Disclaimer: The characters of this work of fiction are the sole property of the creators of the television show "Grimm," (Stephen Carpenter and David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf) and NBC and its affiliates.
A/N: Written for THE 7-DAY CHALLENGE #1 (Failure) on livejournal's dailyfics.
Warning: Graphic depiction of the death of a child. Pre-slash kissing.
Failure. It isn't a word that sits well with Nick. It leaves a hollow feeling the pit of his stomach, a sour, bitter taste in his mouth.
He'd only ever failed a handful of times in his life. And they'd been pretty big, as far as failures go.
Basketball State Finals, he'd had a clear shot, landed wonkily on his ankle, and that had been the end, not only of Finals, but also of what could have been a promising college career in sports.
Then there was Melissa Baker. A girl that everyone scored with on the second date. In his nervousness, he'd fumbled with the clasp of her bra, big time. Foul, no score. He didn't lose his virginity for a couple years after that.
But all of his past failures pale in comparison with today's, and Nick doesn't know what to do with the guilt. It's an all-consuming dark hole that he wishes would swallow him.
"Hey, Burkhardt." Captain Renard doesn't even look him in the eye, and Nick can't blame him. He'd screwed up and someone, a little girl, had died.
"Why don't you head home?" The captain puts a hand on his shoulder; the weight of it causes Nick to stumble.
When Nick doesn't move, the captain squeezes his shoulder.
"It's been a rough day Nick," Renard says softly. "You can't blame yourself for what happened. It wasn't your fault."
"A little girl is dead because I hesitated," Nick says in a strangled voice.
"Nick, go home," Renard reiterates, his voice is soft, but it is clearly a command, and Nick can't blame the man for wanting him to be out of his sight.
Nick nods without looking up, gathers his coat, badge and gun and then hurries from the station. He shrugs out of Hank's grip when his partner attempts to gain his attention, and lets Hank's empty words, attempted solace, fall on deaf ears. He doesn't need or want his partner's pity. He got a little girl killed today, let a creature, straight out of childhood nightmares and dark fairytales, get away.
"Get some rest man!" Hank shouts after him and Nick waves a hand, knowing that he won't sleep tonight.
Nick won't be getting rest anytime soon. Not until long after he's caught up with the Kinder-Fresser, literally child-guzzler, and rent the monster asunder.
He intends to go to his aunt's trailer, do some more research on the Kinder-Fresser and then hunt the ogre down and kill it, but his car takes him elsewhere. It isn't until he's putting the car into park outside of the light blue house that he realizes where it is that he's gone. Monroe's.
He hesitates for only a moment, the fingers of one hand are poised over the door handle and his keys are dangling in his other hand. And then he's out of his car like a shot, his long legs carrying him to the blutbad's door quicker than he's ready for.
He stands on the porch, unsure, guilt crashing down around him in tidal waves. He's drowning and he shouldn't bring Monroe into this. The blutbad doesn't need this, doesn't need to be exposed to the uglier side of police work, the failure of a Grimm to protect the innocent.
His hands are scrunched into tight fists at his side, but he can't muster the courage to raise one of them and knock on the door of his informant? Friend?
He closes his eyes and the little girl's face – olive-toned skin, dimpled cheeks, vivid blue eyes – greets him in the darkness. Her mouth is twisted in a silent scream, her little arms are reaching out to him, begging for help. Her eyes are welling up with tears that seem to magnify the stark clarity of them, and then she's falling backward, a red swath of blood marring her Hello Kitty tee-shirt.
Red spots, a pointillist gone mad, dot her white sneakers. Blood so dark that it's almost black seeps into the grooves of the sidewalk, a splash of color against the backdrop of white chalk, a child's game of hopscotch, the lines askew and blurred.
And Nick can't get the images out of his head, not even when he opens his eyes. He's shaking and he can't breathe and all he can see is Clara's body, broken and bloodied, lying on the sidewalk, a piece of chalk still clutched tightly in her chubby fist.
"You know it's customary, and even considered polite in certain cultures, to knock," Monroe's sarcastic greeting is like a slap to the face, and with it, Nick draws in a shuddering breath, gasping for air.
He blinks, reeling back from the sudden proximity of the blutbad who seems to have noticed that there's something wrong.
"Shit Nick, are you okay man?" Monroe's question seems warbled, the words don't make sense and Nick's world is titling precariously.
