Story warnings: Some swearing, off-screen violence and mentions of death, actual violence in later chapters, no slash, no het really although Nick and Juliette do get smoopy on the phone much to Monroe's dismay.
Monroe was in the middle of fixing lunch when there was a knock on the door. He finished neatly dividing the sandwich before he put down the knife, frowning. It was too early in the day for tommyknockers, that usually happened in the afternoon when school let out and rarely since he’d caught one of the little heathens at it last month, and too late for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they came without fail between nine and eleven am. Also, the unusually long cold spell was keeping everyone off the streets.
Too early for the mail as well. Could be UPS or FedEx but it didn’t smell like his regulars, didn’t smell like anyone he knew. He opened the door.
He’d taken too long; the man on the other side was already a couple feet down the walk, hands shoved deep into his coat pockets. He turned at the sound of the door and Monroe got an impression of messy hair and pale skin, a flash of a smile as he half-jogged back up the stairs.
“Sorry, figured no one was home.”
Monroe squinted at him suspiciously. “You’re not a salesman, are you?”
The man grinned. “Not a salesman. My name is Nick Burkhardt. I’m looking into the disappearance of Robin Howell. I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions.”
Monroe blinked. “Who?” Name wasn’t ringing a bell.
A small picture was produced. “Robin Howell. Little girl who went missing a couple months ago.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now. It was on the news. Never found her, right?”
The guy looked down briefly. “No. No, they never found her. If you have a moment, I just need to ask a few questions.”
And that was how Monroe found himself sitting in his own living room with a Grimm on his couch. Really it wasn’t his fault he hadn’t realized what the guy was as soon as he’d opened the door, not like he’d ever smelled one before. Genetic memory sometimes took a minute to kick in. He’d looked normal.
Only when Monroe completely by accident wolfed out on the guy—Grimm on his couch!—he didn’t get shot or stabbed or punched. He got a very freaked out Grimm resolutely not looking at him and digging in his pockets for…for…a small bottle of medication.
“Sorry,” the Grimm said tightly, eyes locked on the floor. “Can I use your bathroom?”
Which was how he ended up with a freaked out Grimm having a panic attack in his bathroom. Standing nervously outside the door, Monroe raised a hand to knock for the third time in as many minutes, pulling his hand away before he made contact for the third time in as many minutes. The Grimm was talking, whispering, over and over. “There’s nothing there.” The fear/confusion/distress coming off him was suffocating. “There’s nothing there. It’s not real.”
Geez, this was one messed up guy.
Another minute of pacing, gnawing at his thumbnail, which he hadn’t done in years, and he broke down and tapped on the door with one knuckle, gently, because he kinda figured the Grimm was a hair away from losing it entirely and he so wasn’t going to clean that up. “Uh, you okay in there?”
Two deep breaths and the Grimm said, “Yeah, sorry, I’m fine. Just a minute.” Hoarse and shaky but at least he wasn’t mumbling his sanity mantra anymore.
“Uh huh.” Fine wasn’t the word he would have used but whatever. “Look, I’ll be in the kitchen making sandwiches, just don’t…die in my bathroom.”
There’s a strangled laugh from behind the door.
Away from the bathroom the fear scent wasn’t as overwhelming. Monroe opened a window and stood next to it. Sweet, sweet fresh air. He didn’t invite people into his house. Wasn’t used to smelling strangers in his space at all, much less a Grimm, much less a Grimm who was just…. What was that?
He shut the window when he heard the bathroom door open and the soft shuffle of footsteps. The Grimm paused in the doorway, still twitchy but hiding it behind a weak, embarrassed smile.
Monroe gestured towards the hall. “Go sit. I made you a sandwich.”
The Grimm hesitated, watching him warily. “I should—”
“You should take off your coat and sit and have something to eat.” A little more kindly he said, “It will help.”
Giving up he edged down the hall. Monroe put the second sandwich on a plate and followed. “Sit,” he said again, putting the food down. “You want a beer?”
“Uh, thanks, but I’m not supposed to drink with the medication.”
“Okay. How about iced tea? I know, I know. Not something most people drink in the winter but I was craving it.” He headed back down the hall throwing another, “Sit,” over his shoulder.
When he came back the Grimm had finally taken off his coat and perched in the chair. The embarrassed look was back. “Sorry about freaking out on you. I usually don’t do that in other people’s houses.”
“Yeah, well, other people probably don’t go blutbad on you. Or maybe they do, I don’t know. I’ve never met a Grimm before. Heard about you sure. The stories my parents used to tell, and, wow, let me tell you, not something you should pass on to the kids right before bed time. I had to sleep with a nightlight until I was thirteen.”
The Grimm was staring at him like he’d gone wolf again. He surreptitiously checked his teeth with his tongue just in case.
“What was that word you used? Blut….”
“Blutbad. You know the big, bad wolf.”
As it turned out, no, he didn’t know.
Monroe sat back in his chair. “You’ve never heard of blutbad? Really? I’m think I’m kind of hurt by that. Haven’t you been reading the books?”
The Grimm shook his head slowly, frustrated, bewildered, maybe a little stoned from whatever meds he was on, hell, Monroe wasn’t judging. “What books?”
“What books? You seriously don’t know.” Okay time to rethink this. “Seriously?”
“You,” the Grimm started tentatively, “you think this is real?”
“Of course it’s real. I’m real. Do you want to see it again?” He meant it as a threat because really blutbaden weren’t pretty to humans, but the Grimm nodded eagerly. “Well, too bad. I’m not a trained monkey.”
Oh, for the love of…. “Alright. Once. This isn’t easy, you know.” It was far too easy. A deep breath of the lingering unease and fear coming from the pretty, pretty man at his table and the wolf was ready to come out and play. The hard part was going to be putting it away again. He watched the Grimm warily. “You aren’t going to freak out again are you? I don’t think my bathroom can handle another nervous breakdown today.”
Monroe would have believed that if not for the sharp spike of anxiety and his heart rate picking up sharply. He just made it so, so easy.
Eyes went wide, pupils dilated, heartbeat was like one of those wind-up drummer-monkey toys that had been twisted too far, but he didn’t freak out, didn’t flinch. He stared; lower lip caught between white teeth, fingers digging into his jeans hard enough the nails scraped on the rough fabric.
“Whaaat?” Monroe asked warily.
One hand stretched out. “Can I touch?” He didn’t wait for yes or no.
Okay this—this —was officially weird. The Grimm had long, elegant fingers that were shaking just a little as they slowly, carefully moved over Monroe’s face, found the tips of his ears, touched the coarse sideburns.
“You’re real,” the Grimm whispered. The scents coming off him were too much, too complicated. Hope, confusion, such utter relief it bordered on pain.
Monroe pulled back, standing, letting the suddenly gentled wolf fall away. “One hundred percent.”
“I don’t understand. Why can I see you,” the Grimm gestured, “like that? Can other people see it?”
“Most people can’t,” Monroe said. “Did someone in your family die recently?”
God those eyes were going to kill him. “I don’t have any family. My parents died a long time ago.”
Monroe rested both hands on the table, trying not to tower over him. “No grandparents, uncles, aunties?”
“My mom had a sister, but she died before they did. I don’t know much about my dad’s side of the family.”
“Huh.” Monroe took a sip of his tea. “Eat your sandwich.”
“Uh uh. Don’t talk, eat. Just give me a minute to think about this.”
Lips thinned into a flat line, but the Grimm let it go and paid attention to his food. “Oh my God,” he said around the first mouthful. “This is really good.”
“Well, yeah.” Of course it was good. Nice to be appreciated though.
“No, I mean really good. Is that avocado?”
The fear scent was gone entirely now, which he supposed proved that the guy truly didn’t have a clue. Alone in a blutbad’s home territory, he should be afraid. “Homemade bread, avocado, tofurky, heirloom tomatoes, and Moutarde de Meaux Pommery.”
“Hundred and twenty bucks a jar, but soooo worth it,” Monroe assured him, pleased the man recognized quality.
Gray eyes went wide and he swallowed hard. “A hundred and twenty dollars. A jar?”
“Yes, so don’t waste it.” He sat again and pointedly took a bite of his own sandwich.
The Grimm managed two more bites before, “You called me a Grimm. What does that mean?”
Monroe sighed deeply and took a sip of tea. “Trust me. This explanation is going to take a while. Best done on a full stomach.”
Making an aggravated sound the man went back to devouring his sandwich. When every crumb was gone, the Grimm folded his napkin tidily across his plate, wrapped both hands around his iced tea glass, and sat there. Looking at him.
Monroe sighed again. “I’m assuming from your truly staggering lack of knowledge on the subject that your parents never explained what a Grimm was or what they do?”
“What? Like the Brothers Grimm from the fairy tales.” He shrugged, shifting the glass around in a tight circle between his fingers. “They used to read the stories to me when I was a kid.”
Monroe snorted. “Not the unabridged versions, I’ll bet. The point is it’s all real. The Grimms were real and you, my friend, are one of them.”
“Really?” Sarcastic and bitter. He wasn’t buying a word of it. Oh but he really, really wanted to.
Monroe stood, gathering up the plates and headed back to the kitchen, trailed by the Grimm. This was so far beyond how he had imagined spending his afternoon it wasn’t even in the same zip code. Putting the plates in the sink he leaned on the counter and studied the other man. “You’ve been seeing things, haven’t you? Some really strange shit.”
It was like a light went out, leaving his eyes cold and flat. “Maybe.” The fear was back, partnered with the spicy/bitter scent of suspicion and a touch of panic.
Ignoring all that, because he wasn’t going to spend another twenty minutes locked out of his own bathroom, Monroe asked, “How long?”
Silence for a long, long moment. “A little less than two months,” he admitted grudgingly.
“Wow, so you really are new to this.”
Frustration exploded out of him. “What this?”
Damn, he needed beer for this discussion. Pulling out a cold bottle, he popped the cap and looking into those earnest eyes. “Okay, okay. Understand I’ve never actually met one of you before. I’m only passing on what I’ve heard, but the way I understand it right about the time you started seeing things someone in your bloodline kicked the metaphorical bucket. You may never have met them, or even knew they existed apparently, but when they died you got the family double whammy.”
“What does that mean? What’s wrong with me?”
Did they have a manual for this? A pamphlet. That would be quite helpful right now.
“There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re a Grimm, man. A monster hunter.” He was tempted to do the air quotes but figured that might be a little distracting. “Your kind has been killing my kind for hundreds of years. And, you know, vice versa.”
“Your kind? Blutbad.”
“Yep. And other wesen.” Taking a long swallow of beer, Monroe pointed at him with the bottle. “Someone should have told you about this years ago.”
“Yeah,” he agreed bitterly, “they really should have.” He rubbed his forehead, pushing a hand through his hair. “I need to…go...think. I need to—go.”
