Nick stared at the ceiling of his bedroom and debated if getting up to pee was too much of an effort. He really did need to go, but the bathroom was rather far away and he did have an empty water bottle next to the bed, and what was the good of being a newly-confirmed bachelor if you didn’t pee in a bottle once and awhile?
But as he was reaching for the bottle, the thought occurred to him that he was an adult, and a cop, and a grimm, and damn it, pissing in a bottle without getting out of bed was actually kind of disgusting, and… and there needed to be a line somewhere. Should be. Probably.
So he got up and staggered down the hall, avoiding his own eyes staring back at him from the bathroom mirror, and as he leaned heavily against the wall (laziness was perfectly acceptable as long as he got it in the toilet) he heard his phone ring from somewhere in the direction of the kitchen. Of course it was the distinctive ring he’d programmed for Monroe, and fuck. it. all. He didn’t want to talk to Monroe at this particular moment in time.
Couldn’t he just wallow in misery in peace?
Regardless, he grumbled to himself and washed his hands and went in search of his phone, because the last time he’d ignored Monroe’s phone call, Portland had almost been brought to its metaphorical knees by a gang of extremely unpleasant sirens, one of which he may or may not have declared his undying love toward, and… ugh. Suffice to say, he attempted not to simply ignore Monroe anymore.
Of course by the time he finally found it, it had quit ringing, and Nick was momentarily distracted by the half-empty kitchen and just stood there, phone in hand, eying the spots where the toaster and the kettle and the blender had been only a few days ago. He swallowed past a sudden lump in his throat, and his phone buzzed with an incoming text.
He looked down, pressed a button, read: Hey dude give me a call when you get a chance. He sighed, keyed back in: is it an emergency? and hit ‘send,’ waited a moment, and when no response seemed imminent, absently decided he was hungry.
But a search of the fridge revealed nothing to make a meal with, (besides beer, which probably wasn’t the best idea) and when he resigned himself to a peanut butter sandwich, he realized the bread was moldy. He sighed again and gave up, tiredly climbed the stairs, and went back to bed. He was asleep thirty seconds later and missed the vibration of his phone and the returning text: No emergency, just seeing if you’re still alive.
Nick woke up four hours later to his doorbell ringing. He swore and struggled out of his sheets, almost falling flat on his face before he regained his balance. After righting himself, he stomped down the hall and flung the door open, face thunderous, but deflated at the flash of nerves that rippled over Monroe’s features.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Nick growled at him, but Monroe still stared at him with wide eyes for a split second longer than usual. Nick rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to go all crazy on you.”
“Yea…” Monroe allowed, but didn’t make an effort to step closer.
Nick sighed. “Come in, I promise not to behead you in a fit of unquenchable rage.”
Monroe made a non-committal noise, but followed when Nick turned and wandered back into the recesses of his house. Nick flopped down on his remaining couch and Monroe surveyed the general emptiness of the living room, a spark of understanding dawning.
“Juliette?” he asked gently, and Nick shrugged.
“She said that me getting gored was the final straw.” Nick muttered, and carefully inspected his hands.
“But she was…” Monroe mumbled, and Nick sat up sharply, only slightly wincing at the pain in his still-healing side.
“I fucking know!” he snapped, and rubbed his face with his hands. “And I still… she accepted it, mostly, didn’t really think I was crazy, didn’t even really freak when you showed her…” he dropped his hands and stared blankly at the spot where his TV used to be. “She said she couldn’t handle the danger. I guess me being a cop is one thing, but a grimm is another. She left three days ago.”
Monroe nodded slightly and disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, then stuck his head out and asked, “You are aware that you have absolutely no food in your house? When was the last time you ate?”
Nick shrugged. “Yesterday?”
“You sure about that?”
Nick shrugged again, and Monroe frowned. “I’ll order something,” he said to himself, and pulled out his cell, started scrolling through the options. After a moment, he selected something and dialed, pausing and stepping into the kitchen again to order when someone answered. Nick tracked his movements without much thought, and a couple minutes later, Monroe slid back into the room.
“I hope you like Indian. I got you something with chicken—I like this restaurant, their tofu curry is delicious, and they deliver,” he said, and Nick shrugged, again looking blankly toward the wall. “Have you taken a shower or anything recently?” Monroe asked gingerly (as close as politeness would allow him to tell Nick that he, er, smelled). All he received was another half-hearted shrug. Monroe narrowed his eyes at Nick’s non-responses. “I fell off the wagon, ate an old lady.”
No response from Nick, and Monroe sighed. “Dude.”
“Whatever, I know you’re not serious,” Nick muttered. “And I don’t need you to take care of me like I’m some invalid.”
Monroe snorted. “You can’t remember the last time you ate.” He paused, decided to forgo manners, and added, “Also, not to be insensitive, but you could really use a shower. I can smell you all the way from over here.”
Nick just sagged against the couch. “You could smell me from over there even if I’d just scoured myself with bleach.”
“First, I would not recommend doing that. Second, yea, but it’s a figure of speech.” He furrowed his brow, and Nick glanced at him. Monroe looked genuinely concerned.
“Why’d you come over?” Nick wondered out loud, and Monroe blinked.
“Uh, I was worried about you. You weren’t returning any of my calls or texts, and the last time that happened, it was ‘cause you got yourself kidnapped.” Monroe adjusted his cardigan and looked down, then sank down next to Nick on the couch. He met Nick’s eyes with his own wide and serious. “And knowing a grimm that doesn’t have any interest in chopping my head off is kinda nice. I certainly don’t have the patience to train another one.”
The corners of Nick’s mouth twitched up involuntarily, and he shoved Monroe’s shoulder. “Dick,” he accused affectionately, and Monroe smiled.
“So,” Monroe said, suddenly all business. “Do you have a deck of cards? Nick raised an eyebrow and nodded. Monroe grinned. “Excellent. So. You’re going to take a shower before the food gets here, and then we’re going to play rummy.”
Nick smiled (a wry smile, but a real smile none the less). “You’re secretly like eighty, aren’t you?”
“Whatever, Burkhardt. Now shower before you permanently damage my nose.”
When Nick reemerged, his hair wet and skin flushed from the super-heated shower he’d just indulged in, the food had arrived and Monroe was shuffling his beat-up deck of cards at the kitchen table, a half-empty beer resting by his elbow. He glanced up at Nick. “I helped myself, sorry, but this seemed like a beer-worthy night.”
“Fair enough,” Nick agreed, and went to the fridge for one of his own. They divvied up the food and Monroe dealt a hand.
“You know how to play?” he asked after they’d settled in.
Nick grinned, shark-like. “Yea, one of my parents’ friends in an old folks’ home taught me when I was maybe seven.” He widened his eyes and said in a mock-whisper, “That means I’m calling you old, Monroe.”
Monroe rolled his eyes. “Less talking, more rummy.”
They played for a couple hours, only pausing as the night went on to put the leftovers away and to get more beer from the fridge. They talked about harmless nothings until around eleven o’clock, when Nick lay down his cards, announcing, “Gin, bitch. Shut. Out.”
“Whatever, dude,” Monroe groused. “You barely won half the matches.” But he flashed a grin at Nick, who returned it easily. Nick pushed himself to his feet, on a mission to the fridge for more beer, and swayed slightly.
“Huh,” he said. “Had a couple too many, I guess.” He looked at Monroe. “You can crash here if you shouldn’t drive. I’ve got a guest room…” he trailed off and frowned. “…but no bed to go in it,” he mumbled finally, and sank back down to sit at the table. “Why’d she leave me, Monroe?” he said softly, and Monroe’s eyes widened, alarmed at the shift in conversation.
“Um,” Monroe stalled, “I don’t know, man. But you gotta think of the positives…”
Nick glared at him. “What positives? That I’m more alone than ever? That my real job’s suffering, and the only person in the whole world that understands why is you? That I’ve got a target on my back?”
Monroe watched him for a moment before saying gently, “At least Juliette won’t have one on her back anymore.”
Nick hung his head and swallowed. “Fuck, you’re right. Aunt Marie even told me at the very beginning—Juliette has no place in this world.” He rubbed his hands roughly over his eyes. “I’m a selfish ass.”
“No,” Monroe countered. “You just love her, dude. I know what it’s like to love someone where it can only end with your heart being ripped out.” Nick raised his head and looked at him. Monroe shrugged. “Granted, yours is more metaphorical heart-ripping, and mine is more literal, but hey. I’m trying to be supportive, here.”
Nick smiled slightly and shook his head. “Thanks, I know this isn’t really your thing.”
“Yea, well…” Monroe blinked. “I guess I’m here if you need to talk or anything.”
They stared at one another across the kitchen table for a moment, and then Nick blushed and laughed awkwardly. “Thanks, man. But now that we’ve established that, let’s be manly men and have another beer or something.”
“Sounds good,” Monroe agreed willingly. He grabbed two more beers from the fridge and popped the tops, handing one to Nick. “To being manly men?”
“Manly men,” Nick echoed, and accepted the beer. He offered it up in toast, and Monroe clinked the necks together.
Nick roused himself the next morning to someone knocking on the door. He stumbled down the hall, but paused to take in the smell of brewing coffee—oh my god he loved Monroe, the man thought of everything.
Monroe had eventually ended up crashed on the couch last night—they’d both gotten entirely too drunk than was strictly a good idea, and Nick was nothing if not a cop and had insisted that he stay over. And as Monroe (who actually looked rather adorable, all sleep rumpled) pressed a coffee cup into his hand, Nick was sincerely glad he’d insisted he stay. He felt a little bad for ignoring him for the last couple days and hadn’t realized how much he missed his sarcastic half-insults.
Plus, it was nice not waking up to a cripplingly empty house.
He took a sip of the coffee (eyes closing in pleasure—Monroe must have brought some of his own over) and answered the door. And despite the tastiness of the heavenly coffee, he almost dropped the cup in shock when he saw who was standing on his porch.
“Juliette,” he breathed, really and truly surprised. Her leaving hadn’t been the most… civil… of their discussions.
“Hi, Nick,” she said, and forced a smile. “I just…” her eyes flicked past him, and Nick heard Monroe shuffling around in the living room, gathering up his things. Juliette refocused on him. “Who’s there?”
“Uh, Monroe,” Nick stammered, then stepped back. “Come in, you don’t need to stand on the porch, this is still your house…”
Juliette winced. “Ah, no, that’s all right… but I need to talk to you about some things.” Her eyes flicked past him, clearly trying to see Monroe, and she continued haltingly. “Money things, but I don’t want to…” she shifted nervously, and the penny dropped.
“Are you freaked out because Monroe’s here?” Nick asked, and was surprised to hear how hard his voice sounded. “You know I trust him, I told you I trust him.”
Juliette took the tiniest step backward. “He’s… animalistic, Nick. It’s disconcerting.”
Nick licked his lips. “He’s my friend, and he’s helping me through the shattering pain of you leaving me with no notice.”
“That’s what he’s doing, sure,” Juliette snapped suddenly, and Nick blinked, confused. Behind him, there was a quiet cough, and he turned to see Monroe smiling tightly.
