‘Twas the night following Brooklyn Latin’s Art Show and – as per usual - William Grimm couldn't sleep.
In his own defense, it had been a fraught couple of days. For once though? He just wanted to sleep - he wanted a return to the peace and calm he'd found in the Hamptons. But now they were back to the grind . . . and back to the never-ending sleeplessness.
Marina lay sprawled across his chest, her body moving calmly to the rhythm of her dreams. Her curls were a silk curtain obscuring his scars, her fingers slotted in the gaps of his rib cage like an afterthought as her arm reached across his body and hugged him to her. As for her lover, the fingers of one hand smoothed over the skin of her forearm, mercurial eyes staring through the darkness towards the ceiling. All around them calm and silence reigned, but something tugged at Will's attention.
Something . . . felt different – a distinct Other in the air - and his instincts refused to let him sleep.
Finally, he sighed - whatever kept him awake needed to be addressed or all of Marina's hard work over the previous week and a half would be ruined. Slipping effortlessly from her embrace, he slipped a pillow into her arms. Clutching it tightly, nevertheless she stirred as some part of her brain recognized the differences between the pillow and himself. Still sleepy and sounding half-asleep, she murmured, "Misha?"
"It's all right," he replied, threading his fingers through her curls as he bent to press a warm kiss to her temple. "I'm going to check on the kids. I'll be right back."
"Kisses from me," she insisted, her eyes still closed as she sunk closer to unconsciousness.
"Of course," he chuckled, kissing her temple once again. "Go back to sleep. I’ll be right back."
Marina hummed absently, before the petite frame went lax against the mattress once more. He waited a moment to be sure she drifted off completely, before padding on silent feet from their room. A brief pause at the door frame let him see her shrouded in linens and limned in moonlight - as breathlessly beautiful as he could ever remember. It took every ounce of his will not to go back to bed, but eventually the pull of the Other in his home became too much to ignore and he left his slumbering partner behind.
She would still be in their bed after he'd checked on their children. With any luck, once he felt reassured in the sanctity of his home, he'd be able to go back to sleep within her embrace . . . and maybe regain some semblance of peace.
He stopped first in the nursery sheltering their daughters. The twins slept comfortably in their separate cribs, dressed in matching nightgowns - one vibrant blue and the other verdant green - surrounded by a veritable mountain of stuffed animals and blankets. Both were lost to cotton candy dreams, completely unaware of their father's presence when Will padded into the room to adjust blankets and kiss foreheads.
Content in the knowledge his angels were safe and sound, the officer moved next to Sam's room. Dean's room stood empty next to the nursery and Will offered up a small, brief prayer for his absent son. With any luck Dean would arrive sometime this weekend, but - as per usual - they had no real guarantees.
As per usual Samonik remained at his desk, his head pillowed on his arms, fast asleep on the open pages of his books. Brooklyn Latin had been back in session for all of two days, but already his elder teenager stood shoulder deep in final projects. Chuckling fondly, Will moved to crouch next to the young man, one hand reaching up to rest on Samonik's shoulder. "Sammy," he murmured, fingers stroking gently in an attempt to gain the young man's attention. "Samonik, it's Will . . . wake up."
A soft groan slipped free of the younger Winchester, head rolling as he peered through slit eyes at his foster father. "Will?" he asked in a husky tone, tongue flicking out across dry lips. "What time is it?"
"It's about eleven, kiddo. Come on - up you get,” the older man ordered, prodding Samonik upright insistently, a fond smile on his face as the boy stretched around a wide yawn. “Let's get you into bed, okay? You'll be more comfortable there."
Samonik blinked hard, forehead furrowing unhappily as he straightened from his hunched position. Squeezing his eyes shut, he forced himself to focus, eyes opening wide as he blurted, "Will!"
Chuckling, the officer nodded once, "Yeah, we covered this. Come on, Sammy . . . off to bed with you."
"I fell asleep doing homework," he explained, turning a dazed look onto the stack of books, notepads and pencils across his desk.
"That I can see," Will agreed, coaxing the lanky teen to his feet and wrapping an arm around his waist as he herded the young man to his bed.
A slow nod came in response to that, Samonik dropping heavily onto the edge of his mattress. "I didn't mean to."
"I know, kid, it's all right. I'm not mad." Gripping the collar of his shirt in two fingers, Will shook the fabric gently. "Are you dressed for bed? Or do you need to get changed?"
"Um," he replied, looking down at his clothes for a moment, before shaking his head, "I'm good."
Will rolled his eyes as he tumbled the kid into bed, with a snort. "No, Samonik, you're exhausted. It is long past time you were asleep . . . in your bed, and not on your desk."
His comment earned him a sunny smile, another wide yawn catching his son off guard as he allowed Will to tuck him in and turn off lights shining around the room. "Thanks, Will," he murmured, already halfway to dreamland.
"Welcome, kiddo. Sleep well."
Getting only a soft hum in response, Will turned towards the door. As the man pulled the door closed behind him, he heard a final murmur. "Love you, Dad."
Spinning around, the door almost flying open, Will stared at the young man in shock. It took a moment, before the kid’s utter stillness struck him - Samonik slept, and probably had been sleeping when he muttered that last comment . . . or at least far enough gone that it slipped past all of his defenses. A sharp pang twisted in his chest as he realized the depth of trust implicit in his son’s words. "Love you too, kiddo. Good night."
A sleepy mumble acknowledged his words before the door clicked closed, leaving Samonik lost in dreams on the other side. Swallowing the lump in his throat, the father turned away from his son’s bedroom and moved to the last in the line of rooms along this hallway to check on his youngest son.