“Sure.” Monroe followed him to the door.
Pausing on the second step he looked back. “Thank you. For lunch and the other…just, um, thanks.”
The kicker was he actually meant it. A Grimm thanking a blutbad. Ha. Grandma would have had kittens.
Closing the door behind him, Monroe looked around his once more quiet, empty living room. “Well, that was different.”
Monroe isn't really surprised when there's a knock on the door the next morning.
Warnings: Mentions off-screen violence and death but no actual violence or death occurs. There is some swearing and slamming of certain coffee shops. Thanks to everyone who reviewed!
The knock early the next day wasn’t necessarily a surprise but he wasn’t not surprised either when he opened the door to find the Grimm fidgeting on his porch. The hair was messy again, the eyes both uncertain and utterly determined, and how was it no one had eaten this man before now?
“Hi,” the Grimm said. “Can I come in?”
Monroe gripped the door tighter. “Just so you know this—this right here—not what Grimm’s are supposed to do.”
“What? Ask to come in?”
“No—well yes, that too.” Grimms, he figured, probably snuck in a window or just kicked the door down. “But that’s not what I—” Annnnd there were those freakin’ puppy dog eyes. Also, he kind of thought the other man was laughing at him. “Okay fine. Why not?”
Not the warmest invitation but the Grimm brightened like Monroe had given him the key to the city and slipped past. “Thanks.”
Shutting the door Monroe put his back to it, watching the Grimm scan the room. “Sooo,” he said awkwardly, “managed to convince yourself what you saw yesterday wasn’t real?”
The Grimm looked at him and sighed a little. “Not entirely.” One corner of his mouth pulled up. “Tried though.”
“Hah. I’ll bet.” The purple smudges under his eyes said as much.
“I need to talk to you about that. The Grimm thing and other things.”
Monroe had a feeling he was going to need more coffee for this. Or alcohol. “What about it?”
“What does it mean?”
Definitely alcohol. “Gonna have to be a little more specific. Not a mind reader.” Or maybe coffee. It was a little early for liquor. Monroe headed for the kitchen, Grimm trailing after. Which, hey, not at all disturbing. Sure he looked all small and innocent but Monroe’s hackles were kicking up like he was being stalked by a frickin' grizzly.
“Yesterday you said that Grimms hunt blutbad and other…wesen? That that is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Hey, I’m not endorsing it!” No sense putting those kinds of ideas in his head.
“Why am I not supporting killing people just because they happen to have slightly different DNA? Hmmm, let me think about that one.” He got down two mugs, slamming the cabinet door a little harder than necessary. “Okay, so maybe some of them deserved it, but on the whole we generally just mind our own business. Go about our lives.”
That got him an eye roll. “You know what I mean. I’ve read Little Red Riding Hood. I get why that wolf was hunted down what with the eating people and all b—”
“Oh, well if you’ve read it….” That totally deserved a sarcastic hand wave. “I don’t do that.” Getting down the beans in their special vacuum sealed container, he added, “Anymore.” Okay, he maybe muttered that part to the cupboard door. “I’m reformed. On the wagon. Doing the whole program.”
“They have a program for that?”
“Sure, there’s a website and everything.” He turned around, coffee in one hand, grinder in the other. “We stopped the support groups though. Bad things tend to happen when blutbads get together.”
“Must make family reunions hell.”
“In a completely different way but, yeah, you have no idea.”
The Grimm laughed weakly. “Yeah, I really wouldn’t. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to imply anything.”
Facing the counter again, Monroe focused on measuring the beans into grinder. Most people didn’t get how important the grinding process was. Too coarse or too fine and the whole pot would be off.
“I’m just trying to figure this out and I don’t have anyone else to ask.”
Oh for the love of—this was why he didn’t let people into his house. “Look from everything I’ve heard Grimms didn’t start out as bogeymen. They were sort of like law enforcement for the wesen world. Special investigators, if you will. Local village had a problem they thought was wesen related they called in a Grimm. You know, ‘be good or the Grimm will come for you’.”
“Except somewhere along the way they went from investigator to judge, jury, and executioner,” the other man said.
Monroe threw a look over his shoulder.
Shoving his hands in back pockets, the Grimm shrugged. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. You talk about Grimms like refugees from Cuba and North Korea talk about the police.”
He’d never thought about it like that but, yeah, that was a pretty accurate analogy. Make a mistake that got you on a Grimm’s radar and your family might never find all the body parts.
“So you’re reformed. But there are others out there who aren’t, right? Do you know who they are?”
Monroe huffed. “Did you miss the part where I said bad things happen? Usually, it’s to other people. Mayhem, death, destruction, the whole nine yards. Anyway it’s not like we have a local newsletter.”
“So,” the Grimm pressed, coming up to the counter next to him, “there are more in the area. You just don’t hang out with them.”
Oh. Sneaky Grimm. Very sneaky
“There are!” the Grimm said triumphantly.
Monroe began, “I’m not saying there aren’t—” And then there was a hand on his arm, warm through his sleeve, and he was looking down at a very excited Grimm right up in his space.
“There’s something I need to show you.”
Somehow he ended up with his jacket in his hand, heading out the door, with a plaintive, “But I was going to make coffee,” trailing behind.
“We’ll hit a Starbuck’s on the way. Come on, we can take my truck.”
No. No way was he going to get in a Grimm’s vehicle and drive God knows where. That was how people ended up disappeared. Although a cinnamon spice mocha did sound really good. “Fine, but we’re going to a real coffee house and you’re buying. And I’m getting a scone.”
Half an hour later, happily burying his nose in the coffee cup vent, Monroe thought to ask, “Where are we going anyway,” around a mouthful of chocolaty scone goodness.
“My house. I have the files there.”
“Are you crazy?” Monroe yelped then paused to considerately wipe the spray of scone crumbs off the dashboard. “You don’t take a blutbad home to meet the family.”
“I’m not crazy!” the Grimm snapped back a little too sharply, knuckles gone bloodless on the steering wheel. “And my name is Nick.” Deep breath, in and out. “Please use it. I can practically hear you calling me ‘the Grimm’ in your head every time you look at me.”
“Okay, okay. You can call me Monroe.” The guy had bought him coffee and a scone after all. “Soooo, Nick. What did they do, put you in a mental institution?”
The Grimm—Nick—gave him a look. “No they did not put me in a mental institution. Jesus.”
“What?” Really it was the only obvious conclusion. “You show up at a time of day when most people are working, two days in a row. You’re on meds. You have a panic attack in my bathroom and you nearly bite my head off over an innocent comment. Of course I’m going to assume that you’ve spent a little time with the headshrinkers.”
“Okay, innocent might not have been the right thing—wait, you didn’t tell anyone what you were seeing, did you?”
The steering wheel creaked as Nick’s grip twisted. “No. But I…I didn’t hide it very well. I was…. I’m with Portland PD. We were investigating Robin Howell’s disappearance when the…. When I started seeing things. My partner thought I was getting obsessed with the case. My boss thought it was stress.” He pried a hand loose to reach for his own coffee sitting ignored in the cup holder. “He put me on medical leave for as long as he could. Then it was suggested that I use some vacation time to decompress.” A wry smile twisted his mouth. “I had a lot of vacation time.”
“Wow. That sucks, man.”
In the middle of sipping his coffee, Nick almost snorted a mouthful. Swallowing hard, he glanced over at Monroe and laughed, bright and sharp. “Yeah, it really did.”
Monroe shifted, trying to find something else to talk about. “So you’re a cop, huh.” It figured. It really did. The clean cut looks, the ultra-polite until you piss me off attitude.
“You got a problem with that?”
“With you being a cop? Eh, maybe later. I’m still kinda freaking out about the whole Grimm thing.”
Nick laughed at him.
The house they stopped in front of was a tidy, two story clapboard in a nice neighborhood. The walk was bare, deicer thoughtfully sprinkled over the concrete steps. The entrance hall smelled of fresh paint and window cleaner. It made him sneeze.
“In here,” Nick said, leading him down the hall to the dining room.
No other heartbeats in the house. No sound of movement except the usual gurgles, and creaks, and soft sounds a house had. There were however pieces of furniture in fabric that no bachelor would ever own and a lingering whiff of female in the corners. Whoever she was, she hadn’t been gone long.
Okaaay. The Grimm turned one whole wall of the room into a murder board (so he liked his CSI, sue him), table shoved off to one side.
Monroe looked at the pictures, sketches, maps, newspaper articles, and various other things taped to the wall with something close to awe. “Oh no, this doesn’t scream obsessed at all. Is that permanent marker?”
“I’m going to re-paint the whole room,” Nick said defensively then added, “uh, before my fiancé gets back from her mom’s place. And I only did this last night.”
“Uh huh.” Monroe took a swallow of coffee and tried not to look too uncomfortable being in Grimm territory with a guy who had turned his wall into America’s Most Wanted. “What did you want to show me?”
“Okay, these are all the people who have gone missing or been murdered within a five mile radius of where Robin Howell disappeared. The first victim was a university student. Sylvie Oster.” Stepping up to the wall, he pointed out a section of copies of photographs and computer printouts. “Went out for a run in the park before classes. Sometime between 7:30am and 8:00am she was torn apart. Looked like a wild animal but we found a boot print at the scene.”
Monroe grimaced at the photos. Blood and guts and shredded bits of red cloth scattered horrifically across the green of the forest. “Is that an arm? That’s just gross.”
“These two here,” Nick tapped the images of a woman in her fifties and a young boy that had been moved away from the main group, “don’t fit the profile. But these three. Robin Howell. Esola Mendoza. Terrie Clark.” Tap, tap, tap. “All female, all under twenty-five, all attacked in or taken near the park. All of them had dark hair. And all wearing red. Four victims in two months.”
“And I thought my neighborhood was safe,” Monroe complained, make a face. “Thanks for shattering my innocence.”
Hands on his hips, Nick looked over his shoulder, still laughing at him dammit. “Granted I’m using a fairytale as my main research guide here but it sounds like the big, bad wolf to me.”
“You may be onto something,” he admitted, reluctantly impressed.
Nick nodded excitedly, all but bouncing on his toes, and shifted over to the map of the park he’d drawn on the wall in marker. “There was a print from a work boot by Sylvie Olster’s body. We found Robin Howell’s backpack here, and there were matching boot prints leading through the park. Another matching partial print was found next to Esola Mendoza. Nothing where Terrie Clark disappeared though.”
It was a tidy map, each house drawn in thick, black lines on the warm, yellow paint, notes from interviews taped to each one. There was a set of tiny shoeprints leading from a red X in the park to the street…. “That’s right next to my house.”
“The tracks ended at the pavement. He must have gotten into a vehicle there.”
