Monroe waits exactly as long as it takes for Nick’s headlights to disappear down the road before he lets his panic attack truly set in. With his head smashed into the back of his front door, he moans to himself. “‘What’s my favorite color?’ Oh, okay, Monroe.” He drags himself back into the kitchen, collecting their plates and dumping them into the cold, greasy dishwater in his sink. The water splashes up and soaks the sleeves of his sweater, but he really doesn’t have the mental capability at that point to care. “Calls me up for dinner, and what do I do? I put wine out.”
The house is quiet now that it’s just him, and he listens to the bubble and splash of his sink as he refills it with fresh, warm water. There are only so many things a Blutbad can be expected to take, and impromptu dinner dates are just not one of them. “Oh, God, and I gave him those Cannellini beans. He probably hated them, what am I doing?”
He scrubs vigorously at his pots and pans, trying to lose himself in the fight against leftovers and hardened grease. Monroe feels a lot of satisfaction in keeping house; it’s all part of his rehabilitation. He likes order and process. Nick would probably call it ritualistic, bordering on psychotic, but Nick doesn’t have to deal with the same temptations as Monroe. Thinking about Nick, Monroe glances back to his dining room table and has to sit down. “Candles,” he moans into his hands, his head between his knees. “I put candles out.”
He has a problem: a young, attractive, Grimm-shaped problem, who smells really good, likes to lounge all over his house, and eat his food. This is not a problem that Monroe can deal with using his standards coping mechanisms. What denial wouldn’t allow him to forget, his imagination and Pilates gave him plenty of time to think about it. He tries to breathe deeply, hoping it will take the edge off the hysteria that’s threatening to turn into a full-blown ordeal. Nick will just think it’s all him being a blowhard, right? Monroe winces at his mental choice of words, rubbing his face as if to erase the thought. “Pretentious,” Monroe corrects himself aloud. “He’ll just think I’m a snobby hipster, he already does. Right. This, I can deal with.”
He turns back to the sink , sees the congealing fat floating on top and all the soap gone, and decides to leave the dishes for the morning. He knows it’s just another sign of his slowly escaping sanity, but he can’t find it in himself to care. He doesn’t do any of his nightly ablutions, flops face-down on his bed without turning the covers down, and checks his phone one last time just to make sure his alarm is set for earlier than normal in the morning to make up for it. He opens Nick’s text, mostly because he hates himself, but also a little bit because it could have been important, and reads, “thx for dinner.”
There’s no emoticon or special inflection to make it seem like anything other than a simple expression of gratitude, but it’s still enough to make Monroe bury his face in his pillow and moan piteously about his life.
“I’m going to be pulling pond scum out of my hair for a week,” Monroe complains, dragging them both in the house. They were exhausted after a difficult case of a Froschkönig with a penchant for beautiful blondes. Monroe had explained that Froschkönig were attracted to their golden hair, something that had been shown in the original legends by the Princess’ missing bauble that summoned her Frog Prince from the depths. Once he had them in his grasp, he would drown them in a lake before leaving their bodies to float peacefully down into the rivers outside of the city.
“I hate frogs,” Nick whines, toeing his wet shoes off at the door. “Didn’t we have enough of those with the Ziegelvolk?”
“Those were toads,” Monroe sits down, pulling his own boots off, and trying not to take too close of a sniff of his socks. “I, however, agree with you on the sentiment.” Nick’s leaning back against the wall, his head lolling against the paint. He sighs deeply, obviously struggling to stay awake, and Monroe grabs his arm. “Hey.”
Nick opens his eyes, smiling softly at Monroe has his friend led him to the couch. “Hey.”
Monroe furrows his brow, trampling down the desire to press his hand to Nick’s forehead to check his temperature. “Pizza and beers?” Nick nods, pulling his phone out of his pocket and slapping it into Monroe’s hand. “Oh, sure,” he bitches, “make me do everything around here.”
“Isn’t that what I come around for?”
“Unfortunately,” Monroe says, two beers clinking in his left hand while he holds the ringing phone to his ear with his right. “Eating at the casa del Monroe means all vegetarian pizzas.”
“I can’t even get a half sausage?”
“Nope.” They sit in silence for a few moments, broken only be Monroe trying to convince the pizza place that he wasn’t Nick Burckhardt and a small diatribe over how truly creepy he found Caller ID. “Think about it. They’ve got your name and credit card on file! When you call, everything about you pops up on their little screen.”
“I think you are looking a little too far into this,” Nick laughs, languid and relaxed on Monroe’s couch. He knew it was going to smell musty when it dried, and he was possibly going to have to throw it out or reupholster the whole thing, but watching Nick heave himself up to pay for the pizza when the doorbell rang made the effort worth it.
“You’re actually paying. And I didn’t have to twist your arm. I should get my camera.”
“Shut up and eat, Monroe.”
