It Should Only Happen To Other Authors.

Xander walked into the detective's seating area and sat down beside one of the minions.  "Rick said to come talk to him."

"You sounded nearly panicked," Rick said, reading something.  "What happened now?"  Xander pulled out a few papers from his back pocket and started to read.  In French.   Rick's head popped up and he stared at him.  "Repeat that please?"  Xander handed it over so he read it, then shuddered.  "Where did we find this piece of garbage?"

"Tara's girlfriend found it online."  Rick was glaring.  "I only printed off the parts you should *really* see."

"That was you two talking about smut," Beckett said, looking confused.  "I understood a few words."

"Someone RPS'd you?" Esposito demanded, looking at the kid.  "Seriously?"

"Oh, so not just us two."  He grinned.  He took the papers back to read the second page.

"Did they just call me a muffin?" Ryan asked.  "That was muffin, right?  I understood that word."

"Yes, it was," Rick said dryly.  "It has to be someone young and stupid.  The grammar's cracked and so bad."

"She said she was writing in french because she's learning it and it is the language of love."  He grinned.  "She said her teacher appreciated it and gave her a B on this story."  Rick was glaring.

"Where did they put Beckett?" Esposito asked.

"The occasional beard and creamy filling for a reward.  Things like making top ten list the first week and things."  Beckett was whimpering, looking horrified.  "You two are apparently a couple.  You got whumped so he was calming you down."

"Uh-huh.  That just topped my squick meter so please quit?" Esposito asked.

"Squick?  Are you a teenager now?" Ryan demanded.

"I looked at an online dictionary because he references those terms now and then."

"Sometimes only an internet term works," Xander said with a shrug.  He looked at Rick.  "I know she's probably thirteen and this is the only way she can express her sexual desires, but what are you going to do about this?"

"Why me?" he demanded.

"Because I'm not telling Paula."

"We have to tell Paula."

"I'm not that brave.  I'll face down thousands of demons spilling onto his plane with only a sword and no body armor, but I'm not going to tell Paula about this.  You keep telling me about this concept called backup so I'm going to back you up, buddy."  The detectives were all snickering.

"He's right, Paula will make us wish we had riot gear for our balls," Rick muttered.  "Site?"  Xander got onto Ryan's computer so he could read it.  "She does some in english too."  He looked at that one.  "Not much better.  Though apparently my poker games are more fun than usual," he quipped.  He shuddered.  "That's just... so very wrong."  He walked off shaking his head.

"RPS?" Ryan asked.

"Real people slash," Xander said with a bright, happy grin.  "Congrats.  I hear you two have been together now for over a year.  She wrote you two a really nice anniversary fic."

"I want a new partner," Ryan decided, shutting that down.  "Before others start thinking that."  He got up and went to clear his head by playing in traffic for a while.

Esposito changed seats so he could see how bad it was.  "Her grammar does suck, even in her native language."  He read over the summaries and shuddered.  "She does have one fandom piece in Nikki Heat."

"Eww," Beckett said bluntly.

Esposito looked up with a grin.  "It's you and Ryan it looks like."  He put his head back down to go back to reading.  Their captain came out to stare at them.

"Xander brought very disturbing news," Rick told him.

"I heard the 'eww' comment."  He walked over to look at the monitor, eyebrow going up.  "Is...  I don't need to know," he decided.

"It's not real, sir.  It's some little girl's fantasy."

"They call them pink fangirls.  It's their version of how their fantasies should be," Xander told him.  "And if you tell them they're wrong, they tend to throw fits like toddlers.  They have whole flaming wars of words over those sort of things.  They get vengeful and have sites shut down when you don't agree with their OTP.  One true paring," he said at Beckett's confused look.  He smirked.  "Tara's girlfriend found it last night."

"Uh-huh," the captain said.  "Do you need help filing a restraining order?"

"We have to tell Paula," Rick said.

"I'm not that brave.  There's a better chance of me getting her pregnant from across the room so she can have little editor babies, and I'm still a thousand percent infertile, than there is of her having a *good* reaction to this news."  Rick snickered, nodding.  "I'll heroically reward all the officers who stand between her and us with lunch."

The captain nodded.  "I'm not in there, right?"

"You're very understanding when the obligatory fight happens and makes your detectives pouty but you basically tell her to man up and just spit it out.  Or swallow it some more really."

"You read them?" Rick demanded.

"Yes, I wanted to see how outraged I should be," Xander defended.  He smirked.  "You didn't reward me at all for being so prolific.  Plus she's got a very vanilla imagination.  Though those two like strawberry scented bubble baths."  Esposito moaned, shaking his head.  "Exactly.  I came to take part in the time honored tradition of backup, Captain.  Rick keeps telling me amazing things about that concept."

"I can see why you'd need it," he sighed, walking off rubbing his forehead.

Ryan came back.  "Get that off my computer."

"We'll call Paula down here.  It's closer to the hospital for when she has the heart attack," Rick decided.  "That way she can't beat either of us."

"She won't," Beckett said dryly.

"Bet me!"  Rick looked at her.  "Most of us authors are secretly pleased at fanfiction about our stories, but she threw a fit that nearly got the old office shut down when she found some about my other series."

"I set down rules," Xander told her.  "Things they could not do.  She accepted it with ill grace."  He looked at Ryan then clicked on one, letting Esposito read that one.  A few minutes later he got a whimper and a 'wrong' muttered over and over, but he was still reading.  "Yeah, it's such a trainwreck in the making that you almost have to keep going," he sighed.

Rick walked over to read over his shoulder.  "Strawberry bubble bath and a porn shop site for research," he said, walking off shaking his head.

Ryan turned off the computer and took it to the meeting room.  He could wipe the thing clean and have computer services reinstall everything later.  That way it wasn't infected with really crappy gay detective smut.  Paula came off the elevator.  Rick pointed.  She scowled but went to read.  Xander got her into a different one and then went to hide behind Rick.

Beckett looked.  "He'll move and let her have you, kid.  It won't save you."

"Then I'm ducking behind you.  It's not my fault."  Paula's face was turning really red and she was starting to get huffy.  "Ambulance?" he asked quietly.

"Coffee run.  I'm not that brave either," Rick decided.  He and Xander fled.

"For being so brave against demons, women sure do scare him," Esposito said dryly.  He looked at his partner.  "She has the worst cuddly names."

"Shut up.  Or I'm switching units.  Just shut up."

"Fine."  He looked at Beckett.  "Should we call an ambulance?"

"I'm not sure yet."  They were all watching the editor get pissed off.  Paula started to look around.  "They ran for their lives," she called.

"How did Xander find this?  Rick would never go somewhere like"

"Tara's girlfriend.  He showed up with some in french," Ryan said.  "Disgusted all of us horribly."

"I saw the ones in French."  She looked at them, handing the laptop back after making note of her author ID.  "Let me go pen a desist letter to freak her out with."

"Will that work?" the captain asked.

"It's a good first step.  Then I'll have Xander scare the crap out of her for it."  She stomped off rubbing her chest.

The desk sergeant looked at her.  "Ma'am, should I call an ambulance for you?  You look like you're about to have a heart attack."

"I'll be fine.  Thank you.  Tell my authors to call me later please."  She went back to the office and threw her unholy fit there.  When she stopped, her boss was staring at her.  Everyone in the office was behind him.  A hellhound was staring at her from a corner.  It had its head tipped to the side, forked tongue hanging out as it panted, and it looked interested.  She glared.  "Shoo!"  It fled.  She looked at her boss then got onto that site to show him why.

"Oh, dear.  Do they know?"

"They told me."

"Have fun with the legal department, Paula.  And please remember the no pets rule."  He walked off.

"It's not mine, sir.  It apparently thought I was related."  She glared at her computer.  "I think it's right today."  She took the information down to the legal department.

"We were taking bets on how long it'd take before you visited us," the head of legal quipped.  "We heard the fit all the way down here."



"Castle and Harris."

"Gay RPS then?" he quipped, pulling up the right form letter.  "Who?"  She got into his browser to pull that author ID up.  "I can definitely screw up her life for her.  Relax, let me be evil."

"Fine.  Please do.  They both ran after telling me to read that site."

"Harris will face down a demon invasion with a sword, but apparently you're more mean."  She snorted, walking off shaking her head to get a milkshake off the place in the lobby.  He started saving down her things and then reporting her to the site.  Then he started on the desist before we sent Harris with artillery to your house letter.  Because that was just so wrong.  Everyone knew that Castle wanted that detective of his and Xander just needed a new torturing evil bitch.  Castle could never be that evil.  His daughter would stop him.


Xander looked at Rick at dinner that night.  "If Paula shows up to kill us, I'll make sure your daughter grows up fine.  I'll be a good big brother about telling her what dirtbags guys are.  I'll show up to clean guns whenever they're coming over."

"I thought about asking you to do that anyway," Rick admitted.  "Mother heard from Beckett and she cackled when she left me a voicemail.  My daughter's whole comment was 'eww, and I can do *so* much better'," he mimicked.  Xander snickered.  "Seriously."

