Ok guys – here we go, final instalment. I've got another story in the pipeline that will keep the puberty in the background for continuity. Will start writing that soon (is all mapped out in shorthand at the mo!)

Thanks so much for all your wonderful reviews throughout. I hope you enjoy the ending.

X x X

Nick folded the letter back up carefully and tried to get it in the envelope but it wouldn't go. He felt inside and the tips of his fingers closed around a photo. He fished it out and realised with a bolt of sympathy for his mom why she couldn't spend too much time around him. In the picture, he was sitting on his dad's lap; about three years old, fair-haired, clutching a beachball that obscured all of him from view save his cheeky grin upwards, and slightly possessive arms. He didn't see himself in that kid, but in the guy sitting behind him, sharing a joke with someone out of shot. His father had the same dark hair, grey eyes and a small dimple in his chin, still visible through about three days' shaving neglect. Nick held the Polaroid up to the light, out of his shadow. He wasn't quite in the same league as his dad, but the physical similarities between them were of the Estevez-Sheen/Sutherland ilk.

He stuck the photo in his wallet.

Monroe's hand landed lightly on his shoulder and he looked up to see mild brown eyes gazing down at him.

"I'm taking it, from the lack of scary vibes over here, that this latest correspondence has settled you a bit?"

Nick didn't quite know what to say. He had a piece of his dad and he didn't have to try to remember his face anymore. He was just aware of an incredible sense of inner...peace, like Mount Rushmore had finally tumbled off the back of his shoulders. He pulled himself upright and handed the letter to Monroe. He felt like sharing.

"You read, I'll drive."

"I thought you hated boats?"

"I hate this one." Nick stepped off the Heart of the Lake into the Sea Warrior and felt instantly better. With or without his Dad's letter, there was just something oppressive about the old tug. Reading through the whole letter and replaying paragraphs in his mind, he knew there was nothing broken-spirited about his father at all, which put him on an even keel, but he couldn't break the association he had with the tug and the essentially parentless life he led. Rabe's words kept coming back to him: "You brought yourself up." Well, maybe he had, to an extent, but it was good to know that his father had thought about the incoming weirdness and had tried to talk him through it, so to speak.

The Rissfleich looked up at him protestingly as he took control of the steering wheel, but his gaze held no real conviction. He just looked sad, as if he were about to lose his boat, and was too damn drunk to do anything about it.

"We'll pay you for your time," Nick said mildly. "I've just not much faith in your steering right now."

The redundant captain cheered right up to the point that he flung himself over and gave Nick a bristly, whisky-stinky peck on the cheek. Nick disentangled himself and gently deposited the pissed Rissfleich into the co-pilot's seat. He waited for Monroe to heave himself into the back of the Sea Warrior and find a slightly safer perching point than on their outbound journey, then sent the Warrior back to the main dock.

His steering was nowhere as good as Monroe's, but he pulled them alongside the pier with a respectably tiny jolt and turned the engine off. He retrieved his personals from the floor of the Sea Warrior, picked up his shoes, and tucked forty bucks into the raddled Captain's shirt pocket, getting away before the guy had the opportunity to display any gratitude for the over-pay. Seeing that Monroe was still buried in the letter, he peeled his soaking jeans off and went to sit on the edge of the dock, his legs swinging under the wood planks, letting the sun dry him out a little more.

Eventually he felt that light touch on his shoulder again and glanced aside to find that Monroe, rather touchingly, easing down onto the wood next to him, had his own bad case of rain-face.

"You ok?"

"Dude – great letter. More to the point – you're ok, aren't you?"

Nick thought about it. A lot of questions to be answered over the coming weeks, and he still had his mother's ludicrously coded messages to worry about, but yeah – actually, he felt ok. He wiped his face off with his forearm. "Ignoring the whole red-eye thing, actually, I feel better than in ages."

Monroe flashed him a knowing grin. "Well, thank God for that."

Nick winced. "I've been hard work, haven't I?"

