The Thing That Should Not Be
Castle belongs to the incredible creative talent over at ABC Studios and of course to Andrew W. Marlowe. Thank you all for giving us such wonderful characters. I promise to put them (sort of) back where I found them. Not mine and no profit is being made from this work, mores the pity.
Many heartfelt thanks to Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas, Tamala Jones, Molly Quinn and Susan Sullivan for bringing these characters into our living rooms every Monday and allowing us to play along.
You'll not find any pleas from me to review my stories and I'll not threaten to remove a story from the web if it does not receive enough comments. That being said I, like any other writer, love to hear what the readers think – good or bad. Any and all constructive criticism will be gratefully accepted. I'm still trying to decide if this should be a one-shot, or multi-chapter fic and would appreciate some input from you.
He had long since scrubbed the rust colored stains from his hands, but he could still feel them coating his fingers. He could still smell the coppery tang as though the blood was still fresh.
The lights were dim in the waiting room in deference to the lateness of the hour. Small groups of people stood or sat, gathering close together, in each other's personal space. Normally that would have elicited some sort of monologue on interpersonal relationships, but not tonight.
Tonight, despite the closeness of those in the room, no one came near him. The waves of grief were almost visible, hanging in the air around him like a shroud. The force of that emotion held everyone else in the room at bay.
Even Alexis, customarily welcome no matter his mood, had finally withdrawn to the other side of the room, seeking comfort in her Grandmother's embrace. He glanced across the room at the pair, Alexis' red head leaning on Martha's shoulder. Every few seconds his daughter's shoulders would rise and fall in what he suspected was a stifled sob and the shame washed over him again.
His should be the shoulder she turned to, but right now he simply couldn't give it to her.
His mother's head came up and her gaze fell unerringly in his direction.
He looked quickly away. He couldn't stand that look of pity and grief any more, couldn't stand seeing it from any of them.
Then there was Jim Beckett. Dear God, her father. He had been forced to watch as his daughter was gunned down in cold blood. Castle could only imagine the accusatory look that would be his to receive, if he ever made eye contact. Something he had steadfastly refused to do ever since it happened. Looking into her father's eyes was something that would certainly break him.
Jim had asked him, nearly pleaded with him, for one thing and he had utterly failed. He had gone to her apartment that night with only the best of intentions and instead he allowed himself to be drawn into a fight. She had goaded him, he knew now, to distract him. And she'd accomplished that task flawlessly. He had seen her in enough interrogations over the years to know her skill, he just never thought to see those skills turned on him so effectively.
He had been sitting in the same spot, staring out the same window for the last two hours and suddenly he felt as if he could not sit still for one more moment and he had to move. He had to escape the compassionate looks he could feel on him. He didn't deserve their compassion, not when all he felt for himself was contempt.
Surging to his feet he strode purposefully out the door and down the corridor without a backward glance. He had no idea where he was going, only knew that he needed to be in motion. Walking briskly but aimlessly for several minutes he finally found himself in the hospital's spacious front lobby.
The area was wide and nearly circular, revolving around a group of three trees planted neatly together to form a small oasis of nature and beauty in a place so full of sterility and artificiality. The lobby was topped by a glass ceiling nearly four stories above, adding to the feeling of openness.
Normally bustling with activity, the lobby was now nearly deserted. The only other person nearby was a lone clerk manning the information desk. He looked up from the novel in his hands as Castle entered. Castle returned the look, startled to find anyone on duty. Many of the lights had been turned off, leaving much of the lobby in shadows, but the title of the book in the clerk's hand was all too legible.
Castle clenched his jaw down hard on the scream that threatened to ripple up through his throat.
It was all too much. He simply couldn't stand it, not for another second. He spun away from the clerk and leaned on his hands over the top of a low decorative brick wall ringing the clump of trees that soared several feet over his head. He could feel his chest growing tight with the effort of holding back that primal scream. The rage he had been holding in ever since he saw Kate, shoulders heaving leaning over the body of Roy Montgomery, threatened to overwhelm him. He wanted nothing more than to have Hal Lockwood in front of him, if only for a moment, just so he could pound his knuckles into the assassin's face and hear the satisfying crunch of bone, see the spurt of blood.
