"You need to go home and get some sleep Castle, you've been here for days." Beckett glared at him from her bed, her green eyes matching the intense stubbornness in his. She had been moved to her own room that morning and the whole group was in the room with her, much to the dismay of the nurses.
"She's right bro, you haven't left since they brought her here. We'll all be here with her."
Castle shifted his glare to Esposito, who simply raised his eyebrows at the author.
"You know we're all right Castle, you're exhausted. Just go home for a while and get some sleep. You can come back tonight." Lanie said softly. Castle glanced around the room for someone sympathetic. Everyone met his eyes with the same stubborn glare and he knew he wasn't going to win this time. He had a feeling if he refused to go home Beckett would order Ryan and Esposito to carry him out; he had no doubts that they would listen.
"Don't you people have jobs you're supposed to be at?" He huffed.
"We took a leave of absence until next week. We're…not ready to go back." Ryan answered quietly.
Castle immediately felt like a heel and realized he really did need the sleep everyone said he did. He hadn't been the only one living though the nightmare of the past few days; they all had, and everyone's patience was starting to run thin.
"I'm sorry, you're all right. I'll go home for a while and sleep, or try to, if you're sure you're okay?"
He addressed the last part of his statement towards Beckett, who smiled at him as she sighed.
"I'm okay Castle. I have an entire room full of people to make sure of it. I think they can handle it for a while."
He moved closer to her bed and reached for her hand, not caring who saw, he just needed to be close to her. He hadn't left her for very long since she had come out of surgery and, even though he knew his fear was unfounded and she was fine, he was terrified to leave. Her eyes softened with understanding as she weaved her fingers between his.
"I'll be fine Castle, and I'll be right here when you get back. I promise."
He fought the urge to lean down and kiss her, despite the fact that everyone was in the room. They held each others gaze until Lanie cleared her throat. Kate laughed and squeezed his hand before letting go.
"Go home Castle. Get some sleep."
He nodded at her, not trusting himself to speak without blurting out that he loved her. He turned to leave the room and Ryan and Esposito stood to leave with him. He looked at them, confused.
"Escorting me out?"
"Yup, paparazzi. Most of them are gone, but there are a few lingering."
"You guys really think I can't handle paparazzi? I'm probably more adept at that than you are."
"When it has to do with you, I'm sure you are, but when they are yelling questions at you about Beckett and wanting to invade her privacy? I think its better that we go with you."
Castle hesitated for minute, then nodded. With as tired as he was he wasn't sure he would be able to control himself if someone started screaming questions about Kate at him.
The hospital lobby doors slid open and Ryan and Esposito walked out with Castle; one of them on each side of him. They had made it about thirty feet out of the doors when a few paparazzi with cameras came towards them.
"No comment" Esposito practically growled at them as they got closer. They paid no attention to him and started snapping pictures. Rick sighed.
"Richard Castle, can we get a word about how Detective Beckett is doing?"
"No comment guys, sorry."
"Mr. Castle, just a minute of your time. Is it true she almost died?"
"Rick! Is it true the two of you are romantically involved?"
Castle tensed at the question and would have stopped walking had it not been for Esposito's arm on his elbow, pushing him forward. None of the men spoke as they walked to the cab that was already waiting. They piled in the back seat and turned their heads away from the camera flashes as the cab pulled away from the hospital.
"God I hate them sometimes. I know its just their job…" Castle muttered as he rested his head against the back of the seat. "You guys didn't have to ride with me ya know."
"Oh, we are on strict orders to make sure you actually go home." Ryan laughed.
"Right. That doesn't really surprise me."
"It shouldn't, she knows you just as well as you know her." Esposito answered from his other side.
Castle just nodded in agreement.
The ride to his loft was spent in comfortable silence. The cab waited for Ryan and Esposito as they walked up to the loft with Castle. He laughed as he unlocked his front door.
"Are you supposed to tuck me into bed too?"
"Don't tempt me, I might use handcuffs to keep you there and just tell Beckett you weren't cooperating." Ryan quipped, then put his hand on Castle shoulder.
"Go rest, we've got it handled for a while. We'll call if anything changes."
Castle nodded at them and watched as they walked down the hall to the elevator. He swung open the door to his loft and walked to his too quiet kitchen. He poured himself a drink then headed to his bedroom. He was too restless to sleep so he headed to the bathroom to shower. He was shocked when he looked in the mirror. There were dark circles under his eyes and more stubble on this face than just an evening shadow. His hair was plastered down to his head, most likely from running his hands through it so many times. He turned away from the mirror and turned the shower on. He undressed and waited until the water was hot before stepping in.
