It's honestly not that Eddie has been kidding himself, but it's kind of like AA, right? You know it's killing you and you know you hate it but stopping isn't as easy as just, well, stopping. You work at it every day, you make deals with yourself, build crutches. You leave behind whatever life it was that was enabling you and you cut yourself from off temptation. You take it hour by hour at first and then, eventually, if you're lucky, if you’re strong, week by week and month by month. Time starts adding up, and before you know it, it's been years since you've had a drink and almost as long since you've really thought about it.
And sometimes, you fall off the wagon.
It's bad enough that he did, that Angelina's reappearance in his life brought that out in him almost like it was nothing at all. If he'd just brought himself to heel, if he'd just listened to his instincts instead of his dick, Hap would probably still be alive. Hap had been a good guy, too stupid not to be, maybe. He used to cry to Eddie about how he didn't like it when he hurt people, when he started to see red and woke up covered in it and how the panic would claw at his throat and he never wanted to hurt anyone. And Eddie had listened, had wanted to help, because he knew how that felt.
But that's not even the worst of it. Hap was a tragic result of Eddie's lapse, and he'll always feel a measure of guilt for that, but now that he has fallen off that wagon, he's getting a taste of what it's like to have to climb back on it. Or, well, let's be honest here, claw his god damn way back on it. None of the things that used to calm him seem to be working. He's restless and twitchy, can't concentrate. He fucks up two mechanisms before he gives repairs up for the day and tries the local library for some reading to distract him instead. When he finds himself standing between 636 LIV and 641 FUL, salivating over Quality Meat Cuts – a layman's guide and not because he wants a rosemary lamb roast for dinner, he thinks maybe what he needs is something a little more physical. He goes home and hits his treadmill, and he runs so long and so hard that even for him he's pushing it. By the time he staggers to a halt his muscles are aching and his knees are wobbling and his lungs are struggling to keep up and he's sweating like a –
Yeah. Well. It's a little too soon to go there.
Eventually, he manages to just drink himself into a stupor, with the help of a bottle of emergency whiskey and the television. The irony of turning to a bottle to get himself back on the wagon isn't lost on him in the slightest.
He wakes up later, the muted glow of the TV a harsh contrast against the taste – or memory of it – lingering in his mouth. He's hard, achingly so. The smell of fur and sex and forest green is all around him, the sounds of their coupling loud in his head, the memory of how good it had been, how much he'd forgotten, lingering like afterglow, sweet and so, so transient.
He forces himself to lie there and think of all the reasons why he chose to be on the wagon in the first place, and he can't remember ever feeling more miserable.
Nick finds him more like a bear than a wolf late the next morning. Officially, it's a weekend, but since neither cops nor Grimms seem to know what the hell a day off is, the only thing different about Nick is his uniform. His concession to the weekend, Eddie supposes as he lets him in; a tee shirt, a pair of jeans, sneakers that have seen better days, no badge, no gun, although knowing him, he probably has one of those little revolvers tucked in a holster around his ankle or something.
"Geez, you look like hell," he observes as he slips by Eddie and into the house. Eddie just closes the door and follows as Nick makes a b-line for the kitchen with whatever it is he's got in the grocery bag in his arms.
"Morning, Detective," Eddie drawls, his voice booze-rough and his eyes just a little bit crusty. "Come on in. Make yourself at home. Feel free to abuse me on your way through."
"I was just making an observation," Nick says coolly, glancing back at him as he puts the bag on the counter. "Rough night?"
He probably already noticed the fact that Eddie spent the night on the couch with a bottle so Eddie doesn't bother to deny anything.
"You could say that. What are you doing here?"
"Me?" Nick says, looking a little cagey, like there's something he's not quite willing to say. "Yeah, well, I guess I'm here to make an apology. Brunch? You think you can handle solids?"
Nick starts reaching into the bag, pulling out takeout containers that Eddie's nose already told him feature pancakes and bacon and hashbrowns and eggs; all things Eddie can make for himself so it seems like they're probably just an excuse for Nick to be here.
"Of course I can- Wait," he says on a sigh. "An apology? What for?"
Nick's already getting out a couple of plates and some cutlery and napkins. He pops the container lids and the smell becomes more complex, filling the room and masking the scent of stale sweat and alcohol and the subtle, fragrant cologne Nick wears.
Nick shrugs, serving up a decent helping of everything and then pushing the plate with the cutlery and a napkin across the bench towards Eddie.
