What You Wanted
"What may be broken to you is beautiful to me." 4x01 AU: Sometimes you don't have to runaway to find what was meant to be…
I'll find the places where you hide
I'll be the dawn on your worst night
The only thing left in your life
Yeah I would kill for you, that's right
If that's what you wanted…
I'll put your poison in my veins
They say the best love is insane
I'll light your fire till my last day
I'll let your fields burn around me…
Oh, my love is true
Tell me, something I wouldn't do…
One Republic – What You Wanted
It always started as a dull pain, enough of an uncomfortable feeling that her mind awoke, her consciousness returning. It remained that way as the hazy memories started to flash one by one behind her eyelids, lifting the fog slowly, sharpening the pictures in her mind.
That was always when the low thrum flared to life, replaced with side splitting agony in her chest. The feeling was as if her body was ripped to shreds yet patched together with nothing more than a butterfly kiss and a Band-Aid, much like her mother used to do when she was young. This pain was the worst.
Or so she had first thought.
Until she started to see his face flashing through her mind, the shear tortured expression with tears blurring his eyes and painting his cheeks. That was when it always became too much to bear.
Kate Beckett would take all the physical pain in the world if she'd never have to witness his look of desolation again. No amount of pain killers could ever erase that image, now tattooed on her subconscious, dancing around every time the sweet relief of the morphine allowed her a reprieve from slumber.
"I love you, Kate."
The words echoed in the chaos of her psyche, a million thoughts racing through, yet those four words were the loudest.
Always the loudest.
Every time she woke, it was a constant nagging in her thoughts, continually pushing to the forefront.
Like she could ever forget.
The second hand of the clock ticked by, methodical in nature, yet mocking in tone. This was hell. Not the agony that accompanied any flesh wound, but instead it was the kind that ate away at a person from the inside. Anxiety danced its way through his thoughts and preyed on every last hope and dream he ever had for the future.
A future with her.
He had no right to think that way about her, to hope for a future with her. She wasn't his, never had been and never would be if the cruel hands of fate had their say.
Wow, even his thoughts were being melodramatic.
Every ounce of optimism that usually dwelled in his subconscious was ripped away when the bullet tore through her chest. Any cheerful thought he ever had dissipated when he saw the life drain from her body in the ambulance. He wouldn't survive if she never made it out of the hospital alive. While his life would continue, he would only be left a shell of his former self.
Whether she knew it or not, their futures were intertwined.
He was her partner and friend, but if that was all they were, he'd eventually move on. He'd live to tell more stories and publish more books. The problem lied in the fact that Richard Castle was in love – in love with someone that wasn't free to love him back. He hid those feelings, tried to just be the constant support she needed, while inside, he dreamed of the day he could tell her how he really felt.
Kate bleeding out from a gunshot wound in the crisp cut grass as the sun shone down on them was not his vision of the perfect time. Anything would be better, but he hadn't been able to stop the words from freeing themselves in that moment. He couldn't watch her die and not tell her how he really felt.
Maybe it would give her something to hold on to.
The scratch that she felt in her throat was ever present in the call of his name. She knew before she even opened her eyes that he wasn't in the room, but she had foolishly hoped.
A thin stream of light broke through the shadows of her hospital room, as the heavy brush of the door opened and shut. Her on-call nurse, whose name she couldn't remember, drifted toward her bed, checking the bags and machines and jotting in her chart.
"Ms. Beckett, you should get some more rest. It will help your body heal."
Kate tried to shake her head, but that motion alone brought tears to the surface, quickly reminding her of how little fight she had left in her body. She was never one for words, preferred action to explanation, but her body was broken. The trauma of the gunshot left her in pieces- ugly, damaged shards.
"Castle?" she asked again, sounding stronger before a cough ripped its way through her lungs. The nurse handed her a small Styrofoam cup of water and the scratch in her throat eased with the cool slide of the liquid. Her chest, however, nothing could help that agony. Morphine was the only thing that touched it, but it left her limbs heavy and rarely allowed her to be awake. The enticing drug, also messed with her mind, playing on her weak state to toy with her emotions, always waking with only one thought in her head. "Is Richard Castle here again?"
