The Root of All Evil
Part 3 of The Western Series
Disclaimer: Alas, I still don't own Castle or any of its characters. I just like dressing them up in cowboy boots and taking them on all sorts of adventures. ;)
A/N: Thank you to GHSchade for suggesting the title.
Plot: Things are getting a little more interesting in Colorado Springs. Spring has arrived, and the town is bustling with the promise of a newly opened mine. But as old enemies return, and the rumor mill begins to churn, sometimes it's hard to know who to trust in the Wild West.
A single songbird twittered a happy melody, inviting others to join in, as it sat in a bush outside of Beckett homestead. The early morning light glistened off of dew-covered grass as the sun broke over the horizon. Sunbeams filtered in through the window, dancing merrily as it covered the single room house in a warm bath of light.
Kate Beckett groaned, whimpering slightly as beads of sweat formed over her brow, pooling in shelves of her collarbones, threatening to soak the thin nightgown she was wearing. She brushed a lock of hair, slick with sweat, from her forehead, pushing it with a little more force than necessary behind her ear. Her breath hitched again and she lurched forward, heaving into the wooden bucket she was cradling in her lap. Sucking in a shaky breath, she leaned back against the side of her new bed— a thick, fluffy cotton mattress Rick had sent form New York— and allowed her head to loll to the side as she adjusted bottom, trying to make herself more comfortable as she sat on the unforgiving wooden floor.
She stared up at the wood planks of the ceiling for a long moment as she breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth trying to keep her stomach calm. As the churning began to overwhelm her once again, she let out a pitiful moan. Why me? She questioned silently as her head fell forward and she wretched into the bucket again.
Her stomach finally began to calm and she let out a pitiful whimper of gratitude at the reprieve. Her back of her hand came up to swipe across her mouth and she breathed out a puff of air as she pushed herself off of the ground and set about pulling off her nightclothes in favor of a plain white shirt and a pair of slacks. They were starting to get a little tight around her middle and she shook her head as she sucked in her stomach and fastened the button.
She stood in the middle of her room and swayed slightly, bracing an arm against a wall for support as she reached for a glass of water, taking a tiny sip before placing it on the table in favor of the piece of ginger root she had taken to chewing on. The trip out to the reservation to trade for it had been out of her way and had forced her to lie to her friends and family about the purpose of the trip miles out of town but she didn't care. She also didn't care how many pelts she had needed to trade for it, the remedy was completely worth it.
Her stomach gurgled again as she sucked on the root and she clasped a hand over her mouth. Bolting across the room, she bent over the bucket just in time as she vomited again, the tang of ginger burning her throat as it came back up. She groaned and sunk back down to the ground, allowing herself to curl up in a ball on her side as she whimpered into the wooden planks on the floor. Normally, the ginger was worth it. She brought it up to her lips again, sucking on it gently as a single tear ran down her cheek, mixing with the sweat seeping from her hairline.
The latest wave of nausea finally passed and she pushed herself up to sit against the bed once again. Her bed. Their bed. It would be their bed soon. Her head leaned back against the mattress as she sucked on the ginger, the sweat slowly drying on her face. She brought a hand up to scratch the itchy spots it left behind as the salt stained her skin.
After another moment she forced herself off of the floor, shoving her feet into her boots and plopping her hat onto her head as she picked up her coat and headed for the door. The sun caught the single small diamond on her engagement ring and Kate shook her head, as anger, guilt and shame curled with the nausea in her stomach.
She rolled her eyes.
She was going to kill him.
The next time she saw him, Richard Castle was a dead man.
The Main Street was bustling as Kate wandered through town. Buildings and houses had been rebuilt. The train was running again and telegram wires were coming in faster than they could be recorded. There has been talk of opening back up the mine, getting it ready for operation. Men, contractors and workers, were coming in droves at the promise of work. Kate blanched at the thought. If she never went near that mine again, it would be too soon.
As good as the increased traffic was for the businesses in town, the general store and saloon were bustling, it also meant her jail cells were overflowing on a nightly basis. It also meant an increase army presence in town and a sudden influx of working girls.