“If he doesn’t live nearby.” A single chair from the dining set had been placed where it had a good view of the wall. Monroe sat, wondering how long Nick had spent in the same chair, staring at this wall of dead and presumed dead until he couldn’t keep his eyes open. Bet that made for good dreams.
“Unlikely but I’m not discounting it entirely.” Leaning against the wall, Nick looked directly at him and added, “Profile says male, late thirties to early forties, lives alone, divorced or never married. Sound like anyone from your block?”
“Ha, ha,” Monroe said sourly.
One corner of Nick’s mouth curled up in that irritating grin. “And anyway there’s this.” Another group of pictures sectioned off with the date 2010 written above them in Sharpie. “One year ago, give or take a few weeks, there was another cluster of attacks on the eastern edge of the city. Four female victims all below age twenty-five. All in or near a forested area. All wearing red. Three were written off as animal attacks. The little girl was never found.”
He paused, looking back to see if his audience was following. “Go on,” Monroe encouraged. Watching him lay it all out was fascinating.
“Okay, so a year before that there were three more in this area over here. All deaths. No kidnappings that I could find. All of the victims were reported to be wearing red sweatshirts or jackets shortly before the attacks, but no red articles of clothing were logged into evidence for two of the cases. In the first attack the victim’s red sweater was destroyed.”
“And you think these were all done by the same guy.”
“Yes.” Nick’s eyes were fever bright. “I think there’s a serial killer loose in Portland and something about this particular time of year triggers a spree. And he’s escalating. He started out taking trophies, now he’s taking children.”
“Fall,” Monroe said. “If it is a blutbad—and I’m not saying it is—but if it is then that might be the trigger.”
“Change in the weather for one. Shorter days, colder nights. The mind may know that you can go to the supermarket any time you want, but a thousand years of instincts are telling you to start feeding up for winter.”
Nick glared. “And this guy’s idea of stockpiling groceries is to kidnap children!”
Monroe held up his hands. “Not saying it’s right.” He tapped his own chest. “Reformed.”
Dragging another chair over next to him, Nick sat on it backwards. “So how do you deal with it?” He folded his arms on the back of the chair and propped his chin on them doing that looking thing again.
It was disturbing. Like he was seeing all of Monroe’s past sins in the pattern of his sweater or something.
“Exercise, medication, a strictly structured schedule, raw vegetables instead of raw meat. And driving down to sunny California about that time of year doesn’t hurt. Shocks the body out of its seasonal rhythms.” He couldn’t sit still with the Grimm cataloguing him with his eyes so he walked over to the wall again. There wasn’t a section marked SUSPECTS but it was pretty easy to pick out. All the pictures were male and his own picture was there.
“Oh man, did you get this from the DMV? This is the worst picture ever.” He looked deranged and his hair was sticking up all over the place. “If you don’t think I did it, why were you at my house yesterday?”
Cloth rustled, the chair creaked. Monroe felt the Grimm’s gaze settle on him, disquieting and hot as sunshine on his back. “Sometimes witnesses remember things later. Things that seemed inconsequential at the time. A stranger. A car that looked out of place. Or someone they see every day and don’t think twice about. I’ve been canvasing the whole block.”
“You really don’t understand the meaning of the word vacation, do you?” Something about his tone jiggled at Monroe’s brain. Spinning around, he pointed an accusing finger. “You know who it is, don’t you?”
“I…have a suspect,” Nick admitted. “He checked out clean though. Creepy, but clean. I was pulled off the case before I could dig as deeply as I would have liked. The official investigation focused on a sex offender they tied to a homicide in Utah.”
He looked over the photos again. “Which one is it?” A couple looked vaguely familiar but no one he could put a name to. “’Cause this guy here,” he pointed to a picture on the bottom row, “totally looks like someone you’d expect to see on the evening news.”
“You probably did. That’s his mug shot,” Nick said. “Check out the third from the left.”
Huh. Not who Monroe would have chosen at all. Although there was something about the eyes. “Who is he?”
“Would you believe your mailman?”
Monroe snorted. “Oh, yeah, he’s definitely blutbaden.”
Chair legs scraped against flooring. “What?” Nick was at his side in a second flat. “This guy right here is a blutbad?”
“Yep. He stinks up my mail two days a week.” The other four days it was a woman who wore a rather nice perfume and never bent his letters. Her, he had on his list for Christmas cookies.
Nick yanked the picture down sharply. He had a lot of rather pointed questions.
How long had the guy been working this route? Only since September. Which two days did he work? Tuesday and Wednesday. Had Monroe gotten his mail on time the day of Robin Howell’s disappearance? Two months ago, who remembered that?
“Where does he leave his truck while he’s walking his route?”
Monroe frowned in growing realization because he saw the little blue and white mail truck twice a week parked— "Just down the block from my house. Next to the park.” He might have sort of scent-marked it once. Or more than once. Just to let the other blutbad know he was in someone else’s part of the city. Apparently it hadn’t worked. The bastard had been hunting in his territory.
Nick stuffed the picture in his coat pocket, grabbed a piece of paper off the wall and shoved that in another pocket. “Come on. I’ve got to check something.”
Notes: I’m assuming that since Aunt Marie didn’t show up to disrupt Nick’s plans that evening he did propose to Juliette and of course she said yes because they are going to live happily ever after dammit.
“Of course I want to come along. You can’t drag me into this and then leave me wondering how it works out.”
Warnings: Ummm...a little swearing. That's about it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Change of Atmosphere – Chapter 3
Twenty minutes later they were back in Monroe’s neighborhood. Nick pulled up in front of his house, shut off the truck, and got out so Monroe got out too.
“Thanks for everything,” Nick said coming around to the sidewalk. “Seriously, it helps.” He zipped up his coat and pulled on a pair of gloves, showing no sign he was getting back in the vehicle.
“What? That’s it?”
Nick frowned. “I’m going to walk the mailman’s route and see if I can get some answers to a few very specific questions. If the answers turn out like I think they will I’ll take them to my boss and he’ll take it a judge.”
The frown deepened. “You want to come along?” he hazarded.
Monroe rolled his eyes. “Of course I want to come along. You can’t drag me into this and then leave me wondering how it works out.”
Nick smiled and shook his head. “I hate to break it to you, but it’s not going to be worked out today. This is the slow, boring part of police work they don’t show on TV.”
“I’ve got nothing else planned.”
Nick gave him an annoyed look and said, “I’m not sure it’s a good idea bringing a civilian along—”
“Technically you’re a civilian right now too,” he reminded, carefully. “Vacation.”
Nick stared at him for a second; probably hoping he would change his mind. “In that case you might want to get a warmer coat. We’re going to be out for a while.”
“This time of day,” Nick said once Monroe was suitably dressed and they were walking down the sidewalk, squeaking and crunching the thin crust of old snow under their boots, “most of the people who are going to be home are retirees, stay-at-home parents, or the ones who have jobs they can do at home. The seniors tend either be oblivious or the worst gossips on the block. The parents are either too busy to notice anything that doesn’t directly involved their kids or they will tell you everything you never wanted to know about every other parent in their play circle. The work-at-homes are about the same, either they don’t notice a thing or they spend the day spying on their neighbors instead of working.”
Monroe figured he fell into the latter category up to a point. His workbench sat in front of the big window overlooking the sidewalk to get the best light. It was impossible not to notice what was happening right in front of his house. He occasionally helped out his neighbors to either side, both elderly and thankfully quiet, but that was the extent of his interaction with his neighborhood.
The slow, boring side of police work, it turned out, consisted of a lot of knocking on doors and sometimes getting no answer, a lot of walking, a lot of walking, and listening to old people talk about their grandchildren, pets, and ailments. Not necessarily in that order.
“This is why I don’t talk to my neighbors,” Monroe grumbled as they finally escaped the clutches of one Mrs. Abraham Pembrooke of 334 Humboldt Street NE.
Nick heaved a sigh that fogged the air white. “Thank God her dog didn’t like you or we’d never have gotten out. Do all dogs hate you or just chapoodle…things? What was that anyway?”
“Annoying is what it was. It takes most dogs a while to warm up to a blutbad. Cats generally just avoid us. Or, you know, mock us from a distance.”
“So no family pets when you were a kid.”
“I had a bird once. African Gray Parrot. Very smart.”
Nick had his hands back in his pockets, huddled into his coat against the cold, fiddling with the pill bottle. Monroe could hear the rattle of capsules over the crunch, crunch of their boots.
“What happened to it?”
“My brother ate it. He always did hate Bartholomew. Jealous, you know, because his hamster kept biting him.”
The Grimm stopped, mouth open a little in surprise. “Seriously?”
Monroe didn’t slow down, forcing the other man to jog a couple steps to catch up with him. He did roll his eyes. Again. It was almost too easy. “No. It died of old age. I think the thing was already a hundred years old when my dad brought it home.”
“I can’t believe you said that,” Nick said, slapping him reprovingly on the arm as he moved past and up the stairs of the next house. “That’s terrible. And who names their parrot Bartholomew?”
No one was home and the next was empty as well. Nick marked them down in a little notebook and they turned the corner and started up the next block. He shoved his hands back in his pocket, rattling the pill bottle again. “You’re staring.”
“No I’m not.” He totally was.
“Yes, you are.”
Monroe burst out, “It’s just weird. You’re the first Grimm I’ve ever met.”
“Yeah, you said that.”
“Weird,” Nick supplied.
“Kinda disappointing actually.”
“Disappointing,” Nick repeated dryly.
He’d expected someone bigger. Meaner. Hairier. Dressed in the skin of their kills and assorted pointy weapons. “It’s a bit like meeting Superman and finding out he’s really Clark Kent.”
“Uh, he really is Clark Kent.”
“Not even the point, man.”
Nick looked at him with improbably adorably confusion. “There was a point?”
Monroe’s pretty sure he’s faking it. “Shut up.”
And damned if the Grimm isn’t laughing at him again.
Three houses later they got lucky.
“Oh my, that was a long time ago.”
“I understand, Mrs. Norman,” Nick said and Monroe figured he must have practiced that look and that voice to get that perfect note of concern and sympathy and understanding. “Anything you can remember would be helpful.”
“I think,” Mrs. Norman said going for the calendar hanging on the wall next to the kitchen table, “yes, that was a Tuesday. Yes, yes, my mail was late that day. I only remember because I was expecting a letter from my son. His second daughter had been born two days before and he was mailing pictures to me. No computer, you see, so we do it the old fashioned way.”
“Oh,” Monroe said, “I know what you mean. There’s nothing like holding the pictures in your hands.”
Nick shot him a what the hell look and Monroe gave him a what look back. He was just making conversation, warming up the witness, playing the good cop.
“Isn’t that the truth. Young people. If they can’t email it they don’t bother.”
“Kids these days,” he tisked.
“Back to the mail,” Nick interjected a little desperately.
