A/N: After the series finale of Grimm, I found myself not ready to say goodbye to the show (particularly the Nadalind relationship) and curious to see if my opinions of it at the end matched those I formed at the very beginning. Luckily, at the time when Grimm first premiered, I wrote a TV blog. One of its key features was something I called Pilot Postmortems in which I dissected new shows. So, I went back and read not only my impressions from Grimm's pilot but any and all blog entries I had written for the show. Long story short, my opinions from the beginning lined up perfectly with where they were when the show left off.
One of my key frustrations with the pilot was the relationship between Nick and Juliette. For me, it was problematic from its very first moments. So, I decided to change it... or, more accurately, to decimate it. In this one shot, I change one thing - when Nick first sees Adalind, she doesn't woge, and he ends up approaching her, and it alters the entire landscape of the series. In fact, it changes so much that this pilot reimagining doesn't even cover the entire first episode.
Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Look for more Grimm/Nadalind stories from me in the future. If you are so inclined to read, thank you, and I hope you enjoy!
A Nadalind One Shot
If someone would have asked Nick that afternoon why he couldn't let it go, why he couldn't let her go, he would've said it was because he was a good guy, because he couldn't hurt someone else in order to make himself feel better, because it was the right thing to do. Less than twelve hours later, Detective Nick Burkhardt would know that he was full of shit.
Hank had caught him.
With an engagement ring burning a hole through his palm - Nick hadn't even managed to transfer it to his coat pocket yet, Hank caught him looking at another woman.
Disappointed in himself and embarrassed, Nick played his guilt off. He made some flippant, dismissive remarks about the woman in question. While the observations themselves weren't damning, coming from him and the tone he used? Yeah… Nick clearly got his point across to his partner. Blame it on his blue-collar leanings, or maybe it was just the innate bias cops had against lawyers (and the woman in question was without a doubt a lawyer), it was no secret that Nick possessed a prejudice against wealth and those who had it.
So, he used this to his advantage, and he played junior profiler, and Hank seemed to buy it, because, rather than pursue his teasing chastisement of the younger detective, Hank made a ribald remark about the pretty blonde, and, for just a moment, balance was restored between the partners. And it would have stayed that way, too, if Nick simply would have turned away, if he would have managed to tear his gaze away from the cause of the discord in the first place. But he couldn't, and he didn't, and, consequently, he saw her smile fall, an unwitting flash of hurt replacing it. Nick was already moving in the attractive woman's direction before he was aware of his own actions… let alone the potential consequences of them.
Behind him, he heard an incredulous, impatient Hank attempt to call him back. Apparently, they had a case; they had to leave. But, as dedicated as Nick was to his job, to the victims he served, to justice, he was a homicide detective. Their case could wait long enough for Nick to make right a careless and hurtful mistake.
"Well, if you insist…."
Nick hadn't, and he didn't, but he couldn't very well say that to Hank, for it would just make the situation that much worse. That much more complicated. After all, he was just going up to her so that he could apologize. If Hank wanted to do the same… as he should, then why should Nick object? After all, if he confronted the reasons behind his displeasure with Hank's insistence, then he would also have to confront why he had denied looking at the woman in the first place, and Nick couldn't go there.
Whereas Nick gently and quietly closed his passenger door, he heard his partner's door slam shut behind him, and, before Nick could approach the insulted blonde, Hank was already there, apparently having jogged ahead to beat Nick. She stopped and looked up at the older man, an annoyed expectation pulling at her delicate features, but she obviously didn't want the encounter.
"Excuse me, Miss…?" Hank purposefully aborted his sentence. While it sounded like perhaps he was just pausing to make sure he had captured her attention, Nick recognized his partner's true tactic of trying to get the woman to give them her name. When she didn't comply, Hank continued, "I'm Detective Hank Griffin, and that's my partner," he added with a head nod in Nick's direction, "Detective Nick Burkhardt."
Impatiently, the blonde crossed her arms over her chest, carefully balancing a briefcase and a coffee, and Hank must have realized he was quickly running out of goodwill. "I'm sorry about… before. It was just… you know, guys being guys." She neither accepted his apology nor did she even recognize it. Scrambling, Hank tacked on, "but that's not an excuse, and I'd like to make it up to you… if you'd let me." Nick watched as his partner flashed the successful stranger his patented and polished, panty-dropping smirk… or so Hank bragged about his own grin. Considering the older man's marital history - three times to the altar and just as many to divorce court, Nick suspected that, while the smirk might originally come across as charming, it quickly began to chafe instead. "Perhaps you'd grant me the pleasure of your company one evening, and we could go out to dinner." Her only response was a disinterested brow quirk that clearly read, if Hank didn't quit sooner rather than later, his failing attempt to pick her up might just very well prove to be his last. "But, first, you'd have to tell me your name."
"See, I'm not sure you really want my name, because I could have sworn that the only thing about me that you were interested in was my ass."
Hank's face fell, and he unconsciously rocked back a step. "You heard that, huh?"
While the blonde didn't directly answer his partner's question, a response really wasn't necessary. She'd already made it abundantly evident - both with her words and her body language - that she'd heard everything loud and clear. "At least your friend, your partner, had the decency to comment on something other than my appearance." Once more, Hank opened his mouth to speak - whether to further explain or excuse, Nick couldn't be sure, but the petite woman had, apparently, had enough. Tucking her to-go cup of java in the elbow of her arm with the attache case, she held up a finely manicured and demure hand, demanding silence. "You've apologized, I heard what you had to say, and, now, you need to leave."
Hank did as he was told, casting a 'good luck' glance back at Nick over his shoulder and muttering, "we have a case anyway," though neither Nick nor the blonde paid the comment any mind.
Once they were alone… or as alone as two people could be while standing out on a downtown Portland sidewalk in front of a bustling coffee shop during lunch, it was Nick's turn to offer amends. He, however, tried a different approach: sincerity. "Look, I'm sorry about… that." With a gesture towards where Hank had been standing, Nick indicated he was also apologizing for his partner's behavior. "What just happened, it was my fault. Hank's actually a really good guy."
The pretty blonde tilted her head to the side, and, although Nick wasn't the tallest guy in the world and the woman was wearing an impressive pair of heels, she still had to look up at him. He also noticed that she had resumed a more casual pose, evidently more comfortable now that it was just the two of them. For several quiet (though, oddly enough… given what had just transpired, it wasn't tense) moments, she just observed him. While Nick had judged her earlier based solely upon her appearance, it felt like she was somehow looking inside of him. Surprisingly, given how they had met, she didn't seem to find him lacking, because she graced him with a soft, sweet smile. "Do you always take on others' problems as your own, Nick?" Something about her own question seemed to startle the woman, because she stiffened her shoulders and cringed. "I'm sorry, is that okay - calling you Nick? I'm Adalind, by the way. Adalind Schade."
Nick instinctively clasped her suddenly outstretched hand, her other still juggling both her bag and coffee, and shook it upon the introduction, realizing belatedly - after Adalind questioned if using his first name was too forward - that she hadn't referred to him by his job title… as most people did after first meeting a cop. Granted, they weren't meeting under an official capacity, but Hank had pointedly introduced them both as detectives, yet Adalind called him by his first name instead. And Nick liked it… just as he liked calling her by her first name as well. It just seemed natural, right, and he expressed that feeling by grinning broadly at the now not unknown woman standing across from him. Finally - and still holding her hand in his own, though they had stopped shaking and merely stood with their palms clasped together and their fingers entwined, Nick answered, "yeah, of course. And it's nice to meet you, Adalind."
