There is no justifiable excuse why this chapter took so long to post. I am terribly sorry. There are no excuses for leaving it this long. I have an awful time keeping up with WIPs, but know that this story is always in the back of my mind even if I'm not posting on any regular schedule. This story means too much to me to leave it incomplete, so bear with me; it may not get updated with any frequency, but I'm still working on it. If you're still in this with me, leave it on alert and you will see it updated from time to time.

Thank you, to everyone still reading this and enjoying it. I write it for you as much as for me.

Chapter 2

"He's awake, Katherine."

Her hand tightened around the cellphone, her grip squeezing in time with her suddenly increased heart rate.

"Is he—"

"He's asking for you," came the joyful response. "Oh, Katherine, he looks good. He's even making jokes, if you can believe that."

"Of course he is, Martha," she replied, a ghost of a smile threatening to split into a grin as she imagined him propped up in his hospital bed holding court.

It was quiet down the line as the two women listened to each other breathe in their collective relief. Beckett though again, for what could only be counted as the thousandth time in the past three days, of the last time she had seen him.

She shook her head to rid herself of the bleak thoughts and returned her attention to the still remarkably quiet woman on the other end.

"I'm on my way, Martha; I'll be there as soon as I can."

With a grandiose, albeit happy and excited acknowledgement, the older woman disconnected the call. Beckett paused and considered the state of her desk. His case-file lay around her, occupying unused chairs from across the bull-pen, pulled up around her like siege towers in her newly constructed fortress. She had been sat like this since around four that morning, when she had slunk away from her apartment with her boyfriend still asleep in her bed. She hardly paid him a glance as she dressed and left for the precinct.

Beckett captured the corner of her bottom lip between her teeth, glancing from screen captures of traffic cam footage atop a chair to her right, to the stack of witness testimonies laid across her desk phone. The only unoccupied surface was the well-worn brown chair to the left of her desk.

Beckett's gaze settled heavily on the grooves and valleys of his chair. She felt sick at its vacancy, knowing it would sit empty for some time. Taking a deep, fortifying breath she reached for her jacket, for a time successfully locking away that path of thought.

He's awake, she thought with no small amount of pleasure. She could worry about the rest later.

"I think it's safe to say that Bon Jovi's 'You Give Love a Bad Name' will forever hold new meaning." He concluded his declaration with a voice-roughened rendition of the song's opening lyrics.

"Shot through the heart!"

His enraptured audience broke out into genuine laughter, more than a few heads shaking in amusement.

"Dad," his daughter groaned, but her smile belied her annoyance at the man lying in the hospital bed.

"Come to think of it, didn't they have a song called, 'Shot Through the Heart'?"

"Bro," Esposito interjected, "you know way too much about Bon Jovi."

Castle coughed out a chuckle, his throat a little dry. He reached gingerly for the paper cup on his bed tray and took an equally careful sip.

"Well," came the deep, yet feminine rumble, familiar to him from anywhere in time or space. In this instance, it was the doorway of his private room. "I find it hard to believe he can relate too greatly to their every-man-rebel lyrics. One could hardly call you an 'every-man', Castle."

His eyes drank her in, took note of her slightly rumpled appearance that still managed to be gorgeous. His grin radiated joy as he watched her move slowly into the room from her perch against the door sill. He schooled his features, pretending to consider her comment seriously.

"This is true," he began, his eyes twinkling with barely contained amusement. "But I think it's fair to say I can relate remarkably well to Bon Jovi's 'lovelorn-Romeo' motifs."

Her pleased grin faltered for just a moment, before securing back in place.

"Two marriages would make you something of an expert, Castle," Ryan chuckled.

"Well," he replied, his eyes staying on Kate, "they do say third time's the charm."

He saw her throat bob as she swallowed and he tried not to jump to conclusions before they had a proper chance to talk. He knew she would have something to say about his rather inopportune confession, but he was determined to stay the course now that everything was out in the open.

Alexis cleared her throat subtly. Her eyes implored him to dispel the awkward air that had briefly settled around them all. She looked increasingly uncomfortable as Beckett came to stand beside her, and Castle noticed his daughter's posture stiffened and angled away slightly from the detective.

Castle coughed an 'ahem' to clear the tension, before allowing himself an especially charismatic, almost unctuous grin. Gesturing to the walls of the hospital room, he chuckled, "But who'd want to get married when they could spend their days in this oasis?"

The room erupted into gentle laughter, even Kate felt her own tension loosen. He was going to be okay; she could see that now.

"Last one, I swear."

"You said that twenty-minutes ago," she groaned.

"This time, I'm sure." His eyes danced across her features as she brought her hands up to rub across her forehead, feigning the grief of a headache as she turned equally feigned bemusement in his direction.

"Fine," she murmured. He nearly squealed in excitement. And probably would have, she thought, if pain didn't burn through him every time he breathed too deeply.

I'm so sorry, Castle.

"Okay, I need to make this a good one, if it's my last…" His eyes scanned about the room for inspiration.

"Oh, oh, okay! Patrick Stewart, uh… Batman! Aaaand… ehn, Chelsea Handler."

"Chelsea, who?"

