German is not the language of love, so they say. But Nick, at least, is beginning to think otherwise.
It doesn’t have the flowery, romantic flow of French or the utilitarian logic of Latin. But that’s all Greek to Nick. German, on the other hand, reminds him more and more of Monroe. It’s hard sounding and gruffly guttural, but the longer he studies it, the more familiar the sounds become, and he’s surprised to realize, that like Monroe, they have been growing on him and softening.
At first, he’d asked Monroe to translate because he needed him to. His ancestors really could have saved him a lot of trouble if they’d left him, say, a German-to-English dictionary. They’d certainly left behind some more useless things --empty vials of long gone potions, that if Monroe was to be believed he’d have to hike through rural Russia to replace, for example. However, he finds his ancestors' lack of sufficient forethought less goading the first time he watches Monroe’s intent gaze on the fading ink. Although he, per usual, had been somewhat reluctant to help, this time citing his early bedtime, Nick could tell he not-so-secretly loved translating. It’s one of the first times Nick sees through Monroe’s rough exterior to the childlike glee he has for several scholarly fields, mechanical things, and, evidently weapons, that he doesn’t show to people who don’t know him well. Nick smiles to himself and decides that this is one of those things that Monroe probably won’t mind --read would actually really kind of want --to help with again. And he starts setting aside some things that he thinks might be useful to have translations of.
A few months later, in a fit of guilt, because he’s asked for Monroe’s help with German so many times, he buys a translation dictionary and realizes that perhaps his ancestors had some common sense after all. German word order doesn’t match English word order in the least -- who puts a verb at the end of every sentence?-- and Nick begins to wonder what kind of maniac thought up something that Monroe keeps telling him is an “inflected language.” Soon realizing that he doesn’t have the time or the proper tools to teach himself, Nick bats his eyes pitifully at Monroe for some German tutoring, assuring him that it’ll save him some time and trouble down the road. Although Monroe thinks Nick doesn’t notice, a flicker of disappointment crosses his face before he gives some sardonic reply about how he might have some time to himself one of these days then.
Before long, the pair finds themselves falling asleep, variably in the trailer, Monroe’s living room, or less frequently, Nick’s living room, over lists of half conjugated verbs and partially finished noun exercises almost as often as over unsolved police cases involving wesen. If Monroe had thought that Nick learning German would mean Nick spending less of his time with him, he really needn’t have worried. Especially since Nick was starting to think that even if he possessed some literary fluency with the language, it would never measure up to Monroe’s. It, perhaps, didn’t look it, but Nick felt that German, especially the older German used by his ancestors, was fairly erudite, something that didn’t seem to apply to him, but was another sticking point for Monroe being like German.
But Nick sets aside his qualms about never truly knowing German until one day in mid- April when he finds himself sparring, both physically and verbally, with Monroe. They’re in the middle of the woods testing out some of Nick’s aunt’s less complicated weapons, a pair of swords, as Monroe asks Nick questions in German, jesting that they could have a dual duel. It’s a perfect balance of strengthening exercises for them, as Monroe’s footwork needs no small degree of fine tuning, and Nick would do well to pay more attention to the actual words rather than the cadence of Monroe’s voice. After they have both made a number of simple mistakes, Nick asks Monroe if he really knows any more than he did before.
Monroe looks at him fondly before telling him that he knows German as well as he knows him. He may not know anywhere near everything, about the language's checkered past or more unusual tendencies, but he knows what’s important. And to prove it, Monroe gestures for Nick to sit down on the grass with him as he tells Nick a fairy tale, entirely in German. Nick listens raptly as the familiar sound of the language and Monroe’s voice weave together pleasantly. It’s not until Monroe is half way through telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood that he realizes that the wolf has somehow become the protagonist: As Red had never met her grandmother, she had not known, as the wolf-- who was really a werewolf-- had, that she had become a powerful, evil witch that could grow even more powerful if she had innocent blood on her hands. The wolf reveals the woman’s plot by pretending to be Red, and when the grandmother pulls out a knife to kill him, Red, who had been watching from the window, shrieks and runs in with her basket full of goods and hits her grandmother over the head with a stale loaf of bread, knocking her out cold. Red and the wolf flee together, hand in hand, and from a spark that ignites between their hands, Red learns that she too is a witch. She promises the wolf that she’ll never be like her grandmother.
Monroe doesn’t elaborate on the allegory any further than that, but instead backs up against a tree, looking slightly abashed, but he doesn’t need to. Nick understands. He’s glad he’s been learning German because he has the distinct impression this story never would have been told in English. He pulls Monroe up off the tree and finishes the story for him, despite the more clumsy phrasing of his German, saying that the wolf and Red had worked together to make sure Red never became like her grandmother and they had fallen in love in the meanwhile. At which point, Nick’s lips have become tantalizingly close to Monroe’s.
German had started out for him as a tool. A means for an end for understanding wesen lore, legend, and history -- and parsing out which was which. Now it was becoming a part of him because it was tied up in his heritage and Monroe had been teaching it to him. And in it, because of everything it was for him and for Grimms in general, fairy tales became more than just stories.
Monroe had been much the same. The first time Nick went to ask Monroe for help, and had then been pounced on before being offered a beer, he had hardly expected first off that Monroe would actually help, second that he would slowly but surely become friends with him. And lastly, that much to his surprise, he now felt that he could not live without him.
“Am I Red, in this story?” Nick asks, even though he knows the answer.
“Well, uh, I’m the wolf,” Monroe replies with a shrug. “Take that for what you will.”
“I’m Red,” Nick says with an air of certainty.
They close the space between them, pressing into each others lips as they collapse onto the forest floor, Grimm training all but forgotten until they accidentally roll, thankfully, into the sheaths of their swords.
"Thanks for teaching me German," Nick mumbles, which is perhaps strange under the circumstances, but he's thinking about how this never would have happened, at least not the way it had, if Monroe hadn't taught it to him.
"Is that what we're calling this these days?" Monroe asks.
"Yeah, Monroe," Nick mumbles sarcastically, but decides to go for earnest half way through. "That's what they're calling... love these days."