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Guilt By Association

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Nick stared at Monroe, at the bruises on his swollen face. "Ooh," he said, taking a sharp breath in sympathy. "What happened to you?"

Monroe stepped back from the door to let Nick enter. "Funny you should ask. You happened to me." He winced a little as he moved into the house. "Get in here. Shut the door, will you?"

Nick did as he was bid. "Are you all right?" Which was a stupid question, really; "How badly are you hurt?" might have been better, but he'd spoken without thinking.

"I've been better."

"Let me see."

Monroe flinched as Nick's fingers brushed his forehead. "Ow! Leave it. I'll be fine."

"You get in a fight?"

"I wasn't the one who started it, believe me. I was the victim here!"

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" From the stiff movements and reluctance to bend over for the door handle, Nick was guessing the answer was yes.

Monroe swallowed. "It's just bruises."

"Show me," Nick said, voice tight.

Reluctantly, Monroe opened his shirt, fingers fumbling with the buttons. Livid red and purple splotches were clearly visible on his chest and one hip. Anger vied with grief and guilt within Nick. He crouched down and lifted his hand to Monroe's hip.

Monroe bit down on a curse as Nick probed the bruise. "Sorry," Nick said softly. "Sorry." He turned his attention to the other bruises, concerned about cracked ribs and possible internal injuries. Monroe whimpered a little as Nick carefully explored the bruises and the areas around them. Nick did his best to be gentle but there was no way to properly examine the injuries without causing some pain. At last, Nick stood.

"You're right," he said, breath ragged. He was relieved, but even angrier now he'd seen the full extent of the beating. "Just bruises."

"I told you," Monroe said with pure bravado. He grabbed at his open shirt but Nick grabbed the material from his fingers.

"Let me." It was a sign of how badly he was hurting that Monroe didn't protest as Nick buttoned his shirt for him with the utmost care.

When he was done, Nick put one hand on Monroe's shoulder, close to his neck, a spot he was certain wasn't bruised. "Who did this to you?"

"I don't know."

"I can track them down." He would, too, and make them pay. Monroe was a big guy, a Blutbad. The person or people responsible were dangerous and Nick wanted them off the streets before they hurt anyone else. It was bad enough that they'd dared to touch Monroe.

"Look, I don't know who these guys were, all right? All I know is that if they wanted me dead, I would be dead. So I can only imagine they were sending me some kind of message." He showed Nick a sketch of a scythe. "You ever see that before?"

" Yeah…Reapers. Where'd you see this?"

"Scrawled on my car in my own blood."

Somehow Monroe's calmness made the statement even worse. "Monroe –"

Monroe shook his head, and winced at the movement. "You start messing with the status quo, there are some people who might not be exactly sanguine about that. And what I'm doing with you is definitely messing with the status quo."

You happened. It finally dawned on Nick that this hadn't been a random attack on a Wesen. Monroe had been hurt because of him, because Monroe had dared to help a Grimm; it was guilt by association.

"This is my fault." Nick shook his head, distraught. "I'm so sorry, Monroe. Look at you! This has to stop! I'm not going ask for any more of your help."

The words were out of his mouth before he had chance to consider the implications. What would he do without Monroe? The ancient books left to him by his aunt were helpful, sure, but they didn't always explain things particularly well, they weren't exactly indexed, and they absolutely weren’t able to introduce him to Wesen in the current, real, world. Monroe was a fount of knowledge, and, Nick realised, the only other living person he could talk to about being a Grimm. Monroe was a confidant, and a trusted ally – and a friend.

Was, Nick thought, sadly. It was over. He couldn't put Monroe in danger.

"Screw that," Monroe said, limping to the fridge and taking out two beers. He handed one to Nick. "I'm not running. You ask me for all the help you need."

"But you were hurt. Because of me."

"I'll live."

"I can't ask you to put yourself in danger for me."

Monroe took a long swallow of beer. "You're not asking. I'm offering. No, I'm insisting that I'll continue to help you. Screw the danger. I've never been much of a status quo kind of guy, you know?"

Nick felt a swelling of pride and affection for Monroe, beaten but unbowed.

"I'd be glad to have your help."

"Of course you will be. You barely know your Blutbaden from your Bauerschwein."

Nick accepted the teasing without question. "I'll find the people who did this," he swore. And make them pay.

Monroe held out his beer. "I know you will. We will. And next time…we'll be ready for them."

Nick toasted Monroe with his own beer. Damn right they would be ready. They might be Reapers but he was a Grimm, and woe betide anyone who came after the people he cared about.