In the end, Juliette doesn’t leave for any of the reasons she ought to. She doesn’t leave because she’s tired of all the secrets and lies, nor because she can no longer stand Nick choosing work over her or, worse, bringing his work home with him. She doesn’t even leave because Nick is becoming someone she doesn’t know anymore, someone she isn’t sure she can trust. No, she leaves because it is rather difficult to stick around after an ex-Hexenbiest decides to set your house aflame, trapping you inside until the roof collapses on top of you.
Nick isn’t home when it happens. He’s with Monroe and has been for several hours. They’re discussing a Wesen Nick had encountered in the market earlier this morning—some sort of aquatic horse that had been almost excited to come across a Grimm. Nick almost ignores his phone when it rings, enthralled as he seems to be with Monroe’s enthusiastic explanations. When he finally does answer, Monroe takes the opportunity to refill their coffee mugs. When he comes back to the living room, though, Nick is barely holding onto the phone and his smile has fled—actually, he looks as though he’s never smiled in his life. In a moment Nick hangs up, stands, and swiftly moves toward the coatrack Monroe keeps by the front door, not even acknowledging Monroe’s presence.
“Hey,” Monroe calls as Nick pulls on his well-worn coat. “Where are you going?”
“Home,” Nick says, and then he laughs strangely. Monroe can practically smell the dread and anxiety wafting off of him. “It’s—it’s on fire. ”
“It’s what? ”
“I have to go, Monroe. I’ll—I’ll call you later.”
“Uh, okay, man. I’ll be here. Be safe.” He wants to ask if Nick wants him to come along but doesn’t. Although Nick has never said it outright, Monroe isn’t exactly welcome near his home and his girlfriend. It’s not personal—just a Wesen thing, just an attempt to keep his double lives separate. Monroe understands. He lets Nick go without argument.
The call comes an hour later. Monroe hardly recognizes the voice on the other end when he answers. Nick is completely distraught and blubbering shamelessly. He keeps repeating Juliette’s name and “our house” and “oh my god”.
“Nick, man, calm down,” Monroe pleads, feeling helpless against the despair when he doesn’t even understand it. “What’s happened?”
So Nick tells him. Tells him about the fire and the roof and the scorched, broken body the firefighters pulled out of the blaze not a minute after Nick arrived at the house. Tells him how he only had a few moments to see the body before it was taken from the scene. Monroe listens in a disbelieving daze, straining to process his friend’s words.
“I don’t understand,” Nick says with a shaking voice. “Juliette is so careful about—about the stove and matches and candles and—and—”
“Are you still at your place?” Monroe interrupts him.
“Yeah. I can’t—can’t leave—”
“I’m coming over,” Monroe hears himself say. “I’ll be right there.”
“Thank you,” Nick gasps, choking around a sob.
The stench of smoke is absolutely rancid to Monroe’s overly sensitive nose when his car pulls up near the Burkhardt-Silverton home. The house is still burning in a few spots, and it’s hot even in the safety of Monroe’s Beetle. The yard is filled with all sorts of emergency vehicles, so it takes a second for Monroe to spot Nick’s truck just beyond the safety perimeter. He jumps out of his car, not eager to stay out in the open too long—but then the wind changes and Monroe’s nostrils flare around a scent other than that of the burning house. It’s human and vaguely familiar, but different, somehow, and strange. At first he thinks it’s the lingering scent of the unfortunate Juliette—but no, this scent is very alive and tinged with rage. Monroe strains for recognition and after a few seconds he achieves it. His eyes widen. Without another thought he runs to his friend’s truck and clambers inside.
Nick startles at the Blutbad’s entrance but relaxes slightly upon recognition. He’s shaking; tears shine in his eyes and on his cheeks. He doesn’t say a word and doesn’t look at Monroe. Instead he stares at and clutches his own hands, wringing them out as though he were trying to wash them.
“Nick,” Monroe says quietly, his own hands folded in his lap. “Hey, man, look at me.”
Nick does, but his eyes are flat. “I just don’t understand,” he breathes.
“I don’t—I don’t either, Nick. I’m so sorry. But—Nick, I thought you killed that Hexenbiest?”
Nick stares uncomprehendingly at Monroe. “What are you talking about?”
“Come on, Nick, that Hexenbiest that poisoned your friends. I thought she was dead.”