It should have been a quick check. Will could see the slope of Rene's shoulders in his bed, covers starting to slump towards the floor and leaving his back completely bare to the chill in the room. The silhouette of his child moved in time with his breathing, outlined in the moonlight from the window. A soft snort slipped free as the teenager's father slipped further into the room, intent on pulling the covers back up and over his son.
He bent to grip the sheets, when a soft feminine sound rang through the air, causing him to freeze in place. Fingers tightening around the cloth, Will straightened and caught sight of what he hadn't seen from the door frame.
Dacia Joelle Leiko-Keller curled up beside Rene, wedged between his chest and the wall behind her.
"How the hell?" he muttered under his breath, careful not to wake either of them.
Will distinctly remembered Dacia and Inari going home after dinner that evening, and Catherine called to inform the family that both girls made it home safe and sound. So what the hell was she doing here? And how had she gotten into the house? It hadn’t been through the front door - Will absolutely would have known about it. So how?
The mercurial gaze roamed the room in question, before catching on the slightly ajar window. Releasing the blankets so as not to disturb the children, Will moved to the window and pushed open the shutter, his stare directed downwards. No ladder stood there, though small fingerprints smudged the white wood of the windowsill. About twenty feet from the window, the old oak tree swayed in the minimal breeze, its closest branch stopping a good five feet from the windowsill.
Concern and anger rose in Will's chest, the officer rotating to face the rest of the room. Dacia's shoes - a pair of flimsy black ballet flats - had been kicked carelessly to the side of the window, tumbled across the floor like discarded toys. Her jeans were thrown over the back of Rene's desk chair, along with the peasant top she'd worn that evening to dinner.
His eyes squeezed closed with a heavy sigh, before he moved back to the bedside once more. Dacia seemed to be wearing a pair of Rene’s too small gym shorts, as well as one of his long sleeve tees, her legs tangled up in what little of the sheets remained on the bed. Both teenagers were out like a light, not even Dacia noticing when the Colonel lifted the blankets from the floor and draped them back over the two.
Neither stirred as Will brushed a warm kiss to Rene's temple, murmuring, "Sleep well, you two . . ."
He could admit to being preoccupied by Dacia's arrival as he returned to his partner. Attuned to his comings and goings as always, Marina stirred sleepily as he slid back onto the mattress beside her. "Everyone okay, Mishka?" she asked, rolling into him easily as he tugged her close.
"Mhmm," he hummed in agreement, free hand coming up to cushion his head as he stared at the ceiling, fingers of his trapped arm smoothing over her skin familiarly. Every scar, every imperfection had been mapped meticulously, their familiarity comforting as his brain worked through his tumultuous thoughts.
"You're thinking too loudly again," she scolded fondly, body arching into him as she stretched. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I think?" he replied with a rueful chuckle. "I just need to speak to Rene in the morning."
His woman hummed in agreement as she asked, "He in trouble?"
Rolling his eyes, he replied dryly, "Depends on his answer I guess."
Giggling, she tilted her head back to look at him, hot chocolate eyes sparkling with amusement. "Is there anything you can do about it right this second?"
He considered for a moment, before shaking his head in answer. Grudging acceptance colored his tone. “Only if I wanted to roust him out of bed."
"All right then. Deal with it in the morning - it'll be here soon enough." Her smile turned wicked as she trailed the fingers of one hand between the muscles of his abdomen, touch light and teasing. "Do you need a distraction?"
He groaned, hauling her over him to capture her smirking mouth. "You're a wicked woman," he informed her, one hand tangling in her hair and hauling her head back to get at the skin of her throat.
She moaned as he set his teeth to her collarbone, the sass of her reply replaced by breathlessness as she teased, "You love it." She gasped, as his hands gripped the sides of her lace panties and ripped them apart. "Hey! Those were brand new!" she protested through a pretty pout.
"I'll buy you a dozen just like them," he promised, teeth gritting as he stroked through her wetness to find the nub at the center of her pleasure.
"Damn right you will," she whimpered, clutching to him tightly. Crying out at his touch, she begged, "Misha! Don't tease!"
Will needed no further instruction, hauling her astride in a second flat. She cried out as he entered her, her back arching wildly at the stretch and her mouth falling open in a sensuous "O". "Oh damn," she murmured, eyelids fluttering as she began to ride him. Every thrust ended in a breathy gasp, her head fallen back and eyes closed as she rolled her hips.
His hands were implacable against her hips as he guided her movement, eyes a cerulean blue as he watched her, determined to carry her to the stars first. Bowing forward over him, she braced herself upwards as she hung her head forward, soft moans accompanying her movements. “Misha . . . please!” she wailed, fingers turning to claws as she cried out in frustration.
One hand came up to splay across her back as he rolled her under him, hitching one knee up into his elbow and driving deep. Marina all but wailed, her fingers scoring down his back as she thrashed under his weight, helpless in the face of his amorous onslaught. Together they plunged toward ecstasy, Will's thrusts stuttering as she clenched around him in completion. Burying his face against her shoulder, he roared out his own relief, before slumping against her.
Her arms gathered him close, stroking soothingly across sweaty skin and through disheveled hair. After a moment, he pressed a gentle kiss to the bruise he'd sucked into her skin. "Better?" she asked, voice still wrecked and causing a warm smile from her lover.
"Best distraction ever," he agreed, wrapping his arms around her waist and rolling them both over once more.
She giggled, smacking at his shoulder even as she settled onto his chest happily. "You're shameless."
"Hey - you offered," he reminded her, eyes closed as he enjoyed the peace and calm only his lover had ever been able to provide.
She hummed a noncommittal agreement, before cuddling closer. “Misha?” she asked in a breathless whisper.
