Worm

The Grimm

Chapter XIII

The fire's warmth seemingly grew when logs were adjusted as a fading sun barely remained visible past an entire mountain. Grimm absently inhaled despite crouching to light up tinder neatly tucked underneath to allow a lighter's flame free reign. Yellow and orange seemingly ignited when he stepped back puffing out smoke to let oxygen fuel itself. Surprisingly, it's been a nice day so far since I caught a few bass. God call me stupid, I still can't believe I was casting too far out. Well live and learn, I guess your good friends are actually decent folk not apart of your cousin's gang...woman.

Sitting back while absently raising a finger in which small metallic objects extended into stakes did he begin adjusting a budding fire accordingly. Five, or smaller stakes split off from one larger piece as they were embedded neatly around chairs nearby. Kids and their marshmallows, least I don't need to hear the woman, or her friend bitching about kids running off into the woods. He absently eyed figures through windows preparing, or rather getting ready to serve food ranging from burgers and more time required dishes. He could smell it through opened windows, if only distant chatter as mostly everyone had been inside for a few hours.

But he'd been outside all day as Rascal had reluctantly strayed inside to charge his laptop hours ago. So far no screams, or human induced infernos broke out. It seemed Scorch was hell intent on keeping a building standing and he was content to have some quiet peace for once. Exhaling lightly to lean back into a wooden chair while crossing legs absently, "It's going to be nice seeing stars." Glancing upwards in seeing slight traces of twinkling lights made himself appreciate some small wonders, even if the temperature dropped drastically.

His dark grey light coat only exposed a black wife beater shirt with the silver cross glinting off an ever growing series of flames. Glasses which kept his hazel eyes obscured seemingly reflected light, if only diving the firer a dimmer outline mainly when crackling pieces of embers began gradually. He sat there quietly enjoying when crickets started emerging as night prominently descended. Waves sloshed against a peer and lightly splashed on shorelines, it'd be an incredible night as far as he was concerned at this point.

"I could live here everyday." Muttering exasperated when humoring what it'd cost as he glanced over towards people who laughed among themselves. Blond hair stood out as Scorch seemingly waved off her friend's attempt in wrapping an arm around them both. The husband was probably keeping an eye on children, or was being helped considering Rune and Rascal were possibly watching television in some tense facade of tolerance. Yet it'd have to do, or else he'd put his foot down eventually to keep them in line.

God, I swear you got a funny sense of humor in tempting me. Looking off across a darkened lake did he absently puff out smoke lazily. Wooden branches along with dried up leaves got swept up into making an entire pit glower a bright yellowish orange. The heat increased considerably in making him crack a smile, "Not bad." It lasted for several moments until it dropped away when his eyes looked upward in seeing twinkling lights distantly flickering.

Even though he found himself surrounded by nature and very little traces of urban settings, Grimm couldn't help but bitterly snort aloud. It's different from bar hopping, I'm not as tense yet I can't shake it off knowing I'm too used to it. Been looking to settle down, if I had a chance and now I'm just laughing because I don't like I can let it go just as easily. Shaking his head mildly annoyed in being caught within his own procrastination's didn't entirely make things clear cut. But where was that sense of full and fulfillment in pondering what little future could...happen?

"You've had seven years man." Grimm reminded himself mainly out of sardonic amusement to fully lean back inhaling on a half burning cigar, "And I'm still looking for a sign." Chortling quietly in finding that oddly familiar considering it'd been a long time since placing himself in the Lord's hands reluctantly. Nostalgically it left him wondering whether old friend's he'd left behind would say considering they were just south of Massachusetts's border. They would be egging me to try, I just fucking know it. Or drag me to confession, I still find that strange considering I'm not into the habit of telling people my life story.

Shaking off old humored beliefs were one thing, but they weren't entirely discarded because of his choices. Yawning loudly while leaning back did he hear doors opening with chatter, "Least getting a home cooked meal is certainly worth all this trouble." Cackling under breath did he eye Scorch and her elder friend snapping at a husband to help them coerce smaller kids out of the living room. They were all carrying paper plates, or drinks on hand despite maneuvering crutches when all the little hellions groaned loudly in being told to help carry anything.

After seeing one of them trying to scurry away from an annoyed mother, "Christ, help me." Grimm smiled when getting up to head towards a small growing riot of smaller kids trying to worm their way out of helping. Kids, they always make a mess of things don't they? Without being asked he simply plucked two plates out of Scorch's hands when glaring a bit irritated at his snark grin. Both were mixes of burgers, potato and possibly some sort of pasta like dish. He didn't deny it made his own stomach rumble since they were quite appeasing.

"Fire's good, so get over down yonder and let the parents have their fun. Let them eat some damned marshmallows and get a sugar high, or something." Apparently the younger siblings who heard him immediately started running laughing which drew an aggravated groan from their mother. If Grimm found himself unusually aware he never bothered to admit it, "Really?" Scorch's voice sharply came close when a crutches end snacked itself into his leg partially unimpressed. Adding fuel to an almost human induced inferno couldn't be ignored.

"Couple bags underneath my seat, kids. Tear into them!" He called over laughing with a cigar coming close to incinerating due to an unnatural red glow growing overtly. Eying it well aware he chuckled all too pleased, "Careful. Don't cause a fire, woman." Scorch's crutch came slashing at his shin in a bid to trip him up, if only barely in saving food from spilling onto grass. Somehow he managed in setting them down on arm chairs all too easily.

The mother who spoke quite annoyed, "God help you, John." Grimm only pulled out a partially full glass handle of whiskey which had been conveniently next to bags of teeth rotting goodness. Raising a small metallic shot glass did he mention all too knowingly, "I'll leave him a message since you're asking for my sake. But I've learned despite getting closer to being at peace, I swear he never replies back. So yeah, I'd say you're shit out of luck."

That certainly wasn't appealing even though children were tearing through a bag as he sat back down groaning happily. Fresh food mixed with burning wood and just seeing star's overhead only solidified temptations that were staring him dead in his face. It's almost a different world out here, so different and I can't help but wonder why I'm trying to avoid it. Price to be paid, but being among these capes is just absolutely crazy to humor let alone seeing them every damned day.

Inhaling sharply to lean back proved to be a saving grace considering Scorch's friend spoke curiously enough, "Do you not believe in God?" Pondering in a show of consideration, Grimm replied flippantly to flick off a cigar's ashy end towards flames, "Love and hate the bastard." He'd been asked those questions for years by various people, or had been brought up in numerous conversations years past. It was almost second nature to simply expect someone who ever asked for a meaningful answer, but telling how it is was too priceless because it was truth.

"Kaitlyn." Scorch's tone tinged on exasperation when settling down to glare somewhat irritably, "He's catholic, so please don't start." He wasn't blind to some old schism's that were alive and very stubborn to endure. Despite insisting on keeping a conversation relatively stale, Grimm couldn't resist grinning just to mention absently, "We're all children of God. And Christianity is so splintered, now I wouldn't be surprised to say the damned thing even if you spoke in some devil tongues that were gibberish or were Jehovah's witnesses."

A blond woman covered her face exhaling deeply as Grimm snapped both fingers, "Actually to hell with those cultists, I'd tell ya to go to hell but you're already in it!" Laughing loudly due to a gradual buzz taking root for some looser confidence. Although he got two of Scorch's supposed friends staring at him strangely, they weren't offended or seemingly bothered. More so when her husband poured himself a glass of whiskey ever so relaxed.

"I heard you served which I have to ask, do you have faith?" She asked curiously enough despite Scorch covering her face mildly trying to cut the conversation yet Grimm didn't particularly mind it. These were questions discussed over drinks, cigars and numerous other times when no one saw him alone. Faith? It's an odd topic, but I can't resist enjoying a good conversation for once. Maybe your friends are better than you'd realize woman, because how many talk about what's happening in this country? Settling in to cross over a leg while absently flicking ash off a cigar did he take his time to reply.

