Castle Christmas FanFic Competition: All Paths


Another story for our fanfic competition. Here you can find all the stories for the 12th Precinct Castle Halloween FanFic Competition. And here you can find the rules.

You can also find the stories at www.fanfiction.net for a possible easier read (blogspot doesn`t agree with word format most of the time).



Story: All paths

Rating:  T

Words: 3,542






“I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.” ~Emily Bronte

Post-Secret Santa (but no actual spoilers)

All Paths

She watches him drift; her eyes flick towards him, to comment on the movie they watch while curled up on his couch, but he’s no longer taking it in. He faces the screen, but his eyes have shifted to the right, and they’re clouded by the haze of... Memories? New worlds? She nudges him, and smiles as the lights comes on once more. He meets her eyes, smiling sheepishly.

“Where were you?” Kate asks, pausing the film to demand his sole attention. A small smile plays on her lips, but she knows her concern shows through in her eyes.

Castle shakes his head, dispersing the last of the thoughts troubling him. “Lost in paths not taken and lives not lived,” he replies simply.

“Creating a new novel?” She asks slowly.

“No.” He smiles openly, honestly, wraps an arm around her shoulder, and draws her closer to him. His chin rests on the top of her head; he holds her securely to him, like he’ll never let her go. “This movie, It make me think...” He begins, and then pauses, feeling foolish.

She can’t relax her muscles, can’t smooth the frown lines. “Us?” She asks. When she feels him nod affirmatively against her head, his chin rubbing her hair, she pulls back slightly, and gazes up at him. She doesn’t see fear, or doubt. She sees love, and, while she won’t tease him just yet, he can blink as fast as he wants but she saw the misty glaze over his eyes. “Is It’s a Wonderful Life making you all sappy and sentimental?”

“It makes me think, had our lives taken different paths, we might not be sharing this moment now.”

She nods silently; how different would her life be now had certain events not happened? It’s Christmas Eve. She’s curled up in Castle’s arms on his couch, having spent the evening eating dinner and laughing with his family, and she doesn’t want to think about such things. She doesn’t want to think of a life she doesn’t have. A life with her mom? But perhaps without Castle? She slips out of his arms, extends a hand to him. He wraps his larger hand around hers, squeezing gently, and she smiles. “C’mon, Castle.” They’re both tired, both letting the heaviness of the holiday season overcome them. She takes him to his bedroom, and gives him one last gift before the clock strikes twelve.

XxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxX

Kate wakes slowly, allowing her body to drift back to consciousness, allowing the cobwebs of sleep to be cleared at their own pace. There’s no rush. It’s Christmas morning - and she’s alive.

She’s alive.

She stretches lazily, but carefully. She still feels the pull of the scar, on her abdomen, long and pink, and marring her pale skin. Her fingers grip the bottom of her pajama top, and she tugs it up slightly, just enough to reveal the thick line of the wound that almost killed her. A scar that shouldn’t be there. Or is it her who shouldn’t be here?

It’s Dec 25th 1999, and the anniversary looms. January 9th: the day she almost died. How has almost an entire year passed? It’s all still too vivid, the events of that night, it’s all still too raw.

“Kate?”  The door opens slowly, and her mom steps into her bedroom, beaming at her. “Merry Christmas.”

She’s home for the holidays, still struggling to keep up with her studies after a year of recovering from that night in January, but as determined as ever to push through and be amazing. Anything less and she would feel like she was letting her parents and herself down. Anything less and the man who attacked them that night has won. Tugging her pajama top down to cover the scar, she sits up. “Merry Christmas, Mom,” she replies, forcing the smile. She arranges the blankets over her waist, keeps the memories of that night hidden.

“Oh, Katie.” Her mom crosses the room, and sits beside her, balancing on the edge of the bed. Within seconds she’s enveloped in her mother’s comforting arms, and sobbing silently into her shoulder. “I know, Katie. I know.”

Katie. They had stopped calling her by that name when she turned thirteen. They started again January 11th - the word she first heard when she drifted back into consciousness. She takes a deep breath while her mom soothes her. Therapy has helped, has made moving forward a possibility, but she still gets flashes. The alley, the man, the knife. Her funeral. PTSD, they tell her. She hates that it has a name, hates having those letters connected to her, hates how it makes her feel. She hates how angry she has become this year - because of him.

