But time is running out. Beckett finishes her training in five days, and will be back in New York in six, the same day both Alexis and his mother return as well. Not great timing, really, because he would have liked to have Kate to himself for twenty-four hours, and do all the things he’s dreamt about while she’s been gone, but it can’t be helped. Besides, if he’s honest, he’s missed all the women in his life -- even his mother -- and he’s anxious to see them again, and take up the reins of his normal life.
That thought reminds him that they need to talk to Cecelia about her Trouble, because the last thing Castle needs is to be suddenly acting out a song in the middle of New York. Then again, he’s not sure anyone would notice.
It takes them a surprising amount of time to find her. She is, as Castle expected, the one all the kids know because they’ve made her their target of petty bullying, but no one seems to know much else about her. He remembers the haunted look in her eyes, and he wonders if the treatment she receives from her peers is what triggered her Trouble in the first place.
Dwight is the one who finds her, and brings her into the station, where he kindly sits her on a bench. He tells Audrey and Nathan, then, after a soothing word to Cecelia, leaves to do whatever it is he does, and Castle has learned there are some secrets even he can’t charm out of the town.
The girl sits hunched in upon herself. She’s big, and round, and trying to make herself small. She can at best be called plain, and she’s refusing to look at Castle where he’s standing with Nathan, Duke and Audrey, speaking in hushed tones.
“Her dad died six months ago,” Nathan says softly, his hands tucked up under his arms.
Castle grimaces in sympathy, his eyes fixed on the girl.
“Her mom?” he asks.
Nathan shrugs. ”Gone. No one knows where, or if they do, they’re not talking.”
Castle’s head whips in his direction. “Who’s been taking care of her?” he demands.
“Apparently no one. None of the neighbours were paying attention. Her mother, well, she stays to herself.” He smiles slightly. “I’ve been told she thinks she’s too good for this town.”
Castle raises an eyebrow.
“I guess it’s better than being terrified of it,” Duke says.
Audrey says, “I’ll talk to her,” and takes a step towards her.
Castle raises a hand, and stalls her. “This seems to be focused on me. Would you -- could I talk to her?”
Audrey hesitates. “The Troubles can’t be turned on and off like a light switch,” she reminds him.
“I know. I’ve been here for a while now. Besides, I’m not trying to turn it off,” he says, with a ghost of his crooked smile, “I’ll leave that to the experts. I think...she wants something from me. I’d like to know what it is.”
They stare at him; he stares back, his usual gleeful smirk gone from his face.
“Okay,” Audrey says, “we’ll watch from here. But, listen, Castle, just because this Trouble hasn’t been dangerous before doesn’t mean it couldn’t turn dangerous without warning. If it seems like things are going south--”
“Come and save my ass, okay? Please?”
She hesitates, then nods.
Castle’s expression sobers as he walks over to Cecelia and settles beside her.
She ducks her head further as he leans forward, trying to see her eyes.
“Hi,” he says softly.
Her eyes slide towards him, then away, all without lifting her head.
“I’m Rick,” he says and holds out his hand directly in her line of sight. “Rick Castle.”
She stares at his hand like it’s going to bite.
“It’s okay,” he assures her. “What’s your name?”
That earns him a resentful glare and a sneer. “You know,” she mutters.
Castle’s hand doesn’t waver.
“Yes, but I’d still like you to introduce yourself. Tell me who you are; a little bit about yourself.”
She drops her sneer to his hand, then hunches her shoulders even more and turns away.
Castle watches her thoughtfully, then lets his hand drop. “You do know you’re the one causing all the weird things going on around here, right? And I do mean all of them.”
That earns him a startled gasp, and she fully faces him for the first time as she gapes at him. He intently searches her round, puffy face, and shrugs.
“Well, okay, maybe not all the weird things.” He leans closer and whispers, “This is the most exciting town ever!” He widens his eyes and looks as much like an excited puppy as he possibly can.
He’s rewarded with a reluctant sound that might be a giggle, and he straightens and offers his hand again, waggling it slightly as he grins and says, “Hi. I’m Rick Castle.”
The girl reluctantly puts her limp hand into his. “Cecelia,” she mumbles.
Castle smiles, a genuinely pleased smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Cecelia, but I have got to teach you how to shake hands.”
She blushes, scowling, hurt flashing on her face as she tries to free her hand from his, but he’s got a firm grip on it.
“Don’t worry; it won’t take long. I had to teach my daughter this very same thing. Now, you want a firm grip, but not too firm, then shake once - twice - let go.”
He demonstrates, then looks at her with wide-eyed excitement, the same expression he uses on Alexis when he’s trying to convince her to play with him.
Cecelia stares, her face glowing red, but she’s mesmerized in spite of herself, and Castle hears Nathan say to Audrey and Duke, “Do you think he may actually be Troubled, too? Sort of like Chris?”
“I don’t think so,” Audrey replies. ”He’s just a natural charmer.”
“I wonder who Chris is,” Castle stage-whispers to Cecelia, and is rewarded with another almost-giggle. He sobers, and says, “I heard your dad passed away.”
Cecelia’s smile disappears, and she drops her gaze to the floor. She nods.
She shrugs, but doesn’t look at him.
“She’s gone, too, isn’t she? She left you.”
All Castle can see is the curve of her plump cheek, but now a tear slides down and drips onto her knee.
“Why did she leave you?”
“I don’t know,” Cecelia whispers, and Castle’s heart squeezes for the lost little girl beside him.
“Was it because of your gift?” he asks.
Her head snaps up at that, and she turns teary eyes towards him. “Gift?” she blurts loudly, and the others lift their heads.
Castle nods. “It must make you very popular with the other kids...”
Cecelia bursts into tears at that, and Castle without hesitation puts his arm around her and guides her head to his shoulder. He makes meaningless, soothing noises, and pats her back as the sobs get louder.
