All previous warnings, disclaimers and ratings still apply.
Author's note: Here's the final chapter. Thank you all again for indulging me in getting this story out there. Hopefully my Castle muse is now sated.
Beckett swiped at the rivulets running down her face even as she recognized the relief within herself that had permitted them to finally fall. She ducked her head, not really being comfortable with crying in front of everyone, as she let the hand not holding onto Castle clear them away.
When she felt that she'd erased the majority of the traces, she swiveled her head to look back at her friends and colleagues. They'd all been through so much over the last few days, and this on top of it was more than likely the final straw. Now, having seen Castle and been told that he would pull through, she couldn't fault them for the way they were standing, partially out the door with Esposito's mouth beginning to open to say something that she knew was going to be how they were ready to go home, decompress and get something to eat and sleep. And that she should too…
"We're gonna head out. We'll check on him tomorrow if that's all right?" Esposito asked Martha, and she nodded. "Beckett, you staying?"
She gave him a look that made him raise his hands in apology and defense. Obviously he should have known better. She'd been waiting for hours, worried for that she'd never see him alive again, so leaving right now wasn't on her radar at all.
Once the others had said their goodbyes, Beckett found herself now alone in the room with Alexis and Martha, the mother and daughter of the man she loved and thought of the symmetry; the three women in his life surrounding him while he slept on. She looked to where Martha sat with Alexis standing behind her on the opposite side of Rick's bed, unsure of what to do next.
"When he wakes up, he's going to be worried about you two at home alone while he's stuck here recuperating," Beckett remarked, thinking to how when the city was facing a dirty bomb Castle had done everything possible without telling them the truth to get his mother and daughter out of the city.
"We can manage by ourselves just fine. Its going to be wrangling him that will be the challenge," replied Martha with a grin as she looked at her son's sleeping form
"I can't imagine him sitting still voluntarily for any length of time, even to heal up," Beckett stated with a slightly amused grin.
"Well, there was that one time Dad broke his leg skiing where he was in a cast for over a month. It was a pain to move around so he stayed home a lot," Alexis stated with a small smile. Obviously seeing him breathing, even still asleep had eased the teen's fears.
"He was rather dismayed at being on crutches, but detective, he does lock himself away in his study when he's writing," Martha noted, and Beckett had to concede the point.
In fact, she could probably count on one hand the number of times she'd seen him actually writing. Since he was out with her on cases during the day, and sometimes even into the evening, she had to guess that he did a lot of it late at night. She wondered how much sleep he got…
She shrugged and went back to looking at the sleeping Rick, sedated and unaware of the audience he had or the fact that she was counting down the hours until the sedation would wear off. She knew he was going to be okay; she had his hand in hers, but until she saw his eyes and heard his voice, she wouldn't be… right.
On the other side of the bed Martha stretched and then got out of her chair, patting Alexis' shoulder.
"Are you two going home?" Beckett asked, surprised that his mother and daughter would leave him at all, let alone what she felt was so soon after they'd been allowed to see him.
"It seems a lot more comfortable than the alternative." Martha remarked, tapping the side of the plastic chair that she had been sitting in. "What with Richard out for the count, there's not much more to do other than come back tomorrow when he'll be awake. How about you detective? I bet a shower, some fresh clothes and some sleep would do wonders for your mood."
"And food," chimed in Alexis. "Dad's always talking about him dragging you away from work to make sure you eat. He probably would say you run on coffee or something."
She fought the laugh the remark sparked in her as she recalled many a meal break instigated by him over the years. Beckett had always thought it was because he was hungry, but it seemed he wanted to make sure she was eating. At that thought, she glanced back at Castle's still face and then over at Alexis and Martha.
She found herself torn once again, between staying by his side or going home for a shower and food. Even the idea of some sleep was starting to sound good. Maybe if she went home she could get up in the morning and swing by the precinct before she returned to the hospital. If she did, there might be chance the results for some of the lab work might be done…
And, she admitted to herself, they were right that Rick wasn't waking up any time soon having been medically sedated. As long as she was back by mid morning, noon at the latest she'd be fine... she would be there when he woke up, which was the most important thing.
"You're probably right," she replied as she slowly rose from her chair, and then squeezed Castle's hand gently one last time before she let go and followed Alexis and Martha out of the room, through the hospital and to the street.
"We'll see you sometime tomorrow. Take care," Martha said with a quick hug before she moved to the curb to flag down a cab in the evening light.
"You too," replied Beckett before getting a full on Alexis hug before the teen turned and climbed into a cab her grandmother had already gotten into and closed the door.
As they drove off, Beckett pondered one last time if she should go back in, sleep in the chair beside Castle. But she could hear his voice in her head telling her not to be stupid; she'd function much better after sleeping in her own bed.
