The girl in the woods, poor Holly Clark, had distracted him efficiently from almost anything else, but once he'd settled in at home and saw the box of Christmas decorations that Juliette had fetched down from the extra room, Nick's thoughts tumbled back to Eddie Monroe, who -- despite their strange alliance -- Nick still couldn't pin down. Not at all.
The first time Nick saw the man, he thought he was a monster: a genuine under-the-bed, in-the-closet, behind-the-door bone-chilling monster. But then Nick learned that Eddie Monroe was something much harder to understand, and Nick changed his mind everyday in his quest to identify whether Monroe was more of a monster or more of a man until he (finally) settled into the realization that he was both. He was the wolf that pissed to mark his territory and rutted in the woods and saw the world around him with his nose as much as his eyes. But he was also the clockmaker, the cellist, the Pilates fanatic. And apparently he was the model-train-collecting Christmas enthusiast, too.
Nick didn't think of himself as a particularly emotional guy. His cases affected him, sure. He mourned Aunt Marie, he loved Juliette, and he hated the assholes that made life terrifying for innocent people like Holly Clark. He pitied her, but she didn't break his heart.
But somehow, he still remembered feeling twisted up inside with gut-clenching something when his best friend's dog died when they were nine. He felt an echo of that same empathy when he thought of Eddie Monroe alone in a house decked out like the North-fucking-Pole. This man was so hesitant to let Nick into his life, but he always did, and despite the growling complaints and the scoffing disbelief at Nick's ignorance, Nick could see the passions there at play in the loner's nature.
For so long, it wasn't something Nick had thought about. Now he couldn't help it, and he thought: how much of Eddie Monroe is perfectly content living so alone, so cut off from the world? He professed proudly his lone wolf status, explained that packs were not well-advised, that he'd worked hard to leave that life behind.
But so many of the creatures Nick had met were people, too. People with normal jobs and normal lives, people with families and friends. Didn't Eddie Monroe want that? Even at all? Even a little bit?
Was that why he continued to let Nick into his lair?
Nick helped Juliette put up the garland and set out the candles, and they promised each other to get a tree that weekend, but even as he fell asleep looking at her, it was Eddie Monroe he pictured in his mind's eye, gleefully running the trains through his house amongst a Christmas wonderland assembled with the same attention to detail that he paid to his clocks, his cello, to everything. After only a moment's hesitation at the door, he had let Nick in to see how very decked his halls were. But Nick remembered even more clearly the eagerness with which Eddie wanted to share his joy.
And since when had he started thinking of Monroe as Eddie?
In some lines of work, it's called a postmortem. In the force, it's a debriefing. Nick doesn't have a word for what he does with Eddie, but it started after the first time when he needed someone to talk to about everything that had happened, about what had gone wrong and could have been better, even just to update Eddie -- who had taken off in the middle of everything -- to let him know the girl would be okay.
So a week after their trip to the woods, with Holly cleaned up and talking again and Addison in custody -- forever, he hoped -- he took himself off to Eddie's place and was pleased when the door opened without hesitation and Eddie ushered him inside.
"Just in time!" was Eddie's greeting. "I just put together the new boxcar! C'mon."
So, with the wry amusement that Nick afforded all of Eddie's odd hobbies, he followed the Blutbad into the den to help ensure all the wheels were aligned on their tracks as Eddie carefully hooked up the shining red boxcar between the black caboose and number ten tanker on one of the trains.
"Go ahead," Eddie told him, gesturing to the control panel when he had finished.
Nick smiled and pressed the button. The little locomotives whistled, whirred to life, and set to careening about the tiny tracks throughout the land made of tables and chairs and boards laid across them, through a little world made mostly of fluffy white snow.
"What'll it be?" Eddie asked, nodding toward the kitchen.
"Whatever you got," Nick said, taking the opportunity this time to look around the place, take in all the detail and the love of it, from perfectly proportioned tree to less-perfect garlands and mismatched lights strung across ceilings and doorways, around windows and clocks.
Eddie returned with hot, fresh coffee in tall mugs and they sat on the couch, the sound of the busy little trains behind them. "How's the girl?" Eddie asked, and then immediately corrected himself, "How's Holly?"