She wasn’t even meant to be there. January 9th. She was supposed to be in a restaurant, eating dinner, celebrating. But... A split change in decision to meet her mom elsewhere, and she had been there, walking at her mom’s side one moment, and deflecting a blow from a man she didn’t know the next. Deflecting a blow aimed at her mother. She hadn’t been quick enough for the next one, the one he aimed at her. The knife had pierced her skin, and she had felt every inch of it as it was thrust into her, the searing pain forever with her. If others hadn’t come to their aid, if people hadn’t heard the commotion, she would be dead. She knows this. And it haunts her.
Her mom, who received cracked ribs and a black eyes in the attack, would be lost now too. And her dad, God, he never would have survived losing his wife and his baby girl.
The man was caught, Dick Coonan was behind bars, and the year approaching is supposed to be all about change, about moving forward, and yet with the memories of the attack still so fresh, still crippling her both psychologically and physically, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever truly be free of it all.

“I’m okay,” she tells her mom, her voice low and even, despite the fact it’s all a lie.

It’s Christmas, and she’s alive. They’re all alive.

But something refuses to settle. Deep within her, something about that night - and the man involved - just doesn’t sit right. They tell her - the therapists, the ones who apparently know better - that she’s healing, and in time she will make her peace. They tell her she will stop looking over her shoulder, stop fearing corners, dark alleys. You’re pre-law, Kate, they tell her. Focus on school.

But she can’t shake the feeling there’s more to what happened that night than Coonan will ever let on.

+++++++++

December 25th 2005, and she’s stuck at work. It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake. She shakes her head, frowns at herself and her choice of wording. But here she is, elbow deep in paperwork that’s threatening to engulf her completely. And it’s moments like these that make her question why she ever thought becoming a lawyer was a good idea. Perhaps taking a job at her parent’s firm fresh off the bar examination wasn’t her best move either. It’s moments like these that make joining the force - an idea that’s been circling around in her mind the past few years - more appealing. She’s been thinking, for almost six years now, that this isn’t right. Something in her life has felt off - wrong. She thinks she made a mistake. She wants to investigate the crime scenes, catch those like the man who hurt her, hurt her mom. She wants to be the kind of cop who listens, who takes all evidence seriously, not like the ones who...

There’s a piece of evidence from her own attack that she won’t discuss again, at least not yet. She’s found something, something vague and seemingly inconspicuous. Something the investigating detectives brushed off as meaningless, and never spoke of again. She saw the darkness invade their eyes, felt the cloud settle over them. She heard the warning in their tone. She hasn’t told her parents, she keeps this to herself now.

This is bigger than her, and she knows the territory she’s entering, knows how dangerous this could get.

She’s been focusing on it the past year, and the deeper she quietly digs, the more she uncovers, the clearer it all becomes.

It all points to one thing. Police involvement.

Maybe she’s insane. Maybe the trauma of that night affected her far worse than she even dares to imagine. But what if she’s right?

She needs to make some changes. A shift in career even. She’s not dropping this.
Not as long as she’s alive.

+++++++++

Isn’t life just the strangest thing sometimes? She had been straightening up her desk, preparing to go home and join her parents for what was left of Christmas day, when he’d walked in. Her... Partner? No, she still hesitates to call him that. Her shadow? More like her hindrance.

But he’s helpful, amazingly so. The closer they work with another, the more she thinks she may have found the one person she can let in on her little secret, on her little side-project.

Six months ago she had never heard the name Richard Castle. She had never read his books, never even given them a passing glance in the stores. She works murder at the Twelfth Precinct for a living - another thing she had never anticipated when she first joined the force, but life’s funny like that too - she doesn’t need to go home at the end of the day and read about it. But then he’d come along, fresh off a divorce and fresh off the death of his most successful character. Now here he was, shadowing her, creating a character loosely based on her, and pretty much getting in her way every opportunity he got.

2009 has shaped up to be one of the strangest years ever.

He is useful, thought she might never admit that to him. Easy on the eye too, and she definitely won’t admit that. But to say he was growing on her would be a stretch.

She could deflect his charm better than she could deflect knives.
And she would know.

She sighs, shifts in her chair as he approaches. Her scar still acts up this time of year. The chill descends over the city, the Christmas decorations go up, and all she can think is how she shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be alive.

He looks concerned as he settles in the chair beside her, as she avoids his gaze. “You okay?”

