did notice the rusty shmear against the doorframe - and completely lost it.

Kicking open the door with an impassioned roar was definitely stupid - and considering the disappointed look on Marina's face, he was going to be hearing about it later - however he felt only a little guilt for the rash action. Finding the basement door was as simple as following the blood droplets splattering the old wood floors.

Locked . . . from the inside.

Rage swelled, along with fear at the realization that Sam was beyond the door. . . and Carl fucking Merrick was with him. Howling, he rammed against the door with a shoulder, grimacing as the elderly panel splintered from the blow, imbedding themselves into his jacket and his exposed skin. Dean stepped back and slammed his boot into the door, the hinges and lock giving way, before the panel clattered down the stairs and out of his way. He scrambled down after it, bellowing, “Sammy!”

"Here!" came the return call only moments later.

The voice was wrecked, a sob and scream and gasp all twisted up together in the beloved voice. Dean wasn't sure how he managed it, but in the next second he was on his knees next to his baby brother. Sam looked like shit, bloody and beaten and tired, but there was relief in his eyes as he breathed, "Dean!"

"I got you, little brother," Dean choked out, the promise firm even as his fingers were careful as they gripped his brother's shoulder. "It's okay . . . everything's gonna be okay."

Sam's eyes went wide with terror a moment later, staring at something over Dean's shoulder. Before the older brother could react, the sharp report of a gun snapped through the concrete room. Merrick fell choking, as a dark, furious voice stabbed through the dark, "Get the hell away from my sons!"

The bullet had ripped a gash through the hunter's larynx and he gasped for air not even an arm's length away. As for Sam, the younger teenager sobbed in visible relief, every part of him yearning for the Russian woman. Dean's teasing was wobbly but effective in settling him back again as he joked, "You really thought I was coming alone? Marishka Mama was nearly dragging me out the door, not the other way around."

The cadet twisted over his shoulder to look up at the woman as she moved alongside the two brothers. Dean had heard Joe's insistence that Marina would burn the world, but had never seen her in a full-on rage.

She was magnificent, terrifying and awesome all in the same moment. Suddenly, the teenager understood why people stepped lightly and tried to avoid pushing her temper into a display of "Gadyuka". One hand lifted, a shiny black pistol in hand as she brought it to bear on the Hunter's head. The woman had never sounded more like the animal from which she'd earned her callsign, as she hissed, “Tell all your friends in hell to stay the fuck away from my kids.”

Dean watched as Sam flinched with a small grimaced, as three sharp sounds cracked through the small room. Intense satisfaction rushed through the older brother as Merrick went completely limp. Sam sagged with relief, which incidentally mirrored the loosening of Marina's own shoulders. The Russian stowed the gun then turned her attention onto the two brothers. Her eyes went huge at her first complete view of Dean's little brother, her tone soft and terrified as she breathed, “Samonik . . .”

Dean tried not to feel jealous when his little brother reached out to Marina with a quiet whimper, his eyes wide and scared. As for the Russian herself, she was on her knees next to Dean in an instant, one hand grasping Sam's while the other folded over his forehead. She was humming quietly under her breath, something soft and soothing. Sam's eyes fluttered, turning into her palm in an almost unconscious need for comfort.

"He's burning up," she murmured, before turning to her eldest foster son with a firm command, "Dean, go get Vincent."

He nodded; as much as he wanted to stay with his little brother, Vincent was the best hope Sammy had for the moment. Shoving to his feet, he hauled ass for the stairs, already shouting the medic's name. Two and three at a time, he didn't even have time to stop before he crashed into the man at the top of the stairs.

Vincent's smile was tight and understanding as he grabbed the younger man by the shoulders and steadied him on his feet. "Hey kid, you found him?"

"He's downstairs," he agreed, side-stepping to clear the way for the man.

"Go find Joe - help him get my gear out of the Jeep."

Dean hesitated, terrified by the idea of not returning immediately to his brother. The former soldier seemed to understand the fear and reached to place both hands on the teenager's shoulders. "Dean, I know you're scared - I get it. But the best help you can be to your brother right now, is to get the equipment I need to help him. Okay?"

He took a deep breath through his nose before nodding, "Okay. Thanks."

"You're welcome . . . go!"

Turning on the heel of his foot, Dean bolted. The sooner he did what needed to be done, the sooner he would be back at his brother's side.

Chapter Text

Chapter 289: Demons of the Past

Although the origin of the rule escaped Marina, somehow an unspoken doctrine developed in the family – Will Grimm and Marina Petrovka did not talk about Peru. Not matter what others rules might be implemented – or forgotten – this one remained as firm as adamantium.

Which isn’t to say that anyone else abided by the same rule.

Older agents whispered about the mission, giving it the air of a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ type horror story when terrifying their baby agent trainees. When the younger Grimms spoke of Peru, they used sparse, cryptic comments – always given in hushed tones tinged with awe as if it existed on the same level of existence as magic and unicorns. Colonel Grimm and Lieutenant Colonel Petrovka never spoke of it at all.

It was Peru…

They didn’t discuss Peru.

No one knew how a simple reconnaissance mission turned into such a total clusterfuck. The Army assigned them to observe a new drug running operation about a year before Nick Fury cornered Marina in a room and offered her a position with S.H.I.E.L.D. Sometimes she even wondered if that mission – and Misha’s recovery – had been the final piece of the puzzle that led the magnificent bastard to the Cahills.

Such an easy mission only required two of them, so Will and Marina chose to take the job themselves, leaving the three boys in Lima for some leave time while the two officers disappeared into the Peruvian Amazon. They expected to be back within seventy-two hours at most.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Isn’t that the way the saying goes?

Well organized, but ill-equipped for the Amazonian rainforest, the drug runners seemed too busy with rusting vehicles and equipment to pay much attention to the forest surrounding the small clearing they’d created, giving the couple ample cover. A small operation of maybe fifteen or so men worked to get their drugs off the ground and on the way to buyers in the north. Despite the small size, the Army restricted their operatives to observation only. Engagement was to be avoided except in the case of immediate and personal danger.

The couple fully intended to stick to their orders.

Sometimes Marina still dreamed of that assignment, flashes of gory, bloody horror streaking through her mind. To this day she didn’t know how the sentry found her over - Misha excelled at concealing himself in plain sight. Will didn’t remember either, and considering the amount of blood he lost, the doctors believed he’d never recover those memories. A small mercy to her mind as he already suffered from way too many nightmares.

Marina didn’t remember everything either except in those dreams of hers. What she did remember burned in her mind with fierce desperation: the sound of shouting, a mix of Spanish and English and even a scattering of Portuguese; the sight of her beloved on his knees in the dirt, hands clasped together at the back of his head as he glared at the man holding a gun on him; the smell of wet leaves and dirt at her back as she pulled her weapon from its holster; the feel of the guns in her hands as ice began to flood her veins; and the taste of blood in her mouth as she bit the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming as the thug fired three shots into his prisoner’s torso. The last thing she remembered was watching Misha crumple to the ground as his shooter strode away, bellowing orders. Everything became a blur after that.

Until she found herself on her knees beside her lover, working to stop him from bleeding out in front of her. She didn’t even realize she’d wiped out the entire operation until she looked up in search of her first aid kit and found the bodies littering the ground around her.

Not that she could bring herself to care.

At some point during her blacked out period, she must have sent out a call for help because her boys arrived not long after she’d come back to herself. Relief and terror mingled in their eyes as they hurried to her side, but of all of them, gentle Kenny was the first to give voice to the third emotion gripping them.

A very awed, very impressed – “Damn!”

While they always knew Will and Marina would do anything to keep them safe, this proved to be the first time they actually saw an important similarity between the two members of the family’s Power Couple. Both of them possessed a vicious, ruthless side – something capable of immense bloodshed and total devastation in order to complete a necessary task. They’d known about Will’s ‘Perfect Soldier’ side, but now they knew Marina could lose herself to the ‘Gadyuka’ when faced with those same circumstances.

Enemies of the Grimms could consider themselves lucky that only one side of the couple tended to lose it at a time – God help them if both of them cut loose.

Now, almost seventeen years later, Marina struggled to pull herself back from the edge of wrath. Peru might have been the first time she’d gone full rage blackout, but it hadn’t been the last – Latveria being the most recent incident. Peru’s legendary status aside, most of her family accepted the behavior when her Misfits were in danger. Accepted, hell – people expected the reaction!

Now, as the haze began to clear from her mind, she wanted to hide.

Rene, Samonik, and Dean had never seen that side of her; something she would have liked to maintain. She’d tried to remain calm – God knows she’d tried! But the sight of Carl Merrick advancing on her sons with a knife in hand snapped the frail threads of control she held over her temper. A vague image of Merrick’s death settled in her memory, though she recalled the recoil of the gun as she unloaded three bullets into his head better. What she said to him was anyone’s guess, but she figured it boiled down to some version of “Stay the fuck away from my kids!”

Holstering her weapon, she turned to seek out her sons and felt clarity hit her like a sledgehammer.

Samonik." His name came out in a whisper. For a brief instant, she wished she had taken the time to torture the hunter further. Maybe forced him to feel the same pain and terror he’d visited on her child.

Then he reached for her, a small whimper escaping him, and all that mattered was soothing his fear and pain. Dropping to her knees beside him, she enfolded his hand in one of hers while placing her other one over his forehead. The burn of fever against her palm alarmed her considering how little time he’d spent with Merrik. “He’s burning up,” she murmured, concern turning her tone sharp as she glanced at her elder son. “Dean, go find Vincent.”

Without hesitation, the older teenager bolted for the staircase, already shouting for the medic. Marina hummed in the back of her throat as she brushed her fingers through his hair. “You’re safe now, love,” she promised. “Close your eyes and you’ll be home soon.”

No doubt, not even a shadow of it, haunted her boy’s eyes as he offered a tremulous smile before giving himself up to unconsciousness with a murmured, “Love you, Mom.”

She bit down on her bottom lip as a sob tried to rip from her throat at the endearment. Her heart soared with happiness, but she could still feel the blood on her hands – metaphorical as it might be. Bending down, she pressed a tender kiss to his forehead. “I love you too, sweetheart.”

A tentative touch to her shoulder pulled her upwards, her dark eyes swimming with tears as she looked into the face of another of her Misfits. Vincent gave her a reassuring smile as he moved to kneel on the other side of the fifteen year old. “How’s he doing?” he asked, his tone absent and the question rhetorical as he touched the younger man’s face with gentle fingertips.

His sharp frown at Samonik’s temperature confirmed the Russian’s own fears and she turned to look for the knife Merrick had been holding when he fell. Marina’s nose crinkled with distaste at the congealing blood coating the rust blade. “I’m worried about infection,” she informed him as she ripped a length of her shirt free to wrap around the handle.

“Any particular reason?” Vincent asked, rolling the limp body away from him to check Samonik for further injuries. “Other than the sheer filthiness of this place?”

“Merrick was holding this when I shot him,” she explained. Moving back to his side, she showed him the dagger. “The blood’s still tacky.” Her lips trembled as her eyes focused on her son. “He’s used it - and recently.”

“Shit.” Vincent pulled a plastic bag out of his kit and held it open for the blade. “We’ll get it tested for any contaminants once we get back to base.” Putting the evidence bag to the side, he gestured with his head for her to join him. She slid into place beside him, her arms reaching out to accept her boy’s weight so the medic could begin to remove Samonik’s filthy shirt.


Marina looked over her shoulder, struggling to pull up a reassuring smile. It didn’t work, but she needed her older son to focus on her. “Dean.”

“Yeah?” Haunted eyes locked on hers, eyes begging for her to assure him it would be alright.

Taking a deep breath, she managed to turn the corners of her lips up. Not much of a smile, she knew, but she could see a tiny sliver of the darkness fade from his expression. “Where are the others?”

He blinked, surprise at the question seeming to shake him loose from the spiral of negative thoughts. “Ah . . .” One hand came up to rub his forehead. “Joe’s getting the full kit from the jeep,” he replied. “Brian and Natasha are clearing the house.” Fear and fury clashed in his gaze for a moment before he shook his head. “Brian said something about making sure no other hunter would find anything that might lead them to Sam.”

“Good.” Marina cradled the gangly frame to her, smoothing through the hair at his nape as she tucked his head below her chin. Bednaya malen'kaya lyubov," she murmured against his temple. Careful to avoid any of the open wounds littered across his body, she held him and continued to hum, trying to reach him and remind him he was safe.

Time passed in a strange manner, both too fast and not fast enough, when someone you love lies bleeding in your arms. Every heartbeat becomes both blessing and curse; the very muscle that keep them alive pumps blood the injured party couldn't afford to lose. The seconds ticked by with help seeming to take an eternity to arrive...and yet its arrival startled with the abruptness of its appearance. Case in point? Marina strained her ears, desperate to hear their backup coming, but she still fought off the jerk of surprise when it materialized.

Joe bolted down the stairs, Vincent’s gear in hand. He bit off a curse before jumping down the last few steps and striding over to the small knot of people. “What do you need?”

Vincent looked up from a gash in Samonik’s thigh. “You’re field trained, right?” he demanded.

“I’m not as practiced as your best friend, Doc, but yeah, I can manage,” Joe agreed, already stripping off his shirt and rolling up his henley.

“Good.” The medic pulled a bottle of alcohol out of his kit and tossed it to the younger agent. “Douse your hands and let’s get to work.”

“You got it.” Joe cleansed his hands and forearms as Vincent turned to face Marina. A glint of gold glimmered in his eyes, highlighting the wrath buried beneath his calm surface. “Marishka, can you hold him?”

“What?” She blinked at the question. “I am holding him.”

“No, Marina.” Her Roslyy looked distant and detached from the job - the picture of a focused physician - as he rested one hand on her knee. “Can you hold him?” He paused, his gaze becoming stern. “We’re going to hurt him.”

Horror shot through her and her hold tightened, earning a soft moan from her boy at the action. The choked sound behind her reminded the loving mother that she had two sons needing reassurance. Loosening her arms, she smoothed her fingertips over the back of Samonik’s neck to soothe him further into unconsciousness once more. “Explain,” she ordered, knowing Dean needed answers...even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear them.

“We’re going to have to handle Sam the same way we did Grant after Latveria,” Vincent explained. He grimaced a little as he looked down at his patient, fondness breaking through his professional facade. “Trying to patch him up enough to move him is going to hurt him. When that happens, he’s going to move, unconscious or not.”

Dean bit back a curse as Marina’s breath huffed out in an almost silent sob.

“So I have to know.” Sympathy might have filled Vincent’s eyes as he locked them back on hers, but his voice held an implacable will. “Can you hold him? Or do we need to get Brian to help me?”

On a logical level, the Russian - spy, handler, fighter - understood the mechanics of what he asked. Any work they did to stabilize Samonik would cause him pain. Unconsciousness didn’t guarantee the absence of pain - something she’d known since her first boys were still small, but which her recent tending of Prizak drove home yet again. The victim might not remember the pain once they woke up, but they still felt it in the moment.

But on a maternal level? No way in hell would she let anyone else hold her son when he needed her so desperately.

“Dean.” Clutching her baby a little closer to her shoulder, she looked around to his brother. “Shchenok, honey, I need you to go find Brian and Natasha and help them get the house ready to burn, okay?”


“Trust me, baby, we’re going to help Samonik.” Marina cut off his protest. “But I need you to do this. Bri and Tasha have never salted and burned anything before, and we can’t leave this house to cause anyone else pain.” Her eyes flashed. “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Merrick’s ghost become an issue.”

“I -” he attempted to protest, cut off as Marina continued insistently, “You’re the senior hunter right now, sweetheart. They need your help.”

Dean’s jaw tightened for a moment. “Okay.”

“I’ll take care of him for you.” Her voice, soft as it was, seemed to echo in the room. “I promise.”

“I trust you, Marishka Mama.”

“Thank you, love. Now, go.” Dean cast one more look at his baby brother before rushing up the stairs and out of her sight. Once he was gone, she shifted her hold to anchor the teenager to her. He began to try and shift, little sounds of discomfort escaping him, and she kissed his forehead. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” Her eyes lifted to meet Vincent’s waiting gaze. “I can hold him.”

"All right," he agreed, willing to take her at her word. Reaching for the bottle of alcohol and a wad of gauze, he took a deep breath in and held it. Then he dumped the liquid into the cotton and announced, "Let's get to work."

Chapter Text

Chapter 290: City of Blood

In his childhood, Specialist Vincent Ryan Keller, MD, had never realized he was misnamed. He didn't realize it in college, or during medical school. It wasn't even a realization he'd come to himself - it was something he'd been informed of by a unit mate following his enlistment.

The medic had been witness to more than his fair share of death and bloodshed. He had been a firefighter until his two older brothers kicked his ass all the way to medical school. After that he'd specialized in trauma care with an emphasis on emergency surgery.

He was a resident at Manhattan Bellevue, working an ER shift, when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. Horrors unspeakable happened that day, and he'd been elbows deep in some of the worst of it. Vincent lost both of his brothers to the Towers. His sisters-in-law lost their husbands, his niece and nephews lost their fathers. All of them had lost what little innocence they'd still had, suddenly and inescapably aware of their own mortality and the rupture of their previously accepted American invulnerability.

As soon as the dust settled on the Towers, Vincent had gone to enlist . . . to do something to avenge his brothers, the Towers and the dead he'd been unable to save. The decision put him on a collision course with Muirfield and their project, leading to still more deaths he could do nothing to prevent. It seemed that everyone he knew died, and the most common denominator in all of those instances . . . was him.

The slaughter of his unit had left Vincent alone once more, and his time on the run was haunted by the dying words of a friend. The soldier had held the man in his arms, hoping to save him but unable to do anything. Just before he died, though, he gave Vincent another name, gasped out in his accented English - a name which would haunt Vincent all the years he was on the run from Muirfield, his past and his mistakes.

Kalaraja, the Lord of Death. Ruling over a kingdom of blood spilled in his wake.

All throughout those years he'd been alone, he forced himself to defy the moniker. Even when he should have been keeping his head down, he did what he could to help as many as he could. Now, under the employ and protection of S.H.I.E.L.D., he had still more opportunities to renounce its hold over him.

And yet, no matter what he tried, he always seemed to find himself back here. Hands covered in blood as he worked to save the injured. Only now, more often than not, his patients were also those whom he loved. Or those who meant the world to people that meant the world to him.

Case in point, Sam Winchester. His older daughter's de facto boyfriend. And Marina Petrovka's dearly loved foster son.

The poor kid had been sliced and diced by a psychotic piece of shit with a rusty knife. His wounds, especially the large one in his thigh and the pentagram carved over his breastbone, were already displaying the signs of sepsis. And even with the vaccine the medic had administered, it would be a miracle if Sam didn't succumb to lockjaw or some other tetanus related infection.

Rummaging through his bag, Vincent considered his options and grimaced when he laid hands on an unopened bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide applied directly to the wounds was a grisly option, and more painful than Vincent felt entirely comfortable with. However, they were frankly out of good options. The wounds needed cleaned - in the case of the thigh, it would possibly need to be debrided to clear away the dead and dying tissue, as soon as possible. To wait could mean Samonik might lose his leg, if not his life.

Yanking on a pair of gloves, cussing under his breath all the while, Vincent gripped the knee and rotated the leg to allow for the excess liquid to run off. Then, he doused the wound with the cleanser directly to the site.

Sam's shriek probably woke the dead, his weak frame struggling against the implacable grip Vincent had on his leg. When he couldn't escape the pain, his fingers scrambled for purchase in the neck of Marina's shirt and pulled, seeking sanctuary as he keened. The Russian herself had tears in her eyes, but she pulled him as close to her as she could, her voice tremulous but sure as she murmured against his forehead. "Hush now, love," she soothed, fingers grounding on the base of his neck. "I know it hurts, sweetheart, but it's helping, I promise. Regko, moy mal'chik, regko. You're all right, love . . . it's all right."

"Mom," he whimpered, earning a startled look from Vincent. He'd never heard the teen address her that way, though from the tortured look on Marina's face, she had and only recently. The kid's eyes were wide and unseeing, as he lay listless and almost fragile in his foster mother's arms, clutching her t-shirt for comfort like a child much younger than he was. "It hurts, Mom."

"I know sweetheart," she soothed, ducking her face over him.

Vincent had seen Sam's behavior from others before, too many times to count on the faces of friends, unit mates and colleagues. The teen wasn't truly conscious in the traditional sense, reacting only to the physical sensation of pain though not mentally aware of it. It was a handy coping mechanism and - thank God for small favors - Sam wouldn't remember any of this once he woke for real.

Turning his attention to the gash in the teenager's thigh once more, he frowned to see an ugly black clot clinging stubbornly to the very deepest recesses of the slice. Dousing the wound again, he flinched to hear Sam's keening scream once more, as the boy tried to arch away. "Mom, please!" the teenager sobbed, "It hurts!"

"I know," she promised accepting his full weight against her as he buried his face in her neck once more with a body-shuddering sob. "Hold on to me, honey; tight as you want. No one is going to say a damned thing - you scream as long and as loud as you need to."

"It hurts," he whimpered, slumping against her, weak and exhausted.

"I know. Believe me, baby, I know. Just hold on - this will all be over soon," she vowed, hooking his head under her chin as she turned a stern eye on her Misfit. "Roslyy, at this point? Quicker is better, da?"

"I'm trying not to hurt him too much, Marina."

"Either way, it's going to hurt him. You told me that - so hurt him quickly and be done with it," the woman ordered, tears glittering in the corners of her eyes.

Vincent nodded, watching as the teenager drifted into semi-consciousness once again. After a moment, he cussed and turned to Joe. "I'm going to have to cut out that clot, before it becomes an abscess or blood poisoning. You're going to have to hold his leg still."

Marina made a wounded sound in the back of her throat at the declaration. As for the younger Hardy, he grimaced in pained understanding. "Aw hell . . . poor kid."

Grasping the ankle, Joe used his grip to straighten out the leg then pinned it down at knee and hip. Trapping the other leg with his own, Joe grunted, "I've got him. Whatever you need to do, I’m good to go."

Vincent pulled a scalpel from his bag and tore into the sterile packaging, bringing it down to the leg. Looking at Marina, he watched her tighten her hold on Sam, before nodding sharply in an unspoken "go ahead". He took a deep breath in through his nose, then announced, "All right, here we go," before lowering the scalpel to the thigh.

If anything, Sam's scream this time was enough to shake the rafters. The sound of it reverberated through the small room as the clot came free with a sickly sounding squelch. Determined to clear out as much of it as possible, Vincent cut further, looking for clear, oxygenated blood. Once it started flowing, Vincent tossed the scalpel into the red hazard tote and rushed to bind the wound and stop the flow of the very bleeding he'd wanted only seconds before.

Such was the way of medicine. Sometimes the treatment you needed to start with, produced a outcome you didn't by the end. Healthy blood flow from the wound would help to carry a good percentage of the filth and bacteria from the wound, but the kid didn't have a lot of blood to lose. It was a gamble to hope that the benefits of the treatment would negate the risks. The human body was a truly wondrous work of art . . . when it behave the way Vincent wanted it to.

And sometimes - more than sometimes - it refused.

Sam had been limp in Marina's arms for nearly ten minutes before VIncent had sufficiently packed and bound the leg to his satisfaction. Looking up from the leg, Vincent laid his hands on each side of the kid's neck and frowned. "He's still too warm. Once we get him on the plane, we're going to need to get some cool towels to try to bring that down, ASAP."

"Copy that," she agreed, smoothing her fingers through Sam's hair as the boy settled completely into unconsciousness. "How are we going to move him?"

"I'll carry him," Vincent insisted, "Joe can clear out a space for him in the back of the Jeep . . . and you can go get Dean."

Marina's mouth twisted in concern at the statement, earning a warm affection deep in Vincent's gut. "I'm surprised that child of mine hasn't come bolting down those steps like a bat out of hell."

"Either Scary Boss has him hogtied," Joe interrupted, as he fished out a gauze pad, "or they've plugged his ears with dirt."

She rolled her eyes as she conceded, "Entirely likely." She watched critically as the two taped the pad over the pentagram Merrick had carved into her child's chest.

"Or they've done both," Vincent agreed, repacking his bag and setting it aside. "All right, let's get him in the Jeep. Joe, salt Merrick's body and don't spare the lighter fluid. I wanna watch this place burn."

Marina's only response was a vicious growl, those usually bright eyes dark with hatred and fury as she glared over at the body still bleeding onto the concrete floor. "I'm going to enjoy watching this hell hole burn."

"I think we all are, Scary Boss Lady," Joe agreed, reaching out to clasp both of the kid's ankles and hold them still. "All right, I've got his legs."

"Keep that leg as still as you can. I don't want to risk it bleeding any more than it has to," Vincent ordered, tone brusque and sharp. His arms eased under shoulders and knees, before he looked up into Marina's face. "Can you grab my bag?"

"Yeah, of course," she agreed, smoothing back sweat slicked strands of hair for one final kiss to Sam's forehead before she relinquished him into Vincent's arms.

The medic smiled at her tightly, before standing and lifting the teenager free of her embrace. Fortunately, Sam seemed to be well and truly out now, only a soft keen slipping free as Vincent cradled him close. Behind them, Joe emptied an entire can of salt over Merrick's body and then another of lighter fluid. Marina scooped up the first aid kit, slinging it across her chest and clutching the strap in tightly clenched fingers going white at the knuckles.

Tossing the cans into the corner, Joe rifled in his pockets then came out with a box of matches not unlike you'd find at a bar. "So, should we wait for Dean?"

"No, just do it. This is one sin my son will not carry," Marina argued, glaring at the body once more. "Light him up and let's go. Samonik needs a hospital, and the only one I trust to care for him is S.H.I.E.L.D. Medical."

Joe grinned at her, a lopsided charming grin that Vincent was certain had melted more than one girl's heart in the past, before nodding towards the stairwell. "Better get going then. With all the lighter fluid, this place is gonna go up like tinder in a second."

One slim hand reached up to touch her comm as she spoke, "Skopa? Are you clear?"

It took a second, before Brian’s voice came through the comm, clear and cheerful, sounding completely unlike himself and instantly triggering Vincent’s more suspicious nature. "We're good. We've got Merrick's things; his research, weapons, spell books, what have you. Anything related to Samonik specifically is already ash in a trash can. You good down there?"

"For the most part," she agreed, eyes narrowing as she considered the tone her boy was using – based on the look on her face, she was feeling just as suspicious as Vincent himself and probably for better reason. "Smut'yan?"

"Yes Marishka?" he replied, still using his most innocent tone.

Vincent chuckled under his breath. If there was one thing you could always count on when it came to Brian Grimm, it was his tendency to yank his sister's tail. And the family's Osprey was definitely poking at the Viper, though his reasons for doing so more than likely centered on another Winchester teenager the undercover agent was particularly fond of.

Marina's eyes narrowed at the sound, giving her Misfit a narrowed eyed look, as she demanded of the other, "What did you do with my son, Bri?"

"He's fine, Marishka. Currently, he's running laps."

"LAPS!?" she echoed, surprised by the statement.

"Apparently that's what you do in ROTC, when you've disobeyed a direct order," Natasha replied with a soft laugh.

Marina sighed, "Oh dear. Which order did he disobey?"

"It's not important, Marishka, honestly. It's taken care of, and you'll only embarrass the kid if you bring it up again," Brian insisted, with a gentle amusement to his tone. "As I said, we're all ready to go up here. What about you guys?"

"We're ready."

"Then let's burn this sucker."

Chapter Text

Chapter 291: Unconventional Consequences

Natalya Alianovna Romanova understood grief . . . loss . . . fear. People wouldn't believe it of her, the legendary assassin known as the Black Widow, but most forgot the call sign itself was not a person. There was a history behind the given moniker, complete with love, trauma, joy and pain.

So when Samonik screamed the first time, the redhead was instantly on high alert. She didn't know the older Winchester as well as her lover did. However she did know her sister and the Colonel well enough to know they had probably expected this kind of pain in the younger of the brothers.

Still the Widow's heart hurt to see Dean bolt across the lawn towards her, as a second scream ripped through the air. "Sammy!" he bellowed, storming up the stairs like a bull in a china hutch.

Only her quick side step into his path prevented him from gaining entry into the house. Her sudden appearance in front of him, jolted him off course and he backpedalled hard, trying not to run her over. As a result, he flailed backwards and landed on his backside, sprawled across the porch at her feet. One elegant eyebrow rose as the two stared at each other, the air around them heavy with fear and pain.

After a moment, Natasha folded her arms over her chest as she inquired rhetorically, "And where do you think you're going, mal'chik?"

