Title: Testing the Leash
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: Eddie had never really liked fairy tale protagonists. Their stories never ended well for guys like him. 2600 words.
Spoilers: Grimm (TV), through 1.06 "Three Bad Wolves"
Notes: For shealynn88, as a treat for Yuletide 2011. Eddie Monroe and Nick Burkhardt: a little conflicted, a lot thinky, and not quite requited.
Eddie frowned as Nick shut the door behind him and started pacing up and down the living room, the same way he did every time he had questions about something supernatural and didn't like the answers he was getting.
"Look," he said, with a long sigh. "Nick. Man. You gotta stop doing this."
"What?" Nick stopped several paces away, all confused grey eyes, almost blue in the dim lighting, and dark, wholesome haircut. Like Superman without the spit curl and a slightly narrower build; Smallville edition, obviously, before he'd really figured out what he was doing, but, yeah.
Eddie blinked, then shook off the comparison, reminding himself yet again not to get distracted by the way Nick looked, or smelled, or the way he kept turning to Eddie for help: a Grimm asking for help from him, a common, if mostly reformed, Blutbad. It was intoxicating most of the time, that whole combination: sure. But that was part of the problem. Eddie already knew he had control issues, and associating with Nick was turning out to be the equivalent of tripping down the garden path of a Ziegevolk; so much for all his rigid routines.
"This. This thing where you treat me like I'm your fortune cookie, or something. Dude. I get that you barely know anything about being a Grimm. And I respect that you don't have anyone else to talk to about it. You've told me that often enough. But I do have a life of my own. And frankly, this hot and cold thing where you appreciate my instincts when you can use them and get upset with me when they get in the way; it stings." He slapped a hand theatrically over his heart.
A self-conscious frown line had developed between Nick's brows. "Look, Monroe … I'm sorry," he said, in a conciliatory tone of voice. "I know I maybe went a little far with the Angelina thing..."
Eddie sighed. Nick had apparently been the privileged type even before his aunt had shown up to unload this solitary heroic fate on his shoulders, so he couldn't entirely blame all his pushiness on the Grimm thing. That was just as well, though; Eddie had never really liked fairy tale protagonists. Their stories never ended well for guys like him.
"So spread the wealth a little, man. We're not all alike; I keep telling you that. There's entire species known for being allies to the Grimms, not, you know." He shrugged, gesturing between the two of them with a frown. "Didn't your aunt leave you notes on any of them? Because this is just, I mean. I still don't think you really get how weird it is. You're lucky I like you. Do you even know what you're doing to my reputation? And it's not like I'm even getting a real friendship out of it; when was the last time you called that didn't have something do with the Grimm thing?"
He might have hoped, at the beginning, that his involvement in Nick's life would stay under the radar, but after willingly talking to that Reinigen kid on his behalf, not to mention the mess with Angelina, that was pretty much a lost cause. It was just a question of when the rumors filtered back to his family now, not if. And it had really struck him, the accusatory note in Angelina's voice when she'd pointedly asked which would upset him more – her killing Nick, or vice versa. So far, he hadn't woken up with rabbit fur in his teeth following Nick around, but counting by the number of times he'd nearly lost it since he'd met him … he was pretty sure he'd be experiencing the Grimm equivalent sooner or later.
Probably sooner rather than later, if that tang of jealousy he'd caught in the air the first time Nick threw down with Angelina really had been coming from the cop as much as his ex. Because if it was, if that was why he'd kept trying to make Eddie choose him over Angelina, Nick sure wasn't consciously acknowledging it – and those kinds of stories never ended any better than the ones about the Big Bad Wolf. Better to back things off before it all ended in blood and tears.
"Eddie … I'm sorry. I do think of you as a friend, it's just..." Nick's jaw worked a little, and now – ah, damn it, now he was putting out that frustration/guilt/sorrow scent that made Eddie want to shake the guy by the scruff of the neck and then lick him all over.
Like a pup, damn it, like a pup.
… Oh, who was he kidding? Yeah, like that, too. He cleared his throat, reminding himself yet again why he'd started the conversation, and continued.
