Notes: Ha, some actual plot movement. I knew I had it in me.
Warnings: Language, opera music, allusions to possible, off-screen possible non-consensual sex.
() () ()
Four days after his extrication from future stardom in a wesen underground fight club, Monroe parked next to the shiny silver Airstream and put his key in the lock, pausing for a moment to enjoy that. It still gave him a little thrill of awe and excitement every single time. Nick trusted him with this. He didn't think he would ever get used to that.
One of the larger tomes was open on the desk, a florescent green post-it note marking the last page that had been scanned. It had a drawing of a tiny stick figure asleep in a chair at a tiny desk with tiny Z's rising up to curl around the words DONE TO HERE.
He turned on the laptop and scanner and, while they warmed up, began opening curtains to let in the winter-pale light. The trailer was tidy and well organized but the low roof and dim lighting made him claustrophobic. From a cabinet under the bed he pulled out a portable phonograph and the wooden crate of old 78's. At least one of Nick's ancestors had possessed decent taste in music. Thumbing oh-so-carefully through the records he came across, "Oh, Caruso."
His phone rang just as he got everything set up. Dropping into the desk chair he spun it in a half circle and hit the Talk button. "Monroe."
"Do you remember the two people found crushed to death in the park?"
"Hello to you too, Nick," Monroe replied breezily because if he couldn't break Nick's bad habits at least he could sharpen his sarcasm skills on them. "Yes, I'm having a good morning, thank you for asking."
"Good morning, Monroe." Nick's tone was dry as the Mojave in August. "How is your day going? Do you have a moment to assist Hank and myself on a case?"
"See, I don't even believe that. No sincerity." He spun the chair idly with the toe of one boot, making it creak slightly.
"Yeah, I'm on for this weekend," Hank said somewhere in the background, talking to someone else. "Be prepared to lose your socks."
"You're in a frisky mood," Nick commented and Monroe could hear him smiling over the phone.
Monroe said, "I slept well. Now what's this about dead people?" He winced at his own eagerness. It had been days since Nick had bothered him with Grimm things (he wasn't counting the day after his rescue that had mostly been spent at the police station filling out paperwork and pointing to photos of bad guys).
It wasn't that he was bored so much as…. Oh who was he kidding, he was so, so bored. His injured fingers were mostly healed but still tender enough he couldn't do the most delicate movements he needed for his work and there was only so much cleaning a man could do in the war against the ever encroaching mold and moss of the inland rainforest that was northwestern Oregon.
Juliette had purchased the scanner last year intending to digitize her family photo albums in her free time. "Ha!" she'd said, setting the still in the box scanner down on the desk with a thunk. "Free time. Obviously a moment of utter insanity."
It was busy work but it got him out of the house and he could read while he worked. It was amazing how much information the Grimms had collected over the centuries. Amazing and sometimes bizarre and sometimes so utterly biased and wrong he couldn't help adding a few notes to tell the other side of the story. For posterity.
"You remember that case we looked at the night you came over for dinner?"
He thought Nick must be at his desk given the amount of background noise. "Yeeeeees," he said warily. Nick excelled at leading questions. He wondered if the Grimm had learned that in cop school or if Hank had taught him.
Nick's voice dropped and Monroe pictured him leaning close to the desk, turned away from the rest of the room. "Do you think a lausenschlangecould have killed them?"
Monroe tried to recall the pictures and descriptions of injuries in the police file he'd read almost a month ago in Nick's dining room. "Oh yeah, man. Easily. You want me to check through the books?"
"You're at the trailer?"
"That I am."
"Great. Hank and I are headed out to track down and re-interview the suspects, we'll swing by."
"I'll be here," he promised and hung up. "Alright then." He gave the phonograph a few cranks to get it started. "Time for a little music."
Half an hour later the door opened and Nick climbed the steps, grimacing in the direction of the record player. "What are you listening too?"
"Is that Caruso?" Hank asked, right behind him shutting the door against the cold. "Man, I haven't heard that since music appreciation in high school. I used to love his stuff." Squeezing past Nick he picked up the record sleeve, examining the back of it.
"I don't think that's something you want to admit in public," Nick teased.