He rubbed his hands over his face as he let the water run over him. He washed his hair and then stood under the water until it went from hot, to warm, to almost cold before turning it off and stepping out of the shower. He pulled on sweats and a t-shirt before quickly shaving. Out of things to do, he wandered back out to his bedroom. He laid down on his bed and barely had time to wonder if he would have nightmares before his head hit the pillow and he fell into a deep sleep.
"Roy Montgomery taught me what it meant to be a cop. He taught me that we are bound by our choices…but we are more than our mistakes. Captain Montgomery once said to me that for us there is no victory, there are only battles. And in the end, the best that you can hope for is to find a place to make your stand. And if you're very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you."
She paused in her speech for a moment to look over at Castle, who was standing off to the side of the podium in a silent show of support. Their eyes met and Kate's lips turned up in a brief smile before she turned back to the mourners.
"Our Captain would want us to carry on the fight…"
Kate continued her speech and the next thing she knew Castle was screaming her name at the same time she heard a crack that sounded like gunfire.
She turned to look at him, but he was already in front of her, his arms wrapping around her as they both hit the ground. She could tell from his weight against her as they hit the ground that something was horribly wrong. She heard his sharp intake of breath, and it sounded completely wrong.
"Castle!" He didn't respond and she pushed his arm off of her as she scrambled out from underneath him. He wasn't moving. For a split second Kate's breathe caught in her chest and she couldn't move. The world around her completely disappeared except for the man in front of her. He was still face down on the grass in front of her and when she put her hand on his shoulder her white glove became soaked in blood.
"NO! Damn it Castle!" She rolled him over onto his back and moved over him, her hands feeling for an exit wound. She couldn't find one but panic was starting to take over. She put her hand behind his neck and moved over him, her eyes locking on his. She was slightly relieved to see that they were still open and focused on her, though he looked terrified.
"Rick! Don't you dare leave me!" She screamed as tears started rolling down her face. Her voice dropped to a whisper when he didn't respond.
"Stay with me Rick! Don't leave me…please?"
A small part of her brain acknowledged that this could be the last time she spoke to him. The thought made her physically ill and she swallowed hard as her whole body started to shake.
"Rick, I love you, I love you Rick."
She choked the words out around the sobs that were constricting her throat and she could have sworn she saw him try to smile before his eyes slowly slipped shut.
"NO!" Kate screamed and sat up with a loud gasp as she grabbed the rails on the bed in a death grip.
"Hey, hey. You're okay. Kate…it was a dream."
Kate's head whipped around in the direction of Lanie's voice, her heart still racing, her breathing ragged.
"Where's Castle?" She asked, breathless.
"Oh, you miss him already?" Lanie teased, then stopped short at the panicked look on Kate's face. "He's at home Kate. Everything is okay. What were you dreaming about?"
"I can't…call him, please? I need to see him…that he's alive…"
"Honey…of course he's alive. You were-"
"Okay, okay. I'll go call him outside real quick. Will you be okay until I get back?"
"Yes, just…please call him."
Lanie nodded and walked out of the room. Kate leaned her head back against the bed and loosened her death grip on the rails as she took slow, deep breaths. She knew her overwhelming desire to see Castle alive was a by product of the emotions of the past week, but she didn't care. The dream had been so vivid, so real. A small part of her also acknowledged that it could have been reality, had he been a split second faster, and she needed to see him and know he was okay. She closed her eyes, but as soon as she did images from her dream started to replay, so she opened them again and waited for Lanie.
A shrill ringing woke Castle from a deep sleep. He blinked a few times before recognizing the noise as his cell phone and reaching for it on the nightstand. He was instantly awake as soon as he saw that it was Lanie.
"She's okay, but she woke up freaking out over some dream and is asking for you. She says she needs to see that you're alive."
"That's what she said, and she's pretty upset."
"I'm on my way."
As he hung up the phone he was already at his dresser pulling on jeans. As he fumbled for a shirt his mind wandered over why she would need to see him alive. It only took him a minute to come to a conclusion about the dream she must have had. He yanked a shirt over his head and shoved his shoes on his feet as he headed for the door. He was so focused on leaving that he didn't notice his mother in the kitchen until she spoke.
"Is everything alright? You're in an awfully big hurry."
"Mother, I'm sorry, I didn't see you there. Yes, everything is fine, but…Kate had a nightmare and is asking for me. Lanie said she's kind of panicked."
"That poor thing. Well, at least you got some sleep. Try to come back home tonight if you can dear, you need to get rest too if you're going to be any help to her."
Castle nodded at his mother as he walked out the door and headed for the street to hail a cab.
Lanie met him at the hospital entrance.
"Is she okay?"
