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I’ll Never Let You Go (If You Promise Not to Fade Away)

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SHOT THROUGH THE HEART!
And you’re to blame,
Darlin’ you give love

“A BAD NAME!” Monroe sang along happily as his clock radio went off promptly at 6:08. He sat bolt upright and began playing air guitar in his bed. By the end of the song, he was completely energized and ready to meet the day.

He got out of bed and stripped it – Thursday was laundry day. He dropped the sheets into the washing machine, set it, then padded back up to the bathroom to take care of business, brush his teeth.

Next came his Pilates workout – he was just finding the right headspace to focus on his spinal alignment when a bang against his back picture window got his attention and he jumped. He sat up and saw a small smudge against the glass. Going outside to investigate, he saw that a small bird had apparently flown into the reflective surface and lay stunned on the ground beneath the window. Frowning, he picked the little thing up gently, to see if it was still alive, to see if he could help it. It got to its feet in his hand, shook its head and pecked viciously at his index finger. “Ouch!” Monroe protested, opening his hands and the thing flew away. Glancing down, he saw a bead of blood welling up on his finger. He reentered the house, sucking on his finger.

“Stupid bird,” he muttered as he whizzed some beans in the grinder, poured them into the French press, and put the kettle on to boil.

Pling! Monroe’s phone chimed pleasantly from its charging cradle on the counter, signifying the arrival of a text message. He went to retrieve it and saw a message from Nick. Busy tonight?

Why bother asking? He typed back. It’s not like you’ll respect my boundaries anyway.

Why so grumpy?

I’m not.

Much.

What do you want?

BRRING-RING

Monroe’s phone rang shrilly in his hands and he almost dropped it. Pain in the Ass the readout said.

“What?” Monroe answered, furrowing his brows to at least keep up the appearance of being grumpy. In truth, he no longer minded the Grimm’s frequent contact with him and often looked forward to his intrusions. He made life interesting, if occasionally bloody.

“Good morning to you, too, Monroe,” Nick said cheerfully. “Have I caught you before your coffee?”

Monroe glanced over at the kettle, which was on the verge of boiling over. He strode over to the stove and cut the flame, reached over and flipped the cap on the spout to stop its annoying whistling. “As a matter of fact –“

“What are you brewing today? The Italian Roast?”

“Guatemalan High Mountain Reserve – hey , since when do you care?”

“Since you do.”

Monroe blinked – what an odd thing for him to say. He heard a crunching sound. “What are you chewing in my ear?”

“An apple.”

“I suppose that beats a donut.”

“What can I say, you’re rubbing off on me. So, can you come out and do this stakeout with me tonight or what?”

Monroe sighed – he was finding he wanted to do a lot of things with Nick lately, though he steadfastly avoided thinking about what that meant. “Yeah, probably. What time?”

“9:00?”

“What’s this make it now?”

“A million six. I owe you a million and six.”

Monroe grinned. “See you at 9:00.”

----

Monroe got up off his couch and stretched when he saw Nick’s headlights flicker against his front windows. It was a warm night in early May, so he didn’t bother with a jacket. He left the house, locked up, and wandered down to the curb.

Nick, halfway out of the car, looked surprised to find him waiting. “Look who’s an eager beaver,” he snarked.

“Yeah, don’t get too used to it,” Monroe said, wondering why he even bothered to pretend he hated doing this anymore. He closed the door on the SUV and pulled on the seatbelt strap to extend it around himself …and it would not budge. He pulled it again, but it seemed determined to hold on for dear life. “What is with this thing?” he mused out loud.

“Oh, it does that sometimes – try opening the door and it’ll loosen up.” Monroe did as bidden, and the belt finally behaved itself.

They drove across the city to the west side, to a cul-de-sac that backed up to a park; Monroe could hear a small stream burbling behind it from where they’d parked the car. “So what’s the case?”

“So-called hunting accident, but I’m not buying it. I think Dr. Katz is a jagerbar and he mauled the guy himself.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Dr. Katz and the victim’s wife are having an affair.”

Monroe whistled low. “What makes you think the good doctor is a jagerbar?” Nick shrugged. “You Grimmed it?”

“Maybe.”

“What happened?”

Nick’s face clouded over as he remembered. “I don’t know, it was strange. It never…did that before. When I touched the victim, it was like I was reliving his last moments. It was like he was telling me something… asking me something.”

“To find who did it.”

“To find justice.” Nick looked up at Monroe, his grey eyes clear again. They looked at each other for several seconds.

“What else did you see?” Monroe said, blinking, breaking the spell.

“I saw a bear. I saw a hunting blind. Wasn’t hard to put two and two together.”

Monroe nodded, impressed, and seriously wondering in what other ways his friend’s Grimm powers would manifest themselves. If he ever developed a way to see into the past –

“Want some coffee?” Nick offered, pulling a silver Thermos out from behind his car seat. “Himalayan Lowlands, medium roast.” He waggled the Thermos back and forth enticingly.

“Thought you’d never ask.”

----

“What time is it?”

“Ten minutes since you asked me last time,” Nick answered.

“I gotta pee. Any chance the merry widow won’t show up tonight?”

Nick sighed. “I suppose not. I thought she’d come here for sure.”

“Well, her husband did just die tragically – she’s got to keep up appearances.”

“I’m starving – want to get a bite?”

“Sure.”

They drove to an all-night joint they both liked that served updated versions of diner classics. Nick took up residence in the nearest booth. “I’ma go take care of business,” Monroe said. “Order me a black bean burger deluxe and a Cherry Coke?”

“You got it.”

