A Small Addition.
Xander heard the knock and looked up from his typing. He wasn’t having a good day with it. His muses weren’t cooperating and he was having a hell of a day doing anything or getting anything but smut to come out of his brain and down his fingers. So maybe that was the help his muses needed. Or at least a distraction. He got up and went to answer it.
"Hold on," he called. He opened the door. No one was there. He looked around the hallway, but still no one. "Must've been a girl scout or something," he mumbled, starting to close the door when one of the cats bounced out. "Get back here!" he complained, bending down to grab her. He stopped when he saw what was in front of his door.
"Chester!" She scampered back into the apartment like he was really mad. He was staring at the baby like it was an alien. For all he knew, it might be. Stranger things had happened. Especially in his life. He got nudged out of his staring by a small nose trying to sniff at it. "No," he said quietly. He checked the hall again then picked up the carrier, carrying it in to the table so he could stare at the contents closer. "You're not a demon," he said quietly.
This was blowing his mind. Someone had dropped a baby off on his doorstep. Why him? Was he the daddy? With that thought, his mind came to screeching halt with the smell of burned brake pads. If so he was really screwed and it was a bad thing. There was no way he was ready to be a father. He was a bad kitten father. He ignored them all the time when they wanted to play. What would he do to a poor child? Tara would kill him!
In his mind, the babble switch got flipped and he started to mentally try to work out something. He had no idea what he was supposed to do with a baby! He called the one person he knew he could count on who also knew about kids. "Rick," he babbled when he answered his phone. "I've got *major* issues and I need a mentor right now. Are you at home? Please say you're at home? Pretty please? Before I freak out worse?"
On the other end of the phone Rick looked at it then put it back against his ear. "Calm down, Xander. What's wrong?" The people in the squad room gave him an odd look. He shrugged and sat down. "What happened?" He listened to the return of the babble. He was maybe getting two out of every fifty words. "I'm at the station with a hot case. Come down here and tell me. That way I can help. You know I will if I can. Even if you killed your last girlfriend by accident," he joked.
He nodded. "Sure, I'll be here, even if they go out to question. Yeah, come here. Just don't drive. With the way you're acting, you'd crash. No, that wouldn't be good for the … what?" He rolled his eyes at the new babble. "Yup, get a cab." The boy hung up and he shook his head quickly, rubbing his ear. "I have no idea," he said at the odd looks he was still getting. "He was babbling worse than Alexis did the one time she snuck a drink of my rum and coke at a book signing when she was seven." He was still rubbing his ear.
"I didn't think she'd be the sort to sneak drinks," Detective Ryan said.
Detective Beckett shook her head. "Every kid does at least once in their lives." She got a phone call and took down information. "Thank you. The wiretap team got notice of a meeting." She looked at him. "You can stay."
"I probably should. He might break someone if they had to listen to him babble that way." The other two detectives looked at him. He waved a hand. "I'm sure it's not horrible."
"It is Harris," they said. They grimaced.
"Ryan, stay," Beckett ordered. "Just in case he did just kill his latest girlfriend." She grabbed her jacket and walked out with Espisito. Ryan shrugged but grinned.
Castle smiled. "He was babbling so bad I didn't get a lot of what he said."
"That's fine. I'm sure it's nothing too horrible." He got a few things cleared up by the time the kid got there. He got a call from the front desk and frowned. "What?" he asked. "Yeah, we wanna know." He hung up. "Bad shock coming," he announced.
Ryan looked at him. "Hope the woman is better than your ex's." The kid came off the elevator. He spotted them and started to babble again. Castle stared at what he was carrying and sighed. "Stop," he ordered. The boy fell silent, giving him a begging look. "Where did you get it?"
"It was left on my doorstep!" he said, putting it on the desk and moving the blanket he had put over the carrier to shield it from the wind that had been really bad at his place. "I have no idea who left it or what to do with one of those. I ignore the kittens when they want to play! I'm going to turn this kid even stranger than a kitten. Or me!"
"So it was left?" Ryan said to make sure. Xander nodded quickly. "Any note? Does your new place have a doorman or security so we can track the mother? She wouldn't get into trouble if she had left the baby somewhere like a hospital or a station but a private home isn't considered a safe drop location."
"The law says that a mother can drop their kids off somewhere safe," Castle told him. "They won't be charged. Putting it in front of your door isn't a safe drop-off spot."
"Oh!" He nodded quickly. "Then why give it to me? I mean, I play safely. I always have. I'm one of those condom boys from the start. It shouldn't be mine, especially not with the way I got some DNA warping stuff," he babbled. "I have no idea what to do with those things. They're scary!"
"Yeah, they are, kid," Castle said, patting him on the arm. "Was there a note?"
"Note?" he asked.
"People usually leave a note," Ryan said, checking the carrier. "Here we go." He sent Beckett a text to let her know it wasn't an emergency. Then he called Dispatch while he got the envelope open. "It's Detective Ryan," he said when they answered. He gave his badge number. "A friend of the department got a baby dropped on his doorstep. I need the social worker on call to get with us." He listened. "They're on what?" he demanded. "How can they be on strike?"
Castle moaned, shaking his head. "Contract talks with all state workers. I was almost surprised that the PD's union hasn't joined in on it." He took the note to read over. "That makes more sense. Her parent left her with you because you'd protect her." He looked at Xander, handing him the note. "Know them?"
Xander looked it over, shaking his head. "Not a bit. I don't remember anyone by that name." He sat down to call someone. "Patrick, Xander. Do we know anyone named Rachel Hastlet?" He listened. "No, she wanted me to protect her daughter. No, not pretty and nubile. Tiny and wears a diaper sort." He rolled his eyes. "I have no idea what to do with babies!" He listened to the information. "Thank you." He hung up and called the library. "Is Tara horribly busy, Gloria? It's Xander. No, actually I'm at the station after someone dropped a huge thing on our doorstep." He waited while she passed on that information. Tara was clearly scowling. "Because the cats wanted to adopt her, Tara. I don't know! Rick, Tara wants to know how old she is."
"Maybe seven, eight months," he said, taking the phone. "Tara, Rick. Someone dropped a baby on the doorstep with a letter asking Xander to protect her. It doesn't have her name. It has the mother's name but not the baby's. No, he panicked."
