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Marina's Memories

Chapter Text

The love in our family flows strong and deep,
leaving us memories to treasure and keep.

Chapter Text

Marina lounged against the doorway, watching as her dorogoy stared into the sky. He looked completely at ease, laying on on the roof, his hands behind his head and legs crossed at the ankles.  Despite the hint of amusement lingering around his mouth, she could see the longing in the intense gaze he directed upwards.  His eyes might be looking at the haze of light above New York City, but she knew his mind saw a desert starscape - and his heart sought those waiting for him there.

His voice interrupted her musings.

“Are you going to lurk much longer?”

Her lips curved in a fond smile as she pushed away from the door to amble over.  “I wondered if you’d notice me.”

“If we’re not on a mission, you wear perfume.”  Clint tilted his head just enough to meet her eyes.  “Hard to mistake that scent after all this time.”  His gaze followed her as she shifted around to lay down beside him.  “But I’d have spotted you anyway.”

“Only because I want you to,” she teased.  “So what’s got you on Tony’s rooftop?”

“Figured the Tower was the best shot I had at maybe seeing a star or two.”  He grimaced up into the sky.  “But . . . no such luck.  Too much light pollution.  New Mexico’s better for this.”

“You’ve never been one to stargaze.”

“Darcy’s picked it up from Dr. Foster,” he chuckled.  “If she’s antsy or unhappy, she goes straight for the roof.”

“Are you unhappy?”

Clint sat up at her quiet question, turning to look at her.  “No, not really.”  He drew one leg up, wrapping his arm around it as he leaned on his other hand.  “Just . . . I know I’m heading out tomorrow and all, but . . .”

“You miss them now.”  Marina stayed put.  Her daughters were sleeping while her partner finished his reports.  She didn’t get to spend enough time with this one of her boys lately, so she’d take every second she could get.  “The reunions earlier just highlighted it for you, made you look for the missing faces.”

“Yeah.”  He huffed out a breath. “Darcy was staying in New Mexico, no matter what, because of Foster.”  Concern flickered in his eyes.  “We didn’t want her unprotected, so Bucky stayed.”

“While the family could keep an eye on you.”

“Yeah, they weren’t really worried about me.”

“I doubt that.”  Now she did sit up, turning to face him.  “They’ll worry about you, dorogoy, just like you do them.  Anytime you’re apart, they’ll worry.”

“I know.”  His gaze shifted up again. “But . . .”

Reaching out, Marina pulled him to her so she could place a kiss on his forehead.  “I can have a quinjet ready for you in a hour.”

Now Clint’s smile came out in a full sunburst.  “Yeah?”

“Of course.” She stood up and brushed off her pants.  “I’ll make a quick call and you’ll be on your way in no time.”

“Marishka!”  He jumped up, swinging her into a laughing hug.  “This is why you’re my favorite!”

Chapter Text

A joyful smile settled on Marina’s face as she listened to the chaos of noise that somehow always seemed to fill the house whenever all four teenagers took over the living room.  Wild and unrestrained the lot of them . . . and she couldn’t be happier.  Laughter spilled over as she heard Rene teasing Dacia and she shook her head.  Those two . . .  Would they ever get themselves sorted out?  Sometimes she really wanted to . . .  But no, Misha kept telling her to let them figure it out on their own.  

The other two had figured it out pretty quickly.  

Sam and Inari fooled people outside of the family, their quieter natures on full display in public, but put all four of them together somewhere they considered safe?   

There was a reason they called them the Fearsome Foursome after all.

“They’re . . . enthusiastic.”

“That’s one word for it,” she laughed as she turned to where Gus stood in the doorway.  Keeping her smile steady when she saw his haunted eyes proved difficult, but she persevered.  “All of them have a tendency to run headlong at life . . . every day.  It can be exhausting - and I’ve got practice.”

“Sounds like Malee.”

“And how is my future protege, hmm?”

The shadows in his face grew a touch lighter. “She’s good.  Ready to start college . . . she wants that job you’ve promised her.”

“That’s my girl.”  Her grin turned smug.  “I’m looking forward to it.”

He leaned against the countertop, a small touch of melancholy beginning to blossom again in his eyes.  It hurt her to see it even as she knew they still had a long way to go in helping him find some kind of balance and center in his life again after all of the tragedy he’d been through . . . alone.

“You’re always welcome here, milogo” Marina reminded him as she reached out a hand to brush her fingertips over his hair.  “We’ve always got a space for you.”

“I know.”

A comfortable silence settled over the room as he closed his eyes under her soft touch.  She felt a sharp tug at her heart - Gus always managed to remind her so strongly of her own Misha as he might have been without his brothers and her.  Until a little girl of twelve reached out to him, he’d had no one after he’d shattered.  For that alone, Marina would have hired the girl for something - but add in the girl’s own willingness to go after information and her sneakiness in doing it?  

She couldn’t wait to get Malee under her wing.  A woman couldn’t have too many proteges.

“Hey!” Dacia all but bounded into the room - or so it felt.  Her energy almost always lit a place up when the girl was in a good mood.  “Rene just got a text from Dyadya - the others are on their way, so if you want your pick of the food, now’s the time.”  She grabbed Gus’ hand, giving it a gentle tug.  “Seriously, Uncle Gus, everyone likes eggrolls and if you don’t get yours before Clint and Bucky get home, you aren’t gonna get any.”

“Dacia,” Marina began.

“Yeah, I know, Tetya,” she interrupted as she tossed a quick grin over her shoulder.  “No overwhelming the new uncle.  I won’t, but he’s got to get his dinner before the bottomless pits get here!”

“Pot, meet kettle,” Inari muttered as they joined the teens in the living room.

Her sister stuck her tongue out in response before grabbing a plate to hand to Gus.  “So, what do you like?”

“Eggrolls.”

She blinked at him before tossing her head back with a cheerful burst of laughter.  “I like you!” she announced, giving him a nudge in the side.  “We’re keeping you.”

Marina almost pulled the girl into a hug right that moment as she saw another small light begin to pierce the sorrow that clung to Gus like a second skin.  Sometimes she wished she could have him closer to them so he could be wrapped in the family security blanket, but on the other hand she worried about overwhelming him.  Watching him with the teens made her wonder, but . . . it could just be that they reminded him of Malee.

And she sighed, knowing she couldn’t try and talk him into moving just yet.  Not when part of him leaned on Malee for stability.  Maybe if she did college in New York?

“Mom!” Sam’s voice drew her out of half formed plans.  “You want some?”

“I’m coming, Samonik, I’m coming.”

Chapter Text

A knock on the door brought Marina’s eyes up from her current batch of reports and she smiled at her visitor.  “Jim!” She waved him in, keeping the smile in place despite the unease in his gaze.  “Perfect timing to rescue me from the evil paperwork.”  

“I try.”

She watched as he strode in, all but throwing himself in her chair before leaning back and closing his eyes.  Her eyebrows climbed towards her hairline, but she got up to shut the door.  Whatever had him in such a state probably didn’t need to be broadcast to all and sundry.  

“I swear Brian gets more insane daily.”

The quiet mutter brought a huff of laughter to Marina’s lips.  "That's entirely possible." She leaned back against her desk.  “Want to tell me what brought that up?”

“Nika and I had a job,” he replied without opening his eyes.  “Report’s on Coulson’s desk and who knows where in the server, but long story short, we needed to get some answers and take out some bad guys.”  Now Jim opened tired eyes.  “When we pinpointed everyone, there was no logistical way for us to handle all of them without splitting up.”

“So which of our sisters did she call?”

His lips quirked.  “Coulson was acting handler,” he informed her.

“Vika then.”

“Yep.”  Jim leaned forward, forearms resting on his thighs.  “They handled the eliminations, but we still needed information.”

“You called Brian.”  Marina prompted him, knowing he needed to get whatever it was out before it ate at him further.  She slipped into handler mode - she had an agent needing to decompress before he broke some part of himself.

“I went to Brian’s place,” he agreed.  “Sat down to have a beer with him before bringing it up - trying to work out how to ask.”

“Why?”

“Nika and I had pretty tight orders - straight from the big boss himself.  No one else was to know the who’s or why’s.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Man’s paranoid.”

“Legitimately earned.”

“True.”  He nodded before staring down at his hands.  “So I went to Brian and told him I needed his help.” One corner of his mouth jerked up before dropping back down.  “And I told him I couldn’t tell him anything else and he had to forget what he heard.  Then topped it off by telling him he couldn’t ask me about it later.  Jim paused.  “Oh, yeah, and that we were going to hurt some people.”

Her maternal instincts prompted her forward, but she pulled them under control and remained quiet.  There was something else.

“Brian thought about it for a minute and then he looked at me.”

After a moment of waiting, she offered a quiet push.  “What did he say?”

“He just asked me whose car we were taking.”  Jim shoved back in the chair.  “That’s it.  Damn crazy . . .” His voice trailed off.

“He trusts you.”

“Yeah, but-.”

“No buts,” Marina interrupted.  “Brian trusts you.  Period.  End of discussion.”  She put her hand on his shoulder.  “Does that mean he does even crazier stunts?  Yes - because he knows you wouldn’t ask him unless it was absolutely necessary.”

“Damn.”  Jim slumped in the chair.  “That’s . . .”  He shook his head, but she felt him relax beneath her touch.  “Shit.  Talk about pressure.”  

Now she laughed and stepped back, spreading her hands.  “Welcome to my world?”

His laughter joined hers for a moment before he eyed the stack of papers on her desk. “That does look evil,” he acknowledged.  Rising to his feet, he held out a hand.  “Come on, let me be the white knight for a little bit longer and treat you to lunch.”

“Hmm, let me think,” she teased, tapping her lips with a finger.  Then she flicked a brow at the papers before pulling him towards the door.  “Absolutely.  We’re out of here.”

Chapter Text

An irritated lecture filled the air as the elevator doors opened.  Marina paused, her eyebrows climbing towards her hairline as she spotted Darcy reading the riot act to a group of shaken agents.  Given the young woman’s love-hate relationship with any agent outside of R&D, this bunch seemed to be paying stricter attention than normal.  

Though that might have more to do with Bucky standing behind her, arms folded over his chest and a scowling glare pinning them in place.  

Then Darcy poked one of the men - hard - in his chest and he flinched.  Every other agent seemed to hunch their shoulders in unison like school kids trying to disappear before they got called out by their teacher.

So maybe she’d scared them all on her own and Bucky just added the coup d'etat?

Either way, she had their complete attention.  That aroused enough curiosity that Marina leaned on the doorjamb to listen.

“What is the matter with you?” Darcy demanded, waving her hands at the gathered agents.  “You can read, right?  And understand simple instructions?  Those are requirements for SHIELD agents?”  One of them started to answer only to fall silent with a gulp as she turned her glare on him.  “I wasn’t asking you!”  She redirected her gaze to scan the entire group once more.  “I told you!  I showed you the signs and insisted you take the time to read them.  Did you bother?  No, of course not!  Why should you pay any attention to a lowly assistant?”

A woman opened her mouth only to snap it closed at Bucky gave a low noise reminiscent of a growl.  

“Well at least you’re not all complete idiots.”  Darcy pursed her lips.  “This is R&D - and those scientists back there are mine.  You don’t upset them, try to direct them, or act like damn fools just because there’s been a little incident.  Hell - we have incidents on a daily basis around here. It’s why I’ve got the signs!”

Jason sat in Darcy’s chair, his feet propped up on her desk and hands behind his head as he watched the show with a broad grin.  Pride and approval showed in every line of his easy form.  Casey glanced out from his personal office, a phone held to her ear.  She waved at Marina before disappearing once more.  

Marina made her way around the group, exchanging a nod with Bucky, and strolled over to lean a hip on the desk beside the middle Grimm brother.  “Are you having fun, sladkiy?” She gave his feet a half-hearted shove, smiling down as the green eyes that sparkled with his own twisted brand of humor turned up to meet hers. “You certainly seem to be enjoying the newbies shaking in their boots.”

“Second highlight of my day,” he smirked, feet still planted firmly on the desk.

“What was the first?”

“The explosion that caused it.”  

She rolled her eyes.  “What did you destroy this time?”

“A couple of storage boxes and a table.”  He shrugged his shoulders as he looked back to his still lecturing assistant.  “Bucky and Clint brought in some of the newbies on their tour-”

“Clint?” she interrupted, glancing around.

“He’s filling in for Darcy back there,” Jason explained as he jerked a thumb back towards the main lab.  “Figure he thinks Bucky’s got her back with the baby agents, so he went to check on her scientists.”

“And you’re just kicking back?”

“I’d be in there, Marina, really,” he assured her in a solemn tone, though his smart ass grin ruined the effect.  “But Darcy dragged me out here and told me to stay where she could see me.”  Fondness flooded his expression as he glanced back to his assistant as she ordered the agents out.  

“Next time, pay attention to the instructions,” Darcy huffed before she closed the door on the last of them.

“Nice.”

Marina bit back a laugh as Darcy fixed Jason with a scolding glare.  She really did adore that girl - for all the happiness she brought to Clint and Bucky as well as her dedication to protecting Jason from himself, but also for her own sassy self.

Speaking of which . . .

“You did that on purpose!” Darcy accused as she planted her hands on her hips.  “You’ve been working on that thing for weeks and it picks today of all days to blow up?”

“Now, Darce-.”