Monroe lifted the needle and applied the brake to the record. "Don't listen to his plebian words. At least someone here has some class." Hank listened to a lot of old jazz too, which was acceptable.
Nick raised his hands in surrender; one of them had a coffee cup in it. "Well this plebian brought you coffee from your favorite place but if you don't want it."
Monroe snatched the cup from his fingers. "I didn't say that." He sniffed. "Is that…?"
Nick grinned at him and produced a small paper bag containing chocolate, caramel biscotti if the nose wasn't mistaken and it never was.
"I totally forgive you for you lack of musical acumen," Monroe mumbled around a mouthful of coffee. Picking up the book he'd found he handed it over and settled back into the desk chair. Nick dropped onto the bed and Hank sat next to him to read over his shoulder.
"Damn," Hank muttered. "That's ugly."
Hank still had a reduced-in-size bandage on his left hand, for injuries received while taking a knife away from one of the perps. He'd eventually gone in to get four stitches across the heel of his palm and he'd been vocal about the unfairness of Monroe's accelerated blutbad healing.
"Be very, very careful," Monroe told them. "Seriously, I can't emphasize the VERY enough. Lausenschlangeare incredibly dangerous."
"If this is our killer he or she crushed two people to death. Trust me when I say that we will be careful." Nick turned the page and frowned. "This is pretty much what the other book said. Grimm tracks murderous wesen, Grimm kills murderous wesen." He shifted it over for Hank to get a closer look. "Grimm uncovers evidence that murderous wesen was murderous."
"You sure you don't want me to come with you?" Monroe offered. "A little extra muscle in case the snake feels like causing trouble."
Nick smirked wickedly. "You'll give Hank a complex talking like that. We decided years ago that I'm the brains and he's the muscles in our partnership."
Hank protested that with a shove that was hard enough Nick nearly went off the side of the bed. Ignoring his partner's flailing he said to Monroe, "We're just doing follow-up interviews so The Brain here can get a look at them."
"And if one of them is confronted with a Grimm and confesses so much the better," Nick added, successfully recovering his seat.
Monroe said thoughtfully, "If he's The Brain does that make you Pinky?"
Ohhhh, Hank gave him an evil look for that.
Nick ducked his head to hide a broad flash of teeth and asked, "Is this all there is?"
"Lausenschlange are fairly common. Undoubtedly there are other entries but I've only found two so far and you've already read the other one."
"These guys are creepy as hell," Hank said. "And they seem to eat a lot of children."
Monroe shrugged. "Easier to swallow whole I suppose."
Hank pulled back from the book with a grimace. "I did not need to know that."
Nick closed the book with a thump and a puff of dust. "Thanks, buddy," he coughed, waving a hand to clear the air.
"Thanks for the coffee," Monroe responded, saluting them with the cup. He rolled the chair over to the record player with his feet. "Now, unless you care to stay and listen to some fine Italian opera…."
"We're going," Nick said hastily, shoving the book onto the desk and following Hank out the door.
"Philistine!" Monroe yelled after him.
Nick poked his head back in the door. "Did that friend of Bud's get the locks changed out okay?"
"Oh, yeah, he did a great job." Except Monroe had nearly scared him to death when he'd opened the door to knocking at six in the morning, grumbling and growling at the early hour. The man had twitched and scurried like a frightened mauzhertz every time Monroe was in the same room with him, but he'd done an excellent job on his original hardwood doors and, though he would never admit it out loud, he did feel better with a new set of keys in his pocket.
"Good. I'll see you later." The door closed firmly behind him.
"Finally." Monroe restarted the phonograph. He leaned back in his chair he took a drink of rather tasty coffee, humming along with the music. This was the best way to spend a morning.
Nick came back three hours later. "Hey," he said, shutting the door and leaning against it. "I'm glad you're here. I didn't hear the music. Thought you had gone home."
He had switched to the radio after the first record. The replacement needles he'd ordered hadn't arrived yet and he didn't want to ruin a record. "Still here. Just finishing up this book."
Nick shuffled over to sit down on the bed.
"How did your interviews go?"
"Okay," Nick sighed.