“Dude, I gotta go,” he mumbled. “I’ve got meetings with clients this morning. Just uh, call if you need anything. And don’t forget to eat today, okay? There’re leftovers.” He slipped past Nick and out the door, nodding slightly at Juliette, who took a large step backward. “I don’t bite,” he threw over his shoulder at her.
“Yes you do,” she mumbled under her breath. Monroe mostly ignored her, but Nick caught his slight grimace at her words. He abruptly felt intensely guilty that he’d convinced him to show Juliette his true face. In the drive, Monroe slammed the door to his bug slightly too hard and Nick cringed in sympathy.
Nick sighed and watched Monroe’s car begin to back down the driveway. “Well, he’s gone. Will you come in, now?” Juliette rolled her eyes, but walked in when he stepped back. She headed straight for the kitchen, and Nick heard her quiet huff of displeasure when she saw the (admittedly numerous) empty bottles, dirty dishes, and deck of cards.
“Poker?” she asked sinking into her usual chair. Nick leaned against the counter and shook his head.
“Rummy. So what did you need? Obviously you’re not here to reconcile.” He crossed his arms and took another sip of Monroe’s wonderful coffee. “I’m listening.” She stared at him, her eyes wide, for long enough that Nick shifted nervously under her gaze. “What?” he finally snapped.
“All right,” she mumbled, and dropped her eyes. “I want to move back to New Hampshire.”
Nick waited for a moment, and when he realized she wasn’t going to say anything else, rolled his eyes. “Okay. We broke up. You don’t need my permission.”
Juliette pursed her lips. “My name is on the deed to this house, and I need money to move back.”
Nick deflated. “Oh.” He carefully placed his coffee cup on the counter as a cover for thinking quickly. He turned back to her and shook his head slightly. “I can’t buy you out of the house, Juliette. You know what I make.”
She nodded, and then, so soft he could barely hear her, said, “We should consider selling. It’s not a single person house anyway, Nick.”
He leaned more heavily on the counter. “You want to take the house away from me, too?” He sucked in a breath, disbelieving. “Everything, Juliette? Where would I go?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped. “Get an apartment like a normal bachelor.” Her eyes hardened. “Or you could move in with Monroe.”
“What the fuck is your obsession with him?” Nick yelled, going from depressed to furious almost instantly. “He’s my friend, the only person that I have to go to right now because you abandoned me!”
Juliette stood. “He’s not your friend, Nick! He’s a fucking wolf. You showed me the books—he’s going to turn on you, rip your throat out, and you let him sleep in our house!” She was panting, her face flushed and furious. She took a moment to compose herself, then continued in a lower voice, venomous. “Did you let him sleep in our bed? Did you fuck him when he stayed here last night? You’ve always been handsy after a few beers.”
Nick threw up his hands. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He turned around and faced the sink, unable to look at her. “It’s not like that,” he told the sink. “Monroe’s just my friend.” He heard Juliette suck in a sob behind him.
“We were just friends for a long time,” she said softly.
Nick shook his head and didn’t turn to look at her. “Contact a realtor. I don’t want to do it. Just get them to sell the place quickly. We’ll split it fifty-fifty, and you’ll be out of my life for good.”
“Get out, Juliette. You don’t want to be here. I’m dangerous, remember?”
He finally turned to her. “I’m trying hard not to be angry with you ‘cause I get it. Hell, if I had the choice, I’m not sure I’d want to stay in such an unbelievable situation, either. But you are making not being mad really hard. So please leave, and don’t come back unless you absolutely have to.”
She was still standing, looking sad and broken, but Nick just hardened his eyes. And when she picked up her purse and practically bolted from the room, he didn’t follow her or even move an inch and it was only after he heard the quiet snnk of the front door shutting that he let himself sink to the ground and bury his face in his arms.
“She wants me to sell the house,” Nick said by way of a greeting two days later, and shouldered past Monroe, headed for the kitchen and the beer he knew was chilling so deliciously in the fridge.
“Uh,” Monroe offered, but Nick was already mid-rant.
“A realtor called me today, said he needed to come and look at the place, said it would be best if I stayed in a hotel or something while he was staging it, I fucking hate him, and all because it wasn’t good enough to take everything, no, now she wants to leave me homeless too—” he paused to pop the top off a beer, took a long drink, and then continued “—and she had the fucking balls to accuse me of using you as a rebound fuck—” (Monroe’s eyes widened and he looked positively terrified by this notion) “—and she doesn’t fucking believe me when I say we’re just friends and it just makes everything just a billion times worse, because I know she’s dropping hints along those lines to our mutual friends and fuck if I don’t need that right now, and goddamnit why is she doing this?” He threw himself into one of Monroe’s kitchen chairs and glowered.
Monroe blinked and pushed his glasses up to rest on the top of his head. “I have absolutely no idea how you want me to respond to all that,” he commented idly, and Nick snorted.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said, smiling wryly. “I just need to vent.”
Monroe made an expansive gesture. “Vent away, just don’t break anything.”
“What, no smashing clocks in a rage?” Nick asked, his eyes wide and innocent.
“Try it,” Monroe said, and smiled with all his teeth. “Just see where that gets you.” Nick laughed and took a long pull of his beer. Monroe raised an eyebrow. “Dude, you are aware it’s ten in the morning, right? On a Tuesday?”
Nick shrugged. “I took the week off work. God knows I’ve got the time stored up. And I figured I’d need the chance to concentrate on… whatever needs to be concentrated on when one’s long term girlfriend suddenly gets cold feet.” He swirled his beer bottle in Monroe’s direction. “I’d say I deserve some day drinking.”
Monroe conceded the point, but asked if they could relocate their conversation toward his workbench. “I’ve got deadlines, dude. My glamorous lifestyle needs supporting somehow.”
“God forbid you run out of cashmere sweater money,” Nick snarked, but followed Monroe as the blutbad led the way into the living room.
“Hey, don’t be knocking on the cashmere,” Monroe shot back, and handed Nick a coaster before resettling his glasses on the tip of his nose and dropping into his chair. “Just ‘cause you’re a man of ill-refined taste doesn’t mean we all have to be philistines. Watch TV or keep talking, I’ll try to pay attention to your distress.” Nick entirely ignored him in favor of closely inspecting the almost-completed clock on Monroe’s workbench.
“This is amazing,” he muttered, fingering the miniscule carvings and admiring the near-obsessive detail. I don’t think I’ve seen you make something so…”
Monroe glanced at him over the top of his glasses. “It’s a special order, and don’t touch it—I haven’t stained it yet, you’ll get oils on it—”
Nick grinned at him and pulled his hand away. “You hand-carved this?”
Monroe nodded slowly and leaned back. “Why the sudden interest in clocks, Nick?”
“I don’t know, no reason,” Nick said, and took another swallow of his beer. “I’ve just—I mean, I know you repair clocks and you obviously make a decent living at it. I’ve just never seen you make something like that before.”
“Yea, well, I don’t usually,” Monroe mumbled, and turned back to this desk. “It’s incredibly time-consuming. Like I said, it’s a special order.”
Nick hummed agreeably. “Well, it’s gorgeous.” He flicked on Monroe’s stereo, relaxing at the gentle sounds of Scarlatti that began issuing forth. He settled on the couch, pulled a soft knit blanket of Monroe’s around him and nested in, closed his eyes, yawned, and missed the way that Monroe shook his head slightly and smiled to himself at his actions.
“Just make yourself comfortable, grimm,” Monroe grumbled, but there was only gentleness in his words.
“Whatever,” Nick mumbled, and plonked his beer on Monroe’s coffee table. Idly, he plucked at the few knickknacks on the table—a wooden hidden box puzzle, a candle, a months-old Clockmaker’s Quarterly magazine. He slid open a small drawer in the side of the table and discovered a pack of Bicycle playing cards and brightened noticeably.
“Come play cards with me.”
Monroe glanced at him and then at his clock. “…I really need to work…”
Nick slid the cards out of the box and gave them an experimental shuffle. “Just a couple hands,” he wheedled, and Monroe sighed and pushed his glasses to the top of his head.
“Fine.” Resigned, he dragged his chair to the other side of the coffee table and sat down, crossing his arms. “What do you want to play?”
Nick looked sheepish. “Rummy?”
Monroe laughed. “After all the crap you gave me?”
With a shrug, Nick dealt them ten cards each. “It’s surprisingly Zen.”
“If by ‘Zen’ you mean ‘Fun to Smack-Talk,’ then sure,” Monroe countered, and sorted his cards. “And I’m so totally not going to go easy on you this time.”
“Good,” Nick said, smiling, and drew his first card. “The way you were playing the other night, a epileptic panda could have beaten you.”
“That statement is entirely nonsensical,” Monroe groused, but then grinned when he was able to make a five-card run. “You are so going down, Burkhardt.”
A few hours and countless hands later, Nick was passed out on Monroe’s couch and Monroe was back at his workbench, carefully (and silently) applying varnish to his clock with steady, smooth strokes. He had certainly noticed how badly Nick had slept that night that Monroe had crashed his despair spiral, and he doubted Nick had had much more luck in the sleep department over the few days it’d been since then.
And now with Juliette wanting to sell their house and Nick stressed out about her spreading rumors about them (Monroe willed a blush down just thinking about that—it hit way too close to his own personal truth for comfort, those supposed rumors) and the likely problems to stem from disappearing from the precinct for a week—Nick just needed some sleep. He wasn’t about to begrudge his friend a nap on his couch.
Of course, Nick’s complete relaxation and the silence of the house had the un-intentioned side effect of making Monroe sleepy too, but he didn’t have time for a nap of his own. He suppressed a yawn and concentrated on his clock, smiling slightly at the sound of Nick snoring away on his couch.
While Nick’s problems were impressive, Monroe really needed to get this clock done. He wasn’t kidding when he said it was a special order—he’d been contacted by a hexenbiest (talk about your disconcerting client meetings) and basically ordered to make something intricate and impressive (her words) for their shadowy prince.
And yea, Monroe had been aware (in a vague sort of way) that he was living in an area that fell directly under the jurisdiction of one of the royal houses, but he’d certainly never anticipated that little fact would directly impact his life. And now, here he was, days away from his ‘royal screening’ (holy crap) and the clock was almost finished and Nick had to go put his grimm-y hands all over it. Monroe really hoped that the varnish he was currently painting over the wood erased all scent of grimm, because indirectly threatening royalty was never a good idea.
He finished the first coat of varnish and delicately set the two clock halves on specialized drying racks. He should be able to complete the clock within the next couple days, provided Nick didn’t kidnap him for some nefarious plot.
Speaking of—Monroe rose and stretched, shook himself, (a ripple of fur passed over his body and disappeared just as quickly) and yawned. He glanced at one of his myriad of clocks (one of the only three or four that was actually set to the correct time) and whew. It was already almost five. He should probably consider waking Nick up.
Nick had shifted on the couch and was now sprawled out on his stomach, one leg and arm hanging off the edge, his face smashed into the back cushions, snoring softly. Monroe stifled the urge to laugh—Nick looked so damn innocent spread out like that. He certainly looked a lot younger than his thirty two years, and nowhere near the mythical killing machine that Monroe occasionally caught glimpses of.
