And here's the finale. Thanks for all your lovely reviews – I hope this wraps it up well. Chapter 6 got away from me a little, but I hope this brings it back in line.
Rosalee took the northern Portland ringway at seventy and was neither happy nor surprised to see a squad car pulling in behind her down the slipway. She contemplated trying to outrun, but that would shoot her way past destination and she still had Monroe's panic ringing in her ears. She pulled over, lowered the window and waited. She felt slightly sick. And tired from all the raging. What the hell was wrong with her these days?
Presently, a huge bulk stooped down to the window and blocked out the light. "Lady, this is a 40 zone. There are kids on bikes out her— Miss Calvert? What's up?"
She made his face out of the silhouette and could've cried with relief: Mike. Mike who'd helped her with the distribution lists, the bunting, the gossip-spreading to make yesterday such a success. Mike who would probably draw the line at her leaving him in her dust. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, but I have to go. Burkhardt's really sick."
"Him too, huh? Who'd 've thought it? Just stay here one sec."
"Mike, I can't stay!"
"I'm still a cop, Miss Calvert. Stay just one second." He moved in a maddeningly unhurried way, but was back from his squad car in moments, something big and plastic in his huge hand. "Got a cigarette plug down there somewhere? Good – ok, stick this in. Right, this'll be noisy." He turned the siren on and stuck the light onto her roof. Green floods flashed over her bonnet. Genius.
"Doctor on call?"
"It'll get you through traffic. Don't go knocking over any cyclists. Give the Grimm my regards."
Oh God. Oh bless him. She made the rest of the journey in about five minutes flat, cars weaving dutifully out of her way as she thundered down the last stretch of the I5. She nearly took the car door off in her hurry to get inside and was relieved to see that Monroe'd had the sense to strip Nick almost completely and get him under a cold, wet bed sheet.
She fumbled the snaplock of the vial into the rear cannula on the syringe and was about to just dive in there when she saw Matty on the end of the bed. "Monroe, could you take him out? He doesn't need to see this. My iPad's on the chair in the yard. Find something on YouTube with him. Something loud."
Monroe nodded and carried Matty away. "I think I've got Mahna mahna saved somewhere…do you like Seasame street, little man?"
She waited until the worried little face peeking over Monroe's shoulder was completely out of sight and pulled the sheet back. He was glowing to the point that he'd almost run out of sweat. He grunted softly as she felt for the hottest part and flinched sharply as she found it. "Oh hon, you're in a bad spot. I'm so sorry about this…"
She put her hand on his chest and injected him. She'd expected an involuntary shout, a yell – something – but he just gave a quiet "aa-AH!", dropped his head back over the edge of the pillow and lay there panting, quietly. Ten minutes. She set her watch. Ten minutes – if his temp wasn't down by then, to hell with Maier and his experimental brews.
Sesame street didn't work – Monroe thought that the barmy scat tune (complete with vaguely lion-esque growly character) would appeal, but Matty was too tense. So they paced out back, in the yard, where the sun was slowly heating the walls and feeding the weeds between the paving stones. In among all the stress of getting the centre money together (and resisting the pressure to do sinister things with it), he'd temporarily lost track of what he'd like to do: which was to have a huge opening party in the yard, followed by hours of solo naked sunbathing. The place was private. And his inner wolf could do with a tan.
His lack of tension helped to settle Matty, who'd quit his bawling and his lip-thrusting and sagged on his shoulder, hiccupping in his ear, whimpering niknik from time to time. Monroe patted his back. Then hauled off at arm's length. And stared.
"Did you say niknik? 'cause that's not… my customary name for him, to be honest."
"Hot damn! You're tiny! How are you talking?"
"Die Lowen are early maturers," Hilde offered wearily from the doorway. "They can start to be rude at ten months." And then, apropos to nothing: "May I make a phonecall? It is overseas. I will put out some money."
"Knock yourself out," Monroe said absently, still marvelling at the early-speech miracle. He wondered if Bud knew. Actually, it didn't matter if Bud knew or not because one thing you don't do to another guy is rob him of the joy of being the 'first' to hear their kid speak. Pack rules. Still, it would be difficult to keep to himself. Matty wasn't even his, and he felt like telling everyone.
