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Sometimes, It Just Happens

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"Traditions are the guide-points driven deep in our subconscious minds.

The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of."

 

It was a testament to Nick’s growth as a person and overall strength as a regular law abiding citizen with a badge that gave her the needed calming voice of reason when she felt the pinpricks from under her skin screaming at her that something was going to happen, and that to hurry up and pour a cup of coffee now before it was too late.

“I’m not a baby.”

Seriously, they should sing odes to her will power and her breathing-fu of calmness. It didn’t stop her from sighing forlornly into her mug of coffee though. It was too early for this conversation-again, she might add. “Barry, we talked about this. Talking is for after at least one cup of coffee is consumed by me.”

To Barry’s credit he seemed to weigh his options, staring between her and the ancient Mr. Coffee, which she had gotten in a fit of insanity when she thought Black Friday shopping was something she should probably experience once in her life now that she was technically a mother. She could practically see the tiny gears working in his head and feels almost amused as he straightens his shoulders and adopts what she’s assuming is a warriors conviction that death is close to coming.

“I can take care of myself,” Nick rolls her eyes and leans against the counter, waving a hand in a ‘keep talking; I’m totally fascinated by this bullshit’ motion. Barry holds up a finger to signal the starting of his list. “I cleaned my room yesterday, I haven’t forgotten to feed Jeff all week, I brushed my teeth and Ms. Toiles hasn’t called you in three days.”

He holds up three fingers to better illustrate how important those three days mean to his argument. Well, if Nick was honest it was pretty great to not have the first grade teacher on the phone to tell her how Barry once again intimidated other children into crying; or the school’s janitor. In his defense, or as Nick was told by Barry that the kids were making fun of his friend Roddy’s Spiderman backpack and were making plans (or in Barry’s words again, evilly scheming) to steal the teachers black permanent marker to ruin it. She still hasn’t gotten the whole story about the janitor though but she’s sure there’s a logical and entirely innocent reason why her seven year old is that terrifying. 

That was one friendship she didn’t see coming, to be honest. She knew little Roddy, who’s in the same year as Barry, because his father’s repeated issues with drinking. It shocked her in more ways than one when Barry had come home, barreling into her and proclaiming happily that he had made a friend. Nick was just over come with the facts that Barry was actually talking again before his words caught up to her, then she had felt a warm feeling grow inside of her chest that she didn’t understand at first. This situation was just as new to her as it was for Barry, so she didn’t recognize the feelings of pride and hope as they were until later when she was laying in bed alone and thinking up at the ceiling.

A jagerbar and a reinigen; it’s like a fairytale in the making.

“One,” Nick held up a finger in Barry’s direction, mimicking his counting strategy. “You only cleaned your room after I threatened to not let Roddy come over on the weekend. Two, Jeff is your responsibility to begin with; you promised to do all the things to keep him alive. Three, it’s pointless to brush your teeth before you eat breakfast.”

Barry glared, “And four?”

“I will give you four and thank you for not giving Ms. Toiles an excuse to call me at work again.” That was a less than perfect day; a murder-suicide and a teacher calling to bitch about how your kid refused to sit still and was keeping the other students from learning.

“Ms. Toiles is totally a hag.” He grumbled, flicking his fingers at the table. Nick turned to the cupboard to take down a small Batman bowl to hide her grin; it wasn’t good parenting if she encouraged his small mutiny against what was supposed to be the authority figure. Especially with her being in the law enforcing business and all that, or at least that’s what all those parenting books that she kept hidden in her closet said.

And then she remembers the last phone call, she could practically hear the women’s disdain and gravelly voice in her head clear as day;‘I’ll have you know your son-‘

Nick sets down the bowl and cereal in front of Barry. “Ms. Toiles is a hag.”

“She doesn’t even like turtles, mom.” Barry blurts out as if it’s personally offensive to him and Nick just let the flood gates open to his feelings. “She says they’re only good for soup or stew, mom, said that her father makes the best turtle soup but that has to be a lie because who eats turtles?”

Nick shrugs and Barry flails his arms around, “Exactly! No one! So she has to be lying because no decent people would think turtles are food. And Roddy says only witches make stew.”

At this point Nick doesn’t know why she even bothers with the coffee, but she sits there and drinks slowly and listens to Barry’s theories on his first grade teacher being a witch or a soul sucking banshee from some tribe in the Amazon feeding the offerings of children to—and Nick was seriously thinking of blocking everything on the TV that wasn’t PBS from him. Arthur was still a good, clean cartoon for kids as far as she could remember it. She catches the words eyeballs and toothpaste and knows that she’s better off just getting rid of the television all together, she really shouldn’t chance it.

“If you don’t hurry up you’re going to miss the bus.”

“… Is that suppose to be get me to eat faster?” Barry asked to his bowl of fruit colored milk. There was still a couple Fruit Loops left and Barry had taken to making little whirlpools in the milk for them to move around with.

“Yes.” She could see the beginnings of an argument sparking in his scowl and decided to cut it off before this got to the level the third talk escalated to. “How about we make a deal.”

“A deal?”

“If,” Nick knew she would regret as soon as the words started forming in her mind. “If you go to school and be good-no getting Ms. Toiles calling me at any time and no principal letters, I’ll let you help write the ad for the paper.”

The young jagerbar squinted his eyes at her, assessing the situation that reminded her so much of his mother it sort of made her blood run cold. Nick knew he would one day be curious of his real parents, knew that she would have to soon have that talk with him and it hurt her deeply knowing what it would do to him. Knowing what some people would think or say to him. He was only seven and had been through so much already, he didn’t deserve the ridicule and judging eyes of the people who couldn’t see below the surface.

“Can I sit in the interviews with you, too?” He stumbled over the larger word slightly and Nick was momentarily proud that he had learned to space his words out when sounding them out but she wasn’t fooled.

“They’ll be boring,” Barry shrugged and Nick relented. What harm could it do? “No sabotaging.”

Barry rolled his eyes, “Mom, please.”

They stared at each other for a few minutes until Nick heard the small chime of the clock that was placed on the mantle in her living room. “Okay,” she said slowly. “You be good at school and come home and do your chores and all your homework-including your Math, with absolutely no arguments or complaining and you can have some say in who gets hired.”

She knows her son and Nick is not getting stuck with someone who she knows her son can push over; physically or mentally.

His grip tightens on the plastic spoon, “… Roddy too.”

Nick waves her hand, she knows it’s not a question. “Yes, yes, Roddy too; can’t forget the other kid that lives here.”

And it’s practically true, last summer she didn’t think there was a day the little Reinigen boy wasn’t running around the house with Barry. Roddy even has the two bottom drawers in Barry’s dresser full of his own clothes and she’s pretty sure some of those comics she bought Barry the last time they were at the books store were actually for Roddy instead. She even invested in some sturdy bunk beds for them after his third month of showing up on her door step without fail with a backpack in hand and a small nod in her direction before he was whisked away by Barry up the stairs to his room.

It actually wasn’t until she heard the faded sounds of her son’s words proclaiming him the Robin to his Superboy that she knew this friendship would last forever and set to making plans for Barry’s room.

She could defiantly wait for that talk.

Nick hustled Barry from the table back up stairs to change his clothes and to brush his teeth again; she wasn’t kidding on it being pointless thing to do before food, before she was slipping his backpack over his shoulders and walking with him outside to wait.

“Mom,” Barry whined as she leaned down to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need you to wait with me.”

“I know,” Nick grinned at her son’s obvious embarrassment as the bus started turning down their street. “It’s more for my benefit than yours.”

She has had one too many missing children cases that ended badly to ever think something like that couldn’t happen. It gripped her heart and twisted it if she ever thought to long on it, those were the nights where she let Barry sleep in her bed with her arms wrapped tight around him and him sleeping peacefully while she just let herself breathe.

Barry just took a step away from her and stood up straight as the bus stopped in front of them, doors opening wide and Roddy waving from the window.
----

“I’m a cool mom, right?” She asked Hank as he set down a folder and a cup of coffee at her elbow.

“You’re a cop who enforces the law, the answer is always going to be no.”

“Detective, thank-you-very-much,” Hank laughed at her upturned face as he plopped himself in the chair next to her. “Please tell me this isn’t more paper work. I still have my report from a week ago unfinished.”

“Nope,” Hank tapped a department pen on the folder. “These are the background checks you were wanting.”

Nick cringed, “… are they bad?”

“If you’re looking for a mechanic that can’t keep a job due to some borderline anger issues or a florist with a petty left history then no, they are exactly what you’re looking for.”

Nick slumped back in her chair groaning. She bypassed the folder entirely and picked up the perfect smelling coffee and her groan changed tone to that of blissful happiness.

“Hank, you need to marry me,” she said. “I’m serious this time.”

Booting up his dinosaur of a computer, the department cut backs were kicking their asses, Hank laughed at the long time joke between them. He had three wives under his belt, three relationships that turned sour and the two people that once loved each other couldn’t be in the same room for fear of opening old wounds and tearing each other apart with them. She loved Hank, his friendship was pretty much the only thing that kept her going when the love of her life packed up and left.

Juliette needed time, at first, to get over all the secrets that Nick was keeping from her. Then she found out about Frank Rabe and had jumped to conclusions—well, to be fair Nick had let her and even supported her conclusions because it was easier than telling the truth and that was when she knew for certain that she had to let Juliette go with a clean conscience. It was fear that had drove a rift between them, Nick’s fear to be exact. She knew Juliette would have supported her, knew Juliette would have been a perfect addition for raising Barry but at the time it was all too new for Nick and she had made a call that let Juliette walk away.

And Hank was there, with a bottle of cheap whiskey and a manly shoulder to cry on to balance out the sappy Hallmark Christmas specials playing loudly in the background about lost loves and angels and Christmas miracles. He didn’t understand it fully what their break up was over but he knew that Nick was in need of a friend and nothing more, and knew that’s all that they would ever need from each other.

A few days later, three to be exact-three and seventeen hours, she got the call that Frank Rabe was dead and that his son, Barry Rabe, while in the hospital for a few bruises and scrapes was in fine health otherwise and was hers.

“Maybe you could call one of those… babysitter people.” Hank was waving his hand around as if he could catch the words he needed from the air around him. “You know what I’m talking about, don’t even play like that.”

Nick grinned, “Because, as you pointed out, I’m a cop. I keep odd hours and most of those are even a surprise to me.”

Which was why she was forever thankful of her next door neighbor being a retired social worker, God and whatever deity bless that woman until the day she passes. Mary Schmid was the best thing that could have ever happened to Nick with an armful of squirming and crying jagerbar and absolutely no experience with children. She had taken one look at the mess of Nick’s living room and had stepped in as if a fairy godmother from those Disney princess movies Barry still thinks he fools her into believing he doesn’t like. If Nick believed in angels and believed they were put on this world for good, Mary would have been her first guess.