"Oh no! No, I'm not that saying that. For God's sake, you've leapt to my rescue twice in two days. It's just that... well, we've both read the letter. Clearly you're going through that 'transition' your dad warned you about. As soon as we get back to Portland, we'll get our mutually favourite pharmacist to knock something up for you to get those... hormones under control. That's kind of urgent."

Nick was rather looking forward to an afternoon of rest. "Is it?"

"Oh, trust me, it is. You're a cop. You have work. You can't go locking yourself away just because you're feeling a bit emotional." Monroe stared out over the lake, fiddling with his sodden shoelaces. "And I can't be throwing you up against one of Rosie's cabinets just 'cause you're feeling a bit pensive, or whatever."

Say what? "Why the hell would you throw me up against a cabinet?"

Monroe blanched. "Did I say that out loud?" He buried his face in his hands. "Oh, man! I so thought I'd got away with this..." Monroe peeled his hands off his face, revealing fuchsia cheeks. "Your dad... half-raped by a librarian, yes? No indication as to what gender that librarian was?"

Companiably, Nick's own complexion raged through flushed to purple as he contemplated this. "It's not...uh... a scenario that I'd uh... So you're saying that it's not just 'chicks' who..."

"Gas station guy, remember?"

"Yeah… Nick swallowed. "So, do we need a codeword or codephrase, or something?"

"What do you mean?"

"So I know when to make myself scarce! Even assuming Rosie can give me something that works, what if I forget to take a dose, or a pill, or whatever, then start thinking about Juliette? I still get great big smacks of sorrow every time I think about her, and if you're going to start picking up on my emotions in... in that way, then we need some kind of discreet communication."

"I could just say, 'Nick, go'."

"But you say that when I'm just being a regular ass! I mean something a bit more specific!"

Monroe looked indignant. "This is not a situation I want to be specific about! What do you expect me to say? 'Flee, fair Nicholas, for I am suffering the unfortunate horn'? It's kind of hard to slip into polite conversation!"

"Ok!" Nick held his hands up to lessen the tide of detail. "If Rosie can help me, it may even not be an issue. So let's just... play it by ear."

"Better plan!"

They sat quietly for a while like a pair of sunblushed tomatoes, glowing hotly in the sun. The tension eased, gradually, although Monroe flicked a speculative gaze at him from time to time. Nick was suddenly aware of sitting in his moist boxers and nothing else. "Am I 'safe' right now?"

Monroe looked him up and down, laughed and shrugged. "I was taking your psychological temperature. Ok, you're largely dry, but you're also mentally stable and covered in stinky lakeweed, so yeah – I'd say you're 'safe'. I've got spare clothes in the boot, anyway, so don't worry about that."

Nick was impressed as he stood up and followed Monroe back to the car. "You keep spare clothes in the boot?"

"I never know exactly what kind of...oddness you're going to drag me into, so it seems prudent. Spare clothes, spare tyre, spare high-vis. Spare water cannon…"

"Ha ha!"

They wiped down and re-dressed on opposite sides of the car: Monroe in a cookie monster teeshirt (very dignified) and himself in a dark grey wifebeater and blue jeans. They shared a brief moment of panic as they tried to work out who'd last had the copy of Yeats' until they saw it stuck on the roof of Monroe's banger. Nick popped it onto the back seat and strapped up as Monroe opened the car snacks they'd never gotten round to eating and cracked the bottle of water open. Then Nick's phone rang. Unknown number.

Feeling weirdly rebellious, he hushed Monroe and put the call on speakerphone.

"Hey mom."

"Have you got the book?"

"Good morning Mom, how are you? Not feeling too hounded, I hope? Not stuck up a tree, overly surrounded by Hundjager?"

There was a brief, confused pause on the other end of the line, allowing Nick to keep his voice 'straight' while Monroe stifled his rising chuckles by the simple means of lifting his leg and cramming his kneecap into his mouth.