Nick’s brow furrows, low and dark over his eyes. “Why are you asking me about this?” he demands, voice cracking.
“Because I smelled her,” Monroe tells him. “Her scent is lingering around here. It’s—it’s different, somehow, but it’s definitely her.”
Nick starts shaking again. “Oh my god. Adalind. She—she must have done this. Oh my god.”
For the first time, Nick explains exactly what happened between him and Adalind that night. The tears begin to fall again as he speaks, his voice heavy with new guilt. Monroe, for his part, shudders at Nick’s story and at the thought of having the Blutbad part of him ripped away. While it would perhaps make his life easier, it would make it incomplete—would make Monroe incomplete.
That’s why Adalind has done what she has. Nick stole a piece of who she was, so she returned the favor. Monroe doesn’t say this aloud, though; judging by the way the detective has curled in on himself, his head on the steering wheel and his body wracked by fresh sobs, Nick has already put two and two together,.
Vaguely, selfishly, Monroe hopes that this isn’t going to trigger the awakening of the true, merciless Grimm that undoubtedly lies dormant within his friend. This has happened time and time again throughout the centuries. A Wesen will kill somebody close to a Grimm and that Grimm will lose all sense of compassion towards non-humans, even towards harmless ones like Kaninchenvolke. He makes a mental note to send out an anonymous warning to the few Wesen circles that don’t despise him: Bereft Grimm on the loose; proceed with caution.
Monroe places a hand on the shoulder of said bereft Grimm, but the gesture feels feeble. The Grimm’s weeping does not cease for another ten minutes. It’s then that a fireman knocks on the window of the truck to tell Nick that the fire is completely out now. From then on Nick is all-business, his face a neutral mask, his voice flat and blank. Monroe shivers as old nightmares slither back into his memory.
After the fireman leaves Nick be, Nick turns to Monroe and thanks him again, says he can go home now if he wants. Monroe doesn’t want to go home, but he can see in his friend’s eyes that he really should. So he does. And he doesn’t see Nick again for a very long time.
Nick does catch and arrest Adalind, but it’s obvious to everyone involved that he wishes he could do more. Hank has to physically remove Nick before he can do something to warrant a charge of police brutality or worse. Just before that, though, while Hank is too far behind to hear, Nick is able to grab her by the shoulders, shake her, and demand, “Why?”
She snarls and says, “You know why,” which is true.
That exchange aside, she doesn’t resist arrest. Later, she confesses and pleads guilty to the arson and murder charges. Throughout the whole process Nick feels a burning need for a weapon in his hand—a blade, a mace, a crossbow. Not a gun, not a badge. His blood boils at the thought of Adalind living in relative safety in prison. The human part of him hates this bloodthirstiness; the Grimm part of him just gnashes its teeth and itches for Marie’s trailer.
Nick sleeps at the station up until the day Adalind is sent away to prison. Then, Captain Renard tells Nick that it’s time for him to take a vacation. Nick objects instantly, but soon Hank and Wu join Renard and the three men gang up on him. Nick eventually relents but rejects all offers of guest rooms and such. He wants to be alone. Nobody tries to argue.
The Wesen world is quiet for a good while. Nick stays in a motel for the first couple of weeks as he tries to find an apartment to rent with the insurance money from the fire, since the house in unsalvageable. He isn’t picky and therefore finds one relatively quickly—a small flat with one bedroom, decent furnishings, and a seven-minute commute to the station. He comes back to work as soon as the lease is signed, but few very difficult cases make it to his desk. He’s glad for that, vaguely grateful. He feels as though he should call Monroe once he’s settled in his apartment and—and talk, but he really can’t bear it. Lately, a hot rush of anger spears through him every time he comes across a Wesen, even when the Wesen in question is absolutely minding his own business. It’s not healthy, and it’s starting to give him severe anxiety. He’s a good Grimm—not good by Grimm standards but good by cop standards, magnanimous and benevolent when he can be. He likes being trusted by every Eisbiber he comes across, and he hates distrusting them. So he’s a little terrified of seeing his Blutbad friend. If his frayed nerves and neglected instincts are reacting this way to harmless Wesen, how will they react to a known predator, wieder or otherwise? He and Monroe do text a little about inane things, but they keep it to that. Once or twice Monroe invites him over for dinner, but Nick is good at making excuses for not going. He had plenty of practice with Juliette.
