Hey guys – this is just something fun – this story may have three or four parts – haven't decided yet! And is one of a series of short-ish stories while I work up to another longer one in the realm of United Federation. I hope you're not all feeling too listless and Grimmless in the states and that there's still room for some lighter-hearted fanfic in your lives!
Hope you enjoy…. Thanks for reading!
X x X
Nick was absolutely desperate to go back to work. To do anything. Even help Wu with filing.
He'd been signed off for two months after cracking his head and busting his ear, but the surgery was long gone, his hearing was back, his balance – mostly – his Grimmstincts firmly in place, and he was bored witless. Even moving from the townhouse (full of Juliette memories) into his own flat, not far from Monroe's place, had taken all of two days with all his mates helping him out, and then he was back to twiddling his thumbs again. He kept telling himself that he'd lasted six weeks so far, another two off work wouldn't kill him, but he was convincing no one. Eventually, his mate Denny came up with a solution to fill up a week's worth of inactivity.
"You could take over the childcare for a few days. I really, really need a job. I'm so far beyond skint, it's just not funny. Theo I can drop off at nursery, but Carianne's only seven weeks. I'm sort of… welded to her for a bit, while Jan's at work. When she's not welded to you, that is. You tried interviews with a munchkin trying to hide in your armpit? Doesn't open many doors, I can tell you."
Nick made a ridiculous decision in a calm moment, while he was relaxing on the sofa and Carianne was clean, fed, tidy, watered, and sleeping face down on his shirt with her bum in the air. "Sure, it'll keep me busy for a few days."
Nick had wildly underestimated the time, effort and patience it had taken Denny to get her organised into that state before handing her over for a sleepy cuddle, and over the next few days, he acquired a whole new respect for both Jan and Denny for keeping even the most basic tiny-person functions ticking over in a routine manner. And Denny was pretty much new to this whole child-care 'malarkey', as he put it; he'd only been lodging with Jan a few weeks.
Monday, Carianne decided that darkness was the order of the day and would not pipe down unless she was hiding under his jacket, forcing him to go out and get his shopping done while looking about six months pregnant. He stopped in at Monroe's place for a natter with Rosalee, who genuinely only had about a fortnight to go until due, and after a brief comparison of bumps she giggled so hard that it brought on the Braxton Hicks contractions and she had to go lie down.
Tuesday was enlivened by Carianne getting her foot stuck in the tap during bath-time. She was released through a combination of soap and ingenuity, but for a few horrible minutes, Nick thought he'd have to call either Jan to confess that he'd trapped his daughter in the kitchen sink forever or – worse – he'd have to call fire and rescue. The experience gave Nick a whole new perspective of the experience of 'panic'. Was this close to the dread that Wesen experienced when they locked eyes with him and saw a Grimm? If so, he was inclined to hang up his boots, so to speak. No one should go through life with that kind of dread in it.
On Wednesday morning, Nick nearly forgot that Theo was on a sleep-over at Matty's place. He picked up both kids from Bud and Janie's, spent a stressful ten minutes trying to fit two car seats into the back of his jeep – a bucket seat for Carianne and a mini-throne for Matty. He hit the South Portland Freeway to get them to nursery before breakfast finished, but drove carefully. Theo rode shotgun, keeping up an endless stream of conversation with Matty in the back seat, whose contribution, at about 16 months, was mostly "Yeah!"
Nick checked his mirrors before pulling into the middle lane to go straight across the ringroad, but it didn't stop some ass in a pickup from cutting right in front of him from the outside, and then nearly taking his hood out again when risking a cut into the inside. Nick felt his pulse rocket for just a moment but his rules were different when there were kids in the car. He didn't rise to other people's mistakes so much – he just felt the fright of a near-miss slightly more. Theo had no such parental concerns and zipped the window down indignantly as they came into line at the traffic lights.
Nick glanced sideways in alarm. "Theo! Put that back up, please!"
"Ey!" Theo bellowed out of the window, and to Nick's horror, the driver zipped his own window down quizzically, leaning his elbow out with a grin. It was a thick elbow, belonging to a big forearm, attached to a really big guy with a bullneck.
"Keep your lane, you spanner! You nearly crunched us!"
"Theo!" Nick barked, "window up! Now!"
Bullneck driver gaped, looked over to his buddy in the passenger seat, and spluttered, "Am I hearing this? I'm getting abuse from a baby!"
Nick groaned inwardly and prayed for the lights to change before blood – his, most likely – was spilt.
"I'm not a baby! I'm three! Matty, say 'bugger off.'"
"Bugroff!" Matty cheerfully echoed, and Theo pointed a demonstrative thumb to the insult from the back seat.
