Nick closed his eyes. Letting the warm water cascade down his face. On particularly cold mornings, a warm shower was the only thing that got him out of bed. But these days, it had become a habit. Cold morning or not. Covered in sweat, his heart hammering, he awoke each dawn. She remembered. She remembered who he was. Them. What it felt like to hold him. Until he opened his eyes. And felt the hard arm of the couch. The bitter cold of the living room, reminding him where he was. Separated from her by more then just walls. After waking up with such a full heart, only to have it shattered by the skeletal grip of reality, carrying on through the day was exhausting and had become nearly impossible. Though he never let it show, wearing a mask for her and for work. Even though Nick was made of courage, this was something that was beginning to tear him apart from the inside out. And a warm shower was where he recovered from the fantasy of his sleep. Where he could prepare himself to face that reality. Where he could cry.
Nick tried not to. He didn't like it. But he was breaking inside. And even holding back tears had become too difficult. Her laughter echoed in his mind to his breast. Making his heart sink. The way she used to say his name. Nick braced himself against the shower wall as tears began to rain down his sallow cheeks, invisible within the water. The touch of her hand against his skin, the tingle of her kiss, the warmth of her hand in his.
Nick let out a quiet sob as his memories and dreams of what used to be entangled in his mind. Even when he and Juliette would begin to move forward, a step backwards always came next. He couldn't keep going like this. But he knew he had to. There was nothing more he could do. After letting himself grieve where no one could see him, the mask was sometimes easier to slip into. He had no other choice. But to smile a good morning. Hold onto hope that she would recover. Or they could one day, be something more than a ghost of Nick and Juliette.
Nick glanced at the clock on the wall, it was 8:15. He had to get going. He finished his shower before drying off and tying the towel around his waist. Nick took in a deep breath. He was a detective. A Grimm. He could keep going. He always had, and always will. Even when today, it seemed impossible.
Nick took a moment to collect himself and think of the case ahead before he opened the door to their bedroom. He furrowed his brow when he noticed one of Juliette's dresses laying on the bed, next to a pair of heels and a necklace. He stepped up to it, fingering the silver plated chain. He had given it to her, and the thought that she wouldn't remember that made him throw his mind somewhere else lest he cry again. Nick pulled a pair of jeans from his drawer and reached for a maroon henley.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Juliette's voice made his chest jump. He took a moment to turn about, forcing his lips into a smile.
"Good morning." She smiled a little, playing with a hairband in her hand as she stepped into the room.
"Have a good shower?" He nodded, smiling.
"Yep." She smiled nervously before glancing away.
"Sorry about the mess. I've been trying to pick an outfit for this work thing tonight."
"Yeah, a fall fundraiser at the clinic. I'm supposed to look nice." Nick clenched his jaw. The Fall Fundraiser. This would be the first year he wouldn't be going with her. The first year they wouldn't bake away an afternoon with their perfected recipe of a pumpkin cheesecake. She knew none of this. How could she? Nick let out a quiet sigh through his nose as he gathered his clothes. "I'll be a little late tonight. That okay?" Nick smiled a nod again.
"Of course. Have fun." He considered the idea of asking if he could come, but pushed the idea out as quickly as it had hopped in. If she wanted him, she would say. He walked towards the bathroom and paused in the doorway.
"That dress is perfect." He said over his shoulder. She smiled before looking up from the dress to meet his eyes.
"You look great in it." She was quiet for a moment.
"Thank you, Nick." Nick took a moment to respond.
"You're welcome." He looked away before looking upon her again. Wondering if she might hug him, for that 'thank you' felt like it meant more than just then. When she turned her back, Nick slipped into the bathroom. He let out a shaky breath. Though the fundraiser was something small, wasn't always the most fun, it was yet another thing that they had done together. And now, was yet another thing they did apart. Nick waited till he heard Juliette leave the bedroom before he dressed, left the bathroom, and headed off to work.
The day passed as usual, but no particularly violent nor exciting cases to work on, which Nick was glad of. They closed a case midday, he was able to track down the Dämonfeuer who had started a fire. The rest of the afternoon was spent indoors, filling out paperwork. As the work day was coming to an end, Nick's stomach clenched. He didn't want to go home. All he wanted was to be with Juliette, but he still wasn't quite sure she wanted to be with him. Though many hugs and smiles had told him she did, his doubts always overrode the gestures.
