*A/N: Takes place sometime after 3x17-Countdown

Beating The Odds

She could not believe it. It just couldn't be true. Her faith in not just the system but justice was being severely tested. Everything that Kate Beckett believed in was falling apart. Her entire career had been spent following the evidence, trusting in it. But with this case, unlike any before, she just could not believe it.

It was wrong. All wrong. Nothing about it made sense.

She heard raised voices from the other side of the bullpen. Jerking her head up, Kate saw Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito locked together in what was clearly a heated disagreement. It wouldn't take a seasoned investigator to deduce what her two partners were arguing about. Just like her, Ryan was struggling to reconcile what he believed with what the evidence said. Meanwhile, Esposito had already made up his mind. The evidence pointed in a certain way, and it was indisputable. His basic instinct was to believe it. And once he made up his mind, Esposito held firm.

Choosing to ignore her partners quarreling, Kate dropped her head and knitted her eyebrows together as she tried to concentrate once again on reviewing the damning cellphone and bank records. There were also the emails, and the deleted files that tech found in the memory buffers of his laptop. There was also the DNA and fingerprints found at the crime scene. It all pointed to him, painting a picture of a man caught in a torrid affair that he desperately wanted out of.

But Kate just couldn't believe it.

Richard Castle was not a murderer.

The man could be a self-centered, egotistical jackass, but he was not that. He was a gentle, kindhearted soul. Sure she'd seen him beat a man to pulp with just his bare fists, but to kill someone, especially in the manner in which the victim had been killed—No. Richard Castle was a lot of things, but he was not that.

Yet the evidence pointed directly at him. There was nothing she could do to stop the chain of events that led to his arrest. It gutted her to even be a part of it. Standing in the loft as Martha and Alexis watched with confusion and horror as CSU found the clinching piece of damning evidence buried inside a black duffel bag that had been stored in Castle's office had been one of the most difficult things she'd ever done. And then Castle was arrested, right there in front of her and his family. Esposito had done the deed with a cold detachment that belied the friendship she thought the two men had shared. And then there was Castle. She swallowed hard at the memory, her chest clenching with the heartache of it all. He had looked to her with large, pleading eyes as Esposito had slapped the cuffs on his wrists and read him his rights.

Kate couldn't believe it. None of it made sense. It contradicted everything she knew about him. Despite what the evidence said, Kate could never believe Castle could murder someone. Never. It went against everything she'd been taught or learned, but Kate could not accept the evidence, at least not a face value. There had to be something wrong with it, some small crack in the otherwise airtight case.

She caught a movement out of the corner of her eye, pulling her back from her memories. Dragging her eyes away from the rows and rows of data, Kate glanced up at a grim-faced Roy Montgomery.

"Captain?" she asked, her voice hoarse and thick with concern. She hadn't slept much over the last couple of days, spending most of her waking hours pouring over the evidence, frantically looking for a way to clear Castle's name. "What is it?"

"I just got word," Montgomery said in a sorrowful voice, his face showing the stress of the last forty-eight hours. "The DA has filed charges. They're going to send him to Central Booking tomorrow."

"What!? No!" she shouted, bolting up from her seat, causing heads to turn. She didn't care. This was too important to worry about creating a scene in the middle of the bullpen. "I know that I can prove this, sir. I just need more time."

Montgomery let out a long sigh. "I feel for you, Beckett," he assured, giving her an apologetic look. "I do. But my hands are tied. There's nothing we can do. I'm sorry."

Kate just shook her head in response, unwilling to believe any of this was really happening. It couldn't be real. It just couldn't. It had to be some awful nightmare. Montgomery placed a hand on her shoulder in a feeble attempt to offer her some comfort. She gave him a watery smile of thanks, and then ducked her head down to conceal her impending breakdown. When Montgomery returned to his office, she slumped back down in her chair and buried her face in her hands.