He nudged Nick’s leg. “Dude, wake up.” Nick just grunted and burrowed in deeper. Monroe sighed, and reached down to shake his shoulder. “Dude.”
And then there was a flurry of movement and Monroe found himself on his back on the floor with Nick kneeling, straddled over him, his hand bunched in Monroe’s shirt, a wild look on his face.
“Nick!” Monroe raised his hands in surrender, and Nick’s face softened. He sat back on his heels but didn’t get off Monroe—rather, he leaned forward slightly and tried to smooth out the mark where he’d gotten a death grip on his shirt.
“Sorry, sorry,” Nick mumbled, and Monroe utterly froze (Nick had apparently decided the best place to sit was directly on Monroe’s hips and what in the name of all things holy had Monroe done to deserve that) for long seconds, his brain foggily feeling the heat of Nick’s hands as they smoothed his shirt down over his chest.
“Please—” Monroe tried, realized his voice was cracking, so swallowed and tried again. “Please get off?”
Nick blinked, as if he’d just registered where exactly he was, and then jerked backward, out of Monroe’s lap. “Jesus, I’m sorry, Monroe,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “Waking up in an unexpected place and all that…”
Monroe pushed himself to his elbows and huffed out, “Yaay, grimm instincts…” he was fairly certain he sounded suitably unimpressed, and not flustered at all (really). Nick stood and offered him a hand, which Monroe accepted, and heaved himself to his feet.
Once they’d sufficiently situated themselves, Nick glanced around at the lowering light and asked confusedly, “What time is it?” Monroe raised an eyebrow.
“You let me sleep for four hours?” Nick asked, apparently aghast, and Monroe shrugged.
“Did you have somewhere you were supposed to be?”
“Well, no,” Nick admitted, “but I should have been cleaning my house—the dick of a realtor is coming by tomorrow to tell me what I need to do to it.” He ran his hands through his sleep-ruffled hair and looked up hopefully at Monroe. “Do you think…?”
Monroe narrowed his eyes. “I’ve worked all day and now you want me to come help you clean?”
“I’ll buy you dinner?” Nick begged, and when Monroe still looked skeptical, added, “And beer…”
Monroe sighed. “Fine. But the next time I need help with housework, I expect you to return the favor.”
“Done and done,” Nick said, smiling. “Now, do you know where my jacket is?”
“Have I mentioned recently that I absolutely hate you?” Monroe growled as he dragged the world’s heaviest dresser down Nick’s stairs. Nick was ‘helping,’ of course, but the majority of the weight (at least one hundred tons, no normal dresser weighed this much) fell directly on Monroe’s frame.
“Nah,” Nick puffed, entirely out of breath. “You’ve been quieter than usual on the hate front recently.” They dropped the dresser on the front porch with a resounding thud, and Nick leaned against it, panting. “I was actually beginning to wonder if we might be bonding or something equally as adorable.”
“Well, consider the hatred back to normal levels,” Monroe offered up, also panting. “Also, do you have some water? It is entirely possible that I may fall over dead.”
“Don’t do that,” Nick said, the hint of worry in his voice dulled by the wicked grin on his face. “We’ve still got to move two more dressers.”
Monroe groaned. “You’re not going to tell me they’re small end-table type dressers, are you?”
“No,” Nick shook his head and nodded toward the monstrosity they’d just finished moving. “They’re part of a set. This is the smallest of the three.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” Monroe said as he followed Nick into the house. “The hatred level has elevated to heights previously unattained.” Nick grinned.
“Shut up, you know you love me.”
“I’d love you better if you gave me water,” Monroe groused, and Nick busied himself drawing a glass from the tap, then grabbing one for himself as well. They sat in silence at the kitchen table for a moment, before Monroe asked, “So why are we moving furniture in the dark?”
“You were the one that let me sleep all day,” Nick countered. Monroe grunted, and Nick smiled humorlessly and looked around the few stacks of half-packed boxes. “The realtor wants the house cleared out by tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve got appointments to look at new places all morning, so I can’t do it then.”
Monroe nodded slowly before asking, “Why can’t he just use your stuff to stage the house?” He blinked and attempted to backtrack. “…That’s a thing, right? House staging?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t watch HGTV,” Nick teased. “And I don’t know. I guess my stuff isn’t the most, erm, fashionable…”
Monroe eyed a shelf that held a lava lamp and smirked. “Yea, not the most fashion-forward, not that I could really judge…”
Nick shrugged. “You’re fine. I like your style. You’re exactly what you should be.”
“Ah.” Monroe hated himself sometimes—mostly he could ignore his stupid crush (because what else was it, just something stupid and passing) but sometimes, sometimes, Nick would say something offhanded that made him want to run and jump and damn the consequences. He shook his head. “Let’s get the rest of the demon dressers moved out and on the truck.”
Nick nodded and took a final swig of his water before standing up. “The other two are downstairs, so it shouldn’t be as bad.”
“Joy,” Monroe deadpanned, and followed Nick into what turned out to have once been an office.
A couple hours later they had switched from water to beer and were collapsed sweatily on the couch—the only remaining stitch of furniture in the house. There were still a couple open boxes in the kitchen, but for the most part they’d done it. And honestly, Nick hadn’t had too much left after Juliette had walked, so it could have been worse.
“Oh man,” Nick complained. “My back is going to kill me tomorrow.”
Monroe snorted. “I told you not to touch your bed frame without my help.”
“How was I supposed to know it weighed that much?” Nick shifted on the couch, trying to stretch his tired muscles.
“How did you even function in life before you met me?” Monroe took a healthy swig of his beer and contemplated getting up to investigate the remnants of the pizza they’d ordered earlier. He glanced at Nick, meaning to ask if it was worth it to stand up and go to the fridge, but Nick was resting his head against the back of the couch and smiling at him goofily. “What?”
“I have no idea,” Nick said, the smile still stretching his face.
Nick laughed. “I have no idea how I functioned without you. You’re… you didn’t have to help me do this tonight, you know.”
Monroe shifted on the couch. “You would have just harassed me ‘til I gave in. So you know, like usual.”
Nick hummed his agreement into his beer, grinning. “I have you trained well.”
“Remind me again why I don’t eat you?” Monroe grumbled and then pushed himself to his feet. “Are we moving this couch tonight or what?”
Nick shrugged. “I was planning on sleeping on it and moving it in the morning. I guess I’ll find a hotel tomorrow.”
Don’t offer, don’t offer, dammit don’t offer— “You could crash on my couch tonight if you wanted,” Monroe said, and successfully stopped himself from facepalming when his mouth said exactly what his brain told him not to. “We could get this done tonight. Less worry for you tomorrow.”
With another wide grin, Nick stood up, too. “You’d let me stay at your house? I mean, that’s not too…”
Monroe waved a hand. “You’re there enough as is. You spending a night on my couch won’t interrupt my schedule too badly.”
“Awesome. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” Nick grabbed his shoulder and squeezed and Monroe rolled his eyes. That grin flashed again and Nick clapped his hands together. “Let’s get the couch out of here.”
After the night that Nick spent on Monroe’s couch, they didn’t see much of each other for a week or so. Nick was busy dealing with the realtor and looking for apartments, and Monroe was busy with all of his usual work plus the special order for the Prince. And now today was Friday, and Monroe was nervously adjusting his tie on his fanciest suit (his only suit) and glancing at the clock.
Just as he let out a shaky breath, grabbed his car keys and picked up the delicately balanced clock, his doorbell rang.
“No,” he told no one in particular, and set the clock down. “Absolutely not.” But he walked down his entryway and swung the door open anyway. On the other side of the threshold, Nick grinned hopefully at him. Monroe raised an eyebrow and repeated himself. “No.”
“I need your help,” Nick tried, and Monroe shook his head.
“Dude, no. I’ve got an appointment that if I miss it, I could literally be killed. And this isn’t the I’m-saying-literally-but-mean-figuratively kind of literally. My life is on the line, here.”
“You’re exaggerating,” Nick said with a skeptical look. Monroe just rolled his eyes, gestured to his suit, and picked up the clock again.
“Look, I will help you with whatever it is, but after this appointment. I have to be across town in forty-five minutes” he waved a slip of paper with the address he was supposed to meet the Prince at “and I am not taking in chances on traffic or bicycles or annoying grimms that want me to sniff at things for them.” He edged past Nick and locked his door behind him.
“I could come with you,” Nick offered helpfully.
“No. No, no, no. I’m not—no. Nick, I don’t have a death wish.” Nick was, of course, following Monroe out to his car.
“Who is it that you’re meeting? You know, your emphatic denial that I shouldn’t come is making me want to follow you.” Nick trailed behind him, a mischievous smile on his face and his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “I’m a cop. I have the technology.”
Monroe sighed. “Please don’t.” And he (hurriedly) explained about the Prince’s commission and the hexenbiests and to his utter horror, Nick looked more and more interested the more he talked. So okay—change of subject. “What did you need my help with?” Monroe tried, rather desperately.
Nick waved him off. “Nothing, really. I wanted you to come with me to look at apartments. But that clearly should wait. Don’t you think it’s my duty as a grimm to at least know who the wesen royalty is? I think I should come with you.”
With a pained whine, Monroe put his hands on Nick’s shoulders and backed him up until Nick was sitting on Monroe’s front steps. “No, no, no. Bad Nick, bad, terrible Nick. I will tell you all about him after I meet him, but you showing up would be like a declaration of war. I don’t even want him to know that I associate with you, although I probably smell like you, now…” He whined again. “Oh man I am so screwed…”
“Okay, okay.” Nick held his hands up in surrender. “I won’t follow you. But I should know about this guy, right? I mean—”
“Yea, sure,” Monroe interrupted. “But I need to go. Really, I can’t be late.”
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Nick watched the yellow bug putter off down the street and leaned back against the familiar front steps of Monroe’s house, vaguely annoyed with himself for agreeing not to follow Monroe. His interest was piqued—and doing some research on the local royals might take his mind off everything that was going on. He decided to go to the trailer.
But as he stood and stepped down from Monroe’s steps, his phone rang, a familiar jangle that still—even with everything that was going on—made his heart skip a beat. He untangled the phone from his jacket pocket and took a breath before answering.
There was a pause, and Juliette laughed nervously. “I thought I’d get your voicemail.”
Nick didn’t say anything for a moment, and when he realized she wasn’t going to go on, he sighed. “Did you want something?” Another nervous laugh, and Nick fought not to roll his eyes. He didn’t remember her being so… he shook his head at himself. “Juliette.”
“Sorry, sorry. Okay, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think—well. Can you come down to my office? Someone brought in a… weird thing. I think it might be something that you could handle.”
Nick was silent for a moment, considering. “Does it need to be right away?” he finally asked after a lengthy pause.
