A/N: Fair warning that this fic is quite the disaster.
Light in her eyes. Too many voices. None of them his.
Lightning ripples up her side, the cage of her ribs in flames, and Kate lets out a breath, flattens her palm over her stomach, not too far below the bullet's entry wound. Her body feels so heavy, every ounce of her strength gone, dedicated to the crawl towards her husband, to the clasp of their hands. But the fingers that his once encased are now empty.
His name leaves her lips this time, a rasped, shriveled up thing, but it does not go unheard.
"Hold on, Beckett," one of the voices swirling around her calls out, one she recognizes. Ryan. "We're almost there."
"Castle," she breathes again, and it hurts, hurts so badly to breathe. "Need - Cas-"
"He's in the other ambulance," Ryan promises her, and she believes him, even though she's so utterly confused.
She must be in one too then, one that drives over a pothole in that exact moment, rattles her frame and tears a ragged cry from her throat.
"Hey, watch it!" Ryan's shout echoes in the small space, a muffled apology thrown back, and Kate peels her eyes open, meets the panicked gaze of the detective sitting beside her. "You're going to make it, Kate. It's not as bad as – not like last time. I promise you'll-"
"No, Castle," she gets out, pleads. She has to know, has to know if he made it, he had to make it. "Ryan-"
"I don't know," Ryan chokes out, bowing his head and scrubbing a hand over his eyes. "Espo's with him. He was shot in the chest-"
"No," the sob rips its way from her chest, tears her wide open. "Not him, not Castle, not - no-"
"Beckett, listen to me, you have to calm down," Ryan begs, motioning to a man near her opposite shoulder. "Castle's alive, he's just not out of the woods yet. But he's alive. We're almost at the hospital, okay?"
But she can't stop. The tears burn through her eyes, blur the image of Ryan hunched above her, the ice shards of his eyes melting, and Kate begins to keen as her chest heaves. All her fault, Castle was going to die and it was all her fault.
"Shh, Beckett, don't - don't cry," Ryan whispers, but the man at her side, a man who loves Castle almost as fiercely as she does, fails to heed his own words. "He's going to make it. You'll both make it. You have to."
Ryan repeats the words to her like a lullaby until the sobs wracking her frame, stoking the fire crackling through her sternum, simmer to quiet whimpers that rock her to sleep with the motion of the ambulance and whatever the paramedic put in her IV.
He is so glad he doesn't remember the first time being shot. This was hell, true and utter hell, and he was in agony and where was his wife?
"She's still in surgery, bro," Esposito answers his unspoken question.
The detective has been at his bedside for the last three hours, since he awoke from his own lengthy surgery. The chest tube had been removed, Esposito had been the one to talk him through the torture of that, and the first word that had flown from Castle's mouth the second he could produce more than an incoherent grunt had been her name.
Kate. Where is she? Where is she? Where is she?
He kept seeing her stagger to the floor, crawling to tangle her hand with his before darkness could consume him, and in that final moment with her, he feared that was how their story ended. In tragedy.
But he's alive and all he wants is the reassurance that Kate is too.
"Espo," he rasps, waving his fingers in dissent when the other man moves for the water on the nearby table. "Go check?"
To his credit, Esposito shows no sign of annoyance or agitation over the request Castle has been repeating for the past three hours.
"I'll be right back."
The nurses were probably sick of them, the doctors too, but they continued to give Esposito whatever updates on Kate that they could. For the last three hours, though, there had been no change.
The last time Kate had been shot, he had suffered in a waiting room throughout the entirety of her surgery, hoping and praying that the woman he loved would survive. The setting had changed, but the sensation of terrible despair had not.
Castle closes his eyes, takes a shallow breath past the sharp throb of pain beating through his chest, and prays that the woman he loves will survive.
Her hospital room is dim, a welcome change from the blinding beam of a flashlight checking her vitals the last time she had awakened. The pain in her chest subdued, but remains a recognizable beast that climbs along her ribs, angry in its return. But she's alive and hopefully Castle is too, and that's all that matters. All she will allow to matter.
"Kate, are you awake?"
Her eyes had fluttered shut, but they fly open at the sound of his voice, and it takes every ounce of her willpower not to snap her attention towards him, to ease her head slowly to the side to see her husband propped up in a wheelchair at her bedside.
"Castle," she breathes, the relief overwhelming, smothering the harsh ache pounding through her chest in time with her battered heart. He's alive. Her husband is alive. And had a matching bandage protruding from the hospital gown draped across his chest. "What - what are you doing out of bed?"
