At first there was just the sound of enormous wings flapping in the darkness - soon after, two piercing yellow eyes appeared, staring unblinkingly at him. Only then did the talons - black as onyx, sharp as knives - slash through the air.
Nick could feel each talon slicing through him as if he were made of paper, all in excruciatingly slow motion. He tried to scream, to run, to make it stop, but found to his horror that he could not move a single inch. He was trapped there, forced to watch as the talons cut deeper and deeper and -
Then he was screaming, and though the pain seemed to have abated, Nick found that he couldn't stop. Suddenly, the darkness surrounding him was broken up by a burst of warm light, and there were strong hands gripping his shoulders, coaxing him back into the present.
Nick's vision focused slowly in on his surroundings, and he was relieved beyond all measure upon realizing that it was Monroe's face staring back at him. Monroe's mouth seemed to be forming the same word over and over again, and after a minute he was able to make out what it was. "Nick? Nick?"
"Monroe?" Nick asked tentatively, extending a hand in front of him to verify that he had, in fact, stopped dreaming.
Monroe nodded and raised a hand to run it soothingly through Nick's hair. "Just me," he said quietly, making sure to keep his eyes trained on Nick. "You're safe now - it was only a dream."
Nick nodded shakily and let his eyes close for a few moments, overcome by a sudden wave of exhaustion. He felt the hand Monroe still had tangled in his hair tug gently on the back of his neck, pulling him down so that his head was resting on the blutbad's chest.
After a few moments, Nick shifted so his head was nestled in Monroe's neck. "It was...the Falkefrau," he said quietly, swallowing hard. "She...those talons...I couldn't move...I couldn't..."
Monroe made a few low, shushing noises as he began to run his hands up and down Nick's back. "It's all right," he said softly after a minute, pressing his lips lightly to Nick's forehead. "She's gone now, and I promise, she won't be coming back."
"You can't know that for sure," Nick objected, though Monroe's words warmed him nonetheless.
"Actually, now that you mention it...I can," Monroe said, sounding pleased with himself.
"What do you mean?" Nick asked, reluctantly pulling back just far enough to get a good look at Monroe's face.
"Well, while you were taking your little catnap earlier," Monroe began, having evidently decided that Nick was recovered enough to be mocked.
"Oh, you mean recovering from my near-fatal injuries?" Nick asked sarcastically, "Yes, do go on."
"I spent the time going through your books looking for any more information on Falkefrauen," Monroe continued, pointedly ignoring Nick's outburst.
"Mrs. Sims said you were spending the time pacing and worrying about me," Nick said teasingly, placing a light kiss to Monroe's jawbone.
"Well...I may have been multi-tasking just a bit," Monroe admitted, turning his head quickly so Nick's next kiss caught him full on the lips.
"Mmm, what were you saying about my books?" Nick asked, breaking the kiss after a minute.
"I don't remember," Monroe said quickly, leaning in again, "can't have been very important."
Nick's laugh was cut off abruptly by Monroe's lips on his, but after a few minutes he pulled away again, albeit with extreme reluctance, to say, "No, come on, I want to know. And you know you want to show off, Sherlock."
Monroe's lips quirked up into a smile as he said with an impatient sigh, "Fine, if you really want to know..."
"Oh, I do, I do," Nick said earnestly.
"I found a note on the defeat of Falkefrauen in the back of one of the other volumes. Although it has never been officially confirmed, apparently the prevailing theory among your kind is that they cannot be killed by Grimms at all," Monroe explained.
"And this is supposed to comfort me, how?" Nick asked skeptically.
"Elementary, my dear Watson," Monroe said with a superior smirk.
"Hey," Nick said, shoving him a little, "Why am I Watson?"
"You're the one who decided I was Holmes, and if you follow the logic from there..." Monroe replied, adding quickly when it looked like Nick was going to hit him again, "Anyway, as I was saying, though they cannot be killed by Grimms, there is one force on earth that Falkefrauen are completely powerless against."
"Which is?" Nick asked, now curious enough to overlook Monroe's casting of him as the assistant in their investigative pair.