She couldn't let this happen. This was a travesty of justice. It was wrong. All wrong. And she had to fix it.


He couldn't sleep. It was like he was living in some bizarre reality where nothing made sense. At first, he thought it was just all some big misunderstanding, but then when Beckett and the boys showed up at the loft with uniformed officers and CSU techs, he had known it was serious. And then, before he knew it, they had found the smoking gun, so to speak, and Esposito was cuffing him and reading him his rights with his mother and daughter watching in horror.

Hanging his head, Rick Castle let out a long sigh of despair. He hadn't seen Beckett since then. He could only imagine what she must think of him now. His heart clenched at that thought. He wished things could be different. He wished… he so wished for so many things to be different. If only he'd spoken up sooner, told her how he felt, then maybe everything would have turned out better. As it stood now, Beckett was happily dating Doctor Motorcycle Boy and Castle found himself under arrest for a murder he did not commit.

Esposito had been the one to interrogate him. It appalled him how a man he once thought of as a friend could tear into him so viciously. It was obvious that Esposito believed Castle did it. There was nothing he could say to convince him otherwise. Later, while LT was escorting him down to holding, Ryan had told him about the evidence they had found in the loft, the emails on his computer that alluded to an affair with the victim, and the fingerprints and DNA at the crime scene. Ryan assured him that they weren't giving up on him, but Castle found it difficult to believe that when he hadn't seen or heard from Beckett since his arrest. How could he hope for a positive resolution when even Beckett had abandoned him?

Shaking his head, Castle let out a long breath, and leaned back against the cold hard bricks. He closed his eyes and scrubbed his hands down his face. Earlier in the evening, LT had informed him that the DA had officially filed charges and that orders for his transfer to Central Booking had been issued for the following morning. It was over for him. The evidence was overwhelming, and his friends had abandoned him. His lawyer told him not to give up hope, but Castle felt nothing but the lack there of.

Suddenly the silence of the holding cells was disturbed by the creak of a metal gate, pulling him out of his dark ruminations. Castle blinked his eyes and squinted in the darkness. He could hear the quick click of footsteps as someone entered. Cautiously, Castle stood up and approached the bars. Staring out Castle caught a glimpse of a figure hurriedly moving through the shadows, emerging seconds later. Castle's eyes shot up in surprise.

"Wow! I wasn't expecting you," he asserted, trying desperately to control the emotion in his voice but failing. "I… I thought I'd never see you again." He narrowed his eyes, watching as his visitor approached the cell. Brow furrowing, he started to ramble, unashamed of the frantic tinge to his voice. "You gotta believe me. It wasn't me. I didn't do it. I never knew her. I know. I sound crazy. A desperate story from a desperate man. But… you know me. You know I could never do that."

"I know," she replied in a soft voice. Her beautiful hazel eyes flirted up to his with an affectionate spark to them he had thought he'd never see again.

"You believe me?" he asked, unable to suppress the awe in his voice.

"I never stopped," Kate Beckett said with a beautiful smile that simply melted his heart. She reached in between the bars and gave his fingers a reassuring squeeze. Then she leaned back and retrieved something from her jacket pocket, ignoring his questioning gaze in favor of picking the cell door's lock.

"What… what are you doing?" he nearly hooted in alarm.

Her gaze jerked back up to his with a slightly amused glint. "Breaking you out, Castle," she said with a smirk, rolling her eyes. "What does it look like?"

"Beckett…," he let out a quiet gasp. "You… you…"

She shushed him, her glare effectively silencing him. He stood back and watched as Beckett worked quickly. Within moments, the lock was clicking and she was pulling the gate open.

"Come on, Castle," she said, grabbing his arm and tugging him out of the cell. "We don't have much time."

Completely baffled, all he could do was follow her lead. She had a determined look on her face, and he wasn't going to argue. They moved down the blocks of holding cells, towards a backdoor Castle had never seen before. It wasn't like he made a regular habit of visiting holding. Beckett opened the door and ushered him through. He blinked his eyes and found himself standing in a dimly lit stairwell. Beckett slipped in behind him, gently closing the door behind her. He waited, looking at her for direction. Beckett grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together and led the way down the stairs.

