Title: Small Spaces
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Monroe learns something about Nick, and in the process helps Nick to understand a little more about Monroe.
Author's Note: Just a little one-shot dancing in my brain while I work on Blindsided. I wanted to see a more vulnerable Nick with a protective Monroe. This is AU, but follows pretty close to canon.
The door slammed shut with a resounding finality that echoed deep in Nick's bones. The sound of a latch being thrown followed quickly, telling the two trapped men that they were locked in.
The closet they were locked in was lit dimly by a faint light bulb overhead. Nick glanced around his surroundings, taking in the shelves to his left stocked with cleaning supplies and random knickknacks. To his right was a dry mop and bucket, covered in a light film of dust. The cool cement at his back confirmed that there was nothing left in the small custodian's closet that they could use to help facilitate their escape.
Harsh breathing filled the small space, drowning out the sound of Monroe's fists pounding on the door before him. Nick felt his heart increase with his gasping breaths, his vision beginning to narrow. He closed his eyes and tried to force his rising panic at bay, clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides.
Monroe, oblivious to Nick's distress behind him, pounded on the door. "Let us out! We aren't here to hurt you, you stupid Eisbieber! We just wanted to ask you a couple questions!"
Hearing no response, Monroe gave the door a frustrated kick and turned to face Nick. "Well, this is just great. I really hadn't planned on spending the night locked in a-." Brows furrowed in concern. "Nick?"
The young Grimm was pale, a cold sweat beginning to break out on his forehead. Monroe could practically smell the waves of fear and anxiety rolling off of the younger man. He took a cautious step closer. "Nick, are you all right?"
Nick didn't appear to hear him. Monroe's concern ratcheted up another notch. Carefully, he reached out and grasped Nick's shoulders and gently shook him. "Nick!"
Nick's eyes flew open, panicked gray flying up to meet worried brown. Nick shoved at Monroe with surprising strength, sending the Blutbad stumbling back several steps. Monroe recovered his balance quickly, holding out his hands in what he hoped was a non-threatening way. "Easy, man. You okay?"
Nick's breathing was harsh in the silence. He swallowed a lump in his throat. "Y-Yeah, I'm okay."
Monroe's eyes narrowed. "Dude, I can see you shaking. You're obviously not all right. What's wrong?"
Nick's arms came up, wrapping around his torso and hugging himself tightly. "I-I'll be okay. It's nothing."
Monroe took in Nick's eyes, darting around the closet, and the answer came to him so swiftly he almost felt lightheaded. "Nick, are you claustrophobic?"
Nick's head snapped back to Monroe, his eyes suddenly sharp. He didn't say anything, but Monroe could see the conflict of admitting the truth playing out in his eyes.
Slowly, as if approaching a wounded animal, Monroe took a step closer to Nick. Reaching up, he unscrewed the light bulb until the room was plunged into darkness. Monroe could feel the tension radiating off of Nick.
"I'm coming closer, okay?" Monroe asked.
Not waiting for a response that he knew would never come, Monroe crept closer until he was right beside Nick. Carefully, he wrapped one arm around Nick's shoulders and guided the young man to the floor until they were sitting side by side in the closet, Nick leaning against Monroe.
"I want you to close your eyes and picture that you are in the middle of a forest," Monroe's soft voice rumbled. "It's night, but the moonlight is shining through the trees. You can hear the crickets in the grass chirping, and it makes you want to go hunt them down to shut them up so you can get some peace and quiet."
A faint jerking of Nick's shoulders and a huff of amusement told Monroe that Nick was listening. He continued with his story.
"It's a warm night, and very clear. The woods seem to go on forever in all directions. There is a path before you that is well traveled by hikers during the day, but you, being the 'charge into danger without thinking about the consequences' Grimm that you are, you step immediately off the path to explore the glittering lake you spot in the distance."
Sharp ears heard Nick's breathing and heartbeat slow down to a much less alarming rate. The tension in Nick's body melted away, leaving the Grimm lying heavily against the Blutbad.
"You walk for about ten minutes until you leave the cover of trees and find yourself in front of a calm lake. It looks so still that you think it must be made of glass. Leaning down, you can't help but to touch it. Which, really, is no different from how you approach most unknown things. Really, there might be some strange Grimm-eating sea monster in there, but oh, no, you have to go and touch, and-."
A sharp poke in his ribs stopped Monroe's rant. "Right. I digress. Anyway, you reach out to touch it and find that it's nice and cool. Your fingers send out little ripples on the surface that stretch out almost to the center of the lake."
