Spring had started with a lot of rain and thankfully not too many Grimm-related body dumps, murders or unexplained disappearances. There were a few things here or there Nick Burkhardt investigated on his own time, things he ran by Monroe and usually found a solution to that wasn’t mixed with violence.
On the lighter side, Hank was happily dating a web designer called Lucy, telling Nick all about it, and his spring feelings were blossoming with the rising temperatures. Nick indulged his romantic moods as Griffin dragged his partner to different stores to find his girlfriend something special for the night. With hormones on a teenage-level high, Hank kept insisting he could set Nick up with one of Lucy’s friends, double-date style, but Nick declined.
It didn’t stop his partner, though. He was intent on having Nick date someone. Lucy, bless her, was more relaxed and finally told Hank to leave it to Nick who he dated.
“At his going rate he won’t find the girl of his dreams until he hits eighty,” Hank had joked, confirming that the man had no idea about Renard and also no suspicions.
Nick preferred it that way. Their relationship was too complicated to be understood. It wasn’t just about a captain and a subordinate detective getting it on, which was a bad enough accusation anyway. It was about the psychic bond between a regnant and a human who happened to be a Grimm.
Yes, it was complicated.
But it was something Nick wasn’t about to give up for anything.
One of the more gruesome murders that hit them was the death of Freddie Calvert, owner of a well-known wesen spice shop that Nick had investigated before. It had been a robbery gone wrong and the fuchsbau had paid with his life for defending his property. Nick hadn’t known him that closely, just from the organ grinder case months before, but it still felt like he could have done something.
There hadn’t been, of course.
With Freddie’s death came the introduction of his younger sister Rosalee. They got the suspects, found an illegal drug ring, and busted more than one skalengeck butt.
Rosalee started to become a wary ally, a slow friend and finally a trusted member of his close circle of friends. And she had caught Monroe’s eye, which was quite amusing for Nick to watch. The blutbad was interested in the young woman, but he was really, really bad at courting. If he was courting, Nick had wondered. Maybe it was a wesen thing. Maybe blutbaden were a bit fumbly when confronted with a possible partner of a different kind. Maybe it was purely Monroe, who claimed that human interaction was a mystery to him. He hadn’t had that much of a problem with Angelina, Nick remembered, but then the female blutbad had been very, very different from the fuchsbau.
It would be interesting to watch the development.
Rosalee Calvert was an asset and her knowledge concerning poisons and medicines was invaluable. Her reservations toward the Grimm had grown less and less and by now he called her directly if something fell into her area of expertise.
Nick’s allies were growing, were of all kinds, and it was… amazing for the young Grimm to acknowledge the fact that they wanted to be his friends, acquaintances or allies. In Monroe’s case he had become his best friend and someone he trusted implicitly. Monroe was the only one who knew about the trailer, about the weapons, the books and everything else. They had started to train together and Monroe was very invested in teaching ‘his’ Grimm.
Just like someone else was by now.
Nick experienced a brief moment of breathlessness, gasping for air, feeling the leafy forest ground under his back, the weight on his hips, and he looked up into the clear, green eyes of Sean Renard, who sat astride his body. A fine sheen of sweat covered the Guardian’s lightly flushed face and the expression in those eyes was... hot.
No, hot was the wrong word for it.
Powerful. Energetic. Hungry.
Well, not truly hungry, either, Nick decided. It was arousal. An arousal he had seen before. The rush of adrenaline, the sheer joy of their encounter, the graceful moves of the trained body...
Of course he would be satisfied! Nick had yet to really make an impression in this fight, despite the fact that he had held up against a regnant very well. Exceptionally well, compared to earlier training sessions.
Hands were curled around his wrists, keeping them firmly next to his head. Nick tried to move, dislodge the hard grip, but it only resulted in two strong thighs putting pressure on his hips and lower ribcage.
“I know you can do better, Grimm,” Renard said softly.
“Really?” he panted, trying again. Shit. He was caught tightly.
“You’re flexible and agile. I know you are. You can move.“
Nick felt himself blush and fought it. Renard grinned, a grin that sometimes broke free from behind the oh-so controlled façade of the composed and distant police captain and Guardian of Portland. Especially in private. Their private.
“Let me up?”
“You want to have another go?”
“Yeah. Third time’s the charm.”
Renard lithely and gracefully moved off him, stepping back. Nick scrambled to his feet and shook out his arms. Leaves clung to his clothes and he felt damp in a lot of places. Training in the woods gave them privacy, but it also meant a certain discomfort. They could hardly take this to the gym. Renard didn’t train with any of his subordinates, and Nick didn’t want anyone to see him letting lose the Grimm.
Monroe called it a ‘zone’ or ‘fugue state’ and Nick had an idea what he meant. It was as if he was suddenly completely aware of his body, able to control every muscle, every nerve. He felt his opponent, was in tune with his moves.
Unless the opponent was his bonded mate who happened to be a lot more powerful than a run-of-the-mill reaper. He rated up there with siegbarste and the like. Nick was under no illusion that even now, in his much better trained state, a siegbarst could still tear him apart.
The Grimm attacked again, managing to get in two blows before he found himself on the ground again, Renard leaning over the him, smiling.
“You left your right side open,” he told the downed man. “Again. Concentrate.”
Nick sighed. He had. He did. Really. Concentrating was no problem. It was more the fact that despite being a Grimm, a wesen like a regnant was a lot faster than Nick and he couldn’t compensate for that, unless he used the bond between them. Since that was only for him and Sean, it wasn’t really an option when faced with another wesen like his mate. He had learned to compensate, he had already gotten so much better, but he still wasn’t able to take him down.
“You can top that performance, Nick,“ Renard added, voice low and very close to being husky.
Something inside of him twitched in response and he cursed the other man. Renard got up as if this last remark had not been a hundred percent ambiguous.
So he tried again.
He got further this time, managing to swipe Renard’s legs out from under him, but the Guardian’s legs scissored toward him and Nick landed on his butt. He rolled around, evade a swipe, but then there was a blur of movement and he was looking into the gold-rimmed eyes; he was in the same situation as before.
Renard was breathing only a little harder now. His dark hair was in disarray and the clinging t-shirt did nothing to stop Nick’s vivid imagination from having a head-on collision with his libido.
Damnit! he cursed himself. He was here to fight, to train, not to… admire the view.
But the view was very nice and they hadn’t had a lot of private time lately. Actually, close to nothing.
Both men gazed at each other, Renard sitting dominantly on his mate, his weight keeping him firmly down. The pants couldn’t hide the growing evidence of the effect the training session had on either of the two.
“I think we should postpone further... training,” Renard whispered, faintly glowing eyes never leaving Nick’s face.
“Yeah, I totally agree.”
They gazed at each other, silent.
“So... you wanna let me up?”
Sean leaned down and kissed him, relaying his arousal and want and desire.
His wrists were freed and Nick carded his fingers into the damp hair, ran them over the warm skin.
“We’re alone here,” the regnant rumbled against Nick’s lips.
Renard’s eyes glowed more and the bond was alive with emotions. Nick knew how much his mate wanted him, could feel it clearly.
The next kiss was slow, soft, without haste or need or hunger. It was an expression of love, of the bond that had slowly formed between the two men. A steady and ever-growing relationship and Nick knew he wasn’t alone in his amazement that it was still working.
They had had their ups and downs, severe downs actually, but it had strengthened the psychic connection, and the Grimm’s loyalty to the Guardian of Portland. If anything, it had only become more. So much more.
Sean’s kiss relayed rising hunger, but also a reaffirmation of their emotional bond. Nick arched slightly as Renard’s mouth proceeded to torture him, finding his nipples and licking and sucking at them. He carded his fingers into the short, dark strands, feeling their silky texture.
He knew he was making soft sounds of encouragement, especially when Sean’s questing fingers reached a more southern part and freed him of his pants. Nick was close to incoherent when those fingers proceeded to tease and massage, squeeze and arouse. And he was begging for release when none was given quickly.
Nick knew he was a bundle of hunger, desire and need by the time his mate was blanketing his body, kissing and rubbing himself against the hot body beneath him. And he gasped in pleasure as he was finally taken to the peak, held there, tortured by the man he felt connected to in more than physical ways. It was a rush, plain and simple. Giving him what he needed the most right now, satisfying him in a soul-deep way no one else had ever done before.
Some badly needed braincells blew, melted into a gray, undefined soup, or generally keeled over in a dead faint. Two exhausted bodies lay with each other, breathing harsher, almost panting. There were soft sounds, some gentle movement, and a murmur of pleasure from one or the other. Neither one wanted to move any more. Not an inch. Not even a twitch.
“You’re going be the death of me,” Sean whispered, voice barely loud enough to actually be called a voice.
“Uh-huh,” came a drowsy reply.
Braincells had truly ceased to function.
Well, they were highly overrated. Who needed them anyway?
Wow, I started out with smut... that's a first ;)
It was one of those days Nick didn't know whether he was coming or going. Maybe it was neither. Maybe he was just floating in limbo. At least it felt like it. There was this cottony feeling, the way his eyes itched, his body protested each move, and his bones seemed to creak.
Nick didn’t know when he had last had an uninterrupted stretch of off-time or sleep. In the last days he had lived off coffee and fast food, as well as a chocolate bar hastily chewed down while waiting for results on a high profile murder case. A young woman had been found strangled, raped, and dressed up in garish clothes. Fingerprints had identified her as the personal assistant to a visiting businessman, who happened to be a very close and personal friend of the mayor. Renard had assigned Nick and Hank the case, had promised the mayor results and the best men on the job, and discovering a Grimm angle to it all hadn’t helped.
She had been a sprite and her murder had kicked up waves in the creature community as well, especially since the man she had been working for was a creature as well. Nick had never been so glad for Renard handling matters on the political side of a case since Markus Holden-Rhys was not only powerful and loaded with money to burn, he was also a jagerbar. His mate was also handling the wesen politics involved, not just the fall-out of human affairs. As Guardian of the Portland protectorate, Sean Renard had everything under control.
That the officer on the case was a Grimm hadn’t sat well with Holden-Rhys, but seeing that he couldn’t do anything about it – Renard had told him quite clearly that Nick was handling it, that he was trusted – he had finally left him and Hank alone.
So Nick continued to let Renard deal with the creature community fall-out, a jagerbar out for blood, and the human political side, too. Renard was running interference, his face hard and unyielding most of the time. He got too many calls to count and Nick knew the other man was a living shield for him and Hank. None of the pressure Renard felt was ever transferred to the lead detectives.
It also meant he saw next to nothing of Sean privately either. Their training was put on hold, as was his time with Monroe. There was barely an evening to share a beer and Monroe remarked on how worn Nick looked.
The Grimm ignored it. He had to. He had a job to do.
Nick and Sean spent not a single private moment together and while he might have missed it, he had no free time to actually feel that way. Detective Burkhardt and Captain Renard saw each other at work, throughout brief reports on the current status of their investigations, but that was work; no private exchanges happened and the bond was clearly shielded.
Things were boiling up left and right as the political powder keg was close to explode with revelations after revelations. Not only had Holden-Rhys had a sexual affair with the murdered sprite, he had also been about to divorce his wife of fifteen years, who was an alcoholic and a jagerbar as well.
Hank had pursued the angle with the wife and a possible arranged murder of the mistress, Nick had researched into the dead sprite and had unraveled more and more complications. They finally did get their man – and it hadn’t even been creature related. Just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But both Nick and Hank had had only as long as it took to book the perp, then new cases lined up.
“Must be the spring feelings everywhere,” Wu remarked as he dumped a lab report on their desks.
“Happy Valentines,” Hank grumbled.
“Suck it up.”
“Been doing nothing but. Man, I can’t look at another case report without going blind!”
The banter washed over him as Nick browsed through his notes. Words kept swimming in front of his eyes. He knew he needed a day off, but he couldn't just turn his back on a little dead girl that had been run over by some maniac trying to prove to some other hot-head that he had the better car.
Rubbing at his eyes, Nick blinked and tried to focus on the results from Trace. All he needed now was a positive match on the fingerprints and they had their guy. He hadn’t just been a reckless, drunk driver; he had been insanely stupid to boot. Good for the police since this was a slam-dunk case if the prints matched.
Glancing at the wall clock he sighed. It was already late. He was surprised to notice that he was almost alone and faintly remembered his partner telling him he was about to head home, reminding Nick to do the same.
He had nodded. Now it was three hours later, he was alone in the room.
Wow. Time truly did fly.
Nick got himself some coffee – a black sludge, lukewarm, but containing enough caffeine and bitterness to jolt him a little more awake – and tried to sort the reports and evidence in a haphazard sort of order.
When he looked up from reading the lab results – they had the perp, it had been his fingerprints – the next time, he was startled by Renard.
He hadn’t noticed. Damn! And he had a psychic connection with his mate which should at least tingle a little and warn him.
But there had been nothing.
Well, maybe there had been, but Nick had been too woozy and lost in thought to notice.
Or Renard had developed a new way of stalking closer unawares. Nick wouldn’t put it past him. He was a predator and they moved stealthily. Still, usually he caught a slight notion of him. This time: zilch.
“I thought I had told you to go home, Nick,” the captain said mildly.
You’re exhausted, Nick. That’s why you didn’t sense me.
It weren’t words, just... sensations that translated into something like words. But Nick understood it clearly nevertheless.
Yes, Renard had told him to finish for today. He had, right? Before or after Hank? Nick had no recollection when. Today? An hour ago?
“Go home,” Renard repeated.
Green eyes gazed at him and Nick read a longing in there that he felt himself. Private time; just a little time to themselves. But not at work.
Nick scrubbed a hand over his face. “I was just waiting on this.” He held up the file. “Lab report tells us it was Rider. We got him.”
“Wrap it up, then go. You need it. And good work.” Renard gave him a brief smile.
Nick, go home. You’re dead on your feet.
“What about you?” he asked quietly, focusing enough to see the shifting in Renard’s eyes, see the gleam of gold in the green.
“I’ll be there,” was the soft reply.
He looked at him, eyes never wavering, intent on making the other understand that Sean really wanted him home, too. This wasn’t just a mate worried about the Grimm, this was the captain responsible for his subordinates.
Finally Nick nodded. He emptied his cold, stale coffee, then headed for his car. The cool air hit him, reviving his spirits just a little.
It was just his luck that he nearly got involved in a roadside accident and stopped to help. Five young people were in the car that had nearly run him off the road, all intoxicated, including the driver. They had swerved to avoid him and had ended up in a ditch.
He called his fellow officers and stayed to give his statement.
* * *
By the time Nick got home it was close to three. The streets were silent and dark.
It was still a weird feeling to drive up a new road, not the one where he had lived for almost all his teenage and adult life. A quiet place with well-groomed lawns that led up to sweet little houses. Houses like his own. Nick walked into the freshly renovated home, one he shared with Sean despite the fact that the other man had never moved in. By now he was over more often than not and in the past three months a lot of his things had migrated over.
Like more than a toothbrush and spare clothes.
More than one suit or a tie.
More than a book or two.
It was weird and still strangely comforting. Nick had a few of his things at Renard’s place, but to see that Sean accepted the new house as his home, too... Something inside Nick resonated with the pleasant emotions coursing through him. He might not be a territorial creature, but he was a regnant’s mate. That his partner wanted to be at his home for more than a brief moment was... wanted, almost needed. And it resulted in a quiet, calm and very balanced bond when both just stayed inside and enjoyed the evening.
None of the items left at Nick’s house would tip any of his friends off as to the real relationship between them. All of Renard’s clothes were in the bedroom upstairs. Hank had never been there, aside from the first tour Nick had given them at the housewarming party. Wesen like Monroe smelled the regnant’s presence in these walls, but that was okay. And those living near-by knew who and what Nick was. Their awe of the regnant was still present and would probably never fade.
Dropping the keys next to his wallet, Nick went through his mail, then let it drop right next to the keys and wallet. He was so tired, he couldn't read a whole sentence any more, let alone decipher his name on the envelopes.
His eyes burned, his muscles ached and each step was heavier than the last one. Everything was a blur. As he walked into the kitchen, he realized he had company.
“Sean?” he managed.
The other man looked up from his book. He was dressed in jeans and a dark blue shirt, with a white tee underneath. Socked feet and a slightly more unruly touch to his hairstyle completed the ‘off duty’ look.
How long before Nick had he arrived home?
“About time you found your way home.” He sounded rather calm, but there was a sliver of worry and his eyes were sharp.
“Uh, I... there was a roadside accident...” The rest was smothered by a yawn.
Renard rose smoothly, a frown on his handsome features. “You’re dead on your feet.”
"I'm fine," he protested automatically.
"You've been working straight through several cases, Nick. I know. I’m your captain. And you’re the Grimm. No sleep, no real food, and you want to give me ‘I’m fine?’” An elegant eyebrow rose. “Nick, please.”
He sighed. “I’m just tired.”
And when did you turn into my keeper? he wondered, exhaustion unearthing a tiny mean streak.
“I’m not your keeper, Nick,” Sean murmured, very recipient to the echoes of the bond.
A gentle hand cupped his cheek and Nick found himself more than willing to just lean into the warm contact, eyes sliding shut almost automatically.
“I’m your mate, Grimm. I feel responsible for you as your captain and as your mate. Running yourself into the ground won’t solve anything.”
Nick started to sway a little and a strong arm curled around his waist, keeping him steady.
"Let's get you to bed."
Any other time having his mate undress him would have been erotic, a turn-on, but not today. He got into his shorts and the old t-shirt he used as a pajama top, yawning heavily. He crawled under the covers as Renard closed the drapes, bathing everything in soothing darkness.
"You gonna stay?" Nick mumbled.
“You want me to?”
The Grimm glared a little at him for that question.
The mattress dipped under an additional weight and Nick snuggled close to the familiar presence.
Renard needed a lot less sleep. Perks of being what he was.
A hand caressed his back and ran through his hair. He sighed softly in pleasure, feeling sleep drag him deeper.
Renard watched his chosen mate fall asleep, never ceasing his gentle caress. He had been shocked to see the deep lines in the handsome face when Nick had come in, the dark circles under his eyes. He should have seen the signs earlier; he should have noticed the condition the younger man was in!
Not just as a mate, but also as the captain of the precinct. He was Nick’s superior officer and as such he had to take care of his men. That Nick and Hank had worked through so many cases hadn’t gone by unnoticed, but while Hank had time off, Nick moonlighted as a Grimm and that meant less sleep, more physical exertion, and additional injuries he had to hide.
Never from Renard. The regnant knew everything, had seen too many of those bruises and scrapes and cuts and even a stab wound to be happy about the encounters between violent creatures and his Grimm, but he couldn’t ever stop the other man from doing what he had been born as.
He brushed through the longish strands of hair and smiled softly.
His mate. His Grimm. His Nick. Nick was only his, he was bonded, and still a strong and independent man, someone who gave back as good as he got, and Renard immensely enjoyed their verbal sparring as well as the quiet time together.
Not to mention the sex.
Nothing in the past compared to Nick. Nothing and no one. Strong, bull-headed, handsome and powerful and... simply, breathtakingly Nick Burckhardt.
His fingers traced gently over the pale skin along the neck, then he leaned down and kissed the smooth forehead.
“Sleep,” he murmured.
* * *
The call came in at six a.m., just a few hours after Nick had crashed, and he blindly fumbled for his cell phone.
“Burkhardt,” he yawned.
“Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep,” Wu’s too chipper voice woke him. “Got a call. One that might be interesting for you.”
“Ephram Geiger. The rat guy.”
Nick was suddenly wide awake. He knew Geiger of Geiger Pest Control, father of Roddy Geiger and a reinigen. It had been a while.
Hit and run with grave bodily injury or death.
“Geiger was killed,” Wu added.
“Damn,” Nick muttered, already out of the bed and heading for the bathroom.
“I called Hank. He’s on his way,” Wu said.
“Be right there.”
Only when he was done taking a leak and brushing his teeth in a hurry did Nick wonder where Renard was. Either he had crashed in the guest room – highly unlikely – or he had been called away – more likely. Whatever it was, Nick didn’t have time. He dressed quickly, took his gun and badge, and off he was.
The scene was located about two miles from the Geiger home, a secondary road that was mostly used by locals, and not far from a rather run-down joint called The Tub that probably served more than beer. Police tape cordoned off the area and cruisers kept curious people away. Nick flashed his badge and walked through to where Hank was already examining the body.
Thin as a rail, lanky, wearing work clothes that were now stained and ripped in places, blood soaking in. Gray hair, long and unkempt, blood clotting in it. The blood came from the blunt force trauma wound on his head, a huge gash running over the severely receded hairline – man was going bald and had compensated the loss with growing the rest of his hair shoulder-length. There was a stubble on his chin.
While Nick hadn’t really liked the man, he was a human being, a father, someone who was trying to earn an honest living with his small business.
Now he lay on the cracked pavement, blood drying around his head, and the accident injuries looked gruesome. Geiger seemed to have either taken a late night walk or had been on his way from his home to the bar or vice versa.
“What have we got?” Nick asked.
“Ephram Geiger, fifty-one,” Wu said, joining both detectives. “But you know that. His whacky kid did that rat prank last year.”
Not a prank, Nick thought. But for everyone else it had been. Roddy had come away with a slap on the wrist while the ones responsible had been thrown out of school, had been put on parole and had been whisked off by their parents to different schools.
“Looks like a hit and run,” the sergeant went on. “Guy over there,” he gestured at a bear of a man, beer-barrel gut, balding, looking like he needed a good shower and share, “found him when he was on his way home. Claims he was already dead. According to the medical examiner this happened between midnight and three a.m.”
Nick nodded and glanced at Hank, who looked grim. He remembered Roddy, too, and finding a dead parent and knowing the kid was never easy.
“Anyone call Roddy yet?” Nick asked.
“No. You want that I…?” Hank offered.
Nick shook his head. “No. I’ll do it. I’ll drive by their house and see if he’s home. If not, he might be in school.”
“Okay. I’ll have this one here, Nick.”
Hank looked a bit relieved that he didn’t have to tackle that particular part of their job, and Nick was thankful he didn’t insist. Roddy was a reinigen and Nick was a Grimm; it was a difficult meeting already, but throwing in that part would make it even more so.