The German armed force that was Mary Schmid was downright scary and almost a science. The only difference was the lack of research and studies, Nick had even jokingly looked it up on Google once. The Nearly seventy-five year old had steamrolled into her home and had put both of them in their places, it may have been a bonus that she was a Skalenzahane and there was no way Nick was ever going to say no to that sort of added protection.

Hank’s laugh brought her out of her haze, “Barry still fighting you about it?”

“He cleaned his room and feeds Jeff.”

“He already promised to keep Jeff alive, that’s why you agreed to let him have a turtle in the first place.”

Nick nods, “And he brushed his teeth and Ms. Toiles hasn’t called in three days.”

She holds up three fingers like Barry did to her at the kitchen table and Hank lets out a low whistle of surprise. “Whoa, you gotta give him that last one.”

“Oh, I did.” Nick tries to school her features to look like her son’s glare. “Ms. Toiles is a total hag.”

Their laughter dies down to tiny smiles and twitches as they try to finish up their reports before Hank starts up the conversation again. “So what are your plans then? Mary leaves in, what, a couple more weeks?”

Nick sighs and rubs the heels of her palms into her eyes. “I don’t know.”

Mary was leaving to go back to Germany to be with her family and live in her old town. Nick didn’t blame her, in fact she was happy for Mary to go back, slipping a few extra dollars to help fund her trip. Mary was seventy-eight now and deserved to go back to the places she adored so much that she spun whimsical tales to tell Barry and Roddy about before she put them to bed.

Wu comes by a little later dropping a larger file onto the desk making them both jump in surprise. “Evening my little pretties, I’ve a job for you.”

“Yeah?” Hank asks while Nick opens the folder to various gruesome pictures.

“Here’s the thing, there was a body found out by the woods leading to the next town east of here in the state park. Looks like an animal attack to me but the coroner and animal control both say I’m wrong.”

Nick eyes the deep gashes on the victim’s side and winces; it definitely looked more like an animal attack. “Are you sure?”

Wu bounces on his heels, “Nope. My money’s still on a wild, illegal animal that got loose but the animal control came up with nothing so it’s turned to a murder case with the little help of a claw-like stone found in one of the victims wounds. All the pictures and reports are on file and the body is still in the basement if you’d like a visit.”

“And the crime scene?” Hank asks, taking the folder from Nick.

“Still taped off but not for long, the park rangers are pushing for us to be out of there ASAP so my advice is to go now and ask questions later.”

Nick was already up and grabbing her coat before he stopped speaking, Hank right behind her. She sort of felt bad but Wu more than knew and understood the importance of getting to a crime scene as fast as they could especially when it was on property of a public park.

“I’m driving,” she calls, flashing her keys in Hank’s direction.

Hank read the reports out loud as they made their way across traffic. The victim, not yet identified, male in his early forties had been discovered in the woods by a patrolling ranger after there had been rumors of bear sightings close by the hiking trails. The body was found naked, gutted and very nearly beheaded, the rangers explained it as just another eccentric animal lover that got to close and didn’t see or heed to the warning signs.

This isn’t the first time-she could practically hear the unspoken words-probably not going to be the last time. But the whole song and dance had changed when they found a chunk of stone in the shape of a bear claw in one of the deeper wounds on the victim’s legs.

“Says here that the ranger who found him was one certain Mr. Harbor,” Hank winked and Nick threw him an incredulous look. This was just fighting dirty.

“Hank, no.”

“Hey, all I’m saying is the guy is into you. You could give it a shot.”

“And we could maybe talk about how the park is like an unauthorized body dumping ground for people and animal kind alike?” Nick snorts a laugh, “We have nothing in common and our paths only seem to cross when there’s blood everywhere.”

“You guys could be like a Shakespeare play.”

Nick laughs and punches Hank in the shoulder before turning onto the driveway for the park. It was simple as far as public parks go; there was a little stand that had a volunteer watching the entrance of the park that waved to them as they drove past to the large parking space far away from the children’s playground and swimming hole. There was a small pavilion strategically built that stood tall and open by the playground that both over looked the small lake and the play area easily.

Nick remembers Barry’s sixth birthday, the second one she was with him for but the first one they had actually sort of celebrated. It was just Barry and her because she knew what it was like for kids that lost their parents, even at a young age, how hard it could be for them at holidays and personal celebrations. But she had taken him here and they sat at on one of the picnic tables and ate store bought chocolate chip cookies. His birthday was later in the year so the park was practically disserted thanks to the colder weather but she figured that if there wasn’t snow on the ground they could still go for a walk on one of the shorter trails.

After talking to one of the other rangers-that was not Harbor as it was his day off-Hank and her walked through the woods on a different trail she felt oddly thankful for wasn’t the one Barry and her had adopted as their Birthday Tradition. She could still feel him hugging her tight, him tapping into his heritage’s strength and crying on her should as he barely could get out how he didn’t understand why his father wasn’t here anymore with him. All she could think to do was to hold him tighter and cry along with him, as she had also lost a great friend and felt the universal unfareness of it all.

“So,” Hank begins, jerking her to attention. “This dude was obviously not out for a midnight stroll. Maybe he was meeting someone and it went south?”

Nick was nodding, she could see the yellow tape isolating a small portion of the forest and it all looked so ordinary; the leaves, the dirt and the grass. It made her skin prickle.

“They could have just dumped him here. Or drug him here to kill him, did they find anything in his system?”

Hank shook his head and crouched by a bush, moving the vegetation away for him to have a closer look. “They didn’t do much testing because of the initial belief of it being an animal attack, we’ll have to request a further analyst.”

Something was wrong, she could almost feel it in the way the air felt heavy on her shoulders. The trees still had a fare amount of blood on them, dried and almost faded into the bark, the patterns chaotic and overlapped so much that it was impossible to track even if there were any chance once upon a time.

Upon closer inspection she sees something that reminds her of the first time Barry held her hand.

It was three months after she had cleared all the paper work with the child services department and Barry had taken up occupying the spare bedroom. The room was mostly used for stray guests and storage boxes of various things she didn’t have places for. There wasn’t much time between scrambling to try and help all she could with the murder of Frank Rabe—she was forbidden by the captain to do anything but give information about the Rabe family to the actual detectives that were saddled with the case—and mentally freaking out about how she was suppose to fit a child into her life (let alone one that changed into something that resembled a freaking bear cub every time he was just a bit emotional) to find any time to properly furnish the said room for the said child.

But there was a tiny futon, one that doubled as a bed and couch and Barry had thought that was cool so Nick just replaced the worn mattress and bought some plain sheets and promised him that they would make changes to the room soon, for him. He hadn’t said much, just frowned, but he had set down his travel bag full of clothes and whatever else, and Nick had to fight herself to not blurt out that she didn’t know what his father was thinking when he signed her as a legal guardian either.

Time went on for them, it was summer (thank whatever deity shined that blessing down upon her) so Barry just had to concentrate on coping with the loss of his father and Nick had found the time to actually go through the stuff she had stored in the room Barry was sleeping in. Most of it was junk and holiday stuff Juliette and her had bought for the house; a snow globe from when Juliette and her had taken a trip south for a Christmas vacation and Juliette had missed the snow, an ugly fall themed wreath Nick had gotten from a couple of kids selling them to help fund a camping trip and more. It was still too soon so she had immediately boxed everything back up without looking to closely and moved it to a closet.

There was one box though that was a bunch of old books that her aunt had taken from the library when they got new editions or copies. They were mostly fairytales, something she would find odd if she didn’t have the world shattering Grimm-talk with her dying aunt hours before her last breath.

She could still practically feel her aunt’s cold hand in hers.

“Let me put it this way,” Aunt Marie had held her niece’s gaze; steady and hard and the kind of calm only dying can bring. “The world has not changed… just you.”

They weren’t nearly as helpful as the books that were stored away in the camper and even those would be more helpful if she could actually read any of the languages, but there’s a book she actually recognizes in the midst of the rest. It was a book she remembered buying on a whim, not something she would normally read or even thought could be an interest to her as she wasn’t much for comics or manga or whatever the store assistant said it was called.

After the first time she read it she had cried. The sort of full body, ugly cry that leaves you hollow on the inside. The second time wasn’t much better and either was the third or fourth, and Nick hid it away and forgotten about it until now.

I Kill Giants; she presented the book to Barry and nearly panicked when the thought hit her that she didn’t even know if he could read yet or if it was too advanced. What if he didn’t understand what the book was to her? He was so young, and maybe this was just too soon?

It wasn’t until they were both sobbing messes at the end, Nick having sat next to Barry and reading the book aloud to him while he peered at the pictures that she realized their hands were clasped tightly.

It was also then that she realized he had claws.

“The coroner’s report said his feet and legs were badly damaged,” Hank said. “He could have been running away from them.”

It wasn’t a question but Nick found herself nodding anyway, “I’ll look this way and spread out a little to see if I find anything. We may need to get more guys out here for help.”
--

Need; an Alfred for a Batman in training
3-4 nights and some days, pay is negotiable
1 boy, 7.83 years old- favorite color is purple but not the girly kind
Due to job, may be need for emergency “bat-training” at odd times

If interested or have questions please email: N.Burkhardt@gmail.com


Nick didn’t know what was mostly troubling her, the fact that she okayed the ad for the paper or the people running the paper not giving it a second thought and publishing it, or the fact that people had actually responded.

When Barry had come home from school he apparently had taken the writing of the ad very seriously, Mary had told her all about it. Which wasn’t much of a surprise as he was sort of an intense child but what he didn’t speak out loud, he said perfectly blunt on paper.

“No, absolutely not,” Nick hadn’t actually read anything yet but she was handed three pieces of paper with her child’s messy and overly large hand writing on it.

“They need to know what I like if we’re going to get a long.” Barry reasoned and Nick groaned. “Roddy and Miss Mary both agreed with me.”

“Of course they did.”

Her eyes skimmed over the paper and felt the overwhelming need to laminate the pages so she could keep them forever, strictly for black mailing purposes for when he’s older. This was gold. “Barry, they don’t need to know that your vomit was once the color purple.”

Nick had a minor freak-out that one Memorial day, there had been a very distressing call to Mary where a lot of ‘are you sure’ questions were thrown around-mostly by her, but forever after Barry had proclaimed purple was the most awesomest color ever.

“But I had to explain why my favorite color was purple!” Barry scrambled up the couch to sit next to her, his Superman themed socks resting over her more boring white ones. “What if they, like, think it’s the girly kind of purple?”

