Author's Notes: For yuletide 2010, gifted to austen who requested apocafic. So, I added zombies to bring you Castle and Beckett at the end of the world. Note: there's a quote from A Farewell To Arms and I spoil the end of the book, if that's a problem for anyone. [ETA: I swear I'll never feel narcissistic reading over my own stories again -- truth: you are always editting. I found ANOTHER typo on the sixth time through.]
Lanie calls her before she's barely touched her first coffee of the day to say she's found a body.
"There's been an incident here in the morgue," her friend tells her.
She hits speaker phone and fills Castle in, "Lanie found a body in the morgue."
"I would have thought she'd have found several," Castle quips.
Beckett resists the urge to groan. It's too early for terrible jokes.
"Perlmutter's body to be exact," Lanie continues, ignoring Castle's remark. "And it's not pretty. It looks like he was mauled by a wild animal. He was alive when I left last night. He was finishing up your autopsy. But it's the strangest thing..."
"What?" Kate prompts.
"The body of your murder victim is missing."
"Someone stole my body?" she takes a long pull from her beverage and sighs. It's going to be a long day.
"That's not the weirdest thing," Lanie tells her, "It looks like he walked out of here."
Castle has a field day. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asks her.
"Almost certainly not," she informs him flatly. "Lanie, we'll be right down."
She ends the call.
Castle's eyes are gleaming. "A reanimated corpse. A sorcerer practicing necromancy perhaps? Maybe it's voodoo. Ooh, or, a mutant virus accidentally escaped a top-secret government lab and is infecting general population. Once it takes hold in your brain, the initial illness mimics the common cold, then slowly, your vital signs disappear creating a death-like state. Oh, and the virus causes an insatiable appetite for human flesh."
She rolls her eyes. "This isn't 28 Days Later Castle."
By midday, they're in the midst of the God-damned zombie apocalypse and Castle has the nerve to say, "I told you so."
Her desk is overturned and they're using it for cover. Beckett is going over the floor plan of the station in her head. But even if they can shoot their way out -- she pauses mid-thought to shoot the re-animated corpse of Karpowsky between the eyes -- she doesn't particularly fancy driving in the New York traffic when the pedestrians are trying to eat her.
Castle is calmly perusing something called The Zombie Survival Guide.
"Castle," she hisses, "I could use a little help here."
He shrugs, "We're probably screwed."
"Is that the advice your handy little guide gives us?"
"Well," he looks up and meets her eyes, "There's probably no way out of Manhattan, and at the rate this thing is spreading, I'd say that by tonight we'll be overrun by a zombie hoard."
"In case you haven't noticed," she gestures with her service weapon, "We kind of already are."
"Hmm, zombie cops. I should write that down."
She reaches out with her free hand, plucks the book from his fingers and slaps him over the head with it. "Come on Castle, use that overactive imagination of yours and come up with a plan."
"Hey, do you think zombie cops still have an appetite for donuts?"
She has a very strong urge to shoot him instead of her undead colleagues.
He seems to sense that she's not in the mood for jokes. "I think the best plan is to haul up with weapons, ammo and food and wait it out."
"Wait it out?" she's reloading. The crowd of uniforms they'd managed to lock in the break room is threatening to spill free. The door probably can't hold much longer.
"Think about it," he tells her, "They need food, living flesh. Sooner or later everyone in the city is going to be dead or undead, and then they'll either turn on each other - meaning a drastic reduction in numbers - or they'll leave in search of the living. Since I'd say that at this point, our chance of making it out of the city alive is approaching zero without a helicopter, the best bet is to stock up and wait out the worst of it."
She nods, "Ok. So where to?"
"I figure the loft is a safe bet," he uses the book as a projectile and hits a female cop in the head. "Higher ground is easier to defend, the security in the building is pretty good and we'd need to stop by there for Alexis anyway. Plus we have underground parking, making access easier."