She focuses on the paperwork scattering the surface of her desk, and shrugs. “Just want to get home,” she replies evenly.

“Go,” he tells her, as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I’m sure this can wait.”

She looks up. “Why aren’t you at home? Lavishly celebrating the holiday as only a millionaire writer can?”

The pain fills his blue eyes, and she instantly regrets it.

“Meredith have Alexis?”

He nods. “First Christmas without her, without either of them. The loft is...” He shrugs. “It’s not Christmas.”

She understand then. Castle is famously parentless. A mother who died while he was still young - who took the secret of his father to the grave. And now, this year, still recovering from the divorce, his ex-wife Meredith has taken their only daughter Alexis away for Christmas - and he's hurting. So he’d come to spend time with the only other person he knew would be alone (because she’d drawn the short straw this year and was stuck at the precinct) - and she’s only depressed him further.

“You wanna...” She trails off then, unsure how to word it - unsure if she should even suggest it. Their partnership - whatever this is - is still new, they’re still learning one another. She knows anything she shares with him will ultimately end up in a book but...
“We won’t be doing much, just watching old movies, eating leftovers, but you’re welcome to join my family tonight?” She doesn’t mean to end it with a question, but she feels awkward and doesn’t know how else to finish that sentence.

A smile tugs at his lips. It’s small, just a hint of happiness, but she sees it. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”

She rolls her eyes at that. “Oh, please,” she tells him. She drops the mocking tone from her voice, and adds, “But you wouldn’t be imposing. Also, my mom’s a big fan of yours, you’d make her Christmas if you came along.” Yes, she’s giving his ego a little gift right now. It is Christmas after all.

“You’re not usually nice to me, Beckett,” he reminds her. “What’s wrong?”

He’s eying her warily. Probably thinking pod-person. She isn’t usually this giving, nor this open. She rarely shows him more than one side of herself: the woman who refuses to let him in as to why she harbors so much anger. He’s just started basing a character on her, subtly digging for back-story, and oh boy if only he knew the story she’s considering hitting him with. He knows she survived a stabbing and it led her to a career working Homicide. He knows nothing more.
“No one should be alone at Christmas, Castle.”

He looks mildly hurt then. “Not a big fan of pity invites, Beckett.”

She sighs, frustrated. “Look, come, or don’t come.” The anger returns. “It’s up to you. But the invite is there, and there’s no pity in it.” She shifts her attention back to the forms in front of her. God, she just wants to go home. God, she just wants to share this evidence with him. With someone. It’s steadily eating away at her, and it’s on the verge of destroying her. And he could help. She doesn’t have to do this alone...

He’s silent for a moment, before his hand disappears beneath the desk, and she hears rustling coming from the floor. She glances quickly his way, curious, shifting her attention back to her desk before he catches her looking. A small, neatly wrapped parcel is placed before her, and she suppresses a smile. She glances up at him, raising her eyebrows.

“Look,” he begins, “we work together, and I think we’re becoming friends?” He pauses, and she shrugs slightly in response, a kind of ‘I don’t really do friends, so I don’t know what we are’ gesture. "I didn’t know if we were gift-giving colleagues but I took a chance.”

She frowns then, and glances back down at the gift.

“You can open it now, or you can open it later, but please accept it.”

Her lips part, but she’s lost for words.

“The words you’re looking for are: thank you.” He grins at her, at himself, clearly pleased at his ability to render her speechless. He stands, and as he walks away, he turns and tosses four words over his shoulder. “I’ll see you tonight.”

She reaches a hand out, traces the ribbon he has so carefully attached to the gift. Their relationship is in flux. Whatever they are now, she feels they will be friends before the end of the night - if he survives dinner with her family.

If he survives the little secret she will reveal before the evening’s done.

+++++++++

It’s December 25th 2011, and she loves him. She is head-over-heels. In love. With Richard Castle.

The man who has worked tirelessly at her side the past few years, uncovering evidence that linked the captain. Her captain. Her mentor. To the crime that almost took her life.

Castle has stuck by her, kept her from falling over the edge, battled her demons with her, and, with words more eloquent than she could ever have imagined, kept the darkness at bay.

And she loves him.

She has admitted it, but the words couldn’t have left her lips at a worse time.

At Captain Montgomery’s funeral he took a bullet for her.