"He is. Every day during visiting hours. Do you want me to send him away?"
"No. I should see him. I can't avoid him anymore."
Her nurse nodded on her way out the door causing her stomach to clench. He was still here.
'I love you, Kate.'
She squeezed her eyes closed; holding in the tears that seemed to develop anytime she thought about what he said. All memories of that day closely knit together and even the pleasant words were clouded with a shade of gray. Dark and light. Life and death...
Her name shook her from her daydream, but the disappointing realization caused her heart to drop from her chest. It was the wrong voice hanging in the air, breaking the silence.
He was finally able to see her.
After endless days of sitting in the uncomfortable, sticky faux leather chair, Kate's nurse greeted him with a hopeful smile for a change. For the first time in what felt like forever, the bubbly woman told him that she was up for visitors and requested him.
Castle jumped from the seat before she could tell him again or change her mind. No. It had been way too long since he had laid eyes on his partner, his friend, his lov- nothing could stop him from seeing her.
Swallowing down the thought, he internally scolded himself and picked up the flower vase from the floor next to his chair. Kate was in the hospital, it wasn't time to bring up anything that could cause her stress. Not when he finally had the opportunity to be at her side again.
He wouldn't ruin it today by pushing her into anything uncomfortable. They lived in the land of subtext, champion at avoiding discussing anything of real substance at all cost. He wouldn't upset that delicate balance while she was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a gunshot.
"Mr. Castle? Are you alright?" His eyes flashed open and he felt his cheeks warm. It was so easy to get lost in his thoughts right now, but he couldn't waste anymore time in his head.
"Yes. I'm sorry. Need just a minute." He gave the nurse a soft smile, standing outside of the hospital room.
"Okay, well she's right in there when you're ready."
With a quick nod, she walked back toward the nurses' station, leaving him frozen next to the doorway. Kate was alive. Her heart was beating; the sniper hadn't taken that away from them. Whether she loved him or not in return, all that mattered in this moment was the fact that she had made it through.
His partner was still breathing.
A slow drag of air filled his lungs as he swung the door open.
The scene before him took him by surprise, not that it should. Josh was her boyfriend; he had every right to visit her. More of a right than he had…
"Castle? Hi!" The upbeat tone in her voice was a jarring but it matched the way her face lit up upon seeing him standing in the doorway. The bright smile that pulled at her cheeks shouldn't be allowed, not with Josh hovering at her bedside. It shouldn't be allowed, but the sight of Kate left his heart fluttering wild.
"I was just leaving," Josh said, voice low. "I'll see you." He gave her a small squeeze on her right ankle, and quickly slipped past Castle without another word.
He'd be lying if he didn't think that was an odd way for the doctor to leave. He just couldn't bring himself to care because now he didn't need to pretend that it wasn't eating him alive that Josh was still in her life.
'I love you, Kate.'
"He didn't need to leave on my behalf," he added, a nervous chuckle accompanying his words. He needed to calm down. This was Beckett.
"No. It's fine. He just stopped down between his rounds. I asked to see you."
His heart nearly split in two. She wanted him here with her. After all this time, he had started to worry that she was going to retreat. Close herself off to everyone that cared about her. They had become so close and there was no way that he could go back to the way it was; keeping each other at arm's length.
"Mhmm, a little birdie told me that you've been in the waiting area every day." A shy smile played on her lips, almost astonished that he would wait for her.
"Yeah, well –"
"Didn't know what to do with yourself while I'm out of commission, did you?" she teased, the playful tone in her voice was forced and her eyes didn't hold the sparkle they typically would when she messed with him. It was obviously she was trying hard to keep things light, but in the stale air of the hospital room, it was nearly impossible to do. He could tell she was hurting.
"Beckett, I missed you," he said, but regretted his frankness the second the words passed his lips.
Her eyes grew wide, seemingly shocked by the statement. He was already messing up, already being awkward and he hadn't been in the room for more than five minutes. Change the subject, he needed to change -
"So, did Josh tell you how he defended your honor to me in the hall?" He gave a self deprecating chuckle with the question, but she didn't join in on the joke.