Xander glared. "Not like I have any idea what to do with one of them!"
"They are a bit more complicated than kittens," Ryan joked with a smirk for him. "I have friends who have kids this age." He called one. "Denise, I need a huge favor. Someone we know and occasionally save from his girlfriends got a baby dropped on his doorstep. No, not his. She wanted him to guard her. Didn't leave anything like diapers." He picked her up, weighing her. "Maybe 16 pounds? No, not hefty but a bit stout." He carefully put her back. "Thank you. Yeah, at the station. No, they're all apparently on strike today. It might be tomorrow."
"What would we do with her tonight?" Xander and Castle asked, giving him a look. Xander's looked very horrified. Castle was trying hard not to smile at the boy's panic.
"If we can't get a social worker, we'll have to find a good substitute the Captain would allow. That's up to him. Think you guys….."
"No! Egg babies are quite enough, thank you. I did diaper duty for quite a while."
Xander looked at him. "Diapers are worse than slime?" he guessed.
"That depends on what they've been eating," Rick said. He listened to Tara's advice. "We'll see. Yeah, he's down here. Took a cab. Thanks, Tara." He hung up and put Xander's phone back into his shirt pocket. "Calm down," he said quietly. "She's not going to attack and kill people."
"How would I know? I have no idea about those things beyond what I saw on _Three Men and a Baby_."
"Remember the diaper scene? She's about that age," Ryan said with a grin.
"Yes, she probably will soon." He made notes for the official report. His captain was going to be tickled about this one. The kid had panicked worse than if someone had tried to capture him to be eaten. Then again, maybe the kid had been captured by some sort of cannibal in the past. Who knew with the kid. The baby was cooing at them and he had to grin. She was adorable. She was playing with her toes and babbling baby noise. "Are we sure she's not his? She's babbling like he was when he came in," he joked.
"I have the right to panic when someone gives me something major like that," Xander pouted. "You'd panic too if they left it on your doorstep. Thankfully the muses weren't being cooperative today or I might've never heard them." He slumped, looking at Rick. "Do you have to tell her?"
"No. Not unless it goes on for a while, kid." He patted him on the shoulder. "She'll only groan. She did when Alexis' mother left me with her." He looked at the baby. "She's making that face."
"Denise will be here soon," he assured him with a smile. He texted to make sure. "You want to handle this one? Or do you need backup?" he teased. Castle smirked at him so Ryan nodded at the still worried looking younger guy. Castle smirked and once the friend got there, he took the fussy baby to the bathroom with Xander's help to change her.
Beckett and Espisito showed up while they were gone. "What was the emergency?" she asked. She looked at the bags on her fellow detective's desk. "Hyping our emergency supplies?"
"He got a baby dropped on his doorstep." They came back together; Xander staring at the baby like it was really a strange demon he'd never heard of before. "Everything go okay?" he joked with a smirk.
"No," Rick said. "Twice." He put the carrier down.
The others stared at her, making her coo and reach for them. "I don't deal with your kind, kid," Beckett said dryly. "You're not mine."
"Her mother didn't leave her name in the note," Rick said. "We know the mother's name."
"I ran a quick check through the system. No birth certificate by that mother's name," Ryan told them. They all groaned. "Plus all the social workers are on strike. We have one we can drop her off on but the letter said to have the kid protect her." He handed it over. "The desk sergeant's wife brought up some supplies for her since I didn't think we had anything to fit her in storage."
"Probably not," Beckett agreed, rereading it. She put it down. "So, what's the plan? We can't keep her here. There's no telling who we'll have to bring in to question." She looked at Xander, who was looking horrified again. "They're not that scary."
"You're scared of them too," he pointed out, starting to pout. They were laughing at him. He knew they were.
"Not scared, just not the maternal sort," she corrected.
"Like I am? What am I going to do with a baby? Toss a fuzzy mouse for it? Feed it kitten chow? Give it belly rubs while I clean guns?"
"Calm down. I'd never leave a kid in only your custody, kid," Rick assured him patiently. "You start to write and forget to eat and things." The boy relaxed at that. "We'll figure this out and see if her mom can take her back."
"She dropped the kid off," Beckett said. "That means social services would have to decide that."
"She thought she had a good reason if something or someone is after the kid," Rick countered. "She did give her to someone to protect her."
"Or so the note says. Who knows what the mother was thinking." Tara came off the elevator and walked over, smiling at the cooing baby. She picked her up to cuddle. "There, she's maternal." She got back to her current case before she made an idiot of herself cooing over the baby.
Xander looked at her. "The cats tried to adopt her."
"They'll get over it once she makes a stink like their litterbox," Tara assured him, walking closer. She saw the panicked look and patted him on the head. "She's not a demon."
"She crapped slime," he countered.
Tara rolled her eyes. "She did not." She sat down, holding the baby. "Do we know the mother?" Xander shook his head. "Then why ask you?"
"I called Patrick. He didn't know either." He shrugged, looking at her. "She's cute. She obviously thinks you're made of bottles too."
She looked and shifted the baby, who set off a wail that made everyone on the floor stare at them in horror. "Food?" she asked the staring detectives. Xander took the baby and stared at her until she quit howling. She stared at him too. "That's a cute trick."
"I do it to the kittens when they wake me up so they can have the warm spot on the bed." He put her on his lap. "I have no idea what you eat."
"Bottles," Rick said, taking the one from the care package and going to make her something to eat. He came back with a bottle. Xander knew what that was from feeding the kittens so he fed her. She appreciated it and he settled in to stare at her while she ate.
Tara patted him on the arm. "We are not keeping her," she said quietly.
"I'd let her nap with the kittens," he joked quietly.
"That might hurt her," Rick said. He looked over. "I forgot you had to bottle feed the kittens." He got back to the case at hand.
Xander looked over. "Why are you thinking a human did a Fryanth ritual? And if one did, did she drink the blood like they do?"
Becket stared at him for a minute. "No, she didn't. She just made him pretty by the note she wrote on the walls."
"Huh. That's unusual." He pointed at one symbol. "That's a demon universal symbol for child." He shrugged and went back to staring at her. She stared back, idly sucking. "Do you burp babies since you don't do it to kittens?" he asked Tara quietly. She nodded, taking her to do that. She, of course, needed a clean shirt a minute later.