"Niknik is going to be fine. Shall we go look?" Nick was flat out, but apparently sleeping peacefully. Rosie's alarm went off and she took his temp. The improvement in her colour, immediately, told him more than the temperature strip ever would. Matty was half-bending out of his arms for a better look. "Want your shotgun seat back? He may appreciate the company."
"Damn," Matty said.
Oops. "Ah, I shouldn't have said that in front of you. Sorry. Not a word to repeat, ok?"
"Oh, rats." Oh, he was pointing. "Oh, Dam! You want the duplo? Here you go." Monroe emptied the crate in the space between Nick, Matty and the side of the bed and stood back to watch from a distance while Matty started building. From behind, he felt Rosalee's arms wrap around his waist and he'd never been so relieved at such a light, reassuring bit of affection. He turned round and pulled her against him. Her hair was messy, unscented, and wonderful.
"It's been a really…..long week, huh?"
"It's not done yet."
"He'll be fine. Just needs some rest now, probably. I'm so sorry." He just wanted to go lie down with her. Not to do anything, but just be flat with her. "Lesson learnt. When Nick's sick, he's sick."
She looked up at him, puzzled. "None of this is your fault, you know."
"Uh yeah, it is." Just getting it out of the way, he told her about Hilde's break for freedom, Nick's pursuit, his collapse. Rosalee groaned mildly into his shoulder socket, but there was no castigation. No annoyance.
"It probably didn't help, but then, neither did…. Oh never mind. Not our finest hour. Let's move on." She peeped up at him. "Where's Hilde?"
"Making some telephone calls. She said something about giving money for it. By the way, I have to ask, where the hell is she from? What is she? Cause I pretty much called her the worst nurse ever but she just came back at me and said she wasn't one."
Rosalee pulled him down on the cot next to Nick's. "I think she's intended as a bodyguard."
"You…what? For Nick? That's going to go down well." Monroe pictured her skulking around the precinct and following Nick on his jobs. He sensed she would not be a subtle or naturally gifted stalker.
"For me, not Nick." And she told him, everything that Maier had said, his plans for their place, his attempts to foist a resistance worker on them to make the lab deal go through and Monroe felt his blood evaporate in his veins. He'd been angry enough first time she'd mentioned the offer, that the so-called head of the Lauffer chapter (only according to Maier) had even suggested they keep a verrat-magnet facility on a health premises, but the idea of sending them someone who was being hunted because of her… skill set just … He stood up and paced.
"And you told him to stick it up his ass, right?" He finally managed to ask, and she nodded, but didn't seem certain enough for his liking. "You did feed back our general view, that we'd rather stick hot needles in our eyes, etc, yes?"
"Well thank god! I thought you were about to tell me he'd leant on you."
"I've been having second thoughts. I had time to think about it in the car on the way back."
Monroe sat heavily. "Tell me."
"Can I ask you something? How did he seem, before he ran out after Hilde?" She shot him a crooked smile. "It's a genuine question. I'm not about to mark you out of ten for lunacy or anything."
"He seemed… fine. And I mean proper fine, not 'I'll be fine, splat' fine. Normal. Full of beans, even. That's why I sent him out after her. I thought he'd recovered, and he's a lot faster than me."
"That's what's been nagging at me." Rosie leant back in her chair and scraped her hair into a ponytail with the spare band she always kept round her wrist. "The shots work really well, but they're not painkillers. His chest should've been absolutely murdering him, but he chased down Hilde and brought her back. His pain threshold is ludicrously high. That's handy if he needs to finish a fight, but if he's sick…"
"…Then he doesn't necessarily know about it." Monroe sighed. "Look, I agree that this needs looking into. And that you'll want to keep a pretty close eye on any test results. But it can't be done by us."
"If it keeps him safe, I'm prepared to risk a little danger—"
God, that got right under his skin. "I'm not! Don't you dare turn this into me refusing to turn our lives upside down because I don't care enough about Nick! And it won't keep him safe. The very idea of you needing a bodyguard because you have a Grimm-lab onsite will make him apeshit with stress!"
"Guys," Nick's eyes were closed, his voice quiet, but clear. "Could you go back to the beginning of the argument, just for my benefit, and tell me what the hell's going on?"
Monroe gulped. It was amazing how displeased Nick looked, even half asleep. "When did you wake up?"
"Apparently I'm supposed to be going apeshit about something."