“Don’t even start with me, boss.”  She took a step forward, but Bucky caught her with an arm around her waist and pulled her back.  “I know he did,” she pouted, leaning back against him without a fight.

“He probably did,” he agreed as he leaned down to press a kiss to the top of her head.

“You’ll never prove it, Barnes,” Jason laughed.

A smile of pure mischief slid across Darcy’s face.  “Bet I could,” she offered in a sing-song tone.

“Oh, yeah?” he challenged.  Marina leaned on one arm, her own smile deepening at the exchange.  Jason leaned his elbows on the desk and tilted his chin down as he peered at his assistant.  “How’s that?”

“I’ll ask Casey to do it.”

“Casey’s not going to help get me in trouble,” he scoffed.

“Wanna bet?”  Darcy smirked at him as he gave her an unimpressed look.  “I mean, just think about it - she’s been on the phone with the HR department ever since the explosion . . . and that happened how long ago now?”  She spread her hands in an extravagant shrug.  “I’m not making any big claim or anything; I’m just suggesting that she might be amenable to helping me out.”

For a moment he stared at her and then he glanced over his shoulder.  Marina followed his eye line and spotted Casey leaning out the door yet again, phone still against her ear with a warning look on her face.  

Bucky began to chuckle as Jason winced.  “Any further questions, Walsh?”

“All right, all right!” Jason threw up his hands. He gave Darcy a rueful grin.  “What do you want?”

“Clint!”

Her shout drew their third out of the main lab area.  He winked at Marina as he joined his lovers.  “You called?”

“How are my scientists?”

“They’re good,” he assured her.  “I don’t think most of them even noticed the explosion - except Marta and she’d locked down her lab, waiting for the all-clear.” He tilted his head, mischievous laughter underlying his voice as he glanced at his older brother.  “You do know Aaron’s armed her, right?”

“Wonderful,” Jason sighed.  “Now I can worry about her shooting me because I interrupt one of her experiments.”

“So my scientists are in good shape,” Darcy announced over the laughter.  “Then I’m leaving clean up to you, boss.”  She circled her finger in the air, indicating herself and her men.  “We’re going to lunch.”  Then she turned with a bright grin.  “Hi, Marina!”

“Hello, milaya, having fun?”

“It didn’t suck, but I think the recruiting office needs a review.”

“I’ll look into that.”  Marina stepped away from the desk and walked over to brush a quick kiss over Darcy’s cheek.  “Take the boys and go.”

“We’re out of here!”

The three left the room, teasing and joking as they went, and she noticed how easily the men bracketed the woman between them, protective as always.  Jason moved to her side.  “Anyone ever hurts that girl-.”

“Take a number,” Marina interrupted.

“I want one too,” Casey called out from the office.

Jason walked towards his office, grin in full bloom. "We could take turns?"

Marina shook her head as she trailed after him, pausing to take in some of the signs Darcy had posted in her office. They always amused her, but sometimes she had to wonder about the new agents and their refusal to see beneath the surface. How had they made it all the way to SHIELD? Maybe she should recommend a review of their selection process...

"Marina!" Jason called from his office. "Come and look at this!"

"Do I want to know?" she called back. She took one last glance at the signs before leaving the room.

Chapter Text

Bright lights, gray walls, and antiseptic smells permeated Marina’s sense as she made her way along a much too familiar hallway.  Almost everyone avoided this particular part of Medical.  Most of the staff called it the ‘hell hall’; Vincent and Miranda named it the ‘Grimm wing’.  Personally she’d prefer if neither label had been necessary, but somehow her people always seemed to end up here sooner or later.  She caught sight of Vincent as he stepped out of a door, but he spotted her before she could call out.  One finger came to his mouth up in a bid for silence.  Then he gestured her over.

“Take a look,” he murmured into her ear as she slid up beside him, quiet as any cat.

She peered around him and felt her heart beginning to melt at the sight which met her eyes.

Dacia slept, her hand clasped around a dozing Grant’s larger one.  Not that the event itself was all that unusual, but this time the young blonde lay in the bed, her injuries a mute testimony to the day’s misadventure.  For a moment, Marina felt the fear and maternal anger rekindle in her gut, but she pushed it away.  Misha had the two boys well in hand while Inari was at home, curled into her mother’s side when Marina last saw her.  Dacia had gotten the worst of it, but even she would be alright within a few days.

Whoever had first dubbed them the ‘Fearsome Foursome’ couldn’t possibly have known how well they would live up to the name, but sometimes the way they threw themselves into life worried her.  Eventually they would learn to temper that passion, turning it into a power few would be able to stand against, but . . .

Bozhe pozhaluysta - just let it be before someone got killed!

Vincent shooed her back out, closing the door in as quiet a manner as possible.  “Thought you might like to see that,” he murmured as they made their way towards his office.  They both nodded to Miranda as they passed and she took a seat at the nurse’s desk across from Dacia’s room.  Marina knew she was there to keep an eye on the girl, but more importantly - she would prevent any other medical staff from going inside the room.

That would mean trouble for all involved - Grant’s instincts would read an attack and react accordingly.

“I had to give Dacia something,” Vincent admitted as they both sat down in his visitor chairs so the desk wouldn’t be between them.  “She couldn’t turn off her instincts long enough to let herself relax.”  He rubbed his hands over his face.  “Even then she wouldn’t close her eyes.”

“She’s sleeping now,” Marina replied, one eyebrow lifting in question.

“Grant showed up.” The corner of his mouth twitched in a half-grin.  “If they acted one whit less like a pair of siblings sometimes, I’d think Rene should be jealous.”

“Not of those two.”  Assurance rang in her tone.  “Sometimes they’ve got something even I don’t quite grasp, but my boy does.”

“True.”  Vincent leaned back, more or less sprawling in the chair with his head resting against the back.  “Anyway, Grant showed up and talked to her for a few minutes while I went to call in Miranda.  By the time I got back, she’d already begun to get drowsy.”  

Despite the easy appearance of his sprawl, Marina could see the tight lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth. “Roslyy, she’s safe.”

“I know.”  

“And with the way she heals-.”

Her voice cut off as he sat up.  “I know that too,” he grumbled as he ran a hand through his hair.  “But she shouldn’t have been . . .”  Vincent’s hands curled into fists.  

“Breathe, just breathe.”  Marina put as much serenity into her tone as she could, reaching out to rest a gentle hand on top of one of his fists.  “Inari is safe with Cat - I saw her myself.”  She began to massage her fingers over his hand and wrist.  “And you know Grant would never allow anyone or anything to get to Dacia.”  Now she interjected a hint of humor into her voice.  “If they managed to get past Miranda that is.”

He pulled in a deep breath and his eyes glowed golden for a heartbeat before the air shuddered out of his lungs as his shoulders slumped.  “She was too scared to sleep,” he whispered.  “Even here, with us.  Whatever she saw freaked her out that much.”

“We’ll help her,” Marina assured him.  “Whatever it takes.”  Her lips curved, just a little, at the memory of the young woman sleeping with her hand around her adopted brother’s.  “And she’s sleeping now.”

“Grant promised he would watch her back.”  Now Vincent gave a small huff, almost like a chuckle.  “Between that and the drugs, she calmed down enough to doze.”

“And she can pick up his scent.”

He blinked and then gave a slow nod.  “There’s that too,” he agreed.  “Mine and Miranda’s pretty much permeate the room . . . add in Grant’s . . .”

“She can feel her pack and family around her.”  Marina fingered the jacket she wore.  “I’ll leave this here as well.  That should add a couple more scents to her surroundings.  She’ll get more rest that way.”

“Thanks.”

Marina shook her head at the sheer amount of gratitude shining in his eyes.  “She’s my family too,” she reminded him.  “Just like you are, my friend.”

“I know.” Vincent stood up and then pulled her to her feet.  He wrapped his arms around her in a hard hug.  “Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say thanks.”

“I’m always here if you need me.”  After a moment she pulled back and gave him a brighter smile.  “Let’s go settle your little girl,” she ordered, shifting to the side in order to tuck a hand in his elbow.  “Then I’m going to go see about making all of you something to eat.  I know she won’t touch the stuff here, and neither will Prizrak.”  Her eyes did a quick scan of him.  “And both you and Miranda could use something too.”

“You spoil us, Marina,” Vincent chuckled.

“Yes,” she agreed, a smug smile curving her lips.  “Yes I do.”

Chapter Text

Wicked amusement bubbled through Marina as she listened to the muttered cursing of the man sitting beside her.  Their mission accomplished and the team safe and more or less sound on their transport, she could sit back, listening to her companion grouse and complain about how she managed her part of the job.  And maybe he had a point . . . it’s possible she did kind of overdo the explosion.

But it had been so much fun!

“Damn it, Marina!” Nick Fury grumbled.  “You were supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

“I did!”  She gave him a wide-eyed look of innocence, spreading her hands in a helpless sort of gesture.  “They blew up just like they were supposed to.”

“You were supposed to blow the doors,” he repeated, “not the entire southern wall!”

“Hey, you told me to deal with the doors,” she huffed even as she fought to repress a laugh.  Her  “You didn’t give me specifics.  Besides,” she continued, holding up a hand to forestall any further fussing, “the team needed the distraction.”

That sent him back to muttering under his breath about everything from her questionable sanity to the fact that she spent too much time with certain bomb-happy, stunt-performing lunatics.  

Both of them ignored the hum of the comm system coming online.

“Now really,” Marina interrupted, a prim look coming over her face.  Nick knew her; he’d known her for years.  He should know better - Misha was the controlled one, not her.  Her job meant she kept the boys under control, but when she got the chance to play, why shouldn’t she have a good time?  “Who exactly do you think taught them?”

“I do not need to think about one of SHIELD’s best handlers as having a hair-trigger to craziness, thank you very much,” Fury shot back.  “I already double security when your boys are on the helicarrier.  Don’t make me triple it.”

“No one’s going to blow up your baby,” she chuckled.  His shoulders relaxed by a tiny fraction, but she ruined it with a sly smile.

“What?” he demanded, his one eye narrowing on her.

“The boys like the helicarrier,” she assured him.  “As a matter of fact, I think they’d like to take it out for a spin.”  His eye went wide and she could see just a hint of panic beginning to blossom.  She tilted her head as if in consideration.  “Well, not Misha or Aaron perhaps,” she allowed, “but I’m pretty sure the other three would love to get a chance at piloting it.”

She had to bite the inside of her lip.

Nick Fury, a man who scared people just by breathing and who her own boys called a ‘magnificent bastard’, sat there gaping at her with a horror-stricken expression.

“Marina!”

Maria’s humor-laden voice rang out from the quinjet’s comm system.

“Yes, Maria?”

“Don’t even try that innocent voice on me,” she warned.  “Quit trying to give him apoplexy.  I don’t want his job.”

“But, Maria!”  Marina tried for a plaintive tone, but the exasperated stare from Nick proved it had failed.

“No.”

“You’re no fun.”

“I’ll make you deal with the WSC,” Maria warned.  “You’ll be my special envoy.”

“Okay, okay, okay!” Marina threw up her hands in surrender, laughter spilling out.  “You win - I’ll leave him alone.”

“One of these days I’m going to remember I can fire you both,” Fury warned.

“No, you won’t.”

His eyebrows rose at the chorused reply.  “And why not?”

Again he received a double recitation - “You don’t want to deal with the Grimms.”

“Maybe some time in the brig instead?” he muttered even as he slumped back into his seat.  “How the hell did I end up with all the smart asses surrounding me?”

“You enlisted us, Nick,” Marina offered, patting his arm.  “But don’t worry - it’s all for your own good.”

Muffled laughter sounded from the comm system before it abruptly shut off.  Fury focused his eye on Marina, and she just gave him a warm smile . . . one that came with a twitch at the corner of her mouth.  He leaned back, closing his eye as he shook his head.  “I can’t win.”

"Of course not," she agreed as she sat back to rest for the remainder of the ride home. "After all - I never play fair."

Chapter Text

Rest tired eyes a while
Sweet is thy baby’s smile
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee

Marina walked around the room, swaying as she sang to the precious bundle resting in her arms.  Only a few days old and Yasha Fillipovich Coulson already had the family wrapped around his perfect little fingers.  The family was already placing bets on who would spoil him most - his parents or his godparents.

Not that there should be any doubt - Will and Marina always won.

Even having him here tonight had been one such victory.  Everyone could see his parents needed a night of unbroken sleep, and no matter how many people stood ready to volunteer to keep their most precious new member, she’d been set to pull out all the stops to make sure he stayed with her and Misha. But as his godparents, Phil and Vika decided they had the first claim.

The birdeens sing a fluting song
They sing to thee the whole day long
Wee fairies dance o’er hill and dale
For very love of thee

She could see his little eyes beginning to droop further as her gentle movements and soothing voice lulled him towards sleep.  Such a sense of joy swept through her as she cradled him close to her heart . . . a similar joy to that which she had seen glowing in her sister’s eyes as the family flooded into the room, led by Marina and Will.  Despite her exhaustion, Vika looked ready to float away with sheer happiness as she pulled back the blanket to show off her new son.

“Marishka, come see.”  Her blonde sister’s voice came out in a hushed, all but reverent whisper. “Nika, Natasha . . . look.”  Everyone else waited, recognizing the importance of this moment to the family’s Merry Murderesses.