"The sad thing is, the muses are going 'you have to end the DCIS series eventually, this could take the place of it'."  Xander stuffed his mouth at the dirty look.  "Two authors who live together, not us us."

Rick shook his head.  "Your muses need antibiotics for the infection that's causing the fever."  He stuffed his mouth.  Tara had made a very nice dinner before disappearing.  "Is her author profile still up?"

"Yup, as of an hour ago."  Xander reached over to move his mouse to cancel his screensaver so he could reload the page.  "Yup, still there."

"I'm going to send her a personal message."

Xander handed over the laptop.  "Remind her english class is more important than french class."

"I am."  He wrote out a scathing, insulting email about her stories and signed his name to it.  "I'm adding your name."

Xander took it to read over and then added his part.  They sent it and she was probably going to cry but the thought of *them* together was going to give both of them nightmares.  Rick about having to become a commando and Xander about a fluffy home life complete with teddy bear slippers and being brought mugs of hot cocoa.  And yup, that MPREG bunny hopped into view and twitched his nose.  Xander got up to get them a beer, handing over one as he sat down to drink and eat.  Rick gave him an odd look.  "The very thought.  Teddy bear slippers.  Hot cocoa bringing, on the couch with an afghan sort of bunny.  Then the other one that I never acknowledge showed up and twitched."

Rick swallowed half his beer.  "I think I'll rent a room tonight and get really drunk."  He finished dinner and left to do that.  Because he was now having very bad thoughts about being a retired commando sort who had captured Xander as his war prize and brought him home.  He hoped like hell his muses didn't like that idea.

Xander got another few beers and sat down to watch something mindless that wouldn't give him ideas.  Because that was just icky!  Very icky.  Worse than demon goo getting in body orifices icky!


Xander showed up at the precinct two weeks later looking like he hadn't slept.  "Keep your damn muses to yourself!" he complained.  "I got *normal* people stories!  And damn it, they're stupidly rabid and it's your fault!"  He huffed off after handing him the damn USB keydrive.  He was pouty and it wasn't normal.  He wasn't like that!  And they wouldn't quit!  He was ready to go hunting in the middle of a demon plane to make the ideas of sitting on a couch erotically reading a section of a story to each other as foreplay out of his head.

Rick groaned, sitting down to read that newest thing.  What he saw....  "Maybe I didn't get drunk enough," he muttered.  "Or this is because I'm in an alcohol induced coma in some hospital somewhere."  He kept going.  It was clearly unproofread.  It was going to warp his brain but he could see where it was going and got in there to fix it.  Which meant, with as much detail as he added, that he got to put his name on it too.  Well, maybe a penname for his penname.  One for Xander too.  Because they didn't want to be exposed as writing this.  It was almost...fluffy.  "No wonder he was freaked out."

Beckett cleared her throat.  "Problems?"

"That stupid kid's stories jumpstarted his muses," he complained.  "Into writing *normal* things."  He let her see.  She blushed, actually blushed.  "It's even a mystery."  He got back into it.  "It's good, even in the raw state," he complained.  He was still typing and he couldn't seem to make himself stop.  He did skip over the smutty stuff, that wasn't his idea of a good time but it was nice foreplay.  He added to the foreplay nature, making it more hot and steamy, which he was better at than Xander was.  Xander wrote a lot more fade to black scenes while Rick wrote more subtly sexy stuff.  Together, this book would be kick ass.  Which was still going to give him headaches.

Beckett and her minions shared a look, leaving Castle to mutter at the laptop he was working on.  Because that had to be an author thing.  "Fluffy slippers too," she told them.

"Aww, he got freaked out by the normal things," Ryan taunted with a smirk.

Rick looked over, nodding.  "Yup, me too.  We're talking Martha Stewart normative here.  Decorated house, fluffy slippers, bringing him cocoa...."  He shuddered.  "Even my mother would find that so wrong on so many levels.  Thankfully it's the external view of how they are, not the reality."  He kept going.  The piece rocked, it drew you in, but damn he was going to have to get so drunk to get this out of his head.  Before his brain exploded and his daughter had to finish his next book.  By the end of work that day, or when Beckett made him go home anyway, he was half done.  The book had gone up by about fifty pages.  There was now danger to the mystery, an undercurrent that could draw you deeper into the steamier world.  He saved it twice and brought it home to work on.

Sometimes he hated Xander for having muses.

He really did.

Especially when he missed dinner because of them.


Paula looked up as Rick stomped in a few weeks later.  "What happened?  Did you find another?" she demanded.

"No, the very thought brought up muses in Xander, who shared."  He tossed her the USB keydrive.  "Neither one of us want to be known for that."  He walked off.

She got into it, not really wanting to but she had to assess it.  What she read clearly started off as Xander but then Rick's wove in around his.  It was clearly the two authors bouncing off each other.  She whimpered.  It was too good to go into the trash.  She slumped, still reading.  She sighed, shaking her head.  Poor Xander needed his muses to take another vacation.  Rick clearly needed a night without his too.  Maybe she'd send them both to a writers convention in the Bahamas or something.  Though if they could look at each other after that...  She'd be shocked if one didn't blush.  She was.

Her boss sent back an immediate approval for the story.  They didn't have hardly anything that would qualify as gay themed and it was a big push in the publishing industry.  Which sucked.  He said he didn't care who wrote it and to not tell him if they didn't want to know.  She didn't want to know so that worked well for her.  She sent it to the official publishing team for the last edit since she couldn't without blushing.

They sent her back edits a few days later and she corrected a few things.  The note attached said that it was clear who had written it and clearly something was wrong with them mentally this time.  She sent the other two over as well.  They were more than happy to edit it for her.  She took the edited copy to meet with her idiot authors.  They were summoned to a coffee shop.  She put the manuscript down, making them both groan and blush.  "My boss adores them."

"Never again," Xander quipped.  "I haven't gotten an idea since then."

"Good!" she promised.  "There's a convention coming up in Bermuda.  Go to it for a vacation, boys."  They both nodded, staring at the book.  "Here.  I doubt he let you see it after he added to it, Xander."  She let him read through the first few pages.  "Nicely woven, Rick."

"It was like I was infected with his muses," he complained.  He nudged Xander, looking over his arm at the groan.  "I made it more dark underneath."

"Thank you."  He kept going, shaking his head.  He looked at her.  "Do you always make me sound this good?"

"Yes, I do," she agreed smugly.  "You don't read your own stuff?"

"I read it plenty while writing it."  He slumped down and sipped his coffee while reading.  It was good.  He might want to read this.  He handed it back and walked off after putting down his part of the tab.  "I'm going to Bermuda."

"Thank you."  She smiled at him.  "You did do a nice job enhancing his part."

"It was all because of that stupid pink fangirl's RPS thing."

"I know.  She did get it taken down finally.  She replaced them with a note saying you're both evilly mean."

"Only when I have to be."  He walked off shaking his head.  Bermuda didn't sound so bad.  He could use some time on a beach.  He had to pick the opposite side of the island from Xander but it was a pretty big island.

Paula went back to the office after paying off the rest of the tab.  She'd take it out of Rick's next paycheck.  The boss enjoyed them a lot so it was on to be published for the holiday season.   Yeah, that would work well.  They both had books coming out then so they could compete against themselves.


The book reporter for the Times stared at Xander.  It was early December.  His new book was coming out in a week.  "So, have you heard about that new book that's come out?  About two writers living together?"

"I've heard something about it," Xander said, smiling back.  "Alas, 'tis not mine."

"There are rumors that you're one of the authors."

"Who said that?" he asked, looking interested.  "No, as far as I know I've never went by that penname."

"Someone said you got the royalty check for the author?"

He shrugged.  "I got a royalty check for my book, Miss Brenda.  I don't think I ever pick up for anyone else."

"Hmm, interesting."  She smiled.  "There are also rumors that some young girl was writing fantasy stories with you, the real you, as a main character?"

"Oh, yes, we saw."  He smirked.  "And we sent a very nasty letter to her about it. I generally am amazed and awed by the whole fanfiction movement.  It's kinda neat that they want to play in my world, that I made a book good enough that it inspires others.  I set down some very basic rules about some stuff that would bother me to see.

"You know I adore my fans and I'd do about anything for them.  None of them are making any profit off me so I'm not going to be a meany about such things.  I mean, I could've started writing that way myself if I had constant online access when I was younger.  There's also some pretty decent authors in the fanfiction community at large."

He grinned again.  "But I do draw the line at putting me, myself, into a story because I'm not a fantasy character.  Especially one where I reward a fellow author with daily blowjobs for his word count goal."  She blushed, ducking her head.  "Yeah, it was that sort.  So yes, I got a bit peeved at her.  Our publisher nearly had a heart attack.  We ran and hid while she read over that wannabe author's stories.  We didn't have body armor and might've needed it when she blew her temper."

"I can see how that would be disturbing."