The pleased smile she bestowed upon Nick made him blush - actually blush (thankfully, Nick had his back to Hank, so his partner couldn't see and wouldn't be teasing Nick about it once they were again in the car together) - and then glance away. He needed a few seconds to himself, to regroup, to get his thoughts (and reactions) back under control. This… whatever was happening between them… was not why Nick had approached the lawyer. In fact, it was exactly what was happening between them that had prompted Nick to deny his initial reaction by making the comments which were now the reason why he was standing in front of Adalind in the first place. Only… how did he explain that to her? (He could barely keep track of it himself, and it was his own neuroses.) She deserved more than just a blanket apology; she deserved to know why he'd been so rude, so cruel, when all she had done was walk out of a coffee shop, laugh with her friend, and smile at him.
Shuffling his feet, Nick's discomfort with his own reactions and behavior (and not actually the situation or Adalind) caused him to shove his hands into his coat pockets. It was only then when he remembered what he was so casually walking around with and talking to a very pretty woman while holding. So, when he pulled out the jewelry box and opened it, he wasn't just trying to show Adalind what had prompted his disparaging remarks against her; Nick was also trying to remind himself.
"Oh, Nick!" Adalind's gasp had him looking over at her in alarm, startled. Only… she wasn't hurt. Instead, she had a hand covering her mouth. The gesture would have projected a look of shock if it wasn't for the cheeky smirk lurking beneath her fine fingers. She then dropped her hand in order to reach out and wrap it around his wrist which wasn't displaying a diamond to a virtual stranger. At her touch, white heat shot through Nick's veins, making his eyes involuntarily flutter shut for several seconds "It's so soon! But I guess, when you know, you know, right? So, yes! Yes, I will marry you, Nick Burkhardt!"
"I… what? No!" Nick looked down at his own hand which, granted, yes, was holding out an engagement ring - showing it off, presenting it… like he was proposing. But he wasn't! "I just… this is what I was doing before I saw you - buying an engagement ring for my girlfriend. But then I saw you," he told her plaintively. Finally meeting Adalind's eyes, he realized that she had just been teasing him. And a part of him already knew that, didn't need to see that amused sympathy in her blue gaze to realize he had overreacted, but, if Nick confessed to that overreaction… even if only to himself, then he'd be forced to confront the reason behind it, and, just like with everything else concerning Adalind since the moment he set eyes upon her, he just couldn't do that - not if he wanted to be okay with himself and his life once he walked away from her.
"I saw you, and I was attracted to you, and, suddenly, I forgot what I was doing and who I was doing it for. And I'm not that guy, Adalind." Snapping the ring box closed and securing it once more in his jacket pocket, Nick reiterated, "I can't be that guy."
"Nick, it's alright. I knew you weren't proposing. And it's alright, too, if you notice other women. It's only natural. And I'm sure your girlfriend - soon to be fiancee - wouldn't hold it against you either." Adalind shrugged her shoulders, offering him a sympathetic grin. "There's a reason the expression 'you can look, but you can't touch' exists, you know."
Voice low and subdued, though still loud enough that Adalind could hear it, Nick murmured, "yeah, I'm not so sure about that… at least, not where you're concerned." She finally let go of his wrist, and, if he shook it slightly to recenter himself and cast aside the lingering ghost of her touch, Nick felt his moment of weakness was justified and earned. "And, with the way Hank, my partner, was taunting me after he caught me… checking you out, I don't believe he'd think so either. And that's why I said what I said about you, why I made those assumptions about your character…."
"Or lack thereof," Adalind interrupted him. The words were accurate though not unkind towards Nick.
"And I'm sorry. I took my own insecurities out on you, a perfectly nice stranger who certainly did not ask to, first, be judged so unfairly and, then, to be hit upon by a man who, apparently, is on the prowl for wife number four."
"Detective Griffin isn't good with relationships?" Adalind feigned surprise, making Nick roll his eyes and chuckle. After they both took a moment to sober… and Adalind took a sip of her drink, she smiled up at him. "And apology accepted, Nick." Quieting once more, Nick watched as Adalind took several steps to close the distance between them. She stopped only when there was just a whisper of space remaining. If Nick would have taken a deep breath, his coat would have brushed against her chest. It took every ounce of restraint he had not to look down at said chest after he made that realization, further supporting his earlier claim that, while it might be safe for him to look at other women, Adalind Schade wasn't just any other woman. "For the record, you didn't get everything right about me, you know."
He didn't need to ask to know which of his assumptions she was referring to. It didn't matter if it was a Mercedes instead of a BMW or if her suit was Chanel rather than Armani. Nick's point in profiling her was to show that she was a successful woman with expensive tastes - materialistic even. Well, rather, his point in profiling her was to distract Hank from realizing just how attractive Nick found the petite blonde, but this just further cemented the fact that all but one of those details he had guessed about Adalind had been pointless. Besides his bias (okay, maybe it was more like a chip on his shoulder) against those with money, how much money Adalind made and the lifestyle she was accustomed to were irrelevant. They didn't determine her character, her priorities, her ideals, or her principles; they didn't tell Nick if she was a good person or not. Instead, in making those quick assumptions, he just proved that he wasn't as nice of a guy as he had thought. Hence, the apology… and everything else that had happened since he had approached her.
No, what Adalind Schade was telling him was that she was single. She waited a beat to see if he would say out loud what they both knew to be true. When Nick didn't, she did. "There is no senior partner. In fact, there is no relationship. Period."
He shouldn't engage. "But there is a someone, isn't there?" But he did.
"No one who would preclude this," and Adalind used her coffee cup to gesture between them, "from happening. And, for the record, Detective, if I was to be in a relationship, I would be the only lawyer in our bed."
It wasn't anything Nick hadn't already realized for himself, and, yet, he still felt the need to reiterate, "yeah, well, there actually is a girlfriend. And I am going to propose to her. I mean, we've been dating for years, and we live together already, so…."
"A word of advice," she offered him, looking up coquettishly from underneath her lashes and biting her bottom lip in amusement. "I'd work on that proposal if I were you."
"You accepted." The smug words were out of Nick's mouth before he could second guess them… let alone before he could reign them back.
What was he doing?
Well, Nick knew what he was doing: he was flirting with her, but, obviously, he had lost his damn mind. He had approached Adalind to apologize, because he had hurt her, and he had hurt her, because, after walking out of a jewelry store with a ring for his girlfriend, he had proceeded to appreciate another woman's looks to the point where he felt guilty enough to deny his attraction through insults. And the worst part? Despite knowing that he was just digging his already insurmountable hole deeper, the burn felt good. He liked flirting with Adalind… even if he didn't like what doing so and enjoying it said about who he was as a man.
"Yes… I did, but your fake proposal was at least spontaneous. The only thing less romantic than telling a girl that you should get married, because it's the next logical step on the relationship list is asking her to marry you, because she's pregnant, and you really don't want to face her father's wrath without a ring on it first." Before Nick could tell her she was wrong, that it wasn't like that between him and Juliette, Adalind pulled a business card out of her attache case, lifted her hand to Nick's chest, slipped the little piece of cardstock into the pocket directly over his heart, and then ran her fingers across the material - ostensibly smoothing it out, but it felt more like an excuse for her to touch him. Again. And Nick? Nick did absolutely nothing to deter her.
