"No, no, no, don't be scared! I promise, dude, there's nothing to be scared of! He's not that kind of…"

Despite Monroe's best efforts, the door slams in their face, and he turns to Nick with a grimace. "Sorry, man. I tried."

Nick sighs, shaking his head and shoving his hands into his pockets as they turn to walk down the steps and away from the house. "Maybe you should come back tomorrow. In the daylight. And you know… without me."

"Yeah," Monroe agrees, nodding a bit apologetically. "That… might be wise."

"I just don't get it. I mean… you'd think by this point, I'd be getting a reputation around town, you know? Like… for not being what they expect me to be?"

"You are," Monroe assures him as they reach the car and he opens the door. "It's just… hearing about you is one thing. Meeting you in person is just…" He shakes his head. "… a horse of a different color, man. It just is."

Nick is quiet, considering that, until they get in the car and the doors are closed. He turns the key in the ignition and reaches for the gear shift – then puts his hand back on his knee, letting out a long, shaky breath.


Monroe is eyeing him suspiciously. "Why do I think I'm not going to like this question?"

Nick ignores his words. "What… what do you guys see? You know, when you look at me? Do I… change? Like you do?"

Monroe closes his eyes. He's clearly been hoping this particular idea would never occur to Nick. After a moment he replies, "Sometimes."

"Sometimes?" Nick echoes. "Like…?"

"Same as us." Monroe shrugs. "When you're upset… worried or pissed off, or… usually pissed off."

Nick nods slowly, taking that in. He swallows hard before continuing, hesitant, a little choked. "What… do I look like?"

Monroe doesn't answer for a long moment. He stares out the passenger window, and Nick begins to wonder if he's going to answer at all. Nick has actually reached for the gear shift again, when Monroe speaks, his voice low and carefully controlled.

"Like every nightmare I've ever had."

Nick's raises an eyebrow in disbelief. "Excuse me?"

Monroe looks at him, a strange wariness in his gaze, and Nick wonders if bringing this up was a good idea. "Picture the top three scariest creatures you've ever faced." He waits, and Nick looks away, thinking. When he meets Monroe's eyes again, Monroe continues flatly, "They're fluffy little kittens next to you. Okay? Does that help?"

Nick is quiet, sobered, troubled. "Not really, no," he sighs. "I think… I think it makes it a lot worse." He's quiet for a moment before reaching out a tentative hand to rest on Monroe's knee. Monroe turns to look at him again, a question in his dark eyes. "Do you… do you see that? That… terrifying monster? Every time you look at me?"

"No," Monroe assures him, and the warmth and honesty in his voice finally sets Nick's heart at ease, as he squeezes Nick's hand. "All I see… is you."