“Yes?” he asked, breathing coming slow and easy, drifting further and further into incoming sleep.
“Sleep well, my love.”
Will woke hours later, alone in their bed with cold sheets where Marina had been. Groaning, he twisted to look at the alarm clock then groaned again at the blazing red numbers there. Granted, his usual habit had him waking long before seven on a weekend, but he would be more than content to sleep at least the next several hours away.
Flopping onto his back, he closed his eyes and listened the sounds of the house. He could hear at least three of his brothers - Jason, Aaron and Doyle, unless he missed his guess - along with Marta's teasing tone directed at her best friends. His daughters sounded like sunshine as they giggled and chattered to whomever paid them attention, while his sons seemed to still be in their rooms.
Suddenly reminded of Rene's late night visitor, Will rocketed upwards into a seated position. Whatever else happened that morning, he needed to speak to his youngest son . . . and find out why Dacia climbed through dangerously inaccessible windows to get into his room after dark. As he'd told Marina the night before, whether or not the teenager got in trouble would depend on his answer . . . so he hoped - for Rene's sake - that his son gave him a good one.
The Colonel managed to escape his room, fully dressed and ready for the day, with barely moments to spare. Both of his sons were traipsing towards the stairwell, the two shoving and pushing as they teased each other. Conscious to keep his tone even, Will spoke up, "Rene! My study, please."
Rene froze, eyes wide and nervous as he twisted to look back at his father. Mercurial eyes narrowed at the expression, Will unable to help wondering whether or not Rene knew about his father's late night visit to his room . . .
As for Samonik, he seemed to be in on whatever the trouble might be - or at least nervous about getting pulled in. He flashed a quick look at Will, then bolted down the stairwell without another look back, clearly unwilling to be caught if he hadn't been yet. Narrowing his eyes, the Colonel made a mental note to corral the elder teenager to find out how much he knew, before pointing at his study door. "Now, Enjolras Rene . . ."
Even as he paled at the use of first and middle name - a card played rarely and only for the most serious infractions - Rene fairly bolted for the study. Whatever he thought his father knew, it was a whopper . . . and Will felt certain it had nothing to do with Dacia in his bed the night before. Following after his son, he shut the door firmly and earned another flinch from the teenager.
Resolving to leave it for now, Will came further into his study. "Take a seat, Rene," he insisted, settling into his own chair and watching his son sit down across from his desk. The teenager lowered himself into the chair but froze again once his father inquired, "So what time did Dacia go home this morning?"
Blue eyes were wide and horrified as his son's head snapped up to meet Will's own. The kid's mouth worked fruitlessly, trying to find something to say before at last blurting, "You knew?"
"I couldn't sleep last night," his father replied, head cocking as he watched his son. "Something felt strange in my house, so I got up and made the rounds. Checking on each of you kids, same as I always do when I can't sleep. Your sisters were peacefully asleep while Samonik passed out over his homework, as per usual."
Leaning back in his chair, he kept his tone calm but scolding as he announced, "But when I check on you . . . I found more than one blond in your bed last night, Enjolras Rene.” He watched his son squirm, and continued with his recitation of the evening’s events, curious to see how long it would take for his most stubborn son to break. “I found no ladder at the window, though there were fingerprints on the sill – I’m fairly certain that’s how she came in because she didn’t use the front door. Furthermore, she wore your clothes, with her clothes tossed across your desk chair.” One eyebrow cocked upwards as he inquired lightly, “Care to explain?”
Rene looked shamefaced as he confessed, “I should have told you, Dad, but she asked me not to.”
Will sunk back in his chair, as he waved the teenager on. "I'm listening."
He blew out a breath, ruffling his bangs, before continuing, "She's having nightmares. Sometimes, when I can see she's not sleeping, I'll leave out clothes for her so she has something to change into when she comes over to sleep."
"Do her parents know she comes here for slumber parties sometimes?" he asked, earning a sharp wince and a shrug. Will's eyebrows rose at the non-answer as he demanded, "Answer the question, Enjolras Rene."
"I don't know. She's never said . . . I don't think so."
"Are you aware of how dumb that is?" Will asked, refusing to mince words in this case. "After Samonik's abduction, all of us are a little hyper-protective of our kids right now. And you're telling me not only does Dacia regularly trek across the city to our home in the middle of the night, she doesn't tell her parents when she does it? What if something happened to her on the way here, and she never made it? No one would even know she was missing, let alone where to start looking."
Rene winced at the scold. "You have a point."
"Damn right I have a point!" Will snapped, starting to lose his patience with his son. "Second of all, how the hell does she get up to your room?"
"She climbs up the old oak tree - I leave the window open for her."
"And what does she do? Jump?" he asked sarcastically, before seeing the grimace on Rene's face. "Are you shitting me!? She JUMPS!?"
His son looked down at his hands as Will pinched the bridge of his nose. "Bozhe moi, Rene! I know you're a smarter kid than this, but all I've been hearing since this conversation started are truly dumb decisions right and left!"
"She asked me not to say anything."
"Too bad! Sometimes, Rene, it's important to do the right thing, instead of whatever your friends want you to do. I realize that you've been pretty sheltered in terms of friends, but come on, kid - you gotta be smarter than this! If your friends are important to you, you protect them . . . even if it means breaking a promise or telling a secret they asked you not to tell. Do you understand me?"
"Yes sir," he agreed sullenly, earning a roll of Will's eyes.
"I'm not in the mood for your attitude, Rene," his father insisted, watching Rene blanch a little bit. "And whatever you and Samonik think you're hiding from me? I'm going to find out - did he know she was coming?"
"Inari told him," the teenager confessed, eyes fixed on his fingers as he fiddled them in his lap.