"Not right now, no. I'm back under cover. So, did you find it?"

She's just as sweet as I remember, Monroe mouthed in between cackles, and went back to his kneecap.

"Yeah. WB Yeats. Nice. You know, it's a good job I didn't get the will soon after Marie died, because that particular volume... not good for a depressed state of mind, is it?"

"It's not the poems you should've been reading. Have you cracked the cipher?"

Last night, this would've had him not just kicking his satnav, but throwing it through the window. Now... well, he had a slightly different perspective.

"I've got what I need for now, thanks."

"And are you going through the transition yet, or not?"

Monroe looked startled, whispered across at him. "Wow. Grimm women.. don't do small talk, do they?"

Nick shrugged. "I think it's safe to say that it's beginning. But I have a question."

"Yes? Got symptoms already?"

Nick didn't feel up to discussing his 'symptoms'. "I'm assured it's a pretty valuable book. If I crack the cipher, write down your basic message, then rub the pencil out, can I sell it? There are various gloomy unruhigbisonen of my friend's acquaintance who might be interested."

Another long pause. "Nicholas Burkhardt, are you cheeking me?"

"Me? No! Would I do that?"

"GOD! You are so like Reed, it's just... ungh.. Look, you got what you need to know, for now. Other stuff – historical stuff, important stuff – I'll talk you through that when I get back. Ok?"

"Look forward to it." This time, he let his voice be a little warmer, and was about to add something softer, but she'd already clicked off. Didn't really matter. He was grinning ear to ear at the prospect of being 'so like Reed, ungh.' And he didn't even mind that she had no intention of talking him through whatever he may have discovered of his transition through her cipher, or that she didn't consider that to be the 'important stuff'. He knew what to expect, now, and he had friends to help him through it. Their Mom-Son relationship... he had time to work on.

X x X

They'd passed the Pine Copse garage from the opposite direction by the time Monroe remembered he still had the boat keys and struggled them out of his pocket while driving left-handed. "Sorry, nearly forget to give you these."

Nick was still staring out the window.

"Nick! Boat keys."

"You hang on to those. I've a feeling you might want a second bolt-hole."

Monroe beamed hugely. "You're lending me the boat? I love boats. I mean I know you hate them and it would probably be wise if I learnt to swim, but to me, it's the best way to chill—"

"It's not for lends. It's for keeps."

Monroe pulled over sharply. "You're seriously giving me … what… $90k's worth of boat?"

Nick winked, sending a burst of warmth through Monroe that had nothing to do with the unfortunate horn. "Yours, all yours."

Monroe choked up a little. "Man, I don't know what to say – ah, thanks, obviously! And wow – good friend! But won't it screw up your inheritance? I mean… you need to keep it in the family to get the money, and you might now get the money sooner than you think."

"Monroe, you are family. Let me worry about the money. I'll talk to mom."

Monroe re-started the engine. "Good luck with that."

"Let's just say that this is going to be one of those subjects I'm not budging on."

"Do you mind if I rename it?"

Nick sighed gently. "Remember the part when I said it was yours? Go for it. What did you have in mind?"

"The bane of the Verrat. That appeals to me."

"Might get you shot."

"Nah. Verrat don't like water, they won't go anywhere near the boat."

They sat quietly a little longer, Monroe pondering on his friend's generosity. The difference that another bolt hole would make to his peace of mind – hell, you couldn't put money on it. The letter stuck in his mind, too: it could've been written by Nick for his own son, though he imagined that his buddy would plan the transfer of unpleasant information rather more smoothly than his parents had. But hell, you couldn't choose your family. Not your blood family, at least.

Which reminded him – he needed to get Rosie to call her uncle. Find out exactly what John Calvert had made up for Reed. It could take a couple of days, and it probably wasn't very safe for Nick to go into work….

"Nick, you better call the precinct. Get some leave so we can sort this treatment out. Test it a little. Oh man, you're grinning something wicked. What are you thinking?"

