Hank asks a lot of questions.
It's not as if Nick didn't know this. He's been the man's partner for a while now, and hey, questions are a huge part of their job. Where were you between five and six last Tuesday? What's that strange smell coming from the basement? How the hell does someone rip a guy's arm off? What happened to the security footage? You know, normal questions.
But lately Hank's started to ask other questions. He's been so damn subtle and downright conversational about it sometimes Nick doesn't notice until it's too late and he's said something he can't take back. Something that maybe sounds innocuous all on its own but that's another piece in a very large puzzle Nick knows Hank's brain will eventually put together. He's an excellent detective.
The trouble is Nick can't really afford for Hank to figure out what's going on. It's too dangerous for all of them, and if Monroe's right, which he usually is, there's a good chance it will break Hank's brain a little, even with all the shit he's seen. The worst case scenario is he'll think Nick is certifiable, and that's not exactly conducive to continuing a working partnership. Or keeping his job. Or staying out of an institution that prefers a wardrobe of white coats and rooms with padded walls.
Hank asks a lot of questions, and Nick doesn't have any answers for him that aren't partial truths or outright lies, and he's terrified of the day Hank puts two and twelve together and comes up with the ridiculousness that is Nick's life. Hank's a friend—a good friend—and he hates having to keep this very big secret from him, but there's no way around it that Nick can see.
“So, do you still have the ring?” Hank asks so casually that Nick has to think for a second to realize he's not talking about the case they're working, which involves several missing fingers, but not a lot of rings.
“What ring?” Nick asks, simply to buy time, allowing a sense of distraction to show on his face. It's not much of a stretch—they've been working around the clock, and he's bone-tired, over-caffeinated, and not in the mood to discuss his personal life even if Hank means well. Nick knows he means well, and that's why he avoids lying to him if he can.
Hank just gives him a patented “You're not this dumb” look across the surface of their desks, and yeah, Nick has to grin back. It's the first small break in the tension, and Nick lets it loosen his face into a grin. He has to stop himself from letting it turn into a yawn, though. If he starts that, he's going to be falling asleep at his desk, and that's never a pretty sight. He knows—last time Wu took pictures and hung them on the bulletin board.
“Oh, that ring,” Nick says, leaning back in his chair. “Of course I've still got it. What, you think I got cold feet? Took it back to the store and asked for my two months worth of pay back?”
Hank snorted. “Don't forget I know what you make. That was definitely a three months ring. I've got four ex-wives, man. I should know.”
“I seriously think you just have a thing for weddings, Hank. Maybe you should, I don't know, crash a few services on the weekends. Cry over how beautiful the bride is, dance with a couple of bridesmaids, get drunk at the open bar. It would cost you less than another ex-wife.”
Hank shakes his head. “Ah, but we're not talking about me. We're talking about you,” he says with that point-blank focus that makes him such an excellent cop. Nick was hoping to distract him, but he should've known better. “That ring's been burning a hole in your underwear drawer for a few months now, Nick. What gives?”
Sock drawer, Nick thinks, but refrains from sharing. He's getting better at keeping secrets. There's no good answer to Hank's question, and it was never one thing that put everything on hold anyway.
“Things came up. Aunt Marie.”
Nick doesn't really have to say any more. He knows Hank remembers how things spun out of control from that night. Nick might've gone home with the intention of opening a nice bottle of wine, lighting a few candles, and asking Juliette to marry him, but all his plans were derailed by a guy with a scythe and the revelation that Nick's a Grimm. Nothing's been the same since, even if he can't exactly tell Hank that.
But Marie's death is as good an excuse as any for the delay, and Hank makes an understanding sound. Nick doesn't even think Marie would mind being used as his reason for putting off the proposal, especially since she wanted him to break it off with Juliette completely. He hasn't been able to do that either, needing something to hang onto while his life's been getting weirder by the day. Maybe it isn't fair, maybe it's going to be harder in the long run, but for right now he's stuck. He can't marry Juliette, but he can't not have her in his life. He thinks he'd go mad.
Nick looks up to find Hank studying him. Nick isn't sure what he sees there, isn't sure what any of them see when they look at him these days. He should ask Monroe what a Grimm looks like to the Wesen world, but he's half afraid of the answer. Obviously, the creatures can tell what he is in the same way he can see their real selves, but Nick has no idea how they see him. Maybe he's got “Grimm” written in bloody letters across his forehead. Maybe it's something worse than that. He's not sure he really wants to know.
“What?” he asks.
Hank shrugs and pulls another folder from the pile. “Don't wait too long. The good ones, the ones like Juliette, don't come along every day.”
“I know that,” Nick says honestly. “There just hasn't been a good time since ...” He doesn't finish his sentence, hoping the empty space at the end will convey the weight of everything he can't talk about. Since Marie, since Monroe, since Hexenbiests and Blutbaden and Reapers. Since he inherited a family legacy he didn't know about and didn't want. Since he became a Grimm.
“There's never a good time, Nick.”
Hank says it knowingly, as if somehow it's clear Nick's been dragging his heels on the whole proposing thing; everything else is an excuse. If Nick was absolutely sure, the timing wouldn't matter, and it's not that he doesn't love Juliette—he does—he just doesn't know if loving her is going to put her in more danger than it's worth. He can't get Marie's voice out of his head, telling him if he loves Juliette, he has to end it.
There's no one to help him figure this out. Well, there's Monroe, but he's about as far from a regular Blutbad as Nick seems to be from a typical Grimm. He supposes they're well-matched in some ways, both defying expectations, but it doesn't necessarily help make him feel better. Monroe's friendship is just further proof of how strange Nick's life has gotten. How many secrets he has.
