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Lover of the Light

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                Monroe paces the living room as he sends Nick his eighth text message. The previous seven messages have gone unanswered and he hopes this one will be different. Half an hour later, he’s really starting to freak out. Nick never just doesn’t text back. Monroe decides to send a text to Hank. Unlike Nick, Hank actually answers. He tells Monroe that Nick left about an hour ago and hasn’t heard from him since.

                Monroe grabs his coat, wallet, and keys, and heads out the door, crawling into his little car in search of Nick. He tries his damnedest to pick up Nick’s scent. He’s towards the middle of town when he picks up the faintest hint of that undeniable smell that is Nick Burkhardt – coffee, leather, gunpowder, and cinnamon.

                The scent leads Monroe to the park – the one they often chose for training. The wolf is telling him to run, full speed. But Monroe knows better. He can’t just overreact like that. He sets a slightly-quicker-than-normal pace and heads down the path that winds through the adjoining woods. The deeper into the woods he goes, the heavier Nick’s scent is in the air. He quickens his pace to a jog and travels deeper. He cringes when his nose picks up the scent of fresh blood. Something on the ground catches his eye and he stops. It’s a cracked phone. He hits a button, hoping it might turn on. It does; Monroe’s heart practically stops. It’s Nick’s phone and Monroe’s number is on the screen; Nick dialed but never hit send.

                Panic sets in as Monroe gives into the wolf and he runs. His legs move as quickly as they can as his nose sets the course. Nick scent is strong, overwhelming almost. Then Monroe sees him and his heart sinks. Nick’s sitting on the ground, slumped against a tree. There’s blood all over his torn clothes. Monroe runs over to him, dropping to his knees at Nick’s side. Tears sting his eyes as he gently gives Nick’s shoulder a shake.

                “Nick…” His quiet voice cracks.

                “Mmm…” Nick turns his head towards Monroe but doesn’t open his eyes. There’s already a gnarly bruise forming around his left eye.

                Monroe’s hands slide up to cup Nick’s jaw. “What happened?”

                “Mmm…” is all Nick can manage. His voice is strained.

                Monroe takes a few deep breaths, trying to clear his head and think about what to do. He should take Nick to the hospital. But then they have to come up with another cover story, another lie. There’s no doubt in Monroe’s mind that this is wesen-related. And how many times can Nick really go to the hospital with some made up story before they start to get suspicious…well, more suspicious. He decides to take Nick over to the spice shop and Rosalee can help patch him up.

                He does his best to pick Nick up without jostling him around too badly. He walks at a slow but steady pace, getting to the car as quickly as he can. He makes it back to the car almost as quickly as he went into the woods. He sets Nick down, leaning him against the car while he opens the door.

                “Mmm…”

                “I know, Nick. I’m gonna get you fixed up.”

                “Mmm….ro….”

                It hits Monroe that this entire time Nick isn’t just mumbling, he’s trying to say Monroe. All of a sudden Monroe feels like someone just punched him in the chest, like he can’t breathe. He steps in front of Nick, hands on shoulders.

                “I’m right here, Nick.”

                “No…hos…tall…”

                Monroe thinks for a moment. “No hospital? You don’t want to go to the hospital.”

                Nick slowly shakes his head.

                “Okay, man. I’m gonna take you to Rosalee. She’ll get you all patched up. Okay?”

                “Hmm…”

                “What?” Monroe frowns.

                “Hmm…take…me…hmm…”

                Tears roll down Monroe’s cheeks. “Yeah. I’ll take you home, buddy.”

                Monroe’s gentle helping Nick into the car. Briefly he thinks about how he needs something a little bigger. He takes the quickest way home. He slows down best he can over big bumps. Nick winces when they hit even the tiniest of bumps. That makes Monroe wince.

                When he pulls into the driveway, Nick’s eyes are closed. He hopes Nick is sleeping and not unconscious. There's a little part of him that doesn’t feel right not taking Nick to the hospital. But he can’t do that to Nick. He wants to be home. Home. Monroe’s breath catches at the thought of his house being Nick’s home, their home.

                He clears his throat. “Hey, Nick, wake up. We’re home.”

