Disclaimer: Castle is the property of ABC and its creators.
A/N: I had a sudden burst of inspiration about Ryan during a marathon of Castle season 2, I hope this story does him justice. I have maybe 1 or 2 chapters more to add, if I get around to write them! Reviews, flames and constructive criticism are welcome.
I just can't wait to be finished here. The thrill of catching a killer is always subdued when the paperwork comes along. It's hard enough to recollect every friggin' move I make during an investigation, putting it down in a clear and concise report is even harder. I'm no word master. Plus it's not like I don't have to be home soon…
A last sentence, a last date and signature and finally I'm free. I close the file as I get up and look over Esposito's desk. He's still at it, jotting down as quickly as the pen will allow him. Glad I didn't have as much as him to say, I would have been there until tomorrow. And I can't do that.
I know he sees me when I pick up my cell and start typing. Out of the corner of my eye his knowing grin tells me I have to get out if I don't want another speech about how whipped I am.
My eyes fixed on my phone, I try to exit as discreetly as possible. No quite discreetly enough, Castle still manages to corner me in front of the elevator. The stairs are my next option but he's standing between me and them… I shut the phone and mentally prepare myself for usual joke.
"So honey-milk," he says, "already texting your warden? She really ought to give you some breathing room. I mean, it's not even been an hour since the last check-in!"
"Well Castle, you of all people should know, preempting a woman's desire can be very rewarding…" I reply.
He gives me his trademark smirk and I use this momentum to slip past him and head down the stairs. I hate myself for telling such a corny story. For now though, it's still better to let them think that I'm just as they suppose, a man on a leash. As I stumble down the steps, I can almost feel the weariness extend throughout my body. Strange how it works, how every work can be so demanding and yet it's the lie that tires me the most. But telling them the truth would be so much more painful. Not to mention the constant pity I would have to deal with.
In my car it all seems better. The rain patter is the only music to accompany me on the road and it's soothing. This little drive is necessary, even the traffic is. It's the only time I have to switch from "playful punching back/comic relief Det. Ryan" to the real me. I know she doesn't want me to have to play these parts, but I still believe it's the best way, for now.
When I arrive the whole apartment is dark. Bad sign, she never turns the lights off unless it's been a bad day. Except I learned a while back that I should not worry anyway; going on as usual gives her a bigger sense of normalcy. So I hang my coat and put away my shoes like nothing is wrong. There's a faint, fickle light coming from the living room so I head there, making my steps as light as I can.
She fell asleep in front of the TV, one arm and one leg peeking out of a blanket and almost touching the floor. I walk up to the couch and slip her leg back under the covers, and then I sit on the coffee table to just watch her. I can't resist touching her though. Careful not to wake her, I reach and grab her free hand, holding it gently. I slowly caress each finger, trying to warm them. She's gotten so frail and pale lately, she never seems to be warm enough. I concentrate on the smoothness of her skin rather than looking at it. I know the back of her hand is now spotted with needle marks from the incessant blood works, and the skin is so white you can make out each tiny vein, like a geographic mark. The belief that if I don't see it, it's not there, (no matter how juvenile it might be) is still anchored in me.
The television suddenly blares out a commercial and wakes her up. It tears me up inside when I realize she doesn't even have the strength to jolt from the surprise.
"Hey sweetie, how you feeling?" I whisper.
"Not so good, but I had worse." she says. "Work was good?"
"It was okay. Esposito paraded all day because he managed to both find out who the killer was AND knock him down when he tried to escape from us."
"I bet it was real-ego booster for him, not that he needs it from what you told me." She comments with a breathy laugh.
Just like that I'm reminded that she never got to meet any of my friends, that maybe she never will. I clear my throat and get up. Sometimes making space between us makes it easier to bear.
"You hungry?" I ask her. "I can make us some Pad Thai, I'm pretty sure we have some noodles left."
"That would be good, yeah." She smiles at me and snuggles back in the blanket, her eyes closing.
"I love you, Kev."
"Love you, Jen. Now try to get some rest honey."
It doesn't take her long to fall asleep again and I take advantage of her nap to fix us dinner and tidy up a bit around the apartment. We can't afford help and most days, Jenny is simply not able to manage. Anyway, keeping my hands busy helps relieve my mind.
Wilson's disease is usually diagnosed early, when treatment is possible and effective. In Jenny's case, it wasn't until I dragged her to the emergency room, at 26 years old, that we learned she was a carrier. The changes in her behavior were a sign we ignored. Even if depression and instability were unusual for her, we wrote it off as stress-induced and thought it would go away. It took a violent and sudden hepatitis for us to realize the seriousness of her condition. During her stay at the hospital, the doctors told us that her illness was too advanced for the regular treatment to do any good for the long term. Simply put, liver transplant is her only choice. With no family that she knew of, and me an incompatible donor, it came down to the inevitable, a place on the donor list.
That was 6 months ago. Since then, she has grown steadily worse, the medication having tough side effects and the condition affecting her nervous system now. Somehow we still have hope, partly because her spirits won't break, partly because I will never let her give up. It's weird when I think about it; we haven't been dating for more than a year, yet we're closer than I've ever dreamed I could be with someone. In fact, she had me since the first date.
The oven timer rings, telling me the noodles are ready. I portion the food and bring the plates to the living room. Eating in front of a movie always entertains her, and me. I love how she always talks to the characters, as if she could influence the course of the story with her comments.
Once the plates are on the table, I kneel in front of her and stroke her hair. I wish I didn't have to wake her up; she looks so peaceful, so… pain-free, when she sleeps. She bats her eyelids slowly and looks directly in my eyes. So much gratitude there, it grips something inside me.
That's why I do it. Endure the constant teasing, even encourage it in a way. I would do all that and more to protect her. She has enough to deal with, she doesn't need to be burdened with pity and sad looks thrust upon her as well. I can't imagine my life without those eyes, this sweet soul that I love. So what if they call me honey-milk and laugh at how much I report to her. They don't know that warm milk with honey is the only thing that soothes the stomachaches caused by the medication. And that I text her every hour because I need to know she's okay and that she's still there, able to answer me.
Bring on the jokes. I can take it. For her I could take on anything.