* * *
The Geigers still lived in a run-down trailer home, painted a garish light blue/faint green with a graying touch. The backdrop was a nice scenery of trees, the St Johns Bridge and the Willamette River. The trailer home looked clean, but old, and there were enough signs on the outside to tip Nick off that things hadn’t improved since the last time. Geiger had made enough money to keep himself and his son afloat, and Roddy was living on his scholarship, but there was no money to spare. From his last investigation Nick knew that the scholarship covered school expenses and tuition, not boarding or food.
Monroe had met with the young man a few times, both sharing a love for music, and the blutbad had gushed more than once how talented Roddy was. Still, he was a poor kid from a poor family and no scholarship in the world could change that. He was a loner, he didn’t belong with most of the rich kids, and if not for his outstanding talent, he wouldn’t even be there. Let alone be looked at twice.
Nick knocked at the door, but there was no answer.
“Roddy Geiger?” he called. “It’s Nick Burkhardt, Portland PD.”
Still no answer.
And he didn’t think anyone was there either. Still, he walked around the home, then headed over to where the empty rat cages sat. No sign of the young reinigen either. So Nick called the school and got the confirmation that yes, Roddy was still a student there, but classes were out for today. He might be in the practice room, though.
Nick walked to his car again and headed for the school.
* * *
Soft musical notes floated through the hallways of the Hamelin Institute as Nick walked through the mostly deserted building. He glimpsed students through the small windows in the class room doors. It was close to noon and a few classes were still on, as well as practice sessions.
Roddy Geiger had chosen a remote room, small, meant for only a few musicians to practice or discuss a piece, and he had his beloved violin under his chin, playing a warm, longing melody that Nick didn’t recognize. Then again, Nick would be the first to tell anyone around him that he had no ear for music. Roddy’s eyes were enclosed, his face reflecting the deep love he had for the music, how completely he was absorbed in it. His body moved with the notes, coaxing everything from his instrument.
Nick slipped inside, then knocked against the door from the inside to get the younger man’s attention.
The music stopped and the blue eyes widened, fear and trepidation mixing with determination and stubbornness. Roddy got up abruptly and took two steps away from the Grimm.
“Hey,” Nick greeted him. “Detective Nick Burkhardt, Portland PD.”
“I know who you are,” Roddy replied sharply, tense and clearly looking for a possible escape route.
I know who you are! You’re Grimm! You want to kill me!
Yes, their first meeting had started off on the wrong foot and Nick knew that wesen like reinigen didn’t trust easily, least of all a Grimm. He had made sure the DA wouldn’t file anything against Roddy and the woman had agreed since she had four others on a murder charge. Roddy had gotten off easy.
They hadn’t met since that.
Now the reinigen glanced behind Nick and saw no one else. His brows lowered. “Whatever you think I did, I didn’t!”
“I’m not here because of you. Well, indirectly. It’s about your father, Roddy.”
Now the fear was back. “What about him?”
“He was found this morning, apparently a hit and run.”
The teenager looked almost emotionless when he asked the question and Nick winced slightly at the fatalistic tone to his voice.
“Right! He’s just another dead reinigen, right?!”
“He’s a person, Roddy. Like you.”
“What happened?” Roddy demanded.
“We don’t know yet. He was found two miles from your home. It looks like someone hit him with his car.”
Roddy evaded Nick’s eyes, fingers playing with the strings of his bow. He hadn’t changed much since the last time the Grimm had met him. He was still dressed all in black, though it was hardly a fashion statement. He was still pale, still held himself in a way that he blended into the background, but there was also this silent determination, this need to prove he was better than what his wesen traits should make him.
“When did you leave for school this morning?”
The blue eyes narrowed. “What?”
“I want to know if your father was on his way to or from your home.”
“He wasn’t home this morning!” was the semi-angry answer. “He rarely is. I don’t see him until later. Or at all on some days. He works or he hangs out at the Tub.”
The Tub was the bar near where Ephram had been run over.
“Did he come home yesterday?”
Roddy evaded his eyes. “Yeah. After another run into the woods for the rats.” He fumbled with the bow.
Nick understood. He remember that particular part about Geiger Pest Control: they set the rats free in the forest.
“It was late. He left again for a drink. If he came home last night I didn’t hear him.”
So he probably hadn’t.
“Did he have problems?”
Roddy glared. “No more than anyone. Business slowed down after…” He stopped, looking away again.
After last year, Nick supplied silently. When there had been suspicions as to whether or not Roddy had been involved in the murder of a teacher. His name and that of his father’s business had been cleared, but the long-term consequences had been bad for Ephram. His name had been in the press as a possible suspect and who wanted to hire a suspected murderer? Roddy was a genius musician and the school had gladly taken him back after things had been cleared. His father had suffered financially.
“Enemies?” Nick continued. “Anyone who might have wanted to harm him?”
“No! Nothing. Just because we’re reinigen doesn’t mean we’re on anyone’s food plan!”
The blue eyes flashed.
“I wasn’t referring to what you are, Roddy. Your father runs a business. Did anyone want to take over? Push him out?”
“No. He didn’t mention anything anyway. And it’s not like we’re a big competitor.”
“Does he owe money to anyone?”
“No!” Roddy paced a few steps. “We’re not rich, but we aren’t that poor either!”
“Did he gamble?”
Now the teen glared viciously at him. “He might not have been the world’s best dad, but he did everything he could for me! He didn’t gamble, he didn’t borrow money off anyone…!”
“But he drank.”
“Because of the lies!” Roddy snapped furiously. “Because people believed what the papers wrote the first time and didn’t read about him clearing his name!”
And Nick truly was. He always felt with the victims, which made him sometimes too close but also a really good cop. The Geigers had suffered a financial blow and Ephram had been struggling to make it right. Nick knew how proud the man had been of Roddy’s talent and the scholarship. He had been a good father, protective and proud and supportive as much as he could, and now a nineteen-year-old was trying to understand and cope with the loss.
Yes, Nick could empathize with him. He had been much younger and had suffered a double loss, both parents gone, and he had struggled, too.
“I really am sorry, Roddy,” he repeated softly.
“Yeah,” was the defiant answer.
Nick debated with himself, aware that as the only living relative, Roddy had to come in and ID the body.
“I know it’s hard, but I need you to come along. For identification.”
It got him a rather sullen shrug.
“Is there anyone else I need to call?”
Blue eyes met his briefly, then a shake of the head. Nick knew that his mother was dead, but there had never been any mention of uncles or aunts or anyone else. Roddy was already putting away his violin, hands careful with the precious instrument. He caressed it like it was his most prized possession and it probably was.
“C’mon,” the Grimm said gently. “Let’s go.”
That was the moment the door opened and a young man about Roddy’s age came on. With dark blond, spiky hair, green eyes and dressed in jeans and a wildly colored t-shirt he looked like any other youth.
But he wasn’t.
He stopped abruptly and his eyes widened, features shifting unconsciously. Nick didn’t need his aunt’s book to know what kind of wesen the other was: klaustreich.
And the klaustreich had recognized the Grimm.
Fear crossed the young features. His eyes darted to Roddy, took in the defeated posture, the misery, and drew the wrong conclusions.
“Grimm!” the klaustreich hissed and jumped, claws flashing, for whatever reason attacking instead of running.
Nick hadn’t trained with Monroe and Renard for nothing. It was easy to evade the lunge and he drew his gun in one fluid motion.
“Police!” he snapped. “Stop it!”
The klaustreich pulled back his lips, revealing sharp fangs.
“Drew, no!” Roddy yelled and stepped right in front of Nick’s gun. “Stop! It’s okay! He’s okay!” He held out a hand to keep the other wesen away.
“He’s a Grimm! You call that okay?!”
“And he’s not here to hurt me. It’s about my dad…”
Drew frowned, still not shifting back. Nick noticed that his fur was just as light as his hair, there were black tips to his ears and elegant stripes along his cheeks. The green of his eyes had deepened with the transformation.
“He was found dead,” Roddy added.
Anger swamped the cat-like features and he glared at Nick.
“No!” Roddy immediately intervened. “Detective Burkhardt didn’t do anything! I told you about what happened, right? And he let me go. He’s different. Don’t you ever listen?!”
Now there was some of that old fire Nick remembered.
Drew finally pulled himself together, though the suspicion stayed. “You’re that Grimm?” His façade went back up. He looked perfectly human again.
“Yes, I’m that Grimm. The only Grimm in Portland as far as I know,” Nick told him, only slowly lowering his weapon. “But I’m not here as a Grimm. I work for Homicide. That’s why I’m here.”
“His dad was murdered?!”
“He was killed,” Nick confirmed. “We don’t know the exact circumstances yet.”
Drew glanced at Roddy. “Roddy?”
“He didn’t kill him,” the reinigen insisted.
And finally the rest of the tension drained away. Nick was a bit puzzled by the exchange, but more by the fact that a klaustreich was Roddy’s friend. Sure, he had only ever met one of the cat-like wesen before, and he had been an asshole, but reinigen didn’t really interact with predators all that well. And from his aunt’s books and the one encounter with the jerk of a klaustreich a few months back, Nick couldn’t connect the dots.
“Let’s go,” Roddy mumbled and pushed past Nick.
“Call?” Drew asked.
It got him a nod, then Roddy was gone. Nick gave the other a brief look, then followed. He would ask Roddy about this Drew character, just to make sure the reinigen didn’t end up as cat food.
One dead Geiger was enough.
The station was busy. As usual. It was around one p.m. and whoever wasn’t out for lunch had already returned, carrying take-out or coffee cups from chains and small shops in the immediate area. Nick felt his stomach rumble, reminding him that food would be a good idea.
Roddy’s expression was far away, as if he wasn’t even aware of just where they were. He had his hands stuffed in his pockets, shoulders slightly hunched, and he looked ready to just bolt. Nick kept close to him.
He maneuvered them through several people, past occupied interrogation rooms, and he caught a brief glimpse of Renard, then he led his charge into a small, empty room.
“You want something to drink?” he asked.
Roddy leaned against the wall, looking both scared and defiant in one. He had his arms wrapped around himself as if he was cold.
“Coke? Water? Juice?”
“Coke’s fine,” he mumbled.
Nick got him the soft drink and discovered Hank at his desk. His partner shot him a brief look, brows raised, and Nick gave him a calm smile in return. He had this one.
“When can I see my dad?” the reinigen asked when Nick set the plastic cup filled with ice cold Coke down in front of him.
“We’ll head to the morgue after this. I need to go over your father’s day with you again.”
Roddy’s expression was mulish, but he sat down and he drank half the soda in one go.
Interviewing Roddy had been half as hard than the last time the young reinigen had been at the station, but then he wasn’t a suspect this time. Nick didn’t think for a moment that the kid had killed his old man. Neither did Hank, who had a preliminary report from the medical examiner.
“According to the prelim he was drunk as a skunk,” his partner said. “Blood alcohol level was way off the chart. I talked to the owner of the bar at the corner. Geiger was a regular. He drank excessively and had to be kicked out more often than not. He never got violent, just morose and depressive and tended to crawl into a corner to sleep it off.”
Nick nodded. Roddy had mumbled something about problems. About drinking. And they had yet to look at the trailer home. He suspected there would be more indicators of a life going downhill.
“What did the kid tell you?”
“That he drank more, that business was okay but not earning enough, that things had apparently become too much for his father. He wasn’t in debt, but he wasn’t saving anything either.”
Hank nodded. “Depression?”
“Could be. I’m driving Roddy to the morgue, then home. I’ll take a look at the trailer. I doubt this was anything but a hit-and-run, maybe a drunk driver.”
“Yeah, looks that way. No enemies I could dig up so far. Hey, when was the last time you slept?”
Nick blinked at the change of topic. “Last night?”
“Try again. Sal told me he saw you leave this morning and then you’re on the scene a few hours later.”
“I know he called. I know you would take the case even when you’re half-dead from not sleeping enough.” Hank scowled. “Take off early today, Nick. You can’t run on coffee alone. The captain will understand.”
Speaking of which, Nick glanced toward the office where Renard was on the phone. He looked as crisp and rested as always, but given the fact that even four hours were enough for him to recharge, it wasn’t a good indicator or way of measuring his own condition.
The Grimm felt nothing through the bond, which meant that his mate was shielding, and that told him this was politics. The mayor or whoever.
“Yeah, I will.” He got up.
“If I see you ass in here today, I’ll personally kick it home, Nick,” Hank threatened.
“Promises, promises. See ya.”
And he headed toward the waiting area where he had asked Roddy to wait. Much to his surprise the reinigen was still there, staring at the floor, looking younger than his nineteen years and very lost.
They went to the medical examiner’s office where Roddy turned pale as a sheet and Nick stayed with him the whole time he was staring at his father’s lax features. Ephram Geiger had been cleaned up and he was covered in a white sheet.
“Let’s go,” Nick murmured and gently guided Roddy outside, nodding his thanks at the assistant coroner.
The man answered the nod and pushed the body back into the cooling unit.
Roddy swallowed several times when they were outside and his eyes were brimming with tears he refused to let fall. He angrily wiped at them, sniffling.
No words were exchanged as Nick leaned against the outside wall of the building, breathing in the fresh air, letting Roddy pull himself together at his own pace. He simply kept an eye on the younger man, noting the lines of tension, the fight in him ongoing. Finally he sat down on the stone steps. He buried his fingers in his curly hair, shoulder shaking suspiciously.
Nick perched himself on the low wall that ran next to the steps, casting a look around. There were people coming and going, some colleagues he knew, and he nodded at them.
Finally Roddy raised his head, eyes red-rimmed.
“Ready to go home?” Nick offered.
Startled, Roddy looked up, features rippling a little. It showed Nick just how much this was getting to him.
“Or do you want to stay somewhere else?”
“Uh, no. Home’s fine.”
They walked to the car, Roddy’s whole posture slumped and defeated.
“Do you have anyone I can call?”
“I could ask Monroe…”
“What about a friend from school? Like Drew?”
Roddy’s glared at him.
Nick gave him a disarming smile.
“I know what you’re thinking! He’s a good guy! He didn’t hurt my dad! He never would!”
“I didn’t say anything, Roddy.”
“I know he’s a klaustreich.”
“I’d be shocked if you didn’t.”
“And I know what you think he wants! He hasn’t hurt me ever!” The younger man clenched and unclenched his hands. “We play together. Sometimes.”
Nick stayed silent.
“He knows I’m on a scholarship. He didn’t mind. He knows… things…”
That had the Grimm frown a little, but he forced himself not to comment. Reinigen were a lot like maushertz or eisbiber in some regards, especially when it came to self-esteem.
“He’s good and fun to play with. Piano. He plays piano.”
“So you’re friends.”
“He sounded worried for you. Because of me,” Nick added with a fine smile.
“I can drop you off at his place if you want to call him…”
All right, that had been final.
The rest of the ride was done in silence, Roddy staring out the window, huddled against the door.
He parked the car next to the trailer home and looked around the desolate place with the lines of cages stacked not far away, the still-present signs of the fire of last year, the patch-work repair job.
“Mind if I take a look around your place?” he asked.
Roddy looked at him, then shrugged. “Whatever.”
So Nick went inside with him.
The carpet was still threadbare but clean. The belongings were of no worth. Except for the violin. Roddy’s prized possession. There was an old TV, an even older VCR that probably didn’t work, some CDs, a stereo that had seen better days, and the bedrooms, while clean, held no answers either. There were no signs of an alcoholic anywhere. Everything was neat. No empty bottles.
Turning to the teen, Nick took out his card. “Call,” he simply said. “Whatever the reason.”
Roddy took the card, not looking at him.
“I promise I’ll call you as soon as I know what happened to your father.”
It got him a nod.
Nick knew there was nothing else to gain, so he left.
Instead of heading home right away, Nick drove by Roddy’s school, the Hamelin Institute, again and talked to the principal, detailing what had happened. The woman was sympathetic and promised to keep an eye on the prodigy. Nick asked about Drew and got his full name and address. Andrew Sandersson. He lived not far from the school.
Out of a whim he went by Monroe’s place and found the blutbad busy with a new clock.
“You look like shit, man.”
“And hello to you, too.”
Monroe scowled. “The way you look you should be in bed.”
“I was hoping for a late lunch.”
“I’m still hoping for compensation for eating me out of house and home,” as the friendly retort. “Spinach lasagna?”
“Sounds great.” His stomach rumbled its agreememtn.
Monroe rolled his eyes. “Don’t they feed you detectives?”
“They do, but I didn’t really have the time.”
Monroe walked into the kitchen, Nick in tow. “Busy life?”
The blutbad pushed a mug of coffee into the Grimm’s hands and plunked a container full of cookies in front of him. To Nick they looked extremely healthy, the whole-wheat-organic-mix-with-all-the-good-things-of-nature look. He took one.
“Kinda. Lots of cases. You still in contact with Roddy Geiger?”
The cookie tasted fantastic.
Monroe, in the middle of searching through a cupboard, stopped and turned. “Yeah. Why?”
“His father died.”
“Oh man… What happened?” he asked, face creased with worry and empathy.
“Looks like he was hit by a car while on his way home from a night drinking.”
“So far it doesn’t look like anything else,” Nick added. He gave Monroe a quizzical look.
“Huh. Well.” The blutbad closed the cupboard. “Not that I ever asked, but Roddy didn’t say anything about any kinds of troubles either. Well, aside from the teenager-parent variety. And money. I haven’t really talked to him in the past months. Not a lot anyway.”
“Do you know a guy called Andrew Sandersson? Drew? A friend, as it seems?”
Monroe frowned. “He mentioned practicing with a Drew. Piano?”
“Sounds like he was making a friend there, which was good. He was seriously socially inept, dude. After, you know. Everything that happened.”
Yes, he knew. It had been bad.
“Drew is a klaustreich.”
Brows rose in clear surprise. “A klaustreich?”
“I saw him. He even tried to jump me when he discovered I’m a Grimm. He defended Roddy.”
Monroe’s brows climbed even higher. “That’s like a blutbad defending a bauerschwein.”
“I thought as much.”
“Not like I’m the one to judge a friendship, seeing as I’m sleeping with the enemy…” He broke off, blinked, then cleared his throat. “Well, not sleeping sleeping.”
Nick laughed, shaking his head. “I understand the general intent. And yes, maybe it’s like that. You’re my best friend, Monroe, so I’m not the one to judge either. It’s just… with everything that happened to Roddy, and now his dad, I’m a bit suspicious.”
“You want me to call him?” Monroe offered.
“If you want to. Just tread carefully, Monroe.”
“I will. Poor kid. Not that his father was all heart, but he was his father.”
Nick nodded, watching his friend prepare lunch absently. Ephram Geiger hadn’t been a model parent, but he had tried to do the best he could by his son. He had been proud of Roddy’s achievements, had struggled to keep them in money and home, and now there was nothing left for this son to do but keep on struggling. With no income, who knew what would happen to him?
He pushed those thoughts aside and readily accepted the change of topic when Monroe started to talk about his latest clock work. He also promised to take him out to the trailer and try out a few new weapons soon. Monroe loved to dig around, to browse through the collection, and to play with weapons.
Nick left the house three hours later, much later than he had planned, and he called Hank to hear if anything had come up from the medical examiner.
“I told you to go and get some sleep!” his partner grumbled.
“I’m not a baby, Hank. I had lunch, now I want to know what happened. I promise to get a full night’s sleep, okay?”
It got him a muttered reply about stubborn detectives.
“So?” Nick prodded.
“Nothing we didn’t suspect already. Ephram Geiger was drunk out of his mind, had a liver that showed alcohol abuse – heavy drinker for a while, I guess – and he was hit by a car. The techs are working on the trace and I’ve been looking at video footage from traffic cams for the last hours. No serious clues so far, but we’ll get the guy. Got anything from the kid?”
“Nothing. Did you run a background on Geiger Pest Control?”
“Yeah. Not in massive debt, just scraping by.”
“That’s what I got from Roddy, too.” Nick sighed. “Damn, that’s really too bad. The guy is a genius musician.”
“But without a dime for food, genius or not, he won’t be able to continue,” Hank concluded.
“Get some sleep now, Nick. Seriously.”
And he did. He was out like a light and didn’t even wake when Renard walked into the house. Subconsciously the Grimm registered the arrival of his mate, but aside from a bleary murmur and a yawn, Nick didn’t really react.
Strong fingers carded through his hair, stroked him soothingly, and the familiar, muscular form next to him had Nick curled into the embrace that was offered.
That’s actually how he woke: plastered to Sean, listening to the other man’s heart, his breathing, feeling better and more awake than he could remember.
Nick blinked his eyes open, enjoying the closeness, feeling the soft echoes of the bond as it was wide-open, very relaxed, the almost-purr of his mate’s evened-out emotions humming in the background.
“Hey,” he murmured.
Renard smiled, fingers playing over the back of Nick’s skull, stroking soothingly over his neck. “Hey. Slept well?”
“Actually, yeah. What time is it?”
“Five. In the morning,” he added when Nick shot him a quizzical look.
Wow. He had slept almost nine hours. New record as of late.
“Breakfast?” Nick asked hopefully.
It got him a laugh. “Breakfast.”
After a shower that revived him even more Sean placed a large mug of coffee in front of him and Nick started to feel a lot more human. The pancakes did the rest and he sighed happily. Almost absent-mindedly he checked his phone and found two new messages waiting.
One was from Hank that there had been no new findings. The other was from Monroe who asked him to call him. Nothing urgent. Just call.
Nick frowned and hit the speed dial. “Monroe,” he mouthed when Renard shot him a look. “Hey, Monroe. What’s up?”
“Nothing much. Just wanted to let you know that Roddy called. And dropped by. Kid’s not himself,” the blutbad answered. “He took the whole thing badly. And there’s a klaustreich prowling around looking worried. Roddy told me they’re friends and to let you know he’s staying with this Drew guy.”
Nick frowned. “How bad is he?”
“About as bad as you can be when your father is killed in a hit-and-run. We talked,” Monroe added. “Well, guy talk, not girl talk. He’s afraid to lose the scholarship because he has to work to stay afloat.”
Nick pinched the bridge of his nose. “Damn. Okay, keep an eye on him. And Drew. Call.”