Catching her own ride home, she finally arrived at her apartment. Once inside she found that she really was exhausted and went about starting some water on the stove for tea while she rummaged in the refrigerator for some leftovers. Finding a Chinese takeout container she popped it in the microwave to heat and went into her bedroom to strip out of the stained and rumpled uniform; pulling her badge from its place on the shirt, tossing the clothes in the hamper and her badge on her end table. After slipping into some sweats and a t-shirt and pulling her hair into a pony tail, she had to admit that she did feel more human than she had since… the shooting. She heard the whistle of the tea kettle and padded into the kitchen and made herself tea and ate her warmed up food. As soon as she'd eaten she felt the siren call of her mattress and let herself be drawn to the room. Sliding under the covers her mind once again went to Castle at the hospital, but she reminded herself once again that he was on the road to recovery and once he was awake, she could finally have an honest discussion with him on how she wasn't willing to ignore what they had anymore.
What was probably the shortest six and a half hours later, Beckett woke to her daily alarm and slammed her hand down on it with a grimace. She scrubbed her face with her hand before she realized it was less than 12 hours before Rick would be awake, prompting her to throw back the covers with more enthusiasm than usual as she went through her morning routine: shower, dressing and breakfast before she headed out to the precinct.
When she arrived there she checked her e-mail for any news from the lab as well as her office phone and her cell, again. While the lab was still processing what they had, she did find a large stack of files and research that had been done on the Lockwood angle. Beckett dove into them, spending her morning hours reviewing the files of Lockwood's known associates, former military friends and professional colleagues. Sometime during that period she'd seen Esposito and Ryan come in, check their own e-mail accounts and start working. At one point she thought they went past her, but she was too busy to notice.
"Beckett, what are you doing here? It's nearly noon?" asked Esposito as he and Ryan came back in from an early lunch.
"What?" she replied, looking at her watch as she realized the time, "Shit! I'm heading to the hospital. I can tell Castle you two will be by later?"
"Of course. We'll catch you later," announced Ryan as he and his partner went back to their desks.
Dragging the files and material she had yet to review with her, Beckett headed over to the hospital, deciding that if he wasn't awake yet, at least she'd be in the same room with him while she finished going through the materials she had.
Once she arrived at Mt. Sinai, she made her way through the main lobby this time and slowly found her way back to his room. Finding him still asleep but looking markedly better; she noted they must have removed his chest tube sometime before she arrived and his right arm was in a sling, more than likely to keep pressure off his shoulder. She moved to brush a hand over his unruly hair and pressed a light kiss to his temple before she pulled over one of the two chairs in the room and camped out in it at his side, her hand within easy reaching distance of his.
With silence except for the beeping monitors surrounding her, she turned her focus back onto the files. Every once in a while she would look up to check on him, or when the occasional nurse or doctor checked in on Castle. So she was once again studiously reviewing any connections to the case files in her hands with the mysterious boss who was the instigator of so many heartaches in her life when the man in the bed started to open his eyes.
As Castle struggled back to consciousness he took in the fact that he was sitting slightly up – not his normal sleeping arrangement, and then heard the beeping of the machines monitoring him and the pieces all started falling into place… the shooting at the cemetery. Slowly he turned his head and saw the familiar shape of the person he was probably stuck in this bed for beside him, head down and eyes glued to the file in her hands. He smiled as he watched her before he realized that he desperately needed to see her looking at him instead of the file.
"Hey," said his roughened voice from the bed beside her, and Beckett's head jolted up from where she'd been so focused on the files she had in her lap, the one in her hands nearly falling from her fingers.
"Rick… Castle, how are you feeling? I'll call the nurse," she said quickly, her body twisting in the chair to dump the files in the seat as she got up to get closer to him as she reached for the call button to get the nurse in.
"Like I got shot."
He smiled again at her and she couldn't help but smile too. Turning the fear and pain into a joke; how like him… He raised his hand up towards her and she instantly took it, feeling better just at the sound of his voice and the return of his sense of humor.
"Seriously," she said, her hand tightening on his, and she felt her heart skitter in her chest as he gripped her hand back just as hard; his eyes never leaving hers.
"I can't feel much of anything, at least not in regards to the pain," he remarked honestly, no joke in sight.
"From what Dr. Layton said last night that's probably for the best right now," she said simply, her heart thundering in her ears as she gathered her courage and forged ahead with talking to him about what she wanted and how she felt… "Look, Castle… Rick, about what happened at the Captain's funeral, I…"
Before she could continue she was interrupted by a knock at the door and they turned to look as the door opened.
"I see that you're awake now Mr. Castle," said a nurse as she entered the room and walked over to his bedside. "I'll just check a few things. The doctor will be in shortly to make sure you're progressing as expected."
