Damned If You Don't.

Rick had to stop and stare at the reporters massing outside Xander and Tara's building.    He slammed his car door, making some look and turn their cameras on him.  "I'm visiting a friend, people.  Why are you here?" he asked when someone asked him why he was here.

"Two of the people from that battle live here."

"They're both terminally shy sorts," he agreed.  "They won't come out when you're here."  A few snorted.  "Tara doesn't like people that much.  She's uncomfortable around people."  They backed off.  That was not the usual reaction.  "Who talked about her past?"

"Her stepmother," one said.

"I hope Tara found a restraining order."  Another car pulled up and parked.  "Detective Beckett."  She smirked at him as she got out.  "Here to visit?"

"Here to hand over something.  People, the building's management and the residents have requested a free zone around the door.  You are to be at least a hundred feet back at all times."  A few glared.  She glared back.  "That is a judicial order, people.  You're terrorizing people.  If he could have, the judge would've given a restraining order.   You're keeping people from getting to work.  Back off or be arrested right now."  She waved the waiting cruisers forward so they could measure out the distance and put up sawhorses to guard the entrance.  "Thank you for your cooperation."  He opened the door for her.  "Thank you."  They walked in together.  "They're insane," she said quietly.

"It's not lessening any," he agreed.  "Tara hasn't been able to sneak out for days to get to work."

"I saw her earlier.  She climbed over the back fence and climbed a tree."

He smiled.  "That might be effective."  They knocked on Xander's door, hearing the cat at the door.  "Guys, it's me and Beckett," he called.  The cat apparently could open the door.  They walked in and shut it behind them.

"They have to stay a hundred feet from the building," Beckett said.  "The judge granted the restraining orders to shut up both sets of parents.  And your friend Buffy when she started."  Xander relaxed and nodded.  "They'll forget about it soon."

"I was hoping it'd already be forgotten about.  It's only getting worse."

"They'll settle down eventually," Beckett assured him.

"Until then, I got told to teach you how to ignore them," Rick said with a smile.

"I'm not going out there."

"You have to go out there.  There's an authorized interview and they're not allowed to ask you about it."

Xander huffed but got up and went to get dressed.  "Tv, radio, or magazine?"

"Magazine so pictures."  He sat down and the cat who had answered the door came over to look at him.  "Hi, Mr. Kitty."  He petted him.

"Is that his name?" Beckett asked, getting a nod and a small smile.  The cat came over to sniff at her.  "Hi to you too."  She petted the cat gently, getting a friendly bat back, without claws.  It scampered off to play with the human again.  Even if he was putting on the stupid human stuff they wore instead of fur.  Xander walked out carrying the purring lump of spoiled cat.

"Lint roll.  The one today is allergic to cats."

"Oops."  He put the cat down and found his lint roller, using it on his shirt.  "This isn't working.  Shit."

"We can find another one," Rick assured him.  "We can do it quickly."  He got up, putting back on his sunglasses.  Xander found his.  "Good idea.  Just ignore them or play them.  Treat them like the idiots they are without being obvious about it."

"So like those guys on TMZ, tease them, taunt them, use some mild sarcasm?" he said.

"Exactly."  They walked out, Beckett leading.  "Deep breath," he said quietly as they walked off the elevator.  The manager of the building glared.  "It's not his fault.  He's begged them to go away more than once."

"I know.  He's been good about making them pissed off."

Xander nodded.  "Not like I want the attention."  He walked out on Castle's free side, ignoring the press. One of them hopped in front of him.  "Did you eat springs?"  She smirked and took a picture.  "Honey, two dimensional is not going to equal the real thing, and you're not quite evil enough for me.  Or at least not evil enough in the right way."  She pouted but he walked around her.

"What are you doing today?" one shouted.

"Something for an upcoming book," Castle said.  "Which is why we're both going to meet with your less evil brethren," he quipped as he unlocked the doors.  They slid in.

Beckett glared once they were gone.  "People, calm down and find real news.  It's more than time to move on."

"We can't get anyone to talk about the Stargate thing and we're hoping he knew," one said.

"Or if there's been other fights against an overwhelming force of demons."

"For that, ask Miss Chase out in LA," Beckett ordered.  "She's even a wanna-be actress so she'd put up with you."

"We talked to her but Miss Summers kept butting in," one said.

"That is her job to handle."  Beckett got into the car.  She drove off without much hassle but the reporters were a pain to everyone who had to deal with them.


Rick picked out a good shirt for the younger author, handing it over.  "Try that on."

Xander checked the size then got a larger one.  "It'll be too tight," he said quietly.

Rick stared at him.  "You don't want it baggy."

"It won't be."  He went to try it on, coming out.  "See?"

Rick stared.  "It shows absolutely nothing."  He handed him the original size.  "Try it on."  Xander nodded, doing that.  He didn't even huff about it.  Rick was feeling like a parent again but that was fine.  Xander gave him less stress than Alexis was.  That one was a bit tight but not bad.  "If they had half sizes or you had time to tailor it."

Xander took it off and came out with the original one he had gotten then found a better one.  "These tend to be looser in the right way."  He found one Rick liked and went to try it on, coming out in it.  Rick nodded.  "This?"

"That.  Find a pair of jeans to go with it."  Xander grinned a bit but found some.  That matched well and he looked comfortable.  "Good.  Go pay for it."  Xander took it off and paid for it.  He changed in the restroom then they carried the bag out to the car.  The other one got left in the car since Rick had to do an interview today too.  They walked in and Rick smiled, taking off his sunglasses.  "We're expected by Miss Clora."

"Yes, sir, I'll let her know you're both here."

The book reporter walked out, smiling and shaking their hands.  "Welcome.  Thank you for agreeing to speak to me today, boys."  The elderly woman walked them back to her office.  "Paula said I could monopolize you both for an hour today."

"As long as no one needs me, it's great," Rick agreed with a smile.

Xander gave her a small smile.  "He reminded me to buy new stuff that didn't have cat fur for you."

"Aww, that's sweet.  I did take my allergy pill when I remembered you have cats, but that's very thoughtful of you, Alexian."  He grinned and took off his sunglasses.  "Oh, dear, you look tired."

"It's being stalked by your tasteless, tactless tribe members," he said dryly, making her laugh.  "Tara had to climb a tree to get to work today."  He looked and sat on the couch.  "Here, good?"

"There's just fine."  She smiled at Rick.  "Did you save him?"

"Oh, yes, with Detective Beckett's help."  He sat beside Xander on the old, floral couch.   "What are we talking about today, Miss Clora?"

"You both have new books coming out."  She found her tape recorder and shifted over.

"I think I always have something new coming out," Xander admitted.  "My muses are hyperactive again."

She giggled.  "Surely it can't be that bad."

Rick nodded.  "Our publisher is holding back a few novels in each series for him because he came in with more than one done.  Then he wrote more."

Xander nodded.  "I'm working on part 24 of DCIS."

She stared at him.  "My, that is hyperactive."

"Nothing else to do," he said sheepishly, giving her a slight grin.

She patted him on the hand.  "I'm sure it'll be wonderful."  She started the tape recorder and found her questions.  "I'm here today on a pretty Tuesday to talk to both Alexian Harris and Richard Castle.  My office is filled with pretty men."

Xander grinned a shy grin at her.  "If you're hitting on me, Miss Clora, I have to warn you I'm a bit of a cuddler.  The cats make me."

She cackled.  "No, dear, you're much too young for me."  She swatted at him with a grin.  "Naughty."

"Often," Rick agreed.  "Thankfully he's a good guy.  That's why I let him hang out with my daughter."'

Xander looked at him.  "I even kept the evil thing off her the other day."

"Thanks, Xander.  I knew making you her shopping buddy would help her taste in men."

He smirked.  "Detective Ryan was more than happy to meet him too."

