Apologies for the delay. Real life got in the way. Once again, thank you for the reviews and follows.
Castle had to exit the cab three blocks away from the hospital. There were blockades all over the place and the streets were lined with abandoned cars. The silence was nerve-wrecking. The cabbie smiled in relief as Castle gave him his fare, speeding away even before the door slammed shut.
The hospital loomed in the near distance and from his vantage point on the street, Castle could tell that getting to Beckett would be a little more difficult than he'd anticipated. There were mobile investigative units lined up along the entrance, ambulances and – what were those trucks –
Okay, so the CDC were there too. Great.
As he got closer, he managed to make out the mixture of cops and CDC personnel in hazmat suits milling about the place. Police barricades had been set up around the perimeter of the hospital as people crowded around the entrance, shouts of dissatisfaction and frustration getting louder and louder as the minutes ticked by.
Well at least it wasn't scarily quiet anymore.
He used his bigger bulk to push past a majority of the angry crowd. If he could somehow make his way to the front, maybe he'd see someone from the precinct – charm his way for some information, to be let in … do whatever he could to get to Beckett.
Muscling his way through the last angry row of protesters, he found himself watching the scene before him unfold like something out of a movie. Rows of decontamination tents had been set up outside the hospital, trucks emblazoned with FDNY were parked back to back along the entrance – cops were everywhere, as were the fire department. He was about to try and push past the metal barricades when a cop appeared in front of him, pushing him back roughly.
"Sir, you're not allowed here."
The uniform reached for her piece and the crowd suddenly grew wilder. "I'm afraid you'll have to move back – oh, Mr. Castle!"
It was Valazquez, Castle realised. She looked a little worn out and disheveled. Castle nodded at her in greeting. "Yeah, hey. What's going on in there, where's Ryan and Esposito?" He asked, raising his voice over the noise.
"They went inside a few minutes ago, part of a joint rescue squad with the Fire Department. The commissioner said that getting the survivors out were the priority."
"That's … that's good. I …"
A loud explosion deafened him and he braced himself against the crowd at his back. The glass windows along the second floor of the hospital shattered outwards as a series of smaller explosions went off. A thick plume of smoke started billowing out of the now broken windows. The explosion set off the alarms of the cars parked nearby, dogs howled – more sirens. Cops shouting at one another.
His heart was racing, the smell of smoke surrounding him – suffocating … and Beckett. She was still in there.
"Velazquez, Beckett's in there!" He yelled over the commotion, pointing at the hospital to emphasize his point. He swallowed the fear that was threatening to overcome him. He was about to lose his shit, and as far as he could tell, so were most of the crowd.
"You have to let me help, at least tell me what's going on – please!" Castle's frustration grew as he noticed more cops entering the hospital – this time in riot gear and a bigger group of fire fighters following closely behind them.
"I understand, Castle. We're not allowed to – well I guess it's probably because we don't know anything yet. But we're not allowed to … uh, talk to you. Civilians."
The rage inside him grew and he could feel himself shaking from it. "Can't ... can't talk? That's my partner in there! She's wounded! I need – please, Valazquez."
"Mr. Castle – oh," She was interrupted by a loud siren from a megaphone, blasting from somewhere within the barricades.
"A state of emergency has been declared by the mayor of New York. Everyone is to return home immediately. We will update everyone when we know more. I repeat, everyone is to return home immediately. Any unauthorized person who remains within a hundred yards of the hospital at noon today will be quarantined, with no exceptions. Everyone, go home!"
A group of cops made their way to the barricades to thin out the crowd. Castle stood his ground and grabbed at Velazquez's arm before she could turn away.
"Look, just … get me in. No one will know it was you. I need to get to Beckett. Please," he pleaded even as people started walking away angrily, herded away by the authorities.
Something he said, or something about the way he said seemed to have worked because before he knew it, he was being dragged through a small opening, roughly lead through the confusion of people and police. He didn't know where he was headed but as he was lead far into the military-like set up, he heard bits and pieces that sent his nerves into overdrive.