Monroe headed towards the men’s room, and as he walked, his attention was captured by a squirrelly-looking trio sitting at the counter, hunched over their coffees. They watched him warily as he passed them, and he caught their scent as he walked through the door that led to the restrooms - nagermänner. Monroe was barely able to hide his revulsion, and had to remind himself that all creatures are created equal. When he came back out again, they were at the front, paying, but the small one – shifty-eyed little bastard – eyed him as he joined Nick. Monroe stood beside the booth, pulling up to his full height, and stared the little rat down.

“Something up?” Nick asked, tucking into the complimentary cheese bread the waitress had brought. He turned in his seat, but the nagermänner had scurried.

“Nothing, just – nothing.” Monroe shook the bad feeling off and smiled. Nearby, a busboy tripped as he was heading to a nearby table, sending the plastic tub he carried flying across the floor with a crash. The diner’s hostess came over and started yelling at him in rapid-fire Greek as a very pregnant waitress came over to defend the kid.

“Just a typical Thursday,” Monroe said and Nick laughed.

They ordered and ate, all the while chatting easily about the case, their days, local politics. Nick did most of the talking and Monroe let him – since he’d broken up with his girlfriend, he’d seemed a lot more chatty, making Monroe wonder if the guy wasn’t just lonely, and that’s why he sought the blutbad out so often. Not that Monroe minded; he’d been a loner for so long, he’d forgotten what it was like to have a friend around to talk to. Intellectually, he knew he was getting a lot more out of his interactions with Nick than he had initially expected, and he often found himself looking forward to it.

He grabbed a toothpick as Nick paid, twirling it in his fingertips as he waited. He preceded Nick out of the restaurant, holding the door for him and listening as he related another detail on the case – nothing really important. Across the parking lot, a late-model Ford pickup ran a Stop sign, came to a belated, screeching halt and then went on its way.

Monroe followed Nick to the Toyota, where he saw that the three nagermänner stood waiting for them. “Gentlemen,” Nick greeted them warily. He was enough of a Grimm to view three strange men approaching him as a potential threat, but too much of a do-gooder cop to do anything about it. Monroe felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

“We know what you are,” one of them said. He wore coveralls that had the name “Bud” sewn onto them, and Nick seemed to recognize him.

“I know you, don’t I?” he said. “You repaired my refrigerator. Did you need help, or -”

“Never mind that, Grimm,” another of them said. Monroe noticed he had his hand in his jacket pocket. He also noticed that his jacket was a heavy wool one, which was not at all called for given the mild weather they’d been having. Monroe started moving to Nick’s side.

“Stay there, blutbad!” the man said, and took his hand from his poclet; in it, he held a large handgun.

“Hey now, hey now, wait just a minute,” Nick said. “You know I’m a cop, right? I mean, I’ve been seeing you guys around a lot lately, so I think you’ve been following me.”

“What?” Monroe said, but Nick ignored him.

“So you know that I’m not exactly an old school Grimm. I don’t hunt and kill indiscriminately.”

“That’s what you’d like us to believe.”

“Well, believe me,” Monroe said, and he could feel his eyes go flat and red as he came shoulder-to-shoulder with Nick; he didn’t like the looks of this at all.

As if sensing the imminent escalation, Nick reached out his right hand and grasped Monroe’s wrist, holding him back. “Come on, let’s just calm down.”

“Yeah, let’s not be too hasty, Irv,” the third one said, taking the other one by the elbow.

Startled, Irv’s hand twitched and his finger spasmed and Monroe’s world seemed to be moving in slow motion.

The gun in Irv’s hand went off with a loud BANG.

Nick’s hand clutched at Monroe’s wrist reflexively, then let go.

Monroe blinked as a hot splash of blood painted his face. He could smell it, taste it, feel it.

Nick was looking at him as he fell, an astonished expression on his face.

And then the world returned to real-time and everything went to hell.

“Nick!” Monroe yelled, sinking to his knees beside the fallen Grimm, who was gasping desperately for breath, blood gurgling up in his throat. He coughed once, and again, and more of his blood sprayed onto Monroe, who clutched his friend’s shoulders desperately, trying to comfort, reassure. “Nick, Nick!” Monroe said, leaning over him, trying to get him to look at him, to see. But Nick’s eyes had rolled back into his head and he had already stopped moving. “Nick!” Monroe shouted at him, shook him. “NICK!”

It was too late, he was gone, Nick was dead.

Nick was dead.

----

“Tell me what happened, Hank.” Juliette, Nick’s ex, was talking in the background. Monroe recognized the panicked edge to her voice. He didn’t care.

He was sitting in an interrogation room situated just off the main squad room, and crime scene technicians were taking his finger prints. They’d already confiscated his sweater, wanted to get impressions of the soles of his shoes next. He was their only witness. He was their only evidence.

Nick was dead.

“Three guys attacked him in a parking lot. It was over before it began.” Hank’s voice was high-pitched, Monroe noticed. Grieving already.

“These things don’t just happen, Hank. They don’t just happen.”

“I know, and none of it makes sense. But there was nothing…Juliette!”

Monroe heard footsteps behind him as someone approached.

“You!” Juliette said and Monroe flinched. “Tell me what happened.”

Monroe turned around and watched as her already pale face blanched even more. She stood there, wide-eyed, panting slightly, and he remembered he still had Nick’s blood all over him. He touched his throat absent-mindedly, could feel the dried stuff flaking off. He swallowed.

Nick was dead, he wanted to say, but his throat wouldn’t work.

Juliette took another step toward him, grabbed the arm of the chair beside him and sat down. Her hands were shaking, her face tear-stained. “You were there?”

