Four Winds
A Castle Fantasy AU
by Laura Picken

Welcome! It's been a little over a year since I've originally posted this story, and I've been thrilled and humbled by the reaction to this story and the series it inspired. So I wanted to re-write the introduction to reflect that. This is an AU. A *real* alternate universe to the show. The character base might now be reflected as 'timeless' Castle, branching off somewhere after the beginning of S5. Castle and Beckett are a firmly established couple, Beckett's still an NYPD detective and Ryan is, well, awesome. "Watershed" never happened in this timeline and never will. Other than that, I've tried to keep the general setting of the story to feel like it's in the universe of the show. Mostly.

The only other hint I'm going to give is that this is #35 on Castle's bucket list.

DISCLAIMER: Castle, Beckett, et al. are property of Andrew W. Marlowe and ABC. The legends described herein are inventions of my own twisted imagination and should not be taken to reflect the traditions of any particular ethnic group. All non-English language phrases are courtesy of Google Translate, so please forgive me if I get anything unintentionally wrong.

Sit back, relax, and let the adventure begin!

A deep rumble of thunder shook the windows of the loft. It did not, however, shake the concentration of the five people on the indoor side of the glass as they sat around Richard Castle's beloved poker table.

Kevin Ryan wished he had more to concentrate on, but he knew that his hand was never going to beat anybody. Frustrated, he threw his cards on the table and declared, "I'm out."

Javier Esposito looked at his hand, then scanned the table, carefully debating whether or not any of his friends had anything. Deciding that his hand was too tempting to pass up, he tossed a couple of chips into the pot at the center of the table. "Call."

Dr. Lanie Parrish was staring at her cards as if they held the meaning of life. Either that, or Lanie was so distracted that she wasn't paying attention to the game at all. Kate Beckett noticed her best friend's distraction, but didn't push, choosing instead to simply nudge her friend to play. Snapping out of her thoughts with a start, Lanie threw a matching combination of chips into the pot. "Call."

Beckett, for her part, was really only paying attention to one person out of all the players at the table. She stared at her boyfriend, Rick Castle, determined to finally isolate the man's poker tell out of his pantheon of crazy expressions. Kate knew her hand was unlikely to amount to anything, but hell would freeze over twice before she gave up on her mission. "Raise $5."

Castle grinned wickedly. He knew that Beckett was becoming obsessed with picking up on his tells. Which only made him more determined to find crazy ways to distract her. He laughed wickedly, like she was about to fall into his intensely clever, well-designed trap. "I'll see your $5, my dear detective, and raise you $15."

Esposito picked up on what was going on and he was certain of one thing: he wanted absolutely no part of it, no matter how good his hand might have been. He tossed his cards on the table. "I'm out."

Lanie watched Esposito fold his cards, then noticed the looks on Castle and Beckett's faces and quickly put two and two together. It'll be much more fun to watch them fight it out from the sidelines, anyway, she thought. "I fold."

Beckett still couldn't tell whether Castle had a good hand or was bluffing her. All she knew was that she was bound and determined to find out - even if it cost her a few bucks to do it. She tossed the correct grouping of chips into the pot. "Call. Deal the cards, Castle."

Castle turned one card face up on the table before another deafening clap of thunder caused him to jump.

The sound of shattering glass was the last thing any of the poker players in the loft heard before they lost consciousness.

Sunlight streamed through the gaping hole where the loft's windows had once been, hitting Ryan square in the face. Wincing, he woke up slowly, feeling the crunch of broken glass underneath him as he moved.

Ryan heard one of the women in the room groaning in obvious discomfort. He turned to see Beckett regaining consciousness with a pained expression on her face. God, what is that popping sound? She then wrinkled her nose in disgust. Ugh, and that smell?

Ryan sniffed the air carefully, trying to determine if there was something in the air that they needed to worry about. "Beckett, I don't smell anything."

Wincing at the volume of Ryan's voice, Beckett turned to him, confused. "Ryan, I didn't say anything...I don't think..." She winced again at the sound of her own voice ringing loudly in her ears. Jeez, how many drinks did I have last night?

By now Lanie and Esposito were starting to join their friends in the land of the living, and Ryan noticed that every move any of them made seemed to cause be causing *Beckett* considerable pain. He made his way to his feet, feeling every muscle ache as he stood. Ryan groaned, making a motion of apology to Beckett as he did so, then tiptoed as best he could over to his other two friends. He bent over to help them to their feet - ladies first. "Lanie?" Ryan asked in a whisper, "Can you check on Beckett? She doesn't look too good."

As tired and sore as Lanie was, she snapped to attention immediately when she heard that her best friend might need her help. As Lanie made her way over to Beckett, she couldn't help but notice how every step she took across the broken glass seemed to be causing her friend more pain. "Kate?"