“No, no. I just—”
“I’m bringing Monroe,” Nick interrupted. “He’s better at identifying ‘weird things’ than I am. Unless that’s an issue.” He realized his posture had gone defensive and forced himself to relax, listening to Juliette breathing on the other end of the line. Finally:
“No. It’s not an issue.” There was a noise, muffled, like she was putting her hand over her mouth. She cleared her throat. “Nick—”
“I’ll be down in a few hours,” Nick said simply. “Bye.” He hung up the phone, not waiting for an answer, and sunk back down to sit on Monroe’s steps. He could wait for him to get back, there was no hurry. Research could be put off until later. He rested his head against one of the handrails and closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted.
Monroe wandered, slightly dazed, toward his car and away from the formidable office building he’d been summoned to for his royal appointment. And honestly, he was slightly confused about what had just happened, but he was certain that it involved a hexenbiest or three and compliments on his clockmaking and a hell of a lot of questions about Nick from a guy who didn’t smell wesen in the least.
He should have figured, really, that the local royalty would want to know about the resident grimm, and it wasn’t exactly a secret that he and Nick were friends… but yea. That had been weird. Monroe shook his head and pulled his keys out, unlocking his car and fumbling with his phone in the same hand. He sat down and noticed that he had a new text message from Nick.
hey i'm at ur house j called wants me to come look at a thing u need to ccome too
Monroe took a moment to lament the downfall of language via text message, then keyed back in, Fine, I’ll be back in twenty minutes. Don’t touch anything. He filed away the fact that Nick texts with slightly more skill than a toddler for future insult use.
The drive home was uneventful, save for a lengthy wait at a drawbridge. He pulled in exactly thirty-two minutes after he’d texted Nick, and was therefore surprised to see no sign of the man in his front yard. He wasn’t waiting in his truck… Monroe sighed and threw the Bug into park, then stormed the best he could into his house.
“You broke in,” he accused as he banged open the front door. Nick stared up at him with wide eyes from the couch, beer halfway to his mouth.
“No, I made a copy of your key, like, six months ago.” Nick took a swig and went back to watching Antiques Roadshow.
“Oh well that’s fine, then,” Monroe growled, but didn’t miss Nick’s hastily-hidden smirk. He sighed. “Okay, what’s the thing you want me to go do with you?”
Nick’s face fell. “Juliette called. She said that someone brought in a ‘weird thing’” (he did air quotes, and Monroe rolled his eyes) “to the vet’s office. She wants us to come take a look.”
Monroe shrugged out of his suit jacket and considered, entirely ignoring the lump in his throat. “Us?”
“Well.” Nick glanced back at the TV. “She said ‘me’, I raised her an ‘us.’ She didn’t seem upset.”
“You realize that you’re antagonizing her,” Monroe said gently, then fled to the kitchen for a beer of his own when Nick shot him a death-glare. When he returned, Nick was again fully concentrating on the television. Monroe positioned himself a respectable distance away on the couch and took a long swallow of his beer.
“You’re drinking awfully early,” Nick commented after a few minutes of disappointed antique-searchers.
“Stressful day,” Monroe grunted, and glanced at a clock. “And it’s quarter to four. That’s barely early. Also may I point out: hypocrite.”
Nick nodded understandingly and finished his own beer. “Do you want to go to Juliette’s office? I can go without you if you don’t want to.”
“Uh,” Monroe said eloquently, and Nick smiled at him, then reached out and touched Monroe’s shoulder, rubbing his fingers slightly against the spot where collar met skin. Monroe started, but Nick didn’t seem to notice.
“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
“I’m—” Monroe swallowed and backed off slightly. Nick’s hand fell to the couch cushions and Monroe gave himself a mental shake. “I’m not uncomfortable. I like Juliette. She’s just… it’s been a lot for her to take in. I don’t blame her for not liking me, regardless of what she thinks might be going on between us.”
Nick smiled tightly. “Well, there’s nothing, so it’s not an issue. And you’re right, you know. I’ve been unfair to her. But it’s hard.”
“Yea,” Monroe agreed, and forced a smile of his own. He glanced at the TV. “So, you watch Antiques Roadshow?”
Monroe peered into the cage in the back room of Juliette’s office. “Yea, that’s a staubmaus. Crazy, must have been difficult to catch.”
“Yea, Mister Edwards said it took him the better part of a month.” Juliette was hovering awkwardly behind him, playing with a clipboard, but she smiled warmly enough at him when he straightened up. “What should I do with it?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Is it hurt?”
Juliette chewed her lip for a moment, then shook her head. “I don’t think so, but it’s hard to tell. It’s almost like it’s not really there…” True to her word, the rabbit-ish looking ball of dust was only there when you looked out of the corner of your eye.
“Has anyone else seen it?” Nick piped up from the back of the room. He’d been inspecting a plastic model of a dog’s jawbone, and Monroe was rather proud of him for being perfectly friendly and civil. It seemed that he was taking his decision to be more pleasant to Juliette to heart.
“No?” Juliette said hesitantly. “I don’t think anyone else can. I mean, you guys can see it fine cause you’re, uh, you, I guess, but all the techs working today just thought the cage was empty.”
“Yea, not surprising,” Monroe said, and turned back to the cage again. He stuck a finger through the grate and wiggled it. With a short hop, the dust bunny scooted closer and sniffed him, bumping against him with its pink nose. After a moment, it apparently deemed him acceptable and began to chew thoughtfully on his finger. Monroe smiled. “You’re kinda cute, for a garbage disposal.” Behind him, there were near-identical snorts, and he turned around, his eyebrow raised.
“Garbage disposal?” Juliette asked with a smile, and Monroe shrugged. Nick apparently was fighting down a giggle.
“They eat everything,” Monroe explained. “Ever had a sock go missing? Or wonder where pen-caps get to? That’s a staubmaus. They’re mostly harmless, but a pain in the ass.”
“You should take it, Monroe,” Nick said suddenly. “You know enough about it that you could take care of it. It could be a good pet.”
“What? No,” Monroe said, turning skeptically to Nick. “They attract others and I don’t want my house overrun. They’re tenacious little bastards, extremely hard to get rid of.” Behind him, the staubmaus made a soft ‘eep’ing sort of noise and set to work chewing on the bars of its cage, then looked confused when it couldn’t get a decent grip.
“Aw, but it’s so cute,” Nick countered. “Look at it, sitting there all dustily…” The staubmaus, perhaps realizing it was being talked about, fluffed up the dust on its back and flicked its ears forward in an undoubtedly adorable manner.
“And I can literally count on one hand the times I’ve run into something wesen that can’t kill me, so this is an awesome change of pace.” And damn him, Nick had turned on his puppy eyes. Monroe sighed.
“Fine. But you’re buying me a nice cage for it.”
“Yes,” Nick agreed with a grin, and came forward to grab its current cage.
“A big one, with lots of room for it to hop around in,” Monroe added, and Nick nodded. He smiled brightly at Juliette, who looked a little taken aback by his apparent friendliness.
“I’ll bring back this cage as soon as I get it a new one, okay?”
“…Okay,” she said, and tried on a smile of her own.
“Awesome,” Nick gushed. “I’ll go put it in the car. I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl… and you need a name, too, don’t you?” His voice trailed off as he walked out of the front door, and Monroe shook his head, amused. He turned to Juliette.
“Well, I guess I’m taking it out of your hair.” He paused. “Um. It was good to see you.”
She nodded, then when Monroe turned to go, reached out a hand and touched his arm. “Wait a sec?”
Monroe smiled at her, inwardly cheering that she was overcoming her disapproval and was apparently no longer scared to touch him. “What’s up?”
She fiddled with her lab coat. “Just. I wanted to say I was sorry. For how I treated you, I mean. It’s been—it’s a lot. And then with Nick getting hurt, again and all the craziness with your whole world I guess, I just—”
“Hey, I understand,” Monroe told her, and he did. He really did. He didn’t blame her at all for how things had turned out; in fact, he privately thought that Nick could have probably handled things better. Like telling her about everything from the beginning, maybe. He leaned against the table next to her and smiled. “No hard feelings. And I think… I think Nick’s doing better. I mean, he hasn’t exactly moved on, but he’s—he’ll be all right. I know you worry. Hell, I worry.”
Juliette smiled at him and gently bumped his shoulder with hers. “Yea, he seems better. He’s… he seems. I don’t know. Happy.” She looked down. “You’re good for him.”
“Mm,” Monroe agreed, then, “Wait, what? I mean, we’re not—”
Juliette touched his hand lightly. “Monroe. I’ve spent years getting to know Nick. He’s… he’s a complicated guy. And, well. I just want him to be happy.” With a small grimace, she looked away. “And it’s been awhile since just I could do that for him. But you might have a chance.”
“Juliette—” Monroe turned to her and grabbed her shoulders. “Nick and I really aren’t…”
“Hey,” she said. “You guys just adopted a rogue dust bunny together. And I’ve seen how he looks at you. He’s—”
Just then, Nick stuck his head back in the front door. “Monroe, you coming?”
“Yea, sure,” Monroe said, still a massively confused by his and Juliette’s conversation.
“Okay, I’ll be in the car. I’ll talk to you soon, Juliette.”
“Bye, Nick,” she said with a smile. Nick closed the door behind him and she smiled at Monroe. “See?” she said. “Happy.”
The staubmaus comes thanks to plaemon over at Not Your Grimmopedia. Check out the link for cuteness.
A few days after the staubmaus took up residence at Monroe’s (Nick had dubbed it Tesla, and Monroe couldn’t think of any reason to veto the name) found Nick and Monroe lounging in Monroe’s living room. Monroe was half-asleep on the couch even though it was barely seven—he’d been working on clocks like a dervish for the last couple days, and hadn’t been sleeping well to top it off.
Nick, on the other hand, was bubbling with energy. He was flat on his stomach on the floor, trying to entice Tesla out from under the coffee table with a scrap of fabric he’d cut from one of Monroe’s rattiest flannels.
“C’mere you ridiculous giant rodent,” Nick singsonged at it, and Monroe stifled a grin.
“He’s never going to come out if you insult him,” he said with a yawn, and Nick glanced up at him.
“You decided he’s a he? And also, he doesn’t actually understand me, does he?” He looked back under the coffee table, concerned, and Tesla wriggled his nose at him. “Who’s a good bunny?” Nick tried, and was fairly certain the resulting ear flick was a condescending one.
Monroe snorted and sat up. “I have no idea how to tell the sex of a staubmaus. But unless more of ‘em show up, I don’t think it’s an issue. And no, I doubt very much he understands what you’re saying. I’m pretty sure their intelligence is about the same as a regular rabbit.”
Nick sighed and abandoned the flannel scrap under the coffee table, pushing himself to a sitting position and leaning back against the couch. “Are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon?” he asked, and picked at a thread on his shirt for a moment.
It took Monroe a moment to register the shift in conversation (he really was tired) but after a moment answered in the negative. “Why? Do you have a case you need my help on?”
Nick leaned his head back to rest on the seat cushions and Monroe found himself staring at the long line of Nick’s neck. If he leaned down, he could run his tongue along… he shook his head and jolted himself back to reality just in time for to hear Nick say something about apartments.
