Title: Darkest Before the Dawn
Author: N'kala
Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: Nick is dealing with the demands of all facets of his life. Monroe is there to help.
Author's Notes: Since this thing at work and at home is racing through my head, the only way I can filter some of it out is by writing it out. It's a little dark, but that's where my mind is right now. Nick may be a bit OOC in this story, so you have been warned.

Darkest Before the Dawn
By: N'kala

Nick stared blankly into the amber liquid in front of his eyes, his chin resting on his folded arms. He ignored the quiet rumble of conversation around him, lost so deep in his mind that not even his own thoughts could find him.

A small part of him knew that he was slipping down a steep slope. That his own sense of futility was dragging him further down into despondency. It was a vicious cycle; the deeper he sank into hopelessness, the more hopeless he felt.

At least liquor seemed to help. For a while, anyway. It numbed his churning feelings, keeping him afloat while it held him in its grip.

Nick lifted his head enough to throw back another gulp, then settled back onto the table in the back of the bar. There was something soothing about staring into the calm liquid, feeling it burn its way to his stomach.

Is this what was left for him, then? Bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders without anyone to help him during the day, then drowning his nights in a bottle?

Nick sensed someone nearby, their eyes focused on him, but he lacked the care to acknowledge whoever it was.

The person approached, almost cautiously, before sliding into the seat across from Nick. Nick's eyes flickered up to identify his visitor, then returned to their contemplation of the half-empty glass of bourbon.

"Going for the hard stuff on a school night?" Monroe asked him quietly.

Nick didn't reply.

Monroe sighed. "I know . . . I know I've complained in the past . . . but I'm here, man, if you, you know . . . want to talk."

Nick continued to stare silently at his glass.

Monroe continued. "I can't imagine what it must be like. I mean, I grew up with this stuff, so at least I know what to expect in the creature world. And I'm one of them. Not, you know, stuck in the middle."

Nick let out a huff of amusement. "Stuck in the middle."

Heartened by the response, Monroe pressed on. "Yeah, you know; stuck. Not a creature, but still part of that world. Totally a human, but not entirely just in that world."

Nick's watery eyes, if possible, grew sadder. "Alone."

Monroe frowned. "No, man, not alone. You have Hank, and Juliette."

Nick shook his head. "I hate this. I hate the secrets. I have to keep pretending. Be Detective Burkhardt for Hank and work and do that job. Be Nick, loving boyfriend for Juliette. Be the Grimm for every creature out there trying to kill me. I can't keep doing it. I'm not that guy. I don't know how to be all those people."

"Then just be Nick Burkhardt," Monroe told him. "The rest will fall into place."

Nick looked up at him, sorrow filling his eyes. "I don't know who that is anymore."

Monroe studied the younger man, feeling his heart go out to him in spite of himself. "Well, you're not going to find out in that glass of bourbon. Let's go back to my place, huh? You'll feel better after you sleep this off."

Monroe scooted out of the booth and stood. Tossing some money for Nick's drink onto the table, he reached out and effortlessly lifted Nick out of his seat and draped one of Nick's arms around his shoulders. Nick leaned into Monroe's hold, soaking in the warmth of the Blutbad.

Monroe led Nick out of the bar and into the passenger seat of his VW beetle, carefully strapping Nick in. He paused once Nick was safely buckled in, one hand on Nick's knee.

"It'll be okay, Nick," Monroe told him softly. "I know it seems impossible right now, but I promise everything will turn out okay."

Nick's eyes filled, and he closed them and leaned his head back. Monroe squeezed Nick's knee and stood, walking around to the driver's side.

Things always seemed darkest before the dawn. As long as Nick had a friend like Monroe in his corner, things would turn out all right.