By the time he had finished making the tea, Nick's hands had just about stopped shaking.
He lingered in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to whistle, taking advantage of the few minutes he had to try to calm his unsteady nerves. Rage and relief, worry and a sense of grief that wouldn't seem to go away, even now that he knew Monroe was alive – all warred within his mind and emotions, overwhelming him completely. But he couldn't let them – not yet, not while Monroe was still so badly shaken, still so in need of his support.
Monroe was the one who'd almost been killed tonight – who'd been physically and mentally tortured.
Nick had to keep it together just a little while longer.
When the tea was ready, he stirred some honey into it, along with some powdered herbs that Monroe kept in the cupboard with the tea. Monroe had informed Nick a few months back that they served as a powerful pain reliever and sleep aid, so Nick figured they could only help now. He carried the steaming mug into the living room, where Monroe was sitting up on the sofa, wrapped in the soft blanket that was usually slung across the back of it. His knuckles were white where they held the blanket together around him, and there was a look of alarm in his eyes as they darted toward the kitchen doorway, before it faded into recognition and relief as he realized that it was just Nick.
His reaction only further ignited Nick's fury, making him want nothing more than to leave now and track down the creatures that had reduced Monroe to this fearful, uncertain state. Nick sat down on the edge of the sofa, holding out the mug for Monroe to take it. Monroe dutifully tried to do so – but his hands were shaking so badly that the steaming liquid spilled over the edges, and he hissed with pain at the contact with his skin. Nick swiftly moved his own hands to cover Monroe's around the mug, stilling his trembling and steadying the mug before taking it gently and setting it on the coffee table.
Monroe raised one hand to cover his eyes, an embarrassed grimace twisting his lips. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "This is ridiculous. I – I shouldn't be so… so shaken up about…"
"Please," Nick cut him off with a soft huff of disbelieving laughter. "Monroe, I'd be more worried if you weren't shaken up by what happened. Anybody would be. Cut yourself a little slack, okay? You just need a little while to let your nerves settle. The tea can wait, all right?"
Monroe nodded, lowering his hand, but he didn't raise his head, didn't look at Nick at all. Nick hesitated a moment before sliding back further onto the sofa and wrapping a gentle, cautious arm around Monroe's shoulders. The fine tremor he felt still coursing through the blutbad's body made him feel a rush of protective emotion for his lover, and he gently squeezed his shoulders, uttering a wordless murmur of approval and encouragement when Monroe turned his face toward Nick, hiding it against his neck.
Nick raised his free hand to rest at the back of Monroe's neck, stroking soothingly through the short hair there and whispering gently into his ear.
"Shhh… you're safe now, it's all right… I've got you… you're all right…"
Nick just held Monroe like that, soothing him with his words and with his touch, until the trembling finally began to die away, and the tea had cooled enough that it wouldn't matter if a little of it spilt over Monroe's hands. He drew back a little from Monroe, shushing him gently when he let out a sound that was alarmingly close to a whimper at the sudden, if slight, distance between them.
"Hey, just sit up a little, okay?" Nick coaxed him quietly. "I want you to drink this, all right? It'll help you relax and get some rest."
Monroe nodded, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand and averting his gaze again, and Nick realized with a pang of sorrow, and a rush of fury at Monroe's attackers, that the blutbad's face was stained with tears. Nick casually pretended not to notice, lifting the mug and placing it in Monroe's hands again, this time keeping a steadying hand in place to ensure that at least most of the liquid made it into his mouth this time.
Monroe dutifully drained the mug, taking no visible pleasure in the sweet, warm liquid, but clearly only doing so because he knew Nick wanted him to. When it was empty, Nick took it and set it back on the table, then gently pulled Monroe down against him again, settling the blanket around them both. Neither said anything, as he resumed his gentle, rhythmic stroking through Monroe's hair, and slowly, gradually, Nick felt Monroe's breathing grow slow and steady against him, gradually falling into pace with his own.
It was then that Nick realized with surprise that this quiet, peaceful closeness had served to calm his own nerves as well; his own breath had grown even and steady, and he was no longer trembling with the rage, the overpowering instinct he felt to kill, as he had been when he'd first sat down. He gently pushed Monroe's shoulder, unsure whether he was still awake or not, relieved when he received no response. Apparently, the potent herbs were already serving their purpose.
Nick slid carefully out from under Monroe, settling his body gently down onto the soft cushions of the sofa and tucking the blanket in around him before quietly heading upstairs, taking out his phone on the way. He didn't want his voice to disturb the rest that he knew Monroe so desperately needed, and would likely find difficult to achieve in the coming days.