After finishing checking his vitals and IV, the nurse left leaving the two of them alone once again. In the returned silence, the room seemed to be smaller somehow and Beckett started to feel anxious. She was certain Castle loved her back… there were too many moments, too many signs that pointed to that. But what if he'd changed his mind? What if being shot and nearly dying for her crusade was the final straw for him? He'd begged her to back off, because he didn't want to watch her die; yet he'd taken a bullet for her to keep her alive. Could she really expect him not to be angry at her for putting herself at risk just to get him shot? Her eyes roamed anywhere that wasn't his face as doubt began to assail her mind.
"Kate," Castle began, squeezing her hand rhythmically to get her attention. When her eyes came back to his, she saw that serious expression that she remembered here and there… sitting on the couch in the LA suite, standing in her home as he talked about not knowing what they were… "I heard you, you know… before I passed out…"
He paused a moment as her eyes widened. She'd hoped he'd heard her, but facing the moment of truth she was still a little apprehensive of what his reaction would be.
"No Kate, I'm glad you said it," he said, his voice hushed and more serious than she'd ever heard it before. "If it had been you on the ground with the bullet in your chest, I would have told you the truth too. I would have told you I loved you and asked you not to leave me."
Beckett felt a thousand emotions at once, and as they rushed through her she felt her lips curve and bloom into an elated smile and the contentment she felt showed on her face. He loved her. With that one single thought filling her head she impulsively lunged forward and kissed him on the lips, startling a sound from Castle before he started kissing her back. The angle was awkward with their hands still clasped together and his position on the bed, so she eased back, wanting to see the look on his face and nearly started laughing at the smug, self satisfied grin that graced it.
"It took you long enough. Here I was starting to think I was going to have to wait until I was out of the hospital for one of those Beckett kisses."
She glared at him but couldn't stay mad. It had been months since they'd shared that kiss that wasn't a kiss and the memory of it still made her stomach flip. Still, she'd needed to make sure that he was in this as much as she was before she did anything like instigate another kiss with Castle. But now that they'd put all their cards on the table, she had no intention of letting anything stand in the way of her kissing him as often as humanly possible… within reason of course, she doubted making out in the middle of the bullpen was a wise career move, and the way he was looking at her now said he fully agreed with her on that.
"Would you have wanted me to attack you once you woke up? I didn't even know if you would remember what I'd said, or if you had heard it. You know we've always had bad timing."
"I don't know. Maybe this was what needed to happen to get us to this point. Maybe the stars finally aligned. Maybe Montgomery's upstairs pulling some strings, maybe we finally listened not only to our hearts but to everyone around us telling us we were idiots for denying it and that we shouldn't waste any more time," he stated, making her smile at him.
"I do love you Rick. I have for a while, I just…" she began, feeling vulnerable at having to admit he was right about something as fundamental as her own self.
"Was afraid. And I was hiding in one of those relationships with a man I didn't love."
That brought Castle up short. He'd forgotten about Dr. Motorcycle boy… the last time he'd talked with her they were still together. But she was here, telling him she loved him, kissing him…
"So, what about Josh?"
"I spoke to him already… told him… well, I told him I couldn't lose you," she told him with some difficulty at the memory of where her head was in that moment.
"So you guys…" he prompted.
"Are done," she said firmly, her eyes locking on his.
His eyebrows rose as he considered the scene of how that must have played out. The laid back, handsome, world-traveling, life-saving, philanthropist doctor having Kate tell him she was discarding him for her quirky, famous writer-partner probably had gone over like a lead balloon.
"Did he take it okay?"
Beckett smiled and fought a laugh; surprised Rick would care how Josh was after she'd taken his heart and stomped on it. But for the most part he'd never been overtly mean spirited towards her… boyfriends. And with the idea that there weren't going to be any more other than him, she thought maybe he was willing to be generous.
"He took it as well as any man could that they'd been dumped for someone else," she replied, her smile and her eyes telling him that she was one hundred percent his.
"I can't say I'm unhappy about that turn of events," he responded with a stunning and mischievous grin. "But the fact I'm in here when I'd rather be home where I could take you to dinner or a movie or the theatre or even work a case with you just sucks."
She did finally laugh at that, reaching over to cup his cheek before kissing him again. He reciprocated in kind and they pleasantly and passionately kissed for what seemed long minutes before there was a knock on the door, prompting them to split apart. Nervously Beckett wiped a hand over her lips as she turned to the door, it opening to reveal his doctor.
"Mr. Castle, I'm Dr. Layton. I did your surgery yesterday," the man said, coming over to the bedside and starting to take his pulse. "We took the chest tube out early this morning so when the pain meds start to wear off, you may be more than slightly uncomfortable. As well the injury to your upper shoulder area will more than likely require some physical therapy. Once you're ready to leave we'll recommend a course of treatment. Other than that, you look to make a full recovery."