"It wasn't the content, which did horrify me for a few weeks, because *so* not the wife in my 'ships, but partially the one she put me with.  I mean, we're friends, I look up to Rick as a mentor.  I don't want to be his ball licker, and I'm really sorry if I'm being too blunt but there's no other way to put it."

"I understand."  She patted him on the hand.  "You do allow others?  I know some authors do."

Xander nodded with a grin.  "I set out some basic rules like a few possible pairings that would probably warp my already fragile mind.  No making a profit, those sort of things.  I'd do nearly anything for my fans.  I adore my fans.  I'd still be working construction if it wasn't for them."

"It's good authors who respect and like their fans.  Your newest book?"

"DCIS?" he guessed with a grin.

"Yes, not the hunting one coming out in two months.  Things appear to be winding down.  Are we near the end of that series?"

"Um... this is book...."  He countered.  "Sixteen in the series, right?"  She nodded.  "No.  There's twenty-five.  I wrote the end the other day.  Things are slowing down but by the end of the book you're seeing hints of the final battle that'll warp things a little bit.  Also the last paragraph will lead to the next book, which will be about a major issue on that associated project."

"So this was a 'tying up one arc to start another' book."

"Yes.  Plus looking a bit closer at some of the relationships in the unit.  You do see that trio working out things that they've been ignoring for years.  You see some of the other interpersonal ones going on at the same time."

"Interesting.  I only got to read the first five chapters last night."

Xander grinned.  "Nice bubble bath?"

"Yes, it was."  She smirked back.  "Naughty."

"I try really hard to be good," he teased with a grin.  She laughed and swatted at him.  "In chapter seven we see the trio working things out and the plucky little butthole in the armory trying to manfully pout about things that he doesn't really get as he's calming down to a normal life again."

"That does sound like it's more...well let me put it as less action oriented."

"Not everyday can be an action story.  You do need time to regroup, rest, deal with your lovers.  All that stuff.  Otherwise you get burnt out really badly."

"Did you?"

"I was dating people who knew about the life I used to have," he said.  "Half the time if it was a research night, they were there."

"Where is that ex of yours now?"

"She's a nun."

"Oh, interesting."

Xander shrugged a bit.  "She's happy and that's all I'm concerned about.  Though she did try to curse me with groupies once.  Still haven't seen them yet."  Miss Brenda cackled, shaking her head.  He grinned a good boy grin.  "Maybe some day I'll get groupies."

"Maybe," she promised.  "Thank you, Alexian.  I'll edit out those few swear words and make you seem less angry at that one girl."

"We figured she was probably about thirteen."

"Fifteen.  She wrote in to tell me how evilly mean you were, or that's how she put it."

"Yeah, well....  You should've seen those stories."

"She did give me a copy when I asked."  He rolled his eyes.  "As well as a copy of the letter you and Mr. Castle sent?"

"Oh, yes.  We were having dinner to discuss how to handle that issue and he decided to critique her.  I agreed with most of it.  The last few paragraphs were mine.  I'm sorry if I'm mean, but there's a difference between my characters and me.  I'm not a half-elf.  It might be cool if I was but I'm not."

"I know, dear."  She patted his arm.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Have a good afternoon, Miss Brenda."  He left and once in the car called Paula.  "There's rumors that I'm part of that duo that wrote that damn book.  Including that I cashed the royalty check?"  He hung up on her choking.  He probably just ruined her lunch but oh well.  He left a message for Rick to warn him that Miss Brenda was digging and had talked to that fangirl.


Rick had his own interview with another reporter, this time for a more prestigious magazine.   "All right," he said with a smile, sitting down.  "What can I tell you today?"

"Well, first, have you seen your competition on the bestseller list this week?" she asked, smiling at him.

"I haven't gotten a chance to look yet," he admitted.  "My morning paper reading was interrupted by a set of dead twins."

She smiled.  "There's Alexian Harris' new book."

"That's wonderful.  Alexis helps him with some proofreading of that series."

"I heard.  He dedicated it to her this time because she made it sound less girlish."  He smiled.  "There's also a very unusual, slightly campy, slightly naughty mystery novel?"

"I've heard something about that, yes."

"There's rumors that it was set off by some young woman's online desires?"

He shrugged.  "No clue what you're talking about," he said with a straight face.

"Hmm.  Yet it was thought, by writing styles, that it was you and perhaps young Alexian that wrote it."

He shook his head.  "I don't usually collaborate with him on things.  Sometimes I help him when he's stuck.  His over-reaching muses play tag with mine, but otherwise he looks at me like I'm his mentor."

"Interesting.  How is his new series wrapping up?"

"In part 25.  Alexis got it yesterday.  This current one is a calm before the new stormy arc."

"Ah.  With a lot of weapons."

"Quite from what she said."  He grinned.  "He does like weapons."

"How did he know how much some of them weight and what they look like?"

"Alexian *loves* weapons.  He has a whole cabinet full of examples so he can stare at them while he writes, including some very ancient ones."

"From the hunting as well I'd assume?"

"Definitely that as well, yes."

"Huh.  So, how did your newest one come out do you think?"

"I think it's just as good as the last Nikki Heat novel.  If not slightly better.  My daughter did a lot of the proofreading for me this time because she was grounded for swearing back at another student who was bothering her."


"No, just dumb girls mostly.  The sort that their whole ambition is to become a trophy wife.  Since my daughter uses her very smart brain, they don't always like that."

"Ah.  That sort.  I had a few of those in my day as well."  She smiled.  "Is she going to write?"

"I don't think she wants to.  She's never shown an interest."

"Pity.  The world could use more good authors."

"Yes it could," he agreed, smiling at Beckett as she walked in to get some coffee.

"Detective, have you read the newest book?"

"I can't say as I have.  I try really hard not to.  Sometimes it makes me want to swat him for his literary licenses."  She poured herself some coffee.  "Someone just called saying that Tara was sobbing about a certain younger author's new girlfriend?"

Rick pulled out his phone to text her, getting one back.  "Oh, dear.  Yes, his newest stalker tried to take Tara's girlfriend hostage.  Tara managed to save her and the kittens, but she's in a blind panic because he's now in a rage."  He looked up.  "He's at the warehouse though.  Probably gathering weapons."

"Boys, go stop Xander from killing his last wannabe girlfriend," she called.  "He's at the warehouse and she tried to hurt the cats and Tara's girlfriend."  They ran for the stairs instead of waiting on the elevator.  "She good?" she asked Castle.

"Freaking out a bit.  She didn't show her girlfriend...."  He waved his hand.

"Oh.  Well....  Alexis?"

"School for another hour I hope.  Did she call?"

"No, your mother did.  Your phone wasn't working according to her."

"It should be.  I'll check on that in a few minutes.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  She went to tell the captain that.  Just in case they had to arrest Xander.

He looked at the reporter again, smiling slightly.  "It's the little dramas that can drive you insane if you let them."

"Is Alexian going to hunt her down?"

"Unless we stop him, probably.  He's very overprotective of Tara, as most everyone knows."

"Oh, I've seen it at a few of the conventions."  She cleared her throat.  "I hope that goes well enough."

"It should.  He listens to these detectives."  He smiled.  "Anyway, back to the less weighty topics?"

"Please."  She smiled.  "This book is longer?"

"It's got two homicides but they weave together in a slightly odd way that seems to happen a lot in real life, but can drive a detective to drink.  The little connections that lead you to play Six Degrees of Separation sort."  He smacked himself on the forehead.  "I'll be right back."  He got up and walked out.  "Beckett, the connection, it's a gym."  She looked confused.  "One's training for a marathon.  One's just had an injury.  I bet they knew each other from the gym."

"I'll see."  He nodded, going back to the desk.  "Clearly that jumpstarted his brain."  She looked through their books, finding their trainers names and seeing if they were at the same place.  If so, it might be a connection to where they met their killers.  Or they could run into each other for coffee after workouts as it happened.  She went to question on that while the boys were corralling Xander and Castle was finishing his interview.


Ryan walked in first, waving his partner in, both having hands on their guns.  "Xander?" he called, heading toward the armory section.  Nothing.  No Xander.  No huffy boy in the least.  Esposito heard something and headed for it, Ryan following.  "I hate how this thing stretches," he complained.  They found the boy, patiently putting a handgun back together after cleaning it, and ignoring them.

"Xander," Esposito said.  Xander didn't look at him.  So he took the gun and put it out of reach.  That got him glared at.  He stared back.  "Let us handle her?"

"Hell.  No."

"You can't go out being all batman this time," Ryan said.

"Not like she's pressing charges."

"We don't know that.  Beckett could have her filling it out right now.  Or Tara."

"No, they won't.  They decided it'd be bad and they might have to testify, which could get them bashed.  So no, it's my turn to play.  Now, can I have my other handgun please?"

"No," Esposito told him.  "No way in hell.  Then we'd have to arrest you and they'd never publish you from prison."

"Oh, I don't know," he said dryly.  "If Paula drops me, there's always some greedy fuckers and there's also self-publishing."

"No," Ryan said.  "Let's go check on Tara and her girlfriend."

"She's hiding at home and Tara evacuated the cats with her."