"Inari knows TOO!?" he demanded, suddenly feeling irritation flood through his veins like hot lava. "Is there a brain cell among the four of you?!" Standing from his chair, he moved to the window and stared outside, arms folded across his chest. "Go to breakfast, Rene . . . before I say something we both regret."
"Yes sir,” he agreed, all but bolting from his chair.
Will waited until his son’s footsteps faded from hearing before smashing the sides of his fists against the windowsill in front of him. Still frustrated, he lifted his fists and slammed them downwards again, a low growl slipping free at the same time. He thought he'd gotten through to Dacia - that her life held value! That no matter what, her safety and well-being meant everything, not only to him, but to Marina, to her parents, and to the rest of the family.
Except here they were - with Dacia putting herself into a dangerous situation without thinking about the danger inherent in such an action. And worst of all, his sons - his genius sons who, for the love of THOR, should know the fuck better - were helping her hide it! Furious and terrified, and struggling to reconcile both emotions, he gripped the windowsill like a lifeline, his head hanging between his shoulders as he heaved in air, attempting to stave off the panic attack he could feel lurking just outside of his gaze.
When that didn't work he began to cuss, his fingers curling like claws in the soft wood and gouging lines into the paint. A moment later, someone at the door gasped then a flutter of fabric, before a strong hand gripped his wrists and pulled them free. "Misha!" Marina demanded, forcing his attention away from his thoughts and onto his partner. She stood at his side, dressed in a cream colored 1950s-style sundress he’d never seen before, her hot chocolate eyes huge as she clutched his much larger hands between both of her own. "What's wrong?" she asked, meeting his eyes with worried ones of her own.
"Our sons are idiots. There are suddenly pretty girls, and stupidity abounds," he growled, tightening his hold on her fingers before tugging her into a firm embrace.
"They're teenagers," she reminded him with a bright smile. "Of course they are. You and your brothers weren't immune to the stupid hormone either, you know. You hid it better, but even you did some boneheaded things once you turned fifteen."
"HA!" Will shook his head in sharp protest. "Not over a girl, I didn't."
"True - Jason did though. So did Barney, and even Kenny to a much smaller extent than the rest of you." She smirked in amusement as she teased, “I think Clint was the only one I didn’t have to worry about making an idiot of himself over a girl – instead, he waited until he was in his twenties, and made an idiot of himself over Bucky.” Rolling her eyes, she joked, “Frankly, I’m not sure which of the two scenarios I prefer.”
He bent forward, his forehead coming to rest on her shoulder as he groaned. "Who decided that teenagers were a good idea?"
"Puberty," she replied succinctly with a smirk. "I don't even want to hear it from you, Mister. Welcome to my life, while you were off gallivanting around the world with Lucky."
He groaned, "So, do you want that apology in installments? Or should I make plans to buy out a Tiffany's for you?"
She giggled, lifting his chin and kissing him sweetly. "You're positively adorable." Turning her attention to his hands, she clucked her tongue at the mangled state of his nails. "Come on, love. The rest of the family is downstairs, waiting to see you. We'll get these cleaned and bandaged, then you can eat."
"You're a saint," he breathed, pressing a warm kiss to the column of her throat.
Beaming at him, she cupped his cheeks in her palms and pressed a soft, slow kiss to his lips. "You're either drunk or serious - and under both circumstances, you're adorable but still wrong."
He rolled his eyes at her, earning a series of giggles as she tugged him along after her and towards her kitchen. His eyes were fixed on the hem of her skirt as it swished around her thighs, mesmerized by the fabric as she led him along. "Is this dress new?" he asked, following her into the kitchen. "I don't recognize it?"
"It was a birthday present . . . I just hadn't gotten the chance to wear it yet," she replied, snagging a stool on her way past the breakfast bar and herding him towards the kitchen sink.
Jason looked up from his dinner, eyes widening a little at the mangled state of his brother's nails and hands. "Bozhe moi, pravitel! What the hell did you do!?"
"Lost my temper a little," he replied, wincing as Marina thrust his hands under icy water without so much as a "by your leave". "Probably a really stupid move."
Four month pregnant, and glowing with it, Dr. Marta Grimm sighed at the explanation, moving to get up and out of her chair at the table. Already on pins and needles with worry, her husband rushed to assist her. "Marta, be careful,” Aaron scolded gently, buoying her to her feet and steadying her tenderly, even as she smacked at him.
"I am pregnant, Aaron, not invalid," she replied with a huff, grabbing hold on his earlobe and dragging him down to her height for a brief kiss. Releasing him, she pushed him back down into his seat, before walking to the sink. "Let me see what you did to yourself," she ordered, earning a sheepish smile from her brother-in-law as he offered her his hands.
“Marina, would you grab the hydrogen peroxide for me? With all the woodchips and paint flakes, it’s better to be thorough I think.”
Will’s eyes narrowed as he teased her, “I think I liked it better when you were sweet and a little scared of me.”
She stuck her tongue out at him, eyes crinkling with her silent giggles as he blew a raspberry at her. "No one would ever believe you were such a jokester," she insisted, accepting the bottle of cleanser and cotton balls her de facto sister-in-law offered her.
"Don't you dare tell them either," he ordered fondly, wincing a little at the touch of the liquid to the broken skin of his knuckles. "I have a reputation to maintain."
"I'm sure you're very terrifying, Will," she teased, shoulders trembling with her laughter even as she focused on the mangled hands.
He stuck his tongue out at her, earning giggles from both of her best friends, Casey Shraeger-Grimm and Scarlett Doyle, both of whom remained at the table with their husbands. "And how are my favorite women today?"