Nick cupped the hot mug in thankful hands to warm them and said, "It's looking good. She's… bonding with her adoptive mother. She's had the strength to testify against Addison, which I've gotta say had to take some real…"
"Balls," Eddie supplied.
"Yeah." Nick sipped the bittersweet coffee. "This is good. They're looking into getting some tutors for her. She told me she wants to thank you."
"Whoa, wait, what?" Eddie was on immediate alert, on edge like a spooked dog. "Like, in person?"
"But I'm out of this thing; I was never there."
"Officially," Nick agreed. "But I don't think Holly Clark is likely to forget you. She's got her mom now, but when it comes to this other thing, you're the only one who can really understand."
"I am not a babysitter."
"Never would have mistaken you for one," Nick said, hiding his smile behind the mug. "Despite the wardrobe."
Eddie looked down at himself. "What's wrong with it?"
"You dress like someone's stodgy old grandfather."
Eddie glared at him. "And you're changing the subject. The answer is no," he said, as firmly as he could.
"Right," Nick agreed benignly, "no babysitting. But I want to say thank you. Again."
"And you'll keep saying it until it's my corpse you're talking to."
"You're gonna get me killed, Grimm, and I don't like it. There's a reason I walk the straight and narrow now, and it's not so I can go off and get myself killed protecting some goody-two-shoes cop."
Nick's humor faded and he lowered the mug. "I don't need you to protect me."
Eddie raised an eyebrow at him, the 'really?' going unsaid.
"That's not… I really appreciate your help, Monroe. I couldn't do this without you."
"Right. In that case, you owe me a kiss."
"…What?" Nick sputtered, flabbergasted.
Eddie casually indicated a few sprigs of greenery scattered across the ceiling and in the doorways. "Mistletoe. I wouldn't even ask, except… it's not like there's anyone else around, and I really hate pissing off the Nargles."
"Yeah. Mistletoe spirits; they're like pixies. If you don't kiss under the mistletoe, they get all pissy and pull shit like tying shoelaces together and souring the milk. It's really annoying."
"Then, why do you hang it up at all?"
"Because it's Christmas," Eddie said, in the same tone a teenager would say, 'duh.'
"Right; that makes perfect sense," Nick said, dead-pan. "Look, if I see Holly again, is there anything you want me to tell her, pass on a message?"
Eddie slowly shook his head. "I don't know... Blutbaden aren't big on sentiment."
Nick's eyebrows climbed his forehead as he pointedly gazed around the excessively festive room. "Really?"
Eddie scowled. "Don't you have a donut somewhere you should be eating?"
"I know you can do better than that," Nick said, finishing off the coffee and setting the mug carefully next to a slightly lopsided gingerbread house. "I just wanted to let you know: I think she's going to be okay. But if she needs anything, gets in any kind of trouble, I will be reaching out to you."
"Why start warning me now?" Eddie sighed, standing up as Nick did. "So," he looked directly above them at a beribboned spray of mistletoe, "about that kiss--"
"You're serious?" Nick asked. "Listen, you're the one who brought it and its… Nargles? Into your house. It's not my responsibility."
"Well, I wouldn't be too sure of that," Eddie said, following him to the door. "They've seen you now; could be they'll follow you home, make trouble. They're pretty unpredictable."
Nick glared at him. "Good night, Eddie."
Once the holidays really set upon them, Nick and Juliette barely had a spare moment for anything. There was gift-shopping and grocery-shopping and cleaning the house. There was hooking up the new fridge and setting up the tree and trying to align schedules with everyone around them.
On Christmas eve, it seemed like half the precinct -- at least those without kids at home -- was in the house, Juliette happy to play hostess. Hank and Officer Wu started a poker game and there was much hooting and hollering to be had once the alcohol got flowing.
By the time they saw the last guest out the door and had swept through the house for a preliminary clean-up, they were exhausted.