"Good!  We can check there," Ryan assured him, hauling him up and making sure the kid stayed between them.  He paused at the door, looking him over.  "No body armor?"

"She didn't have a gun.  She had a stake, a staff, and a huge knife."

"Huh."  He held him while his partner patted the kid down, taking all the weapons to the office to lock them in the safe.  Then they walked him to the car and took him back to the station.  On the way, Ryan called Tara to check on her.  She was nearly babbling while stuttering.  It was not a good thing to hear.  "Tara, if you want to press charges, we can easily do that.  You know that.  Yes, I know that would mean you'd have to testify but still.  That way she can't hurt anyone else.  And Xander can't go kill her."  He smirked at the kid.  "She said that's not what the Goddess wills."

"Bet me," he snorted.  "She attacked those who're mine.  The Goddess would be cheerleading like Cordy."

Ryan heard the comeback.  "She said that's a really bad image of the Goddess and to get your mind out of the gutter."  He wrote down an address.  "We'll be there in a few minutes, Tara.  I promise.  No, we have him in the car.  We even disarmed him.  Yup, give us a few."  He hung up.  "Tara thinks she's outside the building."

"We can handle that.  Stalking is a crime and they won't have to testify probably.  We can push for them to make a deal."  Esposito changed lanes and flipped on his lights so no one said a thing.  A few blocks later he turned them off and pulled up onto the right street.

Xander pointed.  "That's her if I saw right."

"If not, the one up the street might be," Esposito said.  "Since she's got a shotgun in the open."  They stopped and headed after her.

Xander got out and went to the one he knew was the stalker, staring at her.  She glared.  "What was your plan?  To piss me off enough that I'd make you beg for suicide?"

"She's wrong.  Hunters don't...."

"She's bloodlined," Xander said firmly but quietly.  She flinched.  "Exactly.  You've just pissed me off and probably her ex, Rosenburg, off."  The woman whimpered, staring at him.  "I'd suggest that you turn your ass in to the two nice detectives that didn't want me to bring any weapons."  She attacked and he beat her ass.  She wasn't bad...but he was trained against faster, stronger, more hungry things.  She was still human.

Esposito walked back and pulled her off the pavement one-handed, shoving her at the car.  "Confess and I'll give you a really nice jail cell away from him."

"But..."  She pointed.  "He was fighting too."

"Yeah, and you attacked."  He smirked.  "We know the kid, we know he wouldn't physically attack you first.  Shoot you... but not start a brawl.  Xander, heel."  Xander huffed but moved closer to Ryan.  Who had the other bad girl.  She was trying to flirt with him so he grinned at her.  The hunter shrieked and tried to go after Xander again.  Pity.

Xander kicked her in the jaw, breaking it, making her crumple to the ground.  He looked down at her.  "Did you need something?"  She didn't answer because she was unconscious.  The other bad girl was moaning prettily.  Xander smiled.  "Why did you have a shotgun?"

"There's some blonde bimbo going after my ex and she's mine!"

"Long skirt, shoulder length hair?" Xander asked.  She nodded with a grin.  "That's Tara, who's like my sister.  That one went after Tara earlier to get my attention."  He stared at her.  "We all leave Tara alone before I lose my temper and destroy this city.  Because, artillery pretty, dear."  She whimpered, shifting closer.  "Am I clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good girl."  He kissed her.  "Confess to the nice officers?  They're very nice to me most of the time.  They might even help you get bail so you can see if you want to date me."

She looked back at Ryan.  "It'll be tomorrow for bail unless we had a full confession by four.  It's nearly three-thirty now."  He smiled.  "We love helping Xander date."  His goofy, good boy persona won her over and she decided to tell him all about stalking her ex and taking out a few of her replacements.

Esposito got the other one woken up, staring at her.  "Did you want to attack Xander again?" he asked.  "Or press charges?"

"He's going to have a demon rape me," she mumbled.

"No, he won't.  That would blow poker debts on things other than guns."  He stood her up.  "He only blows those for important things."  Xander smirked.  She whimpered and hid behind him when Tara walked up to them.

Tara looked at the injured woman, then at the insane one, then at Xander.  "I didn't know you were dating."

"Hi, I'm Merrideth, you took my place," she said, smiling at her.

"Oh!  Brandy told me about you."  She shook her hand.  "I'm very sweet to Brandy, and I adore her like the gem she is."  Merrideth pouted.  "She's a wonderful woman and I know why you're stuck on her.  She even puts up with our cats, even though she's allergic."  The other woman slumped but Tara just radiated 'good girl' and 'of course you like me' vibes.  So Merrideth had to give up because she wanted Xander.  The other one was moaning and Tara stared at her.  "Yes?  Did you need something else or were you going to be more rude?  You nearly hurt my cats and I do not allow that."

"You attack her and we'd have to arrest you too," Ryan assured her with a smile.

Tara snorted.  "Not like you could prove how I did it if I did levitate her up a few stories and then let her go."  She smiled at the hunter, making her back up and try to hide inside the nice detective's suit with him.  "You don't touch the Sunnydale team.  We tend to get a bit...mean in our defense, dear."

"Or in the defense of the group," Xander sighed.  "Like a made family."  He hugged her.  "I'll bring the kitties home in a while?"

"We will.  Now that she's been arrested."  She walked off.

"Ya know, I always thought Tara was too sweet to be threatening," Esposito said.

Ryan shook his head.  "Any woman can turn into a tigress if you give them the right shove.  That one... she's got bigger claws."

"And she can use a crossbow," Xander quipped.  "I made sure of it."  He smiled.  The ladies both moaned.  "So, can I go collect my cats?"

"No," Ryan said.  "Car."  He sighed but got into the front.  Ryan, being smaller, got into the back with the bad girls.  Esposito said a prayer for sanity before getting in to drive. Their arrest stats were going to look nice this month at least.


Beckett stared at the two girls being brought in.  "They both attacked Tara?  Sit, Harris."  He sat down with a sigh.

"One was going to, she had a shotgun out in the open," Ryan said.  "She's going to give us all sorts of information so she can make bail and date the kid."

"The other *really* probably wants an ice pack," Esposito offered with a smirk.  "Because she got free and tried to rush Harris.  Who broke her jaw."

The captain came out.  "She got free of...."  Esposito waved his free hand.  "She struggled free?"

"I was in the process of cuffing her."

"I see.  And she just ran at him?"  Xander nodded.  "So he broke her jaw with a punch?"

"No, I kicked her," Xander admitted.  "They pulled me off her the first time."

"Yes we did," Ryan agreed.  He put his into a room and got the other one an ice pack so they could book her.

"Are they pressing charges?" the captain asked.  Both women shook their heads almost frantically when Beckett asked them that.  The captain stared at Xander.  "You're on very thin ice, Harris."

"The other one I didn't know about.  She was stalking her ex, Tara's girlfriend.  That one went after Tara because she's a hunter.  Decided Tara was evil."  He stared at her and she ducked her head, mumbling at Beckett about things.  He looked at the captain again.  "She's like my sister and she wasn't going to press charges."

"She's still refusing to but we did see enough to know that she attacked Harris, Captain," Esposito said.  "The other things we can add to later on depending on what she mumbles in confession."

The captain looked at him.  "How do you get so lucky?  No one in any of the fights you've been in ever wants to press charges."

"That's because most of them are hoping to date him later," Rick joked, staring at him.  Xander shrugged.  "Seriously?"

"It's always been that way.  I have no idea."  He stood up.  "Let me go pick up the cats."

"Sit," Beckett yelled.  Xander sat again with another sigh.

"Here, come talk to the nice reporter for Time," Castle offered, leading him in to talk to her.  She had been packing up.  She spotted him and grinned, pulling back out her tape recorder to interview him.  Rick went to check with Beckett.  "Should we prepare a monitored cell for him?  That way no one on the cellblock wants to make friends that he'll have to beat to death?"

"She's refusing to press charges but I believe I need to talk to the young man about his overprotective nature," she said dryly.

"He's in with the reporter."  He left her to her questioning.  The other had gotten free and was in Xander's lap mugging him.  He pointed.  The guys all shook their heads.  Beckett came to remove her and cuffed her, bringing her back to the same room.  "Xander?" he asked.

"She ran in and pounced," the reporter said.  The guys all nodded.  Including Xander.  "You really do draw bad girls, Alexian."

"Yes I do."  He shrugged and slumped a little bit.  "I have no idea why but it's nice they all love me so much."  He smiled.  "You're not an evil, bad, wicked girl, right?"

"Not likely."  She teased his hand with a grin.  "I can be naughty but not that bad."  He grinned back and they got back to the interview.


Rick woke up with a groan, looking around the room he was in.  For some reason this a Stephen King novel.  On the twin bed next to him was a groaning lump of blanket.  Rick hadn't been covered but they had covered the other one up.  "Beckett?" he hissed, hoping.  No, the groan was a baritone one.  Which meant it could only be one of them, with a high probability on one choice.  "Xander?" he called, getting a grunt.  "Wake up.  Now!"

