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They try to talk him out of it.

“It’s too dangerous,” Duke says.

“I help solve murders in New York every day,” he says, “or at least I used to. I have the skills to help you!”

“Oh, really? Have you ever faced animals -- dead ones, stuffed and mounted -- that came back to life?”

Castle’s eyes light up. “No, but it sounds amazing!”

“Yeah? They killed everyone in their path.”

“Well, yes, that is a bummer. Have you had a serial killer who deliberately tortured and murdered their victims?”

They pause and think about it.

“Well,” Nathan says, “no.”

“Trust me, those psychos you don’t want. At least your killers don’t mean to kill, and really, if they could learn to control their Troubles, they would be so cool!”

“Cool?” Nathan snaps. “I have no sense of touch. How ‘cool’ is that?”

“That’s...unfortunate, yes, but at least it doesn’t kill anybody. I assume you have somebody check you over on a regular basis? Make sure you don’t have some festering boil on your backside that’s slowly killing you?”

Nathan and Audrey shoot rapid-fire glances at each other even as he stammers, and says “No,” then glares at Duke’s rude, jeering laughter.

Castle grins, his eyes sparkling. “Wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Hey!” Audrey says, raising her hands in protest. “Don’t look at me! That’s taking this whole partner thing a little too far!”

There’s a quick flash of hurt in Nathan’s eyes, and an answering apology in Audrey’s, but there’s a flicker of something else in her eyes, too: fear and uncertainty and an indecipherable knowing, and Castle wonders what’s holding her back, besides the Troubles themselves. Then again, she’s a woman who has been to Haven many times, in many different guises, over centuries probably, and if he thought his relationship with Beckett was complicated, it was a walk in the park compared to Audrey and Nathan...and Duke, judging from the resigned expression on Duke’s face.

Castle’s fingers twitch.

Stories.

~~~~~

In the end, he wears them down with his wit, charm, intelligence...and reminding them that he is a world-famous author, and if he dies in Haven, the entire world would descend on the town, and if being hounded by the paparazzi didn’t trigger a multitude of Troubles, he didn’t know what would.

Not to mention the havoc Beckett, Alexis and - dear God - his mother would wreak on the place.

The three semi-reluctant allies look at each other with resigned expressions, and give in, just like he knew they would.

~~~~~

His first case involves an ice Trouble, with people being found, frozen solid. They’re fragile, too, shattering when dropped, something they discover at the first crime scene when one of the paramedic’s hands slip and the body falls to the ground with a crash, pieces spinning off in all directions.

They stare at the fragmented remains, then Castle says, “You know, this isn’t all that different from what I see in New York.”

~~~~~

Castle peppers them with questions during their small moments of peace, sitting in the Grey Gull or on Duke’s boat, at the precinct or in Audrey’s apartment above the bar.

“Have you had a Bigfoot?” he asks.

They frown, thinking, then shake their heads.

“Oh.” He pouts. He’s been harbouring a faint hope of such a Trouble. He wanted to take a picture with the person in full Bigfoot mode and gleefully wave it in Beckett’s face. Not that she’d believe it, of course. She’d just assume it was a cosplay, but at least he would know the truth.

“We have mermaids,” Nathan offers. “Well, mermen, actually, but still.”

Castle immediately brightens. “That’s awesome! Have you ever talked to them about what that’s like, to live under the sea? How do they survive?”

“They’re mermen,” Duke says, “that means they can breathe water.”

Castle waves away his comment. “Yes, yes, yes, but how do they eat? What do they eat? How do they protect themselves from predators? How do they sleep? Where do they sleep? How do they see?” His eyes and voice become dreamy. “What’s it like, to be one with the ocean? Does it feel like flying as they swim beneath the waves? Can’t you see them, gracefully moving through the water, almost dancing as they explore a world we’ve barely glimpsed, the light coming through in ways we can’t even imagine.” His voice drops to a whisper. “It must be beautiful...”

There’s suspended silence as he drifts away, his eyes staring off into the distance as he dreams of swimming beneath the waves with nothing between him and the ocean in which all life began.

He blinks, glances at the others and smiles sheepishly. “The stories they could tell,” he sighs.

Nathan frowns. “Hadn’t thought of it like that before,” he mutters.

Duke nods, his dark eyes wide. “I love the ocean, but never considered there may be something beautiful in that particular Trouble. Other than being able to avoid all the others, that is.”

Audrey watches Castle, a thoughtful expression on her face. “You know,” she says slowly, “you may be a good addition to our team after all.”

He smirks and preens. “Well, you’ve got me now,” he says, “at least for the summer.”