They held off the morning as long as they could, but the inherent joy of Christmas dawning finally pulled them from the bed for the first presents and morning kisses. But it wasn't long before they had to dress and pack up, for the day would be spent at Juliette's sister's house with every other Silverton in the the northwest. So Nick dressed carefully and donned the necessary emotional armor as well before packing the bags of presents into the car along with a pumpkin pie and bottle of wine.
By the time they got home, the sky was dark and snow was falling. They hauled gifts and leftovers inside, quickly changed into more comfortable clothes and lounged together on the sofa, sipping eggnog and watching Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.
Juliette glanced away from the movie to look at Nick repeatedly until she finally said, "You're brooding."
Juliette paused the movie and turned to address Nick directly. "Nick. How long have I known you? And you really think I'm not going to notice when you're going into a sulk?"
Nick offered a fair approximation of an apologetic smile before he said, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Oh, that's never good," she mused to herself. "Go ahead."
"What would you do if you knew this guy, and he was kind of a loner, but… he really loved Christmas, I mean loved it, had the tree, the lights, the overdone decorations, the trains, the… the little Christmas city, the whole nine yards… and you just remembered that he's, um, alone for Christmas because he's estranged from his family and doesn't have any friends?"
Juliette gave the the most long-suffering sigh she could manage, but the effect was ruined by her amused smile. She stood and made her way to the kitchen counter where she pulled out a snowman plate and started piling it with all the different cookies they had accumulated. "Well, first, I would hang my head in shame."
"Done," Nick said from the doorway, suitably abashed.
"Then, I would take a plate of cookies over to him," she passed him the saran-wrapped plate, "and hang out for bit."
Nick drove carefully through the wet streets, listening to the shush of the wheels churning through the slush until he pulled up outside the house with a wreath obscuring the stained glass wolf on the door. Nick took his plate of cookies, but as he approached the door he slowed at the sound of muffled music. He stood still on the porch, head tipped down as he listened to the mournful cello so slow and deep he could barely recognize the minor strains of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.'
The sound was so lonely Nick immediately flashed back to the sight of Eddie's cheerfully decorated home, and the single sad stocking hanging from the mantle, and he wondered now more than ever how lonely Eddie's life really was.
The door opened.
Nick jerked back in surprise, not having heard the music cease, so lost in thought he'd been. And he probably should have said 'Merry Christmas' or at least 'hello', but what came out was, "How did you know I was here?"
Eddie put one hand on his hip and pointed to his own nose with the other.
"Right," Nick said. "Um," he offered the plate. "Merry Christmas."
Eddie accepted the peace offering as graciously as he ever did anything. "C'mon in."
"Thanks." Nick stomped the sludge off his boots and hung his coat beside the door, but Eddie blocked any further movement into the house, pointing up at a sprig of mistletoe.
"Really?" Nick asked.
"All right, all right," Eddie said, letting it go and leading Nick into the warm and cozy den. "Thanks. For stopping by."
"No problem." As they sat, Nick looked at the cello where it leaned carefully against its stand. "Oh, you… don't have to stop."
Eddie narrowed his eyes. "…You want me to play?"
"Yeah, sure. Play something. I don't know much about strings, but I like Christmas music all right."
"Hm," Eddie said to himself as he took up the bow and ran something over the horsehair filaments.
Eddie carefully positioned the instrument and resettled the bow on the strings several times before he closed his eyes and started into 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel.'
So mellifluous was the tenor tone of it that it sounded like a voice humming deep and bittersweet.
"That's real nice, Eddie," Nick said when the Blutbad finished and opened his eyes. "How long have you been playing?"
"On and off since middle school," Eddie said as he placed the instrument back in its stand and drew a dustcover over it. "You ever play an instrument?" Nick shook his head no. "It's good for teaching yourself concentration; music has counting in it, you know? And it can be…" he searched for a word, "…restful."
"Yeah," Nick said, "I get that."
Eddie disappeared into the next room and came back with a small, longish package, expertly wrapped in bright paper with a stiff gold bow made of real wired ribbon. "Here," Eddie said, thrusting it toward Nick. "Uh, frohe Weihnachten."
"You didn't have to get me anything," Nick said, taking the present. "Thanks, Eddie."
