A/N: Wow, it's weird not updating for weeks. Bad Indy. xD Anyways, wrote this off of Countdown, hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. If I did there would be a new episode every week instead of making us wait for three weeks.
I looked up from the old espresso machine in the break room at the twelfth. Detective Ryan looked around the doorway, the same look on his face that he always had when we got a call, the one that said, Don't get your hopes up too high. "We got a tip, someone at a warehouse in Washington Heights."
He ducked out after I nodded numbly, and I quickly filled my travel mug with coffee. "See you guys in a few, then," I said, grabbing the address, my coat, and my purse before walking into the elevator. I saw Ryan and Esposito hurriedly gathering up their things.
"See you," Esposito called, as the elevators closed on me. As soon as I was alone I leaned against the the wall weakly.
I've been a cop for six years and every time someone calls something in I get hopeful, and every time my hopes are let down. It's hard when you find the body. It's much harder when you don't.
I should be in FBI, working on missing persons, if the tradition holds, but I'm too fragile and sensitive for that. That's what the psychiatrist told me, anyways. So I became the next best thing, a homicide detective. Maybe it was Detective Beckett, maybe it was Dad, but I've been focused on, exposed to death for so long, working with it seemed without question, inevitable.
The elevator dinged on the ground floor and I stood up quickly, hurrying out to my car on the street. I drove quickly, mindlessly, trying not to think about my personal ghosts and instead focus on the ghost of the body we were about to see. I pulled into a warehouse district of Washington Heights. Yellow tape had already been put up around one entrance, and I shivered as I entered the cool dark building. It amazed me how cliched killers could get. A dark, abandoned warehouse in Washington Heights. Really?
I approached what looked like a shed in the middle, where everyone was gathered around. When I drew closer, I saw the icy steam spilling out from the doorway. It wasn't a shed or storage unit, it was a freezer.
"Hey, we know the vic?" I asked Pierce, the rookie on the team.
"I don't know. And it's 'vics', plural. Two people froze to death a long time ago. They've been in here for years, if I'm not mistaken. But we won't get a time stamp until the ME can thaw them out."
I thought of one of the earliest cases my dad did with Detective Beckett. They found a woman in a construction site, after having been frozen for five years. I wondered how long these people had been there. Months? Years? "Any clue to their identities?"
"Both white, somewhere around middle-aged, one male, one female. The guy had been holding the woman when they died."
I looked over to see Ryan and Esposito pulling up to the curb. "Okay, let's see them."
I ducked into the white-walled freezer and looked around. There was ice everywhere. In the corner were two dark-clothed bodies, the black fabric muted by the frost.
The woman had been sitting against the man, her face hidden in his coat and behind his arm, which held her shoulders, trying to give her his body heat. He himself had buried his face in her hood and hair. I wondered how they were related. Were they married? Boyfriend and girlfriend? Best friends? Siblings? They could've been strangers who did what they had to in their best attempts at survival. I looked again at the bodies. No. They knew each other.
"You guys got enough pictures?" I asked the forensics team, who nodded and left with their cameras. I knelt down to where the ME, Dr. Allison Connelly, was crouched, ready to examine them. "Anything?"
She shook her head. "Nothing yet, hon. I can't even see them at this point."
I watched impatiently as she slid her gloved fingers between the two bodies. I felt bad about pulling them apart; they'd looked like they needed each other. Dr. Connelly took several minutes to pry the man's head away.
"Almost got it," she muttered absently. In a moment they were separated and I could see the frozen man's face.
I yelped and stood quickly, stumbling away from the sad scene. "No! No, no, no!"
I exited the freezer backwards, tripping and spinning straight into Esposito. He caught me, and leaned my head against his chest. Tears ran from my eyes and I choked on the sobs, gasping for air.
"Alexis, yo, what's up, what's wrong?" he asked.
I could barely talk, I just stood against him, trembling, and he wrapped his arms around me. He always felt like a father to me, Ryan too. "It's...it's them," I whispered finally.
Ryan heard the whisper and practically vaulted into the freezer. Esposito didn't move but let me cry, running his hand comfortingly over my hair. When Ryan emerged, his expression was grim. "She's right." He took a large shuddering breath and I knew that he was in as much a state of despair as I was.
"We have no ID and no time frame..." Pierce walked up to report to Ryan and Esposito but trailed off when he looked up from his monologue. "What's wrong?"
"Victims' names are Richard Castle and Katherine Beckett," Esposito snapped, not mad, just commanding. "Died February 28, 2011 by terrorists who set off the Fifth Avenue bomb. Those men were never found."
"Wait..." His eyes travelled between them and me. My eyes were red and bloodshot from crying. "That's...your dad?"