Monroe nodded.

“Was it quick?”

Monroe bent his head down and nodded.

“He wasn’t alone?”

Monroe shook his head and closed his eyes. No, Nick wasn’t alone, not in the end. Not in the end.

----

It was 3:15 when Monroe finally arrived home; the Asian cop – Wu – had offered him a ride, which he had gratefully accepted. There had been what felt like scores of cops milling around in the squad room as Monroe gave his statement once, twice, six different times. They all stared at him – some out of the corners of their eyes, but most full-on, their looks accusatory. He’d been there and he’d done nothing. He’d been there, and he hadn’t stopped it. He’d been there, and Nick was dead.

He unlocked the front door and didn’t bother to close it, instead walking directly up the stairs, removing what remained of his clothes as he did. He was nearly naked by the time he reached his bathroom, turned the shower on full-blast, hot, and stood under the stream. He saw tiny swirls of blood pooling and washing down the drain, and he closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see it, so he showered with his eyes closed, fumbling to find the shampoo, shower gel, conditioner.

He dried off, wrapped himself inside his dark green terry robe and trudged off to his bedroom. He pulled back the freshly-washed sheets and slid between them. He lay himself down on his back and stared at his ceiling. Somewhere, someone was screaming and he soon realized it was him. He covered his mouth with both hands as if he could keep the grief contained inside.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART!
And you’re to blame,
Darlin’ you give love
A BAD NAME!

Monroe startled awake and felt his heart pounding in his chest. God, this song – was it only yesterday that he’d jumped out of bed playing air guitar to it? It was a sick, fucking joke now. He rolled over and shut the thing off and lay on his back, resolving to switch the clock radio to the classical station later.

He must have fallen asleep at some point earlier, but he didn’t remember it. Now he felt bone-tired and numb. He thought he might just lie there for the rest of the day.

He heard a light thud and felt a rattle below in the picture window that was on the first floor immediately below his bedroom window and wondered what it could have been. He sat up, opened the window and peered down. There, lying on the ground – just like yesterday – was a small, brown bird. He wondered if he ought to put a screen over the window to prevent future tragedies, but soon enough the thing wobbled to its feet, shook its tiny head, then flew unsteadily away.

Monroe closed the window and sat on the edge of his bed, staring at his socked feet.

Pling! His cell phone chimed as he received a text message. A minute later, it chimed again. He pushed himself to his feet and padded down the stairs, found it charging in its cradle and picked it up.

BRRING-RING

The phone rang shrilly in his hands and he looked down on it. Pain in the Ass the readout said, and he dropped it on the floor where it rang until the call went into voice mail. He stared down at it, panting and leaning heavily against the butcher’s block table. And then it rang again.

“Look, this isn’t funny, whoever you are,” he answered, his voice a strangled, strained croak.

“Good morning to you, too, Monroe,” came a familiar voice, “I guess I caught you before your coffee?”

Monroe pressed the “End” button with both thumbs, left the phone on the table, and backed into his living room. The phone rang again and he ran up to the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face, his neck and then looked at himself in the mirror.

And noticed that he wasn’t wearing the robe he’d gone to bed in, but the t-shirt and shorts he’d worn the night before.

Downstairs, his phone was ringing again. Numbly, he went to it, clicked the “Accept” button and held it up to his ear.

“Monroe? What the hell, buddy, you OK?” Nick asked.

“I –“

“This a bad time?”

“You –“

“Just calling to see what you’re up to tonight.”

“We –“

“You working through all the pronouns today?”

Monroe closed his eyes. “This isn’t happening.” There was a crunching in his ear. “Are you eating?”

“An apple. I guess you’re rubbing off on me. So, I’ve got this Grimmly case, want to ride along on a stakeout?”

“Sure?”

“See you at 9:00.”

----

“What?” Nick said, twisting in the driver’s seat to look directly at Monroe. “You’ve been acting strange all night.”

Monroe looked down at his hands in his lap; he had been staring at Nick as if he wasn’t real. “It’s nothing, I just –I had a bad night last night. Disturbing dreams. And now, it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Nick frowned at him, concerned. “I’m sorry. Anything bad?”

Monroe looked out his window. “Like you’ve no idea.”

“I don’t think the merry widow’s showing up tonight.”

“Well, her husband did just die tragically – she’s got to keep up appearances.”

“I could use a burger – want to get a bite?”

“Sure.”

----

Nick looked at Monroe as he folded himself into their booth at the diner. “I thought you had to pee?”

“Guess it went away.”

“Man, I’m starved. Ooh – cheesy bread!” They ordered drinks and Nick opened the menu to study it. “What to have, what to have? I think a Monte Cristo.” He bounced lightly on the naugahyde seat.

Monroe made a face. “That stuff’ll kill you.”

“Something’s got to,” Nick said around a mouth full of bread and Monroe barely suppressed a flinch.

He felt rather than saw the movement of the nagermänner as they went up to the cashier to pay their bill. He glanced up at the waitress, who’d come back to take their order. “You know, I’m not all that hungry, can we go?” Monroe said urgently.

“What? We just sat down.”

“Please, Nick, can we just go? I’ve got a bad feeling.”

“OK, OK.”

Monroe threw a few bills onto the table and left, Nick trotting along behind him. Back inside, the busboy tripped and his tub of dishes went flying; the door closed behind them as the hostess began yelling in Greek.

Monroe cast his eyes around the parking lot, saw the three nagermänner approaching Nick’s car and spun. “We have to go – that way!” He pointed across the parking lot.

“Why? Monroe!”

“Trust me, please.” He took off at a run, Nick following reluctantly.