Hospital's a dead zone. Left wing's completely overrun.
Nothing else we can do.
Raze the damn thing down.
Virus spreading like wildfire, can't be contained.
"Okay, we're good here," Velazquez finally said as she stepped into decontamination tent. Castle followed closely and zipped up the entrance hesitantly.
"What's going on?" He asked again.
"I honestly don't know," she started but was once again interrupted by another explosion. She sucked in a deep breath and continued. "One minute everything was fine, and the next we get a call from the commissioner saying all sorts of crazy things – the entire precinct was needed, uniforms and all. Then we got here and realised that the feds had taken over – the fire department had sent everyone they had and the other precincts too. The CDC arrived and made us all get cleaned up, told us it was some sort of mutated strain of the flu virus that needed to be contained immediately," she paused.
"This is more serious than a flu virus," Castle muttered in disbelief.
"Yeah, we figured. But no one's saying anything. Word is the first team that went in - they are all dead. The patients have gone feral – the ones … the ones affected have become violent and they took them all out. That's when they sent in a second team, Ryan and Esposito are with them. We haven't heard from them yet. It's getting crazy in there. You really shouldn't go in. Even if Beckett – "
Castle cut her off with a wave of his hand. "I'm going in there no matter what. I've got … I've got a gun. I know how to use it. And," He patted the bag slung across his shoulder. "I uh … borrowed your gym bag for some other stuff… if that's okay."
For a moment Velazquez let a small smile grace her features. "I knew that looked familiar."
"Just tell me how to get in, and I'll let you get back to it," Castle said.
"There's nothing I can say to stop you?"
"Not unless you've got Beckett hidden somewhere out here in this mess of things."
"Okay… the first rescue squad went in through the back, just around the corner from where we are. I don't know what the situation is like in there – but if Beckett's in the ICU, that's in the central wing. Stay away from the left wing where the free clinic is, whatever you do."
Castle nodded as he took it in. "Thanks, Velazquez. I owe you one."
Velazquez shrugged – what else could she have said really? She walked over to the entrance of the tent, unzipped it and peered out.
"Coast is clear – you should be able to make it to the back door. You don't owe me anything. Just … just be safe."
So maybe charging into the hospital without backup hadn't been such a good idea. Sure he had his arsenal (if it even qualified as an arsenal) of weapons, but the situation at hand was one he never encountered before.
And also, usually, Beckett was around to go through the doors first.
The moment he stepped inside, he was cloaked in darkness. Except for the glowing emergency 'Exit' signs, the hospital was completely dark and his hairs were starting to stand on their ends. He gripped the pistol in his hand a little tighter and kept going. The explosions thankfully seemed to have happened far away enough to not have affected the area was currently in. Still, he knew it didn't mean that he was completely safe.
Or if Beckett –
Nope, he wasn't going to go there.
He crept through the hallway, taking note of the signs pointing towards the ICU. Beckett was a few floors above him so he'd need to find a stairwell. He pushed past a set of doors and found himself in some sort of visitors lounge, empty and silent.
Until he saw the bodies.
He barely held in the gasp of horror as he realised there was blood all over the floor. He scanned the room, and spotted them – 4 dead bodies – and swallowed. That wasn't … too bad. The bodies lay in a pool of their own blood, limbs ripped apart and skin shredded into strips. Flesh hanging off the face of a woman as her eyeball stared unseeingly at the ceiling above her. Eyeball. One. Because the other seemed to have gone missing.
Castle almost threw up.
Nothing – not even the years by Beckett's side had prepared him for this. He fished around in his pocket for his phone, pulling up Beckett's number. The last few times he'd tried calling, they refused to connect and his texts weren't being sent. He tried again and once again failed to connect. Cursing, he proceeded through the lounge.