Xander moved the pillow, showing a lot of bruises.  "What the fuck?"

"No clue," Rick said.  "Are you badly injured?"

"Why am I injured?" he muttered.  He made himself sit up, staring at his leg.  Something was wrong with it.  "Huh," he muttered.  He licked his lips, looking at Rick.  "Broken ankle."  He pointed.

Rick got up carefully to check.  "You may have a few broken bones in your foot too, kid."  He looked at his face, showing it was just bruised and swollen.  "You look like you got into a bar brawl."  Xander shook his head slowly.  "Are you actually awake?"

"Unfortunately.  There's someone in the house?"

"Hopefully.  Right now I'm flashing back to _Misery_," he said quietly.

Xander blinked.  "That's even stranger than would happen to me."

"Maybe, yeah."  He sat down on his bed again.  "What's the last thing you remember?"

"Mmmmmm....."  He let that go for a minute, blinking.  "Driving.  I was picking Tara and Brandy up.  I think.  You?"  He blinked a few times.  "I really need caffeine."

"I know, kid.  The last I knew I was at home.  Maybe pulling into my parking spot, I don't remember walking into the house."  Xander nodded and fell backwards.  Rick shook his head.  "We should try to escape now."

Xander pointed.  "Someone's right there."

"Let us out!" he bellowed.

"Write me something pretty!" a female voice called back.  "Before I do pull a _Misery_ on you!"  She stomped off.

Xander blinked at him.  "This has to be your strangeness since you know him."

"Maybe."  He sighed, looking at him.  "Pain?"

"Tiny bit," he quipped.  "I can probably get up and kick butt if I have to."

"Rest for a few more minutes.  Then we'll work on that later."  Xander nodded, letting himself drift off again.  Rick looked, finding the needle mark.  She had used a pretty big one.  Rick looked, finding his own on his neck by feel of the raised area.  "Someone has to know we're missing by now," he said quietly.  "Alexis was waiting on me at home."  Xander grunted.  "Rest for now, Xander."


Alexis ran into the desk area, skidding into Detective Esposito's back.  "Dad's missing," she panted.

"No, he just left a while ago," he said.

"No!  He's missing!  His car's not parked right in his spot and he's not in it, he never made it from the parking garage upstairs and there's a needle in the backseat!"

"Okay," he said, starting to call people.  "Let's get you back there so we can look over the car.  Have you tried calling him?  Beckett, meet me at Castle's parking spot."  He hung up and walked her down to his car, taking her back there.  He had no idea how she had gotten down to the station.  For all he knew, she might've run.  "Did you call anyone?"

"I tried when I got told by the doorman that he parked wrong and took up extra spots.  It rang in the car."  She looked at her phone, calling someone else.  "Tara, it's me.  Dad's missing.  Can I bum Xander?  He's late picking you up too?" she asked, looking at him.

He took the phone.  "Tara, how late is he?"  He listened, nodding.  "All right.  Meet me at Alexis's parking garage.  With her is fine, yes."  He hung up.  "Do we know if Xander has GPS on his car or phone?"

"He has that nice new phone," Alexis said.  He nodded, driving them to her house through traffic with the lights.  She was seriously worried.  She was fidgeting and twitching.  She knew something was wrong.  "Do you think it's one of Xander's bad girls?"

"No idea yet.  We'll see."  She nodded.  "Calm down.  We need you a bit calm for now.  Tara's going to want to panic and we need you to calm her down too."

"I can do that," she assured him, twitching again.

"It'll be okay.  Remember, your dad and Xander are both survivors."  She nodded quickly.  He pulled into the garage and parked, getting out with her.  "Yeah, that's parked wrong," he said, seeing it halfway pulled in and across two parking spots.  It looked like they had caught him pulling into his spot.  The doorman came over and the detective pulled his badge, getting a smile.  "We have no idea where he is.  Do we have cameras down here?"

"Yes, Detective.  I'll have them pulled."

"Beckett's coming too," Alexis told him quickly.  "Can you tell Grandma, Paul?"

"I can do that, Alexis.  I'm sure he's fine."

She nodded and started to pace.  Tara and Brandy showed up first.  "Tara!"  She pounced her to hug.  "Dad's missing."

Tara sighed, pulling up an app on her really expensive phone that Xander had spoiled her with to type into it.  "Xander's phone is in midtown."  Esposito looked over her shoulder then called that in.  She smiled.  "Thank you."

"Something's clearly wrong."  He walked off talking.  "Ryan's going to check on his car, Tara."  She nodded quickly, holding Brandy's hand while hugging Alexis.  "We'll find them.  You guys know that Xander would kill whoever took him even if Castle didn't."  They all nodded.  Beckett showed up with a cup of coffee, staring at the car.  "Xander may be missing too."

"Okay," she said.  "Anything of note yet?"

"Sixteen gauge needle in the backseat but it's locked.  Alexis, do you have the spare keys?"

"I have my own set."  She got free and ran to the elevator so she could get them.

Becket looked at Tara.  "Where was Xander last?"

"Ryan's looking for his car," he reported.  "She found it by GPS'ing his phone."

"Even better."  She came over to look things over.  "CSU?"

"Waiting on you," he reported.  He called that request in while she got gloves and looked the car over.  He hung up.  "They're on their way.  So is auto to tow the car to the garage."  His phone rang with a text picture.  "Xander's car is wrecked.  Clearly an accident."  He showed them.  Tara stifled a sob.  "I've seen people walk away perfectly unharmed from worse," he assured Tara.

She sighed.  "His airbag is broken!" she complained.  "When the car got broken into last month they stabbed it and it won't come out."

"He's still probably fine, girls," Beckett said calmly.  CSU pulled in.  She pointed.  "Get the needle for testing."  Alexis came off the elevator with the keys.  Her grandmother was following.  "Let's go over where we know they were last," she ordered.  She walked them off to talk to them.  Something was seriously wrong here.

Espsoito helped, they were calming down and he was good at keeping them calm.  Even Martha, who was getting a bit frantic.

Beckett was starting to growl.  This was not a good thing.  Tara was promising to do a location spell but her girlfriend was giving her worried looks about her growling.


Xander was woken by a touch to his sore ankle, glaring at the woman standing there.  "I'm going to fuck up your world," he growled.

"I didn't not make you crash."

"Uh-huh."  He made himself sit up.  "Where's Rick?"

"In the bathroom.  Would you like help there?"

"No."  He got up and limped out, heading for where he could hear water running.

"There's one this way," she offered.  He grunted his thanks as he limped that way.  "Are you sure you wouldn't like some help, Alexian?  I mean, that has to hurt."

He stared at her.  "I've had worse from one night stands."  She blushed and ducked her head, scurrying off.  He found the bathroom, after her room.  And her wallet, which gave him their address, her name, and that they were in the middle of BFE Maine.  How in the hell did they get to Maine?  He took a quick shower, checked himself for more injuries, and availed himself of an ace bandage for his ankle.  He avoided looking at his face because it looked like he had been beaten by a pimp.  Yes, he would know what that looked like but it wasn't intentional and that's all he'd ever admit to on that subject.  When he realized his mental babble was back, he hoped she had caffeine.  He got out of the bathroom and limped back toward civilization.  Kinda.  She was making tea.  "Caffeine?"

"I have tea, Alexian."

Rick looked up.  "You really do look rough."  Xander shrugged and sat down, accepting the tea with a nod.  "He's a hardcore caffeine addict," he warned with a smile.  "So, how did we end up here?"

"Oh, you had car crashes."  She smiled.  "I rescued you from the bad girls that wanted to keep you."

They shared a look then looked at her.  "Thank you," Xander said.  "Where are we?"  He sipped and choked, handing the tea cup back.  "Oh, god, is that hemlock?"  She gaped in awe.  He stared.  "Yeah, kinda had some before, sweetie?  Are we in Maine?"  Her awe got deeper.  He stared back, arms on the table.  "Are you a demon or a human?"

"Human," she said weakly.  "How did you know it was Maine?"

"The trees," Rick said.  "Xander hunts in a lot of places."  Xander nodded.  "We need to get in touch with people.  My daughter and mother will be worried sick.  Do you have our phones?"

"No, sorry.  They didn't have them, Mr. Castle."  He sighed.  "And I don't have a home phone.  I have a prepaid one and I'm out of minutes for the month."

"Is my wallet here?" Xander asked.

"No, they didn't have that either that I saw.  Sorry."  She bounced off to make them food since Xander was so picky.  She bounced back with bowls of cold cereal and milk.  "So, did you guys really not write that dual authors mystery?"  They stared at her, shaking their heads.  "Shoot, I know that some people wanted another."  She bounced off again.  "I have to go to the store.  I'll see if I can find a phone there.  It's a really small town.  Bye."  She fled before they could ask for anything.

Xander sniffed his cereal and ate a bite, nodding.  "No poisons that I can taste."  They ate and went to search the house.  The cellphone they found was unpowered and had no minutes.  Their wallets weren't anywhere.  Rick looked over hers.  There wasn't a charger for the phone.  It wouldn't stay on for more than a second before powering off.  So they had to think about things.  It was cold outside.  There was snow.