He grinned as she huffed and let her have his overshirt to change into while he took her back to finish off the bottle. She was happier with that and he was a happy babysitter he guessed. At least until she wet the diaper they had struggled to put on her. He gave her a horrified look. "Did you have to do that? Is it mandatory? Some rule I didn't know about before I fed you?"
Ryan turned to hide his snickering. "Castle…."
"I showed him with the last one." Tara gave him a dirty look. "I'm beyond my baby changing days until I become the hippest grandfather some decade in the future."
"Alexis can babysit," Beckett offered.
"Egg babies were enough," he said impatiently.
Xander looked at her. "I'll try but don't do anything to me if it's not good, okay?" He got up carefully, carrying her like she was going to explode or something. He had heard of babies exploding in their diapers so he'd be just as careful as he was when he built bombs. The others could laugh if they wanted but he had seen things on babies being dangerous.
Beckett shook her head. "Do we have a plan for tonight, Ryan?"
"Not yet. I'm waiting to see if the social worker on call shows up. I know they have to have someone for kids who're dropped off or are taken out of a home by an officer." He shrugged. "So far he's only panicked a bit."
"So would I," Tara admitted. "We're not used to squishy feeling things beyond kitties." She stood up. "I should check on him."
Rick smirked. "He's fine, Tara. Probably teasing her or something." He went back to the board. "Where can we find this ritual?" She looked it up online for him. He compared them. "Pretty close," he decided. He showed the others.
"Could be coincidence but how hard is this to find if you don't know what you're looking for?" Beckett asked Tara.
She shrugged a bit. "I found it looking up ritual magic. Technically it's a ritual sacrifice for the clan's wealth and fertility."
"So it's not hard to find?" Beckett guessed.
"It's not in English," Castle told her. She read it over, grimacing some. "Latin is probably a common language for that stuff?" he asked her. She nodded with a smile. "So we've got to narrow it down. She has to at least read Latin or know about this stuff. Have there been any new women in the poker circle?"
"I haven't been in months," she admitted. She looked around. "He's taking a long time." She got up but Xander came back with a soda and a bag of cookies for himself. "She can't eat those."
"I didn't get breakfast," he complained. He sat down carefully, her in his lap while he nibbled. She stared so he let her lick a chocolate chip crumb off his finger.
"She's too young to eat cookies," Tara said firmly.
He stared at her. "When did you start getting Willow's PMS?" he asked patiently. She huffed. "You only need the red hair, Tara. Are you pregnant too?" She shook her head slowly. "Then would you kindly explain how my last set of ho-hos became hot pepper covered?" She went pale. "If it's not you, she's been temping in your body for a while, huh?" He ate another cookie and the baby cooed so he dipped his finger into the soda, letting her suck it off. She squealed in happiness at that.
Espisito looked over at the loud squeal. "Are we sure she's not his?"
"Can't be. DNA contamination means I'm not compatible," Xander said with an evil smirk. "Can we run her mother through LA and Sunnydale lists?" Ryan nodded, moving to do that simple search. He smirked suddenly at them. "Which one?" He finished his cookies.
"LA." He came over to look at her. "Your name is Rebecca Mae Hastlet."
Xander looked at her. "Hi, Rebecca." She wiggled and waved her hands, cooing at him. "Mom someone I worked with when I was part-time at the hotel?"
Castle looked. "She's listed as employed at the usual convention hotel," he admitted, looking at him. "So she probably saw you being all macho last time when we nearly got invaded." He shook his head. Beckett gave him a confused look. "Some addict decided we were all rich people. Came in with a double barreled, sawed off shotgun. Xander drew his attention by kicking his butt around the lobby. Then he stared at him and told him very simply to leave before he had him handed over to some nice cannibals he knew who'd *adore* him for the seasoning and the new bruises marinating him." She shuddered.
"He threatened Paula," Xander said dryly. "Then no one would love my stories." He looked down at her, dipping his finger in the soda again to let her suck it off. "How's that?" She wiggled and squealed some more. The Captain finally got back from wherever he had been forced to be bored at the meeting. You could tell by the look on his face and the way his shoulders were slumped. He heard the squeal and looked around. Everyone pointed at Xander. "Someone dropped her on my doorstep so I'd protect her. I have no idea what to do with baby anythings outside of kittens and I doubt she'd play the fuzzy mouse game."
"I don't know if babies play fetch or not," Tara admitted, considering it.
Rick nodded. "Alexis did for months on end, and chased a ball too." They all grinned at him. "Is she crawling?"
Xander looked at him. "How would I know? You've had the kid."
"Good point, though a bad mental image just started," he said, rubbing his forehead. "Keep your muses to yourself, kid."
"Sorry. Is that the Mpreg bunny I got hit with earlier?"
"Yes, damn it," he muttered, walking off shaking his head quickly to clear it.
The detectives all looked at Xander. "You know that's not possible, right?" Beckett asked finally.
"The muses said magic can work that way."
Tara nodded. "Willow did it to Fred's iguana."
They all walked off shaking their heads to join Castle outside to clear their minds with the smog from the constant traffic. "Willow actually did it," she told him.
Castle held up a hand. "I don't want to know but I knew that. Alexis read that letter and told me. I seriously drank myself to sleep for the first time in years."
The captain finally looked at them. "How?"
"Rosenburg," Castle said. That topic had come up once upon a time, way back when they had barely known the kid.
"Never mind." He shook his head again. "Any idea what we're doing with the baby situation tonight?"
Ryan shrugged. "I followed protocol and got told there's a strike."
"I heard that earlier at the meeting with the Chief, who was throwing a fit with the head of the union who suggested we support them."
"Then I can almost guarantee the kid will put on a batman suit and go help the people we couldn't while we were out with the Blue Flu," Beckett said dryly.
"I told him about that. The head of the union thought he sounded like a nice kid we should recruit." They all moaned and shook their heads. "Yeah, that was my reaction too. So we are going to support without joining in this time." He finished his coffee. "Do we think the kids can handle the baby?"
"No," Ryan said.
"Maybe," Castle said. "They did hand-raise the kittens."
"That would require bathing them," Beckett pointed out. "They can't really wrap her in a towel to bathe her without being cut up by her claws."
"Tara would probably take a bath and sit her on her lap," Castle said.