The women gathered around their sister, each of them reaching out to touch the baby, to offer their own quiet blessing to their new nephew.  Hands that could become weapons in the blink of an eye now rested together on the soft blue blanket in an unspoken guarantee of protection, a gift for their sister.

Hope had flared in Marina’s heart yet again as she held her godson for the first time.  The idea of having a child in her arms, one that blended traits from her and Misha made her catch her breath.  If it never happened, she could accept it.  After all, she had two handsome boys of her own already and she couldn’t love them more if they had been born of her own body.  That didn’t count the older boys she’d raised either.  

And yet . . . just the thought of having Misha’s baby renewed a dream she’d long since put behind her.

The primrose in the sheltered nook
The crystal stream the babbling brook
All these things God’s hands have made
For very love of thee

Watching Misha with his godson sent the roots of her hope even deeper.  Will hadn’t been allowed to be part of his brother’s care, not like he should have been, until they escaped.  With the exception of Clint, she didn’t remember him even having the opportunity to hold them as babies.  Sam and Rene came to them long past that stage, of course, but now, with Yasha, she caught a glimpse of what could be.

And she wanted it.

Twilight and shadows fall
Peace to His children all
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep
May Angels watch over and May the guard o’er thee

Marina leaned over the crib, her touch slow and gentle as she placed the sleeping little boy inside.  She stared at him for a long moment, touching her fingertips to her lips before dropping them to brush over his head.  

Ya lyublyu tebya, moy angel.

She turned away, reluctance clear in the slow speed of her movement, only to find her partner leaning against the door jamb, a quiet adoration shining in the blue of his eyes.  And more - she saw a hope that matched her own, quiet and buried, but there.  Her steps carried her into his arms and her own eyes fell closed as she felt him press a kiss against her hair.  He led her out of the room, one hand sweeping over the light switch to leave the room lit only by the soft glow of the night light. As she let him guide her towards their own bed, she hummed the last line of the lullaby one more time - a promise and a hope and a dream, all wrapped up in one.

May Angels watch over and May the guard o’er thee

Chapter Text

Marina Petrovka strode through medical, her heels clicking on the floor and sending nurses scattering.  Everyone in SHIELD, regardless of department, knew her, and when she walked at that particular pace, they got out of the way, no questions asked.  Her current pace told the world that the infamous Russian was highly irritated.  And no wonder she was unhappy!  She certainly hadn’t planned to be here today.  All of her reports, including a personal call from the man in question, insisted that no one had taken any serious injuries.  Then she got the call from the family doctor . . . and found herself in much too familiar a hallway - again.

That boy of hers had some explaining to do!

“Hey, Ma.”  A sheepish smile met her sharp gaze as she walked into the room.

Sammichka, I could swear you had told me there were no major injuries.”  She tapped her fingers on the footboard of the hospital bed.  “So why are you in this bed?”

“Vincent’s being paranoid?”

Her lips twitched at the hopeful attempt.  “Nice try, honey, but even Vincent wouldn’t hold you here after such a long mission for something minor.”  Pulling herself up to sit on the edge of the bed, she reached out to brush his bangs away from his face.  “Want to try again? Before your dad finds out?”

Sam winced.  “Sorry, Ma.  I’m fine.”  Her eyebrow went up and he hurried to explain.  “No, really, I am.  It’s just a shallow cut, but my temp’s elevated.”

“Ah,” she nodded in understanding.  “And since you were in a tropical climate-.”

“Our family doctors are running any and every test they can think of,” he finished.  “I promise - no major injuries.”

“But you do have an infection, I’m afraid.”  Mother and son looked towards the voice and found Marta standing there, a remorseful expression in her lovely eyes.  “Your body’s fighting it off, but you’re going to need some antibiotics and . . .” Her voice trailed off as she bit her lip.

“And?” Marina straightened as concern shot through her.

The doctor sighed before walking over to stand on the opposite side of the bed.  One hand played with the edge of Sam’s blanket.  “And we want to keep you overnight.”

The groan seemed to come from deep in Sam’s belly, so unhappy did he sound.  “Really?” he half-whined.

“I’m sorry, Sam.” Marta fussed with his covers and then touched his arm.  “I know everyone’s looking forward to you getting home - and I know you hate medical.”

“Everyone hates medical.”

His dejected mutter caused the two women to exchange a quick look.  They both knew Sam wanted to go home - he wanted his family around him and his daughters in his arms.  In no way did he want to spend a night in this room.  

Marina stood up and grabbed a chair.  “Marta, would you call Misha and let him know?” she asked.

“Ma, you don’t have to stay.”

“Hush, love.”  She looked back to the smiling doctor.  “And ask Hannah to send us some dinner?”

“I’ll take care of everything.”  Marta leaned over to press a kiss to her nephew’s forehead.  “Don’t worry, I’ll call your place as well.”

“Thanks, Aunt Marty.”

"You're welcome," she smiled, "but you only get away with that name today because of this."

“Now,” Marina continued as the other woman slipped out of the room.  “What shall we do to pass the time?”

“I don’t know.”  A sullen note entered her boy’s voice.  

“You sound like the babies when denied a treat.”

“I just . . .”  He sighed, slumping back into his pillows.  “I just wanna go home, Ma.”

“I know, baby.”

Her gentle acceptance prompted a grimace.  “I’m sorry.”  He gave her an apologetic smile.  “I’m being a brat.”

“And you’re forgiven,” she assured him.  “But no more whining.”

“No, ma’am.”  A reproving look had him choking back a laugh.  “No more whining, Ma.”

“Better.”  She patted his arm.  “We need to while away some time though.  The family will wait until they can bring you food before descending on the place since it’s not an emergency.”

With an accepting nod, he gave her his best little boy smile.  “Read me a story?”

A brilliant smile crossed crossed her face.  “Of course I will.”  She reached into her bag for her tablet.  “Any requests?”

He shook his head.  “You know most of what I’ve read,” he reminded her.  “Maybe something new?”

“Hmm.”  Marina hummed to herself for a moment before her eyes lit up.  Her fingers flew over the screen as she pulled up “Oh, I have just the one.  I read it to Prizrak a few years ago and I think you’ll like it as well.”  She sat up, falling into a storyteller’s cadence with the ease of long practice.  “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Sam snorted, the lingering disappointment fading into humor.  “Really, Ma?”

“That’s how it begins, sweetheart,” she insisted, showing him the page.  “Now, hush and let me tell you the story.  I think you’ll like it.”

“Okay.”  He settled back into his pillows.  

“Good.”  She began again.  “It was a dark and stormy night.  In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.”

As Marina continued reading, she watched her son out of the corner of one eye. The contentment which filled his face as he listened to the story filled her with satisfaction and she settled back, prepared to continue reading as long as her boy needed to hear her voice.

“And on the way home from school, walking up the road with her arms full of books, one of the boys had said something about her “dumb baby brother.” At this she’d thrown the books on the side of the road and tackled him with every ounce of strength she had, and arrived home with her blouse torn and a big bruise under one eye.”

That’s what a mother did, after all.

Chapter Text

During her time with SHIELD, Marina Ivanova Petrovka became accustomed to watching agents react to her family with varying degrees of amusement, fear, exasperation, disbelief, and even attraction.  Most of the time she ignored them - they would either figure out how to work with the Grimms or they’d avoid them.  Or wash out, but by the time she saw them, they’d usually passed that point.  When it came to herself, people considered her the most approachable of them, generally friendly and open to conversation unless someone had set off her temper.  And everyone knew the signs of that.

This week had been a good one - none of her people had done anything stupid and all of her boys were in good shape.  

So why was everyone scattering at sight of her this afternoon?

Marina didn’t know . . . and that caused an itch under her skin.

Time to get some answers - and she knew just where to go to find them.

“What is going on with everyone today?” she demanded as she stalked into Phil’s office.

“Hello, Marina,” he replied, his voice dry as the Sahara.  He spared her a glance as his fingers continued to tap out instructions on his laptop.  “Come right in.”

“I’ll get to the pleasantries after you answer my question.  People are all but diving for doors this afternoon and I don’t know why.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “They weren’t acting this way before lunch, but since then they’ve been walking on eggshells.  One man spotted me as he came around a corner and turned on his heel to walk the other way as fast as he could!”  

“You scare people on a regular basis, particularly when you’re angry,”  Phil pointed out.  "Don't tell me you haven't noticed the way they watch you, whisper when you appear?  They think you're going to kill them."

“You’re not clearing up any of my confusion,” she huffed.  “Why would I kill them?”

He folded his hands on top of his desk.  “I take it you haven’t heard about what happened earlier today as yet?”

“No,” she drew out the word, her eyes narrowing.  “I haven’t.”  Marina drew in a deep breath and folded her lips.  “Phil Coulson, you quit dancing around the topic right this moment and tell me who I’m supposed to be pissed at and why.”

“Three agents challenged Colonel Brandt to a sparring session." Sardonic amusement flickered in his eyes. "In less than flattering terms according to my information."

“Who?”  The word came out in a hissed demand.

“Ward, Simon, and Moreau.”

“They’re in the gym?”

“Yes.”  Phil held up a hand even as she shot to her feet.  “Marina - try not to kill them please.  They don’t learn lessons that way.”

“Other agents would,” she pointed out with a sigh.

“True.”  He accepted that with a nod, but then lifted a brow.  “Lessons stick better when they’re personal.”

“Fine, fine.”  Marina rolled her eyes, amused despite her anger.  Sometimes people seemed to enjoy ruining her fun.  “I won’t kill the juniors . . . but that doesn’t mean they’re not getting their asses kicked.”

“Of course not.”  Phil gave her a tiny smile.  “That would be a sufficient lesson.”

“Then I’d better get to teaching it.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes she truly enjoyed her job.

Working with the people she loved most in the world in an organization that did jobs no one else could do while hopefully making the world safer for the innocents who dwelt there meant more to her than she could truly explain to anyone.  The fact that said job also kept her beloved partner and boys safe from Ross added an extra dash of satisfaction.

Then again, sometimes she hated her job.

Dealing with idiots who couldn’t accept their place as small fish in a ocean’s worth of badasses and so they gossiped and maligned their superiors tended to top her list at those times.  These agents had been hand-picked and trained to be among the best intelligence workers in the world.  So why did they so often seem like sullen teenagers arguing over the title of ‘most popular’?

It looked like today might be shaping up to be one of the days she considered hating it.

Marina sighed as she reviewed the page in front of her - another complaint about one of her boys.  Not that it was anything new, but she had to admit - she rarely heard from someone about Aaron . . . and the idiot complaining about her Solnyshko would regret sending this to her.  But even she needed something more than ‘he’s an asshole’ before she could do anything drastic.

Her tablet chimed and she almost leaped for it, desperate for any interruption to her day.  Despite that readiness, she blinked in surprise as she found herself looking at a quietly laughing Owen.  

“Lucky,” she began only to cut off as he held a finger up to his mouth.

“Shh.”  He kept his voice low.  “You’ve got to see this.”

She saw his hand for a moment before the camera on his phone shifted to show whatever it was he wanted her to see.  Will’s office came into view and a smile began to curve her lips as she took in the scene playing on her screen.

One of the newest members of the family, Brian’s daughter Hannah, fussed over Will,  treating a cut over his eye.  Marina made a mental note to talk to him about that when she got home, but for now she enjoyed watching this little moment.  Hannah’s precious son Benji sat on Will’s lap, playing with a stuffed wolf, safer and more secure than any head of state.

“Really, Uncle Will, you need to take better care of yourself.” Hannah dabbed at the cut with a small cotton ball.  

“I’ll heal too fast to have to worry about that small of a cut getting infected.”  He tickled Benji’s side, prompting a giggle, as he smiled at his niece.  “One of the benefits to being who I am.”  He lifted an eyebrow.  “Who we are.”

“Yes, yes, we’re all superheroes,” she huffed.  Then she tilted her head to give him a firm look.  “But that doesn’t mean any of you are Superman. And,” she continued before he could say anything, “not all of the clan have the same benefits.  You have to set a good example.” His lips twitched in amusement, but she just rolled her eyes. "No channeling Dad if you please. One crazy man should be more than enough for any family, even the Grimms."

"Some would say most of us are crazy."

"Some people are stupid." Dabbing a couple more times at the cut, she turned to drop the cotton ball into the trash. "I really hate seeing you bleeding - especially when somebody else caused it."

Will reached out a hand to touch her shoulder. "Most people don't get the chance."

"That doesn't mean you don't have to be careful," she pointed out. “I'm also willing to bet Marina would agree with me.” Putting a small band-aid over the cut, she brushed the spot with her lips.  “There - all done.”

“You don’t have to mother me, Hannah.”

“Of course I don’t have to,” she chuckled.  Then she pressed a kiss to his cheek.  “But I enjoy doing it.”

Marina pressed a hand to her lips as she took in the look on her partner’s face.  A hint of wonder and bewilderment blended in those mercurial eyes, gunmetal gray with hints of deeper blue.  His smile and shoulders both fell into a relaxed line and she saw no signs of the burdens of his day or his job . . . so often etched around his eyes or mouth.  He shook his head.

“You just want to spoil people, lebedyashka.”

“Only certain people, Uncle,” she corrected.

The scene blurred as Owen brought the camera back around.  “Remind me to get that girl something special,” he chuckled. “I haven’t seen him that relaxed in days.”

