Title: Watch It Burn
Characters/Pairings: Castle/Beckett, Jim Beckett
Spoilers: For For Better or Worse
Word Count: 1,352
Summary: He’s always been the one with the right words at his command, and on his tongue, their story is the most captivating, beautiful thing.
She thinks they’re probably going to laugh about this, years from now. Their happily ever after that almost didn’t happen.
She can see it so clearly.
Castle would bring it up out of the blue, on a hectic day when she was stressed, her mind whirring at a hundred miles an hour. In her daydreams it’s always during breakfast. He would pull an adorable, exaggerated face, throw down a plate of pancakes in front of their kids (God, their brilliant, maddeningly clever children), and say, “You would not believe the trouble I went to in order to make an honest woman of your mother.”
And everything would just stop.
And then she would remember all of it in a haze of golden, Hamptons sunlight. Even O'Leary and the dirty barn where they almost died would be bathed in the glow. She would remember the nervousness, the frustration, the sheer joy.
Castle would draw out every detail of it. Their story. Their heart aching, meant-to-be, true love story, and their kids would love it. They would laugh when he described her law-breaking, accidental, first husband and gasp at the gun toting mobsters. They would stare in awe when he explained that he couldn’t remember any details from the ceremony but her. Just her. Because she was gorgeous and finally, truly his.
When he finished, they would beg to hear it again. (He’s always been the one with the right words at his command, and on his tongue, their story is the most captivating, beautiful thing.)
Sitting on a bench, in the middle of Willow Creek, with the sky stretched out brightly overhead and Castle at her side, it all seems so close. She can almost touch it.
Castle’s knee presses firmly against hers, bringing her fully back to the present. He smiles in a way that makes everything else melt away and just leaves her feeling warm and safe and she’s marrying him. No matter where or how, she’s marrying him. It’s become inevitable now, a physical law of the universe.
She wonders if he ever daydreams about their future like she does. If he paints scenarios in his head like he imagines scenes for his novels; the colors of everything vibrant in his mind’s eye and dialogue stringing itself together until he has a coherent story resting inside of him. (Sometimes, Beckett pretends that she can see words moving just beneath his skin, rearranging themselves into sentences and beating in time to his heart.)
His fingers bump into hers as he reaches for her hand. “What’s a great love story without obstacles to overcome?” he asks. “It’s in every fairy tale. Terrible tests that only the worthy can overcome.”
Something stutters inside her chest at his words and, distantly, she can hear herself asking a similar question. That’s what all the great love stories are about, right? Beating the odds?
Right? Right? Right?
She had needed assurance then that theirs was actually a love story. That what they had wasn’t going to end before either one of them knew what the other tasted like. That he would stay despite the occasional gunshot fired at his head or the ungodly hours or her complete emotional unavailability. (And he did.)
“But you can’t give up,” Castle continues, looking at her with sky blue eyes and a crooked smile. “That’s the deal. If we want the happy ending, we can’t give up.”
Already, she can feel the relieved smile pulling at her lips. Their impossible situation seems so much less hopeless and slightly more heroic in his hands.
He always does know what to say.
Beckett nods, and this is her promise to him. “No giving up.”
They’re going to make it.
The normally light Hamptons air tastes heavy and ashen in Beckett's mouth and this isn't happening, this isn't happening, this isn't-
"Castle!" His name rips free from her mouth. "Castle!" she shouts into the flames, searching desperately for any sign of movement. Dimly, she becomes aware of the firefighters trying to put out the fire, their curious backward glances, and the tears catching on her eyelashes and falling onto her dress.
The wedding. They're supposed to be getting married. They persevered through all of that O'Leary crap, they almost died, and this was supposed to be their reward. They were supposed to end the day with each other.
A noise that sounds like it might be a sob catches in her throat.
"Ma'am?" A concerned looking firefighter finally makes his way over to her. "Are you all right?"
When she spins around, her father is standing behind her, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.
“Dad.” She wants to hide in his arms, wants to sob into the fabric of his dark suit until everything just fades away. (She’s not a little girl anymore, but Castle made her believe in fairy tales again.)
“Martha told me you got a call…” he trails off, his gaze drifting over her shoulder to the smoldering wreck. “Oh God, is he in there?” The horror that stretches across his face takes her back fifteen years to a worn out couch and terrible coffee and Raglan’s sad, sad face trying to apologize for not having any answers.
An ache settles somewhere in Beckett's chest. She doesn't want to end up like her dad. He's a wonderful man, but what he went through was awful, and it was hell getting him to be so wonderful again. And living without Castle would be like losing an arm or the other half of her brain.
She can't exist like that.
There has to be some way of fixing this situation, and being emotional isn't it.
Beckett swallows, smoothing her hands down the front of her dress, and then turning to the firefighter. "What happened?"
He nods toward the ditch where his men are still working. "We got a 911 call from a witness who said they were driving down this road and passed a burning car. Said they thought someone might be inside." The man shifts from one foot to the other. "But, ma'am, we've searched the entire area and as much of the car as possible. There doesn't appear to be a body anywhere."
Relief hits Beckett so hard her knees buckle. Alive. Castle could still be alive.
But then where is he?
"You said a witness called it in. Did this witness leave a name?" she asks. "Maybe they saw more than they're letting on." And maybe she can track this person down and convince them to tell her where the hell her fiancé is.
Jim seems to sense where her question is going, because he moves to stand next to her and gently wraps his fingers around her elbow in a restraining gesture.
The firefighter shakes his head. “He didn’t leave a name.”
An eerie sense of foreboding crawls across Beckett’s skin. “But you’re sure it was a man?” Distantly, she can hear a song beginning to play on a loop inside her head. This can’t possibly be happening right now.
He nods. “It was definitely a man.”
We’ll meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when.
She’s going to throw up.
Her father takes one look at her face and tugs her away from the firefighter. “Katie?”
She can’t breathe. She can’t breathe and all she can smell is burning metal and leather. Everything she had planned for them, all the daydreams and hopeful wishes have vanished in a plume of flame, lost to a vengeful serial killer.
This day was supposed to go so differently.
“Kate.” Jim grabs her shoulders, forcing her to finally look at him. “What’s going on?”
Something icy that she later recognizes as a mix of utter dread and hatred slips down her spine. “3XK,” she whispers. “I think 3XK has Castle.”