In From The Cold


Prologue
In A Flash


There was a flash of light.

It was distracting, making him blink and squint, attempting to discern what it could possibly be. As he narrowed his eyes, focusing his field of vision in on the distant glinting blinding him, it suddenly dawned on him what it was. The thought alone was horrifying, unthinkable. How could this be happening now—here, of all places!? He tried to act, willing himself to be fast enough to save her.

But he was too late.

Richard Castle collided with Kate Beckett just after the sound of the shot reverberated across the cemetery. She lurched backward, her mouth dropping in a silent gasp of shock and pain. He clenched his teeth as they fell. His whole world tumbled down around him as they hit the wet grass.

"No, no, no," he groaned, desperately praying to whatever higher power would listen. This couldn't happen. Not now. Not to her. She'd been through too much, suffered too much. Kate Beckett did not deserve this. Never.

He was vaguely aware of the panicked screams coming from the gathered mourners, his mother and daughter among them, but all his focus was on the woman beneath him. She was staring blankly up at the sky, gasping for air. Her eyes darted around wildly, seeking something… anything. Castle gently cradled her tense body in his arms, trying to soothe her. As his hands groped around, he felt something warm and wet along her side. He glanced down, horrified to discover blood on his hand.

"Kate, shh… Kate," he pleaded, trying his best to keep her calm as his insides roiled in terror. "Stay with me, Kate. Don't leave me, please. Stay with me, okay?"

The woman beneath him was already wheezing, fighting for each breath, trying with all her might to comply with his anguished appeals, but despite her best efforts he could already see her starting to fade. His vision soon became blurred with tears.

"Oh, Kate… Kate," he whimpered, reaching up with a trembling hand to caress the side of her face as it scrunched up in fear and pain. Her eyes jerked up to lock with his, as if he could somehow solve everything, make her pain go away. Oh God, he wished he could. He swallowed hard, meeting her wild and terrified eyes. "I love you," he confessed, feeling his voice crack on the admission. "I love you, Kate."

But then her eyes were closing. Castle shook his head in denial, unwilling to accept that this was it, that this was how it ended. Kate Beckett could not die. Not now. Not when there was so much more that needed to be said and done. He could not lose her. It was all so wrong, so very, very wrong. But there was nothing he could do but wait… wait and pray that this was not how it ended.

XXX

The doors burst open and Dr. Josh Davidson appeared. He was still dressed in his scrubs, a smattering of red blood marring the teal color, and he was simmering with righteous anger. He tore down the hallway, coming straight for Castle and the group waiting for news on Beckett's condition. Castle looked up at the man, seeing his brow set in an ill-tempered scowl.

"Snipers!? At a funeral?" the cardiac surgeon questioned with an indignant sneer, like the very notion was absurdly ridiculous. And it was. Castle, along with everyone else, would not have disputed that. But it didn't change the fact that it was real, that it had really happened. However, no one could muster up a response. Most of them were still shell-shocked over the entire thing.

Detective Javier Esposito was the first to move, stepping in to block the other man's path. "We think the people that sent those guys after Montgomery targeted Beckett too," he tried to explain, but Josh just shoved right on past him, heading straight for the writer.

Castle was just starting to stand, wanting to explain to Beckett's boyfriend that he tried to save her, but before he could open his mouth Josh was punching him in the face, knocking him back against the wall.

"Hey!" Esposito shouted.

Josh pointed at Castle with a furious glint in his eye. "You did this," he seethed. "This is your fault."

Castle opened his mouth to respond, but again he was silenced by Josh's fist.

"Dad, Dad!" Alexis was jumping to his defense.

He held up a hand to stop her. This was his fight. He rubbed a hand across his jaw, wincing as he felt his cracked lip. He stared back at Josh, welcoming the man's anger. He deserved it. Beckett's boyfriend was right. This was his fault.

"You pushed her to look into her mother's murder!" Josh continued his tirade, his eyes beginning to water as his voice faltered just a bit before he went on. "She was shot because of you." Josh raised his fist to strike him again.

"Leave him alone!" Alexis screamed, trying once more to intervene.

Martha clutched her granddaughter, holding her back.

"Stop it, all of you!" Jim Beckett demanded, stepping between them. He glanced down at Castle and then back up at Josh. "I won't have you all acting like three year olds while my daughter is fighting for her life."

Josh shook his head. "Mr. Beckett," he said, tears now tumbling down his cheeks. "God, I'm so sorry. So sorry, sir. But she's not."

"Wha… what?" Jim fumbled out, blinking uncontrollably as his brow furrowed with disbelief. He staggered back, almost losing his balance. "What do you mean?"

Josh stood there for a moment, unable to give voice to what they all seemed to suspect he was going to say. No one wanted to believe it.

"Tell me what's happened to my daughter!?" Jim demanded, tears forming in his eyes.

Josh's shoulders sagged from the sheer amount of emotional weight he was carrying. "She died," he said in a quiet voice, swallowing hard and averting his eyes. It was clear from his tone that he didn't want to believe what he was saying. His eyes filled with tears. Despite what Castle thought of the doctor, it was clear that the man had loved Beckett. "Her heart… it… it… she flat lined on the operating table and… and we couldn't revive her. God, we tried… desperately… I… we did everything. But we… we… nothing worked."

"No," Jim shook his head, defiant, unwilling to believe. His eyes watered as he looked away. "No. That's impossible. My Katie is strong. She's strong."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Beckett," Josh said again, his righteous anger all washed out, replaced with deep sorrow and grief. "I'm so, so sorry."

