A/N: I got a few PMs about this chapter not showing up for people, hopefully this fixes whatever issues are being had!
"Hi, Mrs. Hurst." Kate called out, looking around for the older woman as Jonah closed the door behind her. Their neighbor had been feeling under the weather, so Kate had prepared chicken soup to bring over before they headed to the Castle loft. Jonah clutched a box of saltines and looked far less anxious than usual, now that she no longer forced I Love Lucy marathons on him.
"Mrs. Hurst?" Kate called out again, louder this time, pausing and waiting for a response. Jonah sucked on his lower lip and leaned into her side. None of the lights were on, and an eerily feeling crept over Kate as she handed him the soup and ordered him to stay put near the door.
"You think she's okay?"
Kate nodded, even though he could tell by her face that she was worried. She walked slowly through the apartment, completely on guard. The radio was playing an oldies station, the static buzz the only other noise besides her own light footsteps. She peeked into the woman's room, and the bed was neatly made. Two quilts were folded on the bed, the only disturbance being her usually immaculately empty trashcan filled with tissues.
She closed the door behind her and turned towards the next, the bathroom. After flipping on the lights, she dropped to her knees. "Oh, Mrs. Hurst."
The older woman's eyes were closed as she laid on the floor in front of the sink, still in her bathrobe. She felt for a pulse, which to her relief, throbbed steadily under her fingers. Checking her watch, she saw that it was well past five in the evening, and Mrs. Hurst was never caught in her pajamas past seven in the morning. She must have fallen soon after waking up, Kate realized anxiously.
Pulling her phone from her pocket, she dialed 911 and spoke as calmly as she could, breathing a small sigh of relief once she knew an ambulance was on the way. Mrs. Hurst slowly began to stir, and she gently rubbed the woman's shoulder before peeking out into the hall. Jonah stood obediently at the end, having set the soup on the table in order to hop from one foot to the other nervously.
She whistled to grab his attention, his head snapping towards her as the loud noise echoed through the apartment. "Jonah, baby, I need you to go wait outside for the ambulance. Make sure they know how to get up here."
Jonah nodded meekly, opening the door and glancing back worriedly into the old woman's apartment before dashing down to the elevators, punching the button with his thumb before changing his mind and taking the stairs.
Kate and Jonah were over an hour late for their movie night, and Rick paced anxiously until her name showed up on his caller ID. He answered the phone after only one ring. "Beckett, where are you? I thought we had plans."
"I'm at the hospital." Kate sighed, sitting down in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs as Jonah's feet tapped a rhythm on the floor.
His voice immediately turned panicked. He'd only left her at the precinct a few hours before, what could have happened between now and then? "Hospital?! Are you okay?"
Realizing how she must have sounded to him, she placated. "No, no. Not me. Or Jonah. Mrs. Hurst."
He hummed in recognition. "What happened to her?"
"I'm not sure. We went to bring her dinner before heading over to your place and I found her on the bathroom floor."
"Jesus. Do you want me to come down there?"
Kate shook her head, even though he couldn't see her. "No, it's fine."
"Beckett. I'm on my way." He told her sternly, ignoring her slight protest as she heard him pick up his keys through the phone.
"What about Alexis?"
"Tech Week. She's spending the night at a friend's."
She sighed, although slightly happy that he wasn't going to let her wait alone. "Castle, that is totally unnecessary."
He was there within fifteen minutes, immediately wrapping her in a hug. "Thank you." She mumbled into his shirt, her fingers grasping the soft material that stretched across his back.
"How many times do I have to tell you?" He whispers into her hair. "Anything."
Jonah waved and the writer took the corner seat next to him. He stretched his arm out to go across Jonah's back all the way to Kate, brushing her shoulder with the tips of his fingers. She smiled gratefully, her son's fingers lacing through her own as he leaned against Rick's shoulder. They waited for a few more minutes, with Kate looking anxiously down the hallway she knew the doctor would likely appear. And one did, finally. The trio stood together as he approached.
She put on the strongest voice she could as she stepped in front. "How is she?"
"Fine." The doctor told them, and Kate let out a sigh of relief. "I am recommending the use of a walker, however. Is there any next of kin that could check up on her from time to time?"
Kate sighed. "Gary, her son, lives in Saskatchewan. And her daughter lives in LA. They rarely make it back here."
Jonah, lifting his head from behind her, spoke up. "We'll do it. Right, mom?"
She smiled warmly at her son, who darted over from next to Rick and ducked his head under her arm. She wrapped him up tightly, kissing his head before looking back up to the doctor. "Right. We'll do it, it's no problem."
The doctor looked at them for a moment before nodding. "Okay, I see no reason to keep her here overnight, and discharge papers will be ready shortly."
"I'm starving." Jonah sighed, turning to Rick after they settled Mrs. Hurst back into her apartment. "Come up for dinner?"