"Their victims," Monroe explained. "If the poor unfortunate whose soul the Falkefrau has been draining ever finds enough courage to stand up to her, it is thought that her powers will be reflected, causing her to wither slowly into nothingness."
"And you think that's what happened to Dorothy Vogel," Nick said slowly, trying to wrap his head around the idea of it, "when Henry chased her off in the woods...and that's why she won't be back."
"For her sake, I hope so," Monroe said darkly, his expression suddenly serious, "Or she'll have me to contend with, in which case a taste of her own medicine will be the least of her problems."
"What happened to being reformed?" Nick asked, surprised. "That sort of thing doesn't violate your code?"
"She hurt you," Monroe said, voice hard, eyes gleaming with just a tinge of red. "That overrides any moral scruples I might otherwise have about the matter."
Nick knew in the back of his mind that Monroe's statement should probably have been making him feel a bit apprehensive, yet that wasn't the case. On the contrary, the matter-of-fact way Monroe had sworn to cause pain to anyone who tried to hurt him was sending strange, little waves of warmth through Nick's entire body.
On impulse, he leaned up to kiss Monroe again - light and lingering this time. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, pulling back after a minute to lay his forehead against Monroe's.
"For what?" Monroe asked, his brow furrowing slightly in confusion.
"For scaring you earlier," Nick explained, skimming his fingers over Monroe's cheek. "But I promise, Monroe, I promise that I'm not going anywhere. Look, I can't even feel - whoa."
Nick's attempt to show Monroe how much the lacerations had healed had the unintended consequence of completely derailing his train of thought. He stared in amazement at the place on his abdomen where the faded pink scars should have been, where instead there was only smooth skin.
"I don't understand," Monroe said, the look of disbelief on his face a perfect mirror of the one on Nick's.
"I think I might," Nick said slowly, turning it over in his mind. "When she was patching me up, Mrs. Sims kept subtly insisting that I have more tea. I think she put something in it."
"You're just lucky she likes you, then," Monroe said with a wry smile, his fingers beating a faint tattoo against the newly healed spot on Nick's abdomen. "But wait, no, that doesn't add up - if kupperlins have mastery over that kind of healing magic, why would they confine themselves to matters of the heart?"
"She said something else as well," Nick mused thoughtfully. "That kupperlin magic is rooted in the place where it's practiced. Maybe she does have extraordinary power, but only within the walls of the inn. It would explain how she was able to wield such control over Dorothy Vogel."
"And why she didn't want us to go wandering in the woods!" Monroe chimed in. "She knew once we passed the boundaries of these walls, she couldn't protect us anymore."
"Do you know what this means?" Nick asked after a minute, sitting up excitedly.
"You get to be Sherlock now?" Monroe asked, crossing his arms.
"No," Nick said impatiently, waving him off, "I mean, that goes without saying, but no - I get to add my very first entry to the Grimm books! It's all been following in footsteps up until now, but now...now its like I'm a real Grimm!"
"I should not find you geeking out about Grimmery this adorable," Monroe said with a laugh and a shake of the head.
"I need to find a pen...ooh, or a quill! Monroe, you don't happen to have a quill on you, do you?" Nick asked, still looking around animatedly.
"Darn, I think I left it in my other pants," Monroe said in a tone of mock dejection. "Why don't we put off the quill hunt until we get back to Portland, hmm? Even with the seemingly miraculous healing powers of the good Mrs. Sims, you are still badly in need of a good night's rest."
Nick shifted his glance between Monroe and the books for a few moments, looking torn, before giving in with a little sigh and settling himself once more on Monroe's chest.
"You take good care of me, Monroe," Nick murmured contemplatively after a little while, absently winding his fingers through the blutbad's. "Without you, I don't think I would have lasted a week as a Grimm without getting myself disemboweled by a Jagerbar or crushed by a Lausenschlange...that is if the Reapers didn't find me first." An involuntary shiver ran through Nick's body at the thought of them.
"Well, it's a good thing my presence is apparently necessary to your continued well-being," Monroe said lightly, though he made a point of holding Nick a little tighter, "because I'm afraid you're stuck with me now."