Nathan, Audrey and Duke drift closer, but Castle ignores them, focused only on the unhappy girl beside him.
“You poor kid,” he says when the sobs finally subside. “How long has your mother been gone?”
“Almost three months,” she mumbles, voice clogged and soggy. She accepts the kleenex Nathan offers her with a muttered thanks.
“Why didn’t you tell anybody?”
“Nobody to tell.”
“You don’t have any family here who can take care of you?”
She shakes her head.
“How have you been eating? Where have you been living?”
“I’ve been living in our house.”
“What are you doing for money?”
“My dad kept some in the house. He said you never knew when you might be run out of town on a rail, so having some getaway money on hand was always a good idea.”
Castle grins, his eyes sparkling. “He sounds like he was a lot of fun.”
She nods miserably.
“You miss him a lot?”
She nods again.
“Did he have the same gift as you? Making music come to life?”
She lifts her head and looks at him, frowning, her eyes suspicious. “Why do you describe it like that?” she demands.
“Because that’s what it is. Now, I’ll admit, I was scared the first few times it happened. That burning horse and the armour is a bit of a shock to the system when you’re not expecting it. But you know, dancing on the ceiling is kind of fun. It would be an awesome party trick.”
Cecelia’s frown deepens, as does her suspicion.
“You’re not mad at me?”
Castle chuckles. “For what?”
“You know for what!”
He laughs again and shakes his head. “When you sing or listen to a song--”
“Okay. When you sing a song, you visualize someone while you’re doing it, right?”
She nods sheepishly.
“And whatever you’re singing about, however you’re visualizing that person in the song, that’s what happens to them, right?”
She nods again.
“Well, thank you.”
Her eyes widen. “For what?”
“I’m flattered that you thought of me as a white knight upon a fiery steed. Good taste in music, too, by the way.”
She blushes. “It’s my dad’s music collection,” she mutters. “He used to sing the songs to me, and...and make me part of the song.”
“Do you have to imagine the person into the song deliberately to make them a part of it, or does it just happen?”
“I have to deliberately do it.”
“So you have quite a lot of control over your gift, then?”
She blinks. “I...well, I suppose so...”
Castle rubs his hands together in glee. “That’s excellent! So, it ends when the person reacts to what’s happening? I mean, I managed to keep the last horse and armour thing going because I accepted it, and didn’t question it, so does it end when a person realizes what’s happening shouldn’t be happening?”
“I...I think so.”
Castle’s eyes gleam. “Oh, this is going to be so much fun!”
“Castle,” Audrey warns.
Castle looks shamefaced for a very brief moment before he leans closer to Cecelia and whispers, “We’ll test it out later.”
He blinks wide, innocent eyes at Audrey. “Hey, it’s a fun gift!” He pauses, frowning, “Well, so long as she sticks to non-violent songs, of course, and by the time she’s old enough to really understand what some other songs are talking about, well, you’ll have solved the Troubles for good. Right?”
All of them, including Cecelia, stare at him in disbelief.
He shakes his head. “Half-full, people, half-full.”
Castle spends his last few days in Haven focused on Cecelia. Dwight finds her a foster family, and Castle visits. Her new foster parents seem nice, and Castle is cautiously optimistic that Cecelia’s life is only going to get better from now on.
On his last day in town, he gives Cecelia his phone number and tells her to call or text him whenever she wants.
She ducks her head, and he says, “I mean it.” He glances at her foster parents and says, “Maybe you can all come and visit during spring break. New York is a lot of fun, and I know my family would love to meet you.”
Cecelia bursts into tears, and he hugs her until she stops.
“I have to go,” he says, and leaves her standing on the porch with her new family, round and sad-eyed but more hopeful than when he’d first seen her. He hopes the next time they meet, that haunting sadness will be gone for good.
He returns to the precinct, where he says good-bye to Nathan, Audrey and Duke.
“I meant what I said before,” he tells them. “You’re welcome to visit, any time you need or want a break. I’ll show you a good time, and you’ll only have to worry about muggers and the occasional psychopath.”
“Now, there’s an offer we can’t refuse,” Audrey says, and hugs him.
He squeezes her tight, then shakes hands and exchanges man-hugs with Duke, then Nathan.
“I’ll send you copies of my next book,” he tells them. “I think you’ll find it’s very different from my usual work.”
Castle laughs at their alarmed faces, then runs down the precinct steps and gets into his convertible. He puts his sunglasses on with a flourish, and preens a little before he smirks, waves and roars off in a flash of red and noise.
Castle sits and watches his mother flit around the living room talking non-stop about her tour, floating sleeves, dramatic re-enactments and all. Alexis is tucked securely and safely against one side; Beckett’s on the other. These women, he thinks, these women are his life, and he wouldn’t trade them for anything, even though none of them have gotten around to asking him (yet) about how he’d spent his summer vacation.
He’s okay with that. They won’t believe him anyway, if he tells them the truth, and there’s something to be said for having something that’s his alone.
He’s happy, complete, glad they’re all home where they belong, and his heart swells with love and contentment. But he knows Kate’s going to continue to run their relationship; Alexis needs to find her own way, and Martha...he hides an exasperatedly fond sigh. Martha will always be his mother, in all its complicated glory.
His phone chimes gently as Martha and Alexis drift away, chattering happily, and Beckett groans she needs some sleep with a meaningful glance in his direction. He gets the message and nods, wide-eyed, eager.
While he’s waiting for her to emerge from their bathroom, he checks the text.
It’s from Audrey.
Trees spontaneously bursting into flame. Ideas?
Best. Vacation. Ever.
Part Five Master Post
Art - sexycazzy Art - danceswithgary - Coming Soon!