“Texan, Dad,” she reminded him, cuddling closer. “I swear, my blood is way too thin for winter up here.”
Both of them stopped, turning to face the shout. Brian eyed the crowd, his face hard with suspicion, and Hannah nudged him with her elbow. “Calm down, Dad,” she murmured as a woman dressed in choir robes hurried towards them. “Not everybody’s out to get us.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I know,” he replied with a crooked grin. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful.”
The choir member took Hannah’s free arm. “Come!” she urged with a light tug. “Come and sing with us!”
“It’s too cold!” she protested. “And it’s 1:30 in the morning! I’m heading for my nice warm bed.”
“Just a couple of songs,” the other woman urged. “We’ll be right here on the steps, and you only have to sing two songs.”
She wavered and knew it showed in her face as the pleading look in the woman’s eyes deepened. Her dad chuckled. “Go on, Stardust; you sat with me for services, now go sing for them.”
“All right,” Hannah capitulated. “But only two songs.”
People leaving Mass paused to listen as they sang, but her attention focused on her dad. He stood at the front of the crowd with his phone out. She hoped he was recording her, not keeping someone awake with a live performance. Granted, some of the family who should be sleeping were probably still up, but that was beside the point.
It had been a wonderful day.
Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say.
Jesus Christ is born today!
After Marina received her Christmas gift, everyone split up to get children into beds and off to sleep, but Hannah had pulled Brian to the side. “Dad, would you and Tasha please take Benji?” She laughed as he blinked at her. “I want to go to midnight Mass if I can.”
He nodded, glancing to his wife. “Tasha?”
“I’ll take care of them,” Natasha agreed, shifting a sleepy Svetlana to her hip. She brushed a kiss over Hannah’s cheek. “Go take a quick nap, moya devushka. Benji can come with us and your father will take you to church.”
“See you in a couple of hours, sweetheart.” Brian hugged, snagging his grandson as he did so. He and Natasha left the room before she had any chance to argue.
“Let your dad take you,” Marina told her.
“I don’t want him going out of his way-.”
The words cut off as her aunt shook her head. “He wants to share this with you.”
Hannah nodded, accepting the mild rebuke. “I’d better go take that nap,” she admitted. “We probably won’t be home until somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00.” She glanced over at the gifts piled under and around the tree. “And funnily enough, I don’t see the kids letting us sleep in.”
Valya and Katenka, nestled in their father’s strong arms, made sleepy noises of agreement. “Up early,” the older twin yawned as her sister let her eyes fall closed. “Presents…”
Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice.
Now ye need not fear the grave:.
Jesus Christ was born to save!
And that had been the final word on that.
So now she stood in the cold, cold wind, singing to the parishioners as they made their way out of the church towards cars, cabs, or subways. The surrounding crowd applauded as they finished their first song.
“Thank you, everyone!” the choir director smiled. “And now for our last song of the evening, I’d like to ask one of our newer members to sing for us. Hannah?”
Caught on the spot, she could only nod in agreement. “Cheater,” she hissed as she came to the front of the group. Not that the director seemed to care - the man just offered her a broad smile. She glanced around the crowd before locking eyes with Brian. Okay, maybe she hadn’t planned on doing a solo, but she’d sung for crowds before . . . though not in a long while.
Never mind that - right now she could settle some of her nerves by singing to her dad.
Oh, holy night,
The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth
Singing would never be her life’s ambition like it was Rachel’s, but Hannah couldn’t deny that she felt energized by the applause at the end of her solo. A light flush darkened her cheeks as she exchanged a last Christmas greeting with the choir members before rejoining Brian at the base of the stairs.
And not a single clap, not one word of admiration brought her even the tiniest fraction of the warmth she felt at her dad’s quiet word.
She fell into sleep, a quiet happiness filling her dreams. There would be no nightmares tonight.
Later that morning, Hannah’s shoulders shook with quiet laughter as she watched people munching on their sweets. She might have become accustomed to living in Stark Tower with all of its private amenities, but she wouldn’t let anyone help her when it came to Christmas presents. Doing odd jobs for Pepper meant she could afford more expensive gifts, but she preferred to make most of the presents herself. Any free time over the past few days had been spent in her kitchen - measuring, mixing, baking, and sealing up the finished products for this morning. Her gifts proved to be a great success from the looks of it. They wouldn’t last the day at this rate. And if people didn’t slow down, they would make themselves sick.
Not to mention ruining their appetites for Christmas dinner.
“Maybe I don’t even need to cook tonight,” Marina mused as she picked up a present from under the tree. Vocal disagreement rang out from every side and she shrugged. “With as many sweets as you’re all eating, you’ll be too full.”
“And those have to last you through the New Year,” Hannah added. “Except for what I promised Tony and Pepper, I’m taking a break.”
They grumbled and muttered, but people put away the rest of the baked goods to concentrate on their other presents. Marina nodded with approval as she walked over to sit beside Hannah. “You did well, bozya korovka.”
“Maybe too well,” she laughed.
Marina shared in the laughter before handing her the present. “This is from Will and I.”
“Thank you!” Hannah took the flat box from her aunt with a joyful smile. A small part of her mind reminded her not to overreact if they went a little overboard. That thought almost made her giggle. Will and Marina go overboard? Perish the thought. Yeah, right, she thought. She adored her uncle and aunt, but they spoiled everyone and seemed to take it almost as an affront that they hadn’t gotten to spoil her or Benji from day one.
With that idea deepening her smile, Hannah pulled the paper off the box and opened it. Despite giving herself the previous warning, she couldn’t keep her breath from escaping in a soft “Oh!”
“Is that a good ‘Oh’ or a bad one?” Will asked as he came to stand beside them.
“That’s an ‘Oh, it’s beautiful!’” Hannah blinked back tears as she pulled the necklace out of the box and held it up so the stones caught the light. They flashed a variety of colors, becoming a fiery rainbow in her hands. She looked up at him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He took the necklace from her hands and stepped behind her. She lifted up her hair so he could do the clasp. When he finished, he sat beside Marina. “It looks good.”
“You’re making me look bad,” Brian called out in a good-natured grumble.
“No, he’s not,” she disagreed. Her fingers moved to her ears, playing with her new earrings - golden chains that ended with little stars. “I think you’re all spoiling me.”
“Of course we are.”
Something tapped her on the top of her head. “Hey!” Ducking more out of instinct, she looked back over her shoulder to find Owen smirking at her. “What was that for?”
“This is for you.” He held out the envelope he’d used to get her attention. “Merry Christmas.”
“Thanks.” Hannah opened the envelope. Then she paused, blinking as she read the certificate inside. “Owen,” she began in a careful voice, “why do I need a certificate for a dog training school?”
His smirk had deepened by the time she glanced back up at him, but he shook his head. “I figured you’d want some lessons.”
Her eyes narrowed on him. “For what?”
Brian’s voice broke the staring contest and she turned to look at him. The turn was slow - her eyes shifting first, followed by her head and her body until she faced her dad . . . and Dean. Both men wore sheepish grins. She stared at them for a long moment. Then she slumped back in her seat. “Oh, you didn’t!”
“Yeah, we . . . kinda did,” Dean admitted, mouth pulling up into a crooked grin.
Before she could make any kind of reply, the elevator door opened and she heard a loud bark.
Ethan came out of the elevator with a half-grown puppy on a leash. Dark black fur covered most of its body but all four legs were red, matching marks around the muzzles and tiny spots almost like eyebrows. The werewolf wore a quiet smile. “He’s friendly.”
“And cute, I’ll give him that.”
“He’s a Beauceron, a guard dog breed originally from France,” Brian explained, leading the young dog towards her. “And he’s had some training.”
“The lessons are more for you.” Owen shrugged when she looked back at him. “So you can learn to work with him and he can learn to work with you.” A glint of mischief flickered in his gaze. “And the lessons are for two people by the way,” he added. “So someone else can be another of the dog’s ‘preferred’ people.”
“Subtle,” she muttered under her breath as she slipped off her chair to crouch. Opening her hand, she held it out. When Brian started to lead the dog to her, she glanced up and shook her head. “Let him come to me.”
Ethan’s mutter caused her lips to twitch, but she remained still. It took him a minute or so to take her measure. Then he began moving towards her, circling as much as the leash would allow. She’d prefer to do this with him off the leash . . . but with all the kids around, that could be a bad idea. He already seemed a little nervous - even though most of the crowd stayed back, giving them plenty of room.
“Good boy,” she encouraged as he walked closer. “There’s a sweet boy.”
At her soft-spoken words, he picked up the pace. He sniffed at her hand for a moment and then nudged it with his nose.
“Hello, there.” Hannah put her hand on his shoulder and began to pet him. The dog’s tail wagged, slow but steady as he leaned into her touch. “Aren’t you a sweetheart?” He wiggled a bit, pressing further into her as she paused. “And what’s your name, hmm?”
“They haven’t trained him to any particular name,” Dean replied. “So they could leave it open for whoever adopted him.”
Brian nodded. “It’ll take him a little longer to learn it, but you get to name him.”
“One of you is coming to the lessons,” she informed them. Her hand never stopped petting her new dog. “Just because he’s cute - and obviously staying - doesn’t mean you two get out of being in trouble for going around me on this.”
Dean went for an innocent smile that fooled no one while Brian shrugged. “He’ll be good protection.”
“Probably,” she nodded. Then she arched her eyebrows at them. “Not to mention needing lots of exercise and learning to do his business somewhere other than the Tower.” Both men looked taken aback, but she repressed the desire to laugh at them. “I don’t have a huge field I can turn him loose in,” she continued. “And no matter how adorable he may be, I didn’t bring home the puppy. So someone is going to be helping me with all of that. The city’s got laws about that, you know.”
“Well,” Brian hedged, “maybe-.”
“One of you two,” she repeated. “You two went around me and made the decision - and I’m not going to argue about it, but!” She pointed a finger to stop any arguments. “ This is a responsibility and you gave it to me, so you get to share.”
“I love this girl,” Marina announced, causing Will to chuckle.
Snickers, repressed laughter, and outright chortling broke out around the room as the two men gave her an exasperated look before eyeing each other. Hannah let them hash it out as she continued to pet and praise the dog. Names went through her mind, considered, then discarded one by one. Then a perfect name occurred to her and she couldn’t hold back the smile. “Oh, I’ve got it!”
Dean lifted his eyebrows. “Got what?”
“What are you going to name him?” Natasha asked.
“Guillaume.” Hannah tilted her head. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Marina’s hand come up to cover her mouth, hiding a grin, even as Will pinched the bridge of his nose. “It means ‘resolute protector’.”
Her cousin started to snicker, drawing all eyes to him. The snickering dissolved into laughter when she turned to him wearing her own smirk. Everyone watched him, their gazes flickering between the two of them as he fought to regain control. It took a few minutes, but he managed at last. “You are definitely Brian’s daughter,” Sam informed her.
“Yes, I know.”
“That’s always good to hear,” Brian cut in, “but . . . why exactly this time?”
“Because ‘Guillaume’ is the French version of William.”
“You’re having too much fun with this.” Will turned an exasperated look on his son before reaching over to shove his now chortling brother. “Shut up.”
“I love it!”
“Now see what you’ve done, lebedyashka?”
“What?” Hannah scratched behind one of Guillaume’s ears. Her free hand came up to play with her new necklace. “It’s a perfect name!”
Marina smiled. “The best name.”
"You would know, Marishka, you gave it to me."
"That just means I have good taste, Misha.” She smiled down at the dog. “It's a lovely name, Hannah. Do you plan to shorten it or anything?"
“No,” she replied after a moment's consideration. “None of them I know sound quite right to me.” She lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. “And it’s not like it’s a long name in the French form, so Guillaume it is.”
"I'm never going to hear the end of this," Will sighed. He gave his chortling brothers an exasperated glare, but the expression turned fond as he turned it on Hannah. "I'm not sure whether to be flattered or not."
"She chose to name her protector after you," his partner reminded him. "It's an excellent choice."
"All right, all right." He gave them both a slight smile. "Then I'm flattered."
"I'm glad," Hannah told him, "because I agree with Marina." She rose, her hand holding the leash as she turned to him. Brushing a kiss over his cheek, she murmured, "Te quiero, Tío."
His own voice stayed low, too low to be heard by anyone other than her, Marina, and Owen. "Ya tozhe tebya lyublyu, lebedyashka."
Chapter 2: On the First Day of Christmas...
Thursday, December 26, 2013: A morning conversation between Clint and Hannah...
Hey! Managed to get a chapter out.
"Good King Wenceslas" mentions the "Feast of Stephen" - that is today, December 26th, so it seemed like a good song for this chapter.
The artwork is not mine - it is from Lori Seibert's collection.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
But better not to risk it.
Bucky stayed behind to keep an eye on her while Clint made the coffee run. If he was lucky, he’d get a few minutes with Marishka too. Everything got busy at the end of the year - especially for department heads. Year end meant budget crunch time - the meetings started after the first of the year. He grinned - they couldn’t come up with a salary large enough to convince him to take on that kind of authority. Training people might be fun, especially when they wanted to learn, but all of the paperwork would make him crazy.
Give him a week long stint waiting for a target - it beat trying to figure out credits, debits, and all the other damn details every single time.
The elevator opened and he could smell the glorious scent of coffee. He also smelled breakfast - the scents of cinnamon, orange, and bacon mingling in the air in a mouthwatering aroma. Considering the hour and the empty table, Marina must be preparing for the second wave of hungry family members. Will and the rest of the early risers would already be at work - behind their desks or in their labs.
Well, maybe not the labs - Jason probably locked those down with his personal code to make sure his Nerds got some sleep.
Someone in the kitchen began to sing . . . and it wasn’t Marina.
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.
And his niece still seemed to be in the holiday mood. Well, he would have liked to see Marina this morning, but it wouldn’t be a hardship to talk to Hannah instead. He followed the music and found her sliding between stove, oven, and sink as she worked to create the meal.
“Something in here smells good,” he noted.
“I sure hope it tastes good.” She rinsed off the spoon and put it in the dishwasher. “Cooking breakfast wasn’t in my plans for today and I’ve never made stuffed French toast before.”
“So . . . why are you making it?”
“Bad timing?” she chuckled. “Or good depending on how you look at it.” She checked the oven. “I came in to see about making some coffee. Almost as soon as I stepped through the door, Marina shove a whisk into my hands and asked me to finish breakfast. She hurried out before I could answer.”
“End of year will do that,” he laughed. “At least you know she trusts you with her kitchen.”
“I do, thank goodness, but then again - I won’t blow anything up.” Stirring the contents of one pan, she aimed a smile over her shoulder at him. “So most of this is Marina’s - except for the cinnamon rolls. Those are mine. Are you here for breakfast or for coffee?”
“Coffee.” Even as he answered her, Clint’s sharp gaze took in the shadows under her eyes.
“There’s a fresh pot ready if you want to fix some.”
“Why aren’t you sleeping?”
Hannah started at the blunt question and some of her syrup splattered on the countertop. “Oh, fiddlesticks,” she muttered. Grabbing a towel, she started to clean up. Her gaze, though, settled on him. “I’m sorry?”
“Hate to tell you, sweetheart, but your makeup isn't that good.” He hoisted himself onto the countertop. Bracing his hands on either side of him, he leaned towards her. “I can still see the shadows.”
“If you’re caught by Will or Marina with your butt on her countertops, you’re going to deserve the trouble you’re going to get,” she warned.
Which he appreciated, but which decidedly did not answer his question.
“Shadows, moya plemyannitsa,” he repeated. Reaching out, he rubbed his thumb under her eye. “Why am I seeing shadows here?”
Her answer came in one word . . . and that was all it took for him to understand.
Nightmares - he damn well knew about nightmares. Not only his own nightmares - thank you Loki, you Coocoo for Tesseract Puffs . . . and your lightstick of doom - but Bucky and Darcy each fought their own demons from time to time. Years of being the Red Room’s assassin gave Bucky more than enough fodder for night terrors while Darcy relived New Mexico and the Destroyer’s attack on Puente Antiguo. But what would Hannah . . .
“Nightmares about that McKay guy?”
“Yeah.” She reached up with her free hand to run her fingers through her hair before tugging on a lock. “And yes, it’s stupid to be worried about it, but . . .” Her voice trailed off and she shook her head. “Try telling that to my subconscious.”
“He’s not getting to you.”
“Oh, I know.” Now Hannah managed a little huff of laughter. “I don’t think I’ve left the Tower unescorted in days.” Clint thought he’d managed to repress the wince, but she must have caught a hint of it. “Yes, I’m aware I’ve always been followed anyway if the Pack or family weren’t with me.” She paused, humming as she flipped the cooking bacon. “I think Uncle Will uses me as part of an agent’s final exam.”
“I don’t think he actually does that,” he chuckled, “but he’d certainly fail someone you catch.”
“Probably not fair,” she mused. “Not given my advantages anyway.”
He arched an eyebrow. “And one day they could end up facing someone with the same abilities.”
“Logical,” she allowed, “but kind of . . . mean.”
“Better to be mean while they’re in training,” he pointed out. “Being too soft will just end with them being dead.” Then he pointed at her. “And you are trying to change the subject.”
“I feel foolish.” Turning off the bacon, Hannah stepped away from the oven and slumped against the countertop beside him. “Not only do I have my Pack and all the family, with its overprotective dads and uncles and aunts - not to mention a cousin who seems determined to teach me all kinds of ways to hurt a guy - but I’ve got S.H.I.E.L.D. agents shadowing me. Jason’s scouring anything and everything electronic for Ty, and so is Tony!”
Clint’s simple statement drew tears to those big brown eyes of hers and she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “You’re not foolish,” he assured her. “Nightmares suck, but that doesn’t make them real.”
“So next time you have one, come find someone.”
She wrinkled her nose as she pulled away. “I don’t want to bother-.”
He held up a hand. “Don’t finish that sentence and I might forget to mention it to Marina.”
“That’s playing dirty,” she accused him, though a smile played at the corners of her mouth.
“It’s the truth.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Hannah, no one - not a single one of us is going to think you’re a bother. Every one of us has those chertov nightmares.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, language.” Now he rolled his eyes. “But it’s true. We’d rather you wake us up than deal with it by yourself.” His grip tightened in solidarity. “Besides, there’s almost always someone awake. Jason working on some kind of geek gadget or Natasha because the woman just doesn’t need a sane amount of sleep.” He winked at her. “Could explain why she’s with Brian, hmm?”
“You’re bad.” She leaned her forehead against his arm. “Okay, okay, I promise - next time I’ll find somebody.”
Neither of them mentioned Will and his near insomnia.
There was no need.
A timer went off, so she pulled away to turn off the oven. The smell of cinnamon flooded the kitchen as she opened the door. “Dad should be back with Guillaume soon,” she added in an attempt to change the subject yet again.
He decided to let her get away with it this time. Later he’d talk to Brian and WIll . . . maybe a couple of the others as well. Hannah’s nightmares might just be shadows, but he wouldn’t second guess her instincts either. “Did you sign up for your classes yet?”
