I cannot begin to express my gratitude to each and every one of you. The last chapter brought me over seventy reviews and that's not something I've ever had before. I would have replied to each and every one of you but I didn't have the time … and I figured you'd rather receive a chapter, right? But honestly, you're the best reviewers that a girl could ever ask for.
He kept an arm gently wrapped around her shoulders, knowing that when she woke, it most likely wasn't going to be pleasant. But it was for the simply reasoning that she was sleeping – actually sleeping – that he let her continue to do exactly that, her head resting on his shoulder. Castle's hand absently rubbed her arm. It had been awhile since both his arms and legs had fallen asleep, but he didn't dare move.
His mother had stopped in, doing no more than poking her head through the door and nodding before saying, "I'll make sure Alexis gets to school." He'd nodded, mouthing the words, 'Thank you', even though he knew Alexis always got herself to school, even if he was already at the precinct. It was simply his mother's way of saying she was trying to help.
He was dreading the moment she woke – not because of any amount of awkwardness but because they'd been sitting on the floor for over five hours. Despite it being the only sleep she'd had, he knew there were places more comfortable.
And, of course, it would mean the start of another day, one he was hesitant to approach. Yesterday had been different, a trial of sorts. All they'd had to do, it seemed, was make it through that day. Even though they'd both known that wasn't true, that there was a lot more to make it through than just one day and night, it had seemed that if they could just surpass that first challenge, they'd be all right.
But in reality, a second day brought on a whole new set of challenges.
She shifted her head against his shoulder, hair brushing against his chin. Castle had nearly stopped breathing, afraid to jostle her. Kate moaned, and he could see her clench her jaw. Cautiously, he ran his hand up and down her arm.
She'd pulled back to look at him quizzically, green eyes hazy with confusion. The corner of his mouth pulled into a grin, but it was one filled with kindness.
"Who else?" He questioned, and though his voice held the same self-satisfaction that it always did, it was softer, less pronounced. Eyes rolled as she turned her head away, pushing against his shoulder to sit up against the wall. It was impossible not to hear the pained hiss of breath she released.
"Mmm." She sounded groggy. For a split second she raised her hand before she drew in another breath and let it fall back to her side, gritting her teeth. "Why am I on the floor?"
"I wish I had a crazy, filthy,"
"Castle." Her voice was impatient and chiding and just a bit annoyed. It was nothing less than she normally was and it gave him a bit of relief to hear it.
"Sorry." Castle gently brushed his fingers along her hand, heart jumping when she laid her head back on his shoulder. The arm still wrapped around her tightened almost imperceptibly, and he had to resist the urge to rest his chin on top of her hair. That probably wouldn't be the best route to go, if she was feeling better and he wanted to remain among the living.
"Can we get off the floor?"
Castle made a tiny noise in the back of his throat. "That might be the difficult part, Kate." It was a second later that he realised his slip. Last night, when she'd been panicking and inconsolable, it had been alright to call her Kate. But now?
Only, she didn't protest. Just grit her teeth and nodded, making him realise she knew exactly why they were on the floor – and probably why they still were.
"I can handle it. Just help me."
Help her. He could do that. He could help her. He always would, any time. All she ever had to do was ask, and … she wasn't panicking now. She wasn't tearful and hyperventilating. Katherine Beckett was simply asking for his help.
"Rest against me."
She didn't argue with him, simply leaning against his side. If one shoulder wasn't stitched and bandaged and the other arm wasn't in a sling from a dislocated shoulder, he'd have told her to put an arm around his neck. But with her current state, that was impossible, and he knew that.
Kate's head resting against his shoulder for the second time in twenty four hours felt like a blessing.
Gently, he hooked an arm underneath her knees and another behind her back, and she seemed to get the hint. The detective leaned back and let him support her weight, though he had to lean back against the wall in order to stand. Kate grit her teeth again, barely suppressing a pained sound.
"Sorry," He murmured, sitting her on the edge of the bed and apologising again when she winced. Castle waited until he was sure she would still be sitting up if he wasn't holding her before backing away, "Are you all right?"
She nodded, but her eyes betrayed her. Knowing he was breaking another boundary, he cupped her cheek gently with a hand, brushing his fingers along her temple.
When he let his hand fall back to his side again, he spoke. "Right." His voice was suddenly all-business, but it hadn't lost the touch of sincerity that always made it into his voice when he was speaking to her. "Pain pills. But breakfast first."
To his honest surprise, she didn't protest.
It took them awhile to make it from the edge of the bed to her wheelchair, and even longer to the sofa. One second of debate in his head told him that bringing her to the sofa would eliminate a step of helping her from the table to the sofa later on. He made quiet conversation so she didn't have to, but in true Kate Beckett style, it didn't stop her from chiming in. by the time he'd brought her a piece of toast and a glass of water, he'd even gotten a quiet chuckle out of her.
But it was short-lived.
Castle moved his hand gently up and down her back, jaw clenched at seeing her in pain. Wasn't the emotional enough? In reality he knew that one was accentuating the other, that she wasn't going to escape either for quite some time, but that didn't mean he had to accept it.
"Just breathe." They were nearly the same word he'd spoken to her the night before, and he hated that he had to repeat them. "What hurts?" Not that there was actually anything he'd be able to do about it but if there was something wrong, he wanted to know.
"Ribs." The word was sharp. "I'll be fine. Just give me a moment."
He left his hand on her back while she continued to take even breaths. Eventually, she nodded, and he came back around to place the two pain pills next to the toast. Kate murmured her thanks as he took a seat next to her.
