Summary: Sometimes, when you've given up on getting answers, that's when they come to you.
Rating: K+ (there's a little violence in the prologue, not graphic)
Author's Note: This story was all but finished when I posted the first chapter of the original 12 chapters – I had 10 and a half written and the rest outlined in my head. Around the time I posted chapter six or seven, I realized there was a lot more to be done. A year plus later I'm still plugging away at it, when time permits. So much for making declarations about how far along I am. Yep, turns out I'm a liar. Oh well. Thanks to all of you who are patiently sticking around and checking for updates.
Disclaimer: The only Castle I own is in DVD format. Castle belongs to Andrew Marlowe, ABC, and probably some other people, none of whom is me. I am not making any money here.
The elevator door slides open on his floor and Castle pats down his own pockets for keys.
"Jacket, left," Kate supplies, never even looking up from her magazine.
He reaches in for them and shakes his head. "You really do remember everything you see. There has got to be job where you can use that skill."
"Oh, there is," she states. He can hear the eye roll.
It's been a little over a week since the rooftop battle with Cole Maddox and her subsequent suspension and resignation. Castle has been hesitant to be the one to bring it up, but based on a couple of comments earlier in the morning, apparently Kate has decided her job situation is no longer off limits.
As he's sifting through the keys with one hand, he reaches back to cup the back of her head with the other, and plants a kiss in her wavy brown hair. Sort of brown. She'd gotten bored over the weekend and made an appointment with her stylist for highlights. It's never been this light, at least not in the time Castle has known her. She looks like she belongs on the beach, and he's trying to talk her into rounding up their families and going to the Hamptons. But things are still basically awful between Ryan and Esposito, and she's determined to stay in town and keep harassing Espo about it until her boys are on speaking terms. The thought of taking off on a family vacation and leaving that relationship broken, and broken because of her, doesn't sit well. She's losing sleep over it.
Kate is still engrossed in her magazine when Rick stops abruptly, a few feet from the door. She smacks into his shoulder, but he barely moves.
A grunt is all she gets back. She looks up to see his right hand suspended in the air, front door key halted mid-way to the lock. The door jamb is covered in tool marks, where someone has tried to force it open. As is the face of the lock.
"I-uh, spent extra on the lock, it's supposed to the unpickable." He pulls a handkerchief from his back pocket and palms it to test the door handle. It holds fast. Whomever it was, they didn't get in.
In unison, they swing right, looking down the long hallway. The pneumatic closer has just pulled the heavy stairwell door closed with a metallic snap. The top of a head of dark, close-cropped hair, bobs briefly in the narrow, vertical window and disappears down the stairs. Maddox.
Beckett's right hand sweeps back her jacket and slaps the empty place at her hip. Muscle memory. She grits out an oath.
Her partner is off like a rocket, already half way to the door. "Castle, NO!" Beckett hisses, but he only slows a fraction, to jerk a fire extinguisher out of its cradle on the wall, before hitting the crash bar with his full weight. He crosses the stairwell landing in one stride and is taking the steps down in doubles.
Kate clears the door at full speed, right behind him, even before it can bounce back on its hinges. Tears are burning at the back of her throat and eyes. He's going to die. Castle is going to die, a couple of floors down in the stairwell of his apartment building. And if Castle is going to die because of this, because of her, the very least she can do now is make certain she dies with him. Beckett throws herself over the middle divider, skipping the bottom three steps of the half-flight and landing two down on the next. Castle is just ahead of her now, although she loses precious time getting upright and moving again. He's rounding the next landing now, and by the pounding of footsteps ahead, is catching up with Cole Maddox.
It's unreal how recklessly he's throwing himself down the stairs, flying toward his goal. She's never seen him move so fast, never loved his foolish heart more than now. Beckett knows she will never deserve this, never be able to do enough to earn it. She's so tired of this, and if they catch up with Maddox, they're definitely going to die. It's a relief, in a way, to know she'll never have the opportunity to fail at making this all up to him.
Kate sees her partner's face when he turns to face down the next flight, and knows by his eyes that Maddox is right below. The fire extinguisher has been swinging wildly from his left hand as he runs. Castle never breaks stride as he hoists the cylinder and whips it with all his might down the stairs, out of her view.
What Kate cannot see, she definitely hears. First contact is not with a cinder block or concrete stairs, but something softer, before it clangs to the ground. Castle is still moving, and she loses him for a second as she clings to the bottom hand rail and half swings, half slides on her knees around to face down the next flight.
Kate can hardly believe her eyes. Cole Maddox stumbles heavily into the wall below. He's shaking his head, and the stream of blood pouring down his scalp splatters in heavy drops across the landing. It's a lot of blood. Maddox reaches for the small of his back where the butt of a pistol protrudes from his waistband. The Glock just breaks free from Maddox's holster as Castle reaches him and paws it away from the killer's shaky hand. It clatters away down the next flight of stairs. Maddox strikes out blindly, catching Castle in the gut, but it's a glancing blow, and Castle answers by hammer fisting Maddox's already swimming head into the concrete wall.
Maddox is falling. On the way down, he strikes out with his right foot, landing a solid blow to the inside of Castle's knee, and then they're both on the ground.
She's at their landing now, scrambling for it. The gun is a few steps below her, so close. She can end this, if she can just get the gun.
In the next instant, Kate's feet are swept out from under her and she crashes to the floor. She's half on the landing and half down the stairs before she realizes Maddox has a fistful of her left boot. She kicks free and thanks the assassin with a face full of the same. There is a stabbing pain in her right wrist, has no doubt it's broken. Kate is reaching for the handrail with her left to pull herself upright again when in her periphery, sees Castle use the fire extinguisher to push himself to his knees above Maddox. He grits his teeth through the pain in his leg and hoists the bulky red canister above his head, repeating the same two words over and over-
"No more, no more, no more, no more..."