"Even better."  The reporter was staring.  "All the evil things are drawn to Xander to keep him."

Xander nodded.  "They are.  One of them gave me a howitzer mounted on the roof of a volvo."  She gaped.  He nodded.  "I met Detective Beckett professionally when she was arresting my dates."

She cleared her throat.  "That's amazing."

"Yes it is," Rick agreed.  "But he's a stand-up guy.  I like him for the guy he is."

"He's kinda like an uncle," Xander told her.  "Alexis is like a sister to me sometimes."

She smiled.  "She is a very sweet girl."  She went into her questions and they answered, joking some with each other and her during it.  At the end she patted them both on the cheek, handing Xander a peppermint star candy.  He grinned and sucked it in, making her smile at them as they left.  She shook her head.  "Oh, Alexian, I forgot one."  He leaned back in.  "Is Detective Beckett perhaps in the hunting series as that elf queen?"

He grinned.  "Not as her."  He winked and left, following Rick out.

"Does she know that?"

"I don't know.  I don't think she reads my stuff."

"I don't know either.  Which one?" he asked as they walked out.  They put on their sunglasses with a sigh when they saw more stalkers.  "Guys, enough," Rick ordered.  "We just got done talking with one of you."

"About the battle?" one asked.

Xander took off his sunglasses, staring at that one.  "I do not talk about battles, kid.  At all.  Ever.  You find most people who've been in one don't want to talk outside of remembrances and talking to their kids.  So drop it.  Please."  The reporter gasped.  He looked at the others.  "Go bother the other hunters.  They do it a lot more than I do."

"It's said that you got a town shut down for being too overrun with demons," one said.

"Sunnydale was overrun by corrupt ones.  We turned in a human cult to the FBI for having some heavy weapons, the corrupt people running the town tried to kill them for it.  So they dove into Sunnydale.  The peaceful ones they ignored and our team did the same.  Then we went our separate ways to live our lives.  I fell back to the important things.  It's not a fun life, it's sometimes a necessary one.  Now, any other insulting questions you want to piss me off with?" he asked him.

He mutely shook his head.

"Mr. Harris," one called.  "What about the report that said you had weapons stockpiled in the city for an apocalypse attempt here?"

"No, that would be the NYPD emergency vault," he said.  "I have donated to it when someone gave me something, but I don't own it.  Ask Beckett.  She'll tell you that."  He put back on his sunglasses.  "Are the rest of you done insulting and stalking me for the day?  Because you've already upset Tara and I don't allow that."  They backed off farther.  "Well?"

"No," they muttered.

"Then have a better day, people."  He stared at the one in his way.  "I know I'm handsome and I'm wanted by every single evil girl and guy in the world because I'm so fantastic in bed, but why are you lusting after me?  Are you evil?" he quipped, staring at that reporter.

He swallowed.  "You had a fiancee who cheated on you?"

"Yes.  I'm told she's much happier now as a nun."

"Have you talked to her?"

"She wrote me a letter recently and I've answered it.  We haven't literally talked.  Why?"

"I heard her convent is raising money."

"No one's asked and she probably won't be.  She might ask Tara."

"Is Tara your girlfriend?" one called.

"She's like my sister," Xander said coolly.  "Everyone else but you knew that.  Do your homework please before you stalk me some more."  He stared at that one.  "Can we go, your highness?"  He blushed and got out of the way.  "Thank you.  Find more interesting news stories please."

"Sir, you've met with General O'Neill," one shouted.  "Why?"

"I accidentally bought a cabin next to his and he came over to see why I was creating a lake view with a broken rib."  He slid into the car.  Rick slid in to drive.  "Can we escape or should I find a grappling hook?"

"You might need one for tomorrow."  He started the car and pulled into traffic.  "Is Tara going to stay with her girlfriend?"


"You know, even if she moves out, she'll still be like your sister," he said quietly.

Xander shrugged.  "I know.  It won't be the same but I know."  Rick gave him a smile.  "I'm feeling itchy with that new money."

"That's a reasonable feeling.  I went on an international bender and whore trip when I got my first million dollar check."

"There's not enough evil ones left," Xander said dryly.  "Did they give my weapons back to Beckett?"

"I don't know.  We can check."

"Can we stop and get a gift certificate for food?"

"They aren't allowed to accept it.  NYPD law."


"Did you already?"

"Yes.  It's being mailed tomorrow.  For the pastry of the month club at the local pastry shop I like."

Rick smiled.  "I'll let the captain know."  He looked at him.  "Want dropped off at home?"

"My wrists are damn sore."  Rick laughed.  "Let me go find something for that while you go tell Beckett she's amazing."

He nodded, dropping Xander in front of a pharmacy before driving off.  Rick walked into the squad room.  "Xander said I was to tell you you're amazing and warn you that he bought you guys a pastry subscription."

"He did what?" she asked.

"From the shop he likes."

"Cap?" she called.  He came out of his office.  "Xander decided to spoil us."

"I have the gift certificate and it's very sweet.  He did check it with the borough chief's office.  So we have pastries starting tomorrow if one of you wants to make that run daily."  He stared around at the grinning people.  "Castle, discourage him?"

"He didn't know it was against the rules.  He probably checked just in case."

"Probably.  That's what the borough chief's secretary said when she warned me."  He looked at Castle.  "He's itchy with that settlement money?"  He nodded.  "Make him find a brothel?"

"Not with the way the press is following him," Beckett quipped.

"He may have been able to drive some of them off.  He had a hard talk with one that asked him the wrong question a few minutes ago.  Then he made a dumb quip when the idiot wouldn't move out of his way.

"So we think it's over with?" she asked.

"No but not by much.  They were asking about General O'Neill."

"I'm sure he can have some of his soldiers run them off," she said dryly.

"Last I heard he was hiding in Cheyenne Mountain and making them run everyone off," Rick quipped back.  "Oh, he wanted to know if he got his weapons back."

"Not that I'm aware of."  She smirked.  "You can tell him he doesn't need them.  He might use one on a reporter."

"He back hiding behind his muses?" Ryan asked.

"Finding something for his sore wrists."  Detective Ryan texted a name and address to the kid.  "Know someone?"

"One of my ex's is a fantastic massage tech.  She cured my neck when it was tilted to the side thanks to holding the phone against my shoulder."  He put his phone back.   He got one back from Tara saying she'd call him.  "Is Tara still using his phone?"

"Yup," Rick said.  "I'll talk to him about getting a new one this week."  He looked at Beckett, smiling slightly.  "So is anything going on?"

"Not today."

"Don't egg them on," Esposito said with a grin.  "We need time to finish paperwork."

"Fine."  He stood up.  "Let me know if you need me."  He put on his sunglasses.  "I'm going to bask in the spotlight of fame by using it to get a good table at a wonderful lunch place."  He smirked as he walked off.

"Bring us back something," Ryan called.  "We're starved."

"I'll tell the kid that," he quipped, smirking back at him.  He got onto the elevator and went to find the boy.  He clearly needed to be out of the house for a long time. That way his muses got new ideas.  He found him in the store he had dropped him off at.  "Ryan sent you the name and address of an ex who is a massage tech."

Xander grinned.  "That might help more than a muscle rub."  He got what he wanted and checked out then they headed out together.  "So what's on your schedule today?"

"Reminding you to buy a new phone," he said dryly.


"Yup.  Which carrier do you like the best?"

"I use a prepaid usually.  I don't need that many minutes so it's cheaper and more efficient."

"Uh-huh," he said.  "Well, now you can upgrade to a real phone."

"I like them."


"Some of them are really good phones."

"No.  See, we can get you a really good phone cheaply with a new contract that has all sorts of features.  Do you like smartphones?"

Xander looked at him.  "I know nothing about phones."