He had called Roddy a stick of dynamite once and maybe this time there would be an explosion.
“Will do.” Monroe sounded strangely amused, but Nick didn’t want to dwell on it.
It shouldn’t be his problem what happened to Roddy Geiger, but he couldn’t switch off that he cared nevertheless.
Renard watched him, face neutral, eyes sharp. The Grimm simply turned back to his pancakes.
“You’re getting involved,” the regnant remarked mildly.
So what? Nick thought rebelliously and made sure the idea came across their link.
Sean smiled more, drinking his coffee. “You can’t save the world.”
“I never said I could. Shouldn’t it be in your interest that tings in your protectorate run smoothly?” he challenged.
“The accidental death of a reinigen doesn’t concern me in my capacity of a Guardian.”
Nick’s temper flared and his eyes grew harder, colder. “Ephram Geiger was a human being,” he said, voice so very, very even. “His death left a young man without any parent, to fend for himself. I think it’s my responsibility as a human being to make sure Roddy Geiger is okay.”
Renard regarded him evenly. This was a confrontation between the regnant and the Grimm, the ruler of the protectorate of Portland and his right-hand arbitrator.
“As a captain of the Portland PD it’s in my interest that the killer is found,” he answered slowly. “But Geiger’s death has no influence politically.”
“So I shouldn’t get involved?”
“You already are. You always are. You know I would never interfere, Nick. You’re allowed to get involved.”
“Allowed?” Nick echoed frostily.
Sean exhaled sharply, shaking his head. “Don’t, Nick. Don’t read something into this that isn’t happening.”
The Grimm stared hard at him, then finally turned back to his cooling pancakes, features shifting from distant and angry to slightly embarrassed. He was still running on too little sleep, despite getting more than enough last night, and the whole case had him closer to the edge than usual. Maybe because of Roddy, because he knew what the young man had been through already. Maybe because he was friends with a wesen that could easily betray and use him.
When had he developed such a protective streak? He wasn’t really friends with Roddy. He knew him as a suspect in one case and the relative of a victim in another. Nothing else. And still…
Renard had refilled his coffee and now stood next to his mate, carefully touching one arm as if asking for permission. Nick battled with himself, still felt the anger at the words, then pushed it all away. Frank had told him that even though he knew a lot about politics by now, it would always rile him up because he hadn’t grown up with it. Nick knew next to nothing about the reality, only the theories. And his own ethics and morals kept colliding with those of his mate.
It was an act of carefully maintained balance and something he tethered a little.
Sean dragged light fingers through his hair. “Don’t be anyone else,” he murmured. “Do what you have to.”
He placed a gentle kiss against one temple.
“But you think I’m getting in too deep?”
It got him a smile. “You always are, as a detective and as a Grimm. That’s what makes you such a good officer, Nick.”
“I just don’t want another body on my desk if a klaustreich decides to go after a reinigen.”
“Not all instincts end in bloodshed.”
“How can I know when all I have to go on is the books and one encounter?” Nick challenged. “Klaustreich aren’t cuddly kittens, Sean!”
“And reinigen rank at the bottom of the ladder, maybe even lower.”
“That I know, too.”
“So what does Drew want from Roddy?”
“Maybe nothing more than any other young man wants from a potential partner?”
Nick stared at him, then frowned.
“You’re not his guardian, Nick. He has to make his own choices in life.”
“Roddy’s currently not in the best condition to make a good decision!”
“He has survived so far. Without you.”
Nick’s expression turned frosty once more.
“Say, how is Holly?” Sean asked conversationally.
Caught off guard by the change of topic, Nick blinked. “Uh, getting a lot better after each lesson. Monroe found a therapist for her, someone who’s also a wesen, and she brings Monroe in from time to time. Holly’s mom doesn’t know about it all, but she’s happy enough about her daughter’s progress. And Holly is learning about wieder blutbaden and curbing her instincts and all.”
Renard had started to smile more and more with each word. Nick stopped and shot the Guardian a dark look.
Renard just smirked a little more and turned to the morning paper. The Grimm muttered something uncomplimentary. He planned to drop by Roddy’s place on his way to work and see if there was anything he could do. Legally Roddy Geiger was an adult. He had inherited his father’s business and he could maybe make a little money of it.
Speaking of inheritance…
Nick grabbed his phone and rose from the table, clearly aware of Renard watching him, and dialed another number while walking into the living room.
“Hey, Frank,” he greeted the jagerbar. “I need some questions answered that are more up your alley than mine…”
Renard had to hold back not to smile even more when he caught the last fragments of Nick’s phone call before he left the kitchen. While his mate claimed not to be that deeply involved, he did involve himself rather deeply. It was a trait that had made him stand out from some of the other detective candidates who had wanted to work for Homicide. It was what had Renard choose the younger man for the position. It was something that made him a very good cop.
And it was something that set him so very much apart from the general belief of what a Grimm was.
Watching from the kitchen as Nick talked to Frank Rabe, Sean tried not to let the incredible pride he felt show on his face. It was hard. Even harder was shielding the surge of emotions he felt. As the Guardian of this protectorate he couldn’t become singularly involved in such cases; there was too much else to take care of. Politics were difficult to navigate on a good day. And catching the attention of a regnant wasn’t always in the best interest of a wesen.
For Nick these unspoken and unwritten rules didn’t apply. He had sworn loyalty to the regnant as a Grimm, he was Captain Renard’s subordinate, but somewhere between those two jobs he also was someone else; someone who cared.
Right now he cared about a young reinigen.
Like he had cared about the eisbiber community.
Nick didn’t make a difference in wesen, be it dangerous predators or shy prey. He helped, plain and simple. Knowing his mate, Renard could easily predict the next moves and he would sit back and wait and only interfere if Nick needed – and asked for – help.
“Don’t,” Nick said, scowling, as he walked back into the kitchen.
“Not a word,” Renard answered easily, trying to put a lid on the surge of emotions he felt just looking at the younger man.
Nick had no idea just how appealing he was to the regnant, how much he enjoyed his company, his body, his mind and, yes, his very soul. The bond had opened Renard’s mind to a lot of things he had never considered before and while he might have considered them a weakness, he no longer did. Yes, he claimed Nick was his weakness, but he was also his greatest strength. He needed the Grimm and the detective and the man Nick Burkhardt was, every single aspect of his bonded mate, and he knew that if he ever lost this, completely, forever, he wouldn’t want to go on alone. Theirs was a life bond.
The scowl on the handsome features deepened. Nick was clearly picking up on a few things and Sean let the tender emotions surge in a soft wave, let them roll along the connection and touch Nick’s mind. He really didn’t have to say anything as long as the psychic link was unshielded; it currently was.
Nick blinked, caught slightly off guard, the gray eyes warming with the echo of the sensations.
Sean rose and walked over to the other man, pressing a gently kiss onto his lips. “You do your job, I do mine,” he only said. “It’s how it has always worked and always will. You are free to do it.”
Nick rested a hand against the taller man’s hips, brushing their lips together again. Renard lost himself in the taste and smell and sensation of the Grimm, felt the tension between them ease, let Nick lead in this intimate dance.
When they finally pulled apart, the strain was no longer there, the bond easy and balance.
“Speaking of jobs,” the regnant murmured regretfully, “I have an appointment.”
Nick grabbed him before he could go upstairs, pulling him into a deep kiss. He grinned when they separated and saw Renard fight for composure.
“See you later.”
Oh, he would. He definitely would.
The day at work was nothing spectacular, aside from the two skalengecks who had been brought in on drug charges and who were screaming down the precinct, raving wildly. They were still high. But that didn’t rate anywhere near spectacular either. Nick had gotten used to seeing a skalengeck now and then, always concerning theft or drug abuse/use. They seemed to be predestined for it. The two currently in custody had robbed a corner store to buy drugs. Both were completely stoned. Neither of them had killed the owner, something that had happened to Freddie Calvert, Rosalee’s brother.
Nick and Hank had followed up on an older case since a new lead had come up, which had them visit a shadier business in town. Since the case – the murder of a businessman in a shady motel – had started to become colder and colder, every little tip was followed up on. So far nothing had brought them any further.
Nick looked around the rather tacky massage salon, taking in the brightly orange walls, the pink and yellow chairs lined up in the waiting area, and the bright neon sign above the registration desk proclaiming 'sensual massages'. It was open 24/7 and despite the early morning hours, there were already customers present.
A young woman in a very revealing tank top and thin blouse greeted them with a smile that threatened to crack the thick layer of lipstick she had smeared on. She was apparently just past legal age and her platinum blonde hair and pale skin spoke of long nights and barely any daylight. Artificial fingernails, three times the normal length, all painted in bright neon orange except for one pinky, which was black, played with a pen.
"Can I help you?" she asked, chewing on a piece of gum.
Hank smiled pleasantly, though it showed what he thought of the place. “Detectives Griffin and Burkhardt. Portland PD.”
She frowned, transferring the gum from one cheek to the other. "Yeah?" Heavily mascaraed eyes checked them out.
Nick smiled. "We're investigating a murder. Apparently the victim called you to make an appointment."
"We’re investigating the murder of Anour Dorn. We believe he was a customer of yours?" Nick put all his considerable charm into question.
"We don't give out information about our customers," the girl replied.
"We only want to know if he was a customer here, Miss...?" Hank entered the conversation.
"Grayson. Dana Grayson," she replied.
"Ms. Grayson. We don't want to know what he booked, only if he came here."
She sighed and shrugged. "Okay, so I know him."
"You know without checking?"
Dana flashed Hank a wide grin. "Hey, Anour's one of our best customers. A regular. Every month. Business trip."
“When was the last time he came here?”
“Last month. Missed his appointment after that. Too bad. He was a good tipper.” She smiled widely at the two men. “I give good rates, so if you two are interested…?”
Suddenly there was a shift in her features and Nick briefly saw a ziegevolk look back at him. There was no wash of pheromones and Nick didn’t feel like he was about to fall to his knees and worship her, but he suspected that Dana used her wesen talents in her business as well.
Hank chuckled. “No, thanks.”
They left again, none the wiser in their ever-colder growing case.
“That was a bust,” Hank muttered. “What a waste of time.”
It was back to hunting through the evidence again, hoping to find something, anything, that would get them further.
They dropped by their favorite burger joint for lunch, Nick glancing at the dark clouds overhead.
“Gonna rain again,” Hank predicted as they carried their food to a free table.
“Uh-huh.” He chewed on some fries.
The older man studied his partner, a slow smile creeping over his lips. “Okay, what’s her name?“
Nick looked at him. “Her? Who her?“ he asked.
“Who says I’ve got a girl?“
Hank rolled his eyes. “C’mon... You didn’t just catch a few Zzzs last night. That grin, that sparkle… you got laid!“
“And you of all people noticed that because of… Lucy?“ Nick teased.
Hank grimaced. “So you got a woman in your life?” he tried another approach.
“Oh, fess up already, Nick.”
“I don’t have a woman in my life, Hank,” Nick clarified and ate the rest of his fries, eyes dancing.
“I bet you do.”
Nick quirked an eyebrow. “You’ll lose that bet, my friend.”
“It’s not gambling. It’s knowing.”
Nick laughed and shook his head. “No, it’s poking in the dark, Hank, and you’re dead wrong.”
“Wanna bet on it?”
“Nope. So, ready to tackle some reports?”
Hank glanced at the ever-darkening sky. “Sure. Let’s get back to the precinct. And we can talk about your new girl.”
Hank smirked at his partner. Nick had a girlfriend; he was dead certain he had.
* * *
The rest of the day brought torrential rain, so Hank and Nick were glad to be trapped inside for the rest of their shift, on desk duty, because reports had to be written some day. Hank followed up in their interview this morning by running a background check on the salon, but aside from being a bit dubious, nothing stood out. There had never been a complaint and it had never come up in any shady dealings. Dorn had been a customer with a strange taste in masseuses, but they would have to find evidence as to who had killed the man a month ago somewhere else.
Nick was just finished when Renard walked in, moderately wet, and he automatically felt along the bond to check on his mate’s state of mind. As calm as he seemed, the meeting hadn’t been anything of importance either.
Hank grumbled at something and finally hit the print button, leaning back with a huge sigh. “Done!”
“You still tackling the Geiger case?”
Hank’s eyes softened a little. “You like the kid.”
“He’s not too bad. And he lost his father.”
“We always deal with families who have lost someone; this one’s different, right?”
“He’s a talented musician with a crappy track record in friends?”
His partner chuckled. “Probably. Wrap it up, Nick. If we don’t get any more clues we won’t be able to find the person who ran over his old man. It’s tragic, I know, but nothing new.”
And there were too many open cases waiting for them anyway. Nick knew all the facts; it didn’t change that he felt he could have done more.
“Hey, Nick!” Wu called. “Someone here for you.”
He looked up and was surprised to see Drew Sandersson. He was dressed in jeans and a blue t-shirt over a white longsleeve, and was carrying a backpack. He looked apprehensive, like he really didn’t want to be here.
Nick nodded at Wu that it was okay as he got up to meet the young klaustreich.
“Hey. Drew, right?”
The young man nodded, looking more nervous. His eyes flicked around the station as if expecting the worst. Nick led him to an empty room. Hank had given him the raised eyebrow when he had passed, btu Nick had waved him off.
“You wanted to talk to me.”
Drew played with the broad leather bracelets on his wrists. “Yeah, well, Roddy told me you’re okay. I mean for a Grimm.”
Nick smiled. “Well, thanks.”
“I know you know what I am. And what Roddy is. But we’re friends. I like him. He’s a great violin player. Incredible. And to play with him… it’s an honor!”
“Okay, I believe you. Why are you here, Drew?”
“I’m worried about Roddy,” the klaustreich blurted. “He’s my friend. And his dad was killed and I know he has a scholarship, but he has to pay for food and electricity and water at the trailer. I asked him to stay with me. He said he doesn’t take charity. It’s not,” he added defiantly. “It’s a small place, but he can stay there, too.”
Nick blinked. “Okay,” he said slowly, wondering why Drew was telling him.
“And it’s not because I want to do something to him either,” the young man added, then stopped, eyes wide. “No! I mean, not like that!”
His cheeks heated up and Nick had to hold back a laugh.
“I like him. A lot.”
“I gathered. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, though.”
The green eyes watched him carefully. “Have you met one of my kind before?”
“Yes. He was married to a seltenvogel.”
“And he abused her to get to the Unbezahlbar. I’m certain he would have stood by and let her die just to get to the egg.”
“Oh,” was the small murmur.
“The way this klaustreich treated his wife was… bad, Drew. You understand why I’m cautious around you claiming to be Roddy’s friend.”
“But I am. And he knows what I am. And I’m not like that other one. I’d never hurt him.”
“He doesn’t have anything aside from his violin.”
Drew stared at him aghast. “You think I’d want to steal it?!”
“No! Not all of us are like that!”
Nick studied the open features, saw the desperation and the pain and the worry, and he saw something else. Something he could easily relate to.
“He hasn’t been at the trailer since you told him about his dad,” Drew said softly. “And he hasn’t been to school. I know he won’t get into trouble yet. He’s a whiz and he has extenuating circumstances. But he loves music. It’s what distracts him from everything else. He’s like in a zone when he plays.”
“I noticed before. Does Roddy have a place where he goes when he’s in a mood?”
Drew shrugged. “I don’t know. We hang out together and we play together, but it was never like this before, so bad and so… bad,” he repeated lamely.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Can’t you put an APB on him?”
Nick smiled. “No, not really. But there is a place he might be.”
Drew perked up. “Where?”
“You know he was moonlighting as a DJ, right?”
The klaustreich nodded. “That’s so cool. DJ Retched Kat! I was there once and I didn’t know until he told me that that was him.”
“He might have gone back to the warehouse.”
Drew blinked, then realization hit him. “Oh! Oh, yeah, right. I know the raves stopped and no one was like Retched Kat… you think he went to the docks?”
“Should we take a look?”
The green eyes blinked. “Uh… Really? You’d come with me?”
“You asked for my help.”
Which was incredible to begin with, Drew being a wesen, Nick being the local Grimm. The kid knew nothing about him, except what Roddy might have told him, and still he had come here, worried for his friend.
“I didn’t think you’d… well… uh… help.”
Nick laughed softly. “Drew, you really have a very warped understanding of the police.”
“You’re a Grimm.”
“I’m a police officer,” he corrected him. “First and foremost. Now how about it? Want to come along?”
Of course he did.
The weather had declined rapidly and by the time Nick pulled his car to a stop outside the decrepit warehouse, it was raining hard enough to obscure everything but the fat drops beating against his windscreen. The wind was coming in hard from the sea and the car shook with each gust.
Drew looked miserably out of the window. Neither man was looking forward to getting out of the car.
Nick inched the SUV closer to the warehouse entrance, as close as he could get without running into the wall, then shot his passenger a look.
“I think we have to run.”
Drew grimaced, but he bravely opened the door and dashed through the rain underneath the small roof that protected the old loading bay. Nick followed. Both managed not to get soaked, but they were reasonably wet from just a minute in the rain.
Nick gazed into the damp darkness of the warehouse, moving a little out of the windy entrance. The howl of the wind, the sound of the rain coming down almost swallowed the soft sounds of a violin.
“Roddy!” Drew exclaimed and started to move toward the mourning notes.
Nick followed, tense, all senses alert. He didn’t believe for one second that this was a trap, but it was better to be safe than sorry. But his Grimm instincts didn’t rise and he felt more relaxed than the last time he was here.
Despite the fact that it was eerily the same. Well, almost the same. This time Roddy Geiger wasn’t trying to take revenge on other students, luring them to a non-existent rave, and attacking them.
Drew picked his way through the debris, footing sure, and when he briefly glanced at Nick the Grimm could see the reflection of cat eyes.
They finally arrived in the open space that had once, decades ago, housed crates and barrels and cartons of goods. Now there was dust and grime and the smell of decay. Amidst the debris sat Roddy, violin under his chin, playing for himself, to himself, and maybe a little to the audience of about two dozen gray rats. They sat everywhere around him, watching him, seemingly mesmerized, and when Nick looked at Drew, the klaustreich was just the same.
Not hypnotized by the music, he realized. Simply… entranced. His eyes were on the other wesen teenager, his whole posture relaxed, as if seeing Roddy had reassured him that everything was okay, even though it wasn’t all that okay.
The reinigen suddenly glanced up and his music faltered. The rats squeaked, then moved uncertainly, only scampering away when Nick approached their master.
“Hey,” he greeted the young man.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was worried about you!” Drew blurted, pushing past Nick. “You didn’t answer your phone, you weren’t at school or at home… We had a date! You didn’t show! What do you think I was thinking?!”
And he fell to his knees in front of the seated reinigen, hands curling over those holding the violin and the bow. Roddy seemed to flush a little and realization finally hit Nick like a ton of bricks.
So much for his observational skills. Then again, there had been clues and vibes, but he had ignored them because it had seemed a bit… far-fetched. Even by his standards. Being friends, yes. Close friends, sure. But that close?
“So you called the Grimm?” Roddy asked weakly.
“You said he was friendly,” Drew argued hotly. “And he helped. You could have been lying in a ditch somewhere!” He flushed hotly, realizing his words. “Sorry. Not what I meant. Sorry. This… I’m sorry about your dad, Roddy. Really. And I want to be there for you. But you’re running. And I can’t… please?!”
Nick knew when to carefully slide out of earshot; like right now. This was getting personal and while he would rive them both home eventually, right now he didn’t need to listen in to a private conversation. Instead he silently went back to the entrance. It was still raining like all the flood gates of heaven had opened up and he sought out a sheltered corner that would keep him out of the worst weather, especially the wind.
When Roddy and Drew finally walked out of the warehouse main storage area, the young reinigen looked a lot calmer, less frazzled and rough around the edges, and Drew was hovering close to him. Both weren’t touching, but Nick knew that it was only due to his presence.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
The rain had let up and it was just a light drizzle, but from the cloud formations it promised to be just a brief respite. The wind was still going strong.
“Yeah. And thanks.” Roddy hugged the violin to himself.
“You’re welcome. Are you okay?”
It got him a wary nod.
They left the warehouse behind, the car picking its way through the semi-flooded road.
Nick dropped them off at the trailer home after Roddy had hotly argued with Drew that it was his home, that he had to be there, that he needed to get his father’s things sorted through, and finally the klaustreich had caved. There had been a sort of a helpless expression in his eyes when he had looked at Nick for help, but the Grimm had decided to keep out of this. He had simply played taxi.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the trailer looked like a major tornado had hit. Things that had been on the table, the shelves or on the wall lay broken on the floor. The wooden floorboards that hadn’t been covered by a carpet looked scratched. Shattered glass, warped plastic, bent pieces of something or other, and paper was strewn everywhere.
It was the sight of someone who had let his anger and fury and rage at the world come out – without taking it any further than the thin walls of the trailer home.
Roddy stuffed his hands into his pockets, shoulders hunched, and Drew cast a helpless look around. Nick just made a mental note to have Monroe check in as well. Drew might be a good friend, might be even more, but this was way over his head. Roddy was hurting and angry and he had no idea how to deal with the loss.
“Roddy?” Nick asked.
The reinigen just stalked over to his room, but he didn’t close the door.
“Call,” Nick told Drew. “If you need help, just call.”
He nodded, shoulders squared.
“He can’t deal with this alone,” the Grimm continued softly.
“He won’t,” was the decisive answer.
“You might need help from others.” He dug out Monroe’s phone number. “That’s a friend. Monroe. He plays the cello and he knows Roddy. He would help.”
The green eyes were wide again, filled with confusion. Nick knew he was the reason for it; Drew still expected the other shoe to drop, the Grimm to turn on him.
“I’m not the enemy, Drew. I want to help. I’m not going after you or Roddy or anyone else unless there is reason to.”
“We’re… wesen. That’s usually reason enough.”
“Not for me. Promise to call Monroe or me if things get too tough for you to handle. I know you’re Roddy’s friend, but he’s going through something bad right now. Worse than bad grades or school bullies.”
Drew nodded slowly, looking at the number.
Nick finally left and immediately called Monroe, informing him of Roddy’s general condition, of handing his number to Drew.
