Ryan let his friends into the apartment, his hands shaking so hard that Castle had to be the one to shut the door. Castle placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder to try and reassure him. "It'll be okay, Ryan."
Ryan drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly in an attempt to steady his nerves and build up his courage. Turning to his friends, he asked them, "Are you all sure about this? I can just make this about me..."
"Not possible," Castle insisted. "I know she saw me, and unless I miss my guess, she saw Esposito, too. There's no way this can just be about you."
Esposito was in full agreement, "Bro, we need to do this, you know that. She's seen too much."
As four heads nodded around Ryan, a fifth voice chimed in so quietly that Castle had trouble hearing it. "Seen too much about what?"
The group turned around to see Jenny behind them. Ryan's heart broke as he took in his wife's pale, frail, shell-shocked appearance. She may not have fought alongside them, but Ryan soon understood that his wife had definitely been wounded as a result of the battle. He just hoped this conversation would be helpful for her. Ryan approached her gently, opening his mind to her thoughts and emotions.
Jenny recognized the odd sensation in her mind and recoiled from it almost instantly. "I...I...I remember th-that feeling. From Times Square." She expected the mention of that place to cause confusion; but when her husband and his friends responded with sympathy instead, Jenny was even *more* confused. "All...all afternoon I thought I was going crazy. I was in Times Square, and I saw these...things. They were fighting you, Kevin, and Javier, too. It was like some giant fight scene in a martial arts movie..." She then let out a nervous chuckle as she added, "It even had the badly dubbed dialogue. Then a billboard almost fell on my head...but *you* got me out of the way before it broke apart...into confetti, of all things. Then you, Kevin, had these three guys with these weird orange eyes get me out of there and escort me home." Jenny's lower lip started to quiver as she was doing everything she could to hold back tears. "I've been trying to figure out if I had been dreaming, or hallucinating, or sick, or drugged...I don't know, a thousand things must've through my head. But now, with this...I must *really* be losing my mind..."
Ryan shut down the mind link immediately, instead pouring his energy into soothing his wife's fragile emotional state. When she seemed to calm down, Ryan began to tell their story...as carefully as he could. "Jen, sweetheart...I promise you're not losing your mind. Although, I can't promise you won't feel the same after you hear the whole story," he chuckled nervously. "Remember that nasty thunderstorm Thursday night?" At Jenny's nod, Ryan continued, "Well, when we were at the loft for poker night, something...happened. As far as we can tell, the apartment was struck by lightning."
Jenny's overriding concern for others above herself kicked in almost immediately. "But...but everyone's okay, right?"
Ryan knew he was getting to the part that would be hardest for his wife to hear. Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly to steady his own nerves, he continued, "Okay, in this case, may be a relative term. We were all knocked unconscious, and when we woke up, we were...different."
The fear started to creep back into Jenny's voice. "D-different...how?"
Here we go...Ryan thought to himself. Focusing on his wife, Ryan then communicated to her, Honey, when I woke up I discovered I had the ability to read people's thoughts and project my thoughts into their heads. That's why you could hear me so clearly in Times Square even when my lips weren't moving.
Jenny shook her head slightly, watching her husband's motionless face in disbelief. "N-nice trick," she stammered defensively, "I didn't know you knew how to throw your voice."
"He wasn't throwing his voice, Jenny," declared Castle solemnly. "Whatever he told you, you alone heard it. None of us heard any of it."
Jenny's face blanched with shock as the rest of the group nodded their heads in agreement. She jumped up from the couch and started to back away from the living room. "There's no wwway...this is...this is impossible. You couldn't..."
"Jenny!" Ryan was up in a flash as he watched his wife collapse on the floor. Esposito helped his partner get his wife to the couch, then stepped back as Lanie took his place, taking Jenny's hand and slipping into a diagnostic trance.
It was only a matter of a few tense seconds before Lanie mentally returned to the group, her face softening as her eyes opened. "Kevin, you can relax. She's fine, she just fainted, the baby's fine..."
Kevin looked, for his part, started to look like *he* was about to faint. Collapsing into the chair, he gasped out "B-baby? She's pregnant?"
A groan from the couch sent Ryan back to his feet immediately. Launching himself to his wife's side, he helped her up gently to a seated position. "Honey?"
Jenny saw how the entire group was looking at her with concern...with the exception of her husband, who seemed to have a thousand different emotions playing across his face all at once. Then she remembered the last thing that happened before she fainted. "Th-That was you? In my *head*?"
"Yeah," replied Ryan shyly. "We were all affected differently."
"Like h-how?" asked Jenny, still shaking in disbelief.
Lanie decided to go first. "I guess you could call me a psychic healer. When I touch someone, I can tell what's going on in their body and heal any injury or illness almost instantly."
"So when I fainted..." She couldn't know, could she?
Ryan nodded in agreement to Jenny's unspoken question. "Sweetheart, why didn't you just tell me?"
"I was looking for the right moment," replied Jenny with a weary sign, "but then you got really busy at work and then this weekend happened and I wasn't sure if I could trust you anymore..." and a psychic healer just told my now-telepathic husband I was pregnant..."and Don't. Change. The subject. All of this *still* doesn't explain the way I saw you fight I saw in Times Square." Jenny then turned to her husband, joking, "Wait, don't tell me...one of these superpowers you've been given is 'mad crazy ninja skills'."