Rick got him into the car and walked around to get in and drive.  He knew a good all-carrier store.  The kid was nice enough not to flinch too openly when they walked into the techno playing store.  "My friend needs a new phone.  He's been using prepaid."

"That's fine," the clerk said with a perky smile.  "What sort of OS are you looking for?"

Xander looked at him.  "I need my phone to make calls, get texts, and keep a calendar."

The tech looked at him.  "Phones these days do a lot more than that."

"Which I'd probably never use," he said dryly.  "Unless it comes with some mystical cat fur remover?"

"No," he said.  "We haven't made an app for that yet."  He walked him off.  "Do any of them touch you on a style principle?"  Xander shrugged.  The clerk sighed.  "Are you the fashionable sort?"

"I'm a fantasy writer.  I don't usually go nearly anywhere."

"Okay.  So something less than stylish is fine.  Big contact files list or smaller?"


"Do you want to be able to watch YouTube videos sometimes?"

"I'm always in front of my ancient laptop."

"That's something we need to look at," Rick said.  Xander pouted at him.  "You said you've had problems."

"I have," he sighed.

"Best Buy," the clerk suggested with a smile.  "How do you feel about Apple?  Some people like them, some don't."

Xander shrugged.  "I think it's a bit pretentious.  I'm not the techno sort outside of a club."

"Okay, let's look at the Droid phones then."  He led them to them.  "Do any of these hit you in more than the wallet?"

"The blackberry's are nice I guess.  Keyboard instead of touch screen.  I might jab it too hard and break a touch screen, which I know they count on."

"Okay, that leaves and LG, a few Samsung, a few Pantech, which are like Palm's cheaper cousin, the Palm line, and the Blackberry line," the clerk said.  "The Palm and the Blackberry are usually more business oriented.  Most people like the more fun ones if they're not using it for business."

"Any that'll let me read or write while I'm on the subway?" Xander asked.

"Only if you're getting a palm pilot or something."  He showed him those.  "Some of these do have phones involved."

Xander looked them over.  They were bulkier.  "Let's narrow it to the Blackberry, the Pantech, and the Palm," Rick said, walking Xander back there to refocus him.  "Those you'll drop.  Or they'll fall out of your pocket.  Those would be perfect for Tara since she carries a purse."

Xander pointed.  "The Samsung Reclaim.  The slider would protect the keys from accidental smooshing and calling."

"A few of the Palms have that too," Rick said, pointing at them.  "That would basically come down to style and operating system between them."

"The Blackberry Torch has it too," the clerk said, letting him see that one.  "All of those are AT&T and Sprint, but one's Verizon."

Xander shook his head.  "No Verizon.  I hated Verizon.  I dropped them and paid off their excessive charge because they got spotty service where I was living."

"Did you pay it off?"

Xander nodded with a smile.  "Tara made sure of it.  It was easier to use Virgin Mobile and I like them.  They're everywhere."

"They are, but they don't have the phones you want.  They do have a Blackberry but it's the Curve."  He pointed.

"No, I'll end up dialing it in my pocket," he sighed.  "What about the cost of the plans?"

"Each of them are going to be more than you're paying now," he admitted.  "Some more than others.  If you liked Apple it'd be over a hundred a month."

"Um, no," Xander said.  "Even for the greatest, gold plated, it also gave me a blowjob phone, no."

"Well, if you like the Curve, you can stay with Virgin.  If not, the phones you've twigged to are all Sprint.  I can look up how much the bill would be."

"Please," Xander agreed with a smile.  "Thank you for putting up with my confusion."

"A lot of people show up not knowing what they want," he assured him, moving to his desk.  "I can get you one for about 80 a month.  The Reclaim is free with a new 2 year contract.  The LG Remarq, which is along the same lines is the same price.  The Palm Pre is fifty dollars but it's also a $750.00 phone without it. And the Torch you liked was $199.00 but it's AT&T so a higher bill."

"I can forget that one exists."  He looked.  "Let's narrow it to the Reclaim and the Palm."  The clerk let him handle both of them while they looked at the features.  "I don't know if I'd use most of the other features.  Hell, I don't know what most of them are used for," he admitted.

"GPS lets you have a map feature so you quit getting lost," Rick said.  "Bluetooth is the hands-free.  Cameras are so you can take pictures to send to people."

"My old one had one that took video."

"The Palm has the better camera," the clerk said.  He considered the other features.  "The Samsung can play games and has the longer battery life by an hour of talk time.  The other has all the other features, including the MP3.  The Palm is a couple of ounces heavier."

"Does the Palm come with games?"

"A few but you can't download more."

"Okay."  He looked at them.  "They're both nice and if I could I'd take both."

"Not unless you want to pay full price for one," he said with a smile.  "Which you can do.  The Samsung is cheaper at $400."

"No way in hell."

The clerk laughed.  "You tell me when you've made a choice."  He went to help someone else.

Rick looked.  "The Palm has the GPS, which you could use," he said quietly, moving closer.  "You're usually happy with any game that's on there so that's not really a problem.  I'd say
get the Palm and if you want to spoil yourself with a backup phone, get the Samsung later.  Maybe even used."

"That's not a bad idea.  I wonder if he has any."

"I don't know."  He looked at the clerk, who left the teenager fondling the pink and purple phones.  "Can he get the Samsung used and buy the Palm on his new contract?"

"I have no idea.  Let me check our supplier."  He went to talk to his manager.  It was still a sale and counted for him.  He came back.  "My manager says we don't have any used but you can call Sprint customer service and do it through them probably."

"I can do that," Xander decided.

"How much is his deposit?" Rick asked.

"Two hundred."  Xander winced.  "I've seen a lot with six hundred, sir.  That's actually really low and only people who qualify for the good credit cards get that low."

"I guess."

Rick looked at Xander.  "Yes, you need it."

"I can....."

"That's the same price," the clerk said when he saw him looking at the Virgin Mobile blackberry.  He shrugged.  "You can't get that cheaper because you don't have a contract with them."

Xander sighed.  "I...."

"You have the money," Rick said.  "Spoil yourself instead of everyone else.  By the way, I saw what you got Alexis."  Xander shrugged, looking sheepish but grinning.  "My daughter appreciated it a lot.  Get the phone.  Pay the deposit.  That way we can get hold of you."  Xander nodded, following him back to the desk to fill out the paperwork.  Rick looked around but he still had a year on his contract and a decent enough phone.  Not that he couldn't splurge but....  He didn't need it and Alexis was turning into a teenage girl.  He followed over.  The clerk smiled at him. "I have a teenage daughter.  I don't need a new toy yet.  Plus another year on my contract.  By then we'll have some new toys."

"Yes we will."  He finished up, took the debit card to run, smiling at him.  "It declined, sir."

Xander frowned and pulled out cash.  "I'll be beating someone later," he muttered.  "So I guess I'm going to the bank next," he quipped.

Rick smirked.  "I'm sure it's just someone in your account again.  Like Tara's last stalker."

"I thought you guys got him."

"We did.  You do draw those nice psychos though."  He smiled.

"Yeah, don't remind me I haven't had a date in a while," he said dryly.  He took his phone box and papers, smiling at the clerk.  "Thank you.  You were very helpful."  He walked out with Rick, heading to the bank.  There was one not too far up the street.  "Hi, somehow my debit card declined two-fifty when I have thousands of dollars in the bank.  I need to chew on someone."  He smiled.

The receptionist nodded.  "I'll get one of our people for you to chew on, sir."  She got the toughest one there to come chew on him.

Xander smiled at her.  "Can you explain why my money is missing?"

"I can try.  Let's see what's going on?"  She led them back to the office.  "His spouse?"

"His friend," Xander said.  "He's keeping me from biting."

"Do you have your account number, sir?"  He handed over his debit card and checkbook.  She looked it up and sighed.  "I see we mistakenly put someone else's money in your account."