Monroe couldn't see it somehow: shattered and trembling, Nick looked like he'd just been dragged, hypothermic, from the sea. He could barely keep his eyes open. But he needed him to rise to the occasion and not let Rosalee's guilt trip send them all on some insane counter-productive, destructive journey. Don't let this happen, buddy. I'm counting on you.
His first thought on waking, even before opening his eyes and seeing that now very familiar ceiling, was that this was getting very old. He heard low, rumbling voices of concern from Monroe and Rosalee, and looked down to see himself supine on the bed, undressed, with a proper bandage round a wrist that was now swelling. He wanted to get up and show that he was fine now, they could stop the vigil and get on with their lives, but the moment he moved a bone-deep ache of fatigue waylaid him and he dropped back on the pillows. He felt, in short, like a complete pill.
"Nick, you're ill. You had pneumonia, you had about two hours to recover from that, then got flu. Chasing a Nilpherdine through the streets in the winter probably didn't help."
Nick gazed over at Monroe, who shrugged. So he'd fessed up. Whatever.
Rosie sat next to him, looking fraught. "We need to find out what's made you so powerful."
Nick laughed and immediately wished he hadn't. "Powerful? What….the hell are you on about? What are you on? Look at me!"
"Nick, a sub-saharan Nilpherd can run at 30km an hour. You caught up, while sick. That's… unusual. Your body's not sending you pain signals correctly and we need to understand how your body works."
He squeezed his eyes shut as an ache shook him through and wondered where the hell they got the idea that he wasn't feeling any pain. Then remembered as he was walking back with Hilde after her break for the hills – her throw-off comment. "Is this about a lab?"
Rosie told him about Maier's offer, what they could do, how they could evolve medicine for mixed breeds, how Hilde had been installed as chemist-stroke-security. Nick shook his head vigorously and saw Monroe's face drop in relief in the background.
"No way. Not a chance. Not here. I understand what you're saying about gemischt advances, but not here."
"We raised £80,000 dollars yesterday, Nick. Maier's interested in seeing what makes a Grimm stronger, and others apparently agree. We've never had the chance to find out before. We've never wanted to find out before, but now…"
"So all this fundraising's been for a lab that I know nothing about?"
"No! It's for this centre, which you now know everything about. It's something I've wanted to raise with you for days, it's just that you've been… sick." Rosie took a deep breath and Hilde shambled back into the room behind her. She had a big case, he noted. "Look, in the same way you've got the Grimm anthology of wesen, we've got a book of Grimm. There's a lot of information about how to kill a Grimm—"
"Great!" Nick took a sharp breath. "Could you burn it please?"
Monroe looked thoughtful. "Nah, we thought we'd photocopy it and distribute it round the neighbourhood on pamphlets."
"Not helpful, honey! Initially I was dead set against having anything in this place that… distorted the purpose of setting up the centre, but it kind of fits. We've been able to help you. I've been mulling on this, and the simple fact is that we know very little about Grimms. God forbid anything happens to you – anything worse, that is – who comes next? Or if you get shot, stabbed or slashed—"
"Or electrocuted," Hilde offered and looked upset when they all glared at her. "What? Is tidy and increasingly common!"
"Or if you clinically die for a short time and have to be resuscitated, what happens to your powers?"
Nick stared at Rosalee in complete disbelief. "You've been mulling on this? Fucking hell! What do you think about when you're actually worrying?"
"Seriously! We know nothing about Grimms, not really. You have no siblings, no children – if you're brought back, do your powers go to a relative who's already a Grimm, or—"
"Oh man, no!" Monroe paced. "His mom does not need to be any Grimmer, I'm telling you!"
"We care about you, Nick," Rosie finished quietly. "We just want to understand how we stand behind you."
Nick sat up a little and took both her hands. What she needed to understand was that he needed them standing beside him, not behind him. Even better, he could do with upping his game a little and standing beside them. But, feeling shit or not, he wasn't being rolled over on this one. "Listen, you can tell Dr Maier from me that when I'm back on my feet, I'll be paying him a little visit."
Monroe punched the air behind Rosalee.
"And after I've taken his head off and returned it to him inside out, we can talk about blood tests, diagnostics, or whatever. I'm sure this guy has a million places he could stash a lab, but he's not going to push you into keeping it here. You're not becoming a target. Not on my account. Is that clear?"
"Not on my account, either." Hilde pulled on her coat. Rosie frowned.