~~~~~

Castle’s both thrilled and amused. No matter how outlandish his theory, the real Trouble always seems to trump him. He’s used to that, of course, since his theories during a case are always trumped by reality, but it knocks him a little off balance to be trumped by something even more bizarre than his theories rather than something ordinary, like greed or jealousy or psychopathy.

As he’s watching dolls--innocent, harmless dolls--moving on their own and with murderous intent, he realizes two things: one, he now has an unhealthy phobia of dolls, and two, if he could only tie in a government conspiracy, he could die a happy man.

He floats the idea at the Grey Gull one day, but it’s shot down simply because the Troubles began so long ago.

He pouts, then brightens. “Aliens!”

~~~~~

Castle likes his new-found friends, and respects them, too.

Audrey is tough as nails, yet compassionate, and she reminds him of Beckett in all the best ways. Audrey is a little less prone to ball-busting, but not afraid to do it, either, if necessary. There’s an underlying vulnerability, too, that makes her courage and dedication to helping the Troubled even more remarkable.

Duke is a rogue and a smuggler, comfortable with being a little outside the law, and fighting a losing battle against the side of him that’s determined to be a hero. Castle also likes him for the twinkle in his eye and the danger that lurks behind his charming facade.

Nathan is deadpan, vulnerable, reticent and sometimes socially awkward, but as dedicated to helping the Troubled as Audrey. Castle admires his staunch loyalty to her and is amused by his stubborn refusal to admit his loyalty extends to Duke as well.

The three together are combustible and unstoppable, and he admires their bravery, their dedication to helping the Troubled, and their shared desire to save the town. They’re also utterly charming, and Castle hopes they’ll all make it out of the Troubles alive.

~~~~~

Castle proves valuable, of course.

His sharpshooting saves them from the dolls, and when the corpses begin being found with human bite marks, it’s Castle who suggests the idea of the walking dead.

They consider the suggestion, then Duke says, “I guess there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Trouble that raises people from the dead.”

Castle’s eyes light up. “This town is the best!”

His tune changes dramatically when they come face to face with the zombies. Classic ones. Shuffling, brain craving, mindlessly killing, really-reanimated-corpses zombies, who, Castle notes, are a lot faster in real life than the mythology suggests.

As they’re running for their lives, Nathan yells, “How do you like them now?”

“At a distance!” Castle yells back and puts on a spurt of speed.

But he’s the one who knows all the zombie lore, and he is surprisingly accurate. After they pinpoint the person with the Trouble, and Audrey soothes them into realization and acceptance that they’re the one responsible for the zombie apocalypse, and the last of the zombies is dispatched, the four of them retreat to the Grey Gull for some well-deserved drinks.

“You know,” Castle says after they’ve clinked their glasses in exhausted relief and he’s smacking his lips in appreciation of Duke’s finest scotch, “I own a bar, too. The Old Haunt, in New York. If you ever need a break, you should come visit.”

Audrey smiles. “What would you tell your friends and family about us?”

“I know lots of people,” he says casually, “it’s how I write as well as I do. You’ll be cops and robber,” Duke raises his glass in mock salute, “from a small town in Maine. Nobody needs to know more than that.”

“And if they overhear us reminiscing about that time we hunted zombies?”