“Sorry,” Mrs. Norman giggled. Which was a little disturbing in an eighty year old. Giving Monroe’s hand a pat she resumed her seat at the table. “Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain my mail was late that day. Only about an hour but they’re usually right on time. Poor dear had a flat tire that day.”
“You spoke to him?” Nick exchanged significant looks with Monroe.
Monroe had no idea what the look meant but it was…really significant. He supposed Nick’s cop partner would have known what it meant.
“Only in passing. I was heading out to run my errands and he handed me my mail instead of putting it in the box.” She patted Monroe’s hand again. “Such a polite young man.” Her face went pensive. “Kind of creepy though. Wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”
Nick, in the middle of taking a drink of Mrs. Norman’s surprisingly good coffee, choked.
“Oh dear, too hot?”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Nick said hoarsely. He set the coffee cup down and wiped his mouth smothering one last cough. “Coffee seems to be out to get me today,” he muttered. “Is there anything else you can tell us, ma’am?”
“No, I think that’s all. I have the pictures here somewhere, would you like to see?”
“Yes, that would be nice,” Monroe said just as Nick said, “No, we really have to get going.” Nick glared at him and added, “More interviews to finish today.”
“What was that?” he demanded as they left the house.
“What? I was sympathizing with the witness, getting her to talk. Catch more flies with honey and all that.”
Nick looked a little white around the eyes. “Never let them show you pictures of their children, grandchildren, or pets.”
“It was just a couple—”
“No! It starts out with a couple pictures. Then it’s videos and cute little You Tube clips and before you know it they’ve got the slide projector out.”
“Wow,” Monroe said. “You have a real phobia going on here.”
Nick shuddered. “You have no idea.”
Monroe was about to propose they call it a day because it was already past lunch time when Nick stopped and pointed up the block.
“There’s the school. Robin would have come right past here on her way to her Grandfather’s house. Hank thought she probably cut through the park rather than go all the way around.”
Yeah, he could see that. As the crow might fly, they were almost directly across from his house where the mailman would have parked that day.
“So our mailman walks this route twice a week,” Nick said. “He’s probably seen Robin before, maybe even stalked her before, so he knows she likes to take a shortcut through the park. He follows her, grabs her near where we found the backpack, hides her in the mail truck while he finishes his route, then transfers her to his own vehicle and takes her….where?” He rubbed his eyes wearily. “Fuck, I don’t even know anymore.”
“Home,” Monroe said. “If he had this planned, if he’s done this before, he’d take her back to his den. Keep her for a while, fatten her up.”
Nick grabbed his arm, pulling him half a step sideways and around so they were face to face. “Do you think she might still be alive?”
God, he hated to crush that hopeful look. “Unlikely. A week or two, maaaybe. If the other kidnapped girl was his work, that means he had the space.”
The man looked so…heartbroken, resigned, hand slipping off Monroe’s arm.
“I mean—I could be wrong,” he tried, but even he wasn’t buying it.
“Probably not.” Nick started walking again. “I keep hoping, you know, but realistically….” He trailed off with a forlorn little shrug.
Monroe didn’t know. He’d never been on this side of it, never thought about what it was like to be the one wondering what had happened, where they had gone, had they suffered. He didn’t say that out loud.
The Grimm headed into the park. The cold, empty, silent park. There were a few footprints but for the most part the snow was pristine. Monroe wondered if people were avoiding the place because of the weather or if word had gotten out it there was something hunting here. Nick seemed to have an idea where he was going, choosing each path without hesitation.
“This,” he said after a few minutes, “is where Sylvie Olster died,” and looked at Monroe as if this should mean something.
Monroe looked around but there was nothing to see. “And?”
“I don’t know. Was kinda hoping you could smell him or something?” He looked embarrassed, like a fifteen year old caught out believing in the tooth fairy.
Oh, he wanted confirmation, proof, even if it wasn’t something that could ever end up in court. “Of course I can smell him. It’s fainter here. He hasn’t been here for a while. But before that….” He poked around, sniffed a bit. “The scent is overlaid, like he’s been here more than once, not recently but sooner than two months. He came back here afterwards. Several times.”
Nick’s face went tight, jaw clenched. He took a couple steps away, resting a hand against the nearest tree when he slid a little in the snow.
Monroe gave him a minute before he prodded the Grimm back onto the trail. He could smell the storm coming off the mountains. They had a couple hours before it hit, but the air it was pushing was cold and he was hungry.
They walked in silence for a couple minutes, concentrating on making their way through the deeper, crusted snow. “Fainter than where?”
“Uh, the street where we were just walking.” Duh.
Nick gave him an amused grin. “You really aren’t good with people, are you?”
Monroe glared at him. “I’m blutbaden. We’re not supposed to be good with people.”
Nick snorted. “If you say so.” And continued on with the tour of crime scenes of the greater Portland area.
“You’re taking this pretty well,” Monroe commented after they had stopped by where Terrie Clark was found. It was pretty much the same as the other crime scenes, snow-covered and clean, strips of crime scene tape here and there, except this one was recent enough he could still very faintly smell the blood. “The Grimm thing. I expected more weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Dark eyebrows climbed. “Gnashing of teeth?”
“It happens,” Monroe defended.
There was silence for half a dozen steps. “I spent the first month going to every doctor I could find. Specialists, homeopathic, whatever. I thought maybe I had a brain tumor or schizophrenia or God knows what. They did MRI’s, CT’s, tested for poison, drugs, chemical exposure, Parkinson’s, and a dozen things I can’t even remember. Found out I need more Vitamin D so, you know, that was useful.”
“I could have told you that for free,” Monroe said helpfully. “You should try Cabo. Get a tan.”
Nick gave him a cockeyed looked and said, deadpan, “I burn.”
“Might want to stay away from the nude beaches then,” Monroe snarked back and had to grin when the other man just cracked up.
“So,” Nick said, wiping at his eyes, “the doctors found nothing. There were a lot of big words and sympathetic explanations but basically there was no medical reason for me going nuts and seeing monsters.” He laughed a little, trying to make a joke of it, but the sound was flat and strained.
“I went to a psychiatrist. He said it was stress, depression, lack of sleep. Take your pick. All I had to do was convince myself that it wasn’t real and it would go away.” He turned the bottle of pills over in his pocket again. “I think I’m just so relieved that someone else can see what I’m seeing that….well, I don’t think the whole generational destiny of blood and death has really sunk in yet.”
“Er,” Monroe said awkwardly, “sorry about the whole crazy comment earlier. I didn’t realize—”
“That I thought I was too?” Nick shrugged and scuffed the snow a little harder. “Not like you knew.”
“Do the meds help?”
He huffed a weak chuckle. “They let me sleep.”
“Not very well, obviously.”
Nick ran a hand through his hair and wearily agreed, “Yeah.”
And damned if there’s not a part of him that wants to take the Grimm—the Grimm—home and put him on the couch, tuck his warmest blanket around him and feed him hot chocolate. Hey, the guy hadn’t shot him yet, he was grateful. Either that or his mom was right and his biological clock was tick, tick, ticking away with the need to nurture…something besides an herb garden. Yeah, going to have to stick to grateful on that one, if only for the sake of his sanity. Maybe he should get a fish.
“Are we done?” he asked finally because Nick showed no sign of movement.
“What? Oh, yeah. Yeah, there’s nothing more we can do out here.”
All that walking had gotten them within a few minutes of his house. “You could stick around if you want,” he said as they crossed the street. “I was going to make sandwiches for lunch.”
Nick grinned. “Tofurky?”
Notes: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed. I’ve heard from a lot of people are glad that this story does not contain slash and a lot of people who are sad for the same reason. I’ve deliberately tried not to go too far either het or slash with this story but I encourage everyone to choose your own adventure, and by adventure I mean kink.
My Nick and Juliette are in a stable, committed relationship and I don’t see that changing. That said, for those of you who want some Nick/Monroe action. Monroe is a wolf and a wolf in a pack (you know who his pack is going to be) is very touchy/feely and also sniffy, lickey, bitey, and cuddly (and spell check says some of those are not words…but who cares!). Without giving too many spoilers Monroe is going to get a little protective of his Grimm and there will be sniffing and licking and worrying. Also, by the time the story ends Monroe and Nick will have only known each other for, like, three days total. I just don’t see Monroe being that smooth.
Keep up the reviews, I love hearing from everyone. You guys have been great.
He half expected the Grimm to come knocking the next morning but for two days there was nothing.
Warnings: Violence. Finally! Also some swearing and a tiny, tiny cliffhanger.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He half expected the Grimm to come knocking the next morning but there was nothing. For two days there was nothing and he went on with his normal life. It was quiet, it was scheduled, it was peaceful. He wasn’t bored, he wasn’t. It was just so…quiet.
He made a couple passes through his section of the park, just to make sure everybody knew it was his. He’d grown lazy with the wet and cold of winter, sloppy. He worked on his latest commission, cleaned and waxed all of the wooden floors in the house, started a long delayed project to clean out the attic, and late Sunday afternoon he returned from shopping with a trunk full of groceries to find Nick’s truck parked in front of the house and Nick sitting on his steps.
“Hey,” the Grimm said as he came up the sidewalk.
“Hey. What’s up?” Monroe frowned at him because he actually looked worse than the last time Monroe had seen him.
“I have a question,” Nick said.
Of course he did. Monroe handed half the bags off so he could get the door open. “Just, ah, dump those in the kitchen.” He nudged the door shut and followed Nick down the hall. “You want something to drink?”
“No, I’m good. I need to know about the other blutbad.”
Monroe placed his bags on the counter and started pulling out the perishables. “What about him?”
“So far he’s stuck to a pretty specific victim type. Would he break from that?”
“Oh. Maybe. If he’s hunting for food he’s probably choosing women and children because he sees them as easier prey. If he was hungry enough, he’d go after anything he thought he could take down without being injured.”
“And if he’s not doing it for food?”
Monroe put the milk in the fridge and got into the cupboard for mugs and the tea canister. A nice black chai sounded good. “Then he definitely has a type. Um, why do you ask?”
Nick slumped against the counter, watching Monroe scoop loose tea into the dye-free silk tea bags he’d gotten at the farmer’s market last summer with far more attention than was warranted under the circumstances. “Sarah Ornella, eight years old. Disappeared yesterday while she was playing on the other side of the park.”
“Oh, wow.” He hadn’t watched the news for the past three days, not past the weather at least, which was snow, possible snow, and, hey, rain by the middle of the week to melt the snow off. “So why all the questions about his preferences?”
“Timing. We put in for a subpoena for the mailman’s work records, but that’s going to take time. The only thing we have on him is that he bought the same style of boots as the print we found in the woods and that won’t get a warrant.”
“He works in the same area as the crimes,” Monroe protested getting the cups out of the microwave. “That’s very suspicious.”