Each night he lays flat on his back in his narrow bed, staring up at his ceiling for hours until he finally slips into a shallow, dreamless sleep. He doesn’t cry—not at night, at least. The mornings catching him off-guard and vulnerable, though, and several showers find him leaning heavily against the tiles, drowning his sobs under the spray.
He keeps this up for a little over a month. Eventually, though, it becomes impossible to depend on the Wesen of the Portland area to be considerate and mindful of his feelings. Three victims of poisoning appear within a week, and upon lab-work it turns out that the poison was actually venom from some European snake. Despite the fact that Hank thinks that this is a job for Animal Control, all sorts of Grimm alarms go off in Nick’s head and he must unwillingly acknowledge that it’s time for him to take up his duties again.
Still, he goes to Marie’s trailer instead of even considering consulting Rosalee or Monroe about the venom. He does miss his friends, especially the Blutbad, but something’s—something’s changed, and Nick’s having a hard time keeping anger out of his thoughts when his mind brings them up. He wishes, not for the first time, that he knew another Grimm, someone he could talk to about this without involving them in his life—a Grimm therapist or something. After Juliette was—was killed, he was required to speak to a police psychologist for a few sessions, but that was very little help. He couldn’t very well explain to the woman why he felt so guilty about Juliette’s death, why he blamed himself so thoroughly. She would have just told him not to think that way. As far as the law is concerned, Adalind had suffered a psychotic break when she set fire to Nick’s home. No one was really sure of the trigger, and no one would allow Nick to take any of the blame. He wished—he wished someone would blame him. Surely another Grimm would. They’d tell him that he should have broken it off with Juliette the moment his Grimm powers had manifested themselves—and he’d agree with them and cry and regret everything he’d ever done. And then, maybe, once all that was off his chest, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to think about Monroe, the wieder Blutbad who doesn’t deserve to be thought of with displaced anger.
There’s an entire book on venomous and poisonous Wesen in Marie’s trailer, and if Nick were in a better state of mind he’d be fascinated. There are Wesen with parallels to cobras and poison dart frogs and even jellyfish—but Nick doesn’t give these chapters more than a passing glance. He only has a vague idea of what he’s looking for—an asp-like Wesen who leaves its victims bloated with bloody eyes and necrotic wounds—and as the book’s chapters are written sporadically in German and English, he’s working mainly with the woodcut illustrations. Eventually he does find an image that resembles the recent victims, and thankfully the explanation is in English—although the name is still in German, which seems silly. Natterbiest. It likes to live near forests when it can’t live in the sun, and it isn’t nice. Its anger is quick and long-lasting, and when its wrath is elicited it will strike randomly at passersby that come near its home.
Nick nods at the book; all the vics were found in or near the woods. He digs out a map of Portland from an inner coat pocket, the locations of the bodies already marked in bright red marker. Yeah—he’d already noticed that they’d been found relatively near each other. He makes a tentative triangle between the dots and then squints at the map, realizing something. The triangle is only a few miles from Monroe’s place. Nick grimaces. Hopefully he’s onto something and won’t have to deal with that. He’s just…not sure if he can.
The decision to leave comes without much warning. He stands and shoves his jacket on, the map folded and clenched in one hand. He calls his partner but Hank doesn’t answer, which Nick is a little grateful for. He leaves a vague message about going to look at the scenes of the crimes again and hangs up quickly. He’s about to leave the trailer but then snatches up a rod with a loop of rope on the end for good measure. He and Marie used to love watching the Crocodile Hunter together. He thinks he can handle a snake.
He parks a mile away from the triangle and hikes at a brisk pace towards the nearest corner. He reaches it relatively quickly and spends half an hour searching the nearby area. When he doesn’t find anything of interest he moves on to the next two corners, and later he finally makes his way towards the center of the triangle.
After a while, a few things happen at once. He walks into grassy clearing in the woods, catches sight of a stone cottage across the clearing, and hears hissing.