He spied a fire exit at the end of the hallway and his heart skipped a beat. Keeping his back firmly against the wall, he made his way slowly past the bodies and through the end of the hallway.
And then he heard it.
A soft scratching, rhythmic and consistent. His heart started racing. As he got closer to the door to the stairwell, the scratching grew louder and he licked his lips nervously. Whatever it was, he'd have to find a way past it to get to the stairs.
Now there was moaning. Oh God.
He raised the gun and sucked in a deep breath. O-okay. The door was heavy he knew, and he'd have to push the handle down with one hand before he could muscle it open. Whatever was back there could get the jump on him if he wasn't quick enough.
Castle pushed the handle down slowly and used his shoulder to push the door the rest of the way open, his gun trained on the slit of the entrance as it got wider. So far, so good. The scratching remained consistent, moaning just as loud and he took relief in the fact that whatever it was didn't seem to have noticed his presence. He pushed the door completely open and immediately whipped his gun back up in front of him, forcing his eyes to scan the darkness for the other … presence.
Standing in front of him was a teenager. Clad in just a pale blue hospital gown, the boy stood stock still in front of him – dead eyes, mouth hanging open tongue lolling past his chin. Castle found the gun shaking in front of him and realised he was trembling. The boy didn't seem to register that he wasn't alone. His left hand was holding onto the stair rail, fingers scratching at the metal. All the while, just staring blankly at Castle.
Castle was at a loss as to what to do. For all the time he spent reading comics and playing his video games, they had definitely not prepared him for any of this. What was he supposed to do now? Call out to the kid? Shoot him? There was no possible way he would be able to sneak past the boy without bringing some sort of attention to himself.
Realising the boy posed no immediate threat, he lowered his gun and considered his options. No point in wasting bullets – so he slipped the gun back into the holster and pulled out the knife instead. The boy was obviously blind but Castle wasn't going to assume that his other senses were similarly affected.
Castle pointed the knife at the boy and readied himself.
"Kid," he said. "Hello."
The scratching stopped. The boy cocked his head to the side and moaned a little louder.
Ok, blind, but not deaf.
Castle raised his knife even higher.
The moaning got louder and as if he was sniffing Castle out. The kid drew in a deep breath and then his moans turned into a menacing growl. He stepped forward, feet moving steadily and Castle shrank back. His back thudded loudly against the door and chills travelled down his spine as he realised he was cornered.
All of a sudden, the kid screamed and lunged forward, arms flailing in front of him as he bared his teeth. Castle dodged him, a quick duck under the boy's outstretched arms and a side step put him beside the boy instead of in front of him. The kid righted himself and turned towards Castle, hands grabbing wildly. The growls increased in volume and Castle stepped backwards.
The kid leapt and a knobby knee connected with Castle's stomach, sending them both crumbling in a heap against the stairs. Castle gasped in pain as his back hit the edge of a few steps and he threw his hands up, preventing the boy from getting any closer to him. The knife had fallen uselessly to the side as he got knocked back and he pushed hard against the kid, trying to unbalance him.
Casttle brought his knee up, slamming it against the boy's back. The impact stunned the kid for a moment and it was all the time Castle needed. Using all the upper body strength he could muster, he pushed himself up and as the kid fell away, grabbed the fallen knife. He dusted himself off and quickly walked backwards up a few steps, still carefully holding the knife in front of him.
The boy had stopped growling and it seemed as if he was searching for Castle even though he hadn't gotten very far.
Castle's heart was pumping, fear coursing through every vein in his body and took in a few gulps of air as he kept staring at the boy. The kid turned to face the door again, fingers scratching in futility at the grey paint, his earlier tussle with Castle seemingly forgotten.
Castle squeezed his eyes shut and forced his nerves to calm down.
That had been way too close.
He took one last look at the boy and turned around. Making sure to remain completely silent, he made his way up the rest of the stairwell.
"She's can't be that great of a cop if she's – "
Beckett was back at the cemetery, Castle looming over her – his blue eyes …
"Shut up, Keenan!"
