|Whatever We Lose
Author: Cartographical PM
There are only these truths for him: Someone wants Kate dead. Kate wants him. He cannot let her walk out his door alone.Rated: Fiction M - English - Kate B. & Rick C. - Chapters: 22 - Words: 52,054 - Reviews: 1,101 - Favs: 281 - Follows: 528 - Updated: 07-31-12 - Published: 05-16-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8123642
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He wakes to the sound of crickets and, save that, a sudden silence.
His head hurts. His arm hurts.
"Time?" he murmurs, blinking muzzily. It's pitch black out.
"Just after 2. I'm getting us a room. Sleep."
"S'it safe?" he asks, running a hand through his hair, trying to will himself into wakefulness. His whole body is thumping, an uncomfortable beat pounding through his veins. The blood at his temples pulses. His arm throbs.
"It's still fine," she says, and then he hears the soft fall of her footsteps moving away from him.
They haven't noticed anyone following them yet, though they've stopped four times – three for gas, one to ditch the car and buy a battered Hyundai. She'd hastily wrapped his arm with gauze after guiding their bullet-riddled car into a copse of trees in a now-well-practiced maneuver. They'd both been sharply, painfully alert all day, hyperaware of every noise and every flicker of light, but as the night descended, he'd slowly slid into sleep, soothed toward unconsciousness by the quiet hum of the car and the low murmur of her voice, urging him to rest.
He drowses, now, drifting in an uneasy, half-awake state. The click and rush of the passenger door opening drags him up to consciousness, and feels her fingers, warm and steady, carding through his hair.
"C'mon," she murmurs, reaching down to wrap her hand around his, to tug him up. "Don't want to stay out here too long."
The air bites at him, sharp and clear and cold, the snap of a Midwest early morning. He shudders, his fingers rattling against hers.
She maneuvers both bags onto one of her arms, keeps his hand enfolded in hers as she leads him to the room, flicks on the lights, drops the duffles in the corner, sits him on the bed.
He wiggles his eyebrows, though he can tell by the look in her eyes how faded his effort is. "You know how I love it when you take charge."
"Good," she says, her voice rough with exhaustion. She's been driving for – he doesn't know how long, but over twelve hours, at any rate, ever since he finally felt safe enough to pull into a gas station and she insisted on taking the wheel. "Take your shirt off," she tosses over her shoulder, stepping away from him to rummage through their bag. He watches the lithe lines of her torso, the slight bow of her shoulders that betrays her fatigue, her worry.
When she turns with the first aid kit, he vaguely registers her glare. "What?" he asks.
"First time I've told you to take your shirt off that you haven't listened."
"Oh," he says, staring down at himself, feeling an odd kind of exhausted, his mind trapped in syrup, adrift in a thickly sweet sea.
He shifts, grabs the hem of his shirt, but then she's in front of him, tilting his chin up, staring into his eyes, her lips pressed tightly together in concern, her fingers tripping gently along his forehead.
He blinks, hard, tries to shake some wakefulness into his body.
"Just tired," he says, answering her unspoken question.
"You sure?" she gruffs, and God, he would do anything to get her to stop looking at him like he's spreading cracks along her heart.
Her fingers are at his jaw, now, tracing invisible patterns over the stubble at the bone. He lets his eyes slowly drift shut, sighing into the sudden heat and heft of her hands as she cradles his head with a steady warmth, anchoring him.
"Castle," she whispers, and then he feels her lips, dry and soft, brushing along his forehead, the tip of his nose, the corner of his mouth. He blinks his eyes open and she's leaning over him in a way that has to be killing her after so long spent driving. He reaches a too-heavy hand out to her, rests it at her lower back, feels even though his light touch the hard knots of her muscles. He pushes at her with a knuckle, feels her broken exhale against his cheek before she straightens.
"Your back," he murmurs. She's still covered in mottled bruises from her battle with the sniper. Sometimes he still catches her wincing after too long in the car. Today was not what she needed, a tense fifteen-hour drive following a hard dive to the pavement. He watches her intently, the slight lines around her mouth, the rigidity of her shoulders, the careful way she draws in air.
"No," she growls out, sudden, vehement. "You don't get to look at me like that right now." He starts to question, protest, but she plows ahead. "Not when I just got you shot."
"Kate. You can't - " He can't even begin, she is so wrong and his thoughts are so snarled that he can't untangle them for her. "Please," he says, hoping she hears, hoping she understands. The weight of her guilt on him is too heavy, too much right now.
