Stained-Glass Windows

It's On Now

April 30th, 2012-New York City

Beati Pacifici Inc.

4:32 P.M.

“Yes sir?”

“Operation Cold Steel is in effect. Initiate radio silence plan Alpha.”

“Understood, sir. Targets?”

“Richard Castle and Katherine Beckett.”

“Time frame?”

“I want it done by 2300 hours tonight, lieutenant.”

“Sir, it would be more effective during the day.”

“Do not question me, lieutenant. You have your orders, now get it done.”

“Yes sir, I will take care of it.”

“You had better or you will be next.”

Mason Harrison clicked the end button on his cell phone and frustratingly tossed it on his desk. These people were far too pesky for his liking. They just didn’t seem to want to die. How many damn times was he going to have to kill that detective? She was far too close for his comfort, and though they had taken out John, well he had taken himself out really, Mason hated loose ends. You don’t get to be one of the most powerful CEOs in the United States without breaking some eggs, and though he hated to kill innocent people, they were a necessary sacrifice for the greater good. That’s what Roy had taught him, whether he liked to admit it or not.

His cause was noble and the ends were just. Nothing else mattered.

April 30th, 2012-New York City

Castle’s Loft

10:02 P.M.

Chaos. Total and utter Chaos.

Kate nearly threw Castle behind the island in the kitchen as bullets reigned down upon the loft as if the sky had opened up and rained hot lead upon their heads. Glass shattered, collectibles were destroyed, and those who witnessed the conflagration sought cover from the storm’s hail.

From her spot behind one of the banisters, Captain Gates barked into her walkie-talkie, “This is Gates, officers in distress at Richard Castle’s loft. We need back-up immediately!”

Huddled behind the bar in the kitchen, with bullets shattering his possessions, Rick saw Alexis come scrambling out her room upstairs, “Dad!”

“Alexis stay up there, don’t come down!”

Just when he thought his world could not come further apart he saw blood splatter the wall behind Alexis and he heard her scream as she fell to the floor. He could do nothing but scream, “Alexis!”

Bullets continued to pepper the loft. Kate saw the bullet strike Alexis’ shoulder, and for the tiniest of moments, she wondered if this was a nightmare she could hopefully escape by opening her eyes. Be strong Kate, find what you need to deal with this situation, and cry later. That inner strength screamed at her and gave her the power to hold Rick down as he desperately tried to get to Alexis. She practically screamed at him, “Rick stay down!”

“I have to get to her! Alexis!”

Alexis had become hysterical, “Daddy!”

Kate grabbed Rick’s shoulders in a forceful grip, “Rick stay down! I’ll get her, I promise!”

Without preamble or discussion, Kate took off towards the stairs. Bullets chased her towards Alexis but she found purchase as the stairs she had just used to propel herself forward exploded. At the same moment, Ryan sprinted towards Rick and tackled him to the ground in order to keep him from following Beckett. Kate dove at Alexis and tackled her down the hall so that the wall and her own body could protect Alexis from further damage. As gently as possible, Kate pulled Alexis between her legs as she sat in the hall and tried her best to comfort Castle’s daughter.

It wasn’t doing much good. Kate spoke soothing words to Alexis, rubbed her hands through her hair, and allowed a calm that she didn’t know she could find to envelop Alexis even as bullets continued to scorch the air. Alexis was bleeding from her shoulder but the wound looked to be through and through and it didn’t appear to hit bone. There was no doubt that she was in pain, but what Kate feared most was the panic she saw in Alexis. Alexis was having a panic attack.

“Castle, I have her and she is safe! Stay down!”

Esposito yelled through the roaring gunfire, “Kate you got her?

“I’ve got her Espo!”

Captain Gates joined in, “Esposito! Ryan! Do you have the shooter?”

Ryan yelled, “I’ve got him, red dot across the street. Rooftop of the building.”

They couldn’t risk shooting back, they had all heard the stories of randomly fired bullets that came down from New Years Eve parties and killed innocent people. They would have to wait this out. How much longer could it possibly go on?

Captain Gates sought control of the situation, “Can you guys make a break for the door to pursue?”

Ryan and Esposito yelled the same thing at nearly the same time, “We’ve got this Sir!”

“Alright, I’m going to fire into the refrigerator. Hopefully it will give you the moment you need. On three! 1…2…3!”

Captain Gates turned and fired three shots into Castle’s Frigidaire. It did little good. On the count of three, Esposito and Ryan took off for the door. They were met with gunfire but pushed through and slammed through the door, not bothering to open it. They both stumbled from the apartment and then sprinted to the elevator. Not bothering to stop Ryan yelled, “Stairs, Javi, stairs!”

