No Light, No Light
A Dash Away Prequel. To refresh, read Chapter 95 through 99.
This is based in part on geekygreek's idea for pinky fingers, and dedicated to her and the many reviewers who begged for backstory.
No light, no light in your bright blue eyes
I never knew daylight could be so violent
A revelation in the light of day
You can choose what stays and what fades away
And I'd do anything to make you stay
-No Light, No Light, Florence + the Machine
It's seven in the morning and he hasn't heard from Beckett in twelve hours.
Of course, she told him to go home and get some sleep, but he's restless, on edge, still trying to cobble together the scant information they've got on their killer into something that makes sense. The crime scenes are vivid and gruesome in his too-clear memory; they animate and walk around in the darkness. He's grateful that the sunrise is close at hand.
He's just getting out of bed, determined to head back to the 12th and get some espresso down her throat, when his phone buzzes with a text.
He snatches it up. From Beckett.
Break in the case. Meet me.
An address he's never seen. He texts her back a single letter - K - because he knows it irritates her to have a text wasted on just that. He's grinning as jumps up, pulling his jeans on over his boxers, tugging a tshirt on; he hasn't showered, but when Beckett calls, he comes.
He googles the address - Hudson River warehouse district - debates taking a car or mass transit. Car service would take too much time getting here. And he can catch a ride with Beckett back to the 12th. So, public transportation, here he comes.
Castle is about to close out of the browser, but something makes him pause. His laptop is still attached to the power cord, so he drops it on his desktop and leaves his study. He takes a moment to leave Alexis a note that he'll be at the station, then heads out the door.
He wants this case over with already.
It reeks of fish and guts; shrimp and foul water. Brackish puddles are still standing in the sidewalks after last night's rain. The address is for a kind of boathouse or warehouse right on the Hudson, loading dock right out on the pier in the back. Castle has walked the last five or six blocks quickly, his hands pushed into his jean pockets because the early morning air is cooler than he expected.
He forgot the coffee. Damn. It's a bad sign. She's gonna be irritable without it.
He stands outside the boathouse, overcome with dread. For coffee? She's not going to kick him out for showing up empty-handed. Jeez, Castle, pull it together. He can practically hear her in his head.
He rubs a hand through his hair, checks out the boathouse, looking for where he should go. He doesn't see Beckett's car either, which is strange. Maybe she was trying not to alert anyone?
Castle glances up and down the dim street; the darkling pre-dawn only makes the shadows deeper, more sinister.
He shrugs and heads for the corrugated metal door. It's rusty and slides painfully aside, squealing and shrieking as he pushes.
There goes the element of surprise, he thinks.
No light inside. Musty, smells of rotting rope and old wood and-
His mouth fills with bile and he steps further inside, blinking away the dust motes and the darkness, letting his eyes slowly adjust.
Huddled mass right in front of him, about fifty feet from the door. Is there another body? On a table, it looks like, a workbench.
A sharp blow makes him stagger; he drops to his knees, blackness swallowing him, confusion running thickly down the back of his skull like blood. He can't feel his hands; his back and neck are tingling.
His vision clears for an instant, his eyes finally adjusted, and he sees the worktable in front of him and the prone-
Gagged. Tied, spread-eagle to the tabletop. A criss-cross of blood dripping down her thighs, her ribs, her arms.
Her frantic eyes are on him.
He sees her. He sees it all.
Her heart is breaking in her eyes.
The lights go out.
He's going to die.
It didn't hurt before he showed up, stepping from pre-dawn light into black night. It didn't hurt at all. She was cut, she bled, she watched it from behind a glass, darkly.
He's going to die and she never got a chance-
It didn't hurt.
And now it does.
He's cuffed and it's dark and-
He gags on it, the smell filling his nostrils, the dirty rag in his mouth; hears her. He hears her.
He blinks through the haze of sweat and blood in his eyes and shakes his head to clear it; groans as his brain sloshes hard against his skull. His head throbs, his neck, his wrists. He's cuffed. He glances up. Cuffed to some kind of boathook or something. Metal and wood over his head; shoulders pulsing, not numb enough.
He yanks. No give.
Have to face it.
He risks a look, ashamed at himself because he doesn't want to look, doesn't want to match the sounds with whatever is being done to her-
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God-
Blood is pooled in her belly button.
The scalpel finds a way to gleam, even in the dim light. Candle light. A gleam against the blade.
The Butcher will do him next. If she can last long enough. . .if she can let him see the way the blood moves, the muscles strain and bunch, maybe it will be all right.
Someone wil come.
For him. To save him. Won't they? She needs to save him.
It's so clear. Even in the darkness, she can find his eyes, wild and grieving and breaking. She sees him so clearly.
Strange how it works. She sees now; she doesn't need to see anymore.
This is the man who loves her.
She will do anything, bear anything, endure anything to get him out of here alive.