His heart pumped wildly in his chest as they rushed down the stairwell, taking a right at the bottom landing, and dashing down a narrow hallway, coming out into a room that appeared to be a disused storage area. This was a part of the precinct Castle had never seen before. There were piles of moldy cardboard boxes and detritus covering the cold cement floor. Beckett released his hand and flicked on a small compact flashlight, sending the beam out ahead of them. She hurried forward, towards a locked gate. He watched as she knelt down and picked the lock. Stowing her gear, she glanced back at him with a flick of her head and smiled softly.

"Come," she ordered.

He followed her down the dark corridors, and through several more locked doors, before they finally made it out of the building. He breathed deeply of the cool night air, and glanced wearily at Beckett, wondering what she was up to. She grabbed his hand again, palms kissing as she interlaced their fingers together as if they did this all the time. His skin tingled with the touch of her hand to his. And his pulse quickened, a combination of anxiety and excitement.

Beckett led him down the alley towards a parked vehicle he didn't recognize. She released his hand, and he couldn't help but sigh in disappointment at the loss, before following her lead and getting into the car. She slid behind the wheel and keyed the ignition. Within moments they were pulling out of the narrow alleyway and into the street. Beckett stared out the windshield with a fierce resolve. For the first time in almost forever, Castle found himself at a loss for words.

It wasn't until they were out of the New York City limits, speeding down the interstate highway that Castle found his voice.

"Beckett…?" he broached tentatively, stumbling over his words. He pursed his lips and started again. "Kate? What are you doing?"

She kept her eyes on the road as she answered. "They weren't going to give you a fair chance, Castle," she said. "They'd already made up their minds and they were going to take you away. I couldn't let that happen. I know you didn't do it. You could never do that. So… I decided to take matters into my own hands."

"What?" he gasped.

"We're going on the run," she explained, as if it was no big deal.

"We're going on the run," Castle echoed in surprise. "As in 'together'?"

"Yes, together," Kate said, rolling her eyes, yet her affectionate tone belied her annoyance at his obtuseness. "I've emptied my savings, and loaded up the trunk with enough supplies to last us for a little while." She paused, and glanced at him with a reassuring smile. "We'll find out who framed you, and we'll clear your name. I promise."

"Kate… I… I don't understand," Castle said, shaking his head, unable to comprehend her actions. He glanced away, gazing out at the moonlight scenery along the roadside. "What about Josh?" he asked with a frown, hating himself for even mentioning Doctor Motorcycle Boy, but he couldn't shake away his utter confusion over the situation. It all seemed so insane. "I thought you said you were trying to make things work with him after he decided to stay."

Beckett was silent for a long beat until answering. She let out a long sigh, almost of defeat or regret, he couldn't exactly tell. "It was never going to work between us," she spoke softly. "I liked him. I really did. But that wasn't enough. We both wanted more. And neither one of us could really deliver. To be honest, it's been over, for a long time, actually. He'll manage. He might not understand, but he will. I had to do this. It was the right choice. The only choice."

Castle shook his head and glanced at Beckett with a furrowed brow. "I can't ask you to do this, Kate," he said. "You're risking so much. Possibly destroying your career… for… for me. Why? Why would you risk so much?"

Flicking her eyes over to him, Beckett steered the car onto the shoulder of the road, and cut the engine. She turned in her seat and looked him dead in the eye. Castle pursed his lips and swallowed nervously at the serious expression on her face.

"You wanna know why I'm doing this?" she asked.

He nodded.