For a short time Nick had tried dating again, she had let herself be talked into a date with a guy she had met at the grocery store when she gracelessly ran into his cart with hers. He was very charismatic and had shared some of her views and humor. They’d been going out a couple days a week for nearly a month before she thought it was time for him to meet Barry. There wasn’t really an etiquette for this type of thing, as far as she knew, but it was pretty instantaneous when Nick realized it wouldn't work out between them. She would never go on another date with him as she witnessed Barry’s face failing and letting out a confused but convicting ‘oh’ as he was just told that purple was a girls color.

She had other dates after that, a woman that was in a different department than hers and another one that she met at a party Hank had thrown-they’ve never really talked about the thing with Adalind but that’s probably for the best as she couldn’t really tell the whole truth-but none of them had met Barry as she just couldn’t do that to him again, couldn’t see him hurting from someone else’s thoughtlessness.

So, taking a deep breath, Nick had pulled a legal pad and pen from the coffee table that had some work notes on it and flipped to a fresh page. “Alright, so, we really need to shorten this.”
-
Three hours and a small break for them to change into their PJs because if they were doing this, they were going to be comfortable and a call to their favorite Chinese takeout restaurant later they had finally come to a truce. And Nick was staring at her email days later as there were seven people who had responded to their crazy ad in the paper. Two she had already ruled out after answering their questions of what her job was and another one dropped out after he realized it was an actual call for a babysitting job and another one where Nick learned the girl was still in High School.

Not that she had anything against a High Schooler looking for an easy job such as baby sitting but just, no. That left three people, three interviews she had to set up and pray one of them was up to par with filling in Mary’s shoes. Nick wasn’t feeling the most optimistic needless to say.

“The first interview is tomorrow,” Nick told Hank as they were filling out reports and trying to work leads from their latest case.

“Yeah, I saw your ad,” Hank teased, “bought the paper because of it.”

“It was the only thing I could get him to agree to,” Nick continued to tap at her keyboard. “He’s just like his father.”

There was a momentary silence between them but when Nick shifted her gaze up, Hank was smiling at her, “Yeah?”

She didn’t know how close the two were and Nick doesn’t feel it’s her place to question it. Hank had known Frank as he was one of the lawyers they saw on regular bases but as the events of Nick coming into her heritage and then helping Frank with his wife, their jobs seemed to overlap in more ways than one.

And the first time Barry had called Hank ‘Uncle’ she almost swore she saw him blinking back tears but she’ll take her suspicions with her to the grave.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry to interrupt, lady and gent but,” Wu swooped in, handing a folder to Nick. “We’ve identified your John Doe. Daniel Clifford, last seen three weeks ago at his home in-wait for it—Walla Walla. I officially no longer think it’s an animal attack.”

“Washington?” Nick arches an eyebrow at Hank.

Wu shrugs, “He was proclaimed missing when he didn’t come into work and his mother went to check on him to see that his house was overturned. Nothing was missing though, so they were ruling his abduction as a possible run-away.”

Hank turns towards Wu with his own detective-at-work branded expression, “debts?”

“None other than the usual car payments being a little backed up, he wasn’t into drugs or narcotics so far as we know-or so far as his mother knows. According to her he’s a very good boy. We called her, the victim’s brother is on his way here to identify and claim the body, says he’ll be here early tomorrow.”

“How’d they identify him?” Hank asked, “The dude was pretty messed up.”

“Dental records, finger prints,” turning his hip in what would have been a very suggestive way if Wu hadn’t been wearing his over loaded utility belt, he pointed to above his hip bone. “And had a very sexy tattoo of a certain manly skunk right here.”

“… Pepé Le Pew?” Hank guesses with a pained expression, like he’s hoping he’s wrong but knows better and Wu winks and wiggled his hips.

“Got it in one, big guy.”

Nick laughs and swats at Wu with the folder, “Down boy, that’s my partner.”

“Don’t hate the player, Nick, men get cravings for chocolate too.”

“Hussy,” Nick retorts the same time as Hank lets out an embarrassed, oh my God.

Wu leaves with his hips swinging and Nick takes a small break after that to grab them some coffee and to call the women she was to be interviewing tomorrow to reschedule later in the day. Nick figured to do most of the interviewing at the small local café, spacing the three of them out so she could think it out better before she brought them to her home and before introducing them to Barry. She was pretty good at judging character, when she had a goal in mind but she was beginning to suspect that with the case getting a little to suspicious, that waiting wouldn’t work well in her favor.

The women, Sheryl, had no problems with the change in plans. Pleasantly telling Nick that it was alright and she understood perfectly well that life could throw curve balls, and there was something off about her tone that Nick couldn’t fully place but shrugged it off as they set a new time.

Taking a minute to fully analyze her situation, Nick pulled her phone back out from her pocket.

“Hi, this is Nick Burkhardt, can I speak to Monroe?” There was a small confirmation of identity and Nick continued, “There’s been a little change in my schedule and I was wondering if you were willing to do the interview today?”

The man babbled out in agreement and Nick felt herself grinning, “Awesome, is the café still okay for you? Good, lets shoot for around one-thirty.”
-

The café is a like a hipster playground, all thick glasses and scarves but Nick finds the actual atmosphere of the place with its stone textures and random mixtures of black and white photographs of various people and buildings hanging on the wall comforting. It wasn’t until she met the owner, an older and very friendly Scandinavian woman who tried to feed Nick her weight in cupcakes every time she stopped by after work (and even pushed off a couple peanut butter brownies when Nick had let it slip that those where her son's favorite) that Nick was informed the pictures were hers.

When she was younger, and it's always said in that tone of voice where she still considered herself to not be in the 'old' catagory of life, her family had traveled so much and it was hard on her to make memories. So her father had bought her a camera to help, one that was now on display behind the counter as it was an antique (the owner always scoffs when people say the actual word) and found that she had a knack for it. People were her specialty, people, she told Nick once, were the kind of stories that start with questions.

She’s sitting at her favorite table, one that’s close by a large window that looked out to the street but not too close to the front that she felt the cold air every time the door was opened. So it didn’t catch her off guard to much when a man in a long brown coat walked into the café, but what surprised her was that he had caught her eye and asked if she was the Nick he was suppose to be meeting.

“Uh, yes,” she stood up to shake his hand and much to her internal embarrassment, ‘he’s tall’ was her first impression of him. “You must be Monroe?”

“Yep,” he smiled nervously and Nick felt a little at ease knowing that she wasn’t the only one who felt awkward. Until, that is, she watched as his features shifted to something she recognized from her Aunt's books and her stomach lurches for different reasons. She’s never met one of him before and before she can get a hold of herself, he catches her open mouth staring with a confused frown.

“Holy crap, you’re a Grimm.” Monroe says with something that sounds like complete awe as his own realization dawns on him, but he hurriedly backs away with his hands in the air like she’s got him at gun point. “Please don’t-“

"Watch out-" Nick tries to warn him, reaching out for him but he trips before either of them can finish their sentences, over a chair and gracelessly lands on his back.

She's up and in a flurry of smooth motions that she didn't know she was capable of, grabs her coat and Monroe's arm to lead him back outside before he can make another spectacle. Nick has her hand wrapped firmly over his bicep, fingers digging into his arm as she leads him down the street.

"Holy crap," he says again, the awe still perfectly auditable. "This is- you are- I mean my grandma told me stories about you guys- albeit, gruesome and blood thirsty stories that usually ended in more than one beheading... you're not going to behead me are you?"

He knew he was babbling, he couldn't help the spiel of words falling from his mouth as was his coping mechanism for this type of thing but, seriously, what were the chances that he would ever meet a Grimm, let alone have an interview with one about babysitting her little Grimm-baby.

Oh god, a Grimm-baby, Monroe’s eyes widened in terror, what does one even look like? And suddenly the outlook of this day had turned to the absolute worst. One, he was going to die and two, well, he so totally wasn’t getting the job.

"You're a Grimm," Monroe couldn't help himself. He was hoping the more times he said it out loud would help his mind believe it.

“Yes,” the lady-Grimm, as Monroe frantically sought out a title for her in his head. Was this really Nick? The one he had talked to on the phone? “And you’re a werewolf.”

Monroe stopped walking and threw her a look. He knew the look on his face was unattractive, like he held something sour on his tongue but he didn't care. “Dude, no. No calling it a werewolf, please.”

Nick’s eyebrow rose, momentarily thrown by the entirety of the situation, “Oh?”

“I hardly eat meat, red or otherwise-and only the stuff you can buy in the local deli, ya’know the one in town by the little bakery with the blue shutters and the cute cupcake logo?” Nick’s features didn’t so much as twitch and Monroe continued talking mostly to overcome the awkward panic he had building. “Yeah, of course you do. Well, all I’m saying is that I'm a thirty-some year old man, please don’t call me something that’s used in teen girl’s romance fantasies novels. That’s just not right.”

Nick felt her mouth twitch upwards in a grin and felt some the stress melt out of her. "And what would you prefer to be called?"

"Blutbad."

"Bloot-baaa-d," she tested the word out, it felt weird like she was trying to keep a marble from rolling off her tongue. "Werewolf is so much easier to say."

Monroe looked pained again, "It's also easily recognizable and gets more attention."

Nick squints her eyes up at him for a moment, taking in his full appearance. He has stubble across his jaw but has traces of him attempting to shave, Nick's almost sure she can catch the hint of some aftershave but she trains her eyes on his. She can tell he's nervous, all the creatures she's ever met had nearly the same split-second panic before falling in a rage and trying to fight her.

Which is why she had to steer him clear of the café and the people milling about but he seemed calm- well, as calm as she's ever seen someone who thinks she's going to kill them. In fact and she's willing to bet money on this that he wants to ask her more questions than she does of him.

"Come on," she says gently, tugging at his arm very aware of the people now staring at them. She transfers her grip on him to intertwining her arm around his elbow and hopes he catches on.

He tenses, she can feel it and can see the beginning shift start to happen to his face again but he nods and follows her away from the streets full of people.

"So," Monroe winces at sound of his voice and as soon as the word is out of his mouth he really wishes he could take it back. "Is this like a new tactic for luring out the wesen? Like with Chris Hanson 'To Catch a Predator' only with wesen?"

Nick's laugh startles him and she turns her gaze up at him, "You actually read the ad, right?"

He thinks back to the ad in question and lets out a bark of laughter of his own. Yeah, there's no way that was a luring tactic but that just means that there is still a Grimm-baby.

Monroe shudders, "So you really need a babysitter?"

Nick nods, "Yeah, it's, uh, sort of complicated."

