juniperberry: renard from the tv show grimm (renard is skeptical)
[personal profile] juniperberry
'Cause I don't want to lose it through a spare click.

Everything in life is recycled. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; one person's corpse becomes a haven for insects, bacteria, carbon, nitrogen, and other organic material to feed the plants that root in the earth. A fallen log in a forest hosts fungi, insects, parasitic plants; and so death gives birth to life.

Sean Renard watched his newest detective sort out his desk, and pondered on the idea that souls must do the same thing.

Nick Burkhardt was painfully, horrifyingly familiar--his eyes, his hands, the way his mouth quirked when Griffen said something that was amusing but not especially funny. Sean watched his newest detective, inbetween filling out his own reports and going over paperwork, and felt his heart constrict tightly in his chest.

He'd been waiting, of course, for Nicolai to circle around the wheel again, but it had been nearly fifty years since the last time--and Nicolai was such a stubborn bastard, and Burkhardt was so like and so unlike--

Life, Sean reflected not for the first time, took an enormous delight in not being fair.


London's streets were populated, even so late on such a damp night; Sean leaned his head back and felt the cool, moist air slide over him with a sort of meditative calm. From a nearby record shop, a guitar-based band crooned out onto the streets--a new group, playing rock and roll. Sean liked them well enough to hum along to "I Saw Her Standing There."

"Not bad," an accented voice whispered in his ear. He caught Nicolai in a tight grip, half an embrace, and bared his teeth in what was only marginally a smile.

"It's a bit late for little Grimms to be out of bed," he said. Nicolai grinned up at him, impudent and mocking.

"It's a bit late for--what's the English word?--wankers to be out of bed," he said, his accent slight but noticable. Nicolai had never given a surname, and his accent could have been Germanic, Slavic, or Russian; he was good at mimicing any of them, the little shit.

"What do you want, this late?" Sean asked, even as he led Nicolai away from the crowds, down a quieter street. "Surely you're not hunting in my brother's territory?"

Nicolai wiggled against his grip. "His Lordship said I could kill any creatures that broke his law," he said smartly. "But no, not hunting." His grin was a slash of light against the growing dark, as the streetlamps came more rarely. "I came to warn you about the ziegevolk on Nottingham Road. It looks like he's...what's the word...setting up a harem?"

"He's herding," Sean said, annoyed. Out of all the many creatures out there, he had to admit a dislike for ziegevolk. "Are you doing anything about it?"

Nicolai smiled at him, guileless. "I was thinking we could do something, maybe?" he said. "Since you scold me so much about rushing head on into the wall."

Sean rolled his eyes. Nicolai liked playing with fire, even when he didn't realize what he was doing. "Why would I help you?"

Nicolai wiggled free and began to walk backwards down the pavement, his hair damp from the rain and his hands shoved deep in his pockets. "Because you like me better than that old man who is your brother's Grimm," he said. "And I only kill when needed, not for fun." He stopped and let Sean step closer, until they were nearly chest to chest. Nicolai looked up and gave Sean a small, warm smile.

"Also, I think, you like me," he said, quietly, although there were no other people around, and the only signs of life were lights behind curtains and the rumbles of autos trundling down the street.

"You already said that," Sean said, patiently. Nicolai smiled wider.

"I said you liked me better than the old man, that's professional," he said. "This, I think, is liking in a different way, hmm?"

Sean thought back over his previous observations, and decided on a change. Nicolai wasn't just a little shit, he was a smug, observant little shit. Sean knew he hadn't been obvious, and yet Nicolai had picked up on something....

"You think highly of yourself, Nicolai," he said, and brushed past the Grimm at a steady pace.

"You know," Nicolai said, as he trotted to catch up, "I've been doing lots of reading. You know, most Grimms, they don't even ask what you monarch-types are. You're obviously creature, but more human than most creatures. And of course, most Grimms are silly and don't want to ask the nice creatures about you. I tried asking a bauerschwein, but he pissed himself and ran away. Like I would kill him! If I want pork I go to a butcher."

Sean smiled slightly. "To a bauerschwein, you are a butcher," he said, and Nicolai huffed a sigh in irritation.

"So many Grimms have given us all a lousy reputation," he said. "I've only been on the job, what, six months? And still the little prey creatures think I'm interested in them. Stupid, waste of time." He whirled and pointed a finger at Sean. "And a lot of them, they're in this beatniky sort of scene, you know? They smoke so much hash, they see me and lose their lunch out of fright."

Sean's lips twitched as he restrained a smile. "How odd," he said. The street forked, and he turned left, towards Nottingham Road. Nicolai apparently knew the lay of the land and followed without complaint.

"So," he said, "when are you going to find a throne of your own, hmm? Then I can petition to be your official Grimm, instead of wandering in and stepping on feet all over the place."