"You could let Alexis babysit," Ryan offered. "At their place so you didn't have to remember her being that tiny."
"Maybe," he sighed. "She'd probably be squealy and happy." He texted his daughter, who indeed did squeal. "I have the feeling we'll be having ringing ears soon." He put his phone back into his pocket. "Think it's safe to go back up there?"
"I think I'm due for a beer later," Beckett admitted. "Did he really panic because of a baby?"
"He has no idea what to do with one," Ryan told her. "He was so sure she wouldn't like belly rubs while he cleaned his guns."
She stared at him. "His cats will let him do that?"
"Yup," Rick said. "I've seen him do it." He went back inside. "Kids." They looked up from staring at the baby. "Alexis is coming." Tara beamed at him for that fact. "We're trying to decide what's going to happen later. For right now, can you two handle her tonight?"
"Maybe," Tara admitted.
"We handled all kittens."
She looked at him and nodded. "We did. We were exhausted though."
"We can handle one night," he told her. "Maybe we'll figure out what I'm supposed to be protecting her from."
"True," she agreed. She looked at Rick, who was starting to scowl. "If something bad starts to go on, I'll take her with me."
"You'd better." He looked at the baby again, getting a happy noise and a waved hand. "Yes, you're adorable, Rebecca."
"She's very wiggly," Tara said.
"Then let's try something so we know how much we have to guard later," Rick said, taking her and putting her on her butt on the floor. She gave him the strangest look. "Go ahead." He pulled out something and tossed it a bit away. She stared then crawled to it to see if it tasted good. She beamed so apparently it did. "Okay, so crawling. Don't let her pull anything sharp onto her head." The detectives and captain came back upstairs and gave them an odd look. Rebecca waved and smiled, going back to chewing on the shiny, tasty thing that had been given to her.
"She's mobile," the captain said. "Keep her from being stepped on," he ordered, going to hide in his office.
Beckett found something better for her to chew on and traded it for the keys. The baby was happy with that too so she handed them back, spit and all. Alexis came off the elevator, bouncing happily and smiling. "Awww," she cooed. The baby smiled at her. She scooped her up to cuddle. "Did someone mean give you to Xander to make him quit writing?" She sat down in Beckett's chair, getting cuddled back. "You're such a good girl."
The Captain looked at Castle. "At least she'll have a clue what she's doing when it's her turn." He went back to his office.
Beckett shook her head. "Too much mush. Take her back to their place. You guys can guard her until we can figure something out." She handed over the plastic bags of supplies. "Keep Harris from teaching her how to play fetch. Read to her if you want." Alexis beamed and then at the baby, getting one back.
"Let's go see what we can rig up."
"Let me know if you're staying over," Rick said, watching his only baby girl turn into the world's fussiest mother before his eyes. "Enjoy it so I don't become a grandfather anytime soon." She gave him a dirty look then stuck her tongue out before leaving with the terror twins of New York.
"Did one of your evil girlfriends spawn with you?" one of the detectives coming on shift demanded.
"No, her mommy decided we should guard her," Tara said, giving him a dirty look. He backed down at that. They could talk about it later but Tara was not ready to be a mommy yet. Xander either. He'd make a good mommy some day but not this week. So hopefully whatever was coming for the baby it'd be fixed soon.
Rick looked at Beckett. "Should I be scared?"
"Not yet. Wait until she has a steady boyfriend before you start worrying about grandkids." They got back to their homicide. Harris and Tara had given them some good hints.
Alexis opened the door at the knock. They had texted ahead. "Hi, Detective Espisito." She let him in, letting him watch the kid chase after the fuzzy mouse with the kittens, who all huffed at her. She cooed and tried to pet one but they ducked her and stared some more. "Aww, it's all right." She picked up the kitten to pet, making it calm down. "I promise she won't be mean to you. Daddy and Tara will save you." The kitten wiggled so she put it down on a chair. It hopped off and onto the bookcases to lay down on top of and take a bath. She grabbed the baby and sat down in the chair instead. "Do we have news?"
"Are they off saving the city?"
"Getting a few groceries of stuff she can eat."
"May be a good idea." He sat down too. "How're you doing with her?"
"She's so sweet, but diapers are the best birth control ever." He grinned at that. "I called my grandmother and father to tell them that and they both sighed in relief I'm sure."
"We wondered why he sighed like that." She giggled. The baby laughed too. The other cats were safely out of harm's way so she let the baby down again, watching her crawl off to babble at the tv. Xander and Tara came in with two bags each. "Well, we heard from the social worker."
"Is it bad news?" Tara asked. "She's very sweet." She sat down and the baby crawled over to cuddle her ankle. "Hi, Rebecca." She patted her on the head. "She'll even play the fuzzy mouse game."
The detective watched the baby crawl off after one that Alexis tossed, shaking his head. "Your dad said you used to play fetch too, kiddo." He looked at them. "For tonight, we're going to leave her in your custody. Try to figure out what is threatening her?"
"Her daddy," Xander said. "I called back out there to a few contacts, one of whom went to talk to her mommy. Apparently daddy was being all stalkery. He threatened to kill her mommy and kidnap the baby." The detective nodded at that. "So she's in better hiding and the contact got her to a detective I worked with on the girlfriend things. He's working on how to get him for it." That got another nod. "I emailed it to Beckett."
"She's been out of the office again since you guys left," he admitted. "I'll get that from her email in a bit so we can alert the airlines." He smiled at the girl. "Is her mother coming back for her?"
"Yeah, in a few days. They think it shouldn't take more than a few days to get him," Tara said. The baby fussed so she picked her up to cuddle, getting a hug back. She patted her on the butt. "Did you wet that again?" she asked, smiling at her. "That's very nice of you." She went to change her. "Just tonight?"
"We'll see. They're overloaded, like usual," he admitted. He looked at the kid. "Less panicky now?"
"A little bit."
"Good." He smirked. "Castle will check on you guys in the morning. Alexis, he told me to remind you to call if you're going to be here all night."
"I know." He grinned so she smirked back. "He's paranoid."
"Now and then I think all parents get that way. I know I would." He looked at the boy. "Call us if you need help."
"I will. Thank you."
"Welcome, kid." He left, going back to the office. Beckett was growling at his computer. "The kids emailed you what they got out of the mother." She got into it and read it over, growling for a different reason. He read it over her shoulder. "Sounds like the father needs a bat to the head."
