|Fire and Ice
Author: ThePossibilityOfMagic PM
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice… Right now, Richard Castle's world was ending in both. Alternate Countdown freezer scene.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Kate B. & Rick C. - Words: 1,786 - Reviews: 33 - Favs: 54 - Follows: 9 - Published: 08-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8417520
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hey kids, I know what you're probably thinking- Countdown was forever and a half ago, so why post a Countdown fic now? Well, I finally rediscovered and finished this fic (which was actually started just after Countdown aired) and thought maybe some of you guys might enjoy giving it a read. But, um... just ignore the whole bomb thing, okay? Never fear, Ryan and Esposito are on it, Manhattan is safe, and that's all we need to know.
Also, here's a brief reminder that Castle and its characters belongs to AWM and co, not me.
Anyway, hope you like it!
"Stay with me."
The words were a plea– desperate and laden with grief, they escaped his stiff lips in a broken whisper that screamed of a misery and agony greater than he'd ever known.
But they were words that went unheard by anyone's ears besides his own. Kate– his Kate– was gone, or almost gone, her life gradually fading as her body slowly but inexorably gave up the fight.
He'd known he would outlive her. As soon as her body had stopped shivering against his– giving up that final, vain endeavour for warmth – he had known that soon, a point would come when he would have to make a choice.
Now, that time had come. And, just as he had always known he would, he had made his decision.
With a force of will far greater than he had ever imagined himself to be capable of, Castle removed his arm from around her still form, then began to slowly, laboriously, remove his coat.
A strangled moan escaped his lips as he forced his tortured limbs to obey, his frozen muscles burning in agony with even the slightest movement.
It seemed to take eons, but finally he was free of the stiff, icicle-laden coat, breathing shallowly from exertion and pain. Now left with only his shirt to protect him, he gingerly leaned back against the wall, gasping as the cold seared into his skin, burning with an even greater ferocity.
Using the last of his strength, he pulled her limp body into his lap, a harsh cry tearing from his throat as his muscles screamed in agony. Gasping, he dragged the coat up to cover her, then wrapped his arms firmly around the outside of the coat– cocooning her between the coat and his chest, shielding her from the icy surfaces of the freezer as best he could.
He knew it would probably never be enough.
But it was all he could do.
Exhausted, Castle took another slow breath– each inhalation like a dozen icy razorblades slicing down his throat– and sent out a silent goodbye to his mother and daughter, praying that they would be okay without him, and that they would forgive him for leaving them.
Then, tightening his grip around the woman he loved, Richard Castle simply closed his eyes, and allowed his world to end.
Castle woke slowly, feeling as though every cell in his body was experiencing its own personal migraine, enveloping him in a haze of pain. For several long moments, it was an effort simply to remain breathing, his mind aware only of the fire that was burning him from within.
Slowly, however, he felt consciousness seeping back into his body, the pain gradually fading away as if it was burning itself out, simply diffusing into the air. It was then– with the pain almost gone and his mind finally free to regain awareness of the world around him– it was then that he finally felt it, his brain finally registering the gentle pressure against his side, the warm weight upon his stomach and shoulder.
And, when the realization finally sunk in, he was filled with an entirely different kind of warmth, a sensation so overwhelming that he suddenly found it difficult to breathe.
When he'd lost consciousness, she was wrapped in his arms. Now, as consciousness finally returned, he found himself wrapped in hers.
Swallowing down the lump of emotion that seemed to have lodged in his throat, Castle opened his eyes, waiting for his vision to focus before lowering his gaze to the prone form of the woman sharing what appeared to be his hospital bed.
After a few moments, he wet his lips slightly, trying to recall the ability to speak. The words, when they came, sounded like they belonged to a lifetime chain-smoker, his voice hoarse from disuse and the tubes that had no doubt resided in his throat until recently.
"Are you allowed to do that?"
He felt Beckett's body jump slightly against his, her head instantly lifting from his shoulder as her eyes met his. "Castle, thank god. I was so– I'm so glad you're okay."
Clearing his throat slightly, Castle gave her a small, lopsided smile, trying to ignore the unsteady rhythm of his heart. "Yeah, me too."
For a moment, she said nothing; she simply smiled back, her eyes holding his, her gaze all softness and warmth. Then, suddenly seeming to realize that they were in fact in a bed together, with her still half-wrapped around him, she flushed, pulling back abruptly.