“I wish you’d tell me what the hell is going on!”

Monroe could hear the steps of the three nagermänner pursuing them. He ran across the street, realized that Nick was no longer behind him. He turned; Nick was getting to his feet, like he’d tripped. “Nick! Come on!”

Nick looked up, nodded, set off toward him again.

The Ford pickup came out of nowhere, running the Stop sign and plowing into Nick with all 365 horses. Nick’s body flew up and over the hood, crashed into the windshield and just kind of hung there until the vehicle came to a screeching halt. Nick rolled off the hood and fell to the ground, finally coming to a stop on his back, unmoving.

“Nick!” Monroe yelled, running back; he could feel the knees of his jeans tearing as he skidded to a stop beside the fallen Grimm. Behind him, the truck’s driver, a woman not more than 20, jumped out, screaming, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

“Nick, Nick!” Monroe said, a hand on his friend’s shoulder. But there was a rapidly spreading puddle of blood under Nick’s head, and he did not respond to Monroe’s voice.

“Someone call 911!” The young driver was shouting, but Monroe knew it was too late. He sat down heavily beside Nick’s head and reached over to close his eyes for him. He didn’t know how he’d live through this night again.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART!
And you’re to blame,
Darlin’ you give love
A BAD NAME!

Monroe started awake, let the song play out. Could it be the same day?

“It’s Thirsty Thursday, Portland!” the morning zookeeper informed him. “I’m gonna say a free case of Sam Adams premium lager goes to my 14th caller…”

Monroe rolled over and shut the radio off, let his momentum take him out of bed. He braced himself on the floor with his right hand and sighed as he heard the bird crash into the window downstairs. He stood and padded down to his kitchen, ignored the texts from Nick and picked up his call on the first ring.

“Hey, Nick.”

“Morning! Have I caught you before your coffee?”

“Yeah, but no, it’s OK.” There was a crunching in his ear. “That an apple?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

“Can you come over?”

----

“What do you mean, I’m going to die today?” Nick said, sitting forward on Monroe’s couch, his hands hanging between his knees.

“It’s happened the last two days, and again this day’s on repeat. It’s like I’m stuck in that Bill Murray movie, only at the end of it, you’re always dead!”

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you.” Monroe closed his eyes. “OK, fine. When’s it happen?”

“Tonight, around midnight. After the stakeout.”

“I didn’t even tell you about that.”

“See? You wanted to set up a stakeout on Dr. John Katz because you think he’s a jagerbar.”

“How did you –“ Nick’s brow furrowed as he stopped himself, and Monroe desperately hoped he was beginning to believe him.

“Because it’s happened to me twice already, Nick. I think we have to stop the cycle. Let’s not go out tonight, OK? Please? Please?”

Nick blinked at him, and Monroe could see his shoulders sag. “Sure, Monroe.”

“You believe me?”

“I have no reason not to. Tell me everything that happens.”

Monroe proceeded to tell him everything he could remember, concluding with the encounter in the diner with the nagermänner.

Nagermänner? What are those?”

“Rodent people, look kind of like beavers, only not as cool. You seemed to know one of them. His name is Bud.”

“Short guy? Beard?” Monroe nodded. “He fixed our refrigerator months ago, before Juliette moved out. Actually, he refused to fix it, once he saw I was a Grimm. Come to think of it, I have seen him around a lot lately, and it’s odd. I guess our paths are crossing?”

“Or he and his buddies are stalking you.”

“You think?”

“They were pretty aggressive, which is rare for those guys, but after the thing with Hap I don’t make any more assumptions.”

Nick leaned forward, face animated, eyes intent. He laid his hand on Monroe’s knee as he spoke. “Good point. So what if we turn the tables on them? Stalk the stalkers?”

Monroe eyed Nick’s hand, then looked up into those grey eyes and swallowed. If he could reverse these events, he’d do anything. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Great!” Nick slapped him on the knee and stood. “How do we find them, though?”

“Well, the guy Bud was at your house, right? Maybe his boss’ll give up his location if a police detective comes calling?”

----

Monroe waited in Nick’s Jeep as he interviewed the dispatcher at the appliance repair depot. He got out of the car as he spotted him leaving, met him halfway across the parking lot.”Got a location?”

“He’s working on a washing machine out in Beaverton,” Nick called, jangling his keys in his pocket.

“Excellent. Maybe we can catch up to the little nagerfresse,” Monroe replied viciously.

A loud bang took their focus away suddenly. “What was that?” Monroe said.

“Gunfire. Sounds like it’s coming from that liquor store over there.” Nick pulled out his cell phone and dialed into the police dispatch, reporting the incident. “Look, I’ve got to take care of this. Stay here until the patrol cars arrive, let them know I’ve gone in, OK?”

Monroe nodded and drifted back over to the car. Two patrol cars arrived within minutes, and he told them what Nick had told him to say; all four officers set off towards the liquor store, but were only half way there when more shots could be heard coming from inside the store.

“Shots fired! Shots fired!” one of the cops was reporting into his communicator. Monroe took three steps toward the store. “Man down! We have an officer down at 357 Powell Blvd. Repeat, officer down!”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Monroe breathed and ran towards the store. He skidded to a halt in the doorway and saw a man lying just inside, clearly dead. Monroe guessed he was the perpetrator. He looked inside and saw Nick on the floor as well, one of the police officers crouched beside him, holding a hand over a bullet wound in Nick’s lower chest that was bleeding profusely through the man’s fingers.

“Hold on, detective,” the man was saying, begging. “You just hold on.”

“Oh my God, Nick!” Monroe said, and ran to him.