They didn’t even glance in the direction of the elevator, they simply flew down six flights of stairs taking as many as they could as fast they could. When they exited the building, they knew the shooter was in the building behind Rick’s and they knew this put them at a disadvantage. It seemed that the bullets had stopped and the night was filled with the sirens of back-up and ambulance’s racing toward them.

They took off in a dead sprint towards the building behind Rick’s, and when they sighted the building, they saw their shooter escaping down the fire-escape on the west side of the building. They both shouted with drawn guns, “Stop! NYPD, freeze!”

For a moment, the shooter threw them a shocked look and they might have believed this would be easy had he not held onto the rail with his right hand and brought his gun to bear on them with his left. They dove for cover as the gunman continued to lay down cover fire for his escape. When the bullets stopped, Ryan peered out from the dumpster he had taken cover behind and saw the suspect running north down the alley. “Javi, let’s go!”

Both took off from their designated hiding spots and caught sight of the suspect heading west down another alley. Ryan flanked Esposito on his left side, a little behind him, as both urged air through their lungs. They turned the corner and saw the suspect take another turn north and realized that he was going to make quick, successive turns to try and lose them in the darkness and confusion. The dead end of this alley forked both left and right, and though the suspect had taken a left, Esposito bet that by splitting they could cover more ground and catch him while he doubled back. That’s how he would do it anyway.

Esposito yelled at his partner, “We need him alive, Ryan. Separate. You go left, I’ll go right and meet you in the middle.”

He didn’t need confirmation, when they hit the dead end Esposito headed south and Ryan headed north. When Esposito hit another alley leading west, he took it and sprinted towards the sound of feet slapping against the pavement. Sure enough, the suspect was headed back towards him but then turned west into an alley they hadn’t reached yet. Esposito was first through the alley and saw the suspect sprinting towards a thirteen foot-high chain-link fence. He also knew he was closing the distance. He was maybe 20 feet behind the suspect and knew that the fence would be his savior. From his position behind the suspect, Esposito saw the suspect try to use his momentum to jump the fence, and Esposito knew this was his chance. The moment the suspect hit the fence, Esposito quickly closed the distance and leapt on the suspects back before he was able to make it over. They slammed into the fence hard, knocking what little breath either had in their lungs from them. Both suspect and cop fell to the ground, moaning as they struck the unrelenting cement, their guns skidding across the cement as they were separated by the impact on the ground.

The suspect was up before Esposito but instead of trying to run, he threw a kick towards Esposito’s face. Esposito saw it coming though and rolled backwards avoiding the kick. In a flurry he was barely able to avoid, the suspect threw two punches and a kick aimed at the detective’s stomach. With deft and precision, Esposito avoided the obviously well trained suspect, and though Esposito’s technique was precise, the suspect’s speed was a valuable weapon. Without missing a beat, Esposito was engaged in a fight for his life; he dodged two more punches and managed a couple of his own. The fight wasn’t going according to plan however; the suspect was backing him towards the east wall of the nearest building cutting off his ability to dodge backwards.

The moment his back made contact with the building, the suspect swept Esposito’s legs from under him. The detective hit the ground hard and was met with another kick to the abdomen which lifted him off the ground and slammed him back into the wall once more. Esposito’s skull created a sickening thud as it bounced off the unforgiving brick, and in the same moment, the suspect surged forward, placed both hands on his head and slammed it once more into the building. Blood oozed down the right side of Esposito’s head and face from the multiple lacerations which adorned his skull. He knew he was about to pass out from the rapid blood loss and the trauma he had suffered. His lungs burned from both the run and the fight and his head only allowed stars to pierce his vision.

And then nothing. Did he pass out? No, he could hear sounds coming from a few feet away but he couldn’t register what was happening. His eyes fought for clarity but the pain was blinding. As he tried to get up, a hand came to rest on his shoulder and he caught the voice of his partner, “Stay down Javi, stay down.”

Ryan quickly pulled his walkie-talkie from his jacket and holstered his gun, gasping for air that seemed elusive, “This is Detective Kevin Ryan, officer down, officer down! We are on the corner of 57th and 3rd behind the Meadow Gables complex. I need back-up, a bus, and an ambulance!”

“Roger 3-Lincoln-40, ambulance and back-up are en route. ETA, three minutes. Stand bye.”

