He threw open the doors to his room and posed dramatically in the doorway until the doors crashed against the wall, head thrown back. A multitude of glittering eyes turned towards him immediately, reflecting the light of the hallway behind him.
“Hello, my lovelies! Mommy is home!”
The Amazon snorted behind him and flicked the light switch, ruining his moment entirely. He let his arms fall, glaring at her as she picked her way through the room nervously.
It was beyond him why his lovelies made everyone so nervous—they were so cute! But Cinderella had made it very clear that he would kill every single one of them he found outside of Snow’s room, and no one else ever entered his room because of them, except for Red Riding Hood. The Amazon even taking a step into it was something of a shock.
“What are you doing?” He asked softly, trailing after her. She came to a stop in front of a row of vials, all sealed and resting on a metal rack—all of them finished poisons he had yet to test out.
And probably would never get to test out. The Grimm didn’t like them killing anyone.
Except for Cinderella. He got to do whatever he wanted. A frown twisted Snow’s lips at the thought.
“I have a question.” The Amazon’s voice drew him out of his sulk.
Snow raised an eyebrow and pulled himself up onto the table beside her, picking up a vial and turning it over in his fingers.
“Why don’t you like Rapunzel?” He laughed, tugging the rack of poisons out of her way so she could sit beside him. He leaned against her as soon as she had done so—she was plenty strong enough to support his weight. He was very light, thank you very much. Princesses had to keep in shape.
“The brat is an idiot.”
“And…?” She asked, mimicking him.
“And what? Does there need to be anything more? She’s stupid. And it goes without saying that she’s jealous of my beauty and how much better of a princess I am.” He added, setting the vial back into its rack.
“So that’s why you made her go out with Cinderella tonight?” Her amusement was poorly concealed.
“I told her the Grimm’s birthday was coming up and that Cinderella was going shopping. I didn’t make her do anything.” Snow corrected, shooting her a look. A very pointed look.
The Amazon seemed more amused by his hatred of the other Märchen demon than upset—she was close to Rapunzel and he’d almost been worried his disdain would anger her. It did with Bremen—the donkey-creature was startlingly protective of her. Otogi didn’t mind his conflict with Rapunzel, at least. She unnerved him, with her constant attention. But Snow only vented about her to Red, except for those rare occasions when Cinderella wasn’t acting like an adult when Otogi wasn’t present.
One of his lovelies had slipped free of its tank, and it crept along the table, making a beeline straight for the Amazon. He scooped it up and let it skitter its way across his fingers.
“Ew! You are so lucky Cinderella isn’t here!”
“It didn’t leave the room. He made me ask them not to.” He snapped defensively, drawing his hand closer to his chest as he hopped off the table and stashed the spider back in its tank. He’d been neglecting his pets as of late—they wanted his full attention. His dwarves were nice, but they missed him.
Soon, he promised, idly. He knew it was a bad habit of his, to get so distracted by less important things, but Red would remind him when his lovelies began to grumble loud enough for the Wolf to hear them.
Footsteps clattered against the stairs outside of his room and a second later Sorimachi tumbled in, grabbing the doorframe and swinging his upper body in an effort to keep from slamming into a table filled with terrariums.
“Gririri found the DVD so if you aren’t too busy we can start the marathon.” He declared, swinging an arm towards the stairs dramatically.
“You’re not bringing any of these downstairs are you, Snow?” Sorimachi added after a moment, pausing with one foot off the ground. Snow glared at him in response as he closed the tank’s lid.
“Don’t forget, I know where you’re sleeping tonight.” The words were punctuated by a glance towards one of his lovelies, a massive snake eyeing Sorimachi thoughtfully from its cage.
“And I know who you’re sleeping with tonight.”
“If you’re that jealous, I’m sure he’d let you-“
“Downstairs, now!” Hatsushiba’s voice was far shriller than usual and she bolted past the two of them, pausing only long enough to grab Sorimachi’s arm and drag the boy after her. He let out a sigh of exasperation and followed. She was so flustered about it. Almost as bad as Rapunzel.