Dean's jaw tightened hard, as his inherent stubbornness rose like an angry black cloud. The Russian resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the expression - she'd seen its mirror more than once on her own partner's face. Some part of her had always known Brian and his protege were more alike than most gave them credit for. As far as she was concerned, the last thing she needed was for them to share facial expressions proving it. Her head barely turned as she called the only reliable reinforcements she could bring to her aid. "Bri! I could use your help out here!"

For once, the second eldest Grimm didn't question the request, leading her to believe he too had been expecting this reaction from Dean sooner or later. The Widow turned back to Dean, only moments before he made a move to dodge past her. "Nuh-uh, mal'chik," she scolded, shifting deftly into his path. "I don't think so, boyo."

"Sammy's screaming," he argued, just as Brian filled what little space Natasha didn't cover in the doorway. If anything, his mentor's appearance only made the teenager that much more stubborn. "I need to be down there! He needs me!"

Brian's head was already shaking before Dean had even finished speaking. His tone was even and mild as he replied, "Samonik has exactly the people he needs with him, right now. You will only be in the way, kid."

"Brian!" Dean protested in horrified betrayal. Clearly he'd been expecting the older man to be on his side in the argument. Brian's head shook again, leaving Dean's jaw tightening hard in resolute determination.

The crazy thing was, if it had been anyone else in that cellar room with the younger Winchester, Brian would have been on Dean's side. He had three little brothers of his own, and while his relationship with them had been tumultuous in their childhood (by his own admission), he was fiercely devoted to their safety now. But it was Marina with Samonik - and there was no entity in this world Brian Grimm trusted more than the woman who had raised him.

"No, De," the agent insisted. "You're not first aid trained to the same level as Joe. And Vincent is a trauma doctor specifically trained for this - he's the best chance your brother has right now."

"Then why does Marina get to stay?" Dean threw out savagely, before his eyes flew open wide in horror. "I didn't . . . that wasn't . . . I'm sorry, I . . ."

Natasha had never seen the look on Brian's face before - a mix of disappointment, understanding and guilt. His tone was gruff with those emotions as he rumbled, "I get you have a hard time trusting this - I understand it more than I can say. But I don't know how to get the facts of your new world through your head, Dean. She loves you . . . you and your brother, and she would do anything for either of you." A deep breath through his nose was his only pause, before he spoke again. "Furthermore, she's the only mother your brother has ever known."

Dean floundered at the reminder, blushing hard at having to be reminded at all. This allowed Brian to press on with his argument. "I can tell you from personal experience, Dean. It doesn't matter how old you get - when you're a young man, and you're hurt or sick, the ONLY thing you want? Is your mom. Especially when you have a mom like Marina." He snorted in quiet amusement as he continued, "Clint is in his thirties, with a boyfriend AND a girlfriend. And when he gets one of his ear infections, Marina's still the one he goes whining to. Because she's his mom, and he trusts her to make it better."

Bracing his hands on Dean's shoulders, he forced the kid to meet his eyes. "Samonik deserves that . . . to have his mom there, whether you like it or not."

Natasha watched these two face off, suddenly struck by more than the obvious similarities between them. They looked very alike in this moment - dark, close cropped blond hair and strong, stubborn jaws. A muscle jumped in quiet frustration, almost hidden by the scruff on Brian's face, while a vein pulsed angrily at the teenager's temple. Surprisingly, neither of them looked angry with the other, only resigned to the truth in the other's argument and very, very stubborn.

She leaned one shoulder against the doorframe, curious in spite of herself. She knew Brian - knew how much these two men meant to each other, to her sister, to the Colonel . . . how much this family meant to her in its entirety. Not for the first time, she wondered how she had come to be here, in this moment with these people she had come to love so fiercely. The Chernaya Vdova she'd been at 19 - hell, the Black Widow she'd been at 40 - would never have imagined a life like this one.

Frankly, would have turned herself in in a heartbeat if she had even dared to try.

Natalya Romanova had once been a legend within the walls of the Kremlin. A triumph for her trainers at the Krasnaya Komnata and its hellacious Akademiya. Her call sign had garnered both fear and respect as she'd walked those storied halls. The assassin was equally admired for her loyalty to her country and revered for her ruthlessness on the job. Both traits had been drilled into her from childhood, as natural to her as breathing and equally as inescapable.

At the age of sixteen - and flush with pride over her first solo assignment - the girl she have been could never have imagined herself here.

Some part of her snickered as she watched Dean draw himself up to full height, fully prepared to leverage the inch and a half he had over Brian in pursuit of whatever new argument he was coming up with in his head. She'd seen that exact look on Brian's face, when he was getting ready to read a rookie the riot act . . . or go head to head with his older brother. If anything, it was probably a good thing only one of these two was crazy.

Sobering at a soft whimper floating upwards from the cellar behind her, she felt pain stab deep as Dean sunk back into himself. His face spasmed with barely concealed pain, only barely masked by an underlying and all-consuming rage.

It was a good thing Carl Merrick was already dead. She had a suspicion Dean would have come up with something creatively bloody and excessively painful if he wasn’t.

Natasha reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, trying with all her might to erase the murderous look from his face. "I know it's hard and it sucks. But Dean . . . you can't go down there."

Of course, it was then Samonik screamed once more. There was desolate agony in this one - whatever was happening downstairs, it was causing the younger teenager a considerable amount of distress. As soon as it faded away, it resumed, the sound piercing and horrific to hear.

There was a sobering amount of concern in Brian's face as the couple locked eyes for a moment, before they both turned to look at the elder Winchester. Dean was staring at the wide open cellar door with his heart in his eyes and a visible lump in his throat. After a moment, his face closed in a startling reenactment of the Colonel's. He looked Brian square in the face and announced, "Fuck you."

Natasha wasn't sure why she was surprised when his hands flashed out and shoved Brian hard, but she would be hard pressed to argue otherwise. Fortunately, Brian seemed to have anticipated the action and grabbed the kid by the collar only seconds before Dean pushed. As a result, he was able to swing Dean around and off the porch, sending him sprawling into the dirt.

Twirling on his heel, Brian stormed to the door and slammed it shut, muffling the continued sound of screams. Natasha heaved a small sound of relief - the poor kid.

Brian's shoulders lifted then sank as he took a deep breath, trying to soothe his temper, before he stormed down the stairs. The undercover specialist bent to grab Dean by the collar and haul him to his feet. Dean's eyes were huge as Brian shook him once by the lapels, his face hard and angry. "I get you’re upset, kid, but let's get one thing straight. I am your superior officer on this assignment," he barked, his eyes narrowed and cold. "I give you an order? You don't get to run off and do your own thing. This isn't a hunt with your waste of space father - this is a real mission, the events of which have to be meticulously documented and cross-examined and validated."

Dean’s eyes were huge as he stared up at Brian. The agent’s tone gentled despite the stern set of his features as he insisted, “Do you understand, kid?

The response was instant, “Yes sir.”

“Good,” he grunted, pushing Dean back a step.

Natasha spoke up then. “What would your ROTC CO have you be doing right now?”

Dean’s grimace was obvious as he replied sullenly, “Running laps.”

“Then I guess you know what you’re doing now, don’t you?” Brian questioned, one eyebrow cocked upwards as he glowered at the younger man.

The kid groaned wretchedly at the thought, even as he was nodding in miserable agreement. “Yes sir."

“Better get started then - I want six laps completed before we have to leave, or you’re going to be doing twenty once we get home,” the undercovered asset demanded, arms folding over his chest as he glowered.

Dean blanched at the threat, before rotating on his heel and bolting away. Natasha waited until he was out of earshot then snickered. Her lover twisted to look back at her, eyes narrowing at her visible amusement. “Enjoying this, are you?”

“Hell yes - the similarities between you two never fail to amuse me,” she agreed with a sly grin. “Let me guess; you feel bad for yelling at him.”

“No,” was the immediate protest, his frown deepening as he attempted to look even more ferocious than he already did.

Unfortunately for Brian, they both knew she could see through him as easily as if he was made of glass. “Horsehit,” she snarked with a wicked grin, before taunting him lightly, “I promise not to tell.”

He made a face at her, earning a swell of fondness within her at the expression. Grunting at her lack of shame, he grumbled for a moment before asking, “Think he’ll learn? Or will we be doing this song and dance again?”

“He did learn, Bri,” she promised, remembering the look on the teenager’s face when the second eldest Grimm had barked at him. After a moment, she smirked as her lover’s actions coalesced more firmly into her memory. His eyes narrowed her suspiciously as she laughed, then teased, “I promise not to tell the Colonel you channeled his murderface.”

Brian groaned, eyes squeezing shut in silent confirmation of the accusation. “I was hoping you hadn’t noticed.”

“Fat chance,” she replied, moving to wrap her arms around his waist. “Dean heard you, Brian; he’ll remember the rules of the family from now on. With any luck, we won’t have these ‘head first plunges into danger’ anymore.”

“One can only hope,” he grunted angrily. “Family or not, we all have to toe the line where there’s a line to toe. Even Will and Marina answer to someone. If we all just . . . rush off half-cocked . . .

Natasha’s tone was amused as she joked, “Rushing off half-cocked. Now who does that sound like?”

“Hardy har har,” he snarked with a roll of his eyes. “You’re not as cute as you think you are.”

“Like hell I’m not,” she snapped back with a wide grin, earning yet another grunt from the undercover agent.

He chuckled, the sound forced and uncomfortable as he tried to let her distract him. “Okay . . . maybe a little cute.” His grin turned lecherous as he continued, “I mean, I don’t think ‘cute’ when you’re sprawled across my sheets, but eh.”

She rolled her eyes at him, scolding playfully, “Lech.”

He grinned, the gesture a rictus of his usually carefree smirk. “You love it.”

“Occasionally,” she replied loftily, “when you mean it.”

“Slander and calumny!” he protested, arms hauling her back into him before she was able to strut too far away. Bending to nibble against her earlobe, he assured her in a husky tone, “I always mean it.”

The scruff of his goatee tickled against her neck, combining with the continued screams muffled by the doors to send shivers down her spine. Turning her head into his throat, she allowed herself to take comfort in his presence. “Bozhe moi, what are they doing to him?”

Brian’s chin shifted against her temple, fingers smoothing through her curls. Considering the tension in his arms and shoulders, he was just as concerned as she was. “What they have to,” he replied soberly. “Who knows what the bastard did to him - I’d prefer they have to hurt him now when he may not remember as opposed to later when he will.”

Bednyy rebenok,” she breathed as one of the screams suddenly hiked an octave, before dying away completely. It was silent for a long moment, causing the two to look at each other with growing concern. “What do you think happened?”

Brian shook his head, equally as worried as she was. “Maybe he finally passed out,” he guess, before there was an audible clicking sound from their comms and Marina’s voice - tired and thin - spoke, “Skopa? Are you clear?”

He grit his teeth at the question, his anger with Dean smoldering a little as he watched the teenager finish his first revolution around the house. Natasha snickered a little, earning a smirk in her direction as he adopted his most innocent tone and replied cheerfully, “We’re good.”

Flinching away from Natasha’s pointed poke into his ribs, he glared at her for a moment before continuing his recounting. “We’ve got Merrick’s things; his research, weapons, spell books, what have you. Anything related to Samonik specifically is already ash in a trash can. You good down there?”

“For the most part,” Natasha’s youngest sister agreed, tone suspicious and earning an amused grin from the redhead as Brian cussed under his breath. “Smut’yan?”

“Yes Marishka?” he asked innocently, sticking his tongue out at Natasha even as he evaded her second poke.

Poking the Viper is a bad idea, she mouthed with a cocked eyebrow, earning a shrug and a hand wave from her lover in reply.

“What did you do with my son, Bri?” the younger Russian demanded, clearly onto Brian’s act and unwilling to stretch the play any further than she needed to.

Brian’s eyes rolled as Natasha silently gloated beside him. “He’s fine Marishka. Currently, he’s running laps.”

“LAPS!?” was the incredulous echo, her tone alarmed at the explanation.

“Apparently that’s what you do in ROTC when you disobey a direct order,” Natasha replied with a soft laugh. She suspected there would always be a part of her amused by the similarities between these two men, but she was even more sure this instance in particular would always stick out as the most obvious.

Marina’s sighs was pained and understanding as she replied, "Oh dear. Which order did he disobey?”

You would never be able to claim Brian didn’t love his sister. His features gentled with affection as he insisted honestly, "It's not important, Marishka, honestly. It's taken care of, and you'll only embarrass the kid if you bring it up again. As I said, we're all ready to go up here. What about you guys?"

Exhaustion clung to her tone as she confirmed, "We're ready.”

"Then let's burn this sucker,” he agreed, a manic smile growing on his face.

Chapter Text

Chapter 292: The Wait

Will Grimm was more than a little irritated with himself.

He had wanted to deal Hadley the previous evening, however his emotions had been all over the map and he hadn't felt comfortable with this idea. As a result, he'd spent most of the evening with his brother, the two men sparring until they both had literally dropped to the mat with exhaustion. By the time, they finally dragged themselves off the mats and into the shower, both knew Hadley was long gone from her desk, giving Doyle a chance to bully the younger brother into an actual shower, a decent meal and then into bed with actually very little arguing.

Will could see how much it meant to Doyle to be able to help in some way, no matter how small. Hence, the lack of argument.

Because of course, Will couldn't actually sleep. He tossed and turned for an hour, before going to check on the children he still could. In Rene's room, the teenager was curled up in the middle of a Wesen dogpile, sleeping fitfully and with a fierce frown on his face even in unconsciousness.

Both girls were curled up at his sides like tadpoles, clearly needing the closeness as much - if not more - than he did. Samonik was Rene's brother, but he was the girls' Pack; a state of attachment that Will was still trying to work his head around, but seemed to be as intensely important to them as Will's younger brothers and sister were to him and Marina. Reluctant to disturb them - or possibly startle both Fuchsbau and Blutbad out of their slumber - he blew them each a silent kiss then retreated from the room on silent feet.

The twins had not been returned to the house yet as they would be staying with Vika and Coulson until Samonik was recovered and everyone was at least back on base. However, both Coulsons were well acquainted with the Colonel's personal brand of paranoia. He slipped into his office, turned on the little coffeemaker on the corner table and settled into his desk chair. His desktop hummed familiarly as it came to life, keys clicking as he logged into the server. It was then a floorboard creaked outside his office, Will's head coming up sharply and eyes narrowed at the crack in the door suspiciously, even as he reached for the pistol holstered to the bottom of his desk.

"Easy little brother . . . it's just me," came the easy drawl from Echo Team's tactical leader. "You know, I'm pretty sure I put you to bed."

Will chuckled ruefully, moving his hand from the weapon as he snarked in reply, "And I'm pretty sure, you went home."

There was a bark of amused laughter as Doyle leaned against the doorjamb with a cheeky grin. "Scar would have kicked my ass if I'd left you alone tonight." The two brothers watched each other for a moment, before the older of the two shook his head in fond amusement. "There a reason you're not in bed?"

"Checking on my kids that I can," the Colonel replied, pulling up the surveillance cameras Jason had placed in Yasha's nursery years ago. A small smile tugged at his mouth to see his twins and godson cuddling together on a mattress on the floor next to Yasha's crib, each of them sprawled without a care in the world.

Doyle nodded quietly, seeming to understand that desire without further explanation. "You heard from Marina yet?"

"No," was the simple response, a resigned twist to his lips as his acknowledged in the next breath, "I won't until she has a definitive prognosis on the mission . . . Samonik . . . all of it."

"When do you think she'll have that?"

"Tomorrow morning at the very latest."

"Good, cause I'm pretty sure you're going to come out of your skin if you have to wait any longer than that," Doyle joked, earning a small chuckle and a roll of his eyes from the younger brother. He watched as Will logged in to his S.H.I.E.L.D. desktop and pulled a stack of files from a locked door in his desk. "Wait - so you're just going to . . . work? Until that point?"

"Yeah," Will agreed with a sheepish smile and a small chuckle at the incredulous look on his brother's face. "You know, you'd think you would have heard by now about my terrible sleeping habits."

"Shockingly, I had assumed that most of the jokes were actually jokes," Doyle deadpanned with a roll of his eyes. "Wow, you really don't sleep when she's gone?"

"Depends on how long she's gone for. But in answer to your question; no, not often and definitely not without pharmaceutical assistance," the Colonel replied. "In fairness, she doesn't sleep easily without me either."

"Geez, Will - no wonder you're a rail," the tactical leader sighed.

"Well, there's lots of reasons for that actually," was the familiar deflection, earning Doyle's flat rejoinder, "Uh-huh. Whatever you say, little brother."

Will's features were set in clear amusement as he leaned forward on his elbows. "Really, Doyle; you don't have to stay and babysit me. Go home to your wife; get some sleep."

Doyle's head was already shaking before the words were even out of his brother's mouth. The tactical expert moved to the couch against the one wall and sprawled out on it, one arm flung up and over his eyes to block the sparse light coming from the desk. "Remember the part where Scar is gonna kill me, if I leave your traumatized ass alone tonight?"

"Traumatized!?" the man sputtered in scandalized horror. "Is that how people see me?"

"Hell no," Doyle scoffed, motionless except for his mouth. "Breathe in anyone's direction and they're going to run screaming in terror as though they've just seen a dragon. Those of us who know you, though . . ."

Here there was a meaningful pause and Will was forced to concede the point. He didn't talk about it with his brothers and barely with Marina - who knew everything anyway - but that didn't mean they didn't know at least the bare minimum of the details. "Fair point," he agreed with a reluctant chuckle, slumping back in his chair to watch the older man wiggle a little deeper into the couch. "So, you're just going to sleep on my couch, while I work?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," Doyle grunted.

"Was that a yes or a no?" was the closest Will could manage in the way of any argument. It would be nice to have some company, even if he didn't want to admit it.

"Shut up and go to work."

Will chuckled and reached for a file folder as he allowed the comment to pass by unremarked upon. He flipped the file open and the officer bent to the work, eyes flicking up to his brother then dropping down to the pages once more. "Good night, Doyle."

"Night, Will. Have fun, I guess."

"Loads," he snarked sarcastically, before letting the familiar work pull him under its influence.

Time moved quickly once he had something to occupy his worried brain. Fueled by obscene amounts of coffee and no little concern, the Colonel killed the night through a steady stream of reports and work. It was only his son's curious question of "Dad? Why is Uncle Doyle on the couch?" that brought him out of his files once more.

Will looked up at the question, smiling to see his youngest son already up and dressed in his school uniform with his rucksack packed and slung over one shoulder. "Hey kiddo; you're ready for school already?"

"Yeah, Dad, it's like 6:45," Rene replied with a small smile. Tilting his head back, he asked, "So, are we gonna get a ride? The girls are still here, and considering what happened to Sam . . . I didn’t think you’d want us to walk or take my bike."

"That would be an understatement. Your dad might have a coronary," Doyle grunted, shoving himself to his feet and stretching widely. "Geez - that thing is a medieval torture device at best and a deathtrap at worst."

"Most people don't sleep on it," Will teased, with a smirk. "I did tell you to go home."

Doyle grunted, earning a lazy shrug from his nephew as Rene insisted, "I've found Mama sleeping on it before, when Dad's on a work bender. She doesn't seem to have any problems on it."

The older brother braced his hands on his back and bent backwards to the accompaniments of audible cracks along his spinal column. "She's the only one who could possibly fit on the thing, so I'll believe it. Come on, kid. I'll take you to school. Your dad has to get ready for a meeting this morning."

Rene looked between the two with narrowed eyes, tone suspicious as he asked, "Everything okay?"

"It's work stuff, Rene, pretty routine bullshit," Will promised, as he pushed up from his son and accepted his son's fierce hug with open arms. "The meeting isn't anything to worry about.”

He nodded suspiciously, before frowning, “Have you heard anything about Sam? Has Mama called? Are they on their way home yet?”

“I don’t know, kiddo. I haven’t gotten any calls from your mother yet, but as soon as I hear from her, I'll send you a text to give you a heads up, okay? I promise.”

The teenager nodded with a small frown. "Are we going to have shadows?"

Will snorted hard, question clearly rhetorical as he questioned in reply, "What do you think?"

His son's grin grew wide and wicked, as he asked, "Are you gonna flunk the ones we catch?"

"More than likely," his father agreed with a small chuckle, amused to see Rene already starting to plot.

There was a moment as the teenager considered it, before asking, "The usual rules then?"

"Clothing, location, car and/or hair color; and they have to match at least three out of four. Deal?”

"Deal," Rene promised with a small grin. There was still concern in his eyes, but he was willing to let his father distract him with an old, familiar pastime. “And I’ll get all of Sam’s homework too.”

"Good," Will replied with a thin smile, “if I know Sam at all, it’s the first thing he’s going to worry about once he’s home.” Hauling his son in for another rough hug, Will took comfort in his closeness as he insisted firmly, "Keep your nose clean and watch out for the girls."

"Yes sir, I will," he agreed, before bolting from the office calling for the girls to tell them about their shadows.

Chuckling, both his father and his uncle left the office after him, Doyle following his brother to the master bedroom. Will disappeared into his closet to start getting ready for the day, while Doyle took up his usual place against the doorjamb. "Well it looks better in here."

"Yeah, Heather's amazing. We always call her crew, because they don't even blink at the weird stuff anymore," Will agreed, flipping through the hangers to find something he wouldn't shred anxiously. He finally settled on his tactical pants and a paid S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt, starting to strip out of his nightwear and into the new clothes.

"So, flunked?" was the curious question.

"It's a game the Foursome play. If they catch one of their tails, they get whatever treat they want. If they don't, a baby agent passes to the next stage of training," he explained, as he dug for his watch, wallet and other essentials.

"Considering Dacia's enhancements, isn't that kind of cheating?" he laughed, amused by the very idea. It was notable that he didn't sound disappointed in the game or unimpressed by its inception.

"Probably, but it'll keep the kids distracted too. So I'm calling it a win for the moment; the longer they spend trying to catch baby agents, the less time they're absorbed with worrying about Samonik."

"Sneaky," was the acknowledgement.

"Only if it works. And who knows with those three."

A small huff of laughter slipped free of Doyle, before he sobered again. "I would assume that Hadley would be at her desk within the hour, yeah? I'll be back by then. But should I meet you here or at S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

"I'll meet you at my desk. If I'm going to fire her, I want there to be no rumors or false speculation as to why."

"All right then. I'll be there," the tactical leader agreed. "And hey, call Marina, okay? Even if you only get her voicemail, the sound of her voice might help level you out."

Will blushed a little, relieved to still be out of view of his brother. "Are you taking mother henning lessons from Marina?" he joked, fingers nimble on the buckle of his belt before he bent to tie his shoes.

"Who do you think asked me to keep an eye on you?" was the laughing reply, before the master bedroom door closed behind him.

Rolling his eyes, Will conceded to having been played, even as he muttered, "Of course Marina was the one asking you to babysit. Scarlett my ass."

A moment later, the Colonel could hear his brother's voice bellow through house, "Load up, rugrats! The party train is leaving the station!"

A soft laugh slipped from the man, as he listened to the children scramble down the stairs in a veritable tumble of teenaged limbs and laughter. The sound of their footsteps receded completely, before at last he could hear the front door open then close with a bang.

He stepped from the closet as he fiddled with the latch on his watch. As he gathered everything into his pockets, he considered Doyle's suggestion.

Even the cheerful sound of his lover's voice over the voicemail would be a welcome relief from the constant concern. He was still debating the idea, even as he was reaching for the phone and pressing the speed dial to call her. With the phone tucked between his chin and shoulder, he entered the kitchen in search of some of Marina's homemade power bars for breakfast. He smiled as the line connected through, her ringback tone of TATU's "Dangerous and Moving" never failing to make him smile.

Abruptly, the song cut off and a warm voice replaced it, "Allo, Mishka."

She sounds tired and worn through, but there was relief in her voice too. Love for her, warried with his own relief to hear her voice and his concern for their son. Taking the phone in hand once more, he smiled softly and replied, "Allo, zhemchuzhina . . . how's our boy?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 293: Big Brother Trouble

It was official. These kids were terrifying.

That was the only thought Doyle was able to clearly process as he listened to all three teenagers in the backseat of his sedan plot and plan a truly devious level of mayhem. It was a good thing he'd already been graduated before his brother's kids became part of the training regime, because he would have flunked, HARD, in the face of their combined mischief making.

Also, he was pretty sure that he was going to be fending off at least one murder attempt from his gorgeous wife, if these three were any kind of preview of his own triplets as teens. Wincing at one of Dacia's ideas - the girl didn't need to sound so gleeful about it, geez! Way to be ruthless, Dacia - he amended that thought. Probably more than one murder plot.

He smiled a little as he listened, though. In addition to no little awe, there was genuine amusement at their dynamic. There was clearly a hole where the younger of Will and Marina's Sams should be, but they each seemed determined to ignore that hole and push forward.

Dacia and Inari were almost puckish in their excitement over the game, each idea more and more outlandish. They were both planning to utilize their Wesen abilities - carefully, at Rene's insistence - to try and catch the agents out. Fortunately, neither of them seemed all that keen on getting caught using them, leaving Doyle relieved not to have to say anything as a reminder.

As for his nephew, the youngest of his brother's sons was another kettle of fish altogether. It was clear, Rene had the same quiet authority with his friends that his father had with the family as a whole. He was willing to accept any suggestions put to him, as well as listened intently to each one offered. However any suggestion he vetoed was summarily abandoned and others offered in its place.

He was their leader - quietly and without demanding it, but still their leader.

To watch them, Doyle could see the lessons Rene had acquired from his father. There had been careful attention paid to the unconscious lessons Will offered during every family council or crisis. As a result, whether subconsciously or deliberately, Rene mimicked the behavior with his friends. They both respected him and followed him without question. From what Doyle had seen of Rene's relationship with Samonik, despite the Winchester teenager being the older, he tended to defer to the younger more often than not.

It amused him to see his brother so completely in his son, as well as his sister-in-law's fierce temperament. It hadn't been something he would have considered when they first met, but Marina was one of the most idealistic women Doyle had ever known. She had passed that idealism onto her child. Unless he missed his guess, Rene possessed her generosity of spirit and relentless enthusiasm in spades. And he was going to use it to either change the world or remake it entirely.

As Doyle guided the car through the city, he noticed that Rene's commentary on the game started to dwindle until it disappeared completely. He'd originally intended to just drop the kids at the door, but as the red-bricked front of Brooklyn Latin came into view, he took the entrance to the parking lot instead. Pulling into a spot, he twisted in his seat to look at the three. "Speaking as an agent, you may not want to overplay your hand, yeah?" he asked, eyes on Rene as he watched the kid stare out the window just past Dacia's head.

Rene's answering hum was absent, before he seemed to realize they were stationary. He blinked hard, then turned forward to face his uncle. He was silent for a moment, visibly trying to gather his thoughts, before he forced a smile. "Thanks for the ride, Uncle Doyle."

"You're welcome, kiddo," he agreed, features open and expectant as khaki green eyes locked on dark blue. "You seem to have something percolating in that brain of yours. You wanna let it out before it eats you alive?"

"How did you know?" he asked, with a rueful twist of his mouth, ears turning red with his blush.

"I recognize the look," was all Doyle would say. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to the teenager to know his father had the same exact look, and used it often. "Spit it out, Rene."

There was a long moment of silent, before Rene slumped back against the seatback. "Is Dad okay?"

Doyle reared back a bit, having not expected the question. "I think so. I don't see why he wouldn't be. You know something I don't?"

Rene rolled his eyes as he replied, "He looked tired."

"Your dad always looks tired," was the quick rejoinder.

"I just . . . are you going to be with him today?"

"Yeah, Owen and I both are," Doyle promised, suddenly understanding his nephew's roundabout way of thinking. "He's not going to be alone today. I promise - we won't let him ruminate in his own thoughts."

The two stared at each other for a long time and Doyle had to wonder what the kid was seeing in his face. Rene's ability to parse out bullshit was well ahead of his years, and there was little Doyle wanted more in this moment than to know his nephew trusted him to watch out for Will.

After a moment, Rene nodded once. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. Go on - you're going to be late if you hang out here much longer. And you won't get to start on your game."

Dacia gave the man a smile as she asked, "Are you going to be here to pick us up this afternoon?"

"If I'm not, someone wil be. Probably Frank, seeing as Joe is with Marina in Maine." He glanced at the clock as he shrugged, "We will simply have to see."

"Do you think they have Sam back yet?" was the timid question from Inari, red streaks just barely discernable against the usual black of her pinstraight hair. "Do you think he's okay?"

"If you want a pretty lie, Inari, I can't give you one," Doyle replied in lieu of an answer. "Will seemed pretty sure he'd be hearing from Marina today. As soon as he knows, Rene will know. And I"m betting a pretty penny on the fact that once Rene knows, you'll know."

Inari nodded in agreement. "Thank you, for being honest."