He looked to the window, the sky was the color of woodsmoke, and a light mist began to speckle the window. Nick tapped his fingers on the desk. He pulled out his phone and began going back a year in pictures. Till he smiled slightly, one Juliette had taken of him being silly, posed in an apron striking a Martha Stuart pose with the cheesecake in his hands. And the one beside it was of them holding the dessert, the tip of his tie visible and the halter of her dress below their faces, noses touching as she kissed him.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, making him jump.
"Nick..." He quickly turned about to see that Hank had wheeled over and was giving him a funny look. "You all right?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Why?"
"I said your name 3 times." Nick furrowed his brow.
"How are things at home?"
"Things are... things are good." He forced a smile on his lips. Hank didn't appear entirely convinced but nodded.
"Know what else is good?" Wu's voice popped in over their shoulders as he passed, a pair of tickets in his hand. "Two tickets to the Timbers game tonight. First one to grab it is coming with me." He tossed it over his shoulder, and Hank proudly snatched it in midair.
"Unless you uh...?" Nick shook his head.
"Go, have fun. I've got stuff to do."
"If you're sure." Hank said as he buttoned up his coat, saving his work before turning off his computer.
"See ya Monday then?" Nick nodded.
"Don't worry, I'll give him the crappy seat, Nick." Wu said with a smirk as he left the room, Hank on his heels, rolling his eyes at the Sargent. Once they were gone Nick too gathered his things and turned off his computer. He looked at the clock, Juliette would be at the Fundraiser by now. Nick quickly decided that a run would do him some good. The Grimm buttoned up his coat before heading out of the station, onto the cool autumn Portland streets. He walked to his car and hopped in, the interior felt like ice against his palms. He closed his eyes. Letting out a long breath. He could finally relax. His tired and grim expression returning as he started the engine. A run would definitely do him some good.
Nick changed in his car before heading out into the green woodland, mist dancing around every branch, and engulfing the Grimm as he ran. He covered 6 miles of Portland woods and though it was cold out, he returned to his car with his shirt dripping. Both from sweat, and from the dewy pine and fir branches hitting him as he ran. Nick hopped in the car, and turned on the radio. Drinking from his canteen before heading for home. His mental state felt much better, and even though his guts wrenched at the idea of going home, for no reason other than wishing he was with Juliette. Wishing things were different. That they could start again, if they couldn't go back.
Nick pulled up in front of the house, furrowing his brow at the sight of Juliette's car in the road. She didn't go? Nick hopped out of the car and climbed the stairs, his feet echoing on the damp wooden deck. The lights were on in the house, and a particular sweet smell was drifting out through the cracked window. Nick kicked off his running shoes before popping his head into the kitchen. Juliette's smile greeted him, and he returned the grin without even thinking. The gesture so familiar.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were going to the fundraiser?" Juliette set the bowl she was stirring down and walked up to him.
"I was... but I decided not to."
"Why not?" Juliette shifted her weight, looking into his sea green eyes. She was quiet for a moment.
"I... I missed you." The words sent tingles across his skin, like wings tickling his thundering heart. Juliette stepped closer, slipping her hand into his, Nick taking a moment before squeezing it tight.
"I miss you too." Nick wrapped an arm around her, the two embracing amidst the evening light weaving in through the window panes. This was the next best thing to her remembering. And was what he needed to keep going. To smile. To love. She pulled back slightly, admiring his face before her eyes flicked to his lips. She leaned in. Kissing him. Nick kissed her back, pulling her closer, Juliette let his hand go and rested it on his neck. They kissed for several moments before Juliette pulled away.
"Sorry." She said, sounding somewhat embarrassed.
"Don't be. Ever." She smirked. "Is that cheesecake crust?" Juliette nodded proudly.
"I remembered... I remembered making it. But in the cookbook, it had 'Our specialty version' scribbled in on the side of the recipe. With your name scribbled by the pumpkin part. We used to make it together, didn't we?" He nodded.
"I did the pumpkin. Aunt Marie loved pumpkin pie, so I learned to make it when I was a kid."
"I wish I could remember that." Nick swallowed trying to let the pleasant evening stay with him.
"It's all right."
"We can create new memories." She said through a hopeful smile. And those words gave Nick an idea.
"That we can." He brushed hair from her cheek. She smiled, touching his hand.
"Now go wash up before we bake."
"Are you saying I smell?" He teased.
"Only a little." They laughed, and Nick couldn't fight his smile if he tried. This was the most normal they had been since her coma. Their ghost was becoming whole.
The evening passed pleasantly, and though when bedtime came the two still went to separate rooms, Nick felt closer to her than he had in weeks. As he lay on his side, fiddling with the quilt Bud had given them, Nick smiled. An idea had came into his mind earlier that evening, and he couldn't wait to get started. Once he heard Juliette shut their bedroom door, Nick hopped off the couch and grabbed a notepad.
