"It's just a scratch," Nick had told Juliette when he got home that night, but the next morning, the pain was thrumming constantly and wound felt hot, even though the bandage, and didn't smell all that great. He thought about showing it to Juliette, as a Geier scratch was sort of like an animal-related wound, but he'd have to explain it to her in a little bit more detail.
There wasn't any part of "I got this from a vulture who was harvesting human organs for all natural Viagra" that didn't sound crazy.
Instead, he called Hank to tell him he'd in late, and then headed over to Monroe's house.
Monroe answered the door in wearing a tee shirt and drawstring pants. His hair was wet and messy, and he had a blue towel draped over his shoulders. "Hey, man, what's going on? Whoa, what's that smell?"
"That's what I'm here for," Nick replied as Monroe let him into the house. "We caught the Geiers last night and I got this scratch from one of them in the process. I read all about them in the books and there wasn't anything about poison in their talons. But there's no way this is a normal infection. It wouldn't be this nasty this fast."
Monroe led Nick back into the kitchen. "I don't know anything about poison in Geiers either, but let's take a look at it."
Nick slowly unwrapped his bandage, watching as Monroe's face scrunched up even more as the smell became more potent. "I cleaned it out as well as I could after I got home. Maybe that made it worse. I just used regular rubbing alcohol."
"I can't think of anything that's made worse by alcohol," Monroe said. "Aw, dude, that's disgusting."
Nick had to agree. In the flood of morning light streaming through Monroe's kitchen window, he could see that the wound, that probably could have benefited from a couple of stitches, was starting to look purple around the edges. For the first time, he was beginning to worry. What if there wasn't a cure for this? Could the infection spread into his arm? Would his hand have to be removed?
"I've never seen anything like this," Monroe said, gingerly touching Nick's hand.
Hissing with pain, Nick pulled his hand away. "I guess going to the hospital is out of the question. They might ask how I got it."
"Yeah, besides, alcohol might not make it worse, but some of the drugs might," Monroe replied. "With stuff like this, you can't just treat the symptoms. We should go down to the spice shop and see if maybe Freddy has something that could cure this."
"The spice shop," Nick repeated flatly. "I should take my infected hand down to the guy I just threatened while destroying half of his stock?"
"Okay, maybe that's not such a great idea, but you have to do something. That doesn't look healthy." Monroe made a face and looked away from the infected hand. "Look, you stay here. There's some more bandages in the bathroom. I'll go down to the spice shop and get you something. It might not have even been the scratch itself. There could have been something on the talons, especially around all that medical stuff. Who knows what else they were into."
Nick nodded. He was starting to feel a little dizzy, and he could feel the panic rising up in his throat like bile. He pointedly turned his eyes away from the wound, but he could still smell it. "Good plan."
"Man, you don't look too hot. Maybe you should sit down," Monroe said, resting a hand on Nick's shoulder.
"I'll be okay," Nick replied, even though he wasn't entirely sure he would be. "Just go down to the shop and get me something, okay?"
"Okay, but this is going on your tab. Don't forget about the money you owe me for the Gallenblase."
Nick smiled weakly. It couldn't be too bad if Monroe was bugging him about money owed. "I remember," he said.
While Monroe changed his clothes, Nick went into the bathroom and slowly wrapped his swollen hand in clean white bandages. Both of his hands were shaking, and he could feel his pulse deep in the wound. His vision was beginning to blur around the edges, giving all the lights a bright, fuzzy halo. He glanced up at the mirror and his reflection looked pale and sweaty. It barely even looked like him.
By the time he stumbled out into the living room, Monroe was gone.
That's okay, Nick thought. All I have to do is make it to the sofa.
The couch was only a few steps away, and Nick aimed himself up as well as he could with his blurred vision, until he tripped over his own two feet. Nick fell face first onto the couch, but his lower half hit the floor and when he rolled over, gravity did the rest of the work. He knocked his head on the coffee table as he went down, but that was nothing compared to the pain of landing on his wounded hand.
Nick howled, his eyes filling with tears, and he rolled around on the small space of floor between the table and the sofa, clutching his right hand to his chest. The blinding pain coursed through all the way through his arm and up into his shoulders.