"Where are you going?"
"You can let it be known that I'm going back to Bayern. I hear your conversation. There is no lab, I am a terrible nurse, and there is nothing for me here."
Rosie frowned. "But your work, the advanced medicine—"
"I am bored to the bone with it. It is dead to me. I did not want any more lab anyway, so I am happy you are making this decision. Everything I know, it is already written down and I am tired of hiding. I know this yesterday, when I ran. That was free, running. I cannot go on another year hiding in basements." She scuffed the floor with her toe. "Being a burden."
Nick got that. But he wasn't close enough to take her hand. He was pleased to see Monroe walk over and take her by the shoulders.
"Look, I don't want you going out there and getting… attacked. I know I was a little… ok, a lot terse with you, but it was the situation. Not you, in particular."
Hilde smiled. "It's ok. You are a kind man and terrible liar. I'm decided. I'm not running anymore. I feel happier for that." And she did, Nick noted, standing taller, eyes brighter.
Rosie bit her lip. "How are you going to stay safe? Where's all your written work?"
"In my bag."
"Honey, all it takes is a couple of verrat on passport control, and you'll be taken into a small room at the airport and never seen again."
"Is better than hiding."
Nick's heart ached for her. And he remembered – the gap in his stash upstairs. It seemed fitting to stow all Hilde's stuff along with his. "There's still space in the cupboard in my room."
"Can I see it?" She followed Rosie up the stairs and they were gone for some time while Monroe took a call out the front of the shop and returned to Nick's bed to say that he could drop Matty back off home.
"Thanks a million, man. Seriously, you've given me my life back."
Nick felt that he hadn't really done anything more than put his foot down. Lying in their bed, living in their pockets – it had to stop. To think that Rosie was prepared to put a bullseye on the building just to get on top of her Grimmoire… God. As soon as he was better, he'd be up and training so hard they didn't even recognise him. The resolution did him some good. He felt a hot flush under the blanket but it didn't really bother him. And as Rosie and Hilde trotted down the stairs, both women's eyes were bright, a little excited even, and Rosie pointed out that a lot of the stuff she needed for some of the chemical mixes she already had. Nick smiled as Hilde thumped over, offering her hand.
"It was very nice to meet the Portland Grimm. I'm glad you have allies. It makes you strong. Stronger than Das Kleine Wahnsinning, even."
"The tiny nutjob. Your aunt."
Nick smiled in spite of himself, keeping his automatic defence of his slightly psychopathic relative to himself for once. He shook her hand and laid back as they said their various goodbyes, but with a final practical note from Rosie. "Where aren't you going?"
"Back to Bayern."
"You didn't like it?"
"Nah. Far too many Dirkfellig. They hog all the best riverside property." And she was off, emerging like an amazon into the daylight. Nick smiled at her retreating back from his limited view and settled back into a light sleep.
It didn't last. On the edge of his awareness he picked up a stench – high and acrid like a burning cigarette butt. His pulse quickened and he opened his eyes slowly, discreetly in the darkened rest room. The shop door squeaked open and Rosalee moved from the side shelves back behind the counter. A short, wiry, apologetic-looking guy hopped in, trying to walk with his legs crossed and looking acutely uncomfortable.
"Are you open? I'm sorry, there's no sign on the door, I just hoped—"
"It's fine, we're open. How can I help?"
"God this is embarrassing. I need something for…. Bladder stamina. And incidentally, may I borrow your toilet?"
Nick sighed heavily and feigned sleep while under the blanket stretching his legs in case he needed to spring up. That acrid smell – really strong. Hundjager. Rosalee seemed to be keeping calm but there was no way that she was unaware of it.
"Toilet's through there." She pointed through the rest room. "I've got powder you can use to deaden your sensitivity a little, but you'll have to take one drachm now, and then one every four hours. I'll just go get it, and some water from the kitchen."
Nick picked up that emphasis loud and clear. She disappeared round the corner, up the corridor, he froze as the Hundjager brushed through the beaded curtain and stood next to his bed. It was a good job his face was still obscured by oxygen mask, really. He didn't have the energy pumping yet for an immediate fight: that would take another moment to get going. He felt bristly fingers against his carotid. His pulse thumped at a convincingly over-rapid pace. The intruder withdrew, clearly deciding he wasn't a threat. But he went after Rosalee.