She will die slowly, more slowly than this, if that's what it takes.
Scalpel against her skin. How long has she been here? He can see cuts all over her body, along her ribs, arms, her belly. Shallow wounds that keep reopening every time she jerks in pain.
He shivers so violently that the cuffs rattle. She won't look at him anymore. Like she doesn't want to have to let him see her eyes with all their terrible knowledge.
The Butcher, in his bloodied apron and surgical mask, the scalpel in his hands like an instrument; the scalpel plays across her skin, her inside thigh. Blood wells up; her legs tremble. Castle can see it all, too clearly-
The Butcher hunches over her, digs the scalpel into the wound as if fishing for something. Her back arches high off the table, a growling, muted sound from Beckett, like an animal in pain, even through the gag. A scream rips raggedly from her throat.
He thinks he's weeping.
When the fillet knife comes out, slides out of the long, smooth carrying case open on the table, the long, smooth blade-
When the fillet knife comes to her inside thigh like the bladed hand of a lover-
When the fillet knife peels back her skin-
When Kate jerks and screams, sobbing, gag-drowned screams, writhing but going nowhere-
When he sees the ragged line of the wire around her wrist, cutting deep so that her hand dangles disconnectedly-
He realizes that the chanting, inchoate sounds are actually him, Rick Castle, babbling her name over and over and over.
His hands are numb, blood-slicked; he is lunging for her, trying to kick out at the Butcher; flailing, straining, jerking, screaming, yelling through the gag, choking and desperate and screaming-
He sees the fillet knife slicing back skin, muscle, deep, and he thinks he's been doing that, this, senselessly, her name a prayer and his body yearning to make it stop, since he saw her on the table, her eyes bleeding hopelessness.
There is nothing than can stop him, no power in the universe than can keep him from her.
"Castle! You gotta let her go-"
Cold blood. Cracking. Pulsing heat around the cracks.
"You have to let her go, man. The paramedics need to get to her-"
The howling pain in his arms. His growl ends on a moan and the cool, fish-gutted air.
They take her away from him.
They take her away from him.
Dimly, she feels their hands. A pair of hands. Esposito. Ryan. More.
Her eyes are closed and she won't open them; she doesn't want him to have to see this.
She cracks open an eyelid in the ambulance as the bus rattles her brain. Sirens. Lights.
Her throat is raw. She licks her lips and tastes blood.
"We got him. He's in the bus behind us. Beckett-"
She closes her eye, feels her head roll away, her body a live wire of pain.
She wouldn't let them touch her; no one could touch her but the one person she can't bear to see. She lets Ryan drive her home because Ryan hums nervously beside her but won't attempt to make her talk. Everything aches. They have given her good drugs that she will not take until her body demands it.
Castle was getting stitches in his thigh where the fillet knife stuck. Stitches in his forearm where the scalpel dug. So they tell her.
She hasn't been able to look.
Ryan walks her up. She makes him leave at the door, unlocked but closed.
She goes inside and stands in the strange, late afternoon light enveloping her apartment.
Somehow, it is still light outside.
She pulls her knees up to her chest and makes an appointment with her therapist over the phone. His voice is soothing, like it usually is, but she hears over it the cracking, frenzied sound of Castle calling her name.
She shivers against it, writes down the time (tomorrow) on the back of her hand. Because really, what's one more set of lines across her skin?
Her forearms are wrapped in white bandages, extra-large band-aids criss-cross her abdomen and chest. None of her cuts were all that deep; isn't that funny? If she laughs, she would be hysterical, so she doesn't laugh. But she wants to.
She has her own stitches in a careful line up the inside of her thigh. The Butcher, for all his insanity, had a method. Vivisection requires careful planning. Apparently.
She's got no idea how Castle did what he did, how he ripped out of her own handcuffs and somehow put the machete in the side of the Bucher's skull and then cut her free and wrapped his body around hers, clinging but she is so grateful she could cry.
She hasn't cried yet. She won't. It hurts; everything hurts. But blessedly, her brain's defenses have cut through whole swathes of memory, letting the early morning terror lie fallow. No idea.
She doesn't remember. Her therapist will be so pleased. Ha.
What Kate does remember is Rick Castle walking into the boathouse, blind and hesitant and confused, stepping closer, and the Butcher raising up behind him with a crowbar-
What Kate remembers is the moment Castle's eyes met hers and he saw-
She she knew she'd killed him.
She has a half-moon crescent on her thigh where the tip of the machete touched but never quite made it to the cutting.
Castle has a jagged wound at his wrist where he apparently broke through her handcuffs to stop the cutting before it could commence.
The cutting. It sounds nice that way. The lovely consonance.
The butchering. Not as nice a sound.
She shivers hard and her fingers fall away from the cupboard, the glass slips and breaks, shatters against the floor.
