3. Please don't leave.

The white plastic bags crinkle against his leg and Castle shifts, fingers burning from the weight. He raises his free hand to knock before he can talk himself out of it. Twenty seconds pass and the angry bees in his chest stir, leave him vibrating. He knocks again, harder this time. Louder.

The door swings open just as he's rejecting his fifth plan of how to successfully break in without winding up shot.

"Castle?" Beckett croaks out his name, her voice somehow both thick and broken. Pink skin rims her nose and he can see the tail of a wadded up ball of tissues poking out the side of her fist. "What are -?"

She breaks off into a coughing fit, her body folding almost in half with the intensity. He slips over the threshold and she glares up at him. The red cheeks and dark circles under her watery eyes detract from the usual blood curdling effect and he grins.

Castle busies himself at her kitchen counter. He unpacks the bags, stacking up tubs of soup and boxes of medicine and crinkly little packages of tissues, imagining it as some sort of fort of good intentions that can ward off the weight of her weakened yet still powerful scowl.

The coughing subsides and Beckett shuts the door, her full body weight sagging against it as she focuses on him. "What are you doing here?"

Castle sweeps his arm toward the counter to show off his loot. "I would think that should be pretty obvious even to your fever addled brain, Beckett."

She sniffs, scrubbing the wad of tissues against her nose before stuffing them into the pocket of her ratty bathrobe. He appraises her as she pushes off the door and shuffles toward him. Greasy hair pulled up into a messy bun, flannel pajama pants that hang off her slender hips, and a faded NYU t-shirt that he would bet has a hole in at least one of the armpits.

He's never seen her like this before. He's seen her without her armor, without the security of her badge and gun, but even then there was something - Something strong and impenetrable about her. Otherwordly. But this -

This is human. Painfully so.

It makes his heart ache.

"Did you buy out the entire pharmacy, Castle?" She shuffles over to the kitchen and sinks down onto a stool at the island. He can hear wheezing from five feet away. "What the hell is all this?"

He pushes up his sleeves and flourishes his hands toward the counter. "This, Detective, is the Rick Castle Flu Killer Kit." Her left eyebrow inches toward her sweaty hairline and he waves her off. "Title is a work in progress. But what we have here is basically everything you could ever want in your battle against the dreaded influenza." He points to the different boxes and bottles as he lists them off. "You've got DayQuil, NyQuil, Vicks Vaporub, ibuprofen, TheraFlu, Robitussin, and cough drops of both the mentholated and non variety."

Beckett drops her head into her hand and looks up at him through heavy lids.

"Moving on from the medicinal -" he takes a step to the left and does his best Vanna White impression in front of the next pile - "we have foodstuffs, starting with soups and sports drinks, both in a variety of flavors. Not feeling soup? How about some saltine crackers? Crackers not doing it for you?" He picks up a tub and wiggles it seductively in her direction. "I'll bet some Ben and Jerry's would do wonders for that sore throat."

Her free hand lifts, fingers curling in and out in a childlike gesture of desire. Castle pops the lid off the pint of Strawberry Cheesecake and passes it over. The trip from the store to her apartment has left the ice cream a little soupy and he swallows hard as she leans forward and puckers her lips against the rim, sipping at the melted puddle on top. She closes her eyes and hums and the shock of pure arousal that flickers across his nerve endings makes the hair on his arms stand at attention.

"Spoon," she rasps.

Castle gropes behind himself for the silverware drawer, unwilling to look away. He grabs the first thing he finds, a fat and round soup spoon, and hands it to her. Her brow furrows when she swallows and the desire heating his blood cools in an instant.

"What's over there?" She points the spoon toward the last of his troves, cheesecake flavored ice cream dripping onto the island.

"Only the most important part of any convalescence, Detective." Castle steps to the side and presents the bounty with his best The Price Is Right model arm movements. "Entertainment."

"Oh my god, Castle. How many DVDs did you buy?"

"I'll have you know that all of these come lovingly and gently used from my own personal library."

Her eyes squint as she reads the titles. "You had a copy of 'Fried Green Tomatoes'?"

"Two, actually. Alexis made me buy my own after I kept forgetting to give hers back." The corners of her mouth twitch and he pulls the dvd out of the stack. "What do you say, Beckett? Wanna watch a man get murdered and served as barbecue?"

She looks up at him, her glassy eyes clearing. "Why are you here, Castle? Why did you do all of this?"

He shrugs.

He can't give her the real answer. Not yet. Not while she's with another man. He won't do that.

"Just wanted to make sure you had everything you need. I know Josh is -" Castle shrugs again. "I know how much it sucks to be alone when you're sick."

Beckett slides off the stool, her slippered feet hitting the floor with a soft thwump. The loose belt of her robe sways as she turns toward the living room, ice cream tucked tight to her chest. She flops onto the couch, folding her body into one corner.

"We're skipping the part with the train."

The ice cream sits on the coffee table, nothing left but sticky bits of strawberry glued to the sides. The movie plays and Castle only half pays attention as Mary Stuart Masterson carries a jar of fresh honey across a field. He steals another glance at the other end of the couch. Beckett lays on her side, head resting on a Union Jack pillow and feet nestled underneath his left thigh. Her eyelids flutter in her sleep and he smiles, his heart so full that he thinks it might actually burst.

"You remind me of Idgie."

Castle jumps, hand flying to his chest. "Jesus, Beckett. I thought you were asleep."

She hums. "Bee charmer." Her lips curl just at the corners. "Both of you."

He has no words for that.

The credits roll over the final scene and Castle stretches, his neck popping as he rolls it from side to side. He sits forward, careful not to crush the feet still tucked securely under his leg. Beckett coughs in her sleep and he stands up.


Castle turns back, finds her looking at him through one cracked lid.


"Please don' leave." Her words are slurred and thick and it takes every ounce of his willpower not to stride back over to the couch and scoop her into his arms.

"I'm not," Castle assures her in soft voice. "I'm just going to get you some medicine."

Beckett nods and lets her eye slip shut again.

Castle grabs the bottle of NyQuil and a Gatorade from the kitchen then stands in front of the small tower of DVD cases, deliberating.

"Tom Hanks." Her voice barely makes it across the room. "I like him."

With a smile, he pulls 'You've Got Mail' from the stack. He likes Tom Hanks too.

It's a good start.