Then again very understood that serving for Uncle Sam wasn't glorious, nor did it hide the fact that it wasn't revealed to those willing. Most who did were a very few in genuine pride as most did for benefits, "I have my faith now, but I never found it back then." Grimm's smile turned crooked when puffing out smoke casually, "It was wake up, go to formation and see the ugly truth that most men I saw were the worst of us. Drug users, alleged child molesters, blatant favoritism and all that good stuff generally in having a lack of empathy because it's the god damned army. No place for those distractions in war, I just say how it is because there's nothing really to say when it happens everyday whether you bitch about it, or defend it."

Casually continuing despite it drawing stares from the adults who had varying degree's of interest found themselves uneasily stiff, "Overseas? Deserts that are bone dry, huge ass mountains and plenty of people who act like retarded man children. They're not us, not the same people or blood and they never will be yet everyone thinks it'll magically happen when gunning down insurgents who'll never give up their homes. Sure if you call an airstrike it'll scatter them, hell I'd say just blow up a village or two since it's not difficult and then crack open some beers on a FOB." It wasn't difficult, or remotely jarring to brush over most mundane routines when most of it barely happened and if it did, it'd been so sporadic that mainly avoiding bullets overhead helped keep adrenaline going.

"Why do you care about that shit hole?" Grimm asked mainly humoring a streak of sardonic obscurity that never died inside. And surprisingly expecting some sort of bleeding heart answer made him whistle lightly. Kaitlyn and her husband Derek snorted jointly, "We don't! We care about our soldiers who die, I lost my grandfather in Vietnam and my husband lost his brother six months ago fighting over dirt that isn't worth anything. I wish you were wrong about what's happening inside the army, if my husband and I heard about it."

Her husband didn't say much despite drinking swiftly in keeping an eye on his kids, "It's changing and not for the better. Lack of standards, discipline and my brother was a drill before switching to some combat role." Grimm visibly twitched due to older memories of his initiation into the armed service given they were indeed changing. But he'd been apart of the older methods, so it'd been quite jarring which made him stronger internally to remain composed in life. Even if recent events forced him to consider other options again.

"Capes are taking over." Scorch's voice tinged on expectation as her friends sneered lightly, "Only thing worse than idiots deciding our country is thinking they're above everyone for flying around, or ripping people apart. The Protectorate is the military, police and everything with regular folk being watered down resources." Her friend's husband bitterly spoke up in which Grimm raised his own glass accordingly in supporting that thought. Yet he kept his mouth shut in favor of listening to really get an idea on them genuinely.

The kids were ideally oblivious in favor of roasting deserts before dinner even if they overhead everything. They didn't know exactly what would be coming as they grew up, Grimm privately understood that imagination mainly because they'd get it worse off. Blame the next generation for this generations fault, but regardless if an issue is discovered. It goes way back, well before any of us or our kids were even considered twinkles in our parent's eyes. Least their not considered bud-wiser babies like I was, or...others back home.

"Ever hear of Camp Light?" Grimm asked smiling crookedly in drawing attention from three adults who had similar expressions of curiosity, "It's an old program during the late nineties were Protectorate and Uncle Sam were looking at capes who were...amendable. It's all hush-hush type of stuff, some consider it a conspiracy for capes who aren't technically unreasonable, or violent to be turned into suitable workers to keep the peace. Not sure if the ones my friends and I discovered are still active, or moved which is quite an eye opener for most but given everyone knows about that super-max prison somewhere up north?"

The man simply shrugged after none of them commented about lesser institutions meant for clandestine intentions on their soil. Oh well, might as well explain to them. Woman doesn't know, I never talked about it beforehand. Yawning loudly he filled them going back to some older operations before capes and para-humans were running about, "It came from Operation: Mockingbird back in the sixties I think? Ah well, least that idea of subverting a local populace, Protectorate looked into it from what I read up on and they liked it. Since it wasn't wasting para-humans who could do them some good, or our society they set up black sites around the country...probably still have them to this day and secrecy is their greatest trick."

Several logs burning crackled sharply as it made the eldest para-human simply kick one close to feed flames. The kids were happily chewing away getting faces stuffed much to his amused smirk, "Only reason why they keep that Birdcage a poor secret, it's like Area Fifty One. Meant to keep your attention on something obvious, but it's the shit you don't see that makes everyone shiver because they don't want everyone else to expect it to exist." He took an incredibly long drag from a cigar to exhale deeply in enjoying a nicotine rush. This kind of conversation hadn't been expected, so he'd make it to his personal enjoyment to relish in it internally.

"You know about the Birdcage?" Scorch questioned disbelievingly at him due to the fact he'd been hiding for seven years, "John!" She said his name sternly as her friends smiled jointly in seeing him exaggerate snoring in response, "What? They held public lynching, trials or whatever on capes who were needed to keep the populace happier. It's on the internet, Rascal dug it up when I talked to him one night where you weren't around. Christ, it's not exactly subtle and it's meant to keep most capes in check in being sent there."

Kaitlyn looked over at Scorch playfully mentioning, "You know I expected him to be someone with more class. It's funny, I haven't seen you so angry at someone who doesn't listen to you." Her husband snorted loudly to bark out somewhat offended, "Because you and her are like sisters! It's bad enough I get hell for trying to have a day for myself, or the kids and this guy just doesn't give a damn what you two think. Praise the lord, I envy it!"

If the two women weren't annoyed already, then their expressions signaled to Grimm who laughed finally impressed. Someone gets it, finally. Perhaps triggering years ago, it'd knocked something loose within both literally and figuratively. Yet he changed over time far too quickly, or rather had simply shut that part of him away since it was no longer necessary. Joke is I don't care about what anyone thinks about me, outside of being Grimm because I naturally can't give a damn since triggering! Man oh man, God help me because maybe I should move up here because I'm really enjoying myself getting a hint.

Regardless of internal thoughts he found a chance to simply love a chance just to raise his glass to have it clank against another. Grinning impeccably impressed the para-human mentioned happily, "You're too damned right my friend. Woman won't say it, but I just love it!" Gulping down liquid smoothly did he absently mention as well, "What I know as fact? If I'm going to do something, or anything then I'll get the damned thing done. And I don't care about consequences if it's all me, since I just love watching you people squirm."

Scorch oddly enough didn't dare in interrupting him which garnered some sort of curiosity, "They say there's a method to madness." Grimm's smile curled quite impeccably smug, "But insanity is what I call someone's bad day. And this country is absolutely having a very, very bad day...everyday." That last word turned almost condescending to stare at the woman's friends. A couple who found themselves uneasily seeing a side he'd naturally kept aloof from anyone but of his own company, or personal friends in being himself.

"I'm sorry about John's sense of humor." Scorch's voice dipped genuinely exhausted to remind them somewhat knowingly, "He's fought in a war. And..." Before she could placate an already arising tension did said man break it effortlessly. Swishing liquid within a glass as he took an impressive dragging inhale to gruffly chortle aloud. Behind tinted glasses eyes narrowed coyly into repeating one word he'd been sick of hearing an entire lifetime, "Sorry?"

Grimm's smile turned widely into sardonically leering, "Every fucking day, all I hear is sorry for being a white man. Everyday, we see the signs that if you're a para-human, or a white American that they say sorry for existing...and this country's government is fermenting all of these policies for an obvious goal in making men like me seem mad with hate." An old passion arose swiftly in making knuckles clench damning glass into nearly shattering. Underneath a chair did he find to gather several small pieces of rusted metal, all were vibrating yet no one but himself was in tune to notice with flames crackling loudly too close.

"God made me for who I am. As both man and whatever he has planned." Grimm's voice came close to mocking the very being who he still had faith to believe in, "I'm still learning why I live in a world where everyone say's sorry for us, who gave them that world. And outside your little town I'd think everyone lives in their own insane worlds. I envy that you have something to come home too, everyday and I don't hear you saying sorry for having a life that few can't understand in being happy." He honestly told them so directly, too bluntly and it caused even a blond next to him to appear quite startled.

