Drunkenness is a spectrum. In police reports, they used the phrase "under the influence", which could mean anything. There were happy drunks, there were funny drunks, there were somber drunks. There were drunks who threw their fists around and ended up in handcuffs at the end of the night. Nick had encountered those types and more. Many, many more. So it wasn’t really a spectrum. It was more like a ellipses-shaped continuum.
Nick, fortunately, knew exactly where his friends fell. Most of them were reasonably handled. Juliette was fun and airy. Monroe was egotistic and talkative, which was annoying. Rosalee had a certain promiscuity about her when she drank, which is why she didn’t do so very often. Hank was different than all of them.
Hank was a special case, as he was in most things. Hank was a somber drunk. When he had a few drinks in him, Hank became dark and devastatingly cheerless. Nick hated it. When sober, Hank was always friendly and humorous, but whenever they drank together, it was a different story. A story that Nick was getting tired of telling.
“I can’t stand it, Nick,” Griffin said into his glass. Nick wasn’t keeping track of how many drinks he’d had. Hank’s shoulders were slouched, his elbows up on the bar as he sat hunched over on the barstool to Nick’s right. “Can’t freakin’ stand it.”
Nick himself had a few drinks, though he had been keeping track. He was the driver, after all. His brain was firelight between his ears, flickering and dancing and sending sparks into the air. “I don’t think you can stand at all,” he muttered.
Hank’s eyes shifted from the bottom of his brandy to Nick. He looked Nick straight in the face, right into his eyes, or at least the best he could. “Being alone.” He exhaled. “It hurts, man.”
Nick raised an eyebrow. His tongue halted for just a second as he tried to consider what was being said to him. A cry for help… did Hank want to be rescued? Of course not. Nick looked at the digital clock at the other end of the bar. It was close to midnight. “Yeah. Reminiscing about your ex-wives means it’s time to go home. Let’s head out.”
But when Nick grabbed his coat and began to rise, Hank grabbed his sleeve. “No,” he said, and it Nick wasn’t a little tipsy then he might not have been inclined to notice the desperation in Hank’s quiet voice. When Nick took his seat, Hank shifted in his so they were facing each other. “Stay.”
Nick blinked, and his vision stared to blur. Maybe he’d had a little too much to drink. Nick, after all, was not a broody drunk or a violent drunk. He was just a bad drunk. Simply, he was not good at holding his liquor. He got tipsy easily and got bad hangovers no matter how much or how little he poured down his throat.
“I need you, man,” Hank said, and once he started, the words kept coming. “This job that we do… We’ve seen a lot of shit, you know?” He let go of Nick’s sleeve after slowly releasing the tight grip his fist had there. “Good shit, bad shit, evil shit. Fairy tale shit. You know… Grimm shit.”
“That’s a lot of shit,” Nick remarked. He really didn’t know what else to say.
If Hank noticed that Nick spoke, he gave no inclination to it and just continued. “So much death. This job is a constant reminder that everything can be gone. Bang, you’re dead. One slash of a knife. Fire, poison, fists, whatever. There’s life, and then we’re gone. I mean… that’s fucked up.” He shook his head gently, nearly getting lost in thought. His eyes, bleary and brown, met Nick’s again. “You’ve always been there for me,” Hank said gently. “People in my life, they come and go. Not by dying or anything. They leave. My wives, they left… ‘cause of me. But you’re still here.”
It didn’t come to Nick at first whether or not Hank wanted him to reply. He sat there starting, lips slightly parted, as his friend slouched over and stared him in the eyes. Nick’s brain didn’t have time to think before Hank started talking again.
Hank raised his fingers in a weak gesture in Nick’s general direction. “It sounds dumb, I know, I know. But I think about it a lot. You’re my best friend, my best man. I don’t know if there’s anything that can change that.” He propped his head up on his elbow, looking at Nick with half-closed eyes. He sighed deeply. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Maybe that… maybe that I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be without you. Maybe dead, maybe not. Who knows. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re here now, at eleven forty-nine at night, in this shitty bar. You’re here, and you’re not going anywhere.” He lifted his head and put his arm down. The corners of his lips turned upwards, ever slightly. “You’re so cool. I fucking love you, man. Never leave.”
To put it simply, Nick was confused. What was Hank trying to accomplish? Was he just drunk? Was he doing that thing he did when he was asking something but did not phrase it as a question? Nick didn’t know. He was too tipsy to think about it coherently. All Nick knew was that there was a problem. His friend was having a problem and Nick had to solve it.
Nick kissed him. It was a quick decision. It came to him without a trace of a thought, like blinking or breathing might. Nick’s brain surged with light, or perhaps with the booze, and when their lips met, he kept his eyes open to watch as Hank’s brow furrowed in alarm, but his lips pursed all the same. It was a warm kiss, a quick one, nothing special at all, and as quickly as it began, they moved away from each other. Hank stared at Nick, and Nick sat there dumbly, his mouth still open slightly.
“Nick…” Hank said slowly, carefully. He wasn’t sure what sort of ground they were stepping on, and he proceeded cautiously. “That was fucking weird.”
Kissing was not a good problem solving tool. And if he weren’t drunk, Nick probably would have remembered that for next time.