Jason's wife smiled at the head of the family, her fingertips tracing over the back of her husband's hand where it lay splayed across her much larger bump – seven months pregnant, the former socialite grew closer every day to the desperation at the end of pregnancy. "Well, Marta is pregnant but still bossy. And I'm more pregnant, but also still bossy. The only one not pregnant is Scar, and she couldn't be bossy if she tried."
Doyle smirked as he joked against the rim of his coffee mug, "She used to be."
Scarlett turned scandalized eyes on her husband, the back of her hand flying out to connect with his bicep. "Doyle!" she scolded, earning a shameless grin.
"Well, I didn't think you wanted people to know how bossy you CAN be," he leered with a blatant wink.
The red-haired scientist rolled her eyes, "Lech."
"And you love it," he teased, hauling her into his lap and pressing a warm kiss to her cheek.
She snorted delicately, smacking at him ineffectually as he blew raspberries along the curve of her throat. The younger brothers chuckled to watch the two, amused as always by the playful bantering that seemed to make up a good majority of the couple's foreplay. Marina leaned back against the counter next to him, her hands looped around his free wrist as she inquired fondly, "Where are the kiddos?"
"In playing with the girls and hopefully exhausting each other," Doyle chuckled, hooking his chin over Scarlett's shoulder and smiling at her. "You don't mind, do you?"
"Of course not! With any luck, they'll all actually take a nap without fighting it every step of the way," she laughed with a bright grin. "Not to mention, we love having our nieces and nephews over. Bellamy going to stop by after Boy Scouts?"
"If that's okay?" Scarlett asked with a sheepish smile.
"I will make sure to have fresh sugar cookies ready for him," she promised with a broad wink.
"You spoil that boy!" Doyle accused fondly.
"Spoil my kolokol!?" she gasped in mock horror. "I would never!"
Will's nose wrinkled as he teased, "You absolutely would."
"Hush you," she scolded with a narrowed eyed grin. "No commentary from the peanut gallery."
He leaned over to kiss her cheek, before returning his attention to Marta as she announced, "There! All done!"
Bringing up his hands, he moved them in their bandages, relieved at the minimal pain. His arms looped around her shoulders as he pulled her to him, insisting, "Thank you, Marta."
"You're welcome," she replied, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing tightly. "Now, as to your hands. The damage isn't too bad, which I'm sure you know. Have Marina change the bandages in the morning after you shower, if you think they need it. Otherwise, leave them out to the air so they can scab over." A hint of sorrow pulled her mouth down into a small frown. "I don't think you'll really care about the addition of new scars, but even still, these won't be too bad."
He nodded once, both in acknowledgment of the statement and in thanks for the things she didn't say. "Thank you, Marta - truly."
She grinned at him, leaning back on Aaron and letting her husband manhandle her back into a chair. Once she settled, Will looked over his brothers curiously. "Not that I'm not always glad to see you all, but is there a meeting or something I missed?"
"We heard about Blanton," Doyle replied, a flash of fury flying across Casey's face at the statement, while Jason's jaw tightened with white hot fury. "We wanted to make sure Dacia was okay."
"A little bruised, but otherwise, yes - she's all right. Although whether that continues after I inform her parents she's been sneaking in through my son's window for sleepovers when she can't sleep, remains to be seen."
"His window?" Aaron echoed, seconds before Jason blurted, "Please tell me she doesn't climb that tree!"
"Apparently, she jumps," he replied, pinning his squirming son in his seat. "Rene and I had a long conversation this morning about why that is a not smart idea. And, just in case the habit persists, I'm going to be having stairs and a door put in . . . just in case."
"How does she get here? Their apartment is on the other side of the city," Casey asked, her eyes wide and worried as she looked around the table. Will said nothing, causing the redhead's eyes to widen still further. "She WALKS!?"
"It's been addressed, Case . . . we will be impressing on Dacia the dangerousness of her late night strolls. As well as arranging for some other form of transportation, in the event this happens again." Turning to his younger brother, Will’s eyes narrowed as he drawled, “As for you . . . I could use a favor.”
"Is this a 'destroy someone's life' favor? Or a 'use your evil for good' favor?" Jason asked with a cheeky grin, lifting his glass of orange juice to his mouth.
"Well, seeing as he's been arrested, I don't think you're going to destroy his life any more than it could possibly already be," the older brother drawled with a rueful chuckle. "Hold that thought - I need to go grab something from my office."
Jason's shoulders shrugged as he agreed, "Sure."
Leaning over to kiss Marina's cheek, the Colonel disappeared from the kitchen and headed for the file folder he'd been compiling since the night at Navy Beach. The memory of the young man arrested at the beach side restaurant would not leave Will alone, and he wanted to find out his identity . . . and where he'd started from. Will removed the file from the locked drawer where he kept his more ‘personal’ projects, before returning to the dining room and handing it off to his brother. "This kid doesn't exist."
His brother's eyebrows furrowed as he flipped open the file, echoing distantly, "Doesn't exist? How is that possible? Furthermore, who is he and where did you come across him?"
Aaron smirked as he teased, "I didn't see any new adoptions."
"He was arrested at Navy Beach, the last night we were in the Hamptons. Marina and I were there, for dinner," he explained with a fond glare at Aaron. "Also . . . mind your own business."
Marina giggled at the two of them as the second youngest Grimm stuck his tongue out at the eldest. "We bumped into him, and his lady, on the dance floor." Taking a deep breath in through her nose, she continued before the two younger brothers could start teasing her lover, "They had a PASIV."
Jason's jaw visibly dropped as Aaron's eyebrows rose in shock. They glanced at each other, before turning back to the Power Couple. "They had a what?"