Perhaps having too much to drink let something within him slip again, "Even with para-humans do I think that they still belong to their own. Just because someone fly's around, or is able to skewer a couple dozen cops alive? We're still our race, of human...and being this color?" He tapped his own forearm knowingly proud, "It just means people are different. We'll never think the same, act or believe together when we're to blame for every problem. Para-humans are just, in my opinion the latest to be propped up by Uncle Sam and his little Protectorate friends."

The woman who knew Scorch whispered scandalously, "You're a racist?" Grimm leaned back rolling eyes to every imaginable heaven humoring a good conversation. It's all the same damned thing, one word for another to hide what everyone knows naturally. Although he made it abundantly clear to flip an old saying for something far more sensible, "Oh sure! Guess I hate everyone equally, but I just happen to love more than others. I guess school taught me something as a kid, 'Some are more equal than others', so calling me racist is just a joke in itself."

Exhaling smoke visibly to grin contently did he finish lightly, "But racist is a term meant to discredit anyone, or any institution to be a justified morale supremacist. Inflicting change through constant violence, screaming and threatening those like my people, to be their eternal problem and as victims will enforce it over everyone else by force. It is systematic indoctrination which that is why, Kaitlyn I damn well believe why racism and terrorism have lost their meaning because everyone is insane enough...to believe new meanings for it, everyday."

The Protectorate's power was with Uncle Sam, as it was with them after decades of melding them together flawlessly. Neither could be trusted, or held to account because who argued against power that ruled with an iron fist. Or they can have para-humans who can rip apart an entire building? Both act to keep each other in power, it's all about making everyone believe they can't be destroyed. Yet I say, I'm damn well willing to give a shot after waiting for seven damned years. I hoped, I waited and all I got was even worse after no one listened.

Absently kicking a burnt log further into flames did embers angrily fizzle upwards in a shower of flickering orange coloration's. Several landed on Grimm's arms yet he hardly flinched due to being exposed to worse recently, "But that's just me seeing a lot of things happening eventually. So despite my gloom and doom? You have a family, a piece of happiness that you wouldn't trade for anything in this world. Or, am I wrong?"

Scorch outright reached over in using a crutch to spear his shins, "John...enough." Her expression became incredibly infuriated much to Grimm's sardonic grin. Her attempts in introducing him were as good as he'd get it, because few could understand him as a person yet alone humor most of what he'd dug into years ago. Can't have a good conversation anymore nowadays, it's either conform or you trying to keep a sense of control. Woman, you try too hard! Leaning back into his seat mainly to inhale on a cigar deeply, an earnest terrorist and mass murderer seemingly found himself idly wondering how these people would've reacted.

"How can a man like you think like that?" Kaitlyn questioned earnestly while trying to understand as her husband answered his wife's disbelief, "It's because he can, love. And that doesn't happen when most of us think the same way, I say he's not wrong for pointing out a mess someone is going to eventually clean up." In response for good sport, Grimm raised a cigar partially agreeing out of habit, if only for giving a sense of relief to humor thought provoking questions. Scorch's crutches left his shins momentarily despite exhaling loudly, she appeared exasperated and utterly exhausted even with smoke being blown her way intentionally.

Nearby children were ignorant laughing, or grinning due to them having a mix of dinner and desert respectably. None of the elder adults, para-humans and parents seemingly gave them a sign to stop themselves. Flames kept arising from sticks, logs and remained potently warm in warding off cooling temperatures. Waves sloshed up against a wooden peer, as leaves were blown indicating autumn was coming around at last. And the conversations fell silent with Grimm casually taking drags on a cigar humming under breath at times sporadically.

"God, I hope Lisa isn't going insane if this is your friend." Kaitlyn remarked wryly impressed and equally concerned towards a blond who grunted back, "Let's just say I hear about it! Everyday, either from him being John, or someone gives me a call." That got Grimm chuckling loudly but refused to say much, even if it was technically her fault for sticking around. It didn't help they weren't aware of her own cape life, much less his own and with two other para-humans who were quietly eating had listened to their conversation immensely.

Scorch although thankfully leaned back to finally ease herself away from anxiety, "But I'm sure your sister is fine, Kaitlyn. She got accepted to college, but why are you concerned?" Both husband and wife looked to one another uncomfortably, as they looked towards their children who were blissfully aware of the latest topic. And while they were off in their own little world, Rascal as well as Rune perked up mainly due to the elder para-humans.

"College?" Grimm spoke up amusingly entertained, "Where? Boston?" He guessed as Derek pulled out a phone to activate the screen to scroll down message boards on some social media, "No, John. She got accepted to Brockton University, apparently she's doing well and all..." The man trailed off frowning before Kaitlyn stiffly gestured to hand it over towards Scorch, said blond looked put off with Grimm exhaling out smoke through nostrils.

The rather modest phone had pictures of a smiling person similar to an elder sibling and without shame he scooted over viewing it without an issue. Huh, oh lord! A college in Brockton Bay? Christ, if that high school was utterly shit, then I'll be impressed if this is considered Ivy League material. Scorch kept scrolling through past message histories while on some profile, if only frowning deeply and inevitably she turned over towards him.

"What's the issue?" Grimm prompted when seeing basically similar messages whenever Kaitlyn asked about her younger sister's well-being, "I never went to college, I was poor as hell and ended up across an ocean getting shot at, woman." The blond's eyes narrowed coldly when an image was viciously tapped and her voice sounded utterly disgusted, "Look at whose around her, John. Recognize any of these colors they're wearing?"

Grimm took the phone out of her hand to lean back into his seat grumbling, "Oh lord, give me a second to not humor liberal college kid's having a party!" Inhaling on a cigar, a pair of hazel eyes took in various smiling and grinning faces to only blink owlishly. Holy...shit. In the center where this sister was standing with drinks on hand, laughing and seemingly having the time of her life. Several figures were among a group leering, as if posing smugly with one of them oddly familiar to Grimm, it took him several long moments.

He mouthed out a word smiling in sheer disbelief, "Merchants?" Scorch's expression hardened to a point where she tapped one particular person who was smoking a white cylinder like object, "Look whose right there...I'd recognize that negro anywhere!" It didn't take too much as to who she'd refer too, but either it was a coincidence? Or maybe Skidmark of all people knew something was up in seeing her that night at that bar with Kaiser.

You gotta be shitting me, Skidmark wasn't wrong! Plus on that night he was saying all that to her face...for a first time greeting? All too knowingly Grimm hummed while nearly chewing on a cigar's end humoring some coincidental evidence based on a photo. Either someone knew about Scorch's personal life, or he was that good at reading people somehow. And truth be told, it would make sense as to how he knew to taunt her well enough. Oh god it seems like there's trouble in the family, if he says she's got mommy issues.

Going through messages again to which he started frowning partially, "Damn." He mumbled seeing exact messages repeating every other day, before they switched over and again exactly matched until something stood out. It's a pattern, like an automated system and my gut's not wrong when someone isn't supposed to be using another person's account on social media. Shit, I maybe crazy but even I know this isn't a person you'd normally know using this girl's phone...what the fuck? There's even more merchants in these other photos!

Crossing both legs while going through photos did he finally look up, "You're going to owe me a big favor if this is what I think it is, woman." He smiled widely seeing her expression twist in a mix of relief and concern. Scorch wouldn't have handed him a phone so readily, but it seemed it was an unheard fear that got him curious about this particular person. She couldn't outright look into it because she was Kaiser's cousin, apart of Empire and unfortunately for Grimm, he had some leeway to consider humoring some internal family problems.

Truce with the Protectorate I can stomach, but they never said I couldn't deal with other para-humans who make a living off poisoning college kids. Apparently he'd be risking his own neck and ass again, if only out of concern for a blond who'd do it herself. But she wouldn't be able too, if the Merchants figured out how much of a connection she had to Max Anders. Or maybe he was overthinking things too much, if Skidmark had outright gotten her to ignite after saying a few specific words to trigger her outwardly.

"How long has she been in Brockton University?" Grimm asked casually until handing off a phone back to the blond who gnashed teeth due to viewing photos further back on a timeline. Derek leaned into a wooden chairs cushion while drinking, "About seven months, I think? She graduated last year from school, then got accepted into spring semester and she hasn't come back during holidays, least that's what I recall John."

