"Did somebody call for an ambulance?" Detective Javier Esposito asked the ever-growing crowd of law enforcement personnel hovering around as the restraints were removed from his wrists. He headed quickly over to his partner as he heard someone call back, 'On their way'. He displaced the uniformed officer behind his partner, who was still laying down, his wrists still held tight behind his back.

"Th. . .This is gr. . .growing t. . .t. . .tires'm," Detective Kevin Ryan stuttered through the trembling.

"I bet. Hold on," Esposito replied as he took his hand and wiped the wetness from Ryan's face and then settled his hand on his partner's neck. Kevin moaned at the touch.

"Y. . .Yer hand's w. . .warm," Ryan said, leaning back into Esposito's touch.

"It's not, bro, but compared to you it is." Javier got to work releasing Kevin from his bindings. The trembling of his partner didn't make Esposito's job any easier but he quickly got it done, and then gently managed to get his best friend's arms out to the side and Kevin's body positioned flat on the floor. Ryan, for his part, could do nothing but let Esposito mold him as he saw fit. He was freezing, trembling with cold and just a little residual fear. Any adrenalin that might have been present while he tried valiantly to keep from breathing in the ice cold water, and kept his wits about him as he and his partner worked hard to keep Hal Lockwood as off kilter as possible as they hoped beyond hope for back-up to arrive in time, had dwindled to non-existent now, exhaustion the only thing he felt other than extreme relief that everyone he cared about here was still alive.

Oh, and the cold. He felt the cold.

Esposito started to unbutton Ryan's vest.

"Wh. . .What are y. . .you d. . .d. . .doing?" Kevin asked.

"Gotta get these wet clothes offa you," Javier explained calmly as he started work next on the shirt. Esposito knew Ryan was suffering from hypothermia; whether it was mild or moderate he didn't yet know, so he'd get the shirts undone first before rolling his partner over to remove the clothing. It was best to get him warm and dry fast, but if he was leaning toward moderate hypothermia, the less moving about early on the better.

"C. . .C. . .Cold," Kevin complained.

"Yeah, I know. But you'll feel better with this wet stuff gone."

"N. . .N. . .Not w. . .without c. . .c. . .clothes."

"Yeah. We'll get ya dried off and then grab a change of clothes for you. You'll be fine."

"C. . .Can't w. . .w. . .wait 't. . .til w. . .we're outta h. . .here?" Ryan asked pleadingly.


Kevin sighed, and then coughed. "'k. . .kay," he got out, recognizing that his partner knew better than he did at the moment what was needed. He coughed some more and then moaned. "H. . .He was r. . .right. B. . .Burns," Ryan added.

"You swallowed some?" Esposito asked worriedly.

"Tried n. . .not to. G. . .Got j. . .j. . .jerked around," Kevin explained through more hacking. Ryan's own feverish attempts to get out of the water, as natural as they may have been, had certainly not helped.

"I know," Javier said, his voice warm and smooth as silk as he worked to keep his friend calm. "You did good."

Ryan put his hand to his chest. "Hurts."

"EMTs'll be here soon." A uniformed officer knelt down beside the detectives with a couple of towels and a blanket. "Thanks," Esposito said. He moved closer to Ryan's head and started drying his hair.

Kevin moaned again. "Feels g. . .good."

"Yeah, feels like they just came out of the dryer," Javier noted.

"They did," the officer responded. "Got them from the Chinese take-out just down the way.

"Gr. . .Great. 'm gonna smell l. . .like m. . .m. . .moo-shu p. . .pork," Ryan joked.

Esposito smirked. "You've smelled worse."

"So've you," Kevin sassed back.

"You are one tough mick," Javier said affectionately. He looked to the uniformed officer and saw his nametag. Patrick McKay. Crap. "Sorry," Esposito said apologetically as he looked the young officer in the eye. "It's just a joke between us. . ."

The uniform let him off the hook. "It's okay."

"It's not okay. I'm not like that. . ."

Ryan tried to move to see the officer. "He's n. . .not," he murmured, feeling the need, even at a time like this, to defend his partner.

"Stop movin' around," Esposito chastised.

"Really, it is okay. What can I do to help?" McKay asked.

