She stood in the shadows, waiting. He'd come, she knew it somehow. It wasn't that he was predictable. Far from it. But they were connected, moreso than anyone knew, and she wanted to speak to him before she slipped out of town.
As if on cue, he emerged from the shadows, stepping up beside her where she'd been standing, waiting in the park across from the precinct. He was dressed far more casually than she'd ever seen him, but it didn't change the essence of the man, nor did it dim the power radiating from him.
"I'm surprised you're still here."
She let out a sigh. "I had business to attend to."
"You saw Nick."
Kelly Burkhardt squeezed her eyes shut. Yes, she'd seen her son. She'd seen her son beating the shit out of a schakal. She'd seen the kicked-puppy look on his face when he'd realized who she was, but she hadn't had time to explain everything. She didn't really have time for this meeting, either, but she couldn't just leave.
"Yes, I saw him," she said. "I'm impressed. You didn't tell me he's come into his own as a Grimm."
"He's still raw," he said. "Marie left it too late; she was dead before he really understood what was going on."
"You'd hoped the Grimm wouldn't manifest in him," he finished for her.
She let out another sigh. "He was too young when I—when it passed to Marie. We'd hoped that it wouldn't pass to him because the source was still alive."
"Which clearly didn't happen."
Silence hung between them for a few moments, broken only by the sounds of cars passing by on the wet streets.
"I did as you asked," he said at length. "He has no idea about our… agreement. Nor does he know who ordered his aunt's death."
"And he can't ever know, Sean," she said, finally turning to face him. "He can't know that it was me. It would destroy him."
"He'll figure it out sooner or later, Kelly," Sean said, looking hard into her eyes. "He's a good investigator; better now that he's a Grimm. You can't keep this from him forever."
"I can try," she said defiantly. "His world's already been ripped apart, first by Marie's death, then by the Grimm inheritance. And now he knows I'm still alive. It's too much for one man to take, even if that man is a Grimm."
"As you wish," he said, inclining his head to her. It was a sign of deference that few in their world would make. But Sean Renard was like few other men in this world. "I will, of course, be forced to tell him who I am at some point."
"I know," she said. "You should. He needs a friend, an ally."
Sean chuckled. "Oh, he has one of those already."
She cocked her head, curious now. "Who?"
"A blutbad by the name of Monroe."
"Wieder?" she asked, one eyebrow cocked.
"Of course," he said with a smirk. "If he were any other kind, I suspect your son would have been forced to kill him long before now."
"Interesting," she said.
"Your son is a great deal like you," he said, smiling kindly. "The wesen have started calling him the 'catch-and-release' Grimm. He's made friends, gained their respect. It's almost like it used to be."
Kelly snorted, turning back to watch the late-night traffic drifting past the precinct. "'Like it used to be.' You do realize it was never like it used to be, don't you?"
"Perhaps," Sean admitted grudgingly. "But that doesn't mean that it wasn't better then than it is now. Grimm didn't hunt wesen, once upon a time."
"True," she said. "That was always more the Verrat's thing."
"They're gaining power again," he said quietly. "They've made attempts on Nick's life."
"Unsuccessful, I see."
"Your son is a good deal more skilled than they'd anticipated," he said.
"And he has your protection," she added pointedly. She'd made sure of that.
"And he has my protection," he agreed.
She burrowed her hands deeper into the pockets of her jacket. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to impose on you a little longer. Kimura isn't the only one after the coins. If he could track them here, the others might, too."
"You presume a great deal, Grimm."
"Despite everything, you are a man of principle, Sean Renard," she said, a hard edge in her voice. "We made a deal: I allow you to kill Marie, you watch over my son."
"And what makes you think I couldn't have killed her myself if I'd wanted to?" he asked.
He was like a wesen backed into a corner. It chafed at his dignity to think he'd been allowed to do anything, but the truth was that she could have stopped him from killing Marie if she'd wanted to. It would have been a simple matter for her, but knowing that Nick might inherit the Grimm, she had to make sure her sister didn't corrupt Nick, turn him into the same monster she'd become. Sacrificing her sister had been difficult, but she'd done so to protect Nick. She would never regret that choice.
"You forget: I know you, Sean," she said serenely. "You protect him because he fits into your agenda, yes, but as a son of the Seven Houses, you won't break your word, even if Nick's continued existence cramps your plans."
It was Sean's turn to snort. Kelly checked the triumphant smile. It wouldn't do to piss him off; she still needed him to watch out for Nick, at least until her son could stand on his own.
"You're fortunate that I like your son," he said.
She glanced sidelong at him, but if there was any sentiment beyond that statement, he kept it hidden.
"You two are a lot alike," she said quietly. "The bastard sons of Marcel Renard. You're both smart and stubborn. Both of you lost in a world that barely tolerates your existence." He took a sharp breath, and she knew she'd hit a sore spot. She turned back to face him, spearing him with her gaze. "Face it, Sean. Your family ignored you until you became a means to their end. The key. The coins. They only want what you can give them. When they have what they want…" She trailed off, offering a shrug as she turned back to face the street.
