When all my hopes and dreams
Have been betrayed
I stand before you
My hands are empty

I am yours
If you are mine

When I fall and stumble
Flat on my face
When I'm shamed and humbled
In disgrace

I am yours
If you are mine

When voices call me
To question my faith
When misperception
Taints my love with hate

I am yours
If you are mine


'I Am Yours' Tracy Chapman


Chapter Sixteen: If you are mine.


He wouldn't come back to bed in the end. Even though he'd held her close and they'd cried for a long while together. Even though she'd begged, seriously, begged him to just crawl under the covers with her and rest – he'd refused.

Gently.

Apologetically.

Remorsefully.

But he'd been immovable and unrelenting - and in his eyes she'd seen such fear. For her, and of himself, a dark vortex of uncertainty that had taken up residence in the center of his soul, despite everything he was doing to fight it. And fighting it he was - she knew he was. With his memories now restored finally this was the Richard Castle she loved looking back at her – seeing her. All their years of history in his gaze, years of love – but this wasn't a battle he could win in a single moment. This was war he'd be waging for who-knows-how-long a time to come.

Still, it had hurt immeasurably to go along with his insistence that he'd sleep on the couch, but she'd done it in the end – if only for his sake. He'd clearly needed her to allow him some space and the safety of some distance between them while each of them sought whatever rest they could get.

For her part it certainly hadn't been much.

She'd slept fitfully - plagued by nightmares where Castle became Jerry Tyson, continuing Tyson's legacy of triple murders while she was forced to be the one to try and catch him. She'd woken with a low cry each time, her body damp from perspiration, her face wet with tears - staring into the darkness of their bedroom alone, heart aching as it raced inside her.

After the third time some variation on the theme had woken her up, Kate had crept into the living room in the dark and silently watched him tossing and turning for around half an hour. When she'd had to bite her hand to keep from going to him as he whimpered in his sleep, she'd forced herself to go back to bed and allow him his privacy. Waking him and having him know she'd witnessed his nightmares wasn't what he'd want for her this night, so she'd made herself try once again for slumber. Finally she'd fallen into a dreamless state around five in the morning.

Waking now - barely three hours later, to the sound of rain and the grey of a New York morning, Kate looks around their bedroom and fills with hate that what happened last night had to occur here.

This place . . . this room has always felt to her almost sacred. Their sanctuary it's always been and now . . . now the peace of it, the memory of it is tainted. That hurts. And however they manage to reclaim it in the future, surely traces of last nights events will always cast shadows here, it's so unfair – the hate swells and Kate realizes she's shaking.

And there is nothing to be done for it.

Blinking hard before tears can threaten; Beckett pushes her tired and somewhat aching body upright, swallowing experimentally before she grimaces. Her throat has swollen, the full extent of the damage done to it evident, she exits the bed, padding quickly into the en-suite so she can look at the injury in the mirror. Her reflection stares back her, looking much as she expected, but she finds herself shuddering anyway. The ring of dark blue/black bruising that circles her slender neck is truly jarring, the pattern clearly large, strong hands – she knows when Rick sees it . . . how does she stop that from being shattering?

She's going to have to cover it up. Convince him that its better he not see it, and then she's going to have to hide it from everyone. She can already imagine their reactions and how they'll judge him, how they wouldn't fully understand what really happened. She barely understands herself – even as she knows in the truest heart of her that he is NOT to blame for his actions.

The conviction stops her in her tracks though, because despite what she believes in the cold light of day she's still floundering, unsure of what it is that they do now.

How does she begin to help him? How does she help herself?

How do they take the necessary steps that they have to, to get past this? Together.

Momentarily overwhelmed her eyes close on a wave of despair, only flying opening once again when she hears a strangled gasp from behind her. Her gaze immediately locks on Castle's devastated face, pale and wan in the mirror beside her. He should seem large, so tall and broad, bare-chested in nothing but his pajama bottoms standing at her back - but he looks diminished. He looks . . . reduced. His haunted eyes are locked on the damage that he's caused to her neck, and Kate feels the weight of his gaze like it's physical. The remorse in every line of his rugged face is harrowing.

He opens and then closes his mouth, emitting just small, disorientated sounds. She sees him reach out a hand towards her, but then he drops it very suddenly, holding his arms rigidly at his sides, hands fisting frustratedly.

Empathy swamps her, and in the wake of its swell she finds herself eerily calm.

"I'm really okay," she tells him softly, "I promise, Rick . . . I'm fine."

She's hoping to reassure him, but Castle bristles - biting on his lip until it blanches, he shakes his head, and then buries his right hand in his hair.

"No," he disagrees, "No. You're really not."

Turning so that she's actually facing him not staring at his reflection, Kate paints her expression determined. She steps towards him only to be thwarted when he instantly backs up, both his hands flying out in protest - warding her away.

