And you'll be a real good listener.
You'll be honest; You'll be brave.
You'll be handsome, and you'll be beautiful:
You'll be happy.

-Rilo Kiley

She is dark. She is heavy.


Her lids crack; the light is extreme. A face against the light.


She is heavy. Her chest-

She is dark.

Her throat burns.

No voice here, burns. No voice against the dark.

Threads. Throat burns, threading pain into needles.

Burns. Stitching her up with pain.

She has to use all her energy to fill her lungs. He is sitting on her lungs. Why is he doing that? Why won't he lift up a little and let her breathe?

"Castle," she rasps, surprises herself with the sound of her own voice: brutal, rough, like she has been swallowing spikes.

"Kate. Katie? Hey there, beautiful. Open your eyes."

Her eyes are open. They are. It burns. Stop sitting on me, let me breathe. Let me-

His face floating like a balloon. Then connects, connected, hands on her face. Why is he touching her?

She swallows; everything burns. "Throat."

"What? Oh, want some water? The nurse says I can give you sips. Small sips. But you might throw up. The anesthetic is still messing with your system, so take it easy."

Her eyes are open. She grunts. Castle hustles; her chest still feels like it is collapsing every time she breathes out. It is a struggle to refill her lungs. She could just stay like this, air expelled. It is easier, less work. She will just rest here a moment, breath gone, wait just a moment before trying to breathe in again. Just wait. She can just settle into the slow leak of air out of her. . .


She jerks, diaphragm spasms; she gasps. Kate cries out with the pain and blinks against tears. Swallows hard and feels it like a knife down her throat, into her chest, filleting her. Someone has cracked open her sternum and put his hand in her chest and hung her organs from her ribs, pierced them all with the jagged edges. The split down her chest is ragged, gaping.

"You have to keep breathing, Kate. Please don't stop breathing. They'll put you back on the vent, and that's. . .you might not come off again."

"Water," she groans, closes her eyes against the waves of pain.

"Right here, Kate. Right here."

The straw is between her lips and the instant the water coats her throat oh God thank you. And then the lukewarm wave hits her stomach like a sledgehammer and she jerks up in bed, eyes wide, and vomits clear and acidic all over her left side. Tears leak down her cheeks as the agony sets up a cutting beat in time with her clamoring heart. Wretched, ragged pieces of her chest exposed to the live wire of pain.

"It's okay," he murmurs, hovering, touching her forehead, fingers behind her neck to ease her back down. "It's okay. I got you. You're okay."

She's not okay. She's anything but okay. "Hurts. God, hurts."

"I know, Kate. I know. I've called the nurse; they'll add more painkillers to your drip. Change your sheets. Let me just clean this up."

When she opens her eyes, he's cradling her face, cleaning her neck and shoulder and arm with the edge of the sheet, then damp paper towels. "No." She moans again; every word an agony.

"It's okay."

"Castle, don't." Oh God. God, please.

"Alexis got the stomach flu twice in one month when she was three. In case you didn't know, three year olds don't run for the toilet, they run for daddy."

She moans but it's meant to be a laugh, closes her eyes, tries to not smell it. She puts her right hand to her mouth, tries not to gag again.

"Want some water to swish around in your mouth?"

She nods, opens her eyes, chews on her bottom lip to keep from crying again. Tries not to feel it, the split down her chest. She takes another sip, carefully moves the water around her mouth, then spits into the bedpan Castle is holding up. The crack doen her chest is widening.

"Nurse is on her way. Still in pain, Kate?"

She grunts a yes, and puts a hand to her chest, afraid to touch it, the pain is too much. Waves, in and out, making it hard to hear anything else.

A hand strokes the side of her face; her eyelashes flutter weakly, open. She can't, can't think right. She should, there is something she should say. Something to him.

"Please," she whispers. Has to close her eyes.

"I know, Kate. The nurse is on her way."

Kate whimpers, hates herself for it, can't be bothered to stop the next whimper as it echoes in her throat, builds to a keening urgency.

"I know, baby, I know. Hang in there. The nurse is right here. Here you go, Kate. It'll be better in a second."

Tears are running down the sides of her face. His fingers brushing the tears. She rides the next weave, wipes out, drowns. Down. Drowns down, ever down, listening to the voice whispering reassurances in her ear.

She cries out, wakes to her own cry, and pain. Pain.

He tries to hold her; the motion of him makes her cry.


He strokes her face, kisses her forehead. Sings her the song her mother always sang, low and rocky, his calloused hands down her temples, across her cheeks, tracing her nose, just like her mom always did when she was sick. "There's my brave girl. My beautiful, brave little girl."

She cries, cries quietly to keep it from hurting so much, keeps her eyes closed until she feels that first curtain fall over her legs, drag its way up her body until it covers her head, darkness, relief.



"On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?" Why do they talk so much? Every time. Every time. Just, ah, ah, fuck.

"12," she grits out, her teeth gnashing, her mouth contorted in a rictus of pain. Involuntarily, she jerks, multiplies the pain past her own limits; the black wave descends.

"Okay, Kate, it's in the drip. It will all. . ."

All be fine. All be fine in a minute. . .

"Ana, please. Please don't," she begs, tries to lift her hand, can't.