Beckett recoiled as if Lanie had just yelled into her ear with a megaphone. This inspired Lanie's curiosity even further. She moved toward Beckett's arm, trying to encourage the other woman to uncoil herself into a position that would allow Lanie to examine her...

The two women froze as soon as Lanie's hand made contact. Beckett's breathing grew shallow and rapid...while Lanie's breathing appeared to have stopped entirely. Esposito went into a panic, rushing to his ex-girlfriend's side. "Lanie?" he exclaimed, going into an even greater panic when she didn't respond. "LANIE!"

Ryan watched the scene before him with a growing sense of desperation...especially after he noticed that Beckett was no longer responding to Esposito's loud screams. He took one step back to try to leave and get help when Lanie snapped back to life, filling her oxygen-deprived lungs with deep, panicked gulps of air.

Esposito was relieved beyond words to see Lanie conscious and breathing again. "Lanie, Are you okay? What the hell just happened?"

Lanie's breathing started to grow more steady and even as she spoke. "I'm okay, but I have no idea what happened. It's like I fell into a coma for a few seconds-but then I heard Ryan's voice, and it snapped me out of it, I guess."

Esposito was tempted to take Lanie's explanation personally. "Wait a minute, I was screaming at the top of my lungs and you didn't hear me...but you heard *him*?"

Ryan chimed in, "But I didn't say anything."

Lanie stopped Esposito's attempt to argue with Ryan, instead staring at Ryan in amazement. "Wait a second. I didn't hear Ryan in my ears, I heard him *in my head*."

"In your head?" asked Esposito, confused.

Lanie nodded again. "Like the thoughts were mine, but with his voice saying them. 'Jesus, I hope she'll be okay.' 'C'mon Lanie, wake up.' 'Snap out of it.' 'Breathe.' 'Oh God, Javi's screaming at them and Beckett hasn't moved.' 'This is bad, someone's gotta call an ambulance.'"

Ryan's face lost more color with every thought Lanie said she heard. Esposito looked to his partner, then back to Lanie. Nothing she had said did anything to lessen his confusion...if anything, he confusion had only increased. Turning to Ryan, Esposito reminded him, "Wait a minute, bro. You didn't say any of those things. You didn't say *anything*."

His shock deepening, Ryan shook his head in reply. "I didn't *say* anything. But I was *thinking* every one of those things. Word for word."

"That happened to me too," commented Beckett weakly. "Kinda." Everyone turned their attention to Beckett immediately, so she continued in a voice barely above a whisper, "When I first woke up, the first thing Ryan told me was that he didn't smell anything. I hadn't said anything at that point. But I know I was *thinking* it."

Esposito declared, "Okay, I want to try something here." He concentrated for a couple of seconds, then turned to look at his partner.

Ryan thought for a second, then declared in perfect Spanish, "Hermano, yo no sé ustedes, pero realmente espero que usted no está escuchando esto."

Now it was Lanie's turn to be confused, and Esposito's turn to be white as a sheet. Lanie asked, "What does that mean? In English?"

Esposito could barely shake his head. "'Bro, I don't know about you, but I really hope you're not hearing this.' And that's *exactly* what I was thinking. Word. For. Word. In Spanish. Kev, you haven't been taking classes you didn't tell me about, have you?" Ryan shook his head.

Everyone reeled from the implications of what Esposito had just told them, *especially* Ryan. Ryan asked the group, "Okay, we all seem to be experiencing different degrees of crazy, and we're sitting in an apartment that looks like a tornado hit it. Can *anyone* remember what happened last night?"

Every member of the group shook their heads...with one exception. Esposito stood up, and started to wander the room slowly, as if his mind was someplace else. When he finally spoke, it was without any emotion.

"We were all playing poker. There was a crazy thunderstorm going on outside, and the thunder was starting to shake the windows. Ryan had a five of clubs and a two of diamonds and folded right away. I had a Jack and Queen of spades and I called. Lanie had a five and six of hearts and called. Beckett had a seven of hearts and an eight of clubs and raised five dollars. Castle had a 2 of spades and a ten of clubs and raised Beckett another fifteen bucks. Lanie and I folded, but Beckett called him. Castle dealt a queen of clubs, then a ball of lightning broke through the window. A lightning bolt hit me and knocked me out, then one hit Lanie, another hit Ryan, and another one hit Beckett. Then the ball hovered over Castle's head and exploded..."

Esposito's voice trailed off. His attention slowly returned to his friends in the room...who were now all staring at *him*. Ryan seemed to be the first to find his voice. "Javier, you said you were the first one to get knocked out by the lightning. So how do *you* know what happened to *us* after *you* got knocked out?" Esposito shook his head. He knew with absolute conviction that he had described exactly what had gone down the night before, but as to how he knew it...