                “Hmm…”

                Monroe picks him up and carries him inside. He heads straight into the bathroom and sets Nick down so he’s leaning against the sink. He tosses his jacket aside and rolls up his sleeves. His hands shake as he starts to peel off Nick’s clothes. Nick groans as he pulls off the tattered leather jacket.

                “Sorry man, know this one was your favorite.” He frowns, tossing the jacket towards the trash can.

                Nick actually pushes Monroe’s hands away when Monroe goes for his shirt. He shakes his head. Monroe reaches in to one of the drawers under the sink and pulls out a pair of scissors and cuts down the front of Nick’s shirt. He slowly pulls the bloody cloth off over Nick’s shoulders. Monroe’s eyes go red as he looks over Nick’s chest. There’s a few gashes spanning over his shoulder and part of his chest. He’s got deep blue bruises everywhere.

                He kneels down, untying Nick’s boots and slipping them off. They were in good shape, just need a bit of cleaning. He sets them aside. With a deep breath he stands back up. His hands hover over the button of Nick’s jeans. His hands fall away as one reaches up to wipe a tear from his face.

                “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

                Nick leans forward, against Monroe’s chest. Monroe can’t help but wrap his arms around Nick, hugging him. He can hear Nick crying and it’s hurting him. He’s gotten so damn dependent on this infuriating Grimm. Nick’s his best friend. And Monroe didn’t keep him safe.

                “You could have called me.” His voice is soft. He’s not lecturing, more so just thinking aloud. “You could have called Hank. What were you doing out there?”

                Nick doesn’t answer. They just stand there for a while, Monroe silently thanking whatever higher power might be out there that Nick is alive, silently promising to do a better job of protecting his best friend.

                “Okay, I gotta get you cleaned up so I can see how badly you’re hurt.”

                Nick leans back against the sink, legs weak. His jeans are torn beyond repair so Monroe just cuts down the sides, letting the denim fall away. There are gashes in Nick’s thigh but they don’t look deep enough to have done any real damage. He cuts down the side of Nick’s boxers; the fabric falls away. He’s careful as he helps Nick into the tub. Nick finally seems to relax as the tub fills with warm water. Softly, Monroe rubs a wet washcloth over Nick’s body, removing blood and dirt. He’s careful around the cuts and bruises.

                He drains the water and helps Nick up out of the tub and dries him off, wrapping a towel around his waist. Disappearing briefly, Monroe returns with a flannel pair of pajama bottoms and a pair of boxers. Before helping Nick get dressed, he helps him sit on the edge of the tub then goes to work patching him up. He sprays Nick’s leg with some numbing spray then cleans a needle and starts to stitch up the gashes. Nick watches him, never taking his eyes off Monroe’s hands. Monroe moves on to the gashes on Nick’s shoulder and chest. He cringes looking at them. When he’s done with the stitching, he bandages them up, along with a few minor cuts. Monroe helps Nick get dressed, then helps – well, carries – him down the hall to his room. Nick groans as he sits in bed. Monroe opens a jar of salve and Nick is more than happy to let him rub it over his whole body.

                “Let me help you put on a shirt.”

                Nick shakes his head. “Too sore.”

                “Well, you’re gonna want that salve to stay on you. It’s no use if it’s on your blanket.” Monroe pauses, thinking. “Hold on.” He leaves the room and a minute later he walks back in holding one of his flannel shirts. “Here, this should go on easier.”

                Nick won’t admit it, but he likes the feel of wearing Monroe’s flannel. It’s warm and soft. And best of all, it smells like Monroe. The familiar scent brings Nick a sense of comfort, of safety.

                “Tea?”

                Monroe nods. “Yeah, I’ll make some tea. Be right back.” He hates the thought of leaving Nick alone, but he knows they’re safe at home. He gets to work brewing some tea. He adds warm milk and honey – just the way Nick likes it. He grabs a couple cookies from the cookie jar, hoping Nick will eat a little something, and knowing he likes to dunk them in his tea.

