Title: Stand With Me

Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. Only the amazing Creative Team own those rights, and Andrew Marlowe, our King.

Summary: Shot, hospitalized and confused, Katherine Beckett wakes up to a changing future. Richard Castle wants to protect her, love her, save her. But there are things she must face, and she can't make him the promises he needs. Post-Knockout continuation.

Author's Note: This is my take on the repercussions of Knockout. I plan to go for as long as I can with it. I've read a number of interviews with Marlowe and I'm going to pick and choose what to throw in here, based on where he's said he wants to take the characters. However, it certainly won't ruin anything for you.

I hope you'll enjoy the ride with me. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

Emma


Chapter 1:

"Kate? Where's Kate? I need to see her. You let me through!"

She couldn't move and everything was fuzzy, but someone was yelling.

"You can't go in yet, Mr. Castle. She's not even awake ye…"

"That woman nearly died in my arms. Let. Me. Through!"

He rarely sounded so angry. Why was he yelling? Why wouldn't they let him through? She wanted to see him. Where was she? Why did everything hurt?

"Mr. Cas…"

"Let him through," a new voice ordered.

Kate blinked as the door opened. Things were coming back into focus. Then a face swam into her line of sight. His face was splotchy and his eyes were crazed.

"Kate," he whispered, his hands gingerly coming up to cup her face. "You're awake."

She blinked. "C…" But she started coughing and the world was closing in on her and she couldn't stop.

Then gentle hands were propping her up and rubbing her back. She finally stopped coughing and then a straw was at her lips. She managed to gulp down some water, sighing as the cool liquid eased her dry and scratchy throat. "Wh…what happened?" she managed when he removed the cup.

"You don't remember?" he asked. He looked so worried and sad, expectant? What was that emotion?

"I…" she thought for a second. "I was giving the eulogy and then…" she closed her eyes as memories came flying back through her foggy mind. The shot, the hit, the fall. Rick screaming her name over and over as she felt blood pouring out of her side. "Kate. Stay with me, Kate. Don't leave me, please. Stay with me, okay? Kate, I love you. I love you, Kate."

"You," she opened her eyes.

"Don't," he smiled. "Not now. Just rest, Kate."

"But…"

"Or ask me questions. Not now. When you're healthy and out of here, and ordering me around again—we'll do it then. Now, just be, Kate."

"After…" she licked her cracked lips. "What happened after?"

He frowned. "Ryan and Esposito chased him down, but he was already in the wind. And you…you were so still and pale and losing all of this blood. And they came and took you away and wouldn't let me in the ambulance. My mother took Alexis home and Lanie and I got in a cab, but it took so long."

"What…where was I hit?" Everything hurt. Everything. Her head, her back, her neck, her stomach—nothing felt right.

"Your side, at the bottom of your liver," he recounted. "You lost so much blood. Oh, God, you lost so much blood."

"Hey," she said, shakily raising a hand to rest it on the arm that had fallen to her side. "I'm…alive."

"I know," he smiled. "I know. Now go to sleep."

"You…can't just…order me around…Castle," she sighed, even as her eyes fell shut and the weight of darkness pulled her back under.


"At least a month."

"She's not going to like that, Bro."

"I know."

"And with our mystery guy in the wind..."

"I know."

There was silence and she struggled to open her eyes. If she could just see them she could tell them to stop talking about her, or at least tell her what they knew. But she couldn't even open her mouth. Damn drugs.

"Have you called?"

"Hospital says he gets back from Timor tomorrow."

"So he's not even…"

"No. Not even on the continent."

"Castle, dude."

"It's not my choice to make."

"You know that sh…"

"Not here, guys." She managed to twitch her hand. "Looks like someone's waking up." Finally, her eyes opened. It took her about a minute to see straight. Esposito and Ryan smiled at her while Castle sat on the edge of her bed near her feet, one of his large hands coming to rest on her calf.

"How you doin?" he asked.

She got her mouth to open. "W..water," she rasped.

"Right!" Ryan bustled over and held the cup out for her to drink.

"Thanks," she said when she was done. "Who's in the wind?"

A look past amongst them. "Beckett, now's not the time," Ryan spoke after a moment.

"Ryan," she replied. "Tell me."