Kaitlyn gripped arm rests to mention absolutely concerned, "She hasn't even chatted with us on video, Lisa is like me. We both get home sick, but I'm worried...Derek." Her expression weakened to possibly stop tears from falling in front of her children, Grimm hardly seemed disturbed considering that he humored possibilities. And none of them were for the faint of heart, or to be heard by children who weren't para-human specifically.

The man said it himself, he loves college kids and how they buy their product. It's nothing new, college was always like that and nowadays, if they're white as snow? Oh man, I guess I'll be going on campus to play eye spy, if she's still around. All too easily Grimm's smile turned upwards when exhaling out smoke to mention absently, "I live near the campus, it's across town but I'm sure I can swing by when we get back. Mind sending me an address, I can check up on her if you're all that worried about some college kid partying too much."

Scorch's voice tinged on cold expectation, "I'll send it to you, John. And..." She turned towards him trying to smile despite her hands clenching into fists, "Thank you." If she expected him to be moved, or remotely sympathetic to family problems? Then she was caught off guard, when he didn't say a word except closing both eyes enjoying a faint nicotine high and kept his mouth shut for the rest of night intending otherwise.


The living room's only source of light and sound came from a wide screen television faintly emitting distant voices. And yet Rascal could only frown when a pair of feet were crossed due to Grimm partially napping, "Madre de dios!" He whispered going through various lines of numerical coding and typed away furiously into digging through data. It'd been a few hours since the fire ended, leaving only four para-humans inside a home to go about their routines without forcibly pretending to be civil outright.

"No fucking way..." A pale Thinker uttered horrified to make an elder man stir, "What is it, now? Your ex-girlfriend sending you nudes since you ignored her?" Grimm's tired voice bordered on bemusement, if only due to audible sounds of water running upstairs. It was nearly midnight and soon enough they'd be all hunkering down for the night to sleep in, or if things went decently than he'd be sleeping in a warm bed tonight.

No, no, no...this has got to be bullshit! Rascal screamed internally while visibly trembling to whisper since a video feed came up on his laptop's screen, "Grimm...how long did we plan on staying away from Brockton, again?" He laughed shakily sitting back onto a chair while feeling his stomach churn dangerously in expelling all bits of food. Fuck off to this nazi bitch, I hope she's happier because there's no way in hell this is happening!

Grimm yawned loudly due to nearly passing out on a comfortable couch, "Why?" Lifting up glasses to wipe away temptations to close a pair of hazel eyes, "Oh, is this about my good deed of the month?" He chuckled somewhat exasperated, "Listen, kid! I know looking into Merchants is sketchy and I bet you're finding out a lot..." Rascal outright cut him off in a rarity of combined panic and near vein imploding adrenaline that made an elder para-human abruptly stop himself. It wasn't often fear and anger ran too clearly together, but the Thinker finally snapped!

"We're screwed, Grimm!" The youth twisted around a laptop's screen to showcase his growing panic that wouldn't be ignored, "And to hell with helping out that nazi bitch! Madre dios man!" The boy's pale complexion wasn't helped when he outright yelled, "This is real shit even you can't joke about it to make me feel better!"

Peering at a video playing with muted audio did an elder para-human rub away urges to sleep in order to sit upright groaning. Christ, I think giving him a drink made his mood swings worse! Guess I'll just buy some wine for him, whiskey might be a little too strong. Exasperated beyond a belief while contending with some potential searching for a family friend, Grimm pulled the laptop across a wooden table where various emptied metallic shot glasses were strewn about. He read the caption indicating it'd been at Brockton Bay city hall about seven hours ago.

Clicking audio to be played while restarting an old stream did he hear, "Protectorate families are grieving for the loss of this city. It is a terrible act of terrorism and as such, their lives will not be in vain given I have heard after many have lost their lives." Speaking to a crowd of reporters did Grimm's hazel eyes narrow due to an electric shock snapping him alert. Because even he couldn't mistake an obvious figure whose metallic mask hid all but a lower face, as a cape was draped over shoulders with reddish hue with whitish fur entrapping an entire neckline, more than often a few plates were glinting in sunlight.

A pair of eyes were visible despite this helmet slanting along facial cheek to give it nearly rigid outlines as blackened hair feel freely upon shoulders. It was obviously a para-human, a cape quite literally and yet Grimm's arms tingled with air sticking up on ends. Oh my god, please tell me I'm not dreaming and pretend I'll die naturally. Wincing from sheer disbelief, an earnest to hell uneasiness struck his stomach when he fell back onto a couch exhaling loudly. Reporters stood up demanding questions when this cape's gloved hand pointed to a person just below a podium where various Protectorate, police and other heroes of Brockton Bay stood at attention.

"Alexandria!" The man on stream asked hopefully as that very name sent his spine curling, "Will the Protectorate provide relief to the public in bringing this 'Grimm' villain to justice? And why haven't you already found him, if the Protectorate is keen on intervening with this white supremacist whose terror is causing unrest for most?" Grimm numbly laughed outright due to them slapping a label that wouldn't ever be discarded, it summed up ignorance and would always discredit anyone long before lies were ever disproved.

The man didn't even bother watching an entire hour long stream as he paused it immediately when this cape turned slightly facing cameras. He sat back twitching a jawline torn on either grinning widely, or outright prepared to fling anything through an entire window. Son of a bitch...better later than never, I guess I'm a priority for causing too much trouble. Underneath a couch metallic piping strained audibly with portions of walls vibrating as he exhaled sharply, if only briefly warding off natural inclinations to scream out of sheer frustration!

Rascal's pale face bordered on panic to blurt out urgently, "We can't go back! There's no way you'll be able to do whatever, so I say to hell with that nazi bitch Grimm!" A boy just barely out of high-school couldn't cope with it, it'd been one thing with Madison and dealing with Scorch. Yet this was entirely beyond anything he'd be able to handle, even if he weren't the one walking around as opposed to an elder para-human who remained barely stoic in appearance. But he saw a jawline clenching while teeth were obviously crushed together in apparent disbelief.

Well you better get used to being chased after, Rascal. Fucking god damn me, I gave my word. It never failed how close he'd abandon that simple belief, "Ah, shit! This brings me back seven years ago, kid and I can say honestly? This is how I was prepared, I expected my old house to be rubble and I guess seven years is overdue for my head."

It didn't seem too incredibly out of hand considering he, Rascal and Scorch had kicked up quite a bit of panic within Brockton Bay. Unintentionally, or not this shouldn't have concerned him immensely, considering he knew Protectorate resources and Uncle Sam's own willingness went to go hand in hand with their control. Son of a bitch talk about commitment versus comfort getting tossed out a damned window, Christ I really can't ghost myself anymore because I waited too long. Diverting confrontations were one thing, if it was a bunch of kids working as heroes yet this wasn't anyone he'd willingly humor to meet on even a good day.

"Grimm, I...I can't handle this crap anymore!" Rascal begged earnestly covering his face which harbored an anxiety attack, "They're coming after us! Really, it's what I found out when I told you they were looking capes for something happening soon, it's...it's too much for me!" The younger para-human honestly couldn't figure out how, or what he'd be able too do. The Wards were one thing, but this was the face of Protectorate posters and arguably the most powerful cape who had tackled End-Bringers based on rumors alone.

Throughout his ramblings did an elder para-human snort loudly, "Well like it, or not? This is what it means being a dissident, a person who speaks out and you think it's all fun?" Grimm's sardonic smile pulled into a leer exposing teeth, "You and I are felons, terrorists and every other label they'll slap to bring us in, kid. It's a not nice world we're living in, only reason why I was able to slip away for seven years was because I did nothing except wait it out."

Reaching in a coat that was bundled behind on the couch's top, one alone plastic wrapped got torn apart in quick fashion. Lighting up another cigar to inhale deeply, Grimm exhaled for several moments leaning back to wryly chortle to himself. God help you, Rascal. You broke into one of their banks, you sought me out and it's scary for you? Between this, the woman and Kaiser up my ass, I'd say you're panicking over nothing when it's my ass in the line of fire. But the Thinker was only a child, barely an adult and yet he'd have to learn quickly that doing things to survive wasn't a ticket to life's comforts and pleasures.

