Nick tips the last of the whiskey out of the glass, savoring the burn in his throat. He plunks the empty glass down on the polished wood of the bar and signals the bartender for a refill. Beside him, Hank nurses his own drink and watches with barely-veiled concern. Nick’s behavior is starting to worry him.
Okay, so most cops drink too much. Alcohol is one of the few things that dulls the horrors that they get to see on a daily basis. It’s a more comfortable, more enjoyable alternative to therapy, and in most cases, still a damn sight cheaper too. The way Nick’s been going these past few months though, Hank doubts that the savings are accumulating much.
He’s not out of control- not yet. He never drinks before a shift or even during a case. He has strict rules, and he sticks to them. It’s the other nights though, after they’ve wrapped up a case or when they don’t have to be at work the next day that they end up here, or one of the other handful of cop bars in Portland. It’s those nights that Nick pulls up a barstool, orders a steady stream of whiskey, and doesn’t stop wallowing until he’s just about drunk enough to forget why he was drinking the first place.
Not that Hank can exactly blame the guy. He’s had one hard knock after another this year, what with his aunt dying, the break-ins, and the number of times he’s been knocked on his ass and ended up in the hospital recently- not to mention the Juliette thing. There’s no question that he’s had to deal with a lot lately, and Hank’s not going to begrudge him a drink or two. The problem is, Nick isn’t sticking to just one or two drinks.
Hank is getting tired of driving his drunken ass home at 2 in the morning, or pouring him into a cab and crossing his fingers that his partner gets home okay. Every time he decides he’s had enough though, and plans to confront him, Nick comes strolling into the station or onto a crime scene focused and driven and sharp, and Hank is left unsettled because he wonders if maybe this is the end of it, if maybe Nick is back on his game for good. And when it turns out he’s not, Hank watches him and broods and tries to keep him safe.
Nick knows he’s been drinking a lot. He’s been doing it on purpose, because it’s better than spending his nights staring at the wall or tossing sleeplessly in his bed. When he’s sober, he spends long hours contemplating how fucked up his life is these days, how much it’s gone to shit in the past few months. He thinks about how much he misses everyone he’s cared about except for Hank, who’s been taking so much shit from him these days that he could probably open a fertilizer business. He probably deserves to lose Hank too. When he’s drunk, he still thinks about these things. The difference is that with whiskey, it eventually all blurs together and doesn’t hurt as much.
He’s tried to trace it back to where it all went wrong. He’s decided it was Aunt Marie showing up, announcing that she was dying and that he got to become the token monster-killer of the family. The Grimm.
If that hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have met Monroe. He wouldn’t have gotten to know him, or worked with him, or kissed him. And yeah, he wouldn’t have known how incredible that was. But he also wouldn’t have cheated on Juliette. He wouldn’t have felt so guilty. He would have happily gone on, and married her, and had kids and probably coached little league or something. They would have been amazing together, and he never would have known that there was anything more he wanted.
Instead, he became a man he can’t be proud of, who has sampled a forbidden fruit at the expense of contentment, and both regrets and cherishes the action with equal measure. He’s been avoiding Eddie Monroe ever since, wanting to forget what happened between them even while he dreams about it and wakes aching to the memories.
That one lie to Juliette has turned into so many more. That’s part of why, a month later when she got an incredible job offer in San Francisco, he told her that she had to take it. Three weeks after that, most of her things were out of the house and they were doing a long-distance relationship.
She’d come back once for a weekend, and he’d taken a few days of work to make the 10 hour drive down to visit her, and they talked frequently on the phone. It’s easier to lie on the phone though, to pretend that everything is okay. He can listen to her talk, gushing about the city, her new co-workers and friends, the animals she’s working with, and not have to guard his facial expressions. It makes it easier to pretend that they’re still working, that their relationship isn’r eroding, crumbling at the edges. A lot of the time, he can even fool himself.
Avoiding Monroe hasn’t been easy, but he had decided it was the wisest decision. He didn’t trust he could control himself around the man, which could make running into him slightly problematic. He spent more time researching, learning from Aunt Marie’s books and journals, and finding way of gaining insight that didn’t take him to the blutbad’s front door.
There was one point, about a week before Juliette left, that he needed information that wasn’t in the books and was forced to text Monroe. He tried not to read anything into the fact that Eddie responded within a minute and a half.
He’s kept his promise since then, though. It’s been four months since that text message, and he hasn’t been in contact with Monroe. At least he can be happy about that, even if he isn’t happy about anything else.
Three shots later, Hank has convinced him that it’s time to leave the bar and go home. He acquiesces because although he deserves it, he doesn’t want Hank to abandon him too. So when Hank tells him he’s done, he decides to be done.