"He did what?"
Damn. What was wrong with him today? It was like him to make jokes at the most inopportune times; it was embedded in his DNA. However, while she was laying in bed, fighting for her life, it wasn't the best time. He needed filter himself a little more. Maybe he should just let her lead the conversation; it was probably safer that way.
"It's not – it's not important. Forget I said anything." He offered her a timid smile, drifting closer to her side, the magnetic pull of her body was too much to bear. "I bought these for you." The flowers brought a smile back to her face, a gorgeous thing that he couldn't help but stare at as he placed the vase next to the other arrangement on the window sill.
"You're staring. I must look pretty awful." Kate mumbled her words as embarrassment colored the pale shade of her cheeks and her eyes dropped to her lap. She seemed ashamed to look at him.
"Kate?" Her first name on his lips brought her gaze back to him and he shook his head. "No. Never. I just – I never thought I'd see you again."
"I remember you trying to save me…"
Castle nodded, sitting down on the corner of her bed. He wanted nothing more than to touch her, wrap her in his arms to prove that she was really okay, but he couldn't... He clenched his fists, gluing them to his hip to prevent his hands from betraying the careful line they had in place for their partnership.
"I would do anything to try –"
"Castle, no." She shook her head in protest, covering his hand with hers, awaking each and every cell from her touch. "You can't do that. Not for me. Not when you have a family. You can't risk your life for me."
Her eyes grew and he could tell she wanted to fight. They never spoke like this, so open, so honest. He could see further objection etched in Beckett's expression, but he didn't come here to fight with her, not when she had been through so much already. She must have not remembered, it was the only explanation.
He couldn't avoid it.
"Beckett, I don't regret it. When it comes to people I lov-"
He had promised himself he wouldn't bring up his feelings here, it wasn't the time or the place, but she wasn't giving him much of a choice. If she couldn't understand why he would try everything to save her, then he needed to tell her. He could never apologize for trying to save her. He would never just stand on the sidelines, not when there was a chance that he could help.
"Castle," she sighed, squeezing his fingers. The weak hold confirmed how fragile she was in this bed. "I know what you said."
His heart stopped. Everything around him moved in slow motion for what felt like forever. She had heard him. She knew. Blood rushed to his ears when he blinked out of the petrified state.
"You remember?" Castle asked, his voice barely a whisper, looking up at her in shock.
"When a life changing moment occurs, you remember every last detail."
Kate had thought that admitting that she knew about what happened during her shooting would help things. He was about to admit it to her again anyway, but it didn't help. The tension grew and she regretted ever saying anything.
He recoiled against her touch, moving his hand from hers. It didn't make any sense. Didn't he mean it? Or was it only words spoken aloud in the state of panic when she was bleeding out that day?
'I love you, Kate.'
She couldn't believe that he didn't mean it. Those words saved her. He couldn't take them back now.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have."
"It was out of line. I mean – you have Josh. I shouldn't have said –"
Damn. She never mentioned it to him after they'd returned from Los Angeles.
"We broke up."
It wasn't the most eloquent ways of saying it and by the look on Castle's face, he hadn't expected her to say in the least.
"You broke –"
"Before the funeral, when he got back in town after we went to LA." Understanding shone in his eyes, the trip to solve Royce's murder had brought them closer, almost prematurely crossing boundaries.
She tried to take a deep breath, but winced at the way her chest stretched from the action. Swallowing down the tortured feeling, she continued to explain. He deserved more than she had to offer right now. "It wasn't right to string him along. Not when my heart wasn't in it."
"Kate?" Her name held too much hope off of his tongue. This conversation was be dangerous, too much hope could shatter her, shatter them.
"Castle, please don't say my name like that. Just because Josh and I - it doesn't change anything," she murmured, closing her eyes as she eased her head back onto the stiff hospital pillow.
"Like hell it doesn't. It changes everything." His voice was too soft, too warm. It eased in her veins, flowing through her and making her feel whole in ways she couldn't allow. She would ruin him.