Lanie asked, "So what happened after the ball of lightning exploded over Castle's head...?"

Immediately the group realized who was missing. Beckett jumped up in a panic, not having noticed that her boyfriend had yet to regain consciousness. They rushed to Castle's side just as he let out a pained groan. "Did anyone get the license plate number of that truck that hit me?" he moaned.

"Lightning bolt, actually, bro," replied Esposito.

Castle's eyes snapped open wide. "I got hit by *lightning*?"

Everyone else nodded. Ryan added, "Apparently, we *all* did. And it's been weird since we woke up. You have no idea how weird..."

Castle sat up enough to be able to take in the condition his home was now in. Without thinking, he complained, "I wish weird were able to fix this place up. What the hell..."

Castle got his wish before he was able to finish his thought. The loft went from disaster to spotless in the blink of an eye. Even the broken windows were repaired as if nothing had happened.

Castle had no idea what to think about the instant change to the scene he saw before him.

So he fainted.

Lanie, Ryan and Esposito wandered around the now-perfect room in open-mouthed shock.

What in the world was going on?

Castle woke up to Beckett's face hovering over his with concern. He greeted his girlfriend with a smile, "Hey."

Beckett smiled warmly in return. "Hey yourself. You fainted."

"I fainted?"

Beckett nodded. "I'm really glad you're awake. I was getting worried. Do you need anything?"

Castle sat up and stretched his arms. Smacking his lips, he declared, "I could really use a glass of ice water-"

When a glass of ice cold water appeared instantly in his hand, Castle nearly dropped it from the shock. The last memories he had before he fainted came rushing back. "I thought I was dreaming. I woke up on the floor and the loft had been hit by a tornado. Then I blinked, and the loft went right back to normal. It-it wasn't a dream, was it?"

The group shook their heads.

Castle stammered out, "Is-is that what you meant by weird, Ryan?"

"Different for me and Esposito, but yeah, same level of weird."

"Like what?"

Ryan took a deep breath, knowing how crazy what he was about to say was going to sound. "Apparently since we woke up, I've been able to read everyone's thoughts."

Even with the strange things he had just experienced, Castle still had trouble with Ryan's admission. "Telepathy?" he exclaimed. "But-but that's impossible..."

Apparently not. Castle stared in awe at Ryan. "That was you I just heard in my head?" Ryan nodded.

Lanie added, "Yeah, he did that to me too. I think it might have saved my life, from what the guys tell me." When that last statement got Castle's full attention, she continued, "Ryan asked me to take a look at Kate, who wasn't looking too good when she woke up. The minute I touched her, I froze. Completely. I even stopped breathing, apparently. If I hadn't heard Ryan in my head, I don't know if I would have come out of it."

"Do you have any idea why you froze?" asked Castle. Lanie shook her head. Castle then turned to Beckett, wanting to hear her side.

"Actually, things haven't been so weird for me. I just felt kind of hung over. Well, except for that smell."

The entire group was now focused on Beckett. "Wait a second," asked Lanie, "what smell?"

"That sulfur guys didn't smell it? When I woke up it was so bad I almost threw up." Everyone shook their heads again. Beckett finally admitted, "Okay, so maybe things have been a little weird for me too."

"Esposito, how have things been weird for you?" asked Castle.

"I, uh," Esposito stammered, "I, uh, was the the only one who remembers what happened when the lightning struck."

"How is that weird?"

"I was the first one knocked unconscious when it hit," replied Esposito.

Ryan added, "he also remembered other details he couldn't have known - like what everybody had in the last hand we played."

"Apparently you two were trying to bluff each other," Esposito told Castle and Beckett.

Castle tried to process everything he had just heard and combine it with his own experiences. "And I've had two wishes granted..."

Castle didn't realize how hard he had been squeezing his glass of ice water until it broke apart in his hand. The pain shook him out of his musings. Beckett got up to get a towel as Castle started picking glass out of the multiple cuts on his palm...

Which left no one to stop Lanie from grabbing Castle's hand to examine the damage. Castle watched in awe as each cut shrank, then disappeared from his hand completely. He pulled his hand away from Lanie's, looking to his friend with a mixture of amazement and concern. Castle sighed with a small measure of relief at seeing Lanie still breathing, which left the awe and amazement of seeing his now healed hand to flood the rest of his emotions.

Lanie was staring at her own hand like it was disconnected from her body. Did I just do what I think I just did?

Ryan pressed a fresh glass of ice water into Lanie's hand with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Welcome to the world of weird with the rest of us."