TITLE: Solid Ground
AUTHOR: Lord of Kavaka
RATING: T (M later)
TIMELINE: Post-Season 5
STORY TYPE: Romance/Drama
SPOILERS: Anything from Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
DISCLAIMER: I do not own them, and I make no profit.
SUMMARY: Castle and Beckett finally get to have that trip to Bora-Bora. But not all goes as planned. Instead of sipping mojitos in paradise, they find themselves stranded on an isolated island.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set in the near future after Season 5. I wanted to try something different, so basically I see this as CASTLE meets CASTAWAY with some sprinklings of LOST (no supernatural stuff, though). This is my 2013 Castle Ficathon Entry.
Solid Ground – Chapter 1
"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."
– Henry David Thoreau
An expanse of cloudless cerulean sky was the first thing that caught his sight when his eyes fluttered open. Added to that was the throbbing pain behind his eyes. He winced, grimacing as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the pain. Rolling onto his side, he became aware of the soft ground beneath him. He brought a hand up and scrubbed at his face, trying to rub away the lingering fog of unconsciousness.
He blinked several times, attempting to adjust his eyes to the brightness around him. Everything was so bright. Swirling his head from side to side, as he propped himself up on his elbows, he took in his surroundings. He appeared to be on a white sand beach, near a fringe of wild tropical trees, densely packed foliage. He squinted his eyes and his brow furrowed in confusion.
He stuttered in some raspy breaths, trying to recall his last moments before waking up here. Nothing. It was a blank. Everything was foggy and unclear… except for her face. Her beautiful face. He remembered sitting next to her, saying something that made her gorgeous hazel eyes sparkle and her lips quirked up in a bemused smirk.
He bolted up to a complete sitting position, uncertain whether her name had been shouted out loud or just in his head. But what was certain was that he had to find her.
Ignoring the lingering pain at the back of his skull, he pushed himself up off the sand and stood on unsteady legs. He grimaced and hopped on one foot, letting out a mild curse. Whatever had happened, he'd twisted his ankle. Fumbling around, his eyes skirted across the jungles and pristine beach.
He appeared to be the only living soul.
Squinting in the bright sun, he limped further to the shore, and brought a hand up to shield his eyes as he glanced out at the sea… the endless rolling sea. The horizon stretched as far as the eye could see, and there was nothing but mild waves bobbing up and down, crashing to shore.
Sighing in frustration, he pulled his gaze away from the ocean and back towards the jungle. Slowly, as to not aggravate his twisted ankle, he walked closer to the boundary line where beach ceased and jungle began. He swallowed hard, his mouth dry as he tried to calm his wracked nerves.
And that's when he heard it, faintly on the fingers of a gentle breeze, caressing his eardrum. He pursed his lips and closed his eyes, concentrating all his might on correctly interpreting the sounds drifting through the air.
Shouts. Some screams. And cracking metal.
Her body ached all over. There was something warm and slick running down the side of her face—blood, most likely—and her legs felt trapped. She was unable to move. Plus there was a fierce pounding in her head. Her first moments of consciousness had been filled with blinding pain, which had gradually faded to a numbness that she was only vaguely aware of. Her vision was blurred and her mind was sluggish.
Instinct had her fighting against the restrains keeping her pinned, but reason kept her still. She knew that it was pointless, and besides, when she had tried to move, the pain in her lower body only intensified. So, instead of struggling needlessly, she slumped back against the padded cushions of the seat she was trapped in.
Random bits of debris were scattered on and around her. Nothing serious… just a mishmash of parts that had broken off during the impact. She remembered that. A frightening experience to say the least. In fact, she was mildly surprised that she had even survived. Her mind was still befuddled; bits and pieces of events kept drifting in and out. And most frighteningly of all, she wasn't even sure if they'd hit ground yet. The fuselage appeared to be suspended in air. Her best guess was that something had to be holding them up. But whatever it was… it probably wouldn't be able to support the weight of the crumbling aircraft for too long.
She was only faintly aware of what was going on around her. There were other people, some moving… some not. She knew some were probably dead. She could do nothing for them. She was trapped, a solid weight pinning her legs down. Those that were moving seemed to be in a similar situation as her. Or they were just too shell-shocked to do anything else but writhe in anguish.
Closing her eyes, she heaved in a deep breath, trying to clear the fog from her mind. She needed to be focused. She had training to fall back to help her deal with disasters like this… well, not exactly like this, but similar. She'd barely been out of her rookie blues when the Twin Towers had been struck. Everything that happened that day was seared in her mind. If she could survive that horrific day and the days that followed, she could survive this!
She had too. And not just herself, but for him. She had to survive for him!
He had been making a joke when it happened. It was one of the things she loved most about him—his ability to make her laugh. She'd tried to suppress it, but she couldn't help the quirk of her lips when he'd started making up wild theories. That glint in his eye, when he told a story, was endlessly fascinating and mesmerizing. It was hypnotic, watching him weave a tale just for her.
She clenched her jaw and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stifle the fresh flow of tears. Cursing, she shook her head. She should have been more insistent on taking the window seat. But he was like a little boy, wanting to be able to peep out the window and watch them takeoff.
It was a sight she wished she could erase from her mind. One moment he was teasing her with that boyish smirk of his that was so irritably adorable, and the next moment he was screaming her name, his eyes wide with terror as the cabin wall was ripped from the fuselage and he was being wrenched away from her. She had no idea what had happened, or why. It just happened. And he was gone.