“No weapons.” Marina leaned back in her chair, the scene having restored her good humor.  “They’re not really her style.”  She pursed her lips, considering for a moment before shaking her head.  “Even if watching Brian watch her open it might be amusing.”

He made a face.  “Well, you’re no fun today.”  Eyes narrowing, he gave her a careful scan.  “Having a bad day?”

“Not anymore.”

"Yeah, me either."

The soft agreement drew an understanding look from Marina. Both of them spent more time than either liked patching Will up after trouble, knowing and keeping his secrets from everyone, including the rest of the family. To see him getting such attentive care from someone else lifted their own spirits. They shared a smile, one that acknowledged the bond they shared in their affection for him. Then Owen broke the moment by tilting his head.

"So, if weapons are out, what do you suggest? Because jewelry isn't my thing."

She tilted back her head, any lingering stress drowned in the happy note of her laughter. "You'll figure something out, Lucky, that's what you do."

"Thanks for the help, Boss Lady."

Chapter Text

Doyle looked tired.
 
Marina bit her lip as she watched him lean over his brother, one hand smoothing back Will’s hair.  Sometimes it was so easy for her to overlook Doyle.  Of all the men touched by Ross’ obsession - and in the know - he needed the least attention, having long since made peace with his family history.  The greatest trauma in his life healed around the same time as they met him.  And he had no childhood history of bringing her his troubles, little or big.  So yes, she could admit he often slipped her attention.  But now he looked like he should be in a bed of his own, not hovering over Will.
 
A soft sigh escaped even as she reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear.
 
Whether it was the sound or the movement, she found herself the focus of a khaki green gaze.  “Last I heard, you were supposed to be resting.”
 
“I rested,” she protested.
 
“Sure you did,” Doyle chuckled.  “I’d wager it wasn’t long enough.”
 
Her lips pursed, she ignored the comment and stepped to the side of the bed.  Reaching out, she touched Will’s face, fingertips just barely brushing his forehead as she tested his temperature.  “Misha.”
 
“You need to be resting.”
 
“I’m fi-.”  Marina cut herself off even as she realized what word almost came out.
 
“Yes?”  Amused sarcasm filled the one word as he lifted his brows.
 
“Who are you to be talking anyway?” she shot back, doing her best to interject a teasing note into her voice.  “You look half asleep on your feet.”
 
“You’re nicer than Brian,” Doyle noted.  “He just told me I looked like shit.”  She lifted an eyebrow and he held up his hands in surrender.  Scratching the back of his head, he gave her a crooked smile that reminded her of so many of her boys when they wanted to try and reassure her . . . no matter what condition they might be in.   “Rushed back from a tactical mission - and I’m running on about two hours sleep.”
 
“In how long?”
 
“Never you mind.”  
 
Stubbornness might as well be genetic with these men.  From Hansel on down, every single one of them had it . . . and so far their children seemed to be inheriting it as well.  “You need sleep,” she fussed.
 
“And I’ll get some . . . later.”  Doyle reached down to touch his brother’s shoulder before giving her a half-serious, half-teasing glance.  “Come on, Marina, I almost never get to play the big brother with this guy.  You’re not going to steal it from me now, are you?”
 
“Doyle…”
 
“I’ve got this, Marina,” he insisted.  His strong hands, just as scarred and calloused as any of his younger brothers, cupped her elbows as he guided her towards the door.  “You go take care of the girls and let me keep an eye on my little brother, okay?”
 
“But you’re just as tired!”
 
“Probably more.” Despite the admission, his guidance never slipped.  “Now, go see how the twins are doing.”
 
“Call me if he wakes up?”
 
“Go.” Doyle nudged her out the door.  “I'm not getting my ass kicked by my little brother because we let you wear yourself down." She went to protest one more time, but he shook his head. "Shoo."

"I'm going to get you for that," she warned as she finally turned to head for the kitchen. "And my revenge will be so sweet."

"Is that a promise or a threat?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Chapter Text

Paperwork covered her desk and Marina scowled even as she worked through the top pages.  She needed to start planning some retribution.  Sure, she understood that the recent bloodbath - i.e. Dacia’s rescue - required a lot of paperwork to cover everyone’s ass, but she just knew that this was Nick’s payback for being left out of the loop until after everything was over.  His metaphorical fingerprints danced all over this little nightmare . . . and she couldn’t give it to Vika.  Her sister had her own pile.
 
Her phone rang.
 
“Petrovka,” she snapped even as she hoped for a reason to turn away from the stacks of paper..
 
“Sorry to disturb you, Colonel.”
 
“Nathaniel!”  Her voice warmed at the voice of her partner’s new adjutant.  “You have excellent timing.”
 
“Glad to be of service, ma’am.”
 
Curiosity lined his tone, but he obviously had more restraint than any of her boys, so he didn’t ask.  She decided to answer him anyway.  “I’ve got a mountain of paperwork and I’m pretty sure it’s all because Fury’s pouting at me . . . which is really unfair all things considered, don’t you think?”
 
“I couldn’t say, ma’am.”
 
“I think you can call me ‘Marina’ now,” she informed him.  “You’ll be dealing with the family often enough and the formality could get old pretty fast.”
 
“Yes, ma’am, if you say so.”
 
Humor bubbled into laughter at his calm tone.  “You do have a hint of the smartass in there, don’t you?” Marina chuckled.  “Misha claimed you did.”  He didn’t answer and she wished she could see the expression on his face.  If she had to guess, she thought he might be trying to determine if that had been an insult or a compliment.    She decided to give him a break.  “While I appreciate the rescue, I’m guessing you didn’t call to exchange quips,  Is there something I can do for you?”
 
“The General will be calling you in . . . about fifteen minutes or so, I would estimate,” he replied.
 
She could admit that his words left her a bit bewildered.  “He doesn’t usually send advance notice,” she noted.  “He just calls.”
 
“He’s . . . ah . . . he’s going to be under the impression that he’s returning a call from you, ma’am.”
 
“Oh he is, is he?”
 
“Yes, ma’am.”
 
“Nathaniel,” Marina drew out his name.  “Why exactly will my partner be calling me back?”
 
“I apologize if I overstepped,” he began.
 
“Trust me, I’ll let you know if you’ve overstepped as soon as you tell me why.”
 
“The General has been on the phone with the Secretary of Defense-.”  Her hissed curse cut off his words and he paused.  When she didn’t continue, he did.  “He’s been on the phone for thirty minutes and his voice has begun to drop.”  She blinked, her eyebrows rising, but she remained silent as his voice went on.  “If recent observation is any guide, then I would estimate his call will end in the next five to ten minutes.”
 
“I don’t want to know why he’s been on for that long,” she muttered.  Giving herself a shake, she refocused on her call.  “That’s not telling me why he’s calling me back.”  Though she could hazard a guess - especially given how SecDef could fire Will’s annoyance.
 
“No, ma’am.”  He took an audible breath.  “Ma’am-.”
 
“Marina.”
 
“Yes, ma’am.”  
 
She huffed out an amused breath at his contrariness.  “Just tell me,” she sighed.
 
“I’ve also observed that talking to you puts him in a better mood.”  
 
That’s rather what she expected.  “Ah, so you want me to settle him back down for you?”
 
“Not for me, ma’am.”
 
The light emphasis gave her pause.  Marina sat back, humming softly as she considered everything she’d seen and heard about Nathaniel over the past month.  Will found him both unobtrusive and efficient - something he appreciated.  Lucky had given him the nod of approval . . . at least to the point of not haunting the office.  All of the reports and reviews she'd read pointed to a thoughtful young man who would have been ruined under Thaddeus Ross, but who now had the potential to be one of the Army's best. If she read his voice correctly, his chief concern centered on her partner's well-being, not his own comfort. She might have just confirmed an ally in protecting Will from himself.
 
And young Rachel Berry had a major crush on him - one the man seemed to return.
 
An image of the two of them from a family dinner a few days ago brought a smile to her lips. "Do me a favor, Nathaniel," she finally asked. "Ask Misha to call me, would you?"

"Of course, ma'am."

Her lips twitched at the near inaudible sigh of relief. "I really do insist on you calling me 'Marina'."

"Yes, ma'am."

"One of these days, boyo," she warned. "I'll get you to do it one of these days."

"I'm sure you will, ma'am."

Marina began laughing and it took her a minute to reply. "Such a smartass. You won't have any trouble fitting in with the family."

Chapter Text

“It was lovely summer weather in the country, and the golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks piled up in the meadows looked beautiful.”
 
Marina leaned against the door jamb, a fond smile curving her lips as she listened to Aaron’s voice reading the old story.  He knew the tale by heart - it was his favorite after all - but he enjoyed the feel of the book in his hands and the sounds of the pags as he turned them.  His children seemed enthralled, eyes wide despite the periodic yawning, as they watched him tell them the story, changing his voice and making appropriate faces for each character.
 
“But what did he see in the clear stream below?” Aaron read, a soft joy in his voice.  “His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg.” Eyes the blue of a robin’s egg moved from one twin to another. “He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.”
 
June yawned as the story ended, finally losing the battle with her sleepiness.  “Read again, Daddy?”
 
“Not tonight, myshka.”  Aaron leaned down to brush his lips over her forehead.
 
“Tomorrow?” Maxwell pressed their case as his dad gave him a kiss on the head as well.  “Read again then?”
 
“Alright, zolotse, we’ll read it again tomorrow.”  A world of promises deepened Aaron’s voice as he turned on the nightlight and shut off the main one.  “Spokushki.
 
“Love you, Daddy.”
 
The twin chorus brought another smile, this one tinged with wonder, to her boy’s face.  “I love you too.”
 
Slipping out of the room just ahead of Aaron, Marina watched as he pulled the door closed behind him.  She wrapped a hand around his elbow.  “Your favorite story,” she murmured.
 
“Theirs too.”  A touching blend of pride and humility swam in his eyes.  
 
Together they made their way towards the common room where the rest of the family sat talking, working on small personal projects, or just lounging around.  Marina’s eyes narrowed on where Jason sat in deep discussion with the Doctors Three.  Cheerful enthusiasm glowed in all four faces - and she spotted Darcy giving them a careful scan of her own.  “Hmm . . . should we be worried about that?”
 
“Probably,” Aaron chuckled.  “Means something’s probably going to explode tomorrow.”  His expression took on its own glow, this one fierce with love, as Marta ambled over to them and curled her arm around his waist.  “Are they finally asleep?” she chuckled as his arm went around her shoulders.
 
“Took three stories, but they finally drifted off.”  He pressed a kiss to her temple.  “Is something exploding tomorrow?”
 
“No.” Then Marta frowned in consideration.  “Hmm . . . but maybe the day after that.”
 
Aaron brushed a kiss over Marina’s cheek before leading his wife back towards the other scientists.  “Come on,” he laughed.  “You better tell me about it.”
 
Watching them walk away, Marina pressed her fingers to her mouth as she took in the shared love they showed in every look.  The sheer sweetness of that pairing said everything about why the rest of the family did their best to protect them - no matter how well they could handle themselves.
 
Warm arms went around her waist and she leaned back as Will’s breath tickled her ear.  “What’s going through your mind, samaya malen'kaya?”
 
“I remember reading to him,” she whispered back.  “Every night a story about transformations and happy endings . . . and then watching him snuggle into bed and hope for his own.”  Her lips trembled, but happiness filled her heart as she watched Aaron listening to Marta as she explained her new experiment to him.  “And now . . .”
 
“He got it.”  
 
“Yes, he did.”  Marina gave a happy sigh.  “My solnyshko found his happy ending in a new beginning.”
 


Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

Chapter Text

Laughter and teasing taunts filled the room, but Marina paid it no attention as she focused on the young man at the center of it all.  Her foster son, Dean Winchester, ignored half of the comments being tossed at him while snarking back at his beloved little brother’s jives.  She had to smile as he tugged on his jacket sleeves for what appeared to be the nth time based on the others’ reactions.
 
“Dude, leave them alone,” Sam sighed, giving his brother’s hands a halfhearted smack..  
 
“I hate getting all gussied up like this.”  Dean glared at his reflection in the mirror, reaching to tug on the sleeves of his dress uniform yet again.
 
“You’d hate the monkey suit more.”
 
“Yeah, I’ll give you that.”  
 
He reached for his sleeve again and Marina decided to step in before the boys could devolve into squabbling.  “Stop that,” she scolded as she walked over to push his hand down.  Sam gave her a relieved look before walking over to the rest of the groom’s party to give them a few moments alone.  Brushing his sleeves with a gentle touch, she met his exuberant gaze. “You look devilishly handsome.”  
 
“Does that work in a church?”  Dean smirked.
 
“You hush now.”  Her hands smoothed his collar and then shifted to his tie.  “It’s a big day for you.”
 
“Best day ever.”  
 
Pulling his head down, Marina pressed a kiss to his cheek.  She pulled back to smile, only to laugh at the lipstick kiss left marking his skin.  Her thumb brushed over the mark to rub it away.  “Look at you . . .”  A burn of tears glazed her eyes even as her smile widened.  “So handsome and happy..."
 
“Hey-.”
 
“I know, no chick flick moments,” she huffed, amused now.  “But you’re just going to have to deal.  I’m calling mother’s prerogative.”
 