"How succinct." Monroe gave him another look, the lax fingers, the sunglasses he hadn't taken off yet. "You—wait, you smell different."
"Do I?" Nick asked, turning his head to look at Monroe, hair falling in his eyes.
"Yeeees." It was a scent he knew but hadn't smelled since— "You ran into a ziegevolk!" Worse he had let it touch him.
"Zieg-a-what-now?" Nick asked, lifting his head an inch to get a better look at Monroe. A line appeared between his eyebrows. He was probably squinting behind his the sunglasses.
"God, we should have started at the back of the alphabet," he groaned. "Ziegevolk. Hairy, hooved, funny little—" he put his index fingers on his hairline and wiggled them "—horns. Looked like a goat."
"Oh, yeah." Nick let his head drop again, rubbing his forehead with his fingertips. "Him. Yeah."
"Yeah what?" he prodded when nothing more seemed forthcoming. Walking over to the bed he sat down next to the Grimm, pushing until Nick made room. Carefully he removed the sunglasses.
Nick gazed up at him with too big eyes. "The lausenschlange—get this—the lausenschlange belongs to New Beginnings."
Monroe frowned. "New Beginnings." He'd seen their commercials.
"Totally a cult. I won five bucks off Rogers because he thought it was a commune or something being out in the woods, but I said cult and…," he sighed again and closed his eyes, pressing the heel of his hand hard against his forehead, "…yeah totally a cult. He gave me a brochure. It's glossy."
"A cult run by a ziegevolk," Monroe filled in. "How apropos." He poked Nick him in the shoulder. "Hey, wake up. We need to get you home and I'm certainly not carrying you to the car."
"Stop that." Nick flailed at him. "I'm awake. I'm just…tired."
"Uh huh. Go get in my car. I'm driving you home." It was too late to negate the effects of the goat's touch but the sooner it was cleaned off the better. Grabbing a couple books out of the big bookcase he powered down the computer and scanner, attached the post it note to the last page he'd scanned, and closed all the curtains. When he turned around he found that Nick hadn't moved. He looked up at Monroe. "I feel weird."
"Weird. Very descriptive."
Nick thought about it for a second. "Like that time I accidentally took too much cough syrup."
"I can't believe you drove here like this." Shrugging into his coat, he shifted the books under one arm and tucked Nick under the other.
"I needed to talk to you." There was a long pause as they got down the narrow stairs. "Something's wrong with me."
"There are so many things I could say to that." He leaned Nick against the side of the trailer while he locked the door then hauled him to the car and repeated the maneuver to get the door open and the books safely stashed in the back seat. "And you decided that driving over here was a better idea than picking up the phone. Idiot. Watch your head." Carefully he folded the man into the passenger seat and belted him in.
Nick watched him do it without protest.
"It doesn't usually affect people like this. It never affects people like this." Monroe retrieved the box of wet wipes he kept in the glove compartment and pulled one out, putting it to use on Nick's right hand where the ziegevolk scent was strongest. "Usually it makes you like them. A lot." The astringent scent of the lemon used in the all-natural wipes made his nose sting.
"I didn't like him," Nick said solemnly and snagged his sunglasses out of Monroe's pocket, slipping them back on. "He was creepy."
"Well the last person you found creepy ate little girls so I suppose that means he's more evil than the average goat. You do seem to sense these things."
"'cause I'm a Grimm?"
"'cause you're a Grimm," Monroe affirmed and shut the door.
It was still early in the day and the house was empty. He took Nick upstairs and shoved him in the shower then took his clothes downstairs to the laundry, carrying them between thumb and forefinger to minimize contact. Cleaning out the pockets he found Nick's notebook and pen, a backup pen, two butterscotch hard candies, a pair of oversized tweezers, a pocket knife, thirty-seven cents in change, three empty evidence bags, a pair of latex gloves, another pen, one very linty piece of tangerine flavored gum, and the brochure from New Beginnings.
It was indeed glossy.
After perusing the clothing tags, Monroe put the whole lot into a warm wash with a double rinse cycle and a lot of soap. In the kitchen he filled the kettle and put it on to heat and took a moment to stand by the window in the kitchen of this house he'd only been in twice and just breathe through a moment of belated panic on Nick's behalf.
