And here we go – the finale! Thanks so much all for following thus far! I'd be really grateful to know what you think. I've tried not to make it too… mushy- but these things can be hard to get right!

I really hope you enjoy.

X x X

"Dude, you can probably take your shades off. It's really not that sunny… yet."

"I'm in a Legoland queue with fifty-odd tiny wesen. I thought it might be wise."

"Nick – that's kind of my point. They're tiny wesen, who neither understand the concept of Grimm yet, or who don't really care. Besides, all the adults have been briefed. You're one of Theo's coat-peg people. It's all cool."

Coat-what people? Nick frowned and rubbed his hands together in the frigid, late-autumn breeze. "Pardon?"

Monroe chuckled. "As a non-executive, stroke sleeping partner, stroke managerially-uninvolved part-owner of Beeber Babies, Jan had one small suggestion imported from Dutch nurseries. Each kid usually gets their own coat peg with their own names above it, right?"

Nick shrugged. "Sounds usual."

"They also get a second little card above their pegs, giving all the names of people who are allowed to drop that kid off and pick them up, and their relationship to the kid. Saves a hell of a lot of embarrassment – you don't want to accidentally accuse some Geier lady of being a kid's grandma instead of their mom – dangerous territory, that – or accuse a mom of being a babysitter. Plus, it's good to actually know people's names. Kind of undignified to still be calling some poor lady 'William's mom' after six months of passing the time of day at drop-off. Theo's coat peg list is pretty long. The entire federation's on it."

Nick grinned. "Can't believe you and Rosalie will be getting a peg in your own right soon." Monroe gave a dopey kind of grin that made Nick punch him affectionately on the shoulder. "How you feeling about things, now? Because you were a little… freaked out. At times." Nick tacitly referred to the several dawn calls he'd received, in which Monroe frantically listed his two-hundred-and-twenty-three potential failings as a father after a couple of challenging nights looking after Theo.

"Better. Jan left his little people with Denny for a few hours and swung by for some tea. It really helped. Turns out that Jan has the odd freak-out moment himself, which was good to know." Monroe chuckled. "He seems to have it all completely together, but apparently he got into a total bad-dad panic because some pushy parent was going on about their two-year-old kid knowing all their letters already while Theo was still using his flashcards to make airport runways. He just took a deep breath and decided he'd start teaching him instead of worrying about what some competitive asshole was saying. I felt a lot calmer afterwards – both Rosie and I did. After the whole… Annalise nightmare, we were worried about the implications of raising, y'know, a gemischtwesen."

Hank clapped a hand on Monroe's shoulder. "Man, you'll be fine. From what I've seen of Jan and Theo, it's about setting a strong, calm example, and you have to be one of the most self-disciplined guys I know, so, um.."

Monroe grinned at him, thanking Hank silently and saving him the necessity of swimming into bromance. Nick felt proud of his partner: this was a big acceptance leap for him. And part of the point of bringing him out for the grand 'Beeber Babies' opening event. Ok, so the boys' grand night out didn't go smoothly: but attempt two, a day in the company of various wesen toddlers could not be less intimidating as a new way of dragging his partner into his world. The queue going into Legoland was still static, but the excitement was building among the crew of knee-highs that he, Monroe and Hank had been stationed to 'watch' while they waited to get in. They were all in human form and shaped more like nappies with legs and arms than children.

Nick couldn't believe how much Jan had managed to get sorted out, and how quickly: even when still laid up with an IV, armed with no more than his cell phone, Jan had: arranged viewings to get Sally Moller's little church play group into permanent premises; arranged funds – largely his own, it appeared; had some quiet, meaningful words with the Hasslichen at the bank and building control office; talked a theme park manager into lending them the under-fives section of the park for the day, and pretty much created a waiting list and recruitment overload for the nursery through a couple of 'friendly chats' with the right people. Jesus. He'd always known Jan was smooth, but―

"Anyway," Hank said briskly, "Happy Birthday, Nick!" He produced a card that made Nick laugh with its shoved-in-the-coat crumpledness, and which made Monroe moan into his hands.

"Dude, you could've reminded me!"

"You've had a lot on your mind," Nick said mildly, and opened the envelope. The card was very homemade, an enormous 32 written on the front of a folded sheet of yellow legal paper and, inside, a short poem and a scrap of paper. The poem made him chortle:

Roses are red, violets are blue

There are still some singles older than you

Hank had a way of making the harsh easier to swallow. He'd now been promoted to a calm, reassuring presence in the foreground of Juliette's life, but that was about as far as things had progressed. The scrap of paper was a 'voucher promise' for an all-beers-paid night out on the town, in the company of the whole UFRS, at anywhere but Tennant's Bar. Three times underlined.