Nick is the world’s worst patient, Monroe’s certain of it. Nick gravely injured and possibly on the brink of death is a lot different from the Nick who has his head buried under a mountain of pillows on his couch. “Get out from under there, you’ll suffocate,” Monroe huffs, setting down the tray he’d brought Nick to help dig the Grimm out.
“I’m already suffocating,” Nick lisps. His nose is stuffed up so severely, Monroe can barely make out what he is saying without closely watching his lips. At least it gives him an excuse when he’s caught staring. “I can’t breathe and this is the easier way to die.”
“Sit up,” Monroe orders, brooking no time for talk of suicide by goosedown. Nick struggles against his blankets and his own infirmity, only glaring slightly when he offers to help. Glaring is good, as far as Monroe’s concerned, because glaring means normal Nick is coming back. “I made borscht.”
Nick blinks a few times. “You did not.”
“What’s wrong with borscht?”
Nick flops weakly back on his pillows. “What’s not wrong with borscht?”
Monroe smooths a hand over Nick’s forehead, brushing the damp hair back from his eyes, and smirks. “Good thing I made you vegetable soup instead.”
Nick nuzzles into the touch. “You are a bastard, why would you torment a dying man like that?”
“You’re not dying, you big baby.” Monroe brings another hand up frame Nick’s face, worrying at the high flush on his friend’s cheeks. Nick scrambles for another tissue, barely covering his face before another sneeze erupted, and moans at the abrupt pain shooting across the bridge of his nose. “Okay, maybe you are dying.”
“Good of you to be on my side, in my final hours.”
“Here, eat,” Monroe moves out of the way, placing the tray with the bowl of soup and saltines on Nick’s lap. “Feed a fever, starve a cold, I’m not sure how it goes, but I’m pretty sure you haven’t eaten in two days.”
Nick reaches out and grabs Monroe’s wrist as he moves to go back into the kitchen to make his own lunch. “Hey, thanks. You didn’t have to-”
Monroe wraps his fingers around Nick’s for a second, squeezing lightly. “Yeah, I did.”
Somewhere between the waitress bringing them another round of beers and their food coming, Nick looks up and asks, “is this a date?”
Monroe’s first response is, obviously, to panic. He seems to be his default setting when it comes to Nick asking questions that don’t directly have to do with Grimm work. Considering they hadn’t actually said one word about anything fantastical or supernatural since they sat down, Monroe also doesn’t have a good canned answer to the question. “What? No.”
Nick smirks, because his favorite past-time seems to be ruining Monroe’s life, and says, “okay” in a way that tells Monroe he doesn’t quite agree with that assessment at all.
“This is not a date,” Monroe repeats, mostly for his own benefit. Because if this was a date, he would be nervous and wearing much better clothes than this. “This is a... bro night.”
Nick smiles serenely, like he knows some kind of secret, and waits for the waitress to clear out before saying, “Bro night?”
“We can have bro night, we’re bros. We do...bro things.” He digs into his salad and studiously avoids Nick’s gaze.
“Would it be so bad?”
Monroe has to sit his fork down for this, because this isn’t a conversation one could have while trying to cut up the gigantic lettuce leaves in this shitty bar food. In fact, this salad was so bad that if Nick wasn’t trying to give him an emotional breakdown right now, he would be bitching to him about it. “Look, Juliette-”
“Left me,” Nick interrupts. “A year ago. Try again.”
“You don’t get to just dismiss it like that.”
“I’m not dismissing anything. You’re the only who won’t answer a simple question.”
Ever since Monroe went straight on the whole ripping-people-to-shreds thing, he’d developed a nasty habit of fiddling with things. It was helpful as a clockmaker, until he got so agitated that he took apart a viable working timepiece and then couldn’t bring himself to put it back together again. He sort of feels like, right now, he was looking at all the pieces of their friendship - relationship - and he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to put it all back together to make it work again. He had a gut feeling that trying to shove everything back the way it was wasn’t going to cut it. He takes a deep breath, because it’s the thing to do, and says, “no.”
“No?” Nick looks slightly too smug for Monroe’s tastes but he’s not backing down now.
“No, I suppose it wouldn’t be too bad.”
Nick smiles broadly. “So, this is a real date?”
“Oh, come on, you’re going to make me ask?”
Monroe frowns and turns back to his shitty salad, which suddenly looks a little better because he can feel everything starting to shift and move, the mechanism changing its inherent design but miraculously still functioning. “We just had the most awkward relationship conversation I have ever had to be a part of. You suck.”
Nick waits patiently for Monroe to take a drink from his beer before solemnly answering, “not on the first date, I don’t.”
“Monroe,” Nick frowns as he digs into the brown paper bag his boyfriend had oh-so-graciously, in said boyfriend’s opinion, brought to the station for him. “You could have just stopped and picked something up.”