"You worry about yourself, Rascal. Don't try to think too hard ahead, because this is a consequence in my opinion!" The man finally spoke up bemused, "Because I have a hunch that right there back home is on my head. I cut a deal with Brockton Bay's Wards and spoke to their director on a phone, so I'd say this is their way of keeping me in check. I've never heard of a truce with someone whose a mass murdering terrorist, so humor what it all means...politically."

A Thinker hardly seemed appeased to clench hands together unknowingly praying, "Dios por favor ayudame! Mi madre y mi familia, por favor!" It garnered a laugh from Grimm who crossed legs staring at a laptop's frozen image, "Don't expect God to help us too much, Rascal. Believe me when I say, I think he gets off on our misery and we can only have a one sided conversation. Still been waiting seven years to hear an answer for what I did, so maybe he'll listen to you because I sure as hell think he hasn't been for anyone else."

The two fell into silence as water kept hitting a ceiling above indicating someone who'd been showering hadn't heard their outbursts. Grimm leaned forward absently pulling out another plastic wrapped bundle to toss it lightly, "Do yourself a favor and knock yourself out. Get some sleep and we'll figure something out in the morning when we're both not exhausted. You can't change what you have no power over, kid and for what it's worth?" The man twitched his lips in seeing a youth look up visibly pale and trembling from an anxiety attack, he had similar experiences before finding ways in living with said condition at times.

"I'd have been suspicious if you told me otherwise, because what you're doing now?" He gestured to a laptop and then to said Thinker, "It means you know you can trust me. You and I have a deal, I get us both clean slates and you look up what I want to find out. Keep your word and I keep mine, but that..." His chin jerked to a frozen image made everything clearer and made a boy visibly sad shoulder, "That is my problem, I made that happen for making a truce with people I cannot trust...so you don't need to get into it, do yourself a favor and keep working to use some of your magic on the dark web to figure shit out."

Stretching over an arm did a jet lighter casually ignite allowing the Thinker to cough visibly upon taking up the habit. Kids, they think everything is on them when people make decisions for them to believe otherwise. Grimm's wry expression found itself exasperated as he stood upright cracking his back in a bid to relax, "Get yourself some shut eye, Rascal and we'll figure it out after some breakfast, or something. I'm not one to mince words, but this is how it is...you, I and anyone who don't obey the Protectorate are threats to them and I'm overdue on their list because I ghosted myself long enough to see nothing changed."

Idly rolling an arm while patting the younger Thinker on his way by, it somewhat appeased him considering he wasn't shaking visibly anymore. Heading towards a kitchen area did he wait momentarily in seeing the former high school student shrink into his chair. And now, I have to play eye spy with this one...oh, joy. Exhaling out smoke while eying an adjacent room did he speak up finally humoring what metallic vibrations indicated, someone had been within earshot when he'd gotten worked up earlier.

"You enjoying yourself? Or should I give you a summary?" Grimm partially humored in seeing a blond girl leaning against the wall when he peaked around in seeing her frowning. Rune hadn't interacted much beyond smiling cordially around younger kids, or much to an elder para-human's surprise of Scorch's close friends appearing for a welcomed get together. But it seemed there was enough problems that would make him think twice in trying to look into willingly.

The shorter blond eventually retorted, "Kaiser will cut you two loose." She normally didn't refer to Empire's head much beyond hushed conversations he'd heard. Scorch and Rune were often at odds mainly for her intentions which even irked him at times, "I'd say you just lost what little value with Empire to get you and that Thinker new names to disappear too. The god damned Alexandria is in Brockton Bay because of you...John."

She laughed under-breath wondering how it'd been possible to sneer, "You're not even dangerous to regular people and here she is!" Grimm patiently answered with wry grin, "Anyone can be dangerous, Rune but it's not my guess to figure out. I'll give you a hint, it's always about power and control over the masses with Protectorate getting me wrong. Way I see it, any cape can go on a rampage and it barely gets remembered unless it's said act is a target at...them who keep most people ignorant with heroes saving their days."

Rune glared sourly while implying, "You're not fooling anyone, John. Wipe out a few traitors to our people and you think you're a hero playing god?" Grimm barked out a laugh mildly to rub his eyes in plain irritation, "Jesus Christ, girl! Stop putting words in my mouth, I sure as hell ain't God and he can keep the job, I'm only telling ya...whenever anyone targets politicians does everything seemingly go insane as opposed to regular folk who are easy exploitation to make anyone look like the devil came up for air."

Taking a moment to ignore sniggering from the blond girl who intentionally wanted him riled up, "The Protectorate and Uncle Sam are the same entity now calling shots. So my point is once you target those who are maintaining a narrative, or this ignorance of the masses then do they react accordingly, now you're right about one thing! Compared to what I've seen, I maybe not as dangerous to other capes inside that city, Tami." Throughout it all, Rune gave him a look of sheer disbelief to visibly scowl disgusted at his amused expression.

It took a moment for something to click into the younger para-human, "What are you getting at?" She outright demanded shaking her head as a man playfully shrugged, "Nowhere yet! Only reason why I think I've been forgotten, it's because I didn't do a lot more back when I had some momentum in cleaning house back in my old home. And now everyone is digging up information about me, girl and all because of what I did recently. But before I murdered hundreds but they weren't all simply innocent people."

Rune dourly mentioned, "Yes, I'm well aware that killing bureaucrats makes you seem like a saint, John. But that doesn't change your little problem. " She used an alias mainly for enforced civility due to idle groaning behind her spine as metal inside walls quivered in place, "What's your point? Cutting a deal with Wards, or did you expect anything less for targeting them? I don't understand yet alone can figure your bullshit's humor!"

Grimm's smile seemed plain considering metal behind walls started straining due to unseen irritation empowering them, "It means I'm a priority, girl. And that is only because I'm taking them on, but Alexandria in Brockton means I did too good of a job, I put a target on my head. Cops are one thing, Protectorate grunts are another and I think it's all because I'm actually taking things up a notch to see them go after capes who threaten their control over our people's view." Tami's eyebrow lifted mostly out of sheer bemusement considering an elder para-human who'd racked up a sizable body count in several weeks seem exasperated.

"Or maybe you believed cutting a deal would take the heat off you?" That retort made him mildly shrug somewhat pessimistically, "I humored it, but only thing I got going? Not many people know who I am, John Smith is too common and even you'd know a Thinker would have a nightmare trying to cross reference every person with that name." The man leaned against a wall eying Rune partially out of amusement in seeing her scowl, he'd been gauging her reactions mainly for either sport or wasn't going to directly answer questions.

Bastard doesn't trust me! I swear this son of a bitch, is he that paranoid? Tami grudgingly gnashed teeth in seeing him playfully ask, "What?" Metal consistently throbbed behind her back on a wall, "Do you not understand what I'm getting at, girl or do you need to make a phone call as eye-spy with my little eyes?" She earnestly overlooked his casual attitude to realize this man wasn't going to directly answer unless it suited him, he knew how to keep secrets obviously. And possibly understood the meaning of information much to her own lamented frustration.

"Kaiser will cut you loose, even she can't stop it from happening." Tami thumbed upstairs to which Grimm lightly exhaled out smoke in her direction, "The woman and I have our ways, girl. As long as I don't mix up with Protectorate grunts, or capes?" He informed her mildly curious to garner a scowl from her in response, "Kaiser, or Empire can't have Grimm showing face unless Brockton's Wards make a connection which is a strong arm to have on your boss, I can see that much. So, you and him as well as the woman are going to have play smart with me playing para-human shield until something happens."

Rune stared disbelievingly to whisper in sheer disgust, "You're looking out for yourself and our people don't mean anything to you?" Grimm's shaded glasses covered crinkled eyes with him stating, "It's all fun and games until actions overshadow words, Tami. Your boss said it himself, he's fighting against a dying world when I got my skewered alive by Lung, so guess and I'm fighting for a dying belief that no one cares about. There's no winning right now, there's only attrition and that's why I think Kaiser's got you up my ass...everyday."