“He might call for help.”
“No sweat, dude. I like the kid and I can handle a klaustreich.”
Nick chuckled. “Actually, the kid helps to change the image of the klaustreich in my mind. He’s not too bad and acts rather grown-up.”
“They grow up really fast,” the blutbad told him. “The moment they turn eighteen they’re on their own, sometimes right when they get any kind of job or have income. You said your ancestor called the alley cats, right?”
“Not far from the truth. They rear their young until they won’t starve or end up dead up coming back to their parents’ home, then they leave them to fend for themselves. Drew’s what? Nineteen? Twenty?”
“About that age.”
“That means he’s been on his own for at least two or three years.”
“That’s kind of harsh.”
“That’s how they roll. Eisbiber are family guys. They have their whole clan to fall back upon. Maushertz have strong ties to their parents. Schakale have family packs. To each their own.”
And blutbaden had loners, packs and family. Yes, Nick knew. He also knew that some wesen, like jagerbar, were close to monogamous. Frank had talked about his choice of mate once, over a beer, when the Grimm had still been learning about wesen politics from the lawyer. His marriage had been out of necessity, to uphold tradition, to have a mate, but there had been little true love. It had been like the old days in some societies, two young people married off for trade contracts, for family connections, because a child had been promised etc. Rabe was a widower now and not inclined to find someone else. He was raising his son, he was a successful lawyer, and he had slowly but surely become a good friend to Nick, who relied on his help in political things now and then.
“I’m still not sure what he wants from Roddy, though,” Monroe added, drawing Nick out of his musings. “It’s an unusual friendship.”
“Right now I have to trust him to take care of Roddy,” Nick answered.
“I might drop by later,” Monroe said vaguely. “Just to make sure he’s still in one piece.”
The Grimm chuckled. “Okay. Thanks. Gotta go.”
Nick returned to the precinct, checked on the progress of the labs concerning another case, then continued to shuffle some papers. He kept looking at the Geiger case file. There had been no clear leads as to who had been the one to hit Ephram Geiger. The traffic cameras had picked up a truck, but the plates had been obscured by mud. Hank had run a search on the type of vehicle and had come up with over two thousand possible hits. No witnesses had come forward and the trace on Geiger’s body didn’t help either.
Not everything worked out as miraculously as Seen On TV.
He called it a day when Sean gave him a hard poke through the bond, startling him a little out of his research into a new case. Hank was already gone, but Renard was in the office and looked about ready to leave.
They both left at different times, each in his car, each heading home.
Because somehow that had become Sean’s as well.
The moment the door closed after him, Nick was pushed against it and warm lips descended on him, fingers digging into his shoulder and side, the link humming strongly. He pulled the taller man to him, answering the kiss, turning it into a dance of tongue and nipping teeth.
They both looked at each other, breathless and flushed. The ring of gold around the green irises was a first hint and the tension radiating off the Guardian was another.
Nick smiled and leaned forward, teeth scraping over the soft skin of Sean’s throat.
The reaction was as instantaneous as it was explosive. His hands were grabbed, pushed against the wall, trapping him, but the Grimm rose and snarled in indignation. Nick struggled, drawing a growl from the other man that went straight to his groin, but he wouldn’t be helpless or submit that easily. While part of him reveled in the powerful aura of his mate, the equally predatory part of the Grimm was disgusted that he simply arched his neck, presenting his throat.
Renard licked along the pale column, then claimed his mouth, momentarily distracted by the sensation and his own hunger. Nick managed to push him back a little, then used the fraction of a moment to gain the upper hand for a second.
They tumbled onto the couch, Nick landing on his back with Sean on top, and he gave a breathless laugh that turned into a groan when a knee nudged against his hardening cock.
Renard’s expression was downright hungry.
Nick smiled at him, his own hunger pushing through, coupled with the strong warning of the Grimm that submission was out of the question. A feral grin answered. The regnant was far from impressed and when his hand cupped Nick and squeezed, the detective groaned.
The noises he then made when Renard started to open his pants and take out his erection were not needy at all. No, not at all. And if he begged and pushed and demanded and wanted, it wasn’t submission. It was never submission. He struggled off his pants, feeling clever fingers and a hot mouth everywhere and oh-god-oh-god-oh-fuck!fangs!
Nick came hard when two fingers pushed into him. He had little time to think when the fingers were replaced by Renard’s cock moving in in one long, hard push, and Nick moaned at the hard, punishing pace that was just right, hitting every button, taking him back up high despite the fact that he had already come.
His mate sank deep into him, teeth on the claim mark, snarling what sounded like a curse as he came, and Nick felt himself spurt a little for the second time. He simply grabbed the other man, holding him close, keeping him there, breathing as hard as Sean.
“Damn,” Renard muttered, then chuckled softly.
Nick grinned, kissing his jaw as he pulled away. They both looked disheveled, still half dressed, and well-fucked. He didn’t have to ask what had brought it on; he knew through the connection they shared. Not in many words, but in waves of emotions. Sometimes Renard was just a very possessive bastard.
The man in question smirked and leaned down, kissing him leisurely, the frantic need of before evaporating slowly.
“We need a shower,” the Grimm murmured against the enticing lips.
“Hm, yes,” Renard answered, the predator in him coming forth once more.
Nick grinned cheekily and slid out from under the taller man, aware how he looked with no pants on and his shirt half undone. By the look he was given, the shower would be a very pleasant affair.
He wasn’t wrong.
He was also very sore when they finally made it into bed, both content to just touch and stroke and kiss. As much as Nick loved to blow his mate, and as incredible as it had been to watch Sean come undone as he sucked him hard, fingers stroking and kneading and sliding into him, neither was up for another round.
Nick glanced at his cell phone and found a new message waiting from Frank. He ignored the sleepy mutter from his mate, checked his messages, then tossed the phone back onto the table.
Nothing important. Just the confirmation that the jagerbar was free tomorrow to meet with Nick and then, hopefully, Roddy Geiger.
Of course Frank smelled Renard on him, despite another shower in the morning and no morning sex. Nick tried not to blush or look uncomfortable with the fact that a wesen with a good sense of smell could tell what he had been up to last night. It wasn’t very successful, though. At least by the amusement reflecting in the lawyer’s eyes.
“Just don’t,” the Grimm muttered, leaning against the kitchen counter, mug of coffee in hand.
Frank chuckled and shook his head. He had offered Nick the coffee while he gathered his things and powered down his laptop. Nick had gratefully accepted, eyes roaming through the open-concept kitchen and living room.
Everything was clean and neat and still looked lived in. The warm color of the wood did a lot to take the stark neatness out of the rooms, but so much had changed in the past months. Nick had been here several times throughout the missing persons case that had introduced him to the Rabes and led to the arrest of mother, son and the son’s friends. Back then there had been a lot of native art, tastefully displayed in cases or against the wall.
That was all gone. Frank had either sold it off or donated it to museums.
The house was massive for just two people. Empty. Too big. And still Frank didn’t want to move because the land and the place had been in his family for generations. It was his alone and his nature demanded space to roam. Constructed as a truly oversized log-cabin-turned-mansion, the place had a calming nature about it. Nick had felt it several times before. Despite what had happened here, despite the failed break-in, the kidnapping, the violence, it was peaceful.
“Barry in school?” he asked, soaking up the calmness.
“Yes. It’s been slowly improving.”
Frank shot him a small smile. “This isn’t your fault, Nick. It never was. You did what you could and a lot less than a normal Grimm would have done.”
“Normal Grimm?” he echoed. “Like kill four jagerbars?”
‘When we find them, promise me you’re not gonna hurt them.’
‘I won’t if I don’t have to.’
Frank winced and shut his laptop. “Yes. Five. With me, five. For all the pain our encounter brought, I’m glad it happened the way it did. Diane made a mistake, she dragged our son and his friends in with her, and it hurt families. But we lived to tell the tale.”
Diane had taken her life, though. In prison.
Rabe met Nick’s eyes, expression solemn. “You’re doing a lot of good, Grimm. You became more than a nightmare or a tale of fear and darkness. You guard this city, the protectorate. You inspire loyalty.”
Nick blinked, then looked away. Frank had told him before and he probably would again. Like Bud had told him that their work on Nick’s house hadn’t been unpaid labor or seen as a tribute. It had been a favor for a friend. Like Rosalee had started to trust him and now readily called him when he needed her. Like Victoria, the lausenschlange who had helped him get the house and sell his own. So many.
And still it surprised Nick. Still it made him feel uncomfortable because he never knew if they might not see their aide as a necessity because he could come after them and their families, take away everything, instead of a friend helping a friend. He had no idea at all how much Renard’s status played into it as well.
Sean had once remarked that he was creatingan amazing network of allies and friends. Wesen with skills he needed; not just for fighting but also for knowledge. Monroe had been his first friend and was now his best. Things had grown from there. Now he had a lawyer in the form of Frank Rabe, too. Rosalee was a herbalist and she knew a few things about the underground world of the creature community that told Nick she hadn’t exactly been a model citizen in the past. Bud and the eisbiber community offered their help in their own way, and then there were the small gestures from those on the same street Nick lived, or those he had helped and let go throughout his brief Grimm career.
Nick pushed those thoughts aside, emptied his coffee and headed for the door, but a strong hand caught him. There was no threat in the physical restraint. It was a light curl of fingers against his arm.
Frank regarded him with serious eyes.
“Don’t believe for a moment that my help is an obligation I feel I have. I help because I think of you as a friend. I’m not someone to cower down before a Grimm if I felt you’d use me, Nick. I’m a jagerbar; you’d know if this was something I’m unhappy with.”
He looked into the dark eyes. “I know that, Frank. I’m just not sure about others.”
“Just because they might be more timid and don’t like confrontation doesn’t mean some wesen wouldn’t speak up their minds. Your friend Bud has a backbone, Nick. As an eisbiber he goes instinctively for the less dangerous road, but he would defend himself and his family in any way he can. And you told me yourself that Roddy stood up to you when you came after him the first time.”
The Grimm chuckled. “Yeah.”
“We might see the Grimm first and the police officer later, but, for my part, I can safely say that I see both now. You’re both and you’re also more. You’re my friend, Nick Burkhardt. You’ll always be welcome here.”
Nick felt strangely touched by the declaration and smiled almost thankfully. “Thanks, Frank. It means a lot to hear that.”
“Now let’s go and meet your young friend.”
“Does Roddy know just what you are, Nick?” Rabe asked when they had arrived.
His gaze was running over the dingy building, but there was no judgment in his eyes. He was simply taking in the scene, a place so very different from his own place.
“He knows I’m a Grimm.”
“And the rest?”
Frank’s expression begged to differ.
“Does every wesen in Portland know the city is a protectorate?”
“I can’t speak for all,” Frank answered slowly, “but many came here because of it. Of course it draws in the unsavory elements, too, but your mate has taken care of them in his own ay, I hear.”
Yeah. Nick knew about that particular tidbit only too well. The Lowen Games, for instance. It was still a sore spot and he didn’t like to think about the many things Renard had orchestrated to keep his city clean and clear. As a police officer Nick couldn’t but feel unwell knowing about it. Too many people had died, some of them innocents. But he had accepted it and he knew that it was in Sean’s basic rights as the Guardian, even if human moral and ethics clamored against such murderous games.
“Only a few know about the mate, though,” Rabe added. “And I doubt most believe that a Grimm could be a regnant’s bonded mate.” He shrugged. “It caught me by surprise and I would have argued against such a union, too. As for Roddy, I doubt he knows more about you or your mate than the rest. Will you tell him?”
“Why should I? It has nothing to do with him or the case or his future.”
Frank was silent, then nodded and grabbed his bag. “Let’s see if he’s really willing to talk to me.”
Roddy regarded Frank nervously, trying not to show it and failing on all fronts. Meeting with a jagerbar wasn’t something a reinigen did, even one who was sort-of-friends with a blutbad and who knew a Grimm. A jagerbar who happened to be a lawyer intent on helping him with the mountain of paperwork and everything else surrounding the death of a parent was probably even more weird.
“Relax,” Rabe said, smiling. “I’m not going to eat you.”
Nick grimaced and just about refrained from elbowing the other man. Roddy’s eyes darted between them, then he slid onto the battered chair, still tense and too fragile in Nick’s eyes. He was trying to put up a good front, and he was trying not to let anyone look behind the shields, but he knew Roddy Geiger was at the end of his emotional rope.
“Nick told me what happened and I agreed to help,” Frank continued calmly. “I’m a lawyer and I have some experience in these matters. Will you let me help, Roddy?”
The reinigen looked at Nick again who gave him an encouraging smile, then he nodded.
“I have to ask you a few questions about your family,” Frank went on. “About living relatives and…”
“None,” Roddy said quickly. “No one but me and my dad.”
“Okay. You were an only-child?”
“And your grandparents?”
“Dead. All four. And mom, too.”
Frank made a few notes, then continued his questions, going as deep as the business, finances and possible insurance policies. Roddy answered as best as he could, dug up files and folders, even unearthed an ancient laptop that seemed to contain business data, and Frank promised to look through it all and get back to him.
When they left the trailer home, the jagerbar looked thoughtful, maybe even a bit sympathetic. Nick kept his silence.
“I think I heard him play once,” Rabe finally said when they were at the cars. “I went to a concert and he was a soloist. Incredible talent, really.”
Nick nodded. “It would be a shame if he lost the scholarship.”
Frank smiled a little. “I’ll try my best, Nick, but I can’t promise miracles.”
“I’m not asking for a miracle.”
“Maybe, if the business is off his back, he can concentrate on school. Full time. He can put in for more funds, too. I think he would qualify.”
Or he could move in with Drew. The klaustreich was trying to convince his friend that they could share his place.
“Thanks for all your help.”
Frank smiled. “He’s a nice kid.”
Nick nodded. That Roddy was. A bit screwed over from life, a bit too close to the edge, but he could make it out of this one.
* * *
The Geiger case remained open, but it was no longer a priority with Homicide. Too many other cases wanted their attention. They finally caught a break on the Anour Dorn murder and had a suspect, even though evidence was shaky at best, as the DA told them, and they would have to convince a possible witness to give a statement. But at least the scumbag was off the streets for a while. Forty-eight hours gave the labs a bit more time to go over trace evidence once more.
With Hank newly in love, his partner was leaving early or on time most of the days. Not that Nick minded; he knew the feeling and he knew Hank deserved a break. Lucy seemed good for him and she wasn’t a wesen, so there was nothing interfering in that regard. Even if she had been, Nick wouldn’t go anywhere close to warning her off. He would just want to know what kind and her intentions.
As it was, Hank was happy, Lucy was keeping him an honest man, and Griffin was musing about a fifth marriage. That Nick ignored. It was better this way.
His own private life was balanced and running smoothly. Hiding just who he was with was fine, since he hid so many things nowadays. Hank still tried to get him to date Lucy’s friends, but Nick declined. It was a source of great amusement to Sean.
“What? you want me to date one of Lucy’s friends?” Nick asked, exasperated, while he was cleaning away leftover dinner.
He tossed a wadded-up dishtowel at him. “No. Got my hands full with you already. And I’m not into variety. I’m a rather old-fashioned kind of guy.”
Renard dumped the towel and slid up behind him, curling an arm around his waist and brushing his lips over Nick’s temple. It was a gesture he had used often before and from the echoes of the psychic bond it was as intimate to him as a full-out kiss would have been. And Nick enjoyed the caress, the barely-there contact.
“As am I,” the Guardian murmured. “Probably even more so. We regnants are so terribly territorial.”
“Hm, I don’t mind the territorial thing as long as you don’t bite someone’s hand off for being friendly.”
Renard chuckled. “I believe I have more control than that.”
Nick turned in the embrace and captured his lips. “You do. I’m glad you do. Except when it comes to the privacy of these four walls,” he teased, a mischievous note entering his voice. “I like to see you lose control here.”
Renard’s grip tightened and the expression became more intense, feral… hungry.
The Grimm smiled just as feraly, hungrily, then kissed Sean with teeth nipping at his lips. “I like it very much,” he whispered throatily.
“Is that so?”
Sean’s voice was trembling with something downright primal and Nick met the gaze fearlessly.
The Grimm and the regnant met in that moment, both predators turned on massively by what they saw in the other.
The result was… intense.
Actually, it had Nick thank the powers that be that he didn’t live in an apartment. And that it was still cool enough to wear a few layers because the bite mark was glaringly obvious. He ached pleasantly, sore to a degree where he knew he what he had been up to for a while, and still he shivered when Sean traced his reddened hole, caressed his entrance in a sensual way. His cock twitched little and he once more wondered just how kinky he really was.
Enough to have an extremely powerful wesen handcuff him to the bed, apparently. And while the Grimm was pissed and had fought the notion of being helpless, it had been such a turn-on that he had nearly come from just having Renard explore his body with slightly protruding talons.
Yeah, okay, so he was into something very kinky.
Sean huffed a laugh as he caught the gist of it through the bond. “Call me kinky, but I like fucking a Grimm who could kill me, too,” the Guardian whispered. “And I like to have a kinky Grimm to let me.”
Nick turned around around, pushing him back onto the mattress, and straddled his hips. Renard let him, hands sliding over strong thighs. Nick felt the swelling cock of his mate pushing against his cheeks. Damn his stamina.
Sean ran a palm over the flat stomach, smiling. “You like it.”
Oh yeah, the bond.
“You like me fucking you through the mattress.”
Just like he enjoyed everything else. Just being together, the softness of the warmth between them, in their minds, never anything more but a connection that forever bound them together and wasn’t telepathy, and still so much more than this. They could go days without closeness, but it resulted in explosive encounters that left Nick craving more.
Like right now.
He reached behind himself, unerringly finding the still-slick erection and stroking his palm over it.
Golden eyes regarded him, the wesen in Renard hungry and prowling and watching.
Nick lifted himself and then sank down in one smooth move, closing his eyes at the sharp burn of pleasure and pain, the friction reflecting over the psychic link, and Sean groaned at the double sensation.
Yes, Nick found he remembered quite clearly what he had been up the night before when he went to work the next morning, and he was almost glad for the legwork he had to put in.
But he didn’t regret a single moment.
Talking to Mireille Luce Renard, Sean’s older sister, was by now a regular occasion and something Nick enjoyed immensely. The woman was sharp, witty and had a comfortable way of talking to him. And she had a lot of humor, especially when it came to teasing him and her brother, their relationship, everything they had and fought over. She kept pointing out that both wanted the same for Portland, to make it a safer city, but since Sean was a Guardian and Nick was a police officer, interests and methods kept colliding.
Nick couldn’t agree more.
And it even today, a year into their intimate relationship, the Grimm wanted to whack the regnant over the head repeatedly and call him an idiot or worse.
Mireille kept telling him that that was the life of a mate; Nick kept telling her that it didn’t have to be this way if Renard would simply talk to him.
Yes, it was endless fun to discuss Sean with his sister..
Nick knew that the chances to see Mireille in person again was slim to non-existent. For one, she was the Guardian of London, which meant leaving her protectorate for a longer amount of time wasn’t wise. While she would travel around Britain, she rarely left the island, just like Sean never really spent too much time away from Portland.
Then there was the fact that Mireille was a regnant like her two brothers, and a lot more likeable than Maurice, who had been a total jackass the one time Nick had met him. Regnants didn’t mix well, even siblings, though sibling relationships meant little to these wesen. Putting two of them in the same territory was a recipe for murder. Well, not murder but possible bodily harm.
So it was talking to Mireille by phone, mail and sometimes online chats. She was a well of information, humor and good advice. Through her, Nick got to know her husband and mate, Andrew Luce, who was a doctor and also a wesen, a schwanensee. He seemed to be the perfect balance for the female regnant, a calming center and a very settled personality.
Their conversations ran from Grimm cases to everyday almost domestic things, about Sean or Andrew, about politics when Nick tried to understand something. Mireille answered him easily most of the time, but sometimes she told him to run this by Renard.
Nick usually did after checking with Frank and getting his interpretation of the matter.
He was getting better at his job as a regnant’s mate and as a Grimm. He was learning the ropes and it was exasperating, annoying and eye-opening. In that order.
What was embarrassing were the questions about him and Sean, mostly when she wanted to know how they were doing together. Nick had once made the mistake of asking if regnants went into certain cycles of… extended physical activities in bed, as he had worded it, and it had ended in Mireille laughing so hard and so long, he had considered hanging up.
“Oh, Nick!” she had finally gasped. “That’s not hormonal, that’s pure lust after your very hot body, my dear.”
Nick had blushed furiously, glad he was alone at home, and there had been a spike of arousal at the memory of the night before.
“Only the truth. And there is no mating frenzy or heat or whatever else you might have heard. It’s simply lust and love and appreciation. You know he loves you, don’t you, Nick?”
Her voice was suddenly a lot more serious.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“I mean it. It’s not just because you’re completely compatible. It’s so much more and so very deep. You can’t develop a psychic bond without emotions involved. If that was the truth, Grimms over time would have found themselves bound to regnants no matter what. Sean would do everything for you, Nick.”
He knew that. He knew how far his mate was willing to go and he knew he would protect the regnant no matter the cost. Even if it meant quitting his daytime job because their relationship had hit the open. So far they had been lucky.
“And if he suddenly turns primal, it might just be blue balls.”
He laughter was light and filled with mirth. Sometimes it was as bad as The Talk Nick had had with his aunt when he had reached a certain age and had started to notice girls, as well as some boys, actually, in a certain way. Only Mireille was very straight-forward and she was Sean’s family.
Today’s conversation didn’t concern his love life or anything the like. Nick had mentioned Roddy and his talents and the fact that his apparent close friend – and maybe, definitely, most likely, more – was more likely to eat him.
“A klaustreich being friends with a reinigen? Unusual but not unheard of. Not all wesen follow their instincts, Nick,” Mireille told him.
Not that Mireille had a police background, but she gave good advice when it came to wesen character.
“Klaustreich are notorious in their ways once they settle in, but at a young age you can still train them.” The smile was audible in her voice. “And he has something in common with the reinigen kid. Their love for music.”
“And he seems to adore Roddy for his talent.”