"We don't know anything," Esposito replied. "We chased him down six blocks, but he was gone. And Montgomery…" he trailed off.

"Right," she sighed, letting her head fall back. She'd been shot, and they had no idea who'd shot her. And the last person who knew was dead. He'd sacrificed himself for her.

The door creaked open. "Ah, Ms. Beckett. You're awake. Wonderful! I'm Dr. Sanders." Kate looked over at the perky Doctor.

"We'll just," Ryan and Esposito left quickly while Rick took his time standing and moving out of the way.

"You don't need to stay, Mr. Castle," the young woman smiled. "I've got her all taken care of."

Kate found Castle's eyes. She hated hospitals. She hated being prodded and poked and inspected. And she didn't even really know what the hell was wrong with her. Everything was still hazy and she definitely had more drugs in her system than fluid or food.

"If it doesn't bother Detective Beckett, I'll stay," he replied, something in his eyes softening as he seemed to understand.

"Look, Mr. Castle," the young woman turned around. "I understand that you 'shadow' Detective Beckett. But don't you think this is going a bit too far?"

Castle's eyes widened. "Um, I'm not trying to observe Detective Beckett…"

"Then you can get out," the woman said with a false sweetness that didn't quite cover the abrupt dismissal.

Castle looked at her and then at Kate. She couldn't ask him to stay; the woman was bound to take her gown off. But she didn't want him to leave.

"I'll get out, then. Uh, let me know when you're done. Detective Beckett and I have things to…"

"Yes, thank you," the Doctor interrupted.

Castle raised his eyebrows but then backed toward the door, maintaining eye contact with Kate. She saw it—the desire to stay, to protect, to comfort. She gave him a weak smile and watched as he left and the door shut.

"Goodness, I thought he'd never leave. Sit up a bit, if you can," the Doctor ordered. "I mean, I get that he's shadowing you, but really, trying to pass that off as an excuse to see you naked is just wrong."

"Oh, Castle wouldn't use…" Kate began, before the pain of sitting up caused her to inhale her words.

"Yes, I'll bet that does twinge a bit." She might stab this woman. "Has anyone been by to brief you about this yet?"

"C…Castle told me it was my…ah!...my liver," Kate panted as they removed her dressing gown and the Doctor helped her lean back into the pillows.

"Yes, I suppose he got some of it right," the woman muttered. "The shot entered at the lowest part of your liver, which is lucky. We were able to repair the damage. You've had some serious blood loss and the surgery was quite invasive, so you'll be out of commission for a while."

"Bout a month, I hear," Kate winced as the bandages were removed. She looked down and fought the urge to gasp at her own wound. It looked horrible. There must have been forty stitches and the skin surrounding the former bullet hole was blue and purple.

"A month sounds about right. And yes, it does look pretty bad. But, as I understand it, you've got a medic who can take care of you."

Kate blinked. "Yeah, I guess Lanie wouldn't mind helping me…"

"Lanie?"

"Who are you talking about?" Kate asked.

"Who are you talking about?"

"My friend Lanie is the ME at the 12th, where I work. Who were you talking about?"

"Josh."

Kate's eyes widened. "You…you know Josh?"

"You do know what hospital you're at, right?" Kate shook her head slowly. "Josh is head of the surgical team here."

"He's in East Timor."

"I know. Which is a shame. I'm sure he would have jumped at the chance to operate on you."

Kate considered the young woman. "Have we met?"

"Julie Sanders. I think we did, once, at a benefit. But you've just been shot. I don't expect you to remember." Kate gave her a weak smile and then closed her eyes as the young surgeon tended to her injury. "So, can I ask you something?"

Kate opened her eyes. "I guess."

"Why is that writer still following you?"

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, you must know how much it bothers Josh."

Kate couldn't wrap her head around it. Of all of the hospitals, and all of the Doctors, she had to get the one that didn't know. Granted, no one knew. And where the hell did she get off talking about Castle like some piece of tag-along-trash?

"The Writer's my Partner."

"Doesn't sound like a great situation. Doesn't he get annoying? I mean, he's been hanging around here like some puppy for the past few days."

"Days?" Kate interjected.

"You've been in and out of it, but haven't really woken since yesterday."

"How long was I out before that?"

"About six hours after surgery."

"So he was here?" she asked.