Somehow, she'd been saved the horror of being torn from the passenger cabin as well. Her seat up in first class had remained bolted to the shaking floor as the aircraft had tailspun out of control. Part of her wished that she'd been sucked out too. She couldn't stand this limbo of not being with the man she loved. It was oppressive, and suffocating, like a heavy weight on her chest. After all the time it had taken for them to finally reach this point, she couldn't accept that it was over and that she'd never see him again.
There was a sudden screech of metal against metal, and the cabin began to shake. A great cacophony of wildly different sounds invaded her auditory senses. Screams from other panicking survivors filled the air, and she struggled to maintain whatever calm she could in what could very well be her final moments. Cracking noises reverberated below and above, like strong wood splintering and snapping, giving way under enormous pressure. A long yawn was followed by a violent crash, the racket similar to the felling of trees. She gritted her teeth, the rippling ache of grief and physical pain washing over her as hot tears streamed down her face. All she wanted was to see his face one more time, and feel his lips upon hers one last time.
Kate Beckett prayed that there was an afterlife, and that Richard Castle would be there, waiting for her.
Castle hobbled through the dense undergrowth of the jungle, his ankle throbbing in protest as he quickened his pace. The crackling and snapping of fires, presumably of the burning fuselage, got louder the deeper he delved into the jungle. He could also make out the faint whimpers and cries of other survivors. It made him desperate to locate the crash site and begin his search for Kate. Castle found himself praying to God, Buddha… Zeus?—any deity would do, as long as they saved his Kate.
To be honest, he didn't rightly understand how he'd managed to survive his own bewildering ordeal with relatively minor injuries. But he had. And he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He knew when to accept a lucky break when he got one.
As he fumbled through some large ferns, Castle hesitated, narrowing his eyes as he scrunched up his nose, catching a whiff of burning plastic. He closed his eyes for a moment, and allowed his olfactory senses to guide him. Follow your nose, as the old saying went.
Castle skipped to his right, and rested a hand on the side of a lichen-covered tree for support as he maneuvered around its gnarled roots. He hissed out sharp exhales of hot air, trying to suppress the fiery throb in his ankle. Stepping gingerly around the tree, he came to a stop and closed his eyes as he took in slow and steady breaths. His face felt warm, and he began to wonder if he'd suffered more injuries than he'd originally estimated. Look before you leap, the phrase went. He'd never been good at following that piece of sage wisdom. This wouldn't be the first time he'd jumped before he looked.
Catching his breath, Castle licked his chapped lips and flirted his eyes around the dense jungle, not for the first time questioning his sanity. Even if he managed to find Kate, how was he going to rescue her? Assuming she even needed rescuing. Kate Beckett was the strongest, toughest, most durable woman he'd ever met. Sure, she could be vulnerable at times, just as anyone, but she was always more than capable of rising to the challenges put before her. If there was anything he'd learned from their own struggle to find the happiness they now had, it was that she never gave up.
And neither would he.
Emboldened by his love and admiration for that frustratingly maddening woman, Castle pushed past the aches and pains in his body and marched forward—or rather limped forward, since his ankle still hurt like a bitch.
Castle gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes, ignoring all physical discomforts as he hunted the jungle for signs of the plane. After some discouraging sights, Castle finally stumbled upon a row of fallen trees, trunks cracked and splintered or unceremoniously uprooted. Hiking around the devastated remnants of once proud trees, he followed the path laid out and was somewhat pleased and disheartened when he found what remained of the forward fuselage of the battered plane.
Debris of all kinds littered the clearing. The jungle floor was indented with a long hollowed out stretch of dirt that showed the trajectory of the fuselage as it hurled down to earth. The white surface was marred with scratches and gaping holes were solid cabin walls once were. Some fragmented pieces of the fuselage had torn off and were scattered around the base of the smoldering ruins. Some sparks snapped angrily in showers of white bursts from loose wires, and there were some small fires in places. Ominously, he noted, the cockpit and tail section were missing.
Abandoning all sense of reason, Castle hurried forward, recklessly ignoring any perils that could awaited him. He was desperate to find Kate and make sure she was okay. He couldn't go on without her. He'd come close to losing her so many times, once to a bullet, numerous times to her obsession with her mother's case, and countless times to misunderstandings and miscommunications, or lack thereof. They were terrible at communicating. But they'd overcome that, and were stronger than ever. Together.
His throat felt raw, and every time he swallowed it was like sandpaper scratching against his esophagus. Castle bumbled his way around the smoldering debris, his heart leaping into his throat every time he heard a whimper or cry of anguish from inside the crumbling fuselage. The air was filled with the vile stench of blood, death, smoke, burning plastic… and singed flesh. The impulse to retch was powerful, but Castle bit his tongue and fought down the urge to double over and unload the contents of his stomach. As he skidded past a burning piece of what must have been part of a plush seat from the first class section, Castle came to a sputtering stop, finding the charred remains of one of the passengers.
His heart dropped, and his knees nearly gave out. A dead body was not an uncommon sight for him, as he'd seen countless while shadowing Beckett and her team, many more gruesome and grotesque than what was before him, but the impact of seeing this one was more severe. Perhaps it was the circumstances, or the fact that this person had been alive and well, and traveling on the very same plane flight he'd somehow miraculously survived. A tinge of remorseful guilt swept over him that he was alive and this person was not.
Added to all that, Castle could not avoid the alarming and terrifying reality that the body before him had once been a woman with long brunette hair.