"Oh, I am, huh?" Nick asked, not even trying to suppress his smile.
"Yep," Monroe said decidedly before adding, "Now, will you be going to sleep on your own or do I have to break out the Blutbad Nerve Pinch?"
"You're bluffing," Nick mumbled sleepily, "That's not real - you stole it from Star Trek."
"Yeah, well," Monroe said, his voice signaling to Nick that he was smiling, too, "maybe they stole it from us, you ever think of that?"
Nick let out a little laugh, which turned somehow into a contented sigh as he murmured, "Good night, Monroe."
Monroe ran a hand affectionately through Nick's hair as he replied softly, "Good night, Nick."
The next few hours passed without incident, including, Nick was grateful to note, any more terrifying nightmares about the Falkefrau.
So when the morning sun began streaming through the curtains, Nick was pleasantly surprised to wake up with Monroe's arms still firmly around him.
"Mmm, no Pilates this morning?" he asked, snuggling closer lest Monroe take his reminder as a suggestion to leave.
"Oh, I think I got quite enough exercise last night to last me for a couple days," Monroe said mischievously, "don't you?"
"You know," Nick said, glancing down at his watch, "we do have an hour until breakfast. We could probably bank enough exercise to last you a couple more days."
"It would be a very efficient use of our time," Monroe agreed with a twinkle in his eye.
Nick barely had time to lay his lips on Monroe's, however, before there was once again a knock at the door.
After deciding the likelihood that their visitor would go away if they did nothing was quite low, Nick rolled off Monroe with an irritated sigh, threw on one of the provided bathrobes from the closet, and swung open the door, intending to inform their caller that this was not a good time.
What he was not prepared for, however, was Henry Vogel shouting out, "Nick!" in an excited tone and throwing his arms around his midsection in an aggressive hugging maneuver.
"Er...hi, Henry," Nick said, pivoting them both so he could mouth What the hell? at Monroe, to which Monroe responded with barely concealed silent laughter.
"Oh Nick," Henry exclaimed, when he finally broke off the hug, "I'm so glad you're all right! If anything had happened to you because of Dorothy, because of me...I don't think I could have forgiven myself."
"It's really okay, Henry," Nick said quickly, if for no other reason than to prevent Henry from hugging him again. "Seriously, consider us even."
"How can it be?" Henry exclaimed, clearly still agitated. "You could have been killed!"
"Trust me," Nick said quietly, leaning in toward him with a smile, "We're definitely even."
"Well, if you're sure..." Henry said doubtfully. It was only then that he noticed Monroe, and, going by the flush on his face, Monroe's state of undress.
"Monroe," Henry said, an awkward smile plastering itself over his features, "How...how are you this morning?"
"I'm, um, just fine, Henry," Monroe said, drawing the blanket up a little higher with a self-conscious little laugh. "But how are you doing? Things got pretty intense yesterday. Nobody would blame you for feeling a little blue."
"I suppose not," Henry said thoughtfully, "but now that you mention it, I actually feel fantastic. Better than I have in years!"
"That's great, Henry," Nick said with a smile, clapping him on the back.
"And, what's more, when I was talking to Mrs. Sims yesterday about some minor improvements she could make around the inn, she told me that she'd been looking for an appropriate assistant manager and asked if I would like to take the job on a trial basis!"
"Many felicitations, my friend!" Monroe exclaimed, having slid awkwardly out of bed and into a robe while Henry was making his announcement.
Nick shot him a skeptical look while mouthing, Felicitations? before he turned to Henry and said, "Yes, seconded from me. Nobody deserves it more."
Henry looked between them for a few moments before declaring, "You guys are the best!" and hooking an arm around both of their waists in an extremely strange group hug.
Nick and Monroe took turns patting Henry awkwardly on the back until the shorter man withdrew and announced, "Well, enough of that. I should go help Mrs. Sims with the breakfast. Don't want her to think that I'm slacking my first day on the job!" before departing the room in a flurry of motion.