He's taken one giant step outside the normal world, and there's no turning back. He knows he'll be a Grimm until the day he dies, however far away or soon that death might be. It's likely to be sooner rather than later and his life expectancy as a police officer wasn't anything to write home about to begin with, but God help him, Nick kind of likes it. He finds the history and the lore fascinating, and he's accumulating bits and pieces of German, enough that he's considered the benefit of taking a class at the local community college.
For a kid who was always an outsider, finally being able to do something that no one else can do makes him feel special. Maybe that's a little pathetic, but Nick's gone from a relatively mundane life as a cop about to marry a veterinarian and raise happy puppies together to being someone who's feared and respected. He's got a wardrobe full of deadly weapons that he's learning how to use, and a friend who's really a big bad wolf, despite the reformed ways, and Nick can't help but think that's so much cooler than a future of Labradoodle pups and cozy evenings by the fire. He's still clinging to the hope that maybe he can have it all.
“Nick. Hey, you fallen asleep over there?”
Hank snaps his fingers and the sound brings Nick back to the moment. His head has dropped into his hands, and he can feel the heaviness in his eyelids. He's so close to the edge of sleep, it's almost painful to pull himself back.
“No, I'm—yeah, I think I'm done.” Nick likes to think he doesn't have limits, but he does and he knows it. More so now than ever before. “We should call it a night.”
“Yeah,” Hank agrees. “Maybe it'll look different tomorrow.”
Nick doubts it, but he's too tired to care. He and Hank gather up their stuff and do the familiar walk to their cars. Nick's grateful neither of them lives far from the station, and there's not a lot of traffic at three-thirty in the morning.
“Noon?” Hank says, and Nick nods. They both know they'll probably be in earlier, but it's a reasonable meet-up time when you're getting home close to four.
“Juliette's one of the good ones, Nick,” Hank says, repeating what he said earlier, as if it's his new favorite mantra. He fumbles with his car key. “Don't wait too long.”
“I know, I know.”
Nick gives him a wave, and drives home on automatic. He's aware he should probably be concerned he doesn't remember the process of getting from the station to his house, but frankly, that requires more energy than he's got. When he tumbles into bed beside Juliette, he's asleep instantly. For the moment at least, all the questions he can't or doesn't want to answer fall silent.
Hank's persistent, and worse, he's perceptive.
When Monroe comes to collect Hap from the police station it takes them both by surprise, but Hank's quick to recognize this is the guy Nick accused of kidnapping a little girl, and just maybe, it would be easier if Nick didn't have to deal with him.
“Don't we know that guy?
“Yeah, that's the guy I thought was involved in the kidnapping.”
“The clock guy? That's his friend?”
“I guess so.”
“Hey, you want me to take this?”
“No. No, Hank. I—I got this one.”
Nick can feel Hank's eyes on his back for a moment before he goes in search of the fire investigator on the case. Maybe Hank will chalk it up to Nick's desire to set things right with someone he falsely accused, but Nick can't let the opportunity for a word with Monroe go by. He trusts that Hank will come up with a reason for Nick's willingness to face someone whose life he tore apart on a hunch, and a lame hunch at that. But Nick couldn't exactly tell him he'd seen Monroe turn wolfish right in front of him, and he didn't know Monroe then, or what he was.
It's different now, of course, and Monroe's another reason Nick's not checking himself in for a psych eval. Juliette keeps him grounded because she knew him before all this weirdness started, and she still sees him as the same guy he's always been, even if that's only because she doesn't know any better. Monroe's never known him without the cloud of Grimm-ness hanging over him, and seems to like him anyway, or at least he's willing to put up with him. Quite frankly, Nick will take it considering every other thing out there seems to want him dead.
When Hap turns up in Monroe's front entrance the next day with four bullets in him, Nick's expecting the worst. Wu says they haven't found any other bodies—yet—and Nick feels a relief that's palpable. It's also short-lived when Monroe and Hap's sister Angelina appear minutes later, clearly having been out all night frolicking in the woods. Then Nick's just pissed off, and he doesn't even know why. Hap wasn't his friend after all. It's not supposed to be personal.
“You okay?” Hank asks after they finish with Monroe and Angelina. The blood turns out to be from a rabbit and Nick knows Monroe's going to be beating himself up about his own lapse and Hap's death for the foreseeable future. He doesn't want to add to that guilt, but he also didn't need the heart-stopping moment of wondering if Monroe was dead too.
“Yeah. I'm fine.”
“Some kind of weird coincidence that the clock guy's involved, huh?” The tone of Hank's voice suggests he's not a big believer in coincidences. Nick isn't sure where this conversation's going; he hates when he and Hank are out of sync.
“I guess. Portland's not that big.”
Hank's looking at him as if he's appraising a horse or a new car, and Nick has to concentrate not to fidget like a perp. It's not easy under Hank's steady gaze.
“You don't know him, do you, Nick? I mean, you didn't know him from somewhere before?”
“Before you tapped him as a potential pedophile/kidnapper suspect?”
Nick shakes his head. “No, of course not! If I'd known him, I never would've suspected him. He's a nice guy, Hank. He wouldn't hurt a kid.”
“Okay,” Hank says, sitting up the way he always does when he's got a piece of evidence that's about to change the case. “So, maybe you didn't know him before, but you definitely know him now. How does that happen? He obviously gave off some kind of creepy vibe, or you wouldn't have gone after him like that in the first place.”