From behind them, Hank, whose patience had evidently expired, crassly honked their unmarked car's horn. Neither Nick nor Adalind paid him any heed. "That card has my personal number on it," Adalind told him. "Use it. Call me… if you change your mind about proposing, or if the ring doesn't fit, or if you want to practice what you're going to say on a receptive audience, or if your girlfriend is an idiot and says no."
"Adalind," he warned… yet against what, Nick wasn't sure.
Hank laid into the horn once more, the second time for several unmistakable and obnoxious seconds. Although Nick turned around to glare at his partner and signal for another moment of patience, he didn't step away from Adalind or put some much needed distance between them. Instead, he simply said, "I don't know if that's such a good idea."
She tossed her hair back over her shoulder - the wind having lifted it up and danced it around and into her eyes - and smiled up at him. "It's a great idea."
"I think we've already established the fact that you're a bad influence on me."
Adalind sobered. "Nick, you didn't do anything wrong." He wanted to ask her how, if she was girlfriend, she would react to learning of everything Nick had said and done that afternoon because of another woman, but he didn't, because he was afraid of her answer. He was afraid she'd say that, if she was his girlfriend, then she wouldn't have to worry about another woman turning his head. He was afraid, because what if such an answer was accurate? "There was no touching, remember?" His gaze dropped from her face and zeroed in on those damn fingers of hers which were still smoothing nonsensical patterns against his chest. Adalind shrugged in response. "Okay, so there was a little bit of touching. But only by me. You were a perfect gentleman and kept your hands to yourself."
Well, he had shaken her hand… and then held onto it for far longer than what was considered normal (let alone proper), but Nick didn't point this out. Instead, he said, "I have to go."
He had only managed to take a few steps away before she called out for him. "Nick?" He stopped, took a deep, bracing breath, and then pivoted to face her once more, though he kept the several paces between them. "I'm just kidding, you know." Nick raised his brows in contradiction. "Okay, so I wasn't. I like you. I was attracted to you as soon as I laid eyes on you… which isn't usual for me. And you weren't wrong about me in that I like power and wealth. That's usually what attracts me to a guy, but I wanted you despite the fact that you were obviously a cop and so not my normal type.
"But you have a girlfriend - one that you're planning on proposing to, and I can accept that. I might be a flirt, but I'm nobody's mistress or sidepiece, and I wouldn't want you anyway if that's how you saw me or treated your girlfriend. But… this," she gestured between them, indicating their chemistry and easy conversation. "This kind of instant connection doesn't happen every day, and I don't know about you, but I don't have enough friends to just ignore it. So, propose, and never touch me, and I'll be that friend that occasionally says inappropriate things to you but will never act on them as long as you're already taken. Just… call me."
Nick grinned, nodded in both acceptance of her plea and in goodbye, and then patted his pocket before turning around for good, getting in the car, and leaving.
It wasn't until they were pulling up to the crime scene they'd been called to that Nick realized, upon leaving Adalind, he touched the pocket with her business card, not the pocket which held the engagement ring he had purchased for another woman less than an hour before.
Although the house was dark, Nick could hear soft sounds coming from the kitchen. "Hey," he called out, not waiting for a response before he continued, "I'm… back from work." Back from work? Why didn't he just say that he was home? That's what he always said. But, for some reason, that word - home - couldn't cross his lips. Shaking off the doubt which came with the strange moment, Nick yelled, "I'm just going to take a shower. Be down for dinner in a few."
He took the stairs two at a time, quickly eating up the distance between the foyer and the bedroom he shared with his girlfriend. Their bedroom was dark as well. Out of habit, Nick flicked the switch on Juliette's bedside table lamp, though he didn't really need the light to see. He had long since memorized the space, the paths he took between the door and his dresser, his dresser and the bathroom, the bathroom and the bed. Pausing on the way to the en suite, Nick started to strip. He only managed to peel off the sleeves of his jacket before remembering what he had in his pocket.
He removed the ring first, tossing the box up into the air in silent contemplation. Before he could decide what to do with it - where to put it, when to put it to use, Nick found the left breast pocket of his coat and removed Adalind's business card. With the ring for his girlfriend in one hand and another woman's phone number in the other, Nick just stood there, frozen at the turn - turns - his life had taken that day.
"Hey, I don't hear any water yet." Juliette must have moved silently up the stairs and down the hall, because Nick never noticed her approach. Yet again, he might have just been too distracted and in his own head… which didn't say much about his detective skills but said far too much about his current frame of mind. "If that means you're still dressed… and aren't too gross from work, come downstairs before you shower. There's somebody here to see you." As his girlfriend entered their bedroom, his back was still towards her and the doorway, so she couldn't see what he was holding and looking at.
Nick tensed. It wasn't so much that he didn't want Juliette to see the ring yet; rather, Nick was suddenly nervous about who their guest could be. The first face that flashed through his mind was Adalind's… which was absurd. They'd just met that day, she knew that he was concerned about what a friendship between them would mean for his relationship with his girlfriend, and why would she drop by the house he shared with that very same girlfriend, uninvited and without actual knowledge of where he lived? The thought of Adalind and Juliette meeting filled Nick with dread, but he also had to admit that there was a small part of him that thrilled at the very thought of seeing her again.
This - him, his reaction to Adalind - was becoming ridiculous.
The only other person Nick could imagine stopping by to see him was Hank. His partner would get a kick out of dangling innuendos both about the ring Nick was still holding in his hand and about the woman Nick had met that afternoon after picking up that ring from the jewelers. But Hank was still annoyed with Nick after everything that had happened with Adalind and, in Hank's case, everything that didn't happen with Adalind. After spending the entire day together working their new case, the last place Hank would want to be was at Nick's house.
While most people would consider it sad that Nick could literally count his number of potential visitors on one hand, that was just how Nick had always lived his life. Between losing his parents at a young age and then moving so much with the aunt who had raised him, he never felt the need to form many personal attachments. Although he'd been in Portland for years now, that same nearly solitary existence suited him just fine. He had his work acquaintances - they got along well enough during the day, but, once Nick was off-duty, then his coworkers did not cross over into his personal life, and he had Juliette. Sure, Juliette had friends, and he would sometimes join her for dinners and parties with those friends, but they weren't his friends, and he was okay with that distinction. Maybe he spent much of his time alone, but he wasn't lonely, and that's what made the instant connection he had formed with Adalind just that much more amazing. And potent.
But Nick's solitary, reclusive habits certainly did not help him figure out who might be downstairs, waiting to speak with him. Effecting a casualness he didn't feel in his obliviousness, he asked, "oh, really? Who?"
"Your Aunt Marie."
"Really?!" Without thought to what he was holding, Nick spun around in excitement. Not only was he glad to see his Aunt Marie for her own sake, but it just seemed like fortuitous timing - to have who was essentially his one and only family member there when he asked his girlfriend to become his family as well. "She didn't tell me she was coming for a visit, but this is great!"
Juliette took a step closer to him, worry evident on her sharp features. "Nick, did you know that she's sick; did you know that your Aunt Marie has cancer?"
He shrugged the question and the concern away. "Of course. She told me back when she was first diagnosed. But she'll be fine. Aunt Marie is stronger than she looks."