“That’s on my to do list for today.” Taking the pot holders off of their hook, she pulled out a pan of cinnamon rolls. “I just need them to tell me who the second person’s going to be.”
“And just who do you think it will be?” Clint felt the smirk creeping over his face and he let it come. He loved a good show, and watching his niece and Brian’s protege circle each other had been a good one.
She rolled her eyes. “All of you are lacking in subtlety.”
“What?” He tried for an innocent look, but couldn’t douse the mirth enough to pull it off.
“Don’t bother.” Opening a cabinet, she reached for a plate. “Marina’s being patient while Uncle Will’s just watches - mostly amused I think.” She dished out three of the cinnamon rolls. “Dacia is half patient and half contained since Rene’s less nonchalant that his dad.” Her hands continued their work, covering the plate with foil as she met his gaze. “A bunch of you are dropping hints or smirking at the whole situation while the rest are staying out of the entire thing with dogged determination - enough to tell me that there’s money on the line.”
That made him laugh. “Nice catch,” he applauded. Mischief twinkled in his eyes. “Got any hints of your own? You know, if someone should be interested in a little wager?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, her own mischievousness sparking in reply. Behind that sparkle, he could see his brother’s fiery determination. “But if I were the sort to place a wager, I wouldn’t wait too long.”
“Good to know.”
So Hannah had her own plans on that little situation . . . he should have guessed.
“Now,” she continued, “you need to make your coffee and take these cinnamon rolls with you.” Hannah put the covered plate on the countertop beside him as she reached for a wooden spoon. “So jump down off the countertops before you really do end up in trouble.”
Clint blinked at the plate in surprise. Hopping down, he caught her arm and pulled her into a hug. “You really are a sweetheart, aren’t you?”
“It’s just a couple of cinnamon rolls,” she blushed. “And of course you’d prefer to have breakfast with Bucky and Darcy.”
“Darcy may sleep until lunch.”
“What?” Concern darkened her eyes and she pulled back. “Why?”
“Something at R&D,” he shrugged. “They didn’t come home until early this morning.”
“Hmm…” Hannah looked at the pan. “I better pull out a couple for Jason and Casey.”
“Oh, I will,” she agreed, nodding at his suggestion. “They’ll be devoured by the horde otherwise.” She tilted her head. “Speaking of whom…”
“You and dad with your hearing.”
She winked and her voice grew louder. “All the better to hear Wesen sneaking up on us.”
“Who’s sneaking?” Dacia demanded as she bounced into the room. She hugged Clint before turning to grin at the food. “And hey! Breakfast!” Her hand darted forward, but Hannah’s spoon met it halfway to the plate.
“Those are not yours,” Hannah chastised. “And go sit at the table. I’ll bring out the food and we can eat like civilized people.”
“You subbing for Marina today?” the Blutbad grinned.
“Just standing in,” she replied. “Otherwise I might have actually smacked you with the spoon.”
“Point,” Dacia allowed. “I’ll get the juice.”
“You girls need any help before I leave?” Clint offered.
“Would you take the platter out to the table?” Hannah nodded towards the pile of stuffed French toast staying warm in the oven. “If Dacia’s here then the rest of the Pack won’t be far behind - and probably the rest of the second breakfast bunch.”
He helped them set up the table and then retreated to the elevator with a large thermos of coffee and the coveted cinnamon rolls. Usually he’d have snagged some of Marina’s cooking, but these were more portable - and Darcy loved cinnamon. So he could be a hero to both his lovers - Bucky for the coffee and Darcy for the sweets.
Still . . . he made a mental note to talk to Will. Maybe his brother could think of a way to help Hannah.
Translation - moya plemyannitsa - my niece
Chapter 3: On the Second Day of Christmas...
Friday, December 27, 2013: Hannah asks Dean to be her escort out of the Tower...
And here's another chapter for you! I certainly hope you're enjoying!
Reminder - the artwork is from Lori Seibert's collection, definitely not mine.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Because I can’t say no to Marishka Mama.
Shadows of HYDRA filled almost every talk around S.H.I.E.L.D. these days and it spilled into what free time the Grimms allowed themselves. Beyond the obvious danger a group of fanatics like HYDRA meant for the word, the family had serious personal reasons for wanting to root out whatever rot might still be hanging around. Steve and Bucky wanted to burn it all down and sow the ground with salt.
Will and Marina planned to let them do it.
So here he sat, surrounded by notes and reports, all detailing little threads of intelligence on HYDRA, its actions, and what they’d been able to put together on its operatives. They had less information than they wanted, nowhere near enough to put together a concerted action to destroy the monster, but he’d be willing to bet they had more than HYDRA thought.
His diagram, tracing out the network they knew about - or suspected, grew as he made connections between people, organizations, and businesses.
Damn, but he wished Hannah were here right now.
And not just because he wanted to see her, but her gift for puzzles and eye for detail would be useful with this mess.
“Oh, Dean, hey!”
He paused, half wondering if his imagination decided to play tricks on him, but then he caught a light scent of sugar cookies. An easy smile curved his lips as he found Hannah watching him, Guillaume on his leash at her side. “Hey, yourself.”
“Are you busy?” She glanced at the papers spread out over the table in front of him. “Well, obviously you’re working, but is it urgent or could you spare a couple of hours?”
“Taking the dog for a walk doesn’t take that long,” he teased, turning away from his notes.
He cocked an eye at her companion. “Figured you needed me to take him out to burn off some energy.” Guillaume seemed to grin at him as his tail wagged. “Looks like he’s got plenty to spare.”
“Given that he’s still in puppy stage, that’s not surprising.” Hannah shifted the leash from one hand to the other so she could pet the dog. “But while he’s going to get a little exercise out of it, what I really need is an escort.” Loving amusement lit her dark eyes. “Dad’s being extra paranoid about me going out by myself, even with Guillaume.”
“I don’t blame him.” Dean’s eyes narrowed. Just the thought of her ex getting anywhere near her got his temper simmering.
“Neither do I, but I’ve got a meeting of my own in Central Park.”
“What kind of meeting?” Now his eyes did a more thorough scan of her, taking in her outfit as well as her face and her presence. She wore a worn leather jacket over a sensible sweater. Tough denim - the working kind as opposed to the fashionable stuff - led down to scuffed boots. His eyes pulled back up to her face and beyond to her hair. Usually she preferred to wear it down, framing her face in big, soft curls that made his fingers itch to touch.
“You’re dressed for hunting.” He stood up. “We got a problem?”
“Not the supernatural kind,” she assured him. “It’s a Wesen meeting. Belo and I always try to make it, but since he’s busy at the moment, I really need to be there.”
“Yeah, I get that.” He glanced down at his own outfit. “Give me five minutes.”
Gratitude flooded her eyes. “Of course!” She touched his arm as he went to stride past her. “Thanks.”
And he meant that - probably more than she realized.
He changed into his hunting gear. After double checking his weapons, he added an extra gun to his usual arsenal. Hannah didn’t make a habit of carrying a gun with her in the city unless she went out on a hunt or a patrol, but he figured it was better to be safe than sorry. If they came across something, he’d have a gun for her and still have a spare on hand.
When he got back to Hannah, he found her looking through his diagrams. Concentration furrowed her brow as she traced her finger along a few of the connecting points. He took a moment to watch her, to examine the lines of her face. Sometimes - and he’d never admit to this outloud - but sometimes her beauty took his breath away. Maybe she wasn’t the drop-dead gorgeous of a couple of the Grimm women, and she didn’t have the delicate grace Marta or Inari possessed, but Hannah’s beauty came from grit and fire and compassion.
And she matched him - huntress to hunter, guardian to defender.
Good God, how she matched him.
“There’s something missing here.”
Her voice yanked his mind back into focus. “Yeah?”
“Right here.” Her finger tapped a blank spot in his diagram.
Dean walked up to stand beside her so he could see the area in question. “You sure something’s missing?” he asked. Not that he doubted her instincts, but . . . “None of our information is pointing to a connection there.”
“Then people aren’t talking,” she announced. “Or someone’s done a serious job of hiding it. Look at this.” Her pointer finger traced several of the connections. “See how they loop around but never jump across?” She shook her head. “I don’t know the details or anything, so this is really just an educated guess, but given how tightly woven all the surrounding connections are, there should be some points of contact across this spot - and there’s not one.”
“Could be,” he half muttered to himself.
“The pattern doesn’t work otherwise.” She turned her head and met his eyes. “Either we’re missing a connection point or we’re missing the communication across this space.”
“I think you’re right.” His arm brushed hers as he leaned down to make a note. “I’ll talk to Marishka Mama about it.”
“What is this-?” she began, but then stopped. “Or is it something I shouldn’t ask?”
“They’re trying to pin down at least part of HYDRA’s network.” Dean straightened. “And since I had a little free time, they asked me to help diagram it.” He gave her a crooked smile and winked. “Glad you came along - we can give them another target.
“An invisible target?”
“The Grimms love a good challenge,” he shrugged. “So . . . meeting?”
She spared the papers a last look before turning to lead him towards the elevator. He made a mental note - when he talked to Marina about that blank space, he talk to her about drafting Hannah and getting her authorized to look at their full collection of files. If she found that little tidbit with just his diagram, who knew what she might find with detailed information?
When they reached the park, she headed for a particular clearing, one he eyed with caution. There seemed to be a lot of different groups of people hanging around - and the mix looked strange. He blinked as a few of them changed, their features shifting. Ah. These were the Wesen groups she'd come to meet - even if he didn't know why as yet.
“There’s Adam,” she murmured, pointing to a nervy looking guy pacing near the edge of the clearing. “Adam Ross - he works at the crime lab with Dacia. He’s an Eisbiber.”
Dean pursed his lips in thought. “Beaver, right?”
“That’s right.” Her approving smile tugged at his pride as she lifted a hand to wave at the guy. “Adam!”
“Oh, hey, Hannah,” Adam nodded. “You . . . uh, you didn’t come with Hansel?”
“He’s stuck in a meeting,” she explained. “Really not his favorite place to be, but Dean’s one of his hunters.” The guy grew more nervous and she hurried to reassure him. “Plus he’s Sam’s brother, so he’s one of the good guys.”
“Sam’s brother?” Adam repeated as his shoulders relaxed. “Oh, that’s okay then.” He nodded at Dean.
He gave the Wesen a nod in return. “Hey, man.”
“And Dean’s part of our Pack.”
“Of course he is.” Real humor lit Adam’s face. “Dacia’s Pack is the talk of the whole Wesen community around here.”
“Why’s that?” Dean asked.
“Because it’s made up of pretty much everything?” He shrugged. “Blutbad, Fuchsbau, cops, hunters, Broadway singers . . . you name it and she might adopt it.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Who knows,” Hannah laughed, “maybe it’ll be an Eisbiber next time!”
“Not me.” Adam’s eyes went wide. “I’m not a good fit at all. You all go into the heroic stuff, and I’m more a behind the scenes kind of guy, really. I like my lab.”
“Breathe, Adam, breathe.” She put a hand on his arm. “If you needed a pack, we’d take you in. Dacia likes you - and that says a lot - but you don’t need us.”
“No.” Hannah’s smile gentled. “Dacia says Mac’s the perfect Alpha for you - so you’ve already got your pack.”
“Oh, yeah.” He gave a slow, thoughtful nod. “Yeah, I guess I do. Huh.”
“Come on.” She took his arm. “Let’s get this show on the road before anyone gets too restless. Some of these guys would start a fight just to alleviate the boredom.”
Dean watched her interact with the different types of Wesen, changing her approach to fit each group or individual. She joked with some while getting tough with others, but he never saw her go ice-cold as she would if she truly disliked someone. As he stood guard, watching over her and listening to the ongoing conversation, he realized she stood in as a negotiator, helping the different groups settle differences by being a neutral party in the talks.
A warrior peacemaker . . . no wonder his little brother approved of her.
Thank God he did.
Because Dean intended to make his move after the holidays. Brian might kill him, but he figured he could talk his way out of that. After all - Dean wanted to protect her as much as her dad did. The man didn’t think anyone was good enough for his girl, not even his protege, but Dean respected that. Hell, he knew he wasn’t good enough for her, but if she’d have him?
Well, Dean might be a little crazy, but he wasn’t stupid.
If Hannah would have him, he planned to grab hold with both hands and never let go.
When the last of the Wesen groups declared themselves satisfied, Dean and Hannah waved at Adam before leading Guillaume into the park. The dog needed to use up some energy while Dean wanted to have a little extra time with her - time that wouldn’t be interrupted by family or Pack flitting in and out with their little comments and nudges and winks. He appreciated a good wager as well as the next guy, but did they really think him oblivious to it all?
“Penny for your thoughts?” Hannah asked.
“Trust me,” Dean chuckled, “given the subject? A penny is way too cheap.” His eyes focused on hers, a wealth of meaning buried in his voice. Her cheeks flushed a light pink as he watched and he felt the corner of his mouth curling up in satisfaction.
Oh, yeah, he was reading her right. The attraction wasn’t one sided - she felt it too.
She glanced away, reaching up with her free hand to tuck an errant lock of hair behind her ear. “Then you might be out of my price range,” she replied.
“I’m always open to negotiation.”
Casting him a look out of the corner of her eye, she smiled. “Good to know,” she began, only to huff out a sharp breath as the dog jerked on his leash, pulling her forward a few steps. “Oh!”
Guillaume seemed to be staring into the trees, his attention caught by something . . . something he didn’t like given the curl of his lip. The dog might only be half trained, but Dean hadn’t survived his childhood by ignoring potential trouble. He stepped forward, placing himself a little in front of Hannah as he scanned the park. “Do you see anything suspicious?”
“No.” He glanced back, but she shook her head. “I don’t,” she insisted. “For a moment I could almost sense something but . . . it’s Central Park. It could have been almost anything.”
“Yeah . . .” Dean’s voice trailed off and he grimaced. “Not a big believer in coincidence.”
“Me either.” Hannah sighed. “I guess we should get back to the Tower.”
The disappointment in her voice bothered him, but he couldn’t deny the thread of pleasure that wound through it. She enjoyed his company and didn’t want to give it up so soon.
Or at least he hoped that’s what it was.
He nodded in agreement. “Good call, but maybe . . . we can do it again sometime soon?”
Guillaume, his fur now settled, moved to lean against her side. She scratched behind one of his ears as her eyes met Dean’s. "I try and come out here at least once a week," she offered with a smile. "And I'm betting Belo's still going to be busy next week."
"Sign me up."
Translation - Belo - short for abuelo - grandfather - Hannah uses this in reference to Hansel
Chapter 4: On the Third Day of Christmas...
Saturday, December 28, 2013: Aaron spends a little time with his niece . . . after a brief interaction with Dean.
Another one! (I'm totally not promising a chapter a day, but hey if I can do it...!)
If he got there in time, maybe Sam would be free.
He stepped through the door and then stopped, a grin flashing over his face. Sam stood in the center of the room, but he wasn’t exactly free. He seemed to be taking Dean through a series of exercises . . . and it didn’t look as if the younger man appreciated the attention.
Sam scowled at the younger man, arms folded as he watched Dean bend at the waist, his hands on his knees as his chest heaved like bellows. "That was lazy. and if you can't keep up with someone moving at half speed, how do you intend to keep up with Hannah when she's doing her job as a Grimm?"
"This is . . . . NOT . . . what I had . . . in mind, Sam," Dean wheezed, glaring up at the older blond through sweaty fringe.
"Payback's a bitch, isn't it, De?"
Lips twitching, Aaron recalled the story as he’d heard it from Marina, huffing about people ganging up on some poor unprepared kid. Sam clearly hadn’t forgotten about it. Add in Dean’s interest in Sam’s beloved cousin, and foster brother or no, he was going to get the full overprotective Grimm treatment.
The ROTC lieutenant groaned as he protested, "That was months ago!"
"Then aren't you glad I haven't kicked your ass for it yet?" he snarked in reply, hand coming up to take a slow, open-handed swing at Dean's left ear.
Dean's hand came up to block the slap, his tone a low growl as he protested, "I'm not left handed."
"And what does that have to do with anything?" Sam asked as he dodged behind Dean and put a careful foot in the joint at the back of his knee.
"This isn't fair! You kick everyone's ass!"
"Not everyone's. Aaron wiped the floor with me, the first time we sparred. It was embarrassing," Sam confessed with a rueful chuckle. "So, I was patient . . . I swallowed my pride . . . and I let myself learn. And now . . . I kick everyone's ass. Including yours, little brother."
Aaron chuckled as he responded, "What's the matter, Dean?"
"I came out to have some bonding time with my big brother, and I'm honestly feeling so attacked right now," he snarked with a roll of his eyes.
"If that's a joke I'm supposed to understand, it went completely over my head."
Dean's tone turned fond as he teased, "Getting old there, Aaron."
“Old!” Aaron's eyebrows rose as he repeated the word. “Ha, little boy . . . this old man will kick your ass ten ways from Sunday, and twice on Saturdays."
Sam chuckled as he back stepped towards the wall, arms coming up to cross over his chest. "Well, Dean, it was nice knowing you."
“Ah . . . shit.”
“To quote my niece,” Aaron chuckled, “language.”
“Language, my ass,” Dean muttered, the corner of his mouth twitching.
“Think of it as preparation.” He fell into a sparring position. “Sooner or later Brian’s going to want to . . . talk to you.”
“I’m trying real hard not to think about that.”
Sparring filled his time, but the grin on his face as he stepped off the elevator at Will and Marina’s floor came from watching the foster brothers snark at each other as if they’d been raised together. He couldn’t decide which amused him more - Sam’s version of a shovel speech or Dean’s reaction to it.
He couldn’t wait to tell Marina.
Aaron pressed their buzzer and waited. Within moments, the door opened, but instead of Marina or Will, he found Hannah holding a cranky looking Tryston in her arms. “Hi, Uncle Aaron!”
“Hannah.” He walked inside as she moved back. Guillaume lay near the windows. He raised his head long enough to give Aaron a good hard look before laying back down. “How did you get roped into babysitting?”
“They wanted to take the girls out for lunch, so I volunteered to keep him,” she replied. “Benji wanted to play with Lana, so he’s with her and the other littles, leaving me free to help out.”
“Looks like they could use the break,” he mused. “Has he been grumpy all day?”
“He just needs a nap.”
“Nuh uh,” Trystan fussed. “Not sleepy…” His mouth opened in a wide yawn.
“You should be tired, little one,” she replied. “Especially with all of the playing you’ve done today.” She winked at her uncle. “We’ve had a busy morning and I know you want to help me make apple spice cookies as a surprise for your mom and dad.”
“They’d appreciate that,” Aaron added as his nephew nodded, yawning a second time.
Hannah began to sway, singing to Trystan as she tried to soothe him into sleep. A smile played over Aaron’s lips as he watched. His nephew fought the nap with every ounce of willpower he possessed, and yet he couldn’t seem to fight his cousin’s spell. She might not be the little boy’s favorite songstress, but Hannah seemed to have a particular gift when it came to the Grimm men. All of them had trouble resisting her - particularly Will.
