He stood in front of the ruins of the former two-story clapboard, gazing at the curls of smoke rising from the wreckage, drifting up into the morning sky. Pastel pink, the sky was in complete disagreement with the blackened walls and drifting ash. Firefighters were clearing the fire site, looking for possible new sources of fire or smoldering ashes.
He turned at the voice and discovered it was the chief of the squad that had been called. Like most of his men, his face was soot-streaked and he appeared tired.
"Yes?" Nick asked, feeling the same tiredness.
He had been up all night, too. First on a case, then watching his house burn down.
"We're done here," the chief told him. "Also got some of your guys here, wanting to ask you a few questions."
"Yeah, I know."
His eyes drifted back to the ruin. Nothing left. Nothing at all. It had been the house he and Juliette had moved into two years ago. It had been a steal. Run-down and in need of a lot of work, they had made it theirs. Now Juliette was in Boston, following her career, while their house was nothing but ruins.
His life, Nick thought morosely.
He couldn't fault Juliette, though. She had no idea about his second 'job' and while she had tried to support him, she had given up after a while. There was so much Nick couldn't talk to her about, so much he wanted her to know but was afraid to say.
It was better if she was far, far away from this. Aunt Marie had told him to get rid of her; Juliette had taken the decision out of his hands.
"I'm no arson specialist," the fire chief went on, "but it looks like it was the wiring. I've seen enough electrical fires in my life."
Nick nodded silently. Electrical fires. His mind went through the possibilities. No heaters had been on this time of the year, but maybe the stereo, the TV, some kitchen appliance? Or was it the wiring in the house? He would get the details later. Of course he would.
With a sad smile he turned to the officer at the scene. He wasn't really surprised to discover it was someone he knew.
"Hey, Nick," Dan Miller said, smiling faintly.
"I'm sorry," Miller started, but Nick waved it off.
"Let's just file the report."
It had happened, but it was nothing small. The whole house with everything inside had been lost. Luckily there had been no one inside or around, and the adjoining houses hadn't even so much as a scorch mark.
Miller gave him a long, hard look, then nodded. They were down to business.x x x x x x x
A familiar car pulled up not much later and Nick looked up from his study of the former clapboard to discover his partner, Hank Griffin, walk up to him. Nick gave him a tired nod and a smile. Hank's eyes brushed over the house, then looked at him.
"You okay?" he wanted to know.
"Damn, Nick," he muttered.
"Yeah." He was too tired to strike up a conversation.
"Listen, if you need a place to crash…?"
Nick shook his head. "I've got somewhere. I'll be fine."
He felt tired. Dead to the world. He wanted to sleep. But he also needed to talk to the insurance, he had to get new clothes, and he really wanted a long shower. The shower was impossible at the moment, so he got out his cell and dialed the insurance company.x x x x x xx x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x xx x x x x x
He had lost everything. All had been burned to the ground. The insurance assessor had already been out to the black ruin that had once been his home and Nick had been reassured that everything would be handled quickly. He would get the money ASAP the moment the criminalistics report was in. He had to buy some clothes next. All he had were the ones he was wearing and the ones in his locker. Everything else, all his personal stuff, was gone.
Nick rubbed a hand over his eyes.
He had been given a few days off work. Nick had spent that time running from bank to bank, from office to office to get replacements for lost papers, cards and whatever else he needed.
He had slept little in the last three days. There had been a hard case, then the fire, and now he was reeling with the impact of it all. He had to find a new place. But for now, getting some sleep was his priority.
Aunt Marie's trailer, well, his trailer, seeing that he had inherited it in a way, was a good place to crash. With no other distractions he finally read through a lot of books between phone calls, work and looking for a new place. The trailer was pretty big on the inside, a lot bigger than it looked, but it was getting to be claustrophobic after a while. Nick had no idea how his aunt had handled being cooped up in here.