"Thanks, Hank." Nick chuckled. "UFRS?"

"United Federation of Rare Species," Hank said. "It's all very official. Denny's even gotten us our own email domain name, now, not that he's going overboard in anyway."

"I can't believe I forgot your birthday!"

"Monroe, forget it!" But one possibility occurred to Nick. "You can take my turn with Carianne's nappy. That'll make my day - the girl's like a living magma chamber. I didn't think babies could actually go 'bang', and I can even hear that post-op. Where is Denny, by the way?" Then Nick smelt smoke and turned to see Denny approaching behind, holding Theo's hand.

"Sorry – just cramming one last in before we're funnelled into no-smoking land for the day. Being an 'inappropriate adult', as Mrs Greenaway would say."

"Who's Mrs Greenaway?"

"Inconvenient Hug Woman," Theo explained, darkly.

Nick bit back his smile. "Strikes at bad times, does she?"

"Does she ever! Flaming Nora…" Theo muttered, and dashed off to 'arrange' his friends in the queue. Nick noted a degree of hero worship going on between Theo and Bud's kid, Matty. Matty slavishly copied pretty much everything Theo did.

Denny stubbed out and fiddled with the corner of a nicotine patch. "Mrs Greenaway's the lovely child psychologist that social services packed off to the precinct to interrogate Renard about Jan's domestic circumstances. In other words, the damnfool woman that would've had Theo seeing his dad looking an utter… wreck if various interventions hadn't been staged." Denny rolled his eyes and slapped the patch on. "She means well, but she's hard to please. First she was 'a little concerned' that the Lieutenant of a Police Department would find it unmanageable being a single father of two, and pretty much followed him everywhere to see how he was coping."

Nick winced. That must have pushed Jan quite close to the edge of his temper. "And now…?"

"Well now I've moved in for a bit, she's 'slightly concerned' about our unconventional domestic arrangement. There's no pleasing some people."

Hank gave Denny a knowing look. "You've moved into Jan's place?"

"I'm lodging, I'll have you know – earning my way in childcare while I get a new job so that Jan can get a bit of kip from time to time. After getting quite manifestly fired, I couldn't keep my flat. No place of residence means no right to remain, which means going back to blighty. No thanks." Denny such a heartfelt shudder that Nick wondered what was so bad back in England that made a personal-space-freak happier to share a house with two tiny children than return 'home'. "Still, it's meant that I've been asked to 'adjust the rougher edges of my behaviour', particularly as Theo seems particularly impressionable. Bloody woman. Theo's smart enough to know what not to say in polite company and frankly, I've never advertised myself as polite company."

Nick grinned. Honest, brave, patient, kind company, yes: polite? Stretching it a bit. Mrs Greenaway had a point about one thing, though: if Matty were hero-worshipping Theo, Theo was doing the same of Denny, moving the littler, more shambolic tots forward in the queue with a firm clap and: "come on, smalls! A bit of focus, please!" He couldn't help feeling that there were many worse people that Theo could imitate.



"Nothing critical, I was just asking how you've been. Hearing still a bit crap in that ear?"

"Yeah – not quite there, yet. I've been well looked after, though." Mercifully, he could remember very little of what they had all come to refer to as 'Siege Night': at least, very little after the point he'd apparently passed out all over Denny at the club doors while they were fighting their way out. No one felt the need to fill in his blanks, and he was happy not to pursue the missing memories. He still had recurring headaches and, for a couple of weeks, godawful nightmares about getting shot, but those were going. And, while his strength had yet to return, at least he'd regained full control over his voice again. He could still thunder quietly if he really, really needed to, but he seemed to be the boss of the Grimm – for now.

The hearing bugged him. The surgery to fix his right tympanic membrane had been a success on paper, but the return of his hearing in his right ear was slower than promised and his balance remained appalling, making him feel nauseous and fragile most of the time. For the time being, at least, he remained dependent on his anti-vertigo pills, and had had to double up on his anti-pheromones. People appeared awfully keen to grab him when he went off balance and there was usually an unnecessary amount of bodily grappling involved before he found his feet again.

But he had, as said, been really well looked after.

For the first few days after being released from hospital, he'd ended up staying with Bud, Janie and Matty, who were… attentive, to say the least. Being eased up to bed and allowed to sleep for 36 hours straight in a comfy bed was … divine. Having his favourite dinners made was nice. Having breakfast brought in bed was nice. Having an extra towel and cup of tea parked inside the bathroom door while he was showering was downright alarming. Thank God for his tendency for boiling showers – a degree of steam preserved his modesty. He'd moved back home after a few days of having his bed beautifully made while he was still in it, then Hank temporarily moved in.