“Just—I don’t want to stay in a hotel much longer,” Nick said, picking more vigorously at the hem of his shirt. “And there’s already been an offer on the house—not for nearly enough, but the realtor says it’s a good sign so I might as well just find a place, you know? But I don’t want some skeezy apartment, so if you could come and make sure there’s not mold or something…”
Monroe blinked at him. “Wait wait wait. You want me to come sniff your prospective apartments? For mold?”
Nick rocked his head to the side and grinned at him. “Well, yea. I can’t do it.”
“I’m not a dog, Nick.” Monroe fixed his now quietly laughing friend with his best death-glare.
Nick affected a pout, and Monroe rolled his eyes. “So you’re just going to throw to the wolves, as it were,” Nick exclaimed dramatically, and Monroe narrowed his eyes as he caught Nick’s smirk before Nick threw his arm over his eyes in a manner reminiscent of a swooning Victorian maiden. “To die a slow and painful, lung-rattling, tuberculosis-filled, asbestos-y—”
“Jeez, I get it,” Monroe cut him off, unable to hold back a smile. “I’ll come apartment hunting with you.” He eyed Nick, who was now smiling victoriously, and reclined back onto the couch again. “You know, other people are capable of finding adequate housing without the use of advanced noses.”
Nick pushed himself up off the ground and flopped onto the couch, half-lying on Monroe’s legs. “Yea, but why would I when I have your nose at my disposal?” He poked Monroe in the knee and Monroe kicked him unenthusiastically.
“You’d think I’m a freaking pet the way you use me,” he groused, but there was no real venom behind his words. Nick just smiled and stood up; Monroe pointedly did not think about how his legs were suddenly cold.
“Okay,” Nick announced. “Beer, then cards.” He disappeared in the direction of the kitchen and Monroe watched after him for a moment before sitting up and digging in the side table drawer for his deck of cards, then dropped them unceremoniously on the coffee table. Nick could shuffle and deal.
On the far side of the coffee table, a pair of dusty ears appeared, followed by a pair of bright, interested, red eyes. Tesla eyed the deck of cards and Monroe narrowed his eyes at him. “Don’t even think about it. I will eat you.”
“That couldn’t possibly taste good,” Nick commented, returning from the kitchen and handing Monroe an opened beer. “Don’t worry Tesla, I’ll protect you from the big bad wolf.”
“I’ll vacuum him up, then,” Monroe muttered, but took a sip of his beer and leaned back again, relaxing. “You wanna play, you deal.”
“Fair enough,” Nick said easily, and plopped down on Monroe’s legs again. “Shove over, you’re taking up all the room.” Monroe grudgingly moved his legs (only very slightly, it wouldn’t do for Nick to think he was listening to him) and Nick grabbed the cards, shuffling with practiced hands.
They’d been playing for about fifteen minutes with no conversation more intense than half-hearted insults when Nick suddenly said, “You never told me about your meeting with that prince.” Monroe glanced at him, suddenly realizing he’d been tricked into a false sense of security, and Nick’s studied nonchalance did nothing to ease that feeling.
“Not much to say,” Monroe said slowly. “I made a clock, I gave him the clock—or rather a hexenbiest took it and put it somewhere—and he asked me what my relationship with you was like. I got the feeling he was trying to figure out what makes you do the things you do.”
Nick didn’t look particularly pleased with this assessment, but didn’t say anything for a moment. Finally though, he asked, “So. Uh, what did you tell him?”
Monroe concentrated on the cards in his hand. He needed to either draw a king or get rid of these other two; the hand was dragging and he didn’t want to take the hit of the points if he got caught with two kings. “I told him to fuck off, basically,” he said. “I mean, more polite than that. But it’s none of the royalty’s business what you do.”
“That’s it?” Nick looked a little surprised.
With a shrug, Monroe discarded one of his kings. “I also said you were a good man that tries to do the right thing. And if the right thing wasn’t what the prince wanted, then too damn bad.” He looked up to find Nick staring at him with a peculiar look on his face, something Monroe had a hard time deciphering.
“That couldn’t have been a very smart thing to say,” Nick said after a moment, glancing down at his cards. Monroe shrugged.
“Well it’s not like I’d give him any information about you. I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know,” Nick said immediately, and reached out, resting his hand briefly on Monroe’s knee. “But I don’t want you to get… hurt or something. Because you’re protecting me.”
Monroe shrugged again. “He didn’t seem annoyed that I wouldn’t say anything. Actually I think he thought it was kinda funny.”
Nick nodded and discarded something, a seven. Monroe sighed and drew another card, a king. He resisted the urge to swear and tossed the card down on the pile.
“So what was he like?” Nick asked, smiling at the annoyed look on Monroe’s face. “Other than thinking loyalty is funny?”
“I don’t know. Tall. Dark hair, either black or brown. Tanned, handsome. He looked a lot like what a prince should look like, I guess.” Monroe paused, thinking. “But he didn’t smell entirely human? I mean, the Families are all human, or are supposed to be… but I think they mix with wesen sometimes. He probably had a fair amount of wesen blood in him.”
And now Nick was interested, sitting forward. “That works? I mean, reproductive-wise? Are there half-breed wesen?”
Monroe fixed him with a look. “Dude, do you even listen to the words that come out of your mouth?” He lowered his voice and muttered, “Half-breeds, good god…” Nick at least had the decency to look ashamed of himself, so Monroe cleared his throat and went on. “Yes, Nick, wesen can interbreed. Or have human partners. Usually the wesen traits will be dominant with resulting kids. Or like if I had kids with another wesen—not a blutbad—our kids would be blutbaden. Dominant genes and all that.”
Now Nick was clearly fascinated. “Always?”
“Yea,” Monroe said, cards forgotten. “I’m pretty sure my family’s like, one hundred percent blutbad. But that’s not always the case. I mean, there’s societal pressures to marry someone of your own species and all that, but it doesn’t always happen. I know my family was freaking thrilled when I was dating Angelina, cause they wanted pups and that way I wouldn’t have besmirched the family name and…” he trailed off, realizing he was babbling. Nick was staring at him, and if Monroe wasn’t imagining things, he looked vaguely uncomfortable.
“Is that—” Nick looked down and frowned slightly. “Is that something you want? I mean, I’ve never—hell. A family?” He looked uncertain. “Pups?”
Monroe made a face. “No, man. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t be adverse to kids, but you’ve got to have a relationship first. And I don’t have anybody in mind.” (Liar, his brain whispered. Monroe ignored it.) “And if I did, I doubt they’d be a blutbad. Packs, you know?”
“Packs are bad, m’kay?” Nick muttered, imitating Mr. Garrison, and Monroe smiled.
“So anyway,” Monroe rallied, getting back to his original topic. “Sometimes one side doesn’t come out dominant, but instead kinda mixes? It happens a lot with the more humanish of the wesen. Hexenbiest, nixies, fairies… And the prince was half something. I’m guessing half hexenbiest.”
“Huh,” Nick said, contemplating his cards. “Oh, hey. Rummy.” He laid his hand down and smirked at Monroe.
Nick laughed, then seemed to remember something. “What was his name?”
Monroe paused in counting up the points against him. “Uh, he said to call him Sean.”
Two hours later, cards were abandoned. Nick and Monroe were slouched on the couch, shoulders pressed together, watching Star Trek reruns and finishing up the last of the beer. At their feet, Tesla chewed contentedly on the king of hearts.
“Hey,” Nick said, and Monroe startled out of his light doze. On the screen, Picard was yelling at Q, and Monroe smiled. This was one of his favorite episodes—not that he’d tell Nick that.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Nick said after another moment of silence. “For you know. Being supportive of me and stuff for these past couple weeks.”
Monroe looked down at his mostly-empty beer. “It’s all good, man. Actually it’s kinda nice just hanging out. Not having to worry about anything… I don’t get to do this a lot.”
“Yea,” Nick agreed, and wiggled slightly, burrowing himself more into the couch and putting more pressure on Monroe’s shoulder. Monroe shifted in response, angling himself almost unconsciously toward Nick, and rested his head on the back of the couch. He dozed off again, lulled by the warmth of the living room and the soft sound of Nick breathing next to him.
Nick woke to the now-familiar sound of the hotel’s air conditioner flipping on, the dull roar of the business class waking up and getting on with their day, the smell of burnt coffee wafting in from the lobby. He lay in bed, gazing sightlessly at the ceiling, and sighed.
Mornings were hard. Harder than nights, for sure—he’d been purposefully running himself ragged, working long shifts at the precinct and harassing Monroe when either Hank or Renard started to look murderous. But it served its purpose; invariably he collapsed onto the too-firm mattress of his temporary hotel/home and was asleep within minutes.
But in the morning, rested and half-awake, he kept expecting to roll over and find a soft shoulder, a warm body.
God, he missed her.
He shook his head and rolled out of bed, not wanting to dwell. Instead, he concentrated on the half-remembered dream he’d been having when his alarm sounded. Something about the woods… he couldn’t remember, though he was fairly certain Monroe had been there. Whatever it was, it had been pleasant.
Nick padded over to the TV stand and plucked his phone from the charger. Today was Sunday and he had it off—provided there were no murders, of course—and he’d successfully coerced Monroe into apartment hunting with him. It was about time, too; he’d been at the hotel for three weeks, and despite the Super 8’s reputation of affordable living, it was severely eating into his budget.
With a small, unconscious smile on his face, Nick hit the ‘call Monroe’ icon on his phone’s home screen and brought it to his ear. Nevermind that it was only six in the morning—he knew Monroe would be up. And sure enough, Monroe was grumping at him only a few seconds after the first ring.
“Ready?” Nick asked, a slow grin growing on his face at the faint, disgruntled noises coming from the other end of the line. “We’ve got a long day of exiting apartment hunting ahead of us.”
“Dude, how did I let you talk me into this again?” Nick could hear him rattling around his kitchen and had a momentary pang of jealousy—Monroe in the kitchen at six am meant sinful coffee, while he was stuck with the hotel-provided, single serving crap. Still, coffee was necessary, so he wandered over toward the coffeepot in the corner of his room and unwrapped a paper cup.
“Aw Monroe,” he said with another grin. “You know you love me. And I’m in desperate need of your nose.”
“Abuse. Abuse is what this is,” Monroe grumbled after a beat too long of a pause. Then, “And are you making hotel coffee? What did I tell you about hotel coffee? Seriously Nick, are you trying to poison yourself?”
Nick smiled to himself and flicked on the coffee, balancing his phone on his shoulder and letting Monroe’s complaints roll over him, soothing.
Monroe rolled his neck, clearly annoyed. Nick listened to the sharp sounds of his bones cracking and felt vaguely bad; they’d been going all day, had barely even stopped for lunch (which had been bought at a food truck called the Pita Pit—Monroe had been horrified). In an attempt at a peace offering, he shot him an amused look and Monroe froze, scowled a bit, and growled out, “How many more?” He tapped his fingers on the dash of Nick’s truck and adjusted the vents, warming his fingers slightly in the warm air seeping from them, mumbling something about trusting Nick to pick the coldest day possible to go apartment hunting.
Nick took a moment longer to smile at him, then turned up the heat in his truck. Monroe visibly relaxed as the air blew harder and Nick consulted the sheet of paper in his hand. “Just one. But I’ve got high hopes for this one. It’s got a Jacuzzi bathtub.”