He got up from leaning against a wall to move towards the lone stair case, "Far as I'm concerned? You and the woman's sale pitch to have me with Empire is getting old real quick. And your boss is playing with fire, as am I and we'll find out whose getting burned eventually." He looked up towards where a shower was running constantly, "And you damn well know, Tami that the woman is a hot head when it comes to having problems that I tend to willingly humor."

The younger para-human gawked openly at him admitting he'd get closer to them, if only to warn them at the same time. Keep your friends close, but enemies closer. She didn't know whether the man was insane enough to try it, or maybe it'd click into place because Grimm wasn't a man who did things half-assed. He literally had enough control, time and patience waiting around for seven years to potentially devastate an entire city if he chose to do it. She was envious he could do such a thing, yet perhaps that was why Protectorate resources were mobilized into containing even a mild mannered terrorist who hardly warranted such extreme measures.

"Why did you even do what you did, Grimm?" Tami couldn't help but ask disgustedly, "You act more as a hired hero playing saint, but what made you slaughter all those people? I can't even see it, all I see is a hypocrite acting like he's hot shit." The man's movement ceased briefly to only look upward while a hand idly twirled his metallic cross. It took several moments before answer was honestly considered, but he didn't speak up.

Pussy! She venomously sneered when he went upstairs due to allowing a middle finger to be raised, as if he'd expected such insults. It wasn't worth it, she decided but only because of her orders from Krieg and Kaiser respectively to gauge Grimm's value to Empire's potential. All this time he could have done something, but instead chose to be a hypocrite because no one has power to do anything. And here I thought it'd be easy trying to figure him out, maybe she can get through to him but I'm not expecting a miracle from a usurper.


The bedroom's silence left little imagination considering one occupant of said room showered relatively in private. Yet in relaxed fashion Grimm remained leaning against the wall, mostly staring towards an almost half opened doorway pondering intensively. God damn it, I guess this is what it means when you take that first step. A cigar's constant heat kept himself from spacing off too much, if only fighting an urge to jump into the comfortable bed and sleep away one night's worth of problems. However that got placed aside mainly with himself debating once Scorch had her little time before catching wind of what was happening back in Brockton Bay, even he doubted she'd take it well considering their past experiences with the Wards.

"Terrorist, right!" He drew out a label either that had been earned, or slapped on him for years had finally bit him in the ass, "Guess I can't avoid facing the music! But it doesn't mean going suicidal, if something kicks off." Partially staring out over towards a lake's rippling surface, wind kicked up outside as fading trails of smoke from the fire-pit left little appeasement. There wasn't avoiding consequences for tackling Protectorate and Government head on, he'd made a deal if only to give himself breathing room.

Alexandria, one of the Big Three. He thought morbidly impressed wondering if someone had given her a tip on himself, or maybe he was just that unlucky for once. Hell, even I know who she is and I'm scared shit-less against that since Lung skewered me akin to a damned pig! Even wiping out an entire state house didn't get them this riled up, but I guess things did change for the worse. Protectorate and Uncle Sam got more control, power and are just rolling up their sleeves since they're not playing nice with anyone anymore.

Seven years ago seemed only like yesterday when his small group of friends and people he'd left behind told him of committing being the start of a struggle. Struggle? More like insanity, I'm barely the man after enforcing habits that I hated. And now, I can barely enjoy even a cigar without hoping I can slip by again. He snorted loudly wryly smirking to casually look up at glinting stars, at least the view wasn't terrible to not enjoy. It was too damned pleasant being far away from cities, people and he awfully got tempted to see it everyday barring what it'd entitle in attaining.

Glazing back towards a bed which looked ideally maintained and cleaned as a reflection himself stood facing further beyond. A mirror attached to a wide bureau for clothing, or spare compartments had still photographs of various smiling faces. Among them was Kaiser, or Max Anders with Scorch who looked barely in her younger teens standing between several other figures. Starting to wonder if you were adopted, woman. Most were probably family at best, or perhaps close friends yet for the life of him? He didn't spot what amounted to parental figures leaving him to wonder if they'd kicked the bucket prematurely.

Although did catch his eye amounting to another family issue arising much to his exasperated limit of humor, "And your friend is mixed up with Merchants? God help us both, woman." An internal desire for laughing came close with a migraine potentially making life difficult, "College! Such a waste of money and indoctrinates people into thinking the whole world is full of rainbows, being faggot like queers all the while thinking and learning to hate yourself for being apart of the people giving a chance for you to live in it."

However despite mildly trying to get an earnest breather, Grimm's heart remained beating quickly due to an internal expectation. Anxiety is a bitch, but for good reason! Maybe I should take my own advice for once, worry about myself and therein lies a big problem. Inevitably he'd hoped stirring the Protectorate would chip away at their patience, but apparently he was playing with too much fire it seemed. He'd outright screwed Brockton Bay's Ward over, out of a job and reputation apparently with their local leadership possibly calling in favors. And as that saying went, no plan survives first contact with an enemy.

Remotely drawing anymore heat on himself in Brockton wouldn't do him any respect, or favors considering one of the most power capes in the world had moved in. Don't know much beyond what newsreel's say about Alexandria, powerful and a force of damned nature. Christ, it's an End-Bringer whose got enough to go toe to toe with them...if rumors say, I might as well hang myself for even humoring some good deeds to check up on a family friend. No matter how much he could convince, divert or even playfully elude towards younger para-humans, this wasn't anything that couldn't be avoided if he did something at all.

Inhaling deeply on a cigar while glancing towards one dresser perpendicular to the bed did hazel eyes narrow bemused. You owe me a lot more now, woman. I hope your shower is doing you wonders, because I sure as hell am giving you a warning. If she, or her cousin really would cut him loose than for all intensive purposes? Grimm wouldn't go quietly without at least offering some retaliation, if things did indeed go south. Yet he'd humor several possibilities not before hearing what could be done for himself and Rascal respectively.

Ironically Grimm realized he'd have to use the Protectorate within Brockton in treading lines in giving misinformed intentions. Making a deal, it'll get them to think I'm possibly willing to hear them out if they offer something...short term. But that's stretching if they're not coming to take me out, or haul my happy ass off to one of their 'black sites' that reeducates capes into discounted employees. Why bother wasting resources on criminals, if they willingly subjugated themselves to the power that dictated every cape to overview themselves? And he wasn't above to assume, if a short term employment would be incredibly hushed hush to public perception.

Perhaps Rascal's discovery about his name among many other capes pertaining to something had made Brockton Bay's local branch seem passive. Well, I can't say I'm not curious considering I'm not a fairly nice guy who smiles whenever someone asks. I work for a living, but I have a lingering though the woman would send half the damned city ablaze if I broached that topic. And worst comes to worse, I'll leak out names as a friendly gesture to these Empire capes as my last resort. Despite looming pressures and dangers, Grimm inevitably smiled plainly while looking out into tree-lines idly relaxing after an hour of pondering thoughts.

The shower had gone silent much to his immediate awareness as a door opened fully, "I hope you realize something, woman." Scorch hardly seemed phased in cautiously walking with one crutch as a towel kept her modesty in check. But her expression looked slightly surprised considering he sat against a window smoking lazily, "You're going to owe me a lot more than a simple thank you. Because I don't think you heard of the bullshit coming our way!"

Reaching over swiftly in activating her unguarded phone to type in several key words, "John!" She stated irritably due to his sardonic smile appearing, "I'm not fucking around." Grimm replied absently before tossing said piece of technology right onto a bed's mattress, "Take a god damned look and I want to tell me something honestly. Will your cousin throw me, or you to the wolves with that piece of wonderful news?"