“So do you. So do a lot of people.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and through his hair. “You know, he let them search his house when Robin Howell disappeared. Hank said that aside from a truly disturbing affinity for needlepoint there was nothing.”
“Mrs. Norton thought he was creepy.”
“Everyone thinks he’s creepy,” Nick said, mouth quirking up. “Unfortunately creepy isn’t illegal. I talked to his boss back before I was taken off the case, he couldn’t tell me much without the legal paperwork, but he hinted that our friendly neighborhood mailman is shifted around a lot. About once a year. In September when the employee reviews are conducted. There haven’t been any formal complaints but his co-workers and the people on his routes find him…,” he paused dramatically, “creepy. If we can link his route changes for the past two years to the other killings that will get a warrant, which would get us a full forensic search instead of just a walk through.”
“Except that could take a couple days,” Monroe said with dawning understanding. He put a mug in front of the other man. “Drink that. It’s good for you. So you want to…what?”
Nick shrugged which, given the way he was draped over Monroe’s counter, moved his whole body. “I don’t know? I thought maybe bait a trap, but if he’s preferential that won’t work.” He frowned at the tea but obediently took a sip. “No coffee?” he asked mournfully.
“Chai is calming, revitalizing, and promotes mental clarity,” Monroe told him, wondering if he should get the Grimm a straw so he didn’t drown in his tea cup trying to drink without lifting his head. Bait a trap. Well yeah if they had a young woman willing to throw herself—oh. Oh! “You were going to try to get him to attack you,” he accused.
Those damned eyes landed on him, blinked twice, as if Monroe was overreacting to the whole suicidal plan. He took another drink of tea. “Well, yeah, I mean I can’t just ask the Captain for an undercover in this case. She wouldn’t stand a chance going up against a blutbad.”
Monroe snorted. As if he would.
“And I don’t know exactly how well your kind can smell but I can’t imagine we could get any kind of backup within a hundred yards—”
“More like half a mile at the very least.”
Nick made a there ya go sort of gesture with his mug and yawned. “I’m not sending anyone into that sort of situation.”
“Just yourself. You have no idea what you’d be up against.”
Nick tilted his head to gaze up at him because apparently standing was too much work. “So tell me.”
“It’s not that easy. You can’t learn everything there is to know about blutbaden in an hour. We’re complicated.”
“Cliffs notes version then. Please.”
That please was so going to get him into trouble. “For one thing if he already has the little girl, he’s not going to be looking for someone else for a while. And he’d not only smell you coming he’d know you were a Grimm as soon as he got one good whiff.”
Oh that—that—made his eyes light up. “Would he attack?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Monroe told him, even throwing in a sternly pointed finger. “Anyway it’s a fifty/fifty chance. If you weren’t in his territory he would probably run rather than fight.”
“The park isn’t his territory?”
“It’s mine.” Well that came out a lot more growly than he had intended and he amended, hastily, “Not the whole park. I only claim about eight acres.” Since he didn’t use it for hunting he figured more than that would have been wasteful and pointlessly time consuming to watch over.
“So he’s been—”
“Trespassing.” He drank his tea, fangs clinking against the ceramic. He’d put up with the other blutbad passing through as part of his job, but hunting in his territory. Patrolling the last two nights had calmed him down enough he was content to let Nick and the police handle matters, and it had obviously driven the interloper farther away, but not far enough.
Nick slouched even more, elbows on the counter. The hand cupping his chin was the only thing keeping him from a completely boneless sprawl. “It’s very cool how your eyes turn red like that.”
“Uh huh.” He regarded the Grimm suspiciously. “How long has it been since you slept?”
Monroe rolled his eyes. “Look, he’s probably already smelled you anyway. You’ve been all over the park. All around the park. You’ve been to his work. If he doesn’t know you’re onto him, he’s an idiot.”
“What?” Nick suddenly remembered he did have a spine; it snapped straight.
Monroe had to save his mug from an untimely death on the floor. “If I were him I’d be getting ready to run.”
Nick shook his head slowly, maybe trying to wake himself up, maybe disagreeing. “But he took another girl—oh my God,” he breathed.
“Yeah. Probably going to take her with him.” He didn’t say road-trip snacks, but it was pretty much implied.
“I should have realized when he broke pattern. He wouldn’t have taken her if I hadn’t been poking around. Jesus.” Nick headed for the front door.
“Where are you going?” Monroe shouted after him. Shoving both mugs onto the counter he hurried to catch up.
“I have to stop him.”
“You’re going to get yourself killed.”
Opening the door, Nick whirled to face him. “It’s my fault he took that girl. I’m going to stop him.” He hurried down the steps, leaving the door hanging open in silent accusation.
Closing it would have been the easy—the smart—thing to do. Shut the door, finish his usual Sunday routine, go to bed. Tomorrow he would turn on the news and maybe hear about the death of one of Portland’s finest.
“This is such a bad idea,” Monroe muttered, grabbing his coat. It had gotten dark while they were inside, brought on early by the low, heavy clouds. “This is such a bad idea!” he repeated getting into Nick’s SUV. “You’re on vacation. Do you even have a gun?”
Nick jammed the key into the ignition, glaring at him. “I didn’t ask you to come.”
“Ha, you probably couldn’t even find the place without me.” He slapped on the seatbelt, clicking it home with firm finality.
“Actually I have the address.”
Infuriating really, that smirk. Just infuriating.
Nick’s cell phone rang. He glanced at it, made a face, and sent the call to voicemail.
“What exactly are you planning on doing when you get to this guy’s house?” He grabbed for the chicken strap as Nick took the corner faster than he was comfortable with.
“I’m going to have a conversation with him,” Nick said through gritted teeth. “But first I’m going to stop by my house and pick up my backup gun.” The phone rang again. Nick ignored it until it went silent. “Would you be able to tell if Sarah Ornella has been in his house?” he asked.
“I would be able to tell if someone besides him had been in the house,” Monroe told him. He winced as Nick took another corner too fast and plowed through a puddle, tires sending up a sheet of oily brown slush. “I don’t know what she smells like and, me getting close enough to tell while he’s there, that would be a real bad idea.”
Nick glanced over at him. “Why?”
“Bad. Things. Happen. Ringing a bell there?”
“Gonna have to be more specific,” Nick said, throwing his own words back at him. “Not a mind reader you know.”
“I think you missed your real calling,” Monroe told him dryly. “Comedian not cop.”
“Damn!” Nick said. The sarcasm was so evident it was hardly worth the eye roll. Monroe did it anyway, just on principle. “I knew I checked the wrong c-word on that college admissions form.”
“Seriously, how long have you been awake?”
He stayed in the car while Nick ran into the house and eyed the handgun he returned with dubiously. “Don’t you have something bigger?”
Nick shot him an annoyed look. “Sorry, my RPG is in the shop.”
“No need to get sarcastic about it.” He spent a minute watching scenery pass. It had started raining fitfully, spattering against the windows. “How about a shotgun? Grenades?”
“Hey,” Nick said gently, shooting him several sidelong glances, “you’ll be fine. You’re going to stay in the truck until he’s in custody. Once he’s detained I’ll get you in the house to search for Sarah.”
Monroe stared at him.
“This isn’t your fight. I’m not putting you in danger.”
Still. With the staring. He let out a whuff of annoyance.
Nick sighed, directed a look towards the roof and asked, “What does that mean?”
“Uh huh,” Nick muttered, but didn’t push it. “You said he’d keep the kids in his home. His den.”
“Well, I can’t say with absolute certainty, but he’d want them in his territory and close at hand. Especially if he’s getting ready to run.”
Nick tapped a finger on the steering wheel a couple times. “Hank said his house wasn’t that that big. There were no weird sized rooms, nothing in the attic. They searched the woods around the house, couldn’t find any caves, storm cellars, old wells….”
“Mailman said there wasn’t and they couldn’t find an entrance or any sign one existed, but without a warrant they couldn’t take up the floorboards so it’s possible. Nothing on the blueprints registered with the building department either, but if he didn’t apply for a permit there wouldn’t have been an inspection and nothing would be on file.”
They turned off onto a single lane road, heading deeper into the forest. Monroe could make out several sets of tire tracks in the thin layer of snow.
After a minute Nick asked, “What did you mean when you said you shouldn’t get too close to him?”
“I don’t know what might happen,” he admitted peevishly. “He’s been trespassing so I might go for him. But he is blutbaden so I might side with him, you know, against a Grimm.” Stupid instincts. He’d built his world on control and it pissed him off that he couldn’t be certain about this.
“Yeah, you’re definitely staying in the truck.” They rounded a corner and Nick slowed. He made an unhappy noise as their headlights lit up another car sitting in the road. “Shit.” He stopped the SUV, shifting into Park. “Stay here.” He got out of the truck in a wave of cold air, walked over to meet the man climbing out of the car, shoulders hunched, head ducked like a little boy who knew he was about to get a scolding. He’d left the gun locked in the center console, which Monroe supposed meant he didn’t think the guy was going to kill him.
Monroe cracked the window so he could hear better.
“What are you doing here?” Nick asked.
“Funny thing, my partner was supposed to call me back half an hour ago to let me know he got home safe,” the other guy said, “and when he didn’t I got worried. Tried to call. Kept getting voicemail. So I thought to myself, ‘where would Nick possibly go’ and here you are.”
“Sorry,” Nick muttered. “I was going to call you.”
“When? After you got arrested for trespassing?”
“He has her, Hank!” Nick’s hands made emphatic motions. “I know he does.”
“How do you know?”
“I can’t….” Nick shot a desperate look at Monroe. “I showed you the evidence.”
“And it’s solid,” Hank agreed. “We’ll get his work records, we’ll get a warrant, and we’ll nail the bastard.”
“And Sarah will be dead by then. Come on, Hank.” He did that thing with the eyes and the look and the pleading hand on Hank’s arm. “This guy knows we’re onto him. He’s going to run and next year we’re going to be looking at another string of murders in another state.”
Hank regarded him solemnly for a moment. “What did you have in mind?”
“I just want to talk to him. Maybe we’ll find something that got missed the first time. Maybe he’ll slip up.”
The wind shifted and over the clean, cold smell of the snow Monroe caught the scent of the other blutbad. Opening the window wider, he sniffed deeply. Wood smoke and exhaust, snow and evergreens, Nick and Nick’s partner, and him.
Hank let out a breath that fogged white in the headlights. “Okay.”
“That’s it?” Hands on his hips, Nick eyed the other man suspiciously. “No: I’ll talk to the captain. Or: We should wait until morning.”
Hank smirked at him and pulled something out of his jacket pocket. “Already talked to the Captain. He said to tell you that your vacation is officially over and to get off your ass and do some work.” Gold sparkled in the cold, white headlights.