“Goodness, how could you pass it up?” Monroe deadpanned, his face utterly blank, and Nick grinned at him.
“Shut up. Think about the luxury of high-powered water jets.”
“I would rather think about the luxury of my house. And the fact that in it, I don’t have to interact with criminally perky rental agents and foul-smelling apartment complexes.” Monroe sighed, his gaze settling somewhere in the distance. “There’s also the issue of my kitchen and the crockpot I have in it, making me dinner.”
“Ooh, what’s for dinner?” Nick asked immediately. Monroe scowled harder and glared out the window at the passing scenery, batting away Nick’s hand when he reached over and poked him in the ribs.
“Chickpea curry,” he finally admitted, giving in to Nick’s earnest smile. Nick made a pleased noise and Monroe rolled his eyes. “What if I wanted to, say, have a quiet evening to myself?”
“I’d know you were lying,” Nick said easily. “You only use the crockpot when you have people over. You say it makes too much food, otherwise.”
Monroe opened his mouth to argue, but then changed his mind because yea, Nick was right. Nick, busy smirking at him, almost missed the turn into the last apartment complex. Monroe glanced around. “This isn’t that far from my place.”
“Yea,” Nick said, also looking around. “Convenient—another plus in its favor.”
“Oo look,” Monroe observed as he unbuckled and slid out of the truck. “Indoor pool. Very nice.” He peered in through a window. “The gym doesn’t look too shabby, either. They have a pilates machine.” He gave Nick a meaningful look, and Nick waved him off.
“Pilates are not the world, my friend,” he said, heading toward the office, and Monroe followed. They were greeted at the door by yet another painfully cheerful agent, who immediately started gushing about the complex’s facilities. She led them in, gesturing for them to sit, and Nick looked over some paperwork she’d pulled up while Monroe looked on, clearly bored.
“Is there any specific floor plan you’d like to take a look at?” the agent asked—her name tag read ‘Aymee.’ Nick glanced through the pages of layouts she’d handed him and pulled out two.
“Just the one-bedrooms, please.”
She glanced between them, a sudden pleased glint in her eye. “Oh, that’s lovely, of course,” she grinned. Nick waited, amused, for Monroe to involve himself enough in the conversation to splutter affirmations of ‘we’re just friends’—this had happened five times already today. Apparently two men looking at one-bedrooms together said something to the agents.
Nick hadn’t corrected the first one, which had been mostly hilarious. The man had spent the entire tour flirting with Monroe and talking up the complex’s accepting atmosphere. Since then, Monroe had been quick with the ‘friends’ line. However, this time he didn’t seem to be paying enough attention to Aymee to register her assumption. Nick didn’t say anything either—he didn’t really care if this woman thought they were a couple.
The tour was straightforward—here’s the pool, the exercise room, laundry if you need it—and then they were shown into the first of the model apartments. There was a tiny kitchen/dining area, a living room, bathroom, and a bedroom. Nick was a fan of the Jacuzzi bathtub, Monroe was offended by the size of the kitchen; essentially exactly what Nick had pictured. Aymee left them alone for a moment, clearly giving them a chance to talk about it, and Nick turned to Monroe, questioning.
“Well if you can get past the criminally small kitchen,” Monroe allowed, “I think it’s fine. No one’s died here, there’s no mold, the carpets are new… you don’t have any wesen neighbors for you to terrify.” He shrugged. “It’s acceptable.”
Nick smirked at him. “What a glowing recommendation.”
With a sigh, Monroe turned from where he’d been inspecting the sockets in the kitchen. “I’m sorry. I just. I feel bad, a little.” He looked down. “Going from your house to this? Will you even have room for everything?”
Nick contemplated the nine hundred square feet he was currently standing in, and hesitantly nodded. “You helped me put all my stuff in storage, Monroe. I think I’ll be all right.”
Monroe didn’t look convinced. “You haven’t lived on your own in a long time. You’re going to be. I don’t know. Lonely. And you can’t cook to save your life. You can’t live off takeout forever.”
With a quiet laugh, Nick leaned against one of the blank walls. “I’m a grown man, Monroe. I’ll be fine—bachelors the world over have done it for years. And I can cook a mean cup of soup, I’ll survive.”
Monroe glanced at him. “If I remember correctly, a few weeks ago you were thinking about peeing in bottles because you were too lazy to go to the bathroom.”
Amused, Nick ran a hand over his eyes. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you that. And I was… depressed. I’m better now.” He smiled warmly at Monroe, then reconsidered and crossed the room to grab him by his shoulders. “You’re helping a lot with that, actually.” He squeezed reassuringly, and Monroe looked up at him, his eyes a touch wider than usual.
And just like that, Nick was hit by a powerful flash of déjà vu. For a half-second, he was standing in the forest with Monroe, his hands on his shoulders just like this—but Monroe’s should be on his waist, and he was just at the right distance to lean in and—
Back in the empty apartment again, Nick shook his head and stepped back. That was—maybe from his dream this morning? He didn’t remember, and now Monroe was staring at him like he’d lost his mind. Nick smiled weakly. “Let’s go find that woman.”
“Aymee,” Monroe supplied, and Nick nodded, regaining his equilibrium.
“This place is good.” He made to poke Monroe in the arm but pulled back at the last second, still a little weirded out by that moment. “I’ll sign the paperwork and we can go eat. I’m looking forward to that curry.”
That night in his hotel room, Nick stared at the ceiling, thinking. He was taking tomorrow off, too, and Monroe’d promised to help him move bright and early—he needed to get some sleep. But Nick couldn’t stop thinking about the moment in the apartment.
Why would he be dreaming about Monroe… like that? He thought about Juliette’s words, said in anger weeks ago. He didn’t think of Monroe in that way, did he? But if he didn’t, why was he dreaming about him?
Nick shook his head at himself and burrowed further into the stiff hotel pillows. It didn’t matter. Just some subconscious thing, didn’t mean anything. Maybe Juliette had put the thought in his head. And he was spending nearly all his free time with Monroe, was on the rebound; it made sense that he’d be projecting something onto him.
Still confused, Nick drifted into an uneasy sleep. His dreams faded back and forth, long red hair shifting into red eyes.
Fast forward six months
Nick opened the door to the refrigerated section of the store and glanced over the sizable selection of soy milks, blinked, (he wasn’t aware that there were that many permutations of soy milk) grabbed one, and dropped it unceremoniously into Monroe’s cart.
“No, hey, don’t—” Monroe sighed from just behind him and plucked the carton of soy milk from his cart. “Dude, hands to yourself.” He put the carton back on the shelf and picked up the one next to it, which to Nick’s eyes appeared exactly the same.
“What was wrong with the one I got?” Nick was not petulant. But when Monroe had suggested he accompany him in the grocery shopping for their weekend trip to Seattle, Nick was expecting, like, Safeway. Or even Whole Foods. Not whatever crunchy granola hole in the wall market this place was—and hell, Nick only recognized half the things on the shelves, and he got the distinct feeling that he would not be able to find the fire Cheetos he’d been wanting to pick up.
“Nothing, it’s just not for blutbaden,” Monroe answered distractedly, peering at his list. “The one I got is.”
…And now Nick was slightly concerned. He picked up the milk and inspected the ingredient list (which appeared to be in German, and yea, Nick should have known). “You’ve been feeding me food that’s designed for blutbaden? It’s not—”
Monroe rolled his eyes. “Do you drink my soy milk?” Nick slowly shook his head, replacing the milk. “Yea, I didn’t think so,” Monroe said dryly. “But it wouldn’t hurt you, regardless. It’s just got added vitamins that help my metabolism. Nothing nefarious.” He went back to his list, muttering something about free-trade tea packets.
Nick stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around. “So this is a wesen grocery store?”
“No, I just shop at a store that happens to carry food designed for fairy tale creatures,” Monroe deadpanned, now inspecting the cereal. “I’m extremely lucky to have found such an impossible place.”
“No need to be an ass about it,” Nick said, grinning, and Monroe twitched up the corner of his mouth in amusement.
“Can I trust you to pick out some granola that you’d eat?” he asked, gesturing to the bulk bins that lined one wall of the store. “Just don’t get anything with a red sticker—those have dried meat in them.”
“That… is odd.” Nick admitted. “No red stickers, got it.”
He lingered by the bulk bins, getting not only granola (blueberry walnut flax, Monroe would be thrilled) but some dried fruit, cashews, and trail mix as well. Satisfied (mostly, he was still bemoaning the lack of fire Cheetos) with his choices for road trip snacks, Nick turned to scan the store for Monroe, finally spotting him in the bakery section.
Monroe appeared to be closely weighing whether he should get a loaf of French bread or a loaf of Italian. Nick smiled to himself and headed over, gently dropping his bags into Monroe’s cart and leaning over to steal a sample of pumpernickel that was out on display.
“There you are,” Monroe said softly, turning to him with a soft look that made Nick’s throat close up for a moment.
He was getting accustomed to the fantasies by now—at least as well as one could get accustomed to suddenly wondering what your best friend would do if you grabbed him by his stupid fuzzy sweater and brought your lips together, licked into his mouth and ran your hands through his hair, messing up the whatever it was he put in it to keep it slicked back and—
“—to her lately?”
“What?” Nick said, blinking back to reality and realizing that Monroe’d been talking at him. “Sorry,” he added at Monroe’s indulgent eye-roll.
“I was asking if you’d talked to Juliette lately. She called me, was asking about Tesla.” Monroe appeared to consider for a moment, then said, slightly softer, “and you.”
And yea, good timing, Nick supposed. Nothing better forced inappropriate thoughts out of your head than talking about your ex and reminding yourself that it was still just… too soon.
“Um. No, not really. It’s been a couple months, I guess. When we signed the final paperwork on the house.” He forced a smile—it still hurt, thinking about her—and changed the subject. “You ready for your conference?”
Monroe cocked an eyebrow, letting Nick know that he’d noted the deflection, but thankfully dropping it, and nodded. “Yea. I’m excited. I’ve never been able to give a talk at one of these things before.” Apparently settling on the French bread, he dropped in the cart. “And thanks for coming with me, man.”
Nick shrugged. “Renard’s been on my ass about taking a vacation anyway. I think he’s been worried about me.”
Monroe nodded sharply but didn’t say anything. Nick was grateful; the last six months had been… rough. Obviously there was Juliette and that whole clusterfuck, but then there’d been case after case after case piling up, most of them violent, all of them disconcerting. Adding in the odd Reaper and purely wesen extra-curricular terrors had left Nick on the verge of an exhausted breakdown.
He’d never been more appreciative of Monroe over these past few months. Just knowing that he could rely on his friend to be there with a bottle of wine or a hot meal or hell, even a smart-ass comment over text had helped him de-stress.
Nick had finally given in and requested a vacation (Renard’s relieved expression had spoken volumes) a few weeks ago, only to be told by a sheepish Monroe that he was going to be out of town for the designated days.
“A clockmaker’s conference in Seattle,” Monroe had explained. “I’m leading a workshop on woodcarving.”
