Monroe lay in a pool of a mixture of his blood, urine, and sweat, twitching from the enhanced Taser, the prongs of which were still embedded in his skin. He was prepared when the boot kicked him in the stomach, rolling him over onto his back, and he automatically took a breath just before the shock of water smacked him. Absently he wondered how many times they’d gone through this, his captors and him, but as with everything useless, he let the thought wither and fade from his mind.
Eventually all the filth had been sluiced off him, disappearing into the drain in the center of the floor, and he was kicked back onto his stomach, his cue to slowly raise to his knees and then pull himself up using the bars of the side of the cage. His wheezes and the clang of his handcuffs hitting the metal seemed to echo in the otherwise silent room, but he was used to it by now. They all were.
Limping down the hallway, he took it slowly, knowing to brace himself sporadically for the jabs from the two shrouded men guarding him.
He wasn’t sure how long it took for the scent to catch his attention. Faint, tinged with fear and… something he couldn’t quite grasp. Even drugged his ears picked up a faint whine, and he cut his eyes to the right as he passed the normally empty cages around him. And that’s when he saw it – her – standing in a cage, weeping silently. His heart twisted painfully when he realized that the smell was a Fuchsbau, also naked and very, very pregnant.
He didn’t pause and was careful not to show that he’d noticed her in any way. His mind, sluggish after deliberately trying not to think after all this time, tried to grasp the fact that there was a female in one of these large cages.
His cage, the last on the left, smelled of bleach as it always did when he came back, the diluted solution still dripping off the cage’s metal walls.
One last shock against the small of his back sent him crashing onto the floor as the door was closed, the lock sliding into place.
He lay there after the pain had receded, long enough for him to stop twitching and seeing spots, and for the first time in a very long time the person his mind conjured up wasn’t of the Grimm he’d left behind.
G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M
Captain Sean Renard stood inside his office, staring into the bullpen. Nick Burkhardt sat at his old desk, finishing the paperwork for the newest bounty he’d brought in a few minutes earlier. The former detective’s past two and a half years had been filled with pain and loss, leaving him with strands of grey in his hair and new lines on his face. He was still a striking man, but his few smiles tended to be tinged with a hardness that was a shame to see. Life for a Grimm was never meant to be easy; that was a fact that everyone knew and understood – everyone except for Burkhardt, who’d attempted to have it all – his career as a cop, his human girlfriend, Blutbad best friend, and his life as a Grimm. Nick had given destiny the finger, and despite all that he knew to be true, Sean had hoped that Nick would succeed. And that was probably why he was about to call the man into his office and turn his life around. Again.
He strode out of his office, standing until he’d gotten the attention of everyone in the bullpen – except for the one he wanted. He flitted his eyes over to Nick.
“Hey,” Hank Griffin, Nick’s former partner, reached over and tapped Nick’s arm, “the Captain wants to see you.”
Sean waited for Nick’s gaze before crooking two fingers and returning to his office, confident that Nick would follow him. He knew without turning around that Nick and Hank were sharing amused glances, and he admitted to himself that old habits died hard. Sure, Nick wasn’t directly in his employ anymore, but even if he didn’t still live in Sean’s canton, his wellbeing would always be in Sean’s mind. Seating himself behind the desk, he motioned for Nick to come further into the room. “Shut the door and have a seat.”
Nick sat, crossing an ankle over his knee. His stillness was something else that he’d gained over the past few years, an invisible shell to hide the lava that flowed inside him.
Flipping open a folder on top of his desk, Sean studied the contents and took a moment to reflect on what he was about to do. Finally, he sighed, closed the folder, and looked back up at Nick. “How are things?”
Nick blinked, and Sean suppressed a smile. He always kept a firm, professional line between himself and his detectives, and that hadn’t changed since Nick’s resignation. It didn’t mean that Sean didn’t care; he just obtained his information from other sources. “Things are fine.”
“And is your detective agency working other cases or primarily hunting down bounties?” Sean kept his tone even, nonjudgmental, not wanting the other man to become defensive. He already knew the answer but wanted to hear it from Burkhardt himself. He also knew about the rigorous physical training and Grimm work the former detective used to fill up the rest of his free time, but that wasn’t his current focus.
“Mostly the bounties, but I’ve gotten other cases here and there.”
“And have you come to terms with what happened?”
Nick didn’t look as surprised as Sean had expected, given the change in topic and the sensitive nature of the new one. “I’m fine, thanks.”
“And your feelings toward Monroe?”
Nick’s eyes widened slightly, his posture becoming a little more defensive as he planted both feet on the ground and lifted his chin. “I haven’t heard from him, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I’m wondering if you’re still harboring him ill will.”
“I wasn’t –” Nick slid forward in his chair until his forearms almost rested on Sean’s desk. “That night all I could see was what I’d lost, and I threw all the blame on Monroe. A few minutes later, I realized how wrong I was, and I went to apologize.”
“But he was already gone,” Sean finished and paused. “So you’d be interested if I’d ascertained his whereabouts.”
Nick looked uncertain and sat back. “I hope he’s found some kind of peace… wherever he ended up.”
“He landed in Alaska and seems to have kept to himself for the most part. Unfortunately…” Sean slid the folder across the desk with his fingertips.