"How do we get out of here?" she deposits the weapon she picked up off a fellow detective in his lap.
"I have an idea," he hedges, "But you might not like it. It involves stealing a police vehicle."
She stares at him like he might be crazy, "It's the end of the world as we know it Castle, somehow I think the old rules don't apply."
"Then let's do this thing."
When they collapse against the door of the loft, her heart is hammering in her chest. He breathes heavily for a second, then looks her over, "You ok?"
His daughter and his mother rush over to greet them. Alexis wraps her arms around her father without a word. He crushes her against him.
"Is it true what they're saying?" Martha asks Beckett.
The detective nods, sadly. "It's a mess out there."
"Well dear, I'm glad you're both safe."
Martha pulls her into a hug, and whispers quietly, "Thank you for protecting Richard."
Alexis looks stunned, still clutching at her father's shirt. Kate reaches out and squeezes her shoulder. Her eyes find Castle's.
"We need to barricade the doors downstairs," he murmurs quietly."And take care of the elevator and the fire escape."
"I'll start looking for the things we'll need," she moves her hand from Alexis's shoulder to his arm. They communicate wordlessly. He's looking at her with a kind of gratitude that, for all his skill as a writer, he probably couldn't put into words.
Martha tells her there's a tool kit underneath the sink in the kitchen and she leaves him for a moment with his family.
They're all jumpy the first night. Alexis cooks dinner but no one is hungry. Martha, uncharacteristically, spends the cocktail hour with empty hands. The TV is muted in the background as headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen. Castle is tapping away at his laptop, reading about conspiracies and the government's attempt to contain public panic.
Beckett spends an hour with Alexis, teaching her how to use each of the weapons they managed to steal from the precinct. "Remember, both eyes open," she says. "Use both hands, hold it steady, especially with the semi-automatics. The recoil might hurt. Stick to the hand gun unless you have to."
Castle meets her eyes. They both silently pray she never has to.
Alexis nods, grimly. "I think I've got it."
"Martha?" Beckett asks, "Do you want me to run it through with you?"
Martha smiles, "It's ok kiddo, I know my way around a weapon."
That doesn't surprise the detective as much as she might have thought it would. When Alexis yawns, Martha decides it's time for bed. "Wake me when it's my turn to take watch," she tells them, "I'm serious you two, everyone needs their rest, especially at a time like this."
Beckett nods, "Ok."
When the other women leave, she unloads and re-packs most of their arsenal. Accidents happen with loaded weapons, and she's seen enough dead flesh to last her a while. When she's done she notices that the room is suddenly incredibly quiet.
Castle is staring straight ahead, past her, past the computer screen. She wonders what he's seeing as she puts a hand on his arm.
"Do you think Ryan and Esposito are OK?" he asks quietly.
"I called them as soon as we knew what was happening," she says, "I mean, at least they were out of the city."
(Ryan and Esposito had been heading upstate to question a known associate of their victim who was still in jail.)
"I don't like the thought of being locked in with a bunch of criminals during a zombie outbreak," he drums his fingers against the keyboard.
She nods. "But who knows? Murderers and thieves certainly have a particular skill set. They could be useful."
"What about everyone else?" he looks up and meets her eyes. He looks lost and it tugs on something inside her chest.
"We couldn't save everyone Castle."
"I know. I just hate the thought that everyone we know is ... dead."
"Or undead," she adds. "I called my father before the phones went down. He didn't pick up."
He reaches out and takes her hand, "I'm sorry."
She swallows, shakes her head, "No it's fine. I kind of expected it."
He laughs quietly, "You expected a zombie uprising?"
It's strangely comforting that he can still crack a joke at a time like this. She presses her lips together and rolls her eyes.
He squeezes her hand, "We're lucky Kate."
She nods and pulls her hand free. "I'll take the first shift. Try to get some sleep."