Monroe, feeling magnanimous towards Nick in a way he only gets when he hasn’t seen him for three days because of a case, slides the milkshake he’d been hiding behind his back onto the desk. Nick lights up like a kid on Christmas morning, and yeah, okay, that made the torture of that fast-food drive-through worth it. “You coming home anytime this week or should I just throw all your stuff out on the front lawn now?”
“You keep making these black bean burgers instead of real ones and I might just have to pack my own stuff.” Monroe knows it’s a joke, because Nick loves his veggie burgers. He has irrefutable evidence of this fact, mainly the thousands of t-shirts he has to pre-treat because of ketchup stains.
“I brought one for Hank, too. Don’t tell him it’s not real meat, see if he notices,” Monroe whispers the last part, relishing the grin it draws out. He misses Nick when things get like this, not that he’d admit to it out loud. It’s not a Grimm case, it’s a major political scandal. All Monroe can gather from the news is that it involves the mayor, his daughter, and a whole lot of money laundering. Nick says it goes much deeper than that, and that’s why Renard has got every badge on a detail somewhere in the city, right down to the homicide detectives, which tells Monroe exactly how much worse it must be than the news is telling him.
“Hey,” one of the beat cops, Megan, in the station yells. “What you got there, Burckhardt?”
“Lunch. Wanna fry?” He hands one of Monroe’s rosemary and thyme roasted potato wedges to the young woman.
“Don’t eat it,” another cop jokes good-naturedly. “It’s all health food junk.”
Monroe mouths “junk” to Nick, who smirks in response, before handing out another fry. Good thing Monroe had basically made him a whole bag just for sharing purposes. “Shut up, Joe, I don’t see Maryann bringing you any pot roast.”
Joe stops in his tracks for a second and glares. “How did you know she was making pot roast tonight?”
“We’re Facebook friends.”
Monroe’s forehead hits his hand with a smack and he can’t believe he’s voluntarily in a romantic relationship with this man. “You’re impossible.”
“So’s this case.”
Monroe can see the strain around Nick’s eyes, the limp way his hair hangs from one too many quick showers at the station, and leans over to kiss him. “See you at home?” he murmurs against his lips.
Nick nods and wraps the fingers of his free hand in Monroe’s button-up. “Give me another kiss before you go.” If there’s one request that Monroe can’t say no to, it’s that one.
Monroe is drawn downstairs by the sound of tofurkey sausages sizzling in the pan and the tang of cooking spray on hot iron. He shuffles into the kitchen, yawning into the back of his hand.
“Morning,” Nick says, slamming the lid closed on the waffle iron.
Monroe wraps an arm around Nick’s waist and kisses his cheek. “Case closed?”
“Case closed, bad guys in jail, real maple syrup on your waffles,” Nick chuckles, waving the plate under Monroe’s nose.
“This isn’t the Vermont stuff.”
Nick starts laughing in earnest then, doubling over a little and resting his head against Monroe’s chest. “Oh, God, I’m so tired,” he mutters to his boyfriend’s white t-shirt.
“You should have just come up to bed,” Monroe sighs against Nick’s neck, pressing small kisses there.
“I was carb-loading.” He waves a dismissive hand at the food on the counter. “I figured, I hit that bed, I’m not moving for two days; better eat.”
Monroe slides his hand along Nick’s side soothingly, breathing in the comforting scent that had been growing fainter in the house and on their sheets. The house had been sinking into that disarmingly loud quietness he remembered from before Nick had pushed his way, quite literally, into his life. It scares him, how easily they fell into this, like it wasn’t such a far cry from what they’d had before. He’ll never get used to a gun on his bedside table, or late night hospital visits, or how he somehow turned into a giant, sappy, romantic just because he had someone who loved him again.
He and Angelina had never been this disgustingly happy or in love in the whole tenure of their wild and passionate romance. Maybe they had been and Monroe just couldn’t remember because everything about it was tinged with the bitterness of its ending. The guilt of the way he’d been with her didn’t help things much, either. He likes himself as he is now, struggling daily for normality, and he likes that Nick stands next to him in that. Angelina was like a force of nature, pulling him down a dangerous road with teenage recklessness. Nick, for all the chaos and disorder he brings with him, always seems to meet Monroe just where he is.
“Go to bed,” Monroe says, an edge of mocking force behind it. He says it mostly to stop himself from saying a lot of other things he probably shouldn’t when Nick’s exhausted after a long case, and Monroe’s been lonely for that whole time.
“How about no? How about I stay right here?”
“I’ve got plans to eat all this food you made, so unless you want to face-plant on my linoleum...”
Nick presses a kiss to Monroe’s lips, a dirty trick that was about fifteen seconds away from working, until the smoke detector above them started to sound. “I left a waffle in the waffle iron,” Nick whispers, eyelashes fluttering against Monroe’s cheeks.
“You are the worst at breakfast.”