Halfway through the third ring, Hank answered his phone. "Hey, Nick. What's up?"
"Hey. I need your help."
"Sure. This doesn't sound good. Everything okay?"
"It will be," Nick sighed, raising a hand to press against his furrowed brow. "I'm at Monroe's. He's hurt. He was… abducted, tonight, and… and beaten pretty badly."
"Shit." Hank's voice was hushed with horror. "Nick, is he okay? Are you okay?"
"We will be," Nick echoed his previous words, "just as soon as I can get out of here and track down the animals that did this. But I can't leave him alone right now. He's sleeping, but – if he wakes up, or – if these guys try something again…"
"Enough said," Hank cut him off firmly. "I'm on my way."
When Hank arrived, he sent Nick a text message, and Nick gratefully went to the door, glad that his friend had thought to avoid knocking on the door and disturbing Monroe.
"Hey," Nick said in a hushed voice as he ushered Hank in. "Thanks for coming."
"No problem, man," Hank replied. "Of course I came." He frowned as his gaze fell on Monroe's still form on the sofa, his face bruised, expression taut and troubled even in sleep. "Nick, what happened? Why would someone attack Monroe?"
"Because of me," Nick replied, his words low and terse. "Because he's with me – and there are people out there – human and Wesen alike – who think that's… unnatural."
"These guys are human?" Hank's tone was disbelieving, indignant. "I mean – just human?"
"Thankfully, no," Nick sighed. "Because it wouldn't change what I'm going to do – and I'd have a lot harder time explaining that."
"You're going to…" Hank's eyes widened as he put the pieces together. "Shit, Nick, are you sure…?"
"They tied him to a chair, beat the crap out of him, pistol whipped him, then put a gun to his head and made him tell me goodbye. All live and in color thanks to the video feed they had streaming to my cell phone." Nick's voice was flat, but trembling with anger again. "They terrorized him. They made him believe they were going to kill him. All to send me a message. Next time – they might actually finish the job. I'm taking these guys out before they can touch him again."
"Hey, man, I get it," Hank reassured him, holding up his hands in a placating gesture. "It's just…" He hesitated, his shoulders falling as he concluded in a voice of quiet resignation, "… be careful, okay? Last thing he needs is to wake up and find out you've gone off and got yourself killed."
"Not likely," Nick muttered, taking his sidearm from its shelf in the coat closet, as well as another, more Wesen-appropriate weapon, and pulling on his jacket. "I don't plan to be long. Keep the doors locked, and if anyone tries anything, call me."
"Got it." Hank nodded. "Let me know if there's anything else I can do."
"You're doing enough." Nick cast a glance toward the sofa, and his face immediately softened at the sight of Monroe's sleeping form, the bruises and bloodied spot on his face making him appear far smaller and more vulnerable than he usually did. "Just – keep him safe."
Monroe had smelled water nearby where he'd been kept; Nick suspected he'd find Monroe's attackers somewhere near the docks. His every instinct was on high alert, his every step silent and carefully measured, as he made his way cautiously through the shadows, checking for signs of anything out of the ordinary. He stopped at the large storage units used for keeping cargo until it was to be loaded onto the ships, eyes scanning the large, sturdy padlocks that kept would-be thieves out, until his gaze stopped, focusing in on the third unit down.
The lock on its door was broken.
The arrogant, careless Wesen who'd attacked Monroe were still inside, laughing and discussing their success as Nick approached. He could see a light under the door, could hear the cruel mockery in their words as they recounted Monroe's reactions – how he'd flinched from the blows after a while… how he'd eventually pleaded for them to stop… how he'd begged for his life.
The thin sheet of metal that separated them from their inevitable fate was flimsy protection from the enraged Grimm revealed on the other side, as Nick threw open the door and faced them, his gun in one hand and a vicious, heavy mace in the other. Three swift shots rang out, as Nick systematically incapacitated all three of them before they could move, crippling each totschlager in his right leg and sending them crumpling to the floor. The cacophony of their cries of pain was like sweet music to Nick, who smiled coldly as he crossed the room to the first one, and swiftly silenced his cries with a brutal blow of his mace across the creature's face.
The second totschlager was not so lucky.
Nick's mace came down again and again, raining down agonizing blows across its torso and legs, delivering plenty of pain before he finally delivered the killing blow across the back of its head, as it turned and tried to crawl away.
