Do witches dream in enchanted sleep?
Gretel Kuhn stared at her ceiling and wondered. It bothered her – these flickers and flashes of memory that came to haunt her in her dreams. The pictures seemed jumbled, confused – bits of imagery with no set place in time or space. Some things appeared almost familiar and yet others…so foreign. Were they memories of her time under the enchantment? Hansel spoke of no such dreams. Even if he said nothing, one of the others would – at the very least the two most rambunctious of her nephews.
A smile softened her mouth as she considered her brother and the family he surprised her with upon her awakening.
In the past…they had no such family. She remembered only soft blurred memories of her mother and father. It hurt sometimes to realize how much she had forgotten. They deserved to be remembered, to have their memories honored. Such sacrifices – their own lives to save her and her brother. After that – in the forest, in that damned candy house, and in many long years after there had only been Hansel and herself. They made up their own family.
Then they picked up the boy Ben – who made her smile with his clear admiration – and Edward. The loss of both of them still cut at her, particularly her troll, Edward – so dangerous and yet so gentle with them.
For a brief moment they had also had the golden-haired, and golden-hearted, Mina. Gretel mourned her loss as well. She did not truly know the other woman, but the good witch had proven herself a loyal, brave soul - stepping forward when it would have been safer to remain secret. Without Mina’s help, Gretel and her brother would have died on the Blood Moon so long ago. For that alone, Gretel would forever keep the woman in her prayers, but more – she, along with Edward, taught them to look deeper, further into those they hunted.
Now, in this future – they possessed so much more. The richness of her family sometimes took her breath away.
Hansel remained her constant, her steady anchor against the buffets of the winds of fate. He proved a good teacher as well – in learning to acclimate to all of the changes which reshaped the world since she last walked its surface. Awakening to find him close by came as no shock to her. Her brother watched her back, always there to shield or assist or give her whatever aid she needed. To find him married? Now that startled her. She would not say she disapproved – she wanted her brother happy after all – but for him to give so much trust to this woman surprised her. Witches had been known to try and tempt him with illusions of beauty and innocence in the past. (Only Mina had been genuine, and Gretel knew Hansel still remembered her with a warmth he gave few people.) Gretel felt she could be forgiven her initial concerns about Maria Hill. It would be only natural for her to worry for her brother. So she accepted the match, but she watched and learned. Maria’s devotion to her husband and her best friend, her amused (sometimes irritated) acceptance of the Grimm family men, and her own strict code of honor won Gretel over. This was a woman she would be proud to call sister. The darling little miss Minna… How did Clint say it? Added frosting to the cake? Yes, she approved of Maria for Hansel.
Even if Gretel reserved the right to tease him for picking a woman who could kick his ass just as good as his sister could.
Clinton Francis Grimm… Gretel’s smile crept into a grin. He loved being the baby of the family, no matter how he tried to grumble. His playful manner and open-hearted acceptance won her over before she even quite grasped how much the world had changed on her. The excitement in his words and in his movements as he spoke to her drew her out as she had to laugh at his puppy-like nature. It did not hurt that he expected her to be a ‘badass’ as he put it.
That extended to all of her nephews though – they did not question her abilities or her skills, but rather focused on helping her to update them for this new era.
She could not think of Clint without his partners coming to mind. Gretel curled her arm under her pillow as she considered the trio. While she had seen many things in her life and her travels, the partnership still came as a bit of a surprise. And yet – it worked for them. Clint dragged Bucky into the world, showing him the life that could still be found despite a dark past while he drew Darcy out of her comfortable niche to experience the wonders beyond her safe boundaries. Bucky provided an anchor, a foundation when Clint tried to fly high enough to touch the stars, risking getting that generous heart of his broken. He did something similar for Darcy, but it became more of a tether to keep her from drowning in her need to take care of the people around her. Darcy blazed like sunlight in both of their lives, reminding them of why they fought and giving them a reason to come home to prepare for the next battle. Darcy brought hope, Clint gave them life, and Bucky stood vigilant guard.
Another person came to mind anytime she considered Clint – and that would be his partner-in-crime: Aaron Kenneth James Grimm – such a mouthful for her humblest nephew. She knew his story and she would kill anyone who dared to try and pull such a separation on her family again. It would be slow and it would be painful. With Aaron came Marta of course, and Gretel could rarely picture one without the other. They made such a strong effective pair, balancing each other in ways few of the others seemed to need. Both of them remained quieter than most, leading them to be overlooked by people who did not know better. Give them the right motivation – a loved one injured for Marta or in need for Aaron or, God knew, a threat to either of them – and the two proved to be just as dangerous as any.
The gentle undercurrent though…
Gretel felt warmth uncurling in her heart at the thought of the tender love shared between them. Not to say the others lacked such softness, but these two more than any of them exemplified it. They could be hard and they could be ruthless, but they seemed meant to be the touchstone for the family’s softer side. She often wondered if that – even more than the memories of ‘Kenny’ – led to everyone’s automatic thoughts of sheltering them.