Nick laughed. “Somehow I can’t actually picture Renard saying ass.”
“I’m paraphrasing.” Hank shrugged and leaned into the car to grab something else. A holstered handgun, very similar to the one Nick had come out of his house with. Nick put it on, drawing it to check the clip and safety with a kind of automatic focus that sent a chill up Monroe’s neck. The badge went on the other side of his waist, gleaming in the light.
If Monroe could smell the other blutbad chances were he could smell them as well. The way the wind was swirling it was a fifty/fifty chance it was blowing towards the mailman’s house. Leaning out the window he shouted, “Would you two hug already so we can we get on with this?”
“Who’s that?” Nick’s partner gave him the hairy eyeball but Nick grinned.
“Oh, uh, he’s the head of the neighborhood watch near the park where the women were killed.”
Nick was already turning towards the truck so he didn’t see his partner’s skeptical expression. Monroe rolled the window back up and tried to look innocent.
About a mile up the road was the kind of fairytale-type cabin you’d find in an illustrated book tucked in amongst the trees, complete with a snowy roof and mossy walls, a tiny covered porch and stone chimney trailing a thread of smoke.
“Oh no, doesn’t look like a psycho child-eater lives here at all.”
“You have a very pessimistic view of life, Monroe,” Nick said, but he was peering out the windshield with a doubtful look for the inviting yellow glow of the cabin windows.
Come on,” Monroe exclaimed, gesturing at the house, “just light a gingerbread candle and call it what it is.”
“Okay, what does that even mean?”
“I’m just saying, if you see an oven big enough to fit a small child in….”
Nick gave him an aggravated look. “I think you’re mixing your fairytales.”
Rapping on the driver’s side window made them both jump. “You two about done in there?” Hank shouted through the door. “The weather ain’t getting any better.”
“Sorry.” Nick opened the door as the other man stepped back. “You,” he leaned back in, pointing at Monroe, “stay.”
Hank was already at the front of the truck so Monroe felt safe saying, “Not a dog. Also, be careful. He’s probably already smelled you. He’ll know who you are.”
Nick nodded seriously. “Stay in the truck. Hank and I will go talk to the guy. Maybe we won’t need you at all.”
“Won’t need me,” he muttered to the closed door. At least Nick had left the SUV running so the windshield wipers and headlights kept working. Reaching over he turned the already quiet radio completely off. “As if I would be so lucky.”
From this angle he couldn’t see the door. A square of yellow light spilled off the porch, gilding a patch of muddy snow all the way out to the where the mailman’s van was parked. “Lives alone in the woods in a creepy cabin and drives a van. Nope no serial killer here.” He imagined Nick talking his way inside, he seemed to be good at that. Although in this case it might be the non-Grimm doing all the talking.
“This is such a bad idea.” He unzipped his coat, shrugging it off. “Going after another blutbad. Helping a Grimm. Dad is spinning in his grave right now.”
The square of light went out as the door closed behind them.
“You’re going to end up in the hospital.” Tugging off his sweater, he folded it carefully and placed it on the driver’s seat. “Or jail.”
Person-shaped shadows move across the windows. The lights went out. There was a lot of breaking glass and smashing furniture noises.
When the body came flying through the window in a shower of glass and frame he was already out of the car.
Notes: Finally Monroe gets some action. No I don’t mean that sort of action.
Later Nick would tell him that he came through the broken-out window Hank had just gotten thrown out of and he supposed that was true because when the other blutbad fled he had to open the door.
Alright I give up, I'm done fiddling with it. This is it, last one complete with happy, sappy ending because I’m a sucker like that. I was going to divide this up but you guys have been so nice I put it all in one big, extra-long chapter. Enjoy.
Warnings: Violence, tasering, licking, sniffing, swearing, cartoons, and sugary, shmoopy phone talk.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The SUV had smelled like French fries, and unleaded gasoline, and gun metal, and Nick. Out here there was nothing to insulate him from the scent of male blutbad. Bastard had been marking his territory hard, ironic considering he’d been moving in on Monroe’s.
Hank staggered to his feet, shedding glass and bits of window frame muttering something unflattering about the mailman’s parentage. He saw Monroe moving towards him and waved him off. “Get back,” he said, and promptly fell on his ass in the snow. Monroe ignored him.
Later Nick would tell him that he came through the broken-out window Hank had just gotten thrown out of and he supposed that was true because when the other blutbad fled he had to open the door. All he remembered was hearing the thump as Nick hit the wall and then he was pulling the mailman off the Grimm and tasting blood, blood, blood. A few hits and the other blutbad ran.
Straight into Nick’s partner who had managed to get back on his feet again and apparently found his Taser. The mailman went down twitching and whining, flashing between human and wolf. Monroe came off the stairs ready to go for the throat.
He turned on the Grimm, pissed off, nostrils full of blood-scent.
“He’s down, Monroe!” Nick pushed off the doorway, staggering over to the top of the steps. “Back off!” He had his gun drawn but not up.
The mailman moved, clawing at the snow like he was going to get up. Monroe whirled back to face him, growl building up in his throat, ready to finish what he’d started inside.
“Stay down!” Hank shouted at the mailman. “Or I’ll zap you again.” He had his gun up and aimed, Taser in the other hand.
“Monroe,” Nick called, trying to reclaim his attention.
He shook his head sharply, angry and boxed in by humans who sought to take his prey. The fight hadn’t been long enough, adrenaline overload had his muscles shaking with the need to take back what was his, to claw and rend and—he had to get out of here before he did something he couldn’t live with.
“Monroe,” Nick said again, moving down the first step and the second.
He growled sharply, warning him off.
Nick ignored him and came off the stairs within easy reach. “It’s over, buddy. He’s down.”
There were scratches on Nick’s neck still oozing blood and an ugly scrape down one cheek. Another step. Close enough Monroe breathed him with every inhalation, blood and sweat and bruises. The wolf couldn’t decide between fleeing from a Grimm and checking Nick all over to make sure he wasn’t hurt anywhere else. The mailman had run from Monroe, abandoning his prey to the victor.
Nick was too close, head tilted back to look up at him. The spitting rain had changed to snow, settling on his dark hair and coat. Nick didn’t smell like prey, he smelled of pain and exhaustion and worry.
That throat, bared and vulnerable—God. Locking his hands around Nick’s upper arms he pulled the man up onto his toes and shoved his nose into warm, sweaty skin, feeling the pulse pounding against his cheek.
Muscles flexed under his hands as Nick half lifted his gun, making a sound like a mouse.
He licked a few times, getting the taste of the other blutbad out of his mouth, cleaning the blood off the gouges. They weren’t too deep but Nick was going to need a tetanus shot just in case.
“Monroe!” Nick’s voice was still a little high pitched.
He pulled back fogging the air between them with heavy breathing. Needed to get away from here before he ended up doing something he would regret. He looked at the forest pressing close, dark and looming.
Nick nodded. “Right. Hank.”
“Monroe’s going to go for a little walk.”
“A walk?” Hank repeated doubtfully.
“Okay. Hey, what did I say about moving?” The Taser went off again, just a little zap this time. “That’s what happens when you throw people through windows,” Hank told the twitching man on the ground.
Nick looked up at him. “Go. Just…don’t go too far, okay?”
Monroe growled his thoughts about such restrictions but he didn’t hesitate to leave, claws making little individual popping sounds as they pulled out of Nick’s coat. In the end he didn’t go far, not because the Grimm had asked, he just wanted to keep on top of what was going on at the cabin.
Lurking in the trees he watched Nick and his partner do cop things like securing the prisoner, and calling for backup, and retrieving a little girl in green overalls from the house. Maybe, he thought, Nick would be able to let go of at least a little of the guilt now.
After a while more police and two ambulances showed up. Monroe withdrew further into the woods, out of headlight range. The little girl was bundled into a patrol car when the paramedics were done with her, sent off home Monroe assumed.
The bad guy went away in an ambulance with an escort. He hoped Nick had been able to impress on them how much stronger and faster their perp (that was what they called them, perps, he’d heard that on Law and Order) was than a regular human. Maybe he could tell them the mailman was on crack or something.
Half an hour later Nick slipped away long enough to limp through the snow a little ways into the trees calling Monroe’s name softly. Wrapped in a crinkly, silver space blanket he wasn’t exactly stealthy. He stank of antiseptics and iodine and when Monroe got up close to him he could still smell blood and the fading scent of that trespasser on him and right there at the hinge of throat and jaw Monroe could smell himself.
“Holy hell!” Nick yelped spinning around to face him. He smacked Monroe on the arm reprovingly. “You scared the crap out of me. And stop licking me dammit.”
“Sorry,” he rumbled sheepishly.
“Oh, so now you’re talking.” Nick shrugged the blanket back up over his shoulders with a lot more crackling and crinkling than Monroe figured was totally necessary. The scrape on his face looked black in the shadows. “You ready to get out of here?”
So long past ready it wasn’t even in the same century. He wanted his house and his familiar things that did not smell like trespassing, poaching, blutbad. He wanted his hot shower and his couch in front of the fireplace.
“They want to take me to the hospital for a CT scan,” Nick said, fishing his keys out of his pocket. “Take my truck.” He pressed the keys into Monroe’s hand. “Bring it by whenever you’re done.”
Shaking off the last of the wolf he wrapped human fingers around the warm metal. “You don’t even know me.”
Nick shrugged, crinkling foil. “You just saved my life. I trust you.”
“Were you dropped on your head as a child?” Monroe asked, incredulous.
Nick laughed then winced and pressed a hand to his forehead. “Ow. Damn. No, but I was about an hour ago by an angry blutbad.”
“Headache?” He took the Grimm’s elbow, aiming him back toward the flashing lights.
“Banged my head when he threw me into the wall. That’s what the CT is for.” Nick stumbled a little over a lump in the snow his night-blind human eyes missed. “Checking for intracranial bleeding.”
“Listen to you with the fancy words.”
“Heard it a lot,” Nick said smugly.
Monroe sniffed. “Most people wouldn’t think that’s a good thing.”
“From the coroner, Monroe.”
“Okay. I know you said you tried every kind of doctor, but really? A coroner.” They reached the clearing, moving out onto the snow churned up by dozens of feet.
“I’m a homicide detective, Monroe. I’m on a fist name basis with the coroners, their assistants, and, sadly enough, most of the morticians in Portland.”
“Ohhhhh,” he said, laughing at Nick’s indignant tone. “Man, those paramedics look pissed.”
“Yeah, I may not have told them I was leaving.” He clutched the foil blanket close, a flimsy shield against their glares.
Nick stiffened. “Captain?”
A very, wow, very tall man stopped in front of them. “When I said get in the ambulance with Griffin I did not mean go for a walk in the woods.”
“Sorry, sir,” Nick said contritely, ducking his head. “I’m going right now.”
