A/N: I am so sorry about the delay. I had fully intended to update this every other day, but I finished a chapter and realized that it didn't fit at all with the rest of the story, so I had to scrap it and start all over. Also, I've had other things on my mind. My sister was due to give birth three days ago, but the baby has decided she doesn't want to leave her comfy home yet, so this past week I've been anxiously waiting for my phone to light up to tell me that my sister is in labor, or better yet, that my niece has been born. Suffice to say, looking forward to my new niece making her entrance into this world and anxiously hoping that my sister will have a safe delivery has seriously affected my ability to write Castle-Beckett angst.

That being said, this story has developed a life of its own, and while I haven't been writing chapters, I've been plotting out events. Obviously, I won't finish this before the episode airs tonight, which I'm sad about because I wanted to incorporate some of my theories to see which one I'm right about, but alas, I won't get that pleasure. So, if you're still reading this, just take this as a spin-off from the episode. I'll probably use stuff in future chapters from the episode itself, but I have a whole different plot worked out for this.

Once again, thank you for your lovely reviews/favorites/alerts, and I'm sorry I haven't responded to everyone individually.

Chapter Three

The universe was mocking her.

Kate stood transfixed by the television screen in front of her, just one among several sets enticing passers-by to enter the electronics store. Pedestrians shot her dirty looks when they were forced to go around her, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the figures on the screen and the scrolling yellow banner screaming, "Breaking news."

"Richard Castle, bestselling mystery novelist with thirty bestsellers to date, including the popular Derrick Storm series and the recently released, Frozen Heat, was arrested yesterday for the brutal murder of twenty-nine-year-old, Tessa Horton. In a strange ritualistic killing reminiscent of one of Castle's own fictions, Horton was found bound to her ceiling by what appears to be barbed wire and had a symbol carved into her forehead. Other details have not been made public by the NYPD.

"Mr. Castle was released this morning, and though the details behind his release are unclear, he was seen exiting the station side-by-side with his publisher and ex-wife, Gina Cowell. Perhaps the literary duo are trying to once again rekindle their relationship, something they'd tried three years ago when it came to an end after a public dispute at Le Cirque. For Mr. Castle's sake, one would certainly hope that third time certainly is the charm."

Shaking off the numbing shackles that chained her feet to the concrete, Kate forced herself to move past the unknowingly mocking newscast. But everywhere she looked was a reminder that the world took perverse pleasure in knocking her down every time she was poised at the doorstep of happiness.

Apparently, every single electronics store available to mankind had decided to migrate into her path, and every single one was tuned in to the breaking news of bestselling novelist Richard Castle being cleared of charges and released into the loving arms of his publisher, ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and apparent current lover.

Entertainment media had already gotten their grubby hands on the story, and many insinuated at the delightful poetry of Richard Castle's detective muse arresting him for murder.

In the years she'd been a detective, Beckett had enjoyed the general public's favorable impression of her—no small part in thanks to Castle and his books, she had to admit—but now that she was cast as the villain in this piece…It just made everything hurt even worse.

There it was broadcast for the world to see: unjust arrest of literary darling Richard Castle by his ungrateful muse and his subsequent rescue by his loyal publisher, even if they did have a tumultuous personal relationship. It was romantic, actually.

It just made Kate feel sick.

Kate couldn't help but take note of the fact that the reason her shame was made public was her own fault. She'd arrested him before all the evidence had come to light, and so this was to be her retribution. To watch as the name of the man she'd finally allowed herself to love completely be linked irrevocably with that of another woman.

It was a joke. A cruel, cruel joke in which she'll forever be the punch-line.

She scoffed at herself.

God, Castle's flair for melodrama had really rubbed off on her, hadn't it?

He was just another man, she tried to convince herself, but even as she repeated it to herself like a life-saving mantra, she knew it was a lie.

Castle wasn't just another man. He was her partner and best friend. He was it for her, her one-and-done, and oh god, this was one of the reasons she'd hesitated so long, wasn't it? So that she could avoid this kind of earth-shattering heart-break?

With a weary sigh, she looked up to find that she'd somehow made it all the way to the front of Castle's building.

Her subconscious was more masochistic than she gave it credit for.

Should she go up to see him? What if Gina was still with him? What would she even say to him?

Oh hey, sorry I thought you were a murderer and a cheater—oh wait, you are.

Yeah, that'd go over real well.

Oh god, what if Alexis was the one to open the door? The last time she'd spoken to Castle's daughter, Alexis had been begging Kate to tell the girl something—anything—about her father's status, and Kate hadn't been able to tell her anything beyond a weak we're trying to find the answers. Kate knew that by the end of that call, Alexis had hated her more than just a little. Kate hadn't had a choice in what she'd done, but even now there was a sick taste in her mouth when she thought about the trust she'd betrayed.

Kate took an unconscious step toward the front door, but she stopped when she realized what she was doing.

She still had a murder to solve. As for Castle and everything else threatening to upend her equilibrium... Well she could figure it out after this bastard was caught.

A distant part of her warned her that she was running again, but Kate ignored it. Maybe she was running, but right now, she honestly just could not deal with everything. She had to focus her attention on solving this damn thing. There'd be plenty of time to break afterwards.

She turned away but before she'd taken a step, she saw Ryan running up to her, a wild look in his eyes and his carefully parted hair a wild mess.

"Ryan, what are you doing here?"

"I found something. On the surveillance video," he said between panted breaths.

The detective in Beckett stood up at once at the possibility of a break in the case. "What did you find?"

Ryan's eyes were bright with exhilaration. "Heels. The man in the video had heels on his shoes. Why the hell would he wear heels unless—"

"—he was pretending to be taller than he was," Kate finished, the hot thrum of exhilaration from getting one step closer to her prey zipping through her body.