"Why didn't you tell me," Juliette wanted to know.
By her tone, Nick wasn't sure if she was hurt by him not confiding in her or if she was irked. Neither set the tone between them that he wanted for that evening. "I don't know," he answered. And, really, when his aunt had told him that she was sick, it had never even occurred to Nick that Juliette should be told. "I guess I just didn't think to tell you."
As Juliette stepped away from him, walking further into their room and pacing at the foot of the bed, Nick found himself considering if he'd tell Adalind. Just like with Juliette, there was no reason, really, for him to tell the blonde. Marie's cancer was her business… and his as her nephew… but no one else's if that's how Aunt Marie wanted it. And, no matter how Nick thought about it, he just couldn't picture sitting down to dinner with his girlfriend and telling her about his aunt's illness. They talked about her work, and he told her about Hank's exploits, but they didn't talk about his cases, and they certainly didn't discuss his family… or, at least, what little remained of it. That was… private, sacred, and something he didn't want to color his dating life.
So, then, why could he clearly picture sitting down across from Adalind with a cup of coffee, at dinner, or even just casually relaxing in front of a TV and mentioning to her that his aunt was sick, that he was worried about her, and that somehow translating into Nick confessing childhood stories and memories of growing up with his deceased mom's sister as his sole parental figure? It was this… image, especially in contrast to what his life actually was like with Juliette, that made him blurt out, "I met someone today."
"Okay, so what," Juliette exclaimed, spinning around and tossing up her arms in exasperation. "I meet people everyday. We both do - because of our jobs. I don't see what this has to do with you not telling me that your Aunt Marie was diagnosed with cancer."
"It doesn't have anything to do with Aunt Marie… other than the timing of her visit, and it wasn't like that, meeting her. Adalind."
With arms folded over her chest, his girlfriend complained, "Nick, I don't understand what you're trying to tell me."
In a way, Nick didn't understand either. All he knew was that he needed to tell Juliette about Adalind. Up until that point, he'd been unsure if he'd ever talk to the lawyer again, but he suddenly knew that he would, that, like she beseeched him to consider, he, too, wanted to be her friend; he, too, couldn't walk away from one of the only people in his life who he had ever connected with so easily, so effortlessly. But he was also holding an engagement ring in his hand, and his Aunt Marie was just downstairs, waiting to see him for the first time in years, and all of these factors combined seemed to be pushing him in a direction which didn't make any sense but, at the same time, also seemed inevitable.
With too many thoughts and not enough clarity clouding his mind, Nick took a deep breath and just… started talking. "I didn't meet Adalind because of work. She's not a witness, or a suspect, or a victim. Hank and I were out running errands during our lunch break, and, suddenly, she was just… there."
Pausing long enough to meet Juliette's confused expression, Nick was taken aback when his girlfriend asked, "are you breaking up with me?"
He barked a laugh and then crossed the room to stand in front of Juliette. "The opposite actually," Nick reassured her. Without opening the ring box, he held it up between them. "It took me months to pick this out. I agonized over the color, the cut, the clarity, how big it should be. I had no idea what I was doing, and I thought it'd be just as hard - if not even more so - to come up with a way to give it to you. But then I was talking to Adalind this afternoon - apologizing, really, and I showed it to her, accidentally kind of proposing, and she accepted - jokingly, of course, and I realized that it didn't have to be some elaborate setup or grand gesture, that maybe simple was better. And just now you told me that my Aunt Marie is here, and I realized that the timing is perfect."
It wasn't until Juliette quietly asked, "you showed my engagement ring to another woman before you even showed it to me?," that Nick realized she wasn't looking at him or even the little, black, velvet box he held in his right hand between them but that, instead, her eyes were locked on his left hand - the hand that still held Adalind's business card.
"It wasn't like that," Nick assured her, deciding to snap open the ring box. Too bad Juliette still refused to look at it. "I was coming out of the jewelry store when I first saw her, and Hank….
"Wait, you picked up my engagement ring today, you used my engagement ring to accidentally propose to another woman today, and you felt like the best way to begin this so-called proposal was by telling me that you met someone today?!"
Perhaps he was too lost in the moment (or too lost in trying to convince himself that the moment really did feel right), but it took Juliette's bruised and sarcastic tone for Nick to realize that his girlfriend wasn't just confused; she was also upset. Even after he recognized the fact that he had caused that pain, Nick didn't know how to fix his mistakes or where exactly he had gone wrong. "Well… yeah. I mean, with my Aunt Marie here, I thought it was perfect timing. We can all celebrate together."
With arms extending in front of her… as if to ward him off, Juliette backed away from Nick. "Yeah, that will not be happening - not unless you want to call up this other woman! What did you say her name was, Adalind?!"
Okay, now, he was just getting frustrated, too. With Juliette's hurt turning into indignation and rage, Nick's own irritation spiked. He could admit that he hadn't gone about… anything, really… in the best of ways, but everything, everything that had happened that day, including what was quickly spiraling into a fight instead of a proposal, was directly caused by Nick trying not to be that guy - the guy who, while in a serious relationship, wanted someone else, who looked at other women and couldn't appreciate what he already had. So, not only was Juliette mad at and rejecting him, apparently, but it suddenly felt like all his efforts… and not just those in keeping Adalind at arm's length but also buying a ring for Juliette in the first place… had been for nothing. It was in that anger that he snapped back at his girlfriend, "well, if it was Adalind, at least she would've accepted me, but I'm not proposing to her, Juliette!"
"You kind of already did, apparently," she taunted him, once more hugging herself with her arms wrapped across her chest. "And, for the record, you never actually proposed to me."
"Well, I'm trying," Nick yelled, tossing his own arms up in vexation. "But you won't even look at the ring!"
His girlfriend seemed to shrink in on herself, and any previous heat in her voice disappeared. In fact, he had to strain to hear what she said next. "Because it doesn't feel like my ring; it feels like hers."
Insulted, Nick accused, "you're acting like I cheated, but I wouldn't do that."
He was caught off guard by her question. "What?"
"Why wouldn't you cheat," Juliette clarified.
Nick's own ire disappeared in light of his sorrow. It stung that she even had to ask him that. "Because I'm not that kind of guy. I thought you knew that about me."
"And I thought that the man who wanted to marry me wouldn't cheat, because he didn't want to hurt me."
Nick thought that went without saying. He didn't voice that, however. Instead, he asked, "what does this all mean, Juliette? What exactly are you saying?"
For the first time since their confrontation began, she actually looked him in the eye. "I'm saying that I won't marry you, Nick."
"Ever." He went to respond, to ask what that could possibly mean for their future, when Juliette, in a single sentence, answered any and every question he could possibly have concerning their relationship. "I'm saying that we're over." Calmly, her hands fell down to her sides, and she smoothed her shirt out to precision… as if she couldn't handle the idea of her appearance displaying even an ounce of the emotional turmoil she was feeling in that moment. "It's late. Marie's welcome to stay here this evening, but I think you should sleep elsewhere tonight, and we can start making arrangements for the house tomorrow." With head held high, shoulders proudly rolled back, and disdain dripping from her voice, Juliette started to walk away. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to set up the guest room for your sickaunt. Don't still be here when I get back."