"Wow," Monroe said, after a moment, "You know, if it wasn't for the lingering awkwardness, I don't think I would have recognized that man!"
"Yeah," Nick concurred, "Freedom obviously agrees with him."
"And I suppose, since we are expected at breakfast, we should probably pack," Monroe said with a sigh, turning toward the closet.
"Mmm, but we had such lovely pre-breakfast plans," Nick protested, wrapping his arms around Monroe's waist.
"Which are sadly going to have to be postponed, unless the eighty year-old woman in you has reversed her decision to avoid driving on the highway at night," Monroe reminded him.
"The glare is really distracting!" Nick protested as he reluctantly trudged over to his own suitcase, "but fine, I take your point."
Twenty minutes, two packed suitcases, and one ultimately nonproductive, but amusing sock-throwing fight later, Nick and Monroe found themselves descending the master staircase one final time.
"We should just check out quickly and sneak out the side door," Nick whispered, glancing around covertly.
"Why would we want to do that?" Monroe asked, looking confused. "Don't you want to say goodbye to everybody?"
"Well, yes," Nick admitted, "but..." He looked around again before finishing, "they're going to know!"
Monroe parodied his gesture before whispering, "They're going to know what?"
"You know," Nick said, making vague gestures with his hands, "That we...last night..."
"That we had sex?" Monroe asked incredulously.
"Would you keep your voice down?" Nick demanded in a loud whisper.
"Nick," Monroe said, crossing his arms, "our cover is as a couple on a romantic weekend away. We are, in fact, supposed to have had sex."
"I get that," Nick said with a little sigh, "But, oh, I don't know, it's different now that it's really happening."
"I cannot believe you are actually blushing right now!" Monroe exclaimed with a little laugh.
"I am not!" Nick objected, painfully aware that he was.
"Oh, don't stop," Monroe said cajolingly, putting down his suitcase and taking a few steps toward Nick, "It's adorable on you."
"Oh it is, huh?" Nick asked, grinning as Monroe leaned down to kiss him.
"Well, I'd say get a room," Annie called out to them after a minute, "but technically, you do still have one."
Nick moved instinctively to pull away, but Monroe simply hooked an arm around his waist and said, "Good morning, Annie. Sleep well?"
"Oh, like a baby," she said cheerfully. "Clearly I don't need to ask if you two did."
Monroe winked lasciviously, causing Annie to laugh and stroll back into the dining room and Nick to shove him in the ribs and mutter, "You are not helping."
"And you take yourself fartoo seriously sometimes," Monroe said, placing a light kiss to Nick's temple before ushering him into the dining room.
"Crepes, gentlemen?" Henry asked, extending a silver platter covered with an elegantly arranged grouping of the French specialty.
"You are turning into quite the gourmet chef, Henry!" Monroe exclaimed, sounding distinctly impressed as he deposited a few crepes on his plate, then a few on Nick's.
"I'm lucky to have secured his services," Mrs. Sims said, stepping out from behind a pillar. "I trust you are feeling recovered this morning, Nicholas?"
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Sims," Nick said, ducking his head a little, "All better now, I think."
"Excellent," she said with a small nod of approval. "Then I trust you won't mind bringing this plate over to David? He seems to have neglected his breakfast in his well-meaning, but I think ultimately doomed endeavor to get my chocolate fondue fountain to function properly again."
"Of course," Nick said quickly, accepting the plate and crossing the room to where David was tinkering with the aforementioned apparatus. "Mrs. Sims didn't want you to miss out on Henry's cooking," he called out, when he decided that David wouldn't be tearing his eyes from the fountain anytime soon.
"Thanks," David said with a quick smile, "You can put it anywhere. I just need to get this...a-ha!" His exclamation of triumph was soon followed by a pout of disappointment when the briefly operational fondue dispenser not only stopped its motion, but also ejected a small cloud of grey smoke.
"It's probably not supposed to do that, is it?" he asked Nick, in a tone of utter dejection.
"Perhaps not, no," Nick admitted, giving David a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Why don't we go join the others, give it some time to recover?"