He dives out of the way just as the Natterbiest strikes, leaving it to snap its jaws at the space Nick used to occupy. They both roll with their own momentum and Nick is the first to recover, crouching low in the tall weeds. The Natterbiest recovers much more unsteadily, its body trembling as it moves to its hands and knees. It’s obviously a man, somewhat pudgy and dressed in old-fashioned, woolen clothing. Bifocals hang by a chain around his scaly neck and wild grey tendrils of hair dangle from his gnarled, scaled scalp. The anger Nick has become accustomed to begins to bubble under his skin as he looks at the creature, but it’s—it’s muted. The Natterbiest is obviously elderly and infirm; when it flicks out its forked tongue and turns its face towards Nick, hissing, Nick feels more pity than fury. He doesn’t know what’s changed.
The old Wesen prepares to strike again, fangs exposed with its jaw open much farther than should be possible. Nick tenses, readying himself with the loop-rod. He sees the Natterbiest lunge towards him, but the impact comes from the wrong direction, knocking him to the left instead of backwards. His assailant pins him facedown, hot and heavy and—and growling.
“Monroe,” Nick gasps, struggling against the weight.
“You’re an idiot,” the Blutbad interrupts, voice warped by fangs. His head is low, close to Nick’s neck, hiding them in the tall, tall grass. “Going after a Giftmörder on your own—I know you’re out of it, but I had no idea it was this bad.”
“It’s called a Natterbiest,” Nick mutters because he wants to be argumentative and because he doesn’t like where Monroe is going with his train of thought.
“What—oh, well, Giftmörder is the collective noun for—”
The hissing starts again, sounding strained and a little closer to the trees than Nick had supposed it would be. Monroe tenses, body perking up and leaning towards the sound. He’s more or less sitting on Nick’s thighs with his hands braced on the Grimm’s -shoulder-blades. Nick can feel his friend’s claws poking through his coat and into his skin—but he’s not upset about it. He feels calm, almost relieved. He doesn’t understand.
“Stay down,” Monroe growls, snatching the loop-rod from Nick’s hands. Nick almost objects, almost asks him not to go, but he refrains when Monroe presses his hand into Nick’s hair, whining comfortingly, keeping Nick’s head down. At the very least Nick tries to turn his face to look at his friend, but Monroe is gone in an instant, sprinting towards to Natterbiest. Nick scrambles into a sitting position despite Monroe’s request and watches in mute horror as the two Wesen snap and lash at each other. More than once the Natterbiest’s fangs come close to closing around Monroe’s arm as the Blutbad fights to get the rope around his foe’s neck. Nick unwillingly pictures the piercing of teeth in flesh and shudders at the image—Monroe screaming in pain, his skin dissolving at the site of the wound to reveal black, dead muscle, Monroe shuddering out his final breaths—and Nick can’t stand it. Screw thoughts of anger and distrust—those are the last things Nick is feeling. He’s lost nearly everything in the past months—his girlfriend, his house, his sense of security and community—and he can’t bear the thought of losing his best friend too. How could he have ever imagined that he would suddenly hate Monroe? God knows why, but the Blutbad would do anything for Nick, is proving that right now. They trust each other and protect each other—Monroe is fighting for Nick even though Nick has been an asshole lately. Nick wants to cry, wants to call out to Monroe and say something—but any distraction could cost the Blutbad his life and defeat the entire purpose, so he remains deathly quiet in the grass.
Although it feels like the fight lasts for a very long time, in reality it’s over in less than a minute. The Natterbiest’s movements are painful and slowed by arthritis, whereas Monroe is in peak condition. While Nick has a panic attack over every snap of the Natterbiest’s jaws, Monroe is getting himself closer and closer to the right position for getting the rope around the snake’s neck. Finally he does, and instantly he tightens the loop and jams the rod into the tight fork of two diverging limbs of a nearby tree. The rod holds fast and Monroe jumps out of the Natterbiest’s reach as it flails and struggles against the restraint. It doesn’t seem to be in the right state of mind to realize that it need only reach up to its neck to loosen the rope. It just keeps hissing and snapping at the air. Nick’s pity returns once Monroe is out of danger. There’s no way this old man is sound in mind. Nick lets out a sigh of relief but it comes out ragged and drained.
Monroe’s head snaps up at the sound and turns to face Nick. They stare at each other for a moment before the wolfishness fades from the Blutbad’s face. Monroe comes to sit beside Nick in the grass, and before either of them can say a word Monroe’s arm is around Nick’s shoulders, pulling their sides flush against each other.