"I'm still trying to get the hang of this whole, 'uncle' and 'big brother' thing. But I can promise you, I will never lie to you unless it is a matter of national security or I have been specifically ordered to keep confidence. Agreed?”

“Got it,” she replied with a weak imitation of her usual smile. It was clear she was worried about Samonik - fair enough, they were all worried about the young man.

"All right then. Everybody out!" he ordered, with a grin and a broad wink.

As the kids tumbled out their doors, he called out the window after them. "And hey!"

They each turned back, curiosity in their eyes as they watched him. Rene's head cocked as he asked, "Uncle Doyle?"

There was fond amusement in that face as he insisted, "Be nice to the idiots, huh? They're young and you're not stupid."

Rene chuckled as the two Wesen teenagers grinned wickedly from behind him. "Yeah, we'll think about it anyway."

Rolling his eyes, he snarked in reply, "That's all I can ask . . . I guess."

"We promise to let them think they're winning," Inari agreed with a wicked smirk.

"Seeing as they don't know they're playing a game, I'm not entirely sure that's fair. But all right - I'll take it," he laughed. "Be good. Do well in school."

"Yes sir!" they each agreed, before traipsing together to the back doors of the school.

Putting the car into reverse, Doyle chuckled as the kids disappeared into the school. "I will never understand how Will isn't gray or balding yet," he muttered as he swung the car back towards base. If he booked it, he'd get to his brother's office just before Hadley was due to arrive for work.

His thoughts drifted away from the insanity of a New York City rush hour as he manuevered the car back to the base, distantly relieved to be going against the flow of chaos. As they so often did, those thoughts turned to the incredulity of his new life once more.

It never failed to amaze him that this was his life now. He'd been a loner for all intents and purposes throughout his life. At least, he had been until Director Fury called him to his office after the Georgia mission. That meeting had changed his entire world. The Colonels had given him back his Scar, as well as offered him a family and siblings. He'd suddenly become the big brother of SIX - seeing as Minna had only been a sparkle in an eye at that point. Not to mention, he gained a father who was actually proud of the place he'd earned with Delta Force. It was surreal, and yet it was definitely one of the best moments of his life.

Over the years since then, he'd played big brother to most of his younger brothers. He and Gus were still trying to feel each other out, but the younger Prototype seemed to be coming around to the idea that occasionally, Doyle was just going to call for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Slowly those calls had extended from a whirlwind sixty seconds, to a much more acceptable fifteen to thirty minutes now. It wasn't quite where Doyle wanted it to be yet, but they were getting there.

Clint and Aaron still reserved their awe for Will, but they were more than willing to let Doyle scold them when they'd done something crazy or asinine. Which considering the levels of mayhem those two could get up to together, actually happened a lot less than most people thought.

Brian was always up to spar with Doyle, and the two spent a lot of their time together trying to beat the shit out of each other. And occasionally, the second eldest of the Brothers Grimm would come to him, to vent about something he didn't think he could take to Will or Marina. It made Doyle smile to think that they had some kind of relationship with each other, no matter how unconventional. He had worried initially that Brian would be the hardest nut to crack, considering the rumors that flooded around S.H.I.E.L.D.

How wrong he had been. In point of fact, that honor went to one William Michael Grimm. If there was a picture depicting stubborn in the dictionary, it would surely have been Will's face. Though the eldest of the Grimms had welcomed, and accepted, Doyle with open arms, his heart - and his confidence - had been decidedly closed to him.

It was frustrating and infuriating and aggravating.

It was also heartbreaking.

He was pretty sure it had taken the younger brother getting stabbed before things began to change. While Will was still infuriatingly self-sufficient and utterly resistant to accepting help from almost anyone, he was also much more willing to accept Doyle's presence when Doyle forced it on him. The Colonel was painfully reluctant to talk about the past, or anything that could hint at weakness of any kind, but he was also willing to pester Doyle for assistance regarding personnel or tactical issues.

It wasn't perfect, but for now Doyle would take it. They could build on that. And if it took fifty years - which it was looking as though it might - Doyle could bide his time. Years as a tactical asset had taught him patience, and he had no problem using it against his brother. Will deserved it.

He handed over his identification to Maverick at the gate, idling quietly as the guard ran his credentials in his booth. For once, the guard didn't engage in random chatter, clearly seeing that Doyle's mind was far away. After a moment, Mav leaned against the car and grasped the asset's shoulder firmly. Doyle jolted and looked up at him with wide, startled eyes. Suddenly back in the present, he settled back into his seat and gave the man a thin smile. "What's up, Mav?"

"I heard about the Colonels' kid. They get him back yet?"

Doyle took a deep breath, silently cursing himself for not being ready for this question. This was a base - he'd been on enough throughout his career to know that nothing stayed secret on a base for long. The Grimms' origins as Cahills was a fluke not the norm. He forced a small smile and insisted, "Marina took a team to get him back yesterday evening. We haven't heard back yet, but we should by this morning."

"You let the Boss know, the wife and I are praying he's okay."

"I'll let him know, Mav. Thank you."

Maverick nodded once briskly, offering the ID and stepping back into the guard box again. Doyle nodded in reply then pulled into base. Once he was out of the man's line of sight, he shook his head in distant shock.

He'd forgotten that too. Terrifying or not, Will and Marina - and their crazy family - was well liked on base. People respected them, because they offered their own respect in return.

He'd seen the horror on Will's face the night before, when he'd let his tongue slip. The fear that his demons had caused his people to lose faith, to whisper behind his back. Only the truly stupid or foolhardy would dare, and only the very new ever did. Chuckling a little, he gunned the engine toward Command - he had a little brother to get to, and support to offer while he still had the opportunity.

He arrived at his brother's office just in time, as he could see Hadley coming up the aisleway only seconds before he let himself into Will's office. The Colonel's eyes flicked up from the stack of paperwork at his desk, before redirecting back to the file in front of him. "Kids get to school okay?"

"Yeah - and Rene's worried about you," Doyle agreed, taking up a place against the wall at his back. "She's here. I just saw her coming up the aisle."

Doyle watched his brother's shoulders rise, as he pulled an audible breath in through his nose. "You have good timing."

"Tell me about it," he agreed with a soft chuckle, eyes laser sharp on the back of Will's head. "You want me to call her in?"

Another deep breath preceded Will slouching backwards in his chair. He would have looked relaxed and almost lazy to anyone who didn't already know him; to Doyle, he looked tense and deliberate in his posture. He was trying to present a calm, cool and collected veneer, but the older brother could see right through him. When it came to his kids, Will Grimm was never calm, cool and collected. There was rage boiling under that surface, and it wouldn't take much for the volcano that was Will's temper to turn someone's career into a wasteland of devastation.

Man, Doyle was glad he was not Hadley.

Will's hand was trembling a little as he reached to trigger the intercom button, tone cold and implacable as he ordered, "Hadley! Get in here!"

The girl sounded startled as she replied immediately, "Of course sir."

Doyle grimaced a little at the address. It was no secret that Will hated being called "sir" by anyone - subordinate, grunt or otherwise. Doyle strongly suspected the aversion stemmed from the Hoover Base and everything that had happened there. Meaning Hadley should know better.

The girl was in her late twenties, hands clasped in front of her as she entered the Colonel's office meekly. "You called for me, sir?"

Doyle watched as the muscle at the join of Will's jaw jumped, aggravation clearly sketched in the action even as Will waved a hand toward the seat across from his desk. "Sit, Hadley."

"Yes, sir," she replied, obeying quickly. For a brief moment, the girl looked unsettled . . . almost fearful as she watched Will with wide, uncertain eyes. “Is everything okay, sir?”


If that cold word had been directed to him, Doyle would have begun planning his new career. Nothing good ever came from a tone like that in a superior officer’s voice. Will never even moved, the stillness more telling than any agitation. “Did you hear what happened yesterday?”

Her eyes widened a little more, flicking up to Doyle in silent question. He arched an eyebrow upwards in reaction, causing her to turn her attention back to her boss. She swallowed delicately and then nodded once, the gesture quiet and small. "Yes sir - your foster son was abducted from school."

“My son!”

Doyle had to repress the flinch at that sharp correction. For just a moment, his little brother lost control of his temper – and of course it came at the mere suggestion that Samonik might be anything other than Will’s son, adopted or not.

Before Hadley could make any reply, Will continued. “Do you remember taking a call from Rene yesterday?”

The girl looked alarmed now, eyes widening a small centimeter more as she stammered, "Yes sir, I . . ."

She should have left it at a simple reply. Not that it would have made any difference in the outcome of this meeting, but it might have made things a little easier. “You told him I couldn’t speak with him.”

As the already cool voice grew colder, Doyle shifted a step closer to Will. It sounded like his brother had the reins of his temper held under tight control, but the potential for him snapping seemed to be growing. “He was calling to tell me that his brother, my son had disappeared, without any explanation.” Fury flashed in those mercurial eyes of his, but his expression remained remote, as if carved from stone. “And you brushed him off . . . as though it meant nothing.”

She shifted a little in her chair, tone censorious as she protested, "Sir, you had a phone conference with the Secretary of Defense, as well as several high profile meetings here at S.H.I.E.L.D. - meetings that could not feasibly be missed! I did what I thought was appropriate; the police are there to locate kidnapped children. Abductions of civilian children – yours or otherwise - are not within the purview of this organization." After a moment, she frowned, tone stern as she insisted, "I was doing my job. Same as I have always done it."

Doyle spoke up, trying to head off the explosion at the pass. "Would it have made a difference to know, the person who abducted Sam is a fugitive from S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as on our most wanted list? And that the abductor in question once worked for S.W.O.R.D.? As such, the abduction is within the purview of this organization?"

Will's jaw tightened hard at the question even as Hadley reeled, utterly taken aback by the statement. The Colonel's tone was hard and cold as he insisted, "Whether it would have or not, this conversation is over. Your employment is terminated, Hadley, effective immediately. Pack your desk and get out. Seeing as you live off base, I'll have you escorted to the gates. Turn over your entry badge and all security equipment to the guards there."

"But sir!" she objected, sitting back as he growled, "My decision is final. Get out of my sight."

She stared at him in distant shock, clearly having never expected an outcome like this, before pushing herself up to her feet. "Yes sir. Shall I inform the Army or . . .?"

"I'll notify the Brass, you are in need of new employment," he conceded, tone still cold. "I'm sure there are any number of officers desperate to take you on. However, I have no further need of your services."

Her chin dipped in a brisk nod, her lips compressing for a second before she continued, "I understand, sir. Will there be anything else?"

"No, Hadley," he replied, eyes slipping closed as he took a deep breath through his nose. "Just get out . . . please."

"Yes sir," was all the girl said, slipping from the door and pulling it closed behind her.

Doyle looked down at his brother, one eyebrow cocking upwards. "Do you want me to escort her out?"

"No, I've already called for someone. They'll take her out, once she's done emptying her desk," Will replied, pulling open one of his desk drawers in search of a small bottle. Tossing back a couple of the migraine tablets, he slumped back in his chair with a heavy sigh. "She's a good attache - she's good at the Army side of the job. The S.H.I.E.L.D. side makes her panic, because the things we deal with here, can't seem to fit themselves into her worldview. She's just so painfully by the book, and unwilling to accept that anything outside the job is a worthwhile interruption."

"She married? Kids?"

"Married to the Army," Will agreed with a shake of his head. "I should have known this was going to happen. Vika's been doing the job of an assistant for all S.H.I.E.L.D. related activities for months now, while Hadley handled liaisoning to the Army." He sighed again, as he allowed, "It was never going to be a long term assignment for her, I'm afraid. I just wish it hadn't come to an end like this."

"Gonna write her a recommendation?"

"It's not her fault, that my childen are more important to me than the job she values above all else. It won't be glowing, but it will be honest about her credentials." His hand waved away the next question before Doyle could even ask it. "She'll be fine - I wasn't lying when I told her there would be people who would be more than happy to snatch her up."

"Sounds like you may have done her a favor, then?"

"Yeah and given Vika another reason to hate my guts," he agreed with a dry chuckle. "I just doubled her workload."

"Considering how much Vika loves to bury herself in administration work, I'm not sure she'll be very upset about it."

"No - you're probably right."

Doyle watched his brother for a moment, then asked, "You spoken to Marina yet?"

Will took a deep breath through his nose, then nodded. "Yes. They're waiting for the house to burn down, then they're on their way home. ETA is around noon."

The older brother was almost reluctant to ask, nervous to know whether or not the rescue team had arrived in time to save his nephew. "How's the kid?"

"It's bad," was the deadpan response. "High fever; severe lacerations in his thigh as well as a pentagram carved into the skin of his chest; he's battling one hell of an infection."


Will smiled with a soft huff. "But he's alive. And Vincent think he's going to be okay. And frankly, that's the best news I've had in months."

"Anything you need to finish here before they get back?"

"I could work."

Doyle smirked with a roll of his eyes. "Of course you could. That's not what I asked, but all right - I'll allow it." Moving to the couch against the wall, he joked, "Is this couch any more comfortable than the other?"

Will chuckled as he dragged a file folder towards him. "Marina liked to sleep on it, when she was pregnant."

"That's not an answer," Doyle scolded, before sprawling out on it anyway. "Well, I guess we'll find out. Do your work, little brother. I'm here if you need me."

Closing his eyes, he folded his hands over his chest and focused on falling asleep quickly. He'd just about managed it when his younger brother's voice broke the stillness of the room. "Doyle?"

"Yeah Will?"

"Thank you."

The tactical leader smiled as he snuggled a little further into the cushions. "That's what big brothers are here for, Will. Isn't that what you always say?"

Will snorted lightly, before a pen began to scratch over the pages in the file. Doyle's smirk softened into a smile before he settled back again and drifted to sleep. For the moment, his brother didn't need him. But when he did, Doyle would be here . . . right where he should be.

Chapter Text

Chapter 295: Homecoming

There was a small - fairly inconsequential - part of Marina that longed to find a secluded corner of the Quinjet and cry. The rest of her was intimately aware of the fact there would not be an opportunity to confront her own emotional turmoil for quite some time. If there even would be any time at all. Currently, she sat alone beside Samonik's bed on the 'jet, holding his hand as he spoke cheerfully to an animal only he could see. His eyes were bright with fever and he hadn't looked at her but for once, when he introduced her to his puppy, "Bones". Surprisingly, the introduction was the reason for her solitude. Dean had flinched at the name of the imaginary puppy, turning away from his raving brother and finding a seat on the opposite side of the 'jet. Marina had frowned at the action, and was still frowning now, as his separation from Sam was so far from what she'd expected it was hiking up a considerable amount of alarm within her.

The Russian had almost convinced herself to leave her son to his hallucination, when he suddenly panicked. "Bones! No!'

Marina blinked, surprised, before suddenly Dean was there, his hands in his brother's hair as he forced the kid to lie still. "It's okay, Sammy; it's all right. Bones is in a good home, remember? I promised."

Sam's eyebrows rushed together as he stared up at his brother, eyes unfocused and far away as he asked, "De?"

"Yeah, Sammy, it's me. I've got you," Dean soothed, fingers smoothing carefully through the tangled, bloody strands. "You're all right - Bones is in a good home, remember? I promised I'd make sure he was taken care of. You remember?"

There was such love and trust in the eyes of the younger brother as he nodded once. "I remember. He's okay, you promise?"

Dean glanced up as Vincent suddenly materialized on the other side of the bed, needle finding its way into the port in the back of Samonik's hand, sedative pushing slowly into his veins. "Yeah, I promise. Get some rest kid - it's been a long day yeah?"

"I'm tired," the 16 year old agreed, eyes fluttering as the sedative took effect.

"I know. Close your eyes. I've got the watch, okay?"

"Love you, De."

Dean swallowed hard at the drowsy statement, before he scolded as sternly as he could manage, "Hey - what have I told you about chick flick moments, huh?"

"Shut up, Jerk."

"Make me, Bitch," Dean laughed softly, watching as the youngest Winchester lost the battle with the drugs and drifted away into sleep.

Once Samonik was out, Marina folded her arms over her chest and glared at Dean. It was obvious the 20 year old was avoiding her gaze, fussing with his brother's blankets, and the chest strap that kept him immobilized to the gurney. Finally, her patience snapped as she all but barked, "Explain to me how your brother had a dog and I'm just now finding out about it!? Did you have to give him up before you came to us - we would never have forced Samonik to give him away?"

"No, Bones was long gone by that point. It was a stray mutt Sammy found on the streets, while he was in Flagstaff," Dean replied, moving back over to his seat and determined not to discuss it any further.

Unfortunately for Dean, Marina was not in the mood to be brushed off. Her baby boy was having nightmares about something she had no frame of reference for, and if she was going to help with those nightmares once Dean was gone, she needed to know where they came from. Hot chocolate eyes narrowed as she echoed, "He?"

Dean winced at the question. He looked up at her through the fringe of his blond hair, grimacing as he replied, "I'd hoped you hadn't noticed that."

"Fat chance," she scoffed. Moving to take the seat beside him, she laid her hand on his wrist and leaned over to be able to look into his downcast features, "Dean . . . talk to me."

Dean took a deep breath in through his nose and then straightened, green eyes piercing as they met her own brown. "When Sammy was thirteen, he ran away from home."

Marina froze, blinking hard in shock at the statement. After a moment, she spoke, "Oh damn."

"Yeah, something like that," he replied with a bitter twist of his mouth. "We were in Flagstaff at the time. One day he was there, and the next . . . he just didn't come home from school. Dad was on a hunt and it was my watch - Dad was pissed to put it mildly when we finally tracked down the kid. Neither of us were sitting comfortable for at least a week by the time Dad was done with us."

Marina bit down on the inside of her lip as she leaned back against the bulkhead. Each of the younger Grimms had gotten the smooth side of her hairbrush against their backsides as children, and even Rene had gotten a taste when he was 11 and stolen candy from the grocery store. It had been a rare occurrence, reserved for only the most severe infractions. Same with her partner's use of the strap; only under the most extreme circumstances. Kenny had never gotten into the kind of trouble to warrant its use, and while Jason and Clint had both received one taste apiece, it had been sufficient to prompt both into being model children from that point forward. Barney had really been the only one who fell prey to its bite more than once.

Considering the dread and bitterness in Dean's voice, however, she was betting that John had taken a hand or belt to his sons more often than rarely. In fact, it sounded common and arbitrary. No wonder Dean sometimes flinched when Marina lost her temper with one of her boys - he was expecting a beating.

She couldn't wait to get her hands around John Winchester's neck. She was going to wring the life from him, as though he was a rat or something equally vile. It seemed that the more she learned about the hunter, the less she liked . . . and the more likely it seemed that one day she was going to either punch him, shoot him or kill him.

Her finger clutched together in her lap as she took a deep breath to calm herself. The last thing she wanted was for an explosion of temper to send Dean scurrying like a bat from sunlight. After a moment, she turned to face him. "Why did he run away?"

"I don't know? He just . . . hunting was never the life he wanted. He's always wanted to be normal. The white picket fence, two parents and a steady home." He looked up at her with heartbroken eyes, as he confessed, "Everything he gets at home with you and Will, is the one thing he considered to be the wildest dream come true."

Marina's mouth compressed as she vowed, "We're not planning to give him up, Dean. It doesn't matter how old he is, or if we ever adopt him legally, he's always going to be our boy."

"I know," the ROTC cadet agreed with a small, sad smile. "If I ever had reason to doubt, this whole experience has cured me of it. It just . . . it shines an uncomfortable light on a few things that I have always considered failures."

Almost without thought, Marina reached out to grip his chin, pulling his eyes up to meet her own. "I want you to listen to me, Dean Matthew. Where your brother is concerned, you have never failed him. He is a good kid," she claimed, putting appropriate emphasis on the last two words. "Smart and loyal and generous with his affections. You want to take a guess at where he learned them from?"

His hands clasped in front of him, knuckles turning white with the force he was exerting on his hands. Marina's hand folded over his wrist, her tone warm and proud as she vowed, "I'm so proud of you."

He blushed, his head ducking even as his ears turned pink. "I just . . ."

Her interruption was gentle but still implacable as she insisted, "You just nothing - he's a Good Kid and that's because of you. Not your father . . . YOU. Okay?"

He nodded meekly, shoulders slumping over as he shifted one hand to lay over the back of her own. "Thank you."

"You're our kid, too, you know," she reminded him. "Misha and I would adopt you in a heartbeat if we thought you would let us. But whether or not you ever take our name, you belong with us . . . here, with your family. We are always in your corner, no matter what."

He sniffled hard, leaning over to rest his temple against her shoulder as he continued to stare at a point between the toes of his boots. Marina's arms came up and around his shoulders, holding him as tightly as she could manage while the fingers of one hand smoothed tenderly through the strands of his hair. Silence reigned between them as they took comfort in each other.

Some part of her longed to tell him how much she loved him, but the larger part knew better than to tempt fate. Dean felt deeply, but expressed those same feelings rarely. To be confronted with care and affection would only earn deflection and a steady recoil back into his tortoise's shell. One day - maybe . .

After a moment, the younger teenager stirred again, causing the entire 'jet to look over in surprise. Pressing a kiss to Dean's forehead, Marina stood and approached the gurney, lowering herself to her knees and reaching up to brush back his hair. Samonik's eyes fluttered a little as his head rolled towards her. "Mom?" he murmured, eyes still foggy with drugs and his voice sounding much younger than she'd ever heard him sound before.

Joy swelled into Marina's throat, forcing her to hum a wordless agreement as she pet through his hair. He frowned, eyebrows furrowing as he asked, "Did Dean have to go back to the group home?"

Her tone was gentle and warm as she smoothed her fingers along the curve of his cheek. "No, my darling, Dean is here with us. He won't have to go back there ever again."

"You promise?" he asked plaintively. "I don't wanna have to go back to Bobby's - I wanna stay with you."

"You're not going anywhere, Samonik. You and Dean are mine now," she vowed, smoothing the pad of her thumb over the ridge between his eyebrows to smooth out the deep wrinkles there.

"I don't wanna go," he begged shifting to nuzzle into her palm.

"You're not leaving. You're staying right here with me, I promise. I'll never let anyone take you away from me, not ever again."

Apparently relieved to have gotten the answer he wanted, he slumped back against the gurney. "Kay," he breathed, sniffling once as he let his head fall back into a more natural position. "Love you, Mom."

"Love you too, baby. Go back to sleep. You're safe now," she promised, bending over him to brush back his hair and press a warm kiss to his forehead. “Sleep well, love.”

Samonik didn’t require any further coaxing. The medications he was on to keep him relaxed and sedated caught up with him and swept him away again. Standing, Marina pushed her hands into her pockets and turned back to Dean. The older brother looked pale faced, though closer inspection revealed that he was more embarrassed that upset about it. He looked up at her through his eyelashes as he insisted, “I didn’t want you to find out about that.”

“If you think I didn’t already know, you’re crazy,” she replied with a snort. He’d been with them for almost a year. Surely he knew of the family’s overall paranoia by now – at least she hoped so.

Even Will had been surprised by how easy it was for John to turn his back and go following the completion of the Blood Moon hunt. The fact that neither of the boys seemed surprised about being left behind implied it had happened before, and probably more than once. As a result, it had taken less than half a second for the couple to ask Jason to run background checks on the boys and their father, with the additional stipulation that the review be as thorough and in-depth as could feasibly be managed for two minor boys.

Dean's stint at a group home when he was sixteen years old had been in the records Jason had uncovered. The report had been vague on the wherefores, but had been clear on the fact Dean had spent two months at Sonny's Home for Boys, a small farm outside of Hurleyville, NY. Dean's grades had taken a significant uptick during the time period (something Tony had leveraged when wheedling MIT into taking the budding, if unpolished, engineer) as a result of the support he received at the farm. He'd also joined the wrestling team - Marina had seen a picture from the school where Dean was holding the trophy aloft but by all reports, the award had disappeared completely.

As for Samonik, the younger Winchester had completely fallen off grid during those two months. The complete absence of the child from any kind of public life had lead the Power Couple to assume that Sam was with John at the time. Neither of them would have put it past the hunter to simply "forget" to enroll his eleven year old in school. Based on what Samonik had just said, however, not only was that assumption incorrect, it was also something of a sore spot for the teenager.

Considering the embarrassment on Dean’s face, and the plaintive tone to Sam’s question, those two months had not been easily forgotten. Not by the boys, and not by their father. That was it; punching John Winchester was entirely too kind - she was going to have to shoot him instead.

Just then Joe came bolting through the cargo area headed for the cockpit. “Better take your seats, guys. We're landing at the airstrip - touch down in ten.”

“Is the ambulance here?” Vincent asked as he guided Marina forcibly to the harness beside Samonik.

“So is the Scary Boss - sounds like the Colonel may be more impatient for us to land than the EMTs.”

“No surprise there,” Dean replied with a fond smile. He looked awed at the statement as he continued, “Will actually gives more of a damn than Dad.”

“Speaking of John, I called him to let him know we found Samonik. No surprise, it went to voicemail - when do you think he'll call me back, shchenok?”

Dean snorted as he shook his head, knuckles white on the harness straps. “He won't. You did the hard part - as far as Dad's concerned, there isn't a reason to come out anymore.”

Marina blinked at her foster son, shocked and appalled by the statement. She barely noticed the activity around her as they prepared for landing, her mind reeling as she struggled to reconcile Dean's words with her understanding of love for your child. Shooting John Winchester was looking more and more like a mercy and far too good for him.

Finally the 'jet bumped onto the tarmac, the hydraulics squealing as the ramp in the back began to lower. As soon as it touched concrete, a dark clad figure was suddenly bolting up the ramp and making a beeline towards her. Marina smiled up at her lover as he bent to help wrestle her free, greeting him gently. “Allo Mishka.”

Allo, Marishka,” he greeted her, offering her a hand and assisting her up from her seat.

As soon as she was standing, he bent to kiss her forehead quickly then moved over to their son's gurney. Samonik's eyes were open and hazy, hazel eyes shining as Will bent over the prone frame. A brilliant smile curved the teenager's lips at the sight of him. “Hi Will,” he breathed, eyes slipping closed as Will's fingers came up to brush through the long strands.

Allo, kroshka . . . welcome home, kiddo.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 296: Pain Before Healing

Will Grimm watched the doors through which Samonik's gurney had disappeared, his right arm around Marina and the other with his phone pressed to his ear. "Is Sam home, Dad? Is he okay?" Rene demanded, sounding mildly panicked while simultaneously fending off the girls who were making their own demands behind him. "Should we come home?"

"Yes, Rene, he's home, and no, you shouldn't. He's in surgery right now, so you can't see him anyway. Stay at school, and Joe will swing by to pick you all up after school, okay?"

Inari's tone was worried as she broke into the conversation, her Wesen hearing easily allowing her to hear Will's side of the conversation. "Are you sure we shouldn't come home?"

"Yes, Inari, I'm sure. Right now, we all need you kids to stay where you're supposed to be - for our own peace of minds, if nothing else. There's been too much uncertainty over the last few days."

She sounded disappointed, but willing, as she agreed, "I understand. Will you tell him we'll come see him, as soon as we're allowed?"

"Of course," he agreed with a small smile. The Colonel had a feeling that they would need a crowbar to keep Inari away from Samonik after this.

"Thank you, Oji."

"You're welcome, Inari," he replied fondly, before insisting, "You kids should go back to class. And Rene, if you'll meet with your brother's magisters and get his homework? The less stress the kid puts on himself right now, the better."

"You really think he's going to stress about his homework?!" Dacia asked with clear horror in her tone.

Rene chuckled miserably as he agreed, "It's Sam. Of course he will. Yeah, Dad; I'm on it."

"Thank you. We'll see you kids later tonight - I'll have Joe bring you here instead of taking you home."

"Thanks, Dad, and we'll see you later. Love you."

"Your mother and I love you too, Rene. Keep your nose clean."

Rene's grin was audible through the phone as he protested, "Hey! It's me!"

Chuckling against his will, the Colonel bent to press a warm kiss to his partner's topknot, murmuring into her hair a response, "You've been spending too much time with your mother."

There was soft laughter from Rene, before the line clicked off and the phone went dead in his hand. Locking the screen, Will tucked it into his inside coat pocket, before wrapping his other arm around her as well. The Power Couple stood there together for some time, before he finally insisted, "Tell me."

"Merrick is dead - I killed him personally. We burned the body along with the house."

Will grunted, gratified to hear that as well as a little envious that he wasn't there with her to see it done. A small shrug of his shoulders shooed the feeling away and he focused back onto his lover once more. "What else?"

"I never want to hear someone I love scream like that . . . ever again," she insisted, her eyes wide and focused on one of the buttons on his shirt, though her gaze was far away. "I know we had to hurt him so he can get better. But listening to him scream . . . I would do a lot to make sure I never have to hear that from one of my children again."