“I made a mistake. I got caught up in wanting to find the girl, that's all.”
“And you still haven't answered the question, Nick. How do you go from 'I think you're the kind of guy who might keep little girls in your basement' to 'hey, we should hang out sometime'?”
“You're making it sound way more sordid than it is.”
“Really. How sordid is it?”
The raised eyebrow doesn't help Nick's mood at all. He can feel the muscles in his jaw clenching, and he's pretty sure Hank can see it too. He forces himself to take a breath and calm down. Getting upset or acting like he's got something to hide is only going to set Hank's alarm bells off faster than is healthy.
“If you have to know, I felt pretty awful after accusing him. So I went back to apologize.” That's pretty much the truth, although it's also true Nick wouldn't have gone back if he hadn't still suspected Monroe knew something about the kidnapping. He'd seen a glimpse of what Monroe really was and an assumption of guilt wasn't far behind.
Hank lets out a low whistle. “Man, you are either the bravest or the stupidest man I've ever known.”
“Thanks, I think. Anyway, he was surprisingly good about the whole thing. He invited me in for a beer.”
“And you went?”
Nick knows the general rule is to keep an objective distance from people they run into on the job, but Monroe's a special case. In retrospect, Nick's realizing just how special a case he is. Nick could've easily got his head handed to him that night—literally—if he'd judged wrong. Instead he'd made a friend and an ally, and on top of it, Monroe had helped him sniff out the real kidnapper.
“Yeah, we had a beer, and we got to talking. He's actually a pretty interesting guy.”
“Pretty and interesting, huh?” Hank's got the kind of contemplative smirk he always wears when Nick's given something personal away. He can feel the heat creep into his face. He wishes he'd never confessed to Hank how hard a time he has making friends.
“Not pretty and interesting, just—fuck off.”
“He's a bachelor clockmaker, Nick. How interesting can be be? Are you harboring a secret love of clocks?”
Nick shrugs off the jibe. There's no point continuing the conversation, and he's not certain he can do it without looking like an idiot anyway. He can't explain why he likes Monroe, what they have in common. He can't tell Hank anything that's going to make their friendship make sense, and he wishes he were a better liar, but he doubts he's going to be able to convince Hank they bonded over college baseball or some other innocent thing. So, he takes the easy road, and gives Hank an explanation he'll believe.
“Look, I told you, I felt bad about what happened, and the guy seemed pretty shaken by the whole thing. He offered me a beer. I accepted. What was I supposed to do?”
“Politely decline. You're a cop doing your job. You don't owe him anything.”
“Yeah, well, he seems like a decent guy,” Nick repeats, knowing Hank thinks he's the ultimate soft touch. “We had a couple of beer. It's not like we're best buds all of a sudden. It's no big deal.”
Hank gets a call then with another lead to follow up, so he leaves Nick with a desk stacked with file folders and a vague sense he's done Monroe a disservice.
The reality is the whole situation's made Nick come to terms with something about himself. He counts on Monroe. He counts on him to be there with a beer or coffee and advice. He trusts him to understand and to help, and more than that, he trusts Monroe's going to be there to help him through being a Grimm. Maybe it's not fair—Monroe didn't ask for a Grimm to walk into his life and demand help—but for better or worse, Monroe's never turned Nick away, and Nick's grateful for that.
With a start, Nick realizes why he's been so angry with Monroe. He could've gotten himself killed, and Nick's apparently a selfish bastard because he can't find it in himself to be happy Monroe's getting some action from a hot, if somewhat homicidal, she-wolf. All he can think about is how Monroe might've died and left him alone to deal with being a Grimm by himself.
Maybe next time he stops by Monroe's place he should bring him a decent bottle of wine to say thanks. They don't exactly make cards that say, “Sorry I accused you of a crime you didn't commit,” or “Thanks for being the only person I can talk to about how completely screwed-up my life is”—or maybe they do, but Nick hasn't bothered to check.
Besides, he's pretty sure Monroe will prefer the wine over any sort of sentiment.
Maybe he'll also get him that fruit basket he's been hinting at. It can't hurt.
“So, 'fess up. What's really going on with you and the clock guy?” Hank finally asks, and it's not the question Nick's been expecting, but it's not really a surprise either. They'd asked for Monroe's help tracing an antique watch and Monroe had been so caught up in the work he'd slipped and acted like he and Nick were friends. Which they are, but Hank doesn't know that.
“What do you mean?” Nick keeps his voice casual.
“He was acting kind of familiar, don't you think? He called you 'Nick.'”
“Did he? I didn't really notice.”
Hank's all wound up about Stark escaping from prison and coming after the people he blames for his incarceration. Hank's the only one still breathing, and since the Captain won't let him go out there and do work, Hank's got nothing much to think about except Stark and apparently what's going on in Nick's life.
“You don't think it's weird he was eager to help us? We didn't exactly make the best first impression, and although I'm sure he thought your apology over beer was sincere, he doesn't have any reason to go out of his way to be helpful.”
“I told you he's a decent guy. Upstanding citizen, and all that.” Nick ignores the snort from Hank. “Besides, most people want to stay on the police's good side.”
“I'm not sure if you noticed, but the guy really likes clocks and watches.”
Hank can't help but laugh then, and Nick joins him. It feels good amid the tension, and Nick thinks maybe that's where they should leave it for the night. On a high note.
“I didn't realize how late it was getting. If I leave now I might even make it home in time for dinner with Juliette.”
Hank smiles easily, and it's the most relaxed Nick has seen him since this case started. “Yeah, go home, lover boy. Give your pretty lady a hug for me.”