"Sito helped me sneak out," he whispers, his body stiff in the seat, but he lifts his left hand to the edge of her hospital bed, seeks out hers and twines their fingers. "You've been out for a couple of days. I tried to wait, but I hadn't seen you and I kept - I needed to see you."
The tears that leak from her eyes are only partially drug induced, trickling into her hair and racing over her nose to stain the skin of her cheek.
"Rick," she rasps, and he so badly wants to move closer, she can read the yearning shimmering through his eyes, but he's smart, smarter than she ever was, and he doesn't defy his broken body. But he does squeeze her hand, strokes his thumb over the band on her fourth finger. "Thank god you're okay. I thought-"
"Me too," he confesses on an exhale, the city lights streaking through the blinds shielding the windows illuminating the moisture gathering in his gaze. "I thought I lost you. Lost everything."
"Is it over?" she whispers, almost afraid for the answer. She had shot Caleb Brown, shot him until he collapsed against their kitchen cabinets and she saw the life leave his body, but was he really the end? Was it really over, ever over? "Are we safe?"
Castle releases a gentle sigh, careful not to disturb the twin agony in his chest that matches her own. "We're safe, Kate. LokSat is genuinely done this time and we're in the clear."
The last of the tension in her body drains, seeps into the bed. "What happened after we were shot?"
"Remember the surveillance Vikram installed outside the loft a few weeks ago?"
"Oh my god," she breathes out, the closest thing to a laugh she can manage tumbling past her lips. "It caught Caleb sneaking in?"
"Vikram hadn't disabled it yet and just as he was dissembling all of the LokSat tech, he noticed Caleb's break in. He called Ryan and Espo at the bar. They made it to us just in time from what I hear. I think this is the universe's way of making up for all of our bad timing over the years."
He's smiling at her, his eyes sparkling so bright and blue, and Kate squeezes his hand as the gratitude floods her chest, overwhelms her. They had come so close, closer to death than ever before, and they were still beating the odds.
"I thought you were dead because of me," she chokes out, her lips still upturned but quivering. "I thought our story would end in tragedy when all I – all I wanted was our happy ending, and I couldn't-"
"No, Kate, shh," Castle breathes, using the edge of her bed to haul himself in just a fraction closer, wincing with the effort and squeezing her hand at the visible strike of pain that flickers through his body. "Our story is something so great, it would never be a tragedy. And I would never change it. I wouldn't have minded avoiding the gunshot wound to the chest, but as long as I end up with you, I'd do it all again."
Kate stretches her thumb towards the inside of his wrist, strokes over the smooth skin that covers the cadence of his pulse, the proof of his survival.
"So would I."
"Mr. Castle." They both lift their eyes to the open door, the nurse standing in the entryway with disapproval etched into the tired lines of her face, but a softness in her gaze that gives Beckett hope that maybe the woman in scrubs will let her husband stay. "Again?"
"Ah, Nurse Ali."
"What does she mean 'again'?" Beckett murmurs, tightening her grip on his hand. It's a miracle she's stayed awake this long, able to carry out a conversation with him, but she can feel the threat of unconsciousness creeping along the edges of her vision, and she just wants him to stay.
"May have snuck in a few times since moving became possible," Castle admits. "I keep telling Ali to just move us to a bigger room, put my bed next to yours."
Beckett trails her gaze to the woman approaching them, checking the IV pole Castle has dragged in along with him before moving to examine hers.
"Can we do that?" she mumbles, swallowing past the dryness of her throat. "Keep him from hurting himself."
"She has a point."
The nurse sighs. "I'll see what I can do. You both need your rest, especially you, Captain Beckett."
"Is her condition worse than mine?" Castle inquires, the lovely, lighthearted quality to his voice gone, concern sharp and stealing its place.
"No, not necessarily, I just meant because of the baby."
Kate's eyes bulge and Castle's hand goes slack in hers, both of them staring at the female nurse with slackened jaws and parted lips.
"A baby?" Castle echoes on a whisper. "Kate, did you-"
"No," she breathes, flexing the hand not cradled in his, splaying her fingers atop her stomach. "I - I'd been late, but I wasn't - I didn't know-"
"You're pregnant. You're-" Castle lifts his glistening eyes to the woman standing at her bedside with apology in her gaze, but Kate's not upset, just – oh, god, she had been shot while there was a baby inside of her? "Please help me hug my wife. I know it's dangerous for me to move and I need to lie down and she needs her rest, but I just - please-"
"Just a second, Mr. Castle," Ali murmurs, striding to the open doorway and gesturing towards someone neither of them can see.