He could sympathize with the feeling and any moment of envy vanished under the relief of having been spared that experience. Some part of him was aware of the gentle sway to their bodies, as he unconsciously sought to soothe her distress as she had so often alleviated his own. "What can I do?"

"I don't know," she replied, tone lost at her own inability to determine an appropriate next step.

Lips compressed in sympathy - he knew how much they both relied on their individual ability to take the best next step in order to take care of their family. Tightening his arms around her a little more, he promised, "We'll figure it out."

She choked on a soft sob as she clutched desperately at the back of his shirt, insisting, "I know."

They weren't standing there for very long, before Yulianna came into the waiting room. Her smile was small as she reached to touch Marina's shoulder, drawing the Russian's tear-stained attention. "Come . . . Vincent said to have private waiting room for you. This way - you can wait there."

"Thank you, Anna," Will replied, hand reaching out to squeezing her elbow in silent gratitude.

"Of course," she soothed, ushering them both quickly through the heavy metal doors.

Yulianna led them through the hallways in the back to a small office Will recognized as having once belonged to the former Medical Director, Patricia Wong. The capable surgeon had left S.H.I.E.L.D. Medical for a more lucrative job at a private hospital nearly a year ago, leaving Vincent to step into her shoes before anyone really noticed she was gone. The transition had been smooth and easy, and a year on things overall were better at the on base medical center.

It still wasn't anywhere he wanted to spend time, but at least it was no longer a veritable nightmare.

Marina sank into the couch against the wall, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and eyes closed as she took several deep breaths to rein in her chaotic emotions. As for Will, he reached to catch Yulianna before she left, tone reverent as he insisted, "Thank you."

"Family first, da?" she asked with a wink.

"Spasido," he insisted again with a firm nod, before releasing her to return to work.

"Pozhaluysta," she replied before disappearing from the office again.

Coming to sit beside Marina, Will wrapped her up in his arms and leaned back against the cushions, pulling her in to lay across his chest with her ear pressed to his sternum. "Where's Dean?" he asked gently, fingers combing through her hair.

"He wanted a shower and a change of clothes," she replied softly. "I think he needed some time to rebuild those walls of his - between Brian and me, we tore a few out at the foundations."

"Good," Will snorted.

Marina giggled a little at the blunt assessment, her tone amused as she argued lightly, "He doesn't seem to think so." She sighed as his fingers found a knot at the base of her neck and began to knead, loosening the tightness there. "I think we're earning him . . . slowly, but we are."

"He's ours, Marina. It may take him some time to figure that out for himself, but that doesn't make it any less true," he promised her, tilting his head a little to be able to see the way she nibbled on her lower lip. His thumb moved to smooth over the flesh, plucking it carefully from between her teeth and earning a soft kiss to the pad for his troubles. "Also, you know Dean's policy on emotions."

She hummed in quiet acknowledgment, her fingers drawing careful circles on his stomach as she reveled in the quiet, safe place to unwind and relax for a moment. "I'm going to shoot John Winchester," she announced after a long silence, causing Will to blink in surprise.

"Okay," he drawled slowly, gathering her hair into a ponytail at the nape of her neck so he could see her profile. "I'll bite - why?"

She huffed angrily, tone vicious as she muttered, "Do I need a reason?"

"Not for me - he works for S.W.O.R.D., so he's not a civilian," he promised, before shrugging slightly, "You will need to justify yourself to the boys, though."

"Bah humbug,” she sighed with a chuckle. “They’re good kids – they still love him, even after all he’s done.”

The Colonel hummed in agreement, before asking cautiously, “What brought John Winchester to mind?”

She took a deep breath in through her nose, clearly weighing how much she wished to say before settling more comfortably into him. “Samonik called me Mom . . . more than once.” He knew she felt the sharp intake of breath under her ear, though she said nothing. Instead she just nuzzled a small inch closer and continued, “He was delirious and out of it, but . . . is it terrible of me, that I want to hear him say it again? This time, when he’s lucid and knows what he’s saying?”

“No - title or not . . . adoption or not . . .," he paused, cuddling her closer. "Marishka, samaya malen'kaya, he's still your kid. And I have it on good authority that every mother anxiously awaits the day their child calls them 'mom'."

"I'm not sure he counts," she chuckled with a small smile. "He's a little older than the girls are."

"Not really the point though, is it?" he asked in gentle reply.

She sighed, Will grinning as he watched her eyes roll back in frustration. After a moment, she shook her head as she insisted, "He's not going to call me that again, though."

"Maybe not, but you never know. If he's saying it now, that means he's thinking it. And you know how Sam's brain works - if he's thinking about it, eventually he's going to say something about it."

Marina chuckled in agreement. "Good point."

"Just be patient with him. When Winchester gets here, we'll . . ." he trailed off as Marina suddenly went as stiff as a board against him. Frowning, he nudged her upwards until he could look into her face. "Marishka . . . what do you know, that I don't know?"

She stared at him, her eyes hard and angry as she dragged deep breaths in through her nose to try and call down. Finally, she hissed, "Dean says he's not coming," her tone like water on hot lava.

Will couldn't help it - he jerked backwards away from her in surprise. "Why the hell not!?"

"Because we have Sam back. And he doesn't have to come back, because - to quote Dean - 'we did the hard part'."

The couple stared at each other for a moment before Will swore . . . violently, in at least three different languages. Shoving himself to his feet, he paced back and forth across the small office, long legs eating up the space in quick, angry strides. "That bastard! I'll shoot him myself!" Rounding on his lover, he demanded sharply, "Tell me you're kidding."

"I can't," she replied, eyes wide and sad as she watched him. "I wish I could . . . but I can't."

Will's hands reached up to scrub over his face, a laundry list of things he'd like to do to John Winchester cycling through his brain. He turned as the door creaked, indicating the arrival of someone else. Shoulders slouching a little at the sight of Dean standing there, Will was only distantly conscious of the fact this was the first time the two had seen each other since their fight. Forcing a small smile, he greeted the kid gently, "Hey Dean."

Marina's hands hung from her wrists as she braced her elbows on her knees, her tone more pragmatic as she inquired, "How much did you hear?"

Dean's lips twisted as he shook his head. His hands shoved into his pockets as he looked Will square in the face, and announced, "She's not kidding . . . and I'm not wrong. He's not coming."

There was an open wound in those emerald eyes, displaying a vulnerability the Colonel had never seen from him before. It was in drastic contrast to the stoic set of his features, the kid trying so hard to be aloof and unfeeling in the presence of the couple. Will couldn't help the reaction he had - he swore.

Instantly, Dean flinched.

Will sighed, feeling sadness and guilt well up in his gut at the unconscious action from the teen. If he didn't already suspect Winchester of being abusive, that probably confirmed it for him. Moving to stand with his son at the door, he couldn't avoid the way the cadet watched him warily - visibly terrified (and trying not to show it) that Will was going to take a hand to him.

The Colonel was starting to think Marina was on to something, with shooting the asshole. And he wasn't sure he cared about justification any more at this point.

He was conscious to move slowly and clearly as he reached to lay a hand on his son´s shoulder. As soon as his fingers squeezed that muscled shoulder, Dean´s face cracked open like an egg. A veritable firestorm of emotion made itself known in an instant, before it was gone just as quickly. Even having reminded Marina of Dean´s aversion to outpourings of emotion and displays of affection, Will still used the grip he had on the cadet´s shoulder to pull him for a strong hug.

Instantly Dean protested, hands coming up as he sputtered out a mumbled protest. Will just held him tighter, insisting firmly, "You're the only one of my sons I can hug for the moment, so deal with it."

The kid jolted in his arms, before his arms came around Will's waist like a band of iron as his face buried in his shoulder. Will’s fingers trailed through the blond strands as he promised, “It’s all right . . . everything is going to be all right now.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 297: Companions

Dean Winchester wasn’t sure what had happened to the life he’d once known.

Of course, he knew what had happened; but actually reconciling that with where he was now was an entirely different story altogether. He sat next to his brother's hospital bed, watching the younger Winchester sleep off the sedatives Vincent had given him prior to his surgery. Some part of him was impatient to have Sammy wake up, so he could see him for himself, while the rest of him just wanted the kid to get better.

Emerald green eyes scanned over the long, lanky frame while the beeping from the monitor kept time with his heartbeat. The thigh had been thickly bandaged, currently propped up by a truly obscene number of pillows. There was a bandage peeking from the neck of his hospital gown, covering the pentagram Merrick had carved into his chest as well. He’d been meticulously cleaned and his hair cut (Dean was selfishly looking forward to seeing his little brother’s reaction to his shorter hairstyle. Sammy was notoriously protective of his shaggy locks and Dean enjoyed teasing him about them.)

Granted, the ugly looking cut they’d trimmed his hair away from put paid to any satisfaction. Of course Sammy – the girl that he was - would worry if Dean didn’t try to give him grief. Ergo Dean was going to have to at least pretend. He could tell already – this was going to be the hardest con job of his life.

"Dean?" came a gentle voice from the other side of the bed, his Russian foster mother watching him with cautious hot chocolate eyes. "Brian's coming back with some food - any preferences on what you'd like?"

Any other time, Dean would have a ready answer - a big, juicy burger and a slice of pie. Right now, he could barely muster up the inclination to shake his head. "No thank you," he replied with a small shake of his head. "I’m not hungry."

Marina's eyes saddened, as she protested lightly, "Honey . . ."

A hand appeared on her shoulder, Will's head shaking as he guided the woman back into her seat on Sammy's other side. "That's fine, Dean. I'll have Bri bring you a burger and some French fries. You can eat when you're in the mood."

A blink was his startled response - he hadn't thought he'd get away with the deflection. But it was apparent from the look in his foster father's eyes, he'd been in a situation like this before. Forcing a small, brief smile, Dean agreed quietly, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," the Colonel replied with a tight, uncomfortable looking smile. After a moment, he turned his attention back to Marina. It was clear, the Russian had thoughts on the matter as she hissed at her lover in quiet Russian.

He wasn't entirely sure when watching his foster parents had become a favored pastime, but he loved to watch the two. The eldest of his foster brothers told him he'd fallen prey to the same thing when he'd first joined the family, too. Will and Marina’s outward dynamic and private relationship was a fascinating study in human relations (damned required psych course - he was protesting as soon as he got back to school).

According to every rumor Dean had ever heard since joining the family, Colonel Will Grimm was a cold, hard-ass son of a bitch. There were ice floes in his veins and a glacier for a heart. He never smiled, never laughed, and claimed possession for kindness with only his brothers, his children and his partner. (Surprisingly, Will’s relationship with Marina left most people unsure of the exact levels of their affection for each other; as a rule, the couple was traditionally all business in public and saved their affection for behind closed doors. It apparently threw full-fledged spies for a veritable loop.)

It had colored his perception of the man unfairly. He'd expected Will to be as bad - if not worse - than John Winchester had been when it came to the kind of father he would be. As a result, he'd been practically belligerent in the first week, at which time Tony Stark had grabbed him by the shirt collar and dragged him to MIT . . . and away from Sammy.

To be frank about it, he'd been a dick to Will, overly protective of his little brother and a total jackass about trying to protect Sammy from him.

Of course, then he'd seen Will with his two daughters and his son, Rene, and that theory had flown through the window like a punted football. Will adored his kids, completely and without reservation. To say that his children had him wrapped around their pinky fingers, would have been an egregious understatement. (Geez, listen to him - using actually SAT, college-level, "nerd words". He used to give his brother shit for this, and now he was as bad as Sammy.)

When he'd fought with the Colonel prior to going after Sam - when the man had taken his car keys and all but forbidden him from going after his little brother alone, he'd thought that was it. Justification for every concern he'd ever had. It had been an ugly fight, and frankly he'd gotten off easy with Marina when she'd scolded him later that evening on the Quinjet.

However, the first thing Will had done when they'd seen each other again was to hug him. Dean had been struggling, trying to keep his calm under the stoic veneer his father had pounded into him, but somehow the older man had seen straight through him. He'd gripped Dean's shoulder firmly, then pulled him into a warm hug; when Dean had tried to fight him on, Will had offered him the only excuse he would accept to allow the embrace.

"You're the only one of my sons I can hug for the moment, so deal with it."

The cadet snorted soundlessly at the reminder of how he'd crumpled into the embrace. Some part of him was still shocked by his own shock - he'd seen the way Will touched and hugged and loved on his kids for eleven months. It shouldn't have even been a surprise anymore. And yet, every time Will confirmed the fact he considered Dean to be one of His Kids, Dean continued to feel that little jolt of shock to be included among their number.

He loved getting hugs from Marina - the Russian was such a Mom he couldn't resist her affection. When he'd first come to them, he'd tried to resist her and failed miserably in the attempt. She hadn't even felt guilty for it, when he'd started seeking her affections instead of avoiding them altogether. She’d crowed quietly in her victory, and loved on him as much – or as little – as he would allow at any given moment.

His older foster brother was quiet but emphatic about his devotions. He gave them out as a squeeze to the back of the neck, an arm slung around Dean's shoulders or a playful punch to the bicep. These were the displays of affection Dean knew and understood, and so he responded to them in kind. He wished he could claim to be surprised when he grew close to Sam, however it hadn’t really been a surprise at all. Instead, the cadet reveled in having a big brother of his own, someone he could confide in and who he knew was always going to have his back.

Rene was a firebrand, but he was fiercely loyal. The two high schoolers had made friends quickly, almost instantly becoming friends. By all reports, with the addition of the two Wesen girls the family brought home at the end of last year, the Fearsome Foursome (and there was an apt name, if Dean had ever heard one) had taken up firm ownership of their school. Sam was not the popular kid everyone fawned over, but he was one of the intimidating ones you didn't mess with or you suffered the consequences. Frankly, Dean was hella proud of him.

As for the family’s leader, the Colonel was more reticent in his expressions of love and devotion. Which was not to say that those expressions were not as fervent as those of the rest of his family. They were simply in keeping with the man himself - small and effusive, with deep feeling and clear meaning behind them. No matter how small the gesture, however, the receipt of such an act was always guaranteed to lift the spirits of the recipient.

Dean smiled gently at the reminder of Will's opinion of an apology. After he'd released the cadet from the hug, the man offered Dean back his keys with a sheepish smile. The man's confession that Jason had tweaked her engines to give her a S.H.I.E.L.D.-style overhaul, and that Aaron had been given the task of detailing her, had been the best gift the teenager had ever received. A small part of him longed to take Baby for a spin and see what Jason had done, while the rest of him was inexorably pinned to this chair. He wasn't moving - not until Sammy woke up and he could see for himself that his little brother was okay.

A soft knock on the door brought Dean's head around, staring at the door with wide, hopeful eyes. He knew his father wasn't coming, but that didn't mean he wasn't also hoping John Winchester wouldn't prove him wrong. At least once in his life.

Will stood from his seat on the armrest of Marina's chair, moving to the door and pulling it open carefully. Owen Elliott stood there, with his arms folded over his chest and giving his best friend a fierce look. "You wanna tell me why I'm only just now finding out that your kid was abducted from school, Boss?"

"You were on assignment, Lucky," Will reminded him, stepping into the hallway and pulling the door half-closed behind him. "I didn't want to bother you."

"Boss, I don't know how many times I have to drill this through your brain. Your family is my family - if something happens to OUR family, I want to know about it. Mission be damned," the younger man protested lightly.

"My officer's training is arguing with you," the Colonel replied with a soft chuckle, "even as I concede the point. How was your assignment?"

"Sinking slowly into the Baltic. No problems there," was the flippant response, drawing Dean's attention with a small frown. The cadet knew that Owen's job was a Cleaner, but apparently that was a more vague job description than was truly accurate. Lucky sounded worried as he asked, "How's the kid?"

"He's gonna be hurting for a while, but he's going to be okay. That's the part I'm focusing on right now."

"What about the asshole who took him?"

Will's tone was cold as he answered the question, "Marina took care of it."

"She cleaned the site herself?"

"Burned the house to the ground, with the body inside."

"That's the Boss Lady I know and love," the Cleaner chuckled with a grin. Shifting out of view of the door, Dean heard the rustling around of fabric as he insisted, "Go be with your son, Boss. I got the watch."

"Luck . . ." Will protested mildly, tone a clear indication that he didn't expect his protest to amount to a change though he was attempting anyway.

"I'm going to stop you there, Boss-Man. You'd do it for me - it's the least I can do for you."

The two men watched each other for a long time, each one determined to see the other capitulate to their line of thinking. But Dean could see the way Will's shoulders started to sag - as much as he didn't want to take what little free time Owen allowed himself away from his best friend, there was a significant part of him relieved to know that he wasn't going to have to worry about security while he was focusing on his family. "All right, Lucky. I give."

"Damn right you do. Stubborn bastard you may be, but I can and will out-stubborn even you about protecting this family. And you know it," Owen crowed with a wicked grin. "Go on - I got this."

A soft groan came from the direction of the bed, muffled under the oxygen mask, the sound pulling the attention of everyone like a moth to a flame. Owen smiled gently, pushing his best friend back into the room as he insisted, "Your son needs you, Boss." Cornflower blue eyes pinned Dean in place as he continued, "Both of them do."

Another soft sound came from the younger Winchester and Dean was on his feet in a heartbeat, bending over the bed and staring into his brother's face. "Easy, Sammy - I'm here. You're safe . . . we both are."

Dazed hazel eyes fluttered as his little brother struggled awake, a soft mumbling the only sound the kid could manage. "De?" he slurred, fingers groping across the sheets.

"Yeah, Sammy, it's me." Relief swelled in Dean, twisting to look up as a hand came to fold over his shoulder. "We've gotcha."

Will was standing there with him, other hand coming to rest on the younger Winchester's knee. Marina had taken her place on the other side of the bed, holding on to Sam's other hand and smiling at him fondly as she insisted, "Hey Samonik. Welcome home, honey."

Sam's eyes blinked slowly as he forced a small smile, tone absent as he insisted, "Good to be home."

Dean chuckled, "I'll just bet. Go back to sleep, little brother. Owen's got the watch and we're not going anywhere."

Chapter Text

Chapter 298: Big Brother's Home

Sam Grimm knew it was very late. Furthermore, if he was anyone else - and visiting anyone else - not even Miranda or Anna would turn a blind eye to his arrival during the small hours of the morning. Fortunately, both of the family's favorite nurses knew who was still installed within their halls, and Anna only smiled as she folded her arms on the top tier of the nurses' desk. "Ah . . . Big Brother to Rescue, da?"

"Yes, indeed . . . finally," the blond sighed with a frown.

He paused at the desk, offering both of his favorite nurses – the only two nurses he actually liked - two of the coffees he carried. Miranda grinned at him, wagging her finger playfully as she teased, "Bribery is illegal, you know."

"Is it truly bribery? Or it doing something nice for someone you respect and adore?" he asked with a cheeky grin and a playful wag of his eyebrows.

"Flatterer," Anna scoffed with a bright grin, even as she took a healthy sip.

His wink was broad as he bent to press a kiss to each of their cheeks. "You're both amazing, ladies!"

The two nurses exchanged fond looks, before Miranda reached for the button that would allow the sniper back through the doors. "The kid'll be happy to see you. He's still a little out of it, but he's been showing more instances of lucid thinking over the last 24 hours."

"How bad was it?" he asked, staying put even as the doors swung open, serious eyes fixed on the Head Nurse - a far cry from his playful mien a second before.

"The scarring on his chest is going to be permanent. We did the best we could to try and reduce it, but . . ." Miranda trailed off with a sigh as she shook her head. "The cuts were just too deep. If he wants to go forward with plastic surgery, we'll figure it out. But that's up to Sam and your parents."

Anna shrugged as she insisted, "His father has not come."

"Winchester!?" Sam asked with a frown. 'Really!? Has he been informed?"

"Marina was on a hell of a rant about it yesterday. Apparently, between the two of them, the man's ignored 15 calls," Miranda replied. "And that's not counting the calls we've placed, either."

"I knew the man was an asshole, but he is really looking to prove the point apparently," Sam grunted with a roll of his eyes. "How's Dean?"

"Your mom took him home to sleep. He was getting a little . . . belligerent, with a couple of the orderlies."

Blond brows furrowed as the sniper asked, "Why?"

"Sam is still in a lot of pain, but we don't want to let the wound in his thigh fester either. Dean got upset with some of them, because during bandage changes and irrigation of the wound, they were less than gentle. Dr. Keller's already reprimanded the orderlies in question and reassigned them elsewhere, but . . ."

"Right. Well then, I guess I'll see him in the morning," he agreed with a downward tug to his lips. He'd been hoping to catch the older Winchester, to try and get the cadet to talk before he exploded under the pressure of his own emotions. Apparently he'd been too late to prevent that from happening. Running a hand back through his hair, he asked, "Who's in with Samonik?"

"Your dad," Miranda replied with a smile. "Your parents were worried that sending Dean home alone wouldn't result in anything actually happening. So the Colonel stayed with Sam while your mom went home with Dean, to get him to bed and check on the girls. Tomorrow night, they'll switch."

"This has happened a couple times then, huh?"

Anna snorted as she insisted, “You have missed all the fun.”

The other nurse’s eyes rolled as she agreed, "I’m not sure I’d call it fun. Dean’s been on a hair trigger, the poor kid. Fortunately, Sam seems to be pretty out of it for the most part. But he feels the pain, even if he's not remembering it later."

Sam hummed in understanding; he knew how that went better than he liked to remember. He had been completely out of it, after his unit had rescued him from the Taliban during his last tour, but Matt had recounted a couple of times the way he'd screamed while they'd been carrying him out.

Fortunately, Sam didn't remember any of it. From what Matt had said, if the gods were kind, he never would.

Shaking away the memories, the sniper forced himself to focus back on Miranda. "How does Dad seem?"

"Tired. A little frazzled. He's worried about your brother, but there's also the relief over having him home."

"Sounds like Dad. And Ma?"

"She's just grateful Sam is home; that Dean and Rene are both within arm's reach and that you have been calling every day to check in." Miranda replied with a small smile. "She'll be happy to see you. It means all of her sons are within her reach."

Sam's mouth twisted, his brain supplying the silent contradiction, Well, not all of them. Nodding in outward agreement to the statement, the blond made a mental note to reach out to Cassian. With any luck, the kid could wiggle in a call to their parents; Samonik had been kidnapped and getting him back was definitely a load off their minds, but another of their sons was working almost directly under Swordsman's nose. To have heard from ALL of their children would be of considerable help to them both at this time.

Taking a deep breath in, he flashed the women his brightest smile. "I'm gonna go keep Dad company. Thank you, ladies - your company has been most appreciated, as always."

"You're a terrible flirt," Miranda laughed with a shake of her head.

Wagging his eyebrows at her, he teased, "Does that mean you're finally going to divorce Rafe and run away with me?"

"Get outta hea'," she laughed, some of her native Jersey accent peeking through.

"Love you, Miranda!" he laughed, avoiding the pen she threw at his head.

"Yeah yeah," was the giggling reply, earning a sigh in reply from the younger nurse, "He is very handsome."

"You're new," the older woman agreed, "you'll learn. All the Grimms are handsome; it's in their genes, adopted or otherwise."

"He is adopted? He does not act so," Anna protested with a frown. "No wonder the Sova is so protective."

Sam chuckled as Miranda burst into a torrent of laughter. "Oh Anna . . . you have no idea."

One hand already in the air, he used the other to open the door to his little brother's room, then watched as his father jolted from a light doze to his feet, gun in hand and aimed perfectly at Sam’s head. The blond’s smile was small as he joked, “Hey Dad. I come in peace?”

The cold look faded from the Colonel's eyes seconds before the gun lowered. A solid blue ring formed around the icy grey, before swallowing the grey within it as it widened rapidly. The sniper's name was practically a sigh as Will stepped forward to embrace his son. "Sammichka."

The younger blond accepted the hug firmly, feeling the tired trembling in his father's shoulders and the small tremors from the adrenaline rush. "Sorry it took me so long. I got here as fast as I could."

"I know," Will promised, squeezing just a fraction tighter before stepping backwards again. "How are Jules and Sadie?"

"Jules is good. A little ragged from the constant shifts, but she's good." After a moment, his smile grew as he joked, "And I don't think you have the time to sit and listen to me expound on the awesomeness of my Bug."

Will chuckled as he conceded, "Maybe not this exact second, but once your brother is awake, he'll be equally as eager to hear about his niece as I am to hear about my granddaughter."

"I will keep that in mind," he laughed with a grin.

Looking towards the bed at the sound soft of his name, the blond smiled to see the younger Winchester awake, though with heavy eyes. He reached out to squeeze his father's shoulder and guided him firmly back into his chair, before moving to the bed. Samonik's eyes watched him carefully as Sam moved to the bedside, before one hand unfurled beside him in clear, unspoken invitation. Sam reached to take the hand, then bent to press a firm kiss to the top of the younger brother's head. "Hey, kiddo. How you feeling?"

"You're here?" he asked, blinking frantically and clearly trying to keep himself awake.

"Yeah, I'm here. Close your eyes, kiddo. I'll still be here when you wake up."

"You promise?" he asked, as his eyes started to roll a little, the teenager clearly losing his battle with unconsciousness and equally as unwilling to lose without a fight.

"Yeah, I promise."

Samonik took a deep breath in through his nose, then forced himself to open his eyes wide. "Look after Dean . . . for me?"

The older Sam chuckled, amused as always by the fierce devotion between these two brothers. "You got it. I've got the watch, little brother. Get some rest."

"Kay. Thank you for coming."

"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

The teenager’s smile was tired and wan as he allowed his eyes to slip closed, then fell to sleep once more. Without releasing the teenager's hand, Sam hopped up onto the edge of the bed and turned stern eyes on his father. Will looked pale and tired, even more so than usual, and the sniper felt a surge of concern at the way the older man all but slumped in his chair. His teeth nibbled lightly on the inside of his lip for a moment, before asking, "How you doing, Dad?"

To his credit, the Colonel didn't even attempt to lie. "I'm tired."

"Yeah, that I can see for myself. I'm pretty sure I've seen printer paper darker than you, Dad," Sam scolded, earning a half-hearted glare though there was no heat behind it. "Come on, it's me."

The man's head dropped against the back of his chair, eyes warring between colors as he peered at his son through his lashes. After a moment, Will's eyes rolled as he conceded, "You're lucky you're one of the only three people who can pull that argument."

Sam winked as he joked, "I promise not to tell." Sobering, he leaned forward on his elbow, his free hand coming up to brace his chin. "So, when was the last time you ate?"

"Brian brought food around 5 or so."

"That's not what I asked, Dad."

Those eyes rolled as he grumbled, before confessing, "It's been awhile."

"Dad!" Sam blurted, translating that from Will-speak into normal-speak easily enough. "All right. Where was Ma when this happened?"

"She'd already taken Dean home."

"Of course she had," he grunted, throwing his hands into the air in frustration. He wasn't sure why he was surprised, but he jabbed a finger at his father and announced, "I'm gonna tattle to Ma," anyway.

"I know," Will agreed with a small smile. "She's gonna scold my ear off, I think."

"You'll be lucky if that's ALL she does." Glancing around the room, he took in a discarded scrunchie – he’d bet his paycheck it belonged to Inari - wrapped around Samonik's wrist, as well as a stack of homework - Rene's contribution, Sam was sure - on the bedside table. "The kids came to visit?"

"Yeah, after school," was the quiet agreement. "Samonik was happy to see them, but he couldn’t stay awake for very much of their visit. They’ll come back again tomorrow after school."

"Good, I’m glad they were able to stop by. It’ll help keep his spirits up.”

“Agreed, which is why Vincent allowed them to stay as long as they did. But eventually, he kicked them out so Samonik could get some rest. He’s really wiped out.”

“That's normal. He went through an ordeal - I'm sure his stamina is shot at this point."

Will’s eyebrow cocked upwards at the matter-of-fact insistence, causing Sam to blush a little. If anyone knew the reality of what his younger brother had gone through, it was eldest Grimm. Chuckling, his father winked fondly, then agreed, "That's what Vincent said. Apparently, he's doing a lot better than Vincent expected, but it's still going to be another week before he's even thinking about leaving Medical, let alone going back to school."

"You considered counseling before he goes back?"

"Yep - he's fighting it, when he's awake enough to put forth the energy. But Marina and I are both insistent on it. I think Marina's gonna try to get Dean on our side about it; see if Dean can help change his mind."

The sniper hummed in quiet understanding, before asking carefully, "Want me to talk to him about it?"

Will's eyes cracked open as he turned his head just enough to be able to watch his oldest son fidget at his own suggestion. After a moment, the Colonel closed his eyes once more, shaking his head. "No. You had our own traumas to work through, Sammichka. Some of them, you're still working through - he doesn't need to be poking at still bleeding wounds, da?"