So he took the SUV – hers, also his inheritance – and drove around, looking at places. Some were okay, some wouldn't do even as an interim home, and some were complete losses. Nick stopped at the curb after another harrying search and closed his eyes, feeling so tired, he wanted to just sleep.
A knock against the window had him start, nearly going for his gun.
"Whoa, dude!" Eddie exclaimed, taking a step back as the wild expression warned him off. "You staking out my place or what?"
Nick blinked. Eddie's place?
He looked around.
Well, shit. He had stopped right across from Monroe's, for whatever reason.
Eddie frowned and looked at him through sharp, narrowed eyes.
"Got coffee?" Nick asked.
"Sure," was the wary reply. When Nick got out of the car, Eddie added, "You look like hell, man."
"Thanks." Nick walked into the by now very familiar place. "You know how to pick me up, Eddie."
"Just saying. Something wrong? I haven't seen you in… a while. Not that I'm complaining!" Eddie fiddled with the mugs and poured coffee. "Normally you barge in here twice a day with some question or other."
He quirked an eyebrow as he held out the mug. Nick took it.
"So, what happened?" Eddie asked.
"I think it was on the news." He was so tired. And the bunk in the trailer wasn't that comfortable.
"The house fire."
Eddie froze. "Fire? What fire?"
Nick rubbed his burning eyes. "My house burned down three days ago, Eddie, that's what happened. Creature stuff simply didn't seem that important for a while, with no place to actually live!"
The blutbad stared at him. "Don't bite my head off!" he finally said. "I was just… Why didn't you call?"
Nick blinked, his exhausted brain too muddled to think straight. "What?"
"Why didn't you call?" the other man repeated.
"It's not related to anything Grimm. It might be electrical. An accident." He mussed up his hair some more and leaned against the kitchen counter.
Eddie studied him, then shook his head. "You really are dense sometimes." He approached slowly, carefully, ready to stop should the Grimm object to his closeness.
Nick just watched him.
"Your place is gone, you need a bed, why not call me?"
The Grimm stared. Exasperation showed on Eddie's face.
"You could have asked me," he repeated.
Nick blinked. "Huh?"
"You didn't have to take a hotel room, Nick."
"Then where do you sleep? Griffin's?"
"No, I…" He caught himself. Eddie, for all they shared – and it was a lot and had been growing more lately – didn't know about the trailer. "I have something."
Eddie didn't look like he believed it.
"How much time do we spend in each other's company?" he simply asked. "Aside from the Grimm thing."
A lot, Nick thought.
So much that it sometimes scared him. It had started out as a kidnapping/murder case and it had ended with him suddenly being a Grimm. In between they had met the first time and after that, a lot more often. More and more. Case after case. And then there had been… the forest. Looking for a trace of a killer, nearly getting killed, Eddie saving his bacon… and staring into those intensely red eyes as the taller man sat over him, breathing hard, gazing at him with…
Nick remembered that moment only too clearly. That mad moment when Eddie had pinned him down and kissed him so hard, he had seen stars.
Things had gone out of control from then on.
Nick couldn't ever forget the night after closing the case, walking to Eddie's door, looking into the very human face of the man who had so possessively kissed him… and the hours after that. The way the possessive kiss had been repeated with a lot of really intensely good sex later on.
Not just once.
Not just one night.
Whatever it was between them, both men felt it and Eddie's claim on Nick was as strong as Nick's on Eddie. He had never felt this way and he doubted he ever would.
Both had never really talked about it – aside from Eddie's grumping about a Grimm in his house, his bed, everywhere. Nick knew how to take that. Especially after the first time the blutbad had bitten him. He had read about that in Marie's books.
"I thought..." Nick stopped. "This is your place, Eddie. It's your home. Me crashing here… not a good idea. I'm a Grimm."
Monroe rolled his eyes. "I know. Don't you think I know?"
"Things are after me because of it."
A rumble escaped the other man.
"Even temporarily, I'm a danger to you!"