Monroe was looking right at Nick’s boss or he wouldn’t have noticed the small, amused smile. He motioned Nick into the ambulance. “Go on. We’ll talk about the rest later.”
Nick groaned and Monroe was pretty sure it wasn’t from the step up into the ambulance, but he just said, “Yes, sir,” and let them settle him on the gurney. His partner was already sitting on the bench all the way at the front, looking like he’d been attacked by a box of butterfly band-aids.
“You okay?” Nick asked him, tilting his head backwards to get a better look.
Monroe began backing away as inconspicuously as possible. Time to get out of here.
Hank touched the band-aids on one cheek carefully. “Not bad considering I went through a window. You?”
“Not bad considering I dented the guy’s wood paneling,” Nick replied.
Monroe froze mid-step when Nick’s boss glanced over at him, curious and appraising. There was something about those eyes that raised the hair all over his body. One eyebrow ticked up, but when he spoke it was to the men in the ambulance. “You’re both on medical leave until you bring me doctor’s notes saying you’re fit for duty.”
“Suits me,” Hank said and closed his eyes, making himself comfy against the wall. “I could use a vacation.”
“Good job. Both of you.”
Nick brightened, layers of exhaustion and pain falling away. “Thank you, sir.”
Monroe took the chance to get out of there before anyone started asking him questions. He could feel Nick’s bosses’ eyes on him as he very carefully turned Nick’s truck around but no one tried to stop him.
He drove home slowly on increasingly slick streets, sighing out loud in relief when he finally pulled up in front of his house. Nick’s truck was too tall. He felt like he was too far from the road and it was weird being able to see over the surrounding vehicles. Before he got out he double checked the console to make sure it was safely locked up, only to find it wasn’t locked at all. No sign of Nick’s gun but there was an unopened package of Twinkies, a small notebook, a pair of latex gloves, an old ticket stub for The Muppets Movie, and, like, thirty pens.
He stripped down right in the laundry room, shoving everything straight into the washer. There was blood on both shirt and pants that he didn’t bother taking the time to pre-treat, just set the water to cold and went upstairs to take a shower. If Mrs. Clark from next door was being nosy tonight she was gonna an eyeful.
He showered for forty-two minutes. Washed his hair twice and used his favorite hibiscus and cinnamon body wash. Found a bruise on one hip and four shallow claw marks on his left arm. Brushed his teeth three times then went downstairs and got the bottle of vodka out of the freezer.
It took two tries to get the lid off because his hands started shaking suddenly and he couldn’t get them to stop. He drank straight from the bottle then sat down on the floor and thumped the back of his head against the cabinet door. Twice. How had his life gone from quiet and boring to this in less than a week?
He’d come so, so close to killing tonight. So close to ruining everything because a stranger had asked for his help, had said please and I don’t have anyone else. A long swallow of vodka washed the lump out of his throat. He should have closed the door, walked away. It was just…. No one had needed him for such a long time.
Thumping his head one more time he looked up at the clock, wondering how far off his evening schedule he was. It had to be past midnight and while he wasn’t hungry, nauseous but not hungry, he knew better than to go to bed without eating. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, checking the clock again.
Quarter after six.
He’d barely been gone two hours.
One more drink and he made himself get up, put the bottle away, and start pulling out things for dinner because otherwise he was going to sit there all night. He looked at the clock twice while the pasta was cooking, certain he’d forgotten how to read numbers in the past five minutes. Given his profession there was probably an ironic joke in there somewhere.
Eating helped. The physical act of sitting down at his own table with his favorite music playing and favorite coffee in his favorite mug, slowly and thoroughly chewing each forkful, settled him far more than the alcohol had. By the time he finished he didn’t feel like he was going to throw up any more, didn’t feel like his muscles were going to twitch right out of his skin.
He was putting the leftovers in various Tupperware when he realized he had no idea how to contact Nick to make arrangements to return his vehicle. The Grimm had handed out a dozen business cards around the neighborhood but Monroe had never gotten one what with the freaking out and the other freaking out.
It was twenty past seven. He should be looking forward to a peaceful evening of Primetime TV and a piece of that chocolate cake he’d made yesterday.
The idea made him want to get the vodka out again.
Popping the lids on the Tupperware he put them in his reusable, insulated tote bag and filled a thermos with coffee, tucking in all the necessary accoutrements. He took his own VW figuring he could drive Nick back to pick up his truck if he were ready to go, which he wasn’t counting on. He hadn’t been in a hospital in years but he didn’t imagine they were any quicker these days. Also, driving someone else’s vehicle made him twitchy. Imagining getting pulled over in a cop’s vehicle made him very twitchy.
The woman at the front desk had black hair and fake lime-green fingernails that were long and curved like talons. She gave him a look up and down. “Well aren’t you a tall drink of water. What can I do for you, sweetie?”
“Uhhhhh.” He regarded her warily. “Nick Burkhardt?”
“Let me just take a look.” Fingernails clacked over the keyboard. “That’s a nice shirt.”
“Uh, thanks.” Monroe stared with a kind of sick fascination. How did she type with those fingernails? How did she do anything with those fingernails?
She gave him another long look. “I like a man in flannel.”
“Um….” He wished he fidgeted with his coat, wishing he hadn’t removed it so he could zip it up to his nose. “Room number?” he asked desperately.
“Let me just write that down for you,” she said with a slow smile, like she found his panic amusing.
Monroe sniffed subtly, expecting something big and mean enough to think flirting with a blutbad was a good idea or sly and slinky enough to think they could get away with it, but she smelled of nothing but human. And White Diamonds.
“You need anything else, tiger,” she drawled, holding up a slip of paper, “you just come back and see me.”
“Okay, thanks, bye.” Snatching the slip of paper from her hand he all but ran for the elevator, breathing easier once the doors were closed.
The halls were full of cops, a lot more than he thought there should be on an ordinary Sunday night. He tried to look inconspicuous. Nothing to see here. Just your everyday blutbad here to visit the town Grimm. But gave up as a lost cause the second time someone stopped him to point out that maternity was one floor down.
“Okay, I got one,” Nick’s partner’s voice came through the open door of #433 just as Monroe reached it. “About six months before you came over from Vice, Joey Horton got hit by that drunk driver.”
“I remember that,” Nick said.
“So the Captain’s doing the press conference that afternoon and there’s this new guy from down south in the peanut gallery and he up and asks the Captain if the morale of the department had been affected by Joey’s death.”
“No,” Nick said sounding scandalized. “What did the Captain say?”
“Well, he got that look, you know the one, and he said—I swear to God he said, ‘Does anyone else have a dumbass question or can we move on?’”
“Yep. I don’t know who the Captain talked to but that guy never came back and he wouldn’t take questions from that station for the rest of the year.”
“How have I not heard that story before?”
Monroe knocked on the doorframe.
“Hey, Monroe. Come on in.”
Nick was on the bed closest to the door, Hank was in a chair on the far side. It was a double room but the other bed was empty, or maybe Hank was supposed to be in it. He was still in his street clothes though, whereas Nick was in hospital PJ’s. He also had an IV, a couple of those round plastic electrodes stuck to his chest, and a band-aid on his cheek. Nothing on the injuries on his throat, just a thick layer of ointment that glistened in the soft light.
“You could have kept my truck overnight,” Nick said, frowning at him as if he were really concerned Monroe had gone out of his way. “I’m not going anywhere tonight anyway.”
“Oh, uh, I drove my own car. I—“ Couldn’t bear the thought of staying in his too empty, too quiet house for one more second. “I figured you hadn’t eaten yet and you know hospital food. No one should voluntarily be subjected to that. Are you hungry?”
“You brought food,” Nick asked, perking up like a cat hearing the can opened. He pushed up against the pillows with a grimace. A blue ice pack slid down the pillows and off the side of the bed. Hank made a grab for it before it plopped onto the floor and tucked it back behind Nick’s head. “Thanks,” Nick said, adjusting it to get it in just the right spot.
Grabbing the chair by the door Monroe began unpacking. “Lemon pine nut cappellini with portabella mushrooms.” Opening the first Tupperware he handed it to Nick along with a fork, pleased to note it was still warm.
“This guy makes awesome sandwiches,” Nick explained to his partner.
Hank gave him an odd look, probably wondering what sandwiches had to do with anything.
“Have you eaten, Detective?” Monroe produced a second container.
Hank looked like he was going to refuse, but Nick stole the Tupperware out of Monroe’s hand, pushing it at his partner. “You’ve got to try this.”
“I brought coffee as well.” He hesitated with a mug in one hand. “Can you have coffee after brain trauma?”
“Yes,” Nick said without hesitation.
Monroe looked at Hank for confirmation. He’d known Nick for a total of three days, enough time to learn the Grimm would lie like a rug when it came to his own wellbeing.
“No,” Hank said firmly.
“Come on,” Nick whined. “He makes really good coffee.”
Hank was implacable. “No caffeine or alcohol. Not until the doctor clears you tomorrow. I, however, have no such restrictions,” he added, happily accepting the mug Monroe handed across the bed, careful to keep it away from certain grabby hands.
Monroe made sure the plastic cup on Nick’s bedside table had water then poured a mug of coffee for himself. Mmmm, still hot.
“Oh man, that is good,” Hank said after the first sip.
Nick made an aggravated sound. “Now you’re just being mean.”
“I’ll make you some tomorrow,” Monroe found himself promising and Hank was laughing at both of them. He sat in his chair and sipped his coffee awkwardly. He kinda sucked at small talk but Nick and Hank were in the middle of a discussion that apparently involved how many times their boss had cussed in public or something like that. Having met their Captain, Monroe wasn’t sure he should even be hearing that sort of thing for his own safety.
He had just tucked away the (probably illicit) food containers when Nick’s doctor showed up to kick them out. “Just for a few minutes,” he told them. “Couple quick tests and I’ll be out of your hair.”
“I’m headed home anyway,” Hank said, patting Nick’s foot though the blanket as he moved around the bed. “I’ve got a hot shower calling my name. Give me a call tomorrow if you need a ride.”
Nick gave a little wave of acknowledgement.
“Alright, Detective, you know the drill,” the Doctor said as Monroe pulled the door shut.
Hank had stopped in the hall. “So…neighborhood watch, huh?”
“Ummmm.” It took him a second to remember the lie. “Yeah, no, not exactly.”
Hank snorted. “I figured. But if anyone asks, you stick with Nick’s story.”
Well that was an alarming statement. “Is anyone likely to ask?”
“We’ll keep you out of the reports if possible.” He shrugged and watched Monroe fidget. “I don’t know how you did it,” he said, shaking his head, “going through that window like you did, but you probably saved his life. Whatever that guy was on, we weren’t ready for it.”
Monroe couldn’t find anything to say to that so he didn’t.