"If it would help him . . .?" he hedged, watching his father carefully even as relief flooded through him at the refusal.

"It won't."

Sam sagged, eyes slipping closed at the firm - final - denial. "So what can I do?"

"Vincent wants to get Sam up on his feet tomorrow. Dean's being . . ." here the officer paused, trying to consider the best description, before giving it up as a bad job. "He's resisting the idea because he doesn't want to hurt his brother."

"Getting him on his feet will help him heal faster," Sam protested, frowning at the elder Winchester's reasoning.

"Yeah . . . and it's going to hurt."

"Geez," Sam groaned with a roll of his eyes. "Winchester is an asshole - I would have thought that was at least one lesson he'd imparted on his children."

"I'm getting the impression this is probably the first time Samonik's ever been the one in the hospital bed. Dean's having a little bit of a crisis about it."

A soft snort was the eldest brother's thoughts on the matter. "You don't say. Miranda was telling me that he went off on an orderly?"

"A couple of them, actually," was the dry, resigned tone. "I swear, we're going to have to completely re-staff Medical at the rate we're going. Grant got six orderlies fired or reassigned; two have been reassigned after they hurt Samonik during bandaging; Vincent fired at least twenty orderlies and three medical assistants when he took over for Patty; and your PTSD and violent reaction to needles put paid to another two orderlies AND three MAs."

Sam sniggered at the withering look he earned from his father. "Oops?"

"Wasn't your fault," Will snarked with a roll of his eyes. "What I need is someone I can put into HR who actually has a brain, an intimate knowledge of the family and basic common sense."

“One day, that person will actually exist, Dad,” Sam snarked with a roll of his eyes.

Sam could see his own disbelief reflected in his father’s face, just before Will smirked. His tone was amused but skeptical as he replied, “One can only hope.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 299: Brother to Brother

Sam hefted his bag over his shoulder and jogged up the stairs to the house his parents lived in on base. He could see the lights on the kitchen, as well as movement behind the gossamer curtains that shielded the family's private dining area. The silhouette was short with a riot of curls dancing around the head - his Ma was awake and already fussing over someone.

Chuckling, he let himself into the house with his key, announcing, "Allo the house!"

"Sammichka!" was the cheerful cry from the kitchen in response, his mother bolting from the room with a grin. "You're home!"

"Hey Ma," he greeted her with a grin, sweeping her up into a hearty embrace and spinning her around as they hugged. "It's good to be home."

"Did you just get in? I would have picked you up, sweetheart," she protested, seeing the bag over his shoulder as he set her back on her feet.

"No, I've been in town for a while. I've been at Medical with Samonik and Dad," he reassured her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and letting her steer him into the kitchen.

His younger brothers were both seated at the table, eating their breakfasts. Rene was already dressed in his school uniform while Dean looked surly and belligerent. The younger brother brightened at the sight of the eldest Grimm Son, bolting up from his chair and throwing his arms around his brother hard. Sam chuckled gently, wrapping his arms around his waist and lifting him an inch off the floor, with a teasing, "Hey Squirt."

Rene only nodded against his brother's shoulder, arms tightening for a fraction of a second, before he stepped back again. "Have you seen Samonik?"

"Yeah, I just came from there. He was starting to wake up, but he wasn't entirely there yet." Shuttling his baby brother back towards his seat, then turned around the chair across from Dean and straddled the back comfortably. "Morning, De."

The cadet grunted, earning a soft poke from his foster mother as she nudged him on her way toward the stove once more. "Use your words, Dean Matthew. I don't speak grunt."

Sam smirked as he joked, "It's okay, Ma - I do."

The Russian huffed lightly, bending to peck Dean's topknot fondly, before disappearing into her kitchen. Over her shoulder, she insisted, "Rene! Go rouse the girls out of bed, so they can get ready for school please! I'll have Joe take you kids to school, when he comes by to take me to Medical."

"Yes Mama," he agreed, before bolting for the stairwell, calling the girls' names as he ran.

As for the Russian, she carried a loaded plate to the table and set it front of her eldest son. "I have to go get the girls up and ready to go. Eat that - are you going to be able to watch your sisters until your father and I switch this morning?"

"Yeah, Ma, I'll take care of the girls for a couple hours. No problems."

"Thank you, baby. Dean, sweetheart, eat something . . . please?"

Dean grunted again, fork stirring his food around his plate before shoving a bite into his mouth. Sam exchanged a look with his mother, before kissing her cheek and shooing her towards the stairwell. Folding his arms over the back of his chair, he watched the older Winchester sulk for a moment, before asking, "You mad at me or something?"

The younger man's head snapped upwards at the question, eyes wide and startled. "What!? No!"

"You sure?" Sam asked, head cocking to the side. He could practically see Dean getting squirrely and smirked as the younger brother's eyes darted away from his own and back to his plate. "You know, Dean, you may be stubborn, but Dad's got you beat. And I managed to crack him in like a minute. 'Fess up already kiddo."

That jaw tightened hard as he glared at his plate, tines of his fork stabbing brutally into the chicken fried steak Sam's mother had made that morning for breakfast. Finally, he blurted out in a rage, "They're going to hurt him!"

"Who?" he asked calmly, refusing to let himself be baited into the fight Dean was clearly looking for.

The look on Dean's face was eloquent as he all but glared at Sam for the question. "Don't be obtuse."

"Don't prevaricate," Sam shot back in reply. "I know - I told you, I've been with Dad at Medical for a good portion of the night. And Miranda told me about you going off on a couple orderlies."

The teenager's ears turned rosy as he grumbled, "They were hurting him."

"That's what happens when bandages get changed. It sucks, no lie; but that doesn't mean it isn't still important." Cocking an eyebrow, he prodded carefully, "I would think you knew this already, considering your father's line of work."

Dean's eyes flickered up to meet the older brother's before redirecting to the table once more. "Yeah, I guess."

Sam nodded slowly, still watching him. There was a large part of the agent that understood the guilt Dean was feeling over the younger Winchester getting hurt, as well as his reluctance to accept absolution for not being there to protect him before it happened. Sam was only nine when it had happened to him, after his sister Amy was killed. Not to mention if this had happened to Sadie, the sniper would be in exact same boat as Dean. He was Sadie’s father, while the elder Winchester had been father, best friend AND brother for all the years of his younger brother’s life. Having a whole new family didn’t immediately erase that history, or make the role disappear overnight either, for that matter. "But it's Sam, right?"

Dean sighed as he insisted, "He's my responsibility. I'm supposed to take care of him – make sure he doesn’t get hurt."

"Don't take this the way I know you're going to, but that ship has sailed." The cadet flinched, causing Sam to sigh. "He got hurt, Dean, and there was nothing you could do to stop that from happening. But now, you gotta let them take care of him and help him get better. Sometimes, that means causing a little hurt now, to prevent a lot of pain later."

"I know that," Dean insisted with a frown. "Believe me or not, I do. I just . . ."

"He's your brother," the sniper finished the thought with a small nod. "I know. I understand better than you think."

Sam could see Dean's thoughts roiling behind his eyes as he watched the older man quietly. After a moment, he spoke quietly, tone hesitant and nervous, "Because of Amy . . ."

The sniper flinched at the name, an unwanted vision of the day his baby sister had been killed flashing before his eyes like a newsreel. She'd been his responsibility, his charge - he was supposed to look after her, take care of her . . . Closing his eyes against the memories, Sam nodded once, action sharp and jerky. "Yeah; cause of Amy."

Dean grimaced a little, as he settled back in his chair. "I'm sorry."

A steady stream of oxygen in through his nose steadied out Sam's emotions enough that he was able to shake his head firmly. "For what? You weren’t the one who killed her. But my story ended differently than yours did, De. Amy died and my entire world upended. But what happened to her wasn't my fault. I was nine years old and I had done everything I could to keep her safe during the walk to the park. I was a kid; I couldn't have prepared for the car to jump the curb, to hit her and send her flying."

Leaning forward on his elbows, Sam dipped his head to be able to catch Dean's eyes and pull his attention away from the tabletop. "It still wasn't my fault. When I see her again in the next life, I'm going to get an earful for the guilt and shame and horror I put myself through after her death. She wouldn't blame me for trying to keep her safe, and she won't thank me for feeling guilty for not being able to either." One eyebrow cocked upwards as he insisted, "I see a lot of similarities between Samonik and Amy, actually."

Dean looked skeptical, but still curious as he asked, "Like what?"

"Stubborn . . . strong willed . . . loyal . . ." here he paused and huffed out a soft laugh, "And unfailingly devoted to their adored and adoring older siblings." One hand reached across the table to smack Dean lightly on the arm. "He won't thank you for how you’re feeling right now, either."

“Sammy can bite me.”

“If you tell him that, he probably will,” Sam teased with a grin. "Once Ma and Dad switch out, I´m going to head over to Medical. I figure Samonik could use some friendly company during his walk today. You wanna come with me?"

Dean grimaced a little, before taking a deep breath in. "They´re going to make him walk whether I´m there or not, huh?"

"Yeah, they are," the sniper promised with a small smile. "They want him to get better and getting blood moving through that leg is going to help him do that."

"What time are you going?"

"Once Dad comes back from Medical - I can't leave the girls and Vincent promised to wait to get Samonik on his feet until I got there to help."

Dean took a deep breath, then nodded. "Yeah, I'll come."

"Good. I know he'll be relieved to have you close by," Sam insisted, reaching for his fork and digging into his breakfast.

"Relieved?" Dean echoed in surprise, eyes widening a little at the statement.

Sam's eyebrow cocked upwards at the younger brother's tone, before he replied gently, "De, he's your brother - and you're the only thing he knows when he's hurt. Of course he's going to be relieved to have you nearby."

Dean's cheeks turned rosy at the insistence. "Eh, I'm sure there are people he'd be happier to have around."

The older brother's eyes narrowed as he commented calmly, "I think you might actually believe that, and at some point I'm going to have to smack that thought out of your head."

Dean's nose wrinkled as he taunted, "Does Marishka Mama know how violent you are?"

"Only with idiot little brothers, who need their stupidity scrambled out of their heads from time to time."

“You’re hilarious,” Dean snarked, earning a flashfire grin from the sniper as he teased, “Maybe, but I’m also not wrong.”

Dean said nothing in response, but was notably quiet in negating the claim either. Pleased by the lack of argument, Sam turned his attention to his breakfast, knowing that once the twins were up and mobile, there wouldn't be any chance to enjoy his food.

It was a couple more minutes before there was happy screams from the middle landing of the stairwell. "Sammy!" was the happy cheer from Valya, the oldest twin bolting down the stairs at top speed and causing Marina's tone to sharpen with concern as she called, "Valya! Slow down!!"

Sam was up and moving, though he was still a second slower than Dean who reached the base of the stairs before him and caught Valya as she missed a step and tumbled forwards with a terrified cry. He clutched their little sister to his chest as Valya cried, frightened by her near spill, his knees bouncing and free hand smoothing over her back as he hummed into her ear. "You're all right, Trouble - you're okay,” he murmured, tone gentle and calming as he sought to ease her tears.

Sam's fingers trailed gently through Valya's shoulder length curls, then reached up to take his mother’s elbow as she picked her way down the stairs carefully with Katenka on her hip, the little girl clinging to her shirt at the neck. "Thank you, Sammy-honey. Valya, honey, you can't run down the stairs, remember? You have to hold Mama or Papa's hands when we go down the stairs, so we don't fall."

"I sorry, Mama!!" she wailed, burying her face tighter to her brother's shoulder.

Dean smiled up at Marina as he insisted, "I think she learned her lesson, Marina. It scared her pretty good."

"As much as I hate to say it, thank goodness. Thank you for catching her, Dean. You moved so fast - I didn't think anyone would be able to get to her before she fell."

Dean blushed at the effusive praise, ducking his head over the toddler as he shrugged. "I just . . . I didn't want her to get hurt."

Marina's smile was wide and fond as she cupped his cheek. "You're a good big brother, Dean. Thank you."

Chapter Text

Chapter 300: A Little Bit of Trust

Sam Winchester was not a happy kid.

The teenager was literally the most miserable he had ever been, and it sucked. Vincent had just been in to talk to Will and Marina about the pentagram carved over his chest, the carving deep and inflamed. Sam was horrified when the family's medic informed him the scarring would be permanent. Hunter's kid or not, this was not the decoration he wanted on his body. Especially when it wasn't his choice to have it there.

To add insult to injury - practically literally - Vincent had informed the younger Winchester, he was going to have to get out of bed and put weight on his injured leg . . . that day, with emphasis on the sooner the better. Sam got lucky; whatever Vincent had done while they'd still been in Maine had saved the leg itself. However the gash was deep and still showing small signs of the infection the medic had carved from inside it - even the thought of standing on it was excruciating. Frankly, the very idea sounded like the worst torture someone could possibly have devised.

His foster parents - his parents in all actuality, because they were here while John was not - had hovered for a bit after Vincent left his room. Sam would never be able to express the full magnitude of his love for them, but for that moment he just wanted to be left alone. The teenager had begged for only a moment, before Will had agreed to the request. The Colonel bent to kiss his forehead gently, then gathered Marina and all but dragged her with him, leaving Sam alone for the first time since before his abduction.

It was quickly apparent that solitude was not the smartest thing he'd ever asked for.

He was fine for about five minutes before the silence started to get to him. Rationally, the teenager knew he was safe at Medical and even if Merrick had somehow survived - he hadn't, Dean had been very clear about that - there was no way the psychotic hunter would have been able to reach him. Miranda and Yulianna were fierce guardians of the Grimm wing, not to mention Vincent had been there on the rescue and would have recognized the scent of Sam's fear if Merrick had reappeared from the dead.

However, as the Colonel was fond of reminding the family, "Knowing something intellectually and knowing something in reality are two very different things."

Sam jumped a mile every time one of the nurses came in to check on him. The sound of footsteps outside his door caused his throat to swell closed in wordless terror. The walls seemed to be closing in on him, though he'd never suffered from claustrophobia before. Random voices from the hallway sounded threatening, even when the words being spoken were cheerful or calm. Being alone was a bad idea, to put it mildly.

Finally, there was a soft knock on his door, causing Sam's eyes to cast about for a weapon of some kind. Some part of him knew that anyone meaning him harm wouldn't have bothered to knock, while the rest of him was too frightened to parse out the reason behind a knock at the door. After a moment, he caught sight of a basin seated on his bedside table and reached out to grab, just in case.

“Who is it?” he demanded, scolding himself for sounding more terrified than firm.

His oldest brother’s voice was calm and understanding as the sniper called through the door, “It’s us, kiddo – Sam and Dean. Can we come in?”

Relief flooded through him at the sound of the familiar voice, before heat rose in his cheeks at his own panic. "Yeah!" he called back, leaning over once again to replace the basin.

Sam's ice blue eyes were knowing as the two older men came into the hospital room. Samonik could feel the burning in his ears as he ducked his head, struggling to push through it as he greeted his brothers. "Hey Sam . . . De."

Dean was at his bedside like a shot, reaching out to fuss at his younger brother. The elder Sam chuckled, pushing the door closed and leaning back against it as he teased, "No chick flicks, huh, De?"

"Shut up," the older Winchester snarked. "How you doin', Sammy?"

Hazel eyes flickered toward the older of his brothers, before returning to Dean's face once more. After a moment, he shrugged, "Okay, I guess."

"Why are you alone? Where's Marina?"

"I asked to be left alone," the teenager insisted with a frown. "I know Will was going home to get some rest and be with the girls."

"We came as soon as Dad got home," Sam agreed with a short nod. "Ma wasn't with him though, and I didn't see her at the nurse's desk with Miranda and Anna. She’s probably in the cafeteria getting something for you to eat."

Dean was frowning, eyes narrowed as he watched his little brother firmly. "So you told them to leave, and they just went?! What if something had happened? Or another hunter had shown up!?"

It was the vocal confirmation of everything Samonik had feared since their parents had left the room. He swayed a little, suddenly lightheaded as his fingers clutched desperately to the sheets on each side of him. “Easy kiddo,” was soothing admonishment from the eldest brother, Sam’s hand coming up to brace against his throat. Relieved, the teenager slumped onto the sniper’s shoulder as the adrenaline rush left him weak and shaky. "That’s it . . . you’re all right," Sam vowed calmly, before his tone turned sharp, "Not helping, Dean."

Samonik could feel the regret accompanying Dean's wince like a smoke cloud against his skin. "Sorry, Sammy."

The younger Sam nodded, eyes squeezing closed for a moment before he shifted away from his older brother again. Looking at his brother, he forced a wan smile. "I asked them to leave - I didn't realize that was a bad idea until after they were already gone."

The teenager could feel his brother's snort as Sam snarked, "I remember that feeling."

The younger Winchester's eyebrows rushed together, hazel eyes watching as Dean's own followed suit. Whatever the sniper was talking about, both of his brothers were as equally in the dark as the other. A sharp frown crept across Samonik's lips as his overactive curiosity demanded, "What feeling? You've been kidnapped before?"

Sam looked down at him with a small, rueful smile. "In a manner of speaking, I guess? I've never been kidnapped from somewhere that should have been safe, but I was captured in combat."

Both Winchesters stared in shock at the declaration. "You what!?" the teenager asked, seconds before Dean demanded, "When?"

"The last tour I was ever deployed on. The insurgents who took me held me captive for about two weeks, at which time my unit showed up to rescue me and get me home." There was a pause as Sam's smile compressed into a flat line, before he continued, "Let's just say, I can commiserate with what you're going through. Which is why, you need to get up and start walking around.”

The younger brother flinched hard, practically recoiling from the statement as though to run from it. Dean's hand was a steady comfort, pressing into his shoulder, but even Dean was staring at their older brother in clear surprise. After a moment, that proud jaw tightened and he all but snapped at the sniper, "Why? You just said you understand what he's going through!"

"Yes - and I know how easy it is to let the pain of your injuries consume you," was the startling reasoning. "Your leg hurts and just the idea sounds like torture, but getting up and moving around will help the healing process. I promise."

Samonik could feel his lips turn downwards in visible petulance, the teenager slumping back into the mattress with his arms folded protectively across his newly scarred chest. "I don't want to."

Sam's smile shifted sadly as he agreed, "Yeah, I know. But not wanting to, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway."

The teenager's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he watched his brother, demanding, "Did you?"

"Yes, and it sucked," Sam replied honestly with a twist to his mouth. There was fond, devastated amusement in his tone as he continued, "Frankly, you're fortunate to have never experienced the tender mercies of one Matthew Benjamin. He could be a bastard when he was right, and you knew it."

"Who was he?" Samonik asked, his never-ending curiosity overriding his pain at the conflicted look on Sam's face.

The sniper took a deep breath in, flinching a little in response to the question. "He was a lot of things. For starters, we'd been friends since grade school; he was my best friend in high school. We even enlisted together, because he wasn't going to let me go by myself." After a moment, a small smile tilted one corner of his mouth as he continued, "By this point, though, he'd been my boyfriend for about seven years."

Samonik's jaw dropped, and he could see Dean's do the same out of the corner of his eye. Both Winchester were shocked by the information and Sam chuckled sadly, as he joked, "Guess I am better about hiding it than I realized."

"But . . . Jules!?" Dean stammered, surprised when his little brother reached out to slap his bicep hard, with a firm scold, "He's bisexual, Dean!"

"Well, not exactly, but it's close enough," Sam agreed with a small smirk. "Point is, he'd gone through all the trouble to rescue me. Like hell was he going to let me wallow in my bed over the injuries my captors had inflicted. And to be clear, the Taliban were not as . . . invested . . . in keeping me alive long enough to get what information they wanted, as Merrick was invested in what you knew."

The teenager bit down on his lower lip, gnawing on it nervously, before asking in a tortured whisper, "How bad was it?"

Sam swallowed in response, blinking rapidly several times before announcing, "By that point, I could have been classified as a pincushion. To say it was bad, would be to put it very mildly. I could hardly move without triggering pain in something. But Matt was an asshole - he pushed me and he pulled me and he cussed me out multiple times, before he finally succeeded in getting me out of bed."

There was a pause, before the sniper snorted bitterly. "I fell, about a second later. I cussed him out like I have never cussed before - Ma would wash my mouth out, if I ever dared to use that kind of language in front of her. I told him I hated him . . . that he was a ruthless, sadistic bastard . . . I screamed and I yelled and I cried, and he let me do it. Because I had made the first step towards getting better, as much as I railed against it."

Leaning over slightly, the older brother forced the younger to look at him in the eyes. "I'm not Matt so I won’t be as . . . dickish about it, but you're still going to hate my guts for being an asshole. When it’s all said and done, though, you are getting out of that bed. Today."

Samonik could feel his face contort at the announcement, even as he acknowledged the concern and the love behind it. As for Dean, the older Winchester's hand tightened hard on his shoulder, giving more than a small hint of the older's thoughts on that. Fortunately for everyone, Samonik was the brother gifted with tact and he spoke up first. "Do I have to?" he asked, already knowing the answer and resigned to it, but asking for Dean's sake anyway.

"Yes, you have to."

The younger brother bit down on his lower lip, before nodding briskly once. "And if I cuss at you?"

"I promise not to tell Ma," he chuckled with a wink and a soft grin.

"What about if I tell you that I hate you?" he asked, eyes scanned over Sam's face in search of a flinch or a lie.

Sam barked out a laugh at the question, vowing, "I won't take it personally, honest."

Samonik nodded in understanding, before turning his attention to Dean. "Are you sure you want to be here for this? I can promise you now, it's going to hurt."

"If I have to, I'll leave. But for the moment, I've got your back, kiddo."

Taking a deep breath in through his nose, the younger Winchester nodded sharply. "Okay then. Let's do this thing."

"That's the spirit. All right . . . hold on to my wrists, take your time, and get up when you’re ready.”

Samonik moved slowly as he maneuvered his legs over the edge of the bed and reached to grasp his eldest brother’s wrists. For a long time he sat there, before asking meekly, “What if I’m never ready?”

“Then you can expect me to haul you off the bed and onto the floor,” the sniper announced bluntly, twisting his hands within the teenager’s grasp to grip Samonik’s own wrists. “That’s what Matt did, and as much as I hated him for it, it worked.”

“I don’t think I like Matt much.”

Sam barked out a startled laugh, promising, “Occasionally, I didn’t like him either. But he was a good man, and a good friend. I miss him every day.”

Dean’s eyes narrowed as he asked, “What happened to him?”

The sniper flinched hard at the question, features and emotions closing off more quickly than Samonik had ever seen even Dean achieve. “He’s dead . . . he was killed by friendly fire.” Pain spasmed across his features, before he choked out, “He wasn’t supposed to be there and I was cleared to fire – I killed him.”

The two Winchester stared at him for a moment, before Dean’s voice cut through the room. “Bullshit.”

Sam’s lips tightened hard as he replied, “I killed him, De – I will never be able to avoid that reality, no matter how much I may want to.”

“Fine, but it wasn’t your fault. You’ve been kicking my ass all day about how what happened to Sammy isn’t my fault. This wasn’t yours either.”

One corner of the sniper’s lips twisted upwards as his chin dipped once in a solemn nod. “Dad’s said the same thing. And Ma too, for that matter. Believing it for myself is taking me a little longer. You weren’t here when Samonik was taken – I was the hand on the trigger that killed Matt.” Rolling his eyes at himself, he turned his face against his shoulder and used his shirt to brush away the glistening of tears. Then he straightened and insisted, “I’m working on it. But for the moment, today isn’t about me . . . it’s about Samonik.”

The younger teenager frowned as he tried to protest one last time, “It doesn’t have to be?”

Dean chuckled, amused by the interplay before insisting, “Nice try, Sammy.”

Sam snorted and agreed, “Indeed. Enough prevaricating. You ready?”

“No, but I don’t really have a choice do I?”

“Not a one,” his older brother replied with a small, fragile smile. Those strong soldier’s hands tightened firmly around Sam’s wrists, icy blue locking with hazel green, utterly serious as he vowed, “I’m right here. I won’t let you fall . . . I promise.”

Samonik took a deep breath in through his nose and then nodded, “I trust you.”

That familiar smile quirked before Sam replied, “Then take the first step.”

Biting down on his lower lip, Samonik hesitated for only a moment then put his money where his mouth was – not to mention, his trust in his brother – and slid from his seat on the mattress.

Chapter Text

Chapter 301: Evolution of Motherhood

Marina Petrovka was in her kitchen, allowing herself to enjoy one of the few things she truly loved. There was a Russian radio station playing from the cabinet, pots simmering on the stove and all the fixing for lasagna laid out at her elbow. Samonik was home from Medical, and was going back to school the next day.

It had taken a veritable act of Congress, but she and Misha had finally managed to convince the teenager to see a therapist. Her boy was stubborn and insisted he was fine, but nearly had a panic attack at the mere mention of Brooklyn Latin several days before. Though their sessions were nowhere close to being over - Samonik having come to appreciate the ability to vent about whatever was going on, without fear of upsetting anyone he loved - but Sandy had at least been able to ease her son's fears about going back to school.

The increased security, among other things, that Misha had pushed Brooklyn Latin to implement had gone a long way to soothing Marina's own fears.

As it was, today was the last day before Vincent had approved her son's return to school. Dean had already returned to MIT, the leave allowed by his commanding officer coming to an end much more quickly than the cadet was happy with. Even still, he obeyed the directive and fussed adorably at his brother, before putting base in the rear view mirror of his Impala and returning to Boston.

For the most part, the house was empty. Three members of the Foursome were at school, while Samonik prepared to return the following day. Her Misha was at work, while the twins were in their room taking their naps. Everything was at it should be.

Just then, the floor creaked behind her and Marina's instincts kicked into high gear.

She removed her gun from the holster at the small of her back in the same second she whirled to face the threat to her family. Flashbacks to the last invasion of her home dashed before her eyes as she brought the gun to bear . . . then froze.

Samonik stood in the doorway to her kitchen, hands up and a sheepish little smile on his lips. She blinked, trying to force calm into her, before she let slip a small smile, one corner dragging downwards slightly. "I'm sorry, Samonik . . . force of habit."

His mouth twisted a little as he nodded solemnly, memories of his own flickering behind those hazel eyes. "I know . . . it's okay." After a moment, his head cocked to the side as he questioned meekly, "Can I talk to you?"

Marina practically lunged forward, worry brimming in her chest as she tucked her gun back in its holster. "Of course, love! Come in, sit down. Are you hungry?" she demanded, fussing at him even as she shuttled him towards the little nook table. "Thirsty? How are you feeling?"

Her eyes narrowed as she scanned him from head to toe, trying to see how he was feeling. There was still a small limp to his gait, but it was improving every day. But a full day of walking around on it, not to mention an hour's worth of physical education classes, would probably be hell. She frowned as her maternal instincts flared, promising earnestly, “You can stay home another few days if you need to. It’s okay."

"No, I feel fine. I'm ready to go back, honest," he vowed with a grin, one hand dropping carefully to his thigh. While the wound was healing well, she knew it still pained him from time to time. Her eyes narrowed at him as she considered his body language, before blinking as he reached out to take her hand and pull her into the seat across from him. "Marina, I need to talk to you. It's important."

Settling comfortably in her chair, she folded her hands together, resting them casually on the tabletop. Her tone was supportive, if a little worried, a she promised, "I'm all ears, honey. Whatever's wrong, we'll work it out. I promise."

He grinned as he shook his head at her. "Nothing's wrong." Here he paused, eyebrows furrowing before continued, "Well, not technically."

Alarm rang like the bells in a fire station as one eyebrow winged upwards. She could feel the skepticism creeping across her face as she echoed suspiciously, "Not technically? What do you mean?"

Sam's sigh was eloquent was frustration. It was becoming increasingly clear whatever speech he'd concocted in his head was being thrown completely out the window by her questions and concern. He watched her for a long moment, before folding his hands in front of him and announcing, "Dean calls you 'Marishka Mama'."

Startled by the declaration, Marina felt her heart sink a little bit. She had thrilled to hear both of her boys call her "mom" - even if Dean's nickname for her tended to be more of a joke, than in seriousness. However, the younger Winchester hadn't called her "Mom" since he'd awoken in Medical, tired but lucid. And while Dean still called her by the nickname, it appeared the younger Winchester may not be happy about that. She blinked as she considered what to say, before plastering a small smile on her fact and questioning, "Yes? You're heard him call me that before."

He nodded slowly, conceding that he had, forcing her to swallow her building tears and push forward. "Do you not want him to call me that?" She had intended to wait for an answer, but couldn't bear the thought of receiving an affirmative, so barreled through without waiting for an answer. "Sweetheart, if you tell your brother that, he wouldn't anymore. There isn't anything Dean wouldn't do to make you happy."

