Chapter Title: Holding Out for a Hero
Wordcount: 3500 for this chapter, 23,500 total
Fic Summary: When Nick hears word of another potential Ziegevolk, he and Monroe must go undercover as a couple at a cozy bed and breakfast to investigate. But what they discover during a long weekend spent there, however, neither could ever have predicted.
Chapter Summary: After Mrs. Sims finally reveals the truth about the inn to Nick, he comes to some revelations of his own about his feelings for Monroe and decides to act on them.
The first thing Nick registered, as the blackness began to recede, was the strange, but pervasive impression of being trapped in a vast field of flowers; it was only when the focus returned to his vision that he realized the flowers were just part of the seemingly endless chintz pattern covering nearly everything in his sight line.
As the events which had caused him to be lying on a chintz-covered couch in the first place came rushing back to Nick, he bolted upright, his fight-or-flight reflex overriding the quiet, little voice in his head that was warning him to avoid any sudden movements.
The quiet voice quickly morphed into a screaming one, however, when a searing pain ripped through Nick's torso, forcing him back down onto the couch with a thud and a groan.
"As little common sense as you displayed this afternoon, young man, I would have thought you'd at least have had enough to know that you should not be overdoing it hours after surviving such a savage attack," Mrs. Sims said sternly, walking over to place a cup of tea on the coffee table in front of him.
Nick had a strange urge to mumble, "Sorry, Mrs. Sims," the way he used to do in elementary school when he was caught doodling during class. Instead, he settled for ducking his head and saying, "Probably a good idea, yeah..."
This logical conclusion was promptly forgotten, however, when another thought occurred to him, and he sat upright again, only managing to get out, "Monroe!" before letting out another exclamation of pain and laying down again. "Is he...?" Nick trailed off, making silent promises to any deities that might be listening that he would, in fact, stop doing that if they made the pain go away.
"Relax," Mrs. Sims assured him, taking a seat in the chair opposite and a sip of her own cup of tea. "Your blutbad friend is perfectly fine - probably wearing a hole in my good carpet as we speak, pacing about and worrying over you."
Nick smiled a little at the thought of Monroe being so concerned about him before the full impact of Mrs. Sims' words took effect. "My, er, what kind of friend did you say he was? Blut...bad?" he asked as casually as he could, hoping desperately he had heard her incorrectly.
"If you mean to tell me that you've been spending all your time with a blutbad for at least the past twenty-four hours and don't even know what one is, then you are a very poor Grimm, indeed, Nicholas Burkhardt," Mrs. Sims said matter-of-factly, peering at him from over her glasses.
"You know," Nick said, amazed, seeing there was no point in hiding any of it any longer, "but...how?"
"I know everything that goes on in this inn, Nicholas," Mrs. Sims said quietly. "I'm surprised you haven't figured that out by now."
"What are you?" Nick asked, searching her face once again for any signs of creaturehood, and again coming up blank. "I went through all of my books twice, and I couldn't find a single entry that fit."
"I am a kupperlin, Nicholas," Mrs. Sims said, her voice tinged with pride. "We tend to keep a low profile. In fact, to my knowledge, you are one of the first Grimm to have ever encountered one of us."
"And you're, what, super hoteliers?" Nick asked, still just about as lost as ever.
"Oh, much more than that, dear boy," Mrs. Sims said with a slightly wicked smile. "It's true, kupperlin magic is rooted in physical space, most often that of an inn or hotel, but it runs far deeper than providing a comfortable stay for our...guests."
Upon seeing the apprehensive look on Nick's face, Mrs. Sims let out a little laugh. "You needn't worry - its nothing sinister. We wouldn't have been able to keep hidden so successfully otherwise."
"So what exactly do you do?" Nick asked, carefully propping himself up to take a sip of the tea.
"In the olden days, those we helped gave us a name - they were not aware of the magic, only the results, and so deemed it a profession, rather than a destiny. I believe the English word for it is 'matchmaker.' "
"Matchmaker?" Nick exclaimed, letting the teacup fall back onto the saucer with a clatter. "You mean that when people check in..."