Castle slumped against the wall, cradling his bruised jaw, his vision blurring as he watched Josh hold onto Jim Beckett as the older man processed the terrible news and started to breakdown. For his part, Castle just couldn't believe it. He didn't want to. But Josh had no reason to lie. None at all. To do so would have been cruel, especially to her father.

It was the truth then.

Kate Beckett was dead.

Castle dropped his head, his body feeling heavy and useless. He collapsed to the floor in shock. The rest of the world faded away. All that remained was his grief. He closed his eyes, falling down into a bottomless well of despair. Nothing would ever be right again.

Kate Beckett was dead.

And it was all his fault.

XXX

There was a flash of light.

It was blinding.

What was it they said about dying; that you saw a light at the end of a tunnel? Go towards the light, was what they said, right?

She crushed her eyes shut, not yet ready to face the light. No. She wasn't going to go to the light. She didn't want to. She wanted to live. She wanted… she wanted Castle. Out of everything that she could possibly think of, that was the first thought that registered to her conscious mind. She wanted Richard Castle. Not Josh, her boyfriend. What about her father? Shouldn't she want to see him? She did, of course she did. But she couldn't help herself from wanting Castle, first and foremost. It was his words after all that had kept her tethered to the world of life, unwilling to let go. His words, spoken out of desperation, raw and deep. He loved her.

He loved her.

So, no thank you, bright white light. She was not going to go there. She was not done yet. She had things to say and do. There was a wonderful, kind and generous man she needed to love. A man she wanted to love.

She kept her eyes closed, refusing to acknowledge the light. She would not die. Not now. Not yet.

Her entire body ached, especially in her chest. A groan escaped her lips, and even doing that hurt. Slowly, ever so slowly, the fog around her began to recede. If she could have, she would have yelled for joy when she discovered she was alive.

But, oh God, did it hurt. It hurt so much.

No longer fearing the light, Kate Beckett gradually blinked her eyes open. She was in a white room, hooked up to machines, an intravenous drip, and a breathing tube attached to her nose, supplying her with pure oxygen. She could hear the faint sounds of a heart monitor. Kate arched her neck to glance at the machine, but doing so caused a rippling pain to cascade down her side. She coughed and groaned, slumping back down against the pillows.

"Sir, she's coming around," came a soft feminine voice.

"Good," came a masculine voice.

Beckett squinted in the bright light, and glared out into the room as her vision started to clear. Three figures slowly began to coalesce before her. The one closest to her was wearing a white lab coat. A doctor? That would mean the pinkish blur right next to her must be the nurse. The third figure was framed in black. A suit, perhaps? Her mind was still muddled. It was hard to think.

The suit stepped forward and Beckett narrowed her eyes, focusing her vision. She saw a man with crisply cut hair, and a rather forgettable face. She opened her mouth to speak, yet nothing came out. She tried clearing her throat, but all she could do was wheeze. God, it hurt too much to even attempt to speak.

"Relax, Detective, welcome back to the land of the living," the man said, holding up a reassuring hand. "You've just been through a lot, and the doctor believes it would be best for you to just rest, for the time being. You have a long road ahead of you with recovery, so I'd recommend doing as she says."

Beckett managed a nod.

"Good," he smiled in what she assumed was supposed to be charming, but fell flat. He wasn't like Castle at all. She wanted Castle. "I just wanted to stop by before I go and inform you that the operation was a complete success. Everyone thinks you're dead. I know it will be hard on your family and friends, but such things are unfortunately necessary for this plan to work." He glanced at the doctor, before looking back to her. "Well, I'll let you get some rest now."

He turned to leave.

She closed her eyes and swallowed, trying to process everything he'd just said. It made no sense. She didn't understand any of it. The last thing she remembered was a terrible pain in her chest and Castle… beautiful, gorgeous Castle pleading with her to stay, and tell her that he loved her. He loved her. Licking her lips, Beckett forced her eyes open again. She willed her voice to work.

"Who—?" was all she could manage.

The man turned back around with a furrowed brow. "Who am I?" he finished. After she nodded, he approached her, again flashing that irritating smile, which was supposed to be reassuring, but was anything but. "Agent Brent Culpepper. And I'm here to help facilitate placing you in WITSEC."

"Why?" she managed to ask, her voice rough and coarse. The nurse handed her a cup filled with ice chips and instructed her to allow the ice to melt on her tongue.

"You're tangled up in a big case I've been working for a number of years, Detective Beckett," Culpepper explained. "And as tragic as this event may be, your tenacity has brought some major figures out of the shadows. And now with you're 'dead'," he literally added the air quotes, "they think they've won. Which is good for us. It means they'll relax, let their guard down."

"I—"

Agent Culpepper gently hushed her with a soft smile. "Relax, Detective," he said. "We're just getting started. These bastards that did this to you, your captain, and your mother… they're going down. The FBI is going to see to that. I'm going to see to that. And once you've healed up, you're going to be part of it."

All she could do was nod in response. She was already getting tired; her eyes were growing heavy.

"She needs her rest, Agent Culpepper," the doctor announced.

"Right," Culpepper nodded. He reached out and gently touched her shoulder. "Do as the doctor says, Detective. For now, focus on healing and getting better. I'll take care of everything else."

And then, despite her best wishes and numerous questions, he started drifting away. Before she could ask any of them, Kate Beckett was falling back into unconsciousness. Her last thought before darkness once again consumed her was about a certain ruggedly handsome author and the glorious knowledge that he loved her.