Thinking of Aaron and Marta led Gretel next to Sam. Samuel Braddock – and why no one just made the change official and call him Grimm escaped her – held the honor of being Hansel’s first grandchild. She repressed a laugh. People blinked in surprise when one of the boys called him ‘Dad’. The good Lord alone knew what their faces might be if they heard Sam calling him ‘Grand-dad’. Still, grandson he was by the family reckoning – and the first of that particular generation as it were. It meant he stood the chance of being even more spoiled than Clint. Though the thought led her to shudder.
Movement behind her brought her motions to a standstill.
After a moment the movement settled and she let herself relax, turning her thoughts back to Sam. He never would be quite that spoiled, but only because they did not acquire him in time to do so. Gretel remembered the stories of how Aaron brought Marta’s nephew home to help him escape an abusive household. What kind of idiot would abuse such a wonderful person? She banished the question from her mind. He belonged to them now and they took care of him. Him and his lovely Jules - Gretel approved of the feisty young woman.
Truth be told she approved of all of the matches in the Kuhn clan. Strong men and women all of them, each willing to stand and fight to the best of their ability, using their strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses and letting the others cover them in turn.
It amused (and somewhat saddened) her to watch Sam when the family gathered. He still treated each day with them as a priceless gift – one he never expected to receive. She could see it best when he looked at his wife, letting his eyes linger over the rounded belly which cradled their unborn little one, or when he gushed over his little sisters, and even with his brother – for all that Rene could bring out Sam’s temper as well as his affection. So much love and dedication in him, such a desire to protect. Adopted he might be, but blood or no blood, Sam was Kuhn through and through.
The thought of her brother’s oldest grandson brought her to his adoptive parents, the head couple of the family. For all that Hansel might be considered the family patriarch, it did not give him the leadership of the family. That role belonged to one of his sons – and Hansel’s loyalty to William Michael Grimm burned as bright as any of the others. Gretel herself felt no compunction about following Will’s orders. If he told her to kill someone, she would – and she might think about asking why later, but maybe not. He bore too large a burden on his shoulders, but he bore it well. Most of that could be ascribed to his partner, Marina Ivanova Petrovka and their twin girls Valya and Katenka. Gretel resisted the urge to chuckle out of respect for the sleeping form beside her, but it was a near thing. Who would have ever thought she would consider a Russian girl a part of her family? Stranger things had happened in her life she supposed, but still…a Russian? Her ancestors must be turning in their graves. Ah well – family she was and Gretel accepted her. She might feel closer to Will, but the difference was infinitesimal. Even that small amount faded when Gretel considered Will’s scars – physical and mental – and how much Marina did to heal him.
Gretel’s eyes narrowed in dangerous contemplation. She and her brother had crafted plans and lists in regards to the men who so damaged his sons. One day…one day they would have a different sort of hunt. That such humans could exist and do such evil – it beggared her imagination. They acted worse than many of the evil non-human beings the siblings hunted.
She shook herself free of the thought. It would be a thought for the future, but for now she wanted to concentrate on her family. Her mind moved to Will and Marina’s firebrand.
Young Rene… Gretel gave a soft mental sigh. She feared for him more than the others at times. Enjolras Rene Grimm threw his heart into so many causes, pouring himself into them without a thought to his own welfare. It worried her that one day he would tear himself apart trying to fix the wrongs of the world. Not that she disapproved of his desire to help, but he held nothing back. He burned so bright…would he burn himself out? Hopefully the family could help ground him in his passion – and perhaps they could do the same for the girlfriend and friends he gathered around himself.
Her eyes closed in a plea for patience as she considered that quartet – Rene, Nina, Courtney, and Maxwell. God help them all.
Speaking of Russian family members… Her craziest nephew and the love of his life came to her mind next. To be honest – she found them amusing. Brian Joshua Grimm scared people. Grown men and women, the pick of the world apparently in various fields, tried to avoid the gym when it was his turn to work with agents on their hand-to-hand. That made Natasha his perfect match. They ran from her as well. Combine the two? Then the flight became a full-fledged rout. Why no one seemed to comprehend that a little respect and a lot of listening (plus following directions) would lead to learning a great deal from two experienced agents frustrated her. They could teach, and were willing to teach, but how could they be expected to respect people who would not even meet their eyes?
Granted – Gretel had been given the full story of the boy once known as Barney and she had seen him batter at the cage Brian kept locked. She could understand caution, but she could not understand running about like frightened chickens. The family had orders to shoot Barney on sight, and she would if necessary, but she trusted Brian – and Natasha – to keep him locked away where he could do no harm to their kin. Watching him with the children – Minna, the twins, even Sam – confirmed it for her.
Brian would shoot himself before harming them…or he would let Natasha do it.
She sighed. For now there was no reason to dwell on the thought. Instead she turned her focus to the next brother – Jason Leonard. In an odd way, the middle son turned out to be the most independent of the lot. Though he loved his family and preferred to work with them, he could take or leave SHIELD or the army without losing much. His fiancée Casey on the other hand…. Oh, no, she steadied his world. Losing her would throw him so far off-balance he might never recover. Hansel told her of the earlier woman, and she agreed with her brother. If Sarah loved Jason as he deserved to be loved, she would have forgiven him. To withhold such forgiveness… Gretel could not imagine a worse punishment to give to a loving heart. Casey must have seemed like a light from on high.