“I will.” Nick slips on his leather jacket. “For once in your life just do what the Captain asks and stay here, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Hank says. “See you tomorrow.”
Nick never gets that dinner with Juliette, and it's only through some kind of miracle (and a pot of boiling water) he survives the fight with the ogre at all.
In the hospital, he startles when Monroe touches his arm, but finds himself relaxing when he realizes who it is. Nick's never been much for casual touches, but he appreciates the gesture. Monroe's face says all Nick needs to know, and even if he didn't feel like something had pounded him flat like a chicken, he'd know it from the way Monroe's grimacing as his eyes catalogue Nick's injuries. When he finds out it was a Siegbarste, Monroe's face grows lines where Nick's never seen them before.
“Oh, man, you don't want to mess with a Siegbarste.” Monroe's pacing beside Nick's bed. “You're lucky you're alive, Nick. Stopping a Siegbarste by normal means is sort of like trying to stop a tank with a powder puff.”
Almost unbidden, Nick finds himself telling Monroe about Marie's trailer, about the gun, about how damn scared he was when Stark just kept coming.
“You're okay, though,” Monroe says, sitting on the edge of the bed. His hand is warm and a little sweaty on Nick's arm, and Nick doesn't hesitate to fit his own hand over Monroe's and hang on. “Well, you're not exactly okay, you're really more of an advertisement for how freakin' tough Seigbarstes are to take down, but—”
“I need you to go to the trailer and get the gun.” Nick doesn't let Monroe move away. “I need you to bring me the gun.”
“And what the hell are you going to do with it?” Monroe stands up, taking his hand with him. “You can barely sit up, Nick. If you think I'm letting you go after this guy, you're out of your mind.”
“No. No way, and I am not above using the nursing staff to keep you right here in this hospital bed drugged to the eyeballs. That head nurse? The one who looks like she might have a bit of Seigbarste DNA herself? She'll totally take my side on this one, my friend. I can guarantee it, so don't even—”
“Monroe!” It comes out softer than Nick intended and with a painful wince he can't hide.
“Man, you can't even raise your voice. What makes you think you're going to be able to raise a gun?”
“I'm not,” Nick admits. “I'll give it to Hank.”
“Hank? I thought he was in lockdown at the station.”
“Yeah, and that's only going to last until he finds out what happened at my place.” Nick glances at the clock in the room. He figures he's maybe got a half hour before Hank shows up, and unlike Monroe, Nick's not in any shape to prevent Hank from going off and doing something stupid. “Please, Monroe. I need you to go get the gun, swab the bullets with the poison, and bring it back here. It's the only chance Hank's going to have and we're running out of time.”
Monroe looks at him, and nods wordlessly. Nick presses the key to the trailer into his palm, hoping Monroe realizes what it means that he called him. It's not just Monroe's the only one who'll understand; he's also the only one Nick knows he can trust to do the right thing. It's possible he's said that out loud, but Nick can't help smiling. Considering he's still seeing spots in front of his eyes, he feels great.
“Yeah, that'll be the morphine talking,” Monroe says gently, letting go of the button that's meant to help control the pain. “I'll be back with the gun as soon as I can. Stay put.”
Nick can't even say he's surprised when a few hours later Hank confesses it wasn't him who dealt Stark the killing blow.
“Who?” Nick asks although there's only one answer that makes sense.
“I wish I knew,” Hank says. “I owe him one.”
Nick lets out a pained chuckle. Yeah, they all owe Monroe. So many Nick's lost count, although he bets Monroe will have an approximate count next time he sees him. As Hank leaves, Nick starts making a mental list for when he sees Monroe again.
Bagels—the really good onion ones from the deli across town—and some cream cheese. Not the low fat kind, but the creamy stuff Monroe prefers even though he complains he has to do an extra half-hour of pilates to earn the right to eat it. And a couple of bottles of wine—there's a nice Pinot Grigio Nick thinks he'd like, and ... yeah.
He owes Monroe big-time, and there really isn't anything he can do to adequately say thank you, but he wants to try all the same.
After that, they seem to get beat up a hell of a lot more than before, but Nick's too busy trying to stay ahead of the Reapers and the Wesen and the regular run-of-the-mill murderers to do more than lick his wounds and keep going.
“Where'd you disappear to last night? Big plans with Juliette?” Hank asks. If he thinks he's being subtle about telling Nick to propose already, he's kidding himself.
“Monroe got mugged.” Nick's still coasting on the anger from the previous night. Someone went to the trouble of luring Monroe out in order to send a message to both of them, and it doesn't sit right with Nick. He's never expected anyone to fight his battles for him, and even though Monroe's in this by choice, it doesn't always feel that way to Nick. Especially when Monroe's talking out of the side of his mouth and holding an ice pack to his head.
To Hank's credit, he asks the right questions first. “Is he okay?”
“It could've been worse.”
“Did he file a report?”
Nick shakes his head. “He won't. He says he didn't really get a look at the guys.”
“More than one, huh? Well, he's not a small guy,” Hank admits. “Even if he's not a fighter, he's not going to go down easy. They take anything?”
“No. He was on his way to fix a clock, so he didn't have much with him except his tools.”
“They say anything to him?” There's something in Hank's tone that's overly cautious, and Nick's not sure what it means. “Slurs, threats? Warnings?”
Nick thinks of the Reaper's blade drawn in Monroe's hand on a folded piece of paper.
“No, I don't think so.”
