This oneshot is a quite belated birthday present for Emily (Kavi Leighanna). I meant to have this for you days ago, and then this terrible thing called writers block happened. I am eternally grateful that you chose me to write with. I hope you had a very happy birthday, and … enjoy!

Richard Castle is afraid to sleep.

He's afraid to miss the tiny flickering of eyelids that would tell him she's coming back. He's afraid to be sleeping when everything hits her all over again, afraid his eyes will be closed and he won't be able to reassure her when she realizes she's not waking from a nightmare.

And, okay, he knows she's not the type of person who wants someone holding her hand, because that shows weakness. But right now? Right now, she needs it. Despite what she'd tell him, she needs someone to know her tears and be there when she sheds them. Doesn't everyone, at some time or another?

He wants to be that person.

She's quiet, of course she is – she's hooked up to wires and IVs, and the only sound in the room is the steady, almost reassuring beep of the heart monitor. He tried telling her stories, filling the space with words – fiction and reality, 'remember that time we-' but she doesn't wake, didn't, and though he'd spoke long after his voice grew hoarse, eventually the words are gone and all that's left is him and her.

No stories. No words.

She's beautiful, even now, when her skin is ashen and she's hooked up to a thousand different machines. Bruises mottle her back where she hit the ground, coming up to inch over her shoulders. It's not the magical way people in movies seem to look like they've walked out of a salon while lying unconscious. No, this is different. Passing doctors and nurses wouldn't see the beauty he does. This type she can't lose whether she's chasing somebody down, sitting at her desk and staring at a file with all the concentration in the world, fighting against him as he drags her away … no, this is something different, some kind of light about her that only she has, even in her darkest days, and it makes her Kate.

He can't name it. He only knows that it's there.

He must have dozed, that strange limbo between sleep and awake that can hold you for hours without letting you get any rest at all. He only knows he did because suddenly he's not – the room spins and his eyes feel weighed down by cement, but he's awake and when he looks – so is she.

And he hates himself for sleeping, because there are tear tracks down her cheeks.

"Are you in pain?" He asks the stupid, necessary question, and his stomach flips when she nods that she is.

He presses the call button without another question and waits with her. She's fighting it, but he can see that her knuckles have turned white from where her fingers are digging into her palm. Rick slips his fingers into hers, uncurling them so they can no longer dig and she grips back. He waits with her, moving his hand up and down her arm. Words once again fill the space between them – thoughtless, meaningless words that wash over them, He tries to sooth her like he did days ago, when she sobbed and screamed and it was all he could do to keep her quiet long enough. He takes a hand and smoothes her hair, wondering for the first time how awake she really is. Her eyes are clouded with pain, and he hopes she won't remember waking like this later on.

The nurse arrives and asks questions, and he helps her answer when she can't seem to find words. His heart feels as though it's trying to wrench itself from his chest until he watches the woman hook another bag to the IV and say, "That should set in in just a few minutes, Miss Beckett."

(He finds himself correcting her with Detective, the tone of his voice almost a growl.)

Those few minutes, it turns out, are nearly ten.

He waits with her again, still murmuring.

"I know you're in pain," He apologizes, brushing his hand over her cheeks to wipe away still lingering tears. "It'll ease up soon." What he really wants to tell her is that it'll be alright, that she doesn't have to worry. He wants to tell her that they caught the shooter – but they didn't, and all he can do is promise that this pain, this immediate pain is going to leave.


The sound of his first name makes him dizzy, even now, when her saying his name is the furthest thing from his mind.

"Shh." He manages. "Close your eyes, I'm not going anywhere."

And maybe that's stupid of him to say, maybe it's not his place even though Josh left hours ago for an early morning shift, but he says it without thinking of the consequences.

Maybe it's not his place, but he swears the last thing she whispers before morphine whisks her away is "I remember."

The next time she wakes, her eyes are clearer and he's made sure he's not sleeping. He hasn't had this much caffeine in him since struggling to write his first novel. Rick hasn't been this tired since college. His eyes are lead and his limbs feel heavy, but when he sees her – eyes opening, flickering around the room and finally landing on him, all of that melts away.

"Hey." He says, and there's a smile in his voice. He's never been happier to see her eyes.

"Hey yourself." There's a roughness to her voice that comes from nearly twenty four hours of not speaking, a combination of morphine and surgery.

"Can I do anything?"

Cobalt blue eyes linger on the call button and then the pitcher of water, lying on the side table next to her bed. She's still in pain, he can't question that – it's in her eyes and on her face, but she's far more relaxed than when she woke last.

"Just a question, Rick."

"Anything." He says it and means it, a small shiver going down his spine at her saying his first name for the second time that day.

"All the songs make sense, huh?"

His cheeks turn a brilliant shade of pink at her words. There's no need to ask what she means: he knows, he remembers.

And, it seems, so does she.

For a writer, he's always been bad with words when they count.

"If you want them to," He says, aware of what he's doing. Somewhere out there, Josh is waiting for her. And he can't pretend that he's not real, even if he'd like to. He has to give her that out.

Her eyes meet his, and he's amazed once again by their depth. He's amazed that despite such pain they can harbor such warmth as well.

"I think I'd like that."

It takes effort for Rick to hide the growing smile. "Josh?"

"We're barely together anymore. To be honest? I think he's just waiting for the word."

There's a sadness in her eyes, a look of failure that he wants to take from her. More than anything, he wants to teach her that she can't take the weight of the world on her shoulders. Certainly not on her own.

He wants to cover her hand with his own but he waits, waits until she reaches for his.

"Then I have a question for you, Kate."

There's a pause while she listens for it.

"Do all the songs make sense?"

There's a smile, different from any one he's ever seen. It's brilliant and shining, extraordinary, compassionate and playfully coy all at once.


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