"How soon can I get out of here?"
The doctor looked surprised at the man's eagerness to leave. He'd had major surgery, could have died and was on heavy pain medication and he already wanted to know when he would be discharged?
"Sorry doctor," interjected Beckett, "he's always like this… a bit too anxious for his own good. Sort of like a big puppy, you know?"
Castle gave her a look but couldn't completely discount her characterization. As the doctor looked from her back to his patient, Castle simply shrugged his shoulders and winced as the right one barely moved before he felt pain.
"I can see you realize it's going to be several more days before I can release you and weeks before you're healed. I need to be going, but I'll check back on you later this evening. And it looks like you have more visitors," said Dr. Layton on his way out the door as Alexis and Martha came in, the younger bounding towards her awake father.
"Hey there sweetheart," Castle said, moving to catch his daughter as she launched towards him with his left arm. Martha walked in behind her granddaughter and smiled at her son and detective Beckett. She had always known it had only been a matter of time…
"Richard, darling," said Martha with affection and some worry as she reached over to touch his face, "how ya feeling kiddo?"
"Been better. What do you have there mother?" he asked with a grin before kissing her proffered cheek.
She looked from her son to the large manila envelope in her other hand that had shown up during that afternoon's mail delivery. It looked important, but with no return address, it had seemed… out of place. So she'd brought it with her for him to review.
"It came in today's mail Richard. There wasn't any return address and it seemed… strange."
Which is was he thought himself as he looked at the shape and size of the package. Any manuscripts would have come from his publisher. And unwanted mail was not going to show up at his home address, which wasn't public knowledge.
"Sweetheart," Castle said, prompting Alexis to climb out of his bed and move to the side.
Reaching out, Rick took the manila envelope and eyed the looping script of his name and address. A block of stamps decorated the upper right corner and he frowned at it. Turning it over in his hand, he pondered how to open it as his right hand and arm weren't much use right now.
"Kate, can you?" he asked, stretching the envelope out to her.
She took the envelope from him and flipped it over so she could slide her finger into the seam at the flap. Once it was open she slid her hand in and grabbed a hold of the items inside.
"Oh my God…" she swore as she slid four police files and a folder piece of paper with his name on it from the package.
Rick leaned forward slightly at her curse before he grimaced and settled back against the pillow. She handed him the paper which he quickly unfolded with one hand and while she focused on the files. It was only after he'd shaken the paper open that he realized what he had in his hand.
"This letter is from Montgomery…" he breathed and looked up to catch Beckett's eyes as she understood that writing the letter and sending it with the files to Castle was more than likely one of the last things he'd done before… Then Castle started reading aloud:
I figure that they'll be watching Beckett's mail, as well as the guys and the station house. What they might overlook is mail coming to you. I'm enclosing the four files you need to take down the son of a bitch responsible for everything. I have no doubts that you'll do the right thing with this information, and keep Kate alive. Take care of her.
"He…" Beckett started; her emotions conflicted between anger and sadness.
"Gave us everything we need to either bring them to justice..."
"Or take revenge into our own hands," she countered and she saw the look in Rick's eyes as she said that, could almost feel the fear and disapproval from where he sat feet away from her. But she knew whatever she chose, he'd be with her through it… he'd said always and she knew he meant it. "If we expose them, use the evidence we have… they could drag others through the mud with them."
"But if we just track them down and execute them Kate, we're just as bad as they are," Castle pointed out, dropping the letter on the sheets of the hospital bed and reached over to catch one of Beckett's hands.
She looked at his hand in hers and then glanced at Alexis and Martha. What kind of person would she be if she murdered them; she'd be just as guilty as they were. And what kind of person would want their father and son to be with a person like that? Lanie, Javier and Kevin would all back her, but again, she wanted to be someone they could respect and cared about. Becoming a cold blooded killer, even to revenge her mother, Montgomery and in some respects herself and Castle wouldn't bring them back.
But finding a way to bring them to justice; forcing them to stand and be made accountable in the eyes of the law and society would be honorable. Her mother and the Captain would respect that decision. They just had to make sure Montgomery's name never came up.
"No, we have what we need now to find them. We just need to investigate them and get the evidence we need to send them away for a very long time. It's what everyone would have wanted," she replied and Rick squeezed her hand as he smiled at her.
"So detective," asked Alexis from where she stood on the other side of the bed, watching her dad and Kate together, so obviously together now it was painful. "When are you moving in?"
Kate and Rick looked at one another and laughed. There was a long road ahead for both of them, but at least they knew it was one they would be traveling together.
Thank you everyone for reading! This was an enjoyable experience for me and I appreciated all your support. Ms. J.