They couldn't find their shoes or see the nearest town through the windows.  The wind outside was nasty and bitter.  So they were basically stuck.  They found their original clothes washed and put them on instead of the scrubs she had laid out for them.  Rick checked Xander's ankle but it was fine for now.  Xander stared at Rick, getting a stare back.  "Got any clue beyond hiking out tonight?" he asked quietly.

"No, not really."  He sat beside him.  "Though I'm having _Misery_ flashbacks really hard. By now someone should have missed us and reported us missing."

"If she did rescue us from someone else, that might blur the trail," Xander said.  He listened.  "She's back."  They went to talk to her.  She handed them a few bags of whole wheat bread and vegetables.  Nothing with caffeine.  She was going to be really sorry when Xander started to bite.  Rick too probably.  Unfortunately.  They stared at her.

"The sheriff wasn't in his office.  I guess he went home for the night," she said.  "I tried but there was no one there."

"Then you can give us a ride into town tomorrow," Rick said with a smile.  "That way he's probably going to be there."

"Maybe."  She fixed them a decent dinner and left them alone for a while, going to play on her computer.  She had solitaire and it was her thinking friend.  This wasn't as easy as she had thought it'd be.

Rick and Xander both looked at their dinners and grimaced but ate it.  It wasn't poisoned.  It wasn't good, but it was food and they'd need food if they had to hike off from Misery's vegan cousin.


Beckett got the report on the needle's contents, and the one from Xander's car.  The same sort of drug.  Slightly different, one was the generic and one wasn't.   They found some evidence that showed whoever had pulled them out of the car had gotten a lot of blood from Xander's probable broken nose on them.  They had left little bits of leaves so they were looking at what type they were in case that helped with something.  Right now though, they were all stressed and worrying.  When Captain Montgomery showed back up he looked worried too.  "We have very little," she reported.

Tara looked up from her staring at a map with a crystal in her hand.  "He's not in the city.  He was but he's been gone for over three hours."  They all stared at her.  "You leave a bit of resonance where you were."

"That's not enough to get us a search warrant," Beckett said.

"We can go ask, be casual," Ryan offered.

"Then pounce when they screw up," Esposito agreed.

She nodded, grabbing her jacket.  "Stay," she told Tara.  Tara relaxed and nodded, then got up to clean the break room on them.  Which they'd appreciate a lot.  Especially if she also went to clean the bathrooms for them.  And maybe the locker rooms too.  They got to the address Tara had pinpointed and it was still a mess.  The fire had been put out.  They stared.  The fire crew chief walked over to them.  Beckett held up her badge.  "We had a tip stating two kidnaped males were here, Chief."

He shook his head.  "Three girls.  We did find evidence of a room to hold people in," he said, leading her that way.  "It's still a touch warm but you can walk through."  They nodded, following carefully to the back room area.  Sure enough there was a room with padded walls and two metal chairs with broken handcuffs.  One of the cuffs on each was missing.  They looked around then at him.  "We have no idea beyond it being arson and it smelled like a gas fire."

Beckett called in CSU.  That was not a good thing.

"So, if the guys weren't here, did the person who started the fire rescue them and they're in hiding?" Ryan asked.

"No," Esposito said, shaking his head.  "The warehouse's alarm system hasn't been touched today.  I logged in to check on that."

Beckett nodded.  "Castle would've called us, if his family didn't, as soon as he was out of danger."

"So they're not here in the city," Ryan said.  "Think we can get Tara a bigger map?"

"Yup," she said.  "I'm sure her library has one."  She looked at the fire chief, who looked confused.  "Two authors got taken earlier.  We think they had them here and now we can't figure out where to look for them.  One's roommate is a Wicca sort."

"Ah!"  He nodded with a grin.  "Sometimes they do have hunches."

"I'm hoping so.  Anything you find out, let me know please?"  She handed over her card.

"Of course."  He watched them go, shaking his head.  "Their job's so much harder than ours."  He went back to check on the arson investigator's progress.  "Detective said that room probably held two authors who're missing.  She called in CSU for you."

"That'll help," he agreed.  "They can get things processed faster."  That got a nod and they got back to work.  This wouldn't be the only fire in the city that night.  Unfortunately.


Tara looked at the map.  "Maine," she announced.  "Rural Maine."  They found her a better map and she did the locating thing again.  This time it pinpointed a county.  That gave them a place to start, though the State Police didn't want to work with them all that much.  Tara was still made to stay in the city and act like nothing was going on.  For now.  Brandy was helping her stay calm and take care of the cats.  Paula had Xander's laptop already, just in case.  Tara was cleaning everything in sight to stay calm.  Mostly magically but she was doing a bit of scrubbing physically as well.

Because this totally sucked!


Xander woke up the next morning to the sight of snow.  A lot of snow.  And it being cold.  Rick was in the next bed shivering.  Xander checked.  The window was cracked so he fixed it with some tape he found.  Then he got Rick up and they went to check on their hostess.  No strange, creepy female.  No car.  No electric.  Xander looked out and sighed, going to find something resembling boots so he could check the meter.  He knew how to hotwire one if necessary.  He came back in twenty minutes later stamping his good foot.  "It was shut off at the meter.  Not officially but off.  I checked the water too, turned it back on.  And the gas."  He sat down in one of the kitchen chairs.

"Thankfully you know all that construction stuff," Rick said.  "Any other indications we were left here to die?"

"Letter in the mailbox," he said, handing it over.  Rick stared at the short note saying she was moving.  "We should scrawl another one to say that we're trapped out here."

"We should," Rick said, finding a pen and some paper to do that.  Xander took it back out there and put up the flag before limping back in.  The boots hadn't fit Rick so he had to wait inside.  They settled in because they had some food.  And Rick had miraculously found some coffee.  Really old stale coffee.  They warmed up and went to check her room.  All her clothes were gone.  All her girl stuff was gone.

Xander found something in a drawer and looked at it.  "Charger," he announced.

Rick plugged it in and the phone on it.  He waited a minute then called 911, getting an out of service message.  "We're in one of the few areas where there isn't one."

"Dial the operator?" Xander offered.  He took it to do that.  It brought him to a customer service rep.  "Ma'am, we're stranded in a cabin in the middle of Maine and could use a bit of help but 911 isn't working out here," he said.  "Is there any way you can alert someone for us?"  He sat on the bed, listening to her.  "No, ma'am, this phone was left without minutes in the place our kidnaper left us.  Yes, she was.  I don't know," he admitted.  "The last I knew I was in New York City.  Please?"  She handed the call to a manager because she didn't want to deal with it.  Rick took over, pacing a little bit while they talked.  Then they settled in to wait when the supervisor said she'd call the NYPD for them and report that information.  Including the phone number where they were.  It probably had GPS.  She had talked Rick over how to turn it back on.   Then they went to eat breakfast and stare at the snow coming down really hard.


Beckett grabbed her desk phone when it rang.  "Beckett."  She listened.  "Please do," she agreed.  She took down notes.  "Maine, okay, we knew that part.  Yes, please if you can give me the GPS coordinates and the phone number?"  That was given over.  "Thank you.  Yes, they are kidnaping victims.  Thank you, ma'am."  She hung up.  "Got a GPS.  She's flagged the number so it can't be switched to another phone."  Ryan took it to look up and they stared at the local weather forecast video.  "A blizzard, great."

"Who called?" the captain asked as he joined them.

"A customer service manager for the phone's company.  Apparently it was out of minutes when it was left for them.  Whoever took them from the original kidnapers, and Castle called her a vegan cousin to Misery, abandoned the place they're in."

"Which is having a blizzard," Esposito noted.

"Can we get hold of the local officers?" the captain asked.

"They didn't want to listen," Beckett said.  She grabbed some things.  "I'm heading up there.  Blizzard or not."  They nodded, letting her go.  "Tell Tara we found them."

"Yup, sure will," Ryan agreed, calling her to calm her down.  Then Alexis to calm her down.  They settled in to figure out how they could help from their desks.  This was not going to be a happy reunion.  "Would a vegan have coffee?" he suddenly asked.  The captain gave him an odd look.  "Harris is a caffeine whore, he calls himself that."

"I'm hoping they have some.  If not, he might bite," the captain sighed.  "But he'll apologize since she's rescuing them."  He went to call uptown to let them know that they had been located, even if it was a bit problematic.


Tara joined Beckett that night.  "What sort of problems are we having?" she asked.

"Weather related.  Are you a detective too?" the State Police Chief asked with a smile.

"No, I'm Tara.  I'm from the Sunnydale team."  He shuddered.  "How far away are we?"

"Three days from the end of the storm," Beckett said.  "We can't get there in these conditions."

"I don't know much weather magic," she admitted.  "I can look it up."  She pulled out her phone to do that, talking to Willow and Wesley at the same time.  If anyone knew something about the problem, they might.  "Aw, Miranda started to babble the other day instead of moan."

Beckett smiled at her.  "That's always fun."