"Now that is getting abuse from a baby!"
Nick felt the steely glare of the driver in the side of his neck and glanced over calmly across the car and through the window gap. "Yes?"
"You going to apologise for your kids, or what?"
"Absolutely not." Nick fished into his glovebox and flashed his warrant card at the guy. "You going to apologise to me for negligent driving?"
The guy screamed away from the lights the moment they turned green, leaving him in peace. Well, as much peace as possible now that Carianne had woken up and was noisily demanding the dark sanctuary of his jacket again. Nick dropped the boys off, drove home with Carianne, and made an appointment with the doctor. He needed a fit-to-work note, urgently. He prayed for the peace and predictability of homicide, brutality and grand larceny.
Even the cases with a vicious wesen thrown in.
X x X
Nick's reception back to work was warm, but incomplete – no Hank at his desk. Wu was delighted to see him, having spent a week in London watching dreadful standup acts and wanting to inflict his second-hand puns on someone who hadn't heard them all – yet. Detective Hanna grunted and shook his hand, which was the nearest he ever came to saying anything openly pleasant. Hanna's long-suffering rookie, Livvy Andersen, bounded over with coffee for him and her usual dazzling, Mary-Poppins-on-speed smile, full of unwanted information about other people she knew who had done completely disgusting things to their eardrums, but who hadn't coped as well as him.
But no Hank.
Nick logged into his email and was slightly startled to find 373 to work through, but then spotted Jan's post-it on his keyboard in his usual big black Capitals, suggesting six 'solved' case folder names and instructing him to mark all relevant emails as read, moving them across. Doing this depleted his reading down to about 30 mails, which he hammered through fairly quickly. He did note, while dipping into the end-summaries on the most recent cases, that Hank's name didn't appear on any of them. He finished the coffee that Livvy had made him (if she made her own with this much sugar and caffeine, it explained a whole lot about her 'supposed' ADHD) and went to knock on Renard's, temporarily Jan's, office door.
Jan – always Lieutenant Vergeer at work – gave him a friendly wave in while still on the phone and pointed at the chair opposite, mouthing 'won't be a moment, Nick'.
"…Well, Captain Renard is due back tomorrow, so I'd prefer to have it arranged before then, please. No. No I don't want to wait to ask him first. He's deputised me, I'm making the decision, and I'd like the training schedule sent over today, as initially requested two weeks ago… oh, you did? Ok – and you sent it to which email address? Well, that explains a few things. Perhaps you might have called me to let me know you'd had no response? Anyway, let's try that again…"
Nick sat back and grinned as Jan spelt his full name out, complete with the charming apology for the impossibility of the dutch pronunciation, and the typical "… but it is said 'Yan… Fver-gkay-er'" stuck on the end of the sentence. Eventually something satisfactory pinged into Jan's inbox because he thanked the caller warmly and hung up. Then flicked two fingers up at the handset.
"Good God Nick, do these people want their cops trained, or don't they?"
Nick shrugged. "Of course. So long as it doesn't involve spending any money."
"Anyway – welcome back – of sorts." Jan leant over and gave his hand a brief, official shake.
It always tickled Nick how formal his friend was in the office, given the number of beers they shared at a weekend after recovering from the exertions of looking after small children. As a single Dad, Jan got the brunt of it, but Denny (primarily), Nick, Monroe and Hank all took up a huge amount of slack. Nonetheless, the line between pal and boss was drawn with a white line on the road. Neither of them crossed it, ever, while in the precinct. In some ways, it made life a lot easier.
"I got your fitness to work note – thank you. I've also observed the… nine or ten exemptions to your working activities." Jan frowned at the slip of paper. "It doesn't give me many delegation options for you except paperwork, to be honest. No leaping, no proximity to gunfire, no sprinting, no combat, no danger…."
"But I can work," Nick insisted. "I'll help Wu with bringing stuff up from the file room. Anything."
"No lifting, alas," Jan added. "And though it doesn't say as much here, I presume we can add 'no Grimm-ing' to this this list." He drummed his fingers thoughtfully for a moment. "Look – I need to explain something to you about Hank. No doubt you'll have noticed that you suddenly have more leg room under your desk. I'll come back to that in a sec – nothing sinister, not to worry, but it does change the working landscape a bit."
Nick frowned. Actually, he hadn't heard from Hank for days. "Is he ok?"
"Oh he's fine! Don't worry." Jan flashed his brilliant smile at him. "Like I say, nothing sinister. But I just need to focus on your work for a moment. Could you just call Hanna and Andersen in?"