It's close enough to the truth, and it's easier than trying to explain about the Reaper symbol traced out in blood on the hood of Monroe's VW Beetle. Nick's used to the danger inherent in being a cop; it goes with the job. But Juliette and Monroe didn't sign on for this kind of thing, and it pisses Nick off that they're constantly getting dragged into danger because of him. Juliette's no shrinking violet—he knows that, but he can't help but want to keep her away from harm.
And Monroe—well, Monroe can take care of himself, there's no doubt, but Nick knows he doesn't like to lose control. There isn't always a middle ground between being a decent guy and being the big bad wolf, and Nick knows if it's a choice between hurting someone and letting himself be hurt, Monroe's more likely to take his lumps and chalk it up to the price he pays for keeping the wolf at bay. Nick doesn't have to like it, though.
“You want me to talk to him about making a complaint?” Hank offers, even though he knows the stats on finding and prosecuting muggers as well as Nick does.
Nick waves him off. “No. If he won't listen to me, I doubt he'll listen to you. He's stubborn.”
Hanks tries to hide a grin and doesn't succeed. “Trust you to make friends with someone who's immune to your charms.”
“What?” Nick looks up.
“Monroe. I'm just saying you can't do anything the easy way. Even make friends.”
Nick's about to argue, but there's no point. It's true. Not only is he a cop who's friends with someone he accused of kidnapping, he's a Grimm who's friends with a Blutbad. That sort of thing doesn't seem to happen to anyone else. Nick's not about to admit it to Hank, but Monroe's at least a little susceptible to his charms, or at least Monroe's talents can usually be bartered for with food and wine. At first Nick wasn't sure why Monroe went along with him. Curiosity about Nick being a Grimm, maybe. Now it's more than that, and Nick isn't sure exactly when they became friends, but he's glad of it.
“Yeah, well, I never did play well with others.”
Hank laughs. “Then I'm betting you and Monroe were two of a kind.”
Nick doesn't even know where to begin to unpack what's wrong with that sentiment, but luckily he doesn't have to. They've got another body.
Nick figures something out around the time he's offering to fight in some sort of gladiatorial cage match to save Monroe's life.
“Oh, dude,” Monroe says when Nick's pushed into the ring with him and a creature intent on killing them both. “You're crazy, Nick!”
“Well, maybe that'll help.”
Monroe's not badly hurt and Nick knows it's only a matter of stalling for time. Hank's on the way with back-up. But the thing is, Nick's got a suspicious feeling he'd be in this same situation whether Hank was riding to the rescue or not. Maybe he is crazy, but he knows he got Monroe into this mess, and he's tired of people getting hurt because of him.
It doesn't matter that Monroe walked into it willingly, even eagerly, to begin with. Like Nick's always said, Monroe's a good guy and he wants to help. He knows Monroe loves his clocks, his solitude, his quiet life, but there's still a part of him that wants to run with the wolves, that craves danger and excitement and wants to walk a little on the wild side. Nick can see it in his eyes sometimes, and he knows it's reflected in his own. Nick's not a cop only because he wants justice in the world; he's man enough to admit there's a certain thrill that comes with hunting down the bad guys, an adrenaline rush like nothing else when you have to draw your gun, defend yourself, protect someone else.
Months of dealing with being a Grimm and not being able to confide in anyone except Monroe has made Nick keenly aware of how lonely Monroe's life must be at times. He's aligned himself with a Grimm, of all possible people, and that's after he'd already distanced himself from his heritage as a Blutbad. He'd turned his back on the kind of bloodsport Angelina had tried to lure him back into. He'd stopped eating meat and gone strictly vegetarian. Nick isn't sure if he could stop eating meat, and he doesn't have some crazy predatory instinct driving his need for it.
“Don't get distracted, Nick!” Monroe shouts at him from the side as Nick takes another hit to the shield, the kinetic energy from the jolt travelling through the metal and into his arm. He's going to be sore tomorrow—if he lives through tonight, that is.
“Keep your shield up. Come on, you can do it!” Monroe's voice cuts through the din.
Nick gets that it's probably easier to coach from the sidelines than to be caught in the middle of the fray, but it doesn't stop him from wishing Monroe would shut the hell up. It's not helping. He's good with a gun, not so much with a shield and a battle club that seems to weigh as much as a small car, and the likelihood of him getting better over the course of the fight is slim to none.
He just needs five minutes. That's all. Five minutes isn't that long.
Five minutes, it turns out, is an eternity when someone's trying to crush your skull with a morning star.
Even when Nick feels as if he's gotten the jump on Dmitri, when he hears Monroe's encouraging, “That's it! You got him,” he doesn't feel his advantage is going to be anything but short-lived. He throws everything he's got in Dmitri's direction: punches, his club, the shield. He's got a sword to the man's throat before Dmitri can retaliate, and he feels Monroe there behind him, taking another would-be attacker down with a shield blow. So much for fighting with honor. Nick slams the sword hilt into Dmitri's face, satisfied when he goes down and doesn't get back up.
The cage door's mostly open, but there's no hope of escape. The way's barred by a crowd of frenzied Löwen eager to join the fight, and Nick raises the sword in anticipation. He feels Monroe's back against his briefly, warm and human, and Nick wants to laugh at the irony of it all. Maybe crazy laughing will make the mob think twice. It's probably worth a shot, and honestly, he's not sure he can hold it back anymore. His life is ridiculous.
Nick catches a glimpse of brown eyes and a big grin over his shoulder.
“Hey, man, I just wanted to say thanks for saving my life back there.”
“Yeah, however long that lasts!”
