Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
She once asked Castle which of his senses he thought was best and he answered, "Spidey, of course." He was kidding, but he wasn't. It's part of what makes him such a good mystery writer, and a great partner.
Hers is hearing, figuratively as well as literally. Figuratively in that she hears people well: she's a good listener, willing to sit through long, uncomfortable periods of silence until the other person–who is often on the other side of a table in an interrogation room–finally says exactly the wrong thing. Which, for Beckett, is the right thing. But she also hears well literally, not just faint sounds that others miss, but ones that are elusive. Hard to identify or isolate. She doesn't make her living as a musician, but she had years of piano lessons; she plays the guitar; she sings, and she has perfect pitch.
Which is why, on a cold night in early February while she's standing on a street corner, she's turning her head, listening. Less than two hours earlier she had put her career on the line by ordering the evacuation of the hotel where Senator William Bracken had been about to give a major speech. She had been sure there was a bomb there, a bomb that would have taken the life of the man responsible for the taking of her mother's. Much as she despised him, she had been trying to protect him. It was her job. But the bomb squad had found nothing, and Bracken had just threatened her with trying to ruin him by keeping him off the stage. "You have overplayed your hand," he'd said, all but spitting in her face. "And I am going to bury you." He'd stormed off, and she'd just barely stopped herself from calling out, "The way you buried my mom?" She and Castle had spoken quietly with each other for a moment, until he'd said, "Kate, it's over."
But it's not. It's not. It can't be. And then she hears it, hears something nearby that he doesn't. It's a metal-on-metal sound that's sparking a memory. What is it? It's rhythmic, almost perfectly so. Click, click. Pause. Click, click. Pause. What the hell is it? Oh, Jesus. A chill runs through her that has nothing to do with the winter wind that's found its way under her leather jacket. The sound is coming from a lighter, a Zippo lighter; it's identical to the one that they'd heard on the voicemail of their vic, a young woman who had been helping Bracken with some legislation, moments before she'd been murdered. Son of a bitch.
She turns sharply to the source of the sound and in the dark can just make out Bracken's chauffeur opening and closing a Zippo. Click, click. Pause. Click, click. Pause. Again and again and again. She runs toward him, as fast as she's run toward anything in her life. The solid mass of the Senator, hunched angrily in his heavy overcoat, arms held stiffly out from his sides, is between her and the homicidal chauffeur. She sees him pocket the lighter, get out a detonator, and depress a switch, and at the same moment she leaps onto Bracken and knocks him to the pavement. As they're falling, the bomb explodes, sending the politician's shiny town car into pieces, huge and small. Doors, smashed mirrors, the windshield in bits. Flames and smoke erupt, and she shouts to Castle to follow the driver. It's the last thing she says as the car's hood, which has rocketed skyward, lands heavily on her back. One of the seats pins down her left leg.
Fifteen minutes later Castle, who had been busy chasing and capturing the driver and so hadn't seen what had happened to Beckett, is standing shakily next to an ambulance that is waiting to take her to the hospital. He'd spoken briefly to Bracken, after the firefighters had helped him up. The man has nothing but a bruise on his left cheek. "I wouldn't have done it, you know," Castle had said, jaw clamped. "What she did. Saved your goddamn useless life. I'd have stood and watched. And in my head I'd have been cheering." He's simultaneously numb and raw, surprised that he'd managed to form words at all.
With infinite care, the rescue team is moving Kate onto a gurney. She's unmoving, and apparently unconscious. The damage to her body is so severe that he concentrates on her face, which miraculously looks almost untouched, except for a slight cut above her right eye. He curses his cowardice.
"I have to ride with her," he says as she's rolled into the back of the bus. It's the first thing he's said since the team began working on Kate. He's mentally calling it a bus, the cop term for an ambulance, because ambulance sounds worse, ramps up his anxiety. "I have to go with her. She's my partner. I have to be there. She's NYPD. You know that, right? Detective. She's a detective. Homicide. A homicide detective. She can't die. If she dies this is a homicide. Don't let her die." He's vaguely aware that he's babbling, and he doesn't care.
"Let him in," Joe Taylor, an EMT he's met several times, says. He lifts his head and adds, "Hop in, Castle. Just give us room back there to do our work, okay?"
"Okay. Room. Okay. Yes."
He's jammed into the corner, his fingers just able to touch her hair. Some of it has been singed by the fire; he can smell it, and feel the spiky ends. It will grow back. It will be fine. Her beautiful hair will be fine. He'll wash it for her with the best shampoo ever made. Her hair won't smell of gasoline. It will smell of freesia. She loves freesia. If there's no such thing as freesia shampoo, he'll get someone to make it for her.
The bus is going too fast. It's jostling her. It's not going fast enough. Why aren't they at the hospital yet? She needs to be at the hospital. He forces himself to glance down at her leg, sees the broken tibia that has broken through her skin. It's obscene. It's sickening. He's going to be sick. He can't be sick.
They've reached the ambulance bay, thank God. Now he's inside, running behind her, already feeling his heart and gut clench at the familiarity of this. The scene is so like that of 21 months ago, when he was following her gurney down the same hospital corridor, wondering if she would speak another word, breathe another breath, see another day. But awful as that was, her shooting at Montgomery's funeral, this is worse. Because now she is fully part of his body and soul. There is no intimacy that they haven't shared. And in minutes she may be gone from her life and his, from her father's, from that of everyone she loves and everyone who loves her.