"Probably a good idea," David said with a sigh, "although it goes distinctly against the grain."
"Have you finished destroying Mrs. Sims' appliances, dear?" Annie asked sweetly when David came to sit down next to her.
"It did work for a little while," Nick contributed, hoping to cheer David up a bit.
"Well, then I would say that's quite enough progress for one morning, then," Annie said with a slightly cheeky grin. Upon seeing that her husband still looked somewhat despondent, she gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "Cheer up. Maybe when we get home, I'll finally let you try your hand at fixing the lawnmower."
"Really?" David asked, perking up instantly.
"Really," Annie replied with a pert nod, muttering afterward, "May the grass forgive me."
"So, Nick," Marisa said quickly, probably trying to change the subject away from lawnmowers before David had a chance to ask Annie what she had actually said, "Are you and Monroe headed straight back to Portland?"
"Sadly, yes," Nick replied, "Tomorrow is Monday, after all, and we have to, um, meet with our publisher."
"Yes," Monroe interjected quickly, "You know what they say, no rest for, er, those in the book business."
"Indeed," Ethan said, and Nick couldn't help but notice the strange edge to the smile he was hiding behind his glass of orange juice.
"I suppose all good things have to end sometime," Annie said wistfully.
"Ah, not always," Ethan said with an enigmatic smile. "Aren't you going to tell them your good news, Mari?"
"Oh, well, I didn't want to make a fuss over it," Marisa said, blushing a little, "but if you're insisting, Ethan, I suppose I might as well. Mrs. Sims has asked me to stay on for a little while as co-assistant manager with Henry!"
Marisa's announcement was met with cheers of approval from her fellow guests. "Congratulations, honey," Annie said, grasping her hand warmly, "I cannot think of a better person for the job."
"Here, here," Monroe agreed, saluting her with a forkful of crepe.
"Well," Marisa said, her blush deepening, "I don't know about all that, but thank you...thank you all for being so wonderfully supportive."
"To Marisa!" Nick proclaimed, raising his glass of orange juice, "And to the Enchanted Rose - may love always...bloom here!"
After a round of obligatory groans and a pointed look directed at Nick by Monroe, the toast was echoed and breakfast finished over a flurry of discussions about future plans, exchanged phone numbers, and promises to stay in touch.
"Well," David said, after the final, lingering bites of crepe had been consumed, "I suppose we should all get going - it is a rather long drive back to Oregon."
"But don't be thinking of this as goodbye!" Annie insisted as they all stood. "We're only an hour away from everybody in Portland, and Marisa, we'll be seeing you, same time next year!"
"If one from each party will just come with me, I can get you all checked out and on your way!" Marisa announced, sounding positively thrilled at the prospect of doing her first real job at the inn.
"I'll go," Monroe said to Nick. "After the damage to the furnishings you inflicted when we checked in, I'm not sure how welcome you are at the welcome desk."
"Haha, very funny," Nick called sarcastically after him as the others made their way toward the lobby. "Fine, somebody has to clear these dishes, anyway."
"Oh, I'll help you," Ethan said, pivoting to take a few dishes in hand, "I'm sure Mari can take care of our room without my help."
"Thanks," Nick said, a little puzzled, "That's...kind of you."
As soon as the others were out of earshot, Ethan leaned in and murmured in a low voice, "I trust your business has been concluded satisfactorily, Detective Burkhardt?"
"Oh yes," Nick replied automatically, then froze as he realized that he should not be responding to Detective Burkhardt. "I mean, what?" he added quickly. Seeing by the look on Ethan's face that acting baffled would do him no good, Nick asked instead, "How did you know?"
"One does not go into political journalism without a serious built-in lie detector," Ethan explained easily, grabbing a couple plates and carrying them to the end of the buffet table. "The sidearm was my first clue - not terribly common among children's book illustrators, I'm assuming, but standard issue for policemen. I saw it under your jacket at the jam-making session, and then again in the woods when you were...otherwise occupied."
"Right," Nick said, mentally kicking himself for that one, "I'll, um, remember that."