If the ziegevolk had realized he was a Grimm—and there was no way he hadn't if he'd woged right in front of Nick. He'd forgotten how stressful it was worrying about other people. Out of practice he supposed. It had been a long time since he'd had anyone to worry about. Now he had three.
When the kettle whistled he fixed a cup of tea—in a bag, heathens— and sat down to thumb through the cult brochure. The cover was a full page photo of a pretty blonde woman walking through a woodsy clearing. She had a bouquet of wild flowers in her hand and a beatific smile. How trite.
Inside was a lot of tripe about New Beginnings providing the ideal environment to find yourself and a small inset of the founder one William (Billy) A. Capra. Find yourself, Monroe snorted, find yourself with an empty bank account is more like it. There was an application and contact information. Who had to apply for a cult? He was surprised there wasn't a credit check form.
Setting the brochure aside he paged through the books he had brought until it was time to move the laundry to the dryer. A few minutes later Nick came down, dressed in sweats, and sagged into a chair at the kitchen table.
"How do you feel?" Monroe put a second cup of tea in front of him.
"Like I just woke up from a three day drinking binge," Nick groaned pitifully, elbows on the table in a profound slump. His hair was still wet, darkening the shoulders of his t-shirt.
"Drink your tea."
Nick made a face.
"It will help," he insisted and pushed the plate of cookies closer. Actually he had no idea but it certainly couldn't hurt. Sugar would help the headache at least. "Eat something."
Nick picked up a cookie, nibbling the edge. "What happened? I remember Hank dropping me off at my car. I remember my head was really starting to hurt. After that it's all kind of confusing."
He spun the book and slid it across the table. "This is what happened."
Nick read, turning through the pages with one hand, alternating between cup and cookie with the other. "It says that Grimm's have some immunity to their touch. Do you think that's why I was all…?" He waived a hand, scowling at the picture in the book.
"It must be. I've never seen anyone react like that to a ziegevolk. And it did give you time to get away from him. Or in the case of most Grimms it would give them time to, you know," he made a motion across his throat. "Off with their head."
Nick rolled his eyes. They were still hugely dilated. "So you've seen one before?"
"Went to school with one." Monroe got up to pour more hot water. "Not exactly the finest physical specimen. Even for high school. Anyone else would have been the target of every bully in the school but Elvis was friends with all the jocks—"
Nick held up a hand. "Wait, wait, wait. The guy's name was Elvis?"
"Dude, do I interrupt you?" Monroe huffed.
"Yes." Nick bit the inside of his cheek and continued with a mostly straight face. "Sorry. Do go on."
"Elvis is a traditional name."
"Wait, you're saying—"
"I'm not saying anything." Monroe mimed zipping his lips, locking them, and throwing away the key.
Nick's whole face brightened. "Man, I wish I could tell Wu that. He would freak out."
"Anyway this guy dated all the hot girls, was best friends with the popular kids, got straight A's." Monroe paused to think back. High school hadn't been the best time in his life; he'd spent a lot of time not thinking about it. "Although every time I saw him he had a book in his hands so he might actually have earned those."
"Sounds like a real winner," Nick said. He rubbed absently at the hand the ziegevolk had touched. The skin looked red and aggravated like he'd scrubbed it raw.
"Oh, don't get me wrong most ziegevolk are pretty sleazy." Returning to the table, he sat down. "Elvis could have been a lot worse. These guys are usually politicians, big shots, Hollywood types. You've seen them, always shaking hands and patting backs. Then there are the inevitable sex scandals, illegitimate children, etcetera, etcetera. Yet somehow they never go to jail."
Nick considered that a moment. "Most of the people we saw in the New Beginning's compound were women."
"So this guy is a collector." He'd never respected creatures that didn't use their wits and skills to hunt. It was one thing to take down prey that could fight back, what they did was like baiting a wild animal until it friendly and then eating it.
"Yeah." Nick scrubbed his hands over his face. "I've got to call Hank and let him know it's going to be a couple hours before I come back in. We were supposed to meet with the FBI liaison this afternoon."
