Buffy pushed open the door of the Exotic Spice and Tea shop, smiling as she caught sight of Monroe bent over a partially disassembled watch at the counter, poking at its innards with a tiny screwdriver.
"Hey, Monroe. Watching the shop for Rosalee?"
The Blutbad looked up at her, blinking owlishly at her through the magnifying lenses he wore for clock surgery, then broke into a smile. "Hey, Buffy. Yeah-- she had a few errands to run, and I got plenty of experience when she was out of town with her aunt, so." He shrugged.
"Makes sense. But I thought you didn't like to risk getting stuff in the gears?" She gestured at the watch, then at the shelves all around them, crowded with boxes and jars and baggies containing pastes, powders, and dried organic ickiness of all sorts. The entire shop smelled spicy, a blend of tea and dust and herbs and weirder things that made her nostalgic for research sessions at the Magic Box... but it also meant there was a lot of fine particulate in the air. Bad for finicky little moving parts.
"Oh, it's not-- I mean, it's not a commission or anything," he hastened to assure her, sweeping off the modified glasses and setting them down next to his portable tool pouch and the watch. "One of Rosalee's regulars was in this morning, and it was acting up on him, and... you know what? You're not here to listen to me ramble about watches. You were here for Rosalee, so... this a social visit, or...?"
"Or," she shrugged, still smiling. Monroe was always fun to talk to; conversations with him reminded her of hanging out with the Scoobies, and helped her feel a little less like she'd left her whole life behind when she'd moved to Portland. Most of Nick's friends were good that way, actually. After the way things in Rome had ended, and with her sister still at school in England, she'd had a rough time of it before rumors of zombies had brought her back to the west coast. "Though I don't mind catching up. I just need some more, um...?" She made a swiping gesture under her eyes. "Glamour stuff?"
"Glamour? Oh. Oh! That's right; the fair folk are still in town." He crouched to rummage under the counter, glass clinking as he sorted among Rosalee's customized potion jars. "Picking it up for Nick, then? What is this, the third batch? Why didn't he pick it up himself on his way in this morning?"
"Something like that," Buffy replied, propping her elbows on the counter. "It kind of irks him that I can see through their brand of magic, and he can't-- but I keep telling him, he can see you guys, and there's no super-spy macho man eye makeup for that, so he should suck it up and deal."
Monroe snorted, then stood up, the jar in question in hand, eyes dancing with suppressed mirth. "Tell me you didn't say that to him in front of the Captain."
"I didn't say it to him in front of Sean?" she replied, twinkling back at him, then laughed. "Sean said I should stop complaining, actually, 'cause I'm not so much seeing through the magic as I am sensing its presence, and I can do the same thing with wesen when I pay attention; but there's no cure for Nick's tendency to assume good intentions first and check for deception later."
"True," Monroe nodded, turning to the register to ring the purchase up. He and Rosalee gave Nick's whole Household a significant discount, given just how often the spice shop saved their collective bacon, but if they never charged anything the bottom line would end up taking a hit. "But don't think I didn't notice you avoiding the other part of the question. Why'd Nick send you?"
"He didn't send me," Buffy scoffed. "He just... went all balky again when I put it on the chore list, and the last time he ended up following a wisp into somebody's rose garden I was the one who had to dethorn him, so I volunteered. Personally? I think he was worried Juliette would be here."
Monroe rolled his eyes. "She comes in here Thursdays after her shift at the vet clinic, and Sunday mornings, not Wednesdays. And it's not like they broke up at knifepoint or anything."
"I think it might've been easier on him if she hadn't made the transition from regular Jane to kehrseite-schlich-kennen," she replied, handing over enough cash to cover the potion. "The fact that she does want to be involved, but broke up with him anyway, bugs him more than he wants to admit to either of us, I think. It hasn't been all that long; I think he thinks we'll worry he's trying to get her back if he talks about her too much."
"Even if he did want to, I don't think she'd take him at this point," Monroe shrugged as he made change. "He did kinda keep secrets from her. A lot. I know he had the best intentions, and it's not like everyone else wasn't telling him she was better off out of the whole mess, but...."
"She's not the kind to sit there passively and let the menfolk protect her; she wants to be informed enough to make her own choices," Buffy finished for him. "I know how that goes; boy, do I ever. And I don't blame her for not wanting to always wonder whether he was still keeping something back from her. But she's human... and somewhere deep down, he's never gonna forget that. He can't. It's his job to protect people who can't do what he does-- and not just because he's a Grimm."
"And you and Renard are already part of the same world," Monroe conceded with a sigh. "I know, I know, it's just-- I'm Juliette's friend, too. And I think it's just as weird for her to see him as it is for him to see her-- do you know she asked me the other day if it was possible Renard wasn't really trying to cure her all that time, if he might have been deliberately trying to sabotage her relationship with Nick so he could have him instead? I had to tell her, I might not trust any Royal as far as I could throw one, not even a bastard-- but how would that explain you?" He gave a sheepish shrug.
Buffy snickered, but turned the subject. She might not blame Juliette, but the less time she spent talking about her boyfriends' exes, the better. "Be glad Sean is paternally challenged-- or I get the feeling the whole faery migration situation would be a whole lot worse. There's a reason the younger princes in all those fairy tales end up lost or assigned insane tasks or engaged to complete hags, you know. And what do you think happens to the boon companions of those princes?"
"So instead of being engaged to a hag, he winds up with one for a baby-momma-- and a pair of his kind's traditional mortal enemies for lovers?" Monroe said, raising his eyebrows back at her. "Gee, maybe I should be sympathetic."
Buffy laughed again, shaking her head. "Go back to your watch, Monroe-- I'll make sure and tell Nick it's safe to come by, later. I think he wants to talk to you an Rosalee about something to do with next weekend."