They walk a few minutes longer in silence, until Monroe catches sight of a bench out of the corner of his eye and he pulls Nick in that direction. He doesn't exactly know what is happening at this point but he's pretty sure he's safe from any present beheadings unless Nick has some Go-Go-Gadget abilities that he wasn't warned about as a child but his curiosity is outweighing his fight-or-flight instincts.

"I have a son, he's seven-nearly eight," Nick doesn't look at him as she sits on the other side of the bench, not too far to be considered distant but not so close as they are touching anymore. There's still a few people walking about but to the general passer-byer they probably would just look like a couple of friends taking a break for a chat.

He kind of wishes that he hadn't freaked out in the café earlier, he could have had a coffee or a scone or something to do with his hands other than fidget. Embarrassment floods him as he thinks about it so he firmly casts it aside in his mind, concentrating fully on what Nick is saying.

"Favorite color is purple." He remembers from the ad, "but not the girly kind."

Nick gives a half-hearted smile, just a quick upward pull of her lips. "Yeah, not the girly kind."

"Which is totally sexist, by the way. Tyrian purple, which was the original color, was a sign of royalty way-back-when because the dye was taken from a mollusk or something, pretty sure it was a mollusk. Rare probably because only the very wealthy could afford it, and back in that day, the only very rich people were, well, royalty."

The Grimm gives him another look, like she's assessing his very being and turning over his secrets. He can feel his body start to tense again and he doesn't really understand when she gives him a smile, a non-fake one but not a full-on smile either.

She holds out her hand, "Lets try this interview over again."

He's to dumbfounded to do anything but to agree. "Um, okay."

"Nick Burkhardt."

They're hands are still connected, "Uh, Monroe."

"No first name?"

"No-yes! Yes, I do have a first name but I'm more widely known as just Monroe."

Nick nods, and gives his hand a gentle squeeze and Monroe relaxes enough to get his senses together. He takes in a deep breath of the crisp air and nearly choked when Nick's full scent hits him.

“You," his voice wavers, this whole emotional whiplash couldn't be good for his health he thinks. "You smell like jagerbar.”

Her face twists in curiosity, “You can small that?”

Monroe nods numbly, the earlier panic slowly creeping back up his spine.

"His name's Barry."

"What?" Monroe croaks, "Who's Barry?"

"The jagerbar, my son."

Monroe doesn't know for certain what expression won out on his face but Nick flicks her hand hurriedly in the air, a tint of red coloring her cheeks, "He's my adopted son, when his father passed I was named guardian."

"Wh--" He opened his mouth to ask about the mother but Nick's expression turned cold as if she new where his question was going. "Well, this is... different."

Nick's shoulders tense and Monroe thinks he screwed up again and has his mind racing for something he can say to rectify his choice of words before Nick lets out a sigh and rubs the heels of her hands in her eyes.

"Listen," she says. "I don't have a lot of time to try to find the right babysitter to look after him while I'm at work. Mary, the one who's been looking after him is moving in a little more than a week. My job is a little on the spur-of-the-moment side for most cases, I really need someone."

Monroe nods mutely, giving Nick his best 'I understand' face.

"I'm going to give you a second interview," she says slowly. She's taking a chance and she can't say for certain that she likes the little jittery feeling she's getting in her gut but it's not a bad feeling and her instincts have never proven faulty before.

Monroe smiles and waves a finger between them, "This isn't the second interview?"

"The second interview is with my son." And he can't help but be somewhat worried when Nick's expression goes a little off as if she's gauging future events. "Tomorrow, at my home."

It's very matter of fact, her tone, and Monroe takes a moment to think about his situation. He could refuse and walk away—alive, he adds mentally but he takes in the strong set of her jaw and her eyes, determined and hard set and for a moment he's back at his mother's house remembering the look in her eyes when he told her he was going wieder. It wasn't a happy look but it wasn't rejection either.

"Okay." He breathes, "I can do that."
--

Nick doesn't know what she's expecting when she meets Sheryl for an interview, but a vague sense of familiarity definitely wasn't on the list. It was in her face, something about her features set with Nick in a wrong way that screamed 'you know this, this is something you should remember'.

"I'm sorry to start off this way," Nick says once they take their respective seats across from another. "But, do I know you?"

"I don't think so," Sheryl's long fingers wrap around her paper coffee cup smoothly, her finger nails are the kind of flashy red Nick's only seen TV cartoon villains pull off. "I just moved here from Washington. Had family here, so, maybe you know one of them? Our family does have strong features."

Nick shrugs and pushes the nagging feeling to the back of her mind and smiles. "I'm sure it's just leftover jitters from the job, you know? I'm very sorry."

"Oh, it's no problem," Sheryl's voice was sweet and understanding. "Being a homicide detective and a parent can't be easy for you, especially with the recent attacks."

The thing about being a trained cop is that you're always on the alert for a physical attack, anywhere and anytime. You learn to read people's actions as if it's your own life line. The only difference between that and being a detective is that she has learned that words are the most important leaders to what and who a person is.

"Attacks?"

"Hm? Oh, it was on the news." The other woman takes a small sip of her coffee and licks at her bottom lip but Nick is more focused on her eyes growing distant as she continues to speak.

"The man that was found in the woods, they believed it to be an animal attack but it wasn't, right?"

Nick nods and takes a drink of her own freshly brewed black coffee. The small itching feeling in the back of her head was coming back full force.

Sheryl leans close over the table and whispers, "If you don't mind me asking, what was found that made it not an animal attack?"

She was tapping her red finger nails on the table, Nick took notice, short staccato beats. Short, impatient and irritated taps that had Nick discreetly flexing her weight so that the gun still strapped to her hip would be easier to get to.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss that information," Nick quotes the standard line and watches as Sheryl frowns, her hands stilling and sliding down to her lap before she straightens and gives Nick a warmed (practiced) smile.

"Oh, right. I'm sorry I asked, it's just... curiosity, you know?"

Nick nods, "Yes--so, you listed on your resume’ that you had some experience with raising children?"

The question was an obvious deflection, not one of Nick’s best but Sheryl goes a long with it.

"Yes, my sister had a boy. I looked after him while they, her and her husband, would work after her leave was up. Both of them were terrible work-a-holics you see, the father more-so than my sister but they still needed someone to stay most nights to look after him."

"And what happened?"

The edges around Sheryl’s mouth tense, just a tiny slip from her over all happy demeanor. "They moved, he got job somewhere else and she was able to take her research with her, she was a historian."

Nick hummed a response against the lid of her coffee. "Do you have any experience with looking after older children? What about children of your own, if it’s not to forward of a question."

"Don’t worry about it,” Sheryl smiled a little too aggressively with teeth. “When I was younger I had ovarian cancer, I was told I couldn’t have children.”

She looks down at the table, “And, I do have a little experience with older children. I mean my sister moved when her boy was still mostly in diapers but I've looked after my cousins kids sometimes, rowdy bunch they were, and they were all in their early teens so there wasn't much looking after so much as making sure they don't catch the house on fire."

Sheryl gives a short laugh at her own joke and settles more into her chair. "What's your boy’s name?"

"Barry," Nick replies.

"Barry," Sheryl's smile widens and she flicks her fingers against the table. "That's a nice name. Strong."

Nick's hand twitches involuntary at the woman's action. There was something, her mind was screaming now, something was wrong and Nick couldn’t shake the fear in her gut when her mind flashed to a picture of Barry at the dining room table.

She partly assumed it was the meeting with the Clifford family she had earlier this morning that had her on edge; the mother had drove down with her son but couldn't bring herself to go into the room with the body. This part of the job was always the hardest, watching family member's eyes grow cold and distant as the realization forces its way in.

Picking up her phone, Nick excuses herself to the bathroom for a moment and texts Wu while she's in the stall. 'Sheryl Hooper. Just moved from Washington, need background check. Info and pic in interview file on desk.'

She doesn't leave until she gets a confirmation complete with a ridiculous winking emoticon, 'You got it, sugar. ;)'

Taking a deep breath, Nick only partly refrains from calling the school to make sure Barry is okay. The principal made it very clear that while it is a common and reasonable to get a little separation anxiety from your child it is still considered a disturbance if she calls more than four times a week just to make sure her son is still in class. He said to wait for that sort of dedication when he hit’s High School.

Oddly enough, thinking about Barry in High School did nothing to lessen her quiet building panic at the time.
--

Monroe is proud to say he only had three near panic attacks regarding his current situation. The first was when he came home from the interview and made it all the way to his couch before collapsing. The second was soon after the first when he realized that he had agreed to meet her and her child—her jagerbar child. It had him jumping off the couch and pacing his living room, back and forth before he felt like he could finally breathe and didn’t feel too claustrophobic to even be in his own home.

Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes and listened to his clocks, the gentle tick-tocks in different low tones and pitches. He wanted to tell someone, not in a gossip sort of way but a dear diary sort of way, that he had met a Grimm just out of the blue for an interview. And not just for any kind of interview but for one to take care of her child.

Well, he reasoned, if she could befriend a couple of jagerbar’s enough to become a legal guardian to their kid, Nick couldn’t be that bad… right?

Which lead him right to panic attack number three, right there on Nick’s door step hand in the perfect position to knock. All he had to do was have it connect to the door. He checks his watch again instead, for the eighth time, he’s pretty sure if he waits another minute he’d technically be late.

Deep breaths, Monroe schools himself, deep long breaths.

And knocks.

There’s a brief moment of silence that stretches to what feels like hours but as Monroe looks at his watch again and leans his weight back and forth on his feet, it’s only been a couple of seconds.

“What are your views on turtles?”

"Uh," Monroe jumps and stares at the door in front of him, perplexed. He's sure this is the address that Nick had given him. "Pardon?"

"Are you apart of a cult--" there's a brief scuffle on the other side of the door and something that sounds like a 'no more TV for you' threat before Nick is pulling open the door and ushering him inside. He takes a curious look around and sees two heads pop up from around the couch on either side in the living room.

"Sorry about that," Nick says with a small smile. "Everyone keeps telling me the History channel is better for children than Cartoon Network but I'm beginning to think no one has actually ever watched the History channel before."

Nick takes his coat and leads him to the couch where the two boys are sitting close to each other. It doesn't take much for Monroe to figure out which one is Barry but he's more than a little confused when he sees the reinigen sitting so closely to the other boy.

"Uh," he says lamely. "Hi."

The reinigen gives a small wave and Barry nods in his direction stiffly. He notices that they're both are wearing superhero logos on their shirts and momentarily tries to place them, Monroe isn't too sure about Barry's but he's almost positive that the other boy’s is the Black Widow. Which, kudos to him.

Nick's sigh brings his eyes up to her, she points at the shorter boy that he already guessed was her son. "This is Barry and this is Barry's friend, Roddy."

