Beckett awoke with a start. She found herself drenched in sweat, heart thudding in beneath her ribcage.
Bad dream. Again.
The sun filtered in through the blinds and she reached out for her phone, checking for the time. She flinched as she felt her stitches tugging and she grit her teeth through the pain. 9am in the morning, one message received and no missed calls. And she knew who that message was from.
It was the same one every day – for almost a week now.
Good morning, detective. Thinking of you. Heal well. Castle.
Honestly, she didn't think he had it in him to actually wait her out. Sure, she'd sort of promised to call him when she was ready physically see him, but she never thought he would actually listen to her this time. She expected him to turn up the day after, apologise for not listening and spout some crazy reason he absolutely had to see her, pushing and forcing himself into her life the way she's so used to. But the day came and went, as did the next and the one after. The only contact she had with him were his daily morning texts. Soon enough it turned into a week without seeing him and try as she did to deny it, she was getting annoyed.
So as she woke up on the eighth Castle-less day spent in the hospital nursing her self-pity, enduring the pain that coursed through her entire being, she decided enough was enough.
Her fingers toyed with the cellphone in her hand, a sad replacement for the one she smashed when she landed on it after taking the bullet to the chest. Her other hand touched her chest, fingers lightly going over the bandages wrapped tightly around upper body. The pain was bearable, at least. The burning sensation every time she moved had been dulled to a constant throbbing and she only suffered the occasional spasm now and then if she moved too quickly. They must have given her the really good stuff.
She swiped a finger across the phone's screen, unlocked it and pulled up the message he'd sent her, finger hovering over the reply button.
It should be easier – she'd done it countless times before. He was definitely not a stranger to her late night phone calls or texts after a particularly harrowing case – they'd talk about everything and nothing and it would feel like the most natural thing in the world. She was always willing to listen as he complained about his family life, his empty nest and he in turn would lend an ear to her various every day rants. Why then was it so hard now?
She changed her mind and backed out of the message, pulling up the call icon instead, she mentally prepared herself for the inevitable conversation she was about to have. What would she say – no doubt he'd want to visit her again. Did she really want that? Or was it just the steady comforting timbre of his voice she wanted to hear? Could she deal with seeing him, knowing he'd professed his love for her as she lay dying in that cemetery? The questions –
A loud bang startled her out of her ruminations and she dropped her cellphone onto the bed. A large group of doctors burst into the ICU, most of them masked and looked as if they were prepped for surgery. They breezed past her and she could sense the urgency in their movements, precise and quick – as if they were in a race towards someone in the room. She turned her head, tracking them, fascinated by the commotion.
A nurse followed, pushing a cart noisily after them. More nurses came in after, an empty gurney between them as they too disappeared from her sight. Beckett stretched around, now more than curious about the apparent emergency the doctors had found themselves in. The stitches on the side of her torso started pulling uncomfortably as she moved around to get a better look, but for once it didn't bother her.
The group of five doctors crowded around a patient at the far end of the room, frantically doing something out of her sight, yelling instructions to each other as tools were passed from hand to hand. The beeps of the monitor became more irregular and it seemed as though the doctors were more agitated the longer it took for them to fix whatever the problem was.
She felt horrible for even thinking about it, but after a moment she picked up her phone and snapped a quick picture of the craziness and sent it to Castle. It was better than nothing, she supposed. She ignored them after a few more minutes and smiled when her phone vibrated with a response from Castle.
'I guess whoever that is isn't doing as well as you are?'
She was about to compose a reply when another message came through from him.
'Also, your cellphone is meant to be used for making calls to loved ones, Beckett, not morbidly enjoying someone else's unfortunate circumstance. How terrible of you.
Even through his texts it was as if she could hear the teasing tone of his voice and she smiled to herself. She guessed he wasn't too cut up about her lack of communication and almost instantly she felt the pressure lift. He was fine. She was … less than fine, but making it work. They were going to be fine.
She started typing a reply, typing out a semicolon for a wink but the phone was pulled out of her hands before she managed to finish.
Her protest fell onto deaf ears as she noticed more doctors approaching her bed. Her cellphone was dumped unceremoniously onto the tray with other medical instruments and the other doctors started unplugging the tubes and wires that were connected to the monitors.
"Uh – what's going on here?" She asked.
"We gotta get you out of here," someone said. Beckett looked around her and panic started to settle in as she realized they were preparing to move her.
"Wait, wait – what? I'm not scheduled – HEY!"
Her outburst made the doctors pause whatever they were doing and a tall masked doctor stepped up to her.