"Which name was it in?"  She stared at him.  "I have a pen name.  I'm a fantasy writer."

"Which is your real one?"

"Alexander Harris."

"The pen name?"

"Alexian Harris."

"Ah!  That's what the problem is."  She fixed that and released it back to him after making that note on his account.  "I have fixed that for you so you can go on a spending binge, sir."

Xander grinned.  "Thank you.  I was hoping it wasn't another stalker like my roomie had that hacked it."  She stared at him.

"Or that stupid weapons dealer that tried it," Rick reminded him.

"Or him," he agreed.  "Or his sister, who still wants me."

"Where is she?" Rick asked.

"Guatemala this month."

"Huh.  I'll warn the guys."  He smirked.  Xander smirked back.  "Is it all fixed?  He needs to look at new computers as well since his is ancient and starting to break down."

"Can you please print me a list of recent deposits?  I think I'm missing a royalty check and I'm not sure."

"Of course, sir."  She printed it out and made another note.   "I put a note in there that you have had a hacker access your account in the past due to friends being stalked.  Just in case it ever comes up."

Xander grinned.  "Thank you."  They got up and walked off.  He read the history.  "Has Tara not been putting them in?"

"I don't know.  We can check with Paula to see if they were cashed."  He called her to do that while he called Tara.  She said she didn't know.  Rick hung up.  "No, no one has deposited them and she got told that last week, she's been trying to figure it out since she said she mailed them all to you."

"Okay.  Let's go search the house since we know Tara was possessed."  They went back there.  Xander found bits and pieces of check mixed in with ashes in Tara's sock drawer.  "Huh."  He boxed them up.  "That demon really hated me. Cool."

"We can get Paula to reissue all the ones that haven't shown up," Rick said.  "Let's look at your computer?"  Xander pulled it out to look at it.  "You're running Windows 98?"

"It works well," he defended.

"I'm sure it does."  He put it back and shut the safe.  "Let's go look and see if we can find something that'll be nice.  It might even have a DVD player."  Xander shrugged and left with him.  They stopped to hand Paula the ashes and pieces and explain that Tara had been possessed.  Then they went to the mega computer store that wasn't Best Buy.  "This is where I got my last one," Rick said.

"Okay.  I know absolutely nothing."

The nearest clerk smiled.  "What sort of system were you looking for today?"

"Laptop.  Has to run Corel Word Perfect."

"The standard is Word, sir."

"I'm a writer and Word sucks ass," he said bluntly.  "I hate Word.  I hate Open Office."

"All right.  I can understand that."  He walked them off to the laptop section.  "Anything else you need?"

"A lot of storage," Rick said dryly.  "And a DVD player."  He smiled.

"I can arrange that.  Do you want a smaller one or a larger one?"

"Larger," Xander said.  "The smaller usually have less strength."

"True."  He found a few.  "There is a rollback/conversion feature that would let you run an older program like it was still on that old system."  He showed them that on the sample that was on.  "How do you feel about Windows 7?"

"Can I gag?" Xander asked.

"Probably not on the samples, sir.  Please."  He smiled.  "We do have a few Vista systems."


"You'd have to have that installed and then find a lot of drivers.  It's also not supported by Microsoft anymore.  Now, there is the Apple systems."

"Which won't run Word Perfect," Rick said.  "Plus it's not going to help him."

"Okay, so we'll stick with Windows."  He showed him what they had.

Xander stared.  "They're all so.... yuck."  He pointed.  "I have an older version of that one."

"That's actually going out of style so it's on sale."  He let them see that.  "We'd have to modify it to get the DVD option on it."

Xander went back to the higher end systems.  Larger, heavier, but nicer.  He picked one up to test it.  "Very heavy for writing in the park."

Rick pointed at one.  "Same company, same features, a bit lighter and a smaller screen."  Xander walked over to look at that one.  He test lifted it.  "Mine at home is about that size."

"Mine's about that weight," he admitted.  "I'll have to transfer everything over," he said.

"Yeah," Rick agreed.  "But they can do that for you."

Xander shrugged.  "They'll still not get things like the password files and those things."

"True.  But we can put your old hard drive into a case and use it as a second drive," the clerk said.

"You can?" Xander asked.  He nodded, showing him a case for it.  "Huh.  So I'd only have to transfer some things?"

"Yup," Rick agreed.  "Though you might have to reinstall Word Perfect and some of the games."

"We have specialists here who can do all that for you," the clerk said.  "As long as you have the program disks."

Xander looked at the one he was fondling.  "Can this one be rolled back to XP?"

"If you have the disks but it'll take time to find all the little drivers and things."

"Hopefully mine won't break this week.  It'll be a pain in the ass to carry around an extra drive."

"It could be," the clerk agreed.  "You said you're a writer, right?"  Xander nodded.  "So you'd need wi-fi connection so you can send in stories and do instant research?"

"Some.  Half the time the computer's at home.  Now and then I have to travel to conventions, to the park, that sort of thing.  I have a netbook for inventory and menial office tasks like that.  I know I don't want that for writing.  I tried and it sucked.  The keyboard was too small and I had a lot of problems with the screen size."  He went back to the larger one.  "That's really nice."

"It is," Rick agreed with a grin.  "You could keep your old one for backup.  Use this for the daily and the travel."

"I could, yeah.  It's awfully expensive."

"It's a business expense for your taxes," Rick said.  "You have to have a computer to write."

Xander nodded.  "I just fill out the easy form."

"No, you need someone to do it for you," Rick said patiently.  "That way you get all the little deductions you can have."

"So H&R Block?"

"Yup.  You could probably get credit for buying the apartment too."

"That was last year."

"They can amend last year's," the clerk agreed.  "We can customize either of those to suit your needs, sir."

Xander looked then at Rick, who smirked and nodded.  "Okay.  You twisted my arm."

"I'll make Alexis take you shopping if you don't get at least one," Rick ordered.

Xander looked at him.  "When have I been that mean to you?"

"Good point."  He smirked.  "Pick?"

"Yes."  He looked at the guy.  "Yes."  He beamed and got them to the register with the cards.  There would have to be some customizing going on.  Xander filled out the credit card app and got approved so he even got ten percent off.   He ended up paying a hundred bucks for the customizing job but that was fine.  Then they went to lunch.  Maybe he'd give Tara his netbook.


Paula showed up the next week and looked at Xander.  "Is she still possessed?"

"No.  Why?"

"Your last check hasn't shown up yet either."

"Maybe that's what the ashes were."

"No, I sent out one the day after that."

"Oh, no that's in my bag."  He pointed.  "I haven't made it out of the house in a few days thanks to the reporters and writing for you."  He got back to the current paragraph then saved it.  He sighed.  "Finally!"

"Did we work out the smut and weapons?"

"No, but I incorporated them into something dark, sinister, and that made Rick cackle in glee."  He smiled sweetly.

"Let me see it."

"It needs proofread."

"Yay."  He huffed but got up so she could sit down.  She got to the start of the document and stared then at him.  "They're going to roast you for that."

"No, that way the prophecies get out there."  He smiled.  "That way I don't have to quibble and someone will probably see it.  That way it's not my fault."

"Fine."  She went back to reading.  It was another branch of the hunter universe dealing with seers and magic users.  She was drawn in but shivered at a few things.  "Is that rite true?"

"I've stopped it twice, once on me."

"Okay then," she decided, saving it and sending it to herself at work.  "I'll hand it to your editor after I do a read.  It might be too dark for the company."

Xander shrugged.  "Then we can put it underground I guess."

"We could," she agreed.  She stood up and kissed him on the cheek.  "Need a ride to the bank?"

"Yeah.  Are they still out there?"

"Of course they are."  He grabbed the stuff from his bag and she walked him out, letting him lock the door before they got onto the elevator.  He put on his sunglasses before walking out there.

