I've change the order of events here a little bit, but hopefully no one will hold that against me. Thank you everyone that continued to read after my long absence. It means a great deal to me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.
"Well, if there isn't some drug that you can give me to get through this case, can you give me a bottle of tic-tacs or something? Just so it looks like I'm taking pills." Beckett wasn't quite begging.
Sitting across from her in an identical chair Dr. Burke was studying Kate's features trying to decide where she was going with her statement. "No. For a whole host of reason you already know I can't and I won't do such a thing. Knowing that, it makes me wonder why do you ask?"
"Because Castle said you wouldn't and when he finds out he was right he will be unbearable." Kate could hear herself whine. "Seriously though, I thought I was over this. Why aren't I better?"
"Better?" Burke almost sighed. "Where were you seven months ago?"
Kate winced. "Sitting in a hospital bed wired up like a home entertainment system." She smiled thinking how that was exactly the way Castle would have described it.
"And where are you today?" Burke prompted.
"Here, having panic attacks and whining instead of helping stop a serial killer." Kate growled
Burke set his notepad down on the table in front of him. "No. You are back at work. You are in a healthy productive relationship. You are almost back to 100% physically. You have battled past your PTSD so that it has only presented when you are facing exactly the thing that hurt you seven months ago. By any measure, any measure, "he emphasized "that is amazing."
"It's not so amazing when you are crumbling in front of your friends." Kate did her best not to grit her teeth.
"You know Kate, you don't have to work this case." Burke suggested the obvious and sat back waiting for the inevitable answer.
She looked up from her clasped hands. "Have you been talking to Castle?" Kate couldn't keep the anger out of her voice.
"You know better than that. He suggested the same thing?" Anyone who wasn't Detective Kate Beckett would have, he thought.
"Yes." She admitted. "But I have to. I have to show that I'm capable of doing my job."
"You are doing your job. But this case, this specific case, a sniper case, is one step to far. Maybe you aren't ready for this specific case yet."
"When will I be ready? How long do victims have to wait for justice while I get ready?" Kate was screaming by the end of the sentence.
"You aren't the only detective in the city."
Burke made the statement in the same calm, relaxed tone he always used, but the words went off like a bomb in Kate's mind. "No, but I am the best." She defended.
"Not at this case." He tried one last time to use reason, but could see she wasn't actually listening to what he was saying.
Another even louder explosion when off in Kate's mind. "What!" She narrowed her eyes at the doctor.
He raised his hand in an attempt to ward off her anger, but didn't stop his train of thought. "You aren't the best detective at this case. You are fighting yourself as well as the environment. I understand that you think facing it head on is the best way to deal with just about every situation but in this one instance it may not be."
Kate huffed. "What is that supposed to be? Some sort of pep talk?"
"It's the truth. I'm here to help you, be honest with you. Not tell you what you want to hear."
"So that's it? I'm just not good enough anymore? I can't cut it?" Kate stood from her chair.
"That's not what I said and you know it. I said that this case is affecting you so severely because it closely mimics what happened to you. Seven months isn't enough time to truly come to terms with something like this. Not even for you."
Kate headed for the door. "Thanks Doc. I've got a case to solve."
As the door opened Castle stood from his seat in the waiting room.
Kate didn't slow her stride as she went by. "Let's go." She muttered.
Castle turned to look at Burke standing in the doorway of the office. The doctor shook his head and frowned. The men exchanged a concerned glace, Castle nodded, and headed off after the detective.
They returned to the precinct to find an all hands on deck meeting had been called. Gates had called in help from other divisions after the serial sniper story had gone public.
As Castle went to get coffee, Espo followed him into the break room.
"So?" He asked.
"You saw the same thing I did Javi. It's not good. I don't know what to do." Castle admitted.
"Just be there and don't push. It's the best thing you can do."
Rick nodded his head in agreement.
"I'm going to check out the sniper's shooting location. Want to come?" Espo asked.
"No, but it's probably best to give her some space right now. It's obvious she thinks I'm hovering."
Twenty minutes later the men were standing in an abandoned room on a forgotten floor of a half empty building. Javi took a look out the window. He stepped back a couple of paces. "So if he shot from about here…" Javi got down on his hands and knees to begin searching the floor. It only took him a moment to find what he was looking for. "Well, this is definitely the spot." He held the object up for Castle to see. "Spent casing."
Rick pointed at something on the window seal. "What's that?" He walked over and examined the item. It was a folded piece of paper. "Think the killer left it here?" He asked.
"Only one way to find out." Javi said donning rubber gloves and pulling out and evidence bag.
The lab had put a rush on fingerprinting the spent casing. The prints came back to a former Army sniper who now owned a gun store/firing range. Beckett had him in the box within the hour. Castle stayed for the entire interview, but didn't say a word.
"What was that?" Castle asked as he exited the interrogation room closing the door behind him.
"What?" Kate was immediately defensive.
"You personally attacked that man in there. You specifically attacked his service to this country." Castle pointed out.
Kate stopped in her tracks and whirled on Castle. "Since when do you question how I interrogate a murderer?"
"We don't know he's a murderer. We haven't even checked his alibi yet." Rick pointed out.