He glanced over at Kate, who had her back turned as she locked the door behind her. "If it's okay with your mom."
Jonah rolled his eyes, grabbing Rick's wrist and tugging him further down the hallway. "Let's go."
Kate didn't ask any questions when Rick joined them in the elevator up, letting her hand drop the run through Jonah's hair as he hopped back and forth.
"Mom," Jonah grabbed her hand, turning into her so her arm wrapped around him. "What will Mrs. Hurst do when we're gone?"
"We won't be gone gone." Kate said firmly. "We'll still visit. Every day, if we can."
Jonah nodded contently, "She's kind of grumpy but I don't want her to be lonely."
"She won't." Kate assured him.
"And hey, if you guys can't make it, how about Alexis and I pop over to give her some company?"
The boy turned to beam at Rick, his green eyes seeming huge on his eager face. "You mean it?"
"Wouldn't have said it if I didn't." He was pushed back by the momentum of Jonah throwing his arms around him tightly. He had to strain to hear the boy's muffled words as he spoke directly into the fabric of his shirt.
And from the way Kate was looking at him from the other side of her son, it seemed like she agreed.
"I'm too tired to cook anything." Kate sighed as she walked through her door.
Rick already had his phone to his ear and he waggled his eyebrows. "Pizza it is."
While Kate went in search of paper plates, because dishes were so not in her plans for tonight either, Rick decided to poke around the half packed living room.
There, in the corner, he spotted it. All of Kate's books were stacked together, ready to be packed away for Ryan and Esposito to sweat over in a few weeks' time. And at the top of one pile he found the familiar binding, his name against the side. He'd never seen her copies before, and he assumed she'd hidden them away when he'd become a more permanent fixture in her life. But here they were, Kate's copies of his books, and he itched to inspect them.
Quickly checking to make sure she was nowhere in sight, Rick flipped open to the first novel he could reach, his second. It was a worn copy, one from the first print, he noted proudly. As much as he teased her, he was honestly flattered that she'd even appreciated his early work. He stopped at the inside cover, the words catching his eye immediately. His heart constricted as he recognized his own handwriting, skimming it briefly before darting to the opposite page where Kate's own neat script laid. He read her words slowly, his heart feeling constricted inside his chest.
I love you, Mom. I know I forget to tell you that a lot more than I really should, but I do. I wish I could change the way I've been these last few years, I know I was hell. I'm going to be better though, so much better. I want to make you proud. XO, your Katie.
Kate chose that moment to appear with a stack of plates, slowing to a stop as she spotted what he'd found.
He was almost breathless as he looked up at her. "I met your mother?"
She sat the plates down on the counter. She'd known the book was out for the past few, and had honestly expected him to find it sooner. Pushing aside the small amount of anxiety she felt, she slowly made her way over to him. "No, you met me."
His head jerked up, startled. He'd met her before and he didn't remember?
She tapped the opposite page and he read it slowly, words he'd written but didn't remember.
For Johanna. You've raised a lovely daughter, so I can only imagine how wonderful you must be.
Underneath it, his name, penned with a careful flourish that he'd dropped over the years and years of signings.
"I was getting it for my mother, though. She had your first and read it cover to cover more times than I could count. And this one had just been released, but she was so busy with work she never had time to grab it. I was home from Stanford on Christmas break and I saw the sign out that you'd be at this bookstore. So, I waited in line for like an hour. You were flirting with every girl in the place, of course." She didn't sound mad, rather her eyes glinted with amusement as she sat across from him on the floor. He made a face anyways, remembering how schmoozy he'd acted for so many years. Still acted, sometimes.
"But you asked me my name and I told you to make it out to Johanna. And I took it home and wrapped it right away because mom was a snoop and she'd find it within minutes if I left it out. She opened it on Christmas morning and her face just lit up." She remembered fondly, curling her fingers around his after he reached out to grasp her hand tightly. "She meant to read it I think, always tucked it away in her briefcase or next to the bed. But, ah, she just got so caught up in her work, you know? She just cared about it so much, put so much overtime into it and threw herself in it headfirst."
"Like someone else I know." Rick quietly said, without accusation as he rubbed his thumb along her knuckles.
Yeah," she briefly laughed before turning fiercely serious. "It's what got her killed, Castle. She put her heart and soul into it…I guess we do have that in common." Kate inhaled deeply and shrugged, letting the rhythmic motions of his thumb give her the power to continue telling him. She needed to tell him. She wanted to let him in, and she'd be damned if she chickened out now. She began again, quieter. "I don't talk about it much but it almost destroyed me. I was drowning in my quest for justice and didn't even realize it until I was dragged up for air."