She couldn't help her amusement as he huffed at her, visibly and audibly frustrated that his implied meaning wasn't being expressed adequately. His head shook as he continued, "No, it's not that. I don't mind at all." Here he paused for a moment, nibbling on his lower lip. When he spoke again, his tone was hesitant and unsure, "Actually, I was hoping . . . I mean, if it was okay with you . . . I was thinking, or hoping . . . well, I thought."

Amused and concerned by the stammering as her son struggled to find the words he was looking for, she reached out and laid a hand over his own. "Spit it out, Samonik," she insisted with a small smirk, "before you give yourself an aneurysm."

The teenager stared at her for a moment, his lips compressing a little in frustration - considering the self-deprecating frown on his lips, the frustration was with himself and not her. Finally, he blurted, "Can I call you 'Mom'?"

Joy flooded through her a tidal wave in a tsunami. Some distant part of her knew that she was staring at him in shock, but the rest was trying to wrestle the all consuming glee back under control so she could give him an answer. After a moment, the more clinical part of her rushed back to the forefront and she could hear her jaw click closed as reality swept over her again. "Oh, honey - there is nothing in the world I would love more, but . . ."

She slumped a little as she squeezed his hand, her tone regretful as she insisted, "Have you spoken to Dean about this? 'Marishka Mama' is a joke - it's not serious."

His eyes went wide in shock before he practically lunged across the table, protesting vehemently, "But it is! He means it, every time! It's the closest would ever come to calling someone else 'Mom'." Folding his hands around hers tightly, he continued, "He loves you and he considers you a mom figure . . . and he wants to know that, so he calls you something that hints at it without actually saying it at all."

He huffed out a breath, ruffling his bangs out of his face and earning a smile from her. His tone was decidedly snarky - clearly Rene had been more of an influence than she'd originally considered - as he huffed, "Dean has problems with human emotions - demons he gets, people are crazy."

More than able to believe that of her eldest foster child, Marina giggled as she agreed, "Well if that's his philosophy, I don't think he picked a family which could argue with him about the validity of it." He cracked a smile at her laughter, before sobering as she did, biting his lip hard as he watched her reach to touch his hand once more. "My point still stands. Have you spoken to Dean?"

"Yes - and he didn't say I couldn't," he argued petulantly, tone nearly a whine as he pleaded, "It'll take him a bit to be okay with the idea, but he said he'd try at least."

Marina was more than able to translate that into Dean-speak; he'd allow it, but he'd hate it. She hummed, trying not to sound disheartened as she questioned gently, "Samonik, I love you. You know that, right?"

He sagged into him, depression creeping across his features as he begged miserably, "I love you too. You're the only mom I've ever known. Please don't say no."

"I'm not saying no," she promised, a small smile on her lips as she forced him to meet her eyes straight on. "I just want you to be sure. You don't have to call me 'Mom' for me to consider you my son, okay? Be sure it's what you want, before you take this kind of step."

His features turned adorably petulant as he insisted, "I am sure, Marina. I've been thinking about it for weeks now - ever since the first time I heard Dean call you 'Marishka Mama'. I was thinking about it, while I was tied up on that man's floor and bleeding. I haven't been able to stop."

Marina watched her son for a long moment. He looked so earnest in his request - so scared that she was going to refuse him - she felt her heart swell three sizes in her chest. She knew there was a good chance she wouldn't be able to make the Winchesters hers in a legal fashion, but she'd take what she could get.

Still, she tried to give him one last out, just in case he had any lingering doubts. Taking a deep breath through her nose, she took his hand in both of her own and looked him straight in the eyes. "You realize if you call me Mom . . . I am never going to let you go, right? You'll be mine forever."

He nodded, eyes wide with hope and joy as he vowed, "I'm okay with that." Here he grew hesitant, long evident in his tone as he asked, "So it's okay? I can call you Mom?"

She paused, her eyes taking him in, trying to read him and be sure that this was what he wanted. All she saw was desperate hope from Samonik, his face alight with pleading. Content that he meant it, and he wasn't going to change his mind anytime soon, Marina nodded and replied simply, "Yes."

The teenager rocketed out of his chair to throw his arms around her, nearly knocking her from the chair she was seated in as his joy and excitement enveloped her along with his embrace. "Thank you!" he cheered, tears coursing unnoticed down his cheeks as he pressed a wet, effusive kiss to her cheek. "Thank you so much!"

"No, baby, thank you," she laughed, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing as tightly as she could manage. "I can assure you, you just made my day."

Marina tightened her hold as she felt him start to tremble, relief flooding through him like adrenaline, leaving him shaky and weak-kneed. After a moment, the teenager bent his face into the curve of her throat and announced, "I love you, Mom."

Her eyes slipped closed, tears of her own trickling down her face as she promised. "I love you too, baby, so much."

It was a long time, before Samonik pressed another kiss to her cheek and drew back from the embrace. Looking over at the stove to hide his tears, and the discreet move he took to wipe them away, he asked, "What are you making?"

"Lasagna, for dinner," here she sighed with a rueful grin as she joked, "Misha may actually be hungry tonight."

"You want some help, Mom?"

A thrill went through her, earning a brilliant grin to flash across her face. Trying to deflect a little from the sheer giddiness ignited by the word, she teased, "I'm not sure I'm ever going to get tired of hearing you say that."

"Probably a good thing, cause I don't think I'll ever get tired of saying it . . ." he paused for a moment with twinkling eyes, before putting careful emphasis on the title as he continued, "Mom."

She laughed outright, thrilled by his clear excitement about the title. “That’s going to be a thing for a while, isn’t it?”

Bless his heart, there was no sheepishness or shame to his grin as he practically beamed at her. “Oh yeah,” he agreed with a firm nod and wink. “Totally.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 302: Spring Break Shenanigans

Sam Winchester watched the family's nanny leave for the day, before grimacing as he sank onto the bottom stair of the staircase, his thigh throbbing as he eased himself down. That morning, he'd sworn up and down that he could ride his bike to school and that he didn't need the younger Hardy to continue babysitting him by driving him to school. Considering the screaming coming from the still healing muscles in his leg, that had been a mistake, albeit a well-meaning one.

Rene came into the house a moment later, cocking an eyebrow at the older brother's flopped posture. "Dude, you okay?"

"There isn't a bone in this leg anymore - it's a hot poker," the teenager insisted through a groan. "Honestly."

Crouching in front of him, Rene's eyes scanned over him carefully. After a moment, he cracked a small smile. "Well at least it's Spring Break? You'll get some time off?"

"That sounds like heaven,” Sam groaned, flopping backwards so he was lying across the bottom five stairs with his arms splayed out to his sides. “When are we leaving?”

“As soon as Mama and Dad get home,” Rene replied, grinning as Yekaterina came flouncing into the foyer and beamed up at her brother, clearly waiting for him to pick her up. Bending, he obliged her and tucked her onto his hip with a warm kiss to her temple. “Hello, princesa, what have you been up to today?”

"Trouble," she replied primly, with a wide, toothless grin.

Sam chuckled as he joked, "I can't tell. Is she talking about Valya, or the trouble they've been getting into today?"

"Geez, who knows?" the younger brother laughed, cuddling his sister close for a moment. "Are you ready to go to the beach, Kat?"

"Beach!" the toddler cheered gleefully, before frowning down at her dress. "Dress get ruined?"

Rene shook his head firmly, promising, "Nah. Come on - let's go get you changed into play clothes. That way we can go as soon as Mama and Papa get home, da?"

"DA!" the little girl shrieked at the top of her lungs, dissolving into giggles at the exaggerated wince on Rene's face as he protested, "That's my ear, princesa!!"

"Silly Wene," she giggled, tiny hands coming up to press against her lips and hide her grin.

"Ha ha," he teased, nibbling gently against the curve of her throat and eliciting another series of delighted squeals and giggles. "I'm going to gobble you up, you're so cute and sweet."

"No! Don' eat me!" she protested, pushing against him even as she grinned and laughed. The door opened behind Rene causing Katenka to squeal, "Mama! He'p me!"

"Oh, my darling," the Family Russian laughed, swooping in and rescuing her youngest daughter from her son. Rene let the younger twin go as Marina swirled away with Katenka ensconced in her arms. The toddler giggled happily as she fisted her hands in the woman’s sweater and stuck her tongue out at her brother over their mother’s shoulder. Marina Petrovka's tone was bright and teasing as she asked in pantomimed horror, "Did my little girl nearly get eaten?"

"Wene the Dwagon neawly ate me, Mama!"

"Well that was very naughty of him," the woman laughed, sending her son a broad wink. "But, princesa, why are you still in your pretty dress? Papa is only five minutes behind me, and we want to go as soon as he gets home."

“Papa?” she asked brightly, her whole body perking up in visible excitement at the name.

“Yes, Katenka, Papa. So hustle, little love – let’s get ready to go before your Papa gets home.”


“Papapapapapapa!” the toddler chanted cheerfully, giggling as she attempted to bolt up the stairs and was forced to stop so she didn’t trip over her brother’s arm. Curtsying prettily, she insisted, “’Cuse me, Sammy.”

Sam chuckled, shuffling over carefully as the little princess tiptoed past him, then bolted up the stairs. Marina stopped on the stair next to him, crouching effortlessly as she reached to smooth her fingers through his hair. "Hello, sweetheart. Regretting being stubborn this morning, are we?"

He smiled at her lightly as he agreed, "In hindsight, it was stupid, Mom."

The Russian chuckled softly, her head shaking in fond amusement. "I'll bet it feels that way. Just rest for a bit, okay? Misha will be home soon, and we'll be on our way to the Hamptons." Her eyes narrowed as she scolded him lightly, "I'm going to strongly suggest that you take it easy this week. Bike riding and body surfing and the like should probably wait until next vacation, dong la ma?"

"I packed some books to read and homework to finish. I've dedicated this upcoming week to laziness," he promised with a grin.

"As long as you're not combining mental laziness with your physical laziness, I'll allow it," she teased with a wink in reply. "I am going to ask that you maybe not sprawl across the entire staircase. God knows, Valya never looks where she's going."

Sam wriggled a little to the side, pulling his arms in to fold over his chest. "No problem, Mom."

"Thank you, baby. Rene, please go find Valya and if she's not dressed to go, kindly corral her up to the nursey?"

"On it!" he agreed, turning around and heading off towards the room Katenka had materialized from mere minutes before.

"Thank you!" Marina called after him, before smoothing her hand through Sam's hair once again and disappearing up the stairs after her daughter.

Which left Sam hanging out on the stairs, alone and content. Letting his eyes fall closed, he allowed himself the luxury of listening to his family as they maneuvered the house deftly. It was calming and relaxing - Sam was literally the happiest he'd been in weeks. At which time the front door opened and a familiar voice questioned through laughter, "Samonik, kiddo . . . what are you doing on the staircase?"

“Hi Will!” Sam greeted with a grin, lifting his head to grin at the Colonel. “How was work?”

“Long – I’m glad for the holiday, otherwise I might kill someone,” his foster father replied with a small smile, shrugging free of his coat and hanging it on the rack behind the door. "You?"

"I feel like hamburger. You and Mom may have had a point this morning."

Will smirked, teasing mildly, "I promise not to gloat about it."

Sam rolled his eyes even as his lips stretched into a wide grin. "Thanks," he drawled with a chuckle. "I appreciate that, really."

"You're welcome." Rolling up the sleeves of his sweater, Will asked, "You ready to go?"

"Yeah; Rene bullied me into packing last night and hauled our suitcases down to the garage this morning. Mom just ran Katenka upstairs to get her out of her dress and into play clothes, while Rene went in search of Trouble."

"It's a good thing I know who we're talking about, or I would be genuinely concerned with how much we say that," the man joked, still chuckling. His eyes directed up towards the left just as a voice shrieked, "Papa!"

"Hello Trouble," he laughed, accepting his more rambunctious daughter as she all but lunged from her brother's arms. "And what mischief have you been into, hmm?"

"In'cent, Papa," Valya protested with a brilliant grin, batting her eyes adorably and sending both of her brothers into riots of laughter.

Sam watched the man roll his eyes at them, before cocking an eyebrow at his daughter. "We'll pretend I believe you, da?"

Valya didn't even pretend; she flat out giggled at her father, a wicked tilt to her grin as she snuggled close to him. Will's head shook in silent amusement, bending to kiss the crown of her chocolate curls before calling up the stairwell, "Marishka! Samaya malen'kaya, we should get going or we're going to get caught in the traffic heading out of town!"

"Then come up here and tame your daughter!" the woman called back, tone laughing and amused. Her next statement was clearly directed at her youngest child as she scolded through laughter, "Katenka! Hold still!"

"Papa!" was the shrill shriek in reply, the younger twin clearly anxious to see her father and not afraid to let the entire house know it.

Valya's hands came up over her mouth as she giggled at her father's amused snort. Will's eyebrow rose as he looked down at the little girl, teasing, "Your sister is spoiled."

"Spoi'ed!" she cheered in agreement, before giggling again.

The Colonel's head shook as he lifted her up to press a warm kiss to her cheek. "What am I talking about? You're both spoiled rotten."

The older twin grinned up at him, echoing gleefully, "Rott'n!"

"Rene, take your sister so I can go rescue your mother," the man sighed with a grin. "And if you could help Samonik get to the car? That would be helpful."

"I'm on it, Dad," the blond agreed, catching his sister as Will tossed her gently through the air.

Valya screamed with laughter, crowing, "Fly, Wene! Fly!"

Rene spun them both around, making the appropriate airplane noises to elicit more giggles, before hitching her up onto his hip. "All right, Trouble. Let's get Sammy to the car, yeah?"

"I am not an invalid," Sam grumbled, sitting up and absolutely not preening as Will ruffled his hair fondly on the man’s way up the stairs.

"Tha's a funny word, Sammy," Valya giggled, eyes sparkling with mischief as Rene offered their brother a hand to his feet.

Sam chuckled, unable to resist the little girl when she beamed at him that way. Some part of him was always conscious that his father would probably never let Will and Marina adopt him, so he would never be a Grimm for real. Considering how the family treated him as one of their own, though, it never seemed to occur to them he was only a foster. The behavior was even more obvious in the twins, who didn't understand the difference between an adoptive brother, foster brother, and natural born brother. All they heard was "brother", which - as far as the scamps were concerned - was all they needed to know.

Dean was definitely the forerunner for the title of Valya's Favorite Brother but it never seemed to affect her adoration for the rest of them either.

Reaching up to ruffle her hair, he teased, "You're a menace."

"Nuh-uh!" she protested with a pout. "Mama says I'm stwong willed."

"To put it mildly," Rene snarked with a chuckle and a roll of his eyes.

Valya's nose wrinkled adorably, at which point she stuck her tongue out at her brother pointedly. Both brothers returned the gesture, before Rene's fingers found the ticklish spot just above her ribcage, earning a squeal of laughter which quickly devolved into shrieks of delight. Sam stayed that single step out of reach, willing to let Rene get their revenge and avoiding the little girl's flailing limbs. He had no interest in getting a foot to the chest - he'd hit his limit with Medical for at least the next year . . . if not more.

After a bit, Marina's giggles sounded from the landing just above their heads. "Rene, your sister is turning blue. Let her breathe."

Rene's eyes narrowed at the toddler's face for a moment, clearly playful as he watched Valya pant for breath. "Nah . . . she's not blue yet," he insisted after a moment, before a wicked smile creased his face, "Getting there though."

Valya's eyes went wide in horror, before she screeched, "Mama!"

The Russian's laughter was bright and happy as she made her way down the stairwell, her lover and younger daughter following just behind her. The toddler leaned out of her brother's arms, letting her mother swing her free with a vivacious giggle. "Save me, Mama!" she cried, wrapping her arms around the Russian’s neck tightly.

"There now, Trouble, you're all right. Mama has you now," Marina crooned fondly, winking at her sons fondly. "Are you ready to go to the beach!? Won't that be fun??"

"Yay!" she cheered, little legs drumming against her mother's legs as she bounced against the woman's hip. "Fun! Fun! Fun!"

Will chuckled as he teased his daughter, "Valya, you're turning your poor mother black and blue. She's going to refuse to put on a swimming suit if you bruise her, love."

Sam looked over at his brother as Rene suddenly gagged, earning a lazy smack up the back of the blond's head from the Colonel. It took Sam a moment, before he understood and he too choked. "Dad!" Rene protested, cheeks turning brilliantly red as he rubbed at the back of his head.

Marina giggled as Will smirked. "You know, I never realized that we had a second generation of boys to gross out by flirting with each other," he joked to his partner, earning a burst of laughter from the petite handler. "This is going to be fun."

Chapter Text

Chapter 303: Family Business

Rene grinned as he watched Sam's eyes open to the size of saucers as his dad pulled the SUV up in front of the Hampton's House. "Welcome to the Family's Palace - it has a wing for each of the Brothers Grimm, Doyle, Gus and Grandpa . . . and their families. Plus a huge kitchen, a sun room, three sitting rooms as well as a formal and informal dining room."

The younger Winchester looked as though he'd swallowed his tongue as he shoved his face against the glass and stared up at the honest to God mansion in front of them. "Holy fuc . . ."

"Finish that statement," his Mama interrupted sharply, tone severe as she swiveled in her seat to face them, "and I'm going to wash your mouth out."

Sam swallowed the words, but they were still visible in his wide eyes as he turned to face Rene. The blond smirked as he nodded, "Welcome to life as a Grimm - I hope you really do want to go to Columbia, because Mama and Dad are totally going to make that happen."

The Russian chuckled as she watched Sam stare out the window, equal parts shocked and horrified by the sight out the window. "I promise, Samonik, it's not a model home. We built it shortly after S.H.I.E.L.D. recruited us. Admittedly we've added on over the years but . . ."

"You built it?!" he choked with wide eyes.

Will grinned as he promised, "My brothers and I are not poor - well we're not poor anymore, at least. The Army pays handsomely for hazardous assignments, and I am very good at managing our finances. We have quite the comfortable nest egg, not to mention enough to send you, Rene, the Twins and at least six other children to any college of their dreams, without incurring debt. We could have sent Dean to MIT without breaking a sweat, but he wouldn't accept it from Stark, let alone from us."

"Damn," he breathed, staring at the Colonel with wide eyes and no little awe. "I can't . . . I mean . . . wha . . . are you sure?"

"You're my kid, Sam. Yes, I'm sure," the man replied with a small, patient smile and a fond roll of his eyes.

Marina reached out to smack at her lover, earning a laugh from the usually stoic officer. "What!?" he asked, dodging her next slap deftly before hauling her in for a quick kiss by the back of her neck. "You're so cute."

She rolled her eyes at him, before rotating to face the backseat once more. "What Misha means, is you’re one of our boys and we are always going to take care of you. Whatever that means, and no matter what.”

Rene loved the Hampton's House. It was situated right on the beach, the steps off the back porch descending directly into clean white sand. The entire stretch of beach behind the house was private, and completely secluded - both because of the sheer size of the acreage the house sat on and because of the sand dunes that rose to block any prying eyes. There was a small headland, filled with tide pools and sea life, as well as nooks and crannies in the rocks where he could disappear with a good book for a few hours.

It was the first time the Twins were old enough to visit the house. Their wonder and excitement combined with Sam's utter shock was making for a delightful trip. A part of him was worried about the girls - Inari had been particularly clingy after Sam's release from Medical, while Dacia was almost feral in her need to keep her eyes on both boths at all times - but he trusted his parents to know what they were doing.

Sam needed the break from the city before someone startled him so severely he did actually jump out of his skin. Rene's Dad needed the break from the workload that wore him down, which in turn meant his Mama needed a rest from the stress as well.

Spring Break in the Hamptons was, quite literally, the best idea his parents had ever had.

Currently, the two teenagers were out on the veranda. Sam was curled up in a rocker chair, a sketch book in his lap and a set of graphite pencils in an enameled, monogrammed case on the table to his left. As for Rene, he was sprawled across the hardwood planking, his feet up in another chair as he fiddled with his video camera. Brooklyn Latin was hosting an art show shortly after Spring Break was over and the blond teenager was still deliberating on the various ideas percolating in his brain.

Sam's contribution had taken him all of a second to decide on - he was sketching several of the monsters from his father's journal, giving the supernatural creatures a lifelike and decidedly alarming look to them. Rene was pretty sure the sketches would find their way into the fantasy case of the art show, leaving everyone blissfully ignorant of the fact that these creatures were real, and they did go bump in the night.

Rene kinda hoped he was around when that little tidbit smacked their magisters square across the face.

As for Rene, he was having trouble narrowing down his thoughts into a single coherent idea. He'd taken so much footage over the last six months that deciding on one solitary thought was taking some work. He rolled his eyes as he fast forwarded through yet another segment of Sam arguing with Velma Dinkley during Debate Club. "Dude, what is up with you and Velma?" he asked, the question ninety-five percent rhetorical.

Sam snorted, not looking up from his page as he replied absently, "She's sixteen and I'm not, and she thinks that makes her smarter."

Rene froze at the statement, before pushing himself up into a seated position. Some part of his brain was cataloguing over Sam's birthday the year before . . . and the other teenager's careful avoidance of any actual information regarding it. Sam had thrown such a fuss about celebrating it at all, his Mama had been lucky just to get away with some small, practical presents and a cake. "Wait a minute - say that again?"

"She's sixteen, and I'm not? So she thinks that makes her smarter?" the older brother repeated, cautious curiosity in his tone and features as he turned his attention on his brother.

"You're not sixteen?" the blond demanded, eyes narrowing as he watched the older teenager shake his head slowly. "It's your birthday next month," Rene blurted, earning another confused nod, before demanding, "Does Mama know you're not sixteen?"

Sam's head cocked before he shrugged, "I guess so? I mean, I've never mentioned it, but they are my guardians, so I would think that information is something she would know.” After a moment he frowned, tone unsure as he continued, “Or maybe not ‘cause I don't know if this was a legal fostering. I never saw a judge or lawyers except for Lawrence and I did all the paperwork for school. So maybe they don't know . . . huh.”

Rene pushed himself to his feet with a sunny grin. "Well, only one way to find out."

"Why do you look like a cat that caught a canary?" Sam asked, eyes narrowing at the smug look on Rene's face.

"If I have to endure a Sweet Sixteen party this year, so do you," Rene called over his shoulder, before he stepped through the porch door and moving towards the kitchen.

Rene could hear Sam sputtering behind him, before calling after him, "But I'm not a girl!"

"And what does your gender have to do with Mama throwing you a huge party for your sixteenth birthday?" was the hollered reply, the blond chuckling as Sam began to use some of their brother, Dean's, more . . . creative swearing combinations.

Dashing away as the door opened behind him, Rene laughed aloud as Sam called, "Rene, wait!"

The younger brother put a little extra hustle into his pace and blew into his mother's kitchen like a hurricane. His mother barely looked up from where she was chopping celery at the island in the center of her domain. "Where's the fire, love?"

"Sam's going to kill me, so I'm going to ask this fast," Rene blurted, dodging around the island and behind his mother seconds before the older teen hobbled as fast as he could into the kitchen. "Did you know that Sam is turning sixteen this birthday?"

Rene knew instantly that the answer was no, as Marina Petrovka all but froze in her tracks. Her shoulders suddenly straightened and her movements were very deliberate as she set the butcher knife to the right of her cutting board. Her chin came up slowly, taking in her middle son around a slow, careful blink. The two brunettes watched each other for a moment, before Marina's hands found her hips and she rotated to face her youngest teenager. "This birthday . . .?"

"Yes ma'am," he chirped gleefully, looking forward to the verbal thrashing his mother was gearing up for with her youngest Winchester. "He wasn't going to tell you."

Turning slowly on her heel, she cocked her head at her son and demanded, "Explain."

“It’s not a big deal, Mom, honest.”

The family Russian focused on her boy with laser focus, reaching out to grab a towel and wring it in her hands as she watched the teenager fidget. "It is a big deal. I know you've heard Misha and I going over the details for this year's Fourth, solely BECAUSE it's Rene's sixteenth birthday."

Sam's foot scuffed against the floor, his hands coming up behind his back as he stared at the tile. Marina turned a sharp glare on Rene as the blond snickered, amused to see the classic "Naughty Little Boy" pose from his brother. It was no secret that Sam tried very hard to be perfect for his foster parents, and any trouble he caused them was cause for no little distress. Rene swallowed his grin at the look, even as Sam replied meekly, "I'm sorry, Mom."

"You're forgiven . . ." she agreed with a sweet smile, causing Rene to snicker louder. Anyone in the family knew, once that smile creased his mother's lips, you were going to dread whatever she said next, ". . . as long as you don't complain when I throw you the biggest birthday party New York City has ever seen."

John Winchester's second child choked at the stipulation, stepping forward reflexively as he immediately protested, "Mom, no!"

"Yes," she counted calmly with a firm nod. "You're going to be sixteen, Sammy. That's a big deal, in any family - not just ours. And I intend to make it a birthday you remember fondly for the rest of your life. Long after you're gone from us, and on your own, I want you to have this memory of us, and our family. Dong le ma?"

The two stared at each other for a long moment, before Sam blew out a breath. Rene grinned - at least Sam knew when he'd been beaten. With any luck he could teach Dean how to read the signs too; hopefully sooner than later. The taller teen sighed with a rueful twist of his mouth as he agreed, "Okay."

Marina beamed brightly, spinning her toes to return to her kitchen and then kept spinning, coming full circle and staring up at Sam Winchester with wide eyes. "You've driven the Jeep before . . . do you have a license?!"

Sam's cheeks flamed and he ducked his face to avoid anyone seeing the virulent blush. "Um . . . does a fake one count?" he asked hesitantly, looking up at her through his bangs sheepishly.

"Samuel James Winchester!" the woman burst out, horrified. "Do you understand how much trouble you could have been in, if you'd been pulled over with a forged license?"

“A lot?” he hedged with a grimace.

Marina huffed a sigh, even as she rolled her eyes. “That’s putting it mildly,” she scolded lightly, moving to the door of the kitchen. “Misha! Can you come down here please!? I need you!”

“Coming, samaya malen’kaya!” was the responding call from Rene’s father, from somewhere above them in one of the upper story rooms.

Rene smirked and leaned back into the corner of the counters, arms folding across his chest as he watched his brother squirm. Sam glared at him, hissing, “Enjoying this?”

“A little bit,” he chuckled with a grin. “It’s nice not to be the one in trouble for once.”

Marina smacked her son up the back of the head as she scolded, “Don’t get too used to it, goloveshka; I doubt it will last very long.”

“Hence why I’m enjoying it,” he quipped with a grin.

The heavy sound of combat boots on the hardwood heralded the arrival of Rene’s father and he frowned as he took in the scene. “What’s going on?” he asked, tone gravelly and concerned.

The Russian cocked an eyebrow at her eldest teenager and asked, “Would you like to tell him or shall I?”

Poor Sam - he looked as though he wanted to sink into the floor as he turned to face Will and confessed, "I've been driving the Jeep without a legal license."

The Colonel's eyes narrowed, colors swirling as he accepted that information. "You've been driving illegally? In MY car?"

"Yes sir," he agreed with a small flinch.

"Okay, first of all, I would suggest you resign yourself to a lot of time in your room - as of this moment, you're grounded. Second of all, we should probably fix that, don't you think?"

Sam's head shot up and he stared at Will in shock. "That's it?! I'm grounded, and you're going to help me get my license?"

"First I'm going to make sure you know how to drive, with prudence and safety. I've seen your brother drive and I don't approve - teenagers tend to kill them behind the wheel of a car faster than anyone else, due to inexperience. I want to know that you can drive right, and then yes . . . we'll get you your license."

Mercurial eyes narrowed as he asked, "As for being grounded, what did you expect was going to happen?”

Sam's jaw clenched a little as he grit out, "You don't wanna know, Will, honest."

The man's head tilted, before he turned his attention to his partner. "You're right - you should just shoot him."

"Thank you!" Rene's mother cheered, flouncing back to her cooking happily. "Dinner is in twenty. First chore of your grounding, Samonik - set the table and you're in charge of clean up and dishes, for the rest of the trip."

"Yes ma'am," he agreed, moving instantly to the cupboards.

"Thank you. Misha, you have ink all over your hands - go wash. Rene, find your sisters." Watching as they all just stood there, the Russian clapped her hands and ordered briskly, “Chop chop, people!!! Pierogi waits for no man!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 304: Contemplations

As a rule, Will Grimm tried not to hate people he came in contact with in his everyday life. He’d assigned that particular emotion consistently to only one person - damn Thaddeus Ross anyway - thereby something he wasn’t really looking to change. Of course he did dislike some people – some of those people particularly intensely. However for someone like him who felt emotions more strongly than others, hate was an exhausting emotion.

