"Crossed out in red Ink"

Genre: Angst, Romance
Rating: PG
Time Frame: Future Fic
Characters: Castle/Beckett

Summary: He had killed off characters a time or two in his novels before. And yet, this was different . . . so incredibly different.

Notes: So, a favorite author of mine took to Castle fanfiction (brodiew, you rock!!), prompting my own interest. I immediately set down to write something filled with the witty awesomeness that the show personifies . . . and then this came out. Gosh darn the pms-y muse!

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.


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"Crossed out in red Ink"
by Mira-Jade

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There was a simple ring on a simple chain that he had wrapped tightly around his left hand.

It was a small bauble, a trinket that was polished of its brilliance from hands that had rubbed luck from it like a charm too many times before. Faintly, the metal still had a scent of peppermint and cinnamon clinging to it – whatever it's previous owner had always worn and denied doing so. The ring clanked against his pen as he clenched it in his hand. The sound was harsh in the silence of his office.

His hand trembled.

Admittedly, he hadn't written this much longhand in years. He could attribute the tremble to weariness. The long style was fitting for this novel . . . needed even. His hand cramped up over the pen, as if berating him for ignoring the perfectly fine laptop that was waiting, abandoned on his desk. He ignored it. Instead, he took a break against the numbness that had settled in his fingers, stretching them out one at a time, trying to restore some feeling. His endeavors were useless, as all of his attempts had previously proven to be.

Just what was wrong with him?

Hadn't he done this a thousand times before? Taken real tragedies with real endings and real pains and made them into something beautiful? There was a power to be found in the written word, a power that had moved his pen time and time again to pour real life horrors into things that enticed and moved.

His grip on the pen slipped. An ugly red line marred his words. He cursed, softly, and then went back to work. From beyond him, the rain drops on the window pane snapped out jealous mine mine mines as they splattered uselessly against the glass.

The character on his page smiled at a foe. He tried to gather some of her confidence to him.

There was only one chapter left from here.

The trembling in his hand grew more pronounced.

He could see her smile in his mind, could imagine her swagger, her grip over her weapon, her words: "Just like we've done a hundred times before." There's an annoyance behind the memory that he put to the paper before him – a 'why can't you just stay in the car for these fire fights?' seeping into her words straight from the dialogue in his mind. It's worry so much as it is relief tangled with it.

In his mind, Beckett grasps the ring hanging around her neck with a prayer. On his paper, Nikki takes a deep breath.

He turns the page.

Her determination is tangible, he tries to write it into Nikki's character. That determination was always something he had always found so inspiring about her. It was a fueling thing – hydrogen at the heart of a star, and a maestro's baton moving an orchestra – that showed in the fierce meticulousness of her work, the lift to her chin and the sway to her stride. . . . To him, it showed more personally in a determination to deny anything that may have bordered on an affection for him.

Something twinged inside with that, and he made a few more sweeps of his pen against the manuscript.

In his mind, the memory continued. There's running, and there is shooting. There's adrenaline, and there's good guys and bad guys and real life unfolding.

His pen bleeds into the telltale wet spots on his paper. The puddles of color told more than they would every blot out. Before him, fantasy unfurls.

He can't write for a moment.

He closed his eyes, and imagined her alive before him. In his memory she has a blue shirt and a black leather jacket, her eyes made brighter by the blue and her smile that much coyer with the leather. He could still summon the joy he had upon first seeing her at the start of every day without precisely calling it anything more than an attraction. He had always been so very good with choosing his words, after all. That was before, though. Back then there had been so much time on their hands – time to break down walls and overcome the barriers than lingered between them . . .

He winced.

In his mind, there is a trembling gasp.

There's a slip of a foot against a puddle. A bang and a clatter.

A shout – his.

Wide eyes – hers.

On the novel's page, Nikki looked down in shock at the red blooming in the rain.

His hand wavered. His script was nearly unreadable.

In his mind there was a last moment – a trembling hand pressing the ring she wore always into his hand. "I want you to take it." The metal was slick.

Under his hand, Nikki faltered. Still, she struggled. She wanted to breath. The margins of the paper were suffocating.

There's denial. He felt it. He wrote it.

He lived it.

There's a shaking breath, slow and soft against his cheek.

On the page, there's a last stretch of lips over final (forbidden) words. They echo in his ears, before swirling to his heart. They linger somewhere just outside, having not the strength to make it in.

There's silence in his memories.

The words come to an end. Finally run out.

He dotted the last period in a mark that was more of a slant, before crossing the pen up to dot the last 'I'.

It's done.

He signed his name at the bottom.

He waited for the feeling of accomplishment to invade, as it did at the end of every novel. Instead he felt nothing. There was no tangible replacement for the grief that shook his hand. He feels nothing but something low and unsettling in the deep spaces about his heart, in the chill of his bones.

It doesn't go away when he puts the pen down.

On the last page, the last line stands out:

Nikki Heat is dead.

He breathed in deep the breath that the character was denied, and sat there for a long, long time. The ring in his hand became clammy from his grasp.

The next day, he tries to control the shake of his hand when he turns in the manuscript in. He fails. The novel lingered on the bestseller list for a whole of twenty-three weeks after that, and in that time he had yet to put pen to paper again.

On the corner of his desk, the last Heat novel rested, gathering dust. It was his exorcism of grief, venting feeling through words in the only way he knew how. Atop, there was a twisted chain with a forgotten ring that was a last promise – an acknowledgment. A whisper, taunting him.

Together, they are a small tribute to something beautiful and lost.

. . . someday, he hopes that it will be enough.

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~MJ