"You've slept here countless times. Dude, I got a second toothbrush in my bathroom and you have clothes in my closet!"
Nick shook his head. "Not the same. And I have a place." He pushed away from the counter and tried to walk past Eddie.
A strong arm stopped him. "I knew you were hardheaded already, but this? Over the top! You think I'm some little girl that needs protecting from the big bad things out there? Think again, Grimm!"
"Not up for discussion."
Nick rubbed a hand over his face. Eddie peered at him, the frown sharpening.
"When was the last time you slept?"
"Again with the masochism!" He threw up his hands. "Listen to me, Grimm: you're not alone in this. You could have asked for my help!"
Eddie wrapped a large hand around the back of his neck, his thumb sliding under the collar of his tee. The tingle that touch sent through him, the way the thumb barely caressed the bite mark, it had Nick inhale sharply.
"You know what this means, right?" the blutbad asked, voice dropping to a low rumble.
"You accepted it."
Nick didn't push him away as Eddie kissed him, just lips against lips.
"And I know what being with a Grimm means. I accepted it."
"You said you trusted me."
"I do. Completely."
"Then trust me when I tell you that I can handle this."
Nick pulled him close by the hem of his shirt, deepening the kiss, asking for more. The stress of the last three days, the tension of it all, threatened to break him.
"You're not alone, Nick," Eddie murmured as he gently bit his earlobe.
The young Grimm shuddered. His family was dead; gone. Juliette had left. He had no one.
Except for Eddie Monroe. Hank was his partner and a really good friend. But Eddie knew everything… about him being a Grimm.
"This could be a very bad idea," he murmured.
"Or the best one I ever had," the blutbad quipped.
"You're going to regret it."
"Aw, don't spoil me, Grimm. I like to see the whole movie."
Nick leaned his head against Eddie's chest and closed his eyes, trying not to give in to his exhaustion.
A soft nudge had him blink his eyes open.
"Let's start this sleep-over with you sleeping," Eddie suggested.
Nick couldn't argue against it; especially after his head hit the pillow and he was out like a light not much later. He didn't wonder about his easy trust in the blutbad; he didn't question his judgment of Eddie as someone who would always have his back. He didn't analyze himself sleeping with a man after Juliette had left.
He only wondered about living together with someone who had been alone for most of his life.x x x x x x
It was… difficult. No doubt about it. Nick had no nine to five job. He didn't keep regular hours. He might be home or on a case, on a stakeout or trapped writing reports. Cases came home with him, even those not involving a creature.
Eddie kept a strict routine. Pilates was one of the things he did no matter what. He would ignore Nick's movements around him, getting dressed, half a bagel in hand, the other busy with a cup of coffee or holding his cell. Eddie also worked mostly at home on the clocks he received by mail. He kept the work area clean and very ordered. Nick was banned from that place.
He also had a schedule for the laundry, for shopping, for almost everything. It was this routine that kept the animal in check.
Nick brought it out again.
Not always in a good way.
Sleeping in the same bed as a cop who got calls in the middle of the night was turning into a test of his restraint not to smash the cell phone. The sex made up for a lot of stuff, but not for the invasion of Hank Griffin into his territory.
The look the man gave him was priceless and Eddie didn't care one way or the other what Griffin thought. He clearly remembered him from that first arrest and Nick would probably be questioned until he spilled whatever story he might cook up about them.
"I told him the truth," Nick answered that evening when Eddie settled beside him on the couch.
"I told him I'm bunking with you," Nick grinned.
"He asked if you got into my pants or I did into yours."
Eddie nearly choked on his beer. "He what?"
"Relax. Hank knows I like both teams."
Eddie stared at the younger man at his side, glad to see the tension lines receding.
A lot had been going in Nick's favor in the past week, which had lightened his mood.
