Renard's eyes followed Nick as he bustled around the police station delivering coffee orders. The boy rattled off names and matching orders from memory. Two dozen officers and detectives and he hadn't made a single mistake. It was impressive, considering he'd only been interning at the station for two weeks.
Nick approached every assignment, no matter how menial, with a tenacious work ethic. The same couldn't be said for his fellow intern, a boy whose name Renard had picked at random once he'd received Nick's application.
While Burkhardt rushed to complete every chore he'd been given, his partner lingered in the break room, attempting to flirt with a pretty young officer. The fact his 2nd choice was a lazy incompetent didn't bother Renard in the slightest. The boy's deficiencies made Nick's qualities stand out even more by comparison. Renard wanted Nick to be valued and accepted by the Portland PD. He wanted the police station to feel like a second home to the boy, somewhere he'd never want to leave.
Renard's smile as Nick approached was only partly for show. There was something about the kid he couldn't help liking. Feeling that way was probably a mistake, but for now it was beyond his control.
"Officer Renard. French Roast, one sugar." Nick carefully balanced the cardboard tray on one hand, while carefully removing the coffee with the other. The boy was definitely coordinated. Smiling Nick handed the cup to Renard.
"Thanks, Nick. Where's your partner in crime? I thought he was supposed to be helping you." The prince knew exactly where the boy was, but he was interested in how Nick would respond to the question.
"He is… I forgot the napkins, so Kyle went to get some from the break room…he'll be back to help me any second." Nick forgot the napkins? The boy who'd remembered the names and orders of everyone in building, had forgot the napkins? Somehow Renard found that hard to believe. Nick was probably covering for this Kyle. Renard found Nick's behavior puzzling, considering he had not gotten the impression the two boys were friends.
"Why don't I help you with those until he gets back?" Renard nodded at the ten cups remaining in the tray. It was the perfect opportunity to spend extra time with Nick without appearing suspiciously over interested in the department's new intern.
"Are you sure you're not too busy?" Renard had three reports waiting to be completed on his desk, none of which were even close to as important as Nick Burkhardt.
"I'm sure." Renard took the tray from Nick, and they began making their way around the bull pen. Nick was more efficient, now that he didn't have to juggle all ten cups at once. They were finished in less than a minute. Renard tossed the empty box and returned to his own coffee with Nick trailing behind.
"Thanks, Officer Renard." Renard smiled and took a long sip from his cup.
"My pleasure. So, how's you aunt?" The prince hated small talk, but it was sometimes a necessary evil.
"She's good." Nick glanced away and shifted his weigh slightly. The boy really needed to work on his tells. Something about Renard's innocent comment had made Nick slightly uncomfortable and his interest was unexpectedly peaked.
"I'm glad she changed her mind about your working here. I hear you've been doing a great job." Nick had already earned a reputation among some of the younger officers. One of the new recruits had asked Nick to submit a report to his supervisor. Nick had briefly scanned the paper as he'd been walking it over to the commanding officer's desk. The boy had noticed a major typo and taken the report back to the officer's desk.
After a little self-righteous bluster, the man had taken a second look at his work and discovered that the sixteen-year-old was right. He'd made the correction and re-submitted it with his superior being none the wiser. Word had quietly spread among the lower ranks and suddenly Nick had become the unofficial copyeditor of quite few of Renard's contemporaries.
"Thanks. Umm…I don't want you to think that…I know Aunt Marie was a little…edgier with you than she usually is, but I wanted you to know, it wasn't personal. She just doesn't like cops all that much." Nick had picked up on the tension between Marie and himself that day. It was interesting that she choose to ascribe her testiness to a dislike of law enforcement officials. As a Grimm he was surprised she hadn't had at least a few run-ins with the police. She was obviously good at covering her tracks.
"I see." Nick reddened slightly; no doubt concerned he had caused offense.
"Uh, no, that came out wrong. She likes cops; she just doesn't want me around them…No, I'm not explaining this right…She doesn't want me spending time with cops, because she doesn't want me to become a cop. When I told her I didn't want to go to college, that I wanted to go into the police academy after graduation instead, she kind of flipped out." Nick concluded his ramble with a helpless shrug.
"Really?" Renard was extremely pleased. Nick was seriously considering the exact profession Renard wanted him to choose. He tried to suppress his feeling of triumph. Nick was only sixteen and teenagers changed their minds about what they wanted to be every other day.
"She somehow got it into her head that I was going to go into medicine like my mom." Renard knew interacting with Marie and Nick was essential to his plans for the future, but did spending time with them always have to include moments like this? They kept picking at a four-year-old scab and it felt like the damn thing was never going to heal.
"Is your Mom a doctor?" It was moments like this that Renard was actually grateful for what his mother had put him through in order to teach him how to hide his feelings.
"She was a nurse. She died four years ago." Nick cast his eye down to the floor, his shoulders slumping slightly.
"I'm sorry." Renard had never felt more connected with another living being as he did with Nick at that moment. They were different in so many ways, but the grief they shared united them in that instant. Renard winced internally at the sudden and unwelcome pang of empathy.
"Yeah, me too." Nick shook himself and offered Renard a weak smile, "Aunt Marie thinks I'd be a good doctor, because I'm really good at Science and Math." Renard believed a person should play to their strengths, but Nick had any number of talents, which meant he could choose which of them he wanted to pursue.
"What do you think?" If Nick was anything like his mother, what Marie said was ultimately irrelevent. In the end it would come down to what the boy wanted.
"I don't know. I do want to help people, and it would definitely come in handy if I end up inheriting my family's inner ear problem."
"Inner ear problem?" Renard was genuinely confused. In all the time he'd spent with Kelly, he'd never heard her mention an 'inner ear problem'. Was it some Kessler family Achilles' heel that they kept quiet so their enemies didn't exploit it?
