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The days tick past.

Kate’s still incommunicado, his mother’s still on the road and ‘having the time of my life, darling! You really must see the show, it’s amazing!’ Alexis, when he manages to catch her at a good time, is having the time of her life, too, although Castle is beginning to worry about her newfound obsession with pie. Ryan and Esposito are busy with cases, and Lanie is busy helping them. In spite of his new friends and the never-ending excitement in Haven, Castle’s still feels a little lonely and a little disheartened that the people he loves the most and spends the most time with don’t seem to miss him when he’s not around.

He immediately dismisses the thought, because he is, after all, Richard Castle, and optimism is his middle name, and really, one should always look on the bright side of life, and that makes him laugh because, of course, Monty Python, and he begins to whistle. He stops abruptly, wondering if he’s thinking of the song because he’s thinking about it, or because whoever’s Trouble has attached itself to him is manifesting once more. He’s reassured when he realizes he’s not tied to a cross in a robe, so he assumes it’s really him, and goes back to whistling the tune on his way to the police station.

He’s waiting for the light to change, and he’s looking around, bright-eyed and curious, when his gaze falls on a familiar, unfortunately round girl, waiting on the opposite side of the street and once again wearing orange. They pass in the middle of the street, and Castle, being Castle, grins and says, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” He catches a glimpse of the same haunting sadness in her eyes before she blushes and looks at the ground.

He’s in full, blindingly white armour, his horse a fiery - literally – chestnut by the time he arrives at the police station, to find Nathan, Duke and Audrey rushing out the door. They stop in their tracks and stare at him with almost identical deadpan expressions.

“How are you keeping it going?” Nathan asks.

“By not reacting to it,” Castle says. “I think it’s a good look for me, don’t you?”

Audrey chuckles and says, “Come back down to earth, Romeo. We have a deadlier Trouble than that to deal with today.”

In the blink of an eye, Castle is standing in front of them, the armour, fire and horse gone as if they had never existed.

“Okay,” he says, “and when that’s done, I’ll tell you whose Trouble is focused on me.”

Audrey opens her mouth, but a car next to the station is suddenly cut in half, sparks flying, and they scramble for cover from the man walking down the street with lasers firing from his eyes.

“Lasers! From his eyes!” Castle chortles, then yelps as the next shot passes close enough to scorch the top of his head.

Audrey fails to talk the guy down from his rage and Troubles-induced power trip. He’s also able to aim with laser-like precision -- and even Castle winces at such a pathetic pun -- and burns the guns from Audrey’s, Nathan’s and Duke’s hands, with, really, one quick glance, and Castle’s even more impressed. If the guy wasn’t getting his kicks from toying with them, they’d be dead already.

“Any ideas?” Audrey asks, glancing at Nathan, who’s looking grim and worried.

“No.”

They turn to Duke, who looks sick as he shakes his head.

“Damn,” Castle sighs, “I wish I still had that armour.”

As one, the others turn to give him incredulous looks.

He raises an eyebrow. “It was like a mirror,” he says.

Realization dawns, and his three companions exchange thoughtful looks.

“Do you think it would work?” Duke asks.

“Can’t hurt to try it,” Audrey says.

“I’ll test it,” Nathan says, eyeing the side mirror on the car they’re crouched behind.

Duke and Audrey both frown at him, and he shrugs.

“If it doesn’t work, at least I won’t feel it when it goes through my hand.”

Audrey winces. “Nathan,” she says softly, and their eyes meet and cling, and Castle watches, both amused and abruptly, desperately homesick for Kate and their own special connection. He’ll send her a text--he cringes as the car beside them explodes in a rain of sparks and debris, because this guy is really enjoying playing with them, and that’s starting to piss Castle off--if he makes it out of this alive, of course.

The explosion snaps Audrey and Nathan out of their own world, and they refocus on the problem at hand. Nathan and Duke pry off the side mirror while Audrey distracts the guy, and when Nathan’s ready, he casts another look at her, then darts out when the guy starts using his laser eyes to cut up the car on the other side of them and intercepts the beam with the mirror.

It works; the laser deflects into a nearby building, cutting a neat hole through a wall and likely out the other side. A distant part of Castle hopes the occupants of the building had beat a strategic retreat from the mayhem outside, and decides that of course they had, because it’s not their first time at the rodeo.

The guy is not amused, and as always, it’s Audrey who saves the day when she notices a full length mirror in the store behind them. Duke and Castle break into the store while she keeps trying to talk the guy out of his murderous rage, and Nathan runs interference with the mirror in his hand.