"I help them along the path to true love," she replied. "Now, obviously, that means different things for different people - for some, romance needs only a little continued cultivation to blossom. For others, however, only a change of partners can correct the course of true love. But I must confess, the sort of guest that brings me the most pleasure to assist is the third type - the lost soul, in need of its mate."
"And you can which kind someone is by, what, just looking at them?" Nick asked in amazement.
"Not me, Nicholas," she corrected with a smile, "The Liebenbuch - it always knows." As if to emphasize her point, Mrs. Sims reached behind her chair to pull out a weathered tome, which Nick recognized from when she had used it to check him in.
"How does it work?" Nick asked, running a hand over the worn surface of the book and immediately feeling the pulse of magic within.
"Well, when a guest arrives at the inn, the book indicates to me which room to put them in, which in turn tells me how I should procede. As simple as that. So when you and your companion arrived, for example..." Mrs. Sims trailed off, looking at Nick expectantly.
"It told you we were just friends?" Nick finished hopefully, taking a long sip of the tea as he processed the sinking feeling that she was not going to agree with him on that.
Mrs. Sims leaned forward, stared at him knowingly from over her glasses, and stated firmly, "Young man, we both know that is not the case."
"But you can't possibly think…I mean that's not even remotely…" Nick trailed off into silence, reasonably sure that he should probably quit while he was only stammering andblushing.
After taking a few moments to collect himself, Nick tried again. "Yes, Monroe and I are friends, but that's as far as it goes. Sure, we spend a lot of time together – but that's just for work! And if that includes the occasional working dinner, or all-nighter, or morning after breakfast, well, that's part of the job."
Mrs. Sims said nothing, but merely gave her tea a leisurely stir and waited, her eyes trained on Nick.
"And yes, all right, if pressed, I would have to admit that Monroe does have a distinctly attractive quality about him," Nick went on, suddenly feeling restless enough on the couch to rise from it and begin pacing about the room and too worked up to think it odd that he was suddenly well enough to do so without any perceivable pain.
"He's got those warm, brown eyes that you can't help trusting, a seemingly endless vocabulary that most often manifests himself when he's snarking at me, and you wouldn't know it, but underneath those sweater-vests is one hell of a body," Nick continued, ignoring the little voice in the back of his head informing him he was both rambling and not at all proving his point. "Quite an excellent kisser, as well, if I'm being honest."
Mrs. Sims uttered only a polite "Mm-mm," as she used the rim of her teacup to hide the beginnings of a laugh lurking around the corners of her mouth.
"And of course it goes without saying that I care about Monroe," Nick went on, now addressing himself as much as Mrs. Sims, "And, sure, I think about him perhaps more often than is strictly necessary, and, yes, I don't know what I'd do if-if anything happened to him, but that doesn't mean…"
Nick lapsed into silence for a few minutes as he realized what it did, in fact, mean, before an accompanying realization struck him. "Hold on," he said, truly focusing his attention on Mrs. Sims, "Even if I do have feelings for Monroe, they're not real. You put them there, you and this, this place."
"You and I both know that's not true," Mrs. Sims said gently, but firmly, as she gave him a pointed look. "There is no magic on earth that is capable of creating true love, Nicholas - kupperlins are no exception. All we can do is create an environment in which it may flourish or whither, whichever is needed. The ultimate choice, however, must remain with the guest - no man can be forced to act upon the desires of his heart."
"And what if the desires of his heart…scare him?" Nick asked tentatively, sitting back on the couch with a dull thud, too worked up to notice that the ache in his torso was now completely absent.
"Then," Mrs. Sims said gently, "I would say he has a lot in common with every other guest I've put on the path to a happy ending."
"Now," she continued, giving his hand a brisk, but reassuring pat, "are you going to finish that tea and do something about your happy ending, or do I have to pull another trick out of my sleeve?"
Nick stared at her for a few moments before draining the cup and allowing himself a small smile. "No, I...I think you've done enough," he said with a sigh, rising from the couch once again. "Hell, I've been shot twice in the line of duty - this can't hurt worse than that, right?"
"You keep thinking that if it makes you feel better," Mrs. Sims said, the comforting tone of her voice clashing with the content of her words as she ushered him out of the room with a whispered, "Good luck."