She nods, once, reaches down to the hem of his shirt and tugs up. He lifts his arms obediently, winces at the burn in his bicep as she carefully drags the fabric up and over his head.
She unwraps the gauze carefully. When she bandaged it before, his pulse was still too fast in his throat and her hands still jerked unsteadily at his arm; they were both still shrouded in a cloud of panic. Now, she's steadier, methodical as she stands before him, and he can't help the memory that flashes through his brain of her smiling softly at him in the back of an ambulance as she unwound a bandage from around his knuckles.
How different it could all be right now, if he'd only known enough to stop her then. If he'd only been able to convince her not to push, months before a bullet ever cracked through her chest. If he'd never opened the case in the first place, never dragged her down this misguided quest for justice that every day has less of a chance of anything but a tragic ending for them both.
The tension of the bandage falls away from his arm as she shifts, folding to sit next to him on the bed. He peers down, intending to look at the bullet wound, but his gaze catches her first. Her nose is several inches from the wound, her eyes dark and serious, her lips slightly parted. His heart stumbles erratically against his sternum, overwhelmed by her singularly focused presence at his side.
He yelps suddenly; she's dragging a sterile wipe along his the wound. It sizzles with pain, distracts him from her for an instant. "A little warning, Beckett?"
She ignores him, continues to carefully clean the area. "It's not so bad," she finally breathes as she draws away, the heaviness of relief weighting her words.
"See?" he asks, purposefully watching her eyes instead of his arm as she swabs on antiseptic and then starts to wind a roll of gauze around his bicep. "Knew I'd be fine."
"But I'm not – if this gets infected – and it bled so much." She cuts off her jerky train of thought, shaking her head as she wraps the wound with hands that aren't quite as certain as they were a moment ago.
He reaches over, wraps his fingers around her shoulder and squeezes briefly. He feels more awake, the pulsing energy in his arm clarifying his thoughts, the heat of her body at his side concentrating his attention. "We made it," he tells her.
Somehow they've both missed it, this time, the giddy exhilaration of survival, the frenzied relief of escaping death, the heady rush of a life that's somehow still ahead of them. "Too close," she chokes out, finally taping the gauze down. "It was so close."
He ignores the sting in his arm as he reaches over, tilts her chin up so he can catch her eyes. She looks so desolate, so hurt, that he can't help but lean to the side, turning and sliding his lips over hers, trying to swallow her worry and grief and guilt with the desperate strength of his love for her. With his other hand he reaches down, skates it up under her shirt, over the soft skin of her lower abdomen. He feels her shudder underneath his fingertips, her body suddenly taut with need. She reaches up and over, rests her hands on his shoulders, pushes him gently back onto the bed. She follows with her own body, her angles and contours hovering a breath above him.
"Let me take care of you," she whispers against his jugular, her lips skating over his Adam's apple, down the plane of his chest. Her hands rove over his sides, hips, abdomen, setting a fire in him that has nothing to do with the burning in his arm.
He moves again to touch her, his fingers stumbling onto her jaw, sliding down her neck, needing more of her, needing everything, but she reaches up a hand, wraps her hand around his and presses his arm back against his chest. "Let me take care of you," she says into the bottom edge of his sternum, her voice on the edge of breaking.
Her fingers reach the button of his jeans. "Kate," he growls, the wash of desire and heartbreak overcoming him, taking away his words and his breath, taking away everything but the heat of her.
He wakes to the sensation of falling, of reaching out to catch himself on something that's not there.
He blinks, tries to adjust to the darkness, rubs his eyes to clear the lingering vertigo.
The room is cold.
The bed is empty.
He stumbles up, feeling the sudden throb in his arm. It's more muted, now, not as sharp as before. Through the window, he can see that the sky is just edging toward dawn. A new day. They should get going.
Where is she?
He walks over to the door, flips on the light switch.
Something is wrong.
The room is still. The table in the corner – something is wrong.
His pulse thrums so hard through his veins that he can feel his body jerk with it, with the horrible crushing panic that sings through his muscles.
He can hear her voice echoing in his head as he surveys the battered table in the corner, the items carefully arranged on top of it.
Her rings lie there: It's over.
The burner phone sits next to them: You can't call me.
Both Glocks are gone: You don't need a gun.
A crumpled receipt underneath the car keys. He turns it, sees the bold, unwavering strokes of her handwriting on the back: Go home. I love you.