"Katie," he coaxes, watching as his daughter's dark eyes sparkle with defiance. "I know you can do it, sweetheart, walk to daddy."
She's standing, looking far more precarious than usual, holding onto the bed frame for support. The only reason she's not walking is because she knows how much he wants her to do it.
Sometimes it knocks the breath out of him, how much she is like Kate.
He's not the only one – Jim was the one who was so overwhelmed by the similarities between his granddaughter and daughter that he mistakenly called the former "Katie" when she was just seven months old. Eva Kate Castle responded to the slip up so intensely, her head turning as if the name was her own, that the nickname stuck.
He's well aware that Kate is going to kill him for allowing their daughter to be known as Katie, but he has his explanation already planned; every last detail worked out to ensure she can't stay mad.
He's had long enough to work out the kinks.
"She's being stubborn, Kate," he chuckles, looking to his wife. "So much like you."
He's used to it now, the sound of the machines. Accustomed to the sight of his wife so motionless, the way her pale skin almost fades into the white bed sheets.
"Come on, baby, walk for mommy, please?"
She blinks at him, lets out a heavy breath as if it is such a task he's asking of her, and takes the few confident steps into his arms.
"Oh, well done, sweetheart," he grins, lifting her to his chest and standing so that she can see her mother. "I told you she was walking, Kate," he boasts, so proud.
"Momma," Eva mumbles, her chubby little arm reaching for Kate, and he sighs, sitting carefully on the bed. Eva reaches for Kate's hand, playing with her fingers, and he dusts a kiss to his daughter's wispy brown hair.
"I love you," he murmurs and Eva giggles, moving from Kate's hand to his own, pulling and pushing at his wedding band.
"You," Eva repeats, and he smiles at her, able to read the sentiment in her eyes, even if she only repeats one of the words.
Eva starts getting antsy at lunchtime, and he knows it's time to go. They have the routine down, by now.
He collects the various toys and books that they've spread around the room, shoving them all into the bag and setting it by the bed before lifting Eva.
"Say bye Momma," he whispers, pressing a kiss to his wife's forehead.
"Bye Momma," Eva parrots and he sighs, pausing at the door like he always does, ever hopeful that in the second before he turns away she'll open her eyes.
"We'll see you tomorrow."
His mother has that same look in her eyes she always does when he gets home from seeing Kate, that morbid apprehensiveness, as if one day he won't be able to go back.
He's said it before, so he doesn't bother saying it again.
She will wake up, eventually.
He's heard every statistic in the world, researched comas and read medical journals, but there's one thing that none of the evidence accounts for.
Katherine Beckett is a fighter.
She's the strongest person he knows, and she's determined not to leave her daughter motherless. It won't be like this forever.
She's going to wake up, one day.
She might be one for evidence and statistics, but he's one for miracles, for hope.
But his mother seems to think that it pains him, going back there everyday, and okay, maybe it does.
Maybe his heart clenches every time they leave her there, still unresponsive, but he can't even consider any other option.
Besides, Eva has a right to know her mother, especially when her mother was so desperate to know her.
His daughter is kicking her feet, anxious to be put down, and he chuckles at her energy, abiding by her wishes.
"You want to show Gram how well you walk?" He asks, but she's already wobbling over to her grandmother, her face set with determination.
"Well done, Eva," she praises, looking to him. "Getting faster."
"I know," he moans, unable to resist lifting Eva into his arms and peppering her face with kisses. "Soon she'll have me chasing her everywhere."
His mother chuckles, her eyes sparkling in amusement.
"Something tells me that this little one might just get you back for how easy you had it with Alexis."
He groans, knowing it to be the truth. Eva has a fire in her, the kind he used to see in his wife, and he isn't deluded enough to think it's going to be easy.
She's already painfully stubborn, and he knows the years to come will only be more of a challenge.
But Kate will be there to help him out.
Even with the amount of money he's funnelling into Kate's care, they wouldn't permit a party, so they've postponed the big festivities until tomorrow so the two of them can spend the day with Kate.
He brought all of the presents though, has them laid out on the table, Eva in his lap.
"First one, baby girl," he says, passing the gift to her, laughing as she tears into the paper with little encouragement, as if she's a practised hand. Scraps of wrapping paper fly, making a mess of the room, and he just revels in the madness.
If he closes his eyes he can almost hear her.
"You went overboard, Castle,"
"Yeah, well, it's not every day she turns one, is it?"
He smiles, his hands around his daughter, the picture in his mind so clear.
"Momma," Eva says, her voice unprecedentedly strong, and his eyes snap open instinctively.
Blue meets brown and he blinks again, because is she…?
Nurses flood the room, and he finds himself being pushed aside as they tend to her, his irrepressible questions going unanswered.
Her eyes slip closed again and his heart rate increases, as every anecdote he's ever read about coma patients and recovery compete for attention.
Is she really awake? Is she slipping back into the coma? Is this the beginning of the end? Or is it a good sign?
He doesn't understand how her eyes opening could be a bad thing, but what if…?
He is ushered out into the hallway, but he can't take his eyes off Kate.
