Chapter thirteen: Aftermath

They were assembled in Renar'd apartment, sharing a bottle of expensive whiskey. Nick, his mother and Trubel were residing on his black leather couch while Elle had preferred a tailor-seat on the floor. They were having a mild discussion about the fate of Alistair, mostly sharing the opinion that he'd be put to death by Viktor or another of his bloodthirsty relatives. Sean wasn't as convinced about that theory, because things might not have worked out this time, but it had been by a hair's breadth on several occasions and Alistair had powerful friends in Vienna. He'd worry about it tomorrow, though. This evening, Renard was sitting in a chair behind his desk, idly watching the cars pass by outside. Innocent humans, his to protect. Not like Nick.

"Your pledge wasn't indefinite, was it? You didn't just swear an oath, you took up my offer from when we met at your place last week", Renard said a little off topic. Had it only been a week? So much had changed...

"Yeah, that's about it", Nick agreed, not having the decency to look guilty. Renard couldn't blame him, he'd always known that there would be risks involved in his generosity. What truly mattered wasn't the oath, it was the the fact that Nick had started to trust him and would not be disinclined to work with him in the future, Renard reasoned, patiently placing his hands on the table.

"So, basically he's your servant as long as he's human?", Trubel interjected, earning nods from every direction. She seemed thoughtful, no doubt analyzing the relationship between Renard and his Detective. The Prince smiled inwardly. He'd have to watch that one.

"Hence he has to ask permission when he wants to do something important that might affect my interests as well. Like changing himself back into a Grimm, thereby nullifying the pledge", Renard stated. Nick seemed bothered by his neutral account of things. Why? He had to have known what Renard's answer would be. However, the Prince wasn't willing to let him off the hook that easily.

"Ask." Nick actually stood up, faced and formally addressed him.

"Your Highness, Prince Sean Renard of Portland, would you allow me to try this weird changing ceremony Rosalee has read about?" Okay, not perfect in form then. Never mind.

"Yes."

"Well, thanks, I guess." Kelly chuckled and came to her feet next to her son, placing her full glass on the floor. She didn't have to say anything, the humor in her eyes conveyed the message.

"Go ahead, leave." Renard winked at her, then leaned back majestically and watched his three Grimms head for the exit. The Winter-fey followed silently, but Renard held her back.

"Elle."

"Yes, Master?"

"When this is over..." And that would be sooner rather than later, "We're even. You debt has been paid." Elle blushed deeply, grinning and shaking her head but being unable to contradict her Master. She wouldn't bind herself to him after what they'd been through, but it was good to know that he still had an ally in Scotland. The door falling shut behind her now wouldn't be the end.

Thirty minutes later, Nick's car was parked in front of an abandoned warehouse next to the docks. It was a lonely area, smelled of rotting fish and looked like the overflowing trashcan at the and of the road.

"And this is supposed to be the Place of Power?", Trubel inquired nervously. Not what she'd been expecting at all when Nick had told Elle to take them to the grounds for the ritual.

"What will happen once we're inside?", she asked, seizing up the girl.

"Nick will lie down in the... let's call it water. The ones of his kind – Kelly and you – will be seated on the East and West of him. Then I will call upon the sacred powers of Winter... or something. I've never done this either, I've just been told when I was a kid." Sacred powers of a warehouse? This was nuts. Trubel folded her arms and was about to bail when Nick opened the door. The hope on his face compelled her to stay, although the inside of the place wasn't spectacular at all. Dirty stones, trash, a chain hanging from the ceiling. Soon they stood at the entrance, unsure what to do. Except Elle, who breathed in deeply and Woged. For the first time Trubel had known her, she seemed perfectly at ease.

"Mas... er, Nick, may I take command for a while?"

"Sure."

"Close your eyes and hold hands, all of you." As soon as they did, Trubel could feel something like sand brush over her closed lids, then her surroundings changed. It had gotten colder.

"One step forward." Suddenly her feet were sinking in... snow? Involuntarily, Trubel opened her eyes, shivering. They were still standing in the warehouse, only that it was completely frozen. Frost covered the rough metal walls, icicles were glistening at the ceiling and the air was arctic. It all seemed to be originating from a pond in the middle of the floor. White crystal flowers bloomed next to it.