"Yes, and no. She hasn't volunteered to tell me what it was about, and I haven't asked because when I came back down here she was somewhat less panicked. She asked me to come see if you were here and to call you again if you weren't to make sure you hadn't gone back to sleep."
Castle nodded as they walked towards the elevators.
"Listen, I'm gonna go. I have a feeling whatever it is she'll want to talk to you alone. Tell her I said goodnight, and I'll see her tomorrow. If you need me, call."
"Okay, thank you Lanie."
They hugged briefly as the elevator doors opened and Castle stepped inside. The ride to the floor she was on felt longer than the cab ride to the hospital and he had to fight from breaking into a run on the way to her room. He waved quickly at the nurses as he passed the station then opened the door to her room without knocking. She was leaned back against the bed with her eyes closed, but he could tell she wasn't sleeping.
"Hey, someone said you were asking for me?" He said, trying to sound light hearted. Her eyes flew open at the sound of his voice.
"Castle." She said his name quietly, but her voice was thick with emotion and she reached out towards him. He crossed the room quickly and was shocked when she wrapped her fist in his shirt and pulled him close to her. He wrapped his arms around her as she pressed her face against him.
"Hey, shhh, I'm okay. I'm right here and I'm fine."
Kate nodded against him as she felt herself loose control of the emotions she had been fighting so hard to keep in check since she woke up from the dream. She took a deep, shaky breath as he ran his hand up and down her back.
"We were…it was Roy's funeral again…and I was giving the eulogy. Everything was going the same way it did until…when he shot me…you were in time and you jumped in front of me and…he hit you instead of me and…" Her voice caught in her throat as the tears started to run down her face.
"Aw Kate…I'm sorry. It didn't happen, I'm right here. Look at me…"
She tilted her head up and looked at him and he smiled.
"See? I'm here. I'm right here and I'm fine."
She took a deep breath but couldn't stop the tears. The dream had seemed so real, and she knew all too well it could have happened. She swallowed hard and leaned her face against him again. He sighed and ran his hand over her hair.
"Shhh. Its okay. Kate…I'm okay."
"You got hit in the back…because you jumped in front of me. There was so much blood…and I couldn't do anything…" Her words were lost in her sobs and Rick knew part of it was her emotions over what had happened to her.
"Scoot over." He said softly. She looked up at him, confused.
"Move over." He nudged her shoulder gently.
"Rick you can't get in bed with me…"
"The hell I can't. Just scoot Kate."
She continued to grumble at him but slowly moved out of his way. He slid carefully into the bed behind her, one leg hanging off the edge and the other stretched out along the other side of her. He grabbed the edge of her hospital gown and tugged back towards him. She huffed as she leaned against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, his hands resting carefully against her stomach.
"See? I'm here, I'm okay, and I'm not going anywhere."
Kate felt what little control she had left crumble and she let herself melt against him, crying quietly.
"Rick…it could have happened. It came so close…I…watched your eyes close. Even though I begged you not to go…"
"I know…I'm sorry." His arms subconsciously tightened around her as he remembered watching her eyes slip shut as he begged her to stay with him. She moved her hands over his and they sat quietly, each of them lost in their own memories.
Rick's thumb moved slowly over her stomach as he remembered holding her and begging her to stay with him, then telling her he loved her when he thought she wasn't going to make it. His thoughts wandered back to all the times he had wanted to tell her how he felt but hadn't for the fear of losing what they had already. He thought of his mother telling him not to waste another minute of life. Even though he didn't want to, his thoughts drifted back to when the captain had called him and that night in the hanger. Her screams as he had carried her away knowing the captain was going to die in her place were something that would never leave him. Holding her up and apologizing as she completely fell apart against the car outside the hangar had been one of the hardest things he had ever done; until a few days later when he held her and thought he was losing her. He wasn't sure if she had heard him tell her that he loved her before she passed out, but he knew one thing for certain; as soon as she was out of the hospital and things were back to some semblance of normal, he was going to make sure she knew exactly how he felt. Life was too short to hold back.
Kate sighed and leaned her head back against his chest as she let herself relax against him. His thumb moving over her stomach combined with the fact that he was there, solidly wrapped around her, was oddly comforting and she felt her eyes drifting shut.
"Kate I love you, I love you Kate."