Monroe hopes he doesn't wince at the name to visibly, but nods all the same and takes a seat adjacent to the couch. He waits stiffly for the questions to come when Nick sits down next to the boys but he’s just met with complete silence as the three just stare back at him.

"Um, not that I'm a professional with this or anything but I'm sure interviews have more questions and this is beginning to get a little awkward. Well, more awkward considering."

"Not my interview," Nick says and waves a hand at the two boys.

"Oh," Monroe's caught off guard and feels a little like he was just tossed into a feeding frenzy between two amateur baby sharks. It's sort of a smart move on Nick's part, considering her circumstance with her son but he can’t help but feel the tiny judging looks the boys are giving him like little barbs to his flesh.

He narrows his eyes at the Grimm, accusing her silently of teaching the kids bad habits.

"So," Barry says with an air of importance, cutting into the silence. "Turtles."

Okay, Monroe breathes out through his nose. He can totally do this.

“Uh, like the normal animal kind or, like, the Genio Innocuo kind? Because I’ve never met one—a Genio Innocuo that is, I’ve seen the animal kind, obviously, and I don’t really… have an… opinion? To be honest I’d kind of like to know where this question is leading before I answer any further.”

“Would you ever eat one?” Nick looks like she doesn’t know whether to be proud or worried that Barry is as serious as if he was asking about world peace.

“… No? I mean I’ve heard of people eating them, heard they make good soup or something. My nana-“ at the increasing horrified and stricken look crossing over the jagerbar’s features Monroe quickly retraced his words. “Not that I believe them! I mean, turtles are way too cool and problematic to be eaten. I mean what do you do with the shell and all the tiny bones? Unless you meant the Genio Innocuo, then the answer is still a no because those guys are like nearly extinct and the leathery skin sort of ruins it for the appetite, you know?”

At the three blank stares Monroe sighs and tries again, “I… prefer bacon?”

Nick rolls her eyes but Monroe thinks that’s more directed to the jagerbar and reinigen sitting beside her on the couch as they nod at each other as if it’s a conversation all their own. And, wow, does Monroe really want to question what is truly going on here because honestly; a Grimm, a jagerbar and a reinigen. He really doesn’t know what reality is anymore.

“Do you have any experience baby—“Barry makes a face up at Nick and Monroe is thrown by the almost fond and teasing look the Grimm sends back. “—looking after special, not-really-human children?”

“Like Superboy!”

“Like Superboy.” Nick repeats to Monroe, her features not matching up with the crazy vibes Monroe is getting.

“I… looked after my sisters kids a couple times and let me tell you when blutbadden start teething… Yeah, that’s… probably a story for a different time.” Monroe was thrown back to when he watched the Village of the Damned movie for the first time by himself with the looks he was receiving.

“Do you normally eat people?” Barry asks a little slowly as if it’s a new and interesting topic. Nick sends him a flat look that has Monroe sweating a little.

“Uh, no.” Both Nick and Barry narrow their eyes at him; it’s sort of frightening how identical they’re acting. Monroe coughs, “No, I do not eat people.”

He can practically feel the word ‘anymore’ being added to the end of his sentence in their heads and has to bite his lip and shove his hands under his legs to keep from spilling out more damning words in his panic and flailing around.

“Next question?” If his voice is a little high, the three either don’t care or it’s just a normal reaction people have around them that they truly don’t notice anymore. Monroe’s willing to bet it’s the later.

“Do you like comics?”

Monroe thanks the heavens that it’s a normal question. “I’ve read some. Have Chip’n’Dale ones, gotta love good ole Chip and Dale comics. Always causing mischief for poor Donald…” 

Barry looks bored but nods and tilts his head it what he probably thinks is a polite gesture.

Monroe sighs, “I also think I have some of the old Batman and Superman comics somewhere in the attic too.”

Predictably, the kid looks more than interested now.

But before he could even think to open his mouth again, the little reinigen squeaked—ha—out a question. “Do you like the violin?”

“I have nothing against them but I’m more of a cello guy myself,” Monroe turned his attention to the smaller and less threatening of the three. He resigned himself to just the short-term goal of walking out of here with his sanity. “I try to play Bach for an hour or more after dinner, helps with the digestion.”

Roddy perks up, “You play?”

“The cello?” Monroe nods, “Yep. Not professional or anything but it’s a hobby and I’m pretty good at it. I’m guessing you play the violin?”

“Yeah,” Roddy nods enthusiastically. “My teacher calls me a prod-prody-“

“Prodigy?” Monroe supplies.

“Yeah!” Roddy says again, his whole face lighting up as he babbles on about his teachers and the training and the music he’s advanced to so quickly. And Monroe momentarily forgets that he’s suppose to technically be in an interview and that there’s a Grimm sitting not even two feet away from him as he listens to the boy rattle on about music.

It was cute, really. Until he caught the musicians names that were flying out of the kid’s mouth and practices he was pretty sure most of the professionals didn’t do and about how he was offered a guest seat at the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas showing.

“Really?” Monroe squeaked himself and he was no longer laughing. He looked to Nick to see her nodding with what can only be called a proud motherly grin plastered on her face. “That’s, holy crap, that’s amazing!”

Roddy looks momentarily stunned but it’s immediately replaced by another blinding smile. The kid is practically preening as if Monroe, a complete stranger to him, opinions matters that much. “That’s just, wow. They’re just no word, that’s huge! Congratulations!”

He and Roddy really start talking now, arms and hands thrown wildly around to animate points and it’s nothing short of geeking at this point. He is geeking out with reinigen child about classical music in a house he’s supposed to be at for an interview with a Grimm. It’s more odd for him at this point that he’s more weirded out by the fact that he’s not feeling odd at all.

This goes on for a little while longer until Nick prods Barry and tells Roddy to head upstairs because the interview is over. Roddy looks unhappy but Barry takes his hand and hauls him upstairs talking about a new comic book he had gotten and if Roddy wanted to play Pokémon on his DS.

They watch as the kids head up stairs and Monroe’s back to feeling uncomfortable, mind feeling a little light headed after everything of today catches up to him. He stands up with Nick and they both walk back to the front door and, wow, Monroe thinks, it’s darker outside.

“So…” He starts, “this has been… interesting? And weird, defiantly weird. Are interviews suppose to be this weird?”

"They’re kids, and those are things are the most important to them." Nick shrugs, “And I've never done this before."

Monroe watches as Nick pauses before taking his coat off the rack, "So, I have to ask because this is a little strange-“

“A little!” Monroe snorts, “You’re a Grimm raising a jagerbar and a reinigen.”

“Roddy is Barry’s best friend, he comes over every weekend after his violin classes.” Nick says flippantly. “And when there’s no school and nearly every day in the summer and holidays. And sometimes on weekdays and his father comes to pick him up after he’s done working… and sometimes he just spends the night.”

Monroe has to admit he’s a little in awe of the women standing before him. He just nods like the world hasn’t been lying to him for the last thirty-plus years of his life. “So… he’s yours in every way but on paper.”

Nick shrugs, she doesn’t like to think about it. “But what I want to know is why a blutbad is looking for a job as a babysitter to begin with.”

“I—“Monroe was momentarily quiet, amazed at himself for feeling like he could tell Nick the truth without any backlash. Something he didn’t even get from his own family. “I’m on… a sort of probation.”

Nick sends him a look and Monroe rolls his eyes, “No, nothing like that. I mean it’s—“Monroe breathes out his frustration and tries again. “You remember when I told you I was wieder? Well, one of the steps is repeat social interaction—I don’t really need this job, I already have one and a good one but it’s pretty reclusive. I make clocks; fix some of the older ones for collectors and such. So, sometimes I have to get out, I have to do normal things that put me in a position where I can get use to people again.”

“Why don’t you just go to the grocery store like normal people do?”

Monroe laughs, “You gotta keep pushing yourself, dude. If you get to comfortable, well, bad things tend to happen either way but still, it's all about pushing yourself.”

The look on Nick’s face throws him a little and he shifts awkwardly in the doorway waiting for some type of acknowledgement that he’s free to go. But oddly enough he finds that he kind of doesn’t, he has so many questions ranging from the jagerbar situation to the Grimm herself to ‘what is life anymore’. This is such a level of weird that weird doesn’t even begin to cover it.

It was one thing to reject all of his more blood-hungry nature but to rewrite his whole understanding of worldly dynamics and to realize that he wasn’t the only one trying to fight against the whole ancestors thing. It was kind of humbling in all the best ways.

He’s so into his momentary shift of his entire life’s teachings that he almost doesn’t catch Nick speaking again.

“Hm?” He so did not think she said what he thinks she said. There’s just no way.

Nick huffs, but she’s smiling a in a sort of open and crooked way. “I said, so if I offered the job to you, you wouldn’t take it?”

“What?” No seriously, Monroe thinks, “Seriously?”

When the Grimm didn’t say anything, Monroe felt something else bubble up around the panic in his chest. Excitement, maybe? “But-but you don’t know me, I’m a blutbad for crying out loud-I-“

“I trust you.”

“That’s-that’s not a good life choice.”

Rolling her eyes, Nick catches Monroe’s own and holds them, “Listen. My son is a jagerbar, there’s no denying it and I’m not going to give him up. He’s only seven and he’s a lot stronger than anyone his age and he terrifies everyone else. I need someone who will not back down, physically or otherwise when it comes to him. He’s intense but he’s so curious and gentle and I want him to see that he’s not what everyone thinks he has to be, that it’s okay.”

There was a faint sound of laughter from upstairs after a dull thunk, the boys obviously having a good time at whatever it was they were getting up to. And Monroe couldn’t help himself from remembering the times when he was younger, fighting for attention and needing to prove himself worthy of the attentions from his parents. Regardless of how much or who’s blood he had spilt.

“And Roddy,” Nick continued like she didn’t know she already sealed Monroe’s fate. But her tone was soft and Monroe wanted to hear all she had to say. “He’s got real talent, you know, the kids a genius with music. He doesn’t have to grow up living like he was told he had to. He’s good for Barry and Barry for him. He needs someone to push him further, to keep him on the path and to keep him going.”

“Okay,” Monroe heard himself say. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

And after everything Monroe wasn’t prepared to deal with the way Nick’s smile made his heart beat even faster in his chest. That was just fighting dirty and something he couldn't deal with so he beat the fluttering feeling down and held out his hand for her to shake. He was really hoping there wasn't an incriminating expression on his face.

"Also," Nick's voice lowered a little like she was telling him a secret. "I think you should stay for dinner.”
--

By the time she was done telling Hank about the brand new babysitter he was wheezing and telling her to stop talking so he could actually breathe. She told him about the café, well, parts of it and the questions Barry and Roddy asked him over both the interview portion of the day and the dinner portion.