"Awesome." Elle smiled at her, taking Nick's hand. Kelly had opened her eyes as well, only her son had proven discipline. Together they skirted around the pond's edges, the fey motioning for Trubel and Kelly to sit down. Then she pushed Nick onto the water. Instead of sinking in, the fluid supported his weight.

"This feels really strange."

"Trust me. Lay down." Elle's voice had become kind of hypnotic, Trubel thought and relaxed. Nick stretched his long legs on the water, his head being held by the waves.

"Grimms, put your hands into the water." No. The eerie calm of the pond seemed dangerous, Trubel instinctively jerked away from it. For Nick. Do it for Nick. Slowly she placed her hand on the surface, which offered no resistance to her touch at all. It felt like plain old water.

"Now what?", Trubel whispered, but something was already happening. White vines were spreading from Elle's fingertips, which were also touching the pond. Soon Trubel's hands were engulfed by ice, held immobile and calming her at the same time. It was the strangest of feelings to watch the plant grow further, across Nick's whole body.

"Don't be afraid." Why would she be...?

"Ouch!" A tiny thorn had broken her skin, drawing a drop of blood. In an instance, the whole plant vibrated in deep red.

"Now help me." Who? What was Elle talking about? The Feenvolk had raised her hands above her head in a caricature of prayer. No, she was touching her own wings. Before Trubel's eyes, the wings grew colorless and completely transparent while a silvery substance gathered in the girl's palm.

"Cleanse." Forcefully Elle pressed her hands on Nick's chest, who screamed as thousands of tiny thorns pierced his flesh. Trubel winced in sympathy. This ritual sucked, though she had to admit that it was a mesmerizing sight. The plant was now turning black, leaves rotting and falling soundlessly to the ground of the pond.

"Nicholas Burkhardt!" There was so much urgency in her voice that Nick's eyes snapped open. Elle held out a hand and he gripped it blindly. Swiftly she pulled him up, spinning him one-hundred-eighty degrees in the process. The plant shattered, emitting a wail that sounded scarily human. Trubel put her hands on her ears, blinking hard. When her eyes refocused, they were sitting on the dirty warehouse floor.

"What the heck?" How much of this facade had been her imagination? Was she drunk? And what about Nick? He was breathing hard, flexing his hands. His lips curled into a smile.

"Guys? I think this worked!" When he opened his right hand, a blinking coin fell to the ground.

Nick caught the coin before it touched the dusty floor, reveling in the reflexes of a Grimm. The world seemed to fall back into place as his body got rid of a shackle he hadn't even felt. It was back. Good or bad, he was a Grimm. Nick smiled, examining the token in his hands. Even with just the flickering lamplight from the street he could now see the tiny inscription on both sides of the coin.

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me.

And on the other side:

Take me out into the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me.

"The Ballad of Serenity?", he asked, hiding the amused tone of his voice. She replied in kind, trying to shield her giggling behind a shrug and a longing look.

"Who doesn't love Firefly? I was a huge fan when the time to choose a token came." Of course Nick couldn't ignore the simple fact that the coin had reappeared at this moment. It probably meant that it was time to give it back, so he opened his fingers and offered it to the girl. As soon as the metal touched her skin, her Woge changed into the weak Woge of an Eisschatten. Elle blushed.

"We're going to wait at the door", his mother stated and pulled Trubel along. Nick waited until they were out of earshot, then he cleared his throat.

"So this is it. You're free to go."

"And so are you", she answered, stepping from one foot onto the other and studying the ground. Nick reached out to touch her, then thought the better of it.

"What was wrong with your wings?", he asked instead. They had seemed lifeless and fragile, like they were made out of glass.

"Nothing, I just pulled the Feenstaub out of it. Won't be flying anywhere for a few months, but as I'm not bound at the moment... who cares?" Her voice died down and Ciel wrung her hands. Nick didn't know how to console her. While they had been connected, he'd known how to behave, but now the situation felt uncomfortable.

"I should go", she said as if she'd read his mind for a last time. Her footsteps were still light, thought not as sure as before. Just before she turned around the corner, he called out to her.

"What does your real name mean?" Nick could hear her laugh ringing through the dark.

"It's the French word for sky."

THE END

A/N:

So, what did you think? Did you like it? Hate it? Found it mildly entertaining?

Any theories about what happened to Alistair or Adalind?

Rate and Review, please!