"Alexian, is this your girlfriend?" one called, taking their picture.

"She's my publisher, people.  She nags me about my output."  He walked around one.  "Aren't you supposed to be a hundred feet from the doorway?"  He scowled.  "Asshole, move."  The guy pulled a gun and Xander moved Paula out of the way, using the momentum to duck then come up and kick him right after he shot the bare spot.  It hit a reporter's camera.  He kicked him again, this time hitting the side of his head.

The guy fired again, getting him on the thigh but yay.  He was still going to be in a lot of pain.  Police cars rushed up and he panted but kicked him back at one, then stood there, panting and holding his side.  "Okay, now I'm fucking pissed off," he said coldly, staring at the guy being cuffed.  "Who are you?  Council or someone else?"  The officers gave him a worried look.

Xander limped over and snatched the wallet to look at it then at the guy.  "Ah, you're a hunter."  He hit him again.  "Tell the demons I said hi."  He tossed the wallet back and walked back, helping Paula up.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine but you're bleeding, Xander!"  She gathered up the fallen check and things, stuffing them in her purse.  "Guys, he's bleeding," she called.

"Ambulance is on the way, ma'am," one reported.

"I'm fine, I only need a bandage.  I could go upstairs and do one," he said, still holding his side.

She moved his hand, frowning.  "I'll be damned if you do," she ordered.  He glared.  She scowled back.  "Watch me hold your checks back for not taking care of yourself!"  The officer nearest them snickered at that. "Its' not funny!  He broke his wrist in that battle and no one knew until it was giving him fits."  One of the reporters picked up something and waved it.  She looked and put it into her purse.  "Thank you."  The ambulance showed up.  "He's got two holes.  He's going to the hospital."

"I can be bandaged.  They're both through and throughs, that'll only take a bandage, Paula.  Calm down.  Guys, she could use a valium."  The paramedics got them both into the ambulance to look them over.  Xander fussed but let them bandage him, refusing to go to the hospital.  She glared but he scowled back.  "I'm fine with the bandage.  I promise."  She huffed but let the paramedics take her and tried to keep him but they had to let him go since he didn't want to go.

Xander got out and closed the doors, patting them.  He looked at the person in custody.  "Remember, you don't piss off the seers.  They quit giving out information."  The man flinched.  "I don't have to do anything to help anyone.  You've made sure of it."  He limped off.  "Guys, I'm going for caffeine.  I'm sure you can get the nice stalker's videos.  Do you need more of a statement?"

"Yes, sir," one said, following him.  "You probably should've gone to the ER, sir.  You're obviously in pain."

Xander looked then at him.  "I've had worse."  The guy moaned, shaking his head.  "I've been staked with my own stake in the past.  In the stomach.  These were just minor pass-throughs."  He shrugged.  "I hope you guys have a lot of fun with him in jail."

"So do I, sir.  When did you know he was a problem?"

"When he was within the boundaries of the stalkerazzi's restraining order and didn't move, didn't ask anything, and pulled a gun."  He nodded, writing that down.  Xander ordered his coffee and got the officer one too, earning a smile.  He sipped it on the way back.  "Paula can deposit those checks for me," he decided.  "I'm going to go hide before more of them show up."

"I have a few more questions, sir."  He put him against the car and asked them.  Xander answered between sips and the officer got what he needed.  "Can we call someone to come help you, sir?  A girlfriend, roommate?  Anyone?"

"I'm fine.  I'm going to my warehouse so my roommate can't fuss.  She's like that."  He smiled and limped off, catching the bus once it showed up.  It was only a few stops from the house.

The officer finished his report and headed back to the station, finding a detective waiting on him.  "Yes, Detective?  Can I help you with a case?"

"What happened to Harris?  He's like a mascot some days."  He let him read the statement, nodding at that.  "Okay.  Where is he?"

"He said something about his warehouse so no one could fuss."

"That won't save him."  He smirked.  "Bad?  Grazes?"

"He said through and through's.  The paramedics didn't argue with him too much. The woman with him was nearly hysterical so they might be sedating her.  My partner confiscated videos since there were reporters there."

"Thanks.  Let me have a copy so I can use it against him the next time he has bad judgement?"  The officer got him a copy, making him a happy detective.  He went up there, sliding it into Beckett's computer and turning it on when the program popped up.  She watched then looked at him.  "He's hiding at the warehouse.  They said through and throughs."

"Castle, go get your minion and make him hit a doctor."

"He doesn't have one, doesn't usually go to one, and refuses to acknowledge their existence most of the time."  He stood up so he could watch it over her shoulder.  "His training is showing through again.  His fight teacher would probably be very proud of him.  Why is he holding his side?"

"Because the third shot that went off when he made him drop the gun went into it," she said, rerunning it back that far.  "Did the attending officers act frantic?"

"No, the uniform who answered said that the paramedics didn't press too hard to take him but the woman with him was probably being sedated."

Castle called her phone, getting her.  "Need a ride home?"  He grinned.  "I'm sure he is.  Yeah, we'll check on him later.  I might even be mean enough to tell Mother."  He hung up.  "Let me get her home.  I'll be back in about an hour."

"Check on the kid," Beckett ordered.  "If he's that injured, drag him."

He looked at her.  "With the way people want him dead, that'd be like Rushdie showing up at a hospital in Iran," he said quietly.  She nodded, understanding that.  "I'm sure he'll be okay and if not I'm siccing my Mother and Tara on him."  He left, going down to his car.   The hospital wasn't that far away, though it took him nearly forty-five minutes thanks to traffic.  He smiled at the nurse.  "I'm here to pick up my publisher.  They brought her in being a bit hysterical."  She called back there and Paula was wheeled out.  He signed her out and took her prescription then they wheeled her to the car.  She slid in and he smiled at the nurse.  "Thank you."

"She mostly needed a good rant but her blood pressure is a worry," she told him.  "She said you're her ex-husband."

"We know.  We've seen it a few times."  He smirked and slid in, taking her home.  "Pharmacy?"

"I don't...."

"I don't care.  Argue with me and I'm having your assistant slip it to you like we used to have to give Alexis medicine as a kid."

"I'll have it delivered."

"Fine."  He drove her home, looking at her.  "Need anything else?"

"I think I have all of Xander's checks on me so I can deposit them."

"He's hiding at the warehouse from Tara."

"I'm going to beat his ass myself," she assured him.

He grinned.  "Beckett ordered me to nag.  I was going to let Mother do it."

She stared at him.  "Go get laid, Rick, you're going evil," she said then got out and went up to her apartment to rest.  That sedative was really powerful.

Rick smirked, calling her assistant on his way to the house.  "Sue, Rick Castle.  Paula's on her couch at home sedated.  Because she had to watch Xander get into a fight with a guy holding a gun on them.  No, he's fine enough to sneak off.  She's a bit exhausted from the sedative though.  Please.  Thank you."  He hung up and went to talk his mother into it.  It would save Tara's nerves too.


Martha walked into the warehouse, grimacing.  "Well I suppose it's not as dirty as some are but still very dusty."

"It's too large to dust," Xander said, looking over from where he was looking over an artifact.  "What's up?"

"I was ordered to come check on you.  Something about you not taking care of yourself?"

He snorted.  "I'm a better field medic than some, Martha.  I'm fine."

"I'm sure you think you are but you should still be seen by a professional."  She walked over.  "They could get infected or anything, Xander.  Then who would pay my granddaughter that much to simply read for him?"

"I'm still fine."  He put the artifact down and made notes on it then looked at her.  "Our first aid kit contains some antibiotics and things.  I'm fine."

"You're not fine."  She stared at him.  "Did one molest you or something?"

"Well, a few have almost killed me," he said dryly, "but not that, no."

She gave him a dirty look.  "Ours are much nicer than the ones in your former town, Xander.  Now, come along.  Quit being childish."

