Monroe was standing at his stove, half concentrating on the pan of risotto he was currently stirring. Mostly though, he was dwelling on Nick’s latest clusterfuck—the world’s most naïve Grimm had found a book in the trailer that chronicled all the punishments that wayward Grimms had suffered at the hands of their fellows over the centuries, and had spent the last several days doing a not-so-admirable job of hiding how he was panicking slightly.
Monroe tilted his head and stirred a bit more forcefully. Nick might actually have cause to worry, (though no force on earth would convince Monroe to actually say that to him) because if there was ever a prize for being a group of fundamentalists, Grimms would have won the award for the past five hundred years running.
And the fact that Nick was… well, Nick, meant that he didn’t exactly fit the prescribed mold of Grimm-dom. And honestly? Monroe had no idea what would happen if his friend ever ran into another Grimm—though he didn’t imagine it would be pretty. He couldn’t imagine they’d appreciate all the help he’d given Nick over the years, nor the fact that he occasionally harbored less-than-platonic feelings for his closest friend.
He scented the air of his kitchen out of habit and with a start, realized he’d been drifting in his own head enough to quit stirring and now the risotto was about to start burning. He concentrated a bit closer on his rice, and as a result didn’t hear the quiet click of his front door opening. He did (of course) smell Nick’s distinctive scent precede the man as he stepped into the front hall, and after only a momentary thought of when did he stop knocking which he dismissed just as quickly, (not like Nick had personal boundaries anyway) he called over his shoulder, “I’m in the kitchen,” and went back to his rice.
Nick’s approaching footsteps were light and slow, as if he was distracted. Monroe sighed. “Dude, are you still worrying about that book? Cause I told you—”
“The curséd book thy speak of is surely beneath my notice, tonight of all nights.”
Monroe closed his eyes resignedly (cause weird shit was the norm, really) and flicked off the stove, moved the pan away from the heat. He turned around apprehensively and eyed Nick, and yea, something was wrong. If the antiquated speech wasn’t enough, the fact that Nick’s eyes were currently brown cemented it.
Nick blinked, and when he opened his eyes, they were blue again. “I read something—” he started to say, but then shook his head and the brown-eyed interloper was back. Monroe frowned.
“Who are you, then?”
“Ser Luc, my Enos,” the not-Nick said with a small, pained smile. “I have not distanced myself so long that thou no longer know my face?” he added, though his teasing tone felt somewhat forced. He glanced around Monroe’s kitchen. “Though perhaps ‘tis not so soon as I had wished.”
Monroe stared. Nick was moving in a thoughtlessly graceful manner that was miles away from his usual walk, and now that he thought about it, the voice coming out of Nick’s mouth seemed to have a slight French accent. Right. So Nick was… possessed? Or something?
“…It’s been awhile,” Monroe said slowly, playing along at least slightly for now. He had no idea if what was happening to Nick was dangerous, and didn’t want to rile up the whatever-it-was that had taken over his friend’s body. “How… did you know where to find me?”
Nick—Ser Luc—stepped forward and lightly touched Monroe’s arm. “Thou art never far from mine thoughts, my love.” (Monroe’s eyes widened) “I am drawn to thy soul.” That hand wandered over to his chest and was joined by the other, pressing near Monroe’s heart. “We have been too long apart.”
Monroe swallowed and neatly slid away from Ser Luc’s touch, discomfited by the foreign look of loss that had settled on Nick’s familiar face. “If it’s been so long,” he managed, “tell me what’s happened since we’ve seen each other last.” Maybe it would give him an angle to approach this problem from, cause right now he still had no idea.
Ser Luc’s face clouded and he frowned. “Thy speak of when my brethren tore thee from me.”
That wasn’t what Monroe had expected. “Uh, Please… Luc.” The brown eyes that looked so misplaced in Nick’s face lifted miserably and Monroe tried to smile reassuringly. “You have to tell me. I don’t remember.” Because dammit, he wanted Nick back, not this broken ghost, and if he could figure out what was affecting Nick, maybe he had a chance to reverse it.