Dean blinked and something both sorrowful and accepting crossed his face.  Her heart ached for a moment through her happiness as she could see that the memory of his mother, Mary Winchester, ran through his mind.  He caught her hand, pressing it to his cheek.  “Okay, okay . . . I’ll give you that - but just this once.”
 
“For now at least.”  Marina lifted an eyebrow as she tilted her head in consideration.  “Though . . .  I guess when the babies start coming I can use the grandmother one instead.”  
 
“You’re getting ahead of us.”  He laughed and then dragged her in for a hug.  “Give us a bit before you redecorate the nursery, okay?”
 
“Don’t worry,” she assured him in a cheerful voice, “I promise to wait until the official announcement.”  Stepping back, she gave him her own smirk.  “But after that?  I assure you - all bets are definitely off.”
 
“Mom?” Sam stepped up beside them even as his brother started laughing.  “Sorry to interrupt, but it’s getting close to time.”
 
Nodding at him, she turned and framed Dean’s face in her hands.  “You truly do look so very happy, shchenok.”
 
“Like you wouldn’t believe, Marishka Mama.”
 
She stepped back, letting the men swarm him for last minute checks on clothing and hair.  Everyone knew cameras would be rolling from every angle . . . and their partners, parents, or family wouldn’t be impressed if they didn’t get some good pictures.  The Pack males each possessed their own charisma, but none of them matched Dean today - not with that joy emanating out of him.
 
Though as mother and foster mother to more than one of them, she certainly wouldn’t say so out loud.
 
“Are you ready to go?” Twelve year old Bellamy appeared beside her, his grin so reminiscent of his father’s.  “Uncle Will says you need to be in place before everything gets started.”  
 
“I’m ready.”  
 
Marina took one last look back at Dean as he traded a hug with his younger brother before letting herself be lead to her seat.  As she sat down, she cast her eyes upwards and spoke in the silence of her own heart to the mother her boy lost all those years ago.  
 
I’m sorry you can’t be here for this, but I promise I will do whatever I can to make sure he’s happy.
 
Later, watching his eyes light up as his bride came down the aisle towards him, she brushed away a tear.  Somehow she didn’t think it would take too much work to keep him happy - not considering the blinding smile he received from the darling young woman reaching out to take his hand.  She leaned into Will as the priest began to speak.
 
“Dearly beloved, you have come together into the house of the Church so that in the presence of the Church’s minister and the community your intention to enter into Marriage may be strengthened by the Lord with a sacred seal.”

Chapter Text

The entire situation had gotten out of hand.  Marina knew her reputation as the family matchmaker - and it wasn’t a job she’d ever intended to do but if she was going to do it, then it would be done right.  Sometimes her partner made her hold off, but there were some people who needed a good shove . . . and there was one particular young man on her mind today.  If she had to watch Frank Hardy dance around and ignore the obvious for much longer, she would break down and do something drastic.
 
And before she reached that point, she needed a plan - and for this boy, she knew she had an easy ally at hand.
 
A knock on the door painted a impish smile on her face.  “Come in!”
 
Her door opened and cheerful, if curious blue eyes under shaggy blond hair peered in at her.  “Hey, Colonel Marina!” Joe Hardy greeted her as he walked into the office.  “You wanted to see me?”
 
“You might as well just call me by name,” she chuckled.  
 
“Oh, I probably could, but there’s this whole respect thing and you’re my superior in the agency . . . “ He let his voice trail off as he gave a careless shrug.  “But then again, you really hate formality, so that sticks me in-between a rock and a hard place.”  A grin brightened his face.  “Thus ‘Colonel Marina’ it is!”
 
“You have a strong streak of smart ass,” she announced as she pointed at him.
 
Joe gave a huge sigh of mock shame.  “I’ve been told that before.  Often.  Usually by Frank.”
 
"I can appreciate that side of you." She shook her head with a laugh. “It's not a wonder you fit in with my boys.”
 
“That doesn’t hurt,” he agreed with a quick laugh.  “But I’ve got to say, I figure a bigger part of it is liking things that go ‘boom’ and torturing the baby agents.”  Mischief curved his mouth into an engaging grin. “That’s always a fun way to pass the day.”
 
“You have been hanging around Brian much too often,” Marina sighed.  “Now please stop giving me reasons to put you under watch and tell me about your brother’s quote/unquote ‘not-girlfriend’.”
 
The wicked mischief deepened as Joe all but tossed himself into the chair across from her desk.  “You mean my all too serious big brother and the really-not-a-secret crush he’s got on one of New York’s finest?”  
 
“Yes, that brother and that crush.”  She leaned forward, lacing her fingers together.  “Your brother is taking longer than half of my boys in getting his act together.”  Her own mischievous nature began to sparkle in her hot chocolate colored eyes.  “We might never get a chance to put any plans in action, but that’s no reason not to have them ready to go.”
 
You are my favorite person in this entire place,” he announced.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
 
“Such a sweet talker.  Now,” she winked, “let’s scheme.”

Chapter Text

A singing joy winged through Marina’s heart as she all but danced around the kitchen.  While she loved cooking on a normal basis anyway, today the process gave her an extra jolt of the emotion as she watched one of her touchiest boys tuck away the ambrosia she’d pushed at him the second he sat down at the table.  His soup and sandwiches would only take a few minutes, but she knew he liked fruit - especially peaches.  And something sweet wouldn’t do him any harm - the boy hadn’t had enough desserts in his life.
 
Thus her decision to serve him dessert first.
 
Stirring the soup only took the smallest part of her attention.  The rest of it she could use to scan him as covertly as possible.  For once it looked like his ‘I’m okay’ actually possessed more than a passing acquaintance with truth.  
 
The sound of the door opening drew her scrutiny away from him only long enough for Dacia’s vibrant, cheerful voice to call out.  
 
“Aunt Marina!”
 
She whipped her focus back to Grant, not wanting to miss a moment of his reaction.  The interactions between these two always brought a smile to her face - sometimes joyful, sometimes poignant, sometimes exasperated - but they never failed.  
 
Today would be no exception.
 
Grant paused as his eye flickered towards the front room.  He glanced back down at his bowl before moving it to one side and turning the chair so he faced the entrance.  Marina had to shift so she could see his face, but even at the somewhat oblique angle, she could see his lips pulling into an affectionate smile.
 
Tetya, I’m-!” Dacia’s voice broke off as she bounced into the room and spotted Grant sitting there.  “Maulwurf!”  The reason for his move became obvious as the young blonde darted to him, planting herself in his lap to wrap her arms around him in a warm hug.  “You’re home!”
 
“Told you I wouldn’t be gone long, Sestrenka.”
 
“Yeah because anybody in this clan’s got a good sense of timing when it comes to missions.”  She rolled her eyes, but tightened her arms for a moment before pressing a kiss to his cheek.  “Welcome home.”
 
“You hungry?” he asked, gesturing towards his ambrosia.
 
Dacia shrugged.  “Not starving or anything, but you know me.”  She got out of his lap and pulled herself up to sit on the table.  “I can always eat.”  Grabbing a maraschino, she popped it into her mouth.
 
“Not that I’m not happy to have you anytime, little wolf,” Marina chuckled as she walked into the dining room.  “But were you looking for me?”
 
“Oh, yeah!” Dacia grinned at her.  “I got the craziest of the Hardy boys to drop me off, but Dyadya asked me to tell you that he’ll be late.”  Her eyebrows went up.  “Apparently he’s got to take Enj and Sam out shopping.”
 
“Shopping?” Marina’s brow furrowed.  “Shopping for what?”
 
“I don’t know, but given their furtive expressions, I think Inari and I are getting something sparkly.”
 
Grant gave a soft snort.  “What did they do?”
 
“Good question.”  Those cobalt blue eyes narrowed.  “And that should probably worry me.”
 
“Probably.”  Marina reached out to snatch a bite of ambrosia for herself.  “I’m making soup and sandwiches.  Do you want one?”
 
“Oooh . . . do we have bacon?”
 
“I always have bacon.”
 
“I’m in!”
 
“Of course you are,” she chuckled.  “Go call Vincent and Cat - let them know you’re eating dinner with us.”  She tilted her head.  “And go grab my tablet, would you?  It’s on my desk.”
 
“Sure.”  Dacia popped up, pausing long enough to give Grant another hug, this one from behind.  
 
He stared after her as she rushed from the room.  “How’d this become my life?” he murmured.  “I never expected . . . not with Garrett . . .”
 
"I know this isn't the way you expected your life to turn out, but is that really such a bad thing?” Marina leaned against the door jamb, her eyes soft as they met his.  “You're a different person than you were back then."
 
“It’s everything.”  Grant replied.  “I wouldn’t change it - not for anything.”  He reached under his chair, pulling out a bag even as Dacia came back in.  
 
“Here it is.”  She handed Marina her tablet and then eyed the bag.  “What’s that?”
 
“I have something for you.”  Then he glanced at Marina.  “You too.”
 
“You shouldn’t have,” Marina began.
 
“What did I get?” Dacia interrupted with a cheerful grin.  That smile deepened as he gave her a flat look.  “What?  I get a few sparkles from Vati and Enj, but you don’t bring gifts home very often.  This is like an extra birthday or something.”  She laughed.  “An unbirthday present!”
 
At that, he chuckled.  “Alright, Alice, here’s yours.”  
 
She tore into the paper and opened the box.  “Oh, wow!”  The gold gleamed against her skin as she pushed the armlet up over her elbow.  “It’s gorgeous!”
 
“It is,” Marina agreed, reaching out to touch the pink stone.
 
“I hope you like it.”  Grant handed her a box as well.
 
Marina opened hers to find a matching armlet, but this one held a stone of warm amber.  She slid hers on as well.  “Where did you find them?”
 
“I. . . ah . . . I had them made.”
 
The females exchanged a surprised look before focusing on him.  He shifted in his chair, clearly uncomfortable.  Dacia wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her chin on his shoulder.  “I love mine.”
 
“And you can tell us whenever you’re ready,” Marina added.  She leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead.  “Now I’m going to finish the sandwiches and we can eat.”
 
“Bacon!”
 
Even Grant had to laugh at Dacia’s happy chirp.  The sound comforted Marina as she went to finish her cooking.  She squirreled away this memory for the future - a moment of joy she could use during one of the low times she knew would come.  This memory would be a promise that no matter how much trouble came to the family, they would always have brighter days.

Chapter Text

The singing caught her attention first.  
 
Marina couldn’t quite make out the voice yet, but a male voice seemed to be crooning from her kitchen.  While most of the family possessed musical talent, few of them tended to belt out tunes at random moments, even in the mostly private family levels of the Tower.  She paused and reconsidered that for a moment before amending her thought - few of the men did.  Between herself, Rachel, and Hannah, more of the females seemed comfortable in singing as they worked . . . even Dacia and Inari had started.  But outside of family events or karaoke, the males still kept their music a pretty private affair.
 
All of that narrowed down her list of potential invaders.
 
So she walked towards the kitchen to find out what brought young Blaine Anderson to her domain.
 
Before you met me, I was a wreck
But things were kinda heavy, you brought me to life
Now every February you'll be my valentine, valentine
Let's go all the way tonight
No regrets, just love
We can dance until we die
You and I, we'll be young forever
 
Blaine’s happy grin flashed across his face as he spotted her.  “Hey, Marina!” he greeted as he reached for the milk once more.  “Sorry to invade, but Darcy said it should be okay . . . and their stock of easy breakfast food is low.”
 
“Of course it’s okay,” Marina chuckled.  She snatched the gallon away from him.  “And we can do better than a bowl of cereal.”
 
“I didn’t mean to bother-.”
 
“Trust me, boyo - you’ll know if it’s a bother.”  Easy familiar movements gathered all the necessities and she turned on the stove.  “Besides - don’t you have training today?”
 
He wrinkled his nose.  “Yeah . . .”
 
“Then you need protein, not just carbs.”  She ignored the reluctance in his answer.  Even after everything he’d been through with them, he still disliked the more violent aspects of their training.  And she could understand that - as long as he continued to attend training every other day as scheduled.  “And Rachel would have a fit.”
 
Confusion furrowed his brow even as he glanced at the family calendar.  Then he winced.  “Ooops.”  He made a rueful face.  “I forgot we’d made plans to help her block out that routine today.  She’d kill me if I had any milk this morning.”
 
“I haven’t had a chance to ask about the routine yet,” Marina mused as she began to put together breakfast.  “Is this for a class?”
 
“Yeah, they have a series of performances and each of them have to do a routine for it.”
 
Her eyebrows went up and her focus zeroed in on him.  “Oh really now?”  
 
“Yes?” Blaine drew out the word as he took in her intent gaze.  
 
“And did she plan to tell us?”  She huffed out a sigh at his confused look.  “Some of us would like to go, to support her and to watch you all perform.”
 
“Oh.”  His face cleared.  “Don’t worry, as soon as she gets all of the dates, they’ll probably be posted across everyone’s calendars.  Rachel loves to perform for an audience - and she’d be the first to presume the family would want to be there to see their kids on stage.”
 
“Good girl.”  Then she narrowed her eyes on him.  “And what about you?”
 
“If I get a role, everyone will know,” he promised, holding up a hand.  “Promise!”
 
“Perfect.”  She reached out to pat his cheek.  “Don’t forget - you’re family too and we want to be there.  With cameras and everything.”  He ducked his head, a blush coloring his cheeks.  “You should probably be ready to hear quite a bit of applause and cheering.”
 