"Are there any fish?" Nick's muffled voice spoke up.
Monroe was glad to hear Nick's voice, knowing he was finally reining in the panic he had been experiencing. He decided not to let his relief show, however. "Fish? Why would there be fish? This isn't a fishing story."
"I like fish," Nick replied.
Monroe rolled his eyes. "Then when it's your turn to tell a story, you can put fish in it."
"I'm having a turn?" Nick asked.
"You're going to make me do all the work?" Monroe asked. He paused a moment. "Well, I guess that's not too hard to believe, considering you make me do most the work anyway."
"Not true," Nick protested.
"Name one time you did all the work," Monroe challenged.
"I didn't say all the work," Nick countered. "We're partners. We do the work together."
This simple statement made Monroe pause. "Yeah, okay, I'll buy that. But you still owe me, like, twenty-eight."
"You're keeping count?" Nick asked, his voice rising with incredulity.
"Someone has to," Monroe replied.
They lapsed into companionable silence for several minutes, huddled together in the dark. Nick's voice finally spoke up again, brimming with curiosity.
"You're pretty good at this, with the story-telling and all that," he said. "How did you, um, know what to do?"
Monroe glanced to one side, away from Nick, debating what to tell him. Finally settling on most of the truth, he answered. "My little brother had the same problem with small spaces. He, um, fell into a hole that was meant as a trap by some hunters near our house. We didn't find him for hours, and ever since then he couldn't stand being in small places."
Nick accepted the explanation silently. Monroe considered him, then finally asked, "What about you?"
Nick was silent for several moments. Monroe had almost given up on an answer and was ready to change the subject when Nick spoke.
"I was different, when I was a kid," he said quietly. "Not with the Grimm stuff, because, well, you know. But I was really good at reading people. I paid attention and noticed stuff most people didn't. The kids and teachers at my school in New York didn't like that. They thought it was weird. One time, when some field trip money went missing from my fifth grade teacher's desk, she asked everyone what had happened to it. I approached her after school the next day and told her that this kid had been near her desk when the money went missing, and how the next day he had a new Walkman that he couldn't possibly afford on his own. The teacher and the principal followed up and found out that the kids did steal the money."
"Did the kid find out it was you?" Monroe asked quietly.
"Yeah," Nick replied softly. "Not sure how. He'd gotten suspended from school; I think they were working on expulsion, but I don't remember. After school a couple days later, he and his buddies grabbed me as I was leaving the school and beat me up. Then they shoved me into a storage locker in the gym and locked me inside. They told me that if I made a sound, they would come in and finish me off. So I didn't."
Monroe felt the wolf inside of him begin to react with anger at the thought of a young Nick being locked all alone and hurt. "How long did you stay there?"
"A few hours, I think," Nick said. "It was Friday, and everyone had gone home anyway, so no one was around to help me. My parents got worried when I didn't show up by dinnertime and tracked down all of my friends and my teacher. I remember it was really late when my dad opened the locker and found me. He picked me up and carried me to the car. My mother was torn between wanting to comfort me and wanting to track down the kids responsible and dragging them to the police station. My dad convinced her to let the police handle it. I'm not sure what happened after that."
Monroe was silent for a while, soaking in the story. He was amazed at the cruelty that some children had for others who were different from themselves, but was even more amazed that the ordeal had not tainted Nick's kind nature and good heart towards others.
A sharp trill broke the silence, startling both of them. Nick shifted under his arm, and Monroe detected the faint glow of a cell phone as Nick answered the call. "Hello?"
Annoyance crept through him. "You had a cell phone on you the whole time?"
Nick waved at him to be silent. "Yeah, Hank, we're at the plant now, locked in a closet. Can you come get us out?"
"I can't believe you had it this whole time!" Monroe continued his rant. "We could have called for help them minute that stupid Eisbieber locked us in here!"
"Great, see you then." Nick ended the call and slipped the phone back in his pocket. "Don't you have a cell phone too?" he asked Monroe.
Monroe paused, stunned. "That's beside the point," he said.
"You could have called someone too," Nick pointed out.
"You're the cop," Monroe countered. "It's your job to call for help."
"Whatever makes you feel better," Nick replied, settling back against Monroe.
They sat in silence for a few more minutes.
Silence. "Anytime, man. But the first thing I'm doing when your partner gets here is hunting down that Eisbieber."
"What? I'm Wieder. I'm just going to scare him a little. Make him think twice before locking a Grimm and a Blutbad in a closet."
"When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it."
-Edward W. Howe