Luc glanced around the house. “Perhaps it has been too long. Thy have a mortal body, where I…” He took a breath and inspected Monroe’s face. “I am pulled in two. This…” he looked down at his hands. “This shell may be right. And after searching for so long…” He looked up again and smiled that small smile. “Thou have a different face, though ‘tis not so strange. Thou art my Enos—thou soul speaks to mine.”
Monroe nodded slowly. “Tell me,” he asked again, and Luc sat heavily in one of Monroe’s kitchen chairs. Monroe watched him carefully.
“I beg your forgiveness,” Luc said softly. “I did not know their plans.”
“Yea, that’s okay, man,” Monroe said awkwardly, and sat across from him. Luc reached out and joined their hands, and after a moment of consideration, Monroe tightened his fingers around his grasp. “Um. I forgive you?”
Luc smiled with an expression Monroe had never seen on Nick’s face before. It was sad and longing and weary and almost made Monroe want to drag him across the table and pull him into a tight hug and never let him go. He blinked, startled by his reaction, but still didn’t pull his hand away.
“Our association was twice-cursed. Firstly by God and his Angels, though both of our sins number higher than perhaps even Heaven can count. Surely our love could not add to those?” Luc gazed imploringly at Monroe.
“Uh, surely, yea.” Monroe said after a moment when it became clear that Luc wanted an answer.
With a deep breath, Luc turned his head away as if he couldn’t stand to look at Monroe. “But my ancestors forbade us as well. Thou knowest—no Grimm should love a monster.” Monroe wanted to bristle at the ‘monster’ crack, but couldn’t muster up the anger. Luc was just so clearly… heartbroken.
He looked up and clutched at Monroe’s hand with both of his, now. “Thou stole my heart, Enos, with thy talk of peace and kindness. Thy preach of ‘moderation’ and ‘regimen’ and thou art kind and so full of love…”
Monroe blinked. “Wieder… You’re a Grimm in love with a wieder Wesen?”
“The Hunter who bedded his Wolf,” Luc said bitterly, though his anger seemed to be with himself, “and was unable to protect his lover, though I had promised thee on my everliving soul.” Monroe raised an eyebrow. Oh.
Luc inspected the table. “We art an abomination in the eyes of the Lord our God and to our Blood. Still…” he suddenly rose, dropped his hands and walked around the table, pinning Monroe into his seat and leaning over him. “Still I am incomplete without thy touch,” he murmured, and then he was bending down and kissing Monroe fiercely, his hands cupping Monroe’s face.
Monroe was too surprised to do anything but kiss him back, and even though his brain was screaming Nick, it’s Nick, you’re kissing Nick, he let Luc deepen it. And when Luc slid into his lap and dug his fingers into the sensitive spot on Monroe’s back and tilted his head and thrust his tongue into Monroe’s mouth and rocked against him, Monroe didn’t stop him either. Finally though, Luc pulled back and rested their foreheads together, breathing heavily. “I have found you, my love,” he whispered into Monroe’s mouth. Monroe nodded dumbly.
Seemingly with Monroe’s acceptance, something changed. Nick’s body stiffened, for a moment almost seemed to glow, and with a sharp gasp, he snapped his head back and there was a pressure in the kitchen that seemed to force too much air into the room. For less than a breath, Monroe could almost see another face superimposed over Nick’s features—one with Nick’s high cheekbones and pale skin, almost-black hair, but older, tired, and so, so sad. He smelled woodsmoke and a rabbit cooking over an open flame and metal and leather and then the moment was over and he was staring up at blue eyes and Nick was still sitting in his lap.
“Holy shit,” Monroe breathed, because what else was there to say?
Nick was panting, flushed, his eyes dilated and wet, and Monroe noted guiltily that his lips were still spit-slick and swollen from their kiss. He licked his own, tasted Nick, and suddenly lost his ability to speak.
“That was a little terrifying,” Nick said flatly after a moment, but made no motion to get off Monroe’s lap. Monroe just nodded distantly and contemplated how he apparently didn’t want Nick to move, ever. Whatever had changed in the room was apparently here to stay. He resisted his urge to tighten his grip on Nick’s waist.
“I was reading the book,” Nick said after a drawn out silence, staring off at some point past Monroe’s shoulder, and Monroe didn’t need him to tell him what book it was that Nick had been reading—whoever Luc was, it was pretty clear he’d been punished by his fellow Grimms.