“Here it comes,” Monroe warns, and he doesn't sound afraid. Nick wonders if this is it. If some other chronicler will write about the Blutbad and the Grimm who stood back-to-back and fought for their lives together. Well, if this is how he's meant to die, he plans to go out fighting.
“Bring it on!”
“Don't say that!”
Monroe's voice is drowned out by the sound of sirens, and just like that it's done. Monroe's ducking through the crowd, not wanting to end up in a cell with a dozen angry Löwen before things get sorted, and Nick's letting the sword drop as Hank comes into sight with a gun in hand.
“Yeah.” Nick's surprised to realize it's the truth. He's bruised and a bit sore, but after fighting a Siegbarste everything else kind of pales in comparison. Besides, he had faith Hank would get there in time.
It isn't until after he's gotten home and taken a long hot shower, until after he's dried off and slipped into bed beside Juliette, who's already asleep, that he catches sight of her pretty white dress hanging like a shroud against the closet door. He's almost asleep when he wonders why she'd have that dress out. He thought she was saving it for a special occasion.
“Oh, shit,” Nick murmurs into his pillow, remembering the anniversary dinner he promised not to miss. He thinks of the ring still hidden in the back of his drawer, and how he hasn't given serious thought to proposing since Marie passed away.
He knows he's going to have to make a choice. Sooner or later.
If he keeps on this way, it's likely Juliette will make it for both of them. Deep down Nick can't help but wonder if that isn't what he's waiting for. The thought doesn't give him any comfort as he drifts off to sleep.
Nick sends Juliette a bouquet of red roses the next day. He's not dumb enough to think they make up for anything.
He sends Monroe the biggest fruit basket the grocery store has on hand, and then has to listen to him over the phone gleefully detailing precisely how wonderfully tart the passion fruit is and describing the sweet sun-wrapped scent of the pineapple.
“You should drop by,” Monroe says, and Nick hears a slurp that's probably the succulent flesh of a perfectly-ripened mango. Next time he's just going to send a card and hopefully avoid the borderline pornographic sounds he doesn't need to associate with Monroe.
“I got the impression you and the fruit basket would rather be alone.” Nick ignores the somewhat worrying look from Hank.
Monroe laughs into the phone, but it turns sharply into a moan, and “oh, man, this papaya is the best thing I've ever had in my mouth, bar none. Seriously, dude, and I've had a lot of—”
Nick hangs up on him, and refuses to answer his calls for the rest of the day.
Then Juliette gets kidnapped by a Daemonfeuer and everything changes. Nick can't tell her what's going on, and he can't pretend he's not entirely to blame for what happened to her. She's hurt and angry and Nick decides to give her a few days to deal with what's happened.
Hank waits until the end of the day to bring up the duffel bag that's been stashed under Nick's desk since morning.
“Everything okay?” Nick raises an eyebrow, and Hank laughs. “Hey, my badge doesn't say 'detective' for nothing. You need a place to stay?”
Nick shakes his head. “No, I'm good. Juliette wanted some time to think things through.”
Hanks leans in. His voice sounds faintly hopeful, but his face seems resigned to something else. “Did you finally pop the question?”
“No, it's—I think she's having second thoughts about being with a cop.”
“Oh, man, I know how that is. Wives one, two and four. I would've thought Juliette would be alright with that by now.”
Nick can't get into it without letting slip a whole lot of details he can't afford to share. He settles on the obvious answer. “Apparently not.”
“You're not staying at a hotel, are you?”
“No, Monroe offered me his couch."
“Clock man to the rescue,” Hanks says, grinning, but his smile doesn't quite reach his eyes. Nick can't seem to do right by anyone these days.
“He's a friend. A good friend.”
Nick's never come right out and said that to Hank, but it's clear Monroe's going to keep being an important part of Nick's life, so he may as well put it out there. It'll make things easier when he isn't trying to pretend he doesn't know where Monroe keeps his coffee cups, or what time he does pilates in the morning. He'd already had to practically make-up a gambling addiction for Monroe after the Löwen case; he didn't know how else to explain why it was Monroe who tipped him off about the fight's location. That hasn't exactly endeared Monroe to Hank, but he's trying.
“You want a coffee before we call it quits?” Nick asks because he doesn't want to have to explain Monroe when he really and truly can't do it without ending up with his sleeves tied behind his back. Besides, he's allowed to have friends. He shouldn't have to justify the relationship to anyone. Come to think of it, Juliette hadn't been completely sanguine about the sudden revelation of his new friend Monroe either, which seems a bit ungrateful considering he was saving her life at the time.
“Sure, coffee sounds great,” Hank says, and Nick hopes that's the end of that.
He should've realized it was only the beginning of the questions. But then again, no one, not even a Grimm, can be ready for everything.
A moment ago the sun slipped past the horizon and twilight is rapidly turning to darkness. Automatic streetlights are humming to life like fireflies. They're sitting in Hank's car with two tall black coffees when it starts.
“Nick, you're a great partner. One of the best I've worked with.”
“Thanks,” Nick says, caught off-guard.
“And we're friends, right?”
“Of course we're friends. What are you—”
“So, you know you can talk to me, okay? About ... whatever you need. I'm not going to judge.”
Hank's looking at him expectantly, and it's then Nick realizes Hank figuring out he's a Grimm is not actually the worst case scenario here. This is.
Hank keeps on talking, slow and careful, as if Nick might suddenly spook and make a break for it. “It took me a while to put it together, but I think I get it now. You and Monroe.”