"And our boss," Ryan added.
"Javier," I whispered. He looked down at me. "I can't take this one."
"I know, Lex," he said, holding me upright. If he hadn't been supporting me I probably would've fallen to the ground. "It's no use anyways. We're not giving up, you know that, but I don't know how it'll help anything. Homeland Security has been looking for these men for ten years. We looked for them a while too, we helped with that investigation for quite a while as well."
I knew all that. I'd only been a senior when the bomb had gone off on Fifth Avenue, but because my dad was missing, along with Detective Beckett, I'd spent a lot of time at the precinct. Watching Ryan and Esposito, working on two cases at once, I decided that I wanted to do something like that, and when they closed the cases and had to focus on other murders, I started figuring out how I could become a cop. Homeland Security took over the bombing case, led by Agent Mark Fallon, and the FBI took over the remainders of the missing person's case, led by Special Agent Will Sorenson.
I think all of us deep down that they were dead, but when someone's missing there's always that little piece of you that always hopes, even when the rest of you knows there's no way they're alive. So while it wasn't a surprise to mr when I walked in to their dead bodies lying in a freezer, it certainly caught me off guard. Seeing my father's face preserved in ice brought down all the blocks I'd taught myself to put up against everything my life had been for the past ten years.
"Ryan, you wanna call Jenny or Lanie and have them come get Alexis?" Esposito asked, rubbing my back. I gulped for air and hiccuped. When I shut my eyes I could almost imagine that he was my dad. I heard Ryan chattering on the phone to one of their lives, but I just thought of my old apartment, where I grew up with Dad and Gram. I guess I'm alone now, since both of them are dead.
Within twenty minutes, Lanie pulled up. I sat on the curb, Esposito standing over he protectively. She quickly ran out to me and helped me up. "Oh, sweetheart, come here." She hugged me tightly and wiped the mascara smears on my cheeks. She led me to the car and opened the passenger door, before she kissed her husband and got into the driver's seat. "Here, I'll take you home."
I caught her wrist. "No."
She looked at me. "Where then?"
"Can you...can you take me to my old place? My dad's apartment?"
"Someone else lives there now, sweetie," she reminded me gently.
She watched me for a moment. "Okay."
We drove back through Midtown to the only real home I've ever known. I took a deep breath as I stepped towards the front door. I could remember the numerous times anyone had walked through the door: Dad, Gram, Detective Beckett. I raised my hand slowly and knocked.
When the door opened, hardly a moment later, a middle-aged brunette woman peered at me. "Hi," she frowned, "can I help you?"
"Yeah, I'm Alexis Castle, I just..." I looked past her into the apartment. There were toys scattered on the floor but the arrangement of the furniture wasn't much different. Before I lost my composure I continued, "I used to live here, and I wouldn't be here, but my dad went missing years ago, and they, um, just found his body."
"Oh, you're that girl..." she looked at me sympathetically, pitying. "Yes, come in."
"I'm sorry, I really wouldn't be here—"
"No, no, please! Come in, it's fine." I wondered how weird it would be to have some twenty-something girl come to your home and ask to come in. Especially because I look sort of young and innocent to begin with; even though I'm twenty-seven, someone tried to card me last time I went out for a beer with the guys.
I looked around as I entered, and the woman shut the door behind me. It was so similar, like they'd arrived with everything in it and never felt the need to change the order.
"So your dad, um...they found him?" the woman asked timidly.
I nodded. "How do you...how do you know me?"
She shrugged apologetically. "When we moved in they told us what happened."
I crouched down to pick up one of the toys, a Barbie with brown curls. After a moment I set it back down gently and stood up.
"I'm sorry, this must be so weird for you, Mrs—" I thought for a moment then realized she'd never introduced herself. "I don't even know your name."
"Nicole Allen," she replied.
"It must be weird, Mrs. Allen—"
"Nicole," she interrupted. "And not so weird. I've invited my share of solicitors in over the years, just for something to do. A little entertainment, I guess. Some of them have never actually made it that far. It's pretty funny." She chuckled.
I laughed. "Its funny, my dad used to do that. He always liked to bring them in, give them a bottle of Heineken, and tell them to just talk. About their childhood, whatever was bothering them at the moment. It was always about the story. I wonder if any magazine salespeople know that they've been immortalized in his books. And then he'd always buy something, or take a flyer, or—if he was really bored and stuck on writer's block—he'd come down to the Jehovah's Witness church they wanted him to join."
Nicole grinned. "He sounds nice."
"He was." I exhaled. "So, um...how many kids do you have?"
"Just one. My daughter Anna, she's adopted. She's seven."
"And um, you're married?"