The power dies on a Thursday. It's been a week since her murder victim got up off the slab and walked away, leaving chaos and destruction in his wake. Castle is in the middle of making coffee when it happens. The espresso machine whines its last.
He hands her the half empty cup. "Well Detective, this is it."
She takes a sip and passes it back to him, "It's ok, we'll share."
He reaches over and tries the faucet. Mercifully, there's still running water. "We should start stocking up," he voices her own thoughts.
He lets her have more than her share of the coffee.
"Maybe we can find a generator somewhere," she says. "Like a hospital."
"Risky," he muses, "When they first get sick, the bite victims will all be taken to one."
She mulls over that for a second. "But we could stock up on medical supplies while we're there."
"Let's wait a few days," he suggests, "The hospitals could still be chaos."
"Mmm," she hands him the mug again. "Finish it."
She takes her last hot shower soon after and changes into the clothes Martha has leant her. They're subdued for the actress, but still loud for the detective. Castle grins at her when she emerges from the bathroom.
"I need to go to my apartment," she tells him, "Or maybe down to raid fifth avenue."
"Ok," he agrees surprisingly quickly. They're both going a little stir-crazy stuck in the loft.
"It's dangerous," she meets his eyes with a devilish grin.
"I know," his expression mirrors hers.
She rummages in the bag in the corner of the living area by the door of the loft and pulls out an assault rifle, "All right Castle, let's go."
"Just so you know," he tells her as they exit the apartment, "You look totally hot with that thing."
They manage to avoid using the heavy artillery, and even though he's driving it feels oddly familiar, like they could be on their way to a crime scene. She teases him about his lead foot.
He shrugs, "I'm not stopping so we can become zombie food."
They run a red light and mount the sidewalk at a few points to manoeuvre around abandoned cars. The streets are mostly clear.
She notices that, "Where do you think they all are?"
He shrugs, "I don't know. Maybe they've found their way into some of the apartment buildings where people are hiding out."
She shudders at the thought.
They park on the curb outside her building.
"You ready?" he says to her.
"That's my line," she retorts.
They run for the entrance, drawing the attention of three or four walkers in the street. He raises his weapon but she shakes her head. "Leave it," she hisses, "We're faster than them and the noise will only attract more."
He takes a deep breath. She locks the door to her building behind them, "That should keep them busy."
They take the stairs because there's a corpse in the elevator, an actual corpse, with a bullet wound to the head. The homicide detective in her itches to inspect the scene but survival instincts scream louder. Her door has been busted open. She groans, "Looters."
"Or someone coming to see if you were ok," he remarks, loitering in her living room after they've made sure the place is clear. She disappears into the bedroom to change and grab what she can. While she's away he absent-mindedly stares at a photo of a younger version of herself, standing in between her parents. Impulsively, he wrestles it free of the frame and shoves it in his pocket.
"Castle," she orders, "Grab what you can from the kitchen."
"From your kitchen?" he sounds incredulous, "Is it even worth it?"
"There's matches and candles under the sink," she ignores him. "Hurry, I can see them on the street from the bedroom, they must be able to smell us."
That gives him an idea. When they make it back to the street he takes out two zombies while she loads the truck. There's rope in the back of the SWAT van they stole from the precinct. He ties the corpses up and fastens them to the tow bar.
"Should help cover our scent," he tells her.
She slips into the driver's seat, "You coming?"
When they're back, safe inside the loft, she deposits her belongings in the spare room. He follows her after a moments consideration and finds her standing over her suitcase, caught in the moment.
"You ok?" he asks.
"I just," she shakes her head to clear it, "I realised, that's the last time I'm ever going to go back there. There's just so many things that I'm never going to do again."
He pulls the picture of her family from his pocket and presses it into her palm.
In the midst of a whole lot of lasts, there is one first. As she turns to thank him, Richard Castle kisses her.
"House rules," he declares, swiping the fine money in the middle of the Monopoly board and pulling it towards his corner.