"You've gotta be spending at least as much time with me as with as your girlfriend or your partner these days – seriously, when do you even sleep? – but who am I to you, when they ask? A guy who got tangled up in a couple of your cases? Yeah, that's going to go over well if they ever catch on. And who's going to draw the short straw when that happens? You really okay with that?"
Nick put his hands on his hips, frustration winning out. "I thought you just said you didn't want anyone to know we're friends. Because of the Grimm thing. And the Blutbad thing."
"And not because I'm more like – what's the word you cops use? Your C.I., or something?" Eddie batted the sarcasm back at him. "Except if I was, at least I'd get paid for it."
"Except half the time even I don't get paid for it, unless it's part of an official case." Nick rolled his eyes, then scrubbed a hand over them, rubbing at the set of dark circles he was starting to develop.
"Look, what brought this on tonight?" he continued quietly, in a defeated tone of voice. "I mean, specifically? I did ditch plans with Juliette tonight, and you're right, sooner or later I am going to have to cut ties with her, I know, but..." He shrugged, helplessly.
"Wait. What?" Eddie cut him off again, without really intending to this time. What had he just said? Cut ties with her? Eddie had meant him, not Nick's freaking girlfriend, when he'd said that thing about the short straw. Nick had always seemed pretty content when he showed up smelling of perfumed female and domesticated pet dander; Eddie had thought their relationship was a solid one. Unfortunately. "Why?"
Nick raised his eyebrows at him as though Eddie was the one suddenly not making any sense, and advanced slowly back toward the door until they were almost within arm's reach again. "Because this isn't her world? Because I can't protect her from it when I don't know what I'm doing half the time? Because even Aunt Marie said it was a bad idea? Pick one." He shrugged, lips turned down in a jagged, unhappy line. "I'd never forgive myself if she got hurt because of me. I just can't … I just haven't figured out how to let go of her, yet. I don't want to hurt her."
Eddie swallowed. Nick was putting out enough hurt scent on his own, stronger than ever; it was kind of hard to keep Juliette in mind, over that, and his own place on the inconvenient fringes of Nick's life. All that was missing now was the scent of blood and – yep, there Nick went, rubbing at the corner of his mouth where a punch earlier that day must have split his lip and raising fresh beads of red along the little cut. Eddie twitched, no more sure now what his instincts would do if he let them loose than he had been outside that other Blutbad's cabin when they'd been hunting the missing little girl.
"And what about your partner? Detective Griffin?"
"Everyone I run into that knows what I am always seems shocked that I'm a cop," Nick shrugged tiredly, turning his face away. "And once they figure that out, they seem surprised I take it seriously. I do get that sooner or later the right thing to do isn't going to be the legal thing. I'm just … kinda hoping to put that off as long as possible. Hank's a good guy, and he's let me get away with a lot of bullshit since this started. But this isn't his world, either." He sighed, eyes still on the baseboards as though there was something really fascinating written on them.
"And it is mine," Eddie said matter-of-factly, thoughts ticking round in circles like the gears of one of his clocks. This conversation was not going at all like he'd expected. But then, what ever had, with Nick?
"Yeah," Nick replied, quietly, then gave him a strange, rueful smile and spread his hands. "I know, that's not exactly helping my case here."
Well. In that case. Maybe it was less denial and more not knowing what the hell he could – or should – say while the ground was shifting under his feet? That, Eddie could understand. The question was … did it really change anything, from his perspective?
Hanging with Nick meant excitement; risk; and getting a chance to stretch cramped instincts in ways that would at least help ensure any blood that got under his fingernails wouldn't be an innocent's.
Sticking to the way things had been before meant self-control; peace; and filling up his time with hobbies and obsessive routines to keep himself from utterly losing his mind or following his friends off the deep end.
… Living like a monk, really. Eddie had always heard the only sustainable diet for humans was one that didn't make the dieter feel deprived to follow it. Was that why so many Wieder-Blutbaden eventually fell off the wagon?
His resolve wavered, and he stepped closer to Nick, closing up the short distance still between them. The hand he'd clapped over his own heart, he shifted to lay over Nick's instead, and drew in a slow breath full of the other man's scent as he felt the vibration of his pulse under his fingertips.