Apparently, Monroe was a vegetarian and this was most perplexing concept to grasp to both younger parties at the dinner table.

“So is it, like, if it’s not human flesh it’s vegetables? Like, all other meat just isn’t worth it?”

“Barry…” Nick sighs heavily and turns an apologetic look to Monroe only to find him with a thoughtful expression. She watches as he swallows his healthy bite of broccoli and cheese before leaning over and stealing a piece of meat off Barry’s plate and popping it in his mouth.

“Eh,” Monroe contemplates. “Flesh is way to chewy, you gotta have some serious jaw muscles for that sort of thing. Cooked meat is defiantly the way to go.”

The twin looks of horror and disgust and fascination will forever be etched into Nick’s mind. Though she has to admit to herself, if only a bit reluctantly that Monroe’s smile and acceptance is what she’s really never going to forget.

“I thought you blocked all the violent channels,” Hank laughs.

“I did!” Nick scowls to her computer monitor, “It’s the damn educational ones. I’m willing to bet those are far more graphic then the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Did you know there’s a thing called a Cone Snail that has enough poison in one bite to end around twenty human lives?”

Hank looks at her like she’s crazy.

“And that it’s also known as the ‘cigarette snail’ because once you’re bitten you have about enough time to smoke one cigarette before you’re dead and that there’s no anti-venom for it?”

“Jesus Christ, from just a snail?”

Nick brings up her hands in an ‘I know, right!?’ gesture, “My point has been made.”

“Education is kind of scary.”

“Yep,” the coffee in her paper cup has gone a little cold from all the time she took retelling the story of her new babysitter to Hank but she was in to good of a mood to let it go to waste. “Don’t even get me started on the math homework Barry beings home.”
--

“You did not tell me Marry was a Skalenzahane.” Even though Nick was momentarily thrown by the confrontation before she even stepped into her own house, she couldn’t help but notice how easy the German word flipped off his tongue.

“Oh?” Nick asked, pushing her way in. “Well, Mary’s a skal-en-zine.”

“Skal-en-zahane,” Monroe repeated. “Nearly gave me a heart attack, no offense to her because she’s an awesome woman and it all turned out fine in the end but ho-l-y crap; warn a guy.”

Nick opens her mouth to tease the grown man about being frightened of a little old woman but instead takes in Monroe’s appearance and sniffs at the air.

“What’s that smell?”

“Oh,” Monroe deflates a little and gestures at the deep green apron he’s wearing that’s dusted in flour. “We’re baking pumpkin rolls.”

“Pumpkin rolls?”

Barry shouts from the kitchen and comes barreling over to her, “Mom! You’re home early!”

Hank and Wu had pretty much bullied her into leaving early. Hank had to physically pry her phone away from her, and force her to drink close to what she’s sure was nearly all the coffee the break room had stocked. He had even taken her supply of pens away when she gnawed through three while she kept shooting glances at the computer clock, and Wu had just told her she was useless.

Not like they got any leads in their case anyway, so it was all paper work and calls that were being done today and Hank had promised to call her if there was any miraculous break throughs so she was home early. Apparently just in time to test out the freshly made pumpkin rolls Monroe and Barry were making.

“Here mom, you can eat the ones I did!” Barry pulled her arm until they were both in the kitchen, Nick still holding onto her coat.

She looked at the counter and saw the array of cooking supplies spread out and wondered where they all came from, she recognized most of the cookware; spoons and a few bowls but she’s more than certain she didn’t have anything resembling a can of pumpkin or walnuts in the kitchen when she left for work earlier in the day.

Monroe had come over at the designated time and while it was still somewhat weird, Nick had given him the tour of the house and they talked about the rules and tricks Barry was sure to try on Monroe that he was not allowed to get away with. She also told him that Mary was across the street if he needed anything.

“The one with nuts in them are the ones I made,” she’s handed a plate with two slices; one with walnuts and the other without.

“Natural baker, that one is,” Monroe says from behind her and Barry grins with all his teeth. Nick doesn’t know what to say so she picks up the slice with the walnuts and takes a large bite.

“Mm,” She groans in delight. It’s not that she doesn’t eat sweets because she does have a bit of a sweet tooth in her, it’s just she’s never had any interests in making them and there’s only so much simple gas station candy one can eat before they throw in the towel and search out the more expensive home-made variety.

“This is really good, how many did you guys make?” She asks because she might be able to use these as a bargaining tool over some people in the department. That is if they made enough and she didn’t eat it all herself first.

“Four,” Barry tells her, opening his mouth in his way of asking for the last bite of the slice she had in her hand. She gives it to him with a smile and picks up the other piece to eat.

“Two with nuts and two without,” Monroe adds with a grin.

“We made one for you to take to work, to share with Uncle Hank, and Monroe said he’d teach me how to make gingerbread houses!”

“That’s,” she pats Barry’s head. “Very nice of him, so, I’m guessing you had a good day?”

Barry continues to babble along, talking about his day. Occasionally he’d forget something from something earlier he said and have to backtrack but it was pretty straight forward. After he finished his story about finding his favorite shirt in the bottom of the closet when he was trying to look for his Digging for Dinos DS game, Barry asked if he could go watch TV in the living room.

“No History channel.” She says sternly and Barry gives her a challenging look while Monroe just looks amused.

Barry rolls his eyes, “Fine.”

“You do know there’s still the Discovery channel, right?” Monroe asks and Nick starts helping him clean the kitchen.

“Yeah,” She breathed. She couldn’t remember why she was so worried, all the earlier anticipation seemed distant and like it was years ago. “But I checked the guide, there’s just a Myth Buster’s marathon.”

It was Monroe’s turn to roll his eyes at her.
--

It was mostly like that, Nick soon realized after coming home most times to some sort of cooked food that she acquired some new additions to her home. Mostly it was kitchen utensils and the occasional movie or book she found laying around in the living room. But it was after nearly a month of Monroe coming into their lives, with a couple late night calls for him to hurry over so she could leave, that she noticed the old faded hand-sewn patched quilt she was using wasn’t hers.

In fact she knows that it’s not hers because she doesn’t own any blankets like this. The only other blanket that was close to this one was one that Juliette had bought from a local farmer’s wife when she was called out for a house call when one of the horses got an infection. But Juliette had taken that with her when she left and that one hadn’t had the ‘lived in’ feel as the one she was wrapped in did.

She caught Barry and Roddy using it whenever they were watching movies in the living room and once or twice she found it in Barry’s room, curled around him as he slept. It didn’t take her skills as a detective to figure out where it came from but it still gave her pause every time she seen it and not entirely because it seemed ridiculously out of place.

Monroe started staying around more too, even when she was there or came home a little early. He didn’t leave until later in the evening and sometimes, once or twice because of a couple glasses of wine were shared between them, he had stayed the night on the couch.

Nick had given Mary a ride to the airport on a Saturday morning so both Barry and Roddy were with her. Each boy giving her long, fierce hugs and Mary kissing each of the boys a half dozen times each and promising them a call soon after she settles in to tell them new stories before turning to her. Mary had kissed each of her cheeks and whispered a thanks in her ear. ‘I never believed in change until I met you. Treat yourself well, mein kleiner tod.’

Tears were shed by everyone, some louder and more dramatic than others but Mary smiled and told Barry to be nice to Monroe because he was a good man and could teach him so much more than she ever could. In the end it all was bittersweet and left a heavy feeling in the air around them as the three filed back in Nick’s vehicle for the long drive home.

That night they decided to go out to eat and Nick, on a whim, called Monroe to get him to come along.

“Are you sure?” He asked, his voice soft and a bit distorted over the phone.

Nick looked over at the two boys sitting on the couch with their coats still on, Barry hadn’t even tried to turn on the TV and Roddy was still sniffing while leaning into her son. She felt like just joining to two boys and curling up on the sofa with the blanket that wasn’t theirs and wait for the feelings to pass.

“Yeah,” Nick said. “Yeah, I think we need to get out for a little while and I think they need to be reminded that you’re still here.”

There’s silence on the other end of the phone and Nick thinks for a moment that they lost connection, except she wasn’t on her cell phone and remembers calling his house phone too.

“Monroe…?”

“Yeah?” Came the immediate answer, a little choked back. Nick can hear him clear his throat repeatedly, “Yeah, yeah—I’ll, uh, I’ll be there. Defiantly, totally. Just, you got a place in mind?”

So, it wasn’t too surprising to her that she realized after a day of coming home to another good meal, one that was more vegetable than meat much to Barry’s surprise when he found that he actually (“sorta, kinda”) liked it, sharing a small glass of wine with Monroe while Barry had hot chocolate that she realized she actually likes Monroe.

Nick scowls up to her ceiling, feeling like a school girl. He was admittedly perfectly matched with his dry humor and wit—god, she couldn’t even begin to describe the feelings she got when Barry would ask him random questions at the dinner table that would make most people uneasy or at least at a loss of what to say next. But not Monroe, if he didn’t have an answer, which was the best part because he would look at Barry in this certain way, one that screamed fondness and curiosity of his own before replying with some sort of ‘that’s an awesome question, lets figure it out after dinner, yeah?’

And Barry would smile, one that reached his eyes before he dug into his meal as if he had something to achieve.

Those two boys were seriously going to be the death of her. And it only got worse—way, way worse—when Roddy was added to the mix. The most memorable time was when she had come home to music playing through the house, a violin (which wasn’t that surprising because Roddy liked to show off what he was learning for Barry) and a cello. Let’s just say if at that moment she was asked for her name she would never have remembered it or heard the question really.

So, yes, she liked Monroe. She really, really liked him in a more than an employee sort of way. Hank was never going to let her live this down.

“So,” Hank begins, a serious expression trying and failing to stay on his face. “Now I really have to meet this guy.”

“Meet who,” Wu asks because he’s a nosy gossip.

Before Nick can tell him never mind Hank is already answering because he’s a terrible friend and she’s never going to tell him anything ever again.

“Nick’s new hot babysitter.”

Wu’s face lights up and he steals a seat from a nearby table, “Ooh, I’m listening.”

“It’s not like that you perverts,” She scorns them.

Hank doesn’t pay her any mind, just waves a hand in her direction, “She says he’s been cooking her dinner nearly every night and just recently started making her lunch. I mean, yesterday I asked her if she wanted to grab a bite to eat at the deli and you know what she said to me?”

They were being ridiculous, big over-grown ridiculous gossiping children.

“She said that she was good, Monroe”—he said his name in a ‘wink-nudge’ sort of way—“made enough dinner last night that she made a lunch out of the leftovers.”