He gave a soft hum of consideration - in that, she resembled Marina.
How odd that Hannah turned out to be Brian’s daughter . . . especially considering she’d been conceived before he’d even reconciled with the woman who raised them all.
”Lullay, Thou little tiny Child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child
By, by, lully, lullay”
But Will always said he saw something of him in her - or rather, that part of him that still remained Kenny. Aaron felt his cheeks warm at the thought. For some reason, the idea that his big brother found something of him in Hannah always made him blush. After all, most of S.H.I.E.L.D. called her the ‘General’s favorite’ - regardless of her code name.
Then again, Marina saw some of all of them in her.
Now that would make an interesting discussion point in the nature vs. nurture argument. Or maybe it would be more of a talk about fate and providence - that a Grimm daughter could be brought up by the right mix of strangers to produce a girl who possessed similar characteristics to family members she’d never met. Brian’s stubbornness, Jason’s determination, Clint’s devotion, and Will’s instinct for patterns . . . somehow she managed to combine all of them.
It made him wonder what the rest of their kids would be like as they grew older. What gifts would they possess?
He looked forward to finding out.
”O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay”
But his niece held much more than just the Grimm genetics and whatever enhancements she’d inherited from them thanks to that bastard Ross and his damn scientists.. Hannah was a Kuhn too - hunter and guardian - to the supreme satisfaction of his dad and his aunt. Hansel couldn’t have been more proud of the fact that she shared his abilities. Though Gretel always claimed to be happy she hadn’t inherited his common sense.
Or lack thereof.
”Herod the king, in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight
All young children to slay”
Despite his teasing of the kid earlier, Aaron thought Dean made a good match for her. Not only did the man practically worship the ground she walked on, but he adored her son, Benji, and could often be found playing with the little boy. The three of them already looked the part of the family unit - unconsciously falling into the roles without needing to think about it.
In addition, the two of them balanced each other. She would be a light for him while he would be a shield, no pun intended, for her. They worked well together, their training and instincts complementing each other when they worked in the field. He’d read some of his dad’s reports, and Hansel looked forward to taking them on a full hunt.
If Brian didn’t have heart failure over the idea first.
”That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and day
For thy parting neither say nor sing
By, by, lully, lullay.”
“Sad words for a lullaby.”
Hannah smiled at him as she lay Trystan down in his bed. “They really are,” she agreed, keeping her voice soft. “Fitting for the day maybe, but definitely sad.”
“It’s the feast of the Holy Innocents. That’s why the song was in my head.” She led him into the living room where she curled up into one of the chairs. Her eyes crinkled in amusement as he frowned in confusion. “A day of remembrance in the Catholic Church.”
“Ah.” Aaron let it go as he sat down on the couch. Her faith seemed full of special days and occasions, but she seemed happy with it. “Has the Pack decided about the Stark party for New Years?”
“You mean the ‘extravaganza’?” she corrected, making jazz hands as she fluttered her fingers.
He rolled his eyes. “Only Stark.” To say he didn’t want to go would be understating the facts - Aaron didn’t like crowds, particularly when he didn’t know them. Granted, his family would be a huge presence, but he’d still skip the whole thing if he could.
“Good thing he’s personable.”
“That’s one word for it.”
Her laughter rang out for a moment before she bit it back, eyes darting towards Trystan’s bedroom door. “I like him,” she added. “But in answer to your question, the Pack’s definitely going to be there.” She wrinkled her nose. “And I think some of us will be singing.”
“You think?” Aaron laughed.
“Rachel was kind of excited when she was talking about the party, so I had a little trouble keeping up with all of the plans.” She propped her elbow on the arm of the chair and leaned her chin on her fist. “Nathaniel finally had to kiss her just to remind her to breathe.”
“At least we’re assured of some good entertainment.”
“Don’t you enjoy Tony’s parties?”
“I’d like them better if they weren’t big productions to put on a show.” Aaron shook his head. “I prefer our family parties to his infamous gatherings.”
“Who wouldn’t?” she agreed. “But I figured I should get a couple of songs picked out.” Mischief gleamed in her eyes, but she just winked at him when he gave her a long probing stare. “And I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve in New York City. Isn’t that on everybody’s bucket list?”
“Only if they’ve never done it before.”
Giggles met his deadpan comment. “I’ll bet.” Then she lifted one shoulder. “At least if the party drives us crazy, we can hop the elevator and come downstairs. Then we can have our own family celebration.”
“True.” And that idea made him a lot happier about the whole idea.
Hannah returned his smile. “What would you like for a dessert?” she asked.
“Well, if we end up ditching Tony’s party, we’ll want some food, won’t we?” She spread her hands. “No reason you shouldn’t get first pick of the desserts. I’ll make some of them.”
She made a good point, and no way would Aaron let that chance pass by. Marina didn’t raise a fool. “Angel food cupcakes.”
“Oh, yum!” Hannah pulled her tablet over to make notes. “Any particular frosting?”
He shook his head and leaned into the cushions behind him. “I like all kinds.”
“I can certainly work with that.” Her brilliant grin flashed. “Okay, let’s make some plans for this party.”
“For a party that might never happen?”
“Of course,” she chirped. “Why not?”
Why not, indeed?
Aaron adored his family.
Chapter 5: On the Fourth Day of Christmas...
Sunday, December 29, 2013: Hannah and Samonik have a little talk.
Hello again! Thank you so much for your reviews - I'm glad you like!
Though . . . it would be better if she shared it with someone . . .
Mind on the job, Hannah.
She forced herself to focus - not the easiest thing to do considering the guy she’d like to have beside her sharing that evening, was one of the men striding down the street with her. But this particular walk wasn’t a fun stroll in the park - they had come to this deserted neighborhood of warehouses to do a job.
“What are these things again?” Dean asked as they neared their targeted building..
“Geier,” she replied. “A rather vile group of Wesen.”
Hansel made a small humming noise. “Vulture-like, hyu said?”
“Without any of the vulture’s redeeming qualities.” She gave herself a quick shake. “You’ll find them most often in the middle of wars or among the homeless - anywhere they can find victims who won’t be missed or noticed. They like causing pain, harvesting organs while their victims are still alive.”
Dean made a face. “How did you even find out about this bunch?”
“Adam actually - you remember him?”
“Works with the crime lab, right?” Dean asked. When she nodded, he continued, “I remember him - he’s a Wesen contact of yours.”
“His boss helped bust a ring of organ thieves, but they couldn’t account for all the organs,” she explained. “After a little more investigation, they found some black market apothecaries - but they were selling more than herbs. Some of their products turned out to be dried human organs.”
“Why?” Hansel asked her. “What use do they have for them?”
“Medicines and aphrodisiacs.” Hannah wrinkled her nose. “Human cultures all over the world use animal parts and organs for the same thing, but some groups of Wesen think human organs are more . . . effective.”
“So Adam called you when they busted these guys?”
She nodded. “Most of the NYPD might not be ready to deal with a nest of these things. And they wouldn’t know how to handle them anyway.” She checked her weapons, including the gun Dean gave her when they left the Tower. “Cat and Nancy probably could, but Vincent would have a conniption and a half.”
A small scraping noise was all the warning the two Grimms got before a group of the Wesen in question attacked. Whether Dean heard the noise or not, his instincts had him moving in concert with them. Hannah took down the first of the Wesen who dropped from a ledge over their heads while Hansel shot the second. Dean fired twice, taking out another of the Geier while wounding a fourth. The wounded Wesen clutched his arm and fled towards a small warehouse.
“Here we go,” Hannah sighed as they followed him.
They spent the next hour clearing out the Geier and rescuing any victims they found still alive in the warehouse. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrived to help process the survivors as well as to start the clean up - and the cover up. Once they emptied the place out, a small debate broke out on what to do with the building.
“We’re burning it,” Hansel announced, ending the discussion.
Apparently nobody wanted to argue with the man.
“Ick.” Hannah eyed the burning warehouse with distaste. “I need a very long, very hot shower.” A long hot shower . . . and that spiked hot chocolate she’d been craving. “I hate dealing with Geier.”
“Yeah, ‘ick’ is one way to put it.” Cold fury carved into Dean’s face. “Scavengers,” he muttered, “picking on the helpless.”
“They won’t do it anymore,” Hansel reminded them. The older man folded his arms over his chest as they waited for their ride home. “No more innocents will disappear into this foul place.” He made a noise of disgust. “They’re as bad as the witches we hunt.”
A S.H.I.E.L.D. van pulled up in front of them and Joe Hardy grinned out the driver’s side window. “Grimm taxi service,” he called out. “No hour too late, no location too odd, we’re always on the roll.”
“Smart ass,” Dean grinned, only to duck as Hannah smacked his arm.
Hansel laughed as he climbed into the van. “Always hyu try, granddaughter.”
“And sometimes I succeed too.” She leaned back in her seat. “A hot shower and a hot drink,” she murmured. “That’s all the plans I have left for tonight.”
Dean cleared his throat. “After medical,” he put in. She eyed him and he shrugged. “I don’t want your dad or your uncle killing me. Just let Miranda look at the scratches, okay?”
“After medical then,” she agreed. “I promise.”
It took longer than she planned, but eventually she got that shower and hot chocolate.
Hannah sipped at her drink as she watched Benji playing with one of his new puzzles. She loved watching his eyes scan each piece before he put it in place. Maternal pride welled up in her heart just knowing he shared some of her gifts and interests.
The door chime sounded.
Curiosity furrowed her brow as she glanced at the clock. It was almost Benji’s bedtime - people usually didn’t drop by at this time of night. Even the family and Pack didn’t interrupt their routine unless they planned on staying. And nobody called about an emergency, so . . . “Shae?” she questioned.
“It’s Mr. Samonik, Ms. Hannah.”
She chuckled as Benji pushed to his feet and toddled towards the door. “Let him in, Shae.”
“Yes, Ms. Hannah.”
Benji reached the door as it opened. “Sam’nik!”
“Hey, little guy.” Sam reached down, his long arms sweeping the boy up to his shoulders.
“Tall, Mama!” Benji squealed, clapping his hands. “I tall!”
“So I see.” She walked over to them and reached up to tickle her son. As he giggled, she shifted her hand to cup Sam’s cheek. “Hello, Samonik,” she smiled, using the correct Russian inflection.
“What brings you to my corner of the Tower?” she asked. An eyebrow lifted as her smile took on a mischievous curve. “And without Inari?”
A light blush darkened his cheeks. “The Kellers all decided they wanted a family night,” he explained. “So I’m pretty sure they’re camped out in their living room with a movie playing.” He shifted Benji down into his arms. “And I wanted to talk to you.”
“Then you better come on in.” She led him into the living area where she sat at one end of the couch, curling her legs up under her. “Benji’s working on the puzzle Will gave him.”
“Puzzle,” Benji laughed. “Deda puzzle.”
“And he’s enjoying every minute of it.”
Sam nodded, putting the little boy down beside the puzzle. “What kind of puzzle is it?” he asked as he sat beside her on the couch. He leaned forward to watch as Benji began stacking pieces once more.
“It’s a creative one - he can build things with it, like blocks, only they won’t fall over.” A soft light brightened her eyes as she watched her son play. “Or we can put a picture underneath the pegboard for him to match colors.”
“Color,” Benji nodded, holding up a puzzle piece. “Gr’n.”
“So encouraging his innate talents while letting him have fun at the same time.” Sam sat back with a grin. “That sounds like Will.”
“No reason for training to be boring or uninteresting.”
“That’s one of the best things about learning from the Grimms,” he agreed. “They’ll make sure you learn it, but they don’t make it miserable to learn . . . unless it’s Brian and Natasha with the baby agents.”
“They don’t count,” she pointed out. “They’re not family.”
“I always hated sparring with . . . with my dad,” he admitted, “but not here.”
Her lips thinned at the mention of John Winchester, but she pushed it aside. “Hard for it not to be better here,” she noted. “Not when they have so much fun with it.” Her eyes twinkled. “More than one of them like nothing more than a good fight.”
“Dean told us about tonight’s fight.”
“Ah.” Hannah winced. “And when you say ‘us’...?”
“The only reason you don’t have Brian, Will, and Mom all down here is because Hansel assured them you didn’t get more than a couple of scratches,” he chuckled. “And because Dean promised them that you let Miranda look you over and she cleared you without even needing to call Vincent.”
“Bless those men,” she muttered. “I’m perfectly all right.”
“Mom talked them out of pestering you.”
“And bless her too.”
“About Dean…” Sam’s voice trailed off and he pulled his eyes away from hers. He watched Benji create a tower, each floor made up of a different color. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “He’s . . . well, you know he’s . . . interested, right?”
Her lips trembled, but she held back the laugh. “Since I’m neither blind nor clueless, yes, I’ve noticed.”
“It’s just . . . I’m not sure how to ask this, and I’m pretty da-.” He choked back the word as her eyebrows rose. “Ah, that is, I’m pretty darn sure he’d kill me if he knew I was asking, but . . .” Again he fell silent before finishing the question, and color rose in his cheeks yet again.
“Sam.” Hannah stared at him. “Are you trying to ask me what my . . . intentions are towards your brother?”
The blush darkened and he shifted in his seat. “. . . maybe?”
Uncurling her legs, she rose to stand over him. She bent down to press a kiss to his forehead. “You’re a fantastic little brother,” Hannah informed him as she met his gaze.
“I just . . . want to take care of him.” He ducked his head. “Like he always did me.”
“I know.” She returned to her seat, her hand brushing Benji’s shoulder as she passed him. “And one day soon, I’ll bet you’ll make a good uncle too.” His eyes widened and he grew still. Her smile deepened. “Too soon?”
“I just . . . I, ah, hadn’t gotten that far yet.”
“Sorry?” she offered.
“No, no, it’s good,” he hastened to assure her. “Just . . . surprising.”
Hannah nodded. “I’ll bet, but . . . Sam, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past couple of years. I had to do a lot of growing up so I could be a good mom for Benji and the type of guardian the Wesen world needs. Believe me, I know now what I want and what I need - and I’m not going into this with any kind of expiration date.” She shook her head. “Maybe this will work and maybe it won’t, but I’m hoping and planning that it does.”
“Good.” Sam sighed and the relief in the sound came across loud and clear. “You’ll be good for him.” Then he grinned. “I’m looking forward to being an uncle.”
“Sam’nik!” Benji tugged at Sam’s pants leg. “Do puzzle!”
She watched as her son pulled the younger Winchester into playtime. He should be going to bed, but she decided to let the time slide tonight - just for a bit. Relief coursed through her veins. Dean adored his younger brother, so Sam’s approval - of her deepening relationship with his brother and all its potential - meant a great deal to her.
“I’m coming, mi tesorito, I’m coming.”
Chapter 6: On the Fifth Day of Christmas...
Monday, December 30, 2013: Jason is looking for Ty when he gets interrupted.
Whoo and hoo!! Another chapter done.
Artwork is Lori Seibert's.
Song is Barry Manilow - It's Just Another New Year's Eve
Like Darcy’s sign said - she worked for the ‘Chief Crazy of R&D’ . . . and he could make their lives very, very difficult if they ticked him off.
And while he’d prefer to be in his lab doing creative ‘Chief Crazy’ stuff, family always came first for Jason. Right now, that meant tracking down the son of a bitch who threatened his niece’s peace of mind.
Ty McKay - currently the focus of the Grimms’ attention . . . not a place anybody wanted to be.
But the little bastard was proving damn elusive. How the hell was he doing it? Jason could track down elite level spies in less time then it was taking him to find this damn two-bit drug dealer! He growled under his breath as his fingers flew over the keyboard. “Where the hell is this guy?” he muttered.
Jason started at the unexpected interruption. He spun in his chair and found Lucas standing in the doorway. “Oh, hey, Lucas.” Giving the kid genius a quick grin, he leaned back in his chair. “What are you doing here?”
“Nadya wanted to see her mama, so I brought her over.” Lucas held up a hand as Jason frowned. “We didn’t come alone - promise.”
“So . . . what guy are you looking for?”
“Ty McKay - the prison escapee.” Jason picked up a stylus to give his hands something to do. “I haven’t managed to find the jackass yet.” Frustrated, he jabbed a finger towards a screen. “I’ve got every network covered - and every possible avenue of money I can think of, but I still haven’t found him. He’s a damn amateur!”
“The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”
“What?” Jason blinked in surprise.
“It’s a quote,” Lucas explained. “It’s from Mark Twain . . . uh . . . ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ . . . I think.”
“You know what the guy should be doing to stay out of sight, so you’re looking for that.”
“But he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing . . . so he’s not doing anything logically.” Jason rolled his eyes. “No wonder he’s pissing me off.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.” He leaned against the door jamb. “You’re worrying Darcy.”
That surprised him. “What?”
“Darcy called Casey - told her she heard you grouching in here, cursing and all.” The kid shrugged. “I think she figured you were going to shoot the computer soon.” He grinned. “So Casey told me to come check on you.”
“I’m not going to shoot-.”
The walls shook as a boom filled the hallway. Jason shot towards the door before the echoes died away. He ran towards the labs, emergency plans running through his mind. When he spotted the smoke drifting from Marta’s door, he sped up. Aaron would kill him if something happened to her . . . and that would be easier than whatever punishment Casey devised.
His heart rate considered settling down as he heard his sister-in-law’s voice, but he needed to see her. Sprinting into the lab, he found her covered in some kind of soot, but all in one piece. Relief caused his shoulders to slump. “What happened?”
“Well I’m not entirely sure,” she admitted. “I have to admit, it startled me.” Marta waved a hand at the smoke, coughing a little. “But I need to look at those chemicals. I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have done that.”
Lucas peered around the door jamb. “What a mess.”
“That’s an understatement,” Jason chuckled. “Do me a favor?”
“Go back to my office and keep an eye on those reports, would you?” he asked. “Give a shout if anything interesting comes up.”
“I can do that.” The kid turned to go, but then glanced over his shoulder. “What if Casey calls?”
“If she calls you, then head out. I’ve got Shae keeping an eye on things too, but more than one set of eyes won’t hurt.”
Helping Marta start cleaning up her lab, Jason tried to picture what might have caused the unexpected reaction. To the best of his knowledge, Marta wasn’t working on anything that should have led to this, but . . . R&D produced more unexpected explosions than not. If something didn’t explode at least once a week, he started to worry.
“I’m a little busy, Darcy!” Jason didn’t look up from the mess as he helped Marta sort through it.
“One of your Nerds is cackling,” she announced, appearing in the doorway. “And it’s shifting to maniacal. You know how I feel about maniacal laughter.”
“Lock down their lab.”
“I already tried that,” she huffed. He glanced up to find her staring at him with narrow eyes. “Your little protege - much as I adore the girl - has messed with the override code.” Darcy planted her hands on her hips. “It won’t let me cut Fitz’s access.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Skye…” he muttered.
“Yep, that’s the one.” She pointed at him. “Now go fix it before something else blows up in here.”
“I have to help-.”