Lanie's business was also increasing. The winter storms causing everyone to live in close proximity along with the increased recreational activities of the miners and military men meant there would be a sudden population increase in town (along with an increase in certain diseases).
Kate rolled her eyes. Men. Right now she hated men.
All of them.
Alexis had been working constantly at Lanie's side, getting up at all hours of the night to make house calls as Lanie came knocking on the door of the homestead. Kate had set up a small cot in her cabin for the girl. Jim had offered the use of the main house, stating that he would be okay sleeping in the backroom of the saloon but Kate had shot down the idea. She didn't like the idea of Alexis being alone in the main house. The girl insisted she could take care of herself. Kate believed her, but she also knew that if anything happened to the teenager, that Rick would never forgive her or himself for leaving the girl behind while he went back to New York.
Unfortunately, this also meant that Alexis was aware of Kate's bouts of illness and had told Lanie as well. While it was nice to have friends in on her secret, and Kate could tell that Alexis was excited, if not slightly scandalized by the situation, she was also worried about the fallout of the situation. She would not be the only one outcast, scandalized, branded with a scarlet letter. Alexis would be also, along with her father and Rick.
She picked at the biscuit in her hand, which Alexis had pressed there a while earlier as the girl had run past her on her way to the schoolhouse. Kate could tell that the girl was tired between helping Lanie and keeping up with her studies, but Alexis kept a smile on her face and made sure to keep tabs on Kate. Orders from Eustice and Lanie to make sure she ate, of that she was sure. The women were constantly fluttering around her since she had gotten rescued from the mine. But now, especially, it was worse.
Kate rolled her eyes again. Women. She wasn't particularly fond of them right now, either.
Kate gave a small wave to her father, who was already hard at work at the saloon; men milling about, drinks in hand, even at this early hour. He looked back at her, his face etched with concern and she sighed. He knew; he had to know even though she hadn't told him yet. They had gone through this before. He was privy to all of the signs. She broke off a small bite of the biscuit and popped it in her mouth, before bringing her hand up to rub her forehead.
A man yelled across the street, causing another man to yell back, cussing at the first. Kate sighed again and dropped the remainder of the biscuit to the ground before heading over to the brewing fight, picking up her pace to a trot as she saw the first fist fly. She forced her way between the two men, pinning one to the ground as a couple of bystanders held the other back. The first man, an out-of-work miner looked up at her with a sloppy grin and her stomach lurched at the overwhelming stench of stale alcohol and month-old sweat. She forced the man off of the ground and pushed him towards Esposito who had wandered up before bolting behind the building and relieving herself of the half a biscuit she had just consumed.
Kate leaned back against the building and sighed as she ran a hand through her hair and glared at an old woman who was shaking her head at her from her perch in a rocking chair on her front porch.
Kate pushed herself off of the building and turned back towards the main road with one final pointed glare at the old bat judging her.
There were only a few more hours until his train arrived from New York and she really was going to kill him.
Richard Castle whistled as he skipped down the steps to the train. He had been gone from Colorado Springs for two months, getting things settled in New York. He had found a replacement editor for the Times, received an official publication date for his novel and shipped all of his needed belongings to Colorado. As much as he was going to miss the hustle and bustle of the city, he was excited to exchange the glitz and the glamour of society life for the simple adventures of the west. Especially, since he would be able to spend it with his daughter and his fiancé: two of the three women who meant the most to him. His mother, to his approval, had decided to stay behind in New York, living in the townhome. Martha Rodgers blanched at the thought of dirt; there was no way she would survive in Colorado.
He took in a deep breath and smiled as the Colorado wind met his face. He glanced around the platform, looking for the familiar faces he was expecting to greet him. His smile fell when Alexis didn't come bounding up to meet him with warm words of welcome and a hug. He took another step forward, pausing just before calling out her and Kate's names. They had to be there somewhere. They knew he was coming.
His grin returned momentarily when he caught sight of Kate leaning against the station house, head leaned back, hat held in hand. Alexis was at her side. He took another step forward and his smile faltered as he took in the look of concern etched on Alexis's face as she spoke to Kate in low tones, a hand resting against the sheriff's arm comfortingly. His gaze turned to study Kate and he took in the dark circles under her eyes and the way her breathing was labored as she rested a hand against her stomach.