“Monroe,” he said, blinking up at him. There were tears running from his eyes and into his hair.

“What? I don’t –“ Monroe knelt beside him and Nick grasped his arm with both hands.

“Monroe, Monroe,” he gasped, and then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

“Wait a minute, it’s not supposed to happen like this,” Monroe said.

“What was that?” the officer who had tried to save Nick said.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Nick? Come on, buddy! Nick?” he shook his friend’s shoulder, but he didn’t move.

“Sir?” another cop said to Monroe, but he barely heard him.

“Come on, Nick, you’re not supposed to die now. This isn’t how it goes, it –“

“Sir, did you have knowledge of this crime beforehand?” the cop said.

“What?”

“The robbery? If you had any knowledge – a police detective is dead.“

Monroe tried to get up.

“Please, sir, we’re going to need you to stay here. Until we can investigate, until we can understand what’s happened.”

Monroe stumbled forward, and the second cop, jumpy and upset at witnessing the death of one of their own, grabbed Monroe by the arm and spun him, slamming him against a nearby wall. “Hey!”

Before Monroe knew it, there were cuffs on his wrists and more sirens in the background, and if he didn’t think this nightmare could get worse, he now knew how very wrong he’d been.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

Days stretched into weeks, and weeks into months, and no matter what Monroe did, Nick was dead by midnight.

Some days it happened no matter what he didn’t do. He’d just lie in bed and the TV would detail the tragic demise of one of Portland’s Finest at the hands of armed robbers, hostage takers, abusive husbands, mad gunman and – just the one time – rabid Chihuahuas.

Other days, Monroe tried to engage with Nick in different ways, interfere at different times and points in the day, but never with any glimmer of hope of success.

Some days didn’t even get started.

“What are you brewing today? The Italian Roast?” Nick asked.

Monroe glanced at the cuckoo clock above his fridge. “Guatemalan High Mountain Reserve – since when do you care?”

“Since you do.”

Some days, that answer killed him the most. He heard a crunching sound at the other end of the call. “What are you chewing in my ear?”

“An apple – kwooorrrff!”

“Nick?”

“Hnf-hnf-hnf!” the strangled noises Nick was making were no less upsetting to Monroe, even if they were inevitable.

”Nick!” Monroe heard someone shout at the other end of the call as the phone hit the floor. ”Doesn’t anyone know the Heimlich?!”

----

Some days, Monroe woke before his alarm and headed to Nick’s house.

“Nice to see you,” Nick said, pulling a hoodie on over his bare chest, “and so early.” Monroe tried to ignore the way his hair stood out in all directions, and especially the pillowcase marks on the right side of his face.

“Well, it’s never too early to get out there and catch some bad guys!” Monroe said briskly, handing him a bag of bagels and a cup of coffee and striding into the front hall.

“I should go shower and shave before we go,” Nick said, getting up and taking their plates to the sink.

“What? You just showered yesterday. Let’s go, let’s go.” Nick looked at Monroe strangely. “Up and at ‘em!” Monroe explained.

“I’ll just shave, though, OK?” Nick called down the stairs. “Huh, this blade’s kinda dull.”

“Use a new one.”

“Nah, I can get one more use out of it.”

“You should just use a new one,” Monroe said distractedly, watching Matt Lauer with the sound off.

“Ouch,” Nick hissed. “Stupid Gilette. Wow, that’s really bleeding there…”

“Nick? You all right, buddy?”

THUD

----

One week, Monroe decided to let the original timeline play out as intended, because he thought it would be an interesting diversion to time everything out. He wanted to get a baseline so that he could see how events would work out once he started changing variables.

But at the end of the week – a week of Thursdays – something in him finally snapped.

“Gentlemen,” Nick greeted the nagermänner.

“We know what you are,” Bud said.

“I know you, don’t I?” Nick said. “You repaired my refrigerator. Did you need help, or -”

“Never mind that, Grimm,” Irv said through gritted teeth, his hand dug into his pocket. Monroe started moving to Nick’s side.

“Stay there, blutbad!” Irv said, and pulled out his gun.

Nick spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “Hey now, hey now, wait just a minute. You know I’m a cop, right? I mean, I’ve been seeing you guys around a lot lately, so I think you’ve been following me.”

“What?” Monroe said.

“So you know that I’m not exactly an old school Grimm. I don’t hunt and kill indiscriminately.”

“That’s what you’d like us to believe.”

“Well, believe me,” Monroe said, and he could feel his eyes go flat and red as he came shoulder-to-shoulder with Nick.

But this time, he didn’t hold back, this time he could feel his fangs elongating, his claws sharpening, his limbs and face lengthening.

“Hey, wait a minute,” Bud said, eyeing Monroe with growing alarm. “Tell your dog to heel.”

Monroe snarled, “What was that, nagerfratze?”

“Th-th-there’s no need to be insulting!”

Monroe growled, could feel the saliva running in his mouth, dripping from his jaws. He was on all fours now, his clothes a mess around him; he tore them off with rapidly morphing front limbs.

“Monroe!” Nick said, alarmed. He’d never seen Monroe this way, probably had never seen a fully-morphed blutbad.

“Stay back,” Monroe snarled at him, and he wasn’t even sure his words were understandable to human ears. He launched himself at Bud first, tore the screeching little pest’s throat out within seconds, the blood gushing out, coating Monroe’s chest and flowing down his jaws. He’d turned toward Roscoe before Bud had even hit the ground. “Run,” he growled, licking gouts of blood from his jaws.

“Wh-what?”

“Run! It’s more fun to catch you if you’re running.”