“Aaron’s on his way,” she interrupted. “I called him as soon as I checked on the others.”
“You’re bossy.” Jason shook his head as Marta tried to cover her laughter with a cough. “I’m surrounded by bossy women.”
“That’s because you’ve got a type, boss.” Darcy turned her finger towards the door. “Now, shoo!”
“I’m going, I’m going.”
Dealing with Fitz and Skye - as well as undoing Skye’s override - took a hour or so, but he finally made it back to his office. To his surprise, he found Lucas still there. Casey and Nadya sat in the room as well.
Nadya squirmed free of her mother’s hold, sliding to the floor so she could run to Jason. “Look what I made!” she crowed, pushing a flat object at him.
“It’s not going to blow up is it?” he teased. “I was just helping clean up after your Aunt Marta.”
“Marta?” Alarm filled Casey’s face and voice as she half rose from her seat.
He hurried to reassure her. “She’s okay - only a little singed.” Casey sighed with relief, slumping back into her chair. Nadya’s invention beeped and he glanced down at it to make sure it wasn’t doing something odd. Lights began to play over the board and he smiled. “This looks fantastic, Nadyushka. I like the lightshow.”
“Shae helped me,” Nadya told him, “so it plays with music.”
“Does it now?” Jason didn’t bother trying to hide the pride and satisfaction saturating his voice.
“It does,” Casey nodded. “It matches the ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ from the Nutcracker.”
“Hey, Boss!” Darcy bounced into the room with a giggling Benji on her hip. “Lucas and Nadya’s ride is here.”
“I’m thinking . . . Hannah?” he chuckled.
His niece stepped through the door. “How’d you guess?”
“What can I say?” he shrugged. “I’m the lucky sort.”
“Ah, of course, that must be it.” She laughed at him before her eyes shifted to the monitors, scanning the reports and the videos. “You’ve been busy,” she murmured.
Watching her, he could almost see the observations and calculations passing through her mind at a rate he’d only seen in Will . . .or himself. If he could, he’d steal her for R&D, but his two older brothers wouldn’t be impressed. Brian wanted to keep her out of S.H.I.E.L.D. altogether, and even if she did choose to join the intelligence organization, Will would want her firmly under his protection - or Marina’s.
Her lips pulled to one side in a wry kind of grimace. “I’ll be glad when he’s not on the loose.”
“We’re going to find him, Hannah.” Jason put his hand on her shoulder. “I promise.”
She gave him one of her brilliant smiles. “I know that,” she assured him. “I never doubted it.” Her shoulders rolled in a careless shrug. “Y’all will find him and I’m pretty sure Dad and Tasha are arguing over the best way to deal with him after that.”
“You’re not worried?” Casey asked, a gentle but probing note in her voice.
Hannah paused and then sighed. “Yes and no?” she offered. “He’s definitely the biggest mistake of my life - thus far anyways, and I don’t like being reminded of it.” A light flush colored her cheeks. “Believe me, if I could have gotten away with none of you knowing about it, I’d have been happier.”
“We’ve all screwed up.” Jason shook his head as he slid his arm around his niece. “Trust me - this mistake doesn’t even rate on the Grimm scale of screwball choices.” He glanced over to where Benji seemed to be half-playing, half-flirting with Darcy. “Especially not considering we got the kid out of it. That’s a pretty redeeming quality right there.”
She leaned into his side. “The only good thing Ty ever did was contribute that DNA.”
“And he’s not going to ever touch Benji.”
“Over my dead body,” she agreed.
“Hey, no talking that way,” he scolded. “Brian would have a stroke.” She giggled and he tightened his hold for a moment before letting her go. “We’ll get through this.”
Tilting her head at him, she began to hum a soft song. Benji’s head came up and around. “Sing, Mama!”
“I’ll sing when we get home,” she began, but Darcy and Lucas both began protesting. “Okay, okay!” Her hands went up in a sign of surrender as her voice shook with amusement. “I just . . . I remembered one of my grandmother’s favorite New Year’s songs.”
“Oh?” Jason leaned against the wall. “Will you sing it for us?”
“Sure.” She glanced around. “Okay, so you know, my grandmother really liked Barry Manilow, so it’s kind of a slow song.” Drawing in a deep breath, Hannah began to sing.
”Don't look so sad,
It's not so bad you know.
It's just another night,
That's all it is, it's not the first,
It's not the worst you know,
We've come through all the rest,
We'll get through this.”
Jason felt his lips curve into a gentle smile. He’d been the first one of the family to learn that Hannah could sing, tripping over a video of her singing at her grandmother’s funeral. Thanks to Marina, all of the brothers possessed a deep appreciation for music. She taught them to sing and to play . . . and their talent made his wife a little crazy on karaoke night.
With the additions of Blaine, Rachel, and Hannah, that depth of talent doubled at the very least. And while it wasn't anything anyone would call typical for the Grimms, it rounded them out into something more than military . . . something human and vulnerable and amazing.
Hannah's voice drifted through the office and out into the hallway. From the corner of his eye, he could see Skye, Marta, Aaron, Fitz, and a couple of the other Nerds gathering close to the door to listen. His lips twitched into a smirk as he spotted Dean behind them. The man's eyes fixed on Hannah with unwavering focus - a look Jason recognized. He'd seen that look on the faces of his brothers when they watched their partners . . . and he knew he had the same expression when Casey entered the room.
Dean must have been the one to drive Hannah, Lucas, and the kids to headquarters.
Damn but he hoped these two hurried up. If they would get a move on, he could start teasing both Dean and Brian about it! Something he very much looked forward to doing in the New Year. He might even tease Hannah a little . . . maybe. Or maybe not - if he took her side, he could probably wheedle a little more time from her to work on some of R&D's puzzles. Leaning back and letting himself get pulled into the song, he pushed the thought away. For now, he wanted to enjoy the private little concert.
”It's just another New Year's Eve,
Let's make it the best.
It's just another New Year's Eve,
It's just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we're through this New Year,
You'll see, we’ll be just fine.”
Chapter 7: On the Sixth Day of Christmas...
Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Dean and Hannah ring in the New Year
Okay, so I'm a little bit drugged tonight thanks to a cold, but I definitely wanted to get this up tonight! Thank you so much for your reviews!
Art: Lori Seibert
Song: Ella Fitzgerald - a QUEEN among singers - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve
How did he get so damn lucky as to have this girl on his arm?
“Come on, Hannah!” Rachel bounced up to them with a grin. The rest of the Pack shuffled around until they were encircled. “It’s your turn to sing.”
Dean watched as Hannah glanced around, noting she was surrounded. “So I see,” she murmured with a shake of her head. “Pushy, pushy.” Her hand slipped away from his arm and she made her way to the band. Whatever she said to the band’s leader prompted a grin and a nod.
“I wonder what she’s singing,” Sam mused as the man introduced Hannah and the room quieted. “I know she had something planned, just in case.”
”When the bells all ring and the horns all blow
And the couples we know are fondly kissing
Will I be with you or will I be among the missing?
Maybe it's much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I'd ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?”
“Was the bet for who made the first move and when?” Rene chuckled. “Or for the actual getting together?”
“Hopefully the second,” Spike replied, “or everybody lost.”
Inari giggled. “I think we’ve been played.”
“Look at Bucky,” Alexis murmured. “He looks like he’s remembering something.”
“It’s the song.” Blaine hummed a note or two along with music. “I don’t know how old it is, but it sounds a lot like songs from back in the 40’s. Can you see Steve?” he asked. “I’ll be he’s got the same look.”
“They really knew how to do love songs in those days,” Rachel sighed.
Dean ignored all of them as Hannah’s gaze met his and their eyes locked.
“Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it's exactly twelve o'clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year, New Year's Eve?
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose
I'd ever be the one you chose
Out of the thousand invitations you received.”
Challenge glittered in that mahogany gaze. He moved forward in answer, ignoring the whispers and snickers behind him. Stopping at the edge of the stage where she would come down when she finished, he stared up at her, lifting an eyebrow in a challenge of his own.
A smile curved her lips as she crooned her way through the last verse.
”Ah, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance.
What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?
Oh, what are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?”
Applause filled the room as she finished. Waving to the crowd, Hannah stepped down from the stage and accepted the arm he held out to her. She leaned towards him. “I need some air after that,” she murmured. “I’m going to step on the balcony for a moment.”
“I’ll come with you.”
Her smile deepened and he spotted the satisfaction in her expression as she turned towards the door. They made their way through the crowd, stopping to talk or chat as necessary, but they kept themselves focused and on the move to prevent any long term interruptions. Dean got caught by one of Tony’s engineers just as they reached the door.
“I’ll wait just inside,” Hannah told him.
Shifting to stand so he could keep an eye on her, Dean half listened to the man’s babbling. Most of his attention remained on the gorgeous woman waiting for him. She rubbed her arms as if to warm them and he could see the material of her dress flutter in the wind. He needed to cut off this guy’s yapping so he could join her.
“Get with me about it next week, okay?” He gave the man a firm, unyielding look.
“Sure, I can do that, but-.”
As the guy started up again, Dean glanced over to Hannah. She turned her head to look at him, a smile beginning to curve her lips upward. A shadow moved behind her and Dean’s instincts went on high alert. Even as he began striding in her direction, he saw shock and surprise flare in her face. Someone jerked her away from the door and he put on a burst of speed. He spotted more movement in the room as a handful of others beelined for the door, but he ignored them.
Hannah was his only concern.
“Think you’re something, don’t you?” A man dressed in a caterer’s uniform grasped her arm, giving her a good shake. “All dressed up like you belong with the rich and famous.”
“Go to hell, Ty.”
“You first.” His free hand shot up, driving a knife towards her side.
Dean bolted towards them, skittering to a stop as Hannah shot her own hand out, grabbing Ty’s wrist. She gave it a violent twist, and the other man screamed in pain as the knife went flying. He’d wager she a huge amount of strength into it. The son of a bitch was probably lucky he still possessed an arm.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” she warned as she shoved him away from her.
Taking advantage of the space, Dean stepped between the two of them as Ty managed to recover his balance. “You bitch!” he spit out, cradling in injured wrist against his belly.
“Watch your mouth, jackass.”
Hannah gave a soft huff of amusement behind him.
“Who the hell are you?” Ty demanded, thrusting himself towards them.
Only to meet Dean’s fist as it impacted with his face. He fell down on the hard stone of the balcony. “I’m the guy who’s going to kick your ass if you move again.” Blood trickled down from Ty’s mouth as he pushed himself up again. “Are you that much of an idiot?” he sighed. “This is Hannah’s turf - you’re both outnumbered and outclassed. So sit your ass down and wait to be picked up.”
“No thanks - you’re not my type.” Six men circled behind the loser and it took all of Dean’s self-control not to start laughing. Talk about being outclassed. All five of the Grimm brothers along with their father took up positions at Ty’s back. And none of them looked impressed. “For the record,” he added, his mouth pulling into a smirk, “you shouldn’t have put your hands on Hannah.”
“Are you trying to make things worse?” the woman in question asked as she stepped to his side.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Fury and confusion filled Ty’s face as he glared at them both.
“You might have been a player back in the middle of nowhere East Texas,” Hannah scoffed. “But here? Here you’re nothing but a minnow . . . and you’re swimming in a sea of sharks.”
Clint folded his arms over his chest. “And they all smell blood.”
Hannah laughed as Ty spun around. “Really, Uncle?” she chuckled. “Nicki Manaj?”
“What?” he demanded. “It’s a good song . . . and Rachel and Blaine were singing it yesterday.”
“What the fuck?” Disbelief filled Ty’s voice.
“Meet my family.” Sweet as Hannah’s tone might be, nothing hid the scorn that filled it. “They’ve looked forward to talking to you.”
“Not quite accurate, lebedyashka,” Will scolded, his eyes flickering blue as he glanced at her before shifting more green as they returned to Ty. His face might have been carved from granite for all the warmth it showed.
“Yeah,” Brian agreed, cold wrath burning in his face. “Pretty sure our plans don’t involve much talking.”
“What plans?” Ty demanded, his voice shaking with fear as he looked around at the unyielding faces. Dean had long since become used to the similarity of their faces, and they no longer looked identical to him - he knew too much of their personalities - but he’d wager they freaked Ty out. “What are you going to do to me?”
“If I had my way, you’d be a dead man walking.”
“Dad,” Hannah began.
“Yeah, Stardust, I know - don’t kill him.” Wicked humor glinted as he smiled. “I promised you I wouldn’t - and I won’t.”
Ty tried struggling, but he had no chance against Brian’s determination. Dean smirked as he watched - his mentor had plans for that jackass. His promise to Hannah, that he wouldn’t kill him, might have put boundaries on those plans, but it left a lot of room for Brian to play. The men escorted their prisoner down the balcony to another entrance, one out of sight of the party-goers.
Leaving Dean and Hannah alone in the cold night air.
“Listen.” He looked down at her as she tilted her head. “They’re starting the countdown,” Hannah continued. “It’s almost 2014.”
“Guess we should get inside and help celebrate.” He took her arm and began steering her towards the door.
“And how are we doing that?”
“Well,” she shrugged, “people usually celebrate with either a glass of champagne or a kiss.” Dark eyes peered up at him from underneath sooty lashes. “I just wondered which one we were going to do.”
Okay, that did it.
Dean came to a stop. His hand tightened on her arm, pulling her around to face him. “If you wanted a kiss, sweetheart, all you had to do was ask.”
“I thought I had.” Hannah tilted her chin, eyes wide and innocent as they gazed into his. The twinkle of mischief gleaming through that expression tugged at his gut - and his libido if he were honest. “Or did you miss the hint in the song?”
“Oh, I got it.” His hands slid up her arms to cup her face between them. “That was one hell of a public statement.”
She placed her hands on his chest, curling her fingers into the lapels of his tux. “Dean?”
“Yeah?” Never would he admit that his voice came out a bit breathless at that moment as he stood on the verge of taking that next irrevocable step, a step he dreamed of taking for months now.
“Shut up and kiss me.”
“Bossy, bossy.” He caught her answering laugh as he sealed her mouth with his.
Fireworks began going off and he wouldn’t have been surprised to find out they were all in his head. But then he heard the shouts and the cheering. Happy New Year, he thought as his mouth moved over hers. His was off to damn fine start: Hannah’s lips, soft and warm beneath his, both yielding and demanding a response. So he gave it to her as he poured his hopes into that kiss.
“You two about done?”
Brian’s voice interrupted the moment.
“I need you to turn around, go back inside to the party, and kiss Tasha,” Hannah instructed him, her attention never wavering from Dean’s face..
The older man grumbled and when Dean looked up, he found Brian’s gaze locked on him. “We’re going to be talking.”
“I can’t wait.” At first he watched Brian walk away, but then two delicate hands slipped around his neck, returning his attention to her. “Your dad’s going to kill me, you know.” His voice remained steady, almost nonchalant as he slid his arms around her waist. This moment, this woman was worth the risk.
“Maybe,” she smiled. “But probably not.”
He let his gaze flicker up towards the door before fixing it on her once more. “We’ve got an audience,” he murmured with a smirk. “You wonder what they’re saying?”
“Nope.” Hannah brushed her fingers through the hair at the back of his head. “I’ve got a pretty good idea.”
“They’re saying ‘It’s about damn time!’.”
Dean chuckled. “They’re not wrong.” Lifting a hand, he brushed his thumb over her cheek. “But it’s a great way to end the year.”
“It’s a better way to start the new one.”
Chapter 8: On the Seventh Day of Christmas...
Wednesday, January 1, 2014: This wasn't how Brian planned to spend the day, but he's willing to adapt...kinda.
Okay, so my year has been crazy busy.... I can't even begin to tell you. Add some exhaustion to that and writing just hasn't wanted to work for me. I'm going to fight my hardest to get this done this month so you can have a "Christmas in July" kind of thing.
Wish me luck!
Song - Ave Maria
Now all his plans were fucked.
He turned his scowl towards the amused voice. “No one asked your opinion.”
“I didn’t give one,” Will pointed out. He walked over to the coffee and poured himself a cup. Turning around, he leaned against the countertop, eyes focused on his brother as he took a sip. “So why the glare?”
“The little jackass in holding.” Brian all but spit the words out as a shared look of understanding passed between the brothers. Neither of them held any sympathy for Ty McKay - as far as the Grimm clan was concerned, they could drop him in a bottomless pit somewhere and forget him.
“What are you going to do with him?”
The question drew a grimace followed by a long sigh. “She doesn’t want me killing him, and I’m not going to disappoint her, so…”
“I’d like to point out - the rest of us made no promises.”
Will hadn’t finished speaking before Brian began shaking his head. “Hannah wouldn’t like it,” he replied, a knowing look in his eyes as the mahogany locked with his older brother’s silver-blue. “You’re not going to upset your little swan, and you know it.” Will shrugged, not arguing the point. “Besides,” the younger man continued, “I’ve heard from the others - and Hannah’s already talked to them.” His lips twitched in wry, if proud amusement. “She’ll probably catch you this morning some time.”
Blue overtook the silver as Will took another sip of coffee. “Smart girl.”
“Yes she is.”
“And she’s got a mind of her own,” he added, a glint of unexpected mischief in his gaze.
“Okay…” Brian drew out the word, wary of that gleam.
“Especially in regards to your protege.”
The sound of the elevator interrupted any reply Will might have given. Both men listened, waiting for an indication as to who might be joining them. A door opened and closed - one of the family putting away a coat. Sounds of something being placed on a table...too heavy for a tablet, so a bag of some sort. Then came the singing.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tu, Jesus.
Both men smiled as Hannah’s voice drifted in.
“She seems to be in a good mood,” Will noted as he lifted his cup. He took another sip of his coffee and leaned back in his chair. His gaze swung back to his brother. “Sounds like she has a reason to sing.”
“Again, shut up.” Brian’s scowl returned in full force at his older brother’s smirk. “She’s always singing.”
Will didn’t even bother trying to hide his chuckle.
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
They could still hear her humming as she drew closer, and Brian watched the open door, a smile coming back to his lips as his bright-eyed girl walked through. Her own smile blossomed in response. “Good morning!” Hannah walked straight to his side, brushing a kiss over his cheek before giving him a hug.
“Morning, Stardust.” Brian curled an arm around her waist, “What’s got you up and singing so early?”
“It’s a holy day, so I went to Mass,” she explained, leaning against him. She glanced over to Will. “What are the two of you doing up and about? Didn’t you plan to laze around since it’s a holiday?” Brian’s lips twitched as she lifted her eyebrows. “And don’t tell me it’s not - I know for a fact Nick ordered the entire family off today unless an apocalypse started.”
Will shook his head. “I’m not really the lazing type, lebedyashka.”
“He can’t shut off his brain long enough,” Brian snickered. The laughter only grew as Will rolled his eyes and his daughter gave him a small pinch in retaliation for his teasing.
“So what’s your excuse?” she prompted, tilting her head to look down at him.
Not wanting to mention Ty in front of her, he hedged by moving to the second topic on his mind. “I needed to have a little chat with my doomed protege, but Shae says he’s out of the Tower, so I’m waiting.”