Through the haze of his pain, Nick wondered if he should be worried about dying. That was a lot worse than possibly losing his hand. This was how people used to die back when they were unable to cure a simple infection. But this wasn't simple. It was complicated and scary, and up until now, Nick wasn't sure if he knew exactly how scary it was. He'd just been riding along, taking each creature as they came to him, but for the first time, he was truly threatened. Was this the Geier's last defense? Had none of the Grimms before him known about it?
Or maybe it was what killed them and they never had the chance to tell anyone else.
Nick stared up at the ceiling as the rush of pain settled down into constant hum. White lights sparkled in his vision and he thought about Juliette. Would the last thing he said to her be a lie? He had told her that he was fine, that it was just a scratch.
Slowly, the fear subsided and everything went black.
As Monroe drove home, he thought maybe his undercover skills needed some work. Of course, it wasn't his fault that he ended up at the spice shop only a few days apart. To Monroe's relief, Freddy didn't ask him about the Gallenblase, probably because he didn't have any more after Nick destroyed the stock.
However, Freddy wasn't stupid. His expression had grown increasingly suspicious after Monroe mentioned the Geiers, but there wasn't much else he could do. What if there was something specific to the Geier scratch?
If Freddy had thought anything about it, though, he didn't say a word. He just selected a vial of dark green liquid from the shelf, told Monroe how to use it, and then charged him seventy bucks for magical antibiotics. Monroe wondered if he was getting suspicion tax, but forked over the money and mentally added it to Nick's tab.
Monroe parked the car and headed into the house, clutching his brown paper bag. He pushed open the door and while he couldn't see Nick anywhere, he could still smell the infected hand. Wherever Nick was, he couldn't have gone far.
"Nick?" he called tentatively as he walked into the living room. There wasn't a response, but Monroe spotted the top of a dark head peeking out from the other side of the sofa. "Nick!" He ran around the couch his eyes grew wide at the sight of Nick passed out on the floor.
Monroe dropped to the floor next to him and to his relief, he could see the slow rise and fall of Nick's chest. He gave Nick's shoulder a firm shake. "Hey, Nick," he said loudly, "wake up. Come on, buddy, wake up."
A quiet noise escaped from Nick's lips, but he didn't open his eyes. Even so, Monroe decided to take that as a sign that Nick was awake, or at least a little aware.
"You're not going to like this, but..." Monroe shoved the coffee table out of the way so he could have more room and hoisted Nick up off the floor, trying to keep his wrapped hand up on his chest, but his arms slid to the sides and Nick's hand bumped up against Monroe's chest. This time Nick groaned and his eyes opened halfway.
"Hey," Monroe said a littler louder than he normally would have as he settled Nick onto the sofa. "Can you hear me?"
Nick made a noise that might have been an attempt at a word, but it sounded more like like slurred gibberish than anything else.
"Okay, I'll take that as a yes." Monroe pulled the coffee table back so he could sit down on it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the brown paper bag. Freddy had told him to add the liquid to water until the water had taken on a mossy color, but that was when Nick was fully conscious.
With shaking hands, Monroe opened the vial. There was an eyedropper attached to the lid and Monroe loaded it up. "If this burns your tongue off, I'm sorry," he muttered as he let one drop of green liquid fall into Nick's open mouth.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then Nick turned over onto his side and threw up on the floor. He coughed as he sat up. "What the hell was that?" he asked hoarsely.
"Essence of... maybe you don't want to know." The smell of the the vomit was worse than Nick's infected hand and Monroe tried to keep himself from throwing up, too. Sometimes an amazing sense of smell was a bad thing. "How are you feeling?"
"Terrible," Nick said, leaning back against the pillow. "Sorry about the..."
"Don't worry about it," Monroe replied, swallowing down a gag. He placed the back of his hand up against Nick's clammy forehead. "You're burning up, man. You going to be okay for a second?"
Nick nodded and closed his eyes.
Monroe got up and went into the kitchen so he could make Nick a proper dose of medicine. He came back with the glass of green water. "Hey, Nick? You need to drink this."
Nick cracked open an eye and looked at the glass. He opened his mouth to speak, but instead of saying something, he shook his head.
