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Grimm Truth 3: A Year With Demons

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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.”

“Why?”

“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?”

“Promise?”

“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.

“Sammy…”

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?”

“But-.”

“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."