Nick caught the end of Hank catching Denny up on his 'actual recovery', since he'd been so concise. "…Eating better. Watching TV without the sound on nuclear, now. The night terrors weren't much fun, but now he's sleeping like a baby."

"Really?" Denny sounded disapproving and gave Nick a mock-glare. "Sleeping like a baby, eh? So Nick's been waking you every other hour and demanding milk?"

Nick gaped. "I have not!"

"Didn't think so," Denny chuckled. "Hank – have littl'un for a night, please? It might revise your definition of 'sleeping like a baby'. Oh – speak of the devil…"

The queue started moving through the gates of the park at last, coat-peg people taking the hands of little ones up and down the line to keep them in control, and Jan weaved his way towards them in the opposite direction, coming from the gate, carrying 'littl'un' in a pouch on his front. The pouch was far, far too big for its occupant and all Nick could see of Carianne was two little white arms and legs with a duckling pattern hanging out of a dark-blue strap-on carrier, and down Jan's front. He beamed at them as he approached, having stopped to give friendly instructions to a few batches of nursery workers and coat-peg people along the way.

"Gents, sorry about the wait – administrative problems. We're good to go, now. Ok guys, the plan is to supervise the kids on the rides in the morning, then have the food-flung chaos known as 'lunch', then team sports this afternoon. So if you could take them in your batches to the tented area over to the left…"

Nick bent to take the hands of the two teeny Maushertzen either side of him when a light nudge just behind his knees made him pitch forward abruptly. Jan broke his fall before he ate asphalt and pulled him up in as dignified a fashion as possible. Nick turned giddily to see that the culprit – tiny traitor – was Matty: two-foot-six of unrepentant giggles. Bud and Janie dashed over, mortified.

Denny raised Matty up to eye level and said evenly, "Here's a new school rule – we do not tip the Grimm."

Matty's giggles stopped promptly. "Sowwy."

"Why do we not tip the Grimm?"

"Is mean."

"It is mean," Jan confirmed, and looked down at his son, who had a ludicrously criminal expression on his face while trying to look as innocent as the day was long. "No ice cream," he said simply, making Theo gasp at the injustice. He didn't argue though, Nick noted. Not that Theo had the chance – he and Jan had been thoroughly collared by Bud and Janie, who had taken Matty back from Denny and were in paragraph two of a flurry of apologies about 'disgraceful behaviour'. Jan helped Nick to stem the flood by suggesting that Matty redeemed himself by setting up the events table inside the gates. They moved on, eventually.

Jan frowned over Monroe's shoulder as he made a quick update of Grimm rules in his tiny book and blinked disbelievingly. "Does that really say 'Never lick a Grimm?' What fool would try that? Jesus, poor Nick…"

Nick and co kept their mouths firmly shut. Some incidents, painfully memorable, did not warrant revisiting.

He watched gleefully as Hank and Monroe had their hands confiscated by small, expectant people and were hauled through the theme park gates towards the rides. Jan held him back for just one moment, wanting a quiet word. Theo, keen to re-earn his ice-cream, led off the tiny Maushertzen that Nick was supposed to take in, trying to herd them in vaguely the right direction with a mild plea for them to 'get themselves organised'.

Denny hung back briefly to take Carianne from the carry-pouch for her change. "Hang on –I want to do the drop test." Denny popped a fingertip into Carianne's left hand, raised the whole tiny arm a few inches, moved his finger, and watched it drop-flop back down. "Hmmmm. She looks unconscious, but I'm not convinced."

"This is as asleep as she's going to get."

"Alright, hand us CarAlarm, then."

"Denny, please don't call her that."

Nick snickered into his knuckles as the long-suffering Denny scooped Carianne out of her pouch and into the crook of his arm.

"Well it's not you she goes off at, is it? With Daddy it's all cuddles, hearts, roses and Nick-like naps, but God forbid she gets separated from you for two minutes. It's me that gets the ear-damning ― Oh Lord, here we go… Jan – is our kit out, yet?"

Jan nodded. "On the events table."

"Fine – I'll get mine on after I've done her. C'mon, little bellower…." Denny stomped off arthritically to find a restroom, holding 'CarAlarm' at arm's length. Nick couldn't really blame him.

Jan gave him a tired smile. "I think the sleep deprivation is getting to him a little. The bruised ribs aren't helping."

"I think he'd refuse to help if he really didn't want to. It looks to me like the Schlaubaaste doth protest too much." Nick indicated the amazing banners, tent, picnic area and events table that had been set up for the day. "This is incredible. How did you get all this done?"

Jan shrugged. "I didn't. I had a chat with Sally – the co-owner - suggested some fun things to do and said I'd take care of the park. The rest of it is all down to her and her nursery ladies."