Her hand smacks down over his. "That's cheating."
Alexis rolls her eyes, "Our house rules always change to suit his purposes."
"Why are you guys complaining?" he groans, "Beckett owns Park Place and Boardwalk and Alexis, you own all the utilities and the railway stations. I have four houses on the whole board."
"It's not our fault you're losing Castle," Beckett doesn't move her hand.
"Fine," he grumbles, abandoning his loot.
Beckett has an infuriatingly self-satisfied smirk on her face when he lands on Park Place on his next turn. He frowns and reaches for the upturned box which contains the bank's money.
"Are you embezzling?" Beckett turns on him with a ferocity usually reserved for murder suspects.
"No, I'm swapping some bigger notes for change," he defends himself with an indignant sniff.
"You two fight it out," Alexis stands, raising her hands in surrender, "I'm going for a soda."
It's strange, Beckett thinks, they've lost so much, so many people, and somehow -- he lets his hand linger against hers as he hands her the paper money -- she's found a kind of family.
"We're going to have to go for supplies," she slumps beside him on the sofa. "Your neighbours are all out of usable food."
He nods, slowly.
"And we'll need more gas for the camping stove you stole from 5C," she adds.
"Where do you think we should try?" he asks, "The looting is probably pretty bad."
"They can't possibly have hit every grocery store in Manhattan," she says, with a certainty she doesn't feel. "Let's just try the closest. The less distance we have to cover the better."
He nods, "You want to go now? They seem to be less active in the morning."
She stands again, "Give me a minute to change."
Martha and Alexis are in the kitchen playing cards and eating pancakes. They stop her on her way up the stairs. "We could deal you in next hand," Alexis is saying, "And there's breakfast."
She shakes her head. It's easier to enter the world of the dead on an empty stomach. "Your dad and I are going to get more supplies."
Alexis grimaces. Martha pats her hand.
"We'll hold the fort here," his mother tells her, "If you're not back in four hours we'll launch a rescue mission."
"No you won't," Castle cuts her off and Beckett takes the opportunity to escape, sensing that this is a family argument.
"Like you could stop us dad," Alexis says, in a moment of rare rebellion.
He gathers her into a crushing hug, "Promise me you won't leave the loft. No matter what happens. I couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to you."
"I won't promise," she squeezes him back. "You'll just have to make sure you and Kate come back safe and sound."
Martha pats him on the arm. He releases his daughter and hugs his mother.
"I'll keep her safe Richard," Martha tells him.
Beckett comes down the stairs in a more appropriate outfit for fighting hordes of the undead.
"You ready?" he asks her.
She nods and begins rationing their weaponry. Alexis joins her by the make-shift armoury and gives her a brief hug, "Good luck."
Beckett nods and hands the teenager a gun. "Don't do anything I wouldn't."
Castle pauses at the door.
"Are you sure..." he trails off, watching his family, "Be safe."
"Dad, I'll be fine until you get back," Alexis assures him. He's gaping at the sight of his baby girl loading and cocking a shot gun. Beckett grabs him by the arm. "Shut your mouth Castle, you'll catch flies."
"I see dead people," he stage-whispers as they make their way back to the parking garage, carting boxes of non-perishables.
She hits him, solidly, in the arm.
"What was that for?"
"Bad joke," she says, but there's a levity behind her words.
They'd found a supermarket with underground parking and managed to lock out the few loitering corpses wandering in the rear-lane access point. The building appeared to hold little interest for their foe. Beckett had shot a few, but it was mostly clear. Castle had taken to running shopping carts down the aisles and lifting his feet off the ground.
They've let down their guard a little too much, she should have expected it. Things are never this easy. He's loading the last of everything into the back of the van when she shrieks. He pushes the door shut and there she is, and there it is, holding her by the arm and trying to sink its teeth into her skin. She struggles.
He stares at her for a second, stunned.
"Castle, for God's sake shoot..."