Once Nick was alone, he looked around what had been his bedroom for several years, yet, after a five minute confrontation, he realized it had become a space he no longer recognized. For a moment, he considered grabbing a bag and filling it with a few changes of clothes and some basic toiletries, but he just couldn't make the effort. Instead, he picked up the coat he had just taken off and left, never looking back. The ring - not Juliette's ring; it was just an expensive piece of metal and mineral now - went back into his pocket. He'd worry about that… later. What he didn't put back was Adalind's business card. As he took the stairs back to the foyer and back to the door a different man than who had entered moments before, Nick twirled the fancy piece of cardstock between his blunt digits, spinning it sightlessly.
Where would he go? He could get a hotel room for the night, but that seemed like an extravagant waste of money for a guy who would soon be responsible for half a mortgage and a rent payment. There was always Hank, but an invitation to sleep on his partner's couch would come with the price tag of an explanation, and Nick himself was still trying to wrap his mind around exactly what had happened with Juliette, how, in a matter of hours, he went from purchasing a ring to not just taking a break or even breaking up but completely decimating his relationship. That left him with crashing at the precinct. Physically, it wasn't his most comfortable option, but it was perhaps the least awkward. Plus, he'd be able to get some more work done on his latest case.
"We need to talk."
"Jesus, Aunt Marie!" So much for the thought that, as an adult and a cop, his aunt would no longer be able to sneak up on him. Granted, Nick was more than a little distracted by the thoughts in his own head, but Marie had also been waiting for him in the dark and shadows, silently just standing there, watching him, and leaning on her ubiquitous cane. After taking a moment to gather himself… and take a deep breath, Nick requested, "can it just…. Juliette and I just broke up."
With a crisp nod, Marie told him, "that's probably for the best."
All Nick could do was laugh cynically. "Seriously, that's all you have to say? I mean, I get it. You've always been one for tough love. But I thought you liked Juliette?"
"I barely knew her, Nick, but she seemed like a perfectly fine woman… for someone else." A softer, not sympathetic so much as indulgent expression dulled his aunt's harsh words. "Take a few hours. Clear your head. When you get back, we'll talk. I'll go up now and freshen up before bed, but I think it's best if I stay out in my trailer tonight."
"It's parked out back. You can't miss it. It's part of what I need to speak with you about."
Nick just nodded, not wanting to get into the matter now that his aunt had given him a reprieve. Despite a lifetime of always fighting back, of never giving up, Nick suspected that her battle with cancer had finally worn his Aunt Marie down. If he was right, then she wanted to talk to him about her arrangements. Nick would give her that. Even though he wasn't ready to just give up on his aunt, if having a plan in place would give her peace and allow her to focus on what was really important - healing, getting better, then he'd have that talk with her. But not that night, not right on top of his breakup with Juliette. Nick would give them both the evening, and then maybe he'd take the next day off, case or no case, and go with his aunt to her doctor's appointment. A day off would also give him the chance to return the ring in his pocket and put that money towards a new place to live.
"You know, Juliette said you can stay in the spare room tonight."
Marie rolled her eyes. "Oh, how generous of her - permitting me to stay in my nephew's guest room." Allowing the warmth she only showed him to shine through, his aunt reached up with her free hand to cup his cheek. "Go. I'll be fine here, and I'll see you soon."
Nick pressed his own hand to hers, squeezed, and then flashed his aunt an appreciative grin before, without another word shared between them, he slipped silently out of the door and onto the front porch. There, he paused, the light on the side of the house illuminating the night enough for Nick to read the name and number on the business card he still held. Retrieving his phone from the pocket of his pants, he pressed the name of an oft-called contact.
"Detective Burkhardt… who is supposed to be off duty, what can I do for you this fine evening?"
"You still at work, Wu?"
"Well, considering the fact that you called my work number and are not in possession of the number to my personal cell, I'd say that question's pretty open and shut."
Ignoring the sergeant's sarcasm, Nick said, "I need you to run a name for me and get me an address." While Wu asked for a moment to get a pen and offered up some more unsolicited teasing, Nick reflected on how he had been lying to himself the entire time he considered where he'd spend his night. As soon as the death knell had sounded on his relationship with Juliette, Nick had known exactly where and with whom he'd sleep that night.
"What's the name," Wu came back on the line, dragging Nick away from his much needed moment of self-honesty.
Nick didn't even get a chance to knock before the door was wrenched open before him by a flushed and out of breath Adalind. "Oh god, finally!," she groaned in appreciation. With one hand, she grabbed him by the front of his jacket and pulled him inside; with the other, she slammed the door shut behind him. Briefly, he noticed that, while she was still in her work clothes, she was no longer quite so put together. Her suit jacket had been shed, her blouse untucked, and her stilettos were nowhere in sight, leaving her barefoot and just that much more diminutive. It was attractive. Seductive. Nick wasn't an overly tall man, but, next to Adalind, he felt like a giant, and that physical dominance tugged at a deeply rooted instinct inside of him to protect, to provide, to possess. He had never experienced it before with any other woman he had dated, but Nick was instantly addicted to the feeling. While raising up onto the very tips of her toes, Adalind used the grip she still had on his coat to pull Nick down to her. Just before their mouths met, she breathed out the complaint, "ugh, what took you so long." But then she was kissing him. And he was kissing her. And Nick didn't really think either of them wanted him to pause long enough to answer her question.
The kiss they shared was filthy.
It was wet. There was no foreplay. Almost immediately, Nick opened his mouth to Adalind's. At first, she toyed with him, running her tongue over his, tasting him, but then he realized that, while she was doing those things, she was also drawing him further towards her, coaxing him to claim her mouth just as she had already claimed his. Before Nick could slip his tongue between her lips, Adalind licked him - the cool of the air and the heat of her making him shiver. He wasn't cold, though - far from it, in fact. There was a warmth like none other Nick had ever experienced surging through his veins. Neither of them blinked, their gazes staying absolutely locked on one another's the entire time their mouths coupled. It was the most alive he had ever felt, and they hadn't even touched yet. Not really.
The sound of his coat - more accurately, that of the little, velvet box inside one of its pockets - landing against the hardwood floors finally reminded Nick that he needed to breathe. As he tore his lips away from Adalind's - chest heaving, hands shaking, head spinning, she took that as an invitation to lead him further into her home. Even as Adalind turned around, she never let go of him, the digits of her right hand trailing down from his shoulder, to his chest, to his belt before she slid them over to braid them with the fingers of his left hand. With his hold stretching across the front of his body and Adalind's reaching diagonally behind her, she didn't stop them until they were standing in front of her bed, Nick's back to the luxurious expanse.
Incredulous, he asked, "don't you want to know what happened?" If the roles were reversed - if they had just met that afternoon, and she was the one in a relationship - about to propose, and then suddenly showed up on his doorstep hours later, Nick would certainly have questions. He would need answers before he could take what was happening between them any further. "Why I'm here?"
As Adalind spoke, she started to undress him, the buttons of his shirt slipping effortlessly free beneath her intent grip. "You're here, because you want to be, because you have to be." His button-up hadn't even hit the floor yet before Adalind was insistently pushing the t-shirt he wore beneath it up his torso, and Nick obediently did the rest, pulling his arms and head free before balling up the cotton material and tossing it aside. Next, Adalind's talented touch moved to his belt. "And I already know what happened. Maybe not the details - either you changed your mind, or she said no, but it's over between the two of you, and that's all that I care about. You wouldn't be here yet otherwise."