Nick barely made it to the base of the stairs before he heard a female voice calling out his name. "Nick!" Annie shouted, running up to him, "Are you feeling okay, honey? We were all so worried about you after that bear attack!"
"I'm much better now, thank you, Annie," Nick said, hoping she wasn't close enough to notice the slight tremor running through his entire body. "That Mrs. Sims is a miracle worker."
"Well, thank heaven for that!" she said, giving him a smile bright enough that Nick couldn't help responding to it with one of his own. "Oh, it was so scary!"
"What happened, exactly?" Nick asked, suddenly curious. "I can't remember anything after I blacked out in the forest."
"Oh, I wish you could have seen that man of yours!" Annie gushed, "What a knight in shining armor - and so strong! When you were about to lose consciousness, Monroe just picked you up like you weighed nothing at all and practically sprinted with you back to the house."
"Really?" Nick asked, self-consciously rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, "Well, that...that does sound quite brave. What, um, what happened after that?"
"Well, when we got back to the hotel, Monroe came bursting through the door like an action hero and Mrs. Sims was there like she just knew something was wrong. Then she told him to take you through to her office, that she used to be a nurse, that she could take care of you."
"Uh-huh," Nick said, nodding his head to signal her to go on.
"That was all well and good, but then she said he had to leave because she needed privacy, and Monroe hit the roof. I have never seen anyone look so mad - I swear, his eyes turned red!"
"That was probably just a trick of the light," Nick interjected quickly.
"Oh, I know, honey, I was just taking a little poetic license," Annie said with a light laugh. "Anyway, there was Monroe, towering over little Mrs. Sims and growling about how he wouldn't leave you, not for anything, and there was me, standing there and thinking that she wouldn't be able to pry him away with a crowbar, when the strangest thing happened."
"What?" Nick asked, though he too distracted by replaying his own mental video of Monroe refusing to leave his side to care overmuch about the answer to his question.
"I remember exactly, because it struck me as being so odd. Mrs. Sims laid a hand on his arm, looked directly into his eyes, and said, 'I give you my word he will be fine.' And just like that, he stopped looking like he wanted to tear someone's throat out and stalked away. I still can't figure it out."
"Yes," Nick agreed with a nervous laugh, "that is certainly a bit of a mystery. And on that note, if you'll excuse me, I should go let him know I'm all right."
"Oh, of course!" Annie exclaimed, "Don't let me keep you. Just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Thanks, Annie, for everything," Nick said with a smile, leaning forward on impulse to give her a kiss on the cheek before hurrying up the stairs.
Nick made his way down the small hallway in a few long, purposeful strides; he knew that if he paused for even a second, he'd lose his nerve and put off doing what needed to be done yet again.
He allowed himself the luxury of one deep breath before turning the large bronze doorknob and letting himself into the Castle Suite without knocking.
Nick watched Monroe spring up immediately from where he had been seated on the side of the bed and noted with some chagrin the worry dancing in his eyes.
The blutbad took a couple hurried steps in his direction, but was only able to get out, "Nick, thank God, are you ok-" before Nick's lips on his prevented him from finishing the thought.
Before he knew it, Nick had backed Monroe against one of the bedposts and was threading one hand through his surprisingly thick hair and slipping the other beneath his cardigan. Monroe, meanwhile, had apparently recovered enough from the initial shock to wrap his arms around Nick's torso, fingernails digging just a little bit into his back.
When Nick flinched just a little at the sensation, however, Monroe pulled back in an instant. "Oh God, I hurt you, I'm so sorry!" he exclaimed, looking Nick over frantically.
"Oh, don't be - trust me," Nick said with a wicked grin, yanking Monroe into another fervent kiss.
This distracted Monroe for a couple minutes, but eventually he pulled back again and exclaimed, "But your wound! This must be killing you."
"It's fine," Nick said, waving him off and leaning in again. This time, however, Monroe crossed his arms and gave him a look that made it clear they would not be going further until this was addressed.
Nick let out a little groan of impatience, muttered, "If you wanted me to take my shirt off, you could have just asked," and pulled the slightly bloodstained shirt over his head.
Upon seeing the surprised look on Monroe's face, he looked down, crossing his fingers that their little make-out session hadn't reopened anything nasty enough to put a halt on things. To Nick's utter shock, however, the only evidence remaining of the savage attack of just a few hours prior were three, faded pinkish scars stretching out across his chest just beneath his sternum.