“Where’d he go?” Sorimachi asked, bouncing down the stairs and halting at the Grimm’s side. Otogi was waiting at the foot of the staircase, holding a DVD case in one hand and staring, befuddled, at an empty doorway. The Amazon inched past, trying and failing to get by without being noticed.
“What’s wrong with Bremen?” The Grimm asked slowly, glancing up and meeting Snow’s gaze.
Was he really that stupid?
“You’ve got a movie for me, one for Cinderella, one for Red, one for Rapunzel, and even one for Puss and those creepy brats, but not one for him.” Snow didn’t miss the way Sorimachi’s shoulder’s tensed at the sound of Puss’s name. The Grimm noticed as well, and he hesitantly touched Sorimachi’s back. Sorimachi immediately leaned into the touch, relaxing a touch.
“I’m sure there’s an American cartoon for him…”
“But not a movie. Look, relax, I’ll go get him.” Snow sighed, brushing past the two of them. Bremen would cry about it for the next year if he didn’t go—
—A loud crash had Snow hitting the ground, hands flying over his head. Red had drilled the reaction into his head during one of his bad nights, and Snow had taken it seriously—seeing the wild terror lighting the Wolf in Red’s eyes had been horrible.
He heard the Grimm cry out and heard fumbling, movement, Hatsushiba shriek—
Otogi-kun immediately grabbed for his Grimoire, pushing Sorimachi back behind him and, as a result, up the stairs a few steps. Hatsushiba shrieked, arms lifting over her head as she threw herself back against the wall behind her as a glittering hail of glass sprayed across the floor.
“Bremen!” She shrieked, shards pelting her jeans and t-shirt. Nothing cut through, thankfully, but she fell into a defensive stance immediately as she lifted her head—
—and found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
Her blood ran cold. She had been expecting another demon. Maybe Blue Beard, or one of the ones who Cinderella refused to speak of, those that made his eyes grow dark and his smile brittle.
Part of her marveled at the normalcy of the situation. It was just a gun.
“Shit! You didn’t say there was anyone here!” She recognized the boy pointing a gun at her. An upperclassman at their school—one of the ones Sorimachi used to hang out with.
“What the hell do you think you’re—?!”
“I said shut it!” The boy jerked the gun towards Otogi as he screamed, eyes flashing dangerously. Hatsushiba pressed her hands against her breast, glancing over the armed boy’s shoulder towards the dining room, where Snow had disappeared into.
Instead she saw a second face, a second boy she also recognized from school—this one being one of her brother’s friends. They recognized each other in the same instant, and the blood drained from his face.
“Hey, look, calm down-“ Sorimachi began, hands in the air as he took a step closer to Otogi-kun. The gun wavered, flying to point at him.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Snow’s drawl sent relief pulsating through Hatsushiba’s chest, and she looked up as he pushed past her brother’s friend, folding his arms across his chest. The boy with the gun spun around, the weapon shaking gently in his hands.
“Where is it?”
“Don’t play stupid! The money!”
Snow very slowly, very deliberately, pressed one hand to his mouth. He had the same expression he’d had when he’d tried to kill her—a peculiar mix of amusement and fascination and contempt. His Sadistic Look, Otogi-kun had dubbed it. A flutter of terror started beating against her ribcage. They’d made him swear not to kill anyone, even if a human threatened them, but…
“…Are all humans as absolutely fucking stupid as you? You honestly believe all the shit about there being-“
“Where is it?!” Snow eyed him coldly for a moment, before smirking again.
“The basement. In the fireplace.”
“Snow!” Otogi-kun gasped, eyes widening. A chill ran down Hatushiba’s spine. He hadn’t been stupid enough to put Cinderella’s page back in the fireplace, had he?
The boy kept the gun leveled at Snow.
“Lead the way! Now!” Snow didn’t move.
“Oh, cute. You think you’re scary.” The boy’s face twisted in anger, but Snow continued before he could speak.
“Why don’t you let us show you scary?”