“Anyway I just wanted to say thanks.”
Crap, he was blushing. He could feel it creeping up his ears. Casting about for something to say he finally settled for, “Is the little girl okay?
Hank sighed and rubbed his eyes, looking as tired as Monroe felt. “Nothing years of therapy won’t cure. But kids are tough and she’s back home with her family tonight. That counts for a lot.”
“Good, that’s good. I’m glad it worked out. That’s really, uh, good.” He bit his tongue to stop the babbling. “What about the…um, suspect?”
“Downstairs. They’re keeping him overnight. Had quite a few nasty cuts.” Hank gave him a significant look.
Monroe grimaced. Now he knew where Nick got that particular habit.
“Seems the suspect must have fallen on some of the glass from the broken window during the fight.”
“But the window was knocked outwards—oh.” Oh. They were covering for him. He had no idea what to make of that and he was pretty sure he had a really stupid look on his face.
Hank grinned at him and clapped him on the shoulder hard enough to make him stagger. “Don’t worry he’s handcuffed to the bed and under guard. Hey, thanks for dinner. Nick’s right,” he started down the hall, walking backwards a few steps, “you make good coffee.” With a wave he disappeared around the corner.
Monroe was still standing there staring down the hall when the doctor came out of Nick’s room, bumping into him. “Oh, hello. You can go back in now if you want.”
He hadn’t planned on going back in but the doctor was watching him and somewhere in the same hospital was an angry, injured blutbad. Part of him wanted to go down there and finish it. A bigger part didn’t want to go to jail and end up with a cellmate named Bubba.
Nick was on the phone when Monroe let himself back in. The IV and electrodes had been removed, replaced with one of those finger pinchers that read the pulse. “Yep, I’m done with the hall. The living room…um, I’m still working on that.” He raised both eyebrows at Monroe but gestured at the chair when Monroe made to leave. “You don’t need to do that. I’m fine.”
He settled in the chair and poured himself the last of the coffee, eavesdropping shamelessly.
“Really, I’m fine.” Nick gave the thermos a sour look. “I’ll be out in the morning. They’re just being cautious. There have been a lot of celebrities dying of head injuries lately. It’s got them all stirred up.”
“Citing deaths from delayed intracranial bleeding,” Monroe muttered into his coffee, “probably not the best move.”
Nick frowned at him saying, “No, seriously, I’m fine,” into the phone. “Although if you want to use me as an excuse to come home early I promise I won’t rat you out.”
“I’m sure my mother will understand that I need to rush to the bedside of my injured fiancé,” the woman on the phone said.
She had a nice voice, Monroe thought, warm and sarcastic. He liked her already.
“Admit it,” Nick said, slow smile curling his mouth, “you want to escape.”
“Honestly,” was the near-whispered reply, “she’s driving me nuts. One more day of this and I’m going to snap.”
“Well, Salem’s not too far away for me to drive down and visit you in the state pen,” Nick laughed. “Bad news though, Oregon doesn’t allow conjugal visits.”
Monroe rolled his eyes. Young love. God, it was excruciating. He drank his coffee with noisy relish, ignoring Nick’s half-hearted glare.
“Awh, I was counting on you to help me hide the body, hon.”
“We could put that in the vows,” Nick suggested. “Love, honor, cherish, hide the evidence…. Monroe’s making faces at me.”
“It’s a grimace of horror,” Monroe informed him. “I’m getting diabetes just sitting here.”
“Good thing you’re in a hospital,” Nick quipped at the same time his fiancé asked, “Who’s Monroe?”
Nick shoved the phone at him, fumbling back the blankets with the other hand. “You talk to her. I’m going to brush my teeth before I crash for the night.” He unclipped the finger squeezer and slid off the bed.
“What? No. I don’t—”
The bathroom door closed leaving him talking to an empty room and a phone that kept saying, “Hello? Nick? Hello?”
“Monroe, I assume.” Her voice was rich and amused.
“Yeah, that’s me, uh….”
“Juliette. Nick’s fiancé.”
“Oh yeah, he’s, uh, mentioned you,” Monroe said and winced. He used to be better at this, conversation, people, but he couldn’t remember when exactly.
Juliette laughed brightly. “I’ll bet. Do you work with Nick?”
“Just on this one case.”
“I’m glad it’s over,” she admitted. “He’s been very good about not bringing work home with him, but this one….” A soft breath gusted over the mouthpiece. “Being taken off the case and then that little girl never being found. It’s been really hard on him.”
“Yeah,” Monroe agreed because he’d been able to see that five minutes after they met.
“Is he really alright? I don’t think he’d lie to me about the really important stuff, but he has a tendency to…underestimate his injuries.”
Monroe chuckled. “I believe that. But, yeah, he’s good. I mean, a little banged up, the guy threw him into a wall after all, but I think he’s right about the reason they’re keeping him overnight.” He struggled for something reassuring to say. “The doctor was just in here and everything seemed to be fine.”
“Thank you.” He could hear the smile in her voice as she continued, “I usually have to call Hank to get the whole story.”
“Um,” Monroe said awkwardly. He stared at the bathroom door willing Nick to finish already. It felt weird sharing confidences with this woman he had never met; things he was certain Nick would be embarrassed to have him know.
“I’m sorry,” Juliette said, laughing a little. “You don’t want to hear this.”
“No, no, it’s okay. I get it.”
She chuckled. “You’re being very polite, but I’ll let you off the hook. Please tell Nick I’ll be home tomorrow morning.”
“Okay.” He waited until the connected broke before hanging up his end just as Nick came out of the bathroom freshly scrubbed and minty. “Your girlfriend says she’ll be home tomorrow morning.”
Nick smiled. “Her mom had surgery last week. She went down to help out.” Climbing stiffly back into bed, he tugged the covers into place. “I’m kinda surprised she isn’t leaving tonight now that she has an excuse. A week is pushing it with those two.”
“Don’t get along?”
“Too much alike.”
Nick eased back into the pillows with a wince and a sigh. “That was a very knowing ah.”
“Me and my dad. Same thing.” He waved a hand dismissively, not wanting to go into it.
“Ah,” Nick said. He was silent for a long time, watching the little TV up in the corner of the room.
Some sort of horse racing was on but he figured Nick was really reading the ticker tape across the bottom. PORTLAND SERIAL KILLER APPREHENDED. “That didn’t take very long,” he commented.
“Captain called for a press conference as soon as he got back to the station,” Nick said, rolling his head against the pillows so he could look at Monroe. “You were right. We found her in the basement. Had it set up like a guest bedroom.”
Nick made a face at the bad joke but he couldn’t help the half smile that crept out. “He had seven red sweatshirts. Hanging up all neat and tidy. There were more in these fancy wooden chests under the bed. Coats, sweaters, hoodies. All red. Part of the reason for the quickie press conference. We’re missing a lot of victim we didn’t even know about.”
“He’d been off the wagon for a long time,” Monroe agreed.
“Off the wagon?”
“Oh yeah. I mean I only saw his house for, like, a second but…. The needlepoint, the collectibles,” he made the air quotes because in no way did Hummel figurines compare with...oh anything useful like clocks or fifty year old wine, “the compulsive tidiness. Controlling yourself begins with controlling your environment,” he quoted. “At some point he’d tried to go straight.”
“There were four boxes of clothes,” Nick said softly, watching him with hooded eyes, “he’d been doing it for a while.”
He wanted to ask, Monroe could see it. Monroe halfway wanted him to ask. He would tell him about how sometimes the cravings got so bad it felt like dying, about the deals he made with himself just to keep going, the hobbies that he needed to fill up the days and weeks, and the many, many ways to justify the little slip ups. The words were there, had been there for years, building up. If Nick asked they would spill out like something toxic and viscid.
But Nick only watched him with pale, unfathomable eyes. “We got him,” he said finally and there was no way Monroe was prepared for what that we did to his insides.
Stupid, he told himself angrily. It was probably some sort of veiled threat that the Grimm would be watching for the day Monroe flipped out and went on a killing spree. But Nick shifted his attention back to the TV with a strangely sad smile and said, “We got him,” and, “He won’t hurt anyone else,” and, ”The remote’s over there somewhere if horseracing isn’t your thing.”
Monroe opened his mouth to say that he couldn’t stay, important things to do at home and all that, but what came out was, “Maybe I am a horseracing aficionado. I could have depths.” Instead of getting up and leaving he grabbed the remote and flipped through channels.
“I’m sure you have all sorts of strange and unusual depths, Monr—oh, Wile E. Coyote!” he exclaimed because apparently he really was a nine year-old in a grown man’s body. “Let’s watch that.”
And because Monroe was the world’s biggest pushover he left it on.
It took less than five minutes for Nick’s eyelids to start drooping. “You don’t have to stay,” he said after a bit because he was an idiot like that.
“I’m waiting out the evening rush hour,” Monroe told him primly. “I hate traffic.”
“Yeah ‘s a bitch.” Nick watched him, eyes a barely visible glimmer of gray. “I’m a big boy, Monroe. You don’t have to stay.”
Monroe had smelled at least four wesen on this floor. He’d bet all of them knew by now there was a Grimm in their territory, injured and unarmed. And there was a blutbad three floors down who might just be holding a grudge.
“I’m good.” Monroe retrieved a book from his tote bag and got comfortable. “You just watch your cartoons.”
Nick’s eyes slipped entirely closed and he smiled sleepy and soft. “Thanks, buddy. I appreciate it.”
Warmth blossomed in Monroe’s chest spreading up his throat and ears. He sat for a long time watching Nick sleep, book lying unopened on his lap, cartoon music playing in the background. There were times, he realized quite suddenly, when life hit you upside the head with a rock-the-world-as-you-know-it kind of change. Literally. He still had the scar from the last one. And there were times when change snuck up on you with a knock on the door on a quiet Thursday morning.
Monroe opened his book to the scrap of paper he’d used to mark his page, settling in. His schedule, he thought, might have room for a little change.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I think I replied to everyone.
Pesterfield asked on fanfiction: If Nick's late to this case has he already missed the Grimm connection to other crimes.
Yep. At this point he would have been on leave for a month a half more or less. Would Barry Rabe be a murderer now? Would Adalind have been killed by the mellifers? Would Billy Capra still be running his bed and breakfast or would they have caught him anyway? What about poor Roddy?
And, yes, it bothered me a lot to use SUV and truck interchangeably. In Idaho we have cars, suvs, and pickups. Trucks are something you can haul a horse in the back of or pull a semi-trailer with or drive over a fallen tree with because the tires are actually bigger than Monroe’s VW. But I looked at the NBC Grimm website and those two descriptions are what they used in the recaps of the episodes so I went with it. I saw a story yesterday that used jeep. While that also doesn’t fit in my mind with what Nick drives, I do like it better than truck. Any suggestions?