Nick’s voice was shaking slightly as he continued. “There was… a story about a Grimm who fell in love with a Blutbad. The other Grimms found out and… they made him watch while they tortured and beheaded his lover. Then they killed the Grimm, too, but they cast a spell on him so he couldn’t find peace until he was reunited… I think? I was translating, I might have missed something. There was a drawing of him, though. He looked like me.”
Groggily, Nick looked down and made eye contact with Monroe for the first time since he’d come back to himself, then seemed to realize he was still in Monroe’s lap and hastily slid off, taking a large step backward and surreptitiously adjusting himself as he went. Monroe blinked and sat up straighter, already missing his heat. “Um, so… what just happened?”
Nick looked fixedly at the wall behind Monroe again. “I read a passage out loud and there was a, I don’t know. Rush of air or something, it’s a little fuzzy. And then I was here.” He paused. “I remember what the Grimm did while he was talking to you, though. Kind of. It’s… blurry.”
“Luc and Enos,” Monroe said softly after they’d let that sink in for a moment, and Nick cocked his head.
“Those were their names? They weren’t in the book.”
Monroe nodded and looked up. “He was so sad, Nick. How could they…”
“Times have changed,” Nick said, taking a tentative step closer.
“Not that much,” Monroe snorted. “You think other Grimms would be happy to find out you’re friends with a Blutbad? You think they wouldn’t draw and quarter me? Imprison you somehow? Cause I think they would.”
Nick took another step closer, more decisively this time. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.” He was almost close enough to touch, and Monroe found himself reaching out unconsciously. He snatched his hand back and Nick’s eyes flicked down. “You should come look at the book. Maybe you could shed some light on why I think I just got possessed by one of my ancestors.”
“Tomorrow, okay?” Monroe said softly, still processing what just happened. How his sometimes-annoying crush on Nick had just snapped into a full blown soul-crushing desire. How he could smell Nick’s arousal from across the room. How they were friends and that would be… bad. For some reason.
“Okay.” Nick fidgeted for a moment. “I’m sorry, I…”
Monroe shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, then forced a smile. “Dinner? I can probably salvage some risotto.”
Nick looked relieved at the change in conversation. “Yea, sure. Thanks, man.”
Monroe tossed uneasily in his too-large bed. Nick was downstairs, crashing on the couch he’d offered when Nick had seemed loathe to leave, to be alone. He could smell him, knew that Nick was awake and sleepless too, freaked out by some ancient curse that had been inflicted on his ancestor because of his ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a Blutbad.
It hit way too close to home.
They’d said ‘screw the status quo’ (God, had it been years?) years ago now, and so far things were working out, more or less. They both had scars they hadn’t had before they met, and they were both alone now (except for each other). It wasn’t Monroe’s ideal life (but he’d given up on ‘ideal’ when he embraced wieder-dom), and it sure as hell wasn’t Nick’s, but it was okay. Things were okay.
Except that suddenly now they weren’t. Monroe rolled over again, buried his head under his pillow, jammed his eyes shut and tried to will himself to sleep, to not think about Nick.
He must have ended up drifting for awhile, because when he opened his eyes again he had to force nightmare images of a Blutbad that looked suspiciously like himself being stretched on a rack, having hot pokers branded into his body, watching the axe come down—he sat up, panting, and directly headbutted Nick.
“Jeez, man…” Monroe rubbed his forehead and Nick looked sheepish.
“Sorry.” He was sitting on the edge of Monroe’s bed in his boxers and white undershirt, looking vaguely like he hadn’t slept in years. “You were making noises, I think you were…”
“Nightmares,” Monroe finished for him, and Nick nodded. They sat in silence for a minute, then Monroe touched Nick’s shoulder. “You can’t sleep?”
Nick clearly considered his next words before he spoke. “Do you believe in soulmates?”
Monroe laughed. “Smooth transition, Burkhardt.” Nick just shrugged, and Monroe sat up more fully and rested his elbows on his knees. “Uh, yea, I guess. Blutbaden have a whole mythology about it—finding your Mate and how there’s supposedly only one in the whole world. How through the choices you make in life you unconsciously draw yourself to them.”
