Until it actually happened, Nick truly believed that his life would have been far better if he had never become a Grimm. Certainly he believed it would be far less complicated, and he knew Juliette felt the same way. On the way to the wedding she had basically broken up with him over it, saying she could no longer cope with this twilight world of monsters and strange happenings. He could hardly blame her as neither of them had willingly signed on for all the chaos and trauma that being a Grimm had brought into their lives. Before then they'd had an ordinary, content existence where the biggest fear and uncertainty outside of the dangers of being a cop, was taking the next step in their relationship: marriage, kids... a white picket fence.
Adalind had cast a spell over him and now he was reminded of a saying his aunt used to utter whenever he asked for the impossible.
"Be careful what you wish for, Nick, because one day it might come true."
Once the initial shock wore off, Juliette was overjoyed. As he sat in the back seat of the speeding car, listening to her map out their new future that didn't include anything to do with this other world that was part of his heritage, he wasn't sure what to think anymore. The argument on the way to the wedding - and break up - seemed long forgotten, or perhaps merely overshadowed by more recent events. She had always said she loved him but now he wondered if she was more in love with her vision of a normal future with him. It was such a different attitude from Monroe and Rosalee, who knew exactly what they were. They knew how other Wesen would react to them marrying outside of their own kind but they were prepared to deal with the hardships because they loved each other and wanted to be together, no matter the consequences or the obstacles placed in their path.
Could he say the same for Juliette? The answer was a resounding no.
As a Grimm he had slowly come to terms with the fact that he was different, and now everything had changed once more, and he wasn't certain if he could go back to being Kehrseite - human.
"Nick? Have you been listening to a single word?"
"Have you?" he countered, and saw her perplexed expression, as if it had never occurred to her that he might not share her enthusiasm.
It didn't help that her timing couldn't be much worse either. The loss of everything that made him a Grimm paled into insignificance against the news that the Captain had been shot by a Hundjager. Nick pulled out his cell and speed dialed Wu, concerned when he didn't get an answer. From Theresa's description of the wounds - three bullets to the chest and torso - it was bad, and the thought of losing the Captain scared the hell out of him. He hadn't realized until this moment how much he had come to rely on Renard having his back. But it was more than that. He needed to know why Renard had risked his own life to save him, and he wanted to understand why having an explanation from Renard mattered so much to him.
"Hank, head for the hospital."
"What about Adalind?"
"Hank. The hospital," he ordered, because he had to know if Renard was alive or dead. Nothing else seemed important right now. Not even the loss of everything that made him a Grimm.
He caught Hank's eyes for a moment in the rear view mirror, and saw the nod of understanding. They hadn't always had the best relationship with Renard, especially after discovering that he was the one who had brought Adalind and her mother into their lives, but over the past year Renard had tried to make amends. He had gone out of his way to protect Nick as both a Grimm and as a police officer, and Nick hadn't understood why until he realized that Renard was not only Wesen but also the Royal who was rumored to be in hiding in Portland - the bastard Prince from the House of Kronenberg.
Illegitimate or not, Renard was the true heir after the death of his brother, Eric, and Nick realized that most of their trust issues had stemmed from Renard being forced to protect himself from those who would rather see him dead than take his rightful place.
Renard's actions in protecting Nick had put him back on the radar as a threat to his half-brother, and following Eric's death, had made him a continuing threat to his cousin. Yet Nick still believed Renard owed him a proper explanation for some the chaos in those early days after he became a Grimm.
Yet more than that, he wanted to know why Renard had slowly come to mean so much more to him than even Juliette.
It was a mess.
It was a tangle of emotions that had still not unraveled following the breaking of an earlier one of Adalind's spells. That spell had left Renard and Juliette in lust with each other as a side effect from Renard bringing Juliette out of her coma. At the time, and without all the facts, it had seemed far easier for Nick to blame Renard for the loss of his normal, contented existence with Juliette, rather than blame his mother and aunt for leaving him in the dark about his heritage.