He squeaked and took off towards the road, moving faster than Monroe would have thought a man his age could.

“You!” Monroe gritted out at Irv, turning the shining, red lamps of his eyes on the man who still held the gun in his trembling hands.

“Meep!”

Monroe coiled back, prepared to spring.

“Monroe!” Nick shouted, and he paused, turned his head toward the Grimm. Seeing an opportunity, Irv took a step back, tripped over Bud’s rapidly cooling corpse, and fell. As he did, he dropped the gun. It bounced, once, then went off.

The bullet caught Nick squarely between the eyes and he fell without another sound.

“Nick!” Monroe screamed, his words barely understandable. He stood over his fallen friend and howled, once, a sound so filled with sorrow and despair, he didn’t think it possible he could make it himself. When he was done, he collapsed over Nick, lay his head on his belly and sniveled like a pup.

“Nice,” came a voice somewhere behind him, and he raised his muzzle in that direction, sniffing. “You’re getting the idea, finally.” The man was tall, imposing, with aquiline features and a regal bearing.

“Who are you?” Monroe asked.

“That’s not important. What is is the fact that you’ve finally made progress. You might make a Trusted One yet.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Monroe said miserably, but the man was already gone.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

“Hey, Nick.”

“Morning! Have I caught you before your coffee?”

“No.”

“You OK?”

“No.”

“I’m coming over.”

----

“Monroe? Where are you?”

“Upstairs,” Monroe said, probably not loud enough for Nick to hear. It didn’t take him that long to find him, though.

“You sick?”

“Something like that.”

Monroe could feel the edge of the bed go down as Nick sat down. He pulled the covers back and looked up at the Grimm, then realized he couldn’t, so he covered his head again.

“Oh,” was all Nick said, his voice soft and his tone comforting, as he rested his hand on Monroe’s shoulder and squeezed. That was all Monroe needed before he lost it completely. “Monroe?” Nick said, but Monroe was sobbing uncontrollably into his pillow. “Come on,” Nick said gently, trying to pull the covers back, trying to see what was wrong, but Monroe clutched them around himself more tightly and actually kicked out, like a child throwing a tantrum. “Okaaayyy.”

He didn’t know how long he went on, maybe minutes, maybe hours, but eventually Monroe’s sobs ceased, and he lay huddled on his side, exhausted and feeling no better.

“Want to talk about it?” Nick asked at length.

“It wouldn’t do any good.”

“OK. You want some water or something?”

“Don’t leave, you can’t leave.”

“OK.”

“You can’t leave!” Monroe said, something finally occurring to him. He pulled the covers down and sat up, grasped Nick by an elbow. “You don’t leave this spot!”

“What? Monroe!”

“You’ll be safe if you just stay here. Will you? Will you do that?” Monroe sniffled. He knew he looked pitiful. He knew he looked like hell, but something in his look or his tone seemed to resonate with Nick, and he nodded.

“Fine. I’ll stay right here.”

Monroe backed away in the bed, making room. “Right here.”

Nick shrugged and kicked his shoes off, clearly humoring Monroe. He pulled his legs up and sat back against the headboard. “At least put the TV on,” he said, reaching for the remote on the nightstand.

----

“Monroe?”

“Yeah?”

“I gotta pee.”

“I’ll go get a bottle.”

“Seriously?”

“You stay right there, Nick.” Monroe glanced at him guiltily, knowing Nick was only humoring him because he clearly thought he’d gone nuts and was worried about him.

“Can you bring some food, then?”

“Sure. What do you want?”

“Anything. Salad? Soup?”

“No – nothing you can choke on or drown in. Did you know you can drown in three inches of water?”

“No.”

“Well, I’ve seen it. How about oatmeal?”

----

“Huh!” Nick breathed, coming awake. He was lying on his side, arms drawn up in front of him, facing Monroe, who had been watching him sleep for the last three hours. “Hi,” he said as his eyes adjusted to the darkness and saw that Monroe was still with him. He actually smiled.

“Hey.”

“Still here?”

“Yep, still here.” Monroe sighed, and then something occurred to him. “Wait a minute - you’re still here!”

“Yeeess,” Nick said, a confused look on his face as he sat up and stretched.

“No, I mean, you’re still here. It’s after midnight, and you’re still here!”

“Is that significant?”

Monroe sat up, excited. “I don’t know, maybe? We’ve never made it past midnight before! Oh my God, I think we’re at the end of this thing! I can’t believe that’s all it took!” Monroe laughed a high-pitched laugh, and he knew he sounded crazy, but he couldn’t stop. “It’s all it took!” he repeated, and threw his arms around Nick’s neck and hugged him joyously.

“Um, hurray?” Nick said, his voice muffled in Monroe’s shoulder.

“Sorry!” Monroe said, releasing him, suddenly self-conscious.

“It’s OK, Monroe.”

“No. No, it’s not, Nick. You’ve put up with a lot from me today, and I’m sorry. If you knew all that I’ve been through, you’d understand.”

“I trust you, Monroe. That’s all that matters. Even when you’re a little nutty and uncharacteristically over-protective, I know you’ve got my back.”

Monroe felt like he could cry again, and it was almost 100% not because he was completely exhausted.

“But if you don’t mind, I’ve really got to go to the bathroom. Can I do that?”

Monroe nodded. “Sure. Of course.”

Nick got off the bed and padded out into the hallway. “Which door?”

“First one on the left,” Monroe answered.

“On the right?” he called and Monroe knew he should have expected it, but of course he didn’t. He never did. There was a thud and a crash as Nick took a wrong turn in the dark and found not the bathroom door but the top of Monroe’s stairs.

