This is a gentle shortie (maybe three parts? Not much longer) while a longer story struggles its way from my brain to my laptop. Hope it's fun
X x X
It doesn't matter. It's just wraps. I'll have Nick's bagels. Monroe relaxed his grip on Nick's kitchen table and opened the back door. He didn't have to eat wraps for lunch. Ok, so he'd planned it, put it on the food list, and it was in the routine. Routines could be broken: the world would not fall around his shoulders in a rubbly mess.
I will neither rise nor react to this juvenile stunt.
Monroe calmly pulled the top tortilla wrap from the packet and held it up to the light. The juvenile in question, shaking with silent laughter behind the Portland Post, had folded it into eight and nibbled strategically. This wrap, and every other one in the pack. And then resealed it, impeccably.
Nick carefully lowered his paper, fought for a straight face. "Everything alright?"
Monroe held up the tortilla snowflake. "I'm glad that you're feeling so much better."
Well, that was it, Nick was over the edge, and ill-concealed giggles turned into full, hands-on-face laughter. "Your….f...face!"
Monroe was unlikely to get any sense out of him for a good half hour. "I'm having your bagels," he reported mildly, and set about stealing ingredients. It was 1pm. Change of food, he could deal with. Disruptions to circadian rhythms? No. "Don't you have some people to arrest?"
Ha, that sobered him. Nick crammed the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time. On good form, actually. Unmistakeably fitter.
No, he couldn't stay mad. For one thing, it was nice to see a little levity in the guy after recent nasty illnesses, and, well… laughter was a good palliative for heartbreak, even if it couldn't cure. And he'd been not low exactly, but unsettled since the letter arrived. The letter sat unopened and propped up by the empty fruit bowl, where it had been left the morning it arrived. All other post was open – even the bills. Monroe glanced over at it. He had no idea whether the handwriting was Kessler's, Kelly Burkhardt's or Juliette's, but it was indutibly a female hand. Unless, of course, it was penned by a teenage boy wesen with early-onset wankcramp, making it impossible to print letters narrower than half a centimetre, or higher than three mills. Not that he had any personal experience of this terrible affliction.
Monroe hunted for the chopping board, wondering if Juliette had been subjected to Nick's infantile humour. He hoped so, in a way. The boy in Nick was attractive. Really fucking irritating, but attractive. Besides, he was a guest in Nick's home, so he couldn't be crabby. It would just be wrong.
He sliced a bagel open, grabbed cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise and tomatoes from the fridge (there was something about staying at Nick's that made him go condiment crazy) and laid everything out on the counter. Ketchup first, both slices. All in order. He heard the shower roar into life upstairs, waited for Nick to start the terrible singing, then cheerfully turned on the hot water tap in the sink, cutting off Nick's supply.
Nick roared indignantly down the stairs. Monroe grinned and closed the tap. Nope, nothing wrong with a bit of levity.
He missed Rosie while she was away. Just for a few days, he knew, and nothing grim or Grimm, just on a writer's retreat to wind down a bit. A little bit of him was miffed – he was supposed to be her wind-down routine, and she'd never mentioned any remotest passion for writing. But, as Nick had gently pointed out, he needed his cello but if she sat next to him staring avidly through his whole three-hour practice, it would all get a little claustrophobic. So it was a break in her routine. No big deal – it's just that it meant another break in his routine, just as he'd gotten used to stretching his life across clocks and spices. It was a good thing that he just found this change difficult. Difficult was better than physically impossible, but he remained a who-moved-my-cheese kinda guy. Staying with Nick, albeit with his predictable forms of offduty nutsiness, gave him some stability.
Monroe assembled salad, sliced the tomato. Actually, where was the cheese? He looked back on the counter, checked the fridge, returned to the chopping board and stared in disbelief at the cheeseless spot where he'd put the gouda slice, like, moments ago. On that spot he saw two scratchy, tiny feet, no more than three millimetres wide, scratching at the board for crumbs. He was aware of breathing really, really fast. His pulse hammered behind his teeth, behind his eyes. The feet scampered and stopped at the bottom of his sleeve, then the mouse shot up his sleeve and panic took over.
X x X
Monroe screamed his name from downstairs and the shock, along with the howling and crashing from downstairs had him out of the tub driving a towel across his face and hair to absorb the worst of the shampoo. He tucked the towel round his hips, snatched his gun off the bedside table and pelted down the stairs and over the couch. It was suddenly silent, too silent. He snapped round the corner into the kitchen and saw Monroe on the kitchen floor, rolled up on his side, shaking impossibly, his hand to his chest. The place was a tip – the back door hanging open.
Nick waved him back down to the floor. "Stay there, I'm coming back."
He burst out the back door but the intruder had gone, and waving his gun around did nothing more than scare a dozen starlings out of the tree in the yard. He ran back indoors to Monroe, who'd rolled onto his back, breathing raggedly, a red patch under his hand. He grabbed handfuls of shirt and ripped it open, but – like the pull-the-table-cloth act – Monroe's smacked back exactly where it was on his chest, his eyes wide with the dread of impending doom. Nick's pulse kicked up a notch as he struggled to see what the injury was.
"Let go of your chest, Eddie. I'm trying to help you here."
"Move your hand, dammit!" Nick prised it away with difficulty and found… nothing underneath. Nothing. No bullet, no arrow… no other…..deadly thing. Just sticky chest hair. Thank GOD. He gave a weird, slightly hysterical laugh and sunk back on his heels, sweating hard under the soap.
Monroe pointed towards the window with his clean hand, still looking terrorised. "S-sink!"