Nick swallows a mouthful of burning coffee because he doesn't know what else to do. Shit like this never happened to him when he was an ordinary cop. It's all because he's a Grimm—he knows it. The universe obviously figures his aunt's death and his horrifying family legacy isn't enough for him to deal with.
“There's no 'me and Monroe,' Hank. At least not the way you mean.”
Hank smiles indulgently, and Nick only just stops himself from throwing the cup of coffee in Hank's face. He doesn't want to have to charge himself with assaulting a police officer.
“You don't have to be embarrassed about it. It's okay, Nick. It's not even that big a surprise, really.”
“I'm not embarrassed because there's nothing—wait, what do you mean it's not that big a surprise?”
“Well, you know.”
“No, I really don't. Explain it to me.”
Hank looks uncomfortable, and Nick knows it's petty but he thinks it's about time someone other than him started feeling awkward here.
“You know Sergeant Wu's gay, right?”
“I didn't,” Nick says, but there's a part of his brain that's saying it's not a big surprise, and oh, he hates that little voice right now.
“Well, he is. Wu and some of the other guys who are gay and bisexual—”
Nick suddenly has the feeling he's been missing a lot of vital discussions at the police station. A lot. He doesn't know where all these officers are, or why Hank seems to know their sexual orientations and what they think of Nick. He knows Hank's straight. If he wasn't, the guy would've given up any pretence long before the fourth set of alimony payments started.
“—all agree that you're very pretty.”
Nick opens his mouth to say something, then closes it around another scorching mouthful of coffee. Maybe the pain will distract him from the fact his partner and most of his colleagues apparently think he's gay in spite of being with Juliette for the last three years. Nick finds he can't think of anything to say, so he takes the coward's way out and says nothing.
“It'll be okay, Nick,” Hank says, patting his leg. “You're not in this alone.”
Hank puts the car in drive and pulls onto the street. Nick can't imagine going back to the station at this point and facing all those inquisitive faces. As it is, he's probably going to spend the next month wondering who's gay and who's not, and it's not something he ever cared about to begin with. Nick's willing to bet the whole “Nick's pretty, witty and gay” train of thought was mostly meant to wind Hank up, not give him serious pause for thought. Next time someone needs to go dumpster diving for evidence, Nick's putting Wu's name on the Request for Assistance form.
“You want me to drop you somewhere?” Hank asks, and it's written all over his face how much of an effort he's making to be supportive with regard to Nick's newly-discovered sexuality.
“Sure, why the hell not?” Nick says. “You know where Monroe lives,” and Hank nods as though it's taking considerable resolve for him not to stage some sort of Monroe-related intervention here and now. Hank's always been a huge fan of Juliette, and Nick wants to tell him it's not that simple. It's not a simple either/or proposition, and he's not the only one involved. Right now he doesn't have a clue what Juliette's thinking, or Monroe, but he prays Monroe's got something in the house with a high volume of alcohol.
He's got a feeling they're both going to need it.
“So, what happened after Hank called you pretty?”
Nick settles into the red chair in the living room and takes the beer Monroe's offering. “I don't think you're treating this with the appropriate level of seriousness.”
“Sure, I am. I'm treating it with exactly the appropriate level of seriousness. The question is, why aren't you?” Monroe sits on the couch and takes a long pull from his beer. “What do you care if some guys where you work think you're gay? I'm sure it's not the first time.”
Nick rolls his eyes, and Monroe doesn't miss a damn thing. “What? Look in the mirror, Nick. You could cut glass with those cheekbones, man. I'm sure 'pretty' is one of the more tactful compliments you've been paid.”
“Thanks. That makes me feel so much better about all this.”
“I guess I should be flattered, though.” Monroe sounds sincere and Nick's almost afraid to ask.
“Hank thinks I managed to get you? And away from the lovely Juliette, no less. Well, good for me!”
Monroe toasts himself with the beer he's holding, and Nick wonders how hard he'd have to hit the nerve cluster in Monroe's lower back to render him unconscious. Just for a few hours. That's all he needs.
“You don't have me. There is no having. In fact, no one is having anyone, alright?”
Monroe turns towards Nick and leans in conspiratorially. The eyebrow waggle makes him look a little deranged, but the low growl in his tone is having a different effect entirely. “I could, you know. If I turned on the charm—”
Nick leans away, refusing to acknowledge the way his face is heating up. Monroe's yanking his chain, that's all. “If that's an example of you turning on the charm, I can guarantee the answer would be 'no.' Not to mention there's Juliette, and I like women, and—”
“And still very pretty.” Monroe grins. “I'm sure the many, many women and the absolutely no men at all ever you've messed around with can attest to that.”
Nick throws a pillow in Monroe's general direction because, damn it, it was once and he was mostly drunk. It shouldn't count, and how the hell does Monroe do that, anyway?
“Obviously I came to the right place for sympathy.”
Monroe snorts. “You didn't come here for sympathy. You came for my couch and my beer, and maybe a little bit my scintillating company. You came because I don't let you get away with stupid shit the way other people do.”
“You're missing the point.”
“Then enlighten me.”
Nick's been tense since Hank dropped him off, and he knows none of this is Monroe's fault, except that Monroe's a bachelor clockmaker who's closer to forty than thirty, who likes toy trains and makes his own eggnog from scratch. He's smart and funny and loyal, and the only person in the world who even remotely understands what Nick's going through.
“It's got nothing to do with being gay,” Nick says, meeting Monroe's eyes for the first time since he walked in.
“I honestly didn't think it did.”