"I'm assuming you were here investigating Dorothy Vogel?" Ethan inquired. "Nasty piece of work, that woman, and I presume the one really responsible for your 'bear attack' in the woods."
"You don't miss much," Nick admitted, deciding in the moment that admitting to part of the truth was probably his best chance of avoiding telling all of it. "We've had her on our radar for awhile now - minor assault, threats, things like that."
"I figured as much," Ethan said with a small nod. "There's just one thing that I still can't figure out, though."
"Which is?" Nick asked, silently praying it had nothing whatsoever to do with fairy tale creatures or those destined to hunt them.
"Why you chose this sort of a mission for your first date with Monroe," Ethan said. "I mean, cozy country inn, props for romance, but a bit dangerous for a civilian, surely?"
"Monroe can handle himself," Nick assured him with a laugh. "He actually does some pretty regular work with the department. And as for the date part..." Nick ran a hand over the back of his neck and let out a self-conscious little laugh before admitting, "I didn't entirely realize how I felt until we actually got here."
Ethan looked distinctly surprised before letting out a laugh of his own and proclaiming, "Well, if that isn't serendipity, I don't know what is! Another satisfied customer of the Enchanted Rose for Mrs. Sims' near perfect record of happy couples."
"Near perfect?" Nick asked curiously.
"Well, I can't imagine Dorothy Vogel had a terribly pleasant weekend," Ethan pointed out, "although hoteliers shouldn't be responsible for catering to the dangerously unhinged, so we'll leave her out of the statistics. Still, unlike yourself, I am sadly departing the Enchanted Rose as single as when I came."
"Wait...departing?" Nick said, a thought striking him as they strolled into the lobby. "Wasn't Marisa your ride here? How are you getting home? I'd offer, but Monroe and I only have that tiny Volkswagon of his, which barely seats two."
"That's sweet of you, Nick, but luckily I'm all taken care of," Ethan assured him. "Actually, it's a rather strange coincidence. Apparently Mrs. Sims knows of a former guest from Portland in town for the weekend who was looking for some driving company."
"Does she now?" Nick asked, a knowing smile creeping onto his lips. "That is a quite remarkable coincidence."
"Isn't it just?" Ethan said with a little laugh. "I mean with my luck it will be a retired elementary school teacher who wants to discuss her cats for twelve hours, but..."
He was interrupted in his description of the hypothetical spinster by the sudden arrival of a tall, ruggedly handsome, forty-something gentleman in a three-piece suit.
"Excuse me," he said, looking around the room, and removing his hat, "I'm here to meet my driving companion to Portland. Which one of you am I picking up?"
Ethan turned hurriedly to Nick, mouthed a silent, Wow! and muttered, "Do I look all right?"
"Fantastic," Nick murmured, "Now, quick, tell him he's here for you before MGM realizes they've lost Cary Grant to some sort of time warp."
"Wish me luck!" Ethan whispered back, the giddiness in his voice evaporating completely as he strolled coolly over to their visitor and said, "I believe you're here for me, if that's all right."
"Oh, more than all right," the man said eagerly, flashing Ethan a hundred-watt smile and extending his hand. "I'm Richard Wagner."
"Ethan Anderson," Ethan said, smiling back as he gave the man's hand a leisurely shake. After a moment's pause, he added, "Richard and Wagner. You must have heard every opera joke in the book!"
"More than," the man said with a laugh. "And the worst part is, I love the opera, so it's a nearly constant stream of them."
"You don't say," Ethan said shaking his head sympathetically as he casually leaned down to pick up his overnight bag. "But still, a small price to pay for enjoying the speech of the angels, I suppose."
"Oh, let me do that," Richard said, still smiling blindingly as he reached for Ethan's case. "Helping people move things is some of the only conditioning I get these days, what with the clinical trial at the hospital taking up so much of my time."
"You're...a doctor?" Ethan asked in what Nick assumed was his best tone of casual inquiry.
"Neurosurgery," Richard said off-handedly, picking up the case and heading for the door, "You know, come to think of it, the Portland Opera Guild is hosting a benefit performance for the hospital tonight. This is a total shot in the dark, but I don't suppose you'd be able to take an extra ticket off my hands? For some reason, I can never find anyone who wants to go."