“They’ll probably just be bit parts as first.”
 
“Because that’s going to matter to your Pack?” Marina gave him an amused look.  “Or your sister?”

Blaine tilted his head. "They're going to be totally obnoxious, aren't they?"

"Yes, pesnya, I'm pretty sure they will be," she chuckled as she put food on a plate.

"What the hell?" he shrugged. His fingers brushed hers as he accepted the dish. "That's what real families do, right?"

"That's right."

Chapter Text

Finishing up her paperwork took ten minutes longer than it should have, but Marina figured it would all even out in the end.  At least it was almost finished.  Besides - if anyone (such as Nick) decided to complain, she would point them towards her partner.  He’d invaded her office an hour ago and took up quite a bit of her attention as he muttered about idiots and their inability to do their jobs..
 
It had been a long day.
 
Now she leaned against him as they sat on her couch, hastening to finish the last few emails so they could go home.  A knock on her office door drew a long sigh.  “Come in!”  She looked up with an impatient huff, but that faded as Hannah poked her head in the door.
 
“Sorry to bother you, Aunt Marina,” she offered.  “But do you have a minute?”
 
“Hello, Boz’ya korovka,” Marina smiled, waving the young woman in. “I always have time for you.”  Her eyebrows rose as Hansel followed her through the door.  He shut the door and leaned against it.  “Is something wrong?”
 
“Not really?”  Hannah pursed her lips.  “Belo and I have a . . . work issue and I need a favor.”
 
“Of course.”  Marina’s eyes narrowed as her quick reply drew a wince. Something about the situation seemed to be making her nervous.  “Maybe you should give me a few more details.” She exchanged a quick glance with Will.  “For a ‘not really’ you look unhappy.”
 
“Well . . . it’s kind of a big favor?”
 
“Name it.”
 
“I’m going to need a small fortune,” she admitted.  Marina’s brow furrowed as the younger woman bit her lip; for the most part Hannah had gotten past the struggle over accepting money when it came to ‘work’.  She didn’t get a chance to ask before the girl took a deep breath and continued.  “And . . . ah . . . access to your kitchen?”
 
Silence filled the room.
 
“My kitchen?” Marina repeated, a foreboding note in her voice.  Will drew in a breath and she dug her elbow into his side.  “For something other than cooking I take it?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Hannah, sweetheart, you know I love you, but if you break my kitchen . . .”
 
“I”m not Uncle Jason,” she replied.  “Or Aunt Gretel - no offence Belo.”
 
“None taken, Löwin,” Hansel chuckled, shaking his head.  “I believe my son inherited that from my sister.”
 
Marina gave both of them a searching look.  “Why my kitchen?”
 
“Because no one will pester us there - or pull any pranks.”  The young Grimm spread her hands.  “No one would do anything if they understood the situation, but we won’t have time to explain it.”
 
“What situation?” Will asked, entering the conversation for the first time.
 
“There’s a Jinnamuru Xunte loose in the city,” she replied.  “Belo and I have found him - we know where he is, but we want to get everything we need at one time.  Once we take him out, we’ll need to make some medicine for his victims.”  
 
“They’re blind for now,” Hansel added.  “And without the medicine, they will be blind for good - and likely insane.”
 
“Medicine - a Wesen medicine,” Will nodded as the family power couple came to attention.  “Thus the need for Marina’s kitchen.”
 
“If it helps sweeten the idea, I did come with a bribe?”
 
“I don’t need a bribe for something this important,” Marina pointed out, though the question prodded her curiosity.  “What kind of bribe are we talking about here?”
 
“”I need someone to take care of Benji for me.”
 
A hint of excitement began to sparkle in her eyes.  “What about Brian?”
 
“Dad called earlier and said he’d be late tonight - something about Darcy, a baby agent being stupid, and Uncle Clint deciding a prank would be the best teacher.”  Hannah gave her a bright-eyed smile.  “I haven’t called him about Benji yet . . . figured I might try you two first.”
 
“Me.”  Marina pointed to herself, a sharp gaze cutting over to Will as he began to reply.  “I get him first this time.”  
 
“So . . . we can do this?”  Hope lined Hannah’s voice as Will chuckled.  
 
“Misha, take her shopping,” the older woman ordered before she smiled at her niece.  “Yes, we can definitely do this.  Go get your supplies and then come to the house.”  She began to get her stuff together.  “I’ll pick up Benji for you.”
 
“Thank you!”  Hannah gave her a hug before turning to the men. “Let’s go get this guy before he hurts anyone else.”
 
A few hours later found Marina dancing around the living room as she sang to the little boy in her arms.  Benji cheered and clapped, often pressing open-mouthed kisses to her cheek. “Thank you, sweet baby.”
 
“Baba Ri!”
 
“That’s right.”  She hummed and swayed as she considered another song, but then the door opened and her three hunters came in.  
 
“Mama!”
 
Hannah looked up, blowing a kiss and smiling at her little boy.  “Hello, mi tesorito.  Are you having fun?”
 
“Dance!  Baba Ri dance!”
 
“That does sound like fun,” she chuckled.  “You stay here with Baba and Deda, okay?  Mama’s got to do some work.”  He leaned his head against Marina’s shoulder and Hannah nodded.  “That’s Mama’s good boy.”  Her eyes cut over to Hansel.  “Ready?”
 
“When hyu are.”
 
Her nose wrinkled.  “Better to get it done sooner so it’s finished and over.”  She gave a quick shudder and Marina heard her mutter as she and Hansel walked into the kitchen.  “This is just . . . ick.”  
 
Something shadowed Will’s eyes and Marina stepped to his side.  “What is it, Misha?”
 
“Her duties . . .”  He shook his head before pressing her lips to her temple.  “Sometimes Hannah’s role bothers me more than others.  One of the ingredients for their medicine?  The Wesen’s eye.  It had to be taken from him while he was in his woged state - and still alive.” Marina said nothing, choosing to wait him out.  After a moment he sighed.  “It’s not the necessity that bugs me - we’ve done worse.  It’s that she would have done it if she’d been alone.”  His lips thinned.  “That’s not . . . that’s not her.”
 
“We all have to do things we don’t like.”  Marina hoisted Benji more securely on her hip before reaching out a hand to brush her fingertips over her partner’s cheek.  “Even you.”
 
“She’s a Grimm, through and through - so yeah, she’d have done her duty, but . . . she reminds me of Kenny.”
 
“Gentle and sweet . . . and you wish she didn’t have to fight?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
“That’s why she has us.”  Marina cupped his cheek in her hand.  “Between Brian, Vati, and you, my love, she won’t have to sully that sweetness any more than necessary.”  Her lips curved.  “And we’ll make sure the man in her future will be the same way.”
 
A reluctant smile tugged at his lips.  “You’re looking forward to that, aren’t you?”
 
“He’s perfect for her.”
 
“Brian’s fussing about it.”  Will’s lips twitched even more.  “Half the family’s got bets riding on when and where . . . and he can’t decide whether he hates it or not.”
 
“My dikiy rebenok will get over it.”  Her voice brooked no contradiction.  She tickled Benji’s ribs drawing a laugh out of him.  “He wants what’s best for her - and someone who will protect and support her with their dying breath?  A perfect choice.”
 
“Matchmaker.”
 
Noise from the other room interrupted any further conversation as they redirected their attention towards the door.
 
“We’ve got to go administer this,” Hannah informed them as she hurried out of the kitchen with Hansel on her heels.  “Before any more damage is done.”  She leaned over to brush a kiss over her son’s cheek.  “Be good and Mama will be home soon.”
 
“Bye Mama!”  Benji waved as his mother and great-grandfather rushed out of the house.  He turned to grin the two adults still with him.  “Deda Will!”
 
“Hello, malysh,” Will brushed a hand down the little boy’s back as he pulled Marina in close.  She closed her eyes, relaxing into his hold as he kissed her forehead.  Benji giggled and she could feel a little of her lover’s burden fall away from his shoulders.  Then she felt the baby in her arms shift, apparently growing lighter.
 
Her eyes flew open.
 
“Misha!”  
 
The sharp grin she received might have softened her on any other occasion . . . but not when he decided to steal babies from her!  “My turn.”  He smirked at her as he backed up.  “Unless you can catch us.”  Benji giggled even harder as Will darted up the stairs after throwing down that gauntlet.  Her Misha’s deeper laughter joined in when she shouted up after him.
 
“William Michael Grimm!  You give him back right now!”

Chapter Text

Rustling papers and the tapping of keys filled the air as Samonik and Lisitsa bent over their books and laptops trying to finish their homework.  Dacia and Rene had already finished - the younger couple darting off to begin their weekend and leaving Sam and Inari lagging behind - for what might possibly be the first time ever if anyone bothered to mark such things in a calendar.  Rene suggested it before his laughing girlfriend pulled him out of the house.

Based on her quiet mutterings, Inari wasn’t impressed with his suggestion.

Marina cut up some fruit, placing pieces of apple and banana on a plate beside some meat and cheese slices. She could hear the grumbles getting a little louder as time passed.  A snack break might be in order right about now…

And possibly an intervention.

“Could we just take the easy route in this class?” Inari huffed as she shut her book.  “Neither of us are planning on doing anything that requires it.  So maybe we could at least have some fun with it?  You know, pick a subject we want to know about instead of one of her suggestions?”

“History shows up a lot in hunting actually,” Sam pointed out.  “You’d be surprised at how many times we trip over myths and legends and history while researching for a hunt.”

“But you want to be a lawyer.”  

His lips twitched at her argument.  “That doesn’t mean I won’t have to help out on the side.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “But what would you like to write about?”

“I don’t know!”  The raven-haired girl slumped in her seat, a pout settling on her mouth as she crossed her arms over her chest.  “But I know it's not the Great Depression." She wrinkled her nose. "And okay, fine, I get that history’s important to people, but it’s really not my thing.  Everybody gets so caught up in names and dates and it just gets boring as hell.”

Marina shook her head as she brought the plate of snacks out to them.  “If you’re bored in history, then you have a bad teacher.”

Hands reached out for the food even as two pairs of eyes focused on her.  “Then I’ve had more than one,” Inari huffed as she grabbed a slice of banana.  “Last year and this year. Dates and names, names and dates . . . and okay, fine, I get that this date or that really means something, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Terrible teachers,” Marina sighed.  She took a seat across from the two teenagers.  The past brought us here,” she continued.  “What happened before led to today - without those old events, our world would be very different.”  

“Such as?” Sam asked.

“Pearl Harbor,” she shrugged.  “If you’d like a more recent example.”  Her lips curved in amusement.  “Both of you were born more than fifty years after that day, but it helped create the world you live in . . . and its occurrence helped shape this family in particular.”

He gave a slow nod.  “Because of Steve and Bucky.”

“To begin with.” Marina gave the plate a small nudge and smiled as both teens took more food without looking.  “And how else?”

“The super soldier serum or whatever it’s called,” Inari replied.  “Oji and all the other uncles - they wouldn’t exist without it.”

“Exactly.”  Marina tapped a finger on the tabletop.  “Now, that’s something personal and not for others, but think about how that day affected the world.  How much longer would Britain have held out without the United States entering the war?”

“Wouldn’t they have entered eventually?” Sam asked.

“Possibly,” she allowed before pursing her lips in consideration.  “Probably, actually, but how many more would have died in the meantime?  And would America have entered before some of the madmen such as Red Skull completed their superweapons?”

He winced.  “Now there’s a frightening thought.”

“Plus, consider the balance of world power,” she continued.  “World War II shifted power throughout the world and led us to the Cold War.  And that particularly long war - because it was a war for all intents and purposes - affected the state of the world for an entire generation.”  

“So Pearl Harbor contributed to that?” Inari frowned.

“It led to a massive mobilization of resources,” Marina explained. “America poured resources into both theaters of war . . . and unlike the rest of Europe and much of Asia, she suffered very little loss due to the war.”  Both teens frowned and she held up a hand.  “I’m not talking about the lives of her men and women - any such loss is terrible.  But almost no damage occurred to her internal infrastructure - unlike most countries involved, America didn’t have to rebuild after the war ended . . . and so she rose to become one of the superpowers.”

Inari tilted her head.  “Which Stalin thought he had to match.”

“And it might not have happened - at least not in the same way - without Pearl Harbor,” Sam finished with a nod.

“Exactly.”  Marina raised an eyebrow at Inari.  “Stalin?”

“Kinda creeped me out when we studied him,” the girl admitted.  “I get that Hitler was bad too, but he looks weird and freaky.  Stalin kind of looked . . . normal - but then he did all these things and it’s . . . disturbing.”

“It would be nice if the bad guys all looked like bad guys,” the older woman agreed with a quick smile.  “Too bad it’s not like the old movies.”

“White hats versus black hats?” Sam suggested, his own grin bright and teasing.

“So much easier,” she agreed.  

Inari snickered.  “And easier to play games with.”

“Our little grifter,” Marina chuckled.  “Now, let’s take a look at your homework. What’s left to do?”

“There’s a paper due at the end of the semester,” Sam explained.  “We have to turn in our choice of topics on Monday - something from the first half of the 20th century.”

“And I can’t think of anything I want to study that much,” Inari sighed.

“Why not Stalin, little fox?”