"It's this crazy balance issue the doctors can't seem to fix. Every couple of months it flares up, messes with her balance and she has an accident. Aunt Marie comes home with bruises and cuts, sometimes even broken bones. The weirdest part is that she is super coordinated and athletic the rest of the time. You should see her practice baseball with me."
Suddenly it all clicked and Renard had to choke down a bubble of laughter fighting to escape his throat. It was an unusual occurrence. 'Inner ear problem' was clearly Marie's go to excuse for anytime she was injured performing her duties as a Grimm. The more Renard thought about, the more he admired the brilliant simplicity of the lie.
Nick had to notice that his aunt came home from some of her late nights a little the worse for the wear. She made it very clear she didn't want Nick to know the truth until it was absolutely necessary, so she'd had to come up with a believable cover story.
The "I was mugged" excuse only works so many times before it sounds suspicious. Marie was a librarian, so work-related injury was out. Over-using the "I fell down" explanation would start making co-workers suspect domestic abuse, IF it wasn't substantiated by a medical excuse for clumsiness. Medical records were confidential, so no one could check on the diagnosis and Kelly had probably passed on enough information about first aid to her sister that Marie could self-administer treatment for all, but the most serious of injuries.
"Does that mean I should start calling you 'Dr. Burkhardt'?" Renard was already brainstormed ways to work around this potential wrinkle. Perhaps he could send Nick to spend some quality time with the department's coroner. If Nick hated getting up close and personal with corpses then med school was definitely out, if he liked it, Renard could buy Nick some books on forensic science.
"Not just yet. I think I'd like 'Detective Burkhardt' better." That was a relief. Renard would settle for Nick being the department's medical examiner, but as a police officer, Nick would be easier to keep an eye on."Like I said; I want to help people and being a cop seems like a great way to do that. Besides there's this thing…" Nick's voice trailed off as he reddened once again and turned away, "You know what, it's stupid, and you probably have to get back to work." What had Nick stopped himself from telling Renard?
"No, I want to know." Renard's desk could be on fire at the moment and he wouldn't care.
"I have this thing where sometimes I just know stuff about people." Renard was definitely intrigued.
"You can read their minds?" He'd never put much stock in so called 'psychic powers', but given Nick's genetics Renard wasn't ready to dismiss anything off hand.
"No, I'm not telepathic, it's just that sometimes, I get a sense about people, things that are hidden just beneath the surface. That's the best way I know how to explain it." Nick's description sounded remarkably similar to Grimm vision, except that he wasn't seeing Woges, he was sensing secrets.
"Would you mind giving me a demonstration?" Nick shrugged.
"Sure." Renard waited as the boy scanned the room. His eyes fell on an officer sitting at his desk. The man glanced at his watch and Nick smiled.
"Officer Bennett is nervous because he has a very important date with his girlfriend tonight. He's proposing."
"Did he tell you that?" Renard scrutinized the man and couldn't see how Nick had come up with his theory. Bennett did seem to be checking the time more regularly than he usually did, but that could be for any number of reasons.
"No, he hasn't told anyone, because he's afraid she'll say no."
"It's an interesting guess. Let's go see if you're right." Nick didn't protest as they crossed the room to Jimmy's desk. He looked up as they approached.
"I was hoping you could settle a bet for me and Nick. Were you planning on popping the question to Christina tonight?" Officer Bennett's mouth fell open in shock. That was that all the answer Renard needed.
"How did you know that? I didn't even tell my own mother." Nick was right on all counts. This talent of Nick's was definitely something he'd need to devote some thought to. Strange, how Marie had never mentioned it.
"Lucky guess." Officer Bennett ran a shaky head through his hair.
"Good guess. Do me a favor, though, keep it under your hat. I don't want to jinx it, alright?" Renard nodded absently, his thoughts occupied by more pressing matters than Bennett's marital status. He waved Sean to follow him back to his own desk.
"That's quite a talent you have there." Nick was right; it would definitely be a useful skill for a detective to have. Renard won't mind having the boy's ability for himself.
"Thanks. I try not to use it all that often." The boy had once again thrown Renard though a loop.
"Why not?" If Renard had the insight Nick did, he'd use it constantly. The blackmail potential alone was infinite.
"People don't like it. Sometimes I see things they don't want me to see." Renard didn't doubt that. Even so called "ordinary people" had plenty of secret, shameful things buried that they wouldn't want Nick to bring to light. A troubling thought struck Renard.
"Can you see anything about me?" At first the prince had only seen the potential benefits of this new discovery. It was only now he started to consider the possible cost. Nick gave an awkward one-sided shrug.
"Not much." Renard's sixth sense was telling him there was something Nick was not saying.
"But there is something?" The boy sighed and nodded reluctantly. Renard gestured him to go on, despite the foreboding he would regret it.
"You miss someone…a woman who used to take care of you…maybe your mother?… She's been gone for a long time, but it still hurts, so you try not to think about her." Renard couldn't speak. Of all the things Nick could have seen, it would have to be that. Nick, turned to walk away, but then stopped a turned back.
"Officer Renard? I know it's none of my business, but don't forget her." Nick's words came out in a tumble, like he was afraid if he slowed down, he wouldn't have the courage to say what he wanted to say, "I used to think, with my mom, it would be easier if I could forger her, to forget both my parents actually, but I realized if I forgot them it would be like they never existed, which would be worse." Nick turned and bolted before Renard could respond. It was just as well, because he had no idea how he would have answered.
A part of him was resentful and angry at Nick for handing down advice on how to mourn Kelly's death. For one thing Renard knew more about what happened that night than Nick did and for another Nick had had twelve full years of good memories to lessen the sting of her absence. Renard had had less than three months.