"Or at all," Monroe insisted. "You should take the rest of the day off." A horrible thought occurred to him. "He didn't touch Hank did he?"
Nick shook his head. "No, I don't think so. He shook my hand. I don't remember him getting that close to Hank." He scrubbed a hand through his hair in an obvious effort to focus. "Okay so we have a wesen who is basically holding twenty plus people prisoner but none of them want to be rescued or will testify against him because he's…. What? Drugged them?"
"They emit a scent right off their skin or in their sweat or something," Monroe told him, "but it's not permanent. Keep them away from him and eventually it will wear off."
Nick made a thoughtful noise and sipped his tea. He pulled the second book over, turning to the marked page. "So it's a scent, a pheromone. What does it do?"
"Like I said before—although you might not remember what I said before," he added thoughtfully. "It makes you like them. You want to be with them, do what they say, make them happy. Like being in lust with a side order of obsessiveness."
"Great. The wesen version of the date rape drug. Jesus." Nick rubbed his face again. "The FBI has been looking into this guy for a long time. They have five missing persons who were last seen on the New Beginning's compound. Most don't have any family to put up a fuss but he slipped up with the last girl who disappeared. Her brother is a PI. He tracked her down and made a lot of noise."
"Let me guess, he was one of the dead guys in the park."
"Gold star for you," Nick said wearily. "I really don't like this guy."
Monroe had never liked ziegevolk much either. Even Elvis Greenspan. "Dude, you cannot get near this guy again. Once they touch you, pfffft, that's all she wrote."
Nick frowned thoughtfully over his tea. "He already touched me and I didn't exactly fall in love with him. You don't think I'm protected from that?"
"Do you really want to take that chance, man? Trust me the goat would be thrilled to get a Grimm under his power."
Nick made a face. "Okay, I'll stay away from that part of the investigation." He got that stubborn look Monroe knew so well. "But I'm going back to the office this afternoon. I just need to take a nap. See if I can get rid of this headache."
"Did you take something for it?"
He scrubbed a hand through damp hair, slicking it back from a face that was a little paler than normal. "Yeah."
"You want me to stick around."
Nick waved him off. "No, I'm good, thanks." He finished his cookie and took his cup to the sink and trudged toward the stairs.
Once he heard Nick's footsteps in the bedroom upstairs, he let himself out and headed for his car, dialing Hank's number as he got into the driver's seat.
"Hey, it's Monroe."
"Did Nick call you?"
"Should he have?"
Monroe gave him a quick explanation. "We need a face to face." Nick might not remember the ziegevolk getting its slimy hooves on his partner but that didn't mean it hadn't happened. "Let's meet at the trailer." He wanted to see if there was anything else on the ziegevolk in the books.
"I'll be there in fifteen." It was more like ten minutes later he knocked then opened the door. "What's up? Where's Nick? I saw his jeep out there."
Monroe explained what had happened. "Did he touch you at all? Shake hands. Bump into you in passing?" He sniffed surreptitiously because Hank wasn't as patient as Nick was when it came to Monroe's fussing, and was relieved to find only traces of ziegevolk scent probably passed on by Nick second hand.
"No. Just Nick." Hank scrubbed his hands over his thighs like he was thinking about what could have happened.
"You have to keep him away from this guy," Monroe said. "This Grimm-immunity or whatever it is might not last through a second exposure." He thought Hank would understand what that meant having been inside the cult compound.
Hank snorted. "I'll talk to the Captain about having him follow up on the office work side of the investigation."
Monroe nodded, pleased with Hank's sneakiness. "You think that will work?"
"Nick isn't stupid. He won't endanger himself or me without good reason." Hank shrugged. "That said, he won't like it, but Renard will keep an eye on him if I tell him there's a problem between Nick and the suspect. It's not that unusual in our line of work."
Monroe doubted Captain Renard would bat an eye even if Hank walked up to his desk and told him straight out that his Grimm had been infected by a ziegevolk and needed to be confined to the office, but he didn't have proof of that. The guy smelled human the few times he had been near enough for scenting. Human and something…more.
Monroe said, "I've found a couple books with information on ziegevolk."