"Probably." She found a number and called them to put the father on the no-fly list, that he was wanted for assault and attempted kidnaping and homicide charges. Then she printed it for her boss. He got a copy for the report. It was better now. They could get back to the normal work. "Are they all right?"
"They're fine and the baby will play the fuzzy mouse fetch game." She smiled, shaking her head. "They ran out to get some baby food while Alexis babysat. I told them Castle would check in the morning."
"That's fine. He might even have an emergency key." She got back to her paperwork. The baby was sweet but she wasn't the motherly sort yet. Maybe in a few decades. Her minion was grinning. "What?"
He smirked at her. "Alexis had that 'need to prank the father' look on her face."
"He'll have a heart attack."
"Maybe." He went back to his own reports. "It could've been worse. It could've been his kid. It might already like guns and all that."
She shuddered. "Don't give me that bad thought. I'll need to drink myself to sleep."
"Sure." He snickered when she walked off to get more coffee to clear her mind. It was fun when she got that look on her face.
Paula came over later that night, finding a few extra people for dinner. "Where did we find her?" she asked calmly.
"She got left by her mommy for Xander to protect while she fought the evil father," Tara said. "The detectives know."
"Then why isn't she in social services custody?"
"They're on strike," Alexis told her. "Plus they might not be able to protect her. They've already talked to the people in LA and all that." Paula relaxed. "They don't want to keep her."
"She's got messy butt syndrome way too often," Xander agreed, smiling at the baby. "It's good practice for Willow's upcoming spawn."
"Uh-huh," Paula said. "Did we get anything done today, Xander? Like that rewrite?"
"I sent it by courier the other day, Paula."
"I didn't get it."
Xander shrugged, going to find the receipt to hand her. That way she could call about it. "No, it went to Donnie I think."
"I'll check with him." She took it anyway. "Anything else get done today?"
"No, I was fighting the bad ideas," he admitted. "Things like MPreg bunnies."
She shuddered. "That would never sell, Xander."
"Thank you." She sat down to stare at the baby, who was staring back. "She seems pretty smart."
"She plays fetch like a kitty cat," Tara said with a grin.
"I'm sure she does." She looked at Alexis. "Babysitting?"
"Yup, and helping." She grinned back. "Dad's totally freaking out."
"I heard. I called him an hour ago and he was mumbling at his laptop." Alexis laughed, shaking her head. "Fine. I'll find that and let you know what they think, Xander." She left before the mushiness infected her. She didn't want maternal feelings.
Tara shrugged when Alexis giggled. "Not everyone wants to be a mommy. I don't for another decade or so." Xander patted her on the back. "Thanks."
"It's good practice for when you babysit for Willow."
"Yes it is." She went to call and talk to her. She needed some girlfriend understanding and to brag about how good she was at changing diapers now.
Alexis opened the door late that night. "Grandma." She let her in, checking for the kittens. "Did something happen?"
"Did you and Tara get sucked into a project?" she asked.
"Your father is still worrying grandly at his laptop. One of his characters just had an unannounced, out of character, pregnancy scare."
"Xander got a baby dropped on the doorstep earlier to protec her."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because the mommy was nearly killed by the daddy and she knew he'd protect her. I've been helping when they got confused."
"Oh. Well, come home for the night."
"She's down and I was going to stay over. I told Dad that."
"He's still worrying about you wanting one."
"No thank you. Diapers are gross. Babies get heavy to carry around after a while too." Her grandmother nodded. "It's fine." She pointed. "See, baby."
She looked. "Crawling?" Alexis smiled and nodded. "Fine. You should still come home this time. That way you don't get attached."
"I know I'm only helping babysit. Mostly I've played with the jealous kittens so they don't try to take the fuzzy mice from her."
Her grandmother rolled her eyes. "Not the point, dear."
Tara came out in her jammies. "It's all right, Meredith. We'll make sure she doesn't get too attached, the same as she's doing for us."
"Tara, dear, I still think you should date more often."
"I've tried but I haven't found many nice girls."
"I'll see if there's a lesbian dance or something coming up. One of the production team on my current play goes to those." She looked at her granddaughter. "Do not pout."
"I won't. But I might prank Dad."
"He'll die of his stroke, dear. Please don't."
"I'd never be that mean." Tara nodded so she got her stuff and left after patting the baby on the head. "She's very sweet."
"Which is the problem. Sweet babies make you want to have one of your own."
"I'm not ready for that yet. I'm not even dating," she reminded her grandmother. "Plus I have more sense."
"Dear, I babysitted some and ended up with your father. Those things can just happen out of nowhere."
"It won't. I promise it won't." They made it home a few minutes later and she went to check on her father. "Grandmother's worried I'll want one."
Her father looked at her. "So am I."
"Diapers are still gross and babies are heavy to carry around." He smiled. "Even if she's sweet I know I'm not ready yet. I don't have a job that will pay for fuzzy mice for one." He relaxed. "Now, can you quit being so paranoid? We all know I'm the good, sensible girl in this family."
"Your grandmother found something on your desk looking for your laundry," he said dryly.
"That is for one of my fellow students," she said bluntly. He sighed in relief. "Not mine."
"Thank god." She gave him a hug. "Give me at least a decade?"
"I have to graduate college, find a real job, and then a boyfriend, Dad. Quit worrying."
"Grandma said that you wrote a pregnancy scare?"
"I've already cut it out," he assured her. She kissed him on the cheek and went to her room. Castle relaxed. It was good she didn't need that information on adoption she had in her room.
Alexis and Rick both showed up to check on the trio the next morning. Rick knocked and Tara let him in. "Tara, why do you have blood on your stomach?" he asked.
She looked and then around, counting furry noses and one not so furry nose. She went to check in her bedroom, grumbling as she came back to hand over the dead bird. Then she went back to bed.
Alexis carefully tossed it out and went to check on the baby. Rick got Xander up. He had a few other dead things in his bed. "Hey, Xander?" he asked. He flinched awake. "The kittens are hunting."
He looked then at him. "There's none of those in this building. I think they were presents from someone else." He got up and went to his bathroom. "Give me ten. Is the baby awake?"