Monroe doesn't look away, and just like that, Nick feels some of the tension disappear. He rolls his shoulders, cracks his neck, and takes a sip from his beer.
“I don't have any family left,” Nick begins.
“I know that.”
“I've got Hank and my job and Juliette. And now you.”
Monroe doesn't contradict him. “Except you're worried you're not going to have Juliette after this.”
Nick nods. “An ogre almost beat me to death in our living room. A Daemonfeuer kidnapped Juliette from our home. I missed our anniversary dinner because I had to fight some guy off with a sword and shield.”
Monroe winced. “Sorry about that.”
“No, don't be. That's not what I'm saying. It was my fault you were out there to begin with.”
“Yeah, but it's embarrassing to need rescuing like that. I'm not exactly the damsel in distress type.”
“Neither's Juliette, and she still needed an assist.”
“Good point.” Monroe smiles around the lip of his bottle. “She's got a solid right. Ariel wasn't expecting to get punched in the face.”
“I would've liked to have seen that. The thing is until this Grimm stuff started happening my life was pretty stable. I was basically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.”
“No hidden depths?”
“Not really,” Nick admits. “Now, suddenly, I've got more secrets than I can keep track of. My girlfriend doesn't know if she wants to stay with me. My partner's convinced I'm gay because I can't explain why I'm spending so much time with you—”
“Who wouldn't want to spend time with me?” Monroe protests. “I'll have you know my appeal goes beyond what I can do in the bedroom.”
Nick stares at him, waits for Monroe's brain to catch up with his mouth.
“Which, of course, you know,” Monroe continues awkwardly, “since we're not sleeping together.”
Nick drops his head into his hands. “Oh, God, no wonder everyone thinks we're together.”
Monroe shrugs. “It probably didn't help trying to pretend we didn't know each other when you're here all the damn time. I was serious about getting you your own key, you know.”
“I can't exactly tell Hank we're friends because you're a Blutbad and I'm a Grimm.”
“Frankly, you couldn't tell anyone that, not even a Wesen. Us being friends won't really make sense to anyone, human or otherwise.” Monroe sips at his beer thoughtfully. “We're kind of the original odd couple. Ha! Maybe someone'll make a show about us.” Suddenly Monroe looks genuinely alarmed. “You're not messy, are you? I don't do well with messy people.”
“I'm a perfect house guest, I swear,” Nick assures him. “Do you ever get the feeling the universe hates you?”
“Man, the universe doesn't care enough to hate you. You've got to learn to see the positives.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Like ... you can stop sneaking out to talk to me. I don't have to be your dirty little secret anymore.”
“I prefer to think of you as my ace in the hole.”
“Um, I wouldn't necessarily tell that to Hank. He might get the wrong idea about us.”
Monroe snorts with laughter, and Nick can't help joining in. It feels good to laugh, and Nick lets his eyes close and his head tip back while he catches his breath. Monroe gets up and grabs the two empty beer bottles in one hand, patting Nick on the head as he goes to the kitchen. The gesture's oddly comforting, and Nick decides some things aren't meant to be analyzed to death.
He's suddenly dog-tired and the couch looks entirely too good to pass up. Nick kicks off his shoes and stretches out on his stomach. By the time Monroe's finished puttering around the kitchen and turning lights off, Nick's close to falling asleep. He feels the cozy weight of a blanket settling around his shoulders, and Monroe's voice is quiet and close.
“You know, Nick, the thing about clocks is that it's good to let them wind down once in a while, good to let them stop and rest before you crank them up again. You might want to remember that.”
“All my clocks are digital,” Nick offers, not quite able to keep the smirk out of his voice, even on the edge of sleep.
“Heathen,” Monroe says, but it's fond. “It's a metaphor, you idiot. I have no idea why I put up with you.”
“Because I'm pretty,” Nick responds without losing a beat, and Monroe's laughter is soft and real.
“Yeah, that must be it.”
“Thanks for letting me stay,” Nick says, almost a whisper, and he means it.
“You do go well with my couch.” A hand brushes lightly over Nick's hair. “You think I'm joking, but I'm really not.”
“I know exactly what you're saying.” The hand stops, and Nick opens one eye. It's a monumental effort, but it seems important. Monroe's sitting on the coffee table, watching him carefully.
“Maybe,” Monroe concedes, although he looks skeptical. Nick gets that. He knows how hard it is to trust someone, and he's nowhere near sure about anything these days. Monroe's right to be cautious. “But you're still a little repressed—”
“Hey,” Nick protests sleepily.
“I said a little. Jeesh, keep your pants on.” There's a pause. “No, wait. Forget I said that.”
Nick smiles into the couch. “Monroe.”
“Shush.” The hand pats his shoulder this time. It's big and warm, the touch of a friend, and Nick feels safe—he can't say that's a feeling he's had a lot lately. “I'm a patient guy, Nick. I can wait until you figure it out. Now get some sleep.”
A few seconds later the light clicks out, and Nick hears the faint creak of the hardwood as Monroe climbs the stairs to his own room.
Nick wonders if it really is as simple as that. His girlfriend's probably leaving him, his partner thinks he's gay, and his best friend's a somewhat sexually-confusing wolf with a comfortable couch and a fridge full of beer, but at the moment, there isn't anywhere he'd rather be.
The blanket's soft against his cheek, and Nick tugs it closer, letting himself relax into the couch that smells a little like Monroe, but mostly like Febreze. The ticking of clocks rises to fill the silence, and Nick falls asleep to their strange music. The soothing rhythm settles in the recesses of his brain like a gentle reminder.
He's got time.