A gentle hand landed on his shoulder and, spinning around to face the interloper, he only just avoided lashing out with his fists.
Lanie saw the fist come up but didn't make any effort to move away.
Castle's face hardened into a mask of utter rage.
"Get the hell away from me. Don't touch me," he said his voice tight and shaking, his arms still half raised, his hands tightly clenched.
Lanie dropped her hand but held her ground.
"No," she said softly, calmly.
Castle was flabbergasted. Didn't she understand he wanted to be left alone? Didn't she understand he didn't want her or anyone else around? Especially not Kate's best friend, someone who had known and loved her for a lot longer than he had. He tensed his arms and shoulders, his hands clutched into fists so tight his knuckles were white.
"Get away from me, Lanie," he hissed through gritted teeth.
Lanie shook her head slowly, "No."
Castle's eyes bored into her, as if by sheer force of will he could get her to leave.
They remained that way for several heartbeats, each refusing to back down. Stormy blue eyes clashed with calm brown until finally he looked away, his shoulders slumping, his hands dropping to his sides.
"Go away, please," he said softly. "You should be back there with Esposito."
"I'm not going anywhere."
The strangled question tore at her heart and Lanie swallowed hard before answering.
"Because she's my friend. Because I love her and since she can't be here for you, then I will be."
"I don't deserve for you to be here for me," he whispered.
Lanie's brows drew together in puzzlement. "Why would you say that?"
Castle looked at her, his jaw clenched so tight the muscles in his face stood out in stark relief. The look of self-loathing was so evident that for a moment, Lanie wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms around the broken man in front of her and soothe the hurt. But that would not have been well received, and so she folded her arms across her chest to give herself something to do with them, determined to wait him out.
Castle, for his part, stood in the darkened lobby staring at the ME before finally turning his back on her and walking away. Lanie watched him go for a moment before following. If he needed to walk, then fine. They would walk.
Castle continued his wandering, unconcerned with the destination, only concerned with putting one foot in front of the other. The mere action of walking gave him something to focus on. He was aware of Lanie walking just a half step behind. He had wanted to answer her question, unburden himself on her. But how fair would that have been? This was his burden to bear and he wasn't ready to share it. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
He wasn't even sure where they were anymore, or how to get himself back to where they started, the uniform hallways blending one into the other until he could not be sure what floor they were on, let alone in what area of the vast building. He took one turn after another, churning his feet through the yards, or was it miles? Finally he came to the end of the corridor, the only choice left to him was to turn right and walk through a skyway to the parking garage, or turn around and try to find his way back.
He wasn't ready to go back and so walked several feet into the glass enclosed skyway and sank down to sit with his back to the glass wall to stare out at the city beyond, the street beneath his feet lit by the scattered streetlights that threw warm pools of golden light across the cars parked along the curb.
Lanie stood for a moment, watching him, then lowered herself down to sit beside him, not quite touching. She was pleased when he didn't move away. They sat there for several minutes, simply watching the city lights, before he finally spoke.
"I killed her Lanie."
The words stunned her so much that Lanie stared at him, open-mouthed before recovering her composure.
"She's not dead. She's not going to die," Lanie said determinedly.
Castle shook his head morosely, "You don't know that. You can't know that."
"I do know that. I know it," Lanie retorted hotly, Castle's statement hitting upon her own gravest fears and for one awful moment she was back in that cemetery, Javier's hands gripping her arms to hold her in place when all she wanted was to bolt across the grass and get to her friend. It had taken an exchange of cursing before he finally agreed to let her move in the direction of the podium, but not before he put himself squarely between her back and the direction from which the shots had come.
She could still feel the sickening warmth of Kate's blood as it oozed between her fingers when she applied pressure to the grievous wound. She could still feel Kate's heartbeat, slowing beneath her fingertips even as she pleaded with her friend to hold on, just a few minutes more.
Lanie squeezed her eyes tightly closed to shut out the visions, but it was no use. For as long as she lived she would see Kate Beckett, bleeding to death in that cemetery, surrounded by the headstones of the noble dead. A tear worked its way free and trailed slowly down her cheek and she reached up to wipe it away.