He and Juliette had recently gotten back together after Rosalee found a way to break the 'love spell', but the fine cracks in his relationship with Juliette were widening daily. He knew those cracks had always been there, but they had been easier to ignore when he was just a normal human. Still he had to question why he had kept putting off the decision to ask her to marry him, eventually choosing the wrong moment - a moment that was doomed to failure.
Maybe that was for the best, for those cracks were slowly becoming chasms that neither he nor Juliette were prepared to cross for the other.
Hank pulled up outside the hospital entrance in a place reserved for emergency vehicles and police, but he didn't turn off the engine.
"I'll take them to the station to make a statement."
Nick nodded sharply and jumped out, not waiting for a protest from either Juliette or Theresa, and grateful that Hank didn't give either of them a chance to follow him. Hank was right. Without Renard exercising his authority as their Captain, they would have to create their own cover story. Theresa needed to give a statement and it would be better if Juliette remained with her. Knowing Hank, he would help them concoct a story that held enough truth to bear up under scrutiny. He and Hank had already discussed possible scenarios should something like this happen, so Nick trusted Hank to keep it simple.
Flashing his I.D. at the nurses' station, Nick headed up. He recognized the two cops on duty and their very presence gave him hope that their Captain was still alive, for there would be little point in standing guard over a dead man.
"Daniels... Makase," he greeted. "Any news?"
"Detective Burkhardt," Makase acknowledged. "It's serious. They wheeled him into theater about twenty minutes ago." Makase glanced across at Daniels before looking back at Nick. "Sir, we heard this happened at your house. A rogue FBI Agent shot the Captain."
Nick knew of only one Hundjager posing as an FBI Agent who would have the audacity to shoot down a police officer in cold-blood in broad daylight, especially a Police Captain, and that was Weston Steward. For once he felt no urge to be a cop. Theresa had taken Steward's head so he had no suspect to run to ground, and Nick already knew who was behind Steward's orders - Viktor Beckendorf. Unfortunately, he couldn't report any of this without revealing the existence of Wesen. For now it was better if he pleaded ignorance.
"I wasn't there at the time," he murmured and sank down onto one of the chairs in the waiting area, feeling a sense of guilt steal over him.
Nick suspected that those bullets had been meant for him rather than for Renard, though he didn't believe Viktor would spend any time crying over the loss of the bastard prince. Of course he could be wrong. He couldn't rule out the possibility that Renard had been the target all along, and that Steward had followed Renard to his house and had lain in wait ready to kill him as soon as he left. Except Steward could have done that from a distance. He hadn't needed to come into the house so he must have been looking for something - or someone.
Steward hadn't expected to encounter a second, unknown Grimm.
An hour passed, and then two. Juliette joined him but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts and memories to listen to her until she mentioned getting a transfer.
"You could transfer to the Los Angeles police department, and I'll be closer to my parents..."
"Well, obviously we can't stay in Portland. Once they realize you're no longer a Grimm we'll be in even more danger. I know a real estate agent who could have the house on the market within a few days. We can make a fresh start without all of... this." She waved her hand around to indicate the waiting room with its bland walls and uncomfortable seats.
He blinked in confusion because, Grimm or human, 'all of this' was nothing new to him as a cop. Hanging around in hospitals was an unfortunate part of the job, whether it was waiting to take a statement from the victim of a crime, waiting to interrogate a suspect, or standing vigil for an injured colleague. Except this time it felt different because Sean Renard had been shot in Nick's house while trying to save him from Adalind's latest act of spite and vengeance.
"Juliette, I'm not leaving."
"But I am, Nick, and if you want to be with me..."
Her voice trailed off because she didn't need to spell it out for him. If he wanted to be with her then he would have to leave Portland and follow her to California. That was when it struck him almost like a physical blow. At some point over these past months, he had fallen out of love with Juliette, holding on to her for selfish reasons as an anchor to his former life as a human. Aunt Marie had tried to warn him right from the start, but he hadn't been ready to let go, and Juliette had paid a heavy price for his selfishness, along with Hank, his Wesen friends - and Renard.
She was looking at him intently and he saw the frown lines slowly crease her forehead when he remained silent. Slowly she straightened, nodding gently, and he realized the distance in his eyes was all the answer she needed. She swallowed hard and stood up.