"She just got shot for Christ's sake! It's PTSD! Did you learn nothing at med school?"
How can you love me, Castle?
Why did Montgomery die for me?
Shit – the pain. Oh. She's … she's not back at the cemetery.
"Hey – wait, just … she's coming around."
"Just give her some space, you idiots!"
The voices became clearer as Beckett regained awareness of her surroundings again. Her world came back into colour as she realised she was looking up at a bunch of masked faces, blinking at her. Startled at their proximity, she cried out and backed away – only to find herself in more pain and her escape hindered by a wall at her back.
"Detective?" Keenan – she recalled. His name was Keenan and he was the smug one, only he didn't look all too smug at that moment. The concern was evident on his features and she blinked a few more times to make sure she wasn't hallucinating.
How long had she been in lost in a panic for?
Beckett winced as she breathed in, her first deep breath since coming to and the pain was ridiculous. She could feel the sweat drip down her face, seeping into the thin material of her hospital gown.
"Y-Yeah. What the … what happened?" She asked, fighting through the remnants of the vivid memory of the cemetery. She could still smell the grass, feel the sun on her skin, the warmth of Castle's presence at her back.
"Um, there was an explosion and you sort of just … fell," Daniels explained as she held out her hand to help Beckett up.
"I think it was in the psych ward, not too close but still a little dangerous. We really should try to make our way out of here," Keenan said. The others nodded in agreement at his suggestion.
Easing herself back onto the gurney she was brought in in, she sighed. These group of young doctors were clearly in over their heads. Beckett pushed past the pain and decided if anyone was going to take charge – it was going to have to be her. "Okay, so we get out of here. What do we do then? We have no idea what's going on, what's out there. Who's out there. We need some sort of plan before we go charging into the unknown, guys."
"You're the one with the cellphone, you tell us!"
She shot Keenan a glare, but soon realised he was right. Her cell – Castle had been texting her. Oh, where was it?
Suddenly there was loud scream in the distance and everyone scrambled around her.
The fear was palpable among the people in the room and Beckett didn't couldn't blame them. "That sounded like it came from nearby," she muttered.
"Yeah, I think it's time we really think about getting out of here, don't you think?" Frantz said as he peered back out the rectangle of the door. There were nods of acquiescence this time and the nurse stood up from her place sitting against the door.
"We're close to a fire exit, if we can make our way downstairs and past reception we can get out. Assuming the first floor hasn't been completely run over, we can put Miss Beckett on a gurney and push her through. I don't know what we can do about the stairs though," she said apologetically.
Beckett nodded. "I'll… I'll be fine," she said. She could deal with it when the time came. She cast a long look at the people before her. Their frightened faces stared back at her but underneath the fear, she could detect the faint determination within them and that was just about as good a motivation as any for them to get out of there.
"Are there … bags in here? Can we grab supplies? Bandages, syringes – whatever we can take with us, we'll take. There's no point in leaving these things here and who knows what we'll need later."
The doctors went into action at her words and started gathering everything in sight and slipping them into plastic bags they'd found around the OR. Beckett watched helplessly, taking note of the silence that had befallen the group. It was as though the reality of their situation had really hit them, and their earlier bickering and arguing had fallen to the wayside as they worked together.
Her mind was conjuring up all sorts of implausible scenarios, things that Castle would have been so proud off. Teenage riot, murder, and violent killings – it seemed so surreal and yet … too real. The pain in her chest was a constant presence, and then there was the niggling feeling that things were going to get a lot worse in the near future.
Castle would call it her 'spidey sense'.
Thinking about her partner brought on a new surge of worry through her. The last time she'd heard from him, he'd sent a cryptic text implying that he was about to do something to come and get her. She wondered if he knew what was going on. If he even knew what he was getting himself into.
Considering the circumstances they were currently in, Beckett could only hope Castle was far, far away from the hospital.