As a dazed Nick was chased out of Juliette's room by doctors and nurses, Liliana hugged him tight.
He pushed away from her, angrily. "You knew! You could've told me!"
"Would it have helped?" Liliana asked him calmly.
He sagged, the anger draining away. "Probably not."
"You and Rosalee stopped her memory loss as quickly as you could, but … "
"Not soon enough. Is it permanent?"
"I don't know. But I have not yet seen a time when she remembers you, so she will not remember soon." Liliana couldn't bring herself to tell him about the other part of the trap. Her prince would not want her to, in any case. "I am so very sorry, Nick."
"It's not your fault, Lilly."
Lilly flushed with shame. "It is."
"I told you how to defeat Adelind, to save Hank's life. I didn't know that Juliette would pay the price. This is Adelind's revenge."
Nick's jaw clenched hard. His nostrils flared wide and his blue eyes burned like a flame under dark brows. "Adelind," was all he said.
Liliana nodded agreement. She knew exactly how he felt. "Unfortunately, the wicked beast is far beyond our reach. For now. She will return, though." And then, she would pay for what she had done.
Nick ran his hand through his tousled black hair. "What am I going to do?"
"Speak to the doctors. Let them know who you are, and that Juliette is suffering from memory loss."
"Yeah, I figured that."
"Then, go to Monroe's place tonight. Promise me you will not go home to your empty house."
Nick balked at first, but in the end, he promised.
A quick text message warned Monroe that Nick was coming, and he would need a strong shoulder, a sympathetic ear, and a stiff drink.
She hugged Nick tight again, kissed his cheek, and told him he could get through this.
That was all she could do for her favorite Grimm.
She spent the night at Sean's apartment.
He hadn't slept there since the jackal murdered his housekeeper and nearly tortured him to death. But the surroundings were familiar to him. She thought it would help to bring back a sense of his old self.
The place had been cleaned and put back into the painstaking, spotless order that he preferred.
She kept her third eyes open, watching him carefully. He seemed to be recovering slowly from the potion that had taken away the part of him that was hard and cold.
It seemed odd that she missed that part. If someone had said that he could become a gentle, compassionate person, she might have thought it would be a good thing.
But it wasn't.
He was not Sean Renard, and that was the man that she loved.
She just had to keep him safe from harm while he could not defend himself, and soon, her Sean would come back. She had seen him in times to come, and he had looked very much like himself.
They made love, tender and slow, as it had never been before with Sean. He was a creature of fierce passion and iron control, of hands that played her masterfully like an instrument, and a mouth that plundered and commanded her response. The man she held in her arms was what lay beneath the anger and iron will. It was the heart of Sean, the heart that she had questioned even existed at first, so thick was his shield.
Without that armor, Sean was still brave, but also wounded and lonely. He looked at her with soft green needy eyes. He was the child of privilege who had everything taken away; the boy whose friends had proven untrue and whose own brother despised him. That pure center of him was far too fragile to leave exposed to a dangerous world, especially a royal prince's world filled with manipulators and back-stabbers. People like his brother Eric and the beast Adelind would chew this Sean up, and spit out his shattered bones.
She shared venom with the gentle, vulnerable shadow of her Sean, hoping it would help to counteract both the potion he had taken, and Adelind's spell. She wanted all of him back.
As the venom's mind-altering phase faded, Liliana could see that it was working, or maybe the potion was simply wearing off. Sean's normal strength returned, his cold iron shell dropped into place to hide his vulnerable center. With it came anger, seething beneath eyes gone gray as flint.
The lines around his eyes, and the hard planes of his jaw tightened back into their normal carefully controlled mask.
"Welcome back, my prince," Liliana sighed with relief.
"Bitch," he growled. At Liliana's surprised look, he shook his head. "Catherine. She didn't tell me what that stuff would do to me."
"Catherine Schade has paid the price for her duplicity. She died keeping your secrets. And, at least the harm she did to you was temporary."
He rubbed the spot on his shoulder where Liliana had bitten him. "How temporary would it have been without your help, I wonder."
It was an interesting question. Her prince always asked the best questions. There was no way to get an answer now, though, with Catherine dead. "It doesn't matter. You are yourself again. That's what is important."
He was silent for a while, thinking, wondering if he really was back, completely, or if the potion had changed him in some fundamental way that he didn't even know. If so, would he ever know?
Liliana still had her third eyes open. "The only way that you are different is that the seed of obsession for Juliette has been planted."