Nick followed silently, saw the guy lean against the kitchen doorway, talking to her. His tone bright, amiable, grateful. Matter of fact. With clearly no intention of letting Rosie back out of the kitchen.
"So, I see you have some advanced facilities here. Running an ED in your back room?"
"Some need more help than others," Rosie said mildly from round the corner. "Don't disturb him, please. He's had a rough few days."
"So you do the care yourself? You don't have a…specialist?"
Nick slid along the wall as the guy went into the kitchen. God knows what he was actually going to fight him with. Hopefully the two of them could take him down together. He stopped silently in the doorway, breathing noiselessly. Saw the huge, cast-iron frying pan hanging on the hook on the wall to his left.
"We had a specialist," Rosie went on evenly, "But she had a change of heart. She's gone back to Bayern."
"You're lying. But you have no reason to protect the chemist."
"No, I don't, because I fired her, ok? She was a lousy nurse and half-killed my patient."
Nick heaved the pan down, then over his shoulder. Jesus Christ, how did she cook with this? Or, more to the point, how much of a weakling was he these days? His arms, his whole body shook uncontrollably.
"A nurse?" The guy actually laughed and straightened his gun arm. "How stupid do you think I am? I'm going to count to three. One—"
Nick hit him on the back with it as hard as he could manage and, just for the bravado, finished the count for him. "Two, three." Then he dropped the pan and staggered over to the seat by the table, totally wiped out.
The next few minutes passed in a blur for Rosie: she removed the cleaver tucked into her waistband before she could do herself a nasty with it, reluctantly called 911 under Nick's instructions, and tied up the intruder. It was a pain that he was a cop, sometimes. On the other hand, a good thing: they hadn't killed the guy so Portland PD could tidy him away, rather them having to spend a few wet and chilly hours in the woods with a shovel. Nick wasn't passed out, but he had his head on his forearms on the kitchen table, trying to get his energy back. She thought he might have dozed off until she went to pick up the pan and put it away. His arm shot out like a pole.
"Don't touch – it's evidence."
"Oh yeah, sorry."
"I'm afraid you won't have it back for a while. Sorry about that. You can grab a replacement from my place, for now."
"Uh, cooking?" He lifted his head up, bemused. His colour was a little better, she was glad to note.
"Cooking?" She looked at the weapon and laughed. "Oh no, it's for hitting people with. I don't use that thing on the stove. I'd need a crane just to serve up!"
"Now she tells me."
They both heard the front door go and Monroe jogged down the corridor, Matty-free. "Oh good, you're up, what the fuck happened?" He grabbed her, his eyes wide. "Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm ok. So will he be, once he's back in bed."
"No! No more bed!"
She couldn't really answer that protest with her face crammed into Monroe's chest.
"Thank god you were able to defend yourself."
She prised Monroe away gently, looking forward to his response. "Monny, that was Nick."
His peroxided blonde jaw duly dropped. "You were half-dead an hour ago. You just got up and lamped him? In your condition?"
Nick stood, swaying slightly, and headed for the kettle, flapping his hand at them vaguely. "Enough, enough about my condition, alright? Right, who wants coffee?"
"I'll make it," Rosie insisted, but Nick hung grimly onto the handle, filling it up with fierce determination. "Nick… remember, you don't always know what's good for you…"
"Don't bully me! I can make some damn coffee, ok?"
Monroe advanced on his friend, smiling wickedly. "You want bullying? I'll give you bullying. Up you come—"
"Monroe! Damn it, put me DOWN!"
"RESISTANCE IS USELESS!"
"I've got no clothes on! Put me down!"
"RESISTANCE IS USELESS!"
Rosie followed them into the restroom, Nick struggling like a mad thing as Monny dumped him on the bed and wogeing to discourage escape.
Nick obeyed, pulling the blanket up, pink, irritated, but sitting up stubbornly and finally cracking a smile. "You wait till I'm better, pal, I'm telling you."
"I look forward to it. STAY!"
Rosie wandered up to Nick and sat on the edge of his bed, really, really grateful that he didn't know what was good for him. Or he'd never have come after her. "You're not going to lie down, are you?"
"Fine. There's something I didn't get to do yesterday, it occurs to me."
Nick winced. "Just tell me it doesn't involve a needle."
She wrapped her arms round him and gave him a little squeeze. "Give a Grimm a hug."