"A PASIV - we both recognized the suitcase," Will insisted, folding his arms over his chest. "He sent her away with the case, so it's still in the wind. Considering the argument they were having, though, she wasn’t too happy to be leaving him. Neither of us think she’s gone far, though that doesn’t mean she isn’t underground either."
Scarlett’s hands waved to halt the conversation as she blurted, “Whoa whoa whoa! What the hell is a PASIV?”
“PASIV is short for ‘Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device’,” Will replied with a frown. “It was an Army project, designed with the intent to use dreaming to essentially hack secrets from its targets. The Army disbanded the project, though, about four years ago.”
Marina’s mouth twisted as she sneered, “As with so many of the Army’s more . . . unconventional . . . projects, it was dangerous and resulted in lasting damage to more than a few of the volunteers. The chemical compound used to put the dreamers to sleep, somnacin, proved unstable. Some emerged from the dreams mentally unstable, if not completely psychotic. Others, didn’t emerge from the dreams at all. They scrapped the project and, as far as we were aware before that night, the remaining PASIVS had been locked in a secure vault, in an undisclosed location, where no one would ever be able to use them again.”
“What happened to the test subjects?” Marta asked, eyes wide and features pale – considering the look on her face, however, she didn’t actually need an answer to that question.
Will’s jaw tightened hard as he reached for his partner’s coffee mug, grinding out through clenched teeth, “There was an ‘accident’ . . .”
Marta gasped, her hands flying to her mouth in horror. Aaron gathered her close, the couple intimately aware of how far the DOD would go to protect their secrecy. Casey and Scarlett both converged on their friend, while Doyle leaned forward on his elbows. “How do you four know about the project?”
“The people in charge asked Misha to helm the project – Jason and Clint were asked to be volunteers. But a program designed to steal secrets from the subconscious? Considering our secrets, we decided it wasn’t in our best interests to get involved,” the Russian explained, hot chocolate eyes blazing with rage.
Sensing the need for a topic change, Jason waved the folder and redirected attention as he asked, "So where did this come from?"
Marina glanced up at her lover, before shrugging, "Misha lifted one of the evidence bags as we were leaving, with his glass inside."
"You stole evidence!?” Jason asked incredulously, even as Marta inquired, “From who exactly?”
Will's eyes rolled, as he sneered, "The FBI - like taking candy from a baby. They were so absorbed in their detainee, they weren't even paying attention to the items they confiscated after they were bagged and tagged."
"We were able to lift the fingerprints and get them sent to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s CSI lab for processing,” Marina continued, leveling a quelling eye on her lover, before turning back to the rest of the room, “As for the glass itself, we turned it into Jemma Simmons as soon as we got back – she’ll get back to us as soon as she gets a hit."
"So I'm confused - why do you need my help?"
"The scan crashed their servers. They weren't able to identify the owner - and according to our asset within the FBI, they're not having any better luck. Whoever he is, he's taken great pains to hide his identity." A muscle ticked in Will’s jaw as he replied, “Ten to one, he’s supposed to be dead . . . and would like to stay that way.”
"Well, that'll make charging him a little more difficult, if they can't even figure out who he is."
"They have an alias, and apparently that's good enough for the government at this time. However, it means the most the FBI can pin him for is larceny and a list of other minor crimes." He smirked with a shake of his head, as he drawled in amusement, "Which I'm sure is pissing off the CIA - they have an extensive list of things where they suspect his involvement."
“So why did the FBI pick him up and not the CIA?” Casey asked curiously, her head tilting as she considered her brother-in-law.
“Because the CIA doesn’t have anything actionable that they can prosecute him for. They can’t even confirm his identity, let alone pin him definitively to anything. On the other hand, the FBI can – it’s in the file, but there’s surveillance of him breaking into a server farm in California and stealing a considerable amount of data.” His mouth twitched a little bit at the statement, before insisted, “Which seems sloppy, considering, but . . . no one’s perfect, I guess.”
Marina rolled her eyes as she commented dryly, “I’m going to remember you said that.”
Doyle frowned as he leaned forward on his elbows, eyes flicking back and forth between the two as he asked, "So why are you interested in this kid?"
"If he has a PASIV, he's more than likely a Dreamer. And imagine the advantage S.H.I.E.L.D. could have, if they had a Dreamer capable of stealing secrets from someone’s subconscious among their assets." After a moment, Will smirked, “Furthermore, he’s a thief, both awake and not – and, to be fair, aren’t spies just thieves with nicer benefits?”
Considering the expression on both Aaron and Jason’s faces, the two younger brothers both had to concede the point. As for the elder brother, he snorted, joking with a smirk, “And this is why I’m not a spy.”
Jason chuckled as he pushed himself to his feet. “And on that note, I have some work to do,” he insisted, waving the folder to indicate the work he intended to focus on. Reaching out, he helped Casey to her feet gently before pressing an adoring kiss to her cheek. "You coming with me back to the office or do you want me to take you home?"
"If you're going to the office, I'm going to office," she replied with a fond roll of her eyes, hands moving to brace her back. "Where you go, I go. That's kind of the point of security, yeah?"
“Considering you can’t see your feet and you waddle when you walk . . .” he teased her, dodging the slap she aimed at his head before hauling her in for a scorching kiss to her mouth. “God, you’re gorgeous and I love you.”
She giggled at the over the top flattery, even as she rolled her eyes. “Flatterer.”
He beamed at her, before turning to face the family leaders. Offering his hand, he let Will pull him in for a firm embrace, the two banging against each other’s back, before Jason stepped back to his wife’s side once more. “I'll let you know what I find out."
Marina giggled as he moved forward to hug him warmly, accepting his usual kiss to her cheek with a grin. “Thank you, Jay . . . we both appreciate it.”