“And more,” Mireille added suggestively. “You know klaustreich leave their young to fend for themselves when they turn eighteen or get a job before that?”
“Yes. Monroe told me.”
“Well, looks like this one was let lose or left on his own. You’d have to get it from him to be sure. And your reinigen friend can clearly fend for himself. If they’ve gone past first base, he has probably seen more of those instincts and has survived.”
Nick grimaced. “Well, I’m not going to pry into that. I’m not their parent.”
Mireille laughed. “But you care, Nick.”
“Roddy is a stick of dynamite and the death of his father got him very close to losing it. I was actually glad he had Drew.”
“If Drew was there for the whole breakdown and stayed, I’d say it’s serious. I know a few couples, of all genders actually, who look mismatched. Even a human and wesen don’t always fit on paper, but reality shows they are good together.”
Nick nodded, even though Mireille couldn’t see it.
“And then there are the regnants and their mates. I know rumor has it that a Grimm is the most perfect match, but that’s just that: rumor. I met Grimms and I’d rather have jumped into the Thames than have them touch me.”
“You and Sean found that connection and it works. I doubt you’d have anything like that with another wesen. I doubt I could have found someone more perfect than Andrew.”
Her voice had softened and there was a tender note, something that always happened when she talked about her husband and mate of many years. Nick wondered if his own voice changed, too. At least when talking to Renard’s older sister.
“So you see, species doesn’t matter if the emotions are honest.”
Nick reminded himself that Monroe’s fumbling flirtations with Rosalee were signs of that as well. He was a blutbad, she was a fuchsbau, and while both were more alike than a reinigen and a klaustreich, Nick doubted cross-species pairings were happening all that often.
“No,” Mireille confirmed. “You have to know that most of us can only procreate with a partner of the same species. If Roddy or Drew was a female, I’d say there isn’t a chance in hell for offspring. Some wesen can have offspring with humans.”
“Like regnants?” he asked, amused.
“Oh yes. But you’re safe, Nick.”
He laughed. “I hope so!”
“Happiness is what counts,” she added. “And I know Sean is very happy. You made that happen, Nick. Never doubt that you have this influence on him, even if the dominant side tries to trump yours.” She chuckled. “I know I’m giving Andrew a run for his money sometimes, when I get a certain way. I bet Sean isn’t much better.”
“Oh, he isn’t.”
“But make-up sex is fantastic.”
Nick choked on his reply. “Miri!”
“Hey, regnant here, my boy! I know what I’m talking about!”
“Too much information.” As usual.
“Well, you asked.”
“I actually didn’t, but thank you for that picture in my mind.”
“You are very welcome. And I know Grimm’s are more alpha than anything, too. It probably makes for some adventures encounters…”
Nick groaned. How come this always, always deteriorate into something sexual?
“I bet he loves the challenge,” she purred, laughter in every word.
“I’m hanging up now,” he muttered.
“You do that. I have an appointment to prepare for. Take care, Nick, especially of my little brother.”
“I always do.”
Nick leaned back after he had hung up, smiling to himself as he shook his head. He loved his sister-in-law, so to speak in-law anyway. She usually had good advice and a very good eyes, even across miles and miles of phone lines and water.
And she usually hit the nail right on the head. Grimms were dominant, powerful, with nothing reining them in. Just like Guardians. A pairing of two such independent beings would be seen as impossible on paper, or just a convenient union to gain more power.
It wasn’t like that for him and Sean, though. Yes, it had elevated Renard’s status. Yes, he had gained a lot powerwise. Yes, Nick had bowed to him in that regard, pledged his loyalty to the Guardian as a Grimm. And still, he wasn’t a servant. He wasn’t a subject of a regnant. He wasn’t submissive and he didn’t kneel.
It was a give-and-take, a struggle to keep the balance, to calm both their alpha sides, and it was incredibly powerful and calming in one. Nick had never felt this way. It was perfection and he didn’t want it any other way.
If Roddy had found just a fraction of this in Drew, so be it. Nick would still keep an eye on things to insure the reinigen didn’t end up as cat food.
* * *
Nick looked up from where he was writing down some notes from their latest case. "Come again?"
Hank grinned almost triumphantly. "You're dating Sue-Ann from Trace, right?"
Nick snorted, laughing. "No!"
"She said she's going out with someone new."
"So that new guy has to be me?"
Hank shrugged. "She's making the same big secret out of her date as you are."
Nick sighed and shook his head. "I'm not dating Sue-Ann."
"The arson investigator then? The little blonde?"
"Laura Beckett. Red-head who transferred here two months ago from LA. She's working over in Narc."
"No. I'm not dating any of those women."
Hank frowned and pursed his lips. "You wouldn't lie to me about it when I find her, right?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "No, I won't. But I'm not dating some mysterious lady, okay?"
A sigh answered him.
"Why are you so set on this?" Nick wanted to know, closing his notebook.
"Hey, someone's making you happy and I'm happy for you. I just want get to know the lady in question. She must be something."
Hank laughed. "She broke your dry spell."
Nick groaned. "Why's everyone interested in my love life?"
"Because until a while ago, there was none?" his partner shot back good-naturedly.
Nick gave him the evil eye, then pointedly returned to work. Hank chuckled and followed.
* * *
The air was filled with soft music of the classical kind. Violins strung a calming melody, drums vibrated barely perceptibly, horns lamented the passing of another day, and flutes caressed the ear with their harmonies. Sunlight streamed through the semi-open venetian blinds, bathing the room in whiteness and shadows. The aroma of coffee was in the air, in contrast to that of orange juice freshly squeezed.
The table was stacked with books and papers, adorned by a single potted plant of the non-blooming variety, and crackers in a jar sat next to it. Now and then, the music was interspersed with the clicking of keyboard keys as the sole occupant of the house worked his way through the papers and books, storing their extracted data on the hard drive of the laptop.
Frank Rabe knew he didn’t owe Nick anything; not any more. If he went by favors owed, he had paid the young Grimm in full by being his walking-talking encyclopedia of wesen politics for the past months.
No, this wasn’t an obligation. It was a favor for a friend, one he did in his free time and found enjoyable.
While the closure of the estate of Ephram Geiger was far from a lucrative matter – the man had owned little and most of his possessions would be sold to cover any outstanding debts or pay bills – it was way more fulfilling than most of his cases. Yes, it was pro bono, but sometimes it wasn’t about money.
Sensitive ears picked up the presence of another jagerbar and he glanced up, finding Barry lingering in the doorway.
“You’re on that reinigen case again?” his son asked, sounding both bored and curious in one.
Barry had managed to come around a little at a time and by now he was slowly fitting back into life. He had served his time, so to speak. Probation, community services, a different school, new friends… It had helped, but the anger had been there, too, and that had only slowly dissipated. Right now Frank thought he and his son had developed a good rapport and they were at least talking more than one sentence a day.
“Did the Grimm hire you?”
Calmness, the older jagerbar told himself.
“No,” he answered honestly. “I’m working pro bono.”
“Because I want to?”
Barry came closer, shaking his head. “He’s just one dead reinigen, Dad.”
“He was a human being who left a son. And Roddy is a very talented young musician with an incredible gift.”
“Reinigen usually are,” was the mutter.
“Some more than others. He is outstanding. And I want to help in this case.”
“Because you owe the Grimm.”
“His name is Nick and no, I don’t owe him.”
Barry got himself a Coke and watched Frank work silently for a while. Finally he asked, “Why do you help him then?”
Exhaling, Frank reached for his coffee and drank the lukewarm liquid, then slowly placed the mug onto the table again.
“He’s not who the stories make you believe, Barry. He’s making a difference and I want to help him in that regard. He could have killed you and your friends and… and Diane. He didn’t. He had a gun, he had plausible reason, and he’s a police officer. He would have easily been able to make it into a self-defense claim. He didn’t. I knew he was different from the moment he asked me to come along to stop you and the others. If there is just one little thing I can contribute to this case, I will, because he really wants to make a difference.”
He checked the time and found he was due on an appointment soon. Frank saved his work and shut down the laptop. He clapped Barry on the shoulder when he walked by.
“I want to call him a friend, Barry. For no other reason than that Nick Burkhardt is truly a friend and not an enemy to be feared. Get on his bad side, yes, he will hunt you down. But he’s fair and he is loyal. Give him a chance. He did the same for you.”
Barry silently watched him gather his things and leave. Frank knew his son was still struggling with what had happened over a year ago and maybe it would take more time, but he was learning, growing up, seeing past those traditional ways his mother had tried to impound on him.
Frank hoped that Barry would come around. He didn’t want to lose him a second time.
A Grimm Thing, as Monroe called it, interrupted regular police work, and it left Nick with a deep cut, a light concussion and clothes caked in mud. Panting, cradling his injured arm, he sat on the sloping ground, rain coming down. It wasn’t enough to wash off the mud and other gunk; it actually made it worse.
He was cold. So incredibly, utterly cold. Wet clothes clung to his body, stiff, unyielding, hugging his skin in a more than uncomfortable manner. Everything felt heavy. His body shivered and trembled, trying to warm itself, and he wrapped his arms around his soggy self, valiantly trying to keep the little warmth in. Strands of hair hung obnoxiously into his face and he sniffled around his icy, wet nose.
Not far away, at the bottom of the slope, lay the broken body of a blutbad. Ingmar Jonderjoen, fifty-five, unemployed, killer of two children. It hadn’t been the same as with the first ever Grimm case he had handled; this one had targeted the children of his former employer, as well as of everyone higher up the ladder than him, because he had been fired over severe discrepancies in the company’s financial records.
Nick closed his eyes, willing the headache to go away, but it wouldn’t even lessen. If at all, it got worse.
Maybe he should have brought Monroe along, but he hadn’t wanted his friend to confront on of his own kind. Nick vividly recalled the way Monroe had wolfed out on him the first time he had entered another blutbad’s territory. He hadn’t needed the complication.
Have to get dry. Move. Get away from here.
His brain was talking to him, but it wasn’t getting the message through. At least not to his limbs. With an effort he finally got up, sliding precariously on the wet ground, and made his way slowly back to the top. He would have to come back for the body, hide it, bury it, whatever. Or make up an excuse. Right now, fabricating a lie about Jonderjoen attacking him sounded so much easier to his scrambled brains than telling the guys he had whacked his head while doing home repairs.
There was a sound and he tensed, whirling around and nearly losing his balance. He raised his gun, adrenaline spiking, all muscles coiled for a new confrontation. His body switched back to full Grimm mode and in that moment Nick was ready to take on Janderjoen or another blutbad once more.
Something touched his mind, gentle and still strong, flowing along the psychic link.
“Relax,” a familiar voice said calmly and Sean stepped closer.
He was wearing a mac and hiking boots, looking far from his usual spiffy self, and he radiated calm and safety. Nick grabbed onto that feeling as his headache throbbed painfully. The bond was still too shielded to do more, but he so very badly wanted to give in and just… just… let himself go.
Renard ignored the gun that was slowly lowered and touched his wet, grimy face, carefully examined the bump, then the cut on his arm. Nick closed his eyes, swaying a little. Adrenaline was winding down as his body told him he was safe, and when Renard wrapped an arm around him all he wanted to do was give in.
But he couldn’t.
He pushed himself away, turning back to where Janderjoen had gone flying down the ravine. The body would be down there, currently obscured by the weather and time of night, but tomorrow someone might stumble over it.
He shivered in the cold, his clothes clammy and getting wetter by the moment. Sean touched him again, right there behind him, so close and stable and simply there.
“I can deal with it,” the Grimm said stubbornly, fighting.
“I never get involved,” the regnant murmured. “Only this once. Come home with me.”
He fought more. He didn’t want anyone else taking care of his job, doing his job, but this wasn’t anyone; it was Sean.
“Nick. Let me help. Just once.”
It was such an enticing offer, one he would have pushed onto Sean if their roles were reversed. Since he was the weak link now, unable to finish what he had started, Nick was rebelling.
“You’re not weak,” the regnant murmured, still so very close, a stabilizing influence, his safety. “You know I can help.”
So he finally caved.
And the shields dropped some more, making room for the worry and warmth that was Renard. There were so many more emotions intermingled with that sensation, but he couldn’t decipher them.
He listened to his mate making a call, probably to Adalind or one of her sisters, asking for a clean-up.
It was like he needed someone to cover his tracks, something he had been very well able to do so far and it irked him. The primal side in him, the one that was so very much wrapped up in the Grimm and made him as dangerous as any predator, grumbled angrily.
Too bad Nick was too tired to really rise to the challenge and tell Renard that he could very well do all of this himself.
Nick fell asleep in the car – the car he left mud all over – and only woke when Renard gently shook him awake. He gazed into the green eyes, saw the worry and the pride and something else that remained unspoken between them and was so loud over the bond nevertheless.
He crashed immediately after hitting the mattress, clean from a hot shower, his wounds taken care of.
* * *
Nick slept for eight hours straight. He didn't wake once, but when he did, his bladder informed him it was about time. The night stand clock told him it was past seven and after a long, hot shower he felt better than in days. More awake, more alive, though still tired. His head had stopped being a bother, though he did get a light throbbing, and the cut, while aching, didn’t hinder him a lot.
Walking into the living room he found he was alone. He made himself some coffee and ate a cereal bar, while checking his messages.
There was only one. From Renard.
You’re off today. Don’t you dare come in.
Well, that was plain and clear.
So Nick called Monroe and got an earful from a pissed-off blutbad who was already on his way over.
“I’m sorry,” he told the other man in person when Monroe walked into his home, scowling and shooting him such a dark look, Nick was afraid he would get a wolf into his face next.
“How can one Grimm be so stupid?!” Monroe exclaimed, a variation on the ranting of before. “I thought we were partners! You call me for stuff like that, Nick!”
“Janderjoen was a blutbad!”
“What if you had wolfed out and seen me as a tasty snack?!”
Monroe looked taken aback. “Just because I once…?” He gestured wildly. “That was before, Nick. I didn’t know you as anything but a Grimm! And we were in his territory, man!”
“It was too risky!”
“You were at my house confronting Angelina! With Hap present! And me! You didn’t think about that then either!”
“Exactly! I didn’t think! And if you had wanted, you could have taken advantage of that!”
Monroe’s eyes grew wide and Nick knew he had hit a very painful nerve. “You really think I would betray you?!”
He ran a hand through his still damp hair. “No. Never. But you said before that your instincts are still there and you might… listen to them. You wouldn’t make a difference between me and anyone else, right?”
“Trust you to apply your kind of logic to the situation! You’re my best friend, you moron! You’re… something close to pack, y’know…” Monroe looked suddenly uncomfortable, almost shuffling. “We don’t attack pack.”
Nick blinked. “Uh,” he stuttered. “I thought blutbaden in packs were a bad thing?”
Okay, mouth shut, brain on! he berated himself. That had come out really wrong.
“You’re not a blutbad,” Monroe muttered, glaring at him, daring him to say more stupid things. “And I’m done with the bad stuff, including running with a pack. But you’re my friend and somehow that should register with you, too! I’m here for the good times and the bad times. Dude, wait, that came out wrong,” he added quickly.
Nick chuckled. “I get the idea.”
“Uhm, good. Good. Anyway…” Monroe fumbled. “Anyway, call me. No matter what wesen you’re taking down.”
For a guy who had never wanted to become involved, Monroe was into the Grimm business up to his eyebrows. Actually, more than that. He had regular geek-outs in the trailer and he loved his history. The man was a walking encyclopedia of obscure knowledge and it had helped Nick out more often than not.
Nick wondered, not for the first time, how many of his ancestors had had this kind of friendship and alliance, even voluntary cooperation. It couldn’t be just him, right?
“It is you,” Sean said with a fine smile, swirling his glass of wine, the red liquid moving almost hypnotically.
Nick frowned at him. “What?”
“It’s you, Nick. You and your way and how you approach this. You’re not like the others.”
“You know, I get sick and tired of hearing that.”
“It’s the truth. You’re not who we all expected to be.”
“A murdering lunatic?”
Sean chuckled and put down the glass, closing the distance. He wrapped a hand around Nick’s neck and pulled him into a gentle, loving kiss.
“Maybe. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. I never wanted to hope that you could be more than your heritage. I wanted so much from you and was afraid it would be impossible.”
“And now you have me.”
“Yes, now I have you.” He stroked a thumb over the soft skin of Nick’s neck. “And you have friends and allies and a blutbad who tries not to think of you as pack.” He lifted one corner of his mouth.
Nick stole a kiss. “Hm, yeah.”
“You inspire that loyalty. You, not something they think you are. The way you handle cases, yourself, and how you treat them.”
Nick heard the pride in those words. Because the Grimm was the Guardian’s mate, and those who knew were watching it all closely. Like the reapers. They waited for a mistake, for an opening, but so far none had been given. Nick was surrounded by allies and some of the strangest friendships. He felt the proprietary need through the bond, something that always touched a deeper, primal, rather base side of him that snarled at the regnant’s audacity and was calmed by it in one.
He belonged, but he was still free. He was mated, sure, but there was no leash. He was loyal to the Guardian and to his captain, but the Grimm worked worked without restrictions or fear of reprimand, or worse.
Not just because of the physical side of their partnership, their relationship, either. This had never been about sex; not solely anyway. It was a complicated connection that couldn’t be put into many words. It was a web woven between them, unbreakable, unexplainable, and for life. The emotions between them were real; he had never doubted Sean in that regard. He had only raged at the countless secrets concerning the political side of this game.
“How’s the head?” Renard asked, still watching him, still rubbing a thumb over his neck, coming close to the hidden claim mark.
“Attached. As is the arm. I’ll be fine, Sean. Really.”
“I know,” was the quiet answer.
Because he did. A mate did.
The kiss was almost reverent, a light touch, a bare-whisper of a connection, and it told Nick so much about the deeply rooted emotions in the other man.
The gray eyes were intense. Intense and powerful and looking right into the regnant’s soul.
“Mine,” Renard whispered.
The Grimm responded almost automatically, echoing the claim. “Mine,” Nick murmured.
* * *
Hank had been watching Nick for over a week now -- the time where there seemed to be one harrying case after another, with too many things happening at once, with pressure from above and below, with them caught in the middle. Everyone was losing sleep, pulling overtime, getting next to no private life. Hank didn’t mind at first, but it really was a drain on nerves, energy and sleep.
Lucy, his girlfriend and in his mind hopefully more, was understanding. Her brother was a cop and so she knew the sometimes crazy work schedule and the demand for unreal hours when on a case. He loved her more for that.
It was throughout one of the long hours at the precinct that he stumbled over his first shred of evidence concerning Nick’s love life. They were all tired, they all wanted a break, and while the weather was nothing to write home about, Hank would have preferred the rainy days at home to the rainy days at work.
It was late today. Going over evidence, wondering if Lucy was already home, curled up in front of the TV without him, Hank saw them.
In itself, Nick talking to Renard was an innocent little scene. He glanced only casually at the two, aware that they didn’t see him, and he only saw them through the partially open door. Still, something must have fired his interest because he didn’t return to the evidence, he watched.
And he saw the gesture.
A touch that was innocent, too, but very much telling.
It was a touch no friend would apply to another friend in any way – without getting decked for it – let alone a superior to a subordinate. But all the captain did was smile, nod, then walk away. Nick smiled, too, the boyishly handsome smile that had women swoon.
Only... no woman...
Hank felt realization hit him with a two-by-four.
No way! No friggin’ way!
But he had seen it. Renard’s hand touching the small of Nick’s back in a gentle, almost loving way. A brief touch, barely lasting five seconds, but it had been enough to let a horrible suspicion sink in.
Hank tore his gaze away from the now empty corridor and tried to concentrate on his evidence, but the scene kept playing again and again.
Drawing a deep breath, Hank shook his head. No sense in jumping to conclusions. Observe, then process. That was what he would do.
That Frank actually came up with a way to make a little money out of the pest control business came as a surprise. It wasn’t much and it meant that Roddy had to really move out of the dingy home, but it would insure his continued presence at the Hamelin Institute and it would pay the rent – the rent he shared with Drew.
Nick was quite pleased with the outcome, enduring the good-natured ribbing from Hank that he was a big softy.
Monroe was there when moving day came and he frightened Drew a little into defensive posturing until Roddy told him to cut it out and man up.
There was little to move and a lot to demolish. Roddy’s only important belonging was his violin. That was already safely at Drew’s place. The rest were clothes, a photo album, some tattered books and a lot of papers that Frank had said he would have to keep. No furniture was taken along. Actually, it all fit into the Bug and Nick’s SUV.
Standing outside the trailer home, Nick brushed off his hands at his old jeans, leaning against the banister of the steps leading to the door. Monroe was at his side, both men watching Roddy and Drew, who were a few feet away, next to the old rat cages. A few rats were scampering around, four or five, and Roddy was almost wistfully looking at the leftovers of his old life. Drew remained at his side, alert eyes on the other teen, looking protective.
“Big steps,” Monroe remarked.
“I talked to him a few times. He took the whole thing hard. Doesn’t want to show it, but, dude, he’s a kid and he’s still hurting.”
“He’s allowed to. He lost the last of his blood family.”
Monroe’s eyes narrowed a little, then realization hit him. “Oh, man, sorry. I… I didn’t think. Marie. Right. Last of your kind kinda thing.”
Nick smiled. “I’m fine, Monroe. Thanks. And yes, I can empathize. But like me, Roddy has friends.”
“A klaustreich, a Grimm, a blutbad…?”
“It kinda sounds like the intro to a bad joke.” The Grimm in question chuckled. “But yes, like a blutbad, a regnant and a bunch of eisbiber who just won’t let me pay them.”
Monroe smiled. “Get used to is, dude. They like you too much.”
They waited for Roddy to say his good-byes, then headed over to Drew’s place.
“I’ll take care of him. I promise,” Drew told Nick earnestly. “I’m not going to ever hurt him. I’m not that kind of guy. Whatever else you know about my kind, not all betray or use their… uhm… friends.”
Nick decided not to pursue that particular angle, just gave the younger man a stern look.
“I’m really not using him!” Drew defended himself. “I like him. He’s great! And we’re friends. He wouldn’t trust me if he didn’t know it. Reinigen do sense that. Really!”