There was silence until she'd finished the toast and he'd finished his coffee. It wasn't the awkward kind of silence that resulted from two people not knowing what to say, but rather, from two people being comfortable with not saying anything at all. From not needing to say anything because they already understood everything that needed to be said.
It was Kate who broke the silence, touching his arm with warm fingers.
"Thank you, Rick." Hazel eyes met his and held them with nothing but sincerity. "For last night."
His mouth quirked in a gentle smile. "Of course."
"I mean it."
Dipping his head gently but still meeting her eyes, Castle's words were honest. "I know."
Kate nodded once – a single, affirmative, nod. "Good."
The angry vibration of her cell phone from the side table broke apart their moment. Castle reached for it, looking at the caller ID before handing it to her.
"Esposito." He couldn't help the twinkle of amusement in his eyes. "You know they called every five minutes yesterday?"
She rolled her eyes, barely suppressing the amused smile. "Do I have to yell at them for not getting any work done?"
He shrugged a shoulder that meant, Yes, you do as she flipped open the cell.
Castle watched her expression as she talked, ready to step in and yell at him for bothering her if need be. he knew he didn't have to. He knew that Esposito meant the best, that the two detectives were like younger and older brothers to her.
But that didn't stop the protective instinct from cropping up.
"Good to hear you too, Javi." There was warmth in her voice. "No, no, you don't have to-"
He raised a brow, and she looked at him before half-rolling her eyes again.
"Fine. I don't feel like arguing. Bring something interesting. None of that stuff from that – yeah, that's the one."
When she'd flipped the phone shut, Castle was grinning.
"He's coming over?"
"And bringing lunch. And Ryan."
"They were worried sick." Castle said gently, moving the plate to the coffee table. "You look tired."
She raised a brow. "You're not looking too great yourself, hot-shot."
Managing to ignore the quip, he lifted his eyes to the bedroom. "You could take a nap before they get here."
But her face fell for an instant before she could put the walls back up again, colour draining and mouth pressed into a straight line.
If there were two words in the English dictionary that meant the exact opposite of their definition, 'I'm' and 'fine' were it.
Castle moved his hand gently over hers, covering it. Her hand was warm, surprisingly soft despite the work she did every day. He gave it a squeeze, not failing to notice the almost-smile he received in response. Kate's eyelids fluttered closed, but it wasn't anything near a peaceful motion. It was pained.
She was hiding.
"You can talk to me. About anything." He needed to make sure she knew that.
There was a pause before he heard her take a breath, stopping halfway in her throat. Her hand twitched in his.
"It's worse right after I wake up. The panic." The admission was whispered at first, but her next sentence was louder, a little bit stronger than the last. "So much worse."
Her hand flipped in his, a single moment where he barely dared to breathe and she squeezed his hand back. Nothing he could say would make this better, no words he could comfort her with to ease the fact that not only was sleeping difficult, but waking up was worse.
And he was so, so used to being able to fix things with words. Sometimes, he wasn't sure if he knew how to be a person without words.
But then he remembered her hand squeezing his back and remembered he wasn't doing the talking at all – she was.
"So that's why I can't sleep, Rick."
Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at him. The moment wasn't like he would have written it – her eyes weren't full of tears, her hand didn't shake in his – because in the end, Katherine Beckett was entirely different from Nikki Heat.
And in her most vulnerable moments, Kate was nothing near weak.
"An idea, then." Moving an inch closer to her made their legs touch, warmth that soothed the anxious, guilty fire in his stomach. Kate's eyes found his, and the trust he found there shocked him. It still surprised him that out of all the people she could trust after what she'd been through, she was choosing him.
He didn't deserve to be trusted. Not after the pain he'd caused.
But he'd keep that to himself. She didn't need his guilt along with her pain.
"Sit here and watch TV with me. Try to relax. And if you fall asleep in the process," He brushed his thumb along the back of her hand when he spoke the words. "I'll be here to remind you it's all right when you wake up."
She chuckled softly, but it wasn't mean. If it were possible, it was … tender.
"Has anybody told you you're extraordinary?"
The word sent a shiver down his spine, and the glint in her eyes told him she'd said it intentionally. His stomach fluttered with butterflies like a schoolboy's. Giving a chuckle of his own in response, he leaned in and placed his lips against her temple, hearing the sharp intake of breath it caused.
"Only you, Kate."
I know that not a lot happened in this chapter. Kate still has a lot of issues to work through (like getting back to work, facing Anderson, the panic attacks, daily tasks, and yes Lanie has to come back) – and to all of the lovely romantics reading this out there, yes, there will be romance. (If this chapter was anything of an indicator.) I wasn't as fond of this chapter as I'd like to be, but it meant something different to Rick and Kate than the panic attack scene did. In that chapter, the developments between them (while they definitely meant something) were in the heat of panic. Any comments made in this chapter weren't panicked, but … a different sort of development, if that makes any sense.
There will be more angst chapters. There will be fluff chapters.
And have I told you guys that you're extraordinary? Because you are.
When people tell me that this fic actually helped them in some way? I can hardly believe it. If this helps somebody … I know how bad panic attacks and things of that nature, for lack of a better word, suck. So if I can help somebody by writing? That's … fantastic.
Yes, you'll get to read Esposito and Ryan next chapter. And depending on how it goes, something else completely adorable, too.
And to Lauren – no, that's not weird at all. That's how I can tell if they're in character, too.
Review? Because I do a happy dance any time I get the email and may or may not have a dance for it.