"That's amazing," Monroe murmured, reaching out to trace his index finger over the longest scar.
Nick shivered instinctively at the intimacy of Monroe's touch, and quickly shot out a hand to stop him when the blutbad began to withdraw again. Nick held Monroe's hand firmly over his own scarred skin, enjoying the little waves of heat that seemed to be passing between them.
"Nick..." Monroe began, his voice hesitant, though he kept his hand in place.
"If you don't want this," Nick said, though the words pained him, "then tell me and we'll stop. Go back to being friends and say nothing more about it. Simple as that."
"It's not that," Monroe insisted, his voice sounding lower and more gravelly than it normally did, "Believe me." When he raised his head so that his eyes met Nick's once more, Nick saw that they had taken on that particular red sheen which predated one of Monroe's "wolfing out" episodes.
"If we do this," Monroe said seriously, "I can't promise that I'll be able to control myself. You could get hurt."
Nick stared at him for a few moments before raising a hand to the side of Monroe's face and saying quietly, "You never have to be anyone other than yourself with me. Never, okay? And if that means I have a few scratches and bruises in the morning, then I will consider the price more than fair."
The dazzling smile Monroe gave him in return had Nick making a mental note to say such things more often before he leaning up to brush his lips over Monroe's ear and whisper, "Bring it on."
This time it was Monroe who shivered, and Nick was only granted a few seconds to feel gratified about this before he found himself thrown back onto the expansive bed, with Monroe hovering a few inches above him. "I did warn you," Monroe growled in his ear.
"What else you got?" Nick challenged, deftly stripping Monroe's shirt from his shoulders and pulling him impossibly close in a few practiced moves. Monroe's eyes flashed red once more before he showed him, in exquisitely gratifying detail, what else he did in fact have.
It was only a few hours later, when Nick was sprawled out over Monroe's chest, exhausted and utterly satisfied, that it occurred to him that there was a matter of some importance that he had entirely neglected to mention.
"Monroe!" he whispered loudly, shaking the other man gently by the shoulder. "Monroe!"
"Mmm?" Monroe mumbled, warily opening one of his eyes, then the other.
"I forgot to tell you!" Nick said excitedly. "I know what Mrs. Sims is!"
"Oh, do enlighten me," Monroe murmured, propping himself up against the backboard.
"It seems," Nick began, the fingers of his left hand idly playing with the hair on Monroe's chest, "she's something called a kupperlin - apparently they're some sort of supernatural matchmakers. Isn't that the craziest thing you've ever heard?"
"Oh yeah," Monroe said, nodding fervently, "Yeah, man, that's...that's nuts." He laughed nervously.
"No," Nick said slowly, his eyes searching Monroe's face and finding several other signs of deception. "No. Come on! How long have you known?"
"Since last night," Monroe said with an apologetic grimace.
"Last night?" Nick exclaimed, flicking Monroe on the shoulder. "How?"
Monroe shrugged a bit bashfully and said, "My aunt and uncle ran into a kupperlin out in Maine about ten years ago. Said they went for a weekend away contemplating a divorce and came back ready to renew their vows. Just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary last March."
"Well, why didn't you tell me?" Nick asked, hitting him again.
Nick was amazed when Monroe blushed a little as he said, "When David told me about how staying in the Castle Suite was the start of everything for him and Annie, I guess I was hoping..."
Nick felt all his irritation drain away as he finished for him, "That it could be the start of something for us, too?"
"Something like that," Monroe admitted, gazing at Nick with a nervousness that Nick found utterly adorable.
Nick rewarded him with a broad smile and a lingering kiss before saying, "Now, how can I stay mad at you when you say things like that?"
"I was hoping that you couldn't," Monroe replied, grinning. His smile turned suddenly suggestive as he added, "Although if you were mad at me..."
"Yes?" Nick prompted eagerly, hoping he had the correct idea as to where this was going.
"We would be required to have hot make-up sex," Monroe finished, trailing a finger slowly up Nick's spine.
"Well, in that case," Nick said, shifting so he was laying entirely on top of Monroe once more, "consider me absolutely furious."