Nick pulled off the wrappings, acutely aware of being watched. He took the lid off the plain white box and pulled back silvery tissue paper to reveal a dark brown leather book, very like an address book or personal planner except for the the finely tooled border of holly and ivy etched with the burnished silhouette of a reindeer and elaborate lettering that read, 'Das Julfest und der Weihnachtsmann.'
Setting aside the wrappings to more closely examine the book, Nick opened the stiff leather cover and was glad to see that the intricate print was in English. The pages were thick yellow parchment and each one was decorated with dark designs, maps, or delicately drawn pictures of creatures and artifacts. The first entry was for Father Christmas, der Weihnachtsmann, and listed the many names by which he was known and others like him, and featured a handsome bearded man with a flop-brimmed hat hiding his eyes.
"This…. this is beautiful. Where did you get this?" Nick asked.
"I made it. When you seemed surprised at the whole… Christmas thing. By all accounts, it's not something Grimms usually care about, (gifrarengebers keep to themselves these days) but I thought you might want to know; I mean this stuff is ancient knowledge, man."
"But I don't understand. You made this? For me?"
Eddie's look was one of disbelieving disappointment. "You aren't smart enough to be a cop. How are you still alive?"
"But," Nick ignored the insult completely, "I mean, why?"
"Why not? Christmas is about giving and all that."
"It's… it's really beautiful. Thank you." It was possibly one of the most heartfelt thank yous Nick had ever given.
"You're welcome." Eddie glanced at the clock. "You should probably be getting home to your girl."
"Yeah," Nick agreed, and he let Eddie walk him to the door, which opened to reveal the softly-falling snow. Nick hesitated at the threshold. "You okay, Monroe? You don't seem quite yourself."
Eddie sighed. "The Nargles are driving me crazy."
The funny word had a ring of familiarity to it. "Right," Nick said, and his eyes flicked up to the little green plant with white berries, and he took a step closer. "Well, uh, tis the season. To appease the Nargles? Right?"
"Yeah?" Eddie suddenly grinned. "Yeah, it is." He didn't let Nick think about it, but promptly drew him directly under the mistletoe and cocked his head just enough to avoid a nose collision. He didn't try to embrace the smaller man, but held his upper arm firmly as he leaned in to kiss him, with perhaps the unfortunately-timed thought that this might be all he ever got.
Eddie's vision reddened, his senses elevated. He felt everything: Nick's heat and confusion, his sweat and his questioning moan as Eddie opened his lips and thrust his tongue inside, tasting turkey and wine and yams and chocolate. A yearning rose in him, growing so hot and desperate so quickly he couldn't hope to employ a single method to control it. His scruff rubbed at Nick's face, his fingers tightened, claws threatening. He backed Nick into the door, running them into the wreath.
A growl broke between them and Eddie pushed even harder, drinking in the taste of him, the kiss so deep he lost himself in the thrill of it, the closeness, the claiming.
As soon as he recognized it for what it was, Eddie drew back so sharply there was an audible pop at their parting and Nick stumbled sideways onto the porch.
They stared at one another.
Then Nick looked everywhere except at Eddie. He told the Bludbad, "This-this can't happen again."
There was a breath of silence between them.
"It never did," Eddie agreed, still appalled at his own actions, the shock obvious in his expression as he slammed the door in Nick's face.
Nick clutched at the beautifully bound book still in his hand and he walked in a daze back to the car, and even by the time he got home he was still wearing a glazed expression of disbelief.
"How'd it go?" Juliette asked from where she was curled up on the couch, half-asleep already with a glass of wine standing nearby.
"Fine," Nick said, surprised at the steadiness of his own voice. He tucked the book casually away where she wouldn't see it and then picked up her feet to sit and resettle them on his lap. He massaged her ankle idly with one hand and asked, "Have you ever heard of Nargles?"
"Nargles?" Juliette echoed, thinking for a moment. "Oh, yeah sure. They're a Harry Potter thing, some made-up creature that Luna Lovegood was going on about. I think it was in the movie, too. Remember?"
Nick's eyes slowly narrowed and he almost growled, "I will kill him!"