“Sorry, sweetheart, but you’re not talking me out of this one.”
She paused, meeting his gaze as her lips quirked to one side. Then she sighed and leaned down to give him another hug. “Just remember you like Dean.”
“Now you’re just being stubborn.”
Will’s brows went up at that. “That’s his default setting.”
“Uncle…” Hannah shook her head at him as she pulled away from Brian. She stepped around the table to press a kiss to his temple. “Have you been teasing Dad all morning?” Both men gave her matching looks of patient amusement. She laughed and held up a hand. “Never mind; silly question.” Walking to the refrigerator, she pulled out the milk. “Are either of you hungry?”
“Coffee’s fine,” Brian began.
“Don’t make me call Aunt Marina,” Hannah warned as she turned on the stove. “Something quick and easy, I think.” She looked back in the refrigerator and gave a nod. “Looks like I’ve got just what we need. Do you want omelets or breakfast tacos?”
The elevator chimed again before either man could answer. Whoever had just arrived didn’t call out, but Brian could hear them whistling a tune as they moved into the family room. His mind identified the whistler and his scowl came back in full force.
Will lifted his cup, but not fast enough to keep his brother from catching the returning smirk.
A dog barked and Hannah’s smile deepened as Dean’s voice replied. ‘What’s up, pup?”
“Speaking of that little punk…” Brian’s eyes narrowed on the doorway.
More might have been said - on Hannah’s side of the discussion anyway - but the door opened. Guillaume bounded in, tongue lolling as his joyful puppy gaze went from one face to the other. Brian would swear he saw a deep intelligence there as the dog seemed to check off both he and his brother as ‘friendlies’. Then love and devotion flooded in as he focused on Hannah. He rushed over to her, vibrating with his enthusiasm.
Dean looked like he wanted to do the same as he watched Hannah greet the pup. But the kid showed some sense - or was it self preservation? His cautious eyes shifted from Brian to Will and back. “Morning.”
“Hmph.” Brian fixed an unblinking gaze on him.
"Isn't a lovely day for an execution?” Will grinned into his mug. “Sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky."
“Oh, you two,” Hannah sighed. “Really.” She gave Guillaume one more pat on the head. Then she rose and stepped over to Dean. “Good morning,” she smiled. Wrapping one hand around the back of his neck, she pulled him down for a firm kiss. Mischief glittered as she gave Brian a sidelong glance. “Again.”
“You’re going to get me killed,” he muttered as he leaned his forehead against hers, but no hint of regret colored his tone.
Well . . . that could be changed.
Downing the rest of his coffee, Brian rose to his feet. He tugged his little girl away from the punk and pressed a kiss against her temple. “Fix Will some breakfast before he wastes away or something, sweetheart.”
“Bri.” Amusement filled his brother’s voice, but he could hear the private warning.
“Yeah yeah, I know. Don’t kill the kid. I got it,” the younger brother snarked, as he rinsed his mug before setting it down in the sink. Then he began to stride out of the kitchen, one hand reaching out to grab the collar of Dean’s shirt as he passed him. “Come on, Romeo.” The kid choked a bit at the restriction of his collar, but otherwise said nothing as he fell in line behind Brian. Whatever concerns or apprehensions he might be feeling, he gave no evidence of it at the moment. A thread of pride wove through Brian’s fatherly ire. He’d chosen the right protege. Still… “We need to have a little talk.”
“Calm down, Stardust, I’m not gonna kill him,” he huffed, even as he continued to tow Dean towards the door. “We’re just going to have a little chat. How do they say it in Spanish? Mano y mano?”
“Remind me to give you some Spanish lessons, Dad,” Hannah winced. “It’s not ‘mano y mano’ - it’s ‘mano a mano’ . . . and you better not be planning on fighting.”
“No fighting,” he promised. “The punk won’t even get the chance.”
“That is not what I meant.”
Will’s voice, soothing if amused, came from behind him. “He won’t kill him, lebedyashka,” his brother promised. “Not permanently anyway. It probably won’t even hurt. Much.”
“Not helping, Tio.”
“I know. I just wanted to watch you get flustered over my son’s impending fate,” he agreed with a laugh earning an exasperated, “Uncle Will!”
Curious, Brian looked back at his de facto nephew as the door shut behind them, noting the small smile and the muted pleasure gleaming in the young man’s eyes. The undercover agent joked, “Your daddy’s gonna be mad about you being claimed as someone else’s son.”
“John hasn’t been ‘Daddy’ since I was four,” Dean scoffed with a roll of his eyes. “And I say ‘Will’ with more love and respect than I’ve used for ‘Dad’ in years.”
The look in those green eyes dared Brian to say anything, but the agent only chuckled. “Good for you.” Silence fell as they rode the elevator down to his family’s floor. Hustling the kid into his apartment, the older man gave him a push towards the center of the main room. “Okay, so . . . I like you.” He folded his arms over his chest and glared. “You know I like you, right?”
“I did,” Dean hedged with a small wince. “But that was before Hannah…”
“Yeah, Hannah - my daughter. The one bit of redemption Barney can claim,” he reminded him. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my girl. You know that.”
“Absolutely,” came the firm response, an accompanying nod punctuating the agreement.
“Okay, then you know if you hurt her, I’ll destroy you.” His eyes narrowed as he watched Dean nod in solemn acceptance. “I’m serious, kid. Marina’s Misfit, Will’s son, my nephew . . . whatever - you’re a dead man if you cause even a single tear.”
“I understand,” the cadet vowed. “I won’t hurt her.” Despite the serious voice, a smirk curved the corners of his mouth. “And even if I did, Hannah would kick my ass before you ever managed to get hold of me.”
“Hell, yes, she would.” Brian grinned at that, a sharp flush of pride rushing through him. When Dean returned the smile, the older man pointed at him. “But I’ll finish it.”
“And Sam will hide the body.”
Wicked amusement escaped him in a low chuckled. He’d heard all about Sam’s ‘sparring’ with Dean - his little brother Aaron had found the whole situation too amusing not to share. “What can I say, kid?” He spread his hands. “My girl’s got protection.” One eyebrow went up. “So if we’ve got a clear understanding?”
Dean held up his hands, palms out. “Crystal.”
“Good.” Now Brian let the affectionate smirk come out at full strength. Since they’d gotten the business part of the meeting out of the way, he could relax a little, enough to offer Dean a spot in the next item on the family agenda. “Dad, Will, and I - and probably the rest of my brothers too - are planning to have a...meeting with that...waste of perfectly good air in a couple of days.” A hint of cruelty, no longer familiar to him, touched his face. “You want in?”
No further explanation seemed necessary, not judging by the temper kindling in Dean’s green eyes. “Damn right.”
“We can’t kill him.” Brian might have worried about the regret he felt at that thought, but then he remembered the fear in his daughter’s eyes when she found out Ty McKay had escaped and headed for New York. He scowled as he thought of the light tremors that had shaken her as he’d worked to soothe her. “Hannah doesn’t want it that way.”
“Yeah, I could have guessed that.” The younger man shook his head. “Might be safer and easier to get rid of him, but if she said no, then that’s it.”
Good answer. Brian didn’t say that outloud, but he gave an approving nod..
“What’s the plan then?”
“Easy - we put the fear of Grimm in him.” His smirk returned in full force. “And then we drop him in the deepest cell we can dig up.”
Chapter 9: On the Eighth Day of Christmas...
Thursday, January 2, 2014: Hannah's on a baking binge and she gets some very welcome company
So, the previous chapter was posted prior to my heart attack, and it's been tough for me to get back into the groove of this story. Here's hoping I can do that. Because I'd really like to see it finished . . . and I'm sure you would too.
Song: Like a Child by Jars of Clay
Art: Lori Seibert
Humming, she turned back to her work. As soon as she finished her baking, she could spend the rest of the evening with both of them. It didn’t take long before the humming shifted into singing as she swayed her way around her kitchen.
They say that I can move the mountains
And send them falling to the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
With faith like a child
Her eyes shifted up towards the ceiling even though she knew it wasn’t necessary. “Yes, Shae?”
“Agent Sammy would like to speak with you, but he does not wish to interrupt anything.”
“He wouldn’t be . . . oh, but Benji will get way too excited about his visit. We’ll never get a chance to talk about whatever brought him here.” Hannah hummed to herself for a moment. “Ask Dean to keep Benji distracted so Sam can slide in, would you please, Shae?”
“Of course, Miss Hannah.”
“Thank you. And please tell Sam I’m in the kitchen.”
“Yes, Miss Hannah.” A moment’s pause, and then: “I have informed Lieutenant Dean and Agent Sammy believes he will be able to slip in without being seen.”
How her Uncle Jason missed being smacked by half the family, she might never figure out. Those names he assigned everyone! Well, almost everyone - he knew better than to give any such names to the women in the family.
The men seemed to be fair game.
Less than two minutes later, her kitchen door opened and Sam slipped in, his gaze directed back over his shoulder. She caught a glimpse of Dean standing by the large picture windows with Benji, the little boy rapt as always over the city scape below him. That warm coil of emotion threaded through her again. For a brief moment, she wanted nothing more than to toss out all of her plans and promises so she could join them. But . . . that wasn’t her style - and she loved her family too much to go back on a promise.
“They look like they’re having fun,” Sam chuckled as he leaned against the door. “I’d be jealous if the kid didn’t look so cute.”
“Don’t worry, mi campeón,” she replied, stirring her frosting. “You’re still his favorite Wolf.”
“And I won’t let anyone forget it.” His eyes scanned her countertops. “What are you making?”
“Marshmallow buttercream frosting. I’ve got more cupcakes to frost and decorate for tomorrow’s party.” Hannah nodded towards her refrigerator. “Among all the other desserts.”
He walked over to pull open the door and started laughing. “Bella dama - you’ve got enough desserts in here for the whole family to have two or three each!”
“And that doesn’t count everything stored in the pantry!” She turned off the mixer. “I couldn’t make everybody’s favorites - I didn’t have time, but I’ve been baking all day so there would be a good mix.” Amusement danced in her eyes. “Hopefully people won’t mind. Maybe they’ll find something new they like.”
“If that’s a dig, it’s not my fault I’m so hard to bribe.”
“Ha! I’ll find something sooner or later!” Hannah gave him a mock pout. “At least there’s a galette for you to try. It’s made with fresh fruit - apples and pears since they’re in season.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll try it.” He closed the refrigerator door. “What all do you have stored away for us?”
“There are two personal cakes for the birthday girls,” she began as she opened her cupcake holder. Two dozen chocolate cupcakes waited to be frosted. Glancing at him before setting to work, she continued with her answer. “There are angel food cupcakes, snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal cookies.”
“Wow.” Sam shook his head. “You’ve been busy.”
Her smile widened. “There are also cherry bars, hot chocolate tiramisu, root beer float pie, pear upside down cake, and sharlotka.”
“It’s Marina’s recipe.” Hannah bit her lip. “I hope it came out right.”
“Given the way you bake, I’m sure it’ll be great.” He moved over to her side, one arm sliding around her waist as he gave her a hug. A gentle brush of his lips over her temple soothed away the last of her worries. “What’s with all the baking anyway?”
She let herself rest against him for a moment. “Marina’s handling the meal, and since everyone is still in town after the holidays, with no one out on missions or anything, it’s going to be a big one. So she asked me to handle dessert.” Chuckling, she pulled away to face him. “And I admit, I might have gone a little overboard.”
“Not sure you can go overboard with food when it comes to this crowd.” With one more quick kiss to her temple, Sam moved over to the sink and washed his hands. “Give me a job.”
“You want to frost cupcakes?”
“I can do that.”
“Good, then I can do the last dessert I had planned.”
“Another one?” He started to laugh. “I know I just said you probably couldn’t go overboard, but you might just manage to hit that Ma level of crazy when it comes to food.”
“Rey tends to avoid anything but sugar cookies,” she explained. “I’m not sure why, but I want to make sure there’s something he can eat.” Opening the pantry, she began pulling out more ingredients. “By the way, you’re finishing the cupcakes for one of your girls.” He lifted an eyebrow and she grinned. “Inari loves s’mores and anything similar, so those are in her honor.”
“Good to know.”
They worked in silence for a good long time, finding a comfortable rhythm between them. Hannah found the routine satisfying and the company made things that much better. What connected the two of them? She thought she might never quite figure that out. Maybe in some other universe they might have been romantic, but in this one . . . they shared a bond that confused people. ‘Complicated’ was one word for it. If she had to put a name to it, she’d consider them soulmates. Oh, not in the way most people did - not in the romantic or sexual connection. No, she truly believed that connection belonged to Dean - not that she planned to jump straight into a sexual relationship.
She’d taken that rollercoaster ride once before and it turned into a nightmare. This time she intended to make sure they took all the steps to make sure the relationship rested on a strong foundation. Hannah wanted no cracks, no weaknesses - she wanted this to be a forever thing.
When it came to Sam, though . . . She defined soulmate as someone who she would carry with her forever - with all of the trust that word implied - and somehow he’d become that for her. Cousin, brother, friend, partner - he filled so many of the empty places in her life. Hopefully she did the same for him.
After a while, she slanted a sideways glance towards Sam, waiting for him to finish one of the cupcakes. “So,” she began, a smirk curving her lips, “who won the bet?”
“For once it wasn’t Dad,” he laughed. “But that’s probably only because he didn’t join in the betting.”
“Which I’m sure everyone else appreciated.” Hannah loved her uncle, but he could run circles around everyone when it came to analyzing information and coming up with a pattern. It made betting against him a difficult proposition. “I knew Dad wasn’t betting - I think he was hoping we’d wait a little longer.”
Sam turned so he could meet her gaze. “You know he approves of Dean, right? He just . . . wasn’t ready to share you quite so soon.”
“Dad shares me all the time,” she pointed out. “With Uncle Will . . . with you . . .” She rolled her eyes. “I don’t think he was ready to think of his daughter in a romantic setting.”
"In all fairness, Dad’s planning to hide the girls, even mine, until they're fifty. Nineteen isn't that bad in retrospect."
“And please don’t think I haven’t noticed that you didn’t answer my question.” Hannah started to drop spoonfuls of dough on a greased pan. “Who won the bet?” Color dusted his cheeks and she paused in her work. Her smile deepened. “Sam?” She drawled out his name, a warm, teasing affection clear in her tone. “Did you place a bet on Dean and I getting together?”
“And did you win the pot?”
She burst out laughing. Putting her spoon down, she walked over to clasp his face in her hands and pull him down so she could press a kiss on the tip of his nose. “If it couldn’t be Dad or Uncle Will, then it’s good that it was you.”
"My pocketbook thanks you for being so predictable . . . allegedly speaking, of course."
“Only to you apparently.” For a moment they remained still, just sharing that quiet connection. “I need to get these cookies in the oven,” she decided, releasing her hold on him. Another laugh slipped free. “After I wash away some evidence. I left some floury fingerprints on you.” Moving to the sink, she washed her hands and then dampened a rag. With gentle swipes she cleared away the marks she’d put on his cheeks. “There - back to your handsome self.”
“Lieutenant Dean would like to know if it’s safe to tell Mr. Giggles about your guest?”
“Uncle Jay better be glad he’s funny,” Sam snickered.
“Just a moment, please, Shae.” She put the trays of cookies into the oven. “Go ahead and cover those cupcakes,” she ordered. “I’ll finish frosting in a little bit. They just have to be ready by the party tomorrow, so there’s plenty of time.”
“What cakes did you make for the girls?” he asked as he covered the desserts.
“Aunt Marina let the girls pick the theme this year and they decided on Strawberry Shortcake, so I ran with that idea. Though I looked into the other characters to see who fit the girls best. Katenka’s getting the bookworm - Blueberry Muffin.”
“Let me guess, Trouble’s got Orange Blossom?”
“Exactly.” With Sam’s help, she got everything cleaned and put away in no time. “Okay, Shae - tell Dean he’s clear.”
“Yes, Miss Hannah.”
Sam started towards the door, but Hannah held him back. She gave him a mischievous grin, one finger to her mouth, gesturing him to silence. They waited . . . And then came the joyous shriek. “Wolf!”
Color flooded into his cheeks, but he strode out the door, falling into a crouch before he cleared the opening in order to catch Benji as he hurried towards him. “Hey, buddy.” Lifting the little boy into his arms, he moved out of the way so Hannah could join them in the living area. “Are you having a good day?”
“C’me see, Wolf! See t’city!”
“Sure. Let’s go see.”
Hannah watched as her son pointed out buildings to one of his favorite people. Strong arms circled her waist and she leaned back, her head resting against Dean’s warm shoulder. The kiss he pressed to the soft skin behind her ear drew a soft giggle.
“I’m tempted to be jealous,” Dean murmured into her hair. “Except it’s Sam.”
“Benji loves you both - just in different ways.” She pulled away, just enough to turn in his hold. Her hands slid up his arms to hold his face as she’d done with Sam, but she pulled him down into a very different kiss. “And so do I.”
“Love you too, Gorgeous,” he smiled, pressing a second kiss to the corner of her mouth. “And I can share . . . I think.”
Chapter 10: On the Ninth Day of Christmas...
Friday, January 3, 2014: Will and eleven other Grimm men sit in judgement.
Okay, so this was a tough chapter. XD Hope you enjoy the Firefly reference. It fit too well not to use.
No singing in this chapter, but the song I had in mind for inspiration . . .
Specifically for the lyrics:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.
And that's really the Grimm men's plan for Hannah here - so that she'll have a happy new year.
Hopefully you're all still enjoying . . . even if the Catholic Christmas season ended a few of weeks ago.
“Go get that dirtbag.”
Glancing up, Will caught the flash of temper buried in his best friend’s gaze. Owen managed to bond with all of his kids sooner or later, but Hannah managed to jumpstart their connection less than a month after her arrival. When she helped and then stood up for Will, she planted herself on Owen’s list of favorites - whether she knew it at the time or not. “Take Bucky with you.”
The two men exchanged a quick glance before Bucky climbed to his feet. “Sure,” he agreed. “Any particular reason?”
Owen smirked. “He wants to make sure the chertov podonok actually gets here.”
“I can see where that might be a problem.”
“Both of you behave.” A hint of indulgent humor lightened the dark notes of Will’s voice. “Just go get him.”
“Yeah, yeah, Boss, we’re going.” He shook his head. “Come on, Barnes.” They started out of the room, but everyone heard Owen’s question. “Did Honeycomb get you to promise not to kill him?”
The laughter that followed the question sounded like it belonged down in Jason’s R&D department with its maniacal edge. “Hell, no,” Bucky chuckled. “But who wants to make the Favorite angry?”
“Did I seriously just hear the capital letter?” Will muttered as the door shut behind the two men.
"Do hyu not usually hear such emphasis, Adler?" Hansel frowned at him. “It has been there for many months now.”
“I want to rip that bastard’s spleen out through his nose.”
Jason made a face. “Thanks for that image, Bri, really.”