He raised an eyebrow, face still hard with anger. "You're looking into my head without permission."
Liliana smiled. That was her Sean. "You gave me permission when you were not yourself."
"I am myself now?" It was a question.
"Yes, you are." Liliana knelt over his waist, put her hands on either side of his face, and stared into him with all of her eyes. Her eyes made other people uncomfortable. Her prince only thought them beautiful.
"I know that you are completely yourself because you let me look inside you, both before the potion affected you and after. I have seen your soul. I have seen your secrets. And now, I have seen your pure, unguarded heart."
Sean clenched his jaw. He hated that anyone had seen him like that. Especially her.
"I knew the moment you were yourself again, because I know you, down to the center. Locking me out now does no good. It only makes it harder for me to help you."
"You're asking me to let you invade my mind, anytime you want to." The words were cold, clipped, accusing. But Liliana could see the fear behind them.
"Anytime you need me to. Adelind's curse affects your mind. If you will not let me see its effects, it will be harder for me to help you fight it."
She watched as he considered.
His first thought was that one by one, she was crossing every line he drew. No one had gotten to him like that. He didn't know what game she was playing.
Liliana considered telling him that she only crossed lines he allowed her to cross. And that was exactly why he trusted her farther than anyone else. But she decided to keep her mouth shut and let him think it through on his own. It was the right decision.
He blinked as it hit him that she could see everything he was thinking right then. And she just waited for him to make up his mind. She didn't push him. She had asked, so she would abide by whatever rules he set.
Sean realized that he was the only one playing games. This was such a new experience for him, being with someone who didn't have an agenda beyond getting closer to him. That was her whole goal, not a means to another end. He knew that was true, but a part of him still kept expecting the other shoe to drop. He kept looking for the hidden knife.
He cupped her cheek with his hand. She used her knives to defend him, not to cut him.
When the potion had stripped him, left him defenseless, he had given her permission to look into him whenever she wanted. If he said nothing, then would that permission still count?
Sean swallowed. Her eyes saw everything, even his thoughts. It was like being naked, except he had never felt so vulnerable in his own skin. An hour before, he had been ten times as vulnerable. And Liliana had done what she always did when he couldn't defend himself. She could have taken advantage of his vulnerability, could have hurt him, could probably have convinced him to give her anything she wanted. Instead, she had protected him, kept him safe.
He had let a poison into his mind. She was the only one who could see the damage it did. She was the only one who could help him fight it. But she could only do that if he let her in as well.
He swallowed, and nodded his permission. "I am yours, little spider, body and soul."
Liliana put her hand over his racing heart. "That may be the bravest thing I have ever seen you do, my prince."
"I trust you." Please, don't let me down. He didn't bother to say the words out loud. He knew she saw them in his mind.
She also saw the fear. He had trusted before, and been betrayed. It had become so much harder. If she betrayed him, it would cut him deep enough that he might never be able to trust anyone again. She could cripple him. She could destroy him.
He believed that she wouldn't. But he couldn't help but fear that she would. Too many betrayals lay in his past. Some were even his own. He had betrayed people who trusted him. He had taken advantage of vulnerability. She had not.
She was better than him in some ways. She was far better than he deserved.
Sean pulled her in for a deep kiss.
Liliana sank into the kiss, adoring the closeness of free access to his heart and mind, the cold, steely strength of him. Her prince was himself. All the flaws, all the mistakes, all the anger and pain, controlled passion and fierce ambition, that made him who he was. All of it was hers.
Juliette's face flashed in his mind for just a moment.
He froze stiff in her arms. He was horrified. He had only been thinking of Liliana. The image of Juliette had been a foreign invasion, like a cancer growing in his mind.
Liliana held him close, cuddling his face into her chest.
He clung to her like a life preserver in a stormy sea, terrified and furious. He was angry at himself for being afraid, angry at Adelind for doing this horrible cruel thing to them, and even more angry at himself for dragging Liliana into this with him. This would hurt her as much as him. If he pushed her away now, he might spare her pain, but he was too selfish to give her up, especially now. He needed her.
"I chose you, my prince, just as you chose me. I would not walk away now, even if you pushed." He had given her the keys to his soul. She would use that as a weapon against the enemy they faced. "We will fight this together."
Now that they had reached this level of closeness, of trust, of love, they had so very much to lose.
And she still didn't know if, in the end, they had any chance of winning.
But side by side, they would fight.
The end, for now.
Further adventures of Liliana in the Grimm universe to come.