"I put you in an untenable position, and I shouldn't have," Nick says evenly, serving himself as well, before tidying up the containers and putting them to one side and picking up a fork. He doesn't start eating though, just kinds of stares at his plate while Eddie stares at him. "I was thinking like a Grimm, not a cop." He looks up, and his expression is as earnest, as honest as it always is. "I thought that Hap was better off under your protection, when in reality he should have been under mine. You shouldn't have had to find your best friend dead on your doorstep, no matter what your involvement with his sister was. And that's my fault."
Eddie stares at him a little bit longer, and you know, sometimes he just doesn't get the way Nick's brain works. What's important to him isn't what's important to other people, and just when Eddie thinks that he makes no sense, he realises that maybe it's Nick who's the sane one and the rest of the world that's crazy.
"You don't have to apologise for that," Eddie says, poking at his food.
"Be that as it may," Nick trails off, and finally takes a bite of his food. "How are you doing, anyway?"
It might be Nick's worried about him; it might be he's asking out of professional interest – either professions.
"I'll manage," he dismisses.
"Real well, by the looks of it," Nick observes a little dryly. "Come on, you know you can talk to me, right?"
Eddie frowns. "There's nothing to talk about. Angelina hasn't changed. She sweeps in like a force of nature, levels the surrounding area, leaving disaster in her wake, and then sweeps out again. I'm used to it, more or less." And if he sounds bitter, maybe that's because he damn well has a right to be. Things never used to work between them, not the things that mattered, and that hasn't changed either.
"And that night in the park?" Nick prompts carefully. "You want to talk about that?"
Eddie feels his frown turning into a scowl. "I lapsed, I told you that. It won't happen again."
"Hey," Nick says, his voice insistent but gentle at the same time. "I wasn't implying…"
"I know," Eddie snaps, and then takes a breath and lets it out again. "I'm sorry. I know. It's just… I'm feeling a little…fragile right now. I just need a little time."
"Okay, sure," Nick agrees. "I just want you to know, I got you, okay?"
There's nothing that Nick can do about the way Eddie's feeling right now, but he finds he really appreciates the thought.
"Sure," he says, only a little awkward. "Thanks."
Nick smiles, not one of his brightest, but it's warm and genuine. "No problem," he says.
They finish the food in fairly companionable silence. Eddie's got no idea what Nick's thinking but for his part, he thinks he probably will be okay. He hasn't worked this long and hard just for everything he's built to be blown over by some big bad wolf, no matter how attractive and no matter what their history together. It helps that Nick's not as insensitive to his situation as maybe he could be.
He's feeling marginally better by the time Nick's cleaning up, almost positive in fact. Amazing what a decent meal can do for the outlook. He's watching, bemusedly, Nick going about this little domestic chore like this is his house, not Eddie's, and it's kind of funny, Eddie thinks, just how much Nick has managed to insert himself into Eddie's life, and how Eddie lets him without a hell of a lot of complaint.
And while he's thinking about why this is, and when exactly it happened, Nick bends over to put some of the trash into the trashcan and his tee rides up at the back and his jeans slide down and Eddie's vision goes abruptly, shockingly red.
The realisation blind sides him. Christ. Jesus Christ. Nick's wearing red. He should know, he should know better than that, Jesus H Christ.
"Eddie?" he hears Nick say, slowly and carefully, but Eddie can barely focus on the sounds enough to make out the words. His pulse has skyrocketed and his hands are shaking and if the bench wasn't between them, he's not sure he would still be standing here.
"I-" he starts hoarsely. "You- I think you should go."
"What?" Nick says, blinking in honest surprise. "What's the matter?"
"You're, uh," Eddie says helplessly, and there's another reason he's glad the bench is between them, because while it is, Nick can't see that he's hard and therefore won't assume that maple syrup does it for him. "When you got dressed this morning, did you do it with your eyes closed?"
"What?" Nick says again, glancing down at himself. "What's wrong with this?"
"Nothing," Eddie says and there might just be the tiniest growl in his voice. "It's what's, uh… underneath."
"What's under-" Nick starts and then his eyes go wide with realisation. "Oh, shit."
"It's fine, it's fine," Eddie says, mostly to convince himself, but he feels like he's not getting enough air suddenly.
"Shit, Monroe. I didn't- I mean, everything else was in the wash and I didn't think you'd-"
"I need you to leave, Nick," Eddie says softly and evenly. "I really do."
"Okay," Nick says quickly. "Okay. Just stay calm."
"I'm calm," Eddie assures and he is, but only as far as his being here and Nick being over there goes. "But if you flash your ass at me again, I definitely can't guarantee anything."
"I…" Nick says, and then, "Oh," and Eddie curses, because he hadn't meant to just come out and say it, god damn it. Nick's eyes are even wider now, staring at Eddie like that little hare probably did the other night, caught, trapped, so terrified it couldn't even run. Except, Nick's not frightened, not of anything, and he doesn't run.