"I should get up–"
His arms moved before he consciously ordered them to, wrapping around her and holding her against him.
"Wait, don't–" he blurted, his voice strained by sudden anxiety. "Stay with me."
Their reaction was identical; both instantly froze, their minds returning to the last time he'd uttered those words, back to the moment when they had both almost frozen for real. Lifting her eyes to his, Beckett met his gaze, hers soft and expressive. Then, slowly, she settled back against him.
For a minute or two there was silence between them, both simply grateful to hold each other, and both trying to block out the past. Eventually, it was Beckett who broke the silence, her voice quiet.
"They told me what you did."
"Mmm," Castle murmured, half-wishing she hadn't brought it up. All he wanted was to lie here and breathe in the scent of her hair forever, forgetting that the freezer ever happened and that temperatures below 30 degrees could even exist.
But, just as he'd known she wouldn't, Beckett didn't just let it go. Instead, she drew back just slightly, propping herself on her elbow as her eyes lifted to his.
"I wouldn't have made it, Castle," she told him softly, her eyes full of emotion. "If you hadn't..."
"Kate, please, don't," he ground out, his eyes clenched shut with a pain that had nothing to do with the physical. He didn't notice the tears that had escaped until he felt her wipe them away, her thumb brushing softly across the damp skin.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, he slowly opened his eyes to look into hers, startled to find them as wet as his own, the tears brimming over to run freely down her cheeks.
Immediately his hand lifted to her face, his gentle touch mirroring hers.
"Hey, it's okay," he said gently, his voice low. "We survived."
Dropping her gaze, she exhaled shakily, giving the slightest of nods. "I know."
For several moments they said nothing more, the silence broken only by their faint breathing and the sounds of the hospital around them. Almost unknowingly, Beckett shifted her hand to lay upon his chest, her fingers tangling in his hospital gown directly above his beating heart.
"Castle, if we hadn't," she began quietly, her voice barely more than a whisper, "What would you have regretted the most?"
Castle hesitated. He hadn't expected this. He hadn't expected to... talk. To face it. To break the unspoken rule that they'd agreed on so long ago.
Staring at the ceiling, he blew out a slow breath before answering, his voice as soft as hers had been. "All the chances I was too afraid to take."
"Me too," Beckett whispered, her eyes finally lifting to find his face. "Castle, I don't want this to be another one of those chances."
Glancing across, Castle tried vainly to read her gaze. Surely she didn't– surely she couldn't mean–
Nodding slightly, Beckett took a deep breath, then added, "Which is why I need to go find Josh."
Castle blinked, fighting to keep his face blank. At her words, the burning pain had returned, but this time it was different, sharper, radiating outward from a focal point right in the center of his chest. Closing his eyes for a second, Castle pushed the pain back, taking a breath to steady himself before searching for words for a conversation that he desperately didn't want to have.
"Uh, in Africa?"
Beckett gave a slight shake of her head, her eyes downcast. "No, here. He got off the plane."
"Oh," Castle managed, hurriedly trying to hide the pained grimace that had spread involuntarily over his features. "And that means..."
She shifted her head, her eyes seeking his. "I need to tell him to get on the next one."
Instantly, his eyes flicked to hers, his gaze searching, almost desperate. Her own gaze was steady, clear, stripped of all defense or pretense. Clearing his throat slightly, Castle forced the words past his lips, practically tasting the hope and anxiety that lay within them.
For a single moment, she simply held his gaze, before silently tilting her head up and pressing her lips to his. The kiss was brief, tender, but somehow he could feel a greater depth to it, a fire and passion that simmered just below the surface. Feeling her hand curl around the back of his neck, Castle held her just a little tighter, gently returning the kiss and simply reveling in the feel of her. Far too soon, she began to pull away, drawing back just slightly, gently brushing her nose against his cheek to quiet the small protest that slipped from his throat at her departure.
Then, with her breath feathering lightly over his lips and the hint of a smile in her voice, she gave her answer.
"And then we take a chance."
Well, that was it! Of course, this is not actually the way I would have wanted that ep to go- I don't know about you guys, but I think it would have still been way too soon for a Caskett hookup to really work at that point. But I enjoyed writing it all the same, and I hope you liked reading it! :)
And as always, comments/suggestions for improvement are always welcome :)
Thanks for reading!