“Take care of him for us, huh, Marishka? We like him this way – he’s not as growly,” Aaron teased his brother, earning a narrow eyed glare from the eldest Grimm.
As for his partner, she only shook her head in fond amusement. “Of course, Kenny – I kind of like him this way too. It makes for all kinds of horizontal adventures.”
Instinctively he gagged, shoulders hunching at the thought as he protested, “Marina!”
“Serves you right,” she scolded fondly, pulling him down for a hug. “Leave your brother alone, and I won’t start spilling a sordid recounting of our nighttime activities.”
“Lalalalala!” Aaron blurted, hands going to his ears instantly. His head shook frantically as he all but bolted for the exit from the kitchen, practically shouting over his shoulder, “I can’t hear you! Lalala!”
Marta giggled as she moved to hug the older woman, one eye slipping closed in a sly wink as she joked, “Well played.”
“Why thank you,” the Russian agreed with a chuckle. “Take care of yourself, Marta. No all-nighters in the lab, okay? The kiddo needs you healthy, so they can be. Promise?”
“I promise,” the young woman agreed, arms tightening around the Russian woman. “Thank you.”
Marina’s arms tightened in kind, though confusion colored her tone as she asked, “For what, honey?”
“For being you? For raising him into a good man? Just . . . for everything.”
“Ah, well – no thanks needed. I assure you – for the most part – it was all my pleasure,” she snarked with a giggle, earning a burst of laughter from the other woman as well. “Go on. I don’t think he’ll leave you, but better not test that theory, yeah?”
“Indeed,” she agreed, leaning down to press a slapdash kiss to the Russian’s cheek before fleeing after her husband.
Marina’s hand came up to touch the spot, turning to her partner with a warm smile. “Have I mentioned lately how much I adore that girl?”
“A couple of times,” he replied with a grin.
“Oh good. I’d hate to think I hadn’t sufficiently sung her praises," she insisted with a beaming grin.
Turning back to her stove, she nearly missed her youngest son's announcement. Will, however, did not. "Mama . . . Dad . . . I need to tell you something."
Suspicion darkened Will's tone as he spoke, catching Marina's attention as she turned away from the stove. "And how bad is this something? You look as though you're about to walk to your own execution, or something?"
"I might be,” he replied honestly, face twisted in an ashamed expression as he directed his eyes at the table.
The Colonel watched Marina's eyes widened in alarm, looking between their son and him in clear shock. "Rene . . ." she started, stopping only when her partner raised a hand to cut her off.
"What did you do?" he demanded, tone hard but as calm as he could make it for the moment.
Those eyes were very wide and very blue as they watched his father, before turning down to the table once again. "I've been looking into Merrick."
"WHAT!?" Marina exploded, horror in her tone.
"Marishka . . . go check on the kids, please," he ordered, his eyes never leaving his sons. Samonik stared at Rene in both shock and growing horror, though Rene seemed to be trying fervently to sink through his chair and then through the floor.
His Russian watched him for a moment, before nodding once in agreement. "Of course," she agreed, grabbing up a cloth and wiping her hands. Cocking her head, she suggested carefully, "You know - I think we're going to go get Bellamy early and go out for ice cream."
"That sounds like a good idea," he replied, confirming her unspoken suspicions.
"I'll see you in a few hours," she promised, going up on tiptoes to kiss the corner of his mouth. Passing kisses to both of her sons - even Rene, who leaned into the kiss for a moment, before straightening once again - she called to their children, "Kroshka, find your shoes loves! Let's go get Kolokol and ice cream!"
The cheers were cacophonous, though Will barely noticed them. There were a few minutes of chaos as coats were located and shoes put on, before the door shut behind the entire troop and the house fell silent once more. Rene flinched at the telltale thud, going even paler at the knowledge that there would be no further avoiding the situation.
"You wanna explain?" Will grit out, fury vibrating the edges of the words.
Rene's head shook once. Will's eyes squeezed closed at the gesture, before he stood from where he'd be leaning against the counters. "You deliberately disobeyed me, and your mother, and you have no explanation?"
"No sir," he replied quietly.
"You know why we said not to look into Merrick and his associates!" the Colonel barked, fear and angry melding into a sickening sensation deep in his gut. "You KNOW we didn't want anything happening to you! Not after what happened to Samonik! And you, what!? Thought you knew better than we did!? Damn it, Enjolras Rene!! Do you have a death wish!?"
By the end of the demand, the words came out at a near roar. Realizing this, Will's jaw snapped shut and his eyes slipped closed, hands coming up to scrub over his face. After a moment, he took a deep breath in through his nose and ordered with eyes still closed, "Go to your room. No computer, no phone . . . you even LOOK at your books, and your ass is going to be sore for a year . . . you do your homework. And if you don't have any, you better not move from your bed. I need to calm down, and then we're going to be finishing this conversation. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir." The teenager rose from his chair and bolted from the kitchen.
Rounding on the older teenager, Will demanded, "Did you know!?"
"Not that he wasn't supposed to," Samonik insisted, eyes wide. "He asked about anyone I knew that used to hang around Merrick that I could remember." His jaw worked as he stared up at his foster father, vowing solemnly, "I didn't know he wasn't supposed to be looking into it."
"I believe you," Will insisted through a tight smile. "Can I ask why you didn't think to tell one of us?"
"I don't even know?" he replied with a shrug. "I guess it didn't occur to me that he shouldn’t."
"Remind me to put a bullet into your father, okay?" He ground out the words, knowing where his son learned such a complete disregard for his own safety. "Go to your room. I have to deal with Rene a little later, but you, at least, are grounded."
"But . . ." the teenager protested, eyes flashing wide.