Nick’s eyes fell to the folder, but he made no move to toward it. He took a few breaths before he said, “Is he.” Nick stopped, then tried again. “Is he still alive?”
“He was as of a month ago.” Sean gestured toward the folder. “He hasn’t been seen lately, causing some of the local villagers to report his absence to their local constabulary.” Sean noted the flicker in Nick’s eyes. “My verbiage may sound a bit archaic, but some of those rural areas in Alaska rely on Village Public Safety Officers rather than police departments.”
Nick nodded. “Understood.” His hand reached out, snagging the folder and opening it.
“I understand if you have other commitments, but I have a contact who could help ease the way should you want to go up there and assist in the search.”
Nick’s head was already buried in the folder. “I’ll try to catch the earliest flight out.”
“We can do better than that,” Sean said, reaching for his cell phone. “Give me a few minutes.”
Nick still understood a dismissal, nodding and leaving the office, his eyes glued to the contents of the folder.
Pressing a few buttons, Sean waited until the other end picked up. “We have a go. How much time do you need to arrive?”
G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M G R I M M
Nick could feel his heart pounding as he read over the sketchy police report. The last night he’d seen Monroe had been by far the worst night of his life, and not a day went by that he didn’t replay the hateful words he’d said to his best friend. He’d searched in vain for months after Monroe had disappeared, but he’d never managed to find a single thread. He still kept out feelers but had begun giving up hope; the only thing that had kept him going was the wish that somehow, somewhere, Monroe had made peace with himself and was living a life he deserved. Now looking at the folder, he knew he’d just been trying to fool himself.
“What’d the Captain want?” Wu – Detective Wu, Nick had to keep reminding himself – asked, sitting at his desk, Nick’s old desk.
“He found Monroe. In Alaska.”
“What?” In a flash, Hank and Wu were looking over his shoulder at the folder.
“What’s that,” Wu asked, pointing toward a picture. “A pile of sticks in the woods?”
“According to the report, that’s where Monroe’s been living.”
“It looks like a real hopping hangout,” Wu said.
Nick couldn’t tear his eyes away from the report and let Hank roll his eyes.
“I’m just saying,” Wu said, reclaiming his seat and refocusing on his and Hank’s current case.
“What’s the plan?” Hank asked quietly.
Nick shrugged. “I have to go find him.”
“I know you still have…” Hank searched for the words for a second, “…unresolved issues between the two of you, but this,” he pointed to the ramshackle hut in the picture, “screams angry Blutbad to me.”
“He’s not angry,” Nick said. “He’s in pain… pain that I helped cause.”
“Okay. I have some time saved up –”
“I appreciate it, man, I really do. But I have to do this alone.”
Hank looked worried. “You need someone to have your back.”
“I’ll be okay,” Nick insisted. “I promise that I’ll stay in touch.”
Captain Renard appeared at Nick’s side, paper in hand. “Here’s the address to a private airfield and the name of the contact who will meet you there tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks,” Nick said, hoping the captain knew how much this meant to him.
The captain smiled faintly while Nick looked enviously at his hair, not a spot of grey in it anywhere, and wondered how, after all this time, he hadn’t seemed to age a day.
“That gives us time to have a goodbye dinner,” Wu said.
“Sounds good,” Hank chimed in. “You can give me your keys, tell me how often to water your plants.”
“Any plants he might have had are long dead,” Wu said. “But I’ll help look out for your place too.”
Only men who had his back wouldn’t mention the fact that his ‘place’ was the crappy back room of his crappy PI office in a crappier office building in the crappiest part of town. But even so, he did have a few things he’d like to have waiting for him when he returned, hopefully with Monroe back where he belonged.
“Meet you at the diner at six unless you get a break on your case?”
Hank and Wu nodded, and Nick turned back to Renard. “Thank you, Captain,” he said, holding up the folder, “for everything.”
Renard nodded and held out his hand. “Good luck.”
Nick shook it, grabbed the bounty check Wu held out to him, and left as he tried to remember when he’d last updated his will.
Later that evening, Nick, Hank, and Wu sat at the table of their favorite diner, plates clean. Nick slid a large manila envelope in front of Hank.
“What’s this?” Hank asked, turning it over to find it unaddressed.
“It’s a copy of my updated will, all my accounts and passwords, and a power of attorney giving you unrestricted access to everything I own.”
Wu’s hand appeared on the table.
“I can’t – ”
“When I come back, and I will come back, I’ll expect that envelope to look just as untouched.” Nick smiled to ease the tension.
“Okay,” Hank sighed.
Wu’s hand slid a little closer to the middle of the table.
“And this way, I guess, if you need money wired to you or something, I can do that.” Hank smacked at Wu’s fingers just as they were about to touch the envelope. “Stop being so nosy.”
Wu snatched back his hand, rubbing it with the other and tossing Hank an exaggeratedly hurtful look. After a second, he looked at Nick. “You need a ride to the airport?”
“I have to be there at six am.”
“Hank would love to take you.”
That night, every time he closed his eyes, Nick relived last time he’d seen his best friend, the devastated look on Monroe’s exhausted, soot-smudged face haunting him.
After a few hours, he got up and went for a long run through the empty streets, hoping that soon he’d be able to set eyes on the man who had been constantly at the back of his mind for over two years.