"We've got a situation downstairs and it seems as if it's starting to spread. Just a minor infection, but we're trying our best to contain it so we're moving you somewhere safe. There's nothing to worry, Miss Beckett. Just taking precautions, that's all," he told her.
Something in the tone of his voice told her he was not being quite as truthful about the situation as she'd like. His eyes were shifty and he was sweating a little too much. That, coupled with the urgent whispers around her from the other doctors and nurses set off little alarm bells in her head.
"I'm a cop. If there's something wrong, I can help – I can call my people, get them here as soon as possible – "
Her words were once again ignored and she felt her bed moving. They started pushing her out of the ICU and down the hallway outside. Double doors at the end of the hallway burst open as the end of her bed hit them, jarring her and causing a jolt of pain to shoot through her. The doctors didn't even blink an eye at her obvious pain. She knew then that there was definitely something very wrong. Some crazy, terrible thing must have happened and her gut instinct was telling her it was more than just an 'infection'.
Or the person who tried to kill her had come back to finish the job?
Both scenarios sent a chill down her spine but all she could do was lay down helplessly and grit her teeth through the pain as she was pushed into through another set of double doors. They finally slowed down and she found herself in what looked like an operating room bathed in darkness save for the blue glow from the monitors and various other machines in the room.
"Okay, guys – I'm going to need something better than 'an infection' if I'm about to be operated on," Beckett said, fixing the doctors with the fiercest glare she could muster.
"No, no operation, Miss Beckett. We're just keeping you here for safety purposes. Quarantine, if you may. The other rooms and the rest of the hospital wing we fear may already be compromised but as this is the most isolated OR in the hospital, you stand a good chance of coming out of this unharmed," the same tall doctor who spoke before explained.
The other doctors pulled their masks off and she could tell from their expression that they were all equally relieved to be in that isolated operating room with her. The tension in the air was palpable and it took almost everything she had to not jump off her bed and demand more answers from them. Instead, she settled for pointing at the trolley they'd wheeled in with her.
"Can I have my phone back?"
A young doctor picked it up and handed it to her, her green eyes clouded with what Beckett could only describe as a mixture of fear and hope. She was young and pretty, reminding Beckett of Alexis. The doctor smiled ruefully at Kate before backing away and slumped down against the closest wall. "Yeah, you should uh – It's probably best if you let people know you're safe, I guess. For now."
Apparently the other doctors didn't approve of what Doctor Daniels had just said, but she just shrugged. "What, there's nothing anyone can do right now – might as well suck it up and face reality, guys."
Beckett looked up from the message she was typing and eyed the group of doctors warily.
"And what exactly is the reality here, may I ask? You - ," she pointed to the tall doctor who'd first spoken to her. " - said that it was a minor infection. The rest of your colleagues however, look like they've seen the devil incarnate and something tells me you don't move people to 'the most isolated OR' just because of a minor infection."
A blonde doctor at the far end of the room slow clapped and Beckett could see the sneer on his face. "Wow, she's smart this one," he drawled.
Beckett grit her teeth and was about to knock him down a peg or two, but her cellphone vibrated and she looked at it in surprise. She hadn't actually sent her message yet.
"Are you okay? I'm watching some news piece about a riot at the hospital. Call me if you can. Please. "
Riot? Here? She looked up at the doctors and contemplated her options. The blonde, smug one – Keenan, according to the tag on his doctor's coat was now in a heated conversation with Daniels and the tall doctor. The nurse who had followed them in was in a corner comforting someone – probably only an intern, which meant answers would have to come from the one standing by the doors, peering out of the glass rectangles nervously every few minutes.
Infection her ass.
"Hey, you. Will you please just tell me what's going on?" Beckett implored. "You guys have literally kidnapped me and we're all somehow supposed to be 'safe' here – but safe from what? What's going on with this riot that's supposedly happening?"
The doctor pushed his glasses up his nose and wiped his palms on pants of his blue scrubs. His name tag glittered in the pale glow of the room. Frantz, she read.
"Uh…well," his eyes shifted to the group of three still engaged in argument across the room. After a moment, he stepped closer to Beckett and licked his lips nervously.
"There were a bunch of people in the free clinic with the cold, some were running really high fevers – unusual for this time of the year, but not entirely implausible. Mostly teenagers. We thought – thought it was just one of those crazy random things that happen y'know, but then one kid started …. Uh. His skin started burning up, literally."
"He caught on fire?"