The blond glared somewhat aware due to his crooked grin exposed teeth, "Favors won't cut it, woman and I have half a mind to say to hell with you." A cigar's end burned brightly with him staring attentively in a rarity of absolute conviction. Her gaze looked to a phone lightly sitting down despite wincing from aggravated wounds, to begin playing a paused stream on social media and once it began loading up. In a fleeting moment Grimm only blinked while observing quietly in seeing damning reconciliation, natural inclined disbelief and a perfectly stilled para-human who loudly sucked in air sharply.

Alexandria's helmet stared right into various cameras as she paused a stream, "I...John, I really don't know." Her voice remained tense staring furiously at the phone with him smirking pleasantly in affirming dangerous adversaries, "Woman, I can cause a ruckus and do enough to hold my own despite you trying to play peace keeper. But there is no way in hell, you or I can walk away if this bullshit isn't somewhere half way around the world yet alone downtown. Now give me answer, honestly or this is our last weekend we'll being seeing each other...I'm not joking when I say, I am not going to risk my neck for anything unless it's worth wild."

Scorch's face twisted briefly with her retorting, "You're serious?" Grimm raised both eyes brows as an audible trembling could be heard from anything remotely metal straining in place, "Enough to pack my bags and wait it out. Your family friend be damned, I'd rather not have a potential cape that can take on an End-Bringer and god knows what else up my ass." There was a playful tone in which made blue eyes wince considerably, she knew enough that he'd keep his word and any attempt in trying to enforce it would be expected.

"Kaiser..." She partially amended to stare at a phone's frozen picture, "He'd throw you into her, if it risked anything and I don't believe he's above in keeping me away. I doubt he expected for Brockton's Wards to get this infuriated, or..." Grimm laughed lowly in seeing him react amused, it made her silence daringly demand an explanation. There was only one source for them to either be this angered, or less than pleased in having Wards locally being viewed as less than effective employee's maintaining lawful environments.

The man got upright stretching to comment somewhat coyly, "Well I'll be damned, I guess that gives me an opportunity to work for a living. Cape, or not!" Her rigid posture signaled an internal arsenal of heat as steam started pooling from cooling droplets of water, "I might be on the market if the price is right, woman. And there's fuck all your cousin can do, if I sell myself out to buy sometime in getting myself and Rascal new names hopefully."

Steam internally dried out exposed skin despite being reddish from minutes prior, "You do that, then Max will do what he must to protect Empire and all of us." Grimm's smile remained in place, "Only if he does go through with it, right? So, in that case?" He prompted by gesturing to a phone innocently enough in her hands to suggest, "Start begging or convincing him, else I will do what I have to do. This isn't a favor, this is survival and we're all going to see whose going to get burnt by playing with fire...eventually."

Her exhale of frustration wasn't helpful by any means of an imagination, "John, Kaiser won't hesitate if you try too!" He wasn't particularly worried since all signs pointed to their unique tolerance coming to any end sooner than later, "Well unfortunately for him and you?" A pair of eyes closed hiding anger partially, "I already put myself out there with a quarter of a million for doing Brockton's Wards a favor in putting out some wild fires. And for my goals, I'll need a private bank with my Thinker to start fiddling around without Empire trying to get me killed quicker, I certainly implied enough to their Director over a phone call."

Scorch hotly scowled to state, "And what did you say?" A pair of tinted glasses were removed with himself lounging onto the bed with feet propped up, "Only I was getting shafted out of a job and working for a living sounds nicer. Whoever that woman was, I wouldn't trust her as far as I can push you further. Besides between you, your angel of a cousin and eye spy up my ass every other hour with sales pitches?"

The man's grin remained crooked to casually reveal, "If I want to test out if my people care about their survival? Lord have mercy since I'm going to need something that gets most people motivated...money, sadly enough." Scorch remained stoic considering he looked over at her pleasantly daring her to say otherwise, "And since John Smith is anonymously donating towards people, who share similar opinions might be interesting to see on a local level. Unassumingly I survive, or can earn quite a bit since Brockton isn't some raging inferno...caused by you, of all capes to which I put out for a meager sum of cash."

Grimm watched conflicting emotions going from concern to absolute loathing and eventually settling on a stern realization. Yes, I used you and you used me, woman. He winked scandalously in seeing an injured fist struggling to not ignite flames inside a palm, he'd wager she was figuring out a little thing called deception. All's fair in love and cash, but as Rune kindly put it? I'm a piece of hot shit whose a hypocrite, but my people and country are being killed off yearly with every other cape thinking the Protectorate and Uncle Sam care at all. And the only way to put a road block up, is someone having enough to fund an alternative!

The fact he revealed enough hints towards a blond relative of Kaiser would eventually payoff in deciding his own motivations, "Clever, aren't I?" He smugly implied as a phone was tightly threatened to be engulfed in flames due to being towards a melting point for it's owner in a variety of degrees, "Or am I just crazy enough to make things fun for everyone whose playing in fire, woman? Sure hope so for our sake, not if Kaiser gives me up and then so be it, because at least I know it all depends on you and him finding a little thing called...compromise."

Scorch remained impassive despite with a jawline clenching considerably. She hadn't moved an inch taking in his playful demeanor to only bite out, "Is that what you think, John? That this is a game and there's nothing for you, if even humor that Kaiser is offering something more than you hiding to save yourself?" Grimm smirked in getting an emotional roller-coaster out of an obvious hot head who found his words personal. He knew on some understanding, she hadn't been putting up with his antics and recklessness without wanting something in return, but he earnestly had no idea in how to approach that kind of commitment willingly.

"You mean you want Kaiser's job?" He'd remembered that night's conversation between a few capes as he'd kept his mouth shut as intended, "Woman, does it sound like I'm an absolute idiot? I don't know what the hell you want of me, I sure as hell don't agree with Empire's constant sales pitch from eye-spy downstairs and for several days, you haven't stopped pushing me in thinking otherwise. To me, you and I are playing games considering I can't even begin to trust you yet alone have a serious conversation for once!"

Every word caused a blond to grimace visibly as she turned around harshly retorting, "And saving my life was for what? A favor for a favor?" Grimm visibly relaxed enjoying the soft compression of a mattress absently answering, "That's calling it even. You didn't leave me in a ditch, so fair's fair that I return that with dropping twenty grand to clear that up. But I haven't lost sight in what keeps me going, so what are you hoping happens?"

The young woman remained staring at a mirror for several moments to admit, "To do better and more than most expect me to achieve, John. Max and I..." She struggled momentarily to get him eying her bare back curiously enough, "He took me in, because my family made a mistake and now they're all either in prison, or fled the country. My mother died giving birth to me, so he was the only person I trusted in looking up too."

That certainly explained an already persistent attempt in having him hear sales pitches, "Mommy issues, right?" He voiced out quietly as Scorch turned glaring hotly, "Do you think for one second that I want to be what my own..." Grimm cut her off immediately by sitting upright reaching over in gripping naked shoulder firmly, "Woman. Do yourself a favor, and do two things!" He raised a hand in lifting two fingers casually enough, Shut! Up!"

His palm burned dangerously despite her gnashing teeth in not externally setting fire to a home that had been hers since birth, "Now listen to what I just said!" An elder para-human even complimented herself to give an amused look, "Just because you're blond! You do have a decent brain to remember who said that to you, since I'm saying it or did that Merchant just conveniently drop that to get you smoking tar for meth?

If rarity became a common occurrence then Grimm certainly wished it ended soon enough. Scorch's word died immediately upon looking away to mouth out those two words, if there was one thing about a man who'd avoided scrutiny close to a decade? Coincidences don't exist, especially not in my line of work as a soldier and felon. Someone knows something, c'mon woman...work with me here, my gut instinct isn't just for show. Impatiently puffing on smoke did he give it several moments to finally ask a less likely walking incarnation of an inferno, "What are the god damned odds that a Merchant of all things happens to say something so precise...it sets you off, like what I'm doing?"

The terrorist gave off a snarky humored possibility, "Your friend might have mouthed off, or something if she's hooked like every other addict. It's either that?" He prompted in firmly shaking her free of disbelieving horror and infuriating doubts, "Or whosoever been answering her sister, I think they're not too shy scoping out people to get the bread, right? Skidmark maybe some sketchy gangster, but he knows how to make a quick buck off idiots sucking tar and being addicted to ya know...suck off, a few of them in that shady ass bar?"

