Civilian, Consultant, Partner, Friend

Prompt:For the castleland bigbangalt, theme season one, prompt# 008. Dread

Summary:Beckett finds Castle unbearable at times but as she reflects on their relationship she finds her feelings are shifting towards him. A few days later she's panicked when she arrives at his apartment to find an ambulance outside. Fearing the worst, she again considers just how involved she is with Castle and his family.

set early first season. Non-graphic mentions of death and dying (non-canon characters).

Beckett changed the radio station as she got close to Castle's building. Being his inspiration for Nikki Heat meant she was under his microscope and everything from how she took her coffee to what music she listened to was a source of fascination to him. Which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the mocking – no, that was too strong a word. Teasing might be closer to the truth.

Anyway, point was, if he heard her choice of music on the drive over here he'd start making inane comments – their sting tempered by that grin that said he was joking. That smile that no doubt had scores of women falling for his charms. Mostly it made her want to punch him in the face – though (but she'd never admit it) this might have been because of the glimmer of attraction it sparked deep inside her and her anger at herself for feeling it. She was not about to fall for Richard Castle. Oh, no. Not in her game plan – not even her sport.

Of course she didn't have to see him to have him attempt to use his seductive charm on her. He'd called her last night and cheerfully told her how he was looking forward to her picking him up the next morning. Like something from one of those cheesy books on assertiveness; he hadn't asked, he'd told, and he'd did it with such charm that by the time she realised he was coercing her it would have seemed rude to say no.

He didn't need to do that, Beckett thought. He didn't need to manipulate her. She'd agreed to let him shadow her – not that she'd had much choice in the matter – and she'd follow through on it.

Maybe he didn't even realise he was doing it. He'd been wearing the mask of Successful Author/Playboy for so long he couldn't take it off. Yes, his default setting was "flirt" and he couldn't stop himself. She should feel sorry for him. Yes, that could work. Then she could pity him. Poor, pitiful, Richard Castle. Two divorces behind him because no woman could truly love him.

Beckett parked up and waited, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. She was surprised he wasn't already downstairs waiting for her, eager as a kid at Christmas. The delight he took in new things, new experiences, was, she had to admit, a little endearing. She pretended it was tiresome because jaded looked better on a homicide detective than inappropriate glee over a tragedy, but the day she couldn't find any satisfaction in her job was the day she quit.

The doorman, Eduardo, nodded to her in acknowledgement. Beckett nodded back. The man had met her once, but he apparently recognised her. Had Castle been downstairs he'd probably be talking sports or something with the man. He did have a way with people. She thought that it was because of his work, that writing demanded a fascination with how people thought and spoke. On the other hand, even if he'd taken a rather more conventional career path, Beckett was certain that Castle would be the guy everyone knew. The guy who organised the parties, and told the best jokes, and made newcomers welcome. The guy that took the big risks and shared the glory when they paid off and took responsibility when they didn't. The one who mocked but never belittled, because he was many things but malicious wasn't one of them. The one you could go to at any time and ask him for help and if it were in his power to do so, he would, without hesitation or reservation.

Pitying Richard Castle was harder than she thought. He was just irrepressible, extroverted, creative. It ran in the family, given his mother's artistic bent. She couldn't fault him for being who he was. If the women in his life couldn't accept his crazy sense of humour or his childlike fascination with the world it was their problem.

And thinking of Martha, Broadway diva, made Beckett think of Alexis. Richard adored her, doted on her, worried about her. It was hard to think badly of him when she thought about how he'd willingly sacrifice anything for his daughter.

She was startled by a knock on the window. Castle beamed at her through the glass and motioned to the door. Right, she'd left the doors locked. She got the door open and he climbed in.

"Morning," he said, and began fiddling with the radio to find something to his liking. "Sorry, I was looking over Alexis's homework. She actually used a word I'd never heard of so I had to look it up to be sure it was correct. It was very embarrassing."

Self-deprecating, Beckett thought, adding it to the list of things that made Castle more bearable than unbearable.

"Was the word 'modest'?" she quipped.

"Ha," Castle returned, putting on his seatbelt. "So, what were you thinking about? You were miles away."

Beckett shrugged as she checked her rear-view mirror. "The case," she lied easily.

Beckett bit back a curse as she was forced to stop at yet another red light. Somehow she'd managed to agree to pick Castle up. Again. She wanted to get to the station and finish up the paperwork on the case they'd just solved, or maybe get the heads up on a new case. She wanted coffee; she'd let hers go cold this morning while hurrying to get ready – hurrying because she was picking up Castle. She wanted many things but today just wasn't her day.

Beckett started the car again as the light turned green. She was maybe four minutes late but she was fairly certain Castle would make some quip about how the police were never on time, or tell her she should have used the sirens, or –

She'd been glancing ahead hoping against hope for a parking space being free outside the building. There wasn't, but this was because a squad car and an ambulance, the latter with its rear doors open and lights blinking atop it, were taking up most of the frontage.

Beckett felt a cold weight in her stomach. She double-parked and jumped out of the car, feeling her heart pounding in her chest. She pulled her badge from her pocket in one smooth movement as she strode towards the police officer who was in attendance – he was doing it be leaning casually against his vehicle which was doing nothing to improve her mood.

"Detective Beckett," she bellowed. "What's going on?"