"Probably." He went to check. Yeah, she was cooing at Alexis and her magical feeding hands. She was awfully sweet. He kept reminding himself how many problems Alexis had when she was a baby to stomp on the 'want one' feeling. Xander came out. "Any idea who left you presents like a dead snake?"
"Yeah. I'll talk to her later."
"New girlfriend?" Alexis teased.
"Old girlfriend." He took the spoon and fed her, making her happy and giggle. "Morning, Rebecca." She squealed and got happy. Tara came out redressed and more awake. "I think it was Toler's daughter."
"I'll talk to her later. You can't date her. She'll want to eat the kittens." She got some water started for tea and looked at Rick. "Any idea if they're coming for her today?"
"I can check when we get to the station. We stopped to check on you two first." He patted the baby on the head. "Let us run away before we get mushy, kids." He and his daughter left.
Xander looked at the baby. "He's just scared of your diapers, huh?" Tara laughed but nodded. They'd handle it, the same as usual. She was very sweet for them.
Beckett met the mother, making herself not wince at her bruises. "Did they arrest him?"
"About an hour ago," she said, smiling. "Is Rebecca all right?"
"She's fine. We've been checking on her." She took her to Xander's place. She had called ahead so they had stuff packed. Tara opened the door holding the fussy baby. "Bad time?"
"We put up the toys. She wanted to play." She let them in, handing the baby back. "She was a good girl for us. She ate bananas and spinach, she had a bottle of formula about an hour ago with her spinach. She napped very well in the chair." She smoothed down some hair. "We had a good shower this morning and she loved it."
"Thank you, Tara." She gave her a hug then Xander one. "Thank you for protecting her for me."
"Not a problem," Xander assured her. "She was a good girl and it's good practice for when a friend has her own." The mother nodded, taking the bag and walking off. Beckett took her back to the airport. Xander looked at her. "Now we need to get new kitty toys."
"We can do that. We're out of kitten chow anyway." They nodded and went to the pet store. The cats wouldn't play with a kitten toy the baby had drooled on. Her mother would wonder later at the new fuzzy mice her daughter had but she seemed to like them so she left it alone.
Xander got the mail and found a box waiting on him. He took it upstairs and sat down to look it over before opening it. He was always careful about those sort of things. Inside the box was a large medallion, not attached to a necklace, and a note. 'For your shelves.' He hummed and looked it over. Then he decided it probably belonged in that brain warping warehouse he had inherited. He really had to deal with the other things he had inherited. Before they drove him nuts, gathered more friends he'd have to deal with, or made him act like a responsible adult again.
He hated it when things made him break back into 'hunter Xander' mode these days. People freaked out and gave him odd looks. Then it'd probably hurt his book sales. He put the box aside and got to the other mail. Electric bill they had forgotten to pay. It was a shutoff notice so he got into the bank account and paid it. Then the other bills since they had forgotten somehow. He'd talk to Tara about that later. He had some elf smut to work on.
Tara walked in and felt the magic waiting. She walked over to the box and shielded it. "Clearly an artifact," she muttered.
Xander didn't look up from typing. "We forgot to pay the electric and stuff. I got the shut-off dealt with."
"I have no idea how we forgot. I thought I had it on auto-draft."
"Not great. Possibly warping. I shielded it."
"Wonderful. I'm pretty sure it's for the warehouse."
She snorted. "That warehouse is going to drive me to drink." She went to change, which woke the kittens up. She came back and got the box, putting it outside on the small balcony. Suddenly the kittens were less sleepy, Xander was typing faster, and she felt less tired too. Yeah, someone was going to have to deal with that thing. Quickly. She sat down beside him to open her own laptop and check on that autodraft. It should've paid it automatically. Something was seriously wrong there. "Huh. Hacker."
Xander looked at her. "Missing stuff?"
"No. Just canceled things."
"Willow?" he guessed.
"No. I don't think so." She checked things over. "If so, I'm spanking. By the way, they stopped your monthly auto payment to the utility account."
He grumbled something dirty under his breath and the amulet outside went off in a shower of sparks. They looked then at each other, shrugging. Whoever had done it was probably sore right now.
Five hours later, Beckett was called to the ER to see why her homicide victim was there. It turned out someone had hot glued fur to his full body and put fake paws on his hands and feet before making him choke on a cat toy. Interesting. She looked at the nurse. "Was he conscious enough to answer questions?"
"He glued his costume on but someone else choked him. He told the paramedics he choked right before he called. The paramedics helped that and then he was having some sort of allergic reaction that finished him off. I'm not sure what his girlfriend was thinking...." She looked at the body then at her. "I'm not sure I want to know what she was thinking," she admitted. "I hope the ME has a lot of fun with the fur. It's on his skin." She walked off, finishing off the chart.
Beckett stared at the body, calling her ME buddy. "Lanie, you won't believe this one. ER case, yeah. Please." She hung up and stared. This was just...strange. Not even the kid could write this strange and Castle clearly couldn't. Lanie showed up, giving the body a strange look. "His girlfriend choked him and somehow when they got that solved he died of an allergic reaction to something."
"Why is he furry?"
"The nurse said he told the paramedics he did it himself. She said it's on his skin and wanted you to have a lot of fun."
Lanie looked at her. "I don't think that's going to be all that fun." She got her body haulers to take the body. They gave it an odd look too but this was New York. They'd seen stranger things panhandling in Central Park. She followed shaking her head. Beckett followed to the desk to get his belongings and the address so they could check his house.
Castle came in the next day. "You didn't call?"
"We picked him up at the ER," she told him, handing over the pictures from the ER nurse.
He looked at it. "A furry?"
"Glued directly on his skin," she told him. "Then choked by his girlfriend."
"Did he lose some sort of major bet?" he guessed.
"I don't know. Lanie's still swearing at the glue." They went to talk to her to see if they had any idea what he had been allergic to. "Lanie?" she asked as she walked in.
"Mr. Furry is in the freezer so I can chip that glue off him."
"Elmer's, wood glue?" Castle asked.
"Hot glue gun glue," she said with a grimace. "Poor boy did that part to himself."
He looked at the pictures then at her. "Did he leave bare spots?"
"No. He glued the sheath over his penis too." Castle flinched and nearly curled up around his midsection. "Yeah, he was dumb." She smirked at her buddy. "The choking thing, we got from the hospital. The paramedics brought it in. Apparently he was a kitty." She held up the bagged ball toy.