And the shadows behind him exploded into snarling teeth and claws and wings—and two gunshots burst out in rapid succession. Hatsushiba lunged forward, but her brother’s friend caught her—held her back as she writhed, screaming for Snow and Bremen as the shadows withdrew, a mewl of pain coming from behind Snow as Snow’s eyes went dark—
“What the hell was that?!”
“Bremen!” Sorimachi’s voice was hoarse, and he threw himself down the stairs. The boy with the gun turned quickly and leveled the weapon point-blank at Sorimachi.
It was touching his forehead.
Hatsushiba watched his eyes widen, horrified.
“Take me to the money!”
The moon was full, and going for a walk felt like tempting fate—but Red couldn’t stand watching movies unless he was also occupied doing other things, and he couldn’t do that because there was No Doing Those Things in the Living Room anymore.
Though, to be fair, all of their clothes had been on and their hands had been above the waist when Rapunzel had walked in on them. Mostly.
He let out a low growl, barely containing the urge to hit something—he hated full moons. The Wolf was closer than ever before, and the only things Red could concentrate on for any periods of time were sex and killing.
And things had been far too quiet as of late for killing to be something he could focus on. He’d at least expected the Beast to show up, or even the Snow Queen. Hell, even Bluebeard coming to try something with Rapunzel or Hatsushiba—something should have happened. And nothing had. Not since they’d killed the Grimm’s family.
Granted, his father hadn’t been much of a father and his uncle hadn’t been much of an uncle. But still. Their bout of patricide seemed to have scared the others off for now—if not permanently.
The house grew on the horizon, its large bulk blocking out the moon—a relief. The Wolf quieted, if slightly, and Red let out a slow sigh. The walk had been a bad idea. It had put him more on edge than usual. Coming back home was already calming his thoughts.
And then the first gunshot went off.
“I’m going to kill this fucker.” Snow hissed. Sorimachi looked up at Snow, at the shadows writhing against the ceiling.
“Look, let’s just talk this over, alright? You think that, what? There’s money here? Dude, have you seen the décor? It’s dust, wall, and floor. If Otogi had money there’d be actual stuff.” He kept his voice calm, hands spread unthreateningly. The metal was ice against his skin, bruising it was pressed so hard against his forehead.
“Shut up! Both of you!”
“Hey, man, I’m not—I’m not crossing her brother. He’ll kill us. C’mon. This isn’t—“ Sorimachi let out a yelp as he was suddenly dragged forward, tumbling into the boy with the gun—he was one of the kids Sorimachi used to hang out with, when he’d been under Puss’s control. He was spun around violently and dragged back against the boy with an arm around his throat as the gun was leveled at the second boy, the one who’d spoken.
His terrified gaze met Snow’s, and he saw pure rage in the demon’s eyes. Revenge. Bloodlust.
Snow White took a step forward, and everything just…slowed down.
He felt the recoil rocking the boy’s body behind him, saw Snow’s mouth twist into the sort of snarl he had only ever seen on Red’s face, saw him double over and fall.
And a second shot rang out.
The impact sent him flying backwards, crashing into the ground and skittering across the floor into the dining table. Hatsushiba bolted for him, and Otogi ran for Sorimachi, and everything was chaos and movement and pain.
Death was not a concern. Only another Märchen demon or Otogi could end his life. But he could still feel agony.
And this—this—was agony.
Blood splattered his fingers, pumped across his stomach as he clutched at his side, where the bullet had punctured. He could feel it, grinding against bone and mangled flesh.
He forced himself to sit up, to put his feet beneath him and stand. All of his lovelies were banging against his mind, demanding he let them out so that they could tear his attacker apart—
He couldn’t let them do that. They’d kill the Grimm. And Sorimachi, and the Amazon.
His limbs trembled, shook. He hadn’t been in this much pain since he’d tried to kill Otogi at the school, and Cinderella had bitten him.
Red had been so furious afterwards. Snow had never seen him so angry before.