Nick frowned, armed himself again. "Sink?" What the hell was small enough to fit in the sink?
"G-gun might… be overkill, but…"
Nick staggered over, still feeling the effects of an extra bucket of adrenaline injected straight into his system. In the plughole sat the world's smallest mouse, chest hair in one paw, cheese in the other. About 90% of him felt really fucking… unimpressed. "Right. Mouse in the sink."
It tried to stare him down and he was in no mood for it. He smacked the gun down on the counter and snatched the mouse out, trapping it between his palms with the tiny head poking cheekily out between his thumbs. Then he escorted it firmly outside, let it go, and slammed back into the kitchen, shutting it out.
Monroe looked really sheepish as he clambered shakily to his feet and Nick had enough experience of seeing genuine fear to know terror when he saw it. So he knew it wasn't a prank, but still… it would've been nice if Eddie's first words when able to speak had been 'I'm not hurt', or 'I'm not dying' or reassuring variations on that theme, rather than directions towards the deadly creature in the sink. Life without his friends…He found himself filling up, unexpectedly, exhaled noisily and pinched the bridge of his nose to get himself together.
"Nick… I'm really sorry about the mess, I-"
"I don't care about the mess! You just scared the shit out of me! What's that red crap on your shirt?"
"Ketchup. Sorry, I was holding my bagel when it… when it went up my sleeve. I panicked."
"I noticed! Christ!" Nick headed back for the stairs, steaming.
"Where are you going?"
Dumbass question! Nick spun round and indicated his half-showered form. "I'm going to rinse off, if that's ok with you? Or is there something you need me for right now that requires me to be slippery?"
Monroe quailed slightly against the kitchen counter. "Uh… no… I'm good. You go …. Rinse."
"Good!" Nick stormed into the bathroom, slammed his towel into the corner and got back in the shower. It took him about ten minutes to cool down, even under freezing water.
X x X
Monroe cleared up as quietly and quickly as possible, trying to redeem himself and forget about the fact that he was at least 19 minutes behind schedule already with his lunch. His hands still shook embarrassingly as he put stuff away and swept up broken glass. Half the shock was the mouse, but the other half, Nick's reaction. He'd moved like a man possessed. Yeah, he was certainly stronger and fitter but the anger... It was the letter. Had to be the letter. Apart from the unfortunate incidence of their first meeting, he'd never seen Nick flip out like that. Did Nick know that his eyes went silver when he was angry? It was unlikely Nick practiced psyching out wesen in the mirror so, probably not. But it was like looking into the heart of an animal with something far more powerful lying less than a few tissue layers beneath Nick's surface, scowling and ready to get out. All that power, packaged up in an amiable, gentle soul who wouldn't even chuck a mouse of the house by its tail.
He peeled off his shirt and stuck it in the washing machine, relieved to see that Nick believed in the power of Vanish stain release. He stuck the dial on 30 – ketchup was hell on flannel – and went hunting for his buttons.
He was still grovelling around on the floor when Nick trotted down the stairs in jeans, a long-sleeve teeshirt, and looking – thank God – a lot more like his usual self. He actually felt a little irritated by Nick's easy ability to swing from incandescent wrath to a state of relative omm.
"Uh, Monroe – sorry about…losing it a bit. I genuinely thought you were badly hurt. It was a shock."
Monroe gave the soft-spoken Grimm an awkward smile and flattened himself on the floor so he could see under the cabinets. "I'm sorry too, really. Do you have a torch?"
"What are you doing?" Nick was holstering and getting his wallet together. No motions, apparently, to go anywhere near the letter before leaving for work.
"I'm trying to find my buttons."
"What happened to your buttons?"
"You did, Nick! You have a … purposeful way of disrobing a guy that turns buttons into land-to-air missiles. Has no one ever mentioned this to you?"
"I can't say they have, actually." Oh crap, he was sounding annoyed again, just as the ice was breaking… "No one has ever turned round to me in the aftermath of a cardiac arrest or a shooting or whatever and said 'Good god man, that was purposeful disrobing!'"
"Ok, ok. I wasn't complaining. I just want them back. They're the only ones that go with that shirt."
"Can't you get other purple buttons?"
"No! They were burgundy! Purple would look odd."
"O-kay." Nick headed for the door. "Don't hesitate to call me at the precinct if you need emergency button retrieval."
Right, that was it. Monroe got to his feet and intercepted Nick before he got to the door. "What is wrong with you? Apart from the scare?"
"I'm fine, I just got to go—"
"You're not fine! You've been on an emotional rollercoaster since that—" he pointed at the envelope – "arrived, and you're going nowhere till you open it!"
"It's Marie's handwriting," Nick offered suddenly. "I'm not sure if I'm ready to open it."
"Ok. Call Hank, tell him you'll be a half hour late – it's not like you never do overtime – and we'll open the letter."
Nick gave him a sideways look. "It may be a little personal."
"You just ripped my clothes off while half naked – how much more personal do you want to get?"
Nick smiled reluctantly. "Alright. Hang on…."
And naturally Hank had no problem with the extra half hour. They sat down at the kitchen table and stared at it for a few minutes like it was going to get up and walk to one of them. Eventually, Monroe reached for it. "Want me to open?"
"Yeah." Nick took a deep breath. "You open, I'll read."
"You'd better read," Monroe muttered and found a knife to slice the envelope carefully. He saw, before passing it over, the cursive script on the top wad of the cream, folded buff and groaned inwardly.
Last will and testament of Marie Helene Kessler