"I'm not.  I've got them taken care of."

She grabbed him by the wrist, seeing the flinch.  "What?  Did that get hurt too?"

"Back during the battle.  It's healing."

She stared at him.  "Did you not have anyone check on you after that?"

"The docs then were doing clean up jobs.  It's fine.  It's not dislocated or anything."

"Most people get casts," she pointed out.

"If it had been more than a simple break, I would have.  I have used a wrist brace at home since typing was bothering it.  Not like I've done much of anything since then."

She stared at him.  "If you turn my granddaughter into some militant woman with a high pain tolerance I will kill you," she said bluntly.  "Get in the car, Xander."

"I'm fine."

She grabbed him by the ear and walked him out.  "I'm sure you'll be fine after we have someone look those over for you, dear."

"You know, I'm not actually a grandkid."

"I know.  Mine has sense enough to see a professional, one with a degree from an excellent institution, when she's injured."  She let go of his ear when she got the car door open.  "Inside, Xander."  He huffed but got in.  "Now, do you have anything against Jewish doctors?  The family one is."

"No, as long as they're not demons."

"No, I don't believe she is.  I've seen her out on the town in clubbing clothes, she didn't have a single scale or anything."  She drove him off, mentally shaking her head.  This one she was going to have to spank more than she ever did her son.  That way he couldn't ruin her granddaughter from the sweet, sensible girl she is.  He stiffened when they got to the clinic building.

She stared at him then across the street.  "Yes, the British embassy but even if those sort that had the contract on you were there, this is much too open of a spot for them to react in."  She parked and got out, walking around to help him out.  Of course, she was proved wrong.  Xander had her on the ground before she realized she had heard the shot.  "Well, this is not how I wanted to be on my back today," she decided.  She heard sirens, which she was thankful for.  Xander was nowhere in sight.  She sat up, looking around.  "Where did he take off to?" she asked the first officer.

"The one who shot at you, ma'am?"

"No, the one I was dragging to the doctor because someone tried to shoot him earlier."  She heard a growl.  "Xander!"  The officer flinched but someone screamed.  Someone not him.  "I believe he's showing someone the error of their ways for shooting at me."  He nodded, jogging off to figure that out.  The other officers were as well.  She hauled herself up and leaned against the car, fanning her face.  "He's definitely stronger than I expected.  All that sword work does a body good.  Maybe I'll see if Chet would like to take up fencing."  The officers brought Xander back.  "Boys, he was the one protecting me."

"Yes, ma'am, but we found him beating two different people and only one had a gun."

"The other was probably part of the same group that has the contract on his life."  She stared at Xander.

"Yeah, it was Traver's wife.  He's the one who put the contract out on me and she did have a gun.  She threw it when she saw me."

The officers brought the others with him.  "Fortunately they didn't run back into the embassy."

"Did you find that other gun?" the first officer asked.

"Yes.  She also said he's evil and corrupting the slayer line?"

"I'm the reason there's two," Xander said dryly.  "I used to be on the same team as Buffy, which they didn't like.  They thought it should be one girl who was treated like shit and no one else."

"Ah.  That's them."  That officer nodded.  "Why did they shoot at you?"

"A five million dollar contract as of the last time I heard."

"Oh, dear," the officer said.  "So one shot and instead of taking cover you went after them?"

Xander looked at him.  "They might've hurt someone else to draw me."

"Kid, you need retrained.  That's crappy trained reflexes," the officer holding him said.  "Are you injured anywhere?"

"Yes, he has two holes I'm having checked out from an earlier attempt to kill him and a broken wrist," Martha said.  "That came from the battle out by LA."

The officer nodded.  "Good idea."  He looked at them.  "Are they pressing charges?  Because they know he can out their little fun and games since we all know what a slayer is now."  He stared at them.  One whimpered.  "Or they could take the minor charge of firing a firearm in the city."

"He still beat me," the woman said.

"You had a gun too," Xander said dryly, looking at her.  "And I know who you are.  Your husband started all this shit."

"You're wrong to have jumped in!" she shouted.

"I was fucking born there, lady.  I don't lay down and die for anyone."  He stared at her.  "Beyond that, thanks to Cordelia, I saw what I would've been liked when I was turned.  It wasn't pretty and I made Angelus look sweet and mild when I tortured him."  He strolled over.  "I became the favorite child of the Master," he said dryly, smirking at her.  "Then I turned Willow to be my torture buddy.  All that magical gift... all my gifts."  He sneered.  "You guys wouldn't have lasted very long at all."  She shuddered and backed down.  "If she wants I'll gladly go to jail.  It'll get me out of seeing the doctor."

"No, sir, we'd have ours look you over," the officer assured him with a smile.  "But no painkillers."

"I've only had advil now."  The officer gaped.  He shrugged.  "I've had worse than this from a patrol night.  Hell, I had worse than this from a date night."  He looked at the watchers.  "You know, somewhere there's a really powerful me in one of the worlds and I bet I could talk Willow into finding him to come calm me down.  That way he'd have fun with you guys."  They shrank down and shook their heads.  "Yeah, I could.  Also, remember, fucking with the seers who only see the huge ass battles means he doesn't have to tell you a thing about when you get destroyed."  They glared.  He smirked.  "I only see the apocalypses."  He walked off.

"Inside," Martha ordered.  "If you don't want him, boys?"

"No, ma'am.  You can have him," they assured her with a smile.   "I doubt they want to press charges."  They shook their heads quickly.  "Good.  Then let's get you down there and booked in on discharging a firearm charges."  He cuffed that one.  He looked at the other one.  "You're free to go tell your husband all you want, ma'am, but if any more of you show up in my city the whole NYPD will invade your building and take out everyone.  SWAT needs a new exercise."

Xander looked over.  "I can show you where their storage areas are," he offered.  The watchers growled.  He smirked.  "Aww, such sucky hellhound puppies you make."  The officer got the one in the car and escorted the other one back.

"Xander, please quit baiting the mentally insufficient person," Martha said dryly.  "It's not fun when they're that stupid."  She walked him inside.  "Matilda, this is a friend of the family.  He got shot earlier and only got bandaged.  He's going to be signing on to come here for the normal things as well."

She smiled.  "We do have a walk-in clinic today, Mrs. Castle, but it's really only for patients.  I'll see if I can take new patients since you're referring him and dragging him for such a serious injury."  She went to check with the head nurse, who sighed but allowed it.  She came back and got the new patient folder, handing it over with a pen and a clipboard.  "Here you go, sir.  Fill that out please."  He nodded, trudging to do that.

Martha followed.  "Don't forget whatever disease you had that made my son swear about your safety last year, Xander."  She sat down and pulled a book out of her purse.  She had come prepared.  Even if she did have to drag him into the office by his ear.  Really, her son hadn't been this troublesome.  Why was this one?  Clearly his parents were unworthy of the status.  He got called back, handing the nurse the forms.

She read them over.  "How did you get smallpox?"

"I was working construction when we fell into a native burial chamber.  I, of course, fell on the body so I got stabbed with lots of little bone shards.  I'm told they can brew it down but it's a dead strain so I'm not a problem.  I've never had a single symptom of either one."

"Either...."  He pointed.  "Seriously?"

"Yeah.  Got them at the same time.  I know it wasn't my former fiancee's fault since they happened at the same time.  She started being a ho after that."

"Okay."  She did the usual first time patient checks and got him into a room to help him out of his clothes since he was moving so stiffly.  "Mrs. Castle said two gunshot wounds and a broken wrist?"

"Yup."  He waved it.  "It's healing nicely but she yanked on it earlier before she found my ear."

She smiled, nodding.  "Mothers like her can be fierce if you're naughty."

He grinned.  "I'm very naughty but you're not evil enough for me to date," he quipped.