His voice through the door is harsh and raw. (He has been yelling her name for a long time now. He strains towards her, rippling with agony every time a cut is made, but the pain isn't from the blade; it's from the knowledge breaking apart inside her.)
Yelling her name from outside her door now, that is new. She didn't hear him come up.
Kate eyes the wreckage in her kitchen, her bare feet curled against the floor. She makes a stupid decision and leaps for it, clears the broken glass - or at least doesn't feel it - and runs for her door. Runs. She might never be able to walk calmly towards him again.
When she opens it, he looks awful.
She trembles there on the edge of something. Deep and cavernous, it threatens to swallow her up. She's not sure she will ever get away from it.
But hasn't she been in it for a long time now?
Doesn't his showing up this morning at the boathouse, at her faked text's summons, doesn't that prove, in black and white, that she isn't alone any more?
He was there. He had been there all along. Why does she act like she's alone?
Castle makes a mewling noise in his throat, part need and part terrible relief, and his hand comes up to snag hers.
His pinky hooks around hers, clings there. She can't feel anything; she needs-
Kate tries to shake him, but he groans, wordless and beaten down, laces their fingers together and holds on tightly, as if he will never, never let her go.
It's not right. It's not right.
She yanks her hand away from his, desperate and aching and dark with memory, and he staggers forward, brokenness in his eyes, doubt and questions and fear-
She jumps him. Into him.
Presses every painful part of herself against him, pain to pain, dark nothing to dark nothing, the jagged edges of their wrists meeting, blood pact, jostling for more of him.
It takes him a moment to figure it out, figure her out, and then his arms are wrapping around her so tight she can't breathe, and it's good, it's right, it's exactly what she needed, wanted, couldn't look at without breaking.
"Castle," she keens and can't imagine him not here, not being here, the machete at his neck and she can do nothing to stop him from throwing himself into death to save her life-
She shakes off encroaching memory and holds him tighter, feels him stumble back into the door with the force of her need; it swings shut like thunder. They both jerk, shocky and shaking.
Nothing she can do will keep this man away from her. Not to save himself, not at her expense. She will go to her grave with the responsibility of this man on her conscience.
She will take all of him, or none. She won't go at it halfway any longer.
She takes his mouth with a bruising grip of her teeth, shoves at his lips with her tongue, impatient and irritable and too needy to understand herself.
She gasps in pain at the hand on her thigh, stumbles back, blinking. She curls in, shivers, and straightens up again, grabs his hand before he can go with his better judgment, leave her.
She laces their fingers together, raises his hand so that the stitches in his left wrist meet the terrible bandaged half-moon cut across hers. His chest heaves; he looks like he wants to cry.
He's seen it all before, everything. This is nothing.
Kate steps in and releases his hand, wraps her arms recklessly around his back, lifts her other knee up around his waist and rocks her hips against his thigh.
He growls at her and seals his mouth to hers, cracks her wide, plunges inside, scraping her out.
She shoves on him, foot still hooked around his waist; he hikes her up and carries her, all of her in agony at the force of his touch, the stretching of her damaged skin, chafed by clothes, by him.
"Where?" he manages, biting her lip and laving it with his tongue.
"My bed. You-" And everything else sticks in her throat. Just him.
He moves fast; drops her to the mattress, yanks at the scrubs they gave her to wear. She arches in pain and gasps; he tries to gentle and she tears at his shirt.
"I'm hurting you-"
"No. Never. Not you," she says and traps his mouth against hers, devouring him.
He breaks away to lift the NYPD tshirt over her head, takes the time to soothe her irritated skin with feather-soft, too-gentle kisses.
"No," she cries and feels tears in her eyes, tears she doesn't want. "Not like that."
He stops, lifts his head. She sees too much, too much, and she can't handle that right now.
"Leave it for later," she says, and lets him have one thing.
One thing. The brush of her thumb across his lower lip, steady and slow, caressing. A promise.
She breaks wider, everything in her, has to close her eyes against the way her name still sounds in that raw, broken voice. For a moment, the stinging grief of never being alone again hits her with a force like a wave slapping over her body. She can never go back to how easy it was before; she's never allowed the weightlessness, the simplicity, the isolation of having no one to care, no one to worry, no one to not make it back to.
She has him, now. She's had him for a long time. And it hurts.
"Later," she grits out, opens her eyes again to lift her hips against his pelvis, sharp and brutal. "Castle. This, now."
"Not just now," he says back, biting her thumb and sucking hard.
She arches again, agony and ecstasy, feels her whole life spilling out of her, weeping from a thousand cuts, forming a lake made of memory and need and promise under their bodies, staining the sheets with it.
"For. Ever," he growls, low and deadly and certain against her ear even as he finds her.
She pants, opens her eyes, watches the afternoon light shimmer along her ceiling as everything shatters.
It's only four o'clock.
This is it. For the rest of her life.