He stumbles up the stairs at home and collapses into bed, barely taking time to kick off his shoes or yank off his clothes.
Dawn is coming earlier and earlier, so the light spilling in from the window wakes him up just at the clock flips over to 7:00. He feels refreshed despite the short amount of sleep. Hangovers have become kind of a rare thing for him, which makes drinking as much as he does a great way to sleep without dreaming. When the phone rings two minutes later with a call from Dispatch, he snatches it up eagerly. Fifteen minutes later he’s showered, dressed, and on the way to a crime scene.
It’s a little unusual for Homicide to be dealing with something like this, but it’s an unusual enough case that there’s not exactly a protocol to follow. A dead body disappearing from a morgue isn’t the sort of theft that anyone at Portland PD normally deals with. The fact that it disappeared the day before the autopsy was scheduled makes it appear as though there might have been something suspicious that someone wants to keep from being found out. That’s enough to have the case land in their lap, at least until they can prove otherwise.
They spend some time interviewing the Coroner, Dr. Zapata and a female intern named Rachel Leigh who keeps biting her cuticles. Nick makes a note to look into her background, but his gut instinct is that her reaction is more nerves than anything else. They return to the station with very little information.
When Dr. Zapata left the morgue at 7p.m. the previous night, the corpse was properly locked away on a refrigerated slab. No one remembered seeing anything unusual, but when Zapata and Leigh arrived in the morning, the lock on the door had been busted open, and the body was gone. The hospital had promised to copy and send over the security tapes from the timeframe in question, but apart from that, they had no leads to work with.
Although the autopsy had not been performed, they’re able to obtain the medical file. Randy Jacobs, 43, married father of two had been pronounced dead at his home at 5:14 p.m. the night before. He had been running a fever for three days before his death, and had called into work sick on two of those days. Because the death had been witnessed by his wife, no police officers had been called to the scene with the paramedics, and information was limited at best. It seems like a good place to start.
One house call, several questions and a grieving family later, they’re no closer to answers. Randy Jacobs had been, for all appearances, an upstanding citizen without a criminal record or affiliations. His death was seemingly due to natural causes, and no one seemed to have the faintest idea who would have an interest in taking his body.
They interview the widow, Donna Jacobs, which is a dead end, and review the security tapes that the hospital sent over without turning up anything out of the ordinary. It seems like the case is going nowhere.
The next day, there are definitely new developments waiting for them when they get in. The brother and sister-in-law of the deceased had been leaving the Jacobs home late the night before and had been attacked at the end of the driveway. Their car doors had been wrenched open, they had been dragged from their seats and killed. Chunks of flesh had been sliced from their bodies, but were not evident at the scene. Someone had removed them. The entire case is becoming more bizarre by the minute. Hank and Nick interview the family members again, but no one saw anything- they just heard the screams and arrived to find their relatives dead. The entire family is distinctly shaken, particularly the kids. Nick’s heart goes out to them.
They return to the station with more questions than ever. It’s definitely a homicide case now, but they have no leads, no suspects, nowhere to go. One of the rookies on desk duty hands him a slip of paper as he passes by. It’s a page from a Portland PD notepad, and he doesn’t need the signature to know who it’s from. He’d recognize the carefully restrained scrawl anywhere. It’s like a fist in his gut, and he’s not sure what it is he’s actually upset about- the fact that Monroe had been here, crossing all kinds of boundaries he’s tried to set up, or the fact that he had missed him.
The note is simple- there’s no salutation, no fluff. Just the word Nachzerer, and underneath that, added almost as an afterthought, Be careful.
He crumples the paper and shoves it in his pocket. He has some research to do tonight.
Three nights of combing through books, papers, and journals and snatching a few hours of sleep on the daybed in the trailer. That’s how long it takes before he finds anything that references a Nachzerer. Apparently, it’s some creepy zombie-vampire thing that forms after an unusual death- a suicide, or the first person in a village to die of plague, and then comes back to life with the single-minded purpose of killing its family members and acquaintances. Cheery stuff. The entry is in a book that’s hundreds of years old, and the ink is fading at the bottom of the page, so Nick has to squint to make out the instructions on how to deal with it. The Grimm who wrote the entry recommended decapitation and a spike driven through the head. Although from the other entries in the journal, that seems to have been the man’s go-to methodology for dealing with just about every creature he encountered, so Nick is inclined to take those instructions with a grain of salt, which is just as well. If Randy Jacobs really is a Nachzerer, then it’s going to be pretty difficult to explain why a dead man was enough of a threat that he needed to be decapitated.