"Yeah." She smiled weakly, "He's not here much though."
I knew immediately what she meant. "You're not going to divorce him?"
She shrugged. "I won't be the one to start it." She looked at me. "So how about you? Are you married?"
I nodded. "I've been going out with someone for a while. I don't know if he'll ask or not. I'd say yes if he did, though."
I don't know why I was spilling my heart to this woman. I was about to open my mouth to apologize for walking into her apartment randomly and dumping all the sorrows in my life on her, but I was saved the trouble by an auburn-haired little girl who ran in from the bedroom. She was tall and thin with a huge smile and clear blue eyes. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her.
"Hi, I'm Anna!" she announced. "I'm seven! Are you Lexi?"
I gaped. "How do you know my name?"
She threw her arms around my waist. "I've missed you so much! I knew you'd come."
It was at that moment when I sat straight up in bed, gasping for air. A figure in the chair by my closet jumped. "God, Alexis, don't scare me like that."
I gulped for air. "Kate? You're okay? Where's my dad—"
She stood and sat down on the bed next to me, pushing a cup gently into my shaking hands and helping me take a sip of water. "Calm down, your dad's on a book tour, remember? I'm fine, everyone's fine."
I looked around. I was in my old bed in my old room. I had an apartment of my own, but my dad had thought it would be a good idea for me to stay with my stepmom and half-sister while he was out of town, since I had a week off from my job at the 12th. Not that Kate couldn't take care of herself.
I took another drink by myself, while she rubbed my back, and I felt about seven, when I'd have a bad dream. I shook my head, removing the lingering image of that freezer from my mind. My dad had shown me the photos a long time ago, secretly, though no one was really supposed to know what had happened when that bomb had almost gone off.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Kate asked soothingly
I shook my head. "I blame my dad's genes for my mind's obsession with worst-case scenarios. How come you were sitting there?"
"I was passing your room when I heard you start talking. I walked in to you saying, 'It's them,' and then you were tossing and turning for a minute, and you said, "I can't take this one.' I couldn't wake you up so I just waited. I figured you'd wake up on your own eventually, so..." her voice trailed off as she shrugged. "So what happened?"
I gave in and recapped the dream.
"Rick showed you those pictures, didn't he?" she snorted, but there was no trace of humor in her eyes when she added, "I thought we were going to die in that freezer. We almost did, too. If Ryan and Esposito weren't as good of detectives as they are, we would probably be dead." I shivered and she smiled at me quickly. "But no matter what your mind tries to tell you, we're alive and that's been over for ten years."
The door opened slowly and we both looked towards it. The same little girl from my dream, in a pink nightgown, inched her way inside. "Lexi? Are you okay?"
I smiled at her. "Of course I am, Anna," I told her. She grinned hugely at when I held out my arms. She raced over and jumped on my lap, her thin arms around my neck and hugged me tightly, burying her face in my shoulder.
"Isn't it past your bed time?" Kate asked, bemused.
"Yes," Anna grinned at her mother. Kate raised an eyebrow and the girl pressed her cheek against mine and rocked back and forth in my arms endearingly. Kate's face twisted j to a smile.
"Come on, sunray. You're not supposed to shine for quite a few more hours." She scooped Anna up off of me and carried her towards the door.
"But New York is the city that never sleeps!"
I grinned, and Kate glared at mr pointedly, trying to hide her own smile. "Well, this is the house that does. Come on, off to bed with you."
I couldn't help but disagree—Dad's a natural insomniac (occupational hazard) and Kate has to be ready for a call at any hour of the night (job requirement). With that in her blood, it was a wonder that Johanna Castle wasn't nocturnal. As she was carried off to bed, the girl leaned over Kate's shoulder and waved her hand at me exuberantly, far to happy for two in the morning. "Good night, Lexi! Sweet dreams!" She saluted proudly. "Until tomorrow!" she sang, beaming. Kate muttered something about how it was already tomorrow.
I chuckled, shaking my head. "Night, Anna."
I leaned back into the pillows as Kate shut the door. As I pulled the down comforter over my shoulders, I heard Kate speaking gently to her daughter next door. She began to sing a lullaby, and even through the wall I felt myself drifting off to sleep, content knowing that my family was okay.
And with Anna's blessing, the nightmare was forever gone.
A/N: Hope you liked it! Reviews are food for my soul, don't forget. No pressure or anything. Don't let my soul starve. xD haha, just kidding.
Anyways, if you're following Evanescence Files, chapter 11 is being worked on, I promise, but writer's block has set in, which is never good. It will be up soon, though with everything I'm doing right now I can't guarantee when. But it will be there. It's almost done. Love you all! 3