Sean withheld a snort through sheer willpower. "Who says I would want a Grimm?" he asked. "There are always a fair number of hexenbiests around, all I need do is win their loyalty."

Nicolai was silent a moment, disgruntled. "But hexenbiests, they demand such a high price for loyalty," he said, and while his voice was attempting to wheedle, it came out more wistful than persuasive. "Me, I already like you. You don't have your head up your ass like the King in Prague. And humans are important to you, too, not just as creature fodder."

"Badmouthing my relatives to make me more amenable? Strange tactic," Sean said, and Nicolai gave him a dirty look.

"Truth hurts," was all he said in response, but it made Sean smile.


The more he got to know Nick Burkhardt, the more convinced Sean became of who the detective used to be. It was in the little things--the way his mouth fell into a line when he concentrated, the motion of his hands when discussing things with his partner, the crease between his brows that would form when he was angry about something and determined not to show it. There were a thousand tells, a thousand spies that Sean had thought he'd forgotten, and yet here they were, wrapped in a shape he had known, a shape he had wanted to know, a shape he had thought lost and gone and not to be seen again.

When he had convinced himself of the reality--of a soul he knew in a body he didn't--he went home after work and got quietly, thoroughly drunk.

When he realized Burkhardt had a pretty, sweet fiance, he asked Adalind over for an evening, so that he wouldn't do anything foolish. She disapproved on principle, and she had a good head on her shoulders; she had sense, and she had talked him out of more foolish decisions than he could count.

When Marie Kessler arrived and Sean realized Burkhardt was her nephew, he wished there was something he could do--besides drinking--to numb himself to the whole situation, because Marie Kessler was a legend, was a dangerous, lethal thing, who not only carried on the reputation of the Grimms of old, but had given it a new and shiny immediacy.

And Nick Burkhardt--newest detective in his department, amazingly observant, who smelled just like Nicolai had after a rain, completely oblivious to any interest from his captain--Nick Burkhardt was the newest Grimm in the line, with hardly a clue as to what any of it meant.

Alcohol was simply not enough to make him forget, and he could not in good conscience allow himself anything else, even as he gave Adalind orders to assassinate Marie Kessler.


Rubber Soul was spinning on his record player the first time Nicolai appeared at his flat. Sean opened the door and just stared for a long moment.

"Nicolai," he said at last. "What brings you here so late?"

"I had a few questions, and I couldn't find you at the usual places," Nicolai said. He took a step closer, but hesitated when Sean didn't move. "May I come in?"

"That wouldn't be a good idea," Sean said. He enjoyed flirting with Nicolai, especially since he would never name it as such; anything more than that and things would go down a road he was sure Nicolai didn't want.

"Why? Are you dining on children's livers?" Nicolai's half-smile belied his words. "Come on, Renard. Let me in, it's cold out here."

It really wasn't, and Nicolai's coat could keep him warm. "No," Sean said. "What do you need to know?"

"Grimm questions," Nicolai said. "I guess if you want to talk about the habits of certain unsavory creatures, we could do it here, but I get loud when I get excited by something."

Sean knew that was an outright lie, but Nicolai just smiled quietly at him. Smug little shit.

"All right," he said, and held the door open. "But once your questions are done, you will leave."

"It's like you don't like me," Nicolai said, and suddenly he was far, far too close, and his hair smelled like rain.

"Nicolai," Sean said, "you're playing a very dangerous game."

Nicolai blinked at him, honestly perplexed. "You sound like you would hurt me," he said. One hand reached out and ran down Sean's shirt-sleeve, down to his wrist. "I don't believe you would."

"You'd be mistaken. Ask what you want and get out."

Nicolai stepped back and asked his questions, technical ones. They were obscure--he'd been on the job three years or so, there wasn't much his books or another Grimm couldn't tell him. Sean gave him his answers and then pointedly opened the door.

Nicolai glanced around, uncertain. "Sean," he said, quietly. "I don't understand. We've--"

"We've done things I shouldn't have allowed," Sean said. "If we do anything else, there will be consequences."

Nicolai crossed his arms and glared. "If there were more information on monarchs, you wouldn't need to be so round-about," he said. "I don't understand."

Sean sighed. "I'll--I'll tell you about it later, Nicolai," he said, and something in his voice apparently convinced the Grimm where his words did not.

"Fine," Nicolai said. He dug a slip of paper out of one his pockets. "Here. Meet me there tomorrow night around seven or so, that should be the right time."

"Of course," Sean said, and he gently shut the door in Nicolai's face. On the stereo, "In My Life" began, with the sweet refrain Sean was coming to identify with a little too much.

“In my life, I'll love you more,” sang John and Paul, and Sean turned off the record player.


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December 2016

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