"I've got to, Kate. You're in agony. Rick came and got me, he's so worried about you. How's the pain scale?"

Castle is here? "Please don't. I can't keep track; it makes me sick. Can't stay awake."

"That's because we're weaning you off the morphine. How's the pain, Kate?"

Oh shit, shit, no. She's on morphine? Her father's history; she can't do that. It's in her genes; what if she's addicted? "Don't know. There's no pain."

"Yes you do, Kate. You need to tell me honestly so we can make sure you're healing."

She grunts, feels the lie tell on her. Feels the hovering presence bearing down on her. "A 9. It's a 9. Fuck." It hurts.

"Good girl." Ana writes it down in her chart and starts the IV.

She blinks away tears, refuses to cry, sets her jaw against both the agony and the ecstasy.

It's not as potent this time, thank God, thank God. The wave is grey; it pulls at her like a strong tide; she is not yet drowning. The jagged edge is gone, but not the chasm; the chasm of pain still yawns within her.

"Castle." Judas. Told on her to the nurse.

"I'm right here, Kate."

It's enough. His hand on her cheek. Enough to pull her back, not yet under, just a tug, a tugging at her body. She doesn't have to look at the pain in the eye.

"Where's my dad?"

"He's back at the loft. Want me to call and get him over here?"

"No. No. Just. . .where's Alexis?"


"It doesn't hurt," she lies. She swallows; her mouth is like a sock. Her eyes are heavy. Her chest numb. It's good stuff. Good. "My hand."

"I've already got your hand, Kate. I've got you."

"Hm." Her eyelids droop, down. Up, back up. What was she saying? "What happened? Why does it hurt, hurt all the time?"

"You got shot, Kate. You were shot. But we got the guy."

Oh. That's right. She knew that.

"Don't leave."


She sighs, lets the drag of the drug-tide pull her out, down.

She opens her eyes. Licks her lips. Cracked, sharp sting. She blinks against pale morning light.

Something heavy. She turns her head slowly. Castle is asleep on top of her supinated right hand, her palm open at his ear, his drool at her wrist. She swallows, painfully, dry mouth and tongue too thick. Slowly lets her fingers curl into his hair, warm and soft.

She twitches her fingers on accident; he stirs. Wakes. Blinks and lifts his head.

"Hey," she says, glad to hear her voice isn't too broken. She smiles.

"Hey," he whispers, clears his throat to get the sleep out of it. Smiles back, that wide and beaming and brilliant grin that leaves her a little breathless.

"You been sleeping here?"

He tilts his head, studying her. "Yes."


His eyebrows raise. She blinks and feels the rattle in her chest as she breathes again. She needs to cough, but something tells her that's not a good idea.


A look crosses his face; she waits, runs her tongue around her gums, the inside of her cheek, swallows again. She feels dumb and weighted down.

"How much do you remember?" he says, putting a straw to her lips.

She sips, lets it slide down her throat, cool and beautiful. She shakes her head. "A lot of. . .nothing. It hurts."

"It hurts?"

She frowns. Examines herself in her mind, feeling for her body. "No? No."

"You've been in the hospital for a little over a week."

"Why? Oh. I got shot. I was shot." Awareness trickles in, brings panic. "Oh God, at the funeral. Castle-" She makes a move, as if to get up, and both his hands come down on her arms, pinning her.

"You've got uniforms outside your door, a plainclothes detective downstairs, and a couple black and whites making rounds outside."

"He's still out there?" She tries to clear the fog from her brain, realizes she's trembling. No energy, her muscles are like jelly.

"We got the shooter."


"But not the guy who hired him."

Lockwood, all over again, then. This time, no great escape. She'll make sure of it. She knits her eyebrows and thinks.

"Stop. You need to rest, Kate. You've been in a lot pain. You were on a ventilator after surgery. You've got to let yourself heal."

"I will," she says, ignoring him.

"Katherine Beckett, you are going to rest. Ryan and Esposito have it covered."

She gives him a look.

"Don't even," he growls, standing up to loom over her. "Do not even try that with me. You almost died. You almost died, Kate. So let it go and get some rest."

"I feel okay. I'm not tired."

"The hell you're not." He takes her hand in his, smooths her fingers out along his palm. "You see this?"

She looks down at his hand; he's fit her fingers up against four crescent shaped marks in his skin. "Yeah?"

"This is where you cut my hand with your nails, you were in so much pain. Squeezing my hand so hard. You may not remember it, but I sure as hell do."

Oh. She looks down at his hand. God.

"Sorry." She reaches back for the event, a memory, something, but it's not there. Nothing is there.

"Don't be sorry, Kate. I'd do it again. A hundred times. But I'm tired. I'm so freaking tired of this. Every time I say what I mean to say, you forget. The pain, the drugs, whatever. It pulls it all right out of your head."

"What?" It's still a haze. There's something about her father, about how it was when she was sick as a kid. Sick three year olds run to their father. Did her dad tell her that? "What's out of my head?"

Castle leans over and presses his lips to her forehead. "Everything you mean to me, Kate. All of it."

"What?" That doesn't make any sense.

"I love you, Kate. And I'm going to do whatever it takes, *whatever it takes* to get you better, to keep you safe.. Do you hear me? God, I love you. I love you, Kate."