Nick had just enough time to wonder if Renard would let him change his requested days off before Monroe had visibly brightened and offered, “Hey, come to Seattle with me. There’s just that one day that I can’t hang out with you—we could do the whole tourist thing when I’m not at the conference. It’ll be fun.”
Nick had agreed instantly, which had led to planning a road trip, which had led to this out-of-the-way grocery store and Monroe watching him, amused, as Nick picked over a basket of apples, trying to find the perfect ones.
“You do realize it’s like a three hour trip up there, right?” Monroe asked as Nick bagged four perfect apples. “And I’m pretty sure they make apples in Seattle, too.”
“Says the man stocking up on soy milk,” Nick shot back. Monroe scowled half-heartedly.
“There is no guarantee that I’ll be able to find my preferred—”
Nick interrupted him, laughing. “I know, you giant foodie snob.” He affected his best innocent face. “But couldn’t you just use your nose? You know, sniff out the right stores or whatever…?” And then he was forced to duck away, grinning, as Monroe tried to flick him on the ear.
“Jerk,” Monroe accused, though he was smiling as well. “Come on, let’s go pay. I want to get on the road before noon, and we still have to drop Tesla off at Bud’s.”
Monroe watched indulgently as Nick went over the Tesla’s care and feeding with Bud’s kids—they’d been promised twenty dollars each for watching him while he and Nick were out of town, and so were absorbing every one of Nick’s words with unparalleled attention.
Bud was hovering nearby, occasionally shooting Monroe a slightly worried glance, though he was miles from as panicky as he’d first been when they’d met a few months ago.
“He gets a sock in the morning and one of these swatches of flannel at night. His favorite treats are pen caps, but don’t give him too many, we think he’s getting fat…”
“He’s adjusting well,” Bud said suddenly, startling Monroe slightly. He glanced over and smiled.
“Adjusting to…?” he asked, and Bud shrugged.
“Everyone at the lodge was worried for him when he broke up with. Well, you know how he was. But we certainly didn’t think a blutbad would be the one to get him out of his funk—not that there’s anything wrong with blutbaden, I’m sure you’re wonderful people, I mean you seem perfectly well balanced, and he seems happy with you, I guess I’m just trying to say that I’m happy you guys found each other, I mean it really helps solidify the ‘he’s not like other Grimms’ mentality we’ve got going, I mean if he was like all the others he wouldn’t be dating a blutbad, would he?”
Monroe stared at Bud (who was trying to catch his breath from the sheer run-on of that sentence) and floundered for a moment before crossing his arms somewhat uncomfortably and saying, “Um. We’re not dating.” He looked back toward Nick (who was now cautioning against letting Tesla outside unsupervised) and sighed. “We’re just good friends.”
Bud looked a little shocked. “But he told his partner that you’re his new emergency contact! And he talks about you all the time, and I don’t—don’t talk to him that often, so if I’ve noticed it…”
“Noticed it?” Monroe asked dumbly, because what Bud was saying was crazy talk, surely, or Monroe’s overactive imagination, and regardless of the stupid crush (which hadn’t, wasn’t going away, in fact had only gotten worse over the past months) Nick didn’t think about him like that—
“The way he looks at you,” Bud said, all traces of nervousness gone. He was staring over like Monroe was the stupidest creature to ever walk the Earth. “Like you’re the only thing that matters.”
Across the room, Nick was reluctantly handing their dustball over to the excited children. Tesla eeped softly and nibbled Nick’s finger before pouring himself into Bud’s oldest son’s outstretched hands. Nick produced a pen cap, which Tesla snatched with relish, much to the children’s delight, and Nick stepped back, a small smile on his face.
And then he looked over, the smile growing, his face softening, and Bud said softly, “Like that.”
Monroe’s chest suddenly felt very tight.
The three hour drive to Seattle was spent largely in silence, with the just the scratchy radio in Monroe’s bug breaking through. Nick kept shooting confused glances in Monroe’s direction, but Monroe didn’t try to enlighten him to why he was so uncomfortable. He had to sort some things out. Eventually Nick gave up on conversation, crunching through his bag of Cheetos (he’d made Monroe stop at a gas station to get them) and staring out the window.
“I’m…” Monroe stuttered finally as they crossed the city line into Seattle. “Sorry, I just realized something while we were at Bud’s and I’m trying to rationalize it right now.”
Nick shot him an incomprehensible look. “What did you realize?”
“I’ll let you know later,” Monroe said faintly. “Help me find the hotel, I’ve got the address in the navigation on my phone.”
Nick rolled his eyes but grabbed Monroe’s phone, keying in the unlock code with practiced ease (why did Nick know his unlock code? Was it a bad thing that he did? Monroe didn’t think so…) and opened the navigation program. A few quickly delivered directions later, they were pulling up to the hotel where the conference was being held.
“You’ve got the panel first thing in the morning, right?” Nick asked as they left the lobby, all the checking in successfully accomplished. Monroe nodded.
“At ten. Then we break for lunch and then I’m doing it again at two. I’ll be done at four.” Monroe shifted his suitcase in his hands while they waited for the elevator.
“Okay. Do you have anything to do tonight?”
“Just check in, then I’m all yours,” Monroe said without thinking. He mostly successfully fought down a blush when he realized what he’d said, and damn Bud, why did he have to bring this up and make Monroe hyper-aware of the situation… He caught Nick grinning at him out of the corner of his eye, and raised an eyebrow in response.
“Let’s go explore Seattle, then. We can get dinner and check out the night life.”
“You do realize that it’s, like, three in the afternoon.”
“Check out the afternoon life, then,” Nick amended easily. “I’m sure we’ll be able to find something to do tonight.” (Monroe pointedly did not acknowledge the innuendo of that statement.)
Still, when Nick flashed him another smile, Monroe very nearly tripped over his feet when the elevator finally arrived.
Nick was waiting in the hallway outside their rooms when Monroe got back from the lobby and checking in at his conference.
“We’re going to the Space Needle,” Nick announced grandly. “And the aquarium and we can get dinner at Pike Place Market...” he kept talking, brandishing brochures to various tourist trap attractions ranging from interesting to truly gaudy, and Monroe smiled, letting Nick’s enthusiasm wash over him. This was going to be nice—Nick needed this, a break from the life or death everyday that had become his existence.
“Let’s start with dinner,” Monroe suggested when Nick finally took a breath. “I take it you’ve researched the best restaurants?”
“You take it correctly,” Nick grinned. “Okay, so the concierge said there was this hole in the wall vegetarian place downtown…”
Their week was a whirlwind.
They started things the next morning with Nick sitting in on Monroe’s first woodcarving workshop, grinning broadly as Monroe lost himself in his demonstration. He was the only person there not taking notes, and definitely was on the receiving end of a few annoyed looks for his ‘support-Monroe’ effort, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“You’re a hit,” he told Monroe afterwards. “I heard people complaining that they couldn’t get seats to your second panel.”
“Likely because you are clearly not a clockmaker,” Monroe said, carefully tucking his tools behind the low stage in preparation for the afternoon workshop, “And they wanted to guilt you for taking up space. We’re a bunch of crotchety infants,” he added with a grin. “Now come on, I’m starving.”
Nick led the way to another vegetarian restaurant, this one near their hotel. When Monroe commented that Nick didn’t need to forgo meat on his account, Nick just shook his head good-naturedly and claimed that he ate too much red meat anyway.
After the second panel (which Nick didn’t attend, giving in to dirty looks from the waitlisted artisans) Monroe made him wander the rest of the convention. Nick bought a gorgeous pocket watch after having Monroe carefully check it over and pronouncing it ‘superb,’ and he happily tucked it into his front pocket. “Seattle vacation souvenir,” he explained, and Monroe smiled.
The convention technically lasted two days, but Monroe didn’t feel too guilty about ditching the second day, not with Nick giving him earnest eyes and gushing about the waterfront and architecture and the ‘vacation experience.’ It was a side of him Monroe had only seen glimpses of—a Nick that was mostly carefree and happy, and Monroe privately promised himself to devote some time to making sure he got to see this version of Nick when they were back in Portland.
So Monroe gave the reins for the rest of the week to Nick, who delivered on his threat to drag Monroe to every possible attraction Seattle had to offer—they went to the aquarium and the zoo, museums, (Monroe especially liked the Nordic history one) the market (where they ran into some raccoon-type wesen who ended up cooking them the best meal either of them could ever remember eating), out of the way bookstores and artisan shops, (they found one that specialized in exotic whiskeys—that had been a giggly night) finally culminating with dinner at the Space Needle their last day in town.
Throughout it all, Monroe watched Nick just a tad closer than he’d ever let himself do before. And by the end of the week, he had come to the conclusion that Bud just might have been right.
“You know the dress code at this place is casual,” Nick complained half-heartedly as Monroe watched him (incorrectly) retie his tie for the fifth time.
“Just because it says ‘casual’ doesn’t mean it’s not nice to dress up a bit,” Monroe countered, finally giving in and batting Nick’s hands away. He tied a perfect knot in a flurry of silk, then tightened it against Nick’s collar. “And you look nice.”
“Says the man who owns one suit,” Nick snorted.
Monroe smiled. “Suit doesn’t necessarily equal dressing up. Notice my shirt and blazer? I still look decent, unlike the t-shirt you were planning on going in.”
“T-shirts are perfectly acceptable,” Nick groused with a smile. “And I always have to at least look put-together, I’m a detective.”
“You think a leather jacket cures all ails,” Monroe sighed. “Not that I’m ragging on the leather jacket, I like the leather jacket—”
“C’mon,” Nick grinned, catching Monroe’s hand for a second, tugging him toward the door. “We’re gonna be late for our reservations.” Monroe felt a surge of affection—this domestic scene; he could almost imagine it becoming habit. And with Nick turning to wait for him in the hall, an easy smile on his face, hair already flopping in his eyes despite the liberal product he’d stolen from Monroe’s bag (Monroe liked Nick’s hair longer—it wasn’t as professional, but the thoughts Monroe was thinking weren’t exactly professional thoughts) Monroe couldn’t really think of a good reason why this aspect of their friendship shouldn’t become habit.
Resolved, he shut the door behind him with a click. He’d talk to Nick tonight.
“Act more like a tourist,” Monroe smirked over appetizers. “Seriously, I don’t think people on the other side of the restaurant are aware that we’re from out of town.”
Nick just flashed him a smile and went back to plastering his face to the window they were seated next to, utterly ignoring their food. Monroe speared another of the sweet potato gnocchis and chewed it contemplatively while Nick pointed out various places they’d been over the past week.
“We are tourists, Monroe,” Nick said, and pointed. “Ooh, look, there’s the whiskey bar.” Monroe made a face. It had been a fun night—not so much a fun morning. Nick glanced at him, that familiar mischievous half-smile lurking on his lips. “You can’t tell me you don’t enjoy the view.” He directed his gaze back out the window and Monroe took a breath.
His eyes fixed on Nick, Monroe muttered, “Yea, the view’s pretty awesome, man.”