The woman speaks briefly to the two male nurses she had summoned, and then the men are stepping inside, one easing Kate ever so carefully a few inches to the side without jostling her, making just enough room for the other to haul Castle into a delicate standing position. It's definitely against protocol, definitely bad for his wound, but they manage to hoist Castle onto the bed, prop him up beside her, just close enough for Beckett to feel the heat of him along her side, to lace her arm through his, and for Castle to stain a kiss to her temple.
"Is the baby okay?" Kate asks, her heart in her throat, her chest alive with renewed fire, but all she can focus on is the man at her side and the… the baby in her stomach.
"I'm so sorry I broke the news to you this way, Captain. I should have checked your charts instead of assuming the doctor had already spoken to you, but yes, your baby is fine," Ali assures her and Kate relaxes further into Castle's side, lowers her cheek to his shoulder and breathes in the scent of her husband beneath the blanket of antiseptic and hospital sheets coating his skin. "I'll let your surgeon know you're up and I'll look into a joint room."
"Thank you," Castle murmurs before Ali and the male nurses can leave the room, before he dusts his lips to the top of her head and releases a shuddering breath into her hair. "I would never change this for anything."
He blinks awake to the tips of Kate's fingers circling his skin, the stream of sunlight through their window shining from behind her, haloing her body, and Castle hums, offers her a sleepy grin, and withholds a cheesy remark about an angel in his bed.
"Morning," she chuckles, trailing her hand from the naked plain of his chest to curl around his ear, stroke the delicate shell before combing back the flop of hair from his forehead.
"Morning, not enough sleep?" he mumbles, catching her hand and turning his head to touch his lips to the inside of her wrist, feel the jump of her pulse beneath his kiss.
Kate shifts in closer to him, slipping one of her knees between his, worsening the tangle of sheets around their waists. She's so warm and wonderful, though, soft and sated, that Castle burrows deeper into the cove of her body.
"She keeps waking me up at four, kicking me."
Rick releases her hand, allows her fingers to trickle back to the scar on his chest, the puckered flesh that mirrors her, and coasts his hand down to her stomach, rests his palm atop the small but prominent swell beneath her t-shirt. Sure enough, there is movement in her belly, thumping against the skin he covers.
Their daughter was apparently an early riser.
"She only stops when you do that," Kate mutters, arching her brow at him when the riot of movement stills, calms beneath the drape of his palm. "Already a daddy's girl."
Castle chuckles, shakes his head. "No, it's your attention she starts kicking for, sweetheart. But if this quiets her, we should consider going back to sleep."
Kate hesitates, her eyes still so often drawn to the seven month old scar on his chest, but his wife ducks her head, smears her lips to the spot before easing onto her back, transferring to her side so Castle can tug her body back into the cradle of his.
"Dreams again?" Castle murmurs into her shoulder, curling an arm around her waist to return his hand to her stomach, brushing a kiss to her nape when she presses back further into the bracket of his frame. "I'm here, Kate. We're both okay."
"I know," she whispers, tugging the sheets over their bodies and craning her neck to graze a kiss to his jaw before she settles in his embrace. "But thanks for the reminder."
The view of Paris from outside their window reminds them both of their reality no matter who wakes from the same nightmare, the bump of her stomach between them a reminder of days in the hospital, the months of recovery, physical therapy scheduled around OBGYN appointments. Kate had taken a leave of absence from the precinct, one that may be indefinite, and he was so selfishly glad. So grateful to have her out of any potential crosshairs, to have this quality time with his wife, with their future daughter.
They would return to New York before Kate's due date, but for now, they healed the last of their wounds in the city of lights.
"Who's a pretty girl? That's right, Lily, you are." The coo of her husband's voice echoes through the baby monitor, coaxes her into wakefulness with a smile spreading across her lips, and Kate opens her eyes to the gentle kiss of sunlight illuminating their bedroom. The space beside her is empty but the sheets are warm, and she sits up in the bed, swings her legs over the side. "You look just like your mommy."
She snags the baby monitor and travels from the bedroom, through the study, to the stairs. At one year, Lily rarely woke in the night much anymore, but the sounds of her in her crib, talking to herself often woke one of them, if not both. Today, apparently, her husband had been the one to slip from their warm bed, ascend the steps to their baby girl, and provide some early morning entertainment before breakfast.