She doesn't have time to finish the sentence because he takes her up on it. There is a loud crack as the bullet finds the decomposing skull which explodes, sending congealed blood and rotting brain matter in all directions. The hands on her arm go limp. She presses her hand against her ear, which is stinging from the noise. He hands her a dishcloth from their spoils to wipe her face.
"I'm ok," she reassures him quietly. He nods.
"I'll drive," he says.
She slumps into the passenger seat, heart racing.
By some miracle, they make it back alive. Alexis and Martha are waiting, but when they see the blood they don't immediately ask for an explanation and instead, busy themselves re-stocking the pantry.
"There's more in the van," Beckett tells them, emotionally and physically exhausted. "We'll get it in a minute."
Martha shakes her head. "Alexis and I can do it. Go, take a shower. No offense dear," she pats her sons cheek, "But you look awful."
His family disappear into the corridor. "Make sure you're armed," he calls after them.
"She's right you know," Beckett grins at him, "You do look like crap."
"At least I don't have zombie guts in my hair," he reaches out and pushes a few strands from her face.
She feels a shiver run through her when he touches her.
"I'm going to go shower," she tries to escape the moment but he follows her into the bathroom.
"Castle," she says, warning.
"Shut up," he kisses her.
"This is a terrible idea," she protests, weakly, but he's already pushing her coat off her shoulders and unbuttoning her shirt.
"It's the end of the world as we know it Kate," he throws her own words back at her, "I don't think the old rules apply."
She reaches out and turns on the shower, and pulls him, fully clothed, in after her.
The rest of it is wordless, silent. The water is cold and her shirt clings to her skin. He kisses her, water running between their mouths, and she fumbles with his belt. She digs her fingers into his shoulders, her back against the tile. She manages to get out of her jeans, and gasps as he unexpectedly bites down on her shoulder.
"What about Alexis?" she says.
He shakes his head, busies his fingers between her legs and tastes the skin beneath her ear. His voice is low and underscored by urgency that tears at her resolve, "I need you."
She runs out of arguments, thoughts, words. Her eyes slip closed, and he kisses her again. She moans into his mouth and shudders around his fingers. He's still all of a sudden, forehead resting against hers. When she opens her eyes, he's staring at her, asking a question. She nods, wraps her legs around his hips as he lifts her, pulls his face to hers as he pushes into her.
They don't kiss. Her fingers move against his cheeks, his nose is pressed to hers, her mouth is open and she wants to say something. Water drips off her nose between them. It's too slow and too fast and nowhere near enough.
Afterwards, he washes her hair.
Blood and soap suds slip down the drain.
Since the power outage, Alexis and Beckett have taken to reading out loud in the evenings. Alexis had been reading the complete works of Hemingway at school before all hell broke loose. They were currently reading A Farewell To Arms by the dim light given off by a gas lamp.
"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry," Alexis pauses at the end of the passage, "That's incredibly sad."
"I'm afraid it doesn't improve much," Castle interjects from across the room, "I've always found Hemingway intolerably depressing."
"But he writes beautifully," his daughter counters.
"True," Castle shrugs, turning back to his notepad. Beckett's seen glimpses and knows he's still writing the latest Nikki Heat novel, even though it will never be published. It's an escape from the present that gives him a connection to the past. Usually he gives her his days output to read before she takes the first watch. He's taken to kissing her goodnight as he does it. She never says anything when he does.
Alexis picks up where she left off and Kate focuses her attention on the story.
Sometime later, the girl yawns. "Sorry," she covers her mouth.
"Maybe we should call it a night," Beckett says, "Or I can read for a while."
Alexis hands her the novel. "We're so close to the end, we should finish it."
So she reads until the last page, until Catherine is dead and Henry is broken, and she sees Alexis fighting to stay awake and hopes she never knows the feeling.