                When Monroe goes back upstairs he doesn’t go right into Nick’s room. He watches Nick from the hallway. Nick plays with a string hanging from the sleeve of the flannel shirt. Then he brings his hand to his face and rubs the fabric against his cheek. He smiles a little. And for the first time in a long time, there’s this warm feeling deep in Monroe’s chest. Despite being hurt, Nick seems so content. Like that flannel shirt is a big band aid. Monroe walks in and Nick’s hand falls from his face.

                “Brought you some cookies, too. I know you like them with your tea.” He sets the mug of tea and plate of cookies down on the nightstand.

                “Thanks.”

                “I also brought some aspirin. Sorry I don’t have anything stronger.”

                Nick just kind of shrugs as he swallows the pills with a sip of tea. As Monroe goes to walk away, Nick reaches out and catches his hand.

                “Stay?”

                Monroe nods and moves to sit on the other side of the bed. Nick dunks a cookie in his tea, swirling it around until he deems it soft enough. He nibbles the cookie then dunks it again.

                “Nick?”

                “Yeah?” Nick turns his head to look at Monroe.

                “What were you doing out there?”

                Nick turns away. “I got a lead.”

                “Aren’t you supposed to bring your partner? You know, that guy Hank. He’s a nice guy. Pretty tough. Can definitely hold his own.”

                Nick kind of rolls his eyes. “It was wesen-related.”

                “Yeah and Hank knows.”

                “But he can’t see them. Sometimes I feel like he’s gonna get caught off guard and get hurt.”

                “Then why didn’t you ask me to go? Nick, you know I’ve got your back. All you have to do is ask.” He takes a deep breath. “You’re my best friend; I want to keep you safe.”

                “What if you get hurt?”

                “Then you drag my ass home and patch me up. We’ve done this before, man.”

                “And what if I can’t patch you up?”

                “Take me to Rosalee…or to a doctor. I told you there’s a private practice across town; they’re wesen-friendly.”

                Nick sighs and traces a finger around the rim of his mug.

                “Am I missing something?”

                “What if you get hurt really bad?” His voice is soft. “What if you…” Nick can’t bring himself to say it.

                “Is that…is that why you haven’t been asking for my help?”

                Nick nods. “I don’t want to lose you. I can’t lose you. Especially not because you’re trying to save me.”

Monroe’s not really sure what to say. He opens his mouth but the words fail to be spoken. He just reaches across the space between them and grabs Nick’s hand. “I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me, okay? I’ll follow you straight into the fires of hell if I have to.”

A few tears roll down Nick’s cheeks as he nods. He squeezes Monroe’s hand and pulls him closer. It hurts when he tries to turn and hug Monroe, so he just leans against him. Monroe’s arms snake around Nick’s waist, careful of the bruises. He holds Nick close against his chest, nuzzling his neck. He breathes in that familiar scent, lets it overwhelm him. He can’t lose this. He won’t lose this.

Monroe thinks about whomever did this and his eyes turn red. He pulls away from Nick as he starts to woge. He takes a few deep breaths, pushing the wolf back in its cage. His eyes stay red, however. As Nick looks up into Monroe’s sanguine eyes, a tremor runs through his body. He leans forward, ignoring the pain radiating through his body, and presses his lips to Monroe’s. To his delight, Monroe kisses back, slow but forceful. Nick can feel it all the way down in his toes. His fingers tangle in Monroe’s curls. They kiss until they’re out of breath. Nick wants nothing more than to keep going, so does Monroe. But when Nick tries to crawl into Monroe’s lap, the pain that shoots through his thigh makes him let out a long string of every cuss word he can think of.

“Hey, come on. I told you, I’m not going anywhere. We’ve got time.” He kisses Nick’s forehead. “I’ll be here waiting when you’re all healed, okay?”

Nick agrees with a sigh, then frowns when Monroe disappears out of the room. When Monroe returns he’s wearing pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. He crawls back into bed with Nick.

“Mind if I sleep here tonight?” Monroe smiles.

Nick smiles back. “Not all all.”

Monroe curls his body around Nick’s, keeping him close. Nick feels safe, content, like there’s nowhere else in the world he’d rather be. He laces his fingers with Monroe's, bringing his hand to his lips and kissing his knuckles. As Nick starts to drift asleep, he realizes just how lucky he is. Not just because he’s still alive, but because he has a reason to be – a warm home and an amazing companion.