“Personally I’d settle for shooting him.” Sam cleaned his handgun with quick, practiced motions. “Quick and done.”
“If I don’t get to kill the ublyudok then no one does.” Brian’s hands curled into fists. “And since I know damn well everyone here told Hannah they wouldn’t kill him.” His voice dropped into a couple of muttered curses. “So he gets to live.”
Sam’s mouth pulled into a thin-lipped smile. “If If it makes you feel better, I made no definitive promises."
Will glanced at his oldest son, but remained silent as he spotted his second son shaking his head. “She wouldn’t like,” Dean pointed out. “And the secret wouldn’t keep long. Hell if I know who would fold first, but someone would.”
"You don't have to kill him to make him wish to be dead, De."
“She still wouldn’t like it.”
For a moment, Sam’s eyes held a stubborn light, and then he huffed out an annoyed sigh. “Yeah, I know.”
“What if he’s only mostly dead?” Brian grumbled. “Or how about temporarily dead?” He turned his head to catch Will’s gaze. “Can’t we just almost kill him?”
“Hyur Stardust would not approve, meine Arger.”
“Dad,” he began.
“Why is she so set on us not killing him?” Clint interrupted. “That’s what I want to know.”
“She doesn’t want his blood on our hands” Aaron looked up from his gun. He grimaced. “Not sure how she talked us all into promising, but somehow I don’t think she thinks he deserves to have us kill him.”
“He might not deserve the honor,” Doyle muttered from where he stood behind Will, “but she does.”
A warning chime from Jason’s watch killed the conversation. Small clicks of sound could still be heard as Sam and Aaron continued their thorough checking and cleaning of their weapons, but aside from that, a wall of silence greeted the opening of the door as Owen and Bucky returned with their hapless prisoner. His fruitless struggles did nothing to disrupt the men’s movements as they shoved him into a chair, cuffing his wrists to the table and shackling his ankles to the chair.
“Tyler McKay.” Ice might have shivered at the tone of Will’s voice. Hel leaned back in his chair, hand on the closed file in front of him. He didn’t need to open it - all of the details stood out fresh in his mind. “Fugitive, escaped prisoner, minor drug dealer-.”
“And all-around konskiy navoz zasunul v zadnitsu svin'yu,” Brian added.
“What the hell did you call me?” Ty blustered.
A cruel smirk curled his lips. "It loses something in the translation."
“Look, you jackass-.”
“Shut up.” Still calm, still icy, Will’s tone shut down any further comment from the idiot. “You should have stayed on the run instead of coming here,” he continued. “Now you’ve added breaking and entering, theft . . .” He paused and his mercurial eyes shifted to full verdant green around silver. “Not to mention assault with a deadly weapon.”
Ty lurched back in his seat at the level of venom in that final comment. Not that he got far thank to his restraints, but everyone could see him trying to put more distance between himself and the rest of the men at the table. “Hey, man-.”
“I said, shut up.”
Bucky leaned over and smacked the back of the kid’s head. “You’re here to listen,” he commented. “So no talking unless someone asks you a question.”
“We could gag him,” Dean pointed out. Will watched as Ty looked towards his son, their gazes locking in a silent battle. Something deeper than anger crackled in the air as the two young men glared at each other. On Ty’s side, a hint of jealousy lined the smug arrogance while Dean’s hazel stare burned with the desire to tear apart the man who hurt and threatened the woman he claimed as his own. “Then we wouldn’t have to hear any more from him.”
“Nice thought,” Will allowed, “but I’ve got a few more questions.”
“Too damn bad.”
Although he wanted to smile at the huffy disappointment in Dean’s voice, Will refocused on their prisoner. “Why did you come to New York?”
Face wary, Ty glanced around the table, but found no quarter. “I had some unfinished business.”
“Look, man, I don’t know what that crazy bitch has told you, but-.”
Sam rose to his feet, ice blue eyes burning in a cold face, his gun in his hand. Ty’s words choked off as he stared at the angry figure stalking towards him. He began to struggle with his restraints as Sam drew closer. Personally Will felt like letting the scene play out, but he knew his niece would not appreciate it. “Sam.”
“She was pretty clear on the subject of killing him.”
“I know, Dad.” The smile didn’t manage to soften his son’s voice or banish the fury in his expression, though he could see the humor flickering in there. “But she was somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.”
Ty looked horrified. “What the fuck?”
A wicked light gleamed in Brian’s eyes. “I second the notion.”
Will glanced towards his other son. “Opinion, Dean?”
“Shoot the bastard.” Then he grimaced as Sam looked back at him. “But . . . it’ll piss her off.”
Irritated resignation filtered into Sam’s face as he holstered his weapon with a muttered curse. Moving past Ty, he went to lean on the wall beside Owen. He stood in the idiot’s blind spot - something that seemed to make the man nervous.
Too bad for him.
Clint leaned forward, focusing a sniper’s gaze on Ty. “In case you missed the point of that - Hannah’s the only reason you’re still breathing, so mind your chertov' manners.”
"Or we shall have to slice out your tongue, Hurensohn." Hansel looked almost eager for the chance.
“Don’t you people speak fucking English?” Ty demanded.
"Il m'emmerde lui."
Amusement lightened Will’s eyes back to silver for a moment as he watched Ty fume at the laughter filling the room as Sam’s comment. He took in the sullen lines of the boy’s mouth and the angry twitch of his fingers. If the kid had any chance for movement, he’d have tried to do something stupid - like jump Sam or something equally idiotic. No wonder Hannah seemed so embarrassed over her connection to him. His little swan was too smart to get involved with someone like this. She must have been going through one hell of a rebellion. Of course, given her father’s teenage years, maybe he should count his lucky stars that this seemed to be her worst regret.
“Just what unfinished business do you think you have with Hannah?” Aaron asked, his voice holding a soft inquiry, nothing more. Will glanced at his younger brother, lips twitching as he saw the sharp edge hiding beneath the question.
Let the idiot hang himself.
“That b-.” The word cut off as Owen cuffed Ty over the head. “Shit! Fine!” He tried to twist around to glare, but couldn’t quite manage it. A growl of frustration slipped free, but no one looked impressed. “She put me in jail!” he ground out. “And she took my son.”
“He’s not yours.”
Again Ty swayed back from the force of the words - these coming from more than one throat as the family men made their opinion known. Will curled his right hand into a fist even as he reached out with his left to hold Brian in his chair. “You have no claim to her son.”
Stubborn stupidity must be Ty McKay’s chief quality.
“She tell you that?” he sneered. “Yeah, she had the reputation of being a slut in school, but she was a virgin when I had her. That kid’s mine.”
“Sukin syn.” Brian shot to his feet.
“Not according to the DNA tests,” Will replied, voice calm even if it sounded like it has been carved from stone. The steady sound of it stopped his younger brother before he could take a step towards the idiot at the end of the table. “We’ve got tests from some of the most reputable labs in the country that confirm you have no claim to him.”
“Liar!” Ty snarled.
Will leaned forward, bracing his forearms on the table as a smirk settled on his lips. “Prove it.”
“My parents,” he began.
“Are going to get word of your renewed incarceration,” Will interrupted. His mercurial eyes flashed. “And this time they won’t be able to help you. They will also be served notice of the DNA testing as well to prevent any issues on that end.”
“You can’t do this!”
“The hell I can’t.”
Doyle gave a soft huff. “Oh, this will be fun.”
He could hear the smirk in his older brother’s voice, but Will kept his focus on their prisoner. In the periphery he could see the unhappy expressions on both Dean and Brian’s faces, but a promise was a promise and he made a mental note to be more careful about what he promised Hannah in the future . . . even as he acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to deny his little swan anything unless it involved her safety.
When he nodded, Owen moved forward to haul Ty to his feet. “Time to go, stupid,” he grinned, dragging the idiot out of the room. “Here’s betting you’ll hate your new accomodations.”
“Dad, Aaron, you two stay please,” Will requested as his family climbed to their feet, shoulders relaxing now that the situation had been handled. “The rest of you head home. If we’re all late to the party, Marina will be furious.” He lifted an eyebrow as the laughter started. “And I don’t have time to buy an apology.”
“I want to go,” Brian began only to snap his jaw shut as Will shook his head. He made a face, folding his arms over his chest. “Why not?”
“Because you, Dean, and Sam are going to go home and help your little girl get all of her desserts up to the family floor for the party,” he replied. Affection softened his gaze and his eyes shifted a little more towards blue. “Go see your star - you’ll feel better.”
The family began to file out, teasing comments and laughter being tossed back and forth as they went. Hansel and Aaron waited for him. The three of them - along with Owen - would take Ty to his new living space in one of SHIELD’s high security prisons. Overkill for a minor drug dealer, perhaps, but absolutely fitting for the bastard who thought he could waltz into town and stab Will’s niece. He lifted his eyebrows as his older brother came to his side.
“DNA tests?” Doyle asked, propping a hip on the edge of the table.
“To keep Benji safe.” Satisfaction curled Will’s lips into a smug smile. “Jason and the Doctors Three are very dangerous when they’re on a mission.”
“Well, hell.” The elder brother rolled his eyes. “Now I need to go talk to my wife about keeping secrets . . . right after I kiss her senseless in congratulations for putting an extra shield around that boy.” He started towards the door, then paused and glanced back. “You need any more help?”
“No - go kiss your wife and then help corral the kids for the party.”
Later, after dropping McKay in one of the deepest cells of SHIELD’s prison complex at the Raft, Will walked into the joyful chaos of a birthday party in full swing. He scanned the room to locate his partner and their children. Marina, Trystan in her arms, held court with her sisters and Maria as they laughed over glasses of something sparkling. Valya jabbered away at Sam while Katenka sat in Grant’s lap looking at a book. Sadie and Catia seemed to be listening as Vincent told them a story. Rene and Samonik sat to one side of the room with most of their Pack, though Dean stood behind them, leaning on the wall with his attention focused across the room.
Following his gaze, Will spotted Hannah curled into her father’s side at the same moment she seemed to catch sight of him standing in the doorway. He watched as she pressed a kiss to Brian’s cheek before she strolled towards him.
“Te quiero, tio,” she murmured, lifting up to brush a kiss across his own cheek.
“Ya tozhe tebya lyublyu, lebedyashka.” He slid an arm around her for a quick hug. “What brought this on?”
“I know y’all planned to talk to Ty today,” she replied with a gentle smile. “And Dad’s disappointed, very disappointed, but not angry. So that means you dealt with him but didn’t actually kill him.” Pride gleamed in her mahogany eyes. “Thank you.”
“He won’t endanger you or Benji again,” Will promised.
“I never doubted that at all.” The trust in her words, eyes, face . . . it humbled him to know how much she believed in their ability to keep them safe. “It also means a lot to me that his blood won’t sully any of you . . . especially today.” Then she shook her head. “But enough about him. It’s a party and we’re here to celebrate.”
“Sam said you made quite a few desserts.”
“Probably too many,” she laughed. “But Marina tasted my attempt at sharlotka and she said it was perfect.”
“Oh, did she?” He laughed and tried to fix a stern look on his face, knowing he failed as she grinned at him. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
Chapter 11: On the Tenth Day of Christmas...
Saturday, January 4, 2014: Dean and Hannah's first date . . . goes pretty much as one might expect a Grimm first date.
This one went easier, longer, and made me a little nervous. XD
Song: The Star Still Shines
GG & I have some fun plans but I told myself I couldn't even think about working on some of them until I got this story done, so I've got extra motivation. We're so excited about the stuff we've got coming up and I can promise it'll be fun, crazy, touching, angsty, fluffy, and tugging on the feels.
“Though they’ve already had their first kiss, so I’m not sure why you’re worried,” she laughed.
“We do seem to do things backwards, don’t we?”
Everyone looked towards the door at the amused voice. Hannah walked in the room with Benji on her hip and everything else vanished for Dean. His gaze swept from the deep brown curls tumbling around her gorgeous face down her trim form. When she’d asked about their plans, he’d told her to be casual and she’d taken him at his word. Damn, but he loved seeing her in the simplest of outfits. She wore jeans, their bootcut legs giving her a little flair - and probably hiding at least one weapon. He knew her jacket hid a couple, the distressed brown leather made for both work and play. A huntress indeed . . . and didn’t that make him one very lucky man?
“I don’t want to know,” Brian growled and she laughed, her mahogany eyes glittering with amusement.
“You saw the first kiss, Dad,” she reminded him. “So you’re already in the know.” Brian made a face, but that didn’t last long as his daughter swept over to exchange a hug and pass off his grandson. “Benji’s looking forward to spending the evening with you and Tasha.”
“Hi, Papa!” Benji kissed his grandfather’s cheek. “Play with Lana?”
Dean watched as the man melted under the combined forces of his daughter and grandson. Not that he could blame him. He intended to lay claim to both of them himself, woman and child. Knowing Hannah’s caution after the disaster of her first ‘relationship’ - and he snarled in the back of his mind at the use of that word in regards to the waste of space known as Ty McKay - he planned to take it slow, but he would do whatever it took to earn the right to call them his.
“Don’t worry, little man,” Brian chuckled. “Lana’s looking forward to seeing you too.”
“Yep, she’ll be there too.”
Benji demanded a hug and kiss from both of them before they headed out. Dean left the Tower feeling like he stood ten feet tall. He adored that kid. As much as he wanted Hannah - and God, didn’t he just? - he wanted her son as well. When the family decided to set up false DNA tests and Jason came to ask if he’d stand in as the paternal donor . . . and Dean jumped at the chance. Did he want a claim to that boy?
Damn right he did.
Later, after the movie, they headed into Central Park. Making their way along the paths of the park as they meandered back in the general direction of the Tower, Dean spotted a vendor selling coffee and hot chocolate. “Thank you.” Hannah gave him a grateful smile as he handed her a cup and her fingers curled around it. “I still can’t believe how cold it gets up here.”
“You’ll get used to it.”
“Want to bet?”
He laughed, sliding one arm around her shoulders. A teasing remark about soft Southerners came to mind, but he felt her go stiff under his touch before he could speak. “Hannah?” Sharp hazel eyes did a quick reconnaissance before focusing on the woman at his side. “Something wrong?”
“Do you hear that?” Her head tilted to one side as she listened to something beyond his hearing. “I think I hear a child crying.” Lifting a hand, she rubbed her jaw. “And I think she’s Wesen.”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure the child’s a girl.”
“Then let’s go find her.” Releasing her, Dean took the cup from her hands and tossed both drinks into the trash. He could buy more later. “Which way?”
Hannah closed her eyes, the better to zero in on the sound. Blinking them open, she met his gaze for a moment before turning to her right. “This way.” As she began to stride away, he took a moment to be grateful for having several inches height to offset her speed. They cut through the park, expressions grim. No one got in their way. The few people wandering along these paths hurried away after a glance at them. Dean wondered exactly what they saw . . . or thought they saw.
It didn’t take long before he could hear the small whimpers of the child as well. Soon they zeroed in on the spot where the sound originated. The crying came from inside the Hallett Nature Sanctuary - a part of the park closed to any visitors. Not that the legality stopped either hunter as they jumped the gate.
“Thank God for renovations,” Hannah muttered as they made their way down one of the new paths at a quick pace. Both of them had a weapon in their hand, watchful gazes sweeping the trees around them.
A spot of blue denim against the brown caught his eye. He reached out to touch Hannah’s shoulder. “There.”
Both of them angled towards the child huddled against the tree, her face buried against her knees. She shivered and Dean could see why - the denim jacket was too thin for New York in the winter. Shoving his gun in its holster, he let Hannah stand guard over both of them as he shrugged out of his jacket. The child flinched as he wrapped it around her, curling into a tighter ball. Her movement reminded him of his little brother. Back when Sammy was four - or maybe five? - he would pull in on himself that way whenever he got scared. As if he thought the bad things couldn’t get him if he couldn’t see him.
Fury shot through Dean - a feeling he tried to bury away as fast as possible so not even a hint of it showed on his face. He didn’t want to scare the little girl. Who the hell left her alone? “Hey, sweetheart, I’m just trying to get you warmed up, okay?”
She sniffled. “Want Mama.”
“We’ll find your mama, mijita,” Hannah promised, stepping over to crouch down beside them. “What’s your name?”
“Maddie.” The little girl lifted her head - not by much, but just enough for them to see the frightened blue eyes. Red-rimmed and tired, they darted between Dean and Hannah. “Mama not wake up.”
Some people might not have made the logical jump, but the two hunters exchanged a glance. Sure, that could mean any number of things - like the woman was sick or drunk or just exhausted - but considering the age of the child and her current location, Dean would wager on the woman being injured . . . or dead.
Hannah tucked her gun away and sat down beside Maddie, wrapping an arm around her. “What about your daddy?”
“Daddy went away.” She curled closer to Hannah, seeking the warmth. Her eyes, scared and sad, stared at Dean as if asking him to make things right. Again he felt the flame of anger jolting through him. Why was it always the innocent who suffered?
Something moved in the nearby trees, crashing through the underbrush with no care for the noise it made. Dean rose, gun in hand, to stand between the sound and the females.
“Wesen,” Hannah warned. “Several of them.”
Four men entered the small clearing, dragging a fifth man with them. They stopped when they spotted the trio in front of them. Snarls and smirks twisted their mouths before they woged, snouts and fur appearing. It seemed to surprise them when the display failed to produce any reactions. Then Hannah stepped up beside him, her eyes fixed on them and they pulled back, fear scrawled across their faces.
“Very good.” Her voice sounded cold and a sideways glance proved she stared at them with the icy expression he hated seeing on her beautiful features. “Want to tell me what you’re doing in my territory, coyotl?” Her lips thinned. “Especially since you’re bloodying others?”
“We came to take members of our pack home.”
“I take it they tried to say no?”
They shuffled then scowled. “The girl belongs to us,” their leader stated, chesting up. He moved forward, his eyes gleaming. “We’re taking her home.”
“No.” Dean growled out the word. “You’re not.”
“Take another step,” Hannah challenged when the coyotl leader started to shift his weight. “And you’ll regret it.” Raising her voice, she addressed all of them. “Drop your prisoner and leave. You’ve got one chance.”
For a moment, Dean thought they’d take the opportunity she offered . . . but nope. “Some people just got be stupid,” he muttered as they woged.
The fight which followed proved short but brutal. He took out two of them with the gun before the others got too close. Working together, he and Hannah killed the others using her long knife and their bare hands. “I hate it when they make me kill them,” she sighed, cleaning her weapon on one of their shirts. “It’s a stupid waste of life.”
“Stupid seems to fit.” He checked the bodies to make sure none of them were faking it. “I’ll call Owen.”
“Good.” She touched his arm and nodded towards Maddie. The little girl clung to the hand of the fifth man, the one who’d been the prisoner. “Her father.”
“I’ll let you have that one. It fits the situation.”
Hannah made her way over to the pair while he dug out his phone. She knelt beside them, soothing the man’s fears. His phone call only took a few minutes and then he joined them. The man faded, his grasp on life weakening before their eyes.