Dazed, reluctant to see but drawn to it nonetheless, Monroe walked slowly out into the hallway, and switched the overhead light on. Nick lay at the bottom of the stairs, neck twisted at an obscene angle, eyes heavy-lidded and staring at Monroe as if he were about to fall asleep. Monroe leaned against the wall with his shoulder and just slid down it until he was sitting on his legs, not taking his eyes off of Nick’s, even when he started to cry.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

“Hey, I’m gonna go take care of business,” Monroe said to Nick. They were back at the diner. “Order me a Chopped Salad and an iced tea?”

“You got it.”

Monroe headed towards the men’s room, past the nagermänner, who watched him with barely disguised fear. He sneered at them and pushed through the door to the long hallway that led to the rest rooms. At the far end, he spotted a familiar face – the tall man from a few weeks back. “Hey!” Monroe said to him, but he turned and headed for the back exit.

Monroe followed, exiting and looking around for the man. He caught sight of him turning the corner towards the front of the parking lot. “Wait!” Monroe called. “Stop!” He ran to catch up, and when he finally did, he took the man’s arm and stopped him. “Who are you?” he asked, catching his breath.

“It’s not important.”

“Yeah, I think it is. You seem to know what’s happening to me.”

“I’m just an interested party.”

“Interested in what?”

“Your success.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Monroe saw Nick emerge from the restaurant and look around the parking lot, clearly searching for him. He turned his attention back to the tall man.

“Why?”

“You have a role to play.”

Monroe tried – unsuccessfully he knew – to mask his annoyance. He could feel his eyes flash red and he closed them, trying to calm down. He didn’t know why, but he sensed he ought to keep his control around this man. “A role in what?”

“The grand scheme.”

“We know what you are,” the nagermann Bud was saying to Nick in the background.

“Whose scheme?” Monroe asked. “Because I’m getting a little tired of this… whatever this is. I don’t appreciate being toyed with, being a pawn in someone’s twisted game!”

“Hey now, hey now, wait just a minute,” Nick’s voice floated over to them on the light breeze. “You know I’m a cop, right?”

“We all have a part to play, but some of us haven’t quite found our way yet. You’re not trying hard enough.”

“Not trying hard enough? Not TRYING hard enough? I watch my best friend die every single day. Nothing I do to stop it has worked. I’ve tracked down each one of those goddamned nagermänner and do you know what happens? Nick falls off a bridge. I’ve made him sit in one spot all day and all night and he falls down my freaking stairs and breaks his neck. Nothing is working!”

BANG! Irv’s gun went off, and Monroe jumped. When he turned his head, Nick was lying on the ground, gasping his last breath. Monroe stopped mid-rant and watched, his grief and frustration making him ball his hands into fists on top of his head.

“You’re not doing enough,” the tall man said to him quietly and was gone.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

“Look who’s an eager beaver,” Nick snarked.

“Yeah, I see you’re getting used to it,” Monroe said, and got into the Toyota. He closed the door, reached for the seatbelt. It resisted his efforts and he sighed mightily.

“Try opening the –“ Nick began, but Monroe’s frustration over his conversation with the tall man the night before finally took its toll and he began hauling on it angrily.

“Stupid! Fucking! Thing!” he shouted, pulling harder and harder until it was torn completely from its housing and lay in a broken tangle in his hand.

“Jesus, Monroe!”

“Sorry.”

“What the hell?”

“I’m having a really bad day.”

“You don’t say?”

“It’ll be good as new tomorrow, I promise.”

----

“Gentlemen,” Nick said to the three men in front of him.

Monroe caught a movement across the parking lot and spotted the tall man standing there, watching. He moved closer to Nick.

“We know what you are,” Bud said.

“I know you, don’t I?” Nick said. “You repaired my refrigerator. Did you need help, or -”

“Never mind that, Grimm,” said Irv menacingly.

Monroe clenched his jaw as he watched the tall man still just standing there, watching everything. He was missing something. He was supposed to do something. He took a step forward.

“Stay there, blutbad!” Irv warned, and pulled the gun out of his pocket.

Monroe stared at the large bore in the gun’s barrel, and suddenly he knew what he had to do. He took another step forward, and another, moving fast before he had a chance to change his mind. Before Irv knew what was happening, Monroe had his hands on the man’s shoulders and was pushing him back.

The gun in Irv’s hand went off with a loud BANG.

Monroe flinched, gasped, and fell to his knees.

Nick shouted, “Monroe!”

Monroe’s entire skeleton seemed to turn to jelly; he couldn’t hold himself up. He fell over on his side, felt the air rush from his lungs.

“Monroe,” Nick said urgently, pulling him into his lap. He pressed a hand to Monroe’s gut, trying to stop the bleeding. “Hang on, OK? Help’s coming, just hang on.”

Monroe shuddered but relaxed against Nick. Relieved, he was so relieved. “It’s OK.”

“No, no it’s not, you’re hurt. Somebody call 911!” Nick called to the group of patrons and wait staff that had come out of the diner’s doors.

“You’re OK, it’s OK,” Monroe continued, and he couldn’t help the smile that appeared on his lips. He reached out for Nick, shaky fingers trying to touch his face.

“Monroe, shh, please,” Nick took his hand and grasped it to his chest. “Mon-Monroe?” Nick’s face clouded as something passed behind his eyes, some realization, and then his eyes widened. “Jesus, Monroe!”

“It’s OK,” Monroe said, his words slurring as the darkness came for him. “You’re OK.”

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxX

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART!
And you’re to blame,
Darlin’ you give love
A BAD NAME!