"I'm not just talking about today. I mean helping them get the nursery set up in the first place, emptying your wallet…"

"Opening, Nick, not emptying." Jan stuck his hands in his pockets as they strolled over to the teeny-people rides. "My father's been in touch. Apparently, he feels a little bad about abandoning me to get 'semi-murdered by the inlaws', to paraphrase Denny. Hence my bank account is suddenly even healthier than it was. This seemed as good an investment as any, and it's not as if I'm getting nothing out of it. But actually – there was something else I wanted to ask you about. Advice on a… question of tact."

Jan asking him for tact advice? "Um… yeah?"

"Um… it's about Sally, Bud and Janie. And the lodge in general, actually. They're a wonderful people. Very pleasant, very grateful for any help you put their way – and they've been really grateful for the help setting up Sally's business, but they're a little … ardent."

Nick found himself grinning hugely. "How ardent have they been?"

"Well, we're trying to move from Stef's flat to the house. And every time I think I've made some headway with clearing out box space, all that nice empty floor gets covered in gift baskets. It's very kind of them. Just not particularly…"

"Helpful?" Nick finished for him. "Look, I find, with the lodge, that you just need to focus their notions of what is helpful. Tell them when you're moving in, and you'll have all your stuff moved for you in five minutes flat. Probably unpacked, too. With flowers on the table."

Jan shuddered. "God forbid. Well. It's better than baskets, I suppose. Thanks for the tip. I'll just go check the team kits – make sure they've all arrived."

Nick pulled a face. "Look - I hate to be a wet blanket and I'm happy to help with the rides and lunch, but seriously, I don't think my balance is up to an afternoon of athletics."

Jan chuckled. "And if they were normal athletics, I'd get a pass too – as would Denny. But I'm afraid there's no escape, Nick. It's all about equal opportunities at Beebers. Theo and the organising committee came up with events that everyone can take part in – even we battered three. Don't forget we only had the Paralympics a while ago – the older kids are still very enthused about the whole thing. They're more interested in what we can do than what we can't."

X x X

Recalling his birthday debt to Nick, and seeing Bud incoming with Matty, Monroe almost raced after Denny to help him with Carianne's nappy change. The Biber caught up with him nonetheless and practically stalked him into the restroom to confide in him.

"Um…. Yeah?"

"Um… do you think Jan knows how grateful we are for what he's done for Sally? She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown before he waded in there, but he's so hard to pin down to thank! We've only left one load of baskets and have no idea where to deliver the next to, so-"

"I'd aim small, Bud," Monroe advised sagely. "Little things, now and again, really publicly."

Bud's face brightened. "Really? Like what?"

"Well, take today. Jan's a massively athletic guy. He's bound to win at least six things. Just smuggle some jam onto his winner's podium, or something."

"Wow – thanks!" Bud shuffled off and Monroe slammed the restroom door after him in desperation, only to find Denny crying with silent laughter as he bent over the tiny girl on the changing mat. Theo was next to him, overseeing things.

"Monroe, I'm actually proud of you! That was slightly evil. You know he's actually going to do that, don't you?"

"I don't care! He's so annoying. Man!" Monroe joined Denny at the mat and looked down as Denny fumbled with the baby-gro buttons on the inner legs while Carianne flung her legs about like pistons.

"Buttons are utter purgatory," Denny muttered. "When people start asking what they can get for baby, tell them 'velcro or popper clothes only'. If they give you anything with buttons on the back, go alpha on them. No, don't do that, darling! Not constructive!"

Monroe nodded sagely and added this to the back page of his note book. It was pencil – he'd add it to his parenthood tip book later. "Um, need help?"

Denny backed off like a happy man. "Absolutely be my guest. Is this practice, or penance for something?"

"Both. I forgot Nick's birthday. Self-imposed penance, though. He didn't seem to care too much." Monroe managed to get Carianne's clothes off and out of harm's way, then unwrapped the nappy, which of course was chock-full of penance, which she added to by pinging her legs up like a tiny Buddha, adding her feet to the body surface areas that urgently needed a clean. He reached for a wipe, did well, another wipe – good progress – then found the bin was on the other side of the room. What kind of chance did that give him? Theo was sitting next to a roll of nappy bags, his arms folded. Monroe tried an encouraging smile.

"Hey little man, fancy giving me a hand?"

"You're doing really, really well," Theo assured, not budging an inch.

Monroe wasn't after flattery, specifically. He was more hoping for Theo opening a nappy bag for him. But hey – he'd be a poor dad if he expected a 3-year-old to do the work for him. He let go of Carianne's legs to open a nappy bag and her feet pinged back up to the remaining muck around her backside. He felt that this was a slightly circular procedure with no visible happy ending.

