OUR SERENDIPITOUS PATHS
Kate Beckett wakes in a world where nothing is as she knows it to be. A season 4 AU story.
1: ride to nowhere
Kate dropped into the hard plastic seat on the subway, leaned her head back against the window with a sigh. It had been a long day, an even longer week. She was satisfied; her cases had wrapped up neatly, but she had been going for fourteen hours straight for the past six days. She was jittery from too much coffee, mentally drained from her case load; she couldn't wait to get home and into her bed, sleep for twelve hours, then spend her weekend relaxing, catching up on her reading.
She only had a few stations to go; she was trying to keep her eyes open but she was so tired. The monotonous rhythm of the Subway was lulling her, numbing her. Her limbs were getting heavy. She should've allowed Castle to take her home.
That was her last conscious thought before exhaustion won out, and she fell asleep.
It was the standstill that finally woke her. The rattling and clanking had subsided, leaving behind a deafening silence inside the subway car. Her heart was pounding from the shock of waking up; she must have been sleeping very deeply. Kate looked around, trying to find her bearings, and found the car completely deserted save for her. She checked her watch; it was just past midnight.
When had it gotten this late? And where was she? She glanced outside the window. Pelham Bay Park. Shocked, she realized she'd ridden all the way out to the Bronx, was at the terminal stop of her line.
Across the platform, another number 6 train was lined up, heading back toward Manhattan, its doors still open, and Kate grabbed her bag, rushed out of the subway car and into the one across from her. She plopped down onto a blue plastic seat, and dug through her bag to have her gun within easy reach.
This was eerie. She remembered the stories about Pelham Bay Park, when the large park full of wilderness and secluded areas was a preferred dumping ground for grisly murdered bodies in the early 90ies. Things might be different these days, but she found that the voices of the dead never seemed to stop lingering. The station was deserted; there was nobody else on this train nor on the platform, an unusual occurrence anywhere in New York even this late at night. She shuddered, mentally willed the train to leave quickly, and bring her home.
Finally, the train lurched, and began its trip south. A few travelers boarded at the next station. Kate relaxed a little, unearthed a book from within her bag. One eye and ear still on alert, she opened the book to where she last earmarked it, and began reading, trying to keep herself awake this time during the hour-long trip back to her neighborhood.
When she finally made it home she was so tired that she had to lean against the doorjamb while she tried to open the door to her apartment. But when she inserted the key, it didn't slide all the way inside the lock. She jiggled the key, tried again, but nothing happened. It would not turn in either direction within the lock. She pulled the key back out, scrutinized it, but all the teeth were intact, and she was holding the right one. She looked at her door to double-check the apartment number, but found that she was on her floor and at the correct door, just as she thought she was. How strange. She attempted it again, more forcefully this time, but it wouldn't budge.
She leaned against the wall for a moment, trying to think through her confusion when she heard steps coming from inside the loft. She quickly reached for her gun, braced her body in a safe stance.
"Who is this?" A sleepy female voice called out from inside the apartment.
Out of habit, Kate answered, "Detective Beckett, NYPD." Trying to ignore the fact that she was announcing herself at her own place to some stranger.
The door opened a sliver, the safety chain securely in place. Beckett held up her badge for the woman to see, and then the chain was pulled back, the door opened wider.
"What's wrong Detective?" The woman inside her loft asked, an edge of fear in her voice. "What happened?" She was roughly in her mid-forties, short, and wearing an unflattering green fleece robe that she was clutching closed in almost a death grip.
Kate felt her knees buckling, her head swimming in disbelief. The quick glance inside revealed a completely unfamiliar place. None of her furniture was there, none of her artwork… This was not her apartment. What was going on?
"Ehm…" Kate stuttered, at a loss for words. "Nothing ma'am." She looked past her into the loft again. "Don't… I'm sorry, do you live here?"
"Yes," the woman nodded affirmatively. "Coming on two years."
The nausea came on quickly; she had to breathe through her nose, clutching the doorjamb next to her so hard that her knuckles turned white.
"Are you alright Detective?" The woman questioned, more concerned now, and Kate tried to calm herself, focus. As if she was on the job.
"Yeah… Thank you." She straightened her stance. "I'm sorry to disturb you. Just a mix-up."
Downstairs in the small lobby Kate leaned against the wall across from the mailboxes. She pinched herself in the arm, hard. She felt the pain, so she could not be dreaming. She felt off-kilter; she had no home, no place to go, her head fuzzy and her heart lonely.
Castle. His image flashed into her mind like a revelation; this evening was so bizarre that she was not above being melodramatic. Castle would listen, and come up with a story, and let her sleep in his guestroom. She supposed he'd let her sleep in his bed too, if that's what she wanted, though sleep would probably be furthest from their minds… Her heart quickened at the images of naked bodies sliding along midnight blue satin sheets, and she attempted to shake it off, clear her brain; she breathed through it, trying to reign in her galloping imagination.
She dug her phone out of her bag, pulled up her contact list. When she scrolled through the C's, there was no listing for 'Castle.' She stared at her phone, dumbfounded. This couldn't be. She skimmed down to the R's quickly, just in case, even though she was certain that she had him saved as Castle. Yet there was no Rick, no Richard either. Her insides fluttered, erratic now, panicky. She tried to focus, cobbled together his number from memory, thanking heavens for her almost photographic ability to remember facts. She dialed, waiting for the ringing on the other end that never came.
'We are sorry; the number you have called does not exist.'
Kate pulled the phone away from her ear, gaped at the screen. Cold unfurled inside of her and she hit 'end,' dialed the number once more, called again.
'We are sorry; the number you have called does not exist.'
She sank to the ground, no longer able to stand, tears welling up in her eyes. The feeling of desolation cold and heavy inside her. It had been a long time that she had felt this alone, suffered this particular brand of sorrow.
Eventually, she lifted her phone again, pulled up the only other contact that made sense at this point. At least that was unchanged, the name appearing on the screen. Her fingers shaking, she hit the call button.
The phone was picked up after the third ring, and she exhaled, tried to stop her voice from wavering.
Her father would have picked her up immediately, but she opted to take a cab over to his house instead of waiting for him in this building, despite the significant fare that she would have to expect.
He was worried of course; she never called him this late, and her voice was usually steadier, but she had kept the conversation brief. What was she going to say, when she didn't understand any of this herself? So Kate had merely asked if she could stay the night, claiming that there were some issues with her apartment.
She sat slumped in the back seat of the cab, her mind curiously blank. She watched the city flash by the window, the blur of lights and trees and the shapes of buildings, changing from the metal and glass of Manhattan into the brick and fences of the more residential areas.
When the car pulled to a stop in front of her father's house, she paid the driver. Not willing to risk whether her credit card would work in this strange reality she had found herself in, she dug out a few bills from the emergency cash that she kept in her wallet.
She stumbled onto the sidewalk, tried to steady her legs to walk up the cobblestone walkway toward the front door. Her dad must've been watching out for the cab because the door swung open just as she was about to knock.
Kate felt the blood rushing through her head, thrumming in her ears. Tears raced to her eyes, her knees buckled, but before she fell she was caught safely by limber, familiar arms. A long lost, oh so familiar scent.