Monroe woke with a startled, “No!”

“Jesus, can you cut that off? There are sick people here!” Nick admonished the orderly, who was mopping up the floors in the hospital hallway.

“Sorry, dude,” came a lazy voice and immediately Monroe wondered if the kid was high.

“Freakin’ tweaker,” Nick muttered as he dropped himself into the chair beside the bed.

Wait. What?

“N-Nick?”

“Monroe? Thank God.” Monroe recoiled slightly against his pillow as Nick leaned in over him. There was a huge grin on his face.

“What happened?”

“You got shot. But you’re OK. I mean, you’ll be OK. Doc says you should make a full recovery, and blutbaden heal really quickly, right? So…”

Something suddenly occurred to Monroe. “What day is it?” He tried to sit up in the bed, but Nick pushed him down gently with both hands.

“Friday night.” He glanced at his watch and whistled, low. “Almost midnight.”

Monroe allowed himself the rush of relief that washed over him. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to head off the tears he could feel prickling behind his lids and said a prayer of thanks under his breath.

“You want anything? The nurse said you could have these ice chips.”

Monroe realized he was insanely thirsty and nodded. Nick sat on the edge of the bed and fed him some ice. “You saved my life, I think,” he said after a few minutes.

“I didn’t, I did a stupid thing and got shot.”

“No, you saved my life. After such a long time, you were able to save my life.”

Monroe looked into Nick’s eyes, realization bringing panic. “You remember too?”

“No, actually. I don’t remember any of it. But the other night, when you were hurt, I touched you, and I saw it all. I saw everything you went through, and I understood.”

“You Grimmed me?”

“It’s not like I have control over it. Monroe, I had no idea.” He took Monroe’s hand.

Monroe was suddenly unable to look Nick in the eyes. He pulled his hand away, conscious now of all the other things Nick might intuit. “Well, you wouldn’t have. How could you?”

“It must have been awful.”

“It’s over now.”

“Yeah.” Nick reached over and ghosted his fingertips over Monroe’s forehead, smoothing his hair to the side like he was his Mom or something. “But I know, now.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Monroe’s lightly, chastely. “I know everything,” he said, and sat back, eyes shining.

“Uhhh,” Monroe said, his voice a nervous stutter.

“We’ll talk later. Plenty of time for that. I’m going to go and get a cup of coffee, it’s late and I need the caffeine. Be right back, OK?”

Monroe nodded and watched him go, then rested his head back on the pillow and wondered what the hell had just happened.

Well, Nick had just kissed him, that’s what happened. It was something he hadn’t dared entertain in his mind ever, and there the bastard did it to him, didn’t he? He Grimmed it out of him. If his heart wasn’t currently leaping for joy in his chest, he’d take the time to be pissed off.

He sighed and closed his eyes, contemplating falling back to sleep. And sensed another presence in the room. His eyes snapped open to fall upon the tall man. “You!”

He smirked. “Me.”

“Just who the hell are you?”

“Call me Renard.”

“Interesting name, trickster.”

He shrugged. “I have many.”

“And why am I not surprised to find you’ve been the one harrying me?”

“Our people have long been antagonists, haven’t they? But that’s not the reason for doing this, wolf.”

“So it was you? You did this?” Monroe could feel the anger rising within him.

“Yes, and I’m sorry, but it was necessary.

“Necessary? Making me relive Nick’s death a thousand times was necessary?”

Renard nodded. “I needed you to see what it would take for you to succeed in your role.”

“You keep saying that – I have a role to play. What is that, exactly?”

“You’re a Trusted One. You safeguard the Grimm.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Grimms are a dying breed, but noble, and vital to maintaining the natural order. It’s a chess game that’s bigger than either of us, blutbad, and it was set into motion a long, long time ago. No one knows why, or when it will end, but the Grimms are crucial if the side of light is to triumph.”

Monroe thought he might be insane, but some inner memory was whispering to him, tales told by his Oma by the campfire when he was small. He nodded. “Why me?”

“I have often questioned that; it wasn’t up to me to choose you. But I could show you how important your role is, to push you into accepting it.”

“And I’m supposed to do what now – protect Nick with my life?”

Renard smiled and tapped the side of his long nose with a forefinger. “Now you’re getting it.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Isn’t it obvious? You’re in love with him.”

Monroe was speechless.

“Relax, blutbad, I had nothing to do with that. That was all you. And you know what? I approve. Nick needs someone who understands him, who gets what it takes to be a Grimm, how hard it can be. Because there will be some serious trials coming up for him, and he’s got to be ready. It’ll help him to have someone to confide in, to cling to when things are at their darkest.”

Monroe blinked.

“Yes, he loves you too, Monroe, and don’t pretend the thought doesn’t fill you with happiness. Bonne chance, mazel tov, go with God. Just remember one thing, the Grimm’s life is to be protected, and it’s your job to do it now. Are we clear?”

Monroe swallowed, but he felt determined. “Crystal.”

“Great!” Renard clamped a hand on his shoulder companionably and left.

Monroe laid his head back and watched the door, thinking. So he was a Trusted One, whatever the hell that was. He wondered if it was fate or design that brought him into Nick’s life, then realized he didn’t care.

If there was one thing the ordeal of the last months had cemented in his brain, it was that Nick was important. Sure, he was a Grimm, and he had a role to play in the grand game of chess or fate or whatever the hell mystical shit was going on, but that wasn’t what mattered to Monroe.

What was important was that Monroe was committed now – to Nick, to the work, to them – and there was no way he was letting it get away from him. He was never letting Nick go.

----

Thank you for your time.