"I don't suppose they have an antidote," Hank said sourly. He took the books, balancing them on one knee.
"Huh. Like it would be that easy."
"You know," Hank said thoughtfully, "that might explain why the original investigation didn't get anywhere. Billy Capra was their last interview. Case suddenly dried up after that. Ended up in the cold files until the Captain pulled it out to keep Nick busy."
Monroe nodded. "That certainly sounds like a ziegevolk in action."
"We've put in for a DNA warrant for the lausenschlange," Hank told him then grinned suddenly. "I can't say that word with a straight face."
"You're as bad as Nick," Monroe grumbled. "You have to say it properly. Lausenschlange. See how it rolls off the tongue. Stop laughing!"
"Sorry," Hank said, pressing his lips together to stop smiling.
Seriously, they were both children. "Back to the case," he prompted huffily.
"The lausenschlange's name is Lorena Mas." Hank glanced up at him. "Did you know that Mas actually means snake in Somali? Her father was from there. Mother was an American archeologist."
"Subtle," Monroe commented.
Hank tapped a finger on the Grimm books. "These have a lot of European names. I keep wondering if we'll run into something from down there."
"Somalia?" He couldn't quite wrap his tongue around the foreign word. Not properly like Hank had, which spoke of some familiarity with the language.
"Africa," Hank corrected.
Oh now that would be interesting. He'd grown up on family stories about die Deutsche wesen and he'd heard of the Spanish and French and English bloodlines but next to nothing from the Southern Hemisphere. "I'm sure we will. Of course they'll probably be in a language none of us can read."
Hank grunted agreement. "I speak a little Somali, a little less Swahili, and even less Spanish, but I never learned to read more than maps and signs in either and I'm pretty rusty on that." He tapped the book again, thoughtfully. "My French isn't bad though."
"Well aren't you full of hidden depths." He'd had no idea Hank was such
Hank rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "Not really. I did a tour in Somalia back in the 90's. And my meme was from Louisiana." He paused and a look of dawning dismay spread across his face. "Man, I hope her stories weren't true. If we start running into Hoodoo witches and zombies I'm going to retire and become a crossing guard."
"I definitely want to hear those stories," Monroe told him eagerly. He already had half formed plans to invite Hank over for dinner and a little light interrogation.
Hank shook his head but not in any way that seemed to signal reluctance to talk about his family. "Make me more coffee and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"I have coffee," Monroe promised.
The other man smiled agreeably. "There was significant DNA found on the bodies of our murder victims," he said, shifting the topic. "We get a match and we're good to go with Ms. Mas but we figure it was Capra who ordered the killings. Turns out both victims were trying to find family members who had joined New Beginnings. The PI was looking for his sister. The other man was an investment banker from New Mexico looking for his ex-wife. Apparently he neglected to change his passwords when they divorced. About a month after she joined the cult she drained his bank accounts."
"Now there's a cautionary tale. This Lorena Mas won't give you the ziegevolk," he warned. He didn't think either Nick or Hank got just how powerful this wesen was. "None of them will. Not while they're under his influence. Probably never."
Hank nodded seriously. "The FBI is willing to send us a counselor who specializes in cult deprogramming. Figured we'd let them have a crack at her."
"That might work in a couple weeks or so," Monroe agreed. "Once the pheromone has had time to work its way out of her system. Depending on how long she's been under, you may be looking at some serious detox time."
"Withdrawal?" Hank asked.
"Probably, but that won't even be your worst problem. Think of it like…." He didn't really have the skill to make up analogies on the fly, not like his seventh grade geometry teacher. Now there was a man who knew his way around a comparison. "Like brainwashing a person using drugs. After a while you don't need the drugs anymore."
"We'll keep that in mind." Hank patted the books as he stood. "I'll read these tonight."
"Be very careful, man," he extorted. "Very careful." At some point in the last couple months Juliette and Nick and, by extension, Hank had become important in a way that made his stomach ache when he thought about them being hurt.
"We will," Hank promised. "I'd better get back. Work to do."
"Me too," Monroe said reluctantly. Going back to working on wristwatches for the jewelry store had become something of a letdown but a fellow had to pay the rent.