"I thought I'd pop in and ask the Captain myself. Nicely."

"No." Monroe shook his head really vigorously. "Terrible, terrible idea."

"Oh come on. If I know Rosalee, she'll have goo available on tap in like, two days, and I have this really…."

"…infantile urge to…?"

"Yeah, ok. So I have an infantile urge to expand the Captain's gamut of facial expressions, which currently runs from A to B."

Monroe thought of the taciturn Captain and laughed. "Yeah, he's got 'concerned' and 'very concerned' down pat. What you trying to add? Panic?"


He thought very briefly about trying to talk Nick out of it, but he had that snowflake-tortilla expression in his eyes and there was absolutely no point. And he wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall when Renard found things… getting away from him a bit. He took the slipway to Portland south and grinned. "Ok, do what you've got to do, but… can you just turn it on like that? Pardon the phrase."

Nick frowned. "I don't know. I don't know what feeling does what. I don't wanna go, you know, overboard. What were we doing when you first felt, uh, discomfited?"

"Discomfited? Ha!" Monroe frowned, recalled alarm loin stirring just as he'd been observing the beautiful pace of Nick's breathing. "We'd just met the drunk tiger."

"Ok, I was slightly annoyed. We'll need to replicate that, somehow."

"Oh, that's pretty straightforward. We'll get to the side road by the precinct, swap seats, then you can reverse park left round the corner while I give you a running commentary. That should do it."

"You going to be ok, while I'm… getting annoyed?"

"In the name of the cause, I will suck it up. Another really bad phrase, sorry…."

Ten irritable moments later of poor kerb control, noisily and continuously documented by Monroe, Nick steamed out of the car and stomped up the steps of the precinct underground car park, shades on, jacket on but undone. Monroe let a deep breath go, collected himself, and called Rosalie to give her the lay of the land.

She burst into tears.

"Honey, everything will be fine! We'll get through this…"

"No, I'm relieved!" Rosalee sucked in air. "I'm so relieved….I had to get away – I couldn't even look at him without feeling unfaithful. I'm so sorry Monroe; I don't feel about him like that. I love you, I love your silly habits, your—"

"It's ok!" Monroe stemmed her tide gently. "It's ok. I've only had the chance to tell you the half of it. I have…um… very good reason to believe in the completely involuntary response you've been having."

Rosie went quiet on him. Then sounded tetchy. "Does this mean that you also wanted to jump his bones?"

He thought about Nick's feral roar on the Heart of the Lake – it was hugely painful in … that kind of way… and it was so over the top that his conscience was largely clear. "He affected me. Badly. But I mostly wanted to just chuck him in the water. Water dampens his spirits, apparently."

"Did it dampen yours?"

"Why are we arguing about this?"

"Sorry. It's dumb, you're right. At least we know what's going on now."

Monroe took a deep breath. "Is that why you went away? To get space between you and Nick?"

"Oh yeah – it was the worst conference ever. So many pretentious asses giving two-hour diatribes on the low points in their lives. Couldn't hack it any longer. But it did cool my ardour. That's partly why I brought the bison group home. I thought their incessant negative energy might provide some kind of protective shield, y'know, in case Nick popped by."

Oh God, of course…. Monroe considered: he'd spent hours having depressing poetry poured into his ears, and had gone on to withstand Nick's weeping without the slightest to grab the Grimm and kiss him breathless. "That's a defence tactic worth remembering," he muttered.

They made small talk a little while longer, just catching up. The bison had left, appalled by Rosalee's bland assumption that their deadly rollerblading poem had been written ironically. No, they had assured, they were in dead earnest and it had been an absolute tragedy. Monroe snickered quietly into the phone. And it turned out that Rosie was on good terms with Uncle John, because he fully approved of her refusing to get sucked into the activities of the Lauffer. Nick's meds should be easy enough to put together.

They spent a few shameless moments unable to hang up on each other, before Rosie finally took responsibility with a goodbye smooch.