For some reason, he felt the need to push her. "That's it?" To make sure that she knew what she was doing. "Half an hour ago, I was proposing to another woman. Now, I'm here - half a minute away from having sex with you."
Roughly, Adalind tugged his belt free of his pants, throwing it down onto the floor like a whip. "You might have proposed, but you were never hers." She unbuttoned his jeans, unzipped them, and then, taking his boxer-briefs down with the denim, pushed his pants to his ankles. As Nick kicked off his boots, socks, jeans, and underwear, leaving him completely naked and exposed while Adalind was still mostly dressed, she said, "from the moment you laid eyes on me, I owned you. You're mine, Nick Burkhardt."
And then with a powerful shove that belied her petite frame, Adalind propelled him backwards onto her bed, Nick at least having the presence of mind to catch himself with his elbows so he could be aware and present enough to see what she would do next, especially how she would respond to his next question. "And what about you? Do you belong to me, too?"
While Adalind answered him, she slowed down her words. With each slip of a tiny button, with each sway of her hips from side to side as she torturously slid down her pencil skirt inch by inch, she responded, "Well, I don't know, Nick." By the time she was standing before him in just her lingerie, it took every molecule of restraint Nick possessed to not just grab her and rip the delicate wisps of lace from her creamy skin. If he wasn't enjoying the temptation, the view of Adalind touching herself as she undressed for him, so much, he would have done just that.
"Maybe," she posed, reaching behind her to unclasp her bra. Adalind pushed her shoulders inward so that the gauzy fabric fell forward off her body and onto the floor, revealing her already swollen and erect with desire nipples for Nick's viewing pleasure. Next, the tiny, white scrap of material that was her matching panties slid down her toned legs, leaving Adalind in nothing but her garter belt, garters, and stockings. After unsnapping the garters from the tops of her thigh-highs, Adalind lifted first her left leg to the bed; bent over it so that her breasts would swing free as she rolled the silky hose down over her knee, past her calf, over her ankle, and then, finally, free of her painted toes; and then repeated her brutally seductive actions with her left leg as well.
"Maybe you should take me," she challenged him, baited him. She stood up straight once again and then did a little shimmy which made both Nick moan and her garter belt and garters fall to the floor. Finally, blessedly naked, Adalind got onto her hands and knees and crawled up the bed until their bodies were perfectly aligned. He was painfully hard for her, leaking precum for her, and Adalind took advantage of just how ready his body was to have her. Without preamble, she took hold of his cock, positioned it at her wet and willing entrance, and then took him inside of her in one demanding, downward thrust. "And make me yours."
Nick did just that.
It was hard, and it was fast, and it was dirty, and it was the best fucking sex of Nick's life. Of Adalind's, too. Nick didn't have to ask or be told to know that truth. Never before had he had a sexual experience where not only did he give all of himself, but he also took everything that he wanted from the woman as well. And, holy shit, was it satisfying! Adalind's body fit his. Her round, plump, perky breasts filled his hands, and the way that the round globes of her ass sat in the cradle of his thighs as she rode him mesmerized Nick. Everything he wanted to do to her, he did; and everything he did, she responded to… which was gratifying beyond belief.
When he fondled, and pinched, and sucked on her nipples, she begged him for more. When he massaged her asscheeks, she clamped down on his dick even harder and moaned his name. When Nick marked her - when he laved the delicate piece of flesh where Adalind's neck met her left shoulder, bit down on it, she bent down over him, changing the angle of their coupling and returned the favor. When he slipped a hand between her legs and felt their bodies joining together in the most base, primal, and beautiful of ways before finding her clit with his thumb and rubbing it until she screamed herself hoarse in release, Adalind watched him give her the ultimate pleasure… just as her own climax, with one last surge of Nick's cock into her clenching, spasming heat, triggered his own, eyes wide open. It was the most intense orgasm of Nick's life, and it would prove to both damn and save him until the day he died.
Adalind's bright, gorgeous, alive face seemed to waver, and then it melted into a decayed mockery of itself. Even as Nick was still emptying his release into Adalind's warmth, he realized he was no longer looking at the pretty, blonde lawyer he had met that day but, instead, a corpse - a living and breathing, teeth gnashing, snarling corpse. And either Adalind felt the unbelievable change herself, or there was something in Nick's gaze which frightened her, because, before he could react, before he could scream, before he could get away from her, she wrenched herself off of him and threw herself off of the bed, scrambling backwards until the walls of her room prevented her from getting even further away from him. At least she no longer looked like a monster, the face of a corpse disintegrating back into her normal features after just a few seconds.
"Your eyes!," she shrieked in accusation.
At the same time, Nick yelled, "your face!," all the while, reaching for the bedsheets, or blanket, or something - anything - to cover himself… only to realize, in their haste, they'd never even made it under the covers. So, instead, he had to settle for a pillow which felt entirely inadequate for the situation at hand. Adalind, however, didn't even have that much to cover herself with. Rather, she seemed to try to make herself as small as possible, pulling her legs into her chest and wrapping her arms around the back of her thighs. "What the hell did you do?!"
"Me," she protested hotly, glaring at him. "You caused this! You're the grimm… and, apparently, one that can hide his true nature until the worst possible moment. Ever!"
If Adalind hadn't reacted the way she did, Nick would have just thought it was him, that he was insane, that a lifetime of loss and a really strange day had finally caught up with him, and he had officially lost his mind. But now Adalind was also talking nonsense, and he wondered if maybe she was the crazy one. Or maybe they were both certifiable - her for what she was saying and him for listening, not to mention their completely irresponsible and irrational behavior together since the moment they had met that afternoon. "A what? What did you call me?"
"A grimm," she repeated… like that would actually clarify anything. When Nick didn't respond, when he just kept intently watching her, waiting for something to make sense again, Adalind offered, "and I'm a hexenbiest." He didn't say anything, but that seemed to make Adalind relax somewhat. Her arms fell back to her sides, and she sat up straight, head tilting to the side in observation and with apparently no embarrassment towards her state of undress. Shocked and… indignant on his behalf, she asked, "you have no idea what you are, do you?"
"What I am," Nick parroted, laughing uncomfortably. "I'm pretty sure I'm human."
"You mean kehrseite," Adalind threw another strange word at him, chuckling herself. "And no. You're as far from being a kehrseite as I am." Sobering and not waiting for him to ask another question, she guessed, "you're not an orphan by any chance, are you?"
"I am," Nick said slowly, staring amazed as Adalind stood and began to pace in thought, apparently comfortable in her nudity once again… at least in front of him. "My parents both died when I was twelve, though my aunt raised me."
She paused, turned to face him, and asked, "is your aunt sick, dying?"
"Cancer," Nick replied automatically. He was now more curious as to how she knew these things about him than he was appalled at what she had become moments before, and he was starting to believe that while they both might be crazy, what he had seen and what she was saying wasn't actually a part of that insanity. "She's here in Portland for treatment and to visit. She said we need to talk."
"Get dressed," Adalind ordered him, bending over to pick up his pants and tossing them in his direction. She was too distracted with her own hasty movements to find clothes to even notice that her aim had been on point, the denim smacking Nick in the face. "We need to see your aunt now. As soon as possible. Before it's too late."
Although he did as she told him to and got dressed, Nick still wondered in a panic, "what do you mean before it's too late?"
