Title: Like Midnight
Summary: The call about the body came from Lanie, at four in the morning, on her day off. Lanie never called her about bodies.
Notes: This story is set in the third season sometime after 3XK. If you haven't seen that episode, you might have some moments of confusion. Also, please be aware that this is probably going to be a semi-lengthy story and that the drama llamas are going to run wild (or at the very least become semi-feral).
Disclaimer: Nothing Castle-related belongs to me. And to give credit where credit's due, "like midnight" is a couple words from Emily Dickinson's "It was not death, for I stood up."
The call about the body came from Lanie, at four in the morning, on her day off.
"Hate to do it to you, but you want this one," Lanie said immediately.
"Why?" Beckett questioned, brusque, her pulse hammering insistently in her throat. The vibrating of the phone had startled her out of a dream that she couldn't quite remember, the images slipping and shifting away when she tried to grasp them. Something with blood, she thought, or maybe it was just red wine. Had Castle been there?
Lanie never called her about bodies.
"It's at Broome and Crosby." Lanie's voice was a little too professional.
"What?" Beckett breathed, suddenly struggling for oxygen, her throat tightening.
"It's okay," Lanie said. "It's not – it's not anyone you know. But it is in the alley across from his apartment. And you need to see it, now."
"I'm on my way." She had already rocketed out of bed, yanked off her tights, and begun pulling on jeans, phone propped between her chin and shoulder, the room still lit only by the florescent green glow of her alarm clock.
"Don't call Castle," Lanie said just before she hung up. Beckett froze for an instant, lost her balance, and hopped a couple times, jeans caught halfway up her thighs, to keep herself from crashing to the floor. "I don't want him to beat you here."
She ran the sirens on the way to the scene. The streets were clear in a way that only happened at 4:30am on a weekday, everyone finally home after last call and the early-morning workers just waking, and she took advantage, breezing through the lights, letting the car bounce and skitter over cracks and potholes.
She made the drive in less than half the usual time, trying all the while not to remember that she had a usual time to this particular crime scene. She pulled up next to ribbons of yellow tape and an already-growing cluster of detectives. When she looked up, across the street, she could see the dark expanse of Castle's ridiculously large living room windows.
Fifteen minutes later, she was tilted forward against Castle's door, having pressed his doorbell sharply six or seven times. She finally reached into her pocket, ready to admit defeat and pull out her phone (she's not sure why it was defeat, why she hadn't called instead of walking over in the first place, only that she'd had a sudden, overwhelming urge to see his face), when the door swung abruptly open and she stumbled forward a step.
Castle stood there, blinking muzzily, loosely clutching a neon-green water gun with both hands. A wrinkled grey shirt clung to his torso, black sweats slung low on his hips, and his hair stood up in five or six different directions.
"Beckett!" he said, managing to sound relatively chipper despite his disheveled appearance. "Come in! What brings you here this lovely morning? Breakfast?" He gestured into the house with the florescent firearm.
She stepped just inside the door. "I came to – I'm sorry, Castle, I can't take you seriously when you're holding that ridiculous toy."
He scoffed. "Ridiculous toy? This, Detective Beckett, is a Super Soaker XP90 Pulse Fire. This is a classic. You can't buy this anymore." He paused, cocked his head. "Actually, you can. I bought it off ebay."
"Why?" Beckett asked, watching Castle carefully place the gun on a side table. A small pool of water immediately formed underneath it.
"Protection, obviously. It's the middle of the night and it sounded like there was a madman at my door. I promised Alexis I would be more careful."
That refocused her. "Look, Castle," she started, but she trailed off when he stepped closer to her, his eyes broadcasting concern as they flicked over her face.
"Are you okay? I didn't mean to be flippant just then."
She sighed. "Of course you did." Enough, she told herself. "There's a crime scene across the street. I need you to come with me and see it, but first you need to tell me where Martha and Alexis are."
He tensed, his body going too still, his jaw clenching. "They're here. Why?"
He hesitated for a moment, looking a little bewildered, a little angry, more than a little concerned. "She's here, too. Please tell me what's going on, Beckett."
She paused, then delivered the news with the same outward calm that she'd used with countless families (this wasn't so bad, she told herself - nobody Castle knew personally had died - but she still felt the same aching pull deep beneath her ribs). "The scene is – disturbing. And it concerns Alexis."
He opened his mouth, shut it, stared at the ceiling for a beat. "I will be right back," he said as he pivoted and walked steadily away with measured steps that were just a touch too quick.
Beckett snapped open her phone and dialed Montgomery. "Castle and Alexis are at his apartment. Martha and Gina, too, so there's no need to redirect anyone. I'll call you when I have more information." He said something meaningless back about her taking care of them (what else did he think she was going to do?) before hanging up the phone.
Standing in the middle of the living room, Beckett felt suddenly awkward, off-balance. She knew Castle's apartment well enough; if she were being honest, she'd admit that she felt more at home here than her cramped, dimly-lit sublet, but it was different when there was a crime scene across the street. (It was not different because she knew that Gina was there, sleeping in Castle's bed. That made no difference at all.)
"Let's go," Castle said, rushing into the living room in jeans, a jacket over his shirt. "I checked on everyone; they're all fine and sleeping soundly."
"Good, that's good," she murmured.
They stepped into the hallway to see four uniforms standing outside his door. She'd known they would be there; she'd called for them the second she'd gotten to the scene, but it was still disconcerting.
"Detective Beckett," a tall, muscular man said with a nod. It took her a minute to remember his name.
"Haines," she replied. "You have my number if you need anything."
"You have nothing to worry about," he said, turning slightly to include Castle in their conversation. "We take care of our people."
"Thanks," Beckett replied, as friendly of a goodbye as she could manage. She heard Castle murmur the same as she began moving deliberately down the hallway. She could feel his presence behind her, his unasked questions crowding her, breaking the natural rhythm of her walk. She stepped into the elevator, jabbed a button violently, spun to face him. "You and your family are going to be stuck with them for a while."
He blew out a breath, not bothering to hide his aggravation, and shifted from foot to foot.
She fought the urge to touch him. "Look, Castle," she said in a low, measured voice, still the kind of voice she used with victim's families. "I know you're frustrated. I do. But you've got to trust me, okay?"
He finally looked at her, eyes broadcasting exasperation and anxiety but, above all, sincerity. "Of course I trust you, Beckett."
The elevator stopped before she could respond, and they walked silently through the lobby and into the chill of the early morning air. They'd gotten up a couple more spotlights since Beckett had left, so the scene was bathed in a harsh, flat light. Ryan and Esposito had arrived; she could see them gesturing animatedly to Lanie on the outskirts of small a knot of uniforms.
Castle was already plowing toward the lights, so that she was the one who was trailing, nearly trotting to keep up with him. He stopped so suddenly that she almost crashed into his back, and she could tell, from the way his breath stopped halfway through an exhale, that he'd seen the victim.
"Shit," he said.
A couple things... (1) Okay, so it's not a sequel to my last story, 'Fractured.' I will still potentially write that sometime, but this has been kicking around in my head for a while. (2) I'm going to try and update pretty regularly, since sometimes chapters will end in somewhat stressed-filled places, and I know all too well that sad, empty "WTF are you doing, you gigantic jerk?" cliffhanger feeling you get when there's no Next clicky button (or when you can't fast forward the DVR, etc. etc.). (3) Not to sound coercive or needy (even though I am definitely both), but reviews are like crack to me and I tend to write a wee bit faster when I get them. *nudge nudge*