Denny clapped him cheerfully on the shoulder and disappeared into one of the cubicles with his team kit. "Back in a tick. Flaming toilet doors… these things don't lock!"

Monroe smirked at the sound of interior struggling and muttering as he finally got Carianne cleaned up and re-suited, then packed the bag away. He gave her tum a friendly tickle, but she stared blankly back at him. He turned to ask Denny when babies started smiling voluntarily when he saw his friend struggling to get the top over his head and chest, revealing white slash marks over the tan across most of his back – except for a small area 'graced' by the razored sign of a reaper carved into the lower left quarter. His blood ran cold in his veins and he suddenly had a thump of understanding about the bond Denny had formed with Jan – it wasn't so much sympathy he had for the guy, but empathy, at going through something that he'd never be able to share with anyone until the problem was out in the open. Little wonder he'd shown so much understanding at Jan wanting to keep his injuries to himself.

Denny tugged the top all the way down and stomped out of the cubicle, looking bemused. Bemused, but very cool in black tracksuit bottoms with silver stripes down the sides, and a black thermal top with silver contrast lettering reading 'HUGE DUDE' across the front of it, which looked to Monroe like something of an understatement. The thermal material clung and made him look, frankly, Jan-sized.

"Theo, didn't we say XXL for me?"

Theo shrugged. "You wrote down the order, not me. I can't write, you know."

"True. It's just not very forgiving material. Thank god my appetite's been off lately, that's all I can say." Denny re-joined him at the baby table and looked down at Carianne, who looked as if she might start dozing off again. And then she smiled, wide, deliberate and gummy. Monroe looked between Carianne and Denny and saw the huge grin splitting the Schlaubaaste's face. "Was that grin for me?"

"It was," Monroe confirmed. "I did all the work, then beamed and tummy-tickled and she looked at me like I'd broken wind. She was definitely looking at you."

"Hey, I got a smile!" Denny scooped Carianne up and bounced her out of the room, quite happily. Monroe helped Theo down from the edge of the changing table and followed, feeling reassured and cheered. It seemed that for every two hundred smelly moments as a parent or proxy-parent, you got a nugget of gold, but he could see how precious that nugget was, making all the grim things in life suddenly unimportant in comparison. He grinned as he joined Denny and the others at the rides out at the park as Denny handed Carianne back to Jan.

He couldn't wait for New Year's Eve.

X x X

Denny barely had the chance to hand Carianne back to Jan before Theo and Matty hauled him forcibly in the general direction of the pirate falls log ride. He dutifully joined them all the way up to the front of the queue, nattering with Jan about the joys of … not really having to queue very much… and found himself being ushered into the boat by the two ladies in charge of the ride.

"Oh, no, I'm too big. I'll unbalance the boat. NICK!"

"You're fine, Sir, you were able to pass under the shelter beam, so you're not too big for the ride." The girl looked regretfully at Jan. "I'm so sorry, you're too tall for the security bar. It won't fit. You'll have to stay…"

"Oh no," Jan said mournfully and stepped back, waving cheerfully at him as he was pretty much pressed into the goddamn boat – small people! Small spaces! and it set off with him crammed, steaming with irritation, behind the cackling pair of tiny people in front of him. Jan leant against one of the queue-shelter columns with a huge coffee in his hand and had the infernal cheek to salute him with it as the ride travelled up a long, watery slope, which could only result in a short, wet ending.

He stepped off a few minutes later, soaked, irritated, and refusing to get back on again. He squelched his way over to Jan, who was still laughing, looking a little pained at the effort and therefore supporting himself against the side of the photography hut, waving an incriminating photo of his face at the point of entering the downwards log-ride deluge.

Denny inspected the photo stonily and handed it back. "Ok. So that was cruel and unusual punishment for… what, exactly?"

"That," Jan said mildly, recovering himself a little, "was for 'Gay Lion King'."

"WHAT? Fuck's sake man, that was weeks ago! I thought Siegbarstes were bad for harbouring grudges – you bloody nurse yours! You probably tuck them into bed with hot milk!"

"Nick was in the room!" Jan hissed. "That could've led to all sorts of awkward discussions I'd never want to have in about two hundred years. Thank god we were interrupted – I've never been so grateful to have people baying for my blood on the other side of a door! Besides, as I've told my unlovely decree-nisi-ex, quite truthfully, I got Nick into perspective quite some time ago."

Denny shrugged. "Ok, it was an unwise observation. But you need to remember, I was a bit new to civilised conversation at that point. And anyway, it doesn't matter anymore does it? He doesn't remember what that bonkers woman told him, and you interrupted her with a gunshot before she had a chance to go any further. Besides – I think you're forgetting the one element of Nick which makes him our favourite pet Grimm."