"Goodbye, Nick," she whispered, and as he watched her walk away, it occurred to him that he might never see her again.
A small part of him wanted to run after her because she was smart, pretty and funny, because she truly cared about people and animals... and because he had truly believed he was in love with her until only a few short hours ago. The better part of him knew he had to let her go because she was Kehrseite, but unlike Hank, she didn't belong in this hidden world of Blutbaden, Fuchsbau, Hexenbeists... and half-Zauberbiests.
Except he was Kehrseite too now, or more strictly speaking, he was Kehrseite-Schlich-Kennen - a human who knew about Wesen, the same as Juliette and Hank. Perhaps he hadn't wanted all of this when he first became a Grimm, but now it felt as if someone had ripped out a part of his soul, and he couldn't even blame Adalind entirely. He had done the same to her by forcing her to ingest some of his Grimm blood, severing the Hexenbeist from her. He could only imagine the trials she must have gone through to regain her Wesen form, and as he waited for news on Renard, he wondered how far he would be prepared to go to regain his Grimm form.
That surprised him because at some point during the past few hours he had made an unconscious decision in favor of being a Grimm rather than a human. He had a strong feeling that this decision had everything to do with the man - half-Zauberbiest - fighting for his life on the operating table. Now all he had to do was figure out why every other concern had fallen away when Theresa told him Renard had been shot.
He needed to examine the facts, but he immediately discounted being under a hex. Renard would not be the first man to turn his head but was it merely a physical attraction?
Like all Hexenbeist, in human form Renard was exceptionally good looking. He was tall, graceful and strong limbed.
Although he had found Adalind's Wesen form hideous, Nick knew that his revulsion had more to do with her malicious and vindictive nature. He had felt no such revulsion when he saw Renard woge, seeing beyond the rotting flesh to the decent and respected man beneath; just as he saw beneath Monroe's ferocious Wesen form to the gentle, courageous man who had become one of his closest friends.
He trusted Monroe with his life, but despite everything that had happened in recent months, learning about the resistance movement and his mother's involvement in it, Nick believed he still had trust issues with Renard. With time to think, he was shocked to realize that he did trust Renard, and that he had trusted him with his life, and the lives of his friends, on more than one occasion. The trust issues had more to do with Juliette and that damn lust hex cast upon her and Renard, except now he was uncertain who he had resented more: Renard for lusting after Juliette, or Juliette for being with Renard.
Confused, he paced the waiting room to ease some of the kinks from his spine after sitting still for so long. He knew the answer was almost within his grasp, shrouded just from view, and he sighed in frustration.
Monroe and Rosalee arrived at the hospital soon after, having salvaged as much of the potion as they could before it evaporated or seeped away into the floor, and just one look at them standing together lifted that veil of denial, and gave Nick his answer.
Perhaps he should have been shocked to learn that he had fallen in love with Sean Renard, but that love had come as a natural progression from a strong physical attraction and the respect he felt for Renard as both his Captain and a Wesen leader. Now acknowledged, it was a scary feeling, but Nick refused to run away and hide, even if that love could never be reciprocated.
"Nick?" Monroe looked concerned, trading worried glances with Rosalee. He indicated towards the potion. "You don't have to."
Nick could see the small bottle in Rosalee's hand. "Yeah, I do."
Nick took the potion from Rosalee and downed it quickly, grimacing at the foul taste. He shuddered and gasped harshly as he felt something lock back into his body. His senses sharpened, and his rapid heart beat slowed back to well below human normal as the Grimm was awakened inside of him.
"Nick?" Rosalee's small hand on his arm brought him back.
"Adalind's spell didn't remove the Grimm from me. She simply blocked it off... and now it's a part of me again. I can feel it."
He smiled as his senses expanded once more, making him wonder why he had not noticed losing this special part of himself earlier. He put it down to all the stress surrounding the wedding, and possibly because he had spent so much time trying to suppress this part of himself - for Juliette's sake. Making a conscious decision to drink the potion had finally freed the Grimm inside him, and it felt amazing.