Her hand compressing the wound, she had screamed at him to hold on, and between the fear and distress other words slipped from her mouth. Slowly and softly at first, and then they had tumbled, flowed.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

Please don’t leave me.

Six months later, they haven’t mentioned it. He never speaks of it. She’s too terrified to bring it up first.

But it’s Christmas Day, and a line from a movie runs through her head. At Christmas you tell the truth. (Not when he’s dying in your arms, she thinks mirthlessly)

So she’ll tell him today. Hand poised to knock on his door, bottom lip caught firmly between her teeth.

I love you, Castle.

See. So easy in her head. She can do this.

She knocks.

XxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxXxxX


She feels different on Christmas morning. Warm and secure, her body draped across Castle’s, limbs tangled together, her head stealing the corner of his pillow from him, she feels altered from the images that filled her head while she slept.

Wrapped up in him, her body held to his by his arm around her shoulders, his fingers lazily brushing patterns, and perhaps also words, along her upper arm, she tightens her own hold on him. Her body presses just a little more firmly against his, her arm, thrown across his stomach, a little less relaxed now.
She feels exhausted, her body drained from dreaming of a different life. She recalls only snippets now, flashes of the moments that filled her mind during the night. Her mom, alive. Her own scars present, but different. And Castle. Still part of her life. Always there, always helping her...
And it all feels so real. Not a dream, but a life lived, years, more than a decade, passing in the space of six hours. A life where her mom survived.

“You okay?” His voice is raw, rough like gravel, uneven and course like the stubble peppering his jawline.

He should be abound with energy, with excitement and glee, she knows this. He isn’t, because he senses her restlessness.

She brushes her lips across the sandpaper-like texture of his skin, loves the feel of him first thing in the morning, and wishes he would go unshaven more. Like when they first met, the slightly rumpled version of him from four years ago. The real him, not the one fresh off a divorce from Meredith, not the version from her dreams.
She nips at his chin, the bristles pressing into her lips, almost uncomfortable, yet worth the pain. The kiss, her lips, intended to ease his concerns, but his body is tense beneath her, his brow furrowed slightly, his mouth drawn tight, and she knows he is unconvinced.

He sits, pulling her up with him, and when she won’t meet his eyes he fears the worst.
“Kate?” He asks, snaking an arm around her shoulders and kissing the crown of her head, his lips pressing down on her sleep-mussed hair. “What’s wrong?”

“Sorry,” she apologizes, her eyes trying to avoid his, to hide the fact she’s more than a little embarrassed by her own behavior. “Just uh...” She exhales a long breath. “A strange dream, that’s all.”

She feels his body relax. “Oh?”

“Of lives not lived, of paths not taken.” She frowns, worries her lower lip with her teeth while she contemplates how to explain it. “I dreamed of a life where my mom was never murdered, where I studied Law - I think - but ultimately ended up working homicide at the Twelfth.” She knows she has a strange look on her face, she can feel her features twisting as she speaks. So she speaks the words, because she can’t suppress them. “I think I expected my mom to still be alive when I woke up. That’s how real it felt.” She sighs in frustration at herself. “I miss her so much today.”

He drops a soft kiss to her forehead. “I know,” he murmurs against her skin.

She smiles sadly. “You were there too, Castle. In my dream.”

“Always,” he replies gently.

“All paths lead to you, Castle.” Maybe, no matter how things had gone down that fateful winter’s day, she might still be here now, in his loft, in his arms. For all of life’s twists and turns, the broken paths they both wandered, maybe they were destined to meet. She sees a twinkle in his eyes, and braces herself for what’s coming.

“Is Katherine Beckett actually suggesting she believes in fate?” He asks teasingly.

She resists the urge to elbow him squarely in the ribs. “No, what I’m saying I believe in is not eating cheese so late at night.” She won’t admit to such thing just yet.

“Mmmhmm.” He grins then, not letting it go. “Does It’s a Wonderful Life always make you this sappy and sentimental?”

And then he gets the elbow in the ribs.

End.
Agent Angie Founder, Administrator, Editor and Writer

The moment that I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be my best self, to look forward to tomorrow's adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle. And I want to live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend and your partner in crime and in life, always. - Kate Beckett The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You're the last person I want to see every night when I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett. And the mystery of you is the one I want to spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend, and your partner in crime and life, 'till death do us part, and for the time of our lives. - Richard Castle

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