All too easily Grimm knew he'd rather be wrong, or well beyond tying loose coincidences together yet it painted a potential bigger picture. I'd rather be wrong about many things, but lately I've been nailing things I wish I never knew were indeed right. Kaiser, the Wards and now this shit, either I'm being played hard? Or it's all a fucking big mess to clean up...as always! After several minutes of silence she picked up a phone scrolling through messages, Scorch's intense gaze almost prematurely set an entire phone into burnt plastic based on gnashing teeth.

"Kaiser...knows!" She whispered after sitting back covering her mouth as a faint line of water started falling freely, "Max knew Lisa got caught up with them! I thought he was telling me, not everyone can be saved but those that aren't could be warned." Anger, frustration and possibly hurt expressions quickly went over with himself smirking reluctantly. And truth be told, it certainly started making sense why Anders was putting up with her sense of trustworthy sources.

Yet he also threw in a fairly accurate assumption to that potential, "Like I said, I don't believe in coincidences woman. I might as well be throwing shit into a fan, but I have every reason to not think your cousin isn't top dog of Empire for his charming charity. Twenty grand for wasting his time, I hope he's just being a dick yet again I'm playing with fire for nothing...right?" He deliberately rubbed a bare shoulder indicating that cheesy pun was certainly a nudge of humor, if anything he enjoyed Scorch's hotheadedness making him endure genuine exasperation.

An injured hand hesitantly placed itself over his own with obvious tremors. Woman's frightened, well I'll be damned. She didn't face him considering mostly none of this could be proven, but it would get questions bubbling within to find out immediate answers. Every family has conflict, is that right Anders? Then I guess you won't mind if I do your own a favor, but I don't think I'll do it without getting paid for dealing with too much bullshit. Because I am certainly going to regret it, if I don't get anything out of this at all.

There wasn't any illusion making him believe Scorch's insecurities weren't well known if her trembling form gave voice to said possibility. She wasn't any more a good person, as far as he was considering himself had a sizable body count to amount for those wishing him dead and gone. But that was a price for picking sides, if anything he was an enemy to families or those who'd died by doing their jobs in playing soldier. Well, at least they'll get benefits for signing on a dotted line. Contractors, grunts and all get some perks for insurance payouts, assuming the Protectorate hasn't made Uncle Sam front all liabilities nowadays.

Eventually empathy wore itself thin in having him understand she wasn't going to be making any calls tonight. Preferably getting first shot at Anders would do him a little more good, but apparently Scorch and said cousin would go at it on another day. Pulling away he mildly suggested in ending their first decent conversation in weeks, "Get some sleep, it's going to be a long weekend in sorting out a game plan woman." Her shoulder sank considerably when peering over in seeing him laying back yawning loudly while snuffing out a cigar, if anything the nicotine was doing wonders in tempting exhaustion to sleep easier tonight.

"Does it meaning anything to you...John?" She asked quietly as he cracked an eye open to pull off a shirt to exhale comfortably, "We saved each other's lives! You didn't need to get involved, I lost to that bitch of a cape. And you made that deal with them, for my safety?" Grimm closed an eye again preferring to lean into cushions hopefully invoking a decent night's rest, but if she really wanted to know that bad?

Man, I feel like a dick all of a sudden. Ah, might as well humor it! He debated internally for several moments when he felt a gradual weight settling in. The blond had turned off a phone in favor of hearing an answer, she wasn't expressing impatience yet her face remained expectant. And a hand had slipped gently into squeezing his forearm, he'd had both arms crossed when looking up at the bedroom's ceiling.

Reluctantly he spoke the truth with a plain answer, "You try too hard, ya know?" Slipping underneath sheets was met with an ever arising heat from a woman waiting in tensed silence, "I made that deal because there's no other way for me to get what I want done, woman. It wasn't clever, I was desperate and at the same time...I have nothing to lose anymore, I cut all ties and I disappeared. But you saved my neck, I'd do the same thing for anyone since I'm not the person who'd allow someone to die without seeing where things go, first."

Too many unknowns were weighed as opposed in humoring why someone would want to be with him out of all people! She's just as crazy, but too god damned persistent to ignore. But nothing gets done if you're always alone, bar hopping and drinking with friends is one thing. Yet coming back somewhere with someone waiting...might as well see where this goes, I might as well follow some advice from old friends back home. Grimm frowned deeply ignoring someone's head placing themselves next to his collarbone, if only to absently giving a blond space to do whatever she needed in order to sleep a tad bit better tonight.

"You could have said, yes." She murmured with him grunting visibly, "Don't remind me!" Muffled laughter was only acknowledged due to her trembling. A hand gripped his own with him sternly eying where it'd go all too temptingly. Her eyes remained closed despite faint tears lingering, it deeply irked himself after leaning back exhaling loudly. Terrible as he was as a person, he wouldn't find redemption or would yield to break the control over his people, he'd cared too much and became selfishly driven when selflessness had failed to do anything for others back then as a soldier who fought for an ideal that never existed.

Time crawled by with himself staring ahead as movement gradually ceased until warmth encompassed his entire bare arm. Scorch was asleep within ten minutes at best, if only allowing hazel eyes blinking owlishly in surreal amazement due to a lack of physical attempts. Strange thing since I've never slept with anyone before, but I guess I can tolerate it. I never was one for change, but sometimes you have to put up with shit until something happens. Absently an arm curled around in faintly rubbing bare skin to see her curl just a bit closer, but even as exhaustion claimed him to sleep did he blearily imagine a woman's smile widen ever so contently.

End Chapter XIII

Author's Note: I'm fairly certain few, who read up to this point see a lot of gray areas being mentioned. There's no good if you keep pretending to ignore the consequences of actions, or rather in this case? Grimm maybe lack luster on a broader scale of Capes, but even he does know of those who'd been plastered everywhere as the 'greatest' and 'strongest' of Heroes. You can joke, or argue about Alexandria's demise yet if it isn't Skitter doing that far later down the line, in the present: she's nowhere near confident, or creative in pulling that off without going through the growing pains we'd see in canon. And as you all know, this is before her group gets together...so expect them, to show up soon.

This isn't anything less but absolutely dangerous, for all his feats/efforts and control in being away for years. Very few, if not any cape beyond what is known would willingly tango with the 'Triumvirate's members', dead or alive. Which brings this danger to a heightened level, Brockton Bay is going to be tense and absolutely quiet for a time...or, one would expect it, right? And now the previous interactions with the Merchants come back, now the evidence is circumstantial and it would be a stretch yet with how specific it was aimed at Scorch? Lot's of potential for this to get out of hand, mind you there's a fine line in humanizing enough to really get you thinking beyond a generic sob story...Grimm's weighing cons/pro's considerably for every action he'll undertake.

Regarding his 'deal' with the Wards, it is what it is. He put himself out there, after pulling off a feat that many capes would take notice and those who'd be interesting once rumor got out? Being a hired rogue, is quite daunting considering very few know this kind of man exists and putting out a potential city wide fire was only his way of earning a quick buck in getting something done. His goals will and are always, for humans in this case as he wouldn't have much of a reason to go beyond what's influencing the country's wider culture. You can say it's convoluted, but truth be told? Being hired for jobs, working for a living and as a cape, Grimm has a far better chance in doing what he'll try to get done.

So where does this leave us? Apparently someone knows something, if you look back to Kaiser's dialogue/scenes? You'll notice what I mean, it wouldn't be difficult for him keeping an eye or tabs on people who are related to his immediate family. And take into account of Empire Eighty Eight's secrecy, which is still secured...it's not that hard to humor in hindsight. All you need to know, don't be squeamish when things turn ugly and we'll find out what's going to happen. Once they return to Brockton Bay, expect a lot to change quickly and considering the Wards (One of them) has a solid idea, I can only imagine someone is going to get bolder in using means to find where he's been held up at.

Until next time, stay safe, be strong and leave a review even as this pandemic is getting real old hearing everyday.