Beckett took it to look over. "Any idea what ended up killing him?"
"Yup. The catnip inside that was laced with a poison. Whoever Mr. Kitty's girlfriend was, she was probably embarrassed." She went to look in the freezer. "Still too bonded to pry off so we can get a positive ID to him."
"Let us know if you get him free of fur," Beckett said. "Poison was what?" Lanie handed over that printout. "Thanks." She walked off.
"Poor girl ruined my night in the tub with a good book and some wine," she told Castle with an evil smirk.
"Those are good nights." He left, shaking his head. "I can't write people that strange."
"The kid can't either," she assured him.
"You never know about Xander." He got a text message. "Huh. Tara said that the hacker who broke into their bank accounts to stop their automated payments to the utility companies is going to be sorry."
"That sorry?" she asked.
"No. Bad rash, really bad hair, knowing that they know and he's screwed if he does it again sort. Teenager revenge, not total revenge."
"Fine. If they find them, let me know."
"I will." He looked back there then at her. "Didn't that hurt him to glue those on?"
"Yup," she said. "Hot glue hurts worse than hot wax. The other two are heading to his apartment. We can meet them there." They went to the car, her driving, and drove uptown to his apartment. They walked in and the two minions were grimacing around. She looked at the pictures. "Lanie can't get the fur off yet."
"Found the glue gun," Espisito said, holding up the bag. "He used most of a package of glue sticks." He held up that bag.
She nodded. "With that much craftwork, I don't doubt it." The guys all shuddered.
"Any signs of drugs?" Castle asked.
"Well, he wrote online," Ryan said. "His computer was running. Nothing's too well written, has many remarks, and the three stories aren't my sort of reading pleasure."
Castle looked at them. "Bad, very bad. Fanfiction.net too. Some are decent on there but others...... Twelve-year-old girls writing what they want to do to the characters." He sighed. "He's in the really horrible category. His bio states that there's mistakes in things because he had a public education." He shook his head. "I can't even look at a paragraph it's so bad."
Beckett read over his arm, nodding. "Definitely horrible." She went to look in the bedroom. "Lanie said the girlfriend poisoned the catnip. Anyone seen a container?"
"Yeah," Ryan called, finding the container he had wondered at in the trash to hand to her. She grimaced at it. "Organic," he joked. "Not the cheap stuff."
She bagged it. "Maybe it has traces of the poison." Castle looked at the computer then got into the browser history. "Anything interesting?"
"Instructions on how to make a furry costume. A personal site that he has favorited." He opened that one. "Huh." He let her see it. She winced and shook her head. Then he got into another one. "He's a fan of the space vampire series Xander writes. He's got the book's page linked to. And...." He got into the other one. "He has this one listed under the name 'girlfriend'." He let her see it.
"That's Tara," she said.
"That is Tara."
"Any indication of hacking software?" she asked.
"No. Word processing, a few games. Nothing else." He looked around. "Any portable drives? He's on World of Warcraft." They looked and found nothing. "So he's not that sort of computer geek."
"I wonder if Tara knows him," Ryan said. He called the girl's cellphone. They had stored her number in case more fangirls stole some of them. Xander didn't always hear his phone when it was anyone besides Tara. She probably zapped him magically whenever she called or something equally mind bending.
Tara walked into the precinct that night, looking at the detective staring at her. "What happened?"
Beckett pointed. "Do you know him, Tara?"
She walked over to look at the picture. He still had some fur but his face was clear. "I think he has a library card. I got it for him the other day." She looked at her. "He has three books out if I remember right." Ryan handed over that bag, making her smile. "Is it okay if they go back?"
"Yup," he agreed with a small smile. "We already processed them." Ryan leaned closer. "The problem is that he had a link to your journal site you did for a class labeled as 'girlfriend'." She cackled, shaking her head. "Did you ever see him outside of checking out books?"
She looked then shook her head. "I don't remember him from LA or Sunnydale."
"So he got hooked, came in to stalk you at the library," Espisito said. "Good to know." She gave him an odd look. "You're a pretty girl, Tara. He might've been hitting on you. You're just too nice to notice," he assured her.
"No, I usually realize it and subtly discourage them. I... I'm not really into boys."
"We know," he assured her with a smile. "Can you get us his records?"
"I can ask my boss." She moved to call her, talking quietly. She hung up and nodded. "She'll ready it so someone can pick it up."
"Thank you, Tara. Did he ever talk to you?" Ryan asked.
"No. Not that I remember. He smiled shyly when I checked out his last load of books. I thought it was because he had one of Xander's in his stack." She shrugged a bit. "I don't know. He never asked for an autograph or really talked to me that I remember. He had one overdue but it was only by about a day." He paid the quarter fine then and there with a pouty face when Marcia told him."
"We'll figure it out," Beckett assured her with a smile and a pat on the arm. The girl relaxed and smiled, nodding. "We'll let you know if he was stalking or anything."
"Thank you." Tara left, going to call Willow on the way home. That was strange and she wanted more girlish advice. If he had been alive she'd be freaked out badly. If she told Xander the guy's spirit would be robbed of an afterlife so she wouldn't tell him.
Xander met with someone at a coffee shop up the road from their apartment, totally by accident. He had no idea why she had tracked him down. "Hi," he said, smiling at her. He recognized her from a few signings. "Caffeine addiction?" he joked.
"Coming to find you." She handed over an envelope. "Someone posted that online about Tara," she said quietly, glancing around then at him. "We thought you should know before someone gets too close to her, Mr. Harris."
He gave her a one-armed hug. "Thank you." She beamed and bounced off. He sat down to sip his drink and read the notes. "That's not good." He bundled it back into the envelope and went to catch a cab to the precinct. The desk guy gave him a long stare. "Someone's stalking Tara."
He handed over a visitor badge. "Thank you for turning them in, Mr. Harris. That's very nice of you," he praised.
Xander grinned. "I hope I don't have to handle it for her. She'll swat. Hard." He went up to the room, letting Castle take his coffee to sip. "I only let girlfriends do that," he joked, bopping him with the envelope. "One of my fans found me feeding my caffeine habit."
"It's strange with the chocolate," he complained but sipped it anyway. "Thanks, kid. I needed this."