"Thanks. Help me get 'im out of his shirt and vest." McKay lifted Ryan's shoulders toward Esposito. Esposito, for his part, took Ryan around the back of his neck and his waist and pulled him to his own shoulder. "Take the shirts off." McKay followed the order with care. "Put some of that blanket down under him as best you can." Again, the order was followed to a 'T'.

"B. . .Bossy," Kevin breathed against Javier's ear.

"You'll thank me later," Esposito assured his friend.

Ryan huffed as he shook his head. "I'm th. . .thankin' you n. . .now."

"I know." Esposito gave his partner a gentle hug. "Let's get you back down and take care of those pants." Kevin groaned. "Gotta be done," Javier explained.

"I know."

Getting the pants off was a bit harder than the two detectives had planned. "Jenny's cookin' puttin' some weight on you, bro?" Javier joked.

"Ha-ha." It was a joke in more ways than one. Ryan was as slim as he'd ever been since Esposito had known him. And Kevin was the cook in that household. Cooking was one of several passions that the detective duo shared. And Esposito had been on the receiving end of one of the meals that Jenny had cooked. It had been one more shared experience in the miserable column. They didn't have a lot of those, but this had been one of them. 'Never again' Esposito had sworn to his partner as Ryan walked him out of his place that night. Javier trembled at the thought – and his ridiculously astute partner picked up on it. "I know, never again."

Esposito snorted as he shared a smile with his best friend. Ryan's smile looked pained, though, so he got right back to the business at hand.

"Think we oughta wait 'til the EMTs get here to remove your pants."

"'kay." Kevin coughed once, but it rolled into a series of wet attempts to clear the water from his lungs. He pushed Javier away, leaned over and spit out what he'd hacked up.

"Good. You need to get that crap out." Esposito received a teary 'no kidding' glare from his partner.

"You guys okay?" Richard Castle asked. Dual glares this time, aimed at the writer. "Well, you know what I mean."

Esposito finished drying Ryan off as best he could with the second towel. Kevin's t-shirt remained plastered to his skin as were his pants. Javier wrapped the blanket around the still trembling detective and rubbed his hands over Kevin's arms and shoulders in hopes that the friction would start to warm his friend. The general chill of the building was setting in with everyone.

"We're f. . .fine," Kevin offered, his eyes pleading with Javier's, a silent 'behave' sent to his partner.

"You're not fine until these guys say you're fine," Detective Kate Beckett said as she kneeled on her high-heels to join the group. "You have looked better, Ryan," she said, the frown lines evident on her pretty face, the warmth of her teasing easily coming through.

Ryan had known that Beckett and Castle were okay, but seeing them eased the tension that had been building all during his and Esposito's imprisonment. . .and his torture at the hands of Hal Lockwood. But that easing of tension seemed to bring on more severe trembling. Beckett noticed and took charge.

"Step aside, Esposito. Let these guys check out your partner." Javier frowned at the lead detective. "You did right by him," she added, her warm brown eyes staring across to his dark chocolate ones. "Let them check him over."

"I'm right here, bro," he said as he helped the EMTs settle his partner to a prone position once more.

"L. . .L. . .Lockwood?" Kevin asked.

"We got 'im," Kate said as she grasped Ryan's shoulder through the thick blanket. "Relax," she added. Kevin looked from Beckett to Castle and then to Esposito. He nodded and then rested his head back, closing his eyes. He felt something soft and warm under his head this time as he lay down.

About ten minutes later, as the uniformed presence started to thin out and the crime scene personnel started their work, Beckett received an update from one of the EMTs.

"But nothing too serious?" she asked after the explanation.

"No. Mild hypothermia, but they'll confirm that at the ER."

"I suppose he's giving you a hard time about that," Beckett said with a knowing smile.

"Yes he is. He's a pretty tough cookie. He went through some serious shit here."

"Yes he is, and yes he did." She looked toward her two detectives. Esposito hadn't left his partner's side. The two of them had kept a regular banter going, amusing themselves as well as the medics who were assessing and treating Ryan. It wasn't at the light-speed Kate was used to from them, but it was comforting to hear nonetheless. Beckett looked back to the EMT before her. "He has to go?"

"He should. Just a precaution. His temp is right on the cusp of moderately hypothermic. If nothing else, the warmth of the unit and the immediate steps they'll take in the ER will be enough to keep it at mild."