His voice echoed in her head as soon as her eyes slipped shut. She opened them again and was drawn back into her dream as she realized how closely it paralleled what he had gone through with her, right down to the words she said before he passed out. She thought of all the times he had saved her life, while recklessly risking his own without a second thought. The little things he had done to make her smile. The effort, time and money he had put into her mothers case, without ever being asked, hell at first after specifically being told not to. She realized she wouldn't be anywhere near as close to solving her moms case if it wasn't for him. She also knew part of him probably blamed himself for everything that had happened; it was just how he was. She remembered all of the people who told her he cared about her, even if she wasn't ready or willing to see it. Her most recent thought was of the letter from Royce, who she had been madly in love with at one point, telling her that what she had Castle had was real and that she was fighting it. The letter had really made her think and she realized that he was right. She had been fighting it because she was afraid of being hurt. At fist she hadn't been sure if his feelings for her were real of if she was just another number or challenge. As he spent more and more time at the precinct working with her he had changed and recently she knew she wasn't just another conquest to him. He had become one of her most trusted friends and if she was honest with herself, she loved him too. Her mind ran over the last line in the letter from Royce.
"The last thing you want is to look back on your life and wonder…if only."
She sighed softly then smiled as Castle ran his thumb over the back of her hand.
"What was that for?" He asked quietly.
She hesitated, unsure if now was the right time for the truth. She knew they were both exhausted and reeling from the events of the past week and both of their emotions were running high. She also knew that, exhausted or not, what she felt and what she wanted to say to him was real.
"Did you want to talk about it?"
She took a deep breath and another part of Royce's letter ran across her mind, as clearly as if he had spoken the words to her instead of writing them. "Risking our hearts is why we're alive."
"Actually…yea, I do." She felt him tense slightly behind her and she squeezed his hand, lacing her fingers between his.
"I… remember what you said to me at Roy's funeral, right before I blacked out. I heard you, and I remember. And… I don't know where this is going to take us, but I know I'm tired of fighting it. Life is to short, we've been reminded of that recently and…we're lucky enough to have a second chance."
She turned slightly in his arms so she could look at him, her shoulder resting against his chest rather than her back, and the intensity in his blue eyes almost took her breath away.
"I love you Rick."
She bit the corner of her bottom lip as she waited for his response. Castle's mind as reeling as what she said sunk in. They were words he wasn't sure he would ever hear come out of her mouth, and now that they had his mind had gone completely blank. Every scenario he had ever thought of never went like this. He smiled slowly as the truth of what she admitted hit him.
"Kate…you have no idea…"
He whispered as he leaned down slowly and kissed her. The seconds between her speaking and him kissing her felt like an eternity to Kate and when his lips met hers she kissed him back, trying to put all of her emotions into it so he knew she meant what she said. She move her hand slowly across his cheek before weaving her fingers through the hair at the base of his neck. He pulled back from the kiss, resting his forehead against hers as he smiled.
"Take it easy, we are in a hospital bed."
She laughed quietly and kissed him again then rested her head against his chest so he didn't see the tears that were starting to form in her eyes. He put his chin on top of her head.
"I love you too Kate, so much."
"I know you do, and I'm sorry-"
"Shh. Whatever it is doesn't matter. I love you."
She leaned into his embrace as he wrapped his arms around her. She knew they would still have their issues. There would be days where she still wanted to kill him, or handcuff him to the car. There would be days when she got sick of his outlandish theories or his childish need to touch things that shouldn't be touched. She knew they would argue, and she even knew they would probably hurt each other from time to time. Beyond all of that she knew what they had was real. She knew he would always be there for her, no matter what, whether it was to bring her coffee and make her smile or to hold her together when her entire world was falling apart. It was something she had realized a while ago, and it was the reason he was one of the few people she really trusted.
She knew the next few months were going to be hard. There was going to be her recovery and everything that went with that. There would be a new captain at the precinct; and she had no idea what they would think of the interesting arrangement Castle had with the 12th. There was also still her mothers case. Whoever was behind the whole thing was still out there and she had become their main target. Even with everything she knew was coming, she had no doubt that he would be there though it all. She smiled as she realized it had been something he had been trying to say for a long time with the one word he often used to sum up their relationship.
"I love you too Rick." She muttered softly into his chest as she started to drift off to sleep, "Always."
This is it, the end of the story I never wanted to write in the first place, Lol.
I don't want to write the new captain or anything like that. I have too much respect for the show, the story line and the writers to attempt to write in a new main character. This story started as a small idea in my head then soon developed its own voice and would not leave me alone until I wrote it.
I didn't like it the entire time I was writing it simply because I didn't want to jump on the "finale fic" bandwagon. But, with an ending like that how can your mind not wander? In the end, I have decided I am okay with it. It ended up being longer than I thought it would be, yet at the same time it is shorter than my long stories usually are.
As always, thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed, and even those who haven't. I'm glad people enjoyed this. Hopefully I'll see you all around Breaking Point, which I plan to have more time for now.
And to "peanut", thank you for continuing to be my biggest fan.