Eddie could see Nick's pupils dilating, following a mix of alarm and confused want pouring off him. And under all of it, the Grimm scent, unmistakable: a heady package. Which reminded him; there was another thing he should really bring up before he folded on the subject like origami. He licked his lower lip slowly, watching Nick's gaze draw to the movement like a magnet, then pushed him slowly back a step. Self-control. Right.
"Calm down. It's not like I'm going to start shutting my door in your face tomorrow," he said, dropping his hand. "Like I said, I like you. And the saving people thing; it's kind of nice, for a change. But I was serious about you making other allies; just because I work at home doesn't mean I don't need time to work." Maybe he could find an even keel between rigid routine and running with the Grimm – it was possible, right? "And there's something else you should think about."
Nick swallowed, uncomfortably, studying Eddie's expressions like they were a map to what he should do next. "Yeah? And what's that?"
"You remember how quickly Angelina reacted to you? You ever get within arm's length of a creature and not have them recognize what you are?"
Nick's eyes narrowed a little and his gaze sharpened, drawing the Grimm presence forward for the first time since he'd shown up. "I guess not. The first time I saw Orson's other face – I didn't even have to say anything, he just knew. And the repairman who came when the refrigerator went out – he was already nervous, and he freaked when he looked up and saw me. Ran right out the door."
"It isn't just your scent," Eddie told him, wincing. How was he still this clueless? "Didn't you ever wonder what we see when we look at you? I don't know what little Grimms usually get told before they go out with their books and their weapons to run roughshod over the rest of us, but it isn't just the pretty eyes and a set of fancy senses. It doesn't make you better than us; and don't give me that look, you wouldn't say 'it' if you didn't think it sometimes. It just makes you a more efficient predator, like regular humans are to the regular creature kingdoms."
Nick frowned, disturbed. "None of Aunt Marie's notes say anything about that," he protested automatically, then raised an apologetic hand. "Not that I'm saying you're wrong! I lived with her for six years and she never said anything about any of this." He sagged a little, bracing his back against the wall next to the stairs. "Maybe she was hoping someone else would inherit? I don't know. All she ever really did say was to hunt down the bad ones, remember who I am, and trust only my instincts."
Eddie licked his lips again, feeling the press of sharp canines against the inside of his cheeks. Instincts, huh. Instincts were what had gotten him into this mess in the first place: screwed up instincts not knowing what to make of a Grimm tossing his territory and then coming back alone to stalk him for help. Curiosity? Fascination? He hadn't had any business inviting Nick in for that first beer, and that had been just the first step on a long, slippery slope.
"Really. So that's what keeps bringing you here? Instincts?" Nick's aunt had to be turning in her grave: no way the Marie Kessler he'd heard stories about would have intended this.
He must have sounded pretty disbelieving, because that brought the amused smile back to Nick's face, raising a few more beads of blood as it stretched that little wound. Eddie's eyes went to it – and Nick definitely noticed the ripple under his skin that time, because the next thing he said was, "Is this where I say, 'what big eyes you have'? Look; I'm still feeling my way here. Give me a little time, all right?"
"More like, what big teeth I have," Eddie muttered under his breath. Stupid over-trusting, ridiculously good-looking, do-gooder little Grimm; he always had been pulled to dominant spirits in lithe, attractive packages, and he didn't expect that to start changing anytime soon.
"All right. So." He cleared his throat and broke away with an effort, heading for the kitchen and his French press: nothing like a little complicated coffee-making to clear the head. "The Ziegevolk got away from the ambulance crew; should have expected that, probably. You got all guys on the task force hunting him down again, right?"
Nick sighed heavily, then pushed away from the wall and followed him. "Yeah. With strict warnings not to touch. Any idea where he might go to ground?"
A little time; he could do that. The last few years had been nothing but buying himself more time, cello and coffee and clock-making and ignoring temptation.
"He won't have had time to establish a new identity yet, and he'll probably be avoiding the EMT's contacts after the way you tracked him last time. But if he wants to try the same thing somewhere else … you said you saw him eat a toad, right? There any way to track those?"
"He did say they were endangered," Nick mused. Then he pulled out his cell and dialed his partner, off and running again.
So. Back to status quo. For now.