Juliette awoke the next morning and to her surprise, it was 10:30 AM. She hadn't slept in that late in... she couldn't remember. She hadn't slept very sound since returning from the hospital, her dreams were filled with shadows of events she couldn't place and memories she didn't recognize nor know if they held any truth. She was always as eager as she was nervous about seeing Nick in the morning, everyday hoping that this would be the day she'd remember him. Just a good nights sleep before her eyes met his. His eyes that she as of late, she found herself admiring, like his smile. His smile that had become contagious, nearly as much as his touch.
Juliette got out of bed, when on her way to the bathroom she noticed a note under the door. She furrowed her brow, kneeling to read it, a curious look growing in her eyes.
Go to Pine Pancakes at 11 AM. Someone will be waiting to meet you there.
Juliette was unsure how to read the letter. She was nearly certain it was Nick's handwriting, but something seemed funny about it. Why wouldn't he have told her before? She didn't get a bad feeling... but a curious one. Nick was hiding something. She knew him well enough now to sense that. She dressed up accordingly and headed out to this mysterious meeting at her favorite brunch restaurant.
Juliette hopped out of the car, the autumn air and morning mist bleeding through her thin blue sweater. Sunset hued leaves tickled at her dark leather boots as she strayed across the parking lot and into the restaurant. The place was fairly busy, but the hostess greeted her immediately.
"Table for 1?"
"Actually, I'm meeting someone here. Though I'm not entirely sure who." The woman glanced towards a table in the back before looking back to her. "Juliette Silverton?" Juliette gave her a funny look for knowing her name without her saying. She was starting to get nervous again, what if this was something bad?
"Yes." The hostess sensed the hesitance in her tone and smiled.
"Don't worry, I've done blind dates before. And you're in luck. This guy is a cutie." Juliette smiled to her, but still was very unsure as the woman led her into the restaurant. Had Nick set her up with a friend of his? "Straight ahead, I'll send a waiter over shortly." The woman pointed to a small table in the corner. Beside a window that looked out on a small country road before a skyline of green. There sat one man, his back to her. Hair a rich black. Her heels clicked on the old oak floor. At the sound, the man turned about, her heart jumping to her mouth.
"Good morning." Nick said, his eyes smiling more than his lips. As if he was holding something back.
"Good morning." Juliette said with a grin, still feeling slightly befuddled. Nick rose and pulled out her seat for her, before he reached out his hand.
"My name is Nick, Nick Burkhardt." Now she was entirely befuddled. "And if I remember correctly, you have a beautiful name. Juliette, right?" If not for the impish smile in the man's eyes, she would have worried he was now the one with memory issues. Her smile grew from her heart to her lips as she began to understand what he was doing.
"Yes, that is my name. Have we met before?" She said, playing along now as she took the seat. Nick returning to his own across from her.
"Yes and no." He was quiet for a moment before leaning closer across the table. "But I think... this should be our... our first meeting. Something like a-"
"Fresh start." Juliette quickly finished his sentence with a smile. Nick returned the look.
"We had our first date here. What better place to have it again." Juliette smirked.
"Again? What are you talking about? We only just met. Remember." The two exchanged playful smiles, and without even thinking Juliette reached out and grabbed his hand. Intertwining their fingers.
"What can I get for you two?" The waiter asked as he sidled up to them.
"You pick." Nick said, smiling. Juliette glanced to the menu hardly taking the time to read it before already knowing what to say.
"I'll have a Pinecake Mini Stack, and he'll have the Pumpkin French Toast."
"That be all?"
"Yes, thank you." Juliette smiled as the waiter left, before turning her attention back to Nick. The detective was smiling, but a different type of smile. With an curious look in his eyes.
"Oh no, you hate french toast?" Nick shook his head.
"Absolutely not. It's just that," he squeezed her hand again. "That's the exact same order I got on our first, first date." Butterflies began tingling in Juliette's chest.
"Maybe I'm finally getting somewhere."
"Maybe." Nick said, trying not to get too hopeful.
"But remembering or not. I'm not so sure how much it matters anymore..." Nick gave her a funny look. Juliette tapped her fingers on the table. Nick met her eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't think I need to remember... remember how to love you anymore." Nick's heart tightened up for a moment. Juliette paused before continuing, "I don't need to remember something I already know." Nick's smile and his joy spread from his smile to his toes. He took her hand in both of his.
"Neither do I."
Author's Note: Thank you for reading and I'd love to hear your thoughts, please review! :)