Nick was silent for a moment before he slouched and said, “I had job offers in three states when I graduated college. But I randomly picked Oregon instead and went to the police academy. I had no reason to be here. And you went to school in Rhode Island, your family’s in Saskatchewan, why did you come here?” Nick’s tone was thoughtful and Monroe watched him try to reason things out in his head. “Do you think we were supposed to meet?”
Monroe’s laugh this time was nervous. “I don’t know, man. I think—I don’t know what I think. Look, maybe Luc and Enos were soulmates. I don’t know if there’s some, like, defining moment where you’d know for sure. But that doesn’t mean—”
“He recognized you, didn’t he?” Nick asked, so soft that Monroe barely caught his words.
“Uh. Yea,” Monroe stammered. “He said something about souls… drawn together… or something… look, you’re not Luc, I’m not Enos, we don’t have to read into this.” He shifted in his bed, suddenly aware that he was just in his boxers and Nick was very close.
Nick licked his lips and Monroe closed his eyes, overwhelmed at just how badly he wanted to taste Nick again. It wasn’t like it was a new thought, not really, but it had never been so blatant as it was this very instant. There was another moment of silence, then a rustle of skin shifting against blankets and heat and pressure against Monroe’s legs, a hand pushing him backward, guiding him to lay down on his bed. Monroe sucked in a breath (who had stolen all the oxygen from his room?) and opened his eyes.
“I want to read into it,” Nick said, pressing against him in ways Monroe had never thought he ever would, his eyes so blue they were almost glowing in the near-darkness of his bedroom.
Miraculously, Monroe found his voice. “I do, too.”
Nick kissed him.
Monroe woke the next morning alone in his bed. He tensed for a split second but a quick scent of his house told him that Nick was still here, downstairs. There was a muffled rattle of pans and Monroe smiled—Nick had apparently decided to try his hand at making them breakfast.
He rolled out of bed, sore in ways that he hadn’t been in years, and dressed slowly, looking into his mirror and letting himself take in the marks Nick had left on him last night. Nick certainly liked leaving bruises—Monroe had at least five on his chest and neck, and they felt good. Like they belonged. He himself had only put one mark on Nick, the only mark that mattered. That had felt good, too.
He was purposefully quiet when he headed downstairs and was rewarded with being able to watch a smiling Nick bustling around the kitchen for a moment before he was noticed. But then when he was finally spotted, Nick immediately put down the bowl of pancake batter he was mixing and grabbed him, pulling him down for a deep and possessive kiss. And yea, that was even better.
“Pancakes and then can we go to the trailer?” Nick asked, still firmly in Monroe’s personal space, resting his elbows easily on Monroe’s shoulders and threading his fingers through his hair.
“Yea,” Monroe allowed. “You still want me to look at the book?” Nick nodded and kissed him once more, lightly this time, then went back to mixing and pouring. Monroe watched him for a moment with a small smile on his face (Mine, he thought) and then asked, “You don’t have to work today?”
“It’s slow. They’ll call me if they need me, but I called Renard and told him I had a Grimm thing. Let him think what he will.”
Monroe frowned. This was an old argument, and they’d been having it since Renard had made his move all those years ago. “He uses you.”
Nick shrugged. “No more than I use him. And he’s a decent captain. His morals may be suspect, but he gets results. And I don’t want to talk about him today. Today it’s just us.”
“And Luc and Enos,” Monroe said softly.
Nick flipped a pancake and didn’t look at him. “That may have been the catalyst, but you’ve got to know that what I feel for you isn’t new. It was suddenly… more real… after whatever happened with Luc, but it’s just as real now and I don’t want to—” he cleared his throat. “I don’t want to go back to just being friends.” He plopped a pancake on a plate and handed it to Monroe, finally looking at him. His eyes were wide and worried.
“You’re mine,” Monroe said, and Nick smiled at the slight growl in his words. The worried look vanished.
“And you’re mine,” he countered. Monroe nodded. That was all right, then.
Nick sat down at the table with his own plate and dug in. “C’mon,” he said, and gestured for Monroe to sit, too. “Let’s get going. The sooner you look at the book, the sooner we can come back here and fuck our brains out.”
Monroe smiled and sat down. “No arguments here,” he said, and neatly cut a slice off the side of his pancake.