Considering everything he'd been learning about the man since Samonik's abduction, John Winchester was trying to make him break his own rule.

Currently, the Colonel leaned back against the loaned S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV, waiting for his little brother to arrive. Though Aaron wouldn’t be staying, more’s the pity, he and the younger Hardy were on their way to the Hampton's House to deliver Will’s own Jeep. The ancient vehicle was something Samonik had proven comfortable driving, and in order to teach him how to officially drive, his foster father wanted the teen to practice in a vehicle he already felt comfortable with.

Reminded once again of WHY Samonik would need driving lessons, the officer swore viciously under his breath. He literally couldn't understand why he'd never questioned the validity of Samonik's license when the younger Winchester would ask to borrow the Jeep. His brain had failed to make the connection, and Will found himself increasingly uncomfortable with what other breakdowns in reasoning he may have suffered lately. Granted, there had been a lot going on in the year since the Winchesters had joined the family. Even still, there was no excuse with the lapse in making sure his son was safe and not engaging in any of illegal activities which could potentially ruin his life before he even had a chance to live it.

His fist slammed against the door of the SUV behind him just as he registered the sound of the front gate opening up into the house. Looking over, he took a breath in through his nose in the hopes of calming his frustration at the sight of Joe Hardy driving the Jeep through the gates, Aaron's old green GMC trailing close behind. His hands found his pockets as he used his shoulders to push up from his leaning position, eyes watching them as they moved down the drive and closer to him.

Before long, Aaron was swinging from the inside of his truck, those robin's egg eyes watching his brother carefully. As for Joe, he grinned brightly at their boss as he offered the officer the Jeep keys, chirping cheerfully, "Hiya Scary Boss! Delivered safe and sound, with not a scratch on her."

Will snorted softly, amused as always by the blond's excessively exuberant nature. In a lot of ways, he reminded Will of Clint, leaving fondness the dominant emotion in their dealings with one another. "Thank you, Joe."

Aaron came to lean against the SUV beside him, nodding towards the house. "I'm going to assume that Marina has food cooking, if you want to dish a plate before we go."

"Sweet! Thank you!" the young man cheered, dashing for the stairs with a grin. "Boss Lady! Feed me!"

Both brothers burst into laughter as Marina's voice called back through giggles, "I am not your personal chef, Joseph Randolph Hardy!"

"Aww, but Boss Lady!" he replied, just before he disappeared into the house and the screen door slapped closed behind him.

After a moment, the younger Grimm questioned, "So, you wanna tell me what has you stewing out here like a pot of chicken bones?"

"Descriptive," Will snarked, slanting his eyes at his brother with a reluctant smile.

"Accurate," was the teasing reply. "How about you start with why I brought the Jeep? Cause I was under the impression you didn't need the Jeep, which is why you didn't drive it up yourself."

Taking a deep breath, the Colonel replied, "Yeah, that turned out to be a dumb idea."

"Will - talk to me. It's me. I've always kept the secrets you've entrusted me with. I won't tell anyone, I swear."

"I know, Kenny; I have no doubts about your trustworthiness, I promise. It's Samonik."

Immediately the other man's eyebrows furrowed as he turned up onto his shoulder to look at his brother head on. "What's wrong? I thought he was healing well?"

"He is - still tired, and his limp becomes more pronounced when that happens. But for the most part, he's doing good."

"So what's wrong with my nephew?"

"He's been driving on an illegal license."

Aaron's eyes popped open wide as he turned his head to stare at the house, before returning to his brother's face. All the younger brother could offer in terms of comfort was, "Huh." There was a moment of silence between them, before he continued, "Did we check that Dean's license is legal?"

"That's going to be the first thing I find out when I get home from vacation," Will vowed, itching for a cigarette just so he'd have something to do with his hands. He put all his will into suppressing the desire, having promised Marina years before that cigarettes would be a vice only indulged while on deployments or long term assignments. To date, he'd kept his promise and he didn't intend to break it now.

"Did you ground the kid?"

"Yep," was the succinct agreement, before Will's mouth twisted angrily. "He thought I was going to beat him."

Aaron's jaw loosened a little in visible shock, before he insisted, "You have never laid a hand on that kid! Where did he get that idea?"

Will's lips compressed tightly as he all but snarled, "I'll give you one guess."

Disgust contorted his little brother's lips as he hissed, "Damn Winchester to a fiery hell."

"Indeed," the officer agreed with a shake of his head.

"So what are you going to do?"

"Officially teach him to drive, then take him to get his license."

Aaron hummed in mild agreement, one foot scuffing against the floor. "I remember when you taught me to drive."

"You were 21, and I was teaching you to drive a tank," Will joked with a roll of his eyes. "Not exactly the same thing."

"Still it was one of Kenny's fondest memories, before Outcome took him and made him into me." Giving his brother a lopsided smile, he insisted, "I'm sure this is going to be one of Samonik's too."

Will chuckled, reaching out to ruffle the younger brother's blond hair. "You may be biased, favorite."

"So you admit it!" he crowed, eyes crinkling as his grin stretched across his entire face.

"Don't tell your brothers," the officer insisted with a chuckle and a roll of his eyes. "But, Kenny - thank you."

"You've always been there to settle my fears when I needed you to,” the second youngest Grimm reminded the eldest of their unit. Shrugging, he insisted, “It's the least I could do, to be there for you in return."

It was about then Marina Petrovka came out onto the porch, a hand towel in her hands and a smile on her face as she called, "I have peach cobbler, solnechnyy svet, if you would like some before you leave!"

"Hells yeah!" he replied, slapping Will on the shoulder before dashing towards the house. He leaned up just before the last step to press a warm, rough kiss to his sister's cheek. "Allo, sestra."

Marina's arms came around him warmly, earning a smile from Will as he watched the two cling to each other for a moment. Kenny's loss had only deepened the adoration between the two, and Aaron's calling her up at his wedding for the traditional Mother-Son Dance had cemented that deepening further. She couldn't wait to start doting on Aaron's children, determined to spoil them to their hearts' content.

After a minute, they released each other and the Russian waved her second youngest charge into the house with a giggle. "Enjoy, love."

"Thanks, Marina," he replied, before booking it into the house.

As for Will's partner, she came down the stairs and joined him by the cars. "Are you coming in to join the family for cobbler, before you take Samonik for his driving lesson?" she asked gently, a small smile on her face as she looked up into his face.

Barefoot, she was suddenly much tinier than he was used to and he took advantage of the drastic difference to bend and wrap his arms around her waist, lifting her clear off the ground with a grin. Marina squealed in delight, her arms flying around his neck and one foot kicking upwards as she beamed at him. Bending his head, he kissed her sweetly, murmuring against her lip, "Have I told you lately, how very much I love you?"

"Not in the last half hour," she teased with a giggle. "Still, I'm not opposed to hearing it again."

"I love you," he vowed through a kiss, before tilting his head to kiss just below the curve of her jaw as well. "I love you."

His woman's arms tightened as she giggled, letting him have his way as he spread kisses across every inch of her he could reach. Finally, he dropped her on her toes, but tightened his arms to keep her close to him. Marina's head came to rest against his chest, eyes slipped closed as she enjoyed the embrace. After a moment, she spoke, tone reverent and adoring, "So, what brought this on? Not that I'm complaining, of course."

"Just . . . seeing you with Aaron. I don't think I'd know how to do all this without you."

Marina's eyes rolled as she retorted fondly, "Bullshit. It may be more difficult without me to mitigate some of your more . . . tactless . . . moments. But I have every faith in you, Mishka - you'd be able to manage just fine on your own."

Bending, he kissed her again, before pressing his forehead against her. "Let's not ever find out, okay?" he begged, eyes slipping closed at just the idea of a world where he didn't have his Viper at his side and right hand where she belonged.

"You know I can't promise that," she reminded him gently, before pushing up to kiss the dimple on his chin. "But I'll do everything in my power to make sure we don't. Deal?"

"Deal," he agreed, twirling one of her curls around his fingers. After a moment, he straightened and asked, "Where's Samonik?"

"Probably in his room, dreading the lecture he's expecting during the driving lesson."

"Am I really that scary?" he asked with a sigh and a roll of his eyes.

Marina's lips quirked into a teasing grin, as she joked, "Terrifying." Her hand took his and she pulled backwards toward the house, insisting, "Come eat cobbler with me and your family? You and Samonik can go for your lesson after the cobbler's done."

Wrapping one arm around her shoulders, he agreed, "Sounds like a plan. I wonder how much cobbler is even left. I mean, I seem to remember Kenny having a voracious appetite and I don't think Joe is probably any better."

"There is plenty of cobbler, Misha," she scoffed with a smirk. "I always make enough to feed an army."

"Seeing as you routinely feed an army, that doesn't surprise me at all," he joked, scooping her up bridal style into his arms and jogged quickly up the stairs into the house. "This was a good idea, coming here for a holiday."

Marina's eyes were glowing as she looped her arms around his throat and clasped them at the nape of his neck. "Of course it was. I told you it would be." One hand moved to trace the skin under his eyes tenderly, as she scolded, "You look well rested for once."

"You've been doing your best to wear me out," he replied with a wink as he came into the kitchen, earning immediate groans from his little brother and both of his sons. "Honestly, that sound never gets old."

The woman in his arms laughed brightly, twisting free from his hold and landing lightly on her feet. "Take a seat, my love. I'll get you some cobbler."

He nodded and bent to press a warm kiss to her cheek, before rounding the table to take the seat next to his brother. He stopped briefly beside Samonik to squeeze his shoulder fondly, before moving the rest of the way around the table. After a moment, Marina arrived at the table with a plate of cobbler. Offering her a seat on his knee, he smiled as he looked around the table and saw a small collection of the people he loved best.

It was a good day. And looking to get even better.

Chapter Text

Chapter 305: A Long Talk

It was about another two hours before Marina's peach cobbler had been entirely devoured from the pan; before Aaron and Joe were on their way home; and before Will was ready to commence Samonik's first official “driving lesson”. Granted, the Colonel knew his son knew how to drive, but the obsessive compulsive part of him wouldn’t rest until he’d evaluated that for himself. His Russian smiled up at him, tilting her cheek up for a kiss from first their son and then from him, before the two traipsed outside and to the Jeep.

Samonik was fiddling with the keys as they walked to the vehicle, eyes directed at his hands and nothing else. As for Will, he was watching the teenager carefully, trying to determine whether or not he was ready for this “lesson” to begin with. Whether fortunately or not, the injured leg was the left one, hopefully meaning there would be no interference with the pedals. Shifting could be a bit of a trial, but Samonik had been adamant he was fine and could drive.

Frankly, Will was withholding judgment on that. It hadn't been that long ago when just putting weight on his left leg was enough to make the kid scream bloody murder. As it was, his eyes were critical and concerned as he watched the younger Winchester walk to the car. Some part of him was fairly certain this lesson was going to be called short, but he refused to undermine the kid. If his son insisted he was fine, Will would believe him - conditionally - and pull the executive authority card if he had to.

Just from where he was standing an inch behind the teenager, the Colonel could see the kid was tired, as there was a noticeable limp in his step, the left leg hitching every once in awhile to protect itself from overexertion. There was a small grimace tugging at the corners of Samonik's mouth and small bags under his eyes from obvious lack of sleep.

Sighing silently, Will resigned himself to the inevitability of making the kid angry when he called it off. This was quite clearly a bad idea, and he'd be hearing about it from his Marishka if he let the kid push himself past his endurance. There would be plenty of time for driving lessons later in the trip, if not once they returned home to base.

Samonik reached up to grip the crossbar, pulling himself into the seat with just the power of his arms, settling into the driver's seat with a small groan which Will pretended not to hear. Instead, the Colonel climbed into the passenger seat, clicking his seat belt and turning to face his son. As the younger Winchester had been driving the Jeep without supervision for awhile, Will felt comfortable letting the teenager take the lead. "Take us into town, please, Samonik."

"Sure," he agreed, getting the car into gear and pulling out through the gate. "Anywhere in particular?"

"No, not for the moment. Just into town. I'll know where we're going, once I see it."

The teenager smirked as he teased, "That sounds like a Mom thing to say."

Will's eyes rolled fondly as he joked, "Who do you think I stole it from? My Marishka is always trying to push me out of my safety net. Most of the time she even manages to succeed - this is one of those things she tries, and it's worked out well for us before. I'm hoping it'll do the same now, in a different set of circumstances."

A firm nod was Samonik's response to that, turning the Jeep out onto the road and heading towards town. Will watched his son handle the Jeep, content to see his hands confident and firm on both wheel and shifter, his feet moving easily as he moved effortlessly between gears. Whoever had first taught him to drive - Dean! the small inner voice that sounded like Marina insisted - had at least put some effort into training him well.

For a moment, the interior of the Jeep was silent, before Will smiled softly and asked, "How are you feeling, Samonik?"

The teenager looked over quickly, eyes wide, before turning back to the front. "Why?" he asked, sounding tired and wary of the question's origin.

"Because you were abducted two weeks ago, you were limping earlier, and don't think I didn't notice the part where you used your arms to pull yourself inside, not your feet."

"I can drive, honest," the kid protested vehemently, fingers going white-knuckled as they tightened on the wheel.

Will's eyes narrowed, as he replied, "I believe you, but that's not what I asked." One eyebrow cocked upwards at Samonik's sudden skittishness, before he asked cautiously, "Something I should know?"

"No!" he blurted, before wincing hard as Will's eyebrows shot upwards into his hairline.

"If you were looking for me not to be suspicious, you failed - miserably," Will chuckled, amused by the scandalous look that crossed Sam's face in response.

"I wasn't trying to . . . never mind. I just don't want Mom to fuss."

"Okay, first rule you need to know about your mother - she's always going to fuss, whether you're injured or not. So I suggest you become accustomed to the idea."

Another small huff was followed by a sheepish smile, "You'd think I should know that already huh?"

"Probably," he chuckled with a responding grin. "So what's up?"

"It's actually not really anything. Just . . . my leg twinges from time to time. It's not really painful, just annoying."

"Your brother, Sam; his arm still hurts every once in a while, from the injury he obtained on the Georgia mission – that was years ago. That's normal. If you're lucky, one day you'll just stop noticing when it starts to hurt again."

Samonik's hands moved smoothly as he turned onto the main road into town, chuckling as he asked, "Do you ever get confused on which Sam you're thinking or talking about?"

"Surprisingly no," he laughed. "I have you both pretty firmly labelled in my head. And as your mother will tell you, my brain is a computer. Aren't many mix-ups taking place up there . . .”

"So you call me Samonik, even in your head?"

'Kiddo, did you ever find out what that nickname means?"

"Mom says it's a diminutive of my name. Same as Sam's nickname, Sammichka."

"Right. But whereas Sam's nickname basically means 'little Sam', your nickname almost literally means, 'Sammy-baby'. And as you are the baby among our Sams . . .," here the Colonel trailed off, curious to see the teenager's reaction to the new knowledge of his nickname.

For the most part, there was no external reaction to the nickname. However, Will knew his son well enough to know that a lack of external protest didn't exclude a wealth of internal turmoil. Content to wait patiently, the officer watched his son process the information. They were nearly to downtown, when Samonik spoke up again, "You're not going to tell Dean, are you?"

"I promise, I will never tell Dean. I don't really want to clean up that murder, if it's all right with everyone else? If it makes you feel better, his own nickname shchenok? It’s the Russian word for puppy.”

The younger Winchester smirked, glancing towards Will with a soft chuckle. "Fair enough."

Seeing an opening into the conversation Will truly wanted to have with his son, he proposed mildly, "All right then. I won't tell Dean what your nickname means, and you won’t tell him what his means, and both of you will stop lying about whatever it is your father taught you, that you don't want me and your mother to know."

The massive flinch from Samonik was clue enough - Will had smacked the nail flat on the head. Thin shoulders hunched up around his ears as he inquired meekly, "When did you find out?"

"The second you confessed to driving the Jeep without a license? I did a little deeper digging into the background checks we had Jason pull up on you and your brother, when you came to live with us." One eyebrow cocked upwards as he asked, "Flagstaff?"

"I didn't want to be a hunter," was the petulant response, features angry as the teenager all but glared at the road. "I've never wanted to be a hunter. But my dad never asked me what I wanted - all he cared about was finding whatever killed my mother."

"I'm not sure I can fault him for the impulse," Will announced calmly. "Not to mention, if I did lose Marina for any Thor-forsaken reason, I don't think I would be sober for at least a couple of days - bare minimum. But, there's a fundamental difference between your dad and me."

"You actually give a damn about your kids?" was the bitter, rhetorical question from the teenager.

Will's heart squeezed in his chest, even as he shrugged in silent agreement. "I wouldn't have said it in so many words, but . . . essentially, yes. As hard as it would be to be without her – as agonizing as it would be – there are enough people I care about that I could at least try.” There was a sad smile on his lips as he confessed, “Not that I’d probably do it well, but I could at least try.”

Samonik looked over at him, seeing the sincerity in his features before nodding. "Even your worst try would be better than Dad's 'best', I think."

Reaching out to ruffle the longish strands, Will insisted, "Let's hope we never have to find out." Just then a building caught his eye and he turned to look at the sign. Satisfied with the sign reading “Antique Jewelry”, he pointed, "Pull in there. We can take something pretty home to your mother."

"Are we in trouble for something?" Samonik teased, earning a roll of the Colonel's eyes as he scolded through laughter, "Don't you start. Sometimes, I just enjoy spoiling my lover.”

Hazel eyes grew far away as he maneuvered the car into a parking space, Will observing with approval as he parallel parked with ease. The Colonel smiled, easily able to read the thoughts rushing through his son's head, tone only a little teasing as he asked, "So . . . how's Inari?"

"Lonely," was the immediate answer, before he groaned in protest, "That's not fair! I wasn't ready for that question."

The Colonel frowned internally at the immediate response to his playful question. He rather adored the little Fuchsbau and the idea that she was feeling isolated enough to even feel lonely . . . he could foresee a call to Catherine Chandler that afternoon once they returned home. Vincent was working an overnight, but he knew Cat was home for the weekend. With any luck, she’d be able to find out if there was anything the family could do to help ease Inari’s loneliness.

For the moment however, he pasted a teasing smirk on his lips and joked, "You sure? You certainly had the answer at the tip of your tongue." Will was still chuckling as he climbed from the car, eyes fixed on Samonik as the teenager picked his way out of the driver's seat carefully. "How you doing?"

"Can you drive home? My leg aches," he asked in lieu of another answer, offering the keys wordlessly and quirking a small smile of relief as Will accepted them without further comment. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Thank you for being honest about how you were feeling, instead of making me pull the guardian card. I appreciate the trust."

Samonik shrugged sheepishly, foot of his good leg scuffing against the concrete carefully as he replied, "Well, it's not like you and Mom haven't earned it."

"Still, it's nice to hear once in a while. God knows, your brother is tight lipped as hell about whether or not Marina and I are getting anything right."

"I wouldn't worry about Dean," the teenager promised with a grin. "You've got him well and truly caught - hook, line and sinker."

The Colonel snorted in amusement. "I promise not to tell your brother you just compared him to a fish."

"I was thinking eel," Samonik retorted jovially, "but I could get behind the mental image of Dean flopping around like a beached clown fish."

Will burst into laughter, the mental image painted by the statement inexplicably bearing Dean's face over an animated Nemo body. Forcing his laughter under control, he chortled as he asked, "Been thinking about that one for a while, huh?"

The whole lanky body moved as Samonik shrugged, a sly smirk on his lips as he agreed, "It's been banging around in my head since I was ten, I think," he replied with a chuckle.

Will's head shook as he chuckled, before guiding the teenager into the store. The two men wasted about twenty minutes inside the shop, before the Colonel found a pendant necklace for his partner. After the gift was wrapped and purchased, the two left the shop and back into the early afternoon sun. Samonik turned towards the car, but his foster father stayed motionless, looking around for someplace to . . . there, perfect! A small café across the street would be the perfect place to sit and talk to his son. Glancing over at the car, Will called out, "Samonik! Come on!"

The teenager's lips twitched downwards, but he didn't protest as he turned to rejoin the officer. "What's up, Will?" he asked as he drew even with the older man.

Clasping his son's shoulder, he pointed out the cafe and insisted, "Let's talk."

Consternation creased the kid's face as he asked, "About what?"

Will's eyebrow rose as he insisted, "Samonik, we're going to talk. The ease of our conversation, or difficulty, depends entirely on you. Do you understand?"

The man could see the way Samonik gnawed on the inside of his lip, before he nodded briskly. "I understand."

A firm nod was the man's only response, steering his son towards the cafe and the tables situated under umbrellas in front. Samonik took the seat with his back to the street, letting Will take the seat that put his back to the solid wall behind him, creating a surge of relief as he was able to survey the door into - and out of - the café, as well as the surrounding area. "Thank you," he murmured, leaning back in his chair as his son leaned forward on his elbows.

"Sam does the same thing - has to have his back to a wall. I figured you would probably appreciate it."

"When you do what we do, we like knowing we can see what's coming for us. Not that we can always guarantee a wall to our back will protect us, but anything coming through a wall is going to leave other signs they're hunting us," the Colonel agreed with a chuckle, before looking up at the waitress as she approached their table. Reading the name on her tag, he waved off the offer of a menu. "Hello Ms Rebecca. Can I have an Irish coffee, and whatever house soup and sandwich you have?"

"Of course," she agreed with a warm smile. "And for you, kiddo?"

"The house salad? And maybe an iced tea?" Samonik asked with a cheery smile.

She grinned with a wink. "You're gonna be a heart breaker, I can tell." Tilting her head toward the teenager, she joked with the officer, "You might have your hands full with this one, I think."

Will chuckled as he shook his head, eyes and tone utterly sincere as he replied, "Nah - he's a good kid."

The youngest Winchester blushed hard, his head ducking over his hands as the waitress laughed and disappeared once more. Folding his arms over his chest, the man watched his son for a moment, before insisting, "I meant it, you know. You're a good kid. So I think we need to talk about something."

For some reason the kid looked nervous, echoing his earlier question, "About what?"

Will was aware that his relationship with tact was patchy and practically nonexistent. It had resulted in more than a few "expensive apologies" as well as some awkward interactions with people who didn't understand that he wasn't trying to be insulting, just tended towards blunt. Occasionally though, being renown for tactlessness meant that no one thought it was strange when he demanded answers in the most bald terminology possible. "How often did your father beat you?"

The teenager reared backwards in startled shock, before grimacing sharply, visibly aware that he'd given away something he hadn't wanted to. "How . . ." he trailed off with a sigh, before his eyes slipped closed, asking quietly, "Did Dean tell you?"

"No," Will vowed, unwilling to throw Dean under whatever bus Samonik could see looming. "Your mother and I have both seen signs of abuse, in both of you. He didn't have to say anything." Cocking his head, he watched the younger man assimilate that knowledge before continuing on, "Not to mention, your reluctance to name what kind of trouble you thought you were going to be in, when I found out you didn't have a legal license . . . it filled a hole in the puzzle we had been guessing at."

Samonik looked embarrassed, looking down at his hands as they twisted around themselves. "That was stupid."

"It was honest," Will rebutted gently. "I can't guarantee your mother is ever going to like your father - just so you know."

A soft scoff through his nose was the response to that. "I'm not sure I'm ever going to like my father, so we're in the same boat there."

"Indeed," Will chuckled. The conversation paused for a moment as the waitress delivered their drinks and their meals - benefits of ordering something done quickly - accompanied by their quiet thank yous and other pleasantries. Once she was gone again, Will leaned forward on his elbows. "Samonik, kiddo - I need you to answer the question."

Samonik shrugged lightly, visibly embarrassed by the question. "I mean, it didn't happen all the time. But if he'd been drinking, or a hunt had gone wrong . . ." His mouth contorted unhappily, before he continued, "He didn't punish me that way until I was nearly ten. After which point, it happened from time to time, but not often. It was worse when he was drunk."

The Colonel struggled to keep his features from hardening angrily, asking, "'Punish me that way'?" Another grimace slipped across the teenager's face and Will could hear the soft curse word as his head hung down in self-flagellation. Eyes narrowing, the officer demanded, "What is 'that way'?"

Sam's eyes narrowed as he accused, "Are you trying to say, you've never spanked Rene?"

“I haven’t, but my Marishka has. It was a clearly defined punishment he understood the reasoning behind and agreed to . . . and for an infraction too severe to be settled just by grounding. Be that as it may, we’ve never beaten him, either drunk or sober. As a result, he knows that I’m never going to lay a hand on him, without there being a clear, discussed reason.”

Will’s eyes narrowed as he watched his son shrink in on himself. “As for you and Dean, the both of you consistently flinch the second someone raises their voice or becomes angry – something research suggests tends to be a learn response. Extrapolation would lead one to assume that your father is the only source of such a reaction." After a moment, the Colonel insisted gently, "There's a difference between carefully explained correction and random punishment. Especially when those punishments increase in likelihood and severity in direct correlation with someone's drunkenness and mood."

"It wasn't all the time," Samonik protested weakly, seeming to sense that his argument wasn't holding water for a moment.

"He wasn't around all the time either," Will reminded him with a small frown. "How often did it happen when he was?"

There was noticeable no answer to the question and the officer slumped back in his chair. He felt no vindication in being right, only very tired. He reached for his coffee, watching his son process the conversation as he took a slow sip. He hummed in appreciation of the drink - it wasn't the best Irish coffee he'd ever consumed, but it was at least passable enough to enjoy without guilt.

After a moment, Samonik looked up with a small frown. "So you may have a point."

The officer's shoulders moved in a small shrug, once again taking no pleasure in the announcement. "Most of the time anyway," he replied mildly. "I need you to know, Sammy - I may beat your butt every once in an exceptionally rare blue moon, but I will never punish you in anger or while drunk."

There was a weak smirk on the teenager's face as he joked, "You can't get drunk, Will."

"Not true - I CAN. It just takes more alcohol than I would ever consent to having in my house at any one time," the Colonel replied with a smirk and a roll of his eyes. “Furthermore, the only time I’m ever going to spank you? Is if you have done something so terrible, you’ll be begging me to punish you. Because we’ll both know, no amount of grounding is going to be sufficient. Same as it is with Rene – agreed?”

“How old was Rene the last time?” he asked with morbid, and sincere, curiosity.

“It wasn’t long after we adopted him, actually. He was almost twelve but he’d stolen a candy bar from a grocery store. Marina took her hairbrush to his backside.” Will lifted his coffee cup to his lips once again and smirked fondly, “It’s an ivory backed brush she’s had since she was still in the Red Room. It made a hell of an impression.”

The teenager’s eyes were wide as he replied, “Probably literally.”

At the awed terror in his tone, Will laughed outright, agreeing around chuckles, “Indeed.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 306

Will smiled as he pulled through the gates of his home, relieved to see the house once more. Even Samonik sighed, the teenager all but exhausted by the afternoon's lessons and conversation. "Happy to be home again?"

"Yeah," he agreed with a wince, one hand moving to his thigh as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I'm ready for Mom to fuss at me, then tuck me into bed."

"I did warn you," the officer reminded the younger man. "You underwent a terrible ordeal - no one is going to be upset or begrudge you the need to let others do things for you for quite awhile."

The teenager grimaced a little as he shrugged, "I'm just used to being forced to fend for myself, I guess. I'll work on it."

Will's tone was fond but stern as he ordered, "See that you do. I won't have you hurting yourself - or putting yourself at risk - just because you think you have to be self-sufficient."

"Yes sir," was the immediate response, earning a small huff from the Colonel.

The exasperated sound earned a soft chuckle from his son, earning an accompanying roll of Will's eyes. The officer glared at the teenager out of the corner of one eye, joking soberly, "You know, I'm almost convinced you continue to use it, just cause you know I hate it."

The fact there was no response beyond a brilliant grin was telling and Will huffed again through a reluctant chuckle. Soon enough, the Jeep rolled to a stop at the base of the veranda stairs. "Curbside service,” Will teased lightly, eyes sharp as they watched his son grimace at just a single glance at the steps. "Go on and climb out. I'll park and then help you get up them, okay?"

A rosy blush flooded across Samonik's cheeks as he ducked his head in mild embarrassment, though there was true gratitude in his tone as he agreed, "Thank you, Will."

"You're welcome," was the calm reply, eyes fixed on the teenager as he hobbled slowly from the Jeep and then propped himself up against the column at the base of the stairs.

Parking the vehicle, Will gathered their things before glancing into the rearview to check on the boy. He smiled lightly to see Rene bolting down the stairs, pulling the older boy's arm over his shoulder and helping him hobble up the steps. Relieved that Samonik had received help from a more . . . acceptable . . . option, he reminded himself to talk Marina into raising Rene's allowance in reward. While Will would have helped the taller teenager without complaint, he knew how proud Samonik was - and how hard it was to ask a father figure for assistance.