Monroe settled back in the car seat, waiting for Nick. It was a good day, all told. New boat, new bolt hole. Reclaimed girlfriend. Buffalo roaming a different home. Nick took a while: he dropped happily off to sleep.

X x X

Nick sauntered up to the coffee machine behind Renard and Wu, wondering if he could do this with a straight face, if he could do it at all. He fought to remain vaguely annoyed. Would it even work? Wu turned from the kettle, his herbal tea in hand, and looked… sweetly delighted to see him, staring deep into his eyes. He handed Nick the tea he had just made for himself.

"Hey Wu, that's kind. Thank you."

"Definitely grey," Wu mumbled. "With lovely blue bits."

Renard frowned. "Come again?"

"The tea. Earl grey with damson. He likes an exotic cup," Nick lied smoothly. No need for Wu to get all tangled up in this, although the sergeant wasn't really helping himself by toddling away dazedly, glancing over his shoulder in a lovelorn sort of way.

Renard's hands stayed still around the volcanic percolator. "Was there something you wanted, Burkhardt?"

"Can I have a word with you in your office? It's kind of… personal."

"Com- Follow."

Nick did, grinning wickedly, and took a seat opposite the Captain, setting his tea down and stretching.

"Yes? Did you come in here to yawn, or…?"

Nick suppressed a frown. This wasn't looking promising, actually. "You were kind enough to help me with the will. There have been some…complications and I'd like to ask for a little leave. I have this urge to get things sorted out."

Renard flinched on 'urge' (banzai!) and loosened his tie slightly. "Right, you're running a little low on leave, but let me have a look. Let me just… the book is stuffed in my drawers – DRAW! The book's in my draw."

"Sure, I'll wait." Nick scratched absently at the side of his chest, fiendishly catching the bare area under his armpit. Renard fumbled with his keys, breathing hard. "You alright, sir? You're hyperventilating a little."

"It's all good." Renard stabbed the key in, got down on one knee and struggled with the draw as it caught on something. "It's a bit stuck. No, stay there! I can do this."

Nick joined Renard on his side of the desk. "Hey, I've got years of experience with uncooperative drawers. You've just got to be firm with them. Sometimes all they need is a gentle sliding motion."

Renard yanked the draw open and smacked the corner of it against his forehead, making him go from hunkered to flat in seconds. Oh crap – not meant to happen. And he was breathing way too fast. Nick patted the Captain's face nervously, and when this didn't work, he tried some of that purposeful disrobing that Monroe had been so obnoxious about.

He had Renard's tie off, his shirt undone and belt removed by the time his eyes flicked open, wide with stress.

"Forget the books, take the days. I'm fine, just—"

"You just blacked out! I was helping with your airway."

"Burkhardt, there is nothing… wrong… with my airway. Take the days! Go, Nick!"

Nick did his most innocent smile. "Actually, your colour's looking much better, now. Anything I can do while I'm still here?"

"No. Go. Send Wu in on way out."

"Wooing? Whose wooing?"


"Ok, I'm going. Thanks for the leave. I'll be in touch."

Nick trotted back down the stairwell, dusting his hands off, job done, chuckling helplessly to himself. His dad's words rung pleasantly in his head: these could be the most fun days of your life. God that was fun. In a couple of days, it would be business as usual again and probably with endless pots of goo at his disposal to deal with this whole 'magnetism problem', but until that became available, why not mess around a little?

He cleared his throat, did his jacket up and got his equilibrium back before reaching the car. Monroe was asleep in the driver seat, exhausted. Poor, poor guy. Nick grinned to himself, levered Monroe's seat all the way back down so he could sleep properly, and gave him his jacket.

"Not on my nuts!" Monroe barked from the depths of sleep. Nick took the jacket back. God only knew what he was dreaming about.

So, back to business, but back on ground zero. And definitely onwards and upwards.

General z – the renard cupboard-slam is for you, lol.