Ryan answered with a chuckle that was far more nervous than his wife was expecting. "Well that's probably not how I would have worded it, but...yeah."
Jenny's eyes widened, and she turned to the other person she saw in the fight. "Javi, you too?" Esposito nodded. "So who were the other guys?"
"Our backup," replied Esposito simply.
When his partner gave no further information, Ryan added, "When we get into an overwhelmingly bad situation, we have the option to call for an army to back us up. Those were the other guys you saw in the fight."
"And everyone in this army can...fight like you guys?" Ryan nodded. Jenny pushed further, shuddering at the memory it brought to the front of her mind. "What were those...things you were fighting?"
Ryan winced, knowing how crazy his next statement was about to sound. "Would you believe me if I told you they were zombies?"
Jenny thought it over for a moment and realized it made an odd degree of sense...under the circumstances. "Actually, I would believe that." Her thoughts then turned to the one person who *wasn't* fighting when she saw him. "Mr. Castle..."
Castle cut her off, "You know you can call me Rick, Jenny."
"Okay..." Jenny agreed, hesitating slightly, "Rick, when I saw that big fight in Times Square, *you* were standing in the middle of the fight and not fighting. And..." Jenny gasped as she started to put more of the pieces together. "And when that billboard turned to confetti, Kevin acknowledged *you*, like you had something to do with it. Did you?"
Castle nodded. He held out his hand as if to let Jenny shake it, then made a white rosebud appear in that hand before she could. "Richard Castle, wizard, at your service, my lady."
Jenny took the rose from Castle's hand. As she breathed in its delicate scent, Jenny was tempted to blow it off as simply a 'nice magic trick'...until Castle waved his hand over the flower, causing it to bloom fully while she was holding it. Jenny's eyes widened again as more puzzle pieces fit together in her mind. "You...*you* turned that billboard to confetti?" Castle nodded.
Jenny was fighting hard to wrap her head around these increasingly amazing revelations. "So when you guys went to the Hamptons, it wasn't to watch the Yankee game, it was to try and figure out what was happening to you?" The group nodded, which brought Jenny to her last question. "Who's Alexis?"
"My daughter," chimed in Castle. "She was there when we arrived and kinda got roped into helping us out. She's the only one who knows about this outside of the people in this room."
"So why did you call her the minute you got back?"
"My mind had...overloaded," Ryan replied. "I underestimated how hard it would be dealing with being back in the city. By the time I walked home from Castle's place my controls were shot to hell. Alexis talked me through getting those controls back." It was then that Ryan started to wonder why the conversation had taken the turn it had. "Wait a second, I've never mentioned Alexis to you..."
Jenny started to blush furiously. "I, uh...I might have overheard the start of your conversation with her when you got home on Sunday."
Ryan had a feeling their was *definitely* more to Jenny's story. "And...?"
"When you didn't mention her to me," Jenny replied, "and you didn't tell me *anything* about how the weekend had gone, I...I started wondering if you and she were having an affair. I was in Times Square to meet with a private investigator to have you followed."
Ryan nearly choked on the word. "An *affair*?! Jenny, what made you think I possibly could...?"
"I wasn't thinking clearly, okay!" exclaimed Jenny.
It took every bone of compassion in Richard Castle's body for him to not burst out laughing. Even still, he clamped his hand over his mouth to make sure the errant chuckle did *not* come out and make the situation worse. His eyes were starting to tear up from the strain of trying so hard *not* to laugh, though...which made his opinion of the situation clear to all.
Jenny blushed as she watched Castle's failed attempts to hold back his laughter. "I take it I couldn't be more off base with what I was thinking?"
Ryan's response was compassionate, but immediate. "Sorry honey, but Alexis is barely out of high school..."
As Jenny finally started to relax, Esposito's reality shifted away from the present.
He saw a version of his partner from what looked to be about five years in their future, trying to corral a very active three year old boy. "JJ," Ryan called out in exasperation, "Mommy and Lexie are waiting downstairs. We've gotta go to our new home now."
The blond haired little boy seemed determined not to go. "Kitty come wif us, right?"
It was then that Esposito noticed Ryan's white tiger spirit prowling near the kitchen. As Ryan scooped the toddler up in his arms, he looked straight at the tiger and smiled. "JJ, I promise you, if you don't see him in the car, Kitty will meet us there."
Promise? Asked the little boy in his mind.
I promise. Ryan replied with a smile, letting JJ tap his forehead against his father's.
As Ryan carried his son out of the apartment, the white tiger let out a majestic roar of approval behind him.
Well, that's it! Thanks to everyone who stuck with this story. I've been so blessed and humbled by all the wonderful comments I've received so far. Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't like more. ;-)
For those of you who are new to the Four Winds universe, I hope you've liked this journey off the beaten path of most Castle fan fiction. Four Winds is the start of an ongoing series of stories. If you click on my author page you'll find the other two stories:
Four Winds: On the Job Training
Four Winds: Guardians of Shangri La
And a quickie one-shot called Four Winds: Dreams of a Wizard
Feel free to read, enjoy and leave lots of comments!
And for all you wonderful die-hard fans who have stuck with this story through thick and thin: my next project will be to edit the first four chapters of Four Winds: The Edge of Heaven and finish the last two chapters of that story. That will start tomorrow ;).