On all fours, Esposito gasped for air and fought his best to reign in the pain that wracked his stomach and head. Blood dripped at an alarming rate from his head and he couldn’t maintain his legs or arms, collapsing to the ground once more. Instantly, Kevin was there, “Javi, stay with me, the ambulance is on the way, hang on man. Alright? Hang on.”

Esposito rolled to his side and grabbed his ribs, still gasping for breath and wincing every single time he did, “Don’t get all emotional on me bro, I’m not going anywhere.”

Ryan smiled but kept his hand on his partner’s shoulder, “Those are the best words I’ve heard today.”

Esposito tried his best to muster a good response while Ryan tore his jacket off and tried to wrap it around his partner’s head, “What happened?”

“I got here just in time and tackled him off you. He’s right over there and cuffed, so hopefully he can help us.”

Ryan continued to try and stem the blood that flowed from the wounds on Esposito’s head, and though he seemed to be alert and functioning, he was clearly in pain. Ryan was clearly concerned for his partner, and though he tried to hide it, the stress of the situation painted his face like a freshly done canvas on display at the Louvre.

Ryan’s phone cut through the silence, “Ryan.”

Captain Gate’s voice rang out through the darkness, “Detective Ryan, we heard the call, what happened?”

“We got the guy but he beat up Esposito. He’s going to be alright but we do need back-up and an ambulance now.”

“Detective, I am sending a few officers that arrived at the loft, and the ambulance is on the way. Hang on son, they will be there soon.”

Silently, Ryan wondered if the wizard had somehow granted the captain’s wish for a new heart, but he forced that reply down, “Yes sir. What do you want to do with the suspect?”

“I’ll come get him when I can get away from the loft. For now, make sure Esposito is alright and help secure the scene. How bad is Detective Esposito?”

Ryan almost laughed, “Well he has my jacket wrapped around his head and he is glaring at me like he isn’t in pain. I’d say he’s alright.”

“Detective Ryan, I have a very concerned medical examiner here, can Detective Esposito speak?”

Ryan placed his right hand over the receiver of his phone and whispered to his partner, “Can you talk?”

“To Lanie? No…not right now…no…”

Ryan understood perfectly and was saved by the approaching sirens of the ambulance, “Not right now Sir, the ambulance just arrived.”

“Understood Detective, though you should know she is en route now.”

“Didn’t want to get in her way Sir?”

Okay, where the hell did that come from? Instead of the admonishment he expected, he was met with a laugh, “Not even going to try, Detective. I try my best not to get in her way. Good luck. I’ll be there as quick as I can.”

“Thank you Sir.” He hung up with an astonished look on his face.

“She laughed at that and made a joke!”

Esposito paled considerably, “Oh God, I’m dead aren’t I?”

Ryan couldn’t hold back his matching laugh, “No Javi, you are too pretty for that. Though when Lanie gets a hold of you, you might wish you were.”

Esposito grinned, “Care to take that bullet for me, partner?”

Ryan returned volley, “Hey, I have my own at home, partner. I would do anything for you, but you aren’t that good of a friend.”

Esposito coughed, a small trickle of blood escaped his mouth, “Smartass.”

Ryan’s mood shifted back to serious quickly, “The ambulance is here Javi. We got you.”

Javier grabbed Ryan’s arm, “Thanks for saving my life bro.”

“I’ll always meet you in the middle, partner. Just return the favor sometime and we are even.”

“All I ever do is save your ass!”

“Then make sure you are around to do it some more. Guys, over here!”

May 1st, 2012-New York City

Good Samaritan Trauma Center

1:51 A.M.

Everyone was fine, though a little worse for wear. Esposito had a concussion and needed 12 stitches to close the two largest cuts he had sustained. He would also be sporting a fetching flak jacket for his bruised but not broken ribs and would be required to ice them down for the next 48 to 72 hours. He would be kept for at least one night, just to be safe. When Lanie found out that he would be alright, she nearly caused a longer stay in the hospital, but after what they had already been through, she decided against causing anymore physical damage. They were going to talk about why he didn’t want to talk to her on the phone, but they wouldn’t do so now. Heal. They would heal first. Then she would break him.

Alexis was going to be fine as well, the bullet nicked her shoulder and it too required stitches to close. The doctors were worried about infection, as always, and her blood pressure had not come under control from the panic attack she had at the loft, so they had decided to keep her over night for observation. The members of this family that weren’t lying prone in a hospital bed were told to go home, get some rest, and return at eight in the morning when visiting hours began.