Nick eventually settled down enough to inhale the rest of the appetizer (“Holy crap, this is delicious.”) and they made small talk until their entrées came. Violins played softly over the speaker system, and as the bottle of wine between them slowly disappeared, they both became slightly flushed and laughed a little easier.
Eventually dinner ended, as all pleasant dinners must. Monroe was leaned back slightly in his chair and Nick was resting his elbows on the table, gently swirling the remnants of his wine.
“I’m sad this vacation is almost over,” Nick said suddenly. “I haven’t been this relaxed in… I don’t know. Months. It’s nice to be somewhere where half the freaking population isn’t trying to kill me. Or make plays for power, or you know. Eat each other.”
“There are probably people trying to eat each other here, too,” Monroe cautioned. Nick smirked and shook his head.
“Not my jurisdiction.”
“True,” Monroe agreed. He contemplated his half-glass of wine, then raised it to toast. “Promise me that we—you’ll take another vacation like this sometime,” he offered, and Nick looked up.
“If you take it with me,” he said softly, and clinked their glasses together, “then sure, I’ll promise that.” They stared at each other for a beat too long, and Monroe realized that if he wanted to say something, now was the time.
“Nick.” He could already feel the flush creeping up his neck, but soldiered on. “I have something I wanna, um. Ask.”
Nick blinked slowly and searched Monroe’s face. He settled further forward in his seat and rested his wine glass to one side. “Yea?”
Monroe paused. He wanted—fuck. He wanted Nick. But he still wanted the easy mood they’d had over the past months, wanted his friendship, wanted Nick to be comfortable coming over to play with Tesla, (not that that was really too much of an issue, Nick freaking loved that garbage-disposing menace) and he didn’t want to screw anything up. He wondered in a vaguely panicky manner how people transformed relationships effortlessly from friends to something more, and wished for a moment that he wasn’t quite as awkward when it came to relationships. But now Nick was watching him, eyebrow raised, waiting, and—
“Bud said something that’s been making me think,” he said in a rush. Nick’s face cleared and he sat back slightly.
“You’re finally gonna tell me what was bothering you on the way up here?”
Another brief moment of hesitation, then Monroe forced out, “He thought we were dating.” Something flashed across Nick’s expression (not anger or disgust, so that was good, at least) and opened his mouth to say something. Monroe held up his hand, stopping him.
“And,” he went on, “When we got Tesla, Juliette said. Um. A couple things, too—not anything bad or whatever, I know she’d accused you of—of something when you guys first broke up, but—that was—shit.” Yea, this wasn’t what he’d been planning on saying. He rallied.
“I’m.” He took a breath. “Interested.” And looked down at the table. “In you.” Closed his eyes. “Like that.”
Silence from the other side of the table.
So, Nick was a little shocked, hence the absolute inability to speak. His first thought was a bit extreme—flip the table and straddle Monroe, knock him to the floor and—but that was maybe a touch too much, so he should say something, do something.
Across the table, Monroe was turning an alarming shade of red, pretty obviously embarrassed.
And really, fuck it being too soon. He was pretty sure this wasn’t a rebound or curiosity or whatever else excuse he had been making to not say anything. Monroe was such a permanent fixture in his life that he couldn’t even picture things without him, and adding him to certain aspects (his bed) had been playing on repeat across his mind for so long they were practically a given.
There were problems, of course, but they could deal with them, hadn’t they said screw the status quo? And so yes, yes—Nick became aware that he’d let the silence drag too long, and oh crap, Monroe probably was thinking entirely the wrong thing.
He reached across the table and pulled Monroe’s hand into his own, laced their fingers.
Monroe was having a difficult time unlocking his hotel room door.
Granted, having one Nick Burkhardt pinned between himself and said door was likely a major factor in his dilemma, but that didn’t mean Monroe wanted to pull his lips away from Nick’s neck or shake Nick’s hands off his waist.
“Come on, Nick hissed into his mouth, and halle-freaking-luiah, the little light on the door turned green.
Monroe backed them straight into the room and to the bed, kneeling over Nick and marveling just for a moment at those pale eyes blown wide with want—for him, something he’d really never thought he’d get to see—and then he was off again, kissing down Nick’s neck, pulling their clothes off to fall unheeded at the end of the bed.
Later, lying with Nick curled into his side, their legs tangled, and their bodies cooling in the over-air conditioned room, he stroked his fingers through Nick’s hair and kissed him on the top of his head.
“I’m pretty happy right now,” Nick murmured at him, sleepy.
“Me too,” Monroe confirmed.
Next to him, Nick stiffened slightly and spread his fingers on Monroe’s chest, tugging lightly at his liberal spattering of hair. “This isn’t—” he started, and Monroe’s full attention snapped to him, post-coital haze evaporating.
“Isn’t what?” And if he sounded slightly desperate, who would blame him?
“Isn’t something that stays in Seattle?” Nick whispered. “I want it to come home with us.”
Monroe rolled his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. “Jesus christ, Nick, don’t scare me like that. Yes, I want this coming home with us.” He opened his eyes and found Nick looking at him, a small, uncertain smile on his face. Monroe brought his hand up and smoothed his palm over Nick’s hair. “I told you, I want you. As in all of you, you ridiculous grimm.”
Nick cocked an eyebrow. “Speaking of—”
With a snort, Monroe rolled, pinning Nick to the bed. Nick’s smile grew and Monroe leaned down, kissing that smirk off his face. “We’ll deal with whatever problems,” he breathed. Nick nodded, albeit slightly reluctantly.
“Fuck ‘em.” That got another smile, but Nick apparently wasn’t done.
“Royalty and the fact that you’re a blutbad and I’m a—”
“Don’t care,” Monroe interrupted. “You’re you. That’s enough, right?” He pulled back enough to see all of Nick’s face. “We’ve got this,” he said, and Nick smiled.
Another six months…
“I hate this dresser,” Monroe complained, once again struggling under the brunt of Nick’s ridiculous furniture. “Like, just, so much hate. It’s going to have an unfortunate accident with an axe. Or some lighter fluid.”
“Less complaining, more moving,” Nick panted.
“I hate you, too,” Monroe continued conversationally, “for making me move this shit again. You’re lucky I love you.”
“Pretty sure that’s an oxymoron,” Nick said, and they smashed the poor dresser down in the cleared space in what had been Monroe’s spare room.
“Your face is an oxymoron,” Monroe muttered, huffy. “I’m dying, let’s break for beer.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Nick grinned. “But wait—” he grabbed at Monroe’s side and swung him around, pinning him to the dresser. “You’re hot when you’re all sweaty.”
“I’m all sweaty because I’m hot,” Monroe returned, but didn’t move away when Nick kissed him soundly.
“We’re living together,” Nick said eventually, breaking their kiss and leaning his head against Monroe’s chest, closing his eyes.
“So we are,” Monroe said, smiling, letting the possessive want for Nick wash over him. “You know, I certainly didn’t see this coming when you first pinned me to my stairs.”
“Would it be bad if I told you that I noted the sexual charge at that time?” Nick muttered, now grinning into Monroe’s chest.
“Surprising, I suppose,” Monroe allowed. “How about when I tackled you through my window?”
“Definitely noticed it then,” Nick laughed. “And then there was training in the forest…”
“And your excuses to come over for breakfast…” Monroe facepalmed. “And jeez that one time in Seattle!”
“It’s like you love me or something,” Nick said, his eyes sparkling.
“Gosh, where would you ever get that idea…?” Monroe said, and leaned down and kissed Nick again.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Tesla wriggled out from his hiding spot under the couch. He was on a mission—the Smaller One had brought home a bag from the office supply store (Tesla could smell the paperclips, it was torture) and hidden it somewhere, what the crap.
He sniffed delicately at the coffee table leg (gave it a quick chew for good measure—it tasted just as gross as usual) and hopped dustily in the direction of the kitchen. The Larger One was humming something; the kitchen smelled vaguely like beets (also gross, Tesla wasn’t about to forgive the Smaller One for trying to feed him vegetables that one time, ugh) which meant that the People would be staying home tonight.
The Larger One spun on his heel and Tesla carefully situated himself directly underfoot (vague plots of getting petted his motivation). The Larger One noticed him at the last moment, swore, and tripped over himself.
“Tesla,” he groused, righting himself on the table, “it’s like you try to get stepped on.” But he picked him up and scratched softly behind his ears, regardless. Tesla eeped, pleased. There was a slam from the front of the house and a moment later, the Smaller One bustled in, his arms wrapped around his chest, shivering.
“Cold,” he said, and immediately nuzzled up to the Larger One, who laughed low in his chest.
“Told you that jacket wouldn’t be warm enough,” he chided, but the Smaller One wasn’t paying attention, instead directing his affection toward Tesla, plucking him from the Larger One’s hands and cooing at him. Tesla regarded him stoically until the Smaller One produced a pen cap, which Tesla then graciously accepted.
“You spoil him,” the Larger One said, but the Smaller One just smiled.
“Like you don’t sneak him Kleenex,” the Smaller One shot back. Tesla braced the pen cap with his paws and took a large, satisfying bite.
The Larger One hummed in agreement and kissed the Smaller One on the cheek. “I made sausage. We can do pasta tonight, if you’re not going anywhere—”
“I’m not scheduled for anything, so here’s hoping,” the Smaller One smiled, and gently dropped Tesla to the floor. Tesla scrabbled, recognizing the signs—he’d make himself scarce while the People went upstairs. He’d followed them up once, but it was mostly uninteresting; he wasn’t allowed to chew anything up there (he got in trouble when he once ate the hands of one of the Larger One’s clocks) and they never paid him attention.
Tesla assumed there was a reason for all the bouncing and noises they made on their bed, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it was.
The rest of the evening was spent prowling for the office supplies bag. He knew the Smaller One would hide it somewhere difficult for him to get to, (after the debacle with the envelopes, Tesla was pretty sure the People had taken to locking up his favorite snacks) but he just couldn’t figure out where.
It was a couple hours before the People finished what they were doing upstairs and then in the kitchen, and wandered into the living room. Tesla lurked in his best lurking manner, hoping the Smaller One would slip up and head for the office supplies, but they just sank down on the couch, reclining against each other. The Larger One pulled out a deck of cards (a newer pack, Tesla’d successfully eaten half of the original one) and said something that made the Smaller One laugh.
He hopped over and puffed himself up, aiming for adorable (he was very good at it, if he said so himself) and winning! The Smaller One scooped him up, deposited him in his lap.
“I’m going to own you,” the Smaller One said, and the Larger One sighed.
“Talk, talk, talk. Show me the cards, Burkhardt. And don’t get rabbit dust all over the couch, I just cleaned.”
“Tesla won’t dust on your precious cushions,” the Smaller One cooed. Tesla flicked his ears—of course he would dust on the couch, how else would he attract a lady staubmaus? And then the Smaller One grinned, laying down his hand of cards. The Larger One swore.
And ooh, from this higher position, Tesla could just make out the white plastic of the office supplies bag. He flicked his ears and eeped, satisfied. Paper clips, here he comes.
All right, that's it, people! Thank you so much for your support and feedback--this story was quite interesting to write, as I had no plan about where it was going, and it still has very little in the way of plot. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.