"No, I'm a very good girl, Mr. Harris, and I'd never date a patient even if I wasn't."  She winked and got on with the checks.  "Who bandaged them?"

"The paramedics then I changed them when the one on my leg split open again about an hour ago."

"All right.  How did you know how to do that?  And yes, before you can say it I did see that battle."

He shrugged.  "Patrol.  It was necessary.  Our hospital in Sunnydale liked to kill people."

"Some do have higher rates due to infection."

"No I mean they literally killed people.  On purpose so they could sell the parts."  She shuddered.  "It was safer if I did stitches."

"I guess it would be.  Did you do these?"  He nodded.  "They're very professional looking," she praised.  "Let me get the doctor."  She left, going to talk to her.  "He's a macho, tough guy, did his own stitches and a bandage change earlier when one broke open."  She handed over the chart.  "His wrist isn't casted.  Touching it I felt a bit of warmth but it's not overly swollen.  He said he was the patrol medic for his group before."

"Interesting."  She read over the file.  "How...."

"He said he fell onto a body in a burial chamber."

"Oh.  Symptoms?"

"He said no.  Just antibodies."

"Huh."  She went in to meet with him, finding him looking at his side.  "It looks well cleaned."  He grinned at her.  "How did you do the ones on the back of your thigh?"

"Needlenose pliers and a mirror."

"Okay."  She came over to check on them, then do the usual health checks.  "I'd like to pull some blood to make sure that you're harboring the usual bad health things like high cholesterol."  He shrugged.  "I promise we won't tell them anything about the antibodies you carry."  He grinned.  "Then I'll look over the wounds and your wrist more."  She got what she needed to draw the blood and had it sent off.  "There we go."  She came back to probe the wounds.  "Any debris?"

"Not that I could see.  The paramedics rinsed them both really good."

"It appears they did a good job."  She looked at him.  "You could've had the ER handle it."

"No offense, but no, I hate your profession.  I can't stand doctors."

"I understand.  A lot of macho guys can't," she assured him with a grin.  He relaxed.  "Now, let's see your wrist.  X-rays?"

"No.  They said the swelling would go down that night and I knew how to take care of a broken thing since I had broken my arm my senior year."

"I can accept that reasoning.  We have a portable machine here so we can take one.  That way we can check on how it's healing."  He shrugged but grimaced.  "It's not that expensive and you do carry a nice insurance."

"I have since I was eighteen in case I ended up in the hospital of death out there."

"They're that bad?"

"Well, now there's no humans they can kill for parts."  She stared at him.  "I'm from Sunnydale, Doctor.  The FBI shut down our hospital the same time it shut down the town for being so full of assholes.  Half of them were getting paid on the side for organ, blood, bone, and tissue procurement.  One of the guys in the ER was selling fresh bodies for necrophiles.  We hated the ER out there."

"I can see why."  She nodded, feeling his wrist again.  "We'll make sure you don't need to see one of us on a longer term basis, just for the bad things.  All right?  I'm not mean, I won't sell you to anyone and I'd only try to kill you if you hit on me."

He snickered.  "I only draw bad and evil ones, Doc."

"Then it's a good thing my staff is full of good people."  She smiled and got the x-ray machine.  He let her take a picture of it and it was easy enough to read.  It came out in a digital image a few minutes later.  "I see the break and it's not too bad.  Looks about half healed."

He looked then nodded.  "I didn't figure it was fully broken in more than that one spot."

"Do you have a brace?"  He nodded.  "You should be wearing it."

"I'm resting it right now.  I planned on hiding in the warehouse, playing with the stuff in it, but Martha dragged me here and nearly got herself shot by the Watcher idiots.  Her son is going to kill me."

She looked at him, then smiled.  "You need a nap.  You're clearly running on adrenaline."  He nodded, shrugging a bit.  "Well, you can nap after this."  She changed the bandages and doublechecked his stitches, wrote him an antibiotic, and then gave him a sucker like she would the kids.  He grinned a sweet, shy grin at her, making her happier.  The warrior was fading back into the man again.  "Good boy, go sleep it off."

"I have cats who love to cuddle."  He walked out, unwrapping it.  "Do I have a copay?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Harris.  You've already met it for this year."

He nodded.  "Car accident," he said around the lollipop.  She smiled.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  She let him out and he stood in front of his nagging friend's mother.

She smiled.  "Good, you could probably use a bit of sugar."  She put her book back in her purse and stood up.  "The Detectives wanted to see you."

"I need a nap.  Can I be nagged tomorrow?"

"I doubt that.  You can rest in the car."  She walked him out, taking him over there.   Both of the male detectives were waiting outside.  She parked and got out.  "He's exhausted, boys."

"His first instinct when being shot at should be to find cover," Detective Ryan assured her.  "Not duck and attack."

Xander got out, staying by the car.  "I really need a nap."

"I'm sure you do," he agreed.  "You can nap in our breakroom to make sure there's no others."

"Did they try to break into the apartment?"

"No.  We have a uniform there.  He told the reporters someone else had shot at you so they'd tell us when someone unfamiliar came near the building.  Inside," Esposito said.  He smiled at Martha.  "Thank you for dragging him to the doctor."

"Sometimes you boys are too tough for your own good.  Thankfully my son never caught that disease."

Detective Ryan smirked at her.  "Neither have we.  Beckett...."  She laughed as she drove off.  "C'mon.  Beckett wanted to chew you a new one."  He led him up there, shaking his head.  "Who gave you the sucker?"

"The doctor she dragged me to."

"Good."  They got off and walked him into the squad room, earning a dirty look from Beckett.  "Castle's mom dragged him to the doctor."

"I can see the stick.  Well?  What happened there?  I'm asking so Castle can't yell at you."

"The British Embassy was across the street."

She groaned, shaking her head.  "His mother?"

"I got her out of the way with me."

"Good!  Next time, don't chase them down."  She swatted him with a folder.  He yelped.  "We're going to teach you to find shelter.  We really are."

"There wasn't any."

"You could have gotten you both behind the car instead of chasing after them to beat them to death," she said bluntly.  "I know you can."  He grimaced but shrugged.  "I know it's how you're trained.  Retrain for the urban environment and not being on patrol."  She stared him down.  He nodded, looking down.  "Thank you.  I didn't need the gray hairs either.  Castle might have to dye his by the end of the day."

"It's not my fault they attacked."

"I know that.  Your responses to being attacked is what worries us."

"Not like I'm going to sit there and whine."

"Most combat veterans say the same thing," Esposito said.  He shrugged.  "It's still needs to be gone over again since you're *retired*."

"I know," Xander sighed.

"Good boy."  He patted him on the head.  "Let us get him home so he can sleep off the adrenaline crash."  She pointed at the break room.  "Will the Captain allow it?"

"Yup.  He ordered it so we don't have a third attempt."  Xander trudged that way.

Rick stared at him since he was in there getting coffee.  "Thank you for protecting my mother," he said quietly.

"It wasn't my intention to see her in danger."

"I know."  He put down the pot, looking at him.  "Crash, kid.  I'll yell at the people who want to kill you later."

Xander shrugged.  "Your doctor's across from the British Embassy."

"I didn't even think about that," he agreed.  "Sleep it off."  Xander nodded, laying down.  "Shoes off, even if they do stink."

"They do not."  He toed them off and put them under the couch.  He fell asleep pretty quickly.

Rick walked out carrying coffee for the others.  "He crashed hard."

Beckett nodded.  "I do usually after a bad fight too."  She took her coffee to sip.  "Thank you."


"Train him to find cover?" she asked.

"I'm glad he thought to get Mother out of the way."

"True, he's good at it.  He still needs to be able to find cover."  Rick nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He sipped his coffee.  "Where did he get the lollipop?  I doubt my mother gave it to him."

"The doctor."