Captain Gates took custody of the man who had riddled the loft with bullets, and when he was brought into the light, the gang quickly realized that he was one of the two ‘other’ men in the photo they had seen earlier today. It was quite possible that this man was also the man who shot Kate at Roy’s funeral, though Beckett and the gang couldn’t be sure. Finally, protection details had been assigned to everyone close to this family, including Jim Beckett.

Still, the mood was heavy as Castle sat with Alexis, and the rest of the gang floated between the rooms. Even Captain Gates had come by to check on her perceived progeny and with a heart that seemed to grow three sizes over-night, she had ordered Beckett, Ryan, Esposito and Lanie to take the next few days to recover.

The loft was a disaster as well, it was strewn with broken vases and glass, and though he didn’t want to think about it, Castle was going to have to have his daughters blood cleaned from the second floor. The only positive was that CSU was already done with their sweep after collecting 32 rounds from the loft. The attack had lasted less than 5 minutes, though it seemed an eternity. The fact that Esposito and Ryan had been successful in capturing the suspect, whom they still did not have a name for, with the weapon in question made CSU ready to release the scene. He had fired at the loft with an ACR 6.8mm assault rifle with laser mounted site, and he had chosen the building directly across the street from the loft. Didn’t that seem odd?

Through it all, Kate had been beside Rick as he tried desperately to navigate this new landscape of a life. Simply put, he blamed himself. After all of the wonderful things he had done, after searching for and finding a path towards meaning and purpose, he could see nothing but the guilt that threatened to consume him. Mistake after mistake had taken their toll, and now, the people he loved were paying the price for his failure. Beckett had been ready to give up the case, his little girl had taken a bullet meant for him, Esposito lay in a hospital bed with a concussion, and it all occurred because he wasn’t good enough to overcome the obstacles he faced. He felt weak and beaten. And he didn’t know whether he could fight anymore…

“C’mon Castle, let’s take Martha home and come back in the morning. Alexis will be sleeping until morning. We aren’t going to do any good here.”

“Kate, how am I supposed to go back to that loft? My little girl’s blood taints the walls of my home. I can’t go there, Kate. Where am I supposed to go?” He could barely get those last words out as the adrenaline of the night finally tapered off, and he could not deny the emotion that finally crashed down upon him. He felt as though the weight of the world rested on his shoulders, Atlas condemned to Gaia by Zeus to hold for eternity, and because of his failures, the sky had fallen.

Kate took his hand and sought to provide him the strength he needed to move forward as they sat together and watched Alexis sleep, “We’ll go to my apartment, Rick.”

He could barely hold back the tears, “I’m lost, Kate.”

Beckett leaned forward and took his face in her hands, “Then let me show you the way.”

May 1st, 2012-New York City

Beckett’s Apartment

3:31 A.M.

Martha had initially argued that she shouldn’t take Kate’s bed, but after a brief discussion, which basically consisted of Kate putting her foot down, Martha had acquiesced to take the bed. After a day and night they never believed they would be forced to live through, Lanie had gone home alone after convincing Beckett she would be safe, Ryan had found Jenny and sought comfort with his wife, and Castle, Martha and Kate sought comfort in the warmth of each other.

It was well after three in the morning as Rick and Kate found themselves sitting on her couch in her front room bathed in the soft light of Kate’s porcelain buffet lamps. Martha had already given in to exhaustion but she made it a point to hug her son just a little bit tighter. As they spoke, Rick fingered the coffee in his hands and allowed the anger and frustration of this painful day to flow through his slumped form.

“I got my little girl shot tonight, Kate.”

“Castle…”

“No, Kate. You aren’t going to talk me off the ledge, it’s time I took responsibility for the mistakes I’ve made. I got my little girl shot tonight and everything is not going to be alright. He came after me and my daughter turned into collateral damage.”

“Maybe so…”

It was a mix of anger and heartbreak, “I want to kill him, Kate. Do you understand that? I want to kill that bastard with my bare hands.”

For Kate, this was like looking into a mirror, one warped by the worst life could offer. Had she really thought any differently that night 14 years ago? She answered with the wisdom of loss, “I know the feeling.”

“I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know what it is about you that allows you to function, but I can’t see past this burning desire to make him suffer for what he did tonight.”

“I used to feel that way, Rick.”

“I don’t want to get past it right now. I don’t want to do the right thing. I just want to kick his ass.”

“If I had known who he was when my mother was killed, I would have placed my gun to his head and pulled the trigger.”

This admission forced Rick to turn in question, “How did you get past it?”