The officer straightened up, startled. "Um, I'm not sure, ma'am. We got told to provide support for the EMTs. Not supposed to be any danger; my partner went up with them and I'm making sure no-one scores drugs from the ambulance. Or, you know, takes the whole thing."

No danger currently didn't mean there hadn't been a crime.

"What apartment? What floor?" she demanded. It couldn't be Castle, couldn't be, mustn't be. She shouldn't have stopped for the red light, she should have hurried more. And her heart sank when he pointed.

"One of the penthouses." By the time the words were out of his mouth, Beckett was already halfway to the doors.

Beckett headed inside, flashing her badge perfunctorily at anyone who even looked at her. She ignored the elevator and dashed for the stairwell. Three floors up she was wishing she'd worn flats or wondering if she needed to do some step aerobics because stairs were just so much more difficult than running on a flat surface. Or maybe it was because she was panicking that she was finding it so difficult, which was ridiculous, because this was probably nothing, right?

Still, all the while she was climbing the stairs she was dreading what she might find. This building was supposed to be safe, secure. But it didn't mean crimes didn't happen. And Castle had a tendency to get himself in trouble. Maybe he'd invited someone home who he shouldn't have, some shady character who had information about crimes that Castle wanted for his damn novel.

No, she thought. Castle would never risk Alexis's life like that. He always met contacts outside of his apartment. Scratch that idea then. An accident? He was careless enough to do himself an injury, playing Laser Tag inside, for example. Or maybe just slipped in the bathtub or cut himself with a knife – because if anyone could turn a simple mishap while making a sandwich into a major drama by nicking an artery, it would be Castle.

Great, his sense of the dramatic was rubbing off on her. She loved his novels, but she'd always kept a sense of perspective between his fiction and her reality. And now she was imagining arterial spray all over his kitchen just because there was an ambulance parked outside his building.

She should phone him. Why hadn't she thought of that? Because she'd panicked, that's why. Again, something she never did. Or had she not phoned because she was afraid that he wouldn't pick up, that he was unable to answer the phone, injured or worse…or that a tearful Alexis would answer instead.

Alexis; God, what if it wasn't Castle, what if it was Alexis? Alexis had to be okay. Beckett had a soft spot for the teenager. She was a smart, beautiful, sensitive, responsible girl who was turning into an incredible young woman. That anything could happen to her was unthinkable. And then there was Martha. What if something had happened to Martha? She wasn't getting any younger as the saying went.

Beckett had once seen a man die at the precinct from a heart attack. She'd watched the paramedics work unsuccessfully to try to revive him, and it had been an odd experience. She usually saw dead bodies, not dying ones. It had disturbed her more than she would have expected. And hell, Castle didn't take the best care of himself...

Beckett finally reached the floor and threw open the door. Panting a little, feeling tiny pools of sweat gathering where her blouse fit tightest, she flicked back a stray lock of hair. The paramedics were wheeling a gurney towards the elevator. She spun to look for Castle's apartment.

With relief she saw that Castle's front door was open and he was stood in the hallway, watching. He had his arms around Alexis, who was leaning her head on his chest. They looked upset and Beckett's relief returned to concern. Where was Martha?

"Castle!" Beckett yelled, hurrying towards him.

He looked over, a slight frown creasing his brow. "I was supposed to meet you downstairs. Sorry."

"It's okay," she reassured him. She was willing her heart to slow down. Castle was alive, safe, Alexis was alive, safe, and she wasn't climbing any more stairs for a long while. Calm, Beckett, get a grip. She reached out and touched his arm gently. "What's going on?"

"Mr Fitzcairn," Castle said, nodding towards the penthouse across from his. "His wife found him unconscious in the kitchen when she got up. Looks like a heart attack. She panicked and banged on our door. We called the paramedics. I don't know if he'll be okay – my mother's with his wife, helping her get dressed, then she's taking her to the hospital."

Relief washed over Beckett as every member of the Castle household was accounted for. Then a moment of guilt as she remembered that the Fitzcairn household was having a very bad day.

"They're nice people," Alexis said softly.

Castle kissed her hair. "Come on, sweetheart. Nothing more we can do here. And you're late for school – unless you don't want to go."

Alexis pulled away, resolute. "I'm okay. Just call the school and let them know why I'm late?"

"Come with us," Beckett said. "We'll drop you off."

"Are you sure?" Alexis's eyes lit up. "I've always sort of wanted to ride in a police car without having done anything wrong."

"Go get ready. A few more minutes won't matter now," Beckett assured her. Alexis darted inside. "She's pretty incredible," she told Castle.

"I know." Castle checked his watch. "We're making you late."

"Don't worry about it." Beckett put her hand out again. "You okay?"

"Yeah. It's just…it's a little different…"

"Dying not dead? Someone you know?"

He nodded, then the playboy mask was back in place. "Can we put the sirens on?"


Beckett swore she'd never tell him about her panicked dash. She'd always been practical and sensible, and now his damn imagination was rubbing off on her. He'd laugh at that, and suggest she'd been worried about him, and damn him that it was the truth – worse, that her concern wasn't just for a civilian, a man she was supposed to keep safe, but for a partner of sorts, for a friend. Bearable wasn't enough. She actually liked him. And she wasn't about to admit it.