Castle is still chatting with Lily once she reaches the second floor, her smile soft but growing as he continues to praise their daughter.
"And you're already such a smart girl too. Again, just like your mom."
"Don't sell yourself so short, Castle," she muses as she enters Lily's bedroom, beaming when their daughter squeals at the sight of her mother. "You're pretty brilliant yourself."
"Aww and generous too," Rick grins, bouncing their little girl in his arms as Kate approaches. "Tell Mommy good morning."
Lily's arms extend towards her mother, her little fingers wiggling as Kate eases her from the cradle of Castle's embrace and pecks a kiss to her forehead before cuddling her against her chest.
"Mama!" Lily squirms, one of her hands flying up to pat Kate's cheek.
"Hi baby, are you having a good morning with Daddy?" she hums, grazing her fingers through the dark strands of Lily's hair, already growing so thick and sticking up at odd angles.
Castle steps up beside her while Lily babbles in response, resting her head to Kate's chest and curling her fingers in the neck of her shirt.
"I always forget to cut that thing off," he sighs, stealing the monitor from her grasp and flicking the switch off. "Hope I didn't wake you."
"Mm, no, not that I mind waking to you gushing about how pretty I am," she teases, dusting her fingers over the baby fine hairs at Lily's nape, offering their daughter her index finger to grasp when she reaches out. "
"Easy habit we could enforce, right, Peanut?"
Lily perks up at the nickname, curiosity shining bright in the hazel pools of her eyes, and Kate groans.
"You're not a peanut," she promises, but Castle only laughs, cups the back of Kate's skull in his large palm and leans in to graze a kiss to her mouth.
"It'll grow on you."
"Will not," she huffs, turning on her heel with Lily still in her arms, soaking up the playful mood of their banter. "You're too precious to be a peanut."
"Pumpkin, Peanut – naming my children after food is my way of showing affection, " Castle quips from behind as they descend the stairs, following Kate into the kitchen and assisting her in transferring Lily to the highchair. "Speaking of Pumpkin, she's free to babysit for date night later."
"Fantastic," Kate grins, retrieving Lily's cereal from the pantry while Castle snags her bowl and a spoon from the dishwasher. "Because there's something I really want to talk to you about."
Her husband stills beside Lily's highchair, allowing their daughter to steal the purple bowl from his hand, clapping the yellow spoon to the plastic and beaming at the cacophony of noise she produces.
"You tell me this and expect me to wait until tonight to ask what it is?" he whines, earning Lily's undivided attention once more, and Kate has to stifle her laughter. "Just tell me now then we can discuss it further tonight, have more time to dedicate date night to other things."
She rolls her eyes at the waggle of his brow, but tightens her fingers around the baby cereal box. It's something they've discussed before, on and off throughout the years, much like the planning for more children, but this part of their future she was certain about right now.
"I know Lily keeps us busy," she begins, approaching her little family with her heart accelerating in her chest, skipping a beat or two. "And so does my job, but I think… there's another option on the table that I want to pursue."
Rick nods, silences Lily's clanging with gentle hands, so he can give Kate his full attention.
"Whatever it is, you know I'm with you," he states in prelude, brushing his palm over Lily's head. "We both are."
Her heart calms at that, his support infusing her with confidence, smothering her doubts.
"Castle, I think I want to run for senator of New York."
He can hear his wife's voice in the back of the store, soft and hushed, the sight of her curled onto a beanbag in the kid's section with their daughter in her lap enough to steal his breath for a second too long. Long enough for Kate to lift her gaze from the vibrantly colored pages of the book balanced in front of them and spot him approaching.
"Hey, look who's finally finished."
Lily follows Kate's gaze, flecks of gold illuminating her irises, identical to her mother's, as she smiles up at him. "Are you done signing books, Daddy?"
"Yep, I signed everyone's books," he replies, covering the last of the distance between bookshelves and his family, plucking his four year old daughter from Kate's side when her arms stretch towards him.
Castle props Lily on his hip, offering his wife his other hand and aiding her in her rise from the beanbag chair.
"Doing okay?" he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her temple and splaying his hand at her waist when she leans into the wall of his chest.
"We're good," she nods, one of her hands ascending to cradle his jaw, her thumb sweeping along the paper thin skin beneath his eye. "You look like you could join Lily for naptime when we get home, though."