With her own jeans on but not fastened and bra dangling from her left hand, Adalind paused long enough to explain, "look, normally, grimms and hexenbiests? Not exactly friends, let alone lovers. What we just did? Totally not normal wesen activity."
Adalind ignored his interruption and question. "I'm guessing it triggered your grimm abilities… which says a hell of a lot about my abilities between the sheets and tells me that you might have the capacity to be a different kind of grimm. A better kind of grimm." Adalind seemed to shake off her own line of thought, changing directions in what she was saying while, at the same time, going back to getting dressed.
As she shrugged her bra on and hooked it sightlessly behind her back, she told him, "the fact that your grimm was dormant for this long also suggests that, if your aunt had never gotten sick, we could have had mind-blowing sex tonight without you sneaking a peek at my inner monster and vice-versa. My guess," she offered him as she, without asking, slipped his button-up on and started fastening it, "is that, in the moment when we climaxed, something happened with your aunt. She was either attacked, or she took a turn for the worse because of her illness. That, combined with your… intimate proximity to a powerful wesen, resulted in your grimm being triggered."
Adalind moved towards her walk-in closet, disappeared for a few seconds, and then came back out, carrying a pair of ballet flats. "If she told you that you needed to talk, I'm thinking she knew her time was limited. Let's just hope that she's not dead yet, because this is all supposition on my part. She has so much she still needs to explain to you, and, while I know of grimms, I was taught to fear them, not to know them."
Grabbing his own socks and boots, Nick sat at the end of her bed to put on his shoes. As he untied, pulled on, and then re-tied his boots, he asked her, "why were you taught to fear grimms?" The word - grimms - felt weird against his tongue, but, at the same time, it felt more right than it should as well.
"Grimms kill wesen, especially hexenbiests," Adalind stated simply, shrugging her shoulders as though the answer was obvious.
"So, if I'm to believe you," Nick said, standing and reaching for his t-shirt. He slipped it over his head, realizing that he'd have to settle for just the thin cotton, for Adalind had taken his long sleeved shirt. "Then my aunt has killed… your kind." He couldn't bring himself to say wesen or hexenbiests yet. "Yet, you obviously plan on going with me to speak with my aunt. You don't seem upset about what we just did here." He motioned towards the bed behind him. "Hell, you're wearing my shirt."
Adalind grinned cheekily, burrowing further into the confines of her borrowed top. "It smells like you."
Yes, because that explained so much.
Before Nick could complain or push her for more information, his phone rang. Automatically, he reached for the pocket where he kept it, but it wasn't here, having fallen out sometime while Adalind was either undressing him or throwing his pants at his face. Scooping the cell up off of the floor, he answered it after a quick glance at the screen. "Burkhardt," he greeted Hank.
Whether as a supposed wesen Adalind had increased hearing capabilities or the timing of the call alone was enough to tell her that they were running out of time, she was already heading out of her bedroom and back towards the front door, Nick hot on her heels, before he had finished his short conversation with his partner.
It's your Aunt Marie. She was attacked. There was a fight. The other guy's dead, Nick.
Is she still alive?
Yeah. But just barely. Paramedics took her to the hospital.
We'll be right there.
"Come on," Adalind ordered him. But she wasn't being bossy, just helpful. Reaching into one of his front jean's pockets, she removed his keys. In any other situation, the gesture would have been meant to seduce, and Nick would have dragged her back to the bedroom for round two, temporary dead corpse face or not, but, in that moment, it was just Adalind taking care of him. "I'll drive."
Although the doctor had told him, them - Adalind was still with him, that his aunt was conscious, by the time they made it into her room, she'd already fallen back to sleep. Nick didn't wake her. Instead, he simply took a seat beside her and clasped one of her hands between both of his. Respectfully, Adalind stood off to the side, silently observing him as he shared a moment with his aunt. "Why didn't you tell me," Nick whispered to her without expecting a response.
And he didn't get one.
After a while, he bent forward and rested his head against his hands, and Adalind leaned against the far wall. The room was still, the hospital oddly silent. Although it was late, Nick still expected to hear calls come over the PA system, but there was nothing. The quiet should have been soothing, for it allowed him to hear every breath his aunt took and every pump of her still beating heart. But it wasn't soothing, because, rather than giving Nick the answers he craved, it allowed his mind to run rampant. If Adalind wasn't in the room with him - and Nick wasn't sure if her presence was bracing because of the support she offered or because he just didn't want to embarrass himself in front of her, he might have had a panic attack.
"Nick, is there…?" Adalind's unexpected words, her voice breaking the hush, made him look up at her. Tentatively, she crossed the room and approached the other side of his aunt's hospital bed. "I think there's something in her hand."
Just as Adalind was about to touch Marie's closed fist, his aunt, voice icier than Nick had ever heard it before, threatened ominously, "don't touch it, witch." Nick's eyes flew to his aunt's face only to find her wide awake and glaring at his… whatever Adalind was to him. A beat passed, and then his aunt calmed somewhat, her menace replaced by hesitance and doubt. "You didn't woge?"
Adalind proudly folded her arms across her chest. "You didn't surprise me, and you don't scare me."
"Just because I'm in this bed," and Marie started to sit up in emphasis of her warning.
Nick, however, quickly stood up and gently pressed her back down. "You're not going to kill her."
She turned on him, narrowing her eyes. "You don't know what she is," his Aunt Marie protested.
Retaking his seat and noticing that, out of the corner of his eye, Adalid had also withdrawn back to her position against the far wall, he shocked his only living relative by proclaiming, "she's wesen - a hexenbiest, and I'm... we're, apparently, grimms - grimms who kill indiscriminately anything and anyone who aren't human and who may be different than we are. Do you realize how wrong that is?" When Marie went to say something else, no doubt in protest to his stance that she couldn't murder Adalind - that they shouldn't automatically kill anyone who was wesen, Nick wouldn't let her get a word in edgewise. "Just because you know what she is, that does not mean you know who she is."
With a tone displaying a patience quickly thinning, Marie remarked, "I don't need to know her to know that she needs to die, Nick. Because we're grimms, we can see wesen for what they really are, and hexenbiests are the worst of the worst. You can't let her live. She'll destroy you."
Adalind scoffed, speaking for the first time since his aunt woke up. "I'm not the one who sent a grimm out there without any idea of who he was, what he was capable of, or what some wesen would try to do to him if they discovered what he was. I'm the one - me, an evil hexenbiest - who finally told him the truth."
Marie studied her closely and then turned accusing eyes on Nick. "That's," and she gestured towards Adalind, "why you broke up with Juliette?"
Nick shrugged defensively. "You said that was a good thing!"
"Not if it was for a hexenbiest!"
"Look," Adalind stepped forward, coming to stand at the end of Marie's bed. "Think of me what you will. I don't care. But Nick's not ready for this. You haven't prepared him. And, whether you believe it or not, I'm not going to destroy him. In fact, I'm going to do everything within my power - and I think we both know that's quite significant - to keep him alive and safe."
As if he was no longer in the room, Nick's Aunt Marie only addressed Adalind. "What's in it for you?"
Adalind smirked and quirked her brows upwards in a challenging manner. "Hopefully more orgasms than I can handle."
Marie snorted, unimpressed. "Please, we both know that's not what drives your kind. You want power, status, success, wealth."