“No!” Harsh, but matter-of-fact, Will cut the protest off mid outburst. "No! I know you didn't mean any harm, but Sammy - you’ve got to learn, sooner or later, that some things are dangerous and should be left to the adults in your life. THIS being one of them. You KNOW what Merrick did to you . . . you can't tell me there wasn't a small part of you that didn't think this just might be a bad idea."
The way the kid's eyes immediately directed to the table meant the Colonel had hit the nail on the head. "Go to your room. If you have plans with Inari, you cancel them - you get one phone call. Five minutes - make it count."
"Yes sir,” he agreed, before following in Rene’s footsteps towards his room.
Will’s hands shook as he remained in the center of the kitchen, once again thrown off his center by fear for his kids. As much as he wanted a drink, he forced himself to turn away from the liquor cabinet and instead moved to the cupboard over the fridge. Grabbing the half empty pack of Lucky Strikes, he fumbled in the junk drawer for a lighter then moved to the back veranda. It took three cigarettes, before his hands stopped shaking and another two before he felt calm enough to think rationally.
Smoking one more for good measure, he reentered the house, stowed the cigarettes in their place, dropped the lighter in its drawer and then moved to the stairs. Each step felt like moving through lead, before he stood at the door of his youngest son. He took another deep breath, before knocking once then shoving the door open.
Rene's head snapped up from his desk where he appeared to be writing an essay by hand. "I'm not getting grounded, am I?"
"Oh no, you're getting grounded. You will be lucky if you're allowed to get your laptop back before graduation. But no - Rene, this is entirely too serious. What if you'd found someone, who believed in what Merrick believed in?" he asked, head shaking at the thought. "You could be dead. We could have lost Samonik, AGAIN. Rene - there was a reason we said not to look into it. It was for your safety; yours and your brothers' and your sisters'."
The teenager swallowed hard, nodding in agreement. "I am sorry."
"I don't think so . . . but you will be. And if you're not, your ass will be." Moving to the bed, he took a seat on the edge and gestured for his son to join him. “Come here, Rene - jeans down and over my lap.”
"Dad, I'm not a kid anymore," he protested, features set rebelliously at the implied childishness of the proposed punishment.
"Really? Cause just over the last 24 hours, I could find plenty of examples to prove you wrong," Will reminded his son, earning a grimace as the teenager conceded the point. "Shuck the jeans and get over here. Or a spanking is going to be the least of your problems."
The two stared at each other, Will daring his son to defy him once more, before Rene’s eyes dropped the floor and his hands dropped to his jeans.
Three hours later, Will sat in the den, sipping on a highball of whiskey and flexing his sore hand to relieve the lingering sting. The lights were off and the house quiet, the two boys ensconced in their rooms, and neither willing to push him further. As a result, it wasn’t hard to hear the creak of the door as Marina arrived home with a much quieter troop of children. “All right loves, nap times as agreed!” she insisted, channeling her inner drill sergeant.
To her credit, there were none of the usual moans and protests, each of the children trucking into the closet space under the stairs for the nap cots the couple kept for when their nieces and nephews came for sleepovers. He took a slow sip of his drink, listening to her quiet “I love you”s and tender kisses, before the door of the sunroom slipped closed and her footsteps moved down the hall.
She arrived at the door of the den in moments, shoulder leaned up against the doorjamb as she watched him. After a moment, her hands folded in front of her as she asked, “Are you okay?”
He said nothing, just set his glass to the side and opened his arms to her. Small and a little sad, her smile still comforted him as she came into the room and climbed into his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing his face into the curve of her throat. “We knew going in he was stubborn.”
“I can handle stubborn,” he reminded her, voice muffled against her skin. “But this wasn’t just stubborn, Marishka, this was disobedience at its worst. He could have gotten himself killed.”
“I know,” she promised, stroking her fingers through his hair. “How is Rene?”
“If his ass hurts as much as my hand, he'll definitely be reconsidering his actions in the future. His butt is red and he won't be sitting comfortably for a long while but it won't bruise - when I left him he was still crying into his pillow though.”
“Did you forgive him?” she asked rhetorically.
“Hugged him, kissed him, forgave him, promised him he'd taken it well, tucked him into bed then informed him he was grounded . . . indefinitely.”
“Fair,” she conceded with a small smile. “Where is Samonik? Out with Inari?”
“In his room, also grounded.”
“What?!” she blurted rearing backwards in genuine alarm. “Did he know what Rene was doing?”
“Yes but he didn't know Rene wasn't supposed to be looking into it,” he hedged with a sigh. “Ergo he's not grounded for knowing - he's grounded for ignoring the little voice in the back of his mind that told him it was a dumb idea.”
“So how long is he grounded for?”
“I haven't decided yet,” he grunted with a frown.
“You know they have that thing . . . the singing competition with the girls next month - Rene's 'statement’.”
“Which they can practice at school during lunch, before class, free period. Debate club and student council or home, that's final. I am not making exceptions this time Marishka. Not with either of them - they have got to learn to be smart and to protect themselves.”
“Agreed. And I will support your decision in this, I promise.”
Giving her a tight, crooked smile, he insisted, “They could probably use a visit from their mom.”
“Their mother will get right on that . . . once she’s checked on their father.” She fisted her hands in his hair and pulled his head back, eyes all too knowing as she examined his face. “Are you okay?”
Avoiding the question for a second time, he asked her calmly, “What are we going to do with him?”
Rolling her eyes at the deflection, she resolved to leave the question for another time. Considering the question, she pressed her lips together for a moment, then insisted, “Pray . . . hope . . . and do the absolute best we can.”
“And if that’s not enough?”
“It has to be,” she replied firmly. “I refuse to accept any less.”