The Grimm finally nodded. “See to it that he gets some rest. And let him run off his anger. He’s bound to feel the pain again and again.”
Drew nodded. “I know. The trailer was my first clue.” He smiled humorlessly.
“And if you need help, the offer still stands. From me and Monroe.”
It got him a careful nod.
“You like him,” Nick stated. “And I trust you to follow on that emotion, not on instinct.”
He believed him.
“Are they…?” Monroe asked over a beer that evening when he and Nick relaxed in front of the TV.
And that was the end of that conversation. Nick was sure that his friend would keep an extra close eye on the reinigen, probably offering a few practice sessions with Drew.
They would help Roddy through this, the death of his father, the move, losing his home. Nick knew too much about it all not to offer help.
* * *
Things had started to quiet down. From one hour to the next, their latest case had been solved, they had found their perp, and the precinct calmed down to its usual hubbub, which was preferable to what had happened lately.
Nick whistled to himself as he inspected the black substance so generously called ‘coffee’. It was actually a dark sludge and reminded him of things found at crime scenes or in dark recesses of even darker sewers. Smelled the same, too. Pouring the substance into the sink, he rinsed the pot and looked for the juice he had deposited in the fridge just three hours ago.
Life had been good lately. He had his cases in order, aside from the myriad of wrap-ups to write and hand over, and matters on the Grimm front were working just fine. There hadn’t been too many wesen-related incidents, mostly quarrels that had been solved by reminding everyone who he was and that he really didn’t want to have to come back.
Bud had been over to look at the heating because he had promised to do so, fiddling around here and there, then proclaiming it had been a faulty valve, which had been a matter of minutes to take care of. Nick had been impressed and this time he hadn’t even tried to pay the man. He would find another way.
The eisbiber had looked almost proud at that, like Nick was a particularly stubborn student and had finally mastered another subject to the teacher’s satisfaction. Sean had simply smiled at him when Nick had complained, not commenting.
“Nick? You got a minute?”
He looked up and shot Hank a smile. “Sure. What’s up?”
His partner closed the door to the break room.
“Are you and the captain together?“
Nick’s jaw dropped. He knew he was staring at Hank, eyes widening, then narrowing.
“Together?“ he echoed dumbly, mind reeling.
“You know what I mean. Don’t try innocence on me. You're not good at it.“
Hank’s face was almost neutral. Almost. There was a faint hint of anger in his eyes and around his tightening mouth.
Nick steeled himself. “What if we were?“
Okay, so he was answering a question with another question.
Sue me, Nick thought.
Hank frowned. “So you are?“
Nick kept his silence. It was apparently answer enough.
He could lie.
He could laugh it off.
He could maybe convince Rosalee to play his girlfriend and throw Hank off his scent.
He could even add Adalind to the mix, even if the hexenbiest would probably glare daggers at him for using her for such a scam.
He could do a lot of things – and he wouldn’t be able to shake Hank off, Nick knew. His partner had caught on to something and he knew the truth. Almost all the truth.
“Almost a year.“
Something seemed to twitch inside Hank, something Nick didn’t like. Their eyes met in another silent stare.
Suddenly Hank turned, opened the door, and left. Nick just stared at his retreating back, dumbstruck.
* * *
Monroe looked thunderstruck, eyes wide and mouth open. “He knows you’re a Grimm? Dude!”
“No! Not that. He knows about Sean and me!”
The blutbad blinked, his brain rerouting immediately, and he grimaced. “Oh. Damn. It’s going to be a problem?”
Nick shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Monroe handed him a beer and Nick drew a large swallow, letting the smooth taste of expensive beer soothe him.
“Did you talk to your mate?”
“You really need to get your priorities straightened out. First the mate, then the best friend.”
But there was a warm glimmer in the other man’s eyes that told Nick just how tickled he was to be the first choice.
“He’s busy. I’m not about to call him immediately like some insecure little girl and whine and cry about the unfairness of the world.”
Monroe burst out laughing. “Geez, Nick! No one thinks of you as the girl! It’s the farthest from anyone’s mind. I mean, you’re a Grimm! And yes, there are female Grimms. Your scary aunt and all. And dude, no one would think of them as ‘girls’ either. But you’re definitely not a girl,” he said quickly. “And you’re not the female part in any relationship. I highly doubt your mate even remotely considers you anything but a man.” He stopped, clearing his throat. “Okay, way too much explanation, right?”
“Right,” Nick said dryly, trying not to laugh. “Thanks.”
“And you know that being mated means to share the good and the bad and the really not so terrible but not too good either?”
It got him a small smile.
“Renard is a Guardian. He wants to know if his mate is under duress.”
“I’m not under duress!” Nick slammed the bottle on the table and Monroe frowned. Sheepishly he rubbed at the mistreated wooden surface. “I’m not. I’m just… disappointed, maybe? Hank didn’t so much as talk to me, ask me any questions. He just turned and left.”
“Call him?” Monroe suggested with a helpless gesture. “It’s not like I know anything about this, Nick. I’m really, really bad at relationships and friendships and stuff.”
“We’re friends,” the Grimm pointed out. “It works.”
“After you slammed me onto the stairs, accused me of murder, and I had a few nights of nightmares about Grimms with axes trying to cut my head off. You might recall that this whole friendship thing came from you. You’re a very persistent man, Nick. And you made it work.”
“I’m not sure that works with Hanks,” Nick muttered.
“So I give him time.”
Monroe tilted his head. “Was that a question? Because if it was, I can’t answer it.”
“No. No, it wasn’t. I’ll give him time. Maybe he comes around.”
“One can hope. And it’s not the biggest secret you kept either.”
“If I ever tried to tell Hank what I see and what’s really happening on some cases, he’d send me right off to the psych ward.”
Monroe smiled and toasted him with his beer bottle. “Cheers.”
Monroe made tofu steaks and tossed salad and Nick was glad to spend the evening watching a game or eating snacks. His mind was still replaying Hanks almost accusatory eyes, his expression, his whole demeanor.
Whatever his partner decided to do, Nick would accept the outcome.
* * *
Renard had come in late and missed Nick, who had clocked off an hour before. He hadn’t missed Hank, who had wordlessly handed him a week’s vacation days request. With their case load lighter and the latest ones so quickly solved that it took some pressure off him, there was no reason for him to deny the man the request, though it tickled his curiosity. Hank’s almost stony expression, the nearly accusatory look in those suddenly cold eyes, had added to the strange feeling Renard had about it.
He hadn’t asked Hank why now.
And he had stayed at his own apartment for the night, aware that Nick was shielding and whatever was leaking through was… hard to decipher. While the man in him wanted to be with his mate, the Guardian cautiously watched the psychic link and decided he might want to wait a night.
Now, on a sunny Saturday morning, Sean wove his car through the streets and toward his mate’s house. For some reason, he suspected this was where Nick was. Not at Monroe’s place or out and about; he was home.
Sensing along the bond he got nothing concrete. Nick seemed to be shielding and whatever it was, he still wasn’t ready to involve his partner.
The regnant made a decision to force the issue if necessary. This was something important; he felt it. And the Grimm was part of his protectorate, an important, integral part.
Unlocking the door after parking the car, he found that Nick had the TV running with a soft, background noise permeating the room. From the smell of it, his mate had made fresh orange juice and coffee. No toast, no eggs, no bacon. Nothing but the juice and coffee.
Nick walked in from the kitchen. Looking at the Grimm, Renard felt the niggling turn into worry. He was really looking at the Grimm, not Nick Burkhardt, and the prowling predator that hid underneath the deceptively handsome façade was angrily moving around.
Something had happened.
Nick was an open book and Renard knew how to read between the visible lines. He shot him a questioning look, encouraging his mate silently to talk. Nick met the gaze levelly, the gray eyes hard.
Sean felt something inside of him twist sharply. “You told him?“ he asked, voice controlled, his whole demeanor composed.
Griffin was no danger to his protectorate. He was no wesen, he was a human detective under the command of Captain Sean Renard. Nothing he did could harm the regnant or his mate. But he could hurt Nick Burkhardt, detective of the Portland PD, and he could force Renard’s hand.
“No. He asked.“
Nick’s voice was flat, almost emotionless. Renard didn’t like it one bit.
“He reacted badly.“
Renard held the younger man’s gaze and read what Nick wasn’t telling him in there. Hank reacting badly could be anything from trying to punch Nick’s lights out to simply calling him names. He had done neither.
“He stood up and left.”
“He asked for a week off,” Renard supplied.
“Shit,” was the softly whispered reply. Nick’s eyes held a suspicious glitter, emotions rising inside him.
He had been hit hard by Hank’s rejection, harder than if the other man had slugged him. Nick had no idea how to react to Hank just up and leaving without a word.
“What now?” he asked tonelessly.
“It’s up to Hank.”
Nick ran a hand through his hair, then rubbed over his face.
“You won’t talk to him?“
“Do you think it would accomplish anything?“ Renard asked reasonably.
A deep sigh. “No. Not really. I know there are homophobes out there, but I never took Hank for one. Damnit!”
“You don’t know if he’s a homophobe, Nick.”
“The way he reacted?” Nick laughed, a humorless bark. “Hell!”
Renard gave him a tight smile. “We don’t have all the evidence to draw conclusions.”
Gray eyes broadcast a myriad feelings and one of them was fear. A fear that had little to do with their discovery. Renard wasn’t afraid of repercussions either. While he loved his job, he wasn’t bound to it. He was this protectorate’s Guardian and he could continue being that in another job, too. He had connections; powerful connections. He would land on his feet.
Nick was the protectorate’s Grimm, his mate, his chosen bonded, and he would stay by his side. He would continue his work, he would stay, but he also loved being a police officer. Of course, with Renard leaving, Nick could stay on. Or the other way around.
But if things became open, common knowledge, the fall-out might destroy his career. Nick could hang up his hat, so to speak. All his advances on the job might be seen as sleeping with a superior and getting the bonus for it.
He could go private; he could work as a PI or as security. Renard would have no trouble taking care of them both; he had the money and the connections and everything he needed.
He also knew that Nick would fight tooth and claw not to rely only on his mate, that he was his own person, and the alpha in the Grimm would bite the hand that was trying to help. It would be a battle and maybe Renard could win it in the end, but it would be bad for both of them.
And leaving Portland would never be an option either.
“So we just wait?” Nick murmured.
“What if...?” he stopped and shook his head.
“We’ll handle it when it happens, Nick.”
There was nothing else they could do.
It was pure coincidence that a patrol car picked up the suspected driver of the hit-and-run that had killed Ephram Geiger. The man had been at the Tub, drinking himself into oblivion, his tongue too lose for his own good. He had muttered about ‘them damn hobos’ everywhere and running them in front of his car whenever he saw one staggering home. He even laughed that he had caught the last one.
The owner of the bar had called the police.
And Henry Dossam was in custody.
The techs were already crawling all over his car and there had been blood evidence and damage to the car that suggested a human body colliding with it. The lawyer assigned to the case would probably claim an animal accident, but Nick knew enough about crime scene technology to be sure that if the blood was Ephram’s, they would get the guy.
It didn’t bring back Roddy’s father, but if the piece of garbage who had made a sport out of chasing the homeless or who he saw as a hobo went behind bars for a long, long time, justice was dealt.
Roddy was neither at Drew’s place – nor was Drew – nor at the school. It was a Friday and that probably meant the two teens were out and about. Nick left Roddy a message to call him or Monroe, then headed home.
Sean wasn’t there, but he wasn’t overly surprised or worried. He made himself a quick sandwich, grabbed a bag of chips, then flipped through the channels until he found a game on. He kicked back and relaxed, feeling rather good with himself.
The call came just at halftime and he washed down the last of the chips with a Coke. The caller ID was unknown.
“Detective Burkhardt? It’s Bruce Stoltz.”
He recognized the name. Stoltz was the hare who lived on the same street.
“What can I do for you?”
“Zoe called.” Zoe being the maushertz who lived with her fiancée a few houses down from Nick. ”She saw someone skulking around, going up and down the road. Two someones. Two young men. One is a klaustreich.”
Nick sat up. “Where?” he wanted to know.
“They passed by my house a few minutes ago, heading back up the road. Do you know them?”
“I know two young men who might fit the description. If it’s them, one is the son of a victim whose case I handled,” he said diplomatically.
“Oh. Okay. It is okay, right?” came the tentative question.
“Yes, it is. Thank you for calling, Bruce.”
“We have a working neighborhood watch,” the man said, sounding proud.
Nick smiled. “Yes, we do.”
And they really did. It was strangely warming to be included in it, to be involved and not feared. Those who were of wesen origin living in his street had slowly accepted that he was a Grimm and a good guy, and when one of them had run into Sean one early morning, nearly falling all over himself when Renard had been recognized, word had spread.
Now he was getting a heads-up call.
Nick grabbed his gun and badge, slipped into his jacket, and walked out the door. He tried Roddy’s cell, but he got no answer. Instead he saw two shapes in the distance, coming closer.
“Detective Burkhardt,” Drew exclaimed, clearly surprised. “Uhm, we… Roddy listened to you message, but his battery died.”
“How did you get this address?” Nick asked.
“I asked Monroe,” Roddy spoke up quickly, looking uncomfortable. “He said it would be okay and that he would call.” He glanced over his shoulder and Nick followed the gaze, discovering Bruce.
“Everything okay, detective?”
“Yes, everything’s fine. Thanks, Bruce.”
The hare gave the two young men a hard look. “I saw them skulking around.”
“We were looking for the address,” Roddy blurted. “It’s hard to find. And I didn’t want to go to the station again… It’s freaking me out.”
Nick had by now pulled out his phone and found a message waiting – sent a few minutes ago, a frantic kind of text that told him that Monroe had apparently forgotten about it until now. Monroe was letting him know that he had given Roddy Nick’s address and would drop by.
Which was… right about now. The yellow Bug came to a stop and Monroe looked both agitated and flustered.
“Oh man… I’m sorry. I was at Rosalee’s and we were discussing zaubertrank versus potion and… Dude, I’m sorry!”
Bruce had straightened up at the sight of the blutbad, but not in fear. He knew Monroe.
“Things got more complicated than they had to be,” Nick sighed. “Come on, guys.”
He led them back inside, calling his thanks at Bruce, who just nodded with pride, then closed the door. Roddy was even more nervous and Drew was brushing his hand against his friend, clearly drawn between coming out and just being a cool guy. Nick tried to hide his smile and offered Cokes instead.
The tension started to drain a little and Roddy stammered another excuse.
“It’s okay,” Nick calmed him. “And I did want to talk to you. We have a suspect in custody.”
The blue eyes widened. “Really?”
Nick started to give him an idea what had happened, what to expect, to be patient and let the techs run their tests to find hard evidence. By now Drew had interlaced their fingers and was squeezing Roddy’s hand reassuringly.
“I called Frank, too. If the man is responsible and evidence is in our favor, and if a court sentences him, he’ll pick up your case.”
“W-why? I can’t pay him! And I don’t want charity!” he added angrily.
“Pro bono,” Monroe corrected him.
“I don’t want that either! He already handled the whole inheritance stuff without seeing a penny!”
“It was his decision, Roddy.”
Nick shrugged. He had only asked a favor and had gotten a full job instead.
“He doesn’t owe me!” Roddy abruptly got up. “No one does! I’m just… I’m just a reinigen!”
“You’re someone Frank Rabe felt he wanted to help. It has nothing to do with what you are, Roddy.”
Drew wrapped his fingers around one wrist and pulled the other teen back onto the sofa. “It’s not charity. It’s… a favor. Right?” He looked at Nick.
The Grimm nodded.
“Of course it is,” Monroe spoke up. “And you repay him. Give him a concert or something.”
Roddy looked doubtful, but he seemed accepting.
“Have you guys eaten?” Nick asked.
“Pizza? A veggies special for Monroe?”
The blutbad chuckled. “I can live with that.”
And whatever else Roddy and Drew were, they were growing young men with a healthy appetite and a constant need for steady food sources.
So pizza it was.
It was just his luck that with two large pizzas also came a regnant to scare the living daylights out of a reinigen and a klaustreich.
Sean walked in the door when they were halfway through the pizzas. He had changed out of his suit and tie into khakis and a black sweater over a white t-shirt. He had used his key to Nick’s place to come in and when he stood in the doorway to the living room, his brows rose in amused silence at the scene.
Two teenaged wesen, a video game, pizza, Monroe and Nick.
Drew’s head whipped up and his eyes grew wide, a second later Roddy did the same. Nick couldn’t feel his mate’s aura change and he didn’t see a shift, but Monroe’s slight tension told him more than the two teenagers’ reactions that his partner was showing a little of who he was.
Just as an introduction and possibly a warning.
“Hey,” Nick said easily, rising to step between the two young men and Sean.
It got him another raised brow.
The bond hummed softly, alive with Sean’s questions and bemusement, but Nick just gave him another warning look.
“Oh damn,” Drew breathed behind him. “Oh damn, oh damn, oh damn…”
Nick glanced at the klaustreich and saw him in full-out wesen mode, looking terrified.
“Sean,” he murmured, “stop it.”
“Who are your guests?” the Guardian asked pleasantly.
“Roddy Geiger, Andrew Sandersson. Captain Sean Renard.”
Roddy swallowed hard, ready to run. He had accepted a blutbad and he was getting close to a klaustreich, but the regnant was terrifying him.
Nick rolled his eyes.
“He’s… my mate.”
That got him wide-eyed gapes.
“Yes, I know who and what he is, guys. We are mated.”
“Uh,” Drew stuttered. “You’re… the-the… Guardian, r-right? Portland is your p-protectorate.”
“Correct,” Renard answered calmly.
The klaustreich was close to either throwing up or throwing himself at Renard’s feet.
“But you’re a Grimm!” Roddy blurted, staring at Nick.
“Yes.” Nick smiled.
Renard took a piece of left-over pizza and settled in the armchair, looking very much at home.
The two young men were clearly drawn between awe, terror and intense curiosity.
“Okay!” Monroe spoke up. “History lessons later, boys. Either you grab your controllers or I’ll claim this level as mine!”
Drew was immediately on his controller and Roddy wasn’t far behind, though he cast another slightly anxious look at Renard. Then he was immersed in the game again. Nick shot Monroe a grateful look. The blutbad just smiled and kept on fighting off a bunch of alien invaders.
* * *
Hank sat in his home, beer in hand, TV running on a game. He wasn't listening to the commentary, nor was he really watching the moving pictures. It was a valiant effort of distraction that wasn't working.
Thoughts were circling in his head. Again and again.
His friend and partner.
And Renard. His boss.
Nick having sex with Renard.
He shuddered as images popped up unbidden, all of pornographic content. The men in the images had little to do with the two men he was currently thinking about, but the act was the same.
What's in it for Nick? he thought darkly. Sleeping with the boss? A promotion? Other benefits – except for getting laid?
Well, he could have that easier... there were hookers everywhere.
Another swallow of beer ran down his throat.
And Renard? Renard having sex was something hard on the mind already, but with a man? With Nick of all people?
Nick, who came across straight as an arrow? Who had dated women before?
Or was it forced? Was Renard using Nick? Blackmailing? But Renard? No way, man.
But they were together...
Having sex together.
Hank had seen Nick in various states of undress and he knew what the other man looked like. Sure he had checked him out. It was a men's thing. Looking at the competition or something.
But there was Renard, too. He had never seen the man undressed in the locker room. He had no inkling what was hidden under the suits.
So what attracted Nick to an older man?
Nah. Nick wasn't a virgin.
Renard looked interesting enough
Hank emptied his beer and got himself a second one.
So what was this?
What. Was. This?
* * *
Monroe promised to drop the two teens off when they left around ten. He ushered them into the Bug and drove away, Nick watching from the porch.
Sean was still inside, being very domestic as he cleaned up the very obvious signs of two growing wesen eating two pizzas, three bags of chips, a super-sized bag of chocolate cookies and drinking enough soft-drinks to wash it all down smoothly.
Nick leaned in the archway between kitchen and living room, watching him with a smile. It got him a quirked eyebrow in return.
“You planning on having gaming parties from now on?” Renard asked playfully.
“Nope. It wasn’t planned either. Nor was the coming-out planned.”
And it had been so much easier than knowing that Hank now knew. Somehow it didn’t matter if Monroe or Rosalee or Bud or anyone else in the Grimm world knew. So much was different there, right down to that. Most didn’t care about it, about them being men. The revelation that it was a mate bon, a psychic link, was what had them stare in disbelief. The fact that Nick was a Grimm and Renard was a regnant.
“Revealing me? Yourself? Us?”
“It’s a known fact.”
“Not to them.” Nick grabbed the cardboard pizza boxes and put them next to the kitchen backdoor to take out the next time he went to the trash can.
“They would find out sooner or later.”
He pulled Nick to him, brushing his lips over one temple. “They’ll be fine, not scarred for life. Or are you ashamed of me, Grimm?” he teased.
Nick snorted and slipped out of the light embrace. “Let’s finish and lock up, your highness, Then we talk about shame and shameful power play in front of two impressionable young wesen.”
Sean laughed softly, but he finished cleaning up.
“You do collect them,” he finally broke the amiable silence between them.
“A reinigen playing video games with a klaustreich and a blutbad in a Grimm’s home? I can’t tell you how many facts are wrong in that one picture.”
“Roddy finally got his peace, Sean. He knows what happened to his father, that the man responsible was caught and will have to stand up to the charges, face what he has done. I hadn’t planned on having him over, but here he was.” Nick shrugged. “It’s closure for all involved.”
“Like I said, you collect them.” Renard’s expression was full of pride and warmth. “They are allies, Nick. Your allies. Friends and acquaintances, allies and reliable informants.”
Things the still new young Grimm needed.
Renard had so far never interfered and he wouldn’t do so in the future. Unless someone threatened Nick’s bond to him. Then the Guardian would do whatever was in his considerable power to keep his Grimm safe.
Sergeant Wu wasn’t blind. He actually had 20-20 vision and was quite observative. He had been privy to a lot of things he had never been told about just because he had observed. Like he knew something had been up with Nick after the death of his aunt. That particular event had hit him really hard. She had been his surrogate mother and she had raised him into the capable and likeable detective he was. That someone had tried to kill her and later had succeeded in doing so in the hospital had really scarred him.
