What I mean is,
if we are a moment,
I want us to track through
forever with our dirty shoes,
and our suitcases. If we are
a moment, let it be
now and now and now
- Chasing Tails, Azra T
Takes place after Castle and Beckett are shot in the loft in 8x22. Because I couldn't resist filling in the gaps.
The first thing she becomes aware of is the steady beating of a monitor, but it sounds far away, like her ears are filled with water, is she underwater? She groans, and then there's a pressure against her hand – tries to move her hand to knock it away but finds she can't. The beating grows closer, like a pulse, and then someone is calling her name, and she finds herself opening her eyes, a blurry figure at her bedside. Artificial lights beat down on her and she turns her head away, closing her eyes again.
Taking a deep breath, she opens her eyes, blinking against the harsh light she meets this time. Her vision begins to clear and she registers the scratchy cotton of a hospital gown against her skin, her father at her bedside, gripping her hand tightly. So that's what the pressure was.
Her voice is rough. She licks her lips, finds them dry, her throat overwhelmingly sore too. Without her asking, her dad knows, disappearing for her side for a moment before returning with a plastic cup of water. It soothes her aching throat and when she's done he takes it from her without a word, setting the cup back on the side. It's only then that she becomes aware of how heavy her limbs are, how weighted, and when she tries to wriggle up slightly into a more comfortable position the right side of her stomach flares with white hot pain, making her hiss and press a palm against it.
"Easy, Katie. You need to rest," he says, a gentle hand cupping her elbow and pushing her back down against the bed.
He hesitates. "Well, you – you were shot."
Kate settles against the bed, raising one hand to rub at her temples. The memory feels dreamlike, distant, the edges around it blurry. The sharp ping of the bullet even as Caleb used a silencer, Castle falling, the lone bullet he managed to lodge in her stomach. The ground. Hard against her body, bruising – she had fallen? And then crawling to Castle, desperate to reach him, curl her hand around his, one last moment with him in case this is how she was going to die, on the floor of her kitchen, staring up at the ceiling of their home, his hand in hers.
"Dad – "
"He's okay. He's stable. Martha and Alexis are with him. They're waiting for him to wake up from surgery now."
She tries to sit up again, gritting her teeth against the pain. Her dad hovers a little, afraid to overstep but unwilling to let her suffer. His eyes too haunted with the memory of another shooting.
"I'm fine, Dad. I feel fine."
Settling in the chair, he rests his elbows on his knees, sighing as he observes her.
"See? I'm lucky."
He hangs his head slightly. "You told me this was over, Katie. You said you'd caught him, Bracken, and you were going to be safe. And now – "
"I'm sorry. I am," she adds at his disbelieving look. "He was the last one, Dad, this guy. He was behind it all. And now it's over."
Jim looks up. It occurs to her suddenly how old her dad is now, the weary lines forged into his skin, the age of his eyes. Is this something she has done to him, made him age too quickly?
And like that, the lines are not weary, they are just marks of experience. The age in his eyes sparkles, youth hidden behind there, and she finds herself relaxing, just a little.
It is then that her Doctor – or, so she assumes – walks in, happy to see her awake and picking her chart up from the end of the bed. She peers around him, a little disappointed when Castle doesn't come trailing in after him. Well, it's not like the bullet hit her legs, right? She can walk. She'll go to him.
"Good morning, Mrs Castle," he says, flipping through the charts and she hears her father stifle a laugh beside her. No-one calls her that. "Your vitals look good. We were a little worried for you there, the bullet nicked your small intestine, but we got the bleeding all cleared up."
"When can I go home, Doctor…?"
"Miles," he fills in for her, before hesitating. "Well, ideally, we'd like to monitor you a little longer, keep an eye on that baby of yours. I cannot stress enough how much of a miracle it is that despite the shooting, the baby is okay."
Beside her, Kate hears her father choke, and it is last thing before her ears begin to ring. Her words are trapped in her throat, because this Doctor just mentioned a baby and – and –
"Oh. I'm sorry, Mrs Castle, you didn't know?"
She shakes her head, still a little dumbfounded, eyes turning to her stomach. It's covered by the gown and bed sheet, but she still finds herself frowning, waiting as though by some magic her belly will just inflate, right there in front of her, to the pregnancy bumps she associates with the word baby. It doesn't, stays flat, and then her dad's hand presses against the crook of her elbow. Kate looks up at him, speechless, cheeks flushing. There is something softer about him now.
