"You woke the Dragon." – Gary McAllister, "Knockdown"
"It's a fairytale." – Beckett, "Slice of Death"

If he could help it, Castle didn't let Beckett out of his sight from the moment she fell to the ground at the Captain's funeral. He stayed by her side during the ambulance ride, blind to everything and everyone but her, his lips trembling in his panicked mantra of her name. He tried to follow her into surgery, yelling like a crazy person when the doctors held him back.

It was supposed to be over after that. After that hour of sitting and stressing in the waiting room, wondering and remembering and hoping and wishing and- though he wouldn't admit it later- crying, it was supposed to be okay and she would wake up and he'd visit her in the recovery ward.

She didn't wake up. The doctors wheeled her to a room in the ICU.

She still didn't wake up. Kate was stretched out on the hospital cot, hands at her sides, deathly pale and unmoving. Her chest rose and fell erratically, the heart monitor linked up to her spiking and beeping and lying flat for far too long periods of time. Her family- related and otherwise- gathered around her, crowding into the small room. Josh and Jim were there, but they and everyone else seemed to understand that Castle was incapable of releasing her hand, of moving away from the bed, so they let him sit there.

Midnight came, then dawn. A doctor came in at one point to let them know that Kate had had a negative reaction to the anesthetic and had slipped into a coma. He said there was no way of knowing when or if she would wake up. Castle didn't even look up during the terrible announcement, he just kept his eyes fixed on Beckett's blank expression.

Hours passed and her condition didn't change. Castle fell asleep eventually, slumped over her still form, and no one felt like moving him. By late morning the next day, the room had mostly cleared out. Esposito had somehow convinced Lanie to come home with him and get some sleep. By the time a cheery nurse came in the room with a flower in a vase, Castle and Josh were the only ones left, sitting on either side of Kate.

"Should brighten up the place a bit," said the nurse, setting the vase on the windowsill. "Always good to have some greenery in a patient's room." She smiled at the two men, but neither of them returned it. The nurse was about to leave, but she stopped upon seeing the picture of the Royal Wedding taped to the door. "Last patient was a big fan of the big wedding," she said apologetically, ripping the picture off the wall, folding it up and slipping it into her pocket. "She'd talk all day about how lucky Princess Kate was." Smiling, the nurse walked out of the room, leaving the two men alone with Kate's unconscious form.

Interestingly enough, the phrase "Princess Kate" made its way through Kate Beckett's ear canal and slid into her brain, bounced around a few times, and came to rest in a quickly fabricated dream.

Princess Katherine Beckett stepped onto her balcony in the early morning light, letting the wind sift through her long hair and flatten her night dress against her body. She leaned against the railing of the balcony, being careful to avoid pressing against the sore spot on her abdomen where the Wizard Hemlock's curse had struck her.

It wasn't long before she heard hoof beats, and she looked down to see Sir Castle riding in on his appaloosa, smiling up at her. "Good morrow, Kate!" he called up to her.

"Castle," she said in greeting, waving. He was a good friend of hers, a man she'd knighted a few months back after the first time he'd saved her from Hemlock. He was a brave, if sometimes bothersome, man, and one of the only people who understood her need to track down the Dragon that had killed her mother, the queen.

He was carrying a wooden bucket full of cool, clear water from the well for her, and began hoisting it up the rope and pulley like he did every morning. "Thank-you for the water," said Kate.

"Always," he said.

That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying "Always," what he meant was, "I love you." And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.