Okay, so this is a big moment for me. Most of you will have already noticed from the summary details that this fic is NOT complete, and so naturally it follows that this will in fact be a multi-chapter story.
This is a little bit terrifying. Well, probably not for you, oh fearless readers, but it is for me. Because there's a reason why I've always clung to oneshots so desperately; because, to me, a multi-chapter is kind of like a promise. It's a commitment that you're making to the reader, and as fantastic as you guys all are, I wasn't sure I was ready to take our relationship to the next level just yet, if you know what I mean. But, like so much in the Ficwriting 'Verse, things often just happen whether you're ready for them or not, so I don't really see any other option than to just go with it and see where it takes us. I'm just hoping that it takes us somewhere more along the lines of Disneyland than the dentist, or the taxation office, or somewhere equally as unpleasant (apologies to any dentists or taxation officers out there...lol)
Anyways, getting on with this author's note before it becomes just another of those huge rambles that I appear somewhat prone to. So, basically we all know that certain episodes (Knockdown, Countdown, etc) are particularly irresistable to ficwriters, and in those cases I truly tried hard not to jump on the bandwagon and write a story of my own centring around them– any of my regular readers will know how dismally I failed in that attempt– but this time is different. This time, I am completely willingly entering my own addition to the veritable flood of Knockout-centric stories that we are already neck-deep in. Hopefully it takes a somewhat unique angle, but considering I've not read the vast majority of other Knockout fics, overlap is a definite possibility, and I apologize for that.
So, as always, please let me know immediately if you find anything that is OOC or requires fixing. Constructive criticism can be tough, but we're always grateful for it in the end.
Also, liberties. I've taken a lot of them. As the story progresses you'll probably notice I've gotten a little creative in a few areas, such as with hospital policy, patient treatment/recovery, and various other little bits and pieces along the way. But, well, we all know details can be difficult, and as the famous Richard Castle himself put it, "Don't ruin my story with your logic."
Hope you like it.
PS- Oops, forgot a disclaimer! All rights to Castle belong to His Holiness Andrew Marlowe, or whoever else actually owns it. (To be clear, I am not one of those people. I would love to be, but I'm not.)
Anyways, carry on.
"Where are you going, Richard?"
Drifting out of the darkness behind him, his mother's voice curled around him like wisp of smoke, her normally exuberant, sonorous tones muted, even hesitant.
Halting at the door, he braced one hand against the frame, the other gripping the handle tightly as he exhaled, lowering his head.
Closing his eyes briefly, he took a deep breath, but did not turn around. He couldn't. He simply couldn't face the idea of meeting her gaze, of seeing the sympathy and concern that had taken up residence in her eyes, the worry and the helplessness that he himself had placed there. To look into those eyes would be to acknowledge not only those feelings, but also the deeper, darker emotion that lay beneath them, the one that left the acidic taste of guilt in his mouth, the one that she fought to hide from him, the one that she would never willingly allow him to see.
Throughout her years as an actress, she had mastered the art of the illusion, perfecting the ability to show people only what she wanted them to see and have them believe it completely. But no amount of skill could enable her to hide from him; as the one person who truly knew her, he was the one person she had never been able to fool.
Most of the time, he could read her as easily as one of his own books, and today had been no exception to that rule. Today, no matter how hard she had tried to conceal it, he had still seen the truth.
She was afraid. Afraid that a gunman had come so close to her family, not only to him and Alexis, but also to Beckett, the woman she'd come to think of not only as a friend but an honorary daughter, the woman who might now never wake.
He knew, however, that there was more to her turmoil than simple fear for their safety. He knew that overshadowing all else was an even greater fear, a fear based on a single, unwavering belief.
That to lose Beckett, really lose her, would be to lose him as well.
And try as she might, she couldn't conceal it from him; even during those interminable, torturous hours at the hospital, when he'd been all but deaf and blind to all that was around him, he'd still been able to see it in her eyes, to read the truth she tried so desperately to hide.
It was then, in the tense, crowded waiting room full of anxious bodies and unspoken fears, that he had first begun avoiding her gaze.
Because he couldn't bear for her to see the truth in his own eyes.
That she was right.
When she spoke again, sounding closer this time, he blinked and attempted to focus, realizing dimly that he'd never answered her.
"Where are you going, Richard?" she repeated softly, the quiet scrape of her slippers against the hardwood floor betraying her movements as she took another small, cautious step forward.
Taking a deep breath, Castle tightened his hold around the handle, the skin over his knuckles pulling taut as he gripped the smooth, polished metal with clenched fingers.
"I'm…" he began hoarsely, hours of disuse causing his voice to emerge as a low croak.
Swallowing, he took a breath to try again, but then paused, realizing dully that he didn't actually have an answer for her. Lifting his hand from the doorframe, he rubbed his face tiredly, his shoulders slumping as he sighed. How could he tell her what he didn't even know himself?
"Out," he said finally, lifting his head and squaring his shoulders. It wasn't a real answer, but it was the only one he had right now, the only thing he knew. "I'm going out. Go back to bed, Mother."
As he spoke, even he could recognize the effect that the past several hours had taken upon him, how lifeless his eyes and voice had become, his tone flat and detached, his words completely devoid of expression or emotion.
He recognized it, but somehow, he just couldn't bring himself to care.
Pulling open the door, he was about to take that final step when her soft voice halted him once more.
"They won't let you see her, Richard."
Her tone was gentle, but definite, the words lodging like tiny splinters in his heart. He made no reply– he wasn't sure he could– and for a few moments a bleak, heavy silence hung between them, broken only by the muted whisper of her soft, regretful sigh before she spoke again.
