Lanie hands her the phone, concern and fear writ across her features. She locks that out. She locks everything out.
His voice crackles over the line, distant, as if he's in the middle of the Amazon. He may as well be, and he'd be safer for it. The heat of the flames envelops her back but do nothing for the ice shooting down her spine. She's so cold. She's been so cold ever since she arrived on the scene. She would give everything to feel his giant arms wrap around her once more, to find the safety and comfort of his embrace. The shouts of the firefighting team and the roar of the fire form a constant background accompaniment to her guilt and dread.
She tries to summon up some reassurance, some words, something for him to hold onto. She can't. Her throat catches, everything grinds to a halt inside her.
"Listen, I don't know if I'm gonna make it to the wedding after all…"
"You...I'm not letting you off the hook that easy mister." She tries for levity, for black humour. Falling back onto his- their coping mechanism.
"There's so much I want to say. Need to say."
There is gravel to his voice, the note that only comes when he's holding back tears. Her own glitter in the corner of her eyes.
"No! We're going to get you out." Her voice is ragged, she knows, breaking towards the end of the sentence. The rest comes out in a whisper. "We will. Hold on Castle, hold on for me."
"I love you Kate. I was so lucky to find you. To know you. To work with you every day, and in the last couple of years, to spend every night with you. I know six years isn't enough…a lifetime wouldn't be enough."
"Rick. I need you." She knows she doesn't have the words he does. He's the poet. So she injects everything into the simplest of phrases. "I need you to come back to me."
"I want you to promise me something."
They both pause, and in the silence her memory of asking the same from him as she stands on a bomb floats before her. She knows he's thinking the same thing.
"Don't go back. Don't make me another rabbit hole. Don't hide yourself, your full self in your work again. Don't do it Kate. You deserve to be happy. I want you to promise me you'll find it again someday." He draws another harsh breath, trying to find oxygen in the air. "Tell mother and Alexis I love them, and the lawyers will sort out everything. All of you will be taken care of."
Her barriers crumple, and she chokes back a sob.
"I will. I will when you come back out of there, and I'll drag you to the altar in cuffs if I have to."
"Kinky." He tries for one last joke.
He succeeds because somehow he still makes her smile. And she knows he can sense it, that it will have made him happy to know that was one of the last things he did.
The line hisses dead.
He's not dead yet. That's all she has to hang onto, that's the only thing holding her together, preventing her from crumbling to the ground and stripping off her badge and gun, letting the tears flow. Her knees are weak and unsteady, but they haven't buckled yet.
He's not dead, but there's nothing she can do.
She's helpless. She needs to fight something, to do something, to solve the puzzle so she can get him out. Here's a foe she can't fight. Not a serial killer. Not a terrorist. Not the Secretary of Defense.
He ran into a burning building for her once, and she's tempted to do the same now, odds be damned.
"Detective?" She whirls at the tone of determination in the voice, clutching for anything, any hope in the pile of papers the FDNY investigator has in her hands as she approaches.
She'll kill him.
"My fiancé is in that building." Her rage burns through her, hotter than the fire, that this worm, that this nothing would stand in her away.
He shakes, sweat and the stink of fear on him, but he doesn't break.
"I will kill you. If he dies, you die. You do not want to test me, because I've pulled this trigger to save his life before. I've killed a man who held a gun to him. To me, right now, you're that man."
She jams the barrel against his neck, letting the cold steel sink into his flesh.
"They'll send me to prison for the rest of my life. It'll be hell on earth. And you know what? I wouldn't regret it for a single moment."
The radio crackles but only with static.
She peers into the smoke and haze, held back by the barricade of a fireman's arm, hoping against hope that they've made it out. Espo's hand rests on her shoulder, support flowing from him like from brother to sister, and vice versa. His partner is in there too. Lanie is still with Jenny in the ambulance.
She doesn't know who shouts, probably one of the firecrew, but she sees movement almost immediately. The first blur resolves into Ryan, shaken but on his feet. The second-
She's off in a flash. No one's going to stop her once his features come into view, grimy and wheezing and hung off the shoulders off two of the rescue team, and the most beautiful thing she's ever seen in her life.
His blue eyes blink slowly, flooding with relief and happiness as she nears him at a run, slowing down just at the last so she doesn't tackle him to the floor. Her tears are running again, but this time she doesn't care, just lets it all out, the entirety that she's holding back, the iron grip she's been maintaining.
They wrap around each other, clinging on for dear life, for everything. He smells of smoke and ash, but he's warm and solid and real under her touch, his heart thuds resoundingly next to hers, and when she looks up still-watery blue eyes, she sees nothing but love. He reaches down to her, tilting her chin up so he can swipe his lips across hers.
He tastes awful.
She doesn't care, holding on when she feels him start to back off, deepening the kiss, saying everything she needs to say but can't but verbalise yet through her lips. How glad she is to have him back, her north star, her anchor, her solid ground. How she feels like she can breathe again, like she can move again, like the ice has stopped gripping her spin. Like she can live again.
He breaks off more forcefully into a coughing fit, and instantly she's embarrassed, looking around for a paramedic.
Ryan's keen to find his wife, though she keeps him back for a second for a brief but reassuring hug in its own right, while Espo welcomes Castle back once he stops coughing.
The four of them walk arm-in-arm to the ambulance
The paramedic gives him oxygen while he gets checked over. She sits next to him, hands clasped with his, shoulders, hips, thighs, the whole of her body pressed against his, her head on his shoulder. She can't bring herself to let go. She hasn't the whole time. He hasn't either.
Ryan, Jenny and baby Sarah Grace are already off to hospital in one ambulance, and she knows this one will be on its way soon. She's not going to go more than a handspan from his side till a doctor orders her away (and maybe not even then).
Eventually the paramedic stops poking and prodding, and pronounces himself satisfied enough that the bus can be on its way to the hospital at a sedate enough pace, and that they're welcome to have some alone time in the back as long as they don't indulge in any hanky-panky. The latter statement comes with a long, level look.
(She's been sort of desperate for some life-affirming sex, but Castle keeps having bouts of coughing and redness that kills the mood in turn)
He lies back on the stretcher once they're on their way, sort of half pulling her on top of him.
She keeps rubbing her fingers over him, like he's here, he's really here, and not going anywhere, not going to leave her alone again.
She makes up her mind to set up an appointment with Dr Burke soon.
"We made it." Her voice is husky, hoarse with the come-down of it all, the adrenalin slowly leaching out of her.
"We did. Kate…"
One broad hand caresses her face, and she nuzzles her hand into palm, seeking comfort.
"Let's set a date."
Fill from a prompt/post that had Castle and Ryan being the ones trapped in the building during 'Under Fire' (6x11). Apologies for dipping into the "Always" cliche, but felt it was warranted. Please leave a review with your thoughts.