"Not exactly, but he was smoking. From the inside. So we decided to ice him over just to see if it helped. The minute Jenkins, a nurse, got close to him he reached out and growled, and I mean growled like an animal and tried to bite a piece of Jenkins off," Frantz shuddered and exhaled. "Kid's eyes were glassed over, and it was like he was possessed – wouldn't let go of Jenkins and kept wanting to bite her ear off. Naturally everyone else panicked and tried to get Jenkins away from the kid. Thing is, kid had a death grip on her – far stronger than he should have been capable of. Wouldn't let go."
"So … you all panicked over some kid who grabbed a nurse? Seriously?"
"Look, lady – Beckett. I'm not done. As soon as this kid got crazy the other kids starting burning up too. Some were smoking, some weren't – I guess the symptoms weren't all the same but … all of them … they all had the same unseeing eyes, none of them were speaking and the only sounds they were making were growls and moans and shit, Miss, it was terrifying."
Beckett sat for a moment, absorbing what she'd just heard. It sounded like something Castle would come up with, ridiculous nonsense that had no place in the real world … and yet …
"What are you saying, Doctor?"
"I don't know what I'm saying, okay? All I know is that these kids were going crazy. The Chief barricaded himself in the free clinic with a couple of other doctors, saying he's got a handle on things and divided the rest of us up to get everyone else in the hospital to safety. All I know is, when I left the clinic three nurses and an intern were lying on the floor bleeding to death on account of those crazy kids wanting a piece of them. The screams from inside were so loud and I didn't even know if it was the kids or the doctors or whatever. It was like World War Z down there," he muttered.
"It was messed up," Daniels chimed in. Apparently the rest of the doctors had stopped whatever they were doing and had listened to the last part of Frantz's retelling of the situation. "Definitely sounded like a whole bunch of zom – "
"They're not real, D," the intern simpered from the ground. "They can't be. It's not biologically possible."
"Sure it is," Keenan sniggered. "And when they come for us, you'll be the first one we sacrifice."
"Shut up, Keenan!"
"Why, can't you fend off a couple of kids? Afraid they're going to – "
The doctors stared at Beckett, surprised at her outburst. Beckett had had enough. She pulled herself upright on the bed, the hospital gown crinkling as she attempted to stand up. Oh. Bad move, the room was spinning.
"You should probably sit down, Miss," Daniels said.
Beckett gritted her teeth and ignored her. "You're telling me, that in the last six hours or so, some sort of teenage riot has been going on and people are dying and no one thought to call the cops?"
"Uh, we did. They told us to hang tight and try to contain it until they assessed the situation," Keenan provided easily. He shrugged off his coat and sat down cross-legged next to the intern he was taunting. "So there's nothing we can do til the cops do whatever it is they do right?"
"Are you guys idiots? People are dying and instead of controlling this outbreak you're huddled in here, doing nothing?"
The silence that followed was unnerving. At least they had the decency to look properly chastised – none of them were able to meet her accusing glare and not even the smug one had anything to say.
The nurse spoke up eventually. "They're all only interns, Miss. It's their first week. The only reason they're up here is because the other doctors thought they could handle it better and got these interns to get everyone else to safety."
"Do you believe this? That some sort of viral outbreak is causing these kids to … eat people?"
The nurse shrugged. "I saw it myself. I've seen a couple of weird ass things happen here – but those teenagers? They were dead, alright. Dead and alive and hungry. I don't know what else to tell you. You can call it whatever you like, but as far as I see it – we're in a bit of pickle and if someone don't do nothin' soon, we're all gonna be next."
What. The. Hell.
The fear actually set in, flowed through her veins and settled heavily in the pit of her stomach. Surely it wasn't really happening. None of it was real…. Could it? She looked at the faces of the interns around her and the terror on their faces was as clear as day. At the very least, they believed it was real and it was terrifying them.
Flesh eating teenagers. Violent flesh eating teenagers. Oh. God. The panic was growing and she wanted to throw up. The throbbing around her bullet wound was intensifying and the stitches on the side of the abdomen were hurting. She swallowed nervously and forced herself to keep calm.
Her cellphone vibrated again and Beckett prayed it was a message saying she'd been punked. Thanks for playing, have a nice rest of the day. She opened her eyes and swiped her finger to unlock the phone. She'd received a total of five messages and three missed calls – all from Castle. She scrolled to the earliest unread message and opened it.
'Beckett, you okay?'
'Looks pretty serious in there – please call.'
'Espo and Ryan aren't answering, Beckett. I'm going over there if I don't hear from you.''
'You're in danger, Kate. Hang tight, I'm coming to get you.'