God. He doesn't run.
"Nick," Eddie says again, feeling a little desperate. "Seriously."
"It's okay," Nick says, but he's sidling carefully around the bench, keeping his face towards Eddie and that's probably a good thing, because if he presented his back, if Eddie could see the band of those red boxers again like a hot, delicious slash across his lower back above the belt of his jeans, if he could get his nose up against the nape of Nick's neck, get his teeth against the vulnerable, biteable skin there, then he'd-
It isn't fair to say he doesn't know what he'd do; he knows exactly what he'd do.
"You're not going to go blutbad on me," Nick says, like just saying it makes it true, and if it wasn't for the way Eddie's mouth is dry and his teeth are aching, he'd almost believe him. "You're not going to hurt me. I know that, you know that."
He's moving still; just not fast enough for Eddie's taste. He turns to track him as Nick clears the end of the bench and steps into the living room, and it really doesn't matter now if Nick sees what else that little flash of red has done to him.
"Not hurt you, no," Eddie agrees, holding himself as still as he can, watching Nick move, and just for a second, he lets himself imagine what it might be like, him and Nick and the kind of base passion he knows he's capable of. Just for a second he lets himself picture it, and it's nothing like Angelina and maybe it's everything like Nick, like Nick would be if he did that sort of thing, if he let Eddie do that sort of thing. "Ruin our friendship, yes."
He has no idea what expression is on his face right now, but Nick seems to freeze in place, staring, his eyes wide and his mouth slack, a little open. And Eddie really does try, but he's so in tune with the monster at the moment it's impossible not to, to hear the way Nick's heart thuds hard, pushing excess blood around his veins, feeding muscles for flight or fight. It's impossible not to tune in to the smell of him, fresh and musky and male with that artificial overtone of his cologne lingering around him, getting in the way.
And then suddenly, it's like Nick just goes quiet inside. His heart beat slows, steadies, and the tang of his scent seems to lighten a little. He takes a deliberate, even breath and looks Eddie right in the eyes and says, "No. It wouldn't."
Eddie sucks in a breath as the implications of that hit him and Jesus Christ on a bike, is Nick trying to make this harder?
"Fuck," Eddie breathes shakily. "Fuck. That is not- Could you please just go? Right now is not the time to be talking about this, whatever it is we're talking about. Or not talking about. Christ. Just go."
"All right, I'm going," Nick relents, and now he's clear into the living room he's moving a lot faster, smoothly, like he's trying to give Eddie something to track without inspiring any kind of instinctive reaction to unexpected movement. "But I'll be back to check on you later." It sounds like a threat. The way Eddie feels right now, it is one.
"Fine," he sighs, feeling a little more like he can breathe with Nick on the other side of the room now, almost to the door.
"Call me if you need anything," Nick says.
"I'll be fine," he says again.
"Right," Nick agrees. "I'll see you later. Bring you some ice cream or something."
"Ice cream," Eddie repeats, and there he is, back to thinking Nick is crazy and just hasn't gotten the memo on what sane is again. "Okay, sure. Right. Just don't." He waves a hand in the direction of Nick's bottom half but most definitely does not look. Just in case.
"Wear pants?" Nick suggests and the little bastard is actually smirking.
"What have I done to deserve this?" Eddie implores the ceiling, which more often than not is actually slightly more responsive than the Man Upstairs. "What, exactly?"
"Deserve what," Nick says. "A friend?"
Eddie looks back at him again and there's that earnest, warm look on Nick again, and well, shit.
"Yeah," he says a little grudgingly.
Nick just smiles.
"I guess you did something right, Eddie Monroe."
Eddie almost rolls his eyes; almost, but that would mean he'd miss the way that Nick is smiling, is looking at him. And somehow he doesn't want to miss it, not at all.
"Gonna have to do something about that," he grunts, but Nick just laughs, like he's bullet proof, like nothing is ever going to defeat him and since Eddie hasn't already scared him off, what with crazy exes and inappropriate comments and an obvious inability to keep his instincts out of the gutter, it's possible he's actually right.
"You can try, Monroe," he quips. "Later."
"Looking forward to it," Eddie tells him, aiming for and almost hitting his usual surly tone, but as Nick opens his door, slips outside and pulls it shut behind him, he realises he actually is. Just as long as Nick isn't wearing those red god damn boxers when he comes back, no matter how much Eddie wishes - in the privacy of his own living room now Nick's gone, leaving his scent and the impression of his smile and that after-burn of red in Eddie's vision - otherwise.
He's just fallen off the wagon a little, that's all. No big deal. He'll get back on it soon.