"Are we going to fight about this like you're five?" Monroe asked, sounding a lot more irritated than he actually felt. He sat down on the coffee table and helped Nick up halfway. "You're going to drink it," he said, pressing the glass to Nick's lips, and despite Nick's grimace, he swallowed the water until the glass was empty.
"Thanks," Nick muttered as he lay back down, his eyelids drooping.
"No problem," Monroe replied. He grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and draped it over Nick. With a sigh, he stood and went back into the kitchen, gathering up cleaning supplies and roll of paper towels. He cleaned the vomit from floor and then, after washing his hands, he brewed himself a cup of tea.
What he really wanted was a beer, but he figured eight AM might be a bad time to start drinking alone.
The mug was hot against his skin as he sat down in the armchair next to the sofa and watched Nick sleep, keeping an eye out for the hitch in his chest, just to make sure he was still breathing. What if he'd gotten back a few minutes later? What if it'd been too late?
Monroe had some buddies, guys he knew, mostly from the support groups, but he didn't have much in the way of friends. Everyone was from the old days, from when he was out of control, and it could be hard to tell how many of them had been real friends. He never would have thought in a million years that his first friend on the other side would be a Grimm, but he wasn't about to lose him.
He didn't know how long it would take Nick to get back on his feet, but he could sit there and wait until that time.
Nick woke up slowly, his mind rousing before he managed to open his eyes. He groaned as he tried to sit up. His neck felt stiff and his mouth tasted like something had died in it. He vaguely remembered throwing up, but clearly recalled the green water Monroe had made him drink. Essence of something. Frog piss, probably, if the flavor had been any indication.
He finally sat up all the way, pushing off a warm blanket, and started unwrapping the bandage from around his hand. He knew he shouldn't and try to let it heal some more, but it was no longer screaming with pain and he wanted to see if it looked any better. There was still a dull ache, but considering the infection had completely knocked him out, this was a good sign.
Tossing the bandage onto the coffee table, Nick inspected his wounded palm. It barely looked like the same scratch. The smell was gone, and even though it was still swollen around the edges, the color had calmed down from a purplish-red to a dark pink.
Monroe walked out of the kitchen with a plate in his hand. "You're awake! Are you hungry? You want this?" He held the plate out, and Nick shook his head.
"What time is it?" It felt like he'd been asleep for days.
"About two-thirty," Monroe replied, sinking into the armchair. "Your phone kept ringing, so I turned the ringer off. I didn't want it to wake you up. I don't know who was calling you."
"Thanks," Nick said. He reached for his phone carefully with his left hand and saw eight missed calls from Hank and two from Juliette. Nick knew he'd have to come up with some good excuses for this. Then again, he could just say he went to the hospital for his cut hand. The best lies were almost the truth. "I should probably go."
Monroe nodded and set his plate on the coffee table. "Yeah, let me get you that stuff just in case the infection comes back." He got up and headed back into the kitchen.
Nick looked at the plate of food and his stomach growled. He had to be feeling better if an alfalfa sprout sandwich looked that good. It was weird that he thought he was going to die a few hours ago and now he was hungry.
"Here you go," Monroe said, walking back into the room. He held a glass vial out to Nick. "Just dilute it in some water. If you don't, it makes you throw up. We learned that the hard way."
"Thanks," Nick said again, tucking the vial in his jacket pocket. He looked up at Monroe and smiled. "I don't know how to thank you for this. You saved my life. I owe you one."
"Well, I hope I'm not in a situation where you can return the favor," Monroe replied with a lopsided smile. "You can just give me the seventy bucks that stuff cost."
Nick laughed. "I'll get that to you." He paused, feeling like he should say something else. Even if Monroe wanted to shrug it off with a smile, Nick knew how desperate he felt before he passed out. If he hadn't been in so much pain, he might have been terrified. It all seemed so surreal now. "Thank you, Monroe. Really."
Monroe smiled, too. "You're welcome. Really."
Nick walked out of the house, already planning his next move. He wanted to brush his teeth until the nasty flavor was finally gone, and then he needed to make some phone calls to cover his ass. But what he really wanted to do was find some way to make this up to Monroe on top of paying him back for every cent he owed.
His life was worth so much more than money.