Nick went over to the door, opened, and called them in. Andersen sprung past him like a hyperactive spring lamb, dashing her reddish-light brown ponytail in his face, Hanna stamped in after her like an arthritic Dirkfellig, keeping a revolted distance behind her. Nick couldn't like Hanna – the guy couldn't keep a single negative thought out of his face. It was almost as if he couldn't bear the world not knowing exactly how much he despised his partner. And he had one of those faces well designed for glowering: his eyes were close-set and his nose seemed to grow straight off his forehead, rather than from the dip below the eyebrows, like the rest of humanity.
Knowing how strict Jan was on strong partnerships, Nick was a little surprised that the two were still working together while he was acting up as Captain. The tension affected the whole squadroom – had done even before he got hurt and went off sick after Siege Night.
Jan stretched his legs out under Renard's desk and waved his hands at the extra chairs in the office. He tended to keep three or four handy, whereas Renard was strictly a two-chair guy. Livvy flounced into hers quite happily: Hanna chose to lurk at the back of the room, leaning on an admin cabinet. "Ok – you guys are on the Portland State hazing, correct?"
Hanna and Andersen nodded. Jan perused the file, out loud.
"The Pseudo-Psi's… unusual frat name… were seen dunking a prospect in a bucket of ice water, and he didn't come round. No help called, victim dried, redressed, and left in the woods as a hypothermia victim. Jesus, poor kid. A witness called it in, hasn't appeared, and a teenaged boy has since gone missing from the college…" Jan frowned. "This kid isn't old enough to be an undergrad! He's barely a junior!"
Andersen shrugged. "He's a prodigy. He did his MTACs when he was fourteen years old, is halfway through his AMSAC coursework, and is effectively a doctor already – on paper, that is. He can't actually start any kind of internship until he's a bit more…. Um… mature."
Nick raised a finger. "MTACs? What are those?"
Andersen beamed at him. She did that a lot, he noticed, not that he minded. "They're kind of like the exams you sit at high school to decide which medical college you get to go to. You have to do an essay, too. He did a really classy piece on secondary-level DNA." She shrugged a little sadly. "I got the impression from speaking to his parents that he'd been packed off to college just because he's smart enough and they wanted him out of their hair. It was a friend who told us he'd disappeared from the dormroom. She reckons he's hiding out in the Haverzake forest behind the campus. He's outdoorsy, despite his appearance."
Jan picked up a pen. "The only detail missing from this folder is the witness' name."
Andersen beamed again, quite firmly in Jan's general direction, this time, and Nick caught Hanna rolling his eyes. "I had the folder open while talking to the frat guys. They're weirdly good at reading upside down. I thought it best not to write it down just yet. His name is―"
"You could just… not take the folder in there with you. How's that for an idea?"
"His name's Warwick Presley," she went on, ignoring her partner. "Nearly seventeen, very slight – about 130lb, five foot two, listens to angsty music and dresses like it, too."
Nick pulled a face. "An emo?"
"An emo, Nick, that you need to find. These two are a little tied up with the perps." Jan handed the file over to him and stretched as he addressed the other detectives. "How many frat guys have you left to interview?"
"Six," Hanna said sourly. "Andersen takes her time with them."
Jan gave Hanna a thin smile. "We all have different styles, Gerry. Impressions of the frat boys?"
Hanna grunted. "Typical trust-fund kids. No sense of responsibility, a fair bit of attitude – some kid died in the woods, nothing to do with them."
"But they don't seem to realise there's a witness," Andersen added. "They're not twitchy. They're smug. They all think they're top of the food chain, nothing can touch them… whereas really, they're just an expensive bunch of alley-cats."
Jan grinned. "Ok – one to bear in mind. Thanks – carry on. Oh, Gerry – could I have a word with you, when I'm done with Nick?"
Hanna shrugged, stomped out again, followed by spring lamb, dashing her hair once again past Nick's face.
"Right Nick – Hank. He's on study leave. He was due to sit his Lieutenancy board last year, but for whatever reason, it didn't get arranged. So he's been sitting ignored on the promotion grid for some time. It's time he had the chance to broaden his prospects a little."
"Oh!" Nick blinked. "Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"Well, he seems to think so in theory, but in practice, I think he's finding the policing strategy theory a little heavy-going. It's something I can talk him through, but he's going to get nothing done while on cases. So, it's only for a short while, but unfortunately, you're on your own. For a little bit, until it becomes necessary to arrange something. I should also point out that as and when he does pass – because I'm sure he will – this will not be an overnight change. There are few lieutenancy places in Oregon so he'll stay your partner for a while until he gets placed." Jan shrugged. "If he even wants to be placed. At least the qualification gives him the choice."