It had been awhile since Monroe had been in the trailer. Nick had moved his favorite weapons into his actual house (though a good number had mysteriously migrated to Monroe’s spare room over the years, too) and the more often-used books were lurking on a bookshelf in Nick’s home office, along with the projector and movie reels.
The trailer still smelled the same though, and Monroe sneezed a couple times when he stepped in. Nick shuffled around in the cramped space for a moment, then pulled the slim volume off the desk and flipped through the pages. When he found the right entry, he handed it to Monroe.
“How were you reading this?” Monroe asked, eying the faded ink and German letters.
“I got a German to English dictionary a while back,” Nick said, holding up a thick red and blue book. “Slower than asking you, but you’ve got a life, or so you keep telling me.”
Monroe flashed him a half-hearted scowl (Nick just grinned at him) but then went back to the book. He skimmed the entry, not especially wanting to read the intimate details of how Enos had screamed when he was tortured, how Luc was forced to watch. He flipped a page, and sure enough, there was an illustration of Luc, his face almost unsettlingly similar to Nick’s. He let out a breath. “Okay, it says…” He furrowed his brow. “The Grimms couldn’t just kill him because they decided that would be too kind and they wanted him to suffer. Nice people, your ancestors.”
“Yea, yea, I got that part,” Nick said impatiently. “It was the next bit that was confusing.”
Monroe inspected the page. “…They split his soul in two.” He blinked, a little shocked. “It’s a… nasty thing. I’ve seen the affects of that Zaubertrank before. It’s…” he shook his head. “It’s bad. Anyway… Two things happened. One half stayed in him so he could have heirs and pass on his Grimm genes. The other half was imprisoned in this book and could be released only if the person who was the living part of the first half…” he cocked his head and looked at Nick. “I guess that means you.”
Nick looked a little shocked, but nodded. Monroe went on. “The first half has to read the words to free the second half, and then his soul could be whole again. Your soul.” He looked up at Nick again, concerned. “There’s more about how imprisonment was supposed to teach him a lesson and stop him from,” he consulted the book, “sinning again.” He chewed on his lip. “So by extension, this is assuming that you’ve been what—”
“Functioning with half a soul for my whole life? And whoever Luc was reincarnated as after he died lived their whole lives with only half a soul?” Nick shook his head. “I don’t even believe in reincarnation.”
“Yea, neither do I, but it’s pretty weird, Nick.” Monroe glanced down at the book, at the illustration of Luc. “I’ve… I’d noticed that you’re attractive for awhile, Nick. But last night it was like I’d found you for the first time in… I don’t know. I recognized you.”
Nick stared at him. “Yea, I know what you’re saying. After… My eyes opened and I saw you. Like really saw you even though we’ve known each other for how long, now?” He sighed. “What did Luc say about…?”
“He said he was drawn to my soul.”
Nick smirked. “A little cheesy.”
Monroe looked at the book again. “He was from the 1700s. And he’d just been reunited with his soulmate. I think that gives him a little bit of leeway.”
“So you think Luc and Enos were soulmates, now?” Nick looked slightly skeptical, but Monroe shrugged.
“I have no idea what to think. I can email Rosalee and ask her what she thinks of the Zaubertrank that the Grimms used. She might be able to shed some light. But I don’t know.”
Nick sagged slightly and sat down on the bed, ran a hand over his face. “So I might be Luc. And you might be Enos. I guess we’ve seen weirder things.”
Monroe closed the book and dropped it on the desk with a curl of his lip. It was distasteful. There was no reason for past Grimms to have been so cruel. The rest of Luc’s life after they’d administered the spell must have been miserable. He crossed the trailer and sat next to Nick, gathering him in his arms and holding tight. Nick turned into his embrace and buried his head in Monroe’s neck.
“Maybe. Kind of,” Monroe said. “We’re us, is what matters. And…”
“We won’t end like them,” Nick muttered, his voice muffled by Monroe’s clothing. “It’s different now.”
“Yea,” Monroe agreed. “It’s a second chance, kinda.”
Nick pulled back and with a swift movement, kissed him. “Took us a few years.”
Monroe smiled. “The best things are worth waiting for.”