The fire report had come through. It had been brief and down to the point. No evidence of foul play had been found. The source of the fire had been the living room wall socket, which had contained some very old and brittle wires, never replaced by the former owner and Nick hadn't bothered to check each socket. Whether or not he would sue the seller Nick had yet to decide. For now he had other worries, even though Hank had told him to go for it. The insurance company was looking into it too, probably to find a way to get their money back from a possibly responsible source.
Eddie was simply glad Nick had survived to be here, with him.
"I've been looking at houses again," Nick now said, not looking at him.
"Found one or two that might be interesting."
Nick nursed his beer.
"You know you can stay a little longer," Eddie finally said.
"We keep getting into each other's hair, Eddie."
That was true. Only one bathroom, two people with different habits and schedules, and one of them was a creature who tried not to lose his temper.
Nick looked at him, those eyes as always Eddie's downfall. Right now they were darker than usual, the shadows playing with them, and there was a very Grimm air about his lover.
"It's been two weeks," Eddie said softly.
"Two very long weeks that had you nearly jump me, and not in a good way, on four different occasions."
"Grimm," he only replied.
It was the size of the available space. Eddie was used to having all of this to himself and Nick, while he didn't have a lot of possessions to spread, seemed to be everywhere.
"Part of me wants you here," the blutbad said, voice dropping. "I love your scent everywhere. I like seeing you here."
"Another part wants to do something else that I don't find sexy as hell," Nick finished. "We have to take the pressure off, Eddie. We need… separate places."
Eddie knew it was the truth. He just didn't have to like it. Nick pulled him into a kiss.
"There's a house for sale on your road," he said when they separated. "It's in the budget from the insurance money."
The wolf perked up. "Where?"
"The one on your right."
Eddie sat up sharply. "What? The Hansons?"
"Moving out, according to my phone call yesterday. He got a new job in Florida." Nick grinned all of a sudden. "Quick sale price."
The blutbad stared. "You already have it?"
"In a way."
"And you didn't tell me?"
"I said I'm sorry. I didn't want to get your hopes up."
"You just told me you like me here, my scent, my presence. I know the Hansons tried to buy your place a while back, to expand."
Eddie rumbled. A blutbad didn't give up his home that easily.
"They still have the original plans from then. We could connect the two buildings. We each have our own place, but we still share them."
Eddie felt something inside of him curl. It was happiness and want and need and the realization that whatever it was he and the younger man shared, it was serious.
"Are you aware what this means?" he asked, voice holding a faint tremor.
Eddie's house was his territory. It was his alone. Connecting it to what would soon be Nick's…
"Are you?" he pressed on.
"I know it, Eddie. Expanding your territory. Into mine. With me." The smile was pure sex right now. "Mine," Nick murmured and pulled him close. "Yours."
"Damnit, Grimm!" he growled and pushed the other back onto the cushions, hovering over him. "I want you so bad right now…" He crushed their lips together. "All of you."
Nick's eyes were dilated and he was breathing harder. Eddie nuzzled a path along the neck, approving how Nick tilted his head back, how easily he could lick and nuzzle over the scar of the previous bites.
Never completely. Eddie had never dared to see Nick as a mate, his mate. But now the words… and they stoked the fire into a hellish burn.x x x x x x
Nick's cry of completion as Eddie bit him had the blutbad white out for a second. All he could taste was the blood on his lips, running over his tongue. All he could feel was the hard, muscular form in his arms as Nick gave up everything he had. All he could see was his mate. He scented him, licking over the damp skin, tasting the sensitive area around the bite.
Nick shivered. "Eddie…" he whispered.
The wolf rumbled, pulling him close.
Making it to the bedroom had been… almost impossible. He had spread his own scent along with Nick's in several rooms of the new house and Eddie knew his instincts would make him mark the backyard on occasion. Right now he marked only his Grimm.
Nick turned in his embrace and smiled lazily. Their lips met and Eddie licked along the blunt teeth.
"Mine," he stated.
Nick carded strong fingers into his hair. "Mine," he echoed.