The click of a gun’s safety being flicked off froze everything. All of the chaos just…stilled. His breathing was loud in his ears, raspy and desperate, and Snow looked up.
“Get the fuck away from my family.”
If it had been anyone else, he would have been relieved. Finally, something to kill.
If it had been the Fox, or the Grimm, or the girl—those who could actually die—he’d have killed the intruder on the spot. If it had been Cinderella or Rapunzel or Bremen, he’d have been angry. The Wolf would have howled with joy.
But seeing Snow slump against the wall, blood splattering the floor beneath him and pain twisting his face just as intensely as it had all those years ago—
The intruder scrambled around, hands shaking as the human pointed the gun at him.
“Stay away! Get back! I’ll shoot!”
Red fired a single shot, and the human screamed in agony, gun tumbling to the wooden floor beneath them in a spray of blood.
He moved without thought, without hesitation, and raised the gun to the human’s head, ready to pull the trigger.
And then Otogi was there, slamming a piece of wood into the back of their head with all the force his wiry frame could summon. The human crumpled, and his shot missed—slammed into the wall behind the two of them, not too far from Snow. Snow White jumped, then let out a strangled noise, coughing blood up as he fell back to the floor.
That sight terrified him more than anything he had ever seen before and he was there in an instant, the intruder forgotten.
Snow slumped against him without a word, eyes closing as a shudder wracked his thin frame.
“Get the…brats out of here.”
It wasn’t a request, and even the Wolf quaked in fear at the look in Snow’s eyes.
Something that the kids didn’t know—when gravely wounded, a Märchen demon needed a human soul to heal themselves. They wouldn’t die if they didn’t get one, but spending the next hundred years wandering around with a giant hole in your stomach was incredibly uncomfortable.
Their natural healing rate was…slow, to put it lightly. But Bremen’s blood stained the air thicker than Snow’s did, and the shadows edging the room were growing darker.
Red glanced up sharply, ready to snarl at the others—but only the Fox remained, and his eyes were ice as he stared at the intruder’s crumpled form.
The Fox glanced up at him and nodded, sharp and decisive.
Red found himself fighting back the sudden sting behind his eyelids, as the Fox hurried upstairs.
Wet fingers touched his cheek, and his attention returned to Snow White.
“Red Riding Hood…you…remember your promise?” Snow asked softly, hand slipping back down as a violent tremor wracked his body. Red couldn’t bring himself to say it. Instead he nodded, and a small smile touched Snow’s lips.
“Then…go, huntsman dearest.”
And he went.
Otogi wasn’t sure what he had been expecting when they came downstairs the next morning, but what he saw was worse than anything and everything he could have dreamt up, while being better at the same time.
There wasn’t a mess of gore, or signs of some horribly bloody encounter. There wasn’t a body. Snow’s blood had been cleaned up, and the window repaired. But there was a small-ish smear of blood where the kid with the gun had been lying when they’d gone upstairs, and there were gouges in the wood on the doorframe Snow had fallen past when he’d gotten shot.
Big gouges. Bremen-sized gouges.
Cinderella had come home at some point during the night and swept into Snow’s room—which he and Hatsushiba and Sorimachi had holed up in—with all his usual grace, telling them calmly to stay put until I get back and to go to sleep. Like they were five.
But he’d come back and he was leading them downstairs, and that was really all Otogi cared about.
He led them into the basement—surprise, surprise—and Hatsushiba promptly shrieked. Shrilly.
Despite the fact Snow had been the one to get shot, Red was the one sprawled unconscious on Snow. Shirtless. As was Snow.
“What did I say about that?! Put some clothes on!”
Sorimachi just sorta bounced over to them and flopped down on top of the two of them, waking up Red immediately. Snow snarled at him, though his eyes weren’t cold like they were when he was angry.
Otogi sagged against the wall behind him in relief. Something dropped onto his shoulder, and he pulled Bremen into a hug without a thought.
Something sticky smeared across his neck when Bremen nuzzled him, but he tried not to think about that.