He let his other hand brush against her cheek and she leaned into his palm, shaking the memories away before continuing lowly. "So, ah, it was a few weeks after she died and I was really missing her. My dad was off on a bender and it was just me in the house and it was Valentine's Day. It was her favorite holiday. She'd always bake a red velvet cake the night before and we'd eat it for breakfast." Kate smiled, remembering fondly how ostentatious her mother had been.
The red blazer and skirt that her mother proudly wore year after year, a tiny heart pin Kate had made in the 2nd grade resting on the lapel. How embarrassed she'd felt when she gave loud, wet kisses before Kate could sneak out of the car, even in front of her waiting friends. The horror she'd felt when, each year, a voice on the radio announced a cheesy love song that had been requested for Katie Beckett, with love from her mama. The PDA her parents shared in the kitchen that made her cringe. Heart-shaped pizza and strawberry ice cream. Making her dance with them before she went to bed and loudly singing Wind Beneath My Wings.
She pushed the memories back so she could finish. "I bought some cake mix and I burnt it, and I bought one and it didn't taste the same and I was just so frustrated with myself. So I went into her room and just went through her things. It still smelled like her, my father had barely had enough sense to fall onto the couch, let alone make it upstairs into their bedroom to disturb anything." He squeezed her hand and she inhaled shakily. "And there it was, just sitting on her nightstand like she was coming home to read it. So I sat against the headboard and I read."
"Kate." His hoarse whisper paused her, his eyes softer than she'd ever seen them.
She smiled up at him, her eyes watery. "You have a way with words, Castle, there's no denying that. And so I finished it in hours, and went back to her copy of the first. It was dog-eared and highlighted and she had notes in the margin and it was her. And then a while later your third came out, and then your fourth and your fifth and I bought them all. Because that's what my mom would have done and I felt closer to her that way, you brought me closer to her even after she was gone. And you have no idea-" She ended her sentence with a loud exhale, got up on her knees and straddled his legs, pressing her lips to his fiercely. He let one hand drop to her thigh while the other threaded through the loose hair tickling his cheek.
"Easy, sweetheart." He murmured, not really minding, but feeling the need to pump the brakes nonetheless.
She pulled back breathlessly. "Don't call me sweetheart."
"Whatever you say." He breathed back, pulling her hair from the sloppy bun, struggling for a moment to untangle it without hurting her before taking her lips back.
They're pulled out of their daze by the cat, who bolts from one side of the loft to the other, clawing his way across the coffee table and knocking over most of the contents in the process.
"You little shit." Kate grumbled, even as Rick chuckled lowly into her shoulder. "Damn cat."
They didn't talk much for the rest of the night. Jonah needed help with another art project, and he and Rick had taken over the kitchen table. Alexis called, and Kate promised to meet her for coffee during one of her breaks the next day for the teenager to vent. As she sunk into her favorite chair and listened to the sounds of her son and her…Castle, working together in the kitchen, she felt herself closing her eyes. Shithead jumped into her lap, and the steady purring combined with the soft laughter lulled her to sleep.
Late that night, after he'd carried her to bed despite her sleepy threats of shooting him, he made a decision. With Kate's back turned to him, he started gently tracing patterns on her bare skin. Her breath hitched, letting him know that she was still awake, although the extent of her alertness was debatable. After a moment, he inhaled slowly and was filled with purpose.
A long vertical line down the middle, followed by two horizontal ones under her neck and across lower back.
Another long line, further to the left, with a horizontal line at the bottom.
Two slanted lines, meeting near the base of her spine at a single point.
Another long line, with three small ones branching off.
Kate's eyes had popped open when he had started, feeling him shift behind her intently. Usually it meant he was about to pull her towards him for more. But now, moisture forced her to close them as she realized what he was doing. What he was spelling. Her heart pounded and clenched, her fingers squeezing the sheets as she let him finish. The lines and ovals continued for a few more moments, before his hand settled warmly on her hip and he let out a deep breath. She focused on his finger rubbing against the bone before slowly turning over, his hand helping her along and tugging her closer.
Even in the dark, she could tell his pupils were blown wide. His face was stone serious, not a trace of his normal, teasing demeanor. His other hand went to her face, gently tracing around her eyes and nose, finally down to her lips, which he swiped over with his thumb softly. She opened her mouth, gently teasing the pad with her teeth before releasing it as he continued to the back of her neck, pulling her fully against him.
She laid her forehead against his collarbone, pressing a kiss there as his hands went to cradle her against him. He didn't say anything, for which she was grateful. She wasn't sure how actually hearing the words would bode for her fragile state. Words she wanted to say herself but got caught in her throat, seizing her chest in panic as she thought about what such a declaration would mean for everything between them. He soothed her oh so gently though, hands smoothing down her back and rubbing in all the places he'd learned that relaxed her. And with her head pillowed against his upper arm she closed her eyes, entwining their hands as she slowly drifted off.