When Nick turned his attention toward the third attacker, eyes blazing with vicious intent, face splattered with the blood of his two accomplices, the creature was openly weeping, struggling to back away from him on his arms, dragging his wounded leg. "Please," he whimpered, "please don't… I'm sorry… please, d-don't… please, mercy…"
Nick slowly closed in on the creature, who had nowhere to go to get away from him but deeper into the storage room. There was no escape – not unless he willed it. The totschlager was shaking, holding up a hand in front of his face as Nick crouched beside it, the heavy iron ball of the mace swinging slowly from his hand.
"He begged you for mercy, didn't he?" Nick barely recognized his own voice, low and dangerous in the darkness. "And you ignored him. You used his terror against him… against me… to get what you wanted." Without warning, Nick swung the mace, bringing it down on the back of the creature's hand, and the totschlager howled in pain. "Is this what you wanted?" Nick demanded coldly, untouched by the suffering of the creature who'd had no compassion for Monroe.
"Please!" the creature cried out. "No, I'm sorry, we won't ever… I…" he sobbed out, realizing his mistake as his gaze fell on the bloody wreckage that was left of his partners in crime. "I won't ever… come near you, or… or him, or…"
"Shut up." Nick's voice was quiet, almost bored – and utterly effective.
The totschlager's words fell off immediately, his breath shallow and shaking, as he waited for Nick's judgment.
"I'm going to spare you," Nick said, quietly decisive. "But only so that you can make it clear to anyone else of your kind… anyone else who thinks Monroe is a target because he's mine." Nick moved in closer, pressing the sharp points of the mace up under the totschlager's throat, smiling when he whimpered in fear. "Any Wesen – or anyone at all, for that matter – who touches the blutbad again. Or even thinks about it. Or even looks at him wrong. Well – they're going to wish they'd died as swiftly and easily as your friends did tonight. I'll take them apart slowly… piece by piece… while they beg me for death. He's off limits."
Nick leaned in closer, his voice softening as he concluded, "You come looking to hurt me? Fine. You'll get a fair fight." Nick shrugged slightly with a smirk. "I'll win – but you'll get a fair fight. You come after him…" Nick's smile disappeared, all traces of amusement vanished. "… and I'll destroy you. I'll make every Grimm nightmare you've ever had seem like a sweet dream. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
The creature was unable to speak at this point, beside himself with terror, but he nodded hurriedly, frantically, his one good hand extended in front of him in a pleading, submissive gesture. Nick stood and backed off slowly, waiting until he had backed out of the unit completely to turn and walk away.
When he reached Monroe's house, Monroe was still asleep, and Hank was dozing lightly in the chair across from the sofa. He awakened immediately when Nick entered, drawing his weapon – then relaxing and lowering it with a tired smile when he saw that it was Nick. The smile faded a little when he saw the blood stains on Nick's face and clothing, and the dried blood crusting on the mace in Nick's hand.
"You found them, I take it?"
"Found them. Ended them," Nick affirmed. He turned his gaze away from Hank's troubled, uncertain eyes and toward Monroe. "No one gets away with hurting him. They want the big, bad Grimm they're all so afraid of? That's the quickest way to bring him out."
"Yeah. I can see that." Hank's words were quiet and careful.
"He's only in danger because of me. Because of… of loving… me…" Nick's voice softened, and he looked up at Hank with eyes that pleaded for understanding. "So… I have to keep him safe."
"I know," Hank conceded. "I know, Nick. I just – don't want that guy he loves so much to… to get lost while you're trying so hard to… to do that. To keep him safe."
"He won't," Nick reassured him softly, looking back toward Monroe. "Just the bad ones. That's… what Aunt Marie said, and… that's what I do. Not just Monroe, but… anyone those monsters came in contact with is safer now, because of what I just did. That's the test. Is… the world better or worse for my actions? That's the question… right?"
"Right," Hank agreed thoughtfully. "I guess it is."
"And… he's safe now. Safer than he's been since he's met me," Nick concluded with quiet satisfaction. "No one's going to dare to try to hurt him after tonight, so… so I did the right thing."
Hank didn't verbally agree, but he didn't disagree either – and Nick supposed that was the best he was going to get for the moment.
As Hank put on his jacket and prepared to go home, Nick braced his hand on the arm of the sofa, leaning down to press a light, tender kiss to Monroe's bruised forehead, a warm smile on his lips as he withdrew.
"You're safe now," he whispered. "Anything. Anything, to keep you safe."