“I didn’t for a while. I even bought a gun so that when my mother’s murderer was found, I could kill him. When that comfort eluded me, I joined the academy. I became a cop because they failed to find the man who had caused so much pain. Castle, something the job teaches you is that there is a fine line between justice and vengeance. It was a lesson that took hold slowly, but eventually, I realized that justice meant more to the people I fought for everyday. The victims I sought justice for taught me that vengeance was for the scum I put away everyday.”

“Did killing Coonan make you feel better?”

“No. I didn’t want revenge, Castle. I killed Coonan to protect you and that’s how I knew it wasn’t vengeance.”

“Kate, I…”

Before he could continue, Kate took his hand and pulled him towards her. The kiss was heated and passionate and was meant to heal and to pull him from the abyss on which he teetered. She pulled back for just a second and whispered, “It’s not your fault Rick.”

She gently pushed him back against the cushions of the couch and pressed her body firmly on top of his. She pulled away again, “We will get him Castle.”

As she kissed her way down his neck, a strangled cry could be heard, “My baby girl…”

She cut him off, “Is going to be absolutely fine, Rick.”

It was important to keep saying his name and keep him grounded, “I know, I know.”

The buttons on her blouse were roughly ripped open and he feasted on her delicious vanilla scented skin. He couldn’t help himself and she was more than happy to allow his indulgence. Her bra soon followed her shirt and his on the ever growing pile of clothes, and she found her mouth snaking down his chest and abdomen. She paused at his belly button and softly smiled, “Guilt can destroy, Rick. It can...”

She paused as her tongue swirled around his belly button and then her tongue darted its way back up to his chest towards his nipples, “Form a barrier. A wall that keeps people out and stays you inside.”

At that moment, he needed to take control. He took her face in his hands and kissed her harder than he ever had, “I know. It kept us apart for too long. I know I have to let this go, Kate. Like you did.”

She began to tongue his neck as his hands found purchase on her back, “It’s not enough to say it, Rick. You have to mean it. And you have deal with it.”

He growled as his hands found their mark on her chest and his lips skirted her jaw and nose, “I don’t know how, Kate. How do I deal?”

She moaned loudly unable to keep the desire from her plea, “It’s….it’s easy Rick.”

She grounded herself against him and swayed into his hands. She whispered her next words directly into his ear, “Let yourself feel. Let yourself revel in the love we share. Let it flow through and then out of you. Let it…die…in the knowledge that I am here and no one blames you. Let go with the understanding that we need you and we are here for you in kind.”

He pulled back and looked directly into her eyes, “This feels…so right…and so wrong at the same time.”

She smiled knowing that she had reached beyond the veil, “In the morning, we will go see her and you guys will laugh and cry together. But you need to be her father Rick and you cannot do that if you allow this guilt to warp you into someone who only looks like you when you look in the mirror.”

As her words drifted through him and his hands played with the smooth and soft skin of her back and chest, he could almost feel the guilt leaving his body. He wrapped her in his arms and shifted them so that they were lying half on the pile of clothes and half on the couch. It should have been uncomfortable, though neither felt anything but the desire that permeated her apartment.

That night, they would make love in her apartment for the first time, but it wasn’t the first time that sex had such an important impact on them. They would take a moment. Just one moment as theirs before they struck back. They faced an unrelenting enemy whose power threatened to tear down all they created, but they were powerful enough to have this moment to themselves. The love they shared that night allowed Castle to reach for a place where the guilt wasn’t the most powerful force inside his head. Her voice and belief in him rang louder than any emotion could ever hope. And though it wasn’t a cure, it was the beginning of his road back from the obsession, from the guilt that created it, and from a path he never sought in the first place.

May 1st, 2012-New York City

Mason Harrison’s Residence

4:23 A.M.

Mason Harrison was rudely awoken by a phone call, “This had better be important or I’ll have your ass!”

“Sir, the mission failed.”

“Do they have him?”

“Yes sir.”

“Fuck. Will he talk?”

“He is Delta. You know he won’t.”

Mason rubbed his face in frustration, “Alright, tell Mike to meet me in my office at 9:30.”

“Yes sir.”

“I’d like you there too, Jordan.”

“I’ll be there as always.”

“Good. Now get some sleep and don’t bother me again.”

“Of course, good night sir.”

He hung up the phone and nearly threw it against the wall. His patience was wearing thin and he was tired of having to deal with Kate Beckett. You shouldn’t have killed her mom, the voice inside him rang.

No, I should have killed her!

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