"Dad was right," Alexis declares when the book is closed, "Hemingway is depressing, but I don't think it's unnecessary. I like it, in a way. It doesn't romanticise the war."
"Maybe we should pick something lighter next time," Kate suggests.
Alexis leans against her shoulder. "I don't know. It doesn't seem fitting these days."
"That's exactly why we should do it," she responds, "To take your mind off things."
"I'm OK you know," she looks up at the detective, "I know you and dad worry, but it's not so bad. I'm certainly getting a lot of reading done. And I'm grateful that both of you keep us safe."
Beckett doesn't know what to say.
"Night Kate," Alexis gives her an unexpected hug.
Castle is watching them and she meets his eyes. She smiles.
His daughter stands up and moves to wish her father goodnight before going to bed.
"I'll take first watch tonight," Martha looks up from her book and catches them eyeing each other. As they start to protest she dismisses them with a wave of her hand, pulls the shot gun into her lap and carries on reading.
Castle yawns, "Well I'm too tired to put up too great a fight. Wake me when you get tired mother."
He stands, gives his mother a kiss on the cheek and shuffles across to the sofa where Beckett is still sitting. "I'm going to bed. Goodnight."
She swallows, meets his eyes, "Me too."
If he's surprised when follows him into his bedroom and slips under the covers beside him, he doesn't say anything.
They don't touch, but she lies on her back staring at the ceiling, listening to his even breathing in the dark.
Martha opens another bottle from the seemingly endless supply of wine. She pours two glasses, despite Beckett's protests.
"It's the end of the world darling, if you can't drink now when can you?"
Kate takes her point.
"Let's toast," Castle's mother is dressed in lime green and still does her make-up each morning. Today her lips are bright red. Privately, Beckett things she's managed to adapt to the end of the world better than any of them.
Martha holds up her glass, "To hope."
She sighs, and clinks her glass against Martha's. "I'm not sure we can at this point."
"Katherine Beckett," Martha puts a hand on her arm. The use of her full name reminds her of her mother, when she was mad at her. Castle's mother just offers a pearl of wisdom, "When there's nothing else, there is always hope."
She's forgotten how long it has been since it started. They haven't been keeping track of the days. Alexis is reading quietly in the corner when she comes down the stairs.
"Morning Kate," she smiles.
"Morning," Beckett returns automatically.
"There's coffee on the counter," Alexis turns back to her book.
Martha is still asleep. The rest of the loft is empty.
A kind of panic grips her when she can't find Castle, but she fights it. He wouldn't be so stupid as to go out alone.
"He's outside," Alexis smiles at her from over the top of her book, "On the roof."
She is stunned by the extent of her relief. She nods, takes her coffee and pauses at the doorway, "Be careful Alexis."
The teenager pats the weapon resting on the coffee table, "I'm armed and dangerous Kate."
She smiles affectionately. She's been quietly mothering his daughter for some time now. It doesn't scare her as much as she thought it would.
She finds him leaning out over the cement wall that encloses the rooftop. "Hey," she says, resting her coffee cup next to his.
"Hey yourself," he smiles with his whole face when he sees her.
She nudges his arm, "What're you doing up here?"
Overhead the sky is grey. The wind is cold. He moves behind her, takes her elbow and points to the Brooklyn bridge.
"Look at that," he whispers, his body warm against her back.
The streets beneath them are filled with walkers, stumbling out of the city. The mass exodus is breath-taking. The surface of her coffee is disturbed by a few drops of rain.
She closes her eyes for a moment, but when she re-opens them the sight is the same. "Martha was right after all."
She lets him nuzzle her neck.
"'Bout what?" his breath is warm against her ear.
"There's always hope," she turns, studies his face.
He tries to steal a kiss but she pushes him back. "Do we need to talk about this thing we're doing?"
"What could we possibly need to say?"
She nods. "I'm glad it's you," she tells him quietly.
"Me too," he tightens his hold on her waist and they stand for a minute in the rain.