"You know, I think I just might," Ethan said, following Richard out the door, but not before pausing briefly to throw an Is this really happening? look at Marisa, which she responded to with two enthusiastic thumbs-up and a small shooing gesture.
After Ethan had blown her a kiss and gently pulled the door closed behind him, Monroe sidled up to Nick and let out a low whistle. "Wow," he said appreciatively, "I didn't realize James Bond had a medical degree and lived in the Pacific Northwest."
"He does get shot at a lot," Nick pointed out, "so that medical degree must come in pretty handy."
Their exchange was interrupted by Mrs. Sims coming up behind them and saying, "I trust Marisa has taken good care of you boys."
"The best," Monroe assured her. "She's a treasure, she and Henry both."
"Yes," Nick agreed, "An excellent hiring decision, I'm sure. And how lucky for them that you happened to have two job openings."
"A fortuitous confluence of events for all," Mrs. Sims said enigmatically. "If those two work out, and I have complete faith that they will, I may just be able to take that Mediterranean cruise I've been dreaming about."
"Work out...running the inn?" Nick asked innocently.
"Why, what else could I possibly mean, Nicholas?" Mrs. Sims asked, just as innocuously.
"I'm sure I have no idea," Nick said with a grin. "Thanks for everything, Mrs. Sims. Despite everything, this weekend turned out to be...quite magical."
"I am glad you both found everything to your satisfaction," she said, glancing between him and Monroe, "and I hope you will come visit us again some time."
"I'd like that," Monroe said with a smile.
"We both would," Nick said, leaning forward on impulse to give her a kiss on the cheek. "You take care of the place til we get back, then."
"I'll be sure to do that," Mrs. Sims said, and though her voice was still cool and professional, Nick could see the hints of a smile lurking around the corners of her mouth.
"Bye, Annie," Nick called, as he and Monroe made their way to the door, "Bye David! Are we still on for lunch next week?"
"Wouldn't miss if for the world, honey!" Annie called after them. "You two drive safe, now!"
As he and Monroe made their way down out the front door and down to the car, Nick remarked, "Well, I don't think that's a weekend I'm likely to forget anytime soon."
"I should hope not," Monroe said, closing the trunk of the tiny yellow car over their suitcases before spinning around suddenly to kiss Nick.
"Not that I'm complaining," Nick said a few minutes later, "but what was that for?"
"Just wanted to be sure you wouldn't forget anything about this weekend," Monroe said firmly.
"Grimms do have notoriously bad memories," Nick said, winding his arms around Monroe's neck with a mischievous smile.
As Nick was leaning in to kiss him, however, Monroe stopped him with a hesitantly stated, "Nick..."
"What is it?" Nick asked, concerned. "What's wrong?"
"It's just..." Monroe trailed off, seemingly unsure how exactly to proceed, "It's easy enough being romantic in a place like this, but once we get back to the real world..." He took a deep breath before looking Nick in the eyes and asking, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Monroe," Nick said, purposefully keeping his gaze, "Ever since I found out about being a Grimm, and this whole other world I was suddenly a part of, so much in my life has been in a constant state of flux."
"But this - me and you," he continued, moving his hands so they cradled Monroe's face, "is the only thing in my life that actually makes any sense. That I can depend on, no matter what. So yeah, Monroe, if you're in, I'm in. All the way."
Monroe shot him a grin that generated a strange, jumping sensation in the pit of Nick's stomach before saying, "Does that mean you'll come over for dinner tonight?"
"Only if by 'dinner,' you mean ordering a pizza and eating it in bed," Nick said, smiling angelically.
Monroe let out a put-upon sigh and said, "Fine, but..." Nick let out a surprised laugh as Monroe lifted him onto the hood of the car and finished, "That means you're responsible for helping me find a way to burn off all those extra calories."
"Mmm," Nick said, his smile turning distinctly less angelic as he pulled Monroe in with his legs and murmured, "I'm sure between the two of us, we can think of something."