Sanders tutted. "Just sat in that waiting room. Your father's been by. He'll be coming back later. And those other Detectives…you know, no one but your father is supposed to be in here."

"They're my team," Kate replied. "They get to see me. The writer too."

The woman looked at her. "I hope you know what you could be throwing away." Then she left.

Kate glanced down at her stomach and realized that she'd been cleaned, bandaged, and reported, judging by the clipboard at the bottom of the bed. Who was that woman?

"You decent?" Castle called from the doorway.

Kate looked down. She really didn't want to put the gown back on. And she was fairly certain that she couldn't do it alone. "Uh…sort of," she replied. She was wearing a bra.

"Do you want me to wait?"

Kate blew out a breath. "No, I want you to come help me get the damn gown on."

She heard him laugh and watched as he came in, apprehensive. He surprised her as his eyes never fell away from her face while he approached. She tiredly held up the gown and he helped her slip her arms back into it. Then he stepped back and brushed a piece of hair out of her face.

"How'd it go?"

"She's…she's horrible," Kate replied, giving him a weak smile. "Thanks."

"Not a problem. And yeah, was it just me, or was she mean?"

Kate laughed. "She was."

"Any idea why she obviously hates me? I've never met that woman before."

Kate shook her head. Now was not the time to get into all of it. "I guess she missed the seminar on bedside manner."

He nodded and pulled up a chair so that he could sit next to her bed. "Are you feeling alright? Do you need meds or anything?"

"I'm okay," Kate replied. She was. She honestly could barely feel anything. "I want to stay awake. She said I've been out for a while."

"Since yesterday," he nodded. "Your Dad came by. He'll be back soon. And Mother and Alexis came through last night." He pointed to some flowers Kate hadn't realized were there.

"Thank them for me?" she asked.

"Of course."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"What's going on, Castle?"

He considered her. "They're looking for someone to replace Montgomery over at the 12th. Ryan and Esposito just went back to try and run some leads. It's a mess."

"I'll bet. Roy's family?"

He sighed. "They're distraught. Jenny's with them and they've got the rest of their extended there too, and a protective detail. You've got one too."

Kate nodded slowly. "I'll have one for a while."

"You sure as hell will," he replied.

"Hey, I'm okay, Castle," she said, noticing the stress that still hadn't fallen away from his face.

"You're in a hospital bed, Kate."

"But I'm alive, and with some physical therapy and a host of meds, I'll be just fine in a month."

He looked up at her. "I saw the lights go out."

"Oh, Castle."

"Right there. I couldn't do anything to help you. Ryan got pressure on the wound and we kept calling for you, but you wouldn't wake up."

"But the ambulance came in time," she reminded. He looked far away, reliving the event.

"And we couldn't ride with you. And there was so much traffic and chaos." He looked up at her from the chair. "Never, ever, do that again."

She couldn't decide whether to cry or laugh. "I'll do my best, Castle."

His face hardened. "Your best isn't good enough. I can't take that again, Kate. I can't lose you again."

"Castle…"

There was a knock on the door. "Kate?" Her father's head popped through the doorway. "Do you two need a minute?"

Castle shook his head while Kate nodded.

"I'll, uh, be out here," Jim said, glancing between them before he disappeared and the door closed.

"Castle…"

"No, Kate. Not right now, okay?" he stood and leaned over to press his lips to her forehead. "Right now, you need to focus on getting better."

"We're not done talking about this," she said as he pulled away.

"Oh, I know," he gave her a sad smile. "But I'm not fighting with you today."

"What makes you think you'll be fighting with me?"

He just looked at her for a long moment. "He's still out there. He'll be coming after you. And I don't believe for a minute that a gunshot wound is going to make you think twice about throwing yourself back into it."

"I'm not even…"

"I know you're not thinking about it now—which is what you need. But, when you do start thinking about it, we're going to revisit this conversation."

Something settled in the pit of her stomach. "Castle, Rick, I can't prom…"

"Not now," he said, this time with more conviction. "Now, talk to your Dad. I'll be back later, okay?"

She gave him a weak nod and watched as he walked out of the room. Unease filled her. Something was wrong, and no one was telling her. Rick knew things. And she was stuck in a damn bed, stitched up and sore. Hell of a day.