The girl blinked. “I . . . huh.”  She gave herself a little shake and then blinked again.  “Yeah,” she nodded, drawing out the word with slow consideration.  “Why not? Creepy and interesting . . . I didn’t even think about it.”

“You were too busy huffing,” Marina laughed.  “And you, Samonik, what do you want to look into?”

“I’m doing mine on how the two world wars could be considered one thirty year war.”  His lips twitched in amusement as they looked at him in surprise.  “I’d . . . I’d already decided on mine,” he admitted.

“What?” Inari stared at him.  “You didn’t say-!”

“I was waiting for you.”

The merest hint of a blush darkened Inari’s cheeks and Marina decided they no longer needed her help. Her boy might flush and stammer at the slightest bit of flirting, but no one could say he didn’t know how to win a girl’s heart. She rose from the table, drifting towards the kitchen with a pleased smile on her face. Though they'd only had him for a short time, she and Misha had done quite well by young Sam - taking a weary, somewhat sullen boy and helping uncover the thoughtful young man behind her. Just the thought of how far he'd come started her humming a joyful tune as she poured herself a glass of wine.

"We out of here, mom!" Sam called out.

"Have fun," she called back. "Be careful!"

Marina leaned against the countertop as she heard them hurry out the front door and she lifted her glass in a small toast - to her children, to Misha, and even to herself.

"We do good work."

Chapter Text

Generally Marina prefered to avoid the cafeteria at headquarters.  Not that she disliked it per se, but when she actually took a full lunch, she preferred to have an hour of peace.  That meant locking her door and muting her office phone, not going down to a room filled with too many people and too much noise.  Today, however, she ended up nearby due to high level meetings and decided it wouldn’t hurt to see and be seen.

Though the sidelong looks and whispered comments made her question the decision.

“May I join you?”

She looked up at the familiar voice and smiled into the affectionate blue eyes of Steve Rogers.  Relief swamped through her - someone to take her mind off of the eyes and the ears focused on her. “Of course.”  A wave of her hand gestured to the seat across from her.  “I’d appreciate the company.”

Even as he put his tray down, whispers broke out yet again and she rolled her eyes.  Steve just chuckled.  “A lot of that going on?” he asked, taking a seat.

“New recruits,” she muttered, her smile turning wry.

“Ah.”  He nodded in understanding.  “So you’ve got all the ego, nerves, and bravado - with a complete lack of comprehension of their new world.” He glanced around. "They've been through orientation?"

“Yeah, so now we’ve got to get them past the family craziness.”  Marina leaned her chin on her hand.  “If only they’d quit flinching every time I walk in the room.”

“Can’t always blame them for that.”  Steve grinned as she narrowed her eyes at him.  “You still make me cautious when you lose your temper.”  He paused and then shrugged.  “Or when you’re blasting past everyone in determination.”

“I’m not that mean,” she protested through a laugh. “They shouldn’t be that scared.”

“Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people.”  

That made her blink.  “Sounds like you’re talking from experience.”

“Peggy Carter.”  His smile turned reminiscent, his eyes hazy with memories.  “Agent Peggy Carter . . . that woman taught people respect without mussing a single hair.”  Then his eyes cleared as he refocused on her.  “Gretel reminds me of her in some ways,” he admitted.  Then his smile shifted back into a grin.  “And so do you.”

"Really?" Her own smile blossomed.  “I’m flattered.”

“Peggy didn’t take nonsense from anyone,” he continued, leaning back in his seat.  “And she inspired confidence in the people around her.”

“You’re going to make me blush.”

“But she had to deal with a whole passel of stupid.”  Compassion lit his handsome face.  “Sometimes she put a stop to it with a fist to the idiot’s face, but most times she had to tune it out until they figured it out on their own.”

“So you’re telling me to ignore the babble?” Marina sat back with a sigh.  “Usually I do.”

“But everybody’s got a limit.”  He took a drink of water, his eyes never leaving hers.  

“Something like that.”

“You’ve had a busy year.”  Steve reached out to touch her arm where it lay on the table.  “Just don’t forget - you’re not alone . . . and you never will be.”

Warm affection rolled through her and Marina gave him a real smile. "You're a good man, Steve Rogers."

"I'm just a guy from Brooklyn," he protested with a shake of his head. "I call it like I see it."

"That just makes it all the better."

"Eat your lunch."

She had to chuckle as a blush stained his cheeks - and the laughter only deepened as he made a face at her. Sure, sometimes she got tired of the whispers and the looks and the nonsense, but she'd put up with twice as much to have the family and life she possessed. Returning to her food, she realized that a weight had dropped off her shoulders . . . thanks to a few words from the man sitting across from her.

Phil would be jealous, but she no longer regretted stopping here for lunch.

Chapter Text

Every so often Marina could still see a hint of him.  Maybe in the tilt of a head or in the shadow of a sharp smile, but in those brief flashes she could still see shades of the wild boy she had tried so hard to help.  Her heart still hurt when she thought of that loss.  It remained one of the darkest failures that she kept locked in the depths of her memory - the storm of fear and pain and anger filling the shell of a boy who had abandoned his family.

Barney’s memory could still break her heart.

Now she watched the man who had reforged himself after that separation.  Brian Gamble took the lessons buried in Barney’s memory and combined them with his own newborn personality to create a man in whom they could take pride.  And she did - more so because he had done it without any expectation of acceptance by his family.

She knew he still counted his reunion with them as a miracle.

Though it no longer ranked as the biggest miracle of his life . . . if it even managed to make it into his top five.  Marina leaned against the door jamb and watched as Brian surrounded himself with the four most important miracles of his life.   

Miracle #4 - Benji

Laughter filled the room in front of her and she could only smile as she watched Brian chasing after his grandson, mock growling as he swept him up into his arms.  His fingers played along Benji’s ribs.  The little boy shrieked with laughter.

“No tickle, Papa!”

“No?” Brian cuddled him to a firm shoulder.  “But maybe I like to tickle you.”

The toddler grinned back.  “I tickle.”

Pudgy little fingers poked at Brian’s neck and the man chuckled, clearly delighting his grandson though Marina knew good and well he wasn’t ticklish there.  Of all his brothers, Brian was the first to have a grandson . . . and his pride in the little boy knew no bounds.  Every giggle, every word - Brian soaked them up like the parched earth drew in the rain.  Maina’s smile deepened as she remembered him strutting around headquarters the first time Benji called him ‘Papa’.  

A rooster had nothing on Brian that day.

“Papa, up!”

Miracle #3 - Svetka

All eyes turned towards the red-headed fairy of a girl bounced at Brian’s feet, grinning up at him and her nephew.  Not that Svetlana cared about being an aunt one way or another - as far as the little girl seemed to care, she had a permanent playmate who liked getting into things as much as she did.  Though hopefully he wouldn’t gain quite the same destructive reputation as she’d already managed to start building for herself.

Marina blamed Brian . . . and maybe Jason, but mostly Brian.

“Come on then,” Brian chuckled, shifting Benji over to one arm while he reached down for his youngest daughter.  “Are you having fun, little Pyro?”

“Fire!” She clapped her hands, chortling as he swung them around.

“No fire today.”

All Marina could think was: Thank goodness.   She adored the little girl, really she did, but Jason didn’t need any help in his quest to destroy the family’s kitchens.

Brian’s spinning came to a stop and he put the children down in the middle of their toys.  “You two play with those for a minute,” he cajoled as he glanced around the room.  “Make some noise.”

The children needed no encouragement and the volume level rose as they began to pound and rattle and toss toys as the impulse moved them.  Childish voices joined in as the two laughed and shrieked along with their play, but Brian just grinned as he watched.  Then he turned and walked over towards his eldest daughter.

Miracle #2 - Hannah

Marina’s own eyes turned to the quietest person in the room.  Hannah sat on the couch, her back pressed against one arm with her legs stretched across the cushions.  She seemed caught up in the book on her lap, ignoring all of the noise swirling around her as she turned the page.  With both of the little ones distracted by their toys, Brian leaned over to press a kiss to the top of her head.

“School or pleasure?”

Hannah twisted around to look up over her shoulder with that beautiful smile of hers.  “It can’t be both?”

If Marina ever needed further proof that even the darkest of moments could bring a silver lining, she didn’t have to look any further than this young woman.  For such a bright star to have come from Barney’s actions . . . well, that was more than enough of a miracle for any of them.  And that didn't even begin to include the healing she brought to some of Marina’s most beloved people - not only Brian, but Mishka and Sammichka too.

“Not the reader, Stardust,” Brian grinned.  “I only read what I have to.”

“You just haven’t found the right book.”

“That would require him actually picking one up, kroshka.”

Miracle #1 - Natasha

Natasha slipped into the room from the bedroom, sparing an acknowledging glance for her sister as she walked over to check on the children.  All three adults knew they had a guest, but they also knew her and they would let Marina decide when to announce herself - unless one of the little ones spotted her.

“Perhaps you should recommend one?” Natasha continued as she brushed the back of her fingers along Hannah’s cheek.  “Your father could never tell you no.”

“No ganging up on me,” Brian warned, one arm snaking around Natasha’s waist.  He pulled her into his side before pressing a firm kiss to her mouth.  “I’m already outnumbered.”

“Wait until our little Pyro is a teenager.”

“Tasha,” he groaned.  “You can’t give me those nightmares.”

Hannah buried her nose in her book, shoulders shaking with repressed laughter as Marina worked to do the same.  She would never have considered these two as a workable pair when Clint first brought Natasha in.  Even her matchmaking skills missed the start of this one - and the bets being placed on the two of them still amused her.

Especially since Mishka had won the pot.

“Even Marina’s laughing at me now,” Brian grumbled as he tossed her a mock injured look.

“Always,” she shrugged, stepping into the room.  Both children squealed as they looked around to see her.  

Benji pulled himself up a chair and toddled towards her.  Svetka started to follow, but she stumbled.  Her father caught her before she could fall, handing her off as Hannah reached out for her.  Yet more laughter lit up the room as the sisters made faces at each other.  Marina smiled when Natasha leaned down to play along.

And felt her heart swell at the look of awe and wonder that filled Brian’s face.

For one brief moment she let herself remember Barney before banishing him back to the history of memory.  Barney had shattered and fallen - and while she would always regret that failure, she could only wonder if it wasn’t for the best.  Would Brian have this beautiful present without his tragic past?  Somehow she doubted it . . . and wouldn’t that have been the bigger loss?

Baba Ri!”  

Marina shook herself free of the consideration to crouch down just in time as Benji crashed into her.  “Hello, malysh,” she cooed, lifting him to her hip as she straightened.  “Are you having a good time?”

“Papa tickle!”  He giggled and then pressed an open-mouthed kiss to her cheek.

“I saw that.”  She brushed her lips over his forehead.  “Maybe I should check and make sure he did it right.”  Her fingers began to play along his ribs.

“No!”  Benji squirmed through his laughter.  “No tickle!”

“Come to Nana,” Tasha interrupted, plucking the little boy away from Marina and dancing away.  "I will protect you from the tickle monsters."

"Dance!" Svetka clapped her hands as she bounced on Hannah’s lap.  “Dance!”

Hannah laughed as she put her book aside. "Okay, nena, let's dance."

“Eucatastrophe.”

Brian’s murmur drew a smile to her lips as she turned to him.  “Found your happy ending, moy dikiy rebenok?”

“Always figured I’d bought my ticket to Hell.” He scratched the back of his head.  “Never planned on any of this.” His lips quirked into a bewildered smile as he gave her a sidelong glance.  “Guess I owe Aaron an apology.”

Marina no longer felt any fear for Brian - not the way she once had. He had too much to live for now, too many miracles and too much joy for him to toss his life away on a risky gamble. She pulled his head down to brush a kiss over his cheek. "No one ever needs an apology for happiness."

Chapter Text

Despite the multiple issues and concerns, both personal and professional, that followed them home, Marina still noted the change in her firebrand and the love of his life.  The bond between Rene and Dacia had formed fast and deep those first few months after the Blutbad joined their extended family, but something had changed within the last week.  Always physically demonstrative, regardless of location, the pair now remained in near constant contact - holding hands, curling up with each other, or even the simple brush of fingers as they passed one another.

And there was his request on Monday . . . just two days after their return home.

“Mama!”

“In the kitchen, goloveshka!”

Rene strolled into the kitchen and brushed a kiss over her cheek.  “What’s cooking?”

“Beef stroganoff with pierogi.”  Satisfaction saturated her voice as he brightened.  Then she had to smack at his hand as he tried to grab a taste.  “Rene Grimm!  You know better than that!”

“Can you blame me?” A distinct gleam of merriment lit his gaze. “Who wouldn’t want to steal an extra taste?”

“You behave,” she chuckled. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed his lack of entourage.  “And where are the others?  Your Pack’s been inseparable since we got back.”

“Alexis is having dinner with her family.  They want to hear all about the trip.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Not that she’ll tell them everything, but they won’t know that.  Blaine got caught by Darcy and she dragged him to the lab so he could fill her in and show off pictures.  Rey went with him.”  Grabbing an orange out of the basket on the countertop, he began to peel it.  “Sam and Inari are at the Tower doing the same with Cat.”

Marina nodded.  “And Dacia?”

His eyes took on a new gleam, one of fierce love and possessiveness.  “She’s at medical, shadowing Vincent.  Not that he needs her underfoot, but-.”

“With all of the excitement she wants to keep an eye on everyone,” Marina finished.