"You should go," Nick stated softly.
"You sure? I mean, we can stay if you-."
"I'll be fine." But he hugged each of them before gently pushing them away, his voice earnest, having finally convinced them to leave. "Thank you."
Four hours after he was taken into surgery, they wheeled Renard out of theater; his condition was critical but stable. Nick was grateful when no one questioned his presence as he took the only chair in the private recovery room in the I.C.U. and settled in for a long vigil.
Slowly, Sean became aware of his surroundings, letting the scent of disinfectant and the beeping sounds of a heart monitor clue him in. Opening his eyes, he confirmed his suspicions as he glanced around the small, private hospital room. His last firm memory was of opening the door to Nick's house after Nick's house guest had handed him the wedding location, followed by the sound of gunshots. The rest was a haze of pain, flashing lights and fuzzy faces, of familiar voices telling him to hold on and unfamiliar ones yelling medical stats. It was surreal.
He caught movement out of the corner of his eye and flicked his gaze in that direction, confused when he saw Nick Burkhardt slumped in a chair, partially braced against the corner of the room. It looked incredibly uncomfortable. He blinked, and blinked again when Nick stretched and turned in his seat, obviously awake and looking back at him. His blue eyes were dull and shadowed beneath by dark circles of fatigue, and his mouth was set in a grim line.
Grim Grimm, his mind echoed and Sean found that funny.
Nick moved with less grace than usual as he unfolded himself from the uncomfortable chair, crossing the small room in two strides until he was standing over Sean. His lips were twitching, making him a not-so-grim Grimm, and that sounded funny too.
"They definitely have you on the good drugs," Nick stated with a soft smile, and that's when Sean recognized the hoarse voice as his own; he had been talking out loud.
"I don't want Juliette," he stated, wanting to make his words clearer when Nick frowned. "She's lovely but I don't want her. She's not my type."
He wanted Nick to know he had no intention of stealing his girlfriend, especially as he had a strong suspicion that the strange visit from Juliette had more likely been Adalind in disguise. He still wasn't one hundred percent certain, but Nick's house guest thought she'd seen something strange going on with Juliette too and she had seen someone matching Adalind's description moments later. It wasn't even that he disliked Juliette. She was a lovely woman but he'd only brought her out of the coma out of concern for Nick, afraid that Nick would leave Portland if he no longer had any personal ties to the city apart from his job. Certainly, he had never anticipated the side effects, spending weeks in a state of confusion, wanting a woman he barely knew when the true source of his attraction was a very male detective under his command, and a Grimm at that.
"Not sure I like your type," Nick murmured, and that confused Sean because he hadn't figured Nick for self-deprecation or self-loathing, and he said as much, only to see his words startle Nick into responding, "I was referring to Adalind."
"Adalind's a bitch," Sean stated firmly before frowning.
Usually he kept his internal filter on to prevent any diplomatic incidents, but 'the good drugs' were overriding his rational thinking. He tried to feel bad about his slip. After all, Adalind was the mother of his child, but she had the typical traits of a Hexenbeist - treacherous and manipulative. Sean considered himself lucky that he was only half-Zauberbiest, with the human half of him counteracting the worst traits of his Hexenbeist blood. At least he hoped that was the case.
"You're nothing like her."
There was something important he had to remember - about Adalind and Nick.
"The potion!" He struggled to get up, setting the monitors off as his heart began to race. "Adalind tricked me... You. She was Juliette-."
Nick's hands gripped his shoulders and held him firm. "I know."
Others rushed into the room but Sean held tight to Nick, reaching up and grasping his wrists to stop him from pulling away.
"You have to drink... the potion." His eyelids became too heavy to stay open and he fell back into sleep between one breath and the next.
When he next awoke, Nick was gone but his scent still lingered in the room as if he had only just stepped out. The aroma of coffee preceded Nick moments later, and he saw Nick's tired blue eyes light up when he noticed Sean was awake.
"Hey, how are you feeling?"
"Tired. Sore." He accepted a sip of water through a straw, easing the dryness of his throat. "How long have I been out?"
"Days," he murmured.