"It can't, Rick." Uttering his first name stole his attention, but it didn't seem to deter him. He moved closer to her side and carefully placed her hand, bruised from the IV, into his, drawing gentle patterns on top of the abused skin with his thumb. The action held a level of intimacy that stole her breath, her voice cracking on her words. "I'm too broken."
"Kate, you're perfect. What may be broken to you is beautiful to me…"
Her heart fluttered from his honest statement. Castle was trying, she could tell, but it was overwhelming after she had tried to pretend he hadn't felt that way for so long. She was undeserving of it all. Under the heat of his stare, she was even more aware of every bruise, every scar. It was almost too much to handle.
Kate closed her eyes, trying to concentrate the best she could. "Castle, I'm not at a place where I can do this. Not now. I need to heal. I need time."
She knew she was going to break his heart. He should devote his time to someone better, someone more than what she could be right now, more than she could offer him. Every nerve ending was on fire and she was painfully aware that she was due for her pain medicine. This was the fractured mess she had become.
"Then let me be your friend, your partner. Let me help you."
With the soothing tone of his words, he held such conviction, like he believed he could really help her. He didn't know what a mess she really was. She wished she were at a place where she could agree to it, but she shook her head.
"No, Castle. I can't - I'm going to go to my Dad's cabin for a couple months. I need to be away from the city."
"You don't need to hide from me Kate. You shouldn't be alone-"
"If you need a break from the city, why don't you go to my Hamptons house?"
Her battered heart stumbled from his words. He didn't know what he was asking, his tentative smile, held an innocence about it. This was the man that believed in happy endings and fairy tales, of course he thought he could be her knight in shining armor. It was the selfless side of him that she never would've believed existed at the start of their partnership.
"You're actually asking me to come to the Hamptons with you?" she asked, disbelieving.
"No funny stuff," he said, looking down at their linked hands. "Just a good place to relax. Let me do this for you, please."
"I don't- I don't know. That doesn't sound like a good idea."
She should pull her hand away. This contact, this was more than what was acceptable for them. Before today, they usually avoided contact unless it was in a high stress situation. While she thought this was pretty stressful, she knew he was holding her for an entirely different reason.
That's what worried her.
Having Josh in her life kept Castle at a safe distance. Now that was gone, it terrified her how close he could get. How much he could see…
"It's secluded enough, but still has the amenities to keep you comfortable."
Kate shook her head. "This is me at my worst," she whispered.
"It doesn't matter. Partners, Beckett… I'm not asking for anything more than that."
Meeting his eyes, she sighed in defeat. She could tell how determined he was, how much he believed he could help. Little did he know what a bad idea this truly was.
"You're not going to take no for an answer, are you?" Kate asked, a quiet defeated laugh accompanying her question.
"Probably not," he said, his eyebrows dancing in response.
The childlike joy in his eyes made her feel lighter, like maybe he could help her with this. He had always made her feel safe. What if this was just what she needed? She sighed, her heart hammering from her decision, hoping she wouldn't live to regret it.
"Okay, but you need to promise me."
"Anything," he answered far too quickly.
"If it's too much, I'm going to my dad's cabin. No questions asked…"
"Scouts honor," Castle grinned, holding up a couple fingers in some mock hand signal. He made her laugh. In the bleak light of her hospital room, he brought her hope.
"You were never a scout, were you..." She eyed him, biting down on the chapped skin of her bottom lip to hold back her smirk.
"Even in the hospital, you're trying to ruin me with your logic."
"At least I'm consistent."
Her eyes flashed up at his, trying to hide even a hint of uncertainty, while internally every last fear was screaming at her. Why couldn't she say no to him?
"You won't regret this."
With a sad smile, she closed her eyes knowing that she already did. This would ruin the tentative balance from partners to more before they even had a chance.
If only she could be enough for him.
Thanks so much for reading! Can't wait to hear from you guys.
This idea came about through my season 4 rewatch which is one of my fave seasons.
Hope you guys enjoy the journey.
Thanks to Alex for the beta and to Nadia for the beautiful cover art.