"Don't"

"You aren't going to hurt me," she says pleadingly. "Castle, please. I need you to hold me. Just like you held me last night and comforted me, I'm perfectly-"

"It's not SAFE." He roars, cutting her off. The sound is intense in the tiled space, shocking her into silence.

He's trembling. She can see him almost vibrating on the spot, quivering with pent up emotion he can't seem to find an outlet for and there's an instant when she hates herself for letting him step away last night – for letting him have any distance from her when her gut was screaming it would be a mistake. She expected that it would be a tough morning for them; so much to figure out, but this – this verges on terrifying. She can feel that nightmare timeline resurface again; all they are slipping through her fingers, inexorable like cascading grains of sand.

Her jaw clenches.

"You have to forgive yourself," she says through gritted teeth. "You have to trust in who you are, Castle. As I trust you. I know you've moved past the worst of this now you've gotten your memories back - and you're safe, Rick. Tyson can only hurt you, he can only hurt us now if you let him," she insists.

Electric blue eyes look so unsure, Castle shakes his head in wordless denial, his gaze dropping to the limestone floor and seeming to lose itself among the natural crevices of the stone.

Kate waits, lets him think. The temptation to cover the distance between them, to wrap him in her arms beckons like a siren, but she resists it. Her feet shuffle in place, needing to at least move but she forces herself to give him this moment. He'll surely realize she's only telling him the truth.

But he doesn't see it.

"I can't. I thought I could. I mean last night I . . . but can't you see, Kate there's no way I can risk that you might . . . that I might . . . "he says in the end, and then scary silence simply stretches out between them as they stare at each other helplessly.

Two people who love each other more than life, standing at a crossroads.

Because that's what this is Kate realizes under a sudden wave of panic – a causal nexus. This moment right now and what they do with it determines everything they'll become in the future. And if she lets him step back, gives him space, room to doubt his self, gives him any ammunition to fuel this self-loathing - it'll be over. They'll be over. He'll build a fortress around himself to protect the ones he loves from the physical harm he believes he could inflict. Walls designed to keep him in and them out – the sort of walls that can't be climbed, made of demons.

"But you're mine," she protests weakly, a whimper, not really realizing she's even speaking until she hears the words as they fall form her lips, "You're mine and I'm yours."

Boil everything else away and this is the essence that remains.

Castle nods eyes gleaming with unshed tears, "Always," he replies, it's their promise – so why does it sound now more like 'Goodbye'.

Anxiety threatens to undo her, and Kate fights for calm.

Don't give in. Don't back down.

Something clicks inside her and she moves like lightening, throwing herself against his body, forcing him to catch her so his arms go around her. Hers go tight around his neck and she plasters herself along the length of him, leaves no gap, not even a hairs breath between them.

Castle staggers a few steps back under the force of her momentum and their combined weight. A moment later and his hands go to her waist, tentative then with just a slight force as he tries to pry her off without exerting any real pressure.

'Hold me," she demands, her face tight against the side of his neck, the warmth of her breath making him shiver as she speaks the words.

"Kate . . . Kate stop . . . please," he murmurs, trying again to push her away. But she's got him here and she knows it, because he can't bring himself to use any of his real strength against her. He's far too afraid of it, afraid he might hurt her – and if it's unfair to use that to her advantage she doesn't give a damn. She's not going to let him do this.

"I said, hold me, Castle." It's a command now. "Last night you told me Tyson wouldn't win. You agreed we wouldn't give up, said we'd never let go. Did you lie to me, Rick?"

He shakes his head, but whether it's to deny his own words or to deny her she can't say. She wants desperately to pull back, chance a look into his face but doesn't dare. Instead Kate holds fast, clinging to him, determined to remain in his arms until he concedes and she feels she believes him.

"I'm scared." His voice is quiet when it comes, but open somehow, like there's a crack in his armor and she can still get through it.

"I understand. I do," she answers. "Castle, I'm asking you to trust me," she tells him.

He sighs, tension personified inside the circle of her arms, but on a small exhale he at least stops trying to pry her off of him.

"But when it all came back I stopped seeing you, Kate. All I could see, or feel, or hear was him. I didn't realize what I was physically doing until it was almost too late. What if that happens again?"

"It won't," she retorts, continuing before he can refute it, "It can't. You're you again, Rick. And you would never hurt me. You know this; you know it's the truth."

"And if who I am has changed?" he asks. "You have such faith in me, Kate. Even when I couldn't remember you, I could see that. How much you believed in the man I was. If you're wrong . . . you might pay with your life."

She isn't wrong, and knowing this Beckett allows herself to pull back finally and look up into his tortured face. She tells him,

"You are my life. And for you there is no risk I won't take."