The first hints of dawn are lightening the sky, and he’s so tired his vision is swimming. As important as it is to find Jacobs and prevent him from killing any more family members, Nick has no clue where he might be. He grabs two hours of sleep, and a coffee with three shots of espresso on the way to work and hopes that it will be enough to keep the exhaustion at bay.
Once he gets to his desk, he calls Dr. Zapata and leaves a message wondering if there have been any deaths recently caused by the same illness. She call him back at 8:45 sounding slightly puzzled and tells him that yes, in the last five days there have been six deaths attributable to influenza. He asks her if Randy Jacobs’s symptoms were consistent with the flu. She refuses to speculate, and tells him that those symptoms could fit any number of maladies, many of which would require an autopsy to confirm. He pushes her a little more, and she finally confirms that yes, influenza is one of the possible maladies.
He hangs up the phone convinced that Monroe’s tip has paid off and that Jacobs is almost certainly a Nachzerer. They’ve been wasting their investigative hours looking for someone who stole a body when they should have just been looking for the body itself.
He and Hank spend most of the day staking out the Jones house, looking for signs that the intruder is returning to the scene of the crime. They turn over the watch to a pair of uniforms in the afternoon. An hour later, Nick is back in his own car, waiting for dusk to fall and the Nachzerer to return. His gun is loaded, and he has a rather wicked-looking hunting knife that he’s brought along in case the decapitation thing turns out to have merit. The fact that several nights have passed since the last attack might mean that this is just a waste of time, but his gut is telling him that that’s not the case. Before she died, Aunt Marie told him to trust his instincts, and so that’s what he’s doing.
Once its fully dark, he slips out of his car, careful not to alert the uniformed officers down the block to his presence, and makes for the cover of the trees around the yard. He crouches in the brush, alert for any signs of movement in the darkness, and settles in to wait.
More than an hour passes before he hears a sound off to his right. He wheels around in an instant, gun drawn and finger on the trigger as he stalks toward the tree where noise came from, being as silent as possible. He spins around the trunk, adrenaline pumping to find himself face to face with… Monroe.
It takes all the training and reflexes he has not to accidentally pull the trigger in his shock.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he whispers, enraged.
“I came to keep an eye on you!” Monroe hisses back. “You don’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to keeping yourself out of mortal danger.”
“Me!” Nick is furious. “I almost shot you! I could have killed you!” He expects Monroe to give him some line about how he was dreaming if he thought he could get the drop on him, but instead he shrugs and says,
“I trust you.” That takes the wind out of Nick’s sails because he’s not sure he really deserves anyone’s trust, let alone Eddie Monroe’s. The knowledge that Monroe still trusts him, even after everything…
He’s suddenly aware of how close they’re standing and how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other. His mouth goes dry, and he realizes that the time apart hasn’t done a damn bit of good, because right now in this moment, the only thing he wants to do is back Monroe up against the trunk of the tree and kiss him until neither of them can remember their own names-the rest of the world, the case, and the consequences be damned.
The reason he doesn’t has nothing to do with his own restraint, and everything to do with the fact that Monroe, with his superior senses, has suddenly spun around. He’s let the wolf out- Nick can see it, and the only reason for Monroe to do that is because he’s straining his senses, trying to locate something in the dark.
Nick raises his gun, pointing it out into the inky blackness of the night, braced for an attack. When it comes though, it’s faster than he could ever have imagined. The Nachzerer springs toward Monroe so fast that Nick only gets the briefest glimpse of its nightmarish form. The thing no longer bears any resemblance to Randy Jacobs. Its flesh is waxy and graying and it no longer moves like a human being does- its limbs and joints seem to work differently. There’s a deep sense of wrongness about it. The flesh on its fingers and toes has drawn back to reveal wicked, grotesque claws that can slice through flesh like butter, and its teeth are viciously pointed. Monroe’s claws and teeth won’t even begin to compare, and in the split second before his cop training kicks in, Nick feels a flash of fear.
The two creatures grapple for a few seconds before Monroe knocks the Nachzerer away with a roar, his claws scoring the thing’s chest. The flesh parts, but the Nachzerer doesn’t bleed, and it doesn’t seem to be bothered by the wound either. Monroe, on the other hand is bleedings from a set of shallow gashes the thing left along his upper arm.
The Nachzerer gathers itself, prepared to spring again, and Nick, functioning entirely on instinct, is only just able to dodge out of the way. He fires at its back and hits it with two of his three shots, but it pays about as much attention to the bullets as it would a feather, and wheels around for another charge. Nick levels his gun to fire again, but Monroe steps into his line of fire, distracting the Nachzerer and drawing its attack. They move too quickly for Nick to be able to aim clearly- if he shoots, he’s equally as likely to shoot Monroe as he is the Nachzerer, and while the bullets don’t seem to bother the undead creature, they could easily kill Monroe.