And they had never found out why.
The whole murder case had been handed over to another precinct, as was according to the rules since the nephew was a Portland PD detective and shouldn’t be directly involved. But the trail had run cold and no one had been able to find a connection. There had been promising leads at first, but then, soon after, everything had gone up in smoke.
Wu had watched Nick, had seen his moods shift from time to time, but the younger man had pulled himself together. Often. And often Hank had seen it as well.
They had given him space, both prepared to let him talk to them if he felt the need to do so, but aside from a few times they had gone out for a beer, Nick hadn’t sought them out. He had handled matters surprisingly well. Things had gotten better and Nick had become a lot more… balanced, if that was a word for it. It was also the moment Wu had observed something else, something that had first made him frown, then, after a long time of just covertly keeping an eye on Nick, smile.
They were good, granted. Really good. There was nothing to give them away, except… except that sometimes, for just a moment, because Wu was looking for it, he saw the subtle signs. There was a closeness that was tell-tale for so much more, and while Wu couldn’t care less about a relationship between colleagues, a closer relationship between a captain and his subordinate might be reason for alarms. Renard had power, political power, too, and maybe, just maybe, he was using that power to coerce Nick…?
Not that Wu didn’t think Nick could fight off unsavory advances, but his friend had been vulnerable right after Marie Kessler’s murder and her burial; he knew about her fight against cancer, too. It had been hard on Nick and he might have turned to Renard when the older man had given him a sympathetic ear…
Weeks went by, turning into months, but there was nothing indicating toward Renard using Nick. He was at the homewarming party Burkhardt had after the move, and while he kept his distance, for Wu there was no doubt at all that this was something a lot more permanent than a quick fling. And it lacked any form of power play. Nick was neither besotted nor afraid of their captain; he actually treated him just like he always did, as did Renard his subordinate. Nothing of their definitely private life together leaked through.
Good for them, Wu mused.
But then things changed. With Hank. Suddenly Hank took a week of leave and Nick looked… rough around the edges.
Oh man, the sergeant thought darkly, connecting the dots.
It was time to talk to Nick, let him know that he had a friend, even if his partner apparently couldn’t cope.
“Hey,” he greeted the younger man as he stepped into the break room where he was pouring himself a cup of coffee.
Okay, that had sounded... dull. Lifeless. Unlike the Nick Burkhardt he knew.
Wu leaned against the door, making sure it was really closed. At this time of the day there were hardly any of the officers coming this way. He would have a few minutes of privacy.
“You okay, man?” he asked, straight-forward, voice serious.
Nick looked up and gave him a smile. It never reached his eyes. “Yeah. Just a bit overworked.”
“Right,” Wu muttered. “You and Renard doing fine?”
Nick’s eyes narrowed. "What?".
"I was asking if you and Renard are doing fine," Wu repeated calmly. "You seem to be a bit under the weather and while I'm no expert, I doubt it's a lovers’ quarrel."
Nick opened his mouth, then snapped it shut again.
Good impression of a goldfish, Wu thought with amusement.
Nick darted a look over to the door, then directed an angry glare at Wu.
The sergeant smiled and raised his hands in a calming gesture. “Easy on the death looks, Nick. I'm just a worried friend. You’ve been running around the precinct the last two days like you and he had split.”
“We’re both fine,” he growled.
“So... you’re just overworked, Renard’s still there... What is it then?”
“Wu? Get out, please?”
Wu frowned. “Nick, you know you can talk to me,” he said, voice level, calm. “There’s nothing weak about needing to talk to someone outside of family. Something happened and it’s showing. If it shows any more, people will start to talk. They will ask questions.”
Nick’s glare intensified for a second, then he dropped his gaze, but he refused to answer.
“Does it have something to do with Hank?” Wu poked in the dark.
Bingo! he cheered when Nick’s whole body seemed to wince.
“You’re not going to leave me alone, right?”
“Nope.” Wu let some humor suffuse his otherwise level voice.
Another puff of air was released. “Not here, okay?”
“I’m up for a coffee break.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
Nick nodded and the two men left the break room, Styrofoam cups in hand. It was a warm afternoon, heralding summer, though it would be too much to hope for smooth sailing all the way, and while some people were coming and going, no one bothered the two men as they settled away from the entrance.
Wu waited, patiently, silently, occasionally sipping at his coffee. Nick finally ran a hand through his dark hair and sighed deeply.
"How do you know about Sean and me?"
“I noticed a few things and started watching. I have friends who are a couple; a cop and a firefighter. They aren’t into open overtures of love either. You tend to see things others don’t.”
"I see. And you're okay with it?"
"I'm cool with it."
Another silence ensued and both men drank coffee, watching the coming and going of uniforms and people in civilian clothing. No one gave them much attention.
Wu gazed at his friend, listened to the tone of voice, heard a lot more than the other man was saying.
Ouch, he thought.
“About you and Renard?” he finally asked.
“He asked. I answered.”
“Ah.” Wu furrowed his forehead. “Why?”
“Because if I lied to him after such an open question and he finds out later, things would go bad. He must have seen something.”
And they had been very private, too, Wu knew. If Hank had seen a slip-up, it was one that must have happened because Nick was either too tired or Renard had been careless for a second or two. Nothing else explained it.
“So he couldn’t deal with it? Called you names? Threatened you? Attacked you?”
Nick glared at him. Wu wasn’t fazed.
“No. He just looked at me, then got up and left. Next thing I know, he’s got a week off and me... I’m wondering if he’ll destroy this.”
“I doubt it. He’s your friend,” Wu argued, playing with the empty cup in his hands.
“A friend who didn’t know about me seeing a guy, let alone being interested in guys. Last Hank knew I had a girlfriend. And wham, male partner. Our boss.”
“Well, yeah, you got a point.”
Wu didn’t miss the difference between girlfriend and partner. Wow, it was really serious then.
“I’d hate to lose him as a friend, as well as a partner, but if he decides he wants to destroy us... he has it in his power to do so. And that scares me more than every outing I can imagine.”
Wu nodded solemnly. If Griffin didn’t accept the relationship, things could get ugly. The police didn’t operate like the Army and DADT had finally ended up in the bin. There were gay police officer the force knew about, but the relationship between Nick and Renard was politically even more difficult because one was the captain of the other. It could end with Nick transferring because Renard was too successful as the captain of Homicide.
“I should get back to work,” Nick muttered and rose. “Thanks for the open ear.”
Wu flashed him a wide smile. “Anytime, Nick. You know where to find me.”
Nick clapped him on the shoulder in a friendly way, grinning, too. “Yep, I do.”
“And listen, if things blow up…”
“I know there are options. I just hate them all.”
Wu nodded. So would he.
He hoped Hank would come around and not make a huge mistake.
* * *
Nick had no idea why he had ended up at Frank’s place, of all places, but he was glad the lawyer was home and even more happy for the beer and the silent company. Monroe was with Rosalee at the herbal shop, doing inventory, he had claimed, and Nick felt like an ass that he was somehow jealous of the fuchsbau. Well, sort of anyway. Monroe was entitled to have a private life, like Nick had one, too.
It just sucked when he needed someone to talk to. Especially after Wu had revealed his knowledge of Nick’s relationship with Renard. That had been the second shock in just a short amount of time; first Hank, who had reacted badly, then Wu, who was apparently okay with it.
Well, Frank had listened to him so often before and offered an open ear, Nick had found it easy to fall into a new pattern and seek out the company of the jagerbar. If Frank was home or around. Unlike Monroe, Rabe had a job and a business to run where he went to work every day. He didn’t spend most of his time holed up at home, repairing clocks and geeking out over Grimm stuff.
Frank had never lectured him about the whole political side of Nick’s relationship with his boss, about department rules and police in particular. He also didn’t brief him on wesen politics, how no one could care less about who a Guardian chose as a mate. He had been very accepting of this relationship, mainly because it was natural for a regnant to mate and that a Grimm was the perfect choice seemed common knowledge.
Now that knowledge had lapped over from Grimm to human world.
The jagerbar didn’t ask why Nick had come, simply switched on the TV and let it run while he worked on his laptop, and Nick was sorting through his mind.
“Hank knows,” the Grimm finally said throughout a commercial break.
Frank looked up. “About you and Renard?”
“And it will have repercussions?”
“I have no idea. He simply left with a week’s worth of vacation days. He didn’t talk to me either. Not a curse, not a bad word, nothing. Just a look.”
Frank closed his laptop. “So you have no clue where you stand,” he stated.
“I wouldn’t take Detective Griffin as a vengeful, hateful guy.”
“But if he lost a word toward the wrong person it would get ugly. Maybe.”
“Definitely. I’m sleeping with my superior officer.”
Frank nodded slowly. “You think he would?”
“I have no idea, really. I’d love to say no, Hank would never do such a thing, but this is big.”
The jagerbar was silent, a difficult to interpret expression in his face.
“What?” Nick asked.
“You know how powerful your mate is.”
“He’s the Guardian of Portland.”
“And he has political connections.”
“He can make this go away, Nick. Probably more easily than you’d think.”
Nick’s eyes narrowed, the gray suddenly cold, and Frank was close to recoiling at the sudden aura of danger emitting from the Grimm.
“How?” he asked levelly.
“Hank is an employee of the city. Renard has political power. The regnant has more than just that; he has connections to higher places and some of the politicians and leaders of this city are wesen or connected to our world. Hank could easily be promoted, reassigned or removed otherwise.”
Nick rose abruptly and Frank did flinch back. “I won’t let anyone ‘remove’ Hank in any way,” he snapped. “He’s still my partner and a friend, even if he turns out to be homophobic.”
“Even if he tattles to someone who makes a big deal out of your relationship?”
Frank felt the bear in him rumble, still unsure about what the Grimm was about to do, how he would react, and his instinctual side was close to fight-or-flight. He wasn’t even sure if his response would be ‘fight’.
“Renard will protect you, Nick.”
“Not like that! Hank is a human being, not a pawn, an object to be moved around! If he has a problem with this, I will deal with it my own way!”
Frank raised his hands in a calming gesture. “Okay.”
The Grimm exhaled sharply, a hiss escaping his teeth. “Sorry,” he muttered, forcefully calming down.
The jagerbar felt his own hackles smooth and he tried to relax completely. Nick would never hurt him or take his anger out on an innocent bystander, but his reaction had triggered one in him.
“I have to apologize. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
Nick plopped down on the couch again, shaking his head ruefully. “No. I need to know such things, Frank. It’s why I come to you, why I ask so many questions, and I want to know the uncomfortable things, too. I know Sean is immensely powerful, even if he doesn’t always play those cards. I should have realized that he would protect himself.”
“You. He protects you, Nick.”
It got him a tired smile. “I can protect myself. Even in non-Grimm related things.”
“And he probably knows that, but Hank might turn into a danger for you, both of you, and for all his sophistication, Sean Renard has a deeply primal side.”
“Oh, I know that,” Nick replied, chuckling. “I see that side often enough, even though he likes to pretend to be in complete control.”
“Then you know how strong it can be. Many wesen have such baser nature, even the timid ones. It comes out when the need to protect family and mate rises.”
The gray eyes, warmer than before, met dark ones. Frank understood what he was talking about; he was a predator, he had a family, he would protect his son against whatever came at them.
He already had.
Nick let his head fall back, closing his eyes, looking more tired than before.
“Still learning,” he mumbled.
The lawyer chuckled. “You’ve been at this for just a short while. You’re doing pretty good.”
It got him a laugh. “With a lot of help.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Nick took him up on the offer for a simple sandwich dinner. Barry came home just before Nick left, shooting the Grimm a careful look. He was slowly warming to Nick’s presence, but he refused to sit down and share food or drink.
When Nick drove off he was still chewing on the revelation that maybe Renard would deal with Hank in a way Nick would probably not approve of. Hell, he wouldn’t approve anything! Either Hank accepted them and kept his mouth shut, or he would tell someone higher up. Then they would deal with matters.
“Talk to him,” Frank told him when he left.
“Oh, I will. I definitely will!”
Wu found his friend in a bar that was a bit too upscale for his liking, but Hank and him had been there before and the food was nice and the drinks affordable. For the talk he was planning he really would have preferred a sports bar with a crowd in the background cheering for their team, or a live music establishment with some nice jazz tunes. But as it was, Hank had apparently decided to make his home here for the night.
Hank looked a bit too tired for Wu’s liking, too pinched and with too many worry lines. He was playing with his glass of beer and Wu would have bet a month’s salary that it was still his first.
“What’s your problem?“ he asked, straight-forward.
Hank turned to look at him, surprise registering in his face as he discovered one of his co-workers next to him. He must have been very deep in thought to just ignore him, Wu thought. He had probably ignored the whole world.
"What are you doing here, Wu?"
"Getting some air," he replied flippantly. "So, what's your problem?"
“My problem?“ he echoed.
“You took time off. From one day to the next. Not your style. So, what’s your problem? “
“I never figured you of all people to be a homophobe.“
Hank’s head snapped around and he stared at him. “Me of all people?“ he echoed, incredulous. “What do you mean ‘me of all people’? I’m not! Never was!“
“So it is about Nick and Renard.“
Angry silence answered him and Hank turned back to watching his beer go stale.
“Think one of them might come on to you? Ravish you? Make advances? Grope? Fondle?“
Hank snorted, glaring a little. “No.”
“Do you have a problem with Nick being bi?“ he poked deeper.
Hank frowned and glanced at him again, losing interest in the beer. “No.”
Wu raised an eyebrow.
“Well… I never figured either of them to be interested in men… Least of all Nick,“ he conceded.
“So you have a problem with them being together?“
“No! Hell, I figure if Nick gets a date and a life, it’s good for him. For all his looks and charm, he apparently can’t get a foot in the door.”
“So is it anger? Because neither told you?“
Hank’s eyes flashed and a muscle jumped in his cheek.
“So it’s that.”
“I thought Nick was my friend!” Griffin growled.
“Friends have secrets from each other, too.”
Wu smiled. “But not because either Renard or Nick took me aside and explained the details of their new relationship to me. I found out by watching – and adding one and one. I came up with a nice pair and a healthy relationship that is doing worlds of good to both of them, Hank.”
“I know that! I watched them, too! Hell, I knew something was going on when Nick was getting all cheery and bright-eyed. I just thought Nick would tell me.”
“I had to ask him first.”
Wu tilted his head a fraction. “But he told you,” he repeated. “He could just as well have lied to you.”
Hank frowned slightly, more in thought than in anger. “Yeah, he could have.”
“And he didn’t. You asked, he answered. He put an incredible amount of trust in you. He respects you, Hank.”
“Almost a year,” Hank mused. “Twelve goddamned months and I never picked up on it.”
“They hide it well. While your sexual orientation is your private life, being in a relationship with a colleague, let alone your boss, just won’t do.”
Hank chewed on his lower lip. Wu knew he was thinking about the same thing he did. He had the power to destroy everything.
“Think about it,” he simply said, then turned and left him alone.
He had his answers, Hank had his own to ponder, and whatever else happened next, Wu simply hoped it wouldn’t be the explosion they all feared.
* * *
Nick hadn’t really thought about the time difference between England and the West Coast. He only realized just how early it had to be in London when Mireille picked up.
“Oh gawd, I woke you, right?” he sighed.
It got him a light laugh. “No, Nick, my dear. I was up all night on business, so you didn’t wake me.”
“I’m just keeping you from sleep?”
“No. And Andrew is already up as well, so you didn’t wake him either. Now that we established that I’m not going to rip you a new one over the time, what did my baby brother do this time?”
Nick groaned. “Nothing. Yet.”
“But you think he might do something stupid?”
Mireille was silent, waiting. Nick wondered when he had started to think of his mate’s older sister as something of a confidante. Well, with a blutbad being his best friend and a jagerbar turning into his advisor, Mireille just fit into that bunch of supporters. He needed her to set some things regnant right now and then. Since she was the same wesen, also mated, Guardian of her own protectorate, she was in almost the same situation, just on the other side. She usually shed more light on situations.
So Nick finally told her what had happened, including Frank’s hypothesis that Renard might just remove Hank from the picture if he became a problem.
“Hm,” she muttered.
“Is that a yes, he will, or a no, he might just think before he acts according to instinct?”
Mireille chuckled. “It’s not so simple, my dear. I understand his motivation and I would understand his reaction. Protecting Andrew is on top of my list and if it meant taking just one person out of the picture…”
“Hank is not a chess piece!” Nick exploded, pacing angrily. “He’s a human being, my partner, someone I trust to have my back!”
“Do you still trust him? to have your back?”
Nick glared at a hapless wall. “Yes!”
“Even though he knows you’re batting for the other team?”
“He’s not a homophobe!”
“From his reaction he might just be a closet one, Nick.”
“I trust him!”
“But you don’t trust Sean?”
“I don’t think he would consider all our options. I know he has instincts and he runs with them when it comes to his protectorate, but this is a human life! Hank isn’t a pawn to be thrown into a Lowen Game or promoted into a position that will shut him up, possibly forced to leave Portland or the state or even the west coast area!”
“Nick, a century ago my kind would have let him disappear in a very different and very final way.”
“This isn’t that century any more!” he snapped.
“I know. But the instinct is there, this primal urge to keep what is mine and protect it. If another schwanensee would have interfered with my mate’s well-being, would have threatened him in any way, I would have reacted accordingly. I’d take out a siegbarste to keep Andrew safe.”
Nick exhaled sharply, screwing his eyes shut as he massaged the bridge of his nose. “I know.”
“But you don’t agree.”
“No. This is the 21st century, Miri. You can’t go around killing people!”
“Did Sean actually say he would harm Hank?”
“So it’s just you reacting to a possibility?”
Mireille was silent for a while. “He listens to you, Nick,” she finally said. “A lot. You have influence over him. Do that talking. We regnants might be a primal bunch, but our mates are in control, are our balance and voice of reason. But you have to know that if Hank makes a wrong move, if you get hurt because of him or because of what he indirectly did, Sean won’t be stopped.”
“Shit…” he murmured.
“The truth, Nick. My dear, he loves you. He needs you. You’re his. Use that to keep him in line if you have to.”
Nick groaned and fell onto the couch, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling.
“Call me if you need to talk again, okay? Whatever the time over here is. And Andrew says he’ll gladly play sounding board as well.” There was warmth in her voice, and compassion, and Nick was so incredibly glad Sean had at least one sane and likeable sibling.
“I will. Thanks for listening. And telling me a few things.”
She chuckled a little. “You’ll be fine, Nick. Both of you. I never met Hank, but I believe he is a very mature and modern man. Let him digest the facts and come to his own epiphany.”
“I’m not doubting his acceptance of my being bi, Miri, it’s more the matter of sleeping with my superior officer.”
“You knew it might happen one day.”
“Yeah, but it was too soon.”
She sighed softly. “I wish you all the best. And please, remember, call whenever. I’ll always find time to talk to you.”
And with that they ended the call.
Nick remained on the couch, staring at the ceiling, wondering what to do.
* * *
Hank hadn’t stayed long at the bar. A lot of things were going through his head and he needed to move, to get rid of the excess energy, so he had started to walk. He let himself drift with the people through the shopping streets to the river and finally stopped, looking out over the water. It was a bright, sunny day, barely a hint of rain, and while it wasn’t summer yet, temperatures were rising. He enjoyed being out and about without a case, but matters on his mind were weighing down his good mood.
Nick was a really good friend. He was easy-going, fun to be around, and he was a great cop. Hank had had a few rookie partners in his time, but Nick had turned out to be a very bright and quick student, someone with a great career ahead of him, Griffin was sure. The man was damn good at his job, he cold work with people, he was compassionate and calm and good in tight situations. Their solved crimes rate was perfect.
And now Nick had gotten together with their captain. Not as colleagues, not as friends, but as lovers. Hank knew gay people. He connected with them on the job, and some of his friends had gay friends. Sexual orientation had never mattered to Griffin. He knew what he liked, and whatever else was out there, to each his own he always thought. But now it had happened in his own back yard, with a good friend he had never expected to see turning to same-gender lovers, and his boss.
But Wu had been right. It wasn’t so much the fact that Nick was bi, or gay, than that he hadn’t told him. Not one single word; not a hint. Nothing. Just like that, the relationship had slipped under his radar. Hank felt so blind, but looking back, he didn’t really see any hints. Only when he had known had he pegged them as a couple.
Nick and Renard.
It could have happened.
But what if Renard was using his subordinate? What if he had used his power over Nick to get what he wanted? Was Nick that impressionable? Hank didn’t think so. And he had never figured Renard to be such an asshole to get sexual favors from his people.
So if it wasn’t a power play or blackmail…?
Hank sighed. He was turning in circles and it wasn’t getting him anywhere, except back to the beginning and the most important facts.
He had a problem with Nick not telling him anything.
He felt left out.
So he had reacted badly.
No, worse than badly. He had been a jerk. A prick. Homophobic.
“Shit,” he muttered and pushed away from the railing of his viewpoint. “Damnit!”
He had to talk to Nick.
I apologize for the delay. Real Life in form of a business trip and a lot of work interfered.
Some days, it just didn't pay to get out of bed. Like today, Nick mused as he trudged to the entrance of his house.
It was in the middle of the day, people were walking their dogs, and he received some curious glances as to why he was in this state. Well, he was a sight, he thought darkly. Splattered in mud and what-not from head to toe, featuring a spectacular rip in his shirt across the back. His skin was unbroken, though.
It had all sounded rather simple. Dead body found in the forest, just still inside Portland jurisdiction. Apparently a hiker. Renard had assigned him and Wu the case and they had headed out, prepared for everything but what had happened.
Not only had a bad weather front hit the area, no. It had apparently decided to get stuck right above where the techs were trying to examine the crime scene. It had started with a spectacular display of lightning, then rolling thunder, and finally it had rained. Hard.
And they had been caught right in the middle. And to make it worse, he had slipped on the ground, sailed down an incline, got caught in bushes and low branches, and bumped his left shoulder painfully. That his wild ride had solved the case was of little consequence to the thoroughly mud-bathed man, who now had only one aim in life: get cleaned up.
His car was a mess, his skin itched from the by now dried mud, he felt cold, and all he wanted was a shower and forget this day ever happened.