Jan relaxed, somewhat. "And what's that?"

"A very healthy supply of humility, combined with a very unhealthy supply of monogamy, given the Juliette situation. He doesn't notice other people finding him attractive. He wouldn't notice someone's present or former crush on him if it were seven feet tall and lying on top of him."

Jan shrugged. "True." Then stared at him in bewilderment. "Curious analogy, though."

Denny watched Jan walk off to the lunch mess and smirked. He was lucky to get away with that one. He really, really needed to learn to shut his gob.

X x X

Lunch was the slightly insane food-flinging mania that Jan had predicted, and then the federation convened around the events noticeboard. Jan had gone to get the team kit, leaving Hank, Nick and Monroe to observe the afternoon's insanity as set out in a series of neat tables on a whiteboard in the drinks gazebo. Hank had been stunned by the degree of organisation going into the day when he'd arrived in the morning, and having survived several tea-cup rides and half an hour in the aquarium submarine in the company of miniature blutbad, he felt tired but pretty much ready for anything. Even the concept of 'team kit'. If Denny's stylish silver-on-black clingy effort was anything to go by, it was do-able without any serious loss of dignity. The events on the board, however…

He had to grin at the sheer inventiveness of it all. He'd gotten to know Theo just a little over the last few weeks, and his hand was definitely in this set-up in quite a few visible places. The board tables were broken down into events for individual coat-peg teams, and events for members of all teams to join in. After a few minutes of spotting his name coming up at least seven times in the mixed events, he stopped grinning. He'd be shattered by the time he got home.

Nick peered past him and chuckled. "Looks like you've been signed up for the 100 metre mosey."

"I'll walk it," Hank quipped, making Nick laugh.

"Don't get too cocky. You're up against the Arizona aces – they're the wild western unruhigbisonen…that's buffalo, to you – if anyone can mosey, it's them."

"Oh man, unfair!"

"What's our coat-peg sport event?" Nick reached past him to trail his fingertip down the neatly-printed table, squinted at the explanatory text and groaned. "Oh God, we're going to look so silly!"

Hank couldn't see, because of the despairing finger-tip. "What?"

"We're doing the 'Chariots of Fire Sprint'."

"Uh… slow-mo running?"

"Yeah. And actually running to the tune of 'Chariots of Fire'." Nick stepped up to see what else he'd been signed up for and Hank followed his gaze, snickering at Nick's predicted appearance at the bean-bag fling and extreme ironing events. And the Jelly slide.

Chuckling, Hank considered that this was definitely his idea of a grand day out. Even the sun had come out, bathing everyone in a warm glow that cut through the lessening wind. Jan was changing over by the events table, having passed Carianne over to one of the teenaged nursery staff who was doing her flushed, unsuccessful best not to boggle while he calmly slipped his shirt and jeans off, still chatting convially, slipped on the team top and tracksuit bottoms over his boxers. Jan clearly still couldn't lift his left arm past his shoulder so had some way to go in terms of physical recovery, but the complete rib mess that had half of his old Narc colleagues betting on what had happened to him had now gone. From the back, at least.

Hank liked 'the kit'. Between Jan's shoulder blades read UFRS, italicised, and in the middle, in big glittery block letters, 'Jan'. Jan stooped to reclaim Carianne, scooped up the kit and made his way over to the gazebo to hand it out. It was clearly the first time that Jan had seen it – he looked as impressed as Hank felt.

"Looks like we have nicknames too, Gentlemen. Theo – You're 'cool dude', I presume."

"Yeah! Denny did yours, but I did all the others."

"Ok Eddie, you're Alpha Dude."

"Wahay!" Monroe almost ripped his plaid off in his hurry to change.

"Hank – 'Big Dude'."

Hank draped his stuff over the chair and pulled off shirt and jeans. "Happy with that."

"Bad-ass Dude'… hang on…" Jan flipped the top over. "Stefan." He cleared his throat and gave his son a mildly disapproving look. "Bad-ass. Did they not query this at the printers?"

"Not very much."

"Ok… Well, he's not coming anyway. On duty. So… Nick's…" Jan blinked. "Um…Right. here you go."

Hank tried to keep a straight face as Nick took the garment cautiously and turned it over to the front, where it read: 'Dude's bigger than he looks'.

"Could be worse," Hank comforted. "It could be 'Medium Dude'. Or 'Gorgeous Grimm'.

Nick just gave him that look.

" 'Evasive Dude'?" Jan frowned and turned it over. "Who's Sean, Theo?"