"What's more powerful than a grimm," Adalind countered, leaning forward over his aunt's feet to boldly meet her aggressively assessive gaze. "As for everything else? I'm more than capable of getting those for myself."
"So what, a hexenbiest and a grimm are just going to live happily ever after?"
Without missing a beat, Adalind met his aunt's derisive challenge. "I know this isn't a fairy tale. It's not going to be easy. But, when I met Nick, I didn't know what he was, and he didn't know what I was. We were just two people who connected. Maybe the monster inside of me recognized the monster inside of him, I don't know. And I don't care. Because what I do know is that I have never before reacted to someone the way I reacted to Nick, and I'm not going to give that up, give him up, because you, and history, and the entire wesen community are against us."
During their entire back and forth, Nick's gaze had ricocheted between the two women as they talked, but, as Adalind took her stand and laid all of her cards out on the table, he found himself watching his Aunt Marie instead, and what he saw was both surprising and heartening. He saw her features shift from annoyance, to frustration, to doubt, and then finally settle into grudging respect. From the tight grimace of her lips, he knew that regard was a bitter pill to swallow. Luckily Nick had been observing her closely, because, as quickly as that respect appeared, it was replaced by curiosity. "If meeting you didn't trigger his grimm, how did you come to be here with my nephew after revealing to him the truth about his heritage?"
Adalind grinned cheekily, telling Nick that he wouldn't like what was about to come out of her mouth next. Before he could stop her, though, she was already telling the woman who raised him, "oh, don't worry, I still popped his grimm cherry. He just wasn't triggered and I didn't woge until we were having sex." Nick was already sputtering in protest against Adalind's penchant for oversharing when she continued with, "actually, if we want to be precise, it happened after we had sex - at the very end… if you catch my meaning."
His aunt turned to him, aghast, "oh god, please tell me you were at least smart enough to use protection!"
"Jesus, Aunt Marie!" The harshness of his words could only be surpassed by the harshness of reality slapping Nick in the face. Not before, not during, not even after had Nick once thought about protection while with Adalind, and that was not like him. In fact, that had never once before been him. He'd always been careful, always made sure that last barrier - physical and emotional - between him and the woman he was sleeping with was there… even if in a committed relationship.
He would have thought the rebuke would be enough to prevent Adalind from actually answering his aunt's question. And Nick would have been wrong. "A condom? No," the blonde replied easily. She even threw in a dismissive flip of her hand for added effect. If Nick wanted to try and find a positive, at least she was honest. To a fault. "But I'm on birth control. I'm not an idiot!"
"Says the hexenbiest who is, apparently, dating a grimm." Before either Nick or Adalind could comment, his aunt turned to him, brought her far hand across his body, and then held out to Nick what appeared to be an old fashioned key. From off to his side, Adalind gasped when she saw what Marie had been holding. "I'm fading fast, Nick; I don't have much time left. You need to take this, never lose it, and guard it with your life. They're looking for it."
"Who," he questioned. Although it went unvoiced, Nick also wanted to ask 'why,' because it was just a gaudy piece of junk.
It was Adalind and not his aunt, however, who answered. Reverently, she breathed out, "everyone," obviously recognizing what his aunt was placing in his care.
"Nick, you need to know," Marie started, her voice changing once more. It became softer, more gentle, more like the tone she once used with him when he was still grieving the loss of his parents. Thinking about his mom and dad made him wonder if they'd known about all this - wesen, grimms. Were either or both of them grimms, too? But Marie's strength was quickly leaving her, her words separated by labored breaths, so he left these questions unasked. When she spoke again, he wasn't sure if she had always intended to tell him the truth that passed by her lips or if she had somehow read the inquiries flashing through his mind. "Your parents didn't die in a crash; they were killed."
"I…," he glanced at Adalind, but she looked just as lost as he was if not also sympathetic, " … what?"
"It's the misfortune of our family. Your grandfather had it, your mother had it, I have it, and now you have it, too. There's so much I still need to tell you."
"That's why you never should have kept it from him in the first place," Adalind spoke up, chastising his aunt. Marie didn't argue with her. "He should have been learning about his grimm and how to use it his entire life!"
Standing, Nick finally took the key held in his aunt's still outstretched hand before walking over to stand behind Adalind. As Marie talked, Nick skimmed Adalind's long, blonde hair to the side, unhooked her necklace, and then slid the key onto it. A shocked Adalind gaped at him and his actions, but his aunt merely continued to tell him what little she still could. "Go back to the house and get my trailer. Move it. Everything you need to know, you'll find inside of it." Finishing what he started, Nick turned a still stunned Adalind towards him and buttoned up his shirt that she was wearing until the necklace was no longer visible. When Marie spoke again, her words were for Adalind and not him. "Keep him safe." There was a silent 'or else' attached to her directive, though they all knew there was nothing Marie could do against Adalind at that point.
Adalind still took the edict seriously and to heart. "I will. I promise."
Nick looked back towards the woman who had raised him after his parents were, apparently, murdered only to find her eyes closed. For a second, he panicked, reacting emotionally rather than rationally and fearing that, after believing Adalind would protect him, his aunt had stopped fighting and slipped away from him. But then Adalind was there, and she was taking his hand, and she was reassuring him that, at least for now, his Aunt Marie was still alive. "She's just sleeping," she whispered to him, obviously not wanting to wake the older woman. And then, with her assurances, Nick came back to his senses. He noticed the steady rise and fall of his aunt's chest; he heard the life-affirming, rhythmic tone of her heartbeat being recorded and tracked on the machines next to her hospital bed.
"Come on," Adalind told him, pulling him out into the hallway. "We'll do as your aunt said. We'll pick up her trailer, and we'll take it back to my place." A small, mischievous grin turned up the corners of Adalind's naturally pink lips. "My neighbors will have a fit. It'll be fun."
While it went unsaid, Adalind taking in his aunt's trailer meant that he would also be staying with her that night… just as, hours later, he had hoped, as he had intended, to happen. So many things had changed that evening, and, yet, some things, including his attraction to the tiny, blonde lawyer at his side, remained the same.
By the time he and Adalind got his Aunt Marie's trailer back to her place, they were both exhausted. So, they made sure the trailer was secure, and they started shedding their clothes as soon as her front door was shut and locked behind them, and then they crawled into bed together, completely naked with one another - both physically and emotionally.
Nick was wrapped around her, Adalind's much smaller body fitting snuggly into his. She was already asleep, and, though he wanted to join her, Nick couldn't shut off his mind. He kept thinking about that moment when he first saw her and, more importantly, that moment when he couldn't walk away from her. That afternoon, Nick told himself it was because it was the right thing to do, but he now knew that his rationalizing hadn't exactly been honest or true.
While he still would never want to hurt her, Nick didn't walk away from Adalind that afternoon, because he simply couldn't. He needed to meet her, he needed to flirt with her, he needed her to be there in the back of his mind when he proposed to Juliette, he needed her to be the reason why Juliette turned down his proposal and broke up with him, he needed to go to her that night, he needed to sleep with her, he needed to see her woge, he needed her to be the one to finally expose his true, grimm nature, and he needed her to be there by his side when his aunt finally confirmed the truth of his family's ancestry. He just needed her. Period.
He still did, probably always would.
So, Nick Burkhardt, detective and grimm, wasn't about to let go of Adalind Schade, lawyer and hexenbiest, anytime soon.