"I'm sorry," Castle said softly, seeing her tears and knowing his incautious words were the cause.
"It's alright," Lanie said automatically, opening her eyes to look at him.
"No, it's not. I just…" Castle paused, pursing his lips together in consternation, "I can't help but see the worst possible outcome."
"Then picture what I'm telling you right now, okay?" Lanie said sincerely, reaching out to lay a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Castle turned his head just enough to look into her brown eyes, shining with unshed tears, but also with something else. Something he couldn't feel for himself. Hope.
"Beckett is one of the strongest people I have ever met. We both know it. She's got a lot to live for and she's not going to give up. She's just not," Lanie paused, allowing her message to sink in. "And you aren't responsible for this. Okay?"
Castle looked quickly away, shaking his head. "If I hadn't gone digging around in her mother's case none of this would have happened. Kate. Montgomery. It's all on me."
"Bullshit," Lanie said vehemently. "How long have you known her now, almost three years? Do you really think she would have left her Mom's case alone forever?"
Castle turned to look at her, deep down knowing she was right.
"Eventually she was going to look again," Lanie continued, "So maybe you moved up the timetable a few months, maybe even years, but that's all. You want to blame someone, blame the son of a bitch who pulled the trigger. And if that's not enough for you, blame the man who paid to have her shot."
"But what if…" Castle began before Lanie roughly cut him off.
"I know you deal in 'what ifs' on a daily basis, but here in the real world, 'what if' don't mean squat," Lanie said, then stopped, considering for a moment before plunging ahead.
"I'm going to tell you something, something that Kate will probably kill me for later, but she's been more at peace with her Mom's death these last two years than in all the years I've known her. And that's all thanks to you. For god's sake she smiles now, laughs even. At work no less. If you could have seen her before you met… I'm telling you, you wouldn't have recognized her."
Castle gazed back out at the city lights, unwilling to accept that he could have been such a good influence, on anyone.
"I accused her of being afraid," he said solemnly.
"What? When?" Lanie asked, surprise coloring her voice.
"A couple of nights ago. I went over to her place. I wanted to try to talk her out of going after these guys. We had it out and I accused her of being afraid of living without her mother's murder to hide behind," Castle said, sorrow coating every word. "I was so angry and afraid. I'd give everything I have just for the chance to take it all back," he finished softly, his head sinking down into his hands.
"I know that. And so does she, believe me."
"How can you know that?"
"Trust me, Rick, she knows. And when she's up and around again, you're going to have your chance to tell her that yourself."
Castle shook his head slowly, "I pray to God you're right."
"I know Beckett. She'd give God Himself a run for his money," Lanie said, smiling slightly. When the cell phone in her pocket began to ring, it startled them both. The smile fled from her face as quickly as it had come as she pulled the phone out and read the caller ID. She slid a finger across the screen to answer.
"Hey," Lanie answered, her expression giving nothing away. She listened for several seconds before looking pointedly at Castle. "Ok, we'll be there in a few."
"What?" Castle asked impatiently, wanting to know and yet dreading what he might hear. "Who was that?"
"Javi. Josh is there. She's out of surgery," Lanie said softly as she tucked the phone back into her pocket.
Castle's chest tightened with anxiety and dread all over again.
Lanie climbed to her feet, "C'mon. They're waiting for us."
"I think I'll just stay here a while longer. He should talk to her Dad," Castle said solemnly.
"Yeah, Javier thought you might say that. Jim wants you there too. He won't let Josh tell them anything until we're all there to hear it. Evidently he's pretty adamant that Kate's whole family is there to hear what he has to say."
"But I'm not…" Castle began, and then stopped himself. Wasn't he? Hadn't Beckett referred to them as a family just the day before, most definitely including him in the group? He looked up at Lanie who was watching him expectantly.
"Okay," he said simply, pushing himself to his feet. Lanie started to turn and walk away and he reached out and gently grasped her hand. She turned back to face him, her brows drawn together in a look of question and concern.
"Thank you," he said sincerely, pulling her into a gentle hug.
Lanie wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tightly. "Anytime. Just promise me that when it's my turn to breakdown, you'll follow me, okay?"
Castle loosened his hold and drew back to look her in the eye. "Absolutely."