Theo rolled his eyes magnificently. "Captain Sean, Daddy!"

Jan made a slightly strangled noise that nearly made Hank laugh out loud. "You asked Captain Renard, my boss, to come along to a baby-wesen sports day?"

"Yeah, but he was so busy!" Theo's eyes were wide with wonder. "It's amazing how much stuff he had to do today!"

Jan looked sternly at Denny. "Did you let him press the point?"

"Mate, he did you proud! There was nothing I could tell him off for. He was completely polite, and came up with simple, practical solutions to every obstacle in 'poor Sean's' way."

Talking over his groaning, muttering father, Theo said cheerfully, "But he offered to pay for the kit to be made, at least. Curses of Portland peedee, or something. I told Sean I'd give him his later this week."

Nick bent down and helped Theo into his garment, voicing Hank's exact thoughts for him. "Could you tell us when you're going to do that?"

Theo concentrated. "Denny's bringing me to the peedee from nursery on… Tuesday."

Hank furtively entered this into his palm pilot, observed by Nick.

"Send that to me as a meeting invite," Nick muttered, stripping his long-sleeved tee off and replacing it with the thermal. "I'm not missing that."

"It's done." Hank lent Nick a hand on the elbow to help him get the tracksuit bottoms on without tilting over sideways, and then it was off into the games. Hank looked around, feeling contented –for now. Ok, there was a lot of wesen shit going on with a lot of shitty people involved on the surface of those wesen. But then, there was just as much human rubbish, and a lot of wesen sense. Today made a lot of sense. Hopefully tomorrow would, too.

X x X

Sean tried. He tried really hard. But all the urgent emails he needed to send and calls that he needed to make – he hadn't been kidding Theo about being busy – all sent him in the wrong direction, and he still had Remus' infuriating but probably-profound advice in the back of his mind. Plus, on the professional side of things, he really, really couldn't abandon Burkhardt to the mercies of the merciless Oregon Police HR central department: if they had their way, Nick would be thigh-deep in occupational health referrals and other unpleasant paperwork in five minutes flat, but it was Sean who'd insisted that he not return to work until he was 'more himself'. Or, at the very least, sounding more like himself. He exerted his Captaincy privileges again: Nick's head injury and very public airlift to hospital after the 'Southlands II' should hopefully make it easier to explain his decision to waive the trigger-point for injury-related absence from duty. If not, he planned to tell the Commissioner to blow it out of his ass. The Grimm was his to protect – complicated red-head issues notwithstanding.

He abandoned his half-hearted missive to Eric about the need to rethink the Royal Game Plan, shut up his laptop, drawer and office, and checked out the address of the park that a smirking Denny Miller had left with him after guiding the improbably beguiling toddler away to fetch his dad. He needed to find Adalind, to deal with the mental plague that had blurred his public and private life so messily. He needed to be away to do that. To be away, he needed a reliable deputy. At least Wilson had already agreed to Vergeer's transfer under a fresh start scheme to Portland, rather than continue at Gresham. In two short weeks back at work, Vergeer had shown himself very, very capable. He just hoped that the guy wouldn't turn the world around irreversibly in the next two weeks that he needed to be off. From what he'd seen of the Dutchman's influential power, he wouldn't put it past the guy to simply walk out into Portland and politely request 'right, no more crime, please', and have that happen. That would just put him out of a job.

. . . . .

While, Theo may be highly impressionable, he never forgot a lesson, and this time, when Sean's car pulled into the private carpark at the back of Legoland, he ran to the gate enthusiastically but not across any roads. Jan caught up with him and let the boy and the captain reunite for a moment, Renard unexpectedly carrying Theo back to the tented and gated area on his hip, chatting mildly about following his advice to get some of that 'horrid work' out of the way.

Jan let Theo stick close as Sean observed his kit.

"Evasive dude?"

"Well, you were! But you're here now, so you can have bad-ass dude if you prefer. Unless you're upset about being called 'Stefan'."

Renard sighed. "No, evasive dude is about right. You go play – I'll change in a moment."

Jan followed his wintry look across the events table to the comical line of heads, from Nick up to Denny, peering round the side of the gazebo curtain to see his reaction to his kit. They were like a totem pole of guilty grins which dispersed the moment the Captain clapped eyes on them.

Renard peeled off his shirt and put the thermal on for the time being, speaking quietly. "I need to be out of Oregon for a couple of weeks. Personal stuff – but making my professional life difficult."

Jan nodded. "I know all about that."

"I thought you would. So, you need to be acting Captain for a couple of weeks. You going to be ok with that?"

Jan caught his breath. "What?"

"You were Captain – it shouldn't come too much as a shock to your system."