"I'll arrange for a nurse to do an ultrasound," Doctor Miles is saying, but it barely hits her ears. "And then we'll monitor you for another couple days or so – make sure there's no infection from the shooting – and then you'll be free to go."
Once again, her head moves, up and down, nodding, without her consent. Her father thanks the Doctor quietly, and then Doctor Miles is out of the room without another word. She turns to her dad again, wants to say something, wants to ask for Castle. God, she's pregnant. Needs to tell him. Her husband. Because this is – this is the first bit of good news they've had in months. And this okay, too. For the first time in her life, this news is something welcomed.
But before she can ask for Castle, to go see him, a figure appears in the doorway. She looks up, already smiling, but it isn't her husband who is standing there.
"Oh, Katherine, thank god," Martha says, rushing to her side, Alexis hesitating behind her. Martha's arms curl around her in a hug before she can so much as blink.
Kate leans into it, grunting a little when she feels her stitches pull and the pain bubble again. Martha moves away instantly, pushing her back down against the bed, fingers brushing through her hair.
"I'm sorry, darling – you must be – "
"I'm fine, Martha. Really," she assures her, reaching for her hand. Squeezes it gently. "How's Rick?"
"He just woke up. He wanted us to check on you," Martha replies. Her hand reaches out to cup Kate's cheek. "He's a little worse for wear, darling. He – oh, what was it, Alexis?"
Alexis takes a hesitant step inside the room, moving the rest her back against the wall. Kate watches her carefully. They're not the best of friends, herself and Alexis, but the tentative acquaintanceship they've struck has been enough for her.
"They had to repair one of his arteries. He was bleeding out," Alexis explains, a little quiet. She crosses her arms over her chest. "The surgeons said he's doing okay, though. He'll recover."
"Good," she says, feeling relief flood through her. "That's good."
Kate glances between them all. Her father, who's still watching her with a small smile on his face, her mother-in-law and her – well, her stepdaughter. She loves them, but they aren't who she needs right now. She needs Castle and his warm hands, his smile, his voice; needs to tell him this one miracle among all of the bad. They've not discussed kids far beyond the idea of them being a possibility, a one day. She knows that he'll be over the moon about the news anyway.
"Can you ask them to get me a wheelchair, dad?"
He frowns. "Katie, you really shouldn't be moving around – "
"Dad, c'mon, you know I need to tell Castle I'm – "
She clamps her own mouth shut her abruptly, feeling her face grow warm as Alexis and Martha train their curious eyes on her. Her dad sighs, accepting it, leaving the room for a moment.
"Darling, maybe you should rest. Richard wouldn't want you to be moving around after the past couple of days you two have had."
"It'll just be for a moment," she assures her. "Really. It's important."
Her dad returns with the wheelchair and a nurse, who takes a moment to help her into the wheelchair, even as her bullet wound throbs. She switches the bags onto the IV stand and Kate takes it, gripping it tightly, glad to have something that she can be useful for. Both redheads watch her leave warily, as if she might break. Well, she's survived much worse than this bullet. She'll survive this one easier.
She doesn't have to do it alone anymore.
Before they reach Castle's room, her dad stops wheeling her. She frowns, curious, as he moves to crouch a little in front of her, clearing his throat.
"I'm uh – I just wanted to say, congratulations, Katie," he tells her, and she holds her breath as she realises that her dad looks close to crying. "I'm really happy for you."
"Thank you, dad," she murmurs, reaching to hug him but cringing when she reaches too far and the pain spikes again. She really has got to make a note of her limits. She settles for a kiss on the forehead instead, smiling and closing her eyes as he does.
Castle grins, broad and wide, the minute her dad wheels her into the room.
Her dad, much more subtle than the two redheads in her family, gives her some time alone with her husband and closes the door behind him. She reaches out for Castle's hand immediately, the warmth of his skin calming her. They made it. They were shot in their home and they made it.
"You know, I think maybe next time we'll order in."
She huffs a laugh, bringing his knuckles to her lips, dusting kisses along his skin. She'll never get tired of him.
"Sounds good. How's Thai?"
"Mm, Thai works."
He smiles at her again, all soft and slow this time, like they have all the time in the world. Her heart flips in her chest. They do. They have time.
She knows she should be asking how he is, about the surgery – how much time he'll need to recover, how they'll both be able to manage, injured like this. She should be asking about Caleb, if he died (in their home?), who found them, how – she should.
But this first.