They're saying something about taking her to the hospital and further tests and not being too hopeful, stressing that she's been unresponsive for a long time, and Castle just stares, overwhelmed.
But Eva is wriggling in his arms, a grimace on her face, and he knows that she's distressed, that all of the chaos is upsetting her, so he swallows, tries to clear his head.
They're organising to transport Kate to a hospital, so he moves outside, calling his mother and Jim and making plans to meet them there.
They ask questions he can't answer, and he holds on to the one thing he does know.
She opened her eyes.
He sits outside the hospital, mumbling gibberish to Eva, random words that don't form sentences because it's all he can vocalise without letting go of the mess that is is brain at the moment, thoughts his one-year-old should not be privy to.
His head snaps up to see Jim, and he gets to his feet carefully, feeling a little light-headed.
"She opened her eyes," he whispers, still trying to convince himself it wasn't a dream. But no, he's never seen those beautiful eyes look like that before… So afraid, so unsure; he couldn't have imagined it if he tried.
"They're taking her for tests, I have to wait for my mother to pick up Eva."
He holds his daughter tight, desperate to anchor himself to something when it feels like his whole world is shifting and he doesn't yet know if it's a good thing.
Jim's voice is soft as he reaches for Eva, trying to take her, and Rick blinks, relinquishing his hold on the girl.
"Go check on her," Jim says, quiet but firm, and Rick presses a kiss to his daughter's forehead before acquiescing.
He finds her doctor with minimal effort, who explains that she's getting an MRI, that she seems to be showing signs of recovery, that she's responding to light, sound and pain, but that she isn't fully conscious, and there are still risks of infection and intracranial swelling. The words are too much and too fast, and Castle's stuck on the fact that she's waking up. The doctor is quick to warn him that it will be a slow process, that she may not improve further, but he can't find it in himself to care. She's doing better than she was yesterday, and he can't ask for much more.
When he's finally able to see her, he struggles not to overreact.
He was told to avoid moving quickly or suddenly, to keep the noise low, so he tenses every muscle in his body, waiting until the bed is back in place to move closer.
His voice is nowhere near as strong as he intends, but when her eyes flick to him, he doesn't even care.
Those beautiful eyes, as expressive as ever, stare back at him, confused, and he chokes out a soft laugh, reaching for her hand.
He has to temper the hope that is blooming in his chest, because he wasn't expecting her to be so responsive, not after the doctors talked it down.
"You're okay. You're going to be okay, sweetheart," he says, the nickname he calls Eva slipping out because she looks so small, so much like their daughter.
"I love you. I love you, and everything's going to be okay."
He let himself hope.
It was stupid, and he knew it, but it was unpreventable.
Now he feels the all too familiar jarring disappointment.
She isn't waking up.
The doctors tell him that it's progress, her opening her eyes, but it goes no further.
He takes Eva to see her, hoping that their daughter will spark some form of recognition from Kate, and maybe it's selfish, but he's disappointed when it yields no results.
She opens her eyes, she recoils in response to pain, but that's it.
She's no more his wife than she was before, and it stings worse than it did when she was completely unresponsive.
It's two painful weeks before he comes to terms with it.
Hope is the enemy, and he puts it to bed.
He doesn't need hope, he has faith.
One day, she will recover fully. One day, she will open her eyes and really see them.
He doesn't need to waste his time being hopeful; he just needs to be patient.
But then he's sitting beside her bed, retelling stories of his adventures yesterday with Eva when she grabs his wrist, and the hope returns.
The doctors are all but sure, now.
They're wary of getting his hopes up but he just snorts at them, because with every tiny change in her behaviour his disobedient hopes soar whether he wants them to or not.
She's getting better.
They don't know whether she'll be functional when she regains consciousness, but they're confident that she is in fact waking up.
They warn him that she won't be the woman he remembers. There's no telling what long-term brain damage she might have, whether her memory, speech or motor function will be impaired.
He struggles to imagine the possibilities, forces them from his mind and instead focuses on the fact that after almost a year, she's coming out of it.
After almost a year without her, he's going to get his wife back.
He continues to visit, monitoring every slight change in her behaviour, hope incessant.
He's sitting with Eva, telling her a story as she listens intently, when Kate's fingers squeeze his.
It makes his heart jump, the emotion thick in his throat as he imagines her awake and present with them.
Eva clamours for his attention and he apologises, kissing the top of her head and continuing the story, but she still isn't satisfied.
He looks to Kate, seeing instantly that this is different. Her eyes are that much more expressive, the desperation in them making him anxious to fix whatever is distressing her.
He moves out of the way, fading into the background of the room while the nurses and doctors enter, but her eyes never leave his.
He doesn't hear the doctor speaking because her eyes are too loud for him to listen to anything else. He's drawn to her side, desperate to touch her, and when he reaches for her, her fingers tangle with his, her mouth moving.
"Castle," his name is a broken rasp, and it's the most beautiful thing he's ever heard.
Prompt: Beckett is in a coma, leaving Castle to bring up their one-month old baby. Kate wakes up when the baby is one years old.