His heavy sigh hung in the air. "I wish my mother had been more like you."
"I'm a Grimm, Sean," she said quietly. "I faked my own death and left my son an orphan, to be raised by a woman who became the stuff of nightmares. I'd hope she wasn't like me. I'd hope no mother is like me."
"You fight for your son," he whispered.
She turned to look at him in the low light. He was no longer the powerful police captain, nor was he a Prince of the House of Renard. The little boy he'd once been stood before her now, looking lost and alone. She reached out, laying a gloved hand over his cheek, turning his face to hers. She could see the green fire in his eyes, dimmed somewhat by his words.
"If you were not the man you've become—no thanks to the family whose name you bear—my son would be dead now." She offered a tremulous smile. "I entrusted him to you because I know you'll watch out for him as if he were your full brother."
Sean straightened up, and she dropped her hand. Neither of them were the sort for public displays of emotion, and that had been the most human contact—aside from the occasional fight—that Kelly had had in ages.
"I'll keep an eye on him as long as I can," he said quietly, but with conviction.
She nodded once. "That's all I ask."
"When are you leaving?"
"Soon," she said, grasping at the normal conversation as if it were a lifeline. "There are others involved in this. I need to find them and stop them from coming after Nick."
"He wouldn't give you the coins, would he?" Sean said, smirking at her.
She pursed her lips, waving him off. "No, he wouldn't, but that's hardly material. I told him he needed to hide them well, make sure no one knows where they are. Meanwhile, I need to make sure the Verrat don't come after him to get to the coins. And I need to find Farley Kolt."
"Last I heard, Kolt was in L.A.," he said. "But he's probably dead. Kimura caught up with him. It sounded like he spent a few days torturing him for information on the coins."
"Which doesn't mean Kolt's dead," she said, huffing. "He's a steinadler; they're like cockroaches. I wouldn't put it past him to take advantage of the fact that everyone thinks he's dead."
"You did," Sean helpfully pointed out.
She gave him a sharp glare, but it didn't budge him. She sighed. "Yes, I did. To protect my son. They wouldn't stop coming after me until I was dead, and they won't stop coming after Nick, either."
"The Verrat are persistent," he said. "They won't stop until they have the coins and the key. You're going to have to take them all down, and I don't think you can. Not by yourself."
"I can try," she said. "But you're right, they won't stop coming. Have they come after the key yet?"
"No," he said.
Something in the way he said it caught her attention. "But you've already made an attempt at it, haven't you?" He didn't answer, but she could read the answer in his eyes. She shook her head, a proud smile tipping her lips. "Your gambit failed, didn't it?"
He smirked. "As you said, he's more powerful than we've given him credit for."
"Sean, talk to him," she said, sobering. "He won't withhold it if he knows why you want it; that you don't plan to hand it over to your family."
"My family has been sniffing around," he said. "They aren't going to wait for me much longer. I've already had one cousin visit. I sent him home."
"In a body bag, I'm sure," she said, snorting. "You don't think that might just piss off your uncle?"
"He can be as angry as he wants," he said, more defiance edging into his tone. "My canton, my rules."
Kelly rubbed her forehead. Instead of protecting her son, his half-brother had succeeded in bringing down one of the Seven Houses on his head. "I hope you know what you're doing," she said into the silence.
"This is politics, Kelly," he said, every inch the Lord of the Canton. "It's a game I've played, for better or worse, all my life. At least allow that I know how the game is played, and that I won't put Nick in the middle if I don't have to."
"You won't put Nick in the middle at all," she said sharply.
"I can't promise he won't put himself there," he said, that knowing smirk gazing back at her.
"He has his father's nobility," she said ruefully.
"He has his step-father's nobility," Sean corrected. "He has his father's stubbornness."
She smiled softly in agreement, but it died mere seconds later. "I need to go. Please take care of yourself, Sean. And Nick. I don't know when I'll be back."
"Then you plan to return?"
"I hope so," she said, sighing. "Nick deserves an explanation, and I'm the only one that can give it to him. Once this business with the coins has been dealt with, and I have some breathing room, I'll come back."
"Then take care of yourself, Kelly Burkhardt," he said, inclining his head once more. "Insofar as it's in my power, I'll make sure your son survives until you return."
"You have my gratitude, Sean Renard," she said, returning the gesture.
She watched as he melted back into the shadows, sighing heavily as he disappeared.
She hated the web of lies and deceit that had formed around Nick. Hated even more that she was partially responsible for it. He should have been given the chance at a normal life, knowing his parents and his siblings. But being a Grimm didn't allow for that. She mourned silently for everything he'd lost and never had.
Squaring her shoulders, she turned and headed into the night. She had work to do in order to protect her family, and not a lot of time to do it in.