"God knows you've tried everything, Kiddo, but this just isn't something you can charm or threaten or buy your way into. Hospital policy is what it is, and it's not going to change, no matter how much you might want it to."
She paused, clearing her throat slightly, and when she continued her voice was edged with emotion, a trace of desperation beneath her words.
"But visiting hours are only a matter of hours away. Please, Richard, just come back in and try to get some sleep. You'll see her in the morning."
He knew she was right. She was his voice of reason, the glimmer of light trying desperately to keep him afloat in the sea of darkness that was slowly but steadily pulling him under, doing her best to protect him in the only way she could.
But it wasn't enough. Reason could no longer help him. It had deserted him, in the very same moment he had seen consciousness desert the woman he loved, leaving her limp in his arms.
"I'm not going to the hospital," he said at last, having no other answer to give. He wished he could find the words to comfort her, to offer some reassurance that everything was going to be okay. But they lodged in his throat, hollow, meaningless lies like I'm fine and You don't need to worry about me almost choking him every time he tried to force them out of his mouth.
Clearing his throat quietly, Castle spoke again, his hoarse voice breaking the uneasy silence that had fallen between them.
"Go get some rest, Mother."
Without looking back, he stepped resolutely over the threshold, silently pulling the door closed behind him.
It feels like a lifetime later when he finds himself standing upon another doorstep, one that is completely different yet almost as familiar to him as his own.
Beckett's apartment building had no doorman, but getting in presented him with no problem; in a rare show of trust and intimacy, Beckett had told him weeks ago about the special, concealed buzzer known only to residents and trusted friends, designed for use by residents to gain entry when they had forgotten their keys or had their hands too full to be able to place the key in the lock.
Exhaling slowly, Castle pressed his fingers to the smooth button, hearing the faint buzz and then click as the lock disengaged, allowing him entry. Grasping the handle, he stepped slowly inside, his movements hesitant and uncertain as he entered the dim, silent space of the foyer.
In reality, he knew there was absolutely no justifiable reason for him to be here; in fact, he didn't really know why he was there at all.
All he knew was that he'd simply gotten in the car and just started driving. And now, here he was. Standing alone in a building full of people, with the only person he wanted to see still far outside his reach.
Pausing in the middle of the foyer, he shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his coat, dully wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with himself next. Logically, he knew there was really nothing for him here; only long, silent hours of sitting in front of the locked door of her empty apartment, a cold, sleepless night spent wishing that he could see that door open, see her surprised, puzzled gaze lock upon him, hear her incredulous voice demanding to know exactly what the hell he was doing in her hallway in the middle of the night.
With a low groan, Castle dropped his head, running a hand swiftly through his hair in a fit of agitation and helplessness. He'd lived most of his life without knowing her, a happy, full, successful life that had never once seemed lacking. But now that he had known her– now that he was so completely and irrevocably hers– the prospect of being without her left him lost, adrift in that dark, turbulent ocean with no land in sight.
Lifting his head, he slowly turned back towards the door, not knowing what else to do but to leave. As he turned, however, his gaze caught onto something, and in that moment, something deep in the depths of his subconscious clicked into place. Suddenly, he understood why he'd been drawn here.
He was still drifting, but now he had spotted a hint of land in the distance, a tiny symbol of hope and comfort.
Walking purposefully across the foyer – because he had a purpose now, and he clung to it like it was the only thing that could keep him from going under– he knocked loudly on the door marked '1'.
Barely breathing, he waited with his hands clenched tightly in his coat, hoping desperately that the person he needed would be home. Biting his lip, he gave another swift, loud, slightly desperate knock, and after what seemed like an eternity was rewarded with the dull clunk of bolts being undone and then the squeak as the door inched open, chain still in place.
"This better be an emergency," complained the irritable female voice, her sleepy eyes blinking out at him from the gap. "The open hours clearly say 9am to 9pm, and it's almost midnight. So tell me right now that it's an emergency or get the hell out."
"Ms. Poulter, it's Richard Castle," Castle responded quickly, his voice low and imploring. "Please, I need to speak with you."
The landlady blinked comically, her eyes suddenly focusing, growing instantly awake and alert as she looked him over.
"Mr Castle?" she asked, frowning at him as she unlatched the chain and opened the door. "What's going on? Where's Kate?"
"Kate…" Castle swallowed, then forced the words out. "Kate's in hospital. She's been shot."
The old woman's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes widening in horror.
"Oh my goodness. Is she…"
Castle's breath caught in his throat, and he worked quickly to hide his wince; he knew that her question was asked only out of concern for Beckett. She couldn't know that her every word was painful to him, twisting the knife deeper into his already damaged heart.
His voice suddenly hoarse, he answered, "She's stable. The doctors… the doctors are hopeful."
Seemingly noticing his distress, the landlady simply nodded, saying nothing more about it. Instead, she simply gave him a sympathetic look and took a step back, giving him space to enter.
"Come on in, Mr Castle. "
So, there's chapter one. It was a bit of an angst-fest, I'll admit. But hey, if the love of your life (naturally, I do consider Beckett to be his...) was shot right in front of you, you'd probably be pretty messed up too. I sure as hell would be.
Anywho, naturally I would absolutely love to hear what you guys think. I'm also totally open to predictions/suggestions as to where this story is headed or things you guys would desperately like to see happen. There's a definite plan, but I'm well aware that I'm the multi-chapter rookie here, it's up to you guys to be my Royce and teach me what you know (you know, without the whole me falling in love with you and then you eventually betraying me thing. 'Coz that would just be awkward.)
So anyway, next chapter should be posted in a few days. Thank you all so much for reading!