Not that Wu had fared any better, but at least he hadn’t had the fun ride down the hill.
Nick hadn't even bothered to go back in. He had called dispatch to inform them he would head straight home. He could write his report later. He had dropped off Wu at his car, then headed to his place. Neither man was in a happy mood right now.
Stepping into his home, Nick stopped in the entrance hall, drawn between the siren call of his shower and the logical next step: don't mess up the floor, too. Nick finally decided that he could clean the entrance hall later as he undressed and dumped all his clothes, then proceeded, completely naked, to the bathroom.
Renard had been aware that Nick was long overdue, but a call to dispatch had told him that Nick was still stuck out in the middle of Monsoon Central. The sudden thunderstorm had been on the news and roads had to be closed because of the conditions, but by that time, Nick was already past the worst areas.
When neither Hank nor Nick showed, he checked again, this time more covertly, and found that both men had gone to their respective homes due to the condition they had been in.
Renard had decided to head over to his mate’s house, where he had easily spotted the severely muddied car. It was hardly a detective’s work to follow the footprints and when he stumbled across the clothes in the entrance hall, he had to smile.
Yes, Nick was home.
And from the sound of it, he was in the shower.
Renard walked over to the bathroom and peeked inside. Nick stood under the hot shower, arms against the wall, head hanging between his shoulders. The water pounded his back, cascading off his shoulders and splashing onto the floor. Most of the mud had already been washed out of his hair and face, but there were still tiny brown rivulets in the tub. Nick was completely unaware of Renard's presence and the older man smiled. It was such an enticing sight, the slender body, the play of muscles under wet skin, and the dark hair dripping water. Mouth-watering indeed.
But from the droop of the shoulders and the pinched look on Nick's face, Renard knew his partner was far from in the mood for playing around. He was exhausted, in a bad mood, and in need for some downtime.
More than a day off work, he mused, feeling covertly along the bond. It was time that the Grimm and the detective took time off, a long weekend, maybe even a week. Nick really needed to reload his batteries.
Moving soundlessly out of the bathroom again, he went to the kitchen and made some quick sandwiches, just in case Nick was hungry.
The shower was off after another minute or two, and footsteps leading to the bedroom could be heard. When Nick didn't emerge after another fifteen minutes, Renard frowned and headed over to the bedroom.
The sight made him smile.
Nick lay sprawled on top of the sheets, clad in only a towel, his hair still damp. He was on his stomach, turned away from the door, and from the looks of it, he was sleeping. Renard took the folded afghan from the chair next to the window and covered Nick gently, then quietly left the room.
He picked up the dirty clothes and put them into the washing machine, then settled down in the living room, with a book on his lap and a sandwich in one hand.
Time for everything else later.
* * *
Hank stood in front of Nick’s house, wondering if he was doing the right thing. He had called into the precinct, gotten Janice on the line who fielded all calls, and she had told him that Nick had been on a bad case and had ended up home after taking a dive down an incline in the mud. Hank had felt worry blossom. So he had called Wu, who had told him to stop being a mother-hen, that they were both fine, thank you for asking, and that Nick was most likely still trying to wash the dirt out of the most inconvenient places.
“I know I had to,” the sergeant had complained. “And I wasn’t taking a mud slide.”
Hank was due back to work tomorrow, but he didn’t want to go in without having reconciled with Nick. Nick was his friend and partner and just because he had kept his love life a secret wasn’t a reason to end that friendship.
Or do something Hank would later regret.
So after some more minutes of indecision and contemplating, he stepped up to the house and rang.
The door was opened by a leisurely dressed Nick. His hair was still damp, but he looked clean and not too tired. Actually he looked like he had just gotten up after taking a nap. There was a light scrape on his right hand, and a bruise on his chin
Surprise crossed the youngish features, quickly followed by a wariness that pained Hank.
“Hey,” his partner said, voice slow, cautious and less enthusiastic than he normally greeted a friend.
“Hey, Nick. Uh... I dropped by to... y’know... talk?”
Nick’s eyebrows dipped slightly, but he opened the door and Hank stepped inside.
“Want a coffee? Beer?” Nick offered.
“Soda’d be nice.”
Nick walked over to the fridge and pulled out two sodas, tossing one at Hank.
“Listen, I... I’m sorry ‘bout how I behaved,” Hank finally said, playing with the open can, taking a little sip. “It’s just... I was kinda angry.”
“Angry?” Nick echoed, looking genuinely surprised.
“Yeah. I mean, we’re partners. We hang out together, we go to games, you’re my friend! I thought you’d, well, tell me.”
Nick blinked, still looking dumbstruck. “Hank...”
“I know, I know. You don’t really spill everything ‘bout your love life, but....” Hank pushed a hand through his hair. “Hell, Nick, I’m sorry. I was simply angry at you for keeping this a secret. Nothing else. I mean, I can see you’re happy and I just wanted to know who made you happy. You’ve gotta confess that your love life was a long dry spell.”
He tried a weak smile. Nick answered it with a stronger version, actually chuckling.
“Yeah. It was.”
“I’m real glad you found someone and I think you’re pretty good for Renard, too.”
Nick shot him a surprised look. "You think I am?"
Hank chuckled. "Yeah. You are. Real good. I know you are.”
“So... you’re okay with this?”
“You mean you and the boss sleeping together?” Hank bit the inside of his cheek when he saw Nick wince. “It’s not like he’s been treating you any different in the last twelve months. No favors, no nothing.”
Actually, Renard had been just as cool and distant and hard-ass. He demanded good work from each detective and they delivered. Nick had never stood out, had never been called to the office alone; nothing strange at all had happened.
“We can keep work and private life apart.”
“Yeah, I can see that. I’m okay with it, Nick. Really. Now I am.”
Nick smiled again, this time with relief, and Hank felt the same relief swamp through him.
Hank looked thoughtfully at him. "You know what'll happen when this comes out, right?"
Nick met his eyes seriously. "Yeah We both do. And we'll deal with it when it happens."
"There's been a lot of change, Nick. Politically as well as socially…"
"But not everyone can accept it. It's not like presenting your girl, Hank." Nick's voice was calm and reasonable. “This isn’t for the public. It never will be.”
“Gotcha.” Hank emptied his can and put it on the kitchen counter. “I better go. Have to enjoy my last day off, huh?”
Griffin stopped at the door and looked at the other man. “Yeah?”
He smiled. “Anytime.”
And then the door closed.
Renard stepped out of Nick’s office room, silent, smooth, moving like the predator he was. Green eyes looked at the door, then swiveled over to Nick.
Nick simply smiled at his mate. “Now that I’m reasonable awake and that problem seems to be solved, we need to talk.”
Sean raised his eyebrows. “We do?”
And Nick knew it wouldn’t be easy. He was getting involved in politics in a way he hadn’t before. But if Sean believed he could solve a problem by pulling strings and possibly removing people that got problematic, he hadn’t counted on Nick’s interference.
Renard had to smile to himself as he answered his mate’s questions, calmly reassuring him that he had had no intention to ‘take Hank out of the picture’. Of course he would have acted if any of Hank’s actions would have caused harm to Nick, but he was using his power easily, flinging it around like it was a fix-it-all.
“You really think I would have done this?” he asked.
Nick frowned. “Right now I don’t know what to think. I know you’re insanely powerful, Sean, and well-connected. You could do it.”
“I could. Very true. But to use favors or pull strings to silence Hank? No.”
“Unless he threatens me?”
“Unless he threatens your life and your safety and the bond.”
The gray eyes were almost unreadable. “He didn’t, he hasn’t and he won’t.”
Sean smiled, moving closer. “Thankfully. Luckily.”
Nick studied him silently, then sighed softly.
The Guardian closed the distance, reaching out carefully, as if unsure, then wrapped long fingers around the other man’s wrist. He tugged Nick closer and brushed a kiss over one temple.
“You are my mate, Nick,” he murmured. “I protect what’s mine.”
“And as your mate I’m aware of it and thankful, but it doesn’t have to end in manipulating Hank’s career at best and taking more serious action at worst. I don’t want this, Sean. I never wanted this.”
“But your instincts are running wild?”
Renard chuckled at the light tone of voice. “In a way.”
“Should have thought of that before taking up with me.”
The regnant smiled more at the teasing light in the other’s eyes. He kissed those tempting lips, felt Nick give under the slight pressure, and he reveled in the smooth and easy surrender of his mate. Of course, all illusions of control went out the window fast when Nick suddenly pushed back and pinned him against the wall.
The grin on the younger man’s features was light and teasing and had a slight edge of feral. It promised good things; very good things.
And Sean Renard was all for very good things to happen.
Done! Real Life was really, really interfering, but I finally managed to complete the story :)
Roddy Geiger stepped out of court, looking pale but composed. Drew was at his side and Monroe flanked him like a guardian. Nick, who had been in the court room in a semi-official capacity, gave Roddy an inquisitive look.
“How about we get something to eat?” he offered.
“Sure,” was the soft reply.
The trial had been… trying. No pun intended. The case had been clear and simple, there had been more than enough evidence, but to face the killer of his father had been hard on the young reinigen.
Henry Dossam had been charged, tried and found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to seventy-five months in prison.
Since damages caused to people as a result of drunkenness were not dischargeable in bankruptcy, Dossam would have to pay. Frank had made sure of it.
The jagerbar joined them in the small café close to the court not much later, ordering coffee and two slices of apple pie.
“What can I say?” he remarked, happily digging into the pie. “Court makes me crave sweets.”
Roddy played with his chips. He had found a black suit from somewhere, though it looked at least ten years old. His hair was neatly combed, his shoes polished. He looked uncomfortable, but also relieved in a way that told Nick that the younger man was glad everything was over.
“Hey,” Nick said softly. “You okay?”
Nick let the matter rest, but he shot Monroe a quick look. The blutbad nodded slightly.
Monroe dropped Roddy and Drew off at their place after their sandwiches and cake. Roddy promised to stay in contact and even managed a smile. It would take a while for the young man to get over the ordeal, but Monroe would be there for him. As would be Nick.
The case was over. Finally. Completely. The man who had run over Ephram Geiger was behind bars. It didn’t bring back Roddy’s father, but it had been justice.
Nick finally took a long weekend. Hank shooed him away, claiming he would enjoy a few days without his partner.
“You need it, Nick. Go and relax.”
The wink had been unnecessary, but Nick knew he would be in for light ribbing from now on. Nothing that would hint at who the other person in his life was, but Hank had accepted his choice and he had incorporated it all into his world view.
Sean had done nothing at all, hadn’t taken Hank aside to talk to him, and work proceeded as normal.
Nick hoped it would keep this way.
* * *
A weekend away in a luxurious lodge that probably cost more than Nick made in a month for this Friday-to-Sunday booking: it had been Sean’s gift, one he hadn’t accepted any arguments over, one he claimed was something he wanted his mate to have and enjoy.
Nick truly did enjoy it, right down to the long hikes through the forest and hills and along peaceful lakes. Sean was there with him, looking just as relaxed, the psychic link reflecting nothing but calm balance and warmth, a placid connection that hummed in the back of his mind.
He also enjoyed his mate, exploring the tall, muscular form, having him relax under his hands and mouth. He liked to bring him off with his mouth, later sliding into the heat that was tight and snug around him.
Nick was glad that they were alone, especially when they got slightly more kinky, at least in his eyes. Having Sean on his knees in front of him, Nick with his back against a massive tree, had been incredible. Having Renard fuck him on the porch had been even more exhibitionistic. And the whirlpool was a perfect way to unwind and explore and simply taste each other.
The fact that he finally got his mate to drop his façade and take him in his full wesen mode had Nick come so hard, he nearly blacked out. He didn’t mind the renewed claim mark that ached long after he clawed his way out of the post-coital haze. He didn’t care that he had bruises blossoming on his hips or the traces of claws that hadn’t broken skin but scratched it.
He had needed this so badly. He had wanted Sean completely, without restraint, and after everything that had happened he hadn’t wanted to hold back.
Yes, Nick Burkhardt could be kinky and he had it bad for a terrifyingly powerful wesen.
Nick breathed hard, feeling high strung and like he was a puddle on the mattress. Sean nuzzled his mark, cleaning away the blood that had leaked and run in a thin line down one shoulder. Looking into the gold-flecked eyes, Nick smiled lazily. He reached up and drew the other close, kissing him softly. The sharp-cut features, so very much no longer plain human, melted into the more human façade.
“Got it out of your system?” Sean asked with a feral grin.
“I can’t get you out of my system,” was the easy reply.
“Thought as much.” Nick drew him into a new kiss.
Sean’s caresses were distracting, especially when they came close to the more sensitive areas. He kissed him harder, moving into the teasing touch.
“Hungry much?” came the teasing whisper.
Well, leaving the bed or the cabin wasn’t really an option.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Renard used the fact that they were on their own in the forest and the surrounding hills to train with Nick some more. And none of those very serious training exercises ended in naked fun. Nick got his ass handed to him in a different way, after four hours of tracking, fighting, running and rolling down muddy hills.
It was somehow a reminder of just a few days ago when a blutbad had pushed him down a steep incline.
Now it was his mate.
Not so different since he ended up muddy and slightly banged up, though Renard wasn’t really out to kill him.
But Nick learned a few new tricks and he managed to give as good as he got, once even landing a very hard kick to Sean’s ribs that had the Guardian go down and wheeze. The expression in the clear green eyes was priceless and truly a Kodak moment.
The Grimm smirked.
The regnant smiled darkly and got to his feet.
* * *
Nick gave a contented sigh, interlaced fingers resting on his stomach. The TV was on, running a documentary, and he listened to it, lazily watching the images flicker over the screen. A hand was caressing his head, stroking his hair, and he snuggled deeper into the warm hold of his mate, who was totally engrossed in the program. Nick smiled fondly.
Lunch had been great but the TV cuddling on the comfy couch was even better. It was three in the afternoon, the sun was high in the sky, life happened outside, but he couldn't care less. This was their day, their weekend, as slow and lazy as they could make it.
He dozed off after some time, coming around to the aroma of coffee and the absence of the warmth he had felt next to him before. Opening his eyes he discovered Renard walking over from the kitchen, carrying two mugs. It was just past four, so he hadn't slept more than an hour.
"Coffee?" the other man murmured, smiling.
"Yeah, thanks. Must've dozed off." He smiled slightly as he sat up, yawning.
There was a tender warmth in Sean’s face that was never seen outside these walls, a warmth reserved only for his mate. Nick sipped at the hot, black liquid. He watched Renard over the rim of his mug, took in the relaxed stance, the faint smile. He needed this man most of all, aside from the bare basics without no one could survive. But Renard was his mate, his partner, his friend, his balance. He had found him and nothing would ever make him give up what he felt when Renard was there.
He loved him. Plain and simple.
Finally Nick set down the mug and rose. Renard looked up, a quizzical expression in his eyes and Nick just held out his hand.
It was taken, the expression still there.
Nick brushed his lips over Renard's, pulling him close. The mouth underneath his lips opened and tongues brushed against each other. Nick's fingers quickly found their way underneath the t-shirt shirt, touching bare skin, caressing and teasing it. Renard moaned softly in appreciation and Nick began to maneuver them toward the bedroom. His hints were eagerly taken and Renard kicked the door shut behind them.
* * *
Sunlight spread through the lowered blinds, finding a way through the obstruction between the small openings that hadn't been completely closed last night, and Renard watched the sun rise on his sheets. Spread out in the growing sunlight next to him was Nick. Naked, on his stomach, head buried in his pillow. Renard watched him, too, smiling as he remembered the last night; filled with sensual passion and slow love-making that had melted a few more of his braincells into goo. No frenzy, no harsh taking or claiming, just a wonderful time or exploring and reveling in the feel of this man with him.
Lucky, his sister had once called him. He had been so lucky. What the coins hadn’t given him, Nick had handed over freely. Himself. All of him, body and soul.
Nick had somehow pierced through all the walls he had erected around himself, shove away every single barrier and look directly into his soul that he had buried long ago. And he had found something that responded to him, that wanted him so badly, and he had wanted that being in return.
Sitting up against the headrest, Sean watched the sun, one hand stroking over Nick's longish hair, down to the shoulders. He loved the feel of the deceptively soft skin that stretched over quite a package of muscle.
Nick mumbled something and suddenly blinked his eyes open. Gray eyes sharpened. A slow smiled stretched over his features as he looked at Renard.
"Good morning, Nick."
Nick turned on his back and stretched a little, still on full display. Not that Sean had anything against it. He very much appreciated the sight. Nick rolled around once more, resting his head on Sean's thigh, looking sleepily at him.
Today was their last day of this prolonged weekend getaway and they would return to the city by evening. Until then they wanted to make the best of their time left. Sean couldn’t think of anything better than his mate with him, just being together, feeling the soft hum of the psychic link between them, the presence he craved more than anything close by.
There had been no calls from Monroe or anyone else. The blutbad knew Nick was on vacation and he had promised Renard to field every and all calls, give them the necessary time.
He had made good on that promise.
Nick finally sat up and slid out of bed, giving the Guardian a wonderful view of a naked backside that was deliciously slowly going into the bathroom.
Sean grinned. What was the old saying? Save water, shower with a friend.
With these good intentions in mind, a smiling Renard slipped into the bathroom and closed the door.
* * *
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but somehow it did nevertheless. Mireille had a sixth sense, had always had, and she was also a very persistent sister. Sometimes Renard wondered why she had taken to Nick like that, but then he only had to look at himself to understand. Because of Nick his contact with Mireille had become closer, more like family, and it was… nice.
“Sean!” Mireille said cheerfully. “How is my favorite little brother!”
“I’m the only younger brother you have.”
“Details, details. You’re my favorite brother. Better?”
“I’d be shocked if you preferred Maurice.”
She chuckled. “I’d be shocked and disgusted by myself. Now, how is my Grimm-in-law doing?”
“Don’t you usually know that a lot better than me?”
“I do, but I want to hear it from you. Especially after the whole problem with his partner.”
“And of course you know about that.” Sean rolled his eyes, something she couldn’t see over the phone but probably knew.
“Of course. So?”
“Hank has accepted the relationship.”
Mireille was silent for a moment, then a soft hum could be heard. “Good. I’d hate to deal with those complications.”
“Sean,” she said, sounding like a schoolteacher. “Nick and I talk.”
“He would talk to me about this.”
“I’m very much aware of it.”
“So I would have to listen to him telling me about your reactions, your probably very regnant way of dealing with things, and explaining to your Grimm why you did what you had done.”
Sean let his head fall back against the couch with a groan.
“You really need to talk to him.”
“I do, Miri.”
“Of course you do. In your own way. You really think a few lessons in wesen politics and regnant history will educate him enough to understand you?” She was audibly smiling. “Try again, Sean. Wrap your head around the fact that your Grimm was never taught anything at all and everything he does know is self-acquired. He has to go to a jagerbar and a blutbad to understand your behavior! Seriously!”
He sighed again.
“And with his partner finding out about you and him… Sean…?”
“I know,” he muttered. “I know, I know, I know. And I made it up to him.”
“Giving him a long weekend to remember isn’t the solution,” his sister told him neutrally. “Though I bet you two had fun.” Now there was the teasing not he had expected.
“Yes, we did. And I know it isn’t. I never expected this to be… so hard, Mireille.”
“A relationship? A mate? Finding the one person who you can’t control?”
Renard gazed at the ceiling, smiling to himself. “Yes.”
“Well, bugger for you then. It is hard. Andrew and I aren’t the lovey-dovey rose-colored couple either. We fight, we make up, we talk. We talked a lot in the beginning, Sean. I needed to explain a lot there, too. And Andrew is a wesen; he knew so much already. All I had to do was slowly ease him into the world of politics that comes with being a regnant’s mate. Nick… Nick is sweet and kind and lovely and all kinds of things, as well as deadly and dangerous and incredibly powerful as a Grimm. But he misses the knowledge any wesen has growing up. You need to remind yourself of it. You need to remember that when you go regnant on him, dear.”
“Trying, Miri. I’m trying.”
“Try harder. He is loyal to you and he won’t ever betray you, but he needs to know about you in a different way, too. What happened with Griffin showed it very clearly. Just be glad that problem was so easily solved.”
“I am. Don’t ever think I’m not.”
“Would you have killed him?” his sister asked bluntly.
Renard closed his eyes. “No.”
“It would have hurt Nick and destroyed what we have.”
She chuckled. “Oh, he so has you already, little brother. You know that you can kick all your ideas about being the more dominant of alphas in the wind.”
He laughed. “I guess.”
“No guessing, just facts.” Mireille grew serious again. “Next time, listen to the bond. I bet it was telling you everything and you weren’t listening. And if all else fails, call me. Big sisters know best.”
“Big sisters are the nosiest of them all,” he agreed.
“Of course. It’s our birthright.”
He chuckled. “Probably.”
“Just be glad it’s me, not Maurice, Nick is attempting to make a family out of.”
Renard grimaced. “Heavens…” he muttered. “But it’s working.”
“With his boyish charm it is. Take good care of him, Sean. Talk to him. Let him know about what you take for granted. And stop shocking him with being such a hardass regnant.”
He laughed softly. “I’ll try.”
And he would. Too much was at stake.
Renard looked at the now dark phone, silence around him, the darkness outside kind of surprising. How long had he talked to his sister? A quick glance at the time told him that it must have been at least two hours.
He smiled a little.
Yes, Nick had brought him and Mireille closer together than any of them would ever have been able to get on their own. Regnants just weren’t family-oriented wesen. They were too much loners for that to happen. But his sister was now part and parcel of it all, a sounding board and consultant for his mate.
Like Frank Rabe was an advisor and Monroe was the Grimm’s best friend and encyclopedia to all things wesen.
He would take better care; he would make sure not to let the same happen again. It was a matter of learning by doing, Renard mused. He acted, barely ever reacted, and Nick was left wondering how much was posturing, how much was true threat, much was just for political reasons.
Yes, Sean Renard had a lot to learn still. In a way he was as new to this as Nick was to being a Grimm, but Nick seemed a whole lot more adaptable, a very fast learner, and Sean had to adapt to that, too.
Well, he was up for the challenge.
fin for this one!