Her eyes softened as she stared at him, the strong affection he'd seen grow in her eyes over the past two and a half years reflecting back at him. Her gaze flirted down to his lips before returning to meet his eyes. She seemed to hesitate for just a moment, before that determined look resurfaced. "Because I love you," Beckett blurted out, grabbing his face in her hands and kissing him hard, slipping her tongue past his lips when he gasped in surprise.

Castle closed his eyes as he relaxed into the kiss. Little moans escaped from Beckett's mouth as he nipped at her lips. He groaned in approval, taking a quick breath of air before slanting his lips back over hers. He brought a hand up to cradle her jaw in his palm, savoring the flavor of her mouth. It was just like he remembered from the undercover kiss they never talked about. But better, because this one was real, with no subterfuge to cloud its meaning. Beckett canted into him, deepening the kiss. His entire body vibrated with it. He had dreamed of this moment for so long—not under these circumstances, of course—but he wasn't going to complain.

They broke apart on a sigh of mutual satisfaction, their chests heaving as they shared the same heated air, and Beckett bit her lower lip as she gazed up at him from beneath her eyelashes.

"Wow," Castle gasped.

Beckett smiled sweetly, her cheeks turning an adorable shared of pink. She bobbed her head in agreement. "Yeah."

"Thank you," he said, gazing into her eyes with gratitude.

"For kissing you?" she asked with a smirk and an amused upwards quirk of a perfect eyebrow.

"Well yes, that too, but mainly for believing in me," he elaborated after a deep breath. "I mean, given my reputation, my history, when you saw those emails it would've been real easy not to."

They stared into each other's eyes for a long beat. "Kate?"

She let out a hum of acknowledgment, still somewhat lost in his eyes.

"I love you, too," he declared, feeling a weight lift off his chest at finally revealing the secret he'd kept for so long. Probably a lot longer than he'd care to admit. She smiled, and it was beautiful. He smiled back and ducked his head down a little in embarrassment. "I should have said it sooner. I could have saved us both a lot of grief."

Beckett let out a soft laugh. "Yeah, well, things have never been easy between you and me."

Castle nodded, thoughtfully. "Maybe that's what makes it all worthwhile." He cupped her jaw again, leaning in to press another kiss to her lips. She hummed in approval. "I love you," he repeated, in a soft, tender voice, still in awe he was finally able to say it. His lips quirked up and he chuckled lightly. "I… I was afraid I'd never get to say it."

Beckett smiled at him. "Me, too," she confessed, tenderly running her fingers down his face. "I'd been denying it for so long, hiding from the truth. But after you were arrested and the evidence kept piling up against you, I couldn't stand the thought of losing you. It forced me to admit the truth, and moved me to action."

"You're extraordinary, you know that?" Castle said, finally allowing himself to gaze at her with all the love he'd kept concealed for so long.

Beckett ducked her head down, almost bashfully. "You're not so bad yourself, Rick," she said, tipping her head back up to press another kiss to his lips.

"So, what now?" Castle asked when they broke apart for air.

"Now, we find some place to lay low for a little while," Beckett said. "If they don't know you're gone yet and that I helped you escape, they soon will." She shifted back into the driver's seat, and turned the ignition. She glanced back at him with a heated look. "Besides, I have a few ideas what we can do to keep ourselves busy while we wait for the dust to settle."

Castle grinned back at her, approving. "I like the way you think."

"I know," Beckett replied with a saucy wink.

She put the car into gear, and punched down on the accelerator, sending them hurtling out into the night. This may not have been the way he'd hoped to start his romance with the woman he loved, but Castle wasn't going to complain. Beckett was right: Things had never been easy for them. But he was absolutely certain that together they could beat the odds.

Prompt: Pre-Caskett, Castle is accused of murder and the evidence is stacking against him. Kate is working frantically to clear his name, but when things get worse Kate decides to break Castle out of jail and go on the run with him. Castle asks why she would risk everything for him and she tells him she loves him.

Prompted by Monalyssa33 and filled as a gift for her contribution to the GoodLuckStana campaign (LA Children's Hospital).