"And then we hope he doesn't develop something nasty in his lungs," Kate noted worriedly.

"Right, but he's coughed up a fair amount of water. . .he should be okay. Plus. . ."

Kate finished the thought. "He's a tough S.O.B."


"Okay. Thanks." She walked toward Castle, was interrupted by another uniform. She would need to update Castle on Ryan's condition and make sure she checked in with the detective before the wagon took him to the hospital. She figured she'd have a half a dozen more interruptions before getting to either of those tasks.

And she and Castle had other things to discuss.

Esposito helped get his partner onto the gurney. The EMTs, much to Ryan's chagrin, had immediately cut the rest of his clothes off, all the way down to and including his boxers. His socks were the only pieces of clothing that had remained dry in this whole miserable happenstance. That he remained unclothed under the blanket from the Chinese restaurant and the two more from the ambulance only served to enhance the rotten mood he'd fallen into at the news that he was headed to the hospital. The joking banter had quickly dwindled to nothing, and though Ryan was clearly exhausted, he insisted on keeping his eyes open, his mouth held in a tight, unhappy frown.

So much for relaxing.

"Look, they won't keep you long," Esposito tried soothingly.

"Where's my clothes?"

No, Kevin Ryan wasn't likely to forget that, was he?

"Yeah, sorry, bro. I thought they'd let ya, but they don't wanna move you if they don't have to. 'Sides, you're covered," Javier said, waving his hand over top of the piles of blankets.

"I don't need. . ." Ryan started, but another tickle started him on another coughing jag that had him hacking up and spitting out more of the water from his lungs. He was breathing heavy as he leaned back on the slightly raised back of the gurney, aided by his partner. He tried to talk again, but another cough took his breath away.

"I'm gonna put him on some warmed oxygen," one of the EMTs said.

"I don't need. . ." Kevin eked out.

"Bro! Give it a rest!" Javier demanded angrily. He saw Beckett and Castle look their way. Beckett raised her eyebrow. 'Do I need to come over there?' asked in the silent query. Esposito's slight shake of his head told her that he'd try a change of tactics.

"Look," Esposito said as he leaned into Ryan's line of sight, the oxygen mask now making it hard for Kevin to see over it. "You took in some freezing water. You're, at minimum, suffering from a mild case of hypothermia. The way you're coughing, you're susceptible to pneumonia, and I know you don't want that, right?" Ryan shook his head 'no' as his brilliant blue eyes tracked with his partner's worried brown ones. "Maybe you should just relax, take it easy. If you do that, by the time they look at you in the ER they'll probably wonder why you were brought in at all. Bien?"

Ryan sighed, fogging up the mask covering his face. He nodded and closed his eyes. Esposito combed the spiked, still damp hair back with his fingertips, hoping to get it in some manner presentable; he knew his partner would appreciate the effort. Javier stopped the combing and just rested his hand on Kevin's head. The comfort of the closeness, the comfort of his partner's caring touch – and the exhaustion from fighting for his life while nearly drowning. . .from fighting to stay alert and aware to help his partner – had all caught up to Kevin Ryan. By the time Kate Beckett and Rick Castle came over to see him off, Ryan had finally fallen into a restful doze.

Javier Esposito pulled his hand from his partner's head once he realized who had joined them at the back of the ambulance. He raised his eyes to see them both smiling warmly, knowingly.

"Shut up," he said as the EMTs lifted Ryan into the van. They, too, were smiling at the obvious concern and affection the tough detective showed to his partner. One of them broke into a snort of laughter at Esposito's instruction to his cohorts.

Beckett turned to Castle. "I didn't say anything. Did you say anything?"

"Not a word."

Esposito rolled his eyes. "I'm following the ambulance to the hospital. They won't keep him."

"You're sure?" Kate asked.

"Oh, I'm sure. He's a pain in the ass. I could've used a damned night off after this," Javier grouched.

"Yeah, like I believe that you would be anywhere else other than sitting with Ryan at the hospital if they admitted him," Castle said, more than sure of himself.

Esposito gave him another glare. Then he turned and walked away.

"Well," Kate said. "I guess you were told."

"Ouch," Castle countered with a grin.

The End.