“Please?” he begged. “Please take Maddie. Don’t let them have her.”
“They won’t.” Hannah crooned the promise, brushing his hair back from his face. “I promise. We’ll make sure she’s safe and loved and happy.”
“I belong to a mixed Pack,” she told him. When his eyes widened, she offered a tiny smile. “One with Blutbad, Fuchsbau, hunters, and all kinds mixed together. She’ll belong to us and we’ll treat her as one of our own. I can promise you, she’ll want for nothing.”
Dean leaned forward to put a hand on his shoulder. “And your old pack will never touch her.”
“Thank you.” The man slumped back. His eyes closed and they watched his chest rise and fall . . . rise and fall . . . and it didn’t rise again.
Maddie reached out for Dean, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her little arms wrapped around his neck as she buried her face in his shoulder. He soothed her, swaying as he would have with Trystan or one of the twins. “Now what?” he murmured.
“We take her home.” Sympathy softened Hannah’s voice. “You know we’ve always got room for a child.”
“No matter how much Will sighs.” He combed his fingers through Maddie’s hair. “But you’re not thinking of Will and Marina, are you?”
“I’m not, no.”
“Vincent and Cat?”
“She’ll need the sense of pack, and they’ve got practice at it. Plus she’ll feel more comfortable with other Wesen around - it will help her learn to control her woge in more natural surroundings. Plus Dacia and Vincent will give her a sense of security.”
When Maddie sniffled, Hannah began to hum a soft song in the night air. She sang a few lines as he rubbed circles on the girl’s back, both of them doing their best to comfort her. At her age, which he guessed to be around two or so, he doubted she understood death, but she knew her daddy was ‘gone’ - like her mama.
And the star still shines
After all this time
As a light for me and you
It beckons us to seek him
Wise men still do
Her sniffles grew quieter and then stopped. Maddie grew heavier in his arms, a sign he recognized as a child’s exhaustion catching up with them until they just dropped where they stood - or sat in this case. Her breathing evened out as she slept.
“Looks like you’ve made another conquest.”
Dean lifted an eyebrow at Hannah’s soft comment. “Another?”
“You already had me.” She leaned forward, lifting up to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “So yes, another.”
Not quite the kiss he planned for this evening, but it would do until they got Maddie home and safe in the arms of her new family. “Shows my good taste.”
“Glad something does.”
Two guns came up, both ready to be fired, only to drop as their wielders spotted the familiar face entering the clearing. “One of these days,” Dean huffed, “you’re going to get shot . . . or scare someone to death.”
“Too late.” Owen shot him a smug grin before looking at the child in his arms. “What?” he chuckled. “Figure the Boss needs more to do?”
“Not really,” Hannah gave him a sad little smile. “We kind of thought Vincent and Cat could use a new cub for their den.”
“Tell Jason I want to see the video later.” He glanced around the small space, taking in the bodies. “At least you two aren’t as messy as the Boss Lady.” His gaze paused on Maddie’s father. “Something different about this one? His wounds don’t match the others.”
“He’s the good guy in this,” Dean informed him, indicating the little girl with his chin. “So was his lady.”
“We know her location too,” Hannah sighed, brushing a hand down Maddie’s back. “I’ll text it to you.”
Owen nodded. “Take her home and let the Boss know I’ve got it handled. He can make arrangements for her folks.”
“Thanks, Owen.” Hannah hugged him, bringing back his amused smile.
“Go on, Honeycomb.” He gave her a little push towards Dean. “You kids take the new Grimm home. There’s a car waiting for you.”
On the ride to the Tower, they passed the short time reassuring Maddie and telling her about her new family. While they would normally have walked the mile or so between the park and home, for Maddie’s sake Dean appreciated the convenience. Exhausted and sad, the little girl needed every bit of comfort they could supply. He looked forward to getting her to the Kellers.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he whispered. “You’ll like Vincent and Cat.”
“And they’re going to adore you,” Hannah promised.
Despite the height of the Tower, the elevator ride seemed to take no time at all. Maddie curled into him as the bell dinged their arrival. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head like he would to either of his sisters.
“Here goes nothing,” Dean muttered as the elevator doors opened.
They stepped out into the family room and silence fell as the small group noticed their arrival. Maddie lifted her head, but ducked back down as she spotted all of the eyes looking back at her. Surprise, interest, amusement, and resignation filled the faces of the family. Four of them leaned forward, heads tilting as they drew in a breath, testing the new scent. Dean nodded at Dacia when she lifted her eyebrows at him. A soft smile slid over her lips and that relaxed him - she would approve of their plan. That would help.
Will pinched the bridge of his nose before turning a look of affectionate exasperation on his partner. “This is your fault,” he announced. “I’m blaming you.”
“Of course you are.” Marina smiled, reaching out to pat his arm. “And who have we got here?”
“This is Maddie,” Dean answered. “Come on, sweetheart,” he cajoled. “They won’t hurt you. Promise.”
“A new little sister?” Marina asked, one eyebrow flicking up as Will gave a soft huff.
“She’ll be one of my girls,” he chuckled, “but we had a different idea for her older siblings.”
“We did,” Hannah agreed, her warm smile blossoming as she turned towards the family medic. “Maddie’s Wesen - coyotl to be precise.”
When his daughters both made faces at the word, Vincent frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Some of the coyotl packs are. . .” Inari’s voice trailed off, her nose twitching in distaste.
“Backwards.” A definite bite sharpened Dacia’s tone. “Not all of them, but those that follow the ‘old ways’?” Her eyes gleamed red. “They kill anyone who tries to leave the pack. And their females? There’s an . . . initiation.” All eyes turned to the Blutbad blonde at the sheer disgust in the word. “When she’s seventeen, they do a ritual and then tie her up. Then the pack . . .” Her mouth twisted. “Share her.”
“Maddie’s parents tried to escape,” Hannah added. “The pack caught up with them tonight.”
From the looks on the faces around him, Dean knew they all felt the same revulsion twisting his own gut. His arms tightened around the girl in his arms as if to shield her from even the idea of such a violation.
Vincent walked over to Dean, Catherine right behind him. He reached out to rest his hand on Maddie’s back. “Is she hurt?”
“No.” Dean shook his head. “Just overwhelmed. It’s been a busy night.”
“An understatement, I’m sure,” Catherine murmured. She brushed a hand down Maddie’s hair. “Hello, love. I’m Cat.”
Maddie turned her head enough to peek at the them. Her lips trembled, but she managed a tiny smile. “Hi,” she whispered.
It took them a little while, but they convinced Maddie to come out of her shell enough to meet Vincent and Catherine properly. The couple won her over faster than that and meeting her new siblings sealed the deal. She still kept a careful eye on where Dean went, but she seemed to relax with her new family. Once she looked to be settling down, Dean joined Hannah in explaining the night’s adventure.
“We’ll arrange for her parents to be buried in the family plot,” Will informed him.
Marina nodded. “Considering what they tried to do in order to protect their daughter, they certainly should be considered part of the family.”
“Talk about a busy night,” Hannah chuckled. “If all our big moments are this exciting, we’ll never be bored.”
Dean rolled his eyes and Marina offered a sympathetic smile. “Something dangerous or insane happening on the first date runs in the family, so you come by it honestly.”
Remarks like that never failed to cause his breath to catch and his heart to jump. Marina never gave any hint that she considered him a ‘foster’ son - anytime she spoke of their relationship, even in the most generic of situations, it was clear she considered him her ‘son’. Period. He’d heard her do the same for Sammy, Rene, Sam. Born to her or not, she used the same tone, the same words as she did for Trystan, Valya, or Katenka. Only their last names differed.
And he knew he could take the Grimm name anytime, just by asking.
“Where’s Dad?” Hannah asked.
“Since nobody needed medical or bail money, I decided not to interrupt Brian’s night,” Will replied, the amusement clear in his voice.
“Nice.” Dean’s smile shifted to mischievous. “Excuse us.” He took Hannah by the elbow and started to lead her out of the room. She giggled as she followed his directives.
“Where are you going?” Marina called out, humor sparkling in her voice.
“Don’t worry, Marishka-Mama, we’re not even leaving the building.” He ushered Hannah into the elevator, but held the door open so he could toss a wink towards the watching family. “But if Brian’s busy, I can work on getting a good night kiss.” Laughter erupted in the room as he waved at Maddie. When she waved back, he smiled and let the doors close. Turning to Hannah, the mischief fell away. Something warmer, more intense took its place. “Now, about that kiss…”
She sighed, casting her gaze upwards. “You always talk too m-.”
He smothered the last word, his lips capturing hers. Lifting his hands, he threaded his fingers through her thick curls. As her soft scent encircled him, he deepened the kiss and reveled in the feel of her as she responded. Her hands slid around his waist, flattening against his back as her lips parted beneath his.
Damn, but she tasted good.
Yeah, Dean could die a happy man right this moment . . . but he preferred to be alive, with this woman in his arms. And one day, he planned to claim her, her son, and a future they would build together. Maybe it felt a little fast, but while he might be reckless, he wasn’t stupid. He’d been grateful to the Grimms ever since they gave him and his little brother a stable home and a chance at a real future, but now that gratitude deepened, widened, grew beyond any bounds of the past. Because now he had more than a chance for a future . . .
Now he had a dream for one.
Chapter 12: On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...
Sunday, January 5, 2014: Hansel pays his granddaughter a visit.
May the Lord always watch over you
And may all of your hopes turn to wishes
And may all of your wishes come true
Music floated out the door as it slid open at Hansel’s approach. Stepping through it, he smiled as he spotted his granddaughter dancing around her living room, a soft swaying dance as she sang to the little girl in her arms. Their newest arrival, a young girl named Madeleine Grace, rested her head on Hannah’s shoulder, eyes heavy with sleep . . . and a sheen of sorrow. Anger tried to flare, but he pushed it back. He knew, better than most, that he couldn’t fix all of the wrongs in the world - much as he might wish otherwise.
But this little girl . . .
May each day in the month be a good day
May you make friends with each one you meet
And may all of your daydreams be mem'ries
And may all of your mem'ries be sweet
Pride warmed him. His granddaughter and one of his protégés saved this little girl from the darkness. Leaning against the wall, he watched them. Maddie may or may not have felt him, but he caught the wink from Hannah as she swayed, rocking the child to lull her further down the road towards dreamland.
The soft hiss of the door opening brought him around. One hand rested on a weapon even as he acknowledged the unlikeliness of any enemy being able to get so far without alarms wakening the dead. His shoulders relaxed and he nodded to the two men who joined him in the small entryway. Vincent Keller, the family medic and Maddie’s new guardian, stood beside Brian. “Gentlemen.”
“Hansel, hi.” Vincent nodded back, though his gaze slid past to the two females still dancing around the room, now passing by the large windows. His abruptness could be forgiven - a new parent deserved a little leeway.
“Dad.” Brian smiled at him, amusement glittering in those mahogany eyes of his as he tilted his chin towards Vincent. “The new dad’s a little anxious.”
“You’re not as cute as you think you are, Gamble.”
“Sure I am,” he replied, slouching against an entry table. “Just ask the women in my life.”
The weeks turn to months and the months into years
There'll be sadness and joy, there'll be laughter and tears
But one thing I pray to heaven above
May each of your days be a day full of love
Hansel leaned back against the wall, his eyes sweeping between the two men and the pretty scene they watched as Hannah’s voice continued to croon the soft melody. The entire apartment looked warm, comforting, and a place where children could play without fear of damaging anything. Homes tended to reflect their owners - and this place surely did. Couches and stuffed chairs filled the room so Hannah could welcome a multitude of guests. New pictures from the family’s Christmas celebration decorated her walls. The frames ranged from simple metallic outlines to rich carved wood to colorful looking plastic and paper hand-decorated by the children of the Baby Brigade.
Amused affection curled around his heart as he picked out a picture of the Trio of Terror. His own beloved Minna stood in the center, her arms folded over her chest, with her faithful Captain Abearica peeking over her shoulder, apparently strapped in the backpack made by one of his sons. The twins stood beside her, each of them holding their own stuffed companions - Bucky Bearington for Katenka and Nick Furry for Valya. All three girls looked adorable and fierce as they made ‘war faces’ for the camera.
“She’d love to be a stay-at-home mom,” Brian murmured. “But she refuses to just do it.”
Vincent offered him an understanding smile. “Doesn’t want to be the person who lives off of the family money?”
“Yeah.” He blew out a sigh. “And I can’t even fuss at her for it. I get it.”
“Maybe she will choose it when she marries, my Arger.”
“Shut up, Dad.”
May each day in the year be a good day
May each dawn find you happy and gay
And may all of your days be as lovely
As the one you shared with me today
All three men looked around as Hannah’s voice softened. Instead of actual dancing, she stood in the center of the room and swayed in place. The child in her arms seemed to sleep, her tiny mouth open just a bit as she breathed deep in true rest.
May each day of your life be a good day
And good night.
“Here you go.” Hannah glided over to the three men, her hold on Maddie shifting so she could pass the young girl over to Vincent. The apartment door opened with another quiet hiss. “Shae will make sure your elevator goes straight to your floor and that everyone is informed so they don’t accidentally wake her up.”
“Thanks, Hannah.” Vincent smiled at her as his arms curled around his daughter. He might have said more, but clearly didn’t want to risk wakening her. Three generations of family watched as the man carried the sleeping little girl to the elevator. He smiled and nodded once more before the doors closed.
“And now both of you come on in and tell me what brings you to my corner of the tower.” Hannah led them into the living room. The instrumental music dropped even lower, from a hum to a whisper of sound in the background. “Would either of you like some water or tea?”
“Water would be nice, meine Löwin.”
“No, thanks, Stardust.” Brian perched one hip on the arm of a couch. “Where’s Benji?”
“Dean took him out,” she replied as she wandered into the kitchen.
Hansel listened, hearing her make some noises as she pulled out glasses, poured the water . . . then he frowned as the sound of rustling reached him. A smile curved his lips as she came back out with a tray holding two glasses of water and a plate of snacks. Brian jumped up before he could move, lifting the tray out of her hands and carrying it to the dining room table for her.
“Thanks, Dad.” Sliding into a chair, Hannah took a glass of water and a small triangle of bread with some kind of cheese spread. “With Maddie fighting off the nap, we figured she might do better without any distractions, so Dean took Benji and Guillaume up to see Owen and Ethan.”
“He does love his ‘wolfs’,” Brian chuckled.
She gave a small groan, her head falling back as she aimed a smile at the ceiling. “Don’t even remind me how far I’ve got to go grammar-wise,” she told him. “I loved literature and hated grammar.”
“Aren’t you glad you’ve got so much backup?”
“Hyu are surrounded by many who will help you,” Hansel agreed. “Though hyu might have to double check exactly what they are teaching him when he speaks a language hyu do not.”
Wicked mischief filled Brian’s chuckle as she rolled her eyes.
“I know you two didn’t wander into my territory just to tease me and talk family,” Hannah finally announced. “Not that I wouldn’t mind, but you’d have brought more people with you.” She lifted a brow. “So what’s up?”
“Why mein Arger is here, I don’t know,” Hansel replied. “But I came to talk to hyu about the Wesen community.”
“Is there a problem?” Her brows drew together as she straightened. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make the meeting yesterday, but-.”
“No, no, meine Enkelin, hyu were busy.” He shook his head. “And there was no trouble.” Maybe he’d been a little pressed for time between various responsibilities, but he wouldn’t let his granddaughter worry any longer than necessary. After all, she rarely took time to pamper herself as she had yesterday for her date. “Just a couple of questions from the young Eisbiber - Adam.”
“Oh?” Hannah relaxed, a little smile coming to her face as she leaned back in her seat. “And how is he doing?”
“Well enough, I think.” Nervous, but that tended to be Adam’s default behavior. Hansel worried at first that maybe he worried the young man, but Dacia said not. His little one assured him that Adam got nervous with a lot of people - it was just his usual character. “He wanted to ask about Dean - and whether he should be added to the contact list they’ve been collecting.”
“There’s a thought.” She crossed her legs at her ankles, picking up another sandwich triangle. Chewing as she considered, she swallowed the bite and then lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. “We can ask him, but I do have a couple of concerns.”
Brian lifted an eyebrow. “Such as?”
“Dean’s got the training, and he can be diplomatic when he puts his mind to it,” she noted. “In addition, he’s great with victims, especially the children, but . . .” She paused, taking a sip of water. “He doesn’t have some of the same advantages we do. Wesen are faster, stronger - they’ve got a blend of human and animal characteristics for the most part. Or something truly . . . Other.”
“He’s a hunter,” Hansel pointed out. “One who hunts the supernatural - which are much like Wesen in having abilities beyond human.”
“True.” Her lips pursed at the admission, then her gaze flicked to Brian and back. Humor bled into her dark eyes. “I probably shouldn’t be the one to decide,” she acknowledged. “I don’t think I can argue without being called on the hypocrisy.”
“I’d never call you a hypocrite, Stardust.”
“Sure you would,” she challenged her father. “If you thought it would be a way to make me step back for my own safety.”
He opened his mouth to argue, then closed it, eyes thoughtful. “Okay,” he admitted. “You’re probably right about that one.” Spreading his hands, he smirked at her. “Can you blame me, baby girl?”
“No, not really.” She patted his arm and turned back to Hansel. “I don’t really have an objection to him being added if he wants to be . . . even if my protective instincts want to argue. He actually makes an excellent partner.”
Joyful childish laughter spun through the air, drawing their attention towards the entry. Dean’s eyes swept the apartment, taking in the trio at the table. He nodded, but turned his gaze back to the little boy walking in front of him, one hand curled in the fur of the large puppy pacing at his side. Guillaume, a young Beauceron, didn’t seem to mind being ‘walked’ by young Benjamin.
“Shae,” Hannah murmured. “Get me a picture of that please?”
A soft ding from her phone confirmed the AI’s understanding of her request.
Brian shifted, starting to swing his legs around, but Hansel rose, moving before his son could get ahead of him. He walked into the living area, crouching so he would be eye-to-eye with his great-grandson when the child looked up. It took a moment, but then Benji’s gaze swung up and spotted him. Those eyes - the same color as his mother and grandfather’s - widened and brightened with excitement and love. Releasing the puppy, he rushed towards Hansel, arms open wide.
“Hallo, mein Häschen.” Sweeping the child up into his arms, Hansel rose to his full height. Pride and affection spiraled through him again as Benji pressed a kiss to his cheek.
“Walk Guy, Papi! Me ‘n Dean walk Guy!”
“I saw hyu,” Hansel assured him. “Hyu did good work.”
“Fun work!” Laughter interrupted any further words as Benji turned his head. Another bright smile and an adorable giggle came just before the boy bounced in his hold. So many of Benji’s favorite people in one place excited the youngster. “Mama! Dean! Papa!” He waved, then craned his head around. Giving Brian a curious look, he tilted his head. “Lana? Nana?”
“Sorry, buddy,” Brian stepped closer, one hand coming up to brush over Benji’s head. “Lana’s taking a nap and your Nana’s finishing some paperwork.”