From what she’d been told, it certainly sounded as though Jason had been blind-sided by the red-head.
Gretel gave a silent laugh. The upcoming wedding seemed to be on everyone’s mind, but the quiet bets being laid behind the scene might be the most entertaining part of the entire affair. Bets ranged between who would catch the bouquet to who could give the most embarrassing speech to whether or not Jason would sneak some technology into the wedding itself. The bet getting the most attention at the moment centered on who would be the first to snap and put Casey’s mother in her place. Some bet on Casey, others on Jason, and still others on Marina, but Gretel did not bother putting down any money. If the woman continued with her insinuations, she would be dealing with the Kuhn siblings.
After all – Jason and Casey should be concentrating on the wedding. So should Marina. Let their elders handle the nasty business.
James – why did Will insist on calling him Doyle? – and Scarlett came next on her mental countdown, followed by Gus along with his friend, young Malee. Hansel’s eldest sons still seemed to be finding their fit in the family, but Gretel had no doubt what little distance remained would be wiped away. The family wanted them and the family would keep them. Discussion finished.
If the thought of one Russian seemed amusing and two downright odd, the thought of four truly gave her cause for thought. Marina and Natasha’s sisters, Vika and Nika started off an impressive list of ‘extended’ family including Vika’s husband, the quiet but dangerous Phil Coulson, and Nika’s boyfriend Jim Street. Gretel rolled her eyes at the thought of the last couple. She liked both of them, of course, but when those two found their way into the same place as Brian and Natasha…something insane and explosive should be considered imminent. How it was that someone as dangerous as Natasha and as insane as Jim could somehow manage to give Brian the balance he needed to contain the unstable Barney she would never know.
Owen, Will’s best friend, went through life with amusing commentary, deep devotion, and a practical mindset. Gretel approved. She also approved of Vincent and Catherine. The doctor, along with Marta and Scarlett, created a rather daunting triangle of genius. He might not operate on quite the same level as the women, but given his ability to understand them when it came to their work… It all went over Gretel’s head and she was happy to have them on her side. It also did not hurt to have three people with some medical ability to corral the Grimms, especially considering her family could evade Medical better than they could hits and blows from the enemy. Catherine, on the other hand, remained a detective in the city, but she protected Vincent – and by extension the rest of the family – with all her strength. Even when that meant becoming blind and deaf to the classified things happening around her.
And then came the rest of this madcap, misfit family – Daryl and his wife Carol, plus little Sophia of course, as well as Deeks – these names! – and Kensi. Sometimes Gretel could not take in the abundance. So much family and so many more to come! And there would be more she knew. Between the babies – plus those to come – and her niece’s tendency to adopt adorable strays, Gretel knew she could count on the family to increase as time passed.
Unintelligible grumblings broke the silence before dropping back into the deep breath of sleep.
Her lips curved into a loving smile as she turned her head to consider the man lying on the opposite side of the bed. Steve Rogers alone surprised her almost as much as everything else put together. Romance never made a big impact on her life. Her life centered on her brother and their fight – and no man she ever met seemed to understand her need to stand up to the evil hiding in shadows. Even fewer could accept the strength of connection she shared with Hansel. Then came Steve – with his own story of lost time and broken bonds and reforged brotherhood. He too came from a difficult childhood and a life devoted to standing up for those unable to do so for themselves.
She pursed her lips – even if he did have a tendency towards sulking.
And despite the lost and found nature of his life, he proved to be the one who could free her from the curse and awaken her from her enchanted sleep. Here she was, a fighter able to stand up against all manners of evil, and yet she became one of the ‘damsels’ of legend, sleeping away the years…even if they were not spent in some high tower guarded by beasts. Gretel could not quite suppress the huff of laughter. Her life was a fairytale – a twisted fairytale, but still a fairytale.
The warm body behind her shifted and then a strong arm wrapped around her waist. She gave no resistance as Steve pulled her flush against him, his body curling around hers. He nuzzled just behind her ear. “Gret? You okay?”
“Just thinking,” she assured him.
“Hmm.” The sleepy hum made her smile. “You’re thinking too loud,” he told her, voice rough with exhaustion. “Think in the morning.”
Her hand brushed along his arm, reveling a bit in the comfort she had never allowed herself to accept before – to sleep, to trust another at her most vulnerable. She had trusted her brother of course, but this connection with Steve…this was different, very different. “I can do that,” she agreed. Sleep began to creep up on her once more as the thought of the dreams crossed her mind. Perhaps witches did dream when enchanted or perhaps her imagination worked overtime, she no longer cared. The enchanted sleep might have stolen time from her, but in the end she and Hansel had the last laugh. They lost the past, but won the future. The battle might have been forsaken, but the war…the war went on.
And the siblings were no longer alone.
Gretel let herself drift towards slumber as she brought up a memory of each of her new family members, each beautiful and beloved face. The contentment flowed through her veins. Yes, she won the future – and this family would make sure the war would be won. She would do whatever it took to keep them safe.
And the Lord have mercy on the souls of whosoever tried to harm one of her kindred…
…for she would not.