"I wouldn't say no to that," he chuckles, smearing his lips to her palm before turning his head to smack a loud kiss to his daughter's cheek that has her giggling into his shoulder. "Did the doctor's appointment go okay this morning?"
"Yeah, great," she assures him, her lips curling upwards in the corners when he brushes his knuckles alongside her stomach. "Still healthy and growing."
"Did you get the-"
"The ultrasound is already on the fridge," she promises as he lowers Lily to her feet.
"I helped Mommy hang it next to the others," his daughter announces proudly, but her eyes are on her mother, something mischievous sparkling in them that Kate answers with a wink.
"Oh, and I picked you up a special copy of your book." He watches Kate reach behind her towards a nearby table, offering him a typical looking edition of Endless Heat with a quirk of her brow and holding it out with insistence when he stares back at her quizzically. "Come on, read the author biography on the book cover."
"It's my book, Beckett, and I approved my biography. I think I know what it says," he chuckles, flipping open the hardcover and scanning the inside cover of the novel.
"See," Castle points out. "Richard Castle lives in New York with his wife, Senator Beckett, and their three… three kids? I - wait, this isn't what I - three? Does that - are you-"
Kate purses her lips to subdue her smile, but Lily pats the swell of her stomach in confirmation. "Mommy's having twins!"
"You're having twins?" he repeats, nearly dropping the book in his haste to reach for his wife, tucking his novel under his arm and cradling her face in his palms.
Kate hums into the sound kiss of his mouth, her smile breaking open and breaking them apart, their teeth bumping as their noses clash, and – oh, they're having twins.
"How on earth are we going to handle three?" he gets out, knocking his forehead into hers, and Kate chuckles, dislodges the connection to glance down at Lily, who has retreated back to the beanbag with the book they had abandoned at his appearance.
"I don't know, but we will," she sighs, lacing her arms around his neck and finding rest against him. "And it'll be worth it."
Kate places the last of the dishes into the washer, adjusts the machine's settings, and glances over her shoulder at the squeal from the living room, Reece, by the sounds of it, Lily's placating voice following. It's a Saturday, a rare day off for the five of them to spend as a family, and she knows after an early morning and an eventful breakfast, the boys will be dozing in front of the TV with their sister soon. Despite how their seven year old claims she's too old for naps.
"I guess it's good they all get some rest now. Then they can burn all their excess energy at the park later," Castle quips, striding into the kitchen with a smile.
He's rarely not smiling these days and she's noticed that the lines around her mouth finally match his, the proof of laughter carved into her skin from years of incessant smiling. Something she never would have dreamed of.
Nearly thirty years ago, when her mother was murdered, her world turned upside down, when she stripped herself raw of everything but the hunger for justice, she had accepted that life at the bottom of a dark rabbit hole was all she was ever destined to have, a woman hollowed by grief all she would ever be.
But then she had walked into Richard Castle's book party and she hadn't known it at the time, never would have believed it, but that single moment had changed her entire world. Castle had made her want things, had encouraged her want to become more, had her believing in magic and the workings of the universe.
He had made her feel extraordinary.
Kate bands her arms around his neck once he's standing in front of her, buries her face in his neck, startling him, but her husband never questions her, never denies an embrace.
"Hey, you okay?" he murmurs in concern, already trailing his knuckles up and down her spine, cradling the surge of her body against his.
"Yeah," she whispers, blinking away the unexpected sting in her eyes and lifting her gaze across the kitchen to the living room, a watery laugh escaping her lips at the sight of their three children, Lily positioned between the twins, Jake and Reece asleep with their heads on both of her shoulders. "I'm just - happy. So happy, Castle."
Rick eases back just enough to meet her eyes, his doused in her favorite shade of cerulean, ripples of gold alive in his gaze. "I'm happy too."
He fits his palm to her cheek, his thumb dusting beneath her eye to catch any tears before they can fall, but she doesn't want to cry. So she tilts her chin up to kiss him, taking her time attending to the surface of his lips, stroking her tongue along the seam of his mouth.
All they went through, all they fought for, shines so brightly in moments like these. And as Castle so often likes to remind her, she would never change their story either, not a single chapter. Not when every page spent with him, their children, means more to her than words could ever describe.
"I don't think you'll ever truly know," he says, the warmth of his breath caressing her skin, and her heart is so beautifully full, she has to lean in, press her love to his lips one last time. "How happy you make me, Kate, how much you inspire me every day. You have no idea."