CASTLE: A FATE NOT CHOSEN

Based on characters created by Andrew Marlowe

CHAPTER 1

The year is 2026, and the place is New York City's 12th Precinct. In times past, detectives Katherine Beckett, Javier Esposito, and Kevin Ryan all worked here. Together with popular crime novelist Richard Castle, they solved strange murders on a near-daily basis. But like all things, times had changed; only Ryan was left from that group. Esposito had finally settled down, marrying former medical examiner Lanie Parrish. Together, they'd moved to Chicago for a new chapter in their lives. As for Beckett, she'd gone from rookie, to detective, and finally to captain, until her retirement from the police force five years prior. She'd long ago closed the proverbial book on her mother's murder, thanks in no small part to the efforts of her partner-turned husband Richard Castle. They'd spent four long years fighting and bickering about their feelings, then another three postponing their wedding. Around the time of their first anniversary, both had nearly been killed in a shootout in their home...but God had other plans. Instead, they survived and took some time away, healing and recuperating. Kate had almost been paralyzed, Caleb's bullet lodged in her abdomen close to her spine. She'd spent the next year in a wheelchair, and another six months learning to walk again. As for Rick, he'd taken a bullet to the chest, missing his heart by half an inch. Struggling, he'd managed to call 911 before passing out; they had traced his phone number and altered his family.

For 33-year-old Alexis Harper, thinking over all of this was still a chore. That was the closest she'd ever come to losing her father, and Beckett was like a second mother to her. Thankfully, that family had now expanded with a trio of siblings: eight-year-old sister Lily, and six-year-old twin brothers Reese and Jake. Musing to herself, Alexis thought back to when Beckett first entered her life. She'd been with her father on a book tour, trying to console him on his lack of a meaningful personal life...only to watch him embarrass himself, when Beckett approached him for help on a case. He'd been signing things all day, including female body parts...and had somewhat drunkenly mistaken Beckett for another "writer's groupie". Anyone else her age would've been disgusted, but Alexis' childhood was far from normal. By the time she was 12, her father had been married and divorced twice; the first from her mother Meredith, the only person more hopelessly irresponsible than Rick himself. His second marriage had been to his publisher, Gina Howell; it didn't last long, either. Beckett was different, though; as the saying went, the third time was definitely the charm for her Dad in the romance department. They'd be celebrating their eleventh anniversary next month, and knowing Rick, it would be another all-out bash.

So, on this particular day, Alexis sat behind what was now her desk, and had been Beckett's in her detective days. Her father had protested when she decided to enter the police academy, fearing she'd get shot or stabbed by some deranged lunatic. She'd brushed him off with a snarky comment, only to see his rarely serious expression. "I mean it, Alexis", he'd told her that day. "I love you, and I don't want to lose you. You're so much more streetwise than I've ever been, but working on all those cases taught me how cruel the world really is. You were already kidnapped once, and it took help from my distant father to get you back. I can't go through that again; please, be careful." She'd promised him she would, and had taken up shooting lessons to better protect herself. A lot of nights at the precinct, when other detectives were handling a case, Alexis could be found at the range blasting targets with pinpoint accuracy. She'd become almost ruthless with her aim, but nothing had prepared her for her first actual live shot. Two years prior, she'd been walking home at night, only to be grabbed by a crazed punk in a drug-induced rage. Grabbed from behind, she'd slammed her foot down on his, kicked him in the groin, and punched him in the head. Pulling her pistol and badge, she'd told him she was a cop...but he'd charged her instead of backing down. She'd fired without hesitation...and while his wound wasn't fatal, the experience had still shaken her. Alexis had called Beckett that night, asking about her first experience. Kate had reflected on her own career as a rookie, with one piece of advice: "Don't ever forget that feeling. Deadly or not, the moment you can shoot someone without remorse, you've become one of them."

Lost in her own thoughts, Alexis was suddenly snapped back to reality by the sound of her ringing work phone. "Harper, Homicide." The voice on the other end was urgent: "Alexis Castle?" "I used to be; who is this?" "My name is Robertson; I work for the Department of Justice. We've been trying to locate your father, but he's not returning our calls. The same goes for Beckett; have you heard from them?" "Not in a few days, sir; what's this about?" "Can't say much over the phone, but we have a case that could relate to your distant grandfather, the elusive Jackson Hunt. Can you meet me, tomorrow at noon?" "I'll be there; the Old Haunt tavern." "Perfect; thanks for your time."

Hanging up, she immediately sighed out loud to herself. "What the hell's going on now, Gramps?" Going through her contact list, she dialed a friend with inside connections, one Haley Shipton...

CHAPTER 2

The phone rang in Haley's pocket; checking the number, she smiled before answering. "Alexis; its been quite a while. How's my favorite red-haired detective?" "Sorry, Haley; I have no excuse." "Bah", the older woman replied. "You never need an excuse to call me. Your father, on the other hand...well, that's different. He still owes me a hundred bucks from our bet on Beckett carrying twins." Alexis chuckled, in spite of herself. "He never did grow up completely, that's for sure. But listen, Haley; I need your help with something." "I figured as much; no problem at all. What's the matter?" "Some guy from the Department of Justice called me at work, looking for Dad and Beckett. He couldn't find them, but it has something to do with my Grandpa." There was a long pause on the other end, followed by an audible sigh of exasperation. "Something tells me I'm going to have to save your father from his own mess...again. Did you get the caller's name?" "Yeah; he said it was Robertson. I'm supposed to meet him by the Old Haunt tomorrow, at noon." "I'm going with you to that meeting, Alexis; we don't know anything about this guy. In the meantime, I'll call up some of my inside contacts; rattle the cages a bit." "Okay; thanks. I'll speak with Ryan as well."