"That? Anyone could see through that." Kate headed back to her desk. "We got him."
As if on que Ryan appeared. "His alibi checks out."
"What?" Kate turned her ire toward the younger detective. "Who lied for him?"
"The surveillance camera at his store. He was on screen and helping a member of the NYPD SWAT no less at the time of the first shooting. He was actually in the range helping a customer at the time of the second." Kevin read from his notes.
"Dammit!" Kate exclaimed. She stormed off toward the break room.
Kate had wanted to go to her apartment alone but after Castle explained that he was going to go wherever she was, she relented, accompanying him to his apartment.
However, even there, he couldn't get her to drop the case.
"They have to mean something." Kate said to no one at all as she threw the picture of the little paper doll on the counter.
"Yes, but we don't have any idea what and we've been looking at them for." Rick looked as his watch. "Five and a half hours."
Kate sighed deeply. Without a word, she stood and headed to the bedroom. After a few moments Castle heard the shower turn on.
Against his own advice, he continued to look over the evidence. So engrossed in his study of the little paper doll he didn't hear Alexis come down the stairs.
"She finally went to bed?"
"Not yet." He cocked his head to hear the shower still running. "At least she isn't sitting here stewing."
"And what are you stewing over?" Alexis leaned over the counter to see what her father was holding his hands.
"This little doll was left at the crime scene. It has to mean something but no one has any idea what. We know that it's from a painting. We can see the brush strokes. We just don't know which one or why it matters." He held the little evidence bag up to his daughter.
Alexis's eyes narrowed as she titled her head to the side. "I know that that." She reached into her book bag pulling out a thick text book. "It's part of my art history class. It's part of a painting that Samantha is doing a report on." She flipped through the book until she found the correct page.
There on the page was the complete portrait the little doll had come from.
Castle arrived at the precinct early. Well, at least early for him.
"I know what the paper doll means." The team looked at him, waiting.
Gates wasn't quite as expectant. "Mr. Castle, this better be good. I have half the city on my back."
"The dolls are predictive. The first doll is from a painting called The Persecution of Kings."
"Henry Watts was killed on King Street." Gates responded.
"Exactly. This one." Rick held up the latest doll. "Is from Fall from Grace."
"There's a Grace Avenue." Beckett responded.
"Grace Church is on 10th Street." Ryan added.
At that moment all the phones in the precinct began to ring.
The team arrived a Grace Point Tower as the EMTs were wheeling out a young woman.
"Was anyone killed?" He asked the paramedic.
"No. She's the only injury. It's not pretty but she will make it. Sniper opened fire into a conference room on the 15th floor."
"Ma'am?" Kate stood by the gurney. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Why me? What did I do? Why me?" The young woman was screaming.
Castle immediately heard the panic in Kate's mind. He turned from the paramedic to see her running around a corner. The thoughts that were making it to him were scattered and fragmented but all of them were scared.
He found her sitting on the floor in a back hallway. She was sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up to her chest. Her badge, coat, and gloves were all thrown on the floor. He didn't say anything. He simply sat down beside her and place his arms around her.
When they arrived back at the precinct Kate immediately made for the break room. Rick made his way over to Javi. "Talk to her."
Javi shook his head. "What can I say that you haven't?"
"You are the solider, the sniper. You've seen this, experienced it. You can talk to her in a way no one can. Not even me." Castle pleaded.
Javi didn't say anything. He simply nodded his head and followed after the senior detective.
"Beckett." Javi called as he walked into the break room.
"What!" She whirled around. She knew she was being angrier than she should be, but she just couldn't seem to get her emotions in line.
"Can we talk about something we found? It' down in evidence."
Kate just nodded her head not trusting herself to speak. She walked out the break room headed for the evidence locker passing by Castle without looking him directly in the eye.
She opened the door to the evidence room turning to let Javi in first. He walked into the room and she turned and closed the door. When she turned back around her heart stopped.
"Javi! What the hell?" She nearly screamed.
While her back had been turned he had removed a rifle from the racks and placed it on the table in the middle of the room. "This is a rifle. Specifically it's the rifle that shot you."
"Dammit Javi." She turned to leave the room.
Javi raised his voice. "It a tool. It's not magic. It is a tool used a by a man. It's a tool men use to take a life. But in the end it's just a tool." Javi picked the rifle up off the table and held it out to Kate. "It's just a thing Beckett. It only has power over you if you let it."
Kate was terrified at the prospect of touching the rifle. She couldn't fight the feeling that if she grasped the item held in front of her all of her worst fears would come to be. The fear froze her in place.
"Beckett." Javi softened his voice. "Kate. Take it. You use the tool, the tool doesn't use you." He took a step toward her. He considered it a win that she didn't take a step back.
Kate reached out and took the rifle from Javi. "It's just a thing Kate. Just an object."
She held the weapon in both hands waiting for the worst to happen. As moments passed and nothing did she began to feel the earth under her steady in a way that it hadn't for months.
She nodded at Javi and he let go of the weapon. She took a deep breath as the full weight of the object she was holding settled in her arms. Long moments passed with nothing happing but the sound of her steady breathing. For the first time it occurred to her that she might be alright after all.