"Hey, hey there Nick, I've got you, okay?" Monroe's arms are around him and Nick can't feel his feet, but he knows that he's moving, walking even, into Monroe's house and being deposited on the couch.
"Talk to me," Monroe says an undeterminable amount of time later during which Nick has been divested of shoes, coat and has been tucked onto Monroe's couch with an afghan.
He feels warm for the first time since he got out of bed that morning. The cold rain of Portland had been an ever present backdrop throughout the day, even before the death of little Clara. And then he'd felt colder than he'd ever felt in his entire life, like he'd never be warm again – her little pigtails covered in blood.
There's a mug of something being shoved into his hand. It smells mossy and he wrinkles his nose at the strange scent. It's hot and steamy and he breathes it in, slowly blinking himself into awareness. He takes a tentative sip, and when the taste isn't awful, he gulps the remainder of the drink down quickly, letting Monroe take the mug from his numb fingers. It grounds him and so do Monroe's eyes, brown, filled with worry and, and love?
"You back with me Nick?" Monroe asks; he's kneeling in front of the couch, his fingers resting lightly on Nick's wrists. The man's an anchor, keeping Nick from going adrift in a sea of guilt.
Nick struggles to sit up, but Monroe pushes him back, and Nick finds that he doesn't have the strength to fight the blutbad on this. His mouth twists with suppressed emotions and he doesn't want to cry, but he can't stop the tears from falling.
"What happened?" Monroe asks, his lips brushing against the top of Nick's head which is buried beneath his chin.
"I got a little girl killed today," he whispers, and when Monroe doesn't stiffen or release his hold on him out of disgust or alarm, Nick tells him of the Kinder-Fresser, of Clara's dead blue eyes staring up at him, and of how he's going to take the beast apart limb from limb.
"Shh, hush Nick," Monroe says and Nick figures that he must be crying again, because Monroe's shushing him and rubbing his hands up and down his arms in a soothing motion that makes Nick feel safe and comfortable and unable to keep his eyelids open.
"It wasn't your fault," Monroe says, and he's pressing his lips against Nick's forehead, like a parent comforting a distraught child, except it makes Nick's nerves tingle, like he's got millions of fire ants burrowing beneath his skin.
"But I failed," Nick protests, "the Kinder-Fresser was right there in front of me, and I hesitated because I, I thought…" Monroe places a finger to his lips, stilling them.
"Nick, sometimes your heart is too big," Monroe says. "You can't save everyone, slay every beast."
"No, but," Monroe's finger on his lips makes Nick's words sound muffled, "she was just a little girl and I, I foolishly thought I could talk the beast down."
Monroe gives Nick a look which communicates that the blutbad thinks he's a lost cause, a fool and a goof all rolled up into one, but then he smiles and his gaze lowers to Nick's lips.
"I can't even pretend to understand what you're going through Nick," Monroe says, and then he's replacing his finger with his lips in a chaste kiss, "but, I do know you," another kiss, this one more pointed, "and I know that you will succeed. I'll even help you." Monroe finishes his speech with a lingering kiss which makes Nick gasp.
"How can you…" Nick never gets to finish his question, but it doesn't matter because Monroe's answer is on his lips, in his mouth, and written on his tongue as the blutbad offers him comfort and a promise that words cannot possibly convey.
When they part for breath, Nick feels a little less like walking off the nearest cliff. The sting of another failure, this one more costly than any other, is still there, but it is dulled. He knows that he'll be haunted by Clara's death for some time to come, probably forever, but he also knows, with mounting awareness, that he won't be alone in this. He's got Monroe and Monroe won't let him fall over that precarious ledge.
Monroe's forehead's resting against his own; the blutbad's spicy breath is warm on his neck. Monroe is stroking his hair and the repetitive motion lulls Nick into an easy sleep. When he next wakes, nightmarish images of Clara are scuttled by Monroe's hushed murmurings against his ear and his heart resumes a much more sedate pace as he drinks the herbal tea that Monroe pushes into his hand.
He falls asleep, this time in a bed that he has no memory of getting into. He wonders, idly, if Monroe carried him there, but as he loses consciousness, the memory of Monroe's lips against his own follows him into his dreams, and he finds that it doesn't matter how he ended up in the blutbad's bed. Especially when another nightmare pulls him from the comfort of sleep and Monroe holds him close, talking him through it, easing him through the guilt of his failure.
Reviews would be greatly appreciated.