At that moment, Kevin Ryan was seated in his office. As the current Captain to the 12th Precinct, he'd learned to value the new generation of detectives under his command. In his not-so-humble opinion, Alexis Harper was top of the class. She'd dropped her last name of Castle for work, in part to secure her own reputation, but also to avoid confusion from earshot when her Dad still visited on occasion. It was always great for Alexis to see him, and Rick still made Ryan laugh after so many years. But his last visit had been three months ago, which was odd. He knew Alexis had drawn some kind of line with her Dad, since other detectives had cried foul over an assumption of favoritism. It was all crap, but he did his best to hear all sides and make the right judgments for the Precinct. His wife Jenny was a wonderful mother; their daughter Sarah would be twelve soon, and son Nicky was ten. Suddenly, a knock at the door snapped him to attention. "Come in." Seeing Alexis enter the door, Ryan adopted his brave face to respect Alexis' boundaries. "Harper."

A moment of silence hung between them, each staring back at the other. Finally, they both cracked into laughter. "I'm sorry, Alexis; I tried. But I can't force it; you're like family to me." She simply smiled. "I know, but I like that you're making an effort. Speaking of family, that's why I'm here." She related the whole thing to Ryan...the call from Robertson at the DOJ, her Dad and Beckett's silence, calling Haley, and the next day's meeting at the Old Haunt. Finally, he spoke. "I can't go with you, since I'm needed by the others around here. But I can send another detective, if you like." Alexis simply stared, a not-so-subtle smirk on her face. "Really? You're going there? I am the best shot in this building." Ryan's expression goes instantly serious, reminding Alexis of her father's disdain for her career path. Rising from his chair, Kevin placed his hands on Alexis' shoulders, and stares her right in the eye. "I am your friend, and your family...but I am also your Captain. You know more than most, how much of your father's trouble was due to his own ego. Your skills are not in doubt...but like it or not, you've been mimicking Castle's reckless judgment."

Alexis looked down, then back up at Ryan, who lifted his hands from her shoulders. "Who did you have in mind for my backup?" Hesitantly, Ryan chooses his words carefully. "Well...Slaughter's been itching for a new case." Blinking more than once, Alexis shakes her head in confusion. "After what you just told me...you would trust that psycho?" Raising one hand in a defensive gesture, Ryan explains. "He's a loose cannon, for sure...but if your folks have disappeared and Hunt's involved, you need someone who doesn't mind breaking rules." Breathing deeply a few times, Alexis finally nods. "You're assuming he's even read them." Grabbing a nearby notepad, Ryan scribbles something down, and hands the page to her. "There's his number; try not to fuel his already volatile temper." "Oh, believe me, sir...he's about to learn what I've become the past ten years."

CHAPTER 3

"No, don't! I'll talk; please! Just put me down!"

At the moment, self-described "loose cannon" Ethan Slaughter currently deals with a gang informant. His victim is tied to a rope, suspended upside down on a pulley system...directly over a medium-sized basin of water. A stopwatch is in the detective's other hand; he smiles and resets the timer.

"Ya know what I hate about all you punks?" Slaughter asks. Letting a few moments pass, he continues addressing the scared informant. "Well, pretty much everything. But what sticks in me like nothing else, is how absolutely stupid the lot of you are. You're loyal to scumbags who think nothing of you, perfectly willing to let you die while covering their own asses. Its pathetic."

Still temoring from the most recent dip in the water, Slaughter's victim stammers a response. "What makes you any different from them?" Grunting in annoyance, Slaughter shrugs. "For starters, punk...I know exactly how long I can let you drown...and keep you from flatlining. But you've really been pushing my limits, so..."

He releases the rope, and clicks the stopwatch. All we hear is struggling from the basin, when Slaughter's phone suddenly goes off. Checking the name, he grins. "Alexis; long time, babe. How's things at home base?"

"I don't need your usual crap, Slaughter. My folks are missing, and somehow my Grandpa's involved. Haley and I are meeting a Fed at the Old Haunt in an hour; we need you there."

"Aw, shit...what's Rick gotten himself into again? Oh - hang on a minute..."

Waiting on the phone, Alexis clearly hears the rushing of water, followed by someone whimpering and Slaughter's fiery temper. "You got the next two minutes to give me your boss, or I'm leaving you to rot in this basin!" A few seconds pass, and Slaughter returns to the phone. "I'm sorry, Alexis; I'm a little busy right now."

"Ryan ordered this one, Ethan...and unless you want to be suspended again for waterboarding..." She hears him smirk. "You remembered; I'm flattered..."

"SLAUGHTER!", Alexis yells in defiance. "Either you help me, or I'll make sure you lose your badge for good. My Dad's still has pull with the Chief, and I'm a much better shot these days..."

"Ah," Slaughter remarks. "I love how you threaten. Beckett molded you perfectly."

Suddenly, she hears more whimpering, and another rant from Slaughter. "Time's up, jackass. Five, four, three, two..." "All right, all right! I know one name!" "One and a half..." "Fleming! His last name was Fleming!" "Thanks, pal." Suddenly a gunshot is heard, and Alexis freaks. "Slaughter - what did you do?" "Relex, redhead - I pulled the basin's plug. He'll be fine, once the water goes down. I'm on my way."