Her eyes opened and she blinked as her gaze met his and he raised his hand in a hesitant wave. She stared back at him, her hand waving limply back at him before her eyes grew wide and she bolted around the side of the building. She darted out of sight and he took off in a run, following her only to find her bent over the edge of the platform, throwing up over the side, into the dirt below. He felt Alexis come up behind him, a hand resting on his shoulder as she bent around him, looking at Kate. Castle held out a hand towards Kate as she leaned over the edge. The railing pressed into her front as she sagged against it.
"Kate?" he asked gently. "Hey. Are you okay?"
She leaned against the railing for a second longer and he took a small step forward, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder. Her hand darted up and brushed it away as she turned to glare up at him. He shrank back slightly, bumping into Alexis as Kate took a menacing step towards him.
Her fist shot out, connecting firmly against his shoulder, causing a wave of pain to shoot up down his arm, making his hand burn as he stood, stunned looking at her.
"No, I'm not okay," she growled and he gulped as she took another step towards him, her hands balled in tight fists at her side. "You got me pregnant, you bastard."
She whirled around and bound down the steps to the street as he stared after her, slack-jawed, his daughter placing a soothing hand on his shoulder, patting it gently.
She was what?
The stone floor echoed as she walked down the dim, dank corridor of the prison. The stench of rotting food and excrement filler her nose and she tried not to gag as she kept her head held high. Her heels tapping against the floor as men called out to her, hands reaching through the iron bars. Dirty, jagged fingernails grasping for her skirt. Her arm. The guards yelled, beat them back with sticks but she ignored it all as she stared forward, a small smirk painted on her face. They stopped in front of a cell and she lifted her chin a little bit more, straightening her back in confidence. She had worked for months for this moment and she already knew it would be worth it.
"Get up," the guard ordered to the man in the far corner of the cell.
The man glared back, his head lolling up to stare at them lazily. The guard rapped his stick against the bars and the man smirked back smugly.
"Get up," the guard growled and the man continued to stare back, unmoving.
"Who the hell are you?" He asked after a moment and the woman took a step forward her ice blue eyes holding steady to his: black beads in his thin, drawn face. His skin was sickly pale from months without sunlight.
"My name is Amanda Stevenson, Mr. Bryant and I have a proposal for you," she stated calmly.
"You, have a proposal for me?" he laughed back, but he leaned forward slightly his eyes looking her up and down, a hand playing with the button on his pants. "I am about to go to trail and be hanged for wanting to get rid of a bunch of red skinned heathens. What could you possibly do for me?"
Amanda smirked back at him, eying his hand. "Not that, Mr. Bryant, but I can get you freed of all charges, in exchange for a favor, of course."
Ethan Bryant stared at her for a moment, blinking lazily before leaning his dirt-crusted arms on his knees. A tattered shirt and pants covered his thinning body. His cheeks were sunken into his face. Dark circles surrounded his eyes.
Amanda's smirk grew as she stepped up to the iron bars, her hands still clutching her handbag primly. "I believe we have a common enemy, Mr. Bryant, a certain sheriff by the name of Katherine Beckett. I will get you acquitted, all charges dropped and your name completely free of wrongdoing. In exchange, I want you to kill Kate Beckett."
Bryant's face broke into a grin as he cackled back at her, his head bobbing as he pushed himself off of the bench and took a step towards the bars.
"You've got yourself a deal Mrs. Stevenson. But I'll do you one better," he leaned against the metal bars, his arms threading through the spaced to hang lazily between them as he stared down at her, his rotten breath wafting past her face. "I'll frame Kate Beckett."
He paused as he laughed again; the sound bordering on psychotic.
"For what?" Amanda questioned, frowning. Framing Beckett didn't seem like nearly as good of a solution. If she were framed she would still be alive. She wanted Kate Beckett dead for what the woman had done to her, to her family.
He leaned an inch closer, a hand brushing down her face as a wide, Satanic grin covered his face, making her stomach drop as she forced herself to not flinch away from his touch.
"For the murder of Richard Castle."