"Right," Nick said faintly, slightly wondering why he hadn't heard all this from Hank already. But then, maybe Hank thought it might involve saying big, pre-emptive goodbyes, which he couldn't stand. Nick got that.
"I'll tell you more later – about the lack of communication on this." Jan clapped him on the shoulder. "Now, go find that witness. And remember the exemptions on your sick note, yes? Perhaps even take a copy to remind you of what you're not supposed to do?"
Nick rolled his eyes, but Jan was having none of it.
"Seriously, Nick. It may seem like a chore, but it's better than a slap round the face with a cold fish, which is what you will get if I notice any kind of self-endangerment, personal negligence, failure to call backup, and so on. Got that?"
Nick nodded reluctantly. "Sure."
"Right. Go charm the emos from the trees. Oh, by the way – Livvy's instincts aren't far off. The frat kids in interrogation? She called them all alleycats – they're South African Lowen. Pretty good going. Be discreet finding Warwick, ok?"
X x X
"One normal case," Nick muttered, slurping through ankle-deep sludge behind the Pseud-Psi frat house, "Is that too much to ask?"
Talking out loud was undignified but deliberate: he wanted Warwick to be able to track him as he made his fruitless way round the college perimeter and then return despondently to his car, luring the kid closer into the light. He'd left the Buick parked out front, where the hiding coverage was limited and he was most likely to spot a nervous watcher hiding and waiting for him to go away. But it was a long perimeter, he had torch-ache in his arms and wrists, and if he got stabbed in the shin by one more sawn-off hemlock stump….
Nick missed Hank: this track would feel a lot shorter with him to talk to. He was a social creature. Working alone didn't suit him, and once re-partnered - if re-partnered - he didn't want to revisit the same pressure of having to keep his life as a Grimm a deep, dark secret. It was a massive relief to have Jan at the precinct now, also aware of him as a Grimm, also a powerful wesen in his own right, but it wasn't the same as the snarky partner in crime that was Griffin.
Nick came to an abrupt halt as a particularly sticky glut of mud threatened to suck his shoe off altogether, and felt a presence behind him before he heard the rustling. His instincts were getting very much stronger, these days. He put his hand slowly on the butt of his colt while making a highly visible display of trying to get his foot free. Wesley was apparently harmless: but there was nothing to say that others lurking in the woods on the campus grounds wouldn't be.
The rustling came from behind and above. Nick faked a slip and twist with the intention of almost landing on his back – muddying only his palm, knee and elbow, but the trail mud had different plans: the sudden jolt of his fake fall sucked his shoe off altogether, and he was forced to hop like a lunatic off the trail and into the treeline to balance against something before he completely soaked his foot in mud, too. The hop took him over the top of a sawn-off hemlock branch and he swore loudly as it barked his shin, toppling him a critical couple of feet away from the nearest tree, muddying him from forearm to sock.
He swore loudly and genuinely at the extra layer of mud this decorated him with, and rolled over onto his butt – what the hell – and caught a glance of a dark shape bunched up against the side of a tree, balanced on a branch eight feet up and ten feet behind. Too big to be an animal, too small to be a college first-year.
"Screw this!" he yelled for his watcher's benefit, dragged himself to his feet and creaked towards his car like a guy with a twisted ankle. The rustling intensified, then he heard wood crack and spun round, staring straight up into the tree. "Right, I know you're up there. I'm done with playing cat-and-mouse. Get down here, right now."
There was a sulky pause. "No."
Nick sighed. "Look, I know you're pretty scared. It's cold, it's dark – I'm guessing if you had somewhere to run to, you'd be there right now―"
"You don't know anything about me!"
Was that the emo talking, or the teenager? Nick wondered. "No, I don't. But I don't plan to find out anything about you in the pitch black in hypothermic temperatures. Come down, and we can―"
"I'm happy up here!"
Nick lost his patience and his Grimm kicked in, his voice bursting into full force as he shone the flashlight into the tree. "I don't care! Come down, or I'm coming up!"
There was a split second of big green eyes in a narrow face (with a lip-piercing) peering down at him, widening in utter terror, then the kid's hair parted a little, he went blue and bony and long-toothed and plunged backwards out of the Larch with a scream. Nick managed to get between the kid and the ground and was quite firmly pounded as an elbow slammed him in the upper chest from a considerable drop. Nick was winded, but largely unhurt, thanks to the soggy ground. The kid was rolling around, grabbing his ankle, and yelling 'it's all your fault!' through intervals of sobbing.
Great – just what he needed to ease him back into work. A gracious geier.