"'Course he does. Well, I'll be here, as long as he comes by today; be careful out there!" He gave her a casual wave, then headed back for the watch tools at the other end of the counter.
Buffy left the store, then headed back across town, humming to herself as she went. She didn't have any place to be for a while, not until Dawnie called that evening; the art gallery she'd bought in memory of her mom with Council blood money mostly ran itself without her interference. She just had to show up at events, look pretty, and sometimes sign things. So she might as well go ahead and take the younger of her stubborn boyfriends his illusion-piercing goo.
He wasn't at his desk or in the Captain's office when she arrived at the station; nor was Sean, but the ever-helpful Sergeant Wu naturally assumed she was there consulting about a case-- she'd taken a leaf out of Wesley's book and got her private investigator's license when she'd returned to the states, as good an excuse as any for local LEOs if she got caught hunting-- and told her where to find them: there'd been an ugly murder in a nearby state park.
Sean being out there with Nick and Hank usually meant a preternatural crime; ironically, the more rumors spread about Portland being a protected demesne under the unprecedented joint guard of a Prince, Grimm, and Slayer working in concert, the more non-human cases got added to the Grimm's work-load. Wesen and the tamer breeds of demons were just people like anyone else, and more people moving into town always meant more problems.
She made sure to have her police-issued consultant card ready when she got out of the car again, and nodded politely to the other cops around the crime scene. They'd made an attempt to keep their relationship away from work, given the rumors already going around the station about all the times Sean pulled his office blinds with Nick-- and only Nick-- in there with him. As far as the PPD was concerned, Ms. Summers had a special talent for finding perps who didn't show up 'on the grid', or were otherwise difficult for law enforcement to target; after Sean had officially blamed most of the chaos around rescuing 'his Grimm' from his psycho brother on her, the excuse had come naturally.
It wasn't even a lie. Neither Captain Renard nor Detective Burkhardt had had any idea what to do with the petite Slayer who'd made short work of the Cracher Mortel and been able to keep Nick pinned down even under the worst of his crazy reaction to the zombie-making venom... any more than she'd known what to do with the two extremely hot guys who lit up her Slayer spidey senses with a kind of half-demony, half-giddy vibe. Fortunately, she'd stuck around long enough to work it out.
She caught sight of Nick, partway up an unpaved hiking trail cut through a stand of Douglas fir, about half a second before he saw her; his gaze warmed, and she grinned back, feeling the tingles start up again. Sean was standing just up the trail from him, hands in suit pockets as he stared down at something in the grass downslope from the dirt path, but he looked up as Nick turned toward her, and her smile widened.
Sean cleared his throat as she approached, making the obligatory stab at professionalism. "Ms. Summers. What brings you out today? An update on a case?"
"Yes and no," Buffy shrugged, plucking the jar back out of her bag and holding it out to Nick. "Dropped by the spice shop this morning. Thought this might come in handy if Nick got called out for another, ah, sparkly invasion?"
Nick blushed as he took the jar. "Um, was...."
"No sighting of the ex-girlfriend, so I think you're safe to drop by there later," she informed him, then stepped into his personal space and pushed up on her toes, planting both hands against his chest. She'd clocked the positions of the other cops; they'd have a few seconds out of anyone else's view.
Between the two of them, they were stronger than Riley, more human than Angel, as clever as Giles, as frustrated by the whole destiny thing as she was... and nearly as inventive as Spike in certain matters. She was just as glad they'd never made her choose between them. She draped one hand around Nick's neck as his free hand came to her waist, thumb rubbing small circles against the soft skin there as they greeted each other thoroughly; then she broke off to greet Sean properly too, tugging his overly tall self down to her level.
"I thought we agreed not to do this in public," the exiled prince murmured, pressing just a hint of sharp teeth against her lower lip to remind her that she was playing with fire.
"Do what? I was just saying hello," she fluttered her eyelashes innocently. She'd never have said as much to either of them, but they reminded her sometimes of her vampires, in both the ways they cherished her and the thrilling edge of danger that came with a relationship with another predator.
Enough of that, though; she really wasn't there to advertise their relationship to the world. She cleared her throat, then gestured toward the body-- which did actually look a little mauled in the neck region. "So. Fresh vamp kill?"
"It does look that way, doesn't it?" Sean agreed, mouth twitching in a smile as they changed the subject.
Nick cleared his throat and chimed in. "We were just discussing, actually-- this is the third one this week, and the killer's been unusually adept at avoiding surveillance or leaving evidence. Plus, he's killing during the day. You said that usually means an older, more experienced vampire-- could it be here hunting you, specifically?"
"And stopping for a little afternoon delight on the side?" she sighed. "Wouldn't be the first time. You got the deets? I can start checking the area for abandoned houses and sewer entrances."
Work now; fun later. But it would be fun; a challenging hunt would be just the thing to amp up the H and H a little before dinner. It was nice, having someone-- two someones-- who could keep up with her stamina again in all areas of her life; like having her cake and eating it too. And from all accounts, the boys seemed to feel the same way; it was as if adding her to their lives had finally allowed them to trust each other as well, forging a bond of equals that benefited not only themselves but the esoteric community who looked to them to keep order.
It wasn't a gentle love that bound them together, Slayer to half-wesen Prince to Grimm. Hunters to one who should have been their prey; servants to one who in another age would have commanded their allegiance. It wasn't a hearth fire on a cold night. It wasn't a selfless devotion. Or even simply lust. It wasn't a human love at all: which after all this time really shouldn't have come as a surprise to her.
It was blood screaming inside them to work its will, as Spike had once so memorably put it. But it was only now, so many years after first setting foot in the shadows, that Buffy had really begun to understand-- and appreciate-- his full meaning.