"The saleswoman at the jewelry store described our perp as being about six-one, six-two, but if our guy was wearing heels, then he must be only about five-ten, five-eleven. It couldn't have been Castle."

"The son of a bitch was purposefully framing Castle. Which means that his goal isn't just murder; it's to take down Castle."

Ryan nodded. "That's why I'm here. I tried calling Castle about a half dozen times, but he hasn't answered."

Beckett spun around and barely gave the doorman a glance as she pushed through the doors and strode into the elevator without a moment's hesitation. The ride up seemed interminable with both detectives on edge. By the time the doors slid open and Beckett stood in front of Castle's door, she could barely breathe through the veil of worry that fogged her mind.

"Castle, open the damn door!" she called as she rapped sharply on the thick slab of wood.

When they didn't hear any movement on the other side, Kate dug out her phone and stared at it like it was a monster.

So much for avoiding confrontation with his family.

She tried Martha first.

Castle's mother hadn't been happy—to say the least—when they'd dragged Castle out of their home in cuffs, but at least she could be relied upon to be civil, even if she thought Kate was possibly the worst girlfriend in existence.

"Detective Beckett," came Martha's voice on the other end. "What can I do for you?"

Kate's heart squeezed painfully. She hadn't been Detective Beckett to Martha in a long time.

Kate took a deep breath and prayed that her voice wouldn't crack. "Martha, do you know where Castle is?"

"One would think that you would know better than I, Detective."

Kate winced at the not undeserved dig. She turned her body away from Ryan, whom she noticed had courteously walked a good distance away. The hallway wasn't large enough that he couldn't hear her conversation, but she appreciated his thoughtfulness.

"Please, Martha."

There was a brief pause and what seemed like Alexis whispering furiously on the other end. When Martha replied, it was with a deep weariness that contradicted everything Kate knew about the vivacious actress. "I wish I could help. I really do. But I don't know where he is."

"It's not—" Kate's voice caught in a messy tangle of emotion and she had to try again. "You're not just saying that because he doesn't want to see me?"

She must have failed miserably at keeping the despair out of her voice because Martha sighed heavily. "Oh, kiddo. You kids are enough to give this old woman a few more grey hairs. Richard called us to tell us to get out of the loft and to stay elsewhere for a while. It seems that he's afraid whoever has framed him will come after us next."

"And Castle didn't say he was going to meet you somewhere?"

"Only that he's going to get whoever's after him first."

Kate's heart stopped. The idiot. The stupid, stupid idiot. He was going to get himself killed.

"Kate, I don't claim to understand what's happening, but I do know that the two of you still care for each other deeply. Bring him home safe. Please."

"I'll do whatever it takes," Kate promised without any hesitation.

"Thank you, darling." Martha paused, and then said, "You should come over for dinner after this whole mess is over. We haven't had a family dinner since you've been together."

Kate wanted to both laugh and cry. She didn't know how Martha could be so forgiving, not when the offense Beckett had committed was so grievous. Of course, Martha also didn't know that Castle had been seeing his ex-wife on the side, but that was another mess that Beckett couldn't deal with right now.

All she could give Martha was a choked out, "When this is over."

Kate ended the call and had to take several deep breaths to settle herself before she decided on her next move.

She had Gina's phone number from the few occasions when the publisher had called Beckett to bug Castle about the chapters he owed her, but this was possibly the worst thing anybody could ask of Kate at this moment. To call the woman Castle had an affair with for her help?

God, just kill her now.

But it wasn't like Kate had any other choice.

Beckett found Gina's number in her contact list and pressed call before she could second-guess herself.

Gina answered on the second ring, her tone bored and edged with condescension. "Detective Beckett. I wasn't expecting to hear from you. Did I leave something out in my statement?"

Beckett gritted her teeth. "No. Where's Castle?"

Gina huffed a little laugh. "Why? Do you have another murder you want to arrest him for?"

The hot press of tears behind her eyelids made it near impossible to breathe and Beckett stared resolutely at the elegant, mahogany finish of Castle's door. She wasn't going to cry. She wasn't.

She begged her voice to stay steady. "Damn it, whatever it is you want, you win, okay? This isn't some stupid joke. Castle is in danger and I need to know where he is. Now."

There was a long pause at the other end, and when Gina spoke again, her voice was softer and held a note of apology to it.

Just great. Now even Gina pitied her.

"He left my office about ten minutes ago. I just assumed he went back to the loft since that's where Alexis said she was meeting him when she called me."

Kate didn't know why that was such a sucker punch to know that Alexis had called Gina. Where else was the teen supposed to turn when she thought Beckett only seemed interested in keeping her dad locked behind bars?

She shoved the hurt in the corner of her mind where all the other messy emotions from this case were being ignored. "He didn't say anything else to you?"

"No. I'm sorry."

Kate thanked Gina for the information, but inside, her mind was reeling. Not for the first time this case, Kate realized that she didn't know Castle as well as he knew her. She had absolutely no idea where he would go if he thought he was in danger.

Well, no. Before this, he probably would have come to her, but after this huge mess? She had no clue.

Castle said once that he thought she was a mystery he would never solve, but increasingly she was coming to see that he was the enigma, not her.

On the other end of the phone, Kate could hear Gina's secretary telling her she had a potential client there to see her.

"I'll let you get back to work, then," Beckett said.

She made to end the call, but Gina stopped her. "Wait, Detective Beckett. Rick and I...neither of us are cheaters. I just…thought you should know."

Gina hung up and left Beckett wondering what she was supposed to do with that piece of information.




A/N: Thanks for reading, and my prayers go out to everyone who'll be affected by Hurricane Sandy. I wish you all the best!