But the guy’s drunk on the power of his Trouble, and Castle can’t blame him. He’s giddy just watching someone shoot lasers out of his eyes, he doesn’t know what he’d be like if he could do it himself. Actually, he does know, and it wouldn’t be pretty. His insurance would never cover all the damage he’d cause, mostly inadvertently.

The full length mirror is exactly what they need, and Audrey deflects the next shot back at the shooter and it’s all over in a matter of seconds.

Dwight arrives and starts the clean-up and the citizens of Haven come out of whatever cubbyholes they hide in when a Trouble is on the rampage, and life goes back to normal.

Or whatever passes as ‘normal’ in Haven.

Castle sends a shakily typed text to Kate that simply says, “Love you. Miss you.” She won’t respond, of course; he’s not even sure if she has her phone with her, wherever she is for her super-secret, super-special training, but at least she’ll know he was thinking of her when she gets back. Which, he realizes with sudden happiness, is ten days from today.

He sends the same text to Alexis and his mother, both of whom may respond, if they have time. It’s not really a text that requires a response, anyway, it’s just something that is, and he’s swamped with homesickness, and realizes that yes, he’s ready to go home, back to Kate and his family and friends, and his far more mundane world of ordinary killers and psychopaths.

He puts his phone away and follows Duke to the Grey Gull, where they both gulp down stiff shots of tequila before having a longer, slower drink together as they wait for Audrey and Nathan to finish doing their cop thing and join them, which they do a short time later. They move to one of the tables, sprawling in their chairs.

It’s not until they’re on their second beer that Duke says to Castle, “You know whose Trouble is affecting you?”

Castle nods, and says, “Well, I don’t know her name, but I know who it is.”

The others share an amused glance, then Audrey says, “I get it, it’s been a long day.”

Castle laughs. “No, I mean I’ve seen her before, the first day I was in town, just before I ran into the pole. She’s a child, about twelve or so, and she’s...” he grimaces. “I don’t mean to sound cruel but she’s...round. I mean, everything about her is round, and she has an unfortunate tendency to wear orange.”

He remembers the girl he’d passed in the street that morning, although it feels like it was a century ago. A lot happens in Haven in less than a day, he thinks, just like in New York. Whoever thinks small towns are boring needs to get out more.

“Cecelia Kenda,” Nathan says.

They all turn interested eyes towards him.

“She was in my découpage class last year,” he mutters.

“So what’s her story?” Audrey asks.

Nathan shakes his head. “I don’t know. We never spoke.” He frowns, then says, “She did incredibly beautiful work, though.”

“So why didn’t she fixate on you, stud muffin?” Duke asks.

“I guess I’m just not as ruggedly handsome as our buddy over here,” Nathan responds.

Audrey laughs. “Or familiarity breeds contempt.” She shrugs at the looks they send her way. “She knows Nathan, probably all her life, just like she knows you, Duke, whether you realize it or not. Castle breezes into town, and he’s a stranger, and a flashy one at that--”

Castle smirks proudly.

“--of course a twelve-year-old would fixate on him, especially with that car.”

“She’s fourteen now,” Nathan says, “but I can live with that explanation.”

“As opposed to be being less attractive than me?” Castle says.

Nathan sends him a mock-glare followed by a shy half-smile. “It must be nice to be somebody’s hero,” he says wistfully.

Audrey puts a hand on his arm and he starts, then looks into her eyes, his own wide and a clear, limpid blue.

“You already are,” she says softly.

The moment is so sweet, Castle thinks he can hear his teeth decay, then realizes that no, that nibbling sound is real, and he glances around with growing confusion and down, because it’s coming from right under his--

The chair collapses, and he tumbles to the floor, but thankfully, he’d put his drink on the table.

The others stare, and he looks up at them with a frown and says, “A termite Trouble?”

“Or just really old chairs,” Duke says.

“I heard something chewing the wood,” Castle says.

Nathan reaches down and helps him to his feet, saying, “Well, a knight’s work is never done.”

They turn towards the windows at the first crashing sound and watch a building to the north of the Gull crumble to the ground.

“I could really use a holiday,” Nathan sighs.

Castle claps him on the shoulder. “If you promise not to bring the Troubles with you--well, other than the ones you already carry--you can come to New York and stay with me any time. Ryan and Esposito can show you how we do police work in the big city.”

Nathan smiles his shy smile. “Someday we may just do that.”

They finish their drinks, because Audrey and Nathan are theoretically off duty, then they head out the door to assess the damage and see if they can find the Troubled person before anybody or anything else gets hurt or destroyed.


Part Four                                       Part Six

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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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