“I’ve missed your scent, dude,” Monroe complains after a few moments, apropos of nothing, turning his face for a second to press his nose into the Grimm’s hair. Nick doesn’t know what to think about that.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers instead.
“I’m not asking you to be sorry. ” Monroe’s voice is rough and his arm tightens. “I’m just saying. ” He pauses, watching the Natterbiest as it starts to calm down, although it hasn’t yet shifted back to normal. “I didn’t even realize that—well, I caught your scent on the wind just now, when I was mowing the lawn, and—a Giftmörder, Nick?” Monroe suddenly sounds angry, betrayed. Nick understands this a little, but doesn’t want to deal with it.
“Your house is four and a half miles away,” he says lamely. Monroe snarls and grabs both of Nick’s shoulders, spinning Nick around until they were looking each other in the eyes. No, there’s no anger in Nick now. Just a little despair, like that first day. And a lot of guilt, just like every day since.
“And you’re a Grimm who isn’t even wearing wolfsbane. How couldn’t I smell you? Now stop avoiding the question. Why were you alone with this guy? You’re lucky he’s a geezer or else you’d be—” He breaks off, his eyes red. Growling, he turns his face away to take a deep breath. When he speaks again, it’s in a low, dark whisper. “For a minute there I was scared that that’s what you were hoping for.”
Nick starts at the idea. For all his depression, he’s never considered trying—Juliette wouldn’t want that, knows she wouldn’t from the times they talked about his parents’ deaths. In fact, with Nick being a cop, they had always had a tacit agreement that Juliette would never try anything like that if something ever happened to Nick. It only made sense that Nick would honor the agreement in kind. He doesn’t know how to communicate that to Monroe, though, so he just shakes his head and says, “I’d never do something like that.”
Monroe nods once. He lets go of Nick’s shoulders, places his hands in his lap, and stares at them. “Good. Good.” He meets Nick’s eyes with a heavy gaze. “You can’t go after such dangerous Wesen on your own, man, not without at least talking to me.” He scrunches his nose. “I know you Grimms like to work on your own and all, but that’s just not safe where you’re concerned.”
Nick nods and hangs his head. Monroe nudges him forward so that his crown presses lightly against the Blutbad’s shoulder. It’s a strange gesture for the two of them but they both hold the position for what seems like a very long time regardless.
Eventually, the Natterbiest starts to complain in English rather than just hissing, and they have to get up to investigate. The man seems dazed and confused when they talk to him, like he doesn’t know exactly where he is. They figure out that he has dementia and has not been taking his medicine; this is a more complicated answer than Nick was hoping for, so he asks Monroe to go home while he gets everything sorted out with the station. Monroe shouldn’t be around when the cops start crawling around, anyhow.
“That’s fine,” Monroe agrees. “But you can’t go away again, man. Come see me tonight.” It’s an order, not a request.
Nick nods. “I will.”
And he does.
Monroe makes him dinner. They don’t talk much during the meal, but Nick does crash on Monroe’s couch. When he wakes up Monroe is already doing in the middle of his Pilates session in his office and there’s a note on the coffee table telling Nick to help himself to breakfast. Monroe joins Nick as the detective is just digging in to his jam-and-toast, and this meal goes a little better. Monroe doesn’t mention the dark circles under Nick’s eyes and Nick doesn’t mention the fact that Monroe has a matching pair.
Neither one of them is angry. They’re both more than a little sad, but the loneliness Nick has been grappling with has been somewhat alleviated. He wants to ask how Monroe has been doing, if Nick’s absence has really been such a strain. He doesn’t know how to ask Monroe such things, though. He only knows the man’s favorite color out of irony, after all. Perhaps he should learn.
Nick still flinches for a few months when he comes across Wesen in the street, but the desire to constantly keep a medieval weapon on his person is gone. He knows it will be long time before he stops feeling so ambivalent towards them, but he’s working on it. He knows, too, that he cannot afford to isolate himself despite his grief. He’ll always love and miss Juliette but she would not want him to destroy himself over her. He makes sure to go out with Hank and Wu whenever they ask, and he makes doubly sure to spend time with Monroe even when the Blutbad doesn’t ask. Nick knows who he’s important to and what he has to lose. If he keeps these things in mind, someday he’ll be okay again. And he won’t be alone.