"You need this too." He hit him again on the arm with the envelope, letting him take it. "She found me to give me that."
He read it over, waving it as he got another drink. Beckett got it, sipping her own coffee from her mug. She grimaced, swallowing. "Thank you, Xander."
He grinned. "Up all night?"
"Our current victim is a bit...odd," she admitted. "Probably the same person."
Xander looked at the date. "She printed it last night." She looked and moaned, going to look up the address written across the top sheet. He grinned at the minions. "Can I help, guys?"
"No," they said.
"Fine." He looked at Rick. "You're welcome for the coffee too."
"Thanks, kiddo. Have a good day."
He rolled his eyes. "I need something to take my mind off Tral smut. He's taking over the current book with it." He walked off.
"Shop, make Paula happy," Rick called after him.
"Yay. Interview next week," he quipped.
"Yay me." He got in the elevator, going to hand in the badge and go find the dry cleaners. They had all his good clothes at the moment. His debit card declined so he went back to the station after charging it to his other one and sending it home. He took Rick's laptop once he got up there, opening a new window and getting into his account. "Whoever this idiot is, they canceled my debit card." He handed it back, staring at him. "Same one probably."
Rick read over the recent transactions. "They're not taking any out."
"That could be the same person," Beckett offered. "If they're interested in Tara, they could see you as a threat."
He looked at her. "Yes, I am." She snickered. "Seriously." He looked at the others then at her. "Can you find them and ask them before I find them and ask them?"
"Definitely. Let us handle it." He nodded and left again. "Print that before it times out, Castle." He did that and let her have it. She looked it over. "They're being annoying but not withdrawing any."
"Rosenburg is a hacker, why hasn't he asked her for her help?" Ryan asked.
"She's four months along," Rick told him. He shuddered. "Yeah, I'm not going to risk that." An IM message popped up saying the person wasn't either. Ryan called someone while Beckett answered and warned him off. He laughed. Then he disappeared.
"Anything?" she asked.
"Slightly. Computer crimes is tracking it for you." He hung up. "Think it's the same person as whoever wanted Tara?"
Rick handed him the print-outs. They both read it while he looked at Beckett. "Any idea?"
"No, not yet." She called Tara down to talk to her. Her boss was worried when she said she had evidence of a stalker but she reassured her it was being handled.
Willow got an email from someone and grimaced. "Tara has a what?" she muttered, opening it. She growled.
Gunn looked at her from across the room, slowly inching toward Fred's office. Fred was giving her a worried look too. He pointed. She went to find Daniel and Wesley. "Willow, should we call Buffy?" he called from the safer place.
"There's no need. Tara has a stalker." She beamed at him and then disappeared. She landed behind Beckett, snatching the laptop and sitting down to look at things. She got a message through to Oz, he was back in the US again, and he helped her. He kept more in date with his hacking skills. Finally they had the person and she could make them sorry.
"Magic while pregnant can't be good for it," Rick said quietly in her ear. She glared at him. "We can arrest him. Xander asked for help so we can arrest him."
"He should pay."
"He will pay in jail," he assured her. "If not, then you can have him." She huffed. "It can hurt the baby, Willow. You have to think of her right now."
She typed that at Oz, who agreed and congratulated her about the baby. They chatted for a few minutes then he sent them to the local detectives. "Fine. If he doesn't get buttsex in jail from all the big, overly muscled cons who want to rape little kitty boys like him, then he's mine." She pouted and disappeared.
Rick relaxed into a chair, looking at them. "She was collaborating with a friend."
"Everyone check their emails. I don't know who they sent it to," she called. The other detectives looked and one found it, printing it and handing it over, then forwarding it. "Thank you." She read it over, it was a lot of information on that person. "It's our victim. Only he's dead."
"Twins?" Ryan guessed.
"Faked death?" Espisito offered.
"Who knows," Beckett said. "Find them." They took the information to find the new idiot of the day. Because Xander was going to destroy them for this; clearly they were stupid people.
Rick looked at Beckett once he had calmed down. "I'm not a pet."
"I saw that. Good job."
"Thanks. I'm glad I remembered what mood swings were like." She smirked at him. "Alexis' mother had a few very bad ones and I'm glad she couldn't do the same thing. I never would've made the top ten list that way."
"Can't type with paws," Ryan agreed with a grin for him.
Espisito answered his phone. "Yeah?" He listened. "Please send her up. Thanks." He hung up. "Tara's here. Looking scary."
They all nodded and gave her the notes Xander had brought in when she came near them. They weren't sure why her hair was blowing in a breeze none of them felt, or her clothes, but it probably meant bad things for someone. She growled and looked, getting Xander and his current coffee and a kitten on his shoulder. Rick took the coffee, handing the kitten to Beckett. "Willow handled the hacker," he told them.
Xander looked at the information. "Huh." He looked at her. "I have something in the warehouse."
"Of course you do. I can't take it without telling you. That's unethical."
He shrugged. "Bum away, Tara."
"No planning on killing them," Beckett ordered.
"I won't." She smiled. "That will turn him into a kitty too."
"Then maybe I'll go play poker with him," Xander quipped.
"No," Rick and Beckett said in unison. "That's evil."
"Fine," he muttered. He looked at her. "So?"
"No changing them. We can arrest them," Beckett ordered. Tara huffed.
"Tara, let us arrest him. We promise, if he gets off, you and Willow and whoever can have him," Ryan soothed, coming over to calm her down. She glared. He stared at her, smiling slightly. "Willow was pretty scary when she showed up."
"She transported?" she demanded, looking pissed. "That's not good for my goddaughter!" She pulled out her cellphone to call her. "Get him or I will." She huffed off.
Xander nodded. "What she said." Tara looked and sent him home.
Beckett looked at the loving little kitten who was trying to nuzzle her ear. "You're weaned," she complained, getting up to hand her to Tara, who cooed and petted while chewing Willow a new one. Finally Tara left with the information. That way she could keep track of him. That kitty making amulet would be a good thing to have confiscated by the officers. Ryan knew where it was so he went to get a seizure warrant just in case. The judge thought it was a joke but his assistant told him about the warehouse. Apparently it was getting a rep around town somehow. Maybe she was stalking Xander? Or maybe she was a peaceful demon? With that one, he'd take bets on stalking.
to next story
back to index.