Wu gasped loudly and Nick really wanted to shoot them both. She’s sure the captain would forgive her at least, he understood what it was like. Or, at least she figured he knew what it was like.

“And she’s been getting way less calls from the school, so either Barry has a new hobby of not getting into trouble or all Nick’s talk about Monroe keeping up with Barry’s curiosity is true.”

“Oh, my Lord, Nick,” Wu placed a hand over his heart dramatically. “He’s a keeper. He cooks and is great with kids, girl, what I wouldn’t give.”

“I hate you,” Nick says but she’s grinning and actually she really doesn’t care because they’re both losers but they’re giving her their blessing no matter how embarrassing it is. “You both are terrible people and I don’t want to talk to either of you again.”

Hank just laughs but Wu pouts. “Does this mean you don’t need this anymore?”

For the first time Nick notices that he’s actually holding a paper in his hand, it couldn’t be something from one of the cases they’re on because those are required to be in a folder for confidentiality purposes.

“What is it?”

“It’s a bit late because we had some other things to look up first and didn’t have the time but you texted me to look up a Sheryl Hooper. You said it was in your interview folder for the babysitting thing so I didn’t think it was too big of a rush deal since it wasn’t linked to any of your cases.”

Nick swallows thickly, something cold was running through her veins as she remembered the woman and how she vaguely reminded her of Barry.

“Yeah,” She reaches for the paper. “I’d still like to see it.”

Wu shrugs and walks back the way he came and Hank leans over, a slightly worried look on his face.

“What is it?”

And there it is, plainly printed in black and white Sheryl Hooper’s background, family and felony history for Nick to see. Her insides twist sharply and Nick feels the beginning pressure at the back of her eyes. Sheryl Hooper, younger sister to Diane Hooper—Diane Rabe after she married Frank Rabe and Barry Rabe was her nephew.

“I need my phone.”
--

“What do you know about jagerbar’s?”

Monroe looks at her curiously from wiping off the kitchen counter, her stance is that of someone who’s on the defense and if he looked too closely he knows he’d be able to see her shaking.

When she called him earlier that day he could tell something was off immediately but only listened and spoke his confirmation of understanding when it was needed. Don’t go anywhere today, be weary of anybody at the door and make sure Barry and Roddy don’t go outside.

He didn’t ask questions—couldn’t ask questions but there was a small pause at the end of her hurried rant and a small promise that she’d explain when she’d get home. He agreed, to all of it, but mostly to the parts that were left unsaid.

Yes, I’ll be here, yes, I’ll stay and yes, I’ll keep the boys safe.

It wasn’t that hard to keep the boys occupied for the time being and Barry usually loved helping in the kitchen while Roddy played some Pokémon game on Barry’s DS—he wasn’t kidding at the time he asked if Nick was also raising a reinigen but now he didn’t really have to question anymore because Monroe was there when she asked both boys what they were going to ask Santa for, for Christmas.

So of all the things Nick could be bringing up at this point, jagerbars wasn’t really what he was expecting but he was really glad the boys were in bed for the night and that neither of them had the habit of sneaking out.

“Uh, they’re ancestors are more of the kind of ancient Indian type stuff, they have a very—very low tolerance for alcohol, and I really don’t know where this is going.”

“Do you know what this is?” Nick holds up the weapon she took from her aunts trailer, the replica of a bear’s paw and claws; sharp and deadly. “Do you know how it’s used, what it’s for?”

She watches as Monroe’s eyes go wide, “Dude, how’d you even get one of those? Those are like, ancient, ancient. And very special to the jagerbar traditions—well, the Roh-hatz tradition but that’s still a really big deal in the eyes of most jagerbars. Even today. If they knew you had one, or—“

Monroe cuts himself off abruptly and Nick grows impatient, “Or?”

Her voice is rough, curt and full of barely held back irritation but Monroe still finds it difficult to get out what he knows Nick has to hear.

“Or that you’re a Grimm raising a young jagerbar, they—“he swallows with some trouble. “It would be a threat to them, just another thing you’re taking away.”

Nick doesn’t let out a sound like Monroe thought she would, he watches her closely though. See’s her body tense and her nostrils flare but her eyes stay the same; hard but controlled. She’s beautiful, in the moment his brain supplies unhelpfully but Monroe can’t help but just bask in the image that Nick is supplying. She’s strong—Monroe already knew this, all Grimm’s are strong but this… this is different. The sort of strong that doesn’t have a title and only poets can describe with long flowing proses that have no end in sight.

“You speak German, right?” She asks causing Monroe to blink and stand up straighter, forgetting about cleaning off the rest of the counter.

“Uh… yes?” He squeaks

“Perfectly?”

Monroe regards her with a little suspicion, “Yes.”

Nick leaves then, he can hear her going up the steps turning into where he assumes is her bedroom. And he’s momentarily caught awkwardly standing in the kitchen, not knowing what to with himself. He takes a look around trying to keep his mind off questioning whether he should have followed her or not (it’s really how he wanted to see the inside of her bedroom) and his gaze lands on some of his clock making parts sitting on a worn towel on the table.

At the time when Barry had asked him about the clocks, Monroe didn’t think twice about bringing some of his work here to show the young boy. Albeit it was a cheaper clock with parts so he could let Barry actually handle them without feeling his heart would leap into his throat out of fear, but looking at the clock innocently lying there at Nick’s kitchen table like it belongs there, well, Monroe doesn’t know the feeling welling up in his chest.

“It’s in German,” Nick explains as she walks back into the kitchen with what Monroe can see as a couple of large leather clad books. “I, uh, don’t really know much of the language.”

She holds them out to him and for a moment Monroe doesn’t understand what she wants him to do with them, that is until he opens the top one he took from her and gapes, mouth open and completely undignified.

They were not just books, hell, he tells himself they weren’t technically books at all. They were journals, information and facts and encounters with other wesen other Grimm’s in (what Monroe assumes) Nick’s family have faced. He runs his hands gently over the hand written pages and feels his knees weaken, this is so, so cool.

Nick leads him—has to because he’s too much in awe at holding onto one of the very highly rumored and deadly books the Grimm have on nearly all wesen. It almost takes a moment for Monroe to realize that Nick is still talking.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Monroe swings around. “I’m sorry, did you just tell me that there are more? Books? Like these?”

Nick huffs, “Yes, there’s like… maybe thirty to forty books?”

“Thirty to—“

“That I’ve seen.” Nick quickly adds and it doesn’t help Monroe be any less star struck by her. “I only brought these ones because they have some things about jagerbars in there but only a few of the passages are in English.”

A stray thought hits Monroe like a dart, “Then how did you know what to do with Barry?”

“I knew his father,” Nick’s expression turned sheepish. “And maybe Google translator.”

Monroe looked pained but sits on the couch beside her and dutifully opens the book back up. Now that he has a goal in mind he notices how the book he’s holding has a bookmark of a frog animated to look as if it’s smiling with a little word bubble of ‘jump into a good book!’ printed on it. He raises an eyebrow at Nick and she flushes.

“Barry and Roddy both signed up for some reading program at the library last summer,” She shrugs. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea to bend the pages I wanted and that was the closest bookmark I could find.” 

“I just want you to know, this is like the Holy Grail of things I did not expect would happen to me today.” Nick’s reaction was small, and it was mostly in her shoulders but the air around her seemed to slowly relax into something less strained and Monroe gave her a crooked grin and a nod, “What do you need to know?”

“The Roh-hatz thing, what is it?”

“It’s like a coming of age thing male jagerbars have to go through—well, had to go through in the ancient times to be look at as a man instead of a boy.” He didn’t even need the book for this, even if he still really wanted to look at it anyway. “Something about early morning light and tracking a victim through the woods to be gutted,”—he points at the weapon set down on the corner table near the dining room entrance—“by either that thing or their own hands.”

“This… they,” Nick’s blood felt like ice. “They want to take Barry away from me so they can teach him that killing is the only way to be a man? That’s such—“

The panic had caused her voice to go unnaturally high in pitch and she knew she must be sounding crazier by the second but she didn’t know if she could do this, the tears where burning at the corner of her eyes and it took everything in her not to let them fall. Monroe had set the book on the table and sat facing her to show he was ready to listen whenever she was ready to talk. She couldn’t do this to Frank, couldn’t let him down after he gave her a gift he had treasured with his everything and trusted her with it. Barry had become her everything too.

Nick took a deep breath and steeled herself, “They’re the same people that killed Barry’s father.”

It wasn’t a question and it was more aimed at her than anything but Monroe still nodded.

“I don’t know if you remember or saw the news broadcasting of Diane Rabe? She was Barry’s mother-his real mother, she was arrested for aiding in kidnapping and attempt of murdering of a couple that broke into her home. They kept the couple drugged and tied up in a storage house they rarely used a couple miles from their house in the woods. She convinced, or what we thought was that she convinced some younger kids to help her, said it was honoring the traditions of their ancestors.” Nick snorted, “Obviously Diane wasn’t alone in that way of thinking.

“I was just getting use to this all, this Grimm thing and Frank… helped. He told me somewhat about the jagerbar traditions—the Roh-hats, he thought no one ever practicing the tradition anymore let alone his wife.

“God,” Nick broke off as the tears flowed freely down her face. “He must have known. He had to of known that there were more people in on this. Must have known that they’d be angry at him, must have known that he-what he was-“

“I’ll stay,” Monroe blurted, coughed and said again. “I can stay. If you want me to, I can stay for you. And Barry—you and Barry. And Roddy.”

“You,” Nick started, stopped and laughed after no words came to mind and tried again. “You’re ridiculous. You can’t be real, I was told men like you didn’t exist or that you were all gay.”

“I… what?” The look on his face had her laughing harder, maybe a bit more than she should be at that moment but she couldn’t help herself if she sounded a bit hysterical. The entire day she was running around just a hair trigger away from losing her shit and having to be told to go home and let Hank, or worse, other detectives work on finding a connection between Sheryl and the dead body in the woods.

She really didn’t want anyone other than Hank knowing about her near breakdown after she saw the connection between Sheryl and Barry. But here Monroe was, just, silently offering to be the strong for her when he didn’t have to—shouldn’t have to if what he told her about how the blutbad and Grimm relationship went back in the day.

She really, really wanted to kiss him.

“I’m going to kiss you.” Nick warns because that’s the polite thing to do.

“What?” He asked again, eyes going wide and mouth mimicking a fish out of water. “Yes? Yes. Yes, uh, yes. That was a question, right? Because the answer is definitely a yes. Please, a yes please.”

She leans closer and it’s an awkward angle for both of them and the kiss is way too short by her standards because they both can breathe far too easily afterwards. But it’s probably for the better, she thinks, to wait for more given her current situation and to wait for a time where she doesn’t feel like she’s barely holding it all together.