Suddenly, Lanie is here, just as she had been before. After the shooting she'd climbed up on the gurney and beseeched her friend not to die, over and over. This time she materializes next to him, he has no idea from where, grabs his hand, and runs with him. When the ER doors open and swallow up Kate and the EMTs, they're shut out. He tilts against the wall, slides down to the floor, puts his head on his knees, and begins to sob.
"Castle. Castle. Castle, honey, get up." How long has he been here on the blue and white linoleum? He feels a tug on his arm, and turns to his left. It's Lanie. "We need to go be with the others."
What others? "Who?"
"Javi. Ryan. Gates. Everyone. Come on, there's a room for us."
He pushes himself up off the floor, scrapes his hands down his face, and asks what he can't bear to ask. "Is she?"
"In surgery. It's going to be a while before we know anything. Come on." When she takes his hand again he realizes how small it is, much smaller than Kate's. Kate has long, slender fingers. More than once since last May he has wondered what size her ring finger is, how he could find out without asking her.
He skids and stumbles down the hall with Lanie, who leads him to a quiet room with a table and an assortment of chairs. He's startled to see on the wall clock that it's almost midnight. There's a table under it with a coffeemaker, two stacks of paper cups, a box of stirrers, sugar, and artificial sweeteners, a jar of non-dairy creamer, and a tattered basket of little packages of Oreos and Lorna Doones. Jim Beckett is slumped in a turquoise pleather chair, staring blankly at the institutional array. "It looks like an AA meeting," he says, before closing his eyes and dropping his head.
This is not the Jim Beckett who raged at him the day his daughter was shot, less than two years ago. This Jim Beckett looks defeated, as if he thinks his daughter has no fight left in her, and there's none in him. He looks 100.
He nods at the others before pulling a chair over next to Jim's. Father-to-father, he rests his hand gently on the older man's arm. "She'll be all right, Jim."
It's some time before the gravelly reply arrives. "You don't know that. Don't you think her luck has run out?"
"No, I don't. I came with her. In the ambulance. She looked ready to–." Ready to what? What lie can he concoct for Jim that can pass as credible? "Her color was good. It was good." No, it was ashen. "Her eyes were closed, but you could tell that the instant she opened them they'd be full of fire." Oh, God why had he said fire? He must smell of fire, too. Of gasoline and smoke and a melange of chemicals.
Jim doesn't answer, and after a while Castle says, "I'm going to talk with the guys."
There's a huddled quartet in the far corner of the room: Espo, Ryan, Lanie, Gates. He hugs each one of them in turn. "You locked up the guy, right?" he asks quietly, to spare Jim. If he's even aware of them. "The driver?"
"Yes," the Captain answers, her voice hushed and professionally calm.
"What about Bracken? I mean, what did he say about him?"
"That he's been his driver for five years. His name is Noah Charles."
"Why did he do it? The driver?"
"We don't know that yet, Mister Castle. He'll be interrogated shortly. We'll be talking to the Senator at length later, too, but he said, 'I assume because someone paid him a great deal of money.' This is not a homicide, but Detectives Esposito and Ryan will be working the case. Understandably they wanted to come here first. Since we have the perpetrator in custody, I thought that was fine. We have others looking into Charles already, and CSU is of course on site."
He knows that he should be channeling his energy into this, into positive thinking about Kate, but now rage takes over, destroying every other emotion. "This could still be a homicide. If Beckett dies." What he doesn't say is that Noah Charles may have detonated the bomb, but that he holds Bracken responsible for it. As soon as he can get the boys alone, he'll say it, and plenty more.
But there's nothing to say now. Nothing to float in this room where everyone wants to expect the best, but doesn't. He doesn't, anyway. He's the one who's seen Kate, the only one. They stand in place, occasionally exchanging glances. At some point Ryan hands him a cup.
"Drink this," he urges.
He takes a sip. Coffee. Beckett's favorite drink, the drink that bonded them before anything else. "Excuse me," he blurts, and goes quickly out into the corridor. He spots a sign for a men's room, runs to it, and makes it into the first stall before he vomits. Afterwards he presses his forehead against the back of the cool metal door, then turns the lock, and goes to the sink. He rinses his mouth out, but doesn't look in the mirror. He knows what he'll see reflected here. Shoving a hand in his pocket, he's relieved to find a stick of gum, unwraps it, and pops it into his mouth. It freshens his breath, but does nothing for the bitterness in his veins.
Everyone but Jim looks his way when he returns, their faces filled with expectation that immediately morphs into disappointment. They'd thought he was the doctor. "Sorry," he mumbles.
At 1:43 a.m. the surgeon finally does arrive. "Mister Beckett?"
Jim raises his head, but doesn't get up. "Yes." That's unlike him, too, the man with perfect manners.
"Your daughter is stable. I won't sugarcoat this: her injuries are varied and severe."
It's the most important message that Castle has ever received, and he can't hear it. Can't concentrate. All he processes are fragments: Punctured lung. Broken ribs. Compound fracture. Burns. Concussion. What had the man said about concussion? He's gone, the doctor. Left the room.
He pivots to Lanie for help, and sees her stricken face.
A/N The prompt: Beckett gets hurt when she saves Bracken from the car bomb. Also, I promise you (as always) a happy ending.