Leaning on Marina, and accepting her fussing, was easier for the teenager - and by smaller measure, for Dean - as he'd never had a mother and had no other frame of reference for a mother's reaction to what had happened to him. That wasn't the case for a father's reaction, however . . .

Samonik would have accepted the help, but it would have been embarrassed him - if not mortified him entirely - for needing help from Will. At least Rene was tenacious and gregarious enough that embarrassment would be the last thought on the teenager's mind. Waiting until his sons had disappeared into the house, Will moved quickly to follow after them.

Coming into the house, Will paused so as to locate his partner. The twins were in the sunroom with Marina, the three giggling together as they played a learning game. He set his things on the entryway table and then moved to lean against the jamb into the room. Marina's smile softened, though she didn't look up as she teased, "Do you intend to hold up the wall for the next twenty minutes? Or are you going to come in and play, Papa?"

Both of his daughters looked up, their little faces beaming with delight as they caught sight of their father. Pride and joy lit like fire in the space below his heart and Will moved into the room to catch them as they pushed up from their seats and moved to swarm him at the knees. "Hello my darlings," he murmured, as he swept them both into his embrace, one twin per forearm. "What have you and Mama been doing this afternoon?"

Pressing kisses to their faces, he let them babble to him a running commentary of everything they'd done that day. As for Marina, she gathered the piles of toys and then shuttled them into their places deftly. After a moment, she joined them, smiling brightly as Will bent instantly to kiss her, one hand coming up to cradle his cheek warmly, "Allo, Mishka. Did everything go okay?"

"I'll take him to the MVD when we get home," he agreed with a warm smile. "He's hurting a little bit so I drove home from town though - I think Rene's getting him up to his room for a lie-in."

His Marishka frowned instantly, eyes moving towards the stairwell as plans began to formulate behind her eyes. Whatever she was going to come up with, however, was suddenly stalled as Will's phone began to scream at him, while a shrill squeal rose from Marina's own. The couple stared at each other for a moment in horrified shock, before the Russian lunged for her phone, while Will dropped his daughters carefully onto the loveseat and rummaged in his pockets for his own.

Understandably, Marina got to hers first. "Petrovka," she barked into the receiver, eyes narrowed as she awaited the response. After a moment, her eyes flashed wide as the voice in her ear registered, "Vika?!"

The other woman's affirmative was indistinct but audible through the phone as she agreed, before continuing with the reason for her call. Will turned his attention to his own phone, frowning to see that it was a family alert stating that Ward had not returned to the handler pool following his PT appointment that afternoon, and was being classified as officially missing. The alert itself had been distributed by Viktoriya Coulson herself. Turning off the noise, he shoved it back into his pocket just as his partner demanded, "He's WHAT!? How is that possible? Did you call his physical therapist!? Is he still there? He could be pushing himself past his appointment – you know how much he hates having to take his rehab slow.”

Whatever Vika said in response was apparently not what Marina wanted to hear, as the Russian burst out, "That's absurd! First of all, he knows better. And secondly, he's so desperate to get back into the field, even Roslyy has commented on the fact he's being a model patient right now."

Will's phone beeped once again, causing a frown from the officer as he pulled it free again. On the screen was a text from his father, announcing, ‘Der Geist is with me. Tell meine Tochter.

Curious despite himself, nevertheless Will moved to stand next to his partner, putting his phone directly into her sightlines just so she couldn’t ignore it. Marina reared back at its appearance, before her eyes narrowed as she read. "Misha just got a text from Hansel, Vika. Apparently, Grant is with him."

Close enough to hear the Amazon's incredulous, "What the hell is he doing there!?" Will struggled to bite down on his laughter as Marina replied with audible exasperation, "Hell if I know. Last I checked, he didn't just stop by Vati's office for no reason whatsoever." Here she paused, then snorted as she amended her statement, "Hell, he doesn't go to Vati's office for any reason whatsoever."

“Hmm . . . kindly remind him that I have work for him to be doing. But if he needs the rest of the day off, he has it,” the blonde woman sighed with fond amusement in her voice.

Will nodded in response, already sending a text in response to his father with that declaration, while Marina assured her sister she’d pass on the message. After she hung up, she rounded on her lover and demanded, “What is my boy doing with Vati?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, samaya malen’kaya - I know literally as much as you do,” he replied with a soft smile, as amused as ever by his woman’s tendencies towards over-protectiveness. "You could call him?"

Instantly, she scoffed, "And leave Grant thinking I don't trust him to do what he needs to do? No, I think not." She frowned, sounding conflicted but still resolute as she insisted, "I promised him I wouldn't micromanage him, and I refuse to go back on that promise."

Bending to kiss the top of her head fondly, Will promised gently, "I'll make some discrete inquiries, all right?"

She sagged with visibly relief even as she argued firmly, "As long as you remember I didn't ask you to."

"Would never dream of claiming otherwise," he teased, barely dodging her smack towards his bicep. "Why don't you go fuss at our son, zhemchuzhina, while I entertain the terrors. I'm in the mood for Yeti in my Spaghetti."

His Trouble squealed with delight at the statement, lunging off the couch and dashing towards the board games lining the bottom shelf of the bookshelves. As for his princesa, she beamed brightly at the promised game, though she said nothing, only threw her arms around her father's leg in a firm embrace.

Their parents exchanged warm smiles and a brief kiss, before Will settled onto the floor with their girls. As for the Russian, she lingered in the door frame for a moment, watching the two girls soak in their father's undivided attention, before slipping away and up the stairs.

Later that evening, the house had resolved back into some semblance of calm once more. All throughout his family’s wing of the house, he could hear evidence of his children in their voices and laughter. There were three voices absent from the cacophony within the mansion, however, leaving him missing the sounds of his three older sons. However, he comforted himself with plans to check up on the two he could reach later. (To say he was impatient for Cassian's undercover assignment to be over, was understating things drastically.) His Marishka had exhausted her concern for Grant by worrying about Samonik instead and, as a result, was much calmer. The teenager was still tucked up in bed, though Rene at least was keeping him company so that he wouldn’t be bored or lonely. The twins were in the family room with their mother now, laughing at some show they were watching on Netflix – probably Word Party, as it tended to be Katenka’s favorite and they’d played Valya’s favorite game all afternoon since Will’s arrival home with Samonik.

As for the Colonel himself, he leaned against the door jamb of his study for a few minutes, a quiet smile playing over his lips as he listened to his family. His twins had wiped him out, and he had an even deeper appreciation for the devotion and hard work Marina had undertaken in raising both his younger brothers and their daughters. Her love and care for him, their daughters and their sons never failed to fill his heart with love for her. She was infinitely better than he deserved, and he loved her more in this moment than he could remember loving her before.

Thinking of his sons, however, reminded him of Samonik’s admission that Inari felt lonely . . . as well as his own determination to call Cat so he could attempt to do something about it. Turning away from the sounds of his family, he shut the door to his study behind him and moved to sit at his desk once again. He debated for all of a moment his options, before reaching for the phone on the corner of the expanse. His fingers dialed from memory, his thoughts far away as he considered the rest of the conversation he'd had with his son that afternoon.

After a moment, a smile slipped across his lips as Catherine Chandler's voice came across the line. The only active, full time detective remaining to the family ranks, she sounded both cheerful and wary - no doubt curious, if not a little concerned, about why he might be calling her at such a late hour of the evening. "Hey, Will? What's up?"

The officer chuckled as he joked, "I'm pretty sure you're off duty, Cat. And even if you weren't, the only thing 'up' at this point is my ceiling fan."

She giggled a little, amused as ever by his dry humor. "Is it coming down on you?"

"Not for the moment, but we shall see I'm sure," he replied with a soft chuckle. "I'm actually calling about Inari."

The wariness morphed into outright concern in a second flat as she demanded, "Inari? What about Inari? Is everything okay!?"

"As far as I know, yes. Samonik and I were talking today, and he mentioned she was feeling a little lonely." Even he could hear the fondness in his tone as he continued, "I thought I'd do us all a favor and give you a heads up."

"Thank you," the woman agreed, her frown audible as she considered the tip. "I appreciate it. I'll talk to her. Did Samonik give any indication why?"

"Nothing definitive. He was more embarrassed that I was able to catch him thinking of her, than he was concerned about why." His eyes rolled fondly as he assured her calmly, "Which doesn't mean, he doesn't know why she's lonely. It just means that he's not talking."

"Those two," Catherine grunted through grudging laughter. "They keep more secrets about each other than I think anyone truly realizes."

"Indeed," the Colonel agreed with a soft chuckle. After a moment, a familiar voice on the other end of the line filtered through and Will frowned, confused as to the voice’s current location, especially considering the alert sent out earlier that day. "Cat? Am I hearing Grant?"

If anything, the question sparked an unfamiliar anger in the young detective that Will had no frame of reference for. Her tone was practically gravel as she growled out, "Yes."

His eyes narrowed as he leaned back in his desk chair; whether his silence was an invitation to talk if she needed it or a promise not to push her about the reasons why, he was unsure. Though at least on his end, his curiosity was all but killing him. After a moment, his patience won out and Catherine growled out, "Dacia got accosted by an agent at work today."

His temper was already on the fritz, meaning he barely kept hold of it as he demanded. "She was what!?"

"She was going to see Hansel today, and an agent basically tried to manhandle her out. Grant ended up tripping over the encounter as he was leaving PT, and managed to rescue her. But she's been shaky ever since, so he's still here."

Well, that explains why Grant was with Dad, Will mused before the rest of the explanation caught up with him. Suddenly infuriated, he took a deep breath in through his nose, before forcing himself to speak calmly. "Can I please speak to Grant?"

"Of course," she agreed, before her voice rang out away from the microphone. "Ward! The Colonel is on the phone! He wants to speak to you!"

The Specialist sounded angry - and nervous - as he spoke into the receiver a few moments later. "Hello sir."

"Grant, how many times do I have to ask you to call me Will?"

The question at least earned a small chuckle as he joked, "At least once more, sir."

Rolling his eyes at the young man's newly discovered sense of humor, Will allowed his tone to go cold as he demanded, "What happened?"

An actual, honest to God growl slipped free from the young man as he replied, "It's been handled, sir."

"That's not what I asked, Grant. What happened?"

Will had never considered that Grant might be a nervous rambler. Will couldn't make that reality fit with the self-confident Specialist the Power Couple had all but adopted into their family. And yet, here they were - Grant's words practically tumbled over themselves as he tried to get everything out as quickly as possible.

Despite this, however, the Colonel managed to parse out most of it. One hand lifted upwards to pinch the bridge of his nose as he blew out a frustrated breath. "Do you have a name for this idiot?"

"No, but I'm sure Major Walsh could probably have that by the time you get home. It happened in the main training halls - there's cameras all over the place."

Grunting, Will made a mental note to get his brother on that task as soon as this call was over. "Do I need to send Lucky to clean up a mess?"

The answer was respectful but disappointed as he refused immediately, "No, sir. Herr Kuhn and I figured we would leave that for you and Vincent."

"How bad is it? Is Dacia okay?"

Will could practically see Grant's wince in reply, the action audible as he replied, "She has bruises. Where he grabbed her."

No one could ever say that the Colonel wasn't utterly devoted to the children in his family, be they adopted, fostered, biological or otherwise. With Dacia and Inari being so new to the fold - and considering their less than stellar backgrounds - the news that the blonde had been injured was like red to a bull. He could feel the rage like gravel in the back of his throat as he ground out, "I'm going to rip that bastard's throat out."

Grant made a soft sound in the back of his throat as he replied, "An impulse I can completely understand, sir."

Just then, Dacia's voice rang through the receiver. "They're just bruises, Robonerd!"

There was a grunt from the Specialist at the same time the Colonel rolled his eyes. "You can tell her that that means less than zero to me," Will insisted with a scoff. "Bruises are bruises, and they are absolutely unacceptable when left on one of my kids."

“Yeah, we’ve already had that discussion once.” Grant paused, then came back sounding amused. “Cat’s having it with her now.”

"Good," he grunted, before sighing heavily at the prospect of work interfering with his vacation. "Chert voz'mi"

Grant's tone was firm and concerned as he insisted, "The situation will keep, sir. I scared the bejesus out of him - I can guarantee he'll keep his hands and his opinions to himself for the foreseeable future."

"Well, that's a small relief at least. All right; send me an email to my work computer. I’ll handle the mudak as soon as I get home, da?”

"Sounds good, sir. And I'll keep an eye on Dacia for everyone."

"See that you do. And Grant, please remember to keep Vika apprised of your movements. You're not where you're supposed to be, and she tells Marina. At which point, my woman tends to panic, yeah?"

To his credit, the younger man sounded sheepish as he agreed, "Of course, sir. I just . . ."

"Extenuating circumstances, I know. I'll tell Marishka so she stops worrying. You may want to shoot her a text or email or something, though."

"Will do."

"All right, I'll let you go. And Grant, thank you for looking after Dacia for us."

There was an amused tone to his voice as he snarked in reply, "Eh, she's growing on me . . . kind of like a leech."

Will burst into laughter as Dacia squealed away from the phone, clearly irate over the comparison. "Have a good day, Ward," he laughed, more than willing to abandon the Specialist to the blonde's gleeful revenge. "Tell Catherine I'll check in with her again in a few days."

Hanging up before he could get a response, the Colonel chuckled as he leaned back in his chair. Those two were a hoot together - add his partner to the mix and things tended to get all kinds of interesting. A trinity of trouble indeed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 307: A Magic Night

Marina felt herself all but dancing on cloud nine as their time in the Hamptons began to wind to a close. The trip proved to be a wonderful idea. Her family seemed to be healing after the recent trauma inflicted by Carl Merrick. Samonik moved with his previous level of athleticism, jogging along the waterline with Rene on a daily basis. His mental state showed a similar improvement. Better even - he seemed to have finally accepted his place within their family. She could see the deepening trust and acceptance building between him and Will.

Then came her younger son.

While Rene spent a great deal of time entertaining his sisters or working with Samonik, he also devoted himself to his video camera. Somehow – someway – he stumbled over the perfect subject matter for his art show submission and he worked at it with diligent purpose ever since. He carried the camera everywhere – and no one knew when they might find themselves in his sights. Misha ended up having to forbid him to bring it to the table, earning a sulk such as they hadn’t seen since Rene turned eleven and got grounded for the first time.

Valya and Katenka absorbed themselves in exactly two things over the course of the entire trip: the beach with their brothers and commandeering as much of their father’s time as they could manage. Marina loved to watch the three of them together. The sheer adoration those girls held for their father left her breathless.

She could not forget her beloved Misha. Every morning she woke to find him still sleeping in contentment beside her. For the first time in a long time her partner got the rest he needed. Day by day, the dark circles under his eyes faded, leaving him looking healthy and relaxed for the first time since she couldn’t remember when. When they returned home, the family might not know how to handle a truly rested William Grimm.

As for Marina herself, getting to watch her loved ones laugh, relax, and be happy meant everything to her.

Now they enjoyed their last full day on vacation. Their daughters played in the sun room as she relaxed on the couch by the windows. She enjoyed lounging in the sunshine as she reread her favorite book, serene in her certainty that everyone and everything was in place. A happy squeal brought her head up from the tragic story and she smiled to see her lover crouching down to catch his girls in his arms.

Allo, kroshka.” Will smiled, pressing a kiss to each of their temples. “Are you girls being good for Mama?”

“Yes, Papa,” Katenka promised, her eyes wide and luminous as she gave her father a sweet smile.

“That’s my good girls,” he replied. “All right, I have a very important request to make of you two.”

Marina repressed a snicker as Valya’s eyes narrowed at the question. Her tiny features looked so funny when she stared at her father with suspicion. “What, Papa?”

Humor danced in Will’s blue eyes. “Can you be equally good girls for your brothers while I take Mama out for a nice dinner? Just the two of us?”

“I wanna come!”

“Valyashka, my baby girl,” Will chuckled. “Now has your Mama protested at all this week while I played with you and your sister and your brothers?”

Pout deepening, Valya scuffed her foot on the floor. “No.”

“Then don’t you think it’s only fair that Mama gets to have Papa all to herself for a little bit?”

Katenka’s elbow knocked into her sister’s arm, the younger girl giving the elder a sharp glare. “That’s fair, Papa.”

“So is it okay? If Papa takes Mama to a nice dinner in town tonight?”

“Yeah.” The more outspoken twin might have nodded along with her milder sister, but the sigh she heaved out spoke of her utmost reluctance in the agreement. Marina muffled a giggle behind her hand. “I gueth so.”

Love swamped her as she watched her partner press a warm, rough kiss to their daughter’s cheek, earning a giggle from the little girl. Valya threw her arms around her father’s neck. “Love you, Papa,” she announced.

“I love you too, my little Trouble. You and your sister – more than all the stars in the sky.” Will gathered them both to him, holding them in a tight hug for a long moment. Then he let them go and grinned. “I think your brothers are still on the beach. If you hurry, they might be able to build you a sandcastle before the sun starts to go down.”

Both girls cheered, bouncing in place for a moment before dashing towards the back door in a torrent of giggles. Now Marina felt free to let her own laughter spill over as she set her book down on her belly. A warm smile graced her lips as she watched Will push himself to his feet. “Masterfully done,” she teased.

“Sandcastles – the kryptonite of little girls everywhere,” he pronounced with mock solemnity. Then he smiled. Strolling over to join her, he braced his hands on either side of her, one on the back of the couch and the other on the armrest at her head. He lowered his head to hers, pressing a long, lingering kiss to her lips. “Hey.”

Playfulness sparkled in his gaze and Marina felt her smile widen to near impossible proportions. “Hi,” she murmured back, her voice soft with love. “What are you up to, Colonel?”

“I can’t just want to take you to a nice dinner?”

His flirtatious wink caused butterflies to swirl in her stomach as though they stood back at the beginning of their courtship. “You can,” she agreed, arms coming up to loop around his neck and pull him down for another kiss. “Any special occasion I’m missing?”

“Nope. Just feel like spoiling you.”

“I’d never say no to a little spoiling.”

“I didn’t think you’d argue,” he laughed, bending his head to kiss her once more. "Come on, zhemchuzhina. Get up and go get dressed - something nice."

“Nice?” Curiosity stirred in her mind. “And where exactly are we going?”

Will straightened, offering her his hand. “I guess you’ll find out when we get there, won’t you?”

“Tease.” Fond laughter filled her voice as she accepted his offer. He pulled her up into his arms for another kiss before directing her towards the door. She put an extra little swing in her hips as she all but sashayed to the door, fully aware of his eyes watching her every movement. Turning to look back at him, she gave him a flirtatious smirk. “How formal is ‘nice’?”

“I think that little black dress you brought – the one you didn’t think I noticed would do nicely,” he replied, gaze smoldering and sending shivers down her spine.

Unable to resist the opportunity to flirt with her lover, she lowered her tone to a purr. “One little black dress coming right up.” One hand played with a dark curl as she tilted her head. “When are we leaving?”

“Whenever you’re ready to go. No rush.”

“All right,” she nodded. “An hour?”

“I’ll make the reservations.”

“Good – then I’ll see you then.” Marina blew him a sassy kiss before turning on her heel and bolting for the stairs. She giggled, sounding for all the world like the blushing maiden from a romantic ballad as he called out after her.


Could she remember the last time they went on an actual date?

So much had happened over the past year, both good and bad, but no matter how well things eventually turned out, the drama did cut into their personal time. Marina figured this date gave her an excuse to get a little more dolled up than usual. Given the way he stared at her, she knew she made the right decision. Her cheeks warmed at the adoration glowing in his eyes as he offered her a hand to assist her down the final steps. Will turned her hand over, bending to press a reverent kiss to her palm.

Allo, Mishka,” she murmured, a warm smile on her lips as she curled her fingers to brush against his cheek.

Allo, prekrasnyy.”

His reply deepened the warmth burning in her cheeks. “Flattery,” she managed, trying to distract him from how flustered he made her. “I think I should be worried.”

“Not flattery – just the truth.” A hint of mischief gleamed in those eyes she loved so much. “And if this is enough to worry you? You might want to brace yourself. This is tame compared to what I have planned for us.”

“Ah, now I’m definitely worried.” She pushed up on tiptoes to indulge herself in a languid kiss. Then she squealed, probably sounding too much like her daughters, as he swung her up into his arms. “Misha!” Giggles burst free, but she didn’t fight his hold – only wrapped her arms around his neck. He carried her out of the house and down the stairs towards an unexpected sight. “Bozhe moi! Is that a limo?”

The driver opened the back door of the vehicle waiting with well-trained patience as Will sat her on her feet. “I told you – I’m in the mood to spoil you.”

As she situated herself on the leather upholstery, she watched him move to the side of the house. One eyebrow lifted in curiosity only to smooth back down as she smiled when he called out towards the back. “Rene! You and Samonik keep an eye on the girls! Don’t wait up – we might be late!”

Her attention focused as she tried to hear her sons’ replies.

“Have fun, Dad!”

Then came Samonik’s own reply a moment later: “We’ve got this, Will! Enjoy yourselves!”

A moment later, her partner joined her in the limo and the driver started them off towards town. Marina cuddled close, enjoying the chance for them to just be a couple. No emergencies blowing up their phones, no children or family – however much she loved them! – bursting in to interrupt their time together. So much of their time had to be focused on family or work – she clung to their private moments with a fierce desire to lock the memories in her mind.

Marina paid no attention to the passage of time or space, so she didn’t realize their destination until they pulled up to the restaurant. Her eyes opened wide in genuine delight. “Navy Beach?” She felt like bouncing in her seat at the prospect of a full night of dinner and dancing with her lover. “Really?”

“I thought you might enjoy it.” Will chuckled into the kiss as she hauled him down to reward him. “I take it you approve.”

Her eyes went soft as she curled her fingers into the lapel of his suitcoat. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He brushed the tip of his nose against her own as the driver climbed out of the front seat and made his way to Will’s door. Her partner offered her a hand. “Shall we?”

“We shall indeed.” Her steps felt light as air, like a woman in the first blush of young love as she took his hand. The feeling only grew as he whisked her into a magical night unlike any she could ever remember. They sat at a small, intimate table on the beach, almost hidden from the other patrons. Marina kicked off her heels to dig her toes into the sand, giggling at the ticklishness of the soft grains.

Will watched her, a real smile curving his lips with indulgence as she looked around the beachside restaurant, enchanted by everything. The company alone would have made the night perfect, but tonight seemed set to be the ideal ending of their vacation.

Once they finished dessert, Will stood from his seat and offered her a shallow bow. “May I have this dance?” he asked, holding out his hand. Without a word, Marina placed her hand in his, letting him lead her onto the dance floor.

Having left her heels back at the table, Marina felt shorter than normal. Even standing on her tiptoes, she barely came up to his sternum, her head tilted way back to see his face. Not that it mattered. Even if she wore heels high enough to meet his eyes, he would have taken her into his arms as though he held a priceless and delicate treasure. The knowledge left her a little breathless as he began to spin her around the floor, their gazes locked as he danced her through stars only they could see.

Magic. The dance was complete and utter magic…

Until someone bumped into her.

“Oh!” The gasp escaped her as the push jostled her off her toes and into Will’s arms.

“Are you all right?” he demanded, doing a quick scan of her.

“I’m so sorry!” Another voice, this one unfamiliar, began apologizing at the same moment. “I told Arthur I’m terrible at this, but he refused to listen!”

Turning, Marina found herself facing a gorgeous young couple. Genuine consternation filled the young man’s features while concern scrawled across the speaker’s face. “Don’t worry,” she tried to reassure them. “I was a little lost in my own head, so I could hardly blame you for being the same.” She held out a hand to the younger woman. “I’m Marina and this is my partner, Misha.”

She could feel the tension in her lover, but she felt enough of a movement to know he nodded a silent greeting behind her. The woman didn’t seem to take his brusqueness personally, beaming at them as introduced herself and her partner. “I’m Ariadne and this is Arthur. It’s a pleasure to meet you both . . . even if I did nearly run you over.” A fond, if scolding tone entered her voice as she smacked the back of her hand against the vested chest of her companion. “I told you so.”

He smiled, a small but affectionate curve of the lips as he let her scold him. “In your defense, I could have been paying better attention to the people around us too,” he pointed out in a calm, pleasing voice. “You didn’t run into them on your own.” He lifted an eyebrow. “You were going backwards.”

Marina chuckled at the eye-roll the girl shot her companion. Ariadne turned back to them. “Again, I am so sorry,” she offered. “I hope you enjoy the remainder of your evening.”

“You, too.”

Now Marina wanted to roll her own eyes at her partner’s cool voice. Instead she offered a more genial farewell. “Good evening to you both.”

The couple left the dance floor, moving back to their table where she could see dessert still waiting to be eaten. She got no more than a quick glance before her lover took her back into his arms and began to sweep her around the floor once again. Soon enough, Marina forgot about the brief interlude, losing herself in the joy of being in his arms once more. Time passed – a good deal of time . . . she couldn’t convince herself to let go of this magical moment too early. Will indulged her, dancing long past the time he would usually have begged off.

Her lover didn’t like to dance – no matter how well he did it.

Near midnight, as they sat at the table enjoying a glass of champagne, Marina noticed something odd. Arthur and Ariadne argued at their own table in hushed voices. Given the movement of their eyes and hands, she gathered they disagreed over a silver suitcase.

A suitcase that tugged at her memory . . .

It took her longer than she might have preferred, but she remembered a file that crossed her desk thanks to both Nick Fury and David Perron. “Misha,” she whispered, reaching out to touch his sleeve. “Look at Ariadne’s table – what does that look like to you?”

She knew the moment he saw it – his quiet swearing a clear indication. “That’s a PASIV.”

“The Army shut that program down,” she noted, her own voice a soft hiss of concern. “The compounds weren’t stable.”

“I’d bet my next paycheck he’s ex-military.” Will’s eyes never left the couple, the silver blue cool and assessing. “He carries himself like you do – ready to react in a moment’s notice.”

“Pot, kettle,” she muttered, earning a tiny, distracted smirk.

“Also, he’s armed.” He brushed an absentminded kiss over her temple. “I count three.”

“Four,” she shot back. “You’re not counting the one in the holster at his ankle.”

“There isn’t a holster at his ankle.”

“Yes, there is,” Marina replied. “I saw it when they went back to their table.” She slanted another look towards the younger couple. Ariadne apparently lost the argument, slumping back in her seat. “Whatever is going on, she doesn’t look happy about it.”

Will gave a soft hum. “He’s sending her away with the PASIV.”

The couple watched as Ariadne reached up to pull her companion down to her, the two exchanging a heartbreaking kiss, pain etched in each of their faces. Ending the kiss, they rested, forehead to forehead, sharing the same breath for a brief moment. Ariadne whispered something before pulling back to grab the PASIV.

With one final look, she fled down the beach.

Arthur only watched her go, his features sad but resolute. Surprise stirred through Marina as he waited until his woman faded from view before retaking his seat. As he gestured to the waitress for a refill, she turned to her own partner. “He knows something.”

Agents wearing FBI jackets swarmed the restaurant before Will could do more than nod. He wrapped an arm around her waist, holding tight as they watched three agents approach Arthur with caution and weapons loose. Their guns aimed at his head, they ordered him to surrender peacefully. The tall man did nothing for a long moment, but then he stood, keeping his movements slow and calm, with his hands out to his side. As the FBI agents spoke, Arthur obeyed their instructions without argument – turning his back, lifting his hands to interlock his fingers behind his head, and dropping to his knees. Never once did he show a drop of fear or anxiety – he remained cool and calm under pressure.

But Marina noticed his eyes remained focused on the spot where Ariadne had disappeared mere minutes before.

Once the excitement over the arrest faded to gossiping patrons, Will and Marina exchanged a long look. A shadow of concern colored both gazes – the knowledge of a PASIV out on the streets . . . and not in the custody of the Army.

“Are we going to look for her?” Marina knew the answer – they’d have already been in motion if they intended to follow Ariadne – but she wanted to hear what her partner might be planning.

“No.” Will leaned back in his seat, calculations flickering through his eyes as the silver faded more into blue. “We’re going to focus on Arthur. She didn’t want to leave him – that’s apparent. So she’ll stay close. We get our hooks in him – she’ll follow and we’ll fold her in.”

“That was FBI,” she reminded him, accepting the hand he offered to hold her steady while she stepped back into her shoes. “He’ll have to serve prison time, Misha. Not even we can get him out of that.”

“I know.” One corner of his mouth pulled into a smirk. “That just gives me more time to find the hook to reel him in.”

Chuckling, she lifted up to press a kiss to his mouth. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” His flashfire smile warmed every inch of her, driving out the lingering shadows. “Let’s go home.”