The ache in his chest and abdomen was likely still being dulled by drugs, but his head was clearer than from his previous memory of awakening. Snatches of that previous time came back to him slowly along with the memory of what Adalind had done to both of them. In hindsight it was clear that Adalind had taken on Juliette's form for more than a means of getting close enough to Nick to place her hex on him. She had come to him too as Juliette, wanting to drive a wedge between him and Nick, and for that he blamed himself. He should have kept his feelings for Nick better concealed, but every time he put Nick's safety or health before all other considerations, he revealed a little more of those hidden emotions. Eventually he must have allowed Adalind to see too much, and Hell hath no fury greater than a Hexenbeist scorned.
"My fault. I should have seen..."
He trailed off and Nick remained silent, neither protesting nor agreeing.
"We both made mistakes," Nick stated eventually.
"Gone. She didn't want to be a part of... our world any more."
"I'm sorry." He was genuinely sorry because he knew how much Juliette had meant to Nick.
Nick leaned in closer, his words almost a whisper, his breath warm against Sean's ear. "I'm not."
Something familiar about Nick filled Sean with a sense of relief, and he knew what to was from the moment he breathed in the unique scent of a Grimm rather than just a human. Most wouldn't register that scent, only recognizing him as a Grimm when his pupils dilated so wide that his eyes went almost black, and they could see their woged form reflected back in those bottomless wells of darkness.
"You're still a Grimm."
Nick smiled. "I have Rosalee and Monroe to thank for that."
Sean had a feeling there was a story behind those words but he was too tired to ask for it. Another time, maybe. Hopefully. He was simply relieved that Nick's Wesen friends had restored him, though he doubted his feelings for Nick would have changed whether he was Kehrseite or Grimm. He had fallen for the human Nick long before Nick's Grimm bloodline had kicked in with the arrival of his Aunt Marie. His attraction to Nick had only deepened further once Nick became a true part of the Wesen hidden world.
Unfortunately, they'd had a shaky start, and that was Sean's fault. He had allowed the 'birth' of a new Grimm to overrule his head and heart. He had feared his brother swearing Nick into royal service, and ordering his execution. Instead, Sean had been determined to hide Nick's existence from his half-brother by subtle means. It was the reason why it had seemed so imperative to keep all other Grimms far away from Portland, so they could not report back to Eric.
"This was all my fault. I was afraid my half-brother would coerce you into his service if he learned of your existence. I needed you to swear allegiance to me instead."
"Is that all it was?" Nick asked, and Sean looked away, unwilling to lie to Nick's face but still afraid to tell the whole truth.
In hindsight, his fear had been irrational, with Adalind Schade's mother, Catherine, stoking that particular flame of paranoia. He should have trusted his own instincts from the start because Nick had already proved that he was an exceptional detective, but more than that, he had proved he was a good person too.
Unlike any Grimm before him, Nick looked beneath the woged form of a Wesen to the heart of the individual beneath, treating each not as a monster but as he would any ordinary human who crossed his path - good and bad. His surprisingly gentle and generous nature had turned out to be his greatest strength rather than a weakness, and it had opened Sean's eyes in turn, making him love Nick all the more.
His eyes closed while he stumbled over words to explain those thoughts, but he opened them wide when he felt a soft brush against his lips, surprised when he found Nick hovering over him, face only inches away.
"The feeling's mutual," Nick murmured, his bright smile lifting his tired features and making his blue eyes sparkle.
When Nick leaned in again, this time the pressure was a little firmer, leaving no remaining doubt in Sean's mind that it was a kiss, and a silent promise, freeing Sean from all the fears that had held him in their grip for so long.
They'd both come a long way over the past few years, learning to trust their instincts, learning to trust each other.
This new closeness was another step forward on that journey. Sean knew it would never be an easy road, but for the first time since he and his mother had fled Europe, running for their lives from those who would slay the bastard son of King Frederick, it was no longer a journey he had to fear. Not when he had Nick walking beside him, and not when they were both bound by something far greater than a Grimm's allegiance to a Royal.
They had the most powerful protective ward of all on their side; they had love.