“Pretty much.”  He popped an orange slice into his mouth as he wandered around the kitchen.  

“Did you need something or are you just here to keep me company?”

“I love spending time with you, Mama.”

She gave him a look.  “And I always enjoy having you to myself, but you look like you’re trying to work yourself up to asking a question.”  Turning the sauce down to simmer, she turned to lean against the counter.  “You know you can always talk to me.”

“I know.”  Rene walked over to stand beside her, offering her a slice.  “I want to do a special dinner for Dacia,” he explained as she took the fruit from him.  “Not out to eat or anything, but a quiet night in.”  

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” she nodded, encouraging him to continue.

“Except maybe the quiet part.”  He shrugged as she tilted her head in question.  “It’s kind of hard to find space that’s not overrun with people.  Or where we won’t be interrupted within the first five minutes.”

“Believe me, I understand,” Marina assured him.  Privacy could be a priceless gift in a family the size of theirs - especially when adding in the full extended clan.  “You could use the guest floor of the Tower,” she suggested.  “Your father and I will make sure everyone leaves you alone.”

Relieved gratitude filled his smile.  “Thanks, Mama.”  

“And I can make-.”

“Actually,” Rene interrupted with an apologetic glance, “I . . . hoped you might help, but that I could fix the meal?”

Her eyebrows rose even as she walked to the end of the kitchen to grab one of her personal cookbooks off the shelf. “Is it a special celebration?”

He shook his head.  “Just dinner and a movie, but just the two of us.”

“Given Dacia’s preferences, I think Steak Jalisco would work,” Marina mused, flipping through her handwritten recipes.  “She’ll enjoy the flavors, and it manages to be both simple and fancy all at the same time.”

“Just like her,” Rene murmured.

Amused pride curled Marina’s lips up into a smug smile that she turned away to hide.  She’d called the relationship first - and she’d hung onto it no matter how much both of them tried denying anything more than friendship.  Now she could preen at seeing it coming into full blossom.

“I’d add some bread to compliment it, but this meal’s all about the steak.”  Marina pulled out the recipe.  She reached for her tablet to put together a grocery list to make sure they had everything they needed.  “Dacia will love it.”

“She does eat vegetables,” he protested, laughing in spite of himself.

“Of course she does,” she allowed.  “And fruit and bread and pretty much anything else on the table.  I don’t know where the girl puts it.”  They exchanged matching smirks.  “But,” Marina continued, “no matter what she eats - she likes meat best.”

“Can’t argue that.”  He walked over to stand beside her.  “So how do I make Steak Jalisco?”

Five days later Marina stood in the Tower’s guest floor dining room watching her son as he put the finishing touches on Dacia’s surprise.  She’d overseen the cooking, offering help and advice as needed, but letting him handle the majority of the work.

“And done!”

Rene carried the plates out of the kitchen, placing them on the table with care.  Candles flanked a glass vase filled with red and cream colored tulips interspaced with honeysuckle.  Maternal pride knew no bounds as she touched a finger to the vase - he’d found one the same cobalt blue as Dacia’s eyes.  The meanings of the flowers hadn’t escaped her either - each one a declaration of love, a romantic gesture that required no words.

And if her son thought she’d missed seeing him hide that little box in the kitchen, he was sadly mistaken . . . though she’d let him get away with it for now.  She’d just have to keep an eye out for whatever new jewelry Dacia would be wearing come tomorrow.

“It looks wonderful,” she promised.  “Now I’m going to make myself scarce so you two can have your date.”  

“Thanks, Mama.”

With a last fond look at her son as he puttered around the table, lighting candles and making minor changes to the setup, Marina slipped out of the room.  The elevator opened as she reached out to push the button.  Dacia stepped out, a bright smile on her lips and her arms already coming out to give her aunt a hug.

Tetya Marina!”  

Returning the hug, she reached out to tuck a lock of blonde hair behind the young woman’s ear.  “Enjoy your dinner, love.”

“We will.”  Dacia sauntered towards the door, glancing over her shoulder to give a final smiling wave before disappearing from sight.

In that smile Marina saw the same love, possessiveness, and commitment that she had seen in Rene’s.  She recognized that look . . . and the claim it implied.  “I need to have the grandchildren talk,” she muttered.

“Pardon, Ms. Marina?”

“Sorry, Shae,” she chuckled.  “I’m talking to myself.”

“Of course.”

“No, wait,” Marina reconsidered.  “Please remind me in the morning that I need to have a talk with Rene - specifically that they both have to be at least eighteen before they’re allowed to make me a grandmother.”

“Noted, Ms. Marina,” Jason’s AI replied.

“Thank you, Shae.”  Her eyes narrowed and she leaned against the elevator wall.  “Hmm . . . now, do I warn Vincent or not?”  Marina considered it for a moment.  “Maybe not.”  She pulled her phone out of her pocket and pulled up her contacts.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Cat,” she smiled.  “Would you care to join me for coffee in the morning?  I think we should have a chat . . . maybe after the men go to work?”

Chapter Text

“Like this!”

Marina glanced up from the file just in time to get a face full of liquid spray direct.  She cried out as her eyes felt like they began to burn.  The files dropped from her hold and she heard them scattering along the floor.  Her hands flew towards her eyes, but a strong grip caught them before she could touch her face.

“I’m sorry!”  

The high-pitched words filled with fear came from someone in front of her and she pulled back at the unfamiliar voice.  

Zatknis’!,” growled a much more familiar voice as a strong pair of arms pulled her into a solid wall of muscles. She struggled despite recognizing him - she wanted to rub her eyes.  “Uchenyy, stop.”

Tovrets, my eyes!”

“I know,” Bucky murmured, his voice a soothing rumble in her ear.  “I can’t let you touch them.  Blink,” he ordered.  “Start blinking as rapidly as you can.”  She felt him turn his head away as she obeyed and that rumble turned into a sharp order.  “Get Keller - now!”  Someone began to dash off.  “And find a mobile eyewash!”  Then that strict tone grew hard as flint and sharp as any blade.  “What the hell did you spray her with?”

Again came the tremulous, high-pitched voice.  “It’s . . . it’s . . .”

“Spit. It. Out.”  

If her eyes hadn’t been hurting so much, Marina might have stepped in as her old teacher bit out his words as if he planned to go for the other man’s throat.  But right now, the idiot could get himself out of trouble.  She leaned into Bucky’s hold and fought the instincts driving her to break free so she could reach for her face.  

“It’s . . . it’s a concentrated form of pepper spray!”  The idiot spilled out his explanation in a sudden rush as if the sheer speed of his words might get him out of trouble.

Silence fell in the hallway as Marina felt Bucky draw in a deep breath.  

“Go.”

Icy fury filled the single word.

“Should I help-?”

Bucky gave a short bark of disbelieving laughter.  “You’ve damn well done enough.  Get out.”

“But-!”

Her teacher’s hold shifted to free one arm and she felt him draw a weapon.  “You can leave now of your own free will,” he warned, “or you can leave in a few minutes in a body bag.”  He paused and then she felt him shrug.  “I really don’t give a damn which.”

“Don’t shoot him, Tovrets,” Marina murmured even as she heard the sound of feet scrambling away.  “They don’t learn if you shoot them.”

“The pridurok should be begging me to shoot him,” Bucky huffed out as she felt his arm drop.  “It’d be kinder than what he’ll get when Will or Jason catch up with him.”  He must have put away the weapon as his free hand caught her chin to turn her face upwards.  “Der’mo,” he hissed.  

“Do I look that bad?” she asked, trying for a teasing tone.

“Quit fishing for compliments, Uchenyy.”

Pounding feet echoed down the corridor, interrupting any response.  Even as she registered the sound, another familiar voice began to growl . . . and this one had a feral note to it.  “What the hell happened?” Vincent demanded.

No matter how harsh his voice, the doctor’s fingers remained gentle as he touched her arm.  

“She got a face full of concentrated pepper spray,” Bucky replied.  “I stopped her from rubbing them and she’s been trying to blink some moisture in there.”

“Good.  We’ll take over this office.”

She let them lead her into another room, and she had to laugh as Bucky swept her up into his arms. “Brings back memories,” she noted as he made an inquiring sound.

“You were even tinier then,” he chuckled.  “If that’s possible.”

“Lay her down on the desk,” Vincent ordered and she could hear him putting on gloves.  “Lean your head back, Marina.”  A gentle hand settled on her forehead.  “I’ve got to spray your eyes with some cool water, okay?”

“Hell, yes.”

She held one of Bucky’s hands in both of hers as Vincent washed out her eyes and then treated them with a saline solution.  Even after all this time, she found comfort in the familiarity of that hand.  It had directed her as a child, patient as he trained her, and it had struck out in her protection more than once - as both child and woman.

“I want you to stay still for a few more minutes,” Vincent told her.  She heard the gloves coming off and then something . . . sloshed.

She tilted her head.  “What’s that?”

“Milk,” the doctor replied.  

“I’m not thirsty.”

“Good,” he shot back.  “You won’t be drinking it.”  

After a couple more seconds of sloshing sounds, she felt something wet and cool being placed over her eyes.  She could smell the milk, but the relief she felt negated any complaint she might have had about being drenched in the liquid.

“I’m going to get you an ice pack while Bucky keeps an eye on you,” Vincent informed her.  “Let him know when the towel stops helping and he can take it off.” His attention shifted.  “Throw it away when she’s ready.  You can pat the skin dry, but don’t spare the towels. I don’t want to spread any remaining spray.”

“I’ve got her.”

Marina smiled.  “Just like always, Tovrets.”

“Like always, Uchenyy.”

Chapter Text

Shot after shot slammed into the target and Marina could feel her temper smoothing out with each one.  The family snipers might be better shots, but she felt satisfied with her tight circle of hits clustered at center mass.

She took her weapon back to her office to clean it, nodding to Vika as she passed through the outer office.  Cleaning took almost no time at all, but she did a thorough double check.  It didn’t hurt, and since her family could get themselves into trouble walking down a hallway, it was better to be prepared.  

One last deep breath sighed out of her as she dried her hands and took the most of her remaining temper with it.

“Better now, Tochter?”

A warm smile greeted the words even before she turned to face her visitor.  “Vati! What brings you to my corner of world?”  Rising, she walked over to accept a hug.  Her smile deepened as she felt his lips brush her temple. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, but don’t you have a class?”

“I have a few minutes,” Hansel replied.  He led her to the office couch and her eyebrows rose in surprise.  Sitting down beside her, he gave her a lifted brow of his own.  “Hyur sister said hyu were destroying targets at the range.”

“Oh for goodness sake.” Marina rolled her eyes. For all that she loved being surrounded by her family, sometimes they overdid it. “It was one target,” she sighed, “and I certainly didn’t destroy it.”

“No?”

Skepticism colored his voice and she had to laugh.  “Well, I killed it,” she admitted.  “But I didn’t randomly destroy it.”

“That is more what I expected.”  Hansel sat back and propped his ankle on the opposite knee.  “But why were hyu needing to shoot targets.”  Serious blue eyes focused on her.  “It is not hyur usual occupation so early in the day.”

“True.” She gave a small shrug.  “I needed to bleed off some irritation.”

“Yes, so I gathered.”  He reached out to take her chin between thumb and forefinger.  “Why?”

“It’s just . . .”  Marina sighed as he released her.  “It’s nothing major, but for some reason all these little things have piled up today.  Some baby agent almost shot Clint when he popped out of the ceiling to frighten them.  Then there’s Jason nerding out and not sleeping  - Casey and Darcy have that in hand by now of course, but I’m going to have the paperwork.”  Her voice began to take on a sharp note.  “And there’s Nick thinking about sending Aaron and Grant together for on a ‘milk run’ as if either of them ever have a damn milk run . . . and he wants to send out both!”

“And hyu are still irritated.”

“I guess so.”  A rueful laugh escaped her as she slumped back into her side of the couch.  “I thought I’d gotten it out, but . . .”

“A moment.”  Hansel sat up and fished his phone out of his pocket.  “Gretel, hyu will need to take the class.”  He paused and then nodded.  “Ja, but I will take care of it.”  Whatever his sister said prompted a chuckle.  “Try not to kill any of them.  Meine Spatzi does not like the paperwork.”

“What are you up to, Vati?”

“I am taking hyu home.”

“Wait a minute!”  Her protest started even as he tugged her to her feet.  “I can’t just drop everything because I’m in a mood.”

“Hyu have already been in the shooting range and it is not yet lunchtime,” he pointed out as he steered her towards the door.  “And the irritation is still there in hyur heart.  So we will go home and hyu can spend time with the children or in hyur kitchen.”

“But-!”

Her protests fell on deaf ears as he led her into the outer office.  Marina gave Vika a half-hearted glare, but her blonde sister just waved back with a smug smile.  “I’ve rescheduled your consultations,” she announced.  “The General and the Director have both been advised that you’ll be out of the office for the afternoon.”

“Good.”  Hansel gave an approving nod.  “Then we can go.”

Vati...”

“Home, meine Tochter. Hyu can lecture me there.”

“Hmph.”  Marina gave him a sideways glance, but let him guide her to the exit.  “Will you listen?”

He put a hand on her shoulder.  “I always listen to hyu.”

“But will it do any good?”

“Probably not,” he chuckled.  “But I promise - I will listen.”

“Very funny, Vati.”