He’s forced to stand there, searching for an opening, helpless to otherwise intervene as Monroe is wounded again and again. The Blutbad is giving as good as he gets- better even- but every blow, bite, and rake of his claws barely makes an impact on what used to be Randy Jacobs, whereas every time the creature scores a hit, Monroe is badly injured. He’s good, better than Nick would have expected, and he moves with a predatory grace that belies the violence of the days before he chose a path of reform. Still, he can only last so long against this thing without faltering, and when he does stumble and fall to his knees, the Nachzerer ignores him and fixes its attention on Nick.
His line of sight finally clear, he wastes no time squeezing the trigger and emptying the remainder of his clip into the thing’s head. He watches it fall and lie still, breathing a shaky sigh of relief. Monroe is struggling to his feet, trying to downplay how much the injuries must be paining him. They share a smile over the shared victory, each taking a moment to collect themselves.
It’s too soon for congratualtions, however. From the corner of his eye, Nick sees the thing twitch. His instinct is to shoot it again, but his clip is empty. He glances around for the massive knife that he’d brought with him, and in the time in which he glances away, the Nachzerer has moved. It falls on Monroe with renewed fury, and Monroe struggles to defend himself.
Nick scrambles for the knife, running toward them the second his fingers close over the hilt. He gives himself entirely over to instinct as he swings, putting the full force of his body into the blow. He swings true, but it still takes three blows before the Nachzerer’s head falls free of its body, rolling through the leaves. Nick stabs the knife into its open mouth, pinning it to the dirt, and it seems like this time the undead thing might actually have died for real.
He kicks the rest of its corpse away from Monroe, who has fallen to the ground. He’s greeted with the sight of blood. It’s everywhere, flowing from a set of long, deep gashes that run diagonally across Monroe’s entire torso, soaking his clothing and the ground below. The Blutbad’s eyes are closed, his face spattered with blood, and Nick honestly can’t even tell if he’s breathing.
He falls to his knees beside the prone body, and is actually relieved to see a weak gush of blood- it means that Monroe still has a pulse. Frantically, he strips of his coat and button-down, using the coat as a pillow to prop up Monroe’s head and trying to staunch the worst of the bleeding with his shirt. The blood covers his hands far too quickly.
“Come on, Monroe.” He whispers. “You can do this. You can make it. Don’t give up on me, okay?” He blinks back tears even as he reaches for his cellphone. In order to have any chance at all, Monroe’s going to need a hospital.
He’s beaten to the punch by the pair of uniform officers that come bursting through the trees, drawn by the sounds of gunshots and fighting. They survey the scene warily, shock and distrust evident on their faces, but to their credit they obey immediately when Nick tells them to radio for an ambulance, and one of them kneels across from Nick and does what he can to maintain pressure on Monroe’s wounds.
They want to know what happened, so Nick tells them something about an animal attack, trying to keep the lie vague enough that it will hold up under investigation. Most of his attention is focused on Monroe though, and praying that it won’t be too late when the ambulance arrives.
They want him to stay and answer questions at the scene, but he insists on riding to the Hospital with Monroe. He stays with him until they wheel him into the O.R. and Nick is left standing in the waiting room watching the gurney disappear down the hallway. The waiting begins.
He looks at himself in the bathroom mirror a few minutes later and is shocked by the amount of blood that’s on him. It’s soaked the knees of his jeans, and stands out in stark contrast on his white t-shirt. His hands are stained red, and there’s blood smeared on his cheek and his jaw. He cleans up as best he can, and tries not to worry about the rest.
It’s four a.m. before Monroe is out of surgery, and almost five before he’s been settled into the ICU and Nick can see him. He sits with him as long as the nurses will allow, agonizing and praying that Monroe will make it through, and thinking about how he could possibly cope if he doesn’t.
It’s just after six when Nick leaves the hospital. He takes a cab home and finds that Hank has already dropped his car off in the driveway. He makes a mental note to thank him, and collapses into bed.
The sun is setting when he wakes again. He calls the hospital to check on Monroe and is told that he’s doing well- he’s woken up several times during the day, but is currently sleeping again. Nick feels a powerful wave of relief course through his body, but he doesn’t plan on going to the hospital. He’s being a coward, of course, but he can’t put them both through everything again. He can’t pretend that he’s been there for Monroe, or that he’ll be able to be there in the future.
Instead, he packs a bag, tosses it in the back seat of his SUV, and hits the road. He uses the next ten hours to do some serious soul searching. He needs to get his life back on track.