"She is a very nice lady.  Very delicate touch with serious injuries."  He sipped his coffee and put it down again.  "Should we tell Tara?"

"No, they hate it when she bursts out swearing in her own gentle way about him being hurt," Ryan said with a grin.  "Something about the library being nondenominational so to please quit calling out loudly for the Goddess to save her temper."

"He'd drive me to it too," Beckett agreed.

Esposito rolled his chair over.  "A lot of people just off combat have the same sort of reactions.  I don't think any of the counselors that handle that could handle hunting and I doubt there's shrinks that work for hunters.  I think most of them go until they die of it or they get the whatever that drove them to hunting and then they drink themselves to death."  She nodded that was likely.  "So we need to find a way to help him calm them down then deal with it."

Ryan rolled over.  "It probably doesn't help that all his dates are evil."

"No, but it might be more fun since he doesn't draw anyone else," Rick told them.  "I've introduced him to some very nice women.  So has Paula.  None of them gave him more than a 'hi'."

"He seriously needs another steady one," Ryan said.  "It'd make him calmer and happier, plus she might take over the proofreading jobs if and when Tara moves in with her girlfriend."

"I think he's dreading that.  His last one had a lot of people leaving the main character," Castle admitted.

"It's nice he has that outlet for his subconscious," Ryan agreed.  He looked toward the break room.  "I'm not sure if he's asleep or not."

Castle looked then nodded.  "Yeah, whenever he's not in a protected spot like home he doesn't fully relax into sleep.  It's like a nap for him."  He shifted in his chair.  "I've caught him doing it during conventions."

"Must suck to have to worry about being kidnaped by fangirls," Esposito teased.

"They'd never take him.  They might pull a Misery if he's in need and keep him but not steal him.   He isn't known for writing things that get people that hot.  Me they'd steal for months on end," he finished dryly.

"With the way you wrote that one sex scene, yeah," Ryan agreed, scooting back to his own desk.

Beckett shook her head.   "Think they'd cut off your feet too?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  "Alexis would have Xander save me long before then."

She smirked.  "You hope."

"No, I'm pretty sure or he'd do it and present me to her then walk off humming again."


"My car broke down one night when I had been out being happy and he had to give me a ride home before someone else gave me the wrong sort of ride home."

"I heard about that case."  She got back to work.  Her captain's phone rang and he growled so she looked that way.  "Problems?"

"Some reporter wanting to know if we arrested him for either incident earlier."

"No.  We have him in protective custody so they can't do it again," she said.  He transferred the call out.  "Gee, thanks."  She answered it.  "Beckett."  She listened.  "No, he's in protective custody so no one else takes a shot at him today and endangers anyone else in this city.  When he's finished resting and calming down I'll have him escorted home so the nice uniforms can beat up on the reporters who shout stupid things at him.  Yes, I am the one that works with Castle," she sighed.  "Here."  She handed it over.

Rick took the phone.  "This is Castle.  Hi, Megan.  No, he's worn out from earlier so we're giving him a safe place to calm down and rest.  I promise he's not under arrest.  No, Tara's not missing.  She's avoiding your tribe like the plague you are," he said dryly.  "He's been calling you stalkers.  Well, if there's some evil ones he could use a date," he said dryly.

"Otherwise no.  He's not doing anything interesting at all.  He hardly ever comes out of the house.  Especially since you guys have started your stalking."  He listened.  "I didn't know she told that story on Leno.  Yes, that was him if she said it was him.  Yes, he had her brought here.  She was just fine.  I'm sure she was.  He's a very sweet guy.

"No, I wouldn't let my daughter date him because only the bad and wicked girls like him.  He has an unfortunate draw to people who want to hurt others.  They're all that are interested in him so he's settling.  I'd love to see him with someone nice, yes, but they don't like him.

"I've introduced a great number to him and they've all said he was nice but not their type.  Exactly.  Only less shallow.  No he's had a fiancee in the past, she cheated on him with half the town.  He doesn't need that again.  Yes she would.  She has to everyone else.  Oh, I don't know, my first ex wife liked him," he said dryly.

"It made me wonder what was wrong with her," Beckett muttered.

Rick covered the mouthpiece.  "She wanted the sex."  He uncovered it.  "What?"  He shook his head.  "No, we're not collaborating.  I'm the role model he looked up to when he started to write books.  We talked at some conventions and things.  He's a very nice guy.  He thinks of my daughter like a little sister.  Exactly.

"So let's leave him alone, guys.  Before he finds some way to hide from humanity for good?  He can't even go to the movies because fo you guys.  No, he's not interested in the red carpet lifestyle.  He'd much rather not get press attention like that.  I'm quite sure.  I don't know if he's going to the one in Florida.  He might be.  I'd have to ask when he woke up.  Yes, napping on the couch up here.  He got shot at twice today."  He smirked at Beckett.  "They only heard about one."

"Yay," she said dryly.  "Hang up on them?"

"Beckett said we need to get back to work so I'm going to let you go.  No, you have a wonderful day and we'll see what's going on later.  I don't know.  He might just sneak in through the sewers to get past you guys.  You have a better day."  He hung up.  "I agree, they're stalkers," he muttered.

"You're really good at that," she said dryly.  "It's like asskissing for politicians."

"It keeps book sales up and I'm told I have to teach him how to do it better.  Each bad remark in the press means less sales and then you get dropped."

"Ah.  No wonder they had the bimbos in fantasy cop outfits posing around you the last time," she snarked.

"Sex sells and books aren't sexy unless you make them be that way or you're Anne Rice."  Ryan cackled, shaking his head.  "His smut and weapons binge a few months back made him decide he'd never want to be her.  We all agreed, he'd be really creepy."

Esposito shook his head.  "I don't think anyone could publish that sort of stuff today."

Castle looked at him.  "He'd have to be more subtle than he was but he could turn most of them into one.  He'd just have to change some words and edit it really hard for an R rating. Well, and take out the one part where the team was screwing in the woods and a buck came out to try to help by horning them so they'd leave his forest."  Beckett shook her head all the way to the coffee pot and the tylenol box.

"Is that like the tree thing?" Esposito asked.  Castle smirked and nodded.  "That poor kid needs someone to unwarp his mind."

"The newest in the hunter series is dark, sexy, and is about seers and witches."  They both smirked at him.  "We're talking full blown rites, prophecies, and all that.  Paula was sweating while reading it.  She read it out loud and *Mother* covered Alexis' ears."  They smirked at that because his mother was more open than he was most of the time.  "Yeah, it's that way.  That one, it'll top my next one probably."

"Damn," Ryan said, shaking his head but he was smiling.  "He'll have to watch out for groupies."

"Fantasy groupies are called geeks," Castle told him.  "They already love him like a strange prince of their land."

"Then who's the king one?" Esposito asked.

"You saw that guy McKay they stalked after the battle?  Him."  They both laughed and went to get more coffee too.  Castle got up to cover up the kid so he'd drift off again.  Xander mumbled something.  "No, no vampires in here, Xander.  Just us.  We'll keep Spike away from you."  Xander smiled and snuggled in better.  He walked off shaking his head.

Beckett came out.  "He lived with one?"

"The blond vampire from the battle?  He was incapacitated so he couldn't hunt.  Giles made him keep him tied in his recliner a few times."


"Giles apparently tied him in his tub."

"That's not where I'd want them."

"Maybe he had two bathrooms," Castle quipped.

"Yeah, hopefully."  She shook her head.  "Are the stalkers still outside his building?"

"Yes.  Worried about him."

"It's nice they do have feelings and hearts," she said dryly.  "I wish they'd show them other times."  She got back to work until Xander woke up.  He looked adorably confused.  She stomped on that sentiment because she wasn't an evil girl, a bad girl, or a weapons dealer - she wasn't his type.  Or his mother.

The End.

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