"She'll be walking in a few months.  Willow's hating that though.  She wants a cuddly thing."

"She can have more."

"She knows.  She might.  She's not sure they can afford another one since Daniel won't let her hack the mafia sorts any more."  They didn't have much on weather magic to abate a blizzard.  They'd look it up and call later.


Rick and Xander both stared at the phone when it rang.  Rick answered it.  "Tell me we're being rescued?" he begged.  He put it on speaker and plugged back in the charger.

"Ryan thoughtfully added some minutes to the phone," Beckett reported.  "He said you owe him twenty bucks when we finally escape the blizzard.  Tara's saying that it's moving our way so we're not sure if we'll be able to get out for a few days ourselves.  Do you guys have food?"

"Yeah, we have some," Xander told her.  "She got us whole wheat crap and veggies.  There's very little coffee."

"We're going insane.  We've even stooped to writers games."  Xander whimpered. "How long do you think?" Rick asked.

"Within two days your part of the blizzard is supposed to end," she said.  "But it's coming our way so we may be trapped for a bit."

"Tara, do the wind thing to shift it," Xander said.  Beckett repeated that to her.  She apparently went to try it.

"Wow, it shifted the local wind.  She's trying higher up and it's working some too.  The clouds are moving on.  She'll work on it after the phone call she just got.  Xander, try not to bite Castle for the lack of caffeine."

"I'll try," he sighed.  "When we get home, I'm *so* having the hugest meat platter I can find, even if Tara does scowl at me."

"I'm sure you will," she agreed dryly.  "We'll try to be there shortly after the storm ends.  How are you two doing beyond that?"

"She had turned off the utilities but Xander got them back on," Rick told her.  "We have no shoes.  We found a pair of her boots that Xander could fit but I couldn't.  His ankle's broken but he's managing it well, and the bruises."

"He had a car crash.  They darted him as he was driving and he hit the corner of a building.  She burned the people who had you."

"She packed up and left in the middle of the night," Xander said.  "Including leaving a note in the mailbox that she was moving."

"All right.  Do we know anything about her?"  Rick recited what was on her license.  "Got it.  You guys sit tight.  Use a single text to make people quit worrying please.  Your mother has started to call every few minutes, Castle."  She hung up.

Rick did send his daughter and mother a text message each.  He looked at Xander.  "I saw what looks like a root cellar sort of basement on the west wall.  Want me to squeeze into the boots and go check?"

"With our luck it'll house torture equipment but I can."

"You need to stay off your ankle."  He went to get the boots and heavy overshirts they had so he could go outside.  It was bitterly cold but they needed to know.  They only had food for the next three days.  He managed to get the things open and made it inside, which meant it was warmer and damper but without wind.  He found the overhead bulb and turned it on, staring at the heads on the walls.  "Huh."  He looked.

The stuff in the freezer was bad.  It smelled bad.  He couldn't find anything that didn't smell bad.  The whole basement smelled like rotten meat and it was seriously making his head hurt.  He found one thing and looked.  A really old half bottle of Mountain Dew.  He found the taxidermy supplies.

He found a locked room and looked.  Squashes and other root vegetables.  He found the latch to the kitchen and opened it from there, startling the kid.  "We have root veggies and a lot of very spoiled meat."  He handed off the bottle.  "It's been down here forever it looks like by the dust."

"So any germs are probably dead."  He carefully slid down the ladder to look.  "Are these still good?"

Rick thumped, nodding.  "Probably.  We can try a few of them.  They carried them upstairs.  Xander had carefully cleaned off the bottle and sniffed it, grimacing.  "Is it soda?"

"Maybe.  I can't be real sure."  He put it in the fridge for now.  He went back down to look and found something.  "She dried some."

"It still smelled off."

"Maybe I have a cold then."  He kept looking, finding something.  He found the skull.  He came back up and called.  "Beckett, Xander.  I found a human skull in her root cellar.  A lot of rotten meat, some animal heads, and a skull behind the taxidermy equipment.  Yup.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "I'm sure the local officers are going to swear."

"Probably."  He split one of the melons, staring at it.  "A bit dried out but still good."  Xander relaxed.  That solved some of the food problems.  Rick managed food and they sat down to nibble.   It wasn't the most tasty thing he'd ever made but it was okay.  They could survive on it.


Beckett hung up on the second call.  "Harris found a human skull in their root cellar."  The liaison officer moaned, shaking his head.  "And a lot of spoiled meat."

"Damn it."

"He also found taxidermy equipment."

"Even better."  He sighed.  "Weather reports are saying if we move tonight we'll have a day stranded on the way there but if we don't move tonight we'll be stranded for the next week probably."  She nodded, going to gather Tara, who was moving the storms away from them.  He followed.  The clouds whipping past was a pretty sight.  "Will that hurt somewhere else?"

"It'll move it on faster but it shouldn't.  There's a huge stalled spot closer to the coast and it'll make that move on so they might get a less severe storm and it'll stall out over the ocean again."  She looked at him.  "I got a head's up from someone else with visions and he told me where to move it to."

"That's fine then.  As long as it won't hurt anyone."

She shook her head.  "It shouldn't."  He smiled.  "I am the ethical one of the two on the team," she said quietly.

"You are and we've always liked that about you," Beckett said to calm her down.  "We're going tonight."

"I've done all I can anyway.  It can have longer reaching effects if I leave it too long."  They went to the officer's Jeep SUV.  Tara was praying for strength.  This could be really bad.  "We'll need caffeine for Xander."

"He'll be fine for a few minutes," Beckett promised.  Tara nodded.  "They've had some light coffee rations."

"Oh, good.  Otherwise he'd be at the painful stage of chewing on people for lack of it.  I'd hate it if he made Rick cry."

Beckett looked back at her.  "I doubt he could."

Tara looked at her.  She shook her head.  "I don't."

"He'll be fine."  She nodded, accepting that.


Back in New York, the minions were having an argument about a case.  They had no idea how to deal with the thing that Faith said was a soul eater.  She had popped up to warn them and taken them when she went to defeat them and free their food stores.  But one of the teenagers was possessed.  They had no idea how to handle that.  Faith mentally sighed and whistled.  "Get the guy who treated Red or T's aunt's coven?  You'll probably need both."

One called the store, the other called the Church Xander had told him to call.  "Is Father Morgan there please?" Ryan asked politely, walking a bit away.  "Father...  No, actually I needed the other Father Morgan, Father.  No, I'm a police detective and I have a clearly possessed person here actually.  Well, the person I'd normally call is trapped in Maine for a while.  Please."  He put him on hold and got the other one.  Who had a much deeper, booming voice.

"Father Morgan, Detective Ryan, 12th Precinct.  I'm with the slayer Faith helping her stop some soul eaters so we can free their pantry of teenagers.  We have one that jumped into one of the teens.  Exactly, yes.  We're calling Tara's aunts' coven to come help if that'll be okay?"  He smiled at his partner, who nodded.  He read off the address.  "Thank you.  Basement.  We'll do that."  He hung up.  "He said put a salt ring around her?"

Faith nodded, looking around.  "What salt?"

"Good point."  He called in that they had the kids that needed transported and he needed salt.  "No, rock salt, sea salt, just salt.  Thanks."  He hung up.

Esposito hung up.  "Her aunt's on her way."  Faith nodded.  They went to help with the other teenagers.  They were all shaken and quiet, huddling together.  "C'mon, busses are coming for you guys."  Officers came down the stairs.  "Salt to the pretty brunette helping us.  Ambulances for these ones."  They got that going and CSU coming too.  He stopped one pointing at the pile of dirty shadow in a corner.  "The slayer we have called it a soul eater," he said quietly.

"Okay.  So the kids were snacks."  He nodded.  "That other one?"

"One jumped into him.  We have people coming to deal with it."

"Okay."  He moved to the cells first.  They could shovel those things into a bag later on as long as they didn't come back to life.

Ryan went upstairs.  "Guys, we're expecting an older lady and a priest," he said quietly.  They nodded, letting him go back to handle everything else.   The priest got there first, as they were pouring the salt lines.

"You didn't travel with any?" he guessed.

"Had no idea we should," Esposito admitted.

"I've heard it can help with spirit things," Faith admitted.  "That's not something they teach us girls.  For that, ask the hotty brothers that B wants to pounce hard."

The priest stared at her.  "You're not the slayer."

"I am one of the two of us," she said smugly.  "Faith."

"We heard."  He shook her hand.  "You are...."

"Of course.  I'm on assignment here actually."

"Good.  The locals could use the asskicking sometimes.  What happened exactly?"  Tara's aunt came down the stairs.  "Ma'am."

"Black Morgan.  How did they find you?"

"Xander," Faith said.  "He helped Red."

"Ah!  So that's who kicked Willow around until she straightened out again."  They got to work on the poor thing.  She was doing containment and helping support the body magically so it wouldn't be destroyed while he did the exorcism.  "Three times and they're stuck for good," she reminded him.