Sorimachi had almost killed two girls for abusing Hatsushiba, once. Otogi hadn’t understood it at the time, until Hatsushiba had explained what the girls had been doing to her. And he’d been so fucking glad he hadn’t been in the position Sorimachi had been in because he knew he’d have done the same.
So he couldn’t—and he wouldn’t—fault the others for doing what they’d done.
Red let out a growl when Otogi landed beside Sorimachi, but even as he did so he snaked an arm around both boys and Bremen.
“You okay?” Otogi asked anxiously, shifting his elbow into Sorimachi’s side as he lifted his head.
Snow looked exhausted, but there wasn’t a hole in his abdomen anymore, and he sneered at Otogi’s question.
“Of course I am.”
“Don’t be rude.” Hatsushiba chided, smacking the back of his head. He glared at her and she sat next to him, joining their rather impromptu body pile. Cinderella watched from a nearby chair, looking amused.
“I can’t breathe, you fat humans.”
“Good thing you don’t need too.” Hatsushiba replied, throwing an arm around Snow’s shoulders and hugging him tightly. Otogi stared at her.
He wasn’t positive if she was right or not, and that was strange. The Märchen demons most definitely breathed like normal people. But he’d never drowned one to see if it did anything to them. Red was scared as fuck of water, and though Snow loved swimming—skinny dipping in particular—Cinderella liked looking more than he liked participating.
The irritation in his face faded, and he leaned his head against Hatsushiba, seeming to finally relax.
“I’m glad.” Sorimachi’s voice was almost inaudible, and Otogi pulled him closer without a thought. Red’s arm tightened, too. Bremen got squished, especially when Cinderella finally got off his ass and joined them, but…
They were together. And alive. And safe.
“You should go get the movies, Amazon.”
“There’s no television set down here, Snow White.” Cinderella chided, voice softer than it usually was. Snow rolled his eyes.
“Then get one. Be useful.”
“Fuck the movies. Somebody get food.” Red growled.
“I second that.”
“No.” Otogi grinned at the curt response and pushed himself up, scrambling off of Red and Snow and Sorimachi as he half-tumbled into Cinderella’s lap.
“Where’s Rapunzel?” Hatsushiba asked after a beat of silence. The Märchen demons glanced at one another before replying.
“Cleaning up. Cinderella was too wound up to anything when he got home, besides fix the window.” Snow finally said, shrugging. Fingers brushed Otogi’s throat, and he glanced up at Cinderella. Whatever sticky stuff—because he was refusing to think about it—had been there was gone now.
“Really? You refusing to clean?” Sorimachi asked, but the bravado he usually spoke with was gone.
What had happened had terrified them. And they were putting on a brave face, and the Märchen demons could see right through it.
“…I wouldn’t mind some coffee right now.” Snow finally said, carding his fingers through Sorimachi’s hair. Red slowly cracked an eye open to glare up at him, and Hatushiba grinned.
“Yeah. C’mon, Red. Six sugars for me.”
“That’s more sugar than it is coffee.” He growled back.
“With milk!” Snow added.
“And creamer.” That was Cinderella.
“An’ that funny nutty stuff Snow uses too!” Otogi chimed in, grinning as Red’s scowl slowly deepened.
“I’ll take a hot chocolate.” Sorimachi said, voice muffled.
And Red kept glaring, but he untangled himself and stalked upstairs.
Otogi volunteered to go with him, despite Cinderella’s barely audible mew of protest, and scrambled after him.
“Hey, Red?” He received another glare, this time from Red’s scarred eye.
“What?” His voice was guttural, and had been. Far more than it usually was, as of late. Whatever they’d done last night, it had brought the Wolf very very close to the surface.
“…You…thanks. For protectin’ us.” He didn’t just mean Snow. Red’s expression softened into a familiar half-smile.
“…Promised, long time ago. Ask Snow one day. When he’s drunk. Or when I’m drunk. Not a good story, but…better than Cinderella’s.”
“What’d you promise?”
And Red’s mouth twitched, as he raked a hand through his hair.