"Well, no, but I wasn't expecting the title back so quickly – even if it is on temporary cover."

"Get used to it quickly, please. A lot of people would like to take advantage of my absence. And don't let Burkhardt go back to work until he's ready. How is he, by the way? Is he…. Sounding more himself?"

Jan chuckled: admittedly it had been a few weeks since he'd had to use the cotton wool balls. "He's definitely on the mend. Just not up to chasing perps through a car-park yet."

"Good. I'll go finish changing." He peered at his shirt. "UFRS?"

"United Federation of Rare Species?"

The Captain laughed mirthlessly. "Police Captain banjaxed by a toddler. I think I might belong."

Jan watched the Captain retreat to a rest-room to change into the bottom half of the team kit – not something that the rest of the federation had bothered doing. The guy still seemed creepy, secretive, unkeen on eye-contact. But it was a big show of trust. He was keen not to throw that back in the guy's face. Back in charge, but with his kids safe – it felt like life was returning to normal. Only, a better version of normal. He smiled and headed for the starting race line where the other guys were gathering. It wouldn't take long for Renard to change – in the meantime, the others were already hunkering down. Carianne was once again unconscious in the holder against his chest. Theo had probably counted on that. He'd signed him up for about thirteen events.

X x X

The strength returned to Nick at an odd moment: he got smirked at by a buffalo. A very smug buffalo, who thought that 'dude's bigger than he looks' was the height of amusing, for all the wrong reasons. So when this hairy dicktuft scored 45 feet on the bean-bag fling, Nick smiled graciously at the 'clear winner', his Grimm side-stepped into the moment of irritation, and he flung his own bag 52 feet. Hah. The Buffalo roamed off to his family looking as if he'd been slaughtered by a waif and Nick felt about twenty feet higher. Dizzy, yes, but tall and dizzy, which was all that really mattered, because he was getting his life under control at last. Well – in most ways, anyway.

The Federation were lined up at the start line of the Chariots of Fire Sprint in height order, leaving him at the far left. He peered over at the far right and noted with a degree of amusement that for a moment, Jan had chosen to leave Carianne with Theo, having done every other event with her strapped to him. She was settled into a baby-bouncer at Theo's feet, who was 200 metres away with the starter gun (heavily supervised by Sally), ready to blast off the race. Their instructions were to start running at the beginning of the piano interlude, but that they would be given 'help' by the starting gun if they didn't know an interlude if it slapped them in the face (Denny's words, recited back).

The drum beats started, followed by the Chariots' clarion call, and then the infamous piano, indicating that they were to lope off into the distance. Nick hadn't had so much fun in years, silliness aside. The drama of the slow-motion Olympic race got to Hank and Denny, who got competitive and sprinted off, instantly getting disqualified by Theo. Nick tripped up. It didn't matter – he was laughing too hard to concentrate, anyway. It came down to Renard, Jan and Monroe – but even with all concertedly obeying the slo-mo instructions, leg-length carried the day and Jan made it first over the line at about half a mile an hour.

It was the post-ceremony moments that made the whole thing worthwhile. The kids were being locked into cars and taken home by moms – the guys were cracking open beers in the evening tent and getting to know each other. Theo wasn't ready to go to bed yet, and for this one evening, he was allowed to stay up and see his dad be normal on this grand day out. For one night, the little boy was allowed to hang out with the adult members of his pride. Everyone else had changed back into their casuals but Jan, having had the chance to do so. Jan was still de-organising everything.

Nick watched Jan help Theo back into his own clothes and fold up his kit, putting it into their bag.

"What's on your shirt, Daddy? Denny didn't explain that one."

"Oh – it just means 'biggest daddy'. Do you recognise the letters? Can you do them now?"

Theo used his pointy-finger to work across Jan's top, not spelling out, but just saying what he saw in letter batches of three: "Pee Ay Tee, Arr Eye Ay, Arr Cee Aitch."

"That spells Patriarch," Jan said for him. But clearly he wasn't paying any attention to the word itself, just revelling in the pride and excitement in Theo's face that he got all the letters right already, so soon, with so little effort.

Nick bit his lip, swallowed hard and pulled away to leave them to it, willingly following Denny's gentle arm-tug in the general direction of the bar.

There were some forms of pride that were best left to enjoy in private.

The end!

I'd just like to thank all guest reviewers as well (particularly the ever-encouraging Mandy!) for reviewing throughout this story at various intervals. Thanks so much – I just can't PM guests to say so in person but I do appreciate it.

I've got a couple of silly shorts coming up soon that don't necessarily fit directly into the 'story arc' I'm developing in this little universe, but I will be bringing back the federation (and earlier OCs) in later stories. Thanks so much, all, for your encouragement on these characters.