"Castle," she hums his name, even as the effects of morphine are beginning to wear off, the pain of the bullet flaring. His fingers tighten around his own. "Wanna hear something that's kind of – a miracle, actually."
"Aren't we full of those?"
She kisses his wrist, fingers drifting down his forearm, over the green-blue veins showing from beneath his skin. Signs of life.
"I think you'll really like this one."
"Does it involve you in a nurses outfit?"
He wriggles his eyebrows and she rolls her eyes.
"Can we talk about that for the future though, because after this I really – "
"Castle. Be serious. This is serious."
He tilts his head a little, and it's then that she notices how pale he is – how much blood had he lost? – and the way he's babying the right side of his chest. They'd almost died without knowing. Caleb would've inadvertently killed their baby too.
"What is it?"
She wheels herself a little closer, nearer to his shoulder, and he reaches out, brushes his thumb against her jaw. Sighing, she leans into the touch, revelling in his warmth. This is good news, but now that she's here, with him, she's unsure how to get the words out, so that this is memorable, so that this isn't her floundering. But – well –
"I'm pregnant," she blurts out.
Perhaps there is no right way to say it.
"You – "
He stops there, eyes wide as saucers, his hand reaching to grip hers tightly. It pinches a little, and she hesitates when his immediate reaction isn't joy. Isn't this what he's wanted for a long time?
Taking a deep breath, he releases her hands, in favour of scrubbing one over his chin, over the stubble that's beginning to grow there. He looks older. Weary.
"I thought you'd be happy," she mumbles.
Her face grows warm as traitorous tears spring to her eyes. She sniffs a little, frowning to keep the tears at bay. She hadn't considered kids before, had thought of them as a one day, and now that he's – not happy – about it, she is startled to finds that really, she has been yearning for this all along. Been yearning for a future with him, a possibility of happiness, a version of them in which danger did not loom over them and threaten to take them from one another.
"I am. I'm…" he pauses, not looking at her for a moment. "How long have you known?"
"About ten minutes. Doctor thought I already knew," she murmurs, and that's when he lets out a long, deep breath, genuine happiness suddenly spilling over his skin and forming a smile. "Castle?"
"I thought maybe you… you'd known while we were hunting LokSat."
"Oh, babe, no – I had no idea," she assures him, attempting to lean forward, get closer to him. She recoils when the pain rips through her, shutting her eyes against it for a moment. "I don't – I don't know what I would've done if I'd known. But I – "
The rest of her words are swallowed by his lips. It hurts, strains her stitches, leaning into him, and she hears him grunt when the position tugs at his own wounds. His hand curls at the nape of her neck and she hums, lips parting briefly and tongue finding his as her hand settles above his bullet wound, gently. It's only when the discomfort becomes too much that she pulls away, fingers brushing against his cheek as she pulls away.
"I don't think I've ever been so overwhelmed," he murmurs.
She peers up at him. "A good kind of overwhelmed?"
He squeezes her hand. "The best."
The nurse scolds her for leaving her room once she tracks her down, finds her still sitting at Castle's bedside. Given the circumstances, the hospital wheel a second cot for her into the room, just beside his. He reaches out and takes her hand once she's settled and the nurse asks her to lift her gown.
The gel is a little cold, makes her jump, but then she feels Castle lean over the gap between them – the nurse scolds him for that too – to press a kiss to the side of her head. She means to turn to him, say things he already knows like I love you, but then the image of their baby is there and real and she forgets how to breathe.
"This is baby's head," the nurse says softly, pointing to a part of the blob. Her eyes rake over it, trying to work it out, understand the grainy image. "See?"
She nods, feeling those tears from earlier return, happier tears this time, spilling from her eyes and down her cheeks. Castle sniffs behind her, and she turns to see him crying too, and that's when she remembers to breathe.
"A baby, Castle," she murmurs.
His eyes stay glued to the screen and she turns back too. She never wants to look away again.
"I'd say you're about seven weeks along," the nurse tells her. "You want me to print you a copy?"
"A few," she hears herself saying.
The nurse nods, giving them a few more moments with the screen. And then the gel from her stomach is gone and she's holding a copy of the scan in her shaking hands.
How surreal. She's been shot at more times than she can count these past few days and now –
"I love you, Castle," she says, twisting to him. Reaches for his hands but he kisses her instead, uncaring of their injuries. She thinks maybe this news is its own kind of morphine. "I love you."
He kisses her one last time, lingering and slow, before pressing his forehead against hers.
"I love you too," he murmurs, her hand crushed between them, gripping the ultrasound scan tightly.