"I remember."  He got back to the first attempt.  He had moved into the oldest exorcism they had and the strongest.   The officers were watching.  A lot of smoky crud came out of him and he choked.  Tara's aunt helped him so he wouldn't choke to death.  He tested him with holy water.  "I got most of it I believe but we'll need better containment."  Faith killed the smoke with something.  "Pretty."

"My birthday present from boytoy."  She smirked.  "Can we move this to the coven?  Would that help?"

"It would," he agreed.  He looked at her.

"We wouldn't mind working with you, Father.  You're not the sort to burn those of us who're good."

"Then we shall.  We need to transport them safely."

"We kept an ambulance waiting," the officer watching from the doorway said.  He waved them in and they went with the poor kid. He looked at Ryan and Esposito.  "Is that you guys' job now, Detectives?"

"No," they said in unison.

"We're subs.  Harris is out of town on a kidnaping," Ryan said dryly.  "Faith," he said with a nod at her.  "Trusts us because Harris did over a few girlfriend issues he had."

"Huh.  Okay.   So is it call Harris or the library still?"

"That's fine," Faith agreed.  She wrote hers on his hand.  "Prepaid and all but that's actually my full job, not theirs."  He grinned.  She pinched him on the cheek.  "I'd break you but you look tasty."

He blushed.  "My wife thinks so too, miss.  I'll let that be quietly known."  He left.  It was an unofficially known thing that some people dealt with those sort of issues and who did it.  Since those two were subs they were probably on the early end of the training.

Faith looked around before setting fire to the demonic remains.  "There, a pretty bonfire."  They burned themselves out and the CSU gave her a horrified look.  "We don't need 'em back, people."  She walked off.  "Thanks, boys, it was fun."

"Thanks for letting us know," Ryan said, waving at her back.  He looked at his partner.  "Minimum of paperwork and a beer?"

"Or six," he agreed, walking off.  Ryan followed.  They could seriously use the beer.

The CSU people finished up fairly quickly, hoping to find traces of other missing teenagers.  The city had all together too many of them.


They had to stop overnight to let the storm pass over them, and Beckett put it on the NYPD charge account.  She could turn in the papers for that.  Her captain had agreed.  Tara was clearly up all night pacing.  Or she'd had a fight with her girlfriend.  She looked exhausted.  They made it to the house a few hours after they could leave, finding it quiet.

Xander opened the door.  "Save us, oh great heroic woman sorts?" he called.  "Before I bite him!  He's going into Dad mode and stuff!"

"Shut up, Xander."  Rick came to the door too.   "We have plastic bags for the short walk over the snow."

Tara handed over socks.  "He doesn't have winter boots I could find."

"I usually wear hiking boots if I need to," Rick muttered.  They put on the heavy socks, the plastic bags and Tara helped Xander out to the SUV.  Rick followed after closing the door.  They settled into the back with Tara between them.  "Okay, we're good."

"Did she leave a note saying she was moving?" the officer asked.

"In on the table so we could glare at it," Xander said.  "We left one in the post box."  He checked, the flag was still up.

Beckett shook her head.  "No clue."  She went to get that one.  The officer got the other note.  "Which way was she heading?"

"Back toward town and then the highway if she was local.  If not, same way but she wouldn't know about the shortcut to the closer on-ramp.  We can check."  They got back in and she turned to look at them.  "You two need medical care?" he asked.

"My ankle's not swollen and I bummed an ace bandage that first night to wrap it.  The snow packs have helped the bruising a lot too."

Beckett nodded.  "Your car looks bad too."

"Figures.  How did she get us up to Maine so fast?"

"She said she wasn't demonic," Rick agreed.

"No clue," Tara admitted.  "I couldn't find any residual magic anywhere."  She hugged Xander, getting a cuddle back.  "You're chilly."  The officer turned up the heat as he drove off.  She looked.  "There's a car over the edge," she said with a point.  They backed up to look.

Rick got out to look.  "That's her."  He got back in.  "She's dead."

"Not an issue I care about," Xander admitted.  He blinked a few times.  She snuggled in harder and he soaked up her warmth.

The officer called that in and that the root cellar had a reported skull and a lot of rotten meat.  That got the locals out there to check on things.  He went to talk to the local sheriff, who said no one had lived there for years.  Apparently he was wrong.  He took her information from the license and her crash scene too.  Their liaison officer got back in and drove them back to the local state police station.  Beckett arranged things to get them home and Xander treated to dinner that night.  Including a huge plate of meat and as much soda as he could inhale.  He'd be sick later but oh well.  Rick was enjoying a good steak too.

They'd survived, creeped each other out, and then gotten better.  Which meant they could now push back at the people who thought they might be closer than their mentor relationship.




Xander walked up to Rick six weeks later, patting him with the envelope.  "Paula has me running errands for her."

"What's that?"

"Your last royalty check, though she said it's only the deposit ticket because she had it sent to the bank for you."  He stared at him.

"Why are you doing that?"

"She made me and I am a slave to the woman who pays me," he said dryly.  "Also because there's IRS agents all over the office and apparently her holding our checks is bad for them."

"Oh."  He took it to look at.  "She even sent it to the right account, I'm impressed."  He put it into his back pocket.  "It's weird she has you doing it like you're the wife," he said dryly.

"I had to pick up one of mine and I had to refute that I could bring your poker buddy that we share her with theirs.  She wants you to call him by the way.  She quipped I was the nicer sort who could be a fluffy housewife."

"Why are they being audited?" Beckett asked casually.

"One of the other people in the office embezzled," Xander said dryly.  "Or so she hissed.  She said if they caught her holding checks for more than a week she could get into trouble."  Rick walked off calling them.  "Hence her using me like I'm the girlfriend or something."  He shrugged.  "That other one is coming out next month," he called after him.  "The higher ups said so."  He walked off.  His errands were done and he had to deposit the check and pay the phone bill.  Plus help Tara move her dresser to the new apartment she and Brandy were sharing.  And he needed to pick up new kitty toys for their spoiled horde of cats.  Brandy being allergic meant he got to keep them all.

Beckett shook her head.  Rick came back.  "She okay?"

"She's fine.  He's laughing that she wanted Xander to be the courier.  Had a whole 'Xander does espionage' thought."  He sat down.  "Did you hear, the girls are moving in together."

"Alexis?" Ryan asked.

"Tara," he corrected.  "She and Brandy have a nice place near the library, which is in a semi-bad neighborhood.  I'm told Xander's already broken the arm of one mugger who was trying Brandy."  He smirked.  "So they're moving this weekend."

"Who's getting custody of the cats?" Esposito asked.

"He is.  Brandy's allergic."  The guys smirked and Ryan collected five bucks.  "Tara might get her way and get a puppy though."  Beckett snickered. "So we'll get to see Xander start dating again."

"I'll make sure I have that form saved so we only have to redo certain parts," Esposito said, getting into the last one to save it down as a template.

"His current one is into something but I can't figure out what," Rick told him.

Ryan was calling.  "Xander, buddy, who're you dating?" he asked.  He listened.  "Why are you dating a smuggler and tell me it's not drugs?"  He apparently snorted and reminded him he hated drugs.  "Good, so weapons, jewels, or people smuggling?"  He made notes.  "Interesting.  Does she know you're telling us?"  He smirked at his partner.  "That's fine.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "She dared him to tell us she's smuggling information and the occasional weapon or jewels.  Sometimes art.  Apparently it's more exciting for her and she goes to interrupt his muses more often in a better way when she's got that bit of excitement."

"Name?" Beckett asked dryly.  He handed it over.  They got into her profile and talked to the people in Robbery, which irked Castle because Demming got to show back up.

Later that night they showed up at Xander's to bust her, Castle having handed over his emergency key.  They snuck in and heard her squealing and 'oh, Xander'ing over and over.

Xander looked back.  "Give me a few."  He finished her off and let himself get off then sighed.  "There."  He grinned.  "Dear, you wanted a vacation?"

She smiled, waving limply at them.  "I'll tell you about the CIA guy who had me smuggling fake art if you help me change identities, Beckett."

She stared at her.  "We'll see.  Get dressed."  She tossed her something.  She got up and put it on, and stepped into her heels, winking at Xander before they cuffed her and walked her out.  "You could've just told us."

"Then they would've known."  She smirked once they were outside the building.  "Xander's rep is very good but I had no idea he was *that* good to his ladies.  I might have to come back and hit that again."  She let herself be put into the car.

The officers came out.  "Are we arresting him?" the lead officer asked.

"No, we can't arrest him for dating," Beckett said.  "Even if he does date deadly things."  They pouted.  "It's a well known problem.  We're trying to find him someone a little bit dangerous but nice to stay with for a while."

"She's nicer than his last one," Esposito pointed out dryly.  "That one killed four people."

"True.  This one hasn't killed anyone in New York yet."  The others moaned.

"We have forms about his dating as a template," Ryan quipped with a grin.  The others went back to their truck and drove off.  He got into the back, they got into the front, and it was another night of interrogation and planning.  Using the kid that way wasn't nice but Xander probably knew and clearly took the time to enjoy it.

The End.