“I talk about zombies all the time.” He pauses, then shrugs. “Although maybe not as often after this.” He grins. “The offer’s open. Just let me know when you want to visit.”

~~~~~

Castle’s a talker. Always has been. He’s used to being the centre of attention wherever he goes. But Castle also listens, and he has a skill at creating trust with those who never trust anyone. He’s used it in the past with members of the mafia and the CIA, listening with genuine interest and without judgement. It’s part of what makes him who he is, so when he talks to the Troubled, he’s naturally curious, naturally empathetic, and looks at their Troubles with different eyes and expectations.

Even the Teagues brothers soften towards him and tell him more than they’ve ever told any outsider before. Vince and Dave can’t explain to themselves or each other why they trust him, but they do, and allow him unprecedented access to their newspaper’s archive. He spends several ecstatic days there, and the only blemishes on his boyish enjoyment is the fact that Kate’s not with him, and Alexis has been too busy in Costa Rica for more than a few short phone calls.

There are a few tense moments with Nathan, Duke and Audrey when he goes to speak to the Rev and his followers, but really, how could he not talk to them? A religious group of Havenites without Troubles, who believe the Troubled are cursed and need to be destroyed? Sometimes, you just can’t make this shit up.

When he’s confronted by members of the Guard, a group of Troubled people who protect the Troubled from people like the Rev, he’s almost overwhelmed with glee, even as he’s thoroughly intimidated by the blonde giant named Dwight, who could give Esposito a run for his money in the bad ass department. Castle manages to charm them, too, of course, or perhaps he just confuses them. Nah, he scoffs to himself, of course, he charms them. No one’s immune, after all, and he’s sure even Captain Gates will come around...in another twenty or thirty years.

He visits Marian Caldwell, whose emotions influence the weather, and he makes her laugh--actually laugh--about her Trouble (‘You could make a fortune, hiring yourself out for outdoor weddings! Or as a rainmaker out in California, so long as you don’t cause any mudslides, anyway. And how awesome is it to have a picnic whenever you want and know it’s never going to rain?’).

Castle goes to the mermen’s family, the Glendowers, and gently interviews the women and girls left behind. He’s momentarily interrupted by another instance of being in the middle of a song, but it’s over almost as soon as he realizes what’s going on.

The Glendowers don’t even blink. It’s Haven, after all, and any Trouble that doesn’t kill half the bystanders is a good Trouble.

When it’s time for Castle to leave, he shakes their hands and hugs the children, then asks, “Would it be all right if I were to visit the men in your family?”

The women reel back.

“Visit them? They’re underwater!” says Gwen Glendower, the current matriarch of the family.

“I can get scuba gear,” he says, “and a board to write on.” He looks at the women and girls standing in front of him, and his eyes are sad. “It must be hard for them, not knowing how you are or what’s going on.”

“They won’t talk to you.”

“But I can leave them a message.” He makes a sudden decision. “I’ll bring some supplies out as soon as I can get them, and I’ll leave your messages, too.” He looks around. “Does anybody else know how to scuba dive?”

Gwen glances at the others then tentatively raises her hand.

“We’ll go together,” he says.

And they do, several days later. While Nathan, Audrey and Duke are struggling to stop a Trouble that’s shorting out the power grid, Castle and Gwen are beneath the waves, leaving messages of love for those who cannot yet come home.

~~~~~

Castle sits in his hotel room at night and writes.

He writes about shame and loss and trauma. He writes about bravery and endurance and determination. He writes about love and laughter and trust so deep it can never be broken. He writes about loneliness and lost souls. He writes about fear. He writes about happiness. He writes about the bonds of family, those that are forged by blood, those that are forged by necessity, and those that are forged by choice.

He writes, and it’s the best work he’s ever done.




Part Three                                   Part Five

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Quotes

"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need...fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little --"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

-- Susan and Death in Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

"And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based."

-- Lord Vetinari in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.

-- Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

As a wizard, it was something that Ponder had only before encountered in acorns: a tiny soundless voice which said, yes, I am but a small, green, simple object - but I dream about forests.

-- Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

In the 24th century, there will be no hunger. There will be no greed. And every child will know how to read.

-- Gene Roddenberry, as repeated by Jonathan Frakes in the documentary How William Shatner Changed the World

---------------------

We've got two lives, one we're given and the other one we make
And the world won't stop, and actions speak louder
Listen to your heart, and what your heart might say
Everything we got, we got the hard way.

-- Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Hard Way from the album Come On, Come On

---------------------

Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

-- John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change from the album Continuum

---------------------

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, "I'll try again tomorrow."

-- Mary Anne Radmacher, as seen in Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Tales to Inspire

---------------------

I never loved the soldier
Until there was a war.
Or thought about tomorrow
'til my baby hit the floor.
I only talk to God
When somebody's about to die.
I never cherished freedom
Freedom never cries.

-- Five for Fighting, Freedom Never Cries from the album Two Lights

---------------------

It may sound absurd: but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed: but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream

-- Five for Fighting, Superman (It's Not Easy) from the album American Town

---------------------

Had a dream last night took a time travellin' ride
Back to my childhood where those monsters reside
They snack on innocence and dine on self-esteem
But I like to be in touch with what makes me scream
Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
These are the things that terrify me the most.
No alien, psychopath or MTV host
Scares me like vampires,mummies and the Holy Ghost.

-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost from the album Fruitcakes

---------------------

"I want to believe that... the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us... as part of something greater than us - greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what's speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves."

-- Fox Mulder, The X-Files from the episode The Truth, pt. 2
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