“I mean have you met yourself lately?” Monroe blinked in frustration motioning with his hand at her. “I mean maybe even looked in a mirror? You’re like the whole enchilada, the landing on chance and getting a free trip around the board, lock-stock-and-barrel, the whole nine yards-“

“I get it,” Nick’s tone was annoyed but the fond sort, the type where she was smiling with her eyes.

“All I’m saying is that yes, you’re pretty—beautiful, ridiculously beautiful. Like the sort of beautiful where if we were living by the laws of the Spartans in the 300 movie, you’d totally be given to the Ephors to be the oracle. But,” Monroe hurries on. “You’re like, this Joan of Arc or the whole Dahomey Army—don’t look at me like that you’re son loves watching the History channel and they had a special on female badasses. Which, I would also like to point out how weird it is that I have to bribe a seven year old into watching cartoons.”

“I wish,” Nick began with a tilt of her head closer to Monroe’s. “You would talk so I could understand you sometimes.”

Monroe’s mouth twitches; he can smell her crisp scent the one that reminds him of fresh apples still hanging on the tree. Red apples—his favorite.

“Also, my son loves watching How to Train Your Dragon and Quest for Camelot, pretty much any cartoon that has a dragon in it. Including Sleeping Beauty but he likes to fight that one so you should probably act like you want to watch it first.”

He kisses her then, a rush of teeth and tongue and Nick is climbing into his lap bringing their bodies closer together and giving back as much as (and probably more than she realizes) she’s getting.

Their actions are smooth which has Monroe impressed with himself because he knows he’s a bit awkward. It’s not that he’s self conscious, that is, until he is—he’s not blind about his build compared to others, but for the most part he’s just very self aware of how much people who are not blutbadden see his outer appearance.

“We shouldn’t do this,” Nick whispers and Monroe hopes his face doesn’t match the sharp pang he feels in his chest.

“Oh, right—you’re right it’s—“

“I mean,” Nick hurries to speak over him. “Barry and Roddy are both up stairs sleeping, or probably not as today’s a weekend. Even though they both conk out pretty fast when I let them watch movies in there.”

Barry had begged her to let him have a TV in his room. Nothing fancy, he reasoned with her and that had made her laugh, caught off guard by the boys grown up expression. It was a couple weeks after that a guy from her department was asking if anyone needed an old TV. He was cleaning out his garage and found a smaller sized faded black television with a VHS player attached to it that still worked perfectly and he thought he’d ask first before he pitched it.

Barry had taken one look at it when she brought it through the door and cheered happily. They both took cleaning rags to it, Barry rattling on and on about what he and Roddy were going to watch and Nick had made the rule that it is only for use on weekends and that she got to pre-approve the movies they watched beforehand. Barry didn’t care, he had just hugged her tightly and helped her find the best angle on his dresser to place the TV.

“You’re… probably right.” Monroe breathes deep and chuckles. “No, you’re absolutely right—”

There’s a noise from outside that has them both springing apart and on high alert. Nick being faster than Monroe is already close by one of the windows and peeking out behind the blinds. Monroe is coming up behind her but stops when he hears the door bell ring.

The silence after was a little deafening after the last chime stopped playing and for a moment Monroe felt like he was in a cheap teen horror flick before Nick was shooting him a look and pointing up the stairs. He knew what she wanted him to do, wanted to make sure nothing happened to the two boys that were sleeping upstairs but she had to of known that whoever was on the other side of the door was not good.

There was nothing good that came from unsuspecting visitors late at night.

But he knew where this was going and while it was hard for him to do he turned and made his way up the stairs. He’d never forgive himself if something happened to Barry let alone Nick.

Nick watched silently as Monroe disappeared around the corner to Barry’s room. Even then she waited a few moments incase of, well, anything really and only then when nothing came did she turn her attention to the front door.

She assessed where she left her phone, on the coffee table in the living room and her gun thankful that it was still attached to her hip.

“Nick?” The voice was as she expected.

Opening the door slowly, Nick prepared herself, “Sheryl.”

The woman smiled and shrugged, “It’s good to see you again Nick, its good to see you found someone to babysit my sister’s child.”

“What are you doing here Sheryl?”

The smile dropped from her face and her head titled as if Nick was the one who was out of place. “I came here to meet Barry, I haven’t seen him in a really long time.”

“I,” Nick looked behind her to an unfamiliar SUV parked on the side of the road and knew this was going to get ugly real fast. “Don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s late and Barry is sleeping. If you want we can set up a date for you to—“

“That’s not going to work on me,” Sheryl’s voice goes low to almost a growl. “You know that I can’t let you keep Barry, he’s not yours.”

Nick’s grip on her gun tightens, “He is mine, when Frank died—“

Sheryl pushes her way in, sending Nick into a wall, her back colliding with the coat racks she had drilled into the wall herself. She hissed in pain—that was definitely going to leave a mark.

“Frank,” Sheryl spit out his name as if it tasted like dirt. “Died because he chose a Grimm—choice you over—“

“Over killing innocent people for your outdated traditions?” She shouted over Sheryl, watching in morbid fascination as the women shifted from partly human to what Nick is going to guess as a fully grown bear in her living room.

Nick hardly had enough time to duck around Sheryl before one of her giant paws was taking out a chunk of the drywall. Turning sharply Nick raised her gun and fired two shots, hitting Sheryl in the shoulder and what she’s sure would be the hip but while that would have been enough to drop a normal wesen, Sheryl just laughed.

Or, did what looked to be laughing as Nick couldn’t really tell with the whole bear thing going on. Either way, the shots fired should have alarmed one of the neighbors and all Nick had to do now was not die and make sure Sheryl didn’t get to Barry.

“Sheryl you don’t need to do this,” Nick warns again keeping her ears peeled for any commotion up stairs and while it’s faint she still hears the scuffle and a muffled groan.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, Nick’s mind supplies before she’s ducking again and Sheryl is destroying the coffee table that Juliette had gotten from her aunt as a house warming gift and the couch is being flipped into the wall.

She fire’s another shot that hits Sheryl in the shoulder again and this time the bear staggers for a few moments before its back on track and charging. There’s a loud crash and what sounds to be glass breaking that catches Nick’s attention and she doesn’t have time to notice anything other than, holy fuck, pain.

Nick see’s the blood on the ground beside her before she actually feels where it came from because her entire side feels like it’s on fire and she catches movement from the corner of her eye and yeah, her eye’s feel like they could use a little break but she’s very aware she needs to move quickly incase she wants to be hit with Sheryl’s bear claws again.

It’s a very near thing again, Sheryl’s paw landing where Nick’s head was just seconds before and it takes a moment for Nick to realize she’s not holding her gun anymore and even longer to locate it near the entrance to the kitchen.

It takes a couple steps, more than it should from how unsteady and light headed she feels. It’s definitely a concussion and probably a few broken ribs from how hard it is from her to breath.

Sheryl growls loudly and Nick can hear her claw clicking on the hardwood floors but she can’t look away from the gun—she’s too afraid to look away from the gun because she can feel the bile rising in her throat and the edges of her vision going black.

There’s a faint sound of sirens and it does nothing to ebb the terror running through Nick as she takes a flying leap towards the gun, turning and firing squarely at Sheryl’s face.

It’s a bit surreal after that, watching the bear body drop a few inches away from Nick’s feat and slowly shifting back to a full grown, naked woman that resembles Sheryl Hooper.

Barry’s aunt. Nick breaks down then, “Barry?” She shouts, making her way to the stairs as fast as her busted body will allow.

“Barry! Roddy?!” She coughs and it may sound a little wet but fuck stairs, she’ll climb them on her hands and knees if she has to. “Monroe?”

Nick’s hanging onto the railing to the stairs as a life line as she tries to trick her body into thinking the deep gashes are merely scratches before she hears a loud cry jostling her attention up towards the top of the stairs.

Its Barry, is her first thought, its Barry and he’s unhurt. He’s clutching onto Roddy and they’re both holding onto that old patch work quilt that’s not theirs and it takes everything in her not to cry at the perfect image they make. Safe. They’re both safe.

“Mom!” Barry shouts when he sees her, eyes wide and frightened as he tugs Roddy down the stairs towards her. She slipped down so she was nearly lying on the first steps and she would be laughing if it didn’t hurt so much.

“I’m okay,” she tells him because she needs to hear it just as much as him. She can see the tears on both of the boy’s faces but it’s blurring together and she knows that the concussion is starting to take its toll. “I’m okay and everything is going to be fine.”

She feels someone take her arm off the banister to the stairs and move her so she’s laying a little ways away from the door.

“How’d you get down here?” Nick asks Monroe when she focuses enough to see it’s him.

He looks away and Nick could swear he’s blushing a little, “Fell out of the window with the last guy.”

“You,” she tells him with a smile. All her important people are safe and unhurt and alive. “Are the best. I think we should date.”
--

The next time she wakes up she’s in a hospital bed, lucky her.

“Barry and Roddy went to get something to eat with Hank,” Monroe’s voice startles her for a second but she relaxes when she sees him putting his book (some ridiculous science fiction crap with aliens because the other kind of science fiction was a little too close to home) and leaning forward. “Or at least that’s what he told me his name was. The both seemed to know him and he had a badge so I didn’t think it was that terrible of an idea.”

Nick nods, “I feel like I was hit by a truck.”

“Dude,” Monroe whispered to her ear. “You dropped a female jagerbar. That’s like—I know I compared you to Joan of Arc already but I really think you’re at a new level of badass all your own. Future Grimm’s will now use your name as a term of measurement for badass-ness.”

Nick begins to laugh but cuts off with a cough, it’s not a wet one this time so she’s sure it’s nothing to severe. She gets him to help her sit up and looks around her room. She’s got a small teddy bear hugging a vase full of flowers that look like they were time-traveled out of the sixties with their tie-dye swirls and a few ‘get-well’ balloons floating in the corner and another balloon that was closer that said ‘girl power!’ that she just knew was from Wu, the cheeky bastard.

“How long have I been in here?”

“Not that long,” Monroe sits back into his chair, relaxing. “Nearly a day.”

“So, I think we should try this,” Nick breathes deeply, “The dating thing. I mean you already get along with most of my boys.”

“I’d like that,” Monroe nods, smiling and a little bruised, he has a Spiderman band-aid over a cut above his eye. She can tell the exact moment her words catch up to him. “Most?”

“Monroe,” Nick’s tone is serious and it catches him off guard, she nods her head to the other man walking up to them with worry, relief and happiness written plainly over his face. “I’d like you to meet, Hank.”

--END