Hannah laughed, burying her face in her hands. “Oh, my God,” she muttered, the words muffled by both her hands and her amusement. “I’m infecting him.”
“Uh, no, you’re not, gorgeous,” Dean corrected, wrapping an arm around her waist. Hansel repressed a smile as the corner of his son’s mouth twitched. He didn’t think Brian minded the idea of their shared protégé dating his daughter so much as the idea of his daughter dating anyone. “It’s absolutely evil. The kid’s a genius and he’s already got the evil paperwork’s number.”
“You’re bad,” Hannah told him, lowering her hands so she could lift up to press a kiss to his cheek. “Somebody in the family has to enjoy paperwork.”
She tossed back her head, laughing at the simultaneous answer from Dean and Brian.
In Hansel’s opinion - not that anyone had asked - he thought the young couple made good partners, both in the home and in the field. Their strengths merged well while they balanced each other’s weaknesses, particularly when Dean did his best to take care of Hannah. The young woman tried to take care of everyone around her - she deserved as many people as possible doing the same for her.
“Sooner or later, Phil and Vika are going to need a vacation from all of the headaches we give them,” Hannah pointed out.
“Probably,” Dean agreed, “but I’m pretty sure that’s when Nathaniel and Inari step up.” He smirked at her. “Your best friend’s a little weird with how he enjoys all that admin stuff, you know.”
“And Inari’s not?”
“Not my little fox.” He shook his head before tapping a finger against his temple. “She thinks it’s a good way to get more information so she can do jobs for the family.”
Hansel glanced at Brian. “Should we be hearing this?”
“Probably not,” his son shrugged. “But Will knows who he got working for him . . . and Inari would bite anyone that tried to hurt him.” He snagged his grandson, grinning at his father as he stepped out of reach. “Better to go for the information - it’ll keep her from getting sick.”
“True.” He nodded, agreeing with the idea. Then he pointed at his son who stepped further back, putting Dean and Hannah between them. “Hyu will be in trouble one day, my son, if hyu keep stealing children from me.”
“But probably not today,” Brian shot back as the young couple snickered at the mock argument.
“Probably not.” Hansel gave a small huff, but he let his son get away with the theft for now. There would be a time and place in the future when the father would win. He leaned back against the table, watching as the others talked and played with Benji. They still hadn’t come to a firm conclusion about Dean’s place with the Wesen community, but they had time to make a decision. After they talked to the man in question.
Right this moment, he intended to simply enjoy the free time with this small portion of his family.
Arger/mein Arger - Trouble/my Trouble - Hansel's nickname for Brian
meine Löwin - my Lioness - Hansel's nickname for Hannah
meine Enkelin - my granddaughter
Papi - colloquial way to say 'daddy' in Spanish, but often used in Spanish-speaking areas/cultures for other men as well
Hallo, mein Häschen - Hello, my little bunny - Hansel's nickname for Benji
Chapter 13: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...
Monday, January 6, 2014: Hannah spends a day with the women . . . but it starts and ends with Dean.
Whoo hoo!!! It's finished!!! Whew!!!
Song: We Three Kings - the Mediaeval Baebes version
I'm so thrilled to have a WIP done! Thank you for your patience with me. I've loved each and every comment. I'm so looking forward to hearing what you think of the story as a finished whole. Also we're still working on more for this universe, so never fear!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sometimes it was the battle versus the war, so she let go of this one.
Christmas music drifted through the speakers, most of it instrumental or hymns to celebrate the end of the season. Her faith celebrated the Epiphany on the previous day at Mass, but she intended to enjoy the fullness of the holiday . . . even if her family considered her a little crazy. Not her dad - he just laughed and told her being a Christmas fanatic couldn’t touch his own craziness.
We three kings of orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star
“Miss Hannah,” Shae interrupted. “Lieutenant Dean is coming.”
“Let him in, please, Shae.”
The door opened, revealing her boyfriend’s crooked smile and warm hazel eyes. “Morning, gorgeous.” He strolled to her, hands already moving to encircle her waist. “Your message said between eight and nine, so here I am.”
“On the dot at eight o’clock,” Hannah chuckled as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “One might think you’re anxious to see me.”
As they shared a good morning kiss, she let herself get wrapped up in the scent of him. Leather, gun oil, and a musk that seemed to be all male, all his. Like most of the men in her life, he radiated an aura of danger, but not for her - never for her. Instead of a threat, she relished the feel of his protection, the unwavering support he offered her and her son.
“I’m going to miss you today,” he admitted when he finally lifted his head from hers. At her smile, he pressed another quick kiss to the corner of her mouth. He brushed a dark curl away from her face and she frowned.
When had her hair come undone?
“Missing this?” He offered her the band that had been holding up her ponytail. She laughed, taking it from him, but he didn’t give her time to fix it. Instead he pulled her to a chair. “I like your hair better down.”
“I’d have never guessed.” Curling up in his lap, Hannah snuggled into him. “Trust me, I’d love to spend the whole day here - just you, me, and Benji - but Natasha, your Marishka-Mama, and the other aunts have decided we’re having a girls’ day and going shopping.”
“Aren’t the other girls working?”
“Yes. Hmm, let me see…” Eyes closed, she relaxed into him as she brought the details to mind. “Rachel’s got an audition. Alexis and Dacia are both at their internships today and Inari’s at work, helping Uncle Will with his paperwork.”
“His evil paperwork.”
She laughed, remembering the previous day’s fun. “That,” she agreed. “Nathaniel, Spike, and Rey are at work too. I think Rey’s mentoring with someone today . . . hmm . . . Uncle Doyle, I think.” Humming to the quiet music, she thought about the others. “Blaine’s back in school - and very unhappy to be the only one still in high school. Rene and Samonik are watching the girls and Trystan.”
“The rest of the Brigade’s going to be jealous.” Dean ran his fingers through her hair, massaging her head before combing through the length of it.
“You’re going to put me to sleep.”
“Is that a complaint?”
“Nope.” She nuzzled against the side of his neck. “But Natasha and the aunts will be here soon.”
His lips ghosted over her temple. “Until then, you’re all mine.”
Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King for ever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
The doorbell rang, dragging a grumble from Hannah as she uncurled and stretched out her legs. “I love my family,” she murmured.
“Yeah, you do,” Dean chuckled. “Go ahead and let them in, Shae.”
Darcy’s bright, cheery voice bounced into the room just before the happy brunette did the same. Even Hannah couldn’t maintain her pout in front of that joyful smile. Energy filled the air, all but crackling around them as she planted her hands on her hips. “You two are as cute as a box of puppies and kittens, but we’ve got places to be, things to see, and money to spend! Chop, chop!”
“Not me,” Dean pointed out. “I’ve got paperwork and a kid.”
“You’re a guy,” she replied, pointing at him. “That’s your job - to do the busy work while we women escape for a day of fun.” Then she pursed her lips. “Though I might try stealing Benji when we get back. It’s my turn.”
“I’m sure Benji would love to spend some time with his Aunt Darcy,” Hannah assured her. “As a matter of fact, Belo and I want Dean to come to the Wesen meeting this Saturday.”
“Mine!” Darcy threw up a hand, waving it like an excited kid at school. “I’m calling it before anyone else gets a chance.”
“We’re going to have so much fun!” She did a little victory dance, then paused. Spinning in a little circle, she came to a stop and tilted her head. “Speaking of the cutie, where is Benji anyway?”
“Still sleeping.” When Darcy winced, clapping a hand to her mouth, Hannah just laughed. “Don’t worry. He’s been getting really good at sleeping through all kinds of noise these days. Probably because noise seems standard for the family.” Using her fingers as a comb, she pulled her dark curls back into the high ponytail. When Dean made a face, she leaned over to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “Have fun today.”
“You too.” He wrapped a hand around her neck to pull her into a much more thorough kiss.
“Ahem!” Darcy cleared her throat, her humor clear in the sound. “Audience here!” They pulled apart to give her matching amused looks. “Yeah, I know, you don’t care, but!” Reaching out, she snagged Hannah’s arm. “Come on, girl. Shopping awaits.”
“Bye!” Hannah managed to blow a kiss to Dean before being hustled out of the apartment and into the elevator. “Has anyone ever mentioned that you can be bossy?”
“I work for your Uncle Jason - bossiness is a requirement.”
Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high
“They’re going to go a little crazy,” Marta whispered in Hannah’s ear as they stepped into the first store. “They did for me, and I’m not one of the children.”
“Of course we did,” Marina called back. “You’re my solnyshko’s darling.”
Pink dusted the scientist’s cheeks. “Well . . . yes, but . . . you bought me an entire wardrobe!” she reminded her sister-in-law. “And then insisted on doing the same thing all over again when the season changed.”
“I certainly wasn’t going to let you get stuck with five outfits to your name!”
“Crazy,” Marta repeated, a light blush still glowing in her face as she turned to Hannah. “So if you put something back, make sure you’re crystal clear on why - because if it’s for any kind of reason related to price or being too much or whatever? It will show up in your closet.”
“And there are two of us watching you,” Natasha pointed out.
Marina gave a firm nod. “My sister and I have been waiting to do this for months.”
Hannah sighed and rolled her eyes. “I think it just irritates you that you haven’t been able to spoil me since day one, so now you’re trying to make up for it.”
“I admit to no such ulterior motive.” Marina gave a delicate sniff before waving towards a beaming saleswoman. Hannah could almost see the calculations running through the woman’s mind. “Good morning, Cosette! I’m here to spoil a niece of mine.”
Ah . . . a saleswoman her aunt knew by name - that explained the happy anticipation.
“Of course, Ms. Petrovka!” Cosette almost fluttered as she hurried forward. Her eyes scanned the group, fastened on Hannah. “This must be her!” She paused, gaze narrowing and then darting to Natasha. “Ah, your stepdaughter then, Ms. Rushman?”
“She is,” the redhead agreed, the corners of her smile deepening at Hannah’s curious look. “I met Cosette on a shopping trip with Pepper,” she explained. “We needed new outfits for a Stark Industries event.”
Thus the use of the alias. Hannah nodded, turning a smile on the smaller woman. “Hi, I’m . . . apparently here to be spoiled.”
A shopping whirlwind began and Hannah let herself get caught up in the fun and laughter until most of her aunts began debating on two final outfit choices. While they discussed the pros and cons of color, cut, and material, she joined Marta in a small sitting area for some water.
“I warned you,” her aunt reminded her with a gentle smile. “They enjoy the insanity of all this.”
“You did and they do.”
Myrrh is mine
Its bitter perfume breathes
A life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone cold tomb
Over lunch they discussed a number of different topics, all of them keeping things light and fun. Banning any work topics, the aunts kept things focused on Hannah - her favorite music, movies, books, fashion, and anything else that came to mind. None of them seemed surprised that she preferred home and family to any career, but they also expressed pride at her refusal to just live on the family dime.
“Maybe when you get married?” Casey teased.
“That’s a definite maybe,” Hannah agreed, “but don’t expect a rush on that.” Her lips twisted in a self-depreciating grimace. “Rushing into things got me into a mess. This time I want to make sure the foundation is there before I take any kind of major step.”
“So no sex yet?” Darcy smirked as she asked the question though her eyes and her voice both held understanding.
“No.” Hannah made a face at her. “And while I feel really kind of weird talking about this with Aunt Marina here, all things considered, Dean’s good about it.” Color darkened her cheeks. “We discussed it . . . and I’m pretty sure he wants to go dig out Ty and shoot him, but he told me the timing’s in my hands.”
“He already wanted to shoot Ty,” Casey noted. “So did everyone else.”
“Ty didn’t deserve the honor.”
“Maybe not,” she accepted. Reaching out, she put a hand on Hannah’s forearm. “But you did.”
Hannah appreciated the sentiment, but she preferred the situation as it stood. “I’m happier with him rotting in a cell for the rest of his natural life.”
“That’s good enough for me.” Casey waved a hand as if brushing off a minor irritation. “Enough about him.” She leaned forward. “Who is your favorite fashion designer?”
“Like big name designer?”
“I admit to always loving the Elie Saab line.” Her smile brightened at the new topic. “He had some gorgeous numbers this past fall - especially the red ones.”
“Haute couture never made any sense to me,” Marta admitted. “Buy a ridiculously expensive outfit to wear one time because by the time you have another event to wear it at, it’s out of date - no longer fashionable.”
“Oh, I agree,” Casey laughed. “It still makes my mother foam at the mouth how I’d rather lounge around in jeans and bare feet.”
“Me too.” Hannah took a sip of water. “Some old jeans, bare feet, and plush carpet - give me a book and a cup of tea . . . call me a very happy, if lazy woman.”
“There’s nothing wrong with any of that,” Marina agreed, “but I love getting dressed up.” A wicked amusement lit her eyes, sparkling in that hot chocolate brown. “And I can tell you that Mishka enjoys it just as much.”
Casey grinned at her. “I’ve seen all of our men lose brain cells when we go formal.” She glanced at Hannah. “Including Dean.”
“Why do you think I picked that particular dress for New Year’s Eve?”
Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice!
Heaven to earth replies
The afternoon began to wind down, but Marina pulled them towards one more store.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t need any more jewelry, Aunt Marina,” Hannah argued as she looked in the window. Gold, silver, and platinum fought with ruby, emerald, and sapphire for people’s attention. She played with the stars dangling from her ears. “I got several pieces for Christmas.”
“Yes, I know, but you need a watch.”
“That’s what my phone is for.”
“No, love, you need a real watch.” She paused in the doorway to fix a stern look on Hannah. “I’ve seen several of your dresses, not including those we just bought, and you need something you can wear with them.” Then she ticked off points on her fingers. “Also, there’s never a reason not to have something beautiful and glittering unless you’re on a hunt. Number two, your Uncle Jason is working on something for you - a combination panic button and homing device.”
Now that Hannah understood. Unlike some, she could understand the fear and concern of having a family member on the front lines. And unlike in Texas, she didn’t have werewolf pack surrounding her. Of course, she rather figured the Grimms were at least as dangerous as the pack, but they didn’t all come with enhanced senses. Technology could make up some of the difference.
“Something simple please?”
“Of course!” Marina’s eyes brightened. “And considering your favorite colors, I’m going to say a gold watch.” She turned her smile on the salesman who stepped up to greet them. “Watches,” she requested. “Something delicate with emerald accents.”
Hannah clapped her hands to her forehead. “That’s simple?”
“Remind me to show you my jewelry boxes,” her aunt laughed. “You should be happy I didn’t let Mishka do this part.”
“Let her have her fun,” Natasha advised as she wrapped an arm around Hannah’s shoulders. “Marina hasn’t had a teenage girl to spoil for a couple of years now. Even then she couldn’t let herself go crazy over it - she would have scared off Dacia and Inari. So now she can do everything she couldn’t then.”
Marina narrowed her eyes at her sister and then she lifted her chin in a regal fashion before sticking her tongue out. Everyone laughed as she spun back to the salesman. “Gold watches please.”
“This way, ma’am.”
O star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light
“I know I should know better, but I can’t believe we bought all this stuff!” Hannah stepped off the elevator, her hands full of shopping bags. Part of her mind tried to figure out how she needed to rearrange her closet to fit the new additions. She should probably just get rid of some of her older clothes. “Y’all went completely overboard.”
“Of course we did, kroshka.” Natasha followed her towards the apartment. “It’s your first Christmas with us.”
“And the holiday is over today.”
“True,” she nodded. Her lips curved into a tiny smile, one that shouldn’t have been able to hold that much mischief. “But now we’ve got your birthday to plan. It’s only four months away.”
“Don’t remind me!”
“Normally I’d tell you not to worry too much this year,” Natasha mused as the apartment door opened. “We enjoy celebrating birthdays, but usually save big and splashy for the big ones.” Emerald green eyes glittered in amusement. “But since we’ve missed all of the others…” She let her voice trail off in a clear, if teasing threat.
Hannah felt her mouth drop open, but an ear-splitting cry of joy rang out, cutting off any attempt to form words.
Natasha dropped her load of bags to the floor as she sailed forward to swing Benji up in her arms. “Hello, my medvezhonok.” She brushed her nose over his cheek. “Have you been having a good day?”
“Hi, Nana!” Benji pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Me ‘n Dean did puzzles. Papa walked Guy. We ate lunch. Took nap.”
“Haven’t you been the busy boy?”
“You’ve got a haul, gorgeous.” Laughter filled Dean’s voice, drawing her attention away from her stepmother and her son. He shook his head over the bags before starting to pick up Natasha’s set. “You want these in the bedroom?”
They carted the bags to her room, dumping them in a corner. Even looking at the bags made her feel exhausted. Sure the shopping had been fun, but she wasn’t sure she had the energy to even think about putting things away. The clutter would nag at her until she did though. She eyed them for a long moment and then turned away.
No, not right now. It could wait.
“When these women shop, they shop.” Hannah wrapped her arms around Dean’s waist, leaning into him. “It was like watching a carefully orchestrated battle as they took on Fifth Avenue.”
“Marishka-mama doesn’t do things halfway when she’s in the mood to spoil her kids.” He tugged on her ponytail.
“A fact I can attest to.” Another tug and her curls tumbled down around her face. “Hey!”
When she pulled back to make a face at him, he silenced any protest by capturing her lips with his. Soft and gentle, his mouth moved over hers, intoxicating her with the simple taste of him. She could never have described it, but each kiss deepened her craving for it, for him. Dark chocolate and the burn of whiskey might come close . . . or at least be in the same galaxy. Feeling his fingers tighten, their strength comforting instead of painful, she figured she had the same effect on him - something that gave her immense satisfaction.
Dean smiled down at her. “Now that’s what I call a perfect hello.”
“Why don’t you two plan for a quiet evening?” Natasha suggested. They turned and found her standing in the doorway, Benji on her hip. “We’re going to go find Lana and Papa.”
“Movietime, Mama!” Benji clapped his hands. “We watch Planes!”
Hannah pulled away from Dean to get hugs and kisses from her son. “Okay, mi tesorito, you have a good time with Papa and Nana, but then come home for bedtime. Mama will miss you if you’re not here.”
“I be back, Mama,” he assured her, cuddling into her arms. “Need night-night kisses.”
“That’s right, my baby boy.”
Natasha brushed a kiss over her cheek before taking Benji. He waved at them over her shoulder until the elevator doors closed. Hannah sighed. “I appreciate everyone being so happy to take care of him,” she began.
“But you still like having your little boy in your arms?”
“Come on, sweetheart,” Dean cajoled her. “Let’s do sandwiches and curl up for a movie of our own.”
“I’ll probably fall asleep on you,” she warned. “I’m betting on it actually.”
“Like I’m going to complain?”
Belo - Spanish - short for "Abuelo" - Grandpa/Granddad - Hannah's term for Hansel
solnyshko - Russian - Sun - Marina's nickname for Aaron
kroshka - Russian - Baby - Natasha's nickname for Hannah
medvezhonok - Russian - Little Bear - Natasha's nickname for Benji
mi tesorito - Spanish - My Little Treasure - Hannah's nickname for Benji