"You know, that blonde late-night talk-show host that you practically sent flowers to when she made fun of my use of 'Quatrain' in Heat Rises."

"Right… Marry."

"Really?" he gasped, his hand rising very gently in mock indignation.

"We clearly find the same things ridiculous and unromantic, so, you know," she grinned, "match made in Heaven."

He scowled at her, but his eyes gleamed with mirth.

"While I think that may be the silliest reason to marry someone," he ignored her amused scoff of 'you'd know', "I accept. Continue."

"Sex with Patrick Stewart and kill Batman."


"What?" she glared, clearly unimpressed with his cry of incredulity.

"You would kill Batman?!" At her shrug, he sputtered, "But you and he have the same origin story!"

She raised one eyebrow, but shrugged again. "I had to pick, and there's something sexy about Patrick Stewart I can't define."

"Well," he began easily, the early makings of a smug grin pulling at his mouth. "You clearly have a thing for older men."


"Thought I heard your voice," rumbled the deep timbre of a voice from the doorway. Kate turned sharply around from her perch in the seat beside Castle's bed.

"Josh." She gulped down a momentarily panicked gasp. "You scared me."

Josh's easy smile didn't reach his eyes, but it stayed on his face as he took in the two before him.

"Sorry," he looked properly chastened, though amused. "Didn't realize you were here; thought you were still at the precinct until I heard your voice."

"Yes," she straightened nervously. "Well…" Her eyes gestured towards Castle, who for his part hadn't let the doctor's abrupt entrance mar his jovial mood too substantially. Must be some morphine, Beckett thought.

"Of course," Josh chuckled as he turned his attention to Castle. "How're you feeling?"

"Like, I've been shot," he deadpanned. Beckett shifted uncomfortably and her jaw clenched tightly, successfully restraining the burgeoning guilt from roiling in her stomach with nausea. "But the company is second to none."

Kate's watery gaze met his steady, pleased eyes and she swallowed hard to keep her emotions in check.

"Couldn't agree more!" Josh laughed. "Hey, babe," he murmured as he put his arm gently around her shoulder. Kate subtly tried to shrug it away as she caught the slight darkening of Castle's eyes.

I love you, Kate.

Her stomach churned at the combined memory and the feel of Josh's heavy arm across her shoulder. Her earlier movements had been too subtle to dislodge him, but he did move away now to get a better angle on her face.

"He's going to be fine, Kate," Josh continued, concern coating his gentle utterance.

When she didn't reply, he took a tentative step away, dropping his arm back to his side.

"Anyway," he sighed, shoving his hands a little indelicately into his pristine lab coat. "See you tonight?"

"Um," she glanced sharply at Castle before stepping towards her boyfriend. She lowered her voice, marginally, for privacy when she readdressed the doctor. "I'm, uh, going back to the precinct tonight."

His posture straightened dramatically and when he spoke, there was a coolness to his voice Kate had heard before. Usually it was used when discussing her numerous hours at work, so she was unfazed when he all he said was, "I see."

With a controlled but not unpleasant nod to Castle in the hospital bed, Josh turned and left the room. Kate looked after him, sighing heavily before she returned her attention to Castle.

His vaguely expectant, puppy-dog interest greeted her and she plastered on an exaggerated smile.

"So, yeah, marry Chelsea; screw Patrick; kill Batman."

Castle held her stare, his expression darkening as their gaze stayed strong, but she didn't crack and, for once, he didn't push.

For those of you who may be concerned about Beckett's characterisation, let me leave you with this: Beckett is a deeply complex character with insecurities too numerous to count and this story, at the very least, is a character-study of that.

No one said it better than Castle when he stated that she could be happy, but she chooses to hide in nowhere relationships with men she doesn't love. The truth is, Beckett does hide in her relationship with Josh, but another truth is that we don't know what she was like in that relationship. We never got to see it play out with any significance on the show and it's hardly mentioned again after her speech in 'Rise'. We know what she's like now, with Castle, now that she's truly in love, but we have no idea what she was like with Josh. I don't believe she was in love with Josh. I do believe she hid in that relationship because Beckett is the type that prefers a relationship with no pressure or commitment, so that when it inevitably ends, she can say it was what she wanted since she had so little invested in it to begin with. Beckett allows herself that vacation from reality because the rest of her life relies on her being entirely in control and emotional-investment strips a bit of that control away, potentially affecting her life outside of it. Castle is dangerous to that delicate balance. As obtuse as she pretends to be when it comes to her feelings for him, she knows that Castle has at least the potential to be it for her and it scares her. The level of pain that results from a loss of that kind of permanent love would unmake her and it seems Beckett fears nothing more than emotional pain. She fears an end to something with Castle, ignoring the part where it could be wonderful with him, too. This story endeavours to explore how she gets from that mentality to a stable place where she can dive into it with him, while in the emotional landscape of him taking a bullet for her.

I don't profess to have her all figured out - sometimes I think even the Castle writer's don't have her entirely nailed down yet - but I do love discussing her. If you want to engage further in my characterisation of her, please PM me. I welcome all thoughtful debate on the subject.

Also, I'm on tumblr: icancounttog